Hideki attack fighter Sufar, Cardassian space near Torman star system
Jarol was glad that the long flight back to Rayak Nor
was almost over. In a way, she was also glad to be back on the station, although she feared what she would see in the place of her quarters. She knew Zamarran had everything repaired and renewed, but the thought of entering those quarters...it sent shivers down her spine.
She glanced at her son, who skilfully operated the pilot’s console, and her attention was drawn by something small on the sensors console. She rose from the chair in the back and moved forward to sit next to Demok.
“What is it?” he asked, noticing the reading.
“I’m not sure yet.” She attempted to scan the object, when a beep sounded.
“We’re being hailed,” Laran said.
“Open the channel.”
A man appeared on the small screen that was mounted above pilot’s console. A human in a Federation uniform. “This is Captain Lau. Cardassian vessel, do you require assistance?
Why would we require assistance?
she wondered. “No, we don’t. Why do you assume we do?”
“You are far from any Cardassian outpost, I wondered if you had any problems with navigation or engines.
“We are fine, Captain,” she said. “We took a detour to take a look at a nebula not far from here.”
“I see. Please be careful. We have detected Gorgor activity in this region. They are not hostile toward the Federation, but I am not sure of their current relations with Cardassia
“I appreciate the warning.” She glanced at Laran.
The Gorgor were strong enough to terrorise the Klingons. The Federation had managed to establish a diplomatic contact with this mysterious race and their relations became quite amicable. The Federation also started to mediate a non-aggression pact between the Gorgor and the Cardassians, but the aliens didn’t like the Union’s less than perfect past. Jarol thought that she wouldn’t want her son to be killed by aliens that held him responsible for crimes she had committed in her lifetime. She wouldn’t like him to be anywhere
near them—not until they could be trusted enough not to attack any Cardassian target ‘in defence,’ as they claimed. Maybe she should ask the good captain for assistance anyway? He could take Laran to the station; her son would be safer aboard a bigger ship, a Federation ship. “Actually, Captain...”
” A courteous smile was plastered to his face. She wasn’t sure if his proposal hadn’t been only a gesture of politeness and not a genuine offer, but she decided to take that risk and go on. The worst thing that could happen would be his refusal.
“Actually...about that assistance. If the Gorgor are somewhere here...I don’t want to risk meeting them. We are from Rayak Nor
and the station is our destination.” Maybe it was too much to ask. The Federation starship wasn’t a transportation shuttle after all.
“Would you like us to escort you?
“I would like my son to safely arrive there. Aboard your ship.”
Laran rapidly turned to her. “Mom!”
“We could take you both aboard and your ship is small enough to fit in our hangar bay.
” She glanced at her display. It was a Nova class starship.
“I wouldn’t like to cause any trouble...”
“It’s not trouble at all.
” He smiled.
“I appreciate that.”
“Approach these co-ordinates.
” He sent data through the comm. “We will use our tractor beam to lead you to the hangar bay.
He signed off.
“Mom!” Her son was clearly angry.
“Don’t ‘mom’ me. I’ll do everything to protect you.”
He only growled. He punched the co-ordinates that Lau had given them and looked ahead, clearly giving her a signal that he wouldn’t talk to her. She knew it would pass, it always did.
Maybe she was overprotective, but she was sure it was the right thing to do. She knew Laran hated her and despised her for everything...for Bajor, for Gul Dukat, for the Dominion, for all wars she had fought in...but she would not fail as a mother, not again. She was a bad, damaged and rotten Cardassian, but she didn’t want that to cause his death at the tentacles of the Gorgor.
USS Leonidas, Cardassian space near Torman star system
Both Cardassians left their small ship to be greeted by Captain Lau and a two-person team of security. Not that he believed he needed any protection from them, but the protocol was the protocol. He hadn’t realised that Ensign Ratos, a Bajoran, had a duty until she reported in the bay with ch’Fess. He didn’t want to draw unwanted attention to complicated Bajoran-Cardassian relations and history, so he didn’t say a word, but he thought it was a very unfortunate circumstance.
