Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order

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

  1. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks!

    These people definitely do come from a lot of different backgrounds, all the way from the Westmoreland (which for whatever reason seems to have a really gung-ho attitude) to skeptical Federation-Cardassian War veterans, to Bajorans, to civilians. It's gonna be a challenge for Spirodopoulos, that's for sure!

    Hah, it's not going to be THAT easy! ;)

    Remember, they have a ground battle ahead of them to GET the fifth Gălor. Plus, if I were Macet, no matter HOW trusting I was being, I still wouldn't let a bunch of Starfleeters run around with their very own Dominion-enhanced Gălor without some very close supervision. ;)
     
  2. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    Well, we learned something important about Spirodopoulos.

    He's a leader - reluctant, perhaps, but definitely a leader.
     
  3. DavidFalkayn

    DavidFalkayn Commodore Commodore

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    Well, he got them on board--just and with more than a few misgivings from all concerned. Now...we'll see how this ad hoc "alliance" holds up.
     
  4. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    He was a competent department head back on the Petraeus, and probably pretty good on AR-558, too--but there's always been a layer or two of top cover.

    I think the seeds of something were always there, but now they'd better grow--quickly, because if the balance of power in this group shifts the wrong way...even if it's not awful, but just looks bad, there's going to be some serious trouble.
     
  5. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Okay...I'm going to go ahead and give you this section early. But there may be a bit of a hiatus after this, because the distance between posted chapters and what's written is closing a bit more than I would like. By the way, if anyone wants to actually hear the Cardăsda phrases pronounced, let me know and I'll whip up a recording and post it to the background thread.

    (Oh, and that's not a typo on Va'Kust's name in that one section--that's Ilojan transliteration because I switched into Cardăsda for that part.)

    =====

    The sound of grinding gravel greeted Spirodopoulos as he closed the mess hall door behind him—heavy Cardassian boots skidding to a sudden halt. The Starfleet officer failed to restrain a momentary grin: Va’Kust had been pacing. He seemed taller when I first saw him, Spirodopoulos thought. Then common sense kicked in. He’s still built like a Klingon with the Golden Gate Bridge on his shoulders…it’s just that now I’m looking at him as a potential ally instead of imagining that bulk pounding me into the ground.

    Va’Kust looked up, arms crossed. Meeting Spirodopoulos’ eyes, his prominent lips matched the human’s expression with a cryptic half-smile of their own. “Kiba’avzayn, Spirodopoulos,” he said, encircled eyes filled with expectations. “I hope that look means you have brought us such.”

    Bocot kiba’avzayn edek,” Spirodopoulos replied in cautious Cardăsda, his speech slow to help him focus on distinguishing the ‘k’ shared by both men’s native languages from the heavily-aspirated ‘c.’ I bring good tidings. “It took awhile, but I got unanimous agreement—we’re in.”

    The big Cardassian bowed slightly, the effect rather like a skyscraper swaying in an earthquake: a highly visible gesture, but one that did almost nothing to diminish his height. “Bocot kiba’avzayn çad nou,” he reiterated with the same careful diction, mirroring Spirodopoulos’ Cardăsda phrasing to give him the best chance of hearing his words past the translator, which could never properly render in Federation Standard the most crucial nuance of his reply—that small aspect marker ‘nou,’ which meant in this context that Va’Kust acknowledged a significant act of kindness: the sort he considered immortalized in time even after the benefactor and the recipient were long dead.

    Spirodopoulos bowed in acknowledgment and Va’Kust’s smile widened further. The glinn lifted his wrist and tapped a button on his communicator. “Va’Kust to Gul Rebek—I have a definite affirmative.”

    Excellent!” the lady gul reveled. “Summon all of your men and his to Building One-Maçliyd; we’ll meet you there.” Spirodopoulos recognized the designation as the largest of the restricted buildings, a structure large enough to park several shuttlecraft. Could that be what they’ve got in there? he wondered as Va’Kust signaled the other Cardassians.

    A few minutes later, the entire contingent of one hundred and twenty-five Federation crew and thirty-six Cardassians stood before the expansive building. “This base where you’ve been living was intended at the beginning of the war to become a survival training center,” explained the gul of the Sherouk. “We didn’t initially plan to use the shipyard. Those plans were scrapped when the Dominion decided some Cardassian shipbuilding operations would be moved here in order to give more desirable systems like Monac to their own efforts. In the relocation process, the Vigilance Corps left certain supplies behind.” The young gul swept a hand at the building and clasped it immediately again behind his back as if snatching it away from the fangs of a hungry targ. “This is the armory.”

    Macet stepped forward. “This is not an easy thing to do,” he gravely declared. “This is an unprecedented act of trust between our peoples and I shall be frank: we are outnumbered and will soon be outgunned by you. For the sake of saving our people from the Dominion, we ask your faithfulness to your word.” This tallest of the guls turned to Va’Kust, who, impressively enough, had a couple of centimeters on him. “We need to begin immediately—the sooner they familiarize themselves with their equipment, the better.” Va’Kust acknowledged with a bow.

