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Old December 8 2010, 12:24 AM   #181
Gul Re'jal
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Not really. The rebuilding project is based on how we rebuild Warsaw after WWII, but it absolutely is not as ugly as Warsaw!!

But to think of it...I think I think of Lakarian City being for Cardassia as Cracow is for Poles--it's a beautiful city with a soul that lots and lots of artists come from. It's the "heart" of Cardassia, it's soul, while Lakat (in my universe the capitol) is the brain.

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
And here I assumed you had told Thor Damar that! What a freaky coincidence!
I didn't.
I believe in coincidences, coincidences happen all the time. But I don't trust coincidences. Time to check my office for Obsidian Order bugs again, obviously
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Old December 8 2010, 12:55 AM   #182
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Gul Re'jal wrote: View Post
Not really. The rebuilding project is based on how we rebuild Warsaw after WWII, but it absolutely is not as ugly as Warsaw!!

But to think of it...I think I think of Lakarian City being for Cardassia as Cracow is for Poles--it's a beautiful city with a soul that lots and lots of artists come from. It's the "heart" of Cardassia, it's soul, while Lakat (in my universe the capitol) is the brain.

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
And here I assumed you had told Thor Damar that! What a freaky coincidence!
I didn't.
I believe in coincidences, coincidences happen all the time. But I don't trust coincidences. Time to check my office for Obsidian Order bugs again, obviously


My Lakarian city is my home city of London without any of the imperial pomp or the political ramifications that come from it being the capital. (we don't really have a Cracow).

Say, all this has given me an idea that I might PM both you, TN and NG about...
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Old December 8 2010, 01:09 AM   #183
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

An idea? Curious, curious...
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Old December 8 2010, 03:59 AM   #184
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Gul Re'jal wrote: View Post
Not really. The rebuilding project is based on how we rebuild Warsaw after WWII, but it absolutely is not as ugly as Warsaw!!
Warsaw doesn't look ugly...I pulled up some pictures on Google, and there looks to be a LOT of neat architectural details and cool things to look at.

I won't say where I live, but I feel the same way about my own city. Yes, we have our problems, and they can be big ones, but I still see beauty.

I believe in coincidences, coincidences happen all the time. But I don't trust coincidences. Time to check my office for Obsidian Order bugs again, obviously
You find the bugs, I'll bring the disruptor and DESTROY the things.
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Old December 8 2010, 04:23 AM   #185
Gul Re'jal
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

It is ugly. It's not obvious in photos, but the real thing is ugly. I've been there and I've been in other cities all over Europe and Warsaw is the ugliest city I've ever seen.
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Old December 8 2010, 04:27 AM   #186
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Pfft. Again, if I can find something I like about the place I live, I sure won't have a hard time finding it in a European city, which almost always means more architectural interest than what we have here in the US. Your city would be easy in comparison.
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Old December 8 2010, 04:46 AM   #187
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

My city is Szczecin and it's nice Maybe not pretty the way Cracow or Gdańsk are, but it's nice. It has good spots and some interesting historical buildings (two Russian tzars' wives were born there ).

Warsaw is ugly. Period. It's dirty, buildings are neglected, falling apart of simply look terrible. Maybe it's better now, maybe they take care of the Old Town now, but 10 years ago it was terrible. Even my stomach reacted badly to being there
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Old December 8 2010, 05:21 AM   #188
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

I've seen cities fight to come back...sometimes it's a battle that you know is going to take decades longer and a lot of hard work. But as someone who cares for such a city, I don't want to write off any place.
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Old December 15 2010, 04:18 PM   #189
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Chapter 19



Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
29th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar




“How did she get there?” Doctor Zabar asked. She, Gul Brenok, Glinn Zamarran and Medic Taret were in the gul’s office, updating the doctor with new information.

“I assume it was some kind of emergency protocol. She activated it and was automatically beamed to the Obsidian Order vessel,” Brenok explained. “The guards, who had been posted to observe her, didn’t have time to react. She just de-materialised.”

“And why weren’t there any guards on that ship? Shouldn’t it be some kind of standard procedure or something?” she looked at Brenok and smiled to make sure he didn’t take it as an attack on his competency but as a simple question.

