Cardassian Union Warship Damar
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
24th day of the month of Lukyut, 532, Cardassian Union Calendar
“You wanted to see me, sir,” Gil Kapoor stood in front of Zamarran's console, shoulders squared, back straight, a perfect Cardassian pose.
The Glinn raised his head to look at her and then addressed Brenok. “Sir, can we use your office?” The Gul nodded his consent, so Zamarran headed for the Gul's room, followed by the Gil. He headed for the desk and went around it, but didn't sit in the chair; he would feel it would be inappropriate for it was not his
chair. He stood by the window behind the desk and looked out before turning to face Kapoor.
“We have been invited to the Federation warsh... spaceship for a dinner tonight,” he said. He suspected she already knew that from Karama, but decided not to assume anything. “Gul Brenok made a decision to include you in the team of guests.”
“Oh,” she muttered.
He gave her a moment to digest the information and then continued. “You had no contact with your own people for a very long time. I do not understand the choice you had made, but I imagine it was not always easy for you to be isolated from your home.” He took a breath to go on, but noticed she opened her mouth like she wanted to say something, although she didn't. “Speak.”
“My home is here, Glinn,” she said.
His face expression didn't change, but warmness filled his eyes. He would never admit that to her, but he was very fond of this young – he still thought of her as 'young' although for the standard of her people she was getting closer to his age – woman, who had chosen to live among the Cardassians.
Almost twenty years earlier Lieutenant Amrita Kapoor had volunteered for an officer exchange program between the Federation and the Cardassian Union. She had arrived to the ship along with another Federation officer and since day one treated it as the greatest adventure of her life. The other officer requested to be returned home a few months later, but when Kapoor had to decide if she wanted to accompany her colleague – she refused.
Little knew Zamarran at that time about her true motives. She wasn't only a true explorer for whom he took her. Yes, she did explore Cardassian technology, culture and knowledge, but not only that. Her heart decided to explore Cardassian feelings, namely, love. Zamarran was long past the initial shock he'd felt upon learning that his best friend, Karama, fell in love with this tiny, babbling and – he had to admit that – adorable human woman. She stayed in the Cardassian Union for Karama. And she never seemed to regret that decision. Now, the crew treated her as one of their own: she wore her own armour, she earned her Cardassian military rank through her hard work, she spoke their language and she contributed to the Union more than many other Cardassians did.
Zamarran was proud of her; he was proud of her accomplishments and that she had never failed him, even if he expected from her more than from anyone else. It was him, who had suggested to Ya'val to take her as his aide, and the chief engineer was very happy with that choice since.
“Yes, but you also have another family, your parents.”
She nodded once, but didn't offer any additional comment, so he continued. “I am not sure if you would like to face the Federation crew now, or what their reaction would be, so I give you a choice. You may choose to refuse to accompany us to the dinner.”
She seemed surprised. A choice was something rarely offered to a Cardassian officer; rather a sacrifice was expected. She considered the offer for a moment and then spoke in a firm voice. “I will accompany you to the dinner.”
He didn't have to ask her if she was sure. She had made her decision, she voiced it and it was enough for him.
“Be ready by twenty-hundred hours.”
“Yes, Glinn,” she acknowledged and left the office.
Once the door behind her closed a wide smile appeared on Zamarran's face.
Argaya Sector near the Cardassian Union border
8th of September, 2396, Old Earth Calendar
It was the second time that day that Zamarran had a chance to be materialised in the transporter room aboard the Karamazov
. This time, however, his team was bigger and he was in command.
“Glinn Zamarran,” Commander Ronus greeted him.
“I am afraid that ship's business keeps Gul Brenok busy and he won't be able to join us,” Zamarran lied; he hated lying, but he would hate telling strangers about Brenok's physical condition even more.
“That's regrettable, I was looking forward to knowing him better,” Ronus's words seemed sincere.
“Maybe next time.”
“Maybe next time. Please follow me.”
He led them through a corridor and a short lift trip to a room, probably their mess hall, in which other Federation officers had gathered.
“Ah, Mr. Zamarran,” th'Arshar smiled to the Glinn, who flinch a little at the omission of his military rank. “Gul Brenok couldn't make it?” the Captain looked at the group of Cardassians.
