Okay...I'm going to go ahead and give you this section early. But there may be a bit of a hiatus after this, because the distance between posted chapters and what's written is closing a bit more than I would like. By the way, if anyone wants to actually hear the Cardăsda phrases pronounced, let me know and I'll whip up a recording and post it to the background thread.
(Oh, and that's not a typo on Va'Kust's name in that one section--that's Ilojan transliteration because I switched into Cardăsda for that part.)
The sound of grinding gravel greeted Spirodopoulos as he closed the mess hall door behind him—heavy Cardassian boots skidding to a sudden halt. The Starfleet officer failed to restrain a momentary grin: Va’Kust had been pacing. He seemed taller when I first saw him
, Spirodopoulos thought. Then common sense kicked in. He’s still built like a Klingon with the Golden Gate Bridge on his shoulders…it’s just that now I’m looking at him as a potential ally instead of imagining that bulk pounding me into the ground.
Va’Kust looked up, arms crossed. Meeting Spirodopoulos’ eyes, his prominent lips matched the human’s expression with a cryptic half-smile of their own. “Kiba’avzayn
, Spirodopoulos,” he said, encircled eyes filled with expectations. “I hope that look means you have brought us such.”
“Bocot kiba’avzayn edek
,” Spirodopoulos replied in cautious Cardăsda, his speech slow to help him focus on distinguishing the ‘k’ shared by both men’s native languages from the heavily-aspirated ‘c.’ I bring good tidings.
“It took awhile, but I got unanimous agreement—we’re in.”
The big Cardassian bowed slightly, the effect rather like a skyscraper swaying in an earthquake: a highly visible gesture, but one that did almost nothing to diminish his height. “Bocot kiba’avzayn çad nou
,” he reiterated with the same careful diction, mirroring Spirodopoulos’ Cardăsda phrasing to give him the best chance of hearing his words past the translator, which could never properly render in Federation Standard the most crucial nuance of his reply—that small aspect marker ‘nou
,’ which meant in this context that Va’Kust acknowledged a significant act of kindness: the sort he considered immortalized in time even after the benefactor and the recipient were long dead.
Spirodopoulos bowed in acknowledgment and Va’Kust’s smile widened further. The glinn lifted his wrist and tapped a button on his communicator. “Va’Kust to Gul Rebek—I have a definite affirmative.”
” the lady gul reveled. “Summon all of your men and his to Building One-Maçliyd; we’ll meet you there.
” Spirodopoulos recognized the designation as the largest of the restricted buildings, a structure large enough to park several shuttlecraft. Could
that be what they’ve got in there?
he wondered as Va’Kust signaled the other Cardassians.
A few minutes later, the entire contingent of one hundred and twenty-five Federation crew and thirty-six Cardassians stood before the expansive building. “This base where you’ve been living was intended at the beginning of the war to become a survival training center,” explained the gul of the Sherouk
. “We didn’t initially plan to use the shipyard. Those plans were scrapped when the Dominion decided some Cardassian shipbuilding operations would be moved here in order to give more desirable systems like Monac to their own efforts. In the relocation process, the Vigilance Corps left certain supplies behind.” The young gul swept a hand at the building and clasped it immediately again behind his back as if snatching it away from the fangs of a hungry targ
. “This is the armory.”
Macet stepped forward. “This is not an easy thing to do,” he gravely declared. “This is an unprecedented act of trust between our peoples and I shall be frank: we are outnumbered and will soon be outgunned by you. For the sake of saving our people from the Dominion, we ask your faithfulness to your word.” This tallest of the guls turned to Va’Kust, who, impressively enough, had a couple of centimeters on him. “We need to begin immediately—the sooner they familiarize themselves with their equipment, the better.” Va’Kust acknowledged with a bow.
“Computer—open doors, authorization Va’Koust-rhakam-lect-ekou-rhăçim
.” Spirodopoulos heard the code in Cardăsda but understood the first part to be seven-orange-eight
, with the last being a letter in the Cardăsda alphabet.
The great doors, large enough to admit a runabout, slid open to reveal a vast storehouse: hand disruptors and rifles with their accompanying power packs, grenades, combat rations, rack upon rack of armor, and every other sort of equipment a Cardassian soldier could possibly ask for. How could all of this simply be
Spirodopoulos marveled. Not even the training division of the Cardassian Guard was known for that sort of carelessness—either they had pulled out in such a hurry that there had been no time to repurpose or destroy these supplies, or someone had intentionally ‘lost’ them with the idea of keeping one up on the Dominion.
