Cardassian Union Prefecture of Darko VI
(Former Federation colony)
It's been two weeks since Eresh – a rank for a cadet on his field duty – Brenok, a young and very idealistic man, was posted on Darko VI. It was his last year at the Military Academy and the last time he had to spend time among regular militia troops. He looked forward to finally getting over that period of his training and career and becoming a real officer.
“Eresh!” Garesh Etral kicked his make-up bed on the floor, “You don't want to be late for your duty, do you?”
“I'm not sleeping,” Brenok muttered. He hated troops' commander as much as Etral hated officers and officers-to-be.
“But you aren't on your feet either, are you?” Etral leaned over Brenok so close that the Eresh could smell his bad breath.
Brenok got up.
“Hurry up!” Etral barked. “You start new duties today, and you need to be ready earlier.”
The young Cardassian looked up at him and then rose. The Garesh handed him a padd, which Brenok took and immediately activated to see what changes he should expect and if they were for worse.
It occurred that the Prefect had arrived last night and they needed to strengthen security to protect him from disgruntled Federation colonists. He was assigned to a guard team. After what he had seen so far, he was glad to be separated from militia troops. He wanted nothing to do with them.
He reported for his new duty with hope and enthusiasm, unfortunately both were very quickly smashed. His new job was a no-job. Being a guard was boring and standing by a door was pointless. It was the Military Academy's standard procedure to send grade four and grade five cadets to field duty so that they could experience the real service, but what he was experiencing were tired legs and falling asleep standing.
The change came the fifth day, when he was assigned to accompany the Prefect and his staff to the colonists' settlement, where they met with Federation's local 'Prefect', or whatever was the correct name for his function there.
Not that Brenok had much more to do than usually. His duty included such a fascinating task, as standing by the door and not letting anyone uninvited in. But this time he didn't mind.
The local Prefect, a Vulcan, whose name escaped Brenok, brought his daughter with him. The girl had long, black, and shiny hair and pointed ears, much like her father, but there was something different about her. She smiled often. She smiled even to him, when he opened the door to let her out. When she was in the room, his eyes never left her. She didn't have ridges, her neck was tube-like, her eyebrows were made of tiny hairs, her skin was scale-less, but the only word that rang in his mind was: beautiful
He looked forward to his duty the next day. And the next. And then the next one. He didn't mind standing by the door, if he only could catch a sight of her.
And one morning something changed. The Prefect was not going to talk to the Vulcan, but Garesh Etral was taking his troops to the Federation colonists' village instead, and Brenok knew he wasn't going there to talk to anyone.
He feared for the girl's safety, but didn't know how he could protect her. Asking Etral to spare her would only worsen things and she would become troops' first target. There was no such thing among militia troops as favours for officers.
His duty was taking all his time and there was nothing left for private matters, but Brenok decided that a few hours of sleep less one night wouldn't hurt him. One evening he beamed to the settlement and went to check on the local Prefect's house.
It was quiet, there was no one on streets, except for Cardassian patrols. He did his best to avoid being spotted and reached the Vulcan's house without any obstacles. He had no idea what he wanted to do there, no plan, so when he finally was by the house's wall, he stood there pressed to it, not sure how to proceed.
He heard voices and realised there was a window close to the place where he stood, so he slowly, trying not to make any noises, moved along the wall to take a look inside.
It was the kitchen, and there were four people inside. The Vulcan, a Terran woman, the girl and a younger boy. So she was safe, he thought relieved. For now at least.
They were eating their meal and talking. Brenok stopped breathing, hoping he could catch something, but the voices were too unclear and muffled. The boy left the table and went to the window, and for a terrifying moment Brenok thought they have spotted him, but the boy only opened the window and sat back at the table. The Eresh inclined his head to hear better.
They talked about some damaged vessel, which was hidden in the forest. And the Vulcan insisted that it would be the best to send children away to Vulcan, where they would be safe. The girl didn't want to leave her home. And the mother thought it was pointless to discuss these things, as the vessel could not be repaired.
Brenok looked toward the forest. There was no mention of any vessel there in Cardassian reports, but it was very possible that he
didn't see those reports. He was one, who wrote reports, not read them.
Relieved that the girl was safe, he returned to the Cardassian camp.
Two days later, while he had another “door duty”, he heard something that froze blood in his veins.
Cardassian plans for the planet included building a permanent Cardassian settlement here. The planet was too rich in resources to ignore its value. That was nothing special, Brenok understood that, that was how the things should be. It was the Union's territory now and the Union had the right to use it as it deemed necessary. What he didn't like was less official plans the officers had.
He got used to lewd jokes he had to listen to sometimes. Officers weren't as bad as troops were anyway. But this one, this joke, which could become a fact, was a nightmare to him. And would be to her.