“I'm afraid so.”
“Too bad. But I hope we still can enjoy the evening. Let me--” he started, but then his eyes met Kapoor's and he suddenly silenced.
Zamarran patiently waited for the Andorian to regain his voice, but instead of th'Arshar returning to normal, everyone in the room quieted and stared at the human woman. The Glinn shot a glance at her; she didn't move, she didn't flinch, she didn't react in any way to the uneasiness which was clearly hanging in the air. She wore her typical pleasant face expression, but Zamarran was sure it was a mask this time. She was no stupid, she knew she was the reason of the sudden heaviness of the atmosphere in the room. Zamarran's eyes shifted to Karama, who stood just behind his wife. The communications officer's eyes were slightly squinted, observant and vigilant. He did not make any moves, but Zamarran hoped no one would make or say anything uncalled for, as Karama's reaction might be adequate to every Cardassian's instinct of protecting their loved ones.
“Hello, my name is Gil Kapoor,” the human woman in the Cardassian armour said in Federation Standard. Her voice was shaking a little. “And I am very hungry,” she added in a typical manner for her.
Zamarran's eye ridge cocked a bit over an eye which went to check th'Arshar's reaction. The Andorian cleared his throat and looked a bit ashamed by his behaviour.
“Welcome to our ship, Ms. Kapoor,” he said. “Please, everyone, be seated.”
As before, the Federation has assigned a seat to each and every person beforehand. Zamarran was seated between th'Arshar and Ronus, with Karama and Av'Roo to Ronus's left and then Kapoor, Fong, Ya'val, Jeto, Ma'Kan and finally Ha'varra, who was to the Captain's right, as the table was round.
Karama asked Av'Roo if they could switch places, as he wanted to sit next to his wife. If the bird showed any surprise at the revelation, Zamarran couldn't tell.
“We have prepared specialities from a few different cuisines,” Ronus said, pointing to the middle of the table, where many medium size dishes stood. “Lieutenant Fong suggested to eat the Chinese way. This means that we share all dishes. Everyone can try a bit of everything.”
Zamarran looked at an empty plate in front of him, then back at the many different types of food in the middle. He noticed zabu
stew and several other Cardassian dishes. He also recognised two Klingon courses.
“This is very interesting idea,” he commented. “Is it typical for your culture?” he asked Fong.
“Yes, sir,” the human nodded. “This is how Chinese eat. Whole family – and often also friends – gather together and share their food.”
“Are your families big?” Ya'val asked.
“Sometimes they are, sometimes not. But the fact is that this kind of dining works the best if there are many people at the table. That lets you prepare – or order, if you are in a restaurant – many different dishes. The perfect number is between ten and fifteen, if you ask my personal opinion.”
, Zamarran thought. He would never expect there was anything in common between Cardassian and human traditions.
“Please,” th'Arshar gestured to the middle of the table, inviting the Cardassians to help themselves. Zamarran wasn't sure what he should choose. He didn't want to be rude and take Cardassian food, but he didn't care much for Klingon dishes and wasn't sure he wanted to risk human tastes.
“Whoa!” Kapoor's voice filled the room. Everyone looked at her. “Sorry, sorry,” she muttered. “I just... sir,” she looked at Zamarran. “They have samosa. You have
to try it. It's from the region where I come from.” She rose and reached for some kind of cutlery to pick a triangle object from one of plates. Zamarran eyed her and then took his plate and raised it to her. She put the triangle thing on it and her cutlery barely let go of the samosa-thing when another plate materialised in almost the same point as Zamarran's used to be merely a few seconds ago. Karama. Did she cook it for him and he liked it so much or did he want to try her local food so eagerly? She smiled to him warmly and put two on his plate. She looked around the Cardassians' faces, but no one else seemed to want it, so she took two for herself and sat.
“Which part of India are you from?” Fong asked Kapoor.
“Calcutta,” she answered.
Zamarran bit off a tiny piece of the triangle samosa and chewed. It tasted well, so he bit more to discover that the triangle was not made of only pastry, but inside were vegetables and minced meat. It tasted really well. Maybe he should show more interest in foreign cuisines, he wondered.
