Rule 2 – Your loyalty is to the Section above all.
Pain coursed through his body. Pain so dull that, at times, Julian could almost forget it was there. And yet, at other intervals, so sharp he couldn't breathe. It fluctuated, pulsated with a life of its own. It became his everything; his world, his terror, his fate.
"You brought this on yourself," a silken voice whispered by his ear.
He blinked up at his 'mother'.
Garbled sounds escaped his lips, but never melded into words. A hot tear trickled down his cheek. His words. They'd taken his words from him. Bad enough his legs no longer moved, but his words, too, were gone!
Mother reached out – he couldn't stop the instinctive flinch – and brushed the tear away with a gentle thumb. "Now, now, no crying. We did warn you. We gave you every opportunity. But you forced our hand."
Hatred and fear boiled up til it choked his throat.
A scream ruptured from him – a cry for help and a declaration of condemnation, all in one.
"Shhh!" she ordered, slapping his bruised cheek. "We haven't time for your childish tantrums."
He struggled as best he could against the restraints on his wrists. Cold leather cut into his already raw skin. Nothing. Nothing, but more useless pain. He glanced down. His legs wouldn't obey his commands anymore, so they'd left them untied weeks ago. With a whimpered sigh, Julian lay back down on the table.
"There," Mother said. "Wasn't that silly to do?"
He glared at her.
Her green eyes narrowed. "Attitudes like this are what got you into this situation, Julian. You'd best remember that."
He thought about spitting at her.
"Now," she said. "Today, we'll focus on your enhancements again."
That was how he'd lost his words.
The legs…the legs had been done the old-fashioned, brutal way. They'd flipped him on his stomach, sliced open his skin, and taken a sledge hammer to his spine.
The feel of the cold metal pressed against his cheek sent a shiver down Julian's body. He lay, face down, on the long, grey table; his hands retrained above his head by leather cuffs, while two other similar cuffs held his ankles in place. He tugged experimentally against them, but whatever his handlers had injected into him had temporarily nulled his enhanced strength. He sighed. He wasn't going anywhere.
At least, they'd allowed him to keep his pants this time.
A thin hand touched his bare shoulder.
Julian flinched, jerking his head to the side to face his new tormentor.
His 'mother' stood several inches away. A few other, nameless, agents stood behind her. Mother leaned closer, blue eyes as sparkling with an anger that would challenge a Klingon. "You've been a bad boy, Julian."
He stiffened, muscles bunching up tight.
She stroked his back gently. "I'm disappointed. We gave you everything. Handed the world to you. And you threw it back in our faces."
He opened his mouth to plead for mercy.
She grabbed his hair and slammed his head against the table. Bright lights flashed across Julian's eyes. He sucked in a hissed breath.
"The Section doesn't tolerate failures," she said, releasing his hair.
"Please, I –"
"No." She slammed his head again, and then continued softly. "No, Julian. We gave you a chance. Remember? After the EMH? You've thrown it away. So, now, you must accept the consequences."
His hands clenched into fists.
He was going to die, but not before enduring 'punishment'.
"I'm sorry," he told her, them, in the hopes it might assuage them into leaving out the worst punishments.
"I know," Mother replied. She turned to the three other agents. "You have your orders."
Left him with these unknown men.
At least with her here, he knew someone.
Now, he was truly alone.
Two of the men stepped on either side of him. The third sat in a chair, twirling a large hammer. That man grinned. "I bet five he faints."
The one on his right snorted. "Six he pisses himself."
The last refrained from saying anything.
A flash of light caught Julian's eye. He suddenly couldn't breathe when he saw what Right Guy held. A surgical blade. Turning his head to the other side, he saw Guy Left had one too. He closed his eyes. He couldn't watch them do it, couldn't bear to see the tools of his trade used for harm.
The tips of the blades touched his lower back, before pushing in. He bit his lip to keep from screaming at the hot, black pain. It tore through his body like a plasma charge. His body twitched and bulked, attempting to get away. He tried to stop it, but couldn't.
"That didn't take long," Right Guy laughed. "We haven't even got to the fun part."
"Give him some slack," Chair said. "Failures aren't known for their self-control, you know."
Down to his pants line the blades cut, then back up to til they got to the middle of his spine.
By then, he was moaning, and sweat ran down his face.
Tiny claws pinched his skin.
What in the…
He glanced down, and had to swallow bile. They were going to rip his skin away. Autopsy him!
The new pain of that transcended anything before.
He temporarily blacked out.
Only to come back a second later to the foul taste of Animazine.
He coughed, a spasm running down him.
Of course, they'd have it. Wouldn't want their failure to miss out in any of his 'lesson'.
His back quivered.
A quick glance told him they'd succeeded in opening his skin enough to see his spine.
Chunks of carrots and beans slushed into the table under his cheek. The stink and feel of mush almost made him vomit again. He held it in hard. Stomach acid burned his throat and nose.
"Gross!" Left said calmly. "I'm not cleaning that."
Right glared. "Don't look at me."
"My turn," Chair announced.
Left and Right backed up a bit, their eyes gleaming.
Chair leaned down until Julian and he were eye-to-eye. He grinned wide. Lifted up the hammer and waved it.
Julian's eyes widened, and what little courage he had left. "Please...please, don't!"
"No can do, little man." Chair straightened. "Need to burn some calories."
Julian closed his eyes tight, and regretted ever letting his 'friends' in.
"Julian," Mother cooed. "I need you to pay attention."
He whimpered, unable to actually reply.
She smiled down at him. "Good. Now, these hands…"
Long fingers brushed against his broken knuckles and fingertips.
