Title: Internment Camp 317
Fandom: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Disclaimer: Star Trek is Paramount's. Or something.
Summary: Julian Bashir spent a month in Internment Camp 317 as a prisoner of the Dominion, and he never really spoke much about it later...
Internment Camp 317
The first time that Julian Bashir awoke in Dominion Internment Camp 317, it was with the utter conviction that someone had slowly forced his brain through a sieve, before mixing the resulting glop with sand and forcing it back into his skull through his eye sockets. He didn't seem to have any other injuries, but, really, he couldn't have cared less at that moment if every bone in his body was broken.
He groaned, opened his eyes to slits, before shutting them closed against lighting that seemed far too bright for any Humanoid species.
"The Dominion's mind sifting technology is formidable," a voice was saying, its harsh low tonalities grating on his auditory nerves. "They leave the mind intact, just in case they need to reinterrogate their prisoners. Most impressive."
"Ah, I suppose you would be rather impressed," another voice was saying, smoother, more cultured. Cardassian, Julian thought, as his brain seemed to start to get itself into some semblance of order. The vowels were a giveaway. And the first voice... Klingon. Definitely Klingon.
"Klingons do not have the time to waste in the lengthy interrogations you apparently enjoy. If you want information, you should take it, quickly."
"That's your problem entirely, you see. You have no art in your souls."
Then, to Julian's surprise, there was hearty Klingon laughter, rather than the growl of insult that he expected. He braved opening his eyes again, and, this time, the light was at a more bearable level, though his eyes still watered.
"I think our friend is coming around. I shall fetch Kalenna."
Julian blinked, several times, and attempted to force the world into focus. What he saw surprised him, as he looked up into the face of a Klingon that seemed extremely familiar.
The Klingon looked grave. "I am afraid that you and I have never met," he said, shaking his head. "The Founder that replaced me is doubtless doing my name and honour grave misdeeds."
Julian blinked rapidly, and dabbed at his eyes with his sleeve. The world seemed to gain a few more edges. "No, I... I never met your replacement. But he was found out... killed."
Martok straightened, and made a humph noise. "Good," he said, sharply. "I suppose we can only hope that creature that mimics you suffers a similar fate."
As those words registered in his brain, Julian's head came up, staring at the Klingon. "I'm sorry?"
"It's a fairly reliable indication," came a smooth voice, and Julian turned his head - carefully - to see a familiar face enter the room. He realised he was staring. "That when a prisoner arrives, have been so obviously and thoroughly mind-sifted, that they've been replaced with a Dominion shape shifter. The need to gain information about a subject's life and knowledge overcomes the need to be cautious about the obvious dangers of mind-sifting technologies, wouldn't you agree, Doctor?"
Julian stared into the face of Enabran Tain, and felt the room begin to spin.
"Refresher!" Martok snapped, unceremoniously grabbing Julian by the arm and hauling him to his feet, dragging him over to a break in the wall panelling, and shoving him towards what looked to be a sonic basin.
Julian spent the next thirty seconds attempting to vomit up his stomach contents, which only consisted of acid and bile. When he was done, he leaned back, and, with a hum, the basin vaporised what little he had thrown up and followed it up with what looked like a flash of sterilising radiation.
He glanced around. Martok had apparently decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and had left Julian to his business in the sparse hygiene facilities. There were no mirrors on the walls for Julian to look at his no doubt shabby reflection, so he just leaned against the cold metal of the bulkhead and slid to a sitting position on the floor, arms resting on raised knees, and he closed his eyes, leaning his head back.
He needed to sort himself out. He wasn't going to be any use to anyone if he couldn't get his brain straight. He didn't normally like to do this, hadn't used the trick he'd learnt at medical school for years, for fear of drawing attention, but he didn't want to be at any disadvantage when the Jem'Hadar came, as they no doubt would, if this was a Dominion prison.
He took a deep breath, held it, and let it out, and on the second inhale, focused intently.
It was a form of biofeedback that Humans weren't, strictly speaking, supposed to be able to master. As Julian liked to remind himself in his darker moments, however, he didn't strictly fit the species definition for Human. Augments were given their own classification, as if ostracism from their own people wasn't bad enough.
There was a brief feeling of pressure somewhere at the base of his skull and then suddenly, clarity swept through his mind, pain vanishing in its wake. He opened his eyes, and the world was clear and steady, the light normal, if a little low, and he no longer had persistent nausea.
He exited the refresher, to find Tain and Martok, and a Romulan woman that he didn't know all standing there, waiting for him.
"This is Kalenna," Martok said, gesturing to the female. She gave him a thin smile, looking tired and worn. "And you apparently already know Tain." He fixed the Doctor with a solemn look. "For which you have my condolences."
Tain smiled, jovially. "Ah, General, you're too kind."
"And that's..." Martok gestured in towards a Breen, who, by virtue of the fact that he was sitting still and not making a sound had gone unnoticed by Julian. "Well, actually, we have no idea who that is. He says nothing, isn't that right?"
The Breen turned its head to look at Martok, briefly, before returning to stare at the wall. Martok sneered faintly.
Tain sat down on a rickety metal bed, which creaked noisily under his weight. "I'll take it you got the lecture on your arrival regarding where you are and why you are here?"
Julian blinked, rubbing his forehead and grimacing at the incipient headache. "Ah..." There was something vague starting to come forward... a Vorta he didn't think he'd met before... "I'm... not entirely sure."
Martok snorted. "Unsurprising. The mind sifters used by the Dominion thoroughly addle the brain. I speak from experience."
"This," Tain gestured expansively, "Is Dominion Internment Camp 317. A delightful little hole dug out of an asteroid with no way out except by transporter, of which there are none here."
