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Old April 1 2011, 05:17 AM   #136
Gul Re'jal
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

Chapter 2


New Bavosal, Nokar, Cardassia Prime



Demok thought that New Bavosal could be a place where the best artists on Cardassia could live. The city was like a walk through a stylish palace. The city resembled a holoprojection: it was clean, regular and new. Perfect. Bushes in parks were trimmed to resemble the local fauna, including birds and small mammals that lived in these parks. The town was built around a small lake that made a central point of the park in the middle of New Bavosal. The lake and the park themselves were a kind of nature sanctuary. Clean streets, many for only pedestrian traffic, seemed to be designed to resemble different architectonic styles.

Demok and his mother had spent the first two days merely walking in the central park and on pedestrian streets. They had bought of lot of useless objects, mostly knick-knacks, from countless stalls that occupied the narrow lanes. On the third day they decided to visit what was left of Bavosal—the original town, next to which New Bavosal has been built.

There was very little left. Most of the remains of the older town were removed due to respect for those whose bodies were buried under the rubble, but there were a few buildings left—as a genuine monument to the place that so many people had called home. It was not allowed to approach the ruins closely for the safety reasons—they were surrounded by an energetic barrier—but the open-air museum was arranged to let visitors enter a hollow circle between the buildings, where a monument stood. The monument was a single and a very tall concrete beam. Demok’s first thought was that it didn’t look impressive at all, but he changed his mind when he moved closer. He realised that there was something written on it. Names. Hundreds of names. Thousands of names. After a moment he realised that those were the names of the people who used to live here, in Bavosal, and died here.

He turned his head toward his mother to tell her about it and he realised that she wasn’t standing next to him any longer. He looked around and saw her sitting on the ground, just by the monument, with her head lowered.

“Mom?” he asked worried. “Are you all right?” Medic Nerot had warned him she might feel dizzy sometimes. The sub-archon crouched next to her. “Mom?”

She raised her head and he saw tears pooling in her eye ridges. “We should have done something...” she said quietly. “We should have done something earlier. We shouldn’t have allowed for this to happen...”

He sat next to her. “Mom, you did what you had to. It doesn’t matter when you would turn against them, because that Founder would have ordered to murder us all anyway. You did what you had to do. Her evil intent is not your fault and not your responsibility.” She looked at him, trying to muffle her sobs. “Mom, you risked your life for free Cardassia, you risked our lives for Cardassia and that was the right thing to do.”

“But maybe if we planned it better, maybe if we...did something differently, this—” she waved her hand around toward the ruins of the city “—would have never happened.”

“Mommy, you did the best you could. No one could foresee this. No one could have thought that anyone in his or her mind would order something like that. You couldn’t have known that Changelings have no conscience.”

“I should have known. We should have known.”

He took her hands into his.—When did they become bigger than hers?—He looked around to see if they drew attention, but those few visitors didn’t seem to stare. He saw a young girl realising what the writings on the monument meant and covering her mouth with one hand and wiping her tears with the other. His mother’s reaction probably wasn’t anything unique, new, or rare.

He regretted that they came here. He wanted to see the new town and the open-air museum, but now he regretted he had had this idea. He now promised himself not to take her to any places that would remind her of that war and the final days of it. He would never do that to Uncle Arenn, so why had he thought that he could bring her here? Because all of her family wasn’t killed? His father was, isn’t that enough?

Both his parents—yes, he considered Uncle Arenn his parent—had told him lots and lots of stories when he was growing up, but there were very few from the Dominion War and—in Jarol’s case—from the Border Wars. She never said anything about her time on Terok Nor, too, now called Deep Space Nine by the Federation. Now he understood better than ever why—those memories were too painful, too terrible to share with anyone, especially one’s child. They hadn’t hidden anything when he had asked questions, and he had had many questions after each history lesson, but they also had never volunteered to share details about what they had experienced back then.

“Come on,” he said, raising. “Let’s go back to New Bavosal.” He hoped another walk in the park by the lake would cheer her up. She enjoyed observing small mammalian creatures that apparently lived in the lake. They seemed to build their homes under the water level, but clearly breathed the air. One could buy food for them at the nearby stall and lure them closer, offering something they liked. It didn’t escape Demok’s attention that the animals were always in pairs, even when they came for the food. Were they siblings, mates or just ‘friends’—he couldn’t tell, but he found it adorable.

She let him help her up and they slowly walked back to the land shuttle to be taken to New Bavosal.



Lakarian City, Eheen, Cardassia Prime




Brenok informed the guard in the lobby whom he was going to visit and entered the lift. It took him to the third floor, where he left it to quite a big entrance hall with a hoverchair parked in a corner. He chimed and waited for a moment before the door opened. A tall and big man stood in it; a serious expression on his face was replaced by a friendly smile as soon as he saw who was the visitor.

“Gul Brenok, please come in,” he said, moving aside. “He’s waiting. He hasn’t been talking about anything else for the whole day. Next time please come for breakfast—that way we’d have to listen to that only through the morning.”

“Talking? How can he talk?”

“All right, writing and then calling either me or Temar to read it. That way or another—we can’t do anything because he draws all the attention. He interrupts us all the time!”

Brenok grinned. “And you hate it.”

