Captain Christopher Pike’s gaze was fixed upon the central view port. He stared out across the bridge of the USS Discovery, his mind was far more absent than it should have been and he found the view outside distracting enough to hold his gaze. The ship was drifting through the remnants of an asteroid belt; loose asteroids spun across the entire viewport, twirling and spinning on their axis. The Captain was engrossed by the mesmerising effect for long enough to realise that he was staring, and that he had been staring literally into space for far too long. He snapped his attention back to the controls on the chair and he checked up on the reports that had been sent through since his attention had wandered. He read through the different sections’ work and sank back further into the seat as weariness began to truly take hold.
It had been an obscenely long shift and it wasn’t the first of the week. The workload had been building for weeks and the continued pressure from Command was starting to get to the crew; Pike was not immune.
Their scans of the area had taken far longer than initially planned. Strange energy readings and some kind of unknown phenomena was skewing a lot of the data coming from the asteroid belt. That particular conundrum had kept the engineering and science departments busy for hours. Burnham and Stamets came up trumps just like they always did. Chris wasn’t even going to pretend to understand exactly what they had done, but frankly he didn’t need to know the in’s and out’s of it all. The important thing was the problem had been solved, and the teams now had endless data to sift through.
There weren’t many problems that his new crew couldn’t solve; Chris was incredibly lucky to have such smart people around him and even luckier that the Discovery crew had welcomed him into their arms in such a short period of time. He needed every piece of smart he could get his hands on to solve the mystery of the red signals. Sadly for the last week they had been stuck in a waiting game, they were at the complete mercy of the signals and had to wait until the next one decided to show its face.
Until then they had reverted to Discovery’s initial mission as a science vessel, and now that their latest scans for Starfleet were complete they could finally address the next thing on the agenda: repairs. Over the past couple of weeks Discovery had taken some fairly hefty damage, and even with the best engineering team this side of the galaxy there were some things that simply couldn’t be fixed in space.
Engineering had been on Pike’s case for weeks about the state of the ship. They made it quite clear that if Discovery had to keep putting off repairs then they couldn’t guarantee warp performance, which with the importance of their mission could be pretty catastrophic. After endless messages badgering him from the the chief engineer, Chris finally found a window in their busy schedule for repairs. So barring any urgent red signal sightings they had a slot at a deep space station.
Chris glanced over at Detmer who was busy plotting the course. “How long until we arrive at Deep Space K-7?”
Detmer finished plugging in the information and answered over her shoulder. “At warp 4, 1 hour Captain."
Pike nodded and ticked off the journey on his panel. They didn’t want to stress the ship unnecessarily and give the station more repairs to complete. He smiled at Detmer and nodded his head towards the view screen. “Alright, we better get moving.”
“Aye aye, sir.” She grinned back and threw the ship into warp.
At some point along their hour long journey Chris felt a presence approach his chair. He turned from the computer terminal he had been reading to find his first officer Saru hovering nearby, an unreadable expression on his face.
Pike frowned lightly and transferred all of his attention to the Kelpian who was waiting patiently by his side. “Everything alright Saru?”
Saru flicked his eyes to Pike and included his head. “Everything is fine Captain.” He stopped himself from saying anything further and Chris noticed Saru clasp his hands behind his back. If Saru were human he would have called it a nervous gesture, but Pike was still working out how to read his XO. One thing was clear, Saru had more to say but for some reason he was holding back.
Chris let an easy smile tug at his lips. He uncrossed his legs and held out his hands aiming for a reassuring, open look. “But…”
Saru inclined his head and continued. “The crew have been through increased levels of stress recently, I have noticed it is beginning to effect productivity and morale. As we are scheduled to be docked overnight at K7, I suggest we schedule shore leave.”
What a good idea.
“Agreed. An excellent idea Number One.” He beamed at his XO, the familiar name he used on the Enterprise slipped in on reflex. Saru didn’t seem to mind the nickname; in fact he smiled and his hands came from behind his back bringing a data pad with them.
Chris clocked the data pad and he spied a list on the screen, it was most probably the arrangements for shore leave already planned out. He had to resist the temptation to shake his head, Saru really reminded him so much of Una sometimes. “I trust I can leave you to sort out the arrangement of personnel?”
Predictably the Kelpian dropped his eyes nervously and handed over the list. “I have already taken the liberty of doing so Captain, I just need your approval.”
Chris swallowed hard when he connected the dots between Saru’s nervousness and him carrying out a task without permission; it was something which would not have stood under Lorca’s rule. Pike was not one for micro-managing and he encouraged initiative and pre-planning just like any Captain should. Even after all this time this crew still had scars left behind, Chris sometimes forgot everything they had been through.
Knowing Saru was waiting Chris knocked his observations aside and focussed on fixing the fucked-up behaviours that Lorca had left behind. He smiled warmly and took the offered data pad, offering his XO a compliment on his expediency as he did. Pike skimmed the list of names briefly and was about to sign off on the shore leave when he spotted something he hadn’t expected: his own name staring back at him.
Chris tilted his head to the side and scratched his ear. “Saru, what is my name doing on this list?” When Pike glanced up he noted that Saru had put a little distance between himself and the chair, which in turn caused Chris’ frown to deepen.
“The list has been compromised of personnel who have had the longest time between assigned shore leave.” Saru coughed and levelled his next statement directly at his Captain. “Your record is the longest.”
Chris didn’t miss the fact that the statement was a borderline accusation. Saru’s transformation into Una was complete… He sighed and just about resisted the urge to hold his head in his hands, this was precisely the kind of stunt Una would pull before forcing his ass off the ship, usually under threat of violence or blackmail. Chris was fairly certain that he knew Saru well enough to cross both violence and blackmail off the list, but then again ever since his evolutionary changes the Kelpian officer was a trifle unpredictable.
“I’m needed on board for the repair works Saru.” He reminded his first officer.
Saru was way ahead of him. “Actually Captain I could oversee the work, there is no need for the both of us to be here.”
Pike appraised his first officer again and started to give serious consideration to the idea that he and Una had been in contact. “What if there are problems?” Chris knew he was being difficult but he didn’t like the idea of leaving the ship; he mused that it was probably the control freak in him.
“Then you can be contacted.” Saru retorted instantly. Clearly he was in a no-nonsense frame of mind and Pike was getting the feeling that Saru wasn’t going to be convinced by his feeble arguments.
The Captain glanced around the bridge and noticed that almost everyone’s eyes were on their conversation. They quickly looked away but he had already seen their expression; it matched Saru’s. One look at Michael told him everything he needed to know about where this plan had materialised from. He raised his eyebrows when the pieces clicked into place; this was a joint effort.
“You’re all in on this?” He queried. Pike wasn’t sure whether he should be pissed or amused at the insurrection so he went with somewhere between the two.
Michael smiled coyly but didn’t deny the accusation. “We may have discussed it.”
Now he really did feel like he was being ganged up on, even the bridge crew of the Enterprise had never tried anything like this. “Are you all that desperate to get rid of me?”
Saru gasped because he didn’t understand his Captain was joking. “Captain we only meant-“
Pike smirked and stopped his officer before his apology derailed. “I was kidding Saru. It’s a nice thought but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea.”
What if something did go wrong aboard the ship? Surely other people deserved a break more than he did?
“With all due respect Captain, you deserve a break." Saru replied gravely.
Pike stared right back at his first officer who surprisingly held his incredulous stare. God knew this crew had been through a lot even before he had come aboard. “So do you."
“You need it more.” Saru quipped back. “Besides I do not enjoy space stations."
Pike offered a bemused smile. “And you think I do?"
Michael suddenly felt the need to chime in and help Saru on his mission of persuasion. “Space stations can be fun.”
That comment derailed his thoughts entirely, more specifically the way the comment had been voiced. Chris swivelled to her instantly and felt his heart skip a little. Perhaps he was reading more into the situation but the way she was looking at him, the mischievous glint in her eyes and her body language… Pike would have sworn she meant something more. He swallowed down the inappropriate feelings and soon noticed an awkward silence had fallen across the bridge.
He knocked the thoughts aside and coughed awkwardly, finally relenting and earning a jovial cheer from the bridge. “Okay, okay.”
Chris felt his cheeks blush so he avoided eye contact with Michael, he wanted to brush aside his reaction to her teasing before anyone else noticed. He turned to Saru. “Make sure everyone who needs it is assigned shore leave."
Saru withdrew from the Captain’s side triumphantly. “Yes, Captain."
Within the hour they had docked with the space station, and the crew positively beamed when they received the all clear from the station to disembark.
Seeing their smiling faces reminded the Captain that this was much needed and long overdue for the crew. They’d had a tough couple of weeks; morale needed lifting. He also admitted to himself that he was secretly pleased he had been strong armed into coming along; he hadn’t relaxed in months.
After handing over the conn to Saru, Chris and the officers from the bridge who had been assigned shore leave stepped into the turbo lift; Michael was among them. The rest of the crew got off on their respective floors leaving just Michael and Chris in the small space.
Michael’s stop was next, she brushed past him on the way out and grinned. “I’ll see you on the space station.” She eyed him up and down, almost seductively. It was a scrutinising look that made Pike feel self conscious, flush and balk all at the same time. “Captain."
With that she disappeared and Pike would be lying if he said he hadn’t watched her go. He shook his head in disbelief and chuckled; of all the things to happen today he hadn’t counted on Michael Burnham of all people flirting with him. Not that the advances were unwelcome...
Pike cracked a smile and joined in on the laughter around the table. He took a swig of his drink, almost emptying it, and smiled across the table to Michael. She was dressed down in civvies, much like the rest of the room; Chris was still getting used to the crew out of uniform. He was wearing loose slacks, a long sleeved t-shirt and a leather jacket that hadn’t seen much use.
It turned out the space station didn’t have too many attractions or recreational areas open, so it wasn’t long before nearly all of the Starfleet officers converged on the only place they could get a drink and socialise; a bar. The space was a standard space-station bar; with questionable music and attire but cheap drinks. It had also been almost entirely empty when Discovery descended so everyone had been able to find a seat.
Chris had spent the first hour aboard the space station simply wandering. It was a pleasant feeling wandering the corridors and being just another faceless person; it wasn’t often he could be free from command and the expectations that came with being the Captain. After wandering some more he came to realise that there really wasn’t all that much to do aboard the station, so he followed the crowd and sounds of music and soon came across the packed out bar.
Michael called him over before he had decided whether to linger by the bar alone or try and integrate with familiar faces. The table consisted of bridge crew officers: Tilly, Detmer and Rhys, all of whom Chris knew well enough to accept Michael’s invitation. They’d spent the last few hours laughing, joking and sharing stories of past times.
Throughout the evening Chris truly began to unwind. He silently thanked Saru for pushing him into shore leave; he had been stressed far longer than he liked to admit. It was quite enlightening just how much good this experience was doing him; not to mention the crew. One glance around the room told him this R and R had been much needed.
Another thing Pike had noticed as the evening dragged on was Michael. It was easy enough for his eyes to wander her way, especially because she was out of uniform and wearing clothes that fit her body like a glove. The other reason why Michael was in the back of his mind was because he’d noticed her staring across the table at him more often than not. He kept quiet about the observation until the others filed out of the booth to grab another round of drinks, leaving the two of them alone.
He bit the bullet and slid along the bench towards her, clocking the way her eyes widened and tracked his movements with interest. Chris gave her his most charming smile and broached the elephant in the room casually. “Something on your mind?”
Michael blushed deliciously. A red flush crept up her neck as she realised she had been caught ogling her Captain for half the evening. “No Captain.” She replied quickly, too quickly.
Pike smirked knowingly. He loved Michael’s little quirks and found her nervous demeanour endearing. “It’s Chris. We’re off duty.” He indicated to their clothes and quirked his eyebrows hoping his full meaning was read loud and clear.
Michael’s eyes widened showing that yes, she had clocked his message; that he wasn’t the Captain in this situation and he was essentially validating her flirtatious behaviour, and even indulging in it himself.
“Okay Chris.” Michael rolled the syllables off her tongue, like the name was alien to her which he supposed it was.
Pike beamed when Michael followed his lead, hearing his given name spill from her mouth felt more natural than it had any right to be. He held her gaze steadily before flicking his eyes up and down her outfit, making sure she saw him do it. “Have I mentioned how beautiful you are?"
Michael flushed and took a deep breath to control her body’s reactions. She watched his wandering gaze and noted his change in behaviour; it prompted her to jump head first into the flirtatious chat too. She threw him a wry smile, leaned into his space and trailed a finger down his chest teasingly. “No, I don’t believe you have."
Chris held her gaze and resisted the urge to shiver. “My mistake.” His voice was raspy and used, like he’d been yelling for hours.
Their intimate moment was interrupted by the re-emergence of Rhys and Detmer, followed by Tilly who had arrived with trays of more drinks. Only Tilly seemed aware of what they had inadvertently interrupted; she kept shooting Michael stunned glances whilst the others fell into easy conversation.
When the glasses were once again emptied Chris offered to get the next round in, he scooted off the bench and headed towards the bar. He ordered the same again and smiled warmly at the barman as he began filling the order. All of a sudden Chris felt a presence close to his right, he expected it to be Michael or someone else from his crew who would be comfortable getting this close. What he was not expecting to see was an Orion women sidling up to him.
Pike’s eyes widened in surprise. “Ah, no thank you. I’m not interested." He smiled politely and returned his attention to the bar.
He was well aware of the effects Orion women had on men; the way their pheromones drove men crazy and how they were able to push people into a lustful state, forcing the release of adrenaline and fulfilling their goal of seduction. The problem was Chris was already in that state, but it wasn’t the Orion who had caused it. The only person on his mind was Michael and she was waiting for him back at the table, so the effects were thankfully muted for him.
The woman ignored his protests and edged closer to him, even going so far as to press her body against his side and she hooked her arm around his neck. “How can you not be interested?”
Pike sighed wearily and glanced at the invasive women. He didn’t want to be rude but he had to get his message across and these women didn’t take weak answers. Chris picked up her hand and gently dislodged it from his shoulder before placing it back on the bar. He appraised her and noticed the sultry look she was throwing him morph into a disappointed pout.
“I’m interested in another.” Chris eventually replied and turned away. He moved to pick up the tray of drinks, ready to retreat back to the table and get this odd occurrence out of his mind.
Well, that had been the plan. He was stopped from picking up the drinks when he felt the women step into his space again and her arm snaked around his waist. Chris closed his eyes and sighed, he realised he was going to have to be more forceful with his intentions. He was about to turn to the women and finish this harassment for good, when he felt a jab against his ribs. Pike froze in place and his blood ran cold when he heard the unmistakable sound of a phaser firing up.
"One wrong move and I'll cut you down here and now." The women threatened. Chris noticed her seductive lilt disappear as her true intentions were revealed.
Pike gulped heavily and glanced downwards at the weapon which was most definitely pressed against his side and looked lethal as hell. No one else in the immediate area seemed to notice anything wrong, but then again why would they? The weapon was hidden from view and pressed between their bodies. He moved his eyes up from the weapon to study the Orion women’s face properly for the first time, seeing a cold determine gaze staring back.
"What do you want?" He managed a steady voice even though his heart was hammering madly in his chest. If he had been drunk or getting that way then the weapon pressed against his ribs had definitely sobered him up.
The women flicked a glance around the room and looked relaxed that nobody was noticing their situation. "I want you to come with me Captain."
Pike did a double take at the use of his rank; this women knew him. He wasn't wearing any identifying badges or icons so this was pre-planned and definitely not a random attack. Chris stared absently into the depths of the drinks that were waiting for him on the bar; he wished he was still living the night that he had been really enjoying.
Chris glanced to the mysterious woman. "It will seem out of character.”
The women cocked her head to the side and made a tutting noise. "Oh, I don’t think so Captain. A man being led away by an Orion? I couldn't think of anything more normal."
Whilst that was true in most cases this women was clearly underestimating the fact that he had people waiting for him back at the table; Michael in particular. He hoped they knew him well enough to know he didn’t fall into any beautiful stranger’s grip even if she was an Orion.
The mystery women didn’t seem to care about his warning. She dug the phaser harshly into his side and hid the offending weapon using his jacket. After gripping his arm steadily she faced them both towards the exit. "Come quietly or there will be casualties. Understand?" She threatened.
Pike glanced from the weapon, to the women's resolve and finally to the rest of the packed room. There were far too many people who could get caught in a crossfire, his best bet was to take this mysterious women on when they were away from people. The facts made his decision easy.
"Yes." He replied coolly.
The women nodded then began to steer the both of them towards the exit, completely ignoring what the Captain had said about this being out of character.
"Hey, where's the Captain going?" Chris heard someone call out in the distance; he was pretty sure it was Rhys who had spoken up.
Knowing this was the best way to keep him and everyone in the room safe Chris ignored the call-out and pressed on; well really he was pulled on by the woman's grip.
"Captain?" Michael was next to call out; she sounded confused but mostly hurt.
Chris' heart fell. He knew what this must look like; him running off with an Orion in the dead of night. He wanted nothing more than to turn around and be with Michael but sadly that wasn't possible. The women heard both remarks. The grip on his arm tightened and he felt the phaser jab harder against his side, she quickened their pace towards the exit.
