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Knowing Garak…

June 28, 2012


*This is the a piece of DS9 fan-fiction about the Cardassian spy/tailor/comedian Garak…

I was on Kalandra again. There’d been a tip off telling me Garak had been seen up near the Testrian desert.
‘Why would he be-…are you sure about this?’
‘Yes, yes. Him here, I sure.’
He had an accent. Cardassian? It was strange to hear an alien speaking Bajoran; his translator must’ve been broken. I asked him what was so attractive about a desert.
‘Gettle fighting, it big thing here. The Sun big, big, hot, hot. It cook like oven for gettle. Every man want see this, so come, come.’
I checked into the hotel and went to my room and put the suitcase on the bed then took out the notes and placed them carefully on the desk.
They were fading at the edges. Soon the decay would reach one of the letters and then it’d be over.
‘Are you really here then, Garak?’ I asked the room. ‘Because we haven’t got long left…’
I sat down by the desk and re-read the notes.

‘…I told this to Zee-el today, in the bedroom where she was least expecting it…Zee-el, I said, at seventeen I was forced to go somewhere, the military academy on Sarpedion Five. There was a man, he had two soldiers behind him. He said I was a troubled boy, that it was the only way left to turn me towards a “Cardassian’s” way of thinking’. It was one of my instructors at school, I think. Or perhaps my father. He was the one who told them. So, I left without making a sound and got on the transport to Sarpedion Five…and I told her what they had taught me, the killing instructions and the different types of aliens and all the other minutiae, but…she didn’t understand. How could she? Solipsistic, I know, but how could anyone?’

‘But, what does it mean, Garak?’ I asked the notes. ‘What didn’t she understand? The killing? What?’
      I went to the place the tipper had told me to go, got a ticket and sat down in the oven to watch one of the fights. It was brutal; one gettle was pushed squealing into the circle while the other, a bigger gettle, stalked it round the edges, clawing up dirt clouds. And the heat…krist, even the gettles’ eyes were sweating.
      I looked around me after the first gettle was dead. The crowd was all Naussican. There may have been a couple of Talarians or Klingons or one of the other aggressorias but there were definitely no Cardassians.
      Garak wasn’t there. He probably never had been.

      I checked out of the hotel and headed to Bajor, sure there would be another tip off waiting.

    ‘…you didn’t know what you were doing, did you, Garak? Ha, of course I didn’t. It wasn’t something they’d forgive me for, and I knew that, but I think I surprised myself with the scale of what I did. I mean, every wall covering over half of Cardassia Prime…Krist, you knew they’d come for you. And it had to be me…who else would do such a thing? Only my Elim…yes, that’s an irony right there, isn’t it? Little Elim would’ve lied about it afterwards though…wouldn’t he? I have to write that story for him…have to fit what I did into what he’s going to do. If I ever write him into existence…no, it won’t happen now. Not in this kind of place. Oh Elim, if we could go back and hide and lurk among the alleys of Lakat like we used to…put our work on those doorsteps and skip back into the shadows, the rest asleep…everything seemed possible then.’

      A small tear in the paper at the bottom edge stopped me reading.
      The notes were not only decaying, they were being ripped apart. What was happening here? There was something I could-…what was it? Formaldehyde? Was that the stuff they used to keep paper fresh? No, that wasn’t it, it was something else. I’d have to go somewhere and find out. A pharmacy? Or perhaps a replicator? It could copy the notes and make another.
       No, it wouldn’t be enough. The words…they’d be the same, but it wouldn’t be his.
      I carefully picked up the notes and put them back in the suitcase. As I closed it up I noticed the strap had broken off again.
      It had been with me from the start, back on the station with the Ferengi bartender. ‘Garak? Sure, I’ll tell you about Garak, whatever you want to know…for a price.’ That was the beginning. The Ferengi, Garak’s shop…or what used to be his shop…the secret panel in the wall, the notes. I forgot when that was. Four years ago? Five?
      I took the strap and attached it back onto the suitcase.
      Garak had been seen on one of the planets near Cardassia.
      I’d been on the station when I heard and it’d taken me only half a day to get from there to here. I was staying in a hostel two streets down from the terminus, but this tip wasn’t encouraging; the place was too hectic. Garak could never be singled out in such a place, especially with so many other Cardassians around. Not forgetting the other similar-looking types, I couldn’t remember their names. But they all had a fair shot at convincing me they could be Garak.
      And what had I been doing on the station?
      There was a theory I had, taken from my reading of his notes, that he was attracted to his past, specifically the time before the Dominion War. The exile years.

