If you want to relate this to anything else in the oeuvre - if that’s
the right word - it can be seen as an accompaniment to an earlier story
of mine (Agent Provocateur), which also equates Garak with the immortal
Sherlock, and Bashir as another bewildered Doctor. Hope you like it...
(There's no sex, by the way. Again. Though this seems to be undergoing
its turn as a contentious issue - proving, yet again, that whatever you
do, it'll cause a problem for someone. Personally, I don't feel that a
read of this story is likely to send anyone's offspring screaming up the
trouser legs/skirt of the nearest member of their own gender, but you
never know, so I'm posting only on ASC to be on the safe side).
Disclaimer: I fully acknowledge that Paramount has exclusive rights
to the Star Trek universe, and that all characters are the uncontested
property of Paramount television.
The Enigma Variations
It was, of course, a most horrible tragedy, and I confess to more than a
little guilt at my initial belief that the whole affair was nothing more
than a trifling literary exercise. I suppose it really started with a
conversation between Elim Garak and myself; a idle enough piece of
discourse, on the merits of Cardassia’s foremost literary form. I refer
to the Enigma Tales of Zeyeth Radan and others, which at the time were
enjoying a certain revivalist vogue among the avant garde - so much so,
in fact, that an Inessian theatre company had staged a production of
‘The Sound of Sorrow’, which was playing for one night on the station.
With some reservations, I suggested to Garak that he might like to go
and see it, but it turned out that he had already bought tickets.
‘I’ll bring Ziyal, if I may. She’s still woefully ignorant of the most
basic elements of her own culture. I’m trying to improve matters, but
we’re making slow progress, I’m afraid. It isn’t because her intellect
is limited - she’s a very bright girl - but she has years of education
to catch up on. Sometimes I despair...anyway, never mind that. I see
you’ve decided against buying those shares in that Tarkalean boromine
This non sequitur took me thoroughly aback.
‘How in the world did you -?’
‘Oh, come now, doctor, surely you’re familiar with my methods by now?
It’s obvious from even the most cursory examination of the groove
between your finger and thumb that you’d decided against investing.’
He reached out and ran his own fingers across my hand; a quick, gentle
movement which, if it hadn’t been quite out of the question, I might
almost have taken for a caress. I stared stupidly down at my hand.
‘Garak, you’ll have to explain.’
‘Very well, doctor. The chain of inference is, of course, almost
laughably obvious. I’m sure you’ll kick yourself when I point it out to
you. So. Whenever you meet Chief O’Brien for your fortnightly
billiards tournament, you always get chalk all over your hands. You
never play billiards with anyone except O’Brien who, so you told me last
week, has been trying to persuade you to invest in the project. You
also told me last night that you were not sure whether or not you wanted
to invest, but the deadline was this evening. Tonight is your usual
night for playing billiards, but your hands are clean. Ergo, you have
been avoiding Chief O’Brien, because you’re embarrassed about failing to
make your mind up and missing the deadline. If you’d decided to invest,
you would have met him in here as usual - he came in earlier, before you
arrived, and he was clearly puzzled by your absence.’
‘I see.’ I said. There seemed to be something wrong with the
argument, somewhere, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I
glanced at Garak, who was staring with bright, curious eyes across the
room, to where a slight, elegantly dressed Cardassian woman was
standing, her hand tucked into the arm of a stout Bajoran. Her gaze
swept the bar and I regarded her with interest. She lacked the arrogant
confidence of many Cardassian women; there was something lost and
uncertain about her demeanour, and the expression in her azure eyes made
me catch my breath with involuntary pity.
‘Interesting,’ murmured my friend.
‘You know her?’
‘What? Never seen her before in my life, as a matter of fact. But
one so rarely sees mixed species couples; I was simply intrigued. She’s
wearing a pledge bracelet, I see. Oh well. It’s none of my business.’
He returned his attention to the program before him. ‘What time does
this performance start?’
I met Garak and Ziyal outside the entrance to the performance. Making
my way across the promenade, I watched them from a distance, and smiled
to myself. Ziyal watched him when she thought he wasn’t looking; I
remembered having similar crushes, at that age. As I wove my way
through the crowd, I saw Garak reach out and impersonally straighten her
scarf. She smiled and curtsied, gazing demurely up through her
eyelashes. I thought that he turned to greet me with a certain degree
‘I’m sorry, I’m a little late,’ I apologised. Garak took my arm and
guided me into the room, followed by the girl.
‘They haven’t started yet.’
I had expected there to be plenty of seats, but to my surprise the room
was packed. There were a large contingent of Bajorans; the assumption
that they would eschew anything associated with their former occupiers
was clearly incorrect. I said as much as we groped and stumbled and
apologised our way along the back row. Over his shoulder, Garak said
‘On the contrary, my dear Doctor, everyone loves a good Enigma Tale -
pardon me, madam - they’ve always been popular.’
We gained our seats at last and settled ourselves. I could see Captain
Sisko and Jake sitting down in the front, not far from the Cardassian
woman and her husband, and then the lights dimmed and the performance
began. It was certainly enjoyable, executed with verve and lightness.
Seen enacted, rather than read, it had the flavour of a Restoration
comedy: the same cynicism, the same bitter undertones. The central
character, Marteya, plays different roles to her various lovers,
juggling facades and personae throughout the course of a single day. It
becomes increasingly unclear who her target is, for although she is
introduced as an assassin, it is never clear whether this is really the
case. In the end, it is her own accomplice who drinks the poison
intended for the political target, and Marteya smiles in triumph as the
curtain falls. It was a slick, quick performance, played for laughs,
and Ziyal sat riveted on the edge of her seat. It was with a vague
unease that I saw Garak’s eyes occasionally stray from the stage to rest
on her ornamental profile.