One of officers worried about the troops morale, if they had to stay on Darko for too long without any entertainment, so he proposed to catch some 'appetizing specimens' and to set a comfort house for the troops – and the officers of course. The thought of forcing a woman was appalling enough for Brenok, but when Glinn Dalak started describing what he would do with the Vulcan's daughter... The young Cardassian wanted to go and punch the Glinn square in his face.
He had to do something... anything...
He decided to find the damaged vessel in the forest. He volunteered for one of night watch duties and scanned the settlement and its surroundings without anyone getting suspicious. He found the wreckage. He hoped it wasn't in as bad shape as the Vulcan's wife had claimed. The next night he went to find the vessel.
It was an old Federation shuttle. Brenok used his scanner to get a general idea of its status. The shuttle wasn't in a bad shape, and he believed there shouldn't be much trouble with repairing it, but it required spare parts and Brenok suspected the Federation settlers had no way of getting those parts. However it wasn't impossible for him. He'd need to modify them to be compatible with Federation technology, but he believed that also was doable.
Next few nights he slept little, worked a lot and thanked his father for suggesting him to choose the engineering faculty at the Academy.
“What are you doing here?” a shocked voice startled him and he banged his head against a console he worked under. He knew that voice. It was her
“I... I try to fix it,” he said, crawling out.
“You... you're a Cardassian!” she shouted.
He tried to smile friendly. “Yes, yes, I am.”
He didn't know what else to say.
“How do you know about this ship?” she asked him.
“I know,” he didn't want to admit he spied on her family.
“Why do you repair it?” her voice became calmer; maybe she realised he wasn't a threat.
“For me?” her slanted eyebrows went really high, higher than any Cardassian's eye ridges could, and her eyes opened wide.
“For you to leave this place. It's not safe for you any more.”
“I remember you. You're one of guards.”
“Why is it not safe?”
“I can't explain. I have to get back to work.”
“You can't fix it. We tried. The torion coil cannot be repaired.”
“I brought a new one.”
He went back to work, feeling her eyes on his back.
“Mind if I help you?” she asked.
They met there the next night. And then again. He couldn't imagine what he would do when she finally left Darko, but he knew it was the best for her. He would miss her, but she would be safe.
And the day he feared most came earlier than he expected. The Cardassian settlement was being built fast and soon he could move to a better room and sleep in a real bed, instead of on the floor. However that also meant that buildings for troops' needs were ready too. All
of their needs.
He banged at the door, hoping they were at home. The Vulcan opened the door finally, and raised his eyebrow, seeing a young Cardassian in front of him.
“Sir,” Brenok said quickly and quietly. “You have to leave Darko tonight.”
“Why?” the Vulcan asked him a cold, levelled voice.
“Father, let him in,” the girl's voice said. She stood behind the Vulcan.
The man stepped aside, letting Brenok enter the house.
“Why?” the Vulcan repeated.
“T'Sara has to leave tonight. She is in danger,” Brenok tried to calm his voice, but couldn't – he ran all the way here and his body and breath haven't calmed down yet.
“Why is she in danger?” the Vulcan's emotionless voice was infuriating. Didn't he care?
“They will take her. And many other women from the village.”
“And where would she go?”
“Father, we started repairing the shuttle,” the girl said.
“Oh?” his eyebrow rose.
“It's not completely ready yet, but it should be possible to get people out of here and across the border to safety.”
“Cardassian sensors would pick it up,” the father said.
“I started a diagnostic at the Cardassian camp. It should take a few hours before it's done and during that time sensors wouldn't pick anything up.”
The Vulcan looked at his daughter.
“Do you believe him? Isn't it some kind of trap?”
“I believe him, father.”
“Very well. Discretely gather women...”
“Young and pretty,” Brenok interjected.
The Vulcan shot him a glance and the Cardassian had an impression the elder man finally understood what kind of danger his daughter was facing.
“Gather all women, who could pose any interest for Cardassians and bring them to the shuttle.”
“I'll go and prepare the shuttle,” Brenok volunteered.
They left the house.
It took long time to gather women. Brenok noticed they were of many different races. It was strange to him – how could all of those people live together without problems? Cardassians were one, united, undivided. This was a... mess...
He feared the time of diagnostic procedure was close to an end, when the girl finally announced: “I think that's everyone.”
The shuttle was crowded, but it was doubtful anyone would complain.
“Do you know how to fly it?” Brenok asked the girl.
He stepped back and observed her boarding the vessel, but she stopped, turned and approached him.
“Why do you do this?” she asked.
“Because... because... I...” he opened his mouth to finish 'fell in love with you', but he didn't.
“I'll make sure everyone knows about your good deed.”
“No!” he shouted, raising palms of his hands toward her, like he wanted to push her away. “You can't tell anyone!”
“They would execute me! You can't even tell anyone it was a Cardassian that helped you. They would find me and execute me. No one can know! Please, tell that to your friends too.”
She stared at him for a moment, then kissed him in the cheek and boarded the shuttle.
It was the first time a girl kissed him.