Ziyal cried non-stop upon crashing upon Dozaria. This angered both the Bajoran prisoners and Cardassian masters that had survived the initial crash. She couldn't help herself and every time she was cursed at or slapped, she began to wail louder in response. She was only a child, by far the youngest person that had been on the ship Ravinok which was in ruined fragments, shot down by some hostile creature on what was thought to be an uninhabited barely M class planet.
The Cardassians suspected Breen aliens were behind the attack since Breen Confederacy space bordered the planet along with the Cardassian Union. If that was the case, they were all in deep trouble. They had maybe just enough time to bury their dead and try to hide to avoid capture and torture. Even the Roumulan Empire feared and mistrusted that particular species. The Cardassians had largely tried to ignore the Confederacy because they were fighting so many wars on so many fronts already. They couldn't afford to be dragged into yet another costly conflict. Although they had never had problems with Bajorans, they didn't expect good treatment either. Breen were xenophobic and as exploitative as the Cardassians.
Ziyal was forced to bury the woman that had given birth to her because no one else would lift a finger to help. They were supposed to be on Lissepia right now living out their days in peace. Her father Gul Dukat had promised her that he would join them there when the Occupation was over. He had assured her that would be very soon. She noticed her mother was skeptical of that promise, though she didn't speak her doubts aloud. It was something her daughter sensed with intuition. Despite that, her mother had seemed quite happy and was looking forward to living in safety with her hybrid girl. In fact, she might even be happier without the father nearby.
"You still love, father, don't you, mother?" Ziyal asked. "You are just angry with him for sending us away. He will come for us. I know he will."
Her mother nodded and said, "Of course I don't hate your father, Ziyal. It is just that we will be much safer without him. He will be safer too. Remember he has a Cardassian family to worry about. Why would he abandon his true wife and so many other children for us?"
"Because he loves us more."
"Ziyal, your father will choose honor over love. He is a Cardassian."
"Well, perhaps when the youngest child grows up, he'll have no real reason to stay there anymore."
"Knowing Cardassia and Central Command, his people will be wrapped in another war with someone else within the year. Your father is a soldier. He loves you, Ziyal, and he would never lie about that. However, you must learn not to be quite so naïve and not to trust everything he tells you. You can't rely on him or me anymore and you must start to grow up or you will not survive even on Lissepia. Someone will take advantage and swindle you."
With those words, her mother Naprem became silent and spent her last hours praying. Ziyal mediated on what she said and admired her mother from the corner of her eye. She was beautiful with silky dark hair and blue eyes. She had pale skin, a widow's peak, and an oval shaped face. She wore a sky blue dress covered discretely by a plain traveling cloak and hood. Neither the Cardassians nor her fellow Bajorans cared to see Tora Naprem displaying the clothes her Cardassian master and lover had tailored for her. They thought even less of Ziyal.
Ziyal had almost identical nose ridges and skin more of a tone somewhere between that of both her parents. Her father had hair of a similar color and texture, so Ziyal's hair was much the same. She had her father's twinkling eyes and Cardassian creases and ridges, though quite diminished both because of her gender and hybridization. She wore a simple pink dress and her mother had cropped her hair about her shoulders. It had once been long and braided so she could feel more like a princess and feminine like her mother.
Ziyal had been born in 2353 and was raised on the space station of Terok Nor. She was pampered and spoiled by her father and his inner circle. She had all the toys she could want but few playmates. Sometimes her father would bring her a lucky Bajoran girl-child to entertain her for a while. They warmed to Ziyal once she gave them candy but not a single one of them remained long enough to become a close friend. Her father would take them away for some minor infraction or no reason at all that Ziyal could find. She was quite lonely and sometimes threw a fit because her father robbed her of her friends.
"I will bring you a better friend, Ziyal," her father said to calm her.
"I don't want another friend!" she wailed at him when he took away the last girl. "I liked Lila! Why did you take her away?"
He never brought her another child again when she said that. He must not have realized how attached she was getting. She was young but she already knew that people were not toys that could be so easily replaced or seen as an upgrade.
