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Old June 30 2011, 05:21 AM   #1
Nerys Ghemor
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Location: Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
June Contest Entry: "And Tomorrow I Shall Light the Flame"

Star Trek:
Sigils and Unions

“And Tomorrow I Shall Light the Flame”

Author’s Note: This story makes reference to the events of Lois Tilton’s novel Betrayal (DS9 #6) from which the character of Berat comes. As always, credit goes to Ms. Tilton for the inspiration. The station at the beginning of the story—Obrast Nor—is the same one referred to in Betrayal as Farside Station, and the Fist of Revenge is presented as a more literal translation of the French name used for the coup perpetrators in the novel (“the Revanche Party”). So is Gul Marak's ship ("the Swift Striker" in Betrayal, given a Cardassian name in my stories). The coup and Berat’s escape onto DS9 belong to Tilton. What happened to Berat after he went home, including the aggravation of his wounds in Betrayal into permanent physical disability, is of my invention.


2374—The Dominion War—Seven months before the Septimus Massacre
Cardassian Union Station Obrast Nor

Every Nor-class station carried ghosts.

The shadows of memories, more accurately—painful memories…but Tayben Berat wasn’t in the mood to quibble with semantics right then. He didn’t care. It felt like ghosts.

Another chill ran down Gul Berat’s neck ridges as he walked past the doors to the reactor core of Obrast Nor. That was where he—Glinn Berat, back then—had worked as systems control officer for the station, the ranking engineer at his young age. That was also where Ragoç Delek had come marching in with arrest documents on his padd. With Glinn Berat’s name on them. He had followed Delek without resistance, sure in his mind that the mistake would be sorted out before his case was put on the docket of the Supreme Tribunal and his fate would be sealed, even as his heart trembled.

That was when he had believed in the Tribunal.

But there hadn’t even been a tribunal; the ringleaders of the coup had disbanded the tribunal and rumor had it in Berat’s cell block that Chief Archon Makbar herself was sitting somewhere in the prison awaiting execution.

He didn’t have to fear an awkward encounter with Delek as he passed through Obrast Nor. Delek had been executed at the end of the coup for having served those orders to Berat—an execution likely engineered by Dukat. Çlaykothoul Dukat, as it had turned out—Dukat the Traitor, every bit as bad as the Fist of Revenge in his own way. Had Dukat even bothered to verify, before having Delek murdered, that the man had actually been part of the coup? That he had known the charges against Berat to be baseless? That he hadn’t been coerced in any way?

Berat highly doubted it. If Delek had been guilty—fine, but Berat’s conscience wasn’t at rest on the matter. Couldn’t be, when the Tribunal was in fact a theater of lies.

Gul Berat did the best he could, in this station of shadows, to yank his mind back to why he was here. The Sherouk had been temporarily recalled to this base towards the outer edges of Cardassian territory for its crew to recoup and take on supplies before heading back out to the front lines. Federation lines.

Why couldn’t we have been assigned to the Klingon front? he mentally grumbled. At least then he wouldn’t have to worry about the chance of killing the people who had saved his life during the coup when he took refuge aboard Terok Nor…now known as Deep Space Nine.

Oh, he was getting distracted again. He was far too good at doing this to himself. He wished he could distract himself instead with the sights and sounds of the station—but he wasn’t in a mood to play spot-the-familiar-face or chat with anyone he’d known from that time, some of whom had undoubtedly been part of his humiliating send-off. So he kept his head down instead, even though he knew the odds of being recognized, walking with his half-functioning hands tucked behind his back, were high.

There was only one face he wanted to see: Gul Macet.

The Trager had sought relief here too, and it had been Macet who issued the orders for Berat to bring his ship here, rather than to one of the closer stations. The station was undermanned now, a far cry from the way he’d left it, its personnel and even some of its infrastructure dismantled and sent to the front, and its only real, useful function now to serve as a change of scenery—somewhat—for war-weary troops. Which meant parts of the station were likely to be underpowered and without surveillance. And that, Berat suspected, was why Macet had chosen this place. For that matter—Berat’s second-in-command, Yejain, likely suspected too. And what that meant, Berat wasn’t sure.

One thing of which Berat was sure: the senior gul’s message had to be big.

And the look on Macet’s face, when he finally spotted the beige-skinned, bearded half-Hăzăkda man in a cloud of grey, confirmed it. Not a smile—no hint of one—just intently focused eyes as he made contact with Berat.

“Good to see you,” Macet stated gravely. Surveying the crowd as closely as he could without actually turning his head, to see if they were listening, he lowered his voice to the point where Berat could hardly hear it. “We will require privacy.”

They sat in an abandoned set of guest quarters, one that Berat had carefully swept for cameras with his tricorder before giving Macet his approval of the place. The sensors on the door wouldn’t have tripped because that was precisely the problem with this room: the main door was stuck in the open position, and as painfully short-staffed as they were, the repair crews of Obrast Nor hadn’t had time to fix it.

