Star Trek: Defiant

"Queued" - Part Eight

Written by Laine Rael

Catrin awoke first, staying perfectly still so as not to alert their captors. Her eyes opened only slightly, and she peered through a fringe of eyelashes. She could tell that her quiver was gone.

They were in a small, dark room, lying on the floor. No one appeared to be about, but then again, they could be being watched, Catrin thought. She was not restrained in any way, but there didn't seem to be any way out either. She didn't seem to be injured, but that fact alone sent a heaviness through her soul -- not being injured was a fair sign they were to be tortured.

Rael was curled in a ball on the cold floor. She awoke next, but she didn't stir either. She merely opened her eyes. Her right hand was resting on her boot, and she reached for her daggers. They were gone. She caught Catrin's gaze. They didn't say anything. Rael looked over at Maerret. His eyes were open as well, looking at her, his breath rising and falling as evenly as if in slumber. His scimitars were also gone.

Jeffrey and Mak stirred, and sat up. Both were obviously weaponless. Dan snored softly, and Emeras stirred briefly before continuing to sleep, her hands stripped of their rings.

Since almost everyone was awake, Rael sat up as well and took a look around. The room was rectangular, with a large chair at one end and a stout, heavy oak door at the other. They were near the chamber's center, gathered together as if someone had roughly piled their bodies together. The walls were of black stone, and no mortar seemed to be holding the bricks together; rather, the bricks fit together so well they could only be of a magical creation.

The door burst open and Matron Baenre -- Q -- strode in. "How good to see you are awake!" He cried. His black robes, adorned with several large ornate purple spiders, swirled around him as he took the chair.

"Why are we here, Q?" Jeffrey said flatly. Q chuckled.

"Aren't you having fun, Bridges?" he said.

"Not particularly," Jeffrey responded.

"But isn't this what you've always wanted?" Q said, leaning forward. "To be in the novels with your favorite characters, fighting at their sides, taking down evil beasts and restoring good and hope to all the realms ... you had quite a few holodeck programs dealing with the subject." He paused, and he lost his broad grin. "Of course, you have to take the good with the bad, and I assure you, where you are now is very, very bad."

Q gestured to the guards who had followed him in and leaned back languidly. "The drow are such a marvelously efficient race," he said, toying with what appeared to be a ivory-colored ring that was hanging from his neck by a long silver chain. "They can kill quickly, or mete out punishment over decades, whichever way they see fit. I assure you, it is quite an unpleasant experience either way." He clapped his hands, and the door opened to reveal a guard struggling with a hideous creature on a short chain.

The group gasped. The face and torso were of Bishop. If it were possible, he looked even paler, and his one eye captured the group in a cold, dead gaze.

The lower half of his body was definitely not human. From the waist down, the implants and black body suit ended and became the bulbous, furry gray body of a large spider. Six long, jointed legs extended up and out from the body, and the Bishop-thing opened its mouth to reveal glistening fangs. The creature drooled in anticipation of its meal, and it was all the guard could do to hold it at bay.

Q let them all have a good look, then waved his hand slightly. The guard took the creature out. Q turned to the stunned crew.

"That was a creation of the drow," Q said. "It's what they do to those who don't pay the proper respect to their leaders," he said, looking at Jeffrey meaningfully.

"But it's not real," Jeffrey said through clenched teeth. "We don't have to pay respect to you.

Q smiled. "Oh, it is very real, I assure you ... to the drow, starships and tricorders are the stuff of fairy tales ... if they had such things." He threw his head back in a sudden laugh. "Where are my manners? I suppose you're wondering why you're here, aren't you? I'm sure you know by now that this is more than a harmless diversion."

"We're listenin'," Mak growled.

Q steepled his fingers and leaned back in the chair. "Let's just say that this is a part of a little ... survey ... we Q have been conducting. Of course, my ways of collecting information are slightly more creative than most, but at least we approach the same end. You're not alone, you see. The Federation is certainly not the only organization of its kind. Many other races in places you can't even imagine also band together for the good of all involved. We want to know why. The Q is a race of mostly solitary beings, you know ... after all, since we never die, it would get quite boring to be around the same individuals for millenia. You wouldn't believe how cranky some immortals become ..." Here Q turned to Mak. "Although you might have some idea." "I hope you're not sayin' that some day I'll be like you," Mak said.

Q's smile dropped. "Don't flatter yourself. We've been similarly testing alien networks throughout the universe. And this is your test." His smile returned. "You should be honored that your crew has been chosen to represent the entire galaxy ... but don't let it go to your head." He stood quickly. "Enough! It's time to find out what happens next," he said, and strode out of the room, robes swirling, the guards at his heels. A moment later, the Bishop-creature entered the room alone. Behind him was the shadow of a similar beast, with Ferengi ears and Klingon brow ridges.

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