SigCat/Shaping a Cardassian: "The Lightless Ends of the World"

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Nerys Ghemor, Nov 1, 2010.

  1. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    NG's Note: This story is a crossover between my Sigils and Unions: Catacombs of Oralius series--which takes place in an alternate Cardassia where Cardassian and Bajoran roles are reversed and one Skrain Dukat is a very different man--and Gul Re'jal's Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian series, which follows canon but after 2375 presents an alternate post-Dominion War scenario to the one portrayed in official Treklit. Though there are spoilers for both of our series, we very much hope you will enjoy this crossover between our universes and take the time to delve into both of our series.:)

    Roumar crew's perspective: Gul Re'jal
    AU Dukat's perspective, final editing: Nerys Ghemor


    Sigils and Unions: Catacombs of Oralius / Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian

    "The Lightless Ends of the World"

    [LEFT] The Bajorans were getting smart, Skrain Dukat thought as he raised his Kurabda spyglass towards the cargo landskimmer moving closer and closer to their position, and dug into the dunes. They had learned by now that even the most tantalizing rumors of an Orb’s presence on Cardassia Prime would never lure him or any member of his cell into the city to attack. And especially not him…not after the horrific price they had exacted from him after planting just that sort of information about their activities at the Culat University indoctrination center. No…they wouldn’t openly broadcast the whereabouts of their bloody talismans, not with what they meant to the longevity of their cult.

    But they had to remind their soldiers of the reasons for their loyalty every so often—at least, a select few. That meant that once in awhile, the Red Orbs had to be on Terăm. And if they tracked the right Bajoran officials long enough, that eventually meant the Orb would come to them.

    That wasn’t where they attacked, though—no matter how tempting a target it might be to take out a general and an Orb in the same place. That was where the Orb would be the most secure on Cardassia Prime, after all. Better to wait until it was in transit from one city to the other. And now the Orb was outbound from Culat to Lakarian City.

    How that had made Dukat’s blood boil! How dare they even think about bringing their demons’ relic to desecrate the place where the love of Oralius had first become known to the ancient Hebitians!

    He clasped the handles of the magnetized pads firmly in his hands as the skimmer sailed closer and closer over the desert sands. If they timed their run correctly—with a soundless nod, he and Corat charged at the craft, magnetopads outstretched. There—the angle was right; there was a blind spot where the skimmer’s crew had no hope of getting a visual lock on them. And just as they felt the pull of the magnets towards the hull of the craft, they leaped.

    Dukat edged his way across the landskimmer’s running board. He saw Corat laugh out of the corner of his eye, though he heard nothing over the roar of the wind. He didn’t need to; he’d heard Corat ask it enough times: How can you move like that in those robes? The answer to that was simple, of course...ever since his capture, Dukat hardly wore anything other than Kurabda tribal robes unless the mission absolutely demanded it. And out here, the charcoal-grey robe was exactly what he needed to blend into the night, as far as lightsighted Bajoran eyes were concerned.

    There—that glow illuminated the hatch control. He skirted closer and closer, right hand hovering over the panel, his body in front of the hatch. Through his bioelectric node he felt Corat at his side, ready to follow him in.

    He slapped the button, throwing himself inside the Bajoran landskimmer. His hand flew towards his disruptor, but the Bajoran drew first—

    What in the icy tundra was that thing? It looked like a standard Bajoran phaser rifle, but its tip—red warred violently with flickering indigo, and the beam shot through the swirling…crystal?...slamming into his body just as his fingers wrapped around the grip of his disruptor. His hand spasmed and the disruptor clattered to the floor, and he reeled violently back, his momentum grotesquely exaggerated by the movement of the vehicle, traveling too slow to need an inertial damper, but too fast to escape the impact undamaged.

    His heart cried out as he flew. Ziyal!

    He was hit, yet he still lived. Hit—yet the beam was still coming! Every inch of his body—head—back—everything—slammed into the bulkhead, except in the last instant the bulkhead itself seemed to grow thin. And then there was darkness…

    Garesh Aladar looked at the closing door of Transporter Chamber Two. It was the fifth supplies transport and there was only one left to be done. He operated his console, preparing for the next and final batch and waiting for a signal from Cardassia's Supply Department, which would inform him that it was ready.

    As usual, it didn't take long. He entered the sequence of commands, which his fingers were so used to that he didn't have to think about it any more, and looked up at the transporter pad, expecting to see containers filled with goods.

    The transporter's hum changed its pitch and Aladar's eyes returned to his console.

    “No, no, no...” he muttered, worried. Transporting supplies to the warship was his responsibility and failing in it would mean severe consequences. One doesn't misplace or damage provisions; they are too valuable to be negligent.

    His fingers frantically ran over the flat surface of his console, trying to save the containers from annihilation. His panic rose as he realized that the mass of the supplies was dropping significantly, becoming barely a fraction of its original status. In addition the pattern in the transporter buffer appeared mostly organic. Food only? What had happened to the equipment and containers?

    There was nothing more he could do to save the cargo. He decided to retrieve as much as he could.

    He sighed, listening to pounding of his own heart, and executed the final command to materialize the remainder of ship's supplies.

    The transporter hummed and the orange light concentrated near the deck, beaming in a dark flat shape, stretched on the floor.

    “What the...?” Aladar went around his console to check the object. Whatever it was, it looked nothing like what he expected to see.

    As he approached closer, he realized he was looking at some sort of fabric, covering a shape...which was unmistakably a person's shape! He ran to the person and knelt down next to her, making sure he didn't touch anything.

    “Transporter Two to Medic Taret,” he barked to his wristcomm. “I have an emergency here.”

    I'm on my way,” Taret's voice was composed and calm. “What is the emergency?

    “I beamed someone aboard. I don't know if she is alive, but she isn’t moving,” the garesh replied nervously. He hoped he wouldn't have to wait long for the medic's arrival.

    Taret knew better than to waste time in an emergency. He ran all the way to the transporter chamber and arrived there before his nurse did. Aladar moved aside to let the medic examine the woman and as soon as Taret gently brushed aside his patient's hair the garesh realized he'd made a mistake. This wasn't a woman, this was a man! He should have known better than to assume that every Cardassian with long hair was a female—his warship’s second-in-command was a similarly unusual case, but...the only case Aladar had encountered in his life. Until now.

    “Taret to Gul Jarol.”

    Jarol here,” replied a female voice.

    “Gul, I have an unconscious man here, who apparently has been beamed aboard by some kind of accident.” The medic shot a glance at Aladar. “Please meet me in the infirmary.”

    Acknowledged,” she responded and signed off.

    A few minutes later Gul Jarol, followed by her aide, Glinn Brenok, entered the infirmary. Garesh Aladar was standing by the door with a worried look on his face, while Medic Taret was leaning over a motionless body that lay on one of biobeds.

    “Medic.” She announced her presence in a low voice. There didn't seem to be any other patients in the bay, but she felt it would be inappropriate to speak loudly in a place where people were supposed to recuperate.

    His head turned to her and he acknowledged her presence, but didn't leave his patient. He waved to her to come closer and so she did.

    There was a man on the biobed. He wore a strange, dirty, dark grey outfit, which had signs of burning or scorching. She looked up at his face and...gasped!

    “Gul Dukat,” she whispered, her eyes opening wide in surprise.

    “W... what?” Brenok approached closer to look over Taret's shoulder.

    Jarol looked at her aide and then back at the unconscious Cardassian on the biobed. “How did he get here?” she asked Taret. The medic nodded toward Aladar, who was still standing by the door, now even more nervous as the gul's attention shifted to him.


    “I was beaming aboard our supplies, the last batch, and then there was trouble, and I tried to work it out and save what I could, and he beamed, and I...”

    Brenok went to the young noncom and put his hand on Aladar's shoulder. “Calm down,” he said in a smooth voice. “And start again.”

    The garesh took a deep breath. “I was beaming aboard our supplies. Everything was normal, until the last batch. I don't know what happened, but the signal and the pattern were lost and then reappeared, but with a different mass and structure and I did my best to materialize that pattern intact and he...Gul Dukat beamed in.” He silenced for a moment and then added very quietly, “I lost the cargo.”

    “But you saved his life,” Gul Jarol said. “Go back to the transporter chamber and make a full record of the event. Don't talk to anyone about it. Especially not about who it is. Understood?”

    “Yes, Gul, I understand.” His voice seemed calmer now.

    “Dismissed,” she said. Her eyes went back to Dukat.

    “Take a look at this.” Taret moved aside to show something to Jarol. She went closer and leaned over Dukat's head. “Here.”

    “What is it?” There was some kind of device behind Dukat's right ear, partially under his skin, partially sticking out of it.

    “I'd guess it's an implant, but I've never seen anything quite like it.”

    “The Obsidian Order?”

    “No. It's too obvious and I don't think Gul Dukat would want to have anything to do with them.”

    “What is he doing here? Where did he come from?” Brenok asked.

    Jarol turned to look at him. She didn't find the questions relevant; for her it was important that her former commander was alive, in spite of what the Federation claimed. She also didn't like Brenok's tone of voice; it was disrespectful at best.

    “I don't know,” she said, trying not to show her irritation. “We can ask him when he wakes up.” She looked at Taret. “Can you wake him up?”

    “I'd rather not. Not yet, at least. He seems hurt, some kind of strange weapon signature, and I'd prefer to take care of his wounds before reviving him.”

    “Weapon?” Brenok made a step toward the medic. “You mean he was attacked? He isn't unconscious because of the transporter accident?”

    “He was already unconscious when the transport began.” Taret thought for a while and then looked at the gul. “You wouldn't have access to his medical file, would you?”

    She shook her head. “Is it important?”

    “It would make my work easier, but I can do without...” Suddenly he raised his hand and waved as though pushing Jarol away. “Step back, step back,” he said quickly, but softly.

    The gul joined her aide near the door and let the medic work.

    “He looks different,” Brenok whispered. “His robe, his hair. What has been happening to him during these last few years?”

    “I don't know and I don't care. I'm glad he's back.”

    “Right in time for his own execution,” Brenok muttered and she gave him a furious glance. “Oh, don't look at me like that. You know very well there is a price on his head everywhere in the Quadrant, including Cardassia.”

    She didn't say anything. Whatever they said, whatever they decided, Gul Dukat was her personal hero and nothing could change that. She owned him too much to forget and become as ungrateful as everyone else was. She clenched her teeth and observed Taret, who put his medical scanner away and stood close to the biobed; not so close as to enter his patient's private space, but close enough to be seen by the supine man. His lips stretched in a reassuring smile while he waited for his patient to open his eyes.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2010
  2. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Slowly, Dukat floated back into consciousness, lying on his back as though stretched out over the surface of the water. Voices murmured around him. He couldn’t make out the words yet, but he could pick out the emotions behind them. Confusion, concern…contempt? No… It hurt to think, to form the words in his mind. Please, no…not again

    Dukat tried to resist the return of full consciousness: the longer he could keep his metabolism down, the longer he had to assess the situation before full awakening. But a shot of adrenaline coursed through his body nonetheless, jolting him violently awake. With a gasp, his eyes flew open. An authoritative voice at his side warned him not to try to sit up yet. He tried to nod in an instinctive reply, but the movement hurt.

    He still said nothing for the first several seconds, grey eyes surveying his surroundings as best as he could on what now felt to him like a biobed. Cardassians…they’re all Cardassians! A physician stood nearby, scrutinizing him with a professional caution. The other two…it couldn’t be. What they were wearing—what the inscriptions revealed, if he wasn’t mistaken…

    He addressed them in a soft, half-whisper of confusion—and deference, looking at each in turn, but taking great care not to look too much into their faces lest he, a civilian, come across as insubordinate. Especially if they represented what he thought they did, he dared not give any offense. “Gul…Glinn—what’s happened? Where am I?” Please—help us! He resisted giving voice to that last, though…it was too soon, and all of this was still far too strange.

    Jarol observed Dukat waking up; he seemed confused, but she could understand that. Whatever had happened to him, he could not have expected to wake up in her infirmary.

    She took a step toward the biobed and said in a soft voice, “You are aboard the Roumar, sir. How are you feeling?”

    Brenok kept his distance, eying the man on the biobed and wondering what they were supposed to do now. It was clear to him that Gul Dukat had to face the tribunal, but he was sure Jarol would oppose it and convincing this stubborn woman that it would be the right thing to do might occur prove impossible.

    ‘Sir’…? What am I to her? It made no sense…many in the Resistance acknowledged him as a leader, but it wasn’t as if he was the only one, and he had never asked the level of deference of them that Macet might have asked of a fresh recruit just out of basic training…the level of deference that for whatever reason, this gul was showing him.

    But that wasn’t all. Aboard the Roumar? Aboard a Cardassian ship? We…have a ship? The architecture and the lighting of the place fit; even the placement of the lights, so they wouldn’t glare in sensitive Cardassian eyes after what he assumed to be a concussion, was ideal. For a moment, Dukat just stared at the gul as though his eyes might speak all of the words that crowded themselves in his mind and struggled to get out—then he felt his face flush invisibly under his macroscales and he averted his eyes in apology for his rudeness. The medical officer leaned closer to his display…maybe he’d noticed.

    Finally, through the pain and the disorientation, one response emerged that summed up the storm of emotions coursing through him, and a smile lit his face. “There is some pain—but I’m here, thank Oralius!”

    Jarol's mouth opened in surprise. She turned to look at Brenok, whose facial expression reflected hers. Since when Gul Dukat was an Oralian? Had he always been, and hid it that well? Or was it in the last few years, during his absence? What had they done to him? The gul looked back at Dukat, not sure what to say. Would it be rude to ask? Would he want to share? His clothes, his hair, everything about him was so different.

    Suddenly a disturbing idea appeared in her mind. Was it that implant in his head?! Did those Oralians brainwash and now control him with this device?

    “I am sure our medic can help you with the pain,” she said cautiously.

    Brenok stepped closer and stood next to his gul. He observed Dukat intently, not sure what to think about it all. He knew the Oralians were forgiving people, but to accept him? He found it even more surprising than the fact that this particular man had converted.

    “Sir, do you need anything? Is there something we could do for you?” Jarol asked. She would give him command of her warship if he said the word.