"Somethings not right..."
They had just about reached the exit when they heard Michael contact the Discovery. "Burnham to Discovery."
Before Pike could figure out his next move he was spun round, his arm was yanked up behind his back in an excruciating hold and the weapon was pressed against the side of his head. He grimaced and found himself unwillingly leaning back into the woman's hold; anything to relieve the bone breaking pressure on his socket.
The room fell silent all of a sudden, Michael’s eyes widened in shock and Pike could see this was the last thing any of the crew expected. He hadn't expected this. He hissed when the pressure on his arm increased and the weapon’s position pressed into his head uncomfortably.
"Nobody move!" The women holding him ordered in a flustered tone.
Out of nowhere people on the outskirts of the room rose from their seats; all of them pulled back their cloaks to reveal energy weapons. They all pointed them at the Starfleet officers who stood in the centre of the room dumb struck.
What the hell? Was this all planned from the start?
The mystery women didn't react to the new gunmen meaning she must have known they were there. Everyone in the room stood frozen in place and the bar fell into an eerie silence; even the music had been cut off.
All eyes were on Michael as her communicator beeped insistently; someone had answered her call. The women behind Pike spoke chillingly. "Answer it. If you mention anything untoward we'll kill you all."
After her declaration the new gunmen all brought their weapons up to aim at an individual, covering most of the room between them. Michael glanced between the gunman and the Orion, her jaw was clenched and her spine rigid. Her eyes met Pike’s and they shared a worried moment; they were sorely outnumbered here.
Michael brought the communicator up to her mouth. "Burnham here."
"Commander Burnham, is there a problem?" Saru’s concerned voice filled the room.
Pike grunted when the hand holding his arm tightened, and he noticed the gunmen all take a step forward. Michael clocked the threat and gulped heavily. She put on a fake smile and an at ease voice. "No problems Saru, I was just checking in. Everything okay up there?"
Saru snorted. "Everything is fine Michael and you are supposed to be enjoying shore leave." Trust Saru to reprimand her for checking in, after all the trouble he went to to get them off of the ship for a break.
"Is the Captain behind this check in?" Saru asked suspiciously.
Pike met Michael’s eyes and it wasn't lost on them about the horrible irony of the situation. It was in fact the Captain who had prompted the call, but not how Saru imagined.
Michael had a pained smile on her face but managed a laugh. "You know him too well Saru."
"Assure the Captain that the ship is just fine. No more check in calls Michael." The first officer teased before adding more seriously. "Enjoy yourselves." Chris wished more than anything that was something they could do.
"Bye Saru." Michael bid farewell and closed the communicator connection. Her stony expression returned and she met the Orion’s glare head on.
The silence stretched out and Chris struggled with a sudden cramp in his arm, the grip on his limb was as tight as ever and the new problem was causing his shoulder to tremble and burn painfully. Eventually the Orion broke the silence. "All of you, communicators on the floor now."
All the Starfleet personnel were snapped out of their shocked state at the barked order. After warily glancing at all the weapons pointed their way, they reached into their jackets and tossed their communicators on the floor.
"Not you." The Orion whispered into Pike’s ear, making him furrow his brows in confusion. Still, who was he to question the women with the gun.
"Your Captain and I are going to go for a little walk." Pike clocked the hard stares from the crew and the way Michael stepped forward protectively, clearly not happy with that plan. "He's going to help us retrieve something then we will leave and you will all be free to go."
Retrieve something? This was as much as he had heard about what this was all about, but it didn’t answer what exactly this women wanted from him specifically.
Michael eyed the guns and scowled heavily. "And we just have your word on that?"
Pike met her gaze and tilted his head imperceptibly, be careful, a warning to stop her from going too far with this women. He could see Michael was pissed but he didn't want to see her hurt. The Orion suddenly released her crushing grip on Pike's arm; he gasped in relief and brought the limb round to the front, and started to massage it to bring some feeling back. Chris was pushed away from the women, he turned and saw the weapon was now pointed at his chest.
The Orion glanced from Pike to the Starfleet officers. "The last thing I need is to be hunted down by the Federation for murdering Starfleet officers. This is just business. The Captain has access to something that belongs to us; if he returns it then we will be on our way."
Pike’s mind raced through all the things this women could want; what could possibly belong to her? His mind came up blank.
The women noticed the wary untrusting faces around the room and sighed. "You weren't even meant to know anything was happening." She threw Michael a death glare. "The only person I needed was the Captain."
Pike had warned the Orion that his sudden disappearance would not go unnoticed but she hadn't listened, predictably things had all gone to hell since then. He had no sympathy for this mess and that the woman’s plans had gone down the drain.
"Anyway the past can't be changed now." She moved forward and took a hold of Pike's arm and rested the weapon against his side, hiding it beneath his coat just like earlier.
"We're going to leave now and this is how it's going to work. If I don't hear from my men here then your Captain dies, and if they don't hear from me then all of you die." She glanced between Chris and the crew stoically. "Everyone clear?”
The room remained quiet but there were lots of muted head nods showing everyone understood the threat. The Orion seemed happy enough with the response and that her message had been received loud and clear. She turned back to Chris and steered them both out of the exit.
Chris managed one last look over his shoulder before he was tugged back around and the Orion whispered in his ear. "You do anything to tip anyone off, say anything out of turn and you won't be the one who gets hurt. Got it?"
Pike glared at her coldly. Did she really need to keep making threats? He knew perfectly well how much danger everyone was in. He nodded unhappily. "Yeah, I got it."
The unlikely pair walked briskly away from the bar, far too quickly for Chris to formalise a plan of action but not too fast that they looked suspicious. As far as anyone else was concerned they were a man and woman heading off into the night, travelling the space station corridors together and sticking close at all times. Pike didn’t have much of a choice on the direction of travel or the closeness; the Orion looped her arm through his and used his jacket to hide the phaser which had been glued to his mid-section ever since leaving the bar. Each time he slowed down or started looking around the space too obviously, the women would tug on his arm and the weapon would jab nastily into his side. He’d had to stamp down on his reaction to the treatment more than once, plastering on a fake smile and covering up the grunt of pain with a cough.
He was fairly certain that the woman was enjoying his discomfort; she was quick to sway into him and her hands wandered over his body more than once. She got particularly close when people were passing by; giggling and forcing his gaze away from the passers-by with her hand. Chris stiffened under the unfamiliar touch which only seemed to spur her efforts on. The only thing keeping him from ripping his arm free or protesting against the unwanted touching were the gunman in the bar, holding his crew’s lives hostage and for the moment forcing his compliance.
How long he continued complying all depended on exactly what his mysterious captor wanted him to do.
After they had been walking for 15 minutes she pulled them both into an alcove and pulled out a communicator, she checked in with the bar group right on schedule. After hearing that everything was going as planned she moved them both onwards again, Chris was fairly certain they were heading for the shipping dock.
Pike had a million questions running through his mind and the longer they walked the longer his list grew. How did somebody find out where the crew were? Why was this woman insisting on making his skin crawl? What had he done to deserve this amount of bad luck? What was Michael doing now, was she okay, or was she pissing the gunmen off?
He soon got tired of waiting and leaned towards the Orion, wanting to get answers to his questions now. “What do you think I can get you?” He dropped to a whisper when people walked past. “You said I have access to something that belongs to you.”
The women leaned against his neck and her hand tightened on his arm, the threat clear. “Later.” She whispered urgently.
Chris bristled at the denial; there was nothing he hated more than not knowing something but then again he’d rather not get shot or cause anyone else to get shot either. He kept his mouth shut and carried on walking; well more accurately he let the Orion pull him along.
When they turned a corner Chris noticed a few of the Discovery crew heading towards them, they were rowdy and clearly quite drunk. The Orion soon clocked that the oncoming group were Starfleet and more than that, she noticed that they had recognised their Captain. Chris didn’t know what to do; the Orion hadn’t briefed him on this kind of situation.
Before he could come up with anything he found himself being steered into an alcove and suddenly his captor was pressed up against his face. Her lips smacked against his mouth insistently, silencing any awkward questions he would have had to answer. Chris squeaked and grunted under the unexpected assault; his body froze completely and his mind whirred so fast he lost track of everything.
He distantly felt the women’s mouth pressing against his own, he felt bile creep up his throat when the women nibbled his lips and teased him with her tongue. Chris wanted to pull away and she sensed that; the weapon held in her hand nudged his ribs causing him to grunt into her mouth.
After a few seconds of the one-sided ravaging and well after they heard the crew-members pass, the Orion released his face and finally disentangled her lips from his. Chris swallowed back more bile; when the Orion noticed his disgusted expression she smirked at him. He stayed frozen in place, more than aware of the steady press against his chest. Chris felt the Orion’s stare and it made his skin crawl; he glared at the women, not amused in the slightest by what she had just done.
She cocked her head to the side, smirk still in place. “What’s the matter Captain? All work and no play?"
Chris got a hold of himself and brushed the effects of her unwanted assault off; he didn’t want his captor to see that she had shaken him up and that she had pressed each and every one of his buttons.
“I don’t even know your name.” He quipped back.
She grinned wolfishly and took his arm again, hauling them both forward. “You can call me Aurela."
Chris was right about their destination. Aurela and Pike made it to the space port unmolested, and thankfully Aurela didn’t throw herself on top of him again. He still hadn’t truly recovered from her previous onslaught, sickeningly he could still taste her in his mouth.
When they reached the port, Aurela steered the both of them towards a largish looking ship; it was fairly nondescript and had no identifying markings. Aurela used a control within her pocket to deploy the ramp and pushed her captor up without ceremony.
Chris blinked rapidly as he was forced to adjust to the change in light. When the surroundings became clear he started to take in the ship, all the while Aurela pushed him along the winding corridor. They travelled for a few minutes, and in all that time Chris neither heard nor saw anyone else.
Eventually the pair came across the cockpit and all of the main controls. Aurela pulled Pike to a stop and he swept his eyes across the space, taking in the crude equipment the screens mirroring surveillance cameras across the space station. Chris soon spied another occupant; a brutish looking man who glared furiously at Pike when he noticed the new arrival.
Chris felt sub-conscious under the scrutiny and he resisted the urge to look away first. The staring competition was over when Aurela pushed him forward, causing him to stumble over some loose wiring and break eye contact with the Orion’s partner. When he steadied his footing he studied the new problem more carefully; he soon noted that the man had taken out an energy weapon of his own and he was pointing it directly at Pike’s mid-section. Just when Chris thought it couldn’t get any worse…
The beastly man was from a race that Chris didn’t recognise off hand. Regardless of race he was somebody that Chris didn’t want to go against anytime soon. He had bulging muscles, all coiled strength and there was an air of menace exuding from him. His face was stony and severely scarred, showing the amount of action he had been involved in as clear as day, and if that wasn’t enough the expression on his face was nothing short of murderous.
He stalked towards Chris. “So you’re the Federation Captain?"
Chris flicked his gaze up and down the new player and didn’t like the rage he saw. “Who are you?” He decided to ignore the question and replied with a question of his own instead. It turned out that was a mistake.
The man tilted his head and narrowed his eyes, the expression reminded Chris of a snake rearing to strike out. He flipped his weapon and used it like a baton, smashing it into the Captain’s face with blinding speed. Pike grunted and his head snapped to the side with a sickening crunch, the main impact smarted his cheek and jaw. Chris soon tasted blood pooling into his mouth, the metallic taste unwelcome yet unfortunately familiar.
He stumbled under the force of the blow and actually fell to his knees, just about managing to get his hands out in front of him in time to stop a face-planting situation. Pike’s head swam for a few moments and he took the reprieve to steady his balance and control the pain; he spat out the coppery blood onto the floor and winced at how sore his face already felt.
“Idiot!” Aurela yelled, getting between Pike and her co-conspirator. “You can’t touch his face, how is he supposed to go on his ship looking like he’s just been worked over?"
Pike picked up on the conversation and frowned, whatever it was these two wanted was on Discovery? It was more information than Aurela had ever revealed but it didn’t exactly narrow it down.
The well-built man growled and pushed her aside. He leant down and gripped Pike’s shirt, hauling him up and slamming him against a wall. Chris grimaced when his head collided with the wall and he saw stars; his throat constricted painfully when a well toned arm snaked across his neck and applied pressure. “He has to know who’s in charge here.”
Pike’s vision swam from the sudden movement; the arm across his collarbone tightened causing him to gasp. The sudden lack of oxygen worked to bring his mind back into the moment and he felt adrenaline spike from the danger and threat to his life.
The man leaned in nastily and sneered. “You understand who’s in charge here?”
Pike nodded quickly, anything to get the pressure off his throat. “Yes.” He rasped.
The man smirked then suddenly released the pressure but he kept his forearm in place, essentially pinning the Captain to the wall. He turned to Aurela as Pike breathed in precious oxygen. “It’s important he knows not to betray us, how can he understand without a little…” His eyes glinted happily. “…persuasion."
Aurela shook her head and scoffed. “I’m not saying don’t hit him.” Pike’s expression fell; he thought he might have had Aurela in his corner after all of his cooperation. “Just not anywhere where people will see."
The man’s frown morphed into a wide grin as he realised what she meant. He turned back towards Chris and without warning bunched up a fist and slammed into his prisoner’s mid section. Chris cried out and felt his ribs buckle, he lost the ability to breathe and doubled over to try and relieve the crushing pressure. His captor soon put a stop to that, he yanked him back up straight and applied more pressure across his chest, magnifying the pain ten-fold.
Aurela strode closer and snapped. “Hey, he gets the message okay. He knows we have gunmen covering his crew."
Pike watched the exchange through bleary eyes and breathed raggedly. He hoped Aurela’s warning would get through to her partner before he decided to strike out again. Chris’ chest was already throbbing badly and he was only getting snatches of air every few breaths. The effect was making him dizzy and his vision was already greying.
The man waved her off then turned to Chris, squinting at him suspiciously. “How many officers are left on Discovery?”
Pike’s forehead creased in confusion. What good was that information to anyone? Whatever the case he wasn’t telling these people anything about Discovery. He returned the man’s steady stare and glared right back at him, defiant about keeping his mouth shut. The man’s rage grew and he flew off the handle bars. He punched Pike over and over again in the ribs and chest, only stopping when Aurela physically man-handled him away.
Now what there was nothing holding him up Chris slid to the floor miserably; he clutched his bruised ribs and aching insides, doubling over to try and fulfil the simple act of breathing. Pike’s vision greyed violently and he came very close to passing out; the pain was burning through his body and his throat closed up and seized with every small breath he could manage. He wheezed and coughed until the black spots started to recede, that was when the real fire in his lungs began to rage.
He distantly heard Aurela yelling at her partner. “Stop it! That doesn’t matter and you know it. We need him to be able to walk or this is all for nothing.”
Chris squeezed his eyes shut and groaned through the waves of agony spreading through his insides; everything was radiating from where the punches had first landed but now he could even feel the effects in his fingers. When he felt like he had more of a handle over the imminent problem of breathing he remembered that he should probably keep track of where his attacker was.
Pike glanced up blearily and clocked that the guy who had been beating the shit out of him looked suitably chastised. Chris watched the rage come down although he still looked about a second away from lashing out again. Aurela continued to calm her partner down and steered him clear from Pike’s miserable position. Eventually he relented and backed off, holding his hands up as if to say what now?
Aurela glanced from her wayward partner to the coughing and hacking form of the Captain huddled on the floor. “Cover him whilst I search him.” She ordered eventually.
Pike was glad it was Aurela that was coming towards him; she hadn’t been nearly as violent as her partner. She crouched down and helped him sit up against the wall gently, her forehead crinkled and she frowned heavily when she caught a glimpse of the nasty bruises that were already forming beneath his shirt.
Chris watched the partner come to stand at his side and he clocked the blaster come out and aim at his head. “Move an inch and you’ll get more of that.” He threatened, indicating to Pike’s chest.
Chris didn’t dignify the threat with a response. He closed his eyes and tried to ignore the way his ribs felt like they were breaking through his chest, and how with every movement Aurela made it made his breath hitch.
It didn’t take her long to find his communicator and wallet, she discarded both items on the floor and resumed her search. When Aurela started rifling through his inside pockets she brushed against one of the more tender injuries causing Chris to groan loudly; he let his head thunk back against the wall and fought off the accompanying nausea and agony that came with it.
“Sorry.” Aurela muttered.
Pike gritted his teeth as the pain began to subside and he risked opening his eyes. He met her gaze and saw that she looked sincere; she was glancing at his injuries with something akin to pity or regret; her mouth was downturned and she was having trouble meeting his gaze.
When Aurela was done with her search she got to her feet and took a hold of her partner, dragging them both away from Chris who still had his arms wrapped round his chest miserably. Her pity evaporated as she stared at him and the steely detachment from earlier returned. “Don’t move.” She ordered.
With the way his chest burned, the way his vision was greying and the fact he was about a hair’s breadth away from passing out; the instruction sounded like the best idea he had heard all day. He noticed her staring and realised she was expecting a response. Chris managed a weak nod, closing his eyes when the movement set off the drums in his mind. Thankfully it didn’t matter, the acknowledgement was enough for her. Aurela steered her partner over to the cockpit and their mutterings and protests began in earnest.
