He came awake in a large, white room. It was all straight lines and right angles, and stank of disinfectant. Funny how the infidels of this galaxy seemed to use the same basic chemicals for that purpose. Even they made use of the gifts of Yun-Yuuzhan; infidels they were, truly, to not see the truth written right in front of them.
And with that thought, Hul Matuul’a realized that he was captured.
He lay in a metal room, held fast to a metal bed. They had not tied him down; he could move his head just enough to see the heavy bars that ran across his arms and chest, and across both legs. There were varies bits of… technology taped to his chest and stuck into his veins, and clamped around his genitals and anus, cables and wires from which led to some sort of machinery.
Which likely explained the beeping sound, which was timed to his heart beat. Some sort of monitoring equipment. So they would not let him die. Interesting.
The door opened, and one of the aliens walked in. Non-human, though he wore the black-and-silver of the Golgan III Defense Force. Hul took a moment to identify the species: Devaronian, from the horns. Which, if he remembered his briefing on the local forces (and all glory to Nom Anor and the other advanced scouts for getting them that sort of information), meant that this was Commodore Drax.
“Good evening, Shipmaster Matuul’a,” the Devaronian said, in Basic, as he leaned against a far wall.
Despite the use of his name, Hul stared dully at the Devaronian, as if he had not understood a single word the man said.
“Do not bother, Shipmaster,” Drax said. “I know your name, I know what your position was on the…” He checked something on some piece of technology he carried. A datapad, that was it. “…the Yamma’ka Ko.” His accent made hash of the name. “I am also aware that you speak fluent Basic. So let us dispense with the charade, shall we?”
Hul said nothing. The Devaronian sighed.
“Very well. I feel I must apologize to you for knowing that, Shipmaster. You were badly injured when the Marines pulled you off of the Ko, and the stun effect wore off before we got you into surgery. It turns out that our standard anesthetics have an… idiosyncratic reaction with your physiology. Whether that would be the case for your entire species or is unique to you, I cannot say. You… babbled. A lot. Quite a lot, before we got you settled down and ready for surgery. Again, my apologies. I would prefer not to gain such information – your name, for instance – by subterfuge. However unintentional.”
He shrugged, again.
“You likely as not already have this information, given some of the other things you babbled, but to ensure that we are square… I am Commdore Drax, commander of the GDF Second Squadron, and Chief of Intelligence of the GDF command staff. Head spook, as it were. They gave me two hats, one for each horn.”
Hul did not laugh. But not because he did not find the joke funny.
“In any case, you will be questioned again. Several times a day, in fact. We will feed you, we will let you rest until you regain your strength. But you will be questioned, and you will, eventually, talk. To alleviate the boredom, if nothing else, but you will talk. Though, before you get your hopes up, let me reassure you that you will not be put to torture. For one thing, given scarification already present on your body, and what little we know of your native culture, I suspect you would treat the whole thing as some of sort of ecstatic experience, which would defeat the point of the exercise. Furthermore, the Old Man has A Thing about torturing prisoners.” Hul could hear the capital letters. “I think he was under the knife himself, a few times in the past. Will not stand for it, now.” The Devaronian shrugged. “I disagree, but he is my commander.”
Again, Hul said nothing. The Devaronian stared at him, for several long minutes. Then he shook his head and headed for the door.
“Very well, Shipmaster. We will meet again. You will find no sharp edges upon either your bed or your restraints, so you cannot cut yourself. You are connected to both automatic feeders and waste collection and processing systems, so you cannot kill yourself by starvation. Be assured, Shipmaster, that we will not let you die.”
He reached the door.
“My crew? My warriors?”
Hul had not meant to say anything to this infidel, but the words… crept out of him in harsh, guttural croak. He even said them in Basic. The Devaronian stopped, just short of the door, and turned back to him.
“I do not know if I should apologize for this or not, Shipmaster. But they are all dead. You are the last surviving crewmember of the Yamma’ka Ko.”
For the first time, Hul’s control slipped, and he closed his eyes.
“Did they die well?”
“From what I have heard, they fought quite fiercely. We lost several of our own, clearing your ship.”
“You may wish to apologize for many things, Commodore Drax, but I will not apologize for that.”
“I would not expect you to. So long as we are honest, know that I am not really all that sorry for your own losses, but among us it is the courteous thing to say.”
Hul snorted, and told Drax what he could do with his courtesy. The Devaronian bared his – sharp – teeth in what Hul recognized as a grin.
“Since we are speaking, now, Shipmaster, I must ask. Our Marines found several of your crew – and not just warriors – with their throats slit, or their bellies opened.”
“It is… shameful, for one of us to be captured. To die by one’s on hand, or by the hand of a trusted comrade, is an honorable thing.”
“There are many cultures in our galaxy that would agree with you. Primarily among the humans, but not exclusively.”
“And do you, Commodore? Agree?”
“Times in my life, I have seen the appeal,” the Devaronian said with a chuckle. “But not. It is better, I would say, to live another day, even as a prisoner. After all, one may be free again.”
He tapped a code onto the door’s control pad; Hul could not see what it was. The door swished open.
“I will leave you with that thought, Shipmaster. Until next time.”
One thing she really enjoyed about these occasional meetings with the contractors, Commodore Tara d’Avignon reflected, was that not a one of them felt the need to stand up and salute whenever she entered the room. Oh, she understood the reasons for and needs of military courtesy and protocol, but the formality of it all did tend to grate on her. And, as Chief Engineer for the entire Golgan III Defense Force – and good God she wished her old high school counselor could see her now – she was not only deserving of all the saluting and bracing, but had quite thoroughly earned it.
Which was why the five men and three women – or nearest analogue thereof – seated around the table greeted her arrival with mostly genuine warmth. She, after all, was the one who made the final recommendations to the Old Man – and thereby to Parliament – as to which company would get which contract. Each of them had a steady, if not exactly booming, business outside of government and military contracts, but they knew where the credits were.
Greedy-ass sumbitches, the lot of them, she thought cheerfully. But mostly trustworthy greedy-ass sumbitches, so I’m glad to have ‘em.
“Thank you all for coming at such short notice,” she said, her lips not quite twitched into a wry smile. “I see you’ve already started in on the snacks.” She joined them at the table. “So I’ll just ahead and start. Two weeks ago, the First Squadron engaged a Yuuzhan Vong raider force at Aten-Re…”