Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, the training deck
Glinn Torpal, the Marritza
’s chief tactician, entered the training deck. Garesh Aladar had asked him for permission to organise additional military exercises for higher ranking gareshes and officers and Torpal had granted him such a permission. He couldn’t help but agree that some members of the crew needed more training. A science ship or not a science ship, this was a military vessel and had to live up to these standards not for Torpal’s personal satisfaction, but for the sake of survival in space.
“Move on, move on!” Aladar yelled, leading a group of soldiers. Torpal at once noticed that the pace of the run was not especially demanding; still, some of the soldiers were clearly exhausted and ran with their mouths open to release some heat. Obviously, Aladar was aware that their physical condition was not the best in the Order and adapted the intensity of the training to their abilities. “Come on, my bookworms!” he shouted. In his hand he held a small clicking device, dofrapot
, which helped him in setting an even pace of their jog. “You read books about heroes, now’s your chance to prepare to become ones!” He increased the pace. “Faster, bookworms, faster! Or other bookworms will eat your fop
and read your books! Or better eat all your favourite books!”
Torpal did his best not to laugh. He found Aladar’s encouragement amusing but didn’t want to make an impression that he laughed at the trainees. He stood in a corner, trying not to draw unnecessary attention and observed the training.
It was quite unusual for a garesh to train officers of almost all departments. Usually it was a tactician’s job, just as Torpal, to train the troops and keep his own department in shape. No officer would easily accept the necessity of accepting orders from a garesh and certainly not calling them names—even if those were rather loving nicknames than insults. Here, however, in front of his eyes, all military unwritten social rules were violated and no one complained. Aladar had to be aware that he dared to do something that no one—to Torpal’s knowledge—had tried before and the garesh found an approach that rose no protests from the officers, his superiors
. It could mean two things: either these scientists didn’t understand the military rules well and didn’t know that he, in fact, was violating them, or he did it with such a skill that they didn’t mind. Or both.
The jog came to an end but if any of the trainees hoped for rest, his or her wish was quickly crushed under Aladar’s boot. Torpal knew that this was merely a warm-up and the real thing didn’t even start. Aladar demonstrated a series of stretches and the training deck filled with gasps, moans and heavy breathing.
“More!” Aladar leaned over one very unhappily looking kara. “You can make your arms longer, can’t you? What if your greatest discovery is within your grasp, but you can’t stretch your arm enough to actually claim it?” The kara started to laugh and Torpal thought that Aladar’s ‘my bookworms’ technique might not be as effective, since there are moments when it’s counterproductive. The garesh smiled slightly—either at his own joke, or to the pretty, laughing young woman—and left her alone. The glinn noticed, though, that Aladar glanced back at her and saw the same thing that didn’t escape his, Torpal’s, attention: she tried again and put much more effort into her exercise than before.
Aladar approached the glinn. “Sir? Orders, sir?”
Torpal shook his head. “No, Garesh Aladar. Just visiting to see how you’re doing.”
“Making sure the officers follow my instructions?”
That was one of the reasons, to be honest. Torpal grinned. “That too. But I can see that I worried unnecessarily. They adore you.”
“They’ll hate me when we finish. And they’ll keep hating me tomorrow, when their muscles refuse to work without pain.”
“Carry on,” Torpal said and headed for the door. He didn’t want Aladar to think that he tried to control the garesh. This man knew very well what he was doing and no control was necessary. He wished he could keep him aboard.
Rayak Nor, the gul’s office
Jarol jumped at the sound of the comm. She absentmindedly looked at the padd that she kept in her hand. She knew she had been staring at it without seeing it for quite some time. It was another of these moments when her thoughts drifted away to dark places of chaos and havoc.
“What is it?” she answered the comm.
“Gul, DaiMon Delva is here and he wants to see you
,” Borad informed her.
“Let him in.”
The Ferengi entered her office a moment later, all in smiles. His toothy grin faded quite quickly, though. “Oh, my precious Legate, I didn’t interrupt anything, did I?” he asked.
“No, you didn’t.” The fact was that he did and she was grateful for that. “Don’t call me legate.”
“Why not? You’ve been one for such a long time.”
“But I’m not any longer.”
He was silent for a moment and then, without invitation, sat in the guest chair. “Can you make an exception and let me call you a legate? You’re the only one I know and that makes me special. It sounds much more impressive if I tell other Ferengi that I talked to Legate
Jarol than to Gul
She started at him blankly. Was it a joke, or was he serious? It didn’t matter. “What is it that you want?” she asked.
