Chapter 22 Cardassian Union Warship Damar Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border 30th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar “So, what do we know?” Brenok asked everyone present in the wardroom. “We know that the Obsidian Order made sure these men wouldn’t survive,” Ya’val said. “So you think this was deliberate?” th’Arshar looked at the engineer. “Absolutely. My guess is that any attempt to cut the wires attached to the brain would trig the program.” “So what do we do?” “I have been thinking about it,” Taret said. “The last message Bantal sent was ‘All at once’. I assume that it was a message to us, that he wanted to tell us something.” “All right. But what?” O’Riordan asked. “To cut all wires at once?” Zabar took a guess. “It wouldn’t stop the program from triggering,” Ya’val said. “But would let us remove Saratt to safe distance,” Taret replied. “Can you move him that fast without harming him?” Brenok looked at the medic. “I don’t know. I don’t think so, however I think that the alternative is less appealing.” Brenok nodded his understanding. Since the alternative was Saratt’s certain death, they had nothing to lose. “Couldn’t you find this program before this happened?” O’Riordan looked at Ya’val. “There had to be something.” The Cardassian engineer looked at her, anger in his eyes. “There was no way to detect it,” Jeto replied. “It was hidden deep in the system and wouldn’t be discovered unless we would specifically know what to look for. We did search through the software and we missed it. We couldn’t have prevented it.” The human doctor looked at the Bajoran. “Are you sure?” “I’m sure.” “And you also vouch for him?” O’Riordan pointed to Ya’val. “What about him?” Jeto asked. “He is a professional engineer.” Brenok couldn’t believe his own ears. Jeto not only defended Ya’val, she also ignored the insinuation that Ya’val didn’t do his job properly because of being a Cardassian. Brenok was sure that was what O’Riordan meant by ‘him’—that a Cardassian wouldn’t do such a task with proper care because he wouldn’t care about someone else’s life. He was also glad that Ya’val didn’t take the bait and said nothing, although the engineer's face expression was telling everything about his feelings. “There is one more thing,” Brenok said. “We know that Bantal disconnected many links for both of them. But there are still active brain and neck ridges links. What do we do about it?” “We could wake him up and ask him to disconnect first,” Zabar suggested. “I am not sure this is safe,” Ya’val said. “We cannot be certain that it was physical severing the wires that had triggered the program. It could also be the disconnecting procedure itself.” “Do you suggest to unplug him the hard way?” th’Arshar looked at the engineer. “I don’t know,” Ya’val shrugged, helplessness on his face. “I just inform you of possible risks.” “Then the decision is yours, sir,” Zabar looked at Brenok. When they were alone she had a bottomless basket of cute names for him but when among others, especially his subordinates, she was always official and professional. “What kind of brain damage should we expect?” Brenok asked. “Hard to tell,” Taret shrugged. “It could make him a vegetable or have no affect at all. And everything in between these two options.” Brenok thought for a while, feeling eyes of everyone present on his face. Finally he made a decision. “Here is what we will do...” The Obsidian Order vessel Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border 30th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar Brenok entered the ship’s bridge, followed by th’Arshar and O’Riordan. He saw a whole militia troop there, in addition to Taret’s medical team. Half of gareshes stood around the table, each with stretched hands. “Fom!” Tarub boomed. “Fom! Fom! Fom!” Each ‘fom’ was a signal for the next move: the men stretched their hands, made a movement of lifting, stepped aside—each ‘fom’ was one step—and stopped. “Again!” Tarus barked. “You must be synchronised. What is this? Little girl dancing? To positions! Fom!” Jeto stood in a far corner and observed the troop distrustfully. “For God’s sake, why does he look like a mummy!” O’Riordan shouted. Brenok shot her a glance. What was a ‘mummy’? “We need to protect him as best as we can,” Taret said. He was in the process of wrapping Saratt’s leg in some kind of bandage. “What is it?” th’Arshar asked. “This is an artificial scale protection,” the medic explained. “The patient’s skin is damaged, many scales missing and we are just about to move him. I don’t want to inflict more harm. This should protect him sufficiently. We would do that anyway later for the time of healing process.” “So it’s a kind of bandage,” O’Riordan came closer and inspected Saratt’s arm that was already wrapped, including his fingers to points where the wires were connected. “More advanced, actually,” Taret muttered and Brenok was sure he heard pride in the medic’s voice. “And what are they doing here?” O’Riordan kept asking. “They will do the moving,” Brenok explained. “Each of them is responsible for a part of Saratt’s body and will support it.” “Shouldn’t nurses do it? They are more...delicate,” O’Riordan looked sceptical. “With all due respect, Ma’am, this requires co-ordination and discipline,” Tarub said. “My people are the best for this task.” Brenok agreed with that. In fact, Tarub came to him with the propose of using his men for this job. “Your people are good in slaughtering innocents, not in such a delicate work.” Tarub fumed but didn’t say anything. He only glanced at Brenok, clenching his teeth. The gul’s face remained serious; he looked