Chapter Five: Interrogation
Chiana paced the tiny cell waiting for Zhaan to return. Ten paces forward. Ten paces back. How did I get talked into this? Ten paces forward. Ten paces back. They are gonna owe me big time. Ten paces forward. Ten paces back. If I get stuck here or sent back to Nebari Prime, they're dead. Ten paces forward. Ten paces back. Where the frell is Zhaan? Ten paces forward. Ten paces back. What's that lunatic doing to her? Ten paces forward. Ten paces back.
Gavyk's heart raced in anticipation. He'd had little opportunity to hone his interrogation techniques since being assigned to Rykynn and he was looking forward to the next few arns. He swept his palm absently across the gen-scanner and waited for the door to open. This should be entertaining. I wonder how long she'll be able to hold out. The door slid open, revealing his private interrogation room. Much of the equipment had been in place when they had commandeered the building from its owner, but he had added a few pieces of his own. He inhaled deeply to calm himself then stepped into the room.
He was pleased to see that his orders had been carried out to the letter. Zhaan had been secured in a set of shackles which hung from the ceiling in the center of the chamber giving him access from all sides. Zhaan stood perfectly still, eyes closed, chanting silently to calm herself. She sensed Gavyk approaching, but tried to remain calm. He circled Zhaan slowly, sizing her up.
"Pa'u Zhaan. Forgive me for keeping you waiting, I had other business to attend to. I trust my subordinates made you comfortable." He sneered, attempting to distract her from her meditation. She ignored him, maintaining her focus. He reacted suddenly and fiercely, striking her across the face. Her eyes snapped open though she still remained unmoving. "When I speak to you, I expect you to at least look at me. Is that understood?" Zhaan turned to look at him and he could see the anger, the hatred in her eyes. Yes. This will, indeed be very entertaining.
He raised his hand to strike her again. This time, he held a Stazer Probe and she cringed involuntarily. The Stazer was particularly painful for Delvians as it interrupted their neural impulses. Not only did it cause immediate pain, but that pain lingered as their neural pathways tried to reconnect. Zhaan had suffered this torture before at the hands of Crais and his interrogators. It was an experience she did not relish reliving.
"I see you have experience with the Stazer." He smiled in anticipation. He stepped forward and touched the small probe to her arm very briefly. The pain tore through her and she had to fight to keep from screaming. He pressed the probe to her skin, each time leaving a tiny singe mark at the point of contact. With each successive application of the Stazer, he lengthened the time of contact which increased the pain. Finally, Zhaan couldn't hold in her screams of pain any longer. She cried out and Gavyk smiled in satisfaction.
"Now Pa'u Zhaan, where are your companions? The Luxan? The Hynerian? The Human? The traitor Officer Sun?"
"No." she gasped between waves of pain. "I will not tell you."
"That is unacceptable." He replied calmly, pressing the Stazer against the back of her neck, holding it there until she lost consciousness.
Aeryn couldn't get away from the Peacekeeper garrison fast enough. As soon as they were out the door, she increased her pace, forcing John to run to catch up with her. "Hey, what's up? You in a hurry for a reason?" She didn't respond, just kept walking. Was I ever that sadistic? "Hey, will you slow down?" John called again. This time, she stopped long enough for him to catch up.
As she turned to move on, he reached out and grabbed her arm. He turned her around and gently cupped her chin in his hand, turning her face so he could look into her eyes. They were cold. Colder than he had seen in a long time. "Okay. What gives?" He asked as he released his grip.
"I had to get away from there." She shook her head, looking down again. "I think I finally understand your comment about needing some air."
He nodded in understanding, a reassuring grin lifting one side of his mouth. "C'mon. Let's go pretend to get our ship fixed." She smiled at his easy humor. When they set off this time, it was at a much less frantic pace.
Zhaan regained consciousness abruptly as Gavyk injected her with a stimulant. The pain surged through her body again as her neural pathways rebuilt themselves. Gavyk smiled as she grimaced from the pain. "So you have rejoined the land of the living. Now, you will tell me what I want to know."
"No. Do what you will to me. I will not give you my friends."
"Perhaps I should bring your friend Ta'al up here and introduce him to the Stazer Probe. That may weaken your resolve."
"Please no." She replied quickly. "He has no part in this."
"Then tell me what I want to know. Tell me where your companions are."
"I cannot tell you what I do not know. Since I didn't meet them at our rendezvous point, they would have left here without me."
"You are lying, bitch." He spat out as he struck her backhanded across the face. She staggered and would have fallen if not for the chains which held her. As she tried to regain her footing, Gavyk kicked her feet out from under her. She screamed in pain as the fibers in her arms tore. She closed her eyes and focused her mind, suppressing the pain which was beginning to overwhelm her. Kahalen help me! Give me strength. Give me something to hold on to.
