Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
27th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
Brenok approached the terminal in his quarters, trying to do something about his dishevelled hair but long wisps kept escaping from his hands.
“Computer, open the channel.”
The computer beeped and a face of an elder woman appeared on his monitor. Gil Tari had told him who was on the other end of the connection.
“Doctor Zabar,” Brenok greeted her. Her face reminded him of his grandmother; it had a gentle expression, yet there was some strength in her eyes. She looked at him seriously scrutinising him for a short moment and then her lips formed a small smile.
“I’m so sorry to wake you up, Gul Brenok
,” she indeed sounded apologetically. Brenok tried to tie his hair into a queue—it was faster than making a braid—knowing very well that doing it in haste would most likely uncover his appalling ear scar, but he also understood that this was a medical professional that was looking at him and she would be the last person to react to it strongly. “However the report from Medic Taret sounded very seriously and I wanted to contact you as soon as possible
“That is all right, Doctor. We have a situation here and my sleep is the least important. I hadn’t slept that well anyway. Is there anything you could help us with?”
“My dear Gul,” she said and it sounded like ‘my dear boy’, “I am not sure if I could help but I will try nevertheless. I brought my old report about which I’d like to talk to you and Medic Taret. I am already on my way to you, but I thought that you’d need time to familiarise yourself with that report before I reach you
“What is it about?” he asked. What could all that have anything to do with some old report written by a civilian physician?
“It’s about proving that connecting a living man to a computer is impossible
If there was any sleep in Brenok’s eyes, it was gone now.
“Years ago I had been asked—and it was one of those requests you shouldn’t refuse—to write an extensive report about a possibility of using a living man’s brain as a main computer core. The Obsidian Order demanded full information with proofs. Since proofs meant I’d have to try to do that in practice, they had gotten none, but I had delivered a theoretical study. To conclude it in one sentence: I have proven that successful plugging a Cardassian to a computer would fail. There are too many things that would make it impossible. I have read Medic Taret’s report and my conclusion is that those monsters in the Obsidian Order used my report to avoid the problems I have listed. Of course they caused a lot of other problems, which only proves I had been right all along
She took a breath and would continue, but Brenok raised his hand. “Wait, wait. Did you say you were on your way to us?”
“That’s what I have said, yes.
“I’m sure Medic Taret would appreciate that.”
“I feel partially responsible for Saratt’s condition and I intend to do everything I can to save his life. I am not sure if it’s possible, as a report, even a detailed one, is not the same as an examination, but I will not give up only because it looks grim
“I assume you’re going to be here in three days?” He knew that was the time needed to reach the Argaya sector from Cardassia Prime.
“That is correct. Gul Evral was so kind to lend me a pilot and a shuttle
“Is there anything we could do for Saratt and the other one before you arrive?” Brenok asked.
“No, I don’t think so. The coma appears to be the best available option. I would, however, consider waking up those people in stasis
“In my theoretical study I have suggested that full communication with people like Saratt would be possible only through another kind of Cardassian-computer fusion, which I assumed to be nonsense. I think those people are disproving my opinion; the Obsidian Order found a way to create such people. They would probably be able to ‘talk’ to those two men. It’s very possible they are medics
“I’m not sure I want to read your report, Doctor. Please, don’t take it the wrong way but--”
,” she interrupted him, raising her hand, “my report was supposed to be full of bullshit that would discourage them from changing someone’s life into hell. Instead, they used it as a template. This report isn’t a benign collection of theoretical facts any more, it is someone’s nightmare. You don’t have to apologise for not wanting to know the details. I wish I didn’t know them myself
He smiled weakly. “We await your arrival.”
“Is there any chance you could patch me to Medic Taret?
“I’ll see what I can do,” he replied and gave Gil Tari necessary instructions.
Brenok stayed at his desk and considered returning to bed, but decided that he wouldn’t fall asleep anyway. Not after hearing the revelations about Doctor Zabar’s report. He went to his tiny bathroom to take a hot shower and make plans for the starting day.
He stood, enjoying hot water pouring on his head and dripping from his long hair. He could stand here for a long time if he wanted. The ten-minute water ration didn’t have to apply to him—after all he was the highest commander of the Cardassian military—but he didn’t want to steal. For him using twenty minutes of water would mean that someone else would have zero. Or two ‘someone elses’ would have five. Water didn’t reproduce itself just because it was coming out of a Gul Grade Five’s shower, water didn’t care about ranks.
He knew his ten minutes would be up soon. So soon. Too soon.
Doctor Zabar told him to wake up the people in stasis. What if they were another failed experiment? What if Taret would wake them up into pain? Why didn’t Saratt wake them up? Couldn’t he? Or was it his choice not to wake them up? Was he afraid of them? Had they
done that to him and then had been—in the limitless stupidity of the Obsidian Order—mutilated the same way as their ‘exemplary service to the Cardassian Union’ obligation demanded from them?
He wished he could stay under the shower indefinitely, isolated from the brutal reality by a wall of water—clean, pure water.
The computer gave him one minute warning—he had programmed it to give him a warning before cutting of the water to give him time to rinse all soap—so he reluctantly grabbed a towel and left the shower booth.
He dried his hair, made a braid—noting that it was the time to shorten his hair a bit—donned his black-silver armour and went to the bridge.
“Tari, can you get me Medic Taret,” he said upon arrival.
“Shall I disconnect him from Doctor Zabar?” the young gil asked.
“Are they still talking?” Brenok was clearly surprised.
“Then let them talk. But connect me after they finish.”
The gul didn’t expect them to have such a long conversation, but since it was so long he could only hope it was a productive one.
“Karama and Sabal beamed to the Federation ship,” Zamarran informed him. “I don’t think Ya’val returned to Damar
for the night at all.”