Chris didn’t pay them any attention, he focussed on the simple act of breathing and hoped to hell that he would get out of this shit hole before the crazy partner got his wish to have another go. Pike didn’t think he could take that kind of punishment again, not if he was expected to stay on his feet at least.
After talking amongst themselves for 10 minutes or so, Aurela checked in with the bar gunman and then stalked back over to Pike. By now Chris had a handle on his breathing, he could manage it almost normally without the intense pain from earlier. His ribs ached, his muscles and limbs felt stiff but he was a lot better and stable. The pounding in his head had receded to a manageable level and he no longer felt like he was about to pass out.
Aurela came to a stop near him, her weapon was held loosely in her hand. She signalled with the phaser for him to rise. “Come on get up, we’ve got to get moving."
Chris used a nearby handle to haul himself to his feet, groaning and biting back a cry when the fire was reignited in his chest. He swayed unsteadily for a few seconds and swallowed down the nausea. When he was sure he wasn’t going to fall flat on his face he proceeded forward with small steps, going the way Aurela indicated.
Pike knew he was stiff and that he wasn’t moving well, Aurela noticed too. She frowned every time he winced, and looked increasingly angry that Chris’ injuries were more than just noticeable. When Chris glanced up he noticed that Aurela was sending death glares towards her partner, and said partner was practically sulking in the corner. He had clearly overstepped.
As they made their way deeper into the innards of the ship Pike grew more curious. “Where are we going?” He called hoarsely over his shoulder.
Not looking where he was going was a mistake. He tripped over something on the floor and fell forward against the wall, desperately scrabbling at anything to grip onto to avoid slamming to the ground where his ribs would scream out in pain.
Suddenly there was a strong grip on his back and arms and he found himself being lifted and leaned back against the wall, he looked up at his saviour and saw Aurela frowning heavily at him. “You need to be more careful.” She scolded heavily.
Pike leant back against the wall and hugged his ribs miserably, he breathed sharply and deeply until the impact feelings wore off. Eventually he managed a strained smile. “Sorry."
Aurela started shaking her head and tutting; she reached out to grip his shirt. Pike stilled until he saw she was just lifting it to see what was underneath. Whatever it looked like it couldn’t have been pretty, her guilty expression and large gulp made that quite clear.
Aurela shook the regretful look away and she let the shirt fall back into place. “I’m sorry he did this to you… He doesn’t like the federation.” She meekly tried to offer an excuse.
The Captain scoffed, causing a spike of pain to lance up his side. “I can see that.” He managed back.
They were silent for a few moments as Chris caught his breath and recomposed himself. She watched him carefully and then indicated forward. “Can you walk?"
Knowing it wasn’t just his life at stake here; that there were guns pointing at the crew in the bar, at Michael, he nodded and pushed himself away from the wall making sure to watch the floor more carefully this time. “I’ll manage.” He grunted through gritted teeth, his jaw snapped shut and clenched with each painful step.
They continued on in silence until Aurela finally answered his earlier question. “We’re going to see an old friend of yours, and then you’re going to get us what is ours."
Pike swallowed nervously, knowing there may be some things he could not give up no matter if his life or the lives of the people in the bar were threatened. Not knowing what it was made it all the more harder, and who on earth did Aurela mean by old friend?
“What is it you need me to get?”
Aurela shook her head and made a negative noise. “He will tell you. You will get it and we let you all go."
Pike could scarcely begin to believe it, everyone walking away happy? Getting what they wanted? Those kind of situations just didn’t happen. “And you just what disappear?"
Aurela placed a hand on his shoulder and stopped him just before a doorway. “Yes, we disappear. You’ll never hear from us again."
Before Pike could point out what being a fugitive meant Aurela reached forward and keyed in an access code, the doors swished open and Pike was steered in. He halted when he noticed someone chained up in the centre of the room, dressed in rags and covered in blood.
The prisoner had been worked over and he had cuts and bruises everywhere; he had blood everywhere. He hung limply between the chains, his head hanging forward to rest against his chest. Eventually the prisoner realised he had company and lifted his head weakly, familiar eyes staring out hopefully.
Pike actually took a step back when he saw a very familiar face staring back underneath the grime and blood. “Mudd?"
Mudd beamed and he got his feet under him, wincing with the movement but pushing it aside at the sight of a familiar face. "Captain!" He sounded like he'd just laid eyes on a dear old friend.
Pike didn’t exactly count Mudd as a friend, the last two times he had met the man he had ended up as his hostage. Each time the man had been a wanted fugitive and he still was now, although from his imprisoned state Aurela had clearly captured him. Even though Chris wasn't fond of the conman he didn’t like seeing anyone in pain, he sympathised with the injuries and took a wild guess that Aurela's partner had used Mudd as a punching bag.
"Are you alright?" Chris asked stupidly. His gaze automatically roamed over all the cuts and bruises, he could see by the colouring that some were older than others. Mudd had been these people's guest for some time.
Mudd snorted and shot back at Aurela accusingly. "Do I look alright? I've been beaten, tortured and betrayed."
Aurela barked a laugh. "Betrayed? You were the one who betrayed us Mudd, we just caught you doing it."
Sadly Pike believed Aurela's spin on the tale more than Mudd's, it was literally what he did. Take people for a ride and defraud everybody he came across; he was the universe's biggest swindler.
Mudd noticed Pike's sceptical expression and pouted. "You don't believe me either do you?"
Pike shrugged. "You are a conman Mudd."
Mudd sagged in his chains. "Even if I swindled people, does that mean I deserve to be chained up like an animal and treated like this?" He shook the restraints wildly.
Whilst they didn’t agree on a lot of things, this was one thing that they did. He didn’t deserve that; no-one did. Chris turned to Aurela who was standing well back from her prisoner, the weapon was pointing halfway between Mudd and Pike.
"He's right you know; there's no need to treat anyone like this. Your partner is out of control." Pike accused angrily; his own throbbing ribs were a testament to the harsh treatment.
Aurela shook her head firmly. "We needed information and Mudd wouldn't give it to us, he owes us for the job we did for him."
Mudd scowled at her and started to shake his head; denying the claim. He glanced over at the Captain and something in his expression changed. Mudd studied him more carefully, he clocked the way Chris leaned to the side, the bruise forming on his face and the way he clutched his ribs. "I see you've met the brute too."
Pike chuckled darkly. "Yes, we've met." He glanced between the two former colleagues. "The question I want answered is why."
Mudd suddenly looked guilty, he looked to Aurela but she shook her head and laughed. "No, Mudd you're going to explain why you've brought your friend, the Captain into this mess."
Pike's stern gaze suddenly landed on Mudd and he glared at him. The man shrank beneath the scrutiny. "What have you done Mudd?"
"I was being tortured okay? I'm sorry I dragged you into this but the only place I have the amount of resources that they’ve demanded is stashed away..." he paused and glanced away whispering. "...aboard Discovery."
Pike took an angry step toward him, nostrils flaring and fists clenching. The incredulous claim almost left him speechless. "What?!"
How on earth did Mudd stash something away aboard a starship, why did he do it and how the hell did they never find anything aboard the ship since then?
Mudd shrank back beneath the outrage, his chains rattled which forced Pike to remember that the man was a prisoner here, he had been treated horribly and had been tortured into getting Pike and the Discovery involved. That fact quelled his anger but the point still remained that Mudd had stowed stuff before all of this had happened.
Pike sighed and ran a hand over his face wearily. "When did you have time to stash something aboard my ship and what exactly am I supposed to be retrieving?"
He could put the pieces together himself. Aurela had said they needed something that he had access to, she had snapped at her partner for marking his face asking how would he be able to get aboard looking like he'd been beaten up; with his crew being used as bargaining chips they could ensure he would retrieve whatever Mudd had stashed aboard the ship, and bring it back to them without alerting anyone on board to the hostage situation. Of course it all depended what exactly the thing was that he was expected to pick up...
Mudd glanced at Aurela nervously, reminding Pike that his captors had clearly worked him over badly. The Mudd he remembered never shrank away from anyone. Aurela indicated with a head nod that he was okay to explain.
"Gold pressed Latinum. I brought it aboard back when Lorca was Captain." Mudd began sheepishly. "Where else is safer than on a starship? No one would think to look there."
Pike rolled his eyes and looked to the ceiling in disbelief; this whole thing was about money. He levelled a stern gaze at Mudd. "I want your word that it's not dangerous, that it is just Latinum."
Mudd looked genuinely taken aback and he nodded fervently. "Its not dangerous Captain, you have my word on that. I just needed places to keep my treasure where my enemies couldn't go."
It didn't escape Pike’s notice that although Mudd was right about others not getting aboard he also wouldn't be able to retrieve his own treasure, unless he pulled something like this and forced Pike to do it for him.
Aurela had watched the exchange silently but she now chose to step forward and insert herself into the situation, aiming the phaser at Pike and bringing him back into the life-threatening part of this situation. "So Captain, your crew for our Latinum. Do we have a deal?"
Pike scowled at the weapon and cursed his luck for ever having met Harry Mudd. The hared aside, it didn’t take him long to realise that he didn’t have much of a choice. Even if it wasn’t just platinum inside whatever Mudd had stashed, he wanted it off the ship regardless. If it wasn’t what Mudd promised then that was his score to settle.
"We have a deal." He replied cooly.
The four of them convened on the bridge of the shuttle, well, more accurately they were bundled up and thrown into the cockpit. Mudd was currently being watched over by the brute, Aurela had handcuffed his hands in front of him and shoved him back towards her partner, showing no mercy and ignoring Mudd’s pleas. Pike didn’t want to be anywhere near the violent man, so he was thankful when Aurela steered him towards a pile of equipment and out of the immediate reach of her violent partner. Thankful, but guilty that Mudd would take the brunt of any future assaults.
Aurela grabbed and spun him around roughly; she ripped open his shirt and started to wire up a camera and microphone. The camera ended up hidden beneath a shirt button with the repeater taped to his chest out of view. The device was so tiny that he wouldn’t have known it was there unless he watched Aurela put it there herself. Finally she tucked an earwig inside Pike’s ear and rearranged his hair until it wasn’t visible.
Chris glanced over at the screens next to Mudd and the violent brute. He soon saw the feed from his shirt camera appear on screen, showing a clear wide-angle image of the cockpit. He almost jumped a mile high when he heard a booming voice echo in his ear, which had been caused by Aurela’s partner testing the audio.
“Can you hear me Starfleet?” The beast’s voice boomed spookily. It echoed and caused a nasty shrieking sound to emit from the earwig in Pike’s ear.
Pike held his hand up to his ear and winced; he shot the man a deathly glare. “If you want me to be able to hear instructions I suggest you don’t deafen me."
Aurela’s partner didn’t take Chris’ suggestion well at all. In fact he slammed down the microphone and started forward aggressively. Pike tensed and stumbled back, his ribs automatically flared up as he was reminded of how badly he got hurt the last time the madman laid into him. All of a sudden Aurela appeared; she stood between them and grabbed a hold of her partner’s arm.
“Stop it Kamak!” She hissed angrily, forcibly pulling him away from Pike.
Pike was grateful for the save, there was no doubt another slug to the stomach had been on the way, at the very least. Aurela’s partner didn’t have any self-control, the only reason the beating had stopped last time was because Aurela had forcibly pulled him away and it was the same story this time. Chris swallowed nervously as he stared into Kamak’s fuming eyes, Aurela was still having trouble pulling him back, it was like watching someone wrestle with a wild animal. Chris just hoped Aurela’s hold would be enough; he doubted he would be able to walk at all if he had to endure another go-round with Kamak. He could barely stand straight now and Aurela had made it clear he had to act normally, and he couldn’t draw suspicion to himself aboard Discovery or the crew would suffer.
Mudd smirked at Kamak’s predicament, clearly finding it incredibly amusing that Aurela had that amount of sway and power over him. Sadly Kamak saw the expression, he harvested his rage for Pike and transferred it to Mudd.
He gripped Mudd’s front and hauled him against him, snarling in his face. “What are you laughing at Mudd?"
Mudd gulped nervously and eyed the man’s fists, stammering back a reply. “No- nothing."
Pike went to move forward, horrified that he may have inadvertently caused this or at least provoked Kamak. The last thing he wanted was for Mudd to get hurt because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Chris was forced to stop when Aurela pressed her hand against his chest and held up her weapon threateningly, defending her partner over allowing Pike to stop Mudd from getting beaten.
“There’s no need for that.” Chris hissed to her, eyeing the phaser and wondering if he could knock it out of play and stop this madness.
Aurela huffed tiredly, she glanced back to Mudd and Kamak and then to Pike. “Kamak enough, we need both of them to make sure we get paid."
Kamak growled furiously then threw Mudd to the ground, making sure he hit his head hard on the way down. He slammed a boot into Mudd’s side before storming off towards the monitors, muttering something about checking the feed was still running and contacting their people inside the bar.
Chris watched him go nervously and wondered just how many more times Aurela would be able to control her partner, what if he went too far before she could stop him? He tore his gaze away and to Mudd when he heard the man groan in pain. Chris pushed past the gun and helped Mudd up off of the floor, wincing and grunting himself when he bent down too quickly.
“You can’t leave me here with them!” Mudd gripped his arm desperately. “He’ll kill me!"
Pike would have said that Mudd was being overdramatic but honestly after seeing Kamak’s temper and how much of a short fuse he had, Chris wholeheartedly believed Mudd’s claims. Chris turned to Aurela and pleaded for Mudd’s life, which was something he didn’t think he would be doing today. “When you’ve got what you want, let me take him with me. You won’t need him anymore."
Aurela glanced nervously over to her partner, Chris thought he may have broken through but the compassion soon vanished. She turned her attention back to Mudd and the anger returned; the anger and the cold fury. “Kamak’s got unfinished business with the conmen, and so do I."
Mudd shrank back beneath the glare, and Chris would have almost described the action as cowering in fear, but that wasn’t like Mudd. It wasn’t pleasant seeing a man reduced to such fear, Chris didn’t want to imagine what Mudd had been through as these people’s prisoner. Pike moved to step between Aurela and her victim; he wasn’t willing to leave anyone behind to certain death even if it was Harry Mudd. Aurela saw his move being telegraphed and she gripped his arm harshly and steered him away.
“No, enough. You’ve got a job to do.” She pointed out a screen which showed surveillance footage of the bar area. Chris soon spotted the Starfleet officers all sitting on the floor and surrounded by gunmen. “And if you don’t do it, they suffer."
Pike gulped heavily and watched the screen; he sought out Michael amongst the crowd immediately and felt his heart drop. He couldn’t see much from this distance but everything seemed as okay as it could be, given the circumstances. As unpleasant as it was to see Michael in such a position and be helpless to stop it, he at least had peace of mind seeing that she and the group remained unharmed.
Aurela noticed he had become fixated on the footage. She roughly shook him again, regaining his attention. “You need to do this, now. No more stalling."
He glanced between the crew and Mudd’s pleading expression and realised he was faced with the unpleasant decision of choosing between the two sets of lives, sadly it wasn’t a new dilemma in his life but that didn’t make it any less difficult. In fact the more times he had to do this the more he questioned his decisions, the more he questioned if he was still up for the job.
If there was ever a use for the phrase - stuck between a rock and a hard place - this was it. Aurela really hadn’t given him much of a choice at all. He would try and get Mudd out of this mess later, but for now, to keep everyone breathing, he had to get aboard Discovery.
“What’s the plan?” He asked dejectedly.
Aurela gave Chris a quick run-through on how the surveillance system worked, and that her and her partners would be watching and listening the entire time. Aurela and Mudd would pass instructions to him via the earwig and he was to follow until he retrieved the hidden treasure.
Aurela handed Pike his communicator, and leaned in to fix his hair. She’d run a medical tricorder over his face a few times, alongside a glitchy dermal regenerator in an attempt to reduce the bruising on his face; it had mostly worked. Pike’s ribs had been wrapped tightly and he’d been allowed a few painkillers, nothing which made him too drowsy but just enough to take the edge off. After the brief medical attention Aurela made him walk backwards and forwards until she was happy he could pass for normal-ish.
Chris now understood how close Kamak had gotten to ruining their plans. If he couldn’t walk straight and gave away that he’d been beaten to hell then there would be questions aboard Discovery; questions they couldn’t afford.
“Remember, we’ll be watching.” Aurela warned before letting go of the communicator.
His eyes flicked to the screen which showed the view from his shirt camera. Pike gulped and tried to swallow down the nerves. He was as ready as he was ever going to be, well without a day in proper care in sick-bay but sadly that wasn’t possible. Chris sighed and after Aurela’s indication he flipped open the communicator and opened a channel.
“Pike to Discovery, 1 to beam up."
"Head down to deck three, near the maintenance hatches.” Aurela’s voice echoed through the device in his ear.
Pike had beamed back aboard the Discovery as planned and he headed out of the transporter room with no incidents and little contact with anyone. After performing a visual and audio check for Aurela he was sent off towards Mudd’s hiding place.
As Chris walked stiffly through the corridors he felt a nervous sweat begin to break out, an anxious fluttering began in earnest in his stomach and he felt more nauseous with every step forward. He felt stiff, sore, in pain and he was sure a crew member was going to notice his limp any second, or his ragged breathing or the way he couldn’t help but favour his right side.
