The Central Command Headquarters
Legate Ekoor’s office
03:17 (23:17 station time)
Legate Ekoor rubbed his tired eyes. This was not what he imagined his office term would look like. He looked at the padd that contained the document again. He didn’t want to send it, he had been postponing it for over an hour already. Maybe he could do it tomorrow? Maybe a miracle would happen and he wouldn’t have to send it at all? Or maybe it was just a bad dream.
A comm interrupted his reverie.
He pressed the button. “What is it?” Was Glinn Forles still on duty? Why didn’t he go home yet?
“Legate, we received a communication from the Klingon Empire
,” Ekoor’s aide said.
“What do they want?” More threats? More insults?
“I do not know, sir. I didn’t listen to it.
“Put it to my terminal.”
Ekoor’s terminal was isolated from the common database. He stored too many important and top secret documents there to risk any unauthorised access. Every connection had to be controlled and secured. And temporary.
The current Klingon chancellor, Urok, looked at Ekoor from the screen.
“Legate Ekoor, leader of the Cardassian Union. I hope this message finds you in good health.
“It was brought to my attention that a Cardassian station on the edge of the Cardassian territory had been attacked by a small Klingon force earlier today. Please be assured this was a rogue operation and not in any way endorsed by the Klingon High Council. If the captain hadn’t died at the hands of your brave warriors, he would be executed for this foolish and cowardly act.
“We hope that the Cardassian Union didn’t suffer any serious losses and will remember the soldiers that went to Sto’Vo’Kor while defending their territory.
“We also hope that this will not provoke any undesired consequences. We do not seek war with you. The Klingon Empire does not see any gain in a conflict with the Cardassian Union. We hope this unauthorised action can be ignored.
“We await your response. Qa’Pla!”
The message ended. Ekoor stared at the screen, not believing what he had just seen. Did the miracle really happen?
Due to the distance, live communication with Qo’noS was impossible, so the chancellor had sent the message. Now Ekoor had to prepare an answer.
it was genuine.
Why would the Klingons ask for peace after this sneak attack? A rogue captain story didn’t sound very convincing.
“Forles!” he called his aide. The glinn was in his office within seconds. “There are a few things I need you to do. First, contact the Federation ambassador. Second, wake up everyone; this is not time to sleep. Third...”
Glinn Forles kept nodding, memorising every order.
The Central Command Headquarters
Legate Gortan’s office
06:17 (02:17 station time)
Ekoor didn’t feel tired. He didn’t have the luxury to let such feelings overwhelm him. He entered the office that had been occupied by the legate responsible for interstellar affairs and looked expectantly at two people present: Legate Gortan and Federation Ambassador Azagoo.
“Madam Ambassador,” Ekoor greeted the Zakdorn woman.
“Legate Ekoor,” she answered, nodding to him.
“Legate Gortan had told me you have some information for me.”
She nodded. “Indeed.” She paused, thinking for a while. “You wanted to know if the Federation would have any idea why the Klingons attacked and why now they ask for ignoring that attack.”
“That’s right. Anything you could tell me without risking your treaty with them, naturally.”
She pursed her lips. “We know nothing. The Klingons don’t share this kind of information with us and their ambassador was not forthcoming with information.”
Ekoor sighed. So he still had nothing. He still was unable to tell what the Klingons were planning or thinking.
“However,” Azagoo continued, “I have been authorised to pass information that could help you in the current crisis.”
Ekoor felt his hope returning. He wished it wasn’t a false hope. “I’m listening.”
“Please remember this is an unofficial information. You cannot use it for any kind of official statements or even in your news broadcasts. This is between us, the Federation and Cardassia. The Federation doesn’t want another war in the quadrant, even if we wouldn’t be involved.” She paused again. “Several weeks ago we detected a strange space anomaly. A kind of subspace fissure. The phenomenon re-appeared several times, each time stronger. The analysis showed that there was a pattern. A circle pattern with the centre in the Klingon territory near Qo’noS. The fissures there were the biggest, lasted longest and were most clear. The further from the centre, the less significant the fissures were.” She nodded to Gortan, who activated a monitor. The display showed the Alpha Quadrant with clear indication of empires’ borders and major planetary systems. It also showed the places where the phenomena had appeared. It reminded Ekoor of circles on water surface after dropping a pebble.