“Of course I hate it!” The man grinned too. Brenok knew that all that nagging was a most wonderful gift to him, not in the least annoying. Having his brother back after twenty-five years—after being told that he had died, no less—was nothing less than a miracle. “I have a lot of work today.”

They walked along a long corridor to the last room—the day room. “Ignore him,” Brenok suggested, grinning.

The big Cardassian shot Brenok a glance. “Did you ever try to ignore him?” Brenok shook his head. “I don’t advise it. The price would be high.”

“Like what?”

“Like an awful drawing of an ol’rot with extremely long legs stuck to your room’s door.”

“An awful drawing?”

“He couldn’t do it himself, so he asked Temar to draw. Let’s just say not all my brothers are talented.”

They entered the day room. There were too men inside. One standing by a window and referring what he was seeing outside, and the other one on a special chair with an extended seat on which one could lie stretched legs and assume a half-sitting, half-laying position.

Upon seeing Brenok, the man in the chair started to bang his hand on the armrest. The other one silenced, turned his head to see who came and—seeing Brenok—smiled.

“If you forgive me, I have some cooking to finish,” the oldest man excused himself.

Brenok went to the man in the chair. “Tolkar, I hear that you have been naughty.”

Tolkar Saratt grinned and nodded his head. The man was in a terrible physical condition as a result of unbelievably cruel Obsidian Order experiment, but his spirit did not give up and he seemed to enjoy every moment of his life, regardless of limitations: he could not walk, he could not speak and his hands’ movements were limited. Brenok knew that he had worse days, but he never witnessed any. His older brother, Tabar, had told Brenok that the gul’s visits always improved Tolkar’s mood.

Temar Saratt, the youngest from all three, put a chair next to his brother’s chair and invited Brenok to sit on it. “I’ll help Tabar,” he said and left the two Cardassians alone.

“How are you feeling?” Brenok asked.

Saratt shook his head and grabbed a big padd that Brenok had built for him over two years earlier. The padd allowed his not fully functional hands to write intelligible words with a special stylus; a typical Cardassian padd would be too small and too bulky for that purpose. Brenok had based this design on Federation padds.

The gul waited for Saratt to finish writing and then took the padd to read it.

Tolkar Saratt was a painter. He was unable to paint any longer, as his fingers were incomplete and he wasn’t able to firmly hold a brush, not even mentioning that his arms were too weak and too unstable to let him paint, but even when he drew something simple on the padd—as he did now—it was obvious that the man had a gift. Brenok had seen his paintings, he owned two of them, and he regretted that this talent wouldn’t produce any more art.

Now, he enjoyed the simple drawing of a Cardassian couple, holding hands, and one of them wearing a bride’s robe.

“You’re getting married?” Brenok asked him.

Saratt gave him a look that made Brenok laugh. The painter’s eyes said ‘Are you kidding me?’

“Tabar is getting married?” Brenok guessed again, again knowing that it wasn’t that.

Saratt raised his hand and gently put it on his forhead. Obviously, the idea of his older brother marrying anyone was even more ridiculous than his own wedding.

“Temar?” Brenok asked.

Saratt nodded. Then he wrote something on the padd. ‘She’s as silly as he is.’

“Why silly?”

‘They dive all days and study dead soktu.’

“What’s a soktu?”

Saratt explained that it was a kind of plant that grew under water. With time older parts died and changed into a hard matter and only soft parts on the top were alive and kept growing.

Brenok smiled. “You are becoming an ocean specialist.” The youngest brother was such a specialist and it seemed like he shared his knowledge and passion with his siblings.

‘Can you gag him for me, please? I can’t listen to this any longer!’

“Gag him yourself. Some exercise will do you good.”

‘Cruel, as every soldier.’

“That I am.”

They laughed; Brenok loudly, Saratt voicelessly.

Temar Saratt entered the room. “I hope you’re hungry, Arenn. Tabar got carried away with the amount of food.”

“Which reminds me!” Brenok rose and returned to the corridor where he had left a package he had brought with him. He took it to the kitchen.

Tabar Saratt opened the packet and exclaimed, “And who will eat so much fop?!”

“I heard someone here makes good jams,” Brenok said.

“I heard that!” Temar’s voice came from the day room.

Tabar grinned. “Oh, yes. He’s a real master. Thank you. You didn’t have to but thank you.”

In spite of the oldest Saratt’s words, Brenok knew that he had to. They had invited him and he would eat their food from their rations. It would be rude not to share something to fill the void and let them save some rations on something else. Fruits were always a good idea and there were very few Cardassians that didn’t like a ripe and juicy fop.

The dinner consisted of steamed taspar eggs, Brenok’s favourite dish gofut, two different types of salads, red leaf tea and fresh fop juice.

“So what happened that you had to postpone your visit?” Temar Saratt asked Brenok. The gul was supposed to visit them a week earlier, but these plans had to be changed.

“Um...” Brenok hated to change the good mood to something grim. “My neighbour died.”

All three brothers looked at him.

“What happened to him?” the oldest one asked eventually.

