Chapter 17Ikila, Bajor
20 December 2153 AST
After ten days most of the planet had been liberated, save Dalkyra and a couple other cities where the Cardassians had taken to ground to hold out. With combat operations winding down the Alliance forces were shifting gears to the humanitarian situation.
It was not good. Under the Cardassians Bajor's food distribution had been heavily reliant upon the transporter network and replicators, to help keep control of the industrial cities that were central to processing the planets mineral wealth and to producing materials to help sustain the Cardassian occupation. Between intentional Cardassian sabotage of the transporters, Cardassian operations to torch Bajor's granaries and deny food supplies to rebellious provinces even before the war, and the damage to the planetary transportation network and means to move food, Bajor - already a planet requiring food imports due to the loss of agricultural land to Cardassian strip-mining or industrial practices - was on the verge of literally running out of food. Importing food to feed so many people would be a great logistical challenge in peacetime; in wartime, with the Alliance military absorbing so much shipping to replenish its supply stocks and prepare for further operations, it was insurmountable.
Such was the situation that Omi found herself in, her third day on Bajor still going by. Her bodyguards, Andrew Montel and Jake Willers, remained by her side at all times, helping her in the duties the Red Cross gave out. Here in Ikila, it meant standing at a food table all day, parceling out food items carefully as an unending line of Bajorans came by. Here her favored kimonos were replaced with Western-style blouses and skirts, a plastic apron with the insignia of the International Red Cross worn over it to deal with the inevitable food spills. Andrew and Jake flanked her, speaking over and around her during the day as they exchanged remarks, jokes, and the occasional banter that two lovers could have.
The work was exhausting. Not from an immediate sense of exertion, but in a way both mental and physical, as Omi would check the Red Cross-issued card for each refugee before giving them a daily ration pack of appropriate size. An endless stream of faces, many of them dirty-faced or otherwise looking worn down, mumbling affirmations and thanks in translator-garbled Japanese. She had been on duty for 12 hours in a shift that was set to 16 due to manpower concerns, having already skipped one break due to the shortage of workers. Omi would never let her colleagues or bodyguards see her growing exhaustion, though, it simply wasn't something she would think of doing.
The day had worn on long enough that the Bajoran numbers reduced, and more sharply than they had the prior two days. "I wonder where they could be going," Andrew muttered after handing a ration pack off.
"Maybe they got tired of seeing your smiling face, hunk," Jake, being the shorter and lankier of the two, jibed.
For a moment, Andrew seemed to be thinking of how to reply - and how explicit it should be, even if neither had the energy for sex now - before a new face brought their attention. A uniformed man stood before them, someone certainly not an Alliance officer given his bearing, though he gave a courtly smile to Omiko. His words were German, translated into the Japanese and English that the trio's translators were programmed for. "Good day my lady, I am Colonel Graf von der Goltz. How would you like some dinner?"
Seeing that the Bajoran crowds behind him were thin, Omiko nevertheless answered, "I am afraid I have four more hours, sir."
"No, it is alright, Kurita-san
." The new voice, that of Tetsuo Taibachi, said from behind them. He gave Omi a smile and gestured away from the table. "You've worked almost all of the past 3 days, Omiko, you should take a dinner."
Her first instinct was to politely decline, but seeing her bodyguards show a bit of hope at ending the day's drudgery and the grumble in her stomach overcame that instinct. "Very well, Mister Taibachi," she said pleasantly, stepping around the table with a very relieved Andrew and Jake following her. "Colonel, to what do I owe the pleasure?"
"Nothing more than a bit of companionship at the table, my lady, and I admit, some relief to my gnawing curiosity."
Dinner had been remarkable; meat unlike any Omiko had enjoyed, honestly, since coming to ST-3 in the first place, wine, and other things that von der Goltz implied were acquired at some high cost.
The Colonel was a unique man indeed. Karl Friedrich von der Goltz was not of the ADN, as his uniform had indicated, but was rather an officer (on extended leave) of the German Army of Universe AGC-1. The universe where, it was known, the conflict known as World War I actually had ended "before the leaves fell from the trees", with the result being a victorious German Empire that had lasted to the modern day, with Friedrich V on the imperial throne of Germany. A universe that, much like her own, had a peculiar love-hate relationship with the Alliance of Democratic Nations.
Karl, as he asked to be called, had been a courteous host, offering food and wine from the supply he had acquired to Andrew and Jake as well, and politely accepting their request to be nearby even before Omiko explained why they remained so close to her; their loyalty to her new "protector", Jane Sakata, the Red Dragon of Rymorta. Omi soon inquired as to what he was doing on Bajor.
"I was on reserve, given half-pay, with very little to do," he explained plainly. "I gave out feelers to anyone looking for the services of a fully-educated and trained officer of my level and was soon connected by various persons to Opel Nevis. At first I was not convinced on joining his endeavor, but upon speaking with Marshal Focht - Frederick Steiner himself - I could not refuse. He is a brilliant commander, it was an honor to serve under him."
"I see. It was quite a brave decision for you to make, given how cruel and evil the Cardassians are," Omi answered.
"There is no glory or honor in serving in safety, but in risking one's self for the cause of civilization. Though the Bajorans may be quite superstitious and even ignorant in some cases, they are a far more spiritual and civilized people than these wretched Cardassians," Karl proclaimed. "And civilization is a valuable thing, it must be cherished, protected, and when possible, expanded." Waiting for Omi to finish a bite while he sipped at wine, Karl asked, "You could have chosen many nations to live in exile, Omiko, some of which - like my home Germany - that would have treated you appropriately to your station." Not, of course, that the Germans of his home universe exactly thought of House Kurita as a line as deserving of interstellar rule as those of their own Europe, but he was not about to say that and, despite such attitudes, the German Empire had
recognized the various Great Houses of the Inner Sphere as sovereigns. "But you chose the Alliance, a state so liberal, so democratic, that many of my cousins in Germany despise it, even fear it. A state where you are not given the same social standing you would in our own, one that even illegally occupied one of your nation's worlds and fired on your grandfather's troops when they tried to reclaim it as was their right. A battle where your own brother Hohiro was slain. So, I ask.... Why?"
