“Don’t smack your lips,” Jarol chastised Brenok.
They were in his quarters, having their breakfast before their shifts started. It was their little tradition to do that every morning. Sometimes they ate in her quarters, sometimes in his and this morning he had invited her for ‘something special,’ as he advertised his surprise. It turned out to be a Nokarian donok
soufflé; something she hadn’t eaten for ages. His wonderful choice, which reminded her of home, got her into a good mood. It was a great start of the day.
She insisted. “Yes, you are.”
She didn’t want to engage into such a silly bickering, so she went quiet...and so did his smacking. They ate in silence for a moment.
“Are you scared?” she asked eventually.
He understood she meant their mission. “Scared? No, I’m not. Nervous might be a better word,” he admitted. “We’re going into unknown and not only have to get there through a rare phenomenon, but also have no idea what’s on the other side.”
“It sounded like Bajorans have travelled the wormhole many times. And so has the Federation.”
“Somehow it doesn’t make me feel any better.”
“Look at the bright side—they all returned.”
“All? We don’t know that for sure. Didn’t you say that Bajorans would accompany us for our safety? How come do they know there’s danger inside? Whom did their gods destroy?”
She had to admit he had a good point. She opened her mouth to agree with him, but instead slapped the table with her hand. “I know!” she shouted.
Startled, he stared at her with his fork half-way to his mouth. “Huh?”
“I know why it all seemed so familiar! I know!”
He put away his fork and leaned back in his chair. “Why?” he asked.
“Have you been to the Ancient Craft Museum?”
He shrugged. “Of course I have. I’m a Lakarian.”
, she rolled her eyes. ‘I’m a Lakarian; you know, the artistic and cultured Cardassian.’
Lakarian feeling of cultural superiority sometimes got on her nerves. Had she ever shown a farmland superiority of ‘we feed you’ complex? She suppressed her irritation and continued, “So you saw that ancient craft which was found near Helta Highlands.” He nodded. “And those vertical oval signs on it. And funny pictures.” He nodded again. “It’s the same
He clearly didn’t understand. “The same as what?”
“As what I saw yesterday in that government monastery building.” She still thought it was odd to call a governmental building ‘monastery,’ but who was she to criticise Bajorans’ choices and culture! “The ovals were almost the same. The pictures were simpler than the ones on the ancient space craft, but now I know what they are—it’s their writing system.”
“What are you trying to say? That we have a Bajoran spaceship in our museum? They weren’t warp capable that long time ago and neither were we.”
“Perhaps they were.”
“Nonsense. Besides, as an engineer I can tell you that the craft in the museum is not warp capable and it’s not
capable to travel from here to Cardassia Prime. Its construction is too fragile.”
“I’m telling you it’s the same artistic and visual style.”
He only shook his head. “It cannot be. It must be something similar. A coincidence.”
He laughed. “Hey! Not when I’m eating.”
She pushed her plate away and got up; not a shadow of amusement on her face. She was completely serious about the whole matter. “I’m going to talk to Zamarran.”
Brenok shook his head again. “Go ahead. He’ll tell you the same thing—that it’s impossible for such a ship to traverse such a huge distance.” Zamarran, before being promoted to a gul, used to be an engineer, so his knowledge of engineering was as vast as Brenok’s. Jarol ignored her friend, so before she reached the door, he called, “Wait! Why do you want to bother Zamarran with this?”
She spun in her axis to face him. “Don’t you understand? That means the Bajorans visited Cardassia a long time ago.”
“Did they mention anything about that?”
She was silent for a moment and eventually was forced to admit, “No.”
“Did they look in any way that they knew anything about us?”
“Not really, considering their glances at our neck ridges.”
Brenok’s face was blank. “Wh—do you mean they have no
“The only ridges they have are here, on their noses.” She pointed with her hand and made small horizontal moves. “And one of them had also gentle ridges here.” She slid her finger along the upper part of her eye ridge. “And none of them was grey. They looked very much like humans and only those ridges were something I’d never seen before.”
“You could have taken some holoimages.”
“I don’t think Dukat would allow any. He just told us to shut up and do nothing.” What she really wanted to say was ‘shut up and look pretty,’ but in case Nadar was eavesdropping, she kept that remark to herself.
“So why did he want you in the team?”
She shrugged. “Don’t ask me.”
He grunted and took the last bite of his food. Then he checked the chronometer. “Time to go to work.” He rose, leaving the table in post-breakfast mess. She rolled her eyes, because it wasn’t the first time he did that. But it were his quarters and his mess.
They left his quarters and together headed for the lift to take them to the bridge.
In spite of his dismissing the whole idea, on the way to the bridge Brenok did think about what Jarol had told him. The idea of the pre-warp craft reaching such a distant planet fascinated him. It was true that no one knew the origins of that ancient vessel and it didn’t seem like a Cardassian construction, but—Bajoran?
He remembered stories about aliens coming to Cardassia and crashing in the mountains, inspired by the mysterious ship, but the older he grew the more ridiculous the stories appeared. Even if the craft was alien and not some kind of strange, unsuccessful Hebitian experiment, it couldn’t be Bajoran. There was no way it could travel five light years under warp. Not with all dangers on the way, including volatile Badlands.
They both arrived on the bridge and spread to their respective consoles. Zamarran stood just behind Karama and Brenok had an impression that he expectantly was looking at the main viewer, as if waiting for something to appear on it.
“Ah, Gul Zamarran!
