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Gul Re'jal September 24 2010 10:21 AM

Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
This tale starts from and partially describes events from Shaping a Cardassian – Chapter: “Cardassian” means “evil”, therefore contains a huge spoiler (and vice versa).

Warnings: There are going to be some adult/violence situations on the way (not very extreme, but still), so reader discretion is advised

Warnings: My English grammar is far from perfect, so reader's patience is appreciated (I try my best, honestly). Language purists: you have been warned ;)

Here we go:


Among the Dragons


Chapter 1 – Day 1


When they first asked for volunteers, it didn't occur to me to try, but the more I heard “who would be such an idiot to go there?” the more I wanted to go and see if they were as bad as the news went.

I remember the war, I'd fought against them too, but a war is a war, different rules apply. You must hate the enemy to be able to kill them. You believe they are monsters and have to be eliminated. They probably think the same about you and I never felt I was any kind of monster.

So I volunteered. They asked me if I was sure, I confirmed and I was granted the permission.

I was the only volunteer. They needed two, so they appointed another lucky officer, who had to join me. Well, she didn't feel that lucky. She was terrified.

“They will kill us both,” was the first thing she said to me. “After torturing and raping us, for sure.”

I didn't say anything. I knew they had a reputation, but you can't judge whole race based on behaviour showed by one group, can you? I wanted to see what was behind the reputation. I remembered there had been some scandal with one of their officials, something about his lost or dead son. I forgot the details, but I remembered one thing: they loved the family most of all and neglecting it was the worse thing one could do. So how could family loving people be monsters we were told they were? What's wrong with this picture?

So there I was, standing in front of an airlock and waiting to be let in. It rolled away – very much like on Deep Space Nine (of course, they built that station too!) - and I could make the first step on their land.

Cardassians.

The ridges. The necks. The uniforms. I have never seen a Cardassian up close before.

The heat. Almost like home...

I was inoculated. A doctor – was it a doctor? - told me there were many plagues on Cardassia Prime and it was for my own good. My colleague, Maeva Ullmann, was terrified. She probably expected them to poison her.

We were taken to some kind of office, where a nice – really, he was nice – Cardassian male told us about our assignment. Our assignment and commanding officer were confirmed. Back on Deep Space Nine I had tried to find some info about him, but I hadn't found much, not even a picture. I just managed to dig out that he was some kind of war hero here on Cardassia and he had fought against the Dominion. That was good enough for me. He was on our side in the end, right?

Cardassians are efficient people indeed. After the talk with the nice man, whose name rang a bell, but I didn't know who he was exactly, we were immediately transferred to our new ship. A warship, not a starship. I would have to get used to that.

We were beamed there. I was a little bit nervous, but once we materialised on our destination, all fears were forgotten, as I saw the strangest thing in my life.

Yes, that's true, I haven't seen many Cardassians up close until now, but this didn't even require 'up close' part. I have never seen something like this even from unclear, damaged photos and holopictures.

This man – I was sure he was a man – had long hair. He had it neatly swept down both sides of his head and tied into a braid on his back. I smiled to him; he had a nice, pleasant face. Hell, if I were a Cardassian woman I'd probably call him handsome. Hey, I could call him handsome, regardless of my race! So, he was handsome.

“I am Glinn Brenok, the Gul's aide,” the man introduced himself. He had a nice, smooth voice. Yes, his voice was handsome too. “Welcome aboard Cardassian Union Warship Roumar.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said and gave him the data rod we had received on Deep Space Nine. Colonel Kira had been kind enough to grant me permission to use it to store our data. I had thought it would be nice to bring something compatible with Cardassian technology, instead of dragging Federation padds, which would become useless after that. “These are our orders. My name is Lieutenant Amrita Kapoor and this is Lieutenant Maeva Ullmann.” Ullmann seemed to be frozen.

Glinn Brenok took the rod. “What are your specialities?”

“I am an engineer and Lieutenant Ullmann is a scientist,” I told him; I didn't expect Ullmann to be able to speak. However she managed to step off the transporter pad at least, and joined me in front of the Cardassian.

“Interesting. Here,” he gave us Cardassian padds. “These padds contain all necessary information you need for start.” I turned on mine and the first thing on the screen were protocols and regulations. Hundreds of pages. Great. “You can also find the full list of our regulations.” No kiddin'! “You have two days to study and memorise them and after those two days no deviation from regulations will be accepted.”

Perfect. Just perfect. I gathered all my courage and said:

“Uhm... sir?”

“What is it, Kapoor?”

“Only two days?”

“Is there a problem?”

“Well... We can read the regulations, but we will not have them learnt by heart in two days.”

“Why not?” he was really surprised.

“Our memory is not as perfect as yours,” I felt like an idiot. Teacher, I don't have my homework, my dog ate it. “We need a lot of time to memorize such a long document.”

“I see your problem,” he said thoughtfully. “Then you will have to do your best to familiarise yourselves with the rules as fast as possible. Now, if you follow me I will take you to the Gul.”

Yes, the Gul. I was very curious about him. What was he like? Was he very strict? Did he also wear long hair?

I glanced at Glinn Brenok and then noticed something else. The right side of his face was covered with scars. There were scales missing on those ridges, which were his ears extensions, and the skin seemed really damaged. There was also quite prominent scar on his right neck ridge, how could I miss it earlier?

Never mind the scars, he was still handsome.

And damn tall!

We entered a lift and he barked “bridge”, and we moved. Never touch the door, or your will cheese grate. That's a lesson I had learned on Deep Space Nine, the hard way. He led us to the bridge, which looked so much like on a Federation starship. There was an oval screen in the front wall, and one console on the left, like for a conn officer, and one on the right, like operations, and some consoles by walls. Interestingly, consoles were not in walls. There were screens filled with information in the walls, but then there was some space, in which was a chair with a Cardassian sitting on it, and then a console, so that all officers faced the middle of the bridge. Definitely better than our designs; they didn't have to crane and twist their necks one hundred eighty degrees, delivering their reports.

