Rayak Nor, The Station Archon’s Office
Jarol had never seen Colissa as surprised as when she entered the archon’s office.
“That’s an unexpected visit,” Colissa commented dryly and then eyed the padd that Jarol was handing her. “What is it?”
“Take it,” Jarol shook her hand slightly, drawing attention to the padd.
Colissa took the object and raised her eye ridges. “And?”
“And now read it. Or at least take a look at its content.”
The archon activated the padd, leaned back in her chair and started to read. It took her merely seconds to realise what she had in her hands. “Why are you doing this?” she asked, shaking the padd.
“Because it has to be done.”
“You planned it well, didn’t you?” Colissa snorted.
Jarol didn’t understand. “Planned?” Why was Colissa was irritated?
“You know that now it’s useless. Two years ago it would mean something, but now? It’s just a show. Very much like you,” the archon said not hiding her contempt.
“I...I don’t know what you mean...” Jarol stammered uncertainly.
“You used a hole in the system. Why are you doing this, why bother?”
Jarol only shook her head. She didn’t know why Colissa seemed so angry. Shouldn’t she be glad that justice would be served? “Archon Colissa, I don’t know anything about holes in the law. I know very little about law in general—”
“That much is obvious,” Colissa muttered, but Jarol ignored it and continued.
“—it is my son who knows everything about it—”
“Did he give you this advice?” the archon attacked.
“What advice?” Jarol’s voice was weak. This was not what she had expected. She didn’t think Colissa would suddenly start to respect or like her, but she didn’t anticipate an attack and such a show of discontent.
“You know very well that the main item on this list is statute-barred. Twenty years have passed. It’s too late to prosecute anyone about this.” Colissa shook the padd, her voice growing angrier and louder with every word.
Jarol leaned toward her. “Can’t you do something about it? Find something to make an exception, to void this...statute-barred rule?”
Colissa’s expression changed. She observed Jarol for a long moment. “You’re serious about it,” she said eventually.
“You realise at least two of those things get you death penalty.”
“I know. That’s how it should be. I deserve shikrat
Colissa shook her head. “I believe in justice, I believe in order and I believe in punishment. But there is no crime horrible enough that I would ever rule shikrat
as the punishment, even if it still was an option. Setting someone on fire for a minute and then tearing him or her apart, piece by piece, is sadism, not a punishment.”
“That’s what I deserve,” Jarol whispered so quietly that she wasn’t sure Colissa heard it. It didn’t matter, though, as she didn’t say it to Colissa.
Colissa put the padd on her desk. “Why? Why are you doing it?” she asked again, but this time her tone wasn’t aggressive.
“It’s rather a personal matter.”
The archon pointed to the padd on her desk. “From the moment you handed me your confession there is no such thing like a private matter between you and me.”
“I’m rotten and I have to be destroyed.”
Colissa was silent for such a long time that eventually Jarol raised her head to glance at the archon. The older woman kept looking at her, scrutinising her with her piercing eyes.
“Didn’t you know that earlier?” she asked eventually. No irony, no attack. A question.
The whisper was barely audible. “I did.”
“So what has changed? Why does it eat you now?”
“Because...my children hate me.”
Colissa’s eye ridges raised slightly. “I know for the fact that your son is torn between you and his morality, but...aren’t the other two...” She didn’t finish. She took the padd and activated it again. “For the charges of seizing power you get the capital punishment by hanging. For the charges of defying an order you get the capital punishment by shooting in the head. For the charges of murder you get the capital punishment by hanging. For the charges of acting behind your superiors’ backs you get ten years in a labour camp. For the charges of treason you get the capital punishment by hanging.”
“You can execute me only once.”
“I’m not finished,” Colissa barked irritated. “The charges of seizing power are statute-barred. You had already faced the tribunal regarding the defying orders charges and your action had been declared justifiable. The matter is closed and there is no new evidence to reopen it. The charges of murder are not for only you but also for that person who had actually pulled the trigger. You can take it on yourself and claim you are the only responsible, but without additional evidence and finding all guilty ones, this is useless.” Jarol’s head shot up, as she looked at Colissa. Ma’Kan, Brenok, Jotrel, Toral...they all had been involved or knew about this. She didn’t want to pull anyone with her. “Doing things on your own, without informing your superiors...Well, I respect the military as a certain ideal, but how it works—it leaves a lot to be desired. I wouldn’t blame you for being smarter than your gul. I would dismiss this one immediately. And finally—betraying the Dominion
is not a treason. Another dismissed charge.”
