Cardassian Prefecture of Darko VI
20th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
Gul Brenok patiently waited for the Prefect of Darko VI to arrive. As a Cardassian, it was difficult for him to accept of someone to be late, especially if that someone stood on a lower rung of the social ladder, but he was willing to ignore it in the good faith of cooperation.
He absently fingered the tip of his braid, for Gul Brenok wasn't just another, regular Cardassian. The first thing people noticed about him was not his half black, half silver armour, the only one of such type in the whole Cardassian Union, it wasn't even his scars – two on his right cheek coming out of his hidden ear, and one on his prominent right neck ridge – it was the hair. His hair was long, swept down on both sides of his head and hiding both of his ears, or rather one ear and one reminder of what had had been an ear years ago.
Twenty-four years earlier Brenok, a mere Dja at that time, had served on a rebelled Bird-of-Prey and fought the Klingons in Gul Dukat's little private war. One of Klingon attacks had resulted in boarding the ship and hand-in-hand fight in the engineering. It was then when a huge, massive monster with a bumpy forehead made an attempt of splitting Brenok's head to two, but thanks to the Cardassian's reflex the Klingon missed and sank his bat'leth in the young man's right neck ridge instead, cutting his ear off on the way. Brenok's life had been spared, as his best friend killed the Klingon a second later. The wound left by the lost ear had healed, creating a nasty scar that extended to his cheek ridges in the form of missing scales, uncovering bare, grey-pinkish skin, while the neck ridge was covered by a line of a grey, thick scar, under which damaged nerves reminded Brenok that spending too long time in cold environment would be foolish at best.
His long hair was a side effect of the wounds. His very young daughter had been terrified of a horrible 'worm' on daddy's face, so he has grown his hair to cover it, in spite of all troubles it caused for not following the protocol regarding an officer's appearance. His daughter was long gone, killed in the Jem'Hadar attack on Lakarian City at the end of the Dominion War, but his looks became his hallmark and he's never cut his hair.
And now Gul Brenok was patiently waiting for the Prefect, whose name he was unable to pronounce – and he never even attempted to.
“Prefect Wyrzykiewicz will soon be here,” the Prefect's assistant appeared with yet another cup of red leaf tea.
“That's all right,” Brenok smiled, handing her his empty cup.
It wasn't all right, really. He was a busy man and waiting for the Prefect wasn't exactly what he had in mind when planning his day schedule.
“I'm very sorry for the delay, but he is talking to the opposing party leader and it wouldn't be very wise if he suddenly left,” she told him. Her accent must have been atypical, because his universal translator had some problems with interpreting her Federation Standard to Unionese, which was the official language of the Cardassian Union.
He nodded, accepting her explanation. Politics.
He was just about to finish his second cup of tea, when the door opened and the Prefect finally arrived.
“I am so sorry to keep you waiting, Gul Brenok,” the man extended his hand toward the Cardassian. Brenok eyed it, not sure what to do. “Oh, I'm sorry,” the human took back his hand, smiling sheepishly. “This is a human custom. I keep forgetting you, Cardassians, are not fond of physical touch.”
Brenok inclined his head a bit and then extended his hand. The Prefect grabbed it and shook, smiling widely.
“So what is the problem?” The Gul asked without preamble.
“Well,” the human waved toward an armchair, inviting his guest to sit in it. “Elections are coming and we have some problems with unhappy citizens.”
“What kind of problems?”
“Do you know our political system, Gul Brenok?”
“No, not really. I am only interested in the highest ranking official, as he answers to the Union. Your internal matters are none of our business.”
“Yes,” the Prefect thought for a moment, gathering his thoughts. “There are three parties here, all three taking part in the elections. The problem is that one of them wants...” he clearly hesitated. Brenok patiently waited for the man to continue. “They don't want to be part of the Cardassian Union.”
“I see your problem,” Brenok's voice sounded a tad higher.
“Most people understand that what we have here now is the best we can expect. We don't complain. And we don't want to destroy it. So that particular party doesn't have much support and many followers, however the problem is that among the followers are violent types. If they would be only calling us names, it wouldn't matter. However there had been a few incidents. Politicians or their family members had been attacked, as - physically assaulted.”
“What do you expect from me?”
“We need protection. Our police force is stretched already and we lack people to do it. We'd like to ask you to send people to guard our homes and protect us.”
Brenok slowly shook his head. He had no intentions of sending his people to be target practice for disgruntled colonists.
“Why not?” the Prefect seemed disappointed.
“You have problems with people, who are unhappy with us. Cardassian presence would only escalate the problem. It's not a good solution.”
“They would not play any active role! They would only guard homes.”
“I'm afraid this is impossible. They would be the first targets of your... of those fanatics. This is not a good solution.”
The door opened and the Prefect's assistant entered, accompanied by another human. Wyrzykiewicz rose from his chair.
