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Jonathan Archer clenched and unclenched his fist. Once, twice, several times...
There was definitely something wrong with him.
An ache in all his joints, not just his fingers. A weariness in his bones, an exhaustion that just wouldn't go away, no matter how much he rested during the day, how many hours of sleep he got at night. It went beyond a simple adjustment to prison life, he was certain of that, even though Rava One's doctors dismissed his complaints as bellyaching.
He looked up from the cot he was sitting on.
Tomon, one of the prison guards -- Archer's least favorite guard, in fact -- stood outside his cell.
"Up!" he yelled, brandishing his weapon, a long, thin metal rod akin to an old-fashioned Taser. Primitive, but highly effective. If he touched you with it, you got a debilitating electric shock. Archer knew this from hard-earned experience -- the first time he'd been a little too slow in obeying Tomon's commands, he'd gotten a taste of that shock. It had left him twitching on the ground for what felt like hours.
It had left Tomon with a nasty smile on his face.
Archer remembered that smile as he rose from his cot and locked eyes with the guard. Tomon was small and slight -- almost half a meter shorter than the captain, a good twenty-three kilos lighter -- with a nasty streak Archer was sure he'd adopted in an attempt to compensate for his size. Over the last couple weeks -- since the crew had first been imprisoned here on Rava One -- he'd turned that nasty streak on the captain more than once.
Archer was looking forward to a little payback -- sooner, rather than later.
Some of that attitude must have shown in his eyes.
"You want some more of this?" Tomon asked, raising his weapon.
"No," Archer said with as much humility as he could muster, gazing down at the ground.
"Then wipe that look off your face. And fall in." Tomon stepped to the side of the cell doorway and deactivated the ion field.
The captain of the Enterprise shuffled forward, stopping just outside his cell.
A metal wall rose before him, stretching up a good three stories. High at the top of that wall, a single porthole -- a piece of glass perhaps two meters square -- looked out onto the stars.
Rava One was a satellite -- location unknown. Archer and his crew had been trapped here for two and a half weeks.
"Eyes front, Archer," Tomon snapped.
The captain lowered his gaze and stared at the blank wall in front of him.
Tomon moved on to the cell to the captain's left.
Archer risked a quick glance to his right.
O'Neill stood there, hands clasped behind her back, in front of her cell. She wore a drab, gray, one-piece coverall. The same coverall Archer wore. Beyond her the captain saw Dwight and Carstairs and Duel.
The captain nodded briefly to all of them.
Dwight looked worse, he saw. Pale, thin, hunched over like an old man. Archer frowned and shook his head. The young ensign had been in the infirmary most of the last week, unable to keep down any of the food the Denari were giving them. He wasn't the only one, but he'd been by far the most seriously affected. An allergic reaction -- anaphylactic shock, Phlox had called it -- had almost killed him the first day. Dwight had been sick almost every day since. More than the rest of them, he'd had to be very careful about what he ate. The captain knew his last meal had been almost nothing.
Archer locked eyes with Dwight now, and offered what he hoped was an encouraging smile.
Hang in there kid. D-Day -- D for deliverance -- is coming soon.
"What did I say, Archer? Hey?"
The captain heard Tomon's yell and felt the jab of his weapon at the exact same second.
His brain exploded in agony.
He was vaguely aware of falling, the back of his head slamming to the floor, his hands and feet, arms and legs, twitching spasmodically, over and over again. Mostly, his world was pain. White-hot daggers of it shooting up and down his spine, through his nervous system as the electrical impulses from brain to body overloaded.
"Back!" the captain heard Tomon yell. "Or you're next!"
Archer had no idea who exactly he was talking to -- one of the crew, obviously -- but he silently urged whoever it was to do what Tomon said. No incidents. That might mean a lockdown -- no exercise period. They couldn't afford that now.
The thrashing subsided. Archer got control of his body back and lay there a moment. He tasted blood in his mouth -- he'd bitten his tongue again. The backs of his hands were bruised where he'd slammed them into the hard metal floor.
He looked up and saw Tomon looming over him.
The guard pressed the rod, deactivated -- for a second Archer had been certain Tomon was going to shock him again, and he'd tensed up -- against Archer's chin, forcing his head back against the floor.
"Now. Why don't you get up, and do what you're told. Captain."
As usual, the Denari guard put a sneer into that last word.
Archer forced himself not to react.
"I will," he said, and climbed to his feet.
All around him, he sensed his crew watching. Four to his left, thirteen others to his right.
Stay calm, everyone, he willed silently.
Tomon stepped back then and ordered everyone to form a line. Then he marched them down, in formation, to an open space by the exit door, where he lined them up again in a single row.
