Rayak Nor, the gul’s private quarters
Jarol waited for the connection to be established, hoping that she wouldn’t interrupt anything important—she knew Brenok was a busy man, especially since the Rathosian situation indirectly caused problems with one of Cardassian colonies.
Finally, his face appeared on the screen. He smiled at her. “Good to see you
,” he said. “How are you feeling?
She didn’t even try to fake a smile; she knew it would fail and didn’t want to insult anyone, especially him, with her pathetic attempts. “This is rather official,” she said simply.
“All right. Gul Jarol, what can I do for you?
” He still didn’t seem to treat it seriously, as in spite of his words his voice was friendly like in any other personal situation.
“I officially inform you of my resignation.”
The smile disappeared from his face. “What?!
“I am useless, I am always wrong, I am unable to do my job. I shouldn’t drain military resources—you cannot pay me for doing nothing.”
He shook his head. “I won’t accept it!
“You have no choice. You cannot force me to stay.”
“Atira, you are on medical leave and that means you cannot be relieved of duty permanently.
She sighed. “You’re twisting it. You know very well that this regulation doesn’t apply to my situation.” She kept speaking in spite of him shaking his head. “You are not allowed to boot me while I’m on medical leave, but I am allowed to resign. And this is exactly what I’m doing.”
“No. I won’t let you.
“You have no right to stop me.”
“I will stop you. I will not grant it because you are on medical leave.
“You bend the rules.”
He shrugged. “Yes, I know that.
She felt irritation growing. She had never expected him of all people to be a person who violated regulations, because it fitted his purpose. He was supposed to be better than that. “I can see that you are not as honest and decent as I had thought. It’s clear that I can add you to the long list of my wrong decisions, as obviously making you the Guard’s gul was a mistake. You’re no better than any other corrupted gul!” And with that she angrily punched the key and disconnected, causing Brenok’s astonished face to disappear from the screen.
She didn’t even take another breath in, yet, when she started to key in the command to re-establish the connection. His face expression hadn’t changed much since a moment ago when she had disconnected. “I’m so sorry, Arenn, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t talk to you like that.”
His features softened. “It’s all right, Ati. I know that this whole situation is very hard on you.
“But it doesn’t mean that I should be hard on you.” She hoped he could really see how much she regretted her stupid words. She couldn’t believe that she had told him all these awful things. “I just...don’t like rules to be broken, that’s all.”
His lips smiled, but his eye ridges remain frowned. “You are not yourself and that’s the reason why I don’t want to accept your resignation,
” he explained, not even realising how true his words were. “I want you to get better and then decide what you want to do. I don’t think this is a good time to make big decisions, Ati.
“Is that what Fatret told you?” She paused and then added, “Maybe you’re right. I proved many times over and over again that I am not good at making decisions. Even at my best, if I ever had ‘best’ in my life.”
“That’s not what I mean.
” She smiled sadly. He opened his mouth to say something more, but she heard the door to his office opening and he raised his eyes from the screen to look at his visitor. The person said something—too quietly for Jarol to understand the words, but she had an impression that it was Glinn Karama’s voice—and Brenok looked back at her.
“I know,” she said, raising her hand, “you must go.”
“We’ll talk soon, very soon.
“Uhm,” she confirmed without confidence and he signed off.
So she was stuck where she was.
Rayak Nor, the merchant ring
Borad decided to go for a stroll in the pole ring, which less and less reminded a part of a military installation. Thanks to his own orders, no less. On paper it all looked fine, but when he was walking he lost the confidence in his own decisions.
He knew that it was inevitable and that the station, once it had lost its strictly military purpose, would start transforming into a multi-purpose hub, but wasn’t it too fast and too much? Would Jarol be furious after returning and retaking the command?
Two food distribution points had been replaced by two restaurants. Delva had opened a stall with his merchandise and patiently waited for Borad to find him a shop to move in there. On Borad’s desk lay two more applications for permissions to open businesses in the pole ring and Borad started to get used to calling it ‘the merchant ring’ due to its commercial activity.
