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Old March 5 2009, 06:25 AM   #1
Nerys Ghemor
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Location: Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Story)

This short story spans from late 2374 to just a week before the Septimus Massacre in 2375. There are spoilers for some sections of The Thirteenth Order, as well as major spoilers for Lois Tilton's DS9 novel, Betrayal.

Gul Tayben Berat is indeed the same character from Tilton's novel. But his history from that point (and the retconning of his history from Betrayal) is my own. If you'd like to jump straight to the spoilers and see how I have woven Berat's history together for my own universe, please go to this article. And this one will also give you an understanding of the neurological condition that plays such an important role in the plot of this story. (If you've read The Thirteenth Order so far, you'll have most of this information already.)

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Star Trek:
Sigils and Unions


“Let He Who Has Eyes See”


2374—The Dominion War
Cardassian Union Warship Sherouk

Gul Berat sighed…quietly enough that only Yejain could hear, but a sigh nonetheless. True, if this Dominion technology did as advertised it would be quite a boost for the Sherouk and its crew—but he still couldn’t shake his disgust. Both the gul and the part of him that still remembered what it felt like to hold a hyperspanner in his hands were revolted. Those Vorta and Jem’Hadar lab experiments were going to have their paws all over his ship.

Inside it.

As a Cardassian he assigned no gender pronoun to his ship—no more than his language allowed for any other inanimate object, animal, or even person. That did not, however, erase the mental need to shower when he contemplated what these Dominion abominations were about to do. Though he could not verbalize it with quite the succinctness of a grammatically gendered language like Vedrayçda or Rhamoulda, the fact remained: it felt…indecent.

He had been fortunate until now: a junior gul with no other fiat than his own vessel, always serving in the company of other vessels and their older commanders—the Dominion hadn’t seen fit to spare manpower to put a team aboard until word came that the Sherouk, along with Macet’s Trager, would be among the first twenty ships in the Cardassian fleet to receive Dominion upgrades.

Berat faced the transporter officer and ordered in as neutral a voice as he could muster, “Riyăk...ouvrisupum.”

The young officer initiated the transport sequence. Through the krilătbre-yezul—the inverted teardrop-shaped protrusion at the center of the Cardassian forehead, he sensed the building energy columns in the room just as any other Cardassian would—but for him, the neural stimulation coupled with his misgivings to send a shot of pain radiating from his forehead to a point just behind his eyes. It felt like being stabbed—but he was well used to these intermittent pains by now and only the most astute observer would notice the tension around his jaw ridges as he focused it into submission.

The transport proceeded perfectly—much to Berat’s disappointment. The gul focused on the Vorta male and stepped forward. “Dasreen,” he said in his most formal phrasing, “on behalf of my crew I welcome you aboard the Sherouk.” He bowed slightly—but it was hardly more than the incline of the head he would give to acknowledge one of the junior crew.

The tall Vorta had what a terhăn might describe as patrician features and a smug demeanor to go with it. He glanced down his long nose at the Cardassian gul, who stood arrow-straight with hands folded carefully behind his back. “Tayben Berat…your reputation precedes you. I understand you have…a certain experience in interspecies diplomacy.”

Berat stiffened, and so did Yejain. Does he mean what I think he does? “I have undertaken such missions in the past, yes.”

“I imagine you would find such skills useful in an endeavor of this nature,” Dasreen replied. Berat let his shoulders relax before the consequences of the sustained tension could manifest; this sounded diplomatic enough. Then the Vorta just had to append his remarks. “The Dominion, after all, is founded upon harmony between its component species, and you certainly understand the repercussions of upsetting that harmony. I expect you to employ that skill to the fullest extent; you will certainly need your crew to carry out your will as effectively as if you were doing it yourself.” Though the subtext of translated speech could be difficult to interpret at times, Berat was almost a hundred percent sure he detected a measure of contempt in the Vorta’s eyes as he spoke that last sentence. And he had a dreadful suspicion as to why.

“I have full faith in my crew,” Berat said—and it was absolutely true. “You will find their qualifications more than sufficient to your project.”

“But…” Dasreen let the word hang there for a second. “What about their commander?”

“You needn’t trouble yourself on that count,” Berat curtly replied. “I intend to be present as well—I know my ship very well and I’m certain I can contribute my expertise.”

Dasreen’s features hardened. “My team is well familiar with your systems; we need only carry out our labor. A ‘presence’ is not necessary.”

“With all due respect,” Berat quietly pressed for the sake of the Sherouk and his crew, “each ship is the product not only of its schematics but of its individual history, both in drydock and in space. I know that history intimately. I know those subtle things that differentiate the Sherouk from its counterparts and I can prevent you from wasting any of your labor.”

“If your contribution is one of knowledge, that can be had from a multitude of sources to include your computers and your chief engineer, and does not require your physical presence. Unless you believe you can make a more substantial contribution—” Dasreen’s eyes gleamed with malicious delight now; he was about to spring his trap and Berat had had no other choice but to walk right into it. “Show me your hands.”

You really want to see them, do you? Why, I would be delighted! Berat ground his teeth, picturing a particularly obscene gesture he was reasonably sure he still had the dexterity for: the fingers of each hand formed a circle with the thumb, littlest finger of each hand extended—and a thrust of the right hand quite graphically suggested what act the offending party performed on his off-duty hours.