He hadn’t been so sure about any audio pickups, and with great difficulty, the damaged nerves in his hands fighting the precision movement all the way, Berat had made the sign for silence. This conversation would be hard in more ways than one for him—but critical, especially if it was what he thought it was.

Macet’s long-fingered, beige hands formed stark, angular shapes against the black of his armor. —The Dominion has stolen our self-determination,— he signed with voiceless intensity in the military dialect of Cardassian sign language. —This cannot stand.—

Even with one sign, Berat’s underused hands tried to cramp up, and the pain shot much further through his body than it should have—all the way up his neck ridges and straight into the back of his skull. —Agreed!—

Macet nodded after a hesitation that worried Berat. —This is a painful conclusion to come to with regard to the Union…though not so painful when it comes to my misbegotten cousin…but our leadership has failed. We must set the order right.—

Berat fought to form one more sign. —Rebellion?—

The senior gul raised an eye ridge…and Berat realized the neuropathy had won that battle and Macet hadn’t been able to make sense of his hand shapes. Macet tapped the customized padd on Berat’s equipment belt. As Berat slipped his hand through the cloth strap he’d attached to the device’s back side, to help him keep the closest thing he could to a steady grip, Macet said, —I’m sorry this had to be so hard on you.—

Letter by letter, Berat tapped out his response on the padd he’d already thought to mute before coming aboard the station. This was hard in its own way, but at least this more limited movement was one he was more used to. Not your fault. Then he repeated his question. Rebellion?

—I have some ideas,— Macet signed.

It didn’t matter how little time had really passed; it still felt like forever, as he scrawled, until he could turn his padd to Macet. Show me.

Macet hardlinked his padd to Berat’s, not trusting the wireless network with information of this magnitude. Even before the file finished transmitting, Berat was already reading, already turning over the facts and estimates and conjectures in his head, trying to fill the missing gaps in his senior gul’s plans. It was an outline of an idea, but it needed work. At the end were instructions for secure transmission of Berat’s response to the Trager. Both guls promptly deleted the file from their padds, once read and memorized.

Macet regarded Berat. —Are you interested?—

Berat nodded, so hard that he could feel his neck ridges all the way through his shoulder blades.

—You will have to speak with Yejain, of course. You won’t be able to hide it forever.—

Berat sighed as quietly as he could. Then he wrote, I know, Akellen. He is good. But a true servant of the hierarchy. Cannot predict him here.

—He must understand this is not his hierarchy anymore, not with the Dominion in charge. And if you can’t trust him…—

I will do my best.

2374—The Dominion War—Six months before the Septimus Massacre
Cardassian Union Warship Sherouk

Gul Berat swallowed. This was it. Finally he and his executive officer, Glinn Yejain, had a moment’s privacy from the unremitting, down-the-nose stare of that thrice-burned Vorta. But even this wasn’t enough. Berat was no fool; he knew very well that just as they would have been in the days when the Obsidian Order still operated under that name, his office and quarters had to be bugged, and almost certainly Yejain’s office one deck below his, and quarters as well. The Jem’Hadar could be listening. Dominion-loving spies among his own crew could be listening, much as it galled him to think that any of his crew could possibly be so stupid. They seemed far better than that.

But that was what he, like any Cardassian, had had to live with since birth. They could be listening. They could come to your house in the middle of the night and drag you away and do who knew what to you. And you learned to live with your secrets, alone, if you wanted to have a personality of your own. And he was tired of the secrets and the fear. The familiar weight of grief settled over his soul. They had stolen his family. Not the Dominion—but Cardassians just as bad, who thought nothing of slaughtering families to suit their vision of orthodoxy.

“Glinn Yejain,” Berat said, maintaining a formal stance, “I require your presence at junction 247 at your soonest availability.”

The wiry, shrewd officer’s eyes narrowed. “Is something wrong with the ship?” And if that was the case, why was it not being handled by Glinn Motreln instead?

“It’s not a major problem right now, but I thought your expertise might be needed in case it turns into a bigger one.” There. That would be the first clue, how Yejain handled that, to see how he might react to actually being told what Gul Berat really wanted.

Yejain raised an eye ridge. Though he filled the role of a typical executive officer and then some, to support his disabled commander, administrative work was far from the limit of his abilities. Especially with the threat the Obsidian Order had posed, Yejain was the sort of person you wanted on your side. “I see,” Yejain replied. Then he bowed with a crisp motion. “I obey, Gul.”
Are you a Cardassian fan, citizen? Prove your loyalty--check out my fanfic universe, Star Trek: Sigils and Unions. Or keep the faith on my AU Cardassia, Sigils and Unions: Catacombs of Oralius!
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