ST: Shaping a Cardassian - "Strength Without Sacrifice is Useless"

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gul Re'jal, Jan 2, 2011.

  1. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

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    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.
     
  2. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

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    If he says them again in one sentence, he might not have anything left to flash code any longer. [​IMG] He has no right to use those words!
     
  4. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    But they have to leave SOMETHING so that he can confess his guilt to all of Cardassia, or the tribunal serves no purpose! :evil:
     
  5. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

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    I didn't say it would be done before the confession, did I? [​IMG]
     
  6. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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. :evil:

    (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.)
     
  7. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

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    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
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2011
  8. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2011
  9. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

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    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.
     
  10. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  11. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

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    She thinks she knows how to make them love her again. I don't think taking her own life would make them love her, so it doesn't seem to be her option.

    She already started to work on her mysterious plan, it's just not clear without knowing what it is. Hopefully, looking back at some things during this trip, it would be more visible.
     
  12. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

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    Sorry, this chapter is really dull, but some important things have to be said and have to happen, and all I managed is this dull setting for them :(



    Chapter 4


    Tarav, Nokar, Cardassia Prime



    “Why are your hands shaking?” she asked, scrutinising him.

    “I’m nervous,” he admitted.

    “Why? Is something wrong?”

    “I’m always nervous when I’m with you?”

    “Why? Am I wrong?”

    “W...what?” He burst into laughter.

    “You know,” she said, assuming more comfortable position in her chair. “This would be a good moment for a mysterious box to materialise in front of me. Here,” she added, pointing to the surface of an oval table in front of them.

    “I could do that, but I’d rather not.”

    “How could you do that and why not?”

    “I could ask Korel to do it, but I always liked to do it myself and...he doesn’t have to know details of my lo...ahem...life.”

    She looked at him again. Did he almost say ‘love life’?

    They were in an open air juice bar, sitting at a table that was the nearest one to the edge of the cliff over the sea. He had chosen this place and after a short research she had discovered that this was supposed to be the most romantic spot in the whole prefecture.

    They observed ships in the far distance and an old, inactive drilling rig that had become home for sea birds these days.

    She looked at him. His eyes were narrow slits—the sun was clearly blinding him—and he kept biting his lower lip.

    A terrible thought came to her... She had had two husbands and they both had died. What if it had been because of her? What if she had brought their deaths on them? What if she was some kind of doom bringer? What if she would bring death on Toral, too?

    What a silly thought!

    He must have noticed her worried face, because he asked, concern audible in his voice, “Is something wrong?”

    “No,” she shook her head, more to shoo away the thought than to emphasise her denial. “Nothing is wrong. Why are you nervous?”

    He smiled sheepishly. “I’m always shy with ladies. And you are no ordinary lady.”

    She put her hand gently on his arm. “I’m very ordinary.”

    “No, you aren’t,” she shook his head vigorously. “You are unique.”

    She squeezed his arm gently. He was such a sweet, patient and nice man. Always calm, always quiet. But there was something in him, some kind of persistence, of a clear understanding of the direction he wanted to go, of his goals.

    He put his hand on hers that lay on his arm. His palm was warm. He raised her hand and neared it to his lips. She didn’t resist and let him kiss it. Then she stroked his cheek gently.

    “Toral...” she whispered.

    “Hatinn,” he said quietly, observing her reaction.

    Her finger slid along his cheek ridge to his ear. “Hatinn,” her mouth repeated voicelessly. “You’re like Assurian chocolate.”

    He leaned to her, but to her disappointment kissed her only on a cheek. “Two pieces of Assurian chocolate,” she said. He kissed her on the other cheek. “Three pieces?” His eyes shone with a devious plan and...he kissed her on both cheeks. “A whole box of Assurian chocolates,” she said. He bit his lower lip, gazed into her eyes as if looking for the final permission and then his lips touched hers. It was a gentle, shy, almost innocent kiss. She felt like a teenage girl again.

    “You are so unbelievably beautiful,” he whispered. His hands weren’t shaking any more but his voice was.

    “And you are Assurian chocolate.”

    “Sweet and expensive?”

    She chuckled. How was it possible that she had never noticed how adorable this man was? She knew him for so many years and had barely noticed him. Now, however, he had all her attention.

    “I want to go for a walk,” she announced.

    “Where?”

    She pointed to the sea shore and a beach below. “There.” Seeing his surprise, she stretched her finger toward curved into the rock stairs that led to the beach.

    “Let’s go, then.” He rose, grabbed her hand and they headed for the stairs.

    When they arrived to the beach, she took off her sandals and barefoot ran to the sea. She started to walk along the shore. She enjoyed cool water washing over her feet. She looked back at Toral who stood nearby and observed her. She waved to him and he waved back. She made an inviting gesture but he shook his head. She sent him a flying kiss and resumed her walk. A few moments later she felt him wrapping his fingers around her hand. She looked at him. He stopped, but didn’t let her hand go, so made her stop too. He pulled her closer and kissed again—passionately.

    “I hope not to get executed, Legate Atira,” he whispered to her ear.

    “I can’t execute my Assurian chocolate.”

    Neither his hands, nor his voice shook. He gently stroked her hair. His eyes went from the top of her bun to her face and she noticed that his sight stopped for a short moment on her chanth.

    “Sufficiently blue?” she asked him teasingly.

    “Maybe I’m not very traditional, but I don’t care,” he answered. “I want you, not what you could give me.”

    His reply surprised her. Usually, a woman’s fertility was on of most important factors in choosing a partner. Toral didn’t seem to think about that at all; if he spoke the truth but she saw no reason to assume that he lied.

    “Hatinn,” she said, holding his hands, “You’re one unorthodox Cardassian.”

    “I hope so! That way I can stick out in the crowd of your admirers.”

    She laughed and he smiled. They resumed the wet walk, holding hands.

    She felt happy. “Hatinn,” she said after a moment of silence. “Can I ask you a personal question?”

    “Anything. I don’t have any secrets, not from you.”

    She smiled. That explained why he was admitting to his anxiety when being with her: no secrets. “Why haven’t you ever married?”

    He sighed. “Well...I promised myself to find someone after the war...that war with the Federation. The war ended but before I got to it...another one started. And after that one ended...” He silenced for a moment and she feared she asked about something painful. “I met that wonderful, beautiful, smart and independent woman...”

    “So, why didn’t you marry her?”

    “I intend to.”

    She let go of his hand. He walked with her here, he kept sending her all those chocolates and all that time he had been thinking ab...Wait a minute...

    His face expressed morbid worry. “Did I say something wrong?” he asked quietly. “I’m so sorry, maybe I’m too fast, maybe...I just...I just thought that you know I am serious about it. This is not a ploy, or some silly, immoral game. I...I really wouldn’t even dare to...”