“Old age and, I think, he was unwell for a long time.” Brenok paused and put away his spoon. “He had no one. He lost his whole family in the Dominion attack, so we had to take care of him and his mourning ceremony.” He paused again. “They say he didn’t say a word since the attack, since all whom he loved were killed.” Brenok thought that he was so close to the same fate—lonely, quiet, unhappy...

“That’s so sad,” Tabar Saratt said. Brenok knew Tabar’s wife and both of his children died that day too. There wasn’t one Lakarian that hadn’t lost someone that terrible day. There wasn’t one Cardassian that hadn’t lost someone that terrible day. However, some of them had lost everyone that day and there was no worse fate for a Cardassian than to be family-less.

“I could have been him...” Brenok whispered in spite of himself. He didn’t want this dinner to be a sad event, but he couldn’t stop talking. “I could have stopped talking, singing and impatiently wait for the death to come and finally take me.”

‘But you aren’t.’ Tolkar Saratt was equipped with a kind of stick, which he used to ‘speak.’ Even the knocking the characters of the flash code, which he used for communication, sounded softer now.

“No, I’m not.”

“Why not?” Temar asked.

Brenok looked at him. The youngest Saratt had a gentle expression on his face, encouraging the gul to answer to the question, to find out—to realise—what had made it different for him. He thought for a moment. “Because I wasn’t alone,” he said at length. “I had no family, but I still had my friends.” He thought of Atira and her support, in spite of the fact that she had needed some too; she had lost her husband in that war and had been expecting a baby. He thought of Latana—an Oralian orphan who had showed him that he’d been still needed by someone. And of Laran who had been born shortly after the war and the presence of that little, troublesome boy had brought first happy smiles to Brenok’s face. They became his family. He was not family-less any longer. “Atira was there for me. And Latana and her friends. And Laran. I never stopped missing my little girl, but he was and still is a precious treasure in my life.”

Tabar smiled. “That fact that you have another child—even if technically he is not yours—doesn’t mean you stop loving the older one.” Brenok looked at the oldest Saratt. “You don’t have to feel guilty that Laran was making you happy, even though you still mourned Tasara. Loving a new child doesn’t cancel loving the older one.”

‘Of course it does,’ Tolkar protested, looking defiantly at his older brother.

“That’s right, it does!” Temar confirmed with triumphant face expression.

Tolkar slammed his palm—gently—against the table, as if saying ‘damn, he’s got me!’

Brenok smiled. He appreciated the change of mood to something brighter. “Administrator Saratt, the gofut is almost as good as my wife’s.” He put a full spoon of gofut into his mouth.

Tabar smiled. “That’s a high praise. I’m glad it meets with your approval.”

“Ummmm,” Brenok mumbled with his mouth full and the two younger brothers burst into laughter.
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Old April 1 2011, 05:21 AM   #137
Gul Re'jal
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"


Lakat, Eheen, Cardassia Prime




“Dad!” Chumi shouted, running to her father and wrapping her arms around his neck as he leaned to her much shorter self to make that gesture possible.

He pressed her to his chest. “Bei’asara, Precious.”

She grabbed his hand a pulled him deeper into the apartment. Inaya, his sister-in-law, stood in the door to the day room. “Welcome back,” she said smiling. “We expected you several hours ago.”

Tavor Karama shrugged. “Ship’s business. Where’s Tasar?”

“Here.” Tavor turned to look at his older brother, who had just left the kitchen, wiping his hands in a cloth. “How long will you stay?”

“Only a few days.”

Tasar’s left eye ridge went wider. “‘Only?’ I’d say that’s quite something, considering how busy the flagship is.”

Tavor smiled. “Well, I think it’s because Brenok wanted some time off to visit Jarol.”

“How is she?”

“Better, as far as I know.”

A small figure appeared behind Tasar. The older brother must have felt the presence as—without looking—he said, “Stop hiding and tell your father what you did last week.”

The little figure hid behind his uncle’s leg.

“Tarin?” Tavor leaned over to have a better look at his seven years old son. The boy moved to avoid being seen. “Tarin, come here.” Tavor’s voice was soft but had a commanding tone. He stretched his hand toward the child. “Come and tell me.”

Tarin shyly moved toward the offered hand. He grabbed it and let his father lead him to the day room, where they sat at the dining table.

“What happened?” Tavor asked.

The boy looked at his feet.

“Tell him, or I’ll tell him,” Tasar said. Then, he returned to the kitchen.

“Dad, it’s because of me.” Chumi wrapped her arms around her father’s shoulders from behind and leaned her head on the back of his. “He meant well.”

“I’m intrigued now.” He looked at his son. “Tarin, what did you do?”

Suddenly, the boy’s demeanour changed. Fire burnt in his eyes as he looked at his father. “That idiot shouldn’t have said those things! He asked for it. No stupid moron will make my sister cry! He got what he deserved!”

“As far as I remember, you got what you deserved too,” Inaya interjected.

Tavor sighed. “I’m very happy that all got what they deserved. Now, again and from the beginning. What happened last week. And why Chumi cried?” He turned his head to look at his daughter.

“There’s that boy,” she said. “And he liked me, but I don’t like him. He’s a bully. And he said that I was so pretty and so special, but I don’t like him. And then he started to call me names.”

“What names?”

“I’d rather not repeat. Those were ugly and dirty words. Tarin heard that and rammed him and...well...got smashed on the wall.”

