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Old December 15 2010, 04:18 PM   #189
Gul Re'jal
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Location: Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space station
Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Chapter 19



Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
29th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar




“How did she get there?” Doctor Zabar asked. She, Gul Brenok, Glinn Zamarran and Medic Taret were in the gul’s office, updating the doctor with new information.

“I assume it was some kind of emergency protocol. She activated it and was automatically beamed to the Obsidian Order vessel,” Brenok explained. “The guards, who had been posted to observe her, didn’t have time to react. She just de-materialised.”

“And why weren’t there any guards on that ship? Shouldn’t it be some kind of standard procedure or something?” she looked at Brenok and smiled to make sure he didn’t take it as an attack on his competency but as a simple question.

“I asked Gul Brenok not to send troops,” Taret replied. “I didn’t want them to get in the way of my medical team.”

“Yes, they have an incredible ability of doing that, don’t they?” she joked but didn’t smile this time; the situation was too serious to smile. “And you are sure her name is Nagem?” she asked the gul.

“That’s what she’s told us and her DNA confirmed that.”

Zabar shook her head with disbelief. “I would like to see her to make sure, but if it is who I think it is...” Her sentence hung in the air unfinished.

“Yes, Doctor?” Brenok encouraged her to continue.

“There was a member in my team. She joined before I received that ‘assignment’ from the Obsidian Order, but left shortly after I sent my report. Always eager to learn, always asking questions. I regretted her decision to leave. Now...”

“Now you think she had been sent to you to learn from you and use it here. Or to spy on you.”

Zabar only nodded. Brenok entered a command into his computer and Nagem’s image displayed on his oval monitor. “Is it her?” Zabar nodded again. “Let’s hope her work was a copycat style. That would mean you’d know more about it than anyone else.”

“I would like to examine those men first and then decide what should be the next step.”

“Doctor Zabar, you’re the specialist, you know what to do better than I.”

“But you’re the gul,” she smiled. “You’re the same age as my grandchildren—or maybe even younger than them!—but you still can order me around.”

“I wouldn’t dare,” he flashed his teeth in an amused smile.

“I hope so,” she laughed. “Now, can you get Saratt and Bantal’s medical histories? The real thing, uncensored.”

“I already have them here,” the gul handed her a padd. “Medic Taret had asked me to get them.”

“Good thinking. Was the decrypted database useful?” she addressed the question to Taret.

“There’s a lot of information there, but in regard of disconnecting these men...” he shook his head. “There is something, it’s a copy of the procedure from your report and there is a footnote attached that that procedure is only theoretical and its success cannot be guaranteed. In other words: if you need to unplug them, kill them and disassemble their connections to the computer.”

“Charming,” Zabar muttered.

“Doctor, is there any chance we can help them?” Breanok leaned to her and looked her in the eyes.

“I don’t know, my young Gul, but I sincerely hope so.” She thought for a while. “There’s one thing...If you don’t mind, I’d like an engineer in the medical team. This is as technical matter as medical.”

“I’ll give you two. Ya’val and Kapoor.”

“Maybe someone from the Karamazov,” Taret proposed quietly. “With knowledge about Borg implants.”

“Good idea,” Brenok agreed. “I’ll talk to th’Arshar.”

“Borg,” Zabar sighed and rolled her eyes. “Now, if there is nothing else, I’d like to start the work.”

“By all means.”

She rose and Taret followed her example. She politely nodded to Brenok, then to Zamarran and finally headed for the door.

“It sends shivers down my spine,” she said to Taret after they’d left the bridge and were on the corridor on their way to a lift, “to think that that woman spied on me all that time.”

“I try not to think how many times someone watched my hands closely.”

“Oh, how I envy those young people, those children who don’t remember the dread the Obsidian Order meant. Their lives are so...” she couldn’t find a right word.

“Worry-free?” Taret suggested.

“Yes. Lucky them,” she grinned. “Now, let’s take care of the unlucky ones. What is their status?”

