I can't believe it...I actually wrote a story in one sitting, one night.
Catacombs of Oralius: “On the Conservation of Species”
For those of you unfamiliar with my writing, I have two main universes I write in—Sigils and Unions
, which is an extension of the canon universe post-DS9, and Sigils and Unions: Catacombs of Oralius
, which is one of the many quantum universes seen in “Parallels,” this one being the universe where Bajoran and Cardassian roles are reversed. Because the point of divergence between the two universes is 500 years in the past—in the late 19th century by Earth reckoning, yet I assume that the Hobus star and conditions in the surrounding area are the same, there is a possibility that there is at least one of the many quantum universes that was a SigCat
universe yet still had the events with the Narada
take place. This is a story from that universe.
21 Keledăp, Fourth Year of the 365th Ăstraya
[Federation Year 2258]
It crumbled from within—an entire world from within—still
—in her mind’s eye, an unholy implosion visited upon them…for what
? Revenge, for something some madman thought they would
do? Understandably the Federation had immediately classified the entire affair at the highest levels, but that still hadn’t stopped the broad ideas from escaping by word of mouth. The Cardassian public knew already that a heretofore unthinkable superweapon had swallowed the entire planet of Vulcan from the inside out, bringing a once-proud race…and the Federation itself…to its knees.
And the Vulcans themselves…it didn’t matter that they claimed mastery of their emotions. There was no way to look at that and not
feel the bitterest poisons of anguish sliding down one’s throat.
Castellan Nijani Rekelen already regretted having watched the horrific footage of the event that Cardassian intelligence officials had somehow obtained. But such was her duty; she could not shrink back, for any world might be the next to fall.
The footage had not been released to the general public of the worlds of Cardassia—and it was the Castellan’s understanding that the Federation had done the same lest the Klingons or Romulans of their time thought to study it to determine how they might achieve the same results for themselves. True, the long-range tachyon telescopes would be catching a faraway view of the implosion soon, once the tachyon emissions from that area reached the worlds nearest to Federation territory, and at that point, even an amateur with the right equipment would be able to see exactly what had happened. But that was no reason to allow more detailed information to get out.
But enough knowledge was
out. And understandably, the Cardassian people were appalled. Horrified. And frightened. She had already spoken within minutes of the news reaching the media—but the people had to know their leaders would stand strong throughout this crisis…whatever else came out of it beyond the already incomprehensible destruction. They needed a unified response moving forward...spiritual and secular standing together, no dissent, no visible gaps in the armor they extended to protect the Cardassian people. And to that end, Rekelen had gathered her top advisors to draft a coordinated response. Already they had touched on matters of intelligence, defense, and diplomacy. Tending to home…that was a different matter.
Rekelen turned to the two Guides in the room—Orator Ayret, the head of the Chamber of Guides, and Burek, her appointed personal advisor—and Leader Miput, the head of the Chamber of Delegates, who provided secular representation. Still, the Castellan addressed the same question to all three. “How are the people doing spiritually?”
“Unnerved,” Ayret reported succinctly, her face revealing how unequal she felt, despite her title, to the atrocity against the Federation. Against Oralius. “The Guides in our home prefectures are all reporting that they’re being inundated with people seeking counsel. And comfort. But,” with an almost shy smile of…was it a species of pride? “Our offices are also being flooded with calls and letters, asking for some way to help
The head legislator nodded. “We’re all getting the same thing.”
Castellan Rekelen sighed. She’d been feeling it too. Already—though for security reasons the people would not be informed until after the fact—Astraea herself, along with representatives from several minority sects, had left for the Vulcan sector under the guard of two Verkoun
-class cruisers specially cleared to enter Federation territory, to offer their prayers as near to the site of the genocide as civilian traffic could safely pass. But as needed as this mission of intercession was, it still felt like a child’s helpless cry against the darkness, in the most terrible, literal sense possible.
“Can we send doctors?” Burek asked.
Rekelen replied with a mournful shake of the head. “For the most part…if you were close enough to be caught up in it, that was it. The Federation’s medical corps has attended to the injured.”
“Is it true,” Miput inquired with a raised eye ridge, “that there are only ten thousand of them left?”
“I’m afraid so,” the Castellan confirmed. “A few more than that…but close enough.”
Councillor Hoven, the Castellan’s appointed science minister, spoke up here. “With what we know about the Vulcan species, there is a very real risk that they could die out, with those numbers. If we were talking about Cardassians, our research suggests that there’d be enough genetic diversity for us to survive. But there’s reason to believe that even with their long lifespans, Vulcans simply cannot grow their families at the rate we can. A diaspora may kill them.”
Burek narrowed her eyes; Rekelen recognized this as the Guide’s ‘thoughtful’ gesture. “They are a desert species…”
“That’s right,” Hoven answered. “Their entire world is—was…” she corrected with a solemn bow of the head, “a desert, and it was that way from the very beginning. They are very specifically adapted to such conditions. We are adapted for high temperatures, compared to the worlds where most cardasdanoids evolved, and we can live in deserts when we have to.” And of course many Cardassians had to, in one form or another, since the onset of the Cataclysm. “But we are not specialized to the degree that Vulcans are. There aren’t as many warm, arid worlds out there, that are still habitable to cardasdanoids, as you would think there are.”
Rekelen felt a chill—though not an unpleasant one—down her neck ridges: she thought she saw where Burek was going with her line of reasoning. “To what degree,” the Castellan inquired, “are Vulcans able to thrive in other environments?” She thought she knew the answer—but it honestly didn’t matter. The idea held merit nonetheless.
