Nihlus paced back and forth in the small cabin, gnawing on his talons. Saren was sitting beside the bed, balancing a tray of delicate instruments and the readout panel of the compact scanner on his knees.

“How’s the readout?”

Saren shook his head, then bent over the screen once more.

“Anything I can do to help?”

Saren paused in the middle of picking up a minuscule probe, then turned and said, “Water.”

Nihlus stopped pacing, but not immediately. Not until he was conscious of the click of his talons on the hard, plastic floor. Not until he was conscious of the seconds ticking by on the clock. (Why did it tick? It wasn’t an antique. Why did Saren program the digital clock to tick?) He went to the claustrophobic bathroom, taking the empty decanter on his way. Well, slightly less claustrophobic, now that the scanner had been removed. He filled it to the quarter mark, then drank the lot.

Calmed down. Breathed. Listened to the trickle of the water until it was full, until it almost ran over. Brought it back with more steady hands. Saren took the decanter and drank, also. That’s right. He’d gone straight to work. Nihlus knelt beside him. “What’s going on with her?”

Saren sighed. Put aside the tray and the holographic panel. “She’s been mined for information. Now, she’s suffering from extreme mental trauma. Her synapses are out of control–the non-vital ones. The ones pertaining to memory, conscious motor control, logic and pattern recognition, and image processing. If we get to the Citadel quickly–“

Nihlus shivered, watching the violet-skinned asari attempt to flip herself around. Or inside-out. “She’s been what?”

“She’s been tortured by the others. Forced melding.”

That’s horrible, he thought. And yet, strangely erotic. But this reflex turned into the gag reflex soon enough, when the asari emptied the contents of her stomach all over the sheets, all over her own face. He left to search for a towel.

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