There was a lower area with the helm- and operations-like posts, the walls with consoles were two steps higher and in the middle there was a throne. Really. On a pedestal. There was some Cardassian sitting there, who nodded to Glinn Brenok when we left the lift. The Glinn nodded back - his nod was noticeably shallower - and headed for a door.

Oh my, it was like mini door from ops on Deep Space Nine, really. It was narrower, but beside that looked almost the same. Partially glass, so the Gul could still observe what was going on on the bridge. And of course stairs too.

The door opened and the three of us entered the ready room.

There was a Cardassian there, oh yes, but everything I imagined about Gul Jarol's look was shattered into tiny pieces.

Gul Jarol, the war hero and one of most respected Guls on Cardassia (according to the Federation database at least), was a... woman.

And she was scarier and more intimidating than Glinn Brenok. And she was tall too! Her spoon was very, very, very blue and her hair was braided into many thin tresses, which were then arranged into a bun, from which ends of those tresses stuck out. It looked awesome!

Cardassian or no Cardassian, she was damn beautiful too.

“Lieutenant Kapoor and Lieutenant Ullmann,” Glinn Brenok spoke.

I smiled when she looked at me. I hoped it wasn't obvious how nervous I was. She made me nervous. She was the scariest Cardassian I have met so far, not that I've met many.

“Welcome aboard,” she said. Her voice was low and a bit raspy. “I'm Gul Jarol, in command of CUW Roumar. You are here as exchange officers from the United Federation of Planets. You will be treated as any other officer of the Cardassian Guard with all rights and duties thereof. You will follow our protocol and will be punished for any breach of regulations according to our law. If you have any questions, direct them to Glinn Brenok. Cultural misunderstandings would be overlooked in the beginning, however I suggest you familiarise yourselves with our customs not to offend anyone, even unwittingly.” She silenced and kept looking at us for a moment. No, she was looking at Ullmann. “Are you all right? Why is water dripping off your face?” she came closer.

“I am ok,” Ullmann managed to speak, somehow.

Gul Jarol looked at me. I stole a glance at my colleague and then understood what grabbed the Gul's attention.

“It's the temperature, ma'am,” I explained. “We are not used to such heat.”

“I understand that, but why are you wet?”

“It's perspiration, ma'am. We expel excess of heat in our bodies this way.”

Some kind of growl came out of Gul's throat.

“There is a cooling unit waiting for you in your quarters,” she said eventually. “However you will have to adapt, as this is standard temperature aboard this warship.”

“Yes, ma'am! We will, ma'am,” I didn't expect them to change the temperature just for us. I can take it, I'll get used to it.

However Gul Jarol didn't seem satisfied with my answer.

“Why do you call me your mom?” she asked.

What? I... What?

“I beg your pardon?”

“I suspect this is the best our translator can do, but why would it choose such a strange word. What is the word you use to address me?”

“It is a standard word to address a female superior, ma... Sir?” I tried to guess.

“Oh,” was it amusement in her voice? Did Cardassians have sense of humour? “Well, there is not such a word in Cardassian, so 'sir', or 'Gul' will do instead. I don't want to be your mom.”

“Of course, Gul,” neither did I.

“Questions?” she looked at me and then at Ullmann. I shook my head and so did the other Lieutenant. “Dismissed.”

“Follow me,” Glinn Brenok said and we left the office.

We returned to the bridge. The Cardassian on the throne rose and looked at Glinn Brenok. The first officer nodded to him and the man went to Gul's ready room.

“This was Glinn Zamarran,” Glinn Brenok spoke directly to me. “He is your direct superior, as he is our chief engineer.”

“Understood,” I said, hoping I would recognise his face when I'd see him again. Not that all Cardassians looked the same, but so many in such short time – how to remember them all? It's not that their hair colour would give them away.

“We do not have science department,” he looked at Ullmann, “so you will also be assigned to the engineering department. They are responsible for gathering and analysing data.”

“Yes, sir,” she said. She spoke! She can do it! Yes!

“The first week you will be assigned to the bridge. No duties. Your task is to observe and learn. Then you will start real work.”

The Cardassian at the front console on the right kept glancing at us. I thought he was curious. He probably had never seen a human up close before.

Glinn Brenok sat on the throne.

“Your duty starts tomorrow morning, so now you have time to familiarise yourselves with the warship, the crew and our procedures. Gil Karama will take you to your quarters.”

The curious officer rose from his chair and turned to us.

“Sir,” I looked at Glinn Brenok. “If you don't mind I'd like to stay on the bridge and start familiarising myself at once.”

He glanced at me, I think he was surprised a bit. I hoped impressed too? Maybe? Please? Too?

“After you refresh yourself,” he said.

Ouch.

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir!”

Gil Karama – what kind of rank was Gil? - took us back to the lift.

“Welcome aboard,” he said, smiling. “I hope you'll enjoy your service here,” he added, looking curiously at Ullmann.

She stiffened under his gaze. She glanced at him and then quickly lowered her eyes and stared at the lift's floor.

“You're a scientist, right? Isn't that boring? Reading data only?” he asked.

Gul Re'jal September 24 2010 10:22 AM

Re: Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
She just shook her head.

“I'm an engineer,” I said.

“Now, I can understand that,” he smiled. “I'm a communications officer and recently also a pilot.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“Do Cardassians have given names?”

The lift stopped and the door opened, but he didn't leave at once.

“Of course we do, why do you ask?” he said eventually and moved to the corridor. A dark corridor. Hmm, actually, to think of it, it was dark everywhere.

“Because I have never heard anyone introducing themselves using their given names.”

Gil Karama smiled.

“Well, our given names are very personal. Not just anyone can use them. Only special, very close people can address you using your given name. Your family. Closest friends.”

“What if someone not close enough would do it?”

