Torav, Nokar, Cardassia Prime
“I don’t believe you would do this,” Laran said.
They sat on a balcony of a small hotel in Torav. Torav was a small town, formerly a fishing village, with a very long history. Jarol had chosen it as the first stop of their trip across Nokarian continent, as the town was one of not so many tourist spots on the northern continent of Cardassia Prime and had a lot to offer. They stayed in a small, family-run hotel, occupying two adjacent rooms.
The evening was warm, but the first signs of the humid season were obvious—especially on Laran’s body, as he wore a few layers of clothes. It was colder than in Lakat this time of the year and it would get even colder within the month they planned to spend travelling. She hoped he finally believed her that she hadn’t been overreacting when she had told him to take a lot of warm clothes.
“I would, Droplet, I would.”
“What? You taught me that war was the worst solution, you taught me that fighting was not an answer to anything, you taught me that one could never make peace through a fight! You taught me that!”
“And I still believe it.”
“Uncle Arenn doesn’t!”
“He does too.”
“No, he doesn’t! He had told me that war was a bad choice, that we would lose
it and he still wanted it! This was disgusting!”
“Now listen, Laran.” Her tone of voice became a bit sharper and chastising. “Uncle Arenn is not any more fond of war than you or me. He did not want
it. But sometimes there is no other choice. It was not a matter what he wanted, it was a matter what had to be done.”
“I disagree. ‘No choice’ is a convenient excuse to do a lot of bad things. Fighting is wrong. War doesn’t bring peace. War is always wrong.”
“War is wrong, but sometime fighting is the only way.”
“Were we wrong fighting against the Dominion? Were the Bajorans wrong fighting for their freedom?”
“Were they right killing your children?” He didn’t finish the sentence yet when his face expression changed. She knew he regretted his words as soon as they left his mouth. “I’m sorry, Mom. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it.”
“I know,” she said softly; although his brutal words hurt her very much. “Uncle Arenn made a difficult decision. It was the best option from the bad choices. Sometimes you cannot choose a good solution, because you are given only bad solutions. You have to choose the least bad one. I would make the same decision, if I were in his shoes.”
“I’d disagree with you too.”
“Good. You should think for yourself, not copy me.”
He didn’t say anything. He reached for his glass of juice and sipped on it. She observed him. When did he stop being a child and start being a man? She’d love to hug him and never let go, but she knew it would only make him protest ‘ohhhhh, mooooooom.’ She smiled at her thoughts.
“What?” he asked her.
“Nothing. I was just thinking how cute you were when you were a boy.”
“I’m still cute.”
She chuckled. “So why isn’t there any nice, young lady in the vicinity?”
“Young ladies like ‘cute.’”
“Was Dad cute?”
“Errr...no. But I wasn’t a young lady.”
“Was Father Joret cute?”
“Yes, he was.”
He leaned back in the chair and stretched his legs before him. “Tell me more about Mayel and Corat,” he asked.
She liked when he wanted to listen to the stories about the family he never knew. She was glad she could share them with him. She felt it united both of her families into one.
“Let me think...” She put her index finger to her lips and thought for a while. “There was that day, shortly after Corat was born, when Mayel asked what we needed another baby for and if there was something wrong with her...”
Laran turned his head to her and leaned it on the back of the seat behind him. She knew she had told him that story many times before—there were no stories left, because Mayel and Corat had such a short time to create those stories with their lives—so each time she tried to tell it a bit differently.
The sun sank in the desert’s sand in the west and the darkness quickly replaced the daylight. Lights on the street below were enough for them to see each other without turning on their rooms’ lights.
“I wish I had siblings,” Laran said very quietly after she finished. She didn’t know what to say—she never knew he felt that way—but he spared her answering. He said, “Where do we go tomorrow?” His tone was cheerful but she could read him well—it wasn’t completely genuine. The longing not to be the only child—a rarity on Cardassia, even after the terrible, destructive war—was deeply rooted inside his soul.
“I was thinking about two options,” she said. “One: tunnels under the desert where food used to be stored. Two: the remains of the small fishing village; they used to produce the best fish juice in the prefecture...about two hundred years ago.”
“Tunnels? That sounds interesting. Why did they store food there?”
She smiled. She liked talking about old Nokarian customs. Most of them were not practised any longer, but she made sure they wouldn’t be forgotten. For the last fifteen years she actively participated in the society for saving Nokarian culture and it made her very happy that her son, who was half-Nokarian but was raised in Lakat and identified with Lakatian culture, showed so much interest in her cultural heritage. He didn’t say a word in Lakatian language since they had started their trip, even though it was obvious that sometimes he struggled with Nokarian. He was fluent but not that fluent and she appreciated his efforts. Even if people—seeing his not so sharply slanted eye ridges typical for a full-blooded Nokarian—talked to him in Unionese, he kept answering in Nokarian.
