Slowly, Dukat floated back into consciousness, lying on his back as though stretched out over the surface of the water. Voices murmured around him. He couldn’t make out the words yet, but he could
pick out the emotions behind them. Confusion, concern…contempt? No…
It hurt to think, to form the words in his mind. Please, no…not again
Dukat tried to resist the return of full consciousness: the longer he could keep his metabolism down, the longer he had to assess the situation before full awakening. But a shot of adrenaline coursed through his body nonetheless, jolting him violently awake. With a gasp, his eyes flew open. An authoritative voice at his side warned him not to try to sit up yet. He tried to nod in an instinctive reply, but the movement hurt.
He still said nothing for the first several seconds, grey eyes surveying his surroundings as best as he could on what now felt to him like a biobed. Cardassians…they’re all Cardassians!
A physician stood nearby, scrutinizing him with a professional caution. The other two…it couldn’t
be. What they were wearing—what the inscriptions revealed, if he wasn’t mistaken…
He addressed them in a soft, half-whisper of confusion—and deference, looking at each in turn, but taking great care not to look too much into their faces lest he, a civilian, come across as insubordinate. Especially
if they represented what he thought they did, he dared not give any offense. “Gul…Glinn—what’s happened? Where am I?” Please—help us!
He resisted giving voice to that last, though…it was too soon, and all of this was still far too strange.
Jarol observed Dukat waking up; he seemed confused, but she could understand that. Whatever had happened to him, he could not have expected to wake up in her infirmary.
She took a step toward the biobed and said in a soft voice, “You are aboard the Roumar
, sir. How are you feeling?”
Brenok kept his distance, eying the man on the biobed and wondering what they were supposed to do now. It was clear to him that Gul Dukat had to face the tribunal, but he was sure Jarol would oppose it and convincing this stubborn woman that it would be the right thing to do might occur prove impossible.
‘Sir’…? What am I to her?
It made no sense…many in the Resistance acknowledged him as a leader, but it wasn’t as if he was the only one, and he had never asked the level of deference of them that Macet might have asked of a fresh recruit just out of basic training…the level of deference that for whatever reason, this gul
was showing him
But that wasn’t all. Aboard the
Roumar? Aboard a Cardassian
ship? We…have a ship?
The architecture and the lighting of the place fit; even the placement of the lights, so they wouldn’t glare in sensitive Cardassian eyes after what he assumed to be a concussion, was ideal. For a moment, Dukat just stared at the gul as though his eyes might speak all of the words that crowded themselves in his mind and struggled to get out—then he felt his face flush invisibly under his macroscales and he averted his eyes in apology for his rudeness. The medical officer leaned closer to his display…maybe he’d noticed.
Finally, through the pain and the disorientation, one response emerged that summed up the storm of emotions coursing through him, and a smile lit his face. “There is some pain—but I’m here, thank Oralius!”
Jarol's mouth opened in surprise. She turned to look at Brenok, whose facial expression reflected hers. Since when Gul Dukat was an Oralian? Had he always been, and hid it that well? Or was it in the last few years, during his absence? What had they done to him? The gul looked back at Dukat, not sure what to say. Would it be rude to ask? Would he want to share? His clothes, his hair, everything about him was so different.
Suddenly a disturbing idea appeared in her mind. Was it that implant in his head?! Did those Oralians brainwash and now control him with this device?
“I am sure our medic can help you with the pain,” she said cautiously.
Brenok stepped closer and stood next to his gul. He observed Dukat intently, not sure what to think about it all. He knew the Oralians were forgiving people, but to accept him
? He found it even more surprising than the fact that this particular man had converted.
“Sir, do you need anything? Is there something we could do for you?” Jarol asked. She would give him command of her warship if he said the word.
“No, thank you, Gul,” he politely replied. Glancing over at the medic, he added, “I mean no offense, but I would rather think clearly unless it’s absolutely necessary.” Even just the thought of compromised awareness sent a chill down his spine. Something was starting to feel off
about all of this. His mind traveled back to the strange conflict of emotions brewing around him as he returned to consciousness. On one hand, the gul treated him as though he held a much higher status than he did—she was practically talking to him like a legate! Yet he had a sense that something he had said had shocked or offended them, and he had no idea what he had done wrong. The glinn in particular seemed…cold somehow, not like the gul. If anything, his body language suggested he was trying to protect his gul from something.
It made a bit more sense, he supposed, than the respect that came out of nowhere. He too would be wary of a stranger on his doorstep, until he’d ascertained who the mystery man was. But they’d reacted to his words
. Finally the silence grew uncomfortable. “I’m sorry…did I say something wrong?”
Brenok mouthed the words Dukat had said. This was not a choice of words an average Cardassian would make. This was not a choice the Oralians he knew would make.
“No, sir, of course not,” Jarol replied and looked at Brenok. He scratched his head, pulled his braid over his neck ridge and started to absent-mindedly pull at its end.
“Sir,” he started, then hesitated, but decided to finish. “Where have you been for the last three years?”
Jarol shot an angry glance at Brenok. “You are out of line, Glinn,” she said in a sharp tone. “I'm sorry, Gul, he is just...” She didn't finish, seeing Dukat's expression.
That frigid tone of hers struck at memories he wished would just lie dormant, and he had to remind himself that she wasn’t Bajoran. That she was not
Vedek Tora. He fought against his reaction, but still he tensed at her sharp rebuke as though it were aimed at him. In a low voice the doctor intoned, “Relax…”
But that was far from the only odd thing about this scenario. Dukat’s eye ridges had shot up further than he had ever believed they could go, and as was becoming the norm here, for the first few seconds, the words wouldn’t come. A few signs came to mind, but these officers didn’t look Kurabda; they wouldn’t understand. “What? I…'Gul’?” Dukat stammered as his mind struggled to catch up to this revelation. “I don’t—I’m the one who should call you Gul, and you
Glinn.” His eyes went from one to the other as he spoke. “And you
I would call ‘Doctor,’” he said to the ship’s physician. “I’m not the officer of the Guard here…you three are.”
And for the young glinn—and now Dukat could truly see his youth as something in his demeanor shifted, became more thoughtful and less forbidding—he reserved a look of regret, though he wasn’t sure exactly how to make it up to him. I never meant for you to get in trouble over this…misunderstanding, or whatever it is.
Then he comprehended. “Maybe you’re thinking of my cousin.” It still didn’t make sense—the Cardassian Guard had ceased to officially exist not long after the invasion and Akellen had never reached that rank. But it made more sense than thinking he
was a gul.
“Ah!” Jarol was only able to make a single, inarticulate sound, her surprise rendering her speechless, while Taret's head popped up on hearing the strange word his patient called him. It sounded...archaic, like something taken from one of the novels about ancient times he was so fond of.
“Do you mean Gul Macet?” Brenok asked, shaking his head. “You are not Gul Macet, are you? You are,” he decided to skip the military rank, “Dukat, aren't you?”
Jarol looked surprised at Brenok and then, finally, she started to think she knew what he was getting at.
“Do you think the Oralians brainwashed him?” she asked Brenok quietly.
The glinn shook his head. “I don't think he is who we think he is,” he said. “Look at his clothes, his hair, his vocabulary! He's like...”
“From another time,” the medic spoke, approaching them. “Displaced in time.”
“What are you saying? This is
Dukat.” She looked at them both.
“He is and he isn't,” Brenok said calmly. “His physical appearance tells you he is Dukat, but everything else...is this the man you used to know?”
“I don't know.” She shrugged. She didn't want to admit it, but she knew Brenok was correct—everything about this man's behavior was in total opposition to what she would expect of her former gul.