Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, the bridge
In orbit of Cardassia Prime
It was almost the end of the shift, so Yassel approached Zamarran to report her leaving the bridge.
Instead of acknowledging, he said, “Can I see you in my office for a moment?” He hoped she wouldn’t take it as a sign that she had done something wrong, but her worried expression quickly verified his hopes. “Please, sit down,” he said, offering her the guest chair. After a moment of hesitation, he chose not to sit in his behind the desk, but in the one next to her. “I would like to inform you that the dealings and the investigation regarding Gul Zeter and the charges are concluded.” She took a violent breath in and tears shone in her eyes. Zamarran decided to go right to the point. “As a disciplinary action, he has been dismissed from the Guard in disgrace, effective immediately.” Her eyes opened wider. “The investigation was quite short. Gul Brenok interrogated Zeter and also his aide. His aide testified that he had seen Zeter’s sexual behaviour on the bridge and he did think it was an inappropriate place for this kind of actions, but it never occurred to him that it was unwanted, as you never reported it.” He didn’t want her to feel as if what had happened to her was her fault, so he quickly added. “He didn’t think that you were too afraid to report it. I’m sure he regrets his lack of action. Gul Brenok decided to also punish his lack of action, although not very severely.” He paused. “Now, as for Zeter...He claimed that all his actions were welcomed and accepted by you—”
She started from her chair. “That’s a lie!”
“I know,” Zamarran said calmly and waited for her to sit down. He could see that she was furious. “Gul Brenok didn’t believe him and added lying to a superior to his charges. Zeter will not only not serve in the Guard, but he is not allowed to serve in any auxiliary military service. No one in armour would want to have anything to do with him.”
“I don’t have to testify?” she asked.
“No.” Zamarran couldn’t not notice a great relief on her face. “Gul Brenok didn’t want you to go through that and Zeter’s claims were enough to discharge him without making you go through all that again.”
“Thank you,” she whispered so quietly that the gul barely heard that. “For everything.”
“This is my duty to protect you and serve you. Your previous gul failed miserably in his duty, but I hope that from now on your service will be free of worry...at least—this kind of worry. I cannot speak for the plans that hostile scientific riddles might have.” She smiled slightly at his joke. “Gul Brenok’s report is available for you to read, if that is your wish.”
She shook her head. “I don’t have to.”
“All right. Now, if you don’t have any more questions, you are dismissed. Your shift is over.”
She stayed in her chair. Zamarran knew she wanted something and patiently waited for her to gather courage and say it. “Sir...what if...what if Zeter tries to slander me in front of my family? Or slander my family’s name?”
“Zeter’s discharge charges are no secret. Gul Brenok had wanted to make him a clear and public example, but for your good he resigned from this idea. However, if Zeter tries to turn everything around and blame you, there are ways to protect you from it. If you learn of anything, if your family complains about anything, inform me and I’ll take it to Brenok. He will take care of it personally.”
Zamarran wondered why Brenok treated that matter so seriously. He hadn’t had to involve in it himself—he had people to do it—but he had led the investigation and he had interrogated senior officers of Yassel’s previous warship himself. Zamarran couldn’t help but assume that for Brenok, in a way, it was personal. Maybe someone whom he knew had suffered such an injustice and terrible treatment. With so few women in the military and one of those few close enough to the long-haired gul to tell him about such an event, Zamarran was almost sure that someone had harassed Jarol, as unlikely as it would appear in the case of this strong and powerful woman. But she hadn’t always been powerful and someone in her past could have wronged her, too. Brenok, Gul Idealist, wanted to make sure no more women would have to share Yassel’s and Jarol’s fate. And Zamarran supported the young gul in this goal with all his heart.
Yassel nodded, accepting Zamarran’s explanation. The gul knew that if Zeter really tried to have his revenge and harm her or her family’s name, even with severe consequences some things couldn’t be undone, but he hoped that Brenok’s threats made it not worthy of the risk and the punishment that would follow. Still, Zeter had already proved that he had no honour and no backbone and Zamarran wasn’t sure how much such a primitive mind could comprehend.