Tarin jumped on his chair. “I did not!” he shouted with indignation.

“Yes, you did,” she insisted.

“You fought at school?” Tavor sent his son a look full of astonishment. “Why didn’t you tell someone that he called your sister names? Why did you attack him? A boy almost twice your age!”

“I’m not an Obsidian Order agent, I am not a fogar!”

Tavor was speechless for a long moment. How come his young son knew such a word as ‘fogar?’ The glinn wasn’t happy that his child knew such a pejorative and full of contempt term, which denoted a person who sneaked upon his or her neighbours and family to turn them in to the Obsidian Order, and that he used it. “Tariiiiiiin.” Tavor let out a long sigh. “First, don’t use words like this. Say ‘I don’t tell on other children’ instead. Second, you can’t fix things this way. This is not right.”

“No one will call my sister a ‘federant,’ or a ‘flathead!’” the boy shouted.

“Tarin!” Tavor’s voice gained a sharp tone. “You will not use that word ever again!”

“But he—”

“Not a word more!” the glinn boomed. He hated raising his voice, he hated showing any aggression toward his children, but sometimes it was necessary.

Chastised Tarin lower his head “Yes, father,” he said quietly, his sight returning to his feet.

“You also will not fight at school. Regardless of others’ wrong behaviour. You will tell your teachers and your uncle and those naughty children will be dealt with. You do not deal with this yourself!”

“Yes, father.”

Tavor observed his son for a long moment, giving him time to think about his behaviour and his father’s words. The glinn glanced at Inaya. “Was he punished?”

“Yes,” she confirmed with a nod.

“Good.” His voice became softer. “Now, come here and give me a big hug.”

Tarin raised his head and Tavor saw tears shining in his eyes. It almost broke his heart. The boy jumped from the chair and ran around the table to his father with his arms stretched toward him. “I’m sorry, Daddy!”

“I know.” He knew that Tarin hadn’t apologised for fighting, or for ‘protecting’ his sister. He had apologised for disappointing his father and for making him angry. Tavor hoped that some day his son would understand why his behaviour was wrong.

For now, though, he planned to enjoy his stay with his family. He only hoped Amrita could have been with them.



Akot, Eheen, Cardassia Prime



Ya’val smiled, seeing Ma’Kan approaching the table. He hadn’t seen her for too long. The last several times that the Damar had been near Cardassia Prime for them to meet, she had been ‘on the hunt,’ as she called her missions. This time they were luckier and the schedules of both of them allowed them to steal a few hours and have a dinner together.

She had changed since the time she had left the military almost three years earlier. After the mission, during which they had found an old Obsidian Order experimental vessel and had witnessed terrible tortures two Cardassians were submitted to, she had decided to dedicate her life to hunting down former Obsidian Order agents that were still in hiding and didn’t pay for their crimes yet. She had a few successes on her account.

“Zerin, you gained weight,” she said instead of a greeting.

“No, I did not!” he shouted with indignation, straightening up in his seat.

She laughed. “All right, you did not.” She sat. “Did you take a look at their offer?” she asked, pointing to a dish list padd.

“I did. Everything appears so tasty I’d like to sample a bit of everything.”

“You will gain weight, then.” She seemed to be in a good mood.

He smiled. “You look nice. I mean, really, really nice,” he said.

She gave him an attentive look and studied his face. “Thanks,” she replied eventually. “I grew my hair a bit longer. Now it doesn’t interfere with my duties.” She winked.

It wasn’t only her hair, it was everything about her. Without heavy armour and easy-to-make hairdo replaced by a much more elaborate one, she looked more womanly than he had ever seen before. An idea popped in his head. “Is there someone?” he asked.

“Who?”

“Someone special? Did you meet someone?”

“Because of my hair?”

“Your hair would be the result.”

She shook her head. “No,” she answered shortly.

Shame, he thought. She deserved the best man in the Union. “So...what do we eat?” he asked.

They started to choose and mark desired dishes. The dish list padd sent their requests to the chef and they waited for their food to be brought to them. They talked about her latest assignment and about his service aboard the Damar. She asked how were the others—the officers she knew and with whom she had served for twenty years—and returned Ya’val’s question about meeting someone special.

Those infrequent get togethers were an extension of gatherings that they used to have with Gil Sabal, their friend who had been murdered by a mad Efrosian three years earlier. They rarely talked about Sabal; Ya’val knew that Ma’Kan had been shattered by the gil’s death and he didn’t want to bring the sad subject. When they talked about him, they both choose only happy memories.

That day, however, Ya’val wanted to hear about her newest case—one that she wanted to take very much, but couldn’t due to Cardassia’s stiff relations with the Federation. With these relations changing and warming up, there was a chance she could finally try to find that man who had a lot to answer for and who was presumably hiding in the Federation territory for last fifteen—twenty years.



tbc
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Old April 1 2011, 05:53 AM   #138
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

"Of course I hate it!" Oh, I could see the happy grin Tabar Saratt said that with.

And the ol'rot on the door--good job, Tolkar and Minion!!! You teach your brother that ignoring is futile!

And is Ma'Kan going to get Garak? GET HIM! He was in the Orias system; he is guilty! Your Garak deserves death. Painful, nasty, slow death.

