"FREEDOM's JUST ANOTHER WORD..."
By Jason Andrew
Tasha allowed herself a moment to cry and get the pain out. Once Captain Picard told her that these feelings were natural and human and that she shouldn't be take them as a sign of weakness. That said, she hated letting the Romulans see her cry.
Guinan revealed to her that in the real timeline she had died a senseless death, one without meaning. Data had assured her that there was no way the Enterprise C could survive the attack on Narendra III if they returned to the past. He was wrong. With Tasha's experience, the Enterprise C had managed to make a spectacular showing, destroying two of the Romulan Warbirds before they lost main power. She had even managed to release the blackbox probe that should have warned the Federation of what had happened.
Castillo was killed by one of the Romulan Boarding Parties. Tasha fought the good fight expecting to die. She didn't expect to be captured.
The hull of Enterprise C was towed to Romulus as a victory prize. The fifteen survivors were marched through the cpital city's steets in chains for the citizens to watch. That was when the Tal Shiar began what was referred to as the debriefing process.
It took almost three months for the first survivor to break. Tasha, and she assumed the other survivors, were forced to watch a holo-recreation of the scene. The others followed suit over the course of a few weeks. Tasha wasn't surprised. They were all born on safe Federation worlds and didn't have the experiences she did escaping the anarchy and the rape gangs on Turkana IV.
She experienced the same ritual beatings, starvation, drugs, and personal humiliations, but she knew that she had survived worse and nothing the Romulans did could ever match Turkana IV. Before her escape, her sister Ishtara warned her that suffering and chaos existed everywhere, even in the Federation.
For a few years Tasha thought that Ishtara was wrong. The Federation was a paradise until the war with the Klingons. She briefly wondered if her life had changed in this timeline. It was 2346 so that would make the other Tasha nine. Perhaps, she hoped, Turkana IV didn't fall in this timeline and was still part of the Federation.
The door hissed open. Her dark cell was spartan, but clean. Two Romulan guards wielding disruptors stepped into the room. Tasha winced despite herself. The latest Romulan torture had been to remove her clothing and leave her in darkness. The light from the hallway burned her eyes, but she was grateful for the stimulation.
One of the guards dropped a grey prisoner jumpsuit onto the floor. "Get dressed, prisoner."
Tasha had lost her modesty weeks ago, but was grateful for the comfort of clothing. "Special day?" She asked, trying to goad the guards into revealing any news.
"Exit interview," the other guard replied.
Tasha was taken into the interrogation room. She imagined that there were dozens of similar rooms spread through out the complex. It was a room like this where the other survivors lost their will to live.
Tasha was chained hand and foot to the concrete floor and forced to sit. Satisfied, the guards exited the interrogation room and locked the door. Romulans liked to play waiting games with the prisoners. Sometimes the waiting was just as horrible as the torture. This time was no exception. It seemed to Tasha that she sat on the cold floor for almost an hour before the door opened.
Previously, one of the interrogators would enter along with a guard and begin the day's events. This time a lone Romulan entered the room carrying a small datapad. Tasha had never been good at guessing the age of Romulans, but this one looked older. If he were human, she would have guessed that he was middle aged. His hair was a little grey, but distinguished. He had a broad nose and a handsome face. He looked directly into her eyes, something most of the Romulans refused to do unless they were torturing her. Tasha knew she might be imaging it, but he reminded her of Captain Piccard. He had a face that made her think he was a decent man. Obviously, she decided that the Romulans were getting to her.
"Lieutenant Yar. It's a pleasure to meet you face to face. At the moment, it's not prudent for you to know by name, but you may address me as General," He said politely.
Tasha was unsure what to do. The Romulans had never tried to torture her with politeness before. "Hello, General."
"I'd like to congratulate you. You've managed to confound the best interviewers that the Tal Shiar has ever produced. That took courage and strength. I think that we needed to see this from a Human. The others don't know what to do with you, but they lack the imagination," the General explained.
Tasha was afraid to ask, but she knew if she didn't play along things would get much worse. "What are you going to do to me?" She asked.
"Nothing," the General replied.
Tasha found that difficult to believe. "Nothing?"
"I was reviewing the data collected from the telepathic probes and found something interesting. You once risked your freedom from a rape gang to save a feline. It was then it occurred to me that no amount of suffering we could inflict upon you could ever break you. The suffering of others is a different story. If you don't agree to my terms, I will issue an order to have each of the survivors tortured to death in consecutive order. Of course, they will be made aware of the situation and will have to wait knowing they are next. Fiendish I know, but we are desperate," the General explained.
"What do you want me to do?" Tasha asked, frightened of the possibilities.
"We know you are from a possible future. I'm really quite grateful to you, as you proved my thesis that was recently rejected by the Senate. Your existence has very much increase my sway," the General informed her.
"I don't understand."
"Before our attack on Narendra III, the tensions between the Federation and the Klingons were increasing. I predicted war within a year or two. You have validated my hypothesis. Had we not attacked, the Enterprise C would not have been destroyed defending a Klingon outpost. Without that show of honor, as the Klingons say, tensions would have increased until a minor border skirmish would have caused a full scale war while the Romulans waited and consolidated power. And now, it seems, the Senate is willing to listen to me now that it is too late," the General told the prisoner.
"They attacked you," Tasha replied, with a hint of defiance.
