Cardassia was in chaos. Chaos. And the situation was spinning out of control. Most of the Roumar
’s troops were down on the planet, trying to control the riots. I had heard that Gul Jarol had told Garesh Dalar, the troops commander, that they were not allowed to use force and if any of soldiers fired a shot, he’d be executed and Dalar would face severe consequences. Later Tavor had told me that all soldiers that were sent to the planet received the same orders.
Did it help? Not really. Some people wanted more food. Some people wanted the government to go away. Some people supported the government. Some people blamed the Federation Restoration Troops for the problems and wanted them to leave. Some people didn’t seem to know what they wanted.
We were watching a speech of the Cardassian castellan and I had the opportunity to observe bridge officers’ reactions; since the speech took place during the day shift, Gul Jarol wanted it to be displayed on the main viewer and allowed everyone a break to listen to it. The castellan thanked the Federation for help and assured the Cardassian people of the Federation support in their rebuilding efforts and reforms.
Gul Jarol stared at the screen with squinted eyes. I knew she opposed this castellan; she was a member of a political party that didn’t share much with his. She had been patting her lips with her index finger and winced from time to time, reacting to some of the things he said.
Glinn Brenok stood next to her and sometimes commented something. I couldn’t hear his words and she didn’t seem react to them most of time, but once...she straightened in her chair and gave Brenok a look I could not decipher. Then, she returned to her lip patting and wincing.
Glinn Zamarran listened with his arms crossed on his chest. I couldn’t read his face; the always-present frown was there but it didn’t mean anything. When the castellan spoke of the Federation, he looked at me and smiled. I smiled back.
And then the castellan said something really, really strange. He said that the Federation had asked Cardassia to drop its hateful military face and reduce its army to a ‘reasonable’ number of one and a half million soldiers. Even I knew it was all but reasonable. The military strength was around eight and a half million people—before the Dominion slaughtered millions, that is—and the Federation’s proposal would reduce Cardassia’s army from twelve orders to merely two.
To my greater surprise the castellan said he’d found the proposal reasonable, because it could help to save resources for ‘more important matters.’
Some of the officers on the bridge looked at me. They stared as if I was guilty of this idea, while I didn’t even agree with it! I didn’t see the Cardassian military as a benign organisation, but I couldn’t believe anyone would even think of suggesting to limit anyone’s defences to such an extreme. The Cardassians were all about the military. They were born soldiers and even if they lived civilian lives they acted like soldiers. They were more warrior-like than the Klingons. It was in their blood to live following strict rules, strict hierarchy, to listen to orders. The whole society was like a huge army with everyone knowing their place.
And now some aliens had told them to abandon the representation of their greatest value—their Guard. And they...agreed?
All eyes eventually turned away from me and returned to the screen.
The speech ended and the screen went dark.
“Lieutenant Kapoor,” Gul Jarol said from her seat. “Come here.”
Pounding of my heart had to be heard all over the bridge. I went to her chair and stood in front of it. She sat, leaning on her right elbow, one leg on the other. Her left hand was grasping the arm-rest. Glinn Brenok stood next to her and scrutinised me. His nose looked like a beak, a sharp, thin beak.
“What do you think, Kapoor?” Jarol asked. Her voice didn’t sound like an order, more a ‘chatty’ type. I hesitated. Why did she ask me? She observed me, waiting. And waiting. In fact, I was surprised she let me be quiet for such a long time. “Don’t you have an opinion about this?” she asked eventually, her voice still soft.
“I’m not sure,” I said quietly.
She leaned toward me, putting both her feet on the floor and resting her forearms on her thighs. “I ask you because you are the Federation. I don’t understand the Federation; I can’t understand the reasoning behind such a demand. But I want to understand. So I ask what you think about it. Honestly, Kapoor, what do you think?”
“Off the record?” Was anything ‘off the record’ on Cardassia?
She smiled and her pretty eyes shone softly. “Off the record.”
“I don’t understand it, either. I mean, I think I know why the Federation issued such a demand. You, Cardassians, are aggressive people. You are...have a reputation of brutal, ruthless and cruel race. You are dangerous. Limiting your military will remove you as a threat. Without millions of soldiers your brutality wouldn’t mean anything.
“What I don’t understand is why someone even thought about asking you to do that. While I understand the reasoning, I don’t understand how anyone even dared to ask you that. Such a proposal could cause a war. Or at least anger. Indignation. It’s a ridiculous demand. I would never ever ever ever expect you to accept it.” Jarol grinned. “I don’t think anyone in the Federation had expected you to accept it.”
“And yet we do,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Believe me, Kapoor, if it depended on me, we wouldn’t.” Oh, I believed her, all right. “Come to my office, Kapoor.” She rose from her chair and headed for her room. I followed her. She turned to me when the door closed behind me. She leaned her bum on her desk, lowering her tall frame a bit to my level. I had an impression that she didn’t want to intimidate me...too much. “Kapoor, it would be prudent if you contacted your superiors and asked to be transferred back to Starfleet.”
“What? Why?” Why did she kick me out? Because of the Federation stupid politics? It wasn’t my fault!
“There are going to be changes on Cardassia soon. Big changes. You might not want to be here.”
I didn’t know what to say. “Do I have
to leave?” I asked after a long moment.
Jarol grinned. “No, Kapoor, you don’t have
to leave. However, you might want
“But I don’t want to.” I thought for a while. “What kind of changes?”
“I can’t tell you that, I’m afraid.”
“Gul Jarol, do you
want me to leave?”
She observed me for a while. “You are a good officer and Glinn Zamarran says you are a good addition to our crew,” she said at length. “I don’t like losing good officers and certainly don’t remove them from me crew. But you are a Starfleet officer on a temporary assignment here. You don’t belong to me, you’re a loan, if you forgive me this crude comparison.”
I’d always thought that she barely tolerated me. It seemed that my impression hadn’t been completely correct. “I don’t want to leave,” I told her.
She stood up and went to me. I raised my head to look into her eyes. She said, “Return to your duties.”
I went back to the bridge. Nervous. Very nervous. There was something in the air. The Dragon Lady didn’t say that much but I was certain of one thing: the military wouldn’t stand by and let themselves be reduced.