The deep voice of the computer answered without more than a second’s delay. “This recording is available in video, audio and electromagnetic interfaces. Do you wish to begin playback?”
“No,” I answered, flopping into the chair again. “Do you keep a record of the people who have watched it?”
“How many people have watched it?”
“This recording has not yet been viewed.”
“Well, good,” I muttered, and picked up my journal again:
"You're shy, perhaps." The gul’s voice was gentle.
He turned, getting half out of his chair, opened a compartment in the wall behind him and pulled out a large item made out of some sort of maroon-colored fabric and folded. He handed it to me and settled in his chair again. "Put that on," he ordered.
I unfolded it and found that it was a blanket, far too hot for the overheated room, but I didn't dare disobey, so I wrapped it around myself.
"Sit," he said, patting his knee.
I swallowed hard and sat. I could see where this was going, and I didn't like it, but at least it was better than what I'd thought I was in for with Glin Tahmid and those guards. And at least, if I had to sleep with this Gul person, he wasn't bad, physically—at least if you didn't look at his face.
"I like you," he said, "but you'll have to wait for me; I have work to do." He touched the front of his shirt, or his armor, or whatever the top of his uniform should be called, and said, "Send me a soldier for prisoner transport."
Almost immediately, the door swished open and there stood another guy in a grey uniform, with the scars and the fins. I was beginning to wonder what the other people did here, the ones with the scars only on their noses, who scattered whenever we got near them. On the other hand, I had no idea what these people did, either, when I wasn't around.
"Take her to my quarters," the Gul ordered, "and restrain her." He pushed me off his knee, and I held onto the blanket and walked around the desk to where the soldier stood. The soldier looked to the Gul for dismissal, then gestured to me to walk ahead of him out the door.
The restraint was a comfortable wide fabric band around my ankle, attached to a lead that gave me a little freedom of movement. What I didn't like was, from what I could see and what I'd heard, I gathered that my new location was the Gul's bedroom, and that the lead was attached to his bed.
After making sure the restraint was secure, the soldier moved a few things out of my reach and left.
Exhausted from the interrogation and alone for the first time since Chicago, I lay on the floor and slept.
The whispering swish of the door woke me, and I was on my feet in an instant. It was the Gul. My blanket had fallen in my hurry to get up, and I bent over to retrieve it, fumbling from nervousness. Finally I stood again, with the blanket around me.
"Still shy, I see," the Gul commented with a hint of a laugh. "I'll give you something to help with that."
"Thanks," I answered, "but I'll be okay." I was hoping to get out of here with my brains intact.
He turned his back to me for a moment, and when he turned around I saw he had something nearly concealed in his right hand. He came toward me.
I forced myself to breathe.
He grabbed my hair with his left hand, and I prepared myself for him to pull it hard, but he only tipped my head gently to the side and held it there. He brought his right hand up to the exposed side of my neck, and I experienced the same hissing sound and odd sensation that I had when I first sat at Glin Tahmid's desk. The Gul let go of my hair.
"What was that?" I asked again.
"Something to calm you," he answered, turning around and putting the thing away.
I passed a more or less agreeable night, at least compared to what it could have been. It was just sex and sleep, except that I couldn't sleep at first. I tried to be very still so the Gul could sleep, because I didn't think it was in my best interest to annoy him. But he must have noticed, because he administered another one of those hissing things to my neck, and I fell asleep in less than a minute.
If anybody had seen us in the morning, they would have thought we were a regular couple—except for his bizarre appearance and the fact that he had to take that cloth band off my ankle.
He showed me how to use the shower. Or at least he called it a shower. I could have sworn there was no water coming out of that thing, yet the refreshing and cleansing effect was undeniable. And I had thought the toilets in this place were strange.
"I've given you permission to replicate clothing for yourself," he told me when I came out.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I don't know what that means."
He stared at me with those freakish eyes of his, and his lips twitched at the edges, but his voice stayed even. "What size garment do you wear..." He touched my back. "...here?"
"Medium," I answered, hoping that was specific enough.
He led me to an alcove that looked very much like the one Glin Tahmid had gotten the drinks from yesterday, and announced, "One garment for the top half of the body, female, Teryn, early 21st Century, size medium."
There was a soft sound and a whirling of light in the alcove, and a sky-blue microfiber T-shirt just appeared there, where two seconds before there had been nothing but air. I shrank back from it and stared.
The Gul laughed. "Order the rest of your clothing and get dressed," he ordered, then called in the direction of the door, "Enter!"
A soldier came in immediately and the Gul went out.
It took me a few minutes to get the hang of ordering from the alcove, and that was with a little help from the soldier. When I was dressed, he gestured toward the door in that deceptively polite manner I'd been seeing a lot lately. Soon we were back on the balcony, and I screwed up the courage to ask, "Where are we going?"