“I asked Gul Brenok not to send troops,” Taret replied. “I didn’t want them to get in the way of my medical team.”

“Yes, they have an incredible ability of doing that, don’t they?” she joked but didn’t smile this time; the situation was too serious to smile. “And you are sure her name is Nagem?” she asked the gul.

“That’s what she’s told us and her DNA confirmed that.”

Zabar shook her head with disbelief. “I would like to see her to make sure, but if it is who I think it is...” Her sentence hung in the air unfinished.

“Yes, Doctor?” Brenok encouraged her to continue.

“There was a member in my team. She joined before I received that ‘assignment’ from the Obsidian Order, but left shortly after I sent my report. Always eager to learn, always asking questions. I regretted her decision to leave. Now...”

“Now you think she had been sent to you to learn from you and use it here. Or to spy on you.”

Zabar only nodded. Brenok entered a command into his computer and Nagem’s image displayed on his oval monitor. “Is it her?” Zabar nodded again. “Let’s hope her work was a copycat style. That would mean you’d know more about it than anyone else.”

“I would like to examine those men first and then decide what should be the next step.”

“Doctor Zabar, you’re the specialist, you know what to do better than I.”

“But you’re the gul,” she smiled. “You’re the same age as my grandchildren—or maybe even younger than them!—but you still can order me around.”

“I wouldn’t dare,” he flashed his teeth in an amused smile.

“I hope so,” she laughed. “Now, can you get Saratt and Bantal’s medical histories? The real thing, uncensored.”

“I already have them here,” the gul handed her a padd. “Medic Taret had asked me to get them.”

“Good thinking. Was the decrypted database useful?” she addressed the question to Taret.

“There’s a lot of information there, but in regard of disconnecting these men...” he shook his head. “There is something, it’s a copy of the procedure from your report and there is a footnote attached that that procedure is only theoretical and its success cannot be guaranteed. In other words: if you need to unplug them, kill them and disassemble their connections to the computer.”

“Charming,” Zabar muttered.

“Doctor, is there any chance we can help them?” Breanok leaned to her and looked her in the eyes.

“I don’t know, my young Gul, but I sincerely hope so.” She thought for a while. “There’s one thing...If you don’t mind, I’d like an engineer in the medical team. This is as technical matter as medical.”

“I’ll give you two. Ya’val and Kapoor.”

“Maybe someone from the Karamazov,” Taret proposed quietly. “With knowledge about Borg implants.”

“Good idea,” Brenok agreed. “I’ll talk to th’Arshar.”

“Borg,” Zabar sighed and rolled her eyes. “Now, if there is nothing else, I’d like to start the work.”

“By all means.”

She rose and Taret followed her example. She politely nodded to Brenok, then to Zamarran and finally headed for the door.

“It sends shivers down my spine,” she said to Taret after they’d left the bridge and were on the corridor on their way to a lift, “to think that that woman spied on me all that time.”

“I try not to think how many times someone watched my hands closely.”

“Oh, how I envy those young people, those children who don’t remember the dread the Obsidian Order meant. Their lives are so...” she couldn’t find a right word.

“Worry-free?” Taret suggested.

“Yes. Lucky them,” she grinned. “Now, let’s take care of the unlucky ones. What is their status?”

“I left most of everything untouched. I have lowered Paratox dosage a bit for both, but I don’t want to completely cut it off. I know very little about it. That database of theirs...” He shook his head with resignation. “It contains information useful for this project only. And since they didn’t plan to remove those men alive, there is no information on effects of withdrawing Paratox.”

“Another database? Or they decided to commit everything to their memory not to risk any leaks?” she asked as she stopped in front of a lift door.

Taret pressed a wallcomm to call the lift. “I think both. I’m sure there is full information on everything somewhere, but it would appear that they didn’t think it has to be available on the ship itself.”

“So you reduced the dosage. I assume you fear they are addicted to it.”

“That is a high possibility. Another thing is that if their ability to move returns quickly and they start to move...I’m not sure their weak bones and muscles would be able to take it. Their condition is really bad. Frankly, I have no idea how it’s possible they aren’t dead yet.”

“How about feeding them?”

