Short segment--but in a week, I'll be posting a Berat-centric short story.
No sooner had the armored woman stood than her entire body lit with flame that devoured her from the inside out.
Spirodopoulos’ hand flew towards his holster that for that first instant—until his eyes locked with the blazing black holes of Gul Speros’ Betazoid-dark irises. The Cardassian’s disruptor rifle pointed at the cloud of vapor where the defiant prisoner had been.
But Speros wasn’t done. Six times in succession Speros aimed and squeezed the trigger, and one after the other, the amber discharge claimed another base sentinel’s life to the tune of an agonized yowl that shrilled sostenuto until the victim’s lungs were no more.
Not surprisingly the man who had insulted Daro lay among the dead. Five of the original twelve prisoners he left standing, including Ragoç
Nedav, and these stared still only half-believing at the empty spaces where their squad mates used to be—an expression not untlike that on the ranking Starfleet officer’s face. “Do you disapprove, young man?” Speros challenged. “Maybe you think they rose to bring their friend to heel? Maybe so, but just as likely they rose against us, and if they hadn’t the sense to hold still, then we ought not risk our lives for theirs. In the face of treason one does not hesitate!”
Mike Spirodopoulos could feel the eyes of his comrades upon him—Folani, Ngaer, Librescu, all of them, waiting to see how he would answer the ruthless senior gul. Federation law condemned all cruel and unusual treatment, a definition that included capital punishment, even for prisoners-of-war. In fact, under Starfleet’s code, he could not even use lethal force against a prisoner who was directly threatening him until the stun setting had already failed.
The trouble was that as the Dominion War had dragged on, Spirodopoulos had heard more and more tales of people dying unnecessarily thanks to Starfleet’s overly strict rules of engagement. How many people had attempted to subdue a Vorta, Jem’Hadar, or Cardassian prisoner by the book, only to pay for it with their lives? And how many people died every time some supposedly ‘rehabilitated’ killer or traitor from the Federation decided to re-offend? A greater part of him than he cared to admit agreed with Speros, but to cast his unreserved support behind the Cardassian might drive his own men to break with him if they feared he was no longer willing to serve as buffer between him and them. Yet if he put on a show of disapproval for his men to see, Speros just might turn against them all.
“I agree that’s what Cardassian law demands of traitors,” Spirodopoulos carefully replied. “And I don’t have a problem with that. But me…I’m sworn to uphold the Constitution of the Federation and that’s going to determine how I deal with my
Gul Speros glared at the Greek soldier, every ridge and scale telegraphing his disapproval—but finding nothing in the facts of the statement to which he could object. “Well-played,” he grudgingly replied. “Deal with your men according to your law. But make no mistake, Spirodopoulos: if you
betray your alliance—you will answer to Cardassian law.”
“Very well.” This time, Spirodopoulos neither saluted nor bowed.
The gul of the Ghiletz
turned to address the entire force. “Now we wait for Macet’s signal—and prepare for the main assault.”
I hope all’s well with the main force
, Macet thought. It had been a gamble to leave Spirodopoulos with Gul Speros—but as he and Tayben had privately agreed, Rebek’s technical expertise was too critical for the sabotage mission and Speros’ temper too volatile for the critical diplomacy he would need to accomplish with the pilots if Zopreg hadn't turned them all.
He had brought with him Ragoç
Ador as navigator, and Andorian Petty Officer zh’Thessel and Crewman Burakgazi, both of whom hailed from the borderworlds just on the Federation’s side, and had a decent working knowledge of written Cardăsda. This Macet required because once things got ugly, he couldn’t afford a second’s hesitation from any of the team—not for translation, not for instructions on how to read this sign or use that console, or any other reason.
They weren’t far from the shipyard’s inner perimeter now: this was where Rebek and her team would take their leave to make for the base’s main computer core and from there release the lockouts on the numerous Hidekiy
-class shuttles berthed in the outer ring. As for Macet and his team, their purpose was to covertly bring as much of the base personnel over to the Thirteenth Order as possible: for the second phase of the battle to succeed, to successfully command the three greatest prizes they had come to seize, they needed every man they could get, especially the attack shuttle pilots with current qualifications. The senior conspirator on base, one Dalin
Zopreg, was supposed to gather the pilots to their briefing room in anticipation of the rebels’ arrival—the pretense being an aerial search for said rebels.
A lone sentry stood at the base’s twelfth gate, closest to the pilots’ quarters and conference hall. He met Gul Macet’s eyes and nodded: this garheç
had been among Iymender and Sorabec’s co-conspirators. “Gulayn Masetayn—sosot mekot-ra edikouv-ra çadav edek
,” he half-whispered in the formal greeting a guest of higher standing to one’s home and placing the gul’s name into the respectful vocative. I welcome you to my table, Gul Macet
. His eyes darted warily across the alien visages of the Federation soldiers with Macet and Ador; for them he reserved no welcome.
“Pokor malin çad
,” Macet replied in thanks, polite as if to an equal—you do a service
. “Now, Garheç
Vergal…once my team is in, I need you to signal the dalin
. Has your team made all other preparations?”
“Yes, Gul,” Vergal nodded. “This corridor is closed for ‘repairs.’ There should be no one between you and the auxiliary door to the conference room.”
“Very good.” He turned to his team. “We proceed.”
In single file, the two Cardassian soldiers and like-armored allies stepped over the raised lip of the threshold. Macet and Ador cast no backward glance at Rebek and her team, which now worked its way along the building’s outer wall for their own entry point—they dared not allow excessive concern for their comrades to distract them from reaching their goal.
Behind them, Garheç
Vergal tapped his wristcomm. “Vergal to Zopreg—I have an update on the repairs in Corridor Six-Loubăk
. Estimated time to completion: three minutes.”
Garheç. At last we’ll be rid of a great nuisance
“Indeed,” Vergal replied. Next to Macet now, Ragoç
Ador’s lip quirked up at the apparent double meaning. “Vergal out.”
As soon as Vergal closed the comm channel, a voice rang out over an open channel for the entire base to hear. “This is
Dalin Zopreg. All pilots, report to the conference room immediately
At that, Ador took point and led Macet’s team down the arched corridor, its vaulted ceilings quite a bit higher than those the gul had seen in the habitat ring of the typical Nor
-type station. No windows opened to the outside. The dimmed light soothed his eyes, which responded better to the gentle red of Verkoun, the Cardassia system primary, than the glaring beacons of worlds like Lessek or Terhăn Terăm
. The Andorian’s eyes grew unfocused; Macet suspected she relied on other senses to gain her bearings. Crewman Burakgazi, on the other hand, visibly strained to see.
Without warning, zh’Thessel’s head whipped back around in the direction from which they had just come. She stopped, held up a hand, then lifted a finger to her lips in the near-universal cardasdanoid sign for silence. The entire team stopped in its tracks. Her muscles tensed, antennae frozen at full extension with just a tiny tremor at their ends, breath nearly stopped with the effort of listening. Finally she spoke, a strident, voiceless whisper. “We’re betrayed—Vergal just told the Jem’Hadar First we were on our way, and to be on the lookout for a second team!”