"Lovely," Julian said.
"It seems that your abduction has presented us with a rather fortuitous opportunity," Tain said, folding his arms across his belly meditatively.
Julian tried not to frown, keeping his face impassive. "What exactly do you mean by that?"
The Romulan woman spoke up, after glancing out through the doors to make sure there were no Jem'Hadar patrols nearby. "Tain has been working on reconfiguring the old life support systems hidden inside the bulkheads into a comms transceiver to try and transmit a signal to the Alpha Quadrant."
Julian blinked, and glanced back at Tain, impressed in spite of himself. "I see," he said. "I still don't see what that has to do with me, unless your equipment is sick."
Tain smiled faintly, and turned towards his fellow prisoners.
"I'd like to have a word with Doctor Bashir alone, if I may?"
Kalenna and Martok exchanged glances, but left the room without argument. Their Breen colleague remained where he was, sitting on his bunk staring into space.
"You are going to help us," Tain said, implacably. "I can understand your reluctance to reveal how you are going to help us, but you really don't have a choice. While I've been able to secure the hardware components needed for transmission, I still need to decrypt the code walls around the power system so that I can divert sufficient energy for our needs. That's where you come in."
Julian frowned. "I'm a Doctor," he said, "Not a mathematician."
"Come now," Tain said, faint annoyance audible in his voice, "You and I both know you have certain hidden talents which you seem to be rather embarrassed about."
Julian felt his throat abruptly dry up, and he wondered if he looked as ashen as he felt he must be, the blood having drained from his head, leaving him feeling vaguely dizzy. "I-" He cleared his throat as the nerves conspired to make his voice crack. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said, hoping that he sounded at least a shadow of his own self.
"I am the former head of the Obsidian Order," Tain snapped, "Do you honestly think that if some slip of a Federation Doctor tracks me down on my retirement colony, full of righteousness and a surprising amount of intellect for having predicted what the result would be, a Doctor, I might add, renowned for a certain level of unusual genius, that I would not use as many of my resources as necessary to track down the reason why this Human is how he is?"
The silence was oppressive. Julian didn't know what to say, and so he said nothing.
Then Tain leant back, the hardened former master of Cardassian spies having vanished behind the thin veneer of an old man once more, and gave Julian a mockery of an avuncular smile.
"The question that you have to answer here is simple, Doctor," Tain said, giving him a piercing look that Julian imagined must have reduced hardened Obsidian Order agents to quivering lumps of flesh. Julian wished he could have pretended to immunity. "Do you want to get out of here, or don't you?"
Martok had been summoned by the Jem'Hadar for them to 'test their mettle' (according to Martok), leaving Julian alone with Kalenna and Tain. Tain had briefly explained his plan involving reconfiguring the old life support system, and then had Julian help him prise off the wall panel, while Kalenna stood watch.
Julian had left the panel open a crack, as Tain told him to, and listened hard for Tain's voice. There wasn't much sound insulation, and he was able to hear the old Cardassian with only a slight amount of strain. Fortunately, it went both ways. Tain would be able to hear whatever Julian told him.
He could hear the shuffling as Tain moved himself to the correct position, and said, to Kalenna, "I'm impressed. I'd have never thought of altering the life support system."
"Neither did any of the rest of us," Kalenna said, her eyes fixed on the area outside the door. "His technical skills are impressive."
"I don't think it was ever in any doubt that he was... clever."
"He was up for three days straight," Kalenna said, "When he was doing the initial reconfiguration. He had to get the re-routing finished and sealed so that the Jem'Hadar didn't have a change to detect the power leakage on a security sweep. I thought he was going to kill himself in the process."
"I once stayed awake for eight and a half days," Julian said, listening to the faint thuds of Tain moving through the bulkhead.
"How'd you manage that?" Kalenna asked, curious.
Julian shrugged. "Drugs, mostly. There's something to be said for unrestricted pharmacy access. But after a while you need to be careful, since fatigue poisons start building up in the body, and it can ruin your long term health."
Kalenna smiled. "Does the Federation encourage its Doctors to experiment with medication in such a fashion?"
"Not really," Julian gave her a sidelong look. "But I won't tell if you don't."
Kalenna laughed quietly.
There was a thud that Julian could just hear, if he strained his senses to the limit, and then Tain's voice drifted through to him. "Now, if you would be so kind as to grant me your assistance," he said, "Let's see if you can't help me break through this encryption set."
"Read out what you have solved so far," Julian said, trying to pitch his voice so it would carry, but that his voice wouldn't alert anyone outside of the barracks.
Tain started reciting numbers. Julian closed his eyes, focusing on the figures, and the answer came to him even before his eyelids had fully shut. He tried to ignore the disconcerting sensation. "Sequences," he said, taking a deep breath. "They're all sequences. Read the numbers out to me."
Tain's voice uttered a long string of numbers in a short, clipped tone.
"Right." Julian nodded, holding the picture in his head of those numbers. "Here's the rest. 3 5 6 3 6 5..."
He wasn't sure how long he continued, Tain working his way through the sequences of code branches, as he sat there, leaning against the bulkhead with his legs stretched out. He would have looked like he was half asleep to any Jem'Hadar who looked in through the doorway, but inside his mind, Julian was lost in numbers, sequences, that formed and snapped together of their own volition.
He could remember feeling like this as a teenager, when he had discovered the infinite worlds of maths. He remembered finding fractals for the first time, and nth plane equations. He had never had a fondness for physics and mathematics, so he'd always been surprised he'd been so good at it. He remembered mentally sketching out a ten dimensional cube in his head, and amusing himself with the concept.
