New Bavosal, Nokar, Cardassia Prime
Demok thought that New Bavosal could be a place where the best artists on Cardassia could live. The city was like a walk through a stylish palace. The city resembled a holoprojection: it was clean, regular and new. Perfect. Bushes in parks were trimmed to resemble the local fauna, including birds and small mammals that lived in these parks. The town was built around a small lake that made a central point of the park in the middle of New Bavosal. The lake and the park themselves were a kind of nature sanctuary. Clean streets, many for only pedestrian traffic, seemed to be designed to resemble different architectonic styles.
Demok and his mother had spent the first two days merely walking in the central park and on pedestrian streets. They had bought of lot of useless objects, mostly knick-knacks, from countless stalls that occupied the narrow lanes. On the third day they decided to visit what was left of Bavosal—the original town, next to which New Bavosal has been built.
There was very little left. Most of the remains of the older town were removed due to respect for those whose bodies were buried under the rubble, but there were a few buildings left—as a genuine monument to the place that so many people had called home. It was not allowed to approach the ruins closely for the safety reasons—they were surrounded by an energetic barrier—but the open-air museum was arranged to let visitors enter a hollow circle between the buildings, where a monument stood. The monument was a single and a very tall concrete beam. Demok’s first thought was that it didn’t look impressive at all, but he changed his mind when he moved closer. He realised that there was something written on it. Names. Hundreds of names. Thousands of names. After a moment he realised that those were the names of the people who used to live here, in Bavosal, and died here.
He turned his head toward his mother to tell her about it and he realised that she wasn’t standing next to him any longer. He looked around and saw her sitting on the ground, just by the monument, with her head lowered.
“Mom?” he asked worried. “Are you all right?” Medic Nerot had warned him she might feel dizzy sometimes. The sub-archon crouched next to her. “Mom?”
She raised her head and he saw tears pooling in her eye ridges. “We should have done something...” she said quietly. “We should have done something earlier. We shouldn’t have allowed for this to happen...”
He sat next to her. “Mom, you did what you had to. It doesn’t matter when you would turn against them, because that Founder would have ordered to murder us all anyway. You did what you had to do. Her evil intent is not your fault and not your responsibility.” She looked at him, trying to muffle her sobs. “Mom, you risked your life for free Cardassia, you risked our
lives for Cardassia and that was the right thing to do.”
“But maybe if we planned it better, maybe if we...did something differently, this—” she waved her hand around toward the ruins of the city “—would have never happened.”
“Mommy, you did the best you could. No one could foresee this. No one could have thought that anyone in his or her mind would order something like that. You couldn’t have known that Changelings have no conscience.”
“I should have known. We
should have known.”
He took her hands into his.—When did they become bigger than hers?—He looked around to see if they drew attention, but those few visitors didn’t seem to stare. He saw a young girl realising what the writings on the monument meant and covering her mouth with one hand and wiping her tears with the other. His mother’s reaction probably wasn’t anything unique, new, or rare.
He regretted that they came here. He wanted to see the new town and the open-air museum, but now he regretted he had had this idea. He now promised himself not to take her to any places that would remind her of that war and the final days of it. He would never do that to Uncle Arenn, so why had he thought that he could bring her here? Because all
of her family wasn’t killed? His father was, isn’t that enough?
Both his parents—yes, he considered Uncle Arenn his parent—had told him lots and lots of stories when he was growing up, but there were very few from the Dominion War and—in Jarol’s case—from the Border Wars. She never said anything about her time on Terok Nor, too, now called Deep Space Nine by the Federation. Now he understood better than ever why—those memories were too painful, too terrible to share with anyone, especially one’s child. They hadn’t hidden anything when he had asked questions, and he had had many questions after each history lesson, but they also had never volunteered to share details about what they had experienced back then.
“Come on,” he said, raising. “Let’s go back to New Bavosal.” He hoped another walk in the park by the lake would cheer her up. She enjoyed observing small mammalian creatures that apparently lived in the lake. They seemed to build their homes under the water level, but clearly breathed the air. One could buy food for them at the nearby stall and lure them closer, offering something they liked. It didn’t escape Demok’s attention that the animals were always in pairs, even when they came for the food. Were they siblings, mates or just ‘friends’—he couldn’t tell, but he found it adorable.
