Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
27th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
Ma’Kan stared at Zamarran and Ya’val not believing her own ears. This couldn’t be the truth, this was some kind of sick joke they decided to play on her.
“What do you mean...Sabal is dead,” she whispered.
Ya’val grabbed her elbow and pulled her inside her quarters. They stood in the doorway and every passerby on the corridor could witness their difficult conversation.
“It can’t be,” she said, looking at him with huge eyes and letting him pulled her toward her sofa. Zamarran entered too, but he stopped just by the door.
“It must be some kind of mistake,” she said. “You are wrong,” she shook her head.
“You may go, sir,” Ya’val said softly to Zamarran.
“Let me know if any of you needs me,” the gul’s aide said and left.
“Zerin, please, please tell me this is not true,” she begged the engineer.
His eyes filled with tears. “I’ve seen his body. This is for real, my friend. This is for real.”
“But...who? Why? Why him? What did he do to anyone?”
“I don’t know. I don’t understand it either.” He kept shaking his head.
“I...sometimes I thought that I...” she didn’t finish. She couldn’t finish. It didn’t matter any more.
She was the first person who befriended Sabal when he had arrived to the ship. There was something in him, something soft but he wasn’t soft. She had checked his profile—something she did with every new crewmember—and when she had discovered that part of it was classified, she had hacked in. That also was something she did with every crewmember. She didn’t see it as illegal, she had to know everything there was to know about everyone on this warship, because she was responsible for everyone’s safety.
At first she had been shocked to discover that Sabal had been an Obsidian Order agent. He didn’t seem to have that cruelty in him. But later she realised that he would be a perfect agent because he didn’t have that cruelty. People would trust him. She just wasn’t sure he would be able to abuse that trust. His heart was too good for it. He was above dirty Obsidian Order tricks.
“Zerin...” she looked at the engineer. “Zerin...” All she could say was his name.
He took her hand in his and stroke its back. “Don’t say anything,” he whispered. “I know.”
She sniffed and then her eyes hardened. “Zerin, I want to lead the investigation.”
“Glinn Zamarran said we were both too close to Sabal to let us do it. He will lead it. With that Federation security chief.”
“I am responsible for this ship’s security,” she said. And I failed so badly
, she thought. “I should lead the investigation.”
“Believe me, I know how you feel, but your perspective would not be neutral.”
“I can’t just sit and do nothing,” she complained. “I can’t be useless!”
“There’s nothing you can do.”
“It was that Bajoran, wasn’t it!” she suddenly shouted. “She did this! She hates us all! I’ll kill her!”
“Soterra, stop it!” he said sharply, although he didn’t want it to sound so harshly.
“She deserves to die for what she’s done,” the tactician hissed.
“It wasn’t her. She found them, but it wasn’t her.”
“How can you know?!”
“She tried to save Karama’s life.”
“I have no idea. But she did. It was too late for Sabal.”
“Who did this?” she felt so guilty now asking questions about Sabal and not about Karama.
“Zamarran will find out. He has to.”
“Will the Feds give us the murderer to face our tribunal? Somehow I doubt it.”
“I don’t know, but Gul Brenok fights th’Arshar. If you could see him. He threatened the captain, he was angry and he yelled at him. The Trill tried to find a compromise, but to be honest I think anything else than an execution is unacceptable. Even Kapoor wants the guilty dead and she’s human.”
“How is she?”
“Still on the Federation ship. They were still operating when I left.”
“Let’s see how it’s going,” she rose and went to her computer. Then she thought that Kapoor wouldn’t like to talk to a disembodied voice through a comm. Maybe she needed support? It was her husband there, fighting for his life. “Is there anyone we could ask? Apart from her?”
“No one from our crew is still there. But maybe calling their sickbay would suffice.”
“I’ll do that,” she tapped in commands and waited, sniffing her tears.
She saw a face of a human. “Wait a moment,” the human said and then moved away, disappearing from the screen. Ma’Kan glanced at Ya’val who only shrugged.
“Gil,” Taret’s voice spoke from the monitor and the tactician’s eyes returned there immediately.
“Medic, how’s Karama?”
