Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
I decided to repost my story. I have edited it and hopefully removed the most outrageous grammar and technical errors. I have also implemented some changes related to the world-building and Cardassian language.
I will post each chapter at intervals not to overwhelm people with the volume ;)
I hope you'll enjoy the improved story :)
Three years after the Dominion War, a Federation exchange officer is sent to a Cardassian warship to share knowledge and experience. She finds there much more than she had ever expected.
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
When they had first asked for volunteers, it hadn’t occurred 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 remembered the war, I’d fought against them too, but a war was a war—different rules apply. You must hate the enemy to be able to kill them. You believed they were monsters and have to be eliminated. They probably thought the same about you and I never felt I was any kind of monster.
So I’d volunteered. They’d asked me if I was sure, I confirmed and I was granted the permission.
I was the only volunteer. They needed two, so they had appointed another lucky officer, who had to join me. Well, she hadn’t felt that lucky. She had been terrified.
“They will kill us both,” had been the first thing she’d said to me. “After torturing and raping us, for sure.”
I hadn’t said anything. I knew they had a bad reputation, but you can’t judge a 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’d forgotten 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 was wrong with this picture?
So here 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’d built that station too!)—and I could make the first step on their land.
The ridges. The necks. The uniforms. I had 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’d 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?
The 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 aboard our destination, all fears were forgotten, as I saw the strangest thing in my life.
Yes, that was true, I hadn’t seen many Cardassians up close until now, but this didn’t even require ‘up close’ part. I had never seen something like that 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 on both sides of his head and tied into a braid on his back. I smiled at 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 a 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. Mr. 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 a prominent scar on his right neck ridge; how could I have missed it earlier?
Never mind the scars—he was still handsome.
And damn tall!
We entered a lift, he barked “Bridge,” and we moved. Never touch the door, or your will cheese grate. That was the 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; 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 the throne. Really. On a pedestal. There was some Cardassian sitting there, who nodded to Glinn Brenok after we’d 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 plaits, which were then arranged into a bun, from which ends of those plaits stuck out. It looked awesome!
Cardassian or no Cardassian, she was damn beautiful too.
“Lieutenant Kapoor and Lieutenant Ullmann,” Glinn Brenok said.
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 okay,” 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. This is the way we expel excess of heat from our bodies.”
Some kind of growl came out of the 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 used 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.”
Neither did I. “Of course, gul.”
“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 the 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 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 the 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 some 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.
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?”
“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 okay. 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.
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
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.
“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. Fortunately, 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’d 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?”
“The 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?”
“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.”
“Maybe that Gil Karama?”
“No! No! Not him!”
“All right. Don’t get so excited.”
“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 time. 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 had come from there, right?
I managed to arrive on 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 the full view on the bridge and on the console in front of me. If I needed anything else, I could turn behind 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 a 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 the 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 was 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 into three parts. Tiny scales 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’s, or smooth, like a snake’s? Did they have any nerve receptors there? Would they feel a slight touch of 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 wall console and I had a perfect view on the nape of his neck. Guess what? More scales. They covered the whole back of his neck between the ridges. Did they go down...down there? Did all his back look like snake 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’d 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 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 it. He leaned toward me to reach something and I stole a glance at his chest. He wore something under that 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 ad Brenok gotten his scars? Had it been a battle? With the Federation? Or the Jem’Hadar? Or had he cheese grated in a lift?
“Sir, can I ask you a question?”
“Yes.” Zamarran’s reply was short.
“Why is there a timer in the bathroom?”
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.
“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 okay,” he said, putting my plate in front of me.
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
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 gave us a speech. He 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.”
“Because we like to be forever young.”
“Why?” He 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.”
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 more sexy 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?”
“Okay, now it’s going to be really weird question. You can refuse to answer, if it’s too uncomfortable, all right?” 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 a 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 the 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?”
“Do you know his given name?”
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 the 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 a harmful way. Generally, 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 any 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.
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
I hope people will read this story...they're in for a treat. :)
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
Interesting, I wonder if Cardassians get senile if they live long enough. How would they handle it?
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
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 had not arrived yet, but I was sure he would soon. We hadn’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’d been on that planet for over one hundred years! They’d ruined it completely and there was nothing left. Poor inhabitants. The Bajorans had 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 a higher rank and an older one with a 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’d never wondered how our own society dealt with respect and positions; you didn’t think about it, it was the way you were raised and how it worked. 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 the padds he was working with.
I took it, retrieving my TP. Lines on his cheeks deepened again.
“Now,” he said, 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 than 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 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 grin was so wide that it was showing his teeth.
“Aren’t you telling 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 had happened, but he couldn’t stop laughing. I had to have the most stupid facial expression ever. Some other faces smiled too and returned to their duties. Glinn Brenok observed us for a moment and then also returned to his work.
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.”
“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 either.”
“Ah?” I giggled.
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
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. Okay, so I’ve become the ship’s idiot, right? As clever as Zamarran’s daughter when she had been 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 instead. 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.
“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.”
“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 at me and left, looking around.
“Uffff, I was afraid he was going to join us,” Ullmann whispered 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.”
“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.”
“Oh, you must be deaf, really.” She became 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 at 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.
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
Ullmann had left for the bridge like thirty minutes too early. I wasn’t sure she wanted to impress our superiors or avoid meeting Karama in the lift again, but whatever her reasons were, I had the quarters for myself for the whole thirty minutes in result. I used that time to unpack and have a nice breakfast. I tried to hover my TP over the small, round screen next to the replicator, but the characters disappeared too quickly and I still didn’t know what they were.
I made sure to report to the bridge on time. The last thing I wanted was to be late anywhere. It seemed quite important to them—to be on time. On a Federation starship being late also wasn’t acceptable, however I didn’t even dare to imagine what kind of crime it could be here.
Zamarran was on the bridge when I arrived there. At first I thought I was late, because he only glared at me without a word.
“Sir. Reporting for duty, sir,” I said.
“Noted,” he replied in a voice that was everything but angry. He handed me a padd. “Your tasks for today.”
I looked at him and then activated the padd. Some more analysis. Perfect. Was he testing my patience? Or was it a job no other Cardassian wanted to do? Or was it my punishment? But what did I do? I wasn’t late for sure—the bridge wasn’t filled with day shift officers yet and I wouldn’t believe so many of them were late.
Karama entered. A few officers greeted him and he greeted them back. When he was passing by the engineering station, he greeted Zamarran and then looked at me without a word. How rude! I’ll teach you good manners.
“Good morning, Gil,” I said.
He smiled warmly and nodded his greeting.
Oh my, of course! I was supposed to greet him first as a lower ranking officer! How could I have forgotten about it! That’s why Zamarran had glared at me; he had waited for my greeting and he’d thought I hadn’t offered it at once!
When the lift arrived the next time, it brought Glinn Brenok. He greeted no one, everyone greeted him. He just nodded, acknowledging their greetings. And finally the queen herself arrived. Greeted by everyone and answering everyone. She sat in her throne and I made myself busy with my task; it’s better not to look at the queen’s face, this used to be punished by death in ancient times, no?