“It would be offensive. So don't try.”

“Good to know. Is it also offensive to ask for a given name?”

“I don't know. We never do it. So don't try that either. Here we are,” he stopped in front of some door. “You better remember where you live,” he said, and then tapped the comm padd on the wall. The door opened.

“Oww, it's cold inside,” he shivered.

Someone was kind enough to lower the temperature for us. Wow, great ship!

“You will share quarters.”

“That's ok. Thank you, Gil,” I said. Ullmann quickly stepped inside and disappeared in the darkness of the room. “By the way, which level is the rank of Gil?” I asked. I could check it in the database, but... well, I wanted to ask.

“It's just below Glinn and above Glen. Hmm... I need a promotion,” he scratched his chin.

I smiled. He was cute. This was sense of humour. No doubt.

And I had no idea what was Glen, but it didn't matter. The database was all mine.

The door closed and we activated the lights.

“Computer, raise illumination level,” Ullmann said. Yeah, it was dark here too. “More. More.”

“Well, what do you say? Here's our new home,” I looked around.

It wasn't a big room, but it would be fine. I didn't plan to spend here much of my time anyway. The bridge was much more interesting.

“Did you notice how he was looking at me?” Ullmann asked.

“No.”

“He was. I hate it here. And that Gul. Wasn't she scary?”

“Yep, she was,” I had to agree here. “The only time I was so nervous was when I'd met my first Captain, right after the Academy.”

“She didn't like us.”

“Nah. She cared about your sweating. I think she worried you were sick. If she worries, she can't be that bad.”

“I hate it here,” she repeated.

“Yeah, I know, you've already told me. You want the lower bunk or the higher one?” I asked.

“Higher,” she said quickly.

“Oki doki,” I threw my bags, which had been delivered to our quarters earlier, on my bunk and went to check the bathroom.

It was tiny. There was a mirror there, and a small cupboard, in which I found lots of tools, half of them of unknown purposes. I knew what the toothbrush was for, but there was also some menacingly looking brush with long spikes, and some thin brushes, but too thin to be for teeth. I decided not to touch anything before knowing what all those mysterious objects were for. Luckily I was clever enough to bring my toiletries with me. There was also a shower – booth? - in the bathroom. By the door there were two round screens, one of them with controls. Great. What were they? Temperature setting? There was some Cardassian writing next to them, but I didn't read Cardassian. Darn, I should have taken a Federation tricorder with me.

“Computer, what are these?” I asked, hoping against hope.

“Restate question,” boomed a raspy, male voice, startling me.

Oh my, I expected their computer to speak like the one on Deep Space Nine! What was that monstrosity?!

“Computer, there are two objects on the wall next to the... the... shower booth. What is the left one for?”

“Temperature setting.”

Ha! I was right!

“Scary voice, isn't it?” Ullmann's head appeared in the door.

“Yeah, he scared me too. Computer, what is the one on the right side?”

“Timer.”

“A timer? What kind of timer?”

The computer wasn't polite enough to answer.

“What are all these things?” Ullmann glanced into the cupboard.

“I have no idea. We'll have to ask someone.”

“Like who?”

“Maybe that Gil Karama?”

“No! No! Not him!”

“All right. Don't get so excited.”

“Not. Him.”

“I said all right.”

What was her problem?

“You wanna try to take the shower first?” she asked.

“Yep. I want to go back to the bridge.”

“You're joking! And you'll leave me alone here?”

Ah? Leave her alone?

“Lock the door.”

“I don't know how.”

I went to my bags and retrieved everything I needed. Then I returned to the bathroom and shut the door.

Soon I learned what the timer was for. It counted time and turned the water off after ten minutes passed. And it refused to resume. There was no sense in arguing with a computer – or a shower – so I left, dried myself and put a fresh uniform on.

There was a replicator in our quarters too. And another small screen to it. Another timer?

“Computer,” I looked at the replicator. “Raktajino.”

The machine hummed and a mug of raktajino materialised. I observed the little screen to see if something would happen and it did. Some characters appeared there. What they meant – beats me. Maybe it was some kind of visual confirmation that my request was processed.

I quickly drank my coffee and returned to the corridor, in spite of Ullmann's protests. I didn't come here to sit in a small room. I wanted Cardassianness! Now, where was that lift? We came from there, right?

I managed to arrive to the bridge without starting any interstellar incidents. The door opened and there I was: the almighty Cardassian bridge with Cardassians inside and Cardassian consoles filled with Cardassian funny letters too.

Glinn Brenok was sitting in the throne. I nodded to him. He didn't nod back, but said “Zamarran” and the chief engineer looked up at him and then at me. He raised his hand and waved his fingers, indicating I should approach. So I did. There was a chair next to his.

“Sit,” he said.

So I sat. The design was much more efficient than on Federation starships. I had full view on the bridge and on the console in front of me. If I needed anything more, I could turn back to face the monitors and additional consoles. Mr. Zamarran handed me a padd.

“Here,” he said. “I programmed it to translate any Cardassian text you come by,” he explained.

“Thank you,” I really appreciated his thoughtfulness.

After short time I had spent on Deep Space Nine I was familiar with Cardassian technology, but not with their language, as everything on the station was in Federation Standard. This little tool would make my life much easier.

I glanced at the door to the ready room, but from my angle I couldn't see if the Gul was inside or not.

I raised my translation padd, turned and hovered it over one of monitors behind me. Its sensor scanned the text I pointed it at, and a translation appeared on the screen. I could read a fascinating report on vertical engine coils flow – it was within established parameters. That's good to know.

I stole a glance at my boss. Would it be rude to stare at him and study his profile? Or was he too busy to notice? He clearly didn't pay any attention to me, so I turned my head to face the middle of the bridge, but observed him from the corner of my eyes.

And I realised there was no way he could see me staring. I couldn't see his eyes and that meant he couldn't see my face. His eye ridges blocked everything.

