Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gul Re'jal, Aug 1, 2010.
Thank you, 6079SmithW. I hope you'll enjoy the rest too
I'm looking forward to it!
Jarol stared at Brenok shocked.
“Do you... do you... do you...” she actually couldn't make herself ask the question.
“No, I don't,” he answered simply.
“Then why do you go there?” she didn't understand.
“Because it helps me. They are not what we were told. They are... mysterious,” he smiled slightly.
“How can they help? How could strangers do something I couldn't!” she knew it wasn't right to make it about herself, and she didn't want to, but she couldn't understand...
He approached her and put his arms around her shoulders.
“They helped me to see that you were trying to help me. I'm sorry for all those nasty things I told you. You are my best friend, your father treats me like his own son. I have to remember that. I am not alone.”
She smiled sadly.
“Don't worry about my feelings,” she whispered.
[RIGHT]Three months earlier[/RIGHT]
“Do you realise what you did?” Daset was angry, but not as angry as Jarol expected him to be.
His office reminded her of his quarters, which she had seen when he was leaving the Roumar. It was decorated with taste, full of interesting weaponry and art. There was nothing resembling the mar'kuu sculpture he had given her though.
“I didn't do anything,” she said.
“You did it, you just used someone else's hands and eyes. But I am absolutely sure the assassination of Ahal was your doing and will not believe your denial.”
“Jarol,” he stood up and started pacing in front of his desk. “There is no one to take over his responsibilities. Ghemor's so-called government is not interested in internal military affairs. Those idiots are so blind that they ignore dangers. They fear the Feds would stop sending their medicines, if we had strong army,” he snorted.
“You can take over,” she said quietly.
Daset stopped. “You gotta be joking,” he exclaimed, raising his hands to the air.
She shook her head.
“Because... because...” he knitted his eye ridges, clearly unable to find a good reason.
“Because why?” she pressed.
“I don't have enough support, nor background. Without background the support is necessary. I maybe have a distinguished career track, but am not a high born Cardassian. I shouldn't even dream about reaching highest levels of power.”
“Stop thinking the old way!” she said harshly. “Who cares about your family background? You care for Cardassia. Your career record proves you have the ability to lead and lead wisely. We don't need another high born Ahal, we need someone like you! Don't you get it? Some things have to change.”
“I would fail without support,” he said quieter.
“What if you had the Fourth Order's support?”
“It would have to include Gul Jotrel and Gul Tarkan.”
“I can talk to Jotrel. I don't know Tarkan, but I could contact him.”
“You're serious about it,” Daset sat back in his chair.
“Utterly serious. And the fact that you resist is the best prove you're the right person. You don't want power for your own benefit, you want something good for Cardassia. Stop wanting, start acting.”
“And you would support me?”
“I would, but under one condition.”
“You like conditions,” he grinned.
“You would officially cut yourself off of this Directorate group. You are to stand alone and work for good of Cardassia.”
“I am not going to be alone.”
“No. You are going to be by my side.”
“And you're going to talk to Jotrel. You know him.”
“I'm not sure 'know' is right word, but I'll contact him and talk to him.”
“I thought you served together.”
“We served on the same station, a big station, under the same Gul. Apart from seeing each other in ops from time to time and drinking on a few occasions in the same company, we had no contact.”
“Drinking is good enough for me,” Daset smiled.
Jarol chuckled. “Hopefully it's good enough for him too,” she said.
“Can we talk?” Brenok entered Jarol's office and sat in the chair on the other side of her desk without invitation.
“Looks like you wouldn't accept any other answer than 'yes'. What's on your mind?”
“Ahal. Or rather his death.”
“What about it?”
“If you think you could hide it from me, then you must think I'm stupid.”
“Stupid – no. Drunk most of the time – yes,” she said and immediately regretted her words. He ignored her remark.
“I know you hated him, but revenge?”
“Arenn, it wasn't my revenge.”
“Then what was it? Justice?”
“He needed to be eliminated, because this man was dangerous to Cardassia's integrity. We couldn't let him make important decisions.”
“You can fool yourself, you can fool Daset – as I'm sure he knows you did it – but you can't fool me. It was a revenge.”
He chuckled, but without amusement. “And why exactly Gul “by the book” Daset didn't arrest you?”
“Oh come on! You can't prove I did this!”
“You engineered this. This very conversation proves it.”
“And why exactly are we having this conversation?” she always trusted him, but in his recent state of mind she wasn't sure he was still the same man she knew.
He only smiled. There was nothing menacing in his smile, yet she felt endangered.
“I just wonder why you didn't share the plans with me,” he said eventually.
“I...” he knew, right? So she could openly admit to it, right? She still could trust him, in spite of that weird behaviour he was showing recently. “I didn't want you to be involved.”
“Oh, so your secret was for my protection?” he asked with irony.
“Yes. Daset will not act, I will not be in trouble, but how could I know it for sure? If something went wrong, I could have been executed, but not you. There was no reason to endanger you.”
“I don't need this kind of protection.”
“I think you do. Everyone does. You were involved enough by securing those invitations. I don't want anyone to pay for this, especially not those, who didn't have anything to do with it. That includes you.”
“You could have told me,” he said quietly.
She wanted to say she didn't have to tell him everything, but bit her tongue in time. “Arenn, I didn't want to keep any secrets from you. It just was something I had to keep in secret. From everyone.”
“Was it Ma'Kan?”
“And it still is a secret.”
She waited for him to say something more, but after a short while he rose and left her office. Was he hurt? Why did he take it so personally?
Shouting and insults dragged Brenok's attention to a darker corner of the plaza. He stopped and listened for a moment, but in spite of loudness, it was still too far to understand what was the subject of the quarrel. He hesitated, but finally decided to see what was going on.
He approached a group to see there were three civilians – two women and a man – and two militiamen.
“What is the problem?” he asked.
“The curfew starts soon and they are still on the street,” said the Garesh, a little startled by an officer's presence.
“Soon, it starts soon,” the man said, emphasising the last word.
“According to their data,” the Garesh shook a data rod he kept in his hand, “they would not arrive to their address in time. They would breach the law.”
“They haven't yet,” Brenok pointed out. “And since you stopped them, they surely won't be able to reach their home in time.”
“Instead of stopping them and making problems, you should have escorted them back home safely, to make sure nothing bad happens to them.”
“The curfew wasn't established to bother good citizens, but to keep them at homes, when it's not safe outside, because so many bad people are crawling out of their holes in the night.”
“Yes, sir,” Brenok hoped the man really understood.
“You are not to bother good Cardassian citizens, you are to protect them.”
“Fine. Now, escort them home.”
“Thank you,” said the civilian man.
The Garesh made an inviting move with his hand, pointing to the direction they should go, but the older of two women approached Brenok and looked at his face. She was much shorter, so she had to raise her head high. Brenok felt disturbed by her standing so close, too close, violating his personal space, but something was stopping him from stepping back.
Then she gently raised her hand and put it on the front of his armour, where his heart was.
“You are suffering,” she said quietly.
It startled him. His heart started beating fast, he wanted to move away, but couldn't. He expected her to say more.
“You need to heal,” she didn't disappoint him.
Garesh gave him an asking look, but he ignored the militiaman.
“What do you mean 'heal'?” he asked quietly, so that only she could hear him.
“Come here tomorrow evening. By the sunset. Your healing will start,” she said. Her voice was soft and smooth.
He squinted his eyes, trying to read her face, but there was nothing, but sympathy.
“And what is going to be here tomorrow?” he asked.
“Come. You will see,” she stepped back and joined the other two. “Please, escort us home,” she spoke to the Garesh.
He nodded, shot the last glance at Brenok, who still didn't move, and then followed the civilians, along with the other militiaman.
Jarol and Brenok entered Daset's office to discover they weren't the only invited people. Not that there was a crowd. Only two more men. Jarol nodded her greeting to Gul Jotrel. She spoke to him on several occasions recently, but always through a comm. It was first time in almost 10 years that she met him personally.
She went toward him and Brenok followed her.
“Gul Jarol,” Jotrel extended his hands and grabbed her arms. “It's so nice to finally see you in flesh.”
“Likewise, Gul Jotrel,” she smiled. “I hope you are well.”
“I manage.” He pointed to the other man. “This is my aide, Glinn Toral.”
“My aide, Glinn Brenok,” she introduced her friend. “And where is Gul Daset?”
“Some business kept him, but he should be here shortly.”
She looked at Toral. A friendly smile appeared on his face, while he nodded to her his greeting. She nodded back, once.
The main door opened and Daset entered with Gul Tarkan – a tall, thin man with a sharp face.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Daset said. “Ironically, the matter is rather urgent,” he motioned toward a small table in the corner, where six armchairs stood. “Please sit down, everyone.”
“So what is the urgent matter?” Jotrel asked, sitting.
Daset waited for everyone to find their places, then called his secretary to bring tea.
“The Directorate opposes my candidature,” he said simply.
“Which is not surprising, since you officially cut off any relations with them and stood apart,” Tarkan commented.
“Yes, well, you are right. They try to force their man to replace Ahal now and I may not be able to keep my position.”
“What do you need?” Jarol asked. She was no politician, she didn't know all the rules.
