23 Marble Sirens
The Supplicant Scribe climbed through the vine-enshrouded statuary in the cold gray Ashallan autumn. Winter air penetrated her plain hooded cloak, while leaves swept the uphill landscaped paths and undermined footing on the ancient stone stairways. Ahead, she watched the Vulcan Emissary pause to regard the ancient grand entrance arcade of the Bajor Council of Ministers, remove his hood, and enter in solemnity.
She passed through the gauntlet of dozens of classical statues looming overhead, some weathered gray by millennia, others cut from fresh white marble since the Bajoran liberation. Sirens of the Prophets, from classical Bajoran mythology; she studied them in passing: Truth. Knowledge. Filial Piety. Suffering. Legacy.
She read the inscription on the base of a wide, broken marble column: Their music calls the heart to the mountain, where the cliffs are sheer and the holds are slight.
Entering the grand arcade to the sanctuary of the Ministry, the Supplicant Scribe sipped from the chalice of Prophet's Tears. A chamberlain received her entry authorization and regarded her shaded visage. “Supplicant Scribe, Adjutant on behalf of the Dakhur Committee for Refuge. Enter with the Prophets.”
She found a marble bench in the upper gallery overlooking the circular table arrangements of the council floor, and watched the council meeting already in process.
“The dispute has arisen regarding access to these reparations,” spoke the delegate from the Petitioner's dais, in a voice soft and civil, at once sensitive, penitent, sincere, and – keen in inflection. It was difficult to believe the voice, like the plain supplicant's robe, was bore by – a Cardassian
“Gul Trask, the Council has reviewed the petition of the Maquis Colony Coalition. The impetus for this issue is at question. The reparations would hardly make a difference in their current economic circumstances.”
“And to that point I'm certain they would agree, Minister Jenod.” He had a powerful, if soft presence, thought the Supplicant Scribe from her vantage above. In a way he represented an entirely new face for Cardassia. The face of a diplomat
. Trask continued: “The reparation issue represents a problem which lies not so much in the economic arena as the political. It cuts to the heart of the formal relations which Bajor is currently attempting to strengthen with these member worlds. Each administration of the colony worlds enjoys a differentiated, discreet relationship with Cardassia. As such they wish to petition Cardassia directly for access to reparations for the Occupation, without going through Bajoran process or authority.”
“The Bajoran process ensures the fair deportment of those resources among all who suffered under the Occupation,” spoke another Minister.
“Be that as it may, Minister, by affording reparations to the Bajoran government, these Coalition colonies can claim that Cardassia denies reparation to some of those Bajorans who were forcibly displaced during the - Cardassian Occupation of their homeworld. A most unfortunate accusation that undermines Cardassian sympathies and disrupts our own social reforms at home. I am here to petition the Council for a formal writ that establishes the Bajoran government to be the only legal channel through which these reparations may flow, in attendance with the Reaffirmation of Allegiance Charter, in order to strengthen both Bajoran and Cardassian respective positions on this matter. As you say, in order to ensure the proper and fair deportment to all those deserving of the small measure of justice and Cardassian atonement these reparations signify.”
“This is already the case, Gul Trask,” replied Minister Asuan, an elegant, severe older man with a D'ja pagh
earring bearing a brilliant Stone of Council Permanence. “What exactly is it you wish to procure from the Council?”
Ministers,” Gul Trask emphasized, eyeing Minister Asuan, “The problem of intercolony unrest has spread to sector interstellar traffic, namely for third party shipping interests, which are now being harassed and detained for inspection and other thin rationales, preventing trade and expedited access to these worlds. This problem has only worsened in recent weeks. However, with the permission of the Council, I offer a solution that can be to all of our mutual satisfactions. On behalf of the Cardassian Delegation, this proposal will be presented by someone far more qualified than I. With your indulgence, Ministers.”
Gul Trask looked to the entryway, where another hooded supplicant sipped from the chalice and entered.
“Proceed,” said the disfigured Minister Jenod.
The Petitioner stood in the center of the dais and removed his hood. “Eminent Ministry, hear my supplication.”
A minister stood. Across the room, another stood. Then more stood around the room, defiantly, as disbelieving unrest filtered through the chamber.
The new Supplicant waited silently and scanned the chamber with his only eye. The large Cardassian soldier towered from the dais like a pillar of raw power, exuding a lifetime of hardened battle experience, and allowed the room to absorb his presence.