"To fit you with a security device."
Either it was a shorter walk this time, or else I was just getting used to these walks and found it much nicer to be clothed. We entered a suite of rooms that looked a little like Tahmid's: full of objects I couldn't identify. Two guys were waiting for us.
"Lie down," the shorter one said to me. He patted the top of what could have been an exam table or a high cot. I obeyed, of course.
The two of them wasted no time. One pulled my top away from my neck to reveal part of my right collarbone, while the other pulled my left pant leg up and my left sock down. At least they're not cutting them this time, I thought. The soldier who had brought me stood nearby and watched.
It was hard for me to follow what they were doing, mostly because I was lying flat on my back and couldn't see anything but the ceiling and the shorter guy's face. I thought they cleaned a patch of skin over my collarbone, and another on my lower leg, like nurses do before giving shots, but I couldn't be sure. Then suddenly, they both backed away and the taller one said, "You can get up now."
I stood up.
"You'll need to stay out of the airlocks," said the taller one.
"What did you do?" I asked.
"We fitted you with security implants," he replied, then repeated, "You'll need to stay out of the airlocks. If you go into an airlock, the implants will kill you."
"What are the airlocks?" I asked. My voice came out in a whisper.
"I'll show you," said the soldier who had brought me, and he gestured to the door again.
The airlocks looked like giant metal donuts fitted with giant metal plates. I stayed well back. "Exit doors?" I asked my guide.
So much for escaping, then. But maybe I could find a window, or drill through a wall ...
We walked on again, stopped at one of the regular swishing double doors, and entered.
"These are your quarters," he said.
It was a simple room, but comfortable. It had a bed and a desk, one of those alcoves in the wall, and a strange toilet and shower like the ones in the Gul's own quarters, but without as much space.
"When will I be able to go home?" I asked.
"I don't know," he replied. "That's up to the cat."
"Who's the cat?"
"Not the cat. Dukat. Due-kaht."
"Oh, then who's Dukat?"
"You spent last night with him."
"Oh, the Gul?"
"Yes, Gul Dukat."
"Could I have something to write on?"
"No," he replied simply, and started toward the door.
I looked around. "What is there to do here?"
He shrugged, stopping in the doorway. "Not much for a prisoner, I'm afraid, but there is a computer here with a limited database." He took another step and the door swished shut.
As soon as I was alone, I headed straight for the bathroom, yanking the blue microfiber t-shirt over my head as I walked. At least the mirrors in this strange place were more or less normal. I pulled my bra strap down over my right shoulder and took a good look at my collarbone area: no scars, no visible lumps, nothing different from how it always was. I ran the fingertips of my left hand over the spot, feeling carefully. Nothing.
I put my shirt back on and checked my left ankle. Also nothing. So whatever that little charade was about on the table, they hadn't actually done anything. Maybe just a cheap way to keep me away from the exit doors. Well, at least now I knew where to find them. If only I could get out of this room.
There were no windows in my room: it couldn't be that easy, of course. I stood for a moment and looked at the ceiling. As I had expected it wasn't a dropped ceiling, and it didn't look any more promising than any other part of the room. I walked around and took a quick look at the floor: no particular reason to think I'd find a quick escape route through there, either. I wished I had some way of knowing which story I was on, whether this building had a basement, and all sorts of other details. But I didn't, so for now at least I'd have to work with what I had. I decided to start with a thorough examination of the walls to see how strong they were and whether there were any places where I might be able to break through. There was no telling what would be on the other side, though, but I'd figure that out when I came to it. I started at a random stretch of blank wall roughly opposite the door and knocked on it with my knuckles. It didn't seem to be made out of sheet rock, but I couldn't tell right away what the material was. I kept knocking, moving my hand by increments up the wall, then over to my right, then down again. If it had been a traditional wall of sheet rock or some other wall board laid over studs, I would have heard and felt a change as my knuckles passed over the studs, but in this case there didn't seem to be any change. So maybe the wall board itself was some sort of strong material and part of the actual structure of the building, instead of just being a covering over the structure. In other words, maybe I wasn't going to be able to break through it. I decided to see if I got any different results from another part of the room.
I knocked on the walls at eight different places and got the same results every time. The only place I hadn't been was up high, close to the ceiling. Now, how was I going to get up there? I'd already stood on the desk, but the ceiling was high enough here—or else I'm short enough—that I still couldn't reach to the top of the wall. I picked up the chair from behind the desk and carefully tried to set it on the desk without breaking the computer. It wasn't that I cared whether I broke the computer or not, but I didn't want to leave any clues as to what I'd been doing. It was better, at least until I had a fuller understanding of my situation, for my captors to think of me as the shy, compliant type and not to feel they had to watch me too closely.
