“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
With grisly relish, the corpses of the dead Cardassians were hung off the government building. The Nobua responsible started a fire, and watched the bodies of the supposed unholy demons begin to disintegrate. Similar scenes were repeated throughout what had once been a Cardassian city. The last resistance they had faced, the Cardassian fighters, had long since withdrawn to the Praklar II. Any Cardassians who had been unfortunate enough to find themselves behind Nobua lines before Darek ordered the beam-out had been massacred and befouled. Homes had been ransacked, bodies defiled. Unchecked fires flared up towards the night’s sky as the victorious Nobua took what they pleased. The parading, veneering armies of the Nobua stripped the city bare, hungrily sacking houses, buildings, apartments, anything at all that they could in search for loot. Not that the Nobua had a very clear idea of its importance. Things that were clearly weapons, even to the largely untrained Nobua eyes, were top priority. Shiny and decorative things came next. Other technology, misunderstood and misrepresented, was cautiously placed by deeply superstitious Nobua in uneven, uncertain piles at the corners of streets. The Nobua would have destroyed them outright, but they had their orders from Sharguruk himself to leave it as it is — so that, in his words, “The Magic of the Evil Ones can be used against them.”
Exhilarated and full of himself, Haichi confidently strutted aimlessly throughout New Zareshan, basking in a tremendous glory that he was still coming to terms with, continually accompanied by a roving routine of aides and military advisors.
And Entak. Haichi had had his aides summon the Cardassian from Laztan — the name the Nobua gave to their main catacomb, and the effective capital of Sharguruk’s underground state — so that he could view the crushing and decisive victory of the Nobua first hand. Not that it really mattered to Entak at all at this point... not that he could even really understand what was going on anymore anyway.
The former Commander of New Zareshan’s Armed Forces released a long, painful groan as he was continually carried about by one of the stronger Nobua in Haichi’s retinue. Entak was dazed, half-conscious, in severe pain, and sleep-deprived. At best he could only vaguely make out the outlines of people at buildings, and he no longer understood them, what they said, or anything at all. The only thing the barely-living Cardassian wanted, vaguely, was for this, the moving and the pain, to end — not that someone at this point could really discriminate between death and sleep. Entak looked haggard, worn, weak, and starving. His eyes were deeply inset into his face. The Nobua whom he was with, seeing all Cardassians as foul, ugly demons, could not tell the difference between a healthy one and a near-death one — and even if they did, they simply wouldn’t care. And neither did Haichi as he triumphantly pointed out to the Cardassian the burning buildings, the looted homes, and the Cardassian corpses. Haichi could not have looked happier.
Ochgenck could not have looked sourer. The petulant, fairly round, but rough and thick as leather Gul leaned back on the Gul’s Chair on the Praklar II’s bridge, drumming his fingers incessantly on the armrest and scowling impatiently at the planet he could see from the viewscreen.
The door slid aside from behind. Ochgenck did not bother to look up — until he heard the strained and cracking voice of one of his glinns: “Legate on Deck.”
Ochgenck’s seat snapped around automatically as if immediately summoned. The Gul stood upright. Immediately, he was more formal, more efficient. He faced Darek.
The Legate had his hand on a nearby console. He looked intensely focused, as if he was brooding like he had never brooded before. His eyes seemed as sharp as ever, cold, brisk, calculating, obsessive, morbid. His expression was eerily calm. Darek’s eyes probed the commander of the only warship in the New Zareshan fleet — the commander of the last real commodity Darek had left. The Gul shuddered.
He had served under Darek before, as a Glinn and the pilot of the original Praklar during the Cardassian-Klingon War. Unpleasant memories of that and other encounters flickered through his mind. The eyes of Darek probed him, examined him, and evaluated him. The look on Darek’s face made it look like he seemed to know Ochgenck — not just in the casual way, but that he knew everything about him, including the Gul’s deepest and darkest fears.
And Darek seemed to be saying that he was worse then even those. The muscles on the Gul’s face flickered uncertainly.
