Chapter 6 Attack fighter Sufar aboard USS Leonidas, unclaimed territory near the Cardassian border Tiron Demok looked at her with a frown. He had his hands on his hips and kept stomping his foot in impatience. “Why?” he barked. “Why did you make this poor choice?” She shook her head. “Which choice?” she asked. “I’ve made a lot of poor choices.” “Isn’t it obvious?!” he yelled; his shout rang in her ears like a bell. She shook her head again, not understanding. “You’re so stupid!” he growled. “I mean: why did you choose a boy? Don’t you know boys die in wars?” She protested, “But he is a good boy! I’ll take care of him.” “Like you took care of the younger two?” She covered her mouth with her hand. He was right, he was so right! “You should have chosen to have a girl!” he boomed for the last time and dissolved in the air. She opened her eyes and stared at the dark ceiling of the tiny sleeping room aboard the Sufar. Another vision, another message. She had problems with interpreting this one. Did she do something wrong, raising Laran? Or Tiron feared losing another son in war and that’s why he preferred to have a daughter? Would he reject Laran? She wouldn’t believe that, Tiron would love his child. He would be a good father. She sat. She knew what it meant and she knew what to do about it. She had to set Laran free. She did not dare close her eyes again. She spent the rest of the night reading. She skipped breakfast; she wasn’t hungry. She didn’t even feel especially tired, considering that she hadn’t slept a full-night sleep for a few days. Her visions intensified and they started to overwhelm her. If she was to start mending her mistakes, she needed time and they weren’t giving her any. They expected her to have everything done within a day and gave new instructions each night. It was too fast. Or, perhaps, she just looked for excuses for her inability of doing the things right? Instead of trying harder, she wanted to find an easy way out? She loathed herself. “Lau to Jarol,” sounded the comm. “Jarol here.” “I hope I didn’t wake you up, but I have an angry Cardassian gul here and maybe it would be better if you talked to him.” “I will.” “Please come to the bridge.” Followed by her Starfleet escort, she arrived to the bridge within minutes. “Good morning and thank you,” Lau greeted her with a smile. She thought that this man seemed to always be in a good mood. He turned to one of his officers and gave a sign she didn’t understand. “Let’s not keep him waiting any longer.” “On screen,” the officer reported. The face of the viewer improved Jarol’s mood. A genuine smile appeared on her face. Lau said, “As I promised, Gul Zamarran, we have a good reason to be so close to your borders.” He gestured to Jarol to address the Cardassian on the screen. Zamarran’s face first brightened at the sight of her, then his frown deepened. “Legate Jarol,” he nodded to her. “Do you need any assistance? I was just asking Captain Lau Wah Hei for his reasons to enter the safe zone.” The safe zone was a part of space that both powers had agreed to never claim as their own not to cause any tensions regarding territorial misunderstandings. She made a mental list of things to address. “Gul Zamarran,” she said courtly; it was a real pleasure to address him by his rank, which he worked so hard to achieve and deserved like no one else. “I am a gul now, so please address me according to my rank. And no, I don’t need any assistance. Captain Lau has offered it and that is his reason of entering the safe zone. He will deliver us to the station.” “Do you want me to send a ship for you?” She glanced at Lau and he smiled. “I don’t think that will be necessary,” she said, looking back to the screen. “Understood. Zamarran out.” She looked at the human commander. “Captain, Gul Zamarran wasn’t angry. He just...looks that way.” “He could have fooled me,” Lau grinned. “Believe me, he is a decent man. Only doesn’t smile often enough.” “I never thought that he wasn’t decent. But I thought it would make it much simpler if you talked to him.” “And it did.” She paused. “A cultural enquiry, if you don’t mind?” “I don’t.” “I noticed he addressed you using your full name and...your surname seems to be first, followed by other names. Is there a particular reason why you adopter a Bajoran style?” Lau smiled. “It’s an Earth style. In my culture the family name comes first, as the most important, and after that are given names.” “Really?” She found it interesting. “Our names are a fascinating thing, Ms. Jarol. I’ll give you another example: my chief engineer is from a nation that doesn’t have surnames at all.” She gave him a look full of disbelief. He continued, “They use their given names and describe themselves using their father’s name. My engineer’s name is Selka Jonsdottir, which in fact means ‘Selka, daughter of Jon’. If you wouldn’t know that, you would be under impression that everyone addresses her by her given name, instead of her surname. But she doesn’t have a surname, so the given name is what you should use.” Jarol didn’t hide her fascination. “Like the Klingons. That’s interesting.” She looked around. “But I take you away from your duties. I’ll return to my ship now.” “That’s all right, Ms. Jarol. We can continue this conversation over meal later.” Didn’t her presence on his bridge bother him? Or was he hiding it so well? Maybe she shouldn’t be so suspicious, maybe—probably—she was imagining things, but she had that feeling that his friendliness wasn’t completely genuine, that there was something hiding behind it, that it was his attempt to mask his true intentions. She walked back to her Hideki, completely ignoring her Starfleet shadows, thinking