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Old November 19 2010, 01:17 PM   #121
Gul Re'jal
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Location: Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space station
Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Chapter 12


The Obsidian Order vessel
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
26th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar




“Jau gei!” Lieutenant Fong cursed in his native Cantonese when an energy bolt reached his arm.

Ma’Kan spun around, raising her riffle and shot the ball that was hovering in the air and shooting energy bolts in directions of the Federation team members. It did not target the Cardassians. As soon as the ball—the tactician knew it was called the ‘lightning cannon’—was destroyed, another one materialised in its place. The Cardassian woman rested the butt of her riffle on her armour in the place where the sleeve connected with the chest plate and she activated the sniper program. The muzzle sight slid out of the riffle’s barrel: Ma’Kan was ready. She stood in the middle of the chamber with squinted eyes and listened. She knew lightning cannons were buzzing quietly and that was the sound she concentrated on. She shot the cannon that was moving toward Ronus and she was certain more would appear. She was right: there was a new one materialising almost over the commander’s head and she could hear another buzz just behind her. She pulled the trigger and the first cannon was gone, then she turned, not removing her right foot off the deck, and shot the other one. She felt almost like having a practice in a holosuit; with each target shot down new ones were appearing and the level of difficulty was raising. She was now facing three lightning cannons.

However, she was not alone in her fight. Both militiamen protected Av’Roo, who was too big to find an effective cover in the engineering, and they too were shooting re-materialising cannons. They tried to shield the Skorr with their own bodies but the cannon wasn’t fooled easily. It flew over them and tried to attack from above. Both Cardassian men knew all its tricks very well and were able to anticipate the cannon’s moves and effectively prevent them.

“What’s this?” Ronus shouted from behind his cover.

“It would appear that the security protocols have been activated, including booby traps,” Ya’val went to the man on the table and shouted at him. “Stop that! Now!” The man glanced at him and another set of energy balls materialised. “Stop or I’ll kill you,” Ya’val grabbed one of feeding tubes and jerked it a bit. Not enough to really harm the man but enough to send his message. The balls hovered but stopped shooting. Neither Ma’Kan nor the militiamen lowered their guard. “Stop,” the engineer sounded menacingly. The balls de-materialised. “Now, release us. Lower the dampening field and unlock the door.”

...ri to away team. Tari to away team. Tari to—

“We can hear you, Gil,” Karama said.

Ronus approached Ya’val and the engineer noticed that the man on the table gave the Trill a hostile glance. “Don’t you try anything,” Ya’val hissed and then grabbed Ronus by the arm and took him away beyond the man’s field of vision.

“What was that?” Ronus asked.

“He activated defence protocols.”

“Do you have booby traps on every ship?” Fong asked. He kept his hand on his arm. Taret approached him and scanned his wound.

“It’s a standard procedure to implement such defence,” Ya’val replied.

“Why would you do that? You don’t like alien guests?”

“You assume that we do it out of hatred, Lieutenant,” Ya’val said, not hiding his irritation. He didn’t like it when others thought that the Cardassians did everything with the intention of only harming others in mind. “This particular defence program is activated when we have to abandon a ship. It secures it in case someone wants to board it and steal it. We cannot afford to leave equipment and materials behind, they are too precious for us. If we have to abandon a ship, we still return for it and salvage what we can. Sometimes it takes time and booby traps protect that ship from being stolen. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t want to steal our property, you don’t have to worry about it.”

“I didn’t plan to steal anything here,” Fong said sarcastically. Taret was hovering a dermal regenerator over his arm; the human’s wound was superficial.

“This is not a typical ship,” Ya’val glanced at the man on the table. “Sabal, do you know him too?”

“Negative, sir,” the pilot shook his head.

The door to the engineering opened and a small troop entered. They took positions but as soon as they realised that everything was under control they lowered their weapons. “Clear!” shouted one of them and Brenok, accompanied by th’Arshar, entered the engineering.

“Everyone all right?” the gul asked.

“Yes,” Ya’val reported. “One superficial wound and it appears to be dealt with,” he glanced at Taret who nodded his confirmation. “I would, however, advise the Federation team to stay away from the engineering. At least for now.”

“Let’s go back to the bridge,” Ronus said. “Doctor...err...Medic Taret should stay here with his patient, but I think we are not needed at this time.”

Brenok looked at the man on the table. His face expressed a strange mix of disgust and sadness. He slowly approached the man and looked him in the face. While Ya’val had difficulties with reading all feelings on Brenok’s face, he had no doubt what the engineering-man’s grimace meant: hatred. Pure hatred. Nothing but hatred.

“Taret, is there anything you can do for him now?” Brenok asked.

“Negative. And, to be honest, I’d rather take care of Saratt. He seems to be in worse condition.”

Brenok thought for a while, looking at the man on the table, and then turned to face everyone. “We will all go to the bridge and we will discuss our options there. Maybe Saratt can give us a few answers, if he’s willing to.”

They returned to the command centre. The Federation doctor sat near Saratt who appeared to be sleeping. Kapoor and Zelek were busy at one of consoles.