I glanced at Ullmann. She was busy with something, too. I noticed her chair stood farther from the officer’s whom she shared her console with than mine from Zamarran’s. I looked down and indeed—the chair was not attached to the floor. Mine wasn’t, the chief engineer’s was. If it comes to a battle and we get hit then I suppose Ullmann and I are out of luck.
I looked around to see if all officers were on the bridge. Would someone come after the gul? Would it mean trouble?
Oh! There was another female there. I hadn’t noticed her before. She worked at her console, and if I recalled correctly, it was the tactician’s post. So, this must be Dja Ma’Kan. Dja, as in ‘ensign.’ Hmm...If I outranked her, could I give her orders? Should she greet me first?
Everyone was busy. Sometimes there were hushed voices coming from here or there, as the officers conversed about duty matters, no doubt, but beside that it was quiet. Incredibly quiet. However, it wasn’t my impression that the atmosphere was dense. Even the gul’s presence didn’t change it much from what I’d experienced yesterday. She was here, as busy as everyone else and she didn’t interfere with others’ work; she didn’t look over their shoulders, she didn’t glare when they were whispering. And then, in that incredible—for a busy bridge—silence a sound appeared. At first I thought it was some console humming, or maybe engines’ song, but no. The sound grew a bit louder, still fairly quiet, but clear. It was...a melody. Not engines humming. Not machine humming. I raised my head and looked around to find the source and the source was even more astonishing than the humming itself.
Glinn Brenok was singing under his breath. I looked at Ullmann and she stared at him too. I found Gul Jarol with my eyes, but she didn’t show any reaction to the quiet concerto on her bridge. I looked at Zamarran, who was busy with something—he didn’t seem to notice the humming at all. But Glinn Brenok was still humming and it didn’t seem like he was going to stop.
“He does that often,” Zamarran said quietly.
“The singing. He does that often.”
“Oh. The gul doesn’t mind?”
“I think she enjoys it.” The lines on his cheeks deepened.
“Isn’t there some regulation against singing on the bridge, or on duty?”
“I don’t think anyone thought of such a regulation.”
This wasn’t just another Cardassian warship, was it? The gul was a woman. The first officer was not only very young by Cardassian—and Federation—standards, but was also an active singer...Who knows what else I could learn about them?
Or was each and every warship that unique? This definitely was not what I had been told about Cardassians. They were supposed to be cruel, ruthless, heartless, brutal murderers. ‘Bloody Cardies.’ How could this handsome man with scars on his face, long hair and a really pleasant singing voice be all those bad things? If anything, the scars were the proof that there had been someone cruel and ruthless to him.
I knew we were headed to a planet, which they had been occupying for over a century. I guessed that the person who inflicted these scars on Brenok’s face was most likely dead. I knew that the gul terrified me with only her presence. I knew I was aboard a warship, which was built with pure purpose of fighting and annihilating.
But what I saw was a nice man, who sang on duty and no one minded. Another nice man, who was helping me with his advices to survive my first days among them without insulting them...too much. And another nice man, who accepted that I didn’t mean anything wrong by my stupid questions. And a gul, who let her officer sing on duty.
The Cardassians were not what I had expected them to be. I knew they couldn’t be as bad as the news went—otherwise no one would make me come here—but I didn’t expect them to be so...human. They weren’t that different from us: they liked to joke; they followed their traditions and their strict social code; they had families and dearly cared for them; they knew what sacrifice meant and were ready to protect their home from dangers at any cost.
It was a good decision to come here. I was sure now more than ever that it wasn’t a mistake. Whatever would happen, whatever the future would bring, I didn’t regret volunteering for this project.
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
We had arrived. Skarrat. A three-planet system, inhabited by reptilian, dinosaur-looking people. Highly skilled artists. Peaceful. A planet of friendly cousins of a T-Rex.
The green ball of the planet rotated below us and it looked beautiful. After oranges, browns and yellows of a Galor class warship I welcomed the view of green forests. The planet didn’t look like raped by conquerors. I expected to see dry, brown and desert world, but this was pretty, fresh ball of nature. This was the occupied Skarrat?
Gul Jarol and Glinn Brenok beamed down, leaving Zamarran in charge. The engineer sat in the throne and his assistant—his aide, as they say here—Gil Ya’val motioned toward the main engineering console, at which I was sitting, to take his place, but Zamarran slightly shook his head. I glanced at him astonished, but he didn’t look at me.
He left me in charge of his console!
I didn’t dare to move to his chair, but started paying attention to the readings, ready to pick up anything wrong as soon as it appeared. Not that I read their language, but I already knew how the computer informed of problems. Red, flashing symbol and a string of letters to its right. The letters were surely a detailed information on the problem. I could report the problem simultaneously hovering my TP over the red text to translate and deliver more by the time Zamarran reacted and demanded details.
And it’s not that I wanted anything bad to happen!
“Look here.” Zamarran pointed to his screen. “When you see something like this, you know that everything goes as projected.”
I nodded and he continued his explanations.
It was very interesting to see how differently everything worked here. Deep Space Nine was equipped with a Cardassian computer, but after many upgrades and changes it didn’t resemble one any longer—not in the means of operation. While I have already noticed that Cardassians allowed quite wide deviations from peak performance, they were monitoring them amazingly closely, making sure they didn’t cross the line. And the way of monitoring was incredibly efficient. Partially it was because of their attention to details, partially thanks to their written language.
The system was set up to convey ‘positive’ and ‘neutral’ information horizontally, and warnings and ‘bad news’ vertically.
Suddenly, I noticed that Glinn Brenok was walking toward us. He looked all business and I was curious what he would ask Zamarran to do. But wait a minute...He was looking at me.
“Lieutenant.” He handed me a padd. “You have a special task.”
“Yes, sir,” I acknowledged that he had all my attention.
He called Ullmann to come to us and continued, “Here are your detailed instructions. Both of you will be granted a special security access to our database to search for all and any information, regarding Skarrat.” The occupied world? Why did he want us to collect the data about their crimes? He waved at us to follow him and he led us to a console in the back of the bridge. “This will be your station. Be thorough in your research. We want your report as soon as possible, but don’t rush. Do it properly.”
“Yes, sir,” we said in unison. Finally some real work!
“How are you doing?” Karama stood on the other side of our console and craned his neck to peer at our readings.
“We’re busy,” I said.
“How busy?” he asked, but didn’t look at me, his gaze was on Ullmann. She ignored him.
“Too busy for a chat,” I replied.
“Oh, I didn’t come for a chat.” He was still staring at my colleague. Then he slowly moved around the console, stood on her right side and leaned on the console on his right hand. His left hand moved behind her; he put a padd on the console on her left. He didn’t touch her physically, but it almost looked as he put his hand around her waist. “I came to give you this.” His voice was deep and had clearly had an erotic note.
“What’s this?” I asked.
He glanced at me, smiled and then his attention returned to Ullmann. “You ask me what this is,” he said very quietly almost to her ear.
