“Gul, could I talk to you?” Kapoor entered the office, but abruptly stopped, seeing that Jarol was obviously discussing something with Brenok. “Maybe I should come later?”
“Come in, Kapoor. What is it?” Jarol wasn't good at reading Terrans' expressions – it was a miracle she has learnt telling them apart! - but had an impression the Lieutenant was nervous.
“It is about this... declaration of closing borders.”
“There should be sufficient time for you to pack all your things and return home,” Jarol said.
“Oh, it would be, if I planned it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Legate Daset said that all, who wanted to leave, have six months to finish their matters and go away. He also said that those, who wished to stay – can.”
“Well... I don't want to leave,” the Terran said quietly and lowered her eyes.
Jarol didn't see that one coming.
“Are you sure? Do you realise what it means? You wouldn't be able to leave Cardassia after those six months, maybe for very long time, as the isolation may take years.”
“I understand that.”
Brenok, who sat with his back to the entrance, turned and looked at Kapoor. Jarol rose and went around her desk to stand in front of the woman.
“Are you sure of this?” she asked again. Kapoor was so short she barely reached Jarol's shoulder.
“Yes, Gul. I gave it a lot of thought and discussed it with... someone, and... I want to stay. I would also like to stay in the Guard, if it's possible. On this ship.”
Jarol looked at Brenok. His face expressed nothing, he awaited her decision and had no intention of influencing it in any way. One of Jarol's new task was taking care of non-Cardassians within the Union, so it was in the scope of her new position to make that decision. Jarol looked back at Kapoor, wondering if she wasn't some kind of dedicated spy, but the woman's service was nothing but exemplary and she has never done anything to raise any suspicions.
“Your military career will have to be decided by Legate Tarkan. I will notify him about your request. You have time to change your mind and leave before we close the borders, but if you wish to stay, then I see no problem with that,” the Cardassian woman said finally.
Kapoor raised her head and looked at Jarol; her big eyes full of happiness. She seemed relieved and the Cardassian woman had an impression that there was something behind her decision, that it was very important for her to stay. She really wanted
“Thank you, Gul,” the Terran said.
“However,” Jarol said and a worried shadow appeared on Kapoor's face, “you will have to stop wearing this,” she indicated her Federation uniform. “If you want to stay among us, you will have to become one of us.”
“Yes, Gul. I will, Gul.”
“Kapoor,” Brenok spoke unexpectedly.
The woman looked at him.
“You should address her 'Legate' now,” he pointed to Jarol.
The Terran put her hand over her mouth. “Oh my... I'm sorry, Legate. Of course! I'm sorry. I didn't mean any offence, it's just the habit--”
Jarol raised her hand.
“So, I can stay?”
She didn't seem to mind the obstacles. She just wanted to be able to stay. Jarol was sure her reason, whatever it was, was very important to her.
“Affirmative,” she confirmed. “Dismissed.”
“Thank you, sir,” she said again, showing all her white teeth in a smile.
Jarol watched Kapoor leaving her office and going straight to Karama. The woman leaned over him and kissed the inverted drop on his forehead. The Legate thought it was cute and then it stuck her; what has she just seen? She lowered the padd she kept in her hand and stared at the two officers flabbergasted. Karama raised his head and said something, smiling widely. Kapoor went to her station, but his eyes lingered on her for a while longer before returning to his console.
Jarol looked at Brenok, who, like her, observed whole scene through partially glass door of her office. There was a barely noticeable smile on the Glinn's... Gul's face. Did he know? Wasn't he surprised?
Did she mind? She was shocked, but it was a shock of astonishment, not disgust. It would never occur to her that any real intimacy could grow between a Cardassian and a non-Cardassian, but somehow, to her own surprise, she didn't find it appalling. She just wasn't sure if it wasn't unfair for Karama, as she didn't know if Terran hearts had enough space to love with the same depth as Cardassian hearts.
“Did you know?” she asked Brenok.
“I had no idea,” he shook his head.
She cast the last glance on the bridge and went back to her desk.
“Where were we?” she asked, activating the padd.
