We received more volunteers today. I was tired from documenting names of those we’d found alive, and writing out death certificates for those we found otherwise, and I didn’t even look at any of them when they arrived. I asked them their names, wrote them down, and handed them a badge. But the last one… he waited until they had all gone before walking up to my desk. I asked him his name.
“Elim Garak,” he said.
Something in me stopped.
No. It couldn’t be.
Slowly, I looked over at the hand on the desk, and followed it up along the arm, past the shoulder, and to that face. Those eyes! The eyes that haunted my dreams, on nights where my legs and my back ached in memory from the camp, and I could do nothing but sob into my pillow.
And they stared at me, those eyes. Icy blue orbs that bore into one’s soul, to pick at every secret that lay hidden, to tear down every wall, so carefully built back from the ruins of what was left.
And he waited.
I must have looked horrified. I wanted to look away, but I was frozen to the spot. How could he have found me? I had served my sentence! I had done nothing wrong! The Order was gone now! How could the one man that I had hoped never to see again have survived the destruction of our world and found me?
The dreaded eyes looked away first, and down at the PADD where I was taking names.
“E-L-I-M,” he said, “G-A-R-A-K.” He tapped the PADD, indicating I should enter his name.
He didn’t recognize me. No. That can’t be right. He knew who I was. He had to. But his expression remained neutral. There was no anger or bitterness or even amusement there. He was here to work. He was here for Cardassia.
I entered his name without a word, and handed him his badge, but did not meet his eyes again. He thanked me quietly, and left.
He hasn’t said a word to me in days, but he watches me. I can see him in the corner of my eye when he thinks I’m not paying attention. He watches me. I wish I knew why.
He works well, though. We are called at least twice a day to another ruin, we help dig out the survivors, and he seems at least as dedicated, of not more, than the rest of my workers. He works just as hard, but takes fewer breaks. He doesn’t stop until the people are found, alive or otherwise. I’ve even had to order him to rest a few moments before continuing on. He looks ready to argue every time, but instead, he nods, and complies. It’s almost as if he wishes to prove himself, but to whom, I can’t fathom.
And still, he watches me.
I haven’t met his eyes since that first day.
I had the nightmare again last night.
His eyes stared at me from the darkness, but this time, it wasn’t the labor camp I was sent to, but here; Cardassia, in ruins. The labor is just as hard, and the eyes don’t leave me alone. The ground is littered with bodies, my hands covered in blood, and still, the eyes stare.
I woke in tears, screaming.
If anyone heard me, no one seemed to take notice.
Nightmares are common these days.
He spoke to me today.
There were three this time that had been found alive, all together in one household. I gave the instructions to stabilize the parents, and set my crew on it, but the third, the daughter, I took myself. She was in the worst condition, and I did everything I could to keep her alive, but to no avail. She didn’t make it.
When they took her away, I couldn’t hold back my emotions, and broke down.
The others, I know they think it a weakness in me, but they say nothing because I am a good doctor. Many of them I even saved myself. But when the tears stream down my ridges, they don’t know what to do. They ignore it until I am done, and we go back to the way things were. I don’t blame them. They weren’t taught how to deal with a grown man crying. It’s not their fault.
But the interrogator… he was there. He placed a gentle hand on my arm, and handed me a scrap of cloth to dry my eyes, and when I was done, he gave me some water, and said, “You did what you could.”
It was a strange thing to say. There was no real meaning behind it; you did what you could. Of course I had. I had done everything, but it hadn’t been enough. And yet… and yet the gentle way he had said it… I had no doubt that he meant it to ease my fears, my pain. It sounded so… Federation.
I have had some dealings with Federation representatives, mostly in requesting medical supplies, and they all seemed to have those kind of placating sayings; something that sounds meaningful, but was truly empty. Perhaps the rumors of the interrogator living among the Federation were true. I wonder if he knew he sounded like them then.
I could only nod to him, wordlessly, still not meeting his eyes. He left, returning to his work, as though it hadn’t happened.
Something strange happened today.
Another survivor found in the rubble. There were only three of us who were able to respond to the call, as the others were either helping in other places around the city, or had other matters come up. Of course, the interrogator was one of them. He never seemed to have any other plans. Any time there was a call for help, he was there. Always. I’ve never seen him refuse a call.
We’d stabilized the man we found, but then we heard a cry from down below. The basement had half caved-in during the bombings, and was certainly unstable, and though the sensors didn’t detect anyone else, the cry had been very obviously Cardassian.
The three of us, along with two of the workers who had found the first man, dug out what we could, but it seemed as though every time we made a dent, the rubble would shift and fill it back in. And still, the call from the basement sounded. There were no words, but there was pain.
Finally, we made a hole, and one of the workers and the interrogator went in. Inside was a young boy, barely old enough to walk. He had a broken arm, and was certainly frightened, dehydrated, and needed food, but was otherwise unharmed.
When the interrogator tried to leave the basement, however, the hole we had made collapsed on him, trapping him inside. I had the child to care for, so could do nothing while the others tried to dig him out, but I honestly couldn’t say whether I hoped we could save him or not.
It’s a terrible thing to admit, but I must. As a doctor, I should have been hoping for nothing but his safety, but some part of me, deep down, would be relieved if I never had to see his eyes staring at me again. If I knew, if I was sure, that the interrogator was dead, would the nightmares stop?
