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Old November 28 2011, 02:11 PM   #16
Gul Re'jal
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Location: Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space station
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 103



“I’m leaving,” Ullman said.

It was one of those rare occasions when we were both in our quarters.

“What do you mean ‘you’re leaving’?”

“I have asked Starfleet for a transfer and they agreed after receiving my report.”

I didn’t have to ask about the report; I was sure it was full of negative stuff about the Cardassians, especially Karama. I couldn’t blame her, but I felt it wasn’t fair. She didn’t give them a chance from the beginning and after that it only escalated. Too bad.

“Did anyone else treat you badly?” I asked.

“No, I think after his punishment they were afraid to do anything.”

Or they didn’t want to do anything in the first place, but that wouldn’t occur to her, would it?

“Does that include me? I mean—returning home?”

“No. I have received orders regarding me, not a word about you. If they recall us both, you will probably get your own message.”

I nodded. “When do you go?”

“Next week.”

“That soon?”

“Not soon enough.”

We fell silent and it wasn’t a pleasant silence. It hanged over our heads and it was all too clear we had nothing to talk about. We were never friends, only colleagues; and since we didn’t share our shifts, we hadn’t developed any subjects to talk about. I realised that I knew Karama, or Zamarran, or Ma’Kan or even Aladar better than her.

“I can’t believe you want to stay with them. Alone.”

I looked at her. I didn’t feel alone. It was true that some of the crew were glaring at me, but they were a minority and even that minority was shrinking. Zamarran and Ya’val were fair and didn’t patronise me; the rest of the engineering followed their example; they were all business. My night shift replacement, Glen Bedar, had to report my mistakes to Glinn Zamarran, but it was no malice. Ya’val had told me that Bedar volunteered to show me where and why I had made those mistakes; and Bedar did. He sacrificed his own free time after his duty to teach me. We hadn’t made friends, but good working environment was a precious thing.

I spent my evenings with Ma’Kan, Aladar and Karama. Initially the first two taught me Cardassian, but with time I started to assist Ma’Kan in her fascinating hobby—she liked to build models of ships. Not just plastic or paper models. Working models. That buzz, shine and possibly fly. She had asked me to help her design a tiny Federation spaceship, like a Galaxy or Sovereign model. I couldn’t help but admire her patience in cutting and connecting tiny pieces of plastic and metal to build a hull or a tiny engine.

Aladar was my passport to the lower decks personnel. He was a low ranking garesh, younger even than me, but being his pal secured my safety from other wild and untamed gareshes. In a way it made me ‘one of them.’

And finally Karama. My guide, my Cardassian encyclopedia, my friend. I didn’t know about the others, but I knew I would miss him after returning home. I liked spending my free time with him. I liked the way he laughed and how he growled when he wanted to show his dissatisfaction with something. I still couldn’t believe how come it had gone so bad between him and Ullmann. If he had only ignored her comments she would have to realise he was not what she had taken him for and all this wouldn’t have happened. But he had played right into her fears and now, knowing him better, I couldn’t figure out why.

“Time to start my shift.” Ullmann logged out from her computer screen and rose.

“Have fun.”

“This is no fun at all.” She took some stuff and left.

Did I want to spend my evening here, or did I want some company?

“Kapoor to Karama.”

Karama, go ahead.

“Busy? I’m bored.”

No language lessons today?

“Today is not the day.”

Come over than, I was just about to have dinner.

I hesitated. Maybe I was intruding. “Are you sure? Sounds like you have your evening planned.”

Rule number one hundred and seven: Cardassians don’t like to eat alone.” Was it smile I heard in his voice?

“I’ll be right there.”

And I was. With two salads and a small jar of fish juice, as I didn’t want him to use all his replicator rations on me.

“Ullmann is leaving,” I said when we were half-through our food. We had soup and grains mixed with vegetables, a bit like Korean bibimbap, only not that spicy.

He looked at me and for a second I had an impression I saw relief in his eyes. Then he resumed eating. “Are you leaving with her?” he asked after a few spoons of his Cardassian ‘bibimbap.

“No. She asked to be transferred; I didn’t.”

He nodded his understanding.

We ate in silence for a while.

“Can you do something for me?” he asked. This time my reply was reduced to nodding only, as my mouth was full. “Please tell her I am sorry.”

I didn’t see that coming. I stared at him and he noticed my astonishment; he smiled sadly and explained. “What I did...I realised that...I became something I don’t want to be. Why I did it...is because of that something. I did it because she took me for that something and I didn’t like it and...I became this...” His voice shook and he didn’t finish.

“I’ll tell her,” I promised, although I doubted it would make any difference for her. Did he want to talk about it? Should I encourage him by asking?

“I never wanted to be like him,” he said very quietly. “I was always very careful not to resemble him in anything, even though I have chosen to join the military too. She...Ullmann treated me...she talked to me like I was him. I hated that. I hated that she formed her opinion about us based on things he had done and now I have to pay for it.” He dropped his spoon and looked at me. His eyes were full of pain. “I am not him. I don’t want to be him. But she plastered me to him like we were one. She didn’t know that; she didn’t understand that but it was awful for me and I snapped. I...I changed into him. Gul Jarol was right; I only enforced Ullmann’s wrong impression instead of correcting it. I became him. I became that heartless, cruel bastard, who treats people like trash and women like sex toys. I hate him for everything he did during the Border Wars, for everything he did on Bajor, for everyone whom he tortured to death, for every woman he raped and every child he slaughtered.” Tears appeared in his eyes. “I don’t want to be him.” I wasn’t sure who he talked about. His father? “And now...I came so close.” He raised his fingers and neared this thumb to his little finger leaving small space between. “It doesn’t matter I didn’t want to hurt her, really hurt her. She thinks I did and that’s what counts.” Anger flashed in his eyes. “He raised me to be a monster and he succeeded!” I shook my head, silently filing my protest. “What? Don’t you agree?”

“I don’t,” I said quietly. “If you were a monster, you wouldn’t regret what had happened. You would think she deserved that and more. You would act on your threats.”

“Kapoor, why do you talk to me? Why didn’t you side with her? You are her friend.”

“Because I know you. Because I know your other side. You made a mistake. But that wasn’t really you. If it were, I wouldn’t be here now. I would be too scared to be in one room with you.” I moved with my chair closer to him. I knew Cardassians didn’t like a direct touch, but I had noticed that there was one type of touch they did allow; I put my hand on his arm—he wore a thick tunic that day, so I didn’t touch his skin—I wouldn’t dare to go that far. “I am not afraid of you. I trust you. You are my friend.” His eyes stuck to my face. “In fact, you are my best friend on this ship,” I said and I meant it.

He stared at me for a long time. His pupils were wide as he studied my face. The lines of grey marbles around his eyes gave him a panda look—his skin inside the eye ridges was of the same colour is the rest of his face, but deep shadows cast by the ridges created the impression that the skin around the eyes was darker. The lower eyelid was almost straight; thanks to it his eyes gained a crescent shape when he smiled. I wished so much he smiled now. It was so sad to watch him suffering. He was the only Cardassian I knew whose ear-to-chin ridges didn’t recede, but were connected. They surrounded his face, giving it a round, cute shape, cut in half by a small, but sharp nose. I didn’t know if he was handsome; I didn’t know if he was handsome by Cardassian standards; I didn’t even know if he was handsome by my standards, but I liked his face so much. I liked all the ridges, and the hooded eyes, and the marbles of his scales, and his crescent blue-grey eyes and his round cheeks and round chin. And now this face that I liked so much was so sad, so full of regret, shame and sorrow.

He lowered his head and looked at remains of his meal.

“My father is a gul in the Fourth Order. He is an active member of the Directorate. He has a past of ‘good service’ for Cardassia.” His words were soaked with irony. “He did lots of terrible things and he is proud of them.” Irony and contempt. “I don’t want to be anything like him.”

“You are not.” I gently squeezed his arm.

“How can you tell?” he snapped at me.

“Because I am here, sharing a meal with you. Because the last time I was here you played kotra with me. Because you let me touch you. Because you laugh at my silly jokes. Because you don’t mind I’m a human and you never did. And that means you are nothing like him.”

“Kapoor...” He grabbed my hand, took it off his arm, but didn’t let it go. He didn’t say anything else; we just sat there, in silence, in a comfortable silence.
__________________
In a Cardassian library or in a Cardassian gallery?

"Reagan, it appears, is really only an ardent unionist if the unions in question are in Poland" - Stephen King, Skeleton Crew
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Old November 28 2011, 02:12 PM   #17
Gul Re'jal
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Location: Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space station
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 132



We have received your report, Lieutenant” On my monitor, Commander Calderon looked up at me from a file on her padd. “I must say I am quite surprised by the discrepancy between your and Lieutenant Ullmann’s description of the events.”

“Yes, Commander. I believe I can explain that.”

You are not trying to claim that her report is inaccurate?

“Oh, no, not at all.” How could she even think that? “I am sure Lieutenant Ullmann’s report is a faithful representation of her point of view. What I’m trying to say is that my point of view was different, as a bystander’s. Lieutenant Ullmann was unhappy in that assignment since the beginning and she alienated some of the Cardassians; Gil Karama especially and he took it really badly. However, I can assure you he would not act on his threats. Unfortunately, Lieutenant Ullmann didn’t want to believe that.”

Calderon stared at me for a very long moment. “You do not apply for a transfer back to the Federation.” It wasn’t a question, it was a statement.

“I do not,” I confirmed.

She sighed. “Lieutenant, this exchange program is clearly a failure,” she said. “The Cardassians obviously are not ready to be a part of the Alpha Quadrant and I do not think this is a good idea for you to stay there.

I fumed. It was a very unfortunate incident, but it wasn’t entirely Karama’s fault and certainly not all Cardassians’ to judge them as a people that can’t be a part of a greater whole.

“With all due respect, Commander—”

I will forward my recommendation to recall you from your current assignment,” she interrupted.

“I’d rather you didn’t.”

Excuse me?

“Commander, this was one incident, a very disastrous, no doubt, however let’s not cancel the whole program because of it.”

No, Lieutenant. We cannot be sure of your safety aboard that Cardassian warship. I think it’s in your best interest to return home. You should expect your orders soon.”

“Yes, Commander,” I replied, but didn’t hide my disappointment. She signed off.

Okay, so I’d known this wasn’t permanent. I hadn’t expected it to take more than a few months. But things had changed! This turned out to be as great assignment as on a Federation starship it would be—I had my commanding officer, I had my head of my department, I’d made some friends. It was so...normal. For the most part.

The naked truth was that I didn’t want a reassignment. I felt fine where I was. Sure, some of Cardassians were not friendly, some were annoying, some were patronising, but for the most part they were okay. I didn’t have any guarantee that my new captain would be less scary than the Dragon Lady and my chief engineer more forgiving than Glinn Zamarran.

A door chime sounded, so I muttered “Enter.” The door parted and I saw Karama standing in the corridor. He didn’t enter but stood there looking at me. “Why the long face?” he asked eventually.

“Come in,” I said and he finally entered my quarters. “Fish juice?”

“No, thank you. Actually, I’m headed for Ma’Kan’s quarters. Want to join? She is almost finished with the Hideki, but needs to do some precise work. I think your tiny fingers could be very useful.” He silenced and then added. “That was a joke.”

“Funny,” I muttered humourlessly.

“Apparently not so.” He sat on my bunk and leaned toward me. “What’s happened?”

“They recall me back to the Federation.”

“Oh.” He sounded genuinely disappointed. “So soon?” Should I tell him that it’s because the Ullmann incident? It could make him feel guilty and I didn’t want him to feel guilty. “Do you want me to stay with you?” he asked very quietly.

I looked at him. I didn’t expect that. It was clear he’d assumed that in my present mood I wouldn’t like to go to Ma’Kan and struggle with her little toy models. I appreciated so much that he didn’t insist. But to stay with me? To just...be with me? So that I didn’t have to sit with my sadness alone? To share my grim mood?

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

“I want to if you need it.”

That was the sweetest thing any man had ever said to me. “Do you mind if we listen to some music?” I asked.

He shook his head, so I turned on something I grew up with. It was too cheerful for my mood, but I hoped it would help me improve it a little. Karama seemed surprised by my choice or by the music itself—I couldn’t tell and didn’t want to ask.

I sat next to him and leaned against the bulkhead behind me. “How long do you serve on the Roumar?” I asked him.

“Let me think...” He silenced for a moment. “Eight years, since the graduation from the Academy.”

“Is it typical? To be posted on one warship and never transferred?”

“Usually there is no need for a transfer. If you’re doing your job properly then your gul wants to keep you. A lot of people stay on one ship for years, until it hinders their career and then they have to transfer.”

“Like to move somewhere else to become someone’s first officer?”

“In a way. A gul’s aide is usually chosen from the crew as this person could not only be trusted but also familiar with the warship and its crew. But such things as a transfer from outside happen and they aren’t a rarity.”

“What would happen to your tattoo if you resigned?” I knew he had a tattoo on his chest just below his right collar bone ridge and I knew Aladar had one too.
“Nothing. Everyone who joins the military gets a tattoo. Even if you retire you still have a history of the service in the Guard, which is a great honour. We wear them with pride even if usually they are hidden under clothing.”

“But your tattoo is different than Aladar’s.”

“I am an officer, Aladar is a non-com. I have the Union symbol, he has the Fourth Order’s symbol.”

“Why?”

“Non-coms, once assigned to an Order, stay in it forever. Transfers are possible from one post to another but always within the same Order. Officers can be transferred between Orders, although it doesn’t happen often.”

“Interesting. We are transferred all around Starfleet. Do Ma’Kan and Gul Jarol have tattoos too?”

“They have to. Being women doesn’t change the fact that they are soldiers and officers.”

“I see.”

“How long have you been posted in your longest assignment?” he asked after a short moment of silence.

“Seven months.”

“That short?” His eye ridges raised slightly in surprise. “Why? Did you do something?”