Ziyal also began to get the feeling that she was living in a sort of protective bubble when she tried to escape their designated rooms the next day. She was curious about the rest of the station and she wanted to find her friend. She managed to bypass the locks on her bedroom door and the main door to their quarters. One of her father's men quickly snatched her before she had made it out of the immediate hallway. It was one of the few times her father punished her.
For once, it was her mother that comforted her and seemed rational when she warned her daughter, "Ziyal, you are a hybrid. I am not actually married to your father. There will be many people that won't instantly love you like your father and I. Once they get to know you, they'd never call you filthy names again."
"Why would anyone hate me?" the child asked.
"Cardassians and Bajorans are supposed to be enemies. Not all Cardassians are like your father. Most Bajoran women would rather die than allow him to love them. We are extraordinary exceptions. Some people will look at you and think the worst things."
"They will think vile things not worth repeating. Stay near your father and I and his trusted men. You risk getting hurt. People of all races and species can be quite cruel. We wish to protect you."
Ziyal didn't want to believe that people could be so cruel or that the universe would be so apathetic. But now that her mother was dead and everyone around her was treating her so badly, she supposed she had truly been a sheltered and naïve little thing and now she was truly and utterly alone amongst people that hated her very appearance.
The attack happened so fast and the crash was such a muddled mess, Ziyal had no capacity to truly understand anything that had happened. The Cardassian officers were still snapping at each other about it. Some theorized that Breen had no cloaking devices and that was a Romulan specialty. Still others insisted it must have been the work of Klingons or the blasted Federation since the so called 'Border Wars' had only just ended but could have easily been provoked again. Perhaps the humans were trying to be subtle and sneaky.
Ziyal had been knocked unconscious and was woken rudely by a Cardassian saying, "We lost twelve people out of our fifty passengers and crew. Gul Dukat's spoiled little princess is still alive! I guess I lose the bet!"
Her mother was dead beside her, impaled and mercifully killed instantly. She supposed her death could have been far more gruesome and painful. Her mother had likely saved her daughter's life in her last seconds, shielding her from the debris.
"She's heavy!" Ziyal pleaded to the Bajorans, thinking that surely they would aid in the burial of one of their own. "Help me!"
"Your mother was a whore and you are a mongrel that she should have torn out of her!" a Bajoran man replied and kicked dirt into her face.
She had to stumble blindly for a minute, trying to safely get the clumps of grave soil from her eyes without clawing at her retina. She sobbed her mother's name. She knew she was dead! She just didn't care. She wanted her arms around her and she wanted to hear her soft, low voice. She was in the denial stage of grief and knew she might never get over it.
"My mother was no whore!" she shouted the truth.
"She was a comfort woman!"
"She was the wife of Prefect Dukat!" Ziyal displayed the Bajoran wedding bracelet as proof. "She was a worker that fell in love with him and he never treated her like a slave! Cardassia might never recognize their union, but in the eyes of the Prophets, it must have been real!"
"Is that what the beast you call your father told you, hybrid brat?" the Bajorans weren't swayed at all. "Face the truth! You are a product of rape and not love! Your mother is dead and will decay and her pagh will be expelled from the Celestial Temple for her treachery! Do us a favor and lie down and die with her!"
"What did I ever do to you?"
"Your very existence is an affront to the Prophets!"
"But I am a worshiper myself!"
She began to quote the scriptures her mother had painstakingly taught her to prove she was no heathen. Sometimes her beloved father joined in on the prayers, but she knew they would never believe that. All she got was a blow to her stomach to silence her.
"No more blasphemy! Bury the cursed corpse and be done with your incessant whining! We have real heroes to bury over here!"
"Will any of you help me, please?" she switched to the Cardassians standing nearby and spoke their language.
While the Bajorans had spoken nastily, the Cardassians simply ignored her. She was confused. She had far more interactions with their kind than her mother's species. She looked more like them and they had to respect her father's status. These men managed to look through her. She stepped directly into their path and they barreled her aside. At least the Bajorans acknowledged she was there and didn't pretend she was invisible.
Not every single body got to be buried properly. At least Ziyal managed somehow to bury her mother before the biggest and loudest Cardassian suddenly collapsed. He had been hit with a stun gun from afar. The next man standing by followed his example and the entire group of survivors began to panic. The Bajorans tried to seize that chance to break away from their Cardassian captors. Ziyal sprawled upon her mother's grave and shut her eyes, playing dead.
