Chapter 14

Location Unknown

Time and Date Unknown

 

Clark jerked awake, rolling off his bunk and falling onto the hard metal deck. Before he could react or determine where he was, a rough deep male voice ordered, “Pick him up.” A pair of hands reached under Clark’s arms and roughly hauled him onto his feet. He shook his head and looked up to either side, finding a Jem’Hadar soldier holding him. Clark looked forward, finding a male-looking Founder sitting calmly in on a short stool just a few meters away. The shapeshifter pointed at a three-legged metal stool sitting in front of him, “Please sit, Captain.”

“Tell me where I am,” Clark demanded. He rubbed his chin, sore from the impact with the deck, feeling two or three day’s worth of stubble.

The Founder said more sternly, “Captain, sit.”

Clark took a moment to survey the room while he stepped forward and sat. It measured just under three meters by four meters, with smooth seamless metal walls. A single door sat in the corner opposite the thin mattress bed. Lighting came from a wide recess that ran along the edge of the ceiling, which itself was comprised of meter-square panels. Clark turned his attention to the Founder, “I like what you’ve done with the place.”

“I need you to give me the unlock codes for your ship,” the Founder said plainly.

“I can’t do that.”

The Founder leaned forward and emphatically stated, “David, you will do this.”

Clark crossed his arms, “Why?”

“If you don’t I will have your crew executed one-by-one in front of you until you comply.” After letting the threat sink in, the he demanded, “The codes.”

Even as the faces of the Aldrin crew flashed before his eyes, Clark forced himself to coolly respond, “No.”

“Do you think this is a game?” the Founder asked, seemingly shocked by Clark’s refusal.

Clark smirked, “I take this very seriously.”

“I don’t think you understand how serious this is.”

Clark held his hands out to his side, “Enlighten me.”

“Don’t pretend to be ignorant,” the Founder said. “You’re intelligent, for a solid. You know what is going on here, and you know what the Dominion is willing to do.”

“I’m not so certain you represent the Dominion,” Clark countered.

“I am the true Dominion.” The cryptic answer prompted a raised eyebrow from Clark. The Founder continued, “You will give me the unlock codes or your crew will die.”

“Answer’s still no.”

“David,” The Founder sat up, shaking his head, “I need you to understand something here. We will crack your unlock codes eventually. Either you give me the codes and I permit your crew to live, or I crack the codes and your crew dies. It is your choice.”

Clark dropped his hands into his lap and looked around the cell, and then back to the Founder with a blank stare.

The Founder stared back, unblinking, for several seconds. Without looking away he ordered, “Bring in the first one.”

The door opened into a brightly-lit corridor and a Jem’Hadar stepped through, dragging a male Human in behind him. Clark recognized the lanky dark-haired security officer, “Lieutenant Carpenter.”

Carpenter unsuccessfully tried to shake off the Jem’Hadar, “I haven’t told them anything, Captain.”

Clark turned back to the Founder, “He doesn’t know anything.”

“I know,” the Founder said. He looked up at Carpenter standing behind him, and then to the Jem’Hadar holding the lieutenant, “Kill him.”

The Jem’Hadar quickly drew its disruptor pistol and pointed it at Carpenter’s head. Clark yelled, “Stop!” and jumped up, but the two other Jem’Hadar clapped down on his shoulders and pushed him back down onto the stool.

The Founder held up a hand and a finger lifted off the disruptor’s trigger, though the weapon remained aimed at Carpenter’s head. The Founder turned back to Clark, “The codes, Captain.”

“I’m going to need to talk to Vorik,” Clark said. “He knows the codes.”

“Why don’t I just ‘talk’ to him myself?” the Founder asked.

“Have you ever interrogated a Vulcan?” Clark laughed. Met with stony silence from the Founder, Clark expounded, “You won’t be able to break him. I can convince him that it’s in our best interests.”

The Founder stood and stared down at Clark for several seconds. He calmly ordered, “Kill him.” Without hesitation the Jem’Hadar pulled the trigger on his disruptor, discharging it at point blank range into the side of Carpenter’s head. The lieutenant crumpled to the deck, the side of his head now a blackened and smoking pit from the disruptor.

Clark stared, his mouth agape, at Carpenter’s body, “Why…”

“To convince you that it’s in your best interests,” the Founder said darkly. He walked out of the cell, followed by the Jem’Hadar dragging Carpenter’s corpse.

The door snapped shut, leaving Clark alone, sitting in stunned silence on the stool. He looked up from the spot where Carpenter had dropped, taking a few seconds to study the cell again. His eyes landed on a small access panel next to the door. He stood and patted himself down, finding his combadge, phaser, and rank pips gone, but his antique watch still on his wrist. Clark noted the date: February 6, two days since the Aldrin’s capture.

He stepped up to the door and ran his fingers around the edges of the panel. Clark pulled at the edges, found the panel unforgiving, and slammed his fist against the top edge. The panel popped loose at the impact, flipping down from a bottom hinge. He crouched and looked into the jumble of wires and chips inside the wall.

 

Location Unknown

16:22 Hours, February 6th, 2380

 

Vorik silently allowed the two Jem’Hadar to guide him through the corridor. He had little choice, with his hands bound behind his back and a bag over his head. The Jem’Hadar stopped and pulled the black cloth bag off from Vorik’s head, presenting him with the Founder.

The Founder’s dark eyes stared unwaveringly at Vorik, “You will give your captain the unlock codes.”

Vorik was quick to respond, “Why not give it to you?”

The Founder smirked, “Because I know you would not.” He pointed at a door set into the smooth metal bulkhead. “Your Captain will explain.” One of the Jem’Hadar reached out and pressed a control panel next to the door. The door slid open, revealing a small cell with Clark sitting on the bunk inside.