‘Well, doctor,’ Garak said, as he leaned across the girl to address
me. ‘Quite a different experience from reading the work, don't you
‘Very different,’ I agreed. I rose to follow the rest of the crowd
out onto the Promenade.
‘Obviously, it’s more immediate, and they streamlined the plot to lend
pace. On the whole, I prefer to read: I’m a little averse to having
images imposed upon me. Marteya, for instance, wasn’t my idea of my
favourite scheming heroine....nothing to do with her being Inessian, by
the way, but I just didn’t feel that she portrayed that essential
quality of charming duplicity which is so critical for an understanding
of Marteya. Still, all in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.’
As we filed out, I heard Ziyal say
‘Do you think I’d make a good Marteya, Elim?’
‘My dear, I certainly hope not, otherwise none of us will escape with
our lives. I think I prefer you as you are,’ he added, affectionately,
and it was as though something cold and thin slid between my ribs to
touch my heart. It was only that I had no wish to see my friend make a
fool of himself over a girl young enough to be his daughter, I told
myself, but that was Garak’s concern, not mine.
That night, I dreamed that we were once again watching the play, but
instead of the actress in the role of Marteya, it was the Cardassian
woman whom I had seen earlier in the day, and instead of sending her
accomplice to the poisoned death she had planned, it was she who drank
from the cup, and Elim Garak who caught her as she fell.
I found myself at a loose end the next morning, so I wandered across the
Promenade to the tailor’s shop. As I stepped through the door I paused,
to watch him. He was gazing at the console screen, and I studied him
for a moment: the dark, downturned face, the hooded eyes. Then he
glanced up and saw me, and it was as though the shadows slid from his
‘Why, doctor! I didn’t expect to see you today.’
I raised my hands and let them fall again.
‘I got those tests done rather more quickly than I anticipated. I
thought I might come and drag you out for a cup of something.’
Garak appeared delighted.
‘What a civilised suggestion. Where shall we go?’
‘You know,’ I said, as we took our seats in the Replimat. ‘Two of my
Bajoran patients have already mentioned to me how much they enjoyed the
play last night. It seems that Enigma Tales are quite the rage, no
matter what their origin.’
Garak smiled, rather thinly.
‘So it seems.’
‘What do you mean?’
The tailor sighed. ‘I’ve debated whether or not to tell you this. When
I got back to my quarters last night, I found someone waiting for me.’
‘You remember the couple whom we saw yesterday?’
‘The Bajoran and his Cardassian wife? Yes, I remember, very well.’
‘Well, the Bajoran was waiting for me, standing in the shadows outside
my door. He said he wanted to talk to me, so I invited him in, not
without some misgivings, I might add, and he showed me this.’
He fished in his pocket and handed me a folded slip of paper. I
examined it with interest. It seemed to be an extract from a story. I
said as much.
‘You might not recognise it,’ Garak said, sipping his tea. ‘It’s the
introductory lines of ‘Cold as Swords’, one of the most famous works of
‘An Enigma Tale?’ I guessed.
Garak nodded. ‘One of the most famous Enigma Tales of all time. She
was writing mid-4th century. She’s renowned for her ingenuity and
‘But what does this have to do with our Bajoran friend?’
Garak held out his hands. ‘You tell me. Apparently, it was delivered
to him yesterday afternoon. He was puzzled by it, and showed it to his
wife, and her reaction took him completely by surprise. She turned very
pale and rushed into the bedroom, locking the door behind her. I don’t
think the poor man knew what to do with himself. He tried talking to
her, but she wouldn’t reply, and later she came out of the bedroom,
perfectly composed, and refused to discuss the episode. She insisted on
attending the performance, so she’s obviously not allergic to Enigma
Tales per se. It seems that this happened once before, about a month
ago, and so Tareth Nar decided to approach me. I’m a neutral observer,
you see, and the climate of the Bajoran authorities to a mixed marriage
is hardly one of approval.’
‘What a curious story.’
‘Quite an Enigma Tale itself, don’t you think? Is anyone guilty, and
if so, of what?’
His gaze flickered across the room. ‘Ah, Ziyal’s finished her shift, I
see. Might I ask you to keep this between ourselves?’
‘Of course,’ I said, with a curious sense of relief. So it was still
me to whom he turned in the midst of his intrigues, rather than the
interloper, and then I wondered what had caused such a thought. I felt
my face flush, and his serpentine smile widened.
‘I’ll let you get on,’ he said to me, as the girl approached. ‘I’m
sure you have more than enough to do.’ It seemed such an obvious hint
that, all at once, I found myself floundering in uncertainty once more.
Was I merely convenient company, to be disposed of when a more
attractive companion came along?
‘It’s all right, I’m going,’ I muttered, and his hand came to rest on
mine, cool and reassuring.
‘If I learn anything more,’ he said, very seriously ‘You’ll be the
first to know.’
Tareth Nar and his silent wife left for Bajor the next day. I fully
expected our little Enigma Tale to vanish with them, but that evening I
got back to my quarters to find a message from Garak waiting for me.
‘What is it?’ I asked. Looking at the screen, I had the disconcerting
sensation that he was staring at me from the depths of a goldfish bowl.
