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Break, Breaking, Broken

Posted on Thu Oct 22nd, 2015 @ 3:50pm by Lieutenant Commander Vanora Stele

Mission: Heart of Stele
Location: Beta Base, Moon of Troyius
Timeline: After "Rubicon"

OOC: The story of the day that Vanora lost Tang is partially told in Vanora's very first Gladiator post, "Night Sweats," found here: http://www.uss-gladiator.utopia-host.com/index.php/sim/viewpost/33
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ON:

This time, Vanora was not so lucky. There were two pairs of guards on the other side of the door, armed and ready.

This time, Vanora had back up.

The guards were distracted, which helped as well, and had been the plan. This cell block apparently had four prisoners, including another Klingon, Nausicaan, as well as an Andorian. Those three had sprung into action immediately, taking down another pair of guards and engaging the others in a firefight. Phaser fire bounced off the walls around Vanora and those with her.

A stray shot clipped Shenara, and she collapsed to the ground. The noise of her hitting the grated floor caused one guard to turn around, but Cassandra and Aleixo had phaser beams into him, and the other three guards, before he could even turn his weapon.

"Hold!" Vanora called out in Elasian, and then again in Klingon. The Klingon warrior understood, and seeing that the phaser fire coming toward him and the other escapees had ceased, he motioned for the Nausican and Andorian to as well. The gunfire stopped. The Nausicaan looked especially displeased at this turn of events. He didn't wait for further attempts at discussion, and ran up the stairs and through the main door, not pausing for even a thank you or hello.

"Tend to her," Vanora motioned to Cassandra to look after Shenara, before turning to Aleixo.

"This is the right cell block. Those are his block mates," he replied, motioning to the Klingon and Andorian who were now climbing the stairs to the upper platform.

"Tang," Vanora said, simply, with her own PADD facing the pair when they made it up the stairs, her husband's face pulled up. The two looked carefully at the PADD, recognition showing in their eyes only after several long moments, and then they gave each other with a look that Vanora could not interpret, and then the Andorian pointed to the end of the upper, left-hand row of cells. Vanora nodded thanks and began walking in that direction and Aleixo began following. "No," she shook him off. "No matter what has happened, he is... I'm the one here for him. Get the others down to the exit and secure the next door. I'll be down quickly."

Without a second look, Vanora moved toward the cell, down the catwalk. She felt as though she was floating. The adrenaline was pumping through her system at such an extreme rate that her extraneous senses seemed dulled, her vision narrowing into a straight line. She didn't hear the Klingon man picking up Shenana while beginning to sing a Klingon battle song, nor did she hear Aleixo attempting to instruct the group of now five escaped prisoners to secure the cell block exit on the opposite side of the building.

Her senses failed her, with the exception of the sharp taste in her mouth, and the feeling of her heart trying to break out of her chest.

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This was what she remembered, about the day that she lost her husband.

She'd replayed it in her mind so many times, and when Elian took over the Gladiator and put each crew member into a holographic nightmare inspired by their personnel records, Vanora had lived it again, and again, and again. Dozens of times. Hundreds of times, before Khelev was able to rescue her.

They had woken up that morning, Vanora in Tang's arms, the same way they'd gone to sleep. Tang woke up first, and began kissing Vanora's neck, and then she ravaged him. Some days she let him ravage her, but that morning she'd felt particularly alive.

When they finally made it out of bed, they'd had breakfast. Vanora was adventurous, and loved trying new foods; she'd traded and bartered for as large a library of replicator recipes as she could find, and then programmed the machine to randomize her meals. Even on a freighter, one could still have a lot of surprises. Tang, on the other hand, had the same meal he had every day of rice porridge with Japanese pickles and green tea.

The rest of the day was routine. They were on course to rendezvous with their Ferengi dealer who'd hired the SS Lady of the Lake for a quick cargo run, so it was standard warp-speed maintenance time. Vanora was captain, but she was still getting her hands dirty. That day she was called in to help with the Deck 2 forward EPS manifold, yet again, and the busted secondary scanners. She'd eaten lunch on the job, and was worn out in exactly the way she liked by the end of the day. She'd fixed things that needed fixing, and kept her baby running for one more day.

Dinner with Tang was much like breakfast, except that they were interrupted even before they sat down, as Vanora pounced on her husband the moment she saw him and ravished him again. They were newlyweds, but she had the feeling that these feelings wouldn't end for a very long time. They'd eaten, laughing through the meal, regaling each other with stories, updates, jokes and flirtation. Back then she didn't drink that often, because she was drunk on love... she knew she was cheesy as all hell and couldn't care less.

They made love again before finally settling into bed. Which is when the attack happened. Which was the last time she'd ever seen Tang.

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Until now. She paused for the longest second as she reached the edge of his cell. She didn't feel like she could breathe, or move her feet, or really move anything.

"Delaying the inevitable delays only your future," Tang said from around the corner. She recognized his voice, thought it wasn't as she'd remembered it. It used to be less tired.

Still, it was enough, and Vanora felt her pulled into his cell by some invisible force.

Vanora gasped when she saw him, and began crying freely. All those tears she'd held back over the last four and half years flowed out at once, spattering into tiny psychotropic puddles on the thin matted floor. Likely, she would have cried no matter how he looked, but the

"Be still, my Heart," Tang spoke softly to Vanora. He had withered, that was the only way that Vanora could describe it. She didn't understand how it was possible; Aleixo had been here for twice the time as Tang and seemed in completely good health. Her husband, however, looked starved, and worse. He wore no shirt, only a thin blanket over his back and shoulders, wrapped about like a cloak. Where his skin was bare, it was covered in scars and welts, some old and some very fresh. He was missing teeth, fingernails, and it wasn't clear whether he was capable of standing.

On closer look, Vanora realized it was impossible; Tang was shackled by his ankles. "You will make short work of my chains, I am sure, but they are the least of my worries. I do not even know why they are there, except to increase my discomfort." He pulled up his pant legs. There was fresh bruising and brand new fractures which Vanora could see through the skin.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," she began repeating through sobs.

"You need not apologize, my Vanora. You did not attack your ship, abduct me, send me from one black site to another, torture me. You found me."

"But I had given up... I shouldn't have given up..."

"You did not do this to me, my Heart," Tang repeated.

She swallowed the lump in her throat. "Who did?" she asked.

"Vanora!" Aleixo called up from below. "We need to go! Now!"

"Help me up," Tang agreed.

Vanora flipped her spear and with a loud cry, smashed the point cleanly into one lock and then the other, both snapping open in turn. Dropping the spear, she bent down and lifted Tang, cradling him in her arms. He wrapped his arms around her neck as she left the cell and jogged quickly down the staircase toward the rest of the group.

"Who did this to you?" she whispered to him again as he wiped the remnants of her tears away with the cleanest edge of his blanket that he could find. The sadness was being quickly overcome by fury.

"It does not matter."

She looked at him incredulously. "What? Of course it matters. This will not go unpunished. You've never been one to protect those who must be brought to justice. Tell me. Tell me. Who did this?"

Tang looked at her with sad eyes, sadder even than they had been before. It was his turn to swallow the lump in his throat, before he answered her.

"It was your mother."

 

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