Jarol panicked. The Mar’kuu
Group—the people that had performed the coup—had already stepped down and none of them was in power except for one: Brenok. The woman worried that he would take all the blows, especially since she expected him to defend her. She didn’t want any harm to him, she didn’t want him to pay for her sins. Not him, not anyone. “Is Gul Brenok in trouble?” she asked quietly.
“No. He refused to comment. He only said that he supports you. He didn’t specify what he supported, though—your decision back then or right now.” Fatret paused. “Do you want to know what people think?”
“Will it ruin my progress?” Jarol asked.
The therapist smiled. “You cannot be shielded from everything endlessly.” She paused again. “The Nokarians defend you. They see you as their representative and are proud of you and your achievements. They think it takes a great courage to admit to one’s mistakes. I think they idealise you. As for the others...Some people dislike that the current government started its life the same way that numerous previous ones did, but there aren’t that many of them. They are probably used to that, or don’t care as long as the results are good. Some say that finally the things are called by their name and that everything should be revoked and brought back to the previous condition. Some openly admit that they don’t care—mostly the young ones who don’t remember those times and know only today’s situation. And some still support the current government regardless of everything. After all, it’s not news how the Mar’kuu
Group took power. It’s also not news how it used it.”
“Colissa would execute them all.”
“No. Colissa is an archon and doesn’t like breaking the law, which is what you had done. Those people didn’t break the law.”
“But they support something that was breaking the law. So they are supporters of law-breaking.”
Fatret silenced for a moment and then said, “We are here to talk about you, not Colissa.”
“Can I ask you a question, for a difference?”
“What do you think?”
Fatret was clearly surprised by Jarol’s question. She thought for a while. “Cardassia was in chaos back then and I remember that I was very scared. Lack of stability, weakness and vulnerability. Powerless temporary government replaced by fighting political parties that seemed to be more interested in gaining power than what to do with it when they finally had it. And then that strange question: whom do you choose? How could I know whom should I
choose? I watched bickering between different people and wondered how they would be able to rule the Union if they couldn’t even talk to each other in a civilised manner. Compromises? Instead of doing what’s the best
for us, finding something that everyone
would agree upon?
“I was scared after the Shift. I feared that everything would return to the times before the Dominion. On one hand I was happy that something was being done about the chaos, especially since the government had some really terrifying plans—limiting the military and leaving us defenceless, giving up all our colonies; on the other hand I wasn’t sure if the chaos wouldn’t be better from the terrible times full of fear, the Obsidian Order and never-ending wars. The official announcement of completely dismantling the Obsidian Order and prosecuting its members for crimes against the Cardassian people brought hope to my heart. You started as any other new government, but what you did after that was different.”
“Colissa told me that we got lucky that everything worked out—and that’s the reason why the people don’t hate us.”
“Maybe she’s right. I don’t know enough about politics to have an opinion. What do you think?”
“I don’t know what to think any more. I didn’t want to take power for myself. I was terrified when that responsibility fell on me. I don’t think I realised that the coup—which for me was a way to get rid of a puppet government, not to take the power for myself—would be just the beginning and not the end. I didn’t realise that we would have to fill the emptiness that we created. Daset knew that. He had everything planned, but I was just too stupid to understand.”
“Would you do it again, if you faced the same choice? If you could return to that point of your past?”
“Would I try to stop Ghemor from destroying Cardassia? Absolutely. Would I actively participate in the Shift? I don’t know. I think I would be more scared of the results of the Shift, if I understood them better. Would I be wiser than I was? Would I know better and understand better? Then maybe I’d find another way of removing the Federation puppets and not being put in the position to replace
them. But I was not wise back then and I’m probably not much wiser now.”
“Well, you didn’t have any doubts then but you do have now. In fact, you have regrets now.”
Jarol’s eyes glistered with indignation. “You think I never had any doubts? That I always felt comfortable with it?”
“Didn’t you? When was the last time you had a problem with that?”
Jarol didn’t say anything at first. “I had buried my doubts. They felt so heavy that I had buried them, trying to forget them.” Her voice was quiet and sad. “I pretended that everything was fine. I pretended in front of myself that this was for the best. If Colissa is right and it was luck that we have succeeded, then this luck fed my excuses. I just couldn’t hesitate all the time, or I wouldn’t be able to do my job.”
“Does this make you evil?”
“Rather very stupid.”
“Shall your children hate you for being stupid?”
“What?” Jarol blinked at Fatret.
“Shall they hate you for that?”
The gul knitted her eye ridges and then understood what was the point that the therapist was trying to make. And she disagreed. “But it’s not about that,” she protested. “They rejected me because of the things that I’ve done. And this very conversation proves that I haven’t changed, doesn’t it?!”
Fatret reached for a padd. “You insult their memory, do you know that? You assume that your own children would want
to watch you suffer, that they would inflict this suffering themselves and enjoy it. Is that how you remember
them? Monsters without hearts? Worse than the worst of Obsidian Order agents?” She activated the padd and showed Jarol the display. “Here, take a look at these holoimages. What do you see?”