The female Cardassian left the vessel first. She stood in front of the captain, half a head taller, and said, “I’m Jarol.” She turned to the younger man—Lau remembered she had called him her son—and introduced him too. “This is Sub-Archon Demok.” Different names, interesting. Didn’t Cardassians have their surnames after their parents?
“Welcome aboard the Leonidas
, Ms. Jarol,” he said. “We have prepared quarters for you, but perhaps you’d like a tour of the ship, or eat something first?”
“I appreciate your hospitality,” she smiled. She was reserved, but polite. “We don’t want to cause any difficulties.”
“You aren’t,” he assured her. He was relieved that she didn’t show any specific reaction to his security officers, the female one especially. He gestured toward the exit. “Please follow me.”
In spite of her words that they didn’t need anything, Lau led them to his private dining room in the mess hall with an intention of feeding them. It was time for his dinner anyway.
He observed both Cardassians. The woman made an impression of quiet and very reserved, almost distrustful. Or uncertain. She seemed to consider every word she was just about to say, as if not sure she wouldn’t say something wrong or improper. She moved with a grace of a tigress. He noticed that she observed everything carefully, undoubtedly committing every detail to her photographic memory.
The man was different. He seemed genuinely curious. At first he seemed to resent the presence of security, but he quickly stopped glancing at them—dividing his attention equally to the Bajoran and the Andorian—and turned his attention to the surroundings. His mother had said he was a ‘sub-archon,’ and while Lau was no specialist in Cardassian culture, for some reason he associated it with the law. He assumed he must have heard the word before in that context, although he couldn’t recall any details.
“I’m afraid I can’t offer you a lot of Cardassian dishes,” he said with an apologetic smile when they finally arrived to his dining room. “There aren’t many in our replicator database and they probably wouldn’t taste as good as the real thing.”
“That’s all right.” She sat on the offered chair. “We cause enough trouble anyway.”
“No trouble at all,” he smiled and he meant it. Patrol duty was boring and any deviation from it was welcomed. And a good deed for the Cardassians would look good in his report, too. Another tiny point to present in current Federation-Cardassian treaty talks. And if the treaty would come to fruition, he wouldn’t have to patrol Cardassian border. So, in the end, it seemed that this ‘good deed’ was nothing more than self-service.
“Are they going to stand there?” the young Cardassian, Demok, asked, pointing to the two security officers who stood at the door.
“Our standard protocol requires their presence. Please, don’t think I fear you jump on me and kill me without a reason,” Lau said, raising his hand. “It’s just rules. I don’t make them.”
“Well, yes, but that’s not what I meant,” Demok said. “Aren’t they going to join us?”
Jarol looked at her son a bit surprised, but Lau was sure his face showed more astonishment.
“Do your guards join you?” he asked after a moment.
“No, but I thought...” Demok didn’t finish.
“Please, continue,” the captain encouraged him.
“I thought that in the Federation, with all that equality et al...that you dine together.” Lau had an impression that the Cardassian would blush if it were possible. Or did he? His cheeks turned a bit darker.
He smiled. “On a starship, some formality is required. Also in Starfleet.”
“Oh. Sorry for the stupid question.”
“Not at all! This is our chance to learn more about each other.”
Jarol gave Lau a scrutinising look. Why did she feel so insecure? Did she suspect him of hidden motives? Other than a good report of helping a pair of Cardassians?
She noticed him looking at her, so she smiled. “What kind of food are you going to serve?” she asked.
“A choice of several dishes from different planets. I like variety.” He didn’t finish speaking when another human entered the room with a huge tray in her hands. “Ah.” Lau rose to help her. “Ms. Jarol, Sub-archon Demok, please meet my first officer, Commander tr’Ravhil.” It didn’t escape the captain’s attention that Jarol’s eyes immediately went to his second-in-command’s ears and their barely noticeable pointed tips. Demok didn’t seem to react in any special way to the Romulan surname. Maybe he didn’t know.