Then he'd found out that normal Humans didn't do that sort of thing, and he'd abandoned it all, overnight.
Sequences progressed to exponent curves, which moved onto planar dynamics, the Dominion apparently being very creative about how they created encryption keys, and, eventually, he realised that Tain had stopped calling numbers, and his throat felt dry. He opened his eyes to find Kalenna standing over him, smiling encouragingly, holding a dirty metal mug full of water in her hand. He opened his mouth to speak, and realised that his mouth was completely dry.
"Thank you," he croaked, and accepted the water, sipping it carefully.
She squeezed his shoulder with her hand, and moved to help Tain out of the crawlspace. The Cardassian moved his bulk out of the tight gap with not a little difficulty, but he showed no sign of the strain as he stood.
"Doctor," he said, sounding pleased, "I think you'll be happy to know you've probably just secured our route out of here."
The slop was barely digestible, designed to provide nutrients to a wide variety of Humanoid races, without being palatable to any of them. It was so thick it was practically gelatinous, and Kalenna described it as having the taste similar to a dead meetat that had been fermenting in its own saliva for a week. Julian had teasingly asked her how she could know something like that, and she'd responded by saying that Tal'Shiar initiations could be a nightmare.
The Breen was also eating the gruel along with all of them, but was sucking it in through a feeding tube over where it was sitting, cross legged, on its own bunk.
Kalenna pulled a face, pushing the slurry around her bowl and watching it adhere to the spoon. "I hate to say it, but I think I could eat even Klingon food right now. Anything, even squirming, or slimy, as long as it wasn't this stuff."
"There's an excellent Klingon restaurant on DS9," Julian commented, waving his utensil in Kalenna's direction. "You'd love their slightly spiced rakht."
Martok licked his spoon. "My wife makes the best blood pie, the meat dripping and raw, and the sauce would ooze over your fingers..."
"How distasteful," Tain said, in apparent disgust, but Julian recognised the faint glimmer of amusement that he'd come to learn to read in Cardassians.
"You're only saying that because you've never had proper rokeg blood pie before," Martok said, dipping his spoon into the food again.
"Tell you what," Julian said, "We get out of here, we're all going for dinner at the Klingon restaurant, and Tain gets blood pie, and Kalenna gets a plate of gagh, deal?"
"If we get out," Martok said, shaking his head.
"Come now, General," Tain said, "Have a little optimism. Forward thinking is always more appealing when one plans for the best. My message will reach the wormhole and thus the Alpha Quadrant in..."
Thirteen days, seven hours, fifty six minutes, give or take a few seconds if there are any EM storms en route...
Julian didn't give voice to his calculation through ease of long habit, focusing on his rations.
"Oh..." Tain made a great show of working it out. "About a week and a half, standard. Then it is merely a matter of waiting for a response."
"Who did you send the message to?" Julian asked, watching the gruel slide around in his bowl, before glancing up at Tain, curiously. "Starfleet?"
"Oh, Starfleet will intercept it," Tain said. He was tucking into the food as if it were a banquet meal. "But they will hardly be able to understand it. I am taking no risks that shapeshifters within the Federation will see what I have sent and return word to the Dominion."
A fair consideration of risk, given that they knew for sure there was at least one changeling on Deep Space Nine, in the form of Julian's doppelgänger.
Julian tilted his head, working it out. "Garak?" he asked.
Julian smiled faintly. "If anyone can work out a plan to escape from a prison camp, I'm sure it's our Mister Garak."
Kalenna frowned. "Is he some sort of specialist security agent?"
"He's a tailor," Tain said.
"Plain and simple," Julian said, and glanced at Tain, the two of them sharing a brief and unexpected smile at the joke.
"What's he supposed to do, sew us a transporter?" Martok said, sceptical.
"Have a little faith, General," Tain said, finishing off his food. "With the assistance of the Doctor here, our transmission is sent and help will be here before too long, I'm sure of it. Incidentally, very impressive work on your ad hoc calculations. It's something I never could have managed alone."
Julian's mouth twitched, "Don't they teach recreational mathematics on Cardassia?"
"What surprises me is that they teach it on Earth," said Tain, far too innocently.
"That was astonishing," Kalenna said in agreement, looking up from the patterns she was drawing in the bitter moss that was all they were given to flavour the slop with to stare at Julian, "I've never seen someone make calculations that quickly without a computer."
"Oh, it's not so surprising, is it, Doctor?" Tain said, his attitude one of cheerful jocularity.
Julian stayed silent, stirring his food and staring into its grey depths with intensity.
"I... don't understand," Kalenna admitted, glancing between the pair of them.
"I must admit," Tain said, ignoring Julian's dour expression, "It wasn't that easy to trace the records. Your parents were very thorough in covering their tracks. But, once I finally managed to find records of transport to Adigeon Prime it became much easier to work out the specifics."
Please don't do this... Julian thought to himself, but couldn't bring himself to speak up in his own defence.
"Adigeon Prime..." Martok pursed his lips thoughtfully. "That is not a Federation world."
"It's non-aligned, mostly because it's known for being willing to carry out certain medical proceedures which the Federation, against their usually tolerant nature, finds abhorrent. Genetic alterations are usually the biggest seller." Tain made a great show of being thoughtful. "I find it so peculiar that such an otherwise forward looking and technologically skilled conglomeration of disparate species as the Federation finds the workings of the body to be sacrosant." He gave his companions a sidelong look. "That is not the case with other races, is it?"
"Klingons," Martok snorted, "do not fiddle with their biology. They are either strong warriors, or they are not."
