Dominion Base in Orbit of Jupiter (formerly Jupiter Station)
Stardate 57402.10 (January 8, 2381)
Darkness engulfed the interrogation chamber.
The prisoner’s eyes welled with tears of relief. At last. For days—weeks maybe—the lights had been continually illuminated the chamber. There was no rest in the light, and sleep had been next to impossible. The prisoner would have given anything for the darkness to have stretched out into eternity, into a never-ending oblivion…
The lights came back on.
The prisoner winced. How long had the lights been out? How long would they be on now? Fear began to nibble at the edges of the prisoner’s consciousness. So bright
The chamber doors opened. Another interrogation session would soon be underway. The prisoner furtively sneaked a glance at the two figures entering the room. Cardassians
, the prisoner noted. Not good. The Vorta interrogators were brutal, efficient; but one never got the impression it was personal to them. Interrogation was just a job, another task assigned to them by the Founders. But the Cardassians…they enjoyed interrogation. They took joy in every bruise, and basked in every scream of pain and horror. The prisoner hated them.
We should have wiped them out when we had the chance
The Cardassians hovered over the prisoner. One of them leaned in towards her, a grotesque imitation of concern.
“What is your name?” The Cardassian asked, despite most certainly being aware of the identity of the prisoner.
“Ezri Tigan. Lieutenant, junior grade. Serial number TE-201-113.“
“Ah, yes. Name, rank, and serial number,” the Cardassian said. “How interesting that humans and their remaining allies insist on maintaining the pretense that anyone is actually following obsolete Starfleet conventions of war.”
The prisoner did not respond. Unfortunately, that did not seem to deter the Cardassian. “In any case, according to my records you are in fact ‘Lieutenant’ Ezri Tigan. Enrolled in the Starfleet Academy Medical Program on Stardate 49732, with the stated intention of becoming a…starship counselor. Why, that’s an…interesting choice of vocation.”
“I thought so at the time,” the prisoner murmured.
“Undoubtedly. On Stardate 50974 you were assigned to the U.S.S. Maine
as a field engineer. Slight detour from your career plans, I see.”
“The exigencies of war,” the other Cardassian sneered.
“Indeed. Promoted to Lieutenant, junior-grade, on Stardate 52083. And that was your last promotion, as Starfleet collapsed before you could even make full Lieutenant. “
The prisoner did not take the bait.
“So ends your official service record. According to records compiled during your stay at this facility, following the destruction of the U.S.S. Maine
on Stardate 53754 you transferred to the Freedom
, which was then rather unromantically known as the U.S.S. Armstrong
. There you stayed on as crew, even after the fall of the Federation and the legal end of the war. On Stardate 56706, the vessel upon which you were engaged in criminal and treasonous activities against the Dominion was boarded by Jem’Hadar soldiers in the Triangulus system. Your captain and his first officer were killed resisting arrest. You and several other so-called ‘crew’ were captured and sent to this location for interrogation.”
The prisoner stared stonily at the wall. The Cardassian continued, “Tell me, Ezri Tigan, would you say all of this is accurate?”
“You know it is,” Tigan spat out.
“Her spirit has not been broken yet,” the other Cardassian muttered. “I eagerly await the opportunity—“
“Enough,” the Cardassian said firmly. “Damar. Wait for me outside.”
The other Cardassian nodded briskly and shot Tigan a malicious look. “Until we meet again, Lieutenant
The prisoner remained silent as the Cardassian known as Damar left the chamber. She did not look forward to meeting him again.
“Do you know who I am, Ezri Tigan?” The Cardassian’s voice almost sounded paternal. It made Tigan sick.
“No,” she replied. “What does it matter?”
“Why, it matters a great deal, I assure you,” the Cardassian said, “for I am none other than Legate Skrain Dukat, conqueror of Earth and devoted servant of the Dominion.”
