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assumed 'pragma' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 394 Notice: Undefined index: pragma in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 394 Psi Phi: Notice: Use of undefined constant title - assumed 'title' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 400 Hollow Men [Star Trek Books Database]

Psi Phi's Star Trek Books Database



Notice: Use of undefined constant title - assumed 'title' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 444 Hollow Men


Previous: Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Volume Three
Next: Warpath
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Mass-Market Paperback / May, 2005
0-7434-9151-3

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Written by Una McCormack

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Excerpt:

Sisko and Garak went out of the HQ building into the blaze of the midday sun. They had barely stepped outside when Garak's eyes began watering. He stopped on the steps and pressed the heels of his hands into his face. "I do hope this stops soon," he muttered. "All this natural light seems to be getting to me."

"You'll adjust," Sisko said, not wholly unkindly.

"And quickly, I hope. I don't want to give the impression I'm weeping with gratitude just to be here on Earth." He wiped his eyes.

Sisko feigned disappointment. "I'm sorry to hear you're not."

"Trust me, Captain--it takes more than San Francisco to move me to tears."

They walked across the plaza. Sisko glanced back over his shoulder at the building. It seemed to be catching the bright noon light, warm and golden, within its broad curve. Sisko led Garak along the well-ordered paths of the park. Neither of them spoke. Garak was rubbing at his left eye, ill at ease. Sisko himself was still trying to work out what the hell had just happened with Ross and Batanides and why right now he wasn't being locked up with someone busy throwing the key into the ocean.

They came to a halt by some railings. Garak put his back to the sun, and pressed his fingers against his eyes again. Sisko waited until he was done before he spoke.

"Lay off Rhemet," he said. His voice came out serrated.

Garak's head snapped round. "Rhemet," he spat, not bothering to hide his contempt. "He and his friends are amateurs. It's like watching children playing with plasma grenades."

Sisko watched as Garak's hands curled around the railings. "I don't care," he said. "Cut them some slack."

Garak's hands tightened their grip. "Cut them some slack?" He had kept his voice low, but still injected it with venom.

"We've got enough problems right now without you deciding to undermine your own government-in-exile!" Before Garak could challenge him on that point, he went on: "There's been a Dominion counter-offensive at Sybaron. Right now we're losing; losing ships, losing people... if we manage to hold the line there, we're going to be damn lucky."

He saw Garak take this information in; watched him turn it over and process it. Counting the cost to Cardassia, no doubt. Sisko thought of all those ships again. "Our position at the conference is going to be weakened enough as it is, and your stunt this morning won't have helped," he said, and was satisfied that he had struck when Garak glared at him. "We don't need to be dealing with distractions. Damn it, Garak! I don't have time for this right now!"

"And I, Captain," Garak said, angrily, "don't have time to be playing children's games. Cardassia doesn't have that kind of time--"

"I'm sure Rhemet appreciates that--"

"If he were a true patriot," Garak shot back bitterly, "then he would."

Sisko did not reply. He should have delayed this conversation with Garak, he thought now. There was something unnerving about just how quickly their exchanges could collapse into savagery; something disturbing about the violence that simmered behind even their most polite conversations. Once again he loathed the reaction Garak invariably provoked in him; once again he regretted ever approaching him. They stood in silence. The sky above was blue and unruffled.

"I notice that in the midst of all these troubles you took the time to chat with some of your superiors," Garak said, eventually. And smoothly. Too smoothly. That was something else about him that was particularly irritating. "I have to wonder--how did that go?"

"Fine."

"Was there anything discussed that you would like to tell me about?"

"No."

Garak studied him, closely and coldly. He had released his hold on the railings, and now was rubbing the palm of one hand with the thumb of the other. Sisko had the distinct impression that there was nothing Garak would welcome more right now than the opportunity to interrogate him; nonetheless, he did not feel intimidated. Hell, he'd confessed once today already, and to no effect, ill or otherwise. He folded his arms and looked right back.

After a moment or two, Garak sighed, and subsided. "Given that I am still at liberty to move about," he murmured, "I shall have to assume that you're telling me the truth." But he was obviously unhappy. He really had been worried, Sisko realized; and still was. Which had to be the biggest joke of all. Because even though Sisko had told everything, it turned out that neither of them had had any need to worry. Because nothing was going to happen. Two dead men, and nobody was going to do anything about it. Not a damn thing.

