The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.
(A Farewell to Arms Ernest Hemingway)
[IRW Endless Sky]
Cells. If Kovel never saw another one in his life, it would be too soon. Of course, judging by how rapidly their numbers were dwindling, said life might end in short order as it was and spending it with distaste for his surroundings seemed rather a waste. Still, the graying scientist could not help but stare at the forcefield with profound disapproval.
Of course the guards here were different from the Starfleet security personnel who at least made spirited attempts at common courtesies, just as the general layout of their new cell had a decidedly more crowded feel to it. Well at least it was warm.
Commotion outside barely elicited any reaction from the other Vulcans stuffed into this cell like cattle, only young Havor glanced up from his calm, contemplative pose leaning against the dark metal bulkhead while the two remaining V'Ket as usual shifted imperceptibly, aligning their bodies as if to shield the civilians behind them, pointless as it seemed under the circumstances. Some habits died harder than even a Guardian, or so Kovel surmised with uncharacteristic sarcasm.
Well, well. When they had dragged T'Pelar away this time, the middle-aged scientist had hardly expected to see her again. But here she was, bloodied and beaten but very much alive, lest dead Vulcans were suddenly prone to coughing emerald streaks over Galae uniforms. The unmoving form carried by the other officer however was undoubtedly beyond help, for even a seasoned V'Ket commander could not live with his head dangling at a most awkward angle. Somewhat of a shame, for even though Kovel generally considered the military types hopelessly outdated fossils clinging to ancient rites and tradition, he had rather come to have a grudging respect for this one.
Why they bothered to return Sajel's body however was a puzzle. The Rihannsu's contempt was obvious enough as they tossed the terracotta clad Vulcan into the cell and shoved T'Pelar inside so she had a choice to either trip over the body or hold on to the tall V'Ket with the highland features who looked at his fallen commander with the most fierce expression Kovel remembered seeing on any of his kind. Well, mayhap with one exception, roughly forty-seven point six eight eight years ago. The tall one spared T'Pelar the predicament by reaching out faster than a striking Shavokh and steadying the councilwoman, before he rather unceremoniously nudged her towards the cluster of what was left of her staff.
But it seemed the day had yet more surprises in store for Kovel, because it was not the two remaining V'Ket not S'Kal the tall highlander, nor T'Fel the delicate amber eyed one who approached the dead commander first, but Havor. Young Havor, hobbling on his one leg, his tattered cobalt uniform with Temep`Shar's emblem long replaced by borrowed robes but the seal stamped on the survivors of the doomed ship seemed to burn brightly on them all. Bound by invisible strings they were, and the one to whom they had owed the near impossible feat, survival against all odds, now lay dead at their feet.
Still leaning against the cool bulkhead, Kovel gave a near imperceptible sigh. They would do something foolish indeed, and to try and dissuade them one might as well attempt to stop Sandfire with one's bare hands.
Gently, as if the slain one could still feel it and raise a steel grey brow at the young scientist, Havor straightened out the mangled limbs and settled on the floor, no mean feat with only one leg to kneel on but he seemed to have mastered that long ago. Rather pointless in Kovel's eyes to fold the man's hands over his chest as if he were holding his sword still and awaiting the procession that would take him to the warrior's funeral pyre, but he saw the brief glimmer of grim approval in the tall one's hard eyes.
Not surprisingly, their captors were unimpressed and made to select their next victims from the silent Vulcans. Only this time the Rihannsu found a warm, copper colored wall blocking their path.
They had not resisted until now, not while Sajel was alive, not while his silent gaze bid them to watch over those who still needed them. Bid them to live, choose their time wisely. They had chosen now, though the wisdom was questionable at best.
"Out of the way, Vulcan." It was not easy to glare with contempt at a V'Ket towering good twenty eight point seven centimeters over you, but the Galae woman made an impressive attempt all the same. Not that it had the desired effect, for S'Kal merely returned the stare before his astonishingly calm, firm voice echoed into the farthest corner.
Whether the woman understood the ancient phrase and there was a possibility she did or merely understood the universal language of refusal, she made the mistake of reaching for the disruptor at her side. A final, fatal mistake.
They had not been unwise enough to think all their captives docile, and there were weapons aimed at the Vulcans from several directions every time the forcefield was lowered. But the V'Ket somehow never seemed to be there when a green beam lanced through the air, and the dead woman's body had not even hit the ground with a soft thud when her honor blade already sliced through another officer's neck.
Kovel might have remained standing, staring in horrified fascination at the scene unfolding before him, had it not been for a hand nudging him down, firm but not unkind. He had just enough time to identify the young woman as another of Temep`Shar's technicians before a stray disruptor bolt turned what had once been a chest into a sizzling mass of flesh, spraying him with shards of bone and lumps of green.
