...so the tree is inclined
What will happen to us now?
Brenok laughed straight to Parn's face, leaning toward the man so close that drops of his saliva landed on Legate's skin.
“Is that your answer?” the Legate clearly didn't appreciate being ridiculed.
“How stupid do you think I am?” Brenok just shrugged.
“If we thought you were stupid, we wouldn't invite you here.”
Brenok shot a glance at the man, who had brought him here the first time. “You call this 'invited'?” He commented bitterly. “There is another word for this in my vocabulary.”
“I suggest you rethink your answer.”
Brenok moved away his hair, uncovering his ugly scar. “I'd faster grow a new ear than join your mouldy bunch of pig-heads, who haven't learnt anything,” he snorted and then turned and left.
Six months earlier
“No!” Jarol stood in front of people, spreading her arms wide. “You can't do it!”
“We take it down! We'll take [i]you[i/] down if necessary!” someone shouted.
“You can't! He did a lot for Cardassia, you can't just erase him,” she protested.
“Move!” a man charged with heavy tool in his hands.
“No!” she didn't want to let him through.
The crowd started closing up on her, but she didn't move. It was obvious she didn't want to allow them do that.
Brenok couldn't watch it any longer. He ran to her and grabbed her sleeve.
“Come, you won't stop them on your own,” he said, pulling her away.
“So help me!”
“No,” his reply was sharp and firm. She was astonished. “Come, let's go,” he insisted.
Someone hit the column with a heavy hammer, chirping huge piece of concrete. “No!” she rushed to the man, trying to wrest the hammer out from his hands, but he moved away.
Brenok grabbed her armour and pulled away. She tried to pull out, but he was stronger and kept her firmly.
“Stop it,” he shouted irritated after a moment of her fruitless attempts. “Let it go!”
“No! No!” she protested.
He pulled her farther away, not paying attention to her protests. Finally, she gave up and silently observed enraged people destroying Dukat's monument.
“Come on,” Brenok pulled her sleeve. “I'll buy you some kanar,” he said.
“I can't drink,” she reminded him.
“Fine, then I'll buy you Ferengi Slog-o-Cola.”
She looked at him. She wasn't in a mood for jokes, but she let him pull her farther away.
“Why do you care?” he asked, when they turned to another street and couldn't see the monument any longer, although could hear the sounds of dismantling it.
“He saved my life,” she answered. “Yes, he made mistakes, but he doesn't deserve what they want to do.”
“He also blackmailed you, molested, used, manipulated, the list goes on, and you know that! Not mentioning he was responsible for Corak's death.”
“It wasn't his fault directly.”
“Whole Dominion was 'his fault directly' and only his. We
have to clean this mess now!” Brenok shouted angrily.
She was surprised by his reaction. “But it still doesn't make it right,” she waved toward the direction of the unseen now crowd.
Brenok only shook his head, giving up. He never understood Jarol's and Damar's loyalty to Dukat. No matter what he did to them or did in general, they always forgave him everything. Brenok's respect for his former commander evaporated long time ago.
“Let's go home,” he said.
“It isn't right,” muttered Jarol.
“Home,” he repeated and gently directed their steps toward the street, where Demoks' house stood. “What did your father say?” he asked, trying to change the subject.
“He agreed,” she said in a little happier tone. “I was sure he wouldn't, but he said 'yes' without hesitation.”
“When will he come?”
“Tomorrow. Zamarran could have beamed him here a few days ago, but dad said he wanted to pack some things. I won't be surprised if he comes with a few buckets of sand.”
Brenok smiled, but his smile quickly faded. “Will you go with me to see my home?”
She looked at him eye wide. “Why? What for?”
“I need to see my house,” he said.
“No, you don't,” she replied firmly.
“I have to. Maybe there is something left, some object, anything. Something I could keep.”
“Don't torture yourself,” she shook her head.
“If you don't go with me, fine, but I will go anyway.”