They sat on the balcony until late night hours and talked; or rather she talked and he occasionally asked a question. She wanted to stop the time, to stay in this town forever, to never worry about crew rosters, schedules, repairs or the Klingons. To breath real, not replicated and filtered air; to eat real food, not rations or replicated copies; to wear comfortable shirts and trousers, not heavy and hard armour.
She knew a life like this would eventually drive her crazy but for now she enjoyed every moment of it, especially since Laran was with her. She would have gone on that trip anyway, but with him it was so much more precious and memorable. She could share her knowledge, she could show him things, she could be with him
Zamarran was nervous and very unhappy. Gul Brenok had left him in command of the station and the engineer was certain that it was a huge mistake. He was an engineer, a man to fix broken equipment or to design a new piece of technology, not someone to give orders and administer a station. Peace or no peace, this was a strategic command.
And now his job involved diplomacy, too. Captain Ronus’s presence was encouraging but Zamarran knew that the main responsibility of welcoming the new diplomatic officer from Starfleet was his.
The docking cog rolled away and an elder man entered the corridor in which Zamarran and Ronus waited.
“Commander Pertello,” the gul said, hoping that he didn’t mispronounce the alien’s name. “I am Gul Zamarran and I would like to welcome you to Rayak Nor
“Pleased to meet you,” the man replied. His hair was completely white and his face was covered with wrinkles.
He must be at least one hundred fifty
, Zamarran thought. “I am not sure you know Captain Ronus.” And I should have known
, he chastised himself.
The Trill extended his hand in a human gesture of welcome and the human man grabbed it and shook. “We talked through the comm,” Ronus said. “Welcome.”
“Your station sure is big,” Pertello said, looking around walls and the ceiling. Then he looked at Zamarran. “I hope I’ll get some city plan for it before you let me loose.”
Zamarran’s first instinct was to tell the commander that he wouldn’t be allowed into more than a half of the station anyway, but he realised in time that the man joked. “I’ll see what I can do,” he said, trying to force a polite smile and not sure if he succeeded. “Captain Ronus volunteered to show you to your quarters.”
“Wonderful! Is there a chance for a tour later, too? I read that you designed this station, Gul Zamarran.”
Again, Zamarran stopped himself before saying that Pertello wouldn’t be allowed into many sections. “I can arrange that. I would gladly answer your questions.” That, at least, was the truth. If anything, Zamarran felt safe talking about his work and engineering matters.
“When your duties allow,” the commander said smiling.
“Since when are you an engineer? You’re a counselor turned a diplomat.” Ronus showed his teeth in an amused grin.
Pertello waved his hand. “Oh, it’s just a hobby. And I find Cardassian architecture fascinating.” he smiled to Zamarran. “I think this place is beautiful. All those curves, ovals...so elegant, so graceful.”
Zamarran was stunned. “I’m...glad you approve.”
The human looked at Ronus. “So, where’re my quarters?”
“This way.” The Trill extended his hand and led the older man toward the junction on the right. He turned back and winked to Zamarran.
The gul returned to the command centre and took his place at the main engineering console. He rarely used Legate Jarol’s office. He was telling himself it was her place and he was only temporarily taking over her duties, while she was recuperating and gathering strength on her extended shore leave, but it still felt somehow wrong. He wished her well and was far from claiming that she didn’t deserve that time far from the station and duty, but he couldn’t wait for her to return and take care of all those things he was so sure he was doing wrong. He was glad that Borad seemed to know what he was doing.
“Sir?” Kapoor stood in front of him. How long did she stand there without him seeing her? “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine, Gil. Do you need anything?”
“Actually, yes. I wanted to ask you for permission to have a family visit.”
Zamarran frowned, not understanding. “A family visit?”
“Correct. Since the situation with the Klingons seems to be solved—at least for the moment—and the Federation certainly in not a threat, the station is one of the safest spots of the Union.”
“Perhaps. For the moment.”
“So I’d like my kids to come and visit me.”
“Kids?” Zamarran didn’t expect that.
“Kids. You know, smaller copies of you and your spouse.”
“I know what kids are, Kapoor. I have plenty of my own.”
“I have two and they keep me busy. I’d like them to keep me busy again.”
“Kapoor, things may be quiet now but we can’t tell for how long.”
“I know. I don’t mean that their stay should be permanent. I used the word ‘visit,’ remember?”
Zamarran could clearly see hope and expectation in her face, but he wasn’t sure it was a good idea. The station still was a dangerous place. Even if it lost most of its strategic meaning recently, it could become a target of another sneak attack. The quadrant was full of unfriendly aliens.
How could he tell her ‘no?’ “Did you talk to your husband?”
“Of course I did. He would organise the transport for them.”
“Kapoor, I hate to make this decision,” he admitted. “Can’t you wait for Jarol to return? It’s only a month.”