“I’ve prepared a special mixture to cover their basic needs. I tried not to make it too nutritious. The shock could kill them.”

“Fragile beings,” she whispered softly.

The lift arrived so they entered and Taret gave the car a command to take them to the infirmary.

“Belay that,” Zabar said. “Transporter chamber.” She looked at Taret. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all, Doctor. Actually, to think of it, I should have known,” he smiled.

“After they wake up, I’m sure at least Saratt is going to be in pain. His nerves are probably fried by this thing. How do you propose to help him?”

“I have prepared Aratal and calculated a dosage for him.”

“Aratal?”

“Seems the best available option.”

“What about side effects?”

“I promised him that he wouldn’t feel pain. I don’t intend to break that promise.”

The lift stopped and they headed for the transporter chamber.

“I understand.”

“I must warn you, Doctor. I don’t think you have seen anything like this in your whole career.”

She didn’t say anything.



The Obsidian Order vessel
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
29th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar




Zabar entered the bridge trying to walk quietly. She knew the patient was in a coma but she still felt a due respect to him, as a patient, should be paid. She saw a small team of medics was present, both Cardassian and Federation physicians. A woman with orange hair looked at her and frowned.

“This is Doctor O’Riordan,” Taret introduced the woman to Zabar. “Doctor, this is Doctor Zabar, the best neurologist on Cardassia.”

Zabar nodded politely and then went to the table with Saratt.

She remembered Taret’s warning and there were things she expected to see but this still went beyond her imagination. She almost felt physical pain seeing his flaking scales. His exposed brain was beautiful—as every other brain she had seen—but it was marred by a terrible crown of spikes that pierced it. His face was sunken, fragile. She raised her head and closed it to his cheek as if to stroke it but she didn’t touch him. She knew she couldn’t.

“You’re a pretty boy, my dear,” she said quietly.

Then she put her bag on the floor and took a medical scanner from it.

“I will check the other one,” Taret told her. She nodded and he left the bridge.



Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
30th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar




Glinn Zamarran entered the Wardroom and quietly went to his seat. He wasn’t technically late, he had told Brenok that he had been going to Karama and would stay as long as the communication officer needed, but he still felt his late appearance was insulting to the gathered officers.

No one seemed to pay attention, though. The gul acknowledged his aide’s presence with a small nod and then returned his attention to Av’Roo, who was in the middle of her presentation. One glance at the main monitor was enough to know she talked about Borg technology.

Doctor Zabar was making notes on her padd and Taret was intently looking at the Skorr. After a few moments Zamarran understood that Av’Roo was presenting an engineering point of view on their problem, including a Borg aspect of the experiment. She finished her lecture and Doctor O’Riordan took her place, telling everyone about medical procedures related to Borg drones.

“If it is as close to Borg technology as you say, would it be necessary to wake them up for the procedure?” Taret asked after O’Riordan finished and sat down.

“No, not necessary, although helpful. Whole procedure could be controlled also by being able to communicate with the assimilated person.”

“In this case, however, it might be necessary,” Ya’val said. “This is not exactly Borg there. I have read relevant information regarding those connections and it appears that they have to disengage some functions before they could be removed. A shut down, sort of. Otherwise the ship’s system would fall into chaos and their minds probably too.”

“In other words,” Brenok said, “we have not only to unplug them physically, but also their ‘programming’. Is that correct?”

“Yes, sir. They have to shut down the software that is responsible for the link to break the connection.”

“And how will we do that?” th’Arshar asked. “I mean, this man in the engineering had attacked the away team and can do it again.”

“I will talk to him,” Brenok said.

“Do you think he’s going to listen to reason?” Ronus sounded doubtful.

“I don’t know but we won’t know if we don’t try. I have already gathered information who this man is and I hope it would help me reach him.”

The Trill nodded, accepting Brenok’s answer. Then he looked at Zabar and Taret. “What are their chances of survival?”

“Hard to tell at this point,” Zabar said. “We try to prepare for any possibility but this is not something we can foresee.”

“Was that woman, Nagem, helpful?”

“After her arrest she had designed a procedure to unplug Bantal,” Taret said. “Doctor Zabar and I have studied it and it appears to be a fantastic piece of work but we are reluctant to apply it. We don’t trust Nagem.”