“No. They needed an engineer elsewhere and my ship could spare me.”

“Oh.”

I knew how it sounded to him. I wasn’t good enough to keep me, so I had been the first one to be kicked out. The Cardassians valued efficiency and in his eyes I had to be inefficient if my commanders had bothered with allocating me and resources somewhere else. Transferring me had cost them less than keeping me. It hurt a bit—to know he thought that way. It wasn’t his malice, I knew that, it was his mentality—but it still stung. I wasn’t particularly talented, I was good at my job and I did it well, but I certainly didn’t belong to that group of miracle workers who could make a warp coil from a piece of wire and bubble gum. I was only a regular professional, no fireworks.

Perfect, my mood just got worse.

“I don’t want to be transferred,” I said quietly and realised that my voice shook like I was just about to cry. Karama gave me an attentive look. Did he hear tears in my voice or was he just surprised by my statement? I couldn’t read his face. Not tonight.

“You can’t refuse it, can you?” he asked.

I only shook my head, afraid to speak.

We went silent and just sat there, listening to the music. He pulled a blanket and wrapped it around his shoulders.

“Computer, raise the temperature by three degrees,” I said.

“You don’t have to do this,” he replied. “I’ll be fine under the blanket.”

“That’s all right. Where I come from, a city called Calcutta, this is an average temperature in summertime. It reminds me of home...kind of.”

He smiled. “I didn’t know our homes had something in common.”

“I think if you dig deep enough you can find a lot of similarities. After over four months I know we are much more alike than any of us would like to admit.”

“It’s not four months yet.”

“Not your four months. I still think like an Earthling.”

“How many days do you have in your month?”

“Thirty or thirty-one or twenty-eight. Or twenty-nine,” I added after a second.

He stared at me surprised. “Why so complicated?”

“Because Earth doesn’t want to circle Sun in a more regular manner,” I replied smiling slightly. “It took us centuries to establish a calendar that works.”

“Interesting.” He turned his whole his body to face me. “So how do you know how many days will be in the following month?” It seemed that he thought it was more complicated than it really was.

We talked about our calendars, about the histories of our calendars and about histories of our planets. How could someone claim this mission was a failure? There was no information about the Cardassian calendar in the Federation database, there was limited information about their history—except for some obscure facts about the Hebitian Empire, which Karama called the ‘Hebitian Republic’—and there was no useful information about their culture. I could bring all that information with me, if only Starfleet gave me enough time to collect it. The Cardassians were much more than just a Galor class warship blueprints. Their armours were cold but the hearts underneath were warm. Their scales were thick but they were emotionally vulnerable, just like us. They grew tough and hostile but the more I knew them the more I understood they were taught it, it wasn’t in their nature. I had an impression that it was much more natural for them to smile at the thought of their families than frown at the thought of their enemies.

Maybe I was blind, maybe I was totally wrong and my perspective was distorted because I was among them, in the middle of their nest, inside the dragon’s cave, but sometimes I had a hard time associating these people here with what I knew about Bajor.

I had studied Gul Jarol’s profile. I didn’t have access to all of it but there was enough of information to draw a picture of who she was. She had fought in the Border Wars. She had been posted in a former Federation colony. The Roumar—with another gul in command at that time—had been assigned to pacify the Maquis and she had taken part in massacres of civilians. She had led two of them! Of course, in the Cardassian database those things were presented as heroic and noble service to the Union, but I could read between the lines. She was some kind of terrible monster, without conscience, without a heart, without anything inside that cold, hard armour.

But she had also fought the Dominion. She had helped a Romulan vessel and had saved it from destruction and had worked with a Federation captain to find who had been attacking his convoys. She had nearly lost her life when she had refused to follow her gul’s order to poison Klingon invaders and Cardassian civilians—such collateral damage was unacceptable for her and she had been ready to die trying to protect them.

She scared the hell out of me each time she was in my sight but I knew I could go to her if I had a problem with anyone. She had dealt with the Ullmann and Karama incident; she was even angry at me for not reporting it. Karama had told me that she hadn’t ruined his career by putting a note in his file, neither permanent nor temporary; she had only given him a ten minute speech and postponed his promotion.

So was she a monster? She was no angel—that was certain—but was she the devil’s sister? Her crew respected her; they would follow her to hell if that was her destination. It was not fear, it was not terror that she used to rule the warship. It was fairness. It was her dedication to her crew. She respected them and they answered in the same manner.

How was that different from a Starfleet starship?

How many of our captains were true angels? Especially after the last war? True, they didn’t massacre anyone, they didn’t brutally pacify the Maquis, but...

There were Cardassians and Cardassians. Some were like Karama’s father and Gul Dukat, some were like Gul Jarol and Glinn Brenok and some were like Karama and Garesh Aladar. You can’t just put everyone into one bag, mix and say: these are the Cardassians; the Klingons say they have no honour, the Federation says they have no conscience, the Dominion says they are traitors and only the Romulans know what they would say, but I didn’t expect it to be any more fair that the three other opinions. I say—if anyone were willing to listen—they are people. Tall and short. Fat and slim. Mean and nice. Dark grey and light grey. With thick ridges and with delicate ridges. They love, they hate, they laugh and they die—just like all of us.

I didn’t want to return to the Federation, not yet. I had to find more Karamas, and more Aladars and more Ma’Kans and I was sure there were many more of them. My assignment was not only to gather data for the Federation, but also to know the Cardassians and to bring that information to the Federation. My assignment was far from accomplished; I had to make sure Starfleet knew that.

I sat. “Please don’t think I’m ungrateful, but I have to do something and I have to do it now, before my courage vaporises.”

“You want me to go?” he asked neutrally as if making sure he understood me correctly.

I nodded. “Please, don’t be angry.” I leaned to him and closed my face to his. “I want to write a report for Starfleet and I hope they will let me stay for a while longer.”

“That’s okay,” he smiled. I really hoped he didn’t feel like I’d slapped away his helping hand. “Good luck with your report.” He rose and headed for the door. “See you tomorrow. I believe you have a bridge duty?”

“That’s correct,” I confirmed. He grinned; it was a nice, sincere smile; the one that I liked so much.

He left and I sat at my desk to prepare my great speech for my superiors in uniforms made from fabric.
__________________
In a Cardassian library or in a Cardassian gallery?

"Reagan, it appears, is really only an ardent unionist if the unions in question are in Poland" - Stephen King, Skeleton Crew
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Old November 28 2011, 02:12 PM   #18
Gul Re'jal
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Location: Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space station
Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 160



In excitement, instead of chiming, I used my fist to ‘knock’ on Karama’s door. It opened a moment later with him standing in the doorway and staring at me with his narrow eyes.

“What hap—”

“They agreed!” I shouted and moved inside, completely forgetting about sticking-out threshold. I stumbled and would fall if he hadn’t caught me.

“Please, come in,” he said, laughing. “They agreed to what?” he asked. The door closed and I went to the sofa but didn’t sit. I couldn’t; I was too excited.

“My superiors. They withdrew the transfer orders. They extended my stay for another six months.”

“That’s great!” he cheered up and then, suddenly, composed himself, as if ashamed of his happiness. “Would you like some fish juice?” he asked. Why did I have an impression he tried to cover up his perplexity. But why would he be perplexed?

“Sure,” I said. We both knew that ‘fish juice’ really meant orange juice. After many ‘Would you like fi...orange juice?’ we had agreed to stop bothering ourselves with such details.

“Did they give you any special orders?” he asked, going to the replicator.

“No. They said my previous orders stand. They asked if I thought if I needed some help, but I told them that I can manage on my own.”

He came to me and handed me a mug. “Why don’t you sit?”

“What?” I realised I was still standing by the sofa. “Yeah, sure.”

I sipped the juice. “There’s something I wanted to ask you about.”

“Go ahead.”

“I hope it’s not a problem that it’s a political question.”

“No, not at all.”

“I watched a news broadcast today and you had some kind of elections two days ago?”

“That’s right.”

“There were some parties, two or three, if I remember correctly.”

“Three. The Directorate, The Mar’kuu Group and the Reunion Project. The last one won and now Alon Ghemor is our castellan.”

“Your what?”

“The head of the Cardassian Union.”

“So, you had elections...Did you vote for him, for this Ghemor?”

“No. I didn’t vote at all.”

“Why not?” I was surprised. I thought voting was my citizen’s duty. And the Cardassians were all about duty.

“How could I?” He was surprised by my surprise. “What do I know about politics? How could I choose who rules the empire? It’s not my place to do such a thing! I don’t know enough about the situation, politics, or the man to say if he is the right person or not.” He shook his head. “You don’t just choose your boss. Do you choose your captain? Do you choose your father? Why would you choose the head of your empire? This is unnatural; this is against the hierarchy. You have to prove you are the right person by your work; you have to deserve to reach that point. Not be given by masses, which don’t really understand what they are doing. I could vote if I knew who were these people. Ghemor came from nowhere. I don’t know anything about him and I wouldn’t give him my life, because he promises me something. Promises are well disguised lies.”

Did I understand what he was trying to tell me? There was some sense to it, but...Yes, the Cardassians had that strong need of following their leadership, no matter who it was. All right, they had proven that it did matter who it was, but still they couldn’t break out from that obedience conditioning. Hmm...maybe it was related. Maybe they were able to follow their leadership because they ‘knew’ their leaders were the right people. In theory. In practise...well...I didn’t know much about Cardassian politics but I was sure those guys before the war had not been the right people at the helm.

“So you will never vote?”

“I would vote if there was an option to choose. This Ghemor is no one. The Directorate’s candidate, Legate Parn, is an old blockhead and represents everything that had been wrong with the Union for the last twenty-odd years. Gul Daset, the Mar’kuu Group leader, is a total ass and believe me, I know, as he used to be the Roumar’s second-in-command. What kind of choice is that? Three incompetent people. Am I to choose the lest evil?”

“Sometimes, yes, that’s what you have to do.”

“Then I’d choose Daset. But if he’d rule the Union how he ruled the Roumar, I’d ask for asylum in the Klingon Empire.”

“Who would you like to see there? As the...how did you call it?”

“Castellan.”

“As the castellan?”

“Gul Jarol.”

I didn’t expect that. “You mean...you’d want her to be the head of the Cardassian Union?”

“Sure. I trust her. I trust she makes the right decisions. She is tough but she’s not a stone-head.”

“A what?”

“We call all those old, inflexible and compromised guls and legates of the previous governments stone-heads.”

“So your only reason not to vote was that you didn’t know the candidates?”

“No. I didn’t vote because I can’t hand so much power to people who didn’t prove they can be in power. You should work your way up, not be given it. Would you like to serve on a ship, which captain had been chosen in elections held at the Starfleet Academy? Instead of becoming an ensign, then a lieutenant, then a lieutenant commander and a commander and finally, if they prove themselves, a captain? Or never becoming a captain, if they seem not to be capable? You just vote for a cadet and—” he snapped his fingers “—here you have the captain of a starship. Would you want to serve under him?” I didn’t reply. “So you see...our empire is much more than one starship and we can’t hand it to a cadet from some academy.”

“But you need a government. You couldn’t function with that provisional government you had until now.”

“True. Due to arrogance of Gul Dukat, who just illegally claimed power and brought the Dominion in, we have lost our lawful way of establishing power.”

“But before that...you can’t say that the government was good.”

He stared at me for a moment. “For you, as a Federation, it certainly looked bad. We fought wars with you. Your government didn’t appear very nice to us too.”

“How about your government appearing to you, Cardassians.”

“They fed us. They gave us strength—”

“And how did you use that strength?” I interrupted him.

He gave me an attentive look and I thought it hadn’t been the best thing to say. But I didn’t intend to back down. What was he going to tell me? That Bajoran occupation was good? Necessary?

After a long while of looking into my eyes he lowered his and looked into his cup of fish juice, silent.

“What if such an unknown, elected person proved himself? What if this Alon Ghemor occurs to be a great leader?”

He raised his head. “That would be luck. But we can’t entrust our lives to someone, hoping he’d occur to be the right person. It’s too great a risk.”

“It would be only temporary. With such elections come also ways to remove—legally remove—people who bring harm.”

He inclined his head to his left, giving me a curious look. “How do you know? Even I don’t know the new law to such a detail yet.”

“Oh, I just assumed. This is how it works in a real democracy.” Damn, I hoped he wouldn’t take the word ‘real’ as offensive.

He squinted and his eyes became thin slits. If I didn’t know him that well, I’d think he was angry, but I knew it meant he was thinking. “A real democracy...like yours?”

“Yes, like ours. That’s how the Federation works.”

“And why exactly should we be like you?” There was no attack, no anger in his question. No question either. He was making a point.

I opened my mouth but didn’t know what I could say. “I just think,” I said after a moment, “That we function based on some model and you could use it, instead of battering down an open door.”

“Yes, but why should we function based on the same model?”

“Because it’s the best.” I shrugged.

He looked amused. “The best?”

“Yes.”

“Kapoor, the Federation didn’t exist yet, while the Cardassian Union thrived. What gives you the right to claim your way is better than ours?”

“The result of your ways. Your people used to be terrorised by your own government. Your people used to conquer other worlds and make inhabitants miserable. You brought the Dominion to the Alpha Quadrant which almost destroyed us all, including you. Do you really believe your way is better?”

“I didn’t say it was better. And I didn’t say it was perfect. But we are Cardassians. We don’t give power to anonymous men who came from nowhere. We know our duty to our empire. We made mistakes and I hope we have learnt from them. We don’t claim we are the best and everyone must be like us. Can you say the same?”

“But our model works.”

“Good for you! We have our own model...err...no, right now we don’t have anything. We are in ruins.”

“Because of the previous model.”

“No, because of the people who abused it. Can you say that there were no such people in your history?” I couldn’t. “Why do you insist we should adopt your democratic elections?” he asked.

“We want to help you?”

“And is that a condition for this help? To become like you?”