       ‘There’s something about those Federation types, the ones I spend time with, walk past, talk to. I feel it when I walk on the promenade, eat with the Doctor, sit in the Ferengi’s bar – what is this feeling? I couldn’t figure it out for the longest time. There was just something strange about feeling safe and…what was it…the faces I saw. They were too pleasant, they weren’t hiding anything from me, at least nothing important. Just personal things, of course, but that feeling…the safety. I don’t question people anymore. I don’t look at them and wonder if they’d be the type to give me up. I think, there’s something in this…I think I know what it is, but how to admit it? Not even in words…Krist, not even in these words I’m writing, words that no one else will ever lay eyes on…even now I can’t do it. When was the last time I felt like writing? I mean, really writing…not these half-truths, but real writing. I don’t know. When? I only remember the last time I felt anxious, on that ship…in the Gamma Quadrant…’

      The Gamma Quadrant, I knew about that. I knew it. The sneak attack on the changelings, Garak and Odo…Constable Odo…on the Romulan warbird with the guards. I knew what had happened there, all of it. Garak drugging them with a mixture of opium and snake venom and then dragging Odo to a shuttle. Seventeen Jem Ha’dar ships pursuing them all the way to the wormhole, Garak dealing with them one at a time. How many people in the world knew about that, Garak? You, Odo, the guards…the Romulans, who were now probably dead…Zee-el perhaps, and me.
      But those others, they didn’t know your thoughts. I did, only me. And I knew that when I did find you it’d be somewhere from your past.
      I sat on the top bunk in the four bed dorm room and lit a cigarette. I didn’t know if I could smoke in the room but I didn’t really care.
      Did Garak smoke?
      It wasn’t in any of his notes, and I had read them all. No, he didn’t smoke.
      But then, why would he mention it? It was just a thing, it wasn’t an idea.
      I wanted him to smoke. I wanted him to write down that he smoked. I wanted him to write down what he looked like and what kind of clothes he wore and whether or not he liked other people. He had never mentioned any of this to me. Well, just the one. Gul Dukat. He despised that man, hated every single part of him. But Dukat…he was dead long ago. Wasn’t he?
      The door opened and a couple came in. Cardassians. They ignored me and sat down on one of the other beds and started talking in that language I’d come to know quite well. I wasn’t perfect, but I could get what I needed.
      I listened in. They were talking about small stuff. The weather, people, gossip.
      I put out the cigarette and arranged the notes in a pile and then asked them if they were from Cardassia.
      ‘Lakarian City,’ they said not even smiling.
      ‘Ah, the West.’
      They didn’t say anymore so I brought myself closer to them and told them they probably wouldn’t have a clue what I was talking about but did they know of the writer from the old Cardassian State called Garak.
      ‘Garak? No. You’re sure it’s Cardassia you want?’
      ‘I don’t want it, I want Garak. He was a dissident too, thirty years ago. He helped drive out the Dominion and the Breen. Are you certain you don’t know him?’
      The Cardassian, tall and with broad shoulders like Garak, shook his head.
      They didn’t know him and probably never would know him. I was the only one who had his notes…but that meant nothing, really; Garak was the only one who could write them into stories.
      There was a place on Romulus where Garak had stayed for two months, well before his exile. That’s what the tipper had told me; he was tall and had broad shoulders and was the spit of him.
     ‘Are you from Cardassia Prime?’ I asked. ‘Did you know him?’
     ‘Cardassia Prime? No, no. This is gone, you know? It’s just Cardassia now.’
     ‘Yes, it is, I know.’ But how did he know Garak? ‘But how do you know-…’
      He’d hung up and I’d gone to Romulus anyway and was now sitting on a bed in the same place Garak had stayed. I’d been down all the floors and listened in at each door, but there’d been no Cardassian spoken.
      He wasn’t there.
      ‘Ha! On Romulus of all places. How could he stand it?’
      I got his notes out of the suitcase and laid them out carefully on the bed. I stood over them for a minute and stared down on them as a whole.
      One hundred and twenty seven pieces of decaying paper.
      Outlines for ‘Elim Damar’, his novel about the poor.
      Notes and ideas for a novel about responsibility and the intervention of the author with two characters being a Bajoran and a Cardassian, and a female poet who is raped but isn’t really as it all happens in her head.
      These notes had been difficult, but Garak had explained them to me:

        ‘And what do I know about a female poet? Exactly. What do I know of rape? Nothing. This is my point, is it not? Reality is fiction is reality.’

      Yes, I understood with his help. But the thought of writing such a thing. Garak, I can’t do it, I’m not good enough.
      What else?
      There was the first draft for his novel on the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor.
      The account of his exile in his own words and thoughts.
      The reflections on his life, the memoir that he seemed to be working on before he-…
      I stood for almost an hour remembering each page and the words and the ideas that were on it. I had read it all more than once.
      In fact, in the last six years, there had been nothing else.
      I sat down on the bed and picked out the page about Elim. Before I even recognized the words, I could see which part it was. I could tell from the layout, the system of the words. Elim was about to betray his friend, Enabran, and flee from the Obsidian Order.
          ‘Krist, but I need something else…I need the whole story, Garak.’
      I walked through the streets around the hotel on Romulus and after a while I got on a transport and chose an area at random and went there. I couldn’t remember the name of the place as I left its station but I knew straight away it was poor and the people who lived there were at the bottom of the pit. It was weird, most places had given up on money, but the Romulans had stuck with it. Even Garak questioned them on it, despite his usual pragmatism.

             ‘These Romulans…I’ve been around them long enough to know certain things…this focus, for example, this implacable pursuit of empire…those left behind, the poor, the weak…they mean nothing to them.’

