I have some mild case of writer's block, so this chapter is half shorter than usually. I'm also not happy with it, but I don't know what exactly is wrong with it and how to fix it, so here it goes.
Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, the bridge
“Sir...” Zamarran didn’t need Yassel’s ability to read Torpal’s voice—the tactician was clearly under stress. “I detect nine Talarian ships approaching.”
Zamarran did his best to hide the true feelings that flooded his heart and calmly asked, “Their ETA?”
“Our reinforcements?” The gul could not help but hear hope in his own voice.
Torpal shook his head with a grim look on his face. “Still four hours away.”
“Twelve minutes,” Zamarran repeated. He turned to the communication officer. “Seltan, you and Gil Rotan have three minutes to prepare and launch a data buoy. Include the standard information and all we have on the star and the Rathosian situation.” Seltan nodded, but before she turned back to her console, Zamarran added, “And get me Captain Ram.”
Ram had a serious expression on her face. “I take it you also detected that Talarian fleet on its way
,” she said.
“We did,” Zamarran confirmed. “Captain, I have a request.” He knew it was a long shot, but he wanted to try; after all the worst thing that could happen would be her refusal. “I realise that you cannot involve your ship into this conflict, so I’m not asking for that kind of help. What I ask is to intercept the buoy that we will launch in a few minutes and deliver it to the nearest Cardassian outpost, or a warship, or to our reinforcements when they arrive. This buoy contains logs of the crew, letters to our families and the scientific data we’ve gathered so far. I wouldn’t want it to be destroyed in the battle.”
Her black eyes looked at him sadly. “You do not expect to survive this, do you?
“Captain, look at the odds. There is no chance to survive this.”
“I will do as you ask, Gul Zamarran,
” she promised.
“Thank you.” He nodded and signed off.
He looked around the faces of his officers. Torpal, as expected, was concentrated on his task, preparing for the hopeless battle. Yassel was busy—Zamarran knew—preparing the ship for the fight and co-ordinating everything with Kapoor in the engineering.
Seltan kept typing commands and uploading data to the buoy’s data banks. No one seemed scared, no one appeared bothered by their coming deaths and that these tasks were the last ones in their lives.
He was proud of them and he wished he had a chance to tell them that after the battle. He quickly made a note with commendations for his crew for their professional conduct and exemplary service. “Seltan, please attach the file that I’m sending to you right now to the buoy data,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” she confirmed, not stopping her work.
“Five minutes until the Talarians enter the weapons range,” Torpal reported.
And so—the crew of the Marritza
would soon become no more than the content of a data buoy.
USS Petrona, the bridge
“Captain, they’ve launched the buoy,” Ensign Hass reported.
“Beam it aboard and store safely.”
“Aren’t you going to access it?” Commander Zogg asked.
Ram looked at her security officer. “What for?”
“There might be useful tactical data there,” he explained.
“Absolutely not! Gul Zamarran trusted me to deliver his ship’s soul and there is no tactical data that I’d consider worthy of violating this soul, or his trust.”
“Zogg...what is the prognosis, if the Marritza
and the Petrona
fight against the Talarian fleet together?”
“Captain?” Ch’Tef shot her a questioning look.
“To be honest, I’m not sure I could sit here and watch Cardassians being blown to pieces. You can file your official protest, if you want.”
“We’ll be in trouble,” he pointed out.
“Yes, we will. I’ll take full responsibility, if it comes to this, so if you want to be safe from consequences, you better file that report.” She looked around. “That goes for all of you.”
“It’s bad enough to watch the Rathosians die,” the science officer, Lieutenant Marrick, said. “You have my full support, Captain, if it means anything.”
Ram smiled. “It means a lot, thanks.” She paused. “So, Zogg? What are our chances?”
“Do you really want to die with them?” Ch’Tef asked with incredulity. “What about their sacred buoy? It would be destroyed with us.”
“We would transfer the content to the outpost on the planet before we join the fight, if we do it. They are not under attack.”
“Captain, this is not
a good idea.”
She turned to him and looked him in the eye. “Fine. Then take the buoy and a shuttle and leave. You can hide and watch, if that’s your choice.”
He pursed his lips, his antennae laying almost flat on his head. “It’s not what I meant.”
