This story is very deeply set in my Shaping a Cardassian
post-Dominion War universe, so a few notes are necessary.
The story takes place a few years after the coup of 2379, which removed Alon Ghemor’s government. Gul Brenok is commanding the Cardassian military and the Damar
is the flagship, also under his command.
The Obsidian Order agents (who hadn’t died slaughtered by the Dominion) were declared criminals by the new government and had to face the Tribunal (Cardassian judiciary system). They were judged for their ‘crimes against the Cardassian people’ and punished accordingly to the level of atrocities they had committed (or freed, if they hadn’t done anything wrong to anyone).
“Dja” is the lowest officer rank—a rough equivalent of ‘ensign.’
Is There Any Forgiveness?
Dja Sabal entered his tiny quarters, slumped onto the bed and closed his eyes. He didn’t even bother to take off his boots. He felt his armour pinching his back ridges and his sides, but he couldn’t care less. He thought that he had never been so tired before.
Suddenly, the comm sounded. “Brenok to Sabal
The dja sighed and pressed his wristcom to activate it and he responded. “Sabal here.”
“Please report to my office
His first instinct was to ask ‘Can’t it wait?’ but he was wise enough not to do that. “I’m on my way, sir,” he said instead. The channel closed...and Sabal didn’t move. He just couldn’t make himself force his muscles to do any action. A minute had passed and he kept staring at the ceiling, wishing for this moment to last forever. What could be so important that his gul had to talk to him about right now
A second later he jerked and realised he had fallen asleep. Panicked, he looked at his chronometer and saw that seven minutes had passed. “Gapgar
,” he cursed, rolled off the bed—quite literally, since he needed to support his body with his hand not to sprawl on the deck—and ran out of his quarters. The deck vibrated with the sound of his heavy boots as he was running and the only thing he could think of was an explanation why he’d made his gul wait for him.
The lift took forever to arrive and then another forever to reach the bridge.
The night shift was busy and most officers ignored Sabal. He drew a few glances when they realised he was just standing there in front of the first step to Gul Brenok’s office, which reminded him that his hesitation only prolonged the gul’s waiting. So he took a deep breath and went to the doors, which parted and let him in.
“Reporting as ordered, sir,” he said, standing in front of Brenok’s desk and squaring his shoulders.
“Lost your way?” Brenok looked at him from his chair, patting his open palm with a padd he held.
“I...I fell asleep, sir.” Sabal felt ashamed but he decided to tell the truth, especially since he hadn’t come up with any reasonable explanation.
For a second, Brenok’s face showed amusement, but a moment later the feeling was replaced by understanding. “I’m sorry, Sabal. I should have known that you could be tired, but...I thought this shouldn’t wait.” He waved the padd that he held.
“That’s all right, sir. I’m not that tired.”
Brenok stood up and went round his desk to stand next to Sabal. “Lying to your gul?”
Sabal spun to face the gul and to deny, but Brenok’s facial expression clearly showed that he joked—the gul was smiling. “Dja Sabal, you are an accomplished pilot,” he began. “Your last mission proves it best.”
Sabal had just returned from a rescue mission. A transport ship had been caught in an ion storm and the damage to the vessel forced the crew to abandon the ship in rescue pods. Some of the pods entered an asteroid field and Sabal spent three days searching for the pods and rescuing the crew. The field was dense enough for even a small Hideki
patrol ship to have problems with navigating between asteroids, so it took all Sabal’s attention not to crash. Functioning on Klingon, Trill and Talarian coffee, he managed to locate and save all members of the transport ship without a scratch on the Hideki
“I just did my job,” he said.
Brenok smiled wider. “You did more than that. You could have returned back to the Damar
and continue the mission later, after taking some rest. But you relentlessly went on until you found everyone from the transport vessel.”
“I couldn’t have known if anyone wasn’t injured,” the dja explained. “A delay could cost someone their life.”
“That only reassures me that what I’m just about to do is the right decision. And that it should have been done a long time ago.”
Sabal decided to ask directly. “Am I in trouble, sir?”
Brenok’s eye ridges raised in surprise. “Why would you think that?”
“Usually, when I’m called to my gul’s office, it’s trouble,” the dja admitted.
The gul’s face softened. “Sit down, Sabal. We clearly need to talk.” The pilot slumped onto the chair and looked at Brenok sitting down on his. “Dja Sabal, you are a good pilot and a good officer. You do your duty diligently and I never saw you breaking or even bending any rules or regulations. When I realised what kind of officer you were, I was surprised that you were still a dja. I know less hard-working officers who got their promotions sooner.” Brenok leaned back in his chair. “Your record also drew my attention to another problem, but this is not of your concern...not any longer anyway.”
