“Have you found an excuse to your coup yet?”
Glinn Borad wasn’t sure he heard correctly. He looked up over his half-emptied plate to see that Legate Jarol was in the middle of her dinner just a table away—how could he not have noticed her over there before!—and Captain Ronus standing by her table and looking at her.
Did the Trill really ask Jarol what Borad thought he did? The glinn’s eyes went to the legate’s face. However, she did not seem furious. In fact, she seemed amused.
“Should I?” she asked eventually, gesturing to a chair and inviting the Trill to sit down.
Borad swallowed and put another bite into his mouth but his indifference was not genuine. He hoped his ears didn’t perk as he started to eavesdrop to the conversation that started at the next table.
“I thought you need to justify everything,” Ronus said, sitting and waving to a waiter.
“I’m long past caring to justify anything.”
“Your position doesn’t require to explain anything to anyone.” It was not a question, it was a statement.
“On the contrary.” She shook her head. “As a legate I had to answer to billions of people throughout Cardassia.”
“So why lack of care?”
“I’m too old to worry what everyone thinks of me privately
.” She shrugged.
“You’re not old.” His lips stretched in a smile.
“Said three hundred years old Trill,” she replied smiling, too.
“So, what’s the excuse?”
“All right.” She put her fork away and thought for a moment. “We didn’t break any laws because there were no laws on Cardassia at that time. Unless you count Dominion laws and believe me, better don’t.”
“But weren’t there elections earlier? Some rules had to regulate them.”
“Federation laws,” she shrugged and picked her fork up.
“Ouch. To be compared to the Dominion.”
“You came to our home and wanted to force us to adopt your rules.”
“At least we didn’t force you to accept non-Cardassians as your rulers.” Ronus smiled innocently.
Jarol chuckled. “Once, shortly after the war, I had talked to one of relief co-ordinators from the Federation. You know what he told me? That I should put my arrogance into my pocket, shut up and do what he said because he protected
“And what did you say?”
“That I had heard that before, the same thing, from someone else. She had long, wrinkled ears but exactly the same, slime smile.”
“And what did he say?”
“He was insulted. And rightly so!”
“So, would you be able to put your arrogance away for the good of Cardassia?”
“I’m a Cardassian, it’s my job to be arrogant.”
Borad didn’t know how to interpret Ronus’s smile, but it seemed to be an amused one.
“You didn’t answer my question,” the Trill pressed.
She looked at him and her relaxed face expression was replaced by a serious one. “Captain, if it served Cardassia, I’d take my armour off, tie my hands with a rope and give myself in disgrace as a prisoner to the Federation. Or the Bajorans.” She smirked. “But not to the Klingons and certainly not to the Dominion.”
“How about the Romulans?”
“Only if I get a ride on that D’Deridex class warbird. Always wanted to visit one.”
Borad was astonished. He knew Jarol had a reputation of a difficult woman. In a way he dreaded serving under her command, but shortly after she had arrived to the station he discovered that as a superior she was a fair and a good soldier. Still, he wouldn’t dare to touch some subjects with her. There was a kind of aura around her, an aura of power, the said arrogance, stubbornness and an impression that she considered herself infallible. At the same time her command of the Unionese language left a lot of be desired, she openly sought advices from her officers and was able to change her mind if the offered information justified it. He knew it was possible to make her withdraw some orders or change her mind. He wouldn’t dare himself, but he heard rumours that Gul Brenok could do everything he wanted with her.
And now he could observe that Federation Trill, who asked his outrageous questions, and she was...laughing. They teased each other. Joked. And she didn’t seem to want to execute him. Would anyone else be that lucky? And why this Trill?
Or maybe all that he knew was only a fašade? Armour to cover what was inside, to shield a chanth
that was not protected by a layer of scales? Then again, why would this man deserve to see what’s under that armour? Or was it just because she treated him as an equal: a commander to a commander, a gul to a captain; but she was grade four, an admiral by Federation standards!