Captain Pike managed a strained smile to the passing crew, trying to give off an aura of normalcy as instructed. Chris made it to the turbo lift without having to interact with anyone, which was a minor miracle. It was just his luck that when the lift doors opened it was already occupied; Pike’s heart fell when he laid eyes on Commander Saru.
The Kelpian glanced up from his data pad to the Captain and his eyes widened in surprise. “Captain?"
Chris’ legs froze and he stayed rooted to the spot. His brain refused to kick into gear and all he could think of was his colleagues stuck in the bar, with guns held to their heads. Aurela’s urgent voice in his ear snapped him out of the daze. “Act normally Captain.”
Pike plastered on an easy smile and stepped into the lift next to Saru, nodding a greeting at him. “Saru.”
Chris didn’t miss the way his first officer’s eyes flicked from his face all the way down to his leg, Pike had tried his very best to hide his limp and stiff limbs but he obviously hadn’t done it well enough. Saru’s frown told him that. Pike fought to loosen his limbs, puffed out his chest and stayed steady and strong under the continued scrutiny.
“Captain’s quarters.” Chris called out to the computer. He’d gone with the first location to come to mind now he had Saru as an audience.
Saru’s frown finally flicked up to his Captain’s face. “Captain forgive me but I thought you were remaining on the starbase for the evening? Everything is running smoothly on the ship."
Pike resisted the urge to scoff and roll his eyes. What was it with the command team on Discovery? Time and time again they skirted around the issue but still somehow made everything sound like a veiled accusation. He never thought he’d say this, but he actually kind of missed Una’s bluntness; she always cut through the shit straight to the issue.
Saru on the other hand hid his accusations behind a wall, but that didn’t stop Chris from hearing all the underlying questions in his XO’s words - Why the hell was he aboard the ship when he was supposed to be on R and R with the crew; with Michael. And why did he look like he had gotten in a fight?
“Careful Captain, do not arouse suspicion.” Aurela warned with a growl.
Pike ignored the strange look Saru was throwing him. He responded with one of his own famous grins, he smiled unabashed at the Commander until his dimples shone like there was nothing wrong in the world. “I’m just here to pick up something from my quarters then I’m back on break.”
Chris could see his excuse hadn’t convinced Saru, it was more than likely that he thought Pike was sneaking back to work. Chris held up his hand and crossed his fingers. “Scout’s honour."
Saru eye’s widened minutely and he looked oddly amused. Chris resisted the urge to show any nervous ticks or any weakness during the scrutiny, he kept smiling at Saru and kept up the pretence that everything was well. Eventually Saru nodded and averted his gaze, letting the matter go. The lift pinged and luckily it was Saru’s floor. After glancing back at his Captain one last time he stepped out. “Make sure Burnham takes the whole evening off, she needs it."
The smile slide off of Pike’s face as an air of melancholy descended in the lift, it was unfair that Michael was once again facing death after everything she’d been through. Saru was a good friend of Michael’s and had seen the tough times she’d been having recently. What with everything about Spock, the red angel and almost losing Tilly. It had been tough for all of them but especially for Burnham. She really didn’t deserve all of this; Pike would do everything in his power to lessen Michael Burnham’s pain, no matter the personal cost.
Chris nodded solemnly. “I will, have a good evening Saru."
Saru inclined his head, “And you also Captain.” He walked off and the turbo lift doors slid closed.
Now he was alone Chris breathed a sigh of relief and sagged against the wall; he breathed in deeply and screwed up his face in agony. Holding his body that straight under scrutiny for so long was exhausting, he had wanted to slump to the floor and rest his aching ribs, he had wanted to curse and swear with every little jolt but he knew it would have given him away.
“Captain?” Aurela’s concerned voice broke through his reverie.
Pike breathed through his nose and rode through the misery. He knew he needed to get a hold of himself, for Michael’s sake. He clenched his jaw and gritted his teeth. “I’m alright.”
Chris grunted and grimaced as he pushed himself away from the wall and straightened up. Before he fell flat on his face he called out to the lift to change his destination. “Deck 3."
“Yeah, keep going along that passageway. You’ll need to enter the Jefferies tube at the end. That should bring you out on the other side of engineering, near the control panels and access tunnels."
Pike followed Mudd’s instructions to the letter; he swung the shirt camera around when instructed to let the conman guide him from memory. Chris had been following a maze of tunnels for some time and he was deep inside Discovery’s inner workings now. He had never seen any of these areas before but then again why would he have any reason to be down here? This was the engineering department’s domain.
Chris had taken special care to make sure nobody saw him entering the first access tube from the deck three corridor. He knew how strange and suspicious it would look to see the Captain crawling through tubes; especially when he was out of uniform and supposed to be on shore leave.
Suddenly Mudd’s excitable voice informed him that he’d reached the final placement of the treasure. "Stop there, turn to your right and reach up behind the access panel."
Pike did as instructed and popped the panel off, noticing it had been pried loose once before; this was clearly the place. He dropped it to the floor carefully and peered into the hole left behind; sure enough there was a black rucksack inside. The voices in his ear went quiet so he picked out the bag carefully, half expecting the thing to not contain what Mudd promised. He wouldn't put it past the conman to store anything here. Chris placed it on the floor gently and zipped open the bag, peering inside.
"Show us inside." Aurela ordered impatiently.
Pike angled the camera towards the open bag and pulled out one of the bars. His eyes widened in surprise; it actually seemed to be gold pressed latinum and there was quite a lot of it. Just to think, there had been a small fortune sitting aboard the Discovery for years without anyone knowing about it. It beggared belief. Chris was so engrossed in the bag and its contents that he didn’t hear the footsteps approaching. It wasn’t like he had expected anyone to be down here, but he still cursed his lack of tactical awareness.
"Keep your hands where I can see them." Saru ordered calmly.
Pike snapped round to the Commander and his breath hitched in his throat. No no no. They'll kill the crew, they'll kill Michael.
He had to salvage this absolute shit-show somehow; how he managed that was another question. Saru was staring at him suspiciously, and why wouldn't he when his Captain had just produced a bag of gold pressed latinum that had been hidden on the ship? Hell, Pike would react in the same way.
Chris got to his feet slowly and faced Saru, eyeing the phaser warily and noticing it was set to stun and pointed vaguely in his direction. He kept his hands where they could be seen and winced as Aurela started shouting in his ear. "Deal with this Captain or I order my men to shoot your crew."
Saru tilted his head to the side and took a step forward; his eyes landed on the open bag and widened when he saw how full it was. "I don't know if you've been taken over by something or if you even are Captain Pike, but something isn't right here and until I know what; you are a danger to this ship and her crew."
Pike clenched and unclenched his hands anxiously and tried desperately to think on his feet. Clearly Saru wouldn't listen to any lie he made up now, his only option was the truth but would Aurela allow it? "Aurela I'm going to tell him the truth, it's the only way."
"Absolutely not!" She hissed back.
Chris clenched his jaw and ignored the way Saru was staring at him; like his Captain had gone completely crackers. Saru even glanced around the space for whoever Pike was talking to.
"Do you want your latinum or not?" Pike snapped back. This situation was far from ideal but if Saru knew the stakes like he did then this could be salvaged.
The next few moments were the tensest of Pike’s life. He felt each beat of his heart drag out, he heard every sharp breath he managed to keep up and he watched Saru’s confusion grow as the seconds ticked by. The phaser was starting to inch up too which wasn’t lost on Pike.
Eventually Aurela gave him the go ahead. “Fine.” She wasn’t exactly overjoyed with the idea but Chris would take what he could get.
"Saru before you do anything there's something you need to know." Saru inclined his head and the rising phaser stopped as his curiosity peaked, Chris continued on before he lost Saru’s attention. "There's a hostage situation currently taking place aboard the station, almost all of the crew on shore leave are being held as insurance."
Saru's posture changed and his expression turned stony, his quick mind taking in the facts and what the Captain was doing; he put them together in a flash. "The hostage takers are forcing you to retrieve this?"
Pike was often glad he was surrounded by smart people, it saved a lot of awkward conversations. He nodded sadly and pointed to a spot on his chest and the ear wig in his ear. "They're watching and listening to all of this. If I don't do what they say they start killing people."
He wanted to get across the impossible situation he had been put in without saying more than Aurela might allow. Thankfully Saru seemed to get it, he scrutinised the Captain carefully and his eyes landed on his jaw again and the way he held himself stiffly. "That's why Burnham contacted me, why you have bruises on your face and impact injuries."
So Saru had noticed his injuries in the lift; it was probably what had set off his suspicions in the first place. It turned out Pike wasn't as good as hiding his aches and pains as he first thought.
Chris nodded dejectedly and dropped his hands to his sides when he he noticed Saru lower the weapon. Without making any sudden moves, Pike lifted his shirt just enough for Saru to see the injuries beneath. The livid purple bruising caused by Aurela’s partner’s brutal assault was spreading like wild fire. Saru’s face quivered when he took in the bruises; he looked madder than Chris had ever seen him before but not at Pike, he was angry at the people behind this.
"Pass me over Captain." Aurela ordered suddenly. Even though Chris couldn’t see her he could hear how close she was to blowing up completely, her fury translated across the line very effectively.
Pike nervously took the ear bud out of his ear and handed it to Saru. "She wants to talk to you."
Saru eyed the device cautiously but took it all the same, he pressed it to his ear and listened to whatever Aurela was telling him. Pike couldn't hear what was said but whatever it was, it was affecting Saru. The first officer stiffened and his limbs went ram-rod straight. His eyes clouded over and, well there was no other way to say it, Saru looked positively furious. Eventually Saru handed the ear piece back along with the phaser. Pike took both items, although he was confused that he was being handed a weapon.
Chris looked to his first officer for any indication as to what was going on but Saru just indicated to the ear wig. Chris sighed but pressed the ear wig back in place; he immediately heard an order. "Shoot him."
Pike shot back automatically. "No." What the hell? "I'm not doing that."
Aurela breathed out dramatically. "I mean stun him Captain, we can't have him alerting security when you leave.”
Pike’s heart slowed as he realised he wasn't being asked to murder anyone. Regardless of the phaser setting he still couldn’t stomach the thought of shooting one of his own, especially when Saru was just trying to protect the ship. He met Saru's gaze and saw only acceptance there. "Its alright Captain, it must be done."
Ah, so he knew what was coming and he had still handed over the weapon. Clearly Aurela had threatened Saru with something; if Pike had to guess then it would be with the lives of the hostages.
Chris closed his eyes and ran a hand over his face wearily, he was growing so tired of all this cloak and daggers bullshit; he just wanted it to be over. Pike eyed the weapon with disdain and reluctantly brought it up to aim at his first officer. Saru didn’t flinch, he just stared at his Captain with trust and acceptance.
"Stop stalling Pike, don't push me any further.”
Aurela definitely had her finger on a trigger and sounded like she would start delivering on her threats any second. Chris did not want her to snap. Knowing that there was no other way he shook his head and pulled the trigger; his apology fell upon deaf ears when Saru collapsed to the floor unconscious with a thud.
"Good. Now lose the phaser and bring us our Latinum."
Chris appeared on the space station’s transporter pad, surrounded by a golden glow as his atoms reformed. It was a shame they couldn’t reform into something which wasn’t painful, like fixing his multiple broken bones and livid bruising. He stepped off of the pad and readjusted the heavy backpack over his shoulder as he went. He was carrying a small fortune and it was as heavy as you would expect; it was really pulling at his back and his side flared angrily with each step.
He managed a tight smile at the space station crew as he left and headed towards the shuttle bay. Time was on his mind and he mentally wondered how long it had been already since he had last heard from Aurela, she had only given him 15 minutes to reach her ship. After he had shot Saru he was ordered to head back to the transporter pad. Watching his first officer hit the grating hard and knowing he had put him there was a new personal low point in his life.
Aurela remained in his ear and nagged him until he got to a transporter room that was empty. He quickly made his way back into the main corridors and used a computer terminal to try and keep away from passing people; after a quick search he soon found out that transporter room 3 was unattended.
Once inside he had to lose the camera and earbud before beaming back down to the station. Aurela wasn’t about to risk the space station picking up on the unusual surveillance equipment, not now they were on the home stretch and now that Pike had found the Latinum. Chris stamped on both pieces of equipment and set up the transporter pad by himself. He set it on a delay and set the destination to the spaceport’s central terminal; he arrived in the same spot as earlier in the evening only this time under far different circumstances.
Thinking of the past naturally pushed his mind towards the evening he had been enjoying before Aurela had showed up. His thoughts flew to the crew still trapped in the bar; of Michael. Pike prayed they were all unharmed like Aurela had promised, but the trouble was he didn’t trust her and she didn’t trust him. Hence the threat she had made before they cut communication, the threat that was still ping-ponging around his mind and made his steps heavy as the horror of it weighed him down.
“If you don’t bring me my Latinum within 15 minutes, I’ll order my men to shoot the troublemaker in the bar."
The troublemaker in the bar, meaning Michael Burnham. The one person who had noticed what was wrong earlier and had tried to contact Saru; the one person who had almost brought Aurela’s carefully laid plans crashing down, the person who had wormed their way into his heart, and the person he never wanted to see harmed let alone dead.
With those words still hot in his ear Chris picked up the pace and walked as fast as he could manage without drawing suspicion; it wasn’t long before he found himself back in the vast shuttle bay. He immediately headed towards Aurela’s ship; he noticed how quiet and eerie the whole place was which was a stark contrast to earlier.
The ramp of Aurela’s ship was already open and extended. Chris peered inside and resisted the urge to gulp anxiously, he didn’t like how dark it looked inside the ship nor that there was no sign of Aurela. He had half expected her to be waiting on the ramp or inside the bay but there was no sign of her, or of Kamak. Then again not seeing the brute was a good thing.
Knowing time was running out Pike stepped over the threshold and headed along the winding corridors, trying to remember the way to the main cockpit where he had last seen Aurela. He walked into the main space and frowned, the entire room was as black as the corridors and the ship appeared to be powered down. He started to worry that maybe he had taken a wrong turn, that perhaps he had taken too long but how could he have done?
Chris shifted the backpack on his shoulder and gripped it tightly as he stepped forwards warily. “Aurela?” He called out cautiously.
His eyes were still adjusting to the darkness, and he was having a hard time spotting anything that could resemble signs of life. There wasn’t much to hear either, except for his own words echoing back at him. Then out of nowhere Aurela’s soft tone called out. “Over here."
Chris snapped to the voice and peered into the pitch black corner. He squinted and just about managed to make out a figure on the other side of the cockpit; shrouded in the shadows. He automatically took a step towards the voice, and then another.
Without warning a bright orange energy field hissed into life, right in front of his face and Chris felt his muscles spasm as his body made contact with the light. Pike heard himself cry out; tasted blood when the electric shock caused him to bite his tongue and felt gravity weigh down heavily across his entire body like a winter blanket.
The energy field vanished releasing its hold on his body. Pike crashed to the ground and landed with a grunt, his limbs still twitching with the after shocks received from the the nasty shock. Chris’ mind had gone walkabout, it had frozen the moment the orange veil of hell had descended and hadn’t restarted since then. He distantly felt his ribs protest at the rough landing but that was the last thing on his mind now. All he wanted to do was curl up in a ball and suck in oxygen; his lungs felt so constricted and every nerve and muscle burned like he’d been set alight.
Eventually he managed a shaky breath and then another. His face was scrunched up in agony; his eyes remained tightly closed as the aftershocks subsided and he realised he had just walked face first into some kind of security system. Chris stilled when he felt footsteps near his head then suddenly rough hands were ripping his hands free from the backpack, yanking it from his shoulder powerfully.
“Stay put.” Kamak growled, accompanying the command with a shove to the Captain’s head.
Staying put sounded like a wonderful idea. On the cool floor he could gather his scattered thoughts; he could catch his breath and focus on getting a grip. He hadn’t been expecting anything like that, his already bruised and beaten body hadn’t expected further torture and from an energy field no less.
What was the universe going to throw at him next?
After a few minutes of doing exactly what Kamak had ordered and lying still on the ground, Chris managed to regain his breath and the spasms delivered from the energy field had finally stopped running through his body. He eventually decided to risk opening his eyes, even managing to lift his head even though it took the majority of his energy. Chris groaned when he noticed that some of the lights and systems had been turned on again, basking the cockpit in a dim hue, which forced his eyesight to adjust to the sudden brightness.
Pike’s vision grew clearer and he soon noticed Aurela and Kamak by the computer terminals, checking the contents of the backpack and piling up the platinum Pike had retrieved. Chris also noticed that Aurela had a weapon pointed right at him, he frowned heavily. For the umpteenth time that day he was staring down the barrel of a phaser. Aurela pushed herself off of the table she had been perched on after noticing he was becoming more aware.
She nudged Kamak. “Go check him for weapons or any other surprises.”
Ah, the mistrust had reared its ugly head again.
Aurela hadn’t been kidding when she’d said she didn’t like the idea of him being unmonitored. For some reason she thought he’d had enough time and gone through with finding a weapon, or something to that effect between the transporter pad and her ship. Chris hadn’t even given that option a second thought, not with the leverage Aurela still held over him.
