True to Gul Jarol’s word, all of the consoles in the quarters the officers had assigned to him were dark. This area was completely off the network. This only bothered him in the sense that things were not functioning as they ought to be; the lack of technological conveniences in and of itself was nothing unusual. Indeed, compared to what he had grown up with before the invasion, Skrain Dukat needed little in the way of creature comforts to stay happy.
He had the feeling, though they hadn’t stated it outright, that he dared not wander around the warship. Certainly being a civilian on a military vessel had something to do with it—but there seemed to be something more to it. Perhaps there were regulations for this sort of thing. At least in some of the speculative fiction books he still read when he got a chance, there were strict rules about things like time travel. He imagined crossing universal boundaries was much the same—some things, after all, were simply too powerful for Cardassians, or any other species. They belonged to Oralius alone.
Whatever it was the Bajorans were experimenting on, that had brought him here, it was a perversion, and it had
to be stopped. He had
to return home—they could never be allowed to think that their weapon had succeeded.
Dukat’s mind still wouldn’t stop spinning. What kind of world was this? Maybe the invasion hadn’t happened here, but it still
didn’t feel right. He couldn’t quite put it together, but there were little pauses—strange looks—in contexts that didn’t make sense to him. There’s a deeper rift here
, he thought. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know.
And he would be in no condition to learn if he didn’t manage to get some sleep. He hadn’t experienced an attack that serious in a long time; he couldn’t afford that again, not when he needed to be vigilant…
Dukat let out a long, shaky sigh.
Unsure what else to do, he knelt on the floor near the bed and closed his eyes. He hadn’t brought his copy of the Hebitian Records, but he didn’t need it with him to read. This was
what all of his people had originally trained their memories for, after all. What he missed most was his recitation mask. He didn’t strictly need
it to pray, and often lacked it on his missions…but the longing was much more acute now, for sometimes Oralius did speak through the senses as well as in words.
He could see the ancient text before his mind’s eye, even envision how the pages of his own copy had worn—pages of the same book that, with his recitation mask, he had salvaged the day of the invasion. Show me what you would have me see
, he prayed. In his exhaustion he could hardly focus on the words, but eventually something emerged.
Your thread weaves deftly through my heart
Though I weep at each pass of the needle
Your work is well-measured, the stitches secure
You mend me, you join me to that which
No man nor woman can ever rend
And though I wander to the lightless ends of the world
My heart may grasp this thread that never frays
And still it knits me to my one home.
A tear slipped loose from the corner of Dukat’s eye. The thread was still there. Please…protect Corat. Keep my daughter safe…bring me home…
Gul Jarol slowly walked to her quarters. She knew there were many things she should be doing right now, but she also knew she wouldn't be able to concentrate on them. They could wait.
She arrived to her quarters and with a heavy sigh sat in her favorite chair, in which she usually read books. She didn't intend to read this time, though. Reality was proving to be more challenging than any book she had read in her life.
There was a Dukat in quarters not so far from hers. He was not Gul Dukat; he was a
Dukat. He had Gul Dukat's face, and his voice, but not his facial expressions and not his tones of voice. Not his personality. Not his experiences. He came from a strange Cardassia, where he had to fight the Bajorans. What did the Bajorans want of Cardassia? Were they there for the same reason they, the Cardassians, had been on Bajor? She shook her head; impossible, Cardassia had no resources to attack it and exploit. He had confirmed that his Cardassia was poor too...what had he said? That he hunted
? As in chased animals to kill them and eat them? How was he able to do that? In her mind's eye he seemed so fragile, so vulnerable she couldn't imagine him chasing anything bigger than a vole. He also claimed he was a fighter, but he was an Oralian. How could one be both? Wouldn't an Oralian just pray for freedom instead of actually fighting? That was the Guard's job—to fight. Speaking of believers, how come Prophet-loving Bajorans had attacked Cardassia? Was it some kind of retaliation for their occupation? Ah, yes, they had their terrorists, so it was possible to pray in temples and then go and kill others. She had never thought about it that way before. Was Dukat a terrorist then? Had he killed some Bajoran's children just like some Bajorans murdered hers? Her eyes filled with tears. It had been ten years since she'd lost her family.
She looked out of the oval window of her quarters just like she had been looking out of Terok Nor's huge oval window on the Upper Promenade back then and almost saw it again: a small transport ship, full of civilians and merchants, setting course to Cardassia Prime, exploding. No one survived. No Prophets and no Oralius saved her little boy and little girl from being torn to pieces by fire and shrapnel.
She gasped, trying to suppress her need to cry, to ward off the invisible hand that was squeezing her heart. Don't cry, you can't cry, you're a tough gul now, you're in command of a warship and a battalion of the Fourth Order. Don't be sissy. You're strong and unbreakable!
No, I'm not; I only
pretend I am
She pulled her legs to her chest and curled up in the chair, tears pooling in her eye ridges and slowly finding their way past them and down her cheeks.
Concentrate. That was ten years ago and you have a serious problem
She gently rubbed her eyelids and her fingers made circling movements inside the eye ridges. Her thoughts returned to this strange Dukat. What was she supposed to do with him? What if they didn’t find a way to send him back? She couldn't even imagine what his reaction would be to such news; he'd probably have another attack and die.
This was too much for her, or she was too stupid to grasp it all. Brenok seemed to understand everything; he knew how to behave and what to say. She wished she could call him and ask him to come and keep her company, but he was busy. She couldn't even contribute to their work; she was probably the only woman on Cardassia that was totally inept in matters of engineering and science. She knew how to plan an attack, not fix a man in the wrong reality.