Jarol welcomed the time to go off duty happily. After a sleepless night, caused by the prospect
of another difficult conversation with Gul Dukat, she was exhausted. She was glad her relief
was ready to take the station in ops; she nodded to him by way of greeting and stood up.
“Have a nice evening,” he said when she directed her steps toward the lift.
“Wait!” she heard Demok's voice. She stopped and waited, expecting him to give her some additional orders, but he caught up with her. He stepped into the lift, turned and looked at her expectantly, obviously waiting her to join him. And so she did.
“Join me at Quark's,” he said, when they were out of ops. “You deserve a drink today. Actually you deserve a lot of drinks.”
“Why?” she glanced at him.
“After your ordeal with the Prefect you must be either pissed off or resigned,” he said.
“I just had a report to present, that's all,” she said, trying not to think about it.
“A report that he had a hard time accepting.”
“How could you know?”
“Oh, everyone, who was in ops at that time, knows.” She gave him and asking look. “That door to his office doesn't keep sounds in as well as he thinks,” he explained.
“You mean... every officer in ops heard that?” her eyes opened wide.
“That's right. That's why I was delegated to buy you a drink. You have our support,” he patted her on the shoulder.
“Oh,” was all she could say.
“So?” he looked at her. “Are you up to it?”
“Do you pay for all my drinks or just the first one?”
“All of them,” he smiled.
“Then let's go. Just promise me you won't let me do anything shameful.”
“You have my word,” he raised his hand.
They arrived to the Ferengi's bar and Demok led her to one of already occupied tables. She looked at gathered faces; she had never drank with station's brass before.
She didn't sit down yet, when her glass of kanar was put in front of her.
“For making your day a little better,” said Demok.
They all raised their glasses and she smiled weakly.
“Do you do this every time he yells at someone?” she asked.
“No, only when he yells at someone, who didn't deserve it.”
“For some mysterious reason he is especially mean when it's not your fault. When you are guilty of a mistake, he's more forgiving.”
“And the show today suggests that what you had to tell him was his fault.”
She nodded. That one was true for sure.
“He gives me impossible tasks, doesn't listen to my warnings it wouldn't work, and then says with that attitude I don't make it work,” she complained.
“Don't worry, just drink your kanar.”
She raised her glass. “How's your wife?” she asked Glinn Jotrel, knowing he got married not long time ago.
His face brightened. “Actually she is expecting,” he said.
They all cheered.
“It's your first I presume?” she asked; he nodded.
“Do you have any children?” he asked her, after taking a sip of his kanar.
“Two, and girl and a boy.”
They chatted about their families, passions, sorrows, even hard times at school. Stories from home felt refreshing to Jarol and she wondered if the senior staff were doing it often. She did see them at Quark's from time to time, but never noticed them laughing as it was now.
The more they drank, the bolder their subjects were. Del started complaining about his wife,
who he believed had an affair. Demok admitted he hated the station, but his request for
transfer was refused. The mood was getting grimmer and grimmer, until Jotrel proposed
change of subject, which all happily accepted.
“Did you know,” he started, “that Dukat has a new one?”
“A new one? Which is it this year?” Demok slowly shook his head; the kanar was clearly getting to him, as his eyes lost their typical sharpness.
“I lost count...”
“He's got a new what?” Jarol was not in the loop.
“Mistress,” they all said almost in unison.
“A w... what?” she opened her eyes wider. She felt power of kanar too.
“Who is it?” she couldn't imagine, which of women could that be, could do it to her family and as far as she knew all female Cardassians were either married or soon to be married.
“I don't know her name,” Jotrel shrugged. “Who would bother to memorise those strange names... surnames first?”
“You... you...” she stammered, but it was not just kanar, it was astonishment. “You mean it's a... Bajoran?!”
“You didn't know?” Demok leaned toward her, his armour squeaking. She shook her head.
“I knew they were bringing those poor women and abuse them, but...” she stopped. All those officers here outranked her and it was very possible some of them used comfort women. She shouldn't say too much, regardless what she thought of these things. Or rather especially because of what she thought.
“He changes them often,” Demok explained. “I don't know what he sees in these plain, ridgeless faces of theirs,” he shrugged.
“That's disgusting,” she said, before she managed to stop herself.
They all nodded, but she was sure that whatever they agreed with, it wasn't what she meant.
