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Old October 30 2008, 10:22 PM   #106
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

Nerys Dukat wrote: View Post
Here it comes...I promise, the hints were there all along.
Absolutely fabulous! This strange band of allies are just terrific; the compassion the Cardassians learned the hard way, the slow building of trust. This story just keeps getting better and better.
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Old October 31 2008, 06:31 AM   #107
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

SLWatson wrote: View Post
Wow. Several stunning chapters. Macet becomes more and more likable; I think I'll have a very hard time forgiving you if it turns out that he's anything like Dukat in the end. Or on that level of bad. I really love how evocative your language is -- you pull out these very primal concepts of loyalty and freedom and what kind of person it takes to leads a small group into battle against an overwhelming force.

This last chapter I've read so far took my breath away. Beautiful work.
SLWatson wrote: View Post
Absolutely fabulous! This strange band of allies are just terrific; the compassion the Cardassians learned the hard way, the slow building of trust. This story just keeps getting better and better.
I'm very glad this is still holding your interest.

The way I've always seen the Cardassians--personally, at least--is that their culture has a terrible sickness in it...but not all of the people really HAVE the disease; some just fake it so as not to get caught as being out of place. There just isn't any way their entire population could be that evil through and through. (And I believe there are good parts of their culture, too...it can't ALL have been so thoroughly perverted without their becoming the Borg.) Others are free to disagree and write their own stories differing...but that's just me.

Now that these guys aren't operating under the auspices of Central Command, I think there's more freedom to show themselves as they are. Macet, we know, has an unorthodox past. So does Daro (though information on that will come much later). And so does Tayben (which you'll find out about in the next section I post in a few weeks, once I show who he is).
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Old October 31 2008, 06:53 AM   #108
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

Nerys Dukat wrote: View Post
The way I've always seen the Cardassians--personally, at least--is that their culture has a terrible sickness in it...but not all of the people really HAVE the disease; some just fake it so as not to get caught as being out of place. There just isn't any way their entire population could be that evil through and through. (And I believe there are good parts of their culture, too...it can't ALL have been so thoroughly perverted without their becoming the Borg.) Others are free to disagree and write their own stories differing...but that's just me.
Oh, absolutely. There's no perfect culture, but there are also none that are so deeply evil down to every individual that you can't find the good points. I've never honestly felt strongly about the Cardassians one way or the other -- DS9 was something I watched if it happened to be on, but never seriously. Of course, I did sympathize with Bajor, but had my problems with Bajoran culture at points, too. So, it really doesn't shock me that there would be decent Cardassians, probably more than most would expect even.

It's just great to see how you weave it all together and make it so real and relatable that keeps me coming back for more. There may well be other authors who write Cardassian culture, but they'd be hardpressed to beat your vision of it.
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Old October 31 2008, 07:58 AM   #109
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

Well, dammit, I'm all through with what you've posted so far. The toast to the Thirteenth Order was absolutely great, I thought. If you'd handled it without any sincerity, if it had been ham-handed, THEN you would have to worry about cliche. But, it wasn't. It struck a real tone, a genuine one where everyone did believe in what they were saying.

This story just rocks. I'm very much looking forward to more.
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Old October 31 2008, 06:48 PM   #110
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

SLWatson wrote: View Post
Oh, absolutely. There's no perfect culture, but there are also none that are so deeply evil down to every individual that you can't find the good points. I've never honestly felt strongly about the Cardassians one way or the other -- DS9 was something I watched if it happened to be on, but never seriously. Of course, I did sympathize with Bajor, but had my problems with Bajoran culture at points, too. So, it really doesn't shock me that there would be decent Cardassians, probably more than most would expect even.

It's just great to see how you weave it all together and make it so real and relatable that keeps me coming back for more. There may well be other authors who write Cardassian culture, but they'd be hardpressed to beat your vision of it.
SLWatson wrote: View Post
Well, dammit, I'm all through with what you've posted so far. The toast to the Thirteenth Order was absolutely great, I thought. If you'd handled it without any sincerity, if it had been ham-handed, THEN you would have to worry about cliche. But, it wasn't. It struck a real tone, a genuine one where everyone did believe in what they were saying.

This story just rocks. I'm very much looking forward to more.
Glad you like! I'm afraid it'll probably be another week or two before the next section...I'm into some difficult writing now and I do like to be several sections ahead of what I'm posting, to give me time to edit things properly.