“We’ll escort you inside in groups of twenty,” Va’Kust announced, “and match supplies and munitions to each of you, which will include ensuring a proper fit for your armor.”
“Excuse me?” somebody sniffed in the back of the Federation gathering. “You mean we’re actually wearing that?” Spirodopoulos’ first impulse was to turn around and chide the Tellarite responsible, but decided that not only would it not accomplish anything, but it would also single her out to the wary Cardassians as a potential troublemaker. He said nothing instead.
Va’Kust proudly drew himself to his full height and replied, “This armor does a better job at deflecting shrapnel and glancing phaser hits than the cloth uniforms you Starfleet people wear into combat. Given that we must begin this insurrection of ours with a ground assault—I strongly
recommend you avail yourselves of what we offer.” Spirodopoulos didn’t need to glance down at himself to recognize that despite his best efforts to wash and mend his worn uniform, it had seen better days. Much of the crew was in similar condition, some having already resorted to simple black, two-piece Cardassian replacements for uniforms too shredded for repair.
Ironic that it’s the Cardassians who finally get us what we’ve been lobbying for the whole time
, Spirodopoulos thought. Rumor had it a form of Starfleet armor, or at least some sort of decent flak jacket, did in fact exist, but no hint of it had ever been glimpsed on the front lines—leading to snide speculation amongst the ground troops that Starfleet Command’s insistence on the simple flame-retardant cloth uniforms was for no other reason but maintaining the image
of a peaceful force even in the muck of the trenches. Most likely, Starfleet had simply forgotten what a true ground assault was like.
“Let’s get started,” Spirodopoulos decided. Va’Kust gestured for the first group to follow the two of them into the storehouse.
A young Cardassian noncom whose armor inscription indicated her as Lessek base personnel moved to the fore of the group. Spirodopoulos thought he remembered the woman’s name to be Trughal. She pointed towards a raised circle on the floor about half a meter wide with a pedestal next to it, which looked rather like a transporter pad. Seeing this resemblance, he stopped just short. “It’s a fitter, not a disintegrator,” Trughal remarked with an exasperated sigh and crossed her arms. Va’Kust shot her a withering look Spirodopoulos’ American grandmother would have labeled ‘the skunk eye,’ and the noncom’s tone snapped to stony neutrality. “Just walk across.”
Spirodopoulos warily complied; nothing happened except a brief, low-pitched hum and a set of numbers flashing up onto the pedestal’s display screen. “That way,” Trughal indicated, pointing to a numbered rack in the corner of the room. So much for a happy little family
, Spirodopoulos thought.
For what felt like the millionth time as he donned the Cardassian battle armor, Spirodopoulos tugged at the neckline of his undershirt, trying in vain to pull it up as a breeze passed over the skin where his neck joined his shoulders. To its credit, the dark, burnt-umber shirt conformed much more closely to the wearer’s physique than the plain black pullovers one out of ten of the crew had already adopted, which from the way they draped off the shoulders clearly had not been designed with the rest of the quadrant in mind. Still, the new undershirt didn’t come up quite as far as he was accustomed to.
The tri-ribbed cuirass sat even lower on his shoulders right where the trapezius ended and the deltoids began, far from where the necklines of most Earth men’s fashions fell. In spite of this, the cuirass held firmly to its place, restrained by its metal-woven half-sleeves and similar material wrapped around the sides of his ribcage. Before actually laying hands on the cuirass, he had expected it to be a rigid, inflexible affair, but the texture reminded him now more of rubber, perhaps some sort of memory material—just flexible to let him bend down to touch his toes comfortably, but quickly springing back without a wrinkle when he stood.
His left arm felt off-balance as he lowered it back to his side: strapped around his wrist was the Cardassian combination communicator-translator—bulkier than its Starfleet counterpart but according to Glinn Va’Kust, capable of punching through several varieties of interference and jamming fields against which a Starfleet comm badge would be helpless. Counterbalancing the wristcomm, or so it felt, was the disruptor holster on his belt secured to his right leg with a leatherlike strap—a strangely-designed piece of equipment, though he had to admit it would beat having his sidearm smack his thigh with every footfall in a run…yet another
ingenious feature of Starfleet’s excuse for combat fatigues. But most importantly, its presence conveyed the Cardassians’ earnestness in arming the former prisoners.
“How the kosst
can you actually expect me to wear that?” Folani spat as she reached the head of the line across the room. “I may be throwing in with your little ‘resistance,’ but I’m not about to go there
“I expect you to be mature and follow your commanding officer’s example,” Trughal retorted as Spirodopoulos pulled his remaining boot the rest of the way over his calf to its final place not far below his knee and fastened it up the back as fast as he could. Oh,
damn…brace for impact!