Those ridges. From distance they look like little marbles in a row, but from up close you could really see scales. What I didn't realise was that Cardassian skin was all covered with scales. Big ones were clear, but then they were getting smaller, and smaller and so small that you couldn't actually see them, but I doubted they were replaced by skin like ours. I was completely sure they were just tiny, little scales all over there.

The ridge on his nose made his nose look more prominent, especially from the profile. Below his nose the ridge disappeared just above his upper lip, but not before splitting to three parts. Tiny scaled surrounded his nostrils, from far it looked like a thick line, but those were scales on small ridges. The ridges coming out as extensions of his ears were also covered with scales. The lower one almost receded on sides of his chins to reappear in the middle and raise toward his mouth.

I was very curious about the spoon, but wouldn't be able to look at it – especially inside it – without dragging his attention, so that had to be skipped today.

Another super cool thing was the neck ridge. I glanced at Glinn Brenok. His ridge was covered by three rows of big scales, Zamarran had only two. I felt strong temptation to touch them. Where they cold? Warm? Hot? Where they rough like a fish, or smooth, like a snake? Did they have any nerve receptors there? Would they feel a slight touch, like a feather? Those scales looked damn thick to me! How far did those scales go? Did they disappear on his shoulder? Or went down to the elbow?

I looked at his hands. Yeah, there were scales there too, just that small to tiny type.

Just like a model presenting his physiology, he turned away from me to check something on the console wall and I had a perfect view on the nape of his neck. Guess what? More scales. They covered whole back of his neck between the ridges. Did they go down... down there? Was all his back looking like snake's skin?

His hair was shiny, totally black and shiny. All of them had shiny hair? Did they use something or was it a natural feature? They were men, so probably it was natural. Did the Gul wear make up? I couldn't recall. Her hairdo was impressive though. Not as weird with all those additional ornaments I've seen on holopictures of Cardassian females, but it still was more than an average human woman on duty would care for.

Why were alpha shift officers on the bridge at this hour?

I returned my attention to Zamarran and his face. It was a fascinating study. I wondered how old he was? How long do the Cardassians live? I knew that most likely longer than us, but didn't know how much longer?

His uniform was squeaking quietly as he moved around and I wondered if it was very uncomfortable to wear this. He leaned toward me to reach something and I stole a glance at his chest. He wore something under this hard part of the uniform and... yes, there were scales there too. And ridges too. And I think I caught a top of another spoon. How many spoons does a Cardassian have? And where? Do I want to know it? And how...?

No, don't go there. You don't need to know everything! You naughty girl!

He blew air through his nose and at first I thought he realised I was looking down his “cleavage” and his scales, and his ridges, and his everything, but it wasn't me. Something on his console caused this. I wanted to know what it was, but I didn't think he would welcome my translation padd, my TP, hovering over his readings. His grey hands tapped and tapped and then something appeared on the monitor and he started reading. It seemed like he relaxed a bit. I looked at Brenok, who noticed nothing. And Zamarran reported nothing.

I wondered how did Brenok get his scars? Was it a battle? With the Federation? Or the Jem'Hadar? Or he cheese grated in a lift?

“Sir, can I ask you a question?”

“Yes,” his reply was short.

“Why is there a timer in the bathroom?”

Gul Re'jal September 24 2010 10:23 AM

Re: Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
He froze. Literally. He stopped moving, with his hand awkwardly levitating above the console. Then slowly, veeeeryyyyy slowly his head turned to face me. His eyes were dark brown and huge with surprise.

“Excuse me?” he said quite loudly.

“Is there a problem?” Brenok turned toward us.

What did I do?!

“No, sir, no problem,” Zamarran answered Brenok, but did not answer me. He just returned to his work.

“Sorry,” I whispered, although I had no idea what I had done.

I noticed Karama was looking at us. He smiled to me and then turned back to his console. He knew what I did, didn't he? I would have to ask him later.

“I am finished,” Zamarran suddenly said. “You can stay and watch, but nothing special is going to happen,” he added.

He got up and moved out from behind the console. Some other Cardassian replaced him, giving me curious glances. Karama got up too and came to us?

“Supper?” Zamarran asked him.

“I think our guest has some questions,” Karama looked at me and winked.

“Suit yourself,” the engineer muttered, said something to Brenok, who was busy with a padd, and left the bridge.

“Supper?” Karama looked at me.

I nodded.

“Sir,” Karama addressed Brenok, “Gil Karama and Lieutenant Kapoor report end of their duty.”

“Dismissed,” the Glinn didn't look up from the padd.

Karama waved to me and we headed for the lift.

The mess hall was dark – surprise, surprise. And almost empty.

“What do you want?” the Gil asked me.

“I don't know. I'd like to try something Cardassian, but it should be something light.”

“All right. Sit down.”

I sat at one of free tables and he went to a replicator. A moment later he returned with two plates, on which was something resembling pancakes.

“They are not as good as my mom's, but they're ok,” he said, putting my plate in front of me.

I sniffed. Smelled good. I took a fork I was handed and tried a piece. It was quite good. A little bitter and spicy at the same time.

“So what did you do?” Karama asked.

“When I angered Mr. Zamarran?” he nodded, chewing. “I asked him why there was a timer in my bathroom. It stopped the water flow.”

He almost spurted the food out. He managed to swallow and then started to laugh.

“Sorry,” he said finally, calming down a bit. “First of all, don't worry, you didn't anger him. He was just shocked and surprised, because what you did was very inappropriate.”

“Why? I only asked a question?”

“You asked a private question not only a man much older than you, but also a man, who is your superior. You cannot do that. It's very rude.”

“Oh, I didn't know. But if it's rude than why do you say I didn't anger him?”

“Two days before our arrival Glinn Brenok had given us a speech. He had said we should remember not to take offence of silly things you might do and also to apologise if we do silly things and offend you. You didn't mean offence and I'm sure Zamarran realised that, so don't let it bother you.