“Anything?” Ya’val asked them.

“We have found a database to which we have no access,” Kapoor said. “It is quite huge, so it’s possible there are some answers to our questions, but it’s hard to tell. Sir,” she nodded to Brenok. “Sirs,” she corrected herself, noticing blue antennae behind the gul.

Taret went to Saratt and checked his condition. The Cardassian had to feel the medic’s presence as he opened his eyes and looked at him.

“How about a mind-meld?” Av’Roo proposed.

“What?!” Taret’s head jerked.

“We have one Vulcan in our crew, in my department,” the Skorr looked at th’Arshar and then at Brenok. “Maybe he could meld with Saratt and ‘talk’ to him that way.”

“I won’t allow it!” Taret protested, shaking his head. “No Vulcan mambo-jumbo.”

“I thought Cardassians can block melds,” Fong said.

“We can, but this is a conscious reaction,” Brenok said. “We are not unreadable like, say, the Ferengi. We choose not to be read. It’s only a discipline of mind and not every Cardassian’s mind is disciplined enough.”

“I won’t allow it!” Taret said louder.

“Maybe we should ask him,” Av’Roo pointed to Saratt.

Taret pursed his lips and then hissed, “He is desperate and could be willing to try everything. Even this...” he pulled his face with contempt.

Yes flashed on monitors.

Brenok moved closer to the tortured man and looked at him. “Saratt, I am Gul Brenok. We will try to help you, but we don’t know how. Is this your answer to the mind-meld?” he asked, pointing to the monitors.

Yes.

“Gul Brenok!” Taret shouted with indignation.

“Not another word, Taret!” Brenok gave the medic a hard glance. He knew Taret cared about his patient but it was not the time to play safe.

“Contact Ensign Sodek,” th’Arshar told Av’Roo. “Ask him if he would be willing.”

The Skorr nodded and moved aside to talk to the Vulcan through the comm.

“Now, about that database,” Brenok went to Kapoor.

“It requires an access code. The clearance is...well...a legate level or close.”

Brenok typed in his access code but, as he expected, it was rejected.

“Jattok’s code might work,” Sabal suggested.

“Maybe,” Brenok said. “But we would need time to extract it and I am not even sure we would be able to extract it.”

“A Romulan mind probe would be helpful,” th’Arshar muttered.

“Do you have any to spare?”

“Unfortunately not. And I doubt the Romulans would agree to lend us one.”

“We have to hack in, then,” Fong said.

“Into an Obsidian Order database?” Sabal gave him an incredulous look. “Good luck.”

“You have a better idea?” Fong attacked.

“Stop it, both of you!” the Andorian didn’t intend to let them argue.

“Karama, Sabal and Kapoor will try to hack in,” Brenok decided. Karama was exceptionally skilled in breaking codes, Sabal possessed the Obsidian Order’s knowledge and Kapoor had a unique Federation trained perspective combined with her Cardassian experience.

“Can I help too?” Fong asked, looking at Brenok and th’Arshar. Both commanders nodded their consent.

“Can’t he access the database?” Ronus pointed to Saratt. “He is the ship.”

“Can you?” Taret asked his patient.

No. Limited.

“Seems like they hid it even from him,” Churmou muttered.

A Federation transporter beam shimmered and everyone turned to see who was joining them. They saw a middle aged Vulcan man.

“This is Ensign Sodek,” Av’Roo said. “He has agreed to help us.”

“Ensign,” Brenok said. “Now, that you are here and can see for yourself what you’re dealing with, you can change your mind.”

“Understood,” the Vulcan replied. He approached the table with Saratt and looked at him. “Do you understand this will be blending our minds?” he asked. “Do you understand I will know all you know and you will know all I know?” Yes.

“I don’t like it,” Taret growled.

“I will not harm him,” Sodek assured him.

“I don’t care. I don’t like it. Sir,” the medic looked at Brenok. “Permission to break this meld as soon as I detect something goes wrong.”

Brenok thought for a moment, but didn’t have time to reply as the Vulcan said, “I will break the mind-meld if there is any sign of harm done to this Cardassian.”

Taret only growled.

“Proceed,” the gul said.

The Vulcan looked at Saratt and gently placed his fingers on the Cardassian’s face. “My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts, my mind...” His voice got deeper and words were spoken slower. He silenced for a few seconds and then jumped back, screaming. Taret grabbed his arm preventing the Vulcan from falling. Sodek stood bent forward with his hands on his knees and breathed loudly. Saratt closed his eyes.

“What happened?” O’Riordan went to Sodek with her medical tricorder.

“I was...unprepared for the amount of suffering,” the Vulcan said between his breaths. “I did not shield myself from the pain.” He calmed down and turned back to Saratt. “I will try again.”

No.

“I can control the pain,” Sobek told the Cardassian. “I can suppress it.”

No. Forgive.

“Apology is unnecessary,” the Vulcan said. “Let me try.”

No.

Brenok closed his eyes. He could see a battle of two men, both caring for each other in spite of not knowing each other. Sodek wanted to help in spite of difficulties and Saratt didn’t want the Vulcan to experience his suffering.

