“I’m not going to give up, Gul Brenok. I will change my tactics and see if they bore fruit.”
“Does she have self-destructive tendencies? Something to draw her attention from internal pain to physical one? Does she seem like able to hurt herself? Or worse?
Fatret shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. Her punishment is mental. She tortures herself with self-loathing and nightmares.”
Brenok closed his eyes. “Isn’t there anything you could do for her?
” he asked, not opening the eyes. “Anything to help her become herself?
Taret frowned. It seemed that the gul didn’t fully understand. “Sir, she is herself now. A different herself, but that’s her. She will not become anyone else and she will not return to the previous personality. That kind of personality change is rare and in her case it was a result of a very serious brain damage. This is irreversible
“I need my Atira, I need my friend, I need her advices. I need the person she used to be. I need her back.
“Brenok, she’s not coming back. And right now she needs your support more than ever.” Taret didn’t want it to sound so harsh, but he started to fear that Brenok would abandon his friend after this. She was different, in a way she was a stranger to him now, but Taret couldn’t imagine that Brenok would reject her and start treating her like a stranger.
“Gul Brenok, I understand how you’re feeling,” Fatret said. The gul gave her the look that could kill, but she bravely continued, “But please keep in mind that she is still very unstable and in an internal turmoil. It’s partially my fault, as my sessions weren’t headed where they were supposed to. Now I understand my mistake and will change my tactics.”
“Do everything you can for her
,” the gul said and signed off.
“He didn’t take it well, did he?” Fatret commented astonished.
“No, he didn’t. I think he believes that he depends on her, but that’s not the truth.” He didn’t even want to think about Toral’s reaction to all this...unless Toral fell in love with the new personality, not the old one.
Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, the second-in-command’s private quarters
Yassel waited for the connection and wished it were over already. She dreaded that conversation but she knew she had to get through this. Whatever would happen—she had to do it. She had been postponing it for over a month already—almost two months in fact—but she could not do it any longer. This had to be done and it should have been done many months ago.
The face of an elder Cardassian, whom she resembled a lot, appeared on her screen.
“Father,” she greeted him, hoping that the shaking of her voice wouldn’t be too obvious.
“My daughter! I didn’t expect a call from you
,” he stated. She couldn’t tell if he was happy to see her, surprised, or disappointed. “How is your assignment?
“It is fine, Father. My gul is a fair and decent man and my crew is good.”
“I’m glad to hear that.
” He paused. “Is there any special reason for contacting me?
” he asked.
“Indeed, there is.” She took a breath. “I would like to inform you of something. Of...someone.”
“Yes, what is it? Or, shall I say, who is it?
“I have met someone. Someone special for me.”
“Oh? Is the interest mutual?
She couldn’t stop her smile. “Yes, it is.”
“Tell me about him.
So, this was it. “His name is Aladar. He had served on the Damar
, under Gul Brenok’s command for twenty years. He has received many commendations and his superiors praise him. He is dedicated to his duty and has high moral standards.” What else could she say before dropping the bomb? “He has been transferred to my ship and that’s how we met. His service is so exemplary that a few months ago he was accepted to join the ranks of the ‘Damar’s Guard,’ for he is a garesh.”
All she could do now was accepting her father’s—no doubt, violent—reaction.
Gul Yassel pursed his lips, nodded and then asked, “Is he a good man?
This was not
what she had expected. She tried not to show her astonishment. “Yes, Father, he is. He is gentle, and warm, and strong and wonderful.”
The elder Cardassian’s face changed it’s expression and she saw something that she didn’t see often—a smile. “Then I am happy for you
,” he said.
“Really?” Her amazement had to be obvious.
“Is it so surprising that I want all the best for my oldest daughter and that I want her to be happy?
“But...he is not a high-born man and not even an officer.”
Gul Yassel sighed. “Vaneme, such things carry little importance these days. Why do you think I haven’t chosen a mate for you? I wanted you to choose for yourself. I do not care for his rank or his social status, as long as he is a good and decent person who will make you happy. You are going to spend the rest of your life with him and that’s what should be considered. If he is a decent, hard-working garesh, then fine. Better than lazy and incompetent gul
Her astonishment raised. She had never expected to hear anything like that from her father. She had never known that he cared about her; she hadn’t experienced much warmth in her family home and love was not something that the family members expressed. It was a cold place and she didn’t even feel like returning there on her shore leaves, as it felt more like visiting distant relatives than going back to mother and father.
Maybe that was the reason? Maybe her father wanted her to find her own love and marry whom she loved because his own marriage had been arranged by his parents and he was unhappy and never loved his wife?