“No.”

“So why?”

“Because we believe that it’s the best for people. That it makes you happy.”

“And what if we don’t want to be happy your way?”

“I always thought there is just one way to be happy.”

He smiled. “What makes you happy?”

“What?”

“Tell me. What makes you happy? When are you happy?”

I thought for a while. “My family makes me happy...for the most part. Exploring the galaxy and exploring myself. Exploring Cardassia makes me happy.” He smiled slightly. “My work and satisfaction from my work make me happy. Listening to my favourite music makes me happy. A good meal after hard work day makes me happy.” Spending time with you makes me happy. “What about you?”

“My brother and my mother make me happy. My service to the Union makes me happy. A won war against the Union’s enemies makes me happy.” He paused. “For us, Cardassians, two things are sacred. The family and the State. Our duty is to protect both.”

“And what if your State takes your freedom from you? What if it dictates you everything? What if you have to sacrifice everything for the State?”

“For a Cardassian, sacrifice is the highest and most important notion. Our lives are led by sacrifice. There is nothing more important than the Union. We are the Union, so by serving the Union, we serve ourselves.”

“Even at the cost of your freedom?”

“Freedom?”

“I read about duties of a Cardassian and I must say that it scared me. Your lives are ruled by hundreds of regulations, by duty, by service. You have no freedom. You are controlled to a point where you stop thinking, because you don’t have to.”

He leaned back and sat comfortably. “I could never understand that about you, the Federation, Kapoor. You speak of freedom, but don’t you have some laws, governing what you can and cannot do? Don’t those laws limit you? Then your freedom is an illusion. We don’t live in an illusion. If following regulations secures safety of my family and my empire, then I call it a small price to pay. I don’t need ‘freedom.’ I need order. I need to know my place in the society. I need to know my role in the Union, my duty. If the illusion of freedom shall bring my empire to destruction, if it makes it unsecured—I would fail as a Cardassian. We sacrifice a bit of us for the greater good, because this is our duty to other Cardassians and to the future generations.”

“Your empire had been brought to the destruction,” I said.

“By a man who ignored his duty and thought he had freedom to do as he pleased.”

“So how do you explain Bajor or Maquis massacres?”

He opened his mouth but didn’t say anything at first. “Those things were results of people who served the Union at the cost of others. Believe me, I hate what had been happening on Bajor for personal reasons. And the Maquis...they were killing Cardassians. They were massacring Cardassians. How do you call it? If a Maquis kills a Cardassian, the Cardassian deserved it, but if a Cardassian kills a Maquis, it’s murder? They kept attacking our people. My duty is to protect civilians. That’s why I wear this armour. That’s why I am a soldier. To assure their safety.”

“The Maquis were civilians too.”

“Armed to teeth by the Federation government.”

“That’s not true!”

“Did you know that Gul Jarol had been tortured by the Maquis?” I froze. I didn’t know. “That other candidate I had mentioned, Gul Daset. So was he.”

“How do you know that?”

“I know because they hadn’t return to the ship in time. I know because two men of the small group that had beamed to talk to the Maquis hadn’t returned at all. Those two men had been tortured to death.”

He said it calmly but I saw fire in his eyes. I couldn’t believe it was the truth but he certainly believed it. He didn’t say anything more, just kept sipping his juice, which surely was cold by now.

“So what’s going to happen to Cardassia? You don’t like to adopt the Federation style democracy. What do you want?”

“Return to roots? Eliminating corruption and evil guls, cleaning the system and making sure this time it doesn’t get twisted.”

“How can you do it?”

“We can’t. Not with the Federation making demands and putting their noses into our internal affairs. Don’t get me wrong, Kapoor, I have nothing against the Federation or you, but I’d prefer if you left us alone and stop interfering. Some people believe that you do it because you want to help. I think you do it because you want to widen your political influence and have a puppet government on Cardassia. This Ghemor is supported by the Federation. For Cardassians it doesn’t matter who the Federation supports. It’s none of the Feds’ business.

“We were a puppet for someone and we are tired of it—not mentioning how badly it ended for us. If Ghemor goes as far as Dukat, he’s going to be declared a traitor too. And rightly so.”

“If you’d be more happy with Gul Daset winning, why didn’t you vote?”

“I wouldn’t be more happy. I would be less unhappy. And I wouldn’t give my vote of support to someone whom I don’t support. Simple.” He paused again. “Actually, I am against this kind of voting. It’s chaotic and unfair. It’s wrong.”

“I think you’re going to discover that it’s not as bad as you think. You’ll see I’m right.”

He gave me an attentive look. “So you think we should adopt your model.”

“Yes.”

He nodded slowly, thinking. “So you think that millions of Cardassians are wrong and you, one, are right?”

“What?”

“You had watched the news broadcast. Did they say how many people participated in the election?”

“Thirty percent.”

“Do the math. That means that seventy percent didn’t take part in it. What were their reasons? Take a guess.”

I looked at him. His face had a pleasant expression, his eyes gazed at me with curiosity and suddenly I didn’t think about politics any more.

Kotra?” I asked.

“Sure!” He put his mug away and rose to bring the board.
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Old November 28 2011, 02:13 PM   #19
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Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 182



He won. Again.

“I’m too stupid for this,” I said, but without anger or irritation.

“You need to practice, that’s all.” He smiled warmly. When he smiled his eyes were becoming narrow slits bent upward, surrounded by wide, oval ridges, giving him a cute look. His eyes were greyish-blue, the greyish shades perfectly matching his grey skin. “Kotra is a game that requires a skill and that skill must be trained.”

“Don’t you have some games for engineers?”

“We do but they are not as enjoyable.”

“Oh, you enjoy it, because you win every time we play.”

“Do you want me to let you win?” Would he?

“Don’t you even dare! When I beat you, I want to know it’s my skill, not your pity.”

“I like that you said ‘when,’ not ‘if.’”

“You bet I did!”

We laughed and then an awkward silence came and grew. We’d been silent with each other many times and it’d always been comfortable; like among good friends, who can sit in silence a whole day and still have a good time. However, this time it was different. I was certain it wasn’t only me. His grin slowly faded and his eyes were intently fixed on mine. I wanted to sink in those eyes. He moved closer to me. The tunic he wore rustled quietly, rubbing against the back of the seat that he was leaning on.

“I...” he began, but didn’t finish. Instead, he raised his hand and directed it toward me with his palm. I raised my hand and touched his, like touching through glass. It was the first time I touched his skin. It was cool and a little rough, but pleasant.

I felt a strong urge to kiss him. Did they do that? Would he understand? I moved my face closer to his and our lips met. It was a shy and unsure kiss. I felt his nose ridge on my cheek—the surface of the scales was hard but somehow it felt nice.

We looked at each other, testing our reactions. I think he wasn’t sure I understood everything too. But how to talk about such matters? An academic discussion would destroy such a precious moment. This wasn’t a scientific research, this was something else...something more...something special...

“Karama—” I started but he put two fingers on my lips.

“It’s Tavor now,” he said quietly.

Oh? Oh...oh!

I mouthed his name, not daring to speak it out loud that first time. The way he’d said it—his tone of voice had made it clear it was a big step. I appreciated this moment; its value. This was like a milestone; something had changed, something special had happened. Alea iacta est.

I touched his left eye ridge. I traced my finger along its line up to the inverted drop—the chanth—on his forehead. It was warm inside, warmer than the rest of his skin. He closed his eyes for a moment. And I was sure the shape wasn’t covered with scales, it was bare skin over there. His scales were smooth in touch. I lowered my hand to touch his neck ridge scales but he grabbed my wrist.

“I’m not ready for this yet,” he said.

“Oh?” I was surprised. “Oh.” Disappointed. “Oh!” I realised it must be something special then. I remembered that he had told me about that particular sexual meaning of their neck ridges. “I’ll wait for the time when you’re ready.”

He smiled, touched my cheek and stroke it with his finger. “You look so fragile without ridges,” he said. “So delicate.”

“Does it bother you I don’t have neck ridges?”

He smiled and shook his head. “Not in the least. You’re beautiful the way you are.”

“I like your one row very much,” I said, hoping he wouldn’t take it in the wrong way.

“No, you don’t, but it’s nice of you to say so.”

“I don’t care how many rows you have, I still like them,” I insisted. Was this conversation indecent? He smirked at me and I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “I must go. I have a busy day tomorrow.”

“Don’t we all?” he smiled.

We bed farewell and I returned to my room.

I didn’t sleep much that night. I was too excited by what had happened and impatiently looked toward the future.
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Old November 28 2011, 02:13 PM   #20
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Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 202




The duty roster brought me back to the bridge. One thing I could say for sure: mundane engineering work was as mundane on a Cardassian warship, as on a Federation starship. Only the text runs in all directions, instead of a clear, linear way. The Roumar engineers say their way is more efficient, because it clearly shows the priority of information, but I find it chaotic. How do they know which line they have already read if the sentences go up, down, left and right? In Federation Standard you at least can clearly mark the point which you reached. Bookmark it. You can’t do that on a Cardassian display. Tavor had showed me a Cardassian fiction novel—it was even worse there! And poetry? It reminded me more of a painting than writing!

Tavor. He had changed. The last three weeks were so different. He became...sweet, caring, even overprotective. Not that he hadn’t been before, but now...now it was brought to an adorable extreme. When he spoke to me, his voice was soft—even when he argued and he picked arguments three times more often than before! I had asked Ma’Kan if it wasn’t his way to back out from what he had gotten himself into and at first she couldn’t understand what I meant, but then she’d told me that a Cardassian couple argued. Arguing showed their mutual interest in each other, their desire. She’d seemed a little shocked that Tavor and I...but she hadn’t commented it. And since no one else said anything, or even looked at me funny way, it was obvious she hadn’t told anyone about our conversation. One thing you could say about the Cardassians—at least some of them—they knew how to be discreet.

So here I was—back on the bridge. I had been posted at one of consoles in the back of the bridge, but I still could see Tavor at his post. His back, mostly, and sometimes his profile when he turned his head to talk to someone or to check something on the secondary console to his right.

His hair, swiping his neck when he turned his head. His broad shoulders and the uniform—the armour, as they called it—only strengthening the impression of a strong build. His neck ridges...I still was not allowed to touch them, so even more I wanted to do it. (I had noticed that he also hadn’t touched my neck.) The more I thought about them—was it becoming an obsession?—the more attractive they became. That sloping toward his shoulders, that soft line without hard bends like in humans or most of other species, that pattern of scales on the nape of his neck. I could stare at that triangle below his hairline for hours. And I did! Glinn Zamarran must have been very unsatisfied with my poor performance and constant loss of concentration. I didn’t dare to tell him, ‘I’m in love, sir, so get used to it,’ especially since Gul Jarol was on the bridge. Woman or not, she was a Cardassian, too, and I was sure she didn’t understand it either.

It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. Only Tavor. The slopes of his shoulders, his hands dancing on the console, his voice—that mattered. When I was sure no one would speak to me, I turned off my translator and listened to him speaking Cardassian. It was the most beautiful language in the galaxy; the words coming out from his mouth, with those inflections, sounds, growls and whistles. The Dragon Lady spoke so differently and so did Glinn Brenok. I had to admit that Brenok’s speech was more melodic, but it didn’t change the fact that Tavor’s manner of speaking was the dearest to me.

The day of admiring Tavor passed quickly. Somehow, I had no idea how, I managed to finish all my work before the shift ended and I could log out of the system with clear conscience. I waited for my replacement to take over the station, observing Tavor finishing his work. The night shift communication officer, Tari, came to the bridge and Tavor dutifully reported the end of his shift to Jarol. I followed his example and then headed for the door.

Tavor waited in the corridor. “I feel like playing a game of kotra tonight,” he said.

“My or your place?” I asked as we were walking to the lift.

“Yours. We use your food rations this time.” He flashed his teeth at me.

“What? Did you ran out of yours after that party two nights ago?”

“How do you know about that?” He gave me a suspicious look.

“I think Aladar mentioned something...”

“Aladar wasn’t there.”

“No, Aladar was the host of another party on lower decks. He claimed his was better; there was more kanar and more happy guests.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Tavor muttered.

I raised my hands in a defensive move. “Only repeating what he said. You could invite me once, I could check for myself.”

He smiled. “Amrita, you wouldn’t be able to keep up with the others. You’d be drunk before we even started feeling the taste of kanar.”

I growled at him.

Two hours later I was staring at the kotra board—a gift I had received from Ma’Kan—not believing my own eyes. I glanced at Tavor; he was sipping wine, which I had managed to purchase from a Ferengi merchant on Cardassia when the Roumar had visited the Prime the last time, and he seemed completely oblivious of the situation on the board. Maybe wine from Earth was more intoxicating for a Cardassian than the heaviest sort of kanar?

I moved a piece on the board, leaned back, took my glass of wine and looked at him. I tried my best not to let a triumphant smile crawl to my face but knew I hadn’t succeeded.

Tavor put away his glass, leaned forward to have a better look at the board, raised his hand to make another move and...froze. He scrutinised the board for a moment, glanced at me, at the board, at me...with his hand still in the air.

“I won!” I shouted. “I won! I won! I won!”

He frowned, squinting one eye at me. “Did you cheat?”

“Me?” I asked in an innocent voice. “How could I cheat! I don’t play well enough to chea—” I silenced, observing his tiny grin for a while. “Wait a minute...” Suspicion grew in my heart. “Wait a minute...you let me win, didnch’ya?!”

He gave me an innocent look. “Who, me?”

I jumped at him, knocking over a few pieces on the board, sat on his lap and started to weakly pound his broad chest with my fists, taking extra care not to strike anywhere near the delicate chanth. Even with as little force as I put into my fake blows, it would hurt him if I hit the droplet on his chest.

He laughed. He spread his hands in the ‘I give up’ gesture and kept giggling.

I stopped. My first instinct was to throw my arms around his neck but I knew better than that by now, so I wrapped them around his waist.