"Three outposts have been destroyed. The Senate and the military were counting on surprise and secrecy. Now we're at a state of war and we need your assistance. Oh don't worry, you are fairly useless to us as a means against the Federation. We could never trust your information and really, you wouldn't be useful for several years. We don't even know if the Tasha of this timeline will join Starfleet. But you do know about Klingons," the General said.
"You want tactical information on how the Klingons fought the Federation," Tasha realized.
"As a security officer, you must have studied all of the battles. It won't be the same, but you know the personalities and the tactics. You know where many of their bases are located, even from twenty years ago. You could be a great help to us, if you were willing to cooperate," the General stated.
Tasha couldn't think of a reason not to help the Romulans fight the Klingons. If nothing else, maybe they would wipe each other out. "What happens if I agree?"
"The remaining survivors will be given comfortable positions. Long term guests of the Romulan Star Empire. You will live with me," the General answered.
"Live with you?" Tasha asked, confused.
"My influence is such that I am permitted a few eccentricities and perversions," the General continued. "You have shown a spirit that I admire and I have watched you over the last few weeks and months. And I have found you to be quite attractive. It is not uncommon for Generals to be allowed a Mistress."
"You want me to be your whore?" Tasha asked, horrified.
"Officially, yes. It is the only way that the Senate will allow you to be placed fully under my authority," the General explained. "It is my hope that you will, over time, find me attractive as well. I would not find pleasure in forcing such a thing upon you."
Ishtara would have taken the deal. She was willing to do what she needed to do to survive. Could she condemn the survivors merely out of pride? Maybe if she accepted, she could later find a way to escape. "I won't help you attack the Federation."
The General nodded. "I would be disappointed if you did. Besides, the Federation has been classified as a non-threat for now."
Tasha blinked. "Why?"
"The Federation Council filed a diplomatic statement that expressed their concern over the loss of one of their vessels and have taken no further action as I predicted. The Federation will not enter a war unless they are forced to do so. We shall be busy with the Klingon Empire for many years, even with your help," the General replied. "And besides, the story of your homeworld has reached the Senate. Many believe the Federation will fall even without a war with the Klingons. An empire that would allow such a thing to happen can not be strong enough to survive."
Tasha didn't feel like getting into a debate over the Prime Directive. "Not every colony in the Federation is going to just fall," She protested.
"Perhaps not. But, we feel that without a visible enemy, the Federation will look inward, and expand more slowly as an empire," the General countered.
"The Federation isn't an empire," Tasha replied.
"Isn't it? I've done some research on human politics. You have a concept very much like we do here. There are two types of power: hard and soft. Hard power is what the Klingon's understand. Violence or the threat of violence to get what you want. Soft power is far more subtle and over time more dangerous. Soft power is the ability to influence those around you with your culture, your idea, and economic ties," the General explained. "In this the Federation exceeds the Romulan Star Empire. You've managed to double your size in almost a hundred year without costly conflicts. Why do you think the Klingons were at war with you in your timeline?"
"There were a couple of boarder skirmishes that went out of control," Tasha replied.
The Romulan allowed himself a soft smile. Tasha felt like she was at the Academy. "Tasha, you are by the accounts of two Romulan Commanders excellent with starship tactics. You are somewhat lacking in social-political matters. Over the last fifty years, the Federation has undercut much of the Klingon's economic structure. The Klingons attacked you because they did not have any other option. Their economy would have folded in fifty years. Had the Senate listened to me, this would have happened," The General replied wistfully. "But now, we're at war with them and face a rather dangerous time. They have nothing left to lose. That gives them the freedom to throw their hard power into gaining territory to revive their economy."
"Why do you hate the Federation so much?"
"We don't hate you, not like we do with the Klingons. We fear you," The General admitted. "Humans frighten us. Despite our best efforts, you managed in only a few years to build a community with the Andorians, the Tellarites, and even the Vulcans. Your ideas formed the Federation. You've exported these values to other worlds all the while pretending to respect the cultures of others. And while I think that there is much to be admired in Humans, I'm also not blind to their potential downfalls. We do not wish to be assimilated like our cousins were. That was why we went to war with you."
"You attacked Earth because you didn't want to be assimilated by Humans? That's just paranoid," Tasha exclaimed.
The General laughed. "You've been on Romulus for quite a while now. Surely you have better insight into the Romulan mind by now. Paranoia is a virtue to the Romulan. He that fears the worst can prepare for it while hoping for the best. The Federation could use some paranoia. One day there will be a race that the Federation can't assimilate with their promise of economics and value exchanges and that race will conquer them. But for the moment, the Federation is safe from the Romulan Star Empire, I assure you of this."
Tasha wondered if she could change this General's mind about the Federation. He already admitted that he found her attractive. Could she influence him to moderate relations between the Romulans and the Federation? Could she give up her pride to be his Mistress? The General had mentioned something about having nothing left to lose meant that you had freedom. There was an old folk song about freedom that Ishtara used to sing. She didn't know the whole song, just a couple of bars of the chorus, but she sang it over and over when she was nervous. What would Captain Picard think of her? He once said that it was perfectly human to express your feelings and fears. She didn't want to die. She didn't want the others to die. She didn't want to betray the Federation. The Romulans knew this and were manipulating her. Perhaps she could manipulate them? The General was offering her a way out and all she had to do was swallow her pride.
"I'll do it," Tasha stated. "I have nothing left to lose."