OK...you guys can have your next installment early! It might be 3 weeks before the next one, but I thought I'd go ahead and post.
, Glinn Thouves Daro thought with an instinctive chill: Chief Librescu just wouldn’t stop staring
at him. Spirodopoulos had informed the Hăzăkda man of what battlefields the chief’s last infantry experience came from…and that the two terhăn-çăs
held the same rank wasn’t helping the parallel.
It’s not you I hate, Cardassian. I hate what I became because of you
If only you’d recognized me
, Daro wished, if only I could have reached you…
Daro shivered. He didn’t need this now, not while he had a mission to accomplish. He considered asking Lieutenant Yupanki to have a word with Librescu: not only was it unnerving on a personal level, but it certainly wasn’t the example the Bajoran boy, Webene, needed to see from his ragoç
. He decided against it, though—Librescu was
at least on board enough with the rebellion that he wore Cardassian armor, and there was no sense drawing his mind back to the point of decision.
I am a soldier and servant of the Cardassian Union. There is no place for childishness in the service of Cardassia.
One repetition of the mantra was all it took to still his mind into proper discipline for the moment at hand.
Yupanki’s scanner beeped. She stared warily at the Cardassian device until Daro leaned over, pointing at the flashing spot on the screen. “That’s a proximity alert—Iymender’s let them see me.”
The lieutenant switched to visual scan. “Got any Jemmies?” Librescu asked.
,” Yupanki replied; Daro’s translator rendered that as a colloquial version of the Cardăsda negation tho
. “Go fish.”
That raised an eye ridge for Daro. True, he’d been around more than his fair share of explosions in his younger years, but his hearing couldn’t be that
bad. He filed the expression away in a mental drawer marked ‘for research later’—if there was
“Got any C—”
,” Yupanki answered, deftly cutting off the chief. “Twelve strong.”
“Good. All weapons on stun; shoot the instant they come into scanner range; we can’t let them report their findings. We’ll sort them out when they come to. Remember—the more we turn to our side, the better…especially if the Jem’Hadar are staying behind to defend the base.” He knew this well: few things challenged a soldier worse than fighting from corridor to corridor into a heavily-fortified facility full of rooms, nooks, and crannies where the enemy could hide. And creatures capable of shrouding themselves from sight in such an environment…all the worse.
The glinn listened for the telltale chirp as each rifle powered down to its lowest setting. Daro dared not signal Spirodopoulos and the other team; the investigating troops were early, and he hoped they’d already made it into position. He waved the other members of his team out of sight.
Satisfied, he stood. The team let him go in silence as he began his solemn, solitary procession down the hill where not for the first time in his life, he faced the very real prospect of dying at his own people’s hands.
Mike Spirodopoulos couldn’t help but shake his head at the contemplative Cardassian glinn as he strode out to meet the oncoming platoon without even raising his rifle. The base soldiers had split into two units of six, with one heading straight for Daro. The rest fanned out over the basin in the standard search pattern Ragoç
Ador had described.
Oh, the irony—here he goes doing exactly what he warned me not to…
But the soldiers’ reaction to what he did next proved Folani’s suggestion had been dead on the mark. Neither he nor the Bajoran was exactly clear what it was in Glinn Daro’s past that had so chastened Gul Speros, nor had anyone been too forthcoming on the matter, but Folani had postulated a few minutes earlier that whatever it was, his presence might act as a lightning rod, a way for them to take down the search team before they thought to signal their findings back to base.
Their point scout paused as he made positive identification. “It’s that sand-hound traitor from the Trager!
” ‘Traitor’ held the seriousness of an obscenity in Cardăsda. As for ‘sand-hound,’ Spirodopoulos wasn’t exactly sure what that was, but judging from how ferociously the similarly beige-hued Speros gritted his teeth, he would lay latinum on ethnic slur. “I’ll bet he
did all of this!”
“Thouves Daro! What in the name of the Union is he doing out here?
At the same time, a grey-haired soldier threw himself at the point scout, slamming him flat onto the earth, kicking up a cloud of ashen dust. “Don’t you dare
call anyone a traitor, Dominion bootlicker! And especially not that man!”
A female soldier’s hand worked its way towards her wristcomm.
“Fire!” Spirodopoulos shouted.
Eyes turned towards the overlook, but the Cardassian investigators had no time to react: stun beams streaked to encompass them from their left and right flanks, two from each side at a wide dispersal—enough to take down the entire squad, but reducing the beam intensity enough that they would stir soon.
“Bring them to us!” Gul Speros ordered. “Don’t take your eyes off them for a second!” As if to illustrate, Speros stared hard at the Greek officer as he and the rest of the two teams scrambled to comply.
At that, Spirodopoulos gulped: he realized then exactly what he’d done. Back on AR-558, he had so often found himself in the role of literally being the one to call the shots that when the critical moment arose, he’d acted out of instinct. If Folani, zh’Thessel, or one of his bunkermates had spotted the threat before him, he wouldn’t have begrudged them the decision to take the initiative—but there was no doubt: Macet and Berat might regard him much like their equal, as Rebek also seemed to do, but to Speros, he was an alien of subordinate rank who had no business overriding a gul’s authority. Whether or not Speros was aware of it, Spirodopoulos could hear the exact Cardăsda word he chose every time he spoke to him or any of the Starfleet soldiers: o’çad
, the second person subordinate address.
