Friday, December 6, 2013

A Sort of Homecoming

Tembo is having a particularly good day.  He's in the best of moods.  His smile is a mile wide and he's not at all ashamed for everyone to see it.

He's sitting in a food court, and has a glass of soda in front of him.  To all appearances it's the soda that has him so happy.  As he sips from it, Tembo only seems to grin wider.  He's savoring it.  Slowly, his eyes begin to close, as if in ecstasy.

But he's remembering.

The year is now 1964.  The focus is no longer Tembo, who is all of three decades old in the present, but Nelson Mandela.  Nelson has just been convicted of political treason.  It is South Africa, and apartheid is the law of the land, and the law says all blacks and other non-European races are to be strictly segregated into increasingly poor living conditions.  Nelson has been one of the leading proponents of a black political party, the African National Congress, and also incidentally the main nuisance in the regime that has made inequality the law of the land.

At nearly fifty years old, Nelson is already headed well into the other side of his life, but he meets this fate with unerring dignity.  He's too dignified to dignify insulting offers that would win him his freedom but rebuke the cause for which he has sacrificed it.  The world changes around him, while Nelson waits in prison.  When the Cold War ends, the South African political mainstream has finally had enough of the people clamoring for him.  He has been in prison for nearly three decades, for crimes of conscience.  He has been suffering ill-health.  If he had died while imprisoned, he would have become a martyr.

Instead, it's hoped that if he's released, Nelson will simply go away.  For a moment, he considers this option.  He stops in a food court and orders a glass of soda.  Sitting next to him is perhaps the only man in all of South Africa who doesn't know the name Nelson Mandela.

This man, whose name Nelson never learns, still acknowledges him.  They trade a few harmless remarks on how refreshing their shared choice of beverage is.  Nelson forgets for a moment everything that's happened to him, everything he's struggled for.  The man sitting next to him is white.  Nelson is shocked when he realizes what's happening.  In all that time while imprisoned, he never for a moment imagined that something like this would be waiting for him on the other side.

The other man finishes his soda and walks away, just like that.  He has a most curious expression on his face, something like joy.  Nelson is sure he has not been recognized, somehow, by the man, but he feels as if they have both understood something very basic, what he's spent his life struggling to have acknowledged.

Later, years later, after he has served as the first black president of South Africa, Nelson returns to the same food court.  This time, it has been arranged for someone to duplicate this experience with him.  At first he wonders if he should specify that the individual be black or white.  As a symbolic gesture, he thinks they should be white.  But then he realizes it doesn't matter.  If he were to say one way or another, he would be a hypocrite, and make a mockery of his whole life.  And so he is surprised.

The glass arrives, the countryman sits down beside him, and Nelson feels the sheer pleasure all over again.  It is a reenactment of the moment he chose to lead by example one more time, and take the opportunity to speak for his people, all people, once more.

And the next year, on the anniversary of the date of the first and then the second, he does it again.  He begins to feel exactly like the man who shared it with him the first time.  He feels very happy.

And so we reach the present, and now we know exactly why Tembo is there and why he is so happy.  Except on this day, Nelson Mandela is on his deathbed.  It has yet to be acknowledged as such, but all South Africa knows it.  The man is sitting next to an empty seat.  He raises his glass.  He is still very happy.

To Nelson Mandela!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Star Wars - the Middle Trilogy

Star Wars Episode IIIa - The Lost Hope

It is a dark time for the galaxy.  The Jedi Knights have fallen and the Republic has been transformed into the oppressive Empire.  Emperor Palpatine holds countless worlds in his grip, and uses a fearful fleet of Star Destroyers to keep the locals in check.

Mindless of the danger to his own life and career, Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan has proposed an emergency recall of the Emperor.  His adoptive daughter Princess Leia has failed to publicly support him, however, far more interested in the glamour of publicity for a care-free life.

Little does she know that her late mother Padme Amidala's trusted handmaidens have sent an envoy to set her back on track.  The evil Sith Lord Darth Vader has learned of these plans, and has personally dispatched his own loyal lieutenant to intercept her...

Toro Whill, Darth Vader's Imperial adjutant, has a change of heart when he is kidnapped by the handmaiden Teckla Minnau and her allies in the budding Rebel Alliance.  Confronted with the realities of inequality and oppression, he decides to take the risky path of defection, taking with him a small fleet of ships and their pilots.

Vader is furious, but he is held personally responsible by the testy Governor Tarkin, who wants no distraction as he prepares the construction of the Death Star.  They take their combined frustrations out at the negotiating table of Senator Organa.

The young Princess Leia meets Toro for the first time, and finds him charming, even though she knows she can't acknowledge any relationship with him.  Through him she accepts an invitation to hear out Teckla's thoughts on the Rebellion, and learn more about her late mother Amidala's own devotion to the cause.

As Vader and Tarkin put the pressure on Organa, they reveal an unexpected ally, Senator Whill, Toro's father, a staunch Imperial loyalist.  Little does Vader know, however, that Tarkin is in secret communications with the Emperor, who reveals the presence of Darth Victus, who is meant to ensure that Vader does not lose track of his true objectives.

Victus proposes a bold counterattack before the Rebellion can utilize its new weapons.  Soon an attack is unleashed on the Rebel base on Naboo.  Toro is forced to demonstrate the full extent of his new loyalties in an impressive campaign that ends in a brilliant victory.  But the war is far from over...

Star Wars Episode IIIb - Rise of the Bounty Hunters

Despite new momentum, the Rebel Alliance is on the run, now without a permanent home and desperate for supplies to keep the fighting alive.