Then, suddenly, abruptly, Darek broke off and strode over to the Gul’s Chair. He slid into it.
He swivelled slowly on the chair, his glare piercing the very souls of each of the bridge officers in turn. Suddenly, the bridge felt a lot colder.
He then returned to the viewscreen. He arched forward, supporting his face with his folded hands. He studied the orb on the viewscreen intently, as if the slightest emission from it would be of decisive importance.
The bridge officers cautiously, with more then a bit of healthy fear evident in their eyes, looked at one another. The silence began to prove unbearable, but none dared to provoke the Legate’s wrath.
“Have my preparations been made?” Darek’s voice resounded through the room. He spoke almost quietly — almost. But there was no mistaking his measured, forceful voice, and for that crew, there was no disobeying.
“Everything is standing by precisely as you ordered, sir.” Ochgenck parroted.
“Have you adapted the sensors?” Darek continued, still staring at the scene.
“Yes, sir.” Ochgenck stated. Darek continued to stare intently at the monitor.
“Do they work?” Darek said, mulling and musing over possibilities, but knowing there to be only one. That is, one that he was going to perform — he knew of several other possibilities and possible actions, but after so much exhausting work — well, work that would be exhausting to someone else — Darek had determined the course of action he was going to take. He was a very perceptive man, but he doubted that there were any significant flaws left in the plan which he could detect before he put it into operation.
Still, he could never be too prepared...
“Yes, sir.” Ochgenck said. Darek half-nodded, still deep in thought. He pondered it all for a moment longer. It was not like Darek to wait, but strategically speaking he knew he could afford one moment without his tactical probability of success changing at all. If there was a serious chance that his success rate would flag, even by a tiny amount, because he took a short pause, Darek would not have paused now or before, but he knew that possibility to be unlikely. Not because his plan was good — which it was — but because the war, since the beam up, had taken another form. Like in a chess game, it was now his move and he could take as long as he liked making it. In fact, the longer he took, he may just increase the laxity of the enemy. No doubt, Darek mused, they think its over.
If this was the case, then Darek had a bigger advantage then he already had. Not that it really mattered, though, since even high morale and excellent preparedness on the other side would not save them from what the Legate had in store. Darek prepared for every contingency, and that included this one. He was ready to execute the plan required. He savoured that moment he had, the moment before everything went into operation, the moment before he saw the results of many, many hours of work. But he waited only a moment — though the tactical situation was unlikely to change, there was no reason to wait any longer — and it was a brief moment, at that.
“Begin Stage One.”
In the depths of New Zareshan, a crowd of Nobua roamed through the streets. Over half of the army had returned to the forest, but the King had ordered the rest to remain to act as a garrison for the current acquisition. He hoped to be able to move all or most of the technology to Autanga Forest and then abandon the largely tactically unimportant site. It was tactically unimportant from a Nobuan perspective, in the sense that there were no minerals or natural produce they could reap from it and the aboveground, dry nature site was very uncomfortable for a people used to the dewy and lush forest and their chasm-like catacombs. But as long as they were unable to move the technology, they would stay there and guard it.
The Nobuan soldiers would rather not, but Sharguruk, after seeing the Cardassian hoverbikes, realised its importance. Which was why he was going to come to New Zareshan personally tomorrow, to evaluate the technology and the city and what should be done with it.
None of this was on the minds of the Nobua who were currently tearing off plating off a house and examining the unfamiliar, glossy material with the curiosity of children.
And then there was a sharp, metallic whine. Them, and many others near them, dissipated into brown beams and then vanished altogether.
Above the planet known as Ipnir to the Nobua and New Traven to the Cardassians, Darek clasped his hands and watched as the Nobua soldiers materialised — on the viewscreen. The helpless soldiers found themselves in the cold, pitiless chasm of space. They flailed widely, desperately seeking some escape — but there was none.
Darek smiled a long, thin smile as their faces contorted and their lungs exploded. He had had to modify the Praklar II’s sensors to detect and transport humanoid-shaped objects, since the natives did not show up on the scanners as alive. Otherwise he could not have transported them.
