Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, Laboratory Five
Yassel was leaning over a console, so concentrated on her study that she didn’t notice Zamarran entering the room.
“Any progress?” he asked, looking over her shoulder.
She jumped. At first Zamarran thought that he had startled her, but her initial reaction didn’t evaporate. She made one step back and it seemed like she tried to keep him at a distance. He did not violate her personal space, he did not approach her that
close, so he wasn’t sure what could have caused such a reaction.
She seemed to compose herself. “I’m so sorry, sir. I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean...” she started to mutter and the gul’s confusion only rose. What was she apologising for?
“No, I’m sorry for startling you so badly. Now, can you—”
He didn’t have a chance to finish, because Yassel slipped by him and ran out of the lab. He flabbergasted stared at Kapoor. “Was it something I said?” he asked.
“I’ll talk to her,” Kapoor offered and after receiving an approving nod from the gul, she followed the glinn.
Zamarran looked at Gil Rotan. “Yassel had told me that you had news for me,” he said.
She nodded. “Indeed, sir.” She motioned to the main display with a star’s diagram on it. Zamarran guessed that it wasn’t just any star, but the one that was causing all the trouble. “As per your orders, sir, we kept scanning the level of phorogotium in the Rathosian sun. The level didn’t fall since our initial scan, so I would assume that the low levels are the result of Talarian mining operations. If this is their target, or just a side effect—I cannot tell yet.
“We have also scanned for other elements and their levels. There is some imbalance, but we haven’t detect any change since our arrival. However, there is a significant drop of some levels, if we compare our readings with the readings given to us by the Federation captain. I would assume that the Talarians mined the sun between their and our scans, hence the difference.”
“Would simple delivery of missing components help?” Zamarran asked, sure that it wouldn’t be so easy.
“I am not sure, sir. A star’s chemical balance is a fragile one and it’s not easy to control it. Even if it would be a solution, there’s still a question of delivering the elements to the sun’s core.”
The gul nodded. “I see your point.”
“It would help, sir, if we knew what exactly the Talarian ships extract from the star and how.”
“Doubtful that the Talarians would share that kind of details, but I’ll see if I can get that information somehow.”
Rotan smiled weakly. “To be honest, I have no idea what to do now. We have gathered a lot of information, but there’s little we can do about it. If Talarians mined the sun for some time and we returned to see the difference...well, that could help.” Seeing Zamarran’s face expression, she quickly added, raising her hand. “I know, this is not an option. But right now I cannot tell what kind of change
we’re dealing with. I see only results. It’s like seeing a dead body. We know it’s dead and we even know how killed it, but we don’t know how.”
“So be a good investigator and find out.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do, sir, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
“Keep working. I’ll see if I can get any information from the Talarians or the Federation.”
The gil nodded and Zamarran turned and headed for the door, when a young kara approached him.
“Sir...” she said shyly.
“Yes, Kara Talis, what can I do for you?”
“Are we going to rescue our people from the planet?”
“We are, Talis. I’m not leaving anyone behind,” he assured her, wondering why it was so important to her. Was it personal? He wouldn’t dare to ask, as it was none of his business.
She seemed satisfied with his answer, as a small smile appeared on her face. She nodded and returned to her duties.
Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, the gul’s office
Zamarran returned to his office to be mildly surprised by the presence of two of his officers there. “You better?” he asked Yassel.
“Tell him,” Kapoor said, clearly addressing the glinn.
“It doesn’t matter any more,” Yassel replied quietly.
“Tell him or I’ll tell him,” the human engineer demanded, crossing her arms on her chest.
Zamarran knew this tone of voice. Kapoor was determined and would not stop before getting what she wanted. “What is the problem?” he asked, looking at both women.
Kapoor gave Yassel an expecting glance, but since the Cardassian only lowered her head, she decided to speak. “Glinn Yassel was sexually harassed by her previous gul. She doesn’t think that you would even do anything like this, but the fear is there. So you startled her today.”
Zamarran was speechless. His initial shock slowly turned into hot fury. He went behind his desk with the intention to sit down, but instead walked around, took a chair and put it in front of the one that Yassel sat on. He made sure it wasn’t too close and sat too. He leaned toward her. At first she didn’t react but finally she raised her head and looked him in the eyes for a second. Then she looked away.
“Yassel, how far did he go?” Zamarran asked softly.
“Only touching. And talking.” She shifted her shoulder under her armour and the motion reminded him of Gul Brenok shifting his shoulder when his neck ridge was in pain. She had said ‘only,’ but in Zamarran’s eyes uninvited touching of neck ridges was everything but ‘only.’ “And ‘accidental’ rubbing in a corridor or on the bridge.”
“Did you report him?” he asked. She shook her head. “Why not?”
“He threatened that I would regret it. That he would tell my family that I am indecent. And that I would have to pay him for the trouble. Besides...who would believe me?”
“I believe you,” Zamarran said gently. He glanced at Kapoor, who stood just behind Yassel’s chair. “And I will report it.”