    “No, thank you, Gul,” he politely replied. Glancing over at the medic, he added, “I mean no offense, but I would rather think clearly unless it’s absolutely necessary.” Even just the thought of compromised awareness sent a chill down his spine. Something was starting to feel off about all of this. His mind traveled back to the strange conflict of emotions brewing around him as he returned to consciousness. On one hand, the gul treated him as though he held a much higher status than he did—she was practically talking to him like a legate! Yet he had a sense that something he had said had shocked or offended them, and he had no idea what he had done wrong. The glinn in particular seemed…cold somehow, not like the gul. If anything, his body language suggested he was trying to protect his gul from something.

    It made a bit more sense, he supposed, than the respect that came out of nowhere. He too would be wary of a stranger on his doorstep, until he’d ascertained who the mystery man was. But they’d reacted to his words. Finally the silence grew uncomfortable. “I’m sorry…did I say something wrong?”

    Brenok mouthed the words Dukat had said. This was not a choice of words an average Cardassian would make. This was not a choice the Oralians he knew would make.

    “No, sir, of course not,” Jarol replied and looked at Brenok. He scratched his head, pulled his braid over his neck ridge and started to absent-mindedly pull at its end.

    “Sir,” he started, then hesitated, but decided to finish. “Where have you been for the last three years?”

    Jarol shot an angry glance at Brenok. “You are out of line, Glinn,” she said in a sharp tone. “I'm sorry, Gul, he is just...” She didn't finish, seeing Dukat's expression.

    That frigid tone of hers struck at memories he wished would just lie dormant, and he had to remind himself that she wasn’t Bajoran. That she was not Vedek Tora. He fought against his reaction, but still he tensed at her sharp rebuke as though it were aimed at him. In a low voice the doctor intoned, “Relax…”

    But that was far from the only odd thing about this scenario. Dukat’s eye ridges had shot up further than he had ever believed they could go, and as was becoming the norm here, for the first few seconds, the words wouldn’t come. A few signs came to mind, but these officers didn’t look Kurabda; they wouldn’t understand. “What? I…'Gul’?” Dukat stammered as his mind struggled to catch up to this revelation. “I don’t—I’m the one who should call you Gul, and you Glinn.” His eyes went from one to the other as he spoke. “And you I would call ‘Doctor,’” he said to the ship’s physician. “I’m not the officer of the Guard here…you three are.”

    And for the young glinn—and now Dukat could truly see his youth as something in his demeanor shifted, became more thoughtful and less forbidding—he reserved a look of regret, though he wasn’t sure exactly how to make it up to him. I never meant for you to get in trouble over this…misunderstanding, or whatever it is. Then he comprehended. “Maybe you’re thinking of my cousin.” It still didn’t make sense—the Cardassian Guard had ceased to officially exist not long after the invasion and Akellen had never reached that rank. But it made more sense than thinking he was a gul.

    “Ah!” Jarol was only able to make a single, inarticulate sound, her surprise rendering her speechless, while Taret's head popped up on hearing the strange word his patient called him. It sounded...archaic, like something taken from one of the novels about ancient times he was so fond of.

    “Do you mean Gul Macet?” Brenok asked, shaking his head. “You are not Gul Macet, are you? You are,” he decided to skip the military rank, “Dukat, aren't you?”

    Jarol looked surprised at Brenok and then, finally, she started to think she knew what he was getting at.

    “Do you think the Oralians brainwashed him?” she asked Brenok quietly.

    The glinn shook his head. “I don't think he is who we think he is,” he said. “Look at his clothes, his hair, his vocabulary! He's like...”

    “From another time,” the medic spoke, approaching them. “Displaced in time.”

    “What are you saying? This is Dukat.” She looked at them both.

    “He is and he isn't,” Brenok said calmly. “His physical appearance tells you he is Dukat, but everything this the man you used to know?”

    “I don't know.” She shrugged. She didn't want to admit it, but she knew Brenok was correct—everything about this man's behavior was in total opposition to what she would expect of her former gul.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2010
  3. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Brenok looked at their mysterious guest and gave a friendly smile. “Do I appear familiar to you, sir?” he asked, using a particle at the end of his sentence that indicated equality, not seniority.

    Dukat had been unable to make out the words they whispered as they conferred amongst themselves on the other end of the infirmary. He thought he heard his own name—which wasn’t surprising if they knew enough to associate him with Akellen Macet—but the rest was an indistinct mumble to him, and told him nothing about whatever had happened to him, and who these people were. And how they might help the resistance. Still, the glinn’s change in demeanor was a welcome outcome. No longer did he treat Dukat as though he held a rank that didn’t belong to him. “I’m afraid not, Glinn,” he replied, maintaining his own formality. “Though if I may…” He trailed off, and the glinn nodded for him to go ahead. “Are you from anywhere near Revakian?”

    The glinn blinked. “Revakian? No…why do you ask?”

    For a moment Dukat wondered if he had overstepped. Most often, when a man in the Guard had long hair, it meant he came from a very traditional sect, or possibly even one of the non-Oralian tribes with ancient roots in the Revakian area, and had received a religious exemption from his superiors. Such would not have been necessary in the sect to which Dukat and Macet belonged; though it would have felt strange to Dukat, he would have cut off his queue had he joined the military. He hoped the glinn hadn’t taken the question as an unwanted intrusion into his ethnicity and religion.

    Or maybe people on his ship were so used to his appearance that he barely even thought anything of it himself. Dukat thought for a moment, searching for a neutral phrasing, then replied, “That style of braid is something I see most often on men from the area of Revakian.” There…hopefully that won’t sound too presumptuous of me to say.

    “Oh,” Brenok smiled, his confusion disappearing. “Oh, no. I’ve never heard of that place. This...” he hesitated for a moment. He wasn't used to talk about his braid and the reason why his hair was long. However the man's reply, clearly indicating that he did not know Brenok, meant that this person was misplaced, and probably scared, so he decided to be honest and reveal the truth as it was, in spite of the painful reminder the truth was accompanied by. He approached Dukat, but didn't cross the border of his personal space. “I grew my hair long to hide a scar.” He pointed to his non-existent ear under his hair. “The scar is not a pretty sight and it used to terrify my little girl.” His little girl, who was no more...his eyes threatened to fill with tears, but he quickly blinked them away. He wanted to comfort the man, not to worry him additionally. “Sorry,” he muttered.

    He felt a hand on his shoulder; he didn't have to turn to know it was Jarol. She squeezed gently, but strongly enough for him to feel it through his thick armor.

    “I am Gul Jarol,” she told Dukat. “And these are Glinn Brenok and Medic Taret. You are aboard the Cardassian Union Warship Roumar. There has been a transporter accident, which resulted in you materializing aboard.” She tried to speak softly, remembering his reaction when she had snapped at Brenok. She still wasn't completely sure this wasn't some kind of deception, but decided to play along. Brenok's openness surprised her, but she knew her friend was a good judge of character and if he was so gentle and considerate to a person with Dukat's face, then there must be something to it. “Do you remember what happened to you just before you were beamed here?” she asked.

    Dukat’s mind was reeling by now. Don’t be sorry! he’d wanted to say to Glinn Brenok. He knew how it felt. But before he had a chance, they were already telling him about some sort of transporter accident, asking him if he remembered the events that led up to it. And then there was the matter of this ‘Cardassian Union’—some kind of resistance group?—that somehow claimed to have a warship. Then his stomach sank. Glinn Brenok sounded nice enough for now, but could this ‘Cardassian Union’ be one of the death squads that paid no heed to what Oralius had to say about the difference between the guilty and the innocent in warfare?

    Gul Jarol’s manner had softened now, but still…he wondered. Was she capable of those fanatics’ deeds? He would have to take great care until he was sure. This ‘transporter accident’ could be a ploy.

    Yet something about that whole scenario felt wrong. There were just too many strange things, great and small. It was as though the universe itself had turned itself inside-out while he lay unconscious, and he couldn’t trust anything he thought he knew.

    “I was on Cardassia Prime,” he began. That should be safe enough. “We had intelligence on the location of…a high-value target. I was in pursuit—there was another with me.” He did not share Corat’s name; that was the first cardinal rule of resistance: even with other Cardassians, such information needed not be shared with those whose level of trustworthiness was unknown. “When we reached the Bajoran target, I led the attack, but before I could get off a shot, this Bajoran aims a weapon at me the likes of which I’ve never seen before. He fired at me—I fell back into the bulkhead, and for a moment everything felt…permeable. Translucent. Then I blacked out…and now I’m here,” he finished in a tone that made it clear that whatever they had said this place was, he still felt far from settled.

    Jarol frowned. Did he say 'Bajoran'? A Bajoran on Cardassia Prime? A Bajoran target? An attack on a Bajoran target? An Oralian attack on a Bajoran target? She wanted to ask, but she didn't know how to form her questions. She didn't know what those questions should be. She decided on the simplest thing, even if it appeared silly.

    Why are there Bajorans on Cardassia Prime?” She spoke slowly, not managing to hide the suspicion in her voice. “What are they doing there, that you have to...fight them?” he last words were full of astonishment.

    Brenok looked expectantly at Dukat, obviously also very interested in the answer, although he was already sure that his theory was correct—this man was from some other reality, and the transporter accident had brought him here. He smiled reassuringly to Dukat and decided to be as helpful for the lost man as possible. He guessed it had to be unnerving to find oneself in a strange environment, among strange people, on an unknown Cardassia, although the lack of Bajorans to fight could be encouraging.

    Dear Oralius!” Dukat thrust himself into a sitting position despite the pain, but he had to look them in the eye. He leaned against the back of the biobed. He could hardly find his voice; the words emerged as a hoarse and bewildered whisper: “This isn’t my world!” His breathing sped up—his heart pounded—the adrenaline shot through his body; he hovered mere seconds from a full-blown panic attack. His implant was good for maintaining equilibrium on a grander scale, and it surely responded in some manner now, but it couldn’t do everything, or else he wouldn’t experience the ordinary emotions of life. For that, only prayer and discipline would suffice.

    He closed his eyes…he had to forget for a moment where he was; he had to regain control. His lips moved soundlessly as he delivered his prayer: Oralius, comforter of my soul, embrace my spirit and deliver me! He had little time for anything else…now he needed her focus to slow his heart, to flush the adrenaline from his system. He had to do away with the sense of aloneness that threatened to swallow him up alive. He steadied his breathing, drawing each breath in slowly through the nose and exhaling gently through the mouth. After a moment he felt his heart begin to slow and his thoughts fall into some sort of order.

    Dukat opened his eyes. The panic was averted—but that didn’t make it any easier for these strangers…these strangers from another world whose intentions he knew nothing about…to have seen him this way.

    Taret was furious. He did not show it, of course, especially since the source of his anger was his very own gul, but he looked at her and very slowly shook his head, sending her the signal of his disapproval.

    “Easy, easy...” he said quietly to Dukat in his soothing voice, trying to comfort his patient.

    Frustrated, she stepped away and moved to a far corner of the infirmary, trying to compose her thoughts. What was that she had just seen? She shot a glance at Dukat and wondered what those Bajorans had done to him. How could the strong man she had known be such a trembling and vulnerable flower in another reality? Were the Bajorans his Dominion?

    Brenok pulled a stool to the biobed, lowered its seat and sat on it, making sure his face was below Dukat's, a submissive, non-threatening position. “Calm down,” he said softly. “There is no danger here, no Bajorans. You are safe.”

    The medic seemed relieved, seeing that Dukat's readings had dropped to an almost normal level, but he was still unhappy.

    “You don't need to answer any questions, if you don't want to,” Brenok continued. “At least for now. We will try to send you back home, but we will need more information from you later. And some scans too. But I give you my word nothing bad will happen to you. A Cardassian's word.” He hoped it meant something in Dukat's world.

    “Thank you,” Dukat replied with a bow of the head, and a wince at the movement.

    Still, he did his best to gather himself into a position that would hopefully look somewhat more calm and collected. He could feel the effect of the shock to his system on top of the soreness that was already there—but he was recovering. Taret…the medic, they had called him?...seemed to understand what had happened. Glinn Brenok apparently did as well—in fact, his manner reminded him of Akellen in that moment, or even Ziyal.

    Gul Jarol was another matter. She seemed…confused, yes…perhaps even hurt. Was it something to do with…another Skrain Dukat? But that wasn’t the worst of it: he could almost swear her lip curled with revulsion as she regarded him. Maybe he was just imagining it, but though he knew virtually nothing about her, the thought stung nonetheless. He straightened himself as best as he could, looked at Jarol, and said in the strongest tone he could muster, “I regret that you saw that, Gul.” He hoped he had managed to hide how the judgment in her eyes made him feel. Or was it simply the memory of another’s judgment?

    She looked at him and stared for a short moment; then she approached a bit closer, but still kept her distance.

    “No, don't apologize,” she said quietly, shaking her head. “You did nothing wrong. I didn't want to...” She searched for the right word. She didn't want to use 'scare' as she felt it would be patronizing. A man, even an Oralian, who fought against his enemies was not a coward and telling him he was scared would be rude. “I didn't want to cause this. I am sorry. I am very confused, just as you surely are, and...I am not used to not having answers to my questions. I will ask none until you are ready to talk, or if you are ready to talk. I cannot break my best friend's word.” She smiled slightly, glancing at Brenok who answered with his own smile.

    She looked around to find another stool and mimicked Brenok's position, but half a meter farther from Dukat. She realized the glinn knew much better how to handle this situation and decided to trust his judgment.

    “All of this is foreign to me,” Dukat admitted. He could see now that perhaps he had misjudged Gul Jarol: she too was feeling her way through the situation step by step. “I am not used to interstellar travel or to any of this; my home is Cardassia Prime. My Cardassia.” He paused for a moment to process those words. Even if this warship was orbiting Prime itself, he could never hope to touch his home. Dukat pressed his lips together for a moment, then said, “All of my friends and family are there—my people…I can’t leave them behind. I will try to answer your questions.”

    “Before we ask any questions relevant to sending you back home,” Brenok said, glancing at Jarol when saying the latter part of his sentence, “we will need to gather information from our transporter logs. I will check with our chief engineer if he can make any sense of it.” He started to rise, but Jarol's hand on his shoulder stopped him.

