Rayak Nor, the command centre
Jarol exited her office and approached Borad. “What is it?” she asked.
“A ship has entered this sector. They refuse to answer our hails.”
“Who are they?”
“I don’t know but it seems like some kind of mercenaries.”
“Are they headed here?”
“It would appear so.”
What should she do? What should she do? With panic, she realised that her head emptied and she had absolutely no idea what should be her next move.
Borad continued. “Their ship is of an unknown configuration but it appears to have characteristics of some known classes, so it is possible that it they used parts of different ships to construct it. I detect Klingon weaponry, Federation deflector dish, Cardassian shields and other elements.” He silenced and looked at her. “My guess would be they are either mercenaries, or pirates. Or both.”
“What would they want with us?” she asked.
“Hard to tell.” Borad’s eyes returned to the display. “Their ship is formidable but not a match for the station, so I doubt they would attack us.”
“They could want something that is in this sector,” Kara Sofet suggested.
“Perhaps,” Borad agreed. He looked at Jarol.
She stared at his display, seeing the readings and wondering what to make of it all. Should she send a ship to them and force them to leave? Should she keep hailing and hope that they would answer? Should she do anything at all? If Sofet’s guess was correct, the mysterious guests might attack someone—should she protect them? Not interfere?
“Sir?” Borad gave her an asking look.
She stared at him, lost and panicked. She had no idea what kind of order she should give. She had no idea how she should proceed. She hoped he would suggest anything, but he kept looking expectantly at her. She felt the situation was getting out of her control. The minutes stretched and it seemed like the time stopped. Now everyone in the command centre was looking at her—no doubt wondering why she didn’t say something. Anything. But what could she say? What was the right thing to do?
What to do? What to do?
“Sir, they answer our hail,” Dja Bo’tur reported.
Jarol had thought that it would be a relief if something happened but now she had to talk to those people and she had no idea what to say to them. “On screen,” she said quietly.
An alien appeared on the viewer. After searching her memory for a moment she realised it was a Dartian. “A Ferengi ship is docked at your station
,” he stated.
“It is,” she confirmed, not sure what he was trying to achieve by informing her of things that she already knew of.
“We want him
“He is a criminal and we were sent to bring him
Delva was a criminal? Did he cheat the wrong person? Should she give him, or should she protect him? She didn’t know. “What are the charges?” she asked quietly. Did it matter?
“This is not of your concern. Release his ship and do not interfere
She looked at Borad, helplessness obvious in her eyes. The glinn move closer to her to be caught by the camera and addressed the alien. “As long as the Ferengi are docked at our station, they are under our protection.”
The alien boomed, “You interfere in—
“Spare me your threats,” Borad interrupted him. “We don’t know who you are and we certainly have no extradition agreements with you. Delva is our guest and he can stay here for as long as he needs.”
“You’ll regret this!
“Who are you to threaten the Cardassian Union!” Borad’s voice became harsher, although he didn’t raise it. “A pirate claiming that he’s in the service of justice. For all I know you have your dealings with Delva and that is not concern of ours. Leave the sector or we will force you to leave.”
“Watch me,” Borad barked and with one sharp move cut the connection. He looked at Jarol. “Do you want to talk to Delva? He should shed some light on this.”
“Err...” She hesitated. “Perhaps...perhaps it would be better if you talked to him,” she suggested quietly.
If Borad was surprised or shocked by her words, he didn’t show it. “Yes, sir.” He looked at the communication officer on duty. “Bo’tur, get Delva over here. We will have a chat.”
Jarol slowly withdrew back to her office. She felt terrible. She wasn’t able to even have a simple conversation. To think. To react.
She had problems with breathing—she tried to take the air in, but her airways seemed to tighten more with each attempt of taking a breath. She leaned on her desk, clutching to the edge and trying to catch some air in violent gasps. She closed her eyes and opened them a moment later to realise that she couldn’t see anything—everything turned black. Loud humming and whistling filled her ears. She didn’t hear the door opening, as she was already on her way to the hard surface of the deck.
“Borad to Albek!” The glinn shouted, pressing his wristcomm. “We have an emergency!”
Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, the gul’s office
Before entering Zamarran’s office, Yassel took a deep breath. She had prepared what he had asked for, but she feared it wouldn’t be satisfactory. What she already knew about her new gul was that he liked perfection and he liked when things were done properly, but she knew her abilities were far from ‘properly,’ or ‘perfection.’ She expected trouble.
She entered and sat on the offered chair. Then she handed him the padd that she had brought with her. “This is my proposal of the science department, sir,” she said. He took the padd and activated it. “I would suggest Gil Rotan as the head. She had been working in the Guard in a development department for years, so she is not new to the military drill and expectations. Her speciality is mechanics, but she has general knowledge of many branches of science. I thought that someone with general idea about everything would be preferable, as such a person would be able to determine what kind of specialists are needed and assign them accordingly.” She paused, trying to read Zamarran’s face. He seemed to listen to her but his face didn’t show if he approved or disapproved of her idea. “I have also outlined my suggestion of the department structure,” she continued, “but I would leave the final decision to Rotan herself, should you accept her candidature.”
