Lieutenant Commander Av’Roo, a Skorr female, assisted Medic Albek in his laboratory. She had volunteered to help with the cure for the virus that had attacked Mazita. Virology wasn’t her speciality, but she assumed that anyone with scientific knowledge could be helpful.
She was studying data on the virus when Sub-Archon Demok entered the laboratory. She noticed he wore an unusual outfit. It was clearly civilian but the charcoal-silver tunic resembled Cardassian military uniform. It had similar cut and shapes, however it reached to the middle of the Cardassian’s thighs. His black trousers were tightly fitted on his legs and he wore silver boots, from which fluttered thin black ribbons.
Demok stopped in front of Taret and bowed. “Medic Taret, your esteemed presence would honour the mourning ceremony held for Medic Boreep, his life and sacrifice adding to the greatness of the Cardassian Union.”
Taret rose from his chair and faced Demok. “The honour would be mine.”
The sub-archon made a gesture that looked like drawing an oval in the air and bowed again. Taret returned to bow. Demok went to Albek. “Medic Albek, your esteemed presence would honour the mourning ceremony held for Medic Boreep, his life and sacrifice adding to the greatness of the Cardassian Union.”
Just then Av’Roo realised it was some kind of ritual. Undoubtedly, so were the clothes Demok was wearing.
Albek replied in the same manner as Taret did. Demok headed for the door, but stopped and glanced at the Skorr. He hesitated for a moment and she wished he decided to invite her too. She had met Boreep only once and didn’t know him well, but she considered his death a tragic event. Demok glanced at her hands, in which she held a vile and a scanner, at her face and then headed for her.
“Commander Av’Roo, the Skorr, your esteemed presence would honour the mourning ceremony held for Medic Boreep, his life and sacrifice adding to the greatness of the Cardassian Union.”
She stood up, just like the other two medics had done earlier, and said, “The honour would be mine.” She bowed and just then she realised that she should have waited for Demok to make the oval sign and bow first, but he didn’t seem to mind. He made the gesture, bowed, she bowed again and he left.
“You have just accepted an invitation to a mourning ceremony,” Albek told her.
“I thought so. It is unusual to invite aliens?” she asked.
“Very unusual,” Taret said.
“Why did he do that?”
Taret stopped working and looked at her. “Because you work to help us find a cure, something that Boreep wanted to do and he sacrificed his life for. You work to add meaning to his life.”
“That outfit he wears?”
“It’s a traditional ceremony apparel. There are different kinds but most of them are similar one to another. Colours are different.”
“It looks very much like your uniforms,” she said.
“Actually, it’s the other way around,” Albek joined the conversation. “It’s our armours that follow the style of the traditional attire. They weren’t always like today. A few hundred years ago they looked a bit differently; there used to be three layers of protective sheets here.” He pointed to his hips and black, shiny covers on them. “And it sported a short kilt made of strips of leather.”
Av’Roo’s head bobbed with interest. “Is there any database I could see a drawing or an image.”
“Sure. Any historical database should offer you a wide range of pictures to study. You should check data from five hundred years ago.”
“That I will do,” she said and returned to work. A moment later she looked at Albek again. “After work, could I ask you more about this custom? I wouldn’t like to do anything offensive.”
“Of course.” Although he nodded his head, she knew it was difficult for him. No death was easy to accept.
“If you’d rather not talk about it—”
“That’s all right, Commander,” he said. “I will answer your questions. I will also tell you more about Boreep, if you don’t mind.”
“That would be nice,” she agreed.
Av’Roo entered a small, dark room and stood by the door, as she had been instructed by Medic Albek. He stood next to her. It took her eyes a while to adjust to the low light level, but when she could see she started to study her surroundings.
The room was lit only by candles that also emitted a musky, pleasant scent. There were a few people in the room already; they sat on chairs that were arranged in three rows—the rows created three sides of a triangle. Albek had told her that an oval and a triangle were very important shapes for the Cardassian people: an oval represented life, it’s endless sacrifice that changed it over and over again, an oval’s sharper bends showing sharp turns and changes in life when a sacrifice is being made; a triangle represented three most important values in a Cardassian’s life—the family, the sacrifice and the Union.
Gul Brenok approached them and bowed slightly. “You honour us with your presence,” he said quietly.
“The honour is ours,” Albek replied.
Brenok led them to two chairs and they sat. Av’Roo wondered if her presence would be unwelcome but no one seemed to pay any attention to her.
Albek had told her that, normally, Cardassians were cremated and a small urn with their ashes was placed in a mausoleum. Such a mausoleum, a different for each type of service to the Union—in Boreep’s case it was one for military medical staff—was usually underground in a form of catacombs and on top of it there was a monument, where families could go and pay their respects. Urns were small and not all of ashes was placed there, the rest was usually scattered over a desert or a sea—whichever was closer geographically or to a family’s history, but vessels were always a handwork and often made by family members. Each was different and its decoration was an expression of love for the deceased one. Only important people and big figures were being buried and had their own, separate graves to which their families and others could make pilgrimages.
