She had shared a lot of her thoughts with Daset, but she hadn't said everything she had to say on the subject. She knew by now that not every annexed world was a copy of Bajoran situation. Aramatians weren't and she wondered what would happen to their civil war when Cardassians left all of a sudden. Would it help them bring peace or would it make it worse? What was the situation on other worlds? She doubted Alon Ghemor, being a civilian all his life and fed by the dissident, anti-military propaganda at that, would understand complexities of annexed worlds' internal politics. She fully agreed with releasing the worlds that didn't want Cardassian presence on their planets, she would hate to do to others what was done to her, she understood it better now than ever, but the way he wanted to do it was... reckless. She was sure it was a political move, to prove something to Cardassians and – most likely – to the Federation. She didn't care about the Federation and what they thought about the Union. It was of no consequence. She could care about individuals, it was important for her that Captain Andric respected her, but what the Fed Council would think? A body of faceless beings from another political power? She couldn't care less. The Castellan's government's actions proved he cared a lot. And in her eyes it was close to treason. She saw him as a Federation puppet, who wanted to transform Cardassia to another Federation colony. Work hard, become like us and we will accept you in our big, happy Fed family. She was part of such a 'family' once and the good brothers killed most people she knew and cared about. No, thank you, I prefer to stand aside and be independent this time. Was Ghemor really thinking that becoming a copy of the Federation was for their good? She didn't agree with that. She wanted to stay herself and not become a copy of anything. If Ghemor sold Cardassia to the Federation, he'd be no better than... than Gul Dukat – she realised. It stung her, but she had to face it. No one stopped Dukat, everyone who tried, was executed, but Ghemor wouldn't dare. His Federation superiors wouldn't agree to that, at least not officially. So there was a possibility to stop Ghemor's government from selling Cardassia to the Feds and she intended to make sure Daset knew about it and acted accordingly. They had to stay in the opposition, but a clever opposition. Don't just say 'no' to everything the current government says, it would be foolish, say 'no' when they make wrong decisions. Say 'yes', when they do something right. And let the people decide who they trust more and who they want to follow. They wanted this democracy? They can have it for a moment. But she believed the people would understand that this is not a Cardassian way. Freedom – yes. Anarchy – no. And anarchy was what was happening on Cardassia Prime. Chaos. Tribal fights. A Cardassian attacking another Cardassian for... food? Shelter? NO! That had to be fixed and the current government seemed to have no idea how. They opposed a proposition to send more troops to patrol the streets, but she believed that for the safety of the good denizens someone had to keep an eye on the bad ones. Or rather the desperate ones. Not everyone was as strong as Demoks. Not everyone was able to behave without Obsidian Order looking at their hands. She would never think she'd miss the hated Order.
“Sir,” Karama spoke suddenly. “I think I have something.”
She looked at him, hoping it was what they were waiting for for last few days. Then she glanced at Ma'Kan, who was intently observing her tactical console. The young woman shook her head with disappointment.
“I don't have anything in the scanner range,” she said, looking up at the Gul.
“Karama?” Jarol looked back at the comm officer.
“I think my boosted sensors have longer range.”
“Can you pinpoint the location? Is it anywhere near the convoy?”
“I can't be completely sure, but I think they approach the convoy from the opposite side.”
“Move us there, slowly, we don't want to drag any attention too early.”
“Yes, sir,” Karama's fingers gently touched his panel, executing her order.
“Got them, sir,” Ma'Kan's voice was full of childish excitement. Jarol smiled at that; it reminded her of Damar.
“How many?” the Gul asked.
“Seven small ships. Six are Hideki class, one unknown.”
“I know the convoy's defence capabilities are limited, but even with a little help we shouldn't have problems with defeating these vessels.”
“What about without their help? I'd rather not have them engaged in the fight.”
“Hard to say, sir. We could take some beating.”
“Are we in danger of being destroyed?”
“No, I don't think so, even in our less than perfect shape.”