She felt someone nudge her gently with a stun gun and opened her eyes in terror. A Breen warrior stood over her. No one had any clue what those creatures looked like. They wore refrigeration suits and masks. She supposed she knew now who had truly been behind the attack upon their ship. The Breen pulled her to her feet and didn't stun her. She supposed since she was a juvenile, the soldier didn't want to risk knocking her out and using too much force. Instead they forced her to help drag the others away.
The Breen were mining the planet of Dozaria for dilithium. The Cardassian ship was convenient prey and provided them with a bonus of Bajoran slaves as well as Cardassians. They seemed baffled by Ziyal and spent an hour just chatting to themselves in their robotically modified voices, no doubt debating which species she was. The Breen didn't care for the Bajoran and Cardassian conflict they knew was going on at the time. In fact, they found the race war amusing, but they didn't tolerate anyone wandering near their borders. The Ravinok had wandered too far into their territory and deserved its fate. They were justified doing whatever they wanted to the survivors.
When the others came around, the Bajorans grumbled but went to work immediately in the mines. They found such work all too familiar and preferred Breen masters to Cardassian masters. That didn't mean they were happy about their circumstances. Bajorans were spirited by nature and far tougher than they looked. It was the Cardassians that raised a stink. The Cardassians were chained and forced to work alongside their former prisoners!
"It was almost worth crashing here to see this!" the Bajorans jeered. "Look at you proud reptilians now!"
"Shut up, Bajoran scum!" the Cardassians seethed. "We won't be slaves for long when even the Breen realize we are far more useful as allies!"
"Keep clinging to that false hope! You Cardassians are not as smart as you think you are!"
The Cardassians tried to work harder to prove that they were the superior servants. They tried to speak to the Breen guards like equals and only got contemptuous glances or were struck for their arrogance. They hoped over time to earn privileges and their eventual freedom, but the Bajorans were proven right.
Also, while the Bajorans were united in their faith and hatred of the other aliens, the Cardassians mistrusted each other. They had a hierarchal society and refused to let that go even under their circumstances. Fights broke out amongst them or they tried to take out their frustration on the 'weaker' species and were severely reprimanded for it. It made no difference to the Breen whether they were Bajoran or Cardassian. They were all slaves now.
While the men were set to work in the mines and other hard labor, the women were set to work at more domestic tasks. They cleaned and organized. They nursed the injured and the sick. They built and repaired whatever needed it around the camp and gathered supplies, always guarded by at least three Breen while there were at least eight of them within the mines themselves.
Ziyal was young, certainly the only child or teenager, and the women were all Bajoran female prisoners. No Cardassian women had been on board their ship. They weren't happy to be saddled with the hybrid child but they had no choice. The Breen didn't understand why Ziyal was singled out for so much more mistreatment. They thought Bajorans loved children and even those creatures decided Ziyal was far more interesting than the rest.
The women designated Ziyal the water girl. Her main purpose in life now was to run to fetch it from its source, purify it, and run whatever she could to the men with a bowl and gourd to quench their thirst. They couldn't be trusted with rations. They fought or hoarded it if they were left to their own devices. This seemed like a minor task, but it was absolutely vital in their camp. The task took its toll on her. The water jugs were heavy and Ziyal was always thirsty herself, but she made sure everyone else got their rations before she did.
If she spilled a drop, the women scolded her. She became sun burnt; her unique pale gray skin flaked and peeled more than usual. Her gray lips became cracked and dry constantly. She had a slight advantage over the other prisoners. There weren't many times, but a few, when she was glad she was a hybrid. She had the gift of poikilothermy meaning she could adjust to the temperature around her better than a strictly cold or warm-blooded creature. She could deal far better with extremes than the Cardassians, Bajorans, or the Breen!
When she offered water to the Cardassian men at least that meant they were forced to see her. The Bajorans had been humbled all their lives. They knew better than to bite the hands that fed them or watered them. Ziyal also handed them the algae paste the Breen ate themselves and gave to their prisoners as rations. The Cardassian men were more stubborn. Some refused to accept pitiful rations or water from her. They came by their own stores of it or simply went as long as they could without. Eventually, though, they caved to thirst and began to drink from the water girl.
