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Old June 30 2011, 04:22 AM   #2
Nerys Ghemor
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Location: Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
Re: June Contest Entry: "And Tomorrow I Shall Light the Flame"

Gul Berat sat cross-legged in the junction between maintenance tubes and waited for his executive officer to arrive. His tricorder sat out on his lap, perched there earlier with an act of supreme concentration. He was scanning for his own glinn’s sidearm. Even if Yejain did find the situation suspicious enough to assassinate his gul, he doubted someone like Yejain would be stupid enough to come into a confined area with weapons hot when he knew beyond a doubt that his manual dexterity far exceeded his gul’s. A quick-draw contest wouldn’t be a contest, if Berat had no advance warning. And without a weapon himself, his only chance would be to knock his opponent’s disruptor away.

Still, Berat had to check. What a sorry state we’re in, that such a thing is necessary.

He felt the vibration through the deck plating before he ever heard Yejain’s approach. His bright blue eyes darted down to the tricorder screen—no weapons on hot standby. Good.

I hate this. It ran against his deepest instincts to think Glinn Yejain could ever be capable of a thing like that. But he could not not consider it. And that hurt, to think this way of a man who had met with Legate Ghemor’s approval, and who shown Berat nothing but loyalty when faced with circumstances very different from what an executive officer normally had to deal with. It made Berat feel contaminated inside.

“Reporting as ordered, Gul.” Yejain’s voice gave no hint of what he was thinking.

“Thank you, Glinn. Please be seated.” Yes…it had been an order. But there was no reason obedience couldn’t be acknowledged politely, remembering that the person obeying was also a Cardassian being.

Yejain gazed questioningly at his gul. “If I may…” Berat nodded. “Next time you need to pass a message clandestinely, I could offer you some suggestions on your fieldcraft first.” The kneeling glinn had delivered his message with eyes deferentially lowered—none of the cloying arrogance or false humility common to Obsidian Order agents and Vorta—but the faintest shadow of a lopsided smile flitted across Gul Berat’s face. He’d heard that message loud and clear.

“Point taken,” Berat replied. And Yejain was probably right: as hard as it was for him, he needed to quit trying to finesse this and just get it overwith. If this was going to end badly, all the circling around the subject in the Union wasn’t going to forestall his fate. “Glinn, I’ve called you here because I’ve received an invitation from someone I trust very much, to rebel.”

Gulayn! Brocol lerayt çadav edek?

Berat returned a grave nod. “Yes, you heard me correctly.”

Yejain took a deep breath through his nose, restoring control to his features as befit a martial artist of his ability.

“Gul…are you asking me to entertain treason?”

Berat’s eyes blazed, his nostrils flared, as he fought—far less successfully—to keep himself in check. “Against…whom? We’ve been conquered, Glinn! We didn’t even fight. And we can’t even blame it on a Changeling! Çlaykothoul Dukat personally sold us out, and we have got to make this stop.”

“Even admitting that fact…that the Dominion doesn’t belong to our hierarchy—to Cardassian hierarchy—this would still have no orders. No official sanction. It isn’t as though Legate Damar has called us to arms.” Yejain scrutinized his gul’s features. “Unless that’s your source…”

“I can’t reveal my source,” Berat said, “but I can at least tell you it wasn’t Damar.”

“May I offer my advice in dealing with this?” Berat nodded at Yejain. “I’m not convinced it’s our place to make this sort of decision. I am concerned about the recklessness of the sorts of individuals who would propose this kind of action.”

“Wasn’t Dukat reckless?”

Yejain gave a sharp nod. “That I won’t deny. But it seems to me that he is an example of exactly what we, for the sake of Cardassia, ought to avoid. Becoming our own masters and deciding, in the absence of full information and full privilege, that we have the right to shape the course of the Union.”

“Is that what Chief Archon Makbar did when she resisted the Dominion and got herself executed for it?” Berat pressed.

This time Yejain paused, eyes drifting off to the side. “Not so much the archon.”