I was madly in love.
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Old November 28 2011, 02:14 PM   #21
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Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 487



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.

The Federation.

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 to leave.”

“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.”

“Yes, Gul.”

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.
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Old November 28 2011, 02:14 PM   #22
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Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 490



I chimed and waited. A short moment later the door opened and I saw Zamarran’s very surprised face. “Kapoor?”

“Sir, could we talk?”

“Certainly. Come in.” He moved away letting me through.

I had never been in his quarters before but I was not in an observational mood. I looked at him. “Sir, what is going on?”

He moved toward the table to the left. “Sit down, Kapoor. Anything I can get you?” I sat, shaking my head. He put a glass of water in front of me anyway. “So, what exactly are you referring to?” he asked.

“Something is going to happen, isn’t it? It’s about that military reduction matter. Gul Jarol warned me to pack my things and be ready to go home. In fact, she told me to ask for transfer back to Starfleet. Something’s going to happen.”

Zamarran grabbed the mug that stood on the table next to a padd and sipped on its content—fish juice would be my guess. “Have you contacted Starfleet yet?”

“I don’t want to go home,” I said.

He gazed at me and then looked into his mug. “Kapoor, we shouldn’t talk about it. I understand that you are scared and don’t know what’s going on, but this doesn’t concern you. You are not in danger, you can be sure of that.”

He didn’t want to say anything more but I was certain that he knew something. I thanked him for water and went to Tavor. He also didn’t tell me anything; he claimed he didn’t know anything but I wasn’t so sure. I returned to my quarters more scared than when I had left it. Much time hadn’t passed when someone chimed. I went to open the door and when I saw who it was, my knees shook.

“Am I in trouble?” I asked. Did he come to arrest me? In spite of my best efforts, tears filled my eyes.

“Calm down, Kapoor.” Glinn Brenok grabbed my elbow and pulled me to my sofa. He sat next to me. “It was brought to my attention that you were asking questions,” he said.

I sniffed and nodded. “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean anything bad. I didn’t mean to break any law. I’m just scared.” More with every minute. “I hope Zamarran and Tav...Karama aren’t in trouble.”

The glinn shook his head. “They aren’t. And you didn’t do anything wrong.” He rose, went to the table in the corner and took a tissue. He returned to the sofa and handed it to me. I dried my tears but new ones filled my eyes again. “Kapoor, whatever is happening, it will not influence your safety. I know you’re terrified and I know you’re worrying. You’re in a foreign empire, among strangers and you don’t understand a lot of what’s going on, but please believe me—we will not allow anything to happen to you. We don’t want anything to happen to anyone. Trust me.” He spoke softly, like talking to a child, as if I were a little girl who thought there were monsters under her bed.

I trusted him. Glinn Brenok was one of most honourable Cardassians I had ever met. He was also very different from the others. There was something in him, something that I couldn’t specify but could clearly feel.

“Glinn Brenok, something is going on, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yes,” he confirmed.

“Can you tell me what?”

He shook his head. “No, Kapoor. This is not for your ears. This is a Cardassian matter.” He silenced for a moment.

I waited for him to say something more, but he hesitated too long—I cracked and I burst into tears. “I’m terrified!”

He moved closer and rubbed my back. “Shhhh, Kapoor, shhhh...”

Not really knowing what I was doing, I wrapped my arms around him and nestled to his chest, sobbing loudly. When I realised what I’ve done, I quickly moved away. “I’m so sorry!” Why didn’t I crack on Tavor’s chest, why Brenok! My Cardassian superior! “I’m so sorry, sir!”

He took my hands in his. “Kapoor, calm down, calm down, Kapoor.”

“I am so...” I felt I was losing it again.

“We will send you home safe and sound, all right?”

I shook my head. Not without Tavor, I was not going anywhere without Tavor.

He patiently waited for me to calm down; he didn’t let go of my hands. His palms were rougher than Tavor’s, his fingers longer and his skin was a brighter shade of grey. I looked at his hands, because I didn’t think I could look into his eyes. Finally, I raised my head to look at his face—it had a gentle expression. He smiled at me. He put my hands on my thighs. “Better?”

I nodded. “I’m sorry, Glinn Brenok. It’s just...I don’t know what’s happening and I don’t like that feeling of uncertainty. I didn’t want Glinn Zamarran or Gil Karama to be in trouble because of me. I didn’t want to spy.” I kept speaking fast, nervously. “Please, I don’t want them to be in trouble. I just...I just...”

“Kapoor, I already told you: no one is in trouble. Glinn Zamarran notified me that you had questions. That’s why I’m here.”

“Glinn Brenok...are you going to kill the castellan?” I whispered leaning to him.

He shook his head. “No, Kapoor, we’re not. I give you my word for that.”

I believed him. But I was no less scared.

“I have to go,” he said softly. “Will you be all right?”

I nodded.

I stayed alone in my quarters. I had lived here for over a year and this place had started to feel like home long time ago. However, right now it felt a lot less friendlier.

I wanted to talk to my mum, I wanted to call her and see her face...but I wasn’t sure I would be able to. What if they blocked communication? What if they blocked communication from me to Federation space? Would they think I tried to spy on them? That I tried to tell my superiors about upcoming...something? About Cardassian military’s mutiny?

Oh, for Shiva’s sake! They were going to refuse to take orders from their government, weren’t they? They were going to go rogue? To rebel? Cardassian army let lose, cutting off their leash and totally uncontrolled!

Would they go to war with the Federation if the Federation didn’t withdraw their demands?

I rolled on my sofa and cried, choking on my tears.

I wanted to go home!
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Old November 28 2011, 02:15 PM   #23
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Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 517



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?”

“Yes.”

“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.”

“A coup.”

“Yes.”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“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.”

“Where?”

“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’m scared.”

“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?”

“No.”

“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?”

“No one.”

“How many did you execute?”

“No one.”

“Really?”

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.”

“Thank you.”

She left.

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.
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Old November 28 2011, 02:16 PM   #24
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Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 518




“Fellow Cardassians and non-Cardassian citizens of the Cardassian Union.” A handsome Cardassian man with the rank of gul spoke from the screen. His speech—I already knew his name was Daset and in spite of the markings on his armour he was a legate now—was being broadcast over and over again. “Many of you know that last night has brought changes, but you do not know what kind of changes. Do not fear, please. We apologise if we scared you; we apologise, if you experienced any discomfort.

“We are the Mar’kuu Group. We were displeased with Alon Ghemor’s government decisions and actions and we decided it was too dangerous to let him and his supporters to stay in power. We had to take action and remove him from the decision-making position, in which he posed a real threat to Cardassia’s integrity and safety.

“The Detapa Council is now dissolved and the Central Command takes over. This means no real changes for you, the citizens. We will do our best to secure your safety, provide you with resources and serve you to the best of our abilities.

“To ensure that our rebuilding process goes undisturbed, we have decided to close our borders to foreign powers. Everyone who wishes to stay in the Union and become its denizens, can do so by applying for a special permission of the right to land. Those who want to leave, will have six months time to bring their affairs to closure and leave our territory. After those six months any alien ship that will attempt to cross our borders without a special permission to enter the Cardassian territory will be warned twice and then fired upon. We will not let anyone interfere with our internal matters any more. We will follow wishes of Cardassian and non-Cardassian denizens of our empire, and will not allow anyone to pose demands or conditions.

“The transition period is not going to be easy for us, but we will do everything in our power to make sure you, the people, live in peace and without fears and worries.

“We pledge our lives to serve you. We will rebuild strong Cardassia; Cardassia that doesn’t bow to anyone, Cardassia that will make Legate Damar proud.” Gul Jarol, who stood behind the speaking man’s chair, nodded her agreement with that statement. I supposed it made sense, since she had known Damar personally. “Cardassia that will be your safe home.

“It’s time to say ‘we are Cardassians and we are proud of it!’”

The man’s face was replaced by the Union emblem.

Six months. Six months. Six months.

I could either stay with Tavor and not see my family for who knew how long, or return to Earth and never see him again. I liked neither.

I had been living on the Roumar for over a year now. I’d made friends here. I had a career here. I’d fallen in love here. I felt at home here. What was waiting for me in Starfleet? A new ship. New people. New transfers. Perhaps new friends. But new love? I couldn’t imagine my life without Tavor. I couldn’t imagine not feeling his scales under my fingers. Not eavesdropping to him speaking Cardassian. Not listening to his throaty laughter. Not trying to beat him in kotra.

I would miss Zamarran and his smiles without smiling. I would miss Aladar and his complaining about arrogance of officers. I would miss Ma’Kan and her little ship models. I would miss Glinn Brenok’s singing. I would even miss being intimidated by Gul Jarol.

I started to grow my roots here, so severing them and starting everything again anew was not very tempting.

“Computer, locate Gul Jarol.”

Gul Jarol is in the gul’s office,” the male computer voice rasped.

I left my quarters and headed for the lift.

On the bridge, Glinn Zamarran gave me a surprised look—it was after my duty hours after all. I pointed at the door to Jarol’s office and he nodded, obviously understanding what I had come for.

I went upstairs and the door parted in front of me.

“Gul Jarol, could I talk to you?” Oh-oh. I didn’t expect to interrupt anything, but it was obvious she was in the middle of a conversation with Glinn Brenok. “Maybe I should come later?”

“Come in, Kapoor. What is it?”

My hands were shaking, so I clasped them behind my back. Up until now I hadn’t thought about what I was doing but now it sank in—that was the dice and I was just about to throw it. It was my point of no return. “It is about that...declaration of closing borders.”

“There should be sufficient time for you to pack all your things and return home,” Jarol said.

“Oh, it would be, if I planned it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Legate Daset said that all who wanted to leave have six months to bring their matters to closure and go away. He also said that those, who wished to stay—can.”

“That's correct,” she confirmed.

“Well...I don't want to leave.” What would she say? How would she react? What if she refused!

She didn’t say anything for a moment and then asked, “Are you sure? Do you realise what it means? You won’t be able to leave Cardassia after those six months, maybe for a very long time, because the isolation may take years.”

“I understand that.”

Glinn Brenok turned to have a better look at me. The gul rose and approached me. “Are you sure of this?” she asked again.

“Yes, Gul. I’ve given it a lot of thought and discussed it with...someone, and...I want to stay. I would also like to stay in the Guard, if it’s possible. On this ship.”

She looked at her aide but he didn’t say anything. Her eyes returned to my face and I felt my knees shaking. That was it. The decision. In or out. I dared not to look at her face.

“Your military career will have to be decided by Gul Tarkan. I will notify him about your request. You have some time to change your mind and leave before we close the borders, but if you wish to stay, then I see no problem with that.”

I raised my head to look at her. Did she really say that? In? In? Really in? “Thank you, Gul,” I whispered.

“However—” She gazed at my uniform “—you will have to stop wearing this. If you want to stay among us, you will have to become one of us.”

“Yes, Gul. I will, Gul.”

“Kapoor,” Brenok said suddenly, startling me a bit. I looked at him. “You should address her ‘legate’ now.”

Of course! Did I insult her? I covered my mouth with my hand. “Oh my...I’m sorry, Legate. Of course! I'm sorry. I didn’t mean any offence, it’s just the habit—”

She raised her hand. “Relax, Lieutenant.”

“So, I can stay?”

“Affirmative.” Was it a smile? Did she slightly smile? “Dismissed.”

“Thank you, sir.” My face had to tell her everything about my feelings.

I left the bridge and went straight to Tavor. I kissed his chanth and said, “You won’t get rid of me for the rest of your life.” He looked at me. “My stay on Cardassia has just been approved by Gu...Legate Jarol.”

“Will you approve me as your husband?”

“Only if you isolate yourself from other women. Permanently.”

He smiled.

I ignored all surprised—and those not-so-surprised—faces and left the bridge.

My future was on Cardassia.

Now I had to inform my past in the Federation about it. Oh, boy...
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Old November 28 2011, 02:17 PM   #25
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Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 521


Seeing one’s own mother crying was one of the most terrible and scary things in the galaxy. It certainly was for me.

“Mum, please...” I whispered.

But she only kept shaking her head and sobbing. Dad was sitting next to her, frowning. I could understand how they felt; that’s why I wanted to explain to them the reasons behind my decision.

I had been sending letters and calling them occasionally, but hadn’t shared everything—not a word about Tavor. I didn’t know why; maybe I feared their reaction, maybe I was not sure there was any future for this relationship and didn’t want to hear another ‘you sell yourself cheap,’ as if I slept with everyone. Hell, I hadn’t even slept with Tavor yet!

You must return home,” Dad said. “You must. We watch the news, we know what’s going on there. I always knew these Cardies cannot be trusted and I never liked that you had volunteered for this assignment. And now—this?” He raised his hands and then brought them down to his thighs with a loud slap. “You must return!

“Dad, I don’t want to return.” I didn’t appreciate his calling my friends ‘Cardies.’

Is there anyone beyond the camera view with a phaser pointed at your head?

“No!” I shouted with indignation.

So why can’t you return?

“I don’t want to return, Dad. I can but don’t want to.”

They made you say this. I know they did.” He was visibly shaking now. I wasn’t sure he was angry, nervous or scared.

“Daddy,” I said trying to calm him down. “It’s not like that. I have friends here, I have a life here. You know that—I had been telling you about them. It’s not that different from Starfleet, really.”

How can you say this?!” Mum shouted. “I know you have friends there, Sweetheart, people you care for, that security girl for example.” I guessed she meant Ma’Kan “But...this is a dangerous place now. After that coup! Do you have any idea what kind of monsters are in power now?

“Actually, Mum, I have a very good idea, because I know personally some of those people. They are not any monsters.” Glinn Brenok was a definition of a non-monster, if anything. “I’m sure it looks bad from over there, but here it isn’t—”

You must return home, now!” shouted my father.

“No.” I tried to be calm, I really tried. Why couldn’t they trust me? I wasn’t a baby any more; I could take care of myself.

