Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

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

  1. Thor Damar

    Thor Damar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Firstly my most sincere apologies for not commenting on the latest and greatest update.:alienblush:

    One of the things that really grabbed me was Macet's moral courage in taking full responsibility for the unpleasant but necessary duty that he had to perform, one cannot help but think that his cousin would have tricked his alien allies into doing it for him...

    As for the article 58 I found it to be a perfect microcosm of what the Cardassians had become under the Union. Justice is no longer sought for the sake of protecting society and establishing the correct rule of law instead it is used to punish those deemed to be your enemies.
    And the fact that it is based upon an old Soviet law is a nice little historical parallel. One of the strongest scenes in the entire fanfic, bravo!

    (did you have a particular piece of music accompanying that moment NG? I can almost hear something martial yet somewhat sad playing in the background as Macet gives those orders...)

    The battle scene was kickarse as always, but then I love seeing the Cardassians show of their tactical brilliance:cool:

    I can't wait for the next installment.

    (BTW, got to love the irony of the new hiding place of the order:lol: Gul Lemec would be royally hacked off!)
     
  2. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Indeed, Lemec would be ticked! ;)

    The music for the entire space battle sequence is "Storming New Caprica" by Bear McCreary, part of the nuBSG soundtrack, Season 3. In fact, if you go over to Ad Astra, there's a post I did in the forum that goes through a blow-by-blow of how the music lines up with the battle. You can very easily pull up that song on YouTube if you've never heard it before.

    You are very, VERY right about Article 58. When I first read about it, it sounded JUST like Cardassian law, so I felt that including it would be a perfect--and sobering--parallel. I can tell you that while Macet's reasons are right, he does recognize the necessity of eventually overhauling the entire Cardassian government. While it might not sound like much to human ears, the fact that he spoke at all about eliminating Article 58, even in the "someday," is quite something.

    I also think you're right that Dukat would've tricked his allies into doing it. Macet screwed up by asking Spirodopoulos to do it, but he was up front about what he was doing, the whole time, and that fortrightness allowed the mistake to be corrected.
     
  3. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    And now a change of pace...

    -----

    Eight hours after the Battle of Lessek

    Cardassian Union Warship Trager

    The first sensation to enter the awareness of Makis Spirodopoulos as he awoke from the dreamless sleep of the completely exhausted was the dull ache all over his body—not a bit of which he had felt in the heat of the battle. He could also feel the faint hint of a ship’s engine running through its frame and into the floor cushion upon which Cardassians slept…and the last time he’d felt that sensation of being aboard one of their ships, the circumstances had been entirely different. He couldn’t have imagined any of this. Couldn’t have imagined sleeping this dreamlessly, this peacefully in this place under these circumstances. Yet here he was, back aboard the Trager—no longer in a hidden alcove of the cargo bay, but actually sleeping in a bed, or something like it. Only now, as he fully awoke, could he begin to take stock of his situation.

    He had only barely begun to disrobe when exhaustion overcame him last night…if that was indeed the cycle this ship had been on…and he’d practically collapsed on the sleeping mat. And he was covered in sweat…which wasn’t exactly doing any good for the dust and the blood and the sweat of exertion from the previous day, either. Fortunately for him, he hadn’t even had time to turn down the covers—which the Cardassians seemed to like a more than ample supply of—before falling asleep, or the heat in his quarters…his quarters?...might have overwhelmed him. He vaguely remembered Glinn Daro…and when had Daro transported back to the Trager, anyway?...showing him the climate controls, but he had been too weary to bother by that point.

    He’d been fortunate that the adrenaline of battle had been enough to sustain him through the much more critical discussions during and after the transit to the nebula…



    Gul Macet had initially wanted to split the Starfleet soldiers throughout the fleet, to include the small, three-person-crewed Hide’eki. “If you were in my position,” the gul said when Spirodopoulos raised an eyebrow at this, “would you not do exactly the same? Understand, I have seen much to suggest your commitment to our joint cause. But would it not be irresponsible of me to allow your entire contingent to congregate in one place? There may be ninety-eight of you, much less than our numbers, but that would still appear to my men as an undue risk.”

    “Just as it would appear to my people as an undue risk if I allowed any of them to be placed solo on a Hidekiy without any other Starfleet crew around,” Spirodopoulos immediately rejoined. He wasn’t about to concede Macet’s point, however accurate it might be, without laying down some stipulations of his own. “They’re now living in what until very recently would’ve constituted hostile territory…they’ll be most comfortable if they’re able to keep tabs on each other.” Macet’s translator paused at that one for an instant, but it didn’t take long before a look of comprehension played out across his face. At that, Spirodopoulos continued. “I must at least insist,” said the Starfleet leader, “that my crew remain aboard the seven larger ships. Or six,” he added, fixing Macet with a strong, steady gaze, “if there is any reason to believe there might be any ‘regrettable incidents’ aboard the Ghiletz.”

