Here's only part of the next chapter. I decided to post it, as the other part takes ages to finish (but - hopefully - is going to be posted soon).
Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
24th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
Brenok entered his office and looked around. All officers, who had been to the dinner, were present. The Gul went to his chair and sat. “Computer, raise the temperature by three degrees,” he said. He knew they knew why he needed it and saw no reason to hide it, not any more. He looked at Zamarran who stood in front of the row of others. “Proceed,” Brenok said.
Zamarran nodded and then looked at the gathered Cardassians and the lone human.
“What had happened on the Federation warship was unacceptable,” he started. “We have lost control and I have to admit I am partly responsible for that.” He paused. “Lieutenant Jeto’s words are unfair and disturbing, but she doesn’t understand how wrong she is. She carries a trauma, probably implanted into her by her mother, and she reacts accordingly. What excuse do you have?” the question was directed to Ma’Kan. And since Zamarran did not continue, it was clear he expected an answer.
“Glinn, she spoke things... unbelievable things, insulting things and I couldn’t--”
“Those were only words, Gil!” Zamarran thundered. “Mistaken, twisted, but only words. Your action was inadequate. Thank Glinn Ya’val for his reflexes that stopped your hand or we wouldn’t have this pleasant conversation.”
Brenok scrutinised Ma’Kan. He already had read Zamarran’s report and knew the details, but decided to leave disciplining the officers to Zamarran who had witnessed whole incident in spite that in fact he was part of it.
Ma’Kan didn’t answer. She stared at Zamarran, but finally lowered her eyes under his angry gaze. She clenched her teeth and her jaws worked in anger. She cast a glance at Brenok, but reverted her eyes as soon as she realised he was looking at her.
“As our chief tactician,” Zamarran continued, “you are best qualified to work on this project, however if you cannot, you will be relieved.” Her head popped and she looked at the Glinn.
“I can, Glinn. I can,” she assured him. “It will not happen again.”
Zamarran only growled in answer. His eyes went to Karama’s face. The younger Glinn didn’t look away. He clearly didn’t feel guilty of anything. Ya’val stared at the wall in front of him. He was angry. Brenok knew this face expression – Ya’val felt accused of something he didn’t do. He didn’t appreciate to be reprimanded for actions he would repeat if the situation would happen again for he believed he was right. Kapoor stood next to Ya’val, her eyes also fixed on the wall. Brenok couldn’t read her face.
“This is the first time we have any contact with aliens in almost twenty years,” Zamarran said, pacing in front of the row, his hands clasped behind his back, his eyes travelling from one face to another. “Our task is to work together and find answers to scientific mysteries. We are here not for political debates, historical debates or past crimes debates. We are here to do our jobs. You, we,” he corrected himself, “represent the Cardassian Union. We are faced with someone, who cannot forgive us our sins. We have to suffer her attacks. And we will. And we won’t say anything. For we can be above petty quarrels. We can ignore ugly words,” his eyes went to Ma’Kan’s and then Karama’s face. “If they can’t behave like civilised people, we will and we will show them how to do that. We will be their example. They can watch and learn. If we have to work with Lieutenant Jeto – and she starts again – don’t solve it yourself. Come with it to Gul Brenok, to me or to their Captain. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Glinn,” their replied in unison.
Zamarran looked at Brenok. The Gul moved his right shoulder under his armour, trying to relax his muscles and force the pain to lessen, then scratched his chin with his left hand and finally rose. Zamarran moved to join the row of officers and stood by their side, becoming one of them.
“Gil Ma’Kan,” Brenok started quietly. “Your behaviour was exceptionally outrageous. I cannot allow my officers attack other officers. What have you been thinking?” She opened her mouth, but he raised his right hand to silence her and a sharp pain shot through his shoulder. He winced and her eyes reflected his pain. “Don’t answer. I know that you didn’t think at all
!” Last two words were spoken in a hard and firm voice. “I haven’t decided what to do with you yet, but you will not get anywhere close to the Federation crew.” She looked like she wanted to protest, but she glanced at his shoulder and didn’t say anything. It irritated him; he wasn’t a handicap who needed such kind of protection from his crew. “If I hear that you got yourself in trouble, any trouble, with the Federation people, the consequences will be permanent. Is that clear?”
