The door to her office opened and Brenok and Zamarran pushed in Nadar. Zamarran then pressed the tactician to the deck and put his heavy boot on the man's back. Jarol rose from behind her desk, went around it and stood in front of Nadar, her boots mere centimetres from his face.
“You were very interested in the changes, which had been introduced to the communication console. Did you worry we'd find out who implemented them?” she asked. “You also neglected to report some tiny details, regarding our officers' transfers... like only those, who happened to say something anti-Dominion, were being reassigned and then each and every of them was placed in an installation only as a cannon fodder.”
Neither Brenok, nor Zamarran knew why she asked them to bring Nadar to her office, no matter how much he'd resist. The tactical officer knew she was onto him, because she managed to intercept his communiques, sent directly to him. It was atypical for an officer, even a department head, to receive direct orders from highest ranks of Central Command. She was the Gul, she should be the only recipient of such documentation. Her acute senses made her irritable, ever present loud humming of ship's engines was getting on her nerves, but that constant irritation made her interested in everyone's moves and this brought her to Nadar's strange behaviour.
She used to trust him. She had known him for so many years. She respected him and his tactical skills, which she considered superior to her own. Therefore she would never expect it to be him.
“Why?” she asked, crouching.
He turned his head to look up at her. His eye was bruised. “A true Cardassian must follow his leaders.”
“His Cardassian leaders, Nadar, not Vorta.”
“His leaders, whoever they might be. Everything else is a treason.”
Obviously he didn't feel a traitor.
“Nadar, Gul Corak was your superior. You are responsible for his death. Shouldn't you follow him, instead of betraying him?”
“My ultimate loyalty is to the rulers of Cardassian Union, not one warship's Gul.”
“How about Damar? Shouldn't you be loyal to him, not to the Vorta Weyoun and his shapeshifters?”
To that Nadar found no answer. Maybe he realised she was right.
“I'm sorry, Nadar, but I cannot allow you to notify whoever you are in contact with about our plans. This is too important.”
He closed his eyes.
“You will die for Cardassia. Free of Dominion Cardassia,” she told him and then rose. She addressed Brenok and Zamarran. “Get rid if him, no traces.”
They grabbed Nadar, each by one arm, and pulled him up.
“Gul Jarol,” the tactician spoke.
“Don't let my family suffer because of this,” he asked.
“I won't. We're not Klingons,” she promised.
He let the engineers lead him out, offering no resistance. A few minutes later Brenok informed her they'd vaporised his body and no sign of whole ordeal was left. She didn't feel relieved at all. He was one of those she never
suspected to be the Dominion mole among their crew.
All of this made her realise how acute her senses were recently. She experienced something like that twice and wondered if it was the same, or she was just overworked, stressed and irritable due to lack of sleep.
She headed for the infirmary. Medic Kolvar was expecting her. He took a sample of her blood and scanned it.
“Well?” she asked. “Is it what I think, or am I just really tired.”
tired, but your acute senses are not a result of this,” he said. “I don't know if you consider this a good or bad news, but you can consider it confirmed.”
Cardassian women were not chased by predators any more. They didn't have to be super-aware of their surroundings at this vulnerable time when they were responsible not only for their own life, but also the new life, but the evolutionary feature was still coded in their genetics. Be aware of sounds, be aware of movement, be aware of danger, hiding in the forest. Soldier or no soldier, she was still a Cardassian lifeform and no civilisation level could eradicate that. Cardassian women were hyper sensitive during their pregnancies, and she was no exception.
“Thank you, medic,” she stood up. “No word to anyone.”
“Of course,” he nodded. “The genetic code is male,” he added with a smile, while she was already heading for the exit. She answered with her own grin.
She knew Demok was currently deep in hiding, so there was no way she could inform him of it, but she wished she could share the news with him. His family house wouldn't be so empty any more.
“Speech. Do we listen to it?” Karama turned to look at Jarol. Everyone on the bridge fell silent.
“Speech? That Vorta likes to speak more than any Cardassian I know... well... almost any,” no one could beat Dukat at that. “All right, put him on,” she said and stood up.
Weyoun's face appeared on the screen. The more he spoke, the less she liked what she heard. The final footage of the ship – the ship that carried two important men in her life – exploding......