    Macet’s nostrils flared for a second at that…but he seemed to realize quickly enough what might have given Spirodopoulos cause, in his mind, for that assumption. “Speros may hold no warm sentiment for the Federation,” he adamantly stated, “but he will control his men, make no mistake.” He lowered his voice. “I shall endeavor to see that he conceives of it as…a point of pride, if you will, to ‘suffer’ your presence without incident. As to your other request…I suppose that is a reasonable compromise. Our executive officers will wish to work with you tomorrow in assigning your people according to their abilities and our personnel requirements. Without them we could never have hoped to pilot all of these additional ships, so we must allocate them properly as soon as possible.”

    “And what about me?” Spirodopoulos replied. “I must be free to move at my liberty throughout the fleet. My people will all expect my presence, even if only on a rotating basis.” He did not add, however, that knowing they might receive one of his random check-ins at any time would give all four guls, and whoever would command the three new ships, a strong incentive to maintain an atmosphere of civility towards the Starfleet soldiers aboard their vessels. And adding some unpredictability to his movements would also complicate matters should one of them decide to turn.

    “Sensible,” Macet decided. “A leader’s presence is required at least part of the time to prevent the degeneration of hierarchy into anarchy.” The Hăzăkda gul shivered visibly, almost instinctively at the thought. It made sense to Spirodopoulos, considering these people used the word ‘chaos’ as invective. “I do wish, however, for you to keep your quarters aboard the Trager.” A flash of grief flickered in his eyes as he said, “I have quarters aboard this ship that befit a man of your equivalent position in the Cardassian Guard. It is my intention to illustrate to this fleet the status I have accorded you among us. Placing you on the lower decks would be…unseemly.”

    “Did these quarters belong to one of your dead?” Spirodopoulos solemnly inquired.

    The Cardassian nodded. “Indeed: to Dalin Haravl, my head of maintenance, who reported directly to Glinn Topak.”

    Spirodopoulos pursed his lips. “Might I offend some of your crew by living there?”

    “I will not allow it,” Macet declared. “Dalin Haravl gave his life at Rondac III, in the Trager’s first act of rebellion. I intend to remind my people in no uncertain terms that you honor the same cause, regardless of species. As to the rest of your men—I intend to make assignments according to rank—”

    “Only as long as they’re all in individual quarters,” Spirodopoulos cut in. “I don’t care if they have to bunk two or three to a room…I insist that they all have a place to sleep that is behind a door they can lock. Again, I mean no offense to you—”

    “But you are being prudent,” Macet assessed with a thoughtful nod that came completely unexpectedly, as far as Spirodopoulos was concerned. “You approach with shields firmly raised; that is just as we would do. It speaks well of you—it does not behoove one to be too trusting, even in apparent safety. I may not be a threat, nor any number of other people, but you would be deluding yourself to believe unreservedly in the good will of every single Cardassian in this fleet, no matter what we as their guls do. They are not given to disobeying orders, neither by training nor instinct…but these are extreme circumstances. You defend yourself, and you recognize our people as strong enough that it merits consideration. It speaks well of you.”

    Macet paused, taking stock of the human man’s increasingly uncomfortable expression at this line of conversation. “I don’t say this to suggest the likelihood of betrayal. If you keep your word, make no mistake—I will defend mine to my dying breath. But I have dealt with humans before, and the astounding naïveté I witnessed…it pleases me to see that perhaps we will be working with someone rather more sensible. Your request is therefore granted, Commander: rest assured, we will make all necessary arrangements.”

    “You’ve had other dealings?” Spirodopoulos couldn’t help asking. “What happened?”

    Macet’s brown eyes darkened even further for a moment. “Perhaps later,” he shrugged. “My feelings on the subject are…quite complex, and I fear that perhaps neither of us is in the proper condition to discuss it.”

    The Cardassian focused back on Spirodopoulos in the here and now. “It has been a long and grueling day…now is the time to rest as best we can.”



    Now, as Spirodopoulos rousted himself achingly from the bed, he shambled slowly to the shower. That’s right, he thought to himself with a faint, oddly grizzled smile for a man still far from sixty, no more bath-in-a-bottle, from here on out... The official name, in Starfleet, was ‘waterless hygiene solution,’ but one almost never heard them called that except with a derisive sneer on one’s face. Inspired, perhaps, by the waterless hand sanitizers that gained popularity in the years before World War III, the bath-in-a-bottle was supposedly the all-in-one bathing solution for dirt, sweat, microbes, and everything else. But no matter how much anyone insisted that it got one clean in all the important ways, it never felt the least bit satisfying.

    Often on AR-558, that had often been the only recourse they had. And on Lessek—that had been the case for the entire month, for the hastily-abandoned training base had had no sonics or even basic plumbing installed…hence, of course, the dreaded latrine duty. Spirodopoulos still wasn’t sure how the Cardassians had come by such a massive supply of Starfleet-issue bath-in-a-bottle, but he strongly suspected it had something to do with the crashed supply ship they had pulled Webene from.

    But now, as he rounded the corner to the private washroom attached to these small quarters, he beheld something he never thought he’d see on a twenty-fourth century starship. A real, honest-to-God hot-water shower. I haven’t had one of those outside a holodeck in two years—and this is where it finally happens? Surreal…that was the only word for it.

