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April Winner: Lex Talionis


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Lex Talionis


“An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.”

Martin Luther King



“Where am I?”


She couldn’t move, something was preventing her from lifting her arms or turning her head. And it was dark, so very dark, impossible to make out anything past the end of her nose, but she could hear them in the darkness. Moving, breathing.

She thought back to how she’d arrived here but her mind was a blur, she couldn’t pin down any of her memories from before waking up. She couldn’t even remember…


“Who am I?!” She all but screamed.


Sudden light stabbed down into her eyes like fire making her gasp. She squeezed her eyelids closed, trying to keep the pain out. Over the sound of her rapid breathing she heard the voice speak.


“You are in recovery room seven in the Celtris III medical facility. Your name is Hess.”


“Hess? Why can’t I remember? What have you done to me?”


“We’ve done nothing to you, yet, which is rather the point. Your mind is trying to rebuild your memory at the moment. Give it some time.”


Hess nodded, or tried to, and squinted into the brightness. She could see an outline of a tall figure a few metres away.


“Who are you?” She asked.


The figure stepped forward and the light fell across his grey skin, black hair and thick, bony neck. A word sprang, unbidden, into her consciousness, dug out from the chaos of her memory.


“Cardassian.”


“Oh, very good!” He smiled. “Very good indeed, much faster than any of the others.”


“Others? What others?” Hess could hear the panic in her voice. “What is going on here?”


“Ah, all in good time.” The Cardassian raised his hand to wave her into silence. “I’ve answered your questions like a good host. Now, I wonder if you could answer some of mine? Firstly, who are you?”


Hess frowned at him.


“What do you mean? I’m Hess, you’ve just told me that. I…” She hesitated as memories came creeping back. Slowly at first, but then more and more and more. A jumbled flood almost overwhelming her. She snatched at images and information as they roiled through her mind.


“I’m Hess, a Vorta from the Dominion. We’re at war with the Federation and their allies. They dared to stand up to us. The Cardassian Union are our allies, we’re on the same side.”


“You could say that. What else?”


Hess frowned, concentrating. There had been fighting, the base had been overrun by Romulans. She remembered the Jem’hadar being overwhelmed, the bright green flash of a disruptor, the agony. She looked up at the Cardassian, her eyes wide.


“I’m dead.”


He chuckled. “Well, not quite, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking. But, yes, one version of you was killed, but you’re a different model of that Hess, a later clone. The Founders awoke you after your original clone was killed and, well, we were able to save you.”


“Save me from what? The Federation?”


“Oh, the war is over and done with and has been for many years.” He smiled, although without any sign of enjoyment. “You lost.”


The Cardassian strolled a few paces before continuing.


“No, we didn’t save you from the Federation, we saved you from the Dominion, and you’ve been assisting us with our research ever since.”


“What research, and why don’t I remember any of it?”


“Ah, memory is one of the things we’ve been struggling with. It seems we are only able to implant the memories of your original clone with any degree of success. Memories from other people, or even from your most recent clone, never seem to work very well.” He made a face. “Actually, more often than not they result in total insanity.”


Hess tried to make sense of what the Cardassian was saying. Or, more importantly, what he was leaving unsaid. As the turmoil of her memories began to settle, a growing sense of black fear began to take shape.


“I’m not the first one you’ve created, am I? Your research, you’re looking into cloning, trying to pick me apart so you can make your own. But the Dominion don’t share their technology, they won’t be happy when they find out.”


The Cardassian clapped his hands together. “Perfect! That is indeed exactly what we’re doing, Hess. But don’t worry about the Dominion, they’re in no position to protest against our research down here. They really did do a magnificent job on all you Vorta, truly amazing. Even down to the suicide implant, although don’t worry, the removal of that was one of the first alterations we made.”


Hess began to struggle then, the thought of ‘alterations’ did not sound appealing.


“I am not your science experiment!” she cried. “You can’t do this, there are laws to…”


He cut her off with a snarl. “Don’t talk to me about laws! You’re people proved exactly what they thought of our laws when they lost the war. Eight-hundred million Cardassians slaughtered, eight-hundred million! Women, children, families, entire communities, entire cities! As far as we’re concerned the Dominion made themselves exempt from interstellar law by their act of genocide.” His voice softened, but didn’t lose any of its menace. “Which is why, in the eyes of Cardassian law, clones are no longer considered people. You have no rights. The Detapa Council are well aware of your existence, in fact they’ve signed off on these little ‘science experiments’ as you call them. So I think you’ll find everything occurring here is perfectly legal.”


Hess stared at him wide eyed as he picked up a hypospray and checked the contents.


“How…” she swallowed, her mouth dry. “How many have there been? Of me, I mean.”


“Oh, quite a few now. As I said, the war finished a long time ago.” He consulted a datapad. “You are number six-hundred and twelve, and next door is version six-hundred and thirteen. And believe me, you wouldn’t want to be in her position.”


Hess looked up at him.


“Why?” She pleaded. “Why are you doing this?”


The Cardassian paused as he considered her question before carefully placing the pad and the hypospray on a table. He folded his arms and thoughtfully stroked his grey chin.


“You know, I think you’re the first one to ask that. Usually you just rage about injustice and try to escape, not that it does any good. Perhaps we are indeed making some advances with your personality after all. Very well, I’ll indulge you. Why are we doing this?” He mused. “The Dominion all but destroyed the Cardassian Union. The war took its toll, but the violence carried out by the Founders on that last day dealt much more severe damage. We are a broken people, surrounded by enemies who outnumber us, don’t trust us and are superior in almost every way.”


He waved a finger in her direction.


“Ah, but clones. We had them before, of course, but nobody made clones like the Dominion. Such precision, and on such a scale. If we can perfect that technology it will go a long way to rebuilding our cities, our society.” He smiled again, his eyes bright. “Our navy, our army.“


“But I’m a person! I think, I feel. Have you no compassion?”


“True, you think, you feel. Indeed, you even speak. But these are just incidental.” We waved a hand dismissively. “We are only interested in pulling apart your genetic structure, to see how you were built, to see what makes you work so well. You are not a person, you mean nothing to us, just as the Dominion proved we meant nothing to them.“


He picked up the hypospray again.


“But don’t worry, we’ll stop dissecting you after we’ve used up eight-hundred million clones. Fair is fair, after all.”
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