Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Nerys Ghemor, Aug 18, 2008.

  1. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    AMperage is the big danger-voltage only kills if you ground yourself while its flowing through you. Nikolai Tesla used to run 10,000 volts through his body without incident. But he knew what he was doing-at that voltage if your Vorta reached for toilet paper you'd have (pre-cooked) spam in a can. LOL.

    Good plan-well thought out.
     
  2. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks--and that's some impressive science! Would you suggest that I actually change the comment about the voltage being potentially lethal, or is it acceptable?

    I figure that based on the tendency of consoles to blow up, there has to be some SERIOUS juice going through the average starship--and I figure that it would be possible to create an electrical hazard severe enough that an entire ROOM (especially one as small as the head) could become too treacherous to enter.

    Pre-cooked spam-in-a-can...well, let's just say it's a good thing that the Vorta are too smart to go and get themselves killed stupidly in most cases. Otherwise that termination implant MIGHT send out an unwanted signal... ;)
     
  3. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    you could keep the voltage-its legit. As for termination implants-wouldn't walking into a hard-wired head trigger it?
     
  4. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Which is why they'd better hope Arawil won't be stupid enough to go all the way IN when she sees what's going on. ;)
     
  5. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    For anyone who was not old enough to remember the Challenger speech referenced in this passage, here's a link to video for anyone interested. Even if you do remember, I recommend listening--it'll really give you an idea of the feeling I was going for, for part of the speech.

    http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/3413

    For the rest...think, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

    ==========

    “First Makut’amak—exactly what seems to be your problem?” Mindesa Rhos snapped from behind a Vorta visage. How disciplined, Mindesa, she snidely chastised herself: if there was one thing Arawil had not been prone to, it was losing her temper. If Makut’amak was indeed beginning to suspect his superior, that had been a wonderful way of adding fuel to the fire. Whether it was behavior on Makut’amak’s part that had truly provoked the outburst or the torment of enduring the contemptuous glares of her own crewmates for four days in a row, Rhos counted it unacceptable and recognized the loss of composure as a potentially fatal misstep.

    Even before Makut’amak could provide a response, Rhos decided that the Jem’Hadar would have to die tonight, before full understanding of the situation overrode the gene-slaves’ inbred devotion to their Vorta masters. She met Makut’amak with a level gaze as he bluntly stated, “The esteemed Vorta is not well.”

    “I regret that the heat on board this poorly-maintained Cardassian scow has put me in an ill temper,” she replied in a far more genteel tone than her previous remark. “And the darkness does little to aid my admittedly weak eyesight. One can only tolerate such indignities for so long before one begins to wish the Founders would permit me to order these…people…to be a bit more accommodating to their allied hosts and a bit less focused upon themselves. Though of course the Founders must not be questioned,” Rhos amended. “I trust in their prescience; should I be correct in my assessment, I have no doubt they have already in their infinite wisdom conceived of the necessity and shall reveal it to me in their sacred time. If I should not…then I gladly await correction that I may be more fully moulded to their ways.”

    And if I have to spout this genetically-scripted theocratic drivel for one more night, let alone continue to speak ill of the Cardassian Union, Rhos mentally appended, I think might go crazy enough to terminate these Jem’Hadar the hard way. Or die trying. Mindesa Rhos had never considered herself a violent person prior to this—certainly not a worthy candidate for the late Obsidian Order, according to both her own self-assessment and every placement exam she had ever taken—but the things this torturous assignment drew out in her were beginning to frighten her. Never had her devotion to the state been tested to such an extent, and the range of things she found herself able to contemplate doing to fulfill her duty was sobering, to say the least.

    It occurred to her that at least as a Cardassian, she had the ability to turn her back on those duties if she wished, to turn traitor and spend a week hanging for it as she died…but it would have been a choice, at least, and it would take the talents of an expert conservator to bring her around to concede the wisdom of the state, not a mere chromosomal alteration. What sort of servitude the thrice-burned goo-globs might see fit to engineer the Cardassian race into if this continued much longer was chilling to contemplate. Probably sentient waste-disposal robots, the way our standing in this alliance seems headed, she grimly imagined. And just for that, for our genetic and mental purity, my orders are worth following. Whatever it takes.