the garesh in his eyes and then, not taking his eyes away from Tarub’s face, he said, “I would appreciate, Doctor, if you wouldn’t insult my people.” “But--” “Never!” Brenok barked in a harsh voice, suddenly looking at her. “But--” “Enough!” th’Arshar’s voice sounded and didn’t appear any softer then Brenok’s. “If you cannot assist, I suggest you return to the Karamazov.” “I want to help,” she said quietly. “Ask Medic Taret for your instructions, then,” Brenok said and his attention shifted elsewhere. He considered the conversation finished. “Fom! Fom! Fom!” Tarub continued the training; the time between ‘foms’ was shorter with each subsequent rehearsal. The medical team prepared a hover-stretcher, to which they planned to move Saratt, next to the table. Brenok noticed a lot of medical equipment had been beamed from the Damar. “Fom! Fom!” Brenok observed the preparations. Ya’val and Jeto took their posts and worked on their consoles. Taret talked to medical staff, gesturing a lot. “Team two!” Tarub’s voice was the clearest in the noisy room. The other half of the troop approached and stood just by the practising men. They extended their hands in front of team one’s chests and stretched two fingers imitating scissors. “Fo-om!” Tarub boomed; team two ‘cut’ and team one immediately moved to ‘carry’ Saratt. They bumped on each other. “That is pathetic!” Tarub hollered. “You are worse than Ferengi slug worms! Your gul is watching, aren’t you ashamed? His daughter would do it better with her eyes closed! Again!” They returned to their positions. “Fo-om!” Better but still not without problems. Another set of insults followed and Brenok listened amused, as the more Tarub used, the funnier they were. “I’ll hire crash test dummies, they are more flexible than you!” Brenok had to admit they were improving. “I’ll dye your heads green if you don’t try harder! I’ll shave you bald and your wives will leave you and your children won’t recognise you!” Brenok went to one of tactical consoles. He wanted to make sure that security systems were offline. They didn’t need any surprises, not this time. “Sir,” Tarub’s voice spoke behind him. “If the girls won’t mess us, we’re ready.” He said the word ‘girls’ loud enough for his men to hear it. “Good,” the gul rose from behind the console and went to the table. He looked at the face of the patient and studied his features for a long while. Don’t you dare to die, he thought. “Is everyone ready?” he asked audibly. Each team reported their readiness. “Begin!” Troop team one took their places and waited for team two to take theirs. Some of the men gently slid their hands under Saratt’s body, others grasped or supported his head and limbs. Then everyone froze. Team two prepared their cutting tools and neared them to the wires, not touching them, though. They remained motionless, staring intently at their hands. Brenok stopped breathing, knowing very well that Tarub was looking at him, waiting for an order to start. Finally, the gul looked at the garesh and nodded once. “Ready! Fom! Fom! Fom! Fo-om!” On the fourth, broken ‘fo--’ team two cut the wires, while on ‘--om’ team one raised Saratt above the table and moved toward the hover-stretcher. “It’s coming!” Ya’val shouted. Brenok could hear the electric discharges building in the machine above the table and then blue tongues enveloping it. One of tongues licked one of militiamen elbow. He groaned but his grasp of Saratt’s arm didn’t weaken. Then one of tongues found something tasty and was drawn to one of wires still sticking out of Saratt’s neck ridges. It quickly progressed to his other neck ridge and wires there, scorching the skin on his throat. “Damn it!” Taret shouted. At the same time Tarub moved and stood between Saratt and the table, taking whole discharge on himself. Brenok heard Jeto gasp, while Tarub growled angrily, as if his fury could stop electricity. As expected, Tarub’s armour absorbed the discharge and dissipated it. “No, no, don’t do this to me...” Brenok heard Taret moaning. He quickly ran to the hover-stretcher to see Taret performing CPR. O’Riordan was already preparing a crash cart. The gul observed them working for a moment and then looked at Tarub. He saw him surrounded by his men. He moved toward the group. “He’s all right, sir,” one of militiamen told Brenok. “Shaken and a bit burnt but otherwise he is fine.” “Take care of him,” he told the man. He knew each sub-troop had at least one garesh with medical training. “Yes, my Gul.” Brenok’s attention returned to the fight on the hover-stretcher. He wished he could help. He wished he could contact Saratt’s family and tell them the good news and feared he’d have to deliver the worst thing a family can hear. He wished he could tell Saratt that his paintings were important for the Cardassians and that his return was a small miracle for Lakarians. He wished he could tell him that his butchers would be punished for they’d done to him and they wouldn’t be shown any mercy, just like they didn’t have any to offer him. He wished he could sing him a victory song. He wished he could look into his eyes without seeing pain in them. Taret sat on the floor, breathing heavily. Did he give up? How could he give up?!! Brenok wanted to tear him to pieces with his bare hands. “Beam us to the infirmary, full set,” the medic said after punching his wristcomm. “Then beam Garesh Tarub.” Almost everyone around the hover-stretcher, including the equipment, disappeared in orange light. A moment later Tarub was also gone. “Sir,” Ya’val’s voice spoke behind Brenok. “Let’s get out of here.” The gul turned and looked at the engineer. “Yes, yes...” he muttered.