“A month after which their school year starts. It’s now or never.”
“Zamarrrrrrrran,” she growled, vibrating the ‘r’ sound much longer than necessary.
“You’re on duty, Gil,” he reminded her, although he was sure she didn’t need that reminder.
“Don’t you miss your kids?”
“I do. But that has nothing to do with it.”
“Would Jarol agree to this?”
Kapoor’s face had a mischievous expression and Zamarran hated to ruin her little ‘trap.’ “No, she wouldn’t. She lost her children when they visited her on a station.”
Kapoor became serious. “You’re right.” She paused. “But this is different. I wouldn’t risk my children’s lives if I believed there was a reason to worry.”
“We still have the assassin to find.” Gul Marrak’s investigation was in progress.
“I know that. But as far as I know, he looks for a way the assassin left the station. He is almost sure that person is not here any longer.”
“I don’t know. It’s too serious, too great a risk.”
“Zamarran. Don’t be so overcautious.”
He knew he acted like someone who had to take care of someone else’s precious vase and he assigned a separate room for that vase, letting no one in. He was afraid his wrong decision would bring a lot of harm. The station seemed to be safe but he would hate to be responsible for any bad thing that could happen to young Karamas. His friend wouldn’t forgive him and Jarol wouldn’t forgive him, either.
“Well?” she pressed.
“Let me think about it, all right?”
“All right. Talk to Tavor.”
He opened his mouth to remind her that they were on duty and using her husbands given name was not appropriate in this situation, but she was already on her way to her post.
Torav, Nokar, Cardassia Prime
The ruins of the fishing village were not ruins at all. Demok expected to see remains of cottages, some pre-arranged fishing nets imitating mess and what not, but what he saw was a clean, neat copy of an ancient village.
The whole village was considered a museum of some sort, so it was surrounded by a fence with one single entrance. There was no charge to sightsee the place, though, unless someone wanted a tour with a guide. To enter, they had to pass through a gate and a booth, where they received a guide-book with descriptions and were asked if they wanted a guide. Jarol shook her head and was just about to proceed when the woman behind the counter shyly asked, “Aren’t you Legate Jarol?”
Demok looked at his mother, who only smiled. It wasn’t the first time they heard that question and each time Jarol tried to avoid answering. The sub-archon looked at the woman. “Why don’t you sell tickets? It would help you to support this place.”
“We receive subventions from NSCH and we don’t need to charge people.”
“I see,” Demok said.
“Have a nice day,” Jarol said to the woman and left the small booth, entering the village turned museum-on-fresh-air.
“Mom, what’s a NSCH?” he asked, catching up with her.
“Nokarian Society for Cultural Heritage,” she answered.
“Oh. And they give subventions?”
“The society, as any other cultural society, gets some leks from the government. They can later pass it to the most needing cultural objects or projects. The Nokarian society gives subventions to some objects under a specific condition. They get money, so they are not allowed to charge the public for visiting.”
“Why such a condition?”
“Culture should be for all, not only for rich.”
“Did you have anything to do with that condition?” he asked. He knew his mother grew in poverty.
“It wasn’t my idea, but I supported it.”
He smiled. “Why am I not surprised?”
She looked innocently at him. “I don’t know. Why?”
Cottages were mostly light brown to dark brown. Oval windows looked out toward the sea. Demok noticed that from the northern side there were no windows or doors at all, only smooth walls. Intrigued, he opened the guide-book to see if there would be any information why it was like that. As it occurred, in wintertime the winds from north were so strong and so cold that not to let the cold air enter the houses, they had to have all openings face other sides of the world.
The cottages closest to the sea stood on poles. Again, Demok consulted the guide-book and read that it was to protect the houses from high tides. The poles were tall enough for water not to reach the houses in its highest level. Retractable stairs led to the entrances when the tide was low. During a high tide, people used small boats to move around.
There was a row of small fishing boats, each with information when it was built and how. The first one was three hundred years old, the next one was fifty years ‘newer;’ the last one of the seven was dated in late 2350s. Barely fifty years ago. They were different one from another, but Demok could clearly see that the general principle was still the same: a single piece of wood made the hull, any other additional—and in some cases very primitive—equipment was a combination of wood and metal. The guide-book claimed that each of those boats, even the oldest one, could still float on water and wouldn’t sink.
“Mom, why is Nokar called ‘the farmland?’ From what I know it’s mostly a dry desert. It seems that the fishing business could have been quite significant here, but a farmland?”
“Nokar wasn’t always a desert, Droplet. After the Great Shift it was still quite green and produced most food of all Cardassian continents. The problems started recently, in the last century. The air became drier, the dry season longer and many draughts changed fertile fields into deserts. Only fishing villages and towns managed to keep up with a high demand for food. The farms are a history...” She smiled. “But for some reason people keep calling Nokar the ‘farmland.’ I don’t know why.”