The trip to the ‘wormhole sector’ was uneventful; it was supposed to take five days to arrive there at warp six. Damar, Jarol and Korel co-ordinated a lot of details and were still in the process of arranging everything to ensure smooth work. Jarol didn’t mind that, but what she did mind was Nadar’s presence, looking over her shoulder. It seemed the Obsidian agent suspected the three aides of plotting against their guls. She was tired of being constantly ‘interviewed’ after each session with the two glinns. She wondered if the agents assigned to the other two warships also were as annoying, or it was just the Roumar
“We have arrived,” the helmsman reported. “I have received the order to stop.”
Zamarran grunted and Jarol knew why—her gul was used to giving orders to his offers himself and didn’t appreciate someone else doing it.
The gul looked at her. “What do we have on that system in our database?” Without waiting for an acknowledgement from her, he turned to Brenok. “Scan it.”
Jarol read from her screen. “There are several habitable celestial bodies in the system—a planet and several of its moons. The species call themselves Bajorans and are a peaceful, spiritual race.”
Brenok continued. “They have colonised some moons and I detect ion trails, which proves that they are warp-capable and do travel.”
Zamarran looked at his aide. “Do we have a holografic image of them in our database to see what they look like?”
She shook her head. “Negative, sir.”
“Sir.” Karama turned to look at the gul. “We are being hailed by the Radalar
“On screen.” Gul Toral’s face filled the viewer. “What can I do for you, Gul Toral?” Zamarran asked.
“Gul Zamarran, I tried to talk to Gul Dukat, but he refused my suggestion. I hope that if we both tell him the same thing, he’d change his mind
Jarol thought Toral didn’t belong to the officers who blindly took their orders, but he thought for himself instead.
Zamarran asked, “What suggestion?”
“To pay a visit to the locals and introduce ourselves. Perhaps to ask if we can use their wormhole, if they claim the right to it.
“And if they refuse?”
” Toral smiled, but quickly became serious again. “All right, maybe I’m just naďve. But I still don’t feel comfortable entering their system and entering their wormhole just like that, without even a ‘hello.’
Zamarran was silent for a moment, considering Toral’s idea.
“We were not given orders to make new friends.” Nadar’s voice barked from the shadows at the back of the bridge. Jarol looked to him, wondering if the bastard wasn’t just planning to write an extensive report on Toral. She also knew that Nadar’s opinion helped Zamarran make up his mind—anything to irritate the political officer!
“I’ll talk to Dukat,” the gul said.
.” Toral’s face was replaced by the star view.
“Get me the Ravinok
,” Zamarran ordered.
He waited for a long moment until Dukat’s face appeared on the screen.
“Yes, Gul Zamarran?
“I was wondering if we’re going to contact those Bajorans?”
“Not to be rude barging into their system without a word of an explanation? We don’t know what kind of friends they have, but if those friends have teeth and claws, we don’t want to be welcomed by their fleet upon our return from the other side, do we?”
Dukat seemed to be thinking for a moment. “Good point
,” he said eventually. “I’ll contact you regarding this soon
.” And he signed off.
Zamarran turned in his chair to defiantly look at Nadar, challenging him to criticise his suggestion, but the agent only glared at the gul. There was no doubt that there was a lot of sense in what Zamarran had told Dukat. Then, the gul turned back to face the screen and a strong feeling of displeasure showed on his face. She decided it was the time to be a good aide and approached him.
“Sir? Anything bothering you?” she asked quietly.
“He’s showing me who’s the boss here,” Zamarran answered in a hushed tone. This was a conversation between him and her.
“Nadar? Not any more than usually.”
“Dukat. He doesn’t let me forget that he is my superior.”
And Jarol knew Zamarran didn’t like that. He had no problems with taking orders from the battalion gul, or someone of a higher rank, but this man? Not only his rank was the same and the difference between them was purely a matter of years in command of a warship, but also Zamarran didn’t know and obviously didn’t trust Dukat. His worst nightmare was getting orders from unpredictable and unreliable people. He knew he couldn’t refuse them, but he couldn’t be sure orders would be wise and appropriate. He was frustrated. Jarol remembered him as frustrated three years ago, when the gul of the Sixth Order had changed. Until the man had proven himself in Zamarran’s eyes, the Roumar
’s gul always worried what their new orders might be.
“We’re being hailed,” the communication officer announced.
Zamarran raised his hand and opened his mouth to say ‘On screen,’ no doubt, but he hesitated. Jarol couldn’t believe her own eyes—her gul was considering keeping Dukat waiting, just like Dukat had kept him waiting a while ago.
“On screen,” he said finally and the other gul’s face appeared on the viewer.
“Ah, how nice your aide is with you
,” Dukat said, eyeing Jarol. “I will require her presence.
“For what purpose?” Zamarran growled more than he should have.
“For being one of my delegation representatives. I have spoken to the leader of those people and I decided to beam down with a small diplomatic team.
” Jarol wondered since when there were ‘diplomatic teams’ on Cardassians ships. “I have one female officer, but I could use another one. To show them we’re not only men here.
” Zamarran pursed his lips, considering his answer, but Dukat clearly wasn’t interested in what Zamarran might have to say. “I await her in my transporter chamber immediately.
” And he signed off.
That was an order and there was no space for discussion. Besides, it made sense to have mixed representatives of their race for the first contact with those aliens. Jarol looked at her gul. “Go,” he said. “And be careful.”
On her wait to the lift, she caught worried Brenok’s look.
What did they worry about? Were those Bajorans dangerous? Not according to the information she’d found in the database, so what was the problem?
’s transporter chamber wasn’t empty when she beamed in.