No, kept flashing on one monitor. Saratt has chosen one not to disturb the decoding team their work.

“You have the answer,” Taret said firmly.

“Is there anything you can tell us?” Av’Roo asked.

“In spite of the connection being so brief, I have learnt a great deal,” Sodek said. “First of all, this man’s consciousness works as well as any of ours. He is fully aware of everything and his condition could be compared to a paralysed patient. His mind is imprisoned in his body. He doesn’t control his body as he indeed is partially paralysed. His brain is supposed to control the ship. He suffers because he is unable to send messages to his body, however he does receive impulses. He cannot move his hand, but he feels when someone touches it.”

“Is there a way to remove him?”

“I do not know that, however I know he knows the answer.” Sodek looked at the massacred Cardassian and Brenok could swear he saw compassion in the Vulcan’s eyes. The gul looked at the decoding team; they were very busy.

“Sir,” Taret stood before Brenok. “I’m not ready to give up on him yet. I want to try to help him, but I realise we need time to learn how to do it and in his case it means he would have to wait and suffer. I can’t allow that so I would like to induce a coma. He would feel nothing and we would buy some time.”

Brenok thought for a while. “Fine,” he agreed and Taret seemed relieved. The medic went to Saratt.

“Saratt, I’m going to do everything to save you, but I know you suffer. Do you agree to induce a state in which you won’t feel a thing. It would be like a very deep sleep. Blink once for ‘yes’, twice for ‘no’,” Taret said, hoping that simplifying the way of communication would help Saratt.

No, he blinked.

“Why?”

The other one, flashed on the monitor.

“What about him?”

Control.

“You mean he would take control if you would be in coma?” Ronus asked, closing to the Cardassian.

[i]Yes. Coma him[i/].

“You want me to do the same to him too?” Taret asked a bit horrified at the thought to do that without the patient’s consent.

One blink.

“The other one is hostile, very hostile, Gul,” Ronus said.

“Will the ship shut down if we ‘turn’ you both off?” Brenok asked.

Two blinks.

“Do it,” the gul said to Taret. The medic pursed his lips, unhappy at the prospect, but he didn’t say anything.

“Medic Taret,” Ya’val looked at the physician. “The other one clearly wants to live. I don’t know if it matters now, but he surrendered when I threatened him with death.”

“Understood,” Taret nodded, took his medical kit and left the bridge, followed by Tarub.

“When we’re done here I suggest we all gather to discuss the whole situation,” th’Arshar said.

“My ship, if you don’t mind, Captain,” Brenok looked at him.

“Your ship,” the Andorian gave him a sincere and friendly smile, showing teeth as white as his bushy eyebrows. “They should stay here and continue their work.” He pointed to the decoding team.

“Agreed,” the Cardassian commander nodded.

Brenok observed Sabal who went to Saratt. The pilot didn’t say anything, he just looked in the face of his former comrade with pain painted on his face. Saratt returned his gaze and Brenok had an impression these two were communicating; there was some connection between them—a friendship perhaps?—and they needed no words to convey some messages or some feelings.

Some time later Taret returned. He looked angry and frustrated. He went to Saratt. “Are you ready?” His patient closed his eyes for a moment, as if he was thinking—or maybe checking something—and then he looked at the medic and blinked once.

“I promise you that you will either wake up without pain or won’t wake up at all,” Taret said.

Thank, flashed on the monitor. Saratt closed his eyes and the medic put a hypospray to his chest. He injected the medicine and took his medical scanner to monitor his patient. The Federation doctor did the same.

“I’m done here... For the moment,” Taret said, looking at Brenok. “But I want to stay here. I want someone to be with him at all times.”

“I will take shifts too,” the red-headed medic said.

“We will need to send someone to monitor the engineering-man too. In case he wakes up.”

“Very well,” Brenok nodded. “Prepare a medical team, but I want you to participate in our briefing. Both of you,” he added, looking at the Federation doctor.



tbc
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Old November 19 2010, 02:09 PM   #122
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Poor Sarratt...and how amazing, that even in the horrific state he's in, he would care enough about the thought of another being suffering that way, to want to protect him even though it means he still can't communicate well. As to why he can't manage anything but short words and phrases on the monitors--now that we know he probably thinks much more than that, is it because he's having to focus to override the existing programs and they don't like his doing that?

Given what we just saw in engineering, it's very clear that it's a matter of Sarratt's individual character and quality as a man that makes him able to care for others. He must have been like Sabal, when he was brought into the Order--did it simply to use his piloting skills, not because he was filled with hatred.

I'm glad that he is no longer going to suffer, one way or the other.l

I am glad th'Arshar wasn't about to stand by and let another argument start up. Under such tense circumstances it would have been very, very easy and tempting to do so.
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Old November 19 2010, 02:16 PM   #123
Gul Re'jal
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
Poor Sarratt...and how amazing, that even in the horrific state he's in, he would care enough about the thought of another being suffering that way, to want to protect him even though it means he still can't communicate well. As to why he can't manage anything but short words and phrases on the monitors--now that we know he probably thinks much more than that, is it because he's having to focus to override the existing programs and they don't like his doing that?
His connection to the computer wasn't supposed to work this way, it wasn't designed to make it possible for him to "talk" to others. His brain is a powerful biological computer and that's what they wanted to use. NOT his individual thinking, opinions and everything else that makes a person. They didn't need a person-computer who would argue with the ship's captain, they wanted a powerful and fast way of making their ships superior to everyone else's vessels.

