Chapter 3

Jean-Luc Picard had been tortured before, and by experts. Out on the frontiers of space, a Starship Captain lived daily with the risk of capture and torture by an enemy. The training given to all command rank personnel was good (and a Starship Captain had more resilience than most) but very few men could hold back information indefinitely. Even the bravest most pig-headed men in the universe had a pain threshold beyond which they could no longer resist.

Picard had passed that threshold hours ago. Since then he had spent a great deal of time semi-conscious. He envied the Deltans and Vulcans their ability to bring instant death upon themselves in situation like this. But his captor was good. He never allowed Picard to cross that particular threshold. And the worst part was - he had as yet made no demands.

The Captain knew that he was nearly broken, he would agree to almost anything if only the torment would stop! In the past few days (or was it weeks - Picard had lost track of time) he had been put through and into every conceivable version of hell that existed and a few that had been made up for the occasion. At first there had been only physical pain, then the mental torture had begun. It was far worse than anything Picard could have imagined.

His captor seemed to be able to reach into his mind and extract the most terrifying scenarios from it, then make the Captain live though these nightmares. He had come out of the last session badly shaken. It had been a nightmare involving a blazing farmhouse, its glass windows shattering under the inferno's heat. There had also been the sound of a young boy screaming but Picard was bound hand and foot and quite unable to move.

Neither was he able to shut out the images and sounds. When the vision had eventually subsided, he was on his knees in his prison cell, sobbing uncontrollably.

He no longer possessed the will to fight. For the moment, he was alone in his cell. He had not noticed the passing of days, the cell had remained dark for his entire incarceration. There were no restraints - he was too weak to move and had no hope of escape. That option had died the moment Picard realised he was being held captive by a member of the Q continuum.

Although the being had not identified himself, Picard's dealings with another Q had given him an insight into how they worked. That other Q had always seemed to consider their interaction some kind of game, but this one was cruel and malevolent. He obviously took perverse pleasure from torturing the Captain but he wanted something, Picard was sure of that. He knew that he was going to die, but he was also being kept alive as long as possible. That thought frightened Picard even more than the idea of dying did.

At that moment his dungeon keeper appeared. There was no flash of light of drum roll, he was simply there. "Still alive Captain? I am impressed. How are you feeling today?"

"Go to hell" Picard spat through clenched teeth.

"Some fight left in you after all Captain? You really are a most interesting creature. Do you still have no idea why I am doing this?"

Jean Luc pulled himself weakly to a sitting position on the hard stone floor. "You hate me, you need revenge, you will kill me, but there is something you want me to see or do first. How am I doing?"

The Q being merely smiled. "Not bad. You possess a keen intellect for so primitive a species Picard. In many ways, it will be a pity to destroy you."

He began to laugh maniacally, and Picard gritted his teeth in preparation for another nightmare to begin. In his mind, he imagined leaping to his feet and strangling the arrogant bastard where he stood - but in reality, he could barely move. The unremitting torture and lack of food and water had taken away his ability to fight back. He slumped back against the cold damp cell wall and waited.  




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