She could not imagine herself being dragged out of her home and forced to be a comfort
woman. It was the most barbaric, low and appalling thing and she kept refusing that good men
would use women, Bajorans or no Bajorans, as tools in that manner. Gul Dukat lost many
points of respect on her scale.
“I must go,” she stood up.
“Already?” Dusat seemed disappointed. “Don't, we enjoy a female company.”
“I had a bad day and sleepless night. I need rest to face a... happy day tomorrow,” she finished, pulling her face.
“I'll see you off,” Demok rose and almost immediately fell.
“You're in no condition to see yourself off,” she laughed. “You better get beamed to your quarters.”
They all laughed loudly. She could hear their laughter behind the bar's door.
She walked slowly. It was late and the promenade wasn't as crowdy as during the day. It was also quieter. Even the Bajoran sector was calmer.
She was only a few steps from the lift, when she heard sobbing. She looked around, but didn't
see anyone. There was some commotion on the Bajoran side, but it was too loud there for the
sobbing to reach her ears here.
There it was again. Jarol stopped, trying to determine where it came from. She kept listening
until she heard it again. She made a few steps toward the spot she thought it came from and
stopped again, waiting for another sound.
Sob again and then explosion into a full blown crying. Child's crying. The sound was coming
from behind stacked packets. She went there to see a small figure curled in a tight corner. The
child raised his head and she saw eyes wide open with terror and a wrinkled nose.
“Are you lost?” she asked him. Louder crying was his answer. He pulled his arms toward her, so
she picked him up. He couldn't be older than three. “Where is your mommy?” she asked, but
he nestled his face into her armour and kept sobbing.
She went toward the fence, dividing the promenade to Cardassian and Bajoran sections.
“Hey!” she called, trying to be lauder than ongoing commotion, but not too loud to additionally startle the boy.
“Kamar!” a Bajoran woman shouted.
Suddenly Jarol understood the reason of the chaos on the other side of the fence – they were looking for the boy. She nodded to the soldier on duty to open the gate and went to the other side to hand the child to his mother. “He must have walked to the Cardassian side and after the gate was closed he couldn't return,” she guessed.
The Bajoran woman eyed her distrustfully, turning away to shield the boy, like she expected the Cardassian officer to tear him back out of her arms. Jarol turned and left the Bajoran sector, headed for the lift.
“Wait!” she heard behind her. She stopped and turned. Thank you
, the Bajoran woman expressed her gratitude soundlessly, just moving her lips without actually speaking. Jarol nodded, smiled slightly and headed for the lift.
“How's work?” Jarol asked her husband after their first supper on Terok Nor.
He and the children arrived earlier that day. Corat tried to tell her about all wonderful things
he'd seen on the way to the station, Mayel brought one of her artworks with her to show to her
mother. They were so excited they didn't feel any fatigue and it was very late when their
parents managed to put them to their beds to sleep.
Now the officer was sitting with her love and finishing their late supper.
“Dull,” he answered honestly.
“Oh, come on, it can't be so bad...” she smiled.
“It's dull, that's a fact. But I didn't say it was bad. It gives me stability and I have plenty of
time for our children,” he tried to fake a cheerful tone, but in spite of a smile on his face there
was no joy in his eyes.
“You should live my life and I should have a cosy position in Ministry of War,” she said grimly.
“No, no,” he shook his head with passion. “I am proud of you,” he said. “And so are our children. Corat wants to be a soldier, like his mom. I tell them all about you, about your wonderful Final Flight manoeuvre, about your promotions...” he smiled, genuinely this time.
“Each evening they ask for new stories about their mommy and when I have no new stories to tell them, they choose a story already told to be re-told. I think... no, I am sure my mother is sick with those stories after listening to them so many times, but children never get tired of
them. They keep asking for more.”
“Do they?” she smiled.
“In their eyes, you are a hero.”
“In my eyes, you are the hero.”
“How about new armours?” he asked, eyeing her uniform thrown on a sofa behind her. “Are
they better than the last design?”
“Depends. They are surely more comfortable, don't limit your movements, like the old ones
sometimes did, but... they are damn heavier. I got used to it already, but I remember...” she couldn't stop and laughed quietly, “my shock, when I put it on the first time.”
“I suppose wearing civilian clothes makes me luckier,” he took a sip of fish juice.