Her breathing became faster and louder.
Then he suddenly stepped back, went around the console and approached me from the other side. “The padd contains the latest communiques from the planet,” he said in a normal voice. “I have entered them into the database already, but you may find there a few important things. I have extracted and marked them for your reference.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“My pleasure.” He smiled one of those wide, friendly grins and returned to his console.
“How can you talk to him?” Ullmann asked me.
“He’s nice to me,” I said and almost added ’because I was nice to him,’ but I didn’t.
“Yes, because he doesn’t think you’re pretty. You’re not interesting for him. I am.”
“He is teasing you only.” The ‘pretty’ comment was uncalled for.
“He is a Cardassian. He’s dangerous.”
“He’s not dangerous just because he is a Cardassian,” I protested.
“He’s been harassing me since day one,” she hissed.
“No, he’d been only friendly. You were rude.”
“Why are you on his side?” She looked at me reproachfully.
“Ullmann, I am on no one’s side. But I think you both are overreacting. I know you don’t like him, but he never meant any harm to you. And even now, he doesn’t touch you, just...suggests...” I pulled my face. “Look, no one else does that and they all are Cardassians.”
“Men in the mess hall are not much better.”
“Did anyone else accost you?” I worried. How come this didn’t happen to me? Was I that lucky?
“No, but they stare at me. Like I were some weirdo.”
“Maybe it’s your hair. They don’t have blondes here. Karama seemed...” I silenced, seeing her gaze. Okay, this wasn’t the best example.
We worked in silence for a few minutes.
“He would probably rape me a long time ago, if we didn’t share our quarters,” she said. “He can’t afford to have a witness.”
I disagreed, but was sure convincing her was a waste of time. I made a decision to try to solve it from the other side.
I observed the bridge for a moment, wondering if it would be very wrong to go to Karama. Some officers were walking around to others and even if they weren’t chatting, such movement seemed acceptable. I decided to take a risk.
I approached Karama’s console. He looked at me a bit surprised.
“A problem?” he asked.
“No. I wanted to talk to you about Ullmann and those jokes you play on her.”
“What about it?” he returned to working on his console.
“Karama, why do you do this?” I asked him quietly.
“Because she expects it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Did I do anything to her? Did I really threatened her in any way?”
“No. She just assumed—” I started, but he interrupted.
“My point exactly.” He looked me in the eyes. “This is her punishment. She created this hell for herself, so she can live in it for all I care.”
“Could you please stop feeding her fears? Please?” He stared at me. “Please?” I made puppy eyes.
“I’ll stop, but I do it for you, not for her.”
“Thank you,” I smiled.
He replied with a weak grin of his own, which faded almost instantly, and he returned to work. So did I.
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
Okay, this was not good.
“Computer, hasperat,” I repeated, hoping that maybe it was some kind of error in accepting a voice command. And as before, the computer made an acknowledging sound and nothing happened. Great. No breakfast today?
I went to retrieve a tricorder—a scanner, as they called it here—and tricorded, err, scanned the replicator. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. I took off the front panel, put my head and hand inside and hovered the scanner over every part of the machine that I could reach. Nothing. Everything was normal. No broken parts, no leakage, not nothing.
But something was wrong if the replicator didn’t want to replicate me my breakfast!
“Computer, does the replicator in quarters har-kap-seven-forward malfunction?” I asked, suspecting the reply.
“The replicator in quarters har-kap-seven-forward is working within established parameters.” And dear Mr. Scary Voice Computer didn’t disappoint me.
“Computer, why doesn’t the replicator work?”
“The replicator in quarters har-kap-seven-forward is working within established parameters.”
“So you’ve told me. Computer, why doesn’t the replicator replicate?”
“The replicator in quarters har-kap-seven-forward is working within established parameters.”
“What’s wrong?” Ullmann asked from the bathroom.
“It doesn’t want to make me breakfast!”
“Maybe you need another boyfriend, who could bring you breakfast to bed?”
“Ha, ha, ha,” I said slowly.
“What?” I heard her laughing. “You’re an engineer, the ship is your lover.”
“You’re a scientist, are anomalies your lovers?”
“I’m going to get help, okay?” I shouted toward the bathroom.
“Okay,” she replied and I heard shower starting its work.
So, who could I ask for help. Zamarran was an engineer, but he probably wouldn’t like the idea. I didn’t know exactly why, but something was telling me that asking him was another inappropriate thing to do.
I asked the computer where he lived and went there.
The surprise on his face was enormous.
“Sorry to bother you, but there is something wrong with my replicator and I can’t find the reason.”
“What is wrong?” he asked. He was already wearing the inside part of his uniform, but not the outside armour.
“It isn’t replicating. I checked but found nothing broken. Could you please take a look? I had no breakfast.”
“All right,” he agreed.
We returned to our quarters.
“Please wait here for a moment, all right? I’ll just make sure Ullmann is fully dressed.”
“Of course,” he nodded.
I went back inside. It seemed like Ullmann was still in the bathroom. I knocked. “Are you there?”
“Yes, you need to use it?”
“No. But make sure you are in the uniform when you leave, okay? We have a guest.”
I went back to the door to let Karama in.
I expected him to look around to see how two human women lived, but he went straight to the replicator. He entered some commands at the mini console on it, requesting some data, checked something and then looked at me.
“Did you monitor your rations?” he asked.
“Did I what?”
He pointed to the mysterious, round screen next to the replicator. “Your rations. Each weak you receive a certain amount of rations on your account. According to the counter, you used them all up.”
“I didn’t know what that little round screen meant. I tried to read, but the characters were disappearing so quickly I never managed to translate them.”
“You could have asked.”
“Yes, but I was always forgetting to ask,” I sighed.
He opened his mouth to say something, when the door to the bathroom opened.
“You!” Ullmann yelled.
We both looked at her, startled by her shouting.
“What do you want!” she ran to her cupboard, circling him around and staying as far as she could. She retrieved a knife and pointed it at him.
He raised his hands, indicating he had no bad intentions, and stepped back.
“Get out!” she yelled.
“Ullmann, I asked him here to help with the—”
“Shut up!” She didn’t even look at me; her eyes fixed on him. “Get the hell out, you bastard! I’d rather die then let you touch me!”
He slowly moved backward toward the door, still facing her. He tried not to make any rapid moves not to startle her and provoke her to use her knife. The door swished open and he stepped outside; there he lowered his hands, glanced at me and the door automatically closed.
Ullmann slumped to the floor and started crying.
I didn’t know what to do. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to ask him for help. But I had asked him a couple of days ago to stop harassing her, even in jokes, and he had promised to stop. She stopped complaining about him and he ignored her completely, he didn’t even greet her in the morning. He treated her as she was air. I thought it was all fixed.
I was so wrong.
“Maeva, I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “I didn’t mean to. I...I didn’t think you would...”
“Get out!” she yelled. “You too, get out!”
This was bad, really bad.
“He didn’t come here for you, but for me,” I said a little too harshly. And then I left.