It was a very simple plan, but simple plans were often the best ones. Technology had failed the Cardassians before, but here it had given them a decisive edge. There were some things, no matter how much they tried, that Stone Age natives simply could not beat.
And only seconds after the first batch of Nobuan soldiers met their grisly end, more brown columns alit space...
“What do you suppose that is?” Haichi asked one of his senior commanders as they strolled through New Zareshan. He pointed towards the hangar. The commander scrunched up his face in disgust. “It’s heresy, sir, I know that much.”
Haichi patted him on the back and laughed. “I didn’t see you complaining when we used the hoverbikes. If we are to use the magic of the Evil Ones against them, we must first now how it works.” Haichi turned to Entak, still being carried. “You! Demon! What is that?” Haichi snapped with a superior tone at the prone Cardassian. Entak, groggy, looked tiredly up at Haichi but then slumped his head back down. Haichi chuckled, still evidently in a good mood. “Though I wonder how we will master the magic of the Evil Ones if they themselves are unable to do so.”
His good mood was soon shattered with a bellow. “The Evil Ones are attacking us!” A scared Nobuan soldier screamed as he ran through the streets of New Zareshan. The Nobuan ran up towards Haichi. Haichi narrowed his cat-slit eyes.
“What?” He demanded, instantly formal and to the point again.
“Well, there — people are — people are — they’re attacking!” gibbered the soldier.
“What do you mean —” And everyone around Haichi began to disappear in brown light. Entak, however, did not, and he collapsed onto the ground. “By the Great Ones!” Haichi cursed, and he bolted.
But he was not fast enough, as if he could ever be. He too dematerialised in a brown light...
...and re-materialised in a small, confined room. It was cold. Very cold. And it was made of materials that he did not recognise. He saw one of those people whom he called demons. The Magic of the Evil Ones has taken me to their foul Black Pit! Haichi deduced. “Detainment Room to bridge.” The demon was saying, but to who, Haichi didn’t know. “We have the leader, sir.”
Haichi acted fast. He bellowed a war cry and threw himself across the room, his spear held deftly and proficiently in his hand like the true master he was.
And then he hit the forcefield full-force. There was an electric shock, and Haichi shook and contorted from the enormous pressure. He then collapsed onto the ground. Smoke wisped out and away from what was now a corpse. Unlike the Federation, the Cardassians installed more ... persuasive ... forcefields. And Haichi had paid the unfortunate price for his ignorance.
“Correction, we had the leader. He’s just attempted to escape and has been killed.” The disembodied voice said over the com.
Darek let the com channel linger for a moment in silence. Sometimes the thoughts of someone’s imagination could scare them more then anything else. “Sir?” A cautious and visibly scared voice emanated from the com. “There was nothing I could do, sir, he threw himself at the forcefield the moment he materialised —”
“Bridge out.” Darek said, and he jabbed his combadge, letting the officer face herself alone — knowing that this would only heighten the effect that he had hoped for in scaring the officer.
The capture of the leader had not been crucial to the success or failure of the plan, Darek knew. There had been a high chance he would kill himself if he had been beamed onboard with a weapon anyway, and Darek deduced that the commander would have tried to perform some sort of suicide at some point. But it had been worth an attempt to take him alive, since there were no tactical drawbacks other then the slight chance of his escape.
But there was no time to mull now, Darek needed to seize the advantage as long as it was still his. “Begin Stage Two.” He commanded.
With a whine, the three forces of the Cardassian militia — left largely intact from the previous engagement — materialised throughout the city at key defence points. Ochreg, in the center of the city, looked around with a sickly stomach at the carnage the Nobua had done. The mutilated corpses of Cardassians were everywhere. He reverently avoided one as he walked across the square, and in response it groaned. Ochreg whipped about and looked down. Ochreg immediately went down on the ground and felt the pulse. “Sir?” One of the militiamen said, moving towards him.
“We have someone alive here. But barely.” Ochreg replied as he held the near-limp figure. The prone Cardassian rolled over to face Ochreg.
