Monday, August 5, 2013

Cardassian Interrogations

The premise of my Star Trek novel is that a Human from our time, who doesn't believe in extra-terrestrials, is transported to a 24th-Century Cardassian space station. Of course the Cardassians have to interrogate her; the story would be totally unbelievable if they didn't. And since Cardassian interrogations have already been written about, I already had a general pattern to follow in writing this one.

I took as my model Captain Picard's interrogation by a Cardassian named Madred, in TNG's "Chain of Command, Part II" (6x11). Here's a transcript of the relevant scene, courtesy of

[Interrogation room]

(Picard is brought in blindfolded)

MADRED: Captain Picard.

PICARD: I demand to see a neutral representative as required by the Federation-Cardassian peace treaty.

(Madred removes the blindfold and the guards leave)

MADRED: We have already sent a message to Tohvun Three, the nearest neutral planet. They assure us they will dispatch someone immediately. Will you allow me to remove your restraints? 

(Picard holds up his hands.) 

I understand that you are a student of archaeology. Did you know that Cardassia boasts some of the most ancient and splendid ruins in the entire galaxy?

PICARD: I know that the burial vaults of the First Hebitian civilisation are said to be magnificent.

MADRED: Apparently when they were first unearthed two hundred years ago, they were. The burial vaults contained unimaginably beautiful artefacts made of jevonite, a rare, breathtaking stone. But most of those objects are gone.

PICARD: What happened to them?

MADRED: What happens to impoverished societies. The tombs were plundered, priceless treasures stolen, a few were preserved in museums but even those were eventually sold in order to pay for our war efforts.

PICARD: That war cost you hundreds of thousands of lives. It depleted your food supplies, left your population weakened and miserable and yet you risk another war.

MADRED: Let's not waste time arguing about issues we can't resolve. Would you care to tour the Hebitian burial vaults?

PICARD: What I would like is to be returned to my ship.

MADRED: My dear Captain, you are a criminal. You have been apprehended invading one of our secret facilities. The least that will happen is for you to stand trial and be punished. But I am offering you the opportunity for that experience to be civilised.

PICARD: What is the price of that opportunity?

MADRED: Cooperation. We need to know the Federation's defence strategy for Minos Korva.

PICARD: You've injected me with drugs. Surely you must realise that I've already answered truthfully every question you've put to me.

MADRED: Captain, we have gone to great lengths to lure you here because we know that in the event of an invasion, the Enterprise will be the command ship for the sector encompassing Minos Korva.

PICARD: Then it seems you have more knowledge of the situation than I.

(two guards come in and take hold of Picard. He struggles.)

MADRED: Wasted energy, Captain. You might come to wish you hadn't expended it in such a futile effort.

PICARD: Torture is expressly forbidden by the terms of the Seldonis Four convention governing treatment of prisoners of war.

(a metal piece is lowered from the ceiling, and Madred takes a knife from his desk)

MADRED: Are you in good health? Do you have any physical ailments I should know about? (the knife) Beautiful, isn't it? The stone is jevonite. And now you know why it is so highly prized. From this point on, you will enjoy no privilege of rank, no privileges of person. From now on, I will refer to you only as human. You have no other identity.

(Madred cuts Picard's clothes off and leaves them around his ankles. Naked, his hands are manacled and attacked to the metal piece above his head. Then the piece is raised so Picard is hanging just above the floor....)

And here's part of the interrogation in my novel:

Tahmid signaled the guards again, and the one on my right said quietly, "Hold still." The left guard held both my arms, above the elbows, and the right one reached up and took a hold of the neck of the top I was wearing. It took me a few seconds to realize that he had a knife, and was cutting it off me. Soon after, it fell to the floor, and for the second time that day I wished I had chosen a thicker, more modest bra. But I didn't have much time to dwell on that, because as soon as he was done with the top, the guard started cutting my slacks. He must have had a very sharp knife and a lot of practice, because all it took was two quick, neat cuts down the sides and the slacks had joined the top on the floor. I was left standing in my shoes and panties and bra and the strange handcuffs that held my wrists about shoulder-width apart.

Tahmid gestured to the guards again, and asked me, "Is Derek Dellinger a member of Starfleet?"

"As far as I know he's not," I answered, "but I'm not even sure if that's his real name."

"Is Derek Dellinger human?"

A flag went up in my mind. I'd heard of this technique but never seen it in practice. The idea was that they ask you several questions in quick succession, all of which are easy and innocent and take yes answers. Then in the same tone of voice they ask you to confess to a crime, hoping you'll answer yes without thinking and incriminate yourself. I took my time and repeated the question in my head before answering. "Yes."

"What's the last thing you remember before Terra Knorr?"

That wasn't a yes or no question, so he must have picked up on my hesitation, realized I was onto his game. That gave me a fleeting sense of victory, until I realized that he had just read me. Interrogators, of course, are supposed to be very perceptive, but I had been subconsciously hoping this one wasn't. I made a mental note to try not to lie. "I'd just gotten out of a cab in Chicago," I answered.

"What kind of cab?"

"A licensed yellow Crown Vic."

"Explain the term 'Crown Vic'," he said, seeming relaxed again. "I'm afraid there are many details of your culture I'm still not familiar with."

"You're not - " I began, then cut myself off. "I'm sorry," I said, "Crown Vic stands for Crown Victoria. It's a Ford model, and it's used, a lot of times, for police cruisers and taxis."

"A vehicle, then?"


"What were you going to say?" he asked. "I'm not what?"

"Oh," I answered, "I was just surprised to hear that you're not American. Your English is so good, I thought you were."

He laughed, a dry, cold laugh, and said, "Oh, you thought I was American. And now what makes you think that I may not be?"

"When you said," I paused, trying to recall his exact words, and gave up. "Something about not being familiar with my culture."

"How perceptive of you," he sneered. "I am not American." He signaled to the guards again, and almost immediately a strong hand smashed into my face. "In the future you will refrain from sarcasm in this room," Glin Tahmid ordered.

"Yes, Glin," I answered breathlessly, hoping to prevent any further blows. I wondered what I'd said that he'd taken as sarcasm, and decided to leave the subject of nationality alone as much as possible. Warm liquid trickled from my right nostril to my lip. It was blood.

Tahmid leaned back in his chair and looked up at me. “What’s your birthdate?” he asked cheerfully.

“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 one 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,” he 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?”

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