Gul Speros stood then, and the other three guls immediately followed suit. Macet’s hand wrapped around Spirodopoulos’ upper arm, drawing him to his feet with them, a maneuver he felt through his outer sleeve all the way into the semi-rigid cuirass. For the first time since they had met, the oldest Cardassian spoke at length. “Officers and crew of the Cardassian Guard—our world might as well be dying in this Dominion chokehold. This is not
Cardassia, but a sordid mockery of it. Only for this do we topple the pillar of order that has held up our society for so long: for the sake of setting it upright
once more. Never forget that what we do, we do not for our glory, but for that of Cardassia.” He lifted his glass with a saluting gesture familiar to almost every bar where humanoids dominated. No one drank, however.
Macet added, “To everyone gathered here…extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and today we have indeed accomplished something worthy of the word. We conceived of this joining of forces as a matter of mere pragmatism—how to mount a substantial resistance force without endangering ourselves or any other personnel we diverted to the effort.
“But from the first moment I looked any of you in the eye,” he said, meeting Spirodopoulos’ gaze, Ensign Wilkes, and that of several other Federation crew members in turn, “I quickly recalled an old lesson from my early years on the Trager
: the impossibility of attempting something like this without becoming personally invested—not just in the success of our operations, but in what it means for each of us as individuals and perhaps for the fates of Cardassia and the Federation after the last shots dissipate into the void. We have created something new tonight, a thirteenth Order, if you will, and though we will surely go our separate ways in the end, return to our own ships and units—this
you will never forget. This is for more than the present crisis…this is for the galaxy in which our children and grandchildren will live.”
The gul of the Trager
nodded to Spirodopoulos as the hall saluted his words. Mike had given his share of toasts at promotion parties within the security department, sure…but this
was a whole different playing field. This was history
—maybe not the sort the Federation News Service broadcast for the whole quadrant to see, but for each and every Starfleet and Cardassian Guard soldier present this night was the chapter header for an entirely new segment of their lives. What could he say that was equal to that
The Greek officer swallowed. “Ladies and gentlemen…” Ouch! Welcome to the circus!
his inner commentator sniped like a sportscaster over the slow-motion playback of a fumble. Too late—no reverse thrusters for this!
“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time Federation and Cardassian units have come together on this scale for a single cause and for every single one of us, it’s new territory. I’m sure all the Starfleet types in here have heard it until it ran out your ears—that our primary mission is exploration, and that it’s not just outer
space we’re called on to explore. Every single graduation, every ship commissioning, every change of command…it gets really
old after awhile.
“But you know what? This time, where I’m standing…I believe it. I haven’t forgotten the magnitude of the situation the Federation is in…my homeworld has been attacked, Starfleet’s out of the fight—and don’t forget, another people’s freedom is at stake. Now I haven’t forgotten where our governments stand towards each other and the risks we all take as a result of that. Our peoples have spent a long
time slinging torpedoes at each other, and insults when the guns aren’t firing—but I am ready to stake everything on the belief that wherever the cause of liberty is advanced, that’s where we belong. To freedom!” he called, lifting his glass.
” thundered the Starfleet contingent, raising their glasses high.
Spirodopoulos’ next words emerged without a single thought—if there was any, it was so fleeting it barely registered on internal sensors.
“To the Thirteenth Order!”
“To the Thirteenth Order!
” shouted the entire hall in unison.
I just say that?
The guls raised their glasses to their lips and a fraction of a second late, Spirodopoulos did the same. He threw back his head and sipped hard at the viscous blue liquid.
The Cardassians started to chant the seconds: “Çec—bret—dovay—kreth!
His eyes bulged as taste buds made first contact with Cardassian liquor. Good
God! He’d let the blue color lull him into complacency. He almost choked. Guinness meets maple syrup!
Speros and Macet had already finished; the other two Cardassians weren’t far behind. Keep going—keep going—keep going!
Spirodopoulos exhorted himself as hostilities between the drink’s bitter burn and viscosity erupted into outright war.
Spirodopoulos triumphantly slammed an empty glass down onto the metal table. A wild roar of jubilation erupted as he braced himself with the palms of both hands on the table, fighting to catch his breath. The gul of the Sherouk
…whose name he still
hadn’t managed to catch, much to his embarrassment, smiled warmly and congratulated him with a genial, “Well done!”
“Thanks—I guess I didn’t do too badly for coming in dead last,” he said as he sat. Damn, that is one
hell of an aftertaste!
He longed for a glass of water, but none was in sight.
“I don’t just mean that,” the young gul countered from across the table. “Picking up on Macet’s ‘Thirteenth Order’ line—that was perfect.”
Spirodopoulos laughed awkwardly; the buzz was just now starting to hit him, and he wondered vaguely just how much of it actually had to do with the kănar
. “Thank Macet,” he demurred. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt more inept in my life.”
“You didn’t look it.” Spirodopoulos studied the Cardassian. Relative age was often difficult to determine between humanoid species with significant physical differences as humans and Cardassians, and he found himself wondering just how the man compared to his own forty years.
Glinn Yejain, the XO of the Sherouk
, tapped his younger commander on the shoulder and leaned closer, proffering a bottle. “Some more, Gul?”
“Please…I’d appreciate it.” The glinn reached over and refilled the glass, then motioned towards the rest with a raised eye ridge. Speros and Macet lifted their glasses with a nod—Macet with a gracious smile, Speros with a faint hint of a sidelong sneer at the Sherouk
officers. Yejain obligingly rose from his seat, giving no sign he had registered the senior gul’s expression.
Spirodopoulos watched as the gul of the Sherouk
reached with a slow, deliberate motion for the refilled kănar
glass and lifted it towards his lips. At first he wasn’t sure what he was seeing, but the blue liquid betrayed some sort of tremor—subtle, but impossible for the observant eye to miss. And there was something about Yejain’s behavior…Spirodopoulos’ brow furrowed. Is the alcohol getting to him that fast? Not a good sign
The other man began to fold his hands in his lap after he set down his glass—then changed his mind as he looked up and met Spirodopoulos’ eyes with a steady, appraising gaze. The former security officer observed not the slightest hint of the nystagmus he well recognized as a telltale of drunkenness, nor any other sign he knew from a dozen species of drunk-and-disorderly. No…whatever was happening, this young Cardassian was very much aware and in command of himself. “Commander Spirodopoulos…will you walk with me?”
Three end notes: this is your last chance to figure out who Tayben, gul of the Sherouk
, is before I tell you. Remember, he's from a pre
-relaunch DS9 novel.
And there's a song that kind of inspired how I wrote the toast scene, called "Firebreather" by Thrice. I really hope I nailed this kind of feeling!
And finally--a species design for the Mathenites, with Te-Mae-Do pictured here: http://trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=71547