At that Omi smiled faintly. "The Alliance... they intrigued my father, I think, and me. They were so unlike anything that we of the Inner Sphere thought an advanced state would be like. It is one thing to permit some degree of popular government for a town or a city on a planet, but an entire nation governed by those principles? We considered them innately doomed. The Alliance disproved that, not by itself but by how old the states within it were." A sad look came to her face. "Yes, their soldiers killed my brother and annihilated his command. But that was a fight they did not start; it was something my father's enemies set into motion through their arrogance. They sacrificed Hohiro and many brave men to their vanity and arrogance. Yet, in the end, they prevailed anyway..." Omi looked downward for a moment, a pair of tears starting to come into her eyes. She had not been there when her parents and Minoru had been assassinated, the only reason she was still alive. The assassins were punished, yes, and a number of the archconservatives who had provoked the assassinations had committed seppuku
as ordered by her grandfather... but the damage was done. They had won and the Combine would remain eternally hostile to the Alliance and to the rest of the Multiverse, a policy that could bring only ruin, but there were too many in the Combine elite who refused to see that. Who were only concerned with keeping their power in a Multiverse teeming with ideas hostile and dangerous to them.
She felt Karl's hand touch her's. "I was fortunate that my parents died more mercifully," he said calmly. "And I do not object to your choice. To be honest, Omiko, as my family goes I am rather liberal and favorable to the Alliance myself. I am loyal to His Majesty the Kaiser, of course, but I firmly believe that the Alliance is a force for that which is good in the Multiverse and that the German Empire is better served by friendship toward them than by the kind of hostility so many in the Court want to display."
Almost unconsciously, Omi returned the gesture and touched his hand with her other one. Their eyes met briefly before roaring laughter distracted them. They turned to see that Andrew and Jake were guffawing beside another Red Cross worker who was standing nearby. Not privy to the joke, the two nevertheless smiled a little, such smiles being sadly lacking on the wartorn and now-starving world they inhabited.Wexford Naval Headquarters, New Liberty, ADN Colonial Zone
Universe Designate ST-3
A holographic map of the region hovered over the conference room table, a curved and bumpy half-disc showing the advance of Alliance forces into Cardassia. At the touch of control keys the units in each system could be brought up. Currently, twin arrows were coming from the planets Corwich and Lappstein toward the Cardassian system of Dervak, one labeled with orange and the other with blue.
"Sixty-three divisions on Bajor and our current sixty divisions in the Cardassian systems we've taken leave us with a current reserve of fifty-four divisions, not counting units still in the pipeline," Lumet reported. "Since we have agreed to increase support for the Commonwealth's impending offensive, I have deployed an additional ten divisions to the Commonwealth right flank, giving us sixteen to support their Percival Offensive. As a result of these changed deployments and the need to prepare for the pre-offensive strikes on identified Cardassian camps, the Commonwealth attack has been postponed until Christmas."
"Thank you, General Lumet." Simonov nodded to the control technician, who called up the next hologram This showed four arrows stabbing out of the Cardassian systems occupied by the Alliance, every arrow aimed at Cardassia Prime. "This is the current plan for Operation: Rolling Thunder
. We are aiming for a launch date of December 28th, with one hundred Army divisions and a dozen Marine divisions supported by the 5th Fleet with elements of 9th. The Aerospace Force will provide the usual pre-invasion strikes on enemy defense stations and ground bases. Field Marshal Rothbard is in command of the operation. Any points of discussion?"
Dissent first came from Polk. "I for one think that we need to delay the attack. Our supplies haven't been replenished to safe levels and won't be until at least the New Year. We're still having to support the troops we already have in occupation as well. Virtually every ship coming through the Gate now is a transport vessel carrying our supplies. This situation isn't tenable to launching a new, large-scale offensive."
"I must agree with Marshal Polk, Admiral," Lumet said. "Sustaining one hundred divisions over long interstellar distances like that is going to require a tremendous logistics effort that I do not feel is possible at this moment. We really should give it a couple of weeks."
Simonov looked away, some disgust on his face, and toward Crawford. "General?"
"We should at least give it a few days," Crawford answered. "Just after New Year's would be splendid."
Sighing, Simonov returned to his seat. "I feel that you exaggerate the supply situation," he said. "I believe that we can launch at that time, and more importantly, that doing so will be critical to keeping the Cardassians off-balance. The key is to maintain the initiative, not stop and pause for breath at every step."
"It is your
decision, Admiral," Crawford pointed out. Yes, but we all know that if I make it over your objections, there will be hell to pay if something goes wrong.
Shaking his head, Simonov said, "No, that is quite alright. We will launch on the 30th. Even two days should bring in millions of extra tons of supplies. At the very least, even if we don't make it to Cardassia, we can occupy more enemy space and put our bombers closer to their industrial heartland."
"The 30th it is, then." Lumet nodded in acceptance, as did Polk and Crawford.Danthin, Rymorta
The outlying spaceport town of Danthin was hostile territory for most of the planet's denizens. The Orion Syndicate was in charge here and they ruled with their usual sense of justice and mercy - that is, absolutely none
One of the central structures of the town was the Danthin Repository Vaults; ostensibly a storage facility, it was primarily used by the Syndicate to store cargoes of all kinds: illegal drugs, biological material, sentient cargoes bound for the slave markets on Orion, Ferenginar, and other nations where slavery existed in some form or another, and of course, stocks of GPL to be used for direct "cash" transactions.
