Cracking Cardassian is a Star Trek (DS9) novel currently in progress. I post draft chapters here as I write them. The strategy is to gather followers and positive comments, so that when I submit it for publication with Star Trek's licensed book publisher, I can prove that it comes with its own fan base.

Click the links to the right to read, and please feel free to comment. Both positive and negative comments are helpful: the negative ones will help improve the final version of the book. Thank you in advance for your help, either way.


Saturday, February 2, 2019

Ch. 2: Glin Tahmid

The transporter had already begun to take us when my brain began to wrap itself around what I was seeing. I had just met the Vulcan statistician less than an hour before and learned that she and I had worked together. And now I was watching that cold metal spike go straight into her left eye. It was like being at the Battle of Hastings, just for a moment, then seeing everything dissolve and come back together as a completely different scene.

“Computer,” said Caybin, who had materialized next to me on the transporter pad, “activate temporal field.”

We stepped off, along with seven others, and walked in silence to the bridge.

“Enemy status,” Caybin ordered, relieving the crewman in the command chair.

“Five-point-three million of them.” The reply came from one of the crewmen who had already been on the bridge. “Spread out over the planet. No sign of any recent arrivals. Armaments all over the planet as well. We’re no match for them, sir.”

“Observations,” Caybin ordered, “especially in the final minutes of the reception.”

“Did anyone else happen to be looking at the United Federation of Planets logo on the wall?” asked a Human teenager.

A few people nodded, including Caybin.

“It changed,” said a server who was also Human. “It looked like one of those ancient animal symbols. I was trying to figure out which animal it was, but then I saw them come in and forgot everything else.”

“Are you certain you saw them come in?” Caybin asked.

“No,” the server replied, “come to think of it.”

Lagar, Caybin’s battle tactics officer, shook his head. “They did not come in. The logo changed, Admiral Li’s outfit changed, and then they were just there. They didn’t enter.

They didn’t materialize in a matter stream. They were just there.”

Caybin’s eyes scanned the bridge looking for more input.

“I noticed several changes,” Glin Zorak observed. “The goblet in my hand became a bowl. Three different Starfleet uniforms in my field of vision transformed into silk robes. And the Federation logo became a stylized depiction of a mammal in the style of the ancient Earth tradition known as heraldry.”

Caybin looked at Dr. Drem. “A classic temporal incursion, then?”

Drem nodded. “I think so, yes.”

“Then our mission is clear: find the incursion and correct it. Then everything else will correct itself.”

The whole bridge was silent after that, in spite of how crowded it was. I looked at Drem and saw that most of the others were looking at him, too.

“I’ll run some simulations,” Drem said with less confidence than I would have hoped, “with your permission, of course, Gul. With luck, they could point us to where we should start looking.”

Caybin gave his approval with a crisp nod and turned to one of the crewmen, who led Drem off the bridge.

“Assign quarters to our guests,” Caybin ordered, “and see to their needs.”

I turned and saw two more guys walk in through the same doorway that we had, again with the grey uniforms and the facial scars, or whatever they were, and the neck fins. They marched right up and stood on either side of me, and I began to stand up. Each guard grabbed one of my arms, and they pulled me the rest of the way to my feet. One of them took my purse away and set it on the desk, and the other one produced a long metal oval. While I was still trying to figure out what it was, they locked my wrists in it. So much for my plan to leave when I'd finished my water.

The guard on my right let go of my arm, and the one on my left pulled me away from the chair. I stood there on the open floor with my hands in the strange oval handcuffs, and looked at Glin Tahmid. All at once it occurred to me that he may not be crazy after all. All those stories about secret government research programs, of genetically engineered humans and all that, might just be true after all. Not that that would explain how I'd gotten here.

I cleared my throat, hoping that would keep my voice from squeaking. "Glin," I said, "I don't want to play games with you. I just don't know how to answer your questions."

"They're simple enough questions," he replied. "All I want is the truth."

"I'm, um, not in a position to argue," I said, hoping to get back on his gracious side, then added, "obviously."