    “Computer—open doors, authorization Va’Koust-rhakam-lect-ekou-rhăçim.” Spirodopoulos heard the code in Cardăsda but understood the first part to be seven-orange-eight, with the last being a letter in the Cardăsda alphabet.

    The great doors, large enough to admit a runabout, slid open to reveal a vast storehouse: hand disruptors and rifles with their accompanying power packs, grenades, combat rations, rack upon rack of armor, and every other sort of equipment a Cardassian soldier could possibly ask for. How could all of this simply be abandoned? Spirodopoulos marveled. Not even the training division of the Cardassian Guard was known for that sort of carelessness—either they had pulled out in such a hurry that there had been no time to repurpose or destroy these supplies, or someone had intentionally ‘lost’ them with the idea of keeping one up on the Dominion.

    “We’ll escort you inside in groups of twenty,” Va’Kust announced, “and match supplies and munitions to each of you, which will include ensuring a proper fit for your armor.”

    “Excuse me?” somebody sniffed in the back of the Federation gathering. “You mean we’re actually wearing that?” Spirodopoulos’ first impulse was to turn around and chide the Tellarite responsible, but decided that not only would it not accomplish anything, but it would also single her out to the wary Cardassians as a potential troublemaker. He said nothing instead.

    Va’Kust proudly drew himself to his full height and replied, “This armor does a better job at deflecting shrapnel and glancing phaser hits than the cloth uniforms you Starfleet people wear into combat. Given that we must begin this insurrection of ours with a ground assault—I strongly recommend you avail yourselves of what we offer.” Spirodopoulos didn’t need to glance down at himself to recognize that despite his best efforts to wash and mend his worn uniform, it had seen better days. Much of the crew was in similar condition, some having already resorted to simple black, two-piece Cardassian replacements for uniforms too shredded for repair.

    Ironic that it’s the Cardassians who finally get us what we’ve been lobbying for the whole time, Spirodopoulos thought. Rumor had it a form of Starfleet armor, or at least some sort of decent flak jacket, did in fact exist, but no hint of it had ever been glimpsed on the front lines—leading to snide speculation amongst the ground troops that Starfleet Command’s insistence on the simple flame-retardant cloth uniforms was for no other reason but maintaining the image of a peaceful force even in the muck of the trenches. Most likely, Starfleet had simply forgotten what a true ground assault was like.

    “Let’s get started,” Spirodopoulos decided. Va’Kust gestured for the first group to follow the two of them into the storehouse.

    A young Cardassian noncom whose armor inscription indicated her as Lessek base personnel moved to the fore of the group. Spirodopoulos thought he remembered the woman’s name to be Trughal. She pointed towards a raised circle on the floor about half a meter wide with a pedestal next to it, which looked rather like a transporter pad. Seeing this resemblance, he stopped just short. “It’s a fitter, not a disintegrator,” Trughal remarked with an exasperated sigh and crossed her arms. Va’Kust shot her a withering look Spirodopoulos’ American grandmother would have labeled ‘the skunk eye,’ and the noncom’s tone snapped to stony neutrality. “Just walk across.”

    Spirodopoulos warily complied; nothing happened except a brief, low-pitched hum and a set of numbers flashing up onto the pedestal’s display screen. “That way,” Trughal indicated, pointing to a numbered rack in the corner of the room. So much for a happy little family, Spirodopoulos thought.



    For what felt like the millionth time as he donned the Cardassian battle armor, Spirodopoulos tugged at the neckline of his undershirt, trying in vain to pull it up as a breeze passed over the skin where his neck joined his shoulders. To its credit, the dark, burnt-umber shirt conformed much more closely to the wearer’s physique than the plain black pullovers one out of ten of the crew had already adopted, which from the way they draped off the shoulders clearly had not been designed with the rest of the quadrant in mind. Still, the new undershirt didn’t come up quite as far as he was accustomed to.

    The tri-ribbed cuirass sat even lower on his shoulders right where the trapezius ended and the deltoids began, far from where the necklines of most Earth men’s fashions fell. In spite of this, the cuirass held firmly to its place, restrained by its metal-woven half-sleeves and similar material wrapped around the sides of his ribcage. Before actually laying hands on the cuirass, he had expected it to be a rigid, inflexible affair, but the texture reminded him now more of rubber, perhaps some sort of memory material—just flexible to let him bend down to touch his toes comfortably, but quickly springing back without a wrinkle when he stood.

    His left arm felt off-balance as he lowered it back to his side: strapped around his wrist was the Cardassian combination communicator-translator—bulkier than its Starfleet counterpart but according to Glinn Va’Kust, capable of punching through several varieties of interference and jamming fields against which a Starfleet comm badge would be helpless. Counterbalancing the wristcomm, or so it felt, was the disruptor holster on his belt secured to his right leg with a leatherlike strap—a strangely-designed piece of equipment, though he had to admit it would beat having his sidearm smack his thigh with every footfall in a run…yet another ingenious feature of Starfleet’s excuse for combat fatigues. But most importantly, its presence conveyed the Cardassians’ earnestness in arming the former prisoners.