No?

“No,” I repeated. “And I have more news for you. I am getting married.”

Silence for a long moment.

To one of them?” Mum stopped crying a looked at me with round eyes.

“That’s right.” I nodded. “He is a gentle and a wonderful man.”

What is his name?” my mum asked. Somehow, her behaviour changed. Maybe she could understand me better now, maybe she could see that for love a woman was able to do anything and everything. Maybe she started to believe that I really wanted to stay and was not forced to it. If being in love and getting married wasn’t a reason good and convincing enough, then I didn’t know what would be.

“Tavor Karama.” I said his name softly, as it always sounded soft to me. Once Tavor had told me that I said his name almost the same way that Glinn Brenok did. Tah-voh. I had terrible problems with Cardassian ‘r’ sound; I never could get it right and at ends of words I omitted it completely. Too much contact with British during my school days, I supposed.

Mum nodded, absorbing the name, but dad fumed. “That rapist?!

“What?” I hadn’t expected that. And then it occurred to me that he had to talk about Tavor’s father. No doubt Bajorans had shared with the Federation their list of war criminals and dad could have become very interested in the subject since my coming to Cardassia.

He raped that officer, the one that had been there with you. That’s why she has been sent back, not to be able to press charges against him. Cardassian law...” he muttered with contempt.

So it wasn’t about Tavor’s father. Stupid Ullmann! I wanted to scream in anger. “No, Dad, that is absolutely not true.” How come was my voice so quiet?

What did he do to you?” dad asked suspiciously. “Did he...did he....harm you?” His voice shook. I knew it was hard for him to even think about his daughter being violated that way.

“No, Daddy, he is not like this.”

Did he...did—

“Daddy, no! He never touched me. At all. It’s not appropriate for them. Only after being married.”

Oh, and I suppose they were all married to those Bajoran women they had been raping for decades.

“Dad! Don’t judge the whole race based on minority!” I said sharply.

But it doesn’t seem like a minority to me, baby. That’s the problem.

I clenched my hands, trying not to explode. “He hasn’t even been to Bajor. Ever.” I paused to take a breath. “If you could talk to him, you could see how gentle and caring he is.”

Could we talk to him?” Mum asked.

I thought for a moment. Actually, why not? Maybe if they saw him, asked him questions, saw him smile, listened to his soft way of speaking, looked in his kind eyes—maybe then they would understand that not every Cardassian was a monster from Bajor. “Sure, I’ll call him.” I pressed a comm. “Kapoor to Karama.”

Karama here.

I made sure the translator was off and said in my broken Cardassian, “Come to me. Mum and dad want to talk. Be good.”

On my way,” he answered. I hoped he understood my message. I wanted to tell him to be patient with them but didn’t speak Cardassian well enough to convey this message.

You speak their language?” Mum looked surprised.

“A little,” I smiled.

A chime sounded and Tavor entered. He wore a civilian tunic and I thought that it was a happy coincidence; maybe it could help them—help dad—see through the stereotype of a ruthless Cardassian soldier and see Tavor for what he really was—a person.

I rose from my chair and let him sit on it; I pulled another one and sat next to him.

“Sir, Madame,” he greeted them politely.

Mum smiled and nodded back. Her smile was a bit reserved but at least she made an effort. Dad, however, suspiciously scrutinised him. And then it started.

What do you think you’re doing, Cardassian! This is kidnapping!” Dad shook his fist. “I will do everything in my power to get my child back.

“Sir,” Tavor tried to say something but was interrupted; his voice sounded incredibly calm, though. Had he expected a reaction like that?

Don’t talk to me, Cardie! You raped that other woman and now Gods only know what you do to my little girl!” I could feel Tavor tense. I glanced at him and he still had that polite smile plastered on his face but I knew it was a mask. “If you think you can enslave everyone to serve your pervert needs, you will have to deal with me!” Mum tried to calm dad down; she put her hand on his shoulder but he shrugged it off. Tavor seemed not to react. Frozen. “You can kill each other over there for all I care, but I don’t like that you keep my child there. I don’t know how you force her to lie to us like this and I don’t know how you threaten her to lie to us at all, but—

Dhirendra, please.” Mum tried to interfere but he wouldn’t listen.

No!” dad shouted at her. Then, he turned back to the screen and hissed, squinting at Tavor. “You miserable, little, scheming reptile. Make no mistake, I’ll file a protest and get people to free my daughter. And then you’ll pay for this, you spoonhead!

That was too much. This wasn’t a conversation; my father wasn’t allowing Tavor to present himself, to show who he was. This was a rant, a show of insults and it was clear to me that all my father wanted was to threaten and yell, not listen. Why did he behave like this? He had never been like that, he had never been a racist, I had never heard him using racial slurs. Until now. And all that directed at the man whom I loved. No, I wouldn’t accept this! Tavor was too polite to react, obviously, although I had no idea how come he didn’t talk back. He should have.

“Enough!” I slammed my hand on the desk, hitting the comm button and breaking the connection.

Tavor looked at me astonished. “What did you do that for?”

“Didn’t you hear? Didn’t you understand what he said?!” I was shaking, angry.

“I did. So what? He’s worried—he fears for you.”

It was beyond worry. “He insulted you. Many times!”

“And I would let him. He would throw all that out of him and then we would have a chance to talk.”

I was flabbergasted. What was he saying? I sat in the other chair and stared at him. “What?” I whispered.

“I thought that if I let him let the anger out and he’d calm down, we could talk. Really talk. Have a conversation, with questions and answers. Your mother seemed to have a lot of questions.” He silenced for a moment. “She seemed nice,” he added. “And with your father—”

“He can go to hell,” I growled. “No one will call you...the ‘s’ word.” I was so angry. He had taught me that insulting people was unacceptable, that calling them names was unacceptable and now he had done just that. That man looked like my father but behaved nothing like him. I was disgusted by that show of hatred.

“You shouldn’t say such things about your father,” Tavor chastised me.

“You do about yours,” I said defiantly.

“Mine is a rapist and a murderer. Yours isn’t. He’s just worried about you. He’s panicking. He fears for your safety and I understand that. He is sick with worry.”

“Well, he expresses it the wrong way!” I got up and went to my tiny window.

“You should call them back and talk to them,” he said quietly, approaching me and wrapping his arms around me.

“No way,” I barked.

I was so mad. I had known that this conversation with my parents would be a tough one; I had known there would be tears and accusations, misunderstandings and a lot of explanations. I had been looking forward to it, though, because I had thought I could tell them about my life: that I was happy, that I found my true love, that every day was an adventure, even if sometimes adventures were scary and seemed dangerous. However, they weren’t interested in my happiness. They were interested in their assumptions.

“I need to talk to Starfleet now,” I said quietly.

“Come to my quarters after you finish. I’ll have something yummy for you—to improve your mood. And I’ll let you win another kotra game.”

“Nothing can improve my mood.”

He turned me around to face him. “Maybe this isn’t the best idea,” he said very quietly, looking intently into my eyes. “Maybe it would be better if you returned home after all.”

There was pain in his eyes; I could clearly see it now. Was it because the conversation with my parents had gone so badly, or because of the words he had to listen to? Or both?

He was a Cardassian. He was a Cardassian from an unhealthy, broken family and I knew that it bothered him. That some kind of sacred custom had been violated; he talked about it sometimes and I knew he felt terrible because of the situation. Did he want to spare me the same pain? Of hating my own father?

I didn’t hate dad. I was just so, so, so mad at him.

And Tavor? He was able to push me away, to send me back home, to let me go and not be with me not to let the crack between me and my parents to grow into an abyss. I wouldn’t be allowed to contact them after Cardassia isolated itself from the rest of the quadrant, and that was bad enough. Now it was different. Had our last conversation had to look like this? Had it had to be a fight with bitter words? Tavor wanted me to have a proper goodbye with my family, to make sure they knew I was happy. If I were to break my contact with them this way—with ugly words shouted at our faces—he’d rather withdraw his word and return me to my family than be with me. My family’s integrity was more important to him than his broken heart.

If they only knew about it; if dad knew what Tavor was trying to do for us. But dad wouldn’t listen; he’d just start to rant again, seeking hidden malice in Tavor’s actions. I didn’t have to listen to that, I wouldn’t listen to that.

I stroke his eye ridge gently, enjoying the feeling of his scales under my skin. “Go back to your quarters. I’ll join you when this is over.”

He nodded, kissed me and left.

Starfleet.

I didn’t wait long for the connection to be established. A commander appeared on my elegant, oval monitor.

Commander Valatto. How can I help you?” he asked smiling at me.

“Commander, my name is Lieutenant Amrita Kapoor, Starfleet Service Number JP-583-554.” He entered the number into his computer and I saw that red colour reflected from his olive skin. Clearly, some kind of warning displayed on his monitor. I ignored it and continued, “I would like to file my resignation from Starfleet.”

Lieutenant,” Valatto said slowly. “Please wait a moment. I’ll patch you through to Admiral Nechayev.

Before I had a time to ask ‘why?’ his face was replaced by the petite, blond woman’s stern look.

“Admiral,” I said by the way of greeting.

She ignored it. “Lieutenant Kapoor, I’m glad you decided to contact us. You are being recalled from Cardassia, effective immediately.

I ignored her too. “Admiral, please acknowledge the receipt of my resignation from Starfleet.”

No, Lieutenant. You will return to Starfleet Headquarters to be debriefed.

What? Am I a traitor now? “Why?” I asked.

If there is anyone in the Federation who understands what is going on on Cardassia, it is you. You have the insight, you are in the middle of it and you have the information we need.

“I’m resigning from Starfleet, Admiral. I can prepare a full report about everything I know about current Cardassian politics, I can even try to interview the coup participants for you and I will answer all your questions, but I am not returning. I resign from Starfleet.”

She gazed at me for a moment. “You have a direct access to that gul...we need to know what you know. Besides, it is not safe for you there any longer.

“Admiral, you’re not listening, I am—”

I heard you, Lieutenant. And I refuse to accept your resignation. You will report to Starfleet Headquarters.

I knew it! I was sure they’d try this and I had prepared myself for it. “You cannot refuse it, Admiral. Starfleet Regulation Number forty-five-dash-seven-dash-eighteen, paragraph three. ‘Should a Starfleet off—’”

Don’t quote regulations to me, Lieutenant, I know them.” She didn’t sound irritated...or she sounded irritated all the time; I was not sure which one.

“Then you also know you can’t refuse my resignation. If you have received the file, I am no longer a lieutenant.”

She silenced for a moment. Then she said in a much softer tone of voice. “Lieu...Ms. Kapoor, Cardassia is not safe right now. You can’t stay there.

“Expect my full report soon. It’s going to be the last one.”

I don’t like it and I think you make a grave mistake.” But there was nothing she could do about it and she knew it. “Good luck, Ms. Kapoor.

“Thank you, Admiral.”

She disconnected and just then I realised how tensed I was.

I was sure it wasn’t the end; I was sure that Starfleet wouldn’t just take my file and forget about everything. But at that moment I didn’t care. At. All.

The die is cast. The rope to Starfleet had been cut. The rope to parents had been torn to threads. I hoped that new Cardassian strings would prove strong enough to carry me into my future.

I left my quarters and headed for the Roumar’s bridge and the gul’s office.

Gul Jarol gazed at me, looked at my civilian clothes with interest and then put away the padd she had in her hand.

“Lieutenant?” she asked.

“No longer, G...Legate.” Of course, she wasn’t a gul any more. What was she still doing aboard the ship anyway?

“I see.” She leaned back in her chair and gave me a more careful look. I’d say there was curiosity in her eyes. “What can I do for you, then?”

“I promised Starfleet the last report about the current situation on Cardassia. I will write what I know. Everything. I wanted you to know that. I can show it to you so you’d know what I wrote, but I won’t allow any censorship.” Bold. She could block it with ease and there was nothing I could do about it, but I didn’t want to do it without notifying her, though. I didn’t want to feel like I spied on them; I didn’t want them to think I spied on them. I’d worked too hard and for too long to gain their trust—her trust—to fail it now. I hoped she understood that it was the last thing I had to do, my last duty to fulfil. She was a soldier, she was an officer and she knew duty.

Jarol smiled. “Lieut...Kapoor, if you write the truth, then I don’t need to check it, control it or whatever. Besides, I am really not interested in Starfleet’s opinion about Cardassia. It is of no consequence. Not any longer.” She paused. “All right, that is not entirely true, I’m not that short-sighted.” A small grin appeared on her face. Why wasn’t this beautiful woman surrounded by dozens of adorers again? “Write your report and send it. Thank you for notifying me.” So she did understand. I felt relieved.

“About my stay in the Guard...?” I asked shyly.

“I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to talk to Gul Tarkan, yet. I’ll do that first thing in the morning, all right?” Did she ask me if it was all right, or were my ears playing tricks on me?

“Of course. I appreciate that, Legate.”

She looked like she wanted to ask something more, but she only smiled and returned to her padd. “Dismissed,” she said.

I left her office and went straight to Tavor’s quarters. I hoped he had a good plan for my mood improvement because I desperately needed it.
__________________
In a Cardassian library or in a Cardassian gallery?

"Reagan, it appears, is really only an ardent unionist if the unions in question are in Poland" - Stephen King, Skeleton Crew
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Old November 28 2011, 02:17 PM   #26
Gul Re'jal
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Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 531



I arrived to Gul Tarkan’s office almost an hour too early. I approached the glinn at the reception desk and told him I had an appointment with Gul Tarkan. The glinn didn’t take his eyes from me and politely replied that I was much too early. He didn’t have to check it—he just remembered. Did he memorise the gul’s schedule for a day every morning?

He told me to sit and wait.

So I sat and waited.

I hadn’t slept last night. Tavor had told me that Gul Tarkan was an old, traditional gul, stiff in his ways and rough in his conduct. He hadn’t intended to scare me but that was exactly what he had done. So I hadn’t slept, fearing this meeting and regretting that I had asked Jarol to arrange it. Tavor had told me that most likely even Jarol was afraid of Tarkan.

