Author: Admiral Jeffrey Pike
Date: December 20, 2384
Location: A small room under the Iconian ziggurat

"Talk!" shouted Lieutenant O'Neal.

His pointy-eared captive maintained her maddening, stoic silence.

"Aargh!" growled O'Neal. He shoved the Romulan hard against the wall of the small chamber and paced away, making sure his anger and frustration were clearly visible on his face, in his every step. If the prisoner thought he was reaching his snapping point, she might be more inclined to be a little more forthcoming with the information.

The Romulan captive, Tal Shiar Captain i-Xann "i-Ren" t'Danna bore her captivity as any Romulan soldier would -- bravely and silently. The binders that held her wrists together were too tight -- she was beginning to lose feeling in her hands -- but she didn't complain. Her captors wouldn't get the satisfaction of knowing of her discomfort. If didn't matter much anyway, as far as she was concerned. The Federation dogs would soon kill her anyway, or worse, exile her to one of their infamous penal planets.

O'Neal finished his circumnavigation of the small room and returned his attention to his captive. He stood before her a few seconds, glowering into her inscrutable eyes. Then, through clenched teeth, he said, "I'm at the end of my patience with you, Romulan. What is your mission here?"

His query was answered by the same icy expression that he'd been looking at for the last twenty minutes. Suddenly, all the pent-up rage he'd been suppressing since the death of Captain Evans boiled to the surface. He threw his forearm across the Romulan spy's throat and rammed her back against the wall, pinning her there. She started choking and gasping for air, but her struggles were hampered by her shackles. Not even her Romulan strength could wrench her free. Her tongue protruded from her mouth, and her eyes rolled back in her head.

O'Neal's captain was dead, but his murderer was beyond his reach, having journeyed to the afterlife himself. This Romulan made the perfect substitute. O'Neal ground his teeth and pressed all the harder.

All throughout the interrogation, Admiral Pike had sat in the far corner of the room, watching, listening. He was content to do so -- he knew that O'Neal knew how to do his job. Now though, it seemed to him that things were getting a little out of hand. Quickly, before any permanent damage was done to the Romulan, he rose from his chair and stepped up behind O'Neal. He knew what the man had been through in the last twenty-four hours, so he just put a gentle hand on his shoulder and said, "Back off, Lieutenant."

O'Neal took a sharp intake of breath and cringed as if struck. Pike's genial admonition snapped him out of his murderous mindset. He realized what he's almost committed here. With a final threatening glare at the Romulan, he released his grip on her neck and stepped back. She sank to the floor, gulping lungfulls of lifegiving air.

O'Neal stood over her. He turned to Pike, who still had a fatherly hand on his shoulder, and said simply, "Thanks, sir."

"Don't mention it," said Pike, understanding the young man's drive. He removed his hand and addressed O'Neal more seriously. "We're not going to get anything out of her," he said, indicating the Romulan prisoner. "Take her to the storage room and post a couple of guards outside. Then, I want you to return to the *Ronin*."


"No buts, Lieutenant. I need you there. Start a detailed scan for any other pirate vessels. We don't want anyone sneaking up on us."

Reluctantly, O'Neal agreed. "Aye, sir."

As O'Neal headed off to make arrangements for the Romulan spy's disposition, Pike turned his attention once again to his would-be killer. He hunkered down on his haunches in front of her and looked at her.

She was recovering from O'Neal's interrogation techniques well enough, and had regained her stoic expression. She returned his gaze unblinkingly, whatever thoughts might be running through that Romulan brain of hers hidden behind an uninterpretable veil.

"Why *are* you here," said Pike softly. The Romulan showed no response to his query, but he knew she understood what he was saying nevertheless -- Romulan Tal Shiar were very well trained. "Surely your government knows about the Kelvans and the threat they pose. Why send an operative to assassinate me at a time like this? Hmm?"

Still no response. This was obviously a *very* highly trained agent.

Sighing, Pike straightened up again. No one was going to get anything out of this woman unless she decided she wanted to talk. He walked over to the narrow door to the chamber, opened the door and looked left and right. Finding the person he was looking for, he motioned him to come on over.

"Doctor Hancock. What's the situation down here?"

Hancock thought a moment, then said, "All the critical injuries have been beamed up to the ship. Things down here are under control."

That was just what Pike wanted to hear. He said, "Good. I've just sent Lieutenant O'Neal back up to the *Ronin*. I want you to go with him. Keep an eye on him...."

He wasn't quite sure what had been transpiring in the interrogation room, but being the loyal officer he was, Hancock agreed without argument anyway. "Aye, sir."

Pike watched him leave, and a security team enter to take the Romulan woman away to her cell. All of a sudden he was alone in the room. He couldn't help wonder still why the Romulan Star Empire had deemed him worthy of assassination. This quandary puzzled him, but his thoughts turned quickly to something much more important -- his own crew. He hoped O'Neal would be all right. With Doctor Hancock's ministrations, he was sure he would be.