    She took one last, blank look at Makut’amak. “I will retire to my quarters for the moment. When I return, I shall be well, and I shall expect your presence for the distribution of the white.”

    “Obedience is victory,” the Jem’Hadar barked.

    Indeed, it shall be. I look forward to seeing you writhe in agony on the deckplates when our venom enters your veins.



    The voice of the Cardassian gul rang out over the ship’s loudspeakers with a sonorous oratory that reminded Spirodopoulos of Dukat. But for the fact that his time on the vessel had remained a dull, uneventful nothing contrary to the veterans’ plethora of nightmare scenarios, he would have carried the parallel to its final conclusion a long time ago. “Attention, Trager personnel!” Macet boomed. “From this point forward, this ship will operate under conditions of complete communications silence except where directly authorized and monitored by me. There shall be no attempts to override lockouts any shipboard communication device, nor to activate any standalone device or improvise one. The success of our mission and the glory of Cardassia depend on your complete compliance; therefore any violations of my orders shall be dealt with to the fullest extent. Mission details shall be revealed on an as-needed basis; I do not even want to hear speculation of where we are going or what we are doing before we actually undertake those duties. Again, our coming mission demands the utmost secrecy and I will tolerate no deviations from that order.

    Typical Cardie bluster, Spirodopoulos thought to himself with a warped smirk. Captain Yvaaz!ta would never have had to threaten force to get its way. Do they train their guls so they don’t know any better, or do they just come this way automatically?

    Macet lowered his voice, and Spirodopoulos could almost picture the gul leaning closer to the audio input. “On a more personal note, I recognize the sacrifice I am asking of you. You’re wondering how long you will remain out of contact with your friends and comrades-in-arms on other vessels. You’re wondering how long it will be until you next hear from your elders, parents, spouses, and children. I am wondering the same thing myself. There are many very dear to me whom I will be unable to contact for a period to be determined by the time it takes to know victory.” The incongruous image of Ronald Reagan appeared in his mind. Every Starfleet Academy graduate was well familiar with the American president’s address following the loss of the space shuttle Challenger and while the losses for this crew had yet to come, Spirodopoulos couldn’t shake the memory of that combination of grave solemnity and warmth.

    And we shall know victory. I will not rest until I know in my heart and mind that Cardassia is truly strong, secure, and prosperous. I ask the same of you in these coming weeks and months. We must rely upon each other to help us maintain that resolve no matter what we may face together. And in the face of that, there is no enemy, no matter how daunting, no matter how favorable their position and resources, that can hope to prevail against the cunning and zeal of Trager of Cardassia!

    When the gul closed the channel, Spirodopoulos admitted to himself that if he were Cardassian, he would have been tempted to let out a whoop of solidarity. As it was, by the end of the speech, he found himself beginning to…not regret, exactly, but to supplement his initial judgment of Macet. The man spoke as one thoroughly inculcated in the ways of a totalitarian state—yet just as when Macet had dealt with him directly, there was clearly something else there. And part of him had to wonder how he or Yvaaz!ta might have fared under similar life circumstances, what they might have sounded like giving the same speech.

    More pressing, however, was the implication of the gul’s announcement for his and Folani’s fate, and that of any other Starfleet officer sitting in silent captivity elsewhere in this Cardassian cargo bay. From the sound of it, Macet was about to go off the grid in a serious way—and the Federation soldier couldn’t help but notice that nowhere had Macet ever stated that he had received his orders from Central Command; nowhere had he given tribute to Damar or his Vorta puppetmasters. The question now was what this might mean for his survival and that of his comrades.
     
