“What are you doing?” Zamarran’s voice startled me.
I turned to him. “I’m following your order, sir. I’m attempting to reconfigure secondary microparametric core.”
He looked over my shoulder. “Why do you need a sensor scanner for this?” he asked.
“It speeds up the work. I could—”
“It also is imprecise,” he interrupted.
“Yes, sir, but I intend to double check everything after finishing the procedure.”
He gave me a doubtful look. “Have you familiarised yourself with Cardassian standard procedures, Lieutenant?” he asked.
“Yes, sir, I have. I realised this is not very ‘standard,’ but it would be faster.”
“I do not care for faster, I want it to be done properly.”
“Sir, it will be done properly, just a different way.”
“Lieutenant, I want you to follow standard procedures,” he said, his voice growing menacing.
“Yes, sir,” I replied crisply and put the scanner away. An order was an order.
He opened his mouth as if to say something, but then closed it. It seemed like he’d expected me to argue with him and had been ready for a riposte, but my reply had made it unnecessary. He observed me working for a moment, then grunted and left.
It turned out that the first day of my work in the engineering didn’t start as well as I’d hoped. I would have the job done and probably better than he expected; I would just have done it differently. Cardassians didn’t see to appreciate initiative; you should follow the protocol and shut up! It was a miracle that they achieved anything, but no surprise a lot of their technology was behind ours. With their complex of superiority ’we’re the best’ they’d never admit that, but it was the fact.
Hmmm...wasn’t it my complex to claim that my technology was better than theirs?
I returned to work, but this time following Cardassian instructions; it meant I had to start from the beginning, but if he wanted it to be slow, fine! Who am I to argue with a picky Cardie, who can put me to a punishment service of vacuuming gareshes’ quarters?
The good side of working with the real equipment on the real stuff instead of staring at data on the bridge was that the time flew fast. Before I realised, a man approached me and stared at me for an extended period of time.
“Can I help you?” I asked him finally.
He seemed surprised by my question. “You duty has finished. You’re doing my job now,” he explained.
“Oh, really? I had no idea it was that late!” I finished entering final algorithms and stepped aside, letting him to start his duty.
I knew the drill on the bridge, but was it here the same? It seemed like everyone else from the day shift had already left, so there was no way to observe others if they performed the ’bye, bye’ ritual. What’s worse—I had no idea who was ranking here now and who I should tell ’bye, bye.’
“I’m sorry, but...” I began and my replacement from the night shift raised his eyes to my face. “Do I report leaving the engineering the same way as leaving the bridge?” I didn’t finish my question when I realised it was probably on the wonderful padd with all their protocols.
“Yes, you do,” he said flatly.
“To whom?” I whispered.
“Gil Ya’val.” He nodded toward the chief engineer’s office. There were two Cardassians inside, none of them familiar. Which was Ya’val? The doubt on my face had to be obvious, as he added. “The shorter one.”
“Thanks.” I smiled to him and to my surprise he smiled back. Now, that was nice.
I headed for the office.
“Lieutenant Kapoor reporting end of her duty, sir,” I said officiously.
“Noted,” Gil Ya’val answered; I nodded to him, then to the other Cardassian in the room and then left, thinking about the mess hall and yummy food; I was hungry!
,” I said, approaching Karama; it was the first evening he reappeared in the mess hall for his supper.
He almost spurted his food on the table and then looked at my face, which no doubt expressed satisfaction and pride.
“Ajimu lok ga
,” he replied after swallowing his food, but it appeared to be the only words that he could push through his mouth. He still stared at me with huge eyes and I didn’t volunteer any additional explanation, but I did
turn my translator back on.
He put his fork away. “I see you’ve been busy these days,” he said finally.
“A little bit,” I said modestly.
“Who’s been teaching you?”
“Dja Ma’Kan and Garesh Aladar.”
“Why not? If I’m to spend some time over here, then I can learn as much as possible, right?” I wanted to joke that it could help the Federation to spy on Cardassians better later, but bit my tongue in time. He would not find that joke funny. I wouldn’t find the consequences of it funny, either. “What is that game?” I asked instead, pointing to two Cardassians who played something that vaguely resembled chess.
“Do you know how to play it?”
“Can you teach me?”
He raised one of his eye ridges slightly. Well, slightly for me, for Cardassian standards it was quite an achievement. Then the ridge returned to its proper place and its owner said, “I must warn you, I’m good at this.”
“Until I learn and beat you,” I smiled. Something appeared on his face, an expression I was unable to decipher, but it disappeared after a second and he laughed.
“We’ll see,” he said in a fake—I hoped—menacing tone of voice.