Rathosia, Forrituloix City
Aladar couldn’t sleep. After an interesting evening with Rathosian governor, filled with good food and conversation, he and his two men were taken to the guest suit in the palace for night rest.
The Rathosians had done their best to accommodate their tall guests and had quickly made comfortable and long
beds for all three Cardassians. Not used to such comforts—but rather to what kind of discomfort a warship offered militia troops on lower decks—two militiamen had quickly fallen asleep, but Aladar’s head was full of information, questions and impressions.
He had had a chance to see a two-dimensional image of a soktoo
, which indeed resembled Cardassians by its general built, size and ridged face. He had had a chance to see more two-dimensional images of Forrituloix City and also of other cities. He had learnt that the Rathosians were gathered in their huge cities, as the planet was populated by many big predator species that hunted the small, sentient inhabitants of Rathosia. Each city was surrounded by a tall, thick wall, which had no gates. A hundred years ago the Rathosians had travelled from one city to another in underground tunnels that connected the cities, but later they had developed their transporting system and started to simply beam to another city.
Each city had its distinct, particular culture and language, not unlike continents on Cardassia, or countries on Earth—if he understood correctly what Kapoor had told him about her home.
There were seventeen gigantic cities on the planet and all seventeen governors had beamed to Forrituloix to meet the aliens that had come to save them. Aladar was terrified of the great responsibility, but at the same time he found it amusing that right at this moment he was as important as Legate Ekoor. He had done his best to represent his people in the best light and to answer all questions the Rathosians had asked, just like they had answered his. They had even asked for membership in the Union! Hearing that, Veltek had almost choked with food that he had been chewing.
Now, Aladar was replaying the whole evening in his head. Torrploisaxis, the governor of Forrituloix City, had finally decided to send his unusual guests to bed, but he had promised to continue the talks the next day. The other governors hadn’t been happy that the most important event in their planet’s history had been being cut short, but they had reluctantly accepted that the Cardassians might be big, but they certainly need rest, too.
Listening to Veltek’s soft snoring, Aladar felt panic raising in his heart. The previous evening was filled with cultural questions, innocent questions about fauna and flora, and history and all those things that were safe to talk about. But what if the next day brings something more serious? Aladar was just a garesh, not even grade five! He was a simple soldier; someone to push around and to order things to do, someone considered too stupid to think for himself.
He knew he wasn’t very clever. He hadn’t graduated from any good schools and his grades had been average. He had to work in his father’s shop and even a short moment free of stacking boxes to do his homework was luxury. He hadn’t had time to study, so after his father’s death and selling the shop the only way to make a living was to enlist and become someone else’s tool.
He didn’t mind. He knew that a soldier’s work was hard and he tried his best to do it well. He listened to his superiors, he knew how to keep a secret and he was trusted. He was a nameless militiaman but in his heart he felt proud of his job and what he had achieved. He had served on the flagship for twenty years. He had never failed his commanding gareshes, or his guls.
He didn’t need much—only to know that his sick mother and sister had a roof over their heads and something to eat. Their well-being was important, he could go on sleeping on the lower decks with other militiamen, who worked as hard as he did for the good of their families.
And now someone made him a representative of the Cardassian Union and he felt overwhelmed. He was not
up to it!
A familiar sound interrupted his reverie. For a moment he was not sure what that sound meant, but after a second his abruptly sat. It wasn’t a Cardassian transporter, it wasn’t Rathosian either—he already knew its sound. It was Federation.
Seven yellow-clad officers entered the sleeping room and trained their weapons on the Cardassians: two riffles per Cardassian head. The seventh man looked at Aladar.
“Are you their leader?” he asked. Aladar only nodded. The man approached him, grabbed his arm and barked, “All right, Gul. You will go with us!”
Aladar’s eyes opened in surprise. He wanted to ask, ‘What did you call me?’ but all he managed to do was to start laughing. His laughter changed into a wild guffaw and the other two Cardassians, who had been woken up by the Federation security, gave him confused glances.
But Aladar couldn’t stop laughing.
He made sure, though, to knock over a sculpture and break a vase on his way out, pretending to struggle. He only hoped that the Federation people would be in too much hurry to clean it up.
Rayak Nor, the gul’s office
Delva entered the office and smiled widely to Borad, who sat in the gul’s chair.
“Thank you for seeing me,” the Ferengi said.
“What can I do for you, DaiMon Delva?” Borad looked at him seriously. “Is it about that ship again?”
“Err, no, but I’d like to thank you for the protection. And ask for more.”
The glinn rolled his eyes. “You should stop making enemies of people.”
“It’s not that, my dear Glinn. The thing is...I have a cargo that needs to be transported to this station and I’d hate to lose it. It contains some items that had been ordered by residing here officers and I’d rather not make enemies of them by losing their merchandise.”
“What makes this cargo so special?” It wasn’t the first time that Delva brought his merchandise to the station and he had never asked for an escort before.
“Some of the items are especially valuable.”
Borad couldn’t stop his smile. “And who exactly can afford them?”
“”I’m sure I could agree to a reasonable price with my customers, don’t worry about that.” Delva showed his uneven teeth in a smile. “I don’t ask for a Galor. Just a patrol ship to show that this cargo is not as vulnerable as it would seem.”
“Didn’t you think that this could also send a sign saying ‘we carry something valuable’?”
