All right, guys...getting closer to things going crazy.
So now you'll learn something (maybe a few of you) always wanted to know about Cardassians.
And for the other thing, I leave you with one word...RETRO. Let's get ready to GRUMBLE! (Trust me, you'll get it when you read that part. I will be interested, though, to find out how far you had to get into that section to figure out exactly what Rebek's been talking about. Or if you even figured it out in the previous section...
2375—The Dominion War—Eleven days after the attack on Rondac III
Cardassian Rasgălor of Lessek
The largest of the foothills were at their back now; following another day of joint training, the Thirteenth Order had set out with their supplies on their backs just like Macet remembered from his earliest days as a new ragoç
under the boot of the Vigilance Corps. The gul of the Trager
would have preferred more time to integrate the Starfleet troops into their unit, but time was quickly running out—the Romac
, which had been under repair at the orbital shipyard, was set to undock at midday and spend the next four hours running through a postoperative checklist for spaceworthiness. This would only provide the other three Gălor
-class vessels an excuse to stay in the area for so much longer. This left a four-hour window for the Thirteenth Order to strike.
It had been a two-day march to their current position, a network of kelbonite-fistrium caves just northeast of the planetside shipyard’s shield perimeter. So far the Starfleet soldiers, while they betrayed their doubts more openly than most Cardassian soldiers would ever dare—as though
we here have a right to comment
, Macet wryly thought—had performed as well as could be expected for beings who had been away from the battlefield for anywhere from six days to six months ago. A fair part of their enthusiasm came from the prospect of leaving behind the compound they had known for all but the last few days as their prison. They hungered to strike at the Dominion, certainly…but more and more he observed them looking to Makis Spirodopoulos for more than just encouragement and discipline as they had in their internment days—they looked to him for a goal, a direction. And so far, they seemed receptive to that direction. As long as Spirodopoulos stayed true…the Thirteenth Order had hope.
Macet balefully eyed the device dangling from the crook of Rebek’s elbow. He tried and failed to suppress a groan. “You really meant it.”
The petite gul knelt next to Macet on the dusty grey Lessekda soil flashed a toothy smile and nodded. Good
, Macet thought even as he questioned her sanity in bringing that thing into the field. If she can smile, then maybe she
has made the right choice in joining us after all. Maybe this is what she needs
“I desperately hoped I had the wrong image in my head when you said ‘hunter array,’ but I can see my fears were justified. Please
tell me you don’t intend to foist that misbegotten brainchild of the Science Ministry upon us all. It never even performed as advertised, not to mention the other
reason we all hated it.”
Rebek laughed—not much of a laugh, but recognizable nonetheless. “I’ve been tinkering with it on and off for the past couple of years, with some advice from Berat, and I think I’ve solved all of the biggest problems. Granted, I still
haven’t been able to make it interface with more complex systems like the ship’s computer—”
“Which is what the wretched piece of skrăgh
was supposed to do in the first place,” Macet cut in.
“And that is still my primary objective—if I can ever get the proper code and hardware into place. Maybe someday after all this, I’ll see if Iymender will look at it…considering the kind of code he’s been writing lately, I have a feeling he’d have some ideas. Anyway, I’ve gotten the hunter array to talk to a number of stand-alone devices: my wristcomm, scanner…and
the targeting scope of my rifle. I can fire a shot straight behind my back and see exactly where it’s heading, and depending on my settings, still see everything going on in front of me…a claim the Dominion and even the Federation—no offense,” she added with a quick glance at Spirodopoulos, “certainly can’t make of their targeting sensors.”
“At least theirs look a little less…stupid
,” Macet mumbled under his breath, unable to find a better word to describe the awkward ugliness of the hunter array. “You
try boarding an ali—er…Federation starship wearing one of those. You should’ve seen the looks on their faces.” Central Command policy at that time had stated that the hunter array was to be worn during all boarding procedures, ostensibly as a means of detecting any threats aboard foreign vessels, but also—had the thing actually worked correctly—to maintain a connection with their ship’s computer and even remotely operate it if necessary.
Macet had satisfied the letter of the regulation by ordering his glinns to wear the hunter array for the initial transport, but let them ditch the hardly-functional devices in their quarters as soon as they had the chance. Central Command—not to mention the Obsidian Order—would surely have been displeased to say the least at the idea of leaving such ‘cutting-edge’ technology unguarded, but, Macet had rationalized, it wasn’t like the hunter array actually did anything right
that he would need to worry about. As expected, the connection with the Trager
’s computer had been tenuous at best…utterly scrambled after transport.
A few months after that, the Science Ministry tacitly admitted its mistake and cut funding for any further development, and Central Command rescinded its ridiculous regulation. A couple months too late, of course.
Macet summed up the entire thing with one sentence: “It was embarrassing
not about to pass up something that works. Somebody should get a picture of this so I can send it next time that she-hound on the Yazar
tries to tell me I’m too obsessed with my looks.”
