“September 13, 1985.” On a Friday. I’d never been superstitious about it, but now I was beginning to wonder.
“Explain,” he said.
Explain what? I wondered, but didn’t dare ask. “I was born on September 13, 1985,” 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.”
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. Then 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.
“I hope we’ve been able to come to an understanding,” Tahmid said in a friendly tone. “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.”
“I got to my building and I was just about to go up the steps.”
“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?”
“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.”
“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, he’d had one of his guards give me a bloody nose.
“Have you heard of a people called the Kardashians?” he asked. Only he pronounced it
“Tell me about them.”
“They’re a family. Three beautiful women 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 three beautiful women?”
“Yes. Well, they’re a whole family. But the famous ones are three women.”
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.”
He touched the scar below his right eye. “And this?”
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?”
“They looked like you.”
“Oh,” he said, “did they have three 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 18, 2015.”
“So you turned thirty, five days ago. Happy birthday.”
“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 politely, 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.
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 flat screen on the wall.
I walked around the desk and stood beside him. My own face stared back at me, frozen, from behind my hands and the rod that held my handcuffs.
He settled back in his chair, still looking at the screen, and said, "Continue playback," and immediately my face on the screen came to life, and my fingers started moving stiffly.
"How old are you?" came Glin Tahmid's voice.
"Thirty," I saw myself answer, through my hands.
"So you turned thirty, five days ago. Happy birthday.”
“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 replied lamely. "I just met you."
"You're shy, perhaps," he said gently.
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 said curtly.
I unfolded it and found that it was a blanket, far too hot for the over-heated room. But I didn't dare disobey, so i wrapped it around myself.
"Sit," he ordered, patting his knee.
I sat, reluctantly. 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 - that is, 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 a 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 felt the same hissing sound and odd sensation 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 away the thing in his hand.
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. 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, Terran, 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 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.