Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
13th of September, 2396, Old Earth Calendar
“Why?” th’Arshar asked, looking at his officer through a forcefield.
“You have to ask why?” Came surprised reply.
“I have to because I don’t understand.”
“Do you have any idea what Lema had to suffer at the hands of the Cardassians?”
“This doesn’t explain this. The occupation was a terrible thing, but you attacked two men who were too young to be part of it. In fact, neither of them set a foot on Bajor. Never.”
“That pilot was an unfortunate result. I didn’t care about him. He could continue his miserable life for all I cared.”
“He has no life to continue.”
“He didn’t have to play a hero.”
“Ha’varra, for Uzaveh’s mercy!” th’Arshar couldn’t believe his own ears. He started to pace in front of the cell. “You have murdered an innocent man and you claim it was unfortunate.” He spat the last word. “Why did you target that Karama? What in your sick mind could you have against him?”
Th’Arshar stopped puzzled. “Not him
? Then whom? Was he also an unfortunate victim?”
“His father.” Th’Arshar understood less and less. He stared blankly at Ha’varra who continued. “His father was on Bajor and belonged to the top brass of their butchers.”
“What do you mean ‘so’?” Ha’varra started from a bench he was sitting on and run to the forcefield. “This man had brought hell to my wife’s home planet!”
“What does it have to do with the Cardassian in our sickbay?”
“He’s his son.”
“So what that he is his son?!”
“It should be obvious? I couldn’t punish the butcher, so I had to execute his son.”
Th’Arshar blinked. He opened his mouth to say something but there was nothing he could say. In fact, there was nothing he wanted to say. Ha’varra’s twisted logic was beyond his ability to comprehend. He stood there, gazing at his counselor and wondered what had happened to him. Was it always in him? Did the proximity of flesh-and-blood Cardassians wake it in him?
“I don’t understand you, Captain,” Ha’varra said. “You have seen what they are capable of. You had been at Setlik III, you know what kind of monsters they are. How can you say they don’t deserve it! I regret killing this other guy--”
“His name was Sabal!” th’Arshar boomed, not unlike Brenok had yelled at that Obsidian Order doctor a day before.
“I regret it. But this Karama had to die. For his father’s sins.”
The Andorian searched in his memory if Efrosians had some tradition or custom that would explain this, but he couldn’t recall anything.
“You were a good officer,” he said quietly. “I will mourn you,” he added and headed for the door.
“You can’t allow them execute me!” Ha’varra shouted after him but he didn’t react.
Th’Arshar walked slowly, wondering how he was supposed to tell Brenok about that. He also feared that the public trial—the tribunal, as the Cardassians called it—would show that madman to all Cardassians and they would think that all Federation people were like this.
How could that happen? How could Ha’varra do this? What kind of reasoning brought him to such a conclusion?
The Andorian was sad, disappointed and angry.
Yes, he had been at Setlik III and he had seen what Cardassians had done there, but he would never go to a quest of murdering their children for that, nor he would like them going for his children for what he had done there. It was war, life and suffering are cheaper in times of war.
He needed to talk to Ronus. Maybe the Trill would know how to explain this. However, before that, he wanted to do one more thing. He turned back and headed for the sickbay.
Gil Kapoor and Glinn Ya’val sat by Glinn Karama’s side. Th’Arshar approached them uncertainly, feeling like he was disturbing them. Like an intruder.
“Did I come at a wrong time?” he asked.
“No, Captain, it’s all right,” Ya’val answered.
The Andorian looked at Karama. “I just wanted to say I am very sorry for all this. And for your friend. I wish I could do more to help you, I wish I could turn back time and not let it happen.”
“Why?” the communication officer asked quietly.
Th’Arshar felt a painful pang in his heart. Did the Cardassian think he didn’t care? “Because no one deserves to be attacked and--”
Karama rolled his head left and right on the pillow and th’Arshar understood that it meant shaking his head. “Why did he do this?” the Cardassian rephrased his question.
The Andorian felt guilty that he judged Karama harshly, while it was his fault for not understanding. “He says it’s because of your father.”
Kapoor’s face hardened. She shot an angry glance at th’Arshar and then a worried one at her husband.
“He said someone had to pay for what your father had done during the occupation. You had to pay for that.”
Karama stared at the captain. “Do you know what is funny?” he asked eventually. Th’Arshar shook his head. “That I hate my father. Also for what he had done to the Bajorans. I haven’t spoken with him for over ten years.”
The senseless attempt of murder became even more senseless. “If there is anything I could do for you,” th’Arshar said, “Please let me know.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Karama replied quietly and closed his eyes. He looked exhausted.
The Andorian nodded to Kapoor and Ya’val and left the sickbay.