“I need a leverage, which would make it impossible for them to remove me. I have to make my position strong enough to make getting rid me not doable without them losing their strong position,” Daset said.
“The Fourth Order's support would be a good start,” Jotrel said.
Everyone nodded. At least they agreed on this.
“It might not be enough,” Daset said. “The Directorate still has most of the Guard behind them, especially the old, experienced officers.”
“They all belong to the same breed,” Tarkan commented.
“Yes, and that's why it would be so difficult, if not impossible, to change any of their supporters' minds.”
“Let's not change minds,” Brenok said. Everyone looked at him, some faces expressed surprise, some shock, some interest or a mixture of all those feelings. “What I want to say is that we need to look for support somewhere else. The core of the Directorate is practically the same as old Central Command. We can't go on, using old rules. Old model, yes, but we have to change something, or we would repeat their mistakes. The Feds try to 'improve',” he snorted the word, “our political system. They want people to make decisions. Fine. Let's follow that for a moment. You want support? Why do you look for it among old, rusty pig-heads? Why not ask the people, if they want strong, protective army?”
“And if they say 'no'?” Tarkan asked scornfully.
“Let's make them want us,” Brenok said. “Let's find heroes of Cardassia. Let's find those, who opposed the Dominion, those, who fought in the war and tried to protect civilians from the enemy. Let's look for them not only among the brass, but also – or maybe even especially – among low ranks. Everyday heroes. A Garesh, who protected a family from being slaughtered by Jem'Hadar. A hungry man, who gave a child his last piece of food. Things like that.”
“Let's send part of our troops to rebuilding works,” Jarol interjected. “I did it once and my men were happy to go and help.”
“Let them see the military doing something else than fighting another war,” Brenok said.
“The Fourth Order's mission is protecting Cardassia,” Jotrel said. “It doesn't have to mean only military protection,” he added, smiling at Brenok. “I like the way you think, Glinn.”
“All right,” Daset nodded. “So we show our soft, non-military face. Then what?”
“Then we watch how people react,” Brenok said. “Watch them feeling safer. Watch them asking us for more.”
“Do you really believe it could work?” Tarkan gave Daset a doubtful look. “This sounds like a fairy tale.”
“Do you have a better idea?” Jarol asked him.
Tarkan eyed her, but said nothing.
Brenok looked around. Tarkan didn't seem happy with his ideas. Daset was thinking, touching the tip of his nose with his finger. Jarol was observing Daset. So was Jotrel. Toral was looking at Jarol and clearly not thinking about the subject of their conversation.
Finally Daset rose.
“I will talk to a few friends and present Brenok's ideas. Hopefully they would agree with our plans and join us,” he said.
“And if they wouldn't?” Tarkan also rose.
“Then we're on our own,” Daset said.
They exchanged their polite farewells and spread back to their warships.
Jarol entered the bridge and looked around.
“Where's Glinn Brenok?” she asked. He should be on duty.
“Here,” he rose from her chair.
“Oh, I didn't see you,” she motioned toward the chair, while he vacated it for her. I didn't hear you was what she actually meant. Usually his singing was giving away his position. Now, to think of it – when was the last time she heard him humming anything?
“Karama, you said Gul Daset wanted to talk to me?” The comm officer nodded. “On screen then,” she ordered.
She saw an empty chair on the screen. A moment later Daset quickly sat in it.
“Sorry,” he muttered; it was clear he was busy and in rush.
Ma'Kan gasped. Jarol looked at the tactician and saw absolute admiration on her face. Daset looked at her too and smiled warmly. Then his eyes returned to Jarol, while Ma'Kan lowered her head and her dark grey cheeks gained even darker shade. The Gul tried not to smile, but it didn't work, so she bit her lower lip.
“You wished to talk to me,” she said to Daset.
“Yes, indeed. I forgot to tell you your orders.”
“And they are?”
“We had some raids on the Federation convoys. There is one heading for our space as we speak. You have to make sure it reaches Cardassia safely. Your comm officer should have all details now.”
Jarol looked at Karama and he nodded his confirmation.
“Good. Jarol, make sure they get here in one piece. We don't know who attacks those ships, but the Feds can't spare their armed forces, so they send quite vulnerable vessels. It's in our interest to make sure everything goes smoothly.”
“Shall I also find who attacks them?”
“That would be perfect, but their safety is your priority. If you can spare time and resources to investigate and, hopefully, solve the problem, well, that would look great in our portfolio, if you know what I mean.”
“I do,” there was nothing better for a politician than a long list of successes and she knew very well Daset was more a politician than an officer now; and not without her and Brenok's active participation in the whole affair.
“Proceed,” he said and disconnected.
“Sorry about that, Gul,” Ma'Kan said ashamed.
“Don't worry about it, nothing happened after all,” this time she managed to stop her smile from crawling out to her face.
She completely understood the tactician's reaction: Daset was a handsome man, probably most handsome she has even seen in her life. What surprised her was Daset's reaction. He clearly felt flattered, and this particular officer sending such a nice, warm and friendly smile to someone of such a low rank was something she wouldn't believe if she didn't see it with her own eyes. There was a lot about Daset she didn't know.
“Can we talk?” Brenok whispered to her.
She nodded and he headed for her office. She followed him, not sure what it was about: a private or official matter.
“Yes?” she asked, when the door closed behind her.
“Do you need me on this mission?” he asked.
“Get to the point.”
“I would like to apply for a shore leave, an extended shore leave.”
“Why?” she was surprised. She thought work was the only thing that kept him sane, otherwise he would brood over his loss. She wanted to make him busy and feel useful, not to drink locked in his room.
“I need time,” he said quietly.
“I don't think this is good idea, Arenn.”
“What do you know?!” he snapped. “Sorry,” he added a second later.
She approached him and stood so close that their armours almost touched. “Talk to me, Arenn, please. I'm not your enemy. But I don't know how to help you, I don't know what I could do for you.”
“Give me a shore leave.”
“Talk to me as your friend, not your Gul.”
“Do you deny my request, sir?”
She looked at his hard face and her heart ached. She didn't know what she could do, what she could tell him.
“Request denied,” she whispered.
His lips created a thin line. “Can I at least request this evening off?” he asked.
“We don't leave until tomorrow morning,” she said.
He went around her and left the office. She sighed.
Brenok didn't know what to expect. He wasn't even sure he wanted to know, but he found himself waiting for the mysterious trio in the same place he saw them a day earlier.
He stood, observing quieting city life, streets getting less crowded, as people rushed back to their families and their homes. A group of children ran, laughing, they passed by him, some glanced at him with curiosity; they seemed so happy, so oblivious of the great tragedy that touched their home planet. The group stopped in the middle of plaza, around a tree, and played there. Then one of girls left the group and ran back toward Brenok. She had something in her hand. She stopped when she reached him and extended her hand, handing him a small branch from the tree, with a small bud at the end of it. He took the gift and she ran back to her friends, while his eyes filled with tears. Would his daughter also see him as a hero, if she'd reach this girl's age? He slid the branch into his sleeve, leaving the tip outside, so that the bud lay on the top of his hand.
“It's time,” said a voice next to him.
He was so concentrated on the girl and her gift that he didn't notice the woman's approach.
“Come, Glinn,” she put her hand on his shoulder. The younger woman was also here. He didn't notice it earlier, but there was a resemblance between them. Was it a mother and a daughter?
They led him to the other end of the plaza. He noticed that the younger woman called the group of children and they joined them.
They entered a building and went downstairs. It was cool inside and Brenok felt uncomfortable shivers. He had enough of coldness after the Romulan deal: he had to spend hours in cold rooms, because Romulans preferred cooler places and for some reason the temperature was adapted to their needs, not Cardassians'.
They arrived to some big, dark and cool chamber. A basement no doubt.
“We don't need to do it here any more, we could do it even outside” the woman said, “but we prefer to hold our meetings here. This place means a lot to us.”
He nodded his acknowledgement, although he didn't know what she meant. He rubbed his hands to warm them up a little.
“Here,” the girl, who has given him the flower put a warm cloak on his shoulders. “It will keep you warmer.”
“Thank you,” he said. “For the cloak and for the flower.”
She smiled and left. The younger woman – the daughter? - led him to a chair in a corner.
“You don't have to do anything. Just listen and watch. You can leave any time you want to,” she said and went to sit next to her mother in one of front rows.
He pulled the cloak to cover his neck ridges better. He glanced at the girl and she must have felt his sight as she turned and looked at him. She smiled warmly and he returned her smile.
And then someone entered. A woman. She wore elaborate clothes, which reminded him of something.
Then it hit him. They were Oralians!
He observed the ceremony with curiosity. He always thought of them as deluded, not completely sane fanatics, but he saw people, who found some joy in what they participated in. He'd been taught religious people were dangerous and they had to be removed from Cardassia's surface, because they were weakening the system, but these people here didn't appear to be dangerous in any way. They were nothing like Vorta and Jem'Hadar, who believed in their gods.
No one bothered him, although a few Cardassians looked his way, as if they wanted to ask who he was and why he was sitting there in the corner all alone. No one seemed to mind his armour, in spite of the fact that it made it clear he didn't belong here.
“Come,” the 'flower girl' came to him, after the ceremony ended.
“To meet my friends.”