No! Not again! Corat! Tiron!
Jarol felt her legs giving away. She heavily slumped to the floor and sat there, leaning forward on her hands, looking at the deck's flooring not really seeing anything. She couldn't breathe, she felt like there was something heavy on her chest, not letting her take a breath in.
Everything played in her mind's eye again. Space vessel, explosion, black, empty space sparkled by cold, distant stars. Corat. So small. So innocent. So brave. Sacrificed his life trying to save his empire. Her son. Her friend. Her husband. Her love. Loves. Someone, she couldn't imagine living without and she had to learn now. Again. She would have to learn again. How? Why did it all happen? Was every Cardassian suffering the same loss or was it just her fate? Why everyone, who she cared about, who she loved, had to die!?
Brenok grabbed her arm and forced her to stand up. He led her to her office and helped her sit on the sofa in a corner.
“Arenn,” she grabbed his hand and squeezed. There were wild flames in her eyes. “Arenn... promise me you won't die, promise me.”
“I promise,” he said quietly. Just then she noticed a tear coming from his eye. Was he crying seeing death of all those good people, or seeing her suffering? Or both?
“I...” she pulled him closer. “... won't make through this again, I won't, I can't.”
He was stroking her hair, humming her favourite lullaby, he didn't know how to help her.
“The first time I heard Corat's name I thought my heart would jump out of my chest,” she said, not really speaking to him, but speaking out loud. “Joret chose that name for our son. And then I meet someone, who shared this name. I resented him at first. It wasn't his fault, it was nothing wrong, but it felt wrong to me. But later it became important. He was... like... like... like who my son could become if he was given a chance. He could even be a Legate. Head of Cardassian Union. Arenn,” she looked at him. “Tiron and I...” she paused.
“It was no secret you two were in love,” Brenok whispered.
“Tiron... All his sons died in wars,” she said. “I will not let this one,” she put her hand on her belly, “join military. This one must live.”
The Glinn squeezed her hands. Her pain was so great he forgot about his own. For a moment.
“I have only you left now,” she put her hands on his cheeks. He put his hands on hers, covering them – his warm, big hands. If Damar was like fulfilment of her son, Brenok was more like her brother, who had died of malnutrition when he was just ten months old. She still remembered the day. It was so long time ago, almost thirty years, and she still could remember every detail of that day. “I need to go back to the bridge,” she tried to compose herself.
They both rose. They stood, looking at each other, trying to gain strength from each other's presence and then in unison returned to the bridge.
The rebellion was dead. And so was their Cardassia. They became Bajorans of the Dominion.
Jarol hated the waiting before each battle. It was more unnerving than fighting itself. When she fought, she didn't have time for fear, only for anger. But waiting was the time for fear and worry, and she didn't enjoy those feelings.
But now, in the middle of the massive battle over her home planet she feared her side would win. She was fighting on the side of people, who she considered her enemies against people, who became her allies. Maybe it would be easier to die? Just drop the shield and let a Klingon or a Romulan torpedo finish this. She only hoped the rumour of Damar still on Cardassia and still fighting the Dominion behind the lines was more than just a rumour. She clung to that unconfirmed news and it helped her to go on.
“Sir, we've lost contact with the command!” Karama's voice was full of panic. “We get no orders from...” he stopped speaking, starting at his console.
“What is it?” she asked.
He didn't react, so she got up and went toward him, trying not to stumble in constantly shaking under enemy – or rather ally – fire ship.
“Phaser fire,” the ship shook violently before Brenok finished his sentence, “incoming.”
Karama turned to face Jarol. “They have destroyed Lakarian City,” he said.
“What?” Jarol was sure heard wrong in the noise. “Who? The Federation?”
Karama looked at his console, then back at her, and then at Brenok. “No,” he said. “The Dominion. CUW Atash sent information the Dominion is bombarding Cardassia Prime.”
Whole bridge froze. Brenok slid to the deck, with a long, heartbreaking whine, in shock. Mazdar hit his console with his fist, breaking it; it covered with crack lines.
“Sir, Atash tells us to attack the Dominion ships!” Karama shouted.