The prospect of gaining three and a half thousand bars of interstellar specie was too tempting for Jane to pass up. That infusion of cash would work wonders in the countryside communities she protected. The only question remaining was how to acquire it.
There was the direct approach, of course: gather her people and launch an assault on the Repository. But such a direct assault had its risks beyond the obvious. It was one thing to outwit the Syndicate, but to attack it brazenly? That would invite retaliations against Jane's people, or if falsified evidence of another group's responsibility was left, then it would result in the Syndicate and the patsy setting the planet ablaze.
Subterfuge, therefore, was safer, and it was the route Jane took. A two man - or two woman
- team in this case, with Jane playing the intruder, donned in a dark stealthsuit and waiting to infiltrate from the top floors.
At the front door, a well-dressed Orion woman appeared before the Nausicaans hired as watchmen. Speaking near perfect Janka dialect (one of the "Eastern" Orion ethnicities) and looking the part, the green-skinned female gained admittance. "I'm in," Misty Greene spoke into the verbal receiver installed at the tip of one of her teeth.
"I'm in position," Jane stated from her rooftop perch. She didn't have her sword this time - too cumbersome - and to avoid detection of power sources for energy weapons she went with a pair of automatic chemical-propellant pistols she'd picked up through Mister Carrey and his agency. Pressing herself close to a skylight she waited for the go word.
A short distance away, an airvan had found its position. In the back Jane's leading "technical advisor", a former Starfleet Engineer, was seated at a computer system. "Burst transmission systems up," Lt. Edward Dunai (Ret.) remarked over the comms and to the armed men in the van with him. His large frame was covered in light from the LCARS display interfaces before him. Running fingers over the customized input displays, he said, "I'm ready as soon as Miss Greene gets the splice in."
Misty found her way to the security office rather easily. Given the Nausicaans at the entranceway and the security measures - as well as their usual dash of arrogance - the Orions tended to keep a small staff in the Vault, including the man overseeing the security systems. He took one look at Misty in her Orion persona and remarked, in Common Orion, "Are you here for me or for business?"
"For both," she answered, again in the dialect she'd used earlier. He clearly understood it - Janka was fairly understandable for an Eastern or Northern Orion - and stood up. He hadn't ordered a prostitute and was vaguely suspicious, but was also clearly interested. He took a step toward her, only a step, and took out a baton he could use to defend himself if necessary. "You want to search me?"
"Your clothes will come off anyway," he joked.
She smirked at that. Her leg came up the next moment, moving fast enough that her steel-bottomed boot smashed into his throat before he could react. Choking for air, unable to breath or call for help, he was helpless to prevent her from twisting his wrist and his arm in one go, making him drop the baton, and putting him in position for her to inject him directly with a hypospray. The chemical within quickly worked its way to his brain through the carotid artery, where it did its thing; the Orion stopped struggling and fell unconscious in her arms.
Propping him into his chair, she went to the security systems and found a port for the splice. It was a small, wireless data transceiver that Edward had put together for these occasions. After inserting it Misty closed the door before lifting up her trouser leg to get to the sidearm she'd hid there, should any further security in the building come by.
From the van Ed noticed the moment the splice was in place. His fingers zipped rapidly over the LCARS display, configuring it to give him full functionality in his control of the Vault's security systems. "Disabling rooftop sensors. You can go in," he said to Jane.
"I read you
As she made entrance, he turned his attention partly to surveillance systems. He checked each locker with an active visual sensor, knowing what they were meant to contain. But all he saw were rooms of unoccupied cots.
Then he found one that was more than empty. It had nobody in it, but the cots had been recently disturbed. Articles of clothing were still in place, having not been removed, and as soon as he saw them Ed's heart fell into his stomach just as it twisted from a sense of horror and shame. "Activity in one of the pens," he lamented.
Before he could continue, he heard Jane's voice begin speaking with a hopeful, "Are they....?
"They're gone. We're too late." Ed closed his eyes and rubbed at them. The Syndicate had a load of captives here, but it was too late for them. They'd been moved, direct to the spaceport, and were now on a carrier to be taken to a slave auction on some other damned world. All those people...
"Don't think about it, just keep doing your job,
" he heard Jane speak. It was sufficient to regain his attention.
"Okay, you're looking for..." He read off the alphanumeric identifier for the vault listed as possessing the GPL. There were no colorful metaphors or false designations in this database. The Syndicate owned the authorities here: why bother?
"Are you sure I can't just break this guy's neck?
," Misty's voice stated over the speakers. "Nobody would miss him.
"It's one thing to steal from the Syndicate, Misty, but it's quite another to kill an Orion in the Syndicate. They save the fates worse than death for people who do that.
"They'd have to catch me first
," was the non-chalant reply. "But don't worry, I'll let the jackass live.
"Jane, hold your progress." He noticed where she was on the security systems. His computers were getting the live feed while they transmitted false "all clear" data to the main system and to all of the data recorders and screens it worked with. She had gone down two floors via stairs to get closer to the objective, but the Orions had been clever; there were armed guards at the actual GPL storage site. "You've got two hostiles."
"Think you can do anything about them?
", Jane asked.
He cycled through the options. "Don't think so. Do you want to abort?"
"No, we've come this far. I'll deal with them.
Jane had come up to the corridor at Ed's direction and found her target; a storage bin of large size, guarded by two burly looking Orions wearing the skins and identification medallions of Southern Orions, one of the Lasha tribes. Fighting two men of such size was not an easy proposition. In these corridor spaces she lacked the open room to use agility to maneuver around them.
