Xenogamy (expurgated version)By Alicia Ann Fox
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|Partially eradicated carvings of alien origin represented a valuable lesson, one which Kerr Avon was beyond apprehending. He did not even fully comprehend the reality of his escape. Stumbling in the roughly chiseled tunnel, knees and bare feet rasping on the stone, one hand held protectively against his stomach, he searched without hope for a way to the surface.
The tunnel widened and smoothed; his eyes could not see in the darkness, but his left hand could follow the wall. He moved faster until, abruptly, empty space gaped before him. The chamber seemed weirdly carpeted in gold. It was too far down to see clearly. Avon fell.
"We found him in the Sacred Cave," Chakotay informed the holographic Doctor, indicating the unconscious body transported from the surface of a planet they had nicknamed Snow. "But we didn't find any evidence of entry through the tunnels, and there are no ships in the vicinity. No signs of other life, either."
The Doctor ran his medical tricorder quickly over his patient's torso, and looked up in surprise. "This man is human."
Chakotay nodded. "That's what our tricorders told us. The captain would like a full analysis, to make sure."
"I'll take care of it. Please send Kes in to help me."
Chakotay exited, using his communicator badge to summon the Doctor's assistant on his way out.
Suddenly the man on the bed moved. The Doctor touched a hand to his shoulder. "Lie still, I am trying to ascertain the extent of your injuries."
His sentence was interrupted by a left-handed swing and a surprisingly powerful grappling grip. The Doctor threw himself bodily across his patient, pinning him down. He was sure the man had heard and understood what he'd said; obviously he had no reason to believe him, as he continued to struggle. After a few moments, the Doctor finally captured the man's arm and pinioned it, out of reach of his throat. Not that it mattered to his own health; after all, he didn't breathe. He flicked on a restraining field. "Lie still," he reiterated, annoyed. "I am trying to help you." He added, "I am the Emergency Medical Hologram, and this is the starship Voyager."
His patient subsided with an exhausted gasp, but still tried to twist his neck away from the Feinberger. Relentlessly, the Doctor pinned the man's forehead with his palm and ran the scanner over the left side of his face. "I told you I won't do anything to hurt you. You're safe, you're on a Federation ship."
A minuscule noise of disbelief escaped him, the first sound he'd made. Deciding his patient was cognizant, the Doctor wiped blood from the man's lower lip, which he'd bitten nearly through on some recent occasion, and ran the scanner once more, finding chipped teeth. "No one is going to hit you," he said. Someone entered the sickbay; he glanced back and said, "Ah, good. Kes, you can help me with this. I'll need my hypospray."
The young blond woman gave him the instrument as she joined him at the diagnostic bed, looking down at their patient in wonder. "Harry told me they found a human down there."
"So far as I can tell, Ensign Kim is absolutely right. However--" the Doctor pulled out a regenerator "--someone obviously doesn't care for humans in this sector. We're going to have to set the hand, there are three cracked metacarpals and six fractured phalanges." He applied the hypospray with a flourish.
"How--" Kes began.
"How do you think?"
Watching, intently, the Doctor at work, she at last answered, "I suppose the question is really who, not how."
The Doctor took a moment to smile at her. "Very good. Have a look at the tricorder readings while I take care of these ribs."
A few minutes later Kes said, "He was drugged." When the Doctor gave her an encouraging look, she gripped the patient's shoulder lightly. "Do you know what drugs you were given?"
The face turned to her was expressionless under the bruises, but he seemed to understand what she was saying.
She tried again. "How many times were you injected?"
"Don't remember," he said vaguely. His voice was husky and dark, and sounded ill-used.
"So you can talk."
Panic flared. "Won't." He moved, but the Doctor controlled him easily this time.
"Lie still. You are safe, so long as you are in my sickbay."
"No," the man breathed, and closed his eyes.
The ceiling had changed, it was not the rough-hewn rock ceiling of his cell. Nor was he aboard Liberator. Interrogation area? He couldn't remember what that room looked like, though he'd been there several times. Avon tried to recall if he had told them everything already....
Someone was speaking to him; he heard the voice as if from a distance. He hurt all over, but considerably less than the last time he'd been conscious. His throat felt sore, and his teeth were oddly smooth. How much time had passed?
"Don't worry, you're safe, this is a Federation ship, U.S.S. Voyager. I am the Emergency Medical Hologram. The Doctor."
It appeared solid, for an hallucination. Surely he hadn't seen it materialize from thin air, just then? He'd never been quite this far under before, drugged enough to see things. Perhaps so much abuse had jolted his system that he was suffering from random firing of synapses, like a computer overwhelmed by cataclysmic feedback. But there were other sensory cues: the air smelled different, and the light did not glare so harshly. He curled his hand protectively into a fist, and felt the stiffness of healing injuries. This seemed real. A new tactic? Confusing him wasn't going to get them very far. Had he told them about the teleport yet?
"Can you tell us your name?"
The insignia was upended on the Doctor's blue and black uniform, Avon noticed. With a great effort he managed to sit up and glare.