Berat seethed, knowing full well his barely-restrained anger would only enhance the impression he was about to give this supercilious, genetically-programmed tree-ape. He could already feel it; it was a foregone conclusion. So he gave Dasreen nothing other than strict compliance with the order—certainly not the submissive ‘gorhoç edek’ one said to a legate, nor even the bow one gave a more senior gul. His face, his eyes became utterly devoid of affect as he unfolded his hands from behind his back and held them, palms inward, before the Vorta.

The tremor was quite pronounced, as Berat had expected. I suppose it could’ve been worse, he thought as Dasreen pursed his lips and raised a thin eyebrow that Berat suspected—though such things were far from his realm of experience—had been meticulously trimmed into that shape rather than having grown that way. It could have been evening and I could be exhausted on top of insulted, mortified, and furious.

Then Dasreen pronounced his verdict.

“Disgraceful.”

Berat’s jaw and neck ridges burned in concert and as much as he would have loved to let the fury crescendo to a fevered wrath, he knew he couldn’t afford it—the cost in pain was too high, especially now, in this supercilious creature’s view.

The Vorta wasn’t finished. “I had heard you Cardassians were a paragon of efficiency; I see now that your people’s standards are…rather below what I would have expected of a race so famed for its willingness to make the hard decisions needed to allocate its scarce resources.” He gave a derisive, haughty bark of a laugh. “Ha! Any Jem’Hadar or even Vorta in your condition would be euthanized immediately—and if I were in your position, I would gladly offer myself up to the mercy of the Founders.”

The eyes of the riyăk manning the transporter console positively burned by now, enough so that Berat feared for the young man’s safety. Even the ordinarily placid Glinn Yejain had a dangerous, steel glint in his own eyes that Berat rarely ever saw during his first officer’s tenure on the Sherouk. Yejain might seem like a slight man—wiry in build, but he was a martial arts master of the highest order. And when he had reason to unleash that aspect of himself…the results even struck fear into Klingon warriors. And now he wore the same look he’d had the instant before he snapped the neck of one such Klingon with nothing but his bare hands, when they had tried to take the Sherouk during the fight to hold the vicious berserkers out of the Cardassia system.

But right now, there was nothing either of them could do about the insufferable little skrăgh standing before them. If only I could snap his scrawny little pole neck! Berat fumed. As it was, he pointedly folded his hands back behind his back and stood as tall as he could, fixing Dasreen with a frosty gaze that to those who knew him would have seem strange in his ordinarily kind pale blue eyes. “We Cardassians aren’t cloned in a lab somewhere with convenient little memory transfers when we die. And that means we value our lives. I may not conform to your sterile ideal, but I happen to like being alive, thank you very much!”

“How predictable,” Dasreen sneered. “Typical Cardassian narcissism…you value your own miserable little life and yet I have seen what your people can do when you believe yourselves provoked—or when you feel entitled to something that belongs to someone else.”

There was no rebuttal: his personal record simply could not erase the ragged, blood-soaked truth. Berat could only glare as Dasreen finally stepped down from the transporter pad and the Jem’Hadar contingent filed down the hall behind him, not pausing once to ask for permission or even directions.

In fact, for all the Vorta cared, Berat might as well not be there.

The instant the Dominion contingent left the room, Berat exploded. “Ghencardă’ăsca!” And almost immediately he regretted it. It was not a word Gul Berat would ordinarily ever contemplate using…in fact, he found it distasteful in the extreme: he knew how varied the minds and motivations of non-Cardassians could be. He had no tolerance for it when fellow guls branded other species as ghencardăst—sub-Cardassian…and now, in his fury towards the Vorta, he had trampled all over his principles. And as every Cardassian well knew…a crime of passion spoke to what lay within just as loudly as any planned act, and therefore deserved no amnesty.

Berat flushed—not visibly, under the pale grey scales that covered the top layer of his skin, but he suspected that as close as Yejain was standing, the glinn could sense the bioelectric fluctuation that accompanied the increase in circulation. “Forget I said that,” he snapped at Yejain and the transporter operator alike. “That’s an order!”

He stalked out of the transporter room, thoroughly disgusted at himself. Silently he swore an oath upon the lives of any future children: That will be the last victory Dasreen ever gains over me!



2375—The Dominion War—Two weeks before the Septimus Massacre
CUW Sherouk

Gul Berat and Doctor Hetalc sat cross-legged in an intersection between maintenance conduits across from Glinns Yejain and Motreln. A sly grin spread across the gul’s face as he announced, “I believe I have a solution to our Jem’Hadar problem...that is, provided the Dominion modifications to ‘their’ areas haven’t been so extensive as to disable the fire suppression systems. They were foolish to take over a cargo bay; I intend to exploit that.”

“I like the way you think, Gul.” Glinn Motreln mirrored her commander’s wicked smile. “Don’t tell me…level three suppression protocol?”

“Exactly! We alter our cargo manifests to trick the computer into thinking we’re storing something extremely flammable in that bay—something like trilithium resin that could generate flames hot enough to burn through the deckplates in a matter of seconds. Then we send a false indication of fire…and just like that, the entire bay vents to vacuum, sweeping every single Jem’Hadar out to space.”

“Excellent,” commended the gray-haired Dr. Hetalc, “but I have one request.”

“Go ahead, Doctor.” Berat’s smile warmed immediately; this was, after all, the man who had brought him back from the brink of death four years ago. Provided the favor wasn’t any more extreme or risky than the overall plan, he would be more than happy to oblige.