Though she stopped responding to his questions, Gavyk continued the torture. Her silence only fueled his anger and frustration and he was determined to have his answers. As the punishment continued, Zhaan could feel herself slipping away ...
She could hear the chanting of their friends as they awaited the start of the birthing process. The stage had been set to perfection. Tarak had seen to that. The incense was burning, the musicians were playing softly in the courtyard and Tarak's students were chanting prayers to the Goddess for all to go well.
The first of the pains began at last. She grasped Tarak's hand tightly as fear swept through her. She had never been in attendance at a birth, much less been the one giving life. "I can't do this Tarak. I'm afraid."
Tarak stroked her forehead comfortingly as he pulled her close. He whispered softly, "My love, you can do this. We can do this together. You are stronger than you think you are. Focus Zhaan. The pain is unimportant."
"The pain is unimportant."
"What did you say?" Gavyk demanded. He was surprised that she had spoken at all, she had seemed so lost in her trance.
"The pain is unimportant." She repeated, a serene smile on her face. Kahalen be praised. You've given me strength to endure.
Gavyk felt his rage flare. Damn her! She cannot be so calm. I have seen warriors beg for mercy after suffering less than what she has. I will not let her win! He walked across the room to a table which held a variety of hand held instruments of torture. He scanned the table, looking for something that would give him the upper hand. His eyes settled on a sonic blade. When properly handled - and Gavyk was a master - the blade would slice through even the thickest, toughest flesh, without leaving a mark. All of the damage would be internal. He turned back to face Zhaan, a cold, cruel smile on his face. Now I will see what she is made of.
Ta'al sat on the cot in his cell, watching the new prisoner pace back and forth. He thought he had caught a look of recognition between her and Zhaan before Gavyk had taken her away. Curiosity was burning within him, but he knew they were under surveillance so he needed to be discreet. He rose slowly and walked to the cell door, watching the Nebari woman. She's not like any other Nebari I've ever seen. They're usually so closed and dead inside.
"What is your name, young Nebari."
"What's it to you?" She spat back.
"I am Ta'al. The woman who was taken away as you came in is called Zhaan."
"You are Delvians." Chiana replied. She could see from the expression on his face that he suspected she and Zhaan were already acquainted so she played along.
"Yes. And you haven't answered my question yet."
"I am called Chiana."
"Well, Chiana, why are you a guest in these accommodations?"
"Sometimes it doesn't pay to help a friend. You end up in trouble yourself." She hoped he understood her cryptic remark. He smiled and she knew he had. I can see why Zhaan is attracted to him. When he smiles, he is quite striking. "I probably won't be here long though. The two who brought me in will be back soon, and we'll be out of here. Now it's your turn. Why are you here?"
"I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lt. Gavyk must have recognized my friend Zhaan. He probably believes she is his way off of this planet so he will be very careful with her."
"What do you mean?" Chiana was suddenly worried.
"He will guard her very carefully. Surely you must know that she is wanted by the Peacekeepers for some rather substantial crimes."
"What is he doing with her now?"
"I am hesitant to guess. But suffice it to say, he is questioning her about the whereabouts of her fellow escapees." He saw the fear that flashed across her face and continued, "But he will be unsuccessful. Zhaan can be quite stubborn."
"You sound as if you know her well." Chiana commented. She was curious about this man and how he knew so much about Zhaan.
"Yes. We were very close many cycles ago."
"Really?" she purred. Perhaps this would be an interesting few arns after all. She was disappointed though when Ta'al turned from the door, saying, "That story is one for Zhaan to share."
Officer Vortal Om keyed his comm link and waited patiently for Lt. Gavyk to acknowledge him. He heard the signal to go ahead and reported, "The Bounty Hunters appear to be telling the truth sir. When they left the garrison, they went directly to the repair yard where they met with Borgen. He said he is repairing a ship which appears to have been sabotaged, just as they said."
"Very well, Officer Om. Continue your surveillance. If they do anything suspicious, I want to know about it."
Om nodded, though he knew it was unnecessary. Gavyk couldn't see the movement and he would have already closed the comm link. He looked across the square to where the two Bounty Hunters sat. They had stopped at a small food vendor for a quick meal and seemed to be lost in conversation. How foolish to be so casual. They aren't even aware that Gavyk is having them followed.
Aeryn took another bite of the fried Grovlak and leaned over to John who was just finishing his meal. "He's been tailing us ever since we left the garrison."
"We could take him out, you know." She smiled at John's look of surprise that she had used one of his expressions so easily, and so accurately. She shrugged casually, saying, "You've been a bad influence. So what do you want to do?"