Archer heard the rest of A block fall into formation behind them.
Two more rows of eighteen prisoners. Blocks A-1 (his) through A-3. All Enterprise crew. B block, next to them, held the rest of them. C and D blocks -- the remainder of the prison satellite -- held other prisoners. Denari prisoners. With whom Enterprise crew was not allowed to mingle.
Nonetheless, the captain had been able to learn a few things about them. Most of his information came from Doctor Phlox, who, out of all of them, seemed to be having the easiest time adjusting to life in Rava. Not physically -- he suffered, albeit to a lesser degree, from the same problems as Enterprise's human crew, an inability to (as the doctor put it) "tolerate" some of the Denari foods, a general malaise, a growing stiffness and soreness in his body that he attributed to certain chemical deficiencies -- but mentally. The doctor seemed, by and large, to be his usual, good-natured self. Though the captain knew that with Denobulans, appearances could be deceiving.
Phlox, who had one of the two universal translator modules the prison authorities had allowed them to keep (Archer, had the other), had managed to convince those authorities to allow him to work with the medical staff on Rava to help figure out what exactly was affecting the Enterprise crew. And while he'd spent the vast majority of his time in the prison infirmary doing just that, he'd also managed to find time to speak with some of the other prisoners -- the Denari -- and glean a few pieces of information that Archer had found more than helpful.
Rava held some two hundred prisoners, Enterprise crew included. Most of them had been there for years -- more than a decade, in some cases. They were political prisoners moved off-planet to avoid any rescue attempts. Control of the prison and the system were held by the same person, who apparently had ordered the attack on their ship: General Sadir, a dictator who ran Denari with an iron fist. He was in the final stages of a war designed to crush his remaining opposition, a group of former government officials and miners collectively known as the Guild.
The prison was run by a minimal staff -- forty guards, all equipped with the Taser-like rods Tomon so eagerly used on him, as well as hand weapons eerily identical to the old Starfleet laser pistols; half a dozen administrators; three medical workers; and a Colonel Gastornis, a military man whom Archer had never met, in charge.
No one had ever escaped from the prison satellite.
But almost since the day they'd arrived, two and a half weeks ago, Archer had thought of nothing else. Escaping, and getting back his ship. After talking with the crew in B block, he'd put together the guards' schedules. After a week, he thought he'd spotted a weakness in the system.
Another few days, and he'd come up with a plan. Not a perfect plan -- he'd had too few opportunities to speak, unobserved, with his crew, for that -- but a plan that could, should work, if...
"All right, everyone. March!" Tomon and the other guards stepped aside, and the huge door leading from A block to the central prison complex beyond opened.
It was the same door they'd marched through that first day, when they'd been led out of the transport to their cells. Archer had still been in shock then, or something close to it. Everything that had happened from the moment the explosion had crippled Enterprise right up until then had seemed more like a dream, a nightmare, than reality. One minute they were cruising toward the anomaly, everything going according to plan, everything on schedule, T'Pol and Lieutenant Duel ready to board the cell-ship for a week-long scientific study -- and the next minute, there was a hole in the bottom of the saucer section and they were being boarded by two dozen ships whose existence, according to T'Pol, was "an impossibility."
There had been so many of the Denari troops -- hundreds, he'd guessed -- that their presence, the sight of them swarming every deck aboard his ship, had seemed like a bad dream as well. His and his crew's helplessness -- the ship was crippled, the armory inaccessible -- had only added to that feeling of unreality.
They'd been escorted off Enterprise and onto a single crowded transport vessel. A day's journey that had ended here, where they'd been marched off to identical, featureless cells.
Only then had the realization of what had happened sunk in. Enterprise was in enemy hands.
Archer and his crew were prisoners of war.
They stepped from the cell block proper into the corridor beyond.
It was slightly wider and significantly taller than those on Enterprise. The additional height was for a pair of walkways that ran at shoulder height, and to either side of the main corridor.
The guards proceeded down those, toward the door at the far end of the corridor. Five on either side, weapons drawn, eyes glued to the prisoners on the path below.
Archer heard the door behind them slam shut.
Up ahead, Ensign Dwight suddenly stopped and bent over double.
The prisoners behind him came to an immediate halt. Those ahead continued to march.
That was Tomon, up above them, to their left and almost directly parallel with Archer.
"You!" He pointed to Dwight. "Stay in formation! Keep moving!"
The ensign gasped and let out a moan. He waved a hand at Tomon.
"Oh God. Please. Give me a minute."
He sounded like he was in agony.
"Keep moving!" Tomon said again. "Now!"