He reluctantly rose and she grabbed his hand and pulled him to a group of adults and children in the other end of the chamber. The... how did they call her? A guide? The guide was among them too. And so was the older woman and her daughter.
“Welcome,” said the guide.
He nodded, not sure what to say or how to address her.
“He's my friend,” said the 'flower girl'.
He smiled and squeezed her hand gently, as she didn't let it go upon bringing him here.
“You lost someone,” the guide said.
His eyes opened wider, partially to stop tears, and partially because of surprise. How did these people know? He tensed. The girl raised her other hand and closed it around his, embracing his palm in both of her small, warm hands.
“I did,” he said eventually.
“We all did,” said the guide. She put her hand on his chest. “But you can't let your heart go cold and empty. There is always someone left.”
“No one is left,” his voice shook. The girl squeezed his hand.
“Do you see her?” the guide pointed to the girl. “She lost all her family. Everyone. She's an orphan.” Brenok looked at the girl and she smiled to him. Orphan? A parentless child?? “She also had no one, but she found someone to take care of and someone to take care of her.”
He looked back at the guide.
“If no one cares about you, she will,” the guide said.
He felt a sting in his heart. He was so unfair to her, he treated her like an enemy, he took every her word as an attack, but all she wanted to do was to help.
“There is someone, who cares,” he said quietly.
“So now there are two.”
He looked at the girl and then knelt down on one knee, facing her. She let go of his hand and threw her arms around his neck. Tears ran down his cheeks when he pressed the girl to his chest.
How was it possible that this girl was stronger than him? He lost everyone, but he was an adult, he could go on with his life. She lost everyone and she was just a child, she couldn't take care of herself on her own, but she still could smile with her eyes, in spite of being something undesirable in Cardassian society.
He let her go and she moved away a bit to look at him. She grabbed her long, hanging sleeve and dried his face from tears. His heart smiled and then this smile crawled onto his face.
“Will you come tomorrow?” the girl asked.
“I can't. I have to leave Cardassia for some time.”
“But you will come again?”
“I will,” he promised.
“It's time to go,” the mother told him, so he rose. He took off the cloak and gave it back to the girl. She took it and waved to him, while he followed the woman to the exit. He waved back.
They were almost out of the cold basement, when a sharp pain shot through his right arm from the shoulder down to his fingers. He grabbed his neck ridge with his left hand and instinctively squeezed. He could feel his scar under his fingers.
The bridge was quiet. Everyone was busy with their tasks. Ma'Kan was preparing battle simulations and new sets of exercises for troops. Jarol welcomed her initiative. The woman might have been young and inexperienced, but she loved her job and did it well.
Brenok entered the bridge and went to his post. He had smudges on his face, so Jarol guessed he returned from the engineering. They had some problems with secondary warp induction coils and Zamarran asked Brenok to help him, as everyone else was busy with weapons systems.
“Er... sir?” Ma'Kan spoke to Brenok. He raised his head and gave her an asking look. She pointed to his cheek. He raised his eye ridges puzzled and shook his head. She smiled a little apologetically, went to him and cleaned the smudge from his face. He looked a little bit shocked, but didn't say anything. Jarol pretended she didn't see anything, as the rest of the bridge crew, but she was sure she saw real affection in Ma'Kan's moves.
There was nothing wrong about it. Ah, except the fact that Brenok was Ma'Kan's superior, but she sought no special treatment, no promotion. It was pure attraction on her side. Ma'Kan was entering the age, when a woman was instinctively starting to look for a mate, for the perfect man, who would share her life and who would father her children. Jarol was lucky to find Joret without looking, but if a girl's marriage wasn't arranged, if her family's status didn't demand it, she had to look for the best candidate by herself. Ma'Kan surely had a good taste, if she was interested in Brenok, but Jarol knew her attempts would be futile. Brenok's heart was still with his wife, Asra. A beautiful, delicate and gentle woman, who he was hopelessly in love with. His heart was not ready to let her go. If she didn't know from her own experience, she would say it would never be, but she knew better. After Joret's death she thought she'd never love again and then Demok came to her life for the second time and stole her heart with his smile. Although it seemed impossible now, she knew that some say she could be ready for another man stealing her heart again.
But not soon and she didn't expect Brenok to be ready soon either.
“We're in sensor range of the convoy,” Karama reported.
“Hail them,” Jarol ordered.
A man's face appeared on her oval screen.
“I am Gul Jarol,” she introduced herself. “I am here to escort you to Cardassia.”
“My name's Captain Andric,” he said and smiled, although she had an impression his smile was a bit forced. “We appreciate your assistance.”
“We will enter parallel course to yours and follow you.”
“Do you know who attacks convoys?” he asked.
“No, Captain. We plan to investigate this matter, however your safety is our priority.”
He nodded and disconnected, so his face was replaced by a star view, three cargo vessels and one Oberth class starship.
“Brenok, can you search the database on this Captain Andric?” Jarol looked at the Glinn.
“Searching...” he tapped his console. “Captain Ivo Andric commanding USS Anika.” Brenok silenced, read from the screen and continued. “He fought in the Border Wars and later in the Dominion War. He received his own command recently. Currently responsible for convoys to Cardassia. It's not his first run,” Brenok finished, raising his head and looked at Jarol. “The rest is some irrelevant information.”
“The Border Wars you say,” Jarol said slowly.
Brenok nodded. “That's correct.”
That would explain his behaviour. She was surprised the Feds would choose such a person to run those convoys. The man clearly fought against Cardassians in two wars and now was told to help them. But then – she also fought in those conflicts and she was here too, wasn't she...?
“Ma'Kan, keep scanning. I want to know if anyone is in the neighbourhood the first moment they enter scanning range.”
“Keep someone at it at all times. I want to be notified even in the middle of the night.”
The first day passed without any special events. Zamarran kept fixing, Ma'Kan kept scanning, Jarol kept waiting for something to happen, not sure if she wanted trouble – to fill her time with some action; or didn't want any problems – to deliver the Federation ships safely to Cardassia Prime.
She was in her office and couldn't stand being useless any more. She decided to find herself some task. She established contact with the Federation Captain.
“Good morning, Gul. How can I help you?” he asked.
“I was wondering... It isn't the first time you lead the convoy to Cardassia, is it?”
“No, it isn't. Why?”
“Had you been under attack before?”
“Yes. Two months ago a small fleet of ships tried to take control of our cargo.”
“Is there any data you could pass to me? I'd like to investigate this matter.”
“We have something in our database, but it's not much. Some visual recordings, crew logs.”
“I would appreciate access to that data.”
“I could allow you access to low security files,” he said slowly.
“Would there also be possibility to talk to crewmen, who witnessed the attacks?”
“I can't order them to talk to you, but I can ask if anyone would be willing.”
“Captain,” she smiled the most charming smile she could muster. “Finding those responsible is in our both interest. We could...”
“Frankly, Cap... Gul, the problem is that I am not sure you are sincere in your offer.”
She silenced, surprised. “Why not?” she managed to ask eventually.
“Because those attackers were Cardassians.”
“How do you know that?” she didn't expect it, but it didn't surprise her. The curfew, the need for troops on Cardassia – all those things weren't there without a reason. Some people were like Demoks', accepting others under their roofs, but some preferred to steal food from weaker ones to have more for themselves. What happened to never-ending sacrifice and good of Cardassia? Did the Dominion purged them of their own dignity?
“Those attack ships were mostly Hideki class. According to reports from other convoys, there are also some Maquis attack ships, but most of them were Hideki.”
“That doesn't prove those were Cardassians, it only means they used Cardassian ships.”
“See? You already look for excuses.”
“No, Captain. I just don't assume things without proofs. I would still like to see those reports and data.”
He stared at her. “Will you try investigate and share the results, regardless of who it is?”
“Do you ask me if I would let the attackers go, if they were Cardassians?” she asked. “Captain, whatever you think about us, we have our justice system and are not much more fond of crime than your Federation.”
“Fine then. I will... no, I have another idea. Come to my ship. We will discuss it over a breakfast. Did you have a breakfast yet?”
“No, I didn't. I accept your offer.”
“My transporter chief will beam you to the Anika.”
“Can I take my aide with me?” she asked.
“Yes. See you both in... let's say fifteen minutes,” he nodded and disconnected.
She tapped her wristcomm. “Brenok, meet me in the transporter room in ten minutes.”
She arrived to the transporter to see Brenok already there. He looked tired.
“Did you sleep?” she asked.
“Yes, but not much.”
“You can help Zamarran, but not at the cost of your own rest.”
“I need to keep busy,” he said.
“All right,” she nodded and patted his shoulder. “We're going to pay a visit to our Federation friends. I hope you're hungry and ready for culinary experiment.”
“Splendid,” he muttered, stepping on the transporter pad.
“Garesh, contact the Anika and tell them we're ready.”
A moment later they were on the alien ship.
It was bright, cold and angular. A woman, a blue woman, waited for them.
“My name is Commander sh'Salas. I will take you to the Captain's dining room.”
“Thank you, Commander,” Jarol nodded politely. She searched in her memory and decided that this woman must be an Andorian.
Both Cardassians followed the Andorian through corridors and one ride in a turbolift.