Obviously I thought the Bajoran Occupation was horrible. And in a lot of ways, it was the ultimate symbol (along with Dukat himself) of that sickness I was talking about on the part of Cardassian culture/government. But when you read stories about people who have had to live under totalitarian regimes, works by authors like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Azar Nafisi, and others like them, you start to see that even though the government and people who benefit from that sort of regime may be corrupt and responsible for all sorts of crimes...that the everyday people aren't a monolithic bloc of evil and that there is still good to be found.
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Old November 10 2008, 01:19 AM   #111
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

Next section! It's much shorter than the previous one, but I hope you'll enjoy it. For any readers of pre-relaunch DS9 novels, a little treat (I hope): a character you might remember officially announces his return, in rougher shape physically but MUCH stronger shape psychologically than he was last seen. Please note I had an error in the previous timeline I gave to him--I have now placed that first appearance in 2369 and his promotion to gul in 2371.

Again, expect the wait time to the next section to be two weeks or so. The section I'm writing now (three chapters ahead) is quite difficult and if I don't feel I've gained sufficient ground, the next post will be held back.

===========

Spirodopoulos and the gul of the Sherouk strode side-by-side along the perimeter of the mess hall where the guards had once patrolled. The Cardassian carefully supported his kănar glass with both hands, the left clasping it the usual way and the right hand underneath. Spirodopoulos had left his behind, empty. “I believe I’ve noticed some concern about me on your part,” the gul said. “It’s all right—you can say it.”

“I…” The Starfleet officer drew in a breath; despite his observations of Cardassian culture over the past month, he had no idea what his people would and would not regard as offensive in such matters. “I was wondering if you were ill. You seemed a bit…”

“Unsteady?”

Spirodopoulos winced. “Not the word I would’ve chosen.”

“I’ve just about heard them all by now; there isn’t much a man concerned with tact as you are could say to offend me.” The gul rolled his eyes; Spirodopoulos suspected he would have accompanied this statement with a dismissive wave had he not required both hands to support his drink. “I want to assure you that you needn’t worry about my health…and I think for the sake of trust between allies you should be able to give a truthful answer to your men if they ask why I lack the full use of my hands. I hope the term will translate properly—it’s called phaser-induced peripheral neuropathy.”

“Stun-shock,” he replied, one of the names by which the condition was known in the trenches. “You’ve been shot.” On AR-558, Spirodopoulos had seen a number of soldiers pulled off the front lines after taking one too many phaser bolts, consumed with convulsions and agony far beyond what the intensity of the blast should have occasioned. During peacetime operations, the usual policy was to head off such cases before they could occur; anyone who showed the warning signs was typically restricted to shipboard-only duty until the CMO determined sufficient time had passed that he or she no longer risked permanent damage if hit again.

These days, however, when reinforcements were so few and far between, especially in more isolated locations like AR-558, the incidence of stun-shock, or nerve burn, had skyrocketed once more. In the most tragic case he had personally witnessed, extensive, irreparable neurological damage left a young Xindi-Primate crewman with limited cognitive function and, according to the most recent communiqué he’d heard, a cloudy prognosis from the best neurologists Starfleet Medical had to offer.

Most stun-shock victims, however, regained sufficient function to continue a successful planetside career; Spirodopoulos had encountered several such veterans in positions ranging from computer network administrators to architects to Starfleet Academy professors. But even Starfleet usually gave pause before approving a shipboard posting. The Cardassian Guard was certainly not known for its forgiveness—persistent soldiers’ lore even suggested they experimented upon the wounded and disabled among their own ranks. Though Spirodopoulos had given the lurid tales no credence even before this night, the emergence of such rumors certainly pointed to a harsh attitude towards people in this man’s position. That he retained his rank and command in spite of everything spoke strongly on his behalf.

The Guard officer nodded. “It wasn’t the first time. But this happened on Volan III.”

Spirodopoulos stiffened, stopping in his tracks. He didn’t have to be Maquis to disapprove of what the Federation had done by forcing those colonists to either leave or forfeit their rights as Federation citizens—and just as vehemently he disapproved of how the Cardassians had reacted to that horrible situation. “You’ve been in the DMZ?”

“Cardassian civilians were dying every day from Maquis terrorism,” the gul passionately insisted. “It was clear Central Command’s tactics were doing nothing to stop the insurgency, so they decided to try something new—to not just deal with the legitimate governments of those worlds, but to forge direct relations with the ‘expatriate’ population. The idea was to provide more meaningful assistance than the Maquis ever could, the kind that would actually make a difference in their lives…a positive incentive for cooperation instead of the constant terror-and-reprisal.”