    She approached him and put the tips of her fingers on his lips, forcing him to stop talking. “Shhh. I am sorry. I am sorry I never noticed. I am sorry I didn’t even occur to me that you’ve been talking about me a moment ago.”

    “What?! You thought I would tell you that I intend to marry someone else five minutes after kissing you! Who do you think I am!”

    His indignation, the anger in his eyes, was something she saw for the first time...the second time. She recalled when he had defended her from Gul Tarkan—over twenty years earlier. How could she have been so blind!

    “Will you forgive me?” she asked, lowering her eyes in a gesture of submission.

    But he only stood there. She felt her heart starting to beat fast; did she ruin everything? Did she insult him so badly she destroyed his long-term feelings within a second? She dared to gaze at him; he had a mischievous and impish grin on his face.

    “I’ll think about it,” he said, mocking offence and raising his head high. “But you will have to work hard for my forgiveness.”

    “I’ll do everything that has to be done,” she promised.

    “Good. For a start, walk along this beach holding my hand. Then, you will choose a restaurant and will have dinner with me. Then you will allow me to see you off to your hotel. Tomorrow we will repeat all today’s activities. No deviation from this plan is allowed.”

    Chari, gul!” she acknowledged all his ‘demands’ in an old, traditional submissive way, which now was used only among low ranking gareshes addressing their high ranking superiors.

    “Good. Proceed with the walk,” he said in a commanding tone.

    She kissed him on his cheek and pulled him along the beach.




    “No!” she yelled and left the room, shutting the door loudly behind her.

    Brenok and Demok looked at each other. “So much for the therapy,” the gul said.

    “We can’t leave it like that.” Demok scratched his head and looked at the door that his mother used for her noisy and furious exit. Not without a grim sense of humour, he thought that she was lucky that the hotel was a very old building and she could slam the door shut that way. He still could hear her furious ‘I’m not crazy!’ ringing in his ears. She knew how to raise her voice, she certainly did.

    “We’re not leaving it like that. But you heard what the medic said: for the therapy to bring any positive results, she has to agree to it. We can’t force her to see him.”

    “Maybe we should.”

    “He also said that her behaviour doesn’t have to mean anything that we should worry about. She’s healing after a terrible experience and emotional imbalance is not unusual in such cases. We should start seriously worry if her condition doesn’t improve for too long.”

    “And how can we know that by the time he thinks it’s time, it wouldn’t be too late?” Demok frowned, realising that what he said was so unclear that he wasn’t sure he understood it. “I mean...”

    “I know what you mean.” Brenok paused for a moment, taking a padd from a table. “I intend to contact two more medics from that list. I will ask them what they think about it.”

    “Maybe Toral could convince her that it’s for her own good.”

    Brenok gave Demok a sceptical look. “Toral is still uncertain of his new role and I am not sure he’d risk losing what he had gained just recently.”

    “Well, if he puts his own good over hers, then he can go to hell. She doesn’t need him.”

    The gul looked at the young Cardassian. He had to agree that it was a very good point and after looking at the matter from this angle, he thought that he had probably misjudged Toral. He couldn’t imagine the gul would care about himself more than about the woman he has been in love with for twenty years. This kind of faithfulness is all but selfish.

    “I’ll talk to him. I think they will see each other tonight too.”

    “Ask him now.”

    Brenok thought for a moment. “All right,” he agreed. “Let’s go.”

    “Do you know in which room he stays?”

    “I do.”

    They were at Toral’s door a few minutes later. The gul seemed a bit surprised seeing them. “Is there a problem?” he asked, letting them inside.

    “Yes, we have a terrible problem and maybe you could help us,” Brenok said.

    Toral gestured toward the dining table by the window, so they all sat.

    The long-haired gul cleared his throat and said, “We want you to try to convince Atira to agree to a therapy.”

    Toral frowned. “What kind of therapy?”

    Demok leaned forward. “We want her to start seeing a psychotherapist.”

    Toral’s frown deepened. “Why?”

    “You see her in a good mood, but she’s not always like that,” Brenok explained.

    “Of course she isn’t,” Toral shrugged. “She almost had been assassinated. You think it doesn’t leave any scars? Why do you think Daset resigned before his term?”

    Demok glanced at Brenok; he knew that Legate Daset, the previous head of the Central Command, had resigned after third attempt on his life. Things, however, weren’t so easy in this case.

    “It’s not only that!” Demok snapped, surprising Toral.

    “Just try, all right?” Brenok asked calmly. “Just try to talk to her.”

    “I assume your attempts to convince her were unsuccessful,” the gul’s eye ridge went higher. Both younger men nodded. “Do you really think I would have more luck?”

    “We’re ready to try everything.”

    “I can try, but if you didn’t make her agree, I don’t think I’d have any more influence on her decision.”

    “She might get furious,” Demok warned.

    “So I’ll run away like a scared vole.”

    “She might brake up with you,” Demok added.

    “I certainly hope she wouldn’t.”

    “But if she does...?” Demok kept asking. Brenok shot him a glance—did he think that the sub-archon was testing Toral?

    The older gul didn’t seem to enjoy the questioning. “I will talk to her tonight,” he said, ignoring Demok’s demands.

    “That’s all we ask,” Brenok said and rose. Since Demok didn’t move, he poked the sub-archon in the shoulder. “Let’s go.”

    The young Cardassian reluctantly followed his uncle. But when he reached the door, he stopped. “I would like to talk to Toral in private, if you don’t mind.” Brenok nodded and left.

    Toral eyed Demok. “What do you want to know?” he asked.

    “Are you serious about my mom?”

    “You are her son but that really isn’t your business.”

    “Toral, I want to know if you will marry her.”

    “It’s not only my decision.”

    “If she agrees, will you?”

    “Yes.”

    “Do you want to have children.”

    If Toral ate or drank, he would certainly choke this very moment. “Excuuuuse meeee? What kind of question is that!”

    “I’m sorry...I just...”

    The gul rose and approached the young man. “Just what!”

    “I always wanted to have siblings...like everyone.” Toral’s face softened. “So...” Demok didn’t finish.

    “I don’t know. I didn’t think about it before.”

    “You didn’t?” Demok was surprised. For a Cardassian, a possibility of having children and a big family was one of most important factors in choosing a life partner.

    “All I want is for your mother to be happy. I don’t want anything from her. I want to do things and be there for her.”

    The sub-archon smiled weakly. “Talk to her tonight, all right?”

    “I will.”

    “Thanks. And don’t get discouraged if she gets angry.”

    “I won’t. I didn’t get that far to resign so easily now.”

    Demok returned to the suite that he and his mother stayed in and where Brenok waited for him now.