She let him help her up and they slowly walked back to the land shuttle to be taken to New Bavosal.
Lakarian City, Eheen, Cardassia Prime
Brenok informed the guard in the lobby whom he was going to visit and entered the lift. It took him to the third floor, where he left it to quite a big entrance hall with a hoverchair parked in a corner. He chimed and waited for a moment before the door opened. A tall and big man stood in it; a serious expression on his face was replaced by a friendly smile as soon as he saw who was the visitor.
“Gul Brenok, please come in,” he said, moving aside. “He’s waiting. He hasn’t been talking about anything else for the whole day. Next time please come for breakfast—that way we’d have to listen to that only through the morning.”
“Talking? How can he talk?”
“All right, writing and then calling either me or Temar to read it. That way or another—we can’t do anything because he draws all the attention. He interrupts us all the time!”
Brenok grinned. “And you hate it.”
“Of course I hate it!” The man grinned too. Brenok knew that all that nagging was a most wonderful gift to him, not in the least annoying. Having his brother back after twenty-five years—after being told that he had died, no less—was nothing less than a miracle. “I have a lot of work today.”
They walked along a long corridor to the last room—the day room. “Ignore him,” Brenok suggested, grinning.
The big Cardassian shot Brenok a glance. “Did you ever try to ignore him?” Brenok shook his head. “I don’t advise it. The price would be high.”
“Like an awful drawing of an ol’rot
with extremely long legs stuck to your room’s door.”
“He couldn’t do it himself, so he asked Temar to draw. Let’s just say not all my brothers are talented.”
They entered the day room. There were too men inside. One standing by a window and referring what he was seeing outside, and the other one on a special chair with an extended seat on which one could lie stretched legs and assume a half-sitting, half-laying position.
Upon seeing Brenok, the man in the chair started to bang his hand on the armrest. The other one silenced, turned his head to see who came and—seeing Brenok—smiled.
“If you forgive me, I have some cooking to finish,” the oldest man excused himself.
Brenok went to the man in the chair. “Tolkar, I hear that you have been naughty.”
Tolkar Saratt grinned and nodded his head. The man was in a terrible physical condition as a result of unbelievably cruel Obsidian Order experiment, but his spirit did not give up and he seemed to enjoy every moment of his life, regardless of limitations: he could not walk, he could not speak and his hands’ movements were limited. Brenok knew that he had worse days, but he never witnessed any. His older brother, Tabar, had told Brenok that the gul’s visits always improved Tolkar’s mood.
Temar Saratt, the youngest from all three, put a chair next to his brother’s chair and invited Brenok to sit on it. “I’ll help Tabar,” he said and left the two Cardassians alone.
“How are you feeling?” Brenok asked.
Saratt shook his head and grabbed a big padd that Brenok had built for him over two years earlier. The padd allowed his not fully functional hands to write intelligible words with a special stylus; a typical Cardassian padd would be too small and too bulky for that purpose. Brenok had based this design on Federation padds.
The gul waited for Saratt to finish writing and then took the padd to read it.
Tolkar Saratt was a painter. He was unable to paint any longer, as his fingers were incomplete and he wasn’t able to firmly hold a brush, not even mentioning that his arms were too weak and too unstable to let him paint, but even when he drew something simple on the padd—as he did now—it was obvious that the man had a gift. Brenok had seen his paintings, he owned two of them, and he regretted that this talent wouldn’t produce any more art.
Now, he enjoyed the simple drawing of a Cardassian couple, holding hands, and one of them wearing a bride’s robe.
“You’re getting married?” Brenok asked him.
Saratt gave him a look that made Brenok laugh. The painter’s eyes said ‘Are you kidding me?’
“Tabar is getting married?” Brenok guessed again, again knowing that it wasn’t that.
Saratt raised his hand and gently put it on his forhead. Obviously, the idea of his older brother marrying anyone was even more ridiculous than his own wedding.
“Temar?” Brenok asked.
Saratt nodded. Then he wrote something on the padd. ‘She’s as silly as he is.’
‘They dive all days and study dead soktu
“What’s a soktu
Saratt explained that it was a kind of plant that grew under water. With time older parts died and changed into a hard matter and only soft parts on the top were alive and kept growing.
Brenok smiled. “You are becoming an ocean specialist.” The youngest brother was such a specialist and it seemed like he shared his knowledge and passion with his siblings.