An early 21st-century phrase sprang to mind: ‘winning the hearts and minds.’ It was not the sort of philosophy Spirodopoulos would have expected from the halls of Central Command. “That could well have undercut Maquis credibility…not to mention the impression it would have made on our side of the DMZ. Heck, it makes you wonder where our peoples could’ve been instead of at war with each other.”

“Exactly!” The Cardassian smiled.

Maybe
, Spirodopoulos narrowly avoided saying, the Federation would have really gone to the mat for the Cardassian Union instead of being so eager to patch it up with the Klingons. And there might not have been any Dukat-the-avenging-angel-of-Cardassia…

“If something like that had really gotten off the ground, it would’ve made the news,” Spirodopoulos mused. “Information flows freely in the Federation…we would’ve known. That it didn’t…sir, am I right that it has something to do with your condition?”

“That’s correct.” The gul’s dark-ringed, sapphire-light blue eyes stared out brilliantly across memory in their strange mixture of placidity and intensity. His face was solemn now. “Not five minutes after I beamed down to the surface, I had started out on a tour with the colonial governor’s staff and the next thing I knew, I was curled on the ground with fire burning through my spine into every nerve of my body. My officers were split between pursuing the sniper and stabilizing me for transport. I went into seizures and lost consciousness as soon as I made it back to the Sherouk. I was dying—one seizure after another, and it’s a credit to my crew that I survived.”

Status epilepticus
, Spirodopoulos thought with a chill: this Cardassian had come within a hair’s breadth of going the way poor Megris had, or worse.

And if I wanted to…my God, with what I know now, I could take this man’s life just like that, with nothing more than a stun bolt. Yet here he is off his ship, walking alone amongst a bunch of armed Starfleet soldiers and admitting the truth of his condition, when he easily could’ve denied everything or excused it as something else. He found no suitable reply to such a humbling trust within him; in silence the Greek officer let the gul continue.

“When Dr. Hetalc finally restored me to full consciousness, I found out Gul Evek was inbound with shock troops, that he’d deploy them in the streets within the week. I tried to stop it—I told Central Command I was willing to go back once I was in reasonable shape; I argued my return could be exactly the statement we needed to curtail the hostilities. I still believed in my mission; I still felt I had a chance of making it work. I had a few prominent backers...Legates Turrel and Ghemor tried, but it became very clear it would be a losing battle. Central Command was convinced what happened to me demonstrated the futility of reasoning with the colonists. Evek went through with the crackdown while I was still recuperating …I don’t know what came of it. I didn’t want to know.”

Spirodopoulos shook his head with disgust. “All of that for nothing. If they’d only listened…”

The Cardassian officer slowly lowered his drink and set it upon a windowsill. He thrice flexed his stiffened fingers, massaged the palms with his thumbs to work them as loose as he could. Then he held his grey hands before him, palms down, fingers splayed. The tremors had intensified slightly in the wake of sustained effort and high emotion. “No,” he decided as he lowered his hands, returning them to their usual rest position folded behind his back. He glanced up at Spirodopoulos with that same quiet, appraising expression as before. “It wasn’t for nothing.”

The human met his eyes and quietly inquired, “Is it difficult for you, working with us?”

“It brings back the memory,” the young gul acknowledged. “I was almost certainly wounded by someone who used to be a Federation citizen. But…the person that did this was not willing to face me, to know the person he was trying to kill. I was just some Cardassian gul in his eyes—species and rank was all he thought he needed to know and as far as he was concerned, that was enough to convict me. Your people, though…you seem to resist your instincts.

“And I have…certain reasons…older than this ‘stun-shock,’ as you call it, to believe we have a second chance to prove I was right.” Something in the Cardassian’s expression suggested to Spirodopoulos that he ought not inquire of said reasons.

“I’m…honored.” Spirodopoulos smiled, bowing his head after the Cardassian fashion.

“By the way,” the Cardassian added in a decidedly lighter tone of voice with a knowing smile, “I am also quite capable of telling when someone has forgotten my name and is afraid to ask.

“It’s Berat.”

========

Written with thanks to Lois Tilton for the wonderful work she did in Betrayal, shaping Berat into a character I remembered for years afterward.