Ram opened her mouth to answer him, when her communication officer spoke. “Captain, the Talarians are in range.”
“Hail them,” she ordered. “I’ll try to talk some reason into them first.”
Rathosia, Yapplorettix City, Federation Observation Point #567887
Aladar felt being shaken and grunted. This was not a kind of way to be woken up by one of his subordinates
. He better has a good reason to do that
, he thought. Then he cracked his eyes open to see a ridge-less face above his.
“Tiboh,” he said, his voice still full of sleep.
“Get up, Garesh Aladar,” she whispered in a hurried voice. “We need to go. And be quiet.”
The remnants of sleep disappeared in an instant. The garesh sat and looked around. Tibaut’s friend, the Chandir security officer, was waking Pa’Ler up. After she made sure Aladar was up, she moved on to Veltek.
“What’s going on?” the garesh asked, whispering. Whatever these two were doing, they certainly didn’t have a permission to do it. They looked nervous and kept glancing at the brig door.
“We’re getting you out of here,” Permutruch replied. “We have some information that you have to take to your people.”
“We also have information what they plan to do with you,” Tibaut added grimly.
Aladar didn’t say anything, but he was sure he just faced another proof that the Federation wasn’t as saint as it claimed to be. “You will be in trouble,” he said. Whatever was planned for him, he was not sure sparing the Cardassians from it was worth their sacrifice. They didn’t deserve such a sacrifice. The human and the Chandir barely knew him and his people.
“We’ll worry about that later,” Pemutruch said. “Right now we have to get you out of here.”
When all three Cardassians were on their feet, Tibaut handed them some kind of EVA suits. “Here, wear this.”
Aladar frowned. “Why?”
“These are equipped with personal cloaking devices. You would be invisible to everyone and it would make our plan much easier.”
“This is not going to be nice for our neck ridges,” Veltek said, scrutinising the suit in his hands. Then he raised his eyes to both Federation officers and quickly added. “Not that I complain.”
The Cardassians put on the suits, but before Aladar closed his helmet’s face plate, he asked Tibaut, “Why do you do this?”
“They decided to send you to Earth to face charges. They accuse you of violating a pre-warp society and planning an invasion. They want to make an example of you that the Federation would not stand by while the Cardassians start their ugly games again; that the Federation would not allow another Bajor to happen.”
Aladar’s jaw clenched. “What is the sentence?” he asked.
“Well, I can’t say before the trial,” she answered, while the Cardassian’s eye ridges went high in surprise. “But the charges are so serious that life imprisonment is very likely.” The garesh’s eyes opened wide.
And then he recalled that the Federation didn’t have the capital punishment and didn’t know the sentence until a tribunal concluded.
Without another word, he sealed his suit and activated his personal cloak. He had many questions, but he knew there was no time for them.
“Okay, guys, don’t get lost, because we can’t see you,” Permutruch said and headed out of the cell toward the brig door. “You can communicate through a comm channel among each other and you can activate the scanner that lets you see each other, too,” he added.
“Aladar to Veltek and Pa’Ler,” the garesh tested the system.
Aladar nodded satisfied, even though no one could see it, and patted Pemutruch’s shoulder to let him know that they were there and they were ready.
“Let’s go,” the security officer said and all five of them, three not visible, left the brig and went down the corridor.
Aladar couldn’t help but wonder what kind of information they had to share that getting the Cardassians back to their people was so important. He was sure it wasn’t only a matter of some tribunal with an unknown result.
Under any other circumstances he might try to resist this plan, as it put both Federation officers in a terrible situation and who knows, maybe they could go to prison for this, too. But it literally hurt him that he would be made an example of Cardassian invasion and what was the worst in his fatherland’s past. He didn’t want to be a tool in someone’s hands, a tool that would make Cardassia look awfully mean. Even if he died in the attempt to escape, even if Veltek and Pa’Ler died too, even if the two good Federation officers died—he found that price acceptable for not letting the Federation use them as an instrument of propaganda to misinform people.
