When they had first asked for volunteers, it hadn’t occurred to me to try, but the more I heard “who would be such an idiot to go there?” the more I wanted to go and see if they were as bad as the news went.
I remembered the war, I’d fought against them too, but a war was a war—different rules apply. You must hate the enemy to be able to kill them. You believed they were monsters and have to be eliminated. They probably thought the same about you and I never felt I was any kind of monster.
So I’d volunteered. They’d asked me if I was sure, I confirmed and I was granted the permission.
I was the only volunteer. They needed two, so they had appointed another lucky officer, who had to join me. Well, she hadn’t felt that lucky. She had been terrified.
“They will kill us both,” had been the first thing she’d said to me. “After torturing and raping us, for sure.”
I hadn’t said anything. I knew they had a bad reputation, but you can’t judge a whole race based on behaviour showed by one group, can you? I wanted to see what was behind the reputation. I remembered there had been some scandal with one of their officials, something about his lost or dead son. I’d forgotten the details, but I remembered one thing: they loved the family most of all and neglecting it was the worse thing one could do. So how could family loving people be monsters we were told they were? What was wrong with this picture?
So here I was, standing in front of an airlock and waiting to be let in. It rolled away—very much like on Deep Space Nine (of course, they’d built that station too!)—and I could make the first step on their land.
The ridges. The necks. The uniforms. I had never seen a Cardassian up close before.
The heat. Almost like home...
I was inoculated. A doctor—was it a doctor?—told me there were many plagues on Cardassia Prime and it was for my own good. My colleague, Maeva Ullmann, was terrified. She probably expected them to poison her.
We were taken to some kind of office, where a nice—really, he was nice—Cardassian male told us about our assignment. Our assignment and commanding officer were confirmed. Back on Deep Space Nine I had tried to find some info about him, but I hadn’t found much, not even a picture. I’d just managed to dig out that he was some kind of war hero here on Cardassia and he had fought against the Dominion. That was good enough for me. He was on our side in the end, right?
The Cardassians are efficient people indeed. After the talk with the nice man, whose name rang a bell, but I didn’t know who he was exactly, we were immediately transferred to our new ship. A warship, not a starship. I would have to get used to that.
We were beamed there. I was a little bit nervous, but once we materialised aboard our destination, all fears were forgotten, as I saw the strangest thing in my life.
Yes, that was true, I hadn’t seen many Cardassians up close until now, but this didn’t even require ‘up close’ part. I had never seen something like that even from unclear, damaged photos and holopictures.
This man—I was sure he was a man—had long
hair. He had it neatly swept down on both sides of his head and tied into a braid on his back. I smiled at him; he had a nice, pleasant face. Hell, if I were a Cardassian woman I’d probably call him handsome. Hey, I could call him handsome, regardless of my race! So, he was handsome.
“I am Glinn Brenok, the gul’s aide,” the man introduced himself. He had a nice, smooth voice. Yes, his voice was handsome too. “Welcome aboard Cardassian Union Warship Roumar
“Thank you, sir,” I said and gave him the data rod we had received on Deep Space Nine. Colonel Kira had been kind enough to grant me permission to use it to store our data. I had thought it would be nice to bring something compatible with Cardassian technology, instead of dragging Federation padds, which would become useless after that. “These are our orders. My name is Lieutenant Amrita Kapoor and this is Lieutenant Maeva Ullmann.” Ullmann seemed to be frozen.
Glinn Brenok took the rod. “What are your specialities?”
“I am an engineer and Lieutenant Ullmann is a scientist,” I told him; I didn’t expect Ullmann to be able to speak. However, she managed to step off the transporter pad at least and joined me in front of the Cardassian.
“Interesting. Here.” He gave us Cardassian padds. “These padds contain all necessary information you need for a start.” I turned on mine and the first thing on the screen were protocols and regulations. Hundreds of pages. Great. “You can also find the full list of our regulations.” No kiddin’! “You have two days to study and memorise them and after those two days no deviation from regulations will be accepted.”
Perfect. Just perfect. I gathered all my courage and said, “Uhm... sir?”
“What is it, Kapoor?”
