17 The Stitcher
The thread approached the eye of the needle – slowly, carefully - and missed.
Elim Garak concentrated in his darkened tailor shop. The day had been an unfortunately quiet one, so he decided to close early and catch up on some meticulous custom work. It may have been a comparatively low-traffic period; but Garak knew that like anything else, it would not last forever. He moistened the tip of the thread between his lips, and tried again.
Someone entered the shop behind him. “Can I help you?” he asked, in mid-operation. The stranger, cast in shadow, examined some of the custom haberdashery on display. “Nice handiwork.” He picked up an elegant handtooled boot from a pedestal. “But then, that's what everyone always said about you. Garak.”
“My father always said your work will speak for itself.” Garak turned around and faced the large Cardassian soldier. Although he attempted to mask his reaction, Garak was certain he had failed. “I heard a rumor about a Galor ship in the sector.” He paused, and had a realization: “Or was it a fleet?”
The stranger put down the boot. “It hardly matters. You never know what you'll run across out there. In the Badlands.”
“I see. Just passing through?”
“Something like that. Interesting that you would hear such a rumor; even moreso that you would believe it.”
“Well, one overhears all manner of things on a busy station like this one. As for believing the rumors, I usually don't. Nor do I believe ghost stories. That is – not until this moment.”
The visitor remained obscured by shadow. Garak smiled amiably while secretly regretting leaving his phaser out of arm's reach.
“Ghosts.” The figure took another step closer. “Yes, I suppose that is what some of us have become.” He leaned in, and Garak could just make out the gaping hole where an eye should have been. “But there are ghosts, and then there are ghosts. Don't worry, Garak. I think you won't become a ghost just yet.” He fell back into the shadow. “I just wished to stand where I could make that determination for us both. I waited a long time. You understand, I'm sure.”
“Certainly. Still, it is big of you.”
“I even tried to forget. About what you did to me. And to them. And to her.”
“I imagine that would be...rather difficult.”
“As I'm sure you well know. The universe won't let
“Especially in the deafening quiet of the aftermath,” Garak finished. “Still...times have changed. Cardassia is changing too. The Sector has a whole new set of conflicts. A whole new set of players. And some familiar problems. Lack of resources. Corruption. Organized piracy – though I imagine the latter will soon cease to be a problem of any significance.”
“You always did have a grasp on tomorrow's news, Garak.”
“As you always had a grasp on the things no one ever, ever
hears about. But the worlds are changing. Cardassia is being reborn. Or at least, creatively destroyed.”
The stranger stepped closer. “Do you believe anything changes, Garak?“
Garak took a calming breath, and indicated the tailoring on his table. “New fashions are my stock-in-trade, now. Would you like me to fit you for a new suit? I have some unusually rich fabrics from the Gamma Quadrant. Something perhaps more...loose-fitting? Suitable for retiring in quiet luxury? I'm sure you've earned it.”
“Thank you, Garak. Perhaps another time.”
“As you wish. And...for what it's worth....”
The stranger hesitated at the door.
“I was never fully convinced you were guilty.”
“I was guilty. Guilty of being a loyal soldier. As we all were.”
The stranger left. Garak locked his doors and poured himself a stiff drink. Then he opened a comlink.
The Ferengi barkeep answered. “Mr Garak. An unusual pleasure.”
Garak rubbed a finger on his eyelid. “I just had a rather... unexpected
“You don't mean...? No. No! He's dead!”
“I suppose it's true what the Bajorans say. Death – is only a beginning.”
Garak cut the link and left, his needle and thread forgotten.