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Part of USS Mackenzie: Mission 13 – The Edge of Hope and Despair and USS Mackenzie: Mackenzie Squadron : The Edge of Hope and Despair

EHD 003 – Off the Beaten Path

Colony Gladas
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“…they said the couple left the main colony a few months ago after another True Way raid.  They tried to convince them to stay, but…well, they were determined to get off the beaten path.”  Henry Longfellow spoke as he walked, noting that the growth was starting to return.  Not many had traveled here lately, he observed.

Behind him, Lieutenant Hiro walked.  She understood the couple’s desire to leave.  She was worried about the advanced age of both.  She had concluded that even as hardy as Cardassian physiology was, the risk of them living far away from medical care wasn’t a wise idea.  “We may have to do some convincing of our own, Sensei.  Stubbornness in older individuals can be challenging to overcome.”

He chuckled, “Present company excepted?”

“You have your ways, Sensei.  You can be…what is the old expression…a stick in the mud.”  

He glanced back and caught her sly smile.  It was a fair criticism.  He replied with a smile, “I own that, Hiro-san.”

 

They walked through a smattering of old-growth trees and stepped into an idyllic open meadow, a rustic home in the middle.  Longfellow walked up to the door, gently knocking.  There was a light shuffling sound until it grew closer to the door, which opened, revealing an elderly Cardassian man in a tightly wrapped robe, his eyes searching as he looked out.  “Who are you?”  He fumbled with his glasses and smiled once he could tell who was what.  “Ah, Starfleet.  The Federation comes at last.  Did you arrive in one of those ‘empty promises’?

Longfellow glanced at his Charge Nurse, who explained, “Some view the Obena class in this way, given the nature of how the Federation applied the use of the vessels to some and not others.”

The Cardassian waved them in, “I am Kartak…my wife is Plata…she is resting after a busy morning with the garden out back.  Come, come…” he gestured to the couches in the sitting room.  Hiro and Longfellow took in the home.  Much care had been taken to make it feel like a real home, from the furniture to the walls.  Paintings and photographs filled the place, and each one told a story.

Longfellow sat and was joined by Hiro.  He introduced them both and explained why they were there.  “The people back at the colony are really concerned about you two.”

Kartak brought over a tray of tea and cakes, “Those back at the colony are kind, but they’re better off with us out here.”  He sat roughly in the large chair, “We came out here to protect them.”  He sipped at the tea, “Ah, this place has the best tea leaves.”

Henry stared at Kartak, “What do you mean, you…came…shit.”  He leaned back on the couch, and it was Hiro’s turn to wonder.  He gestured at him, “He’d be the right age, and he’s got the build for it.  Hiro-san, you’re looking at one of the original members of the True Way.  Correct?”

The old Cardassian sighed, “It is true.  Your years of wisdom see through my charade.  You must know that we left before things became what they are today.  I’m as rebellious as the next…but I became…what is you say…I grew a conscience.”  He offered his hands up, “Does this mean I have to go with you?”

Longfellow pushed the cragged hands of the Kartak away, “All I have is my deduction and your confession…for something that happened a long time ago.” He thought momentarily and then asked, “Would they remember you?”

Kartak scoffed, “They never forget, Doctor.  It is why we moved here…the last raid nearly gave us away.  Thankfully, one of the younger men in the group somehow knew to distract the attackers.  We left the next day.”

Hiro leaned forward, “You must at least let us treat you.  Life is meant to be lived.”  She looked into his eyes, and her heart broke for him.  Running from a past he could never fully escape had to be exhausting.  “We could move you both to the ship for now…keep you under our care.”

The old Cardassian looked at both of them, eyes curious and growing wide.  “You would try and save two old terrorists?  We’ve done unthinkable things, Doctor.  The blood that’s scattered in this system…we were the ones helping spill it.”  He shook his head, “I sometimes forget the idealism of the Federation and its Starfleet.  The sunshine must be very bright where you come from to have this much optimism shining out from you.”

Henry smiled, “I’m more of a partly cloudy with a chance of rain myself, but I’ll take the compliment.  Let’s get you and your wife to the Mackenzie.”

Kartak stood carefully, “Coming from a Cardassian, it’s usually an insult, Dr. Longfellow.”

“I’ll take an insult over injury any day, Kartak.”  The Cardassian chuckled dryly, and Henry took that as a compliment.