As for Jarol...I wonder if she'll come to realize her "hero" was the source of the Dominion's evil in the Federation.

One final note. The little mammalian creatures were cute, how they stayed with their mates.
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Old April 1 2011, 06:03 AM   #139
Gul Re'jal
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
And is Ma'Kan going to get Garak?
I am not sure of that, but he certainly fits the description She it is possible that she is after him, now. Consider what she had seen on that Obsidian Order ship, it would be partially personal, too.
Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
As for Jarol...I wonder if she'll come to realize her "hero" was the source of the Dominion's evil in the Federation.
I think she understands that intellectually. Still, she's not free of that spell he had cast on her.
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Old April 1 2011, 06:10 AM   #140
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

It's a shame the AU version is SO much of a different person to her--a twin with the same name--rather than an example of what her Dukat could've been if he'd made better choices. (I know she probably thought certain parts of his personality were weakness...but that's a shame.)
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Old April 1 2011, 06:40 AM   #141
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

I'm not sure understanding that would help her to free herself from that spell.

This "spell" is something that she would have to come to understand on her own, it cannot be shown or explained to her. Her heart would have to understand what the mind already knows.
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Old April 3 2011, 02:43 AM   #142
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

I saw this over in the DS9 caption contest thread, and I just HAD to do a "special entry" over here.



Garak said the words "Lakarian" and "painter" in the same sentence.

When he said them again during the classified part of his tribunal, they were in flash code.

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Old April 3 2011, 02:50 AM   #143
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

If he says them again in one sentence, he might not have anything left to flash code any longer. He has no right to use those words!
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Old April 3 2011, 03:24 AM   #144
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

But they have to leave SOMETHING so that he can confess his guilt to all of Cardassia, or the tribunal serves no purpose!
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Old April 3 2011, 03:30 AM   #145
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

I didn't say it would be done before the confession, did I?
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Old April 3 2011, 03:45 AM   #146
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

Perhaps not. But yeah...I am still enjoying the thought of a little "accident" that could cause Garak to have that little "speech problem."

Ma'Kan: Awww, you really had some bad luck having to sit there on that exploding console while you were wearing that tracking collar around your throat. Don't worry, we'll hide all of the plasma burns before the tribunal.

(Actually Ma'Kan would NEVER lower herself to that level, ever. I'm sure seeing what the Order did impressed that on her. So, only in her imagination.)
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Old April 4 2011, 01:25 PM   #147
Gul Re'jal
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

Chapter 3


Tarav, Nokar, Cardassia Prime




Brenok left the transporter booth and Jarol could clearly see that he immediately wrapped his arms around him. She rushed to him with a thick, heavy scarf and wrapped it around his neck.

“Why did you turn off the heating?” he asked her with a mock complaint.

“Sorry, this is the warmest town in Nokar,” she smiled apologetically.

“You call this warm?” Brenok’s surprised was enormous.

“All right, let me rephrase that. This is the least cool town in Nokar. At this time of the year, that is.”

“You should have warned me.”

“I did. You ignored me. You said I was overprotective. Reminds me of someone else, who had said that, too, and now he wears fifty layers of clothing.”

“You think he’d share some?”

“Don’t count on it,” she said smiling. “Let go. We have heating in the hotel.”

“Good.”

Jarol didn’t think it was a good idea for Arenn to visit her at this cool time of the year, but he had insisted. She was sure he hadn’t realised that in Nokar it became really cold in the humid season, unlike warm and comfortable Eheen.

Luckily for Brenok, the hotel, in which Jarol and Demok stayed, was merely five minutes away on foot.

“It’s nice here,” the gul said, looking around. “Different from other cities on Cardassia.”

She smiled. “You mean ‘other cities in Eheen’. Elar is different, too.”

“I should travel more, shouldn’t I?”

They entered the lobby. Jarol picked the key card to Brenok’s room and continued to one of three lifts. “I suppose if one lives in the ‘most important city of Cardassian culture,’” she said the words in a pompous voice, “one isn’t dragged all around the planet to see other cultural treasures.”

He grinned. “We’re proud of our Nokar, aren’t we?” he teased her.

“No less than you are of your Lakarian City.” She mocked offence, raising her head high.

Then they both guffawed.

They entered Jarol’s room. Demok was there, reading a book; he glanced at Brenok. “Hi,” he said grimly.

Jarol knew he was still angry with his uncle for the war business. She hoped that the time they’d spend together would help them clear the air between them.

Brenok unwrapped the scarf from his neck—it was very warm in the room.

“How is the big world?” she asked, pouring the gul hot tea. “We here, in the province, don’t follow all the news.”

Brenok looked at her with a smile that said, ‘Stop that, already,’ and replied, “Legate Gortan is working closely with the Federation ambassador on changing our treaty.”

“Changing how?” she asked worried.

“They want to make it more...friendly. Not just ‘let’s stay away from each other,’ but more like ‘let’s hold hands’.” Her eye ridge raised. “Well, all right, maybe we won’t start dating, but they want it to be more than just non-aggression. Not full-blown friendship, but a step closer toward it.”