  6. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    OK...in this section, a character with the first name of "Tayben" makes an appearance that if you've read the older DS9 novels, you might recognize. He's kind of an anomaly in the Cardassian Guard. Clues about older events that might help you recognize him are there in his "bio," although most of what happened to him that I cover is more recent than that.

    I'll be interested to see if anybody recognizes Tayben for who he is!

    After this post I'm going to take a break of a week or two so my writing can catch up and I can work on other projects--so you're going to get a longer section.

    (References regarding the ranking system I'm using are in the Sigils and Unions background thread.)

    =============

    “Gul!” trumpeted Dalin Yorlad, the second-shift tactical officer. “Incoming transmission—it’s the Sherouk!”

    No sooner was the ship’s name out of Yorlad’s mouth than Macet had already turned on his heel. “Put it through in my office.” Macet’s chest tightened: this would be his first contact with another ship of the fleet since successfully ridding the Trager of all Dominion taint. Though the gul of the Sherouk was a staunch member of their anti-Dominion cabal, there was no guarantee he had been able yet to mirror Macet’s accomplishment, and if their Vorta thought to intrude on the call and inquire of Arawil’s soldiers, there was no telling what might happen.

    The smiling but haggard, oil-streaked face that greeted Macet put him at ease immediately. “Tayben, my friend,” Macet teasingly began, availing himself of the first name the other gul had offered him the year before, “I see you’ve immersed yourself deep in the repairs as usual. Your chief engineer must very much resent having you hover over her telling her everything she could be doing better…never mind your position; I’d imagine having a man in her territory would be enough!” The male reputation, when it came to the sciences—even engineering, was not exactly a thing of pride in Cardassian society, even though a full third of the Cardassian Guard’s engineering and sciences personnel were in fact male, and not just the bottom third.

    These days,” his protégé retorted, “she’s not complaining one bit. Any willing set of muscles is welcome on the lower decks, regardless of whether they come from waste reclamation or the gul’s office. I may be no good for delicate tasks, but I can do hound-work just as well as any other man and I’m not about to stand around useless while the rest of my crew bears all Cardassia on their shoulders.”

    Macet well understood his fellow gul’s very personal reasons for rolling up his sleeves and taking on whatever heavy lifting was to be had aboard his battle-scarred vessel. Such would not be required or expected of a high-ranking officer under ordinary circumstances, but in his case any failure to do so might suggest to his crew that Central Command had been right when they had tried to force him into retirement after that debilitating phaser hit on Volan III.

    The mission had been a concession, in part, to the Federation ambassador: an attempt to demonstrate to their colonists under Cardassian jurisdiction in the Demilitarized Zone that their lives could improve drastically with a little peaceful cooperation, that cargo shipments could resume and with them health and prosperity. Tayben had made an ideal candidate for the mission thanks to his reputation as one of the coolest heads in the Cardassian fleet. Macet, who was thought of similarly, wished dearly that Central Command had listened to his entreaty to note his more mature age and proven success in forging a working relationship with a high-ranking terhăn. Instead, the commander of the Sherouk had beamed down to the planet and run afoul of a Maciy assassination attempt within minutes. It had been a glancing hit Macet could easily have healed from with no lasting effects, but Tayben already taken another direct hit two years before that under circumstances he refused to discuss even with most of those closest to him. That bolt had struck from point-blank range, another two years before that. Tayben had been lucky enough last time that after a few months only medical scanners detected any signs of trauma.

    This time the neural shock nearly killed him; the scarring proved too much to reverse completely. There were days when his friend’s body was wracked with shooting, unpredictable pains that he dared not allow any but his closest friends to recognize. But worse for a man with his extensive engineering background, he had lost the use of his hands for tasks requiring fine motor skills. On a bad day, Tayben could not hold a stylus in his hands to scrawl his own name; even on his better days, manipulating a computer console for much more than ten minutes or so at a stretch proved too much for the damaged nerves.