To make a coherent and normal sentence he would have to search the database, copy and paste words, which would take too much time. And energy. I'm certrain he is VERY tired. He's too weak to stay concentrated for a long time.
And he doesn't have access to everything anyway.
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Old November 19 2010, 02:23 PM   #124
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

I didn't realize he was copying and pasting...I had assumed he hacked the graphics protocol and was generating new characters and words. I can certainly see how both ways would be really exhausting.

Did those data ports the rest of the Obsidian Order crew have on their fingers allow him to communicate with them, or was he even cut off that way, too?
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Old November 19 2010, 02:32 PM   #125
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

He can't "write" his own words. They wanted to make sure he wouldn't be able to override commands given by a real crew, so he has no way of entering--as in 'creating'--any "text" into the computer.

I haven't decided full scope of data ports access, but yes, they are also for communication with the "organic components" of the ship.
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Old November 19 2010, 02:47 PM   #126
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

That makes sense.

I wonder if there is any way the dataports can be used without having to actually cut off someone's finger or otherwise do something invasive, if it could give access to a real graphics program that works, or even produce a synthesized voice. (That's assuming, of course, that Sarratt is ever woken from that coma, AND that it's determined there's no way to safely separate him from the machines he's tied to. This assumes that at least the physical pain could be taken away.)
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Old November 19 2010, 03:39 PM   #127
Gul Re'jal
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

For now Taret is too shocked to even think about the people in stasis. He feels his priority is Saratt and the engineering-man.

BTW, here's something that reflects the tension that grows/grew within last few chapters in me (and in the characters): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dadPWhEhVk
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Old November 19 2010, 04:06 PM   #128
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

At least in stasis I assume the rest of the crew feels nothing.

I'll have to listen to that song tonight.
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Old November 19 2010, 04:08 PM   #129
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Exactly. They have been in that state for 25 years, they can wait a little longer. Saratt cannot.
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Old November 19 2010, 04:11 PM   #130
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Even without waking the men in stasis, the ports that are next to the consoles MIGHT be able to be scanned and then sometime soon, accessed. Who knows...
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Old November 19 2010, 04:16 PM   #131
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

There are lots and lots of matters they have to deal with now.

And soon there's going to be another one, as serious.

Be afraid, be very afraid
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Old November 19 2010, 04:31 PM   #132
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Oh, no...
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Old November 21 2010, 12:56 PM   #133
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Chapter 13


Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
26th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar




Both away teams, plus Farr from USS Karamazov and Glinn Zamarran from the Damar and minus the decoding team that had stayed aboard the Obsidian Order vessel, were in the Damar’s wardroom. They have just finished presenting their reports, sharing all the details from their away mission.

“Doctor O’Riordan,” th’Arshar looked at his chief medical officer, “is there any way we can apply what we know about the Borg to this situation?”

“It’s hard to tell, Captain. Borg implants are deeply embedded into a drone’s body, partially taking over vital functions. These men there are only ‘plugged in’. Their nervous systems, including their brains, are functioning as the ship’s components. It’s a different situation.”

“But we were successful in removing Borg implants from liberated drones’ bodies.”

“Yes. Of course, not all implants could be removed, but the former drones could function normally. However, they still need to re-charge their implants in Borg alcoves.”

“Do you think we could unplug these men, but leave some components that couldn’t be removed?” Taret looked at th’Arshar.

“That could be a possibility, yes,” the Andorian nodded. “But first we would have to assess the damage done to their bodies.”

“What if the damage is extensive and we cannot...unplug them?” Av’Roo asked.

“We will not leave them like this,” Brenok said after a moment of silence.

“What about the other two? The ones with fingers?” Ma’Kan asked.

“I wonder if it would be possible to revive them?” Brenok gave Taret an asking look.

“I suppose so. I have scanned them and they appear to be in a typical stasis. I couldn’t tell what the implanted ports are for.”

“They match the access ports in the wall panels and some of the consoles,” Ya’val interjected.

“Communication? Control?” Brenok looked at him.

“Anything is possible,” the engineer shrugged. “Without more information those could be light switches for all we know.”

“The decoding team reports no success so far,” Av’Roo said. “They say the ship’s automatic protocols block them.”

“Don’t you have some specialist to deal with things like that?” Ronus asked Brenok.

The gul shook his head. “No, but I can ask Cardassia to send someone.”

“That is not entirely true, Gul,” Zamarran said. Brenok gave him an asking look. “We have a security systems specialist aboard,” the glinn smiled.

“We do? I am not aware of that,” Brenok searched his memory but no name seemed to be associated with this particular speciality.

“You, Gul.”