The gul started to cry.
Rayak Nor, the gul’s private quarters
She was in the family room and listening to the sounds coming from the kitchenette.
“No, not like this, it’s too thick. Try again,” Laran’s voice was instructing. “Better. Don’t cut your fingers, it’s not supposed to be a Klingon blood
She couldn’t help it—she had to sneak over there and take a look. She tried to be as little visible as possible, not to disturb the natural environment of the chef and his aide...or rather his apprentice.
“Is this better?” Hatinn asked in an uncertain voice. He had come to the station earlier that day and announced that he would be staying for some time (she still couldn’t believe that he had forgiven her all the terrible things she’d told him). He had told her that he had taken leave of absence to be with her in that difficult time, but she wasn’t sure she believed him. She suspected that he was here to take the command of the station—Brenok didn’t think she would be back any time soon, so he had taken action.
Laran only growled to Hatinn’s words.
She had a really rough night with particularly bad dreams and later her session with the crazy medic hadn’t been much better, so this little show improved her mood a little. She was still shaken at the words that Fatret had said. “You insult their memory, do you know that? You assume that your own children would
want to watch you suffer, that they would inflict this suffering themselves and enjoy it. Is that how you
remember them? Monsters without hearts? Worse than the worst of Obsidian Order agents? Here, take a look at these holoimages. What do you see?
She had no idea where Fatret had taken her personal pictures from. One showed Corat and Mayel playing with her in a park. She remembered that day. Corat had wanted to catch clouds and Joret had held him high up to help the boy ‘reach’ them. Mayel chased colourful flying sek’rot
, trying to take pictures of them. For some reason, she had liked all sorts of bugs.
Another picture showed Laran before his first day at school. He cried and didn’t want to let Arenn go, holding his uncle’s braid in his little but strong grasp.
Both her families, the one she had lost and the one she still had, were wonderful.
“You’re maybe a good tactician, but a terrible cook. Shouldn’t you know how to use a knife?” Laran mocked irritation. “When you cut your enemies, do you cut yourself too?”
“I shoot my enemies, it’s safer that way,” Hatinn barked back. They both laughed.
If both her families were wonderful, then who was sending her all those messages? She remembered what Hatinn had told her—it was her own anger, her own frustration, her self-punishment.
Fatret had said that Jarol had to let go, but the gul didn’t know how. She didn’t want to insult her children, imagining that they would be such twisted Cardassians and hate their own mother, but she didn’t know how to stop. The nightmares were still horrible and telling herself that it was not really Mayel who wanted to tear her heart apart—literally—was not helping at all.
“I’m afraid, Mom, that he won’t be of much help in the kitchen.” She looked at Laran. She could see that his genuine, at first, smile was now a bit forced, frozen. He’d noticed she was in a grim mood but pretended he hadn’t.
“I’m doing my best!” Hatinn protested.
“Your best is not enough, Gul Toral,” Laran announced in his archon voice. “I sentence you to a lifetime of cheering up my mom.”
“Bummer! Shall I start now?”
“That would be preferable.”
Toral washed his hands and went to Jarol. “I hate your son. Can I kill him?”
“Don’t even try. My uncle is your boss!” Laran shouted.
Hatinn turned to him. “I’ll do you little good if you’re dead,” he pointed out.
“Can we not talk about family hatred?” she asked quietly.
They both silenced.
“Sorry,” Hatinn said eventually. “These jokes weren’t appropriate...or funny.” He pulled her back to the family room. “Tell me about your day.”
“Bad morning, boring day, talking to the crazy medic, boring afternoon.”
“You need to find something to do,” he said.
She shrugged. “I tried. There is nothing I can do. I only know how to fire a warship’s phaser.”
He opened his mouth to say something but closed before uttering a word. She knew he wanted well but was clueless how to do that. She felt guilty that she kept him attached to her, but didn’t know how to free him. She knew he wouldn’t leave her until she was better, but she didn’t want to make him feel like he owed her anything. He could leave her any time and she wouldn’t blame him.
Laran entered the room with a big bowl in his hands. “Yuck food for mom.” He put the bowl on the table. “Swog
One of her favourites. She glanced at Toral who narrowed his eyes. It seemed that it was not
one of his
“Am I the only one who likes healthy food here?” she asked, hoping that her tone sounded cheerful.
Both men grinned. She shook her head with resignation.
During their dinner, both men tried to engage her in a conversation and she started to feel like on a therapy session. She didn’t want to be rude and tell them to leave her alone; all she really wanted was to lock herself in her room and spend the evening there. In silence. And darkness. Their cheerfulness—and she couldn’t get rid of the impression that it was faked for her
benefit—was making her tired.
“Uhm...” she muttered. She didn’t want to upset them, didn’t want to sound ungrateful for all they were trying to do for her, but she really didn’t want any company right now.
“Yes, what do you need?” All Hatinn’s attention was on her.
“You cooked a wonderful meal and the salad is tasty...but if you don’t mind...I am tired and would like to go to my room.” She knew she sounded almost like a daughter asking her parents for permission.
