Jarol entered Zamarran’s office and stood in front of the desk. He gestured for her to sit down, so she slumped into a chair.
“I read your report and I read the communiqué Gul Dukat had sent me about the current situation,” the gul said, not taking his eyes from his monitor. “But I wonder if there is some...behind-the-scenes information you left out from your official report.” He looked at her.
She slowly shook her head, considering whether the detail about Dukat’s conduct toward her should be shared. Finally, she decided it was irrelevant. “No, sir. However, since Gul Toral was the source of all information, you might want to ask him that question.”
“I did think about it,” Zamarran admitted. “But it could be taken as going behind Dukat’s back and...it shouldn’t happen.”
“He wouldn’t know if you did it right.”
Zamarran’s eyes became harder for a moment. “The chance that you might not be caught doesn’t mean you should violate the order,” he chastised her. Then, after she lowered her head, his tone softened. “I believe Toral told Dukat everything and didn’t hide any facts. He’s the lowest ranking gul here, so it’s not his call to decide which information should and should not be reported.”
“Yes, sir,” she whispered. Suddenly, she felt her fatigue strengthened.
“Go to your quarters and rest. You must report to Dukat’s ship tomorrow morning one hour before your shifts starts.”
Why? What did he want from her? Have a breakfast with him? “Did he say why?” she tried to sound calm.
“No, he didn’t share that little detail. Dismissed.”
She left the office and dragged her feet toward the lift.
“Damar, my office, please.”
The glinn looked at his gul and slowly followed him to the room behind the glass door.
was on its way to the destroyed Bajoran colony. Dukat had ordered the other two Cardassian warships to stay where they were and decided to investigate the matter himself.
“Have you sent the message I told you to?” Dukat asked Damar, sitting in his chair.
“Yes, sir. We did not receive any confirmation from the aliens, though.”
“Hmm...” Dukat leaned back in the chair, tapping his chin with his index finger. “Let’s hope they received it and will wait for us.”
“Sir...” Damar hesitated, but decided to ask the question. “Is there a reason why we left the other ships behind and go to meet those aliens alone?” He also wanted to ask why
Dukat wanted so much to talk to those aliens, but it was not his place to ask for reasoning behind the gul’s orders. The truth was, it was not his place to ask about the decision of separating from the other ships either, but he felt he had to do it. He could get away with one request for explanation, but not with two and he felt this matter was more important than the other.
“It’s for their protection. If the aliens turn out to be aggressive, they destroy only our ship and not the others.”
Damar saw no merit in this explanation. “If they are hostile, we’d have better chances of survival if there were three warships instead of one. The risk would be minimal for any of us.”
Dukat rose. “This is very short-sighted, Damar. We don’t want to go and show off with our strength. This is supposed to be a diplomatic meeting.”
“Then why not keep our warships close enough to help us, should the need arise, but stay far enough not to intimidate the aliens?”
The gul scrutinised his officer for a moment. “Is this cowardice I hear?” he asked eventually and Damar did his best not to snap at that. “Are you afraid to die?”
“No, sir, my—”
“We have to work in the best interests of Cardassia and if that means risking our safety, then that’s what we have to do. If you are not up to taking such risks, then perhaps you should consider a change of career.”
The glinn exercised his acquired masterly self-command not to react violently to the insult. After years of serving under Dukat’s leadership, he’d learnt to hide his true feelings and not react openly to challenges Dukat threw at him each time Damar dared to express his doubts. He was long past believing in Dukat’s greatness and sometimes tried to protect the crew from the gul’s own faith in his infallibility. Getting the whole crew killed was more important than being called a coward.
So, he only asked, “Am I dismissed?”
Dukat narrowed his eyes and then said, “Inform me as soon as we are in communication range of the alien ship.”
Stepping down out of the office and walking to his post, not for the first time Damar thought that maybe it was worth considering applying for a transfer. He knew Dukat hindered his career and if nothing changed, Damar was going to stay a glinn and a gul’s aide forever. He’d seen younger soldiers with shorter command training service getting their promotions and their own ships, while he was still stuck in the same place without any chance for an advancement. Dukat found him useful, so didn’t see a reason to resign from him. It was flattering in a way, but it’d been over twenty years and with each following year it was less flattering and more annoying.
But if he transferred, what would happen to the crew? Who would protect them? Who would protect Yassel and other pretty, young officers like her? There was no way he’d transfer away and leave them all. The only command he’d take was the command of this ship after Dukat being gone—however that would happen.
He looked at Jarol, who was pretty bored, because she had little to do when there was nothing to communicate to the other ships. He approached her.
“Busy?” he asked.