“As little use as I had for her, and for the playacting she passed off as justice,” Berat said, “I’ll give her credit for realizing that billions of Cardassians were watching her in this, too, and making the right decision.”

Yejain reeled back again, the movement through his head and neck ridges reminding Berat of a rhirzum preparing to spit acid. “No use for the Chief Archon? Gul Berat—that—” He struggled with his words. “That sounds like the kind of statement a hăcetyunbrul would make.” A lover of chaos—or in more precise terms, an anarchist.

Berat shuddered, shaking his head almost involuntarily. He was not that. Not that at all, no matter how shattered his instinctive trust of those above him who said they had the best interests of him and his people in mind. That was too far—much too far. But there was still a deep-seated revulsion that spoke to him from the depths of conscience and instinct, at the idea of being one who had no place whatsoever for order in his life…enough so that as furious as he would have imagined just minutes before this that a comment like that would make him, he instead felt the deep and natural fear every true Cardassian understood, and his response came in a far softer voice.

“Do you remember the Obrayn Incident?” He knew he had a heavy accent—that the terhăn name sounded far more like Obrahiy’in than anything, but even that wasn’t right either, and having spoken nothing but Cardăsda for his entire life, he simply could not smash vowels against each other the way Vedrayçda speakers could. Nor could he spare the concentration right now to try.

Yejain nodded. The state mandated what it called ‘literacy in the public discourse’—inasmuch as there was actually a discourse and not just being told what to do. Households were monitored to ensure they watched a certain minimum of state-provided news, and just to make sure one couldn’t escape it, the propaganda played constantly on monitors outside as well. Rumor had it that in the days of the Obsidian Order, it wasn’t enough to simply satisfy the quota by using the news as background noise for chores, either. One had to watch. To make a show of paying attention.

But try as they might, they couldn’t control what went on behind those blank stares. And that meant that billions of Cardassians, who actually caught the tribunal on its first airing before the censors could react to cut the signal, saw a first in the history of the Union: a verdict being proven wrong.

“Did you know that I’ve met that terhăn man, in person? The one Makbar tried to accuse of helping the Maciy.”

“I wasn’t aware of that, Gul. May I ask how?”

“I can’t discuss the full details,” Berat said—and even now, two regimes after the Fist of Revenge, he still dreaded doing so. “But I met him aboard his station at a time when I was in…a very disadvantaged situation, and so was he. I think it was hard for him, because of the bad relations between our peoples, but he treated me with dignity. You know…I’d threatened him, and he still treated me with respect after our misunderstandings were cleared up. And in our situation then—I saw how he performed when he believed he was going to die. And that, more than anything, tells me what kind of man he is. Not a gunrunner. Not a Maciy. And not the kind of person who would have shot me the way that Federation exile shot me on Volan III. I gave him cause and he chose to show me forgiveness instead of revenge.

“I’d let myself think that when the coup leaders were deposed, that we would be back to some sense of normal. Some sense of good and order. A place where I could…try my best to rebuild. But when I heard the tribunal announced—I knew the Chief Archon was wrong. Just like I knew the Fist of Revenge was wrong to execute my entire family in a public square and force me to throw a stone at my own father, who had done none of the things of which he was accused! Nor had I done a single thing in the confession they made me sign. So I knew I was just looking at more of the same—what kind of order is that, that slaughters innocent men and women as a piece of theater, Yejain? Explain that one to me…just try it.”

Yejain wisely responded with silence.

“That is the kind of order that treats us as speaking za’abou instead of people. We cannot be Cardassians. We cannot even be people. Not like this.” They had sought his life. They had taken his family’s. And they would take Zejil Rebek too, if they knew…that she…he even guarded his thoughts against it lest he unwittingly betray her. That Zija is an Oralian. My first secret.