“I left most of everything untouched. I have lowered Paratox dosage a bit for both, but I don’t want to completely cut it off. I know very little about it. That database of theirs...” He shook his head with resignation. “It contains information useful for this project only. And since they didn’t plan to remove those men alive, there is no information on effects of withdrawing Paratox.”

“Another database? Or they decided to commit everything to their memory not to risk any leaks?” she asked as she stopped in front of a lift door.

Taret pressed a wallcomm to call the lift. “I think both. I’m sure there is full information on everything somewhere, but it would appear that they didn’t think it has to be available on the ship itself.”

“So you reduced the dosage. I assume you fear they are addicted to it.”

“That is a high possibility. Another thing is that if their ability to move returns quickly and they start to move...I’m not sure their weak bones and muscles would be able to take it. Their condition is really bad. Frankly, I have no idea how it’s possible they aren’t dead yet.”

“How about feeding them?”

“I’ve prepared a special mixture to cover their basic needs. I tried not to make it too nutritious. The shock could kill them.”

“Fragile beings,” she whispered softly.

The lift arrived so they entered and Taret gave the car a command to take them to the infirmary.

“Belay that,” Zabar said. “Transporter chamber.” She looked at Taret. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all, Doctor. Actually, to think of it, I should have known,” he smiled.

“After they wake up, I’m sure at least Saratt is going to be in pain. His nerves are probably fried by this thing. How do you propose to help him?”

“I have prepared Aratal and calculated a dosage for him.”

“Aratal?”

“Seems the best available option.”

“What about side effects?”

“I promised him that he wouldn’t feel pain. I don’t intend to break that promise.”

The lift stopped and they headed for the transporter chamber.

“I understand.”

“I must warn you, Doctor. I don’t think you have seen anything like this in your whole career.”

She didn’t say anything.



The Obsidian Order vessel
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
29th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar




Zabar entered the bridge trying to walk quietly. She knew the patient was in a coma but she still felt a due respect to him, as a patient, should be paid. She saw a small team of medics was present, both Cardassian and Federation physicians. A woman with orange hair looked at her and frowned.

“This is Doctor O’Riordan,” Taret introduced the woman to Zabar. “Doctor, this is Doctor Zabar, the best neurologist on Cardassia.”

Zabar nodded politely and then went to the table with Saratt.

She remembered Taret’s warning and there were things she expected to see but this still went beyond her imagination. She almost felt physical pain seeing his flaking scales. His exposed brain was beautiful—as every other brain she had seen—but it was marred by a terrible crown of spikes that pierced it. His face was sunken, fragile. She raised her head and closed it to his cheek as if to stroke it but she didn’t touch him. She knew she couldn’t.

“You’re a pretty boy, my dear,” she said quietly.

Then she put her bag on the floor and took a medical scanner from it.

“I will check the other one,” Taret told her. She nodded and he left the bridge.



Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
30th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar




Glinn Zamarran entered the Wardroom and quietly went to his seat. He wasn’t technically late, he had told Brenok that he had been going to Karama and would stay as long as the communication officer needed, but he still felt his late appearance was insulting to the gathered officers.

No one seemed to pay attention, though. The gul acknowledged his aide’s presence with a small nod and then returned his attention to Av’Roo, who was in the middle of her presentation. One glance at the main monitor was enough to know she talked about Borg technology.

Doctor Zabar was making notes on her padd and Taret was intently looking at the Skorr. After a few moments Zamarran understood that Av’Roo was presenting an engineering point of view on their problem, including a Borg aspect of the experiment. She finished her lecture and Doctor O’Riordan took her place, telling everyone about medical procedures related to Borg drones.

“If it is as close to Borg technology as you say, would it be necessary to wake them up for the procedure?” Taret asked after O’Riordan finished and sat down.

“No, not necessary, although helpful. Whole procedure could be controlled also by being able to communicate with the assimilated person.”

