The Obsidian Order vessel
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
26th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
“Jau gei!” Lieutenant Fong cursed in his native Cantonese when an energy bolt reached his arm.
Ma’Kan spun around, raising her riffle and shot the ball that was hovering in the air and shooting energy bolts in directions of the Federation team members. It did not target the Cardassians. As soon as the ball—the tactician knew it was called the ‘lightning cannon’—was destroyed, another one materialised in its place. The Cardassian woman rested the butt of her riffle on her armour in the place where the sleeve connected with the chest plate and she activated the sniper program. The muzzle sight slid out of the riffle’s barrel: Ma’Kan was ready. She stood in the middle of the chamber with squinted eyes and listened. She knew lightning cannons were buzzing quietly and that was the sound she concentrated on. She shot the cannon that was moving toward Ronus and she was certain more would appear. She was right: there was a new one materialising almost over the commander’s head and she could hear another buzz just behind her. She pulled the trigger and the first cannon was gone, then she turned, not removing her right foot off the deck, and shot the other one. She felt almost like having a practice in a holosuit; with each target shot down new ones were appearing and the level of difficulty was raising. She was now facing three lightning cannons.
However, she was not alone in her fight. Both militiamen protected Av’Roo, who was too big to find an effective cover in the engineering, and they too were shooting re-materialising cannons. They tried to shield the Skorr with their own bodies but the cannon wasn’t fooled easily. It flew over them and tried to attack from above. Both Cardassian men knew all its tricks very well and were able to anticipate the cannon’s moves and effectively prevent them.
“What’s this?” Ronus shouted from behind his cover.
“It would appear that the security protocols have been activated, including booby traps,” Ya’val went to the man on the table and shouted at him. “Stop that! Now!” The man glanced at him and another set of energy balls materialised. “Stop or I’ll kill you,” Ya’val grabbed one of feeding tubes and jerked it a bit. Not enough to really harm the man but enough to send his message. The balls hovered but stopped shooting. Neither Ma’Kan nor the militiamen lowered their guard. “Stop,” the engineer sounded menacingly. The balls de-materialised. “Now, release us. Lower the dampening field and unlock the door.”
“...ri to away team. Tari to away team. Tari to—
“We can hear you, Gil,” Karama said.
Ronus approached Ya’val and the engineer noticed that the man on the table gave the Trill a hostile glance. “Don’t you try anything,” Ya’val hissed and then grabbed Ronus by the arm and took him away beyond the man’s field of vision.
“What was that?” Ronus asked.
“He activated defence protocols.”
“Do you have booby traps on every ship?” Fong asked. He kept his hand on his arm. Taret approached him and scanned his wound.
“It’s a standard procedure to implement such defence,” Ya’val replied.
“Why would you do that? You don’t like alien guests?”
“You assume that we do it out of hatred, Lieutenant,” Ya’val said, not hiding his irritation. He didn’t like it when others thought that the Cardassians did everything with the intention of only harming others in mind. “This particular defence program is activated when we have to abandon a ship. It secures it in case someone wants to board it and steal it. We cannot afford to leave equipment and materials behind, they are too precious for us. If we have to abandon a ship, we still return for it and salvage what we can. Sometimes it takes time and booby traps protect that ship from being stolen. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t want to steal our property, you don’t have to worry about it.”
“I didn’t plan to steal anything here,” Fong said sarcastically. Taret was hovering a dermal regenerator over his arm; the human’s wound was superficial.
“This is not a typical ship,” Ya’val glanced at the man on the table. “Sabal, do you know him too?”
“Negative, sir,” the pilot shook his head.
The door to the engineering opened and a small troop entered. They took positions but as soon as they realised that everything was under control they lowered their weapons. “Clear!” shouted one of them and Brenok, accompanied by th’Arshar, entered the engineering.
“Everyone all right?” the gul asked.
“Yes,” Ya’val reported. “One superficial wound and it appears to be dealt with,” he glanced at Taret who nodded his confirmation. “I would, however, advise the Federation team to stay away from the engineering. At least for now.”
“Let’s go back to the bridge,” Ronus said. “Doctor...err...Medic Taret should stay here with his patient, but I think we are not needed at this time.”
Brenok looked at the man on the table. His face expressed a strange mix of disgust and sadness. He slowly approached the man and looked him in the face. While Ya’val had difficulties with reading all feelings on Brenok’s face, he had no doubt what the engineering-man’s grimace meant: hatred. Pure hatred. Nothing but hatred.
“Taret, is there anything you can do for him now?” Brenok asked.
“Negative. And, to be honest, I’d rather take care of Saratt. He seems to be in worse condition.”
