Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
12th of September, 2396, Old Earth Calendar
“What do the scans say?” Zamarran asked Fong.
The Chinese lieutenant read from the screen. “Nothing,” he hissed.
Both men’s frustration was rising. Whoever had attacked the Cardassians, he or she knew how to cover his or her tracks. It’s been third hour of their work in the security office and they had very little data to present to their commanders and all that data was useless in regards of catching the murderer.
“How come? There should be something.”
“There should. Look,” Fong pointed to the screen and Zamarran leaned over his shoulder to read. “These files are missing. There were scans of presence in that corridor. Everything was recorded but someone deleted these files.” Fong frowned. “And you know what is the worst thing?” Zamarran shook his head. “They used my
access codes to delete them.”
“How it that
“We have a serious security breach here. Whoever has done it, they are good.”
“Is there any way to know how come your security codes could land in wrong hands?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Did you write them down somewhere?”
“No. They are only deep in the database. The captain knows them. And me.”
“Your first officer?”
“Anyone skilled enough to retrieve them from the database?”
“I don’t know. Maybe Jeto, she’s good. But first of all, we have already excluded her and if someone could retrieve my access codes from the secured database, I don’t think they would bother with deleting the files that way. They would just hack in again and delete them from inside.”
“Maybe they tried to frame you.”
“It didn’t occur to me,” Fong’s frown deepened.
“How about my approach now?” Zamarran asked.
The Cardassian and the human had agreed to work the way Fong preferred: to collect evidence and then built a theory. While Zamarran agreed with that approach, he wanted to start from screening all crewmembers first and that way find some idea of a motive. Fong had argued that it would be building theories based on people’s lives and then attaching some evidence to the existing theories. The human didn’t like that approach. Zamarran had agreed to try Fong’s idea but insisted on switching to his if they wouldn’t get any substantial results after a few hours. A few hours have just passed.
“Fine,” Fong agreed reluctantly. “I’ll work on women, you take men.” Zamarran went to the console Fong had pointed at and sat. “This will take ages,” the human said.
“This crew consists of only forty people, that’s not that many.”
“It’s a lot of you want to check all their profiles.”
“No, if you know what you’re looking for.”
“What do you mean.”
“Just search for phrases like ‘Bajor’, ‘the Dominion War’, ‘Setlik III’, ‘the Border Wars’ and such.”
Fong stared at Zamarran with disbelief. “You gotta be kiddin’ me!”
“No,” Zamarran shook his head with a serious expression. “It’s a place to start. If it doesn’t bring any results, which I doubt would happen, then we can do slow screening, but--” he didn’t finish.
“What?” Fong rose and went to Zamarran’s console. “Oh, shit!”
“Only one hit,” Zamarran nodded, wondering why Fong spoke of excrements. “Do we have anything more on her?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Bajor is a member of the Federation now, so there should be something on her. Check it.”
The human pulled a chair and sat next to Zamarran, reading from the screen. “Who is Gul Jodat?”
“I don’t know, Fong, but I don’t like him,” Zamarran replied with a disgusted face expression. “Zamarran to Brenok.”
“Do you have anything?
” the gul’s voice asked.
“We think so, sir. We have no proof of anything, but one of the Federation officers is married to a Bajoran, who during the occupation had been a comfort woman of Gul Jodat, described in the file as a sadistic brute.”
,” Brenok replied after a short moment.
” spoke th’Arshar through the same comm; he had to stand close to Brenok.
The comm closed.
“Looks like we have our first suspect,” Zamarran said.
“Perhaps. What I don’t understand if why would he attack your officers? Just for being Cardassians?”
“Maybe for him that was enough?”
“I hate this. You have no idea how much I hate this, Zamarran,” Fong looked worried and disgusted at the same time.
“I thought you didn’t like us either.”
“Whatever I feel about you as the people, it doesn’t mean I want to randomly kill you. And I don’t like someone else doing it. Not someone who I consider my friend!”
“But you didn’t know his wife was a Bajoran.”
“No, I didn’t. To think of it, I don’t know much about him at all.”
“If you serve on a ship with only forty people, you get close to them.”
“Perhaps. Now, however, I’d prefer you to be a security officer and investigate a suspect, not a friend.”
“And that I am.”