    Central Command had tried to discharge Tayben as a matter of standard procedure, but the man had already suffered humiliation and loss of rank once during a political shakeup two years before the Volan incident, and now that he had achieved the rank of gul, he was not about to go down without a fight. Thus he determined to resist the separation order.

    His petition could have killed him had it not reached the right desk, where one Legate Ghemor saw something in the young officer and appealed on his behalf. Now Tayben held the distinction, esteemed by some, sneered at by others, of being the highest-ranking man in the Cardassian Guard to continue his service in the face of physical disability, and one of only six to serve shipboard. For that reason, only those as close to Tayben as Macet was could ask what he now did. “Hound-work, you say? Are you at all concerned about losing your grip at the wrong moment?”

    The other gul’s smile gave a wry twist: only these trusted few would receive a truthful answer. “All the time, Akellen—but I refuse to turn down work I know I’m capable of handling in that moment, even if it pushes the limits of my endurance.

    “You must be driving Yejain crazy,” Macet playfully chided, referring to the glinn Legate Ghemor had hand-selected to fill both the usual second-in-command billet and to assist him in shipboard tasks for which Tayben lacked the manual dexterity.

    If I am, he’s doing a fine job of hiding it. Yejain is as discreet and dependable as ever, and ever more adept at contributing at exactly the right time without making a spectacle of it. Our old acquaintance made a wise choice in him and I will never tire of saying it.”

    “That’s good to hear,” Macet replied. His voice trailed off and his eyes darkened. “Something tells me there’s more of a purpose to your call than singing the virtues of your crew, though.”

    The gul of the Sherouk nodded. “Indeed. I regret to inform you that the Romac did not fare well at Septimus III…the Dominion placed our ships in point position…which is to say, the entire extent of our spaceborne position: the ghentregă’ămsthe never sent a single reinforcement! We took heavy damage—the Romac even worse. And we were the lucky ones—the entire Eleventh Order was lost planetside… five hundred thousand men! The Klingons practically blasted the atmosphere off the planet! And there was nothing we could do, not a thing—we couldn’t drop our shields for even a second, the way they were hammering at us!

    A tear slid down Tayben’s cheek as he gathered his strength to continue, one of many he had undoubtedly shed away from the view of his men. Macet made no comment; that he had been permitted to see this was enough. “The Romac is still spaceworthy, just barely, but the loss of capability and personnel was severe. We have spent the past week trying to restore sufficient structural integrity for us to tow them to Lessek for repairs—that we managed to tractor them and pull them out of the Klingons’ way after their shields fell was a miracle.” One that few commanders besides Tayben would likely have had the intuitive grasp of timing, graviton collimations, and stress tolerances to attempt, Macet mentally added: there was a reason soldiers throughout the Guard spoke of the man and his ship as if they wore the same skin. “I would have apprised you of the situation sooner, but between the Romac’s damage and our own, we’ve barely had enough time to breathe, let alone make contact with you or anybody else.”

    “What about Rebek? Did she survive?”

    With some nasty plasma burns down her back…but yes, Gul Rebek is expected to leave sickbay within the week. I warn you, though…if the way she is now is any indication, this battle weighs heavily on her and we must be sure she knows she doesn’t stand alone. Their Vorta was badly injured after the Romac lost shields, enough to render him comatose. When that happened, the Jem’Hadar went on a rampage through the ship and killed a number of the crew while we were still engaged with the Klingon fleet. Some quick thinking by their chief engineer—Glinn Meray—stopped it…and let me put it this way: I would not want to be that man’s enemy and use any transporter he touched. They’re still trying to get the blood out of the deckplates and it’s now looking like he fused it in there permanently at least a centimeter deep.” Tayben shuddered; Macet knew him well enough to distinguish the gesture of revulsion from the subtle tremors that accompanied his pain episodes like the one he seemed to be having at the moment, though his voice betrayed nothing.

    Macet leaned back, folding his hands as he closed his eyes for a moment. “I am pleased, at least, to hear that Rebek lived. So when do you believe the Romac will be ready to tow?”

