It was over. The longest night of her life was over.
The streets were almost empty; there were only armed patrols there, but they were supposed to be recalled soon.
Jarol stood by a window and observed the forced calmness in the city. She believed it was for the good, but unknown future was terrifying her.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow Cardassia would be different. Tomorrow the change would be implemented and explained to everyone. They had no secrets.
The sky in the East brightened. Stars became dimmer to finally yield to a bluish-purplish colour of the sky. There were almost no clouds.
A Garesh on the street below talked to someone over his wrist comm and then waved to his people. Jarol could clearly see streaks of blood on his face. A moment later the militiamen gathered in one spot and were beamed away. She knew it wasn't only them. Each patrol was taken from streets everywhere, just as had been planned.
The tomorrow has come.
“No!” Tarkan was shouting, when Jarol entered Daset's office, which only a day before belonged to the Castellan.
“Gul Tarkan, you--” Daset tried to say something, but the elder Gul kept shaking his head.
“No way! You can't convince me.”
“But sir,” it was the only time Jarol heard Daset address Tarkan as 'sir'.
Daset took a deep breath.
“Why?” he asked quietly after a moment. “We need you. We need your support.”
“And you have it.”
“Then why do you refuse?”
“Because it's time for the young ones, Daset. For people like him,” he pointed at Toral, “and him,” his hand waved toward Brenok, who stood next to Jarol. “I am too old for this. My mindset is marked by the old way. The old way, which failed. I could feel too comfortable in such a cosy position and unwittingly attempt to redirect whole case into wrong direction. He thinks the way you need,” Tarkan went to Brenok, grabbed his arm and pulled him closer to Daset. “He will do the right thing. He knows how to change things to make them better. I don't.”
“Gul Tarkan, we don't want to lose elder, experienced Guls, and they won't agree to listen to his orders,” Daset's voice was literally begging.
“That's why I will back him up. I will represent the Mar'kuu Group before the older cadre, I will express my support of your actions. I will stand by you and show my grey hair, if you need to deal with other grey heads, which won't want to listen to children, but I can't take any real, decision-making responsibilities. This would be too dangerous. The government must be new and fresh. I would spoil it.” He took a breath. “Do you understand it?” he asked Daset.
Brenok was staring at Tarkan with his mouth slightly opened. The elder Gul gave him a serious look and finally let go of Brenok's arm.
“Gul Tarkan, we need your experience,” Daset didn't want to give up.
“Then ask for my advice... And feel free not to use it too,” Tarkan said. “I will serve you, but don't give me any real power.”
Jarol was impressed. She had been so wrong about Tarkan. He was a tough man, sometimes difficult, but he was a real patriot. He considered himself a servant of Cardassia, not its ruler.
“I ask for one thing only,” Tarkan said. Daset looked at him with hope in his eyes. “I want to be responsible for the education of young officers and troops.” Hope in Daset's eyes faded. “I have plans for reforms and a few ideas how to improve our military's quality and professionalism.”
“Whatever you wish,” Daset's voice was resigned. He gave up. “So, if Gul Tarkan doesn't want to become head of our government, who will?” Everyone stared at him. “Me?” he looked around. “I hoped for something else,” he smiled.
“You don't always get what you want,” Tarkan said, a smile playing on his lips.
“So I've noticed. Can I order you to replace me as the head of the government if I become one?”
“No, I would order you back.”
Brenok was still gazing at Tarkan.
“Does everyone else know their duties?” Daset asked after a moment. All people, who were present in the room, nodded or murmured their confirmation.“Any questions?”
Gul Marret raised his hand.
“I have a question. Do we bring the Obsidian Order back?”
Jarol, Jotrel and Relta shouted in unison “NO!” and even tones of their voices were the same.
Tarkan laughed. “I think that answers your question,” he said.
“All right,” Daset sighed. “I have prepared a speech for Gul Tarkan, but since he refuses...”
“You wrote the speech, you present it to Cardassians... Legate
,” Tarkan finished his sentence in most unexpected way. Daset's eyes opened and he whispered something to himself.
Jarol knew how he felt. The weight of responsibility was pulling her shoulders to the floor.