The commander put the tray in the middle of the table. “I hope you will enjoy our meal,” she said. She took two mugs and placed them in front of both Cardassians. “I took the liberty of replicating some fish juice for you. I hope it won’t be too awful, but we don’t have any Cardassians aboard, so no need for Cardassian foodstuffs.”
Jarol smiled. “That’s all right. You’re doing a lot already.”
“What’s this?” Demok pointed to some dish.
“Cheesecake,” tr’Ravhil answered. “That’s for dessert.”
“Oh. And this?”
Lau glanced at Jarol, not sure what do say.
The Cardassian woman replied, “This is hasperat
“That Bajoran spicy thing?” the sub-archon made sure.
“Yes,” she confirmed. Lau wondered if she knew it for the most obvious reason—that she had been there, on Bajor, during the occupation.
But the young man didn’t seem to notice—or care—that his first, or rather second, choice might bring some difficult subjects. To took a piece and placed on his plate. Then he realised that the table was silent. “Did I do something wrong?” he asked looking around and a bit worried.
“No,” Lau smiled, shaking his head. “I hope you’ll like it. And make sure you have some cold water to help you with it. It’s the real thing, not replicated.”
“Let’s eat fire.” Demok put the first bite into his mouth and...his eyes watered a moment later. His mother, without even looking at him, handed him a glass of water that tr’Ravhil had passed to her. “Oh, gapgar
“Laran,” Jarol growled in a very motherly tone, not unlike Lau’s own mother. “Mind your tongue.”
He sent her a sheepish smile and muttered, “Sorry.” He then turned to one of guards, the young Bajoran ensign. “Do you eat this every day?”
She shook her head, attempting to mask her amusement with a serious face. “No, not every day.”
“Why do you eat this at all
She grinned. “It’s delicious!”
“Aha,” he muttered sceptically. After that he turned back to the table. He took a clean plate and put some hasperat
on it. Then, he rose and approached the Bajoran. “Here, have some. I certainly won’t try again. Ever.”
She chuckled and glanced at her captain. Lau nodded, so she took the offered plate.
“Seems like our guests don’t want it to be so formal. Come on, join us!” The captain invited two security officers.
Jarol observed her son. Lau wondered if she minded his contact with Ensign Ratos. She looked at the human. “I’m sorry, Captain. If I knew he would ruin your chain of command, I would have left him locked on my ship.”
“No worries,” he grinned. “I’m not a one that loves following the protocol anyway.” He winked.
They chatted. Lau asked Demok about his title and then more about Cardassian judiciary system. Then Demok started a heated discussion with Ensign Ratos about Bajoran and Cardassian culinary customs and why people ate spicy things.
Lau observed them for a moment; then he leaned to Jarol and quietly said, “It’s not every day that you see a Cardassian and a Bajoran chatting without any concealed animosity.”
She glanced at the two young people. “Let’s hope they are the rule and not an exception.”
He looked at her like on a newly discovered, fascinating spacial anomaly. “It’s interesting to hear such words from a Cardassian.”
“I don’t want my son to hate everyone, or to be hated by everyone.”
Lau smiled. “I guess we all want what’s the best for our children,” he said.
“Do you have any?”
“Three. One at the Academy, two still at school. Do you have only one? I thought Cardassians liked their families big.”
“I had two more. But they are gone.”
She bravely tried to hide her pain, but he could clearly see it. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.” And to think he had assumed that conversing about a family would be a safe subject.
“You couldn’t have known.” She made a poor attempt to smile. Her son noticed something was wrong and glanced at the captain with raised eye ridges. “Let’s change the subject,” she said.
“Of course. How about a toast?” He raised his glass of juice. “To all our children.”