His face looked so torn, so managed and deformed by mistreatment it took Ochreg a moment to recognise him. “Entak?” Ochreg said in a low whisper, not believing his eyes. “My... Entak, you’re alive! I don’t believe this!”
Entak released another pained, spluttering groan. Ochreg quickly slapped his combadge. “Ochreg to Praklar II. We have a medical emergency. One to beam to Infirmary immediately — lock onto my com signal.” Ochreg slapped his combadge onto Entak and watched him dematerialise.
Ochreg dearly wanted to go with him, but he had work to do. He stood up, surveyed the near ruined city, and began his task of defending something that bordered on worthlessness...
Elam Darek sat in what was technically Ochgenck’s office on the Praklar II, but the Gul had ... graciously ... given it to Darek for the duration of his time onboard the vessel. And despite every attempt by Ochgenck to hide it, Darek knew that Ochgenck hoped that wouldn’t be too long.
Darek leafed over the reports. Kelkar’s engineers were repairing New Zareshan. Her estimation for when the city would reach something nearing habitability was another two weeks. For the time being, most of the population would stay onboard the Praklar II, an uncomfortable state of affairs since the ship was not designed to hold so many people. Rooms designed for one person were holding four, or more. Some people had taken to sleeping in the corners of rooms and on the hallways. It was a claustrophobic and uncomfortable situation, but Darek knew that the people would for now accept it, both because it was not permanent and because of the memories engraved on all their minds of the terrifying native onslaught.
Though, speaking of the natives, things had been unusually quiet on that front. Darek could tell visually that the amount of natives they had beamed into space was only a fraction of the hordes of natives that invaded New Zareshan — and when he compared respective technical data, the figures proved that assumption. The Nobua still had a very sizeable armed force and they were not using it. One possibility was that they were cautious, after the results of their last attack, but Darek was skeptical of this. Judging from the previous engagements, whoever was the actual leader of the Nobuan armed forces was not a cautious type, if intelligent. Another invasion of the city would be impractical, but to flaunt their armed forces in some way as a reminder would not. Then again, they may be trying to lull the Cardassians into a false sense of security. If that was the case, they certainly didn’t know Darek. Darek never felt truly secure, no matter how many preparations he made to ensure otherwise. Because he knew that if he did, sooner or later he would make one small omission, one moment of laxity, one minor trip — and it would most likely cost him his life.
Nonetheless, the continued lack of information on the natives continued to infuriate him. In all other engagements he had fought, he had a wealth of tactical knowledge on the enemy whom he was fighting, and although most of the actual information had been obtained by the Obsidian Order — a fact Darek would never admit, though he knew it all too well to be true — it had been he who had been able to carefully and methodically balance it, manipulate it, and use it to his advantage.
That’s it! Darek thought. That’s what I need. An intelligence force.
Darek had long hoped to create such an organisation, and the possibility of doing one had crossed his mind during the recent conflict with the natives. But he knew that realistically speaking he had insufficient time to create such a force, given the possibility of another encounter with the natives at any time and the need to reinforce his position in any way possible. To train and equip an intelligence force, with assured loyalty to him — a very, very hard thing to obtain and was even harder to obtain if a war was going badly.
But that immediate threat on the horizon had, for now, passed — or seemed to pass. Darek would never let himself assume that an attack would definitely not take place at any moment, but he deduced that it was likely that such an attack might not happen any time in the near future. The defence plan was well refined, and although it, like all his plans, could still be improved, he must not neglect any chance he had at increasing his woefully small intelligence on the enemy. So, with typical methodical and obsessive Darekian precision, detail and accuracy, gauging the requirements and necessities one after the other after the other, and then re-gauging them all over again, he began to formulate the groundwork for a new kind of intelligence service...
The Infirmary of the Praklar II was a hive of activity. People who had been wounded in the fighting covered all the bleak, Cardassian beds — and a few more were on the floor. There were other people, unlucky enough to not get a room, making attempts to sleep on the floor — but being stepped on occasionally wasn’t helping things. The medical staff itself was widely enlarged, including both the largely inept medics of the Praklar II and the civilian doctors who had lived on New Zareshan.