    “How the kosst can you actually expect me to wear that?” Folani spat as she reached the head of the line across the room. “I may be throwing in with your little ‘resistance,’ but I’m not about to go there.”

    “I expect you to be mature and follow your commanding officer’s example,” Trughal retorted as Spirodopoulos pulled his remaining boot the rest of the way over his calf to its final place not far below his knee and fastened it up the back as fast as he could. Oh, damn…brace for impact!

    “Don’t you dare label the scars of the Occupation an ‘immaturity,’ Cardassian.”

    “And don’t you take it out on me when I didn’t set foot on your thrice-burned weed-ball!”

    Spirodopoulos bolted to his feet.

    “Then maybe you need a little education on just how much burning your people did on Bajor!”

    “And you need a little education on etiquette—but apparently that’s beyond your capabilities.” Beyond the translator Spirodopoulos heard a definite plural on the viciously-spat modifier, not to mention the very pointed use of the subordinate address.

    Folani clearly heard it too. “Look who’s talking, sp—”

    That’s it! Both of you stand down and shut up!” Spirodopoulos snapped, praying the sheer force of his order would be enough to shock Bajoran and Cardassian into submission. Both women’s heads whipped around to face him in a parallel motion that would have been amusing if not for the gravity of the situation. Their eyes bulged like marbles. I must be a hell of a sight—good! he thought as Macet, Va’Kust, and Lieutenant T’Ruveh converged on their position, ready to pry the women apart if necessary.

    Macet’s back was neutronium-rigid with rage, his demeanor more like Dukat’s now than Spirodopoulos had ever seen. “I want to know exactly what the problem is here,” he growled, and Spirodopoulos realized that although Macet had been about the same distance away from Trughal and Folani as he had, the Cardassian’s ears could not resolve the furious shouting into distinct words, at least not reliably enough for him to stake a disciplinary action on it. Nonetheless, he allowed Macet to take the lead, for they had yet to be officially released—not to mention professional courtesy between militaries: the gul did outrank him.

    Trughal leveled a vicious glare at Folani with her accusation. “This Bajoran insists on demonstrating contempt for us and our generosity—”

    “You will address me, not her!” Macet warned with a tap at his breast. “And I strongly suggest focusing on the content of the conversation, not the genetic structure of the other party.”

    “She refuses—with obscenities—to don our armor. She insists on unloading her anger upon me for alleged Cardassian atrocities from before I even graduated preparatory school—”

    The gul’s voice dropped nearly to a whisper, but the ice behind it was unmistakable. “Not another word. Our leaders would not have issued an apology for actions taken during the Occupation had there not been substance to the allegations—and I, furthermore, will not suffer denialism in my presence. You are confined to quarters, all privileges revoked until further notice. Get out.” The Cardassian noncom’s breath caught, visibly so even under the cuirass. Her eyes shone like a cornered vole at what must have seemed to her like an unconscionable breach of solidarity. “Ulath—Vencarh—see to it and keep watch.” Spirodopoulos watched expectantly to see if the young Trager officers would comply with an order to incarcerate a fellow Cardassian for the sake of this macrocosmic alliance. Under their gul’s unblinking gaze, they did.

    Folani smirked—and Spirodopoulos unleashed his own salvo. “You’re not off the hook, Ensign!” Her face promptly fell. “I’ve had enough of the belligerent attitude and I don’t care if you found it matched just now. It is your responsibility to be the bigger person and walk away instead of escalating the conflict. I don’t care what Trughal’s problem might have been—your tone and your language just threw antimatter on it. It’s not just what you said that I take exception to. It’s what you almost said, and that is conduct unbecoming of a Starfleet officer. That stops now. That’s not this uniform talking,” he said, gathering a pinch of the right sleeve’s textured black fabric between his fingers. “It’s decorum—the bigger part being to exercise it when you least feel like it.

    “Now…on to actual substance. I respect your reservations about wearing a uniform that has been attached to so much anguish for you and the Bajoran people. And I suspect it must be hard to see me and so many others of us do so. I believe the gul and I are on the same page in that you or any of us must be free to decline without fear of reprisals.” He glanced over at Macet, his expression firm. Give this one to me—I’ve backed you this far. The Cardassian met his eyes and nodded. “I just ask one thing of you: I might expect this lapse of control from someone Crewman Webene’s age, but I haven’t seen him lose his cool once. I’m sure you can do the same.” The Greek officer met her eyes and allowed a faint smile to tug at his lips. “Let’s move forward from here, all right?”

    “All right.” Folani locked her eyes upon her commanding officer’s face to the exclusion of all else, much like a person forcing herself not to stare at a disfiguring injury.

    Spirodopoulos cursed himself as he accepted the grudging concession. To think I was stupid enough to expect that I, Makis Spirodopoulos, could wipe away years of bad blood with a wave of my hand!
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2008
  6. TimmyWl

    TimmyWl Commodore Commodore

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    Hey - I've just caught up with the fan fiction and it's very well done. I do like how the realism of sleeping with the enemy - especially if one is Bajoran - is addressed. The bit about the language is quite appealing. I never thought Cardassian was a different language - it all was in English when I watched the series.