“We managed to stop the bleeding and we seem to have enough blood for him in the Damar
’s storage, so for now it seems good.”
“There are still things that could go wrong, however if his condition doesn’t worsen within next twelve hours, he should be fine.”
“Is he going to return to health fully?”
“If everything goes well, yes, he is.”
At least some good news. “How’s Kapoor?”
“She is with him. She’d use a friend.”
“Are you sure I wouldn’t disturb her?”
“I’m sure. You could use a friend too,” he added.
Ma’Kan’s eyes filled with tears again.
Taret disconnected and the tactician looked at her friend.
“I’ll go with you,” he said. “There is a murderer among them and I won’t let you go alone.”
“It didn’t help Sabal and Karama.”
“They didn’t expect anything. Let me just contact Zamarran and ask him to warn that each and every Cardassian aboard their ship’s going to be armed.”
Zamarran was furious. He was beyond furious. He observed Brenok pacing in the office and wondered how it was possible that the gul hadn’t strangled th’Arshar for his ideas there in that sickbay. Ya’val had told him what had happened there and Zamarran couldn’t believe th’Arshar had been defending the murderer. How blind those Federation types had to be to think that there was any justice in locking a killer in a cell to live in comfort for rest of his life. The glinn had no doubt that a Federation prison was nothing like a Cardassian one. He was certain that it was nice, tidy, warm and with all necessary utilities; after all anything less would be inhuman, wouldn’t it?
“Sir,” he said quietly.
Brenok didn’t react, he kept pacing. How different was Brenok’s anger with a reason from his anger without a reason. His frustrations were finding their way in insults and violence, sometimes toward others, sometimes self-inflicted—although he suspected that self-inflicted sort was rather a self-punishment for letting his emotions get out of control. His justified anger was locked inside him. He didn’t curse. He didn’t insult. His reasoning was intact and he could present you with all his arguments.
“Gul Brenok,” Zamarran said again and again he was ignored.
He didn’t mind. He knew that Brenok was on the edge and he probably feared he would explode in Zamarran’s face.
“I will lead the investigation,” the glinn decided to speak anyway. “I will take Fong as my aide, so later the Federation captain cannot accuse us of falsifying proofs or any other nasty things.” He silenced for a moment, wondering if Brenok heard him at all. The gul stopped and looked at him. “I will also assign two security militiamen to every Cardassian that works aboard their ship and I really don’t care what they have to say about it,” the glinn continued. “I’ll send a troop there, if I have to. I’ve already ordered Tarub to assign four men for Karama’s protection. Whoever did this, he or she can try to finish the job.”
Brenok sat, but not in his chair on his side of the desk, but next to Zamarran, on the guest side.
“Troval, did I make a mistake?” he whispered.
Zamarran’s first reaction was shock. He didn’t know what he found more astonishing: that Brenok blamed himself or that he used his given name to address to him.
“Was I too trustful? Not careful enough? The Federation were never our close friends. We have a history of conflicts. Was it my negligence? Did I trust them too much? Did my guilt after my last...breakdown...cloud my judgement? Did I try to make it up too much?”
Zamarran listened to Brenok and kept shaking his head. “No, no, Gul, absolutely not.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Sir, there is someone on that ship, one or more people, who have killed our officer and attempted to murder another one. This is not your
fault. You didn’t force their hand. Brenok, you didn’t even provoke them!” he said the last sentence louder and with indignation. “Whoever is to blame, it’s not
“And what if your investigation proves I am somehow responsible?”
“I don’t see how.”
Brenok lowered his head and Zamarran stared at him, wondering if there was anything he could say to convince the gul.
“Gul Brenok...” he started but decided it was time to be rather a supportive friend than a subordinate. “Arenn, I will find whoever did this. And I will prove to you that it wasn’t your fault.”
Brenok looked at him and he expected to be chastised for addressing his gul by his given name, but Brenok only stared. Zamarran opened his mouth to apologise for breaking the etiquette, but the gul sighed and his lips formed a sad smile.
“I hope you’d also tell me if it were my fault.”
“I would,” Zamarran confirmed. “However I know that it isn’t.”
“Do you believe that Jeto didn’t do it?”