The Chief of New Zareshan’s Medical Institute looked down on a prone Cardassian woman. He had an infamy equal to nearly Darek himself. He was a short, twisted man, with a gnarled face and a morbid and far from healthy fascination with corpses. A wry, macabre grin fleeted across his face as he imagined what he’d do to this woman if she could not survive. He glanced up at a medic nearby. “What’s her status?” He hissed in his low, hoarse voice.
“She’s out cold, but she should regain consciousness in a few days.” The medic responded in a bored, detached tone. The doctor nodded, disappointed, and moved on. “Merot! Doctor Merot!” At the sound of his name, the Chief of New Zareshan’s Medical Institute turned around.
“Yes?” He hissed, turning to face the voice. A medic waved at him.
“We need your expertise over here, Doctor Merot.” Merot walked over to the medic and got the chance to observe a fine example of a corpse — with one problem. It was still living. Ahhh, a challenge. Merot thought as he looked down on the near-dead Cardassian. And if I fail, I will still have the chance to do some... interesting... things. With a proficiency he was not famed for — Merot, despite his nature, was actually quite a good doctor, though he only saved a patient from death — he began to operate.
Not long after he began, the doors to the Infirmary parted to let Gul Ochgenck in. He accidentally stepped on the feet of someone sleeping near the door. The person cursed, and Ochgenck, without stopping, moved on. He passed through the crowds of various people, who gave him a berth to respect his seniority. Ochgenck wasn’t feared, and certainly not on the level Darek was, but he did have a nasty temper and people usually didn’t want to be in its direction.
He walked over to Merot. “Overall status, Doctor?” Merot wasn’t his chief medical officer, but he was the senior-most doctor on the Praklar II at that moment and had taken effective control of the ship’s Infirmary. Merot looked up. “Recoveries proceeding at expected rates. The five fatalities have been moved to the planet’s surface, to the morgue.” Merot licked his lips subconsciously. Although Merot never openly displayed his sickening ideas and performances, he didn’t make much effort to keep them hidden. Ochgenck’s stomach churned. The less time he spent with this utterly sadistic doctor, the better. He glanced down at the patient Merot was currently operating on. He looks familiar. No... it can’t be —
“Merot, who is this man?” Ochgenck asked. The doctor shrugged.
“I cannot be expected to know the name of all my patients.” Ochgenck glanced towards the operating medic next to Merot. The medic shrugged as well. “He was beamed in from the surface by the forces first sent down there.” Ochgenck then looked back towards the man and nodded, slowly. No, despite all the damage there was no mistaking him. If it wasn’t Entak, it would have to be Entak’s twin brother. Ochgenck turned on his heel, pushed his way through the crowds, and departed.
It had taken a lot of effort. Painstaking work from clear across the colonist board. But it had been done. New Zareshan, after an enormous setback and sack — though, thankfully, not much was actually destroyed during the sack — had been finally made re-habitable. The additional people onboard the Praklar II had been retransferred to the surface, and everyone began to breathe a little easier now that they had proper homes — but only a little. Because the Nobua had not been a threat on the Praklar II. It would take time before New Zareshan could return to the quality of its earlier, relative prosperity, and longer still before its defences would be firm enough to withstand a Nobuan attack. But the Nobua were silent — at least for the moment — and the long road to normality and ultimately a functioning colony could be taken again.
But first, an example had to be made.
The Cardassians of New Zareshan crowded around the governmental building like they had done before. They spoke to each other in hushed, fearful whispers. And they were waiting. Some of them looked askance at the noose hung from the governmental building. The barbaric practice of hanging had ceased even in Cardassia as a form of public execution four hundred years ago. Maybe it was just a bluff, some thought. Something they would be threatened with, but would never be used. Others thought ominously that it would be used as a more serious threat. Darek liked to back up his words with actions, as they knew all too well.
