“Cardassian” means “evil”
“Karama, why do you do this?” Kapoor 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--”
“My point exactly. 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 her for a short while.
“Please?” she repeated.
“I'll stop, but I do it for you, not for her.”
Eleven days earlier
Brenok waited for the materialisation process to end. When the swirling, orange energy patterns finally disappeared, there were two Terran women standing on the transporter pad. The one on the left was very short, her skin reminded him of cocoa his mother used to prepare every morning and her hair was a bunch of shiny, black wisps. She looked at him with her huge, black eyes and smiled. The other one was tall and slim. Her hair was... yellow, tied into a tail at the back of her head. She glanced nervously at him.
“I am Glinn Brenok, the Gul's aide,” he said. “Welcome aboard Cardassian Union Warship Roumar.”
“Thank you, sir,” the short officer stepped off the pad and approached him, handing him a Cardassian data rod. “These are our orders. My name is Lieutenant Amrita Kapoor and this is Lieutenant Maeva Ullmann.”
He took the rod. “What are your specialities?” he asked, seeing that Kapoor wore gold and Ullmann wore blue.
“I am an engineer and Lieutenant Ullmann is a scientist.”
“Interesting,” he said, observing Ullmann finally stepping off the pad and reluctantly approaching him. “Here,” he handed them a Cardassian padd each. “These padds contain all necessary information you need for start.” They both took padds and Kapoor immediately activated hers. “You can also find a full list of our regulations. You have two days to study and memorise them and after those two days no deviation from regulations will be accepted,” it took all his will not to flinch. I sound just like Daset
, he thought.
“What is it, Kapoor?”
“Only two days?”
“Is there a problem?”
“Well,” she glanced uncertainly at her colleague and then back at Brenok. “We can read the regulations, but we will not have them learnt by heart in two days.”
“Why not?” he was puzzled.
“Our memory is not as perfect as yours,” she smiled sheepishly. “We need a lot of time to memorize such a long document.”
“I see your problem,” he said. He thought for a moment. “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.”
The three of them left the transporter room. Brenok tried to ignore Kapoor's curious glances at his hair.
Jarol was a bit nervous, but she couldn't tell why. She stood by a window, looking at Cardassia blow, and wondering where all this Federation exchange officers business would take them. She still wasn't completely convinced this wasn't some kind of Feds' trick to neatly place their spies in the Union.
She heard the door swish open, so turned to face her new crewmen. Crew-women, as it occurred.
“Lieutenant Kapoor and Lieutenant Ullmann,” Brenok introduced them.
She glanced at the short one, who smiled and nodded to her. The other one looked strange, like she was sick. Her hair was light yellow and her skin was almost as white as desert's sand. She lacked those funny, hairy eyebrows. No, wait, she had them, but they were so bright they were almost indistinguishable from her skin.
“Welcome aboard,” Jarol said, her tone of voice official. “I'm Gul Jarol, in command of CUW Roumar. You are here as exchange officers,” she did her best not to snort, “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.” She couldn't believe he actually volunteered for this task. “Cultural misunderstandings would be overlooked in the beginning, however I suggest you familiarise yourselves with our customs not to offend anyone, even unwittingly.” She stopped and looked at the Ullmann person. “Are you all right? Why is water dripping off your face?” she asked, approaching the woman.
Ullmann stiffened. “I am ok,” she said quietly eventually.
Jarol looked at the other Terran. There were pearls of water on her forehead too.
“It's the temperature, ma'am,” the short woman said. “We are not used to such heat.”
“I understand that, but why are you wet?”
“It's perspiration, ma'am. We expel excess of heat out of our bodies this way.”
, Jarol thought.
“There is a cooling unit waiting for you in your quarters,” Jarol said. “However you will have to adapt, as this is standard temperature aboard this ship.”
“Yes, ma'am! We will, ma'am,” Kapoor squared her shoulders.
Jarol kept looking at her. There was something wrong with the translator, or with vocabulary the Terran used.
“Why do you call me your mom?” Jarol asked finally.
Kapoor looked at her surprised, while Brenok did his best to hide his smile.
“I beg your pardon?” the Terran said finally.
