Terrok Tar was not nearly as elegant or comfortable as the Starfleet base where the Vengeance was build nearly four years ago, but it suited his purpose just fine. The alien architecture served Khan as constant reminder, that he was now truly alone. The rest of his crew, his family, was dead. Murdered by the one person that he had grossly underestimated.
Now, his own death was not far off - but at least his new allies had given him the chance to take revenge before the end.
Allies was the wrong word. The Cardassians were using him for their own purposes. There was no trust between them. Not for a second Khan was inclined to believe the enemy of his enemy was his friend. Having outlived his usefulness, they would turn on him. He was prepared for that. His plans were not limited to the destruction of Starfleet by obliterating their infrastructure on Earth.
For now, he was watching from one of the upper pylons and looked towards the starship being assembled under his guidance. With his expertise, the Cardassians had begun the construction of a federation vessel. Once finished it would bear a close resemblance to the Enterprise, even a scan would not reveal that there was more to this ship. It made the Trojan horse pale in comparison. It would allow them to get to the heart of the enemy and deploy weapons of mass destruction that would annihilate life on Earth. All that, before they had even a chance to notice what was wrong.
Then he would turn his gaze towards New Vulcan to make Spock pay for taking his people away from him. That part would be easiest. The Vulcans were like sitting ducks. What worried him was whether he would have enough time to carry out the attacks and then confront the Enterprise about it.
He was well aware from spy reports that Kirk and his crew where near the end of their five year mission far away from Federation space. Khan longed for that moment. To welcome them home to their planets burning. He did not even need to kill them. In hindsight, killing Admiral Marcus so quickly had been to kind. Spock would live to suffer the same fate as Khan, only the Vulcan would live longer.
“Admiring your work?”
Even before Malek had spoken, Khan had noticed his presence. He was not sure if the Cardassian had tried to sneak up on him, the Cardassian spy always moved with stealth. It was just no use against his superior senses.
“Construction is not going as fast it could.”
Khan answered without taking his eyes off the ship. For him a faster progression was essential. From the tests he had run on himself, he estimated that he might have four month left. He was not taking chances, he knew he could convince Malek to follow his suggestion.
“You know how it is with secret projects - limited personnel, supplies.”
As always, lying through his teeth, the Cardassian made excuses. He did everything but outright say, that Khan's shortened lifespan was not his problem. However, their conversations danced around the subject, acting if actually was. Malek seemed to thrive on these discussion, Khan felt merely annoyed by them. There were not intellectually challenging. It was quite the opposite.
Not that he did not appreciate the fact that the Cardassian operatives surrounding him were far better trained than the ones working at section 31. It was much harder for him to gather reliable information. Personnel that were actually in the loop were too smart to let anything slip. The soldiers stationed here had only limited insight and were often too afraid to talk. The scientists were always grateful to be able to leave his presence and go about their assigned tasks.
“Have you given any thoughts, to my suggestions?”
Finally, Khan turned to face Malek. He towered over the alien, who was more robust than a human but still no match for him. Calm and collected, the other looked up to him. His lips curling to a devious smile.
After they had torn him out of cryosleep, Khan had had killed every Cardassian who had occupied the room. It was not that he had not realised that he was not in Starfleet custody any more. It was what he wanted to do. The murderous rage had accompanied him into his sleep and had woken up with him.
The floor littered with dead Cardassian scientists and soldiers he had heard the sound of hands being clapped together. At that moment, he had the displeasure to hear Malek's voice for the first time. He had enjoyed the scene, his voice sounded cheerful and he was not hiding how impressed he had been. That told him enough about who his opponent was. A man who had deliberately sent his own people in to be killed just so he could observe how effective Khan was. He had learned since then that the Obsidian Order was known to step over a few Cardassian corpses if that served their purposes.
Even though the method of persuasion was different, overall he was in a very familiar situation. Only this time he considered the odds for his plan to succeed to be in his favour.
“If we could get a hold of a Federation vessel, that would resolve the material problem. It might also be useful to have some humans ...,” Malek began.
“Where lies the problem?” Khan cut him short.
Hearing about the merits of his own suggestion was unnecessary. He knew that it was just a way to get him to reveal more of his knowledge. He played his cards carefully. They needed him only for the details that allowed them to copy the ship. Afterwards, he would be expendable.
While Malek was not his intellectual equal, he was far smarter than Admiral Marcus. Not that this was a compliment. An equally ruthless man might have thought about torturing the information out of him. Khan was not going to break in an interrogation. Especially not with a virus putting a foreseeable end to this life. Realizing that this approach was futile, Malek had created their current pretend alliance. At this point, it was the only way to gain Khan's compliance: a shared goal. The Cardassian spy had thought constant surveillance and restricted access would keep him under control.
Already Khan had set things in motion, he just needed to push a bit more.
“The Federation so far has not sent a ship our way. At least not one that we can take over easily enough. They still might call for help - that could alert them to our plans.”
“You are telling me, you can not jam their frequencies?”
If Malek wanted more insight into Starfleet's communication capabilities, he would be disappointed. He was not giving them any more than they needed.
“Not with 100% certainty. Our communication systems work differently.”
It took a bit of careful confabulation but Khan finally managed to reach a consensus with Malek. The Cardassians were unwilling to let him go aboard one of their ships and let him take charge of the capture. Khan had no intention of spending hour after hour outlining the technical specifics of the communication system used by the Federation.
So he would build a device for one of the Galor class ships that was perfectly capable of suspending all communication in the sector around it. Giving him the chance to add some extra functions and gain access to the Cardassian communication systems.
Despite the Cardassians being more efficient at watching his movements than Marcus had ever been, his plans were moving along just fine. He obviously needed to throw Malek a bone, let him stumble upon some scheme of his, to take his suspicions off of what he was really doing.
Back in the main laboratory, which was not far from his quarters, he began with the basic design. from the beginning he had noticed the surveillance systems in all key locations: like his lab and living quarters . Making a close assessment of their range, he soon knew how to evade supervision when he needed to. Otherwise it hardly bothered him. As with everything else it was a delicate dance. Sooner or later one of them would step out of order. Khan did not doubt that they thought they had the upper hand on him. That worked in his favour. They would be in for a quite a surprise.
This thought calmed his mind. For the simple truth of his situation was, that once more he had been made a prisoner. Used by someone else for their purposes. Whatever common interest gave them a shared goal, he would make them pay. He was Khan Noonian Singh. He was made to rule the world - not to be someone's chess piece.