He was long gone, but I knew I had to talk to him. To apologise for her behaviour. If he had done something, if he had said something, then I could understand her reaction, but he just had been there. He had stopped bothering her and...What had she though? That he’d come to rape her? He hadn’t donned his armour, so that it was more comfortable for him?
It was all my fault, wasn’t it? I shouldn’t have brought him to my quarters, should I? I had to make it up to both of them.
No breakfast for you today, my lady. Report to the bridge and you better think out a way to fix this.
I reported to the bridge, greeted whoever I was supposed to greet and went straight to work. I had another huge chunk of Skarrat database to process today.
Ullmann appeared on the bridge shortly after me. Her eyes were still a bit red from crying, but no one seem to notice.
“I’m so sorry, Maeva,” I whispered, when she stood next to me at our console.
She just shook her head. “Let’s not talk about it. I know what to do with him,” she said.
I opened my mouth to defend him and explain that he hadn’t been in our quarters for her, but decided against it. I doubted she would listen and I was sure she didn’t want to talk about it any more. I made myself busy instead.
Karama entered the bridge in full uniform, but didn’t even look in our direction. Ullmann glared at him and then returned to her work. We worked in silence, gathering, screening and entering important facts to our padds. Everything seemed fine, until I found a really strange thing. I stared at the screen, not really sure if my TP translated it correctly.
“What is it?” Ullmann noticed me being a motionless statue and looked over my shoulder. “Oh, my God.”
The document was a record of an execution. What made it different from other documents of that sort was who had been executed. Not another Skarrat, or a rebel. It was their prefect. The Cardassian had been sentenced to death and hanged according to the Skarrat law.
“Let’s see if we can find more on this,” Ullmann said.
She found another Cardassian document, signed by the prefect, Gul Markor, who had ordered executing all members of Skarrat resistance, including their families and friends. Everyone, who had any ties with the resistance, was supposed to be killed. I closed my eyes. I was quite sure that by that time almost every native on the planet had some connections with the resistance, which meant that the Cardassians would have killed all Skarrats—all of them, to the last one.
I looked at Ullmann.
“I’m not going to tell them that,” she whispered. “They’d kill us.”
“It’s their report,” I said, but could clearly hear doubt in my own voice.
“Will you go and report it?”
“Can you imagine what the Dragon Lady will do to us?” I could. She was off the warship this very moment, visiting the planet, but she was supposed to return in the afternoon. “What will we do?” Ullmann asked.
“I don’t know,” I whispered.
“We could pretend I didn’t find it.”
“No. If they find out that we found it and hid it, it could be even worse.”
“It doesn’t matter how they execute you, you’re still dead.”
“But they must know about it anyway,” I said.
“Do you really think they will allow us to prepare that report, if they knew that we could have found it?” I shook my head. “What do we do?” Ullmann asked again.
“We have to tell someone,” I said. Brenok was on the bridge, but I couldn’t imagine going to him and saying, ’Hi, I have the report ready. By the way, you have almost committed genocide on the Skarrats’. However I could imagine him going angry. Maybe Zamarran? He was our direct superior, so we should follow the chain of command. And he could take it to the gul. She probably would be less angry hearing about this from another Cardassian than from a human, wouldn’t she?
“We can’t hide it,” I whispered. “And you know it?” Ullmann’s eyes filled with tears again. “I’ll go,” I volunteered. “I’ll talk to Zamarran first and report it to him.”
I decided to dig a little deeper, hoping I could find something to weaken to blow, but the more information I had, the worse it got.
I waited for Zamarran to return from his ’lunch break.’ I’d lost my appetite completely and didn’t feel like having a break at all. The longer I waited, the more nervous I was. The fact that the Dragon Lady had returned and was in her office wasn’t making me feel any better.
Finally the chief engineer arrived on the bridge and headed for his console. I took a deep breath, glanced at Ullmann, who wished me luck, and went to him. “Sir,” I said to call his attention and continued once he looked up at me. “I have some information related to the report Ullmann and I are preparing.”
“What about it?” His eye ridges knitted.
“It’s...disturbing...” I hesitated. Would he find it disturbing? Or would it be normal day’s work? Did any Cardassians considered things like that atrocities, or just necessary, justifiable force application?
“In what way?” It definitely called his attention.
“If you access the data currently displayed on our monitor.” He switched his view to ’our view’ and studied the revelation. I stood next to him; I didn’t want to look at his face to see how it was changing—or if it changed at all—while he was reading the documents. He looked at me.
“Is there more than this?” he asked.
“Yes. This is just the last material I have found. There is more documentation regarding this.”
“This is not directly related to the current situation and the proof that the Skarrats want to stay within Cardassian territory,” he said.
“No, it’s not, but I think it is related and shouldn’t be omitted.”
“Download everything to a padd and then call me.”
I returned to my console and did as he asked, and after that I went back to him.
He looked at me. “Come,” he said and headed for the gul’s office.
I glanced at Ullmann and she looked terrified too.
I followed Zamarran, but when I was on stairs I could clearly see Gul Jarol hit her desk with her fist, clearly very, very angry. What a perfect moment to be a messenger of bad news.
We waited for her to allow us to enter and then the engineer said.
“Lieutenant Kapoor has something to report, sir.”
“What is it?” In spite of explosion of fury a moment ago her voice was even and professional.
I gathered my courage and said, “Gul, I have been collecting data regarding the Skarrat history, especially the newest history, related to the Cardassians.”
“And I found something very disturbing.”
I handed her the padd that I had uploaded all relevant information to.
“I have searched local archives and found out that the previous prefect had been executed according to the local law. I found it quite odd, so I tried to find the reason of his execution.” How was I supposed to tell her that? What would she do? Would I be executed for delivering information like this? Maybe it was forbidden to criticise the Union’s politics regarding occupied worlds. But wouldn’t Zamarran have told me? Or he could be executed too, if he hadn’t delivered me to the gul?
“Did you find it?” She looked at me. I must be brave... “Yes, I did. You’re not going to like it, Gul.”
“There used to be resistance on the planet. Every member of it was found and executed by Cardassian forces. Almost one fourth of the planet’s population was wiped out. That called the Central Command’s attention to the Prefecture and the prefect and they decided to send a new prefect, Gul Kadal, to replace the old one. Gul Kadal brought the old prefect to justice, local justice, for crimes against the Skarrats.”
She didn’t say anything. I think she was shocked. She didn’t expect that. Even more than this: she didn’t like that. She didn’t seem to find it acceptable use of discipline, or whatever they officially called their appalling actions. She didn’t like killing people en mass any more than I did. “I suppose you will place it in your report too,” she said finally.
What did she expect me to do? Should I save my own skin? I couldn’t bring those dead people back to life, but I didn’t want to join them! “Gul, my task was to investigate the current situation and to find proofs that the Skarrats really don’t want the Cardassians to leave. I went deeper in my research than the task required, and yes, I have found disturbing information, however it was a long time ago and Gul Kadal did his best to fix the situation. He was in trouble after that and I am not sure how come the Obsidian Order didn’t take care of him, but he still is here and he made it work. The history is history. If the Skarrats could forgive the Cardassians, then who are we to tell them they can’t live together in peace any longer?”