‘It might be nothing. I wonder - could you meet me in Quark’s? Would
‘Not at all,’ I told him, feeling my spirits unaccountably lift. ‘I’m
on my way.’
‘Soress Ankhat,’ the tailor said, rolling the name across his tongue.
‘Really, doctor, you are almost as lamentably educated as Torah Ziyal.
I ought to start holding public classes. Ankhat wrote at the beginning
of the 16th century, never left Zhanasa province or indeed his home town
of Sharayan. Despite his life of seclusion, he nonetheless managed to
produce one of the greatest Engima Tales of all.’ The tailor paused,
for effect, then declaimed ‘ “The Master of the East!” It’s all about a
local politician who murders his way through the labyrinth of power. Or
possibly not. They may all die of natural causes; it’s extremely
oblique and there was a plague raging at the time. This -’ he fluttered
a piece of paper underneath my nose ‘-comes from the closing monologue,
when the protagonist is poised to seize control of regional government.
“And though I had outlived my foes, there were surely new enemies to be
fostered, new antagonisms to nurture close to my heart, and new plans to
make as winter drew down from the edge of the Jian and the breath of
snow on the wind heralded the colder days to come...”
‘Very nicely read.’
‘It loses something in the translation.’ the tailor sighed.
‘Sometimes I think I missed my calling; I should have gone on the
stage...Anyway, this snippet was found pinned to the front door of
Tareth Nar’s family home when they arrived back yesterday. He lost no
time of apprising me of the incident: it seems that he had to carry his
wife across the threshold for the first time since their wedding day.
She fainted when she saw it, apparently.’
‘And that is indicative of two things - one, that she has a singular
aversion to the work of Soress Ankhat, or that it means more to her than
she’s telling. Rather obviously, I am inclined to put good money on the
latter. Even I have never been so moved by a stanza.’
‘Garak, may I ask you a question?’
‘When did you become interested in literature?’
‘Oh, from a very young age. Our education starts early, as you know;
we have to memorise vast quantities of poetry and literature. You see,
the languages of Hebitia used to be purely oral; confined to particular
tribes, and so many of the earliest poems and epics work best in the
spoken form. It wasn’t until primitive trade routes opened up and
people needed to communicate that anything like a common language
developed, and later, a simple written form emerged. It was a symbolic
language: hieroglyphic, essentially. And it still is. It’s a series of
ideograms, rather than letters like your alphabet. It’s also a very
economical language. Each ideogram has more than one meaning, and that
meaning depends on the context of the sentence in which the word is
spoken, sometimes on the context of the whole sequence of phrases. But
the spoken language is more flexible than the written form, even now.
That’s why we place so much importance on the art of conversation.’
‘It sound a little like an ancient language of Earth, named Mandarin,’
I said, dredging my memory. ‘That’s a tonal language. For instance,
the same written word stands both for ‘horse’ and for ‘arsehole’, and
the meaning depends on how it’s uttered. Something like that, anyway.’
‘I can see how that might lead to confusion,’ my friend remarked
dryly. ‘A simple request for riding lessons.....Hmm. Anyway, Kardasi’s
A thought occurred to me.
‘When we’re talking, what do you do? Your Standard’s quite fluent -’
Garak bridled in indignation. ‘It’s considerably better than yours, I
‘Sorry. You’re probably right. But you don’t translate from Kardasi
to Standard when we’re speaking, do you?’
‘No. But I prefer to think in Kardasi as a general rule; it’s
infinitely more subtle than Standard. When I think conceptually, I
sometimes use Vulcan; it’s engineered for the abstract.’
My eyebrows sought my hairline.
‘You speak Vulcan?’
‘Oh, a little bit, not very well...Why did you ask about translating?’
‘I was curious.’ I added ‘How can I put this delicately? In the
past, you’ve - well, you’ve lied to me.’ I glanced at Garak, uncertain
as to how this would be received, but his face revealed nothing more
than an intent interest. ‘If you’d said the same things in Kardasi,
would you have been lying?’
He caught his lower lip between his teeth and looked away for a moment.
‘Here, among you, I’m continually suspected of lying. But I’ve never
subscribed to the principle that there is one truth, that only needs to
be revealed through language. Philosophically, I suppose I’m a
relativist. I consider truth to be a matter of consensual agreement
rather than objective fact. I don’t state the truth, because that would
be rude: I’d be enforcing my opinion onto my companion before we’d even
begun our conversation. We argue to establish a shared truth, not to
prove one of us right and the other wrong. The opening words to any
conversation establish the pattern that the discussion will take. So,
doctor, what I say to you depends on the context in which I am
speaking. The words are just signifiers of meaning - pointers to what
I’m saying, if you like. If I said to you - let me think - “I’m very
fond of you”, if you were to fully understand that, you’d need to know
me, my background, the context in which the conversation was held, and
the emphasis I placed on the words. And of course, there’s the most
important thing - the issue of emotional modality, which I haven’t even
‘Spoken Kardasi possesses a range of emotional modalities - for
instance, it can be neutral, dismissive, antagonistic, intimate,
placatory, interrogative and any number of combinations. If Ziyal
appeared and interrupted us, I’d probably employ the ‘placatory
dismissive’ mode in speaking to her. If it was a Klingon warrior, I’d
use the neutral antagonistic, until I discovered what he wanted, and
then probably the conversation would degenerate into the contemptual
antagonistic dismissive and finally, no doubt, into the universal
language of physical violence. Everyone understands a kick in the
groin; that’s why I consider violence so distasteful. There’s no poetry
in it...but I digress.’