She shot a glance at him and suddenly he realised that she was aware of his eavesdropping; it sent a cold shiver down his spine. He lowered his head and tried to concentrate on his meal. So much for a softer side of his gul; she was made of steel and that’s the only thing he should remember.
“Why couldn’t you let the legitimate government continue to rule Cardassia?” Ronus asked. “Maybe they just needed more time to learn how to do it.”
Jarol smirked and it wasn’t a nice face expression. “When the Klingons invaded Cardassia in the year 504...2371,” she added, seeing confusion on the Trill’s face, “it was shortly after the Detapa Council took over. Civilians. Cardassia was weak and that political turmoil made it even weaker. Vulnerable. The military was pushed away and the civilians started to make big decisions. In a wartime at that. The war was a disaster, we were taking a beating and the Klingons seemed unstoppable. But one day something changed. We had acquired detailed intelligence on Klingon fleet’s movements, armaments and even plans. That could have changed everything, I mean everything. We would know where and when to strike to be effective.
“What did the Detapa Council do? Nothing. They refused to regroup and plan a counter-attack. They wanted to talk
.” She spat the last word. “The Klingons were slaughtering their people and they wanted to talk! The Klingons don’t talk, they fight and that’s the only language they understand. We, Cardassians, can talk everyone to their deaths, but we can’t talk to anything people that sink their knives in the middle of our speeches.” Ronus smiled slightly. “We were losing and the civilians refused to use something that would give us an advantage.
“After the war the Federation posed many demands, including limiting our military. The demand was so ridiculous that I couldn’t believe it was for real at first. I am not sure the Federation didn’t do it just for a show, to get refused and demand something else instead. But Ghemor agreed
to that nonsense. He agreed to leave us vulnerable. He was not much better than the civilian government of 504. He would prepare us for conquest and then someone would come and wipe out the Cardassian Union!
“We couldn’t allow that. We couldn’t afford to give him a chance. His mistakes were too dangerous to let him continue. We had to act and we did. You may claim it was wrong, it may not agree with your perfect Federation conscience, but we still are free people and we are growing stronger every year. Thanks to that bold move, not in spite of it.
“So, you’ll forgive me if I don’t feel guilty about it. I believed it was the right thing to do twenty years ago and I still do now. Borad!” The glinn jumped in his seat. “Would you prefer a civilian or military rule on Cardassia?”
“Military,” he answered without hesitation.
A slime smirk appeared on the legate’s face. “Why?” she asked slowly.
“The military brought order to Cardassia. The Federation tried to introduce their chaotic, no offence,” he added looking at Ronus who nodded and smiled, “their chaotic political system. Ghemor was clearly not up to this task and while someone else could be, the military’s structure is clear and stable. Our rebuilding process had to start from cleaning and the military order assured that this cleaning process proceeded neatly.”
“Would you like the civilians to take over now, when it’s cleaned?” Jarol asked.
Borad’s memory returned to 504. He had been on duty when the armed civilians had attacked the Central Command building. He had heard them in the corridor outside, storming into each Order’s command centre. For some reason the rooms were in reverse order and the Twelfth Order’s chamber was the first one, then the Eleventh’s and so on with the First’s at the end. Borad, working in the Second Order command centre had heard the noise nearing and had known there had been no way he could do anything about it. He had only ordered all officers to lock the consoles and waited.
They had been given orders not to shoot.
And then the civilians had come. Armed with clubs and fists, some had had phasers, undoubtedly stolen from soldiers. Borad had never taken such a beating as that day. It had been a matter of seconds when the mob had flattened him on the floor and kept kicking. He had woken up in a hospital and had never learned what else happened in the Central Command building that terrible day, or who had saved his life—he was certain that if not someone’s intervention, the angry mob would beat him to death.
“No,” he answered Jarol’s question in a strong and firm voice.
“Convinced?” she asked Ronus.
“For some reason, yes,” the captain replied, observing the glinn. Then, his eyes returned to Jarol. “However, I am not so convinced I’d get the same reply from a civilian.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have many here to offer you to ask them the question.”
“That’s ok,” the Trill smiled.