    I did notice this;
    Just a slight error to a most excellent installment.
     
  7. BrotherBenny

    BrotherBenny Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This is great stuff. I can't wait to see how the two groups manage to work together. There will of course be plenty of friction, but they need to overcome it for the mission to be a success. We all know the outcome, but getting there is the interesting part.

    Isn't that what Garak kept telling Bashir about Cardassian murder mysteries?
     
  8. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Good catch, TimmyWI, and thanks! :) That's fixed now.

    Almost everything was in English on the series minus some Klingon we were allowed to hear untranslated (and one incident with Dominionese where the translator was deliberately switched off), but that's always chalked up to the Universal Translator. In a written format, I can take more liberties with that and start to really bring in some of the local flavor, so to speak.

    At least in the Sigils and Unions universe, once you start to gain familiarity with a language other than your own, the UT will act less and less until it finally doesn't act for you on that language at all without a specific request to do so. The less-active role of the UT in my universe is to prevent some of the consequences that could come from constant use. (For a very interesting treatment of the UT where one set of consequences DOES occur, I could point you to an excellent story by Mistral.)

    In other words, the more Spirodopoulos hears and actually understands of Cardăsda, the more he's going to hear their words as actually spoken, rather than as translated. The process started when the Cardassians taught a bit of the base grammar and vocabulary. In effect, his translator implant is causing him to get a step-by-step immersion course. The extent of this effect differs for each Starfleet officer, though--not all of them are attempting to learn, and those who are will learn at a different pace depending on how much they interact and how much they actually attempt to speak Cardăsda.

    Though I am not going to always reflect it in the story, I'd say that Spirodopoulos now hears the sorts of things you'd learn in your first semester of a language course as they actually are in Cardăsda, even if he's not always comfortable answering them that way (especially given how important clear communication is under circumstances like this). He's also started to make a little headway with the written language--he can at least read the inscriptions you see on any Guard officer's armor.

    As to the consequences of their coming together on this--yeah, there's no way a situation like that is going to be easy, even if the commanding officers are able to establish some kind of rapport with each other. Conveying that to those under them is a whole different matter.
     
  9. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Hey, thank you for reading as well! :)

    I think the comment about their "enigma tales" is that everybody's guilty: the question is, who's guilty of what? (A sentiment that as a Dostoyevsky fan, I actually find very true to life. But that's a whole other can of worms--just look up the character of Father Zosima if you want to find out more about that.)

    Without giving too much away, there will definitely be growing pains, and at several different phases throughout this, sure!
     
  10. DavidFalkayn

    DavidFalkayn Commodore Commodore

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    Nice. This will not be easy--what we saw here was just a lover's spat in comparison to what will probably lay ahead--you do not bury years of anger, bitterness, and hate overnight. My enemy's enemy' is my enemy's enemy--nothing more...nothing less.
     
  11. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    A well-handled argument with a logical development of the commanding figures to boot. And thank you for the plug (blushes), I almost pulled the whole bit about the runaway UT situation. I was actually staring at it as I prepared to post that sequence, trying to decide if the usually kind but steely-eyed critics around here would shred me for it. Glad you think it worked-and I think your take on the UT is sensible, at least for the purposes of story-telling. It has a sort of elegance Mr. Spock would admire.
     
  12. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It's definitely going to be interesting. I think we're going to have to see what effect the subsequent chain of events has on perspectives amongst the entire group.

    "To boot"...what an apt expression considering what Mike was doing at the time! ;)

    I'm glad to know their reactions came off as credible.

    And you're welcome--you deserved it. There's no reason there can't be multiple UT theories, all well-crafted. :)

    In the Sigils and Unions universe, there's probably also an age one has to reach before being allowed to get a UT implant in order to ensure that you are well set in your native language first. I'm not yet sure what that age is (could go all the way from 13 to 18, depending on what the science behind language acquisition is), but I kind of think there is one.

    In this case, though, it means that as soon as Spirodopoulos actually started making an effort to learn any Cardăsda, the UT is now aiding him in that endeavor; he's almost bound to pick it up now. It's going to be interesting to watch that happen.
     
  13. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Allllll righty, guys--long section alert! Expect two weeks or so until the next one.

    ========

    “I cannot believe you held out on us like this,” Glinn Va’Kust glowered as he loomed from not even a meter away over the senior Lessek shipyard officer present at the resistance camp. “Ten entire cases of Hăzăkda kănar—and you don’t bother to bring it out until we have to share it with four times the people at a go! Unbelievable, Riyăk Iymender.”

