The other half of her heart
2352 (2348 - 2350)
She waited, pacing the corridor in the hospital back and forth. So many hours and doctors still didn't tell them anything.
She glanced at his mother; the Cardassian woman cried. Darok felt slight irritation, she thought crying was like giving up on him, like acknowledging he was already dead.
She still could hear whistling in her ear, but was ignoring it. It was not important. He was important. His life was important.
Finally a doctor left the operation room. Everyone ran to him, but he waved them away, searching for something. “Are you Cadet Darok?” he asked, looking at the young Cardassian female. She nodded. “He wants to see you. And only you!” he added louder, seeing others were ready to demand letting them in too.
She followed the doctor. He was laying in a bed, his skin light grey. He opened his eyes when he heard them entering.
“Atira, come here,” he said quietly. She noticed the doctor left. “I... I will not be able...” his voice faded and he didn't finish the sentence.
She sat on a stool next to his bed.
“Don't speak, you need to rest,” she said.
“No, this is too important,” he said with difficulty. “They didn't save my leg. I will not be able to fulfil my dream. My career is no more.”
“You will do something else,” she interjected.
“I relieve you of your word,” he said.
“What?!” she was shocked.
“You do not need to keep your word,” he repeated. “I will not be an officer, I will be someone insignificant. You don't have to stay with me.”
“Shut up,” she said softly. “I don't care of you were a Gul or a worker. I care about you, not your job and I want to be with you, not with your job.”
He looked at her. “Are you sure?”
“Don't you even dare to ask again,” she made a serious, threatening face, but her heart was breaking, seeing his suffering. “Just tell me this one thing.”
“What?” he whispered. He was clearly getting weaker.
“Why didn't you beam out when the fighter showed first signs of malfunction?” she asked.
“We couldn't let it fall on people. These types of fighters weren't equipped with automatic pilots. We had to stay to change the course away from the audience.”
She grabbed his hand and squeezed. He was the bravest and best man she had ever met. She was proud of him.
“How could you think I would want to break our vows,” she whispered.
He smiled and closed his eyes. His breathing levelled and after a few minutes he was sleeping. She looked at the bed; the sheet was thin and she could clearly see his silhouette under it. He was slender, tall man. His long leg was reaching end of the bed. The other leg was ending just under his knee. She felt almost physical pain. She would take his suffering on herself if she could. She wished she could...
Four years earlier
Darok swept all pads to the floor, frustrated. So that was it. The end. Time to start packing. She failed her family, she failed herself.
“Seems like you need some help,” said a voice above her head. She looked up from the floor, from which she was picking up pads she had just swept off.
“I don't need help,” she picked up the last pad and rose, “see?”
“I didn't mean the mess,” he smiled. He was tall, handsome and his voice was smooth like a balm. “I meant the reason of the mess.” His eye ridges were oval and slightly slanted above his eyes, like hers; was he from Nokar too?
“I don't go after,” she answered.
“The correct expression is 'I don't follow',” he smiled.
Yes, his voice was smooth and his Union language had a perfect, Lakat area's accent. He was not from Nokar.
“I have some free time, so if you'd like to improve your Unionese, we could meet several times a week to talk. You would talk, I would correct.”
“Why would you do this?” she asked suspiciously. He just smiled. She considered his offer for a while and then nodded. “It's a deal.” Whatever his motives were, she had a lot to gain.
“My name is Joret Jarol.”
They agreed to meet each evening to have conversation on various subjects. To make it easier for her, Jarol was preparing subjects of their discussions parallel to her classes, so that she could practice required vocabulary and grammar structures. He was patiently correcting all her mistakes and mispronunciations, never getting irritated when she was repeating the same error over and over again.
This time their subject was food; Jarol decided to talk about food over food, so they went to have a dinner together. Darok thought they were going to one of academy canteens, but Jarol had other plans.
He took her to a small, but very pleasant restaurant. She had never been in such a place before: it was quiet, walls were decorated with flowers, and all tables, except one, were occupied. They were led to the empty one.
Darok realised that in spite of living near the city for so many months, she haven't actually been to the urban area. All her life she had been living in a village, visiting a nearby town a few times each year, but that was all. She had never been to a big city, and now she was so busy with her academic duties she didn't find time to sightsee Lakat.
And now here she was, in this wonderful restaurant, among those beautiful people, with this handsome man... Wait, don't let your thoughts go too far, he wanted to help you, he was friendly, but don't fall in love with him, because he surely doesn't fall in love with you. Why would he? He was an educated, big city boy, and you were a peasant, who didn't even speak Unionese well.
“Jarol, can I ask you a question?” she asked after he ordered their food. He nodded. “I was wondering. You clearly look like a Nokarian, how come you speak natively Unionese?”
“My parents left Nokar when my brother and I were very young,” he replied. “All my younger siblings were born here, in Lakat.”
“Why did they leave Nokar?”
“They wanted better lives for us, their children. After those series of droughts forty years ago all their land became desert and there was no way for them to be able to support whole family. So everyone packed and we moved.”
“Yes, those draughts ruined my family too, but no one ever spoke of moving out. My father loved our land. I don't think he would like a big city.”
“I understand,” he nodded. “My maternal grandparents returned to Nokar. They hated it here.”
“Have you been to other cities too?” she asked.
“I have been to Lakarian City and also off planet, once.”
“Really?” her eyes opened wide. “Where?”
“It was a planet our military was preparing to annex to the Union. There were aliens living there. Strange creatures, no ridges, their necks were like tubes, they lacked scales... Really weird,” he stopped, as their food arrived. “And what shocked me most was how much they were wasting. Food, for example. They weren't always finishing their food, leaving it on plates and then disposing of it. They were throwing it out!” he said in dismay.
“Throwing out food??!” she was shocked. “You mean... you mean they wasted food?”
“Yes. Barbaric, isn't it?”
“Actually, there were many goods they didn't appreciate having,” he continued. “I can't even imagine how many things were wasted, because of their lack of respect for riches of their world. We can't allow such behaviour. Spoiled children need to be taught, so we need to teach them how to properly allocate resources.”
“How long have you been there?” she asked.
“Only a few weeks. It was a training mission.”
She was impressed. If he was chosen for an off world training mission from the academy, then he had to be really promising material for an officer and he had to have a sponsor. She was getting even more astonished he even talked to her.
“Atira,” he said. She looked at him, it was the first time he called her by her given name. “Would you like to try home cooking next time?”
“What do you mean?”
“My family would like to meet you,” he said.
“Would they?” this was an evening of surprises.
“Yes, I told them about you and they'd like to see you, to talk to you. There aren't many Nokarians here and...” he smiled sheepishly, “I like you.”
He... He... He... liked her.
Suddenly she realised it wasn't just a language practice dinner.
Darok left the room, relieved it was over. She strolled down the corridor, when Jarol appeared in her way.
“How did it go?” he asked.
“I passed,” she replied dismissively.
“Could you elaborate?” he smiled.
“Well,” she stopped. “The professor said I was well prepared technically.”
“But... I put no heart into it.”
“Ah,” he smiled knowingly.
“What's that supposed to mean?” she attacked.
“I noticed that too. I don't know what was or is your incentive to join the Guard, but it seems to differ from average reasons most of us have.”
She didn't reply.
“Atira...” he started, but hesitated.
“Why did you join?” she asked him.
“Because I have dreamt of service on a warship since I was a child. I had never had any other plans, other dreams. Just this one.”