“Yes, Gul,” she replied, straightening her back.
“As for everyone else,” Brenok looked at them, “I am disappointed in you. I expected you to be responsible and behave accordingly, but you decided to satisfy your needs for a pathetic squabble. I don’t care if it was them who started. You could have ignored that and show your maturity. But you didn’t. You added oil to that fire and it almost blew in our faces. From now on everyone, who works side by side with their crew, will file detailed reports at the end of the day, describing every event, every move, every discovery, every conversation, everything. If I find something not up to our standards, you will be severely punished. If I learn that you omit unpleasant details to avoid that punishment, your penalty will be so severe that you’d wish for the first one. I will not tolerate such childish behaviour,” Brenok raised his voice and it echoed in his office. “You are senior staff on the flagship of the Cardassian Guard, so behave as such! This is not the Academy! This is not a playground. You represent Cardassia and I don’t like the image you have drawn in the Federation heads!” He tightened his fingers into a fist as pain shot from his elbow to his neck ridge. “Dismissed!” he road not sure if he yelled because of anger or to relieve the tension created by the pain.
Everyone headed for the door, only Zamarran stayed in the room. Brenok returned to his chair and sat – or rather slumped – in it.
“You should have intervened as soon as it began,” he said quietly.
Zamarran approached the desk and stood towering over his Gul. “I know,” he said with pain in his voice and Brenok wasn’t sure if it was a regret that he hadn’t averted the situation or his current worry about his Gul’s suffering. “I am ready to accept my punishment.”
Brenok looked at him. He studied his aide’s face for a long moment. “I will make that decision later. Dismissed,” he said finally. He has learnt from Legate Jarol, who has learnt from Gul Corak – their former commander executed by the Dominion – that anger is not the best advisor to make decisions. He wanted to cool down first.
Zamarran didn’t move. “Do you need anything?” he asked. Brenok only shook his head. There was nothing Zamarran could do to relieve his pain. Zamarran nodded once, worry very clear on his face, turned on his heel and left.
Brenok closed his eyes and moaned quietly.
He should have gone with them, in spite of his pain he should have. Or maybe not? Maybe he would be additionally irritable because of the pain? Or maybe he would get furious listening to all the nasty things the Federation officers said about Damar? Maybe he would make it worse? He couldn’t know, he wasn’t there and reading a report wasn’t the same as witnessing the event. That’s why he left the first speech to Zamarran.
A chime to the door interrupted his reverie. He looked up to see Ma’Kan standing outside and waiting to be let in. He muttered “Enter” loud enough for the computer to pick it up and let her in.
“Sir,” she stood by his desk. He expected her to offer explanations regarding her behaviour, so her words took him by surprise. “I would like to apologise for my behaviour during the dinner. You were absolutely right, I should have shown more maturity than that. I lost my control and there is no excuse for that. I won’t happen again.” She paused. “I would like to ask you to reconsider the decision regarding my involvement in the project, sir. I would really like to participate in it and if you agree you will get nothing else but full professionalism from me.”
She took a chair on the opposite side of the desk.
“Do you really think she deserved to be hit?” She opened her mouth to speak, but Brenok continued, “I want the truth, Gil. I want to understand why you were driven to such an action.”
She thought for a moment. “I don’t know, sir. I really don’t know the answer to that. It was that moment, in the heat of all those words. Sir, I graduated from the Academy after the war. Yet she accused me of atrocities done to her people.” Brenok noted she treated Jeto as a Bajoran and that she had called the occupation – which she was calling an ‘annexation’ - ‘atrocities’. “I didn’t rape her mother. Neither did anyone in the room. Why did she accuse Ya’val of lying when he had said he never drank Bajoran wine? She...” she hesitated, “she called Legate Damar a murderer,” she finished whispering. His face remained unchanged. “She called me – us – spoonheads,” Ma’Kan’s eyes opened wider at the memory of the event. “I know my reaction was bad but you are right – I wasn’t thinking. I was reacting. I never fought in any war. I never attacked another world. I never met a Bajoran until I met her. Why am I guilty in her eyes?”