The chair wouldn't fit. The shape of the desk and the shape of the chair meant that I couldn't get all the chair's feet on the desk at the same time, and jostle it even slightly, without one of the feet slipping off and taking the rest of the chair with it.
So I carried the chair to the bed, moved the pillows and set it near the wall. Then, taking my time, I climbed onto it, then little by little I stood up, using the wall for support.
The moment I was fully upright, a jolt of electricity shot through me. I fell off the chair, missed the bed and hit the floor with my side, knocking the wind from my lungs.
In that long, desperate moment before the air came searing back, I heard Gul Dukat's voice say calmly, "I'm disappointed in you, Teryn."
I raised myself to my hands and knees, coughed and struggled to breathe. When I could speak, I said, "Gul? Can you hear me?"
"Of course I can hear you," came the answer. "I didn't know you enjoyed building towers so much. Are you an architect?"
"No," I answered, and coughed.
"No," he repeated, "but you have deceived me."
I wondered how I should respond to that. I wondered how I could have been so dumb as not to realize they would have bugged the room. I wondered where the cameras and microphones where hidden, and whether the Gul could see me now as well as hear me. I wondered if any of my bones were broken.
"Did you hear me, Teryn?" Gul Dukat persisted. "You've deceived me."
I wondered who Teryn was, and why he'd confused our names. "Yes," I answered. "I'm trying to figure out what you're referring to."
"You seemed happy enough to sleep with me last night. I thought we had something good going. And now I find you trying to escape."
"It won't happen again," I promised, and meant it. I wouldn't be touching the top of the wall again, at any rate.
My breathing was becoming more regular now, and I got off my hands and knees and sat on the floor. Moving hurt: I was badly bruised, at best. I felt very grateful that I hadn't landed on my head.
"Gul?" I asked.
"I think I need a doctor."
"Why? Are you dying?"
"No, but I think I could have cracked a rib."
"A souvenir, then. A reminder to improve your behavior in the future. Is there anything else, besides your medical status?"
I couldn't believe he wouldn't let me see a doctor. "Yes. Are there any other places I should be aware of that are off limits, besides the top of the wall?"
"The top of the wall isn't off limits," he answered. "Insulting me is off limits. Consider yourself warned."
"Of course," I answered, confused now. "Did I insult you, Gul?"
"I would consider attempting to run away from me insulting. Wouldn't you?"
"I didn't mean it that way," I said.
"I trust you see it differently now."
"Yes, of course. I was just wondering, are there any other places I need to avoid touching, any other places that have live current running through them?"
The Gul chuckled. "You think there's an EM current running through the top of your wall?"
"I'm sorry," I said, "I don't know what EM is."
"Oh. Yes," I replied, feeling foolish. "I did think that."
"Your quarters are safe, Teryn. You have permission to touch any surface you wish—as long as you do it for appropriate reasons. The EM surge you felt came from your implants; I decided a mild buzz would do you good."
"I think I understand now," I said, feeling deflated. What they'd told me about the airlocks, then, could be true, too. I wondered why they called them airlocks. This place was far too big to be a submarine.
"Good," the Gul responded. "Dukat out."
I got up and limped to the bathroom and pulled up my shirt in front of the mirror. I don't know what I had expected to see, besides a large red mark where my side had hit the floor. Wincing, I felt each of my ribs on my right side. I didn't feel any obvious breaks. It still hurt to breathe.
I went back to the bed to try to get some rest. I wished I'd had something to read. I couldn't even count the ceiling tiles, since there were no tiles to count. I decided to review everything I had seen and heard since the linguistics conference, and see if I could come up with any useful conclusions. Then I fell asleep.
Someone woke me with a tray of food. It was a scars-and-fins male again, in the gray uniform. I'd never seen any of the people with scars only on their noses doing anything except scattering before I got close to them. And I hadn't seen any women with the scars and fins, only men. Maybe they were the result of a genetic experiment that produced only males.
The only part of the meal I could identify at all was some kind of fish, and even then it was a variety I'd never seen before. It didn't taste very good, but it did give me energy, and that's all I cared about. And anything would have been better than not eating, which I hadn't since the rouladen with Derek the day before.
I ate and forced myself to do some gentle stretches on the bed and walk around the room. I knew I'd hurt more in the long run if I didn't take care of myself now. Then I sat in the chair, propped my feet on the desk and tried to recall everything I had seen, heard, even smelled, in the past two days.
They brought me another meal, built around what must have been a goose egg, and other than that I was left alone. I went over every detail I could remember, but nothing gave me a clue as to where I was, how I got here, who would have done this, or why. I couldn't help feeling like Derek had had something to do with it, though.
