Gul Toral was relieved to hear that Demok was hailing the ship. His joy evaporated as soon as he saw the sub-archon. The young Cardassian’s face had a sick hue of grey and his eyes were red.
“What happened?” he asked. This wasn’t right, not according to the information he had. Were his good news rendered obsolete by another virus mutation?
Toral never married and didn’t have any children, so he could not imagine a full scope of pain a parent would feel after losing a child, but he liked Demok, he admired the young man and he hoped the sub-archon had a bright future before him. All this seemed to be gone. Vaporised. Another senseless death, another wasted talent, another lost chance of having a better, smarter, improved
Cardassian. Demok was like a breeze of fresh air for the society. He seemed fragile, delicate, sometimes even weak, but the last few days showed Toral that Demok was all but that. He was strong and had a hidden commanding authority that was obvious even at his young age. He could have never thought that a twenty-four year old child
could order him around and he would feel the urge to obey!
Demok rubbed his nose. “Boreep is dead.
” His voice was quiet. It seemed like it cost him a lot to say it, to be able to speak at all.
Toral had nothing to say. There were no words that would be suitable. One doesn’t comment someone’s death.
The silence on the bridge was overwhelming. Even the consoles seemed to beep quieter.
“How are you feeling?” Toral asked Demok.
“Scared. If you could see how...how he..
“Are you sick? Are you infected?” Toral didn’t want the sub-archon to revisit those images. He could imagine how terrible it was to witness that; he had seen the infected man in the last stage of the disease himself and the image was eternally printed in his memory.
“I’m only tired.
“Demok, we have started the evacuation. If the virus hasn’t mutated and doesn’t attack children yet, you will return on the first shuttle that leave. Do you understand me?”
“I can’t return, you know that.
“We have tested your telomeres. Boreep saved your life when he had suggested to check your DNA. For the virus, you are still a child. You are not infected. I want you back here. Understood?”
“I can’t return. We have an investi—
“Listen to me!” Toral rose from his chair and approached the viewscreen. “I don’t care about their investigation. Let them solve it. You will board the first transportation that is available. If you are not there, I will go to the planet personally and put you into one by force.”
“You would become infected.
“I don’t give a damn! If I have to die to save your life, I will!” And he meant every word of it.
“But the investigation?
“They want it to be their internal matter, let them.”
“Won’t we help them?
“We’re not giving up on them, but we have to work remotely anyway. I don’t see any reason for you to stay there.”
Demok observed him through the comm line for a long moment. “And if you’re wrong, if I am infected?
“Rest assured, we will make sure before letting you our of a quarantine field.”
Toral waited. His heart raced but he knew that whatever Demok’s decision would be, he would be back safely aboard the Radalar
. Even if Toral would have to break his nose and knock him out, he would make Demok board a shuttle.
“What should I tell Krause?
“Tell him to go to hell. He’s been pain in the neck ridges long enough. But tell him that we’re still working on the cure. Albek had sent data to Cardassia and they work on it there too.”
” Demok nodded to Toral’s great relief.
“I’ll see you aboard,” the gul said and felt a heavy stone falling off his chest.
Captain Ram was irritated but she knew there was very little she could do about the situation. Gul Brenok had told her to stand by and had promised he would explain everything, but she wasn’t sure if waiting was an acceptable option. For all she knew he just wanted to buy himself some time.
She rubbed her nose. Her orders were clear: stop the genocide at all cost. Even if it meant war? The Cardassians had ended their isolation but it didn’t mean they became fond of uninvited guests. Gul Brenok had made it very clear that her ship was not to enter Cardassian territory or consequences would be severe. She appreciated that he didn’t say ‘or I would take it as an act of war;’ it made her hope that he wasn’t any more happy to start a conflict than she was.
There was something different about that particular gul and she didn’t mean his unique hair or half-silver armour. His whole demeanour was calmer, less yelling at his interlocutor. He let her finish her sentences and didn’t flood her with over-posturing, or a patronising tone of voice, or endless speeches.
She wished he would let her read his undoubtedly fascinating, disciplined mind, then she would know for sure if he lied telling her that no genocide was under way, but she wouldn’t dare to ask for it. After spending so many years among non-telepaths she has learnt that they valued privacy of their thoughts and that refusal to be read didn’t automatically mean that a person had anything to hide. They just felt uncomfortable with someone rummaging in their heads. She wished he came with such a suggestion but wouldn’t propose it herself—that would be rude.
She looked at her first officer. “Commander, where is the Damar
now?” she asked him.
He checked the readings on his display. “Still in the same sector.” He looked at her. “I think they keep an eye on us.”
“Can we keep our
eye on that colony?” Ram turned to look at the science station.
“Negative. It’s too deep in their territory,” came the reply.
“So, we wait,” Ram muttered. “But not for too long. If he plans to do something in the meantime, we still need to be able to stop him.”
The bridge was silent. Too silent.
Korel made sure the transport of orbital weapon platforms was safely unloaded and then reported that fact to Gul Toral.
“Good,” Toral said. “Take Nevir and reprogram them. In the meantime install two power sources on satellites.”
“Two, sir?” Korel made sure he heard correctly.
“Two. In case one fails,” Toral confirmed.
Nevir left his post—it was immediately taken by another engineer—and approached the gul and his aide. “What kind of programming should we implement?” he asked.
“Standard programming is to attack all non-Cardassian targets. I want it to be modified to attack all unknown targets. Prepare a list of known targets, including two warning beacons—the third one would be placed on the edge of this system, therefore beyond the platforms’ reach—all satellites that orbit the planet and their own power sources. Everything else should be destroyed without warning. Especially empty missiles of Federation design. However, program a code that could disarm them. We might return here with the cure and we wouldn’t want to be shut down by our own quarantine blockade.
“Make sure that the platforms completely cover the planet, leaving no gaps in the net of their sensors. Nothing can get out of there and nothing should get in. In addition, make sure their orbit is high enough not to be seen from the planet.”
“Why?” Nevir asked.
“They are dying there. Do you really think they’d want to see a massive weapon over their heads instead of pretty clouds as one of the last images before their deaths? Just do it!”
“Yes, sir.” Nevir lowered his head, chastised. Korel thought that Toral was probably the only gul in the fleet that would care about such things. It only reminded him for a thousandth time why he liked to serve on this warship under this man.
Toral continued, “Program the warning buoys. Include the information that the planet is infected by a deadly virus, that the virus attacks all species and the mortality rate is one hundred percent. Repeat that last bit of info three times,” he emphasised. He looked at his communication officer. “Yamuc, do you speak Federation Standard?” he asked. It was a standard requirement for a communication officer to speak at least two foreign languages.
“I do, sir.”
“Good.” Toral nodded satisfied. He looked back at Korel. “Record that message also in their language.”
Korel was amused by Yamuc’s shocked and worried look; obviously, the gil didn’t feel comfortable that his voice would be recorded for public broadcast and speaking a foreign language at that.
Toral seemed to think for a while. “Did I forget about something?” he asked.
“I don’t think so, sir.” Korel shook his head. He never knew if Toral asked that question to be covered in case he did forget something, or really expected an answer. The fact was, he never omitted anything in his orders, so the question was pointless anyway.
“Good. Now get to work, please.”
Korel and Nevir left the bridge and headed for cargo bay three where the platforms were stored.