Rayak Nor, the gul’s private quarters
“Mom! Where are you?” Laran entered the sitting room and looked around. The door to her bedroom was opened, so she was not crying her eyes out this morning. He went to the bathroom—the mirror was still there, so it appeared that she hadn’t broken the new one, too. He still felt shivers after that incident the previous day.
She emerged from the kitchenette. “I’m here.”
He smiled, hiding his hands and what he kept in them behind his back. “Cooking?” he asked.
“I can’t watch you eating all those unhealthy things any longer.” She returned to the kitchenette, so he followed her.
“Mom, I have something for you.”
“A phaser so I can finally shoot my head off? Or a death sentence? Signed by ten independent archons?”
“You have an adorable sense of humour,” he said sourly. It deeply hurt him to hear her talking like that.
“What do you want me to say?” she said angrily, turning to him. “How can you not believe that I deserve anything else than an execution? You are an archon, you swore to protect the law and serve the justice. And look at me? I did so many bad things in my life that I lost count. I was a bad sister, a bad officer, a bad gul and a bad legate. And the fact that you cannot do your duty proves that I’m a bad mother, too.”
“Now wait a minute!” Laran frowned at her. “You can talk about Gul Jarol what you want. You can slur Legate Jarol all you want. But don’t you dare
to talk badly about my mother
!” He shouted the last two words and she looked at him surprised. The fact was that he believed that she had been a good gul who commanded her warship wisely and a good legate who fixed wounded and hurting empire, but Fatret had told him not to argue with her about that, as it would be pointless. However, he would not listen to her telling him that she was a bad mom. From all the people—at least those alive—he was the one most qualified to judge that and he would insist he had the best mother in the Cardassian Union.
He forced his frown to disappear and made an attempt to smile, hoping that she would take it as a sincere change of mood. “I have something for you.” He took his hands out from behind his back and handed her a small, wrapped object, which he had acquired on his way back to their quarters on his middle-day meal break.
“What is it?”
She washed her hands to remove the remains of food and took the gift. She placed it on the worktop next to a bowl with washed lettuce, unwrapped it and her eyes opened wide. “What it is?”
“I have no clue, but I hope you like it. It has a Nokarian touch to it, doesn’t it?”
He wasn’t even sure if the thing was Cardassian, but its shape reminded him of architecture of Drav, a city that was not only in Nokar but also the closest big city to his mother’s home village. The town hall was decorated by shapes very similar to this one.
She studied the object, gently touching all surfaces. “Laran, where do you have it form?”
“The Ferengi stall with art. Why?”
“Droplet, this looks like a piece of a giant Medal of Justice.”
“Medal of Justice, you say? Then it’s a good gift from an archon, wouldn’t you say?”
But he could clearly see that she was not in the mood for jokes. “Come with me,” she said and went to the computer terminal. Her son followed her. “Computer, access the historical database.” The computer beeped in an acknowledgement. “Access: Nokar. Architechture. The Statue of Archon Mobar.”
“A reproduction of the Statue of Archon Mobar from Drav is available
,” the computer male voice responded.
“No. Display the image of Bavosal’s sculpture.”
“Mom, what’s going on?” Laran asked uncertainly. Did she completely lose her mind?
A two-dimensional image appeared on the monitor. Laran knew that the image showed one of completely destroyed by the Dominion cities, but that was all he knew about Bavosal. He knew more about the tragedy of the people and New Bavosal, which he and his mother had visited earlier this year, than about the old city’s architecture.
The image showed a big statue of a man. He wore ancient armour, held a sword in one hand and an old-fashioned book in the other one, pressing it to his chest, as if protecting it with the sword. He also wore a cape and there, to that cape, on his shoulder was pinned something oval with feathers attached to it. A medal of some sort.
“Look here.” His mother pointed to a place on the medal and then put the item that Laran had brought her closer to the monitor.
“It looks exactly the same,” the sub-archon whispered, surprised. “You don’t think that it’s a part of a monument that was destroyed by the Dominion, do you?” he asked, looking at her.
She shook her head. “Laran, this monument was removed from Bavosal’s marketplace seventy years ago. After riots in Nokar that were caused by draughts, the Central Command punished the people by dismantling the monument, as Archon Mobar was one of the most important figures in Nokar’s history and this was one of the most important monuments in Nokar’s architecture. No one saw that statue ever again. I am sure it was sold.”
Laran gave her a sceptical look. “Mom, you don’t think this is original...”
“I don’t know,” she said, shaking her head. “But I intend to check it. I’ll finish our meal and then will talk to Borad about this. And Delva, when he’s back. This is not
The sub-archon was glad to see her so excited about something, so decisive again and so sure what she should do, but he worried that the disappointment, which was certainly going to follow her little ‘discovery,’ would only make things worse in the result. The possibility of this piece of something being a part of an old, lost monument from her home continent was zero. He had to brace for impact of her disappointment; he also made a mental note to inform Fatret of upcoming problems.
Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, the bridge
Zamarran logged out of his panel and looked around his officers. All, without an exception, were busy. Yassel was reading something from her screen and entering some data on a padd. Seltan seemed to be intently listening to some air traffic, probably eavesdropping. Torpal was frowning over his console and Zamarran was sure the tactician was performing battle simulations based on their current situation, as it was a standard procedure in such cases.
“Torpal, may I see you in my office?” Zamarran asked, raising from his chair and heading for his room. The tactician nodded and followed him. The gul offered him a chair and then sat in his. “Glinn Torpal, I know that you had served under four different guls,” he said.
Torpal’s eye ridges frowned. “That’s correct, sir,” he said and then quickly added. “It’s not that I’d been being transferred all the time due to my incompetency.” His voice sounded nervous. “The first two died in the line of duty, the third one was promoted and left the ship and I left the fourth one to be reassigned here.”
Zamarran understood the tactician’s anxiousness, but he didn’t have any intention to cause it. He knew very well that usually an officer, once assigned to a warship, stayed there for a very long time, if not the rest of his or her career, and if they were transferred too often, it usually was a sign of their superiors’ dissatisfaction with their performance. From his own experience he knew that it wasn’t always the case, as sometimes the circumstances changed and one’s skills were needed elsewhere. In addition, it was not the reason of his mentioning that to the glinn. “Torpal, I don’t intend to ask you about the reasons, or to question your professionalism, in which I believe without a doubt. My point is that you have seen four different guls in command and experienced their command styles.”
Torpal’s frown dissolved and transformed into a questioning look. “That’s correct.”
“I would like to ask your opinion of my decisions.”
A questioning look grew to an astonishment. “Excuse me, sir?”
“What do you think about my command?” There was no way around it, so Zamarran decided to ask the question directly. “Do you think I’m too soft and too co-operative? Does it make me look weak and not worthy of respect in the eyes of Captain Ram and the Gorgor?”
The gul couldn’t believe that Torpal surprise became even stronger. “Sir...absolutely not!” he protested. “I must admit that your style is very different, but this is also a very different ship. We’re not at war. We’re not on a patrol mission. We’re not to be soldiers here. It’s a combination of diplomacy, science and, most likely, soon also defence.” He paused for a moment, as if hesitated. “To be honest, I don’t think that two of my previous guls would do as well as you are doing, sir. Please, don’t get me wrong,” he added quickly, “I think highly of them, but I would expect them to first draw weapon and then ask questions. You talk, you negotiate and all these things are appropriate in our situation. I don’t care that you answer someone’s questions. We have nothing to hide. We don’t have to lie.”
“But shouldn’t I have told the Federation and the Gorgor to keep their noses our of our business? They keep interrogating me and I...allow them to.”
Torpal smiled. “Sir, we came to do our job and we get constantly interrupted. As much as I’d like to tell them to leave us alone, I know it wouldn’t work. I keep hoping that your co-operation in sharing information would at least make them let us do our job.” The glinn observed the gul for a moment. “You’re still not satisfied with my answer.” Zamarran shook his head. “You fear you appear weak.” Zamarran didn’t clearly confirm, but he was sure his stony look told Torpal everything. “No, I do not think so,” the tactician said. “They still didn’t cross a line to provoke us, so you still didn’t have to show our sharp teeth.”
“Do you think I will decide to show our sharp teeth when they cross the line?” Zamarran asked.
“Sir, I don’t know you well, as this is our first mission together, but I doubt that you would sit by and watch them ruining our mission. You’re not that kind of man.”
Zamarran thought for a while. “Torpal, I have little experience in battle conditions...tactical experience, I mean. I am an engineer. If someone crosses the line, I will follow your recommendations regarding tactical matters.”
“Understood. But if I may be so bold, sir...you had served under one of the best tacticians in the Guard and fought in war under her command. I am sure you’ve learnt something and you’d do fine, if we have to switch our tactics to a more militant attitude.”
Zamarran grinned weakly. “Your faith in me is disturbing.”
Torpal answered with a smile of his own. “An officer has to trust his gul. After all, someone smarter than me was certain that this is the place for you, so who am I to question that?”
“Thank you, Glinn Torpal, that would be all.”
The tactician nodded and left the office. Zamarran sighed. As much as he respected Gul Brenok, he still wasn’t so sure that the long-haired gul hadn’t made a mistake, assigning him to the science ship. He knew he should show the same trust in his superior as Torpal did, but his doubts in his own abilities were stronger. Brenok was smart but perhaps his friendly feelings toward Zamarran clouded his judgement. He’s been known for following his heart rather than his logic sometimes.
Rayak Nor, the gul’s private quarters
Av’Roo stood with a bowl in her hand in front of Gul—the Skorr still didn’t understand the demotion that Jarol had been subjected to—Jarol’s quarters and patiently waited to be let in. The door parted, so she proceeded inside.
She stretched her hands with the bowl that she held toward the Cardassian. “Gul Jarol, I come with the Offering of a Peaceful Warrior,” she said. She knew that the Cardassian would have no idea what it meant, so she was not at all surprised, seeing the gul’s astonished look. “Do you accept?”