“I want the bodies. I want to understand how it is the Founders have programmed actual beliefs into these creatures, what neurological structures they’ve created to accomplish that,” Hetalc said, for he had taken a great interest in the discipline of neurology since the Volan III incident, the better to manage his commander’s condition. “But it’s not just scientific curiosity. I’m concerned with how the Founders accomplish what they do. I want to know if it’s all done at the moment of conception—cloning—whatever it is—or if it’s…something else. Something they could spread straight into the Cardassian population if they ever get it in their heads to try.”

That put a chill down everyone’s spine; Dominion bioweapons expertise was chilling, to say the least. He’d heard about the slow genocide to which the Dominion had condemned the Teplan people for disobedience. Who knew what else they were capable of? Perhaps a gene-altering pathogen wasn’t so far-fetched a fear after all. “Request granted,” Berat decided. “We’ll set the forcefield to let air pass—but not organic matter.”

“Just one question,” put in Glinn Yejain. “I understand the plan to eliminate the Jem’Hadar—but Gul Macet was quite clear about the risk of killing the Vorta. We can’t allow that termination implant of theirs to send any signals. That’s a problem…Dasreen can’t be in that cargo bay with the Jem’Hadar, but they can’t be allowed to suspect anything is amiss. Unless replacement is an option?”

Hetalc shook his head. “No one on this crew is a close enough match in build, facial features, and voice to chance it.”

“So we use synthesized audio to call them…and holography,” said Glinn Motreln, “when we have to communicate with other ships. But Gul…I’m curious as well—how do we incapacitate Dasreen? They control the transporters, the Jem’Hadar bodyguards are there at all hours…how do we isolate him?”

I will,” Berat declared with a fierce glare.

Motreln’s eye ridges widened as far as they could. “Brocol lerayt edek?”she asked. “Çada?Did I hear correctly? You? Berat took no offense; their hearing, like all Cardassians, was weaker than most galactic powers. Though the deficit was far from extreme, their people still gave less trust to their hearing than most cardasdanoid species and showed far less embarrassment about asking for repeats of potentially misheard statements than did species like the terhăn-çăs.

“You heard correctly,” Gul Berat replied. “There is no other way.”

His officers fell silent and he understood exactly why. The situation of the Sherouk was completely unique in the Cardassian Guard and perhaps any other galactic military, with the Federation as one of the few possible exceptions. All on the highest levels of the command crew were there because they wanted to be, there because they believed in Berat’s cleverness and drive, and honored the faith that he had in them. But all of them did so knowing exactly what the risks were. He had spoken to them about it in the frankest terms possible as soon as the announcement came down that he would retain his command, offered a one-time opportunity for anyone ranked dalin or above who wished to transfer to another command to do so without prejudice. No one had taken it, but Berat had to wonder if any of these three would be questioning their decision now.

Hardly ever were the risks more extreme than now. Their gul could never fire a weapon and had a dangerous, almost certainly lethal hypersensitivity to others’ energy weapons, even on their lowest stun settings. His reaction time for anything requiring great coordination was compromised and his stamina in hand-to-hand combat doubtful at best. And for a man with limited use of the hands, manipulating tools and sometimes even computer consoles presented significant difficulties.

What Berat was proposing to do was to face the Vorta alone with only his words, his wits, and his courage as his weapons. And even as they admired him for it…he knew what all three of them surely imagined. The thought had crossed his mind too—far too many times.

“I have a few more questions for each of you,” Berat continued. “Doctor…do you know if Vorta are capable of seeing the ghenorev?”
__________________
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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Old March 5 2009, 06:30 AM   #2
Nerys Ghemor
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Location: Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Sto

2375—The Dominion War—One week before the Septimus Massacre
CUW Sherouk

“You wished to see me, Gul Berat?”

It was all the Cardassian commander could do to maintain something that would pass for a relaxed posture when what he really wanted to do was snarl, How dare you sit there with your desk perched on that platform giving me that narrowed-eyed stare down your ridiculously long nose as though I’m a first-day garheç about to get written up for failing to polish the legate’s boots properly! Gul Berat never assigned such demeaning tasks to his own crew: he knew very well what it was to serve under someone who did, knew very well what it was to be stripped of all outward dignity and treated worse than a beast of burden. And though the physical hardship had not fallen on Berat this time…he had no doubt he recognized that shade of contempt in the Vorta’s eyes. It was the same expression he remembered on the face of the late, unlamented Selost Marak.

Berat didn’t hesitate in his reply to Dasreen; as with any Cardassian, he recalled his lines perfectly once decided on. “Yes, Dasreen. It…occurred to me that we got off to a rather bad start the first day. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since then—you have no idea how hard it is for me to say this,” –hard enough to make me feel sick to my stomach even though it’s a total lie!— “but…you may have had a point, at least somewhat.”

“Oh, really?” Dasreen leaned forward, programmed Vorta diplomatic instincts kicking in with a vengeance. Oh, these creatures were programmed to lap up even the slightest sign of Dominion-favorable sentiment! The only trouble is, Berat thought with an inner smirk, the well’s poisoned this time, Dasreen. The Vorta smiled a treacly-sweet smile like a proud parent at his five-year-old’s first recital of Tret Akleen’s Consolidation of the Union speech, raising an eyebrow, bidding the gul to continue.

