All right, DavidFalkayn
: you're about to get your wish.
Please note these events are referenced in the DS9 relaunch novel Demons of Air and Darkness
. However, Sigils and Unions
is its own timeline and reserves the right to deviate from that novel and any other novel whenever I wish.
2375—The Dominion War—Aftermath of the attack on Rondac III
Superheated steam vented into every other corridor Gul Macet traversed as he wove his way from his quarters to the bridge, forcing him to duck out of the way when the gas jets blew too intensely. Though his microscales deflected the worst of it, the repeated exposures still smarted. The turbolifts were still down, so he and every other crew member aboard the Trager
had to line up at the emergency stairs and maintenance access points to move from deck to deck; transporter power was being reserved for emergencies only. Though Macet worked to avoid calling attention to himself, at every such point the crowds of soldiers spotted him immediately and someone inevitably shouted, “Gul’s here—step aside!” The other side of possessing this beard
, he thought wryly to himself. He treasured their disciplined loyalty…but in moments like these when the entire crew was called upon to suffer for Cardassia together, this sort of preferential treatment rubbed his scales the wrong way.
, following the assault on Rondac III, was almost a shell of itself. Illogical as it was, Macet’s nerves ached much like those of his counterpart on the Sherouk
—not for any injuries he had suffered, but for those of the ship he had commanded for ten years now. This place had been his home for all that time, his shelter against the storm of Cardassian politics, for whoever had determined he would never again rise in rank and posting had also left him—whether intentionally or not—in what amounted to his greatest stronghold. And now…the Trager
wailed at its wounds without a voice from the bowels of the engine room to the tip of its backfin.
No, that was wrong…it did
have a voice: the low moan that accompanied the periodic brownouts every time this deck or that was forced off the main grid and onto emergency power, either by the engineers’ choice or by some new system failure. Every time this happened, Macet’s breath caught: would they be plunged back into irrevocable darkness this time, as they nearly had been when Mendral spun the ship out of the way of a bolt from that awful Breen energy dissipater?
The gul would never forget what happened next: one of the Hidekiy
-class shuttles accompanying the Trager
and the two fast-attack cutters had dipped suddenly in its trajectory, punched into warp for a fraction of a second, and then shed its warp field with a flash at a blistering .99 c, not a kilometer from the Breen warship. Against a missile of such size and velocity the Breen’s shields could not stand. Even the ship’s autoevade protocols were helpless. The shuttle smashed through them like paper, collided with the dissipater, and shredded both ships into a fiery tail of debris.
Please tell me that’s not the only way to defeat these creatures
. Macet wasn’t sure who or what he was addressing…he just knew that terrible weapon was yet another threat to the fragile liberation movement they would somehow have to contend with on top of the Dominion war machine—or else that desperate shuttle crew’s final recourse would have to be theirs. If
the right data was where they hoped it to be, if
they succeeded in taking their objective in the first place, if
they even gained the means and the strength to do so…
A terrible chill descended to meet Macet as he climbed up the maintenance ladder. Here the straining environmental controls could only maintain a temperature just above the freezing mark, for just to his left, only a forcefield separated him and his crew from the void. His skin literally tightened in response: this crawling sensation was that of microscales locking down as tight as they could to contain whatever heat they could manage to hold. Still, no Cardassian dared remain in such an environment for more than a few minutes without winter gear lest the tips of his fingers freeze. Even the old, now out-of-regulation combat gloves Macet had dredged up from the back of a drawer were only of marginal assistance.
Sixty men died here
, the gul silently lamented as he gazed through the ragged edges of the impact site upon the naked stars. It was the greatest single loss of life ever aboard the Trager
—a full tenth of his crew, including Dalin
Haravl, blown into space by a single torpedo. The wound itself spanned three entire decks from where the torpedo had impacted on the ship’s summersun, or topside. Just as unnerving as what had actually happened was how much worse this could have been—had the dwindling dorsal shields yielded just a fraction of a second before the torpedo’s arrival instead of cutting the missile to a quarter of its speed, the impact alone would have cloven away the entire backfin section. The Trager
would have been dead in the void then, its death sentence sealed as prelude to execution.
It had been Macet’s decision to enter into battle against Dominion forces…yes, his crew had assented, but it had been his
influence that had led them to that point. He had given a rousing speech there on the bridge, speaking of what it would mean to live and die as Cardassians…and these sixty—and nine more elsewhere on the ship—had done so to the fullest measure. Here, as he gained his footing on a deckplate so cold he could feel its deadly chill through the soles of his boots, ideology and cause were forced to kneel. Here was the chamber of the dead, most of whose families would never be able to give their loved ones’ bodies a proper funeral on Cardassia Prime. No one spoke in this place—all could feel it.
And now Macet was left to decide: dared he ask them to continue upon this course? The damage inflicted on the Trager
provided a more than sufficient excuse for the Ghiletz
to tow them back to the Lessek drydock where Damar had held the Sherouk
in reserve for future actions. At this point, the passage to Lessek would happen regardless. The four conspiring ships would converge in a single system. The question was what to do when they arrived. He still had not informed Damar of his plans, but secure communication was sporadic to say the least—moreover, in his last message to Macet, Damar had indicated it would be better for resisting cells to act on their own initiative lest the movement be betrayed from within.
So, as much as it offended Macet’s sense of obedience, Lessek would remain Macet’s personal initiative in concert with the other three guls. If Damar wanted his men to keep secrets like the Obsidian Order, he rationalized, then a secret it would stay. Macet believed his chances of raising the new strike force he had worked towards for so long quite favorable—but nothing would be certain until he finally looked the ranking officers in the eye and made his case in the open. Unlike an official tribunal, such a trial lacked the predictable, foregone conclusion, and Macet could only hope the odds, and interpersonal dynamics, would play out his favor.
His eyes drifted towards the field of stars. He clasped his upper arms with a shiver. It mattered not that his men were watching: he was a Cardassian, as were they. The cold was anathema and in those ancient, discarded legends, the tundra was the place where malignant souls went to die frozen for eternity in their own wrath, and absolute zero the very embodiment of evil where all striving and all existence ceased to be. Down to the very core of his being he would resist: not fear, not even pride would stand in his way.
After several seconds more, Macet softly fractured the silence. “We must give this meaning. And that we can do by carrying on in their memory.”
Glinn Topak, who supervised the solemn repair efforts, stepped to Macet’s side, clad in a fossil-grey, armored environmental suit that resembled the carapace of an insect. His voice carried to Macet through the suit’s chest-mounted speaker, but the words themselves remained undiminished. “Gul…I think I speak for us all when I say that we will give you, and them, no less
.” No uproar, no cry for vengeance exploded at the glinn’s remark as it might have aboard a Klingon or even a Federation vessel—not at a time like this. Such was not necessary with these servants of a dream, that someday Cardassia might be rid of its oppressors. In this
tribunal, there truly was only one possible outcome.