The cave’s illumination wasn’t much brighter than it had been the last time, but just as the last time, Jarol didn’t mind.
“Have you examined the agreement?” she asked the Ferengi businessman without any preamble.
“Well...” His voice was more squeaky than usually. “We need more time.”
“What?!” Zamarran jumped forward. Jarol grabbed his elbow to calm him down.
“My advisor needs more time.” The Ferengi pointed to Ma’Kan.
The gul was just about to comment that she had never heard of any Ferengi using alien women as financial advisers, but stopped herself in time. She had an opportunity she didn’t intend to lose. She sighed with a faked resignation. “And how much time do you need to complete your...task?” she asked looking at the other Cardassian woman, pausing before the last word and hoping Ma’Kan understood that the gul had just asked about the former gil’s real mission and not about the agreement.
“Oh, just a little.” The other woman shrugged dismissively. “As little as short Arenn’s hair is.”
In any other situation it would be totally unacceptable for a Cardassian to refer to another Cardassian, who had not given them the permission, using their given name to do just that. In the current situation, however, Jarol knew why Ma’Kan had done something considered rude under any other circumstances.
Ma’Kan not only had drawn Jarol’s attention to her answer as a coded one; she had also used a given name—a popular one—to hide the identity of the person she had talked about. If she had used his surname, everyone in the room would know what her real words meant.
Gul Arenn Brenok was famous not only for being the commander of the Cardassian Guard, but also for sporting a long braid. For everyone else present the anonymous ‘Arenn’ was just any Cardassian with typically short hair. For Ma’Kan, he was Gul Brenok, her former gul; and for Jarol he was her best friend. In the result, for Jarol the information couldn’t be clearer: Ma’Kan had used him as a code to truthfully answer the gul’s question—that she needed a lot of time; as long as Brenok’s hair was.
Jarol knew one thing for certain—she needed to talk to Ma’Kan, and soon!
“I’m starting to think that you don’t have this statue at all and only postpone everything to cheat us out of our money,” Vasan said.
“We could show you the item, then,” the Vulcanoid replied. Jarol noticed that the Ferengi cast an angry look at her.
“Would you?” Vasan smiled and looked expectantly at the Ferengi.
“Follow me,” he growled reluctantly and all eight of them headed for the exit.
The businessman led them to a protected area and it took some time to go through all security scans and precautions. Finally, they arrived to a huge cave, filled with...everything.
The Statue of Moptor was one of the most prominent artefacts, but hardly the only one. Jarol felt like in a museum of interstellar art—wonders created by artists from every part of the Alpha Quadrant graced this dirty cave with their precious beauty.
The gul scanned the room, searching for more Cardassian objects and her eyes reached the Vulcanoid’s face. The woman held her hand near her mouth and her eyes shone with...tears? Excitement? Shock? Awe? Jarol followed the woman’s eyes. She’s a Romulan
, she thought. And this is sorrow
. The Vulcanoid was looking at a piece of a bigger sculpture: a broken wing with a part of a leg of the Romulan T’liss
. Is she here for the same reason we are?
Jarol wondered. It was the woman who had wanted to show the Cardassians their artefact and the Ferengi was not happy about that at all. The Romulan had tricked him to force him to show them—and her—what he had stored.
The Romulan realised that Jarol was looking at the ruined artefact from Romulus and then back at her and she quickly composed herself, resuming her smug attitude. “Satisfied?” she asked defiantly.
“Yes,” Jarol said quietly, while Vasan answered the same way, just louder and in a more irritated tone of voice. Jarol wished she could let the Romulan know that she didn’t have any intention of blowing her cover and ruining her mission, but she didn’t know how. The woman could be their ally, not an enemy.