“We know there are Vulcans in Starfleet,” Hoven supplied. “Federation starships are typically kept at temperatures we would find chill. And the city on Terhăn Terăm
where their Academy is…it’s a cold, humid place. They can survive there, but while they would probably never
say it, I’m sure it’s about as unpleasant to them as it would be to us.”
Ten thousand of them…
Castellan Rekelen thought. Just a small town—that’s
all that’s left…dear Oralius. Or a few small villages.
“What are you thinking, Guide Burek?”
Burek fixed her Castellan with intense, yearning eyes. “That we could offer the Vulcans sanctuary somewhere on Cardassia Prime. There are times when we have to fight battles against our world—but it may well be that the way our world has become can represent a blessing to an orphaned people.”
“With the utmost respect, Guide,” Leader Miput interjected, “the people might go for that on compassionate grounds, but can Cardassia really afford it?”
Rekelen gave voice to her earlier thought. “You’re talking about what amounts to a small town. When you put that in perspective with some of the natural disasters we’ve dealt with—that’s really not as large of a number as it sounds. And it stands to reason that not
all Vulcans would come here.”
“But some of the ones that do might choose to settle here permanently instead of seeking a home somewhere else,” Miput rebutted. “And I don’t
think the people will go for that.”
Orator Ayret shifted uncomfortably in her seat as she spoke up. This was apparently not
how she had been expecting Rekelen to respond to the people’s expressed desire to help.
“I admire your compassion, Castellan. And Burek. But I am concerned about the influence that Vulcan ways might bring to our culture. Their belief is in an apotheosis of logic, at the expense of even measured
emotional expression. And unlike some of the worlds in the Federation—the disciplines they subject their minds to have analogues in Hebitian culture.” Orator Ayret came from a highly conservative sect, one that still retained the use of the term ‘Hebitian.’ For the sake of governmental unity, Ayret spoke of the people as Cardassian in public—but in closed circles like this, Ayret spoke according to her deepest beliefs. “A terhăn
would not be able to achieve Kolinahr
…that means the eradication of emotion. I shudder at the thought that perhaps a Hebitian could
. If you do bring them here, Castellan, I would ask that you enjoin them from proselytizing.”
Rekelen narrowed her eyes…but from her this was not
a thoughtful gesture: it was one of rebuke. Few people would speak this way to a Guide, but her position allowed her, within bounds, to do so. “Orator Ayret—what you are suggesting tramples all over the principles of our law. Giving them the right to live on Cardassian soil would bring them within the purview of the Right of Worship. I am sworn to uphold that Right, and as long as their sect does not require them to do violence, I will not interfere with what amounts to their religious speech. Or
that of any Cardassians that do decide to try Vulcan disciplines. Regardless of what I may personally think of that.”
Burek nodded her agreement. “I don’t believe most Cardassians would
find themselves tempted. Almost everyone I know back home, Oralian or not, holds our ability to feel, and to express those feelings, in the utmost esteem. Being able to laugh with joy…to weep in mourning…is a part of what we are
. Oralius offers us a way to live with the emotions that she gave us…a way to think and feel as she does. And sometimes what she would feel about a situation…hurts. Even the negative emotions are part of the Cardassian experience. We are Cardassians with or without belief—”
“Though not Hebitians
,” Ayret interrupted.
Burek continued as though she had heard nothing. Her appointment was entirely the Castellan’s prerogative, and she belonged to a very different sect than the one Ayret belonged to—one that did not see the name of the species as a crucial tenet of the Oralian faith and thus preferred the fully inclusive term. “—but without emotion, we become something else entirely. They are Vulcans; we are Cardassians. It’s as simple as that. I believe the vast, vast majority of Cardassians will recognize that. No matter how
capable we might be of actually adopting their ways, I think it’s so fundamentally alien to us that most people wouldn’t contemplate it for a second. I think we can allow the Vulcans to live with us, and show them respect as sentient beings, without
adopting their ways.
“But I don’t
think there would be anything wrong with asking them to respect our sacred places, our relics, and our rituals. That’s also part of the Right of Worship. And as far as civility
goes, I think it can be explained to them how people are likely to feel if they choose to express themselves bluntly about our faith. They would be intelligent enough to know that, just like their world was dominated by Surak’s philosophy, ours is almost as much so by various expressions of faith in Oralius and that our rules of civility are built around that. And I would respectfully mention, Orator, that the Vulcans aren’t known for dishonesty. If they feel they can’t abide by the Right of Worship, or be a very
small minority in a largely religious culture—which of course means that their
children may well wish to try our
ways—then I don’t think they’ll accept any offer we might give them.”
“I wouldn’t make an offer without making sure they know exactly what they’re getting into,” Rekelen assured both Guides. “Given how limited our contact with the Federation has been until now, I’m sure there’s a lot they don’t know about our culture. If they think Iloja of Prim is all that we are, they’re in for a surprise,” she said, allowing herself a tiny, tiny laugh. The irascible poet, with what could be characterized as only the loosest of Oralian beliefs, had toured all over the known galaxy, including Vulcan. One gets the impression that the man isn’t all that keen on his home. But
, she added, despite her personal disapproval of Prim’s libertine ways, thank Oralius he
wasn’t on Vulcan when it happened. Say what you want about Prim, but he does have an ear for beauty when he sets pen to paper, and losing him would be losing a cultural treasure. A hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, womanizing ‘treasure.’ But still. That would’ve been horrible.