    “What did you want from him?” the gul asked.

    “Personal matter.”

    Brenok gave him a suspicious look but didn’t pry.
     
  13. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2010
    Location:
    Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space
    “Not you too!” Jarol moaned, rolling her pretty eyes. He liked that her make up was limited only to dark grey lines, which added depth to her shapely eyes. No wild colours, no wild, heavy stuff on her eyelids or lips. Natural beauty.

    They were in his hotel suite making plans for their evening, but before they got to that he wanted to start from the difficult conversation and be over with it.

    “Maybe it would help you to throw out all that hurts you,” Toral suggested. “Try one time. If you hate it—fine, you don’t have to go there again.”

    “I’m not going anywhere.”

    “I’m not a specialist but they say that talking helps.”

    “That’s what friends are for. I don’t need to pay anyone to listen to what hurts me!” She paused. “Do I?” she asked quietly after a moment.

    Did he just tell her that she had no friends? Gul Moron! “You don’t,” he assured her. “You can always talk to me.” You certainly would make a better listener than advice giver. And next time think before babbling, he chastised himself.

    “I would scare you away.”

    He smiled. “I don’t think so.”

    “You don’t know my darkest secrets.”

    “Perhaps, but I sincerely doubt there’s anything you could tell me that would change my feelings for you.”

    “Wanna bet?” she teased him.

    He turned his head left and right. “Which ear do you choose? This one, or this one?” She smiled. “Will you try?” he asked.

    “No.”

    “Please?”

    “No.”

    “Just one time.”

    “No.”

    “But—”

    “No.”

    “May—”

    “No.”

    “Ati—”

    “No.”

    “I ju—”

    “No.”

    He sighed, got up and went to the kitchenette. He took something out from a cupboard, approached her and grabbed her nose, blocking her nostrils. She opened her mouth either to protest, or to breathe and he put a piece of chocolate inside.

    “Now you will not talk but listen,” he said, lowering himself by her chair and looking up at her. “I will not talk about it ever again if you promise you will talk to me about everything that bothers you. Any time. Any place. Deal?” She nodded, chewing her chocolate. “Good.” He returned to his seat.

    She put her hand on his head. “Hatinn, I’ve done terrible things in my life.”

    “We all have our sins, no one is perfect.”

    “I think...I think that you should know about them, but...”

    He waited for her to continue, but since she didn’t he decided to encourage her. “But?” he prompted softly.

    She didn’t reply for a long moment. “But I fear you’d leave,” she said eventually.

    “Atira, I love you since five hundred fourteen.” He remembered every detail of that day less than one year after the Dominion War. “That’s over twenty years. It took you on the verge of death to push me to do something about it. There is nothing that could destroy what I feel.”

    She laughed bitterly. “You would be surprised.”

    “Did you kill someone?”

    “Yes.”

    “In cold blood?”

    “Yes.”

    “With your own hands?”

    She laughed an unpleasant, bitter laughter. “Oh, I was too comfortable for that. I used someone else’s hands.”

    “Did the dead one deserve it?”

    “Absolutely. Both of them.”

    “Do you regret?”

    “No.”

    He silenced. “Why not?” he asked at length.

    “One was a traitor and spied my crew for the Dominion. The other one was an evil man with too much power.”

    He was puzzled. “So if you don’t regret, why does it bother you?”

    “It bothers me because I don’t regret.”

    He pulled his chair to hers and sat, leaning close to her. “Atira, disposing of a traitor in wartime is not a cold-blood murder but a necessity. Sometimes a very unpleasant necessity, but such things have to be done. As for the other guy...” He smiled slightly. “You forget that Jotrel was leading the investigation. Who do you think he trusted enough to share his findings and think of a way of concealing all evidence?”

    She looked at him. “Do you also think that Ahal was an unpleasant necessity?”

    “Ahal was a bastard. I know for a fact that he worked close with the Dominion and never moved his little finger to help the rebellion. Never betrayed anyone, but I am sure he would if it served his purpose. He doesn’t deserve anyone’s tears.”

    “But their blood is on my hands.”

    “How much blood was on theirs?”

    “What are your secrets?” she asked suddenly.

    “Do you really want to make it a kind of shri’tal?”

    She shook her head vigorously. “No.” She looked him in the eyes. “But I don’t want you to think that I hide things from you. You should know who I am.”

    “Do you want me to share all my secrets, too?” he asked. Not that he had many and not that he minded, but being forced to such a cleansing was an uncomfortable thought.

    “No,” she said softly, touching his cheek. “Only if you want to. If you don’t, you can keep all your secrets until shri’tal.”

    He wasn’t sure if he should say something. Tell her that it’s too early? That today he is not ready for it, yet? Or that he didn’t want to? In spite of her words, she might expect him to share something, anything. What shall I do? What shall I do? he thought in panic.

    “What is our plan for today?” she asked him.

    “I didn’t make any specific plans,” he answered, relieved that she changed the subject. “I wanted to ask what you wanted to do.”

    “I don’t know... but...” An amused smile appeared on her face. “Did you know that we made news yesterday?”

    “News?” He didn’t understand.

    “The broadcast reported that former Legate Jarol and Gul Toral had a date.”

    He straightened. “Ompfffff! Don’t they have better things to report?!” The last thing he wanted was to be spied by nosy so-called reporters.

    She shrugged. “Why do you care? Does it bother you? Would you prefer to keep it secret?”

    “No. But it’s none of their business.”

    “People are curious. It’s not that anyone said anything bad about us. They just notice things. I suppose kissing on a public beach wasn’t exactly smart, if you wanted to make it a closely guarded secret,” she smiled.

    “I don’t want to keep it secret. I just don’t think we need to be spied. Times of checking who’s seeing whom had ended over twenty years ago.” A thought that his privacy had been invaded upset him.

    ‘Maybe we should stay here tonight,” she suggested.

    She didn’t mind their prying and he didn’t want to lock her in a room. Part of her recuperation plan was to spend as much time outdoor as possible. Soon she would return to a station without natural sunlight and fresh air. He was not going to deprive her of all that now just because he didn’t want his interest in her become public knowledge. Besides, it was already too late for that. “No. It’s a pretty day; it would be a shame to spend it indoors. Let’s give them more food for rumours.”

    “That’s the spirit!” She rose from the chair. “How about a boat trip? We could rent a boat and go to see dor’kolat.”

    “See?” He knew this sea was famous for presence of at least three different kinds of dor’kolat, but he didn’t know there was a possibility to see one in its natural environment, unless in a nature park.

    “There’s this tourist office that offers a ‘hunt a dor’kolat’ trip. You rent a boat with a guide and then the guide takes you to a bay where you have a chance to see these animals. It would be only you and me, fresh air and maybe some interesting sea creatures to take a few holoimages of.”