She put two cups with tea on a low table by the only window that looked out to the town’s main food market. “Good.” She was relieved, as for a moment she had worried that Gortan was just about to make a harsh cutting move. “I just hope they won’t agree to pool our military resources.”

“No, they won’t. I wouldn’t agree to that,” Brenok said. She knew all business regarding the military was Brenok’s responsibility and nothing could be done without his acceptance.

“Why not?” Demok barked from his corner, putting the book away.

“Because they would learn how weak we are.”

“So weak you wanted a war.”

“I didn’t want a war, I—”

“But you still voted for it!” Demok rose and threw the book at the seat behind him.

“And then I voted against it,” Brenok barked. “You seem not to remember that!”

This was not good. She didn’t want them to fight, she didn’t want them to hate each other. Laran was still very angry, Arenn was hurt and reacted defensively. Telling a Cardassian that he or she forgot something was not polite.

“Boys...” she said quietly, hoping she could help them end their little war.

Demok’s finger pointed at Brenok. “He voted for war!!!”

“He had no other choice!” Arenn rose form the chair too. He was taller, but thinner than Laran.

“Stop...” she whispered. “Stop it, please.”

But they stopped paying attention to her. She was sure that harsh words and insults would follow soon, each next one worse than the previous one. Arenn was patronising, Laran was aggressive. She couldn’t take it, couldn’t stand it any longer. She covered her ears with her hands, begging them to stop, but they didn’t hear her whisper—they were too busy shouting. She closed her burning from tears eyes.

Suddenly it became quiet. She feared to open her eyes but then slowly did just that. Both men were looking at her. Their faces were painted with worry.

“I’m so sorry, Atira. We shouldn’t argue,” Arenn said.

“Stop this. I have only you two and my dad. Stop hating each other, please.” Her voice was shaking and breaking. She was surprised hearing it herself. She became so weak; anything could make her cry, anything could break her. What was wrong with her? Was she going mad? Was her head so badly hurt that she was now a shaking, fragile weakling that couldn’t even stand witnessing an argument?

Laran sat on the chair next to her. “I’m sorry, Mom. Uncle’s right, we shouldn’t quarrel in your presence.”

“We shouldn’t quarrel at all,” Arenn pointed out.

Laran sent him an unfriendly look. Arenn leaned to her and put his hand on her shoulder. “Will you be all right alone for a moment?” he asked. She nodded. He grabbed resisting Laran’s hand and pulled him to the adjacent room.

She could only hear muffled voices, but did not understand words. She could recognise who was who, though; Arenn’s voice was smooth and gentle, Laran’s was resembling his father’s more with each year—rusty and coming from deepest parts of his throat.

She drank her tea and hoped that they would really solve their problem and clear the air between them, instead of agreeing to not to argue in her presence. She didn’t want them to fight. She didn’t anyone to fight.

She didn’t know how much time had passed when they returned to the room. She looked at their faces to see if she could guess how the matters were now; they both were smiling, but they couldn’t fool her—their smiles were a little too wide, too happy and too forced.

“I’m glad no one was killed in that room there,” she muttered. She knew her voice sounded angry, although she wasn’t.

Laran poured tea to all three cups—after disposing of his own and Arenn’s already cold beverages—and sat at the table.

“Tell me more about the treaty,” Jarol asked her friend. “What do people think?”

“Well,” he started, rubbing his chin, “the Union Institute of Opinion Polls and Statistics has already carried out two surveys. Most people want us to be on good terms with the Federation. Some would like out relations not to be changed and a few percent would prefer to stay in isolation. So it would seem that the majority supports the current direction.”

“That’s good,” she commented.

“What would you like, Mom?” Laran asked her.

“Does it matter?” she looked at him. They didn’t talk about politics during their trip. She wondered now if it was his choice, or it just never came to those subjects during their long conversations.

“It matters to me,” he answered.

“Why? Don’t you have your own opinion?”

“I do. And I know it. Now I want to hear yours?”

“Why?”

He observed her for a moment. “Is it a secret?” he asked eventually.

“No. I...” She didn’t finish. She looked at Arenn. What was he thinking about it? “What do you think?”

“I would prefer for our relations not to change. I think it is fine the way it is.”

“How about you, Mom?”

Maybe there indeed was nothing hiding behind his question; maybe he also was just curious and asked without hidden reasons. Maybe he wasn’t testing her, maybe it wasn’t a challenge, just innocent curiosity.

“I think it’s time to rejoin the quadrant. We cannot pose as a serious partner if we keep hiding in a corner like a scared gotresop.” She shuddered at her own thought of comparing Cardassia to a small mammalian pest that harassed Cardassian kitchens since forever.

“So why hadn’t you negotiated such a treaty?” Laran asked.

“It had not been not the time for that, yet. But things change. This has changed too. Will you fight again?” she asked them suddenly, without making a pause between her previous thought and the question.

The sudden question took them by surprise. They looked at each other.

“No, we won’t. I promise,” Arenn said finally.

We promise,” Laran added.

“Good,” she said quietly. She felt tired. She rubbed her burning eyes.

“Are you all right?” Arenn asked, leaning toward her.

“I’m fine. I just need some rest. We went hiking yesterday and it took a bit longer than we had expected.”

“Not mentioning,” Laran added, “that the trail was more difficult than we had thought.” He grinned.

