Glinn Lorrun observed his display with such an intensity that even Gul Toral took notice of it.
“What is it?” he asked, approaching his tactician.
Lorrun shook his head. “I am not sure, sir. I get some strange readings but I can’t make any sense of them.”
The gul looked at his engineer. “Nevir? Can you take a look at it?”
The glinn entered a few commands to display the same data that Lorrun studied and leaned over his console. He frowned and Lorrun knew it wasn’t his incompetence; the readings indeed made no sense.
“Nothing? No theories, not ideas, nothing?” Toral looked from one glinn to another.
Nevir opened his mouth but then shut it and looked at Lorrun. It was Lorrun’s job to interpret these things and the tactician appreciated that the engineer wanted to give him a chance to speak first. Otherwise it would look like Lorrun was incompetent and Nevir had to work for both of them.
Lorrun started. “What we have here is energy readings from different points on the planet. All are located on the bigger continent and all seem to be in places that should have none or faint energy readings.”
“Why?” Toral inquired.
“Because these places are not industrialised in any way. They are forests, deserts and such. No people, no buildings, no infrastructure. Nature only.”
“Is there any possibility that those energy readings are natural in nature?” Toral asked and grinned at his own wording of the question.
“I wouldn’t say so, sir.” Lorrun glanced at Nevir.
“No, sir, I’ve never seen anything like this as a result of a natural phenomenon.” Nevir shook his head, confirming Lorrun’s assessment.
“There is one more thing, gul,” the tactician continued. “This is not based on any specific data but...” He hesitated but Toral gave him an encouraging nod, so he continued, “Based on my own experience and instinct, this looks awfully like weapon energy. Now, I don’t say this is in any way connected with some kind of armoury, but I’ve seen things like this. Each time it had been a power build-up to launch a probe or a missile.”
“So it makes sense after all,” Toral smiled slightly.
“Well, it would if those readings were coming from some kind of infrastructure, but there’s nothing there.” Lorrun shrugged.
“Nevir? Anything to add?” The gul looked to his engineer and Lorrun hoped Nevir wouldn’t just dismiss all he had said with an ingenious theory.
“There could be an explanation why there is no infrastructure, sir.” Nevir shifted in his chair. “It could be concealed. Either underground or by some sort of dampening field.”
“In other words, it wouldn’t be wise to ignore that,” Toral said.
Both glinns nodded.
“We could ask Krause,” Korel suggested, approaching them.
Lorrun thought that it would be a tactical mistake. If the colonists were in any way involved with this, warning them that they had detected their energy readings would have unforeseen consequences. He looked at the gul who seemed to consider that option.
“No,” he decided after a moment, to Lorrun’s relief. “If they plan something, it’s better if they think we have no idea about it. Agreed?” Toral looked at his tactician.
“Yes, sir, absolutely, sir,” Lorrun confirmed with alacrity.
“Shouldn’t we inform Demok of it?” Korel asked.
“We should but how?” Toral looked at him. “I am sure there is no possibility to talk to him without the colonists eavesdropping. I am also sure, as a civilian, he wouldn’t know the ‘flash code.’ We can’t talk to him.”
“Maybe it’s worth to ask? His a soldier’s son, after all. Maybe the legate had taught him the code,” Korel suggested.
“Asking him directly would also notify the colonists that we don’t want them to know what we talk about, that we have secrets. You’ve seen Krause’s attitude. I have no doubts he’d take Demok and Boreep hostage and even kill them to get what he wants. This man has no conscience.” Toral silenced. “But you didn’t say we have to ask him directly, did you?” He smiled and so did Korel. “Yamuc, get me Demok.” Toral looked around. “Who’s most versed in the ‘flash code?’” he asked.
The ‘flash code’ was an old way of voiceless communication. Each word was represented by a number of longer and shorter signals that could be flashes of light, or sounds of a drum, or any other way that would allow to convey long and short signals.
“I am very good at it,” Lorrun said grinning sheepishly.
“Somehow I knew it would be you.” Toral smiled to him. “Come here.” Lorrun realised that the gul directed him to the command chair. “Sit down. Sit, Lorrun, it won’t bite.” Was his nervousness that obvious? He had never sat in a gul’s chair before! “Now, we hail them and you talk to Demok. Pat the code on the armrest.” Toral said.
