I was terrified. I was just about to face a full Cardassian family, a Cardassian sacred family, and I had no idea what to expect—apart from dreadful and horrible Mr. Karama that is! I knew what to expect from him! Tavor had told me to brace for impact.
Their living room, which I was sure was called differently, was quite big and of course quite dark, too. Oval windows let in just a little of orange light of the Cardassian sun and the interior’s colours were mostly browns—dark browns. The wall to the right was all covered with bookshelves. On the wall on the left hung a huge painting of a panorama of some city. The city was unmistakeably Cardassian but I was unable to tell which one it was.
There were four people in the room. A thin woman with greying hair; I guessed it was Tavor’s mother. She observed me intently but I could not tell if she was friend or foe. Next to her stood a much younger Cardassian. His face was very much like Tavor’s, so I guessed it was his older brother. The man wore armour. By the bookshelves stood another woman. Her eyes were gently looking at me and I had a strong impression she fought her urge to smile. The fourth person was a big, armoured Cardassian man, who stood in the middle of the room and was eyeing me with squinted eyes. He was everything but friendly. And I knew
who he was.
“Why did you bring that here?” he asked.
‘That’? Had he just refered to me as ‘that’?
is a person, Father, not a thing.” Tavor’s voice was levelled when he answered.
“It is not a Cardassian.”
is not. She still is a person nevertheless.”
The old Karama moved closer to Tavor. “How dare you use that tone of voice with me!” he boomed.
“I didn’t use any tone of voice,” Tavor replied with his head raised high. “Yet!” he added defiantly.
Oh my, this was not going well, was it?
“You want some pleasure, use it!” the father said. “But don’t marry it.”
Tavor’s mother closed her eyes for a moment. I couldn’t tell she was sighing or restraining herself.
“She is not ‘it’!” Tavor didn’t raise his voice but the tone was sharp. I noticed his hands clenched into fists.
“It is a non-Cardassian,” the old man repeated. I could decipher on his armour that he was a very high ranking gul. “I will not allow it.”
“I’m not asking for your permission; I am informing you.”
“This family will not have half-breed children.”
Tavor fumed. “Oh, and how am I supposed to know that I don’t already have any half-Bajoran brothers or sisters, ah?” he shouted in his father’s face.
And after that everything happened very fast. The mother gasped. The brother whispered with indignation “Tavor” and the young woman covered her mouth with her hand. The father...the father was in front of Tavor in a split second and with a swiping move slapped him hard.
I flinched at the sound; Tavor however didn’t. He kept staring his terrifying father straight in the eyes with a defiant facial expression. He was furious. I had never seen him angry; irritated—yes, but not angry, and now he was like a typhoon: his nostrils were opening wider as he was breathing audibly, his upper lip was twitching and his eyes were as narrow as of a laughing Chinese. His hands were still clenched into fists and a little raised, as if he was preparing to fend off another attack.
I had never imagined that was possible. I couldn’t believe my own eyes—my teddy bear had changed into a grizzly and the shift had taken merely a few seconds.
I felt someone grab my hand. It was the young woman.
“Come, you don’t have to witness it,” she whispered and started to pull me out of the room. I resisted, since I didn’t want to leave Tavor like this and retreat, but his mother moved toward the door and also, with a gesture, told me to leave. The brother stayed in the room, while we went to another one, which without a doubt was the kitchen.
“Would you like some cookies?” the mother asked.
I didn’t know what to say. Why did they behave like nothing happened? Was the scene in the living room nothing unusual? Was it normal for a father to slap his son like that?
“Don’t worry,” the young woman said, seeing my worried face. “They will work it out. They always do. By the way, I am Inaya, Tasar’s wife.”
Given names. She used their given names. Did that mean I was accepted at least by them? Or it was just strange to say ‘I am Karama, Karama’s wife?’
“Amrita, Amrita Kapoor,” I said quietly.
“We know,” she smiled. “Please, sit down.”
“Are they...” I looked toward the door.
