Rathosia, Forrituloix City
Aladar grunted. He scrambled to his feet, looking around to find the other two Cardassians. The emergency transport was rough and they had beamed a few meters above the ground, falling painfully to a hard, paved street.
Pa’Ler was sitting on the ground, rubbing his head with one hand and his ankle with the other. Veltek lay on the street, facing the sky and for one dreadful moment Aladar thought that the young Cardassian was dead—but the garesh blinked twice.
“Soktoo, soktoo, soktoo!
“You guys ok?” Aladar asked.
“So much for soft landing,” Pa’Ler moaned. “I think I twisted my ankle.”
The ranking garesh went to the youngest one. “Veltek, you good?”
Veltek blinked again. “Yeah,” he muttered sitting. “I think someone ran over me. Literally. I felt his feet on my legs.”
Aladar helped Veltek stand up.
“Soktoo, soktoo, soktoo!
“What the hell ‘soktoo’ means?” Pa’Ler asked. He tried to stand up and pulled his face in a grimace of pain. He stood on his left foot only gently touching the ground with the right one.
Aladar looked around. The locals ran away from them, hiding in buildings and behind big objects, shouting this one word, pointing to them and talking to small things in their hands—Aladar assumed they were some kind of communication devices.
“Seems like the universal translators don’t work,” he commented.
“‘Soktoo,’” Veltek repeated. “For all we know it can mean monsters, or food, or magic, or gods.”
“Call me Oralius,” Pa’Ler tittered.
“Shut up,” Aladar barked. This was a serious matter and they behaved like children.
Both gareshes silenced, while Aladar observed one local being approaching them slowly and distrustfully. The local appeared to be armed with a short weapon and its hand seemed to casually rest on its butt, but Aladar was certain that the gesture was trained and there was nothing casual or relaxed about it.
” someone yelled again.
The local turned toward the source of the shout and shouted back, “Did you ever see a soktoo
Aladar’s eye ridges went wide. Obviously, the universal translator worked fine, it just couldn’t fine an appropriate word for soktoo
The local was a very short mammalian biped; he—or she, but for some reason Aladar felt it was a male representative of the species—reached not higher than Aladar’s waistline. He was covered by purple and red fur all over his body, including a short snout. His long, falling on his shoulders ears moved slightly. Perked?
“Hello,” the alien said in a friendly tone of voice.
Pa’Ler and Veltek looked at Aladar. The ranking garesh lowered himself to one knee not to appear tall and intimidating and he answered in a soft voice, “Hello.”
“You fell from the sky?” the alien asked.
“In a manner of speaking.”
“You from the machine from the sun?”
“We call it a ship and it’s not from the sun.”
“You’re not the Sun People?”
Aladar smiled. “No. We’re from very far away.”
A group of other aliens ran to the Cardassians, pointing some kind of riffle-like weapons at them. They were clad in similar garments, so the garesh assumed they were uniformed force, some kind of ground order troop. Aladar resisted a natural urge to raise to his feet and remained in a vulnerable, half-kneeling position. Additionally, he raised his hands, palms facing the alien to whom he had just spoken to. “We mean no harm. Our ship was damaged, so we had to escape and came here.” Which reminded him to activate the beacon. “If you let us notify our friends, they will come and take us from here.”
“Your...ship is the big pell
The alien drew a picture in the air. It resembled Keldon class ship, so Aladar nodded. And then added, not sure if the nodding would be understood. “Yes, this is our ship.”
“And the other...ship?”
“It’s not ours.”
“The Sun People?”
The garesh wondered if the aliens called the Talarians that, knowing that the Talarians were doing something to their star. “Maybe. I don’t know.”
Astonished Aladar looked at the other two Cardassians. Friendliness and trust—even facing the armed members of their society—were astonishing.
Suddenly, a turmoil started. The lead alien seemed confused and so was Aladar. The garesh rose and said to Pa’Ler, “Activate the beacon. Let theMarritza
know that we’re all right.”
“For now,” Veltek muttered.
“You come with me?” the alien asked.
Aladar agreed. “Our friend needs help, if you allow me...” He silenced and the alien stomped his foot several times. Was it their way of nodding? The garesh rose and went to Pa’Ler. “Lean on me.” The lower ranking garesh wrapped his arm around Aladar’s shoulder. Veltek went to help from the other side.
Escorted by the armed troop, they went to one of small buildings. The Cardassians had to lower their heads under the low doorway, but the ceiling inside was high enough for them the stretch to their full height.
The leader of the group, to whom Aladar had spoken, said something quietly to his communication device and then invited the garesh to sit in a chair on one side of a desk. The Cardassian gently sat in a tiny chair but after a moment of shifting in an attempt to find a comfortable position, he decided that floor would be preferable. The alien observed him for a moment and then rose from behind the desk and sat on the floor opposite the Cardassian.
“Is that your custom?” he asked.
“No. Your chair is too small for me.”
“Oh.” He thought for a while. “I can order to find something bigger.” He raised his furry hand to call someone, but Aladar quickly said.
“Please, don’t. The floor is fine for all sizes.”
The alien showed his tongue—was it a smile? “It is indeed.” He paused and leaned toward Aladar. “Do you have a name?”
“My name is Aladar. What’s yours?”
Aladar heard Veltek coughing behind him. He ignored it and to the alien said, “Ghhhhorrhhhtossssoilixssss. It that correct?”
The alien chuckled. “Almost. You sound like a very hungry doffragu
Aladar chose not to ask what a doffragu
A new alien entered the room. It looked around and noticed both men sitting on the floor. “Where’s the emergency?” The pitch of the voice was quite high, so Aladar guessed this was a female.
Gorrtosoilix pointed to Pa’Ler. “He hurt his leg.”