Th’Arshar gave Zamarran and then Brenok a surprised look. “You are a security specialist?”

Brenok smiled slightly. “It’s been long time since I worked on engineering matters, Zamarran. Yes, Captain,” the gul looked at his counterpart. “Have you always been a captain? I started as an engineer. As did Zamarran.”

“So we have three good engineers here. Splendid. And my team is mostly scientists, including me. There is no way we can’t solve this.”

“I wish I shared your optimism, Captain. As I said, it’s been long time and my knowledge is quite outdated. I had no time to follow newest changes.”

“Indeed, Gul, but their knowledge and this ship is from times when you actively worked as an engineer.”

“This ship is from times when the Obsidian Order operated and I wasn’t briefed on their tricks.”

“Sabal.”

Brenok had a strong need to smile to his aide. Zamarran was brilliant and Brenok sometimes forgot about it. In a way, he actually looked forward to return to simple engineering tasks.

“What do we do about that database?” Churmou asked. “Can you deactivate those blocking protocols?”

“Doubtful,” Brenok shook his head. “But there should be a way to copy whole database to our warship and work from here. Blocking mechanism would not work here.”

“I don’t know...” Ya’val sounded doubtful.

“I understand your reservations, Glinn,” Brenok looked at him. “But I don’t see another option.”

“Even a secured console might not protect the ship,” the engineer said.

“I agree. This is risky,” Zamarran nodded.

“I don’t understand,” th’Arshar knitted his eyebrows. “Why copying a database is risky?”

“We install booby traps in our software too, Captain. There could be a virus hiding in the database, prepared especially for such an occasion.”

“Isn’t it a bit too paranoid?” Av’Roo asked.

“The Obsidian Order was paranoid, Lieutenant,” Karama said. “And it made us all paranoid too.”

“How charming,” the Skorr muttered.

“How about our ship?” Ronus asked. “We could secure a console, detach it from the ship’s computer and make it a stand-alone workstation. Not only a virus wouldn’t find a way to infect the rest of our systems, it could also be incompatible with our software.”

Zamarran looked at Brenok. “That would seem to be the safest option so far, but it would mean you’d have to work aboard their ship, sir.”

“We can raise the temperature in the room in which we install the console,” th’Arshar said and Zamarran looked at him astonished. Then the glinn looked at his gul who grinned slightly. Zamarran nodded his understanding.

“I would appreciate that,” Brenok said.

“While I don’t mind warm,” Av’Roo said. “May I ask why this kind of...precaution?”

“You may not, Lieutenant,” th’Arshar told her and she only nodded accepting his answer.

“Let’s summarise,” Zamarran said. “We attempt to transfer the database to the Federation ship, where we isolate it from the rest of systems and there we work on breaking in.”

“I’m sure there are some protocols, protecting the database from being copied or transferred,” Ma’Kan said.

“Good point. I will monitor the whole process personally,” the gul said. “I will also ask Gul Toral to return to the Orias system and investigate it once more. Maybe there is something we had overlooked. This time we would look for specific information, so maybe he’d find something useful.”

“This Gul Toral, do you trust him?” th’Arshar asked.

“Absolutely,” Brenok said. “I’ve known Toral for years and could always count on him.”

The Andorian nodded. “We will prepare a console for the transfer.”

“We’ll have to secure it well,” Ronus added.

“We’ll let you know when we’re ready and we can start copying or transferring the database, whichever you decide is better.”



USS Karamazov
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
Stardate: 73691.2
10th of September, 2396, Old Earth Calendar




Av’Roo entered the Science Lab 2 to see that she was the last one to arrive. Captain th’Arshar, Commander Farr and Lieutenant Churmou were present in the room as well as Gul Brenok, Glinn Zamarran and Glinn Ya’val. The Cardassian commander drew her attention. He was sitting on a chair at the console which they had designated as the database decoding computer. He sat with his back to the console, his legs were stretched in front of him and his hands lay on his laps palms up. He was completely motionless.

“What is he doing?” she asked Ya’val in a hushed voice.

“He’s recalling all his knowledge,” the Cardassian engineer replied. “This is one of techniques we use to bring back our memories. He has to concentrate hard as he hadn’t been using that particular skill for a long time.” Ya’val smiled. “I remember that when he had been promoted to the gul’s aide and stopped being the chief engineer and Zamarran took over the engineering, it was very difficult to keep him away from fixing things. Something was wrong? He was there before Zamarran arrived and it frustrated Zamarran terribly. He never said anything, he wouldn’t dare to complain to his superiors about themselves, but it was getting on his nerves. When Brenok became our gul and Zamarran was promoted to the gul’s aide I made it very clear to both of them that my engineering is mine and they have there nothing to do. It took me some time but I’ve managed to teach Brenok that I was serious. It’s been long time since he did anything, not on this scale at least. I’m sure he fixes small things in his own quarters and office himself. I don’t recall being called for help even once.”

“And if you don’t recall it means that it never happened.”

“Pretty much, yes,” Ya’val smiled.