“Why would she do that?” Farr asked. “I mean, why would she design it now?”

“She wants a lower sentence,” Brenok explained.

“Ah,” the Caitian wasn’t impressed.

“And that’s one of reasons why we don’t trust her,” Taret said.

Ronus nodded his understanding. He wouldn’t trust her either. “Do you have your own theory?”

“We do,” Zabar confirmed. “It contains a lot from Nagem’s suggestion but we’re going to try a different approach.”

“How about that ship’s databases?” Brenok looked at Ya’val. “You had told me some of them seem to be coded.”

“Yes,” Ya’val confirmed. “We have withdrawn all our databases from the Karamazov and made sure no malicious codes were left behind to infect their ship. With Nagem’s codes we managed to access all of the databases but...we can’t read them. It appears to be a kind of Cardassian script but it’s...” Ya’val shrugged, “rubbish.”

“I might actually have an answer to that,” Zamarran said. All eyes turned to him. He glanced at Brenok for permission and, after being granted one, he continued. “Glinn Karama’s condition improved to a point where he needs to do something, so he made himself busy with that writing on the Obsidian Order ship’s hull. And he discovered an interesting thing. This is Cardassian. The characters’ top halves were moved and replaced by preceding characters’ tops.”

“I don’t understand,” O’Riordan said.

“Take a word. My name, for example. It consists of seven characters. The first one is Z. The second is A. Top of Z was moved and is now the top of A. The top of A is now on M. And so on. The last letter’s top is now above the first letter’s bottom.”

“So to read the word we need to move those tops back.”

“Correct.”

Zamarran almost burst into laughter seeing faces of all gathered. All Cardassians, without exceptions, drew the word mentally in their minds to decipher it, concentration clear on their faces and in their eyes, while the Federation people stared at them, wondering why no Cardassian said anything about the revelation. Zamarran could also observe the speed with which every Cardassian solved the puzzle and astonishment on their faces.

“This is the ship’s name?” Ma’Kan asked quietly.

“I would say so,” Zamarran confirmed.

“What does that word mean?” th’Arshar looked at Brenok.

The gul didn’t reply at first. Zamarran thought that he was lost in thoughts but a slight movement of Brenok’s jaw told him that the gul tried to control his anger.

“It’s two words, actually,” the glinn looked at the captain with intention to answer, “It means ‘Lakarian Painter’.”

“They named that terrible experiment the Lakarian Painter?” Farr clearly didn’t understand.

“Saratt, the man plugged to the main computer core, is a painter from Lakarian City,” Ma’Kan quietly explained.

“That’s sick,” O’Riordan muttered.

“You think that the databases were scrambled the same way?” Ya’val asked Zamarran.

“It’s worth to check.”

The engineer nodded his agreement.

“What are the chances for normal lives for them?” Brenok asked quietly. He didn’t look at anyone specifically but it was obvious the question was directed to medical officers.

Taret looked at Zabar. “There is no possibility for them to return to full health.” Zabar looked up from her padd. “The damage to their bodies is too extensive. They wouldn’t walk, their motor functions might be limited. Their rehabilitation would take years. Apart from irreversible changes to their skin—in some places scales have been removed and scaring is too deep for the scales to grow back, especially on the edges of their neck ridges,” it didn’t escape Zamarran’s attention that Brenok shivered. “We have also decided to amputate ends of their fingers. The nerve damage is most likely severe and impossible to cure so it’s better to remove those nerves completely and then replace missing parts with prosthetics. The same goes for toes.”

“Isn’t it a bit too brutal?” O’Riordan asked.

“I think it would be brutal to leave them with damaged nerves, in pain,” Taret emphasised last two words.

“And I agree with this assessment,” Zabar said, then continued. “We will have to cover their brains as soon as possible.”

“If I may,” Av’Roo raised her hand. Zabar nodded, so the Skorr said. “I would have an idea for material to do that. It is something typical for Skorr medical purposes, namely our beaks, but I think it could be worth considering for covering their skulls.”

“I would be very interested in seeing specifications of this material,” Zabar said.

Av’Roo nodded. “I’ll send it to you as soon as I’m back on our ship.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

“How about their neck ridges?” Brenok asked.

