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Old July 3 2008, 10:17 PM   #41
Goliath
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Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

June 2008 Challenge: Adaptation


"The Combadge" by Camelopard


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I’m Captain Robert Charlebois, Starfleet Security.

Four months ago, Admiral Ross asked me to take command of the south-central district of the city of Sanjal, here on Cardassia Prime. Since the end of the Dominion War and the beginning of the Occupation, South Central has been one of the most violent and dangerous areas of the city. Some reporters have even suggested that the south-central district was a “no-go zone” for Starfleet personnel.

Today, with the release of an independent study of Cardassian security statistics, I am proud to announce a steep decline in the frequency of insurgent attacks in this district over the past six months.

With the continued help of community leaders and ordinary citizens, we will continue to make the south-central district a safer place for all of us…”

***

The predawn darkness was nearly total: the sky was cloudy, and the power had failed again the previous afternoon, blacking out South Central. The air was thick and warm, promising more thunderstorms later in the day. The city streets were deserted, and silent, except for the chirping and clicking of insects.

Quickly, quietly, the SURGE teams moved in, surrounding the house. They wore black Starfleet combat uniforms, and black balaclavas to hide their sweating faces. Their type-3 phasers were optimized for close-quarter battles, with tactical flashlights and forward pistol grips. They gathered at the front and back doors and waited for the signal.

“Knock, knock,” said a voice on the communicator.

Raiders at both doors swung battering rams. The doors crashed open. Weapons at the ready, the team at the back rushed into the kitchen, moving to clear the first floor and basement. The team at the front door charged into the front hall and up the stairs.

A New Order terrorist appeared at the top of the stairs, running out of a bedroom on the left, a disruptor rifle in his hands. The leading raider lit him up and fired twice.

The first shot hit the Cardassian in the chest. The second hit him in the face. He collapsed like a rag doll. His disruptor clunked on the floor, unfired.

Someone was shouting in Cardassian downstairs. There was a burst of disruptor fire, the snap-snap of the tactical phasers, and a dying scream.

The leading raider went left at the top of the stairs, into the dead Cardassian’s room. The man behind him kicked open the door to the second bedroom, on the right. A shrill female scream came from inside.

A third man hit the top of the stairs, turned right, and right again, to face the last bedroom door. “Starfleet!” he shouted, and kicked at the door. The door didn’t open.

Shit! he thought. “Open the door,” he shouted, and kicked again. This time the door crashed open, and he rushed in.

***

Warak had been sleeping, in the nude, on a mattress upstairs, when the house’s doors were breached.

What was that? he thought. Then shouts and screams, gunfire, boots pounding on the stairs. The enemy!

He scrambled to his feet, grabbed a can of liquid fuel off the floor, uncapped it, and started splashing it all over his desk and workstation.

He heard a bang at the door, and a human shout. He had to destroy the files! But where was his lighter?

He turned to look—but someone was behind him, dressed all in black, and the butt end of the phaser rifle hit him in the face.

***

“Wake up, snakehead.”

Warak woke up. For a moment, he was confused. Where was his lighter? Then he remembered.

His head ached. He was tied to a chair, still naked, with his hands bound behind him. The chair was in the middle of a large, empty room, dimly lighted. There were three figures in front of him—human, all dressed in black. The one on the right had a fire extinguisher. The one on the left had a can of liquid fuel. Briefly, Warak wondered if it was the same fuel can.

There—on the floor, under a sheet—was that a body?

“Hey there,” said one of the black-uniformed humans—the one in the centre. “How’s your head?”

“It hurts,” Warak said.

“That’s a shame,” said the human. “Do you know who we are?”

The Cardassian thought for a moment. Then he said: “Federation death squad.”

The human nodded. “That’s right,” he said. “I’m Lieutenant-Commander Mack Vickers. Maybe you’ve heard of me?”

Warak felt a chill. “No,” he lied.

“Yeah,” said the human. “You’ve heard of me.” He gestured to the man on his right—the one with the fuel can. “This is my second-in command, Lieutenant Nash Delvern.”

“Hey,” said the man with the fuel can.

Then Vickers gestured to the man on his left—the one with the fire extinguisher. “And this is Junior Lieutenant Russ McKinley.”

“Just call me Rusty,” said the man with the fire extinguisher.

“The rest of my team is outside,” said Vickers. “Now that we’ve been introduced, I’m going to ask you a few questions.”

“I won’t answer,” said Warak.

“No?” said Vickers.

“No. You can torture me all you want. I’ll never talk.”

“Torture?” said Vickers. “Who said anything about torture?” He looked to his right and gestured at the Cardassian. “This guy thinks we’re going to torture him.” The man with the fuel canister shrugged.

Vickers turned his attention back to Warak. “You’ve got the wrong idea, pal. I don’t torture people. It’s against Federation law. Besides, I’ve got my own way of getting information.”

“What’s that?” said Warak.

