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Three and a Half Days

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Returning from a distinctly unsatisfying lunch to find "his" cot unclaimed by anyone else, Garak sat down on its thin mattress, set down his shoulder bag beside him, opened it up to extract a twelve centimetre embroidery frame, chose a needle pre-threaded with low denier crimson silk, and set to finishing the edges of a piece of cutwork, humming a tune that would seem soft and idle to a casual listener but was actually the climactic aria from Tertok ej Ravoral, a classic Cardassian opera of blood and vengeance. Given the situation it certainly suited his mood: although he knew that to that same casual observer he looked like a mild and happy little tailor, resigned to the inevitable cold and dark and passing the time in thrifty productivity, his mind was actually clicking away like a mechanized loom, sharp steel teeth trying to parse a pattern that would get him out of this unpleasant situation.

Unfortunately, try as he might he simply couldn't seem to find a sequence of actions that would lead to an early release — except possibly having arrived a half-hour later to work this morning, and of course it was far too late for that to make any difference.

He'd been in his shop less than fifteen minutes, setting up a display of new blouses, when all the lights had gone out without warning. Less than thirty seconds after that they'd flickered back, but at the level of illumination common during this station's stint as Terok Nor — much easier on Garak's Cardassian eyes, but no doubt most inconvenient for just about anyone else on the Promenade. He'd done the smart thing — he'd stayed put and continued setting up the display, after making sure the shop doors were locked — and twenty-seven minutes later Commander Sisko had delivered an audio message informing everyone that the Promenade was on lockdown and instructing them to proceed to Quark's and remain there until further notice. Garak had considered holing up in his own back room instead, but a combination of curiosity and wariness of a different kind had quickly gotten the better of him and he had, after packing a shoulder bag with a little latinum and a few things to keep himself occupied in case this situation should drag on, locked his shop after him and set out for the bar, joining a thin crowd of other laggards consisting mostly of fellow vendors carrying bags of their own. Listening to their chatter as they walked, he heard nothing to shed any light on the mystery they currently found themselves in the middle of, and his perplexity had only increased when he'd arrived at Quark's to find the Ferengi doing a land-office business in drinks — and a medical team headed by Doctor Bashir busily drawing blood samples from anyone who'd sit still long enough, and asking constant questions of the station's computer, which seemed to be having a difficult time even articulating a response.

Garak had found a place to stand in a far corner where, once in the deep shadows, he'd hoped to avoid the notice of anyone in a medical uniform. It turned out to be a vain wish: evidently the good Doctor, as absorbed as he'd appeared to be in attending to two Dabo girls, had seen Garak come in, because in short order he approached Garak himself bearing a hyposampler and wearing an expression that brooked no argument. In response to Garak's perfectly reasonable questions as he surrendered some of his life's-blood the Human had offered only curt answers, something to the effect that the station was suffering system-wide failures and the situation was under control. This, of course, only made Garak's aural scales prick up even more: for one thing it was a contradictory statement, and for another… well, he was no engineer, but "system-wide failures" sounded an awful lot like "sabotage', and the fact that everyone with a pulse was being corralled and analyzed further suggested that a biological agent had been released and detected. When he tried to pin Bashir down, however, the Doctor had offered a tight smile, assured him that everything was going to be fine, ordered him to stay put (complete with italics and a significant glance from beneath elevated eyebrows) and set off into the crowd again with a determined stride and squared shoulders, barking an order over the babel of conversation that brought two orderlies running with admirable alacrity. 

For the rest of the morning Garak had watched him work, then disappear back into the mall, and return again a couple of hours later to announce that everyone present was under quarantine for three days for Nacinin Fever — and that Quark's was about to be converted into a temporary camp, complete with cots. After Quark was finished wailing (the volume had dropped significantly once it was pointed out to him that he'd still be able to sell food and drink to the squatters), everyone became very busy with moving tables and chairs out onto the Promenade (where Quark oversaw the set-up of a rather charming "open air" restaurant concept) and moving in the cots, which materialized on the Promenade in shimmer after shimmer of transporter energy. Garak was glad enough to join in after stowing his bag behind the bar, in part because he was deathly tired of waiting for something to happen but mostly because he was cold to his saurian bones: the ambient temperature had dropped noticeably since the lights had dimmed and because Odo had security guards roaming both levels to ensure that nobody tried to enter any of the shops he couldn't even go back to his own establishment to retrieve a bolt of warm raw fabric to improvise a shawl out of.

The matter of the Nacinin Fever didn't worry Garak terribly much: he'd been regularly inoculated against a variety of infectious agents during his years in the Order and had, in fact, received a vaccination against that particularly unpleasant illness shortly before being sent into exile. Technically it should still be good, but there was always a slight chance that it wasn't — and if it wasn't, the best place he could probably be at the moment was right here where a medical team was on hand and watching for the slightest signs of infection. Besides, even if he told Bashir about his vaccination status (an act of revelation he was naturally disinclined towards) it was unlikely that that station's CMO would release him from quarantine: doctors, in Garak's experience, tended naturally toward excessive caution under these circumstances. Therefore he'd kept his mouth shut about the matter and presented a cheerful and efficient front, following every order given to him promptly and doing his best to keep up the spirits of those around him; he even managed to sneak a cot into the singularly dark spot he'd originally gravitated toward on the first floor of Quark's, placing a white handkerchief from his trouser pocket neatly on the miserly pillow as a hopeful marker that this one, at least, was claimed.

The signal had served its purpose, and now here he was safely ensconced on his own little patch of Hell, surrounded by very nervous people of various races and levels of maturity (if that Bolian trader didn't stop whining to anyone who'd listen, Garak was highly inclined to rip out his tongue after lights-out), occupying himself with a bit of embroidery in an Alezian abstract pattern and keeping a slight smile firmly pasted on his face. Doctor Bashir was nowhere to be seen — doubtless he was in the Infirmary pouring over… well, whatever it was, it was likely more exciting than the prospect Garak faced in the next several hours. Perhaps after everyone else was safely abed he'd glide over to the bar proper and have a little chat with Quark: hopefully he wouldn't have to dodge numerous buckets of vomit in the process, although the way the day was going so far he wouldn't have been the least surprised to find that this was exactly the case.