"And Cardassians," Tain added, "Have never really had sufficient technology in the bioengineering sciences to complete a full reengineering of an individual's neurology and genetics."
Julian glanced at Kalenna, who shrugged, with a slight smile. "We just don't care about genetics," she said. "I don't understand why your people find it so shameful. Would it not serve you well?"
Julian opened his mouth, and closed it again, trying to force his throat to work against habitual silence. Finally, when he spoke, his voice seemed barely audible to his own ears. "A remnant of the Eugenics War," he said, slowly. "When genetically enhanced Humans tried to take over the world, with the arrogant certainty that they were superior to 'normal' Humans, and thus had a right to dominance. The fear they invoked persists to this day, and Terra spread it throughout the Federation."
"Ah," Tain said, and smiled at him, all brash innocent and curiosity. Julian felt a brief flicker of hatred towards the man. "Is that why you chose to hide what you are to your superiors? You believe that your friends will 'fear' you because of your genetic enhancements?"
Julian felt utterly cold.
Kalenna raised an eyebrow. "Keeping secrets from your superiors?" Her lips quirked in amusement. "And I thought it was you Humans always lecturing the rest of the galaxy about the necessities of duty. You're as bad as Klingons sometimes."
Only Martok, of the assembled, seemed to realise exactly what Tain's slightly malicious exposure of Julian's secret seemed to mean to the Doctor. He watched as Julian fixed his eyes firmly on the bowl in his hands, and noted the slight shaking, quickly hidden.
"You have kept this secret all your life," he said, slowly, low voiced, and Julian's slightly panicked eyes raised to meet his. Kalenna stilled as she became aware of the gravity of the situation. "Do you fear that you will be killed?"
"No," Julian said, quickly, past the sudden hoarseness in his throat. It seemed a little futile trying to deny it. "No, I wouldn't be killed. But I would be stripped of my position, barred from practicing medicine, shunned by virtually every race in the Federation, and my parents would probably be arrested and thrown into prison."
"You've spent a lot of time thinking about this," Kalenna said. Beside her, Tain stirred his rations, apaprently uncaring of the havoc he'd caused with his words. "About what the other Humans would do to you..."
"Ever since I found out what my parents did to me," Julian said, and laughed shortly. "You know, I'm not strictly considered Human. Colloquially, I'm an Augment. The technical term being Homo Mutatis. 'Changed Man'."
Martok grunted, leaned forward, and pulled on Julian's chin, turning his head this way and that. Then he pulled on Julian's hair, his ears, then poking him in the shoulder. Finally, he harrumphed in annoyance. "You look Human enough to me."
Kalenna couldn't, apparently, help herself, and immediately burst into laughter, hand across her stomach, at the utterly bewildered look that Julian could feel crossing his face. After a moment, even Tain joined in, chuckling, and Julian was sure he could hear the faint whuffing of an artificial air filter being strained by laughter, though it was rather difficult to tell simply from looking at the Breen.
In spite of himself, Julian found he was laughing as well.
When their amusement died down, Tain clapped a hand on his shoulder and said, "I wouldn't worry too much, my good Doctor. Humanity obviously has a massive inferiority complex. You shouldn't feel so bad about that." A small smile crossed his face. "I think I finally understand what Elim sees in you."
Julian, for a brief moment, felt none of the shame of his augmentations that horrible day when his parents had sat him down at the kitchen table and carefully explained to him why it wasn't such a good thing to draw too much attention to his genius. "I'll take that as a compliment," he said.
"You should," Tain said, removing his hand. "Elim always was very cautious about who he chose as a true friend, and ally." His mouth quirked into a smile. "And I start to understand why you befriended him."
Martok and Kalenna were watching the conversation with ill-concealed curiosity, and Julian tried to put that out of his mind. It wasn't like they could do anything against him for now. And since the big secret was already out in the open, it was pointless to be reticent now. "Why do you say that?"
"You were studying him, weren't you? Studying how he'd survived in exile from his own people?" Tain said, "Because you've always been aware that it might be you sitting there one day, sent away from everything you know and love."
Julian was surprised to feel a wry smile come to his face. "Don't tell Garak," he said, "He's convinced that I was so drawn in by his mysterious 'I'm not a spy' persona that I couldn't resist."
Tain laughed. "Far be it from me to break the boy's heart," he said, and stood, taking his plate to be disposed of in the recycling.
The waiting had turned into something that seemed interminable. Julian made an effort not to think about whether or not the signal had made it all the way across the Gamma Quadrant, un-intercepted, and through the wormhole, and concentrated on the day-to-day task of existing. Things progressed quietly for several weeks and slowly Julian started to adjust to realities of life in the prison.
All things considered, it could have been worse. Unlike the Klingons, who tended to put their prisoners to hard labour, the Dominion mostly left their prisoners alone. They didn't even put any movement restrictions or curfews on their captives, as the Federation would. They were free to move around, the Dominion apparently preferring to use the substandard rations to keep the prison population lethargic from borderline malnutrition, and ill able to fight the Jem'Hadar.
Julian got to know a few of the other prisoners outside his barracks. As the only Human prisoner, it wasn't as if he was going to be fussy about who he mingled with. While, in his tenure at DS9, he'd often encountered Cardassians, he had never before spent such extended time with Romulans, and decided that there were worse things to do while waiting for rescue than to get to know the Romulans and learn more about them.
But, as Julian should have expected, things didn't remain quiet forever.
He had been quietly talking to a Cardassian Glinn and a Romulan SubCommander, who had been swapping stories about their youngest daughters, when there were hurried footsteps at his side, and he turned to see Martok lumbering in his direction.