“I cannot tell what kind of state their nerves would be after disconnecting from the machine, but if there would be nerve damage that would cause suffering, we’d also remove those nerves. Limited arm mobility might be preferable over constant suffering,” Taret explained. “We might also consider transplanting new scales but it would be purely cosmetic. Their skin should heal and the edges should be covered by thick scars that would protect their ridges sufficiently.”

Brenok rubbed his own thick scar on his neck ridge. Somehow a body knew that this was a place which needed a thick, protective cover.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Sodek say that Saratt knows how to unplug him?” Fong asked.

“He did,” Av’Roo confirmed.

“So why don’t we wake him up and ask?”

“For two reasons, Lieutenant,” Taret said. “First, this information is most likely in one of databases and we can get it without waking him up and adding to his suffering. Second, his communication ability is limited. How would he tell us?”

“Right, I didn’t think about that,” Fong admitted. “Can’t Sodek mind-meld again?”

“Saratt refused that option,” Brenok said. “We won’t go against his wishes.”

“Why? It’s for his own good.”

“Because he had been treated like an object for too long and by too many,” th’Arshar said. “We will do what he wants.”

“Yes, sir.”

Th’Arshar looked at Brenok. “You said you wanted to talk to Bantal. Isn’t that dangerous? He could kill you.”

“Bantal is in vulnerable position, he can be killed before he’d manage to kill us,” Ya’val said.

“I think I know why he is here,” Brenok said. “And I think I know what to say to draw his attention and make him listen. To be on the safe side, there would be no Federation personnel present on the Obsidian Order ship at that time, only Cardassians. And not too many,” he added, looking at Taret.

“I have a question,” O’Riordan raised her hand. “Can’t we beam them out? Maybe that would be a better option than severing their fingers and toes?”

“Even if I thought it was a good idea—and I don’t—there is a dampening field around them,” Taret said.

“We couldn’t detect any life signs,” Fong recalled.

“Exactly,” Ya’val nodded. “Both men and the stasis chambers are surrounded by specific dampening fields that block their life signs and make it impossible to beam them out.”

“I’d say it’s a security precaution,” Ma’Kan added. “You don’t want your main computer core to be suddenly beamed out by an enemy if you happen to be in battle and without shields.”

“Right,” Fong agreed.
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Old December 15 2010, 04:18 PM   #190
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

“What about that black cloud around the vessel?” Jeto asked.

“We have investigated that. It appears to be a benign side effect of drifting and a few encounters with asteroids and other smaller celestial bodies. The vessel’s hull is charged and draws specific particles to it.”

“Any danger to us or the people on that ship?” Brenok asked.

“No,” Ya’val firmly shook his head.

“Are there any more questions?” Brenok looked around the faces of gathered officers. No one said anything, a few shook their heads. “Does everyone know what they are supposed to do?” Nods. “Dismissed then. And get to work.” He glanced at th’Arshar, wondering if the captain wouldn’t want to complain that he ‘orders’ also the Federation people, but the Andorian simply rose from his chair and looked at his officers, clearly waiting for everyone to leave first and then to follow them.

The wardroom emptied—only Zamarran stayed as he wished to talk to Brenok—but th’Arshar was still there. He stood by his chair, looking at Brenok who was still sitting in his seat, reading something from a padd.

“Are you going there now?” the Andorian asked. “To Bantal, I mean.”

“Yes,” Brenok confirmed not raising his head. He tapped at the padd and then looked at the captain. “This is Bantal’s profile,” he said, lifting the padd a little to indicate it was the object he spoke of. “I love Cardassia, I really do, but sometimes...sometimes I really hate it.”

Zamarran glanced at th’Arshar, wondering if it would shock him. Zamarran himself was not surprised, he sometimes felt the same. He knew Brenok meant the Cardassia before the Shift, but he suspected that the Andorian didn’t.

Th’Arshar sat back in his seat. He opened his mouth but closed it without saying anything. Zamarran didn’t read Bantal’s biography but he was sure that it was this document that had triggered Brenok’s frustration.

“Gul Brenok, even the Federation isn’t always as crystal clean as we want to believe.”