“Please, join us.” Dukat gestured to her to come closer to a group of officers. She already knew Damar and Erpan, but there were two more people present, not counting a small troop of five. “This is Gil Motran.” The tall man nodded to her and on his armour she read he was the tactician. “And Gil Yassel.” Yassel had to be the female the gul had spoken through the comm about. The first thing Jarol thought of her was that she reminded her of a little, fearful bird. The woman appeared nervous and she kept casting glances at Dukat and Damar. “And our team of bodyguards.” He pointed to the five gareshes.
“Are we expecting any danger?” Jarol asked.
“We don’t know what to expect, so I want to be prepared.”
“But is taking an armed-to-teeth troop a diplomatic approach?”
Dukat gave her such a look that she wished she could swallow back her words. Too late she realised he was not used to being contradicted. “I will not allow this team to beam down to an unknown planet without protection.”
He smiled. “I’m glad to hear that. Now, none of you speaks unless asked and I allow you to answer. We do not want any diplomatic errors, because the consequences could be severe.” She was not sure if the consequences meant that the Bajorans could hurt them, or if Dukat would punish them and she was certain that it was exactly what the gul wanted to achieve—vagueness.
The ‘diplomatic’ team beamed down to a place designated by Bajoran officials. As soon as Jarol was able to study her surroundings, her jaw dropped low in awe. The place was nothing like Cardassia: the nature attacked her senses with colours, sounds and smells. They stood on a path in some kind of garden on a steep hill or a mountain. The panorama was one of the most beautiful things Jarol had ever seen—there was a town below, bathed in rays of the yellow sun, with handsomely shaped buildings, full of trees and colourful bushes. Her attention shifted from the buildings at the base of the mountain to the building to the left. The path they stood on led to big doors, which now opened and a group of people headed the Cardassians’ way. Jarol though that if those were representatives of the Bajoran people, then it had to be some kind of governmental building—and it sure was a strange place for a building of such kind. Who built governmental buildings in a middle of nowhere, in a secluded place on a side of a steep mountain? And why?
Jarol’s eyes moved from the big and elegant building, which reminded her of something but she was unable to put her finger on it, to the Bajoran delegation.
Bajorans were scale-less and not grey. They reminded her of humans or Betazoids, but there was something unique to them. They had several horizontal ridges on their noses and one of them also above the hair over his eyes, where Cardassians had their eye ridges.
“I am Kai Opaka, the spiritual leader of the Bajoran people,” said a short woman in the lead. “Welcome to Bajor.”
Jarol did her best not to smile at the incredible resemblance of the person’s name to the Cardassian word ‘yes.’
“I’m Gul Dukat, representing the Cardassian Union. It’s a pleasure to be here. I must say your planet is beautiful.”
She dipped her head in thanks. “We appreciate everything the Prophets give us.” Jarol’s eye ridge raised slightly. Who were the Prophets? Rulers of this world? Weren’t the Bajorans independent? Were they enslaved? “Please, come in.” Kai Opaka gestured toward the building and everyone followed her.
Jarol studied the Bajorans. None of them commented on the armed troop accompanying them and she couldn’t help but wonder if under their loose robes they weren’t hiding some kind of weapons to protect their Kai Opaka. The glinn wished her own commander had chosen to be as discreet.
They entered the building and were led through a huge chamber and a yard full of flowers to another huge chamber with an oval table in the middle. There were more people in there, all wearing different kinds of robes, but there was something similar in how they all dressed. Jarol assumed they had some customs of following a particular style, not unlike the Cardassians.
Kai Opaka introduced the other people and at first Jarol thought that it was an unbelievable coincidence that so many of them had the same given name: Vedek. Only after a moment she realised that it was a function and started to wonder that perhaps “Kai” or “Opaka” also was a function and not a given name followed by a surname.
Dukat sent the guards to stand by the door and only the officers joined the vedeks and Kai Opaka at the table.
As instructed, Jarol kept her mouth shut and only listened.
When she returned to her ship, Zamarran himself welcomed her back in the transporter chamber.
“How did it go?” he asked.
They left the room and headed for the nearest lift. “Well, sir,” she began, “the Bajorans are friendly and very kind. They agreed to let us enter the wormhole under one small condition—we must be accompanied by a Bajoran ship.”
“Yes, I know about that. Before you beamed back, Dukat had contacted me and informed me of the terms he managed to negotiate.” She burst out laughing and immediately covered her mouth with both her hands, trying to muffle her reaction. Zamarran stopped and gave her a surprised look. “Did I say something funny?” There was some threat in his voice—one didn’t laugh at one’s gul!
She shook her head; her need to laugh vaporised without a trace. “No, sir. It’s just...Gul Dukat didn’t negotiate
anything. Once the question had been asked, the Bajoran officials told us that we are free to use the wormhole as we see fit, as long as we do not try to harm it. And their condition was for our own safety. They claim their gods live in the wormhole and if we enter it without Bajoran presence, the gods could become irritated and destroy us.”
“Gods?” Zamarran repeated.
“That’s correct. I don’t know how truthful it is, but it was obvious the Bajorans wouldn’t change their minds and by their presence they meant only a small ship with two militiamen on board, so Dukat agreed to their terms.”
Zamarran shook his head. “And he made it sound like a great victory.”
“A lie walks on short legs, sir,” she quoted an old Nokarian proverb, which meant that a lie had a short life and the truth sooner or later prevailed.
He gave her such a look she knew she went too far and shouldn’t have said that, whatever she—or he—might be thinking about Dukat. But after his silent reprimand, he smiled. “Get some sleep. Dukat told me that our big day is tomorrow and I want you to be rested.”
They entered the lift. She ordered the computer to take her to the deck where her quarters were located, while Zamarran proceeded to the bridge. She walked down the corridor and couldn’t get Bajorans out of her head. It’s not the people that bugged her, but their architecture. There was something in their artistic sense that felt so familiar.