Zamarran raised his eyes to look at Yassel. “This looks good,” he said. “Did you talk to Rotan yet?” Yassel shook her head. “All right, I’ll talk to her and present her with your suggestion. Unless you want to do it yourself?”
“No, it’s fine.” He was the one from making decisions here, so if Rotan had other ideas, he’d have to approve them. Why to use intermediaries, then, if talking directly to the gul would save the time? Yassel never felt that kind of strange ambition ‘I designed it, I have to present it,’ so it didn’t matter to her now, either.
“How is our data collection going?” Zamarran asked.
“There is a team in Lab Five that studies the findings as they come. So far they know that phorogotium, which is usually present in this kind of star in huge quantities, is on levels that are merely half of a typical composition. They cannot tell if the Talarians mine this element, or if their mining caused it’s reduction.”
“Is this element what causes the sun’s lack of stability?”
“They don’t know that either, yet. It’s possible. Or it could be one of symptoms.”
“I see,” Zamarran said slowly. At first she thought that he was unsatisfied with her report, but she realised that he was just thinking. “Do we have any estimates on when we would have all data collected and could start the final analysis?”
She didn’t think about asking! “I’m so sorry, sir, I don’t know.” Would it anger him?
Zamarran put the padd on his desk. “If the lack of phorogotium is the reason, can we supply it?”
“No, sir. We cannot create it artificially.”
He grunted. Clearly, this wasn’t an answer he liked and Yassel could only hope that he wouldn’t blame her for something that wasn’t her fault. “All right, return to your duties,” he said and she rose. “And Yassel?” She stopped and looked at him. “Good job.” She nodded her thanks and left the office.
After the door closed behind her, she audibly let the air out of her lungs. She went to her console and checked the progress of the scans.
“He’s not so bad,” she heard Kapoor saying. She looked at the human engineer. “Isn’t he?”
“I don’t know.” Yassel gave her an avoiding answer, not really sure what else she could say.
“I remember I was scared of him like hell in the beginning, but he turned out okay.”
“I see.” Yassel still didn’t know where this conversation was headed.
“My point is,” Kapoor continued, as if she read the glinn’s mind, “that Zamarran makes an impression of a harsh man, but in fact he is fair and reasonable.”
Yassel didn’t know what to say. Confirming might appear like she needed such information and that she had thought that Zamarran was mean. The truth was that she had already noticed that the gul was decent and treated people with respect—even her—but there was something in him that paralysed her every time she had to talk to him. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever be able to rid of that unpleasant fear around him and she had no idea how she would be able to serve under him if she never freed herself of that feeling. He was not Gul Zeter—at least, he didn’t show that he was, yet
She glanced at Kapoor, wondering if it would be crossing a line to ask how long it had taken for the gil to relax in the presence of the gul, but she decided that it wouldn’t be very clever to ask such a question. It was bad enough as it was, she didn’t need to make it even worse.
Zamarran entered the bridge and all her muscles tensed.
Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, the training deck
Aladar leaned over Kara Talis. “If you don’t touch the tips of your feet with the tips of your hands...I will eat all your books
.” Talis started to laugh and Aladar used the opportunity to gently press her back deeper low. In the result, her fingers brushed her toes. He stretched and looked at her. “Your books are safe...” He smiled mischievously. “For now
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Glinn Yassel entered the big gym and stood in a shadow. It was the third time that she came to inspect his progress and he started to wonder if he shouldn’t start to write reports for her. She seemed really interested in the training program.
He turned away and continued as if she weren’t there. Or rather—he tried
. He was not stressed by her inspection, as he had nothing to hide, but it was hard to ignore her. Not because she was a glinn, not because she was the gul’s aide, but because she had that delicate, charming beauty around her. He was never close enough to see what colour were her eyes, but he would give his week rations to know. She always appeared sad and he wondered what could have caused this aura of melancholy. Did someone break her pretty heart? Or was it just that kind of fragile beauty? Oh, he had such a strong need to become the protector of the glinn, as she looked like someone seeking protection and shielding from the cruelty of this world.
His attention was shifting between her and his trainees and it caused a few humorous situations. He didn’t mind anyone laughing as long as they laughed with him. Even the sad beauty by the entrance grinned when he made another mistake counting. Thirty-seven wasn’t typically followed by forty-eight, was it? The trainees were happy to skip a few exercises and he was happy that they were happy. He’d get his lost numbers sooner or later.
He glanced toward the glinn but—to his great disappointment—she was already gone. He so wished that she were within his grasp, but she was a high-born and a high-ranking officer and he was just a garesh. There was nothing that he could offer her. Except for making her smile.
He could eat books, but not talk about them.