“In this case, however, it might be necessary,” Ya’val said. “This is not exactly Borg there. I have read relevant information regarding those connections and it appears that they have to disengage some functions before they could be removed. A shut down, sort of. Otherwise the ship’s system would fall into chaos and their minds probably too.”

“In other words,” Brenok said, “we have not only to unplug them physically, but also their ‘programming’. Is that correct?”

“Yes, sir. They have to shut down the software that is responsible for the link to break the connection.”

“And how will we do that?” th’Arshar asked. “I mean, this man in the engineering had attacked the away team and can do it again.”

“I will talk to him,” Brenok said.

“Do you think he’s going to listen to reason?” Ronus sounded doubtful.

“I don’t know but we won’t know if we don’t try. I have already gathered information who this man is and I hope it would help me reach him.”

The Trill nodded, accepting Brenok’s answer. Then he looked at Zabar and Taret. “What are their chances of survival?”

“Hard to tell at this point,” Zabar said. “We try to prepare for any possibility but this is not something we can foresee.”

“Was that woman, Nagem, helpful?”

“After her arrest she had designed a procedure to unplug Bantal,” Taret said. “Doctor Zabar and I have studied it and it appears to be a fantastic piece of work but we are reluctant to apply it. We don’t trust Nagem.”

“Why would she do that?” Farr asked. “I mean, why would she design it now?”

“She wants a lower sentence,” Brenok explained.

“Ah,” the Caitian wasn’t impressed.

“And that’s one of reasons why we don’t trust her,” Taret said.

Ronus nodded his understanding. He wouldn’t trust her either. “Do you have your own theory?”

“We do,” Zabar confirmed. “It contains a lot from Nagem’s suggestion but we’re going to try a different approach.”

“How about that ship’s databases?” Brenok looked at Ya’val. “You had told me some of them seem to be coded.”

“Yes,” Ya’val confirmed. “We have withdrawn all our databases from the Karamazov and made sure no malicious codes were left behind to infect their ship. With Nagem’s codes we managed to access all of the databases but...we can’t read them. It appears to be a kind of Cardassian script but it’s...” Ya’val shrugged, “rubbish.”

“I might actually have an answer to that,” Zamarran said. All eyes turned to him. He glanced at Brenok for permission and, after being granted one, he continued. “Glinn Karama’s condition improved to a point where he needs to do something, so he made himself busy with that writing on the Obsidian Order ship’s hull. And he discovered an interesting thing. This is Cardassian. The characters’ top halves were moved and replaced by preceding characters’ tops.”

“I don’t understand,” O’Riordan said.

“Take a word. My name, for example. It consists of seven characters. The first one is Z. The second is A. Top of Z was moved and is now the top of A. The top of A is now on M. And so on. The last letter’s top is now above the first letter’s bottom.”

“So to read the word we need to move those tops back.”

“Correct.”

Zamarran almost burst into laughter seeing faces of all gathered. All Cardassians, without exceptions, drew the word mentally in their minds to decipher it, concentration clear on their faces and in their eyes, while the Federation people stared at them, wondering why no Cardassian said anything about the revelation. Zamarran could also observe the speed with which every Cardassian solved the puzzle and astonishment on their faces.

“This is the ship’s name?” Ma’Kan asked quietly.

“I would say so,” Zamarran confirmed.

“What does that word mean?” th’Arshar looked at Brenok.

The gul didn’t reply at first. Zamarran thought that he was lost in thoughts but a slight movement of Brenok’s jaw told him that the gul tried to control his anger.

“It’s two words, actually,” the glinn looked at the captain with intention to answer, “It means ‘Lakarian Painter’.”

“They named that terrible experiment the Lakarian Painter?” Farr clearly didn’t understand.

“Saratt, the man plugged to the main computer core, is a painter from Lakarian City,” Ma’Kan quietly explained.

“That’s sick,” O’Riordan muttered.

“You think that the databases were scrambled the same way?” Ya’val asked Zamarran.

“It’s worth to check.”