    “Sounds like a plan to me,” he grinned.

    “Just let me change into someone more appropriate for a sea voyage,” she said and headed for the door. “Meet you downstairs in ten minutes?”

    “I’ll be there.”

    She left and Toral used the opportunity that she was between rooms to contact Brenok.

    “No luck,” he said after the long-haired gul answered his comm. “She refused.”

    Thought so. Thanks for trying.

    “No problem.”

    He signed off and sighed. Then, he packed a few things into a bag and went to the lobby to wait for his dream woman.

    He knew she wasn’t perfect. He knew she had done some things in her life, things that she wasn’t proud of—but they both lived in times when it was so difficult to keep things simple and clean. He knew she was troubled. He knew that after the assassination attempt, the brain damage and the surgeries she had gone through she might not be the same person she used to be. He knew that knowing her better, that knowing the real her and not the image of her he had created in his mind could change his perception of her. He was aware of all these things, but he also knew something else: he loved her and he the feeling was growing stronger with every day. He fell in love with some ideal, astonishingly beautiful nymph that lived on a pedestal and looked down on everyone. The better he knew her and the more time he spent with her, the more he knew that she wasn’t what he had thought. Each next day she seemed to be prettier than the previous one, but he knew she was no ideal and no perfect. However, he also knew now that she had a lot of warmth to offer, her choice of cute smiles seemed limitless and the touch of her gentle hands was sweet. She was not what he had thought she was—she was better than that and each new day strengthened his feelings for her.

    For his heart it was too late to change anything. As for his mind—it wouldn’t want to change anything.



    Lakat, Eheen, Cardassia Prime




    Jarol stood in the opened door to her child’s old room and observed her son packing his things.

    They had come to Lakat several days earlier. Both Jarol and Demok wanted to spend some time with his grandparents, Tiron Demok’s mother and father and Jarol’s father, who now lived with them in Demoks’ family house. Jarol had thought that she was quite lucky in life: she had a loving Dad, she had loving in-laws, she had a loving brother—as she considered Arenn her brother—and finally a loving...someone in Hatinn Toral’s person. They all had been taking care of her for whole this month, which was just coming to an end. The next day she was supposed to board her little ship and return to the station. Was she ready for that?

    She knew the conversation that she was just about to have with her son would be all but simple.

    “Laran,” she said. He stopped packing and looked at her. “There is something we have to talk about.”

    He put his clothes away and sat next to the bag on the bed. “Yes, Mom?”

    She entered the room and sat next to him. There was so around way about this, so she went straight to the point. “You will stay in Lakat.”

    “What?!”

    “You will stay here, in Lakat. You’re not going with me to Rayak Nor. I’ll help you find another apprenticeship.”

    He stood up and looked at her, putting his hands on his hips. “What? Why?”

    “The station is too dangerous. I don’t want you there.” She wouldn’t make the same mistake, not again. Her children and space stations were not a good combination.

    He shook his head. “No, Mom. I’m returning home with you.”

    This is your home.” She waved around her. “Besides, aren’t you happy that you wouldn’t have to work for Colissa?”

    “She’s not so bad. Besides...” He scratched his cheek. “Mom, I am going home. With you. This—” Now he waved his hand around the room “—was my home for many, many years. But I have moved to Rayak Nor with you and I’m not returning here.”

    “Laran, that station is too dangerous.”

    “Mother, I am an adult man and you can’t tell me what to do any longer.” He sounded determined.

    She rose and touched his cheek. “You think you are such a grown-up. I am your mother, yes. That’s why I have to take care of you and protect you.”

    He smiled gently. “I am a grown-up. You have been taking care of me for whole my life. It’s time to reverse the roles. Who will take care of you if I’m in Lakat?”

    “Laran...”

    “Mom, I’m going with you. I’m going home. If you kick me out from your ship, I’ll follow you in another one. You can’t stop me.”

    “Laran...”

    “That’s my final word.”

    “After whom are you so stubborn?” she asked sighing.

    “Hmmm,” he put his finger to his chin and looked up to the ceiling. “Let me think...My not-at-all-stubborn Mommy, perhaps?”

    “I worry that something could happen to you.”

    He looked at her with a...patronising smile. “Mom, something could happen to me anywhere. Stop worrying, we’re going home!”

    “Home,” she repeated bitterly. Was that station really their home?

    “Not that I didn’t enjoy our trip, but it’ll be nice to fall asleep in my own bed again.”

    “Your bed was destroyed in the explosion.” This explosion that had been supposed to kill her.

    “A new bed, then! Even better!” She pulled him to her and hugged him. “I will take care of you, Mom. I promise.”

    “I’m not that old, yet,” she muttered, but she smiled to herself. When did her little boy become her protector? Her father had been right when he had told her that she didn’t have a chance of convincing Laran to stay with his grandparents.


    tbc
     
  14. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Oh, dear...I think Toral may have sabotaged his own cause here. If he was supposed to be getting Jarol to go to therapy, then I don't think what he told her about her unease at herself for not regretting killing those men was the right way to go about that at all. Now she won't see that she has a reason to get help; she'll just assume that what everyone else is telling her is wrong.
     
  15. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2010
    Location:
    Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space
    Chapter 5


    Hideki attack fighter Sufar, Cardassian space near Torman star system



    Jarol was glad that the long flight back to Rayak Nor was almost over. In a way, she was also glad to be back on the station, although she feared what she would see in the place of her quarters. She knew Zamarran had everything repaired and renewed, but the thought of entering those quarters...it sent shivers down her spine.

    She glanced at her son, who skilfully operated the pilot’s console, and her attention was drawn by something small on the sensors console. She rose from the chair in the back and moved forward to sit next to Demok.

    “What is it?” he asked, noticing the reading.

    “I’m not sure yet.” She attempted to scan the object, when a beep sounded.

    “We’re being hailed,” Laran said.

    “Open the channel.”

    A man appeared on the small screen that was mounted above pilot’s console. A human in a Federation uniform. “This is Captain Lau. Cardassian vessel, do you require assistance?

    Why would we require assistance? she wondered. “No, we don’t. Why do you assume we do?”

    You are far from any Cardassian outpost, I wondered if you had any problems with navigation or engines.

    “We are fine, Captain,” she said. “We took a detour to take a look at a nebula not far from here.”

    I see. Please be careful. We have detected Gorgor activity in this region. They are not hostile toward the Federation, but I am not sure of their current relations with Cardassia.”

    “I appreciate the warning.” She glanced at Laran.