"Obviously," he agreed. "So, if you're feeling cooperative, tell me, where were you born?" He made a small signal to the guards with his hand.

"New Hampshire." I couldn't help feeling like we'd just started the whole bizarre conversation all over again.

"The problem," he answered in a superior tone, "is that I have no idea where that is, or what that is. Is it a city? A plateau? A continent? A planet?"

"Oh," I said, "it's a state."

"A state. A sovereign political entity?"

"No," I answered, "just one of the fifty American states." For a split second I wondered if my little 'transporter malfunction' could have taken me to a foreign country, but then I dismissed the thought. Glin Tahmid and the first two guys all had American accents. He was playing dumb, then, and playing some sort of head game with me. And as I had said to him, I wasn't in any position to object.

"American," he repeated. "At last, a name I recognize. Would it be accurate to say that you were born in a region of North America called New Hampshire?"

"Yes, it would."

"Good. And are you currently living in New Hampshire?"


"Good. When did you come to Terra Knorr?"

"I . . . don't know what Terra Knorr is," I admitted.

"This station. Perhaps your government calls it by a different name, but we call it Terra Knorr. When did you come to this station?"

"Oh, just a few minutes ago."

"On what ship?"

"I don't know," I answered nervously, then added quickly, "I was unconscious."

"You were transported unconscious to keep you from knowing about your travel arrangements?"

"That's right," I said. It sounded like a plausible explanation, at any rate.

"Who made those arrangements?"

"I don't know that, either."

"Well, then, who was your contact?"

"I . . . it may have been a guy named Derek Dellinger. At least that's the name I knew him by."


"I'm sorry, I don't understand the question."

"Is Derek Dellinger a member of Starfleet?"

"I couldn't tell you that," I answered, then quickly explained, "I mean, because I don't know. What is Starfleet? I'm not familiar with it."

Tahmid had something on his desk that looked like a game controller, and he touched a button on it. A rod began to come down from the ceiling. It was nearly directly above me and pointing straight down like the rod the fan had been on in the restaurant. But there was no fan on this one. I tried to back up a step in case it came down too low, but the guards held my arms. It kept coming, six inches in front of my face, and finally stopped when it was about at the level of my chin.

As soon as it stopped, the guards grabbed my forearms and raised them, fitting the end of the rod into a small hole in the middle of the handcuffs. They locked together with a metallic click.

Tahmid signaled the guards again, and the one on my right said quietly, "Hold still." He reached up and took a hold of the neck of the top I was wearing. It took me a few seconds to realize that he had a knife, and was cutting it off me. Soon after, it fell to the floor, and for the second time that day I wished I had chosen a thicker, more modest bra. But I didn't have much time to dwell on that, because as soon as he was done with the top, the guard started cutting my slacks. He must have had a very sharp knife and a lot of practice, because all it took was two quick, neat cuts down the sides and the slacks had joined the top on the floor. I was left standing in my shoes and panties and bra with my wrists locked to the ceiling rod.

Tahmid gestured to the guards again and asked me, "Is Derek Dellinger a member of Starfleet?"

"As far as I know he's not," I answered, "but I'm not even sure if that's his real name."

"Is Derek Dellinger human?"

A flag went up in my mind. I'd heard of this technique. The idea was that they ask you several questions in quick succession, all of which are easy and innocent and take yes answers. Then in the same tone of voice they ask you to confess to a crime, hoping you'll answer yes without thinking and incriminate yourself. I took my time and repeated the question in my head before answering. "Yes."

"What's the last thing you remember before Terra Knorr?"

That wasn't a yes-or-no question, so he must have picked up on my hesitation, realized I was onto his game. That gave me a fleeting sense of victory, until I realized that he had just read me. Interrogators, of course, are supposed to be very perceptive, but I had been subconsciously hoping this one wasn't. I made a mental note to try not to lie. "I'd just gotten out of a cab in Chicago," I answered.

"What kind of cab?"