Curious how I retconned Berat and the events of Betrayal into the Sigils and Unions universe? Here's my article on Tayben Berat over at the Star Trek Expanded Universe wiki.

(Oh...and you might be interested to know--when I'm describing his eyes, picture Cal Ripken, Jr. and that'll tell you just how intense I'm talking.)
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Old November 10 2008, 03:46 AM   #112
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

A friend of mine who lives and Russia and I both agree that if individuals, no matter the culture, sit down and talk then eventually they'll find common ground and understanding no matter how much their cultures clash. Good work showing that!
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Old November 10 2008, 06:45 PM   #113
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

SLWatson wrote: View Post
A friend of mine who lives and Russia and I both agree that if individuals, no matter the culture, sit down and talk then eventually they'll find common ground and understanding no matter how much their cultures clash. Good work showing that!
I think that's very true.

Spirodopoulos and Berat definitely have a working relationship now--that can only help things.
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Old November 10 2008, 09:22 PM   #114
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

I found that to be a very intense encounter-even though it was just two men walking and talking. Excellent work. i'm just sorry it was so short.
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Old November 11 2008, 06:29 AM   #115
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

Good stuff but the name of Berat isn't really registering with me. I do like the heart to hear conversation though.
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Old November 11 2008, 07:41 AM   #116
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

Mistral wrote: View Post
I found that to be a very intense encounter-even though it was just two men walking and talking. Excellent work. i'm just sorry it was so short.
Thanks.

I didn't want to overdo it for fear of destroying the intensity of that moment--but I am very glad it came across to you as I intended.

TimmyWl wrote: View Post
Good stuff but the name of Berat isn't really registering with me. I do like the heart to hear conversation though.
It's OK...Berat only appeared in one novel many years ago before the relaunch, called Betrayal.

Plus, during the time of that story, he was in a bad way psychologically thanks to the hell he's been put through, which makes him more difficult to recognize. But I saw glimpses of something else in him that I thought would be very interesting to write. His engineering skills, his attitude towards hard work, and the underlying good person that Tilton portrayed in him--that's what I based my version of him on. (And the risk for permanent disability was put in there as well--you might say I was mean for reopening that wound, so to speak, but honestly...I think that he's now got the strength to deal with it gracefully.) This is a Berat that's had six years to heal psychologically and to mature...and even though he is physically in worse shape, I'd say he's really come into himself much more fully.

I'm very glad you liked the way Spirodopoulos and my version of Berat interact!
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Old November 13 2008, 04:41 AM   #117
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

Terrific scene between Berat and Spirodopoulos. The foundation for trust between these two disparate factions must be laid one brick at a time, and Berat has just set the first stone in place.

Spiro did well for extemporaneously addressing the crowd. That’s good. If he survives this little adventure, I think he’ll be spending some time on the Federation lecture circuit.
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Old November 13 2008, 07:43 AM   #118
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

Gibraltar wrote: View Post
Terrific scene between Berat and Spirodopoulos. The foundation for trust between these two disparate factions must be laid on brick at a time, and Berat has just set the first stone in place.

Spiro did well for extemporaneously addressing the crowd. That’s good. If he survives this little adventure, I think he’ll be spending some time on the Federation lecture circuit.
You and I think a lot a like, Mr. Gibraltar. I thought the same thing. The writing for Berat/Spiro was well done. Will follow this story...

Rob
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Old November 13 2008, 08:23 AM   #119
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

Gibraltar wrote: View Post
Terrific scene between Berat and Spirodopoulos. The foundation for trust between these two disparate factions must be laid one brick at a time, and Berat has just set the first stone in place.

Spiro did well for extemporaneously addressing the crowd. That’s good. If he survives this little adventure, I think he’ll be spending some time on the Federation lecture circuit.
Ha, don't scare him like that!

I'm sure public speaking is a required course for officers, either at Starfleet Academy or through some sort of continuing training as they advance. But he just hasn't really had to use it in critical situations until now. Not that he's shy--as a security officer, I imagine he's had to tell some people off in the past, including people who outranked him. And he's not done badly with his own little teams, but now he's got a MUCH bigger role to deal with.

Out of curiosity, while you say Spirodopoulos did come off well, would you say the degree of contrast was right between his speech and the way Macet and Speros spoke--not too much or too little?

But the interaction between Spirodopoulos and Berat...I'm VERY glad you liked that. Berat is definitely very personally invested in making this collaboration succeed, and what he did--that's a very big thing for anybody, but especially when you come from a culture that's so big on not showing weakness, it's major.