    We should be ready in another week, about the time Rebek gets back on her feet. With luck, I should be able to make the case for at least one more Gălor to accompany us. Preferably, of course, I would like either you or the Ghiletz in that spot, but not both at the same time lest we show ourselves associating too much outside our standard assignments.”

    “If Gul Speros has no compelling objections,” Macet suggested, “I would prefer you select the Trager. We have a transfer of nine to arrange and with that many at the same time, it will be easier to manage if we’re already in the Lessek system. Beyond that…we are operating at ‘peak levels’ and I do not know whether the same can yet be said of the Sherouk or the Ghiletz.”

    Tayben grinned, a grim, hungry exultation. “The Ghiletz…I do not believe so. The Romac certainly is in that way even if in no others, and as for us…we are, but we’re relying solely on holo-imaging and thus of the three of us freed so far, we run the greatest risk of exposure. I have been working very closely with Motreln to enhance the illusion, but I make no guarantees.”

    “Of course. Now, Tayben…once I make my transfer, what will this bring our total numbers to?”

    We have a few as well, and adding them in, I make that eighty-two.”

    “And how many of our own have we been able to divert to Lessek? I have six of my own crew on detachment…”

    “…for a total of thirty, if we count all of the Lessek personnel we’ve recruited as fully loyal. And there are some about whom I have my doubts. The most realistic estimate is twenty-two—provided, of course, there are no active betrayals leading to the purge of the entire cadre.”

    Macet winced. “Not enough. When the time comes, we’ll certainly have to reduce manning beyond our current levels if we expect to make any significant inroads. Except the Romac, of course…it sounds like the war has already accomplished that for them.”

    And it may do the same to any of us yet, if they continue placing us on point as they seem so fond of doing. We’re just tăspar eggs to throw at the alliance’s windshields for all they think of us, and like the egg, the result is just as painful for us.” Picturing the contents of a raw tăspar egg, Macet had to admit the grotesque image was apt indeed. “Something has got to break soon, Akellen,” his friend insisted. “If it doesn’t…

    The commander of the Trager nodded, intensely aware that in this gesture he was committing himself to an act that if things ended badly, could condemn him and his entire crew to a slow death for treason. At best, it could be no less than the salvation of Cardassia. “Indeed. We’ll stand by until your recommendation passes and the orders come for us to rendezvous. And at that time, we will assess the situation most carefully.”
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2008
  7. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The plot, and it would appear the conspiracy, deepens.

    I’m taken with your representation of the Cardassian soldiers here, caught between their own sense of loyalty to the Union and the realization that they’ve become nothing more than canon fodder for the Dominion. What a dismal place to occupy, that dark zone where you must betray everything you hold sacred in order to free your people from the shackles of your overlords. Even if you win your people’s freedom, you’ll either pay with your life or with the last few shreds of your own self-respect.

    I’ve touched on the themes of sympathy towards the Cardassian people in the post-Dominion War era in my own work, but here you’ve shown us that there are those among the Cardassian ranks whose unenviable fate can be pitied during the war itself.

    Terrific stuff. I can’t wait until you can favor us with some more. :)

    As for Tayben’s identity, if it’s someone from the re-launch books than I’m hopelessly out of place. If he’s a ‘canon’ character, he seems too young and humble to be Evek, too focused to be Daro… so I guess you’ve got me stumped.
     
  8. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I had to think that there would be some Cardassians that would see Dukat as the ultimate traitor--I mean, he turned the Cardassian Union over to aliens without so much as a by-your-leave to anybody else. Macet especially would be willing to see THAT, considering he and Dukat have despised each other ever since that distasteful and very public incident at the family reunion before Dukat even left Cardassia for the first time...but that's a whole other story. (Long story short--it involved Cardassian vs. Cardassian racism...yes, Dukat was ALWAYS a prick, even before he heard of Bajor.)

    And I just thought when I saw "The Wounded"...that all Cardassians just couldn't be evil people, not even in the military.