"A licensed yellow Crown Vic."

"Explain the term 'Crown Vic'," he said, seeming relaxed again. "I'm afraid there are many details of your culture I'm still not familiar with."

"You're not—" I began, then cut myself off. "I'm sorry," I said, "Crown Vic stands for Crown Victoria. It's a Ford model, and it's used, a lot of times, for police cruisers and taxis."

"A vehicle, then?"


"What did you start to say?" he asked. "I'm not what?"

"Oh," I answered, "I was just surprised to hear that you're not American. Your English is so good, I thought you were."

He laughed—a dry, cold laugh—and said, "Oh, you thought I was American. And now what makes you think that I may not be?"

"When you said," I paused, trying to recall his exact words, and gave up.

"Something about not being familiar with my culture."

"How perceptive of you," he sneered. "I am not American." He signaled to the guards again, and almost immediately a strong hand smashed into my face. "In the future you will refrain from sarcasm in this room," he ordered.

"Yes, Glin," I answered breathlessly, hoping to prevent any further blows. I wondered what I'd said that he'd taken as sarcasm, and decided to leave the subject of nationality alone as much as possible. Warm liquid trickled from my right nostril to my lip, and I smelled blood.

Tahmid leaned back in his chair and smiled up at me. "What's your birthdate?"

"September thirteen, nineteen eighty-five," I replied. On a Friday. I'd never been superstitious about it, but now I was beginning to wonder.

"Explain," Tahmid ordered.

Explain what? I wondered, but didn't dare ask. "I was born on September thirteen, nineteen ninety," I answered.

"Is that a date?"

Back to the obvious questions, again, or else he was just badgering me. "Yes."

"By what calendar?"

"I think it's called the Julian calendar," I answered, getting sick of these obscure historical questions, "or possibly Gregorian? I'm sorry; I don't know much about calendars."

On another signal from Tahmid, the guard on my left pulled my shoes and socks off and the one on my right made five quick cuts with his knife, and I was naked.

All I could do was look at the interrogator, my eyes wide, willing him to see that I had nothing to hide.

"I'm glad to see that you and I have been able to come to an understanding," he remarked. "Think back to the last thing you remember before Terra Knorr. You got out of the cab, and then what?"

"I paid the driver . . . . No, I paid the driver before I got out. Then I got out, and I walked. I had had him stop in front of the wrong building, so I had to walk a little."

"Go on."

"I got to my building, and I was just about to go up the steps."

"Your building?"

"The building I was staying at."

"And then what?"

"That's all I remember. I was turning to go up the steps."

"And your next memory is of being on this station?"

"That's correct."

"Tell me about that."

"I was lying on the floor, and I saw a lot of people."

"What were they doing?"

"Just walking around, I guess. I didn't have a lot of time to watch them."

"Go on."

"Well, then the people started crowding around me, looking at me."

"What species were these people?"

Oh, no, back to that game again! "Human."

"They were human?"


"They looked like you?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"Did you scan them?"

I wasn't sure what that meant, but it didn't matter because he didn't wait for an answer anyway.

"Did you bring a tricorder?" he asked.

"No." Whatever that was, I didn't bring one.

"What did these humans look like?"

"They had scars on their noses."

"So you came to this station and saw humans with scars on their noses," he mused. "What species am I?"

"Human," I answered, with a little hesitation. The last time we'd talked about his origins, I’d gotten a bloody nose. And the stakes felt higher now.

"Have you heard of a people called the Kardashians?" he asked. Only he pronounced it 'Kardassians.'


"Tell me about them."

"They're a family. A brilliant lawyer and his beautiful daughters who got famous on reality TV."

"What is TV?"


He shook his head. "That word's not translating. But are you telling me you think that the Kardassians are beautiful women?"

"Yes. Well, they're a whole family. But the famous ones are some women and their father."

He touched the scar above his left eye. "What is this?" he asked.

"I'm not sure."

"What do you think it is? Give me your best guess."

"A scar?"

