Ya’val brought the Federation team up to date and then he and Ronus studied the ship’s schematics, which they had found in the database, to gather information and decide what should be their next step. At first they could not agree if to go to the bridge or the engineering and neither of them wanted to split the team for safety reasons, but in the end Ya’val convinced Ronus that the bridge was a better idea.
Karama couldn’t help but wonder how they were going to work if they had two team leaders who, most likely, wouldn’t be always in agreement.
They left the room through the hole in the door and went along the corridor, led by Ya’val. At first both teams seemed to keep to themselves with the Cardassians in front, but Av’Roo moved forward and walked just behind the Cardassian engineer, inviting others to mingle to create one unified group.
“What now?” Fong asked, when they arrived to another locked door.
Ya’val studied the wallcomm. “Sabal,” he said. “What do you make of these?” he pointed to holes in the panel.
“Access ports,” the pilot answered, closing to take a better look at the objects. “Nothing I’ve seen before, so I’m only guessing.”
“Can I?” Av’Roo asked and both Cardassians moved away to give her access to the panel. She took her tricorder and scanned it. “It appears to have organic matter embedded deep inside.”
“Someone put a finger in?” Amrita asked.
Fong expelled air audibly through his nose. Karama glanced at him; was it a derisive reaction? But Fong was smiling and so was Amrita. Did he get her joke and it was his... laughter? Karama was puzzled.
“Can you open this door?” Ronus asked Ya’val.
“No. It appears to be programmed to recognise specific people and I certainly am not one of them...” His last word was spoken slowly, as if his brain was already busy with something else. “Gul Brenok, do you monitor us?”
“We eavesdrop all the time, Ya’val
,” came Brenok’s voice.
“Ask the ship to open the door marked...har-blue,” he read from above the panel.
“We can try
They could hear Brenok giving the order to Gil Tari.
For a long moment nothing happened and then the door screeched terribly and moved into the bulkhead.
First three militiamen entered. “Lights,” barked one of them and before anyone else had time to go inside Karama heard something that sounded awfully like someone vomiting.
The rest of the team joined the three Cardassians and Karama couldn’t believe his own eyes.
“Gul, please send Medic Taret here,” Garesh Tarub said quietly.
At the same time, Av’Roo tapped her communicator too. “Av’Roo to Captain th’Arshar. We need Doctor O’Riordan.”
Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
26th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
Medic Taret’s infirmary was ready for any casualties that Garesh Aladar might beam in from the mysterious and dangerous ship, but he did not expect to have to go to the ship himself. He hoped that no one would be harmed so badly that he or she couldn’t be beamed back to the safety of the warship.
He went to the transporter chamber, carrying his heavy, full of most necessary equipment medical kit. He preferred the luxury of his infirmary, which was full of medical devices and apparatuses, but he couldn’t always have what he wanted, could he?
The Obsidian Order vessel
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
26th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
Aladar beamed him to a corridor just outside a big chamber in which he saw the team members. A quick head count told him that all were standing and accounted for. So who needed his help?
He entered the room and was just about to ask what was going on, when the air behind him shimmered and a short, red-headed human woman materialised in whirls of blue light. Her hair colour contrasted with her blue uniform.
“What’s the emergency?” she asked.
No one said anything but the group split and moved aside for both medics to see for themselves.
Between walls of the living corridor Taret saw the most hideous and terrifying thing in his life and he had thought he had seen it all.
The chamber was clearly the bridge. There were consoles in walls on both sides, but there was no command chair and no viewscreen in the front wall. Instead, there was a huge, slightly tilted table on which a man was laying. The table looked more like something he could find in Ya’val’s engineering than in his infirmary.
“Oh my God,” he heard muffled words next to him. He glanced at the Federation doctor who covered her mouth with her hand and stared at the table and the Cardassian on it with huge eyes. “Who did that to him?”
“The Obsidian Order,” Taret replied grimly and went toward the table. He put his kit on the floor and retrieved his medical scanner. The other medic mimicked his action. They scanned the man from both sides.
The man was alive but it was obvious he was permanently...assembled with the table he was laying on. His limbs were stretched and thick metal clamps kept them in place. His body was nothing more than scales, cartilages and bones. In many places the scales were falling off which meant that he as malnourished and his body was unable to produce his skin cover effectively. Taret could see big, pinkish spots on the victim's body—that was bare skin, exposed to the environmental conditions without protection normally offered by scales. There were tubes coming out of his thin, starved body and the medic could see that there was some substance in them. A deeper scan showed that three tubes were removing waste from the Cardassian’s body and four other were injecting nutrients. Constantly. Without a break.
The man’s fingers were stripped of skin and embedded into a machine, the same operation had been performed on his toes. The thick protective scales on his neck ridges and shoulders were peeled off—the thought of the procedure sent shivers down Taret’s spine—and there were ends of machinery embedded into his flesh not unlike with his fingers and toes.
“I think his nervous system is plugged into the machine,” he said aloud to the other medic. She looked at him horrified.
had sent the message,” Taret heard Ya’val’s whisper behind him.
The worst of all was the head. Top of his skull was removed and Taret could clearly see his brain tissue. There were thin spikes coming out of his brain; they were connected to the same huge machine that the other nerves of his body. The whole table he was laying on was in fact a part of that machine.
“I don’t think this poor man could send anything,” the human said. She leaned over his face, studying the damage that had been done to his head.