    It's interesting you mention Daro, even though he's a character in his own right in this story (XO of the Trager). He really struck me, though I wouldn't call him unfocused, as very introverted--the kind of person who has a lot more going on in his mind than what he actually says most of the time. Not exactly shy, but definitely a one-on-one type of guy as opposed to the life of the party. Especially the way they played that shot of him after O'Brien ditched him, Daro looked to be very deep in thought about what had just happened and he just struck me as the type who would play it over and over in his head trying to figure out just how he could've kept it from ending on that note.

    As for Tayben...he's not a canon character, and he's pre-relaunch. He only appeared in one book. He might be a little difficult to identify right now because he did a lot of growing up in what I estimate to be four years, plus in that previous story I would say Tayben was hovering very close to his breaking point for the majority of it. Given that, I felt like I had some liberty in shaping his "true" personality, though the seeds of it were there...at least in my estimation. Now, even though Tayben is not physically at 100%, and never will be, I think those four years have really refined him.

    I suspect he does know Evek. And something tells me they DESPISE each other, though on his end Tayben would be way too classy to let it show. When Tayben was sent in to HIS territory, you can bet Evek wasn't happy about it. And then when he got shot...well, from Evek's view, Tayben deserved even worse punishment than what he got and sure as hell shouldn't have kept command of his ship given his failure and physical condition. The fact that he went up against Central Command and won has got to fly all over him.
     
  9. DavidFalkayn

    DavidFalkayn Commodore Commodore

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    Very well done. To a large extent, the Cardassians during the Dominion War were caught in a trap of their own making as well as caught up by external forces. The Klingon attack awakening nationalist feelings, fear of becoming little more than a client of the Federation, and their own lofty aspirations combined with a militaristic culture makes for a tragic situation. I think you do a good job in bringing us into the Cardassian mindset.

    Looking forward to more once you get caught up!
     
  10. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks! :)

    I don't know if you've ever read All Quiet on the Western Front, or watched the movie, but when I first saw the movie in German class, it was an experience I never forgot: to actually follow a unit of (admittedly fictional) World War I German soldiers that way and get to see a group of them as individuals suffering the horrors of war...it didn't matter as I watched that what their government was ordering them to do was unjustified. What mattered was the very personal tragedy.

    Now, I'm not trying to indicate here how THIS one is going to turn out. But as a person who doesn't watch a lot of movies, that one really stuck out, and it opened my eyes to a reality that I want to reflect here--that some of the men and women in the trenches deserve our sympathy even though they're on the wrong side.
     
  11. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well done. I think that sums it up.
     
  12. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks for reading. :)
     
  13. DavidFalkayn

    DavidFalkayn Commodore Commodore

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    "All's Quiet" is one of my favorite books and movies--both versions--of all time. As far as novels go, it ranks right up there with "Heart of Darkness" as far as I'm concerned. The individual Cardassians here in a way remind me a bit of the Italians during the Second World War as well. While you did have the Blackshirts who were hardcases, mostly, the Italians who fought fought for their homes and families--not necessarily for Il Duce. The Cardies here have much the same sort of relationship with the Dominion.
     
  14. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    Just took the plunge - To be honest, I wasn't sure if I'd like a story about Cardassians, but this is very good! Nice writing!
     
  15. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Thank you very much for reading--it means a lot to know I could pull you out of your comfort zone, so to speak. :)

    Out of curiosity, what were your main concerns about reading a Cardassian story? Obviously I've got a lot of my plot decisions already made, but I'd be interested to know.
     
  16. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    You pretty much answered your own question - I guess I have a "comfort zone" of familiarity, that is, stories that focus on the Federation/Starfleet point of view. I also like Klingon stories, but for some reason, I usually don't like Romulan tales. I suppose that I grouped the Cardassians in the group, "not my cup of tea." Your writing skill helped to cajole me out of my box - nicely done! :techman:
     
  17. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I see...just wanted to make sure there weren't any pitfalls you'd seen a lot of, that I ought to keep an eye out for.