“Don’t worry about them,” Inaya said, also sitting down. The mother came with cookies and put the plate in the middle of the table.
“Have you ever tried zobar
milk?” she asked.
“Yes, I have and I liked it.”
She nodded and a moment later returned with three mugs of warm zobar
I didn’t know what to say and the women also didn’t speak. I kept listening intently, hoping to catch some sound from the living room, but there was nothing. Either the walls were thick or soundproof, or they weren’t shouting and beating each other.
I tasted a cookie. It was a bit gummy but very tasty. Not too sweet, a little salty, with tiny pieces of something that resembled peach.
“Very tasty,” I said looking at the mother. Tavor had told me her name, but I, of course, had forgotten.
The woman nodded but didn’t say anything.
“Come!” a raspy, strong voice said behind me. I turned to see who he’d talked to and with a dread realised that the old Karama had addressed me.
Swallowing loudly, I followed him to yet another room, of which door closed behind me. He stood before me; big, wide and scary, he looked down to meet my eyes and said in that deep voice of his, “I don’t want you in my family, but as I see it, my son is an adult and has the right to choose his own wife.”
He motioned to the desk that stood by the window and stopped there, looking at something on the wall, his right side facing me. “I am disgusted at the thought of having half-Terran children,” he continued. I couldn’t say he wasn’t honest. “I am disgusted at the thought that you will be a part of my family. But the law has changed and you are a Cardassian citizen with the same rights as I, so I can’t just kill you and solve the problem that way.” Lord Shiva be blessed for Cardassian reforms! “But
!” Oh, yes, here we go. “But I expect you to adapt to some rules, as I am adapting now. My grandchildren will be raised as Cardassians, even if their ridges are not going to be prominent. They will speak and think in Cardassian and you will never have a right to take them with you, should you decide to leave my son.” He turned to me. “And I am sure you will decide to do it sooner or later. You, Terrans, are immoral, depraved people.” Look who was saying that? The man who according to his own son used Bajoran women as sex toys! “And you divorce.” He spat the word. “And remarry many times.” He squinted at me. “With how many men have you slept with before?” Ah? What business was it of his? I didn’t intend to reply. “Speak!”
“No,” I said quietly, expecting my voice to shake, but it didn’t.
“Speak!” he boomed.
“No. This is my private matter. Or a matter between me and Tavor. You have no right to ask me such questions.”
“So there were men,” he said quieter. “Appalling!”
So are you
, I thought.
He eyed me for a long time and I fought the strong urge to avert my eyes, but I didn’t want to give him that satisfaction. He was terrifying me, yes, but I didn’t want him to know how much. Choke on your hatred, you old bastard. I had been a Starfleet officer and now was a Cardassian Guard eresh and no Cardassian racist will tell me how to live my life and who to love, even my love’s father.
He approached me and towered over me, his eyes still piercing through me.
“Are you not afraid of me?”
“I am, deadly,” I replied honestly, still not lowering my eyes.
He leaned over me. The seconds felt like years. Millennia.
Then he reached for the door comm, pressed it and the door opened.
“Go,” he said and I didn’t need any more encouragement.
I left the room, wondering if he would follow me, but he didn’t. Tavor waited for me in the corridor in front of the living room. As soon as I noticed him standing there, my legs moved faster to reach him and my eyes filled with tears of fear. He extended his arms and I fell between them to be hugged the strongest hug in my life. I felt his cheek on top of my head and his hand stroking my hair. I couldn’t stop sobbing and was so ashamed that his family was witnessing that.
I calmed down a little and looked up at Tavor, while he smiled at me.
“Can we go home now?” I asked as quietly as possible, because I didn’t want others to hear my question. To my relief, he nodded.
“Let me just bid farewell,” he said.
I could wait that long.
We were almost leaving the house when Tavor’s mother approached us and handed me a small packet.
“I hope you really liked them and weren’t only polite praising me, because Tavor doesn’t like them and you will have to eat them all alone,” she said and...grinned. Now I knew after whom Tavor had inherited his smile and gentleness.