    He stripped off his dusty, combat-worn clothes and opened a wall compartment that shared the room with the shower and head, and shoved the balled-up fabric inside; by the end of what promised to be a lengthy shower, the recessed personal laundry unit would have everything cleaned and ready to wear again. This wasn’t surprising from the power- and resource-conscious Cardassians, who found it more difficult to power the kind of carefree replicator use that Starfleet vessels could afford.

    Spirodopoulos leaned into the shower and switched on the water, carefully testing the temperature—Cardassian skin, he was well aware, could withstand greater temperatures than species lacking their microscale layer. Finally, a decent steam rose towards the fan—just enough, he determined—and he stepped in.

    Glancing over at the side, he found something that looked like it passed for a soap dispenser...but decided against it for now. Who knew what effect a cleanser meant for scaled skin might have on a human? And what’s up with that scrub brush-looking thing, anyway? he wondered of the object hanging off of a hook on the back wall of the shower. Looks like a sandpaper pad on a stick! A good long time in the water, and a thorough scrubdown with the washcloth and towel that had been provided for him would have to suffice until he got an answer to that soap question. For now, there was the immense satisfaction of bathing in real water—and that, plus refreshed clothes, was enough to make him feel cleaner than he had been in months.

    After several minutes, though, he noticed the ambient temperature spiking to a point where he actually began to feel lightheaded. Damn! he thought to himself, as he quickly cut the water temperature down to much cooler territory, recovered for a few seconds, and then stepped out. He’d gotten so caught up in the pleasure of a hot shower that he’d forgotten the fact that he still hadn’t lowered the room temperature. Still, it wasn’t enough to diminish the intense overall relief of the experience.

    Of course, such things could not last forever…the very fact of where he was ensured there would be much to do during the day ahead. Quickly toweling off, he pulled open the door of the laundry unit and reached in to find his clothes restored just as expected, aside from some of the scuffs and threads pulled loose.

    He didn’t think about it for the first few seconds, as he pulled on the shirt, pants, and socks. Though tailored differently from what he was used to, it could mostly have been a civilian outfit at that point, if you ignored the shin and forearm guards…black, mostly, with some simple, coordinated pattern work on the outsides of the sleeves and pant legs. But after another minute to put himself completely together—Makis Spirodopoulos looked up and for the first time, caught sight of himself in the bathroom mirror.

    The olive-green eyes that stared back at him were largely unchanged…there were a few lines around them that had not been there, perhaps, before his deployment to AR-558, though he couldn’t be sure, because although someone had hung a mirror in the makeshift washroom, there had never been any time to scrutinize—to even think about what the constant rigors of combat were doing to him. And on Lessek…which had indeed had little more than the basics and mirrors hadn’t been one of them…opportunities to catch a glimpse of oneself in a mirror had been rare indeed.

    And even in the evening-like light the Cardassians seemed to prefer, Spirodopoulos could see that during his month on Lessek, he’d definitely tanned from the exposure to the light of a real star. And his curly black hair had definitely grown out over the past several months, to the point where it stood out from his scalp by well over an inch all the way around. Still…these were his features.

    If he spoke, it would be with the same voice as before—a soft, American-sounding baritone flavored with a dash of Greek that, in San Francisco, had been faint enough that people sometimes mistook it and came up to him speaking Spanish, alternately amused or affronted when he could not reply likewise. His voice may not have been the thundering bass people tended to expect from a security officer, but it was still a voice capable of speaking firmly nonetheless when required. All that held the most importance was undeniably the same.

    And yet…the reflection staring back at him was absolutely surreal.

    It wasn’t as though he’d never seen Federation species dressed after the fashions of other worlds. In fact, one woman he’d served with when he first came aboard the Petraeus, Lieutenant T’Naiah, had become a participant in the Federation Starfleet-Klingon Defense Force exchange program. But, as he thought to himself now, for better or worse, the Klingons were our allies when she first went over there.

    That was not how things had remained for what should have been the entire duration of her assignment. He still remembered the day hostilities had broken out between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, when T’Naiah had been forced to commandeer one of the qajunpaQ’s shuttlecraft—there had been no lifepods, of course, no other option for escape but that. Spirodopoulos had been there in the transporter room when she’d beamed back, her shuttle just one direct hit away from destruction. Her black hair had grown long, straight down to her shoulders by then, and her eyes…she had grown accustomed to letting a certain air of defiance burn from within them—part cultural concession, he supposed, and part defense mechanism as the situation had suddenly soured between the two great powers. He’d never thought he’d ever see anything quite as odd, as incongruous as that…

    …but now he beheld himself.

    This dark, armored uniform…this weapon he carried...never had his mind thought to transfer this image to himself, nor even to any other species but the Cardassians who had designed it to fit their particular physique. Six days ago, he would have said, if asked, that dread and malice dripped from its very aspect—an image strongly rooted in the darkest days of Earth’s history, of the Second and Third World Wars and their horrors…the very same horrors played out on an interstellar scale at the blood-stained hands of Central Command and the Obsidian Order. And he would have left it at that.