"These hands have gotten you into the worst trouble," she said. "They wrote reports on the Section. They stored them in a file."
He shallowed his breathing.
"They cannot be allowed to do so ever again." She ran her fingers through his sweaty hair. "I'm going to take them, Julian. Their enhancements will never be used against the Section again."
A sob escaped him.
First his legs, then his voice, now his hands.
A true cripple.
By the time they were done, he'd be nothing but a crippled shell. Only good for pity and death. Only, they wouldn't give him death, would they? No, they'd promised to leave his mind intact. Promised to let him live the rest of his life as their broken pet.
A physical object for all assets and agents to learn from.
The agony of his spinal injury had numbed to a constant ache when Mother came back a few weeks later.
By then, they'd started removing the enhancements for his speech. Day by day, he could feel the equations, words, and sounds leaving his grasp. He could still understand language, but his speech was beginning to crumble.
"I don't enjoy this," Mother said, hands clasped behind her ridged back.
"Coldth folled mah."
She shook her head. "So much potential wasted."
He growled at her.
She slapped him. "You're selfish, Julian."
His bruised cheek stung.
"But even like this, you will serve us." She brushed some of his sweaty hair back off his forehead. "You will be a lesson to all who see you."
He frowned. "Whath?"
"You will not die." She straightened. "You will continue to live, after your punishment ends. No, you will live. We will sit you in the main hall. In this way, other will have a daily reminder of what happens to those like you."
Another piece of Julian died that day.
The tricorder beeped in her hand as she scanned his body. Her eyes flew over the readouts. She nodded. "Good. Your electrolytes are up enough to begin."
Tears brimmed and fell down Julian face, some dripping into his bloodied ears.
She watched him for a moment, before disappearing from view.
Julian prepared himself as best he could for what was most likely the final part of his 'punishment'.
After this, he'd the broken enough to serve the Section's new purpose.
He'd fought so hard to break away from them.
Betrayed years of conditioning.
Used every skill he had to make solid allies (friends).
Battled for each life sent into his hands, regardless of their worth to the Section.
And, at the end, it didn't matter.
Not one midge.
He relaxed his muscles, slumped against his restraints.
So, this was it then.
Nothing came of his actions.
Nothing but pain, and failure.
Suddenly, the room exploded with fire!
A boom deafened him til all he could hear was a tiny ringing. Smoke stung his eyes. Bits of hot shrapnel singed his mottled chest and arms. He coughed, once, twice. Shook his head. But it still made no sense.
What had happened?
Muffled sounds came from far away.
Julian checked the room as best he could.
Mother – his breath hitched – Mother lay on her side, a large piece of metal skewering her side. Dark blood pooled beneath her, rapidly spreading outward. A bulky figure, shadowed in the smoke, stepped over her. Julian blinked hard several times to try and clear his eyes of the dust.
The two men stood, now, a few feet from him, Romulan rifles in their hands. Their clothes were a bit torn, bloody in some places. Yet, while O'Brien's face curled into a visage of anger, Garak's remained disturbingly blank.
"Come, we haven't much time," Garak said to O'Brien. "The others can only give us five more minutes."
"Right." O'Brien stepped the rest of the way over. "This is gonna hurt, Julian."
The man struggled a few seconds with the leather restraints, before ripping them off Julian's wrists. The Irish man dragged him up fast. Julian swayed, his useless legs buckled, and his vision blurred. Then, next moment, he was being carried, bridal style, down a hallway by Garak. He stirred and glanced up at the Cardassian.
"Doctor," Garak grinned, not quite looking down at him. "We must endeavor to not meet this way often. People will talk."
Julian laughed, though it came out as more a wheezed choke.
Garak's tightened his grip around. Strong, scaled hands squeezed gently. "Only a few hundred more feet, Doctor."
Julian nodded sluggishly, leaning his head back down on Garak's boned shoulder.
"Well, Doctor?" Sisko asked, his warm hand laid Julian's shoulder.
The Bajoran woman re-read her pad. "The damage is extensive. They tore out as much as they could, without leaving him in a vegetative state. I'm not sure his speech will ever be regained. And his spine is so shattered, only a replicated new one would be feasible. And even then, it might not give him back his range of motion, just stop the pain."
Sisko's grip shook. "Thank you, Doctor."
She nodded and left to file the report.
Sisko sighed, sitting down in the chair beside Julian. Tired eyes rose to meet his. "I'm so sorry, Julian."
Julian shook his head, a soft mew his only viable answer.
Sisko winced at the sound. "We got your message a week after you disappeared. Smart move, using Quark."
He knew the Ferangi would come in handy one day.
Nice to know the alien had upheld their bargain.
"I'm sorry it took us so long to find you," Sisko continued. He leaned closer. Julian fought the urge to cringe back at the invasion of space. Sisko sighed again. "The Section blocked us at every corner. We finally had to rely on Garak's old contacts to get in."
Julian wondered what that had cost the ex-agent.
"They won't get you again, Julian. We won't let them."
Julian nodded, because it was expected of him, but he didn't believe the Captain. The Section would come for him. This time, there'd be no mistakes. They'd kill his friends, and still leave Julian alive. They'd make Julian live out the rest of his life, knowing his friends died for him.
Julian sucked in a shaky breath.
After all, what use was a lesson, if the subject was dead?
Animazine - Star Trek stimulant that keep people awake.
And that's all she wrote, folks. End of this little two parter. I'm sorry it's so open-ended. It wouldn't let me write it any other way.
Will I ever write a sequel? Maybe, but there's no plan for it right now.
Review? Let me know what ya'll think, please.