“You can’t prosecute people who followed my orders,” Jarol said, her thoughts still attached to the Ahal assassination.
“Look, Jarol. We are a society of people, who are able to give their lives for others. This is deeply rooted in our hearts. That’s why we need to have proof before we decide if someone is guilty or not. Let me give you an example: your son murders a man and you don’t want him to go to prison. You admit to the crime. Your sacrifice to save him. But justice isn’t a blind monster that doesn’t care whose blood it drinks. You can admit to being the Founder, but without hard evidence I can’t do anything about it.
“As far as I can tell, only assassinating Legate Ahal could be taken under consideration, but I have no proof except your admission. This is not enough. And I am sure whoever else is involved, they have covered the tracks so well that no proof exists. And I am sure I cannot count on their testimony and admission. As much as I’d like you to pay for everything, I cannot do much about it.”
No, no, no! something screamed inside the former legate. That’s not how it was supposed to be!
“But I have to die, don’t you understand?” Jarol moaned.
Colissa’s eyes shone with anger. “The Tribunal isn’t a way for a clean suicide!” she shouted.
Jarol hid her face in her hands. “Do something...”
“Rest assured that I will reopen the investigation. I think, however, that it will lead nowhere, just as it led nowhere twenty years ago. I sincerely hope I am wrong. Did you talk to your son about it?” the archon asked suddenly.
Jarol only shook her head. She was scared. Her solution, her way for forgiveness was closing and she had no idea what to do. “I don’t want him to be involved. This list is long and he shouldn’t have anything to do with it.”
“I disagree. Clearly, you have reached the point where your sense of order finally reacts to the violation you have submitted it to. This is not something you can go through alone. You need support.”
“He is the best candidate. He is clean, he is pure. He is an archon. Who else could lead you better through the difficult way of redeeming yourself and your value as a Cardassian if not someone who never lost that value. He could lead you. He could keep his faith in your redemption.”
“I don’t want to involve him. I don’t want my mistakes cast a shadow on his life.”
Colissa smiled with scorn. “Your mistakes are your own. They are not his fault. We sometimes forget about it, but children cannot be held responsible for their parents’ actions. He
reminded me of that. His purity reminded me that I shouldn’t see him as an extension of you.” Jarol narrowed her eyes. “See,” Colissa shrugged. “All of us make mistakes.”
“We should pay for them.”
“As much as my need for order screams for hanging you, I can’t do it. If it depended on me, I would execute Daset for engineering the Shift and deciding to isolate us, Jotrel for his suspicious Ferengi business, Brenok for usurping an undeserved right to command the Guard without any experience and introducing changes that made the Guard a joke and finally you for keeping the borders closed for so long. It’s too late. You, people, shaped Cardassia to your vision and you got lucky, because it brought some stability. This stability was the only reason no one managed or wanted
to do anything about your actions to make you pay the price for violating the order of the Cardassian society.”
“Find a way to get what you want.”
“It’s not a personal vendetta, Jarol,” Colissa snapped. “I won’t break the law to fulfil your wish of death.”
“I didn’t suggest for you to break the law. But I am sure that there is something that would allow to...dismiss...some rules under some circumstances. Isn’t someone with such a long list exempted from something? From this statute-barred thing?”
“As far as I am concerned, there are only two items on this list. One is statute-barred and the other one needs evidence, which I don’t have, except for your word. Whatever fire consumes you from inside, it will keep consuming you for the rest of your life.”
Jarol stood up and leaned her hands on Colissa’s desk, hovering over the archon. “You don’t understand...It’s not about me. It’s about them.”
“My children. My family. I can burn until the last day of my life, but when that day comes...they won’t want to see me. They’ll spit at me.”
Colissa stared at her for a long moment. “Jarol, your children are dead. They don’t make any judgements. If they were alive, I imagine they would be like Sub-archon Demok: conflicted. Torn between a mother and a Cardassian. I think, as a mother you are acceptable. Not good, but at least you don’t hurt your son. Frankly, I have no idea how come he can be such a nice young man and a promising archon after being raised by you and that Brenok. Must have taken it after his grandparents.