Av’Roo observed Brenok with fascination. He was like a statue, motionless, dignified in his black-silver armour. His long braid rested on his back and his sharp nose reminded her of a beak. She never judged aesthetically non-bird races but there was something in him, something different, special.

At first she didn’t recognise the sound, but when she realised what it was she made a few steps toward Brenok. All voices silenced and all eyes turned to the gul.

Zamarran said, “A ship’s engines hum, an opening door swishes, a console beeps and Gul Brenok sings. It’s as integral part of him as those sounds of those things.”

Th’Arshar’s face was brightened by a big smile. “You’re joking.”

“Don’t you believe your own ears?” Zamarran smiled and his face lined with deep, vertical wrinkles on his cheeks.

“But...does he do it often?”

“Every day. He starts humming or singing shortly after starting doing something that requires brain work. Most of the time he is not even aware of that, so don’t bother asking him what he sang. He wouldn’t know.”

Th’Arshar chuckled. “He’s full of surprises today.”

Av’Roo was especially appreciative of the singing. As a bird herself, she valued every species that could sing. She knew his song had no special meaning, it was not a call to his mate, but it still was beautiful. She listened to soft sounds coming from his reptilian throat and thought that perhaps she biologically had more in common with him than with mammalian races of the Federation.

Brenok’s eyes opened and he smiled to her; his nice humming didn’t stop. She smiled back.

“Are you ready?” he asked the others.

“We are, Gul Brenok. Are you?” the captain returned the question.

“As ready as I would ever be,” the Cardassian spun on the seat and turned to the console. He tapped the communicator on his wrist and said, “Karama, proceed.”

Acknowledged,” replied the glinn on the other side of the connection aboard the Obsidian Order vessel.

The data transfer commenced.

“Is it too cold?” Av’Roo heard th’Arshar ask Brenok quietly. The gul only shook his head.

The Skorr joined Brenok at his console and looked over his shoulder. The Cardassian studied the flow of data, calling some software tools from time to time. He wasn’t singing any more but she assumed this required a different kind of concentration and he couldn’t. She pulled up a chair and sat next to him, manning the other half of the console. His task was to screen the data in search of malware, hers—to store it safely in data banks. Ya’val and Churmou were monitoring the ship’s systems to make sure they weren’t getting infected and Jeto, in the engineering, was doing the same. Zamarran hovered over another console, preparing some kind firewall.

To Av’Roo’s delight the humming resumed. Sitting just next to its source she could clearly hear every note, every change in the pitch of his voice. He’s not singing for you, silly, she scolded herself. Was there something wrong in enjoying his voice? Couldn’t be. Right? Couldn’t.

Suddenly he silenced. She looked at him and he was staring at his neck ridge—the one with the scar—on which...her wing’s feathers rested.

“I’m sorry,” she quickly raised her wing. He looked at her. “Those are tips of my long flight feathers, I have no feeling there so I was not aware of touching you. I’m sorry.”

He kept looking at her for a moment with a very strange face expression and then seemed to relax and said, “That’s ok. It felt warm. And it tickled.” His eyes returned to the screen.

“I like your singing,” she said.

“Was I doing it again? I hope it doesn’t disturb anyone.”

How could it? It was such a beautiful singing. “It doesn’t disturb me,” she replied.

He smiled. “Do you sing?”

“Our males do.”

“Do they sing like me or like birds, you know...birds.”

“Birds. I am sure they could sing like you, but they never tried because they sing like...you know...birds,” she mimicked him and chuckled. He smiled too. “Are you married?”

“I’m a widower.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It happened a long time ago.”

“It never stops to hurt.”

“True. Are you?”

“No. Career came first and...there aren’t many Skorr in Starfleet.”

“How long do the Skorr live?”

“About two hundred Earth years. You?”

“One hundred seventy would be an average.”

“How old are you?”

“I’m only fifty.”

“I’m forty. Only.”

Suddenly Brenok’s fingers danced on the console.

“What is it?” she asked.

“A nasty warm. Incapacitated.”

“That was fast.”

“That was an old program. After we had declared the Obsidian Order a criminal organisation that worked against the Cardassian people, we studied their secrets. Many things are available only to highest clearance levels for state security reasons, but their security codes and tricks are no longer in use. And these here had been created twenty-five years ago,” he smiled, while his fingers—long and thin, almost like claws of a bird—moved over the console again.

Av’Roo glanced at him. Inclined over his workstation with this sharp, beak-like nose, strong and sharp chin, clear cheekbones... There was something very bird-like in him. His armour wasn’t very different from what Skorr warriors used to wear before Alar’s philosophy changed their way of life and brought them to the path of peace.

"Zamarran!" Brenok shouted suddenly; his voice full of alarm.

The glinn quickly approached the console, at which Brenok and Av’Roo were sitting, and looked over their shoulders. Then he pushed in between them and accessed the panel. Av’Roo moved away to give him full access. Ya’val joined both Cardassians and all three worked fast. Ya’val muttered from time to time words that the universal translator did not translate. Av’Roo guessed he was cursing and if the other two didn’t mind that vocabulary coming from their subordinate in their presence the cause of their dismay had to be serious. They were barking some orders to each other and Av’Roo had an impression that these were rather code words than really meaningful sentences. It indeed sounded like a code, as if full sentences were reduced to short commands for speed and efficiency of communication. Ya’val growled menacingly, baring his teeth and the Skorr thought that at this moment he reminded her of a Klingon more than he would like to know.