‘Can you gag him for me, please? I can’t listen to this any longer!’
“Gag him yourself. Some exercise will do you good.”
‘Cruel, as every soldier.’
“That I am.”
They laughed; Brenok loudly, Saratt voicelessly.
Temar Saratt entered the room. “I hope you’re hungry, Arenn. Tabar got carried away with the amount of food.”
“Which reminds me!” Brenok rose and returned to the corridor where he had left a package he had brought with him. He took it to the kitchen.
Tabar Saratt opened the packet and exclaimed, “And who will eat so much fop
“I heard someone here makes good jams,” Brenok said.
“I heard that!” Temar’s voice came from the day room.
Tabar grinned. “Oh, yes. He’s a real master. Thank you. You didn’t have to but thank you.”
In spite of the oldest Saratt’s words, Brenok knew that he had to. They had invited him and he would eat their food from their rations. It would be rude not to share something to fill the void and let them save some rations on something else. Fruits were always a good idea and there were very few Cardassians that didn’t like a ripe and juicy fop
The dinner consisted of steamed taspar
eggs, Brenok’s favourite dish gofut
, two different types of salads, red leaf tea and fresh fop
“So what happened that you had to postpone your visit?” Temar Saratt asked Brenok. The gul was supposed to visit them a week earlier, but these plans had to be changed.
“Um...” Brenok hated to change the good mood to something grim. “My neighbour died.”
All three brothers looked at him.
“What happened to him?” the oldest one asked eventually.
“Old age and, I think, he was unwell for a long time.” Brenok paused and put away his spoon. “He had no one. He lost his whole family in the Dominion attack, so we had to take care of him and his mourning ceremony.” He paused again. “They say he didn’t say a word since the attack, since all whom he loved were killed.” Brenok thought that he was so close to the same fate—lonely, quiet, unhappy...
“That’s so sad,” Tabar Saratt said. Brenok knew Tabar’s wife and both of his children died that day too. There wasn’t one Lakarian that hadn’t lost someone that terrible day. There wasn’t one Cardassian that hadn’t lost someone that terrible day. However, some of them had lost everyone
that day and there was no worse fate for a Cardassian than to be family-less.
“I could have been him...” Brenok whispered in spite of himself. He didn’t want this dinner to be a sad event, but he couldn’t stop talking. “I could have stopped talking, singing and impatiently wait for the death to come and finally take me.”
‘But you aren’t.’ Tolkar Saratt was equipped with a kind of stick, which he used to ‘speak.’ Even the knocking the characters of the flash code, which he used for communication, sounded softer now.
“No, I’m not.”
“Why not?” Temar asked.
Brenok looked at him. The youngest Saratt had a gentle expression on his face, encouraging the gul to answer to the question, to find out—to realise—what had made it different for him. He thought for a moment. “Because I wasn’t alone,” he said at length. “I had no family, but I still had my friends.” He thought of Atira and her support, in spite of the fact that she had needed some too; she had lost her husband in that war and had been expecting a baby. He thought of Latana—an Oralian orphan who had showed him that he’d been still needed by someone. And of Laran who had been born shortly after the war and the presence of that little, troublesome boy had brought first happy smiles to Brenok’s face. They became his family. He was not family-less any longer. “Atira was there for me. And Latana and her friends. And Laran. I never stopped missing my little girl, but he was and still is a precious treasure in my life.”
Tabar smiled. “That fact that you have another child—even if technically he is not yours—doesn’t mean you stop loving the older one.” Brenok looked at the oldest Saratt. “You don’t have to feel guilty that Laran was making you happy, even though you still mourned Tasara. Loving a new child doesn’t cancel loving the older one.”
‘Of course it does,’ Tolkar protested, looking defiantly at his older brother.
“That’s right, it does!” Temar confirmed with triumphant face expression.
Tolkar slammed his palm—gently—against the table, as if saying ‘damn, he’s got me!’
Brenok smiled. He appreciated the change of mood to something brighter. “Administrator Saratt, the gofut
is almost as good as my wife’s.” He put a full spoon of gofut
into his mouth.
Tabar smiled. “That’s a high praise. I’m glad it meets with your approval.”
“Ummmm,” Brenok mumbled with his mouth full and the two younger brothers burst into laughter.