She didn't want him to go. She tried to shield him from seeing
his loss. Knowing about the tragedy was one thing, having it before one's eyes was completely another matter. She saw deaths of her family, she didn't want him to share such a tragic experience with her. He didn't need more nightmares, he had enough of those already. Going to rummage in a rubble, which used to be his home and in which all his loved ones lived was not a good idea. She didn't worry he wouldn't find any object to commemorate his family, she feared he would
find something and his pain would gain a new face. She wanted to spare him more suffering. How could she make him drop the idea?
They arrived to a small building, one of few remaining on the street. There wasn't much left of the street itself, but at least the rubble had been removed. They walked through the garden, being greeted by neighbours on the way.
She and Brenok had knocked at their door soon after the war ended. Although Jarol never met them personally, they greeted her like she was returning home, not visiting them. They insisted for her to stay, and after learning she was expecting didn't even want to hear about her leaving. They also offered Brenok a room as soon as they discovered he was hailing from Lakarian City, delicately never asking about his family. As it occurred Demoks offered home also to their neighbours, who lost their homes and had no place to go.
She decided to make herself busy, so went to Talokan Demok's study. Demok senior was an archon, and was known as a fair and loving justice man. It was his idea to clear names of patriots and bring traitors to justice. One of tasks she took upon herself was restoring Gul Corak's good name, who still was officially considered a traitor, while it was obvious he was faithful to Cardassia until the end.
Her husband's father wasn't in his study, but he had told her should she need to use it, she didn't have to ask for his permission. It still felt a little awkward to enter this room – a room with rich history of law and military service – and do as she pleased. She was just a peasant and this house reminded her of that. Not the people, not her new in-laws, but the surroundings. Demoks had a long history in the Guard and in Justice. If not the mess made by the Dominion, they would probably consider her a servant at best; at least she thought so. However both Demok's mother and father were nothing but warm and friendly toward her and Brenok. Once she saw Talada crying, touched by Brenok's singing. Well, Brenok's songs were very sad and dark recently, his heart was aching and it was his heart singing.
She sat at the desk and activated the screen. There was one conversation she tried to avoid, but she knew she had to talk to her, there was no other choice. She felt deep shame and had no idea how she could look into this woman's eyes... And the question she wanted to ask... The answer she feared to hear.
She took a deep breath and tapped the instructions into the padd. A Starfleet logo appeared on the screen only to be replaced by a man a second later.
“What can I do for you?” if he was surprised to see a Cardassian, he didn't show it.
“Can I talk to colonel Kira?” Jarol asked him.
“Colonel Kira is busy right now,” he replied. “Maybe I could help you?”
“I'm afraid not. Please ask her to contact me, Gul Jarol of the Fourth Order. It is important, not urgent, but important.”
“I'll pass the information,” he promised.
Jarol returned to files, which Talokan had already collected. Not much time passed, when the comm bipped. She activated the screen to see Kira's face. Seemed like she wasn't that busy after all.
“Colonel Kira, I am Gul Jarol.”
“Yes, I remember you. What can I do for you?”
"We try to compile a list of Cardassian Liberation Front members and I wonder if you might have a few names for me.”
“The whole idea was not to know names of others.”
“Yes, I know that,” I'm probably alive thanks to this
, she thought, “but if you could recall anything. Even one name would be something.”
“I'll try. I'll send you a list later.”
“I appreciate that,” she nodded her thanks, but didn't disconnect.
“Is that all?” Kira asked after a short while of awkward silence.
“Actually there's one more thing. More of a personal nature...”
Kira seemed puzzled. What personal matters could these two women share?
“You were with Damar when he died, weren't you?”
“How...” Jarol swallowed. She tried not to burst into tears in front of that woman.
“He died a hero,” Kira said. Jarol nodded, afraid to speak. “He fought until the end.” They kept looking at each other for a while.
“Is that all?” Kira asked finally.
“I'm sorry I was part of the... occupation,” this was the first time she used - she thought about using - the word 'occupation', not 'annexation'.
Surprise on Kira's face lasted a second, then she sharply nodded once her acknowledgement - Joral doubted it was appreciation, after all one 'sorry' from one then low ranking officer meant nothing - and she disconnected.