“What’s going on?” th’Arshar asked.

“I don’t know, sir,” she replied. She tried to guess what they were doing, but couldn’t tell and she didn’t want to interrupt them.

“Isolate it, isolate it!” Brenok shouted heatedly.

“I’m trying!” Zamarran’s voice sounded frustrated.

“Got it!” Ya’val shouted with triumph and punched the console with his fist. Brenok audibly let the air out of his lungs. “But...I had to delete some data with it,” Ya’val looked apologetically at his superiors. “It was the data that had been being deleted at that moment.”

“Hopefully it wasn’t anything critical,” Zamarran said.

“Will you now tell us what it was?” th’Arshar asked.

“A self-destruct protocol activated,” Brenok explained, while Zamarran and Ya’val returned to their posts. “It would delete all the data if we didn’t stop it.”

“It would appear that the program managed to delete some data,” Zamarran said from his console. “Hopefully nothing crucial,” he added.

“Jeto to th’Arshar”, sounded a voice.

The captain pressed his communicator. “Th’Arshar here.”

“Sir, I have prepared a special program, but would need to modify the dual data macromanipulator, so I seek your permission. The program would shut down all systems, except the environmental control, to prevent infecting the ship’s computer in case that database carries and activates any malware.”

“Proceed, Lieutenant,” th’Arshar nodded in spite that she couldn’t see him. “Co-ordinate your work with Glinn Zamarran,” he added, looking at the Cardassian.

“Errr... yes, sir,” she said and disconnected.

Av’Roo could hear Zamarran tap his communicator and reply to Jeto’s call. She was glad that her friend was able to follow the captain’s order. Maybe it was the first step: talking to them without looking at them. Without a face attached to a voice she might not be so biased and expect the worst and then slowly discover that this face didn’t always mean what she thought.

“Gul Brenok, can I ask you a question?” the Andorian looked at the gul.

“Of course.”

“It’s about the role of your chief medical officer. I can see you can override his decision, is this a correct conclusion?”

“It is. He has the knowledge and it’s his duty to present all facts about a case, he can also suggest the best solution, but the final word belongs to me. Is it different in Starfleet?”

“Not really. A captain has final word too. But there is a case when the chief medical officer has power over his or her captain.”

“Really?” Brenok gave th’Arshar an astonished look and then his eyes returned to the console monitor. “What is this case?”

“A chief medical officer can relieve A captain of duty of that captain goes berserk.”

“What?!”

“If that captain’s judgement is flawed and poses a danger to his or her ship. There are sets of regulations to quote, of course, but it is possible. A counselor has the same power.”

Brenok shook his head. “Not possible in the Cardassian Guard. All must listen to their gul and follow him.”

“What if that gul goes berserk?”

“We can hope it wouldn’t happen.”

“Does it happen?”

“Nobody is perfect, captain.”

“Maybe you should implement such a rule too?”

A small smile appeared on Brenok’s face. “I don’t think so. Our military is based on order anda need for order. Giving power of a middle ranking person over the highest ranking person is violating that order. It just can’t be done. No one would accept it. It wouldn’t work.”

“But if you would implement this rule, maybe less guls would do what we know guls did in the past.”

Av’Roo thought that it was a mistake to say that and look on Brenok’s face confirmed her suspicion. Whatever th’Arshar thought about the Cardassians and their commanders, it was not the time and place to voice those opinions right in the face of one of them.

Th’Arshar seemed to understand that too, as he grunted—Av’Roo had an impression it was some kind of ashamed apology—and returned to the console that Ya’val and Churmou were working at.
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Old November 21 2010, 12:56 PM   #134
Gul Re'jal
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
26th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar




It was very late by the time Brenok was back on his warship. He knew he should go to sleep as there was another difficult day ahead of him, but he also knew he wouldn’t be able to fall asleep. He decided to do something productive instead.

“Brenok to Taret.” He decided to start from an update.

Taret here.” The medic’s face on his screen appeared to be ten years older than Taret’s actual age.

“How is he?”

No change, Gul. I have scanned him in detail and can give you some more information about his state.”

Brenok could see Saratt in the background, behind Taret’s back. Obviously, Taret had built a kind of tent around Saratt’s body to cover him without touching his skin to offer him some kind of privacy and dignity instead of laying there naked and stretched in presence of so many people, including women.

“I’m listening.”

His body is weak, some damage is irreversible and part of it is the result of the harm done to him. At first I had thought that speaking loudly in his presence would be enough to break his bones, but the nutrients he has been receiving seem to be good enough to keep some aspects of his health—if this could be called ‘health’ and personally I think it’d be a mockery—is on a level that there still something could be done to help him. I mean, I doubt he would ever have a chance to walk and run, but a well designed rehabilitation should help him. And hereby I’d like to ask you to do something, sir.

