OK...in this section, a character with the first name of "Tayben" makes an appearance that if you've read the older DS9 novels, you might recognize. He's kind of an anomaly in the Cardassian Guard. Clues about older events that might help you recognize him are there in his "bio," although most of what happened to him that I cover is more recent than that.
I'll be interested to see if anybody recognizes Tayben for who he is!
After this post I'm going to take a break of a week or two so my writing can catch up and I can work on other projects--so you're going to get a longer section.
(References regarding the ranking system I'm using are in the Sigils and Unions background thread.)
“Gul!” trumpeted Dalin
Yorlad, the second-shift tactical officer. “Incoming transmission—it’s the Sherouk
No sooner was the ship’s name out of Yorlad’s mouth than Macet had already turned on his heel. “Put it through in my office.” Macet’s chest tightened: this would be his first contact with another ship of the fleet since successfully ridding the Trager
of all Dominion taint. Though the gul of the Sherouk
was a staunch member of their anti-Dominion cabal, there was no guarantee he had been able yet to mirror Macet’s accomplishment, and if their Vorta thought to intrude on the call and inquire of Arawil’s soldiers, there was no telling what might happen.
The smiling but haggard, oil-streaked face that greeted Macet put him at ease immediately. “Tayben, my friend,” Macet teasingly began, availing himself of the first name the other gul had offered him the year before, “I see you’ve immersed yourself deep in the repairs as usual. Your chief engineer must very much resent having you hover over her telling her everything she could be doing better…never mind your position; I’d imagine having a man
in her territory would be enough!” The male reputation, when it came to the sciences—even engineering, was not exactly a thing of pride in Cardassian society, even though a full third of the Cardassian Guard’s engineering and sciences personnel were in fact male, and not just the bottom third.
,” his protégé retorted, “she’s not complaining one bit. Any willing set of muscles is welcome on the lower decks, regardless of whether they come from waste reclamation or the gul’s office. I may be no good for delicate tasks, but I can do hound-work just as well as any other man and I’m not about to stand around useless while the rest of my crew bears all Cardassia on their shoulders
Macet well understood his fellow gul’s very personal reasons for rolling up his sleeves and taking on whatever heavy lifting was to be had aboard his battle-scarred vessel. Such would not be required or expected of a high-ranking officer under ordinary circumstances, but in his case any failure to do so might suggest to his crew that Central Command had been right when they had tried to force him into retirement after that debilitating phaser hit on Volan III.
The mission had been a concession, in part, to the Federation ambassador: an attempt to demonstrate to their colonists under Cardassian jurisdiction in the Demilitarized Zone that their lives could improve drastically with a little peaceful cooperation, that cargo shipments could resume and with them health and prosperity. Tayben had made an ideal candidate for the mission thanks to his reputation as one of the coolest heads in the Cardassian fleet. Macet, who was thought of similarly, wished dearly that Central Command had listened to his entreaty to note his more mature age and proven success in forging a working relationship with a high-ranking terhăn
. Instead, the commander of the Sherouk
had beamed down to the planet and run afoul of a Maciy
assassination attempt within minutes. It had been a glancing hit Macet could easily have healed from with no lasting effects, but Tayben already taken another direct hit two years before that under circumstances he refused to discuss even with most of those closest to him. That bolt had struck from point-blank range, another two years before that. Tayben had been lucky enough last time that after a few months only medical scanners detected any signs of trauma.
time the neural shock nearly killed him; the scarring proved too much to reverse completely. There were days when his friend’s body was wracked with shooting, unpredictable pains that he dared not allow any but his closest friends to recognize. But worse for a man with his extensive engineering background, he had lost the use of his hands for tasks requiring fine motor skills. On a bad day, Tayben could not hold a stylus in his hands to scrawl his own name; even on his better days, manipulating a computer console for much more than ten minutes or so at a stretch proved too much for the damaged nerves.
Central Command had tried to discharge Tayben as a matter of standard procedure, but the man had already suffered humiliation and loss of rank once during a political shakeup two years before the Volan incident, and now that he had achieved the rank of gul, he was not about to go down without a fight. Thus he determined to resist the separation order.
His petition could have killed him had it not reached the right desk, where one Legate Ghemor saw something in the young officer and appealed on his behalf. Now Tayben held the distinction, esteemed by some, sneered at by others, of being the highest-ranking man in the Cardassian Guard to continue his service in the face of physical disability, and one of only six to serve shipboard. For that reason, only those as close to Tayben as Macet was could ask what he now did. “Hound-work, you say? Are you at all concerned about losing your grip at the wrong moment?”
The other gul’s smile gave a wry twist: only these trusted few would receive a truthful answer. “All the time, Akellen—but I refuse to turn down work I know I’m capable of handling in that moment, even if it pushes the limits of my endurance.
“You must be driving Yejain crazy,” Macet playfully chided, referring to the glinn Legate Ghemor had hand-selected to fill both the usual second-in-command billet and to assist him in shipboard tasks for which Tayben lacked the manual dexterity.