“Sir, my record is filled with complaints from my previous guls. I never spent more than a year in any of my previous posts and was always first to be re-assigned, either because I didn’t integrate well with the crew, or...was not up to guls’ standards.” Some of his guls had been decent men, but the fellow officers hadn’t left him alone and some of his previous commanders seemed to enjoy showing him where his place was—on the bottom of the food chain.
“I know that. As I said—I read your file. Three guls were satisfied with your performance, while two kept complaining. But I don’t see in you any of those negative characteristics they attributed to you. It just feels like those parts of the record are about someone else.”
Sabal didn’t dare to say what he wanted to say. He didn’t dare to tell Brenok that his trouble wasn’t the result of his poor performance, but of his past. Besides, he wasn’t sure of that himself anymore. After so many years of hearing how worthless he was, he had started to believe that.
Brenok continued. “I also saw your medical file when you came aboard. I had thought that you were one that took risk much too often, which resulted in many broken bones and other injuries. I hadn’t realised what it was, but I started to suspect it seeing your style of duty. You are not reckless and you are not risking our health or life needlessly. There have been no serious injury since you came aboard. So I asked Medic Taret if my suspicions were possible and he confirmed that. Those are not signs of injuries, those are signs of abuse, are they not?”
How could Sabal confirm? How could he point a finger at other people? But Brenok clearly awaited an answer, so the dja whispered, “Yes.”
Brenok frowned. “I hoped I was wrong,” he said quietly. “I want names.”
Sabal shook his head. “No, sir, please, don’t make me do that. I understand why they did it, I unders—”
Brenok rose abruptly. “There is no explanation to what was done to you, Sabal! You have a dark spot in your past, but you faced the Tribunal and were cleared of any guilt. You never hurt anyone, you never tortured anyone and you never did anything harmful. All you did was piloting ships. You should not be punished for making a mistake and being naïve. You were young. My guess is that you didn’t really understand what kind of organisation you joined. And now you do your best to serve Cardassia and Cardassians.” He paused for a moment. “You even try to protect people who hurt you.” His voice became harsher. “But I will not tolerate beating officers in the Cardassian military, so you can be sure that the guls commanding those ships will be disciplined. They allowed that, so they will pay for that.”
“But, sir...they just expressed their—”
Brenok shook his head, so the dja silenced. “Sabal, you had been in the Obsidian Order for a few months. You have been in the Cardassian Guard for five years and seven months of those five years aboard this warship. These seven months were enough for me to see what kind of officer you are and how hard-working and dedicated you are. I am only sorry that you had to get through all that and I’m glad I chose you when I needed a new pilot.”
Sabal smiled. It was true that his life changed after he had come to the Damar
. He had told Brenok and Brenok’s aide about his Obsidian Order past, but obviously the gul never told anyone else, because the crew never bothered Sabal about it. The dja’s previous guls had made it public knowledge and Sabal became a punching bag for every frustrated officer and garesh, who had some complaints and scars inflicted by the Order. Tormenting him was their way of having their revenge against the Order. Still, he fully understood where all that anger came from, so he kept his mouth shut.
But Brenok had given him a chance—had really
given him a chance without the baggage of his past and Sabal not only stopped living in fear, but in addition had a chance to prove himself, also in his own eyes. He had almost believed that he was worth nothing, but here, on this ship, he began to discover that he wasn’t such a loser. He’d made friends with the chief engineer and the tactician and he had his duty he tried to fulfil to the best of his abilities. Life was finally good. But he knew that if he were on any other ship with any other gul—bad things from his past would just repeat over and over.
“Dja Sabal.” Brenok’s voice changed its tone again, but this time it became official. Sabal knew that whatever was to come now, this was the reason Brenok had called him here. “My decision was approved by Central Command today and I wanted to inform you as soon as you returned to the warship...in spite of your fatigue.” He smiled.
Sabal felt that he should stand up, so he did. He would take it like a man, on his feet and not falling apart like a piece of a rotten fop
“Dja Sabal, you are hereby promoted to the rank of kara with all rights, privileges and obligations thereof. Congratulations.”
Sabal wasn’t sleepy any more; he didn’t even feel tired! “Seriously?” He exclaimed with his eyes open wide and then he realised it wasn’t what he should say. “I mean...thank you, sir! I appreciate that, sir! I will not let you down, sir!”
“I know you won’t.” Brenok grinned. “The official ceremony will take place tomorrow in the wardroom. And now go and get some sleep.”
Sabal left Brenok’s office and headed back to his quarters. He felt his eyes burning from lack of sleep, but his fatigue seemed to have evaporated. He was excited. He was happy. For a moment he considered contacting his two best friends, but in time he realised that they might not appreciate being woken up in the middle of the night, so sharing his little success had to wait until morning.
He arrived in his quarters and lay back on the bed, grinning like a little boy who had just gotten a toy he always dreamt about. He didn’t think he could sleep that night with his blood pumped with adrenaline and joy.
He was snoring a minute later; his armour pinching his back ridges and sides.