Zamarran was in a middle of another test, when the station was hailed. At first he didn’t react, it wasn’t his responsibility, but then he realised that with Borad being off station, it was his job to take care of it.
He activated the comm. “Rayak Nor
here,” he said, looking at the oval screen.
Glinn Borad’s face appeared on the viewer. “I need to talk to the legate.
“I’ll call her.” Zamarran pressed his wristcomm. “Zamarran to Jarol. Legate, Glinn Borad’s on the comm. He looked distressed.”
And he did in fact.
Jarol was in the command within seconds. How did she do it? Zamarran wondered. How was she able to be able to drop everything and be where she was needed without an unhappy smirk of being interrupted.
Borad looked at her. “Legate, they refuse any help from us.
“Why?” Jarol frowned.
Ronus’s face appeared on the screen, as he moved closer to the glinn to be caught by the camera. “Apparently, they are some kind of Cardassian dissidents,
” he explained.
Zamarran’s position didn’t change, he didn’t raise his head from his console, but his eyes stuck to Jarol’s face. What would she do? What would she say? There was freedom of speech on Cardassia now, but if someone travelled in the Federation space, in a Federation craft and claimed they were dissidents—something that didn’t exist on Cardassia any longer—it probably meant they haven’t been to their homeworld for twenty years and don’t understand the changes that had taken place.
However Jarol used to be
government. In the final days of her term she had been the force that ruled it and it had been her support that finally had pushed Ekoor into the big chair, instead of her. While no real dissidents existed and people had a right to express their unhappiness with the Central Command’s decisions, the former legate didn’t like people who disagreed with her, especially politically. And if someone defected to the Federation and didn’t return home, it was a clear sign that that someone didn’t share her
understanding of what’s good for Cardassia.
“So?” she asked eventually, confusion obvious on her face.
Zamarran knew his face did something it didn’t do often on duty: it stretched in a wide, happy smile. He should have known better, he should have known that she wasn’t like them
. He should have known that she was
the new Cardassia. She helped it shape because she believed it was the right thing to do and now he could clearly see it.
“So they fear of being arrested
,” Borad explained shrugging.
“What if Captain Ronus assures them they are safe? What if Gil Karama does?” Jarol asked.
“We already tried that,
” the Trill said.
“Is there any chance to repair their ship without bringing them here? At least enough to let them reach the nearest Federation outpost where they could receive a better service?”
Borad shook his head. “No. We need spare parts and we can’t replicate them here.
“So what can we do? We can’t bring them by force and I assume sending a bigger ship would not be welcomed either. They’d assume they are under attack.”
“Maybe another Hideki with the spare parts?
” Ronus suggested.
“And what if something else is needed? You expect me to open a shuttle service of spare parts to that ship? That’s wasting resources.”
“That may be the only way,
” Borad said. “I hope that after seeing that our offer of help is genuine and not a trap, they’d agree to beam here and we’d bring them to the station with their ship in tow.
“All right,” she sighed. “Send the list to Zamarran.” She looked at the engineer. “And what are you smirking about?”
“Nothing, Legate.” Zamarran lowered his eyes to his console and saw an incoming file, undoubtedly the spare parts list.
“You thought I was worse than I really am?”
“I wouldn’t dare, Legate.” He shot her a glance and saw she was smiling. It wasn’t the first time he had an impression she favoured him, although he never understood why. He had been able to get away with things she wouldn’t accept from anyone else, even when still on the Roumar
. Now, back under her command, it appeared that this situation didn’t change.
Her face became thoughtful for a moment. “Zamarran,” she said slowly, approaching the gul. “Where’s Delva right now?”
The engineer checked the sensors. “In the grid four-four-five mark two-three-eight,” he answered a moment later.
She lurked over his shoulder. “Hail him. Let him do the good deed.”
“Do you think the Federation...dissidents...whatever they consider themselves are going to trust him?”
“No, but at least they would not take his presence as an attack.”
“Good point. And who’s going to pay for it?”
She smiled. “Let me worry about that.” She looked back at the screen. “Borad, I’m going to get Delva to help us. If those people refuse also the Ferengi help, then...I don’t know what, so it’s your job to make them accept it. Understood?”
” Borad smiled in a way Jarol could not interpret and signed off.
A moment later the screen was filled with big Ferengi ears. “Miss me already, Legate Jarol?
“Miss you? No. Need you? Yes.”
“Do your scans reach as far as to that small Federation craft in the Federation territory?”
“Yes, I am aware of that ship.
“They need help but they refuse ours. You are going to be our intermediary. As to the price, we will discuss it in private.”
” Delva’s hand wandered toward his ear.
Jarol rolled her eyes. “No, not that private but I assure you, you won’t be disappointed.”