“I don’t assume anything. I will investigate her too. But somehow I can’t imagine her taking two Cardassian men. If she was involved, she had help.”
“She did try to save Karama.”
“She might have realised what she tried to do and attempted to at least save one of them. Or it was all planned to look like she saved one, while she killed the other one.”
Brenok sighed. “Any news about Karama?” He sat with his forearms leaned on his thighs, looking at tips of his boots.
“He’s stable. This night is critical; if he survives then he should be safe.”
“The people in stasis?”
“Taret’s team is preparing to revive one as we speak.”
“They don’t want to risk waking them both up. Not now, at least.”
Zamarran wished he could do more to help Brenok. He wished Jarol were here to cheer her friend up. He wished he knew if he could do that himself.
“Sir, is there anything I can do to help...you?”
The gul looked up in the glinn’s face. He looked like considering his answer. “No, Troval, but thank you,” he said finally. Somehow this time the use of his name didn’t bother Zamarran.
There was something new between him and Brenok, a new kind of bond. His young gul didn’t want their relationship to be limited to duty only, he didn’t want Zamarran’s support to be regulated by rules, he needed Zamarran’s heart
to lean on. And Zamarran intended to give all he could, every piece of his soul to this young man, who sometimes seemed like carrying too much weight on his shoulders.
“Decryption finished successfully,” the computer’s voice said suddenly.
Zamarran gave Brenok an asking look.
“I have found some encrypted files about Saratt. Let’s see what the Order was trying to hide.”
They both moved to the other side of the desk; Brenok sat in his chair and Zamarran stood behind him.
“A visual recording,” the glinn commented slightly surprised.
“That’s third one in his file,” Brenok said. “Let’s see...” he punched in a command and the recording started to play.
They watched and their surprise, disgust and admiration grew. It was a record of an interview with Saratt. The young man sat in an empty room opposite a middle-aged man who kept asking his questions. At first questions seemed innocent, but the farther the interview went, the worse the questions got. And the clearer was fear in Saratt’s eyes.
The man explained the procedure to him. He promised no suffering, he promised Saratt wouldn’t feel anything, he promised he would be unaware of anything. Saratt asked if it would be like death. The man confirmed. And then he promised that after one hundred years Saratt would be disconnected and could return to his life. Saratt clearly didn’t believe him. He asked what would happen if he refused. The man told him the next from the list would be taken in his place.
Zamarran knew the next on the list was Sabal.
Saratt seemed to consider the answer and then decided, “I’ll do it.”
The man gave him a padd and the young painter pressed his thumb to confirm his consent.
“They would kill him if he refused and he knew it,” Zamarran said. “That way or the other he wouldn’t leave the Orias system alive.”
“I think it’s more than that,” Brenok replied. “I think he didn’t want them to take Sabal.”
They both silenced for a moment. “Those bastards destroyed the best people Cardassia ever had,” Zamarran said with hatred. “They believed we all were guilty of something, it was only a matter of time to find of what.”
Brenok glanced at him. “They are gone and won’t come back.”
“Lost lives can’t come back too.”
The gul observed him and Zamarran wondered if he knew about his brother. Brenok had access to files very few people could see. Maybe there was something, maybe someone knew...
“Let’s try to save this one,” the gul said. “Let’s do our best to save Saratt.”
Zamarran nodded. “Let’s do that,” he wholeheartedly agreed.
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
11th of September, 2396, Old Earth Calendar
Amrita Kapoor sat in the Federation sickbay by the side of her husband. Her hand was just next to his and from time to time she was gently touching his with her little finger, as if she wanted to make sure he was still there, flesh and blood.
It felt so surreal. She was here, in this bright Federation style room and it felt so strange, so alien to her. The Cardassian on the bed was her connection to what she considered ‘home’.
She couldn’t imagine losing him. She couldn’t imagine what she would do without him. She couldn’t imagine how she could go on without him. How would she tell their children?
She felt someone’s presence behind her. She turned to see the last person she’d expect to be here.
“Why?” she asked the visitor. “Why did you do it? Why did you save him? You hate them.”
“When I saw him, I didn’t see a Cardassian,” Jeto replied. “I saw a dying man and I acted. It was an instinct. If I thought...I might have left him there to die.”