The child had been stabilized and sent to a medical facility long before we had made any real progress on the hole to get the interrogator out. He had been silent in the beginning. Perhaps he had fallen too far below to be heard, or perhaps he’d been unconscious… But after a time, after the child had been sent away… he was yelling. We couldn’t make out words, but the cries were desperate; frightened. And then… they stopped. When they died down, I knew then that I did not want him to die.
No one should die alone and afraid.
When we did uncover him, he was shaking and terrified. He had no mortal injuries, only a few cuts and some severe bruises, but I could tell something inside him had broken. I know, because he had done it once to me.
When I treated his wounds, he reached out and clung to me, breathing heavily, but grasping so tightly, I found it hard to move. He shook his head, and mumbled, but I couldn’t make out anything he said. “Shhh…” I hushed him, trying to calm the patient down. “You’re safe. We’ve gotten you out.” But still, he clung to me, as though I would disappear, and he would be under the rubble once more.
I had seen the reaction before, of course. Claustrophobia. But for someone like him… for someone who had so often been the hated villain in my dreams to have such a weakness… a fear that could shatter him so… it made him less of an abstraction… he was no longer some villainous entity; he was a person. He was Cardassian.
And he was brave. Anyone who would be so affected by enclosed spaces to venture into them when needed to save another… to help rebuild Cardassia… it makes him everything our planet needs right now.
His breathing calmed after a while, as I allowed him to cling to me, and I continued to tell him he was safe, until he finally let me go, and allowed me to work on him. And though he was still and quiet during the process, his eyes stayed on me. But they were no longer the eyes of the interrogator; now, they were the eyes of a lost soul, in need of help.
I looked him in those eyes, and this time, I did not look away. When I was done healing what I could, he thanked me, and went home, turning down my offer to accompany him. I didn’t think he should be alone now, but I wasn’t willing to press the matter. He was Cardassian now, but he might become the monster again if I wasn’t careful.
I hoped he would be all right.
He didn’t come the next time we were called.
It was probably for the best. There were five people in a cave on the city outskirts. If he had gone in, he would likely have had a relapse. But that didn’t stop me from worrying.
Why was I worrying? He was a grown man. He was an Order operative. They were strong. They were unbreakable. They were… all dead now. Except him.
Did he feel alone now, even on his own planet?
I couldn’t get him out of my mind the rest of the day, so, after making inquiries from some of the other unit volunteers, I made my way to where they said they had most often seen him; Tain’s residence.
Everyone who was anyone knew Enabran Tain had been a powerful man. A few even knew why. I doubt anyone in the Medical Unit knew why Elim Garak would be hanging around Tain’s old house. I wonder what they would say if they knew.
When I arrived, I saw the once magnificent manor in shambles. Nothing was left of the place, save a small shed on the far end of the property. Dust and debris stood in the place of the once proud estate, as it did for most of the city, but surrounding the small shed was… green.
But how? Nothing was supposed to be growing. How could there be life here in this place of death and hate and fear?
I approached the area cautiously, as though it might disappear. Perhaps I had finally gone mad, and was seeing things. It would not be unheard of. There had been many cases of insanity since the bombings. But the green remained.
There was not much; only small sprouts, defiantly jutting through the dust and dirt, but they were there.
As I stood there for who knows how long, sound came from inside the shed, followed by footsteps. When I turned, there he was; The interrogator. In his hand was a disruptor, but it was not aimed at me. He held it only. Perhaps he wasn’t certain if I was friend or foe.
Perhaps it was a paranoia so ingrained in him that he would have brought the weapon no matter who it was.
His eyes were wary.
I turned back to the growing things. “Did you do this?”
He reached me, standing not an arm’s length away. “I did.”
“You’re a gardener?”
There was a long sigh from him. “My father was a gardener. I picked up a few things.”
Strange to think of the interrogator as a child, with a father, digging in the dirt. It shouldn’t be strange, but it was. This man was a killer. This man tortured hundreds of people. This man sent me to labor camp for three years.
This man was somebody’s son. This man had a childhood. This man fought his fears to save children under collapsed buildings. This man brought green to a barren world. This man comforted a crying doctor when he didn’t have to.
The interrogator was a man.
This man was broken and alone.
I turned to him, and this time, I looked him in the eyes with none of the fear that haunted my dreams. “I just wanted to make certain you were all right.”
The man looked away. “I wasn’t sure you would still accept me after…”
I placed a hand on his arm. He flinched. Flinched! As though I would hurt him! “We need all the help we can get.” I told him gently. “We don’t have to send you into any enclosed places, if it makes you uncomfortable, but if you’re still willing to help, then we are willing to have you.”
The eyes that once frightened me looked at my hand, and finally moved to my face, to lock eyes with me. They were haunted eyes now. Why had I been afraid of them?
“Can… can you ever forgive me?”
I blinked. Had he asked what I heard?
Mercy was not a common request for Cardassians. If you fought, and you lost, you died. If you committed a crime, you took your punishment. If you were given a job, you did it. If you did not do it, you would be punished. You did not cry. You did not beg. You did not ask for mercy. You did not ask for forgiveness, because you knew it would not be given.
An interrogator did not ask forgiveness from his victims.
But there we were, and he was staring at me again. But this time, it was not the harsh stare that ripped away one’s defenses, but the needy, hungry stare of a lonely man, asking for something only I could give him.
This was not the interrogator from my dreams.
How could I say no?
I pulled him closer, and he offered no resistance. Placing both hands on his shoulders, I looked him in the once feared eyes.
“Elim Garak, I forgive you.”