The Obsidian Order vessel
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
30th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
Brenok sent all medical staff, except for Malek, out of the engineering. Only he, Zamarran and two guards by the door—and Malek—were present.
“Wake him up,” the gul told the nurse.
“It may take a few minutes, sir.”
Malek injected something into Bantal’s bloodstream but nothing seemed to happen. Brenok patiently waited. He could feel Zamarran standing behind him and somehow felt comforted by his aide’s presence. He also noticed that the guards raised their weapons and tensed. They were ready for whatever might come.
It took longer than a few minutes but Brenok didn’t rush Malek. He knew that Bantal was in weak condition and forcing chemicals into his fragile body could have tragic consequences.
Finally, the man opened his eyes. First he looked around and then noticed Brenok’s face. He squinted at the gul and stared at him intently. A moment later his eyes moved to Zamarran’s face.
“Bantal,” Brenok said quietly and the man’s attention immediately shifted back to him. “My name is Gul Brenok and I have some information to share with you. About your condition and what is going on, but most importantly—about your family, your daughter.” Bantal’s eyes opened wider and he stared intently at the gul. Brenok feared the man didn’t believe him. “I know that she had been tricked by an Obsidian Order agent. I know he had married her and then used that to blackmail you to make you do what they wanted. To do this,” he waved around the engineering. “I know they had told you they would change her life into hell if you wouldn’t follow their orders.” Bantal started to breathe fast and Malek took a medical scanner to monitor his patient’s condition. “Bantal,” Brenok leaned closer, “this was twenty-five years ago. That agent, who had married her, was killed. She never learnt what kind of bastard he was and he never harmed her. She got married again. You have a grandson.” Brenok didn’t want to tell Bantal that his daughter didn’t survive the war, not now. He wanted to concentrate on something positive. “He is twenty-three and I am sure he would love to know his grandfather.” Especially since he didn’t have many living relatives left. Bantal closed his eyes. Brenok hoped it was a sign of the feeling of relief. “We plan to unplug you from this thing,” he said. “But we need your help.” Bantal opened his eyes and looked at Brenok. He frowned and looked around. “Bantal, we managed to communicate with Saratt in a limited way. He was displaying words on a monitor. Maybe you can do the same? For ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers you can blink, once for ‘yes’, twice for ‘no’.”
Appeared on a monitor behind Bantal.
“No, I don’t lie. This is not a trick, your mission, whatever it was, is over.”
Brenok swallowed his saliva. That seemed sufficient for Bantal, as he gasped quietly.
“I’m so sorry,” Brenok whispered.
“He is fine. He lives with your sister’s daughter’s family. His name is Elok.”
“No, I am not, Bantal,” Brenok said calmly. “I know you had seen Federation officers here but this is a long story. One I hope to be able to tell you later.”
One blink. And then on the monitor: Saratt?
“He is in bad condition. He’s in pain, that’s why he tried to destroy the ship.”
Not know. Think traitor.
“Can’t you communicate with him directly?” Two blinks. “Can you communicate with him at all?”
“They probably didn’t want them to conspire against the living crew,” Zamarran suggested.
Bantal only looked at him, not confirming. Brenok guessed that he didn’t know it himself.
“Do you know how to unplug you safely?” the gul asked.
Another monitor activated and filled with a lot of text. Zamarran went to it to read. “It’s a detailed info on unplugging procedure,” he said.
“Anything new?” Brenok asked.
“Not really. It’s another file but I don’t see any new information here. But it confirms that some systems have to be shut down by--” Zamarran frowned and growled, “by Bantal and Saratt to make it safe for both the people and the computer.” Brenok sent him an asking look and Zamarran pointed to one of horizontal lines of the text. It read ‘Core 1’ and ‘Core 2’ and the glinn had refused to use those words.
“Thank you,” Brenok said to Bantal. “Will you help us?” he asked.
“I’m sorry I have to ask this but...will you attack the Federation people?”
You no traitor?
Brenok smiled. “No, I’m not a traitor. I am the highest commander of the Guard, actually.”
Bantal glanced curiously at his braid and his left eye ridge slightly twitched. Brenok had no idea he could do that. Saratt’s face expressions were more limited.
“The Federation people are here to help too,” the gul added.
“No, Bantal, we want to save you. I wouldn’t allow them to harm you.” After a short moment he added, whispering, “Trust me.”
A hum sounded in the engineering. Brenok gave Zamarran an asking look.
“He shuts down non-essential systems,” the glinn explained.
“Ya’val to Gul Brenok
,” the gul’s wristcomm activated. “We have detected a drop in power. Is everything all right there, sir?
“Yes, Ya’val. Everything is under control. Brenok out.”
Brenok could hear Malek asking Bantal for permission to examine him. The man on the table agreed.
“Bantal, can you establish a link with another ship?”