Thankfully she ahd come prepared. Reaching into the pouch on her right hip, she retrieved what Carrey had called a "flash bang" when showing it to her. The principle was easy enough; a device that left off an instantaneous, powerful blinding light that would incapacitate for several seconds.
Pressing down the activation trigger, Jane threw it over her shoulder and down the hall. She took cover around the corner again, hearing the Orion guards speak in confusion as they saw the device hit the ground. A blinding flash filled the corridor a moment later, so intense that even with her eyes closed, and herself around the corner, she could still "see" it through her eyelids.
The men were still crying out in surprise, brandishing weapons as they flailed about, their sight lost. Jane grabbed the arm of the first and wrenched it the right way, recalling from training and research the Orion pressure points. He dropped his blaster.
She twisted the arm the other way and brought her leg up in a swift motion, smashing him in the nose with a steel-toed kick. As she came about the other guard was still trying to regain sight but was clearly relying on his hearing to point his weapon. His weapon leveled and he fired, wildly, sending a beam over Jane's head and left shoulder as she rolled to her right. She was on her feet in a moment, breathing hard as she, with no sense of fair play at all, slammed her fist into his scrotum.
The pain that rippled through her right hand couldn't be resisted; Jane cried out in anguish and could not only feel but hear
her knuckles break from the impact. The guard's protection had done its damage; unfortunately it was intended for more indirect blows and the force of her punch did its work. He cried out in agony and dropped to a knee, taken by shock at the pain of the impact. Jane wrenched the blaster out of his hand in his moment of distraction and smashed his face with her left knee, a blow that was also rather painful for her though nowhere near as damaging. She shook her right hand in pain, cradling it with her left, as she went to the control panel for the storage bin. "Okay Edward, I'm here. Get me in."
"One moment, fearless leader.
The moment passed. As she went to call him again, the door suddenly came open. She stepped in and found what they were looking for, GPL shipping cases throughout the large storage area. There were thirty-five hundred bars in seventy 100-bar crates in all, marked with the seal of Olorpatho and his clan. "I'm in."
"We've got ten minutes until a security sweep catches Miss Greene
," Edward stated. "If you're looking to avoid a bloodbath I'd suggest you hurry.
"I heard that
," the assassin answered over the system.
Jane reached into another pouch and retrieved the wall-mounted beacons. She went to each corner of the room and attached them, activating them in turn. When she was done she clambered on top of the cases and affixed one to the ceiling. As she shifted her weight to get down she lost her footing and struck the cases hard, smashing her chest hard against them. "I hate it when I do that," she rasped painfully in a low tone.
Given her tech engineer's lecherous (if playfully so) tendencies, Jane thought it better to not let him know what she meant. "Tripped. Broke a nail," she lied flippantly, unable to resist cracking a bit of a grin. "Beacons attached."
Immediately Misty spoke as well. "My beacon's on... now. Getting the splice.
The moment the splice was removed Edward lost his connection to the security systems, but he didn't need them to know the result. The lifesigns of the two women, but especially Jane, had immediately triggered an alert. Ordinarily this would be disasterous - it would have immediately led to a defensive shield going up over the Vaults. But he had used his time in the Orion system wisely. Instead of the shields going up, the Vaults' anti-seizure program that the paranoid Syndicate had installed went off. The computers began to purge themselves and transporter beams would re-distribute all the internal goods into another Syndicate facility.
There would be one exception. The GPL, along with Jane and Misty, had already been snatched by the satellite-based transporter system that Jane had set up for such occasions. They would materialize, safe and sound, in the Sakata Estate, along with their liberated proceeds. The guns and drugs and other illicit goods the Syndicate had would arrive safe and sound, much to Ed's chagrin; he would have preferred activating the emergency "destroy the evidence" system, but between the issues of a transporter failure - which would have destroyed the GPL and, more importantly, killed Jane - and a desire to not royally piss off the Syndicate, Jane had told him to let them go. It was one thing to snatch up 3,500 bars of GPL from the Syndicate or one of their affiliates. They could make that profit in a day or two with the sheer quantity of illicit goods they dealt in. But to destroy everything else would cost the Syndicate a lot more money and make them far
more ornery. And it was not a good thing if the Syndicate was ornery.
Edward turned to the driver, a cute brunette who was a native of Rymorta. "Okay Dana, let's go home.”
She nodded and brought the engine out of cold standby. Within moments they were in motion, returning to the Sakata Estate, a job well done.Madred Village 23, Dervek, Cardassian Union
21 December 2153 AST
It had been nearly a month since Christine had been sent to Madred Village 23, and in that time, not a single training raid had been launched by the Cardassians. The locals certainly didn't mind that, as it allowed for them to go on about their lives in what fashion they could.
Christine was living with Sharon Carter and Kristina Ivanova now. They had given her Kristina's old room and she was now working as a food server in the Village 23 Bar and Grill, as it called - it was in truth the equivalent of both mess hall and grocer for the villagers. She was on break at the moment and enjoying lunch with Carter. The robust redhead was a little sweaty from the morning's drill and training exercises, wearing a sleeveless dark gray shirt with knee-length patterned shorts. She had come in after her morning activities with the town militia/insurgency cell, who played the opposition force for the Cardassians. From what Christine had learned, there was a pool of villagers who rotated in and out of the militia, since those in it were subjected to the constant stress of being targeted in the next raid.
Carter's partly-muscled arms rested on the table as she chewed on a replicated steak, while Christine had a conventional salad of vegetables grown in the Village itself. "You've taken to life here well," Carter said to Christine.
"Thank you. I don't want to be a burden, and to have everyone fuss over me when I first showed up..."
"It's something we do here. We all look out for each other, since we've got nobody else to do it."
After they both had a few more bites, Christine bit into her lip. "I've, uh, been curious about something, if you don't mind me asking."