The Obsidian Order vessel
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
29th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
For the first time in her life Jeto regretted that computer core systems were one of her specialities. She had been ordered to gather information on the programming that kept a Cardassian attached to a computer. She wasn’t happy with that order, as it meant she had to beam to the Cardassian ship and her dissatisfaction raised when she saw him.
Most of his body was covered by a tube-like cover that raised above and around him. She couldn’t see his hands and feet as he was covered up to his chest, but his head was exposed and it was the worst thing she had seen in her life; worse even than Borg implants.
She looked at his face. He was sleeping. Tormented.
It was the first time in her life that she had non-hostile feelings toward a Cardassian. This man was a victim of the Cardassians just like her mother. Just like whole Bajor! He was abused and exploited. And then abandoned. He was more Bajoran in that aspect than herself.
His eye ridges were very thick just above his eyes with a couple of rows of scales at the bottom of forehead ridges, but then gently curved in almost a perfect circle around his eyes. His small nose had a cute shape and even a ridge in the middle of it didn’t mar it. His mouth was small and she could swear his lips used to be full. She wished she could see his eyes open and wondered what colour they were. His neck ridges were wide and decorated by three rows of thick, big scales. The upper ear ridge was short and delicate, the lower one ran along his jaw.
She thought he had to be a cute man before this had been done to him.
She looked around, wondering if anyone noticed that she stared at him, but the medical team seemed to be occupied. O’Riordan smiled to her when their eyes met. Jeto smiled back and then started her work. She retrieved her tricorder and started to scan the table. She had already memorised the schematics for this device, which became available after the database was decoded, and now tried to gather more recent information about the table’s actual functioning.
,” Brenok’s voice over the comm suddenly speaking to her freaked her out. “Please go to the engineering as fast as you can
.” She already dropped her tools and headed for the door. “If Nagem is there, stop her whatever she does. Use force if necessary, you can even kill her if you have to. Then wait for a troop to take over
She was running now. The Cardassian’s voice sounded urgent and nervous. She had no idea why she was following his order, why she started to do what he wanted before he even finished talking, but she was in the engineering in less than a minute. She always was a fast runner.
“Stop!” she yelled toward the woman. She barely registered two Cardassian bodies that laid sprawled on the deck with holes burnt through their armours.
Nagem stopped manipulating near the man in the open stasis chamber and looked at her. First she looked at Jeto’s face, then at her uniform and then resumed her work. The Bajoran retrieved her phaser and shot a warning shot above the Cardassian’s head.
“Stop or I’ll kill you.” She wondered why Brenok didn’t tell her to only stun the woman. Bloodthirsty Cardassians...
“Why would I fear a traitor?” the woman asked her.
“I think you are a traitor, it was the gul that ordered me to kill you.”
“You wear this uniform.”
“I am a Bajoran
Nagem looked at her again. “Ah, yes, you seem to be. At least a part of you. The worse part.”
Jeto swallowed the insult. She had her phaser pointed at Nagem and waited for Cardassians to arrive and take care of this.
“My mother didn’t ask for what had been done to her.”
“I hope he had a lot of fun,” Nagem sneered.
Jeto’s finger twitched. “You fucking bitch...”
The Cardassian’s face pulled in contempt and she moved back to the man in stasis, clearly attempting to resume her work. Jeto heard heavy boots behind her but there was no time—she pressed the trigger and fired. Nagem fell to the deck with a heavy thud.
Three Cardassians passed by her and ran to the woman. The forth one stopped by Jeto.
“Good job,” he said.
“I didn’t kill her,” the Bajoran explained. “I only stunned her.”
She expected the Cardassian to be angry or irritated but he only smiled. “You stopped her, never mind how.”
“She was trying to revive him,” one of the others said, looking at the one next to her.
“Tarub to Brenok,” the Cardassian pressed the communicator on his wrist.
“The Federation...” Tarub glanced at Jeto’s collar, “Lieutenant stopped Nagem on time. Nagem attempted to revive her colleague.”
“Is she dead?
“Negative. The lieutenant stunned her.”
“Take her to the brig. And tell Lieutenant Jeto she did a good job
.” Brenok signed off.
“Sorry, didn’t know your name,” Tarub smiled sheepishly. “And—good job,” he smiled again.
His smile appeared friendly but it sent shivers down Jeto’s spine. What did he want? Polite or not, his smile was still creepy.
“I have a job to do on the bridge,” she said and without waiting for his response she left the engineering.
Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
29th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
Brenok entered the brig and stopped right before the forcefield. He put his hands behind his back and squinted at the occupant of the cell.
“Well, go ahead and ask,” Nagem said.
“Ask about what?”
“Your questions. I’m sure you have plenty of them.”
“Oh, I have questions indeed. However I am certain I would get no answers from you.”
“I am willing to answer.”