When Yejain spoke again, his voice was so soft as to barely be audible. “You have suffered,” Yejain whispered. “Been abused. I know what you’ve allowed me to hear.” He knew Berat had only two surviving relatives. Knew that since the coup, Berat had no place on any planet of the Union that he called home, only what little he owned aboard the Sherouk. Even though he’d inherited far more than any one man ever should at such a young age and at the same time, when the coup ended and the ‘restored’ Union gave him every account his deceased family had ever kept. “But I cannot accept that it voids the order. The hierarchy. That it means we should become a mob of hăcetyu’unbroul without rules and standards.”

Was that what he was to Yejain? A riding-hound pup that didn’t understand it was wrong to snap at people because it had been tortured until it mistook the fighting ring for its natural habitat? Berat clenched his teeth so hard he thought he might start molting the macroscales on his jaw ridges right then and there.

Yejain clearly knew the look. The glinn ducked his head again, averted his eyes. I have transgressed, the expression born of ancient instinct said. Do with me as you will.

Only Yejain’s act of contrition held Berat back from snapping, Don’t you dare speak unless you actually have a clue what you’re talking about! The gul forced himself to moderate his words. Slightly. “You do not want to know what I know, how I know it. Consider yourself fortunate.”

Glinn Yejain nodded, still keeping his eyes respectfully downcast. “Yes, Gul. I obey.”

“Let me tell you something,” Berat said, his voice much lower now. “I have much experience with mobs. I know what they’re capable of in a very, very personal manner. And I do not ever want to follow in their ways. What I want is for us to stop using order as an excuse for putting each other’s necks in the vise.” Berat shuddered. He’d seen Gul Marak do that aboard the Ghedrakbre…not just an ‘ordinary’ hanging with a rope, but suspending the poor souls by a metal clamp around their necks that left them just enough room to breathe—but squeezed the sensitive neck ridges so tight that there was no need to light kindling underneath them to make them feel like their bodies were consumed by flame.

“That doesn’t mean that because there has been injustice, that I hate justice. That because there has been oppression, I don’t want rules.” He unclipped the padd from his belt, though he didn’t hand it over just yet. “The person who has asked me to do this has not specified what’s to be done after we get rid of the Dominion. Just that we can’t tolerate the Dominion any longer. It’s true that I want more. That I don’t want the old power structures to rule us once we’re rid of them. But I actually am a reasonable man, Yejain, and I know I cannot make those decisions now, nor can I make them alone. If we do this, it’ll take time, and that’s time that all of us can spend trying to think of something reasoned, that will at least help until we have the luxury of some more long-term planning.

“Because you know something? I don’t trust mobs, but I also don’t trust closed circles. I don’t trust any one person, or any insular little group…or myself…with that kind of power. That’s just an invitation to abuse it—and given the chance, they inevitably will, just because it’s there. People forget very, very easily that the duties of the hierarchy run both ways, and there have to be rules to make sure both duties are fulfilled. Not just the one that says, ’Obey your superiors.’ What we have now…it’s rotted out and we have to start over. But not with a mob, Glinn.”

Berat looked Glinn Yejain in the eye. “I am pleading with you to join me in this. I can’t lead the Sherouk in this direction alone.”

“I…” Yejain shut his mouth. Swallowed hard. He even seemed to be sweating—a sign of deepest physical distress for a Cardassian. Berat well understood that, though he’d gone through it a long time ago.

Gul Berat waited a moment. Then he said, “Please tell me if I ever start to act like them. I want someone with me that I can trust to tell me before I go too far.”

Finally…Yejain nodded. “I am ready to help you get rid of the Dominion.”

Berat solemnly inclined his head—not the full bow given to a subordinate or an equal, but a sincere acknowledgment nonetheless. “You have my gratitude, Glinn Yejain.”

After a brief pause to let it sink in—for both of them—Berat finally allowed himself a smile. “Now as our first order of business—I guess I ought to take you up on that offer to teach me some better fieldcraft if we’re going to keep doing this…”
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Last edited by Nerys Ghemor; June 30 2011 at 02:07 PM.
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