Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
26th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
Both away teams, plus Farr from USS Karamazov
and Glinn Zamarran from the Damar
and minus the decoding team that had stayed aboard the Obsidian Order vessel, were in the Damar
’s wardroom. They have just finished presenting their reports, sharing all the details from their away mission.
“Doctor O’Riordan,” th’Arshar looked at his chief medical officer, “is there any way we can apply what we know about the Borg to this situation?”
“It’s hard to tell, Captain. Borg implants are deeply embedded into a drone’s body, partially taking over vital functions. These men there are only ‘plugged in’. Their nervous systems, including their brains, are functioning as the ship’s components. It’s a different situation.”
“But we were successful in removing Borg implants from liberated drones’ bodies.”
“Yes. Of course, not all implants could be removed, but the former drones could function normally. However, they still need to re-charge their implants in Borg alcoves.”
“Do you think we could unplug these men, but leave some components that couldn’t be removed?” Taret looked at th’Arshar.
“That could be a possibility, yes,” the Andorian nodded. “But first we would have to assess the damage done to their bodies.”
“What if the damage is extensive and we cannot...unplug them?” Av’Roo asked.
“We will not leave them like this,” Brenok said after a moment of silence.
“What about the other two? The ones with fingers?” Ma’Kan asked.
“I wonder if it would be possible to revive them?” Brenok gave Taret an asking look.
“I suppose so. I have scanned them and they appear to be in a typical stasis. I couldn’t tell what the implanted ports are for.”
“They match the access ports in the wall panels and some of the consoles,” Ya’val interjected.
“Communication? Control?” Brenok looked at him.
“Anything is possible,” the engineer shrugged. “Without more information those could be light switches for all we know.”
“The decoding team reports no success so far,” Av’Roo said. “They say the ship’s automatic protocols block them.”
“Don’t you have some specialist to deal with things like that?” Ronus asked Brenok.
The gul shook his head. “No, but I can ask Cardassia to send someone.”
“That is not entirely true, Gul,” Zamarran said. Brenok gave him an asking look. “We have a security systems specialist aboard,” the glinn smiled.
“We do? I am not aware of that,” Brenok searched his memory but no name seemed to be associated with this particular speciality.
Th’Arshar gave Zamarran and then Brenok a surprised look. “You are a security specialist?”
Brenok smiled slightly. “It’s been long time since I worked on engineering matters, Zamarran. Yes, Captain,” the gul looked at his counterpart. “Have you always been a captain? I started as an engineer. As did Zamarran.”
“So we have three good engineers here. Splendid. And my team is mostly scientists, including me. There is no way we can’t solve this.”
“I wish I shared your optimism, Captain. As I said, it’s been long time and my knowledge is quite outdated. I had no time to follow newest changes.”
“Indeed, Gul, but their knowledge and this ship is from times when you actively worked as an engineer.”
“This ship is from times when the Obsidian Order operated and I wasn’t briefed on their tricks.”
Brenok had a strong need to smile to his aide. Zamarran was brilliant and Brenok sometimes forgot about it. In a way, he actually looked forward to return to simple engineering tasks.
“What do we do about that database?” Churmou asked. “Can you deactivate those blocking protocols?”
“Doubtful,” Brenok shook his head. “But there should be a way to copy whole database to our warship and work from here. Blocking mechanism would not work here.”
“I don’t know...” Ya’val sounded doubtful.
“I understand your reservations, Glinn,” Brenok looked at him. “But I don’t see another option.”
“Even a secured console might not protect the ship,” the engineer said.
“I agree. This is risky,” Zamarran nodded.
“I don’t understand,” th’Arshar knitted his eyebrows. “Why copying a database is risky?”
“We install booby traps in our software too, Captain. There could be a virus hiding in the database, prepared especially for such an occasion.”
“Isn’t it a bit too paranoid?” Av’Roo asked.
“The Obsidian Order was paranoid, Lieutenant,” Karama said. “And it made us all paranoid too.”
“How charming,” the Skorr muttered.