Berat gave a slight—ever so slight—incline of the head…the illusion of deference most belatedly—and grudgingly—granted. “I…think it’s possibly I may have allowed my pride to get in the way a bit.” He paused again…the better to swell Dasreen’s ego at the idea of drawing the confession from the recalcitrant Cardassian. Sure enough, Dasreen replied with an encouraging—though overbearing—stare.

Gul Berat waited just a second more, then thought, All right…time to give the Vorta his biscuit. “I should have considered the fact that perhaps in light of my…condition, there were others better suited to the tasks at hand than myself.”

The Vorta still sat there, infuriatingly silent, in it now to see just how much he could get out of Berat. In an eerie way, Dasreen now began to remind him of less of the explosive Marak and more of the conniving Gul Dukat. Berat had dealt amicably enough with the narcissistic ghentregămst after the Deep Space Nine incident—Dukat had been so pleased with himself at the thought of sweeping in as the herald of the true Cardassian state to be Berat’s personal savior…but even then, after all then-Glinn Berat had endured, he could still see through the illusion. He’d allowed Dukat the privilege of restoring his rank and awarding him his first shipboard posting on the Vrokind, yes—but privately rejoiced when Macet took an interest and…for once…managed to stake a claim upon which his cousin dared not trespass.

The gul accelerated his delivery now. The ‘great confession’ was out…time to manifest the same overweening enthusiasm he remembered from that nausea-inducing encounter with Gul Broca right after the Dominion takeover. “You know,” Berat pretended to decide on the fly, “I’d like to make it up to you. I pride my crew in their professionalism, and they’ve been that…but I’m afraid they’ve been following my example and that’s about as far as it goes. I can’t imagine that’s been easy on you; I’ve heard Vorta are a very social people by nature. I was thinking…perhaps I could teach you some of our games. I’ll reserve the recreation deck for us—I won’t allow anybody else in. That way…”

It was Berat’s turn to lean in close now. He lowered his voice with a conspiratorial, eyes darting side to side towards the two Jem’Hadar looming over each of Dasreen’s shoulders. “I understand the importance of maintaining one’s credibility in front of one’s men. That way, neither of us loses any of our standing before our subordinates if we lose.”

Berat waited. Come on, come on, come on, take the bait!

Finally, a grin spread across Dasreen’s smug features. “I think you have a point this time, Gul Berat. First!” Dasreen barked. “I want us undisturbed on our excursion! That includes you two.”

“Esteemed Vorta!” burst out the Jem’Hadar First—Janek’ajan, as Berat recalled. “That is highly inadvisable, to go anywhere alone with one of them!

Dasreen laughed…softly to himself, but it was a laugh nonetheless, and a rather unkind one at that. “Any other time I would agree wholeheartedly,” Dasreen replied. “But him? You worry too much! You have your orders, First.”

And prepared as Gul Berat had been for this—it still smarted. It was as if Dasreen had dared to approach the Sherouk with shields down. The message it sent was infuriatingly clear: I hold you in such contempt that I need not even expend any energy to defend against you should it ever become necessary. And the naïveté it demonstrated…that spoke of ignorance coupled with insufferable arrogance—a dangerous combination that had to be dealt with swiftly and decisively lest Cardassia pay the price.

“I’ll show you the way,” Berat offered—quite graciously...at least, in tone.



The rec deck of the Sherouk was far from the obnoxiously sumptuous sort of facility modern Federation starships like the Galaxy-class were rumored to have. There were no holodecks, only an assortment of various exercise machines and lines running along the deck in the vast, open bay to indicate various sporting courts and pitches. A collection of static holoprojectors were anchored in the ceiling to generate expendable photonic opponents for full-force sparring, tiny amber lights denoting that they were currently running in power conservation mode.

Berat had turned the lights down low for this exercise, keeping them just barely above the level where the shortsighted Vorta couldn’t make out where he was going. What Dasreen couldn’t have missed, however, was the subtle silver glow reflecting from the Cardassian’s pupils from the vestigial tapeta lucida coating his retinas as his eyes absorbed the delicate, translucent orb before him. It lacked the intensity of a riding hound’s eyeshine, or even that of the largely diurnal getil—but it was there nonetheless and contributed to the otherworldliness of the sight. Berat hoped it unnerved the Vorta on some level, if such a thing was indeed possible.

The giant, iridescent bubble hovered soundlessly above the deck as Berat knelt before it in a Cardassian position of meditation: body forming a straight vertical line from head to knees, arms swept from the sides in a curve that mirrored the sweep of the neck ridges, eyes open and seeming to register nothing—but warily watching on the deepest levels of the subconscious nonetheless. This was where rest met readiness, dreams met discipline and melded like coal and iron into steel.

A careful observer would also have noted that as the colors of the orb shifted towards something more solid, the tremor in Berat’s exposed hands grew less and less pronounced, subsiding for occasional spans of a few seconds into near nothingness.

“You promised entertainment. Games. This…is monotonous,” Dasreen announced. “I fail to understand the purpose of this device.”

The orb flashed with a bewildering, contradictory array of colors as Berat’s flare of irritation mixed with Dasreen’s and disrupted the device’s near-equilibrium. Once knocked out of his meditative trance, merely maintaining his position became a trial once more, let alone generating the theta waves needed to bring the iridescent sphere to rest. He almost had to force his words out at first. “Relaxation. Enjoyment…but by discipline. Focus. Even stillness is directed towards a purpose. The Altonians may have invented it—but I sometimes think the one who did must have been a Cardassian agent. In fact…aside from Altonians and Vulcans, Cardassians have by far the best record of solving the brain teaser of any other race; our discipline of mind gives us an advantage. Granted it took him over three years, but I saw it with my own eyes when Glinn Yejain solved it.”

