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For a moment's respite

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Ash waited for Michaels breathing to even out before gently freeing himself from her arms. She needed her rest, and he didn’t want to disturb her, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight, not without doing something else first. He slipped into the foreign uniform and out of the Captain’s quarters. The Shenzhou was a foreign ship to him, but he knew where to go. He took a deep breath, steeling himself before entering the torture room.

 

Nothing had changed since he had left it several hours earlier. The three booths still contained the three prisoners. He hardly recognised his stoic captain in the screaming figure in the middle booth. Ash swallowed down the bile rising in his throat, crossed his arms and focused on drowning out the tortured screams. He hoped he looked less nauseated and more menacing than he felt. His plan would work better if the guard came to him instead of the other way round.

 

Sure enough, as he hoped, the single crewmember on duty stepped away from the controls after a little while to approach him. Curiosity existed even in this universe. “You came here with the Captain, right?” 

Ash didn’t quite trust his voice yet, so he frowned and nodded. 

“Did you help capture the traitor?”

“Does Burnham seem like someone who needs back-up to catch scum like him?” Ash spat. “I’m just a pilot.”

The guard seemed cowed by the answer. Ash breathed deeply. He had to stop his anger from showing, but the pure existence of this room was making his blood boil.

The guard turned to look at the centre tube with Ash. After another beat, they said, “You must really hate hím though, to be here during night shift.”

 “He rebelled. He failed. He’s getting his due,” he said curtly. His plan seemed to be working, if the guard brought up the shift on his own. He just had to keep his cool. “But yeah, I don't mind watching him suffer. If you’ve got somewhere better to be during your shift, be my guest. I’ll keep an eye on.. these.” He added all the contempt he felt for this room on the last word.

As he had hoped, there was a spark in the guard's eyes. “You sure?” 

Ash hoped his nerves weren't showing. He gave an indifferent shrug. 

The guard took the chance at a break with barely concealed joy. “I’ll be back in two hours. You shouldn’t have any trouble with them, but if you need to contact me my number is on the sheet.”

 

As soon as the door closed, Ash was at the agony controls. He had never seen anything like them before, but at least the off-switch was obvious, which was all he needed.

Three figures slumped down against the curved glass walls, but Ash only had eyes for the middle booth. He was at his Captain’s side immediately, running his hand over the outside of the glass, looking for a way to open it.

The glass door slid open, and Lorca drooped sideways into Ash’s arms. His face was pale underneath the congealed blood, his eyes closed, his breathing rapid, but at least he was still breathing.

Ash dragged him out of the booth, trying to make him comfortable on the low steps that led up to the torture chamber. He suppressed the instinct to wipe away the blood, knowing he could leave no trace of having been here, but the least he could do was give him some comfort in the two hours they had. He positioned himself at the top of the stairs, and held his Captain in his lap.

 

At first, Lorca struggled, pushing feebly at Ash’s arms, kicking ineffectively as his flight-instinct kicked into motion, trying to regain control and move away from more pain. Ash held him down, shushed and calmed as best as he could.

Then Lorca began to whine, a desperate, pleading sound, as his brain slowly caught up to the fact that it wasn’t in pain any more. All of the overstimulated nerves needed time to readjust, and he was still working through the inflicted pain. Ash swallowed his own memories, and hummed softly as he waited for Lorca to settle.

Finally, he calmed down, and lay still, his breathing evening out and his body releasing its pent up tension.

After a couple more minutes, Lorca began to stir. Ash shushed him softly, wiped the sweat from his brow and made calming noises as the Captain began to come to himself.

“Wh… What? Did we get it?”

“Shh… No sir. Not yet. But I’ve bought you a couple of hours.”

Lorca sat up laboriously, swatting away Ash’s helpful hand. He groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Tyler?”

Ash hummed to acknowledge he was there.

“How long?” 

“Four hours, sir.”

Lorca sank in on himself. “So little.” He shook himself, seeming to pull himself together. When he removed his hand, he already looked more like the stern-faced Captain that Ash knew. “And the mission?”

“Progressing, but slower than anticipated. It’s hard not to attract attention.”

“Then your coming here was foolish,” Lorca said harshly.

Ash was taken aback, felt a little defensive. He got to his feet, began to pace. “We hardly had a chance to discuss. To change course when we saw what we were dealing with here.” He stopped in front of Captain Lorca, glanced over Lorca’s shoulder at the agony booth, then back at him. “We can still change the plan. The three of us, we can take over the ship by force. They won’t be expecting it.”

Lorca ignored him, arduously getting back on his feet. “We stick to the plan,” he said, steely faced.

On instinct, Ash reached out and grabbed him by the arm. Lorca winced, and he released him immediately, staggering back in surprise. The agony booth was having more of a lasting effect than he thought. He really needed to get through to him. "At least take the chance to rest," he pleaded. "Gather your strength."

Lorca fixed him with the coldest glare he had ever seen, the effect of which was only enhanced by the wounds on his face. “Lieutenant Tyler. I may not be a Captain in this universe, but I expect you to follow my orders regardless. Do I make myself clear?”

Ash dropped his gaze. “Yes sir.” 

Lorca limped back up the low steps. At the door to the booth, he turned and looked at Ash. “Get ready to re-engage, before the guard comes back.”

“Yes sir,” Ash whispered.

 

He walked to each of the other booths first. Their occupants hadn’t made any attempt to escape or attract attention. They had slumped where they fell, taking only the effort to crawl into a sitting position, with their head on their pulled up knees.

Ash put his hand on the glass of each of them, and whispered, “I’m sorry.” Neither of them acknowledged him.

Behind the controls, he made eye-contact with Lorca once more. The captain stood proud, his fists clenched at his side in anticipation of what was to come. When they heard footsteps approaching, he nodded curtly. Ash flipped the switch, and stomped out as the guard opened the door. He couldn't stay here a moment longer. The mission had better be completed soon.