Kamak threw him a nasty smile, dropped the latinum he had been inspecting and practically raced over. Chris was expecting a rough search and Kamak didn’t disappoint. He rolled Chris over and pulled at his jacket, showing neither care nor sympathy for the Captain’s current injuries, not that he would considering Kamak had been the one to deliver all of them.
Chris gritted his teeth and rode out the inspection in silence, closing his eyes when the dizzying feeling got too much. He felt Kamak’s rough hands go through all his pockets and more than once the brute pressed down on his ribs, completely unnecessarily and with clear malice and hatred. Pike grunted under the pressing but just about managed to hold back the worst of the pain and his reaction to it.
Eventually the survey was complete and he was rolled onto his front. Chris sighed with relief and thought that Kamak’s sadistic fun was finally over; that was until he felt one of his wrists being gripped, and then it was yanked behind his back at an unnatural angle. Despite his best intentions to not let Kamak know that he was succeeding in hurting him; Chris yelled out and arched back to try and relieve the pressure on his shoulder, and his other arm came up automatically to grab at the stretched joint. Kamak kept his harsh grip on Pike’s wrist and placed the limb against his lower back, thankfully relieving the torturous pain.
“Give me your other wrist.” Kamak ordered, shaking the one he already had in his grip.
Chris groaned inwardly, this could only mean one thing. Sure enough when he reluctantly placed his other wrist within the brute’s reach, it was grabbed and slammed at the base of his lower back. Kamak crossed his wrists and then Chris felt a rough stringy material begin to wind around his wrists. He grunted with each wind round as the tightness already began to restrict his circulation. Belatedly he remembered to tense the muscles in his wrists to try and give him some space to work the rope when Kamak was done. Not that it mattered too much, Kamak was tying his hands together roughly and tightly, taking a perverse pleasure in the pain he was causing.
Once he was done he gripped the Captain’s arm and dragged him to his feet. “Up.” He ordered gruffly.
Chris tried to get his feet beneath him but he ended up skidding across the floor, Kamak didn’t wait for him to find his balance and seemed content to drag him across the cockpit. Pike was led towards the centre and that was when he noticed Mudd, hunched against the back wall and looking further beaten and depressingly subdued.
Pike didn’t have long to truly assess the man’s condition before he was suddenly flying towards Mudd, having being shoved powerfully by Kamak. He lost his footing and crashed head first into his fellow prisoner, hearing a grunt from Mudd when they collided. Chris tried to angle his descent away from Mudd but there wasn’t much he could do whilst restrained, so they ended up in a tangled heap. Chris now faced the dilemma of having to get his limbs untangled whilst tied up, that was until Kamak intervened. The brute grabbed and spun Chris around and pushed him against the wall next to Mudd; he chuckled at their predicament.
“Don’t move.” Kamak threatened. He slapped them both on the face patronisingly and turned his back on them.
Pike held his tongue, clenched his jaw and glared at the brute who just whistled jauntily whilst he walked back over to Aurela who had returned to counting out the platinum. Chris let his gaze wander around the room and clocked the security screens showing the feed from the bar. He felt a huge relief seeing first hand that his people appeared to still be okay; that the situation in the bar was still the same since he had been kidnapped at gunpoint earlier in the evening. Sadly he couldn’t see too much detail from his seated position and blurry vision, so he had no idea on the exact welfare of individuals but he just had to hope that everyone was hanging in there. Hopefully this nightmare should be over soon, now that Aurela had what was owed her.
“You’re not seriously going to leave me with them are you?” Mudd hissed urgently from his left.
Pike appraised his fellow prisoner. He could see Mudd was in a lot of pain from the way he sat, and he had a desperate look to his eyes like a man who knew he was cornered and in a bad situation. Chris glanced from him to the brute; he knew Kamak would kill Mudd if he remained here but he was at a loss as to how he could extract the conman fugitive from this situation. At the moment he wasn’t entirely confident he was getting out of here.
“What do you expect me to do Mudd? I’m not exactly in a great position here either. Let’s not forget this situation is entirely of your making, including dragging my ship and crew into this mess.” He finished bitterly, if anyone was hurt or god forbid killed he wouldn’t rest until Mudd got justice for his part in this.
Mudd winced under the scorn and then scowled at the floor; his shoulders sagged despondently. "You know they'll kill me." His frantic eyes met Pike's. "Can you live with that on your conscience Captain?"
No, he couldn't. Which was why he was going to do everything in his power to get Mudd out of this mess, even if he didn't deserve the save.
Pike sighed wearily. "I'll do everything I can to get you away from them." He glanced at Mudd and saw a glimmer of hope and a victorious smile forming. “Just let me do the talking.”
Mudd smirked but nodded his head indicating he had understood. Seeing Mudd’s smirk made Chris already regret his promise. They were both interrupted when Aurela walked over to them, a weapon in her hand pointing lazily at the floor, clearly not seeing them as much of a threat any longer now they were restrained.
"It's all there Mudd." She grudgingly admitted.
"I'm a man of my word." Mudd replied.
Aurela and Pike scoffed at the same time, knowing the words were the best known lie in the universe.
Aurela shook her head a few times and then focused on the Captain; her eyes glanced to his wounds before she rested on his face. "And you did everything I asked for Captain, thank you.” Chris didn’t miss the note of surprise in her tone.
Pike glanced from her to the security feed of the bar, praying that he was right about Aurela’s character and that she would stick to her word. She noticed his stare and smiled. "Yes, they will all be released unharmed. You will be happy to hear that no-one played hero so there have been no injuries or casualties."
It was like a huge weight had been lifted off his chest, and all of a sudden Chris could breathe easily once more. He watched Aurela give the order for her men to withdraw, saw the update on the security screen and soon all the gunman left the bar, locking in the Starfleet officers. They disappeared just as efficiently as when they had started the operation, Aurela had every eventuality covered Chris had to give her that.
"The locks will release in 30 minutes." She explained before smirking. "Although I doubt that will hold them for that long.”
Pike smiled despite himself. "Probably not." He admitted.
She quirked her lips back at him and Chris felt once again that it was a shame they were meeting under these circumstances. Aurela had been right when she had said this was just business; she had taken no pleasure in bringing him and Starfleet into this and more importantly when he had been beaten, she had gotten between her partner and him each time.
"Aurela, we need to talk." Kamak's booming voice cut through the moment, he was staring directly at Pike even though his words weren't meant for him.
Suddenly Aurela’s smile fell and she straightened, professional cold mask falling back in place. Chris felt a chill race down his spine; something was changing, something was going wrong. Aurela turned on her heel and strode over to her partner, getting into a heated conversation with him almost immediately. Mudd and Chris' nerves only got worse when the pair began pointing their way and their gestures grew more dramatic.
"What do you think they're saying?" Mudd whispered urgently.
Pike couldn't get the look Kamak had thrown him out of his mind; that was not the look of someone about to let his prize hostages go.
"Nothing good." He replied morbidly.
Pike and Mudd huddled against the wall and kept their mouths shut; they both tried to pick up bits and pieces from Aurela and Kamak's conversation but neither of them managed to hear anything useful. Instead Pike kept his eyes on the security feeds and tracked the gunmen’s movements as well as the scene in the bar. As predicted the officers were already working together to get past the locks at the door.
Suddenly Aurela groaned loudly then held her head in her hands; she glanced back at Pike guiltily. "You're right of course." She muttered then strode over to the prisoners.
Pike noticed that she had unholstered her weapon although for the moment it was held loosely. Chris could tell by the expression on her face and Kamak's triumphant smile that whatever had happened would not be good for them.
"I'm sorry about this Captain but you're going to have to remain our guest for a little while longer.” She really did look sorry but that didn’t help abate the sinking feeling in Pike’s gut; he had taken her at her word and she had double crossed him.
"You gave me your word." He reminded her.
A flash of guilt flashed across Aurela’s expression but her resolve remained. "And I intended to keep it, I have let your crew go unharmed."
Pike noticed the silent notes; he glanced at Kamak who was watching him like a hawk. "But not me."
Aurela swallowed guiltily and gestured to him weakly. "You're the only leverage we have left."
Pike frowned heavily. "You don't need leverage anymore, you said it yourself you don't want Starfleet on your back. I urge you not to do this, kidnapping a Starfleet Captain is serious."
"I can say from personal experience that they really don't like it." Mudd added unhelpfully, leaning forward into the conversation.
Pike threw him a steely glare. "You're not helping Mudd."
Mudd shrank back beneath the dark look and remembered the Captain's previous words about letting him do the talking. "Sorry." He muttered with a pained smile, indicating for them to continue.
Chris looked back to Aurela and was disheartened to see her resolve had solidified. "If we let you walk off this ship we don’t have any guarantee that we make it out of this system. Your ship could catch us in a tractor beam, or they could blow us out of the sky."
Pike sighed wearily. They were back to mistrust and it had all come from Kamak whispering in her ear like the devil, he clearly had an ulterior motive. If it were down to kamak they would never let either of them go, which was more than a little disconcerting.
"How would my ship even know anything was wrong? You've had my crew and I under surveillance." Chris argued.
"For all we know you could have issued orders before you beamed down." Aurela retorted, straight out of the paranoid realm.
"I didn't." Pike countered.
Aurela's response was a tilted head movement; a look saying that she didn't trust him at all. "You would say that."
Pike didn’t know what to say to that; he felt so tired, so drained. He wanted this to be over, he wanted painkillers, he wanted to lay down, and he never wanted to see an Orion phaser ever again in his life.
Knowing he was losing this argument he dropped his shoulders and played the guilt card. "I got you your Latinum. You were meant to disappear."
He noticed a crack in her armour and her face flashed like he'd struck through her defences. Sadly she shook the effects off and stuck to her plan, or rather Kamak’s plan. "We are going to disappear and you won't ever hear from us again, I didn’t lie to you Captain." She ran a hand over her face wearily and composed herself. "When we get out of tractor beam range you'll be transported back to the space station."
Pike was about to ask how he could trust her after the turn-about, and he was going to bargain for Mudd’s release, hoping to play on the pity he had won. That had been the plan up until Kamak interrupted everyone with a panicked shout. "Starfleet are here!"
"How did they know?" Aurela muttered stressfully, staring at the security feed from outside the shuttle which showed her men in a standoff with a security team from the Discovery.
Chris didn’t know the answer to that question either. Despite Aurela’s suspicions, he hadn’t tipped anyone off; he hadn’t had the time. It couldn’t have been the crew in the bar either, one glance at the security screen showed that they were all still trapped there.
Kamak turned and glared at Pike. "I told you we couldn't trust him."
Aurela stopped that particular train from derailing when she pointed at the screen with her finger. "It's him!"
Pike squinted and soon enough noticed what Aurela had, he would recognise that tall form anywhere. Standing at the front of the security team was Saru. Aurela slammed her fist on the keyboard furiously. "He should have been out for longer even with a low level stun."
Pike was also a little confused, he’d shot Saru squarely in the chest and his first officer had gone down hard. Perhaps something within the Kelpian’s physiology protected them from the worst effects of a stun blast? Whatever the case, it was good to see Saru up and about.
"What do we do?" Kamak sounded like he was losing it, he fidgeted and paced in the small space and looked completely out of his depth.
Aurela looked just as effected and panicked by the sudden appearance of Starfleet. Her shoulders sagged wearily and she took a a moment to adjust to the change in situation. After taking a deep breath she pulled herself together and picked up her weapon, before walking towards her two prisoners.
"We bargain." She responded coldly. Pike didn’t miss that her frosty expression from earlier was back. Chris didn’t relish the return of that look; it meant she was distancing herself and preparing to threaten their lives. "This is why we need leverage Captain."
Pike stumbled forward unsteadily, just about managing to cross the threshold of the ship without tripping entirely. Aurela’s steady hand remained on his shoulder, guiding him out onto the ramp and down into the shuttle bay. He still had his hands restrained behind his back and Aurela’s phaser was pressed into the nape of his neck, so for the moment he was completely at the Orion’s mercy.
He adjusted to the brightness of the shuttle bay and soon locked eyes with Saru who was standing opposite Aurela’s men, his phaser already moving to the new threat. Saru’s gaze scoured him up and down, scrutinising and cataloguing everything. He frowned at his stiff movements but noticed no notable differences from their meeting earlier, where his Captain had shot him... Pike must have looked guilty or apologetic because Saru just shook his head slightly. Chris had seen that look before; the ‘do not worry’ look.
Aurela pulled him to a stop at the foot of the ramp; Mudd and Kamak pulled up beside them, rather more roughly causing Mudd to grunt which wasn’t entirely a surprise. Pike glared sideways at their sadistic captor, Kamak took far too much joy in other’s pain. Saru and other officers from Discovery who recognised Harry Mudd all looked taken aback by the latest addition, and more so by his captive status. They hadn’t seen nor heard from him since the last incident when he had used Captain Pike to escape from prison.
“We appear to have a classic standoff.” Aurela’s voice boomed through the vast space, snapping everyone’s attention to her.
Saru cocked his head to the side and tightened his hold on his phaser. “Release the Captain and your prisoner immediately."
“Or what?” Kamak yelled, shaking Mudd harshly. “We’re holding the cards here."
Saru switched his attention to Kamak. “You are the ones who are trapped; station security has been alerted and they will not let your ship leave."
Predictably Kamak didn’t take the threat well. “We’re the ones with your Captain. Unless you want to see him dead you will let us leave!” He roared.
Saru did not raise his voice but he did flinch imperceptibly at the threat. “If you harm the Captain any further, it is you who will die."
Christ. Ever since Saru had gone through Vahar ‘ai he really was quite terrifying, not to mention chilling.
“Enough!” Aurela yelled out impatiently; she shot Kamak a steely glare before he came up with some kind of stupid retort. Suitably mollified Kamak grumbled something to himself but kept his mouth shut.
Aurela turned to Saru. “Surely we can come to some kind of arrangement where everyone walks away happy, and alive.” The phaser against Pike’s head was moved an inch upwards so it was clearly obvious that she was threatening the Captain’s life.
“We do not negotiate with terrorists.” Saru responded cooly.
Aurela bristled at that. “We are not terrorists, this was purely business."
Chris could feel Aurela getting tenser and her grip on his arm had tightened considerably, this wasn’t going as she expected and the entire room could feel the strain. Any minute these talks could descend into a full blown firefight. Pike swallowed nervously as he clocked just how much fire power there was in the shuttle bay, it was even more concerning when you thought about how much of the contents of the space were flammable. The last thing any of them wanted was for somebody to start shooting but Saru couldn’t just back down and let these gunman leave, not without at least gaining something in return.
“We have no quarrel with Starfleet.” She added when she saw her words were having no effect.
Pike was desperately trying to come up with a solution, when he glanced over to Mudd he had a brainwave. If it worked it would enable him to keep his word to the fugitive, make sure he wasn’t killed, and get Starfleet back a wanted fugitive all the while giving Aurela what she needed to leave the system. He caught Saru’s eye and indicated for him to hold off. His XO hadn’t been on board the ship, and he hadn’t seen how violent Kamak had been with Mudd. If the fugitive went back on that ship then there was no doubt he would be killed.
Pike leaned over his shoulder to Aurela and tried to take a handle of this situation. “Listen, you know this is going no where."
Aurela tried to turn his head back frontwards by pressing the phaser against his neck, clearly wanting him to shut him up. Pike didn’t let her, he gritted his teeth and turned his head back around. “I’m their Captain, I can order them to let you and your men leave."
That got her attention. The pressure on his neck backed off and Aurela’s focus switched to him completely. She stared at him warily like she was waiting for the other shoe to drop. “Then do it.”
Pike threw her an incredulous look. “Not without something in return.” His eyes flicked over to Mudd.
Aurela followed his gaze and her eyebrows rose in surprise, clearly she hadn’t expected him to ask for that, Chris questioned his own priorities at points but this was the right thing to do. Once Aurela got over the initial surprise she frowned and started to shake her head, which was when Pike remembered that she and Kamak thought they had unfinished business with Mudd.
“Do you want to get out of here or not?” Pike hissed angrily, seriously what was with some peoples priorities? “What’s more important, revenge or your lives?”
This was the moment where Aurela had to put her money where her mouth was, she had always said this was about business and not personal. The business decision, the correct decision was to go along with the Captain’s plan; the personal decision was to commit to killing Mudd.
Aurela clenched her jaw unhappily but eventually she nodded. “Okay fine, yes we want to get out of here. What do you propose?"
Pike licked his lips anxiously; he glanced around the room and was satisfied that for now everyone was awaiting on his call. “Mudd is a wanted Federation fugitive, very wanted.” That wasn’t an exaggeration, Mudd had pissed a lot of people in Starfleet off especially after his crazy escape. “You hand him over to my people, they get something they want, Mudd will get justice and you show some good faith.”
Pike had raised his voice so Saru could hear his proposal. Mudd’s hopeful expression and Kamak’s pissed off snarl told him that they could hear too.
“What do we get out of this exchange?” Aurela probed.