They ate slowly, telling each other how they were doing, and arguing amicably from time to time. Corat and Mayel slept in her bedroom and Atira checked on them several times during the evening. Not that she worried there was any danger in the bedroom; she just couldn't
resist the need to go and stare at them, at their innocent faces covered with delicate ridges. Her daughter's patterns were resembling Joret's, but Corat's face was more like her own, he
also inherited her blue eyes, while Joret and Mayel were looking at the world with two black shining diamonds.
Their days were passing quickly. Dukat allowed her to leave duty two hours earlier each day of
their seven-day stay if she would stay two hours longer for next seven days. She took the offer
and had more time to be with them than initially expected.
She stared at the empty space. Intellectually she knew there were debris, really fine due to quite effective explosives, but she did not want to accept it. She could not think there were tiny pieces of her family, drifting in emptiness, spreading farther and farther. Soon there would be nothing left. Nothing.
Corat's smile, his innocent, round eyes; he used his cute little face to manipulate her. He knew he could achieve everything with just a twitch of a face muscle. It was enough to look at her and she ran to him to ask what he wanted. He used to come to her and ask if she could tell him a story. She ran out of stories, but he didn't mind hearing any of them multiple times. He just wanted stories. Later, when her service took her away from home, he turned to his sister
for stories. Mayel was better than her, Mayel was making stories, so no story was the same. He didn't have to listen to the same story ever again.
What would she do now? Who would she ask for advice? Who could she complain to about hardships of her career? Who would take her into his arms and not see her as weak?
Her head was full of thoughts, then full of realisation and in the end completely empty. As empty as the space on the other side of the bulkhead, where a Hideki should be, headed for Cardassia. Only remains of her family left.
There were sounds around her, but she was barely aware of them. She knew there were people behind her, maybe even speaking to her, but none of them was of consequence. None were important. This was just her job, just business; her life was destroyed on that vessel.
She was aware someone was behind her, but it took her a while to realise one of those
surrounding her sounds was directed to her.
“Atira”, the voice repeated. There was no one on this station close to her to have a right to call her by her given name. The only person, who could do that, was here temporarily, and he just
left to never reach their home.
She turned and looked into her commanding officer's face. It was expressing sadness and sympathy.
“Atira, I...” his voice trailed off, “I am so sorry...”
“Did you see it?” she asked whispering, feeling tears gathering in her eyes for the first time since these eyes saw that... that... saw this...
“No,” he shook his head. “I was in my office.”
“How come you got here so fast?” she asked, her voice breaking down.
“You have been standing here for over an hour,” he explained. “No one could take you away from here, but I don't think it's a good idea to stay here either.”
“You didn't see it...” she whispered.
He approacher her, grabbed her elbow and gently pulled. “I'll take you to your quarters.”
quarters. So empty. Still filled her their odours, unclean dishes left after the last meal, maybe some forgotten... toy...
She let him pull her to her cabin. She was vaguely aware of crying in Dukat's arms, she wasn't sure if there weren't also Demok's arms to cry into. Someone was bringing her food or trying
to convince her to eat. She didn't want to eat, she wanted to die.
She was in service. If Bajorans hated Cardassians, they should have hated her; she was here.
She wore an armour and carried a disruptor. It was all her fault, she wanted to see them so desperately she brought them here, in spite of danger. And they paid the price for her selfishness.
But no, these wrinkle-nose monsters didn't care who they were killing, as long as it were Cardassians. They must be proud of themselves, their target was surely worth it. What an impact, Cardassia is ruined: two young children and one clerk. A deadly blow for sure!
Her quarters' door opened and Glinn Demok entered. She looked up at him; she saw he carried a tray with food.
“Oh, I'm so sorry,” he looked at her a little startled, “I know I should have chimed first, but for last ten hours you hadn't reacted to that, so we stopped doing it,” he explained himself.
She kept staring at him. He knitted his eye ridges and put the tray on the table next to her.
“Thank you,” she said weakly. Her voice was rough and coarse.
“You're welcome,” he answered. “How do you feel?”
He sat opposite her. “If you need anything let me know.”
“You can't give me what I need,” she said, thinking about her family.
“We will find responsible people, you can be sure of that,” he said, raising.
“Uhm,” she muttered under her breath.
“Try to eat, you need to eat,” he said softly and left.