“Who is in command of Atash?” she asked.
Jotrel... Jotrel... Jotrel!
“Shoot them! Shoot them! Shoot them!!!” she yelled, running to Brenok. “Smash the damn Jem'Hadar!”
The bridge returned to life and she had an impression everyone worked with passion, unlike a moment ago, when they were fighting with the Dominion, not against them. She crouched by Brenok. He looked at her with tears in his eyes. She helped him get up and tried to take him off the bridge to her office to hide his moment of weakness from the bridge staff, but he pushed her away and leaned over his console.
“Targeting a Jem'Hadar fighter to our starboard,” he shouted over other reports. She stood for a few seconds, observing him. He clearly directed his pain to anger and this was
the time for anger.
“They're attacking a Federation vessel,” reported Zamarran. “The Feds are in bad shape.”
“Put us between the attacker and defender. Protect them,” ordered Jarol.
“We take the beating!” Zamarran shouted.
“We can take it!” She couldn't stand being useless, she had to do something too. She took the tactical, sending Mazdar to axillary tactical console. She cut her fingers on sharp edges of chirped glass-like plastic, but she paid no attention to that.
“Karama, ask the Federation ship is they need help, they seem to have a hull breach,” she shouted toward the comm officer.
“We've lost port torpedo launcher,” reported Zamarran.
“They appreciate the offer, but they say they can handle it,” Karama answered.
“Switching life support to axillary power nods,” Mazdar's voice was shaking.
After that everything became a blur. The battle was progressing, like any other battle, but this time she knew she fought for Cardassia's existence. This time the stakes were high, so high she couldn't imagine losing this one battle. It was either 'win' or 'perish'. Black or white. Zero or one. The binary choice.
“The Dominion is withdrawing,” Brenok sounded surprised.
“I would expect them to fight to the last soldier,” Mazdar commented.
“So would I,” whispered Jarol. “What's our status?” she asked Zamarran.
“Not so good, but we can make it to a shipyard... if we have any shipyards left that is,” he said.
“There's a small Romulan attack warbird spinning out of control toward us,” reported Mazdar.
“Any life signs?” she asked.
“Catch them on a tractor beam.”
“But that will drain our limited power even more,” protested Zamarran.
“Take them on a tractor beam!” she roared at him. “They are like other Cardassians to you, they fought on your side, you will make a sacrifice for them if necessary!”
“Yes, sir,” Zamarran manipulated his console. “Tractor beam activated.”
“Life support on desks twelve to fourteen, stern section, is gone!” Mazdar said.
“Systems shut down due to lack of power.”
“Evacuate those sections!”
“For Romulans?” Zamarran muttered astonished. Jarol gave him a hard look and he lowered his head, busying himself with his console.
“Patch what you can, don't comment and don't you dare to contradict me!” she warned.
“Yes, sir, sorry, sir,” he didn't dare raising his head to look at her. “Where do we tow them?”
“To the nearest Romulan ship in sufficient shape to take care of them.”
“Yes, sir,” helm crisply reported.
“Karama, get some reports from Cardassia,” she told the communication officer.
“Attempting, but it's all a mess.”
She looked at Brenok. He stood, leaning heavily on his console and staring in front of him without really seeing.
“Zamarran, take over,” she ordered, and approached Brenok, while the engineer nodded his acknowledgement.
She pulled her friend to her office. He was stiff, like a puppet, he let her take him to her chair and she seated him there. Then she went to the door to look out through the glass to see how Mazdar was doing. She knew his parents lived in Lakarian City. The tactician seemed to be able to do his job, and she decided against disturbing his work in case it was his way of dealing with the terrible loss. She turned to look at Brenok.
He sat motionless, his face wet from tears. She sat on the floor by his feet and put her hand on his. He looked down at her and his blank face became personification of endless pain.
The door to the office opened and someone entered.
“We've just got the news,” Karama's voice was soft and quiet. “Damar was shot while charging the Central Command building.”
Steps, swoosh of the door and they were alone again.
Brenok slid to the floor and sat next to Jarol. There was nothing else to say, nothing else to do. Nothing left. All they had now was each other.
Cardassia became the land of orphans.
End of Part 1
Part 2 coming soon