“You walked out in that cold?” Arenn asked with incredulity in his voice, pointing to the window.

“It’s not that bad...once you get used to it,” Laran replied.

That was much better. Talking. Joking. Having tea together. No shouting. No sword-shaped words slicing through flesh deep into the heart.

“I think I need a nap,” she said.

They both rose to help her up and for one dreadful moment she feared they would start fighting over the right to escort her to the sofa that was opposite the window. But they didn’t; they only helped her up and then allowed her to go there herself. Laran brought a blanket and covered her with it.

Her last thought, before sleep took her, was the hope that Arenn and Laran wouldn’t kill each other while she was not there to separate them.






Brenok and Demok returned to the table and their cups of tea.

“I’m worried about her, Uncle,” the young man said quietly, glancing at his mother to check if she was sleeping and didn’t hear. “I’m really worried.”

“What’s going on?” The gul put away the cup; his tea was already cold anyway.

“She’s very emotional. She can go from euphoria to sadness within seconds. Sometimes I hear her crying at night. I asked about this once but she immediately changed the subject.”

Brenok recalled what Nerot had said: the bleeding in Jarol’s brain had been located in her frontal lobe and the damage could have influenced her thinking processes, emotional stability and even caused change of personality. The damage didn’t seem serious on scans, but Nerot had said that there still was a lot of things that medicine didn’t understand about how the brain worked and he hadn’t been able to guarantee that Jarol would fully return to health and her old self.

“Maybe she just needs more time,” Brenok whispered, aware that his shaking voice was everything but reassuring.

“You saw her reaction a moment ago. We only talked, it wasn’t even a heated argument. But she behaved like we were just about to kill each other. She is over-sensitive. She takes everything in and it doubles in her mind.” Demok paused for a moment. “She’s been a bit better for last two days, since you had confirmed your arrival. It cheered her up.”

Brenok thought that Laran should have remembered about it before starting that argument. He was glad they had agreed not to talk about it any longer, as they were unable to come to any sensible conclusion. What had been done, had been done and couldn’t be undone.

He looked at sleeping Atira. “Maybe we should consider a therapist.”

“I have already searched for good specialists and I have a few names. I’d like you to take a look at those names and their qualifications. And...I’d also like you to tell her. She would be less likely to reject the suggestion if it came from her brother than from her child.”

“All right. I’ll take a look at that list later.”

Demok rose. “There’s a small dessert shop nearby. I’ll go and bring some fruit milk shakes. She likes them. It would be a nice surprise when she wakes up.”

Brenok nodded and smiled weakly. “Good idea.”

“I’ll be back soon.”

After Demok had left, Brenok looked out of the window. Demok had warned him that her condition was deteriorating, but the gul hadn’t thought it was so bad. Her reaction to their mild argument was the best proof that she was very fragile. It wasn’t the first time they argued and some of their arguments had been really wild—Demok was a young man with his own opinions that didn’t always match Brenok’s—and she had never interfered, she had never had a problem with that. But today...she had reacted as if they had taken weapons and were ready to assault each other.

She suddenly sat, startling Brenok. He went to her; it was obvious she had a nightmare. He sat next to her on the sofa.

“It’s just a dream,” he said softly.

“I had a dream,” she whispered. “On the station, after the attack.” Brenok hadn’t known one could dream in a coma. “I was on a bank of a river and on the other side stood Corat and Mayel. They didn’t call me, didn’t want to come to me, didn’t pull their hands toward me. They just stared at me. With blank faces.” Her eyes, looking somewhere ahead of her, filled with tears. “They didn’t want to come to me. I called them and I tried to get to the other bank. I couldn’t swim over to them—I don’t know why...but I couldn’t...They didn’t want me. They were cold and didn’t want to be with me...” Her voice started to break and at some moments Brenok could barely understand what she was saying. He wrapped his arm around her. “My children didn’t...want to come to me...they...they—rejected—me...” She pulled her legs up and curled up on the sofa; Brenok stroked her hair gently. “They rejected...meeee...For what I am...”

“Shhh, this was only a dream.”

“No!” She jumped up to sitting position, leaned on her hands and looked at him. “No, it wasn’t! It was more than that. It happened! They hate me!”

“Atira, they died long time ago.” He knew it was horribly cruel what he had just told her, but he thought it was a lesser evil than her own thoughts.

“They died, but they are not gone. It’s not the end.” She curled up again. “Not the end,” she whispered.

He didn’t say anything. He didn’t know what to say. He dreamt of his daughter sometimes, but those were usually good dreams. Not always, sometimes he dreamt of her death or of her reaction to his right ear, but usually he had sweet dreams, as sweet as she was. He couldn’t imagine how he would feel if she were cold and indifferent in his dreams. He knew it would hurt, because dreams were all that was left after her.

“What if Laran feels the same?” Jarol asked quietly. “What if he wouldn’t like to cross the river too?”

“He loves you.”

She ignored his words. “What if he would not want me to swim to him? What if he would turn and go away? He’s an archon, he should do that. He should do that.” She silenced for a moment. “I told him about Ahal. He was appalled. I know he should be, everyone should be, but...it’s terrible when you—your own ch—child—” Her voice was trembling “—despises you. When your...own...son is...horrified upon learning who—you...are...” She started to sob. “All three---ee of them know what I...have...become...” She whispered the last three words.

