Here's the "soundtrack" that fitted my mood when writing this chapter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kd18d...eature=related
The Obsidian Order vessel
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
30th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
“Does everyone know what their tasks are?” Gul Brenok asked. He looked around; the engineering and the medical teams confirmed. “Remember not to interfere with others’ work,” he added. “The timing is crucial. Please take your positions.”
Jeto went to a chair by a console she was assigned to. The console controlled the table and most of programming, responsible for the Cardassian-computer connection. Ya’val sat next to her; too close for her taste but she didn’t have any influence on that—he had to man another section of the same console. She could feel his armour rubbing against her shoulder from time to time. She glanced at him but he appeared genuinely unaware of that fact. It seemed that the armour was thick enough for him not to feel such a faint sensation of touch.
She checked the readings and it seemed like the Cardassian, Bantal, was in a good shape...in a way.
She displayed schematics of connections on the screen and left them open to monitor the progress. Bantal had already disconnected himself from engineering systems and helm control software. She glanced at the man on the table. Just like Saratt on the bridge, he had been covered by a kind of tent to keep him warm. She observed three doctors that were disconnecting feeding tubes from his body. Taret asked Bantal if he felt any pain; the patient blinked twice. Jeto knew there were some wires in his spinal cord and knew it would take hours to safely disconnect him from them. Her job was to shut down the table’s functions, one by one. Bantal had given her access to a file in which the correct order of the procedure was described. She called that file now and also left it open on the screen. Luckily, uploading translation software to the ship’s computer and having all files she needed translated wasn’t a problem and it had been done a few hours earlier.
No! Ya’val put his arm behind her...on the chair behind her! She couldn’t believe he would use such a moment to impose his advances on her... He leaned forward and she felt the protruding front of his armour on her upper arm. She was just about to jerk away with her chair when he started to speak.
“Bantal,” he said quietly. “I know you can hear me...I just wanted...” he didn’t finish. Jeto could clearly see Bantal blinking once and was sure that Ya’val, from his position and face so close to hers, could see that too. “I wanted to apologise for threatening you like that before. I’m sorry.” Bantal blinked once. “I promise you a hot cup of steaming, home-made fish juice when it’s all over.” Bantal’s face relaxed.
Ya’val returned to his position. “Sorry about that pushing,” he muttered to her and she felt shamed of her assumptions. Ya’val didn’t want to touch her in an indecent way, he wanted to be able to see Bantal’s face and from his chair he couldn’t. Whatever he apologised for, it seemed very important to him.
An apologising Cardassian. That wasn’t something she thought she’d ever see.
“Bantal,” Zabar stood next to the patient, “We will now start severing the connections. We don’t know how much damage had been done to your nerves, so we will cut the wires.”
“Glinn Zamarran will inform you about each wire to be severed,” Brenok said. “You will then disconnect that link and the wire would be cut off. One by one.”
“After we finish the whole procedure,” Taret said, “We will anaesthetise you and take you to the Damar
where we will remove all wires and mechanical components. That would require some minor amputations; we don’t want to leave any damaged nerves to cause you problems later.”
Bantal blinked once.
“We will start from toes, then proceed to fingers, next would be your spinal cord, neck ridges and finally your brain,” Zabar explained. “If you feel pain at any stage of the process, start blinking. Nurse Malek’s sole task is to observe your face, so we would know immediately we need to address that issue.”
“Are you ready?” she asked.
“Is everyone?” Brenok looked around. “Proceed,” he nodded.
Zamarran raised the tail of the tent to expose Bantal’s feet. “Five-blue,” he said and looked at Bantal and then at Jeto. The Bajoran looked at her monitor and checked the status of connection marked as ‘five blue’. It went dark, as it should. She looked at Zamarran and nodded. He looked at Bantal and nodded to him. “Four-red.” The whole procedure repeated.
“Gul Brenok,” Jeto called the Cardassian commander when Zamarran finished with all toes. “I have noticed something interesting.”
Ya’val leaned closer to take a look at her screen. Brenok approached her and leaned over her from the other side. A week ago she would start shouting, having two Cardassians hovering over her like that but not today—right now it didn’t bother her at all.
“Look here,” she pointed to one of smaller access windows on her screen. “It would appear that Bantal disconnects those links not only for himself but for Saratt too.”
“They are either related to the same shutdown procedure, or he does it on purpose,” Ya’val guessed.
Brenok went to Bantal. “Did you choose to shut down connections for both of you?” he asked. One blink. “Do we still need to wake him up?” Two blinks. “Thank you for your help, Bantal,” Brenok smiled.
“Shall we proceed?” Zamarran was ready by Bantal’s hand. Taret stood next to him with his surgical instruments.
They started again.
“This is too easy...” Jeto muttered to herself. Ya’val shot her a glance. “This is the Obsidian Order’s work, right?” she said to him, although her eyes didn’t leave her monitor. “Shouldn’t they have made it difficult? Didn’t they make things difficult?”
Ya’val looked behind her over her head and just then she realised that Brenok was standing there and heard her.
“That’s why I’m monitoring the system,” Ya’val returned his attention to his screen. “I keep scanning and searching for anomalies.”
When they were finished with the fingers, Churmou pulled a kind of shelf from the guts of the table. Zamarran lay on it, with his face up and nodded to her. The Bolian engineer pushed the shelf back into the machine.
“You’re all right there, Zamarran?” Brenok bend down and shouted into the opening.