“Thank you,” I said in Cardassian, hoping I hadn’t butchered the language too badly and had chosen the right ‘thank you’—the Cardassians had two forms of thanks, each for different situations. The crew of the Roumar
was surely used to my funny Cardassian but people here were not.
“I’m sorry for all this,” Tavor said while we walked back to a public transport booth. “I really thought he would behave. He didn’t seem that aggressive and negative when I was explaining to them who you were.”
“That’s all right. Don’t worry about it.” I noticed some passers by glancing at us curiously.
“It’s not all right. I don’t know what he wanted to talk to you about but I’m sure he did his best to scare you to death.” And he had succeeded.
“I am sorry he hit you because of me,” I said.
“It’s not the first time and I’m sure not the last either. He’s quick with his hands.”
“Your mum is very nice.”
“I know,” he smiled. “She was afraid to talk to you before he accepted you, but now she knows it’s all right.”
That was ‘accepted’? What would ‘rejected’ look like?
“Did he ever hit her?” I asked and immediately thought that I probably shouldn’t have asked that question.
“No, never!” He looked at me surprised. “Tasar and I needed discipline but he would never hit our mum!”
So, he wasn’t a total bastard, ‘only’ 95% of a bastard. “Will I ever have to see him again?”
“No. One of his conditions is that we won’t live with them.”
Perfect for me but I was sure it was a huge blow for Tavor. He had always assumed he were to live with the rest of his family, just like everyone else—that was an integral part of Cardassian culture.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Don’t be. You did nothing wrong.”
But it felt wrong, all of it felt wrong. “Where will we live?”
“I don’t know yet but I’ll think of something. For now we can stay aboard the Roumar.” He squeezed my hand and I smiled.
I tried not to look at surprised faces of passers by, so I raised my head to look at buildings. “Tavor, what are those screens for?” There were oval screens on many buildings, quite the same as the one in Deep Space Nine ops.
“Ah, the ‘talking heads screens!’”
“What?” I laughed; what kind of name was that!
“Until the end of the war, before Ghemor took the castellan’s office, they were always on and there was either a tribunal to watch, or some other important event, or news and if there wasn’t anything to broadcast, a guy talked.”
“Talked about what?”
“Everything. Our duty, our sacrifice, what it means to be a good Cardassian, obedience, service, greatness of our government and such stuff. After some time you learn to ignore it, so no one really paid attention to it. Sometimes someone stopped and listened to it, but if you hear babbling all the time, you tune it out or you’d get crazy.
“They turned them off after Ghemor had won the elections, as ‘evil propaganda instrument,’ so they are useless now.”
Indoctrination. Obedience. The Cardassians were obedient to anyone who’d rule over them. All right, I had to give them that—it mattered who ruled them, after all they finally had rebelled against the Dominion, but they still couldn’t break out from this obedience conditioning on the most basic level. Tavor’s father had bit him and Tavor believed he had deserved
that, because it was his father and he had the right to raise his sons the way he did. I could only hope Tavor didn’t think that it was the right way to raise children, for if we were able to have any, I’d cut his hands off if he used force even once. I couldn’t imagine Tavor doing something like that, but I hadn’t been able to imagine him becoming a grizzly, either, and I had
witnessed that not a long time ago.
There was no time like the present. “Tavor, I want to ask you a very important question.” He gave me an asking look, so I continued, “Will you discipline our children the way you and your brother were disciplined?”
He shook his head vigorously. “Never,” he said. “How could you even think something like that!” He knitted his eye ridges, giving me a hurt look.
“Just making sure,” I said.
“How could you even think about something like that,” he hissed and walked faster, moving ahead of me. I had to almost run to keep up with him.
“You sound like you think that you deserved the beatings, so I want to make sure you don’t think this is the way to raise children,” I told him.
He stopped and turned to me; his lips were pursed and eyes squinted. He glared at me for a moment and then resumed his walk. He didn’t speak to me the whole way to the transporter booth and then went to his quarters aboard the Roumar
without a word of farewell. He was mad.