“How does it help us?” the legate asked.
“Those fissures were artificially created.”
“We don’t know. But the Klingons do. Yesterday, the biggest fissures near Qo’noS opened and a fleet of aliens emerged from them. They attacked Klingon targets. We know nothing about them. We know nothing about their motives. The Klingons don’t tell us anything and I am not sure they know much more than we do.”
“How does it help us?” Ekoor thought aloud.
“It keeps the Klingons busy, sir,” Gortan said. “They don’t want a war on two fronts, so they ask us for peace.”
Azagoo nodded. “That would be our guess too, Legate. The attack on the station preceded the alien attack on Qo’noS. We think they wanted to start a war with you, but now they have a bigger problem and would rather no have to fight against two enemies. Especially since it’s their territory that was attacked. They have to defend themselves and even for a Klingon defence has priority over an aggression.”
Ekoor was certain that the Klingon attack had not been a rogue operation. No Klingon would do such a thing without someone’s blessing. But now it started to make sense why the Klingons didn’t pursue this course of action. They had their hands busy and they didn’t need another problem with the Cardassians, who had to appear strong after destroying their warships.
However, he wasn’t ready to accept it as a certain answer just yet.
“Madam Ambassador,” he looked at the Zakdorn, “How can you tell this is the reason they don’t want any war with us?”
“We cannot be sure. But that would explain their unusual behaviour.”
“And what if those mysterious aliens finish them and then turn on us?” Ekoor asked.
“You seem to read my mind, Legate,” Azagoo smiled bitterly. “But this is a conversation for another time.” She looked at the display. “The situation would explain why the Klingons ask you for peace. It is up to you if you accept this explanation.”
Ekoor didn’t say anything, lost in thoughts.
“Legate Ekoor,” Azagoo said, approaching him. “I have been authorised to officially support your position, should you choose not to declare war against the Klingons. The Federation is with you in this matter.” Her tone became softer and quieter. “And I can see that you are not fond of the idea of the war with the Klingons either, Legate.”
“That you for your help, Madam Ambassador,” Ekoor said quietly. “The Central Command has to discuss it, as I have no power to make such decisions on my own, but I will explain the situation and I hope the decision that had been made will be changed.”
“Please, keep me informed.”
He bid farewell and returned to his office.
Brenok left the legate’s office and entered a quiet command centre. Only skeleton crew worked at their stations. He saw Zamarran at the main engineering station. The engineer didn’t work. He just sat there, staring at the floor before him. Brenok wondered what was wrong, so he motioned toward the older man. Zamarran noticed him approaching, so he rose from the chair.
“Has the decision been made?” he asked.
“Yes,” Brenok confirmed. “The Klingons will receive our answer by the morning.”
Demok sat on a stool, but his head lay on a biobed, just next to his mother’s shoulder.
“I never told you that, Mommy, but I always felt like something protected me. Like there was a force that made sure nothing ever happened to me. All bad things avoided me, as if a forcefield surrounded me and never let them harm me. I wish I could give you that force, I wish I could build such a forcefield around you and it would protect you...” His eyes filled with tears.
The time given by Medic Nerot was up. She should have woken up many hours ago; but she didn’t and there was a huge possibility that she would never wake up.
“I’d rather you keep that protecting forcefield for yourself.”
It took him a while before the words—and the voice that spoke them—sank in. His head bobbed up and he looked at his mother. She lay there, her eyes squinted from too bright light, looking at him. She raised her hand to touch his cheek. He grabbed it and squeezed gently.
“You’re back, Mom, you’re back!”
“So many things happened, so many things...This was the worst day of my life, Mom.”
A few moments later the medics surrounded her, scanning her and throwing medical terms at each other. Demok didn’t understand much from what they said. He moved away to give them space and contacted Brenok to let him know that she woke up.