“This is Mr. Young,” he introduced him to Brenok. “He is the other peaceful party leader.”
Brenok nodded politely, while Young and Wyrzykiewicz sat.
“As I was explaining to Gul Brenok, we have a problem.”
“Can you help us?”
“Not the way you expected me to. But I have an idea.”
Young seemed much younger than Wyrzykiewicz, but his face had a stern expression. Brenok couldn't tell if the situation caused it, or himself.
“The Governor?” Brenok's eye ridges arched a little.
“The Prefect, I mean the Prefect. We call him here a Governor.”
“I see. Please, continue.”
The man nodded and resumed: “The... Prefect said asking Cardassians for help would be the best solution. Frankly, I am not so sure of it. Please, don't get me wrong, we appreciate all the autonomy you have granted us, and the right to rule our little world the way we want, but we are in a crisis now and we need help. I don't know if your help, as you are the ones you cause this trouble. Indirectly, of course, but still.”
It was clear he was getting more nervous with every word he said, but seemed to be sure he wanted to finish, no matter what kind of consequences would follow. He eyed Brenok tensely, awaiting the Cardassian's reaction.
“Mr. Young,” now, this name was much easier for Brenok to pronounce. “I have already explained to the Prefect - to the Governor- that I do not think his idea of our help is the best solution. As I understand it, you need more people to enforce security. I can't give you Cardassian troops, as this most likely would mean that even more troops would have to be sent to protect these troops and finally whole Order would have to be here to make sure people are not killing each other. No. We cannot allow that.”
“But we can't allow vandals attack people on the streets just because they have different political outlook!” The Prefect raised his voice and shrank almost immediately, seeing that Brenok's attention shifted to him.
“I didn't say I wouldn't do anything,” Brenok said firmly.
“Yes, of course,” Wyrzykiewicz quickly nodded.
The Prefect was clearly scared and Brenok wasn't sure it flattered him, worried or amused. He knew he had that effect on people, but he always believed it was due to his rank and not an intimidating personality. Even if browbeaten by his presence at first, people should relax soon after the first impression, as Brenok saw himself as a soft, benign and calm person. He couldn't be that wrong about himself, could he?
“I don't want to make empty promises, so I will consult it with my superiors first, but you have my word that I will not leave it unaddressed.”
“We appreciate that,” Young smiled.
“Are there any other matters you'd like to discuss?” Brenok asked.
“No, that is all.”
“Very well, then. I will return to my ship and talk to Legate Jarol. Then I will contact you regarding the solution.”
“Thank you, Gul Brenok,” Wyrzykiewicz stood up and his hand twitched, but he didn't extend it to Brenok.
The Gul nodded his farewell and left the room, heading for the transporter room, to which he had arrived earlier.
Cardassian Union Warship Damar
20th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
“Karama,” Gul Brenok entered the bridge and stood by his chair, but didn't sit in it, “establish connection with Legate Jarol. It's urgent.” The communication officer nodded. “My office,” Brenok added and headed for stairs at the back of the bridge to enter his office.
The partially glass door parted and he went into a dark room. He went to a spot, from which he could not be seen from the bridge though the door, and made a few circling moves with his right arm.
“Computer, raise temperature by three degrees,” he ordered and the computer acknowledged.
He went to his desk and sat in his chair. He could feel the pain growing under his neck ridge. After spending over an hour in a cold – for Cardassian standards – environment, his neck and shoulder muscles tensed, pressing his neck ridge nerves and causing pain. It was not severe this time, but sometimes it was difficult to function with all those non-existing needles, which were ruthlessly piercing his neck ridge. Medic Taret worked hard to find a permanent solution for his condition, but so far there was nothing that could help the Gul permanently. Ignoring his growing discomfort, and hoping it wouldn't get worse, he waited for Glinn Karama to establish connection with Legate Jarol.
The Cardassian symbol appeared on his screen to be replaced by Jarol's face a moment later.
“Legate Jarol,” he addressed her officially, not sure if there wasn't someone with her in her office.
“Arenn,” she smiled to him.
Legate Jarol was Gul Brenok's best friend and he considered her a sister. As a matter of fact she was the person, who had killed the Klingon, who had cut of his ear and almost his head too. They were so close that they used their given names to address each other; never in an official situation, of course. Brenok used to be her aide, when they both had served in CUW Roumar
. Her family became his family after the attack on Lakarian City, after which he had no living relatives left.
“So, what's the situation on Darko?” she asked, all business now.
“Troubled. They have some differences to work out. They asked for Cardassian troops to help them with security matters.”
“You'll have to deal with it yourself, if you think it's a good idea, although I'm no so sure of it. I can't spare anyone right now, we have to deal with an Oralian gathering next week and I need all available forces.”
“Why?” he asked very slowly.