“Only two days?”
“Is there a problem?”
“Well... We can read the regulations, but we will not have them learnt by heart in two days.”
“Why not?” He was really surprised.
“Our memory is not as perfect as yours.” I felt like an idiot. Mr. Teacher, I don’t have my homework, my dog ate it. “We need a lot of time to memorize such a long document.”
“I see your problem,” he said thoughtfully. “Then you will have to do your best to familiarise yourselves with the rules as fast as possible. Now, if you follow me I will take you to the gul.”
Yes, the gul. I was very curious about him. What was he like? Was he very strict? Did he also wear long hair?
I glanced at Glinn Brenok and then noticed something else. The right side of his face was covered with scars. There were scales missing on those ridges, which were his ears extensions, and the skin seemed really damaged. There was also quite a prominent scar on his right neck ridge; how could I have missed it earlier?
Never mind the scars—he was still handsome.
And damn tall!
We entered a lift, he barked “Bridge,” and we moved. Never touch the door, or your will cheese grate. That was the lesson I had learned on Deep Space Nine—the hard way. He led us to the bridge, which looked so much like on a Federation starship. There was an oval screen in the front wall; one console on the left, like for a conn officer and one on the right, like operations, and some consoles by walls. Interestingly, consoles were not in
walls. There were screens filled with information in the walls, but then there was some space, in which was a chair with a Cardassian sitting on it, and then a console, so that all officers faced the middle of the bridge. Definitely better than our designs; they didn’t have to crane and twist their necks one hundred eighty degrees, delivering their reports.
There was a lower area with the helm- and operations-like posts, the walls with consoles were two steps higher and in the middle there was the throne. Really. On a pedestal. There was some Cardassian sitting there, who nodded to Glinn Brenok after we’d left the lift. The glinn nodded back—his nod was noticeably shallower—and headed for a door.
Oh my, it was like mini door from ops on Deep Space Nine, really. It was narrower, but beside that looked almost the same. Partially glass, so the gul could still observe what was going on on the bridge. And of course stairs, too.
The door opened and the three of us entered the ready room.
There was a Cardassian there, oh yes, but everything I imagined about Gul Jarol’s look was shattered into tiny pieces.
Gul Jarol, the war hero and one of most respected guls on Cardassia (according to the Federation database at least), was a...woman.
And she was scarier and more intimidating than Glinn Brenok. And she was tall too! Her spoon was very, very, very
blue and her hair was braided into many thin plaits, which were then arranged into a bun, from which ends of those plaits stuck out. It looked awesome!
Cardassian or no Cardassian, she was damn beautiful too.
“Lieutenant Kapoor and Lieutenant Ullmann,” Glinn Brenok said.
I smiled when she looked at me. I hoped it wasn’t obvious how nervous I was. She made me nervous. She was the scariest Cardassian I have met so far, not that I’ve met many.
“Welcome aboard,” she said. Her voice was low and a bit raspy. “I’m Gul Jarol, in command of CUW Roumar
. You are here as exchange officers from the United Federation of Planets. You will be treated as any other officer of the Cardassian Guard with all rights and duties thereof. You will follow our protocol and will be punished for any breach of regulations according to our law. If you have any questions, direct them to Glinn Brenok. Cultural misunderstandings would be overlooked in the beginning, however I suggest you familiarise yourselves with our customs not to offend anyone, even unwittingly.” She silenced and kept looking at us for a moment. No, she was looking at Ullmann. “Are you all right? Why is water dripping off your face?” She came closer.
“I am okay,” Ullmann managed to speak, somehow.
Gul Jarol looked at me. I stole a glance at my colleague and then understood what grabbed the gul’s attention.
“It’s the temperature, ma’am,” I explained. “We are not used to such heat.”
“I understand that, but why are you wet?”
“It’s perspiration, ma’am. This is the way we expel excess of heat from our bodies.”
Some kind of growl came out of the gul’s throat. “There is a cooling unit waiting for you in your quarters,” she said eventually. “However you will have to adapt, as this is standard temperature aboard this warship.”