“Aaarrggh!” She suddenly jumped back, her hand on her chest.
Taret looked at her surprised and then at the man and he understood her reaction. The Cardassian opened his eyes and blinked. His eyeballs seemed to search for something and then found Taret’s face.
All monitors in the room went blank for a second and then one Cardassian word flashed on them.
“What does it mean?” Ronus asked.
’,” Kapoor replied. “That word means ‘kill
“Oh my God, his consciousness is undamaged,” the human doctor whispered, coming closer to the man.
“Is he threatening to kill us or does he ask to kill him?” Fong asked.
“We will try to help you,” Taret said softly, hoping the victim of this brutality would understand him.
The Cardassian blinked and his eyes fixed on Taret’s face. The medic took a hypospray, programmed it for painkillers and tried to find a spot in the tortured body, where he could inject the medicine without an additional damage to the already mutilated flesh. He decided that the chest would be the safest spot and delicately pressed the hypospray there. The Cardassian jerked violently but Taret pressed a button and the man calmed down immediately.
“Even the Borg aren’t that cruel,” the Federation medic commented. She looked at Taret but he was observing a tear sliding down from the victim’s eye into his eye ridge. “Can we cover him with something?” she asked.
The Cardassian medic looked at her. “Better not. His body appears to be hypersensitive. I don’t want to inflict more pain; he’s already suffering enough.”
“But we can’t leave him like this: naked, undignified, tortured.” She was clearly shocked.
“We are not
leaving him like this!” Taret said sharply. What did she think? That he didn’t care?
The Cardassian word disappeared from the monitors and they resumed their normal—if anything could be called normal on this vessel—operation.
“Can we move him?” Ronus asked.
“I don’t know,” Taret shook his head. “I don’t think we can safely unplug him from all this here,” he pointed to the machine. “Even worse, I am not sure if we can unplug this machine from the ship to take the whole thing to my infirmary and attempt to help him there.”
“It would appear he controls the ship,” Ya’val said. “I am sure it was him who had called for help, who had opened the door for us and a moment ago asked us to kill him and end his suffering. He is
“This is unbelievable,” Churmou whispered.
“Sabal,” the Cardassian chief engineer looked at the pilot. “Is there anything you can tell us about it?”
“No,” horrified Sabal shook his head. “If they did that in the Orias system, it was a secret.” He moved closer to have a better look at the victim and gasped and rapidly stepped back, bumping on Av’Roo. She grabbed him in time to prevent his fall.
“What?” Karama asked.
“This...” Sabal was breathing fast. “This is Saratt!” He tore himself out of Av’Roo’s hands and ran out of the bridge to the corridor where he vomited. Taret could hear him breathing and choking there for a moment. Then Sabal returned. “I’m sorry.”
“Unnecessarily,” the medic assured him. “Who is Saratt? How do you know him?”
“We were test pilots. We were one of the best and we were chosen for a special project. There were five of us and we had to compete with each other to find out who was the best one. Saratt proved his skills were superior to ours; I was the second one.” He silenced and looked at his former comrade. “If I won, it would be me.” His voice shook and he averted his eyes and looked at his feet.
“Did you know what this project was about?” Ma’Kan asked.
“No,” Sabal shook his head. “All we knew was that they needed the best pilot. I am sure other factors counted too, but they especially cared for spacial orientation.”
“Now you know why,” Karama muttered.
“How can we help him? What can we do?” Ronus looked at the Federation medic, then at Taret.
“I am not sure,” the Cardassian shrugged, frustrated. “I’d like to access the database of this ship, maybe there would be some useful information.”
“They had to store information how to take care of him,” Fong said.
Taret, and a few other Cardassians, smiled. “Lieutenant,” he poked his head with his finger. “This is as reliable as a computer database. There is a chance of finding information in the ship’s computer, but the Obsidian Order didn’t like leaving traces, so it’s more likely their medics had to memorise all the information.”
“So where are they?” Fong demanded. “The medics, I mean.”
Taret only shrugged.
“What are we going to do?” Av’Roo asked. She approached the table with the Cardassian and sighed. “Doctor,” she looked at the red-headed woman. “Would any knowledge about the Borg be helpful?”
“I am not sure. It doesn’t look even remotely like Borg technology.”
“It’s Cardassian technology,” Ya’val agreed. “No doubt about it.”
“But the Obsidian Order might think they could recreate their own version of Borg,” Sabal said. “Not using their technology, but using their ideas.”
“Would they go that far?” Churmou asked.
“They would go as far as they would deem necessary. They had no limits,” Sabal said grimly.
“So I can see.” Her tone of voice was as dark as his.
“All right,” Ronus said in a commanding voice. “We will prepare a full report for you, including any information about the Borg that we find that could be useful in this case,” he said, looking first at Ya’val and then at Taret. “I suggest both doctors stay here and monitor Mr. Saratt’s condition.” The Trill glanced at the Cardassian engineer who nodded his consent. “We will proceed to the engineering.”
“Kapoor and Zelek, you stay here,” Ya’val ordered the engineer and one of gareshes. “Kapoor, access the local database and try to find something about his condition. Anything. Zelek, keep an eye on everything. You’re responsible for their safety.”
“Yes, sir,” they both replied. The garesh stood near one of bulkheads, from where he had a good view on the whole bridge, while Kapoor went to the main engineering console. She accessed it, glancing at Saratt to make sure her intrusion wasn’t hurting him.