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Surely by now they were deep in Romulan territory. From the engines' pitch and vibration, Spock estimated their speed at warp three, far too casual a pace for any ship under pursuit. That was in no way surprising. It would make no difference if they were creeping along on impulse power. Starfleet vessels were forbidden, under any circumstance, to violate Romulan space. There would be no rescue...and the chances for a successful escape were vanishingly slim.

Nevertheless Spock sat in his cool, dim cell reviewing every logical possibility, and a few that were somewhat less than logical. His present circumstance did not encourage concentration. His nose itched, but there was very little he could do about it with his hands still secured behind him. And there was the increasingly urgent need to empty his bladder.

Leaning back against the cold metal bulkhead, he turned his thoughts to Sub-commander Charvon. Formerly Commander Charvon, Romulan flagship captain, until dealings with him robbed her of that position, and doubtless much more. There was no one in the Romulan Empire with so hard a case for personal revenge. Falling into her silken hands should have sealed his death sentence, but having survived thus far, he began to wonder about Charvon's intent. There were worse fates than execution awaiting Vulcans in Romulan territory, and her words increasingly seemed to lead in that direction.

Spock found himself faced with a difficult moral dilemma. If matters progressed as he suspected, it was only a matter of time before the sub-commander's lewd insinuations became physical fact. Should he resist any sexual advances, even to the point of inviting injury? Or should he cooperate, endure every humiliation, remaining alert to opportunities for escape? As logical as this last choice seemed, Spock sickened at the thought of actively pleasuring his captors...or being "pleasured" by them. There was a line that no Vulcan would cross willingly, and in the matter of his personal sexuality, he was very much a Vulcan. That part of him belonged to Nyota Uhura, and no other. And so it was decided. If necessary he would risk angering the Romulans rather than submit to their degrading notions of entertainment.

With regret, Spock considered Seven and T'Sel-fresh from a Vulcan spaceliner firm that was no longer in existence-innocents drawn into this horror through no fault of their own. Due to his name, young Seven was the source of much amusement among their human shipmates. They would think it ironic that a man thus named would find himself trapped in this miserable situation. Even Jim Kirk would call it "bad luck".  

The cell door clicked and quietly slid open. Startled by the identity of his visitor, Spock rose and said, "Desus!"

The tall, handsome Romulan came one step nearer, his features stony.

"I thought you dead," Spock whispered into the silence.

Desus gave a harsh, bitter laugh. "You mean you hoped. No, Spock, I did not unsheathe my honor blade. Only a fool would choose death while his enemy still lives." His voice hardened to steel. "Brother!"

With an effort, Spock met the anger in those dark Romulan eyes. Once, Desus had proved a convenient opening into the world of piracy, facilitating Spock's undercover assignment. But through shared hardships and pleasures, imprisonment and adventures, the Romulan had come to mean something more-something Spock had dared not acknowledge then...or now. Long ago, he had chosen his path, wherever it might lead.

Spock gazed straight ahead and declared, "I upheld my oath to Starfleet."

A battle-hardened fist struck hard across his jaw, knocking him to the deck. Spock landed with a grunt and drew up his knees. As the Romulan moved in, he braced for a beating, but Desus only stared down at him, apparently satisfied for now by the ooze of green blood at his mouth.

"Traitorous mongrel!" spat Desus. "Oh, how I have looked forward to this day. I will see you suffer as I have suffered, and in the end you will pay with your life!"

After the cell door slammed shut, Spock awkwardly hoisted himself onto the bench. Closing his eyes, he gathered the pain into himself, embracing it like a friend until it shut out every thought.

***

By the time Spock's hands were finally freed, the blood on his face had dried. Alone in the cell, he fingered his swollen jaw as he re-evaluated the human concept of luck. Before embarking on a dangerous mission, Nyota and others sometimes wished him "good luck". Obviously such wishes had no effect on a mission's outcome, but to date he had survived. Would he be so "fortunate" this time? There was a chance that he might exert some influence over Sub-commander Charvon, but Desus was another matter.

Spock was lying on his bench when Charvon entered the cell, accompanied by an armed guard. He sat up. At the sight of his injury, shock and anger crossed her face. Striding forward, she grasped his chin and eyeing the tender lump, demanded, "Who did this to you?"

When Spock failed to reply promptly, she shoved him with such force that his head struck the bulkhead behind him. "You will answer when I speak to you!"

"It was Sub-commander Desus," Spock revealed.

Charvon's slim eyebrow arched with displeasure, but she quickly composed herself and went on to another matter. "Every time food has been brought to you, you refuse it. Why are you not eating? The food is no different from that we once shared in my cabin. I understand your dietary preferences and have ordered your meals accordingly. Are you ill...or merely stubborn?"

Spock vividly recalled his sojourn in Commander Charvon's quarters, where he had been welcomed as a guest, served fine food and drink by the Romulan's own hand. That same lovely hand had joined his in silent, stimulating exchange...and later slapped him for his betrayal.

Now her dark eyes flashed with sudden insight. "So, my obstinate Vulcan. Do you think you can escape the inevitable by starving yourself? Whether or not the food is drugged, you will eat." She started for the door, but turned toward him with a shrewd smile. "There are far less agreeable ways of administering drugs."

Then she was gone and the door slid shut, leaving Spock in welcome solitude. He realized that his self-imposed fast was only a delaying tactic, but would gladly exchange hunger for even one extra moment of rationality. Sinking into a meditative trance, he prepared for the coming ordeal.

***

A pair of blue ales were poured and waiting when Desus entered Charvon's feminine domain. He helped himself to the bracing liquor, for he would need it. Taking a seat, he drank in silence, awaiting the inevitable.

At last Charvon said, "Desus, on one of the prisoners' faces there is an ugly bruise."

"You mean Spock," Desus said impatiently. "No doubt he whined about it."

"Did you strike him?"

"Yes, and with great pleasure! Does that upset you, Co-commander?"

Charvon finished her ale and shrugged as if it were of no consequence. "Spock is a conniving, unscrupulous liar. He betrayed us both. Our common grudge united us for this mission and has brought us splendid success.  Let us not fight over him now. We both want the same thing-revenge."

"His execution as ordered by the Praetor. Or..." Desus asked slowly, "am I mistaken?"

She set down her glass. "Death...is so brief a punishment. So final, so...unimaginative. There are those in power who favor a more lingering fate for our halfling."

Desus stiffened. "You among them?"

"Myself, foremost among them." Charvon smiled. "I'm not without a certain influence, even now. I arranged this mission, did I not?"

"Say it, then." But he already knew what was coming.

The smile widened. "Very well. Spock is mine...until I tire of him. Don't look so scandalized, Desus. The purebreds will be offered for ransom, as we planned. With only 10,000 Vulcan survivors, each one is precious now."

Desus could barely contain his disgust. "Chattel! You knew from the outset, yet you permitted me to believe that Spock would face execution!"

"Calm yourself, Desus. I realize you dislike the practice, but if you truly want retribution, what better way than pleasure bondage? The image is rather droll, you must admit. Proud Spock as chattel. Just think what Federation secrets that mind holds-secrets we might learn, given time...and proper persuasion."

"At the price of honor? You sicken me!"

"Then you haven't the stomach for revenge. Spock belongs to me. Keep your hands off him."



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