The injured garesh’s eyes opened wide and he looked to Aladar in panic. Aladar nodded once, ordering the man to submit himself to the care of the medic.
With Veltek’s help, she gently took Pa’Ler’s boot off and studied his ankle. “I don’t want to inject you with painkillers, because I don’t know how you would react to them. But I can immobilise your foot to reduce the discomfort.” Pa’Ler nodded, so she started her work.
Aladar looked at Gorrtosoilix. “You don’t seem very shocked by our presence.”
“Oh, we are very surprised,” the furry alien said. “We hadn’t thought that you would come to visit us.”
“Well, it’s not exactly a planned visit.”
“Still, you are welcome.”
Aladar smiled. “Thank you. Our people should take us back soon, so we won’t bother you for long.”
“There are so many questions I’d like to ask you.”
“Like what is your city like. Or how you deal with big predators. Or how you fly in the sun.”
“Aren’t you curious about how we came to being from the thin air?”
Gorrtosoilix’s look almost expressed being hurt. “We are not wildmen, we have transporters. I don’t know where you came from, but I know how.”
Aladar smiled. “My apology. As you can see, there is a lot I don’t know about you, too.”
“Accepted. And I will gladly answer all your questions.”
“What is soktoo
?” Veltek asked. Aladar shot him a reprimanding glance, but Gorrtosoilix didn’t seem to mind the question.
“It’s a predator, one of the biggest on the planet.”
“Why did you think we were soktoo
?” Veltek kept enquiring and Aladar turned all his body to the young man to give him a clear signal that he didn’t like the questioning.
“Because...” Gorrtosoilix showed his tongue and harrumphed at the same time. A sheepish smile, perhaps? “Because a soktoo
is a big, reptilian, biped predator that lives in our forests and...hunts us. And you look very much like it—even the rings around your eyes. Except for the clothing, and speaking, and thinking and being nice.”
Aladar didn’t think that any alien would ever call any Cardassians ‘nice,’ but he was very glad to witness this moment.
A commotion started on the street outside, so all eyes directed to the door. A few moments later more armed and uniformed aliens entered, followed by a civilian. Gorrtosoilix quickly rose to his feet.
“Esteemed Governor, it is an honour to be in your presence,” he said, bowing.
Aladar wasn’t sure what he should do, so he rose too and bowed slightly, although didn’t say anything.
The newcomer scrutinised all three Cardassians and then stated, “So you claim that you are not the Sun People.” He looked at Aladar, obviously understanding that the garesh was the leader of their small team.
“I don’t think so. I am not sure who you call the Sun People, so I cannot be certain. However, we have arrived here only recently, so if you have knowledge of the Sun People for some time, then most likely it’s not us.”
“Why did you come here?”
Aladar thought that this alien was not friendly at all. Not aggressive either, though. More like—direct. “To...” Should he tell them about their sun and its problems? Wouldn’t it be a violation of some protocol?
“Are you friends with the Sun People?”
The garesh shook his head. “No.”
“So why did you come here? I assume it’s not to help them.”
“To stop them,” Aladar said before stopping himself.
“From destroying our sun?”
So they knew. And they were fully aware of the Talarians, who kept mining and damaging their star.
The governor seemed to frown. “Why should I believe you?”
“We—my team—are here, because the Sun People attacked us. No, we attacked them when they started to fire at your forest. They destroyed our small craft and we needed to beam here to survive.”
The alien came closer to Aladar, so the garesh lowered himself to one knee again to be able to look the governor in the face, not at the top of his head. The governor looked into the garesh’s eyes and seemed to try to read the Cardassians thought from them.
“You came to help us?”
“Are you the Fedayshion?”
“The...Fedayshion?” Aladar repeated slowly. “The Fede—ra
—tion?” he repeated again, softly adding the missing syllable.
The governor seemed to ponder the Cardassian’s word for a moment and then said, sticking his tongue out. “Yes, I think that might be correct.”
, Aladar thought. “You know about the Federation?” he asked, trying to stall and find an appropriate answer.
“We heard that they help people and are friendly.”
“Heard from whom?” Aladar asked.
“Picked some messages from subspace.”
“You know of subspace?” The Cardassian’s eyes opened wide. He quickly added. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you are wildmen...I just had no idea...”
“So? Are you?”
The garesh took a deep breath and shook his head. “No. We are from Cardassia.”
“Are you friends of the Feday...Feder...Federation?”
Aladar smiled. “I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “But we are not part of the Federation. We are a separate entity.”
“And you help too?”
Aladar never felt much shame about his career or Cardassia. Of course, his home had lots of dark stains in its past, but he liked to believe that the Cardassians evolved beyond that and were now wiser and better. But now, faced with such simple questions, he saw that his belief in Cardassia’s greatness was naive at best. What could he tell this little, furry alien that wouldn’t put his team at risk, wouldn’t be a lie and wouldn’t ruin their reputation with someone, with whom they had a chance to show what Cardassia was like now
It was his chance to show that the Cardassians had great hearts and didn’t have to be the embodiment of cruelty and death.
“We came to help you.”
“And you will tell the Sun People to leave us alone?”
“Yes, we will.”
“Because we want to.”
“Because...because if we don’t, you will all be in danger.”
“Why do you care?”
“No one deserves to seize to exist, no one
The governor seemed to digest Aladar’s answer. The Cardassian’s voice clearly indicated that he believed in what he had just said. And he did. He didn’t think that the Cardassians deserved near genocide at the hands of the Dominion, no matter what they had done, and he didn’t think that the Rathosians deserved to die, especially since they didn’t appear as a people with dark stains in their history.
The governor cocked his head to the left. “A precinct is not a place for guests. You will come with me to the palace.”
“Yes, sir,” Aladar said.
“I have many questions for you.”