about Laran, Captain Lau and Rayak Nor. She knew why she didn’t mind to spend so much time aboard the Leonidas: it wasn’t only a matter of safety from the Gorgor, the main cause was that her return to the station was postponed. She was so glad to had seen Zamarran, but it only reminded her that her old life waited there for her to be resumed and she wasn’t so sure she wanted that. Zamarran, as far as she knew, was doing fine commanding the station. After all, he had been in command when it had been under attack and Rayak Nor was still there, which was the best proof that whatever decisions he had made, they had been the correct ones. And now, when Rayak Nor lost its military importance and became just another Cardassian station—at least until the Klingons decide that they didn’t want peace with the Union any longer—it didn’t require a tactician in command. She didn’t know what to do with her life. She knew what were her tasks and what she had to do to achieve them, but all those things were unrelated to her work and everyday functioning. She was lost; she had no idea where she belonged. Maybe nowhere... Captain Lau wasn’t sure if it was the time to put his plan to action, or not yet. He didn’t want to rush, he didn’t want to lose this great opportunity, but he also knew that Jarol wasn’t stupid—she had to suspect he wanted something from her. She had to know. He had decided to play her game and kept calling her ‘Ms. Jarol’ without using her rank. If she wanted it that way, it was her prerogative. Maybe the Cardassian cut a clear line between duty business and private matters. She didn’t wear her armour, equals: she shouldn’t be addressed as ‘gul.’ Tr’Ravhil kept reminding him to be careful. She claimed that Jarol was not to be trusted. Maybe her ‘incognito’ way of travelling was caused by some danger, or other less-than-innocent reasons. Jarol was a powerful woman and crossing her way wouldn’t be smart. Lau wasn’t sure. He had read—studied in detail, in fact—her profile and all information that was available in the Federation database; it was a huge file with a lot of red-marked warnings. However, the woman he had aboard seemed not to be the same person. Gul Jarol used to be in their Central Command, one of toughest legates to deal with when they came out of their isolation four years ago. He had watched a footage with her speech, the only one that was available in the database, and he saw there the woman whom the profile described. He didn’t see that same woman on his ship. Ms. Jarol was quiet, avoiding company and keeping mostly to herself. No long speeches, no posturing, no demands, no aggression. Or maybe it was Gul Jarol’s twin sister? Or an imposter? Did he harbour an imposter of a Cardassian gul aboard his ship? He shook his head, dismissing the thought. Her son, the future judge, seemed to be an opposite of his mother. Open, cheerful, curious and also overprotective of his parent. There was little about him in the database; he was just another Cardassian kid, like millions of others. Lau arrived to the hangar bay. Two officers were on sentry duty near the Cardassian ship. They greeted their captain. He wondered how to announce his arrival. Knock? Well, it was worth to try. The trap opened before his knuckles reached the hull—he assumed Jarol had seen him through some visual feed—and she looked at him surprised. “Captain Lau?” “I would like to talk to you, if you have a moment,” he said and just then noticed Demok’s head leaning from behind her. “Or do I interrupt something?” “No, you don’t.” She moved aside to let him in. “Perhaps we should go to your office; it would seem to be a more comfortable and appropriate setting.” “Actually, being out of computer’s ears range is something I...seek.” She seemed intrigued. “Shall I leave?” Demok asked and started to raise. Lau stretched his hand. “No, please stay. A lawyer’s presence is advisable.” Jarol closed the trap, locking them inside the Hideki. “Will we talk about breaking the law?” “Err...yes and no.” “You either break the law or not; it can’t be both,” Demok said in a tone that clearly indicated that he believed in his profession. The captain noticed that his mother looked at him with a frown that also expressed pain or worry. Lau mustered a placating smile. “I agree.” He sat on the chair that Jarol offered him. “But we will talk about two different systems.” “You want to break either Cardassian, or Federation law,” the sub-archon guessed. “I don’t want to break the Federation law and I don’t want you to break the Cardassian law.” He paused. “I want you to break the Federation law, which doesn’t apply to you anyway.” Both Cardassians looked at each other. “Go on,” Jarol said. “First a question to Mr. Lawyer here.” Lau gazed at Demok. “Do you have anything in the form of the Federation’s Prime Directive?” The reply was short and firm. “No.” “Good. So you wouldn’t break your law.” “Why do you want us to violate the Prime Directive?” Jarol asked. “Because I’m a coward.” He couldn’t believe he had said that. “I want to do something, but I fear facing court martial.” “Why breaking the Prime Directive is necessary?” “Because if we...if you don’t do this, millions of lives would be lost.” The Cardassians looked at each other again. Lack of their negative reactions gave birth to a hope: maybe they would agree...maybe she would agree to this. “Captain...” Jarol hesitated. “Before we go into details, I’d like to discuss it with my son. Would that be all right?” “Of course!” he assured her. He was actually glad that she didn’t take the whole matter lightly. “I’ll leave you now, but please, let me know of your decision, whatever it might be.” “We will,” she said.