‘So,’ I hazarded ‘If I said ‘Garak, you’re a scheming old bastard and
you habitually lie through your teeth’ in Kardasi, the actual meaning
would depend on the context and the emotional modality in which it was
The tailor gave me an oblique glance through his eyelashes. ‘If you
employed the intimate affectionate, I might be rather pleased...On the
other hand, if you used the formal antagonistic, you’d be spoiling for a
punch in the face. Here,’ he added plaintively ‘I never know what
people are *telling* me. Everything’s so open to misinterpretation.’
‘You’re a rapacious, febrile malignity!’ I hissed, trying it out.
‘Gentlemen, *please*. Not so loudly. It lowers the tone.’ I had
failed to notice Quark, who now hovered in pained agitation at my
shoulder. The tailor gave a lipless smile and said
‘Since the tone of your establishment is already some way below gutter
level, it is difficult to see how this may be achieved.’
‘Considering my clientele, that’s hardly surprising,’ the barman said,
and departed as noiselessly as he had come.
‘There, you see? Quark can do it, even in Standard. A perfect
example of the formal placatory antagonistic. We know he doesn’t mean
it. You see, doctor, it’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say
‘If I was attracted to someone - let’s say - and I was speaking in
Kardasi, I’d use the intimate antagonistic, which implies a level of
‘So if I said: “you may have all the morals of a Viranian polecat, but
I suppose I still like you” - you’d understand what I meant?’ I said.
Suddenly, we seemed to be floundering in deeper waters than I had
‘Well,’ Garak said. ‘We don’t have many words for emotions, as such:
it’s principally modalities. You’d have to say “You’re in my
estimation”, using an intimate modality with the informal pronouns -
otherwise it might sound as though I were your superior officer or
something. And, of course, you’d have to use the correct intonation of
the word ‘Estimation,’ which if pronounced incorrectly, can mean “soup.”
‘I see.’ I said, after a poignant pause.
‘You sound completely baffled, but never mind. I’m sure you’d get the
hang of it eventually. Anyway, doctor, this little puzzle of the Enigma
fragments has at least served to promote some stimulating discussion.
I’m sure no more will come of it.’ In that, at least, he was wrong.
It’s most disconcerting to wake up and find someone standing silently at
the end of one’s bed. Garak had done this once before, and I still
hadn’t forgiven him. I sat up so fast that my head bounced off the
wall, but he said nothing, only smiled at me out of the shadows.
‘Don’t - *appear* like that. How did you get in, anyway?’
All that Garak said was
‘Put your clothes on; we’re going on a trip.’
A glitter of amusement flickered in his eyes; with embarrassment, I
realised that I was clutching the sheet to my bare chest. I don’t
normally sleep naked, but my pyjamas were in the wash.
‘I won’t look,’ Garak said, patiently.
‘It doesn’t - I don’t - oh, never mind!’ I snapped and stalked with as
much dignity as I could muster to the closet. Out of the corner of my
eye I saw him stoop and pick a crumpled garment up from the floor. He
shook it out with fastidious distaste and said
‘Is this what you’re looking for?’
‘Thank you,’ I said icily, and took it from him to dress hastily. It
did not occur to me until we reached the runabout that I had no idea
where we were going. Fortunately, the Captain proved understanding, if
not entirely delighted to be roused from his bed in the middle of the
night and obliged to listen to my garbled explanations.
‘Try to bring that runabout back in one piece. I leave it to your
discretion whether you do the same with your companion,’ Sisko said
dryly, cutting me off in mid sentence.
Garak took the runabout away in a smooth, turning arc. The station fell
behind and the hazy blue curve of Bajor swung up to fill the
viewscreen. I found myself watching the tailor’s hands as they moved
with swift competence across the controls: the long, agile fingers, the
scaled ridges casting his hands into angularities of shadow. I shook
myself from my reverie with a start, as he swung the runabout around and
down through the atmosphere.
‘Are you going to tell me what this is about?’ I asked, pathetically.
‘Oh, I’m sorry. I must have been distracted...I received an urgent
transmission from Nar. Apparently, they were given another literary
fragment: it appeared in the study, stuck to the desk with a paper knife
- not a reassuring omen, you’ll agree. He didn’t tell Arieth about
this, but obviously it disturbed him, since it meant that someone had
been in the house. He pleaded with me to come, and since I’ve been
rather intrigued by this, I decided to oblige.’
The runabout swooped around the world’s curve, heading for the
nightside. A tremor of unease travelled through me. What had Ankhat
written? “...colder days to come...” I thought of my dream and the
helplessness in Arieth Nar’s sea coloured eyes, and said nothing more.
Garak landed the runabout on a grassy slope to the north of Nar’s farm.
As the runabout’s engine powered down, he rested his palms on the
instrument panel and said
‘I brought this for you.’ Reaching into his jacket pocket, he handed
me a phaser. I stared at him.
‘Do you think I’ll need it?’
‘I don’t know.’ Rising from his seat, he glided to the door and
stepped out into the Bajoran night. Outside, it was warm and quiet; the
stillness broken only by the murmur of insects in the long grass. To
the north, the long ridge of the Haramathi mountains strode into the
darkness; a great sheaf of stars lay along their spine, rising up in a
coil towards the crown of the sky. It was summer, here in Okala
province, and the sky burned, fierce and indigo. I glanced at Garak,
standing in the shadow of the runabout. His eyes were shut; his head
tilted back and he took a long breath of night air, releasing it with a
‘I’m sorry, doctor. It’s been a while since I breathed fresh
air...Look, you can see Caranis.’ and he pointed south, where the cross
of stars splayed over the heavens; the summer constellation of Bajor.