    “I'll talk to Zamarran,” she said. “You stay with our guest.” She nodded to Dukat.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2010
  4. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    She went to the adjacent chamber of the infirmary and pressed her wristcomm. She ordered the warship's chief engineer, Glinn Zamarran, to study the transporter logs for multi-universal travel or anything that could suggest a beam from a parallel reality. If the engineer was surprised by her unusual request, there was no sign of it in his voice.

    In the meantime Taret raised his hand, indicating he wanted to say something. Brenok nodded and then both the medic and the glinn looked at their unusual guest, waiting for his permission.

    “I'd like to ask about that implant,” his hand motioned behind his own right ear. “This is technology unknown to us, so I am not sure what its function is. Is there anything you need done with it? Is it there because you need it or because it was forced upon you? Could it have anything to do with your accident?” He went silent for a moment and then added, “If none of the answers are relevant to your current situation and there is no reason to be concerned about it, you can refuse to answer. I just want to make sure you are safe.”

    Just how different are our worlds? Dukat wondered. Before the invasion, pharmaceutical implants such as his had been, if not a common technology, well known enough that most people had at least heard of it. Given the invasiveness of the surgery required to install one, it was no doctor’s first preference—but for those who did require one, sometimes a literal lifesaver. Now, after so many years, it felt far less like a foreign object and more like a part of his own body, albeit an inorganic part, and he could reload and calibrate it himself without even the slightest thought to the unusual sensation that went with it. Some of this had to do with the way his own skin and bone had knit themselves into the implant itself, a technique Cardassian doctors used to allow the implant to come through the skin where necessary without the risk of opening a wound that could lead to infection.

    Though Taret had given him the option to refuse, the fact that he had probably wound up with a concussion from the attack convinced Dukat to explain, just in case the medical officer needed the understanding to treat his injury. “I doubt it would have had anything to do with what’s happened; I don’t see how that would be possible.” Dukat mused. “It’s a medical device—I’ve had it, or one like it, since I was thirteen. Its function is…to treat a chemical imbalance. I am able to inject my medicine when I can’t get the type that my implant requires, but when it’s working…as it should be now…it’s able to take real-time readings and determine the absolute minimum of medication that I require at any given time. Even the injectable medications are quite effective—they don’t have the side effects they would have even a few centuries ago—but the idea is to use as little as possible, so that it doesn’t hinder natural thoughts. Or emotions.”

    “I see.” Taret nodded. “I agree, I don't think it had anything to do with the accident. However, if you need anything, if your pain gets worse, let me know.”

    Jarol, who had finished her talk with the chief engineer, stood in the door to the other chamber. “I have arranged quarters for you,” she said. “A place where you'll be safe and undisturbed. I'd rather have the infirmary available in case of emergency, especially since it may take a while to find a way to send you back to your home and family.”

    There were so many questions she wanted to ask and they weren't about Bajorans any more. She knew this Dukat didn't know her. Did it mean she didn't exist there? Or just that their paths had never crossed. Was his family the same as Gul Dukat's here? Was...was Damar there? Alive? If she was there…were her children still alive? How different was that world from her own? Her mind was full of question marks, but she didn't dare to voice any of them. “Are you hungry?” she asked instead. “I can have some food sent to your quarters.”

    Dukat considered. “I have no idea what time it is here, but it was the middle of the night…at home.” And even if they knew what time it was in the Desert of Kurab—assuming they knew it by that name...Brenok hadn’t recognized Revakian. True, Revakian wasn’t a city on the order of Lakarian or Culat, but it was well known on his Cardassia. What had happened on this world, in its history, to change things so drastically? All of it just served to emphasize further how isolated he was from everything he knew. Except for Oralius, he reminded himself. “More than anything, I am tired.” That said, after everything that had happened…he didn’t want to insult the gul by refusing her hospitality. Despite her reassurances, he already felt like he’d done so once already. “Still…you wouldn’t happen to have some fish juice, would you?” Perhaps in the morning his stomach could handle more.

    She smiled. “Now that is something we do have in common.” She nodded to Brenok, who rose and went to the medic's office. A moment later he reappeared with a steaming mug of fish juice and handed it to Dukat.

    “We will go to your quarters now, where you can rest. Glinn Brenok will prepare a commlink for you,” the gul said for Dukat's benefit and for Brenok's. “It's going to be a direct connection to Medic Taret, Glinn Brenok, and me, in case you need anything.”

    “Don't hesitate to call me any time of the day,” Taret interjected.

    “Brenok, go and check if the corridor is clear.”

    The glinn nodded and left the infirmary. Taret took the emptied mug from Dukat's hands and put it away, but stayed close by to make sure their guest was strong enough to stand and walk.

    “Shall we?” Jarol gestured to the door and they both moved in its direction.

    “Any time you need!” Taret said after them, and they left the infirmary.

    “We need to take the lift. Your quarters are close to Brenok's and mine,” she explained. “You should have everything you need there. The computer voice recognition won't work; it's for your own safety. The commlink will be the only working device, so if you need anything, call any of us. Bathroom facilities can be operated manually. Any questions?”

    No voice recognition…yet another oddity. It suggested that the systems in his quarters were to be isolated from the core. If it were a matter of blocking his access to the database, firewalls and encryption would be sufficient for that. This level of isolation suggested that they were concerned about someone using the connection to trace him. Moreover, voice and identity were so interwoven in a technological society that a mere word from the wrong person would be enough to spring a trap; even areas without cameras very often weren’t safe from voice sensors. That was one of the reasons that under certain circumstances, he chose not to speak at all, relying instead on sign.

    How could he phrase this without casting aspersions on his hosts’ diligence? “Is there some danger to us?” he asked. Something that I am somehow responsible for?

    “No, no danger.” She tried to smile reassuringly. “But the replicator wouldn't work for you, because you have no rations assigned—we need to ration our resources, for we are not rich people—and our computer access is restricted to particular clearance levels for each crewmember. Since you are not a crewmember at all, I don't think the computer would allow you to do much.” The fact was the computer wouldn't allow him to do anything and would notify security, but he didn't have to know that. It wasn't him that security would really want. She didn't want to scare him again by giving him unnecessary, disturbing information.

    She stopped in front of the lift doors and waited for the car to arrive. Once the door opened she invited Dukat to enter first; then she followed him. Finally they arrived to the quarters to see Brenok waiting outside.

    “I took the liberty of replicating fresh clothing for you,” he said. “It's not as elegant as what you’re currently wearing, but it's clean.” He stepped aside, pressed the door comm and the doors swooshed open. “Here.” The glinn handed Dukat a wristcomm. “You just press and call one of us if you need anything.”

    Dukat nodded as he accepted the wristcomm. It looked fairly similar to the one Akellen had brought with him, though in accordance with this entire other universe, it looked…updated somehow. He was sure he could figure it out with little trouble…especially since Glinn Brenok seemed to be gesturing at the right button already. “I understand the need to ration the replicator—that’s something I have to do at home as well. I hunt when I can to reduce the power drain.” That, and the fact that any rematerialization device was sufficiently powerful to be visible to a tricorder that came too close, and leaving the replicator powered for too long could draw unwanted attention to their base. “I have no wish to abuse your resources. And I thank you,” he replied with a bow: literally, bless you.

    Jarol simply nodded and turned on her heel, but Brenok bowed and said, “May Oralius lead your way.”

    The door closed and Brenok faced Jarol's astonished expression. “What did you just say to him?” she asked.

    “That's how the Oralians bid each other farewell…well, our Oralians, at least. I don't know if it's different where he comes from.”

    “Uhm,” she muttered. “Let's go; I want to know what Zamarran has discovered and I need your expertise too.”

    They headed for the engineering. Zamarran worked with Aladar in the science chamber, which technically belonged to the engineering section, as there was no separate science department on the warship.

    “Glinn?” Jarol said by way of greeting. The engineer looked up and nodded to her.

    “I took the liberty of asking Garesh Aladar to assist me. Since he already knows about everything, and more than I, it would appear, there was no breach of secrecy,” Zamarran explained. He was a tall man with a stern face, twenty years older than the ship's second-in-command and almost ten older than his gul.

    “Do you need any more help?” Jarol asked, approaching the table over which Zamarran had been leaning when they entered.

    “I don't think any Cardassian has experience with this kind of events...but I was thinking...” He hesitated. Jarol nodded, encouraging him to continue. “Maybe one of our exchange officers could add some unique ideas to the whole project. What I know so far is that Garesh Aladar beamed aboard a man, instead of cases with food and other materials. The man's biological signature seems to be off, like he was displaced in time or in space in an unusual way. I compared the reading with our database and received a very interesting result.” Oh, no, Jarol thought. He knows. “His body still resonates with some strange power signature and I find it quite disturbing, because the closest thing to it, that we know of, is a Bajoran Orb.”

    “An Orb? Those devices they use to have their visions?” Jarol asked to make sure she understood correctly.

    “That's right,” Zamarran confirmed.

    “He said he was fighting a Bajoran when this happened,” Brenok pointed out.

    Gul Jarol went silent, trying to digest all the strange things they were telling her. “All right,” she said with resolve in her voice. “Zamarran, get Kapoor to help you, but keep her knowledge limited. Make it look like theoretical study, if possible. She must not know what has really happened.” The last thing she wanted was to inform the Federation officer on her warship that a copy of Gul Dukat was there. “And keep working. Aladar.” The garesh looked at her, squaring his shoulders. “You'll stay here and offer any assistance you can.”

    He nodded. “Yes, gul.”

    “I'll stay too,” Brenok offered.

    “Very well. He is resting now, so you have a few hours, but I want to give him some good news when he wakes up.” And I want it myself too, she thought, but didn't say it aloud.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2010
  5. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    True to Gul Jarol’s word, all of the consoles in the quarters the officers had assigned to him were dark. This area was completely off the network. This only bothered him in the sense that things were not functioning as they ought to be; the lack of technological conveniences in and of itself was nothing unusual. Indeed, compared to what he had grown up with before the invasion, Skrain Dukat needed little in the way of creature comforts to stay happy.

    He had the feeling, though they hadn’t stated it outright, that he dared not wander around the warship. Certainly being a civilian on a military vessel had something to do with it—but there seemed to be something more to it. Perhaps there were regulations for this sort of thing. At least in some of the speculative fiction books he still read when he got a chance, there were strict rules about things like time travel. He imagined crossing universal boundaries was much the same—some things, after all, were simply too powerful for Cardassians, or any other species. They belonged to Oralius alone.

    Whatever it was the Bajorans were experimenting on, that had brought him here, it was a perversion, and it had to be stopped. He had to return home—they could never be allowed to think that their weapon had succeeded.

    Dukat’s mind still wouldn’t stop spinning. What kind of world was this? Maybe the invasion hadn’t happened here, but it still didn’t feel right. He couldn’t quite put it together, but there were little pauses—strange looks—in contexts that didn’t make sense to him. There’s a deeper rift here, he thought. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

    And he would be in no condition to learn if he didn’t manage to get some sleep. He hadn’t experienced an attack that serious in a long time; he couldn’t afford that again, not when he needed to be vigilant…

    …against what?

    Dukat let out a long, shaky sigh.

    Unsure what else to do, he knelt on the floor near the bed and closed his eyes. He hadn’t brought his copy of the Hebitian Records, but he didn’t need it with him to read. This was what all of his people had originally trained their memories for, after all. What he missed most was his recitation mask. He didn’t strictly need it to pray, and often lacked it on his missions…but the longing was much more acute now, for sometimes Oralius did speak through the senses as well as in words.

    He could see the ancient text before his mind’s eye, even envision how the pages of his own copy had worn—pages of the same book that, with his recitation mask, he had salvaged the day of the invasion. Show me what you would have me see, he prayed. In his exhaustion he could hardly focus on the words, but eventually something emerged.
    Your thread weaves deftly through my heart
    Though I weep at each pass of the needle
    Your work is well-measured, the stitches secure
    You mend me, you join me to that which
    No man nor woman can ever rend
    And though I wander to the lightless ends of the world
    My heart may grasp this thread that never frays
    And still it knits me to my one home.
    A tear slipped loose from the corner of Dukat’s eye. The thread was still there. Please…protect Corat. Keep my daughter safe…bring me home…

    Gul Jarol slowly walked to her quarters. She knew there were many things she should be doing right now, but she also knew she wouldn't be able to concentrate on them. They could wait.

    She arrived to her quarters and with a heavy sigh sat in her favorite chair, in which she usually read books. She didn't intend to read this time, though. Reality was proving to be more challenging than any book she had read in her life.

    There was a Dukat in quarters not so far from hers. He was not Gul Dukat; he was a Dukat. He had Gul Dukat's face, and his voice, but not his facial expressions and not his tones of voice. Not his personality. Not his experiences. He came from a strange Cardassia, where he had to fight the Bajorans. What did the Bajorans want of Cardassia? Were they there for the same reason they, the Cardassians, had been on Bajor? She shook her head; impossible, Cardassia had no resources to attack it and exploit. He had confirmed that his Cardassia was poor too...what had he said? That he hunted? As in chased animals to kill them and eat them? How was he able to do that? In her mind's eye he seemed so fragile, so vulnerable she couldn't imagine him chasing anything bigger than a vole. He also claimed he was a fighter, but he was an Oralian. How could one be both? Wouldn't an Oralian just pray for freedom instead of actually fighting? That was the Guard's job—to fight. Speaking of believers, how come Prophet-loving Bajorans had attacked Cardassia? Was it some kind of retaliation for their occupation? Ah, yes, they had their terrorists, so it was possible to pray in temples and then go and kill others. She had never thought about it that way before. Was Dukat a terrorist then? Had he killed some Bajoran's children just like some Bajorans murdered hers? Her eyes filled with tears. It had been ten years since she'd lost her family.

    She looked out of the oval window of her quarters just like she had been looking out of Terok Nor's huge oval window on the Upper Promenade back then and almost saw it again: a small transport ship, full of civilians and merchants, setting course to Cardassia Prime, exploding. No one survived. No Prophets and no Oralius saved her little boy and little girl from being torn to pieces by fire and shrapnel.

    She gasped, trying to suppress her need to cry, to ward off the invisible hand that was squeezing her heart. Don't cry, you can't cry, you're a tough gul now, you're in command of a warship and a battalion of the Fourth Order. Don't be sissy. You're strong and unbreakable!

    No, I'm not; I only pretend I am.

    She pulled her legs to her chest and curled up in the chair, tears pooling in her eye ridges and slowly finding their way past them and down her cheeks.