Tarkan went to the chair behind the desk and made an inviting motion, looking expectantly at Daset. “Legate Daset, if you please.”
Tarkan, and please stay on the vision. I need your grey head there,” Daset sat in the chair and waved toward Jarol. “Legate
Jarol, a female representative and a war hero, not mentioning late Legate Damar's personal friend would look nicely too.”
She closed her eyes. The weight doubled.
“I think two Damar's friends would be even better, not mentioning youth and... Originality,” Tarkan looked at Brenok and patted the nape of his own neck, no doubt meaning Brenok's long hair. “Gul
, if you'd be so kind to join us.”
“This is getting too weird,” Brenok said.
“We're paralysed by fear, Brenok,” Tarkan replied. “We are afraid to fail. We need to let the steam out. So we behave like children, who play to be Legates. How do you deal with stress?”
“Like I said: originality. Come here, young man. Humour me.” Tarkan's voice sounded fatherly, not commandingly.
Brenok motioned to stand behind the chair.
“How do we look?” Jarol asked. “Is there any chance we will put the Cardassians at ease?”
“No,” Jotrel shook his head. “Wait. Gu... Legate Tarkan, please stand on the left side. My left side, your right. Jarol, on your left. That's good. Brenok, you stand behind Jarol's right shoulder. A bit to the right, yes, that's good.”
Marret stood next to Jotrel and looked at the four people.
“Looks good to me,” he approved.
“Can we start before I ran away shouting like a little girl?” Daset said.
“A room full of Legates and I hear jokes like on the first year at the Academy,” Toral commented.
“This is our first year, Gul
,” Tarkan boomed, emphasising both 'is', and 'Gul'; the latter making Toral smile. The elder man's voice sounded intimidating, but everyone in the room knew it wasn't for real.
Jarol felt like nothing was real. It was just a strange dream and she would wake up as a tactical officer aboard the Roumar under Gul Corak's command, right?
“Let's start the recording,” Jotrel said seriously.
All four Cardassians behind the desk looked into a camera and Daset started:
“Fellow Cardassians and non-Cardassian citizens of the Cardassian Union.
“Many of you know that last night has brought changes, however you do not know what kind of changes. Do not fear, please. We apologise if we scared you, we apologise, if you experienced any discomfort.
“We are the Mar'kuu Group. We were displeased with the Alon Ghemor's government decisions and actions and we decided it was too dangerous to let him and his supporters to stay in power. We had to take action and remove him from decision-making position, in which he posed a real threat to Cardassia's integrity and safety.
“The Detapa Council is now dissolved and the Central Command takes over. This means no real changes for you, the citizens. We will do our best to secure your safety, provide your resources and serve you to the best of our abilities.
“To ensure that our rebuilding process goes undisturbed, we have decided to close our borders to foreign powers. Everyone, who wishes to stay in the Union and become its denizens, can do so by applying for a special permission of the right to land. Those, who want to leave, will have six months time to bring their affairs to closure and leave our territory. After those six months any alien ship that will attempt to cross our borders without a special permission to enter Cardassian territory will be warned twice and then fired upon. We will not let anyone interfere with our internal matters any more,” Daset's voice got stronger. “We will follow wishes of Cardassian and non-Cardassian denizens of our Empire, and will not allow anyone to pose demands or conditions.
“The transition period is not going to be easy for us, but we will do everything in our power to make sure you, the people, live in peace and without fears and worries.
“We pledge our lives to serve you. We will rebuild strong Cardassia; Cardassia that doesn't bow to anyone, Cardassia, which would make Legate Damar proud.” Jarol nodded slightly, but visibly. “Cardassia, which would be your safe home.
“It's time to say 'we are the Cardassians and we are proud of it!'.”
The silence hanged in the air. A few seconds passed and then everyone present in the room let out a breath. Finally Daset rose.
“All right, everyone. Enough of fun. Relta, make sure the recording is played as soon as possible. Everyone, it's time to get to work. The fun part has come to an end, the hard part starts.”
They gathered around a big table in the adjacent room and accessed their databases to present their plans.