“How about our ship?” Ronus asked. “We could secure a console, detach it from the ship’s computer and make it a stand-alone workstation. Not only a virus wouldn’t find a way to infect the rest of our systems, it could also be incompatible with our software.”
Zamarran looked at Brenok. “That would seem to be the safest option so far, but it would mean you’d have to work aboard their ship, sir.”
“We can raise the temperature in the room in which we install the console,” th’Arshar said and Zamarran looked at him astonished. Then the glinn looked at his gul who grinned slightly. Zamarran nodded his understanding.
“I would appreciate that,” Brenok said.
“While I don’t mind warm,” Av’Roo said. “May I ask why this kind of...precaution?”
“You may not, Lieutenant,” th’Arshar told her and she only nodded accepting his answer.
“Let’s summarise,” Zamarran said. “We attempt to transfer the database to the Federation ship, where we isolate it from the rest of systems and there we work on breaking in.”
“I’m sure there are some protocols, protecting the database from being copied or transferred,” Ma’Kan said.
“Good point. I will monitor the whole process personally,” the gul said. “I will also ask Gul Toral to return to the Orias system and investigate it once more. Maybe there is something we had overlooked. This time we would look for specific information, so maybe he’d find something useful.”
“This Gul Toral, do you trust him?” th’Arshar asked.
“Absolutely,” Brenok said. “I’ve known Toral for years and could always count on him.”
The Andorian nodded. “We will prepare a console for the transfer.”
“We’ll have to secure it well,” Ronus added.
“We’ll let you know when we’re ready and we can start copying or transferring the database, whichever you decide is better.”
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
10th of September, 2396, Old Earth Calendar
Av’Roo entered the Science Lab 2 to see that she was the last one to arrive. Captain th’Arshar, Commander Farr and Lieutenant Churmou were present in the room as well as Gul Brenok, Glinn Zamarran and Glinn Ya’val. The Cardassian commander drew her attention. He was sitting on a chair at the console which they had designated as the database decoding computer. He sat with his back to the console, his legs were stretched in front of him and his hands lay on his laps palms up. He was completely motionless.
“What is he doing?” she asked Ya’val in a hushed voice.
“He’s recalling all his knowledge,” the Cardassian engineer replied. “This is one of techniques we use to bring back our memories. He has to concentrate hard as he hadn’t been using that particular skill for a long time.” Ya’val smiled. “I remember that when he had been promoted to the gul’s aide and stopped being the chief engineer and Zamarran took over the engineering, it was very difficult to keep him away from fixing things. Something was wrong? He was there before Zamarran arrived and it frustrated Zamarran terribly. He never said anything, he wouldn’t dare to complain to his superiors about themselves, but it was getting on his nerves. When Brenok became our gul and Zamarran was promoted to the gul’s aide I made it very clear to both of them that my engineering is mine and they have there nothing to do. It took me some time but I’ve managed to teach Brenok that I was serious. It’s been long time since he did anything, not on this scale at least. I’m sure he fixes small things in his own quarters and office himself. I don’t recall being called for help even once.”
“And if you don’t recall it means that it never happened.”
“Pretty much, yes,” Ya’val smiled.
Av’Roo observed Brenok with fascination. He was like a statue, motionless, dignified in his black-silver armour. His long braid rested on his back and his sharp nose reminded her of a beak. She never judged aesthetically non-bird races but there was something in him, something different, special.
At first she didn’t recognise the sound, but when she realised what it was she made a few steps toward Brenok. All voices silenced and all eyes turned to the gul.
Zamarran said, “A ship’s engines hum, an opening door swishes, a console beeps and Gul Brenok sings. It’s as integral part of him as those sounds of those things.”
Th’Arshar’s face was brightened by a big smile. “You’re joking.”
“Don’t you believe your own ears?” Zamarran smiled and his face lined with deep, vertical wrinkles on his cheeks.
“But...does he do it often?”
“Every day. He starts humming or singing shortly after starting doing something that requires brain work. Most of the time he is not even aware of that, so don’t bother asking him what he sang. He wouldn’t know.”