“Y...yes,” Jarol said uncertainly, eyeing the bowl.
Av’Roo smiled and placed the bowl on a low table near a big window. “Then you are ready.” The most natural question ‘Ready for what?’ was not asked, but the Skorr didn’t mind. She sat in a chair next to the table, waited for Jarol to sit in the other one and then started to explain. “This is a very old tradition from the times when my people were changing their ways. We still follow it, although these days it’s rather a symbol than the real need, unless someone struggles with his or her violent nature and reaches the moment that they cannot go on without support. I think that you are now on a crossroad and face the same difficult time as Skorr warriors did centuries ago.” Jarol looked at the bowl and then her eyes returned to Av’Roo’s face. The Skorr continued. “My people used to be warriors, brutal and vicious. We have changed our ways and became peaceful—that brought tranquil to our planet, our neighbours and also our hearts. I think you have reached this very moment of transformation from a warrior to a peaceful being. But you struggle with the same feelings and memories that Skorr warriors did—your violent past.” Tears appeared in Jarol’s eyes but she still didn’t say anything. “The Offering of a Peaceful Warrior is a special pudding, prepared with love and hope and given as a gift to a struggling warrior.” Av’Roo smiled. “This one is not that traditional, as I used Cardassian ingredients to make sure it’s edible for you, but the feelings and my support are exactly as they would be for a Skorr version of the dish.”
“Why?” Jarol asked quietly.
“Because no one should be left alone to face their monsters. We have to constantly keep them locked under key and when they try to escape and are almost successful—we need a cavalry to help us keep them locked and not let them out.
“I do not know what caused your change, I do not know if it’s not something any Cardassian has to endure in his or her life, but I can see that you are alone in this and I can see that you need cavalry.”
“You cannot help me.”
“Tell me, am I correct assuming that you have problems with dealing with what you had done in your past?” Jarol nodded weakly. “And you cannot undo those deeds?” The Cardassian shook her head from side to side. “And you regret them?” Another nod. “Was doing them necessary?”
Jarol’s eyes opened wider and she stared at Av’Roo for a long moment. She seemed to think for a while and then said in a barely audible voice. “No, I don’t think so.”
“You have to accept that it has been done,” the Skorr said. “You have to keep the monsters locked, but you cannot think only about them. Don’t let them out, ever; don’t let them eat your alive. Ask for help, if you need to keep them away. You cannot kill them. You cannot forget them. They will always be with you and they will keep reminding you what they are like, but that will only help you not to create more of them. And that is a good thing.”
“How am I supposed to live with them?”
“You’ll learn. You’ll always feel their presence, but you cannot allow them to define your life. Not any more. You have removed them from your heart, so don’t let them back in.”
“How do you do this in practice?”
“I am a Skorr and I have my ways of dealing with demons. I am not sure if mine would be of any use for you. But I know one thing: you cannot go through this alone and I think you’re trying to. Your monsters are still very strong. Not strong enough to return to your heart and make you do what they want, but strong enough to destroy you
“Maybe I should be destroyed?”
“Not this way.” Av’Roo paused. “You have a son. If you don’t have strength to fight for yourself, fight for him. Do you want the monsters to take his mother away? Did he deserve that?”
Jarol firmly shook her head. Then she took the spoon that was in the bowl and tried the pudding. Av’Roo observed her, not saying anything.
“Did some warriors lost their fights with their monsters?” the gul asked.
“What happened to them?”
“Something that I don’t want to happen to you.”
Jarol stopped eating and looked at the Skorr. “Why do you care?”
“I care about everyone. I try to, at least.” She smiled weakly, hoping her words weren’t arrogant.
“What if no one wants to help me to keep my monsters locked?”
“I doubt that. You have a son, you have a sister, you have a friend who is almost a brother to you. I refuse to believe they would leave you with this alone.”
“My sister would.”
“But not Demok and not Brenok.”
“I shouldn’t burden my child with this.”
“He shares your burdens, for he is your child.”
“He shouldn’t worry about my
monsters. This is not his problem.”
“He already worries. Let him do something so he would know he is helping you and not just observing you disappear in the thin air.”
Jarol shook her head and Av’Roo didn’t understand her resistance. There had to be something more about this. Had he accused her of something? Had he complained about her past? Had he judged her? Why would she think he wouldn’t support her? Was it Jarol’s misunderstanding or had something happened between them to cause that?
“I would offer my support, if you’d accept it,” the Skorr said. “I volunteer.”
“Why?” Jarol asked the same question again.
“Because you are more a Skorr right now than anyone else on this station. Because I can’t just stand by and do nothing.” She paused. “My door will be open, should you decide to accept my offer.” She rose. “You have to eat the whole pudding. The monsters hate it and hide in corners, so they would leave you alone for a while.”
“Thank you.” Jarol’s voice was quiet.
Av’Roo nodded and left the quarters.