Brenok got lost in thoughts; the hand holding his fork was left hanging in midair and he stared absentmindedly at his plate. He returned to the present when he heard the sound of an opening door. He looked up to see Jarol. “Well?” he asked her.
“Daset managed to locate something called Orb of Potentialities. It was shattered so all we have is fragments, but Zamarran says it’s even better, because what we actually need are only fragments. Aladar went to pick it up; he will be back within an hour.”
“Pick it up?” Brenok asked her.
“Since we don’t know much about those Orbs and those fragments and their influence on transporting technology I’ve decided it’s safer that way. He’s going to bring it in a shuttle.”
“What does Daset know?” Brenok asked, eying Dukat.
“Nothing. I told him we need it for some tests and nothing more. Luckily he’s so busy he didn’t bother asking for details.” She joined them at the table, but didn’t eat. She observed Dukat. How different he was from the man she knew. The same face, but different expressions; the same voice, but different tones; the same man, but different personality. He must have felt her gaze on him as he glanced at her. She sent him a smile, but didn’t avert her eyes.
Dukat returned the smile, hoping that his expression would be one of encouragement for her. Then he posed a question. “Whose Orb is it?” Jarol returned a blank expression, puzzling Dukat at first; most Cardassians he knew would have known the significance of the question—but as he reminded himself, if they had come to Bajor as invaders, there was likely much they didn’t know about their former subjects. “Does it belong to the Pah-Wraiths, or the Prophets?” The last thing he wanted was to face another Pah-Wraith Orb. Oralius had helped him defeat one once before—but still…
“Oh.” She wasn’t even sure the Cardassians had ever found a red Orb. “It’s the Prophets’ Orb. We used to have a few more, but we have returned them all to the Bajorans. I think this one is still in our possession because it’s damaged and there are only fragments left. Does it make a difference?”
“If they’re at all like they are in my world…very much so,” he replied with a grave expression. “The Red Orbs come from the Pah-Wraiths. I’ve encountered one before, and they are not pleasant devices to be exposed to for any length of time. And the Bajorans say that what they’re doing to our world, they do in the name of the Pah-Wraiths. As for the Prophets…I can’t say I understand Bajoran religion enough to know for sure, but when I was held prisoner there, a few women helped me escape. They were dissidents, believers in the Prophets…and from what I heard, what their own people do to them is just as bad as what they do to Cardassians. I could be wrong…I pray that I am not…but at least the way they treated me made me think that maybe the Prophets aren’t quite like the Pah-Wraiths.”
“We have a political power here. They call themselves the United Federation of Planets,” Jarol said. “They consider themselves perfect people with pure morality and altruistic nature.” A small, ironic smile crossed her lips. “And they are close friends with the Bajorans. Our Bajorans are followers of the Prophets and if they are considered friends by the Federation, then the Federation considers the Prophets to be good too. I don’t think the Federation would like your Bajorans any more that it likes...us
,” she said with the feeling of a needle piercing her heart. She didn’t enjoy being compared to something that was regarded as pure evil. “There is one human who is particularly good friends with the Prophets. And that tells me they are nothing like the Pah-Wraiths.”
“It also explains why your Bajorans are so aggressive,” Brenok added. “They are completely different from ours.”
“And ours had visited Cardassia in the past without any nasty consequences for us,” she said, looking at Brenok.
“Yes, I remember.” He looked at Dukat. “Several years ago we found some kind of ancient Bajoran space ship on Cardassia.”
“Well...” she smiled. Should she tell him? The ship had been found a long time ago, but its existence was confirmed
just a few years ago; it had been a state secret for years. She looked at Dukat. “Our worlds are different, but if there are any constant things in the universe, then the Prophets’ Orbs are not considered harmful...unless you are not on the Bajoran side.”
“They say one can have visions while looking at them. Good visions,” Brenok added. “No unpleasant experiences.”
Dukat still wasn’t thrilled with the idea of having visions from beings other than Oralius…he didn’t plan on looking at the fragment if at all possible. But he would sooner take the risk, after much prayer, with an Orb of the Prophets than the Pah-Wraiths. “That’s good to know, that you haven’t had to deal with the same Bajorans that we did.” Imagining the two aggressive powers sharing a galaxy—the thought gave him a shudder.