Jarol’s eyes wandered from the first man to second one and then to the third one, and then back to the first one. The three of them stood at the feet of her bed, talking simultaneously, each gesturing and trying to draw more of her attention to himself than to the other two. She could barely understand what they were saying. There was something about a Klingon attack on a station, but she wasn’t sure if it was her station, or some other Cardassian station, or a non-Cardassian station, or perhaps a Klingon station. Then Arenn and Laran argued for a moment about some war—one of them was against it and the other one tried to justify it, but concluded that he was glad it wouldn’t happen. Toral—why was Toral here anyway?—tried to tell her something about the status of Rayak Nor
, but she was so confused she didn’t understand much of it.
It didn’t matter. Whatever they had to tell her, they could do it again—separately. Right now she enjoyed the show, for they amused her a great deal. It was like listening to children, who blamed one another for some naughty prank.
She looked at her son. Laran’s hair was a mess, a mess of greasy wisps, falling on his face as he shook his head arguing with his uncle. He seemed tired, deep shadows inside his eye ridges betrayed a difficult day behind him, but his eyes shone with excitement and joy.
Arenn looked no less tired. He spoke fast in his melodic voice, addressing either her or her son, talking about necessities and difficult decisions. Laran only snorted at him.
Gul Toral seemed most rested of them all and in the best shape, unless counting some kind of injury on his face.
Jarol used the opportunity that Arenn and Laran argued with each other and asked the gul, “What happened to your face?”
His hand wandered to his cheek, but he didn’t touch it. “Oh, it’s nothing. Just a mild burn. It should be completely gone within days.”
“But why do you have it?”
“Something exploded on the bridge during the battle.”
“What battle?” Suddenly both Arenn and Laran silenced and their heads turned to her. All three men stared at her. “What?” she asked. What did she do that they looked at her like that?
“The battle we are telling you about...” Laran said quietly.
“When you hear separate sounds in two channels it’s called ‘stereo,’” she said. “How do you call three separate channels?”
They kept staring for a while longer and then exchanged worried looks.
“Mom, are you ok?”
“You three keep talking at the same time. How am I suppose to understand anything?” she smiled. Why did they look so worried? Her joke obviously wasn’t funny, but was it that
All three of them looked at the medic, who sat nearby.
He raised his hands in defence gesture. “Don’t look at me. I couldn’t understand anything from what you said either and I was-be here and witnessed all those events...sirs,” he added after a moment and smiled sheepishly.
“So you say this is not any brain damage?” Arenn asked him.
Jarol thought. Did they talk about her? Did those worried looks mean something was wrong with her head? They
acted like a bunch of idiots, they talked simultaneously... But she wouldn’t realise if something was wrong with her, would she? She wouldn’t know that she’s more stupid not, would she? It’s the world that would appear more complicated and incomprehensible, wouldn’t it? She looked at the medic panicked.
“I am scanning her right now.” He pointed to something above Jarol’s head. “So far everything is as it should be.”
She glanced up to see some helmet-like device. The medic had said she was fine, so she decided to believe in that. She chose to believe in that. She refused to consider the other option.
Her eyes went back to the three men in front of her; to one specifically.
“Toral, why are you here?”
Her question clearly made him uncomfortable. He shifted his weight from one leg to another and uncertainly looked at the medic in the corner. Laran crossed his arms on his chest and looked expectantly at the gul, but—Jarol noted—not without a liking.
“I...” Toral stammered. “I...wanted to make sure you are all right.” Suddenly, he appeared very uncomfortable with all her attention directed only at him. And not only her attention—everyone in the room looked at him, listening to his answer.
She didn’t buy his reply for a moment. He could have come, check up on her and leave. Why did he stay and joined the two talking monsters she called family?
“Oh, tell her!” Arenn exclaimed. He looked at her. “He’s in—”
“Brenok!” Toral interrupted him nervously.
“Tell her, or I’ll tell her.” Arenn’s voice sounded menacingly.
“What’s going on?” Jarol worried. There was something they were hiding from her.
“Not here, not now, not this way
!” Toral protested.
“And what did you bring that
for?” Laran pointed to something on the console in the opposite end of the room, but it was too far for Jarol to see what it was.