The first day she offered them water, a Cardassian shoved her aside, stole the gourd, and he drank his fill greedily. He looked so smugly at her, but he failed to think of his comrades. Even his fellow Cardassians hated his guts forevermore witnessing that selfish action. His status sank lower than the most criminal of the Bajorans. Ziyal discovered him beaten badly in the mines and reported it to the Breen and brought him to the women for treatment. The women let him lie down and demanded he should heal on his own.
Ziyal took pity on the man, despite his attitude toward her. She brought him water when the women weren't looking. The man looked grateful instead of hateful. He succumbed to his wounds, but he thanked the hybrid girl for showing her a shred of decency before he died. He also told her his name: Yollo.
It was sad that mere eye-contact was a considerable achievement for Ziyal, but it was. She began to smile like an angel and sing songs of rain and rivers so that the men in the mines knew she was coming in both alien languages. The climate was harsh dessert on this planet and so the men worked up unquenchable thirsts. They couldn't help but look forward to the girl's voice and face after a few months and soon ran to greet her every time. The Bajorans blessed her instead of cursed her.
The women began to tolerate her too, especially an old matriarch. The Bajoran woman had silver hair that coiled in thick ringlets past her shoulders. She had dark eyes, a round face, brown skin, and she was small as a child but tough as nails with a sharp tongue.
"Come here, water girl," she beckoned. "Let me help you carry that jug before you fall on your strange face!"
"Yes, thank you, milady!" Ziyal huffed.
"Heh!" the woman let out a dry cackle. "I ain't no lady! According to the Cardis, I'm a murderess! Well, at least your mother taught you manners. They'll do you no good here."
"Are you really a murderess?" Ziyal asked nervously.
"I was the best sniper in my cell," the crone declared proudly. "My hands aren't shaky yet! Besides, it is murder I'm guilty of or self-defense?"
"I don't know," Ziyal stammered.
"You probably don't know, do you? How could you? I used to think there was no way the Prefect of Bajor's daughter could possibly be ignorant of the sins of her father. Now after watching you for a time, I'm starting to think you were brainwashed by him."
"My father liked Bajorans!" she defended her father.
The old woman looked so offended she stopped trying to talk to the hybrid girl for weeks after that. Ziyal approached her and apologized profusely but the woman started to behave like the Cardassians had. She looked through her with unseeing eyes. Ziyal burst into tears and ran away to pray. Finally, the woman sat beside her and joined her in prayer.
"Please don't hate me!" Ziyal begged. "Why do you all hate me?"
"We hate the circumstances that led to your birth. Do you really think your mother would have given your father the time of day if he wasn't a man of immense power over her?"
"But my father forbids mass genocide!" Ziyal desperately tried to explain. "Central Command wanted to wipe out all Bajorans! Did you know that? My father dissuaded mass genocide! There would be no Bajorans left unless my father had intervened!"
The old woman looked thoughtfully at her and grunted, "Maybe, maybe not. I have wondered why they didn't just execute all of us long ago."
"Why wouldn't you accept my apology?"
"Cardassians don't like to apologize even to each other. It's doubly hard to think they are sincere when they say it to a Bajoran. I happen to think like a Cardassian sometimes. I don't like empty apologies. I prefer actions. I am slowly realizing you are not full Cardassian, child. You pray. I thought you were faking your faith as well. Clearly you are not, though you have no Bajoran earring."
"Would I be allowed to wear one or would that be seen as a false display?"
"You are right. Bajorans would be made angrier at the sight and it would mark you some sort of traitor to Cardassians. I've never considered how hard it must be for you."
"Why do the Cardassians hate me?"
"They are racists, plain and simple. Bajorans hate others mostly because they are atheist creatures more than anything else. That and they are cruel conquerors. The work my men are doing in that mine seems like a vacation compared to what the Cardassians had in store for them."
"What would have happened to you all?"
"Execution by slow starvation and overwork. That was happening on Terok Nor as well, you know, but that station's focus is work not death. No doubt we were going to be shipped to Gallitep or a place like it."
