Gul Toral, in a bad mood, stood in the middle of his bridge with his hands clasped behind him. He impatiently waited for his tactical officer to deliver information but the tactician, Glinn Lorrun, was silent. Toral did his best to be patient and not stare at the officer with a reprimand written all over his face, but it was proving more difficult with every minute that passed.
“Lorrun,” he said finally.
The glinn shot him a nervous glance and then his eyes returned to his screen. “I’m sorry, sir, but—”
“I am not interested in your being sorry. I want my answers!”
“Sir,” Gil Yamuc spoke from the communication station. “We are being hailed by Rayak Nor
Legate Jarol’s lovely face appeared on the viewer.
“Gul Toral, I am sure you have detected the Hideki patrol ship that is headed here,” she said and he confirmed by nodding. “They are under some kind of quarantine but we can’t hail them. I want you to intercept them. Talk to them. Remember not to beam anyone aboard. We can’t be sure if the quarantine is the real thing but we can’t take any chances.”
“Yes, Legate,” he said crisply. And he didn’t care she didn’t outrank him and could not issue him any orders—in fact, he outranked her as, in spite of them both being guls grade four, his position placed him higher in the command structure. And anyway, what she wanted him to do was the right thing to do.
She signed off and he looked at the helm officer.
“Glinn Tassar, enter course to intercept.”
“Korel,” Toral looked at his aide. “I’m sure he already knows but inform Gul Brenok of our movement.”
The glinn nodded his acknowledgement.
Toral went to his chair and sat. “Out ETA?” he asked Tassar.
“Tactical, keep scanning them,” the gul threw toward Lorrun who sat on his chair with lowered head and seemed to be half smaller than usually.
“Yes, Gul,” came a loud and clear reply.
Toral waited. Seven minutes of waiting. Seven very long minutes of waiting.
“Sir, we’re in range,” Yamuc said.
“Hail them,” the gul leaned forward in his chair, leaning the left elbow on his thigh and grasping the armrest with the right hand.
The main viewer flickered and a human’s face appeared on it; the first word that came to Toral’s mind was ‘ragged’. This man’s face was ragged.
“I am Gul Toral of Cardassian Union Warship Radalar
,” he introduced himself. “Who are you and what are you doing aboard a Cardassian property?”
“My name is Pierre Tibaut and I am from the colony Mazita
,” the man replied in broken Cardassian.
Toral searched his memory. Mazita—one of former Federation colonies, now within the borders of the Union. So, he at least knew the man wasn’t a thief.
“Are you unwell?” the gul asked, knowing very well how ridiculously his question had to sound. It was obvious even to a non-medic that the man was everything but well.
“Our colony...it was struck by some kind of virus. We cannot find any solution. We need help. Our children need help
“I see,” Toral stood up and made a step toward the screen. “Let’s start from the beginning. When did it happen and how serious the disease is?” He turned to Korel. “Get Medic Jabat here, now.” Korel nodded and pressed his wristcomm. Toral looked back at the human.
“We don’t know where the virus came from but we suspect it was artificially created. First cases were noted three months ago but weren’t fatal. However, the virus mutated. Death rate is one hundred percent
“I take it you are sick too.”
“I am. I know you might not trust me because I’m not a Cardassian, but I’m afraid my companion, a Cardassian, has died three hours ago
It didn’t even occur to Toral to think of the man in a Cardassian/non-Cardassian aspect. “You said something about children,” he said.
“Yes. The virus seems to be unable to replicate in young organisms. We are not yet sure why but we are sure that the virus will mutate to finally be able to attack also our children. We need your help. It’s too late for us but save them!
“Gul Toral, if I may?” Medic Jabat’s voice spoke next to Toral. He must have arrived in the meantime. The gul nodded his consent, so the medic looked at the screen. “Are the children carriers?”
“Most unusual. How can you be sure?”
“We found no proof of virus presence in their organisms
“How good is your equipment?” Tibaut didn’t respond to that. “So, if it’s not top-of-the-art, you cannot be completely sure they are free of the virus.”
“You can make sure before taking them off the planet
“We can’t leave them like this,” Jabat looked at Toral.