He knew this still was a military base with its mission to protect, but the region became safer and the Klingon threat wasn’t as serious as it used to be. He couldn’t tell for how long, but for now it was quieter. Even the mysterious race that had attacked the Klingons didn’t seem to be interested in bothering the Cardassians. They weren’t friendly, but they weren’t openly aggressive either and that was something.
Borad walked to Delva’s Treasures
and stopped to take a look at the items for sale. He knew that most of the Ferengi’s business was special orders, but Delva wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t try to maximise his profits. In the result, the stall offered some rare items that weren’t readily available and weren’t even necessary...unless your wife had a birthday, or something like that.
Borad’s wife didn’t have her birthday any time soon, but one of items drew his attention and he thought of buying it for her. It was a kind of knick-knack; a small sculpture of an abstract form, but very Cardassian in its nature and colours. No doubt this wasn’t anything alien.
He took the item and studied it carefully. The base was chirped a little, but it was barely visible when placed on a flat surface, like a table or a shelf. “How much?” the glinn asked, not looking at the Ferengi shop assistant—or rather ‘stall assistant.’
The assistant smiled. “Three hundred lek
Borad’s eyes darted to the shorter man’s face. “You must be joking!”
“This sculpture is very old, very precious and very pretty. I’m sure your female would love it.”
“This sculpture is chirped, too,” Borad noted.
“Two hundred eighty lek
Expensive but the Ferengi was right: his wife would love it. “Is this Cardassian?” he asked.
“Of course. Look here.” The assistant pointed to the place hidden in a shadow between two protruding fold-like shapes. “See? I’m sure you can read it. I can’t but it looks Cardassian to me.”
Between folds near the base there were words in Cardassian script. The letters were more gentle and more curved than the modern Cardassian characters, but they were Cardassian nonetheless. Borad squinted at the tiny letters and tried to read the words.
,” he read out loud. An old name for Fanehr, a city in the southern part of Eheen. There was another word after that, but it seemed incomplete. Borad wondered why it would be incomplete and scrutinised the sculpture as if it could answer his question. Suddenly he realised that perhaps it was a piece
of a bigger whole and was worked on to look like a separate item. It wouldn’t be hard to polish harsh edges, as the material was fairly soft. “Where do you have it form?” he asked.
“I only sell it. If you are interested in wholesale, you must talk to my boss.”
“I certainly will.” Borad stretched his hand with his thumb up and let the Ferengi press a padd to his finger to confirm the payment. Then, with the sculpture in his hand, he headed back to his—Gul Jarol’s—office. He had some searching to do.
Rathosia, Yapplorettix City, Federation Observation Point #567887
Aladar was furious. The Federation had interrogated Veltek and was now interrogating Pa’Ler, but they didn’t seem interested in interrogating him—the team leader. Did Golek think that he could break the younger soldiers easier? Veltek didn’t have any visible signs of force used—no bruises, not cuts—but he was very quiet since his interrogation. He had told Aladar that he told the Federation nothing and hadn’t answered any more of the garesh’s questions.
Ensign Tibaut, a short, slim human with orange hair, had brought them three blankets and asked to hide them each time Golek came into the brig. She hadn’t elaborated but Aladar was sure she had brought them in spite of her orders. He had tried his best to hide the blankets under benches, but they were still visible from the outside of the cell, so Lieutenant Pemutruch had offered to hide the blankets in the brig’s locker during days and return them to the Cardassians for the night time, so they had some protection from cold when they slept.
Aladar didn’t know why these two were helping them, but he was grateful.
He waited for Pa’Ler to be brought back, hoping that he wouldn’t seem in as bad mental shape as Veltek was. Whatever the interrogations included, it seemed to be very non-Federation, he thought bitterly. It angered him that he was unable to protect his people from the Orion man.
Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, the bridge
Zamarran was getting frustrated. Captain Ram had confirmed that Federation scientists on Rathosia had Aladar and his men. She had also told Zamarran that they had refused to release their prisoners and that a Federation admiral didn’t want to order them to do that, believing that the scientists knew best what they were doing and what was good for the Rathosians.