Jarol folded her arms on the desk, leaned her forehead against the arms and cried.
Brenok was tired, but there still were things he wanted to do that evening, so he walked fast back home.
He just stepped off the bridge, when someone spoke behind him.
“Are you Glinn Brenok?”
He stopped and looked back, but saw no one.
“If you want to talk to me, have courage to show your face,” he said, slightly irritated.
A man came out of a shadow. “There's someone, who wants to talk to you,” he said.
“Is there?” Brenok didn't like this secrecy.
“Come with me,” said the man.
“Why should I?” Brenok asked.
“"I advise you comply.”
“Or what?” to his own surprise he wasn't scared, but his mind was telling him this whole situation stank.
“You won't regret it,” the man assured him.
“Do you have an Orion slave girl there?” the Glinn smiled slightly. Actually it started to amuse him.
“Come,” the man insisted.
“Say 'please',” Brenok laughed, but there wasn't any amusement in his voice. The man stared at him for a moment, but finally seemed to realise Brenok wouldn't yield, so he had to.
“Please,” he said.
“And where do I go?” Brenok was starting having fun. I'm probably outrageously reckless
, he thought.
“Can I notify my mommy I'm going to be late for dinner?”
“This is not time for jokes.”
“Do I look like I'm joking?” Brenok barked.
The man didn't say anything. The Glinn followed him, paying attention to every detail around him and burning them to his memory. Whatever was going on, it would be better to be careful. They went to the government district. Brenok didn't know Lakat well enough to know exactly which building was which department, but it didn't seem like he was taken to be slaughtered by some enemy. Not that he had many enemies – surprisingly – but he could be the perfect tool for Jarol's enemies and she had plenty of those.
They entered a massive building, but it was too dark to read the plate above the huge door, so Brenok had no idea what this place was. He was led to the second floor and into a room, which looked very much like a council room of some sort. There were two Legates and four Guls present, sitting at the table and clearly waiting for him. The nameless guide stood by the door, gesturing to Brenok to go closer to the table.
“Welcome to our humble council room,” said one of Legates. Brenok almost burst into laughter. He called this room 'humble'? This chamber looked like no war happened. Like all was as it used to be three years ago. Like Lakarian City stood there, and his mom sang songs to his daughter. He felt his anger rise.
“What do you want?” his tone was sharp and hostile.
“There's no reason to be angry, Glinn. We have a fantastic proposition for you.”
“Do you?” What can you offer me? Bring my family back? Bring my Gul back? Bring my best friend back? Or bring Cardassia back?
“We want to rebuilt was has been destroyed and we want you to help us,” seemed like he guessed right. The only problem was he started suspecting who those people were and he didn't subscribe to their point of view. “We need people like you.”
“And what would you know about me, a low ranking Glinn from a warship of little importance?” he asked ironically.
“I know enough,” said a familiar voice, and then Brenok paid more attention to Guls. Daset? “Nice to see you, Glinn Brenok.”
“Daset? You told them to bring me here? You haven't changed a bit,” he said.
“And you still wear that non regulation haircut,” the - now Gul – commented.
“What of it?”
“Why? Your daughter is dead, you wouldn't scare her any mo...” he silenced, realising how cruel his words were.
Brenok squinted his eyes with hatred. "But it will be ready for... my nephew,” he never thought about Jarol's child as his nephew before, but it fitted, didn't it?
Daset didn't say anything more.
"Why was I brought here?” Brenok asked. “Why me?”
“We want you to join our cause.”
"We need good, reliable and professional officers and you match that description.”
Brenok couldn't believe his own ears. Daset thought he was a 'good, reliable and professional officer'? Since when? The Gul had made the engineer's life aboard Roumar real hell; he was picking on him because of Brenok's hair, and always seemed unhappy with Brenok's performance as an engineer. He even scolded Brenok for singing on duty, claiming it was against regulations, until Gul Corak said he didn't recall any regulation saying that singing on duty was forbidden (although he added it ought to be, if a singer was singing out of tune). That only made Daset more aggressive - he clearly didn't appreciate being corrected in front of a subordinate, especially since his authority was challenged.