    Poor Iymender practically wilted under Va’Kust’s scrutiny. “But…but Glinn,” he stammered, “I didn’t have a chance at convincing the requisitions computer to release the stuff until we got four Gălor-class warships parked in orbit to help me cover my tracks…”

    “I know, I know…I just couldn’t help myself!” Va’Kust clapped Iymender on the back and grinned wickedly. The lanky young Cardassian let out an awkward chortle of relief—or was that half the wind being knocked out of his lungs? “You did good work securing it for us at all. Let’s hope you prove as deft at overriding base defenses as you did at sweet-talking the requisitions computer.”

    Iymender promptly snapped to. “You have my best, Glinn.”

    Spirodopoulos shook his head at the scene and Macet, who had approached the Starfleet officer unannounced, voiced the human’s thoughts in a most disconcerting manner. “Familiar, isn’t it?”

    “It is, Gul.” That scene, but for a twist of fate, could easily have played out aboard the Petraeus whenever Chief Aaberg managed to finagle one of famous Romulan ale shipments from God only knew where and someone caught wind of it before Aaberg managed to stash away the best for himself.

    The base mess hall itself had transformed though the décor had not…for a base it now was, no longer a prison. Cardassians who until now had stood in the periphery with rifles slung over their shoulders to ward off an uprising now mixed in cautious groups of two or three with the men and women they had once called prisoners—soldiers who thanks to the armor…and sidearms now…for the most part mirrored them in all but planet of origin. And none of those weapons have managed to work their ways out of their holsters...yet, thanks be to God.

    The obsidian- and charcoal-feathered Aurelian Ngaer, who wore only a wristcomm and a silver baldric improvised from a gun belt, threw back her head and released a cawing cackle at something Prashek had said. The young Cardassian’s gestures sketched out a roaring fireball and Ensign Rashad shook a mocking index finger in their direction.

    Spirodopoulos glanced at the work rotation that still hung on the wall and noted that DeMarcus Rashad had been part of the same oft-maligned KP squad as Prashek and Ngaer. Funny how bearing the displeasure of the entire base made a team out of them, he thought. Mike considered his own experiences. His name had never made it to the top of the kitchen rotation, but on his unfortunate encounter with latrine duty, he had been utterly flummoxed by the appearance of Glinn Va’Kust himself.

    Once they had reached their position outside the camp gates Va’Kust had shoveled out a disposal hole of his own, tossing Spirodopoulos a number of anecdotes in the process about his home in the Nevot region of Cardassia Prime. Va’Kust came from a family of farmers, which Spirodopoulos would have expected to indicate low socioeconomic status, but quite the reverse—ever since the devastating climate shift that had destroyed so much of the world’s agricultural capacity centuries ago, the owners of what precious arable farmland remained were quite well off indeed. Va’Kust, however, seemed to value his ability to coax life from Cardassia’s thin soil more than he did his family’s wealth.

    Spirodopoulos had pointedly ignored Va’Kust’s reminisces during that backbreaking outing, but now, in light of the newborn alliance, they resurfaced and brought with them a sense of familiarity, even if not quite good will yet, towards the man. “It wasn’t an accident,” Spirodopoulos concluded, “the way Va’Kust placed his own people in the rotation with the same teams every time. That’s the outcome he had in mind,” he said with a nod towards Ngaer, Rashad, and Prashek.

    “Va’Kust did quite well at converting potential disaster into opportunity,” Macet acknowledged. “He is an adept student of social dynamics and I should think Rebek is as pleased with him as I am. We ought to turn to strategy tomorrow—but my fellow commanders and I believe tonight is not the time to touch such matters.”

    Spirodopoulos nodded. “Agreed. They need a night to let it all sink in,” he said, subconsciously gesturing to his own chest…how strange this layered Cardassian regalia still felt! Probably a lot more than one, but something tells me we haven’t got that kind of time.

    “Come with me,” Macet said, gesturing towards the center table that since the establishment of the base had traditionally been claimed by the ranking Starfleet officer—starting with Ensign Wilkes and eventually falling to the lieutenant commander from the Petraeus. “The senior officers are gathering and we’d best be sure there are seats enough for some of your people as well.”

    After Spirodopoulos named a group of officers and the ranking NCO, Senior Chief Alexandru Librescu of the Shran, to join the senior Cardassians, he said, “One question before we sit.” His eyes roamed back and forth and he leaned closer to the tall Cardassian.

    Macet replied with similar discretion and they drifted back to the periphery of the hall. “Go ahead.”

    “The other guls…I couldn’t exactly tell how well this sits with them. The oldest one especially,” he said, referencing the man’s age with far less circumspection than he might have with humans or some other species. To Cardassians, one’s years were a badge of honor to be worn with the pride of a legate’s sigil and to single out a man by maturity was a mark of respect—one Spirodopoulos especially desired as he called attention to Gul Speros’ less-than-amicable demeanor.

    Macet gave a closemouthed chortle. “Gul Speros…yes, there is much to be said about the man. I had the privilege of serving as executive officer on the Ghiletz before I made gul. His experience is a thing of legend as is the discipline of his crew—but so too is his rather…shall we say, frank manner, which all, including Speros himself, agree has barred him from ever taking the legate’s sigil that skills and age should have afforded him.