    The Gorgor were strong enough to terrorise the Klingons. The Federation had managed to establish a diplomatic contact with this mysterious race and their relations became quite amicable. The Federation also started to mediate a non-aggression pact between the Gorgor and the Cardassians, but the aliens didn’t like the Union’s less than perfect past. Jarol thought that she wouldn’t want her son to be killed by aliens that held him responsible for crimes she had committed in her lifetime. She wouldn’t like him to be anywhere near them—not until they could be trusted enough not to attack any Cardassian target ‘in defence,’ as they claimed. Maybe she should ask the good captain for assistance anyway? He could take Laran to the station; her son would be safer aboard a bigger ship, a Federation ship. “Actually, Captain...”

    Yes?” A courteous smile was plastered to his face. She wasn’t sure if his proposal hadn’t been only a gesture of politeness and not a genuine offer, but she decided to take that risk and go on. The worst thing that could happen would be his refusal.

    “Actually...about that assistance. If the Gorgor are somewhere here...I don’t want to risk meeting them. We are from Rayak Nor and the station is our destination.” Maybe it was too much to ask. The Federation starship wasn’t a transportation shuttle after all.

    Would you like us to escort you?

    “I would like my son to safely arrive there. Aboard your ship.”

    Laran rapidly turned to her. “Mom!”

    We could take you both aboard and your ship is small enough to fit in our hangar bay.” She glanced at her display. It was a Nova class starship.

    “I wouldn’t like to cause any trouble...”

    It’s not trouble at all.” He smiled.

    “I appreciate that.”

    Approach these co-ordinates.” He sent data through the comm. “We will use our tractor beam to lead you to the hangar bay.

    “Thank you.”

    He signed off.

    “Mom!” Her son was clearly angry.

    “Don’t ‘mom’ me. I’ll do everything to protect you.”

    He only growled. He punched the co-ordinates that Lau had given them and looked ahead, clearly giving her a signal that he wouldn’t talk to her. She knew it would pass, it always did.

    Maybe she was overprotective, but she was sure it was the right thing to do. She knew Laran hated her and despised her for everything...for Bajor, for Gul Dukat, for the Dominion, for all wars she had fought in...but she would not fail as a mother, not again. She was a bad, damaged and rotten Cardassian, but she didn’t want that to cause his death at the tentacles of the Gorgor.



    USS Leonidas, Cardassian space near Torman star system




    Both Cardassians left their small ship to be greeted by Captain Lau and a two-person team of security. Not that he believed he needed any protection from them, but the protocol was the protocol. He hadn’t realised that Ensign Ratos, a Bajoran, had a duty until she reported in the bay with ch’Fess. He didn’t want to draw unwanted attention to complicated Bajoran-Cardassian relations and history, so he didn’t say a word, but he thought it was a very unfortunate circumstance.

    The female Cardassian left the vessel first. She stood in front of the captain, half a head taller, and said, “I’m Jarol.” She turned to the younger man—Lau remembered she had called him her son—and introduced him too. “This is Sub-Archon Demok.” Different names, interesting. Didn’t Cardassians have their surnames after their parents?

    “Welcome aboard the Leonidas, Ms. Jarol,” he said. “We have prepared quarters for you, but perhaps you’d like a tour of the ship, or eat something first?”

    “I appreciate your hospitality,” she smiled. She was reserved, but polite. “We don’t want to cause any difficulties.”

    “You aren’t,” he assured her. He was relieved that she didn’t show any specific reaction to his security officers, the female one especially. He gestured toward the exit. “Please follow me.”

    In spite of her words that they didn’t need anything, Lau led them to his private dining room in the mess hall with an intention of feeding them. It was time for his dinner anyway.

    He observed both Cardassians. The woman made an impression of quiet and very reserved, almost distrustful. Or uncertain. She seemed to consider every word she was just about to say, as if not sure she wouldn’t say something wrong or improper. She moved with a grace of a tigress. He noticed that she observed everything carefully, undoubtedly committing every detail to her photographic memory.

    The man was different. He seemed genuinely curious. At first he seemed to resent the presence of security, but he quickly stopped glancing at them—dividing his attention equally to the Bajoran and the Andorian—and turned his attention to the surroundings. His mother had said he was a ‘sub-archon,’ and while Lau was no specialist in Cardassian culture, for some reason he associated it with the law. He assumed he must have heard the word before in that context, although he couldn’t recall any details.

    “I’m afraid I can’t offer you a lot of Cardassian dishes,” he said with an apologetic smile when they finally arrived to his dining room. “There aren’t many in our replicator database and they probably wouldn’t taste as good as the real thing.”

    “That’s all right.” She sat on the offered chair. “We cause enough trouble anyway.”

    “No trouble at all,” he smiled and he meant it. Patrol duty was boring and any deviation from it was welcomed. And a good deed for the Cardassians would look good in his report, too. Another tiny point to present in current Federation-Cardassian treaty talks. And if the treaty would come to fruition, he wouldn’t have to patrol Cardassian border. So, in the end, it seemed that this ‘good deed’ was nothing more than self-service.

    “Are they going to stand there?” the young Cardassian, Demok, asked, pointing to the two security officers who stood at the door.

    “Our standard protocol requires their presence. Please, don’t think I fear you jump on me and kill me without a reason,” Lau said, raising his hand. “It’s just rules. I don’t make them.”

    “Well, yes, but that’s not what I meant,” Demok said. “Aren’t they going to join us?”

    Jarol looked at her son a bit surprised, but Lau was sure his face showed more astonishment.

    “Do your guards join you?” he asked after a moment.

    “No, but I thought...” Demok didn’t finish.

    “Please, continue,” the captain encouraged him.

    “I thought that in the Federation, with all that equality et al...that you dine together.” Lau had an impression that the Cardassian would blush if it were possible. Or did he? His cheeks turned a bit darker.

    He smiled. “On a starship, some formality is required. Also in Starfleet.”

    “Oh. Sorry for the stupid question.”

    “Not at all! This is our chance to learn more about each other.”

    Jarol gave Lau a scrutinising look. Why did she feel so insecure? Did she suspect him of hidden motives? Other than a good report of helping a pair of Cardassians?

    She noticed him looking at her, so she smiled. “What kind of food are you going to serve?” she asked.

    “A choice of several dishes from different planets. I like variety.” He didn’t finish speaking when another human entered the room with a huge tray in her hands. “Ah.” Lau rose to help her. “Ms. Jarol, Sub-archon Demok, please meet my first officer, Commander tr’Ravhil.” It didn’t escape the captain’s attention that Jarol’s eyes immediately went to his second-in-command’s ears and their barely noticeable pointed tips. Demok didn’t seem to react in any special way to the Romulan surname. Maybe he didn’t know.