Captain's dining room was a separate room, next to the mess hall. There were four chairs at a table, in the middle of which stood a small vase with a single red-green flower.
“Welcome to USS Anika,” the Captain entered the room and motioned toward the chairs. “Please be seated.”
Jarol and Brenok sat, and so did sh'Salas.
“The Captain likes to cook himself,” the Commander explained.
“I'm afraid I wasn't expecting any non-Federation guests, so I planned rather Earthling type of food.”
“That's all right. We are ready for an adventure,” Jarol tried to joke, but wasn't sure it worked.
“I'm glad to hear that,” Andric put a steaming bowl of something yellow-white in the middle. Then he put a plate with light yellow cube and a blunt knife next to it and finally something, that Jarol was almost positive was bread.
“You didn't replicate that?” she asked, looking at the Captain, who sat down.
“Nope. I make sure to always have some real ingredients. I enjoy cooking. It relaxes me. And kills time too.”
Brenok scratched his nose. “How do we eat it?”
“With appetite, mister...”
“Oh, where are my manners! Captain, this is Glinn Brenok, my aide.”
“With appetite, Mr. Brenok. You eat it with appetite.”
Brenok smiled. He observed Andric and then followed the Captain: first took a slice of bread, then a knife and spread the soft yellow substance from the cube on it. And then he took some of white-yellow thing on his plate.
Jarol noticed sh'Salas was observing Brenok and first she wondered why, but soon she realised the woman was interested in Brenok's hair. The Gul was so used to her friend's long braid she didn't pay attention to it any more, but many people, including aliens, still were surprised by this unique feature.
“It's good!” Brenok shouted. “Is this some kind of eggs?” he asked the Captain.
“Yes, they are chicken eggs.”
“That's a kind of bird.”
For a moment Jarol observed Brenok, who ate with clear pleasure, and finally decided to give it a try herself.
It really was good. Very simple, but very tasty.
“Captain,” she started. “About those shi...”
“Not when we eat,” he raised his hand. “Breakfast time is for the breakfast. Then we can get to business.”
She smiled and nodded.
They chatted for a while and Jarol was quite surprised that Terrans – or Andorians for that matter – could actually have quite highly developed conversation skills. The small talk was typical for Cardassians, who loved to talk, but she never had such an exchange of meaningless sentences with any Terran before. Usually she exchanged insults. Or threats.
The door behind her opened and someone entered. A blue collar uniform.
“Ah, doctor. We have guests,” the Captain said. “Gul Jarol and Glinn Brenok.”
“Nice to meet you two,” the doctor said. Both Cardassians nodded their greeting to him, while he took a chair and joined them at the table. “I'm doctor Kirkland”.
“I thought you were busy,” the Commander commented.
“Well, I've finished all my experiments, so I am free now. Hopefully for loooong time. Any left for me?” he asked, looking at half empty plates on the table.
“There's enough for everyone,” the Captain gestured to the middle of the table.
“Do you eat like this every morning?” Jarol asked.
“Yes,” said the Captain. “Although each time there is something different to eat and someone else to share it with. I like dining with all my senior staff.”
“Is it a Federation tradition?”
“No, not really. It's my tradition, something I've learnt from my Captain. You don't do it on your ships?”
“No, not really. The professional distance between a Gul and his subordinates is too big for such... fraternising. It would be inappropriate.”
“I see. But you have brought your first officer here.”
“Well,” she smiled. “First, it's a kind of official visit, and... Glinn Brenok actually is my friend.”
Andric smiled. “Wonderful! I'll drink to that!” he raised his mug with dark brown tea.
All raised their mugs and Brenok's hand clearly shook. He quickly put the mug back on the table, and everyone pretended they didn't see anything, although Jarol noticed the doctor was discretely observing Brenok's hand. The Glinn closed his eyes for a short moment, and then inclined his head to the left, stretching his right neck ridges. Jarol was sure he felt the pain that their medic insisted it didn't really exist. She wasn't so sure any more. Even if it was just in his mind, the matter had to be addressed.
“Is everything all right?” the Federation medic asked Brenok finally.
“Yes, yes, sir,” Brenok said.
“You seem to feel some discomfort.”
“It's the cold. We, Cardassians, are not happy to be in cold rooms.”
Cold. He had to deal with the Romulans in cold chambers. The first time he complained about his pain was after Romulans. Then that evening he wanted to spend on Cardassia, before they left to join the convoy. And now again – cold room, the pain is back. Jarol realised that before dealing with Romulans Brenok didn't have to spend any time in cold places – he was always safely – or unsafely – aboard his ship, surrounded by warm temperature.
The doctor seemed to accept the Glinn's answer, but still observed him unobtrusively. Well, it wasn't that unobtrucive, since Jarol noticed and she was sure Brenok's sharp eyes did too, but nothing more was spoken on the subject.
They finished the breakfast and the Captain led the Cardassians to his ready room.
“I will download all data we have,” he told Jarol. “I will ask my crew and freighters' crews if they would be willing to talk to you, but...”
“You, Cardassians, have a reputation if it comes to questioning and...”
“I understand,” she said, raising her hand. He really didn't need to finish. “You can assure them I would only ask questions. No real interrogations.”
“I will pass the information. I'm sure they would feel better if your questions were asked here, on the Aniki, instead of your warship.”
“That is acceptable. They can even have a security officer present in the room.”
“That should encourage them to cooperate,” the Captain grinned, handing her a Federation padd.
She took it.
“Thank you. We will now return to our ship. Please notify me if there is anyone willing to talk to me.”
“I'll send you a message.”
They returned to Roumar.
“How's your shoulder?” she asked Brenok as soon as they beamed back.
“Hurts,” he grunted.
“Go to the medic. Tell him to scan you and then scan you again.”
“He would just...”
“Tell him it's my order.”
Brenok nodded and headed for the infirmary.
Jarol returned to her office, but she wasn't thinking about the convoy and attackers. She was thinking about the Fed medic. All he needed was one glance and his eyes never left Brenok. He knew something was wrong. He seemed like wanting to ask a question, but didn't dare. She heard Federation medicine was on a higher level than Cardassian, but she never believed that. No one and nothing was better than Cardassian.
However now she wasn't so sure any more. Federation was more protective of their soldiers and their well being. They might put a lot more resources and time for medical research, so maybe their achievements were worth taking under consideration.
She didn't want to do it. She didn't want to show their Captain they had something – anything – better than Cardassians. But she had to put her pride away and hide it under her carpet. That's what they said in Nokar: hide your pride under your carpet and ask for help. Brenok was more important than her Cardassian pride.
She hailed the Captain.
“Gul Jarol, I understand this is important, but I had no time to ask anyone...” he started, but she raised her hand to politely interrupt.
“It's not about the attacks, Captain.”
“Oh, so what is it about?”
“Could I talk to your medic?”
“You mean doctor Kirkland?”
“It's a private matter. Medical.”
“Oh. I had no idea you had any private, medical matters with my doctor. Fine, I'll patch you through.”
His face was replaced by the Federation logo for a few seconds and then by elder doctor's face.
“Gul Jarol, what can I do for you?”
“It's about my aide,” she said.
“So this display during the breakfast wasn't coldness related?” she appreciated he didn't ask any non-relevant questions. It was difficult for her without that.
“No. We feel uncomfortable in cold rooms, but it doesn't cause pain.”
“Does he experience pain?”
“He claims he does. Our medic found nothing, he said it's an old wound and it's only in his brain, not really pain.”
“That scar on his neck...”
“A Klingon bat'leth.”
“Ouch. How long time ago?”
“Five years ago.”
“And no one found out what causes his pain yet?”
“Actually he didn't complain about any pains until recently. I think he feels pain after experiencing cold. That's only a guess, but matches my theory.”
“It might be important. But... I would have to examine him.”
“I'll send him to you at your earliest convenience.”
“I can take care of this any time.”
“Thank you, med... doctor.”
“My pleasure. I hope he is not a difficult patient. Please tell him to bring history of his treatment.”
Should she tell him Brenok was the most difficult person in the galaxy recently? No. She'd order Brenok to behave.
She contacted the Glinn and ordered him to report to the Federation doctor. Medic Taret didn't change his diagnose – it still was a phantom pain and nothing could be done about it – but she could hear in his tone of voice that he didn't like the idea of sending Brenok to the alien medic.
In a meantime Captain Andric sent her files, so she started studying them. Visual logs showed Hideki class attack ships, but none of them used any of known attack patterns during their attacks, which didn't prove they weren't Cardassians piloting them, but she suspected they weren't military trained pilots. The ships were equipped with dampening fields, which prevented scanning interiors of ships. She was half way through files, when she received a list – a short list – of Federation crewmen, who agreed to talk to her. She accepted a schedule of interviews, which Andric sent along with the list, and returned to files.
“Come,” she said upon hearing a chime.
The door parted and Brenok entered.
“How did it go?” she asked.
“The Fed medic scanned parts of my body I had no idea they existed,” he said. “He also asked for full and detailed information regarding my operation and treatment. All that is in the Military Hospital database,” he pulled his face.
“I see. I should have sufficient security clearance to retrieve that for you.”
“I hoped you'd say that. There is no way I could access them.”
