Still on the topics of Deep Space 9, Cardassians, and Gul Dukat, I'm afraid. I was struck by a comment in an online discussion of DS9 that the episode 'Indiscretion' (where Dukat finds, and fails to kill, his illegitimate, half-Bajoran daughter Ziyal) is almost half-way through the entire run of the show, and affects everything that happens afterwards. That inspired the following short story (about 1000 words) - a conversation between Dr Julian Bashir and his old friend, Elim Garak, some time after the events of 'What You Leave Behind'. One of the great joys of making Garak the narrator, of course, is that one is never quite sure how serious he is being. It is called 'The Moral of the Story'.
‘But surely the destruction of Cardassia must have made your people re-think their values?’ asked Julian Bashir, dismayed.
‘On the contrary, my dear doctor – nothing could show more clearly the importance of returning to our traditions.’
Bashir sighed. He had not seen his friend for nearly two years. When they had last met, amid the ruins of Garak’s homeworld, he had been bitter, broken-hearted, and unusually frank. Bashir’s heart had gone out to him; and he had often worried about him since. When he had learned that he was coming to Earth to negotiate for Federation help in rebuilding Cardassia Prime, he had made it a priority to take some leave to meet him – and it had been a disappointment. True, the negotiations appeared to be going well, and Garak was clearly pleased to see him, but he had retreated back behind his old impenetrable barrier of flippancy. Something was wrong, Bashir thought – the new Cardassia was not turning out as Garak had hoped, perhaps. He would just have to listen, and hope that things would become clearer.
‘You look sceptical, doctor,’ remarked Garak, putting a forkful of sea bass into his mouth. ‘This fish is delicious, by the way. You have no idea what it is like to live off rulot seed for months on end – and there is none too much, even of that.’
That much was likely to be true, Bashir thought. He had deliberately chosen the best seafood restaurant in San Francisco because he thought that Garak might appreciate a good meal – and Garak had not even quibbled when he had insisted on paying. No, things were clearly not good on Cardassia Prime.
‘Yes, I am sceptical,’ he said. ‘Convince me.’
‘Very well. Who, would you say, was ultimately responsible for all our woes?’
‘Gul Dukat, clearly. He was the one who made the alliance with the Dominion.’
‘Yes, Dukat. (We’ve stripped him of his military rank, by the way. It’s just plain Dukat now.) And why did he make an alliance with the Dominion?’
‘Because Cardassia was militarily weak after the Klingon war and is located close to the wormhole, and he therefore thought that it would be the Dominion’s first target in the Alpha Quadrant?’ Bashir asked, mischievously.
‘Tsk, tsk, doctor. You are allowing your Federation sentiment to lead you astray. Dukat was a war criminal, after all – the very worst of our people, the man who sold Cardassia, who betrayed the entire Alpha Quadrant. What could possibly motivate such a man?’
‘Well . . . ambition, I suppose?’
‘Of course, ambition – what else? He wanted to rule Cardassia. And why did he want to rule Cardassia?’
‘Because he had lost his position with the civilian government?’
‘Correct. And why had that happened?’
‘Because of Ziyal?’ Bashir wondered where this was going. Garak had . . . loved Ziyal, he thought – or had been very friendly with her, anyway.
‘Because, contrary to our customs, he insisted on acknowledging his illegitimate daughter, yes. If he had killed her on Dozaria when he had the chance, as a good Cardassian should have done, he would now be just another vain, arrogant, over-promoted Legate – and Cardassia Prime would not be in ruins. Instead, he spared her, and that misplaced compassion was his undoing – and our world’s. Traditional values would dictate that a half-breed child should be killed – and traditional values would have been right.’
‘But Garak, you can’t possibly believe that! You loved Ziyal!’
‘It is certainly true that, if she had died on Dozaria, I would never have had the opportunity to get to know a very charming young woman. However, that is not important in the face of all the lives that would have been saved. As the Vulcan philosophers are so fond of saying, ‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.’’
‘But that is outrageous! If Dukat had killed Ziyal on Dozaria, her whole life would have been spent in slavery in a Breen mine. Think what she would have missed!’
A shadow crossed Garak’s face.
‘She would have missed learning that her father was not the hero she thought he was,’ he said quietly. ‘She told me that she would have understood it if he had killed her then – her Cardassian fellow-prisoners had prepared her for that, and she quite expected it. As it was, he spared her and she adored him for it. She talked all the time about how good, how brave, how noble he was.’ He smiled wryly. ‘It was quite nauseating, I assure you. When she found out what he was really capable of, her disillusion was the greater. No, if she had died then, she might well have died happier. Besides, think of all the millions whose lives were cut short because she lived – what about all the experiences they never had?’
He looked up, and Bashir saw in his eyes the despair, the cold fury, he had seen on Cardassia Prime two years before. He bit his lip.
Garak put a last piece of fish in his mouth, sighed, and sat back.
‘No, doctor, that is the way our people will see it, trust me. If Dukat had been more of a Cardassian, if he had killed the girl – better yet, if he had never begotten her, of course, but, having begotten her, if he had killed her when he had the chance – then none of this would have happened. It is a story with a perfect moral – putting your own selfish affections above the needs of society leads to ruin. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it became a masterpiece of didactic theatre. I can see it now: ‘The Father’s Dilemma’.’ He smiled. ‘And, given how much our dear departed Gul always loved didactic theatre, that would be highly ironic.’
He shook himself, and picked up the menu. ‘But enough of such things, doctor. Let us turn our attention to more cheerful topics - such as dessert.’