It had been nearly four hours since Tzymo's cronies had tended to his wounded shoulder, but Horatio could hardly tell the difference. He no longer had a gaping hole in his chest from Prophet's spike, but he could still barely breathe. It continued to ache intensely with every breath, but he had been left alone in the bacta lab and told to await Tzymo's visit. Too tired to pace, he sat on the table he had been treated on, bored but keeping his mind sharp by running through the events of the past day.

He still had a hard time processing Mand's deception and trap she had pulled over him. She had effectively done the same to him that he had first done to her on Agamar, only her plan could possibly result in serious hazards for him at the hands of his employer. How was Tzymo going to punish him for apparently subverting him? Zanti had already exacted physical pain on him, allowing Prophet to injure him with her dangerous tail that became a deadly projectile, and Tzymo had said before that he didn't believe in death as a final sentence...but how could he be sure? Because of Horatio's actions, Tzymo's beloved pet Prophet lay dead out on the skybridges that spanned the Tzymo Labs towers, nearly sliced in half by Elena's lightsaber blade at Mand's control. What kind of revenge would Tzymo take out on him for it?

Interrupting his thoughts, a rough coughing fit gripped him, painfully tearing through his shoulder despite his attempts to subdue it. He still felt a heavy wetness rattling in his upper chest, residual damage that Tzymo's doctors hadn't cleared out for some reason. After coughing into his hand, he wasn't surprised to see specks of blood in his palm, though it frustrated him. Once he was able to suppress further choking reflexes, he swung his legs up onto the table and laid down, rendered lightheaded by the pain and reduced volume of air. He still felt weak, too, having nearly suffocated had it not been for Mand's intervention.

Her help perplexed him. She had sworn to kill him at their next meeting, but she saved his life first? She didn't make sense.

To be fair, neither did he. His motivations were less...obvious, though. He wondered if he even knew them at times.

Finally hearing something, one of the doors behind him quietly swept open, and one lone set of footsteps entered the small room. With an effort, he sat up on the table, gripping his shoulder with his good arm. As he turned to look, a placid-faced Tzymo silently stepped up to him, briefly assessing him. Horatio watched him warily, afraid of what the unusual scientist would do.

But when Tzymo did nothing but step back from him, awaiting Horatio's first response, he narrowed his eyes at Tzymo, leveling his frustration at him.

"I think your docs missed a spot," he said with a low voice that was nearly cut off by another choking cough. Undaunted, Tzymo clasped his hands behind his back and spoke calmly.

"On the contrary, Mr. Sheridan. Their partial treatment was entirely intentional. Your body will heal well enough on its own. Perhaps this will serve as a reminder to you for what has happened here today."

Distressed, Horatio swallowed hard, his eyes and his voice still dark. "I didn't help her escape."

Tzymo nodded. "Oh, I believe you. Her performance was most impressive. Clearly, I underestimated her clever resourcefulness, though I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, considering her company." He slowly stepped away, looking uninterestedly at a nearby display. "I also believe that you are a man smart enough to not cross me again, especially after warning you of such. I do not blame you for Prophet's death, either. She will be replaced by a superior subspecies of vornskr I've been perfecting; Prophet was a prototype. So don't worry, Mr. Sheridan. I know that you are still so very interested in our agreement that brought you to me in the first place."

Angrier as Tzymo hit a nerve, Horatio raised his voice. "Yeah, I would be, if you actually let me talk to her!"

Tzymo crossed his arms as he turned to face Horatio once more. "You think I've withheld my part of the arrangement?"

"Well, I sure as hell didn't sign up just so I could maybe see her from a thousand meters away! You agreed to get me information on her so I could find her, and I did. I don't understand how you can keep me from her and still say we're even!"

Tzymo's expression hardened. "It is out of my hands. Your twin sister has become of particular interest to me as of late, and I do not compromise my assets."

"Interest to you? Why?"

Sighing, Tzymo again turned away. "Not only had she contracted a rare immunosuppressant disease during her brief time in an Ambrian prison, but her desire to keep herself so well-hidden piqued my curiosity. She is evidently avoiding any and all contact with her previous life to evade the scrutiny of the Bounty Hunters Guild, purportedly to keep her one-year-old son Aalon from them, but her efforts have become all the more difficult recently with the onset of her illness."

Stunned, Horatio tried to see through Tzymo's answer, to get to the root of his intentions...

"You're protecting her...so she can be your lab rat?"

Glaring at him ominously, Tzymo said nothing, enraging Horatio further. "She needs help, and you're just going to study her!!"

"She is an important link to the Guild that I have been unable to attain until now. I am trying to help her, Mr. Sheridan, but I cannot allow you to interfere with her at the moment. When an opportunity becomes available, you will be notified, but for the time being, you will have to wait."

"Not happening," Horatio bit back. "I've done my work. I'm going to see my sister and my nephew."

Tzymo maintained an intense expression, his arms still crossed over his chest. "Defy my orders, and I withdraw my aid from her completely. The Guild will destroy her within a week, if her illness doesn't claim her first."

Unwilling to counter, Horatio lowered his head dejectedly, struggling to resolve his frustration. Tzymo was going to control everything, including whether Recero lived or died, and Horatio was in no position to change it. He closed his eyes briefly, then looked back up at Tzymo with a resigned expression.

"Her son," he began quietly, "...is he sick, too?"

Tzymo shook his head, his own expression neutralizing. "So far, he seems perfectly healthy, but he is not your concern at this time. You work is far from done, Mr. Sheridan, and you will be returning to Paneau very soon."

Horatio narrowed his eyes again in defiance. "I am not going after Mand again..."

"I don't need you to," Tzymo answered bluntly. "You'll be tracking someone else, someone a bit...younger."

Curious but wary at the same time, Horatio waited for Tzymo to explain more, but instead the cryptic scientist turned and left, speaking calmly along the way.

"Just as before, you will be contacted with more information later. Report to the Malastare outpost and await further orders."

As the door closed behind Tzymo, Horatio stared at it numbly. He had to find a way out of servitude to Tzymo that didn't involve death, either his sister's or his own. The longer he dwelled on it, though, the angrier he became, and the more his chest ached. Tired and anxious to leave Coruscant behind, he grabbed his jacket and made his way down to the hangars, finding a suitable transport to get him to the Outer Rim in one piece.