    Concentrate. That was ten years ago and you have a serious problem now.

    She gently rubbed her eyelids and her fingers made circling movements inside the eye ridges. Her thoughts returned to this strange Dukat. What was she supposed to do with him? What if they didn’t find a way to send him back? She couldn't even imagine what his reaction would be to such news; he'd probably have another attack and die.

    This was too much for her, or she was too stupid to grasp it all. Brenok seemed to understand everything; he knew how to behave and what to say. She wished she could call him and ask him to come and keep her company, but he was busy. She couldn't even contribute to their work; she was probably the only woman on Cardassia that was totally inept in matters of engineering and science. She knew how to plan an attack, not fix a man in the wrong reality.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2010
  6. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    There was no wall chrono in the quarters that had been assigned to Dukat; presumably that function was performed by the ship’s computer as well. Instead, someone had placed what looked like an antique stand-alone clock on the table. It had actually ticked softly through the night, as though it had analogue workings inside instead of just mimicking the appearance of it.

    Who knew how many centuries old it was? This could be a family heirloom for the Jarols or the Brenoks, for all Dukat knew—so though he had thought about setting the alarm, he’d decided not to. The last thing he wanted, after all, was to be responsible for breaking someone’s irreplaceable treasure, especially after the previous day’s events.

    By the antique clock, Dukat knew that eight hours had elapsed since he entered ‘his’ quarters aboard the warship. The first hour of that had been spent in prayer and meditation—the next six on a fitful sleep that Dukat suspected to be something more like five hours total…not really enough, but it would be far from the first time he’d had to get by on a limited amount of sleep. At least he had slept some; one of the lessons he had learned from the doctors when he was young was that even when the last thing he wanted was to sleep, he had to at least make his body relax for a reasonable amount of time. And eventually, that would lead to sleep of some sort. Better that, at least, than staying up all night.

    It hadn’t been easy—but out of necessity, and through careful meditation, he had done it.

    Still, that didn’t mean he had actually looked presentable when he first woke up. His body still ached all over, and in some ways the soreness was worse than the first day. The first thing he had done, therefore, had been to take a quick, hot shower and stretch his muscles, slowly and carefully testing out of habit for anything that might be strained or torn. Only the stiffness and soreness remained, and a dull ache in his head…Taret had clearly done good work.

    After that, Dukat had put on the clothes Glinn Brenok had replicated for him. It was a suit of a charcoal grey color, not unlike the outer robe of the tribal outfit he had been wearing. The pattern work on the thick material of the jacket didn’t quite seem like any of the designs he had ever seen in his youth, or in the outfits he kept for venturing into the city where it wouldn’t do to look as though he had just wandered in from the desert—something about it seemed slightly different, though he couldn’t place it. Still, the outfit fit him exactly. No doubt Taret had forwarded his measurements to Glinn Brenok.

    Even so, it felt a bit awkward, just as it always did on those ‘city’ missions. Despite having grown up for the first twenty years of his life no different than any native of Culat, he had grown accustomed to the Kurabda attire, and somehow this kind of suit managed to feel confining and light at the same time. The inner robe and trousers he normally wore were much looser-fitting than this, and he felt as though there should be more a bit weight on his shoulders and lower neck ridges from the outer robe.

    Of course, he wasn’t about to complain. After all, the entire outfit was brand new, and tailored for him. Not that I can take it with me, he figured. If I did that, the Bajorans might actually have reason to think they accomplished something. At that he felt a pang of anguish at his impossible dilemma. He didn’t know anything about traveling from universe to universe, after all—only the fancies of fiction writers. He was at their mercy to help him.

    Finally, once Dukat got his hair completely dried and pulled back into its customary queue, he drew in a deep, steadying breath. He still wasn’t sure what to make of these people and their alien Cardassia, especially the imposing, tightly-coiled Gul Jarol. I guess Glinn Brenok and Doctor—Medic—Taret were nice enough, he reminded himself.

    He reached out for the wristcomm they had given him. Then he paused. Who am I supposed to speak to? Even before he had arrived, the resistance cell he now played a pivotal role in had decided not to use military protocol, given that most of its members were civilians. There was a clear hierarchy, yes, but sometimes one did as both respect and each unique situation demanded. As a civilian, would it be impolite to communicate directly to the gul? Should I contact Glinn Brenok first, and let him decide what to do? Or should I address Gul Jarol first? A chill shot down his spine at that option.

    I guess the best thing to do is just open the channel and see who picks up, he decided. Let them show me what this structure requires.

    Dukat tapped the button; the wristcomm chirped, and he spoke softly into it. “Good morning…”

    Is that even how you’re supposed to address military officers? And what about in this world?

    Then something else occurred to him. He glanced at the clock. Is that morning time or evening time? I hope I haven’t woken them…
  7. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Jarol shifted and growled. At first she wasn't sure what was wrong, but then she realized she had just woken up and this wasn't her bed. Why wasn't she in her bed? When did she go to sleep?

    She abruptly sat, almost falling out of the chair, realizing what had just happened. She tapped her wristcomm and replied in a hoarse voice: “Good morning, Dukat.” When was the last time she had greeted someone that way? She couldn't remember, but it came back to her so naturally, as though this response was programmed into her and no military conditioning could remove it, even after almost thirty years of the 'reporting for duty, sir' greeting she had been using since joining the Guard.

    Her eyes burnt and her bones ached; she had fallen asleep in the chair the previous evening. The last thing she remembered was looking at a holopicture of Corat, Mayel and Joret, trying to see their faces through tears that had been filling her eyes. The holopicture must have slipped to the floor and was now lying next to the chair below the place where her hand had been when she woke up. She rubbed her eyes, but instead of making the burning sensation go away, she made it even worse. “Would you like some breakfast?” she asked Dukat, her voice sounding better this time.

    She got up and shifted inside her armor; she hadn't taken it off the previous evening and now could feel all the consequences of it. She went to the bathroom and looked into the mirror. She saw a tired, broken woman looking at her with puffy, red eyes. She closed her eyes and opened them again, but the woman in the mirror was still there, not looking much better. Why do you look at me this way? she thought at her reflection. Because you know I killed my own children and husband? Because you know that they are dead because I am such an egoist? Do you think I don't know that?!

    Now Dukat spoke. “I would appreciate that, Gul, thank you.”

    She absently listened to Dukat's reply as she leaned against the wall behind her, eyes closed, the back of her head resting on the hard surface of the bulkhead. “We will bring you something soon,” she told Dukat, trying her best not to let her demons to sneak into her tone. “I'll also check with our engineer to see how he’s doing on finding a way to send you back.” He thanked her politely. How unnatural it sounded, how strange those words were when spoken by this voice. The contrast between the politeness and gentleness in this voice and the authoritative tone she was used to hearing in this voice were stranger than the vocabulary the voice was using.

    She contacted Brenok, who was still working with Zamarran in Engineering, and asked him to pick up breakfast from the mess hall and then join her in her quarters. Then she took a shower, the full ten minutes her ration would allow her, and tried to hide all signs of her difficult night. She doubted, however, that she would be able to fool Brenok, but hoped that Dukat wouldn't notice anything.

    The shower made her feel better, but not look better. She settled for a simple bun, trying—and failing—to catch all wisps of her hair into it. She donned her armor and waited for Brenok.

    He appeared shortly after, carrying a tray that seemed too big for one dish. “I thought he would like some company, so I told Garesh Zanap to prepare food for three,” he explained, seeing her surprised look. Then he noticed something was wrong; he put the tray on a table and approached her. “Atira, what's happened?”

    She shook her head, biting her lower lip and trying not to burst into tears again. He moved closer and offered her a chaste, supportive linking of the arms—the closest physical contact among Cardassians who were not married—to show her his support. She thanked him for his ‘hug,’ smiling slightly. “Let's go,” she said. “I'm sure he's hungry.”I did wake her, Dukat thought. He knew they had said ‘any time,’ but he had still hoped that wouldn’t be the case. Maybe she would send Glinn Brenok instead, and go back to sleep. After straightening up his sleeping area, he sat in a stuffed chair, opposite to one of the non-functional viewscreens.

    It wasn’t long before the door slid open…probably the chime, assuming it had one, wasn’t working either. Dukat immediately rose to greet the officers with a shallow but respectful bow. “May the song of the morning greet you,” he said more formally this time, hoping that if he had breached protocol earlier, this would make up for it. Yes, it was more of a Kurabda phrase than anything, but the connection to the Invocation would be obvious to any Cardassian—and even then, the tone with which he spoke would be instinctively read, and he hoped it would convey the proper respect.

    As he straightened, he caught a whiff of the breakfast they had brought him. “That smells excellent…you must have used real ingredients.” Then he caught sight of Gul Jarol. She had wrapped her hair up into a much simpler bun this time, and her eyes looked…bloodshot, and years older than before. Glinn Brenok looked as though he had gotten ready quickly—a few strands poked out of his braid—but he didn’t seem inordinately exhausted. Maybe they work on different shifts, he thought. But there seemed to be something else to this, judging from the way his heart had caught when his eyes made contact with the gul’s. “I apologize,” he said, and pointed to the clock. “I did not know whether it was morning or evening time.”

    Jarol's eyes followed Dukat's finger and stopped on the object he had pointed at. “What is this?” she asked after a moment, her voice full of surprise.

    “Oh.” Brenok put the tray on a dining table and approached the clock. “This is a pendronome.” Both Dukat and Jarol looked at him. “It emits a very quiet ticking sound. The Flower Girl, an Oralian friend of mine,” he added for Dukat's benefit, “gave it to me. It's very old, and since I lost everything in the Lakarian City Massacre, she wanted me to have something very old to keep as my personal treasure. And...this sound is supposed to help in my meditations.” Jarol's eyes opened wider. “To suppress the pain,” he told her, pointing to his right shoulder and a long scar that marred his neck ridge. Then he returned to the dining table and uncovered the contents of the tray to reveal their breakfast. “Indeed, our cook has used real ingredients. The smell makes me, pff,” he blew away a stray wisp of hair that fell over his eye, “hungry,” he finished.

    “You're quite cheerful for someone who didn't sleep at all.” Jarol motioned to the table, inviting Dukat to sit first.

    “I think we have some progress in our little investigation, but there are things we have to check first before we can tell anything for sure.”

    She noticed. Dukat was trying to be discreet, but she noticed that he was observing her. Seemed like her appearance hadn’t improved after the shower as she'd hoped it would. “Did you have a restful night?” she asked him.

    It took Dukat a moment to respond. It almost sounded as though Brenok was not Oralian—yet he wasn’t from one of the Revakian tribes, either. He knew that not every Cardassian believed, but apparently the assumption he had made based on the glinn’s hair was completely wrong. And—Lakarian City Massacre? What happened in this world? Is that where Glinn Brenok was injured…and his child killed? Dukat returned his attention to the gul’s question. “It was a combination of prayer and sleep—but it helped. And Glinn…I see what you mean about the pendronome; I found it very relaxing. But if you need it back, just say the word.” Maybe Brenok might lend it to his gul?

    “Oh, no, you can keep it for now.” Brenok shook his head, smiling. “There are so few things working here; at least this one is not dependent on a computer. It shows the time and you could use it for your meditation...if you meditate, that is.”

    Jarol was quiet, staring at her plate. She wasn't hungry. For some reason she couldn't stop thinking about Bajorans, children, death, Oralians, Prophets, everything mixing in her mind. She should have sent Brenok with the breakfast alone; she should have stayed in her quarters and cried her eyes out.

    “Atira?” Brenok looked at her, worry clear on his face. She didn't seem to hear him, lost in her own world. “Atira,” he said softer, putting his hand on hers. She raised her eyes to his face, but they looked like she didn't really see him.

    “It's my fault,” she whispered.

    “No, it's not. It never was.” His voice was soft, but firm.

    Something had happened. This woman who had seemed before to be made of ice, who had even appeared to hold his fears in contempt, suddenly seemed…alive. In terrible anguish, yes, but alive. Glinn Brenok wasn’t the only one who had known some kind of grief in his time. Whatever had happened in this place, whatever it had done to these people, there was something here that he could understand. He thanked Oralius that she had her friend…her beloved? offer some comfort. But in this moment, however well-intentioned Glinn Brenok’s words were, they seemed to do almost nothing.

    Are you all right? sounded nothing short of ridiculous to him. It was very clear that Gul Jarol was anything but all right. The only question was, would she consider it trespassing for this stranger from another Cardassia to intrude upon this moment? “Gul Jarol…has something happened?”

    She looked at him with surprise in her eyes; it appeared as if she had forgotten he was there at all. She shook her head, ashamed, trying to compose herself. “No. Yes, but it happened long time ago.” She looked at Brenok again. “Do you know it's been ten years already?”

    “I know.” He nodded. He opened his mouth to add something, but his wristcomm beeped. He tapped it and barked, “Brenok.”

    “Sir.” Zamarran voice was crisp and clear. “I might have something.”

    “I'm on my way,” Brenok said and signed off. He looked at Jarol; he couldn't leave her like this, he couldn't abandon her in her weak moment, but he had to.

    “Go,” she told him.

    He rose and wanted to take her back to her quarters, but his eyes rested on Dukat.

    He was an Oralian. The Flower Girl was an Oralian. She has been helping him with his pain and his loss. Maybe Dukat, that strange, Oralian Dukat could help his friend? It was a long shot, but he decided to take that risk, realizing that if it failed, she would pay the price for the failure. He hesitated for a moment and then said to their guest, “Take care of her.” Then he leaned by Jarol's ear and whispered, “He will tell you why it wasn't your fault.” He squeezed her arm gently and left the room.
  8. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    This was it. He was alone with her. The thought had filled him with such dread even this morning—but now…there must be thousands—billions of universes out there, maybe even more than that. Could it be that Oralius has turned the Bajorans’ sin against itself again? Even as degrading as Vedek Tora’s actions had been, Oralius had gained a soul in the person of Ziyal Dukat. Maybe now, in their perverse attack upon the very boundaries of the universe, there was a reason he was here, in this universe. Not to mention the fact that the truly evil, the most guilty among them never acknowledged any sense of guilt—and certainly not false blame. A person like Tora, regardless of species, could not feel what Jarol clearly felt now.