“If you don’t see it as relevant and will not include it in your report, why do you tell me all this?”
Tell her you care about her being on the top. “Because if someone checks our report and finds that this information is missing, it’s better for you to know about it too, instead of being faced with it by someone else—by someone opposing you.”
Gul Jarol, to my surprise, smiled a bit. “Thank you for your report, Lieutenant. If that’s all, you are dismissed.”
I turned and left, Zamarran followed me after a few seconds.
I hated myself. I hated myself for being such a coward. For this show of bootlicking. For my despicable behaviour and cowardice. I was among Cardassians, and instead of showing them Federation values I lowered myself to their level in hiding their crimes. I bit my lower lip, trying to stop tears in my eyes. I went back to Ullmann and she immediately noticed that something was wrong.
“Are you in trouble?” she asked worried.
“No. Not with her.” I nodded once toward the office. “But my self-dignity and self-respect are gone.”
She didn’t ask any more questions and I was grateful for that.
“Is she very mad?” Ullmann asked me suddenly.
“Who? The gul?” She nodded. “I don’t know. I think she is, but she was all professional to me.”
“Okay. So here goes nothing.” She took a breath and went to Brenok. He listened to her for a moment and then nodded once. She headed for the gul’s office.
What was it about? Did she have something to add about the atrocities? But wouldn’t she talk to me first? It wasn’t long before Ullmann left the Dragon Lady’s office and...left the bridge. What was going on?
“Karama, my office!” The gul’s voice was like a thunder.
It was easy to guess what Ullmann had told her. And she had told me she had a solution. She’d reported it. She had gone to the gul and reported it. But he had already stopped. He wasn’t going to do it any more, so why had she reported him now? Was it because of this morning? Because of me? He was in trouble because I asked him to take a look at my replicator? This day started badly and from that moment the ’bad’ was only escalating. It was the worst day of my life!
Karama returned to his post. He looked like she had beaten him; his head was hanging low and he seemed to shrunk. I felt sorry for him. I felt sorry for Ullmann. I felt guilty and miserable.
“It’s time to end your duty for today.” Zamarran’s voice startled me. I was so lost in my own thoughts that I didn’t notice his approach.
At first I wanted to protest, but then I decided to do what he said. “Yes, sir.” And since Brenok had left the bridge and was in the gul’s office, I added, “Lieutenant Kapoor reporting the end of her duty.”
“Dismissed,” he acknowledged.
I returned to my quarters.
Ullmann was sitting at a desk and recording a message, when I arrived.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to disturb,” I said.
“That’s okay, I’ve just finished.”
“How are you?”
I didn’t know what else to say, so I just sat on my bunk and took a padd with cultural information on Cardassia. But I couldn’t read; I couldn’t concentrate for my thoughts were returning to the terrible events of this day.
A chime was an unexpected sound. We never had any visitors. Ullmann didn’t react, so I went to open the door. The Dragon Lady herself paid us a visit.
“Gul Jarol, we didn’t expect you,” I said quietly.
“I wanted to talk to Ullmann.”
“Yes, sir?” My colleague rose and came closer.
“Your duty will be changed to the night shift and you will not share duty time with Gil Karama.”
“Thank you, Gul.” She smiled with appreciation.
“Gil Karama has been disciplined. If he bothers you again, report it immediately and I will deal with it again, severely.”
That wasn’t exactly fair. He was nasty, but he didn’t mean any harm; his behaviour was misguided, but he never really attempted anything, and surely not this morning; and I was sure Ullmann presented this morning as a physical assault and an attempt of rape.
“Gul,” I said. I did so many risky things today that one more didn’t make a difference.
“Gil Karama never meant any harm—”
“You knew about this?!” Her gaze and voice changed and she was menacing again.
“I asked him to stop and he promised he would,” I told her.
“You knew about this and you didn’t report it?” Clearly, it wasn’t a satisfactory answer.
“I didn’t think...I...” But he didn’t do anything that bad. Ullmann was overreacting. He just wanted to scare her. It was more of a stupid joke than real malice.
“I don’t know what kind of regulations are aboard Federation starships, Lieutenant, but here is Cardassia. We expect our officers to hold to some standard. I expect my officers to conduct themselves exemplary. That was far from exemplary. It was your duty to report such an outrageous behaviour. As a Cardassian, who you are on this ship, or a law-abiding person, if you prefer. As an officer. As a colleague.” She gave Ullmann a short glance and then her yes returned to me. “And as a woman. ”
“Yes, Gul. I didn’t think it was that serious. I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.”
“I hope so.”
If there was any shadow of self-respect left in me, it was gone now. Ullmann’s gaze made me feel worse. She probably thought I have betrayed her.
And maybe I did.
I wanted to cry.
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
My shift ended and I left the bridge, heading for the mess hall. I expected Karama to be there, as he had left the bridge earlier, but he wasn’t present. Ullmann was just finishing her meal, sitting at the table alone. Other tables were quite crowded, but no one had chosen to join her. Or maybe she’d refused to sit with others.
“Mind if I join you?” I asked her, approaching.
“Not at all,” she smiled weakly. Some of Cardassians around glanced at me and then returned to their meals. “How was your day?” she asked when I returned with a bowl of something I’d chosen from menu. The something was green and orange and resembled soup.
“It was okay,” I said, tasting the first spoon. It wasn’t bad, although wouldn’t become my favourite dish. “I think Glinn Zamarran is testing me. My engineering skills.”
“And how is it going?”
“I don’t know. I can’t just ask him and he doesn’t volunteer to tell me. However, as long as he’s not angry, I consider it a success.”
“You don’t aim high.”
“It’s not that. This is not the Federation, this is Cardassian warship—”
“Don’t remind me.”
“—and things here are the Cardassian way.”
“I can’t help but wonder why they choose this career. Here, it’s not fun.”
I had to agree with her. There was little joy in duty here, only obligations. Of course, serving your planet and your people meant something, but still it was better to do all that and have some fun.
“I have to go the bridge, my shift starts soon.” She finished her supper...or was it her breakfast?
I only nodded, as my mouth was full. She headed for the exit and a few heads turned to look at her, and then turned back and a few men started whispering, nodding toward the door.
I ate slowly, hoping to see Karama tonight, but he didn’t come. I swallowed the last spoon of my soup and returned to my quarters. I asked the computer where Karama was and it told me in this scary voice that the gil was on deck eleven. According to the computer those decks were ground troops empire. I didn’t know what he was doing there, but I wouldn’t dare to go there myself.
“Computer, inform me when Gil Karama returns to his quarters.”
I hoped he didn’t return too late. I still had to familiarise myself with next batch of ’the rules and the regulations’ of the almighty Cardassian warship Roumar, so in spite of being tired I couldn’t afford to go to sleep yet.
“Gil Karama is in his quarters,” the computer rasped.