Now, the part of the plan he wasn’t exactly happy about but he couldn’t see any other way round it. Aurela would never leave without leverage; she had made that quite clear already. “I order my crew to let you and your ship’s leave. The space station won’t interfere. I come with you as insurance until we get out of tractor beam range; then you transport me back here, just like you planned."
Pike noticed Saru’s troubled look, he clearly did not like the plan; well that made two of them. His first officer didn’t have the intel Pike had though, or the measure of Aurela. Chris was expecting resistance and unhappiness from Saru, but he wasn’t expecting Aurela to bargain, not when this had been her plan earlier. “You come with us but we need you to stay until we get out of the system."
Pike frowned back at her. “But…"
“No, those are my conditions. Earlier your ship was not aware of us, being outside of tractor beam range was enough, but now…"
“And you expect us to stay docked at the space station and trust that you’ll let the Captain leave? When? How?” Saru interrupted angrily.
“When we get outside the system we will place him in an escape pod and set off a distress signal, it shouldn’t take you long to catch up.” Aurela replied, ignoring the question of trust pointedly.
Saru pursed his lips unhappily. He glanced to the Captain and indicated that it was up to him; he would follow his lead as the first officer. Pike glanced from Saru to Mudd and one look at the man’s broken condition enforced his belief that he had to get Mudd out of Kamak’s clutches. The brute had tightened his grip on the conman and looked like he was trying his hardest to break a limb, he clearly wasn’t happy with the idea of letting his prisoner go.
Aurela leaned into his ear and whispered so only he could hear. “The decision is yours Captain. Accept my conditions and Mudd will be free to go. If you don’t then a lot of people are going to die."
Chris closed his eyes and breathed out wearily. This was his life, the game of numbers and holding people’s lives in his hands. Sometimes it got too much, but he prayed for moment’s like this when he could save lives without sacrificing other people.
Aurela mistook his contemplation for hesitation. “You will be released Captain, you have my word on that."
Pike glanced back at his captor suspiciously. He looked for signs of deception but all he saw was truth, then again he had made an agreement with her before and that hadn’t ended well. “You’ve promised me that before.” He reminded her gravely.
She flinched like he had struck her; it had clearly cost Aurela greatly to have changed their agreement earlier, which was odd: a criminal with a sense of honour. She shook the blow off and reiterated. “I swear on my life, I will stick to our agreement. Whatever the consequences prove to be."
Chris studied her expression and looked into her eyes. He liked to think he was a good judge of character; that he could read people. His instincts were telling him that Aurela was being truthful, and if Pike trusted one thing it was his instincts. “Okay.” He accepted.
Aurela looked a little surprised, maybe even shocked that he was literally putting his life in her hands. He was too, but as she had pointed out if they didn’t come to an agreement then a lot of people would die. Pike was not prepared to waste life; not when it could be saved at the small cost of his own safety.
“Okay.” Aurela agreed.
Pike was pressed powerfully back into his seat when the ship shuddered and jumped into warp, taking him and his companions far away from the space station and Discovery. He gritted his teeth when the pressure put undue strain on his wrists. He was currently strapped into one of the seats in the cockpit, however his hands were still restrained hence they remained uncomfortably trapped behind his back.
After he and Aurela came to their agreement Kamak was ordered to release Mudd. The order went down in flames, but with the alternative being death Kamak had relented. As soon as the fugitive was in Discovery’s custody, Pike ordered Saru and the security teams to take Mudd and withdraw from the shuttle bay. Aurela’s nudge reminded him that he had missed something. Chris additionally ordered Saru to release the space station’s block on Aurela’s ship and to make sure that no aggressive action was taken by anyone. Pike could tell by Saru’s pursed lips and stiff movements that his XO wasn’t happy with the orders, but he kept his reservations to himself and followed his Captain’s orders all the same.
As soon as Starfleet had finished vacating the shuttle bay, Aurela’s men all piled onto their ships and the space was filled with the sounds of engines starting. Aurela took a firm grip of his arm and hauled him back up the ramp, after instructing Kamak to go ahead and get the ship in the air before Starfleet changed their mind.
It was during that conversation that Chris asked himself whether he had done the right thing, and whether he was starting to change his mind. The answer was academic though; the phaser digging into his ribs took care of that.
When they reached the cockpit Chris was well aware of Kamak’s deathly glare, following him all the way until he was seated and buckled up. Ever since the gigantic brute had been forced to let Mudd go he had been glaring at Pike continually, his burning gaze drilling right into the back of the Captain’s head. Pike was dismally certain that he hadn’t heard the last of Kamak’s great loss; his intended victim Harry Mudd.
Even now whilst they were at warp and fleeing the system, when they had their treasure and had ensured that Starfleet weren’t following; Kamak was as murderous as ever. Pike was starting to think that there really was no pleasing him. All of a sudden he unbuckled his seatbelt and turned to face Chris, pointing a finger his way and throwing him a dark look that would make most men cower away.
“You had no right taking Mudd away from me.” He growled whilst he prodded his outstretched finger into Pike’s chest.
Chris glanced down at the offending digit and gulped. Here we go. It wasn’t like he could do anything about this, he was literally a sitting duck. “Starfleet wouldn’t let you leave without getting something in return.” He reasoned, trying desperately to defuse the bomb about to go off.
Kamak gripped his shirt in his fists, bunching up the material and leaned into him. “They would have done anything you ordered them to.” He sneered. “Mudd and I had unfinished business."
Pike felt a flash of anger at that. “You call murdering him unfinished business?"
Kamak’s eyes flashed dangerously and he reared up threateningly; he really hadn’t liked that. “He deserved everything he was going to get.” Kamak’s face brightened for a split second like he had just had a great idea. “And now you get what he was due."
Like a raging bull being released Kamak went at Pike with the force of a train. He slammed his meaty fists into every part of flesh he could get his hands on. The heinous attack further bruised ribs, strained muscles and bones to breaking point, and splattered his hands and the floor with blood.
“Stop it!” Aurela screamed and yanked on Kamak’s arm.
Somehow she managed to haul the violent beast away and she threw him to the other side of the cockpit, not that Pike was paying much attention to the proceedings. He had his head bowed and was breathing slowly, trying with all his might to just get enough oxygen into his lungs to not pass out.
His vision blurred and the world tilted violently. Chris swallowed back down a shitty concoction of bile and blood, a sharp pain shot down the nerves within his teeth stealing his breath and causing him to groan loudly. His face burned but his chest and ribs felt like he’d been hit by a space shuttle. His lungs were still constricted, his muscles all bunched like they were trying to hide away from the brutal treatment.
Eventually he managed a shaky breath and then another. He distantly heard Aurela shout at Kamak to get out; the loud voice vibrated thickly through his skull and didn’t help the pounding in his head. Suddenly gentle hands were pressing his chest back into the chair and he felt his buckle being undone.
The loss of the buckle was actually a blessed relief. He hadn’t realised the constrictive material had been pressing against his chest but because he had been sagging forward against it, it had been the only thing stopping him from crashing forward into the unforgiving ground.
After a few moments of refilling his lungs with oxygen, Chris managed to clear his vision and saw that Aurela had a tricorder in her hands which she was running up and down his body. She noticed his staring and met his gaze, pouting at the results from the tricorder unhappily.
“I don’t know why he did this.” She eventually voiced guiltily.
Pike licked his lips and swallowed until he thought his voice would be steady and not croaky, he still sounded a little hoarse but eventually the hacking subsided. “I knew he would be angry with me, he didn’t want to let Mudd go.”
Chris winced and groaned when Aurela brushed his chest and hit a sore spot. "Now he doesn’t have him to take his rage out on…” Pike trailed off, indicating with a tilt of his head to his bruised chest.
Aurela frowned heavily and dropped the tricorder. That done, she helped him into a more comfortable position on the seat. She applied basic first aid to the worst of his injuries, including sticking a gauze pad to a nasty cut on his head that had reopened in the assault. “If you knew he would do this then why agree to come with us?"
Pike laughed bitterly, that was a good question and one he had asked himself when Kamak had been pounding into him with hatred and rage. “I promised Mudd I would do everything in my power to get him out of here, we both knew he wasn’t going to survive the night.” He met her gaze pointedly. “And I keep my promises."
Strike 1. Aurela shot him a stunned look and froze in place. Her bewilderment didn’t last long, she quickly put her stoic mask back in place and shook away the effects of his words. “So do I Captain. We’re almost out of the system, you’ll be out of here soon."
He wished that were true; he wished he could believe it. Aurela probably did have every intention of fulfilling her promise, Kamak on the other hand...
“I don’t think your partner will allow that.”
Chris had suspected this could be a one way trip when he had agreed to it; he wasn’t an idiot. Somebody who hated Starfleet that much and had so little control over his violent outbursts would never let a hostage go willingly, not when he had unfinished business as he had put it.
Aurela started shaking her head, whilst she administered a small painkiller which barely took the edge off but was appreciated nonetheless. “It’s not up to him, you’ll go in the escape pod and within the hour you’ll be back aboard your ship and we’ll be long gone."
Pike shot her a look, was she just naive or? “You really believe that?” He asked incredulously.
Aurela put the first aid kit away and began to leave. “Yes I do, now sit quietly. We’ll be far enough away soon."
Before she got out of hearing range Pike gravely promised. “We’ll never be far enough away for Kamak’s liking, he won’t let you release me."
Aurela glanced back, her lips pressed together in a slight grimace and her mouth opened and closed repeatedly. For a moment it looked like she was going to say something, but in the end she ended up saying nothing at all. In that tiny moment it was like she was considering the possibility that Kamak was too out of control, but then the look was gone and she shook her head before leaving.
It didn’t take long for Kamak to return and regrettably he brought his sour mood with him. Kamak sat in the co-pilot’s seat next to Aurela, and started to scan the surrounding area for any signs of pursuing ships whilst Aurela altered their course again. Chris understood the concept, they were warping in and out of space and moving near to radiated spots of space to help break up their warp signature; it was a classic technique and one which would slow down any pursuit from Discovery.
At the next jump Pike grimaced and tried to adjust his bruised ribs. Kamak had deliberately jostled him on the way back into the cockpit, which had immediately flared up the injuries in his mid-section and caused him to cry out. Aurela had scowled at her partner and muttered something about looking after children. Chris took offence at the comment; he had done nothing wrong and he was the one at their mercy here. Even though it was difficult he clenched his jaw and held his tongue; nothing he could say would make this situation any better.
In between scans and warp jumps Kamak continued to shoot him death glares, he bared his teeth and snarled showing he was just a second away from storming out of his seat to have another go. For his part, Chris ignored the looks. He resigned to slump back in the chair despite his uncomfortable position and stared straight ahead out of the viewport, not wanting to earn Kamak’s ire again.
Then again, it wasn’t like he’d provoked him before…
"We can't let him go." Kamak suddenly announced.
Pike closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He had been waiting for this but he hadn't imagined Kamak to be so brazen and forthright. He had secretly hoped Aurela's warnings would have been enough, but clearly his initial unsavoury judgement of Kamak had been on the mark.
Aurela frowned heavily, glanced back to Pike and then to her partner. "But his ship aren't following us, they're doing what they’ve been told."
Kamak scoffed and began to laugh like she had told a funny joke. "If we let him go then how long do you think it will take for them to blow us out of the sky?" Pike knew that wasn't the real reason Kamak wanted him to stay behind; he would use any excuse at his disposal.
Aurela motioned to their flight path confidently. "Kamak, they won't catch us."
Kamak turned in his seat and his gaze bore a hole right through Pike. A greedy triumphant look graced his face thinking he had already won the argument; Pike didn't hold his gaze. He resorted to stare down at the floor miserably, hating that he had been right about this.
"You can't be sure of that; he gives us leverage, insurance."
"No he gives us trouble." Aurela shot back fiercely. "As long as he is with us the federation won't be off our tails; they'll chase us across the galaxy for taking him."
She was right about that, Discovery would come looking, there would be a warrant out for him and for Aurela's ship in a heartbeat. Of course that wasn't a guarantee of rescue especially if Kamak killed him before then or he got palmed off to someone else, not to mention the fact they were already concealing their warp trail.
"They'd have to find us first." Kamak gloated happily, still staring at Pike who remained despondent.
A tense silence stretched out, broken only by Aurela’s revelation. “If you think they won't find us then why do we still need to hold him?”
Pike glanced up and he clocked Aurela's cautious expression, not to mention Kamak’s surprise at being caught out. Aurela was finally asking the right questions and cutting through her partner's flimsy lies.
Kamak soon shook off his startled expression; he found the use of his tongue again and started to explain his plan animatedly. "Think of the possibilities! We have our hands on a Starfleet Captain, and one as well known as him... People are interested, they will pay good money to get their hands on him."
Aurela frowned deeply. "What do you mean will? Have you been talking to people?"
Pike’s heart started to race after the use of the future tense; there was a big difference between the threat of being sold to what he presumed had to be an enemy of the federation, and Kamak actually setting up a deal.
“Just a few old contacts.” Kamak defended. “Pike's a pretty big name out there, people are interested.”
Aurela shook her head angrily. "We made a deal with him Kamak, I gave him my word we would release him."
Kamak laughed bitterly. "What do you care about more, your word to the enemy or making a profit?"
“He's not the enemy-“
“He is!” Kamak yelled and he slammed his fist down on the controls.
They stared off with one another, neither wanting to break eye contact first. Kamak was visibly fuming, his muscles shook and his fist twitched showing everyone just how much he wanted to hit something. Aurela looked drained and weary, and suspiciously like she didn’t know what else to say to persuade Kamak.
Pike had warned her this would happen; she had just refused to listen, and now he was about to pay the price.
Just as Chris had feared, Kamak had finally had enough with waiting. He rose from his seat, picked up his blaster and strode over to where Pike was sat silently. Kamak roughly gripped his prisoner’s shirt and dragged him out of the seat; he didn’t care that Chris stumbled or that he cried out in agony when his ribs dug into his insides. Kamak just gripped his arm tighter and pulled him along.
Pike’s heart shot into his mouth, he did not want to go anywhere with Kamak.
"Aurela..." Chris called out tentatively.
Honestly he was more than just a little petrified, and he desperately wanted to escape the inevitable agony that was about to come. He already had too many injuries; he didn’t want more. It was just his luck that his desperate plea had no impact on Aurela. She remained frozen in place still and watched the commotion with a detached expression.
All of a sudden Chris was spun around and he grunted when Kamak’s colossal hand collided sharply with his face, causing his head to snap to the side sickeningly. He was roughly slammed up against the wall; his vision blurred dangerously and his limbs turned shaky.
"You, shut it." Kamak threatened whilst violently shaking his prisoner.
Aurela finally snapped out of her stupor and Pike noticed her hand brush against her phaser. "Where are you taking him?"
Kamak positively grinned at his captive. He pressed a meaty hand against Pike’s chest until he moaned in pain, and his eyes danced with the idea of what he was going to do. "I'm going to go and get the Captain more comfortable for his extended stay with us."
Pike looked desperately to Aurela, wanting her to step in and say something to stop Kamak from taking him. She scratched her neck and avoided direct eye contact with him; her inner conflict was clear but not enough to step up against her murderous partner again.
Oh no. He wasn't getting any help from Aurela; even after all her talk of letting him go. Chris kept thinking back to the room he had first seen Mudd in, with all the torture implements and blood... He was sure that was what Kamak intended to do to him, and that was terrifying and not a future he wanted.
Kamak took his partner's silence as a go ahead and he grabbed a hold of Pike's arm, to drag him out of the cockpit. Chris began to struggle violently against the hold and called out desperately over his shoulder. "You gave me your word-"
He was cut off abruptly when Kamak threw him against the wall and put his hand around his throat, lifting him up and cutting off his air supply in one brutal motion. Kamak was literally choking the life out of his captive.
“I thought I told you to shut up.” Kamak muttered darkly, squeezing his fingers tighter. "I think it's time you learned who’s really the boss around here."
Chris squeezed his eyes shut tightly and gasped for air like a fish out of water. He tried twisting his head thinking it would help dislodge Kamak’s fingers; it didn’t. If anything his meek struggles only served to make his captor more determined to crush his throat. Kamak squeezed tighter and lifted him higher up the wall causing Chris’ legs to kick against the wall wildly.
"Let him go."
Chris couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t think and all the time the drums in his head were getting louder by the second.
There were voices around him but their meaning and purpose slid into the ether as Kamak squeezed harder, making Chris’ choking intensify.
"This is wrong, I promised him..."
Everything was turning dark, his vision was fading. Pike’s struggles grew weaker and he felt each of his limbs too heavy to move.
"Your promise to him means nothing! He's not one of us Aurela. He's Starfleet." Kamak accompanied his yelling by slamming Pike’s failing body into the wall mercilessly.
“Killing him won’t help either of us!”
Finally, the voice of reason.
Aurela’s retaliatory shouting finally got through to Kamak and he realised his prize hostage was on the brink of death. He quickly released his grip around the Captain’s throat and lowered him until his feet touched the floor, but he kept him pinned and upright by pressing an arm across Pike’s collarbone.