Suddenly Tigan recognized the face, the voice. The scourge of every man, woman, and child in the Federation was in the same room as she, Ezri Tigan. The prisoner’s head swam. The restraints fastening her to the interrogation pallet seemed tighter than ever. She had to escape. She had to kill this man, this evil….but wait. Could she kill him, even if she were free? Would she even be able to?
“I see,” Tigan said in a small voice. What did someone like Dukat want with her
“I’m glad you finally
do,” Dukat said, his voice filled to the brim with smarm. “Now, I’m sure you can understand that I do not usually take the time to talk to simple criminals like yourself. However, I believe I have something that you might want, Ezri Tigan.”
Tigan had heard the rumors of female Starfleet officers being taken as personal sex slaves to the victorious Cardassians. Proud women, free women, now kept as pets by a race of opportunistic chauvinists. Never
, she thought. I’ll die first.
“If you want me to be some sort of…concubine,” Tigan stuttered, “I’m afraid I’ll have to decline. Kill me if you want to, but I won’t do it.”
To her surprise, Dukat laughed heartily. “Ah, Ezri,” he said in familiar tone that sent chills up the prisoner’s spine. “Rest assured that I am quite flattered by your suggestion! However, that is not why I’m here. Far from it, actually. I have a proposal for you, one that will give you the opportunity to escape this miserable situation and salvage what little you can from the wreckage of your life.” Dukat smiled. “That can’t be so bad, now, can it?”
Tigan grimaced. Cardassians were not in the business of helping humans. Still, the prospect of spending the rest of her life rotting in a Dominion prison camp was not a desirable one. “All right,” she said, her voice regaining strength. “What’s the catch? What do I have to do?”
Dukat looked her over, once again sending chills up Tigan’s spine. “I’ve been assigned to a deep space mission. I’ll be leading a fleet to the Delta Quadrant, retracing the steps of a ‘biomimetic life-form’ that appeared in this sector a few months ago.”
“Why do you need me for that?”
“I can honestly say with some admiration that even as Starfleet was losing the war against the Dominion, their level of technological innovation was quite impressive. The quantum slipstream drive—well—“
“That drive was never perfected,” Tigan interrupted. Her interrogators had been down this road before, many times. “We—“
Dukat brought his hand down fast, slapping her hard on the face. “Do not confuse my courtesy with genuine amity, Ezri Tigan,” the Cardassian snapped. “Do not forget that you are a slave, my slave, and nothing more. You will speak only when spoken to.”
Dukat’s mood, so quickly darkened, now turned sunny bright once again. “You are correct that the drive was not perfected. However, the finest Cardassian engineers have been working on a version of the drive, salvaged from a captured Starfleet vessel. It is my understanding that you assisted in the development and testing of the original slipstream drive while you were stationed on the U.S.S. Maine
“Yes. That’s correct.” So that’s why Dukat was here. Knowledge of her experience, however slight, had made its way up the Dominion chain of command.
“That makes you a perfect candidate to help us use the drive to reach the Delta Quadrant,” Dukat said. “If you agree to accompany me to the Delta Quadrant, and help my ships make the journey quickly using the slipstream drive, I will grant you what you undoubtedly desire most--your freedom.”
“Legate Dukat,” the prisoner whispered, “I am hardly qualified. I was a field engineer, barely—“
The Cardassian cut her off. “Make no mistake, Ezri Tigan. If you were to refuse to assist me, my fleet would still successfully make the journey to the Delta Quadrant. I offer you this opportunity merely because it gives me the slightest edge in successfully completing my mission. You are an insurance policy, that’s all.” Dukat leaned in close to Tigan again. “Of course, if you refuse, I will arrange for your comfortable existence here to end. I hear the new labor camp on Mercury needs all the manpower it can get.”
Tigan did not see any other way to avoid an unpleasant death, or worse. “I’ll help you,” she said reluctantly. “And you say that if your mission is a success, I will be free?”
“You have my word,” Dukat said solemnly.
Tigan wondered how much that was truly worth. “All right, then, “ she said, glancing at her restraints. “So when do we leave?”