    He had to do what he could. “Gul...if you are able, could you tell me what’s on your heart?” He tried to meet her eyes, though she only seemed to be able to hold her gaze for a few instants at a time.

    She crumpled a napkin in her hands, staring at her full, untouched plate. “Do you have children, Dukat?” she asked not looking at him. “I have a son. He is the sweetest thing in the world. But he is not the only child I’ve had.” She looked up at him and her eyes immediately returned to the plate. He seemed to feel her pain, to share it. She barely knew him, but for some reason she felt she could talk to him. Or maybe she desperately needed to talk to someone, anyone, to get it all out. “They were killed. Exactly ten years ago they died, because I was a bad mother. I wanted to see them so badly, I missed them so much that I brought them to me, to a dangerous place where I was working at that time...and they paid for this with their lives. I killed them,” she whispered in a shaking voice. She raised her face, tears pooling in her eye ridges. “I'm sorry, it's not your problem. I will leave...”

    “Please don’t!” Dukat’s voice shook, and he felt his eyes welling up. “Jarol—don’t go…I know what it’s like. Five years ago…the Bajorans murdered my wife, and three of my children. All except for one. My daughter...” What do I say? How do I explain? “She never had the chance to know her mother or siblings. My wife…she wasn’t a fighter, but she loved me, and she was willing to give up the relative ‘comfort’ of the city to make a family with me. I had gone out on a mission—I believed with all my heart that our base was safe. And I loved her, and loved them so much, that just the thought of…not bringing them into the world, even though we’re occupied…I would never take back that choice. They deserved to live. But—they didn’t deserve to die. I took risks on that mission. I was taken prisoner, and three weeks later, they stormed our cave, took my wife and children…and they just lined them up and shot them in cold blood. They didn’t even bother killing everyone else on the base, even though they had them at their mercy…they just…targeted my family and executed them just to make some kind of sick point!

    “I look back on that mission—and I could drive myself insane wondering what I could have done differently. If I’d planned it differently, if I had taken more support, just done something different so as not to be captured…” He let out a slow breath. “But I don’t know what kind of parent I would be if I didn’t wonder, if I didn’t worry. If I didn’t care. That’s how I know…I can still raise my little girl. It hurts because I love them. Because I love her. It’s true, there are all of these what-ifs. But I didn’t kill them. I…” He couldn’t help the tears now. They spilled over quietly, but he made no move to wipe them away. “I did not pull that trigger. I did not decide that an innocent woman and three children ought to die.

    “Jarol…” He almost reached out towards her—but he didn’t dare. It would have been hard enough anyway, had she actually wanted to touch him…but she was apparently in a relationship as well, and the last thing—the last thing he wanted to do was interfere with the sacred. Never. “Why would you believe it’s your fault?”

    “I used to...” How could she tell him that? How could she justify that? “I worked on a space station in Bajor's orbit. We had invaded them;, it was wrong, terribly wrong and now that we’ve been invaded ourselves, we understand that better than ever. But back then... things were different. We were different.” She took a deep breath. “I was there and couldn't go back home to visit my husband and two children. My gul wouldn't let me. But he let me bring them to the station for a few days. He warned me it would require security precautions and I thought I did everything right. We spent a wonderful ten days together and then they boarded a transport ship to return home. Bajorans targeted that ship and it exploded in front eyes.” Her voice shook. “I was punished for my negligence, but not severely enough. If not for my wrong decision, they would be alive. If not my egoism, they would never have left Cardassia to come to that damned station.” She put the napkin to her mouth, trying not to sob. “My husband was a civilian clerk. He had an artificial leg, because he had lost his own. He was no threat to anyone. My son, Corat, was only seven, Mayel—ten. I understand the Bajorans were fighting to get rid of us, I understand they wanted us to go away, but I don't understand why they targeted a handicapped man with two young children, not the woman in armor. Why not me?!” She raised her eyes and looked at Dukat like she expected him to have an answer for her. “If anyone deserved to die, it was me, not them!”

    Dukat’s eyes went wide. Cardassia—Cardassia invaded a planet…? How could we? Oralius, what happened here? Why is everything so twisted, why have they lashed out against you like this? I can’t stay…they’ll destroy my soul here…! I have to go home!

    But if anyone looked destroyed here, it was Gul Jarol. And even among the Bajorans on his world—there were good men and women. The people who had risked so much to get him out of Vedek Tora’s compound, to smuggle him back to Cardassia Prime had been good people. And it was clear from Gul Jarol’s face that her role in the atrocities, whatever it had been, haunted her almost as much as the death of her family. Enough so that she would surrender her life in payment.

    He wanted the Bajorans off his world. But there were lines he refused to cross—and this was why. “Your gul…he commanded the station?”

    Jarol nodded. She would not meet his eyes.

    “And he discussed this idea of bringing your children to the station with you?”

    Jarol nodded again.

    “As station commander, he could have forbidden it. He could have given you the order, but he didn’t do it. What else were you supposed to think from that? He was your commander, and he told you it could be done. And all of the station’s security forces would have answered to him—they were his responsibility. For him to then turn around and punish you for a decision that he himself convinced you was a reasonable thing to do and that he allowed you to carry out aboard the station that he was responsible for…that’s perverse! It’s entrapment! It would be like…” He paused, swallowing hard. Even in the vaguest, most impersonal terms, speaking these words was an act of will, for he had feared just such a thing upon returning to Cardassia Prime with Ziyal in his arms. “Like punishing a person who was raped because they couldn’t fend off their attacker. It would be like raping them again.” He shook his head.

    “Whatever punishment he gave you, you never deserved it. Ever.

    She looked at him through her tears. He seemed to know exactly what she was feeling and how she was feeling it. “If I could turn back time…” she started and then she went silent. If she turned back time and that never happened, she wouldn't have married Demok and wouldn't have Laran now. She couldn't imagine her life without her three-year-old boy. “I still can't stop thinking that if I’d made a different decision that day, if I hadn’t...they would still be alive. They would be alive if I weren’t there at all, but I didn't have that choice. I had a choice not to bring them to me.” She stopped, trying to make sense of it and failing. “They didn’t deserve to die; I did! The Bajorans should have targeted me,” she said, looking in Dukat's eyes. There was so much pain in them. Was it the reflection of her suffering, or his very own torment? She leaned toward him. “I need to be punished, I need to punish myself.”

    “No…no…” Those words emerged without a voice as Jarol spoke. After she finished, he found his voice again. “Don’t—don’t let them do that to you. Don’t let them put their sickness into you. Don’t let them keep taking and taking from you even after they’re gone…people who do those kinds of things—that’s the only thing they love. They want to make themselves a part of your soul. They want you to think that because you can’t choose or change the things they do to you, that there’s no choice left except to feel what they want you to feel. But that’s an illusion…you do still have a choice. To forgive yourself.”

    “How could I for—” She didn't finish. She didn't want the terrorists to be part of her. She didn't want to be anything like them. She had done bad things in her life, but she never glorified them. And now, more than ever, she knew how wrong they were. How mistaken her Cardassia sometimes was. “Do you think they would forgive me?” she asked aloud, her question partially directed to Dukat, partially to herself, partially to no one. “Do you think my children wouldn't hold me accountable for their deaths?” She always thought they would.

    Dukat nodded. “I’m sure they know who it was that was trying to kill them. And they know who it was who loved them, and just wanted to share that love with them. And I think they would know now what information you did and did not have at the time it happened. I believe they would want you to forgive yourself, not to drown yourself. I think they would want that for you, and for the son you have left. That’s what I try to do for my daughter’s sake.”

    She smiled sadly. “I don't want to drown my son. I want to tell him wonderful things about his siblings when he grows bigger.” She kept looking into Dukat's eyes and realized something: Gul Dukat had apologized for punishing her; even he understood she was not to blame. Why couldn't she?

    She put her hand on the table, close to Dukat's. She didn't touch him, she didn't put her hand on his—it wouldn't be appropriate—but her move was obvious. “What is she like? Your daughter?”

    It was somewhat easier for Dukat not to flinch at Jarol’s sudden move, than it would have been just a few minutes earlier. He hoped he had managed to hide the reaction enough that she might not notice. “Ziyal is such a bright star in my life…she’s only five years old but she’s already such a smart little girl. She did so well with her memory training that it doesn’t matter that we have to home-school her. She reads everything.” He laughed gently to himself. Just like her father! “Who knows…I think she could be a writer—even the stories she comes up with for her dolls are amazingly intricate. She could do anything creative that she finds the means to do. I know there will be challenges for her…we don’t live the kind of life I did, growing up, and she doesn’t have a mother the way Eral, Kadresh, and Breka did.” Dukat’s face grew somber again. “The hardest thing—she’s starting to understand that she’s different from other Cardassians…but she doesn’t really grasp yet what it means. I want to hold on to this time forever…but I know she can overcome those challenges. I just don’t want her to have to go through it alone. I couldn’t leave her on Bajor, and I don’t want to leave her now.”

    Then it hit him, exactly what he had just said. He was so proud of Ziyal and the person she was already starting to become: a little girl with a lot of spirit, learning the ways of Oralius. And in the wake of Gul Jarol’s painful revelations, he could see now that whatever it was that had gone wrong in her universe and twisted the Cardassian people so, that something in her remained unmarred, and capable of being more than just a brutish conqueror. So he had kept talking—but still, it hurt. He bowed his head. Please…let her understand that Ziyal isn’t to blame.

    Jarol listened. Ziyal. So she was there too. She listened to Dukat and a smile crept to her lips without her realizing it appeared there. And then...he fought the Bajorans, so how could he ever be with...

    Was there, in his reality, some Jarol who paid for her sins? Because it looked like this Dukat paid for sins of her former commander. He’d had to suffer the same thing Bajoran women had had to suffer at Gul Dukat’s parties for high-ranking officers. She had always found that kind of behavior appalling for two reasons: using women like tools—Bajoran or not Bajoran, it didn't matter—and being unfaithful to their wives back home on Cardassia. This man here had suffered the same fate; she remembered what he had said earlier—his words replayed in her mind—and now understood better than before.

    And he loved the girl in spite of everything. She was the only family he had left. “It's important that you didn't leave her,” she said gently. “Too many children suffer because adults forget about them.” She sighed. Cardassia was inundated by orphans now and the Cardassians had to quickly learn to accept them as part of their society and absorb them into their families instead of rejecting them and leaving them on the streets to die. “I hope you will be able to help her through the difficult time. Make sure she knows it's not her fault and tell her that her little nose is special and cute and that you wouldn't want it to look any other way.” She paused for a moment. “My son doesn't know his father and never will. Tiron died as a rebel, fighting our invaders, before Laran was born. My boy asks, ‘Where is Daddy?’ and he doesn't understand yet that he will never meet his father. I must be both for him, just like you are both for your Ziyal. I hope you have someone there to help you. Brenok lost everyone in the last war; he has no living relatives left, so in a way I am his only family now and he is part of mine. And he is the closest thing Laran has to a father. I really hope you are not alone there.”

    “Thank Oralius…I am not. My cousin and his wife are there, and so is our Guide, and a few other friends. As for the rest of my family—they’re either dead, or if they are alive, I dare not have any contact with them. For their own safety.” He hadn’t seen his parents, or his brothers and sisters since the day of the invasion. And…do I have nieces and nephews? “I don’t know if you have this in your universe…” Would they, if as he suspected, they had pushed Oralius and the study of her texts away? “But if you have the same memory disciplines we do, then you can give Laran a glimpse of his father, no matter how bad your material losses might’ve been. That’s a blessing, that he has you.”

    “Yes, we train our memories and I remember every single detail.” She smiled. “The sound of his laughter, the kindness in his eyes, the dimples in his cheeks when he smiled, his rusty voice and how he talked about his sons. He would adore Laran. I wish I could be a telepath to transfer all those memories to my son's head. I can tell him about all this, but he wouldn't experience it. If I—” She didn't finish, as the door behind her opened. She turned to see Brenok.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2010
  9. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    “I hope I'm not interrupting,” he said cheerfully. It was clear he was very tired; his eyes were bloodshot and circled by dark rings and half of his hair was out of his braid—he tucked it behind his left ear, but it hung loosely on the right side of his face—however, his smile was wide and his eyes shone with excitement.

    “I take it you have something,” she guessed.

    He gave her a careful look, scrutinizing her face for a moment, and then nodded. “Indeed.” He went to the table and sat. “Zamarran was able to determine with certainty that there was some kind of Bajoran Orb involved in the accident. Whatever they intended to use it for, it opened a fissure in the interspace quantum continuum through which Aladar beamed Dukat to our ship. I wouldn't be surprised if our food is there now.” He grinned. “It would appear that—”

    “Spare us the details,” Jarol raised her hand, interrupting him. “You know very well such things give me a headache. Can we return Dukat to his own reality?”

    “We think so.” Brenok smiled to Dukat and then looked back at Jarol. “But we need an Orb.”

    “We have returned all of them to Bajorans.”

    “Well, not all. Aladar did some searching in the database—he's a resourceful man; I had no idea—and managed to learn that there are some fragments still in our possession. The Obsidian Order experimented on them and they still should be in their laboratory facilities, unless someone moved them without filing the paperwork, which is doubtful.”

    She thought for a while. “I'll need to talk to Gul Daset; he should have a way to retrieve it for us,” she said slowly.
    “I must point out,” Brenok addressed Dukat, “that there is no way of testing our theory before we apply it in practice. If something goes wrong...” He didn't finish, but he hoped it was clear what he meant. “I want you to realize that. It's a great risk.”

    Dukat nodded. “I understand. And I think you’re right. I…did not explain it before,” he continued with a tinge of embarrassment, “but my sources had been telling me there was an Orb of the Pah-Wraiths on Cardassia Prime, in our area. We went after it while they were carrying it to another city, hoping we could damage or destroy it. Give me a moment and I’ll try to see it…”

    He closed his eyes in the sort of self-hypnosis that his people used for the most detailed types of recall, drawing himself back into the memory of the cargo skimmer in the seconds before he blacked out. “I’m looking for the ark of the Orb…if it’s there, it was out of my view while I was conscious. The cockpit is directly ahead of me; its door is shut. I suppose it could be there, but I doubt it—they fear its power and they would never take a chance of its accidentally opening while they were driving. There are other compartments, though…nothing large, but I can see a few that are large enough to hold an ark.” He manipulated the scene for a moment to account for perspective, then—even with his eyes still closed, raised his hand and measured out a space between his thumb and forefinger. “There would be about that much clearance around the ark if they used those compartments.”