For Zamarran it was simply unbelievable. How can a high ranking gul refuse to give orders to lower ranking officers? It was so twisted that the gul wondered how an organisation, in which this was allowed, could function. Maybe it was just an isolated incident, or maybe it was how they worked—he didn’t know.
And he didn’t care. All he cared about was getting Aladar and his team back.
“Sir,” Torpal spoke from his post. “I detect seven ships approaching.”
Zamarran turned to look at his tactician. “Talarian?”
Torpal shook his head. “Negative.” He looked up at the gul. “Gorgor.”
This couldn’t mean anything good, Zamarran was sure. The Gorgor were still a mystery, but there were some facts that the gul was aware of. It was the Gorgor who had attacked the Klingons, which allowed the Cardassians to avoid an open conflict with the aggressive race after their attack on Rayak Nor. The Gorgor had developed some kind of wormhole technology that allowed them to open fissures, through which they could move to distant parts of the galaxy—and the Klingon Empire seemed to be their first choice. They had decided that the Klingons were too aggressive and had to be stopped before destroying the ‘order,’ whatever the strange aliens understood by that. The Federation had managed to establish a friendly contact with the Gorgor and helped the Union to negotiate some kind of non-aggressive relations, but Gorgor-Cardassian relationship was far from friendly. The Gorgor thought of the Cardassians as no less dangerous than the Klingons. Zamarran couldn’t blame them for that, but he also didn’t need additional weapons trained at his hull at the moment.
“They are hailing us,” Seltan said.
“On screen,” Zamarran replied, wondering what he would see. He had no idea what a Gorgor looked like.
A big snail. He saw a big, slimy, dark-brown snail on his viewer. At least—the visible part of the alien’s body reminded him of a shell-less pafkat
snail: the Gorgor didn’t have any neck, or a head, all that was on the screen was just a long, shiny, elongated shape, on top of which there were two short feeler-like protrusions with blinking, lidless slits—presumably the eyes. The protrusions moved, each in different direction and Zamarran wondered if it meant that the alien had just looked around. There was nothing to resemble a nose, but there was a small maw filled with spiky, sharp teeth.
“This is Gul Zamarran of the Cardassian Union,” he introduced himself.
“You fought the Talarians
,” the Gorgor stated flatly.
“That is correct. However, it was not an aggressive attack.” The gul felt that explaining things to the alien would be the safest course of action. If he proved that the Marritza
wasn’t a threat, the Gorgor might leave them alone.
“Why did you attack them?
“We tried to stop them from mining the star.”
“This star is going to seize to exist and take this star system with it.”
“Why do you care?
Zamarran felt interrogated and didn’t like that at all, but he still kept answering the demands. “This star system is inhabited by sentient beings.”
The alien was silent for a moment. “Is your mission to protect?
“Yes, it is,” Zamarran confirmed. “To protect and undo the damage.”
.” And—to the gul’s astonishment—the Gorgor disconnected.
“Are we in trouble or are we not in trouble?” Yassel asked no one in particular.
“You tell me, Yassel. Could you read his voice?”
“Sorry, sir, but no. I think their speech is too different from an average biped and the translator doesn’t help much in this aspect.”
“Biped,” Seltan repeated. “We can’t even tell if he had legs.”
“We can’t even tell if it was a ‘he,’” Torpal added.
“Enough,” Zamarran said sharply.
Everyone muttered their ‘sorry, sir’s and got back to their work. A moment later Seltan informed the gul that the Gorgor wanted to talk to him again.
“I am First Siadatch Fook’tok’mat
,” the alien said. “We were informed that there was a conflict here and my superior sent me to investigate
“I understand,” Zamarran said, but he didn’t. What was it business of theirs? However, he appreciated that the alien stopped only demanding the information and offered some of his own.
“We will not interrupt your mission
.” And again—he suddenly disconnected.
“Glad to hear that,” Zamarran muttered to himself. The last thing he needed was another player in the game.