In spite of the unsettling summons which had brought us here, we stood
and gazed, and when he reached out and drew me closer to his side, it
seemed the most natural gesture in the world. I leaned against him and
above us the summer cross seemed for a moment to burn more brightly, but
only for a moment.
There were two shots. They came from the direction of the house. Garak
broke away from me and ran across the field, keeping low along the line
of scrub that skirted the orchard. I followed, catching up with him as
he reached the garden wall. We lay flat, watching. The house was dark
and quiet. Garak turned to me and in the starlight his eyes were as
flat and blank as coins. He smiled.
‘Well, doctor? Are you ready? Good. I’ll take the side door; cover
me, please.’ and then he was gone, slipping through the door so quickly
that I hardly saw him go. Despite the night’s warmth, I found that I
was shaking. I counted to ten, then followed him in.
My old lecturer, Dr Arash, used to say cheerfully that the only
distinguishing feature of a good doctor is a nose for blood. On this
occasion, I hardly needed it. The hallway reeked of it: hot and iron
against the roof of my mouth. At the end of the hall, a door lay ajar;
I reached down for the handle and found that it was wet. Cautiously, I
stepped through. All that I could see, extending beyond the end of the
desk, were a motionless pair of feet. Stepping around the desk, I
levelled the phaser. Elim Garak crouched by the body of Tareth Nar.
‘He’s dead,’ Garak said, tonelessly. His fingers were black with
blood. In the half darkness, it looked as thick as oil.
‘What about the woman?’
Garak’s head turned, disturbingly fast.
Arieth Nar lay sprawled against the wall, curled in a foetal coil as
though trying to protect herself from the shot that had shattered her
skull. More from habit than hope, I touched my hand to the side of her
ridged jaw and unbelievably, felt a pulse.
‘She’s still alive,’ I said.
‘Can you do anything for her?’
‘I don’t know. She’s badly injured; I might be able to stabilise her
for long enough for a medical team to get here.’
Slowly, Garak nodded.
‘I think that would be wise. However, I would prefer to place myself
under your protection while they’re here. I’m hardly likely to be the
most welcome person on Bajor at the moment.’
‘I assure you, nothing will happen to you as long as I’m here. After
all, you’re investigating a crime, not committing one, and you were
asked to come here by a Bajoran citizen.’ I did not add that Nar
himself was unlikely to be popular with the Bajoran authorities, given
his unorthodox marriage.
‘You stay here with her,’ Garak said. ‘I’ll have a look around.’
Before I could say anything, he was gone. I made Arieth Nar as
comfortable as I could, then alerted a startled Bajoran medical relay
unit in the nearest settlement. Then, I went quickly through the door.
The house was silent. I touched the communicator.
After a moment, his precise voice answered
‘Doctor? There’s no sign of anyone. I’d suggest they beamed in. Did
you contact a team?’
‘They’re on their way. Garak, where are you?’
and as I spoke I heard a sound, very faint, in the direction of the
‘There’s someone down here.’
I slid rapidly along the wall to the kitchen door. Within, was a heavy
waiting silence. Holding the phaser in both hands, I paused, then went
down on one knee in the entrance to the kitchen.
There was a blur of motion across the table as a little animal bolted,
leaving its scavenged meal behind. I did not see what it was, but my
shot caught it across the back; I smelt burning fur and then it was out
of the door. I dropped my arms and that was my undoing. A dark, swift
shape came out from the shadows of the wall and I was too late to block
the blow that sent me down into darkness.
The voice in my ear was a familiar one.
‘I’m sure we would all be grateful if you could refrain from being
more of a fool than you can help.’
‘I’m sorry,’ I whispered, the old response to my father’s acid tones,
but that was long ago and my father far away. An arm tightened fiercely
‘Not you, doctor,’ the voice said, in exasperation.
‘Get away from him, Cardassian. Or are you planning to make him your
‘Oh, please,’ Garak said with contempt. ‘I’ve been trying to bring
him round, not finish him off.’
‘No, listen to me - I’m all right. He didn’t knock me out; there was
someone here, someone else - you have to find them. They’ve killed
Tareth Nar and his wife is badly hurt...’ I could hear myself babbling.
A young woman knelt in front of me; the insignia of the Bajoran Medical
Guild emblazoned on her tunic.
‘Don’t worry, Doctor Bashir,’ she said, soothingly. ‘Everything’s all
right now; you’re among friends. You’ve got a very minor concussion;
I’m going to put you out for a little while, nothing to worry about -’
‘No!’ I snapped as the pressure syringe touched my arm ‘You can’t -’
Well, I suppose now I know how some of my patients feel, at least. For
the second time in less than an hour, I lapsed into unconsciousness.
My head felt as though it had been kicked by a Cortanian ox; one with
iron shod feet. The concussion had been cured almost instantaneously;
my current headache was the result of trying to convince the Bajoran
authorities that Garak was innocent of the assault on the Nars.
‘And how do you know that the Cardassian wasn’t the one who hit you?’
‘I just do! I’ve told you, we came because Nar called us here.