“Yes, sir. Won’t the sub-archon be surprised seeing me here?”
“He’s a smart lad, he would immediately realise something’s going on.”
Yamuc turned on the viewscreen and Lorrun saw Demok’s face.
“This is Glinn Lorrun of the Radalar
,” the tactician said hoping his voice didn’t shake. “How is the work progressing on the surface?” he asked and then tapped ‘can you understand?’ on the armrest, trying not to do it too fast.
Demok observed him for a moment, glanced at his hand and then back at his face. “We still don’t have anything useful,
” he said finally. “Could I talk to Medic Albek?
” he asked, surprising Lorrun.
The glinn heard the gul quietly telling someone to get Albek to the bridge, so he said to Demok, “Of course. He’s on his way. We will contact you once he arrives. The Radalar
Yamuc closed the connection and Lorrun let a breath out. He looked at Toral, worried that he didn’t do well, but the gul gazed at him with an amused smile.
“Return to your post, Glinn,” he said and Lorrun, gratefully, went back to his place on the bridge.
A Cardassian entered the bridge and Lorrun couldn’t take his eyes off the newcomer. His hair was...a mess, absolute, endless mess.
“Medic Albek, Sun-Archon Demok wishes to talk to you,” Toral informed the medic. “Yamuc, get him back,” he ordered the communication officer.
And then the strangest thing happened. Demok greeted Albek in some language and they started to talk. A moment later Albek told Yamuc to mute and turned to Toral. “He knows we want to tell him something. Hopefully, they didn’t decode Nokarian yet, so we might communicate this way.”
Nokarian! Lorrun had never heard that language; in fact, he was certain that the language was extinct! No, wait, didn’t Legate Jarol speak it? The last native Nokarian specimen? Wait, didn’t she support and participate in ‘heritage protection’ and ‘save Cardassian cultural diversity’ projects?
“How come didn’t they translate the language?” Lorrun spoke unasked before he realised what he was doing. “I mean...” All eyes turned to him and he silenced.
“Continue.” Toral nodded.
“It shouldn’t be that difficult for a computer to decipher one language, especially if they have access to another language from the same place of origin.”
“We can’t know for sure that they didn’t decipher it yet,” Albek said. “But there is one difficulty for the computer. It would assume we speak the same
language and attempt to find patterns on both our speeches. Right?” he shot a glance at Nevir who nodded. “But we don’t. I speak Western Nokarian and he speaks Eastern Nokarian. We can easily understand each other, but some of vocabulary and grammar patterns are different.”
“Enough to confuse the computer for a bit longer,” Nevir muttered.
“Hopefully,” Albek said.
“If not, this may mean death sentence for our people there,” Toral muttered.
“Gul Toral, until we find the cure, they are dead anyway.” Albek’s face expression was serious and sad.
“Proceed.” The gul said but before Demok’s face reappeared on the main screen, something on Lorrun’s display drew his attention to it.
“To the-gods-who-are-not...” he moaned.
“Lorrun?” Toral was so quickly by the tactical console that the glinn thought the gul beamed over.
“Those were definitely energy build-up readings. They are shooting something. Each missile is two meters long, oblong and appears to be empty inside.”
“Who would bother with concealing launching-pads and launching missiles if they are empty?” Tassar at the help muttered.
“Good ques...” Toral started to speak but then his eyes opened and he looked at Albek. “Do you know what I’m thinking?”
Albek frowned and at first Lorrun thought that the medic was angry with the gul but then he understood that he was angry with the idea. The idea that became clear even to the glinn.
“They launch the missiles filled with infected air?” Lorrun whispered.
“That would be my guess,” Albek confirmed. “They want to get the virus to the atmosphere.”
“But why?” Nevir asked no one in particular.
“To kill us all,” Toral whispered.
Lorrun looked up at the gul, who was still standing by the tactical console, and saw that Toral was shaken and rattled. But the moment didn’t last longer than a few seconds. The gul composed himself and moved to his chair.
“Lorrun, order our troops to launch all Hideki fighters and destroy all those missiles with the virus. How many are there?”
The glinn looked at his display. “Seventeen but I detect another build-up of energy. I think they are not finished.”
“Fine. After all missiles are destroyed, annihilate those launch spots. I want no more of these messengers of death in the atmosphere.”