She observed him for a moment and then started: “Because...” she extended vowels with a high pitch, “The Oralians hold these gatherings every year and last year there were some incidents, which I'd prefer to avoid this year. I need troops to ensure their safety from anti-religious radicals,” she silenced for a moment and then asked. “And what did you think? That I'm worse than I am?”
He smiled. Indeed, he worried she might have had some silly idea, as she wasn't exactly known as an Oralian supporter, she tolerated them at best, but he was glad he had misjudged her this time.
“Just asking,” he tried to look as innocently as possible.
“Of course, just asking. Or rather making sure I wouldn't do anything stupid?”
He only smiled. She squinted at him, but he knew her face. Someone else would miss it, but slight twitching at the ends of her lips was telling him everything he needed to know about her thoughts – she was smiling inside and only played tough.
“I didn't want to ask you for troops,” he said. “I don't think sending Cardassians would help them. It would make things much worse.”
“So how can I help you?”
“You have reports from Prefectures from other human colonies, don't you?”
“Is there anyone, who could spare their
troops. Enforcing Darko police with other humans, Andorians and whoever lives there would be a much better solution.”
She looked impressed. “Now, that's a clever idea. Let me check and I'll get back to within a day.”
“Acceptable. And now tell me how is Laran,” Brenok smiled and she replied with a smile of her own.
“Must have taken it after his mother,” the Gul's grin widened.
She snorted. “I was never that stubborn. He has just passed another set of exams and his inquisitors seem happy with him, but he mutters something about a change.”
“He wants to follow his mother, father and uncle and have a military career.”
“What's wrong with that?”
“I promised myself that he wouldn't be a soldier. I promised his father's memory he wouldn't be a soldier.”
“There is nothing wrong with being a soldier.”
“I don't want him to die on some war. And don't tell me there is no war. Not now, but we don't know the future.”
Laran was Jarol's only son. She had lost her first husband and two young children to a Bajoran terrorist attack, and her second husband died as a rebel against the Dominion. Laran was born after his death and Tiron Demok hadn't even known that his newly wed wife was pregnant. Demok's sons from his first marriage had all died in wars Cardassia had been fighting throughout years. She didn't want this one to join them.
“Do you want me to talk to him?” Brenok was the closest thing young Demok had to a father.
“No. He still pursues archon studies. Maybe it's just a phase.”
The Gul smiled. Laran was twenty-one and had all the right to have “phases”.
They chatted for a short while longer and Jarol finally disconnected.
Brenok returned to the bridge. Glinn Zamarran, his aide, rose from the command chair to let his Gul to sit, but Brenok raised his hand, indicating for the Glinn to sit back.
“I will be in the infirmary,” he informed Zamarran and left the bridge, trying to ignore his aide's worried look.
He didn't want his crew to worry about him, he didn't want to seem to be unable to command, but he had no intention of lying to them and hiding his condition. Zamarran was the only one, who allowed himself to be direct in his care for his Gul, but Brenok knew they all wanted to ask questions only Zamarran could ask.
His aide was twenty years older than him and that made their relation specific. Zamarran was allowed more than an average aide due to his age. He never abused that special relation and seemed to treasure it, and so did Brenok.
The Gul arrived to the infirmary and looked around to find medic Taret. The medic had an unnerving ability to move around soundlessly and unwittingly startled most people, suddenly appearing next to them. While that ability was perfect for such a place as an infirmary, where he wouldn't disturb his recuperating patients, it was disastrous in contacts with other people.
This time, however, the medic came out from his office and Brenok noticed him immediately.
“The shoulder?” Taret asked quietly. Not only his manner of movement was quiet, his voice was soothing and on the edge of a whisper.
“It's not so bad.”
Taret gave Brenok that look, which clearly said “liar”, but didn't speak.
“I have come up with a new idea. However it would require some work,” he said, motioning to one of biobeds and waiting for the Gul to sit on it. Brenok followed him and did what the medic expected. He has learnt not to argue about this little ritual any more. Taret took a med-scanner and ran it over Brenok's right neck ridge. “We would need to find two small rooms for this, and it would be post-exposure solution, but I believe it would be a combination of necessity and pleasure.”
“Uhm,” Brenok muttered, encouraging the medic to continue.
“I am working on a heat therapy for you. I'd like to test it in a holosuit first, but I'd like the real thing to be built aboard.”
“In other words you want me to become a testing zogo
,” Brenok said, referring to a small animal, which was usually used for medical tests.
“Sir...” Taret looked at him reproachfully. Brenok only smiled. “With your permission, I'd ask Ya'val to prepare the program.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Th Gul closed his eyes, trying not to burst into laughter. It should be him
, who shall thank, not Taret.
The medic administered a hypo to Brenok's shoulder and the Gul felt a little better. The pain didn't completely subside – if Taret made it go away, so would Brenok's ability to use his right arm – but it was easier to deal with it.
The Gul returned to the bridge.