Medical files of officers above rank of Gil were classified. Even officers, to whom files were relating to, had no access to them. Security precaution.
“I'll get my hands on those files and pass them to the Federation medic,” she promised.
“Thank you. Now, if you don't mind, I'll return to duty.”
She nodded and he left.
“Glinn! You're back!” the Flower Girl ran to him and threw her arms around his neck. He lowered his body a little, so that she could reach him easier.
“I told you I would be back,” he said, smiling.
“Yes, you did. You always keep your promises, don't you?”
How could she know? It was only second time they met.
However he knew he couldn't disappoint her, never ever. Even if she wouldn't know about his broken promises, he would.
“Did you do something important?” she let him go and looked at him straightening his body.
“Yes, I think I did,” he replied.
“Good. Sit with me today, all right?”
“All right,” he answered, but wasn't sure it was a good idea.
She led him to her seat. Where would she sit? He wondered. She pulled his hand down to force him to sit and so he did. Then she sat on his lap. He chuckled. She kept looking at him and then raised her hand to move away his hair and see his no-ear. He grabbed her hand to stop her, startling her a little.
“Don't,” he said softly.
“It doesn't look nice.”
“I was fighting an enemy.”
“Did you win?”
“Yes, I did. With help of my two best friends. Do you have friends?”
She nodded vigorously. And then she tried to touch his hair again and again he grabbed her hand, shaking his head slowly. She put her finger on top of his scar on the lower cheek ridge and traced it down until its end.
“Does it hurt?”
“No, the scar doesn't hurt,” he answered. It was the truth, this scar never bothered him.
The one that did was hidden under a thick, warm collar; he knew he would have to spend some time in this cold basement, so he put on sufficiently warm clothes.
It was actually the first time he entered the baby's room. He was unable to do it before. He didn't hate the baby, but wasn't sure he would manage to spend a moment with little Laran without thinking about his sweet Tasara.
The boy slept peacefully. His tiny, cute face wrinkled as he dreamt. Brenok pulled his hands toward the baby, but then pulled them back; he didn't want to wake him up. But he wanted to take him into his arms so badly... He gently put his hands under the little body and lifted the boy. Then he sat in a chair and cradled Laran in his arms.
Jarol was passing by the baby room, when she noticed Brenok inside. She stopped and then quietly stood in the opened door. She didn't want to disturb Brenok's first moment with Laran. She knew her friend avoided her son and she understood why. She was happy to see he was overcoming his pain and returning back to life.
Brenok started humming a lullaby and her eyes filled with tears.
Wow...Jarol is having a hard time with the idea of Brenok even attending a religious service, isn't she? I wonder what she would do if he actually had himself initiated into the Oralian faith? I hope that she'd be able to continue her friendship with him and accept him that way, and that she wouldn't cut him off out of jealousy or contempt for what he's doing.
As to the future of Cardassia...I'm still skeptical of Daset here, and if he will end up being good or bad for their future. (I must also admit to a very big soft spot for anyone named "Ghemor." )
I don't think she would break any contact with him, if he would become an Oralian, but she sure is jealous, because those "religious fanatics" helped him to start healing process and brought some peace into his heart. Strangers - and strangers she despises at that - made something she didn't manage.
However she is happy Brenok is getting better
I imagine she'd have to think twice about whether they were "fanatics" if someone she knew, like Brenok, joined them. It's a little harder to despise an entire group when the face of those strangers suddenly becomes that of someone you know. (That is, as long as Brenok or any other person she knew stayed a healthy, rational person instead of acting like a person who joined a cult...and assuming she could distinguish between the two.)
And that's the problem - she knows no Oralian personally. They both were fed with propaganda and if Brenok knew who those people were from the beginning, he probably wouldn't go with them. But he didn't. And he could experience first hand that what he was told was simply a lie. At least in regard of this particular group.
She doesn't know it. He told her nothing about the meetings, except that he goes there and will keep going. So she still believes the propaganda, which makes it even harder for her, as she can't understand why he wants to go there.
He went with them the first time, because he was curious. They were so mysterious it caught his imagination. And he keeps going, because [wait for next chapter ]
Hmmmmmm...I suspect love has to do with it! The question is, is it a Cardassian he's in love with, what KIND of love (romantic, family/brotherly love, or another kind), or is it that he has some kind of experience?
Still, Brenok is a very smart man, and I suspect a very rational, scientific one. That would hopefully make an impression, especially if he continues to make contributions on the job that are particularly intelligent.
You know what's most funny about Brenok? He is a clever one, open-minded, with revolutionary ideas (his propositions on how to go on with their political agenda actually shocked Gul Tarkan, who didn't know Brenok at all), in some way smarter than Jarol (not that she's stupid, just... hard and slow to change), but he is sooooooo young. He's only 31! And others - older others - listen to him! He makes an impression.
He's an engineer, so it's easier for him than for Jarol to see that if something doesn't work - you have to fix it! That's how he thinks - fix it! And being under Jarol's command lets him think independently, not just precisely follow strict orders and not think too much about them much.
You're really doing a great job of writing from a Cardassian point of view.
BTW... Captain Ivo Andric and a ship called Anika? I assume you're a fan?
Thanks, I try my best to show an alien point of view, but not too alien to make it incomprehensible.
I appreciate his work
I wondered if anyone would notice that
Is this something I should know about?
Not necessarily... Ivo Andric was a Nobel prize-winning Yugoslavian author. I don't know how famous he is worldwide, I guess he is moderately well known, and I know that many of his works have been translated to English and many other languages. Among other things, he wrote a novella called Anikina vremena (I don't know if it was ever published in English - had to google it to see how the title was translated in English, apparently it's Legends of Anika, but that may be just the translation of the title of the film adaptation made in 1950s http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0173645/) Anika is the name of the main female character, the title actually means something like "The times of Anika" or "Anika's times". I had to read several of his works in elementary and high school, but that one wasn't among them - that one I read because the subject seemed interesting.
I imagine it was translated as "Legends" because we tend to think that titles like "The Life and Times of..." sound stuffy. "Legends" is a bit more exciting. I can definitely see the "time" root in that word, though ("vrem-" I think...).
Beautiful. The last scene with him finally humming again also filled my eyes with tears and I really like the little "flower girl" and the breakfast they had with the Federation people was very interessting to read as well...some contact between Cardassians and others species, that is without war and such.
It's in the family
Jarol struck the man, who she had pressed to the wall, square in his face. And then again. And again. And she would do it again, if a hand wouldn't grab her fist, stopping her.
“Enough,” Brenok said.
“You heard what he said!” she was furious.
“I did. And he will pay for this,” the Glinn looked at the man and literally spat at his face.
[RIGHT]Two weeks earlier[/RIGHT]
“Sir,” Jarol was all business upon entering Daset's office, which sent Daset's eye ridges a little bit higher.
“Yes, Gul Jarol?” he decided to be as official as she was.
“I request a permission to investigate the attacks on Federation convoys. I have some preliminary data and would like to continue.”
“By all means. These attacks have to stop. Although I'd rather prefer not to be dependant on Federation help at all.”
“We can't afford that,” she said.
“It's been two years. How long do we have to beg for food?” he took a padd and started reading its content.
She couldn't say she didn't agree with him.
“Then we need to find a way to become self-sufficient,” she said.
“You come from a family of farmers, you tell me how to do it,” he said.
“I'm an officer, not a magician.”
“Well, recently Jotrel told me he had an idea, but he needed to work on details. Maybe he is a magician.”
She didn't say anything.
“Dismissed,” Daset muttered, not even looking at her.
The Roumar arrived to the region, in which most of reported attacks had taken place. Jarol wasn't happy to face another 'waiting time', but she used the opportunity to bring Ma'Kan and Brenok up to date with all the information she had available, including the data sent by the Federation and their officers' reports she had gathered during her questionings.
“Do we have any idea where these ships come from?” Ma'Kan asked. “I mean their production, not point of launch.”
“They are clearly Cardassian, but... I don't think we could retrieve that information from visual logs and if the Federation have that information, they chose not to share with us.”
“I'm sure they'd be happy to point their finger at one of our shipyards and say 'here, you'd built those Hideki here and now you attack our convoys',” Brenok said.
“Maybe, but they must realise they are our convoys more than theirs,” Jarol replied.
“So what's the plan?” Ma'Kan looked at her Gul.
“I don't have any plan,” Jarol answered. “We wait. We scan. We try to find traces of something. Anything.”
“We could send patrol ships to gather detailed information about this sector,” Ma'Kan suggested. “There must be a reason why most of the attacks happen here. They have a base nearby.”
“Good idea. Prepare a plan for my review by tomorrow morning.” Ma'Kan nodded. “Brenok, you check our database for any Maquis or Federation activity in this region before the Dominion War started. Maybe that would give us any leads.” Brenok nodded too. “You both have full access to the data, however general access is restricted. Some of those files were given to us for this particular purpose by Captain Andric and I don't want to see it used any other way, especially any harmful way. We don't spy on the Federation, we try to catch criminals, who attack convoys loaded with resources we need.”
Both officers nodded.
“If you have no more questions... Dismissed.”
“Ah, Gul Jarol,” Andric smiled. How different was this smile from the one he had granted her the first time they spoke!
“How are you, Captain?”