Macet deadpanned, “You mean Gul Ocett?”
“I mean exactly what I said,” Rebek replied, her flutelike voice lethally sweet.
The rivalry between the two was the stuff of legend, and went all the way back to their basic training. Tayben Berat had been present for one exchange he later described to Macet: Gul Ocett had publicly derided Rebek’s ‘vanity’ and then claimed she could stuff the ‘pocket-sized gul’ into a vompăt
ball. Rebek had retorted that someone ought to check Ocett’s hormone levels, and defended her creative interpretation of Cardassian Guard hairstyle regulations on grounds that, I may be a military girl, but at least I remember that I
am a girl!
Ocett’s body had tensed like she was about to make good on her threat. Tayben tried to intercede—even though he was less than a month out of physical therapy at the time—and Ocett had simply fixed him with an aristocratic stare and said, Just
you try it
. Rebek had met Ocett’s gaze with equal coolness and declared, Thank you for that
. Then she’d turned her back and left the room, head held high. Berat had followed not far behind, but equally dignified in tactical retreat.
Macet, of course, had been none too impressed by Ocett after that
report. He succinctly commented, “No comment.”
Rebek rolled her eyes, then slid the hunter array over her head, where she had unpinned her braids to accommodate the ungainly device. The crosspiece sat right on her cheekbones, the vertical band covering the krilătbre-yezul
, the ‘hunter-eye’ from which the array derived its name—the inverted-teardrop-shaped prominence on every Cardassian therapsid’s forehead from which other peoples derived some of their favorite racial slurs.
For non-sentient creatures, the krilătbre-yezul
made a fine sensor of bioelectric fields. This gave the vole in particular an impressive ability to detect pursuers, not to mention a nasty affinity for high-voltage conduits. Their ability to thrive in the midst of electrical hotspots where no cardasdanoid could follow without shutting down entire systems—most often vital systems with the greatest power flow—was what made the little vermin so blasted difficult to exterminate once they got into an artificial structure…especially ships and stations. The Cardassians’ ancestors had possessed other functioning nodes, but now those were so in appearance only, so in people this sixth sense was much attenuated: one generally had to draw within a meter to sense another’s bioelectric field. But with training, it was possible to use the input of the krilătbre-yezul
to sense forcefields, holographic projections, and other forms of energy manipulation.
The hunter array, in addition to its vaunted heads-up display capabilities, intensified input to the vestigial sense much as an amplification device might for someone hard of hearing, granting a properly-trained Cardassian that much heightened awareness of his or her environment. While most soldiers, Macet included, had found that feature frustratingly difficult to interpret to the point of detracting
from their situational awareness, he wasn’t surprised that Rebek, with her sniper background, had cracked the code.
Rebek reached up to her right cheekbone and twisted a small knob on the hunter array. Macet caught brief, iridescent flickers radiating between the crosspieces like light off a soap bubble: orange, yellow, green, cyan in turn before the field settled into invisibility. Once attuned to its wearer, the hunter array provided a heads-up display comprised of light so close to the eyes and of such low intensity that after initialization it was almost impossible for anyone else to detect. Next Rebek switched on the scanner that hung on her belt, followed by an adjustment to her wristcomm.
Finally, she hefted her sniper-issue disruptor rifle and tweaked a few buttons and knobs on various panels, the last one right on the business end. The sturdy rifle whined to life. Crouched down, rifle aimed ahead, Rebek nodded. “Ready.” Her eyes were raptor-intense, all trace of levity evaporated. All the vengeance of Septimus III bottled up into one tiny vessel
, Macet thought, at once impressed and wary. We’ll need that fire—as long as we can keep it contained
Glinn Daro laid a hand on Spirodopoulos’ arm and the terhăn
nodded. It was time for them to move to the center of the formation. Gul Speros waited there already, tasked to lead the main assault after the first teams were through. “Wilkes!” Spirodopoulos called as he turned back. “You’re up!”
Though the young, orange-haired woman working her way forward had quickly been outranked by newer arrivals, the orange-haired Ivy Wilkes had gained a sort of mascot status for being the first to lead the Starfleet contingent. Now she volunteered as the trigger for Iymender’s viruses. And if his sabotage failed, she would be the first to fall.
So now I send not only my own people, but the children of another state to dangle their fatelines before the grasp of death. My one inheritance from my mother’s line, the one she gave me despite herself
, he thought, acknowledging the DNA that under most circumstances they wished more than anything to expunge. We are meddlers, all of us—helpless to behold the universe as it is without a vision of what it could be, overlaid on the world as clear as the hunter array’s images are for Zejil. And we cannot help but see the lines from purpose to means to end like the tendrils of a vine and to feel the sense that they are there for the grasping if we would but reach.
Macet, for his part, remained near the front, but the point position belonged to Wilkes and Rebek.
The gul of the Romac
pointed ahead. “Follow me—the sensor perimeter isn’t far.”