“That's all I need to know. Karama, anything in the air... space... vacuum... whatever?”
“As I suspected, they coordinate their attack. It seems like six of those ships are in constant communication with the seventh. I would bet it's their leader.”
“Fine. Whoever is in command there, we need to get them alive. Brenok, get a team and report to the transporter room. Be ready to board that ship.”
“Sir?” Ma'Kan looked at her surprised and disappointed. Jarol knew it was Ma'Kan's job, but she believed the woman was too inexperienced to lead a boarding part yet.
“I need you at tactical, we still have to fight against those six ships.”
The Dja seemed to accept the Gul's explanation and looked back at her console.
“Sir, I'd like Dja Ma'Kan to be part of my team,” Brenok said.
Ma'Kan looked at Jarol with hope and the Gul nodded, sending the girl with Brenok. She hoped after the mission Ma'Kan's smile would be as wide as it was now.
Another officer, even less experienced Dja Dolle, took the tactical and Jarol wondered, if she shouldn't take the post herself, but after a short while of hesitation she decided against it. How would they gain any experience if they had no chance to actually do the job? She could always replace him, if such a need arose, and she would give him orders, so he didn't have to make any serious decisions himself.
“Sir,” Karama didn't even raise his head, “the Anika asks if we noticed the enemy.”
“I already did.”
Was it smile she heard in his voice?
“Boarding party ready, sir,” Brenok's disembodied voice reported through the comm.
“Stand by,” she said and looked at Dolle. “Access the transporter and take control. I'll tell you when to beam them to the leading ship.”
“Yes, sir,” he nodded. “I will keep the lead ship targeted to speed up the beaming process.”
“Good thinking,” she smiled with approval.
He smiled back. His first praise, which he would never forget. That's
how you make good officers.
“We're in weapons range,” he reported after a moment.
“Target lead ship's weapons and shields,” she ordered, moving forward in her chair and sitting on the edge, with left leg straightened and pulled forward on the deck to keep her balance. She put her right hand on the armrest and gestured with the left one, when issuing orders. Everyone on the bridge, who had been serving with her during the Dominion War, knew that she just entered the combat mode. “Target other ships at your discretion, Dja Dolle,” she added and he sent her a panicked look. “You'll do fine,” she added, giving him a hard glance. She wanted him to believe in himself, so couldn't be too soft. It was something she'd learnt from Gul Corak.
“Yes, sir,” he replied and looked back at his console, but she could see his narrow neck ridges remained tensed.
“Condition: red,” she announced and the klaxon rang on the bridge and the rest of the warship. “Karama, keep us close to the convoy. We cannot let any of those ships be harmed. Zamarran, make sure our shields are evenly distributed. I don't want them to punch through anywhere.”
The Roumar shook under first hits.
“Shields holding,” Zamarran shouted.
Dolle's fingers moved quickly on his console; the young officer seemed fully concentrated on his task.
The Roumar moved between the convoy and three of the attacking ships, firing at them with special attention to the one in the middle. The Anika also opened fire, breaking the formation and moving to attack the remaining vessels. One of Hideki ships exploded, sending another one into uncontrolled spin. The unknown class ship motioned to intercept the Roumar and attacked her tail. The Galor shook, but was too big and too slow to lose them.
“Full stop!” Jarol yelled and Karama stopped the ship. The inertial dampeners didn't manage to completely reduce the strength of pull, and Jarol almost fell out of her chair, but her plan worked. The attacker passed by them, almost brushing their shields.
“Fire!” she barked and two torpedoes, followed by phaser beams, hit the vessel. The ship spun out of control for a few seconds and then exploded.
“Shame, I hoped to keep that ship to see where it's from,” Jarol commented. “What the status of their lead ship?”
“Shields at seven percent,” Dolle reported.
“Be careful not to destroy them,” she said, while he fired a single phaser shot.
“Shield's down, beaming the boarding party!” he shouted with triumph.
“Good job. Zamarran, how are we?”
