Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, the transporter chamber
Zamarran glanced at Yassel and asked her quietly, making sure the transporter operator wouldn’t hear. “Glinn Yassel, how is your mental discipline?”
She looked at him. “You fear that the captain will read me?”
“She might try to.”
She shook her head. “I don’t know, sir. I trained but I never had any chance to test myself.”
“Don’t let it stop you from careful listening and telling me about her
true intentions,” he said smiling.
Yassel grinned. The worry on her face transformed into a proud expression. “I’ll do my best, sir.”
“Incoming transport,” the transporter garesh announced and a moment later the Betazoid woman and an Andorian man materialised on the pad.
“I hope you don’t mind that I took the liberty of bringing my first officer?” she asked, stepping down and approaching both Cardassians.
“Not at all. As you can see, I am accompanied by my aide. This is Glinn Yassel.”
“Commander ch’Tef,” the captain introduced her aide.
“Please, follow me to the wardroom,” Zamarran gestured toward the door and the four left the transporter chamber, followed by two guards.
When they arrived to the wardroom, it occurred to be occupied and in chaos. Zamarran stood in the doorway, his eyes wide open in shock. After a long moment he glanced at Yassel. “What is this?” he asked.
“I wish I knew,” she answered and entered the room. “What’s going on here? Why no one obtained any permission before starting any operations in this room?”
The people inside looked uncertainly at each other.
Zamarran smiled sheepishly. “I’m so sorry, Captain Ram. Most of my crew consists of scientists with limited military training and experience, so they are not yet fully versed in protocols.”
“That is all right, Gul Zamarran,” Ram smiled. “Is there any other place where we could talk?”
“My office is an option,” the gul replied. Or we could use one of the labs in revenge
, he thought humorously. In spite of a negative image that his undisciplined crew had just created, he found the whole situation amusing.
“Then let’s proceed over there.”
As they walked, Zamarran wondered if he would feel Ram’s attempts to read his mind. He knew that normally a victim wouldn’t be aware of it, but perhaps the situation would be different if a Betazoid tried to force through a mental block. He also wondered if the proximity to their targets strengthened Betazoids’ abilities. Maybe she couldn’t have read him from her ship, but she could now. He found this uncertainty very stressful.
They arrived to the office and he invited both Federation officers to sit in chairs. Yassel stood behind his chair before he even sat down.
He placed his folded arms on the desk and slightly leaned forward. “All right, Captain. Now we can talk and clarify all misunderstandings.”
She smiled. “Yes. Well...First I’d like to ask if you indeed fought with the Talarians.”
“That is correct. They still mine the sun and we demanded from them to leave. They refused. I am sure they will return with reinforcements, as they don’t seem to intend to stop their activity.”
“Did you call yours?”
“Indeed I did. I can fight against one or two Talarian warships, but not against a whole fleet.”
“Why do you care about the Rathosians’ well-being?”
Zamarran knew about Captain Lau and his request, but he didn’t want to put the good captain in trouble. “It was brought to our attention that the system is in danger.”
“But why do you want to save them? What is your reason?”
The gul leaned back and looked at her. He didn’t say anything for a moment and then slowly started to speak. “I am not sure we really have any good reason. If you expect some pragmatic explanation, then I’ll have to disappoint you. I have none. My superiors have none. We don’t want anything from the Rathosians, we just want to help. For no reason.” Or for redeeming ourselves
, he added to himself.
“What will you do if the Talarians don’t leave?”
“That’s a very good question.”
She smiled. The Andorian looked at her, then at the gul. “May I ask a question?” They both nodded. “What about those Cardassians on the planet?”
Zamarran sighed. “We’ve lost contact with them. We cannot find them, as the scans don’t detect any Cardassian life signs and no Cardassian technology, apart from the wreck of the Hideki fighter. As much as I’d like to beam them up and remove from the planet’s surface, I cannot.”
Ch’Tef looked at Ram. “We didn’t detect any Cardassian signals, either.”
