OK, guys, here's the last section before I go off the grid for awhile. Next post should be the 24th, depending on how crazy things are.
The events here are referenced in the Gateways novel Demons of Air and Darkness
, and I decided I liked them enough to carry them over into the Sigils and Unions
2375—The Dominion War—One week after the Septimus Massacre
To Gul Macet, commander of the
You have received this message because you are known to me as a true patriot of Cardassia who knows how to take an unpopular stand no matter how many oppose it. I know of your involvement in restoring the Detapa Council and your association with Legate Ghemor, but I hold neither against you. In fact, it is this proven record that makes you one of the first to whom I turn.
The loss at Septimus III of the Eleventh Order is a ghastly affront to the Cardassian people. We were permitted exactly
three ships to defend against the entire Klingon fleet and not a one from our glorious allies though they made me promise after promise as the situation unfolded. And
this is the role they’ve scripted for us! No longer, Macet. I will stand for it no longer. Knowing your thought and temperament, I would not be surprised to find out you are ahead of me on this, but though I am a latecomer to say the least, I am here now and would ask that we stand together.
I understand this message may seem incredible coming from the man who has so long stood by and let them carry out these atrocities. I am also aware of my reputation of late, all of it richly deserved. I became a mere shadow of myself and I tried to drown my personal failures in empty pleasures…and worst, I let our entire race suffer for it. I may never be able to make up for what I have done, in the eyes of the Cardassian people, or even yours. Nonetheless I
must try to make amends.
I am asking you, and other elements of the First, Third, and Ninth Orders to help me: I propose armed rebellion…
Macet’s heart raced as he finished scrolling through the contents of the heavily-encrypted transmission. This was it—the fruition of everything he had been waiting for! The proposed target was the Dominion cloning facility on Rondac III, a target that while somewhat lacking in strategic value from a military perspective, would destroy the Vorta ability to resurrect themselves. He had to admit the wisdom of it: not only would this be an excellent symbolic strike against the Dominion hierarchy, but any set of Vorta abilities and memories from now on would disappear permanently, piling strain upon strain on the ailing Founder.
, a smug voice in the corner of his mind reminded him, the real Arawil won’t be coming back.
That said, Macet still dared not execute the frozen Vorta lest some system in her termination implant alert the Dominion that a Cardassian had regained control of his ship. Nor did he dare allow the restoration of Mindesa Rhos to her true appearance, for the same reason: though by now the rest of the crew was well aware of who ‘Arawil’ really was, it still hadn’t made things any easier on the young woman from the city of Lakariy’ane who had to be greeted by that smarmy, treacherously smooth face and those unnatural, ta’cardăst
bright orange eyes every time she looked in the mirror. And according to Dr. Istep’s latest assessment, the extended assignment was taking a definite physical and psychological toll on her, one whose long-range consequences could not be predicted. This put a damper on Macet’s enthusiasm.
But now was no time to lose himself in contemplation. If this attack had any chance of success, Macet could not hesitate. He practically rocketed to the bridge, padd with Damar’s message still clutched firmly in his hands. “It’s official: Cardassia shall rise up against the Dominion!” Macet exulted as soon as the doors hissed open. “It seems our leader has come around and decided the true patriots of Cardassia will attack Rondac III. We will be joined there by five Laghur
-class fast-attack cutters, where we will form a combined strike fleet and make an assault run on the planet.”
The bridge erupted with a thunderous—dare one say, defiant
cheer…all except for Mindesa Rhos, who raised a skeptical brown-haired eyebrow where once there would have been a cartilaginous ridge. “Gul…if I may speak openly…”
“Go ahead,” Macet decided.
Rhos crossed her arms over her soft Vorta suit much as Arawil once had. “How do we know Damar isn’t simply being used by the Dominion to root out the less-than-perfectly-loyal elements of the Cardassian fleet? We know they’re not above sending Cardassians to the slaughter if it suits their cause. And we also know there’s no amount of boot-licking beneath that sorry excuse for a man.”
Macet flushed all the way from the ridges of his jawline to the very tips of his ears. Under ordinary circumstances, he would have had such a crewperson thrown in the brig for speaking that way of Cardassia’s leaders and another commander might have done more—but he reminded himself that Rhos was under a tremendous amount of stress. Furthermore, there was sense in her objections. The gul decided the best course of action was to deflate them by answering as directly as possible and dealing with Rhos’ borderline-insubordinate attitude later. “It seems Damar himself became aware of that. And in the end, that realization brought him around. In truth we cannot know for sure what has happened until we arrive in the Rondac system…but if we die, we will die like Cardassians, fighting for our right to govern our own affairs without foreign interference. That is why I have decided I will answer the legate’s summons,” he concluded, carefully reminding the enlisted Rhos of Damar’s standing relative to hers. “I am prepared to go to Rondac.
“Gul?” Mendral turned all the way around in his seat, stunned at the politeness
of Macet’s command. As Macet’s inferior, he ordinarily would have expected the subordinate address and a direct command—ousighukum
, not this request to an equal.
He beheld resolution etched on Macet’s every ridge and scale. “You heard correctly,” confirmed the gul. “We are all Cardassians here. And what we prepare to undertake is an act very few of our kind have carried out and lived to tell of it. This could be our redemption or our demise, but I do this because I believe Damar has come to speak for the true Cardassian Union. This is our chance to strike while the Dominion still lacks a full measure of the threat, before Damar makes the official announcement of rebellion. You must trust that he has contacted me and that his intentions are what he states they are. However, though I strongly urge you to follow…I believe that in a case like this, trust is a choice, not a command.”
“I will follow,” announced Thouves Daro, a softspoken man of keen eyes, and Gul Macet’s trusted right-hand man. Glinn Daro had returned to Macet’s side as day-shift XO now that he was no longer needed to monitor the Dominion contingent at night. One would never assume, from the demeanor of ‘Inquisitor Daro,’ so nicknamed for the history professorship he nearly attained before his conscription, that he had come up through the ranks of the Mechanized Infantry before Macet brought him, then a dalin
, to the Trager
. But Daro—Thouves, when he and Macet spoke alone—knew war as only the ground soldier could: dirty, exhausting, and intimately personal.
Now the Federation War veteran’s eyes stared ahead into the space beyond the viewscreen, full of brooding thoughts Macet could only guess at: this was not the first time Daro had faced the choice between obedience and courage, and the entire crew knew it. As with Macet, there were reasons Daro had remained in this posting for so long, and as with Macet, they accepted it. Three words from that man can bolster or scuttle any endeavor, yet half the time he doesn’t realize the extent of his influence, or doesn’t
, Macet observed. He couldn’t have that on most other ships.
Retiring as Daro often seemed in a crowd, he had a way of winning the trust of his fellows one-on-one and among the crew Macet had painstakingly cultivated over the years his past was an asset, not a liability.
Sure enough, Mendral seconded almost immediately in the wake of Daro’s approval. “As will I.”
One by one, the entire crew present on the bridge, even Mindesa Rhos, gave their assent.
“Then we go to Rondac. Mendral…sesoghoke
leapt hungrily into warp with a panache that had not been seen on a Cardassian ship for almost two years: a helmsman’s devotion to a cause truly worth fighting for.