“Fine. Our tail's shields are a bit weaker, but they can take a little more pounding before they fail.”
“Dolle, fire at will. Karama, turn us around to face the rest of the attackers.”
A console in the back of the bridge exploded. She turned to see if everyone was all right and which console it was. She could see a body on the floor.
“Medic to the bridge,” she barked to the comm.
The lead Hideki opened fire at its former comrades. It was the best sign that the capture was successful.
“The remaining Hideki are withdrawing,” Zamarran reported.
She wondered for a moment. Her instinct was to pursue and destroy, but she achieved what she'd planned to.
“Let them run,” she said eventually. “Hail Captain Andric.”
“Well, Gul Jarol, seems like this time you had some fun,” the Terran's face was shiny, like... wet?
“Hopefully they will tell their friends the convoys are not an easy target any more. What's your status? Do you need help?”
“Nothing we can't fix, but thank you for the offer.”
“Then I hope you'll arrive to Cardassia Prime safely.”
“Thank you. Good luck,” and with that he disconnected.
“Jarol to Brenok,” she tapped her wrist comm.
“Brenok here. We have captured three people and you won't believe who is among them.”
“Beam back to the Roumar and place them in the brig.”
“Yes, sir,” he confirmed and disconnected.
“I want full report on the warship's status,” she said. Zamarran nodded. “And Zamarran,” he gave her a questioning look. “You have the bridge,” he nodded again and she headed for the brig.
Each prisoner was locked in a separate cell. Brenok led her to the one in the middle and stopped by the forcefield. She looked inside. There was a Cardassian sitting on a bench, looking defiantly at her. The face seemed familiar, but her memory was unable to attach a name to it.
“Who is it?” she asked Brenok.
“His name is Nadar,” he answered.
That's why the face seemed familiar, but nameless! The resemblance to her former colleague, later her tactician turned a traitor was striking.
“He's Glinn Nadar's younger brother,” Brenok added.
“Did you talk to him yet?” she asked.
“He doesn't want to talk,” the Glinn answered. “We established his identity thanks to his DNA.”
“Well then, we will have to make him talk,” she said, looking at Nadar.
She had promised Glinn Nadar not to let any harm be done to his family as a result of his treason, but here sat a proof that there was something wrong with Nadars. She didn't intend to leave it like that.
“Brenok, gather all information we have on Nadar family,” she said.
He nodded, still looking at the man. Jarol glanced into the cell on the left. There was another Cardassian there.
“And this is?” she asked.
“Kerfut, I don't have much more on him now.”
The cell on the right was occupied by a non-Cardassian.
“A Xepolite. She didn't say anything so far, so apart from her race and sex we have nothing.”
“Splendid,” Jarol muttered. She had never interrogated anyone and didn't look forward to it, but she knew she had to extract necessary information from them. She wondered if necessary instruments were present aboard the warship.
Jarol, Brenok and Ma'Kan entered the interrogation room. Nadar was seated in a special chair in the middle, with his wrists and ankled tied to the chair. The chair was made of metal and there was little holes in its seat for the blood to drip on the floor. Nadar eyed them hostilely and his mouth shaped a thin line. Jarol felt it wouldn't be easy, but she was reluctant to inflict pain, no matter to whom; this was too personal and she obviously lacked the nerve required for such a task. She shot a glance at Brenok and she thought his face expressed exactly the same hesitation her did. Ma'Kan stared at Nadar coldly.
There were four guards present in the room, but Jarol sent them out. She didn't need anyone to witness what she would have to do, even if they were used to inflicting pain themselves, if ordered. She was their Gul and dirty work wasn't her cup of tea, but in this case it was her duty.
Brenok and Ma'Kan stood by the door, like guards, while Jarol took a chair and put it in front of Nadar, the chair's back facing him. She straddled it and leaned her arms on the back of the chair.
“Why?” she asked simply.
Nadar didn't reply, which was no surprise for her.