Brenok looked at the main screen to see the commander of the Ravinok
. So, they had been hailed just a moment before he and Jarol entered the bridge.
“Yes, Gul Dukat, what can I do for you?” Zamarran’s voice was nowhere near cheerfulness of Dukat’s tone. He slowly walked to his chair, turning his back to the screen, sat and then looked at the other commander.
“I was thinking...we have three ships in here and a very delicate mission. A precise co-ordination is required, don’t you think, mm?
“That’s obvious.” After serving under Zamarran for almost twenty years, Brenok could detect quite easily even well-hidden annoyance in the gul’s voice.
“I’m glad we agree
.” Dukat smiled. Brenok couldn’t understand where Dukat had seen agreement on Zamarran’s part. “I was thinking how to improve our inter-ship communication and I have an idea.
” He paused, but since Zamarran said nothing, he resumed. “Your aide has tactical background, isn’t that right?
” Without a break for any confirmation, he kept talking. “I will reassign her here, to my ship, to provide complete and detailed communication between all three vessels.
Brenok looked at Zamarran, expecting him to ask the most obvious question—why Dukat needed a tactician and not a communication officer for that job? But the gul said something else. “Why can’t we just use the good, old communication system?”
“I believe in a living element.
And then Brenok understood—Dukat wanted Jarol on his ship. Even if she were a cleaning lady, he’d find a reason to take her. The glinn felt sick in his stomach.
“I’ll consider it,” Zamarran replied.
The smile on Dukat’s face didn’t disappear, but...froze. It became a mask. “Now, there’s no reason to complicate things, mm?
“I need her.” While Brenok knew it was the truth, he also knew that Zamarran could do without her. But he didn’t intend to let Dukat get her into his claws.
The smile on Dukat’s face didn’t disappear exactly, but it changed its...intention. “Maybe I wasn’t clear
,” he said in a low voice. “It wasn’t a suggestion or a request. It was an order.
” The gul leaned back in his chair. “I await her aboard my warship in ten minutes.
” And the screen went blank.
Brenok hoped Zamarran would do something to stop that nonsense, but he was disappointed a moment later.
“Jarol, report to the Ravinok
. Don’t take any belongings with you, though, because you will be returning to your quarters after each shift.”
“Yes, sir,” she answered crisply.
“And notify me immediately if there’s any problem. Any problem,” he emphasised.
“Yes, sir.” She left the bridge, while Brenok stood by his console, clenching his fists. This was not good.
“Brenok, for the time of her absence you will serve as my aide,” Zamarran said. “I trust Ya’val can do fine in your place?”
“Oh, absolutely, sir. He’s more than qualified.” Brenok called Gil Ya’val to the bridge to take over the engineering post and then went over to Jarol’s console.
Nadar crawled out from his corner and approached Zamarran’s chair. “Why does he need her?” he asked.
“You heard him. To co-ordinate.”
“And you bought that nonsense?” Nadar asked with incredulity.
“Not a syllable. But he’s given me an order.” Zamarran looked at Nadar. “If you have any good ideas how to stop it, I’ll do what you say.”
Brenok thought. It wasn’t often that Zamarran was polite to Nadar, let alone ready to follow the agent’s instructions. But he—and Zamarran—also knew that if anyone here could overrule Dukat’s orders, it was Nadar.
The agent seemed to consider it for a moment, but then he just returned to his post without a word. A useless piece of—
“We received the order to move,” Karama reported from the communication console.
Zamarran and Brenok activated their consoles to confirm the receipt and read the details.
“Lasaran, enter course and follow the Ravinok
. Keep safe distance.”
Brenok observed the screen. He noticed a tiny, most likely two-person craft and guessed it was the Bajoran escort. The small fighter was in the lead, headed toward nothing, when suddenly the screen filled with blue, whirling phenomenon. Brenok barely muffled his gasp—whatever it was, it was beautiful. The Bajoran ship proceeded into the middle of the giant whirl and so did following it the Ravinok
“How can we know it won’t tear us apart?” Ya’val asked.
“We don’t,” Zamarran answered just when the Roumar
entered the maw of the blue anomaly.
If Brenok thought that the opening wormhole was beautiful, there was another surprise waiting for him. He stared at the screen and wondered what kind of elements created all those—
He shook his head, amused by his own thoughts, and switched his console to sensor readings. He didn’t have to guess, all he had to do was scanning and reading and he would have his answers served on a latinum plate.
Suddenly the flow of data stopped. Surprised, Brenok raised his head to look at the screen and saw that they had cleared the wormhole, which was announced by Lasaran a moment later.
“That was fast,” he heard Ya’val muttering.
“I want detailed reports from all departments.” Zamarran demanded. “I want to know about any negative influence this phenomenon had on us and our ship.” Confirmation of his order followed, while he turned to the tactician, Ma’Kan. “Scan the vicinity. Are there any vessels, planetary systems, nebulae or space dust that could pose danger to us. I want to know about everything before it hits us.” She nodded and made herself busy, while the gul turned to Brenok. “Anything from our inter-ship co-ordinator?” The glinn knew that the mockery in Zamarran’s voice was not targeted at Jarol.
He glanced at his display and, to his surprise, saw a message. “Indeed, there is something, sir. The Ravinok
demands full reports from us and the Radalar
on our statuses.”
The commander muttered something under his breath that sounded to Brenok almost like ‘no kidding.’ “Pass the reports as soon as they go through my approval,” Zamarran said.
“Yes, sir,” Brenok confirmed crisply.