"Well, uh..." Christine looked awkward and put her hands on the table. "You and Kristina. I've never... known a couple... like you."
Instead of the angered expression Christine anticipated, she was replied with an amused grin. "Kristina said you were getting curious. She's good for reading people."
"I don't mean to pry...."
"Oh, it's no problem. If we were concerned for privacy, Christine, we'd have never invited you to stay with us." Carter took a quick drink. "Well, I'll say first that Kristina and I used to be into men. In a way we still are. We first met at the Ilivor 2 Labor Camp about seven years ago. Kristina was a POW, and I was an unlucky member of a merc band from the Sphere that crossed the wrong Gul. They'd tortured us both half to death by the time we ere in Ilivor, and there we were worked nearly to death until the mine vein was exhausted and the camp was closed. While we were in Ilivor, Kristina and I shared a bed in a purely platonic fashion and we watched out for one another. When we came here, we stayed friends while living in the same house. At first, we slept in different rooms, until the nightmares about what the Cardies had done to us were too much. We started sleeping in the same bed, purely platonic again. But, over time, I guess a bit of a spark came between us. It began with gentle kisses good night, an occasional embrace. Time passed, the kisses grew longer, the touching became more intimate, and the next thing you know..." Carter sighed. "We've been lovers for about seventeen months now."
Christine nodded in understanding and finished munching a mouthful of salad. "So, uh... what's it like? I mean, how do you two...."
"How do we make love?" Carter sat back in her chair, a lazy grin on her face and her hands folded before her. "Well, um, it depends on what we feel like doing. And what we feel like using. And..."
The door burst open and Edward Winfield rushed in, wearing workout clothes not too different from Carter's. "Sharon, they took her."
Christine watched Carter's face turned a little white. "Kristina?"
"Yes. Beamed her right up as we were jogging the perimeter. Absolutely no warning."
"What does that mean? Why did they take Kristina?"
Carter put a hand over her mouth, keeping her head and eyes low. When she finally looked to Christine, tears were appearing in her green eyes. "Probably to train a new interrogator, Christine. They took Kristina to... torture her.... to train another damned interrogator." Carter's fist slammed into the table, then her hand swept across it and threw her mostly-eaten lunch into the far wall. She started to sob. "Oh Kristina..."
"They'll send her back, I thought?" Christine looked from Carter to Edward. "Won't they?"
The New Anglian lowered his eyes. "Maybe. But sometimes... their training sessions go bad and the person returns completely broken.... or sometimes not at all."
Christine sat for a moment, mouth agape, before she covered it.12:45 GST
Kercil had not met Jevil's replacement until now, and he was far too busy monitoring the physical condition of the prisoner on the restraint table to do more than get a general idea of her appearance. Glin Koviyal Orvel was cute to other Cardassians, with her small nose, large-looking eyes, and slim figure. She looked the slightest bit nervous at times as Horvem grilled her intensely on the imatter at hand.
Kristina was locked into the table. Her hands and feet were obscured by the locks themselves, though the rest of her body was visible; she was, by many standards, attractive and desirable. But she was laid out that way for a different reason, apparent as Horvem and Orvel spoke on.
Having given a brief dissertation on Human "neural weak points", Orvel took control of the device mechanism for the agonizers built into the table. Kristina's pained screams echoed in the room, with Kercil's responsibility being to alert them to her medical condition whenever Horvem desired.
This continued for a short while. When they finally stopped, Kristina laid whimpering on the table, her body covered in her own sweat. Kercil watched Horvem retrieve a device attachment for the table while speaking. "Sometimes, Glin, time constraints will forbid a slower pace for breaking your subject. What do you do in those situations?"
After thinking for a moment, Orvel replied, "Overwhelm the subject with negative stimulus. Attempt to break their will swiftly even if it means causing some physical damage."
"Exactly. And for some species, this is the best choice." Horvem put the attachment onto the table. It fit precisely upon the foot of the table. The instant Kristina saw it her face grew an extra shade of white. "Do you recognize this object, Glin?"
"It's a penetrator rod," Orvel replied in a business-like tone, though Kercil thought he saw her eyes waver a bit, betraying discomfort. "Aside from its obvious applications of inducing negative stimulation into sensitive orifices, its use adds to psychological trauma, specifically traumas generally related to violations of a sexual nature."
"What do you suppose is the best setting for a Human woman?"
"Ten," was Orvel's reply. Horvem gestured to the controls and Orvel put in the appropriate commands. The penetrator rod ceased being smooth, with raised surfaces of some bluntness appearing on them at places. "Neural stimulation levels should not be placed above Five, of course. Humans are slightly more sensitive than the norm and to have it any higher would place the subject in shock."
" Kristina's wail drew the attention of all three Cardassians. "Please, not that! PLEASE!
Horvem looked back to Orvel. "Glin Orvel, if this were an interrogation, how would you respond to this?"
"I would judge that the subject is close to breaking," Orvel said matter-of-factly. "Therefore I would reduce the actual intensity of the penetrator in favor of lighter settings, to reinforce to the subject that I am fully willing to use it. This should be capable of provoking a complete breaking of the subject without requiring higher settings and possible physical damage."
"Very good," Horvem said with approval. "Of course, this isn't an interrogation. Use the settings up to the maximum to familiarize yourself with its effect."
Kercil forced himself to turn away and focus on the colored display in front of him, with its unliving humanoid bipedal profile as opposed to the squirming, screaming woman on the table. It was easier to focus on the changes of hue in her neural patterns than actually watching the penetrator pushed into her and activated. Kristina's screams were almost inhuman; if one were to just hear them without seeing what was happening, they might assume she was being ripped open and torn apart from the inside.