    “Of course, I mustn’t leave you with the impression that there’s nothing to him but an old curmudgeon. To have the privilege of calling upon his expertise in this matter, to have him respond, however recalcitrantly it may seem at times, to one of my own proposals…it is a great honor. To Speros the glinns who serve under him are very much protégés. It is said of him that he creates guls much as a carver brings grace to a rough old bone…in fact, he has even made a legate or two. His whittling blade is sharp, though. Under Speros’ command I was tried in ways I could never have imagined on any other vessel upon which I had served prior to then, and I learned much about how to lead. For that I owe him. Still…though I will never breathe a word of it to him,” Macet wryly added, “I also learned much from him about how I did not want to command.”

    “I know the type,” Spirodopoulos remarked as he recalled a certain tactical officer under whom he had served on the Petraeus before promotion had removed him from the scene—thankfully before he’d reached his breaking point with the woman.

    “Some things are universals,” Macet observed with a lengthened gaze. “Now from the others, you have less to be concerned about. They are of another generation…one that has had less time in their lives, proportionally speaking, to know a Cardassia that was not a servant of its own folly. For some like them, it lends them a certain elasticity of mind, the sort that that is essential to our success—”

    Attention!” Glinn Va’Kust boomed like a tuba in a Munich beer-hall, adopting a bench as his platform much as Spirodopoulos had that morning. Not that he actually needs it! The base commander’s dark eyes flitted to the side for a moment. “I don’t know yet what to call this combined force, but I speak to everyone gathered here.” Macet and Spirodopoulos quickly wound side-by-side through the leftmost of the two main aisles and found seats reserved for them on the other side of the table opposite Va’Kust, Rebek, and the two senior officers from the Sherouk.

    They just barely managed to sit before Va’Kust continued. “There’s a tradition in the Cardassian Guard for graduates of initiatory training when they receive their first armor—one that Riyăk Iymender and I have gone to great lengths to ensure on short notice can be properly carried out tonight.” The glinn swept his arm at the kitchen as six of the younger Cardassians emerged from the kitchen with a collection of what reminded Spirodopoulos of whiskey glasses each full to the brim with a blue substance not unlike Aaberg’s Romulan ale…but noticeably slow to slosh about in the glass. Spirodopoulos reflected upon that exchange between Iymender and Va’Kust with a mental groan: Uh-oh…he really meant it.

    At the end of the table behind Spirodopoulos, the quadrupedal Mathenite Petty Officer Te-Mae-Do loudly whispered, “Why is it blue?” Her kănar had arrived in a stew dish, the closest the Cardassians could approximate the vessel from which her people usually drank.

    Her shipmate, Mehmet Burakgazi, a human colonist native to the planet of Nivoch near the Cardassian border, whispered, “Call it ‘pale ale’ back home, we do. Comes from a different plant than the brown stuff, but it’s still kănar. Believe you me, this is the good stuff.” Burakgazi’s speech bore a distinctive form of border-colony syntax—the oddly common verb-first construction an influence most of them would rather die than acknowledge as Cardăsda in origin.

    “I have made a command decision,” Va’Kust announced over the crewmen’s chatter, “that we’ll go easy on you given the unfamiliarity of most of you with kănar—and, I am not ashamed to admit, a strong desire to preserve as much as possible of our limited supply for those of us who are used to it.” Hushed laughter worked its way through the room. “Only one glass…but according to the tradition, we ask that all of you whose races are physically capable of consuming kănar drink to this occasion. ‘Serhokt’oçekse sot’oçeks bizad oste ghengu’ulouç nou,’” Va’Kust declared, and for that syntactic nightmare Spirodopoulos was grateful for his subcutaneous translator: ‘Let the unit that shares a drink together band together.’

    “We’ll begin the toast as soon as everyone is ready. Cardassian tradition is that the commanding officers lead with the toast and in finishing the first drink.”

    Va’Kust leaped down from the bench with more finesse than one might have expected from an individual of his size. “Needless to say,” he quietly explained to Spirodopoulos, “the junior crew have no wish to wait for their kănar, so expect them to make you very aware of every second you take!” At that moment, Ador arrived with a tray and began to pass the glasses down the line. The Cardassians thanked him with grateful smiles, most of the Federation soldiers with the polite nod he recognized from a cultural exchange dinner with the Klingons during his Academy days.

    Then Spirodopoulos noticed something—it looked as though Ador had miscounted. His row was short one glass. Va’Kust’s eyes twinkled with mischief as he reached under the table and pulled out another glass, this one twice the height of everyone else’s, albeit slightly thinner. It had yet to be filled. The glinn reached across the table towards Ensign Folani, who sat two down from Spirodopoulos’ on the right. “Since you arrived out of uniform,” he deadpanned as he proffered the glass with a flourish, “this one is yours, to make up for it.”

