Brenok looked at their mysterious guest and gave a friendly smile. “Do I appear familiar to you, sir?” he asked, using a particle at the end of his sentence that indicated equality, not seniority.
Dukat had been unable to make out the words they whispered as they conferred amongst themselves on the other end of the infirmary. He thought he heard his own name—which wasn’t surprising if they knew enough to associate him with Akellen Macet—but the rest was an indistinct mumble to him, and told him nothing about whatever had happened to him, and who these people were. And how they might help the resistance. Still, the glinn’s change in demeanor was a welcome outcome. No longer did he treat Dukat as though he held a rank that didn’t belong to him. “I’m afraid not, Glinn,” he replied, maintaining his own formality. “Though if I may…” He trailed off, and the glinn nodded for him to go ahead. “Are you from anywhere near Revakian?”
The glinn blinked. “Revakian? No…why do you ask?”
For a moment Dukat wondered if he had overstepped. Most often, when a man in the Guard had long hair, it meant he came from a very traditional sect, or possibly even one of the non-Oralian tribes with ancient roots in the Revakian area, and had received a religious exemption from his superiors. Such would not have been necessary in the sect to which Dukat and Macet belonged; though it would have felt strange to Dukat, he would have cut off his queue had he joined the military. He hoped the glinn hadn’t taken the question as an unwanted intrusion into his ethnicity and religion.
Or maybe people on his ship were so used to his appearance that he barely even thought anything of it himself. Dukat thought for a moment, searching for a neutral phrasing, then replied, “That style of braid is something I see most often on men from the area of Revakian.” There…hopefully that won’t sound too presumptuous of me to say
“Oh,” Brenok smiled, his confusion disappearing. “Oh, no. I’ve never heard of that place. This...” he hesitated for a moment. He wasn't used to talk about his braid and the reason why his hair was long. However the man's reply, clearly indicating that he did not know Brenok, meant that this person was misplaced, and probably scared, so he decided to be honest and reveal the truth as it was, in spite of the painful reminder the truth was accompanied by. He approached Dukat, but didn't cross the border of his personal space. “I grew my hair long to hide a scar.” He pointed to his non-existent ear under his hair. “The scar is not a pretty sight and it used to terrify my little girl.” His little girl, who was no more...his eyes threatened to fill with tears, but he quickly blinked them away. He wanted to comfort the man, not to worry him additionally. “Sorry,” he muttered.
He felt a hand on his shoulder; he didn't have to turn to know it was Jarol. She squeezed gently, but strongly enough for him to feel it through his thick armor.
“I am Gul Jarol,” she told Dukat. “And these are Glinn Brenok and Medic Taret. You are aboard the Cardassian Union Warship Roumar
. There has been a transporter accident, which resulted in you materializing aboard.” She tried to speak softly, remembering his reaction when she had snapped at Brenok. She still wasn't completely sure this wasn't some kind of deception, but decided to play along. Brenok's openness surprised her, but she knew her friend was a good judge of character and if he was so gentle and considerate to a person with Dukat's face, then there must be something to it. “Do you remember what happened to you just before you were beamed here?” she asked.
Dukat’s mind was reeling by now. Don’t be sorry!
he’d wanted to say to Glinn Brenok. He knew how it felt. But before he had a chance, they were already telling him about some sort of transporter accident, asking him if he remembered the events that led up to it. And then there was the matter of this ‘Cardassian Union’—some kind of resistance group?—that somehow claimed to have a warship
. Then his stomach sank. Glinn Brenok sounded nice enough for now, but could this ‘Cardassian Union’ be one of the death squads that paid no heed to what Oralius had to say about the difference between the guilty and the innocent in warfare?
Gul Jarol’s manner had softened now, but still…he wondered. Was she capable of those fanatics’ deeds? He would have to take great care until he was sure. This ‘transporter accident’ could be a ploy.
Yet something about that whole scenario felt wrong
. There were just too many strange things, great and small. It was as though the universe itself had turned itself inside-out while he lay unconscious, and he couldn’t trust anything he thought he knew.
“I was on Cardassia Prime,” he began. That should be safe enough.
“We had intelligence on the location of…a high-value target. I was in pursuit—there was another with me.” He did not share Corat’s name; that was the first cardinal rule of resistance: even with other Cardassians, such information needed not be shared with those whose level of trustworthiness was unknown. “When we reached the Bajoran target, I led the attack, but before I could get off a shot, this Bajoran aims a weapon at me the likes of which I’ve never seen before. He fired at me—I fell back into the bulkhead, and for a moment everything felt…permeable. Translucent. Then I blacked out…and now I’m here,” he finished in a tone that made it clear that whatever they had said this place was, he still felt far from settled.
Jarol frowned. Did he say 'Bajoran'? A Bajoran on
Cardassia Prime? A Bajoran target
? An attack
on a Bajoran target? An Oralian
attack on a Bajoran target? She wanted to ask, but she didn't know how to form her questions. She didn't know what those questions should be. She decided on the simplest thing, even if it appeared silly.
are there Bajorans on Cardassia Prime?” She spoke slowly, not managing to hide the suspicion in her voice. “What are they doing there, that you have to...fight them?” he last words were full of astonishment.