But with a tiny laugh to himself, he added, “It sounds like our Federations are much the same, though. We fought as long as we could against the Bajoran fleets—but when it finally got bad enough, the Castellan asked the Federation to help. They refused. They claimed it was because it was a holy war, that their laws didn’t allow them to intervene—but they didn’t care that we never struck out against anyone except in defense. It’s true we’d bloodied the Klingons’ noses pretty badly a few times, but we never
did it unprovoked, only when they attacked our colonies.
“Not to mention…I read their founding documents, and there was nothing
that made it illegal for them to help. Their officials just didn’t want
to, so they just stood by and watched us be conquered.” A strange look crossed Gul Jarol’s face—one Dukat couldn’t decipher, and for a second, wasn’t sure he wanted to. “But there have been some rumors…I haven’t had any personal confirmation, but they say there are Federation citizens who have crossed the border, put on a false nose, and sown confusion among the Bajorans. I have even heard a few rumors of humans who actually put themselves through all of the surgeries and treatments it would take to look Cardassian…which I’ve heard are hard to reverse the longer you stay that way…and joined our Resistance.”
Jarol and Brenok looked at each other, then at Dukat and again at each other. “Why?” the glinn finally asked, his eyes returning to Dukat’s face. “Why would they do that?”
But Jarol wasn’t thinking about Federation resistance members in a parallel reality. Her thoughts went to her own home and its current political situation. In her mind’s eye she saw Alon Ghemor agreeing to all Federation demands—which were weakening Cardassia in every way, including its military defense—and then the Union being conquered by the Klingons, or the Breen, or the Romulans while the Federation just sat and watched. The Federation, with their weird sense of justice, would probably think the Cardassians deserved
nothing less than to be conquered.
“Well…I don’t know for sure if it’s true, because I haven’t met anyone who claimed to be human,” Dukat cautiously replied, not wanting the rumor to be misinterpreted. “But I did
hear that there were people who protested when the Federation Council made its ruling. It wasn’t enough to make them change their minds…and by then we were out of time. But from what little I know of their history—and what their founding documents make me think they used to be—it wouldn’t surprise me if there really were a few who were so outraged by what happened to us that they chose to fight. And someone who cares that deeply about injustice…sometimes they’re willing to go to great lengths. So I think it’s possible that a few of them really did it. Altered themselves, I mean.” It would be an enormous sacrifice…he couldn’t imagine waking up and seeing a Bajoran or human face in the mirror every day and knowing that he would most likely never have his
features back. But if a person was really and truly called
…it could happen.
“A good government is a government that listens to its people,” Brenok said—but he wasn’t looking at Dukat; he was looking at Jarol. She looked into his eyes too and they seemed to gaze into each other’s souls. She knew Brenok supported the Mar’kuu Group and their plans for the Shift—as they called the military coup they were planning—but she also knew Brenok was the only one in the group that had doubts about it and didn’t fear voicing them. He was constantly reminding them that their plans could go terribly wrong if they weren’t careful.
The glinn, satisfied that his silent message got through to Jarol, looked back at Dukat. “If our history is any indication, occupants sooner or later have to go away,” he said. “And I suppose no help can be refused. Our own freedom...” he smiled at the thought, “has been regained thanks to a Bajoran, who less than ten years earlier had fought in her resistance against us.”
“She must have been an exceptional woman,” he opined. Would he fight for Bajorans, if ever they fell to a stronger power after releasing his people? If someone like Sulan or Adami asked him…would he? Could he? Oh, Oralius—it would be hard
. Even with Ziyal’s encouragement, it would be hard. It would be by the power of Oralius
. I might not be strong enough on my own for that.
“As for my world…if I ever did meet one of those humans—I think once I got over the shock, I would accept their help, too. I wouldn’t condemn them for what their public officials did…their own actions would speak for themselves.”
“Sometimes public officials do things their people don’t like at all,” Brenok said. “That’s politics.” His smile was grim. “People have their own minds and sometimes act according to their own conscience, even if they risk being imprisoned for that.”
Jarol didn’t say anything. She was trying to process everything that had happened and that had been told. He eyes burned from tears and lack of sleep, her head spun from talking about guilt on so many different levels, her temples throbbed with visions of occupied Cardassia and she wasn’t sure if it was his Cardassia occupied by wrinkled noses or hers—occupied by wrinkled ears. She closed her eyes—the fire behind her eyelids intensified—she was a soldier, not a philosopher. She knew how to plan an attack on a base holding prisoners, not how to solve great mysteries of forgiveness.