I walked further, wondering if Garak would recognise Romulus as it was now. Not likely. Back then, it was a closed shop, everything disguised – only someone like Garak could’ve operated in a place like that. Now it was different. Open, free…
There was a park near one of the buildings, which had washing hanging outside almost every window, and I walked in and sat on one of the benches. I didn’t move for over an hour and then an old Romulan woman came up to the bin nearest to me and stuck her arm inside.
      There’s a park in ‘Elim Damar’ with an old woman like that, I thought. Garak had her sticking her arm into a bin at night. It was on Cardassia, not Romulus, but the poverty of the place, the woman, the bin-…
      I gripped the arm of the bench I was sitting on, sweating under my arms and on my face. This is what Garak did, isn’t it? For the briefest moment I thought about writing his story myself.

                       ‘…there’s a sadness in me now I know they’ll never be written. There are these notes, I suppose, but they’re not works, they’re scribblings. They’re nothing anyone could read. So who will know about plain, simple Garak after all this?’
I was back on the station. Romulus had been a dead end, so why not here?
I walked into the bar and looked for the Ferengi. There was more he could tell me, surely. And if not him then…damn, who else? Far as I knew, everyone who’d served on the station when Garak was here was either dead or elsewhere. I’d caught up with Kira in Dakor province, but she wouldn’t say much. ‘He’s gone’, she’d said. ‘Leave it as it is.’ But I couldn’t. She didn’t understand why…a Bajoran man fascinated by a Cardassian… but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
One of the bartenders told me the Ferengi had gone a few months back. Sold up and gone to buy a moon somewhere. I asked if there was anyone else who’d been around thirty years ago, even though I knew there wasn’t, someone who knew Garak or his wife, Zee-el…
‘Garak who?’
‘A Cardassian. He used to live here, on the station.’
‘Was he famous or something?’
‘No, not really. He was a writer. A dissident.’
‘Never heard of him.’
‘He had a shop just down the promenade…a tailor shop…’
The bartender shook his head and drifted off to a table full of Romulans nearby. No-one seemed to know anyone anymore.
I went past the Rigelian cafe that used to be Garak’s shop then took the turbolift up a level and stared out at the spot where the wormhole used to appear. That’s what Garak would’ve looked at. Him and Zee-el…before she…before Gul Dukat murdered her.

        ‘Zee-el used to ask me about the past. As if that was the secret to knowing me, to opening up some truth I haven’t…hadn’t shown her. Why were you sent away from Cardassia? What did you do on Bajor? Why do they hate you, Garak? I told her answers, of course, but…she couldn’t possibly comprehend the truth of things. So I lied. I spoke and smiled, and I lied. Ha, what a creature you are, Garak! What a noble man. Ah Zee-el…she is young…was young. She would’ve learnt in time.’

I sat on the ship looking at the notes again, trying to draw a picture of what Garak might look like now. I couldn’t really draw so when I finished and inspected it I realized I’d drawn something stuck halfway between the Klingon writer, K’pok, and a Tholian.
      There’s no way Garak could resemble either one. K’pok looked like a Lethian bullfrog, and a Tholian had nothing Cardassian in its features, surely. Perhaps a Breen could pass as an Uchu-fa, but not a Cardassian. Not Garak.
      The ship continued on through the sky or Space or the end of time for all I knew, and I fell asleep and when I woke up we were one hour away from Risa.
      Would Garak be in a place like this? A Federation holiday resort, a place of comfort?
      Krist, not a chance. I knew him better than that. It was probably even a waste to come here, but the tip had been given and apparently Garak had been standing between two cannons on top of the white fortress by the sea in Balastia.

       ‘I suppose I’m trying not to write too much of my anxieties down here…there’s no point in diaries or journals, only fiction. Only the characters I make. They’d still try to connect me to them though, wouldn’t they? Not that anyone will ever know my work, but if they did, they’d think it…the author is also the creation, that old aphorism. Am I anything of Elim? Ha! Even now I’m ridiculous. Stop it, Garak, stop thinking like this…you are gone. No one knows you, no one cares, not even the good doctor. Yes, that’s right, there’s no place in the quadrant for me…and didn’t I want this all along? Something close to the hard way, the long route, running away from it, not chasing-… No, Garak, no anxieties, focus…the fiction, write about the fiction.’

          ‘Be more precise, Garak.’ I brought the notes closer, shaking them, changing the angle. ‘Running away from what? What did you want? Tell me, please.’
      I checked out of the hotel and headed back to the terminus. On the way I counted as many of the people that the transport passed as I could. At the terminus I had the number: seven hundred and twenty seven.
      This was just in Balastia, on a certain route taking certain roads to a certain place in the space of thirty minutes. How was I ever gonna find him?
      On the shuttle I took the notes out and laid some of them on my lap as the hostess brought the coffee down the aisle.
      I thought again about what he looked like. What he wore every day. Whether or not he liked other people.
      If he really has gone, should I try to write them?
      The shuttle accelerated and hit an air pocket. The hostess stumbled and the coffee threw itself over the notes.
       “Garak…” I mumbled down at the growing stain

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