    Five days ago, that veneer of simplicity had crumbled away. The spirit of rebellion: some had said their very natures suppressed it, however just the cause. The spirit of benevolence: some had said it didn’t exist on this side of the border, that their cultural conditioning destroyed it irrevocably, down to a man. And now…he had taken a chance on the belief that he had seen something different. He had donned this foreign armor and issued the challenge to his countrymen. They had fought…some had shed their blood and others now lay on biobeds aboard the four Gă’ălour, the battle still ongoing for them as they struggled for their very lives. There was no telling now how long this might last.

    God, how he hoped he was sure of what he’d done.

    And now as Mike Spirodopoulos regarded the image in the mirror…yes, the Cardassian armor he now wore was unmistakably military in nature—nothing like the shipboard jumpsuits or even the so-called battle fatigues he had worn before. Sometimes, in the trenches, they’d called the Cardassian soldiers ‘diamondbacks’—a derisive reference to the therapsid species’ reptilian traits, and the diamond motif on the cuirass. And in that, and its austere alien aesthetic...yes, it presented a formidable and forbidding aspect. Until you looked into the eyes of the man or woman who wore it. Until he looked into his own eyes.

    Diamondback. What was he? Calculating ruthlessness or tempered strength—this was a choice. He could only pray that this one would not be betrayed. It had to be right. It had to be right. And whatever the outcome…he had to own it.

    Lieutenant Commander Spirodopoulos of Starfleet, of the Thirteenth Order, squared his shoulders and stared hard into the mirror for a few more seconds—until the door chime sounded. “Commander,” came the softspoken tones of Glinn Thouves Daro, “Gul Berat hailed just a few minutes ago from the Sherouk. The word from Dr. Hetalc isn’t good, I’m afraid; if you wish to bid the lieutenant goodbye, you had better come with me now.”

    Spirodopoulos swallowed hard.

    “I’m on my way.”
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2010
  4. Thor Damar

    Thor Damar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Nice!:)

    Now I have a new curse:bolian::

    "may chaos stalk your plans!".
     
  5. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Oh, yes, that would be a very Cardassian curse indeed!
     
  6. Thor Damar

    Thor Damar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Indeed, I can actually hear Dukat or Damar snarling that at an irritant (perhaps Damar would mutter it at Weyoun after the vorta has left the room).

    There's a lot to love about this story, from the nickname for the Soldiers of the Union to Macet's recollection of meeting a certain French Starfleeter;). I also gotta say that I loved Spirodopoulos' uneasy reaction to Macet and his attempt to reassure the young human.

    It's a wonderful display of someone confronting his prejudices about an entire civilization and coming to terms with the fact that yes, Cardassians can be likable and respected.

    Bravo!
     
  7. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Especially Damar. Damar has a GREAT sneer when he's angry at Weyoun. I love that line where he goes, "Of COURSE it doesn't [concern us]" once Weyoun's out of the room.

    Thanks! :)

    Of course, Macet's not disturbed about Spirodopoulos' unease. I think to an extent, Cardassians actually act like that with each other: always a little bit wary until they get very close. Remember the incident in "The Wounded," where Picard recounts his FIRST encounter with the Cardassians, where the Cardassians didn't take it well that he approached with his shields down? You kind of get an explanation of that here.

    And very glad you liked the mention of Picard! I think that's something I'll be going back to sometime...

    Edit: NICE! A Macet avatar! Me likey!
     
  8. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Superb exchange between Makis (NOW I recall his first name!) and Macet. Good, clever interaction between these two leaders. If there's any justice in this universe, when all this is over, Spiro should get his own starship command.

    (BTW...while I wouldn't call Picard naive...still, I see where you're coming from, as, while Picard is my favorite of the Big Five, I am often VERY frustrated at Picard's usual unwillingness to bend in order to do what has to be done, because We Must Never Compromise Our Values And Principles....)

    Liked the amusing, tongue-in-cheek sequence of the shower--and the "bottle-bath" (:lol:)!

    My favorite moment, however, is when Spiro analyzes himself in the mirror.

    Somehow, though the two men in no way resemble each other (except, perhaps for the soft-yet-tough voice)...Spiro reminds me a great deal of Jack Bauer. (Just catching up on the first season of 24, and Jack has a LOT of moments like that.)

    Well done! :techman:
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2010
  9. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    You know, I've never watched 24--but from what I've heard, I can see where you get that.

    I'm very glad you liked the Spirodopoulos-Macet interaction...putting those two together is definitely something I enjoy because they play so nicely off of each other.

    Picard...I do not really think highly of him. He has his moments in certain missions, but when he's in a tough situation, or when he has one of his holier-than-thou moments (which are very frequent), I want to smack him.

    As for Starfleet's reaction to all of this...well, if he gets home, we'll have to see!
     
  10. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well...there's a particular moment from the very first episode, where Jack stares out of his office, looking like he's feeling very alone, as he says to his second in command, "Nina...you can look the other way once, and it's no big deal--except it makes it easier to do it again, and again...until that's all you're doing, is compromising--because you think that's how it's done...."

    He's torn because of how much he's changed already, because of his job...and he knows all too well that more changing is ahead.

    Yup. That pair is awesome. At the very least...surely Gul Macet will put in a good word for him...and in the interests of peaceful relations with the Union, surely the Federation will respect Macet's wishes that Spiro be rewarded for his bravery.

