It's in the family
Jarol struck the man, who she had pressed to the wall, square in his face. And then again. And again. And she would do it again, if a hand wouldn't grab her fist, stopping her.
“Enough,” Brenok said.
“You heard what he said!” she was furious.
“I did. And he will pay for this,” the Glinn looked at the man and literally spat at his face.
Two weeks earlier
“Sir,” Jarol was all business upon entering Daset's office, which sent Daset's eye ridges a little bit higher.
“Yes, Gul Jarol?” he decided to be as official as she was.
“I request a permission to investigate the attacks on Federation convoys. I have some preliminary data and would like to continue.”
“By all means. These attacks have to stop. Although I'd rather prefer not to be dependant on Federation help at all.”
“We can't afford that,” she said.
“It's been two years. How long do we have to beg for food?” he took a padd and started reading its content.
She couldn't say she didn't agree with him.
“Then we need to find a way to become self-sufficient,” she said.
“You come from a family of farmers, you tell me how to do it,” he said.
“I'm an officer, not a magician.”
“Well, recently Jotrel told me he had an idea, but he needed to work on details. Maybe he is a magician.”
She didn't say anything.
“Dismissed,” Daset muttered, not even looking at her.
The Roumar arrived to the region, in which most of reported attacks had taken place. Jarol wasn't happy to face another 'waiting time', but she used the opportunity to bring Ma'Kan and Brenok up to date with all the information she had available, including the data sent by the Federation and their officers' reports she had gathered during her questionings.
“Do we have any idea where these ships come from?” Ma'Kan asked. “I mean their production, not point of launch.”
“They are clearly Cardassian, but... I don't think we could retrieve that information from visual logs and if the Federation have that information, they chose not to share with us.”
“I'm sure they'd be happy to point their finger at one of our shipyards and say 'here, you'd built those Hideki here and now you attack our convoys',” Brenok said.
“Maybe, but they must realise they are our
convoys more than theirs,” Jarol replied.
“So what's the plan?” Ma'Kan looked at her Gul.
“I don't have any plan,” Jarol answered. “We wait. We scan. We try to find traces of something. Anything.”
“We could send patrol ships to gather detailed information about this sector,” Ma'Kan suggested. “There must be a reason why most of the attacks happen here. They have a base nearby.”
“Good idea. Prepare a plan for my review by tomorrow morning.” Ma'Kan nodded. “Brenok, you check our database for any Maquis or Federation activity in this region before the Dominion War started. Maybe that would give us any leads.” Brenok nodded too. “You both have full access to the data, however general access is restricted. Some of those files were given to us for this particular purpose by Captain Andric and I don't want to see it used any other way, especially any harmful way. We don't spy on the Federation, we try to catch criminals, who attack convoys loaded with resources we need.”
Both officers nodded.
“If you have no more questions... Dismissed.”
“Ah, Gul Jarol,” Andric smiled. How different was this smile from the one he had granted her the first time they spoke!
“How are you, Captain?”
“Fine, fine, thank you. Again on escorting duty?”
“No, this time I'm investigating. And I have a question.”
“I'm all ears.”
She stared at him.
“That's a human expression. It means: I'm listening.”
“Sounds like a Ferengi expression to me,” she grinned. “Captain, would you agree to become a bait?”
“You want to lure our troublemakers?” he guessed.
“That's right. All data we have would be good for evidence, but without catching those, who are responsible, it's useless.”
“Well, I could use a few sensor tricks to make my cargo more attractive to ensure their interest in us,” Andric said.
“That would be perfect,” she grinned. In spite of herself she had to admit she liked him. “We'll be lurking in the sensor range to react quickly and not let any real damage be inflicted on your ships.”
“I wish you had a cloaking device and lurk closer.”
“I wish I had a cloaking device too, but the Obsidian Order hadn't share it with the military before they were destroyed. Maybe you could ask your friends, Romulans? Or Klingons?”
“My friends, yes,” he laughed. “All right, Gul Jarol. Be close, as we are going to ask for trouble.”
She nodded, disconnected and looked at her mar'kuu sculpture. Then she rose and went to the bridge.
“Did he agree?” Brenok asked.
“Karama said he could try to boost our communication sensor's range and... eavesdrop,” Brenok didn't manage to stop the smile from crawling out on his face.
“I could listen to them communicating,” The Gil said. “They use small ships, so in order to be effective there must be many of them and they have to coordinate their attack.”
“Good thinking, Karama,” Jarol approved, sitting in her chair.
The Gul also noticed Ma'Kan's hairdo changed. It was still well within the regulations, but clearly more elaborate. She wondered if Brenok noticed.
Jarol answered the comm, activating her screen. She saw the Federation medic, Kirkland, looking at her.
“Hello, Gul Jarol. I am trying to reach Glinn Brenok, but it occurs to be easier to contact you. Could I speak with him?” he asked.