Rifle-wielding Bajoran security guards calmly penetrated the aisles in a show of controlled force. The Council Vocutor bid them to stand at rest – for the moment.
, someone said.
, said another.
, others said.
How is it he still lives?
How dare he address the Council of Bajor!
“Yes,” said the figure. “I am known to you. I am one known to all of Bajor. I am - Jagul D'Vral.”
The Razor of Hesdreth
, whispered the Supplicant Scribe from above.
“The Council will not hear the words of a mass murderer,” commanded Vocutor Ral the Elder.
“Honored Council, I am here for a single purpose. I am here to prevent – war.” He turned his piercing eye across each Minister, and settled, with great satisfaction, on Asuan. “A war which could lead to the annihilation of every civilization in this sector.
“I am here on the official behalf of Cardassia Prime, with the full authorization of the Detapa Council and Cardassian Central Command. The Cardassian government wishes to offer Bajor its services,” he surveyed the Ministry, “as neutral Arbiter between Bajor, and the independent worlds of the Maquis Colony Coalition.”
The Council of Ministers erupted in unbridled anger, and pandemonious shouts of violence.
From her perch, the Supplicant Scribe considered this delegate from Cardassia, this haunted voice of Bajor's blood-soaked past. The Razor of Hesdreth – overseer of the ill-fated Hesdreth Dilithium Facility, who had ruled with an iron fist, had mercilessly quashed terrorism with supremely capable military prowess and ruthless indiscriminance, and, upon the forced Cardassian Withdrawal from Bajor, had left in his stead the total ruin of the Bajoran mining camp. Hesdreth had fallen to utter and merciless destruction under a barrage of Galor torpedoes and phaser fire, the descent of burning death from orbit. He was a war criminal put to death by his own government – or so the worlds had been told. His very existence called historical reality itself into question – with the thousandfold screams of the murdered innocent.
“Our proposal would not only resolve Bajor's current internal crisis, which I admit to having no desire to become involved in,” D'Vral persisted, “but it would secure ship traffic through the sector. It would also represent a new style of relationship between all of our civilizations. A stronger peace, in the interest of mutual cooperation and survival.”
“Your interest lies with loyalism to the old Cardassian Regime!” someone criticized.
“If my desire to see a strong homeworld brands me a Loyalist to Cardassia's former glory,” he replied, “so be it. It is a value no doubt Bajor shares, as it is shared by most of the governments and peoples represented here today. Such a step could lead us all to a new balance of mutual respect, and dissociation from our most unfortunate historical missteps, which ultimately served none of our civilizations.
“Our mutual needs for destruction and enmity have been carried away by a swollen river of sorrows, carrying our lives with them. Will we too be carried away? Why should we succumb to historical folly, when we could assure security of all our peoples, the sector, normalized relations, and a stronger future together - which neither Bajor, Cardassia, nor the independent worlds can do with conflicted purposes.
“Yes, I may serve Cardassian interests; I may be motivated to secure trade, and even resources – even to establish other access to Bajor's natural resources, which Cardassia still has a pronounced need for, and of which Bajor would benefit from fair exchange. No more than this I seek, but renewed, reinvigorated relations of our planets; not through force, but through the full pursuit of legal channels freely agreed upon by all our parties. This would benefit all our worlds immeasurably, and mark a beginning of a new era of equal yet interdependent states, between and among the sector of all our births.”
“You expect us to listen to these lies
?” a dignitary demanded. “This murderer is no better than Skrain Dukat
“Dukat was a sympathetic fool,” Jagul D'Vral countered. “As Gul of the Hesdreth Dilithium Facility, I was a willing
participant of the Bajoran Occupation. Unlike Dukat, I never attempted to delude myself or others about the nature of our crime. It was an immoral, criminal act of war, pure and simple. A violent injustice against the Bajoran people, with grave consequences for all participants. Unlike some of my more erudite and outspoken compatriots, I have never harbored misconceptions about our Cardassian Occupation. So why, it should follow, would any rational being endorse such a crime against morality?”
He stepped off the dais and walked before each attendee to look them in the eye.
“I did it because Bajoran planetary resources were vital
to Cardassian survival. And I did it - because the Bajorans allowed
The host broke into an agitated disruption.
“I refuse to pity those who did nothing to help themselves. Yesterday, the victim was Bajor. Tomorrow, perhaps it will be Cardassia. Or perhaps another world. I am, and have always been, a pragmatist. As I rotted in a deep, dark cell in all these years after the Occupation, I consoled myself with pragmatism.