"Very well," the Doctor said. He said to someone behind him, "If you want to know his name, you can ask him." Without warning he stuck something on Avon's forehead.
Avon jerked back, but there was no pain or disorientation. Cautiously, he leaned against the headrest, as if nothing had happened. The Doctor was studying some sort of handheld device--Avon didn't recognize the style of it at all, and he quelled a fear of some new object of torture.
"We would like to know how you came to be on the planet below," a second voice asked.
Avon looked up. Dark skin with a strange undertone, dark hair, pointed ears...they looked natural. He realized that this must be a non-human, though he had never seen one, unless he could count Cally. Amazing that this one had been let out of the Space Command labs. "Who are you?" he asked, surprising himself with the difficulty of that simple query. His pulse raced, though it was not the alien he was afraid of. In fact, he couldn't quite isolate a specific fear; he was generally unsettled, a rare feeling for him, at least as he remembered himself, from before--before--
"You are experiencing a panic reaction. Breathe deeply," the hologram instructed.
"That would perhaps be beneficial," the alien said. "I am Lt. Tuvok, Chief Security Officer. Our medical analysis indicates that you are a human. You will please tell me your planet of origin."
"Don't waste my time," Avon said, testing for immediate reprisal. It didn't come. Was this "good guard, bad guard"? It was a vast improvement over "bad guard, bad guard, and another bad guard over in the corner with a bit of pipe."
"Perhaps I should explain. We did not expect to find a human in the Delta Quadrant."
"In the what?"
"The Delta Quadrant."
Avon pondered this, rubbing at his fingers. Finally he said, "I don't know where I am. And I can assure you Blake is not looking for me." Even if he had the barest clue where to find me, Avon thought, he wouldn't put aside his search for Star One. Assuming that whatever Avon had told his interrogators had not led to Liberator's capture or destruction already.
"If you do not know where you are, surely you know where you came from."
Avon leaned his head back and closed his eyes. He was grateful when no-one touched him. At the least he could get a little rest before the next trip to interrogation. "Earth," he said. "It's in my records."
Tuvok did not sound surprised at this information. "You were found on the planet below, in an underground chamber possibly manufactured by the planet's former inhabitants. We found no records, nor indeed any other lifeform or any explanation for your presence."
Avon opened his eyes as his brain shuddered awake. "How do I know you're not lying to me?"
"Please do not try to strangle me again," the doctor's voice interrupted. "I must examine the regeneration of your phalanges and metacarpals." He picked up Avon's right hand and ran a small device over it.
"Vulcans cannot lie," Tuvok said, in the same serene tone he had used throughout. "You were alone, though it is obvious that someone else inflicted your injuries. It is unfortunate that you have no knowledge of how this came about. Can you give any further information that may be of assistance to us in unraveling this problem?"
Avon pulled his hand away from the hologram, who felt disturbingly real, down to warmth and skin texture. His hand still hurt, from--he mentally slammed to a stop, before he began to shake. "Where did you come from? One of the Outer Worlds?" Something was ticking at his brain...the device the Doctor had...the Doctor itself...what was going on?
"Lie back, please," the Doctor instructed.
"Who injured you?"
Avon obeyed the first command, as he still felt light-headed, then answered the question. "Federation interrogators. Are you softening me up for the next round?"
Again the alien showed no reaction. "No, I am not. You appear to have been "softened up" considerably already. No one on Voyager will harm you. What Federation are you referring to? Describe the interrogators."
"There was...a captain, in charge. I don't know why only a captain, maybe he was hoping to keep the bounty and hadn't informed his superiors. And two interrogators, they took it in turns--" He was shaking, he noticed with interest, and waited for it to stop, tucking his hands beneath his armpits. The nubby dark blue fabric of the shirt he wore was warm and soft. Tuvok waited patiently for him to continue.
"Turn on your side," the Doctor instructed, explaining, "there is some residual bruising of your kidneys."
Obeying, he shivered again at the unnerving feel of a warm palm against his skin. It felt solid, human. But he'd seen the Doctor materialize. The Federation couldn't create holograms of this level. He knew there was no way. No one had explored down that path. No one. Some kind of teleport? That didn't fit, either.
"Thank you. He should be on his feet in a few days, Mr. Tuvok."
Tuvok nodded. "I will inform Captain Janeway. You may continue," he said to Avon. The Doctor moved away to a glassed-in office.
Avon rubbed his face with his hand, suddenly exhausted, willing to say anything if they would leave him alone. "I only saw those three. And four mutoids."
"There was a bounty for your capture."
"What was your crime?"
Avon closed his eyes. "Rebellion." He could have said more, a great deal more, but what was the point? He felt himself drifting, but was brought back by the next question, focusing on Tuvok with difficulty.
"What is your name?"
Luckily, an easy one. "Kerr Avon."
Tuvok accepted that information with a nod and retreated to his earlier question. "What Federation were you referring to?"
"The Terran Federation. Based on Earth. Sol system."
"We are very far from Earth, Mr. Avon. Approximately seventy years at our best speed."
Somehow, Avon was not surprised.
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