“Order him to rest if you have to.”
“When I tried to contact him the early morning, Lieutenant Fong told me that Ya’val was having a nap. So he did sleep.”
“A nap is not sleeping,” Brenok smiled. He couldn’t help but admire his crew for their dedication. He was also glad that in spite of differences they were able to work with the Federation officers. And vice versa. “How is your firewall working?”
“I hope we won’t have to see in practice. Lieutenant Jeto had some interesting ideas, so I have implemented them into the programming.”
“How was she?”
“She was reserved, but professional. No troubles at all.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
11th of September, 2396, Old Earth Calendar
Ya’val had no trouble in finding his way to the engineering. He had asked Fong to show him the Sabre class ship’s blueprints, he had memorised them and now could wander around the ship without losing his way.
“How can you work with such a sorry excuse for a manual!” Lieutenant Jeto greeted him in the engine room.
“Excuse me?” He stopped and stared at her; it was the last thing he expected to hear. He had been told she needed him but was it really about a manual?
“This is pathetic.” She raised a padd and shook it. “How am I supposed to work with such sparse information? How am I supposed to learn anything from that manual? What is that? A quick guide?”
“Actually...it is,” he smiled.
“It is a quick guide.”
“And where’s the full version?”
“Here.” He pointed to his head.
“We do not keep important information stored in databases. We memorise it. If something goes wrong you don’t have time to log into a computer and search for instructions. You have to know things. This,” he pointed to the padd, “is a reference file. It guides us where is the information stored, under which paragraph or in which chapter is more information, but it’s not all
“Your reference file is hundreds of pages long.”
“Yes, it is. How long are your manuals?”
“So are ours. We just don’t keep them in our computers. We don’t have to.”
“And what if you happen to need it.”
“If you don’t know your engines, you’re not qualified to do your job. Take a leave and return when you educate yourself. Besides, storing such a vital data in a computer could be a risk of security breach.” She kept looking at him. He silenced and stared back at her. “What? Doesn’t it make sense?”
She pulled her face. “In a way, it does,” she reluctantly admitted. “But how the hell am I to work if I can’t get any information from this quick guide to mental manual?”
“Ask me,” he shrugged.
“Fine.” She motioned to one of consoles. “Here,” she pointed to a part of code on the screen. “I can’t find any information on the purpose of this. What kind of function does it serve?”
Ya’val moved closer to the monitor—it didn’t escape his attention that Jeto moved away to keep the distance between them—and studied the code for a moment. “This is Zamarran’s work, isn’t it?”
“This guy is a genius,” Ya’val muttered more to himself than to Jeto. “This is a tool,” he explained. “It calls for bigger programs to execute their backups. Just in case. It lays dormant until another tool ‘tips it off’ that there is an error in executing commands protocol.”
She gave him a distrustful gaze, pursed her lips and moved closer to take a better look at the code on the monitor. He wished he could glance at her but his eye ridge was blocking his view and he didn’t want to startle her by moving and openly staring. He didn’t want to add to her negative experiences with Cardassians and he was sure she would interpret his interest the wrong way.
She muttered something in Bajoran, but it was too quiet for the universal translator to pick it up. Ya’val wished he knew what she said. A curse? A praise? Surprise?
He shifted and she jumped away. He opened his mouth to assure her that he wouldn’t hurt her, but decided it would be better not to say anything.
“Do you have any more questions?” he asked instead.
She shook her head and went to another console. “It may be completely useless,” she said, “but Bajoran resistance had some ways of decoding Cardassian encryptions. We didn’t share everything with you, but...it could be useful.”
He tried to see what was on her monitor without moving toward her, but craning his neck only caused discomfort in his neck ridges. She must have realised that and she moved away, inviting him to take a closer look. He did so.
“Did you send it to the decoding team?”
“Not yet. I have just finished entering it into the database. We didn’t share it with the Federation too. There was no need.”
“Interesting solutions,” he commented.
She smiled. To Ya’val’s surprise it wasn’t a smug smile, it was a smile of someone who was praised and appreciated that. She must have realised the same thing as the smile disappeared rapidly and her face returned to its cold, indifferent expression.
She was pretty, Ya’val judged. In spite of those ridges on her nose, she was pretty. The blue colouring on her chanth
and neck ridge scales were covered by some kind of grey make up, but the colour could be still seen through the thick layer of powder. The engineer thought that she must hate her own face and her own body for looking so Cardassian.
“What you’re staring at,” she barked at him.
“Nothing,” he tried to sound innocently.
“Don’t you get any thoughts, I can call security and they’d shoot you in an instant if you tried.”
Ya’val tried not to get angry, for he knew she wasn’t to be totally blamed for what she thought, but his pulse rushed anyway. And what do you think I’d do
, he swallowed the words without saying them. He returned his eyes to the monitor. “The decoding team works in the science lab. Can you send it to them?” he asked.
“I can,” she replied but didn’t move.
He sighed and moved away from the console. She approached it only when he was a few meters away.
We’re not all like this, you know
, he wanted to tell her, but she wouldn’t believe his words, would she? “How come do you know this Bajoran code?” he asked. “You’re too young to be a ter-- In the resistance.” Damn
“My mother showed it to me once, when she was telling me about her brother.” She answered. “He was a hero,” she added in a strong voice, emphasising the last word.
“She showed it to you once
“Yeah, once. So what?”
He only smiled, but she obviously understood what he meant as she growled and wrinkled her already wrinkled nose.
“Do you have to stay here? Don’t you have anything else to do?” she asked him, her tone of voice was clearly hostile.
“I’ll return to Fong,” he said, jabbing his thumb over his shoulder to the general direction of the door.
“You do that.”
“Bye,” he said in a light tone and left the engineering. Charming
, he thought.