Chris choked and gasped on the air around him; his head hung forward miserably and his vision swayed dangerously. No matter how hard he concentrated he couldn’t get enough oxygen in to sustain his lungs, and he couldn’t breathe properly even though his throat wasn’t being crushed anymore. He wanted more than anything to curl up into a ball and clutch his burning throat until it stopped scorching the air he breathed. Kamak would never allow that though.
“I'm not letting him leave this ship Aurela.” Kamak promised darkly. His tight hold remained in place; it was honestly the only thing keeping Chris from sliding down to the floor in a heap, he wasn’t really sure how he was still conscious.
A deathly silence descended in the cockpit, broken only by Pike’s hacking coughs and raspy breathing. Chris’ brain finally kicked back into gear when he realised what had just been said, and that Kamak had delivered Aurela an ultimatum; the choice between him and her partner.
"Okay.” Aurela agreed.
Chris’ head shot up and his gaze zeroed in on Aurela. Surely she hadn’t just agreed to let this madman keep him? She had said...
"Okay?" Kamak sounded just as surprised as Chris felt.
Aurela purposefully kept her eyes off of Pike; she was standing unnaturally still and she grimaced with guilt. She kept her determined gaze on her partner, a hard expression slipped onto her face like she had decided something.
"If this is the play you want to make, I'll back you.” She explained.
Kamak’s grip loosened on Chris and he broke out in a huge grin, forgetting his prisoner for the moment. "Really?"
Aurela glanced at Pike coldly, showing no hint of remorse. "Yeah. You're right, I don’t owe him anything."
"That's the Aurela I know.” Kamak beamed.
Chris slumped forward dejectedly and resigned himself to his fate, he’d known this had been the most likely outcome but that didn’t make his immediate future any easier to swallow. He was so damn tired, every part of his body ached miserably and after everything Aurela had promised she had betrayed him again. Chris doubted everything he had previously deduced about her; he’d bet his life on Aurela having a sense of honour and he had lost. The betrayal hurt.
"Do you want to show me the contacts you were talking about?"
Kamak nodded excitably and after one last look at the Captain, released him. Without the crutch, Pike immediately slid to the floor. He groaned painfully when his chest tightened and burned on the way down, and his vision swayed dangerously as the floor came up to meet him.
"You won't regret this.” Kamak grinned at Aurela, and turned towards the computer terminal.
Chris glanced up at the scene with a resigned look, wondering just exactly who Kamak intended on selling him off to. Whoever it was, it definitely wouldn’t be a pleasant experience. Pike almost believed he was seeing things when he saw a weapon in Aurela’s hand, pointing directly at Kamak’s retreating form.
"I already do, but I have to do this.” Her voice shook weakly and it broke towards the end.
Kamak turned on the spot and his eyebrows furrowed in bewilderment. When he spotted that Aurela was pointing a weapon at his chest, his confusion morphed into one of shock and his eyes bulged out of their sockets. His mouth opened and closed a few times and he had finally started to form words when Aurela suddenly pulled the trigger. The fatal bolt struck Kamak directly in the chest causing the brute to crumple to the ground instantly; his final words died on his lips and his life extinguished just like that.
Chris watched the entire scene in disbelief, he didn’t trust what his senses were telling him. His eyes were locked onto Kamak’s dying expression, he saw the surprise, shock, hurt and betrayal all morphed into one twisted look. He was distantly aware of Aurela’s movements and that she was walking towards her now deceased partner. No matter how hard he tried, Chris couldn’t take his eyes off of the dead man’s face which until just recently had been pressed up against his own, promising a future of pain and torment. This was the last thing Chris had seen in his future, he hadn’t seen this coming; and Kamak clearly hadn’t banked on his own partner shooting him point blank in the chest.
“I'm sorry, old friend.” Aurela sobbed. Her voice began to crack and her hand came up to her face to muffle a sob; she couldn’t believe what she had just done either.
Pike’s mind whirred at a million miles an hour. What the hell had just happened? Had Aurela done that to save his life? Her own? More importantly what was next…
Chris studied her hunched form as she fell to the floor; she crouched next to her dead partner and began to cry. As Pike watched her grieving he realised that no-one could answer his questions, he was pretty sure that Aurela would never truly know what had pushed her to murder Kamak, she was already showing all the signs of regret.
“Why did I do that?” She muttered; sounding confused, hurt and most pressingly angry. “He was my friend.” Her anger grew at an exponential rate until Aurela slammed her fists against Kamak’s chest and repeated her question, this time yelling it whilst turning to Pike making it clear it wasn’t rhetorical.
Chris resisted the urge to bury his head in the sand, he had seriously hoped Aurela wouldn’t involve him in this but now she had he knew there was no avoiding her wrath. "He was out of control, you heard him."
Aurela’s eyes flashed dangerously, she got to her feet and quickly closed the distance between them. Chris went rigid and all of his reflexes screamed at him to get as far away as he could from the women currently charging towards him. He would have done just that if he wasn’t restrained, still choking for air and boxed in against the wall. Aurela closed in on him mercilessly; she gripped his shirt tightly and hauled him up against the wall roughly.
Chris cried out when his damaged ribs protested the rough treatment, and he gasped when the air was forced out of his lungs again. He had only just managed to start breath normally, but now Aurela was uprooting all his hard work to fight off the pain. Pike forced his eyes open and stared right into Aurela’s rage, every inch of her expression screamed hatred so much so that she literally trembled with it.
She couldn’t possibly be blaming Kamak’s death on him could she?
“He’s dead because of you!” Aurela cried out, lifting up her weapon to point directly at his head.
Okay, yes she could. And just like that his temper snapped. Chris had been pushed around, used, betrayed and damn near choked to death and Aurela was blaming him?
“I didn’t ask to get caught up in this!” He yelled as best as his damaged throat could manage, as he finally lost what little patience he had left. “I’ve been kidnapped, beaten and damn nearly killed by your sadistic partner."
He took a deep breath and then another, trying his hardest to calm down when he remembered there was a gun aimed at his head and Aurela looked half a second away from pulling the trigger. “I warned you he would do this."
He didn’t mean it as an ‘I told you so.’ He just wanted her to snap out of whatever this was. Aurela still flinched at his words as she was reminded that he had in fact warned her that this would come. Aurela’s expression lost some of its anger and her hold on him loosened.
“He was more than just my partner.” Aurela’s voice shook tentatively, like she was halfway between breaking out in a sob or raging to the world. She glanced backward to the corpse on the floor morbidly and her whole body deflated, her grip on his chest loosened some more and the pressure against his forehead decreased.
Her gaze met his and he saw see tears beginning to form in her eyes. “You did this, you provoked him.” She accused, a dangerous cold edge to her voice.
Pike shook his head sadly; she still wasn’t thinking straight. “I didn’t need to provoke him, you know that.” He gently reminded her.
She let out an anguished cry and the tears began to tumble freely, morphing with her other turbulent emotions until her expression was impossible to read. Aurela kept looking from her dead partner to Pike, clearly unsure about what she should be feeling and where she was supposed to go from here. Chris watched the weapon waver in front of his face warily and he watched Aurela carefully for her decision, if he’d had his hands free he would have probably tried to disarm her but for now his words were the only weapon he had.
“Are you going to kill me?” He eventually asked, wanting to know his fate either way.
Aurela’s breath caught and she leaned forward towards his face. “Why shouldn’t I?” She sneered coldly.
Without missing a beat, Pike parroted her own words back at her from earlier. “I swear on my life, I will stick to our agreement. Whatever the consequences prove to be.”
Aurela went rigid, she froze in place and her expression was stuck, malformed with horror, anger and sorrow. Suddenly her gun arm began to tremble more than ever and her breathing increased rapidly. If Chris had to hazard a guess he would say Aurela was about to break down and fall over the edge of grief any second, whether she fell on the side of revenge or her promise was a mystery neither of them knew the answer to.
Chris waited patiently for Aurela to make her decision. There was little else he could do to sway her now, and there was nothing he could do physically in his state. The hand against his chest was the only thing holding him up. The adrenaline from earlier was wearing off and his limbs were growing sluggish again, they shook and trembled and threatened to stop supporting his weight.
After what seemed like an age, Aurela dropped the blaster and replaced it in her holster. She appraised him silently and the cold anger returned. Her actions and expressions were completely contradictory and they were confusing the hell out of Pike.
Suddenly Aurela gripped his arm and hauled him out of the cockpit; she didn’t wait for him to get his feet beneath him properly. Chris cried out with each step, stumbling and only being held upright by her powerful grip. Things had all started happening so quickly, and he was still trying to catch up with the turn of events. When Pike realised they’d headed out into the corridor he seriously considered that Aurela was going to take him to the torture room, where Kamak had been dragging him to earlier. If that was the case then this would all be for nothing and he was in for a horrible future.
“Where are we going?” He grunted as she picked up the pace, she still wouldn’t look at him.
Aurela suddenly pulled them to a stop outside a door and his vision swam when she spun him so his back was to her. “The escape pod.” She replied coldly.
Pike blinked until his vision stopped swaying and sure enough when he stared straight ahead through the glass he saw an escape pod, as promised. He soon realised there was a tugging on his wrists and he felt Aurela’s hands brush against his skin. The restraining material was soon removed, leaving his wrists free but still completely numb and unwieldily.
Aurela slammed her fist against the door panel and the escape pod door slid open. With his hands finally free Chris brought his arms around front wanting to reach up and grasp his throat, and wanting to soothe his blistered and raw wrists. Sadly Aurela had other ideas. She shoved him between his shoulder blades and he found himself falling face first into the escape pod. His numb arms and hands weren’t too useful with breaking his fall but honestly his knees took the worst of the tumble, after his foot was caught on the lip to the pod.
Chris groaned and lifted himself up to a sitting position as best he could, his arms still burned from being restrained for so long and trembled bearing his weight. He glared back at Aurela, about to question the continued rough treatment was necessary. Couldn’t she see he’d taken enough punishment at the hands of her and her late partner?
When Pike’s vision cleared he noticed that the door had been closed. He looked beyond the glass window and noticed Aurela staring right back at him, her expression was cold and devoid of life or happiness. Without another word she slammed her hand on the release button, sending the pod tumbling away from the ship.
The pod rocked violently and shot away from the hull at a break-neck speed. Chris slammed back against the pod’s floor brutally, his head thunking on the grating with enough force to send him into oblivion immediately.
He wasn’t exactly sure when he drifted back into the world or what was happening, one minute he had been looking at Aurela through the glass, the next he was hurtling through space and in total darkness and now he was lying flat on his back with voices all around his head. Pike moaned and tried to move but gentle hands held him steadily pressed to the floor. He had to admit that the floor felt a lot softer than the floor of an escape pod, if he didn’t know any better he’d say it was a mattress. Chris shifted towards the familiar sounds until he felt something press against his neck and after a faint hiss he was out like a light.
Just one more chapter to go, essentially an epilogue to wrap everything up!
“Escape pod detected, dead ahead.”
Saru glanced up from the Captain’s chair and leaned forwards eagerly. The entire bridge crew had been on edge ever since learning of the numerous dramas upon the space station, what with the hostage situation, Mudd’s reappearance and finally Captain Pike’s abduction. The tense atmosphere had only grown since the Captain’s kidnapping.
Michael had started to doubt that they were going to hear from the Orion and her people again, it had been over an hour since they’d warped away with Captain Pike which was more than enough time for them to get out of the galaxy. Yet there had been no sign of an escape pod or distress call, until now.
“Bring us about. On screen.”
Michael heard Detmer begin to manoeuvre the ship into place and the view screen was soon filled with the tiny escape pod. Michael’s fingers flew over her science station and she performed a scan of the shuttle in preparation for Saru’s next order.
Michael breathed a deep sigh of relief when her station showed a clear life sign. “1 and it’s human.” Although her new-found joy deflated when the readings indicated that he wasn’t conscious.
What had they done to him?
“Bring it aboard, have a medical and security team meet it in the shuttle bay.” Saru’s commanding voice snapped her out of the distracting thoughts, thinking the worst wasn’t going to help anyone, least of all the Captain.
His orders were followed by a chorus of ‘Aye sirs’ and the bridge crew got to work. Michael found she couldn’t concentrate on anything, she couldn’t take her eyes off the viewport and she couldn’t stop worrying about Chris. Those life sign readings weren’t as stable as she’d have liked; she knew she wouldn’t be able to relax properly until she’d seen him alive and well with her own eyes. Saru had clearly noticed the same thing.
She was so distracted that she didn’t noticed Saru approaching, so she almost jumped out of her skin when he spoke. “Go ahead Michael. Send us an update when you can.”
Michael stared at her friend stupidly, her mouth opening and closing a few times whilst she tried to blink away her confusion. She was half-tempted to tell Saru that she was fine and that she could still perform her duties; she probably would have done if it weren’t Saru in front of her, but they didn’t lie to one another. So instead Michael shut her mouth, took a deep breath and resisted the urge to pull the Kelpian into a bear hug.
“Thank you.” She mouthed before racing off of the bridge.
Michael power-walked into the shuttle bay, trying to keep her anxiety in check and make it look like she wasn’t fighting a war not to simply run. Who was she kidding? Everyone could probably tell from her face that she was deeply worried about the Captain, they all were. He had sacrificed his own safety for others, acting as selfless now as he first had upon arriving onboard Discovery, back when he’d earned their trust and respect in less than a day. He was the best of Starfleet, the best of men, and none of them would get over it if his selfless nature actually killed him.
Michael came to a stop outside the shuttle pod and watched on as the security team cleared the space for any surprises. The medical team were next up, they piled into the pod and immediately began muttering commands and administering emergency first aid. Michael swallowed down her nerves and slowly edged forward, trying to catch a glimpse of the Captain amongst all the people.
When she spotted his face she felt her heart clench desperately in her chest, she stopped in her tracks and held her hand up to her mouth in shock. It was a mess of vicious bruises and blood; he looked so pale. His right eye was partly swollen shut and there was already a nasty bruise forming which would no doubt turn into a black eye by morning. Her view was stolen when one of the medics administered painkillers and started to apply pressure to the bleeding wounds. Michael took a shaky step forward until she started to hear the medics’ instructions.
“Serious head wound to the back on the back of his skill, possible internal injuries and completely no response to stimuli.”
“Severe bruising to the larynx, but his airway is clear for the moment.”
That particular diagnosis caused Michael to surge forwards, she audibly gasped when she saw the state of his throat. It was splattered red, and purple and covered in fingerprints. He’d been viciously strangled; the thought alone made Michael’s blood boil.
“We need to get him to sickbay, grab the board.”
Michael was nudged out of the way when someone rushed into the space carrying the anti-grav board. The medical team worked efficiently and were soon in place to move the Captain onto the board to get him out of the pod.
“Hold his head steady, we’ve got no idea what condition his spine’s in.”
The seriousness of their words were starting to get to Michael, that and the sight of him immobilised on the board, covering in blood and unmoving. If the medics hadn’t already taken his pulse, Michael would be pushing through to do it herself. He looked dead.
The medics pushed Chris out into the open and came to a stop next to Michael, they took one look at her face and decided to include her in the emergency transport. Michael hadn’t taken her eyes off of the Captain and his broken body, so when the golden light began to envelop her she panicked.
It wasn’t until she reformed and noticed that they’d taken her with them that she took a breath. Michael stayed on the outskirts in sick-bay and watched Doctor Pollard and her team move Chris to a bed, they begun to take a multitude of scans and readings.
“His pulse is steady but we need urgent attention on his head, those injuries could very easily lead to swelling on the brain.”
Gauze, pads and drugs were being set up and administered expertly, so much so that Pike was soon lost beneath a blanket of white. The medics cut away Pike’s shirt and everyone gasped when they saw the state of his chest.
“Jesus…” Pollard muttered when she took in the livid bruising, followed by a few choice curses.
Michael hadn’t seen injuries as angry and purple as this since the Captain jumped on a phaser, that had been bad enough but at least that hadn’t been inflicted on him like these injuries had. Their Captain had sacrificed his health again to save the crew, to save her.
“He’s got three broken ribs, and at least one of them is shattered. We need to check for internal bleeding and organ damage.”
Michael breathed in sharply when she saw the scans appear on screen; she viciously wiped away the tears that were beginning to form and took a step towards Chris.
“There’s no signs of swelling on his brain, but we have picked up a small skull fracture on the back of his head.”
Out of nowhere Captain Pike began to stir. He mumbled something incoherent and Michael saw his eyelids begin to open. Steady hands kept him pressed against the bed when he tried to rise and Michael’s heart went out to him when he whimpered painfully.
“Get me a sedative, and some more painkillers.” Pollard ordered quickly, frowning down at her patient as she tried to stay detached and professional.
Michael couldn’t have done it. She wouldn’t be able to stand there, over their Captain’s beaten and broken body and not want to murder somebody. What had he ever done to deserve this?
“It’s going to be alright Captain.” Pollard whispered softly into his ear. “You’re safe now. You’re amongst friends.”
Michael choked back a sob when Pike’s face scrunched up in agony and he cried out suddenly. Her view was stolen when the medic rushed back over with a hypo spray, one which was administered immediately when they noticed the Captain was trying to push himself up again. The medicine hissed against his neck and Pike instantly went limp, he sagged into the pillow and his expression relaxed into something akin to peaceful. The only small mercy was that he didn’t look like he was in agony anymore, that was the only mercy though. This entire situation was the definition of unfair; Chris didn’t deserve this; nobody that good deserved any of this.