Toral seemed to want to answer but didn’t. His cheeks filled with air and she was sure they grew hot. He let the air out with a quiet ‘pffffff.’
“He’s right.” Arenn suddenly seemed to agree. “Come on, Laran. Let’s give them some privacy. Nerot.”
“I can’t leave my pa—”
“Yes, you can. Only for a short while.”
Jarol observed the whole scene and her amusement gradually rose. Arenn, Laran and the medic left the room, leaving Toral—a very nervous Toral—with her. She pulled herself up, trying to ignore the dizziness, and looked at him.
He seemed to hesitate for a moment, but then he went to the console and retrieved the object that lay there. A box of Assurian chocolates. He approached the head of her bed and sat on a stool that stood there.
“Leg...Atira Jarol,” he said. Oh, so this was far from duty matters, this was private. Really private. “You seemed to enjoy this kind of chocolates before, so I brought you some more.” He put them on her lap, not looking into her eyes—they were glued to the box.
“Toral?” she asked. Did it mean what she thought it did?
Had she been so blind? She liked him, she knew he was a good soldier and a good commander but he always struck her as lacking some strength; too shy for an officer, too quiet, too uncertain.
“And you better eat them all before you leave this room,” he said in a stronger voice, looking at her.
“Or what?!” she asked defiantly.
“Or I’ll make you do it. One by one.”
“Until I’m fat and disgusting?”
He smiled; he seemed to relax a bit. “You may get fat but you’ll never be disgusting.”
“And you are the ultimate judge of that?”
“You have no idea what kind of talents I harbour.” He frowned. “I have acquired the chocolates, I have brought them and I’ll make you eat them. I hope this is clear.”
That was fun! When was the last time she did that? Ah yes, before Laran was born, with his father. Did she want to continue? Did she want to continue with Toral
He must have noticed her hesitation. “Oh, no! I managed to gather courage up to this point, there’s no way you can get rid of me now!” he said, shaking his head. “It took me over twenty years and you on the verge of death. I’m staying. I’m arguing. Execute me, because it’s the only way to make yourself free of me now!”
“Unfortunately, I can’t execute you. I don’t outrank you any more.”
“But I could ask Arenn.” She smiled mischievously.
“I have his support, so you can forget about it.” She almost expected him to stuck his tongue out at her. He didn’t but the image in her head made her laugh.
“Don’t even count on me sharing the chocolates with you,” she said defiantly, raising her chin.
“What? You want to grow fat alone?”
fat alone? Maybe. Old? Not necessarily
, she thought. She decided to test one more thing. “Maybe I should ask a certain archon to rule to execute you and have all chocolates without sharing.”
Toral flashed his even teeth in a smile. “He’s on my side, too.”
“I’m surrounded!” She would throw her arms up if she felt strong enough.
“Completely. So better surrender.”
“Never!” she shook her head. “I will fight the three of you till my last fit day.”
“Well then...” He opened the box. “Let’s bring the first fat day sooner.”
She smiled at him. He had a sneaky face expression, but she knew it was all acting—his narrow eyes laughed.
“Toral...” She realised she had no idea what his given name was. “What happened when I was here? Slowly and in one voice.”
His face grew serious. “It all started from the explosion in your quarters,” he began.
She listened to him. She listened to him telling her how he had abandoned his post upon learning she had been hurt. She listened to him telling her about the Klingon attack and the progress of the battle. He told her about the initial Central Command’s decision to declare war, changed to agreeing to a non-aggression treaty with the Klingons, who had another war on their hands.
In the meantime Arenn, Laran and the medic returned; they didn’t join Toral and let him tell her everything, for which she was grateful.
She tried to absorb the information. A few things rang in her mind especially loudly: her son not wanting to leave her, Aladar forcing him into the panic room, Toral dropping everything to come to her, Arenn’s decisions first in favour of war, then—in the light of the new events—against.
Toral finished and she looked at her son and then at Arenn.
“This was one crazy day,” the long-haired gul said.
“And I missed all the fun,” she answered, smiling weakly.
End of Episode 3