Th’Arshar chuckled. “He’s full of surprises today.”
Av’Roo was especially appreciative of the singing. As a bird herself, she valued every species that could sing. She knew his song had no special meaning, it was not a call to his mate, but it still was beautiful. She listened to soft sounds coming from his reptilian throat and thought that perhaps she biologically had more in common with him than with mammalian races of the Federation.
Brenok’s eyes opened and he smiled to her; his nice humming didn’t stop. She smiled back.
“Are you ready?” he asked the others.
“We are, Gul Brenok. Are you?” the captain returned the question.
“As ready as I would ever be,” the Cardassian spun on the seat and turned to the console. He tapped the communicator on his wrist and said, “Karama, proceed.”
,” replied the glinn on the other side of the connection aboard the Obsidian Order vessel.
The data transfer commenced.
“Is it too cold?” Av’Roo heard th’Arshar ask Brenok quietly. The gul only shook his head.
The Skorr joined Brenok at his console and looked over his shoulder. The Cardassian studied the flow of data, calling some software tools from time to time. He wasn’t singing any more but she assumed this required a different kind of concentration and he couldn’t. She pulled up a chair and sat next to him, manning the other half of the console. His task was to screen the data in search of malware, hers—to store it safely in data banks. Ya’val and Churmou were monitoring the ship’s systems to make sure they weren’t getting infected and Jeto, in the engineering, was doing the same. Zamarran hovered over another console, preparing some kind firewall.
To Av’Roo’s delight the humming resumed. Sitting just next to its source she could clearly hear every note, every change in the pitch of his voice. He’s not singing for you, silly
, she scolded herself. Was there something wrong in enjoying his voice? Couldn’t be. Right? Couldn’t.
Suddenly he silenced. She looked at him and he was staring at his neck ridge—the one with the scar—on which...her wing’s feathers rested.
“I’m sorry,” she quickly raised her wing. He looked at her. “Those are tips of my long flight feathers, I have no feeling there so I was not aware of touching you. I’m sorry.”
He kept looking at her for a moment with a very strange face expression and then seemed to relax and said, “That’s ok. It felt warm. And it tickled.” His eyes returned to the screen.
“I like your singing,” she said.
“Was I doing it again? I hope it doesn’t disturb anyone.”
How could it? It was such a beautiful singing. “It doesn’t disturb me,” she replied.
He smiled. “Do you sing?”
“Our males do.”
“Do they sing like me or like birds, you know...birds.”
“Birds. I am sure they could sing like you, but they never tried because they sing like...you know...birds,” she mimicked him and chuckled. He smiled too. “Are you married?”
“I’m a widower.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“It happened a long time ago.”
“It never stops to hurt.”
“True. Are you?”
“No. Career came first and...there aren’t many Skorr in Starfleet.”
“How long do the Skorr live?”
“About two hundred Earth years. You?”
“One hundred seventy would be an average.”
“How old are you?”
“I’m only fifty.”
“I’m forty. Only.”
Suddenly Brenok’s fingers danced on the console.
“What is it?” she asked.
“A nasty warm. Incapacitated.”
“That was fast.”
“That was an old program. After we had declared the Obsidian Order a criminal organisation that worked against the Cardassian people, we studied their secrets. Many things are available only to highest clearance levels for state security reasons, but their security codes and tricks are no longer in use. And these here had been created twenty-five years ago,” he smiled, while his fingers—long and thin, almost like claws of a bird—moved over the console again.
Av’Roo glanced at him. Inclined over his workstation with this sharp, beak-like nose, strong and sharp chin, clear cheekbones... There was something very bird-like in him. His armour wasn’t very different from what Skorr warriors used to wear before Alar’s philosophy changed their way of life and brought them to the path of peace.
"Zamarran!" Brenok shouted suddenly; his voice full of alarm.