“What?” I startled and then realised Mr. Monster had woken me up. My padd lay next to me on my bed. “Computer, what time is it?”
“Oh two hundred hours.”
“When did Gil Karama return to his quarters?”
“Three minutes seventeen seconds ago.”
“So he shouldn’t be sleeping yet.”
“Never mind. I wasn’t talking to you.”
I rolled off my bed and ran to Karama’s quarters, hoping to catch him before he went to sleep.
I chimed and waited. I decided not to chime again if there was no reply and was just about to leave, when the door opened and he stood in it. The first thing I saw when the door slid open was the spoon on his chest, where our sternum is, for it was perfectly on the level of my eyes. I raised my head to look at his face.
“What are you doing here at this hour?” he asked surprised.
“I wanted to talk to you and ask how you were doing,” I said, but in fact I started wondering why, exactly, I wanted to see him so much.
“Come in,” he said, moving away.
I stole another glance at his chest spoon. His collar bones were covered with ridges and big, thick scales. He wore a black singlet with Cardassian logo on the chest. His shoulders and arms were bare and I could see the scaled ridges going from his neck to his shoulders, and then on the outer edges of his arms to his elbows and wrists, where the ridges receded. The scales on his shoulders and elbows were visibly thicker.
Another interesting thing I noticed was a tattoo. It was on his chest, below his collarbone ridge. I couldn’t see it whole, as the singlet covered most of it, but there was something there.
Not only his Cardassianness was tempting my eyes not to leave his body. He was a fine man, all right. Muscular, fit and clearly in the top condition.
Wait a minute...Did I have a crush on him?
“How are you doing?” I asked. “I heard the gul was pretty angry about all this mess with Ullmann.”
“She was furious,” he said. “Please, sit down.” I sat on his sofa. “Zobar milk, two cups,” he told the replicator and then brought both cups to the table and put one in front of me. “Will help you sleep later.”
“Is your duty longer now? You didn’t come to the mess hall to have supper.”
“As a part of my punishment I must report to work on the lower decks.”
“Oh. Is it normal?”
“No. Our previous gul’s aide used it often to discipline us and believe me, it didn’t take much to deserve to be sent there.”
“What do you have to do exactly?”
“All those things militia troops do, and more. From polishing ship’s bulkheads to physical workout. It’s mundane, boring work. The worst part is that we have to serve militiamen. As to hand them things, do things for them. They can order us around. Enlisted troops give bridge officers orders. Fun,” he muttered.
“For how long?”
“Two weeks. And believe me: every garesh enjoys it.”
“Why would someone choose a job like this?” I wondered aloud.
“It pays well.”
“Yes. Serving in attack troops is considered a high risk career, so their remuneration is adequate.”
We looked at each other, both surprised by the other’s reaction.
“What did you expect? That we work for—” he didn’t finish.
But I did. “Free. Of course, you still use money.” He smiled. “They say Ullmann stopped your promotion,” I said.
“The gul stopped my promotion, not Ullmann,” he replied.
“Are you angry?”
“I regret it. Gul Jarol was right; I should have just stopped talking to this biased bitch, but I didn’t.” He pursed his lips. “You know what I regret?” I shook my head. “I regret I disappointed the gul. I don’t care about promotion, I don’t care about Ullmann and what she thinks of me, not any more. I don’t care about the reprimand the gul is going to put into my file. It all can be fixed. But I lost my gul’s respect and trust. She thought I was something more, something better and I left her with an idiot on the bridge.”
“You’re too harsh. I’m certain she doesn’t think so.” To be honest, I wasn’t certain. Gul Jarol was like a queen for me: powerful, beautiful and don’t you dare to look in her face. I wouldn’t be surprised if she judged people harshly.
“But I feel so”.
I could understand that. I wouldn’t like to disappoint my captain, either.
I didn’t want to keep him up for long, so I left his quarters soon.
He was right. The zobar milk put me to sleep as soon as my head touched my pillow.
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
It was so darn boring. Ullmann started her duty when I finished mine, so we barely saw each other. And she stopped coming to the mess hall. Each time she entered and chose a table to sit at, everyone in the vicinity moved away. No one spoke to her. They clearly ostracised her and I felt sorry for the situation. I had asked her about it once and she had told me they behaved professionally on duty, but off duty everyone avoided her. Actually, I thought she preferred it that way.
But I had no one to talk to and I didn’t prefer it at all. Kamara still had his lower decks duty, Zamarran wasn’t exactly material for a pal, so I spent most of my off-duty time alone. I hated to be alone; I hated to eat alone.
That evening the mess hall was as busy as usually. I looked around to find a place to sit and noticed that next to Dja Ma’Kan, who was having her supper, was an empty chair. She was my age, I outranked her, so there couldn’t be anything wrong with starting to talk to her, could there? I decided to take a risk.
“May I sit here?” I asked.
She only nodded, as her mouth was full, and I sat with my plate. She eyed my dish curiously and seemed to be surprised by my choice. Zog soufflé.
“Dja,” I began, hoping I wasn’t doing anything wrong...again. She looked up at me. “I read in your bio that you won some literary competition.”
“That was a long time ago,” she said but a tiny smile played on her lips.
“So I take your language command is perfect.”
“Oh, I don’t know if it’s perfect...”
“I ask...because...I wondered...if you’d like to give me some lessons.”
Her hand with the spoon froze in air, half-way to her mouth. She looked at me with those pretty, black eyes of hers.
“You want to learn our language?”
“Basics at least.”
“Seriously?” The tone of her voice gained a new, friendlier tone. I smiled and nodded. “Why?”
“Because I want to understand more. I know from my own experience that speaking a language gives you a different perspective and lets you understand certain things better.”
“Fine. But I have time only two, three times a week.”
“That’s great! Thanks! When is the first lesson?”
“All right. What shall I do?”
“Listen. Let’s start from the easiest thing. Numbers.”
She finished her food and pushed her plate away.
“Turn off your translator and repeat. Yat. Yi. Har. Gin. Nei. Opai. Len. Godar. Genep. Fetok.”
I repeated each word and she corrected me if I’d got it wrong. Then she made me repeat it a few times.
“All right. Now you can understand our dates. Each day of the week is a combined word, like number four—’gin’—and the word for ’day’—’yat’. ’Ginyat’ is the fourth day of the week.”
“Thursday,” I said.
She smiled. “Let’s try this. Yatyat.”
My eyes opened wider.
“Genepyat,” she said after a moment. Someone started giggling. “Fetokyat,” she smiled.
“You have ten days in a week?”
“Ok, that makes some things clearer.” And it really did. “How many months do you have?”
“Nine. The word for ’month’ is ’yut.’” She pronounced it ’yoot.’ “And the names are created the same way as the days of the week.”
I showed my teeth in a smile. “Yatyut, yiyut, haryut, ginyut, neiyut, opaiyut, lenyut, godaryut and genepyut.”
A few Cardassians clapped. I was sooooo proud of myself.
“Good!” Ma’Kan praised me. “Now the year. The current year is 514, which you say ’nei yat gin.’”