“I don’t intend to,” the gul agreed.
“There is one thing...
” The man on the screen glanced at them with something that looked like an apology. “The prefect made it clear that this mission must be led by a civilian representative, not military
“Oh, perfect. They ask for help and issue demands,” Toral growled quietly. Then he spoke louder for the human to hear him, “I will discuss it with my superiors and then inform you of our decision. Stand by.” He was just about to sign off when he added. “And don’t get nearer to the station.”
“Don’t make it too long. I might join my companion
The man disappeared from the screen. “Is there anything we can do for him now?” Toral asked the medic.
Jabat shook his head. “Not really, not until I know more about it.”
“Do we have any useful scans?” the gul looked at Lorrun.
“Yes, Gul. Once I recalibrated our sensors to add our medical database to results, I gathered some useful data.”
“Medic,” Toral said but unnecessarily, as Jabat was already headed for the tactician’s console to study the information. The gul looked at Yamuc. “Get me Brenok, now.”
Toral returned to his seat. “Korel, keep an eye on the Hideki. Jam transporters. He seems to care only about children but desperate men do desperate things. Also, get me all you can find on that colony, especially most recent reports and data. Did they get any visitors? Any natural disasters? Who’s their prefect and for how long? And his species. Something tells me he’s not a Cardassian.”
Korel acknowledged all orders with either a nod or a purr, or both. ‘Purring’ was not exactly a confirmation that regulations would approve of but Toral knew that once he started barking a list of orders, it was easier for Korel to confirm them that way then interrupt his gul and cause Toral disrupt his string of thought. That
would be much worse than purring on duty.
Tassar knew that too, because he waited for Toral to finish before announcing the obvious: “Sir, Gul Brenok on the screen.”
Gul Brenok listened to Gul Toral issuing orders with amusement. Toral had been Legate Jotrel’s aide—when Jotrel had still been a gul—for years and while Brenok didn’t know Jotrel that well, he could clearly see that Toral adopted a lot from Jotrel’s style of command. He wondered if his own style reminded Jarol’s.
Finally, Toral’s attention shifted to his superior.
“Gul Brenok, we have a possibly dangerous situation here
,” he started and then relayed all information he had on the subject.
Brenok listened without interrupting, then asked, “What do we know about the prefect?” From experience he knew how important such data was—a prefect and his or her approach was critical in making decisions and finding solutions.
Toral turned to his aide who went forward. “Their prefect had been chosen seven months ago. He is a human, his name is Gerard Krause and he is a supporter of a movement that wants the colony to return to the Federation
“I didn’t know there was such a movement,” Brenok commented.
“Apparently it all arose when the treaty negotiations with the Federation started
,” Korel said.
That would mean the movement existed for three years already. “Do they have any supporters?” Brenok asked.
Korel seemed uncomfortable. “I did not check that information
,” he said a bit quieter than his earlier report. Toral shot a look at his aide but didn’t say anything. Brenok thought that with Toral’s narrow eyes it always looked like he squinted at people but couldn’t tell if this time Toral was really unsatisfied with his aide’s performance or it was only an impression caused by his features.
Brenok shook his head. “Never mind, it is not that important now. That explains, however, why they demanded a civilian presence. They distrust us, the Guard.”
“It would appear so,
” Toral agreed. “The problem is we do not have any civilians in this sector and would have to call for someone from Cardassia or another colony.
“That is not entirely true,” Brenok said slowly, thinking. “We have a few civilians on Rayak Nor. But before we send anyone to that planet, we need to know more about this disease. Much more. I don’t intend to send any representative to a certain death and it sounds like the case.”
,” Toral nodded.
“Tell that human in the Hideki to stand by. I’ll send a civilian representative and two more medics soon.” Brenok was just about to cut the connection when he hesitated. “And Toral...” The other gul looked at him. “You will take orders from that civilian. If there’s something very wrong, let me know and I’ll deal with it, but the civilian is in charge. For real. Not for a show.”
Toral’s face on the screen was replaced by a view of stars. Now was the tough part. “You have the bridge,” Brenok told Glinn Karama and headed for the transporter chamber. He beamed to the station and immediately went to the archon’s office.