“Of course,” she said. “Give me a moment, I'll call him.”
She contacted the Glinn and waited for him to arrive.
“Shall I understand you've found something?” she asked.
“Yes. I think I understand the source of his pains, however I should discuss it with him.”
She wanted to ask why, but just then Brenok entered. He motioned to her screen and she vacated her chair to let him sit down.
“Ah, Gul Jarol,” the medic looked at her, as she stood behind the chair. “This is a delicate matter and I'd like to talk to Glinn Brenok alone.”
“He is my subordinate,” she said.
“Yes, I understand that, but it is a medical matter and he has a right to privacy.”
Jarol and Brenok exchanged surprised looks.
“Medic,” Brenok said to the doctor. “As my commander she has to be informed of my medical condition. I would have to pass to her everything you're going to tell me now, so it's better for her to hear it from you and possibly ask questions.”
“Oh. Well, if you don't object to her presence, then I will proceed.”
“Proceed,” the Glinn nodded once.
“I have studied Cardassian physiology, based on our database and the scans I took of you, Mr. Brenok. According to the data you had sent me, from... aaah...” he checked something on his desk, “Military Hospital on Cardassia Prime, according to that data your nerves were reconnected using some experimental treatment, to which you'd agreed.”
Brenok nodded. “Was the treatment unsuccessful?” he asked.
“No, not at all. I actually find it quite fascinating and plan to contact medical on Cardassia with a request for more data on the subject. But that is not important right now. The nerves in your neck ridge healed well, especially taking under consideration that a nerve damage is usually permanent or difficult to heal.”
“So if everything is so miraculously well, why is it so unwell?” Jarol asked.
“The problem lies in muscles, which surround the nerve. Your neck ridges protect a thick cluster of nerves, which are responsible for the arm and hand movement and coordination. Your nerves, Mr. Brenok, were severed. They were reconnected and stitched up together, however in order to do that the damaged parts, those which were in fact cut and shattered, had to be removed. Rejoining loose ends was successful and gave you your arm and hand mobility back. However due to the treatment method, those nerves are shorter. It is a really microscopic difference, however it exists. When exposed to cold, your muscles tense. This is a natural reaction. However tensed muscles of your neck and neck ridge inflict pressure on your shortened nerves.”
“And this causes pain,” Jarol guessed.
“That's right,” confirmed the medic.
“Is there any way to fix it?” Brenok asked.
“I'm afraid not,” Kirkland's face changed from 'all scientific business' to 'compassionate medic'.
“So that's it?”
“You can avoid coldness, but I understand that in your line of work it could be difficult and there are probably some kind of winters on Cardassia too. I've been thinking about it and while I didn't find any way to prevent your pains, I think a good, properly done massage should relieve you of pain quite quickly, once it occurs.”
“A what, sir?” Brenok asked.
“A massage. You know what a massage is, don't you?”
“I'm afraid I don't.”
“This is a kind of therapy. It includes applying force and pressure in order to relax muscles and reduce tension. Take a look.”
Kirkland's face was replaced by a two dimensional presentation. There was a man laying on a table, face down, and another man pressing, kneading and patting his back. Brenok and Jarol looked at each other shocked. Kirkland reappeared on the screen and caught their expressions.
“Is there a problem?” he asked puzzled.
“Med... doctor,” Jarol said quietly. “We, Cardassians, don't touch each other in this manner. It would be highly inappropriate.”
“Never?” he asked.
“Never. Our private space is sacred and something like this...” Brenok didn't finish, just shook is head.
“Mister Brenok, you'd have to overcome this custom or taboo, whatever it is, for your own good. Maybe there is someone, who could be allowed to touch you like this, someone very close to you. A wife?”
“I don't have a wife,” he said... Jarol almost heard 'any more' in his words.
“It doesn't have to involve your whole back. It's just the neck ridge and the shoulder and it is where the massage would have to be applied.”
“Um, doctor, our neck ridges are part of our... how to put it...”
“Attraction pattern,” Jarol suggested. “This is a part of our bodies we expose, take care of, assess in a possible mate and never ever touch, until we are married or at least betrothed.”
“I see. Yes, I can see it complicates the matter.” He thought for a while. “I also explored a possibility of chemical way of suppressing the pain, but taking painkillers all your life is not a good idea, especially since your body would keep adapting and you'd have to raise the dose...”
“I get the picture,” Brenok raised his hand. “And I agree this is not an option.”
“I will keep working on this problem, but for now you would have to either accept a massage or go on suffering. You could try warm compresses, but they would work slower, much slower. They would warm up the shoulder, but the muscles tension would stay for longer period.”
“Thank you, doctor, for all your help. You don't have to continue your research, I'm sure you have other important matters, which keep you busy.”