She was so wrapped up in her own thoughts that Michael completely missed the call from the bridge, she didn’t acknowledge Saru’s voice until Pollard started to call her name and steered her away from Pike’s bed.
“Commander Burnham, please report to the bridge.”
Michael snapped out of her shocked state, and managed to steady her voice. “I’m on my way Saru.”
Doctor Pollard smiled kindly at her, a gentle grip on her arm. “He’s going to be alright Michael, let us fix him up.”
Michael plastered a fake smile in place and nodded at the Doctor reassuringly. “Thank you.”
Pollard returned to the Captain’s side leaving Michael standing alone at the edge of sickbay. Michael took one last look at Pike’s face, checking again that he was still breathing and stable before heading to the bridge. She tried to ignore the way her fists shook on the way out, and the trembling feeling racing through her body. Michael wanted to hit something, hard.
Captain Pike strode along Discovery’s long corridors, he could feel his step was slower than usual and with each step there was a slight throb complaining from one part of his body or another. Even though his limbs were stiffer, his ribs were wrapped and sore and his head and neck were splattered with bruises of different colours he was in a good mood. He was on his feet and he’d just been released from sick-bay, released to his quarters and desk work only, but released all the same.
He was thankful to be able to walk with this little difficulty after such a short recovery time. Frankly he was thankful he was still in one piece considering the state he had been in when Discovery had found him.
Everything from the moment when Aurela had thrown him into the escape pod was a complete blur, he only had flashes of being woken up by the pod’s beeping, a distress call resounding through the space and finally hearing familiar voices he now knew belonged to Doctor Pollard and the medical staff from Discovery.
His first real memory from there was waking up in sick bay, surrounded by comfy pillows and wrapped in a blanket of white, from bandages to stitches to regenerative wraps. Mercifully he had originally been blissfully high on painkillers, so much so that all he had felt was a dull ache from his chest and head. Even his headache which had felt like a machine was drilling through his brain had dulled. Doctors were truly miracle workers.
The first time he had tried to talk he’d ended up descending into a coughing fit, only managing to rasp out random syllables through a throat as dry as a Mojave summer; honestly it felt like he had swallowed sand paper. After glasses of water and a lot of swallowing he regained use of his voice enough to be able to communicate, although Doctor Pollard swiftly warned him to rest his voice over the next few days. His larynx was extremely bruised and sore and would be for a while, he had the brutal strangling experience to thank for that.
As soon as he was more conscious the Doc ran through his injuries, making it clear that even though he was wrapped tightly all in white there would be thankfully no permanent damage. As predicted he had several cracked ribs, internal bleeding caused by impact injuries, fractured bones in his face and a couple of nasty head wounds, along with a bruised larynx and damaged muscles around his wrists. The restraints he had been tied up with had been tied far too tightly; tightly enough to effect and cut off the circulation in his wrists; the numbness from the escape pod made a lot more sense after the diagnosis.
Doctor Pollard had eventually allowed visitors but only after he passed a few tests and stayed conscious for longer than half an hour. Pike messaged Saru and let him know he was up for his debrief and an update, Saru wasn’t surprised that he wanted to do this now even from his hospital bed.
Saru debriefed him with the usual efficiency that Chris expected of his first officer. The Discovery had found his escape pod after picking up a distress signal, just where Aurela had promised. They had tried to follow any warp signatures in the area but so far there had been no sign or word from Aurela or the others. Pike hadn’t expected there to be. Saru asked if they should continue pursuing, but Chris had shaken his head. Tracking down criminal was a job for someone else and honestly he never wanted to see Aurela or her damned ship ever again; they had more pressing matters to attend to.
The conversation soon steered onto the ship. Saru assured him that everything was fine, the ship was out of the space station, all repaired as planned. The crew who had been involved in the hostage situation were all unharmed, Saru made a point to mention that Michael was back on duty and had been asking after him as had the rest of the crew. Chris smirked to himself, Saru’s attempts at playing matchmaker were really quite amusing, although he did owe his XO for putting that particular worry at ease. Michael and the crew were safe and well.
The next most pressing question Pike had was, Mudd. It turned out Saru had already informed Starfleet of the fugitive's capture. They were due to rendezvous with a prison shuttle which would take him onwards to a federation detention centre somewhere. Before he left the Discovery, hopefully for good, Pike wanted a word with the fugitive. He wanted to know just what the hell the conman was thinking when he stashed his treasure, and he wanted to make sure there weren’t anymore surprises around the corner.
Doctor Pollard had other priorities; like keeping her patient in sickbay until she’d run what seemed to be every test imaginable on him. He’d slept through the majority of them and he’d actually slept 12 hours straight, right through until morning which he presumed was down to some kind of sedative.
After a few more brain scans he was patched up and released. Although that wasn’t before he got a warning from his CMO; he should be doing nothing other than light duties and he was to spend most of his time resting otherwise he would be back in sickbay quicker than he could say Starfleet.
After the release papers were signed the first place he visited was the brig.
By the time he’d walked to the other side of the ship the good feeling he’d had about walking again had vanished, and his limbs felt stiffer than ever. He was definitely going to have to go for a lie down after this visit, Chris wasn’t one to admit it easily but even he knew when his body had been through the wringer.
Pike managed a tight smile to the guard on duty outside the cell area, and indicated that he wanted to be let through the outer force field. He didn’t miss the way the young security officer’s eyes had widened when he noticed his Captain, and then again when his eyes sought his bruised face and neck. Pike was sure rumours had gotten around but seeing the aftermath of a vicious beating for yourself made it real.
The young officer stammered a 'yes sir’ and let his Captain into the cells. Pike stepped through and made his way over to Mudd’s alcove; he came to a stop just shy of the final force field. The prisoner was slouched back on the bunk and he looked bored as hell. Chris studied him for a few moments and saw that he appeared to be in a lot less pain than the last time he had seen him, his bruises had faded too.
Suddenly Mudd noticed he had company, and his bored expression vanished as soon as he realised who his visitor was. His face lit up and he jumped to his feet. “Ah, Captain. I’m glad to see you are well."
Pike scoffed and held his ribs when they protested to the description, he leant against the wall wearily. “You and I clearly have different definitions of well."
Mudd shrugged, he looked quite sprightly for someone who had been beaten as long as he had. Perhaps he had a high threshold for pain or maybe he’d just got used to bouncing back. “We’re both alive aren’t we?” He sang cheerfully.
Pike almost hadn’t been for a moment but Mudd was right, no need to be a pessimist about things whilst they were all still breathing. “I suppose we have that to be grateful for." He allowed.
Mudd sobered and his gaze locked onto Chris’ bruises, specifically the nasty ones covering his throat. He swallowed guiltily, looked away and rubbed his neck awkwardly. “Look Captain, I really am sorry for getting you caught up in all of this. Kamak was a complete psycho and some of the things he threatened me with…"
“I can imagine.” Pike interrupted, he had seen first hand how persuasive Kamak could be; he wasn’t sure if he could hold a grudge against Mudd for giving into torture.
Mudd managed a strained smile, a flash of pain scorched his expression before it was expertly shaken away. “Well. What I’m trying to say is I’m sorry, and thank you for saving my life, you didn’t have to.”
Pike blinked in surprise, he had never heard Mudd be so sincere in all the time he had known him. It was strange and oddly humanising. “I promised you I would try.” Pike reminded him.
Mudd barked a laugh and tilted his head to the side, suddenly scrutinising Pike. “Still… Most others would have thrown me to the wolves."
“Believe me I was tempted." Pike smirked, he could think of a few of those others.
Mudd chuckled warmly, clearly amused by the joke. Chris mused that it was strange that Mudd knew he was in fact joking. The conman threw him his most charming smile and indicated to the cell. “Any chance of some special treatment for an old friend?"
Now it was Chris’ turn to laugh. “Haha no. You are going back where you belong; behind bars. You’re all out of favours from me, in fact after this you owe me one."
Mudd tipped his head acknowledging the fact. He frivolously waved his hand around. “Ah well, I’m sure I’ll see you again in the future to pay back that favour Captain. I don’t like owing people."
Chris leaned against the wall nonchalantly. “I don’t frequent prisons Mudd, where exactly do you expect to see me around?"
Mudd threw him a dazzling smile. “You know me Captain, I don’t stay in one place for too long."
The meaning was clear, Mudd was brazenly informing him he was going to escape from prison; again. Well that was a problem for another time, and another prison official. As long as he didn’t go walkabout whilst he was on Discovery...
“If you even think about trying anything here…” Pike pushed away from the wall and warned seriously.
Mudd held up a hand. “No, no. Have no fear Captain, I won’t disrupt your life anymore.” He grinned wolfishly when an idea popped into his head. “You can call it a favour if you like."
“Your idea of a favour is promising to not escape my brig.” Pike dead-panned in disbelief.
Mudd shrugged and a familiar mischievous expression fell into place, he was far too amused by the suggestion for Chris’ liking. Pike sighed tiredly and began to make his way to the exit, wanting to draw the conversation to a close before Mudd got too many ideas and decided to plan a prison break anyway. “You’re unbelievable."
Mudd laughed and threw him a little wave. "See you around Captain." He had effectively laid down the gauntlet; a challenge and a promise that he was not staying put wherever Starfleet placed him.
Pike wished he had faith that the conman would stay in place but all evidence in the past suggested he wouldn't, thus far no prison had held Harry Mudd for long. He took one last look at the former fugitive and made a mental note to post another guard on the man; he could never really be too careful.
Pike was finally on the home stretch to his quarters, he couldn’t wait to drag his weary body over the threshold and collapse onto his couch and curl up with a good book. Well, that had been his plan until he noticed somebody waiting outside his door, somebody who made him nervous and excited in equal parts. Michael was pacing nervously in the small space and looked torn between staying and going at a moment’s notice, she’d clearly been unsure about waiting in the first place. Pike managed to forestall stumbling and making a fool of himself, he pulled himself together before anyone noticed his shock.
All of Chris’ weariness evaporated into thin air and a genuine smile spread across his face as he took her in, standing in her uniform and looking just as radiant as ever. He slowed down his pace and strolled the rest of the distance; it didn’t take long for Michael to notice his approach.
"Captain!" She stammered hurriedly, clearly mid-thought and surprised that the person she was waiting for had appeared.
His widening grin grew into a full on beam causing his dimples to appear. After the nightmare he had lived through just seeing Michael was more than enough to lift his spirits, and as Saru had promised she looked completely fine, and more importantly unharmed.
"Hi." He replied smoothly.
He clocked the flush spreading up her neck; her mouth opened and closed a few times like she couldn’t get any words out. Knowing she was caught off guard, Chris stepped in. "How long have you been waiting?"
The question snapped her out of her shock and her posture straightened. "Not long."
For some reason, he didn’t quite believe that. “Hmm.”
The longer they stood in the corridor the more Chris’ thoughts drifted to the last conversation they’d had, and how it had been interrupted… That coupled with the fact there was quite a bit of foot traffic building up, all of whom were starting to throw the pair of them curious glances, made him want to make this conversation private.
Pike swiped the control for his door and held out an arm. “Do you want to come in?”
Michael looked positively relieved, she jumped at the chance and practically raced through the door. "Please."
Pike followed closely behind, a pleased smile tugging at his lips. The doors slid closed behind him and he put the privacy lock in place; this time he didn’t want to be interrupted by anything. The last time he and Michael were spending time together, an Orion and a hostage crisis got in the way. Chris was not about to let anything interrupt conversation number 2.
Chris followed Michael into his quarters, and he watched her study the space around her inquisitively. She started to study his personal items and possessions that were lining the shelves and walls. Now it was Pike’s turn to feel nervous under the scrutiny. It occurred to him that he hadn’t had anyone in his quarters aboard Discovery and it was a little odd having Michael study the things he had gathered over the years. Strangely it made him feel self-conscious, this room was an extension of who he was so Michael was getting a glimpse into something about him that rare few did.
After a few moments of silence Michael turned her attention to him, her previous anxiety having evaporated now it was just the two of them alone. She closed the distance between them, her eyes roaming over every inch of his body, cataloguing injuries and everything she could find. When she got close enough, she reached up to touch the stitches on his face and started to trace the cuts and bruises gently.
A light frown worked its way across her face when she studied his neck, noticing the fading purple bruises in the shape of hands. He knew that Michael had asked about him more than once when he was unconscious, so she had learned of his more serious injuries.
Michael worked her way down and touched the hem of his shirt, eyes lifting to his face. "May I?"
Chris felt oddly nonplussed by the request, he was sure he should feel embarrassed about the idea of showing her his injuries and bare skin but strangely with Michael he didn't. He nodded and helped her lift the shirt to reveal his wrapped ribs. Michael’s frown deepened into a scowl as she took in the smattering of purple and red across his chest, honestly though the worst of it was covered up by the bandages which he was glad for. He didn’t want to draw much attention to it, he knew it looked worse than it felt.
“I was there… when they first took you out of the pod.” She paused and gulped, running her hands over his skin just to prove to herself that this was real. “At first I thought you’d died.”
That particular titbit of information was news to him. He didn’t know Michael had seen him like that; it couldn’t have been a pretty sight. Chris let her hands wander and he noticed one of them hover above his heart. He looked into her face and recognised the raw emotion there; panic, worry, fear. She had been terrified. Seeing her turmoil brought a lump to his throat; he wanted to bundle her up in his arms and take her pain away.
“I’m okay Michael.” He reached out a hand to tilt her chin up tenderly, until she was looking him in the eye. He could tell she wasn’t convinced so he smiled warmly and reassured her. “Really.”
Michael’s frown lessened but still remained, she pursed her lips together and scrutinised his bruises more closely. “Does it hurt?”
Whilst Michael had been studying his injuries he had been watching her, finding the frown endearing and cute. Was it strange he wanted to reach out and smooth away those wrinkles? He felt a warm hand on his chest and he glanced down, heat swelling in his gut. Chris moved to capture her hand and let his shirt drop back down. “I’m as good as new."
Okay, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration.
Then again he had been discharged from sick bay, he had painkillers raging through him and being in Michael's company always improved his mood. He just wanted to help bring some levity back into the room and to fight off the chill that had descended. Surprisingly enough it worked.
Michael finally broke out into a smile even if her raised eyebrow indicated that she knew he was exaggerating, the strange thing was that didn’t seem to matter. She suddenly chuckled, shook her head and backed away from him; taking her heat and hand with her. "You know it's a shame we were interrupted on the space station, I was having a great time."
Chris eyes slid down her form as she walked away. She glanced over her shoulder and when she noticed him watching she just smiled. Pike registered the words and more importantly the way she had said them, Michael was in that kind of mood now.
He took a few steps forward into her space; he wanted to reach out and touch more now than ever. “Me too.”
Michael closed the distance again teasingly, trailing a finger down his chest lightly. Her light touches soon turned into something else and it wasn’t long before she was running her hands over his limbs; her eyes widened when she felt his muscles through his clothes.
"What do you suggest we do about that?” He was faintly amused by her frozen state, and he had to admit it gave him a thrill knowing Michael Burnham could have her mind frazzled just by touching.
His words shocked her out of whatever fantasy she had fallen into. Her boldness returned and she flashed him a smile before walking and plopping herself down on the sofa, shamelessly swaying and showing off her slim body on the way there.
"We could pick up where we left off?" She suggested off hand like it didn't have consequence to her.
Chris gulped and shook his mind out of the state Michael had just frozen it in, seeing her retreating form and hearing that tone of voice took him back to the bar... He soon joined her on the sofa and played along with her flirtatious behaviour; he slid his eyes up and down her body, taking in everything including the flush at his attention.
"And where were we?"
Michael leaned towards into him, closing the gap between their racing hearts. "I believe you were about to buy me a drink."
"Hmm." Chris nodded, and his eyes drifted to his decanter on the side nearby. "Would you like a drink?" He teased, a smirk pulling at his lips.
Michael’s eyes gleamed and she nodded silently whilst unzipping her jacket like she had no care in the world. Pike shook his head in amusement and got to his feet. He headed for the decanter, took out two glasses and poured a generous amount in each.
When he turned to head back he noticed that Michael had shed her jacket entirely and it now lay draped over the back of the sofa. The image made him pause. Seeing her bare arms out, and dressed in just a tank top was enough to stall his brain. Embarrassingly Michael noticed his stumble and she laughed triumphantly.
Chris got a hold of himself and walked the rest of the way to the sofa, handing Michael one of the glasses and settling in close to her, their arms touching. He took a sip of the drink, revelling in the warmth that slipped down his throat. Emboldened by the feeling he took a hold of Michael's hand in his own, gently tracing circles into the palm of her hand whilst he sipped.
Michael glanced from her hand to his face, a quizzical expression on her features as she wondered what his next move could be.
Chris leaned forward to whisper huskily. "What else do you want Michael?"
And that's it! Phew, that was a little tricky to finish, I got caught up in other story planning! Speaking of, the next one up is a little short I'm currently writing featuring Pike, Michael, Sarek and Amanda and of course hurt/comfort. After that I've got an alien takeover planned which will combine the two crews :D