    He returned to the view he’d had right before he blacked out. “But now…if I look at the Bajoran soldier’s weapon…I can see that it was adapted from a standard Bajoran phaser rifle. The muzzle has been altered, though, right after the beam collimator. There is an indigo crystal mounted in front of the collimator, by some device with wires leading back to the rifle’s power pack. But ‘crystal’ is only an approximation of what it is. It’s more like a crystalline plasma ball, and I can see it shifting. It appears almost…bloodshot, though. Tortured. It…doesn’t want the changes they’ve tried to make to it, but it’s trapped, and now he’s firing the beam through it—it’s more dispersed than it should be—it slams me into the bulkhead, and it burns…some…but not the way it usually does when you’re shot, and it keeps going…”

    Dukat’s eyes opened. “And that was the last thing I saw before I woke here.”

    Jarol and Brenok observed Dukat's recollection technique with interest. They had been trained to concentrate on one point in front of them—or close their eyes—to concentrate, bring the whole picture into focus in their mind’s eye and then start describing it, as simultaneous recollection and speaking would break their concentration. When Dukat’s eyes opened they looked at each other. “The Orbs of the Prophets glow white,” Jarol said. “You say it didn't want the changes?” she asked, looking at Dukat; he nodded. “We never managed to establish what the purpose of those Orbs is, but they are a powerful source of energy.” She knew that the Ministry of Science had tried to find a way to harness that energy to use it for industrial purposes, but they had failed. “And they can do... things. I believe sending a sentient being to a parallel universe wouldn't be beyond their possibilities. Do you have detailed plans for how to use it?” she asked Brenok.

    “Yes. Actually Zamarran and Aladar are preparing the transporter as we speak. They have to rebuild the leptoquark flux coil to make it compatible with the Orb fragment and then reroute the di-virtual wave buffer to compensate for higher power usage. Our calculations indicate it should be safe, but there is some risk that it would blow our iso-internal distribution net. We'll take precautions not to let it fry the whole grid.”

    “I'll talk to Gul Daset.” She rose. “If you’ll excuse me, gentlemen,” she said and left the quarters.

    “She looks better.” Brenok gave Dukat a huge smile that showed his white, even teeth. “It's difficult for her, because it's eight days short of ten years since she lost them. You don't seem like you have eaten anything.” He reached for some parra bread, brought it to his nose, and inhaled deeply. “Fresh bread; love it.” He’d had no idea how hungry he was until he took the first bite.

    Dukat smiled. “I meant no insult to your cooking...I can smellwhat a fine job you’ve done.” He knew the food had likely gone a bit cold during their conversation, but the thought didn’t bother him at all…warm or cold, good food was good food. He mirrored Brenok, reaching for his own bread. “It was just that your gul came first. The burdens she was trying to carry were just—no one should have to bear them.”

    “I wholeheartedly agree.” Brenok nodded. “And I will pass your compliment to our cook. My cooking wouldn't be as successful,” he said with a sheepish smile. He ate for a while and then looked at Dukat. “Can I ask you a question?” The Oralian nodded, so Brenok sucked his teeth and then spoke in a gently voice. “Why do you call your people Cardassians if there is no Cardassian Union in your reality?”

    “I take it that the Cardassian Union is your government…and a completely secularized one?” Brenok nodded. I think I may know what happened in this universe’s history…it had to be the Cataclysm—the reforms must have failed. That sent a chill down Dukat’s spine…for the results of that apparently included a Cardassia that conquered worlds. Had the corrupt ones among the Guides refused to face their sins? Or had the terrorists simply been too strong, and destroyed the faith by force? Would it offend Glinn Brenok if he asked? Gul Jarol certainly mourned the sins of her people. Brenok, too, bore scars of the heart, according to Jarol. Did that mean he would share Jarol’s painfully-acquired wisdom?

    First, though, he would answer Brenok’s question—he couldn’t see any possible harm in it. “It was one of the reforms Yavenn Pretam and Rhirzum Akleen introduced.” Rhirzum? Brenok mouthed with a raised eye ridge; Dukat couldn’t tell whether he was trying not to laugh out loud. Dukat couldn’t really blame him…he had to admit it was a rather odd nickname, odder still even in modern day that Akleen had accepted it in the public discourse, but one rarely saw the name ‘Tret Akleen’ except on formal documents and memorials. “After the crisis at the beginning of the Cataclysm…and the way the Hebitian government botched the response…we had to reform. We had to do something about the corruption and the abuses—some of them by Guides—or people were going to keep dying, either from neglect or a revolution. And those things were just wrong. We had to do better, and I pray all the time that we won’t lose that because of this darkness our worlds are in.

    “So…about the name change. We changed our judicial system as part of the reforms, along with some other things. It was at that same time when Pretam and Akleen proposed changing our name to ‘Cardassian.’ It’s because of what ‘Hebitian’ means. I’ve seen it translated as ‘people with souls,’ or ‘people of the spirit.’ There are some who still call themselves Hebitians…like the people of the tribe that took me in when I first went out into the desert. They don’t want to abandon their traditions. There are traditions I would feel terrible about losing—when the Bajorans attack them, it feels like a knife to the heart. So I understand the feeling...but in my belief, those traditions are our culture. They aren’t the name of our entire species. People can opt out of cultural things, but if they feel like they have to opt out of the species, or that people will think of them that way, as if they don’t have souls or something, or aren’t people…it doesn’t matter how few there are. I can’t do that. Whereas ‘Cardassian’ just means ‘the people.’ It’s simple, but it works. ”

    Brenok listened carefully and with interest. To him it seemed like Hebitia was still there, in Dukat’s world, but it was nothing like he had been taught at school. Not anymore, according to Dukat. It was a Hebitia in which everyone could find their place. “It’s interesting,” he said, “that—although in different ways—we arrived at the same name for ourselves. But... rhirzum? Really? Rhirzum?” A smile played on Brenok’s lips. “We call him Tret Akleen and...I can’t imagine a comparison to such a...” One of his eyes squinted, as he thought for a while. “I’d give him the name ‘Zerayd’; it is an adequately dignified animal. Sorry.” He became serious and glanced at Dukat. “I don’t mean anything by that. It’s just...Akleen is a great figure in our history and I would never think of him as a...rhirzum!” He moved closer to the table and returned to his breakfast.

    “It was an unusual case, I’ll grant you that,” Dukat replied with a small smile. “As far as anyone knows, Yavenn Pretam gave him the name because they bickered so much—like enemies or lovers, except they were neither. They never were…they were friends, in spite of their differences. In spite of the fact that the first time he ever saw her—he tried to kill her. I’m sure she would have been happy if he had changed his mind on his beliefs…she was a Guide, after all…but she kept him close because he challenged her. Some people close to Pretam got upset over the fact that the Castellan’s Guide was keeping a nonbeliever as an advisor…so they leaked Akleen’s private nickname to the media. It should have been a grave insult…still would be, for most people—they didn’t expect him to enjoy the attention!”

    Dukat’s words caught Brenok’s attention. “Pretam befriended Akleen even though he tried to kill her? Either she had a lot of forgiveness in her heart or he was more exceptional than I ever thought. Or both,” he added after a second.

    “What we do know is that before that incident, he was involved with a terror group. Neither of them talked very much about what exactly happened, or what exactly Akleen did before they met. We do know that he was very, very young, not much more than twenty. Practically a boy. Pretam would have been almost forty years older than him at the time. Maybe it was both…maybe she saw the man he could be, instead of the one he was about to become. That she could see that when he was threatening her…I can tell you, it’s a hard thing to think about when you’re looking down the wrong end of a rifle. But if you forget—then anything becomes so easy to justify, because you think there’s no value in that life. I’ve seen people forget, and I try so hard to stop it…I don’t want that for us.”

    “Your history is so different than ours. We had our problems with extremists too, but according to our records Akleen helped to solve our problems with those people; he wasn’t one of them.” He fell silent for a moment. “Sometimes being on the wrong end of a rifle helps you to realize you don’t want to point it at anyone anymore and that it was wrong to point it at anyone in the first place,” he said quietly, as more to himself than Dukat, thinking about the Dominion and their indifferent slaughter of Cardassians just as the Cardassians used to indifferently slaughter Bajorans. He had never been to Bajor, he was too young to serve there, but he didn’t like to be associated with butchers and he knew he was.

    “Defending innocents is one thing. But I never want to do more than that.” Dukat paused, folding his hands together and closing his eyes for a moment. Please don’t let me hurt him, he prayed. But please—give me the strength if I must follow the most difficult path. “Glinn…I—may I ask you something? It…may be a difficult question.”

    Brenok studied Dukat’s face for a long moment. The man seemed to be very nervous, worried maybe? What kind of question was it to cause so much anguish? Was it something bad? Was it something personal, very personal? Was it about his daughter? “All right, but I reserve the right to refuse to answer if I find it too personal,” he said finally.

    “I…don’t think it’s personal in the way you may be thinking,” Dukat slowly began. “It’s just that—Gul Jarol mentioned that in your world, Cardassia invaded Bajor. And I may be wrong…but it seems like something happened to people like me. To Oralians. The three of you—I don’t think you approve of things like that. But what about people who still do? If they exploited your kindness...I don’t want to be responsible for leading another set of conquerors to my people. Even—” The words caught in Dukat’s throat. “Even if meant never seeing my daughter again. I can’t let someone follow me again…!”

    Brenok’s heart stopped for a second at the words ‘never seeing my daughter again’. He would never condemn anyone to suffer like that, never. He knew all too well how terrible it would be. He looked at Dukat, who was clearly worried at the prospect, leaned toward him and said in a quiet, but firm voice that—he hoped—sounded reassuring. “Dukat, I would never allow anyone to follow you and harm your world. We have done enough bad things in this one. Even if someone went there believing they would be helping you get rid of the Bajorans...I don’t think it would be right. I don’t think my conscience could take any more.” He leaned back in his chair. “There are only five people who know about this. Gul Jarol, me, Medic Taret, Glinn Zamarran—he is our engineer and he’s working on the way to send you back—and Garesh Aladar, who saved your life by beaming you here in one piece and then calling Taret to keep you in one piece. I trust Zamarran with my life; he is a good, honorable man. Aladar is young, younger than even me,” he added with a warm smile, “but he can be trusted, I know that. None of them, of us, will speak of this event to anyone. Gul Jarol and I will ask them to forget about it as good Cardassians, and they will also have their orders as good soldiers. No one outside of our five will even know this has happened. I will purge the ship’s logs myself and Zamarran will check my work to make sure it’s done properly. Your sacrifice is not necessary.”

    Skrain Dukat rewarded Brenok with a quiet, joyous grin of relief. “Thank you, Glinn Brenok,” he finally replied. Bless you, he said, and he meant it. “That means everything to me.” After another moment’s reflection—and another few bites of his breakfast—he mused, “Some powers are just too great for frail beings like us to handle.”
  10. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Brenok got lost in thoughts; the hand holding his fork was left hanging in midair and he stared absentmindedly at his plate. He returned to the present when he heard the sound of an opening door. He looked up to see Jarol. “Well?” he asked her.

    “Daset managed to locate something called Orb of Potentialities. It was shattered so all we have is fragments, but Zamarran says it’s even better, because what we actually need are only fragments. Aladar went to pick it up; he will be back within an hour.”

    “Pick it up?” Brenok asked her.

    “Since we don’t know much about those Orbs and those fragments and their influence on transporting technology I’ve decided it’s safer that way. He’s going to bring it in a shuttle.”

    “What does Daset know?” Brenok asked, eying Dukat.

    “Nothing. I told him we need it for some tests and nothing more. Luckily he’s so busy he didn’t bother asking for details.” She joined them at the table, but didn’t eat. She observed Dukat. How different he was from the man she knew. The same face, but different expressions; the same voice, but different tones; the same man, but different personality. He must have felt her gaze on him as he glanced at her. She sent him a smile, but didn’t avert her eyes.

    Dukat returned the smile, hoping that his expression would be one of encouragement for her. Then he posed a question. “Whose Orb is it?” Jarol returned a blank expression, puzzling Dukat at first; most Cardassians he knew would have known the significance of the question—but as he reminded himself, if they had come to Bajor as invaders, there was likely much they didn’t know about their former subjects. “Does it belong to the Pah-Wraiths, or the Prophets?” The last thing he wanted was to face another Pah-Wraith Orb. Oralius had helped him defeat one once before—but still…

    “Oh.” She wasn’t even sure the Cardassians had ever found a red Orb. “It’s the Prophets’ Orb. We used to have a few more, but we have returned them all to the Bajorans. I think this one is still in our possession because it’s damaged and there are only fragments left. Does it make a difference?”

    “If they’re at all like they are in my world…very much so,” he replied with a grave expression. “The Red Orbs come from the Pah-Wraiths. I’ve encountered one before, and they are not pleasant devices to be exposed to for any length of time. And the Bajorans say that what they’re doing to our world, they do in the name of the Pah-Wraiths. As for the Prophets…I can’t say I understand Bajoran religion enough to know for sure, but when I was held prisoner there, a few women helped me escape. They were dissidents, believers in the Prophets…and from what I heard, what their own people do to them is just as bad as what they do to Cardassians. I could be wrong…I pray that I am not…but at least the way they treated me made me think that maybe the Prophets aren’t quite like the Pah-Wraiths.”

    “We have a political power here. They call themselves the United Federation of Planets,” Jarol said. “They consider themselves perfect people with pure morality and altruistic nature.” A small, ironic smile crossed her lips. “And they are close friends with the Bajorans. Our Bajorans are followers of the Prophets and if they are considered friends by the Federation, then the Federation considers the Prophets to be good too. I don’t think the Federation would like your Bajorans any more that it,” she said with the feeling of a needle piercing her heart. She didn’t enjoy being compared to something that was regarded as pure evil. “There is one human who is particularly good friends with the Prophets. And that tells me they are nothing like the Pah-Wraiths.”

    “It also explains why your Bajorans are so aggressive,” Brenok added. “They are completely different from ours.”

    “And ours had visited Cardassia in the past without any nasty consequences for us,” she said, looking at Brenok.