Jarol stood in front of them. Just like four years ago, she had asked her crew – all of her crew, as the ship's functions were taken care of by a skeleton replacement crew, borrowed from Jotrel's Atash – to gather in the cargo hall. Four years ago she had asked them to volunteer to help in the rebuilding process. And they did – all of them. This time, however, she wasn't going to ask them for anything; she wanted to share something with them. And she wanted to bid her farewell.
She looked at Brenok, who stood next to her. He wore a serious expression on his face, but when he noticed she was looking at him, he winked. She smiled weakly and her eyes returned to the black mass of armours.
She knew she would miss them. She'd been their Gul for seven years, but she still considered them Gul Corak's crew. In fact, less than half of the current crew had served under Corak, but she always hoped the spirit of their late Gul was directing her decisions and moves. She wished he wouldn't be disappointed in her if he lived to that day.
She glanced at Zamarran. She knew Brenok's plans for him and she agreed with her friend's assessment – the engineer would make an excellent Gul's aide. Zamarran's age would balance Brenok's youth. His wisdom would balance Brenok's... what? She glanced at the long-haired officer next to her and couldn't stop a grin. Heavens, he was perfect! His only disadvantage was his age, but he would get older!
She looked at Karama, who stood next to Zamarran. Her last decision as the Roumar's commander was to promote him to Glinn. He didn't know yet, she waited with the news until the last moment.
Ma'Kan seemed sad. Her eyes were on Jarol's face and the Legate felt like scrutinised. That young woman had a future, great future. Jarol hoped she had her little share in creating that future.
Kapoor. She had her hair done in a Cardassian way – three braids. She wore a Cardassian armour and a pleasant face expression. Jarol thought that this was one of bravest people she ever knew; she doubted she'd have enough courage to volunteer to serve on a former enemy's warship. The Legate glanced at Karama. Then again at Kapoor. The Terran's cheeks flushed red – was she ashamed of her relationship with the communication officer? Or was it rather the fact that the commander knew about it.
Jarol sent Kapoor a smile. Don't worry, girl. What do the Vulcans say? Live long and prosper
Garesh Dalar. She remembered training his troops with him. He was smiling now. Jarol didn't think she had ever seen him smiling. He was the tough guy type. He had to be, considering his job. But right now his look was benign and friendly.
They waited. She stood in front of them, looking at them, and she had
to tell them.
Brenok must have felt her hesitation, as he moved closer. He didn't do anything more, but he knew she would notice and understand. He offered her his support and it meant more to her than anything else in the whole galaxy.
“I had asked you to gather here, because there is something I would like to share with you,” she started. “I have known some of you for many years.” She looked at Dalar. “I have trusted some of you with biggest secrets,” her eyes went to Zamarran. “I have sent you to dangerous missions and you never complained,” Ma'Kan. “I had to teach you tough lessons, but you were good students,” Karama smiled when she looked at him. “I could learn some things from you,” Kapoor's face expressed astonishment, when Jarol's eyes met hers. “But the time doesn't stand in place, it moves forward, sometimes too slow, sometimes too fast, but constantly, and things change. They must change for us to grow.” She took a deep breath. “The Cardassian Union changes and we must not stay behind.
“Last week brought huge changes to Cardassia. We have overthrown a puppet Federation government.” A few voices expressed their support quietly, but audibly. “Now we need to rebuilt and start everything anew. And we will do it our way, the Cardassian way.” More voices. “We will do our best not to make the same mistakes our predecessors had made. We will do our best not to let down the people, who just want to live their lives in peace and comfort.” I sound like a politician already
, she thought. “Big changes brought small changes. Especially for the Roumar.
“Effective today, the command is transferred to Gul Brenok,” she said in a louder, more commanding officer style voice. The cargo hall was filled with murmur. She raised her hand and the sound immediately subsided. “Glinn Zamarran is promoted to Glinn Grade Two and takes the position of Gul's aide.” No one was surprised, except for Zamarran himself. “Gil Karama's promotion to Glinn was accepted yesterday,” Karama's eyes were wide with mixture of happiness and disbelief. “Glinn Ya'val will take the chief engineer's position.” Garesh Dalar patted Ya'val's shoulder.
