Jarol couldn’t sleep. At first she had fallen asleep as soon as her head found itself in the horizontal position, but then she had had dreams. Nightmares, rather.
Corat chased her with angry look in his tiny face. Mayel stood there, her thin arms crossed on her chest, shaking her head with disapproval. And then adult Laran came and scooped them both. ‘Bad Cardassian,’ he barked to Jarol and turned away with the intention to leave. ‘Droplet,’ she called him but he ignored her. She called him again. He stopped and turned to her. His siblings disappeared. He wore an archon’s robe. ‘I hate you,’ he said. ‘I always hated you and I always will.’ ‘But I try so hard,’ she told him. He laughed with contempt. ‘You can’t erase the past. What has been done, cannot be undone.’ He stretched his hand, pointing to a door without walls around it. ‘I sentence you to childless, loveless and long life of pain and shame. Now go and never bother us again.’ She lowered her head and walked toward the door, but the closer she was, the farther away the door moved. She started to run. Finally, she reached the door and opened it. Baby Laran sat there on the ground...with a small toy, a doll. A doll in silver armour and with her face. That day...he wore clothes and looked just like that day when she had donned her legate armour for the first time. He threw away the doll, got up and walked away. When he was quite far, he stopped, turned to her and in his adult voice shouted, ‘No love for you!’
Then she woke up. And couldn’t sleep any longer. She feared to close her eyes. She curled up and wept. She wished there was someone she could ask for help, for directions what to do, because whatever she was doing now was not enough, not sufficient. Useless.
Demok woke up quite rested. And thirsty. He looked at the replicator, but wasn’t sure if it wasn’t turned off. Maybe their protocol required to shut down a device that could produce weapons if the guest was a non-Federation species.
“Computer, status of the replicator in my quarters,” he demanded.
“The replicator works within normal parameters with restrictions
He rose and went to the device of a funny, rectangular shape. “Replicator, water.” Should he enter some access code? Or would the payment be added to some kind of bill that he would be presented with later? He didn’t care, he was thirsty! He grabbed the glass and quickly emptied it.
Wait a second...shouldn’t they have arrived to the station by now? What time was it?
“Demok to Jarol.”
” She answered almost immediately. Her voice sounded rough and tired. Didn’t she sleep at all?
“Mom, you’re ok?”
“I’m fine. How did you sleep?
“Great.” He didn’t have to ask to know that she couldn’t say the same. “Why are we not at the station, yet? Shouldn’t we have arrived a few hours ago?” They were supposed to wake him up. He felt his irritation with himself rising: he shouldn’t have gone to sleep in the first place!
“The captain had informed me that they have some technical difficulties. But we’re on our way
“I see. I’ll bring you some breakfast.” As soon as I know how to get one
, he thought. He wasn’t sure the replicator would allow him to replicate much more than water. There had to be some restrictions, the computer had said it itself.
Or...not... The Federation was rich, he recalled, they didn’t need to ration their food or their resources. Maybe he could order anything and would get anything.
“I’m not hungry, Droplet. But you eat something.
“Mom, you’re all right?” There was something in her voice; he couldn’t put his finger on it but he was sure that something was terribly off. He didn’t wait for her answer. “I’ll be there with some breakfast. No discussion. You will eat. A salad. Lots of awful green and purple plants. Deal?”
“Do I have a choice, sir?
“Absolutely not. And if you resist, I’ll report it to Gul Brenok and Gul Toral and then you’ll be in real trouble.”
“I love you.
He knew he won. “I love you, too.”
“No, you don’t,
” she said, but before he found voice to protest, she disconnected.
“I don’t?” he asked himself aloud. Her voice didn’t have even a shadow of a joke; she sounded so serious when she said it, as if she really meant it. Serious and resigned. But how could she believe in such a ridiculous thing?! “Computer, display the list of salads that are edible for a Cardassian.” The list was quite long. “Computer, limit the list to most popular options.” He chose two and replicated them. For a moment he pondered if not to share a salad with her. Him eating greens would certainly cheer her up, but after a moment of internal fight he decided he was a bad son—he wouldn’t be able to make himself eat all those leaves and roots. He decided to choose something from the database. He scrutinised the list of most popular meat dishes. “And one...hambombeh
.” What kind of name is that?
He neared his nose to the display. “Ham-boh-ger
“Grrrr, you’re worse than my Mom! Ham-bur-ger
“Choose an option.
“No greens!” he shouted with a triumph.
He placed all food on a tray, which he had found near the replicator, and left the quarters. As he expected, two officers stood outside his door.
“Could you please lead me to the hangar bay?” he asked.
“This way,” one said. Demok followed him with the other officer walking just behind the Cardassian.
‘No, you don’t’ kept ringing in his mind. It hurt, slicing through his heart, not because it was unfair to him, but because she seemed to believe in that. It appeared that she believed her own child, her only
child, didn’t love her. Now more than ever he was glad that he hadn’t agreed to stay in Lakat.
Jarol didn’t even comment his choice for breakfast. She only glanced at his hands, dripping with some red and white substances—he remembered one was called catch-up
and the other one gah-rr-lick
sauce—and continued to eat the salads he had chosen for her.
“Are they good?” he asked.
“Yes. Did you find them in their database?”
“Yes. One is from Earth, the other one—this one—is from Vulcan.”
“I think I must get some interstellar cookbook.”
He glanced at her. He knew it was her attempt to joke, but her voice was so grim and sad that it sounded more like a complaint. “Mom, did you sleep last night? At all?”