“I suspect this is the best our translator can do, but why would it choose such a strange word. What is the word you use to address me?”
“It is a standard word to address a female superior, ma... Sir?”
“Oh,” Jarol's eyes smiled, even if her mouth didn't. “Well, there is not such word in Cardassian, so 'sir', or 'Gul' will do instead. I don't want to be your mom.”
“Of course, Gul,” the woman nodded.
Jarol thought there was a shadow of discipline there, in spite of that she didn't expect to see it.
“Questions?” she looked at them both. None of them reacted, so she took it as a 'no'. “Dismissed,” she said and looked at Brenok.
“Follow me,” he said and all three of them left the office.
The door didn't close yet, when it reopened and Zamarran entered.
“This is going to be veeeeeery interesting,” he commented, looking after the aliens.
“You have something for me?” she asked him.
“Gul Jarol,” he started officially, “I would like to report that Cardassian Union Warship Roumar is fully repaired and in top condition.”
“About time,” she said, knitting her eye ridges as if scolding him. His face expressed only great disappointment. She smiled. “Just joking, Glinn, relax. Good job, I know it took you a lot of time and planning to gather everything you needed to bring us back to this crisp and fresh state.”
“Yes, sir, it did.”
“Fishing for promotion?”
Zamarran only smiled. They both knew it wasn't possible, unless he would transfer away. Brenok was Glinn Grade Two and there could be only one aboard – the Gul's aide. Zamarran deserved the promotion to Grade Two more than anyone else on this ship, but she didn't want to lose him and he didn't seem to want to go. Being a Glinn Grade One had to satisfy him for now. However she knew it was a matter of time; he was ready to be someone's aide and the day he would leave was getting closer with every report he delivered.
“Dismissed,” she said.
He left her office and returned to the bridge.
Jarol entered the bridge and the first thing she noted was presence of both exchange officers. She approved of their punctuality. She sat in her chair and asked for reports from all stations. There wasn't anything special happening, which she welcomed, as it gave her time to catch up with all paperwork and the “Withdrawal Planning”.
“Sir, Gul Daset hails us,” Karama reported.
“Gul Jarol,” Daset went straight to business. “Your presence is required in the Skarrat Prefecture.”
“Isn't Gul Marret investigating them?” she asked.
Skarrat was one of annexed worlds and to speed up gathering of information, each world was being investigated by one ship.
“He is. However he says he has a problem there and requested your presence.”
“I think he believes you are a better diplomat. He knows you managed to solve Amaratian situation, so he thinks you can deal with this too. Frankly, I agree with him.”
“What about their presence?” she nodded once toward Kapoor.
“They'll have to digest what they see.”
Perfect. What we need is to show our internal problems to those Feds here.
“Understood,” she said.
Daset's face was replaced by the Union logo and then by Cardassia, slowly turning below them.
“Karama, plot the course to the Skarrat System.”
“Brenok, what do we know about them?”
The Glinn worked on his console for a moment and then reported.
“The Skarrat system consists of three planets. The third one is inhabited by reptilian, biped, sentient race, the Skarrats. We have annexed the system one hundred and twenty-eight years ago. All three planets were quickly stripped of any valuable resources and are completely useless now.” He raised his head and looked at the Gul. “There are no reports of any problems with the Skarrats.”
“Until now,” she said more to herself, that to him. “Karama, ETA?”
She still had time to do her paperwork.
“Brenok, my office,” she barked and headed for her room.
Her aide followed her.
“How are they?” she asked when the door closed behind him. “Any problems so far?”
“None that I know of. Kapoor seems opened and curious about everything. She spent whole evening on the bridge yesterday. Ullmann is reserved. I think she's a little scared.”
“I'm not sure it's such a good idea to go to Skarrat with them. They would surely file some reports to the Federation, giving them even more excuses to interfere in our matters.”
“You assume the situation there is critical.”
“Marret wouldn't ask for us if he could deal with it himself.”
Brenok thought for a while.
“We can try to limit their expose to information, but we can't leave them behind,” he said eventually.
“I will prepare full report on current Skarrat situation,” he said.
“Very good. We need to know what we should expect by the time we arrive there.”
He left the office and returned to the bridge.