“They aren’t targeted at the atmosphere, sir,” Lorrun said. “Their trajectory suggests that they are to leave the planet and...go to outer space.”
“To lure an innocent Cardassian ship to beam it aboard and open,” Albek muttered.
“No more games,” Toral growled. “No more lies. Yamuc—”
“On screen,” the gil reported and Demok’s—and Krause’s—faces appeared on the viewer.
“Gul Toral, do you detect those probes?
” Demok asked.
“We do.” The gul’s eyes glued to Krause’s face. “And we know what they are.”
” the governor asked. “Our scans show they are empty. Initially it was a planetary defence system, but when the colony landed on Cardassian side of the border, the Cardassians decided to dismantle it. All that is left are empty missiles.
Maybe they were wrong? Maybe they weren’t full of deadly virus? Maybe someone accidentally triggered something? Lorrun was scared. Not very proud of it, being a tactical officer, but he was scared. He knew how to fight a big Gorn, not a tiny virus.
“We’re suspecting they aren’t entirely empty,” Toral informed Krause.
“What? Oh, my God! You don’t think someone is shooting the virus at you?
“Actually, we believe that someone is attempting to release the virus at everyone.”
“Gul Toral, you must destroy those missiles.
” Krause’s voice was pleading. “You cannot allow for this plague to spread.
“I don’t need you to tell me what to do, Krause.” Toral’s tone of voice was hostile but Lorrun knew his gul—Toral only pretended to be unmoved by the hideous idea of whoever was responsible for it.
,” Demok said. “I have started an investigation to find who is guilty of this.
” What for? Lorrun wondered. They would all be dead anyway. “We have also organised the evacuation of children, so whenever you are ready to do that—
“Sir.” Lorrun hated to interrupt but he knew it couldn’t wait. “The fighters report all missiles destroyed and three launching spots bombarded but...seven more activated. I detect new energy build-ups, also on the smaller continent.”
“It would appear that they activate them remotely,” Toral thought aloud. Lorrun agreed. He didn’t detect any transporter beams and he doubted anyone was stationed there all that time. “Demok, we will start evacuation as soon as this crisis is over.”
“Toral, Gul Brenok said that Ordinance Fifty-Three applies in this case
,” the sub-archon said. Lorrun’s heart stopped. He looked at Toral but the gul’s face expression didn’t change. “If there is no other choice—
“Understood,” the gul interrupted.
“I’ll continue my investigation. If you could send me all data that you have on those missiles. Maybe there’s something new about them and comparing it with the local data would shed some light and answer a few questions.
Lorrun was already on it and the first batch of data had been sent by the time Toral told him to do it.
“Someone there is insane,” Toral muttered, more to himself than anyone else. “Albek, get back to work and find a cure. Lorrun, keep an eye on the whole planet. We must destroy all launching points, because the alternative is to destroy all life on the planet and I don’t want to murder thousands of civilians. I can’t murder thousands of civilians...
” he repeated, whispering. “So you better give me another option!” he shouted and looked around the faces of bridge officers.
Lorrun’s hands started to shake. He clenched them in fists and then relaxed but it didn’t help. He couldn’t refuse an order, could he? Especially not an order issued by Gul Brenok. The glinn saw Toral getting up from his chair and going toward him. The gul stood behind his console.
Quietly, so quietly that Lorrun thought no one else would hear it, Toral said, “If it comes to the worst, I won’t make you do it. I’ll do it myself.”
Lorrun thought he should be relieved hearing this, but he wasn’t. Would it really matter who pressed the button?
“I appreciate that, sir, but it would be my duty,” he replied not believing he was actually saying that.
“No, it’s not, Lorrun.” The glinn worried that his gul doubted his abilities, that his gul thought that he, Lorrun, was weak. “This is no one’s duty. No one should have an obligation of murdering an inhabited planet. But if we have no choice and we have to prevent deaths of millions of people by bringing death to thousands, I will take that responsibility on my shoulders and into my nightmares. Understood?”
“Yes, gul. It will be on your shoulders but no order would prevent it from appearing in my nightmares.”
Toral patted Lorrun’s shoulder. “Carry on, glinn.”
“Thank you, Gul Toral.”
“You’re welcome, Glinn Lorrun.”
Toral returned to his chair and Korel approached him. He said, “Sir, regarding the situation. I have an idea...”