“First the payment, then the service.
“Forget about it. They don’t have that much time.”
“And why do you care? They are only the Federation people?
“They are Cardassians. So I care. Do it now or no deal.”
“I’ll do it but only because I am very curious about the price.
“So am I.” Zamarran was sure she heard him muttering, as she shot him a glance, but his eyes were already glued to the screen and the Ferengi.
She noticed something drew his attention to the screen. “What is it?” she asked but he shook his head, his eyes not leaving Delva’s face.
“Yes, Gul Zamarran?
” the Ferengi asked politely.
“What’s that on your neck?” the Cardassian asked. Delva opened his mouth to answer but Zamarran continued, “I’ll buy it from you.” He could feel his heart beating wildly in his chest.
“I’m afraid it’s not for sale.
“I’ll pay you double of what you had paid.”
“Zamarran, if you show him how much you care, he’ll rip you off,” Jarol warned.
“I don’t care, I must have it,” he said, glancing at her and then his eyes returned to the screen. “I’ll pay whatever you want, if this item is genuine.”
“Of course it is!
” Delva seemed offended by the suspicion. Then his face gained a slimy expression. “Why do you want it?
“This is something...Cardassian.”
Jarol squinted her eyes and took a better look at the sort of necklace on Delva’s neck. It indeed vaguely appeared Cardassian in origin and it did remind her of something, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.
“It is also very old and valuable,
” Delva said.
“Name your price.” Zamarran’s voice showed no hesitation. Whatever it was, he wanted it badly.
“If I refuse to sell it, would you take it by force?
” the Ferengi asked.
“No. It would defy its meaning.”
” Delva didn’t understand—and neither did Jarol—but the engineer didn’t seem inclined to explain. “I’ll think about the price,
” the Ferengi said.
“Shall I consider it sold to me?” Zamarran made sure.
“A contract is a contract.
“I’m not a Ferengi.”
“No, you’re not. Your bargaining skill is the lousiest I’ve ever seen.
“Shall I?” Zamarran repeated as if Delva didn’t say anything.
With that, Delva signed off.
“Zamarran?” Jarol asked. Curiosity was eating her alive, but he ignored her still staring at the empty screen. A small, happy smile played on his lips. She thought he looked like a little boy that just received his dream toy.
“Ah?” Finally he realised she spoke to him. “Sorry, Legate. This is something of a great value to my wife.”
“Care to share?”
He hesitated and then said quietly, leaning toward her. “It’s a Fourth Element Seal.”
It clicked in. She had seen such shapes in a museum, in Lakarian City. “You mean your wife is...” Her voice hung in the air of an unfinished sentence.
“Yes, she is,” he confirmed, his intensive gaze targeting her eyes and seeking her reaction.
“I had no idea any still existed,” she admitted.
“A lot of things still exist, Legate.”
“Isn’t that necklace’s place in a museum?” A great disappointment and worry marred his face with wrinkles. She smiled. “I hope you can afford it and make your wife happy.” Wrinkles crawled to other parts of his face that reshaped it into an expression of a smile. She was just about to leave, when she stopped and asked, “Are you?”
“No, Legate.” His answer was straightforward but it left a strong feeling that there was an unspoken ‘but’ at the and of it. She didn’t press. Whatever secrets he had, they were his to keep...regardless of her curiosity. He appreciated that. Not that he didn’t trust her, he just was so used to his family secrets and he didn’t feel like sharing them with anyone, even her.
Cardassian Union Prefecture Mazita
Demok and Boreep stepped out of the shuttle and were met by two men.
“This way,” one said.
They had landed their shuttle on a roof of the low government building and now were walking downstairs to, Demok thought, the governor’s office.
Both Cardassians, clad in dark grey EVA suits, were led to a big room, where Krause and some other man they didn’t know waited for them.
“Welcome to Mazita, Sub-Archon Demok,” Krause extended his hand. Demok looked at it uncertainly. “I don’t think you would get infected by shaking my hand through that suit,” the governor said.
Shaking? Demok’s confusion rose.
“He means this,” Boreep stepped forward and grabbed Krause’s hand.
“Oh, oh,” Demok raised his gloved hand to his mouth behind his headpiece. “I’m sorry, I am not versed in human greeting customs.”
“That’s all right, Mr. Demok.” Krause smiled and extended his hand around Demok’s shoulder, not touching him. He directed the young Cardassian to a big table. “Let’s sit down and talk.”
It was hard not to notice that Krause’s attitude changed significantly. Did he realise that Demok really came to help? Did Demok’s sacrifice and risk showed him that these Cardassians really mean well?
“If you don’t mind,” Boreep said. “I’d like to join your scientists.”
