Cardassian Union Warship Kasharok, the bridge
Glinn Lassat approached his gul. He didn’t say anything, he just stood next to Daro and watched the events on the viewer.
“This won’t take long,” he said quietly when Gorgor ships reached the battlefield.
Daro looked at him and to his surprise he realised that Lassat’s face expressed astonishment. Why? What was there on the screen to— Daro’s eyes returned to the viewer and he was certain that his facial expression was a mirror reflection of his aide’s.
“Do our sensors confirm what we are seeing?” Daro asked the communication officer.
“Yes, my Gul. The Gorgor opened fire at the Talarians.”
“What is the Federation starship doing?”
“It would appear that...they activated a tractor beam and seem to pull the Marritza
out of there.”
Daro grinned slightly. “Hail Gul Zamarran,” he said. If he’s still alive, he added in privacy of his own thoughts. He hoped he would see the other gul’s face on his viewer.
He saw a man with a bruised left side of his face, but very much alive. Daro couldn’t be sure if this was Zamarran, though, as he had no idea what the gul looked like and the man was so close to the camera feed that Daro was unable to read the markings on the man’s armour, as the image didn’t reach that low.
“I’m Gul Zamarran of the
Marritza.” That left no doubt who Daro was talking to.
“Gul Daro in command of the reinforcements. I’m sorry we are so late. What is your status?”
“Barely in one piece. I’m evacuating most of my crew to the Petrona for their safety. I can’t even tell if this ship can be salvaged
Did Daro detect guilt in Zamarran’s voice? “We will rendezvous with you in about an hour.”
Zamarran nodded and pulled his face—Daro guessed that the gul was in pain. “I appreciate that.
He signed off and Daro thought that it certainly wasn’t one of those ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ guls. One of them would complain about the fleet being too late, not appreciate its arrival after the fact.
He was looking forward to meeting Gul Zamarran.
Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, the bridge
Zamarran turned to Yassel. “How is evacuation progressing?”
“We have emptied the most dangerous parts of the ship. The threat of losing hull integrity seems to be alleviated, but I think we still should empty the ship. Just in case.”
“Do it.” He looked at the tactical display. The Gorgor seemed to overwhelm the Talarians and the bipeds appeared to be in retreat. “Seltan, get me the lead Gorgor ship.”
A Gorgor—Zamaran was unable to tell if it was the same individual that he had spoken to, or someone else—appeared on the main viewer.
“First Siadatch Fook’tok’mat
,” the being said. So, it was the same person.
“First Siadatch Fook’tok’mat, I’d like to thank you for your help,” Zamarran said. “Without it, my ship would be destroyed.”
Fook’tok’mat raised a tentacle. “No thanks are necessary. We only did what had to be done. Who attacks the helpers, shall be destroyed
“Let’s just say ‘stopped,’” Zamarran grinned.
“Destroyed. My ships will pursuit the criminals and will destroy them. Then we will find their hive and destroy it too.
Zamarran’s eyes opened wide. “Excuse me?!”
The Gorgor blinked it’s lidless eyes. “Shall they not be punished for the near destruction of your vessel?
“What you are talking is genocide, if I’m not mistaken.”
“They attacked you.
“It doesn’t mean you have to wipe them all out!” Zamarran shouted. “Recall your ships! Now!”
“Why are you begging for this? They almost killed you.
“And I have destroyed several of their ships. It doesn’t mean that I want them to kill my family for this and that’s exactly what you’re planning to do. Recall your ships!” Contrary to Fook’tok’mat’s assessment, he was not begging; he was demanding
“The galaxy should be cleaned from evil that doesn’t help and doesn’t let others help
,” the Gorgor stated flatly.
Zamarran growled. And these people dared to call his countrymen evil? The Cardassians were no angels, but at least they never attempted to exterminate anyone. As bad as they were, they never got that far. And here he was, facing a person who believed in their moral superiority and who was ready to wipe out a whole race. Some moral they had!
It reminded him of the Founders and their mindset and that sent shivers down his spine.
“Recall your ships or I’ll send my reinforcements to destroy them before they do any damage,” he said and immediately regretted it. It was possible that all he had just done was making the Gorgor the enemy of Cardassia and placing his people on the list to exterminate just behind the Talarians.
“Do you not wish to solve the problem? Do you not wish to remove the threat?
” Fook’tok’mat clearly couldn’t comprehend Zamarran’s way of thinking.
“I do, but not this way,” the gul replied. “I appreciate your help, I really do, but I would prefer if you let us solve it ourselves.” He hoped a change of tone would be a better tactic.
The Gorgor thought for a while. “We will be observing,” he said eventually and signed off.