She seemed to consider something for a moment. “Gul Zamarran,” she said at length, “I am not at liberty to share some information, but I will try to do something about your problem.” Her first officer sent her a surprised look. She smiled apologetically. “As you can see, I am not allowed to share this detail even with my own commander.”
Zamarran smiled weakly. “I understand.”
“It might take a day or two, though.”
Zamarran’s eye ridge raised higher. It returned to it’s normal place after a short moment. “We will keep scanning the planet in the meantime, in case they reappear.”
“You do that.” She shifted. “Can I have your promise that you won’t send any more troops? I mean...any troops to retrieve them?”
“You still think that I want to conquer?” She clearly was unable to read him, or she would know that he didn’t lie.
“No. It’s about the Prime Directive.”
“It doesn’t apply to me.”
“But it’s my duty to follow it.”
“I won’t send any troops, unless I feel it’s absolutely necessary.”
She sighed. “I suppose I won’t get anything better than that, so I hope you won’t find it necessary.”
Zamarran only stared at her. After a moment he said, “Let’s do our best not to let the conflict with Talarians become a conflict between us.”
“With that I wholeheartedly agree.” She nodded and smiled. She rose and ch’Tef followed her example. “It was a pleasure to visit your science ship.”
Zamarran stood too. “I’ll see you off to the transporter chamber.”
He motioned to Yassel to stay in his office and left the room along with the guests and guards.
Captain Ram felt relieved to be back on her ship in one piece. The big Cardassian was polite and seemed opened, but she felt a bit intimidated by this non-nonsense man.
“Did you try to read him?” ch’Tef asked her while they walked toward a turbolift.
“No. I doubt I would achieve anything and you know very well that I don’t like peeping into people’s heads without their consent.”
“I thought that the stakes were too high and you would make an exception.”
“No. I don’t break my own rules because it’s convenient.”
He nodded. “All right.”
“What is your impression of him? Did he lie?”
“I don’t think so. He seems like a man with a purpose and is determined to achieve his goal. If he really wants to help and prevent the destruction of this system...”
He didn’t finish but he didn’t have to. Even without reading his thoughts she knew what he meant and she fully agreed with him. And totally disagreed with the Prime Directive. How could anyone in the Federation turn their backs on defenceless people in the name of some stiff rule? She was glad that at least the Cardassians had enough decency not to stand by and watch and at the same time she felt ashamed that it were the Cardassians who came to help in spite
of the Federation’s best efforts to stop
them. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
One of the things that convinced her that Zamarran wasn’t a warlord with hunger for blood was the little incident in the conference room. His shock at seeing his undisciplined crew—an undisciplined Cardassian
crew!—and his leniency in dealing with it showed her that it was indeed a science ship and he indeed was a man with a soft side, even if he looked like an Earth dragon.
Upon arriving at the bridge, she left command in ch’Tef’s hands and headed for her ready room. She knew that there were observation outposts on the planet, but she had no way to contact them regarding the missing Cardassians. She had to go around to the admiralty and have them contact the scientists. She only hoped that bureaucracy wouldn’t take longer than two days, or Zamarran might take her for a liar and all the fragile trust they had built would fall in ruin.
Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, the gul’s office
When Zamarran returned to his office, Yassel waited for him in one of chairs. She turned hearing an opening door and rose to her feet when he entered. He headed for his chair and sat.
“Impressions?” he asked.
“The captain was cautious, but I don’t think she lied. There was something in her voice...some lack of certainty. I don’t know how to describe it, but the pitch of her voice was changing in unexpected moments.”
Zamarran sighed. Then, he decided to change the subject. “How is scientific work progressing?”
“I’ll have a full report in two hours. Rotan mentioned some progress, but I’m not sure how significant it is.”
“About that incident in the wardroom—”
Zamarran raised his hand. “Don’t worry about it. But remind the departments heads to instruct their officers once again on the chain of command.”
She left the office and he finally could allow himself to let a small chuckle. The scientists’ face expressions in the wardroom upon entering the top brass had been priceless.