“We, Cardassians, follow some strict society rules. One of most important ones is that you don't treat as equals those, who are older than you and who have higher ranks. And I don't mean only military ranks. Any ranks. The hierarchy must be respected. This brings order and everyone knows their place.”

“Are there no exceptions?”

“Of course there are, but they are rare. I'll give you an example. Glinn Brenok is our second in command. He is also one of youngest officers on board. No one minds his age, because his experience is so vast it exceeds his age. I think he is the youngest Gul's aide in whole military. But it doesn't change the fact that he is respected, in spite of his youth.”

“Is he younger than you too?”

“Yes, he's three years younger.”

“Do you mind it?”

“No. I only wish I had so much experience.”

“How about you and me?

“You rank is lower, and you are younger... I think... How old are you?”

“I'm twenty-eight and it's rude to ask a girl about her age in my culture.”

“Why?”

“Because we like to be forever young.”

“Why?” his was astonished.

“Because... I don't know why. Because young is beautiful?”

“But old is wise. Isn't it more important to be wise than beautiful?”

“It is. Continue, please.”

“Ah yes. So your rank is one step lower and you're a bit younger, but we still are pretty much on the same level, so there is nothing wrong with our off duty contact, especially since it was initiated by me – the older one.”

“I see. So can I ask you a private question?”

“Even if it wouldn't be appropriate, I suppose you have to ask someone to learn. So go ahead.”

“Why did water stop after ten minutes?”

“We must ration water. We don't have that much of it and since the end of the war we don't have much of anything. We ration our resources. You can use ten minutes of water each morning and each evening.”

“I understand.”

So that's how life on a planet poor in resources looked like. You learn to ration everything so there is a little bit for everyone.

Karama had one row of scales on his neck ridge. He noticed I was looking at his shoulder and stopped eating.

“I think your neck ridges are soooo coooool,” I said before thinking. What if I said something stupid?

“Really?” he cheered up.

“Really. They are so different from our necks. They look great. And I noticed that every Cardassian's ridges are a little bit different.”

“Oh,” he sounded disappointed and his smile faded. “Well, yes, everyone has their own pattern.”

“Tell me, does different number of rows of scales mean something? Why not everyone has the same number, like two, or three.”

“For the same reason not all have brown eyes. Genetics.”

“Why do you have only one row? Is there a reason?”

“No. It just is like this. We shed our scales from time to time and new ones grow and sometimes number of rows changes, so I hope when I'm older I'm going to grow a second row.”

“Does it matter?”

He smiled sheepishly. “Our neck ridges... We find them attractive, as in – sexually attractive. The more rows, the sexier it is.”

Oh. He had thought I liked his neck ridges, not neck ridges in general. That's why he cheered up and then his spirits drooped.

“And it's the same for women? I mean – do you, men, look at their ridges too?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, now it's going to be really weird question. You can refuse to answer, if it's too uncomfortable, ok?”

He nodded.

“Do you think your Gul is pretty.”

“She is,” he said at once; he didn't need even a second to think about his answer. “It's not only her physical appearance, but also the power and dignity that are part of her.”

“Does she have a husband?”

“She's a widow.”

“Oh,” that was sad.

“Do you have a wife?”

He shook his head. “Career went first and...” he didn't finish. It surely wasn't a matter of one row of scales on his ridges, was it?

Was he handsome? He had a pleasant face, and a bright smile, and he was really nice and friendly.

“Do you have friends aboard?” I asked.

“Zamarran is my best friend.”

“Really? In spite of age difference?”

“Sometimes age doesn't matter. I am here longer than he is, that also made a difference.”

“Are you close enough to call yourselves using your given names?”

“No.”

“Do you know his given name?”

“Yes.”

I so wanted to know Karama's name, but I didn't dare to ask. I would probably cross some line one time too many. Would it be in their database? Speaking of databases.

“I have another question.”

“Go ahead,” I think he was amused with me.

“What about my access to the database? Is it restricted? If I try to access some file, would it just inform me of restriction, or I'd set up some alarm and be in deep shit?”

“In deep what?” his eyes opened wider.

“In trouble. It's just a figure of speech.”

“Oh, good then. I thought you, people of Federation, think we punish people putting them into faeces.”

“No, no!” I laughed.

“Answering your question: you would be informed of the restriction and your attempt of access would be logged and later investigated.”

“Investigated?” that was scary.

“That's a standard procedure. To make sure the access wasn't intended in harmful way. In general we know our clearance levels and don't attempt to access information that is not for us. However in your situation, before you learn what is what, you could trigger some alarms. As long as it's nothing sensitive, you shouldn't worry about it. Dja Ma'Kan would make sure you meant no harm and leave you alone, maybe with a warning of not doing it again.”

“Clear guidelines would be helpful,” I muttered.

“Don't you have them on your 'welcome padd'?” he asked.

I've completely forgotten about that.

“You're right, maybe there is something there. I just didn't have time to get through all the information on the padd.”

“I suggest you do it.”

“I will.”

And I would, but somehow I was sure I would be investigated on more than one occasion.

“Well, I think it's time to call it a day,” he smiled.

I agreed. It was a long and exciting day, but there was another waiting for me just after this night and I didn't want to yawn on the bridge.

I returned to my quarters to find Ullmann sleeping already. After an express shower I joined her just a second after putting my head on my pillow.


tbc

Nerys Ghemor September 24 2010 02:08 PM

Re: Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
Well, this is a whole other side of Gil Karama than the "incident"! No wonder Kapoor was willing to stick up for him!

I definitely like the outside perspective on Jarol, too. I have to imagine she would scare me as well if I were in their situation. What's also interesting is that even Brenok seems different here. We see that he's nice, but then when they come onto the bridge, they seem to see him as intimidating.

I can't wait to see more!

Gul Re'jal September 24 2010 02:31 PM

Re: Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
Well, view from lower decks is certainly different than from the Gul's office ;)

There's going to be more on Karama and the "incident", and more about Zamarran.

