The last month had been hell. On the surface, it seemed like nothing changed. Everyone attended to their duties, I had my day shifts on the bridge and everything appeared to be so ordinary. But I knew it wasn’t.
I was too afraid to contact my parents on Earth; I feared the Cardassians wouldn’t like me contacting the Federation and I was in the middle of this mess, I couldn’t ignore the danger. In spite of everyone’s assurances, I was sure this business meant danger, and a lot of it.
Tonight, however, I had been ordered to stay aboard the warship and not to attempt to leave it under any circumstances. I had asked Tavor what was going on but he said that I should listen to Brenok and not even leave my quarters.
I knew it. I knew that whatever they wanted to do, it would happen tonight.
Tavor came to me. At first I thought he came to bid farewell and calm me down, but he didn’t seem to be in any rush.
“Is it today?” I asked after a forced and failed attempt of small talk.
“Yes,” he replied shortly.
“Do you know what’s going to happen?”
“Not the details.”
“But you know?”
“Tell me.” He only looked at me. “Tavor, if this is happening now, I’ll know soon anyway. Or do you fear I’ll inform Starfleet?”
“What?” He was clearly shocked by my assumption. “No! It’s not that!”
“So tell me.”
“All I know is that the military, the Mar’Kuu Group, is taking over the government.”
“And then what?”
“And then the Mar’Kuu Group will rule Cardassia.” He shrugged like it was not a big deal.
“What do you think about it?”
“I think that at least those are people with qualifications.”
I didn’t understand what he meant. “Did you vote for him, for this Ghemor?”
“No. I didn’t vote at all. Remember?”
Now I recalled...and immediately felt slight irritation. For Cardassians, asking someone if they remembered or forgot was rude and Tavor’s implying it—even if it had been justified and I indeed had forgotten—got on my nerves! Was I becoming one of them?
“Does the Mar’kuu Group deserve it? They take the power by force,” I said.
“I know that Gul Daset is very qualified to be a leader. And you should know that Gul Jarol is too. They have experience in making decisions. They worked hard to reach their positions, they weren’t given those positions for a few empty promises.”
“But doesn’t a coup prove that there is something wrong with their methods?”
“Amrita, Ghemor must be stopped. Fast. This is the only way.”
“Isn’t there any legal way of removing him?”
He smiled bitterly. “The Federation forced its elections upon us and its candidate, but didn’t bother to teach us how to get rid of their puppet.”
“Now, wait a minute!” I sat straighter. “We only want to help. From what you’ve told me, the Cardassians used to be oppressed people, oppressed by their own government. We wanted to show you that your can choose your government. So someone went to vote and has chosen. Now you forcefully remove that chosen person. Forgive me, if I don’t agree with it.”
“I forgive you.”
“What?!” I fumed.
“Just kidding!” He raised his hands in a defensive gesture. Then, he said seriously, “Look, Amrita. We are not the Federation. We don’t think like you.”
“Do you, Gil Tavor Karama, agree with the coup?”
“Why?!” Pitch of my voice reached the ceiling.
“Because my gul and her aide are its supporters. I trust their judgement. I trust it, because I could see their judgement many times before and I know the results of their decisions. I trust they are doing the right thing.”
“They make mistakes.”
“Yes, but in many cases they didn’t make a mistake. I remember more cases of right decisions than wrong ones.”
“Tavor, don’t you see? Cardassia was oppressed under the military rule. The military rule returns. It’s going to be oppressed again!”
“No!” He rose and frowned, hovering over me. “There’s a difference.”
“In the people. It was not ‘military’ that oppressed the people, it were evil people that oppressed the people. Those evil people are gone. Do you expect Gul Jarol to rebuild the Obsidian Order? Or Glinn Brenok?”
Well, I had to admit that Glinn Brenok was as far from an oppressor as it could get.
Tavor sat next to me and grabbed my hands. “Sweetheart, I know you don’t understand, I know it scares you, I know you’d prefer to go and vote for some stranger, but this is not our way. We are not the Federation. We are Cardassia.”
“I know.” He opened his mouth but closed it without saying anything. He kissed my hands. “This is probably very bad moment for it, but...”
“What is it?” I tried to sound calm but my shaking voice betrayed me.
“I know you are terrified and probably think that the Cardassian Union is going to become some kind of monstrosity that is better to be avoided...But I...I love you. I know you will go home after all this is over and I can’t go with you. I’d like you to stay. With me.” He paused and then said in a deep voice that edged on a whisper. “As my wife.” Tears shone in his eyes. His empire was in political turmoil and here he was proposing to me! “You don’t have to decide now. You don’t have to answer me now. This is serious, I know. This is a decision for life and for you it’s much more than bonding with another person to create a family. That’s why I want you to think about it. As long as you need.” He paused for a moment. “I have been thinking about it for months now. And I haven’t hesitated even once. I want it to happen. I want you. I want to wake up next to you every morning, I want to play with my child that is also a part of you, I want to eat food cooked by your small hands and feed you with my desserts, I want to feel the touch of your soft nose on my scales when I kiss you, I want to walk the Alley of Heroes holding your hand and take a holoimage by the Legate Tekeny Ghemor’s monument with you, I want to have picnics with you in Hampat Park, I want you to find my first grey hair, I want to ask you if I my armour is polished and shiny enough and listen to your nagging that I don’t put it back where is its place.” I felt tears rolling down my cheeks. He wiped them away. “If you want the same...you’d make me the happiest Cardassian in history.”