    Oh, Lord, Va’Kust…! Spirodopoulos held his breath. Clearly the Romac XO intended it to be humorous, but he was taking one hell of a risk considering the incident for which he’d been present just that morning. Come on, Jederia—remember what I said, read the situation, take it in stride…! Folani glowered at first. Then she met Va’Kust’s eyes with a thin, predatory smile. “Think I won’t finish? This isn’t my first kănar. You’re on.”

    The Greek officer let out a sigh of relief. Well, Va’Kust didn’t get his nose shoved into his sinus cavitiesI guess that’s progress.

    Va’Kust laughed heartily as he reached behind him with his right hand. On cue, Ador supplied a half-full bottle. “Maybe so,” he replied as he personally poured the Bajoran’s drink, “but…this will be sufficient.” He tipped the bottle up just as Folani’s glass reached the halfway mark. “After all,” he explained with a lopsided grin, “I trust yours won’t end up sprayed across the table the moment it touches your tongue.”

    “It won’t.”

    He nodded and moved back to his place next to Gul Rebek. The man had been walking a narrow tightrope, that was for sure, and thankfully he had let it drop at exactly the right moment. Hopefully Folani recognized it as Va’Kust’s way of showing his willingness to have her in their resistance, but he would have to continue to scrutinize their interactions to be sure.
     
  14. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Gul Speros stood then, and the other three guls immediately followed suit. Macet’s hand wrapped around Spirodopoulos’ upper arm, drawing him to his feet with them, a maneuver he felt through his outer sleeve all the way into the semi-rigid cuirass. For the first time since they had met, the oldest Cardassian spoke at length. “Officers and crew of the Cardassian Guard—our world might as well be dying in this Dominion chokehold. This is not Cardassia, but a sordid mockery of it. Only for this do we topple the pillar of order that has held up our society for so long: for the sake of setting it upright once more. Never forget that what we do, we do not for our glory, but for that of Cardassia.” He lifted his glass with a saluting gesture familiar to almost every bar where humanoids dominated. No one drank, however.

    Macet added, “To everyone gathered here…extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and today we have indeed accomplished something worthy of the word. We conceived of this joining of forces as a matter of mere pragmatism—how to mount a substantial resistance force without endangering ourselves or any other personnel we diverted to the effort.

    “But from the first moment I looked any of you in the eye,” he said, meeting Spirodopoulos’ gaze, Ensign Wilkes, and that of several other Federation crew members in turn, “I quickly recalled an old lesson from my early years on the Trager: the impossibility of attempting something like this without becoming personally invested—not just in the success of our operations, but in what it means for each of us as individuals and perhaps for the fates of Cardassia and the Federation after the last shots dissipate into the void. We have created something new tonight, a thirteenth Order, if you will, and though we will surely go our separate ways in the end, return to our own ships and units—this you will never forget. This is for more than the present crisis…this is for the galaxy in which our children and grandchildren will live.”

    The gul of the Trager nodded to Spirodopoulos as the hall saluted his words. Mike had given his share of toasts at promotion parties within the security department, sure…but this was a whole different playing field. This was history—maybe not the sort the Federation News Service broadcast for the whole quadrant to see, but for each and every Starfleet and Cardassian Guard soldier present this night was the chapter header for an entirely new segment of their lives. What could he say that was equal to that?

    The Greek officer swallowed. “Ladies and gentlemen…” Ouch! Welcome to the circus! his inner commentator sniped like a sportscaster over the slow-motion playback of a fumble. Too late—no reverse thrusters for this! “To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time Federation and Cardassian units have come together on this scale for a single cause and for every single one of us, it’s new territory. I’m sure all the Starfleet types in here have heard it until it ran out your ears—that our primary mission is exploration, and that it’s not just outer space we’re called on to explore. Every single graduation, every ship commissioning, every change of command…it gets really old after awhile.

    “But you know what? This time, where I’m standing…I believe it. I haven’t forgotten the magnitude of the situation the Federation is in…my homeworld has been attacked, Starfleet’s out of the fight—and don’t forget, another people’s freedom is at stake. Now I haven’t forgotten where our governments stand towards each other and the risks we all take as a result of that. Our peoples have spent a long time slinging torpedoes at each other, and insults when the guns aren’t firing—but I am ready to stake everything on the belief that wherever the cause of liberty is advanced, that’s where we belong. To freedom!” he called, lifting his glass.

    To freedom!” thundered the Starfleet contingent, raising their glasses high.

    Spirodopoulos’ next words emerged without a single thought—if there was any, it was so fleeting it barely registered on internal sensors.

    “To the Thirteenth Order!”

    To the Thirteenth Order!” shouted the entire hall in unison.

    Did I just say that?

    The guls raised their glasses to their lips and a fraction of a second late, Spirodopoulos did the same. He threw back his head and sipped hard at the viscous blue liquid.

    The Cardassians started to chant the seconds: “Çec—bret—dovay—kreth!

    His eyes bulged as taste buds made first contact with Cardassian liquor. Good God! He’d let the blue color lull him into complacency. He almost choked. Guinness meets maple syrup!

    Ghătthetrhakamekou!