“Fine, fine, thank you. Again on escorting duty?”
“No, this time I'm investigating. And I have a question.”
“I'm all ears.”
She stared at him.
“That's a human expression. It means: I'm listening.”
“Sounds like a Ferengi expression to me,” she grinned. “Captain, would you agree to become a bait?”
“You want to lure our troublemakers?” he guessed.
“That's right. All data we have would be good for evidence, but without catching those, who are responsible, it's useless.”
“Well, I could use a few sensor tricks to make my cargo more attractive to ensure their interest in us,” Andric said.
“That would be perfect,” she grinned. In spite of herself she had to admit she liked him. “We'll be lurking in the sensor range to react quickly and not let any real damage be inflicted on your ships.”
“I wish you had a cloaking device and lurk closer.”
“I wish I had a cloaking device too, but the Obsidian Order hadn't share it with the military before they were destroyed. Maybe you could ask your friends, Romulans? Or Klingons?”
“My friends, yes,” he laughed. “All right, Gul Jarol. Be close, as we are going to ask for trouble.”
She nodded, disconnected and looked at her mar'kuu sculpture. Then she rose and went to the bridge.
“Did he agree?” Brenok asked.
“Karama said he could try to boost our communication sensor's range and... eavesdrop,” Brenok didn't manage to stop the smile from crawling out on his face.
“I could listen to them communicating,” The Gil said. “They use small ships, so in order to be effective there must be many of them and they have to coordinate their attack.”
“Good thinking, Karama,” Jarol approved, sitting in her chair.
The Gul also noticed Ma'Kan's hairdo changed. It was still well within the regulations, but clearly more elaborate. She wondered if Brenok noticed.
Jarol answered the comm, activating her screen. She saw the Federation medic, Kirkland, looking at her.
“Hello, Gul Jarol. I am trying to reach Glinn Brenok, but it occurs to be easier to contact you. Could I speak with him?” he asked.
“Of course,” she said. “Give me a moment, I'll call him.”
She contacted the Glinn and waited for him to arrive.
“Shall I understand you've found something?” she asked.
“Yes. I think I understand the source of his pains, however I should discuss it with him.”
She wanted to ask why, but just then Brenok entered. He motioned to her screen and she vacated her chair to let him sit down.
“Ah, Gul Jarol,” the medic looked at her, as she stood behind the chair. “This is a delicate matter and I'd like to talk to Glinn Brenok alone.”
“He is my subordinate,” she said.
“Yes, I understand that, but it is a medical matter and he has a right to privacy.”
Jarol and Brenok exchanged surprised looks.
“Medic,” Brenok said to the doctor. “As my commander she has to be informed of my medical condition. I would have to pass to her everything you're going to tell me now, so it's better for her to hear it from you and possibly ask questions.”
“Oh. Well, if you don't object to her presence, then I will proceed.”
“Proceed,” the Glinn nodded once.
“I have studied Cardassian physiology, based on our database and the scans I took of you, Mr. Brenok. According to the data you had sent me, from... aaah...” he checked something on his desk, “Military Hospital on Cardassia Prime, according to that data your nerves were reconnected using some experimental treatment, to which you'd agreed.”
Brenok nodded. “Was the treatment unsuccessful?” he asked.
“No, not at all. I actually find it quite fascinating and plan to contact medical on Cardassia with a request for more data on the subject. But that is not important right now. The nerves in your neck ridge healed well, especially taking under consideration that a nerve damage is usually permanent or difficult to heal.”
“So if everything is so miraculously well, why is it so unwell?” Jarol asked.
“The problem lies in muscles, which surround the nerve. Your neck ridges protect a thick cluster of nerves, which are responsible for the arm and hand movement and coordination. Your nerves, Mr. Brenok, were severed. They were reconnected and stitched up together, however in order to do that the damaged parts, those which were in fact cut and shattered, had to be removed. Rejoining loose ends was successful and gave you your arm and hand mobility back. However due to the treatment method, those nerves are shorter. It is a really microscopic difference, however it exists. When exposed to cold, your muscles tense. This is a natural reaction. However tensed muscles of your neck and neck ridge inflict pressure on your shortened nerves.”
“And this causes pain,” Jarol guessed.
“That's right,” confirmed the medic.
“Is there any way to fix it?” Brenok asked.
“I'm afraid not,” Kirkland's face changed from 'all scientific business' to 'compassionate medic'.
“So that's it?”
“You can avoid coldness, but I understand that in your line of work it could be difficult and there are probably some kind of winters on Cardassia too. I've been thinking about it and while I didn't find any way to prevent your pains, I think a good, properly done massage should relieve you of pain quite quickly, once it occurs.”
“A what, sir?” Brenok asked.
“A massage. You know what a massage is, don't you?”
“I'm afraid I don't.”
“This is a kind of therapy. It includes applying force and pressure in order to relax muscles and reduce tension. Take a look.”
Kirkland's face was replaced by a two dimensional presentation. There was a man laying on a table, face down, and another man pressing, kneading and patting his back. Brenok and Jarol looked at each other shocked. Kirkland reappeared on the screen and caught their expressions.
“Is there a problem?” he asked puzzled.
“Med... doctor,” Jarol said quietly. “We, Cardassians, don't touch each other in this manner. It would be highly inappropriate.”
“Never?” he asked.
“Never. Our private space is sacred and something like this...” Brenok didn't finish, just shook is head.
“Mister Brenok, you'd have to overcome this custom or taboo, whatever it is, for your own good. Maybe there is someone, who could be allowed to touch you like this, someone very close to you. A wife?”
“I don't have a wife,” he said... Jarol almost heard 'any more' in his words.
“It doesn't have to involve your whole back. It's just the neck ridge and the shoulder and it is where the massage would have to be applied.”
“Um, doctor, our neck ridges are part of our... how to put it...”
“Attraction pattern,” Jarol suggested. “This is a part of our bodies we expose, take care of, assess in a possible mate and never ever touch, until we are married or at least betrothed.”
“I see. Yes, I can see it complicates the matter.” He thought for a while. “I also explored a possibility of chemical way of suppressing the pain, but taking painkillers all your life is not a good idea, especially since your body would keep adapting and you'd have to raise the dose...”
“I get the picture,” Brenok raised his hand. “And I agree this is not an option.”
“I will keep working on this problem, but for now you would have to either accept a massage or go on suffering. You could try warm compresses, but they would work slower, much slower. They would warm up the shoulder, but the muscles tension would stay for longer period.”
“Thank you, doctor, for all your help. You don't have to continue your research, I'm sure you have other important matters, which keep you busy.”
“Oh, it's not a problem at all, Mr. Brenok. I am happy to face this challenge and maybe help someone at the same time. This treatment of severed nerves is an interesting study and deserves more attention. Unfortunately it cannot be adapted to humans as it is, your Cardassian bodies are sturdier and harder to damage, we're not that lucky. I'll contact you when I have something new.”
Brenok nodded his thanks and disconnected. Then he looked up at Jarol, who still stood behind the chair.
“So what do you think?”
“It doesn't matter what I think. What do you think? Maybe you should go with this chemical suppression treatment?”
“No,” he said firmly. “No.” He grabbed his neck ridge and squeezed gently. “I could try to work out a technique to consciously release tension in my muscles after being exposed to coldness, but... it surely would take some time to master such a skill.”
“So? It stays as it is for now?” she didn't like this idea.
“No. Sometimes it hurts so much I can't stand it.”
He looked at her hands and rubbed his scar. She opened her eyes wider, guessing what he was considering. Could she do it? Could she invade his privacy like that, even with his consent? He was like a brother to her, but the consent was very reluctant.
Her computer bipped, informing a file was received. She leaned over to check what it was. Doctor Kirkland sent the detailed technique of the massage, which had to be applied to Brenok's shoulder, in case they would decide to go for it, including a recipe for some kind of oil.
Brenok rose and headed for the door. The door opened for him, but he didn't leave. He stood there for a moment, then turned and looked at her.
“If I decide to proceed, would you help me?” he asked. “I have no one closer to me than you.”
“I...” she didn't feel comfortable with the whole idea, but then said, “I would,” and she meant it.
He turned and left her office.
Jarol entered the bridge and the first thing she heard made her smile. Brenok stood by his console, tapping something on its smooth surface and humming a cheerful melody. The Gul went to her seat.
“Report!” she barked.
Each officer informed her of their department status, including Ma'Kan and Karama, who had no news regarding the attackers. Jarol had a feeling this case wouldn't be solved quickly. Maybe the criminals knew she was here and waited for her to leave before they would attempt to attack another convoy?
“Sir, Gul Daset wants to talk to you,” Karama spoke.
“On screen,” she said and looked at the oval screen in front of her.
Daset was clearly angry.
“Jarol, we have a problem.”
“It's Ghemor's government. They have decided to free all our annexed planets. Effective immediately.”
It was disturbing indeed. She believed they would have to do it some day, but not all at the same time and not so suddenly. It would be a disaster to already barely alive Cardassian economy.
“He wants us all to die?” she asked.
“He says the Federation agreed to support his decision by increasing their help. So what we don't extract from the annexed worlds, we would get from them.”
“I don't think they can spare so much,” she said.