He spoke quietly in Klingon to Julian. It was a language most Federation citizens learnt as children, but the Romulans and Cardassians weren't so familiar with it. "It's Tain," he said, "You need to come quickly."
Ignoring the faint curiosity coming from the other prisoners, Julian smiled at them, as if nothing was wrong, and excused himself.
Martok was clearly attempting not to rush in an unseemly fashion and attract attention from the Jem'Hadar, but he was clearly moving faster than usual, and they quickly reached their barracks.
Kalenna was standing by the doorway, looking frantic, her eyes darting around as if expecting the Jem'Hadar to come storming around the corner at any moment. "He went to check that the system was still transmitting," she said, her voice hushed. "And then he went quiet. Really quiet."
Julian tried not to think about what might have happened, and hurried over to the gap in the wall, where the panel had already been removed. "Tain?" he whispered, trying to be audible without being loud enough for the sound to carry through the bulkheads.
When there was no response, he glanced at Kalenna. She nodded. No one was around. Julian took a deep breath, and climbed through the hole in the bulkhead. It was a bit of a squeeze for him to climb inside and to shuffle along the thin space in the walls. He couldn't imagine how hard it had been for Tain to force his own not-inconsiderable bulk through the tiny gap.
He found Tain, dimly lit by an exposed fibre cable, his head lolling backwards and his eyes rolled upwards. His breath was shallow, and gasping, and Julian was sure that the only reason he was still standing upright was that he had wedged himself in so tightly that he was pinned in place.
He was still conscious, at least, but his voice was thin, papery, and was barely audible over the hum of the power systems.
Julian pressed his fingers against the blood vessels in Tain's temple, equivalent to taking a caratoid pulse from a Human, and frowned. "We need to get you out of here," he said, using all of his medical training to keep his voice even and calm.
Tain might have made a smart comment in response, but he was too busy gasping for breath. It wasn't easy to dislodge a deadweight Cardassian, who had such assurance in his power that he had not seen the need to maintain a fit and slender figure, confident that he had less tangible means to defend against those who might threaten him. But with some grunting and brute force, Julian managed to extricate Tain from his cramped prison, fortunately, without dislodging his shoulder. Barely.
Martok helped him pull Tain out of the bulkhead, and Kalenna put the panel back in place quickly, pushing the rickety bed back against the wall. Then she watched, wide eyed, as the two of them manhandled Tain onto a bed.
"What's wrong with him?" Kalenna asked, anxiously.
"He's having a heart attack," Julian said, concentrating on loosening Tain's clothing and making the Cardassian man more comfortable.
"Is there anything you can do, Doctor?" Martok said, "We need him alive."
Julian found himself snapping his response before he could stop himself, frustration surging up. "If I had a medkit, or even access to an autodoc, yes, but right now all I can do is sit here and pray he doesn't die."
There was a silence, broken only by Tain's harsh breathing, and the creak of leather as Martok leaned back, looking at Julian thoughtfully.
"Are you a religious man, Doctor?" Martok asked, in a quiet growl.
Julian sighed, struggling to contain his anxiety as he carefully finished settling Tain on his bunk and retaining a grip on the Cardassian's wrist to monitor his pulse. "As Bajor so often likes to think, the Federation really is a rather Godless society. We retain certain colloquial phrases related to 'taking the Lord's name in vain', but Humanity long ago grew distrustful of religions after they started the third World War and nearly destroyed us all."
"That is not what I asked you."
Julian frowned. "I have faith," he said, finally. "Not in any higher mystical power, though. I have faith in science, my own abilities, my friends... but not Gods."
Martok frowned and glanced towards Tain. "Pity," he commented, "Tain looks like he could use the aid of prayer right now."
They all could.
The Vorta apparently didn't maintain any sort of office in the prison, or, if he did, it wasn't one the prisoners were allowed access to. When Julian had gone up to the Jem'Hadar and asked to see the Vorta, they had grudgingly told him to wait, before the Vorta had come to him.
Julian had decided that it was worth asking for aid from the Dominion, as much as he was loathe to do so. There was nothing he could do for Tain, and his condition would be noticed when the Jem'Hadar performed one of their random barracks inspections, so, in Julian's mind, he really had nothing to lose.
Unfortunately, the Vorta was less than obliging. "I'm afraid," he said, politely and with a patently false smile, "That our medical facilities here are non-existent and even if there were any, they would not be for prisoner usage."
"That's ridiculous," Julian ground out, between clenched teeth. "You intend to allow your prisoner to die?"
"From what you've told me, this is an entirely natural outgrowth of a previously existing medical condition." A smarmy smile. "Nothing that the Dominion could be held responsible for."
Julian wondered if the Jem'Hadar would shoot him if he punched the Vorta Commander for his smugness, or whether they would thank him for it. Surely someone this irksome would be an annoyance to the proud warriors, regardless of orders to obey them.
"Is there nothing I can say to make you change your mind?" he said, trying to keep his voice even, aware that he was practically begging.
The Vorta looked genuinely amused. "I'm afraid we are not a hotel. The comfort and well being of our... guests... is really not our concern. We are only concerned with those prisoners the Founders order us to keep safe and, to be honest, Tain is not one of them."
Julian grit his teeth. "Can I not even convince you to increase his food ration temporarily?"
"I'm sorry, Doctor. That just wouldn't be fair to the other prisoners, now would it?"
Julian felt his fingers start to clench angrily and forcibly straightened them out. He looked at the false joviality on the Vorta's face, and the stern unyielding expressions of those of the Jem'Hadar. He nodded, sharply, then turned and left without another word.
"No luck then?"
Julian's mouth twisted as he took Tain's pulse. "I'm afraid our Vorta overseer was less than accommodating."