“Answer my questions, or we’ll kill you. Like we killed your friend here.” He gestured at the body under the sheet nearby. “You want to see?”

“No,” said Warak.

“Sure you do,” said Vickers. He turned to the man on his left. “Let him see.”

The man with the fire extinguisher—Lieutenant McKinley—bent down, and pulled the sheet back. The sight and smell made Warak gag, but he couldn’t look away. The dead Cardassian’s body was burnt black, but still recognizable. It was a member of his resistance cell—Imskel.

“I’m surprised all that screaming didn’t wake you up,” said Vickers. “Rusty must have hit you pretty hard.”

“Federation murderers!” Warak said.

“Who’s your handler?” said Vickers.

“Ratunka!”

“Give us the name of your handler, and we’ll let you live.”

“Nu ka breyet’U, human scum! For Cardassia!”

The Starfleet commander shrugged. “Suit yourself,” he said. He turned to the man on his right. “Do it.”

The man on his right—Lieutenant Delvern—stepped forward, uncapped the fuel can, and started pouring fuel on Warak’s head. The liquid stung the Cardassian’s eyes, burned in his nostrils, made him cough and retch.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Delvern said. “Did I get some in your eyes? Here—let me wash them out.” He splashed more fuel in Warak’s face.

Warak spluttered and gasped. “You can’t do this!”

“Why not?” said Vickers

“I am a prisoner of war!” cried Warak. “I have rights!”

“You’re a terrorist piece of shit,” said Vickers. “You’ve got nothing.”

“Done,” said Delvern, his fuel canister empty.

“Okay. Step back,” said Vickers. He took out a flare. Then, to Warak, he said: “Tell us your handler’s name.”

“Ratunka!” cried Warak, struggling against his bonds. “You can’t—”

Vickers lit the flare. Warak froze. His eyes widened in terror.

“Is that your final answer?” said Vickers.

***

Two Type-15 shuttlepods were parked on the abandoned factory’s roof. The two remaining members of the SURGE team stood nearby, their balaclavas rolled up into caps. Ensign Coriander Koenig chewed gum and watched the sun rise, her face expressionless. Ensign Greg Mathers sweated and fidgeted nearby, glancing over at the building’s roof exit.

“Relax,” Koenig said, finally.

“Sorry,” said Mathers. Then: “What if he doesn’t talk?”

“He’ll talk,” said Koenig.

Mathers looked unconvinced. A few seconds later, the door to the roof banged open. Vickers came out first, followed by Delvern and McKinley, dragging their prisoner between them. The Cardassian was still naked, except for a black hood over his head, and the plasticuffs that held his hands behind his back.

Koenig went over to the nearest shuttlepod and opened the cargo hatch. Mathers said: “Did he talk?”

“Of course he talked,” said Vickers, pulling off his balaclava, using it to wipe the sweat from his heavy brow, shaved head, and thick neck.

Delvern and McKinley shoved the Cardassian into the shuttlepod’s cargo space. McKinley chuckled. “You should have seen his face when we showed him the body,” he said. “Or when Mack lit the flare.” He hit the button to close the hatch. “I thought for sure he was going to piss himself.”

The hatch closed. Delvern said: “Later, scumbag.” Then, to Vickers: “When are these buttonheads going to figure out, the guy was dead before we set him on fire?”

Vickers grinned, shrugged, tapped his combadge. “Vickers to Lewis,” he said.

“What if he’d called your bluff?” said Mathers.

Delvern and Mackey were pulling off their own headgear. They paused, looked at each other, then back to Mathers. “What bluff?” said Delvern.

“Lewis here. Go ahead, Mack.”

“Hey, Lew,” said Vickers. “Have I got a TIP for you. Our prisoner gave up his handler. You ready?”

“Go ahead.”

Vickers recited a name and address. The name was Cardassian. The address was in different part of South Central. “Hit that place as fast as you can, and arrest everybody. This intelligence is getting colder by the minute.”

“I’m on it,” said the voice on the combadge. “Anything else?”

“No, that’s it. Thanks, Lew. Vickers out.”

“You think they’ll get him?” said Koenig.

“Maybe,” said Vickers. “The target personality has a day job and a family. If we’re lucky, they’re either still asleep, or just getting up.”

“So what do we do now?” said Mathers.

Vickers went over to the second shuttlepod. “You and Connie take the spoon back to civilization,” he said. Then: “You two with me.”

“Shotgun!” said Delvern.

“Aw,” said McKinley.

“Where are you going?” said Mathers.

Vickers paused at the pilot’s hatch. “You don’t need to know that, new guy.”

Koenig said: “Come on, Mathers, move your ass.” She climbed into the first shuttlepod, took the pilot’s position, and started the impulse engines. After a moment’s hesitation, Mathers joined her. The pod’s gull-wing hatches closed

“Where are you taking me,” the hooded Cardassian whined, from the back.

“Shut up,” said Koenig.

***
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An illusion--with intelligence! A malignant vision, with a will of pure evil!
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