“Don't you understand?!” it was obvious he was barely able to hold his fury in check. “Instead of becoming independent, we rely on others more and more! We can't allow that!”
“Do you want to officially oppose his decision?”
“I do, yes.”
“Do you think it's wise?”
He stared at her.
“We would have to release the annexed worlds some day. And it would be painful. I agree it's a mistake to do it this way, but there is little we can do about it. We're too weak, and we can't afford to alienate the people, we need to gain their trust and support.”
“Will they trust and support us, if we allow them to be hungry?”
“Will they accept us, if we behave like the old Central Command? Like the Directorate? We need to become an army, which they could be proud of, not about which they would say 'oh, no, they started another war'.”
“They used to be proud of us.”
“They used to be aware of an Obsidian Order agent lurking over their shoulder too, in case they wanted to express what they really thought about us.”
Daset seemed to get her point.
“So you say we should support Ghemor's decision?”
“We should follow it. Don't say 'right', don't say 'wrong'. Just do it. Take all our people from those worlds and send them back to Cardassia. Send them to restoration coordinators. Let them experience peace for a while. And family life. Let them rest. Make sure the ordinary people know who they are and who directed them to that work. Make it clear to all Prefects and Guls that nothing should be destroyed upon withdrawal. Just take what's ours and leave.”
Daset kept looking at her; his eyes expressed partially disbelieve, partially admiration.
“You should be a politician, Jarol,” he said finally. “We're going to be in trouble, you know. There is no way the resources sent by the Federation would suffice.”
“I know that. Cardassians will have to wait a little longer until their bellies would be full again, but tell them this: you are not someone else's 'Dominion' any more. Ghemor wants to play nice. Fine. Let's steal a bit of this niceness for us too.”
“I should make you my advisor,” he said.
“Thank you, but I like where I am now.”
“Do you know what's most infuriating?”
“That Jotrel said almost the same thing,” Daset shook his head like a father, scolding his children for misbehaving.
“Ah. So if two of us say the same thing, there must be something in it...”
“Unfortunately. I only wish I could see and understand this 'something'.”
“What will you do?”
“I will think about this silliness and then make a decision. I still have to talk to Gul Tarkan about his opinion on the matter.”
Gul Tarkan. The old type fellow, who most likely thought the same way Daset did. However she felt flattered that he consulted her before consulting Tarkan.
She had shared a lot of her thoughts with Daset, but she hadn't said everything she had to say on the subject. She knew by now that not every annexed world was a copy of Bajoran situation. Aramatians weren't and she wondered what would happen to their civil war when Cardassians left all of a sudden. Would it help them bring peace or would it make it worse? What was the situation on other worlds? She doubted Alon Ghemor, being a civilian all his life and fed by the dissident, anti-military propaganda at that, would understand complexities of annexed worlds' internal politics. She fully agreed with releasing the worlds that didn't want Cardassian presence on their planets, she would hate to do to others what was done to her, she understood it better now than ever, but the way he wanted to do it was... reckless. She was sure it was a political move, to prove something to Cardassians and – most likely – to the Federation. She didn't care about the Federation and what they thought about the Union. It was of no consequence. She could care about individuals, it was important for her that Captain Andric respected her, but what the Fed Council would think? A body of faceless beings from another political power? She couldn't care less. The Castellan's government's actions proved he cared a lot. And in her eyes it was close to treason. She saw him as a Federation puppet, who wanted to transform Cardassia to another Federation colony. Work hard, become like us and we will accept you in our big, happy Fed family. She was part of such a 'family' once and the good brothers killed most people she knew and cared about. No, thank you, I prefer to stand aside and be independent this time. Was Ghemor really thinking that becoming a copy of the Federation was for their good? She didn't agree with that. She wanted to stay herself and not become a copy of anything. If Ghemor sold Cardassia to the Federation, he'd be no better than... than Gul Dukat – she realised. It stung her, but she had to face it. No one stopped Dukat, everyone who tried, was executed, but Ghemor wouldn't dare. His Federation superiors wouldn't agree to that, at least not officially. So there was a possibility to stop Ghemor's government from selling Cardassia to the Feds and she intended to make sure Daset knew about it and acted accordingly. They had to stay in the opposition, but a clever opposition. Don't just say 'no' to everything the current government says, it would be foolish, say 'no' when they make wrong decisions. Say 'yes', when they do something right. And let the people decide who they trust more and who they want to follow. They wanted this democracy? They can have it for a moment. But she believed the people would understand that this is not a Cardassian way. Freedom – yes. Anarchy – no. And anarchy was what was happening on Cardassia Prime. Chaos. Tribal fights. A Cardassian attacking another Cardassian for... food? Shelter? NO! That had to be fixed and the current government seemed to have no idea how. They opposed a proposition to send more troops to patrol the streets, but she believed that for the safety of the good denizens someone had to keep an eye on the bad ones. Or rather the desperate ones. Not everyone was as strong as Demoks. Not everyone was able to behave without Obsidian Order looking at their hands. She would never think she'd miss the hated Order.
“Sir,” Karama spoke suddenly. “I think I have something.”
She looked at him, hoping it was what they were waiting for for last few days. Then she glanced at Ma'Kan, who was intently observing her tactical console. The young woman shook her head with disappointment.
“I don't have anything in the scanner range,” she said, looking up at the Gul.
“Karama?” Jarol looked back at the comm officer.
“I think my boosted sensors have longer range.”
“Can you pinpoint the location? Is it anywhere near the convoy?”
“I can't be completely sure, but I think they approach the convoy from the opposite side.”
“Move us there, slowly, we don't want to drag any attention too early.”
“Yes, sir,” Karama's fingers gently touched his panel, executing her order.
“Got them, sir,” Ma'Kan's voice was full of childish excitement. Jarol smiled at that; it reminded her of Damar.
“How many?” the Gul asked.
“Seven small ships. Six are Hideki class, one unknown.”
“I know the convoy's defence capabilities are limited, but even with a little help we shouldn't have problems with defeating these vessels.”
“What about without their help? I'd rather not have them engaged in the fight.”
“Hard to say, sir. We could take some beating.”
“Are we in danger of being destroyed?”
“No, I don't think so, even in our less than perfect shape.”
“That's all I need to know. Karama, anything in the air... space... vacuum... whatever?”
“As I suspected, they coordinate their attack. It seems like six of those ships are in constant communication with the seventh. I would bet it's their leader.”
“Fine. Whoever is in command there, we need to get them alive. Brenok, get a team and report to the transporter room. Be ready to board that ship.”
“Sir?” Ma'Kan looked at her surprised and disappointed. Jarol knew it was Ma'Kan's job, but she believed the woman was too inexperienced to lead a boarding part yet.
“I need you at tactical, we still have to fight against those six ships.”
The Dja seemed to accept the Gul's explanation and looked back at her console.
“Sir, I'd like Dja Ma'Kan to be part of my team,” Brenok said.
Ma'Kan looked at Jarol with hope and the Gul nodded, sending the girl with Brenok. She hoped after the mission Ma'Kan's smile would be as wide as it was now.
Another officer, even less experienced Dja Dolle, took the tactical and Jarol wondered, if she shouldn't take the post herself, but after a short while of hesitation she decided against it. How would they gain any experience if they had no chance to actually do the job? She could always replace him, if such a need arose, and she would give him orders, so he didn't have to make any serious decisions himself.
“Sir,” Karama didn't even raise his head, “the Anika asks if we noticed the enemy.”
“I already did.”
Was it smile she heard in his voice?
“Boarding party ready, sir,” Brenok's disembodied voice reported through the comm.
“Stand by,” she said and looked at Dolle. “Access the transporter and take control. I'll tell you when to beam them to the leading ship.”
“Yes, sir,” he nodded. “I will keep the lead ship targeted to speed up the beaming process.”
“Good thinking,” she smiled with approval.
He smiled back. His first praise, which he would never forget. That's how you make good officers.
“We're in weapons range,” he reported after a moment.
“Target lead ship's weapons and shields,” she ordered, moving forward in her chair and sitting on the edge, with left leg straightened and pulled forward on the deck to keep her balance. She put her right hand on the armrest and gestured with the left one, when issuing orders. Everyone on the bridge, who had been serving with her during the Dominion War, knew that she just entered the combat mode. “Target other ships at your discretion, Dja Dolle,” she added and he sent her a panicked look. “You'll do fine,” she added, giving him a hard glance. She wanted him to believe in himself, so couldn't be too soft. It was something she'd learnt from Gul Corak.
“Yes, sir,” he replied and looked back at his console, but she could see his narrow neck ridges remained tensed.
“Condition: red,” she announced and the klaxon rang on the bridge and the rest of the warship. “Karama, keep us close to the convoy. We cannot let any of those ships be harmed. Zamarran, make sure our shields are evenly distributed. I don't want them to punch through anywhere.”
The Roumar shook under first hits.
“Shields holding,” Zamarran shouted.
Dolle's fingers moved quickly on his console; the young officer seemed fully concentrated on his task.
The Roumar moved between the convoy and three of the attacking ships, firing at them with special attention to the one in the middle. The Anika also opened fire, breaking the formation and moving to attack the remaining vessels. One of Hideki ships exploded, sending another one into uncontrolled spin. The unknown class ship motioned to intercept the Roumar and attacked her tail. The Galor shook, but was too big and too slow to lose them.