The speculation ended when the doors to the Government building opened and the Head of State strode out. He was on a physical equal level to the other Cardassians — he would have been preferred to be atop a podium looking down at them, but such a podium had yet to be installed outside the Government building — and he hardly had had the luxury to begin building one anytime recently.
Darek stood there, and his gaze swept across the crowd, piercing through it. The tension and fear became so high it was nearly audible. Some people became so terrified that they believed that they could die, then and there, instantly. And when it seemed that many people in the audience where on the verge of snapping, Darek promptly broke off. “Citizens of New Zareshan.” He began, his forceful voice resounding through the area. “There are times when, despite the insistence of their leaders, some people refuse to answer the call that has been given. When they refuse to follow the will of their state to the very best of their ability. When they slacken in their diligence, no matter how small or unimportant they think the slackening has been, it profoundly affects us all.” Darek paused, letting his words resonate through the minds of those that heard him, letting them become embedded in their skulls, letting them read their meaning and having their point being driven fully across. “And, my people, I have a very good example to provide you on how the slackening of one profoundly affects us all.” On cue, the doors of the government building opened. Two of the rougher glinns emerged, bringing with them a Cardassian now dressed in plain, civilian clothing. He still looked very weak and worn, but not as much as he used to. Darek had ordered Merot to bring him back to health to the point where he could stand and walk, and Merot, the corner-cutter that he was, had brought the Cardassian back to the point of health where he could barely do so.
Entak limply shuffled along, his own feet barely moving — his leg wound was still swollen - and being largely transported by the officers moving him then walking by himself. Many of the audience could not help but gasp at the state he was in — and gasp in recognition that he was still alive at all. A sharp, cold glance from the Legate, however, soon stifled their glances and cowed their curiosity. Darek glared down on the crowd as they watched Entak’s sickly form be shuffled to near the noose, walking up a small, hastily erected platform. “A moment of laxity by this man, my people, cost us the entire invasion of the forest. And that laid down the path for the native conquest of New Zareshan and our exile to our warship. Because of this man, our entire armed forces were wiped out. Because of this man, our homes were ransacked and pillaged. He slackened, and we all paid the price.” Darek paused, letting his message again drive home, again to be understood by the people whom it was addressed to. In actuality, as Darek himself well knew, the lack of information, native organisation and competence, and the decisions of both Entak and himself had combined to cause the disaster. Entak was not solely responsible, and Darek himself was just as responsible. But that didn’t matter. Darek needed a scapegoat to blame the disaster on, and he wasn’t going to let it be himself. But that was not all. He also needed an example to be made. He had listed Entak here as someone who had slackened, who had failed to keep up his proper workload. And he was going to use Entak to show the people what happened to such failures. It was two birds with one stone, and an opportunity Darek would hardly turn down. A man with even a small amount of compassion would have initially balked, or at least hesitated, at such a decision, but it came to Darek as the most natural and normal thing in the world. “We all paid the price for his error,” Darek continued, “but there is one thing I can assure you, citizens of New Zareshan. Those who slacken, those who make such disastrous decisions, will get what they deserve. The justice of New Zareshan is something that cannot be avoided.” Entak weakly gazed out across the crowd intently looking at him. He was more conscious then he had been before, but it still wasn’t much. He was vaguely aware that there were some sort of proceedings going on, and he had a part in it. He wheezed, and then entered a coughing fit. Darek did not so much as look at him, and the perceptive viewer would have noted that Darek had faced towards the crowd the entire time. It wasn’t because Darek felt guilty about the decision he was making, but it was because Darek wanted to hold the crowd in his grip the whole time — even if they would also gaze in trepidation at the wounded Entak, it was Darek who guided and controlled their flow of attention. The officers standing beside Entak hung the noose over his head. They tightened it around his neck, and in that instant Entak knew at last what was happening. Then he was pushed, falling away from the stand but with his neck still being supported by the noose. There was a sickening crack, and in that moment, Entak died. The first hanging had been done. The first of many...