“What are you talking about?” he whispered. “They loved you. You are a good mother.”

“But a bad...Cardassian.”

Brenok sighed. Did she really believe that her children—the spirits of her children—disowned her? It was merely a dream, a product of her imagination, of her brain, not more real than any other dream or nightmare.

He wished he knew how to help her. He promised himself to contact at least one specialist from Demok’s list before the end of the day. It couldn’t be left like this. She tortured herself and it had to be stopped.

Suddenly, she sat up. “But I know what I’ll do!” she said emphatically. “I know! I knew as soon as I woke up after that vision!” She turned her face to Brenok and he understood what Demok had meant saying that her moods had been changing suddenly from one extreme to the other: she was smiling. She looked like someone who solved a difficult problem and presented her remedy with a great satisfaction.

“What will you do?” he asked. He had no idea what else he could say.

She neared her face to his and looked into his eyes. “I can’t tell you,” she said. “I can’t tell you, because they cannot think that it’s for a show. But you will see and you will know. If you don’t see, that would mean I do it wrong.”

Riddles. Brenok didn’t know what to think about it. He was tremendously worried.

“I’ll clean myself,” she said raising. “Where’s Laran?” she asked.

“That’s a secret. He should be back soon.” He wanted to grin but he knew she would see how forced it was. He was too concerned to smile.

“Oh.” She observed Brenok for a moment and then headed for the bathroom.

Demok returned with six cups of different milk shakes and a bunch of flowers. They put three cups into a small ice-box that stood in the kitchenette and then made the table: they put the flowers in a vase in the middle of the round dining table, three chairs—not on opposite sides but near one to another—and waited for her to emerge from the bathroom.

When she finally joined them, she looked much better. Brenok hoped it would be enough for Demok not to guess how rough the nap had occurred to her. They seated her between them and Brenok demanded a detailed report from their trip so far.

Brenok was having his second cup of the milk shake—which indeed was delicious—and Jarol had her third, as Demok had given up one of his so that she could have more, when something materialised in front of them. The gul’s eyes opened wider; what was that! He was just about to press his wristcomm and call security, but Jarol reached for the small box. He glanced at her—she was grinning.

“Good timing,” Demok commented.

Brenok was confused. He understood nothing of this. Jarol unwrapped the box and opened it. There were six pieces of chocolate inside. She treated Brenok and Demok to one each and then closed the box without taking one herself.

The gul suspiciously studied the chocolate in his hand. “Where did it come from?” he asked eventually.

“Gul Toral sends them,” Demok explained.

Brenok felt his mouth stretching in a smile. He put the sweet inside. He wondered why she didn’t eat any; they were having dessert after all. Did it mean Toral’s efforts went unanswered? “Don’t you like them? They are delicious,” he said, trying to get an answer to his question without asking directly.

“I love them but three milk shakes are my limit for today.”

“Keeping fit?” he teased her.

“Contrary to Toral’s assurances, I’m not that certain he would like me if I looked like Legate Fostor.”

Did her answer mean she wanted Toral to like her? Did she want to look attractive for him?

He was glad to see that her mood improved. He wondered if Toral’s visit wouldn’t be a good idea.



tbc
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Old April 5 2011, 01:29 AM   #148
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

AU Dukat would tell Jarol that the reason her children didn't encourage her was because they knew it wasn't her time yet. In the Multiversal Round Robin at Ad Astra, there is one part he remembers, where he went to the edge of heaven--and in his own case his daughter did not allow him to see her, only to feel her presence, and he knew it was because it was not his time yet. And that is the only thing it would mean. AU Dukat would even say that it meant there was something left to do in the world, something that even the children, as much as they loved her, knew was important. Something that would help her, others, or both.

I'm not convinced yet that Jarol's tears are a bad thing. I hope it's not because of brain damage--because tears and allowing yourself to become "weak" can be one of the most healing things that a person can do.

However...I am worried that she is going to commit suicide if she goes too far. That would not be a good way to "cleanse" oneself. It doesn't serve her, or others, and I think that there could be rewarding work she could still do, if she would stop trying to be powerful, in control, and certain of everything.
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Old April 5 2011, 03:05 AM   #149
Gul Re'jal
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

That interpretation didn't even occur to Jarol. I think she connected their rejection with Laran's recent reactions to bad things she had done in her life. We know how important her children are to her and how important is what they think about her. She has only Laran to ask about it and right now I think she would be afraid to ask. She would fear what he would tell her. Being unloved and unrespected by her son would be the greatest nightmare she can imagine.

Her tears aren't bad. It's more like catharsis--cleansing tears and helping her to see.
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Old April 5 2011, 03:38 AM   #150
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

If AU Dukat could make himself visible and heard, he would tell her that. But he'd also warn her that the fact that he died young (tragically young by a Cardassian standards...even Tolkar seems like he may have more "free" years than AU Dukat had years in his life) does not mean that's her destiny, or should be her destiny.

I'm glad these are good tears, though, and hopefully she won't kill herself. Even when a person has sins and needs to make amends--that is oh so NOT the way to handle it.
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