He touched the scar below his right eye. "And this?"

"Another scar?"

He touched the fin-thing on the right side of his neck. "And this? Is this a scar, too?"

"I . . . don't know what that's called."

"What happened after you saw the people with the scars on their noses?"

"They left, and two other guys showed up."

"What species were the two other guys?"

"Human." I was getting used to this bizarre question, and I wasn't sure that was a good thing.

"Did they look like you?"

"Not really."

"Go on."

"They looked like you."

"Oh," he said, "did they have beautiful women with them?"


He took his eyes off me again and looked at something behind me. I didn't turn and follow his gaze this time because my wrists hurt and my hands ached. I'd been moving my fingers a lot to keep the blood flowing, and it had worked to some extent, but it hurt, too.

"How old are you?" he asked after a long pause.


"Do you know today's date?"

"September eighteen, twenty twenty."

"So you turned thirty, five days ago. Happy birthday."

"Thank you."

"I have no more questions for you at the moment," he said, getting up and coming toward me with the controller in his hand. He touched the controller to the handcuffs, and immediately my wrists were free. The handcuffs remained locked to the rod. "You're welcome to have a seat," he offered with a little bow, and went back to his own chair.

We must have sat for about ten minutes, while I rubbed the feeling back into my hands and he busied himself with a couple of off-brand iPads. Finally he said, "We're about done here. The gull wants to see you."

I wondered what the chances were that he was referring to a shore bird. Not very good, I figured, but anything was possible.

He must have read my face again, because he asked, "Do you know what a gull is?"

"A bird?" I ventured.

"Perhaps in your universe, where Kardassians are all beautiful women, gulls are birds," he conceded. "But in our reality, gul is a military rank. There is only one gul assigned to this station, and he is its commander. I know it doesn't come naturally to your people, but if I were you . . . " He paused and drilled me with his gaze. ". . . I would be very respectful."

I was hoping they'd give me clothes to wear before taking me to the gul, but they didn't. One of Tahmid's guards picked up my purse and then grabbed my arm, pulling me up out of my seat and out the way I'd come in, all the way to the balcony. We turned right and walked for a few minutes, people scattering in front of us. Thankfully, I didn't see anybody staring, but I wondered whether that was because they all had good manners, or because they were used to seeing prisoners walking naked along the balcony.

We followed the balcony's slow curve to the left, took an elevator and eventually came to a place where several scars-and-fins men sat looking busy. We walked past them and up a few steps to an ornate set of glass-and-metal doors. The guard pushed me ahead of him through the doorway, but not roughly, and remained behind me just outside the room.

I found myself in an office of sorts. In style it looked a lot like Glin Tahmid's interrogation room, but except for the desk it was furnished differently, and more simply. A man sat behind the desk, with the grey uniform, the facial scars, or whatever they were, the neck fins and very intense eyes. It seemed to me that his whole being emanated power. He nodded to the guard behind me and I heard the door close.

"I've been watching your interrogation," he said without introduction, waving me toward him and pointing to a strange almond-shaped flatscreen on the wall.

I walked around the desk and stood beside him. On the flatscreen, my own face stared back at me, frozen, from behind the oval handcuffs.

He settled back in his chair, still looking at the screen, and said, "Continue playback." Immediately my face on the screen came to life, and my fingers started their stiff movements.

"How old are you?" came Glin Tahmid's voice.

"Thirty," I saw myself answer, through the handcuffs.

"Do you know today's date?"

"September eighteen, twenty twenty."

"So you turned thirty, five days ago. Happy birthday."

"Thank you."

"I have no more questions for you at the moment," said Tahmid's voice, and two seconds later the back of his head blocked the view of my face and hands.

"Stop playback," the man beside me ordered. The almond-shaped screen went dark, and he turned to me. "Do you find me attractive?" he asked, staring me down.

I lowered my gaze, but had no idea what to answer. I didn't find him attractive. I found him creepy and scary and rude. "I'm not sure," I stammered. "I just met you."

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