“Of course, doctor—”
“I’m not a doctor.”
“Oh, I thought you were one of physicians that came with Mr. Demok.” Krause was puzzled.
“I am. But I am not a doctor. A medic.”
“Oh. I understand,” the governor said but it was clear to Demok that he didn’t. Krause pressed a button on his desk. “Ivanov, take Mr. Boreep to the laboratory.”
A man entered and soon Boreep was gone.
“Now we can talk,” Krause said, going to the table. “This is Mr. Maleda, my secretary and advisor.”
Demok nodded to the man and then looked back at Krause. “Is whole planet infected?”
“I’m afraid so. Most colonists live on the western continent, here. As far as we can tell, the virus came here from the eastern continent. There weren’t many people there and most of them were Cardassians.”
‘Weren’t.’ ‘Were.’ These words didn’t escape Demok’s attention. “I see. Did you have any visitors from other colonies? Is it possible that the virus was brought from somewhere else?”
“We don’t want any contact with the outside,” Krause said. “We prefer to keep to ourselves, however I know that there are supplies deliveries to the Cardassian colonists on regular basis. Or rather—used to be.”
“Were they stopped because of the risk of contamination?”
“No.” Krause silenced. “There’s no one left alive on the eastern continent,” he said quietly.
Demok had problems with breathing for a moment. He felt like the air in his tank was gone and his lungs screamed in pain. “All are dead?” he asked after a moment.
“Yes. It would appear that the virus is especially aggressive to Cardassians.”
“Your messenger had said that children were not infected. Weren’t there any children left?” Demok was not even ashamed of his shaking voice. There is no shame in mourning death of a whole continent.
“We have brought the children here. We have visited all Cardassian settlements to make sure we didn’t leave anyone behind.”
“Where are they now?”
“Are they sick?”
“No. But we had no other place to put them.”
“How about Cardassians on this continent? Do they die faster?”
“Yes. But recently the virus mutated and started to attack everyone with the same severity.”
Demok closed his eyes. “Are other children as safe as Cardassian?”
“For the time being.” Krause looked intently at the Cardassian, moved his chair closer and said. “Mr. Demok, I understand that the situation is terrible and there may be no help for us. We may never find the cure. But our children are not sick, at least not yet. Please take them from here before the virus mutates to attack also them. Save them. Please, save them.”
“We have to develop some kind of test to make sure children aren’t carriers and won’t take the virus with them,” Demok said.
“I understand,” Krause nodded. “But please hurry.”
A ring sounded, so the governor rose and headed for his desk. “Yes?”
” a disembodied voice said. “The Cardassian ship wants to talk to their leader.
Demok found it inappropriately amusing that someone called him a ‘leader.’
“Please, put it through,” Krause said and—to Demok’s surprise—Medic Albek’s face appeared on a big, rectangular screen on the wall.
” Albek greeted Krause. “Could I please talk to Sub-Archon Demok in private?
“I am not sure how you’d like to achieve that.”
“If you would be so kind to turn off your translators, that would be sufficient. It’s a message from his mother and it’s a personal matter.
Krause looked at Maleda and then back to the screen. “All right.” He pressed some buttons on his desk and nodded to Demok.
“What’s going on?” the sub-archon asked. Did something happen to his mom? It took his imagination a second to create at least a dozen of terrible scenarios.
“Get out of there, now!
” Albek said in Nokarian, surprising Demok immensely.
“What’s going on?” the young Cardassian asked in the same language.
“This virus is artificial and if I’m correct it had been created to target Cardassians exclusively. Return to the ship, now.
“I will. Prepare decontamination procedures.” Albek’s discovery corroborated what Krause had told him a moment ago. Albek signed off and Demok looked at the governor. He waited for the human to turn the translator on and then said, “It would appear that I must return to the ship.” He smiled a sheepish smile. “I’m young and my mother...you understand...”
“Perfectly,” Krause nodded but Demok was certain that the governor didn’t buy it.
“A question,” Maleda spoke suddenly.
“This wasn’t Cardassian language, was it?” It was not a question.
“Yes, it was.” Demok was not surprised at all; in fact, he expected one of the humans spoke Cardassian. They had agreed to turn off their translators too quickly. They had thought they could understand anyway, expecting the medic to speak in Unionese, but clever Albek outwitted them. Now, he had to get out of there before they would get their computers to translate Nokarian. “Demok to Boreep. We’re going home.”
“No discussion. Meet me on the roof by our shuttle.”
He returned to the Hideki, escorted by a guard, and impatiently waited for Boreep to join him. Finally, the medic came, accompanied by another guard. They boarded the shuttle and Demok sat at the helm.
“Beginning contamination procedure,” Boreep reported, while the small craft rose above the buildings.