It was so darn boring. Ullmann started her duty when I finished mine, so we barely saw each other. And she stopped coming to the mess hall. Each time she entered and chose a table to sit at, everyone in the vicinity moved away. No one spoke to her. They clearly ostracised her and I felt sorry for the situation. I had asked her about it once and she had told me they behaved professionally on duty, but off duty everyone avoided her. Actually, I thought she preferred it that way.
But I had no one to talk to and I didn’t prefer it at all. Kamara still had his lower decks duty, Zamarran wasn’t exactly material for a pal, so I spent most of my off-duty time alone. I hated to be alone; I hated to eat alone.
That evening the mess hall was as busy as usually. I looked around to find a place to sit and noticed that next to Dja Ma’Kan, who was having her supper, was an empty chair. She was my age, I outranked her, so there couldn’t be anything wrong with starting to talk to her, could there? I decided to take a risk.
“May I sit here?” I asked.
She only nodded, as her mouth was full, and I sat with my plate. She eyed my dish curiously and seemed to be surprised by my choice. Zog
“Dja,” I began, hoping I wasn’t doing anything wrong...again. She looked up at me. “I read in your bio that you won some literary competition.”
“That was a long time ago,” she said but a tiny smile played on her lips.
“So I take your language command is perfect.”
“Oh, I don’t know if it’s perfect...”
“I ask...because...I wondered...if you’d like to give me some lessons.”
Her hand with the spoon froze in air, half-way to her mouth. She looked at me with those pretty, black eyes of hers.
“You want to learn our language?”
“Basics at least.”
“Seriously?” The tone of her voice gained a new, friendlier tone. I smiled and nodded. “Why?”
“Because I want to understand more. I know from my own experience that speaking a language gives you a different perspective and lets you understand certain things better.”
“Fine. But I have time only two, three times a week.”
“That’s great! Thanks! When is the first lesson?”
“All right. What shall I do?”
“Listen. Let’s start from the easiest thing. Numbers.”
She finished her food and pushed her plate away.
“Turn off your translator and repeat. Yat. Yi. Har. Gin. Nei. Opai. Len. Godar. Genep. Fetok.
I repeated each word and she corrected me if I’d got it wrong. Then she made me repeat it a few times.
“All right. Now you can understand our dates. Each day of the week is a combined word, like number four—’gin
’—and the word for ’day’—’yat
’ is the fourth day of the week.”
“Thursday,” I said.
She smiled. “Let’s try this. Yatyat
My eyes opened wider.
,” she said after a moment. Someone started giggling. “Fetokyat
,” she smiled.
“You have ten days in a week?”
“Ok, that makes some things clearer.” And it really did. “How many months do you have?”
“Nine. The word for ’month’ is ’yut
.’” She pronounced it ’yoot.’ “And the names are created the same way as the days of the week.”
I showed my teeth in a smile. “Yatyut, yiyut, haryut, ginyut, neiyut, opaiyut, lenyut, godaryut
A few Cardassians clapped. I was sooooo proud of myself.
“Good!” Ma’Kan praised me. “Now the year. The current year is 514, which you say ’nei yat gin
“Each number separately?”
“Easy. Why your year is so...young? Our year is 2378.”
“The years are counted since the establishment of the Cardassian Union.”
“Ah, of course.”
“How do you count yours?”
“From birth of the Son of God.”
She stared at me surprised. “From what?”
“One of our religions believes He was the Son of God.”
“I was raised in another religion.”
“But you use the same calendar?”
“Yes, with time the whole Earth adopted it.”
“Do you have any religions on Cardassia?”
“Two. The Hebitians believed in Oralius. And the Elementalists believed in the Power of Nature.”
She shook her head. “It’s just superstitions.” Wait a second, wasn’t religion forbidden on Cardassia? She wouldn’t tell me even if she was a believer, would she? Or was it allowed since the end of the war? “There’s one very important thing you should also learn,” Ma’Kan said. “It’s how you address other people.”
Ah, yes. “Is it difficult?” I asked.
“No. Of course you have to use a proper tone of voice, different for your superiors, different for your subordinates and so on. But there is a grammar particle, which we use at the end of every sentence or group of sentences, like a spoken paragraph.”
“Turn off your universal translator.”
I did what she’d asked; I was getting tired of fidgeting with it. She said a short sentence. Then she motioned to my commbadge, so I turned my translator back on.
“Did you hear ’-go’ at the end of my sentence?”
“Yes. What does it mean?”
“It doesn’t have any separate meaning. It’s a ’relation particle,’ which I used, because your rank is higher than mine. You use particle ’-ga
.’ If you speak to our gul, or any gul, or a legate, you use ’-gul
.’ There are different particles for parents, siblings, people of equal status and so on.”
“How many particles are there?”
“Relation particles...” She thought for a second. “A dozen? But there are also other particles we use.”
“A dozen?” I asked surprised.
“Relations between people can be complex.”
“How about a husband and a wife. Do they also use particles?”
“Yes. They both use ’-ses
“So none is more important than the other?”
“No.” She seemed astonished by the notion. “Why would they be?”
“Good question, why would they. What happens, if someone doesn’t use a particle, if they forget.”
She smiled. “It doesn’t happen. Particles are always present in our speech. Sometimes there are two or three at the end of one sentence. If no particle is needed, and such cases are really rare, we still add a neutral ’-a
’, because we have
to end a sentence somehow. Otherwise it would sound strange.”
“Fascinating,” I said.
One of Cardassians at nearby table waved to me to draw my attention. He pointed to my commbadge, so I turned the translator off again. “Jiyat harret opaiyat go
,” he said.
I looked at Ma’Kan, turning my translator back. “Did he just say it’s the sixth day of the week today?” I asked.
She didn’t reply for before she managed to open her mouth all six Cardassians at the table that which the garesh who had spoken to me sat at applauded.
“How do I say ’I am Lieutenant Kapoor’?”
“’Iji het Glen Kapur’
,” Ma’Kan said. “If you try to ‘translate’ your rank to the closest thing to its equivalent.”
I repeated the sentence, trying to memorise it. I looked at the other table. “Iji het Glen Kapur ga!
” I said to the Cardassians who were sitting there. They all started to introduce themselves, laughing and clearly enjoying it. Where they really those terrifying Cardassian troops? Those troops that plundered, murdered, raped, tortured, abused and destroyed? What I saw here in the mess hall were young men, who liked to laugh and have fun. And they weren’t laughing at me, they were laughing with
I was probably the only non-Cardassian in the whole galaxy that had a chance to see the...oh, sweet irony...the human
side of the dreaded Cardassian ground troops.
But should I forget that they could become the dreaded Cardassian ground troops once an order came?