“Oh, it's not a problem at all, Mr. Brenok. I am happy to face this challenge and maybe help someone at the same time. This treatment of severed nerves is an interesting study and deserves more attention. Unfortunately it cannot be adapted to humans as it is, your Cardassian bodies are sturdier and harder to damage, we're not that lucky. I'll contact you when I have something new.”
Brenok nodded his thanks and disconnected. Then he looked up at Jarol, who still stood behind the chair.
“So what do you think?”
“It doesn't matter what I think. What do you think? Maybe you should go with this chemical suppression treatment?”
“No,” he said firmly. “No.” He grabbed his neck ridge and squeezed gently. “I could try to work out a technique to consciously release tension in my muscles after being exposed to coldness, but... it surely would take some time to master such a skill.”
“So? It stays as it is for now?” she didn't like this idea.
“No. Sometimes it hurts so much I can't stand it.”
He looked at her hands and rubbed his scar. She opened her eyes wider, guessing what he was considering. Could she do it? Could she invade his privacy like that, even with his consent? He was
like a brother to her, but the consent was very
Her computer bipped, informing a file was received. She leaned over to check what it was. Doctor Kirkland sent the detailed technique of the massage, which had to be applied to Brenok's shoulder, in case they would decide to go for it, including a recipe for some kind of oil.
Brenok rose and headed for the door. The door opened for him, but he didn't leave. He stood there for a moment, then turned and looked at her.
“If I decide to proceed, would you help me?” he asked. “I have no one closer to me than you.”
“I...” she didn't feel comfortable with the whole idea, but then said, “I would,” and she meant it.
He turned and left her office.
Jarol entered the bridge and the first thing she heard made her smile. Brenok stood by his console, tapping something on its smooth surface and humming a cheerful melody. The Gul went to her seat.
“Report!” she barked.
Each officer informed her of their department status, including Ma'Kan and Karama, who had no news regarding the attackers. Jarol had a feeling this case wouldn't be solved quickly. Maybe the criminals knew she was here and waited for her to leave before they would attempt to attack another convoy?
“Sir, Gul Daset wants to talk to you,” Karama spoke.
“On screen,” she said and looked at the oval screen in front of her.
Daset was clearly angry.
“Jarol, we have a problem.”
“It's Ghemor's government. They have decided to free all our annexed planets. Effective immediately.”
It was disturbing indeed. She believed they would have to do it some day, but not all at the same time and not so suddenly. It would be a disaster to already barely alive Cardassian economy.
“He wants us all to die?” she asked.
“He says the Federation agreed to support his decision by increasing their help. So what we don't extract from the annexed worlds, we would get from them.”
“I don't think they can spare so much,” she said.
“Don't you understand?!” it was obvious he was barely able to hold his fury in check. “Instead of becoming independent, we rely on others more and more! We can't allow that!”
“Do you want to officially oppose his decision?”
“I do, yes.”
“Do you think it's wise?”
He stared at her.
“We would have to release the annexed worlds some day. And it would be painful. I agree it's a mistake to do it this way, but there is little we can do about it. We're too weak, and we can't afford to alienate the people, we need to gain their trust and support.”
“Will they trust and support us, if we allow them to be hungry?”
“Will they accept us, if we behave like the old Central Command? Like the Directorate? We need to become an army, which they could be proud of, not about which they would say 'oh, no, they started another war'.”
“They used to be proud of us.”
“They used to be aware of an Obsidian Order agent lurking over their shoulder too, in case they wanted to express what they really
thought about us.”
Daset seemed to get her point.
“So you say we should support Ghemor's decision?”
“We should follow it. Don't say 'right', don't say 'wrong'. Just do it. Take all our people from those worlds and send them back to Cardassia. Send them to restoration coordinators. Let them experience peace for a while. And family life. Let them rest. Make sure the ordinary people know who they are and who directed them to that work. Make it clear to all Prefects and Guls that nothing should be destroyed upon withdrawal. Just take what's ours and leave.”
Daset kept looking at her; his eyes expressed partially disbelieve, partially admiration.
“You should be a politician, Jarol,” he said finally. “We're going to be in trouble, you know. There is no way the resources sent by the Federation would suffice.”
“I know that. Cardassians will have to wait a little longer until their bellies would be full again, but tell them this: you are not someone else's 'Dominion' any more. Ghemor wants to play nice. Fine. Let's steal a bit of this niceness for us too.”
“I should make you my advisor,” he said.
“Thank you, but I like where I am now.”
“Do you know what's most infuriating?”
“That Jotrel said almost the same thing,” Daset shook his head like a father, scolding his children for misbehaving.
“Ah. So if two of us say the same thing, there must be something in it...”
“Unfortunately. I only wish I could see and understand this 'something'.”
“What will you do?”
“I will think about this silliness and then make a decision. I still have to talk to Gul Tarkan about his opinion on the matter.”
Gul Tarkan. The old type fellow, who most likely thought the same way Daset did. However she felt flattered that he consulted her before