Ullmann had left for the bridge like thirty minutes too early. I wasn’t sure she wanted to impress our superiors or avoid meeting Karama in the lift again, but whatever her reasons were, I had the quarters for myself for the whole thirty minutes in result. I used that time to unpack and have a nice breakfast. I tried to hover my TP over the small, round screen next to the replicator, but the characters disappeared too quickly and I still didn’t know what they were.
I made sure to report to the bridge on time. The last thing I wanted was to be late anywhere. It seemed quite important to them—to be on time. On a Federation starship being late also wasn’t acceptable, however I didn’t even dare to imagine what kind of crime it could be here.
Zamarran was on the bridge when I arrived there. At first I thought I was late, because he only glared at me without a word.
“Sir. Reporting for duty, sir,” I said.
“Noted,” he replied in a voice that was everything but angry. He handed me a padd. “Your tasks for today.”
I looked at him and then activated the padd. Some more analysis. Perfect. Was he testing my patience? Or was it a job no other Cardassian wanted to do? Or was it my punishment? But what did I do? I wasn’t late for sure—the bridge wasn’t filled with day shift officers yet and I wouldn’t believe so many of them were late.
Karama entered. A few officers greeted him and he greeted them back. When he was passing by the engineering station, he greeted Zamarran and then looked at me without a word. How rude! I’ll teach you good manners.
“Good morning, Gil,” I said.
He smiled warmly and nodded his greeting.
Oh my, of course! I was supposed to greet him first as a lower ranking officer! How could I have forgotten about it! That’s why Zamarran had glared at me; he had waited for my greeting and he’d thought I hadn’t offered it at once!
When the lift arrived the next time, it brought Glinn Brenok. He greeted no one, everyone greeted him. He just nodded, acknowledging their greetings. And finally the queen herself arrived. Greeted by everyone and answering everyone. She sat in her throne and I made myself busy with my task; it’s better not to look at the queen’s face, this used to be punished by death in ancient times, no?
I glanced at Ullmann. She was busy with something, too. I noticed her chair stood farther from the officer’s whom she shared her console with than mine from Zamarran’s. I looked down and indeed—the chair was not attached to the floor. Mine wasn’t, the chief engineer’s was. If it comes to a battle and we get hit then I suppose Ullmann and I are out of luck.
I looked around to see if all officers were on the bridge. Would someone come after the gul? Would it mean trouble?
Oh! There was another female there. I hadn’t noticed her before. She worked at her console, and if I recalled correctly, it was the tactician’s post. So, this must be Dja Ma’Kan. Dja, as in ‘ensign.’ Hmm...If I outranked her, could I give her orders? Should she greet me first?
Everyone was busy. Sometimes there were hushed voices coming from here or there, as the officers conversed about duty matters, no doubt, but beside that it was quiet. Incredibly quiet. However, it wasn’t my impression that the atmosphere was dense. Even the gul’s presence didn’t change it much from what I’d experienced yesterday. She was here, as busy as everyone else and she didn’t interfere with others’ work; she didn’t look over their shoulders, she didn’t glare when they were whispering. And then, in that incredible—for a busy bridge—silence a sound appeared. At first I thought it was some console humming, or maybe engines’ song, but no. The sound grew a bit louder, still fairly quiet, but clear. It was...a melody. Not engines humming. Not machine humming. I raised my head and looked around to find the source and the source was even more astonishing than the humming itself.
Glinn Brenok was singing under his breath. I looked at Ullmann and she stared at him too. I found Gul Jarol with my eyes, but she didn’t show any reaction to the quiet concerto on her bridge. I looked at Zamarran, who was busy with something—he didn’t seem to notice the humming at all. But Glinn Brenok was still humming and it didn’t seem like he was going to stop.
“He does that often,” Zamarran said quietly.
“The singing. He does that often.”
“Oh. The gul doesn’t mind?”
“I think she enjoys it.” The lines on his cheeks deepened.
“Isn’t there some regulation against singing on the bridge, or on duty?”
“I don’t think anyone thought of such a regulation.”
This wasn’t just another Cardassian warship, was it? The gul was a woman. The first officer was not only very young by Cardassian—and Federation—standards, but was also an active singer...Who knows what else I could learn about them?
Or was each and every warship that unique? This definitely was not what I had been told about Cardassians. They were supposed to be cruel, ruthless, heartless, brutal murderers. ‘Bloody Cardies.’ How could this handsome man with scars on his face, long hair and a really pleasant singing voice be all those bad things? If anything, the scars were the proof that there had been someone cruel and ruthless to
I knew we were headed to a planet, which they had been occupying for over a century. I guessed that the person who inflicted these scars on Brenok’s face was most likely dead. I knew that the gul terrified me with only her presence. I knew I was aboard a warship, which was built with pure purpose of fighting and annihilating.
But what I saw was a nice man, who sang on duty and no one minded. Another nice man, who was helping me with his advices to survive my first days among them without insulting them...too much. And another nice man, who accepted that I didn’t mean anything wrong by my stupid questions. And a gul, who let her officer sing on duty.
The Cardassians were not what I had expected them to be. I knew they couldn’t be as bad as the news went—otherwise no one would make me come here—but I didn’t expect them to be so...human. They weren’t that different from us: they liked to joke; they followed their traditions and their strict social code; they had families and dearly cared for them; they knew what sacrifice meant and were ready to protect their home from dangers at any cost.
It was a good decision to come here. I was sure now more than ever that it wasn’t a mistake. Whatever would happen, whatever the future would bring, I didn’t regret volunteering for this project.