"I could have told you that," Tain said, grumpily. In fact, he had, in a less steady voice than he was using now. He had the appearance of recovery, but Julian was certain that it was through force of will rather than through any true physical improvement. "You shouldn't have bothered. I'm sure when we're rescued there will be some hope for me, correct?"
Julian cast a glance towards the Breen, and to where Kalenna was dozing quietly. He pursed his lips. While the Jem'Hadar had deactivated and removed the autotranslator that he, like the other Starfleet officers assigned to Deep Space Nine, had embedded in his ear canal (being that they were more likely to encounter non-Federation Standard speakers off duty when not in possession of combadges), Julian had quickly realised that everyone in the camp was speaking Standard, to compensate for the lack of translator. The Romulans spoke Rihannsu, the Klingons their own tongue, but to communicate together, they used the Federation's language. There was something to be said for the overwhelming cultural momentum of the Federation.
But he didn't want this to be overheard. He lowered his voice, and spoke quietly in Kardasi. "You're dying," he informed Tain, "I doubt you will live to see our rescue."
Tain's eyes widened momentarily, betraying his surprise, and Julian took that as a sign of how seriously ill the old man was. "Why Doctor," he said, "Did you learn the Cardassian language simply to communicate with Garak?"
Julian smiled and dropped back into Standard. "Actually, it's because we couldn't get the computer to speak Standard properly for the first three months of Starfleet's governance of DS9. I left it on its default rather than listen to its painful mangling of my ribosome research notes."
Tain laughed, though it quickly trailed off into coughing. "Did you tell any of your colleagues what you were doing?"
Julian's mouth twitched as he rested a hand against Tain's chest, feeling the vibrations of his chest cavity and not liking the way the old man was breathing. Not that there was much he could do about it. "What do you think?" he said.
"No then," Tain said, and smiled faintly. "A pity you couldn't have been born a Cardassian, Doctor. You would have been a great asset to our people."
Julian shook his head. "Well, I'm sorry to have deprived the Cardassian people so," he said, and helplessly drew up the thin and useless blanket about Tain's shoulders. "Garak will be here soon. I'm sure of it."
"I'm sure of it as well," Tain said, after a moment's pause. "After all, that boy never did know when to leave well enough alone." He closed his eyes and sighed. "A little like you, I think."
Tain's words followed Julian throughout that day, and, as he lay in his bunk, pretending to rest, they wouldn't stop going around his head. He only needed, in truth, about three hours sleep a night. And, if he pushed it, merely an hour to remain functioning properly. Unfortunately, that left him with a lot of time to think.
He heard her moving the moment she crept out of bed, treading softly in her bare feet to avoid disturbing the others. Whether they were sleeping was debatable, but none of them particularly wanted to interrupt what little rest they were able to snatch. Kalenna knelt down beside him, and he opened his eyes to see her clearly in the lighting that was even more dimmed than usual. The Dominion turned down the illumination for several hours at a time to reproduce some form of diurnal cycle and to prevent their prisoners getting ill.
She looked at him for a long moment, and he nodded, lifting up the corner of the blanket. She crawled underneath, and wrapped inHumanly warm limbs around his own.
"Are you alright?" he asked, quietly.
She shook her head, and he could suddenly hear Tain's laboured breathing shift sharply, and suddenly he understood why he could feel her trembling slightly.
His fingers sought out her cheek, and he gently tilted her face towards his, leaning down to give her a gentle and lingering kiss. She sighed against him as she pulled away, and let him bring the threadbare blanket higher around the both of them.
"I don't want to die here," he heard her say, in a barely audible whisper, in Rihannsu.
The only reason he knew the phrase was because he'd heard another Romulan say it, weeks earlier, right before the Jem'Hadar shot him for disobedience.
He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tightly, ignoring the fact that he could feel her bones through her clothing (as she could probably feel his) and thought about his problem.
Tain was right. He really didn't know when to leave well enough alone. That was one part of his personality he'd never made much of an attempt to hide. He was convinced it made him a better doctor, a better Human being, if he was never satisfied with a negative answer, and pushed himself to find an alternative.
He had saved lives before that way. Was there any way he could save Tain's?
Julian absently scratched at the beard stubble that the inadequate sonic razor in the Refresher failed to completely shave clean. "I want to see if I can get my hands on something to help Tain."
He'd spent the night thinking long and hard about it, and, eventually, he'd come to the conclusion that this was the only way forward. The Vorta wouldn't help them, there was no immediate sign of rescue, and so they'd have to help themselves.
Julian briefly allowed himself to fantasise about the Defiant coming charging through the enemy lines to save them in the nick of time, and then dismissed the thought as wishful thinking. Life, unfortunately, rarely had the fortuitous timing of holonovels.
Kalenna frowned, and Martok shook his head dismissively. "There are no medical facilities in this camp."
"There has to be something," Julian reasoned.
"He's right," Kalenna said, biting her lip in thought. "After all, they have been known to mind-sift individuals while they are still prisoners here." She glanced at Julian and it went unspoken that it was doubtless the reason he was being kept here and alive. "They must have some sort of emergency supplies in case of prisoner illness. They are merely well hidden."
"Getting to those supplies..." Martok heaved a sigh and shook his head. "It will not be easy. You don't even know where to start looking."
Julian shook his head. "I know where to start. It's just where to go from there that's a problem. It requires trusting in my improvisational abilities. Otherwise I will be very very dead."
"If Tain dies," Kalenna said, slowly, glancing at the old Cardassian and then looking away quickly, "You're the only one who knows this 'Garak' you said was coming. We may not be able to convince him to help us if he does not know us."