    I know what you mean about having one's preferences--unlike you I tend NOT to go for Klingon stories. It's just TOO primal, too unthoughtful, and I only make a few exceptions, like "For the Empire."
     
  18. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    All right...I'm going to be going out of contact for a week, starting middle of next week, so you'll be getting two sections between now and then, to tide you over. ;)

    ======================

    2375—The Dominion War—Aftermath of the Fall of AR-558
    Cardassian Rasgălor [Outworld] of Lessek

    Mike Spirodopoulos was free of his bonds, able to stand at last after a week of being fastened to that Cardassian ship’s deckplate followed by a cramped ride in a Hidekiy-class shuttle far too small for the five crew and nine thoroughly unbathed prisoners aboard. Unsurprisingly, his legs felt rather rubbery beneath him. He wasn’t the only one. Petty Officer zh’Thessel’s foot caught on a rock. A Cardassian hand immediately clasped her arm to steady her. zh’Thessel tersely nodded her thanks. Reflex, Spirodopoulos bitterly thought as the grey-scaled woman released the Andorian and resumed her forward progress, staring straight ahead. She wouldn’t have done that if she actually had to decide on it.

    This is where the torture begins
    , Spirodopoulos conjectured, now that I’m headed for their prison camp, good and softened up from the trip, squinting at the sun and barely able to walk without tripping myself. He gulped as he caught his first glimpse of the compound towards which the nine AR-558 survivors were being marched. It looked from a distance like every other image of an internment camp he had ever seen, but as they drew closer, all of the evidence was that some of the buildings had been constructed in a hurry. Just great. Too many prisoners and too little time to torture them all as much as they’d like. On the upside, it was possible this place might have some sort of weakness in its defenses that they could exploit.

    As he hiked with them, Gul Macet turned back and eyed Spirodopoulos with an expression that looked an awful lot like regret. Maybe he wasn’t too bad, but I’d be willing to bet he knows what kind of devil runs this place. Next time, he sardonically advised the gul, try not to get attached to the people you deliver up for the slaughter. Macet slowed his pace slightly, allowing Spirodopoulos to catch up to the front of the formation. As soon as they stood side by side, he said, “I apologize that you had to remain confined in that manner for so long—we would have opted for an ordinary holding cell if not for the circumstances. You make a valiant effort but I see very well that you lack steadiness on your feet. I hope this journey will help you regain your strength.”

    And if not, all the better to decide who goes to the right and who goes to the left, he thought, picturing the perverse sorting ritual that had occurred in Earth’s worst camps in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The distinct lack of technology in the place ahead—the absence of visible forcefield generators, the steel construction...true, old-fashioned steel, not the modern durasteel or plasteel…the chain-link fence, albeit in an alien pattern, only intensified the chilling sensation of stepping back to a more barbaric time. Spirodopoulos made no reply.

    “I see you don’t believe me even now. You should ask me your questions—we’re not on the Trager anymore and we don’t have to worry about the Vorta.”

    “Why are you doing this?” the lieutenant commander croaked, voice unsteady like his legs from lack of use. “I mean, why are you personally bringing us here? They’ll still torture and kill us once you’re gone.”

    Macet shook his head most emphatically. “Absolutely not.” How the hardening of his voice reminded Spirodopoulos of Dukat! “I do not condone capricious cruelty. Those in charge of this place see things the same way I do and I can assure you that as long as the Dominion doesn’t locate us, no harm will come to you. Though I do advise you not allow the Bajoran woman to wander around by herself—while I trust Glinn Va’Kust, I would rather the guards who serve under him know they dare not contemplate a thing.”

    “What do you care what happens to her? Isn’t she just another lower life form in your book?”