Zamarran wondered if Fong felt betrayed in a way.
The Obsidian Order vessel
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
28th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
“Did you know his wife was a Bajoran?” Brenok asked th’Arshar.
“But you didn’t share that little detail with us.”
“I didn’t know what she had to suffer during the occupation and I didn’t want you to assume that it was him just because he is married to a person from a planet you used to occupy.”
“You hid a very relevant information, Captain,” Brenok said in a menacing voice. “Now I understand why you defend him with such a passion. It’s not an anonymous murderer to you. You knew his name from the beginning.”
“You assume way too much, Brenok. I didn’t jump into conclusions and I’d rather you don’t jump to them now.”
“But you did order your officer to interrogate him.”
“To exclude him.”
“And what if he’s proven guilty?”
Th’Arshar didn’t answer. He pursed his lips and looked at the medical team.
Taret listened to the woman for a moment and then looked at Brenok. “Sir, she wants to talk to the highest ranking officer here.”
The gul went to the bed and leaned over her, his braid falling forward and hanging along his jaw. She eyed the braid clearly surprised, then glanced at his black-and-silver armour and her eye ridges arched.
“I am Gul Brenok, the Highest Commander of the Cardassian Guard,” he introduced himself. “What is it that you would like to discuss?” he asked. His first instinct was to inquire if she knew where she was but then he thought she knew answers to his questions better than he did.
“You are--” She whispered and silenced. “Is this the time?”
“Time for what?” he replied to her question with his own.
“To start the mission.” She squinted her eyes suspiciously. Obviously she expected someone so high ranking to know. Brenok felt sick at the thought that someone in the Central Command back then had known of this Obsidian Order atrocity. He looked at Taret. “How much of the truth can she take?”
“Tell her everything you want. Her mind is fine, it’s her body that needs the time to wake up. And she clearly thinks only of her mission.”
“It’s going to be a blow,” Brenok warned. Taret only shrugged; he clearly felt more concern for Saratt than for this woman and Brenok wasn’t surprised. The gul looked back at her, while Taret stood nearby with a hypospray ready in case he overestimated her strength. “This is the year of 532. The Obsidian Order doesn’t exist any longer and whatever your mission was, it is irrelevant now. We have woken you up to help to unplug two people who are currently attached to the computer core in a cruel experiment. You will assist us in...” his voice faded when he realised she started to cry.
Taret moved with his hypospray but she waved him away with a weak move of her hand—the hand with the implants.
“No,” she whispered. She closed her eyes and seemed like attempting to compose herself. Then she opened her eyes and looked at Taret. “Give me ten ccs of derozine.”
“What? Do you have any idea what it’s going to do with your liver?”
“I don’t care. Do it. Only this one time. It’ll put me on my feet quickly.”
Taret looked at Brenok who nodded his consent. Malek handed the medic another hypospray and Taret injected the medicine into his patient. She flinched and then took a deep breath.
“Help me up,” she said and Brenok helped her sit on the edge of the bed.
“How do you feel?” Taret asked, scanning her, while she looked around astonished.
“The Federation?” she asked. She glanced at Brenok. “Do we have some peace treaty with them?”
“Not yet,” slipped out from Brenok’s mouth before he realised it wasn’t information he was free to share with anyone. “We work together on this project. Now, is there any way you could help us with our problem?”
She looked at the man on the table. “Is he dead?” she asked.
“No, in a coma. He was attacking everyone and we had to make sure the Federation members of our team were safe.”
“He probably thought you were traitors,” she said.
“We have an encrypted database here, can you decode it?” th’Arshar asked.
She didn’t reply but looked at Brenok instead. He gave her an expectant look, so she answered; she didn’t look at the Andorian but at the gul, though. “I can. Help me up.”
Brenok led her to the nearest console and observed her plugging in into the portal. She pulled a face and he wondered if it was painful. She had her eyes closed but suddenly they snapped open and stared at the gul in horror. He wasn’t sure if talking to her, while she was plugged in, made any sense, so he waited but felt his impatience grow. Her reaction was not what he expected and he didn’t know how to interpret it.
Finally she disconnected. “Done, the database is not open for access.”
“Brenok to Ya’val,” the gul tapped his wristcomm.