    BTW--I see Spiro is a veteran of AR-558. Whould this be during or after the episode?

    Yup. Take "Silicone Avatar". It seems like Picard would rather have more Federation citizens die rather than kill the creature--and that anyone who suggests otherwise (even RIKER) is just out for revenge!

    Still...I think he grows a great deal as the show progresses...to the point where, in "Descent", he acknowledges that, sometimes, his moralizing can be far more harm than good.

    I think a good, effective clash appears in "Destiny", where Ezri and Picard effectively provide a balance for each other. Picard prefers to stop-and-think-for-a-moment, Ezri prefers to stop-talking-and-do-something!, etc.

    I think he's matured enough, by the time of the films, to be willing to get off the stupid high-horse and get his hands dirty once in a while.
     
  11. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Starfleet's reaction is worth exploring, IMO. Another fine installment! Keep it up!
     
  12. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That's very much how I think it is for Spirodopoulos, seeing himself in the mirror. He really sees the enormity of what he's done, and the situation that he's now in...there's no way he can forget that fact when he sees himself dressed like a Cardassian soldier.

    Based on what we've seen so far, I think Macet's impressed.

    This takes place after that episode; Spirodopoulos would've arrived there after the Defiant left.

    I assume a longer timeline between episodes in the final arc than some people do, though--the strict year-to-season correspondence is not something I hold to, and I actually see a span of four months between Septimus III (about when the story opens) and the Battle of Cardassia Prime. Sometimes in war it takes longer for things to transpire than you'd think, and THIS particular war really reminds me of World War II as opposed to, say, something like either Gulf War, or the conflicts Israel has been involved in--a longer timeframe rather than a quick, decisive thing.

    I think First Contact was a real wake-up call. He'd faced the Borg, faced Madred, and got back up on the high horse, but then THIS encounter and something very different in him emerges. My personal theory, anyway.

    Thanks! That's something I'm definitely giving a lot of thought to, though I think that'll take quite awhile to get to. ;)
     
  13. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Hmm. Shame--I would have like to see a moment between Spiro and Sisko--perhaps an exchange with Ezri, too.

    Yep. He lectured Lilly on "a more evolved sensibility", and then he was shocked into reality when she confronted him on this.
     
  14. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Very nice. :) I really like the uneasy, apprehensive, even slightly panicky, response from Spirodopoulos as he realizes his carefully-defined worldview and its structire has crumbled. It really works due to the irony inherent in coming to a more complex and multi-faceted view of Cardassians by virtue of almost seeing the Cardassian in himself, and so the Human in the Cardassians, by means of a collapse of ordered structures; an incredibly un-Cardassian state. By finding himself in a state that is anathema to Cardassians, he finds the Cardassian in himself; that's greatly perverse yet also reflective of how complex humans, Cardassians - and the entire situation he's in- are. The whole scene with the mirror is uneasy, even slightly disturbing, and yet not, because we can see that disturbance is a good thing, even if Cardassian instinct disagrees. I think this scene does a very good job of demonstrating both how alike Cardassians and Humans are, yet also how Spirodopoulos, as a Human, is different from a Cardassian. This is a scene about unspoken assumptions about identity- me, them, us, society, personality, animal instinct, confusion, clarity- and it is really interesting.
     
  15. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    You're right, Spirodopoulos is seeing something in himself that I don't think he's ever really seen before...Starfleet, with its confused identity between scientific, peacekeeping, and military force, doesn't really quite get that way. I've always had the feeling Spirodopoulos would've been a MACO in another life.

    I would imagine both parties see something of themselves in the other. While the conversation between Macet and Spirodopoulos looks tense--I would actually say the tension was NOT necessarily a signal of something wrong, as someone might've assumed if they were just listening in.

    But yes, I think for Spirodopoulos, this is a very important moment, because here I think the sheer enormity of what he's done is first starting to register.

    (BTW, if you think there's a confused identity going on HERE, just you wait until you read "The Nature of the Beast"! :cardie: )
     
  16. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Gul Berat was waiting for Spirodopoulos as he rematerialized aboard the Sherouk, his lake-blue eyes grave as he prepared to deliver the unfortunate news. “This way,” Berat said right away with a flick of the eyes towards the transporter room door; it was clear to Spirodopoulos, though the gul made no other gestures, that he meant him to follow. “Dr. Hetalc and your nurse have been unable to stabilize Lieutenant T’Ruveh.”

    Even before departing the Lessek system, Gul Rebek had seen to it that the injured Vulcan be routed to the Sherouk: with Dr. Hetalc, who by necessity had become a skilled neurologist as well as trauma surgeon, she had stood the best chance of recovery. There had been no Federation doctors in the Thirteenth Order, but there had been a handful of nurses and medical technicians, to include the nurse Laen, an unjoined Trill man who had fortuitously ended up aboard the Sherouk.

    As they walked, Berat fixed Spirodopoulos with a concerned, searching gaze. “She was going in and out of consciousness…and she requested Cadet Subek’s presence just after I was notified you were preparing for transport.”

    The human officer’s throat went dry. “Did she say what her intentions were?”