“I was thinking about establishing more permanent presence of my business on the station. A shop with luxury goods, perhaps? I have noticed that demand for certain items grows and maybe a shop here, on the station, would make it easier for both you and me. What do you say?”
She didn’t know what to say. She wanted her people to be happy and if they needed some things that weren’t readily available on the station, such a shop could improve morale. But did she want this station to become a big market in space? Wouldn’t Delva draw attention of other merchants and businessmen? It was a military installation after all, not a city. It was populated by soldiers, not families. And what about the shop’s employees safety? Someone could blow it to pieces and kill them. And Delva might be planning something illegal there and use the shop as a cover for his dirty business. Many officers and gareshes could not be able to afford the goods that he would be selling and it could cause their frustration.
Questions chased each other in her mind and she couldn’t even decide which were more important and which could be ignored. And even if she were able to chose which questions’ answers should prevail in her decision, she had no answers at all. Only questions.
“Well?” he asked her.
She looked at him. How long were her thoughts walking in circles over such a trivial matter as a shop? How long did she make him wait for her lack of decision? “Present details of this enterprise to Glinn Borad. I will make a decision when I know them.” She did a lot of that recently—move the moment of making a decision forward in time, push it away and hope that it disappears.
It never did.
“I’ll do that,” he grinned. “I won’t take any more of your time,” he said, raising. He headed for the door but just before it parted he stopped and looked at her. “Is there anything I could offer my sweet Legate that would bring a smile back to her face?” he asked.
“No, Delva. What I need cannot be bought.”
“You would be surprised what you can get if you’re willing to pay the price.” His grin widened.
She ignored him, not knowing what to say. How much for a new life? How much for a second chance? How much for peace of mind? How much for not being born at all?
He left and she was again alone.
Not alone. Her thoughts stayed with her.
Cardassian Union Ship Marritza, the bridge
It wasn’t the first time that Zamarran was sitting in a gul’s chair, but it was the first time that it was his
chair and he felt very, very uneasy about it.
What would he do if suddenly someone attacks the Marritza
? His very first instinct would be to move away and let the gul to take over the command and fight, but this time he was the gul. It was his
job to command and fight.
He bit his lower lip. Gul Brenok made a terrible mistake, assigning him to this vessel and Zamarran had a bad feeling the long-haired gul would learn about it the hard way: by reading a casualty report. Zamarran looked around: his ship was mostly staffed by young and very young crew. Only the chief medic was closing to middle age and the chief tactician was already there. The gul glanced at the Lakarian man, who operated his console, scanning the surroundings in an attempt to find danger and hostile aliens before they find the Marritza
. Then his eyes moved to the other side of the bridge, to his aide. She was more of a statistical representative of his crew: half his age and with quite limited experience.
He noticed she wore an additional pocket attached to the holster belt. There was something inside it but from his chair Zamarran couldn’t see what. Not that it mattered that much, she wasn’t in violation of any specific rule.
He rose from his chair and headed for his office. “Torpal, you have the bridge. Yassel, my office, please,” he said loud enough for them to hear him.
She nervously glanced up and followed him.
He went to his desk and sat, while she stopped by the door. He was under impression that she tried to keep safe distance.
“Glinn Yassel, I have a few additional instructions for you,” he said. “I have reports here, and data, and statistics and a lot of other things, but I consider them fairly useless.” A shadow of panic appeared on her face for a moment. “Don’t get me wrong, Glinn, you did a good job collecting them as I am sure you had been ordered, but this is not exactly the information I need. Those are dry facts, prepared by someone—I don’t even know whom. What I need is the real condition of the ship and the crew.
“I would like you to interview all senior staff. Prepare full reports about them, not only a dry service record. Have a conversation with them, not an interrogation. I want to know about their strengths and weaknesses; that way we would be able to assign them to adequate duties and not something that isn’t within the scope of their expertise.” He noticed she reached into her mysterious pocket and took a padd out of there. He continued, “Gil Kapoor will prepare such a report about engineering condition; I would like you, however, to take care of all scientific matters, in cooperation with her, if you’d like.
“I would also like to hear your opinion about creating a new department aboard the ship. A study department of some sort. With a scientist as its head.” She kept tapping at her padd, so he paused for a moment. “Is there a problem, Glinn?” he asked. Was she even listening to him?
She looked at him and hid the padd behind her like a child who tried to hide results of her naughty behaviour. “No, sir.” Her voice was shaking.
“Then what are you doing with this padd?”