“Hear me! Or do you fear contradiction in the weakness of your own position?” His powerful voice was soon drowned out.
Vocutor Ral the Elder brought the chambers to a relative quiet. “The Supplication was granted. Speak your peace, Petitioner. While you may.”
Passion arose in the pulsing presence of the aged warrior, and Jagul D'Vral drew up a power of intelligence and conviction that had apparently only strengthened in the years of his incarceration. “Bajor enjoyed millennia
of free, unhindered development; yet still she chose a pacifistic governance influenced by metaphorical ideals. Bajoran
occupation resulted from Bajoran
irresponsibility to prepare and defend itself for war. If Cardassia hadn't occupied her, another would have – the Breen, the Klingon Empire, the Dominion, the Jem'Hadar, the Federation. Tyranny, domination and cultural contamination take many forms - hard and soft - none for which Bajor had prepared itself!
“To the Bajoran, Cardassia is the face of the enemy – but that face is only a mask - for the enemy within. Blame of Cardassia is the rejection – of Bajoran right to self-determination, and the gains or consequences of its own free choices. It is the refusal to recognize one's own role in history and destiny. It is the willful embrace of victimhood and all the self-serving entitlements that affords. Bajoran Prophecy has become - a cult of narcissism and self-oppression.”
He faced the body of Ministers. “When Bajor matures sufficiently to accept the costs of her choices, and is strengthened by facing her own weaknesses, she will come to recognize Cardassia not as an enemy; but as the forging fire of full self-realization. On that day, Bajoran and Cardassian alike will celebrate together. As brothers
, under the suns and Prophets.”
The chamber of ministers lost all decorum.
After a few moments, the disfigured Minister Jenod stood and quieted the room, and gravely regarded the Council. “Fellow Ministers of the Prophets, I implore you. As the Prophets have taught us, let us not allow a righteous cry deafen us to a truer whisper. While we may denounce its source, the Petition itself bears a certain whisper of truth. A neutral arbiter to mediate the Reaffirmation of Allegiance Charter, as well as attendant issues such as that of Cardassian reparations, and other pressing issues, could be exactly the balancing force needed in these troubled times. I propose arbitration – by a Federation
Vocutor Ral spoke: “Would the United Federation Emissary please rise to answer the Council.”
The Vulcan Emissary Kel'Akann stood and approached the dais.
“What say you to the idea of the proposal, Emissary Kel'Akann?”
Kel'Akann reviewed the body of Ministers, and the Cardassian Petitioner. “Until all parties register formal agreement, the Federation Charter prohibits involvement in domestic political disputes with nonmember worlds. Until the Federation could be assured of the Maquis Coalition's willingness to endorse the Federation as arbiter, the United Federation cannot accept this role. As the Maquis Coalition have expressed a deep desire for independence, it is doubtful they would endorse mediation by their counterparty's superordinate government.
“In the interest of normalization of sectorwide interplanetary relations, however, there is a strengthening force yet to be exploited by the Bajoran government. Provided they adhered to the strictures of the mediation, carefully drawn and agreed to by all involved parties, it is my most considered judgment that the sector's best hope for peace, lies in – the Petition presented by the Cardassian delegation.”
The Vulcan watched the tumult with logical dispassion, and waited for the room to settle before speaking again:
“The Federation is restricted in this matter by its own noninterference charter. Cardassia, however, has no such restriction. It is as objective and informed a third party as you are likely to find. The countervailing utilization of Cardassian diplomacy could become a stabilizing influence in the sector – as well as provide their planet with diplomatic channels that could also stabilize the Cardassian Union, in time.
“With final regards to negotiations, a duly-appointed UFP representative may provide pertinent Federation historical treaty documentation, merely as a guideline for all parties' edification. But the Federation delegation would be unable to offer assistance in interpretation or implementation of any agreements. Voluntary, mutually arrived-at interdependence – is the best assurance of Bajor Sector and the Cardassian Union's interplanetary stability.”
As the Supplicant Petition ended, the Razor of Hesdreth bowed his head to the Vulcan Emissary. Kel'Akann responded in kind.
The Supplicant Scribe descended the marble steps into the bracing cold of the coming Bajoran winter. The Council vote would be anonymous - and final. Like the rest of the peoples of Bajor Sector, she would wait until the morning to learn the Council's ruling, and the fate of the sector.
Her Supplicant's cloak folded on a marble bench under the Siren of Hope, Starfleet Judge Advocate Trelliq Pel tapped her communicator and requested a beamout.