“Who do they think they are?” Yassel whispered behind Zamarran’s back.
He turned to her. “An extreme version of the Federation,” he said. “They think they are better than everyone else who doesn’t live like them, but they go farther than babbling and posturing. Did they recall their ships?”
Yassel checked her display. “They did, sir.” Then she changed the subject. “Sir, Kapoor and I would like to stay here with a small team of engineers to assess the damage.”
“Is the evacuation almost complete?”
“Yes, sir. Most of our crew is aboard the Petrona
He thought for a moment. “All right, stay. As much as I’d like to stay too, I must talk to Captain Ram. Please keep me informed.”
She nodded. “Naturally, sir.”
Zamarran looked around the ruined bridge and, reluctantly, headed for the exit.
Rayak Nor, the merchant ring
Jarol, followed by her son, approached Delva’s Treasures
stall. “Do you sell this?” She raised her hand with the item that Demok had bought for her some time earlier.
“No refunds!” the Ferengi assistant said.
“I don’t want a refund. I just want some more information about it.” She pointed to her ‘knick-knack.’
“What kind of information?” the Ferengi asked suspiciously.
“How many of such items do you have?” She had already received test results from the science department and she knew that the object in her hand was not as old as the monument that it appeared to be a part of, but she still hoped that there was some explanation to it; one that wouldn’t mean that it was all lost and the monument was completely gone.
“How much?” the assistant said.
She blinked at him. “Excuse me?”
“How much are you willing to pay for the information?”
“Are you suggesting that I should bribe you?” Her eye ridges went high.
“Nothing is free, madam. Everything has its price and so does information. Treat it as a business transaction, not bribery.”
“Bribery is illegal and I would not have any part in it!” she said slowly.
The Ferengi shrugged. “It’s not illegal where I come from. Pay or no information, it’s as simple as that.”
Frustrated, she glanced at the shop’s offer. There were many items that resembled her ‘knick-knack’—difficult to describe shapes and Cardassian aesthetics—and two exactly the same
. She took that observation as proof that they all were copies; and since her copy was not that old, she clutched to the hope that the original was there somewhere, waiting to be rescued and brought home.
She looked at the Ferengi, who was leaning toward her and smiling expectantly. She knew that a few lek
s would solve her problem, but how could she do it? Even if Laran weren’t right behind her, she would never do something like that.
“I will not pay you for the information,” she said. “But I will find my answers,” she added and turned to leave. She ignored Demok’s sad and worried look and headed for the lift. From the corner of her eye she saw Fatret standing by the door to her office. Jarol was sure her next session would be a lot of talking about bribery, Ferengi, chasing monuments and any other unpleasant thing that Fatret would find to torture her.
She hated the sessions. Sometimes she even hated Arenn for forcing her to attend them.
She entered the lift, wondering if she’d have to see Fatret for the rest of her life. Was that her punishment? To go again and again over her crimes to never let her forget the heaviness they carried? To make her relive everything constantly? To make sure no one—especially not her—forgot what she’d done with her life and lives of people around her?
She looked at the ‘knick-knack’ in her hand. She had hoped it was not a knick-knack; she had hoped it was something more—a promise of retrieving something important for Cardassians. Now, she knew it was a false hope and that it was just what it appeared to be: an object to be placed on a shelf with the sole purpose of gathering dust.
She was so certain that somewhere out there was the original, based on which someone had made those copies, but there was no way to get to that information, unless she used illegal means and she wouldn’t do that. The thought of violating the rules made her sick.
A moment later she realised how ironic it was. How come was she sick, if all her life was filled with just that—violation. She
was a violation.
She left the lift and ran to her quarters as fast as she could not to let the guards posted outside see her tears. After the door closed behind her, she ran to her room, muffling the sobs with both hands.
She didn’t hear her son entering the quarters and approaching her closed door. He did not try to make her open it; he knew she wouldn’t. He just listened and his heart was aching.
Rathosia, Forrituloix City
“Here we go again,” Veltek said, taking his helmet off, smiling and breathing in air that smelled like dinner.
“A Cardassian from Cheshire,” Tibaut said.
Veltek gave her a surprised look. “A what?”
She shook her head. “No, nothing...There’s just that book and...to make long story short, there’s a cat there and it smiles and it can disappear and once all that was left of it was a smile in thin air...” She silenced, as everyone including her boyfriend, stared at her with disbelief. “Anyway, my point is that you should take your suits off, before you scare the locals with Cardassian heads hanging in the air.”
“Suits off!” Aladar ordered.
“There’s one thing good in all of this mess,” Pa’Ler muttered. “The Feds have fixed my ankle.”
Suddenly Aladar felt a strange sensation. A moment later he knew what it was...