Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
31st day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
They had been operating on Saratt for almost twelve hours. They had to remove the wires and take care of the damage that had been inflicted by the electric discharge.
Brenok spent that time in his quarters. He had made a certain decision and decided to share it with someone, whom it also concerned.
“Uncle Arenn, how nice to see you!” Latana smiled at him from the monitor.
“How are you? How are twins?”
“We are fine. I hope you can see them soon.”
They chatted for a moment about her everyday matters and then he said, “Latana, there is something I want to tell you.”
“I will move back to Lakarian City. I will buy a house there. If you want to move with me, it would be also your house. If you decide to stay in Lakat, I would buy you a house there. It’s up to you. But I am moving and I won’t change my mind.”
“I understand, Uncle. I will talk about it with Zatal.”
“Of course,” he smiled. “This concerns both of you.” He knew Latana’s husband valued his job and he wouldn’t be able to find the same kind of employment in Lakarian City. “You have some time, though. This won’t happen tomorrow. I just wanted to let you know as early as possible.”
“I appreciate that, Uncle.” She scrutinised him for a moment. “Is everything all right with you? You don’t look well.”
“I’m tired. And I await a very important news.”
“I see. I’m sure you can’t talk about it.”
“I’ll see you soon?”
“Very soon,” he managed to smile.
Her face disappeared from the screen and he leaned back in the chair, closing his eyes. A moment later he was asleep.
“Taret to Gul Brenok.” Suddenly woken up, Brenok almost slid off the chair.
“Brenok here,” he answered in a raspy voice.
A moment of silence. “Are you all right, sir?” Taret sounded suspiciously.
“I’m fine, Taret. What is it?”
“Saratt woke up and--”
“I’ll be right there.”
He probably beat the time record of reaching the infirmary from deck two, where his quarters were located.
“How is he?” he asked Taret as soon as he arrived to his destination.
“Quite fine. I cannot be completely sure but it would appear that his brain functions are undamaged. I can’t say the same about this throat, I’m afraid. His vocal cords were fried. We had to remove a lot of tissue and he won’t be able to normally talk. However,” Taret smiled. “The smile on his face when he woke up...It was priceless, sir. It was a weak smile, he couldn’t do much more as the paratox dissolves slowly, but it was a happy smile.”
“Can I see him?”
“Certainly,” the medic agreed. He took the gul to an adjacent room, where Saratt lay in a biobed.
As soon as the painter noticed Brenok in the door, he started to blink rapidly.
“What’s wrong?” Taret asked him with worry obvious in his voice.
But Saratt kept looking at Brenok. He stared at his fellow Lakarian with great intensity and Brenok wished he knew what the painter wanted. Or maybe he was asking a question? The gul approached Saratt.
“Do you want to ask a question?” One blink. “About where we’re taking you?” Two blinks. “About what would happen to you?” Two blinks. Brenok dreaded to ask the next question. “About Sabal?” Saratt had to notice that the pilot was not visiting him. One blink.
Taret looked at Brenok, leaving it to him to deliver the bad news. They had agreed they would not lie to Saratt but also would not talk about it unless directly asked. Brenok had hoped Saratt wouldn’t ask.
“Please leave us alone,” he said quietly.
Taret moved away but stayed by the door. Brenok pulled a stool and sat next to the biobed. He could see Saratt already expected something had happened.
The gul didn’t say anything. He started to hum an old, traditional Lakarian mourning song. He felt tears filling his eyes and for the first time since Sabal’s death he felt an emptiness, a void the pilot left. He had had no time to think about it, he hadn’t given his heart any chance to feel it, but now it all fell on him.
He wasn’t the only one crying. Saratt closed his eyes and Brenok knew the painter understood his message. The gul wiped his tears and noticed that Saratt was staring at his braid. The painter gave an asking look into Brenok’s eyes and then back on his braid.
“I grew long hair because I lost my ear,” Brenok turned his head for Saratt to see. “The scar was scaring my daughter.” Saratt’s eyes glued to the place where the hair covered Brenok’s temple. “Do you want to see it? It’s ugly.” One blink. The gul didn’t do it often but this time he didn’t hesitate; he raised his hand and uncovered his non-existing ear. Saratt studied the place and his lips moved a little. Brenok wished he knew what it meant, an encouraging smile perhaps? Or maybe ‘I look much worse, so don’t worry’? He lowered his hand and the hair returned to its previous position.
Saratt’s eyes found another thing to concentrate on. His stomach.
“Are you in pain?” Brenok asked worried. Two blinks. “Is something wrong here?” Two blinks. “Do you want me to move away?” Brenok was leaning over him and maybe Saratt didn’t appreciate that. Two blinks and then again two blinks. “What are you looking at? Your body?” No
. “Something you see on the wall there?” No
. “My braid?” No
. There was nothing else there. “You don’t like the colour of your gown?” Saratt’s eyes open wide and his nostrils widened. Was he laughing? Two blinks. “My shadow?” This was ridiculous but to Brenok’s surprise Saratt answered Yes
. “Why? What’s so special...” He didn’t finish. He knew. There was a Lakarian song about having a shadow. Without a shadow you don’t exist. He started to sing.