“Are all Vorta guilty in yours?” Brenok asked quietly. The tactician silenced, obviously surprised by his question. “She seems very young,” he continued. “I don’t think she remembers the occupation of Bajor, but think how it was for her to grow up. She looks Cardassian, she looks so Cardassian that at first I didn’t realise she was a hybrid. I don’t know how much of her hatred is directed at us, our crew, and how much at her own face.”
“Does it give her any right to insult us all?”
“No, it doesn’t. I’m not trying to excuse her, Ma’Kan. I’m trying to show you that she is not fully responsible for her behaviour.”
“You say that we are. We, Cardassians. That soldier who assaulted her mother was responsible. Not you and not me.”
“But she doesn’t understand the difference,” he replied. “Sometimes it’s not easy to recognise that difference.” He thought about his own experience with the Klingons and the bat’leth that made him practically a handicap, a slave of his own pain. “Do you understand that?”
“I think so. I’m trying...”
“Try harder, Ma’Kan. I need you on this project. You have vast knowledge in weaponry and I believe that whatever this vessel out there is, it is some kind of military project. You are the best person to determine many factors related to this ship. I want you to be part of it, but I can’t allow any more incidents.”
“It won’t happen again, sir.”
“Even when she calls you a...” it was so hard to say this word, “spoonhead.”
“Even then, sir.”
“Even when she says that Legate Damar committed mass murder.”
“He didn’t, sir.”
“No, he didn’t. But she might believe he did.”
“He killed a traitor. Although she seems to think he killed her for being half-Bajoran, not for betraying her own father.”
Brenok sighed. Jarol has clearly corrupted this woman’s understanding of some matters. Brenok cared for Damar, his relation with the late Legate wasn’t as close as Jarol’s but he also had the right to call him ‘Corat’, however he knew that Damar had a dark side, a very dark side. Jarol might not realise that they shared that side and maybe that was the reason Brenok always stood out of that trio. Part of him wished that Ma’Kan’s fist met its target for Damar was like an older brother to him, but part of him revolted at the thought that Damar chose to shoot someone who posed no threat to Cardassia. Even the fact that Tora’s death removed Gul Dukat from Cardassia’s political scene wasn’t reason good enough to accept it as a necessary evil.
“Ma’Kan,” he started quietly, trying to ignore needles in his shoulder and elbow, “Legate Damar was a great man, but he was not ideal. Some of his actions were questionable, some of his opinions were questionable and there are some things he had done that no one talks about. Those things are going to be forgotten. I am sure Tret Akleen, Sar Marat or Gul Zager made a lot of mistakes about which we don’t know and will not know. They are buried in our history. And so will this be buried when all people, who knew or remember Damar, die. But make no mistake – this is Cardassian point of view. The Federation will remember him as Gul Dukat’s right hand. They will remember him as someone who fought against them in the Dominion War. The Klingons will remember him as someone who fought them in a stolen Klingon Bird-of-prey.” The same on which Brenok had been attacked, lost his ear, lost his health and almost lost his life. “For them he is not a hero. He is just another Cardassian and not a good one at that.”
“Sir,” she interrupted him. “I can accept critical words about him from a fellow Cardassian, but I cannot from a non-Cardassian. I do not criticise their heroes, whatever I think about them, because it’s not my place.”
“I understand that it’s difficult to sit quietly when someone talks badly about your home, but in this case we have to restrain ourselves.”
“Because they obviously can’t.”
“Do we need them? I mean – for this project. Do we need them?”
“No, we don’t. But Legate Jarol agreed to let them join us and those are our orders.”
That was sufficient for Ma’Kan; if Jarol wanted to make it happen, she would make it happen. Brenok wondered if Jarol was even aware how much reverence Ma’Kan had for her.
“Sir, please, let me stay in the team,” Ma’Kan pleaded quietly. “I give you my word I will behave. I will be deaf to any nasty attacks. I will ignore them. I know what I know and it doesn’t matter what they say.”
“At any sign of misbehaviour I’ll smack you back to the rank of Dja,” he said.
“Thank you, sir,” she allowed herself a small smile.
She rose from her chair and hesitated. It was obvious she wanted to add something, but quickly changed her mind and left the office.
Brenok closed his eyes, grabbed his elbow and squeezed. It didn’t bring any relief, but for a second took his brain’s attention from the pain to the sensation of pressure. For only a second.