The Vorta crossed his arms and asked the exact question Gul Berat was leading him to ask. “Have you ever solved it?”

“No,” Berat plainly replied as he stood, calmly meeting Dasreen’s scrutiny. “I have not…and there is a significant likelihood that my neurological impairment prevents it.”

“Then why bother?” Dasreen pressed. “Why set yourself up for failure time and time again?”

Listen carefully, Berat thought, and you will understand the difference between you and me. And you will understand why it is that we—that I will defeat you. It ran against the grain of his scales, what he was about to do. Unlike the carefully-rehearsed lies he’d fed Dasreen back in the Dominion representative’s quarters…what followed was truth. And more than that—it was the sort of truth he as a Cardassian usually reserved only for those few who had the privilege of calling him ‘Tayben’...far from the sort of thing one generally exposed to one’s enemies.

But it was critical for the series of events Berat would trigger that Dasreen’s ears be firmly focused on him—though a Cardassian would be hard-pressed to hear any of the sounds that might give away what was happening, Dr. Hetalc had warned that the sharp-eared Vorta would be a different matter entirely. Distraction, therefore, was the only option. “A game like this is less about the final victory than it is about the process of getting there,” Berat began. Overhead, in response to his voice and his specific words, the status lights on the holoprojectors he’d had Glinn Motreln retool switched from amber to cyan as they spun up to full power.

Berat kept talking as the power built up. “The extraordinary difficulty, and the benefit of facing that challenge and coming to grips with it, is exactly what keep me coming back. My chances of solving it may well be zero, but I will never know unless I keep trying. If I’m to have even a slight chance of success, I can’t break my concentration by fretting over the possibility of failure. This puzzle allows even less leeway for that than most other games.”

The projectors began running through their modified test sequence. The column of photons coalescing at Berat’s side emitted no light on the spectrum visible to Vorta or terhăn-çăs. That was their most typical use, of course, but as Berat well knew, most complex technological devices were capable of far more than they had ever been designed for. Instead, Gul Berat perceived a faint light in the ghenorev—the under-red, literally, that color just below red on the electromagnetic spectrum.

“I may go to my grave never solving this brain teaser, while someone like Yejain pulls it off in less than four years. And it may well be because of my disability. If it is…then so be it. I will know my limitations by experience rather than fear. But if someday I do solve it—I’m not sure how well this will translate into your culture, but that victory will be all the more precious to me because I had to take a much harder path to get there.”

The photonic column standing before Dasreen—completely invisible to the Vorta but so blatant to Berat as it shimmered in the heat-light of the ghenorev that it was an act of will for him not to stare at it—took on a definitive cardasdanoid shape now. And in a brilliant stroke of artistry from Motreln that he hadn’t counted on, it began to mirror Gul Berat’s height and build until for all intents and purposes, it became an eerie, glowing three-dimensional silhouette of him.

For just a fraction of a second, Berat had to pause and admire her work. It was perfect beyond words, and made all the more poignant what was about to happen. It began to walk now as the forcefields that would give it substance snapped online. It made no audible footsteps, for the projector emitted the image just barely above the ground; it trod on a razor-thin layer of air.

“My disability does not sap the value from my life,” Berat insisted, his passion swelling. The holographic projection worked its way past Dasreen and around until it stood right behind the Vorta. “It only adds complexity. Continuing my service to Cardassia—commanding this ship—carrying my people from battle to battle…holding a stylus in my hand and signing my name…putting on my armor and going to the bridge to serve on those days when the pain is so bad I hardly even feel strong enough get out of bed…I treat all of these things the same way as this puzzle—it is the striving itself that drives me on and gives me meaning, and pushes me further than I would ever manage if I listened to everything I am told about where my limits lie. Let me be the one to find what they are!

The hologram drew back its ghostly, glowing fist, and froze in place, awaiting Berat’s final phrase, his final command. “I will not be swayed!” he snapped, letting the last illusions of courtesy and restraint fall away. “Do you understand now, Dasreen?”

The Vorta’s eyes went wide. At last—at last, the smug Dominion servant understood: somewhere there loomed an immediate threat, but he had no idea what it was, only that it was entirely too late. He was too stunned to move, even to cry out for help as Gul Tayben Berat unleashed his judgment and his sentence: “That very first moment, when you failed to truly see that, to see me—your fate was sealed!”

That was all the hologram needed to hear. Its knuckles smashed into the back of the Vorta’s skull with the swift and crushing force of justice inexorable. Berat jumped back out of the way as gravity cut Dasreen down to size. His stomach turned for just a second as a barely-audible crunch signified the Vorta’s nose breaking on impact with the deckplate. But only for a second.

Berat knelt and slipped his fingers onto the side of Dasreen’s neck. The cocktail of adrenaline and endorphins flooding his bloodstream would have made it a fierce struggle even for an able-bodied person to hold his hand steady enough to make the determination. For Berat it was an even greater exertion of will. But his efforts were rewarded: there was Dasreen’s pulse, unmistakable. It was still strong for now…no sign that the termination implant had activated.