    The commander put the tray in the middle of the table. “I hope you will enjoy our meal,” she said. She took two mugs and placed them in front of both Cardassians. “I took the liberty of replicating some fish juice for you. I hope it won’t be too awful, but we don’t have any Cardassians aboard, so no need for Cardassian foodstuffs.”

    Jarol smiled. “That’s all right. You’re doing a lot already.”

    “What’s this?” Demok pointed to some dish.

    “Cheesecake,” tr’Ravhil answered. “That’s for dessert.”

    “Oh. And this?”

    Lau glanced at Jarol, not sure what do say.

    The Cardassian woman replied, “This is hasperat.”

    “That Bajoran spicy thing?” the sub-archon made sure.

    “Yes,” she confirmed. Lau wondered if she knew it for the most obvious reason—that she had been there, on Bajor, during the occupation.

    But the young man didn’t seem to notice—or care—that his first, or rather second, choice might bring some difficult subjects. To took a piece and placed on his plate. Then he realised that the table was silent. “Did I do something wrong?” he asked looking around and a bit worried.

    “No,” Lau smiled, shaking his head. “I hope you’ll like it. And make sure you have some cold water to help you with it. It’s the real thing, not replicated.”

    “Let’s eat fire.” Demok put the first bite into his mouth and...his eyes watered a moment later. His mother, without even looking at him, handed him a glass of water that tr’Ravhil had passed to her. “Oh, gapgar!”

    “Laran,” Jarol growled in a very motherly tone, not unlike Lau’s own mother. “Mind your tongue.”

    He sent her a sheepish smile and muttered, “Sorry.” He then turned to one of guards, the young Bajoran ensign. “Do you eat this every day?”

    She shook her head, attempting to mask her amusement with a serious face. “No, not every day.”

    “Why do you eat this at all?”

    She grinned. “It’s delicious!”

    “Aha,” he muttered sceptically. After that he turned back to the table. He took a clean plate and put some hasperat on it. Then, he rose and approached the Bajoran. “Here, have some. I certainly won’t try again. Ever.”

    She chuckled and glanced at her captain. Lau nodded, so she took the offered plate.

    “Seems like our guests don’t want it to be so formal. Come on, join us!” The captain invited two security officers.

    Jarol observed her son. Lau wondered if she minded his contact with Ensign Ratos. She looked at the human. “I’m sorry, Captain. If I knew he would ruin your chain of command, I would have left him locked on my ship.”

    “No worries,” he grinned. “I’m not a one that loves following the protocol anyway.” He winked.

    They chatted. Lau asked Demok about his title and then more about Cardassian judiciary system. Then Demok started a heated discussion with Ensign Ratos about Bajoran and Cardassian culinary customs and why people ate spicy things.

    Lau observed them for a moment; then he leaned to Jarol and quietly said, “It’s not every day that you see a Cardassian and a Bajoran chatting without any concealed animosity.”

    She glanced at the two young people. “Let’s hope they are the rule and not an exception.”

    He looked at her like on a newly discovered, fascinating spacial anomaly. “It’s interesting to hear such words from a Cardassian.”

    “I don’t want my son to hate everyone, or to be hated by everyone.”

    Lau smiled. “I guess we all want what’s the best for our children,” he said.

    “Do you have any?”

    “Three. One at the Academy, two still at school. Do you have only one? I thought Cardassians liked their families big.”

    “I had two more. But they are gone.”

    She bravely tried to hide her pain, but he could clearly see it. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.” And to think he had assumed that conversing about a family would be a safe subject.

    “You couldn’t have known.” She made a poor attempt to smile. Her son noticed something was wrong and glanced at the captain with raised eye ridges. “Let’s change the subject,” she said.

    “Of course. How about a toast?” He raised his glass of juice. “To all our children.”

    Demok held his cup of fish juice high. “To me!” he shouted and everyone started to laugh.

    Jarol decided to stay aboard her ship in the hangar bay, but her son accepted the offer of quarters. He didn’t mind that guards would have to be posted outside his door any longer.

    Lau was in his ready room, when the bell chimed.

    “Enter.”

    Oh, he knew that expression. Tr’Ravhil was bothered by something. She sat in the guest chair and scrutinised him for a moment. “You’re up to something,” she said eventually.

    “Why do you say so?”

    “You offered our assistance in taking them to that station too easily.”

    “I’m just a nice guy.”

    “Ah Hei.” She said his name in that chastising way, as if saying ‘I know you plan something naughty.’

    “All right, all right.” He raised his hands, palms outward, in a defence gesture. “I want to ask her for something.”

    “So, you want to take advantage of her position.”

    “Position? What position?”

    The commander rolled her eyes. “Who’s in command of Rayak Nor?”

    “Gul Jarol.”

    “And who is our guest?”

    “Ms. Jarol.”

    “Didn’t you notice any similarities in the names?”

    “It’s the same name; I’m not that stupid. What’s your point? I assume it’s his wife. Wives have their husband’s ears, so maybe if I whispered something to hers, she could whisper something to his.”

    “‘His’? Who are you talking about?”

    “Her husband.”

    Lack of comprehension was obvious on tr’Ravhil’s face. It disappeared after a moment. “Did you check Gul Jarol’s profile?”

    “No. Should I? He’s a commander of the nearest Cardassian outpost. That’s all I need to know.”

    “Computer, display Gul Jarol’s profile on the captain’s personal terminal. Include a photo.”

    The computer acknowledged and a moment later Lau’s display lightened. “Oh, shit!” he exclaimed.

    “Now you know.”

    “Lau to engineering.” His first officer gave him an asking look, but he ignored her.

    Selka Jonsdottir here.”

    “How long will it take to reach the Cardassian station Rayak Nor?”

    “About five more hours, sir.”

    “Selka, make it two days. Find some diagnostic that wouldn’t let us enter warp, or something like that. Two days.”

    Err, yes sir.” His engineer’s voice sounded very uncertain but he was glad she didn’t ask for details.

    Tr’Ravhil, on the other hand, had questions marks painted on her face. “What the heck are you doing?”

    “I need her. We need her. Don’t you see? This is my chance to do something about that damn planet and I’m not going to waste that chance!”

    “Ah Hei, you ask for trouble,” he said in a low tone.

    “Maybe. But this woman could be my solution. She has power, she has manpower, she has a station. She’s not a shy housewife, for whom I had taken her. She’s what I need!”

    “You realise that she can take her small ship and leave when she learns how long it would take us to reach her station.”

    “I have to try it, Narkis, I have to.”

    She smiled. “I know. You’re not a giving-up type.”

    “But you know,” he said slowly, tapping the tip of his nose, “she doesn’t behave like a Cardassian gul.”

    “Maybe she travels incognito. Maybe she didn’t want you to know who she is.”

    “I never met any Cardassian before, but what I heard of their guls is that they all are impossibly arrogant and self-centred. She didn’t even use her rank when introducing herself!”

