All right...I'm going to be going out of contact for a week, starting middle of next week, so you'll be getting two sections between now and then, to tide you over.
2375—The Dominion War—Aftermath of the Fall of AR-558
Cardassian Rasgălor [Outworld] of Lessek
Mike Spirodopoulos was free of his bonds, able to stand at last after a week of being fastened to that Cardassian ship’s deckplate followed by a cramped ride in a Hidekiy
-class shuttle far too small for the five crew and nine thoroughly unbathed prisoners aboard. Unsurprisingly, his legs felt rather rubbery beneath him. He wasn’t the only one. Petty Officer zh’Thessel’s foot caught on a rock. A Cardassian hand immediately clasped her arm to steady her. zh’Thessel tersely nodded her thanks. Reflex
, Spirodopoulos bitterly thought as the grey-scaled woman released the Andorian and resumed her forward progress, staring straight ahead. She wouldn’t have done that if she actually had to
decide on it.
This is where the torture begins
, Spirodopoulos conjectured, now that I’m headed for their prison camp, good and softened up from the trip, squinting at the sun and barely able to walk without tripping myself.
He gulped as he caught his first glimpse of the compound towards which the nine AR-558 survivors were being marched. It looked from a distance like every other image of an internment camp he had ever seen, but as they drew closer, all of the evidence was that some of the buildings had been constructed in a hurry. Just
great. Too many prisoners and too little time to torture them all as much as they’d like
. On the upside, it was possible this place might have some sort of weakness in its defenses that they could exploit.
As he hiked with them, Gul Macet turned back and eyed Spirodopoulos with an expression that looked an awful lot like regret. Maybe
he wasn’t too bad, but I’d be willing to bet he knows what kind of devil runs this place. Next time
, he sardonically advised the gul, try not to get attached to the people you deliver up for the slaughter.
Macet slowed his pace slightly, allowing Spirodopoulos to catch up to the front of the formation. As soon as they stood side by side, he said, “I apologize that you had to remain confined in that manner for so long—we would have opted for an ordinary holding cell if not for the circumstances. You make a valiant effort but I see very well that you lack steadiness on your feet. I hope this journey will help you regain your strength.”
And if not, all the better to decide who goes to the right and who goes to the left
, he thought, picturing the perverse sorting ritual that had occurred in Earth’s worst camps in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The distinct lack of technology in the place ahead—the absence of visible forcefield generators, the steel construction...true, old-fashioned steel, not the modern durasteel or plasteel…the chain-link fence, albeit in an alien pattern, only intensified the chilling sensation of stepping back to a more barbaric time. Spirodopoulos made no reply.
“I see you don’t believe me even now. You should ask me your questions—we’re not on the Trager
anymore and we don’t have to worry about the Vorta.”
“Why are you doing this?” the lieutenant commander croaked, voice unsteady like his legs from lack of use. “I mean, why are you personally bringing us here? They’ll still torture and kill us once you’re gone.”
Macet shook his head most emphatically. “Absolutely not
.” How the hardening of his voice reminded Spirodopoulos of Dukat! “I do not condone capricious cruelty. Those in charge of this place see things the same way I do and I can assure you that as long as the Dominion doesn’t locate us, no harm will come to you. Though I do advise you not allow the Bajoran woman to wander around by herself—while I trust Glinn Va’Kust, I would rather the guards who serve under him know they dare not contemplate a thing.”
“What do you care what happens to her? Isn’t she just another lower life form in your book?”
The gul’s eyes flashed furiously and for a moment Spirodopoulos feared he was about to get another scaled fist in the jaw. “You are perilously
close to exhibiting the very same attitude towards me and my people that you are accusing me of holding towards hers. It’s true, there are those who think as you say and they have had too much influence for too long. There are also those who hate the Bajorans not because they see them as vermin—but because they lost friends and relatives on that planet and grief is no respecter of the circumstances in which someone dies. And there are some
of us who, as this war drags on, understand more and more every day why the Bajorans did what they did. And why
? Because this
—” Macet swept his arms from ground to sky as if to encompass the entire universe and its disrupted order “—is intolerable!”
“So you’re a rebel,” Spirodopoulos said, trying the word on the Cardassian to see how well it stuck. Now are you just a patriot with the right attitude towards the Dominion, or are you actually some sort of Cardie humanitarian?
Then something struck him as inappropriate about the framing of his thought: two ‘somethings,’ to be exact. He blushed as his Academy diversity professor glared at him from the depths of his memories, hoping Macet lacked sufficient familiarity with human skin coloring to notice.
“Not yet,” Macet admitted in a low voice. “There are too few of us right now and no way for us to coordinate on a large scale. For now we wait for a more opportune moment.” They reached the gates of the camp and Macet keyed something into his data padd, causing a series of locks to snap open. At this Macet changed the subject. “There is an old shipyard on this planet from the days of our last war with your people, one that we have brought back online recently, along with the orbital drydock in geosynchronous orbit. The Dominion has not seen fit to pay much attention to losses in our
fleet, so those of us who would prefer not to scrap our ships must often fend for ourselves.
“At this moment, we are located in the foothills about seventy-five of your kilometers southeast of the shipyard.” Macet swung the door open with a hard yank, punctuating his sentence with the hinges’ groan as Spirodopoulos wondered, Why the hell are you telling me all of this? Where do
we fit in this picture?
“That close to the shipyard,” the Cardassian continued, “yet the few Dominion representatives in the system have no idea this place is here thanks to a massive kelbonite-fistrium vein that runs through this area, and our ability thus far to generate false feeds for our overhead satellites. Not to mention to some Dominion sensor masks we’ve managed to appropriate,” he added with a feral grin that suggested he’d had something to do with said ‘appropriation.’
Macet and Spirodopoulos passed shoulder-to-shoulder through the unadorned gates of the camp and the gul called for the nine Starfleet prisoners-of-war to form a line before him. His armored crewmen moved to the fore and turned like Macet to face them; they seemed, by their automatic pacing, to have done this before. “As far as the Dominion and most of our own people are concerned, this place does not exist. The guards posted here are here to ensure that nothing violates that cover, whether the threat come from within or without. Their orders are to prefer non-lethal force, but understand that for the sake of maintaining secrecy, they will do what is necessary. I should not like any of your families to lose you, so keep them at the forefront of your minds at all times, no matter how infuriating you find your confinement.
“During your term here, you will find certain minimal tasks to occupy your attention, particularly dealing with the improvement of your living quarters. Though the technology available to accomplish this is primitive, you won’t encounter much pressure from Glinn Va’Kust regarding deadlines or methods as long as you do nothing that creates a hazard for us or your fellows. There will also be ample opportunity to get yourselves back into physical shape. You shall find your rations nutritionally sufficient, though I’m afraid it won’t be what you’re accustomed to in most cases—there are no replicators here, nor any other technologies powerful enough to give off an energy signature with even a remote chance of being read through the masks. It will be far from what you have known on your homeworlds…but you shall have the basic necessities.”
Macet fixed his dark, phaser-intense eyes upon Folani Jederia just to Spirodopoulos’ left, answering the objection unspoken. His voice almost broke with passion. “Believe it.