"Here -- let me through, please. Let me through."
That was Phlox, coming up behind the captain. Archer turned and saw the crew making way for him.
"Stop!" A guard on their right yelled and raised his laser pistol.
Phlox froze, steps behind Archer.
The captain tensed.
Dwight moaned again and collapsed on the ground. All eyes went to him.
Phlox took another step forward and passed the captain.
As he did so, he slipped Archer a hypospray he'd stolen from the medical ward.
"Stop!" the guard on the right yelled. "No more warnings."
Phlox glared. "Let me see what's the matter with him."
The guards exchanged reluctant glances.
"All right," one of the guards on the right said. "Quickly. The rest of you, keep moving."
The prisoners around Dwight began to back away from him -- a movement that rippled through the entire line.
The movement, subtle and precise, put prisoners near every one of the guards, save for the two farthest away.
Archer jumped into the fray.
"Let me through," Archer said, and began walking forward.
"You stay where you are," Tomon hissed. "Captain."
Archer froze in his tracks.
Right next to Tomon.
He craned his neck and looked up at the guard.
Tomon had his shock rod out. The captain saw the weapon was charged and ready.
But so was he.
"You have to use that word," Archer said, "with a little more respect."
Tomon's eyes blazed fire.
He jumped down to the main corridor and advanced on Archer.
Predictable, the captain thought. So predictable.
"You're going to need a week in the infirmary," the guard said. "Captain."
He jabbed the shock rod at Archer.
The captain might have been weak, a little tired, not entirely up to snuff, but the day hadn't come when he couldn't outfight a twerp like Tomon in his sleep.
Archer dodged right.
The weapon -- and the guard who held it -- slid harmlessly past him.
As Tomon tried to recover, Archer's right arm shot out, and he jabbed the hypospray into the guard's arm.
"Hey!" Tomon stopped moving and rubbed his arm. "What -- "
His eyes rolled back in his head, and he passed out.
That was A block's cue.
The prisoners who had maneuvered next to the guards above them attacked. Archer heard rather than saw them move.
He was too busy pulling Tomon's laser pistol from his belt.
The guards at the end of the corridor were already moving too. One of them toward the fray -- the other, obviously more savvy one, toward what could only be an alarm button on the wall.
Archer targeted him first.
A single shot from the laser pistol -- it was uncanny how identical these were to the ones Starfleet had stopped using a dozen years ago, right down to the colors and feel of the hand grip -- and that man went down. A second shot, and the other guard followed.
And when the captain turned around, it was over.
The ten A-block guards had all fallen -- as had some of his own crew, though a quick check by Phlox revealed none of them were seriously injured -- and Archer's people were gathering the guards' weapons. Some of them were changing into their clothes for the next phase of the plan.
Archer nodded as he watched, a grim smile on his face. It wasn't an escape yet.
But they were well on their way.
The captain found Dwight and clapped him on the shoulder.
"Nice work, Ensign. You should have been an actor."
The young man smiled. "It wasn't entirely an act, sir, but I appreciate the compliment."
Archer nodded. No, it wasn't entirely an act. The ensign's illness, and the sickness the rest of the crew were suffering from, were all too real. Not the least of the reasons they needed to get back to Enterprise was to get Phlox to sickbay and his equipment, so the doctor could get them all well again.
But first things first.
Archer turned to the door at the end of the corridor.
The main complex, where they'd find the rest of the crew -- B block -- waiting to take their exercise.
No, the captain corrected himself silently.
Not the rest of the crew.
Not Trip, nor Hoshi -- who'd never even made it with the rest of them to Rava. Archer didn't know where they were; Reed had been of the opinion that they'd taken the cell-ship and escaped. The captain thought that likely at first, but as the days passed, his certainty waned. He knew Trip. Enterprise's chief engineer would have come looking for them -- would have found them by now. If he could.
So something had happened along the way. Either that, or...
Archer wouldn't think about the "or" just now.
Other members of his crew were missing as well. T'Pol. Reed. Travis. Hess and Ryan from engineering. They'd all come to the prison, been on A block until the third day after their arrival. Then all had been marched away, and not heard from -- or of -- since. Archer had only a rough idea of the prison complex's size, but it was certainly big enough for them to still be here, somewhere. He intended to find them, if they were here.
"Captain." O'Neill, dressed in one of the Denari guard uniforms, approached. "We're ready."
Archer nodded. They had to move quickly.
"All right, everyone."
He looked around at his crew.
"You know the plan. Let's move."
They took up positions -- the "guards" on the walkways above, the prisoners on the corridor below -- and began to march.
Copyright © 2004 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.