“Tell me, Mr. Zamarran--”
Zamarran,” the Cardassian said coldly.
“Yes, of course,” th'Arshar smiled apologetically, “tell me, how are things on Cardassia now. I hope you managed to rebuild after the war.”
“The rebuilding efforts are still in progress. It was much easier to destroy cities than build them back.”
“It's regrettable that so many precious architectural treasures were destroyed,” Ronus said.
Zamarran glanced at him. “Have you been to Cardassia?” he asked.
The Trill nodded. “One of my previous hosts has. She had been invited by your Ministry of Science and she enjoyed her time there, especially the ruins of Hebitians.”
“Yes, they were impressive,” Zamarran smiled. “Very little is left now,” he added grimly. “The Jem'Hadar know no value of history for they have none themselves. We try to regain what we can of our heritage, but it is difficult and very costly.”
“What do you mean?” Ha'varra asked.
“Several decades ago the Central Command started selling our artefacts and all sorts of Hebitian relics to finance wars. It was a regrettable decision. We are trying to find as many of those treasures as we can and buy them back. It's not easy as even if we locate something, owners ask for unbelievable prices and we simply can't afford to buy it back. Feeding our people is our priority.”
“I had no idea,” Ronus seemed genuinely interested. “Have you managed to recover many artefacts so far?”
“Not as many as we located and as we would like to, but yes, we have some successes. Still, I'd like to see our museums full of our history, for we have rich and interesting history.”
“What does your political structure look like now?” Ha'varra asked. “The last time we heard of you there was a coup twenty years ago and then isolating yourselves from the rest of the Alpha Quadrant.”
Zamarran smiled. “The Central Command is leading the empire.”
“Do you have the Obsidian Order back?” th'Arshar asked.
“Oh, no! We don't,” Zamarran laughed and Ma'Kan, who listened to their conversation, joined him. “Some things should remain in history.”
“How about the colonies?” Ha'varra asked. “I mean the former Federation colonies. What happened to those people there?”
“Each colony, regardless if it is inhabited by Cardassians or non-Cardassians, was granted an autonomy. They must have a Prefect, who reports directly to the Central Command, but how they rule their own planet, how they choose that Prefect – it's all up to them. The Central Command doesn't interfere.”
“Does it work?” Ronus asked.
“It does.” For the most part
, Zamarran added in the privacy of his own thoughts.
“Why are you living with Cardassians?” Av'Roo asked Kapoor. Zamarran heard no attack in the Skorr’s voice, only curiosity.
“Because I found my new home on Cardassia,” the Gil smiled to the Skorr, raising her head to look in the tall bird's face.
“How can you live among them?” Jeto asked quietly.
“I am not sure what you mean,” Kapoor said politely, but Zamarran was sure she understood Jeto's words perfectly, just as he did.
“What did they do to you?” Jeto didn't back out.
Before Kapoor could answer to that Ha'varra raised his glass. “How about a toast? To our future, hopefully fruitful, co-operation.”
Everyone, except Jeto, raised their glasses. Zamarran wondered what was inside – it was blue. He sipped. Another alien taste he liked.
“What is it?” he asked th'Arshar.
“Bajoran spring wine.”
“Really?” Ya'val looked at his glass and drank a bit. “At first I thought it was Romulan Ale, but its aroma is too delicate.”
“Don't pretend you never drank it,” Jeto muttered.
“No, I didn't,” Ya'val answered calmly, but his eyes hardened. He knew what she was implying. Everyone at the table knew. Zamarran glanced at the Captain, wondering if the Andorian would do something about her before the situation would get out of control.
“Glinn,” Ha'varra looked at Zamarran. “I have a... professional question. I am a Counselor, so naturally I am very interested in different psychological matters. I wonder, how did the Cardassians fare after the Dominion attacks at the end of the war. I am not sure what kind of psychological services are available on Cardassia, but I am sure many people needed a lot of help and support.”
“It was chaos. Apart from psychological effects people were suffering from plagues, starvation and--”
“You deserved it!” Jeto shouted, looking furiously at Zamarran. No one expected that explosion of voice and anger, even in the light of her earlier remarks. All talks and whispers at the table seized and everyone looked at the ranking Cardassian to see how he would react to her words.