Those in command are not always right
“You have an incoming transmission,” said the computer.
Jarol growled. “You have an incoming transmission,” repeated the computer.
Must be good news, since such always come in the middle of the night. She reluctantly got up and approached the comm panel.
“I'm sorry to wake you on such an ungodly hour, but I have a proposition for you,” Legate... no, wait... Gul
Dukat's face was looking at her from the screen.
“You may not know, but I am not an officer in demand right now,” she said. And neither are you
, she added in her thoughts. Actually, when to think of it, they were
a good match.
“And you may not find any good post any time soon, I know,” he voiced her fears. “So I have a proposal you shouldn't refuse.”
“A proposal, or an order?” she asked.
He smiled. “A proposal. It isn't a dream post or a dream ship, but it is a step leading you back to your previous glory.”
My or your glory?
crossed her mind, but then she thought it didn't really matter, if the glory were shared.
“What is that proposal exactly?” she asked.
“Join my crew. We are currently quite short handed and could use skilful officers. I'm in command of a... freighter,” he almost spat out the last word.
She thought of it for a moment. She was waiting for her new assignment, and while serving on a freighter was no honour, her next assignment might occur to be a lot worse; actually there was a serious threat that it might be charges and facing the Tribunal, not another assignment. The new civilian government supported her decision to protect civilians on Adarak Prime, so Central Command – what was left of it – could not execute her for defying her Gul's orders, but her case was still unresolved. Her only satisfaction was that the rest of the crew didn't let him do as he planned and he was relieved of duty in the end.
“I accept,” she simply said.
“I send you coordinates and time schedule. Be ready, you will report aboard as soon as your new orders are approved.”
“Yes, sir,” she answered and he disconnected. “Splendid,” she muttered to herself.
Three months earlier
“Another bird-of-prey decloaking starboard!” Jarol tried to be loud enough for Gul Ahal to hear her, but wasn't sure it was possible in the noise of exploding bulkheads and consoles. She saw he said something, but didn't hear word; he probably cursed under his breath. Then he turned to her.
She glanced at her console and gave him her report; he ordered to face the newly decloaked ship with the strongest shield. Not that it would make much difference, as all shields were almost equally weak.
“We need to retreat,” she suggested, “sir”, she added after he turned to look at her. His eyes were throwing thunders at her, so she lowered hers and looked back at her console.
The ship had been attacked by two Klingon birds-of prey. Cardassian Union Warship Saset had been on her way to Foskal system, where they were supposed to meet with a small fleet of transport vessels and escort them to one of colonies near newly formed DMZ. Jarol had welcomed a break from battles. She'd thought it would be a nice change to protect someone from danger and be their hero. However the fate planned it differently. They hadn't managed to get as far as Foskal when Klingons attacked. They managed to take down one of the aggressors, but not before their torpedo launchers were crippled. With only disruptor their effectiveness diminished and their tactical advantage over the small Klingon vessel was gone, evening the odds. It became a fight of equal bumps and shakes, testing sturdiness of both ships. Constant attacks were unnerving: the noise, the shaking, the smoke filling the bridge – it was all frustrating Jarol, who tried to regain the advantage the Galor had had. With the other Klingon ship appearing their chances were slim to none.
“Incoming volley of torpedoes from both Klingon ships!” she shouted, watching on her console in horror small red dots, which were quickly closing to their ship. “Brace for impact!” she grabbed her console and prepared for the hit.
The torpedoes' strike was worse than she expected. In spite of her preparation she was almost knocked out of her chair. Something exploded behind her.
“Hull breaches all over the ship!” she heard chief engineer's voice. “Warp drive is off...” she couldn't hear rest of his report, as another explosion covered his voice. She felt, not heard, a thud behind her.
“Report!” the Gul shouted over the noise. He was getting up from the floor and getting back to his seat.