“Does my family know?” she asked.
The gul looked at her. “If you didn’t tell them, no.” He paused and then said in a soft, warm voice. “But I hope you will tell them.”
She shook her head fervently. “I cannot!”
“Yassel, you were a victim. This is not a shame to be a victim. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I’m an officer, I should be strong and brave.”
“And I am sure you are. But you are also a Cardassian being. And you were put in a terrible situation, with fear paralysing your actions. It’s not your fault. It’s the Guard’s fault. It’s the Guard’s fault for letting that happen, for not informing you that you had rights, for making you believe that no one would help you. We failed you. I’m so sorry that you had to struggle with this alone and there was no one to help you. You lived in fear for years and that was wrong, but you are not the one to blame.” She looked at him with shiny eyes and he hoped that what he was seeing was relief and hope for a better future. “If anything like that happens on this ship, let me know. If you are transferred and it happens on your next ship, or the next, or the next and you have no one to go to—let me know, too.”
A small smile appeared on her face and he smiled back. She didn’t say anything but she didn’t have to.
“Dismissed,” Zamarran said softly and she headed for the door. “Oh, and Yassel.” She stopped and looked at him. “Gul Brenok has agreed to let us return to the Rathosian system and finish our job. We can go there as soon as we leave the dry dock.” Which meant—in two days.
“That’s wonderful, sir,” she smiled—Zamarran had never seen her smiling that way and he was almost certain that the reason wasn’t their upcoming mission—and then left.
The gul knew one thing for sure: if Yassel were his daughter, he’d tear Zeter apart with his bare hands. He couldn’t imagine that the glinn’s father would feel any differently.
As for the Rathosians—they had asked for the Cardassian Union’s protection. They wanted to keep their independence, but had offered their rich resources in exchange for orbital defence platforms in their orbit and inclusion into Cardassian patrol territory. They had also refused any diplomatic contact with the Federation, considering them treacherous and not trustworthy. Zamarran couldn’t smile at the irony of that opinion.
Rayak Nor, the gul’s private quarters
As he had been asked by his mother, Demok was in the middle of a “general cleaning” that preceded every Establishment of the Third Hebitian Republic Festival, when he found something that he had never seen before. It was a holoimage of a man in armour. The armour design was a bit outdated, so Demok was sure this photo had been taken quite some time ago. But who was the man in it?
He went to his mother, who was busy with cleaning in the kitchen, and showed her the holoimage. “Mom, who is this man?”
She took her rubber gloves off and gently took the frame in her hands. “This is your great-great-grandfather. The only person in my family in the military...until me.”
There was something in her voice, some kind of longing, but he didn’t understand why. “Is this man important for our family?”
“He’s important for me,” she answered, sitting down. “My mother brought this holoimage after I decided to join the Guard. I was sixteen and I was so na´ve.” She put the photo on the table and her eyes shone with tears. “I wanted to follow him, to be as honourable and as brave as he was.” She pulled her face in disgust. “And look what I’ve become!” She raised her hands in a gesture of resignation. “I’m a stain on his memory.”
shit!” Demok protested. “Zobar
“Watch your language,” she said quietly.
“No, I won’t. I’m tired of you treating yourself like trash!” He knew he should compose himself, as it was not helping, but he couldn’t stop.” Oh, by the way. What’s with Toral?”
“I treated him badly. Really badly. I overreacted over something and...it’s not the first time that I treat people like this. Uncle Arenn experienced that, too.” She shook her head. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I know one thing for sure—I’m not getting any better, no matter how hard I try.”
“Call him and apologise.”
“It wouldn’t work.”
He disagreed. Toral loved her and one quarrel, no matter how stupid, wouldn’t destroy that feeling. If anything, Toral was persistent. “You won’t know until you try.” She just shook her head. “We will finish our cleaning and when the house is shiny and spotless, you will sit at your terminal and contact Toral and talk to him. That’s an order!”
