“Legate Jarol,” Borad’s voice sounded through the comm. “Please come to the command centre.”
We need to think of a shorter name
, she thought raising from her chair and heading for the door. “What is it?” she asked her aide when she arrived to the command.
“We are being hailed by a...Ferengi.”
“How interesting.” She didn’t hide her surprise. “On screen.”
” A male Ferengi on the screen had huge ears and she could see all his sharp and crooked teeth in a smile of which sincerity she wasn’t sure. “I am DaiMon Delva and I have a business proposal for you.
“I wouldn’t expect any other kind,” she said thinking that, in fact, he could also ask her for oo-mox
if he dared.
“Would it be all right if I visited you aboard your mighty and impressive station and we talked in private?
“By all means. Glinn Borad will take care of the arrangements. When can I expect you?”
“Say, twenty minutes?
“Fine.” She tried to hide her irritation that the Ferengi was so close to the station and no one informed her of that fact. She waited until he signed off and then turned to Borad. “Why didn’t you tell me that there was a Ferengi ship in the sector?”
“Because we didn’t detect him earlier.” Borad frowned. “We still can’t.”
“Whatever he’s selling, if it’s his cloaking technology, we might be interested.”
“Get him to my office when he’s here.”
She went back to her chamber and waited. She doubted the Ferengi came to share his tricks with her and she was sure that the ability to roam around the quadrant undetected was very convenient for him; too convenient to give it up. But what could he want? What kind of business? Was he a weapons merchant? Even if he had anything interesting, it would be illegal to buy things directly from him. Her station was equipped by the Central Command and going behind the Central Command’s back would not be a good idea. She knew, she had been a member of it.
When the Ferengi entered her office, she was standing by one of the windows.
“Legate Jarol,” he greeted her. “Your profile photo doesn’t do you justice.”
“If I see your hand anywhere near your ear—”
“Say no more,” he smiled again.
“I’m sure you’re a busy man, as am I, so let’s get to the point.” She gestured to a chair inviting him to sit. “What is your business proposal?”
“This is a big station with a lot of personnel, correct?”
“Correct,” she confirmed not sure where he was going with it.
“People are cut off their homes and comforts of their lives.”
“This is a military outpost.”
“Yes, it is. Don’t soldiers eat?” She didn’t say anything, only raised her eye ridge slightly. “Don’t they like to drink? Don’t they deserve the best merchandise after a long day of fruitful duty?”
“What are you selling?”
“I would like to offer my humble services as your regular provider. Whatever you need, I’ll get it for you and your hard-working crew.”
“For not-so-humble price.”
“I’m sure we can agree on something.”
She had to admit, she liked the idea. The station would receive regular shipments with resources, but she knew it wouldn’t be anything fancy. Living on replicated food or, worse, field rations was a thought that scared even her. And saved replicator energy could be used for other purposes—ones that cannot be bought from a Ferengi. Not forgetting about all visiting ships they might have. “All right, DaiMon Delva, you got my interest. How much and why so expensive?”
He chuckled. “It depends on what and when you need it. I have details of my proposal for our contract right here.” He handed her a Ferengi padd. “I can deliver food, supplies, medicine and luxury items from Cardassian and non-Cardassian sources. I’m sure we can agree to my commission.”
“I have a question.”
“Why can’t we detect your ship?” He only smiled. “When do you need my answer?” she asked dropping the matter. As she suspected, Delva didn’t seem eager to share some of his secrets and she didn’t want to press...for now.
“I can wait until tomorrow if you’d let me stay in the neighbourhood.”
Did he count on her protection? “Is someone chasing you?” He smiled again. “I don’t want to know.” She shook her head raising her hand with the palm facing him. “I’ll read that carefully and give you my answer tomorrow morning. Would that be satisfactory?”
“Absolutely! I’m sure we face a fruitful co-operation.”
“Yes,” she said slowly. He rose and headed for the door but she said, “If I catch you on scanning the station, I’ll assume you want to sell that intelligence to Cardassia’s enemies.”
“And I won’t leave this sector alive. My beautiful Legate Jarol, I’m an honest businessman. I see an opportunity here and I would hate to lose it by some petty scheming.”
“Fine. You can dock at the station, if you want, but don’t leave your ship. There are many restricted areas here and you wouldn’t like to get in trouble, would you?”
“Restricted even to your Federation personnel?”
She liked it that he called the Feds her
Federation personnel. “You know a lot, don’t you?”
“I am a Ferengi.”
“Of course you are. The ears give you away.”
He chuckled and approached the door which automatically opened, then stopped and turned to her. “Actually, yes, I’d like to dock. Let my enemies see that I have powerful friends.”
“We’re not friends yet.”
“I’ll remember the word ‘yet’,” he said, raising his index finger. Then, he left her office.
“This is going to be interesting,” she muttered to herself. She thought that she could use Jotrel and his experience with the Ferengi and their ‘business proposals.’ If there were any hidden tricks, she might not notice them. She needed someone who would understand the document down to the tiniest punctuation mark. She would have to talk to Colissa; the archon had to have a legal finances specialist. However, talking to that woman was not a prospect Jarol was looking forward to.
No, wait...why couldn’t she ask Jotrel for help?