    The gul’s eyes flashed furiously and for a moment Spirodopoulos feared he was about to get another scaled fist in the jaw. “You are perilously close to exhibiting the very same attitude towards me and my people that you are accusing me of holding towards hers. It’s true, there are those who think as you say and they have had too much influence for too long. There are also those who hate the Bajorans not because they see them as vermin—but because they lost friends and relatives on that planet and grief is no respecter of the circumstances in which someone dies. And there are some of us who, as this war drags on, understand more and more every day why the Bajorans did what they did. And why? Because this—” Macet swept his arms from ground to sky as if to encompass the entire universe and its disrupted order “—is intolerable!”

    “So you’re a rebel,” Spirodopoulos said, trying the word on the Cardassian to see how well it stuck. Now are you just a patriot with the right attitude towards the Dominion, or are you actually some sort of Cardie humanitarian? Then something struck him as inappropriate about the framing of his thought: two ‘somethings,’ to be exact. He blushed as his Academy diversity professor glared at him from the depths of his memories, hoping Macet lacked sufficient familiarity with human skin coloring to notice.

    “Not yet,” Macet admitted in a low voice. “There are too few of us right now and no way for us to coordinate on a large scale. For now we wait for a more opportune moment.” They reached the gates of the camp and Macet keyed something into his data padd, causing a series of locks to snap open. At this Macet changed the subject. “There is an old shipyard on this planet from the days of our last war with your people, one that we have brought back online recently, along with the orbital drydock in geosynchronous orbit. The Dominion has not seen fit to pay much attention to losses in our fleet, so those of us who would prefer not to scrap our ships must often fend for ourselves.

    “At this moment, we are located in the foothills about seventy-five of your kilometers southeast of the shipyard.” Macet swung the door open with a hard yank, punctuating his sentence with the hinges’ groan as Spirodopoulos wondered, Why the hell are you telling me all of this? Where do we fit in this picture? “That close to the shipyard,” the Cardassian continued, “yet the few Dominion representatives in the system have no idea this place is here thanks to a massive kelbonite-fistrium vein that runs through this area, and our ability thus far to generate false feeds for our overhead satellites. Not to mention to some Dominion sensor masks we’ve managed to appropriate,” he added with a feral grin that suggested he’d had something to do with said ‘appropriation.’

    Macet and Spirodopoulos passed shoulder-to-shoulder through the unadorned gates of the camp and the gul called for the nine Starfleet prisoners-of-war to form a line before him. His armored crewmen moved to the fore and turned like Macet to face them; they seemed, by their automatic pacing, to have done this before. “As far as the Dominion and most of our own people are concerned, this place does not exist. The guards posted here are here to ensure that nothing violates that cover, whether the threat come from within or without. Their orders are to prefer non-lethal force, but understand that for the sake of maintaining secrecy, they will do what is necessary. I should not like any of your families to lose you, so keep them at the forefront of your minds at all times, no matter how infuriating you find your confinement.

    “During your term here, you will find certain minimal tasks to occupy your attention, particularly dealing with the improvement of your living quarters. Though the technology available to accomplish this is primitive, you won’t encounter much pressure from Glinn Va’Kust regarding deadlines or methods as long as you do nothing that creates a hazard for us or your fellows. There will also be ample opportunity to get yourselves back into physical shape. You shall find your rations nutritionally sufficient, though I’m afraid it won’t be what you’re accustomed to in most cases—there are no replicators here, nor any other technologies powerful enough to give off an energy signature with even a remote chance of being read through the masks. It will be far from what you have known on your homeworlds…but you shall have the basic necessities.”

    Macet fixed his dark, phaser-intense eyes upon Folani Jederia just to Spirodopoulos’ left, answering the objection unspoken. His voice almost broke with passion. “Believe it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2008
  19. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    Whooo-intense. I almost like this Macet guy. So I imagine the story goes downhill from here, becoming a tale of "life in da prison camp. Whoa, dem blues...."(Not. I hope we keep following Macet around. Far more interesting.)
     
  20. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Don't worry...no spoilers, but when I pick up this thread again, things are going to get interesting. ;)