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Episode Thirty-Seven

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Day after day they took one of us away at a time. Hours later, a limp body would be returned to us, the being exhausted from enduring hours of pain. The returned one would be pulled into our huddle to recover.

They used sedatives on us to reduce our struggles and began using veridicals on all of us. After every session it was a relief to leave the warm, well-lit torture chamber and return to the cold, damp, dim cell and be received by my companions, to share body warmth with them, to be comforted by their nearness.

I do not know why they kept us together. Maybe they hoped we would talk, believing ourselves unheard, that we would say unguarded that we are working for one government or another, that we are working for a coalition of planets. But we did not. Instead, we clung together, Us against Them, and gained strength from one another, received warmth and companionship.

We were fed irregularly and every now and then a hose was turned upon us in a poor attempt to keep us clean. Days passed and the Pak'ma'ra slowly succumbed to Drafa. He shivered constantly, even after being interrogated, and the creeping illness slowly paralysed him. Once in a while, the Dilgar would inject him with some of the anti-Drafa serum, after which he would rally for a while, then slowly sink back down again. I spent many hours huddled against him, trying to keep him warmer. They would not allow us blankets. He shivered so badly that I even sometimes held him against the worst of it. We had come this far. I did not want him to die in this rotten crummy cell. I didn't want any of us to die here.

They hauled me in. "What does the name So'Kath mean to you?," they asked me. It was a change from their normal line of enquiry and I found myself fearing the information they held against me.

"He is someone I am close to." I saw no reason to lie, but still did not want to reveal the whole truth. It would only cause me more grief.

"We have a message from this So'Kath, directed to your ship. There is a young Narn in it - four or five years old?"

They undoubtedly saw me tense up against their bonds and their sedatives. I could not play calm. A little part of me noted with pride that they thought Na'Kath was at least a year older than she was. The rest was horrified that they knew. They knew what few others did.

"We can show you the recording..."

They wanted to bribe me into telling the truth. "But only if I tell you what you want to hear. I am telling you the truth. I am not a government agent. I stayed away from government matters. If they offered a good contract, I took it. But that is all!" My voice sounded like a wail. "I am just a trader who sometimes carried slightly less than legal cargoes! You know all this! I've told you this time and time again!"

Oh, I so wanted to see that recording. I needed to see it. So'Kath would be upset, as would Na'Kath, that I had been gone so long. But I could not oblige the Dilgar and their pompous leader.

"You want to see that recording. We know that you want to see that message. We know who they are and what is in the recording. Tell us the truth and you can see it"

"I am telling you the truth! I have told you all I know! We are a group thrown together by circumstance! I can fly and fight, Nar'Bon can fight and argue, the Human can do wonders with machines and the Pak'ma'ra talks! There isn't any more! Do you think that I would work with a Pak'ma'ra or a Human?"

They jolted me a few more times, then got bored with torturing me with that little bit of information. So they moved on to the next nasty surprise, only this wasn't such a surprise to me. This didn't hurt as much. It just confirmed what I had feared and removed another source of worry to me.

"Your ship, the, what was it...ah yes, the Na'Ka'Ri'Tal, did not reach its orbit. It was too badly damaged. It broke up upon re-entry."

They were trying to break me but could not. I had suspected that the meteorite had been my ship - the angle of its entry had been approximately correct. When I had left the Na'Ka'Ri'Tal that last time, I had felt that I would not fly between the stars in it again.

They questioned me further, repeating questions over and over and tried to bribe me with the recording. They increased the pain levels and the amount of drugs they pumped into my system, but could not get anything further out of me that they did not already know. I had long ago admitted to not losing the last data crystal but throwing it into the sea. I had long ago told them of all the miserable events that lead to our being stranded here, how I knew Nar'Bon, the Pak'ma'ra and the Human and what I knew of them. They jolted me with pain over and over until I was only semi-conscious, and still what little sense they got out of me did not deviate from the truth.

Eventually they gave up and took me back to the cell. The others received me back into their midst, where I wept silently and uselessly. When my voice returned to me, I told them of the Na'Ka'Ri'Tal's fate (that I had known for how long?), but not of the message that I had never received. That was just one more pain to add to my burden but not even that would break me.