Brenok looked expectantly at Dukat, obviously also very interested in the answer, although he was already sure that his theory was correct—this man was from some other reality, and the transporter accident had brought him here. He smiled reassuringly to Dukat and decided to be as helpful for the lost man as possible. He guessed it had to be unnerving to find oneself in a strange environment, among strange people, on an unknown Cardassia, although the lack of Bajorans to fight could be encouraging.
” Dukat thrust himself into a sitting position despite the pain, but he had
to look them in the eye. He leaned against the back of the biobed. He could hardly find his voice; the words emerged as a hoarse and bewildered whisper: “This isn’t my world!
” His breathing sped up—his heart pounded—the adrenaline shot through his body; he hovered mere seconds from a full-blown panic attack. His implant was good for maintaining equilibrium on a grander scale, and it surely responded in some
manner now, but it couldn’t do everything, or else he wouldn’t experience the ordinary emotions of life. For that, only prayer and discipline would suffice.
He closed his eyes…he had to forget for a moment where he was; he had to regain control. His lips moved soundlessly as he delivered his prayer: Oralius, comforter of my soul, embrace my spirit and deliver me!
He had little time for anything else…now he needed her focus to slow his heart, to flush the adrenaline from his system. He had to do away with the sense of aloneness
that threatened to swallow him up alive. He steadied his breathing, drawing each breath in slowly through the nose and exhaling gently through the mouth. After a moment he felt his heart begin to slow and his thoughts fall into some sort of order.
Dukat opened his eyes. The panic was averted—but that didn’t make it any easier for these strangers…these strangers from another world whose intentions he knew nothing about…to have seen him this way.
Taret was furious. He did not show it, of course, especially since the source of his anger was his very own gul, but he looked at her and very slowly shook his head, sending her the signal of his disapproval.
“Easy, easy...” he said quietly to Dukat in his soothing voice, trying to comfort his patient.
Frustrated, she stepped away and moved to a far corner of the infirmary, trying to compose her thoughts. What was that she had just seen? She shot a glance at Dukat and wondered what those Bajorans had done to him. How could the strong man she had known be such a trembling and vulnerable flower in another reality? Were the Bajorans his Dominion?
Brenok pulled a stool to the biobed, lowered its seat and sat on it, making sure his face was below Dukat's, a submissive, non-threatening position. “Calm down,” he said softly. “There is no danger here, no Bajorans. You are safe.”
The medic seemed relieved, seeing that Dukat's readings had dropped to an almost normal level, but he was still unhappy.
“You don't need to answer any questions, if you don't want to,” Brenok continued. “At least for now. We will try to send you back home, but we will need more information from you later. And some scans too. But I give you my word nothing bad will happen to you. A Cardassian's word.” He hoped it meant something in Dukat's world.
“Thank you,” Dukat replied with a bow of the head, and a wince at the movement.
Still, he did his best to gather himself into a position that would hopefully look somewhat more calm and collected. He could feel the effect of the shock to his system on top of the soreness that was already there—but he was
recovering. Taret…the medic, they had called him?...seemed to understand what had happened. Glinn Brenok apparently did as well—in fact, his manner reminded him of Akellen in that moment, or even Ziyal.
Gul Jarol was another matter. She seemed…confused, yes…perhaps even hurt. Was it something to do with…another Skrain Dukat? But that wasn’t the worst of it: he could almost swear her lip curled with revulsion as she regarded him. Maybe he was just imagining it, but though he knew virtually nothing about her, the thought stung nonetheless. He straightened himself as best as he could, looked at Jarol, and said in the strongest tone he could muster, “I regret that you saw that, Gul.” He hoped he had managed to hide how the judgment
in her eyes made him feel. Or was it simply the memory of another’s judgment?
She looked at him and stared for a short moment; then she approached a bit closer, but still kept her distance.
“No, don't apologize,” she said quietly, shaking her head. “You did nothing wrong. I didn't want to...” She searched for the right word. She didn't want to use 'scare' as she felt it would be patronizing. A man, even an Oralian, who fought against his enemies was not a coward and telling him he was scared would be rude. “I didn't want to cause this. I
am sorry. I am very confused, just as you surely are, and...I am not used to not having answers to my questions. I will ask none until you are ready to talk, or if you are ready to talk. I cannot break my best friend's word.” She smiled slightly, glancing at Brenok who answered with his own smile.
She looked around to find another stool and mimicked Brenok's position, but half a meter farther from Dukat. She realized the glinn knew much better how to handle this situation and decided to trust his judgment.
“All of this is foreign to me,” Dukat admitted. He could see now that perhaps he had misjudged Gul Jarol: she too was feeling her way through the situation step by step. “I am not used to interstellar travel or to any of this; my home is Cardassia Prime. My
Cardassia.” He paused for a moment to process those words. Even if this warship was orbiting Prime itself, he could never hope to touch his home. Dukat pressed his lips together for a moment, then said, “All of my friends and family are there—my people…I can’t leave them behind. I will try to answer your questions.”
“Before we ask any questions relevant to sending you back home,” Brenok said, glancing at Jarol when saying the latter part of his sentence, “we will need to gather information from our transporter logs. I will check with our chief engineer if he can make any sense of it.” He started to rise, but Jarol's hand on his shoulder stopped him.
“I'll talk to Zamarran,” she said. “You stay with our guest.” She nodded to Dukat.