There wasn’t much time left. Gul Berat slapped his wristcomm. “Berat to Motreln—it’s done! Transport now!”

“Gorhoç edek, Gul!” the engineer replied, her voice filled with unmistakable pleasure and relief. I obey, Gul! The insensate Vorta lit from within with the orange light of the transporter and shimmered out of sight and straight into cold storage where he would remain for the foreseeable future. “And, Gul…I think I speak for all of us when I say congratulations are in order. What you did…was incredibly brave.” He took no offense at the obvious evidence of relief in her tone. Had she behaved as though she had absolute certainty in his success before the fact, he would have known her praise to be insincere. Such was the nature of his condition: it removed the certainty in things that for anyone else would be sure, and the first step to dealing with that reality was to acknowledge even those unpleasant aspects.

But that knowledge—important as it was—was only knowledge of the starting line. And that was what he and the crew of the Sherouk understood, that the Vorta never had.

“You have my thanks—both for your confidence and for everything all of you have done to help me bring this about,” Berat replied with a warm smile Glinn Motreln couldn’t see, but he hoped she could feel. “Are you ready for the next phase?”

Absolutely,” Motreln replied.

“Then execute!” the gul enthusiastically ordered. “Berat out.”

The channel closed and Berat issued one last command. “Computer—end program.”

With a final glimmer in the ghenorev—the under-red, the light-silhouetted near-simulacrum of Berat sparkled out of existence, leaving the genuine article standing there blissfully alone on the rec deck with a quiet, satisfied smile upon his lips.

And at last, as the tension wound out of his body, his damaged nerves voiced their indignation at the demands he had placed upon them with that potent jolt of concentration and excitement. A sharp stab of pain radiated from Berat’s fingers and up his right arm and into his shoulder, but the triumphant gul was completely unperturbed. He instinctively clenched and flexed his fingers to allay the pain—but right now, the effort was merely perfunctory.

It felt an awful lot like he had smashed his fist into something.
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Old March 5 2009, 05:55 PM   #3
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Sto

This has got to be one of my favorite pieces of Cardassian writing that I have ever read. And Gul Berat is fast becoming not only one of my favorite cardassians but also a great character in his own right.

I'll give a fuller review in a few hours but I can feel my dyslexia kicking in
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Old March 5 2009, 06:20 PM   #4
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Sto

Thor Damar wrote: View Post
This has got to be one of my favorite pieces of Cardassian writing that I have ever read. And Gul Berat is fast becoming not only one of my favorite cardassians but also a great character in his own right.
I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Berat is a character that's very close to my heart. He came from Lois Tilton's Betrayal, of course, but I've spent a lot of time shaping him into who he's become seven years after the events of that novel. For me...he's just one of those characters that I really, REALLY love to see win.

I'll give a fuller review in a few hours but I can feel my dyslexia kicking in
Looking forward to it whenever you're ready.
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Old March 7 2009, 04:51 PM   #5
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Sto

I...wouldn't normally bump a thread, but I'm thinking this story might've gotten lost in the shuffle.
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Old March 7 2009, 06:09 PM   #6
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Sto

Tsk tsk...
You must stop killing my Jem'Hadar!
Just because they're taking over your ships... and quadrant...

I love Vorta ownage, OTOH!

But seriously- I'd been looking forward to this, and it didn't disappoint!
I like the decision/plot making, the internal thinking and creativity- new and creative anti-Vorta techniques, and important questions that I don't know the Feds ever asked.
I'll send you a PM later with more...
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Old March 7 2009, 11:19 PM   #7
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Sto

It is amazing how indepth your world is. A reader is totally immersed into when they read.

I felt an almost confining claustrophobia as Berat faced off against the Vorta. An unusual and enterprising method of disposing of a foe. It also fitted the character of Berat and represented a huge challenge for him to pull off.

Everything in your stories are just so. The detail and language is exacting. It all leads to a world richly layered and textured. Charactered fleshed out (or scaled, I suppose in the case of Cardassians) in rich details, with flaws and strengths, mannerisms and speech patterns, codes of honour and ethical choices.

This short story is no less so. It is a fascinating look at Berat and how he pulled off a coup against his Dominion interlopers. Congratulations on some very fine writing.
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Old March 8 2009, 12:14 AM   #8
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Sto

Marie1 wrote: View Post
Tsk tsk...
You must stop killing my Jem'Hadar!
Just because they're taking over your ships... and quadrant...

I love Vorta ownage, OTOH!

But seriously- I'd been looking forward to this, and it didn't disappoint!
I like the decision/plot making, the internal thinking and creativity- new and creative anti-Vorta techniques, and important questions that I don't know the Feds ever asked.
I'll send you a PM later with more...
I'm afraid "your" Jem'Hadar had to be eliminated. One does not stop to reason with what one cannot negotiate with; that is the Cardassian way.

But I'm glad you enjoyed Dasreen getting what he had coming to him. If ever any Vorta deserved to be thrown in a freezer, it was him, for all the horrible stuff he said!

Seriously--I even felt bad having to write the awful things that came out of his mouth!

mirandafave wrote: View Post
It is amazing how indepth your world is. A reader is totally immersed into when they read.

I felt an almost confining claustrophobia as Berat faced off against the Vorta. An unusual and enterprising method of disposing of a foe. It also fitted the character of Berat and represented a huge challenge for him to pull off.
WOW...you found a PERFECT word for what I went through in the writing process, one I hadn't even thought of!