Brenok thought for a while, looking at the man on the table, and then turned to face everyone. “We will all go to the bridge and we will discuss our options there. Maybe Saratt can give us a few answers, if he’s willing to.”
They returned to the command centre. The Federation doctor sat near Saratt who appeared to be sleeping. Kapoor and Zelek were busy at one of consoles.
“Anything?” Ya’val asked them.
“We have found a database to which we have no access,” Kapoor said. “It is quite huge, so it’s possible there are some answers to our questions, but it’s hard to tell. Sir,” she nodded to Brenok. “Sirs,” she corrected herself, noticing blue antennae behind the gul.
Taret went to Saratt and checked his condition. The Cardassian had to feel the medic’s presence as he opened his eyes and looked at him.
“How about a mind-meld?” Av’Roo proposed.
“What?!” Taret’s head jerked.
“We have one Vulcan in our crew, in my department,” the Skorr looked at th’Arshar and then at Brenok. “Maybe he could meld with Saratt and ‘talk’ to him that way.”
“I won’t allow it!” Taret protested, shaking his head. “No Vulcan mambo-jumbo.”
“I thought Cardassians can block melds,” Fong said.
“We can, but this is a conscious reaction,” Brenok said. “We are not unreadable like, say, the Ferengi. We choose not to be read. It’s only a discipline of mind and not every Cardassian’s mind is disciplined enough.”
“I won’t allow it!” Taret said louder.
“Maybe we should ask him
,” Av’Roo pointed to Saratt.
Taret pursed his lips and then hissed, “He is desperate and could be willing to try everything. Even this...” he pulled his face with contempt.
flashed on monitors.
Brenok moved closer to the tortured man and looked at him. “Saratt, I am Gul Brenok. We will try to help you, but we don’t know how. Is this your answer to the mind-meld?” he asked, pointing to the monitors.
“Gul Brenok!” Taret shouted with indignation.
“Not another word, Taret!” Brenok gave the medic a hard glance. He knew Taret cared about his patient but it was not the time to play safe.
“Contact Ensign Sodek,” th’Arshar told Av’Roo. “Ask him if he would be willing.”
The Skorr nodded and moved aside to talk to the Vulcan through the comm.
“Now, about that database,” Brenok went to Kapoor.
“It requires an access code. The clearance is...well...a legate level or close.”
Brenok typed in his access code but, as he expected, it was rejected.
“Jattok’s code might work,” Sabal suggested.
“Maybe,” Brenok said. “But we would need time to extract it and I am not even sure we would be able to extract it.”
“A Romulan mind probe would be helpful,” th’Arshar muttered.
“Do you have any to spare?”
“Unfortunately not. And I doubt the Romulans would agree to lend us one.”
“We have to hack in, then,” Fong said.
“Into an Obsidian Order database?” Sabal gave him an incredulous look. “Good luck.”
“You have a better idea?” Fong attacked.
“Stop it, both of you!” the Andorian didn’t intend to let them argue.
“Karama, Sabal and Kapoor will try to hack in,” Brenok decided. Karama was exceptionally skilled in breaking codes, Sabal possessed the Obsidian Order’s knowledge and Kapoor had a unique Federation trained perspective combined with her Cardassian experience.
“Can I help too?” Fong asked, looking at Brenok and th’Arshar. Both commanders nodded their consent.
access the database?” Ronus pointed to Saratt. “He is the ship.”
“Can you?” Taret asked his patient.
“Seems like they hid it even from him,” Churmou muttered.
A Federation transporter beam shimmered and everyone turned to see who was joining them. They saw a middle aged Vulcan man.
“This is Ensign Sodek,” Av’Roo said. “He has agreed to help us.”
“Ensign,” Brenok said. “Now, that you are here and can see for yourself what you’re dealing with, you can change your mind.”
“Understood,” the Vulcan replied. He approached the table with Saratt and looked at him. “Do you understand this will be blending our minds?” he asked. “Do you understand I will know all you know and you will know all I know?” Yes
“I don’t like it,” Taret growled.
“I will not harm him,” Sodek assured him.
“I don’t care. I don’t like it. Sir,” the medic looked at Brenok. “Permission to break this meld as soon as I detect something goes wrong.”
Brenok thought for a moment, but didn’t have time to reply as the Vulcan said, “I will break the mind-meld if there is any sign of harm done to this Cardassian.”
Taret only growled.
“Proceed,” the gul said.
The Vulcan looked at Saratt and gently placed his fingers on the Cardassian’s face. “My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts, my mind...” His voice got deeper and words were spoken slower. He silenced for a few seconds and then jumped back, screaming. Taret grabbed his arm preventing the Vulcan from falling. Sodek stood bent forward with his hands on his knees and breathed loudly. Saratt closed his eyes.