Anyway, Garak wouldn’t do anything to hurt me,’ and as I said it, I
suddenly realised how much had changed between us. Years ago, I would
have assumed as a matter of course that Elim Garak was only waiting for
a suitable opportunity to stab everyone around him in the back. Now, I
only knew that I trusted him, and marvelled at how strange it was, to be
defending a Cardassian spy against a Bajoran interrogator.
The commandant’s console stuttered into life. I could not hear what the
person on the other end was saying, but I recognised the voice: it was
Sisko. He spoke for a few minutes, and then the commandant opened his
mouth and shut it again.
‘Very well,’ he said, when he could at last bring himself to speak.
‘You are both to be allowed to return to the station. Come with me.’
I followed him to an adjacent cell, where Garak sat, numbly
contemplating the wall. The side of one cheek was mottled with the
stain of a bruise.
‘You’re free to go,’ the commandant said, through his teeth. Elim
Garak gave him a most unamiable look.
‘How kind,’ he said and stalked through the door.
On the shuttle, we sat in a grim and contemplative silence. Through the
view window, I could still see the summer stars of Caranis, but now they
seemed faint and far away, no longer the burning constellation beneath
which we had stood. I felt a sudden keen nostalgia for that moment;
seconds before tragedy had struck. I turned to find Garak watching me.
‘I’ll see to that bruise when we get back,’ I told him.
‘It’s all right,’ he said, dismissively. Settling his head back
against the seat rest, he shut his eyes and closed me out for the
remainder of the trip.
I did not see a great deal of Garak over the next few days. Ziyal met
us at the airlock, and fussed over us both. I took the tailor off to
the infirmary to see to his various wounds, which turned out to be
rather more extensive than the bruise across his cheek and explained his
silence during our return trip. After I had patched him up, he thanked
me, quite graciously, and then disappeared in the direction of his
quarters. I heard no more from him until several days later, when I
grew tired of being ignored and knocked on his door.
He glanced up as I entered.
‘Doctor, I’m sorry; I’ve been neglecting you, I know.’
‘Are you still in pain?’
Garak shook his head.
‘No, no. Although I can’t say that I’m too impressed with myself at
the moment. I’m guilty of treating this whole affair far too lightly;
if I’d listened to my instincts and given it the attention it deserved,
Tareth Nar might still be alive.’ He sighed. ‘I’m getting old, doctor:
old and slow.’
‘And maudlin in your dotage, Garak.’
He had the grace to smile at that.
‘Well, perhaps a little...’
‘How old are you, anyway?’ I asked, curiously. I had four different
dates of birth for Elim Garak; one for every year of his annual
medical. He gave me a rather irritable glance in reply.
‘Since you humans fail to treat age with the respect it deserves, I
don’t feel inclined to share that particular piece of information with
‘Oh well,’ I said. ‘They say you’re as old as you feel.’
The tailor snorted.
‘That makes me roughly contemporaneous with your friend Dax.’ He
rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands and yawned.
‘I ought to give up on this and go to bed. Unless you have any
He handed me a long scroll of paper on which was inscribed a litany of
‘What is it?’
‘It’s the fragments of Enigma Tales received by the Nars. I’ve just
been rearranging them, trying to see if it’s some kind of code.’
‘I can’t help you, I’m afraid. I don’t read Kardasi.’
‘No, it’s all right. I didn’t expect you to be able to.’
‘Anyway, from what you were saying the other day, I wouldn’t have
thought they’d have told you a great deal.’
Garak paused in the act of reaching for his glass and said
‘Well, you said that Kardasi doesn’t make a lot of sense unless it’s
placed in context and attached to appropriate modalities, so I don’t see
how a series of disconnected sentences would even have a meaning. Or is
that only when it’s spoken aloud? I forget.’
I paused. ‘Are you all right?’ My friend had become utterly still.
‘Garak, what -’
‘Doctor, I’m going to throw you out, I’m afraid.’ Rising from his
chair, he clasped my wrist, dragged me upright and ignoring my protests,
ushered me towards the door.
I found myself standing unceremoniously in the empty corridor, while the
door of the tailor’s quarters hissed shut.
The next day, as we sat in the Replimat, Garak appeared genuinely
‘I really must apologise, doctor. You see, what you said put a
thought into my mind, and I had to follow it to its logical conclusion,
otherwise I would have lost it.’
‘It’s all right,’ I assured him. ‘I know what it’s like; I’m a
researcher, after all.’
The Cardassian smiled with relief.
‘The reason I called you is because I may need your help. I’m afraid
I can’t tell you what the problem is, though.’
‘Why not?’ I asked, patiently.
‘Because I am sure that you would feel compelled to tell Captain
‘I see. I suppose I should feel flattered that you apparently trust
me enough to tell me that.’
Garak inclined his head.
‘It involves attending a theatrical performance, tomorrow night.’
‘Oh, really? I noticed the Inessian troupe is doing another
‘Gul Ramorek is gracing us with his presence, apparently, and he’s
asked them to postpone their departure for a few days. He’s offered
them a sponsorship if he likes what he sees, so...’
‘Very generous of him.’
Garak looked momentarily glum.
‘I should have liked to have been a patron of the arts. Such a
civilised thing to do...ah, well.’ Draining his drink, he rose from his
chair, muttered something that I failed to catch, and vanished in the
direction of his shop.