The glinn quickly approached the console, at which Brenok and Av’Roo were sitting, and looked over their shoulders. Then he pushed in between them and accessed the panel. Av’Roo moved away to give him full access. Ya’val joined both Cardassians and all three worked fast. Ya’val muttered from time to time words that the universal translator did not translate. Av’Roo guessed he was cursing and if the other two didn’t mind that vocabulary coming from their subordinate in their presence the cause of their dismay had to be serious. They were barking some orders to each other and Av’Roo had an impression that these were rather code words than really meaningful sentences. It indeed sounded like a code, as if full sentences were reduced to short commands for speed and efficiency of communication. Ya’val growled menacingly, baring his teeth and the Skorr thought that at this moment he reminded her of a Klingon more than he would like to know.
“What’s going on?” th’Arshar asked.
“I don’t know, sir,” she replied. She tried to guess what they were doing, but couldn’t tell and she didn’t want to interrupt them.
“Isolate it, isolate it!” Brenok shouted heatedly.
“I’m trying!” Zamarran’s voice sounded frustrated.
“Got it!” Ya’val shouted with triumph and punched the console with his fist. Brenok audibly let the air out of his lungs. “But...I had to delete some data with it,” Ya’val looked apologetically at his superiors. “It was the data that had been being deleted at that moment.”
“Hopefully it wasn’t anything critical,” Zamarran said.
“Will you now tell us what it was?” th’Arshar asked.
“A self-destruct protocol activated,” Brenok explained, while Zamarran and Ya’val returned to their posts. “It would delete all the data if we didn’t stop it.”
“It would appear that the program managed to delete some data,” Zamarran said from his console. “Hopefully nothing crucial,” he added.
“Jeto to th’Arshar”, sounded a voice.
The captain pressed his communicator. “Th’Arshar here.”
“Sir, I have prepared a special program, but would need to modify the dual data macromanipulator, so I seek your permission. The program would shut down all systems, except the environmental control, to prevent infecting the ship’s computer in case that database carries and activates any malware.”
“Proceed, Lieutenant,” th’Arshar nodded in spite that she couldn’t see him. “Co-ordinate your work with Glinn Zamarran,” he added, looking at the Cardassian.
“Errr... yes, sir,” she said and disconnected.
Av’Roo could hear Zamarran tap his communicator and reply to Jeto’s call. She was glad that her friend was able to follow the captain’s order. Maybe it was the first step: talking to them without looking at them. Without a face attached to a voice she might not be so biased and expect the worst and then slowly discover that this face didn’t always mean what she thought.
“Gul Brenok, can I ask you a question?” the Andorian looked at the gul.
“It’s about the role of your chief medical officer. I can see you can override his decision, is this a correct conclusion?”
“It is. He has the knowledge and it’s his duty to present all facts about a case, he can also suggest the best solution, but the final word belongs to me. Is it different in Starfleet?”
“Not really. A captain has final word too. But there is a case when the chief medical officer has power over his or her captain.”
“Really?” Brenok gave th’Arshar an astonished look and then his eyes returned to the console monitor. “What is this case?”
“A chief medical officer can relieve A captain of duty of that captain goes berserk.”
“If that captain’s judgement is flawed and poses a danger to his or her ship. There are sets of regulations to quote, of course, but it is possible. A counselor has the same power.”
Brenok shook his head. “Not possible in the Cardassian Guard. All must listen to their gul and follow him.”
“What if that gul goes berserk?”
“We can hope it wouldn’t happen.”
“Does it happen?”
“Nobody is perfect, captain.”
“Maybe you should implement such a rule too?”
A small smile appeared on Brenok’s face. “I don’t think so. Our military is based on order anda need for order. Giving power of a middle ranking person over the highest ranking person is violating that order. It just can’t be done. No one would accept it. It wouldn’t work.”
“But if you would implement this rule, maybe less guls would do what we know guls did in the past.”
Av’Roo thought that it was a mistake to say that and look on Brenok’s face confirmed her suspicion. Whatever th’Arshar thought about the Cardassians and their commanders, it was not the time and place to voice those opinions right in the face of one of them.
Th’Arshar seemed to understand that too, as he grunted—Av’Roo had an impression it was some kind of ashamed apology—and returned to the console that Ya’val and Churmou were working at.