"Nonetheless," Garak was saying, his tone considerably more civil, "you do seem distracted. And on such a beautiful day. It seems a shame."

"I'd like more news about what's happening to the Seventh Fleet."

"There really is nothing you can do about that right now," Garak pointed out. "You shouldn't worry about something you can't control."

That was good advice, Sisko thought. Perhaps he should listen to it.

Garak was examining the backs of his hands. "We are on the same side, Captain," he said. "Don't forget that." He hesitated for a moment; moved so that he was now subjecting his palms to scrutiny. "I do have some grasp of what's troubling you," he added.

Did he just mean the details, Sisko wondered, or was he talking about something that went beyond that? Sisko could not be sure. Still, he thought, it sounded very much like the offer of a truce--and he figured there were enough battles for him to fight as it was. Sisko leaned back against the railings and looked around the parkland; let himself feel the heat and the sunlight. Some of the strain of the morning ebbed away. "You know, it feels odd being home," he confessed. "I don't get back as often as I'd like."

"That is also a sentiment with which I can sympathize," Garak said.

Sisko turned to look at him. Garak was staring out across the park at some vague point in the distance.

"Just how long is it," Sisko asked, "since you were last on Cardassia?"

Garak gave him a cool, amused look. "You mean, not including the time you blackmailed me?"

Sisko flinched, but figured he had probably asked for that. "Not including that."

"Then, it must be six... no, it's more like seven years, now. How time flies."

"That's a long time away from home," Sisko said softly.

"Oh, one can adapt to anything, Captain," Garak said, with false levity. "For example," he glanced around, and a smile began to play across his lips; a more genuine smile, Sisko thought, "having the freedom to move about wherever one wishes, or being debriefed rather than interrogated. These are things I imagine anyone could adapt to, given enough time."

Just so long as it stayed that way. Last time Sisko had been home there had been troops standing on the street corner by his father's restaurant. Last time, Sisko had ended up sitting and waiting in a holding cell with Admiral Leyton on the loose and no-one willing or able to stop him... How fragile it had all turned out to be, when it came down to it. How strong was it now, under the stresses of war?

A couple of members of the Romulan delegation walked past, deep in conversation, a not-so-discreet security detail following a few yards behind. Sisko watched them as they went past. He supposed he should take heart at seeing them walking around, here, at the center of things. They were all allies together, now, after all. They had fixed that--he and Garak. Something for them to be proud of.

Garak had already moved on ahead. "Now this is something that puzzles me," he was saying. "What are all these?" He had come to a halt before a wall, covered in posters--vivid colors, sharp slogans--layer upon layer of them, many ripped and weather-beaten. The rest of the park area was orderly, even the bright beds of flowers were laid out with considered geometry, and yet they didn't seem out of place. They seemed just another part of the whole.

"They're just posters," Sisko said.

"What for?" Garak inspected them more closely.

Sisko came to see. "The usual... bands, theater..." A part of the academy campus lay close by and this particular path was a much-used shortcut down to the harbor. "Cadet stuff, mostly." He glanced at the display. "Oh, here's one I bet will interest you..." He gestured at one of a series of blood-red posters with bold print that had been plastered at uneven intervals along the whole of the wall. Each had a big black and white logo, a stylized dove with a single, urgent word beneath it: Peace!

"What is it?" Garak said, leaning in to read.

"It's advertising an anti-war demonstration." Sisko scanned down the list of names, and pointed one out. "I'd certainly be interested to hear what he has to say."

"Tomas Roeder," Garak read out, and looked up from the poster with interest. "Why him in particular, Captain?"

"I used to know him on the Livingston--he was chief of security. He resigned his commission just before the offensive to take back DS9. He's thrown himself in with the peace campaigners since then."

"Yet another disillusioned idealist," Garak murmured. "Starfleet does seem to specialize in producing them. And where, do you think, will this event be taking place?"

"It's in the square," Sisko said. "Later this evening."

Garak stared at Sisko in amazement. He jerked his thumb over in the direction that they had come. "In the square back there?"

"Yes."

"Tonight?"

"Yes..."

"In front of Starfleet Headquarters?"

"Yes!" Despite himself, Sisko started to laugh. "What's the problem, Garak?"

Garak shook his head and stared back at the poster. "You're insane. You're all absolutely insane."

"What do you mean by that?"