“I’m fine,” came the glinn’s muffled voice. And “Ouch!” a moment later.
“What is it?” Taret in a split second was on his knees by the opening.
“Nothing, Taret. I just cut my finger. Don’t worry about me. I’m ready to start.”
The shelf had been installed there by the table constructors. Its purpose, most likely, was to give access to spinal cord connections, to attach them, disconnect and possibly maintain.
Zamarran started to name connections and Brenok repeated them for Jeto to make sure she understood them correctly. In this case the connections existed only on Bantal’s profile. There was nothing of that sort in Saratt’s ‘technical specification’.
“I hate the fact that it’s an engineer’s job to operate on a man,” Jeto heard Brenok saying to someone. She didn’t turn he head to see whom to talked to, she couldn’t interrupt her work. “People are not machines.”
“Look at it from a bright side,” Captain th’Arshar’s voice said. “He helps Bantal and that’s what counts.”
Brenok only growled.
The spinal procedure took more time than the extremities operation but finally Zamarran was pulled out from the guts of the table.
“Show me your finger,” Taret demanded as soon as Zamarran’s face was visible.
The glinn raised his index finger and moved it so close to the medic’s nose that it almost touched it. “See, it’s not even bleeding any more. Can we proceed?”
Taret grabbed Zamarran’s hand, inspected the cut, sprayed it with something that smelled like a disinfectant and let the glinn’s hand go.
Zamarran stood at the head of the table. He leaned over Bantal. “You good?” he asked. The patient blinked once. “So here we go.”
Jeto could tell that Zamarran was tired. His face wore smudges of dirt from the inside of the table, his hair was a mess, but his eyes were focused and his hands stable. He took the tool, which he had been using to cut the wires, and activated it. He looked at Jeto. “Blue-blue-seven,” he said and his eyes returned to the wire.
The Bajoran looked at her screen and saw that the connection deactivated. She nodded. “Done,” she said, in case Zamarran wasn’t looking at her.
He started to cut the thick wire.
“What a--” She heard Ya’val’s voice next to her. “Something happening!” The pitch of his voice was higher than usually; he started to frantically punch keys on his panel. She glanced at his monitor: there was some kind of program activated.
Brenok was already over Ya’val’s head. “Shut it down! Shut it down!” he yelled before Jeto even knew what the program was doing.
And then she understood. She looked at Zamarran. “Step back, step back!” she shouted to him. “Everyone step back!” She pushed away from the console, making sure she didn’t touch anything.
Ya’val kept entering commands, trying to stop it but she knew it was too late. The process had already started and no matter how fast his fingers worked—there was no way to reverse it.
“Back!” Brenok pulled Ya’val’s arm, but the engineer wrestled himself from the gul’s grasp and kept working. Jeto approached from the other side and grabbed the other arm and together with Brenok she dragged Ya’val away from the console...not a second too soon before it was overtaken by electricity discharges.
She glanced at Bantal, on whose body the blue discharges danced. She closed her eyes and covered her ears with her hands, but the terrible sound was still reaching her brain.
The discharge dissipated a minute later, leaving the fried body on the table. Zamarran punched the edge of the table with his fist, shouting a Cardassian curse that Jeto didn’t know. Doctor Zabar pulled the tent’s fabric over Bantal’s face and covered him. Medic Taret sat on the floor and hid his face in his hands.
Quiet. No one said anything.
One monitor was flashing. There were some Cardassian words on it but Jeto couldn’t read them.
“What does it mean?” she quietly asked Brenok, pointing to the screen.
The gul looked at it and then closed his eyes. “It means,” he looked at her, “‘All at once’.”
Zamarran looked at them and then at the monitor. He stared at the words for a moment and then finished cutting the wires off. After that he left the engineering without a word. Malek and Zabar moved Bantal’s body to a hover-stretcher and left the engineering too, followed by most of other staff.
Jeto looked at Brenok who kept staring at the empty table. She wished she knew what he was thinking. His jaws worked and his eyes were squinted.
“Do you think Nagem knew about it?” th’Arshar asked him.
“I don’t know,” the gul replied quietly. “But I am going to attempt extract the last piece of information from her.”
“I’m not sure I would trust her ‘information’,” th’Arshar said. “Can I assist?”
“No, Captain. You don’t want to witness that.” Brenok’s eyes finally left the table and looked at the Andorian.
Jeto didn’t want to even think about what Brenok meant.
“And what if she doesn’t tell you anything?” th’Arshar asked.
“I don’t care if she tells me something or nothing. I am going to enjoy the process
.” The gul moved toward the exit but stopped before leaving the engineering. “You know what’s the worst thing?” he asked, not turning to face them.
“No,” the Andorian said.
“That no matter how much I’d like to torture her, I know I wouldn’t have guts to actually do it.”
“That’s a good thing, sir,” Jeto said before she realised what she was doing. Th’Arshar looked at her a smiled.
“I don’t feel so good,” Brenok said and resumed his walk, disappearing in the corridor a moment later.
Th’Arshar patted her shoulder and followed the gul. She was just about to leave too when she realised that not everyone has left yet.
He was still sitting on the floor. He pulled his legs close to his chest and leaned his arms on his knees. His forehead rested on the bent arms, his face not visible.
“Medic Taret?” she squatted down next to him and put her hand on his back. “You did all you could.”
He raised his head and looked at her. He didn’t say anything but he didn’t have to. His face was a personification of grief.