    “Yes, I remember.” He looked at Dukat. “Several years ago we found some kind of ancient Bajoran space ship on Cardassia.”

    “Well...” she smiled. Should she tell him? The ship had been found a long time ago, but its existence was confirmed just a few years ago; it had been a state secret for years. She looked at Dukat. “Our worlds are different, but if there are any constant things in the universe, then the Prophets’ Orbs are not considered harmful...unless you are not on the Bajoran side.”

    “They say one can have visions while looking at them. Good visions,” Brenok added. “No unpleasant experiences.”

    Dukat still wasn’t thrilled with the idea of having visions from beings other than Oralius…he didn’t plan on looking at the fragment if at all possible. But he would sooner take the risk, after much prayer, with an Orb of the Prophets than the Pah-Wraiths. “That’s good to know, that you haven’t had to deal with the same Bajorans that we did.” Imagining the two aggressive powers sharing a galaxy—the thought gave him a shudder.

    But with a tiny laugh to himself, he added, “It sounds like our Federations are much the same, though. We fought as long as we could against the Bajoran fleets—but when it finally got bad enough, the Castellan asked the Federation to help. They refused. They claimed it was because it was a holy war, that their laws didn’t allow them to intervene—but they didn’t care that we never struck out against anyone except in defense. It’s true we’d bloodied the Klingons’ noses pretty badly a few times, but we never did it unprovoked, only when they attacked our colonies.

    “Not to mention…I read their founding documents, and there was nothing that made it illegal for them to help. Their officials just didn’t want to, so they just stood by and watched us be conquered.” A strange look crossed Gul Jarol’s face—one Dukat couldn’t decipher, and for a second, wasn’t sure he wanted to. “But there have been some rumors…I haven’t had any personal confirmation, but they say there are Federation citizens who have crossed the border, put on a false nose, and sown confusion among the Bajorans. I have even heard a few rumors of humans who actually put themselves through all of the surgeries and treatments it would take to look Cardassian…which I’ve heard are hard to reverse the longer you stay that way…and joined our Resistance.”

    Jarol and Brenok looked at each other, then at Dukat and again at each other. “Why?” the glinn finally asked, his eyes returning to Dukat’s face. “Why would they do that?”

    But Jarol wasn’t thinking about Federation resistance members in a parallel reality. Her thoughts went to her own home and its current political situation. In her mind’s eye she saw Alon Ghemor agreeing to all Federation demands—which were weakening Cardassia in every way, including its military defense—and then the Union being conquered by the Klingons, or the Breen, or the Romulans while the Federation just sat and watched. The Federation, with their weird sense of justice, would probably think the Cardassians deserved nothing less than to be conquered.

    “Well…I don’t know for sure if it’s true, because I haven’t met anyone who claimed to be human,” Dukat cautiously replied, not wanting the rumor to be misinterpreted. “But I did hear that there were people who protested when the Federation Council made its ruling. It wasn’t enough to make them change their minds…and by then we were out of time. But from what little I know of their history—and what their founding documents make me think they used to be—it wouldn’t surprise me if there really were a few who were so outraged by what happened to us that they chose to fight. And someone who cares that deeply about injustice…sometimes they’re willing to go to great lengths. So I think it’s possible that a few of them really did it. Altered themselves, I mean.” It would be an enormous sacrifice…he couldn’t imagine waking up and seeing a Bajoran or human face in the mirror every day and knowing that he would most likely never have his features back. But if a person was really and truly called…it could happen.

    “A good government is a government that listens to its people,” Brenok said—but he wasn’t looking at Dukat; he was looking at Jarol. She looked into his eyes too and they seemed to gaze into each other’s souls. She knew Brenok supported the Mar’kuu Group and their plans for the Shift—as they called the military coup they were planning—but she also knew Brenok was the only one in the group that had doubts about it and didn’t fear voicing them. He was constantly reminding them that their plans could go terribly wrong if they weren’t careful.

    The glinn, satisfied that his silent message got through to Jarol, looked back at Dukat. “If our history is any indication, occupants sooner or later have to go away,” he said. “And I suppose no help can be refused. Our own freedom...” he smiled at the thought, “has been regained thanks to a Bajoran, who less than ten years earlier had fought in her resistance against us.”

    “She must have been an exceptional woman,” he opined. Would he fight for Bajorans, if ever they fell to a stronger power after releasing his people? If someone like Sulan or Adami asked him…would he? Could he? Oh, Oralius—it would be hard. Even with Ziyal’s encouragement, it would be hard. It would be by the power of Oralius. I might not be strong enough on my own for that. “As for my world…if I ever did meet one of those humans—I think once I got over the shock, I would accept their help, too. I wouldn’t condemn them for what their public officials did…their own actions would speak for themselves.”

    “Sometimes public officials do things their people don’t like at all,” Brenok said. “That’s politics.” His smile was grim. “People have their own minds and sometimes act according to their own conscience, even if they risk being imprisoned for that.”

    Jarol didn’t say anything. She was trying to process everything that had happened and that had been told. He eyes burned from tears and lack of sleep, her head spun from talking about guilt on so many different levels, her temples throbbed with visions of occupied Cardassia and she wasn’t sure if it was his Cardassia occupied by wrinkled noses or hers—occupied by wrinkled ears. She closed her eyes—the fire behind her eyelids intensified—she was a soldier, not a philosopher. She knew how to plan an attack on a base holding prisoners, not how to solve great mysteries of forgiveness.

    “If there are humans who have come to our world to fight…I find myself wondering what their own people would do if they realized,” Dukat was saying. “I hope that after we regain our freedom, we would protect them…especially the ones who made the greatest sacrifices—”

    Gul Jarol looked…even more drained than she had when she’d entered his quarters the first time. Had he upset her again? Was she physically hurting? Or just exhausted? Either way—he wasn’t helping matters. “I am so sorry,” Dukat interrupted himself, chagrined. “I should not be sitting here talking and keeping you from your rest.”

    Her eyes snapped opened when she realized Dukat was talking to her. “Oh, don’t worry about me. I’m just a little tired.” She grinned hoping it was a reassuring smile. “However, now is not the time to rest; we have an important task to accomplish. I’ll rest when we are done and you’re safely back home.”

    Brenok observed her. He knew her well enough to see she was exhausted, but he also knew it wouldn’t stop her from doing her job. She was not the kind of person to drop everything, especially an important ‘everything’, and go to sleep. Even if someone managed to force her to bed, she wouldn’t sleep, but wonder how the ‘everything’ was going.

    “Maybe you’d like to eat something,” he said. She just shook her head—she was too tired to eat. “Lukewarm fish juice then?” He pushed her mug toward her. She stared at it for a moment and then grabbed it and sipped. A moment later Zamarran contacted her to inform her that Garesh Aladar had returned with the fragments of the Orb and they were almost ready.

    Dukat smiled at that—but he was still worried about Jarol. It felt so inappropriate…here he was with all of his fatherly instincts kicking in, not to mention those of a battle commander, and the subject of his attention was a gul. A gul in the armor of the Guard, and one capable of—what was she truly capable of? Maybe in her past she had been as ruthless as her commander, who had led the conquest and who knew what else…but it had been true all the way back to the days of the Hebitian Records: people could change. And Gul Jarol clearly had changed. It wasn’t for show…not with her soul so clearly exposed.

    That still didn’t do anything about the sense of strangeness about his feelings in this moment. She’s a gul! Still…

    “Thank you for all that you’ve done,” he said. “Now I realize what I’m about to say may be impertinent…not to mention,” he added with a soft laugh, “that I won’t exactly be around to see that you honor your word…but will you both promise me that you’ll get some rest soon?”

    “I promise you I will make her go to sleep as soon as you are back home,” Brenok said with a giggle. “And I don’t intend to stay awake for a moment longer than it’s necessary.” He was sure he would have strange or funny dreams; he always did after unique and peculiar events.

    Jarol grinned, but quickly became serious again. “I suppose you’d want to change back into your...your...clothes.” She wasn’t sure if his outfit had a name. “Brenok will go and check the situation in the transporter room.” The glinn nodded his acknowledgment. “I’ll take you there when you—and we—are ready.”

    Brenok finished his meal and rose. “I’ll be going then,” he said and he and Jarol left the room.

    “We need to clear the corridors too,” Jarol said. “I’ll give necessary orders.” Brenok nodded and headed for the transporter room, while she stayed outside Dukat’s quarters, waiting for him to change and join her.

    When the glinn arrived to the transporter room he saw Glinn Zamarran’s legs sticking out from under a console and Garesh Aladar rummaging in one of the wall panels’ guts. “How are we?” the glinn asked the two working men.

    “Just making sure it won’t blow half the ship out, sir,” Zamarran replied, his voice muffled by his surroundings.

    “What are the chances it’s going to work?”

    “I’d say pretty good.” The engineer crawled out and stood, shifting inside his armor to move it back to a comfortable position. “At least in theory. There are many unforeseeable factors, though, like conditions to which we beam him. Everything could be nice and smooth on our side, but go terribly wrong on his.”

    “I think he understands the risks, but is determined to go back.”

    Zamarran nodded; he would probably do the same thing.

    “Sir,” Aladar closed the panel and went over to Brenok. “I have installed the wormhole aliens’ device fragment and I believe it will take it, but there were some cracks on it. I hope it won’t fall apart.”

    “Is there any way to ensure its stability?”

    “No, sir. There is no guarantee, but it’s the best we can do.”

    “Very well, then,” Brenok said in a firm voice, hoping his doubts weren’t obvious. Not that he didn’t believe in Zamarran’s and Aladar’s abilities; he was too worried about experimenting on a living, sentient being not to feel any hesitation at what they were attempting to do. “Run the last necessary tests; he is on his way.”
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2010
  11. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    They had nearly reached the transporter room. Once again the corridors were completely devoid of anyone except for him and Gul Jarol. Her eyes had widened once more in mild surprise when he had stepped out of his quarters in his own robes, and for a moment he’d sadly wondered, Are there Kurabda in her world? Or are they all gone? His heart ached keenly for the world of his birth…for as troubled as it currently was—it was where he truly belonged. Corat was waiting for him at the attack site. And Ziyal waited at home.

    Jarol tapped the keypad to the transporter room, and the door slid open to reveal Glinn Brenok, and the young man he’d first seen in the infirmary. That must be Aladar, he thought. The other—a stern-looking man whose bearing reminded Dukat of the demeanor his own father assumed in the courtroom with the most difficult reprobates, glanced up from his work, and nodded politely towards his gul.

    Dukat gave a polite bow. “Glinn Zamarran…I thank you for all that you’ve done.”

    “No thanks are necessary,” Zamarran replied; his raspy voice had a neutral tone, neither commanding nor submissive. “I’m only doing my job.” He returned his attention to the console.

    Garesh Aladar bowed slightly and whispered, “Sir,” pointing to one of transporter rings on the transporter platform. He seemed awed by Dukat’s presence and Zamarran wasn’t sure if it was because this man looked like the former ruler of Cardassia, or the traitor of Cardassia, or because Aladar knew he had saved this man’s life and was amazed that partially thanks to him this non-Gul Dukat could now go home.

    Brenok moved to stand next to Zamarran and they both ran final tests. The garesh went to the wall panel to monitor the readings there and Jarol stood in front of the main transporter console, facing Dukat.

    “Are we ready?” she asked crisply.

    “Affirmative,” Brenok said and Zamarran nodded even though she couldn’t see him with her back to him.

    “Are you ready?” she asked Dukat in a softer, significantly less commanding voice.

    For few seconds, Dukat offered no spoken response. Then he met Gul Jarol’s eyes, and Glinn Brenok’s in turn. “I am now. I just…would like you to know that I have asked for Oralius’ blessings upon your work; whatever happens from here…it is as it was meant to be. And I prayed that you and your people may find healing.”

    Brenok smiled. Jarol smiled too, wondering if she fully understood what Dukat had just said; his speech and choice of words were sometimes unclear to her. Zamarran raised his head to look at this strange man who wasn’t Gul Dukat. If he’d ever had any doubts, they were completely gone now.

    “Energize,” Jarol said and Zamarran entered the required commands and then looked up at the dissolving figure of the unusual Cardassian. We need all the help we can get in healing, he thought with an image of the ruined Lakarian City in his mind’s eye.

    The transporter buzzed and Zamarran pressed some buttons on the console. “Seems like the timing was perfect,” he muttered to himself. The transporter was clearly attempting to finish the interrupted beam-in of the lost cargo and the glinn made sure the transport was complete. Not only for the good of the cargo, but also for the good of Dukat, whose well-being might depend on finalizing all started processes.

    “It’s the containers!” Aladar shouted with excitement. “They’re all back!” He frowned, noticing deep indentation on the bottom of one. “This one hit something,” he said. He put his finger to a substance that was smeared on the bottom. “”

    “Test it,” Jarol barked and Aladar went to retrieve a sample storage tube.

    Jarol stared at the goods with disbelief and then suddenly turned to Brenok. “What is it?” he asked worried, seeing anguish—or maybe regret—on her face.

    “I...I could have asked him...if Damar is on the other side, alive...” she whispered.

    “Let’s assume he is.” Brenok smiled warmly. “Come, I have a promise to keep.” They both headed for the door, but Brenok stopped before leaving. “Zamarran, collect all logs and prepare for a full purge. Aladar, help him. Scan the whole database for all signs of this event and delete them. Make a list—don’t log it, memorize it—so that later the gul can lock the access.”

    “Yes, sir,” they both replied.

    Brenok joined his friend in the corridor and they both went to the lift. Suddenly she grabbed his elbow and stopped him. “Arenn,” she said very, very quietly. “I want to meet the Flower Girl.”

    The glinn smiled, showing all his white teeth, grabbed her hand, and squeezed.
  12. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    This wasn’t the Bajoran landskimmer.

    For just a moment, the tingle of the transporter beam had abruptly…stopped, and in this moment he was whole. He stood in his resistance group’s underground abode. He heard the hum of people milling around in the nearby chambers, but none were visible in the “gathering hall” where Dukat stood, just outside the sanctuary where his people worshipped. His ears weren’t sharp enough to pick up much of their words, except for his name, whispered with what he thought was a tinge of disbelief.