“You don’t look like someone who slept.”
“I slept. I didn’t say I slept well.”
It wasn’t the first time, was it? She never complained about it but he was sure it wasn’t the first time that she had spent her night awake. “Maybe you should take a nap, since we’re goi—”
“No!” she snapped, startling him. She must have realised that her reaction was too violent, as she added quieter, “Sorry.”
“Why don’t you want to sleep?”
He was under impression that her first choice of word was different, but she managed to rephrase her initial thought to ‘nightmares.’
“Do you want to tell me about them?” he asked. Maybe talking would help her.
She opened her mouth but before she said anything he knew she would refuse. She didn’t have a chance to say it out loud, as the comm beeped.
“Lau to Jarol. Please come to my ready room immediately.
“I’m on my way,” she answered.
“Both of you. Thank you
They left the Sufar and exited the hangar bay, accompanied by four security officers; two were Demok’s, two—his mother’s.
The sub-archon wondered what the captain might want of them. His voice sounded urgent. The Gorgor? The Klingons?
The ready room was small; smaller even than his mother’s office on Rayak Nor
. The captain and his aide were inside, waiting for the Cardassians.
“What is the problem?” Jarol asked not even trying to hide the worry in her voice.
“Please sit down,” Lau pointed to the sofa. “Something has happened on Cardassia.” Demok noticed that his mother shifted in place. “Our news broadcast relayed the information. I’m sure it’s not as detailed as your broadcast would be, but it will tell you what you need to know.”
He nodded to tr’Ravhil and she pressed some button on a big display on the wall.
Demok had never watched a non-Cardassian news report before. It wasn’t that much different from a Cardassian report, if not the diverse faces on the screen. He noticed that Cardassians on the screen were left untranslated and characters—Federation Standard letters—appeared on the bottom of the screen. Subtitles. He couldn’t read them, but he didn’t have to; he understood perfectly what was being said. And he wished the woman said something else.
The news reported Legate Daset’s death. The cause was a heart failure; the legate’s wife said that he had had problems with his heart for years, but had been hiding it. Finally, the heart had failed.
Demok glanced at his mother. She watched the news sitting still, her eyes glued to the screen. The young Cardassian knew that she had worked closely with Daset for years in their time in the Central Command and also before that, when they both had served aboard the Roumar. They weren’t close, they weren’t even friends, but knowing someone for such a long time personally didn’t make his or her death a small event, friends or not.
The report was short—Demok imagined that news broadcasts on Cardassia didn’t report anything else—but it was obviously given a lot of importance.
“I’m sorry,” Lau said, after the screen went blank. “I understand that you knew him.”
Jarol only nodded. She seemed to be lost in thoughts for a moment. Then she rose. “Thank you for informing me, Captain.”
“Not a problem. I would like to ask you something, though.”
She was already on her way to the door, but stopped and turned to him. “Yes?”
“As soon as this information became official, the Cardassian Central Command suspended the treaty talks with the Federation. Does his death change our relations?”
She shook her head and smiled weakly. “No, Captain. Daset had nothing to do with the current politics or where it’s headed. I cannot tell for certain, as I am not there, but I believe it’s because of the mourning time. Cardassia has just lost one of its leaders, one that had been its leader for twenty years. It doesn’t matter that he had stepped down from his role and withdrawn himself from the political world. He used to be a big figure and will always remain one.”
“I see. That is, of course, understandable.” She resumed her motion toward the door. “Ms. Jarol, maybe you would accept my offer of quarters. I’m sure your ship is great, but quarters would be more comfortable. Especially since this trip will take longer than expected.”
“No, thank you.”
“Of course, it’s your prerogative to leave our protection and reach your destination sooner.”
She glanced at her son and then at the human. “I prefer safety to speed.”
The captain nodded and both Cardassians left his ready room.
Demok walked next to his mother. “Mom, what’s going on on Cardassia now?”
“I don’t know, Droplet. I imagine they started preparations to his funeral. Maybe the Time of Mourning would be declared, but I was never fond of this.”
“Why? Wouldn’t be proper to pay him respects?”
“It would but you can’t force people to mourn someone’s death. It has to come from their hearts, not from a decree.”
“Will you mourn him?” he asked.
“I will add him to the long list of my deaths to mourn,” she answered.
He didn’t understand what she meant but one look at her face told him not to ask farther. He knew something was bothering her tremendously, he wasn’t sure, though, if it would be a good idea to keep dragging it out of her. He hoped that she would share when she’d be ready for that. If not with him, then with someone else.
Would he mourn Daset? He didn’t know the man that well, he had met him only several times, so his personal experience with the late legate wasn’t that much different from an average Cardassian’s. But he knew Daset brought a change, a huge change, to the Union. He also knew Daset was the head of the Shift and its designer; and later made himself the head of the government. He knew Daset came with many ideas for the new law that was currently in force, including limiting the head of the Central Command’s role in decision-making process.
That’s for the official stand. As for the less official: Demok knew that Uncle Arenn hated Daset with all his heart for something that had happened between them before Demok was born. Daset had respected Brenok, but the gul was never able to forgive the legate whatever the legate had done to him.
All logic aside, Demok felt that something had happened; something that could change Cardassia. It wasn’t the first time the Union lost its leader—even a former leader—but this time it was a leader that had been respected by a lot of people for his post-war work. And hated by others for the same work. Would Demok mourn Daset?