“Do I look busy?” She sighed. There was no irritation in her voice, just resignation. “Frankly, I have no idea what I am doing here.”
You’ll learn soon enough
, he thought. “Do you mind analysing some data?”
Her eyes shone. “I’d kill to have something useful to do.”
He smiled. “I’ll send it to you in a moment. I’d like you to estimate the alien’s value in battle. I have the report from our tactician, but I think another set of eyes might notice different things or come to difference conclusions.”
“I’ll get right on it.”
“We’re being hailed,” Yassel announced suddenly. “By the aliens.”
“Call Dukat to the bridge,” Damar ordered and a few moments later the gul stepped onto the deck and sat in the command chair.
“Open frequencies,” he ordered.
The alien with long, wrinkled ears filled the screen. “I have received your message and decided to meet you half-way. My name is Weyoun
“I’m Gul Dukat, the ranking Cardassian gul in his sector.”
Damar thought that it sounded like the sector belonged to Cardassian territory.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Gul Dukat. I would like to learn more about you and your people
Dukat smiled. “Naturally.”
“If we could meet personally, it would make our conversation much easier and perhaps more productive.
“How do you propose to do that?”
“I could visit you on your mighty warship. I’d only take two Jem’Hadar with me
,” Weyoun explained.
“I see. I’ll consider your proposal and will notify you by the time we’re in transported range. You have transporters, don’t you?”
“Of course. I await your decision
The alien signed off and Damar looked at Dukat. “What does he want to talk about?”
“I intend to find out. Prepare the ship for his visit. I am sure those...Jem’Hadar are going to be armed, so make sure they don’t pose any threat to anyone or anything. Secure the stations and panels.” The gul looked at his tactician. “Motran, you will be personally responsible for safety of this ship, but also for safety of our unusual guest. I don’t want any incidents.”
“Jarol, it’s time to use your skill for something useful. Analyse the ships defensive and offensive capabilities. I’m sure we’re in the range to scan them properly.”
“Yes, sir, we are,” she confirmed and started working.
“Sir, we’re in transporter range,” Motral reposted suddenly.
Jarol raised her head to look at the tactician; she was so busy she didn’t feel the passage of it.
“Jarol, is you report ready?” Dukat asked her.
“Most of it, sir,” she answered. “There is a lot of hypothetical information that might turn out important, so I didn’t want to leave anything out.”
“Is there anything you consider especially important or accurate that you could tell me now?”
Jarol leaned over her console to study the readings and answer the question. A moment later she straightened back to look at an empty command chair. And just at the same time she felt a warm breath on her neck ridge.
“Well?” Dukat’s voice said softly into her ear.
Her heart stopped and she realised she felt like a trapped animal: she knew there was no escape and whatever she’d decide to do, the following results were not optimistic. She had two choices: either move away, squeezing herself between him and the console, which meant that the body contact would be made, or tell him to step back and face the consequences of talking that way to her superior. To the superior of her superior.
All those thoughts passed through her mind within a split second and even before they had fully formed, her mouth snapped. “Step back.” The growl in her throat, the anger mixed with fear, slight baring her teeth when she said the words...it all indicated that she was ready to bite, be damned the consequences.
The first thing she registered was Yassel’s face. Astonishment and admiration. Damar, who stood next to the female communication officer, slowly shook his head, sending Jarol a warning.
Dukat stepped back a bit and Jarol wasn’t sure if he was more surprised by her defensive attack, or...
One look at him was enough to know what it was: pure fury. If his sight could kill, she’d be dead on the deck now. But that fury was quickly replaced by a sickly sweet smile. Jarol wasn’t fooled; Dukat’s mood didn’t change. He was a master of hiding
his true feelings.
“I meant nothing, of course,” he said, stepping back and raising his hands in a defensive gesture.
She didn’t buy any of it. And she mentally prepared herself for his revenge, for she was absolutely certain that this man didn’t leave any matters unfinished. And she had just become such an unfinished matter.
As insecure as it made her, she forced herself to look back at the panel to deliver her report. A wave of relief washed through her when Dukat’s shadow moved away. He returned to his chair.
“Stay with me at all times.” Jarol raised her eyes to meet the blue eyes of Dukat’s aide. He had a serious look on his face. He had soundlessly approached her console and now stood on the other side of it with a padd in his hand.
“Why?” she asked quietly, returning to her work.
He punched a few buttons on his padd, glancing at her console to make an impression of imputing the data he was reading into his device. “Because what you did was probably the most foolish thing you have done in your entire life,” he said quietly, studying a diagram on his padd’s display. He looked up at her and seeing her almost panicked face, he barked, “Carry on!”
She understood the message and forced herself to control her emotions and concentrate on her work.