Damar returns to the station now called Deep Space Nine. (Takes place during "Statistical Probabilities.")
by dilly r
You whisper the words to yourself when you are alone, think them over and over again when you are not. If you hear them enough, you are sure that the words will stop sounding so jarring to your own ears.
Legate Damar, leader of Cardassia.
The transport ship is too small and too cold. It's warmest up front, so you stay there, watching the only other Cardassian on this mission at the helm. Weyoun insists on hovering over your shoulder like a carrion bird. He has been there for what seems like an hour (but couldn't have been quite that long) trying to strike up a conversation with you -- something inspiring about returning to an old battleground to talk peace.
Weyoun loves to play the role, even though he knows that peace is the last thing on the Dominion's agenda.
"We're nearing the station, sir," Gul Korbon says.
"Put it on the, ah, main viewer," Weyoun says, stubbornly hesitant when referring to any part of the ship that he finds unnecessary. He smiles when the station appears. "I've been told Cardassian architecture is beautiful. By Cardassians, of course."
"Deep Space Nine isn't Cardassian," you say with a sneer.
Kira doesn't look at you when you step out of the airlock. She keeps her eyes on Weyoun. Typical. Bajorans always go for the easier target. They may call her Major or liaison or whatever they like; at her core, she will always be a Bajoran terrorist.
Dukat told you that last time you were on the station. He said: Don't underestimate her, Damar, she will always surprise you. Of course, he was right. When it's cold, your eye still aches from the orbital fracture she gave you. Don't underestimate her, you tell yourself, it isn't just the easy target she's after. She's disrespecting your position as legate. She is telling you that she doesn't recognize you as leader of the Cardassian government.
And why should she? your thoughts say before you can quiet them.
You've stopped listening to her words, but you still hear her talking. You just want this finished so that you don't have to hear her anymore.
"We're on a mission of peace here, Major." Your voice is loud and blunt after the falsely polite political banter of Weyoun and Kira. "Maybe you should get in the mood."
As you walk away, in that very last instant, she looks at you. Amusement, as false as her hospitality, narrows her eyes. You expect to hear Weyoun apologizing behind you, but he and his Jem'hadar minion only follow after you in silence.
You spend the first meeting trying to decide who you hate more: Sisko or Weyoun. Both of them are self-righteous, self-important politicians They both dance around what they really think so elaborately that you feel more like you're standing in the middle of a ballroom than a conference room. You want to order them all to shut up. You want to say: We want the Kabrel system. If you refuse us, you will be destroyed.
But you don't, because you dance around what you really think these days as much as Sisko and Weyoun. You are a politician now too.
"That went well," Weyoun says cheerfully once you and he are returned to quarters.
You grunt in response. Weyoun raises his eyebrows. "I'm certain that Sisko will agree to our very reasonable proposals."
"Too reasonable." You sit down to the desk provided near the room's porthole and pull out the PADD with the border changes.
Weyoun heaves a long-suffering sigh. "We shall see. Now." He claps his hands together. "I am going to visit some of the fine establishments along the Promenade. Perhaps you would join me?"
"No," you say. "I'll get something out of the replicators."
"Very well," Weyoun says in his annoyingly unsteady voice.
You watch him leave and wonder, momentarily, if Vorta eat. You can't recall ever seeing him do so. Somehow, you doubt that Vorta do anything that could be considered truly pleasurable.
You were always astonished at how well Dukat handled Weyoun. You could never quite manage it yourself.
You set the PADD down and rub your eyes. You'd already forgotten how much you hate this station. You'd hated it when it was Terok Nor. It was a fine symbol of the past, but you were made for space travel. If you hadn't been sure of it before, you were after your time on the Bird of Prey. A small crew like that, constantly at battle, you all became limbs of the same body with Dukat at the head. You all breathed the same air, shed the same blood, acted in unison with Dukat's thoughts. It was the most order and stability you have ever experienced. From the outside, your precarious and lonely stance against the entire Klingon Empire seemed completely unbalanced, but you would do anything to be able to feel what you felt on the Bird of Prey.
Terok Nor was too diverse for order, and now that it was Deep Space Nine once more, you feel constantly off-center, as if you'll spin into space at any moment. You don't even have the power to quarantine chaotic elements in holding cells like you did under Dukat. You don't even have the power to come and go as you please.
You are Legate Damar, leader of Cardassia, and you don't have any power here at all.
Sisko's counterproposal is intentionally preposterous, the replicated kanar has the taste and consistency of an old riding hound's drool, and Weyoun continuously floats in and out of the quarters as if everything is going wonderfully. You've considered taking the desk the ever friendly Federation has provided and throwing it across the room in frustration, but instead you sit with the PADD looking over and over Sisko's proposed border. You almost think that if you stare at Kabrel long enough, it will shift to the Dominion side of the border, and they can leave this forsaken station.
A sound somewhere snaps your attention up. The room is empty. Weyoun must have left again. You lean back into the chair and give yourself a moment to do nothing but close your eyes and imagine Weyoun falling over the rail on the Promenade.
No. They'd just replace him with another one. Perhaps Sisko instead. Or Kira. No, not that either. You'd rather kill Kira yourself, and Sisko belongs to Dukat. Perhaps you could take care of Kira as a gift to yourself before leaving the station.
Just shoot her and run.
You open your eyes to avoid your thoughts, but that was a mistake. The familiar curve of the room, the angles of the door, the colors, the light -- you never wanted to come back here. You never wanted to come here in the first place, except that Dukat needed you.
You can still hear his words in your ears as if he's in the room with you: I'm going to need someone I can trust, Damar. Will you stay here, by my side?
He asked it as if it had ever been a question. He was everything you had ever believed about Cardassia, everything you'd almost lost to disillusionment, embodied in one man. You'd thought that distancing yourself from him would be like exile.
And so it is.
You look at the PADD again. The way Weyoun has been acting, you wonder if he will concede Cardassian territory in order to keep Kabrel. You don't even know why the Kabrel system is so important. Weyoun hasn't told you that. He's just told you to jump through this hoop, so you jump.
"Legate Damar," you whisper to yourself, but you know the words will never sound quite right.
You leave Deep Space Nine with a peace treaty that won't last a month, and Major Kira is still breathing when she watches you enter the airlock -- a testament to your self-control. Victory doesn't feel like it used to. You feel no pride in attaining the Kabrel system for the Dominion. The Dominion means nothing to you.
The last time you left Deep Space Nine, you left a failure. You remember stumbling into the escape pod and ordering an immediate departure. Someone (a young Cardassian, you don't even remember his rank) asked where Gul Dukat was.
"Dead," you'd said. You were only half lying.
For that failure, you became Cardassia's leader. Dukat's replacement. You can only imagine what victory will bring.
"I hope you will learn from this experience," Weyoun says. He's hovering over your shoulder again. "Luckily your negativity didn't keep us from our--"
"When this is finished," you growl. "When we win, I want this station destroyed."
Weyoun's eyes are wide... from irritation or surprise, you can't tell. "Damar, I didn't realize you were a sentimentalist."
You don't say anything. You just press your back hard into your chair and watch the viewscreen until the stars stretch out before you and pull you back home, away from Sisko's ghost ship.