She looked at him and an amused smile-like expression appeared on her face. The last words were not said in a normal Lakatian accent, but in her heavily Nokarian accented manner of speaking Unionese.
Demok harrumphed, satisfied that she hadn’t objected, and returned to his work.
Cardassian Union Science Ship Marritza, the mess hall
In orbit of Rathosia
“Hi,” said a voice above her. She raised her head to see Garesh Aladar standing over her. “Is this seat taken?” He held a tray in his hands. She looked around: there were only three tables taken in the mess hall, so he had plenty of space to have his meal.
“N-no,” she muttered.
“Good, because I have nowhere else to sit.” He put the tray on the table and sat next to her. Not opposite, but next
. He had two mugs on the tray; he reached for one and placed it in front of her. “I’ve noticed that you always have tea with your meal. I’ve also noticed that your mug is already empty.” He flashed his teeth in a smile. “I am good at noticing things.”
She chuckled. Was it wrong to eat at one table with a garesh? She noticed what he was doing and thought that she should rephrase her previous thought: was it wrong to dine together with a garesh? He’d brought a lot of food on his tray and was now taking it off it and placing on the table. Too much for one, just right for two.
“Are you wasting your rations on me?” she asked.
“I am sharing
my rations with you. And tomorrow you will share yours with me.” He pointed to a bowl of foogtak
. “My mom’s special recipe.”
So? What it inappropriate to eat together with a garesh?
Did she care
“I’m afraid I don’t have special recipes from home,” she said.
“So choose your favourite food. Whatever you’d want to have. I want to know what you like.”
She observed him. His narrow nose with a thin ridge of shapely scales. His oval eye ridges, surrounding his big, grey eyes. His dark grey lips, stretched in a gentle smile. His slim hands, putting the dishes with food on the table. His neck ridges covered by two rows of thick scales. He was beyond handsome; he was absolutely and perfectly beautiful. She stared at him on every occasion, enjoying the ‘view,’ but she had never had a chance to study his features from this close...until now.
He cast a glance at her and a naughty smile appeared on his face. She realised that her awe must have been more than obvious, so she lowered her eyes ashamed. This wasn’t the first time that he had caught her looking at him, but she could not stop herself from doing that. She liked to sneak to the training deck and to observe him torturing ‘his bookworms.’ She felt foolish about it, but she was jealous that he had a pet name for them but not for her. She wanted to be called something silly but with affection, too! Especially by him.
Her eyes returned to his hands that gently unpacked something from a silver-foil wrap. Cookies? She looked at him to catch him looking at her neck ridge. She almost recoiled but then told herself that he only looked at the blue scale and didn’t even make a move to touch it. He looked her in the eyes and grinned widely. Innocently. He wouldn’t violate her, would he? He was not an old, spoiled and dirty gul. He was a young, adorable and charming garesh.
“You are blue,” he whispered.
She knew that she should react with indignation. She knew that she was ‘too good’ for him. Her father would probably order to arrest Aladar for his words. His daughter would not have anything to do with a low-born garesh
! But she couldn’t care less. She just heard a compliment from a man who occupied her thoughts since she had seen him for the first time. It was a polite, courteous compliment that made her face brighten. Unlike the cold and unwelcome touch of rough fingers that belonged to the beast whom she feared and despised.
She didn’t give a damn about Aladar’s social status and his rank was of no importance. He was a good man and even if her family disowned her, she wouldn’t pretend that she was better than him, or that he was worse than any gul in the Guard. For her, he was more guller gul than Gul Brenok himself.
He put some foogtak
into a smaller bowl and put in front of her. “Taste it,” he said, handing her a spoon.
The casserole was delicious. “You mother cooks like this?” she asked with disbelief. She knew he had to replicate it, but was sure that it was as close to his parent’s cooking as possible.