“Full stop!” Jarol yelled and Karama stopped the ship. The inertial dampeners didn't manage to completely reduce the strength of pull, and Jarol almost fell out of her chair, but her plan worked. The attacker passed by them, almost brushing their shields.
“Fire!” she barked and two torpedoes, followed by phaser beams, hit the vessel. The ship spun out of control for a few seconds and then exploded.
“Shame, I hoped to keep that ship to see where it's from,” Jarol commented. “What the status of their lead ship?”
“Shields at seven percent,” Dolle reported.
“Be careful not to destroy them,” she said, while he fired a single phaser shot.
“Shield's down, beaming the boarding party!” he shouted with triumph.
“Good job. Zamarran, how are we?”
“Fine. Our tail's shields are a bit weaker, but they can take a little more pounding before they fail.”
“Dolle, fire at will. Karama, turn us around to face the rest of the attackers.”
A console in the back of the bridge exploded. She turned to see if everyone was all right and which console it was. She could see a body on the floor.
“Medic to the bridge,” she barked to the comm.
The lead Hideki opened fire at its former comrades. It was the best sign that the capture was successful.
“The remaining Hideki are withdrawing,” Zamarran reported.
She wondered for a moment. Her instinct was to pursue and destroy, but she achieved what she'd planned to.
“Let them run,” she said eventually. “Hail Captain Andric.”
“Well, Gul Jarol, seems like this time you had some fun,” the Terran's face was shiny, like... wet?
“Hopefully they will tell their friends the convoys are not an easy target any more. What's your status? Do you need help?”
“Nothing we can't fix, but thank you for the offer.”
“Then I hope you'll arrive to Cardassia Prime safely.”
“Thank you. Good luck,” and with that he disconnected.
“Jarol to Brenok,” she tapped her wrist comm.
“Brenok here. We have captured three people and you won't believe who is among them.”
“Beam back to the Roumar and place them in the brig.”
“Yes, sir,” he confirmed and disconnected.
“I want full report on the warship's status,” she said. Zamarran nodded. “And Zamarran,” he gave her a questioning look. “You have the bridge,” he nodded again and she headed for the brig.
Each prisoner was locked in a separate cell. Brenok led her to the one in the middle and stopped by the forcefield. She looked inside. There was a Cardassian sitting on a bench, looking defiantly at her. The face seemed familiar, but her memory was unable to attach a name to it.
“Who is it?” she asked Brenok.
“His name is Nadar,” he answered.
That's why the face seemed familiar, but nameless! The resemblance to her former colleague, later her tactician turned a traitor was striking.
“He's Glinn Nadar's younger brother,” Brenok added.
“Did you talk to him yet?” she asked.
“He doesn't want to talk,” the Glinn answered. “We established his identity thanks to his DNA.”
“Well then, we will have to make him talk,” she said, looking at Nadar.
She had promised Glinn Nadar not to let any harm be done to his family as a result of his treason, but here sat a proof that there was something wrong with Nadars. She didn't intend to leave it like that.
“Brenok, gather all information we have on Nadar family,” she said.
He nodded, still looking at the man. Jarol glanced into the cell on the left. There was another Cardassian there.
“And this is?” she asked.
“Kerfut, I don't have much more on him now.”
The cell on the right was occupied by a non-Cardassian.
“A Xepolite. She didn't say anything so far, so apart from her race and sex we have nothing.”
“Splendid,” Jarol muttered. She had never interrogated anyone and didn't look forward to it, but she knew she had to extract necessary information from them. She wondered if necessary instruments were present aboard the warship.
Jarol, Brenok and Ma'Kan entered the interrogation room. Nadar was seated in a special chair in the middle, with his wrists and ankled tied to the chair. The chair was made of metal and there was little holes in its seat for the blood to drip on the floor. Nadar eyed them hostilely and his mouth shaped a thin line. Jarol felt it wouldn't be easy, but she was reluctant to inflict pain, no matter to whom; this was too personal and she obviously lacked the nerve required for such a task. She shot a glance at Brenok and she thought his face expressed exactly the same hesitation her did. Ma'Kan stared at Nadar coldly.
There were four guards present in the room, but Jarol sent them out. She didn't need anyone to witness what she would have to do, even if they were used to inflicting pain themselves, if ordered. She was their Gul and dirty work wasn't her cup of tea, but in this case it was her duty.
Brenok and Ma'Kan stood by the door, like guards, while Jarol took a chair and put it in front of Nadar, the chair's back facing him. She straddled it and leaned her arms on the back of the chair.
“Why?” she asked simply.
Nadar didn't reply, which was no surprise for her.
“You are Calet Nadar, younger brother of an officer, who'd served on this warship,” she recalled the information from her memory. “You are thirty two years old. You and your brother were sympathisers of the True Way movement and opposed any non-Cardassian presence in the Union. Your father was a clerk in the Ministry of War, however he was suspected of working for the Obsidian Order in fact. You have one more brother, age fifteen, and two sisters, age forty-two and thirty. That's what is in the database,” she paused for a moment, and then continued. “You were leading a rogue group, consisting of Cardassians and non-Cardassians, which on numerous occasions attacked Federation convoys with resources headed for Cardassia Prime. You robbed those convoys and even had managed to destroy two ships. Your base of operation is in Kalet system,” he flinched. She had acquired that information form the Xepolite. “As you can see, I know a lot of things. I just don't understand why.”
“What happened to my brother?” he barked.
“He was a traitor and he was executed,” she replied calmly.
“You murdered him!”
“I have ordered his execution, yes.”
“Why? He was a patriot.”
“No, he wasn't. He was spying for the Dominion. He betrayed this ship, his Gul and the Cardassian Union. He deserved nothing more. And I must admit – this trait runs in your family, as you seem nothing less than a traitor too.”
“I am a traitor?!” he yelled. “And who protected the Fed ships, ah?”
“I protected medicines for Cardassians.”
“You are a traitor. You sell us to aliens!”
“Tell me, what was so patriotic your brother did?” she asked.
“He served his Union well.”
“For the most part. Until he started serving an alien power.”
“It was the legitimate government of the Union.”
“Maybe. This legitimate government destroyed all of Lakarian City.”
“For the treason!”
“What treason?” she was puzzled and didn't hide it.
“Damar's treason. If he hadn't betrayed us all, if he hadn't rebelled and behaved like a Bajoran terrorist, everything would be fine. No one would destroy anything.”
“I see,” she said. Her voice was still levelled, but this time it was only on the surface and it cost her a lot of self-discipline to stay calm. “So a man, who decided to rebel against an enemy, was a traitor.”
“They weren't the enemy. They were our government!”
“There is something I don't understand. As a Vulcan would say: your logic is flawed. If you hate everything non-Cardassian, how come you can approve of a shapeshifter being your government?”
“The government was Cardassian, you fool. The head of the government was a Cardassian. We were allies, not their subordinates.”
Jarol laughed bitterly. How deluded this man was?
“So you think Legate Damar had real power, don't you?”
“Of course. Until he decided to betray our allies. Until he started attacking and killing our own soldiers!! Why do you think we lost this war?”
“This is unbelievable,” she shook her head. “Did you hear something so ridiculous?” she asked, turning back to look at Brenok and Ma'Kan. The tactician only shook her head, but the Glinn's face expressed hatred and contempt.
“Let me get this straight,” she turned back to Nadar. “You are a hero, who works for the good of Cardassia, but Legate Damar was a traitor.”
“My brother was a hero. And Damar got what he deserved.”
She wouldn't be able to describe what she felt at that moment, but she was sure it was clear on her face, because Nadar flinched again. She slowly got up and approached the man. As slowly she untied his wrists and ankles, while Ma'Kan moved closer with a phaser in her hand pointed at Nadar. When the man's limbs were free, Jarol grabbed him by the shirt on his chest and slammed against the wall.
She had been wrong, she knew that now. She had been wrong thinking she was unable to inflict pain looking her victim in the eyes. She raised her fist and struck Nadar, smashing his nose. She didn't feel any pain in her fingers; she struck again.
“Damar was my friend,” she hissed furiously. “Hearing his name coming from your mouth is an insult to all Cardassia.” She hit him. “You just lost all your rights.” A blow. “You are accused of treason.” Another. Her fist was caked with his blood. His nose didn't exist any more. “You will be taken to Cardassia Prime, where you will be judged and sentenced to death.” And another. “And then we will take a closer look at your family and execute them all, if necessary.” One more...
Whoa...I REALLY hope Brenok can pull her back from the edge this time! These two Nadars certainly deserve punishment for the decisions that they have made--they should bear full responsibility. But if she thinks she's going to start killing EVERYBODY with that DNA regardless of the decision she's made, I have a feeling that the Ghemor government is going to prove that they're stronger than she thinks and hunt her down.
I did like what she said about Cardassia not being another people's Dominion, however--that at least shows that she's learned something.
The discussion about the massage really put her and Brenok in an awkward position! At first I thought that maybe Brenok would be more comfortable with Ma'Kan than his commanding officer...but I guess he can at least trust Jarol not to cross the line and get ideas in her head...
Separate names with a comma.