"For now, let's just let him think he's smarter than we are. Let's keep going as if he's not there. Sooner or later, he'll get careless and we can use that to our advantage." He drained the last of his Phelep Nectar and stood. "We'd better move on. I don't want to leave Chiana or Zhaan in there any longer than necessary."
The door to the containment area slid open and Chiana moved quickly to her cell door to get a view of who or what was coming. She was stunned to see two Peacekeepers dragging an almost unconscious Zhaan through the door. When they stopped at Zhaan's cell, Chiana watched closely, hoping to learn the keycode that would open the door. The Peacekeeper closest to her released his grip on Zhaan who sagged toward the floor before the other guard hefted her up. He then inserted his ident chip into the scanner and placed his left palm over the gen-scanner and keyed in the appropriate code. Chiana smiled as she sank back into the shadows. She had the code. Now all they needed was an ident chip and the palm print to go with it.
As the door to Zhaan's cell opened, the guard who still held her tossed her roughly into the dark cell. She hit the floor hard as the door slid closed behind her. With what little strength she still had she pulled herself off the floor onto the cot. Need to meditate ... too weak ... too tired ...
Ta'al had watched the soldiers bringing Zhaan back, horror etched on his face. She is so weak. Seeing Zhaan bloodied and dazed brought back memories of what had happened to drive him from Delvia. Only this time, he was even more powerless to stop what was happening. Or was he?
He moved back into the shadows of his cell and disrobed. He needed to be totally unencumbered if he was to help Zhaan recover herself. He inhaled deeply to cleanse himself and closed his eyes, then brought his legs up into the Kodasana position, soles of his feet together and his hands resting lightly on his knees, palms facing upward. He continued to breathe deeply, centering his thoughts, focusing on Zhaan's essence - what there was left of it.
He could feel himself easing into another place. Inhale A place of calm, of healing. Exhale. He was surrounded by foliage. Inhale. Plants of all sizes, colors, fragrances. Exhale. This was a well tended garden ... inhale ... meant to instill peace and restoration. Exhale. He could hear the calming trickle of water. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
He forced himself to press on. This place was tugging at his own heart, enticing him to remain. But he needed to help Zhaan. He needed to guide her to this place. A place she could have found herself were she not so weak. As he left the garden behind he felt an almost overpowering sadness. He did not want to abandon this place. But he would be back. He would return here with Zhaan. They would come together.
Her essence. He had found it. She was weak. "Zhaan," he whispered quietly, but firmly. Their spirits sought each other. In a swirl of light and color, their spiritual essence took on their physical appearances. Zhaan lay weak and battered on the ground at his feet. He knelt beside her, whispering, "Take my hand Zhaan. Trust me. I am here to guide you to a healing place."
Zhaan looked up at him and for the first time he could remember, he saw fear and uncertainty in her eyes. He extended his hand, waiting for her to take it. He wanted so much to grasp her hand firmly, but she had to make this decision. She had to make the move to join him; he could not force her. At last she stretched out her hand and grasped his weakly. He closed his fingers tightly around her hand and lifted her up. He felt her strengthen ever so slightly as her consciousness joined with his.
As he looked into her mind he felt the pain she had endured over the past two arns. The physical strain, the mental anguish. This Peacekeeper, Gavyk, knew how to be cruel. He certainly knew how to torture a Delvian. Fighting to control his revulsion, Ta'al gently, but firmly guided Zhaan from the horror toward the garden. While he had easily found it when he had first begun this journey, it was much more difficult now. The pain was distracting him. He paused, closing his eyes and centering himself once again.
When he opened his eyes, they were on the edge of the garden. He could hear the water in the background, smell the fragrance of the flora that lay ahead. At his side, Zhaan stood, drinking in the sight. She turned to look at him and when their eyes met, they were transported to the center of the garden.
Ta'al eased her to the ground beside the stream that flowed through this healing landscape then sat facing her. She took up the Kodasana position as did he, though this time, they joined their hands together. They each closed their eyes and began the chant of healing.
Lt. Gavyk paced angrily around his office. His interrogation of Zhaan had proven fruitless. Despite his creative and usually very successful methods, she had refused to cooperate. She had refused to reveal the whereabouts of her companions even though it would have ended her torture. He was impressed by her resolve, but he was also angered by it. And he needed to release his anger. He needed some way to prove to himself that he was still in control.
He pressed the comm link roughly, "Officer Om. Report."
"Om here, sir"
"Where are the two bounty hunters?"
"They are at the Sebacean hostel sir. It appears they have settled for the night."
"Excellent. Continue to monitor their movements." Gavyk closed the comm link and smiled. He decided to pay a visit to the Nebari prisoner so conveniently locked in his containment area.