The glinn busied himself with his duties and I sat there, staring at the wall opposite me and trying not to throw up. My stomach twisted and danced in my guts. I hadn’t been able to have breakfast and I was grateful for it now, as it could have returned the same way it had gotten in there.

Time was passing. Slowly. Sloooooowly. Slooooooooooowly. The glinn glanced at me from time to time and then returned to his work. A secretary in Cardassian armour.

“You may enter,” he suddenly said. He nodded toward the big door to his right—my left.

I glanced at the chronometer and it was twenty minutes too early.

“Thank you,” I said—muttered rather—and approached the door.

It parted quietly and I entered a huge room behind it.

Please meet Godzilla.

He was huge. Twice the size of a Cardassian. Three times. Ten times. Enormous! He stood by a big window, his hands clasped behind his back. “Please, sit down,” he said gesturing toward a chair in front of a bulky desk.

“Thank you,” I replied hoping that my voice hadn’t shown how nervous I was.

He sat too. He took the padd that lay on the desk and activated it. “I have been told that you had resigned from Starfleet,” he said looking at me, not at the padd. I only nodded and swallowed. “I’ve been also told that you would like to join the Cardassian Guard.”

I nodded again. And then I thought I shouldn’t make an impression of a coward; Cardassia didn’t need cowards. “Yes, sir.” I hoped my voice sounded strong but all I heard was a thin mouse squeak.

“Why?” It wasn’t asked in an aggressive, demanding manner. It was just a question. A question I was not prepared for. I had an answer but I don’t think he was interested in my love life. My hesitation had to be obvious, or lasted too long, as he said, “Let me rephrase the question. Why do you want to serve in the military of your former enemy?” That was supposed to help me to answer? He let the padd go and it fell to the desk with a loud ‘clack!’

I stared at it for a moment and then took a deep breath. “I don’t see Cardassia as my former enemy. I see it as my new home.”

“And what if your new home goes to war with your old home? Where will your loyalties be then?” His voice was still levelled. Was it a test? Was he trying to check if I’d betrayed the Federation? Did he fear I would betray Cardassia some day too?

“I don’t know,” I said quietly.

He stared at me. I felt he could see through me. Inside me. Outside me. All over me. His small, grey eyes pierced through my head. I knew Godzilla would eat me in a moment. He wouldn’t even have to chew, he’d just swallow me whole.

“Why did you join Starfleet?” he asked.

Finally a question I knew how to answer. “It seemed like a good career. And an interesting job. I’m an engineer and I don’t see that kind of job only as fixing broken things. This is also a way to learn about devices and tools. One of the reasons why I volunteered to serve aboard the Roumar was that I could learn more about Cardassian devices and tools. To discover them, in a manner of speaking. In Starfleet I had a chance to work on many interesting projects. It’s like an...adventure.” Was I babbling? I wasn’t, was I? But at least I was becoming less nervous.

He seemed to listen carefully. “Do you know that the Cardassian Guard’s mission is not exploration?” he asked me after a moment of silence.

“I do. I have been working on the Roumar for over a year now.”

“‘Discovering’ Cardassian technology,” he said. “What will happen when you know everything and there’s nothing more to discover?”

“There’s always something to discover, sir.” I smiled. I really dared to smile!

His frown softened for a moment and then he asked, “Why do you want to stay on Cardassia, Kapoor?” That question again. “The truth.”

“I will marry a Cardassian,” I said. He wanted the truth, he got the truth.

He inclined his head to the left and looked at me with a new expression. He was surprised—I could tell that for sure. He shifted forward and leaned toward me, leaning his forearms on the desk. “If you want to stay in the Guard, you will have to go through the same process as any other Cardassian.”

“Do I have to go to the Academy?” I can’t say I didn’t expect something like that.

“Yes and no.” He paused, pursed his lips and after a short moment continued. “You have graduated from one academy and I see no need to waste time and resources to teach you the things you already know and train you in a way that you had been already trained—if not at the Federation academy, then aboard the Roumar. You don’t have to attend classes but you must pass all exams. You can study at home, or have a private tutor and approach exams when you are ready. That should speed up the process for you.” He most likely overestimated my memory. “After successful completion you will start as a d’ja and climb the ladder of your new career from the bottom, like everyone else.” He paused again. “I’ve already talked to Gul Brenok and he is willing to keep your aboard the Roumar. You will be an eresh in training. That should help you with your study.” I nodded. That was really good news. “However...” Oh, no! “I have another proposal for you.” My eyebrows raised. “I am attempting to gather a team of engineers to work on innovations and improving Cardassian technology. I believe you will be a great asset to such a team. With your Federation, non-Cardassian experience and knowledge you could bring unique ideas.” What was he saying?! He was offering me a job? “I can understand that you might feel like betraying your...old home.” He leaned back in his chair and shrank a bit. “That’s why I would like you to take time and think about my offer.”

“Would I be able to resign from that team if I wanted to?”

“Of course. However, all your input will stay Cardassian property.”

In other words, if I invent a weapon and they start shooting my people with it, I can leave in protest but they keep the weapon. “What kind of inventions will those be?” I asked.

“For a start, I think we need a new, better warship. And more efficient replicators. We had received a few industrial replicators from the Federation a few years ago and they are better than ours.” He thought for a while. “I could even give you an option to choose your projects. Non-military only, if you wish.”

“Even a frying pan can be a weapon if your intent is to kill,” I said before I stopped myself.

Godzilla...smiled. No, he chuckled. And shrank a bit more. He became serious again. “Will you consider my offer?”

“Yes, sir, I will.”

“Very well, then. Glinn Hertop will have a full curriculum for you. Report back to the Roumar. Notify Gul Brenok when you are ready to take the first examination and we will continue from there.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

He looked a bit surprised at me. That’s right, Cardassians didn’t have that sweet habit of thanking their superiors. “You’re welcome,” he answered in an unsure voice.

Godzilla shrank. He was a tall and slightly overweight Cardassian, but by no means a gigantic one. I smiled to him and left his office.

The glinn outside rose when he saw me emerging from Tarkan’s office. He approached me and handed me a padd. “This is for you,” he said. Ah, so this was Glinn Hertop.

“Thank you.” I smiled to him and he grinned too, although his smile wasn’t any more sure than Gul Tarkan’s voice a moment ago. I found it amusing.

I left the building and outside was met by a hot, dry wind.

That part of Lakat wasn’t as badly destroyed as other districts—not mentioning Lakarian City—so I decided to take a walk. Tavor had given me a padd with a city plan, so I retrieved it from my bag and activated it.

I passed by government buildings, with majestic Central Command Headquarters in front of it, and headed for the oldest district, hoping to see some historical buildings and how Cardassian architecture had been changing through centuries.

It was a hot day with hot wind, dry air and a lot of city noise. And crowds. I smiled to myself—it reminded me of Calcutta, only the humidity level was different.

I stopped by their kind of pedestrian crossing—seven thin lines stretching from one curb to the other—and waited with other people for the signal. They didn’t have red and green lights one above the other, they had Cardassian letters one next to the other. A girl, four- maybe five-years-old, raised her head and looked at me. I smiled at her and she hid behind her mother, who gave me a surprised look. Was the child afraid of a stranger or an alien? Or both?

The Cardassian character on the street light changed and I crossed the street together with everybody.

The nearer to the old district I was, the emptier the city seemed. There was no rubble—it had been cleared already—but the holes left by destroyed buildings screamed about the great tragedy that fell on Cardassians. I remembered hearing some of my colleagues saying shortly after the war that the Cardassians brought it on themselves, but what did that little girl do to have her home devastated? What was her mother guilty of? Yes, the Cardassians were not the gentlest and friendliest race in the quadrant, but if someone should be punished, then punish the guilty ones, not just everyone with ridges on his or her face.

Something caught my attention. There seemed to be some kind of public gathering on a plaza; I headed there curious. As it occurred, there was some sort of open-air exhibition of photos, drawings, paintings and holoimages of Lakat. In front of many items there were circles drawn on the ground but I had no idea what was the purpose of that. I walked between the works and thought that the city used to be really beautiful. Dominated by brown and ochre colours, with everywhere present ovals and triangles—did those shapes have a special meaning for the Cardassians? I’d have to ask Tavor. Some people stopped, seeing me. Some started to point out to me and whisper something to their companions. Some faces expressed surprise, some hostility, some curiosity. There was one man that stared at me intently and didn’t avert his eyes when I looked at him. He didn’t like me being there and he didn’t hide it.

One drawing drew my attention especially. It was a panorama, with spires and roofs, and buildings. I stopped in front of it and studied it. Some man stopped next to me and waved for me to move to my left. Was he shooing me away? Why? He pointed to the circle on the ground and then I understood that he wanted me to stand inside it. I looked around and noticed that other visitors did just that with the other circles. Why? Did the state command from which place you should admire art, too? However, I listened and stood in the circle. The man smiled and went away. I looked at the drawing again and then it dawned on me.

From the spot I was standing in I could see the drawing and what was behind it...It was exactly the same view, the same landscape. While standing in the circle one could see what had been—in the picture—and what was—in the brutal reality. Tears filled my eyes and I covered my mouth with my hand, trying to muffle my gasp. I blinked and blinked, but tears didn’t want to clear. I dried them with my hand and looked around, wondering if anyone had noticed. The hostile man had, but he wasn’t hostile any longer; his face was graced by a sad smile. Had he seen me as an enemy and now realised I didn’t condone what had been done to his planet any more than he did?
__________________
In a Cardassian library or in a Cardassian gallery?

"Reagan, it appears, is really only an ardent unionist if the unions in question are in Poland" - Stephen King, Skeleton Crew
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Old November 28 2011, 02:18 PM   #27
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Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 568




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’?

She is a person, Father, not a thing.” Tavor’s voice was levelled when he answered.

“It is not a Cardassian.”

“No, she 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 milk.

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.

We left.

“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.
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Old November 28 2011, 02:19 PM   #28
Gul Re'jal
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Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 609



Another office. Another government office. Oh, I didn’t think I had visited as many Federation officials, as Cardassian. Actually, I didn’t think I had personally visited any Federation official.

At least, this time I wasn’t scared to death. Everything else seemed almost the same as in Gul Tarkan’s office: a secretary in armour behind the desk, the big door to the office, even the seat was identically uncomfortable.

“You may enter,” said the glinn-secretary.

The office was much smaller than I had expected. There was a painting of a village in a desert on the wall to the left and another of sand storm in a town on the opposite wall. There was a window opposite the door and it was big enough to give sufficient light even for my human eyes. In one of corners there was a low coffee table with three chairs. I moved forward, walking on a soft, thick carpet toward a medium-size desk, which was completely covered with padds. There was one spot free of padds, though—a small sculpture stood there, the same that she had kept in her office aboard the ship. A dolphin of some sort. A Cardassian dolphin, of course, with ridges at al.

“Eresh Kapoor.” Legate Jarol stood from behind her desk and approached me. “What can I do for you?”

I was wearing Cardassian armour with the eresh’s markings. She was wearing legate’s armour—silver and with the Union’s emblem on her chest. I noticed she didn’t wear the undershirt that legates usually wore under their armours, which covered their shoulder ridges. I wondered why.

“Actually,” I began to speak quietly, “In spite of wearing my armour, I came with a very private, personal matter.”

“Oh?” She seemed surprised. Her whole mannerism changed immediately. Her facial expression became less official and more curious.

“Glinn Karama and I are in the middle of our wedding preparations. It’s not going to be a very traditional Cardassian wedding...his parents are going to be absent.”

She nodded her understanding. “I know of Gul Karama,” she said simply.

“Yes.” I made a face, thinking of that monster. But I didn’t want to spoil this moment. “So, we want to have a modest ceremony. Still, I want to make it as traditional as possible for Tav...Glinn Karama and...” I hesitated. I’d made my decision and I was sure it was the right one, but now facing her—I felt like it was too bold to ask.

“Yes?” She encouraged me.

“According to the Cardassian tradition, I need two per’tayes. I have only one. I would...” I silenced not able to finish, but she clearly understood.

Her posture changed, as she leaned to me. “Kapoor, you should ask your friends for it, someone close to you.”

“Legate, I have only one friend here—one female friend at least—and you are the closest thing to a friend there is. You will make me a great honour if you agree to be my first per’taye.”

“Kapoor, the honour will be mine.” She put her hand on her chest. “However, shouldn’t Ma’Kan be you first per’taye? She is closer to you.”

“But you are a legate and you are older.”

She smiled, grabbed my elbow and pulled me to the coffee table. I sat in one chair, she sat in another and then she said, “Kapoor, a per’taye is not about social function, position or age. It is about the place the woman has in your heart. Ma’Kan is your friend...er, this is Ma’Kan we’re talking about, right?” I nodded. “So she should be your first per’taye.”

“Will you be my second per’taye?” I asked. Ma’Kan had told me the same thing, but I had been afraid of offending Legate Jarol.

“With pleasure,” she smiled warmly.

That was so strange. I had known her as a gul for such a long time and while I couldn’t complain, she had been nothing like a Federation captain, who called you by your given name from time to time. Now she was a legate, a member of the government and I had expected her to be even more distant and stiff... But she was nice and friendly, more like an older sister than a former commander. Why was that? Because she wasn’t my direct superior any longer? Because I came with a non-uniform matter?

“Our wedding will be on thirty-fifth of Yiyut,” I said.

“I’ll make sure to have that day booked for you.”

“Thank you, Legate.” I rose. “I’m sure...I can see you are busy.” I pointed to the desk and the padds. She stood up, too. “I’ll leave you to your work now. I have to study anyway.” Stop babbling, silly!

“Good luck, Kapoor.”

“Thank you, Legate.”

I left her office.

A member of the Central Command would be my bridesmaid. Wow, I ruled!