“Yes, ma’am! We will, ma’am.” I didn’t expect them to change the temperature just for us. I can take it, I’ll get used to it.
However Gul Jarol didn’t seem satisfied with my answer. “Why do you call me your mom?” she asked.
What? I... What? “I beg your pardon?”
“I suspect this is the best our translator can do, but why would it choose such a strange word. What is the word you used to address me?”
“It is a standard word to address a female superior, ma...Sir?” I tried to guess.
“Oh.” Was it amusement in her voice? Did Cardassians have sense of humour? “Well, there is not such a word in Cardassian, so ’sir’, or ’gul’ will do instead. I don’t want to be your mom.”
Neither did I. “Of course, gul.”
“Questions?” She looked at me and then at Ullmann. I shook my head and so did the other Lieutenant. “Dismissed.”
“Follow me,” Glinn Brenok said and we left the office.
We returned to the bridge. The Cardassian on the throne rose and looked at Glinn Brenok. The first officer nodded to him and the man went to the gul’s ready room.
“This was Glinn Zamarran,” Glinn Brenok spoke directly to me. “He is your direct superior, as he is our chief engineer.”
“Understood,” I said, hoping I would recognise his face when I see him again. Not that all Cardassians looked the same, but so many in such short time—how to remember them all? It’s not that their hair colour would give them away.
“We do not have science department.” He looked at Ullmann. “So you will also be assigned to the engineering department. They are responsible for gathering and analysing data.”
“Yes, sir,” she said. She spoke! She can do it! Yes!
“The first week you will be assigned to the bridge. No duties. Your task is to observe and learn. Then you will start the real work.”
The Cardassian at the front console on the right kept glancing at us. I thought he was curious. He probably had never seen a human up close before.
Glinn Brenok sat on the throne.
“Your duty starts tomorrow morning, so now you have some time to familiarise yourselves with the warship, the crew and our procedures. Gil Karama will take you to your quarters.”
The curious officer rose from his chair and turned to us.
“Sir.” I looked at Glinn Brenok. “If you don’t mind I’d like to stay on the bridge and start familiarising myself at once.”
He glanced at me—I think he was surprised a bit. I hoped: impressed, too? Maybe? Please? Too?
“After you refresh yourself,” he said.
Ouch. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir!”
Gil Karama—what kind of rank was Gil?—took us back to the lift.
“Welcome aboard,” he said, smiling. “I hope you’ll enjoy your service here,” he added, looking curiously at Ullmann.
She stiffened under his gaze. She glanced at him and then quickly lowered her eyes and stared at the lift’s floor.
“You’re a scientist, right? Isn’t that boring? Reading data only?” he asked.
She just shook her head.
“I’m an engineer,” I said.
“Now, I can understand that,” he smiled. “I’m a communications officer and recently also a pilot.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Do Cardassians have given names?”
The lift stopped and the door opened, but he didn’t leave at once.
“Of course we do, why do you ask?” he said eventually and moved to the corridor. A dark corridor. Hmm, actually, to think of it, it was dark everywhere.
“Because I have never heard anyone introducing themselves using their given names.”
Gil Karama smiled. “Well, our given names are very personal. Not just anyone can use them. Only special, very close people can address you using your given name. Your family. Closest friends.”
“What if someone not close enough would do it?”
“It would be offensive. So don’t try.”
“Good to know. Is it also offensive to ask for a given name?”
“I don’t know. We never do it. So don’t try that either. Here we are.” He stopped in front of some door. “You better remember where you live,” he said, and then tapped the comm padd on the wall. The door opened.
“Oww, it’s cold inside,” he shivered. Someone was kind enough to lower the temperature for us. Wow, great ship! “You will share quarters.”
“That’s okay. Thank you, Gil,” I said. Ullmann quickly stepped inside and disappeared in the darkness of the room. “By the way, which level is the rank of gil?” I asked. I could check it in the database, but...well, I wanted to ask.
“It’s just below glinn and above glen. Hmm...I need a promotion.” He scratched his chin.
I smiled. He was cute. This was sense of humour. No doubt. And I had no idea what was glen, but it didn’t matter. The database was all mine.