“If there are
humans who have come to our world to fight…I find myself wondering what their own people would do if they realized,” Dukat was saying. “I hope that after we regain our freedom, we would protect them…especially the ones who made the greatest sacrifices—”
Gul Jarol looked…even more
drained than she had when she’d entered his quarters the first time. Had he upset her again? Was she physically hurting? Or just exhausted
? Either way—he wasn’t helping matters. “I am so sorry,” Dukat interrupted himself, chagrined. “I should not be sitting here talking and keeping you from your rest.”
Her eyes snapped opened when she realized Dukat was talking to her. “Oh, don’t worry about me. I’m just a little tired.” She grinned hoping it was a reassuring smile. “However, now is not the time to rest; we have an important task to accomplish. I’ll rest when we are done and you’re safely back home.”
Brenok observed her. He knew her well enough to see she was exhausted, but he also knew it wouldn’t stop her from doing her job. She was not the kind of person to drop everything, especially an important ‘everything’, and go to sleep. Even if someone managed to force her to bed, she wouldn’t sleep, but wonder how the ‘everything’ was going.
“Maybe you’d like to eat something,” he said. She just shook her head—she was too tired to eat. “Lukewarm fish juice then?” He pushed her mug toward her. She stared at it for a moment and then grabbed it and sipped. A moment later Zamarran contacted her to inform her that Garesh Aladar had returned with the fragments of the Orb and they were almost ready.
Dukat smiled at that—but he was still worried about Jarol. It felt so inappropriate…here he was with all of his fatherly instincts kicking in, not to mention those of a battle commander, and the subject of his attention was a gul
. A gul in the armor of the Guard, and one capable of—what was
she truly capable of? Maybe in her past she had been as ruthless as her commander, who had led the conquest and who knew what else…but it had been true all the way back to the days of the Hebitian Records: people could change. And Gul Jarol clearly had
changed. It wasn’t for show…not with her soul so clearly exposed.
That still didn’t do anything about the sense of strangeness about his feelings in this moment. She’s a
“Thank you for all that you’ve done,” he said. “Now I realize what I’m about to say may be impertinent…not to mention,” he added with a soft laugh, “that I won’t exactly be around to see that you honor your word…but will you both promise me that you’ll get some rest soon?”
“I promise you I will make her go to sleep as soon as you are back home,” Brenok said with a giggle. “And I don’t intend to stay awake for a moment longer than it’s necessary.” He was sure he would have strange or funny dreams; he always did after unique and peculiar events.
Jarol grinned, but quickly became serious again. “I suppose you’d want to change back into your...your...clothes.” She wasn’t sure if his outfit had a name. “Brenok will go and check the situation in the transporter room.” The glinn nodded his acknowledgment. “I’ll take you there when you—and we—are ready.”
Brenok finished his meal and rose. “I’ll be going then,” he said and he and Jarol left the room.
“We need to clear the corridors too,” Jarol said. “I’ll give necessary orders.” Brenok nodded and headed for the transporter room, while she stayed outside Dukat’s quarters, waiting for him to change and join her.
When the glinn arrived to the transporter room he saw Glinn Zamarran’s legs sticking out from under a console and Garesh Aladar rummaging in one of the wall panels’ guts. “How are we?” the glinn asked the two working men.
“Just making sure it won’t blow half the ship out, sir,” Zamarran replied, his voice muffled by his surroundings.
“What are the chances it’s going to work?”
“I’d say pretty good.” The engineer crawled out and stood, shifting inside his armor to move it back to a comfortable position. “At least in theory. There are many unforeseeable factors, though, like conditions to which we beam him. Everything could be nice and smooth on our side, but go terribly wrong on his.”
“I think he understands the risks, but is determined to go back.”
Zamarran nodded; he would probably do the same thing.
“Sir,” Aladar closed the panel and went over to Brenok. “I have installed the wormhole aliens’ device fragment and I believe it will take it, but there were some cracks on it. I hope it won’t fall apart.”
“Is there any way to ensure its stability?”
“No, sir. There is no guarantee, but it’s the best we can do.”
“Very well, then,” Brenok said in a firm voice, hoping his doubts weren’t obvious. Not that he didn’t believe in Zamarran’s and Aladar’s abilities; he was too worried about experimenting on a living, sentient being not to feel any hesitation at what they were attempting to do. “Run the last necessary tests; he is on his way.”