Incredibly, in the second it had taken Kovel to blink and overcome the sickening waves of revulsion, the V'Ket had advanced all the way to the door, each now wielding a blade, and in these close quarters they were deadlier than caged Le-Matya. Her left arm little more than a stump oozing emerald streams, T'Fel pierced a surprised looking male's side before the doors opened, revealing at least a dozen security personnel with weapons aimed it should have been the end of it. And for the amber eyed one, the woman whose tightly braided and coiled hair had yet to fall into disarray, it was. Whatever remained of this once living, breathing being could no longer even be identified as something vaguely reminiscent of a Vulcan.
They paid dearly for it when the last V'Ket descended on them like an angry desert wind, the calm precision of his movements in stark contrast to the fury in his eyes.
"Na'let'thieri, t'naehl'har." Havor's quiet, gentle voice floated into the sudden silence, and it did not take another Vulcan to know something had broken in the young male. He did not weep, and his shoulders, his arms were steady as he knelt by the slain commander's side. But his low, even baritone was empty as he bid the last of the Guardians farewell.
Foolish. Pointless. Kovel could not but shake his head sadly at the carnage, and of course the Sundered were only going to let the remaining captives feel their ire. Certainly one could argue that a disruptor blast was preferable over what T'Pelar had apparently endured and who knew how many more. But a collective uprising would only hasten the inevitable, negate even the remote chance of rescue quite terminally.
The Vulcans remained where they had been, kneeling or sitting on the floor as the guards approached cautiously. This time there was no resistance, only silent eyes watching as the dead Galae officers were dragged away under the scowls and frowns of their colleagues. No word, merely silent nods when two more were selected and dragged away, a graying engineer and the lovely young astrophysicist whose eyes had always followed tall, proud Voran whenever his dark figure had been in sight.
Left with new guards and their dead, the Vulcans settled quietly into meditative poses, and Kovel spared a silent prayer for the young woman whose blood drenched his robes as he arranged her remains into something resembling the peaceful posture she would have deserved.
Only the voice that suddenly rose in the silence, accompanied by startled glances and outright astonished heads snapping up did not speak of peace. No prayer chant, not even a song of home or long journeys rolled through the cell in Havor's low, even baritone. As songs go, this was old, old already when the world of their birth was still tearing itself apart in the flames of unrestrained passions. Telling of love, found and lost in fire and blood, of desperate chances and of warriors mourning a leader whose name rang through the millennia, stirring something even in the silent, kneeling figures; memories, buried but not forgotten
Who had taught the young one this, Kovel could only guess. But even he had to admit it was fitting.
[IRW Endless Sky, Quarantine Lab]
"This is taking too long."
"Why aren't they dead yet? Why isn't the virus adapting?"
The raven haired woman stared in disapproval at the glass that separated her from the room where two bleeding, coughing Vulcans were still stubbornly alive.
"I don't know, Rekkhai. It might be their immune systems are adapting, too. Or they fight back. Or just die."
"Stop babbling. They don't seem to be 'just dying'."
"Not them, Rekkhai. Several of the others that were brought here. They just ... stopped. Everything. The virus never had a chance to fully penetrate their systems. Those who didn't, well, "
Some of the more rude varieties of curses stopped the male in his tracks and he gave his superior a hurt look. He wasn't exactly a specialist on those vile creatures, let alone stupid biological weapons. Sure it made sense to modify one so it would kill only a target species and not your own should it accidentally get loose, but when the species in question was, well, only a hop and a skip from being you, that was bound to be tricky. And the specimens he had to work with were tricky as well. Though that was an understatement.
"Those who didn't," he continued plaintively after the woman seemed to have run out of incentives for now "all reacted differently. Some succumbing so fast you could think the virus was long completed, others seemed to release some type of neurotransmitters that threw it off, and one even seemed to reject it outright and we had to increase exposure. It's like they're toying with us."
"Toying, are they?" She gave the two pathetic creatures a thoughtful look, noticing the elderly male had just coughed his last spurt of emerald and lay still, cradled in the younger female's lap. And ah. Well, so much for those two.
"Stun the next specimens before you expose them. Sedate them, do whatever you think will interfere less with the virus."
"We don't have time for those games. Clever little things, they can manipulate their body functions as they please, who knows if they haven't actually manipulated the cursed virus themselves."
"I don't think that's possi "
"You want to take the chance? I can always see if it works on you."
"I will see about some sedatives, Rekkhai."
"Good. Inform me when it's ready. Hanaj is getting impatient."
The woman didn't deem it necessary to mention that the Vaek'Riov himself suddenly seemed to have developed a great deal of patience.