“I was so sure you would be angry,” she admitted.
He shook his head and asked, “When can I meet him?
“I am not sure, Father. But you will.”
Gul Yassel nodded and disconnected.
Glinn Yassel was the happiest person in the galaxy. She had misjudged him so badly, but it was a good news. Even if other members of the family would be against her relationship, her father’s support was enough to make her feel better.
Rayak Nor, Medic Fatret’s office
Jarol stared at her therapist, wondering why the woman hadn’t said a word since their session started. They just kept looking at each other.
Finally, the therapist spoke. “Jarol, let’s play a role-playing game, shall we?”
“Do I have a choice?”
Fatret smiled. “Actually, in this case yes, you do.”
“Let’s play. I’m curious what kind of trick you’re going to pull now.”
“All right. Imagine that you are an archon. Your son’s colleague. And your task is to judge Gul Jarol, former legate, for her past actions.”
Jarol scolded. “All right...” she said slowly.
“You have all the facts and it’s time to make a decision about the sentence. The tribunal starts tomorrow, so you have to make a decision now. What is it?”
Jarol didn’t say anything. She just stared in front of her, torn between two options. Fatret waited patiently for a few minutes and then asked, “Is the sentence a difficult decision?”
The gul looked at the medic. “I...I believe I deserve shikrat
, but I can’t imagine sentencing anyone to this kind of suffering. So I don’t know,” she admitted.
For all she’d done in her life, she deserved the worst. She knew that. But she couldn’t imagine inflicting so much pain on someone else. She couldn’t order to torture anyone. Even in her worst time, she wouldn’t.
“Isn’t there any other sentence you would find adequate?”
“So, in your opinion, Gul Jarol deserves to die.”
“What if she regrets?”
“She should. She should show in public that she made mistakes and that they were wrong, to teach others not to do the same. That’s what the Tribunal is for.”
“What if there is some Prophets’ or Oralius’s trick involved and her body was exchanged with someone else’s? Someone else resides inside her and she is inside the other body?”
“Body is just a shell. The person should be punished.”
“But then the other person would never get their body back.”
Jarol didn’t know what to say to that. She decided not to answer at all and say something else instead. “I believe that every crime, every broken rule should be paid for. There must be balance and order in the society. Without that chaos would come and destroy everything.” She leaned forward. “I violate this balance.”
“If you believe that death is the appropriate punishment, why don’t you just kill yourself? Wouldn’t that fix the balance?”
Jarol laughed bitterly. “It’s not just about dying, Fatret. Death should be the payment. Not just removing someone from the society. If I die of old age and am no more, the balance wouldn’t be restored. It’s not about being dead, it’s about paying for violating the order.”
“Isn’t there another punishment that could pay the price?”
“Something that I could subject myself to, to feel better about this?”
Fatret smiled. “Maybe.”
“Give yourself a chance and ponder it for at least three seconds, please.”
“I ‘pondered’ it many times. I see no other fair alternative.”
“How about combining a few alternatives?”
Fatret sighed. Jarol observed her for a long moment and she felt tears gathering in her eyes. “There’s no hope for me, is there?”
The medic bit her lip. “You torture yourself and time doesn’t seem to ease your pain. It is obvious to me that our sessions don’t work either.”
“You don’t know how to help me.”
“You don’t let me help you.” Fatret frowned and quickly said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to put the blame on you. What I meant was that you resist our sessions, you are reluctant and refuse to fully open to me. But what I see is that you think a lot when you’re alone, also about what we talk about during our conversations. What I would like to see are your conclusions after each analysis that you seem to perform. Maybe if we discussed your conclusions, I could help you to continue your analysis from the point that you’d stopped.
“I am not your enemy, Jarol. I am trying to help you. I am trying to help you see that your life has not ended and that you still can do something with it. You’re still young and there’s still a lot of good things you can do. Wouldn’t good things bring some balance back?”
“I’m afraid to do anything, I’m afraid all my decisions would be wrong again.”
“Then ask someone for an opinion. Ask Brenok. You trust him and his judgement, don’t you?”
“I can’t ask him about everything, I can’t burden him with my doubts.”
“You still have to choose what to have for breakfast yourself.”
Jarol’s face was graced by a small grin. “My son decides about that.”
“From now on you will make that decision. Let’s start from small steps. Let’s rebuild your life.”
“Without closing the matters from the previous one?”
“They are closed. It’s just that the closure doesn’t satisfy you.”
Jarol frowned and didn’t say anything. She felt lost. “Is there anything I could do to fix myself?” she asked at length.