Kalenna, in typical Romulan fashion, had no faith in the altruism of others.
He took her hand. Her skin was hot in a manner he normally associated with Vulcans. "If I die," he said, slowly, "And Garak comes, tell him..." He thought for a moment, then smiled.
"Tell him that he can have his copy of Meditations on a Crimson Shadow back. I found it a typically depressing piece of Cardassian literature, but I really did rather enjoy it. I always knew I'd die before admitting that."
Everyone knew where the access was that conjoined the prisoner and the Dominion areas. It was unguarded, and no one ever bothered trying to break in; considering that the only way off the prison was through transport via a nearby ship, there was little point.
Unless, of course, you were desperately looking for medical supplies.
Julian hung around near the unassuming doorway that was the only access into the Dominion area, far enough away that the Jem'Hadar wouldn't suspect he was watching. After all, from the distance he was standing at, a normal Human wouldn't be able to see anything clearly.
Then again, the Jem'Hadar didn't know he wasn't a normal Human.
He watched, and waited.
Finally, a pair of Jem'Hadar, coming off duty from their patrol shift, stopped in front of the door. One of them waved their hand in front of a sensor, which chirruped and presented them with a keypad. A few seconds later, and the door slid open, allowing the Jem'Hadar to enter.
Julian had what he needed. He just had to wait.
The Jem'Hadar were nothing if not regular and disciplined. It was easy, after all this time in the camp, to have worked out their shift cycles. He waited until he was approximately a third of the way into one, and then he approached the door, confident that no one would be entering or leaving for some time.
He waved his hand over the sensor, glancing around for anyone nearby, and it was apparently only a motion sensor, as it reveal the keypad to him. The prison camp was old, and a lot of its technology hadn't been upgraded to more modern standards. As such, the door wasn't blocked by DNA or recognition scanner, but a simple code. And Julian had watched the Jem'Hadar enter the code earlier on.
The only hope was that there wasn't a unique code for each individual, or that if there was, there was no central database looking to see if the owner of the code was already inside. Whichever was the case, fortune, it seemed, was with him, as the doors slid open with a slight grinding of rusted metal, and he darted inside, praying that he wouldn't be seen.
Luck was with him, apparently. There was no one on the other side of the door, just an empty corridor, the air inside much warmer than that in the main prison, presumably for the comfort of the reptilian Jem'Hadar. Even more fortunately, there was a glossy computer interface panel inset into the wall a few meters down from the doorway he'd entered through. A quick touch revealed nothing more than a basic menu and the emblem of the Dominion, but Julian set to work, and eventually managed to prise open the database long enough to get an overview map of the complex.
He heard the thudding of Jem'Hadar footsteps before he'd found what he wanted, and a brief flutter of panic arose in his stomach. His eyes frantically ran over the map, and then, just when he was about to abandon the panel and hide, he saw what he wanted. There was a room helpfully labelled with the Dominion icon for medicine, and Julian guessed it was either an infirmary or a storage room.
If he was really unlucky, it might be the room where they mind-sifted prisoners, but he tried not to think about that as, with quick movements of his fingers, he shut down the interface, and hurried in the direction that had been indicated on the map.
The footsteps grew distant, and he guessed he was moving into less-used areas of the Dominion areas. When he reached the area that had been indicated on the map, he found that the logo had apparently been indicating an area, rather than a single room. He gamely picked one of the available rooms and ducked inside.
Luck was still with him. Inside with several packing crates, obviously designed for high-stress warp transit. Most of them were sealed tightly and wouldn't open, but one or two had been opened and resealed at some point. They were easier to access, since it seemed that when something had its seal broken, it was easy to reopen.
There were some low-powered dermal regenerators, suitable for little more than cuts, which Julian discarded, though the minimal concession to medical aid for the Jem'Hadar spoke volumes about what the Founders thought of the disposibility of their servants. There were some very basic first aid materials, such as bandages or thermal packs in the second room that Julian tried, and in the third, he found what might have been drugs vials.
Hissing in triumph, he held the vials up to the light. He couldn't read the labels, and he didn't have a tricorder, so he'd have to make a guess at what might be useful, then sneak them out, and hope he could figure out what was what without the risk of being caught by the Jem'Hadar at any moment.
It had been a nice thought.
A heavy scaled hand clamped down on his shoulder. He hadn't even heard the Jem'Hadar enter the room.
"What are you doing in here?"
He didn't try too hard to fight them. There wasn't much point, considering the overwhelming odds. But it was a point of pride to struggle a bit, although the Jem'Hadar didn't seem appreciative of his effort.
They dragged him out of the storage areas, into the larger communal areas of the camp, and as the prisoners realised what was happening, they slowly started to congregate, obscenely curious, in the direction of the Jem'Hadar.
"Take a good look!" The Jem'Hadar's voice boomed out over the assembled group. "We have warned you of the price of disobedience. Now this one will pay."
The Jem'Hadar gave him a cursory, dismissive look, and his lip curled in a sneer of disgust. "Kill him."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Martok grip Kalenna's arm to hold her still when she took a half-step forward in response to the order. He sent a silent thought of thanks in the General's direction. He grit his teeth, and cursed both his imagination and his excellent brain as he worked out exactly how long he'd be able to feel the pain of vaporisation before enough of his nerves were destroyed to end the pain.
Julian blinked, and the Jem'Hadar turned, in unison, all looking annoyed.
The Vorta strode through the assembled mass of prisoners and Jem'Hadar, who parted before him as the Red Sea before Moses. He fixed the Jem'Hadar First with a glare. "You," he said, "Were specifically informed that this prisoner was not to be harmed."