“Each number separately?”
“Easy. Why your year is so...young? Our year is 2378.”
“The years are counted since the establishment of the Cardassian Union.”
“Ah, of course.”
“How do you count yours?”
“From birth of the Son of God.”
She stared at me surprised. “From what?”
“One of our religions believes He was the Son of God.”
“I was raised in another religion.”
“But you use the same calendar?”
“Yes, with time the whole Earth adopted it.”
“Do you have any religions on Cardassia?”
“Two. The Hebitians believed in Oralius. And the Elementalists believed in the Power of Nature.”
She shook her head. “It’s just superstitions.” Wait a second, wasn’t religion forbidden on Cardassia? She wouldn’t tell me even if she was a believer, would she? Or was it allowed since the end of the war? “There’s one very important thing you should also learn,” Ma’Kan said. “It’s how you address other people.”
Ah, yes. “Is it difficult?” I asked.
“No. Of course you have to use a proper tone of voice, different for your superiors, different for your subordinates and so on. But there is a grammar particle, which we use at the end of every sentence or group of sentences, like a spoken paragraph.”
“Turn off your universal translator.”
I did what she’d asked; I was getting tired of fidgeting with it. She said a short sentence. Then she motioned to my commbadge, so I turned my translator back on.
“Did you hear ’-go’ at the end of my sentence?”
“Yes. What does it mean?”
“It doesn’t have any separate meaning. It’s a ’relation particle,’ which I used, because your rank is higher than mine. You use particle ’-ga.’ If you speak to our gul, or any gul, or a legate, you use ’-gul.’ There are different particles for parents, siblings, people of equal status and so on.”
“How many particles are there?”
“Relation particles...” She thought for a second. “A dozen? But there are also other particles we use.”
“A dozen?” I asked surprised.
“Relations between people can be complex.”
“How about a husband and a wife. Do they also use particles?”
“Yes. They both use ’-ses.’”
“So none is more important than the other?”
“No.” She seemed astonished by the notion. “Why would they be?”
“Good question, why would they. What happens, if someone doesn’t use a particle, if they forget.”
She smiled. “It doesn’t happen. Particles are always present in our speech. Sometimes there are two or three at the end of one sentence. If no particle is needed, and such cases are really rare, we still add a neutral ’-a’, because we have to end a sentence somehow. Otherwise it would sound strange.”
“Fascinating,” I said.
One of Cardassians at nearby table waved to me to draw my attention. He pointed to my commbadge, so I turned the translator off again. “Jiyat harret opaiyat go,” he said.
I looked at Ma’Kan, turning my translator back. “Did he just say it’s the sixth day of the week today?” I asked.
She didn’t reply for before she managed to open her mouth all six Cardassians at the table that which the garesh who had spoken to me sat at applauded.
“How do I say ’I am Lieutenant Kapoor’?”
“’Iji het Glen Kapur’,” Ma’Kan said. “If you try to ‘translate’ your rank to the closest thing to its equivalent.”
I repeated the sentence, trying to memorise it. I looked at the other table. “Iji het Glen Kapur ga!” I said to the Cardassians who were sitting there. They all started to introduce themselves, laughing and clearly enjoying it. Where they really those terrifying Cardassian troops? Those troops that plundered, murdered, raped, tortured, abused and destroyed? What I saw here in the mess hall were young men, who liked to laugh and have fun. And they weren’t laughing at me, they were laughing with me.
I was probably the only non-Cardassian in the whole galaxy that had a chance to see the...oh, sweet irony...the human side of the dreaded Cardassian ground troops.
But should I forget that they could become the dreaded Cardassian ground troops once an order came?
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
“What are you doing?” Zamarran’s voice startled me.
I turned to him. “I’m following your order, sir. I’m attempting to reconfigure secondary microparametric core.”
He looked over my shoulder. “Why do you need a sensor scanner for this?” he asked.
“It speeds up the work. I could—”
“It also is imprecise,” he interrupted.
“Yes, sir, but I intend to double check everything after finishing the procedure.”
He gave me a doubtful look. “Have you familiarised yourself with Cardassian standard procedures, Lieutenant?” he asked.
“Yes, sir, I have. I realised this is not very ‘standard,’ but it would be faster.”
“I do not care for faster, I want it to be done properly.”
“Sir, it will be done properly, just a different way.”
“Lieutenant, I want you to follow standard procedures,” he said, his voice growing menacing.
“Yes, sir,” I replied crisply and put the scanner away. An order was an order.
He opened his mouth as if to say something, but then closed it. It seemed like he’d expected me to argue with him and had been ready for a riposte, but my reply had made it unnecessary. He observed me working for a moment, then grunted and left.
It turned out that the first day of my work in the engineering didn’t start as well as I’d hoped. I would have the job done and probably better than he expected; I would just have done it differently. Cardassians didn’t see to appreciate initiative; you should follow the protocol and shut up! It was a miracle that they achieved anything, but no surprise a lot of their technology was behind ours. With their complex of superiority ’we’re the best’ they’d never admit that, but it was the fact.
Hmmm...wasn’t it my complex to claim that my technology was better than theirs?
I returned to work, but this time following Cardassian instructions; it meant I had to start from the beginning, but if he wanted it to be slow, fine! Who am I to argue with a picky Cardie, who can put me to a punishment service of vacuuming gareshes’ quarters?
The good side of working with the real equipment on the real stuff instead of staring at data on the bridge was that the time flew fast. Before I realised, a man approached me and stared at me for an extended period of time.
“Can I help you?” I asked him finally.
He seemed surprised by my question. “You duty has finished. You’re doing my job now,” he explained.
“Oh, really? I had no idea it was that late!” I finished entering final algorithms and stepped aside, letting him to start his duty.
I knew the drill on the bridge, but was it here the same? It seemed like everyone else from the day shift had already left, so there was no way to observe others if they performed the ’bye, bye’ ritual. What’s worse—I had no idea who was ranking here now and who I should tell ’bye, bye.’
“I’m sorry, but...” I began and my replacement from the night shift raised his eyes to my face. “Do I report leaving the engineering the same way as leaving the bridge?” I didn’t finish my question when I realised it was probably on the wonderful padd with all their protocols.
“Yes, you do,” he said flatly.
“To whom?” I whispered.
“Gil Ya’val.” He nodded toward the chief engineer’s office. There were two Cardassians inside, none of them familiar. Which was Ya’val? The doubt on my face had to be obvious, as he added. “The shorter one.”
“Thanks.” I smiled to him and to my surprise he smiled back. Now, that was nice.
I headed for the office.
“Lieutenant Kapoor reporting end of her duty, sir,” I said officiously.
“Noted,” Gil Ya’val answered; I nodded to him, then to the other Cardassian in the room and then left, thinking about the mess hall and yummy food; I was hungry!
“Bei’asara go,” I said, approaching Karama; it was the first evening he reappeared in the mess hall for his supper.
He almost spurted his food on the table and then looked at my face, which no doubt expressed satisfaction and pride.