Ma’Kan waited outside of the building, bathing her face in sun’s orange rays. “Well, what did she say?” she asked me when I approached her.

“She said the same thing you had told me.”

“I didn’t doubt that. But did she agree?”

I smiled. “Indeed.”

“So, that is settled. What’s left on your preparations list?”

What? Did she expect me to pull the list out of my head and—of course she did! I squinted my eyes, trying to recall what else was left to do. “I still have to prepare our menu. This is not going to be a big party, but we must feed our guests.” I gave her an asking look. “Or not?” I had just realised that in the society of constant saving and rationing they might not expect a few to feed many.

“Have you decided to have the party in your new place or at a restaurant?”

“Why? Does it matter?”

“Yes. The guests must know beforehand. You shall greet them with some food, but they won’t come empty-handed. They’ll bring rations for you to use later, or their own food to share with everyone, or share costs of the bill if the party takes place at a restaurant. They will also notify you earlier if they bring food or rations, so that you’ll know how much food you should prepare. Nothing ruins a party more effectively than little food to eat and lots of ration allocations on padds.” She chuckled.

“This is so new to me,” I admitted. “I can barely get used to thinking about money and paying for things. Rations? This is just too damn weird.”

“I’d feel like a thief in the Federation,” Ma’Kan said. “To take things and don’t pay? You go to prison for that here.” She laughed. A moment later she became serious again. “As to the menu, don’t plan anything yet. After you invite all your guests and they confirm their ‘return gifts,’ then and only then you can start planning what to feed them with.”

“Noted.” I paused. “Now what? You told me you had a surprise for me.”

“Have you ever been to a fresh market?” she asked.

My eyes opened wide. “No.”

“Want to go?”

“And you will tell me all about food over there?”

“Naturally. This is going to an educational field trip.”

“Now?”

“Anything you must do?”

“Nope. Let’s go.”

We took a tram—a modern, fast mini-train—and arrived to one of districts, in which I hadn’t been before. Ma’Kan explained that the biggest fresh market in Lakat was over here.

Sometimes there were moments when I felt on Cardassia just like at home. The heat, the humidity, the crowds—it all was so similar to home that no Federation starship could imitate this unusual feeling.

The fresh market was no different and gave me a strange feeling of home. It was surrounded by a wire net fence with a gate—I assumed there were many of those in different parts of the market—to enter. By the gate hung a huge plan of the market. Ma’Kan went over there and let me study it for a moment. The plan clearly showed which part of the market was dedicated to fruits, which to vegetables, meat, fish, and kitchen equipment—yes, on the market one could buy not only food but also all necessary items to prepare it.

“Let’s start from fruits,” I suggested looking at Ma’Kan. “Are we allowed to sample?”

“If we’re lucky,” she answered. “Vendors usually sacrifice a fruit or a few to sample, but once those are eaten, no more is offered.”

“I see.” It made sense—one wouldn’t waste their precious goods on customers who just ate and didn’t buy.

We entered the market: narrow streets between stalls filled with noisy people. Vendors called and praised their goods and I quickly realised that I drew a lot of attention. They waved to me to approach them, tempted me sniffing their fruits with delighted facial expressions, or offering me something to try.

I stopped by a big stall. “What is this?” I asked Ma’Kan. The vendor was busy spraying his goods with water, undoubtedly making sure nothing got spoiled or too dry in the hot sun.

“This is fop,” she answered. The fruit was greenish-yellow and oblong. “There are two types of these; one is like this one, the other one is more of red colour.” While she was speaking, the vendor turned to reach for something on the other side of his stall and handed me another fruit, very much like this one, just reddish-yellow. “Yeah, this is it.” Ma’Kan smiled at him. “Want to try?” she asked me.

I looked at the vendor. Up until this moment the dja and I used the universal translator, but I decided to be brave. I turned it off and asked, “Yat? Zdar?” One? How much?

Har.” He showed three fingers. “Hufnap lek.”

“Ten leks for three,” I repeated after turning on my translator. “If I hate it, will you take the other two? Consider it a payment for this trip.” A thought occurred to me. “Do you like them?”

“Everyone likes them. And it’s a deal, but I’m quite sure you’ll like them, too.”

I paid the vendor ten leks. To my surprise, he offered me a damp cloth. I gave my friend an asking look. “It’s to clean them, in case you wanted to eat one now.”

I meticulously wiped my fruits clean and returned the cloth to the vendor. Then, I took a bite. The juice dripped out of the fruit to my chin and then down to my armour and boots. The vendor chuckled, but it wasn’t a mean laugh. He handed me another cloth, this time a dry one, to wipe the juice off my armour.

Fodaiji,” I thanked him, hoping that I’d chosen the right ‘thank you,’ since there were two in Cardassian language, each for a different kind of situations.

The fop was delicious. I managed not to make more mess of my appearance before finishing it, but I was sure that applied only to my clothing. I could feel sticky, sweet smears of dried juice on my face.

We moved on to another stall and another kind of fruit drew my attention. It was dark purple, very thin and very long. It reminded my of an eggplant in a way. I pointed to it and looked at Ma’Kan.

Goplu,” she said. “You peel off the violet skin and eat pink meat inside.”

I bought two and I liked it. In spite of looking like an eggplant, it tasted like a combination of a banana and a jackfruit.

We left the fruit section and proceeded to vegetables section. I stopped and asked a lot of questions about a root stall, as apart from prices there was something else on the price tags stuck in the goods: a drawing of a Cardassian silhouette with parts of the body marked. For each root a different part was coloured. Ma’Kan explained that root-vegetables were very healthy and the vendor made sure that her customers knew which one was the best for which organ. She also told me which ones had an awful, bitter taste.

Again, my attention was drawn by something exotic. It looked like a giant wheat—a long grass with heavy grains on top. “What’s this called?” I asked my friend.

Sisstu. This is sisstu. You can eat it raw in salads, or cook it, or bake it, or mash it, or whatever. It’s good. I’m sure you had it in something. Usually it looks like little balls in your meal.”

“Those little orange and brown thingies?” I asked and she confirmed by nodding. “Ah, yes. I had no idea they grow like this.”

“You can also buy them without the grass, just grains. Or canned.”

“And this?”

The colour was hilarious; it was glowing red. You’d forgotten your torch and had to enter a dark cave? Take a vegetable! It’d light your way and fill your tummy.

“This is ganot.”

Ganot—a glowing, red cabbage. Just next to it was mini-ganot—glowing, red Brussel sprouts.

We returned home with a few bags of fruits and vegetables. I invited Ma’Kan for dinner to pay her for her time and lessons on Cardassian fresh market.

Tavor was staying in his brother’s place. Tasar and his family were currently out-of-town, so their newly rented apartment was almost empty. Tasar and Inaya had moved out of Gul Karama’s house, because they had decided to live on their own without terrorising presence of the father, who had just retired and was at home all the time. They had invited Tavor to stay at their place whenever the Roumar was orbiting Cardassia, so my fiancé was happy to free himself from the ship’s quarters and breathe the real air. I had to stay aboard the warship—no naughty stuff before the wedding was allowed!

But having meals together was not naughty, so Tavor and I had a chance to spend a lot of time together and to almost feel like living together...just without the bed thing.

When the door to the apartment opened, my friend and I were literally attacked by loud music. We went to the kitchen, not even trying to speak in that noise and then searched for my husband-to-be.

Ma’Kan found him first. She stood in the doorway and leaned on the door frame, observing him with her jaw on the floor. I joined her to see Tavor wiping clean—or perhaps polishing—a shelf in a cabinet, rocking on his feet and shaking his bum to the rhythm of music. We stood there, observing him. He finished the shelf and moved on to the next one and just then noticed us; two unmoving people in the door had clearly startled him. He turned the music off. “What did she say?” he asked me.

“She agreed.”

“I hope we won’t make news,” he muttered and then resumed his activity. It was the first time that I thought Tavor didn’t like the idea of Jarol being my per’taye. I decided to talk to him about it later. I didn’t want any part of our wedding to be unpleasant for any of us and I regretted that he hadn’t said anything earlier, before I had asked the legate.

“What are you doing?” Ma’Kan asked him.

“My brother let me live here for a while, so I see no reason not to repay for it by cleaning his house,” Tavor said. “They still have a lot of work before their move is over and I could do at least some cleaning.”

Ma’Kan looked at me. “Wow,” she just said.

I chuckled. “He’s not for sale.” I looked at Tavor. “Ma’Kan is staying with us for dinner; I hope it’s all right with you.”

“Sure,” he said with his head between shelves. He adjusted the volume level and then turned the music back on, but a bit more quiet.

Ma’Kan and I went to the kitchen. “That’s interesting,” I said. “We didn’t hear a sound coming from the apartment, while it was so loud in here.”

The tactician looked at me. At first there was surprise on her face, but then her expression changed to something else that I couldn’t decipher. “All houses on Cardassia are now built this way—soundproof.”

“Clever. That way no one disturbs their neighbours when listening to loud music.” The look she gave me...I knew there was something behind it. “What?” I asked.

“You don’t want to know,” Tavor said, entering the kitchen.

“What?” I insisted.

Ma’Kan sighed. “Walls are soundproof, so no one could hear when the Obsidian Order came for you, beat you to unconsciousness and then took you away.”

I hoped it was her poor attempt of a joke, but her facial expression was deadly serious. I looked at Tavor and he didn’t look any better. This was for real. “So that’s how people disappeared without a trace,” I said. “No one even knew when.”

None of them said anything. It was a few years after the Obsidian Order had been gone and it still triggered fear in them. I couldn’t even imagine how terrible the Order had to be...and I didn’t think I wanted to imagine.

Tavor inspected the bags, sniffed inside one of them and whispered with a delight, “Freshhhhhhh fishhhhhhhh...”

Grateful for his attempt to defuse the unpleasant atmosphere, I started to tell him about our trip to the fresh market.
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"Reagan, it appears, is really only an ardent unionist if the unions in question are in Poland" - Stephen King, Skeleton Crew
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Old November 28 2011, 02:19 PM   #29
Gul Re'jal
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Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 628



I returned to my quarters aboard the Roumar completely exhausted. All I wanted was to lay down and die. It had occurred that working aboard the warship was different when you were a Federation lieutenant and different when you were a Cardassian eresh. It wasn’t a matter of being treated poorly or with disrespect—although I had noticed that lower ranking officers considered me to be lower on the hierarchy ladder and acted accordingly...to their new interpretation of respect—but the amount of boring, mundane tasks I had been being given was...exceeding my limits of acceptance. Suddenly, I was not educated enough to do things that I used to do before I’d changed my uniform to armour. I had dared to complain to Zamarran and he had told me not to take it personally; they just followed the protocol and they were not allowed to assign me tasks, which—in theory—I wouldn’t be able to complete. The problem was that I was fully able to complete them. I’d asked Zamarran if it wasn’t wasting my skill and he had pondered my question for a moment. Cardassians hated wasting anything; for them the word ‘waste’ was almost a curse. Finally, Zamarran had told me that the protocol was the protocol and it had to be followed—especially in an unclear situation and that one was exactly that.

So I’d given up and followed the damn protocol.

And now I was tired and bored—and all I wanted was to sleep.

I was on my way to my closet—I still lived in the same quarters that had been assigned to me when I’d arrived aboard the warship almost two years ago—when I noticed something on my table. Intrigued, I approached it to see...a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. It didn’t look exactly like ours, as it had an uneven, serrated shape, but it was undoubtedly a jigsaw puzzle. It was quite big, too: almost seven centimetres in diameter.

I took it into my hand and studied it, but my examination was interrupted by a chime at the door. I went to open and saw Tavor. Without a word I raised the puzzle and gave him a questioning look, because I had no doubt that it had been him, who had ‘burgled’ into my quarters to leave the puzzle on the table. In the answer, he raised higher a big, flat square he held in his hands, which looked like a painting wrapped in brown paper.

“What’s this?” I asked.

He entered my quarters and went toward the table. “Sit down,” he said. I did so. “Now.” He unwrapped the ‘painting’ and I saw a board on two rails: one on the top and one on the bottom. He unattached something from the back of the board and it occurred to be another board. He placed it on the table. If it were green, not dark brown, it would look like a mini mahjong table. “Take a good look at your puzzle.”

Even though I had already studied it, I did as instructed. “Done.”

“Sure?”

“Done,” I repeated a little irritated. Was this some kind of game?

“Give me the puzzle.” I placed in on his stretched palm and he hid it behind him. “Now, take a good look at this picture. I will give you twenty seconds. After that I will hide the picture again and you will put the puzzle in the correct place on your board. Do you understand?”

I nodded. He grabbed the board and slid it to the left on the rails, revealing a picture on the board under it, which I hadn’t noticed earlier. There were three baby animals playing in grass in the picture. I studied it carefully, trying to guess which part of the image my piece was. I couldn’t be sure if it was a leg, or an ear, or maybe something entirely else. Suddenly, Tavor slid the front board back to its place, covering the animals.

“It’s time to place your puzzle on the board.” He gave it back to me.

My hand hovered over the ‘mahjong board’ and I couldn’t decide where to put it. “What if I’m wrong?” I asked.

“Then you’ll have to correct it later.” I moved my hand over the board and Tavor added, “But once you place it, you cannot move it until next day.”

My head jerked when I glanced at him. “What?”

“Place your piece carefully.”

I hesitated for a while longer, choosing the place and glancing at Tavor with hope that his facial expression would give me tips, but his face was made of stone. I decided that the picture on the puzzle was a part of a leg, so I placed the puzzle in the lower section of the board. “Now what?” I asked.

“Tomorrow you will get another puzzle and another look at the board. As the game progresses, you will be given less and less time to look at the board. If you place your pieces incorrectly, you will have a chance to fix it, but only one at a time.”

“Why?”

“Normally, the speed matters. This game is played by several ch...people and the one who finishes the picture first, gets a prize.”