She silenced for a moment, letting the revelations sink in. She looked at Brenok; he was observing the crowd intently, but glanced at her feeling her gaze. Her eyes returned to her... his crew.
“I've always believed you were one of the best crews in the fleet. I hope, I believe you can be even better. I am sure you can become the
best crew in the fleet. And you better don't disappoint me, because starting from today you serve on the flagship of the Cardassian Guard. There is only one such warship in the fleet and you better be good example for others or I'll return and teach you a lesson.” Someone giggled and she smiled. “Permission to laugh.” The cargo hall was filled with laughter; sometimes nervous, sometimes forced, sometimes surprised, but mostly heartily and sincere. How was she supposed to go on without them?
Zamarran rose. “Permission to speak.”
“I think I know why you leave us, and I think most of us guesses too, but we want to hear it.”
She bit her lower lip. She wasn't comfortable with that thought herself yet and had no idea how to inform her crew in a neutral tone.
Brenok made two steps forward, coming a bit in front of her and said. “Upon Legate Daset's orders, Legate
Jarol is being transferred to Cardassia Prime to assume her new responsibilities in our new government.”
Total silence lasted for a second or two, then someone made the tiniest sound and an explosion of cheers filled the cargo hall.
She expected some of them would be happy for her, but everyone
? The cargo hall looked like a party, not a warship crew gathering. The militia troops chanted their support – they expressed even their contentedness in a disciplined manner. She looked at Brenok and then turned away from everyone, not being able to stop tears from filling her eye ridges. Her friend observed the crew with a grin on his face. He didn't seem surprised by their reaction at all.
“Sir?” Zamarran's voice said behind her. “No.” he muttered. “Legate?” She turned to him, ashamed of her tears. “Yes, 'Legate' sounds fine,” he kept muttering like to himself, but she knew him well enough to know his sense of humour. “Legate, I wanted to say, in the name of the whole crew, that we are very proud of you,” her eyes filled with tears again, but he didn't seem to notice. He knew she didn't want him to notice. “It was a privilege to serve under your command. It is a privilege to know you,” he added in a less official tone of voice and then fell silent. They were looking into each other's eyes and that was telling her more than any words would.
They were not Gul Corak's crew. They were her
Her vision distorted as her eyes filled with tears again.
Zamarran approached her stopping just on the edge of her personal space.
“I think...” he started quietly, “I think Legate Damar would be proud of you.”
He stood there, shielding her from view of others. These words meant more to her than any other praise, especially since that morning she had received a message from Damar's sister, who had written the same thing.
Zamarran waited for her to compose herself, and then he moved a bit to a side so that she could see the cargo hall and said. “Seems like there is someone, who would like to talk to you.”
She followed his gaze and saw Kapoor standing on the edge of the make up stage, rocking on her feet forward and backward. Zamarran waved to the human and she approached them, then he left.
“Legate,” the short woman started. “I know I probably break like zillion protocols and social rules talking to you directly, but I would like to wish you luck.” Jarol smiled. “It was a great honour to serve on your ship under your command. And thank you for promotion for Gil Karama. He would never admit it, bit it means a lot to him. He wants you to be proud of him.”
“I always was. You can tell him that,” Jarol said softly.
“I will,” Kapoor nodded vigorously. She was so much like a child sometimes. “I never knew and never spoke to anyone from any government,” she said, her eyes opening wider.
The Cardassian woman didn't say anything for a moment, as the words sank in – she was a part of a government. The notion was never as clear to her and this very moment.
“And my congratulations, Legate,” Kapoor said and, after receiving a dismiss nod from Jarol, left.
Brenok dismissed everyone from the cargo hall and they returned to their duties. He stayed with her.
“What if I fail? What if I'm going to be like the old Central Command?”
He shook his head. “No way. You are nothing like them. And if you try to do something stupid, I'll stop you.”
“I hope you will,” she answered seriously.
They left the cargo hall and slowly walked to the transporter room, from which she would beam to Cardassia Prime to assume her new duty.