“Under one condition,” the younger ‘parent’ said. “You take a bowl of salad with you and finish it there.”
“Yes, Droplet, I will,” she said submissively.
Laran put some salad into her bowl and handed it to her.
She went to her bedroom and sat at her desk. She put the bowl next to the control panel and started to tap. She wasn’t really aware what she was doing, until a recorded image started to play.
It was their family day in the Lakarian City Amusement Centre. Mayel was nine, Corat was six. One year before their...
She watched, swallowing her salad spiced with her tears. She almost forgot how much she missed them. They would be adults by now and who knows—maybe she would be a grandmother. She wanted so much to know what paths they would choose in their lives, what they would look like and if they would be happy.
They had been so full of life, laughing and exploiting both their parents to the maximum. That day in the Amusement Centre they had gotten candy and frozen zobar
milk dessert. They had gone for one ride three times with their father and two with her. They had enjoyed the science exhibition and the racing games.
She played another recording and lay on her bed, leaving the empty bowl on the desk.
She didn’t know when she fell asleep.
It was the first night in many weeks that didn’t terrorise her with nightmares.
Rayak Nor, the infirmary—the chief medic’s office
Brenok appeared on the screen and Taret could tell that the long-haired gul hadn’t slept for quite some time. “What do you have for me?
” he asked; his voice sounding quite cheerfully and contrasting his tired face, but Taret wouldn’t be fooled. He knew Brenok for most of the young gul’s life and could read him perfectly. He would bet that Brenok not only was tired, but also his neck ridge was bothering him.
Taret and Fatret glanced at each other and then back at Brenok. The therapist said, “As much as I would like to inform you of a progress, I’m afraid I cannot. I am uploading my full report right now.” She inserted a data rod into the reader.
” Brenok asked. “Absolutely nothing? So what do you talk about? What does she say?
” There was a faint shadow of irritation in his voice.
“Most of our conversations go around in circles. Sooner or later she returns to the starting point.”
Brenok was silent for a moment. Then he asked, “Prognosis?
“It’s still too early to tell. She probably needs more time.” Fatret paused. “I know that she was injured and part of her brain was damaged. The damage might be bad enough to cause her permanent mental instability. In that case, the solution would be chemical—I would prescribe her medication that she would have to take for the rest of her life. I asked her to submit to Paftar-Marr test, but she refused.”
“This test? Is it important?
Taret decided to answer Brenok’s question. “It is a test that marks particular characteristics of personality. Each of us takes that test at least three times in our lifetime. The results should be comparable and changes are explained as gaining maturity and natural development of a given person. A natural change doesn’t excess six percent.” Taret glanced at Fatret. “I asked Gul Jarol to take that test last week, after you mentioned that she’d refused.”
“And she agreed without a word. I got my results a few moments ago and that’s what I wanted to talk about with both of you.”
Fatret was astonished. “How did you do it?” she asked in a high voice.
Taret shrugged. “Maybe she just didn’t want to agree to something you
wanted. Or maybe it’s the matter of trust—she has known me for years.”
“And did the results help you?
” Brenok asked in a little annoyed tone of voice, reminding Taret that they weren’t there for a chat about difficulties their patient served her therapist every day.
“They can explain a lot of things.”
“What’s the change from the previous test?” Fatret asked.
Taret sighed. “Seventy-eight percent.”
Fatret raised her hand to her mouth. “Precious rain, no surprise I can’t reach her. Instead of helping her I push her into an extreme version of her new personality.”
Taret understood Fatret’s shock. But Brenok clearly didn’t. He frowned. “What does it mean?
Another sigh left Taret’s chest. “That means, Gul Brenok, that this is not the same person. Her personality has changed significantly. She looks the same, but she doesn’t think the same way and she doesn’t feel the same way. She is not the same person you used to know.”
“How can you help her?
Taret shook his head. “Gul Brenok, her change of personality is not a disease that can be cured. It’s permanent. In many ways she is a new person. Reborn.”
The young gul was silent for a long moment. Then he looked at Fatret. “Why does it complicate your work?
” he asked.
“I prepare my sessions as conversations with someone who feels guilt about her past actions and their result on today. Who I actually face is a person who is deeply shocked by actions of another
person, with whom she feels she has little in common. The difficulty is based on lack of understanding of her own actions. She doesn’t understand how someone could have done things she had done, so in the result she is unable to analyse her own feelings and reasoning at the time of taking these actions. What she knows is that these actions were committed by her, but she cannot understand why and that’s why she struggles so badly. She hates this person she used to be and at the same time she knows that this person is herself. She hates herself. She wants to become an opposite of that person.”
“In addition,” Taret interjected, “I don’t think that forming of her new personality is completely finalised. She’s still searching, still discovering her new inner world. There could be more change, although not very noticeable. The milestone is behind us. Right now she needs help in dealing with the change. And not only she
needs it.” Taret hoped his words would be clear to Brenok.
The gul listened carefully. After Taret finished speaking, Brenok was silent for a while. “Does this mean that you must change your approach to the therapy, or that you can’t help her
,” he asked Fatret.