    “True, she’s different. Her son certainly is a friendly fellow.”

    “Do you think she used to serve on Bajor?”

    “You have her profile in front of your nose, you tell me.”

    Lau leaned closer to the screen. “Oh, my God,” he moaned. He glanced at tr’Ravhil, who raised her eyebrow—as round as his, in spite of her Romulan heritage. “Her two children and her husband had been killed by the Bajoran resistance.”

    “And yet she raised her third son without any bias toward them.” The commander clearly didn’t even try to conceal the admiration in her voice. “I’m not sure I would be that generous.”

    “I need her help.”

    “Do you think you could convince her to your plan within two days?”

    “I hope so. I really hope so.”

    “Do you have a plan, yet?”

    “No, not yet. But I’ll work on it.”

    Tr’Ravhil—shaking her head with disapproval—left his ready room, leaving him alone. He started to study his guest’s profile. And that was one interesting read!
     
  16. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2010
    Location:
    Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space
    Jarol couldn’t sleep. At first she had fallen asleep as soon as her head found itself in the horizontal position, but then she had had dreams. Nightmares, rather.

    Corat chased her with angry look in his tiny face. Mayel stood there, her thin arms crossed on her chest, shaking her head with disapproval. And then adult Laran came and scooped them both. ‘Bad Cardassian,’ he barked to Jarol and turned away with the intention to leave. ‘Droplet,’ she called him but he ignored her. She called him again. He stopped and turned to her. His siblings disappeared. He wore an archon’s robe. ‘I hate you,’ he said. ‘I always hated you and I always will.’ ‘But I try so hard,’ she told him. He laughed with contempt. ‘You can’t erase the past. What has been done, cannot be undone.’ He stretched his hand, pointing to a door without walls around it. ‘I sentence you to childless, loveless and long life of pain and shame. Now go and never bother us again.’ She lowered her head and walked toward the door, but the closer she was, the farther away the door moved. She started to run. Finally, she reached the door and opened it. Baby Laran sat there on the ground...with a small toy, a doll. A doll in silver armour and with her face. That day...he wore clothes and looked just like that day when she had donned her legate armour for the first time. He threw away the doll, got up and walked away. When he was quite far, he stopped, turned to her and in his adult voice shouted, ‘No love for you!’

    Then she woke up. And couldn’t sleep any longer. She feared to close her eyes. She curled up and wept. She wished there was someone she could ask for help, for directions what to do, because whatever she was doing now was not enough, not sufficient. Useless.




    Demok woke up quite rested. And thirsty. He looked at the replicator, but wasn’t sure if it wasn’t turned off. Maybe their protocol required to shut down a device that could produce weapons if the guest was a non-Federation species.

    “Computer, status of the replicator in my quarters,” he demanded.

    The replicator works within normal parameters with restrictions.”

    He rose and went to the device of a funny, rectangular shape. “Replicator, water.” Should he enter some access code? Or would the payment be added to some kind of bill that he would be presented with later? He didn’t care, he was thirsty! He grabbed the glass and quickly emptied it.

    Wait a second...shouldn’t they have arrived to the station by now? What time was it?

    “Demok to Jarol.”

    Yes, Droplet.” She answered almost immediately. Her voice sounded rough and tired. Didn’t she sleep at all?

    “Mom, you’re ok?”

    I’m fine. How did you sleep?

    “Great.” He didn’t have to ask to know that she couldn’t say the same. “Why are we not at the station, yet? Shouldn’t we have arrived a few hours ago?” They were supposed to wake him up. He felt his irritation with himself rising: he shouldn’t have gone to sleep in the first place!

    The captain had informed me that they have some technical difficulties. But we’re on our way.”

    “I see. I’ll bring you some breakfast.” As soon as I know how to get one, he thought. He wasn’t sure the replicator would allow him to replicate much more than water. There had to be some restrictions, the computer had said it itself.

    Or...not... The Federation was rich, he recalled, they didn’t need to ration their food or their resources. Maybe he could order anything and would get anything.

    I’m not hungry, Droplet. But you eat something.

    “Mom, you’re all right?” There was something in her voice; he couldn’t put his finger on it but he was sure that something was terribly off. He didn’t wait for her answer. “I’ll be there with some breakfast. No discussion. You will eat. A salad. Lots of awful green and purple plants. Deal?”

    Do I have a choice, sir?

    “Absolutely not. And if you resist, I’ll report it to Gul Brenok and Gul Toral and then you’ll be in real trouble.”

    I love you.

    He knew he won. “I love you, too.”

    No, you don’t,” she said, but before he found voice to protest, she disconnected.

    “I don’t?” he asked himself aloud. Her voice didn’t have even a shadow of a joke; she sounded so serious when she said it, as if she really meant it. Serious and resigned. But how could she believe in such a ridiculous thing?! “Computer, display the list of salads that are edible for a Cardassian.” The list was quite long. “Computer, limit the list to most popular options.” He chose two and replicated them. For a moment he pondered if not to share a salad with her. Him eating greens would certainly cheer her up, but after a moment of internal fight he decided he was a bad son—he wouldn’t be able to make himself eat all those leaves and roots. He decided to choose something from the database. He scrutinised the list of most popular meat dishes. “And one...hambombeh.” What kind of name is that? he thought.

    Restate request.

    He neared his nose to the display. “Ham-boh-ger.”

    Restate request.

    “Grrrr, you’re worse than my Mom! Ham-bur-ger!”

    Choose an option.

    “No greens!” he shouted with a triumph.

    He placed all food on a tray, which he had found near the replicator, and left the quarters. As he expected, two officers stood outside his door.

    “Could you please lead me to the hangar bay?” he asked.

    “This way,” one said. Demok followed him with the other officer walking just behind the Cardassian.

    ‘No, you don’t’ kept ringing in his mind. It hurt, slicing through his heart, not because it was unfair to him, but because she seemed to believe in that. It appeared that she believed her own child, her only child, didn’t love her. Now more than ever he was glad that he hadn’t agreed to stay in Lakat.

    Jarol didn’t even comment his choice for breakfast. She only glanced at his hands, dripping with some red and white substances—he remembered one was called catch-up and the other one gah-rr-lick sauce—and continued to eat the salads he had chosen for her.

    “Are they good?” he asked.

    “Yes. Did you find them in their database?”

    “Yes. One is from Earth, the other one—this one—is from Vulcan.”

    “I think I must get some interstellar cookbook.”

    He glanced at her. He knew it was her attempt to joke, but her voice was so grim and sad that it sounded more like a complaint. “Mom, did you sleep last night? At all?”

    “I did.”

    “You don’t look like someone who slept.”