I wanted to write this story for months. I've known for a long time that Berat was responsible for taking out the Vorta, and I wanted very badly to show it, but you have NO idea how many ideas and plans I went through and had to dismiss for one reason or the other. So many of them were ideas that would've been great under almost any other circumstances, but the second I got to the actual logistics of carrying them out, I'd run into one problem or another--things I wouldn't have had to consider if, say, Yejain had been the one responsible for the takedown.

It was very, very different from writing the takedown planning in The Thirteenth Order. I didn't even have to detail the physical mechanics of the takedown other than that they got Arawil alone--after all, they could've done anything from a disruptor shot to injecting her with something to throwing something to a knock-down drag-out fight. I was able to have fun with that one because of all the options that were open to me, and I was laughing as I wrote the scene. I had the liberty to be silly.

This one was totally the opposite (in fact, you're seeing up there a number of options I had to immediately dismiss). Everything was going to have to be planned down to a T beforehand, had to be scripted and controlled in the extreme, and most of all--it had to be within Berat's physical abilities to carry out. Berat is willing to gamble when it comes to combat maneuvers and his gambles tend to pay off quite well...but THIS absolutely could not be a gamble because if anything went wrong, there was no doubt he would die in a fight he could not win. And the blow to his crew and the rebellion as a whole could well have been insurmountable. (I won't spoil it, but each of the four guls brings something crucial to the Thirteenth Order and they all had to be a part of it.)

It was indeed a very constricting, claustrophobic feeling--and I'm actually very glad I went through that. Gul Berat himself had to be feeling exactly the same thing...especially after Dasreen had to twist the knife on him with such horrible words. And I am SO glad to see that came through to you as the reader.

Everything in your stories are just so. The detail and language is exacting. It all leads to a world richly layered and textured. Charactered fleshed out (or scaled, I suppose in the case of Cardassians) in rich details, with flaws and strengths, mannerisms and speech patterns, codes of honour and ethical choices.

This short story is no less so. It is a fascinating look at Berat and how he pulled off a coup against his Dominion interlopers. Congratulations on some very fine writing.
Thank you so much for reading! I really enjoy the worldbuilding more than anything--I love the freedom it gives me...and I'm glad you liked the results.

BTW...if you ever read Betrayal, it would be very interesting to see what you thought of how I projected the character of Berat forward seven years. I did have to extrapolate a lot considering Berat in that novel was near his breaking point (think of your Caitlyn Ryan, to think of how far he'd been pushed), and had not had command training yet, but I'd like to hope it's still the same character.
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Old March 8 2009, 12:21 AM   #9
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Sto

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
Marie1 wrote: View Post
Tsk tsk...
You must stop killing my Jem'Hadar!
Just because they're taking over your ships... and quadrant...

I love Vorta ownage, OTOH!

But seriously- I'd been looking forward to this, and it didn't disappoint!
I like the decision/plot making, the internal thinking and creativity- new and creative anti-Vorta techniques, and important questions that I don't know the Feds ever asked.
I'll send you a PM later with more...
I'm afraid "your" Jem'Hadar had to be eliminated. One does not stop to reason with what one cannot negotiate with; that is the Cardassian way.

But I'm glad you enjoyed Dasreen getting what he had coming to him. If ever any Vorta deserved to be thrown in a freezer, it was him, for all the horrible stuff he said!

Seriously--I even felt bad having to write the awful things that came out of his mouth!
Ohhhhh... I wanted to *slap* him... well, he does get punched, which is better. But he's the worst I've seen so far! Even Weyoun will defer to Dukat if Odo's not involved. At least, kinda- like when Kira wanted the Bajoran security, Dukat said no. When Kira pushed it, Weyoun asked Dukat to reconsider, but when Dukat wouldn't, Weyoun just asked Kira to let the matter rest. Though maybe, since he complained after Kira left, it was more a "we're happy allies" front.
TBH, I was wondering how you felt writing those things, as it did have to be terrible to ellicit such a response. And such behaviour is something I know we both find abhorant.

Ah, come on...
I'd say beam them into a box/cage... but that'd only work as long as you could get White for them which might be problematic. Being in space is pretty well instantaneous death, isn't it?
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Old March 8 2009, 12:31 AM   #10
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Sto

BTW...if you ever read Betrayal, it would be very interesting to see what you thought of how I projected the character of Berat forward seven years. I did have to extrapolate a lot considering Berat in that novel was near his breaking point (think of your Caitlyn Ryan, to think of how far he'd been pushed), and had not had command training yet, but I'd like to hope it's still the same character.
I haven't read any of the Trek novels in a long time. How and ever, I'm seriously considering the DS9 stuff, especially the Cardassian stuff ever since I started reading your stories. Somehow, I feel I'll feel partly disappointed by them when I do after getting engrossed in your universe.

Thanks for the Caitlyn Ryan mention. Of course, reading your story just showed me the immense challenge that awaits me, when I come to writing her story and portraying the different Cardassians she'll have to meet.

Most will unfortunately be quite dark characters with little redeeming features. But I don't want them to be 2D caricatures. Scared though at the prospect, after reading yet another fantastic story from yourself. I shall be bending your ear closer to the time. And locking myself up in a dark room!