“Actually, hers is better. I’m good but not that good.”
She gave him an astonished look. “You mean...you cooked
He nodded. “Strictly following my mom’s instructions.”
“Wow. I’ve never learnt how to cook. We had replicators and cooks for that. I don’t think I have ever seen my mother in the kitchen. Not even once.”
“I hope that your cooks were good, then.”
“We had many.” She decided not to share that they had been fired—one tiny mistake was enough to lose a job with her mother. “No one stayed for too long.”
He looked at her and she had an impression that he read in her like from an open book. “I’m sorry to hear that.” And he meant it. She could hear that it wasn’t a polite and appropriate comment, but he really felt it. “If you’d like, I could teach you to make tea,” he offered.
“Oh, I can do that much!” she shouted with indignation.
“Do you?” He smiled mischievously. “But can you do it properly
For that she had no answer. It didn’t bother her, though, as he didn’t seem to expect any. She felt so surprisingly comfortable with him. She didn’t fear she’d say or do something stupid. Deep in her heart she believed that he wouldn’t hold it against her and would never make a problem of a silly word. With him, she could be herself
They ate in silence. The whole conversation was in their eyes and smiles. They didn’t have to speak, grinning and sharing was enough to consider that time spent together precious. She wished this moment lasted forever—or even longer than that.
Rayak Nor, Medic Fatret’s office
Fatret crossed her arms on her chest. “I must admit I am confused,” she said. “What bothers you more? The fact that you broke the law or that you violated the natural hierarchy of power?” Jarol shook her head, staring at her hands and not knowing what to answer. Fatret waited for a moment, but since her patient didn’t seem like she intended to speak, the medic asked another question. “You broke the law. Why?” Jarol looked at her. “Why? What made you break the law?”
“We...I...” The gul’s voice was faint.
“Go on,” Fatret encouraged her.
Jarol was silent for a moment and then said, “Did you know that it was my idea? It was my idea for Daset to go to politics. I planted it in his head.”
“So, in a way, you started it.”
“Yes. My idea. But only the idea. The rest of work was his. He created the party, he worked on its schedules and he did the talking. He played by the rules that we had been given in this new to us world of politics.”
“So what happened?”
“Why defying a puppet government in one case is a heroism and in another—violating the law?” Jarol asked suddenly.
Fatret shook her head. “I don’t understand what you mean.”
“The Dominion installed a Cardassian puppet government. The people who opposed it and fought against it are considered patriots. The Federation installed a Cardassian puppet government. The people who opposed it broke the law. Why? Why the difference?”
“I’m not a lawyer but isn’t it the fact that opposing the Dominion was breaking the law too?”
“I must ask my son.”
Fatret smiled. “You do that.”
Silence again, but this time it wasn’t an empty silence. Jarol, clearly, was thinking. “I believed that Ghemor’s government was a puppet on an alien power’s strings. In my eyes he was no better than the Dominion.”
“The Dominion had appointed their puppet government, the castellan had been chosen by the Cardassian people.”
“By less than a half of thirty-two percent that bothered to vote. Less than a half
voted for him.”
“I see your point. And I understand it. But does it excuse anything?”
“I’m not looking for excuses.” Jarol sounded irritated. “You have told me I should try to understand better, so I do. If I do it poorly, then give me some instructions how to do it correctly, instead of criticising.”
Fatret grinned gently. “It’s good to see you showing strong, assertive emotions.”
“Isn’t my anger something that you should dislike and discourage?”
“As long as you’re healing, every emotion is valuable.”
“All you know is a shaking, weak moron.”
Fatret’s eyes turned harder. “What did I say about calling yourself names?”
Jarol bit her lower lip, not letting a harsh answer slip out of her mouth.
“Do you know that your admission of guilt became public?” Fatret asked.
“Public?” Jarol had no idea, as she had lost any interest in watching news broadcasts long time ago.
“Someone has informed the media.”