Kercil himself agonized over every moment even as he mechanically replied to all requests on her medical status. To say anything else would be to risk exposing the fact that his stomach was twisting in shame and self-loathing. Orvel used multiple combinations of sharpness settings for the penetrator's surface and power settings for its neural stimulators, causing various kinds of response but all of them causing that same dreadful wail.
After a stretch of time that was an eternity for both Kercil and Kristina, Orvel stepped away from the controls and had the penetrator retract. She looked to Horvem. "You don't look so well, Glin Orvel," Horvem noted. "Problems?"
"Sir, I, uh.... it's nothing sir."
"That answer is unacceptable, Glin," Horvem said in a very severe tone. "What is troubling you?"
Orvel bit into her lip for a moment. "I apologize, sir, but I found this very uncomfortable."
"Will your discomfort in your duties cause you to neglect them?"
"No sir!" Orvel's refusal was strong, even if her expression still betrayed her intense discomfort, perhaps even a bit of pity and empathy for her victim. "I am here to serve Cardassia, sir. I will do whatever you order."
"Very good." Horvem was beaming with approval. "We need more people like you in the ranks of interrogators, Orvel. It is a tough job. Many give in to it and grow too accustomed to the power they hold over their subjects. They become sadists. You must never allow that to happen, and I've found that discomfort for your duties is a very effective way of preventing that. You will make a very good military interrogator.”
Orvel struggled to smile a little. "Thank you, sir."
"Now come, Glin. We'll go over my evaluation of this test over a glass of kanar. I've found it makes these things a little easier to live with. Glin Kercil, get her unlatched and beamed back down."
"Yes sir," Kercil said. He watched them leave and unlocked Kristina from the table. She was weeping loudly and didn't move even after her wrists and ankles were free. Kercil reached down, conscious of her nakedness in the back of his mind, and pulled her into a sitting position. "Come, I'm going to send you back home." When it became clear she wouldn't walk, Kercil opted to lift her, and as he moved closer to her neck and shoulder while reaching to do so, he whispered into her ear; "Do not react to this. Tell the others to be ready. The Alliance is coming for you in a few days." With that done, Kercil lifted her into his arms and carried her to the transporter room.14:33 GST
Halina Poniatowski's little home doubled as her doctor's office, and it was in her living room/waiting room that Christine and Edward sat quietly with Carter, who was teary-eyed as they waited for Halina to come to them. Her chief nurse, a Nova Savonard named Antonia, finally came out. "She's ready to see you, Sharon," the woman said in accented English. Carter stood and followed Antonia back.
Halina met her at the door just outside her secondary bedroom-turned-exam room. "How is she?" Carter asked.
Speaking softly, the younger woman replied, "Alive. She'll heal, but they really worked her over this time. Even used the scrapers." Halina stepped out of the doorway. "Go ahead, I'll wait out here."
Carter nodded and entered the room. Kristina was curled up on the bed, wearing a simple poncho-like gown. Carter walked up to her and softly said, "Kristina?"
She turned and looked at her. Sitting up, Kristina's eyes welled up with tears as Carter embraced her. "I begged them to stop. I begged. I begged."
"Shh... I know you did." Carter held her tightly, putting a hand in Kristina's brown hair. Her tears dripped down top to Kristina's gown. "I wish it had been me," she sobbed. "I wish they'd taken me instead."
"I can't do this any more, Sharon. I can't live... like... this." Wracked with sobs, it took Kristina a short time to end her sentence. "I can't stand it. I just want to die."
"Please don't say that."
"It hurts too much!" Kristina's sobbing became so strong she couldn't say any more words. The two lovers held each other close and remained there for some time.
It was dusk when Carter and Kristina emerged from the back. Edward and Christine were both still waiting for them. "Kristina?"
"I''m alive, Red." Kristina's tear-stroked cheeks were enough to see that "alive" was the best she could do. "Listen, everyone, we have work to do."
"What do you mean, Kristina?"
Kristina looked to Carter and brought a chair up. "Anyone remember Horvem's lackey? The male one with the sad eyes? As he was lifting me up off of the restraint table today, he knelt over and whispered into my ear that we needed to 'be ready'. He then said that 'the Alliance is coming for you'."
Christine's face lifted. "The Alliance. I.. I guess things finally broke. When I was... arrested by the Cardassians, they'd been arguing with the Alliance for months over Bajoran refugees in Alliance territory."
"This probably explains the lack of AIF raids," Halina chimed in. A small, hopeful smile came to her face. "The Cardassians must be fighting the Alliance in a war."
"And the Alliance is coming here." Edward's smile surpassed Halina's. "We'll finally get the Hell out of here. We'll get to go home."
Carter was the only one who didn't smile at that. She merely kept her arm around Kristina's back and waist and pulled her closer. "Yes. We'll get to go home." Carter then, sadly, added Except for me
Nevertheless, for the first time in years, Carter felt hope for the future that she'd never had before, and she loved it.Another Gedys Scene. Not quite so graphic since we’re no longer at gory “Third World-level” interrogations.
Turoa Mountains, Bajor
Military Interrogations Facility, Cardassia Prime, Cardassian Union
The unassuming 1st Rank Glin Janak entered the room in the company of her subordinates, 3rd Rank Glins Dormac and Hancet. The sight before them was not unusual. A nude Bajoran woman, rather pretty, hanging from her restraints in the vertical stimulation rack. “Subject Gedys. Suspected of acquiring sensitive intelligence and passing it on to an enemy source,” Janak noted while reading the PADD before her. “And you cannot get her to confess?”
Gedys was barely conscious as she heard her tormentors inform their commander of their inability to get her to confirm the passing of intelligence and what it consisted of. Her suffering these past few days was different from what she had endured at the hands of the Security Forces. There was no blood here, no blows against her body, no drills tearing her knees apart. The Cardassians had spent three days repairing her from that horrific experience to subject her to this one which, in its own way, was far more cruel.