“No!” the glinn shouted. “He will change my life into hell. He will—” She silenced, seeing Zamarran’s hand stretched to her. He didn’t want to grab her hand without her consent to additionally stress her, so he offered his and waited if she accepted it or not. She slowly, uncertainly, put her small hand in his.
“I will protect you,” he promised. “Gul Zeter will pay for all he did to you, for all his threats and for all attempts of making your life difficult. I can assure you that Gul Brenok would not allow something like this stay in the Guard.” He would not call a beast of that kind ‘someone.’ “I will personally make sure that he will take care of this matter.”
Now he understood why she was always so uncomfortable in his presence. Or in Torpal’s presence. When dealing with women or younger men, Yassel was fine and relaxed, but when in presence of higher ranking, older men—she seemed like she was afraid to breathe. Cardassian men who represented any sort of power paralysed her. Zamarran suspected that she was as afraid of her own father, as of any other powerful male and it was nothing personal. The abuse that she had to suffer at the hands of Gul Zeter only strengthened her feeling of vulnerability—even when you are being hurt, you cannot do anything about it.
She looked up at him and he saw hope in her eyes. “Won’t you
be in trouble, sir?” she asked, worried.
Zamarran smiled slightly. “Yassel, your previous gul broke the law. Reporting it is my duty. My duty as a soldier and my moral duty. You can be sure that Gul Brenok doesn’t tolerate incidents like this.” He wanted to joke that not reporting it at once might get her into trouble, but decided that she was not ready for jokes, yet.
She took a sharp breath and he had an impression that it was a muffled sob. Then a small grin appeared on her face. “Thank you, sir.”
He let go of her hand and leaned back in his chair. “Now, tell me what happened so that I have something to present your case.”
“Do you still need me?” Kapoor asked Yassel.
The glinn shook her head, but Zamarran said, “Stay, Kapoor. We could use an additional pair of ears. And have a padd ready with the recording on stand by.” Not mentioning that Yassel would be better with another woman present in the room. He looked at the glinn. “This will be for Gul Brenok. I hope it would let avoid asking you the same questions over and over and re-live that many times. Just this one time.” Yassel nodded. Her eyes went to the sofa in the corner of the office, so Zamarran said, “Let’s move to a more comfortable environment.” He tried to sound encouraging, but he was sure that Yassel detected in his voice that it was forced. He knew that if she needed a comfortable place, her report would be all but short.
Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, the mess hall
It felt good to tell someone about all those things that had happened to her. It felt like pushing a heavy rock off her chest. She could breathe now.
Yassel’s father was a gul since she remembered—as if he were born a gul and never had to climb the ladder of ranks—and he treated everyone at home as if they were his troops. She always envied all those kids that had loving, warm dads
. She had never experienced anything like it—until now. Gul Zamarran was so worried and so caring that for a moment she wished she were his daughter. She had never known before how it was, when someone wanted to help you and fight the injustice that had happened to you. And now Kapoor—without any reason—had helped her to talk to Zamarran who—without any reason—had promised her to take care of the matter and take it to the commander of the military
. Not even of the Order, but of the Guard
The goodness that had just met her overrode the terrible feeling of recalling all those unpleasant events and she was now having her meal in quite a good mood. She felt calmer. More at peace. Zeter would have to face the consequences of his actions and perhaps—she dared a shy thought—he would be even expelled from the Guard in disgrace.
“How are you feeling?”
Yassel raised her head to look at Kapoor, who stopped by her table with a tray in her hands. “Surprisingly well,” she admitted. She still had no idea how come the engineer managed to make her tell her all about her fears, but she was grateful. “Would you like to join me?”
Kapoor smiled and sat. “Thanks.” She took her dishes off the tray and pushed the tray away. Yassel noticed that Kapoor’s choice of food was a mix between Cardassian and alien—presumably human—dishes. “I am sure it was difficult to talk about those things, but it had to be done. This bastard should be locked in prison, if you ask me.”
Yassel didn’t say anything. She wished they talked about something else. “Can I ask you something?”
“Why don’t you use your husband’s surname? People of Earth don’t do that?”
Kapoor smiled. “In many Earth cultures they don’t, but it’s not the reason. I have Tavor’s surname, but people used to call me by my own, plus we used to serve on one warship and it would be too confusing to have two Karama’s there. Officially I use both, Kapoor-Karama.”
“Do you have the same rank?”
“No, but you don’t always use the rank.”
Yassel nodded, agreeing with it. “Do you miss him?”
The engineer smiled. “Every second.”
“When was the last time you talked to him?”
A shadow appeared on Kapoor’s face. “This morning.”
“I’m sorry, I hope...this wasn’t a bad conversation...I mean...you look sad and sound...I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s okay.” Kapoor shook her head. “Don’t worry about it. We didn’t quarrel, we just had to talk about something unpleasant. There’s something he has to do and he doesn’t like it. And I don’t like when he’s unhappy.”
“You have two kids, right?”
Yassel grinned. “Tell me about them.”
The engineer’s face brightened as she started to talk about her children. Yassel listened with genuine interest, asking questions from time to time and finally forcing Kapoor to promise her to show her images of the little Karamas at the earliest opportunity.