“Do you have access to the database now?”
“Yes, we do
,” Ya’val’s response was full of surprise.
“Find everything and anything that could help us with Saratt.”
The Obsidian Order agent sat on a nearby chair. Brenok looked at her coldly and her shocked face didn’t melt his heart even a little. “What’s your name?” he asked.
“I am Medic Nagem. I am a neurologist and was chosen for this project, along with...” she looked back at the other stasis chambers, “them. Our function is to help in communication with Core One and Core Two and to command the ship the same way, although limited, that they do.”
“Who is Core One and who is Core Two?” Brenok couldn’t believe they stripped them even of their names.
“Core One is Saratt, as he is plugged to the main computer and he is the dominating one. Core Two is Bantal. His task was limited to engineering matters; to seek, find and repair damage.”
“And your control?”
“We were supposed to be able to directly plug ourselves with the computer, instead of entering the information and commands the traditional way. The goal was to speed up things.”
“Your experiment failed,” Brenok said coldly.
“I know. I’ve seen,” she lowered her head.
“What have you seen?” th’Arshar asked.
“The ship’s logs. Core One tried to--”
“His name is Saratt!” Brenok growled, startling her.
“Saratt attempted to crash the ship on asteroid several times, or activate self-destruct program, or shut down the core which would kill them both, but each time he was stopped. Bantal,” she said clearly, looking at Brenok, “can override his commands related to ship’s safety matters. I know that Saratt is in pain but Bantal isn’t. Bantal doesn’t suffer.” Her eyes filled with tears. “Saratt was plugged in first and something went wrong.” She stared before her as if looking into the past. “He screamed before the paratox took over...” Brenok glanced at Taret who mouthed ‘Medicine’. “After that he could only cry but they told him that it has to stay that way. They told him he should do it for Cardassia, that it was his sacrifice and that his sacrifice wouldn’t be forgotten. But he only cried. They didn’t make the same mistake with Bantal, so this part of the project was successful.” Brenok’s hands clenched into fists. “Then it was our turn and after seeing what they’d done to Co...Saratt, I was afraid that our part would be botched too.”
“Can they be unattached,” the gul asked.
“In theory, yes. In practice...I don’t know.”
“You will assist Medic Taret and Doctor O’Riordan in the rescue operation,” Brenok said, his tone of voice harsh. “If we catch you on sabotage, you will be executed on the spot. After that you will face charges, just as every Obsidian Order agent
,” he emphasised. “Is that clear?”
“I am not an agent.”
“From where I’m standing, you are.”
“Do you have any idea what they would do to my family if I refused?”
Brenok didn’t reply. Maybe she was a victim too, but somehow he couldn’t find any compassion in his heart for her.
“You will stay here and help the medical team. You will prepare a plan for disconnecting Bantal. Is that clear?”
“Good.” He looked at Taret, “Notify Ya’val to join you in the engineering. I assume he can access the database also from here,” he glanced at Nagem who nodded. “I’ll send Kapoor to her husband, I don’t think she would be much of use for you anyway.”
“I agree,” the medic replied.
Brenok looked at th’Arshar. “Do you want to stay here and observe?”
“I’ll be aboard the Damar
.” And with that Brenok left the engineering.
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
12th of September, 2396, Old Earth Calendar
Kapoor’s heart started to beat fast when her eyes saw the blue-grey colour of her husband’s eyes. He opened them slowly and first looked around confused, but then a sudden recollection of last events hit him and his eye ridges filled with tears.
“I’m here, honey, it’s ok, it’s ok,” she gently stroked his cheek, making sure she didn’t rub the big ear scales the wrong way.
“Sa...” he started but his voice sounded rough. “Sabal,” he tried again whispering.
Taret had warned Kapoor not to bring the bad news so early, although had also told her it would be possible that Karama would remember all details of the attack.
Karama’s crying intensified.
“It’s ok, honey,” she tried to calm him down.
“No, not ok. He...he saved me. He shielded me with his body... He saved me,” he kept repeating.
“Shhh...shhh...shhhh...” She had no idea how to sooth his pain.
“I would forgive him. I just needed time but I would,” he assured her in a weak voice, swallowing his tears.
“I know, honey, I know. He knew too...” And she believed that. She hoped he would too...