And in Gul Speros’ eyes, he had just violated the chain of command.
Ensign Folani reached the pile of unconscious Cardassians first. “Hold!” Speros barked.
Folani cut her eyes over at Spirodopoulos who had just scrambled down behind her, clearly asking permission to defy the cantankerous gul’s orders. Mike shook his head even though it was quite obvious Speros mistrusted the Bajoran.
“I want these soldiers taken back to our position. If they cause trouble—kill them. This one—” He glared daggers at the foulmouthed individual who had railed so crudely against Glinn Daro. “—this one is mine
Spirodopoulos wordlessly bent down, hoisting onto his shoulder the grey-haired ragoç
who had come to Daro’s defense, then stepped aside to let Speros take his chosen prisoner.
Just as they made it back up the hill, the old ragoç
let out a muffled groan. The Greek lieutenant commander lowered him gently to the ground, though he trained his disruptor pistol on the man just out of arm’s reach. The Cardassian’s grey eyes fluttered open, but they stared blearily into the sky. Spirodopoulos gave him a few seconds to focus, then announced himself. “Good morning,” Spirodopoulos said, rather more flippantly than he had intended. “Try anything and I’ll stun you again.” And buy myself some time to decide if I can carry out Speros’ orders or not.
The elder soldier lifted his head—and when his eyes converged upon the sight before him, a bewildering array of emotions played across his face all the way from astonishment to amusement to horror. Finally he settled on a response. “Ha…I never thought I’d live to see the day! So you settlers have finally given up that Maciy
nonsense and accepted your place as Cardassian territories, have you?” Then his eyes narrowed. “Unless you killed someone for that armor…”
“You mean the colonies of the Demilitarized Zone? No, that’s not where we’re from. And no—I didn’t kill anybody for this.” He gestured to the right-side rib of the triangular cuirass, drawing the man’s attention to the lack of rank and unit inscriptions. This seemed to mollify him slightly, though from the expression on his face he seemed no less befuddled. “We’re fighting the Dominion. It’s a long story we haven’t got the time for, but…” Someone moved at the edge of Spirodopoulos’ field of vision. Perfect—a man I know this guy already respects.
The Hăzăkda glinn detoured and knelt down at Spirodopoulos’ side. “Kiba’avzayn
…I apologize for shooting you, but we had to—it was the only way to separate friend from foe. What this man says is true: we are indeed fighting the Dominion. The guls of all four ships in orbit are committed, and these Starfleet soldiers are with us. Tell me—is your loyalty to Cardassia, or the Dominion that claims to represent it?”
raised an eye ridge. “I suppose you would kill me if I refused to join your rebellion?”
Daro replied with a subdued nod. “Ve’
,” he stated in a somber tone, his vocal cords tightened a bit longer than necessary for that final glottal stop. Yes
. What struck Spirodopoulos in that moment was just how far Daro’s demeanor was from the sadistic delight he would have expected to accompany such a statement—especially from a Cardassian. Nor was it the blank, Borglike delivery of a psychopath. There was emotion there...that of a man who did not particularly relish what his duty called him to do, but would serve faithfully given the necessity. “And obviously betrayal must be dealt with in the same manner. And you may still die in action if you join us.”
“At least then I’ll do so with a clear conscience,” the career soldier replied.
“Then you renew your oath to Cardassia, to help us drive the Dominion from our homes? Tell me your name and swear it.”
Tulmar Nedav—and you have my word.”
“Then I bind you to that word, Ragoç
Nedav,” Daro replied with the sort of diction that suggested centuries-old ritual. “Serve Cardassia and Cardassia will remember you. Betray Cardassia and Cardassia—through us—will have justice.”
Daro extended his hand to Nedav then and helped the older man to his feet. “You know,” Nedav mused to the Trager
XO, “they’re wrong about you. Vuraal deserved to die: all he and guls like him have done was lay the groundwork for the situation we’re in now. And you were one of the only ones clearheaded enough to see it and bravehearted enough to act. I can’t tell you how fortunate we all are that you were the one to live. And to see you
here with them…” Nedav gestured towards Spirodopoulos. “It makes this a little easier to trust in.”
Daro smiled faintly; his eyes, though aimed at Nedav, focused on something very specific, very far away. Spirodopoulos burned with curiosity as to exactly what it was Daro had gotten himself involved in all those years ago…but that haunted look on the Cardassian man’s face dissuaded him. He knew that expression; he’d seen it on the departing soldiers the first day he beamed into AR-558, and he’d seen it appear on the faces of his own comrades as the gruesome days and the dread-filled nights unfolded.
Somebody shrieked in pain. Then the incoherent shouting resolved into clear words. “Damn you!
” Ensign Folani howled. “You ungrateful little snake—I was trying to help
you!” Spirodopoulos, Daro, and Nedav made a quick about-face to see the Bajoran ensign’s fingers bleeding profusely from what looked an awful lot like a bite wound.
And a lithe Cardassian garheç
with the body of a triathlete and a glaring swirl of scorched duraplast on her cuirass stood now, an eerie grin that spread almost to her jaw ridges—with two rows of crimson teeth forming the centerpiece.