Zamarran’s eyes flared. Did he say even?

Brenok’s head jerked. “‘Even’? What do you mean by ‘even’? Is the Federation some kind of morality model that everyone should follow, better than everyone else, even though still not perfect?”

“From my point of view, yes, it is.”

Brenok stared at th’Arshar and then rose and headed for the door without a word. Zamarran rose too. “The guards will escort you to the transporter chamber,” he said to th’Arshar and then followed his gul.

“Are we going to Bantal, sir?” He asked after catching up with Brenok.

“Yes, we are. I’d like you to be there too.”

“Naturally, sir.” He wouldn’t have it any other way and would even dare to argue with his gul if Brenok wouldn’t want the glinn to accompany him.


tbc
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Old December 15 2010, 07:47 PM   #191
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

By the Gods Whom Are Not, the Order is going beyond mere cruelty and into the realms of pure and unholy sadism. And that's just naming the ship

Let's hope that proper Cardassian justice is dealt out to the shadow agents...of whatever race
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Old December 16 2010, 12:58 AM   #192
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

I was afraid the name would be something like that. And my Oralians say, "May they freeze in the eternal tundra of absolute zero, knowing neither beginning nor end of their torment, only pain beyond the end of the universe!" (That is one of the worst curses they have available.)

As for th'Arshar, boy I'd like to show him the "works" of Section 31. Morphogenic virus, anybody? Good on Gul Brenok for controlling himself, though. Especially since in this context, discussing a horrible Cardassian atrocity, it really seems like th'Arshar was rubbing salt in the wound.

About what they're going to be fed with...you seem to have thought that through very well. People who have been starved do need to be gradually reaccustomed to normal food. If you look at relief work in famines, this is absolutely the case.

As for Zabar...I feel bad for her, having been spied on and used that way. She really does seem like such a sweet woman.
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Old December 16 2010, 05:31 AM   #193
Gul Re'jal
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

I hoped that the name would stir "proper" reactions. Like: puking.

Th'Arshar is not a diplomat, if we didn't know that earlier, we know it now for certain.

I remembered from history books that I had read that after people were being liberated from Nazi concentration camps they couldn't be fed properly or they'd die. After years of being fed with virtually nothing an organism needs time to adjust. So it seemed logical to use the same precaution here. 25 years on some chemicals stuff had to influence their bodies conditions and not for good.
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Old December 16 2010, 06:11 AM   #194
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

I saw that directly depicted in Band of Brothers. The person who had to tell the prisoners that (in the series) broke down crying after delivering the news.
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Old December 17 2010, 09:53 AM   #195
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - The Shadow of the Order

Chapter 20




The Obsidian Order vessel
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
30th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar




Brenok sent all medical staff, except for Malek, out of the engineering. Only he, Zamarran and two guards by the door—and Malek—were present.

“Wake him up,” the gul told the nurse.

“It may take a few minutes, sir.”

“Understood.”

Malek injected something into Bantal’s bloodstream but nothing seemed to happen. Brenok patiently waited. He could feel Zamarran standing behind him and somehow felt comforted by his aide’s presence. He also noticed that the guards raised their weapons and tensed. They were ready for whatever might come.

It took longer than a few minutes but Brenok didn’t rush Malek. He knew that Bantal was in weak condition and forcing chemicals into his fragile body could have tragic consequences.

Finally, the man opened his eyes. First he looked around and then noticed Brenok’s face. He squinted at the gul and stared at him intently. A moment later his eyes moved to Zamarran’s face.