I spent the remainder of the day alternating between annoyance and
bemusement. I even logged in to the library and started looking up the
rudiments of Kardasi, but I soon gave this up as a bad job. Clearly,
something I had said was crucial to an understanding of this whole sorry
tale, but I had no notion of what it might have been. Somewhat
disgruntled, I retired for the night. Disquieting dreams pursued one
another through my sleeping mind. I stood on the peaks of the
Haramathi, and beside me someone wept beneath a veil. Leaning down, I
drew the veil aside and it floated away, a shadow on the night wind.
Arieth Nar’s ruined face gazed at me, and then her features blurred and
Garak was there, smiling, and saying
‘But don’t you see, doctor, it’s never what you say that matters.
It’s what you do not utter that is important, always.’
and above us the stars of the summer cross fell one by one from the
heavens, to plunge hissing through the long grass.
‘Elim,’ I said, and reached towards him, but he was gone.
The following evening, I once again met Garak outside the makeshift
theatre, loitering behind a pillar while the Cardassian delegation
strolled past. Taking my arm, he led me aside.
‘I don’t want to be too much in evidence,’ he murmured. ‘Ramorek and
I - well, let’s just say there’s no love lost.’
‘An old political adversary?’
His blue eyes opened wide.
‘Whatever gave you that idea? A little matter of an unstable inside
seam, I assure you. Embarrassing, but there we are...Anyway, I really
have to commend you, doctor. What can I say? You are a linguistic
‘And without even knowing it!’
He beamed at me with an almost paternal pride. I shook my head.
‘I’m afraid I’ve no idea what you’re talking about,’ I told him. His
smile grew wider.
‘Don’t worry, doctor. You will.’
It was, without doubt, one of the most electrifying performances I have
ever seen. The Inessian troupe had evidently decided against a repeat
performance and had selected a different Enigma Tale. Entitled
‘Goldenseed,’ it was a deceptively straightforward story of a farmer
during the Rachassan wars, and was performed in the original Kardasi.
Listening carefully to the dialogue, I began to see what Garak meant.
Every phrase seemed to have a double, even a triple meaning, even
though, through the miracle of the universal translator, I was hearing
the words in Standard rather than Kardasi. The play ends in a monologue,
so at this point, the central character, Varis, was declaiming to his
“...you do not know it yet, but the truth that you have heard is nothing
but a clever lie, and your lies have themselves become transparent. You
think that you have won her heart, but instead you yourself are the prey
and the prize...”
The next moment, I found myself sprawling on the floor, my face shoved
into the carpet by a powerful hand. There was a hiss and a shower of
dust as the phaser bolt hit the back of the seat and shredded it. I
could hear shouting, then Garak hauled me up by the scruff of the neck
‘Quickly! After him!’
The scene within the theatre was one of utter confusion. My first
priority, regardless of Garak’s protestations, was to attend to the
wounded, but miraculously no-one had been injured. A cursory glance at
the splintered seat revealed clearly who had been the target.
‘Someone just tried to kill you!’ I gasped, as we ran through the
door. The tailor nodded.
Outside the theatre, I collided with Odo, dispatching security personnel
in all directions. He bestowed a look of considerable disfavour upon my
‘I saw where that shot went. You have some explaining to do, Garak.’
The latter graciously inclined his head.
‘I should be only too delighted, once you’ve apprehended my would-be
It did not take very long. The assassin’s own colleagues returned him
to the Constable; clearly, Gul Ramorek had made the wise decision to
co-operate with the station authorities. I studied the man, Ires
Massen, curiously when they brought him in. He was a Cardassian of
middle years, a little younger than Garak, and powerfully built. A thin
scar, like a wire, embellished one pale cheek. Odo, through some
implicit understanding, stood back to let the tailor take the floor.
Garak sat down opposite the prisoner and said softly
‘Arieth Nar is dead. Did you know that?’
‘No...’ Massen whispered, more in denial than understanding.
‘She died yesterday morning, having failed to regain consciousness.’
Massen stared at him blankly
‘But the message -’
‘The message came from me.’
Garak’s gaze was riveted upon the prisoner. As I looked at my friend,
it seemed to me that he was someone whom I no longer knew. I had seen
Garak in many different moods, but now the habitual affability, the
urbane, elusive charm had utterly burned away. The face of the person
who now sat opposite Ires Massen was that of an executioner: cold as
winter, and as closed to me as though he stood on the other side of
death. He seemed to have forgotten our presence, but then his glance
flickered up to meet mine and I saw for a moment what many must have
seen, behind that icy gaze, just before they died. The prisoner
‘How did you do it? Only Arieth and I knew the code, we were the last
Garak said crisply
‘I have no intention of parading my deductive methods before you. I
want a confession.’
‘A confession, then,’ Massen said with indifference. ‘Yes. I killed
Nar. But I never meant to hurt her, not Arieth. I only wanted to talk
with her, persuade her to come back to Cardassia with me. She was
promised to me, you know, ever since she was a child. But he found us
together, in the library, and he shot at me. I had no choice; he would
have killed me. Arieth - I saw her fall, and I tried to do what I could
for her - but then you came in, and I had to leave her.’ He covered his
face with his hands. Garak leaned back in his chair and said in a
voice like silk
‘That’s all we need to proceed. I’ll take over from here.’
Garak nodded. Rising from his seat, he walked as softly as a ghost
through the door. With an uncertain glance at Odo, I followed him.
Outside, the tailor leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes.
Too much of the past, I thought, had come back to him: I had glimpsed
the mask of the inquisitor, present all along, just beneath the
surface. To the stranger I said
‘Elim, I -’ and then his eyes opened and my friend was back.