Two blinks. And then Tell
on the monitor. The gul was just about to ask what he should tell, when the word was replaced with Daughter
. At first Brenok wanted to say that there was no time but it would be a lie and he didn’t want to lie. In addition it occurred to him that Bantal might not survive the procedure but he still deserved to know. Therefore the young gul leaned against the table and started to relay all post-2371 information on Bantal’s daughter and her family that he had found in the database of the Bureau of Identification. There wasn’t much but he could assure Bantal that his ‘little girl’ had a happy life...at least until the Jem’Hadar took it away. The parallel to his own daughter was so clear that he couldn’t hide his own emotions. Maybe that would convince Bantal that he wasn’t making this up, that it all was the truth.
Brenok understood Bantal’s earlier aggressive behaviour. They had used his love for his only child to make him agree to this experiment. They had convinced him that if he didn’t act as they wanted, the Obsidian Order agent that had married her would cause unimaginable suffering and Bantal knew from his own experience what the Obsidian Order was capable of. Brenok knew how it was to care for one’s daughter and if faced with the same choice he was certain he wouldn’t hesitate to agree to be put on this table and attached to the computer. He would kill every ‘traitor’ in sight and follow any suicidal mission for his little girl’s safety. He would sacrifice every last scale on his body to make sure her scales remained untouched by monsters in Cardassian disguise.
At first Bantal had hard time to believe that so much time has passed. After talking to Saratt Brenok knew the painter wasn’t aware of passage of time as a person normally would. Bantal seemed to be the same case. Did they enter some kind of long term stasis from time to time? Did their minds, locked in some sort of virtual reality inside the computer, perceive the time differently?
Maybe it was better that way. Easier for them. Saved them from going insane from being immobilised for twenty-five years. Alone... Abandoned...
“Sir,” Zamarran said softly, using the opportunity that Bantal was asking a question on the monitor and Brenok stopped speaking for a moment. “I’ll be with Karama.”
Brenok nodded and the glinn left the engineering. He passed by Doctor Zabar on the way. She came to examine her patient and welcomed him with a warm, although sad smile.
Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
30th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
“How do you feel?” Zamarran asked Karama, pulling a chair and sitting next to his biobed.
The infirmary was almost empty, as most of the staff was on the Obsidian Order ship, but there still were two nurses present.
“Like a stabbed man,” the communication officer replied. “And useless.”
“You have solved the problem with the database. That helped us a lot.”
“So the database used the same letter shifting system?”
They both fell silent. Zamarran didn’t mind; he didn’t come here to talk, he came to be with his friend. Busy with the case he had not time to dwell on what had happened to Karama but last night he had problems with falling asleep and his thoughts had been circling the murder and Ha’varra’s insanity. Zamarran was sure the Federation counselor was crazy, he saw no other explanation.
“We were returning back to the Damar
,” Karama said quietly. “He was so quiet. I think he felt badly about his friend on that ship there.” He silenced. “I was unfair, wasn’t I?” he asked suddenly.
Zamarran had no problems with understanding what Karama talked about. “You were hurt.”
“He saved me. He used some uncanny trick to protect me from the first blow but that Efrosian was fast and turned against Sabal. And Sabal managed to fend off another attack. I don’t know how he did it. But that Efrosian was fast, really fast and before I knew I felt pain under my armour. And Sabal rammed him and he got stabbed too. And then we heard someone coming. I don’t know what happened next.” He silenced again. “He saved my life. He risked his to save mine. And lost his...” he sighed. “I was so unfair.”
“You were angry. You would get over it.”
“I hope so. I think I would. He didn’t mean wrong. He was still the same Sabal; I just learnt something new about him but it didn’t change who he was, did it?” Zamarran shook his head. “You know why I’m angry?” Another shake of the head. “That he was murdered for crimes of my father. That bastard had hurt a lot of people and now he lives a comfortable life on Cardassia and people still get hurt and die because of him. I hate him, you have no idea how much I hate him.”
Zamarran had an idea. He knew Karama and his older brother lived together after moving out from their family house. They had begged their mother to go with them but she had chosen to stay with her husband and now both brothers waited for the old man to die to take their mother to their home.
“Zamarran...” Karama looked his friend in the eye. “Promise me something.”
“If I die, if something happens to me, take care of Amrita.”
“Nothing is going to happen to you.”
“You can’t know that. Promise me.”
“I promise,” Zamarran said. He knew Kapoor could stay with the other Karama brother, who had accepted her and got used to having a human family member, but he also knew that his friend needed this assurance.
They both looked at Kapoor who was sleeping on a biobed next to Karama’s.
“She cried a lot,” the communication officer said. “She denied it when I asked but I know. I think this is hard for her. The Feds are not very friendly and now one of them tried to kill me. It is hard for her.”
“She’s strong. She’s going to be fine. And so are you.”
Karama smiled sadly. “Until next time.”
Silence. Long minutes of silence. Comfortable silence. Silence of friendship.