“I...” Nothing followed the initial word.
Zamarran sighed. “Sit down, Yassel.” She stiffly went to a chair and sat. “Take a breath and tell me what you were doing.”
She leaned the hands with the padd in them on her thighs and lowered her head. “I was making notes, sir,” she said quietly.
Zamarran was confused. “Notes? What kind of notes?”
“I was writing down your orders. This list, including all details, was getting long and I...”
“And you...” he started to prompt her, but then it dawned on him. “...wouldn’t remember it all,” he finished himself.
She looked at him, her eyes shining with gathering tears. “I’m so sorry, sir. I know this is pathetic and I am sure you could have a better aide than someone with weak memory.” She spoke fast in a nervous voice. “I will resign my commission. I was thinking about it anyway. I’m sure Glinn Torpal would make a great aide and—”
Zamarran raised his hand. “Yassel, stop babbling, please.” I have one babbling officer here and one is more than enough
, he thought, thinking of Kapoor. The glinn silenced. “Look, I don’t mind you making notes. Actually, I find it quite responsible of you that you make sure all orders are written somewhere that way or another. You can write them on the bulkhead of your quarters, if it helps you. As long as you follow my instructions, it doesn’t matter if you memorise them or write them on your padd.” She smiled weakly. “Now, about that resigning your commission. Are you sure you want to do it?”
“I am not a material for an aide, sir.”
Her honesty disarmed him. And he felt like they had something in common—he felt a very similar way. “Let’s try this one mission, Yassel. And then we will see how it will go on, all right?” he said softly.
“What if I fail you?”
He smiled slightly. “With that attitude, it is possible. You are here, assigned to me as my aide, aren’t you? You had to deserve it somehow. I think you are underestimating yourself.”
She shook her head. “No, sir. The truth is, I am here because of my name, of my family. I am not a soldier, but it was expected of me to become one. But people are not soap, you cannot shape them!” There was a lot of negative emotions in her words and the tone she spoke them and Zamarran was sure it was more than ‘expected.’ She had been forced
to join the Guard. “Sorry, sir, didn’t mean to shout.”
“I’m glad to see there is some fire inside you.” He changed his tone to a serious one. “Yassel, you are on a science ship in command of dozens of scientists. It’s as far from being a soldier and still being in the military as I can imagine. I am an engineer and all I know if designing and fixing things. Let’s leave Torpal soldier things and get to what we know and how to do it well. I read your file: you’re good in organising things, you have good ideas if only allowed to show any initiative. Let me assure you, I want to hear about anything and everything you can think of. Don’t be afraid to come and tell me. I might like it or not, but you wouldn’t know until you tell me.”
“Now, can we go on with my instructions?”
“Is the padd ready?”
She grinned shyly and lowered her eyes. “Yes, sir.”
“What was the last item?”
“A study department, sir.”
“Right. Think about it. I want to hear your opinion and ideas
tomorrow afternoon. Then...” he continued and she kept entering everything into her device.
She appeared calmer. Was it because her little secret was out and it wasn’t a problem for him, or the result of this conversation, he didn’t know, but he hoped she would be less nervous from now on.
She returned to the bridge and he accessed her file again. With the new information he had just received from her, her profile delivered completely different impression from the previous time he had read it.
Yassel was from an old, aristocratic family with a long history of military service, just like Zamarran’s own. But it seemed that Yassel herself wasn’t eager to follow the tradition. Unfortunately for her, she was the oldest from all siblings and the only one that became a member of the Cardassian Guard. With all children choosing other careers, someone had to be the one to follow the traditional choice and as the oldest one, she had to face that family duty.
Zamarran respected tradition, Zamarran respected the will of the family, but he believed that sometimes some things went too far and he believed that this was the case. His own marriage had been arranged by his parents and while he got lucky to be chosen for a wonderful woman, whom he truly loved, he would never arrange marriages for his own children. This tradition wasn’t very important and shouldn’t make people unhappy. Traditions were to be enjoyed and cherished, not to torment anyone.
Even in case of the military tradition in a family, one-generation gap in service wouldn’t hurt anyone and one woman would be less miserable in her life. Was her service more important for her father than her happiness? Zamarran would never ever put tradition and customs before people. Traditions were for
people, not people for traditions.
Yassel’s file contained a history of an adequate officer. Not exceptional and miracle officer, but someone hard-working. He appreciated that. Miracles were rare, but hard work always bore fruits and he preferred a decent, hard-working officer to hope for miracles.
He closed her file and returned to the bridge.