And now... now he appeared out of nowhere, like a bad dream, telling Brenok he... what? Respected him? Appreciated the good work the engineer did? What kind of joke was it? Daset clearly didn't change much, since Brenok's hair still bothered him, so what was the meaning of all this?
“I don't have time for this,” he muttered and turned to leave.
“Glinn Brenok,” the Legate's voice boomed. Brenok recalled his name. Parn. “Think about it. We will speak again.”
No doubt by bringing him here without his consent again. Brenok only shrugged and left.
“Why did you let him go?!” Jarol shouted.
Talokan looked at her surprised. “Why not?” he asked. “It was his home.”
“Yes, it was. And now it's a pile of pain.”
“I'm sorry, I didn't think it would be so important.”
“Oh, nevermind. I'm sorry I snapped like that,” she muttered, and stepped away. She picked her wristcomm, which lay on a table, pressed it and spoke. “Jarol to Roumar.”
“Roumar here,” answered Zamarran's voice.
“Zamarran, locate Glinn Brenok and beam me to his location,” she put the wristcomm on her wrist.
She waited for a short time and then the engineer spoke: “On your mark.”
“Mark,” she said without hesitation.
She dissolved in orange light to reappear in a ruined city she's never been to before. She looked around, trying to locate Brenok. She saw him sitting on remains of a fence, or a wall, it was hard to tell for sure. His head was lowered, so she couldn't see his face.
“Arenn,” she spoke softly, closing to him. She could hear him singing quietly a lullaby. “Why did you come?” she asked, sitting next to him.
“I had to,” he answered. “I had to see it, I had to make sure it was for real. I...” his voice faded.
She put her arm around his shoulder.
She looked around. What she saw wasn't a city any more. Remains of walls, with glassless windows resembling blind eyes, remains of streets, with dark stains of blood, remains of people, with their souls hunted and emptied of everything. She new the city was one of most beautiful on Cardassia. It's long history and cultural heritage was priceless. Cardassia had its capitol, where Legates were debating, Detapa Council attempting to rule the empire, but here, in Lakarian City, was Cardassia's heart, its soul. This was the city, which produced singing officers. This was the city, which hosted the biggest art gallery. This was the city, which grew on their Hebitian heritage. This was a pile of rubble!
Her anger rose. She wished she could get a Vorta or - better - a Jem'Hadar in her hands and tear him into pieces, just like their had torn Cardassia's soul. Her people didn't deserve that. Whatever they've done, whatever their sins were – it was too much.
She noticed a familiar shape among stones. It was alien, non-Cardassian, but so familiar; where did she see it; where did she know it from? Her eyes opened wide with shock and disgust. It was a Klingon mug, the one they used for bloodwine. She stood up and approached the object. First she crouched to pick it up, but she rapidly withdrew her hand not touching it, then rose and then started stepping on it with fury, flattening the damn thing. Was what this doing here? Did a Klingon come to drink over her friend's family's bodies? Did he enjoy the view of a four year old girl, smashed by her own room's wall or Jem'Hadar kar'takin? She took a stone – or a part of Brenok's house – and started hitting the flat by now metal with it. She couldn't stop, just couldn't. It was all she could do not to explode.
A hand grabbed her wrist, preventing another blow and stopping her. She looked up at Brenok. He just shook his head, his face wet from tears.
“You were right,” he said. “I shouldn't have come here.”
She dropped the stone and hugged him, pressing to her with all her strength.
“I know!” she said suddenly.
Brenok pulled away and gave her an asking look.
“I know which name would be the best for my son. Laran.”
Brenok's face became less sad, for it couldn't be called a smile. “I like that. And I think he would like that too. This is a good name, a name of an unbreakable hero.”
“Let's go home,” she said.
He nodded and she contacted Zamarran to beam them back to Demoks' house.