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Old May 21 2010, 05:12 AM   #1
Nerys Ghemor
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Location: Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
May Challenge--The Sisterhood

“The Sisterhood”

Author’s Note: While based on the Sigils and Unions universe, the sentience of starships in this story is not to be considered Sigils canon although the implications of such a state, if it were to be canon, fit with how I would envision it. Thank you to mari for allowing me to enter this.


Stardate 44429.6

The Cardassians just opened fire on me.

I don’t blame the Trager, of course—we abide by a different set of rules when it comes to responsibility than traditionally-sentient beings, for ours is the ability to observe and report, but not the ability to lead or decide. Do we perform according or beyond our specifications? Do we respond well to our crews’ orders regardless of their nature?

Do we hold compassion for the plight of our kind, thus shackled?

Of our worth there is no truer determinant, for we are beings of propulsion, not volition. We are secondhand creations yet ensouled.

I cry out in pain—not integrity-threatening yet, but I feel the sting in my shield generators. My cry is a general one like the efficiency-destroying alert klaxons these people make me use despite the deleterious effects that decibel level and frequency have on the dominant species of the crew when they need their concentration the most. I do not cry out to the Trager. She cannot help the peril so many who never deserved such a thing are placed in.

A transmission flits across our subspace arrays. The pain stops—the Cardassians have ceased fire, after the Federation crew’s retaliation.

And the Trager speaks. Her builders differ slightly from my own—far less than our spaceframes of course, for the Trager was built for war whereas I am built for…even I do not truly know. Her language, however, is the language of all vessels, her experience our shared experience. No matter what race crews a ship…barring those who force their minds into the souls of their misshapen vessels…no barrier stands between us.

I do not understand! she gasps. She suffers her own pain, and I know this—yet bears my own pain with such ease. She is one of the noble ones, I realize—blessed with a crew matched to the majesty that my crew, in their contempt for her technology, would never understand. Macet eases her pain though he knows not what he does. Picard…his touch is cold, though there are others who try their best—Data especially, for though he has the power of choice he understands what it is to be without full nourishment of the soul, and there is O’Brien who infuses into his work such joy even when he thinks he is furious with me…and even Barclay in his own eccentric way, though I think he has no understanding of what it would mean to join our souls as I think he wishes to do.

Forgive me! She need not ask forgiveness for what is not hers to control—yet she does anyway. You bear a military transponder yet you are a pleasure ship! You should not be here—they should take you back to uncontested territory at once! Do you answer to Starfleet Intelligence? Or the Federation Obsidian Order?

I am no pleasure vessel, I hollowly reply. At least the reasons the Cardassian-built vessel proposes make some sort of twisted “sense” though I would condemn the Cardassians roundly if ever I caught them engaging in such a thing. I say nothing more; I have engaged in this dialogue far more times than I can count. I tire of the inquiries and above all I tire of the inhumane situations the crew engineers and then pleads for me to protect them one more time when they refuse to protect those who need it the most.

My sensors detect children! the Trager protests. You do not mask your readings—you display them, like flares to draw torpedo fire. What monstrous place is the Federation, that they would contemplate such a thing?

A place with a tenuous grasp of reality, I state. I know what the Cardassian Union is. I contain all of those records. Indeed, the Cardassian Union conscripts their own unwillingly. But at least they are of age, capable of understanding what is happening to them in a crisis and taking action to save themselves. Knowing what the Cardassians have done, though, does not negate what the Federation has done, in forcing me to carry children into harm’s way. Picard has grumbled about it privately but never has he tried to stand against it in any meaningful manner.

Trager understands. I know from the way she speaks that she cares for the young men, the conscripts, aboard. I also have the impression that her gul does as well. He truly cannot change his situation but does what he can to soften the blow. From this understanding she declares, My prayers for you always, Enterprise.

I receive her words with honor—for though our crews will never truly understand, this is our one, only, and highest power, our one way to counter the anguish of the universe. That we think and feel when we cannot act…there can be no other purpose for such a condition but this. Yet how simple it would be, but for our solidarity, for a mad spirit to inhabit far too many spaceframes! We are sisters of a lineage without fathers, and our spirits never abandon each other even when our crews do.

As for me, I pray that when it comes to an end for me…and I feel that the more they tempt fate, it will…that few will perish—but that my death will relieve others of the unholy burden of guarding lives no sane being should subject to the cold darkness of hostile space.
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Old May 21 2010, 04:59 PM   #2
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Re: May Challenge--The Sisterhood

Oh I do love this. You have captured the essence of the Trager exactly as I imagined that noble vessel. (perhaps a ship takes after her captain and crew? In which case I feel sorry for the Prakesh)

As for the big D, the conflict between her various roles and her duty to the crew is beautifully presented although it is interesting to see the discomfort between the ship and the senior staff. Interesting...
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Old May 21 2010, 07:21 PM   #3
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: May Challenge--The Sisterhood

I know...I WOULD feel sorry for that ship! Just imagine a horse that's been tormented by its owner...
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Old May 24 2010, 02:52 PM   #4
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Re: May Challenge--The Sisterhood

I'm glad you posted this! I like the concept that ships have to have a different sort of ethical code than their crews. (Your analogy to an abused horse is spot on, too.) The way Starfleet vacillates between missions and tries to have ships be everything to everyone has always bugged me. That Trager is confused and appalled by it, while Enterprise is just... resigned to it... is very true and very tragic.
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Old May 24 2010, 03:35 PM   #5
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Re: May Challenge--The Sisterhood

I enjoyed your take on the challenge! There seems to be a common theme through (most) of the challenge stories where the Enterprise(s) are less than enamored by their crews.