"Wow, you really do know nothing!"
"Tell me and rectify that error."
"That's not my place. Ask your Cardassians instead. They are the creators of such places so they should know far more than me."
"Who are you?"
"Ebra is my surname. That's all I'll grant you for now, water girl."
The first Bajoran male that ever bothered to speak to her was Lorit Akrem. He seemed to be the leader of the Bajoran prisoners. He smiled at her and thanked her for the water. His friend beside him, Heler, made a religious gesture. It had taken almost a year, but it seemed that her mother's species had accepted her before her father's.
It took another year before any Cardassian would speak to Ziyal. Ironically, they began to befriend their former prisoners first. They began to respect Akrem in particular. The Bajoran man would step in to stop fights between the Cardassians at each other's throats before the Breen did. Whenever the Cardassians fought, all the miners were punished by a withdrawal of rations. The Breen decided to let them put to a vote who would speak for them and oversee them and they all unanimously voted that Akrem would be their overseer.
Unlike a Cardassian overseer, Akrem ruled by learning about the men underneath them and appealing to their sentiments. He knew which men despised each other and should never be chained together. He had a little more trouble pleasing the Cardassian men. They didn't share his faith, his language, or culture so it was much harder to discern their desires. Ziyal stepped in to help him.
"Akrem, I have a suggestion. Please don't yell at me for the idea. I know it might sound shameful to you," she whispered.
"I am willing to listen," the Bajoran responded.
"The Cardassian men don't need more breaks to pray. None of them are believers. They need less food and water than your people."
"You see my dilemma then," Akrem groaned. "What could I possibly offer them as an incentive?"
"They will never admit it, but they do have a need far greater than your men need it. They are lonely particularly for female companionship. The Bajoran men have no trouble getting that in the camp but the Cardassian men have no women of their own among the populace."
"Are you suggesting-"
"If there is even one Bajoran woman willing to show them the slightest attention besides hatred and hostility, it might make all the difference in the world. She shouldn't be forced, of course, and she might only have to hold a man and sing to him for a few minutes. Even that might be enough to get these men through a hard day. Cardassian men are far more sentimental than they let on. I know. My mother and father got along, didn't they?"
Akrem considered her and what she said for a long stretch and then he nodded, "I will speak to the women. If the Cardassian men need less rations, perhaps they will agree to something in return for their touch. Thank you, Ziyal. I certainly would have never considered this. Most of our women will likely be insulted but one or two might not mind. This sort of thing would be entirely their choice and on their terms. It would be different than what was expected before."
"I hope so."
To their surprise, some of the younger women volunteered to be companions of the Cardassian men. They had many demands, but the Cardassians were so overjoyed to have contact with any women again that they happily agreed to them all. They started to fight less and the morale of the mine went up. When they pried it out of Akrem who had really suggested the arrangement, they began to change their mind about the water girl.
"You know, you're not so ugly yourself," a Cardassian man said to Ziyal the next day as she offered him water. "You are the closest to a Cardassian women we can get. You are a bit young for my taste and not a real Cardassian, but if you ever…"
Ziyal blushed, "You are right. I am too young. I have not even hit puberty yet."
She was fourteen, but she was a late bloomer. A part of her worried that since she was hybrid she might never bloom properly. No Bajoran man ever made such suggestions at her. She was slightly put off as well because these Cardassian men had treated her so horribly for two years now. Suddenly, at the prospect of sex, they decided she wasn't so bad after all? Besides, she remembered what her father had said to her about Cardassian men.
"Our men are deceitful and there is only one thing on their minds, my dear Ziyal!" he said firmly and reminded her often. "I am the only Cardassian man that will ever truly love you for your spirit. Especially stay away from older men! They are being shallow and selfish and think younger girls are easy, naïve, and in most cases they are not entirely wrong. Be wary of them!"
Luckily they never once had an incident of assault upon the women of their camp, but just to be safe, Ziyal began to sleep cuddled up beside Ebra. She had become something of a grandmotherly figure to her. Bajoran mothers were ferociously protective of children. She became a woman biologically the next year, but to nearly everyone in the camp, she was the baby that they all wanted to care of. She was the Water Girl.
