Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Notes and Spoilers: The chapters refer to events and settings in “Terok Nor: Day of the Vipers” by James Swallow and “Terok Nor: Night of the Wolves” by S.D.Perry and Britta Dennison, as well as information on Memory Alpha and Beta concerning the Border Wars. The food, the flora, the fauna, and the units of time and distance are consistent with the “Terok Nor” trilogy and “Deep Space Nine” episodes.
2352, Cardassia Prime
The sturdy Cardassian woman was standing against him, her arms akimbo, and was mentoring. After all, she was a primary training inquisitor, it was a professional bias, “How many times should I remind you, Aslan – a list and a good memory is much better than just a good memory. If you store everything in your memory, it will look like your father’s shed where he keeps various tits and bits but nothing valuable and what’s more, he never knows where they are.”
Aslan grinned while listening to another below-the-belt blow she had just dealt to his father’s obsession with his greenhouse. The guy was a landscape designer and kept an extensive collection of plants in his greenhouse. The adjacent shed harbored odd gadgets that made sense only to him. Officially, it contained tools and equipment but in fact, no one really knew – it was a study, archive, tool and sample store and a small laboratory but first and foremost, a place where he escaped from reality for hours on end.
“Salima, I know exactly where everything is…mostly. In fact, the whole place exists in a state of dynamic self-supportive chaos which I successfully manage.” Then he turned to his son, “Aslan, if you happen to land on some planet with vegetation, don’t forget to take soil samples, vegetation, seeds. You can put some specimens in a herbarium but I would rather you keep them alive in pots until you return.”
The young man chuckled, “Dad, this is not a botanical trip, it is a patrol mission close to Federation space. We don’t land anywhere…”
This was going to be his first important assignment after he had graduated at the Academy the year before. He had been patrolling on a Hideki fighter ever since but only on routine missions within Cardassian space. Now he was to join the crew of a Galor class cruiser as a junior tactical officer and a pilot if necessary.
The young Cardassian did not come from a powerful family, he came from Indar – a poor province of Cardassia Prime badly affected by persistent droughts and sudden heavy storms drawing in from the ocean. He had busted his ass to graduate first in his class, the peasant boy from Indar. None of his relatives was in the Guard, they were ruined farmers, scientists, teachers and Militia soldiers. His elder brother had joined the Militia and got killed on Bajor five years ago so Aslan decided to be the first in the family who would serve in the Guard.
All poor regions of Cardassia traditionally supplied the Militia with fresh blood. It had been like that from time immemorial. The girls remained at home to marry and to look after the house, the parents and the children and most of the boys joined the Militia because the Guard was unattainable to them. Aslan really wanted to prove that he was no worse than the guys coming from Culat, Lakat and Senmir on the main continent. These provinces constituted the most prestigious and influential part of the Cardassian society and most officers in the Guard came from them.
He waved the list he had quickly drafted on his pad. Not much of a list but he hoped that the web of written characters would appease his mother and she would not check it. Unfortunately, she had too much experience with shrinking, cheating children so she simply wrenched the padd from his hand to have a closer look and exclaimed, “You call this a list! Half of the items you have to put in your bag aren’t there. What would your superiors think of you if you write such a report? I didn’t raise you to be sloppy…”
The newly-minted first-tier Gil Aslan Hissar started vindicating himself half-heartedly because he knew it was pointless. She had caught him red-handed. “Mum, my superiors expect me to make tactical decisions, to plan attack and evasive patterns, to operate weapon arrays, to fly fighters. Writing reports is not the highlight of my job specification.”
“Exactly, and you can’t even plan how to pack your things,” the inquisitor masterly refuted his feeble excuse.
“Love, why don’t you leave something for the Federation? If you finish him off now, who will they attack?” his father butted in mockingly.
Hissar regarded them amused wondering once more what twist of fate had brought them together. They were as different as night and day – in fact, he had never managed to fathom how they got attracted to each other in the first place. His mother was preaching bossily, her glinting black eyes darting between Hissar and his father who both manifested a dire need for reprimand and correction.
She was robust but not very tall in stature and tanned – the traditional pale gray was replaced by beige mat complexion. Her jet-black long hair held in a traditional voluminous mass of tails, curls, and braids added at least three inches to her height. Her eyeridges were prominent with a beady texture and inclined upward, the highest part giving raise to firm brow ridges slanting sideward. They gave her a fierce and dramatic aspect as though she had knitted them. Her countenance accommodated well her withering sense of discipline and duty.
Aslan’s father used to say that the scantiness of vegetation in the region could be partially ascribed to Salima because where she set foot, the grass never grew again. He was a dreamer, unpractical and full of good-natured naughtiness. Hissar senior was not a native of Indar and belonged to another ethnic stock. He came from a small town in the Valley of the Hebitians and was thin, lean and tall like the ancient Hebitians. That was why the Hebitians disappeared because they were scrawny like you, Aslan’s mother would say.
He had the prestigious light-gray complexion and blue eyes. As a young botanist and genetic engineer, he had moved to Indar to take part in some big project for irrigation and soil-reclamation. Due to budget cuts, the project was soon abandoned and his department was assigned to develop defoliants to be used as chemical weapons.
The botanist resigned, he loved plants too much, even alien plants, and accepted a position much below his educational status. He became a landscape designer in Indar – planning parks, gardens, ponds and planting a vegetation belt around the city to stop the climate extremities.