Eventually the door swished open a third time. "The Gul will see you now," said my visitor. It was the same guy who'd brought me the goose egg.
"Tell him," the Gul was saying over his intercom when I arrived in his quarters, "he'll obey my orders or I'll be happy to grant him the privilege of becoming the first Cardassian ore processor." He dismissed the guard with a flick of his head but didn't acknowledge me. I clasped my hands behind my back and stood waiting.
After a few more exchanges he said, "Dukat out," and turned to me. "Teryn, do you know how to mend clothing?" he asked.
"Usually," I answered, figuring I'd better qualify my response before he accused me of deceiving him again. "It depends on what type of clothing it is, and what's wrong with it." That turtle-shell armor top he wore, I wasn't sure I could mend, but the pants would be okay.
"It's a lost art, perhaps," he remarked. "Being a Gul isn't always as glamorous as it seems."
"You're the commander of this station, right?"
"And Prefect of Bay Jour," he sneered. "But my little Teryn is here now." He had been standing, and now he sat down in his desk chair and slouched lazily. "Come here," he ordered.
I went to him and he pulled me toward him, hurting my injured ribs. I gasped and stiffened.
"What's wrong?" he asked, looking offended. "You don't like me now?"
"Sorry," I said, "it's just my ribs."
"Whatever you did to your ribs by your own misbehavior," he said, pulling me toward him again, "should not affect your performance for your Gul."
I nodded. "Could I have something for the pain?"
He brushed a lock of hair out of my face with a tender motion of his hand and shook his head. "If I took the pain away," he explained, "I'd be robbing you of the chance to learn your lesson. But enough of this subject. What shall we do tonight?"
I really did try to please him, but he was beyond pleasing. He added several new bruises to match the ones on my side and scraped the skin off the bridge of my nose. "Now you'll have a scar on your nose like the rest of them," he laughed.
But in the morning he was all charm. He opened his eyes and smiled. "Good morning," he said. "How did you sleep?"
"I don't think I slept much," I replied.
The smile disappeared. "Pain?" he asked.
"You should have asked me to give you something for that," he chided, and got up. He came back and knelt on the bed beside me and used that hissing thing on my neck again. The relief was dramatic and immediate.
"Thank you," I said sincerely.
"Don't mention it," he replied, and I wondered if that was an order or just another way of saying 'you're welcome.' I decided to be on the safe side and not bring it up again. "Are you hungry?" he asked.
‘He must be on drugs,’ I thought. I wasn't hungry, but I figured I'd better eat while I had the chance. "Sure," I said, "breakfast sounds good."
A framed photo caught my eye for two reasons. For one thing, it looked so ordinary. In a station full of strange walls, strange desks, strange video monitors, strange turtle-shell-armor uniforms, even strange faces and necks, here was a regular photo in a regular plastic stand-up frame. The other reason was the people in the photo itself. In the middle was a smiling Gul Dukat, and on either side of him were people with the scars on only their noses. On his left was a man, and on his right a woman.
"Is this you with some of your friends?" I asked, hoping to learn more.
He stopped on his way to the alcove. "That was taken when I became Prefect of Bay Jour."
He'd said something similar last night. I decided I'd better keep the tone light and not appear to be pressing him for information. "You look happy," I remarked.
He nodded. "It was a happy occasion. As soon as I took office, I started making changes. The death rate for those poor people dropped twenty percent."
"Death rate!" I blurted out in spite of myself. From his behavior yesterday, I could well believe there was a death rate.
"A very unfortunate situation," he said. "They're just not as advanced as we are. But we're changing that."
I felt impressed in spite of myself. I stood there for a moment looking at the faces of his two companions. "Are these leaders, or spokespeople, for the people of Bay Jour, then?" I asked.
He looked up from the alcove. "They look so innocent, don't they?"
Breakfast was just plain odd. It wasn't good, but it wasn't bad, either. Or maybe I just wanted to get away from the Gul and back to my room. Not that that was going to be the same anymore, either, since now I knew he could spy on me whenever he wanted. What I really wanted was to go home. I missed my kids.
"I'm having company today," he said with a smile between bites. He seemed to be enjoying the breakfast, at any rate.
"Family?" I asked, then wondered if I should have said that. If he was a result of a genetic engineering project, he may not have a family, exactly.
He didn't seem to mind, though. "A colleague. A fellow Gul, in fact. We have a lot in common."
"Oh, good. I hope you enjoy the visit."
"I'm more concerned that he enjoys the visit," he replied in a serious tone. "I'll be lending you to him tonight." He leaned toward me and seemed to pin me in place with those awful eyes. "Be sure that you make him happy."