The skyline reminded him of a broken smile. A year had passed and still many Cardassian cities remained as flattened as this one. The city seemed dead, except for the bustle around a new construction project in the center of town. It was to be a new building, the first temple erected for worshippers of the Oralian Way in decades.
The appearance of construction crews and the yammer of men returning to work, not to mention the reclamation of a venerable Cardassian religion and all of the suppressed culture that went with it, should’ve heartened Elim Garak, but it left him bitter instead. He stood in the shadow of one of the skeletal buildings, looking at the near celebratory mood suffusing the project. Average citizens and even soldiers had joined the workers, so many taking a hand in restoring a sense of normalcy to a universe gone mad and hungry for Cardassian blood.
The construction vehicles bore the mark of Mintof Urlak’s conglomeration. He knew that Urlak was just doing this to lock up the votes, for an election that was already a foregone conclusion. But Obsidian Order agents left nothing to chance and Urlak had been among the best of that breed.
And now he stood poised to take over Cardassia and restore the dictatorship that had just led Garak’s people to near genocide. Of course the desperate and hungry, the hopeless couldn’t see it, but Garak knew first hand of Urlak’s intentions. The man had revealed them just before he killed Natima Lang and framed Garak for the murder.
Garak had long given up on any chance of a happy reunion with his people. He had gone from a hero of the Dominion War to public enemy number one in the span of a few months. He knew what he had to do, to save Cardassia from itself, would not be understood by his kind. They would hurl insults at him, they would curse his bloodline, for eternity, but that didn’t matter. Urlak had to be stopped, no matter the cost.
“You really need to stop this skulking around,” Illiana Ghemor said, “Before long even I’m going to think you are a criminal, and I know what actually happened on Deep Space Nine.”
Garak hadn’t heard the woman’s approach and he chided himself for getting lost in reverie. He couldn’t be off his game when he finally went after Urlak. “Illiana, you look different,” he said, remarking on her new disguise.
The woman grimaced, “Even your rapier wit has grown dull,” she said, scratching her face.
“I’ll make certain to polish up,” he said, a glimmer of his former insufferable self, emerging. “Problems with the skin graft?” He asked.
“Yes, it is discomforting,” she admitted. Garak felt a pang of sympathy, and then quickly squashed it. If this woman hadn’t been part of Urlak’s conspiracy, if she hadn’t replaced Kira and compromised DS9’s computer systems, Premier Lang might still be alive.
The very thought of it made Garak want to eliminate the woman right then. But he was never a man who had been moved much by emotion, at least when he made his best decisions. And Illiana served a key part in his plans for revenge. It didn’t hurt that the woman realized now how Urlak had manipulated her and even fancied that she shared a familial bond with Colonel Kira.
“To what do I owe this visit?” He asked.
“The news stories aren’t working,” she said, “No one cares about financial shenanigans when they are freezing or starving.” Thus far Ghemor had been vital to Garak’s plans to expose the web of shady business dealings Urlak had been involved in over the years, not to mention the obscene amounts of money he was pouring into the election. “Urlak is giving the people tangible things while we are giving them only chimeras.”
“I am building a case and it will take time.”
“The election is this almost upon us,” Ghemor pointed out. “None of these revelations are the bombshell you said you would deliver. Don’t you think now is the time for the November surprise?”
“No,” he shook his head. “Urlak’s election is a foregone conclusion. I want him to win.”
“I want him to feel comfortable, safe, I want him in one place, all the better when I strike,” Garak promised, a maniacal heat warming his cheeks. “These stories are just strands on the web that will trap him when I spring the most devastating charges. He’ll have nowhere to run, his credibility will be shot, and the people will finally know the truth. Even if they hate me for it, they will do the right thing.”
“And what if they don’t,” Ghemor countered, “It’s not like our collective moral compass has been all that right before. First we oppressed our own people, then the Bajorans, and eventually tried to fight a war against the whole quadrant. Maybe you need to be honest and see us for what we are.”
“And what is that?” Garak hissed, ready to flick his wrist and produce the fold-out disruptor connected to it.
“Predators,” she said.
“We are predators,” he admitted, and she gave him a shocked expression. “Are you surprised I felt that way?”
“Yes,” she admitted, “I was starting to wonder if your time in exile had made you idealize our condition.”
“No less than your time spent among the Bajorans,” he riposted. To that, Ghemor could only give a solemn nod.
“We are predators, but we are also something more, something we have forgotten,” he pointed to the temple. “And I will not have Urlak sully the good that is still in us.”
“I will return now,” She said, “I don’t want to raise suspicions.”
“Continue disseminating the information I provide, and trust that it is having the desired effect,” he promised.
“You’ve just got to know what the desire is,” she remarked. He mirthlessly chuckled.
“Correct.” He conceded.