    Berat pressed his lips together for just a moment, as if wishing to hold in the words he knew he had to speak. “She says something of herself can be transferred from her own body to his. The term translated for Hetalc and me as ‘neural engram’…her word was ‘katra.’ I was just notified while you were preparing for transport. I don’t know what Starfleet requires in circumstances like this—so I have had Subek brought aboard, but given the risk involved in something like this…I felt you ought to be consulted, as her commanding officer.”

    Even back on AR-558, it would have been a simple matter—living wills could be consulted, and as long as the Vulcan receiving the katra gave his or her own consent, then there was no question about it whatsoever. Here…he had no such access. And considering the nature of T’Ruveh’s injury, there was no telling how lucid she truly was, Vulcan resiliency aside. But I have nothing else to go by, he thought. Some Starfleet doctors would have used their position to override the patient’s statement in favor of their own judgment in a case like this…but Spirodopoulos couldn’t do it. He gave a solemn nod. “If Subek consents…they can go forward.”

    Gul Berat nodded—though if his silence was any indication, what was about to happen deeply unnerved him. Which makes perfect sense, Spirodopoulos grimly thought: Cardassians were taught almost from birth to despise and resist any form of mental intrusion. By the time they turned ten, their emotions became unreadable to an empath, who from then on received only a faint indication of presence—and by adulthood, there were some capable of resisting a Vulcan mind meld.

    As they continued their way down the corridor from the transporter room, Spirodopoulos caught sight of a few of the Sherouk’s crew working their way in the same direction. These were the walking wounded, he realized—men and women who had deferred their treatment until after the more critical cases were seen. Some of them still seemed to be in untreated pain. Even so, they still dipped their heads for a moment in acknowledgment of their gul’s presence.

    Berat gave his own, slighter nod of recognition—lesser in degree because of his rank, but he accompanied the gesture with a smile…a weary, grieved expression, but nonetheless, his blue eyes held that undisguised kindness that Spirodopoulos would not have expected less than a week ago from a Cardassian man of Berat’s rank. They seemed to respond to it just like any Starfleet crew would, seeming a bit buoyed by the presence of their gul even in their pain...though it seemed a little odd that none of them—not Berat nor his crew—said a word as they interacted. Had this been Captain Yvaaz!ta visiting Sickbay aboard the Petraeus, it likely would have exchanged a few brief words with its crew, and Spirodopoulos would have done the same.

    This was far from telepathy, of course…it had to be the help of the hierarchical instinct instead. The human commander wasn’t entirely sure he understood what it meant, exactly, to feel what a Cardassian did, but the best he could wrap his mind around it, the instinct not only gave Cardassians an innate reward for leadership or compliance as their position and the situation demanded—it also made them a bit more attuned to the nonverbal behaviors that were expected according to one’s role. It was somewhat akin to the way Earth’s canines read each other’s mannerisms, but with a powerful, fully sentient mind at the helm.

    Berat, it seemed, had felt there was no time to hesitate in escorting Spirodopoulos to T’Ruveh’s side, no time to speak…yet between Cardassians, what he had ‘heard,’ what he had used his people’s innate aptitude to ‘say,’ had to have carried an additional resonance, something that spoke to them on the deep levels of the subconscious mind. The message was sent…I am here. I stand with you. The words would likely come in a short while when there was more time.

    The doors to the Sherouk’s sickbay swished open to reveal…not chaos, for the most serious casualties had either perished or been stabilized, but a definite sense of focused urgency. A Cardassian nurse, clad in the long-sleeved brown work scrubs of the Guard’s Medical Corps with gold writing not unlike that on a soldier’s cuirass, glanced up from the comrade whose dislocated shoulder he had just set back into place.

    “Gul Berat,” he greeted with a quick bow. Spirodopoulos looked closer. Despite the color of his clothing, he could make out the dried remnants of multiple species’ blood on his shirt. The remarkable thing is, Spirodopoulos silently observed, there’s no way to tell apart human and Cardassian blood. It had been quite the surprise to discover, during the battle on Lessek, that for all of the differences between their species, both internal and external, Cardassian blood was iron based—and red—just like his own.

    The nurse’s features were worn, his head tilted down slightly to allow his eye ridges to shield his weary eyes from the overhead light…which to Spirodopoulos wasn’t all that bright, but apparently Cardassian eyes were more sensitive than his. He added a perfunctory, wordless nod at Spirodopoulos, unsure how to address this Starfleet officer clad in the uniform of the Cardassian Guard. “They’re in the next room,” he said, pointing a grey finger at the door to what Spirodopoulos assumed to be the intensive care suite. “The decon field’s active…you can go straight in.” With that, the nurse turned his attention back to his patient.

    As soon as Berat and Spirodopoulos stepped across the threshold, a tall, grey-haired physician of ample girth, wearing the more elaborate brown doctor’s suit, looked up at the two of them and met eyes with his much younger commander. For just a moment, a look of almost familial affection passed between the two, and he decided: This must be the man who saved Berat’s life. Then the Cardassian doctor’s lined features grew solemn again.

    But it was the Trill nurse, Laen—still wearing his armor from the surface—who spoke first. “We haven’t got long, Commander. If Subek’s going to have any chance at this, he’s got to start now.”