“What happened?” O’Riordan went to Sodek with her medical tricorder.
“I was...unprepared for the amount of suffering,” the Vulcan said between his breaths. “I did not shield myself from the pain.” He calmed down and turned back to Saratt. “I will try again.”
“I can control the pain,” Sobek told the Cardassian. “I can suppress it.”
“Apology is unnecessary,” the Vulcan said. “Let me try.”
Brenok closed his eyes. He could see a battle of two men, both caring for each other in spite of not knowing each other. Sodek wanted to help in spite of difficulties and Saratt didn’t want the Vulcan to experience his suffering.
, kept flashing on one monitor. Saratt has chosen one not to disturb the decoding team their work.
“You have the answer,” Taret said firmly.
“Is there anything you can tell us?” Av’Roo asked.
“In spite of the connection being so brief, I have learnt a great deal,” Sodek said. “First of all, this man’s consciousness works as well as any of ours. He is fully aware of everything and his condition could be compared to a paralysed patient. His mind is imprisoned in his body. He doesn’t control his body as he indeed is partially paralysed. His brain is supposed to control the ship. He suffers because he is unable to send messages to his body, however he does
receive impulses. He cannot move his hand, but he feels when someone touches it.”
“Is there a way to remove him?”
“I do not know that, however I know he knows the answer.” Sodek looked at the massacred Cardassian and Brenok could swear he saw compassion in the Vulcan’s eyes. The gul looked at the decoding team; they were very busy.
“Sir,” Taret stood before Brenok. “I’m not ready to give up on him yet. I want to try to help him, but I realise we need time to learn how to do it and in his case it means he would have to wait and suffer. I can’t allow that so I would like to induce a coma. He would feel nothing and we would buy some time.”
Brenok thought for a while. “Fine,” he agreed and Taret seemed relieved. The medic went to Saratt.
“Saratt, I’m going to do everything to save you, but I know you suffer. Do you agree to induce a state in which you won’t feel a thing. It would be like a very deep sleep. Blink once for ‘yes’, twice for ‘no’,” Taret said, hoping that simplifying the way of communication would help Saratt.
, he blinked.
The other one
, flashed on the monitor.
“What about him?”
“You mean he would take control if you would be in coma?” Ronus asked, closing to the Cardassian.
[i]Yes. Coma him[i/].
“You want me to do the same to him too?” Taret asked a bit horrified at the thought to do that without the patient’s consent.
“The other one is hostile, very hostile, Gul,” Ronus said.
“Will the ship shut down if we ‘turn’ you both off?” Brenok asked.
“Do it,” the gul said to Taret. The medic pursed his lips, unhappy at the prospect, but he didn’t say anything.
“Medic Taret,” Ya’val looked at the physician. “The other one clearly wants to live. I don’t know if it matters now, but he surrendered when I threatened him with death.”
“Understood,” Taret nodded, took his medical kit and left the bridge, followed by Tarub.
“When we’re done here I suggest we all gather to discuss the whole situation,” th’Arshar said.
“My ship, if you don’t mind, Captain,” Brenok looked at him.
“Your ship,” the Andorian gave him a sincere and friendly smile, showing teeth as white as his bushy eyebrows. “They should stay here and continue their work.” He pointed to the decoding team.
“Agreed,” the Cardassian commander nodded.
Brenok observed Sabal who went to Saratt. The pilot didn’t say anything, he just looked in the face of his former comrade with pain painted on his face. Saratt returned his gaze and Brenok had an impression these two were communicating; there was some connection between them—a friendship perhaps?—and they needed no words to convey some messages or some feelings.
Some time later Taret returned. He looked angry and frustrated. He went to Saratt. “Are you ready?” His patient closed his eyes for a moment, as if he was thinking—or maybe checking something—and then he looked at the medic and blinked once.
“I promise you that you will either wake up without pain or won’t wake up at all,” Taret said.
, flashed on the monitor. Saratt closed his eyes and the medic put a hypospray to his chest. He injected the medicine and took his medical scanner to monitor his patient. The Federation doctor did the same.
“I’m done here... For the moment,” Taret said, looking at Brenok. “But I want to stay here. I want someone to be with him at all times.”
“I will take shifts too,” the red-headed medic said.
“We will need to send someone to monitor the engineering-man too. In case he wakes up.”
“Very well,” Brenok nodded. “Prepare a medical team, but I want you to participate in our briefing. Both of you,” he added, looking at the Federation doctor.