    Speros and Macet had already finished; the other two Cardassians weren’t far behind. Keep going—keep going—keep going! Spirodopoulos exhorted himself as hostilities between the drink’s bitter burn and viscosity erupted into outright war.

    Riloçcăz—

    Spirodopoulos triumphantly slammed an empty glass down onto the metal table. A wild roar of jubilation erupted as he braced himself with the palms of both hands on the table, fighting to catch his breath. The gul of the Sherouk…whose name he still hadn’t managed to catch, much to his embarrassment, smiled warmly and congratulated him with a genial, “Well done!”

    “Thanks—I guess I didn’t do too badly for coming in dead last,” he said as he sat. Damn, that is one hell of an aftertaste! He longed for a glass of water, but none was in sight.

    “I don’t just mean that,” the young gul countered from across the table. “Picking up on Macet’s ‘Thirteenth Order’ line—that was perfect.”

    Spirodopoulos laughed awkwardly; the buzz was just now starting to hit him, and he wondered vaguely just how much of it actually had to do with the kănar. “Thank Macet,” he demurred. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt more inept in my life.”

    “You didn’t look it.” Spirodopoulos studied the Cardassian. Relative age was often difficult to determine between humanoid species with significant physical differences as humans and Cardassians, and he found himself wondering just how the man compared to his own forty years.

    Glinn Yejain, the XO of the Sherouk, tapped his younger commander on the shoulder and leaned closer, proffering a bottle. “Some more, Gul?”

    “Please…I’d appreciate it.” The glinn reached over and refilled the glass, then motioned towards the rest with a raised eye ridge. Speros and Macet lifted their glasses with a nod—Macet with a gracious smile, Speros with a faint hint of a sidelong sneer at the Sherouk officers. Yejain obligingly rose from his seat, giving no sign he had registered the senior gul’s expression.

    Spirodopoulos watched as the gul of the Sherouk reached with a slow, deliberate motion for the refilled kănar glass and lifted it towards his lips. At first he wasn’t sure what he was seeing, but the blue liquid betrayed some sort of tremor—subtle, but impossible for the observant eye to miss. And there was something about Yejain’s behavior…Spirodopoulos’ brow furrowed. Is the alcohol getting to him that fast? Not a good sign

    The other man began to fold his hands in his lap after he set down his glass—then changed his mind as he looked up and met Spirodopoulos’ eyes with a steady, appraising gaze. The former security officer observed not the slightest hint of the nystagmus he well recognized as a telltale of drunkenness, nor any other sign he knew from a dozen species of drunk-and-disorderly. No…whatever was happening, this young Cardassian was very much aware and in command of himself. “Commander Spirodopoulos…will you walk with me?”

    ========

    Three end notes: this is your last chance to figure out who Tayben, gul of the Sherouk, is before I tell you. Remember, he's from a pre-relaunch DS9 novel.

    And there's a song that kind of inspired how I wrote the toast scene, called "Firebreather" by Thrice. I really hope I nailed this kind of feeling!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8SXKrXu23E

    And finally--a species design for the Mathenites, with Te-Mae-Do pictured here: http://trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=71547
     
  15. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    That was damn fine work. The depth of your story is startling at times. I really got the feeling of a cooperative spirit without any hackneyed conventions being used. Very well done!
     
  16. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    I like how these chapters imbued a sense of optimism about this erstwhile alliance. Though there's still plenty of suspicion and outright animosity below the surface, there is also genuine hope that this rag-tag group of Starfleeters and rebel Cardassians might be able to fight side-by-side.

    The drinking ceremony at the end was a nice touch - very well done!
     
  17. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Thanks! That was something I was very worried about, actually--that this scene would come across as cliched. (And I think I put that self-consciousness right into Spirodopoulos. ;) ) I'm very relieved to know that wasn't the case. :)

    Glad you liked it! I thought that without some seminal moment like this, they wouldn't even get through their first trial intact, let alone the war. And THAT remains to be seen...

    As it stands, I would say there are certain groups that get along with each other. Spirodopoulos is getting a pretty good rapport with at least some of the senior Cardassian officers (though Speros is definitely a problem), and there are certain groups of junior officers that get along with each other (like Prashek, Ngaer, and Rashad). But the entire unit still needs to be forged into a strong chain.

    Of course, the four guls have their own issues to deal with, with each other. Notice that little silent tiff between the oldest and youngest guls...
     
  18. TimmyWl

    TimmyWl Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu Hawaii
    It's realistic and appealing.

    Good stuff!
     
  19. DavidFalkayn

    DavidFalkayn Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2003
    Very well done--internal conflicts amongst the Cardassians to match the divisions amongst the Starfleet contingent. This is a most fragile coalition. Maybe they'll coalesce even more...maybe not...

    As for who Tayben is...I'm afraid I'm going to have to take a pass as I'm not really up on my novels...
     
  20. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Thanks! :)

    I had to figure that given the fact that this is kind of a hodgepodge operation, and that you take who you can get safely and (relatively) easily in such things...balancing the task force isn't exactly something you can consider.

    No problem...there might be a few in the room who are. ;)
     

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