Av’Roo knew that the urn would be empty. She also knew that the one that was on Cardassia was also empty. They couldn’t risk retrieving Boreep’s body infected by the virus. She wondered if the actual ashes were important for the Cardassians, or the ceremony was sufficient. She had asked Albek why they had another ceremony on the station, if there was one on Cardassia, and he had told her that the people on the station wanted to pay their respect to Boreep. They needed
All chairs slowly filled and the triangle was closed. Then Demok entered. He seemed to wear the same outfit as when he had been inviting everyone for the ceremony, however on top of it he additionally wore a long, grey cloak with a hood that was now covering his head and hiding his face in a shadow. He went to the front, which was in one of apexes of the triangle and just then Av’Roo saw he cradled something in his hands. It was so small that it was almost completely hidden in his palms.
He raised his hands and held a kind of small vase on the level of his chest, exactly where the inverted droplet on a Cardassian’s torso was, and the Skorr could take a better look at the object. It was dark red, with patterns apparently hollowed out with a thin chisel and then coloured yellow; or maybe it was coloured red first and then the natural colour of the wood reappeared in the patterns made by the chisel. It was beautiful. Av’Roo was sure it wasn’t replicated, someone had made it according to the tradition.
Demok started to speak. “Ilor Boreep, you have been taken from us too early.” Av’Roo knew that there was no traditional speech, that whoever led the mourning ceremony, he or she spoke from the heart. Albek had said that no Cardassian was a generic automaton and no pre-written, generic speech should describe their lives. Everyone deserved to be appreciated for what they were. Av’Roo liked that individual approach. Demok continued. “You could have given us so much more, we could have given you so much more. Your readiness to help, to bring relief, to take care of the weakest and to heal are the best attest to your great heart. You thought of others even when your life was in danger, even when you knew you couldn’t help yourself.” His voice shook and he stopped for a moment to compose himself. “We will remember you. I will never forget you. And I will never stop holding your hand.”
Av’Roo knew from Albek that Demok had been present when Boreep had been dying. She also knew that Boreep made sure the sub-archon’s DNA had been sent to test his immunity to the virus. It was obvious even to her that the young Cardassian was still shaken by the events of the last few days. She hoped he would find peace soon and that this ceremony would help him in that search.
Demok seemed to be finished. A moment of silence and Gul Brenok went to him, took the urn from his hands and then assumed the same posture. He started to speak—pronouncing the medic’s given name ‘Iloh.’ He said how he valued Boreep’s advices and dedication and then he sang a song. Av’Roo’s universal translator attempted to translate the lyrics to Federation Standard, but she decided to turn it off and not only because the result was gibberish. She wanted to listen to Brenok’s wonderful voice without technology in the way.
After Brenok, another officer spoke. Av’Roo didn’t know him but from his words she guessed he was Boreep’s close friend.
Then Demok returned to the ‘front’ for the triangle and took a candle that stood there on a tall chandelier. He blew at the flame but not strong enough to extinguish it. He stood in front of a Cardassian that sat nearest him and the Cardassian blew too, also not putting the small flame away. Demok walked in the inner side of the triangle and the ritual repeated over and over again. Av’Roo feared she should blow too strongly.
Albek had told her that it represented different events on one’s life that threatened with taking it but were never strong enough to succeed. Accidental blowing the flame off would mean bad luck, and a lot of it, especially for the unfortunate blower.
When Demok reached her, she turned her head, trying to blow the air out of the side of her beak and aiming at the sub-archon’s hands. With luck, the air movement would move the flame but not extinguish it.
The flame fluttered and Demok smiled to her. He seemed to appreciate her consideration.
When he returned to the front, he violently shook the candle and the flame disappeared. It meant that Boreep’s life ended before his time. If he died of old age, Demok would slowly extinguish the flame by squeezing the knot between his fingers.
She could see that his chest was shaking with silent sobs.
The ceremony concluded with the urn being placed in a small model of a monument; Av’Roo was sure it represented the mausoleum where the other urn, the one that was on Cardassia, would be placed. She didn’t want to use the word ‘real’ as this urn also was very real to her and certainly to other participants of the ceremony. She hoped she would have a chance to ask who made it.
Three weeks later
Jarol left her office and headed home. She could feel the stress of recent days in her tensed shoulders. She had had not idea how terrible those days had been for her emotionally, but now, after it was all over, she could feel the difference.
Her back hurt and her head throbbed.
She entered her quarters and immediately knew that something was wrong. She couldn’t put her finger on it but was sure someone was in the quarters.
A whistling noise, faint at first but slowly growing, drew her attention. Too late she realised what it was.
The last thing in her mind’s eye were Laran’s and Arenn’s faces. Then, nothingness took over and her body hit the scorched by the explosion bulkhead.
End of episode 2