In his spare time, the landscape designer developed fertilizers, irrigation systems, and hydroponic installations for the local farmers who had not given up fighting the harsh weather conditions. He was good enough to be the head of an important scientific institute in Lakarian city or Cardassia city receiving lucrative, high-priority military projects, but he preferred pottering in his greenhouse full of native and alien plants, flowers, and even small trees.
The funny thing was that Aslan’s highly ambitious mother respected his choice and never nagged him about the fact that they lived in a village in the outskirts of Indar and did not cultivate influential contacts. Whenever Hissar junior asked them how they had started dating, his father would smile shrugging his shoulders helplessly and explain that his mother was the only local girl capable of speaking standard Cardassian so the choice was limited. His mother would say that she took pity on him and did not want him killed and eaten by the packs of stray riding hounds roaming the vicinities of Indar.
Aslan himself was a quite successful combination of them both. Physically, he looked like his mother, not very tall, about 6 feet but he had a lighter bronze complexion and had inherited his father’s ridges – delicate and graceful with ropy fine texture. Still, in terms of neck, he took after his mother’s side and after 5 years of military training, he needed the biggest size of armor because the others were too tight in the shoulders and the base of neck.
At the Academy, the young man got keen on martial arts, which the other cadets snubbed because only the infantry was supposed to encounter aliens at close quarters. The Guard flew ships; they did not touch smelly, sweaty mammals. The other optional subject he took was xeno-linguistics, which was a strange choice for a tactician. Communication officers were taught languages, in their line of duty they encountered data in different languages and had to know how to adjust the matrix of the universal translator.
He did it because of his mother who used to say that another language was another way of thinking. She spoke Klingon and enjoyed their operas and Hissar and his father often wondered whether they would get it easier if she did not speak Klingon. Aslan, who was observant and curious like his father, really enjoyed the social and cultural studies, the facts about etymology and customs. He could read and understand Federation standard and Bajoran but he was not sure he could speak them because he had never encountered a Federation citizen or a Bajoran.
The young Cardassian chuckled inwardly while looking at them – he wanted to imprint this picture forever. His grumpy mother making a fuss over his duffel bag and his father pretending hard to consider the whole thing an adventure. Everybody knew that it was not. The death rate among the Guard was not as high as among the Militia but still…
As a remainder of this sad truth his sister and sister-in-law, his brother’s widow, entered the room together with his nephew and niece. Larel, a 7-year-old boy, named after his grandfather, scurried to him touching his polished armor in admiration, “It looks great, I want to wear such when I grow up.”
His sister-in-law flinched uncomfortably and looked out of the window. Hissar downplayed the armor, “You know, it is very uncomfortable and makes me itchy but the girls love it.”
Larel’s elder sister Elsha, aged 9, teased him, “Who will let you wear armor, you are a coward. You are afraid of the gettle grazing outside the village.”
“I’m not afraid…I just don’t want to disturb them,” Larel yelled defensively at his sister.
Elsha turned her attention to her uncle and asked innocently, knowing very well that this shiny armor meant that Aslan was going to say goodbye to Garita, the girl he hoped to betroth, “Uncle Aslan, are you going to town?”
“Yes, indeed, I was planning…” he muttered, he really did not feel like having his feelings for Garita discussed. He knew it was almost hopeless but he continued out of habit and because he could not figure out whether it was Garita or her parents who urged her to avert his advances.
“And could you bring me some candies, please?” the little, shrewd girl fluttered her eyelashes.
Her mother intervened tersely, “Yes, he could. And he will give them straight to me and you will have no more than one a day.”
Hissar’s sister Rivela helped him out, she worked as a nurse in a hospital in Indar, “My shift starts in two hours, let’s go to town together.” They took leave of their parents and the children and Hissar promised to bring them sweets. They headed for the transport hub to wait for the public skimmer that was to come in 10 metrics.
His sister, lean and slender, looked more like their father but she had inherited the same fiery temperament as their mother. Hissar senior always joked that they had to import another timid, harmless Hebitian so that she could marry him and dominate him happily ever after. She fixed her gray eyes on him and hit on the soft spot, “I can’t understand you. Garita is such a flippant, coquettish girl, her family doesn’t like you, they made it clear that they want something better for her. Why do you persist?”
Hissar shook his head, he was really sick and tired of vindicating his choice. It was simply that he was too proud and too stubborn to give up at the first sign of obstruction. Besides, he liked pissing off her snobbish parents, this was what they expected him to do – to run home crestfallen and humiliated.
“Because if someone gave me a lek anytime when they told me something was impossible, I would be so rich that her parents would be very happy to date their daughter.”
Rivela produced another argument, she would really hate to see his brother with a broken heart because of that cheap bitch. Although she was two years younger than Aslan, she understood it was a matter of social stratification and a poor gil was scarcely the best option for a clan which preponderated the local administration. “She will never wait for you, Aslan. On your next home leave, you will find out that she is dating a prosperous merchant or an administrative clerk. This is what her family wants her to do.”
Then she suddenly changed the perspective, “It is better for her, too. What can you give her apart from your shiny armor? Children that see their father for two weeks every year and possibly a military allowance if they kill you…” It was cruel, she knew it, but she was a down-to-earth person and believed that sometimes one had to be cruel to be kind.
Hissar waved his hand trying to ward off her blunt sincerity, “Look, Rivela, we have already discussed that. I really want to enjoy my last day here.”
The skimmer was coming, they got on and kept talking about insignificant trifles. One never knew who was listening at public places.