Thanks for reading :)

TerokNor September 24 2010 05:15 PM

Re: Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
I have to say I like Karama. He is curious and open and his reaction of her saying he likes the neck ridges made me giggle.
Also Zamarrans reaction to her question ...*L* and her study of him was very..interessting. *g*
The detail with the timer, because of the ressource poor planet I find a great idea.

TerokNor

Gul Re'jal September 24 2010 06:05 PM

Re: Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
Zamarran tries his best ;) He is a traditional man and strongly believes in following traditions, but he will manage to handle her :lol:

Poor Karama has complexes because of one row of scales on his neck ridges. That makes him shy toward ladies, but since Kapoor's not a Cardassian and therefore not a candidate for a love interest, he isn't nervous talking to her and he is relaxed.

Nerys Ghemor September 24 2010 07:12 PM

Re: Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
For Karama, I'd say it's far more in social skills than in a trait like that. If he works on how he approaches them, he might find it easier to find a woman. ;)

Oh, and one interesting thing about the shower! It's funny how that was handled so differently on my Cardassia. For them, replicator energy is apparently a greater concern, and takes more power than having running water and recycling said water. Same concern, different result. ;)

TerokNor September 24 2010 08:06 PM

Re: Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
Oh but it seems the replicator is restricted too isn´t it? Because she saw something similiar on the replicator, so that might mean everyone can have some things in their quarters they can replicate, but only a certain amount. For bigger meals there is the mess-hall. Could imagine also in the mess hall would be some sort of code so that it gets controlled how much energy everyone uses and only a certain amount of energy everyone can use up per day is permitted.
How did you solve it with your replicators NG?

TerokNor

Gul Re'jal September 24 2010 11:39 PM

Re: Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
Very good, TN :D

The mysterious thingy next to the replication isn't just an ornament ;)

Karama is afraid to talk to women, which he finds attractive, because he assumes they would find him "ugly" because if this ridges. Silly, yeah, but when someone thinks too much about some "imperfection" they think everyone sees it and it starts controlling their behaviour.

Nerys Ghemor September 25 2010 02:05 AM

Re: Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
I hope, then, that he will be able to learn that his behavior was at fault and not some trait he was handed, when it comes to what he did to Ullman. It seems that a lot of people who fixate on such flaws are the kind of people who think everybody else is to blame but themselves, and can then become resentful.

The quality of Karama's character will be demonstrated in whether he can accept the consequences of his behavior and take responsibility for it, or whether he decides to resent Ullman for reporting what he did, and blames HER for losing his chances at a promotion. Taking responsibility, of course, is what I hope for, and will be the mark of a man capable of growing eventually into greater responsibility, after some time to reflect on what he did.

About the replicators--I think only the higher ranking officers have them in their quarters. Everyone else has to use communal replicators.

Gul Re'jal September 25 2010 06:26 AM

Re: Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
Whole Ullmann affair will be explained in details, so you'll have a chance to see what exactly happened, and consequences... for everyone.

Nerys Ghemor September 25 2010 06:35 AM

Re: Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
Can't wait to see it!

Gul Re'jal September 28 2010 07:12 AM

Re: Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
Chapter 2 – Day 2



The next morning, on our way to the bridge to start our 'observing duty', Gil Karama joined us in the lift.

“I like your hair,” Karama said to Ullmann once we had exchanged polite 'good mornings'.

She made a step back and looked at him.

“I've never seen hair like this,” he added.

She didn't say anything, only kept staring at him, so he ignored her and looked at me.

“How was your first night?” he asked.

“I slept like a baby,” I said.

He opened his mouth to say something, but the door also opened and we left the lift.

I went to the same chair I had been sitting on the previous evening, and Ullmann was directed to another console, where some Cardassian was busy with something. Mr. Zamarran did not arrive yet, but I was sure he would soon. We didn't come very early and I couldn't imagine Mr. Zamarran being late. Cardassians were famous for their punctuality.

Indeed, it was only a moment later when he entered the bridge, together with Glinn Brenok.

“Sir,” I nodded to the engineer and he greeted me back.

And finally the Gul arrived in all her glory. Everyone on the bridge became smaller and she became bigger. She demanded reports and each officer delivered his in a crisp voice. The famous Cardassian efficiency.

And then something amazing happened. Our Gul was hailed by another and I could see how she became smaller and the Cardassian on the screen was the biggest ever. She spoke to him the same way Brenok spoke to her, and Zamarran spoke to Brenok. This was fascinating.

They talked about some 'annexed' world, and it wasn't difficult to guess that it really meant 'occupied'. I glanced at Ullmann and she sent me a horrified look. Yeah, it wasn't nice. I knew what they had done to Bajor and wasn't sure if I wanted to see what they've been doing to this world.

The Cardassian on the screen signed off and Gul Jarol demanded information on this occupied planet. Glinn Brenok read some info from his console monitor. His report was so dry, so formal, but I knew it really described atrocities. They've been on that planet for over one hundred years! They ruined it completely and there was nothing left. Poor inhabitants. Bajorans managed to regain their freedom before their planet was completely destroyed.

I tried to concentrate on something else and not to think about it.

There was a hierarchy here. Relations between individual Cardassians were ruled by a kind of strict code of who stands where and how should be addressed. I still didn't understand it fully, but it was a mix of a rank, age, connections and who knows what else.

The rank bit was obvious. A Glinn was ordering Glens and Djas around. An older Cardassian was ordering a younger one around. It got interesting when you observed a younger one with higher rank and an older one with lower rank. Like Glinn Brenok and Glinn Zamarran. Their respect was clearly mutual, but I noticed that Zamarran was “smaller”, more respectful when dealing with Brenok professionally, and “bigger”, with authority – when their contact was less professional and more private. And there was some 'private' contact – when they talked about engineering matters. I wondered if it bothered Zamarran that Brenok outranked him. If it did, he hid it well.