"He was caught stealing," the Jem'Hadar ground out, between clenched teeth.
"And a minor criminal infraction was sufficient to countermand my orders? First," The Vorta's mouth twitched into a flat, humourless smile, "I'm disappointed in you."
The First's hand clenched a little, but otherwise he did not react. He looked away, clearly begrudging the Vorta his authority.
The Vorta then turned to Julian shaking his head. "Now, Doctor. Was I perhaps unclear with you when I told you what the rules were?"
Julian shrugged insolently. "Quite clear. I've just always been a really bad listener."
"Oh, I doubt that." The Vorta shook his head, apparently almost amused. "You Federation types do seem to be such troublemakers. I suppose we should have taken that into account with you. We've had so few of you here, though. It's all a learning experience really."
Julian fixed the Vorta with a glare. "Glad I could help."
The Vorta waved dismissively. "Take him to solitary," he said, to the Jem'Hadar. "Three days should be sufficient to think of the error of his ways."
Solitary confinement. A lightless box with no temperature control to speak of, and you only got the air that squeaked in under the door. But at least they hadn't shot him outright. Julian fought the urge to smile as the Jem'Hadar dragged him towards the box they called 'solitary'. Maybe there was hope yet.
"Well, look at you!"
Julian Bashir spread his arms and did a quick twirl on the spot, at Kalenna's amused remark, to best show off his new uniform. He'd discovered, upon returning to his quarters, that the changeling had apparently replicated the new uniform once (which Julian had to admit, he'd forgotten about the upcoming implementation of the new style) for appearances sake and left it, untouched, neatly folded at the back of a drawer. The changeling hadn't needed clothes after all.
It had turned out not to fit him properly. He'd lost body mass on the thin gruel of the camp, and he'd had to replicate a new uniform. Thinking about how he would have to alter his diet to replenish his muscle mass kept him occupied.
It had distracted him after he'd seen everything out of place in his quarters and felt, deep down, slightly violated. He'd already put in a request for new rooms and was waiting to hear from the Quartermaster.
"You like it?" he asked, dropping into the third seat at the table in the Klingon restaurant where Kalenna and Martok were already sitting at, waiting for him. Kalenna looked much happier, clean, with her hair freshly cut and her uniform, like his, newly replicated.
Martok didn't look much different, but Julian detected the tell-tale scent of cleanser that the Klingon had used to eliminate all trace of the internment camp upon his skin.
Kalenna pursed her lips. "Makes your shoulders look wider," she said, after a moment.
Julian raised an eyebrow. "Thanks. I think."
The overweight proprietor of the establishment ambled over, and made an expression of exaggerated surprise at Kalenna's presence. "Ah, my first Romulan customer!" he said, with a grin that showed off every one of his snaggled teeth. "And such an attractive one too, who shares such excellent company."
Martok and Julian exchanged wry looks of amusement at the Klingon restaurateur's shameless and universal flattery.
The Klingon produced a datapad with a flourish. "How may I serve your pleasures, hmm?"
Kalenna stared at the menu, then looked up at the man, and raised her chin. "Everything," she said, with a broad grin that showed her own teeth in return, "And an extra large plate of gagh."
Martok pounded the table approvingly. "And blood pie all round!"
The Klingon bellowed with laughter, and gave Kalenna a playful smack on the shoulder. "A woman with excellent taste," he declared, "And just because I like that, I'll make sure they're the freshest wriggling gagh in my kitchen."
Kalenna laughed, honestly delighted with his sentiment.
Although she was all smiles, Julian noted, keenly, that Kalenna seemed to be having a slight difficulty adapting to her return from captivity. While Martok didn't seem to be having any problems at all, more than a couple of times as they talked, waiting for their food to arrive, Julian caught her eyes flickering around the promenade, as if she were expecting the Jem'Hadar to suddenly arrive and take her away for punishment. He could almost understand how she felt, but for different reasons. While he hadn't been a prisoner nearly as long, the experience of being free to express his 'true' self as it were, with people who didn't care whether he was genetically enhanced or not, had been freeing. He had been able to engage in a logic game to pass the time with a Romulan tech specialist that normal Humans wouldn't have been able to handle, as it required a different mode of thought. He had been able to exercise the languages he had learnt but not revealed his knowledge in, due to the fact that Humans were usually never able to understand such things in two weeks.
He'd found himself dealing with his Starfleet colleagues upon his return to the station, and someone had made a comment – he couldn't quite remember what it was now – but it had seemed so utterly stupid to Julian, and he had a brief flash of dizzying superiority, of sudden realisation that he was better than them. He had opened his mouth to retort, knowing, in his heart of hearts, that he was smarter, stronger, and faster than them. Why should he have to put up with such blatant idiocy?
Then the reality of his own thoughts had washed over him in a cold chill.
He'd had to excuse himself, return to his quarters, and spent several hours desperately trying to shove those feelings back behind the locked door in his mind that he'd put in place as a teenager, reminding himself of all the terrible things that would happen if anyone ever found out exactly what he was.
And then he'd emerged, freshly cleaned and dressed, and pretended nothing had ever happened. He was very good at that. If only Garak knew; he'd be very proud.
But still, there remained a feeling of peculiar gratitude towards Tain, who'd enabled him to experience what life was like when he didn't have to live in fear of losing his friends, his career, even his own species.
The food had arrived, with a copious amount of blood wine.
Julian raised his goblet. "To Tain," he said. "The most deceitful, duplicitous bastard on this plane of existence," He paused and smiled, "But he got us out of there."
Kalenna and Martok both raised their own drinks. "To Tain," they echoed.