    Spirodopoulos took stock of the two Vulcans. Lieutenant T’Ruveh, also still in her Cardassian uniform, though sans cuirass and boots, stared blankly into space—evidently the damage had been too severe for her to enter a healing trance. And severe enough that she could not react to the new arrivals, either. Subek stood at T’Ruveh’s bedside opposite Hetalc. His face would have seemed completely impassive to the casual observer…except for the quick glances he occasionally darted in T’Ruveh’s direction: a trace of unease about her impending death, and what he was about to do, perhaps?

    Dr. Hetalc spoke up now. “While this is something I’ve never witnessed before…Gul, Commander, it’s my professional opinion that this depth of telepathic intervention may compromise Subek’s safety as well as whatever effects it has on my patient.” He turned his head towards head towards Cadet Subek, his grey, ridge-ringed eyes speaking the wariness of deep concern. His voice grew more gravelly than before, his unease evident. “I could lose you both. Laen and I have discussed it, and you’re running every risk ranging from death to degenerative disease of the central nervous system, even winding up in a minimally-conscious state for the rest of your life…especially if you’re still connected when she passes, and even before that point. Even if this transfer is successful—there could be major side effects until her engram is extracted from your mind.”

    “Understood,” Subek calmly replied. “Those are all risks I am willing to undertake. With your permission, Commander…”

    Tensely, Spirodopoulos nodded. The Cardassians’ faces set into similar, ever so slightly disconcerted expressions of resignation and concern. “I will monitor her vital signs. Laen,” Hetalc said, pronouncing the Trill’s name La’en, “you shall take Subek.” He addressed the Vulcan once more. “I will allow this—but I must ask that you wear a cortical monitor during the process.”

    “That will not be necessary—”

    “You are proposing to link your mind with an individual with severe head trauma,” Hetalc insisted—forcefully, but no more threateningly than a Starfleet doctor might have delivered the same words. “I should hope it won’t be necessary—but I insist on taking all caution with sentient life.”

    Spirodopoulos made no objection; he agreed completely with the sentiment of the Cardassian physician. That was all Hetalc needed to act, quietly slipping around to the other side of the bed and placing a small, grey-brown device just underneath the base of Subek’s ear, then handed Laen a device that must have been the Cardassian equivalent of a medical tricorder. “I’ve converted as much of the text as I can into Vedrayçda,” he explained, using the Cardăsda name for Federation Standard. “Can you function with that?”

    Laen nodded—a touch hesitantly, but still, he decided, “It’ll do.”

    Sensing this, Hetalc took up a position next to Laen. “I’ll stay with you. But we had better begin now, if we’re going to do this.”

    With that, everyone in the room, Starfleet and Cardassian alike, fell into a tense silence. Subek took a chair next to the biobed and lifted T’Ruveh’s motionless hand towards his face, gently pressing her fingers to the pressure points on his own temple and under his eye. Then he closed his own eyes; the rhythm, though not the tone, of the sounds emitted by the Cardassian cortical monitor shifted in response.

    Suddenly Subek’s eyes snapped open. He spoke not a single word—though his gaze wandered slowly across the room…from Laen, to Hetalc, to Berat and Spirodopoulos. The lone human in the room shivered even in the heat of the Cardassian vessel: Whose eyes are those, looking at me now?

    Time seemed to stretch and dilate like it would for a ship that entered extreme impulse speeds without the low-level subspace field that shielded the vessel from pronounced relativistic effects. Even though he wasn’t a part of the meld, Spirodopoulos felt as though he were losing his chronological sense. He could not break his gaze.

    Then Dr. Hetalc’s urgent voice cut through the silence. “Her vitals are dipping…Subek, you’ve got to break off now.” Indeed—the sound of T’Ruveh’s respiration was growing ragged, erratic.

    “Subek!” Laen hissed in the Vulcan cadet’s ear, but he received no response.

    Hetalc stole a worried glance over Laen’s shoulder at the tricorder readout—then clasped Subek’s shoulders from behind, hard. “Subek, you’re out of time!

    At the sudden pressure, Subek’s hand instinctively released, and T’Ruveh’s arm dropped limply. He gasped hard at the breaking of the link, blinked open-mouthed several times before regaining his equilibrium. The Vulcan’s jaw worked once, twice without sound, before he managed to stammer out a few words: “I—I…I have completed the transference.” He turned to stare at the Cardassian physician, eyes visibly wider than normal. “Doctor…” He paused, as if he could not remember the man’s name. “You may withdraw artificial life support.”

    Even the best of Federation science had yet to answer the question of what happened during a katra transference. Was this simply a data backup of sorts, or were the Vulcans somehow capable of transferring their immortal souls before they could move on to dimensions unseen? Who spoke now? Subek? T’Ruveh? Some combination of the two?

    Grimly, wordlessly, Dr. Hetalc keyed in a few commands on his console. It took only a few more seconds for T’Ruveh’s shallow, arrhythmic breathing to cease. The elder Cardassian gently lifted the dead Vulcan’s hand, which had hung disconcertingly off the edge of the biobed, and laid it over her stomach in a gesture of repose, and delicately posed the other arm to match, carefully laying one hand over the other.