“Ajimu lok ga,” he replied after swallowing his food, but it appeared to be the only words that he could push through his mouth. He still stared at me with huge eyes and I didn’t volunteer any additional explanation, but I did turn my translator back on.
He put his fork away. “I see you’ve been busy these days,” he said finally.
“A little bit,” I said modestly.
“Who’s been teaching you?”
“Dja Ma’Kan and Garesh Aladar.”
“Why not? If I’m to spend some time over here, then I can learn as much as possible, right?” I wanted to joke that it could help the Federation to spy on Cardassians better later, but bit my tongue in time. He would not find that joke funny. I wouldn’t find the consequences of it funny, either. “What is that game?” I asked instead, pointing to two Cardassians who played something that vaguely resembled chess.
“Do you know how to play it?”
“Can you teach me?”
He raised one of his eye ridges slightly. Well, slightly for me, for Cardassian standards it was quite an achievement. Then the ridge returned to its proper place and its owner said, “I must warn you, I’m good at this.”
“Until I learn and beat you,” I smiled. Something appeared on his face, an expression I was unable to decipher, but it disappeared after a second and he laughed.
“We’ll see,” he said in a fake—I hoped—menacing tone of voice.
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited
“Can I ask you a question?” I asked Karama. We were in his quarters having third round of kotra.
“Of course.” He moved zalek to rot position.
“It’s about your armours; their shape specifically.” I moved one of my figures, hoping it wouldn’t be taken immediately. My hope was hopeless—he moved his lelek and replaced my dolok. “Why are they so protruding in front of your chests? It’s not that you have anything over there.” Their shoulders and top of chest were athletic and strong built, but they didn’t have any spikes in their chests to explain that diamond angle.
He pointed to the spoon on his chest, visible above the edge of his singlet. “We have this.” He made another move and then continued. “Both chanths are very sensitive organs. When you are in battle, you want to protect a spot that is so fragile.”
He only smiled. “I can’t tell you all secrets, can I?”
“You will tell me when I win a game.”
He laughed. “Then you’ll never know.” He took another of my pieces.
“Wrong! I just have an additional incentive to beat you!” I made my move, glanced at him and at once knew the move had been a mistake—a smile of victory appeared on his face and he took that piece, too. I looked back at the board and understood that the victory in his smile was justified. He had just won. Again. “One more?”
“You want to lose again?”
“I want to play again. Some day I will beat you. But I have to learn all your strategies first.”
He was just about to answer, but a chime at the door interrupted. “Enter,” he said instead. The door parted and Glinn Zamarran entered, carrying a bottle of something.
It was the first time I saw him wearing something else than an armour. He stopped, clearly as surprised to see me as I was to see him. But after a few seconds he joined us at the table; he looked at the board and smiled.
“I should be going...” I muttered and started to raise.
“Do you want to see him losing for once?” Zamarran asked.
I froze with my butt mid-air. It could be awkward to spend my free time with my superior, who was so strict and serious, but the view of Karama finally being beaten—even if not by me—was tempting. And since it was Zamarran who had suggested me to stay, I decided to do just that. I put my butt back on my chair.
“All my money is on you, sir.”
“I thought the Federation doesn’t believe in money,” Karama growled, but one glance at his face was enough to see he was not really angry. He got up and went to the cupboard next to his replicator to get three glasses.
“The Federation doesn’t but this is Cardassia and I get my monies,” I said.
Karama returned with the glasses and Zamarran poured brown liquid into each. One of the glasses was almost empty—he handed me that one motioning for me to try first. I sipped on the content and smiled, so he took the glass back and filled it to the same level as the other two. Then they set up the board and started to play.
“A language question,” I said, startling Zamarran.
“Yes, she does that.” Karama smiled, seeing his reaction. “She attacks with questions.”
The lines on Zamarran cheeks deepened—his unique smile without smiling.
“Why do you say ‘full basket’ to greet someone?” I asked.
“It’s short for ‘may your basket be full of fruit’,” Karama explained. “That’s a kind of wish of good luck.”
“Eyyyy,” Zamarran sighed loudly. “Don’t listen to him, Kapoor. He’s got his facts wrong.” Zamarran paused to take one of Karama’s pieces and then continued, “This greeting is very old and very traditional. It comes from the times when Cardassia was a rich and fertile world. People grew their own food and it was polite to wish your neighbours good crops. The phrase was too long, so with time it got shortened to ‘full basket’, but the meaning was still the same. Now it doesn’t mean anything really, it’s just a civilian way of welcoming someone.”
“That’s interesting. We say ‘namaste,’ which means ‘bow to you.’”
Zamarran looked at me quite surprised. “Isn’t your greeting something about good days or good nights?”
“Ah, you mean Federation Standard. Yes, in that language you say ‘good’ followed by time of a day. But this is not my native language.”
“What do you mean?”
“There are hundreds of languages on Earth.”
“You don’t have one language?” He didn’t look at me, as he was just making another move, but his voice was full of astonishment.
“No. Everyone learns Federation Standard, but at home we speak our own languages.”
“And in your language you say ‘bow to you’?”
“Yes. It’s a traditional greeting that shows reverence to another person.” I didn’t want to dig into the fact that ‘namaste’ wasn’t in my native language, but in Hindi. I didn’t think any Cardassian would be interested in complex language situation of India. And surely not in family history of this particular Indian present in the room, who spoke Bengali to her parents, but Hindi to her grandfather and at school.
“And what if the other person is of lower status?”
“Doesn’t matter. You should be nice to everyone. The greeting’s and its gesture’s—” I presented it by bringing my palms together on the level of my heart, “—history is connected with a deity and its creations. Be humble. Have no ego. But if two people of different statuses meet, the lower one should greet the higher one first. Or the younger one should greet the older one first.”
“I thought the Federation is about equality and such,” Zamarran said.
“It is. But the history of Earth is another matter. We treasure our national traditions.”
Zamarran nodded his approval. And then took another piece from the board. Karama was losing—and losing badly. If Karama was good at kotra, how good was Zamarran?!
“How is the full greeting—” I silenced, seeing that I startled Zamarran again. Karama giggled at his reaction.
“Bei asara aji bi kadariaji,” Zamarran said.
“Okay,” I thought for a moment. “’Aji’ is ‘you,’ I know that. ‘Full basket you bi haveyou’,” I spoke my thoughts out loud. Another example of the ‘lovely’ double use of pronouns. Zamarran observed me with a smile—a real, visible smile—from the corner of his eye. “What is ‘bi’ exactly?”
“It is an imperative particle,” Zamarran replied.
“Perfect,” I muttered. What did that mean?
“In this case it has a wishing meaning,” he continued, taking another piece from the board. Karama growled. “You can’t order baskets to be full, but you wish—you hope—they are going to be.”
I nodded; it was a bit clearer. Maybe Zamarran too should teach me Cardassian?
I sipped on the beverage—it vaguely reminded me of beer—thinking about languages, spending an evening with my super-strict superior, watching Karama being beaten at kotra and...I had to admit I had a good time.
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