“My hair will start greying before yours,” I said. No one had ever said anything so wonderful to me before.
“And I will lie that it’s still all black until the end of the world and one day longer.”
“Tavor,” I said, putting my hand on his cheek. “If Cardassia turns into an oppressive regime, I won’t stay here. And I’ll do everything in my power to get you out of here too.” He smiled and kissed me. “I would like to be alone, if you don’t mind,” I said.
“Of course. Just don’t be scared any longer, all right?”
“Are you going to the planet? To take part in this...coup?”
“So at least I won’t worry about your safety.”
He gave me a passionate kiss and left.
I tried to access the public broadcast service but all I got was a blank screen. Everything was jammed, blocked or whatever they do in such cases. No flow of information.
I went to my small window and looked at the planet slowly rotating below. A part of me expected to see burning spots of cities on the surface. What was going on down there? Were troops of Cardassian soldiers walking down streets and shooting everyone in sight? Were they treating their own people as they used to treat Bajorans?
I paced. I sat. I wrote a letter to my parents, even though I couldn’t send it. I paced some more. I resisted the urge to call Tavor to come to me. I did not sleep. And I was thinking a lot. About the past year. About my future. About Cardassia. About the Federation.
I was sitting on the floor, under the window, when the chime sounded.
“Come in,” I said not raising.
I could hear the door opening but I couldn’t see who entered, since the table obstructed the view.
“I’m here,” I called, expecting to see Tavor. Who else could had come?
My heart stopped when I saw it was her. I knew I should stand up but I was so surprised that my reaction time was slow and before I made any move, she lowered herself to the floor and sat opposite me.
“Is it over?” I asked.
“A part of it, yes,” Gul Jarol confirmed. “You don’t appear to be packed.”
“I didn’t pack.” Should I add ‘yet’?
“Kapoor, I understand that you are worried and probably very scared,” she said. “I want to assure you that you are not in danger. If you want to leave Cardassia immediately, I will have Gil Hagar take a Hideki patrol ship and escort you to the nearest Federation outpost or starship. I could allow Gil Karama or Ma’Kan accompany you, if the presence of your friend would make you feel safer. You—”
“Gul Jarol, what will happen to Cardassia?” I interrupted her.
She silenced for a moment. “We will continue our rebuilding efforts,” she said finally. “We will try to recreate our law. We will try to go on.”
“Do you have any idea what you are going to do now?”
She smiled. “Yes, Kapoor. We know exactly what we will do.”
“How many people did you arrest?”
“The government members were sent back home and will stay there until tomorrow.”
“How many are in jail?”
“How many did you execute?”
She moved and sat next to me, leaning her back against the bulkhead. “Kapoor, I was born in the times when people were afraid to speak their minds because the Obsidian Order made them disappear. When soldiers were sent to hopeless battles because idiots made tactical decisions. When incapable morons were promoted to guls and were allowed to give orders to slaughter their own people.
“I don’t want those times to return. Cardassians should not fear other Cardassians. Cardassians shouldn’t be taught how to be enemies of other Cardassians. Cardassians should be free to be Cardassians. Any way they want.
“But it doesn’t mean that Cardassians have to be anyone’s servants. That Cardassians have to resemble someone else and copy their ways.” It was so clear to me that she spoke of the Federation. “We have to find our own way of existing. We have to return to our roots.” She turned her head and looked at me. “I don’t expect you to understand. You lack the insight into our society. You cannot know what it was like thirty years ago, twenty years ago or five years ago. You don’t have to know. It’s not your problem.” She silenced.
I decided to use the opportunity of a break in her monologue to ask a bold question. “Gul Jarol, do you think you are the right person to rule Cardassia? That you know what to do?”
She audibly let the air out in a form of a small laughter. “Oh, I don’t claim to have all the answers. And I am not so sure that I am the right person to make political decisions; there certainly are much smarter people to do that. But I know one thing: disarming Cardassia is not good for us and I am sure that the attempt to leave my home defenceless was not a good move on Ghemor’s part. It wasn’t his first wrong decision but by far the worst and I’m absolutely sure it wouldn’t be the last.
“We will make our mistakes but we won’t let Cardassia go weak. We want it to grow strong. We want the people to be proud of their Cardassia, not be ashamed and feel hopeless. We want them to come to their own military for protection, not to alien forces. They should trust us, not fear us.”
“How can they trust you if you just performed a coup?!”
“Kapoor, the previous civilian government had taken power by performing a coup,” she grinned. “Is a military coup worse than a civilian coup? The Federation hadn’t had a problem with that coup back then?”
I remembered. “Because civilians aren’t as dangerous as a military. Civilians aren’t armed.”
“Does it mean they would rule Cardassia better? Because they don’t wear a phaser on them?” I bit my lip, not knowing what to say. “I have to go back to Cardassia,” she said, raising. “Glinn Zamarran is aboard the ship, so if you need anything, go to him. He knows about my offer, so should you decide to take it, let him know and he’ll give you a ship and a pilot.”
Maybe I was naïve, maybe I was inexperienced, maybe I was simply stupid, but somehow after that conversation with her I felt less paralysed. The dreadful word ‘coup’ gained a face that I knew and that I trusted and things didn’t seem so terrifying any longer.