“Bantal,” Brenok said quietly and the man’s attention immediately shifted back to him. “My name is Gul Brenok and I have some information to share with you. About your condition and what is going on, but most importantly—about your family, your daughter.” Bantal’s eyes opened wider and he stared intently at the gul. Brenok feared the man didn’t believe him. “I know that she had been tricked by an Obsidian Order agent. I know he had married her and then used that to blackmail you to make you do what they wanted. To do this,” he waved around the engineering. “I know they had told you they would change her life into hell if you wouldn’t follow their orders.” Bantal started to breathe fast and Malek took a medical scanner to monitor his patient’s condition. “Bantal,” Brenok leaned closer, “this was twenty-five years ago. That agent, who had married her, was killed. She never learnt what kind of bastard he was and he never harmed her. She got married again. You have a grandson.” Brenok didn’t want to tell Bantal that his daughter didn’t survive the war, not now. He wanted to concentrate on something positive. “He is twenty-three and I am sure he would love to know his grandfather.” Especially since he didn’t have many living relatives left. Bantal closed his eyes. Brenok hoped it was a sign of the feeling of relief. “We plan to unplug you from this thing,” he said. “But we need your help.” Bantal opened his eyes and looked at Brenok. He frowned and looked around. “Bantal, we managed to communicate with Saratt in a limited way. He was displaying words on a monitor. Maybe you can do the same? For ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers you can blink, once for ‘yes’, twice for ‘no’.”

Lie? Appeared on a monitor behind Bantal.

“No, I don’t lie. This is not a trick, your mission, whatever it was, is over.”

Daughter?


Brenok swallowed his saliva. That seemed sufficient for Bantal, as he gasped quietly.

“I’m so sorry,” Brenok whispered.

Boy?

“He is fine. He lives with your sister’s daughter’s family. His name is Elok.”

You traitor?

“No, I am not, Bantal,” Brenok said calmly. “I know you had seen Federation officers here but this is a long story. One I hope to be able to tell you later.”

One blink. And then on the monitor: Saratt?

“He is in bad condition. He’s in pain, that’s why he tried to destroy the ship.”

Not know. Think traitor.

“Can’t you communicate with him directly?” Two blinks. “Can you communicate with him at all?”
Two blinks.

“They probably didn’t want them to conspire against the living crew,” Zamarran suggested.

Bantal only looked at him, not confirming. Brenok guessed that he didn’t know it himself.
“Do you know how to unplug you safely?” the gul asked.

Another monitor activated and filled with a lot of text. Zamarran went to it to read. “It’s a detailed info on unplugging procedure,” he said.

“Anything new?” Brenok asked.

“Not really. It’s another file but I don’t see any new information here. But it confirms that some systems have to be shut down by--” Zamarran frowned and growled, “by Bantal and Saratt to make it safe for both the people and the computer.” Brenok sent him an asking look and Zamarran pointed to one of horizontal lines of the text. It read ‘Core 1’ and ‘Core 2’ and the glinn had refused to use those words.

“Thank you,” Brenok said to Bantal. “Will you help us?” he asked.

One blink.

“I’m sorry I have to ask this but...will you attack the Federation people?”

You no traitor?

Brenok smiled. “No, I’m not a traitor. I am the highest commander of the Guard, actually.”

Bantal glanced curiously at his braid and his left eye ridge slightly twitched. Brenok had no idea he could do that. Saratt’s face expressions were more limited.

“The Federation people are here to help too,” the gul added.

Kill me?


“No, Bantal, we want to save you. I wouldn’t allow them to harm you.” After a short moment he added, whispering, “Trust me.”

Save.

A hum sounded in the engineering. Brenok gave Zamarran an asking look.

“He shuts down non-essential systems,” the glinn explained.

Ya’val to Gul Brenok,” the gul’s wristcomm activated. “We have detected a drop in power. Is everything all right there, sir?

“Yes, Ya’val. Everything is under control. Brenok out.”

Brenok could hear Malek asking Bantal for permission to examine him. The man on the table agreed.

“Bantal, can you establish a link with another ship?”

Two blinks. And then Tell on the monitor. The gul was just about to ask what he should tell, when the word was replaced with Daughter. At first Brenok wanted to say that there was no time but it would be a lie and he didn’t want to lie. In addition it occurred to him that Bantal might not survive the procedure but he still deserved to know. Therefore the young gul leaned against the table and started to relay all post-2371 information on Bantal’s daughter and her family that he had found in the database of the Bureau of Identification. There wasn’t much but he could assure Bantal that his ‘little girl’ had a happy life...at least until the Jem’Hadar took it away. The parallel to his own daughter was so clear that he couldn’t hide his own emotions. Maybe that would convince Bantal that he wasn’t making this up, that it all was the truth.