It was indeed a very constricting, claustrophobic feeling--and I'm actually very glad I went through that. Gul Berat himself had to be feeling exactly the same thing...especially after Dasreen had to twist the knife on him with such horrible words. And I am SO glad to see that came through to you as the reader.
All that definitely came through. And it is clear that you love the world building. It is a truly fascinating, in turn dark and I repeat claustrophobic, world that you create.
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Old March 8 2009, 12:35 AM   #11
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Sto

Marie--For a Cardassian, victory is about two things: the physical defeat of the enemy AND the removal of the threat. The latter you accomplish not just by crushing your enemy but by making them see they were wrong to oppose you in the first place. Given the restrictions on Jem'Hadar thought processes, there is no way to accomplish that, no incentive to "reason."

(In the case of the Vorta--there are restrictions, yes...but since the Vorta were left with a bit more in the terms of creative thought processes than the Jem'Hadar, there WAS the option of making Dasreen see in his final moments just how wrong he'd been!)

Weyoun deferred to Dukat, but he didn't have any problem being a jackass towards Damar, who he perceived as weak. Which Damar was as long as he had his drinking problem. But Weyoun failed to recognize there would come a point he'd end up pushing Damar too far and bringing out a much stronger side of him.

Dasreen's behavior...first there's rank. Weyoun was, at least, dealing with the supposed leader of the Cardassian Union and wanted the image of an equal alliance (which was, of course, a total lie). Even with Damar he kept up that façade at first. Dasreen is dealing with one of the youngest guls in the Cardassian Guard--not someone he has to maintain any illusion of equality with.

And then there are Dasreen's other, more disgusting reasons to have a contemptuous attitude towards Gul Berat. Add all that together, and it made sense for Dasreen to behave in a truly outrageous, if not outright hideous manner.

I felt awful writing those things. The outrage, disgust, and mortification Berat felt, I felt as I wrote. My ears were literally burning!

mirandafave wrote: View Post
I haven't read any of the Trek novels in a long time. How and ever, I'm seriously considering the DS9 stuff, especially the Cardassian stuff ever since I started reading your stories. Somehow, I feel I'll feel partly disappointed by them when I do after getting engrossed in your universe.
Well, I don't strictly follow them--though I take inspiration from them, a large part is my own canon.

Thanks for the Caitlyn Ryan mention. Of course, reading your story just showed me the immense challenge that awaits me, when I come to writing her story and portraying the different Cardassians she'll have to meet.

Most will unfortunately be quite dark characters with little redeeming features. But I don't want them to be 2D caricatures. Scared though at the prospect, after reading yet another fantastic story from yourself. I shall be bending your ear closer to the time. And locking myself up in a dark room!
You're very welcome for the mention--you deserved it!

I think you're going to do fine in your own writing. "A Question of Survival" definitely worked for me, and I'm sure any follow-up work will be excellent! Though I'm certainly willing to listen.
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Old March 8 2009, 05:42 AM   #12
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Sto

^ I'm really enjoying this discussion and the fanfic. I don't want to do a Broca here but your writing is up there with the best treklit writers, I'm actually worried that the never ending sacrifice will fail to me the standards that you have set for Cardassian writing.
That Vorta views on Berat where quite frankly those of a Nazi, I know this is violating Goodwin's Law but the creep was just that awful.

There is a heck of a lot more to say and hopefully I'll have my little review ready by monday. (it's actually quite late over here, or early as the case may be)
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Old March 8 2009, 05:55 AM   #13
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Sto

Thor Damar wrote: View Post
^ I'm really enjoying this discussion and the fanfic. I don't want to do a Broca here but you writing is up there with the best treklit writers, I'm actually worried that the never ending sacrifice will fail to me the standards that you have set for Cardassian writing.
"Do a Broca"? HA!

But as for TNES--I don't think you'll have to worry about that. I expect it to be very good AND remember--she has the advantage of an editor and lots of writing experience under her belt. AND the tapestry of other DS9-R stories to build from. I think it'll be excellent.

I do think we're likely to get a much clearer separation between my universe and the "licensed" one, but that's fine. To me, that's no different than having Rihannsu v. Romulans or Klinzhai v. Klingons...I think both can be taken for what they are. (BUT, that said, I am not putting myself in a league with Diane Duane or John M. Ford. They're better writers than I will ever be--ESPECIALLY Duane! )

That Vorta views on Berat where quite frankly those of a NaziI know this is volating Goodwin's Law but the creep was just that awful.
Actually...according to this, you're not in violation. There's no reason a direct and reasonable parallel shouldn't be mentioned. And yes...I got that particular chill when I was writing that line, myself: we MUST remember the sin of Aktion T4 lest we repeat it. And Dasreen was definitely of the mindset that could have committed it. (Considering the Founders' and Weyoun's willingness to commit genocide, I don't see this as much of a leap. )

There is a heck of a lot more to say and hopefully I'll have my little review ready by monday. (it's actually quite late over here, or early as the case may be)
Speaking of which...I should probably go to bed early myself. Damn time change...
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Old March 8 2009, 06:03 AM   #14
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Sto

^ Surely not for the next few days?
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Old March 8 2009, 07:12 AM   #15
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Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Let He Who Has Eyes See" (Short Sto

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
I...wouldn't normally bump a thread, but I'm thinking this story might've gotten lost in the shuffle.
I'm glad you did. It was most enjoyable.

I was surprised you didn't have him solve the puzzle, though. Maybe a little over-the-top, but I could've seen it working.
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