    And just as suddenly as he had appeared in this place—a man stood before him in a nondescript outfit reminiscent of a Starfleet uniform, though a strange version with grey at the shoulders and no sign of a Starfleet insignia anywhere on it. Dukat nearly jumped…the stern, imposing figure had almost looked Bajoran. But he wasn’t…no ridges stood out from the rich tones of his skin.

    After a moment of scrutinizing the Cardassian—the human smiled as if amazed by the words he was about to speak. “Welcome, Dukat. I must say, this is an unexpected potentiality. And a pleasure.”

    Dukat tilted his head as he tried to place this man and quickly gave up. “Who are you?”

    “I am Sisko. And I am of…” The human paused, his smile dimming slightly. “I am of another potentiality,” he decided. “One where you and I were not fortunate enough to meet in this way.”

    Dukat remembered what Jarol had said about visions…and a certain human man…and he thought he understood. “You’re a Prophet.” He wasn’t sure how that thought made him feel: awed? Repulsed? Shaken?

    Sisko shrugged. “In a manner of speaking. Listen…Dukat, you were right that this kind of power is beyond what can be safely handled. The Orb that brought you here has…a history—one that on one occasion did a world catastrophic damage from which it may never recover. The Bajorans in your universe suspected this in some way, and they hoped to harness what was left of this Orb. But there has been an intervention, and because of it, they failed. Even so—Dukat, the Prophets want your memory to be erased.”

    To Dukat, it seemed as if the temperature in the room had dropped to match the chill of the void. “No…” he whispered, with a vehement shake of the head as if to dislodge the remembered hiss of a hypo. “Don’t do that to me!”

    Sisko reached towards Dukat, though he kept his hand just beyond range. “I told them you would want a choice. That you deserved a choice. It is still too dangerous to let anyone carry the knowledge into your universe that the weapon created a fissure…even you. But there is a compromise I can offer. You can keep the core of the memories—things you felt, what it meant to you—but with…a loss of detail, like something experienced while your disciplines are not in operation.”

    “A dream. Or a vision.”

    “Close enough,” Sisko replied. “The essence would remain true. But the lost Bajorans cannot be allowed to know what they have wrought.”

    Dukat’s eye ridges lowered in dread. “How much will I lose?”

    “Your mind is…quite resilient. Some will surely remain. But names—details…the understanding of where you have truly been…those will fade.”

    The last thing Dukat wanted was to accept even the slightest tampering with his memories. With his awareness. But this was different—this Sisko, whoever, or whatever he was, had offered him something else. Consent. Dukat contemplated in silence. He relived moment after moment in full clarity for one last time, and Sisko waited without the slightest trace of impatience, as if time held no meaning to him. He debated the merits and the consequences to himself…to his world. To his family.

    A tear hit the hook of his eye ridge, and slid off of his cheek. “Very well. I will let you do this. Just one thing—please." Sisko nodded. “There is one detail I would like to be sure I keep. I can’t think of any way it could do any damage…” Dukat leaned over and whispered it into Sisko’s ear.

    After a moment’s consideration, the human…Prophet?...nodded. “Done.”

    “I thank you, Sisko.” The other entity’s lips pulled into a gentle grin of amusement. What was it with people thinking those words were so funny? Admittedly a Bajoran might have had some difficulty with the idea of his offering a blessing, through his people’s phrasing, to a Prophet—

    Dukat had one more question. He knew he likely wouldn’t remember the answer, for he had already used up his one chance, but he still had to ask. “What are the Prophets?”

    Sisko’s face grew solemn, as he offered only two words: “We serve.”

    After a moment, Sisko declared: “It must be done.” But for just a second, a glint of humor shone through on his grave features. “By the way, you might want to turn your head when you wake…”

    The cave faded.

    Dukat woke with his back against the bulkhead. He felt sore where his body had flown into the wall, but the pain seemed dulled somehow, as though a few days had passed since these latest of his battle injuries. Just how long have I been out? Something had happened—he remembered…a vision…

    Feet thundered into the transport. “For the love of all that’s holy!” Corat’s voice. “What did you do?

    Dukat’s eyes popped open, and before he even had time to push himself to his feet, his hands were already moving in the military dialect of the common sign that Corat Damar had learned from his father. —Take care! Don’t speak where your voice can be recognized!—

    Corat bowed his head. —Forgive me. But…behind me…there is a Bajoran. At least, I think so. He looks like flatbread! And before I got in the cockpit and took out the drivers, I saw what looked like a signal flare punch through the roof. Except it didn’t fall back to the ground…it kept going like it was trying to break orbit! And now…— Here he spun around to glance behind him and then back with a shudder. —That!— he gestured by means of a finger jabbed back towards the…whatever it was…that his body was blocking from Dukat’s view.

    Dukat climbed to his feet, turning his head towards the landskimmer’s exit. —We must destroy this skimmer,— he signed. —We cannot leave any records here. It wasn’t an Orb of the Pah-Wraiths they had here…the Bajorans have tried to weaponize a piece of an Orb of the Prophets. The weapon hit me, but it must have backfired somehow…it doesn’t seem to have done what they wanted it to do. But if an Orb weapon succeeded…— He didn’t have to say the rest…the consequences could rip a hole in space all the way from Verkoun to B’hava’el, for all he knew.

    —Did that weapon cause…that flatbread back there?— Corat signed, his face contorted in a macabre blend between the irrational desire to laugh and the very rational desire to throw up.

    Dukat nodded. —It seems like it. I had a vision as well.— Corat’s eyes widened. —But we don’t have time for that right now. The Bajorans may have already detected an energy discharge at our position, if that Orb fragment escaped the way I think it did. Have you pulled the ship’s transponder array?—

    Corat pointed off to the side. —I’ve already got a text message programmed into it.—

    The robed man smiled at Corat’s forethought. —If you haven’t sent the message yet…tell the Bajorans that their weapon backfired and killed their own man. Tell them that the Orb fragment refused to bend to their will. They may not believe the rest…but when they see that the fragment is gone, I guarantee there will be repercussions all the way up the hierarchy. We let it get its message out, and then we blow it up with the skimmer.— And all the evidence of our DNA, he added to himself.

    Corat finished his work, flung the transponder down at his feet, and made one final sign. —Let’s do it!— Dukat needed no more encouragement. This may not have been the relic they sought to rid the Bajorans of—but it would certainly do. As for the rest…that would require time to sort out.


    A thigh-high streak of ashy grey tore out of her ‘Uncle’ Aamin’s arms, down to the floor with a thud— thankfully feet-first, her arms spread wide open. And when Skrain Dukat scooped up his only living child, and those arms wrapped gleefully around him, just clear of his neck ridges, he let out a joyous laugh just like hers, except a bit deeper. “Ziyal! How’s my girl?”

    Ziyal beamed. “Uncle Aamin let me pet a vompăt!”

    “Very nice!” Dukat smiled. For obvious reasons, there weren’t very many pets among the resistance fighters—but given the nature of their Guide’s peculiar gift, it was a matter of therapy and possibly even sanity for the man. The tiny animals had been Dukat’s idea to help Aamin, in fact…one he was pleased to see was well-appreciated. “Maybe Uncle Aamin will let you see them again someday.”

    He raised an eye ridge at the Guide, who nodded in acknowledgment. And in that brief moment of eye contact, Aamin’s eyes widened in concern and curiosity. Dukat shaped the words on his lips: We’ll talk.

    “Right now,” he said aloud to Ziyal, “it’s time for you—” And Daddy! “—to get some sleep!”

    “Okay,” Ziyal pouted in singsong…but her heart wasn’t all the way in it. Now that her father was home again, her little body was starting to relax in spite of itself and she began to settle in Dukat’s arms, saying little as he walked her back to their home.

    Meanwhile…Dukat’s mind still whirled with a haunting vision of a broken Cardassia filled with broken hearts. To see those faces in his mind, hear what remained of their anguished voices…it wasn’t hard to picture the heaviness that weighed upon the shoulders of Sulan and Adami back on Bajor, neither of whom wanted the horror their world visited upon others—and itself. Were there even those among the Bajoran Army who wrestled against their consciences as the strange Cardassians in his vision had?

    Dukat gently shifted Ziyal’s weight in his arms as he reached for the handle of their door—and he felt the answer rising up from deep within his soul. He knew then why it was he had seen whatever that was he had seen while he lay unconscious in the landskimmer. This was for his soul, yes—but especially for Ziyal’s.

    After getting her washed up and into her pajamas, Dukat carried his daughter into her room and laid her on her sleeping mat. She looked up at him with wide, sleepy eyes. “Daddy…” This sounds serious, he thought at her tone of voice. Why do these questions always come to children’s minds late at night? “Why’d I get a Bajoran nose? Did Oralius get mad at me?”

    “Oh, no, no, Ziyal—never,” Dukat whispered, his eyes glistening. Now he was sure why he had seen the things he had. “She knows you…and I’m sure she knows you’re a good girl, just like I do. I’m going to tell you a story now…but right now I can’t talk about all of it, and I can’t answer all of your questions. You’ll learn those things when you get older.” And when maybe…I don’t know how…I’ll be ready for it. Right now…the only thing he could do was pray that the story he had ‘written’ in his mind for her, for the first time she asked this question, would be enough to satisfy her five-year-old curiosity without introducing her to ideas that were far, far too old for her. Or anyone, really. But there had to be truth in some way…her memory was developing so fast that he knew very well these words could be with her forever.

    “One time, the Bajorans found me and they took me to Bajor. And there was a woman there on Bajor who wanted a child…but she was a very mean woman who didn’t want to do anything that you’re supposed to, to be a good mother, or a wife. And she did a lot of very, very bad things. Then she told me I was going to be a daddy. I was scared, because she didn’t ask me first, like a real mommy is supposed to. I don’t know why she did that. But the first time I looked at you, when I saw your little smile and your tiny scales and nose…I saw what a cute little girl you were. It felt like just the first time I saw your brothers and sisters, and I wasn’t scared anymore because I knew I could be a good daddy to you. And I felt Oralius telling me that I had to bring you home, so you could grow up with someone who loves you very, very much.” And with that, he leaned down and kissed Ziyal on her little ridged nose.

    Before Ziyal could think to ask too many questions, Dukat continued. “I know there are a lot of Bajorans who are doing bad things to Cardassians, and I have to fight them. But sometimes they also hurt other Bajorans, who believe it’s wrong to treat other people that way. And I think there are a lot of boys and girls on Bajor who are scared because of what the grown-ups are doing, and we shouldn’t be mad at them. Why don’t we pray for them tonight, while we say our prayers?”

    Ziyal nodded. Dukat knew she’d heard people refer to her as half-Bajoran before, and now she was beginning to understand that her nose really had come from Bajor. She knew she was connected in some way to that world…and she had to know that it didn’t mean she carried their evil within her. Or even that all Bajorans carried it. Tonight…this shared prayer…it was a start.

    And as he led his daughter in her prayers, another name drifted up from the depths of his soul, though he couldn’t remember enough of his vision to know why.

    Silently he lifted the mysterious name to Oralius.

  13. TerokNor

    TerokNor Captain Captain

    Mar 26, 2010
    Certainly and interessting cross-over. That Dukat is truly more likeable then ours. I think Jarol must be even more loyal to Dukat than Damar, tsss! I imagine Brenok must sometimes though those two crazy with their loyalty to such a man.

    What I had to laugh about, was that "Good Morning ..." *L*...that came across kind of...uhm..cute.
    Though I felt sorry for Jarol having such a rough night. There is still a lot sadness inside her, but that is to understand and I guess will never go away, after all it was her family.

    The best of course... a bit Damar aound :D I dont care if its canon or AU Damars, as long as he pops up now and then. Though it would have been also interessting when AU Damar would have accompanied Dukat. But than ok, that would maybe have been to much and might just be my egoistical desire to get more Damar to wish both of them had fallen into SAC-Universe. *g*

  14. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

    Jun 28, 2010
    Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space
    Oh, yes, he does :shifty:
  15. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    I'm glad you like him. :) He actually likes to be liked almost as much as Gul Dukat does. The difference is, he takes responsibility for his own that makes him worry about offending people and care very much about their feelings. (Whereas for Gul Dukat, he just assumed that if you didn't like him, it's because you couldn't see HIS greatness.)

    LOL, well, he was stuck...he wished he knew what the proper military protocol was, but since he didn't, he tried to go for the most inoffensive thing he could think of. It made me laugh too. But he really is very softspoken, so something understated like that seemed fitting. :)

    I'm glad you liked AU Damar! Since you're the Damar expert and this is the first time I've ever given him any dialogue (I almost said "speaking role," but it didn't quite fit ;) ), would you say that even though he was communicating by sign language, that he "sounded" like himself? I had some ideas, but I'd really like to know how that worked out so I know if I should keep going in that direction if I use him again.
  16. TerokNor

    TerokNor Captain Captain

    Mar 26, 2010

    I´d very much like a story from Brenoks point of view about his friends admiring of Dukat. :D

  17. TerokNor

    TerokNor Captain Captain

    Mar 26, 2010
    He came across as enthuiastic, forwardthinking, young and probbaly more the reckless kind of guy. I find it fitting for that universe. In Canon he is more pessimistic, but the AU Damar fits the AU Dukat well.
    The sign language I find an interessting aspect and a very helpful thing. Am certainly interessted to read more about AU Dukat and AU Damar.

    Last edited: Nov 2, 2010
  18. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

    Jun 28, 2010
    Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space
    Check NG's SigCat stories on AdAstra. They are worth it :)

    Prepare a box of tissues, your eyes will need them :D

    I don't have any idea for a story, but I have the title:

    You're both nuts!
  19. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    I figured that even though he's probably seen a lot of tough things, living on an invaded Cardassia, that he might have more inner peace. He doesn't spend all his time being verbally beaten down by his commanding officer or by some Vorta. And he also has a better influence from at least one of his friends and mentors. Finally, from what I gathered as I wrote him, he is probably an Oralian, which I expect affects his outlook on life as well.

    Thanks. :) I thought that a species whose hearing isn't as strong as a human's might have a different place in its culture for sign language, and it would be more widely known by hearing people as well as those who are deaf. (In my version of the canon universe, though, the Cardassians hide it from other species.)

    I hope you will enjoy their stories. :) Just be aware, even though some characters won't live to see their Cardassia freed, and even though I haven't written it yet, I know it will happen.
  20. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

    Jun 28, 2010
    Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space
    Oh, that's not sure? I thought it was certain he was one too.