They played their last trump card on me the interrogation after that temptation of a message from So'Kath. If indeed there had been a message. They showed me a recording of my Homeworld. They showed me Centauri ships bombarding my world with asteroids flung from mass-drivers. "You lie!" They showed me new reports of massive destruction across the surface of Narn. "You lie!" They showed me the surrender of the Narn Regime. They told me "The government you work for no longer exists! You have no reason to protect them any longer. Tell us what you know and make an end to this." They sought to break me, to force the truth from me, but I had told them the truth. All this did was make me so angry that they had to sedate me to the point of uselessness lest I break my bonds and turn upon them. They left me strapped to the table for some hours until I had calmed down and the sedation partly worn off.

Whilst I lived and breathed, I told them the truth. Even the horror of seeing my world fall under the hand of the Centauri did not change what I told them. I had screamed denial at them as they showed me the recordings, but there was a terrible, inevitable truth in what they showed. I was angry and horrified and of no use to them. All I could do was pray that my parents and Na'Tol and his family were alive and safe. I prayed that So'Kath had not returned to Narn on business at the time of the bombing. I prayed that my daughter would never know slavery.

I could not tell the others of what had befallen Narn for some time after I returned from that torture session. It was too much for me, even under the heavy sedation I had been placed under so that they could get me back to the cell. I could not bear to say the words, and could not form them with my mouth. They just would not come out. Hours later, I at last found my tongue and haltingly told them. Nar'Bon refused to believe me.

"Mass-drivers are illegal and immoral! The Centauri would not dare use them! They can't have used them! The Dilgar lie!"

This elicited the only flash of fire I had had towards my companions in weeks. "If anyone would use them it would be the Centauri! They are almost as bad as the Dilgar, and indeed I think that they have learnt many lessons from the Dilgar!"

What I told noone was that the date that Narn had surrendered was the same day as my daughter's fourth pouching day. How could I say this to them? How could I ever stop her from knowing the fear that my parents had known? I had sworn this, but how could I prevent it if she was not on Babylon 5? Maybe even on Babylon 5 she was not safe.

In a way, such thoughts were not important. What was important was surviving and trying to keep my motley band alive. Djikiden was kept at the point of paralysis from Drafa. The Human reacted badly to the veridicals and was fading away. Nar'Bon turned inside himself and developed that look of defeat he had had when I first met him. And I, I don't know how I looked or what I felt or even who I was much of the time. The veridicals and the sedatives took away my sense of self. The edges between me and my companions blurred and ran into each other.

Time faded and we just were. I had no idea of how many days had gone by. In my world there were two states. There was bright light and pain and a voice thundering over and over at me, or there was my other selves and cool and dimness and a slow recession of pain. Mixed through those two states was fear.

I feared that some of my other selves would not come back again when they were taken away. When I slept, my dreams were full of thundering voices and fear, and I would awaken and lie there amongst our huddle, feeling the shivering of me-Djikiden on one side, the small solidity of me-Nar'Bon on the other, vaguely comforted by this familiarity. Even me-Russell's bony limbs were a reminder that me-me was still alive.

Over the course of weeks or even months, We had been reduced to a level little above beasts, but We did not care. Caring required energy that We did not have. We received food and water and were hosed down, and subsisted as best We could. They kept Us alive and treated Us like animals. We cared only that We were alive and that each of Us lived. We had to stay together or all would perish.

After one particularly brutal interrogation, the pompous Dilgar strode into the chamber. He quizzed the technicians. Had they managed to get the truth from Us?

"Lord, we have tried everything. We have exhausted all avenues. They are either all resisting the truth sera and the torture, which is impossible for we are expert in this trade, or they are telling the truth."

Tearing the leader's throat out with me-my teeth was not in me-my thoughts anymore. I-me was glad to be given respite from the pain. I-me lay slumped, too worn out to take hardly any notice. I-me certainly showed no response to what I-me heard next.

I-me was dragged back to the cell and received by my Selves. I told Us what I-me had heard. We accepted me-my news without hope of redemption. We prepared Ourselves for Death. She would come for us in the morning. In a way, She would be welcome.

Still, some little part of me-me still begged to see and hold my daughter again.

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Na'Tiel's Story / Lynne / last modified 29 February, 2000