    Then he looked over at T’Ruveh’s last commanding officer. The loss pained the Cardassian physician; that Spirodopoulos could clearly see. But there was something else in the doctor’s expression—something very subtle that he suspected would have manifested more plainly on a man from a species less schooled in hiding their emotional reactions when they so desired. When he spoke, it was barely above a whisper. “She’s gone. I’m very sorry.”

    His eyes flicked over towards Berat, seeming to seek support from the young gul before he spoke his next words. Hetalc almost looked to Spirodopoulos’ eye as though he were not just dejected, but a touch…wary of the human officer in this moment. Almost as if he feared reproach. As if he felt he deserved reproach. “I…shall make my full record available to you, Commander. The same for any others of your people that I or my staff have treated. It is important…that you know that I—we…”

    that I really did try. That we’re not all like that.

    Spirodopoulos realized then where he’d seen the image of the uniform this man and his staff wore: in footage of the infamous Crell Moset. Hetalc had known what Spirodopoulos would see. And to stand before this human next to the motionless body of a Starfleet soldier…yes, Spirodopoulos thought. Hetalc was dreading the impression he might get.

    “Doctor,” Spirodopoulos said simply, leery of mispronouncing the man’s name, “I thank you for notifying me. For all of your efforts.” And he bowed quietly. Then he turned to Laen. “And thank you as well, Lieutenant.”

    Then Hetalc spoke again. “Please rest assured we will care for what she leaves behind until she can be returned to her home,” he sought to assure Spirodopoulos, though he clearly felt this was but a meager offering. “This is no less than we would do for our own.”

    Subek met the Cardassian doctor’s eyes. “While we do not bury our dead, the family will undoubtedly find the gesture…meaningful.” Hetalc inclined his head in silent, thoughtful acknowledgment.

    “I will help you, Doctor,” Gul Berat quietly put in. “I hope we won’t have cause to use much of it after this—but I’ll dedicate an appropriate space to your fallen, and have the stasis fields put into place.” The commander of the Sherouk bit his lip slightly after his own statement, glancing away from Spirodopoulos. The Greek officer thought he knew why: to most Cardassians, it was something of a ‘sacrilege’ for people of other species to view the bodies of their dead. He wasn’t sure whether Berat was simply concerned that the traditional restriction might offend his Starfleet allies—or whether he actually disapproved of the prejudice.

    Spirodopoulos spoke. “How are you doing, Cadet?”

    “I am…within satisfactory parameters, given the circumstances,” Subek replied. “However—I must unfortunately request to be placed on limited duty until I can make a fuller assessment of the effects of the transference upon my performance capabilities. I endeavor to return to full duty as soon as possible, of course.”

    The commander nodded—reluctantly, perhaps, but acknowledging the sensibility of the request nonetheless. “Of course,” he echoed. “You’ll see Laen and the doctor if you have any complaints…”

    “Sir,” Subek acknowledged with a noncommittal nod.
     
  17. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    I really liked the recognition that the doctor has for Spirodopoulos' possible (subconscious?) response to the sight of a Cardassian doctor over a dead Federation officer. That he understands the implications, no matter how unfair they are, is interesting and in keeping with the empathy a doctor should possess. I'm sure it's true that a Starfleet officer's familiarity with "Cardassian doctor" would be Crell Moset and his ilk, rather than the majority of doctors working to preserve life and ease suffering. That view might not be fair, but it is understandable that that's what a Starflet officer might have swirling in his mind, and it is good characterization to have the doctor understand and acknowledge this, even if he's not condoning the biased view. It was, as I said, in keeping with the empathy a doctor should be expected to show; it also shows the complexity of the character- a complexity that your characters usually have- and I really liked it.

    The comparisons between Vulcan and Cardassian- two cultures so alike in many ways yet so different in others (and with some confusion as to what is a similiarity and what a difference!) were also interesting- I'd like to see more of that.
     
  18. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    It's part empathy, and part something else (I'll explain in our current PM conversation). But you're right...Dr. Hetalc is a man who cares deeply about his patients, and wants very much to save lives and ease suffering. He finds "doctors" like Moset completely reprehensible and horrifying.

    And yes...it's very interesting how similar-yet-different Cardassians and Vulcans are. They both come from desert worlds, and they're highly disciplined and conformist peoples...and yet it shows in SUCH different ways.
     
  19. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2008
    Location:
    The EIB Network
    Excellent sequence, as always. Great characterization--and interesting moment with the katra transferrence.

    I can easily see how the end of the battle would effectively bee the end of an episode--perhaps a season-arc of "Thirteenth Order"--and Spirodopoulos's and Macet's scenes before this one would be the opening of a new season, perhaps a "recovery" ep a la "Family". This sequece continues the "transfer" to a potential new arc. Looking forward to seeing what that arc will be like.
     
  20. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    It's still one novel, but yes, there will be another phase to it. But I think there are some things that need to happen before that...

    The comparison to "Family," though, is very nice to hear. Definitely there's a lot of coming-to-terms that is still required. Remember...what's been quite a long time for the readers, admittedly, has been only a matter of weeks for the Thirteenth Order.
     

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