“As for what kind of Cardassian you are...This
is your punishment. You have to live with it. What’s more, you have to live with it unpunished. You have to live with the realisation that you have violated the order many times and that order wouldn’t be restored, because bringing back the order would require a retribution and that retribution won’t follow.”
“I ruled,” Colissa barked. “Now get out of my office, you pitiful creature.”
Rayak Nor, the Station Gul’s private quarters
They were having their dinner in silence. Jarol could see that Demok kept glancing at her from time to time and she was sure he waited for her to fulfil her promise. The things, however, became complicated and the ‘right thing to do’ changed into ‘nothing to do.’
“Mom, are you all right?” he asked eventually.
“Yes,” she said.
He clearly didn’t accept her answer. He pushed his plate away. “Who did you talk to? Medic Taret?”
She raised her head to look at him. “Mmm?”
“You went to talk to someone and returned very upset. Bad news from Taret?”
“No. I didn’t see Taret yet. I plan to go for a check-up tomorrow morning, before starting my shift.”
“So who upset you so badly?”
She put her spoon away. “I talked to Colissa.” There was no way around it, she had to tell him.
“What about?” he asked in a low voice, mirroring her motion.
“I went to her with my confession.”
He was motionless for a long moment. “Oh, Mom...” he whispered. His voice was shaking. He covered his mouth with his hand. “Oh, Mom...” he mumbled again. He opened his eyes wide and stared at her. She wasn’t sure it was shock, worry and relief on his face.
“I had to do it, Droplet. I had to. You of all people should understand it.”
He hit the table with his fist and everything that stood on it rang with a faint sound. “I don’t care what I should understand! You can’t leave me alone. I don’t want to be an orphan!” Panic in his eyes grew and she realised he was shaking like a jelly.
Her heart was bleeding. Had she even thought how he would feel? Why was there such a difference between his judgement in her visions and in the reality? He was an archon, he was a person whose life mission was to punish the guilty ones, to discipline the ones that violated the order of the world.
Then she understood. He didn’t see her for what she was, he only saw his mom. Whatever and whoever she was, this was the fact that would never change: she was his mother. “You won’t be.”
He shook his head still rejecting the information she had shared and it took him a moment to comprehend what she had just said. “What?” he frowned.
“Colissa told me that only two charges could be considered. One is statute-barred and the other one needs additional evidence.”
He mouthed something. She could see that he concentrated for a moment, his lips voicelessly moving, as if he was speaking—quoting text. “Bloodless,” he said after a moment.
“The charge of a forceful seize of power becomes statute-barred if it was not violent and no blood was shed. The Detapa Council established that law after their coup. It was never changed since.” She could see that he was still shaken, but a bit calmer. “Colissa will have to open the investigation about Ahal’s death, but if she doesn’t find anything, she won’t be able to rule. Unless more witnesses are found and I doubt it. The times of convictions based on one testimony, even a confession, are gone. To many people died because of a personal vendetta and lies to allow this to continue.” Jarol was under impression that looking at everything from an archon’s point of view was helping her son to compose himself, to keep his emotions under control. She wished it wasn’t so painful for him. She wanted to mend things but she only caused more suffering.
“I’m sorry, Droplet. Now you understand why I insisted for you to...” He looked at her in such a way that she didn’t finish the sentence.
“No, I still don’t understand.” He frowned. “Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you ask me before going to Colissa?”
“It should have been done by an impartial party. You are not impartial. You are my baby.”
“And don’t you ever forget that!” He shook his finger at her. “And don’t you dare to ask me to forget that!”
“How do you feel about a criminal being unpunished?” she asked him.
“It infuriates me, b—”
“—ut I’m a Cardassian being, I have feelings and I value my family. An unpunished crime infuriates me. But thinking that you and Uncle Brenok could be...be...you know...” She knew he couldn’t make himself say ‘executed.’ “This stops being so simple. Nothing is simple,” he added, whispering.
“How do you feel about me not being punished?”
“You are a bad archon.” After a moment she added, “But you are a good son.”
“No more talking about disowning, not loving and all that nonsense?”
She looked at him. Did he really loved her in spite of everything? How was she supposed to live with this burden? Colissa had been right—her punishment would be lack of redemption. She would never be cleaned. Laran was young and emotional and his heart was a forgiving one. She would never be forgiven by the others. She would never be welcomed on the other side of the river.
This was worse than death. Much worse.