10: Point of Decision

By Zanh Liis
A short time after Playing Games

--=Location: Unknown=--

Zanh Liis heard angry, raised voices arguing outside the doors to her luxurious 'cell'.

She could only pick out scattered words here and there over the continuing din from the gaming console, but the words she could identify concerned her to the point where she realized her time was up.

She couldn't wait a moment longer.

She heard the words, "no longer our problem" and "thirty-six hours". Then she heard the singular word that she had dreaded hearing again since it was mentioned the first time, right after her abduction.


She knew that more than one Romulan felt they had a score to settle with her; but no Romulan more than Taris.

Former Subcommander Taris, that was. The woman who had lost her rank, title, and all that she held dear after she had allowed Salvek and his brother to live, following her orchestrated murder of their parents, trans-warp pioneers Sakkath and T'shanik.

Salvek was barely five years of age when his parents were killed right in front of him. This was the event that had traumatized him so that he was unable to fully control his emotions as other Vulcans learned to do. No matter how he persevered in practice.

The threat of Taris had passed as far as Salvek was concerned- that much Temporal Investigations had assured and reassured Liis up and down on a stack of leather-bound copies of The Articles of the Federation. Otherwise, she never would have retired from the position of protecting him.

It occurred to her in this moment that TI had made no such assurances where she was concerned. Never had they specified that all danger posed to her by Taris had subsided.

Liis heard the door unlock once more and Spilva scurried in, hefting a tray laden with food.

"Not Fourth Meal already," Liis groaned, tossing her game controller aside in disgust.

"Yes, and if you know what's good for you, you'll eat it. I didn't slave over a slow replicator the past hour for nothing." She mumbled under her breath. "First thing I'm going to buy with our money is a new replicator. This one is probably older than she is."

Liis waited for the doors to close, and then was delighted to find that not only had Spilva and Speeg resumed their previous arguing, but in her momentarily distracted state, Spilva had made a very important error.

She had brought Liis an entire set of utensils, including a decent sized knife. This was the break she needed- her moment had come.

Liis had already decided that if this attempt at escape failed, there was no way that she was going to allow herself to be taken alive. She would do what any TI agent (former or present) at risk of being interrogated by the Romulans would do.

After all, it's impossible to interrogate someone if they're dead.

Ignoring the cameras and moving with lightning speed, Liis ripped open the modified game controller and pried open the second as well. She used the knife to hurriedly strip the coating off the wires of the second as she had done to the first- with her fingernails and teeth her only available tools at that time.

She twisted several stripped wires together, and immediately felt a small poke of electricity.


She ripped the backing away from the game console and the cover off of the power supply, exposing its sensitive insides. Carefully, she placed the cross-wired controllers up against the power pack and stepped back.

She slipped the knife into hiding under her robe. Then she picked up the drinking glass from her tray, tossed the liquid out, and dried it with the cloth napkin. Next, she ripped a length of cloth away from the silk shirt she wore beneath her robe.

She rubbed the silk against the glass repeatedly to create a surface charge. She set the items down against the console, and finally, picked up the silver fork from the tray.

She bit her lip, hoped for the best, and tossed it toward what she now considered to be the science project from Hell.

The metal utensil reacted to the current running through the wires, combined with the surface charge in the glass, and created just the smallest of sparks, igniting the silk.

One tiny spark, but it was enough.

The powerful, wireless power pack burst into flames.

Liis ran for the door, waiting for Speeg or Spilva to come rushing in to protect their prize. . .but nothing happened.

Flames shot out of the back of the unit, growing higher and higher. The unit's casing began to melt, and Liis twisted the chain on her earring nervously.

*Maybe I won't have to kill myself. Maybe the fire will do it.* She thought grimly.

She decided that she should try to get the Ferengi's attention, since they didn't seem to be watching her on closed circuit anymore.

Pounding on the door, she shouted. "FIRE!"

A blanket that lay dangling over the edge of the divan caught flame next, followed by the furniture itself, and then as enough smoke to trigger the alarms rose toward the ceiling, the overhead fire suppression units kicked in. They began spewing a thick foam from overhead, just above the divan, and doused the flames.

Instead of hearing the doors open as she'd expected, Liis next heard something that made her realize that her attempt had been doomed before it even began.

> Safety protocols have been compromised. Deleting program. <

"Goddamn it," Liis closed her eyes and rested her forehead against the wall in defeat, coughing as she inhaled the lingering smoke. "I'm in a holosuite."

The tell-tale yellow and black grid appeared beneath her feet and before her eyes as the charred divan, plush carpet, and comfortable surroundings all evaporated. Speeg shot into the room, with Spilva on his heels, and it was the female who was most upset over what Zanh had done.

"This is how you repay our kindnesses to you?" She shouted, as she charged at Liis, fists raised.

"Don't hit her!" Speeg begged. "If you damage her, the price goes down, remember?"

"The Romulans do not CARE if she is damaged!" Spilva blurted. "They usually want facilitators to render their subjects a little more. . .malleable before they take them away."

Zanh fingered the knife a moment, deciding on her next move. She was now surrounded by several more Ferengi, and knew she had nowhere to go.

As Spilva clapped her upside the head with a closed fist, Liis pressed her back against the wall to stay balanced, and finally pulled the knife. Without a moment's hesitation, she raised it high and plunged it into her own chest, just over her left breast.

She only felt pain for a second, and then she began to go numb all over. She laughed aloud triumphantly and spoke two final words.

"I win."

Horror overtook Speeg and Spilva's faces. If the prize that they promised the Romulan Praetor were to die, so would they.

"We all lose!" Speeg cried.

The Bajoran felt an eerie, gurgling sensation in her lungs and sank to her knees. Everything around her appeared to be melting as her eyelids grew heavy and drew closed.

She heard a high-pitched whine echo in both ears, and then complete silence as she fell into a crumpled heap on the deck.

"Get her to the infirmary! We can not let her die!" Spilva shouted.

As the very last of her consciousness faded, Zanh Liis thought about Jariel Camen, and how sorry she was that she would never again see him happily tending to the roses in his garden.

Zanh Liis
(Once a TI Agent, Always a TI Agent)
Somewhere near Ferenginar