He looked at the two people in front of him and wondered what was waiting for them. Would they regret what they were doing now? Were they regretting already? He wondered if there was anything that he could do for them to help them. Staging a kidnapping, perhaps? Or some other way of forcing the officers to do what the Cardassian prisoners wanted them to do? Considering the command’s mindset, it wouldn’t be hard to convince them that the evil Cardies
managed to get out, almost killing two Federation officers.
But was it the impression he wanted to leave behind? Wouldn’t it only strengthen the bad opinion the outpost’s command had about them?
Aladar wished he knew what to do.
They arrived to a transporter chamber and the Chandir asked the Cardassians to step on the transporter pad. For a second Aladar wondered if they would really send them back to their ship and not into open space, but then he thought that they wouldn’t bother with the ‘invisible suits’ and risking their careers to just kill his team.
“Aren’t you worried that we will study the cloaking technology behind these suits?” he asked them, his voice sounding funny through the suit’s comm device.
Both officers looked at each other. Aladar was sure none of them had thought about it.
“Your lives and lives of the Rathosians are more important than scientific secrets,” Tibaut said eventually. “Besides, I’m sure that sooner or later you’d come with similar technology, or somehow get information on ours.” She retrieved something from her pocket and approached Aladar. “Here, this chip contains all data we have on the Rathosian star. You will also find the solution of the problem on it It’s only a theory and not tested, but the simulations brought promising results.”
Aladar took the chip and nodded his thanks, again forgetting that she couldn’t see him. She returned to the Chandir, who manipulated the console with a deep frown on his face.
“A problem?” Aladar asked. He imagined it had to be very strange to listen to a disembodied voice coming from the transporter pad. He opened his face plate and his face became visible. The other two Cardassians followed his example.
“Your ship’s shields are up,” Pemutruch explained.
All three Cardassians looked at each other. Then the ranking garesh turned forward. “Any idea why? What do your readings say?”
“What do we do?” Tibaut looked at her colleague and Aladar was sure he heard panic in her voice.
“I don’t know,” Pemutruch shook his head. He looked at the garesh. “Do you have a possibility to beam through raised shields?”
Now Aladar shook his head. “Not any more. We have changed the shields specifications and to improve their effectiveness we had to sacrifice a few handy functions. Like beaming through them.”
“They cannot stay here,” Tibaut said. “It’ll take only minutes before their escape is discovered. They’ll be recaptured and everything will be lost!”
Pemutruch’s cranial trunks emitted a thin sound, a sigh—Aladar guessed.
“Just beam us anywhere outside the city. Or to another city,” the Cardassian leader said.
Both Federation officers looked at him. “The jungle is dangerous and the cities are pre-warp so—”
“Pemutruch!” Aladar interrupted him, losing patience. “The Rathosians know us already. We cannot do any more damage than we already did!”
“Good point,” the Chandir agreed. He thought for a while. “I’ll return you to the city where you landed and were we took you from.”
“Great.” The lieutenant raised his hand to execute the command when Aladar shouted, “Wait! What about you two?!” He had a shy idea, but wasn’t sure they would agree.
“Don’t worry about us,” Tibaut said.
“Come with us,” Aladar said. “Ask for asylum.”
“To live on Cardassia? No, thanks,” Pemutruch shook his head, the trunks swaying around.
“So come with us and then return. I’m sure my gul would do everything to help you not to go to prison. What you’re doing is a good
Tibaut looked at Permutruch, a question in her eyes.
“I’m not sure...” the Chandir still wasn’t convinced.
Aladar nodded to his men to close their face plates and did the same, while Tibaut motioned toward the pad. “We don’t have time to ponder our options. And it won’t get us in more trouble than we already are.”
“You sure? This could be considered desertion.”
“Helping prisoners in their escape doesn’t look good in files either.”
Aladar started to understand something. He remembered the looks and gentle touches these two exchanged. They never showed anything, they were on duty after all, but suddenly the meaning of these small actions became clear to him—they were in love. Tibaut was absolutely determined to help the Cardassians and while Pemutruch wasn’t convinced, he was doing it for her
. How strong his feelings had to be to make him now leave the post behind the console and join everybody else on the pad—but not without bumping against invisible Veltek first.
“I sabotaged the transporter, so they won’t be able to follow...us...for some time,” he said. “Beam out in four seconds,” he added and a moment later Aladar felt a familiar transporter tingling.