Unlike the torture she’d suffered before, this was raw, complete, unending hurt. The nerve stimulators built into the interrogators’ restraint racks stimulated virtually every nerve in the body. Upon activation they struck raw agony into every nerve, from the tip of her fingers to the top of her head.
And yet... she did not waver. Could not waver.
Not even now.
“Gedys Jorma, what information did you provide the Romulan smuggler with in Tralam Peker?,” Glin Janak asked, her tone all business.
“Nothing,” she rasped. “As I have told your people for days. I... I loved H’daen. I wanted him to carry me away to ch’Rihan.”
“You cannot fool a military interrogator, Prisoner Gedys. If you cooperate you will be turned over to the Justice Ministry to await trial and punishment. Refusal will require us to continue interrogation.”
“I do not know what you’re talking about,” she lied, thinking of the lives that would be taken if she broke.
Undaunted, Janak had Hancet retrieve a pair of devices, Gedys refused to look at them, even if she knew what they did. They were fixed to the rack and, with mechanical precision, inserted into her lower orifices. She gasped; the coarseness of their studded service already hurt. At the press of a button those studs grew larger, thicker. They stretched further within her.
The agony that came with the next button press was the worst she had yet to experience. And as she howled from that terrible pain, she felt the voice inside her beg for mercy. It urged her to end the torture, to tell the Cardassians what they wanted to hear. There is no hope for any of you that part of her mind thought. You are all lost. End your suffering and their’s!
But there was a strong feeling in Gedys’ heart. A bright pyre of Hope, hope that the people her suffering was preserving from murder might yet live to see liberation. Though she would die; they did not have to. Again her mind went to the Prophets she’d been raised to believe in, the collective, nameless, timeless deities that were the guardians of the Bajoran soul. The Prophets knew her sins and her shame but they would honor her sacrifice. In that ancient religion of her people, which she had so long neglected the practice of, Gedys’ quailing heart found strength. And for the benefit of many thousands Gedys had never, would never, know, she would continue to suffer.
When the Bajoran prisoner was unconscious from the vigor of the interrogation session, a disappointed Janak was called to a wall monitor as her subordinates collected the woman off the rack to be returned to her cell. She was rather perturbed to see the face of her highest superior appear on the screen.
For what it was worth, Gul Madred spoke very calmly and plainly to Janak. “The Legate has informed me you have a stubborn prisoner on hand who is resisting interrogation techniques?”
“Prisoner Gedys, yes.” Janak shook her head. “If I hadn’t read the reports, Sir, I would be tempted to believe her, that she really was meeting with the smuggler to get off-planet.”
“She sounds quite formidable. It does you no disservice, Glin, to fail to get information out of her. Such individuals are rare and must be treated with the respect their will deserves... and approached in a manner befitting such a strong will.” Madred looked intently at her from his office. “I will dispatch a courier to bring her to my main facility. I will personally conduct the next stage of Prisoner Gedys’ interrogation.”
Janak nodded. “I will have her transferred to the courier vessel as soon as it is in range, Gul.”
An open grotto about two kilometers from the closest cave exit was where the 13th Provisional Order had established its camp. Rations were under careful guard and all soldiers kept their arms with them as they spent the day playing kotra
or other games in an attempt to pass the time. To preserve power each Section was alloted a limited amount of personal light usage a day; at all other times, only the very meager lights erected in the camp provided illumination from the complete darkness of the Turoa caves.
Gul Luvar lived as his men did, sleeping in a crowded prefab plastic structure among many erected in the center of the camp. He ate the same daily ration as his men, joined them in the daily drills, and adhered to the same standard of rationed light. Currently he was sitting in the dark, thinking quietly. He heard movement at the door and looked up habitually, though all he could make out was a faint outline of the person in the doorway to his barracks. "Glin Damar?"
"Yes, Gul." Damar stepped forward. "How did you know it was me?"
"I can't see for a damn in here, Damar, but there are other ways of knowing." Luvar chuckled. "Go ahead and see if you can find a seat."
After stumbling around for a bit, Damar found an empty bed to sit on. "Any of the men asleep in here?"
"None. Senior Trooper Furak woke up about an hour ago and immediately roused every man in his unit. It was rather amusing, reminded me of when I was a mere 6th Ranker." Luvar laid back on his bed. "How are the men faring? Any more news from our other units?"
"We received more transmissions a few hours ago. The 24th Order surrendered last night, but the 192nd is still fighting. Gul Iravak said in the transmission that he only has two thousand unwounded men left in his command and that he intends to fight until relieved."
"Iravak was always stubborn," Luvar grumbled. "He'll get all of his men killed because of it. What about Dalkyra?"
"8th, 111th, and 115th Orders are still holding out. We intercepted some open broadcasts from Alliance news services. They say an entire quarter of the city's been reduced to rubble in the fighting." Luvar grunted as a reply. Damar leaned closer to him. "Gul, the men are becoming a little restless They hear these broadcasts and of our troops being slaughtered. They don't like hiding down here in the dark while other Cardassians are fighting."
"They'll understand why we're down here soon enough." Luvar released a sigh. "I'm not going to get them killed in a direct fight with the Alliance. We'll fight like the Bajorans did, hitting and running. It's the only way we can hold out until the war ends."
After a moment, Damar finally asked, "Do you think Central Command will give in to Alliance demands to end the war? Are they even capable of it?"
"I'm not sure. I don't think the people in charge will if they aren't forced into it. But you know how things are in the Capitol, Damar. Right now I bet half of the Central Command is sharpening their knives while the other half is starting to grow eyes in the back of their heads. Plus that damned Obsidian Order will be waiting in the shadows, their usual plots and schemes. It's all going to Hell."