Demok held his cup of fish juice high. “To me!” he shouted and everyone started to laugh.
Jarol decided to stay aboard her ship in the hangar bay, but her son accepted the offer of quarters. He didn’t mind that guards would have to be posted outside his door any longer.
Lau was in his ready room, when the bell chimed.
Oh, he knew that expression. Tr’Ravhil was bothered by something. She sat in the guest chair and scrutinised him for a moment. “You’re up to something,” she said eventually.
“Why do you say so?”
“You offered our assistance in taking them to that station too easily.”
“I’m just a nice guy.”
“Ah Hei.” She said his name in that chastising way, as if saying ‘I know you plan something naughty.’
“All right, all right.” He raised his hands, palms outward, in a defence gesture. “I want to ask her for something.”
“So, you want to take advantage of her position.”
“Position? What position?”
The commander rolled her eyes. “Who’s in command of Rayak Nor
“And who is our guest?”
“Didn’t you notice any similarities
in the names?”
“It’s the same name; I’m not that stupid. What’s your point? I assume it’s his wife. Wives have their husband’s ears, so maybe if I whispered something to hers, she could whisper something to his.”
“‘His’? Who are you talking about?”
Lack of comprehension was obvious on tr’Ravhil’s face. It disappeared after a moment. “Did you check Gul Jarol’s profile?”
“No. Should I? He’s a commander of the nearest Cardassian outpost. That’s all I need to know.”
“Computer, display Gul Jarol’s profile on the captain’s personal terminal. Include a photo.”
The computer acknowledged and a moment later Lau’s display lightened. “Oh, shit!” he exclaimed.
“Now you know.”
“Lau to engineering.” His first officer gave him an asking look, but he ignored her.
“Selka Jonsdottir here
“How long will it take to reach the Cardassian station Rayak Nor
“About five more hours, sir.”
“Selka, make it two days. Find some diagnostic that wouldn’t let us enter warp, or something like that. Two days.”
“Err, yes sir
.” His engineer’s voice sounded very uncertain but he was glad she didn’t ask for details.
Tr’Ravhil, on the other hand, had questions marks painted on her face. “What the heck are you doing?”
“I need her. We need her. Don’t you see? This is my chance to do something about that damn planet and I’m not going to waste that chance!”
“Ah Hei, you ask for trouble,” he said in a low tone.
“Maybe. But this woman could be my solution. She has power, she has manpower, she has a station. She’s not a shy housewife, for whom I had taken her. She’s what I need!”
“You realise that she can take her small ship and leave when she learns how long it would take us to reach her station.”
“I have to try it, Narkis, I have to.”
She smiled. “I know. You’re not a giving-up type.”
“But you know,” he said slowly, tapping the tip of his nose, “she doesn’t behave like a Cardassian gul.”
“Maybe she travels incognito. Maybe she didn’t want you to know who she is.”
“I never met any Cardassian before, but what I heard of their guls is that they all are impossibly arrogant and self-centred. She didn’t even use her rank when introducing herself!”
“True, she’s different. Her son certainly is a friendly fellow.”
“Do you think she used to serve on Bajor?”
“You have her profile in front of your nose, you tell me.”
Lau leaned closer to the screen. “Oh, my God,” he moaned. He glanced at tr’Ravhil, who raised her eyebrow—as round as his, in spite of her Romulan heritage. “Her two children and her husband had been killed by the Bajoran resistance.”
“And yet she raised her third son without any bias toward them.” The commander clearly didn’t even try to conceal the admiration in her voice. “I’m not sure I would be that generous.”
“I need her help.”
“Do you think you could convince her to your plan within two days?”
“I hope so. I really hope so.”
“Do you have
a plan, yet?”
“No, not yet. But I’ll work on it.”
Tr’Ravhil—shaking her head with disapproval—left his ready room, leaving him alone. He started to study his guest’s profile. And that was one interesting read!