A chime at the door surprised Brenok; he had clearly told Borad that he was not to be disturbed. He glanced at the door and through the glass he could see it was Demok. The gul pressed a button and the door opened.
“Laran, I am just about to establish connection with the Central Command, so whatever it is, make it brief,” he said.
“I want to know what’s going to happen,’’ the young Cardassian replied.
“I’ll tell you after the meeting.”
“Uncle, as a citizen I have a right to watch such an important session.”
Brenok thought for a while. Indeed, some sessions were broadcast for the public live and almost all were available in pay-per-view news channel. “You can stay but under a few conditions. First of all, you will sit beyond the camera reach. You will remain silent during the whole procedure. You have a right to watch it but not participate. So remember that you’re only an audience.”
Demok took a chair a put behind the screen. He could see Brenok but not what was on the screen.
The gul established the connection. He was so often unavailable to personally attend the sessions that he had created a special secure connection to participate remotely.
“Gul Brenok, are you with us?
” Legate Ekoor asked.
“I am. I read you loud and clear,” the gul replied.
“Very well, we can start then.
“We have gathered here today to make a decision regarding our current situation, namely the Klingon attack on Rayak Nor. This was an unprovoked attack and the Klingon Empire has not officially declared war on us. We must decide what is going to be our reply to this event.
“I believe you all have read Gul Brenok’s detailed report on the situation of Rayak Nor.
” All heads nodded. “Legate Gortan, did the Federation react in any way to this attack?
” Ekoor asked a legate who was responsible for interstellar affairs, a function that Jarol used to have.
“They have condemned the attack. And that’s all. They won’t do anything else. They say their hands are tied. They did offer to mediate, should we ask for their help, but the ambassador said that they wouldn’t push the Klingons too hard. They are afraid of provoking them to break their alliance.
Brenok was not surprised at all. They had done little twenty-five years ago, they would do little now. Besides, Ronus had been right—it hadn’t taken the Klingons much to abandon their allies at first sight of disagreement. Honourably abandon their allies, no doubt
, he thought with contempt.
“Does anyone else have anything more to say?
” Ekoor asked. Shakes of heads. Brenok knew that the session had started earlier and he missed most of it. It was not important, he wanted to be present for the voting. “Gul Brenok?
“Very well. I would like to inform you that I will abstain from voting. There is an even number of us and that could create a fifty-fifty share of votes. To avoid that I will not vote and will do as the majority decides.
” He paused for a moment. Brenok regretted his decision, as he was sure what Ekoor’s vote would be. “The voting will not be anonymous. I will call your names and you will speak out loud your choice. Clear?
Brenok listened and counted the tally. Eighteen members of the Central Command, including him and Ekoor. Some of legates’ and detarrs’
decisions weren’t surprising, but two people voted the way he hadn’t expected. He would never think that they could misjudge the Klingons so badly.
So it was his turn. He was the last one to vote. And his voice would be deciding, as the votes were evenly split between war and peace.
He looked at Ekoor and in a low, calm voice said, “War.”
Demok covered his mouth with his hand and tears shone in his eyes. He clearly didn’t expect such a decision from his uncle. Brenok felt a sting in his heart—he didn’t want to disappoint the young man, but he couldn’t make decisions based on his family members’ feelings. Peace was not an answer. Peace was now and barely a few hours earlier he had been fighting a battle. At least in the official state of war they could initiate war protocols and have some chances of defence. Pretending that nothing happen would not serve them well.
Ekoor heavily sighed. “I will prepare necessary documentation and officially declare war against the Klingon Empire by the end of the day. Meeting concluded.
Brenok closed the connection and looked at Demok. The sub-archon still sat on the chair, his hands squeezing his thighs, wide open eyes staring at Brenok with disbelief.
“How could you?” Demok hissed. “How could you?”
Brenok rose and approached the sub-archon. “You must understand—”
“You told me we can’t win that war, you told me yourself.”
“That’s right. But begging for peace won’t stop the Klingons. This way we at least show them—”
“You brought war on us!” Demok jumped like a spring and hit Brenok in the chest with his both fists. The gul barely felt it through his thick armour. “My mother would never do that!”
But Demok wouldn’t listen. He ran out of the office, through the command centre to the lift. Borad followed him with his eyes and then looked surprised at Brenok who stood in the door to the office. The gul gazed at Jarol’s aide, who stared after Demok with surprise painted on his face, and then returned to his desk.
He sat and closed his eyes. He rubbed his forehead ridges with his index fingers. He feared for Cardassia.
Demok left the lift in the pole and went to the infirmary.
He felt panic. Deep, wild panic. He couldn’t breathe. It felt as if something squeezed his guts in its steel claws.
He never knew his father. His father died in war. His father’s sons with his first wife died in war. All of them. His mother’s and uncle’s friend died in war. Millions of Cardassians died in war. War meant death. Suffering. Pain. Destroyed homes. Hunger. Fear. Disease. It didn’t matter who wins. There were too many that lose.
He didn’t want that. He didn’t want that deadly chaos in his quiet, peaceful home. How could Brenok vote for this chaos? How could he even think this was good for Cardassia? Has he gone insane? What was wrong with the world?
There had to be another way. They could try to talk to the Klingons. Maybe the Klingons wouldn’t listen, but did anyone even bother the try? Did anyone explore other options? They were so hasty in declaring the war, but was it the only option? The best option? It’s easy to start fighting, but it would require a lot of work to stop it after the first shot was fired. Why no one saw that?
Why Brenok didn’t see that? He wasn’t a bloodthirsty warmonger. Why did he do that? Was it because the Klingons injured him? Was it because they almost killed Demok’s mother who was like a sister for Brenok?
Cardassia was going to war. It rang in Demok’s mind, rendering his body limp. He was never so afraid in his life. And he knew it was just the beginning.
Only the beginning...