“If I am, he’s doing a fine job of hiding it. Yejain is as discreet and dependable as ever, and ever more adept at contributing at exactly the right time without making a spectacle of it. Our old acquaintance made a wise choice in him and I will never tire of saying it
“That’s good to hear,” Macet replied. His voice trailed off and his eyes darkened. “Something tells me there’s more of a purpose to your call than singing the virtues of your crew, though.”
The gul of the Sherouk
nodded. “Indeed. I regret to inform you that the
Romac did not fare well at Septimus III…the Dominion placed our ships in point position…which is to say, the entire extent of our spaceborne position: the
ghentregă’ămsthe never sent a single reinforcement! We took heavy damage—the
Romac even worse. And we were the lucky ones—the entire Eleventh Order was lost planetside… five hundred thousand men! The Klingons practically blasted the atmosphere off the planet! And there was nothing we could do, not a thing—we couldn’t drop our shields for even a second, the way they were hammering at us!
A tear slid down Tayben’s cheek as he gathered his strength to continue, one of many he had undoubtedly shed away from the view of his men. Macet made no comment; that he had been permitted to see this was enough. “The
Romac is still spaceworthy, just barely, but the loss of capability and personnel was severe. We have spent the past week trying to restore sufficient structural integrity for us to tow them to Lessek for repairs—that we managed to tractor them and pull them out of the Klingons’ way after their shields fell was a miracle
.” One that few commanders besides Tayben would likely have had the intuitive grasp of timing, graviton collimations, and stress tolerances to attempt, Macet mentally added: there was a reason soldiers throughout the Guard spoke of the man and his ship as if they wore the same skin. “I would have apprised you of the situation sooner, but between the
Romac’s damage and our own, we’ve barely had enough time to breathe, let alone make contact with you or anybody else
“What about Rebek? Did she survive?”
“With some nasty plasma burns down her back…but yes, Gul Rebek is expected to leave sickbay within the week. I warn you, though…if the way she is now is any indication, this battle weighs heavily on her and we must be sure she knows she doesn’t stand alone. Their Vorta was badly injured after the
Romac lost shields, enough to render him comatose. When that happened, the Jem’Hadar went on a rampage through the ship and killed a number of the crew while we were still engaged with the Klingon fleet. Some quick thinking by their chief engineer—Glinn Meray—stopped it…and let me put it this way: I would not want to be that man’s enemy and use any transporter he touched. They’re
still trying to get the blood out of the deckplates and it’s now looking like he fused it in there permanently at least a centimeter deep
.” Tayben shuddered; Macet knew him well enough to distinguish the gesture of revulsion from the subtle tremors that accompanied his pain episodes like the one he seemed to be having at the moment, though his voice betrayed nothing.
Macet leaned back, folding his hands as he closed his eyes for a moment. “I am pleased, at least, to hear that Rebek lived. So when do you believe the Romac
will be ready to tow?”
“We should be ready in another week, about the time Rebek gets back on her feet. With luck, I should be able to make the case for at least one more
Gălor to accompany us. Preferably, of course, I would like either you or the
Ghiletz in that spot, but not both at the same time lest we show ourselves associating too much outside our standard assignments
“If Gul Speros has no compelling objections,” Macet suggested, “I would prefer you select the Trager
. We have a transfer of nine to arrange and with that many at the same time, it will be easier to manage if we’re already in the Lessek system. Beyond that…we are operating at ‘peak levels’ and I do not know whether the same can yet be said of the Sherouk
or the Ghiletz
Tayben grinned, a grim, hungry exultation. “The
Ghiletz…I do not believe so. The
Romac certainly is in
that way even if in no others, and as for us…we are, but we’re relying solely on holo-imaging and thus of the three of us freed so far, we run the greatest risk of exposure. I have been working very closely with Motreln to enhance the illusion, but I make no guarantees
“Of course. Now, Tayben…once I make my transfer, what will this bring our total numbers to?”
“We have a few as well, and adding them in, I make that eighty-two
“And how many of our own have we been able to divert to Lessek? I have six of my own crew on detachment…”
“…for a total of thirty, if we count all of the Lessek personnel we’ve recruited as fully loyal. And there are some about whom I have my doubts. The most realistic estimate is twenty-two—provided, of course, there are no active betrayals leading to the purge of the entire cadre
Macet winced. “Not enough. When the time comes, we’ll certainly have to reduce manning beyond our current levels if we expect to make any significant inroads. Except the Romac
, of course…it sounds like the war has already accomplished that for them.”
“And it may do the same to any of us yet, if they continue placing us on point as they seem so fond of doing. We’re just
tăspar eggs to throw at the alliance’s windshields for all they think of us, and like the egg, the result is just as painful for us
.” Picturing the contents of a raw tăspar
egg, Macet had to admit the grotesque image was apt indeed. “Something has got to break soon, Akellen
,” his friend insisted. “If it doesn’t…
The commander of the Trager
nodded, intensely aware that in this gesture he was committing himself to an act that if things ended badly, could condemn him and his entire crew to a slow death for treason. At best, it could be no less than the salvation of Cardassia. “Indeed. We’ll stand by until your recommendation passes and the orders come for us to rendezvous. And at that time, we will assess the situation most