RobertScorpio wrote: View Post
You and I think a lot a like, Mr. Gibraltar. I thought the same thing. The writing for Berat/Spiro was well done. Will follow this story...

Rob
Welcome aboard--glad you're enjoying so far!

BTW...had either of you read Betrayal or remember doing so? I'm starting to think I was the only one that book stuck with...
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Old November 15 2008, 12:34 AM   #120
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

Just began reading.

Nice story so far. My compliments.



Still...I noticed a slight problem with the pacing.

Now, there are many instances where I found myself skimming over long paragraphs (like in the first battle sequence). As a result, I felt like I'd missed something when I read the next scene, where Spirodopulous wakes up in prison.

I think that, while quiet, slow-paced "character-development" scenes (Like Macet's intro) can have long paragraphs, as little is actually happening, scenes full of action (and interaction) are best serves with a lot of shorter ones.

See, as a general rule, information given in the middle of a paragraph is noticed the least. The longer a paragraph, the less attention is payed to "middle-info".

Smaller paragraphs are less likely to be "skimmed over" than longer ones, and thus encourage the reader to hang on to every point.

I think if you split the longer passages into smaller parts, it gives greater emphasis to the info.

That, and it helps a lot if you want a fast pace to your tale. And, considering the dramatic premises in your tale (my compliments!), I think that would help a lot.

My advice: make the "breaks" just before "essential" info, which will begin the next paragraph.



Here's an example:

“How do you like it, you little kosst?” Folani shrilled as she grappled with her own target, gaining a decisive advantage. The young Cardassian’s eyes widened with panic as Folani drove her elbow deep into the space under his ribs—from the look of it, hitting a vital organ. “How’s this feel? Huh? Answer me! Or are you too cowardly to do it when you’re not smashing your boot into a little child’s back?” Her prey gasped for air as she pressed the assault. His bulging grey eyes spoke nothing of the antipathy he might have reserved for Bajorans—only the primal terror of looking death in the eye.

The first time I read this, I wasn't quite sure what was going on. I had a general idea, but I wasn't entirely certain.

I think I would break the paragraph like this:

“How do you like it, you little kosst?” Folani shrilled as she grappled with her own target, gaining a decisive advantage.

The young Cardassian’s eyes widened with panic as Folani drove her elbow deep into the space under his ribs—from the look of it, hitting a vital organ.

“How’s this feel? Huh? Answer me! Or are you too cowardly to do it when you’re not smashing your boot into a little child’s back?”

Her prey gasped for air as she pressed the assault. His bulging grey eyes spoke nothing of the antipathy he might have reserved for Bajorans—only the primal terror of looking death in the eye.


Here's another example:

A scaled hand clapped down immediately on his mouth. “Quiet!” hissed the Cardassian to whom it belonged, a bearded man with an uncanny resemblance to Dukat. “The sensors will pick up any speech in an alien language and report it to the Vorta. If you need something, you’ll have to gesture for it unless you know our words.” Spirodopoulos fought to stand, but found his right wrist bound by a cord tied around a metal loop protruding from the floor, perhaps to strap down cargo in its proper use. “Stop that—you’ll pull your shoulder right back out of its socket, the way we found it. There’s no need to struggle…you’re safe for now. You’re aboard the Trager, and we’re taking you somewhere to wait out the war. I apologize for the restraints, but they are necessary for the moment: we dare not divert power to erect a forcefield.”
Again, I wasn't sure what was going on, and I barely noticed the interaction here between the two. I'd probably break it like this:

A scaled hand clapped down immediately on his mouth. “Quiet!” hissed the Cardassian to whom it belonged, a bearded man with an uncanny resemblance to Dukat. “The sensors will pick up any speech in an alien language and report it to the Vorta. If you need something, you’ll have to gesture for it unless you know our words.”

Spirodopoulos fought to stand, but found his right wrist bound by a cord tied around a metal loop protruding from the floor, perhaps to strap down cargo in its proper use.

“Stop that—you’ll pull your shoulder right back out of its socket, the way we found it. There’s no need to struggle…you’re safe for now.

"You’re aboard the Trager, and we’re taking you somewhere to wait out the war. I apologize for the restraints, but they are necessary for the moment: we dare not divert power to erect a forcefield.”
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"Forget it, Jake...it's Chinatown."
Rush Limborg is offline   Reply With Quote
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