“Thank you. Even if you regret it, thank you. For me he’s not a monster, he’s my husband.”
“Do you love him?”
“Of course I do!”
“Did he force you? Ever?”
“Force me? To what? To marry him?”
Jeto shook her head.
“No,” Kapoor understood the question. “He never forced anyone to anything.” She grinned slightly. “He can’t even force our son to finish his dinner.”
“Why did you marry a Cardassian?” Jeto pulled a chair and sat next to Kapoor.
“Because I loved him. It’s as simple as that.”
“His father was on Bajor.”
“Isn’t he like his father?”
“Absolutely not. He hates his father. That hate includes what his father had done on Bajor.”
Jeto didn’t say anything for a long moment, looking at Karama’s face.
“My uncle was in the resistance. The Cardassians suspected that his cell was in our village and sent a troop to...investigate.” Kapoor didn’t need additional explanation for the last word. “They burned whole village, house after house, dragging all people outside, killing men and raping women. Very few survived. They would kill them all, but some commander appeared and told them to stop and ordered them to withdraw. My mother was one of very few survivors. She told me that story, but I always felt that she hid something from me. That she tried to hide how bad it really was.” Kapoor thought that this story didn’t seem like hiding any ‘bad’, it was as terrible as possible. “That she lied about that commander.”
“Do you think there was no commander?”
“There was one, I’m sure. But I don’t think he stopped them.”
“Why? Maybe it really was someone who didn’t like what happened in that village. Someone who knew it was very, very wrong.”
“There are no such Cardassians.”
“There are. And maybe this commander was one of them. Maybe your mother tried to tell you that not all of them were so bad.”
“Or maybe she made him up for me not to feel so terrible when I see my own face?”
“Look, Jeto. I live among them and I can tell you that some of them are horrible assholes. And some of them are great people. Did anyone here treat you badly? Except for that unfortunate dinner, I mean.”
“The engineer. I think he’d love to meet me in a dark corridor, if he could get away with it.”
“Ya’val?” Kapoor didn’t believe her own ears. “He’s harmless. Whatever he said, I’m sure you misunderstood.”
“He didn’t say anything. But the way he looked...it was scary.”
“Are you sure you didn’t imagine things?”
Kapoor was certain that Jeto was overreacting.
“What’s he like?” the Bajoran nodded toward Karama. “Is he brutal?”
“He’s gentle and caring.”
“Did he ever hit you?”
“Did he hit your children?”
“No! He was beaten as a child and he’d never do that himself,” Kapoor recalled their first conversation about this and her heart ached. She had been brutally blunt that day and she had hurt him with her aggressive questions.
“Are you sure?”
“How about that Gul Brenok. How many people did he order to execute?”
Kapoor didn’t answer at first. Brenok did order executions, but all those people were guilty of something, really guilty. “Why don’t you ask if he saved someone?” the Indian woman answered with her own question. There were more people Brenok saved then sent to their demise.
“I don’t know. Less than five.”
“Within last year?”
“Within his career. Last thirty years.”
“I don’t believe this.”
“You don’t believe your mother, you don’t believe me. Why do you ask if you’re not ready to accept answers that are not to your liking?” she paused for a moment. “Did your mother tell you the name of that officer?”
“She didn’t know.”
“Do you want to know?”
“Afraid it may occur to be the truth.”
“I’m not interested.”
Kapoor wanted to ask if she wasn’t curious who her father was, but then she thought she wouldn’t be curious herself. She wouldn’t even consider that bastard a father. A monster was a much better description.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
“Why did you come to the sickbay?”
“I...I don’t know. I wanted to see how he was.”
“I don’t know!” Jeto said with anger. “But...” her voice was much softer and quieter. “But...I hope he’s going to make it.”
Kapoor’s eyes filled with tears.
Suddenly four Cardassian soldiers entered the room. Jeto gasped, clearly startled, so Kapoor put her hand on the Bajoran’s shoulder.
“What is it?” she asked the ranking garesh.
“We have been ordered to guard Glinn Karama. There are two men waiting for you outside, Gil. They will accompany you wherever you go as long as you stay aboard this ship.”
Jeto ran out of the sickbay.