Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Butcher's Bill

Those who hadn't been on the away team found it hard to conceive this prim, fastidious Cardassian had tortured hundreds. They hadn't seen the rooms, the devices, the logs.  They hadn't seen what remained of his 'patients.' But those who returned from Gul Maket's crippled freighter to the U.S.S. Valkyrja asked, "only hundreds?"

 He sat as easily as one could cuffed and bolted to a table. "I must say, Evlyn – May I call you Evlyn? You have lovely green eyes. What do the Terrans call it? Jade? Yes. They are so nicely offset by your dark complexion, but I think something darker would really make them sparkle. I know, I could mount them in a vitrine on black velvet. The trick, of course, would be letting you still see through them. I'd hate for you to miss what came next."
Evlyn Yassal lounged opposite Gul Maket while her thoughts remained tight as piano wire. "Bold talk for a prisoner and 'Captain Yassal' will do."

His voice had a playful lilt. "Are you sure I'm the prisoner here?"

She placed a finger alongside her head. "Let's see. I could consult the manifest of the brig of my ship, or I could ask any one of them..." She looked back at the pair of security. Stoic. Hands on phasers. They had been on the away team. The Gul's attitude was only pissing them off. "They would be inclined to agree."

 "You know, I haven't interrogated many Trill. I believe the torments that could come from making use of your joining receptors could be – most excruciating. Oh, but you wouldn't be a suitable subject, would you? Those trilly-bits were lost in other experiments, were they not?"

Yassal hid her surprise behind a sanguine mask while the wire in her mind tightened. His connections ran deep. No wonder her orders had been so specific.

He leaned across the table, his fingers steepled. "Don't be alarmed, Captain. You might call me what the Terrans refer to as 'a fan' of your particular work. With the power of a Federation Starship coupled with the latitude granted by a certain Section, you have established an impressive tally. Covert military, assassination and," he held up his hands as far as the cuffs would allow, "rendition. I consider it an honor they sent you, the Butcher of Thieurrul II. How is it that you came by the title?

Because the Tal'Shiar found more glory in killing the Butcher of Thieurrul II than killing Captain Yassal. Because the Klingon lore singers didn't think 'Someone who got caught in a firefight and did what needed to be done' had the right rhythm. Because there's nothing like running through a stack of fallen comrades to make the next hero consider their life choices.

"Because stories grow in the telling. Unlike you, I don't enjoy my work."

"I pity you then, errand girl."

"Is that why you recorded it all? You love it that much?"

"You seem quite concerned about my private collection."

"Starfleet is rather interested in your blackmail material."

"Insurance. I'm sure you have your own." His eyes glanced to the blank spot on her uniform. "No com badge? We're off the record?"

"You're running out of time and my patience, Gul," Yassal said. "Now, the recordings--"

"They're for instruction. Research. Self-improvement. Don't they teach you anything in Starfleet Academy? Any torturer can take a plasma torch to the bottom of someone's feet.  An interrogator knows suspense." He leaned over the table with an oily smile. "I am so excited they sent you for me."

"For you?"

Maket unveiled a tiny, menacing smile. "My previous clients, your current employers -- isn't it funny how that works -- might be surprised at the value of my insurance. They'll express contrition. I'll be the soul of forgiveness, of course, and only ask that you be remanded to my care. They'll naturally be appalled, but grudgingly relent -- the needs of the many and such."

She went cold as pieces fell into place. "You keep forgetting, you're on my ship--"

"In your brig, yes. But I'm not the only one holding inconvenient secrets. Unpleasant as they may be, orders will be issued. Your crew will do as they're told. A genuine test of loyalty is carrying out the distasteful orders, isn't it?"

"To a point. They've seen your collection."

"That won't please your superiors. Still, I hope they were impressed."

Even butchers get tired of the smell of meat. "Our conversation is over."

Maket laughed. "Hardly. You need information from me."

Yassal leaned back. "Do I?"

"I still have insurance. I guarantee you'll get nothing. Hurt me? My nerves are dead. Shock me? Your horrors are nothing. I am immune to your worst."

The chair screeched against the tile floor as she slid back. Yassal shrugged with exaggerated helplessness. "You have me there." At her nod, the guards left. "I have little errand girl things to do, like run a ship. I will leave you to experts. They might have questions, they might not."

A figure materialized next to the Gul and flickered.

Maket beheld himself. He laughed. "I have to admit, I'm impressed. This isn't the brig; this is the holodeck. But is that it? My interrogator looks like me?"

"Oh no. It is you -- a holographic version we synthesized from all your recordings and logs."

More copies of him materialized until a half dozen surrounded the seated Gul. As one, they steepled their fingers across their chests and then smiled to each other. For a moment, the real Gul Maket looked unnerved.

"The storm when my information gets out will destroy Starfleet."

"Only a nasty little corner that needs to burn. Either way, you'll be the last to be interrogated by Gul Maket. Who knows? You might even surprise yourself, considering who they see you as."

She paused at the door. As it slid shut, the simulacrum said to the Gul. "Hello, Captain."

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