    “I slept. I didn’t say I slept well.”

    It wasn’t the first time, was it? She never complained about it but he was sure it wasn’t the first time that she had spent her night awake. “Maybe you should take a nap, since we’re goi—”

    “No!” she snapped, startling him. She must have realised that her reaction was too violent, as she added quieter, “Sorry.”

    “Why don’t you want to sleep?”

    “I have...nightmares.”

    He was under impression that her first choice of word was different, but she managed to rephrase her initial thought to ‘nightmares.’

    “Do you want to tell me about them?” he asked. Maybe talking would help her.

    She opened her mouth but before she said anything he knew she would refuse. She didn’t have a chance to say it out loud, as the comm beeped.

    Lau to Jarol. Please come to my ready room immediately.

    “I’m on my way,” she answered.

    Both of you. Thank you.”

    They left the Sufar and exited the hangar bay, accompanied by four security officers; two were Demok’s, two—his mother’s.

    The sub-archon wondered what the captain might want of them. His voice sounded urgent. The Gorgor? The Klingons?

    The ready room was small; smaller even than his mother’s office on Rayak Nor. The captain and his aide were inside, waiting for the Cardassians.

    “What is the problem?” Jarol asked not even trying to hide the worry in her voice.

    “Please sit down,” Lau pointed to the sofa. “Something has happened on Cardassia.” Demok noticed that his mother shifted in place. “Our news broadcast relayed the information. I’m sure it’s not as detailed as your broadcast would be, but it will tell you what you need to know.”

    He nodded to tr’Ravhil and she pressed some button on a big display on the wall.

    Demok had never watched a non-Cardassian news report before. It wasn’t that much different from a Cardassian report, if not the diverse faces on the screen. He noticed that Cardassians on the screen were left untranslated and characters—Federation Standard letters—appeared on the bottom of the screen. Subtitles. He couldn’t read them, but he didn’t have to; he understood perfectly what was being said. And he wished the woman said something else.

    The news reported Legate Daset’s death. The cause was a heart failure; the legate’s wife said that he had had problems with his heart for years, but had been hiding it. Finally, the heart had failed.

    Demok glanced at his mother. She watched the news sitting still, her eyes glued to the screen. The young Cardassian knew that she had worked closely with Daset for years in their time in the Central Command and also before that, when they both had served aboard the Roumar. They weren’t close, they weren’t even friends, but knowing someone for such a long time personally didn’t make his or her death a small event, friends or not.

    The report was short—Demok imagined that news broadcasts on Cardassia didn’t report anything else—but it was obviously given a lot of importance.

    “I’m sorry,” Lau said, after the screen went blank. “I understand that you knew him.”

    Jarol only nodded. She seemed to be lost in thoughts for a moment. Then she rose. “Thank you for informing me, Captain.”

    “Not a problem. I would like to ask you something, though.”

    She was already on her way to the door, but stopped and turned to him. “Yes?”

    “As soon as this information became official, the Cardassian Central Command suspended the treaty talks with the Federation. Does his death change our relations?”

    She shook her head and smiled weakly. “No, Captain. Daset had nothing to do with the current politics or where it’s headed. I cannot tell for certain, as I am not there, but I believe it’s because of the mourning time. Cardassia has just lost one of its leaders, one that had been its leader for twenty years. It doesn’t matter that he had stepped down from his role and withdrawn himself from the political world. He used to be a big figure and will always remain one.”

    “I see. That is, of course, understandable.” She resumed her motion toward the door. “Ms. Jarol, maybe you would accept my offer of quarters. I’m sure your ship is great, but quarters would be more comfortable. Especially since this trip will take longer than expected.”

    “No, thank you.”

    “Of course, it’s your prerogative to leave our protection and reach your destination sooner.”

    She glanced at her son and then at the human. “I prefer safety to speed.”

    The captain nodded and both Cardassians left his ready room.

    Demok walked next to his mother. “Mom, what’s going on on Cardassia now?”

    “I don’t know, Droplet. I imagine they started preparations to his funeral. Maybe the Time of Mourning would be declared, but I was never fond of this.”

    “Why? Wouldn’t be proper to pay him respects?”

    “It would but you can’t force people to mourn someone’s death. It has to come from their hearts, not from a decree.”

    “Will you mourn him?” he asked.

    “I will add him to the long list of my deaths to mourn,” she answered.

    He didn’t understand what she meant but one look at her face told him not to ask farther. He knew something was bothering her tremendously, he wasn’t sure, though, if it would be a good idea to keep dragging it out of her. He hoped that she would share when she’d be ready for that. If not with him, then with someone else.

    Would he mourn Daset? He didn’t know the man that well, he had met him only several times, so his personal experience with the late legate wasn’t that much different from an average Cardassian’s. But he knew Daset brought a change, a huge change, to the Union. He also knew Daset was the head of the Shift and its designer; and later made himself the head of the government. He knew Daset came with many ideas for the new law that was currently in force, including limiting the head of the Central Command’s role in decision-making process.

    That’s for the official stand. As for the less official: Demok knew that Uncle Arenn hated Daset with all his heart for something that had happened between them before Demok was born. Daset had respected Brenok, but the gul was never able to forgive the legate whatever the legate had done to him.

    All logic aside, Demok felt that something had happened; something that could change Cardassia. It wasn’t the first time the Union lost its leader—even a former leader—but this time it was a leader that had been respected by a lot of people for his post-war work. And hated by others for the same work. Would Demok mourn Daset?

    No.



    tbc
     
  17. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    "HAM-BUR-GER!"

    Sorry...I had to.

    And have you been spying when I go out to eat? Laran's order is MY order!

    (Oh, and I realized I've actually DONE the "Meat! Meat! Meat!" chant at the table before, with my dad, that you did in the writing prompt over at Ad Astra!)

    Is the Time of Mourning usually a custom where all government work stops? In other words, would this be standard operating procedure regardless of whether a treaty was being negotiated?

    As for "that damn planet," I suspect this captain has a problem with what happened at Mazita. If he detains her, though, or even attempts to delay...oh dear. Seems like Jarol almost never gets to meet the GOOD Federation types (except Ronus and Av'Roo). That won't be good for her mindset.
     
  18. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2010
    Location:
    Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space
    :guffaw:
    Yes, it would be "slowing down" everything. I suppose Gortan tried to explain that to the Federation representatives, but in such cases it's so easy for misunderstanding. And of course Captain Lau is not informed of any details, he's just an ordinary captain, no Picard-level commander.
    You'll see soon. The next chapter will follow in a few moments.
     
  19. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    So were you thinking of that scene when Laran placed his order? ;)
     
  20. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2010
    Location:
    Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space
    No, I wasn't. I'm not sure I've seen that film ;)
     

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