Clark stood, “Vorik!”

The Jem’Hadar barked, “Sit.” Clark slowly lowered himself back onto the bunk as the Jem’Hadar stepped in. The second pushed Vorik forward through the door and followed closely behind. The door snapped shut behind him.

The Founder grabbed the edge of the control panel and pulled it off the wall, activating the wireless monitor display. The screen flickered with static as it displayed a video feed from inside, though without sound. He shook the screen and turned it over in his hands, failing to get a clear and steady picture or sound as Clark and Vorik sat on the stools.

 

Clark sat upright on the stool, his hands folded in his lap. He glanced up at the Jem’Hadar towering behind Vorik, and then turned his attention to Vorik, “The unlock codes.”

Vorik’s eyes darted down at Clark’s right foot, which was steadily and quietly tapping once every second. “They have not breached the lock?”

“No.”

Vorik responded placidly, “It is only a matter of time.” The tapping reached ten.

Clark leaned forward. “They’ll kill the crew if they don’t get them.”

 

The Founder pushed the display against the bulkhead, docking it back in place. It switched to a control panel layout with a small video feed from inside tucked into a corner. There was still no sound and a static-flickering video. He groaned and pulled the screen back off the dock.

 

“How many would they have to kill before you to break?” Vorik asked. “Twenty? Thirty?”

“I don’t think I could take thirty.”

Vorik nodded as the tap count passed twenty. “Captain, you cannot turn over the codes.”

Clark sat up, placing his hands back in his lap, “Would I have to order you?”

“That is an order I would disobey.”

Clark’s foot tapped a thirtieth time. A second later a quiet high-pitched whine came from the access panel, its frequency so high and volume so low that only Vorik’s sensitive Vulcan ears could hear it. Vorik made eye contact with Clark and barely nodded.

Clark slowly stood, glaring down at Vorik, “You will give the Dominion the codes. That is an order.”

Vorik defiantly stood, “I cannot.”

Clark reached out and grabbed the collar of Vorik’s uniform jacket. He yelled, much to the amusement of the Jem’Hadar behind their backs, sharply enunciating each word, “Give. Them. The. Codes!”

“No,” Vorik’s response was typically calm.

“They’ll start killing the crew!” Clark shouted. “They already shot Carpenter!”

Vorik coldly replied, “I don’t care.”

“You son of a bitch!” Clark swung his balled-up right fist at Vorik’s head, but he was quick to lean back and miss the right hook. The Jem’Hadar behind Vorik chuckled at the spectacle.

 

The Founder stood silently in the corridor, glowering at the malfunctioning display in his hands. On the screen Clark again leaned forward, speaking words the Founder could not hear.

 

Clark hefted the small stool over his head and yelled as he lunged forward. Vorik deftly stepped to the side at the last second, allowing Clark to plow through and viciously lower the stool onto the Jem’Hadar’s head.

The Jem’Hadar lost consciousness from the sudden impact, falling forward into Clark’s open arms. Vorik rushed forward and grabbed the outstretched and pistol-wielding arm of the other Jem’Hadar. Vorik yanked forward, breaking the Jem’Hadar’s wrist and forcing him to drop the pistol while reaching behind his neck with the other hand and applying targeted pressure to specific nerves. The Jem’Hadar’s eyes rolled back as he lost consciousness, crumpling to his knees while Vorik reached under his arms to quietly lower him onto the deck.

Vorik stood and looked down at the two unconscious Jem’Hadar and the mangled stool, “Thirty?”

Clark shook his head, “I don’t think I could take one.” He looked around the cell, “Okay, now that they’re out of the way…”

The whine emanating from the hacked access panel by the door dropped in pitch again, prompting Vorik to warn, “The surveillance recycle you’ve employed is close overload.”

“How long?” Clark asked as he grabbed the pistols from the Jem’Hadar.

“Ninety seconds at most.” Vorik looked up at the overhead, “I believe my cell was identical in design to this one. A ventilation duct should run over the second row of panels.” He accepted a pistol from Clark and slipped the barrel into his belt.

Clark grabbed the other stool, put it against the bulkhead, and stood on it. His head fit up into the lighting recess and was immediately met with a rush of air, “You’re right!” Clark awkwardly reached up inside the gap, feeling for anchoring points. He found them and announced, “Clips.” Vorik backed up against the bulkhead and reached up by Clark’s side, grasping the edge of the metal panel. As Clark pushed from above, Vorik pulled from below, lifting his feet off the deck.

 

The Founder froze as Clark leaned forward in silence yet again. It seemed that Clark couldn’t find a comfortable position, leaning forward and sitting up every fifteen seconds. He touched the door lock icon in the corner of the screen. The door didn’t open, so he pressed it again. With the door still not opening, the Founder pressed the intercom button and called inside the cell, “Open the door.”

 

Clark and Vorik froze for a second following the voice from the Founder. They quickly returned their attention to removing the panel, which was now unclipped from the side closest to the wall and bending from the middle. Vorik turned around, facing the bulkhead and putting a boot against the wall to provide leverage.

 

The Founder slowly repeated, “Open the door.” Convinced that the display’s link was failing, he snapped it back into the dock and pounded a fist on the door. After a few seconds the door snapped open, prompting only a brief moment of satisfaction for the Founder. Before him lay the crumpled and disarmed bodies of two Jem’Hadar and a severely bent ceiling panel. He slowly stepped into the cell and looked up into the opened overhead.

A bang sounded from the access panel by the door, blowing it open in a mess of cables, sparks, and smoke.