“You’re right. Give me a Galor, then.”
Borad smiled; he liked Delva’s insolent sense of humour. “Forget about it. But I’ll give you a Hideki. You can transfer the treasure to the patrol ship and we would deliver it here, safely. The rest of your cargo can proceed as usually.”
The Ferengi considered the Cardassian’s offer for a moment. “Sounds like a deal. And what do you want in return?”
Borad’s face was graced by a sleek smile. “I’m sure we can agree to a price.”
Rayak Nor, Medic Fatret’s office
“Have you done what I asked?” Medic Fatret asked.
“Yes.” Jarol wasn’t looking at the therapist but at her hands on her lap.
She sat on the sofa, one leg curled up under her. She hated the sessions since the first one and hated them even more with each next one. Fatret shifted in her armchair. Jarol had expected the medic to have a padd and make notes, or read information, but the crazy-medic never did that. She pretended it was just a casual conversation. Jarol knew it was all but that.
“So, who is the person you’d like to be like?” the medic asked.
Fatret seemed to be mildly surprised. “Why him?”
“Because he is as pure as stream water. Life didn’t spare him but it never managed to break him. He is brave and relentless. He is wise and unstoppable. He knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to achieve it. He is everything that I am not. He is everything that I wanted to be and failed. He is the best person I know. The best Cardassian. The best soldier. The best father and the best brother.”
“All right. And who is the person you think you resemble most?”
“He was an arse and so am I.”
Fatret didn’t say anything for a moment. “Could you please elaborate?”
“There’s nothing to elaborate.”
“I know that you had ordered to kill him. Did you ever regret it?”
“No.” After a moment, Jarol added, “That’s not good, isn’t it?”
“Did you have any doubts before
you made that decision of killing him?”
Jarol thought for a while, recalling those times. “I am not sure. I knew that it was a crime and that this was the wrong thing to do, but I believed that it was lesser evil. I knew I was paving my own road to hell, but I hoped that this sacrifice was necessary...not to let him do any more evil things.”
“Do you still think that this is the case?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you tell your son about it?”
“How did he take it?”
“He hates and despises me.”
Fatret smiled. “I wouldn’t go that far.”
“He does. And he is right.”
“Is he? Or, perhaps, you hate and despise yourself?”
“Of course I do.” Jarol said it like it was the most logical and obvious thing in the universe.
The therapist’s face darkened. “Jarol, we had talked about it.” The gul only growled. “So if you don’t want to hear my little speech again, you have to start making progress.”
“I can’t turn my feelings off!” Jarol shouted. “What am I, a Vulcan?”
“I don’t want you to turn your feelings off. I want you to analyse your feelings, the present ones and the past ones.”
“You are the one to analyse.”
“No, I’m to help you find them and analyse them.”
“So help me!”
“When for the first time you thought about killing Ahal, was your decision firm?”
“Before his death became the fact, did you think about not doing it?”
“For many reasons.”
“List them, please.”
“I didn’t want to have someone murdered like that. I didn’t want to solve the problem this way. I felt guilty that I used someone else and made her do it. I feared to be caught and executed. I feared what my family would think of me. I—”
Fatret raised her hand, interrupting Jarol’s monologue. “You had lots of doubts,” she stated.
Jarol thre her hands up. “Of course I did!” She leaned forward toward Fatret. “But it didn’t stop me. I still did it!”
“Yes, you did.”
“I’m a piece of murderous trash!”
“I should be dead.”
“I’m not any better than he was.”
“Do you think that Legate Ahal would also regret his wrong decisions and his mistakes?”
“I doubt that.”
“But you do
Jarol stared at the therapist. “So...you mean...I’m not as bad as he was?”
“You tell me.”
“It doesn’t matter what I think.”
“So what matters?”
“My family. I care what they think.”
“It’s too late for me. I’ll never respect myself again. And I know they will never respect me again. I have to accept that because I deserve nothing else.” She paused and then finished in a shaking voice. “But I can’t go on knowing that they hate me.”
“They don’t hate you.”
“And how do you know?”
Fatret smiled. “I know them. I need them to help you and I know how they care. You insult them saying these words. You call them liars and pretenders. You pay with distrust for their care.”
Jarol started to cry.
Fatret took a padd from a desk, which was behind her armchair, and handed it to the gul. The Cardassian forced her sobs to quiet down and took the padd. “What is it?” she asked.
She did so to see Gul Dukat’s face on the display.
“Aaargghhh!” She threw the padd at the bulkhead with a roar. The device crashed and fell apart to small pieces.
“Why did you do it?” Fatret asked her calmly.
Jarol started to her feet. “This...this bastard had convinced me that I was responsible for my children’s deaths!” She pointed to the ruined padd on the floor with her finger. “He made me believe that it was my fault, as if I killed them personally! What’s more, he sold us all to the Dominion and in the result I lost my husband, my friend and the man whom I consider a brother lost all his family.” She was so furious that her whole body was shaking. “Isn’t that enough?!”
“That’s more than enough.”
Jarol slumped to the sofa; all her energy gone.
Fatret observed her for a long moment. Finally, she said, “I think it’s enough for today. However, you still have to find someone whom you think you resemble most. Clearly, Legate Ahal was not the right choice. Be fair next time—fair to yourself.”