"A demonstration against the war, while the Federation is fighting for our very existence?"

"And what's wrong with that?"

Garak looked at him in exasperation. "Do you people understand nothing about the value of censorship?"

"Thankfully, no!"

Garak started to examine the poster more closely. "What do you think these numbers are?" He pointed at some print running down in columns, dates and numbers. The numbers got larger as time went on.

Sisko sighed. "They're casualty figures. Servicemen and women lost since the Dominion War began."

"You publish that information? Openly?" Garak was aghast. "For anyone to read it?"

"Of course we do."

"Well, no wonder you have civil unrest--"

"I wouldn't exactly call it unrest, Garak--"

"People coming out and demonstrating in the streets against the government?" Garak looked at him in horror. "What else can you call it?"

"I'd call it democracy."

Garak pursed his lips. "Well, it simply isn't right."

"So, I guess you wouldn't see an anti-war demo in Cardassia City then?"

"We have laws against that kind of thing," Garak said, seeming affronted even by the idea. "Thankfully."

Sisko folded his arms and smiled. "And I bet the Dominion hasn't seen fit to repeal them," he said. "Something you would find hadn't changed, if you went back."

Garak looked at him narrowly for a moment, and then his eyes lit up in amusement. "I rather doubt you would see this kind of thing cluttering up the Promenade either," he said, and gestured at the posters. "I suspect that the constable would find them terribly untidy."

Sisko managed a wry smile. "You know, I think you might just be right there."

Garak turned back to the poster, and stared at it intently. He ran a finger along the edge of it, began picking at the paper with his nail, trying to straighten the edge, trying to make it align with the others on the wall. "Do you know," he said, thoughtfully, "even after so long away, I can still picture Cardassia City very clearly. I can remember all the streets and the squares as well as if I were standing there. But these days, I picture them a little differently. In my mind's eye, I can see Jem'Hadar, in all the places that I knew." He turned to survey the park, the way they had just come. "All the places that I know," he corrected himself, emphatically.

Sisko looked around too, at the well-kept lawns, the lines and circles of the flower beds, the rows of trees. And, behind them, the glass building of Starfleet HQ, and the square in front, where later that day Federation citizens would gather together in order to tell their leaders what they thought they were doing wrong.

"Look at all of this, Captain," Garak said. "You've fought the Jem'Hadar. You've seen them up close. Imagine them here."

Sisko shuddered, and shook his head. "It doesn't bear thinking about," he murmured.

"They got to Betazed, Captain." Garak's voice had gone very low too. "And I know that only time can really tell, but what we did... well, I'm sure, as sure as I can be, that it was the right thing to do."

"It would be good to believe that, Garak."

"War requires sacrifice, Captain. Of principle." Garak gave a short laugh. "That goes without saying, surely? And there are other sacrifices too. Sacrifice of self, for one. Or sacrifice of the innocent..." He stopped.

Sisko glanced back at him, staring down again at the casualty figures on the poster in front of them. He thought of Jennifer and the terrible moment they had shared. He thought of Ziyal's funeral, and how it had taken a murder for Garak and Kira to have something in common. You don't need to tell me any of this, he thought.

"Sometimes it turns out to be a waste," Garak murmured, "and sometimes not." He cut himself off abruptly. "You're a soldier. I am... preaching to the converted." He gestured around, almost dramatically, and gave Sisko a genial smile. "You have a very beautiful home, Captain. You're right to want to fight to preserve it. To the best of your ability."

Cold comfort. Ice cold.

"Maybe," Sisko said, finding no conviction to put into his voice. It was easier, he imagined, to believe that. But what about those occasions when the best of your ability took you way over the line? He gestured at the poster. "You know, Garak--I think we should attend this later. So you can see Federation democracy in action."

Garak began to laugh. "You think I might learn something?"

"You never know. You might be surprised."

Garak examined the poster again. "Thank you," he said, "that would be most interesting." Then, without looking back at Sisko, he added, "I shall endeavor from hereon to treat Rhemet with all the respect he does not deserve."

"That's all I ask," Sisko replied. They walked back through the noonday heat to the HQ building. Inside, Chaplin was waiting to collect Garak for another debriefing session. She told Sisko that Ross had been was looking for him; when he found him, he had news that the Seventh Fleet had held at Sybaron, but with significant losses. They took that to the rest of the conference. A reprieve, but a costly one.

Copyright © 2005 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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