"That's the way things have always been."
"But they don't have to be that way."
Damar looked at the shadowy figure of Luvar on his cot. He leaned even closer and softly whispered, "Sir?"
Luvar sat up and looked Damar in what he thought would be his eyes. "There's no Obsidian Order here, Glin, and I'm quite sure that after the war my actions will get me cashiered by the Central Command. That means I don't fear them anymore."
"Then.... what are you meaning when you say things don't have to be this way?"
Luvar appreciated the curious yet cautious tone to Damar's voice. He sighed. "I'm an old man, Damar, though I don't look it. I've fought Talarians, Tsen'kethi, Klingons, Humans, Vulcans, all sorts of races. And I've learned a lot about them. Some things that our superiors would prefer no Cardassian to learn of." With a conspiratorial tone, he said, "Do you know what a 'Republic' is?"
"No, sir, I do not."
"It's a remarkable form of government. The Humans coined the word from one of their ancient languages, a term in what they call 'Latin'; res publica
. It's a government of checks and balances. No Central Command, no Detepa Council.... you have an executive to lead the State, a legislature to write and approve laws, and a judiciary to determine if the laws are proper to the Constitution."
"A written document, Damar. A document outlying the rights, the privileges, and the duties of a nation's citizens, the powers that the government may or may not assume, and what specific form and basic structure the government has. The judiciary of a Republic then decides if any new laws violate this Constitution in any way. It's not a perfect system, but it works, because the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary constantly check the powers of the other branches."
Damar nodded silently. He wasn't into the political sciences - What Cardassian was? Political scientists ran a far higher risk of getting shot or sent to a labor camp - but he thought he understood some of what Luvar was saying. And he could sense the energy in his commander's voice. Luvar had thought on these things for a long time. A long long time.
"Our problem, Glin, has been that we never had balance. First we had the plutocrats, the oligarchs, the people who dominated the Detepa Council. Their power was not checked. They decided what laws would be written and which would be enforced, even when they would be. Then they ruined everything and the military took over.... and started to do the very same thing! Power, pure unrestrained power, is why we are huddling in the dark like voles right now and why our fellow Cardassians are dying by the thousands while Legate Kelataza is entertaining his young mistress and drinking fine kanar. There is no check on the power of the Central Command save for the Obsidian Order, which is even worse
. There's no check on State power to keep it restrained, to protect ordinary Cardassians from it. And that
is what we need more than anything."
“But, if the State’s power can be checked...” There was a look of bewilderment on Damar’s face. How could such a thing be possible? Cardassians had a duty to the collective whole, which the State embodied. It had always been that way, it would always be that way. Anything else would be... anarchy!
“Open your mind, Glin. A Cardassian will not change his beliefs, his habits, because the State no longer has a gun to his head. We are a people born to sacrifice for each other and for the whole. It’s in our blood, it’s engrained in our very souls. It does not matter what form of government Cardassians have; we will always be Cardassians, and we will always live up to the principles of the Never-Ending Sacrifice.”
Damar silently nodded. "You may be right. But what can we do? We're just two field officers with no important connections back home."
"Yes, we're the ones who have to do the dying." Luvar smirked to himself. "Ah, Glin, I hope you understand when I say I'm happy a man like you has come to serve in my unit. You're a bright young officer, very smart. Smarter than you know. Given a chance, a man like you can go much further than some crusty old orphan-soldier like me."
Damar didn't quite know how to respond to that. "Thank you, sir, for your faith in me," was the reply he managed.
"Now, if you don't mind.... I have been thinking for far too long, and this tired old man must rest. Can you rouse me in four hours to meet with the regimental commanders?"
"Of course sir." Damar stood. "Have a pleasant sleep, sir."
Damar left, leaving Luvar to dream his dreams of a better future for Cardassia.DropShip Cyrilla Ward, Unlisted Star System, Cardassian Space
24 December 2153 AST
The bridge of the modified DropShip was mostly silent, save of course for the angry proclaimations of its de facto
Natasha slammed her hand down on the comm panel, cutting the feed to the JumpShip Avalon
. She looked up to her granddaughter Ranna, who was standing silently across from her, and frowned. "Why didn't these idiots do any systems checks before
we left Corwich! Goddamned morons!"
Before Ranna could speak, Natasha continued. "This whole ship looks like it's held together by duct tape and bailing wire because they wouldn't take their time and do the damned job right. No, they just tossed the new technology in where they could find Goddamned space! And now we're stranded out here in the middle of nowhere until those idiots on the Avalon
can get their systems fixed back up! God dammit!"
"We don't need
half this crap! Tell me, why does a JumpShip need a sophisticated subspace sensor system or
a new fusion reactor?! Why in the Goddamned Hell does this DropShip need an anti-matter torpedo launcher?! It's a transport ship God dammit!"
"I am so Goddamned tired
of walking through this ship and tripping over wires and fixtures and whatever the Hell the refit crew surats didn't put the fuck up because they're so goddamned lazy!
" Slamming her fist into another panel, Natasha looked up at Ranna. "Yes, Sergeant?"
"Sir, we have completed inspection of the upgrades to our 'Mechs." Ranna noticed the look on Natasha's face and quickly added, "They work fine. All the wires are picked up and nothing is hanging out."
Natasha chuckled. "Yes, well, our
techs handled that."
"How much longer until we can jump?"
"They're not sure. I just hope there's something left of that camp when we get there. I'm going to be pissed as all Hell if we get there and find nothing but ashes and corpses." Natasha frowned. "In fact, if that happens, I may go over to the Avalon
and toss its techs out of an airlock!"