Deranged Nasat wrote:
This was fantastic, NG. It's one of your best yet. You communicate your concept of Cardassian instincts so well, and the balance between living by these instincts and simultaneously not being ruled by them is very well thought out.
I've never seen the Cardassians as being like, say, a Vorta, or some of the other Trek species we've seen with instincts that totally override their mental processes. So while the hierarchical instinct is stronger than human social instincts (look at how much of a blank slate we humans are when we're born, compared to a wolf cub), they very much have rational minds, and hearts. (The latter contrary to popular belief and the inexcusable behavior of certain of their number.)
And, like with my other favourite, "The Image and the Spirit", you handle the moral complexities in a very accessible way without any heavy-handedness. The issue of identity on a racial level was also fascinating; are these people humans, Cardassians, human-Cardassians, something new...? I say this a lot, I know, but I really love your stories.
The only option on that list that I am sure they are not is Cardassian. Everything else about their bodies, and even their brains, is what it was before the Graft. Their physical senses, their strength, their lifespans (unfortunately, from the Cardassian point of view), are still what they were.
The question really boils down to whether this is a form of Cardassiohumanity, or whether they they are instead the rightful heirs to the name of humanity, since the Dominion basically destroyed prewar humanity with what they did.
They look like humans and speak human languages--they have the same basic preferences for "creature comforts" that humans do (food, temperature, lighting levels, and so forth), and despite what the Dominion tried to do, I would say they do have a certain awareness of their past. There are some other cultural traits that are VERY much Federation human, even with all that's happened to them--I feel very strongly that of the two groups in this story, it was the humans who first made overtures of friendship towards the Cardassians. The strong cultural disdain for racism was still there...and managed to extend in this case to individuals of a conqueror species who showed themselves to be of better character.
(We know Cardassians can
do this, too. But just as Cardassian culture tried to condition its people in one direction, human culture HAD up until the end of the war very much conditioned people to be mindful and sensitive of species differences, and respectful towards others.)
But, the way they relate to each other is very, VERY Cardassian in nature. Unlike prewar humans, there are more gestures and tones that have become hardwired. Like I said, prewar humans are a very "blank-slate" sort of species; we have our basic facial expressions, and while we have certain other gestures or cues, human instincts tend to be so subordinated that we either don't understand what we're seeing, don't trust it if we ARE getting some sort of impression, or read it wrong and get a false impression (which just furthers our distrust).
The people who survived the Graft aren't quite like that anymore. Even if it might not all be systematized in their heads like an academic study, they "speak" nonverbally with greater accuracy, and the meanings of these things are much more significant in their minds, with the brain delivering a more obvious reward/punishment for correct or incorrect behavior. The sense of "place" is more necessary in order for correct transmission and processing of these signals. I would say that if you spoke with one of them, if you paid close attention you'd notice some of the shared, Cardassian-like gestures...but if you were a time traveler from the past and you had no idea what had happened, you might not quite recognize what was going on until you'd had some time to figure it out. I think they would notice your
"alienness" more quickly in that you aren't quite processing or responding to the unspoken cues as they are--whereas with a Cardassian there would be a very strong sense of "familiar" and "right" in their signals even though the physical appearances are wildly different.