“Don’t you dare
label the scars of the Occupation an ‘immaturity,’ Cardassian.”
“And don’t you
take it out on me when I didn’t set foot on your thrice-burned weed-ball!”
Spirodopoulos bolted to his feet.
“Then maybe you need a little education on just how much burning
your people did on Bajor!”
“And you need a little education on etiquette—but apparently that’s beyond your
capabilities.” Beyond the translator Spirodopoulos heard a definite plural on the viciously-spat modifier, not to mention the very pointed use of the subordinate address.
Folani clearly heard it too. “Look who’s talking, sp—”
Both of you stand down and shut up!” Spirodopoulos snapped, praying the sheer force of his order would be enough to shock Bajoran and Cardassian into submission. Both women’s heads whipped around to face him in a parallel motion that would have been amusing if not for the gravity of the situation. Their eyes bulged like marbles. I must be a hell of a sight—good!
he thought as Macet, Va’Kust, and Lieutenant T’Ruveh converged on their position, ready to pry the women apart if necessary.
Macet’s back was neutronium-rigid with rage, his demeanor more like Dukat’s now than Spirodopoulos had ever seen. “I want to know exactly
what the problem is here,” he growled, and Spirodopoulos realized that although Macet had been about the same distance away from Trughal and Folani as he had, the Cardassian’s ears could not resolve the furious shouting into distinct words, at least not reliably enough for him to stake a disciplinary action on it. Nonetheless, he allowed Macet to take the lead, for they had yet to be officially released—not to mention professional courtesy between militaries: the gul did
Trughal leveled a vicious glare at Folani with her accusation. “This Bajoran insists on demonstrating contempt for us and our generosity—”
“You will address me
, not her!” Macet warned with a tap at his breast. “And I strongly
suggest focusing on the content of the conversation, not the genetic structure of the other party.”
“She refuses—with obscenities—to don our armor. She insists on unloading her anger upon me for alleged Cardassian atrocities from before I even graduated preparatory school—”
The gul’s voice dropped nearly to a whisper, but the ice behind it was unmistakable. “Not another word.
Our leaders would not have issued an apology for actions taken during the Occupation had there not been substance to the allegations—and I
, furthermore, will not
suffer denialism in my presence. You are confined to quarters, all privileges revoked until further notice. Get out
.” The Cardassian noncom’s breath caught, visibly so even under the cuirass. Her eyes shone like a cornered vole at what must have seemed to her like an unconscionable breach of solidarity. “Ulath—Vencarh—see to it and keep watch.” Spirodopoulos watched expectantly to see if the young Trager
officers would comply with an order to incarcerate a fellow Cardassian for the sake of this macrocosmic alliance. Under their gul’s unblinking gaze, they did.
Folani smirked—and Spirodopoulos unleashed his own salvo. “You’re not off the hook, Ensign!” Her face promptly fell. “I’ve had enough of the belligerent attitude and I don’t care if you found it matched just now. It is your responsibility to be the bigger person and walk away instead of escalating the conflict. I don’t care what Trughal’s problem might have been—your tone and your language just threw antimatter on it. It’s not just what you said that I take exception to. It’s what you almost
said, and that
is conduct unbecoming of a Starfleet officer. That stops now
. That’s not this uniform talking,” he said, gathering a pinch of the right sleeve’s textured black fabric between his fingers. “It’s decorum
—the bigger part being to exercise it when you least feel like it.
“Now…on to actual substance. I respect your reservations about wearing a uniform that has been attached to so much anguish for you and the Bajoran people. And I suspect it must be hard to see me and so many others of us do so. I believe the gul and I are on the same page in that you or any of us must be free to decline without fear of reprisals.” He glanced over at Macet, his expression firm. Give this one to me—I’ve backed you this far.
The Cardassian met his eyes and nodded. “I just ask one thing of you: I might expect this lapse of control from someone Crewman Webene’s age, but I haven’t seen him lose his cool once. I’m sure you can do the same.” The Greek officer met her eyes and allowed a faint smile to tug at his lips. “Let’s move forward from here, all right?”
“All right.” Folani locked her eyes upon her commanding officer’s face to the exclusion of all else, much like a person forcing herself not to stare at a disfiguring injury.
Spirodopoulos cursed himself as he accepted the grudging concession. To think I was stupid enough to expect that I, Makis Spirodopoulos, could wipe away years of bad blood with a wave of my hand!