“You are Calet Nadar, younger brother of an officer, who'd served on this warship,” she recalled the information from her memory. “You are thirty two years old. You and your brother were sympathisers of the True Way movement and opposed any non-Cardassian presence in the Union. Your father was a clerk in the Ministry of War, however he was suspected of working for the Obsidian Order in fact. You have one more brother, age fifteen, and two sisters, age forty-two and thirty. That's what is in the database,” she paused for a moment, and then continued. “You were leading a rogue group, consisting of Cardassians and non-Cardassians, which on numerous occasions attacked Federation convoys with resources headed for Cardassia Prime. You robbed those convoys and even had managed to destroy two ships. Your base of operation is in Kalet system,” he flinched. She had acquired that information form the Xepolite. “As you can see, I know a lot of things. I just don't understand why.”
“What happened to my brother?” he barked.
“He was a traitor and he was executed,” she replied calmly.
“You murdered him!”
“I have ordered his execution, yes.”
“Why? He was a patriot.”
“No, he wasn't. He was spying for the Dominion. He betrayed this ship, his Gul and the Cardassian Union. He deserved nothing more. And I must admit – this trait runs in your family, as you seem nothing less than a traitor too.”
“I am a traitor?!” he yelled. “And who protected the Fed ships, ah?”
“I protected medicines for Cardassians.”
“You are a traitor. You sell us to aliens!”
“Tell me, what was so patriotic your brother did?” she asked.
“He served his Union well.”
“For the most part. Until he started serving an alien power.”
“It was the legitimate government of the Union.”
“Maybe. This legitimate government destroyed all of Lakarian City.”
“For the treason!”
“What treason?” she was puzzled and didn't hide it.
“Damar's treason. If he hadn't betrayed us all, if he hadn't rebelled and behaved like a Bajoran terrorist, everything would be fine. No one would destroy anything.”
“I see,” she said. Her voice was still levelled, but this time it was only on the surface and it cost her a lot of self-discipline to stay calm. “So a man, who decided to rebel against an enemy, was a traitor.”
“They weren't the enemy. They were our government!”
“There is something I don't understand. As a Vulcan would say: your logic is flawed. If you hate everything non-Cardassian, how come you can approve of a shapeshifter being your government?”
“The government was Cardassian, you fool. The head of the government was a Cardassian. We were allies, not their subordinates.”
Jarol laughed bitterly. How deluded this man was?
“So you think Legate Damar had real power, don't you?”
“Of course. Until he decided to betray our allies. Until he started attacking and killing our own soldiers!! Why do you think we lost this war?”
“This is unbelievable,” she shook her head. “Did you hear something so ridiculous?” she asked, turning back to look at Brenok and Ma'Kan. The tactician only shook her head, but the Glinn's face expressed hatred and contempt.
“Let me get this straight,” she turned back to Nadar. “You are a hero, who works for the good of Cardassia, but Legate Damar was a traitor.”
“My brother was a hero. And Damar got what he deserved.”
She wouldn't be able to describe what she felt at that moment, but she was sure it was clear on her face, because Nadar flinched again. She slowly got up and approached the man. As slowly she untied his wrists and ankles, while Ma'Kan moved closer with a phaser in her hand pointed at Nadar. When the man's limbs were free, Jarol grabbed him by the shirt on his chest and slammed against the wall.
She had been wrong, she knew that now. She had been wrong thinking she was unable to inflict pain looking her victim in the eyes. She raised her fist and struck Nadar, smashing his nose. She didn't feel any pain in her fingers; she struck again.
“Damar was my friend
,” she hissed furiously. “Hearing his name coming from your mouth is an insult to all Cardassia.” She hit him. “You just lost all your rights.” A blow. “You are accused of treason.” Another. Her fist was caked with his blood. His nose didn't exist any more. “You will be taken to Cardassia Prime, where you will be judged and sentenced to death.” And another. “And then we will take a closer look at your family and execute them all, if necessary.” One more...