I also noticed that connections played an important role. Karama was a Gil, and there were more of those on the bridge. But somehow Karama seemed to be respected more, or shown more respect, even by other Gils. His contact with Zamarran was less stiff, less official than with others and I had an impression that this relation influenced his social rank among other bridge officers, who were not in such a good stance with the chief engineer.

The more I thought about it, the more I was sure I didn't see a lot of things. I never wondered how our own society dealt with respect and positions; you don't think about it, it's the way you were raised and how it works. Cardassians, however, seemed to place a lot of importance in this aspect of their lives and it was easy, too easy, to make a serious mistake; just as I had done last night.

Efficiency was another word that rang in my mind. I would be the last person to say that Federation ships were loose and undisciplined, but here? Everyone knew their place. They were efficient and the way they worked was really impressive. I thought that their super-memory helped them in that. They just had to read some information and then didn't have to check and re-check it again to prepare their final reports. Their minds were more like computers, more like Vulcans' minds.

Zamarran glanced at me. It was just a few seconds, but it looked like he wanted to say something. Then his face turned back to the console.

“You're busy?” he asked, not raising his head.

I wasn't completely sure the question was directed to me, but I answered: “I'm observing.”

Lines on his cheeks deepened for a moment – I think he grinned.

“Take the padd,” he handed me one of padds he was working with.

I took it, retrieving my TP. Lines on his cheeks deepened again.

“Now,” he started, glancing at me and... Yes! He was smiling! “Compare it with the data from your monitor.” He tapped something in front me and a string of data appeared on the screen.

Would it be wrong if I asked him what it was? Or it was not expected of me? Or maybe I should know already.

I hovered my TP over the monitor and my question was answered. Those were some tests results, engine test results.

Well, if he expected me to do it manually, then he would be disappointed. I didn't intend to stare at those codes line by line. I downloaded the padd's content to my console's memory and told the system to compare files. They were different. All right, now I had to find where they were different. I entered required algorithms and started working.

It felt good to do something, instead of just staring at busy people.

“Sir, can I ask a question?” I took a risk.

“Uhm,” he muttered.

“It's about functions and officers' duties,” I clarified, so that he wouldn't have to worry I'd ask about his underwear.

“Go ahead,” he replied.

“There is a difference between Cardassian positions and Federation positions. For instance, you have no science department. Why?”

“We do not fly from one system to another to explore,” he said. “If we encounter an interesting phenomenon, we gather all possible data and send it to Cardassia, so it can be studied by qualified scientists.”

“Wouldn't keeping a few of those scientists aboard speed things up?”

“This is a warship, not a laboratory,” he said. “We'd rather have torpedo launchers, then vials with chemicals aboard.”

“How about a communication officer? On a Federation ship this task belongs to operations or tactical. It used to be a separate position, but it isn't any more. Hailing occasional aliens or friends can be part of duties, but not the sole one. So what does Mr. Karama do all day, if there is no one to talk to?”

And Karama was busy, that was obvious.

“He is...” Zamarran searched for a proper word, “he is listening.”

“To what?”

“To everything,” he shrugged and the lines got deeper again. I started to like him.

“Everything, as what?”

“Whatever is out there. Spacial noise, phenomena signals, other warships...” he finished in a conspirational tone. I definitely was starting to like him.

“You mean...” I lowered my voice and whispered, “he eavesdrops?”

Zamarran only nodded.

“But aren't most communications coded and scrambled?”

“And you think what keeps him so busy?”

“He breaks the encryptions...” I whispered.

He glanced at me. His smile was so wide that it was showing his teeth.

“Don't you tell me some secrets now?” I asked him and then thought that it probably was too direct and I shouldn't have asked him such a question in such a manner. You don't joke with an older, outranking you Cardassian, do you?

You don't. He stared at me for a moment, as if wondering if to get angry or not, and then replied. “It's not a secret here. Everyone, who graduates the Academy knows about it. If you are to serve here and do your job well, you have to know how we function.”

“Is Mr. Karama good at this? I mean, at decoding business.”

“He's one of the best. I'm pretty sure the Obsidian Order would recruit him, if they still existed,” he returned to his work.

“That's good for him, but bad for others,” oh, no! I joked again!

He looked at me and stared again. It must have been outrageously rude.

“Sorry,” I muttered.

He kept staring. And staring. And lines on his cheeks got deeper. And he bit his lower lip. And... and then he burst into laughter.

Everyone on the bridge looked at us with astonishment. Zamarran waved his hand, indicating that nothing happened, but he couldn't stop laughing. I must have had the most stupid face expression ever. Some other faces smiled too and returned to their duties. Glinn Brenok observed us for a moment and then returned to his work too.

The chief engineer managed to calm down finally.

“I hope I didn't do anything very offensive,” I whispered.

“No, no,” he shook his head. “It's just... you reminded me of my daughter.”

“Oh?”

“When she was... four,” he added, smiling and deepening the lines in his cheeks. Now I was certain I liked him and I liked those lines too. “She didn't know how to behave too.”

“Ah?” I giggled.

I noticed Glinn Brenok looked at us and I tried to shut up. His eyes returned to his console, but there was a smile on his lips too.

Ok, so I've become the ship's idiot, right? As clever as Zamarran's daughter, when she was four years old.

Oh, how much I wanted to ask about his family. However I was pretty sure it would be inappropriate.

I concentrated on my task. I wouldn't say anything stupid if I would stop talking, that was sure.

Karama approached us with a padd in his hand.

“Zamarran, could you run it through our database?” he asked, handing the padd to the engineer. “There is something familiar in it, but I can't put my finger on it.”

“Of course,” Zamarran put the padd on his console and downloaded the data.

Karama looked at me and smiled. I smiled back.

“Do you want me to check something specifically?” Zamarran asked him.

“Er, no. I'd rather have the computer confirm my suspicions and maybe answer my questions.”