‘Doctor...’ he whispered ‘Julian, I am the world’s worst fool.’
His hand reached out and closed tightly about my wrist.
‘For any particular reason?’ I asked, facetious in my relief.
‘Because you might have died back there in the theatre, and only
because I wanted to impress you with my own cleverness. I told you,
doctor. I am getting old.’
‘Garak, I’m alive, and no-one was hurt, and you’ve found the
murderer. Look, come down to Quark’s with me; I’ll buy you a drink. We
both need one.’
After a stiff kanaar, the tailor appeared to recover from his moment of
self hatred. He even managed to smile at me.
‘Now, I told him sternly. ‘If you want to redeem yourself, you’d
better tell me exactly what happened. From the beginning.’
‘Very well. I knew that the Enigma fragments had to be some kind of
code. I tried all the code breaking techniques I knew. None of them
worked. I also started looking into Arieth Nar’s background. She’s the
daughter of a Glin Sarem, who was notorious during the Bajoran
occupation for running a personal fiefdom in Okala province. He managed
to keep control over it for some eight years, bribing and terrorising
his way to power. Finally, his methods became too much for even the
Cardassian government to stomach and they recalled him to the Empire and
had him tried for treason. Some of his associates managed some private
plea bargaining with the authorities and rehabilitated themselves -
after all, their victims were only Bajorans, it didn’t really matter.
Sarem’s daughter, who from all accounts detested him, showed her
defiance by running away and years later turned up married to a Bajoran
- Tareth Nar. Incidentally, she isn’t dead. She came out of a coma a
few hours ago, and I was able to confirm my suspicions. I knew that
whoever was sending those messages had to be a Cardassian - someone from
the past, since Arieth Nar refused to set foot in the Empire.
As luck would have it, the Inessians decided to stage a second
performance on the station, and so I put an advert in the Cardassian
press, containing a quote from the play in which - effectively - the
heroine pleads with her lover to flee the country with her after her
recent illness.’ He sighed. ‘Unsubtle, but convenient and the best I
could do at short notice. Anyway, it worked. Our murderer, Massen,
attached himself to Gul Ramorek’s staff, which given that Massen is
apparently quite a prominent citizen these days, did not prove too
difficult. He expected to meet Arieth after the performance, believing
that she had recovered from her wounds. I persuaded the director to
change some of the dialogue. Massen realised instantly that he had been
discovered, and took a spontaneous pot shot at me. The rest you know.’
‘And the code?’
‘After your enlightening comments, I went back to the original sources
and looked at the lines in context, then read them aloud in a number of
modalities, which changed the meaning of the quotes. For example, that
phrase about ‘a colder age to come’ in one of the later messages was set
in a piece of text which, when read aloud in the emotive modality,
reveals not only the protagonist’s political aspirations but his love
for his affianced, whom he refuses to believe no longer cares for him.’
‘It’s a very literary method of reviving an old romance.’
‘We’re a literary people, as you may have noticed...Apparently, Sarem
used the method to transmit information during the occupation - sending
lines of verse to his numerous paramours to enable the data to pass
unrecognised as code by the resistance. They might have been able to
translate them, but they would have little understanding of the
underlying modal shifts. Bajoran is such a literal tongue... But I’m
afraid that, having enticed Massen to the station, I couldn’t resist the
temptation to show off a little. The dramatic denouement, you know.’
‘Well, we’ve all learned something from the past few days,’ I said.
My gaze met his, and what I saw in his eyes encouraged me. Clearly, and
in hopefully faultless Kardasi, I spoke the phrase which had taken me so
long to learn.
‘Elim Garak, I wish to inform you that you are high in my estimation,’
I told him, taking care in the pronunciation of the final word; the one
that, uttered incorrectly, can also mean “soup”. Never again will I
trust Cardassian language tapes. My friend made a most commendable
effort to keep his face straight, and by the expedient of biting his lip
hard enough to draw blood, he finally regained control over his
‘Thank you, doctor,’ he said, in his flawless Standard. ‘I’m very
fond of you, too.’
>Well, it seems to have happened again...I’ve no recollection of having
>written this- I awoke, and there it was on the screen before me - but
>the story seems to be based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Dancing
>Men’. And once more the study reeks of London fog and a quite
>disgusting brand of tobacco..
>If you want to relate this to anything else in the oeuvre - if that’s
>the right word - it can be seen as an accompaniment to an earlier story
>of mine (Agent Provocateur), which also equates Garak with the immortal
>Sherlock, and Bashir as another bewildered Doctor. Hope you like it...
>(There's no sex, by the way. Again. Though this seems to be undergoing
>its turn as a contentious issue - proving, yet again, that whatever you
>do, it'll cause a problem for someone. Personally, I don't feel that a
>read of this story is likely to send anyone's offspring screaming up the
>trouser legs/skirt of the nearest member of their own gender, but you
>never know, so I'm posting only on ASC to be on the safe side).
>Disclaimer: I fully acknowledge that Paramount has exclusive rights
>to the Star Trek universe, and that all characters are the uncontested
>property of Paramount television.
>The Enigma Variations
<snipped, for brevity. But you got to read this one!!>
I must say, my dear, that this story is particularly finely crafted.
Really, 'twas a most enjoyable experience. My thanks, once again, for
a delightful interlude.
Greywolf the Wanderer, wondering where I left my pipe *this* time.
--borrowing Zepp's account.
--header munged to foil spambots; remove the extra "p"