She leaned toward her monitor and entered a command to establish connection with Cardassia.
Brenok was glad that Demok was the only one ready and waiting by the shuttle, as he wanted to talk to him alone first. “Laran,” he said approaching the sub-archon. “Don’t take this assignment lightly, this is a serious matter and a dangerous situation.”
“What exactly is the situation?”
“I have only limited information, Gul Toral will fill you in. All I know is that there is some kind of virus killing people on one of our colonies. I don’t want you to leave the Radalar
.” The thought of losing Demok was a terrifying one; Brenok knew
he would not be able to cope with the loss of another child and Jarol’s son was to him like his own. He raised him together with her and was glad to have a chance to have him for all these years; the fate wasn’t as gracious for him being a father to his daughter. “I know you have no experience, so listen to Toral’s advices. Remember, you’re in charge but it doesn’t mean you are alone. There’s plenty of people to help you and do what you tell them to do.”
“You mean...even Toral has to listen to my orders?”
“That’s right. The prefect of that colony wants it to be a civilian operation. While we can’t offer them anything like that—and not only because there’s no time to bring some civilians from Cardassia—you are the best I can give him.”
“Uncle...” Demok’s face was full of doubt.
“If you are not sure what to do, seek advice. Ask Toral. Ask me. Ask your mother. Ask Colissa.” Demok smiled slightly and Brenok responded the same way. “Ask whomever you want. You are not alone,” he emphasised again.
“All right. Why me? Why not Colissa? Or the Federation people?”
“This is an internal Cardassian matter, the Federation officers have nothing to do with it. You, because it could be no one else. You’re open to people, young and smart. You can do it.”
“You can do it.”
“Sir.” A voice behind the gul.
Brenok turned to Aladar. “Garesh.”
Soon all members of the delegation were ready and Brenok once again explained the situation. Karama, who arrived in a meantime, handed each member of the team a padd with all info he had on the subject.
Then the team boarded the shuttle.
“Your orders are not to have any physical contact with the colonists,” Brenok said before the shuttle’s door closed. “Aladar, tell Toral that Ordinance Fifty-Three should be applied if necessary.” He couldn’t not notice that Demok’s eyes opened wider. It didn’t surprise him; while the Ordinance was a military protocol Demok, as a lawyer, would know it.
“Yes, sir,” the garesh confirmed dutifully.
“The whole colony?” Karama asked Brenok when the Elar
’s door closed.
“If this thing kills everyone and everything, yes, the whole colony. How does that Vulcan saying go? The good of many outweighs the good of a few?”
“We’re not Vulcans.” Karama wasn’t looking at his gul but at the shuttle.
“No, we’re not. But it’s still a logical thing to do.”
“Legate Jarol must be furious.”
“She doesn’t know yet.”
Karama looked at Brenok with eyes as huge as cup saucers. “She’ll kill you!”
“She will. Aren’t you happy to get a promotion to gul?”
“Gul Brenok, your shoes are to heavy for me,” the glinn quoted a Cardassian saying.
“Yeah, for me too,” Brenok muttered and headed out of the shuttle bay. Karama observed him for a moment and then followed.
The gul walked in the corridor and thought that the Cardassian Union shrank. How was that possible that recently his job involved the closest people in his life? He had to give orders to a resisting officer and that officer was his ‘sister.’ He had to send his ‘son’ to a dangerous mission. Couldn’t it be some other people? Couldn’t that station be commanded by another stubborn woman with Nokarian accent? Couldn’t someone else’s son be put in danger?
That wasn’t fair and you know it. You always
put someone else’s son in danger. Every man under your command is someone’s son. Every man you sent to certain death was someone’s son. What makes yours so special?
What? I’ll tell you what, you skinny moron. He’s mine
, that’s why he’s special. He cannot be any more special than that. That the ‘specialest’ special way of special and nothing could be ‘specialer’ than that.
He had to tell Laran’s mother. He had to tell Atira that he had just sent her only living child to some kind of medical hell. She would tear him to pieces, he knew, and he was ready to help her do that.
At the same time he knew it was the right decision, it was the only decision he could have made. Laran was the best candidate for this mission, he was the only
candidate. The station was full of soldiers and a handful of civilians, one being an arrogant and unyielding woman who most likely didn’t know the word ‘be gentle,’ a few clerks that spent their lives solely behind desks and this energetic, clever son of two legates. Whom else could he choose? What other option did he have?
Yes, he could have sent a warship to the colony and deal with the problem ignoring the prefect’s wishes, but he didn’t want to do it that way. He couldn’t make a political and social situation difficult just to protect one man from danger.
He closed his eyes and stopped. He was barely aware that Karama followed him and the glinn almost bumped into him when he abruptly became motionless. To his relief, his loyal aide didn’t ask if he was all right. The man was probably fully aware of the gul’s thoughts and quandary. What would he do in his place? Would he send his own son?
“I’ll be on the station,” Brenok said, his voice hoarse.
“Yes, sir,” Karama acknowledged quietly and continued toward the lift, leaving Brenok alone in the corridor.
The gul sighed heavily, surprised that the sounds didn’t spread along the corridor in the form of an echo; his sigh was loud enough. A sad, complaining sound.