“It's going to take some time.”

“That's all right. No rush. Are you going to let her have a meal break?” he asked, nodding at me.

“You hungry?” Zamarran asked me.

“A bit,” among all those new experiences around me I completely forgot about food.

“Go.”

“We don't wait till the end of our duty?” I asked.

“Our duty is quite long, Kapoor,” Karama explained. “We are short-handed, so we need to fill double posts and work long hours.”

“Oh. Until the evening?”

“That's right. Each day shift and each night shift is divided to alpha and beta shifts.”

“Then I'd better grab something. Sir?” I looked at Zamarran.

“Go,” he nodded. “Take your colleague,” he added a second later.

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” I went to Ullmann. “Let's go and eat something.”

“Good idea, I'm starving,” she replied.

There was some rule, or a tradition, I wasn't sure, but I knew it had to be done.

“Sir,” I stood next to the throne and looked at Glinn Brenok. He raised his head to look at me. “Lieutenant Kapoor and Lieutenant Ullmann report end of their alpha day shift.” I hoped I did it right.

“Noted,” he said and we both headed for the lift.

We had to wait for it, so I heard Karama reporting end of his duty to Brenok. He used exactly the same sentence as last evening. Hmm, maybe it was just this particular phrase that had to be used and I unnecessarily made it so precise and complicated.

Karama joined us and all three of us entered the lift when it finally arrived.

“Did I make a fool of myself?” I asked. “By my reporting of leaving the bridge? Was to too... innovative?”

“It was... unusual, but don't worry about it. You at least tried to follow the protocol.”

“Is it a serious offence to leave the bridge without being officially dismissed?”

“Yes, it is quite serious. Even if it's obvious you leave, the officer in charge must be notified.”

“I see.”

“How is your day so far?” he asked Ullmann.

“It is fine,” she replied quietly.

“So what have you been doing?” he moved closer to her to take a look at a padd she kept in her hands.

“Stay away from me?!” her reaction was violent. I stared at her astonished.

And so did he. He was looking at her, not sure what to do and then asked calmly. “What is your problem?”

“You, you are my problem! Don't you dare to touch me!”

His face expressed total surprise, but then it suddenly changed. At first I thought he was angry, or irritated by her attitude and I thought he felt offended by her rude behaviour, but a moment later he smiled. He squinted his eyes and put his hands on his hips.

“But I would so looooove to touch you,” he said in a deep voice.

She gasped and I thought she'd hit him, but the door opened and he left to the corridor. He winked to me on his way out – I liked when he did that.

We entered the mess hall and it was full.

“You two sit here,” he pointed to a table, at which two seats were free.

“How about you?” I asked him.

“I'll find something, don't worry,” he smiled to me and left, looking around.

“Uffff, I was afraid he was going to join us,” Ullmann whisper to my ear to make sure other Cardassians at the table didn't hear her.

“Why afraid? He's nice.”

“No, he's not. He scares me, he doesn't take “no” for an answer and I fear he won't stop on threats.”

“Threats? What threats?” was there something I didn't know about?

“Didn't you hear what he said in the lift?”

“Oh, come on! He was joking.”

“I don't think so. It's not the first time he said something like this.”

“Really?”

“Don't you remember? You were there too! He talked about my hair.”

“Oh, I think I remember. But he only said he liked it.”

“Yes, but it's how he said it.”

“How?”
“Oh, you must be deaf, really,” she got irritated.

We ate our food in silence. I could see she was upset, but I thought she exaggerated. We were barely in the middle of our meals, when Karama appeared again.

“You finished?” I asked him, not seeing any dish in his hands, therefore assuming he didn't come to join us at the table.

“Yes. I have lots of work today. I just wanted to say 'see you on the bridge',” he smiled to me. Then he leaned very close over Ullmann and said quietly in a growling, lewd voice, “I look forward to see you again later.” Then he made a move like he smelled her hair and left, followed by laughter of a few crewmen, who witnessed the scene.

Ullmann curled on her chair and became visibly smaller. She had tears in her eyes.

“Ullmann, he is not serious,” I told her. “Don't let it bother you.”

“It's easy for you to say. He doesn't say those things to you.”

“To be honest – you started. Even when he was just neutrally nice you assumed he wanted to rape you then and there. He just started to play your game.”

“Why do you defend him?” she shouted.

“Because he is not what you think he is. He is really nice.”

“He's a rapist!” she said way too loudly.

A few heads turned toward us.

“This is Cardassia, not Romulus. People are not guilty until arrested, and so far I didn't see him raping anyone, you included,” I was getting annoyed.

“Oh, so you'd rather wait for him to do it?”

“Don't twist my words,” I said and pushed my plate away. I lost appetite. “I go back to the bridge before Zamarran sends troops for me.”

“Fine,” she muttered.

She didn't speak to me for the remainder of the day.

Nerys Ghemor September 28 2010 02:18 PM

Re: Star Trek: Shaping a Cardassian - Among the Dragons
 
Hmm...I don't know how I would have reacted if I were in Kapoor's position. Obviously it would have been clear to me that Karama was reacting to being insulted, not that he really intended to do anything--that said, it was very nasty. And it was not helping that other crew members were laughing...I mean, that could easily give the impression, correct or not, that they would condone the behavior whether or not it was a joke. That said, what she just yelled out in the mess hall is probably going to make it VERY clear what the real situation was, and turn the Cardassian crew against her.

Watching Kapoor learn how to behave in Cardassian society is really fascinating! Your description of the body language as various people come onto the bridge was fascinating. I wonder, though...do you believe some of it is natural Cardassian instincts as well as culture? If that's the case, do you think she'll be able to compensate for not having those instincts? I'm glad, at least, to see that Zamarran recognizes that she's trying, even if the results are funny sometimes. (Think maybe some paternal instinct will kick in and he'll feel like he can play a part in her "upbringing"? ;) )


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