“Let me rephrase it then; I am certain I wouldn’t get any truthful
answers from you.”
“And what if you are mistaken?”
“I will get my answers anyway and won’t have to waste my time for wondering how much truth is in them.”
“So...what’s going to happen to me?”
“As I have told you, you will face the tribunal. There is a matter of investigation, but the information I have right now is enough to keep you here.” He looked around her cell. “And something tells me that the investigation would only add to your charges.”
She sighed, but it wasn’t a sound of resignation, it sounded as if she had pity for him. He didn’t care if she saw him as a traitor or another ridiculous notion as this.
“You and your kind ruined the Union, do you know that?”
He smirked. “Of course we did. People living without fear from your kind is such a terrible thing.”
She squinted at him. “It was safer back then.”
“Not for ordinary citizens.”
“Even for them, if they behaved properly.”
He didn’t say anything; he saw no sense in arguing with this person. Stone-heads they called them these days. People who thought that the old, oppressive system served the empire and couldn’t see that nowadays it was much better. People were happier, safer and had more freedom.
“While in the sickbay, I read in the database about your new Cardassia
. You do business like Ferengi,” she spat the last word. “Weaklings.”
Brenok did all he could not to burst into laughter. This woman here believed that it was so dishonourable to buy your food instead of stealing it from somebody else.
“I assume you also think Saratt was a weakling because he screamed when you attached him to that ship.”
“No,” she shook her head. “It was unfortunate. I proposed to unplug him but my vote was drowned by others.”
“Unfortunate,” he repeated the word. Unfortunate
. To condemn a man to eternal suffering beyond imagination...how unfortunate.
Brenok pursed his lips and his nostrils widened in fury. It took all his strong will not to hit the wallcomm button to lower the forcefield and grab this beast by her throat and squeeze, sinking his fingers under her scales. His hands weren’t behind his back any longer, they hanged clenched into fists. She had a bruise on her left eye ridge—no doubt a result of resisting her arrest—and he wanted, oh, he so wanted to add another one on the right side. For the balance. His teeth almost hurt from the force with which he clenched his jaws.
,” she said, approaching the forcefield. She sounded like an agent, they all spoke with the same threatening-sweet manner. He used to dread it but now...now he
was the law.
He bared his teeth. He wished he had a bat’leth and could slice her ear off, sinking the weapon deep in her neck ridge. And then press deeper to cut the arm off. To cut her to pieces. To expose each and every nerve in her miserable body. And then to put the rest on that table, attach her to the computer core and install a virus. And leave her like that forever!
“You’re a Lakarian, too, aren’t you?” she asked.
He didn’t answer. He knew he didn’t have to. His accent was so clear and distinct...and after the city’s destruction he nursed it, valued it for so few Cardassians spoke with it. He was proud of it!
“That city was always full of such like him. What are you, Gul
Brenok?” She said his rank with a small laughter. “Another painter? A musician? A writer? Those were most dangerous.”
He couldn’t believe his ears. She believed in her mission. Her heart was into it. He could never understand why one Cardassian could do what the Obsidian Order did to another Cardassian. What drove those people? Now, standing in front of that woman and listening to her, he could understand it even less.
“How does a painter harm the Union?” he asked. She gave him a surprised look. “I’ll tell you something, agent,” he continued. “You participated in most hideous things I have ever seen and you think you served the Union. Saratt had only twenty-five years of his life for his own use and he did more for the Union than you could during your whole lifetime. His paintings, the work of his heart, were used as a reference when we started to rebuild Lakarian City. We have it back because of people like him. We don’t have more people like him because of people like you!” He could barely keep his anger in check.
“You are a painter too, aren’t you?”
“No.” Why did he let her engage him into this?
He didn’t reply. He wasn’t an artist, she was wrong in this matter. However, he wouldn’t tell her that. He wouldn’t tell her anything. She didn’t deserve it. All she deserved was to be tortured to death and for the first time since the Shift he regretted they have removed this kind of punishment from the tribunal choices of sentences.
“So?” she repeated.
He only smirked at her, turned on his heel and left the brig. When he was far enough to be sure she couldn’t hear it, he punched a bulkhead with his fist and roared. His knuckles hurt but he didn’t mind. Some soldier appeared for a moment but he quickly turned back and went where he came from not to cross his way with his gul. Brenok hoped the man only wanted to give him a moment of dignified privacy and was not really afraid that the gul’s anger would turn against him.
“Tari to Gul Brenok.
“What is it?”
“Doctor Zabar’s ship is approaching. She asked to meet you in your office
“I’ll be there soon.”
He leaned his back against the bulkhead and tried to compose himself. He attempted to control his breathing but couldn’t get Nagem’s words out of his head. Would Zabar understand if he were on the edge and not totally calm?