By the time 2370 came around, Ziyal had gone from the most hated person in the camp to becoming everyone's darling. Even the Breen gave her extra paste, patted her head like a child, and the Bajorans and Cardassians were beginning to shed their prejudices toward the other species. They had no idea if the Occupation was still going on but it didn't matter on Dozaria. Ziyal was a woman by now and they had all been prisoners for four years. She was still convinced her father would come to rescue her every day.
"It's only a matter of time," she reassured them all. "My father was still Prefect before he sent me away. He has resources and motivation. He loves me. He will come for me."
"If he does, it will be to destroy you, Ziyal," Puias, a Cardassian that had become a sort of leader amongst them spoke.
"He wouldn't hurt me!" she insisted. "Never! He's my father!"
"No, girl. If the Occupation is over he will have to cover his tracks. It is a crime on Cardassia to allow a hybrid child to live. That's why my people dumped their offspring from comfort women into orphanages on Bajor. That's why they forced abortions. Everyone knows Dukat is married to a real Cardassian woman and has a real family. Last I heard, he had something like eight children with her. Do you think he is really going to risk his wife learning about your existence? My superior officer strangled his hybrid son the moment he was born and sterilized his comfort woman. He considered killing her too but decided to wait and see how the Occupation went."
"You are a liar!" Ziyal hissed, horrified by what he said.
"I wish I were lying."
"And what happens if you get Jerda pregnant?" Ziyal demanded. "Would you kill her baby?"
Puias had been holding his Bajoran companion until she said that. Jerda made a noise of distress. Puias gave her a contrite look before he addressed Ziyal.
"We have all been very careful. No child should be raised in a prison camp. Obviously if she became pregnant, it would be her decision what to do with it because she is the mother. I would support her decision."
"Who knows what the Breen would do?" Jerda shuddered. "They might make the choice for us. An infant can't work!"
"I was a comfort woman in my youth, Ziyal," Ebra confessed.
"You were? You, of all people?" Ziyal was astonished.
"Not by choice!" the old woman said bitterly. "I became pregnant and refused to bear a hybrid. If I had ever thought for one second that the child might have been a girl or half as sweet or as beautiful as you, maybe I would have kept her. I don't know."
Ziyal was flattered and horrified all over again. She had been forced to grow up so much in the past four years. She was beginning to think she had grown up too much. She wanted to see the good in people. She wanted to bring people together. She had, in a sense, brought these former enemies together. There was a time Jerda and Puias would have killed each other rather than have willingly mated! She especially didn't want her father demonized.
"My father would never kill me!" she said it over and over. "My father loves me."
"And if he finds us, he would drag all of us Bajorans to Gallitep!" Akrem snapped. "Your father is no saint!"
"We wouldn't let that happen," Puias assured him.
"Dawn is almost here. We better return to the mines," Heler reminded them all.
Puias kissed Jerda and the women began to tidy the sleeping area that the men left. Ziyal wandered to gather water. Later that afternoon, she heard a terrible rumbling sound from the mines. There were screams and shouts. She ran to the mines despite the Breen guards trying to hold her back. Some of the miners were able to be rescued from a collapsed mine, but not everyone.
"Who is still trapped inside or crushed?" Ziyal cried.
Heler was at her side, "Puias, Akrem, and several others."
"No!" Jerda wailed.
The Breen had to use force to calm the survivors and women in the camp. They did roll call and a count. Ziyal was already in a state, but she noticed Ebra was missing too. Where was the woman that had become like her grandmother?
She was dead too. She had gone into the mines to discuss something with Akrem and was crushed with several others. Ziyal buried another body but at least she was offered help this time. Heler and Jerda were at her side.
"My father will come for me," she said to herself. "He will. We will live together safely somewhere like Lissepia. We will go to a better world without hate. He has to."
Notes: In 2372, the episode 'Indescretion' takes place and the prisoners were finally liberated from the camp. There isn't much information on what happened to the Breen or the other survivors besides Ziyal, although the Occupation was over by then. Go watch the episode if you don't already know what Dukat does when he finally is reunited with his daughter!