Someone ran toward the engineering console behind Jarol. She looked back to see Kosut thrashing on the floor in a pool of blood. She tapped her comm: “We need a medic!” she shouted. She crouched by Kosut, noticing the pool of blood was quickly expanding. He was missing an arm and open wound was bleeding profusely. She looked around to find something to stop the bleeding, but there was nothing.
“Tactical report!” Gul Ahal demanded. “Jarol, back to your post!!”
She waved to another officer to take care of Kosut. “Try to stop his bleeding,” she told him, then rose and looked at her console. “Birds-of-prey coming for another attack!” she shouted over the noise. “Their weapons are fully charged.”
“Do we still have shields?” he asked.
He stood and made a step toward the screen. “Tactical, fire at the weaker ship as long as you can,” she nodded acknowledgement, even though he was turned to her with his back and couldn't see it. “Helm,” he continued, “collision course with the stronger ship. Ram them!!”
No one opposed. Jarol heard a few officers shouting “For Cardassia!” She prepared for death, hoping they would destroy the Klingon ship and take all filthy monsters with them.
She thought of her dead family and glanced one last time at her console, before closing her eyes and preparing to join her children. Then she opened the eyes to re-examine the tactical reading, as she thought she'd seen something.
“Sir, two Galor class warships coming out of warp!” she shouted.
“Evasive, evasive!” roared Ahal and helm immediately executed.
“We're receiving orders to withdraw,” communications reported.
“Do it, we're in no shape to fight, we'd just stand in the way,” answered Ahal.
Jarol looked back at Kosut. He wasn't thrashing on the floor any more, so she assumed his status improved. She sat on the floor and asked the soldier, who attended to the engineer: “How is he?”
He just shook his head in reply.
She lowered her head. She knew Kosut wasn't the only casualty, she didn't dare to think how many others died this day. Instead of escorting a convoy they were being dragged on a tractor beam to the nearest dry dock. Some heroes
, she thought bitterly.
She helped to carry bodies to the cargo bay. They kept regular, lower deck soldiers separated from officers – Ahal's order. He believed officers would mind laying next to regular crew. Jarol believed it was idiotic, but no one asked her.
One of last bodies brought was Kosut. She waited until everyone left the cargo and sat on the floor next to his body. Kosut was a good officer, a great talent and it was his skill that kept the ship in working order, even after all fighting they had to endure. He also was the only one who spoke to her, really spoke, not just issued orders, insulted or mocked.
Since her disgrace and two-year reprimand, entered into her files by Gul Dukat four years ago, her service was a long, sad duty under the worst officer she had even seen in her life. His servant was smarter than him; he at least could think ahead, an ability completely alien to Gul Ahal. He had absolutely no regard for his own crew. She started as delta shift tactical officer and now was alpha. No, he didn't promote her, if it depended on him he would shoot her where she stood once she had been assigned to his ship. His bad, bad, bad commanding style filled this very cargo with many bodies many times before, including all other tactical officers, who served with her. She was the last one.
She looked at Kosut's body. He was a good man. He worked hard to climb up the ladder of career, he was experienced and always ready to share his ideas and offer advices. He was the only one on this ship, who cared to ask what she had done to deserve her reprimand, which virtually stopped her career in place. The reprimand was supposed to be in effect for two years only, but Ahal was not a forgiving man – he never trusted her and never gave her a chance to prove herself.
Kosut tried to convince her that her reprimand was unfair, but in this case she didn't agree with him: she hadn't secure her family's safety and they'd lost their lives because of her negligence. Gul Dukat had every right to enter the reprimand and she felt he was lenient; if she were in his place she would demote such an officer and leave permanent reprimand in his file. She failed her family. She wasn't welcome in Joret's parents' house any more and her own sister didn't speak to her. As it should be. Her egoism brought death to them, and she deserved the worst.
However Kosut had told her she was punishing herself enough and didn't need anything more. She believed no adequate punishment was possible.
Was that what life would give her? Would everyone, who she cared for, die? Would she spend her life as a mediocre officer, on a mediocre ship, under a poor Gul?