Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
9-10th of September, 2396, Old Earth Calendar
Lieutenant Av’Roo took off her Starfeet uniform, put on her prayer necklace and sat on the meditation pillow she had prepared in the middle of her small quarters. She always had to be careful to place it in the right spot not to harm her wings.
She sat, crossed her long legs and lay her hands, palms up, on her knees. Then she slowly spread her wings, making sure she didn’t knock anything over. It appeared to be a save position, so she closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“Alar, I ask for your wisdom to guide me, to show me the way of peaceful co-existance with the universe and all beings that dwell and share it with me. Give me strength not to let my emotions take control over me and destroy me. Share humility with me so that I never claim I am more than others.” She finished her invocation and paused. “My captain is troubled, please help him find the light and guide him in his difficult decisions.” She didn’t have any more requests, not tonight. She silenced, concentrating on her breathing and removing from her soul all negative feelings she had acquired during the day.
She performed ‘Purge of the Evil from the Soul’ meditation every evening. She knew she needed it; her people were aggressive by nature and had to control that aggression or her planet’s history would repeat itself. Av’Roo herself was never a violent bird, but she believed it would be arrogant to think that she was above that kind of behaviour. She was no less a sinner as anyone else.
Her thoughts were now filled with the Cardassians. In some way they fascinated her. It was the first time she met any personally and they were not what she had expected them to be. The Cardassians were supposed to be aggressive, viscous and brutal conquerors, who brought the last bloody war to the Federation, but what she saw were...people. They were not more different from her than humans or Andorians. They had different priorities, but that was true for almost every interstellar power. They probably considered the Federation not less barbaric than the Federation considered them.
She wanted so much to talk to one of them: about their planet, their customs, their way of thinking and their way of doing things. She didn’t believe even for a moment that their technology was behind the Federation’s. No, they had to be resourceful and creative to achieve what they have achieved with so little they had. She knew about their reputation, of course, but she couldn’t help but wonder what they were like now. Whole Federation crew was sure they were the same Cardassians they had dealt with twenty years ago, but Av’Roo wasn’t convinced. She wanted to learn what they were like, not assume—and worst things at that.
Maybe she was blinded, because Jeto was her friend and the engineer shared her face with them, but Av’Roo’s feelings toward the Cardassians were nothing but curiosity and fascination—in spite of Jeto’s feelings about them. Av’Roo knew the Bajoran woman was hurting and she wished she could help her, but she didn’t know how. She could only hope that facing Cardassians who were not murderers and rapists would heal Jeto’s souls from the hatred that was burning her out from inside and destroying her mind. With th’Arshar’s new orders, however, it would be impossible—Jeto couldn’t discover there that decent Cardassians existed, if she was not allowed any contact with them. Still, the scientist understood reasoning behind the captain’s order. She hoped, tough, that with time Jeto would get used to them and maybe then the healing of her soul could start.
“They surprised me today.” Th’Arshar handed Ranus a cup of pu-er tea, an Earth beverage which they both were fond of.
“Why?” The Trill nodded, thanking for the tea.
“First I couldn’t get them to even talk to me and after that Zamarran was so open and friendly... I didn’t expect that.”
“Maybe they were really busy and not really mean.”
The Andorian only smiled. “Somehow I doubt it.”
“What is the problem, Tari?”
The captain shrugged. “I don’t know...”
“I know you don’t trust them. I am also afraid you don’t want to trust them,” Ronus said.
“How can I trust them, Asu, how? We deal with the highest commander of their military. I...” th’Arshar didn’t finish.
“What?” his executive officer and friend asked softly.
“I am afraid of him. I am afraid of mistakes I might make and...start a war in the result.”
Ronus smiled. “Aren’t you exaggerating?”
“I know you’re a scientist and always look at the big picture, but the Cardassians are not our scientific project. We don’t deal with big politics, we deal with one crew under one captain. Don’t look at him as an army commander, take him for what he is for us—a ship’s captain.”
“A ship...a warship that is one hundred times bigger than our starship. He could destroy us with one torpedo.”
They sat in silence for a moment. “Do you think we can co-operate with them? I mean truly work with them? Trust them?” th’Arshar asked.
“I do. But both our teams have to work on that. I can tell they aren’t, but I can tell we aren’t either. And you are not an exception.”
“I’m a scientist and a captain of a science vessel. I’m not a diplomat.”
“Than be a scientist. So far you behave like a spy. You don’t trust them and don’t make it easier for them to trust us.”
“Why would I make it easier?”
“See? You don’t even try!”
“We can’t destroy their ship with one torpedo.”
“Why do you assume they want to do that?”
“And you can sneak behind their gul with an ushaan-tor
and slit his throat. Are you going to do it?”
“I might...” th’Arshar smiled, but it was obvious to Ranus that the captain understood the point he was making and his words were only a joke.
“Look,” Ranus said between sips, “we have an interesting scientific mystery here. And possibly a dangerous one. We need to trust each other. You plan to send a team to that vessel over there.” The Trill waved his hand toward a bulkhead. “I’m sure they will have to turn their backs to the Cardassian team many times. Are you ready to do that?”
“I have to trust they indeed had removed those booby traps they had mentioned. Isn’t that a good step?”
“Your curiosity is bigger than your distrust,” Ronus commented.
“Do you trust them?”
“I don’t know them,” the Trill shrugged. “And I treat them as anyone else whom I don’t know. I don’t presume they are bad people.”
“During the dinner you had said one of your previous hosts was on Cardassia. When was it?”
“Almost one hundred years ago. Laita was my host then. She was a biologist and the Cardassians invited her for their terraforming project. The project failed, unfortunately.” Ronus’s forehead wrinkled at the thought and th’Arshar wasn’t sure what was the cause of that worry—the failed project or something else, worse and unrelated. “But I met a lot of different locals and I can tell you one thing: they aren’t so much different than us. Of course, they have different mentality, different priorities and see the universe differently, but the basics are the same. They are people of rules and decent men don’t break those rules.” He silenced.
“Did something happen there?”
Ronus smiled. “Laita was pretty and there was one gul whose eye she caught. He was married and he never broke his vows to his wife. In a way,” the Trill’s eyes became absent, as if he was looking at something in a far distance. “I always admired his decency, but it was breaking my heart. I loved him for being so firm and I couldn’t have him because he was so firm.” He shook his head like he suddenly realised where he was. “I have met arrogant, impossible to deal with Cardassians, Tari. Gul Brenok and Glinn Zamarran don’t belong to that group. Give them a chance, my friend, give them a chance.”
Th’Arshar didn’t say anything; he only looked at his friend, sipping his already cold pu-er tea.