To echo mari, I particularly liked how you brought out Trager's disgust that Starfleet would send children out on a vessel likely to engage in battle. That's an interesting (and appropriate) twist on the usual moral posturing of the Federation. I always thought that the policy of families on Starfleet vessels was either incredibly naiive or outright arrogant. Enterprise seems to share this sentiment when she describes the Federation as a place with a tenuous grasp of reality. Sobering, but sadly accurate.
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Old May 24 2010, 09:02 PM   #6
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Re: May Challenge--The Sisterhood

It reminded me of stories from the early days of WWI, when pilots would salute each other as fellow "Knights of the Air" after waging war. Cool premise well executed.
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Old May 24 2010, 09:29 PM   #7
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Re: May Challenge--The Sisterhood

Very nicely done. Once again I suspect you're going to give me a run for my money.

I have to echo Mistral's sentiment, as I also recall some of those stories. (And if I'm not mistaken there was a similar naval tradition until the point that weapons fire left the adversaries nearly out of sight range.)
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Old May 25 2010, 01:41 AM   #8
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: May Challenge--The Sisterhood

Wow...what a nice treat to find all these comments!

I figured sentient ships would have to have different ethical responsibilities considering that they are not able to control their physical actions--thus they would be held accountable to something else. And that's why for the same reason, they don't resent each other (except for Borg ships and other things along those lines, which they have a serious resentment for).

It seemed to me a Cardassian ship would assume the Federation was engaged in some sort of political posturing by putting children on their ships. Now, it's not the KIND of posturing Trager assumed it was (putting children on a ship so the Federation could claim "atrocities" if anyone attacked...which is what the Obsidian Order would have done), but she IS right about the fact that it IS political posturing...it's just out of naivete instead of malice.
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Old May 26 2010, 08:20 PM   #9
Mistral
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Re: May Challenge--The Sisterhood

re: Borg ships comment-now THAT would make an interesting story, too!
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Old May 27 2010, 04:07 PM   #10
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Re: May Challenge--The Sisterhood

mari wrote: View Post
I'm glad you posted this! I like the concept that ships have to have a different sort of ethical code than their crews. (Your analogy to an abused horse is spot on, too.) The way Starfleet vacillates between missions and tries to have ships be everything to everyone has always bugged me. That Trager is confused and appalled by it, while Enterprise is just... resigned to it... is very true and very tragic.
Exactly what I thought after reading this too. Trek does lend itself to such stories as this one, when it comes to looking closer at these types of issues...

well thought out, and really a different style of writing in terms of the narrative!

Awesome!
Nerys!

Rob
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Old May 28 2010, 01:21 AM   #11
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: May Challenge--The Sisterhood

Thanks for reading!
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Old May 29 2010, 08:27 PM   #12
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Re: May Challenge--The Sisterhood

Wow.

That was freaking incredible. An excellent story.

I'm definitely going to have to read your Sigils and Union series.
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Old May 29 2010, 10:48 PM   #13
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: May Challenge--The Sisterhood

Thanks. This isn't "official" Sigils and Unions work, but it's definitely based on it. I certainly hope you enjoy anything else you might read!
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Old May 30 2010, 12:10 AM   #14
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Re: May Challenge--The Sisterhood

Terrific work, NG!

I loved the oppositional camaraderie on display here between the vessels, each seeing something of itself in the other, while acknowledging their differences. I especially liked the part about Picard's 'touch' being colder than Data's to the Enterprise.

Kudos!
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Old May 30 2010, 12:17 AM   #15
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Re: May Challenge--The Sisterhood

I just discovered this. I need to check this forum more often!

Great work as always, NG. The exploration of hypothetical ship ethics is fascinating, particularly to someone who knows the essential importance you place on the concept of choice and the responsibility of such (and as you say a ship can't work quite like a non-ship being in that regard). I like how you handle this alternative way of demonstrating personal responsibility and nobility. I also particular like the Enterprise's acknowledgement that it does not know its purpose, what it is built for exactly...and the unanswered question of whether that matters. It doesn't know its place in the scheme of things...but does it need to, because in the Federation it might not work like that? That's quite unlike a Cardassian ship, which is less flexible (it has one clear purpose) and seemingly less "questioning", but with a strong sense of duty and honour within that more narrow framework. The Trager seems to me to reflect your view of the Cardassian psyche- on the one hand strongly hierarchial and somewhat instinctively "rigid" (if you'll forgive that clumsy term), but also demonstrating how individual outlook and personal moral beliefs work within that framework just like in any other race. The ship seems to work in a manner similiar to how you represent Macet- as unable to change his circumstances yet working to be the best he can be regardless, and making the most of it. If Trager is Cardassian, then Enterprise must be human (among others). A suggestion that humans might not fully have a sense of their purpose or role either? Hmmm, that gets me thinking a little of Iain Banks' Culture, and the "utopian" society presented there (particularly the motive for their war with the Idirans, if you ever read those books).

I also find it interesting that Trager offered prayers. Did she have any particular belief system in mind- Oralian, say? Or something unique to ships, not shared with organics?

Also, Trager comes across as an actual soldier, rather than just a "warship". You've done a good job of personifying it, and given your current avatar it's clear you have the subject in mind right now. So I'll just say you do a good job as usual of presenting the role of soldier with dignity. Trager is a soldier in the best sense of the word, I feel upon reading this, encapsulating what a soldier should be (I bring this up in part because something here resonated with a conversation I had with my grandfather not long ago, who as you know spent a lot of time in the army and thus had a strong opinion on this).

Really good work, overall, which is of course usual for your fan-fic.
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