“I’m listening.”

Could you contact Doctor Zabar on Cardassia? She should be reachable in the Military Hospital. She is a specialist in cases similar to this and I am sure she is better qualified to help him than me.

“I’ll find her.”

Also...sir, I have promised Saratt that he would feel no pain. I don’t want to break that promise and I have an idea. But I need your approval.

“What is it?”

Do you remember when Zamarran’s shoulder, arm and right side of his body had been burnt in the engineering during the Dominion War?” Brenok nodded. How could he forget? The fire had taken over almost whole engineering and would reach the warp core and blow them all to hell if not Zamarran’s bravery. He’d managed to activate fire-extinguishing protocols, but not before the fire had enveloped his right arm, shoulder and continued to consume his armour. Zamarran, who had been the chief engineer back then, had spent months in a hospital recuperating. “We had used a specific medical treatment to spare him suffering. There are two types of a drug that helps to eliminate the pain. Both types deactivate pain receptor in the brain, effectively helping in the healing process. Both have side effects. One is highly addictive but works better. The other one, in extreme cases, can additionally eliminate all sorts of sensations and it depends on an individual. I would like to use the latter one on Saratt. Even if I’d have to wake him up, he wouldn’t feel pain, although the pain would be there. If we find a way to unplug him, he would have to get through a long and surely painful series of exercises for—most likely—years. Those exercises would rebuild his muscles and strengthen his body, so they would be unavoidable. The medicine would have some negative influence on his brain activity too.

“Do you think that’s the best option?”

I wouldn’t even mention it if I wouldn’t think so.

“Proceed then.” Brenok was sure Taret felt uncomfortable making that decision without asking Saratt for permission, but he knew the medic wouldn’t wake his patient up right into the pain just to ask one question. Besides, Saratt’s answer was easy to predict. “I’ll contact Doctor Zabar and see if I could bring her here.”

That would be the best but I know she’s busy. Any advice would be precious, though. I’m sending my medical report for her. Please include it in your message.

Brenok nodded and signed off. He prepared a message for Doctor Zabar and sent it. Then he accessed the profile database and searched for Saratt’s biography.

His profile was partially marked as formerly encrypted by the Obsidian Order and that part included a visual file. Brenok, intrigued, decided to watch it first.

He expected to see some kind of Obsidian Order interview with a candidate, or maybe the process of plugging Saratt in, so at first he thought there was a mistake and it was a wrong file.

It was a broadcast footage. First a camera showed a collection of paintings. Landscape paintings. Beautiful paintings. Brenok’s heart ached as he recognised that most of them pictured Lakarian City. His city. The paintings weren’t merely a reflection of reality, there was something in them, some sort of beauty that was emphasising aesthetic aspects of the landscapes. Were it colours, play with shadow and light or slight distortion of proportions to draw attention to one particular object or building, or animal—those paintings had a soul and expressed feelings.

Then the camera moved to the face of a very young man. His face wore a gentle expression, his big brown eyes were smiling and it pained the gul when he realised that this face had nothing in common with the man’s on the bridge face and yet it was the same person. Someone behind the camera asked a question about the paintings and young Saratt started to talk about his work. His voice...Brenok thought it would be wonderful to sing with him. His voice was smooth and as gentle as his eyes. Even when he spoke he sounded like he was singing; there was some barely noticeable melody in his words.

Brenok couldn’t take it any more, he stopped the picture and it froze. Saratt’s lips stretched in a wide smile, his eyes looking somewhere up in search for adequate words that would describe his feelings and all this completed by a painting of Hebitian Valley behind him.

“They ruined you,” Brenok whispered. “They made you go to waste.”

He started to read. Saratt was his age, fifty. He was the only son of a minor local clerk and a medic in the Lakarian Castellia Hospital. He was a promising painter and a passionate pilot. He started to take piloting lessons at the age of fifteen and by the time he was twenty-one and a student at the Lakarian Art Academy he was an accomplished pilot with a few awards. The Obsidian Order and the Guard competed to win his favour and the Obsidian Order seemed to convince him to join their ranks. He left the school and officially disappeared from Cardassia’s surface, as the Obsidian Order transferred him to the Orias system. Brenok decided to find his family. Whatever was Saratt’s future, his family had to know their son was a hero.

He logged off his workstation and locked it. He left his office; it was so quiet on the bridge. The night shift officers greeted him surprised that he was still there.

He headed for his quarters, humming a melody written by one of Lakarian composers, Ador of Vorcal. It seemed to fit the beautiful paintings of Lakarian landscapes by one of Lakarian painters, Saratt.


tbc
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Old November 21 2010, 01:45 PM   #135
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Now that was just the right distraction from the text I have to read...and a LOT better too!
Saratt really seems like he had been a man with a big soul, who under different circumstances could have grown so much. Evil Order!
I wonder, if its better for him to get another chance or if its better for him to not wake up again?
If Saratt and Brenok would have met in the past (at the Groumall or so) I am sure they would have become great friends. They seem to have quite a smililar nature.

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