Brenok understood Bantal’s earlier aggressive behaviour. They had used his love for his only child to make him agree to this experiment. They had convinced him that if he didn’t act as they wanted, the Obsidian Order agent that had married her would cause unimaginable suffering and Bantal knew from his own experience what the Obsidian Order was capable of. Brenok knew how it was to care for one’s daughter and if faced with the same choice he was certain he wouldn’t hesitate to agree to be put on this table and attached to the computer. He would kill every ‘traitor’ in sight and follow any suicidal mission for his little girl’s safety. He would sacrifice every last scale on his body to make sure her scales remained untouched by monsters in Cardassian disguise.

At first Bantal had hard time to believe that so much time has passed. After talking to Saratt Brenok knew the painter wasn’t aware of passage of time as a person normally would. Bantal seemed to be the same case. Did they enter some kind of long term stasis from time to time? Did their minds, locked in some sort of virtual reality inside the computer, perceive the time differently?

Maybe it was better that way. Easier for them. Saved them from going insane from being immobilised for twenty-five years. Alone... Abandoned...

“Sir,” Zamarran said softly, using the opportunity that Bantal was asking a question on the monitor and Brenok stopped speaking for a moment. “I’ll be with Karama.”

Brenok nodded and the glinn left the engineering. He passed by Doctor Zabar on the way. She came to examine her patient and welcomed him with a warm, although sad smile.



Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
30th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar



“How do you feel?” Zamarran asked Karama, pulling a chair and sitting next to his biobed.

The infirmary was almost empty, as most of the staff was on the Obsidian Order ship, but there still were two nurses present.

“Like a stabbed man,” the communication officer replied. “And useless.”

“You have solved the problem with the database. That helped us a lot.”

“So the database used the same letter shifting system?”

“Indeed.”

They both fell silent. Zamarran didn’t mind; he didn’t come here to talk, he came to be with his friend. Busy with the case he had not time to dwell on what had happened to Karama but last night he had problems with falling asleep and his thoughts had been circling the murder and Ha’varra’s insanity. Zamarran was sure the Federation counselor was crazy, he saw no other explanation.

“We were returning back to the Damar,” Karama said quietly. “He was so quiet. I think he felt badly about his friend on that ship there.” He silenced. “I was unfair, wasn’t I?” he asked suddenly.

Zamarran had no problems with understanding what Karama talked about. “You were hurt.”

“He saved me. He used some uncanny trick to protect me from the first blow but that Efrosian was fast and turned against Sabal. And Sabal managed to fend off another attack. I don’t know how he did it. But that Efrosian was fast, really fast and before I knew I felt pain under my armour. And Sabal rammed him and he got stabbed too. And then we heard someone coming. I don’t know what happened next.” He silenced again. “He saved my life. He risked his to save mine. And lost his...” he sighed. “I was so unfair.”

“You were angry. You would get over it.”

“I hope so. I think I would. He didn’t mean wrong. He was still the same Sabal; I just learnt something new about him but it didn’t change who he was, did it?” Zamarran shook his head. “You know why I’m angry?” Another shake of the head. “That he was murdered for crimes of my father. That bastard had hurt a lot of people and now he lives a comfortable life on Cardassia and people still get hurt and die because of him. I hate him, you have no idea how much I hate him.”

Zamarran had an idea. He knew Karama and his older brother lived together after moving out from their family house. They had begged their mother to go with them but she had chosen to stay with her husband and now both brothers waited for the old man to die to take their mother to their home.

“Zamarran...” Karama looked his friend in the eye. “Promise me something.”

“Anything.”

“If I die, if something happens to me, take care of Amrita.”

“Nothing is going to happen to you.”

“You can’t know that. Promise me.”

“I promise,” Zamarran said. He knew Kapoor could stay with the other Karama brother, who had accepted her and got used to having a human family member, but he also knew that his friend needed this assurance.

They both looked at Kapoor who was sleeping on a biobed next to Karama’s.

“She cried a lot,” the communication officer said. “She denied it when I asked but I know. I think this is hard for her. The Feds are not very friendly and now one of them tried to kill me. It is hard for her.”

“She’s strong. She’s going to be fine. And so are you.”

Karama smiled sadly. “Until next time.”

Silence. Long minutes of silence. Comfortable silence. Silence of friendship.
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