Saratt listened to him with closed eyes and when Brenok finished the painter looked at him.
“Do you want to see your shadow?” the gul asked. Saratt blinked once. Brenok called Taret and asked him to raise Saratt’s hand. The medic frowned but did as asked without saying a word. Brenok found a piece of equipment with a reflective surface and he raised it and positioned so the painter could see his hand without moving his head.
“In fact, you have two shadows now,” Brenok commented. Due to ambient light conditions Saratt’s hand indeed cast two overlapping shadows.
Taret rested the hand gently and returned to the door.
“Ready to go home?” Brenok asked Saratt. The painter’s nostrils widened again and he blinked once. There was something strange happening to his face, though. “Medic!” Brenok called in alarm. Taret literally ran to them. “There’s something with his cheeks...or mouth, I’m not sure.”
Saratt looked at Taret, then back at Brenok. The medic took a medical scanner and hovered it over the painter’s head. “I don’t see anything wrong.”
“Look,” Brenok pointed at a bulge on Saratt’s cheek. “What is it?”
Taret studied his patient’s face, gently touched the place and the bulge disappeared. Then he laughed. The gul looked at him, wondering if his chief medic lost his mind.
“It’s his tongue, sir!” Taret explained, his eyes shining. “He can move his tongue!”
Brenok looked at Saratt who seemed to test his new abilities. His face expression was something Brenok hadn’t seen yet, his very dark brown eyes wide open. He stuck his tongue to his left cheek, then right, then left again.
“Don’t overwork yourself, son,” Taret said. “Take a rest.”
Brenok moved to leave. “Listen to your medic, Saratt. I’ll visit you later.”
“Do you want me to stay?”
“All right,” the gul sat back on the stool. “I’ll stay but you still go to sleep.”
Saratt closed his eyes and Brenok started to hum a lullaby. The painter opened his eyes, surprised, then half closed them and then closed them completely. The gul didn’t intend to leave his side until he’d fall asleep. He just sat there, humming and thinking. There was one task left to do: to inform Saratt’s family that he was alive and is going to be alive. He hadn’t contacted them until now, as he didn’t want to give them hope and then take it away with news of his death. He wanted to wait and bring the final word.
“Sir,” Taret whispered over his shoulder. “He is asleep, you can go now.”
“I’ll stay a little while longer.”
The medic nodded, smiling, and went away. Brenok, through the door to the main room of the infirmary, noticed that Zamarran with Av’Roo stood by the main door to the corridor. He rose and approached them.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Lieutenant Av’Roo wanted to talk to you, sir,” Zamarran explained and then moved away to give both of them some privacy.
“Any problems?” Brenok asked her.
“No, Gul, I just wanted to give you this,” she handed him a small packet she kept in her hands.
“What is it?”
“A gift?” he looked at her surprised. “Why?”
“Does it require a reason?” she smiled. “If it does, it’s a token of my appreciation of your singing.”
“Thank you,” he didn’t expect that. “That’s really nice of you.” He opened the box—it was decorated with drawings of feathers and some symbols—and looked inside. He saw feathers. Intrigued, he took the object and it occurred to be a scarf made of green and grey feathers.
“It’s very warm. Maybe you could use it when it too cold for you,” she smiled. “I realise it’s not something you could wear with your uniform but I hope when you’re off duty, it would be helpful.”
Brenok stroke the feathers—they were soft and pleasant in touch—and looked up at Av’Roo.
“This is a wonderful gift. Thank you,” he said softly. “About the other day...”
“That is all right, Gul. I searched the database and now I know what I had done wrong. I’m sorry for that. I never wanted to behave outrageously.”
“I know you didn’t.” It freaked him out a bit that such information would be in some readily available database.
They looked at each other for a long while. Finally, Av’Roo lowered her head and said quietly, “I’ll leave you with your friend now. I’m glad we managed to save at least him.”
“So am I, Av’Roo, so am I.”
She left with Zamarran and Brenok returned to Saratt’s bed.
“She’s...intriguing,” he told the sleeping man.
“Sir,” Taret approached him a while later. “He is asleep and should stay asleep until tomorrow morning. You need some sleep too.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Sir.” Taret insisted.
“No.” Brenok’s voice was firm.
The medic looked at his gul and sighed. He left and a moment later was back, pushing his own chair from his office into the room. “If you’re going to stay here for the whole night, you can at least sit in something comfortable and not fall off the stool when you join Saratt in sleep. I’d hate to fix your broken arm.”
Brenok smiled. Taret sounded more like a father than one of his officers. “What about you?”
“I have a bed, thank you. Nurse Dastad will stay to keep an eye on both of you and will wake me if something bad happens.”
Taret smiled to Brenok and left.
The gul sat in the comfortable chair, put his hand on the biobed just next to Saratt’s and relaxed a bit. His last thought, just before he fell asleep, was that he should be talking to Saratt’s brothers right that moment.
Nurse Dastad came in and checked Saratt’s readings. Then he took a blanket and covered the sleeping gul. He went to a stool in the corner, took a padd with his book and started to read, glancing at both sleeping Lakarians from time to time.