“You are not broken, Jarol,” Fatret said softly. “You are not a broken tool that needs to be repaired.”
“I’m a tool that broke a lot of things.”
“Try to concentrate on good things. Don’t forget about lost lives but also remember about saved lives.”
Jarol wanted so much to say that she had never saved anyone, but it would be a lie. “I don’t think that even twice more saved would make up for the dead ones.”
“No, it wouldn’t ‘make up.’ But you must understand you are not a monster that brings only misery. You did good things in your life, you just pretend they didn’t happen. You demonise yourself in your own eyes.”
Jarol didn’t say anything. She thought about Fatret’s words and couldn’t deny them. She didn’t want to think about anything good, she didn’t deserve any good to be appreciated or remembered. She curled on the sofa and drew her knees to her chest. “Will I be always like this?” she asked quietly in a breaking voice.
“I hope not. But you must want to change it, really want it.”
“I don’t know how.”
“We will keep working on that,” Fatret said softly.
Jarol didn’t reply and just kept laying. Fatret observed her for a moment and then rose from her chair and went to her desk. She made herself busy, giving the gul some time to do the thinking.
Cardassian Union Warship Damar, the gul’s office
Karama had told Brenok that there was a call waiting for him so as soon as he arrived on the bridge, he headed for his office. His mouth stretched in a big grin when he saw Jarol.
“Atira, how nice to see you,” he said.
She had a solemn look on her face. To think of it, he didn’t remember when was the last time he saw her smiling. She always appeared so sad and self-conscious. She wasn’t his friend any more, was she? Taret had told him about the changes, but...weren’t they too much? Was she ever going to smile again? “This is more of an official matter
,” she said quietly.
“All right. What can I do for you.”
“I assume you will wouldn’t allow me resign
“Can I at least return to Cardassia? I don’t have to be here, do I? I’m not in command anyway.
“Is there a reason?” he asked. He wouldn’t mind her coming back home, but he worried that it was about Laran.
“I’m not sure I’m correct, but it seems that you won’t let me free myself of Fatret until I’m healthy—whatever that means. I read a bit and cases like mine—unredeemable criminals—take years to be fixed
.” He hated when she talked badly of herself, especially since her judgement seemed warped to the extreme. He also didn’t appreciate that she brought her own persona to a tool that should be fixed. He said nothing, tough. “She cannot be on Rayak Nor for years for my...therapy. She has a family and a home. And there’s no reason for me to stay here; no duty. So it would be better for both of us to go to Cardassia
He had to agree that it made sense. “How about Laran?”
“He wants to finish his apprenticeship here, on the station. As annoying as Colissa can be, she is a good archon. He knows he’s going to learn a lot from her
How did she feel about leaving her son behind on a space station? He didn’t dare to ask. “Of course you can return. Maybe that would help in your therapy, too. But are you sure you want to do that?”
“Is Fatret’s family life the only reason?”
“No. It’s the only reason that makes sense and doesn’t prove that I’m not crazy.
“Tell me about the others?”
She was silent for a moment. “I hate this place
,” she admitted, lowering her eyes. “This place almost killed me and the fact that the assassin has been found and executed doesn’t make it any better. I don’t want to be here
.” She looked up at him. “I know it causes problems for you, as you have to fill the post, but...I just
can’t stay here.
He waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about me; I’ll find someone. Your well-being is the priority. And your other reason makes sense, too.”
“If you say so...
He didn’t know what else he could say. What he wanted to do was to hold her hand in silence. “I look forward to seeing you soon. How will you arrive? Do you need a transport?”
“No. Delva will bring us. I’m coming not only with Fatret, but also Taret. The medic says he wants to keep an eye on my lobes
Brenok chuckled. “Better than Delva’s lobes.” But she didn’t smile. “Then I await your arrival. Tell Delva to activate that perfect cloak he has installed to make your journey safer.” Grin, please grin
, he thought. He knew it was illegal to travel in the Cardassian territory under cloak—he had given that order himself—but he hoped his little joke would remove the cloud from her face.
She looked at him and then quietly said, “He doesn’t have it any longer. It’s been stolen from him.
The gul’s eyes opened wide and then he burst into laughter. “Stolen?!” Someone stole something from a Ferengi—what an irony! His amusement vaporised very quickly, as there still was no smile on her face. His worry about her rose. “Come home, Atira,” he said. “We’ll take care of you.”
She nodded and disconnected and he thought that he’d prefer to constantly feel the pain in his shoulder for the rest of his life instead of seeing her so miserable ever again.