The engineer nodded his agreement.

“What are the chances for normal lives for them?” Brenok asked quietly. He didn’t look at anyone specifically but it was obvious the question was directed to medical officers.

Taret looked at Zabar. “There is no possibility for them to return to full health.” Zabar looked up from her padd. “The damage to their bodies is too extensive. They wouldn’t walk, their motor functions might be limited. Their rehabilitation would take years. Apart from irreversible changes to their skin—in some places scales have been removed and scaring is too deep for the scales to grow back, especially on the edges of their neck ridges,” it didn’t escape Zamarran’s attention that Brenok shivered. “We have also decided to amputate ends of their fingers. The nerve damage is most likely severe and impossible to cure so it’s better to remove those nerves completely and then replace missing parts with prosthetics. The same goes for toes.”

“Isn’t it a bit too brutal?” O’Riordan asked.

“I think it would be brutal to leave them with damaged nerves, in pain,” Taret emphasised last two words.

“And I agree with this assessment,” Zabar said, then continued. “We will have to cover their brains as soon as possible.”

“If I may,” Av’Roo raised her hand. Zabar nodded, so the Skorr said. “I would have an idea for material to do that. It is something typical for Skorr medical purposes, namely our beaks, but I think it could be worth considering for covering their skulls.”

“I would be very interested in seeing specifications of this material,” Zabar said.

Av’Roo nodded. “I’ll send it to you as soon as I’m back on our ship.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

“How about their neck ridges?” Brenok asked.

“I cannot tell what kind of state their nerves would be after disconnecting from the machine, but if there would be nerve damage that would cause suffering, we’d also remove those nerves. Limited arm mobility might be preferable over constant suffering,” Taret explained. “We might also consider transplanting new scales but it would be purely cosmetic. Their skin should heal and the edges should be covered by thick scars that would protect their ridges sufficiently.”

Brenok rubbed his own thick scar on his neck ridge. Somehow a body knew that this was a place which needed a thick, protective cover.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Sodek say that Saratt knows how to unplug him?” Fong asked.

“He did,” Av’Roo confirmed.

“So why don’t we wake him up and ask?”

“For two reasons, Lieutenant,” Taret said. “First, this information is most likely in one of databases and we can get it without waking him up and adding to his suffering. Second, his communication ability is limited. How would he tell us?”

“Right, I didn’t think about that,” Fong admitted. “Can’t Sodek mind-meld again?”

“Saratt refused that option,” Brenok said. “We won’t go against his wishes.”

“Why? It’s for his own good.”

“Because he had been treated like an object for too long and by too many,” th’Arshar said. “We will do what he wants.”

“Yes, sir.”

Th’Arshar looked at Brenok. “You said you wanted to talk to Bantal. Isn’t that dangerous? He could kill you.”

“Bantal is in vulnerable position, he can be killed before he’d manage to kill us,” Ya’val said.

“I think I know why he is here,” Brenok said. “And I think I know what to say to draw his attention and make him listen. To be on the safe side, there would be no Federation personnel present on the Obsidian Order ship at that time, only Cardassians. And not too many,” he added, looking at Taret.

“I have a question,” O’Riordan raised her hand. “Can’t we beam them out? Maybe that would be a better option than severing their fingers and toes?”

“Even if I thought it was a good idea—and I don’t—there is a dampening field around them,” Taret said.

“We couldn’t detect any life signs,” Fong recalled.

“Exactly,” Ya’val nodded. “Both men and the stasis chambers are surrounded by specific dampening fields that block their life signs and make it impossible to beam them out.”

“I’d say it’s a security precaution,” Ma’Kan added. “You don’t want your main computer core to be suddenly beamed out by an enemy if you happen to be in battle and without shields.”

“Right,” Fong agreed.
__________________
In a Cardassian library or in a Cardassian gallery?

"Reagan, it appears, is really only an ardent unionist if the unions in question are in Poland" - Stephen King, Skeleton Crew
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