Had he just almost said ‘children’?

“But why can’t I look at the picture when placing my puzzle?” I asked. And then it dawned on me. “It’s a memory game!” I shouted, grabbing his hand. “Isn’t it? It’s a memory game!”

“That’s right,” he confirmed. “I thought that you might want to practice your memory in some enjoyable way.”

“So let me repeat to make sure that I understand correctly. First I look at my puzzle, then at the whole picture and then place my puzzle in place, recreating the picture in my mind’s eye. I have to do my best to print the picture in my head, so that I don’t make any mistakes, because if I make any, it takes time to correct them and the point of the game is to be the first to finish the whole puzzle.”

“That’s correct.”

I gave him a suspicious look. “How old are children who solve this particular picture?”

He bit his lower lip. “Five.”

I felt my eyebrows travelling high. “Are they better than me?” I asked.

“They would have been in memory training for two years already and would have solved many puzzles like this one before.”

“In other words, they are better,” I stated flatly.

He looked a bit worried. “I didn’t want to choose something too easy,” he said quietly. “I didn’t want to offend you...I just...I think you’ll do fine with this, once you get used to the game.” He paused. “I’m sorry...maybe we should just forget about the whole thing.”

I smiled. “No, Tavor. It’s all right. It’s not news for me that kids over here have better memory than I. And I think it’s a good idea to work on mine. I’ll stop forgetting your name, Arenn,” I joked. Maybe I should have chosen a different Cardassian given name, instead of our gul’s, but at that moment I couldn’t think of anything else.

My assurances seemed to cheer him up a little, although I was absolutely sure that my using Gul Brenok’s given name grated on him tremendously.

Cardassians...

He put the board under his arm. “Supper time,” he said.

“We’re eating at your place?” I asked. “Can I bring something with me?” He gave me an asking look. “It took hours to force the replicator to make something that at least a little bit resembles a pappadum and I’m not going to waste my time by not replicating and eating it.”

“And what’s that?” he asked.

“You’ll see.”

“Did you program only the replicator in your quarters, or aboard the ship?”

“Only in my quarters. I don’t have access to ship-wide program. I’m just an eresh, rem—” I bit my tongue a bit to late and I was certain I almost accused him of forgetting.

He graciously ignored it. “Well, yes, but you can send your addition to the quartermaster and he could accept it.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“You still haven’t memorised the rules,” he stated. “I know it’s not easy for you, but you must try. You had a lot of time for it.”

“It’s not that I have nothing else to do, you know!”

He smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry, Amrita, I didn’t want to sound patronising.” He paused.
“So, supper?”

“Let me just replicate my food and I’ll join you in a moment.”

“Great.” He left my quarters, taking the board with the puzzle picture with him.

I went to his quarters with a bowl of pappadum. As soon as the door opened, I was welcomed by a smell of warm food. I was sure it was all replicated, since there was limited possibility of cooking elaborate meals aboard a warship, but I didn’t mind.

He eyed my dish suspiciously and then reached for one thin piece of crispy pappadum. A little surprised by its texture, he bit and helplessly looked at crumbs falling to his feet. “Salty,” he said with approval. He took the plate from my hands and placed it in the middle of the table.

I sat and looked at my plate, filled with steaming hot food. “Tavor, what’s this?” I asked, touching a piece of some meat with my fork.

“Fried zobar oppanat.”

Zobar,” I said. “It’s like a cow, isn’t it? A kind of cattle?” I amended my question seeing his look; of course, how could a Cardassian know what a cow was.

“That’s correct. Why?”

I pushed the plate away. “I’m sorry, but I cannot eat it.” This moment had to come some day. I avoided eating zobar meat and it never was a difficult task, considering how varied Cardassian cuisine was, but I never had been presented with it so directly until this evening. I couldn’t just choose anything else without explaining why I didn’t eat the food he had prepared especially for us.

“Why not?” He was surprised and disappointed and I realised that it was the time to tell him something about me. He knew that I had something in common with the Oralians, but we had never discussed the details of my faith. I understood that I owed him a full explanation, so that he didn’t feel so disappointed by my refusal of eating the food that he had replicated with such a care.

So I told him about the meaning of cows in my religion and how people ought to treat them. And how wrong it was of me to eat a cow.

“I know that a zobar is not the same animal, but...it still feels wrong. Unclean.”

And then he did something I’d never expect him to do: he pushed his plate away. “If it feels wrong to you, then it feels wrong to me, too.”

I knew he loved zobar meat. “Tavor, you don’t have to do this for me. I don’t mind you eating what you like. But I won’t touch it.”

“Not good for you, not good for me,” he insisted. Before I could say anything else, he rose, took both plates, placed them in the replicator, recycled and then asked for the same dish but with meat replaced by sisstu. I smiled at him when he was putting the plate in front it me. If I only knew how to express my appreciation not only of his understanding, but also of his...little sacrifice.

I looked at my food, graced by Cardassian corn-like vegetable, and started eating. “Delicious,” I judged and he grinned.
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Old November 28 2011, 02:20 PM   #30
Gul Re'jal
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Re: Shaping a Cardassian--"Among the Dragons" -- Edited

Day 714



I was nervous. I was nervous beyond belief. Soterra had explained—three times—all the details, but it was all new for me and I had never even witnessed such an event, while now I was supposed to be one of two main players.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” I muttered.

Before Soterra had a chance to say anything, the door to the room opened and I saw Legate Jarol entering. She smiled at me and then frowned a little. “Are you all right?” she asked.

“She’s just nervous,” Soterra explained.

“And she should be.” The legate approached us and handed me a small box. “I brought you something.”

Soterra had told me that second per’taye should bring a scarf, which later I’d use to bond me with Tavor, so I wasn’t surprised that Jarol had a gift for me. I thanked her and took the box. I took a moment to study the box itself, as it was a very pretty, nicely decorated wooden chest and then I opened it to see the most beautiful fabric in the universe. I glanced at the legate and she grinned. I took the scarf out of the box with one hand and put the chest away with the other. Then I gently slid my hand down the scarf—it was Tholian silk. It was thin, almost transparent, light orange with dark orange and light brown floral patterns.

“How do I wear it?” I asked.

Jarol took the scarf from my hands and wrapped it around my neck. I allowed her to do that, observing growing surprise on Soterra’s face. “What’s wrong?” I asked her.

The legate looked back over her shoulder at my friend and asked the same question. “What’s wrong, Ma’Kan?”

“I...I would do it differently,” Soterra said quietly, not doubt fearing of offending our former commander.

But Jarol only stepped away from me and asked, gesturing toward the scarf. “How?”

Soterra unwrapped it and repeated the procedure. I couldn’t tell any difference, but Jarol obviously could, because she nodded slightly, as if telling herself ‘oh, that’s what’s different.’

“Which way is correct?” I asked.

“I never saw it wrapped any other way than this,” my friend said.

“I did. I never gave it much of a thought, but I just realised that I never saw ‘my’ way of wrapping the wedding scarf since I have left Nokar.” She looked at me. “Since your husband is Eheenan, you might want to use the Eheenan way.”

So it was a regional matter. Nokarians—Jarol was Nokarian—did it one way, Eheenans—another. “Is it all right if I choose Eheenan way?” I asked.

She smiled. “Kapoor, this is your wedding—you decide.”

I smiled back. “Eheenan it is, then. For him.”

“Now.” Soterra put her hands on her hips. “Practice unwrapping.”

At first I was surprised by her words, but soon I realised how important it was. The scarf was soft and it was so easy to entangle its ends. And I not only had to unwrap it from my neck, but then wrap it back around mine and Tavor’s.

When I managed to accomplish this task without poking out Soterra’s and later Tavor’s eye, I had to repeat my vow. The vow tradition was adorable and I’d loved it from the first moment I had heard about it...until now. I had to memorise the whole thing in Cardassian. No, not just modern Cardassian language, which I was learning. It was some old Cardassian, Lakatian dialect full of funny words and tones, for old Cardassian was a tonal language. It was like singing, not speaking and it was important to sing, because my both per’tayes were supposed to dance to my speech.

As it turned out, not only my accent was horrible—they tried to convince me it wasn’t bad, but I could hear myself—but also another set of Nokarian—Eheenan regional cultural differences came out. Jarol asked Soterra to teach her Eheenan way and I knew that with her perfect memory it would take a merely moment, but I decided against that idea. “No, Legate. Let’s make it a celebration of cultures. I’m not even a Cardassian and...” I didn’t really know what I wanted to say. I looked at Jarol. “Do it your way. And Ma’Kan will do it her way. And after that I will dance as we dance in my culture.” I grabbed the floating skirt of my long dress. “This dress is close enough to traditional dress in my culture, so it’ll fit.” I looked at them both. “Okay?”

“You’re the chief here,” Soterra smiled. “It’ll be as you wish.”

“What if I forget my vows?” I asked panicked.

Jarol shrugged. “Then you’ll improvise.”

“Won’t it be taken badly...I mean...not remembering something?”

The legate smiled. “Let’s say our memory is not immune to nervousness.”

And I couldn’t help but wonder if it had happened to her.

We kept practising and being busy helped me a bit with my stress.

“Do we paint a kabut on her face?” Jarol asked suddenly, looking at Soterra.

My eyes opened wide. “A what?”

The legate pointed to the desk with make up stuff. “In the past,” she began to explain, “unmarried women painted their scales blue. Here.” She pointed to a scale on the outer edge of her eye ridge. “During the wedding ceremony, the blue colouring is removed to show the married status of the woman.” She inclined her head a bit. “Do you have a custom like that?”

I thought for a moment. For a second I considered telling her that many people misinterpreted teep for such a sign, but then I thought that there was no reason to teach her misunderstandings between human cultures. “No, not in my culture. Although I know that in some cultures long hair was something to tell that a woman was unmarried and after the wedding ceremony her long braid was cut off and the hair hidden under a bonnet.”

“Why?” Jarol touched her own—very, very long—hair.

“Because the view of hair was for husband’s eyes only. A married woman was not supposed to be attractive to anyone else.”

“What did married men have to do?”

“Nothing.”

She frowned. “Doesn’t seem very fair to me.”

“That’s why the custom isn’t practised any longer.” I paused. “Please, paint the blue...blue...am...thingy on my face.”

Kabut,” Soterra said. She took a small brush and painted two dots on my temples. When she finished, I reached for my teep—a little silver piece of jewellery not accidentally in the shape of a drop—and attached it to my forehead. Both Cardassian women smiled.

“How Cardassian,” Jarol commented.

“It represents a very important point of my body,” I explained, touching it gently. “It’s the sixth chakra...an energy point.”

The remaining time of the preparations was filled with sharing interesting details of our cultures. I had never known that Jarol was so interested in art and customs.

If I thought I was nervous, I was just about to find out what panic was. The preparations came to an end and the time for the real thing came.

But when I entered the path that led to a small circle of flowers, inside of which Tavor stood in his polished armour, all the tension miraculously vanished. I slowly went to him, stopped and unwrapped the scarf. He leaned a bit toward me to make it easier reach his neck and shoulders, while I wrapped the scarf around our necks, taking extra care not to touch his neck ridges.

Zamarran, who kept a cage with two little adorable mini-dragons, opened it, letting the creatures out. As I had been informed, the mini-dragons were called ratatoons; the blue-bellied one was male and the red one female. They looked like a combination of a pigeon, a dragon and a parrot. Ratatoons had an important task to perform—to tell is which one f us would be wearing trousers on our marriage. After being let out of the cage, they were supposed to fly to a snack, which had been prepared for them. If the male reached it first—Tavor would be the boss; if the female—I would rule the world. But the ratatoons had other plans. They didn’t fly to the snack, but started playing—or perhaps dancing—in the air.

Zamarran started to laugh. I had never heard him laughing like that—it was a deep, happy sound coming from the deepest parts of his belly. He was almost literally crying and rolling on the floor. After a moment he started to calm down, but then the ratatoons decided to...return to their cage and his giggling intensified to finally burst into laughter again.

But it would be unfair to say that he was the only one. Everyone was laughing.

“I guess they’re not hungry,” Tavor commented.

“So now what?” I asked.

“Now I’ll tell you how much I love you.” My eyes opened wide, while he began. I drank the words coming from his mouth, hoping someone was recording all this, because I knew I wanted to listen to that poetry more than just one time...and to have a translation, as I turned off my universal translator to listen to the melody of his little speech in original. All the time he was speaking in that melodic, Old Lakatian language, Brenok was humming a melody like an accompaniment to those words. The translator would ruin everything.

My vow didn’t sound as melodic as his and it was much shorter—gods forbid I ever attempted to out talk a Cardassian—but I shared it with him with tears in my eyes. I didn’t see my per’tayes dancing behind me, since I was looking at Tavor’s face, but I could hear the sound of rustling their dressed made as they were moving.

When I finished, I unwrapped the scarf from his neck and used it in my dance. I hummed and sang and I don’t think it mattered at all that Tavor couldn’t understand a word from the lyrics—he loved it! His eyes didn’t leave me and he observed me with his hands near his mouth; tips of the fingers touching as if he prayed.

After I finished, the blue spots were removed from my temples and it was the last item of the tradition that was set in stone. The rest of the ceremony was less official and more fun: eating too much food, drinking too much kanar and talking too many speeches. Zamarran apologised for his wife’s absence; he said she wanted to be here but her work kept her off Cardassia Prime. Soterra had a speech of ‘how women should not be considered naturally born engineers,’ which made Brenok cry with laughter; Jarol poked him each time he giggled. Tasar had a speech full of warnings for his ‘poor, little brother’ while Mama Karama declared she was happy that both her sons found their happiness in their lives and finished with a humorous warning that if they wouldn’t listen to their wives, they’d have to deal with her.

Cardassians knew how to have fun and even if someone tried to convince them otherwise, they retained that ability of enjoying themselves for this particular tradition.

Simply put, it was another ‘the happiest day of my life.’


tbc
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