Imperial forces have driven the last remnants of freedom to the brink, and are looking for the killing blow against the defector, Toro Whill, who embarrassed them at the Battle of Naboo.

It is now up to a wretched hive of bounty hunters to track down and eliminate these brave heroes...

Looking for results, Darth Vader has turned to forces outside the Empire's direct control.  Still smarting from the Emperor's lack of faith in him, he has turned to the fringes of the galaxy, the rough edges where soldiers of fortune like Boba Fett, the son of the man whose DNA created the clone army, can be found.  Fett is more than eager to build himself a reputation.

Toro is struggling to find a comfortable place within the Revel Alliance.  With Teckla taking Leia under her wing while still protecting her cover, the rogue has to fend for himself and is finding that to be a tall order.  He sets out on his own, having become aware of Darth Victus's existence, deciding that if he can take the Sith Lord out he can still have something useful to contribute.

Vader, meanwhile, is still embattled within the Imperial hierarchy.  Likewise isolated, he takes to training deeper in the Dark Art of the Sith, where he confronts an emerging impulse to reject what he's become.  In a violent encounter with the backstabbing Senator Whill, the Sith Lord commits the first murder of a colleague since his turn.

Fett has discovered the truth of Leia's allegiances, though he doesn't care enough to report back what he's learned.  It becomes a desperate flight on the part of the princess and Teckla to survive the bounty hunter, who rouses the interest of the Wookiee known as Chewbacca, who soon begins a search for allies of his own, remembering the days when he fought for the Old Republic under the Jedi Knights.

Toro's clash with Victus ends with an unexpected revelation, that they are brother and sister...He barely survives the encounter.

Star Wars Episode IIIc - Siege of the Force

The Empire has renewed its efforts to eliminate the threat of the Rebellion, starting with executions of known Senate sympathizers.  Bail Organa survives only with the intervention of his daughter, the willful Princess Leia.

But the peril grows worse.  One by one the star systems of the galaxy are forced to sign a treaty of nonaggression, until more and more ground is consolidated under the grip of the Emperor.

Toro Whill, hero of the Rebel Alliance, has at last been captured, and has been personally assigned to the gallows by the betrayed Governor Tarkin...

Teckla leads a dramatic rescue of Whill with the help of Chewbacca and the fleet of rogue pilots originally cultivated in the first act of the trilogy.  It is their first real victory in months, but the fighting is far from over.

Vader has had enough of the rivalry with Victus, meanwhile, and has decided to eliminate this threat to his position personally.  But this is easier said than done.  He has not faced a fellow practitioner of the Force in years, and there are many Imperial officers who are calling for his ouster after repeated humiliations at the hands of the Rebellion.

Senator Organa is making one last push for autonomy within the Empire, and he needs his daughter's public support.  Should Leia give it, she will do more harm than good to the Rebellion.  She is forced to give her father something she hasn't achieved yet, and that's a decisive victory in the ongoing conflict.

Teckla has learned of the plans for the Death Star, whose construction has already begun, but only in the very earliest stages.  If they can sabotage it now, the threat could be ended permanently.

As the Rebel fleet heads toward this goal with Toro at the lead, Vader at last confronts Victus, and defeats her in a thrilling duel.  The Rebels are successful as well, but Tarkin has already begun construction of a second one, and Toro dies in the effort to destroy the first...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Butterflies and Hurricanes

The jury was still out when I decided to confront my client. We tend to grant superlatives to the least deserving things, but in terms of importance, this trial might as well have been biblical, not because of the defendant but her victim, whose story no one would ever properly know. That was the chief source of my wrath.

“I want a little honesty. You owe me this much, and at this point, it won’t even matter.”

She was feeling dodgy, that much I could tell. Whether there was any remorse, I don’t think this was ever the stage for that kind of reveal, but I saw in her fidgeting that the position in a seat wouldn’t give away. This was to be my moment. This was to be some vindication.

“Do we have to talk about this right now? What does it even matter now?”

“It doesn’t matter at all, but I just thought you would appreciate a little honesty, now that we’ve come to the end of it. I didn’t get a chance to speak at all during any of the sessions. Now’s my chance, and yours. The game’s afoot.”

“Who do you think you are, anyway?”

“I’m the little voice that will haunt you, the whisper you will hear the rest of your life. I’m what you will remember, and I may have only a few moments to make my impression, but I will make more of them than you did in the five years it took for you to make your decision. You won’t appreciate it now, but give it time.

“I’ve been sitting here this whole time, listening to your version of the story, and it just didn’t hold up. I was supposed to be on your side, I knew every argument, every piece of evidence, every testimony in your favor, and none of it mattered to me. Do you know how I spent most of my time? Drawing butterflies and hurricanes in the margins of my notes. Want to have a look? Didn’t think so. Don’t worry, I’ve done that all my life. I didn’t mean to imply anything by them. Just something random that came to mind, some common things I ended up thinking about again for no reason. I don’t mean to insult you, I swear.

“It was therapeutic, though. They’re so easy to draw, some of the most basic shapes in nature. I think that’s why we like them so much, just some elementary loops that have no consequence except what we make of them, either by looking at a butterfly and remarking how pretty it is, or building a house in the known path of a hurricane. We all think we’re Dorothy. We think we’ll get something useful out of destruction.

“I suppose we sometimes do, and it’d be wrong of me to suggest otherwise. Why lower myself to your level? You thought you could ensnare something beautiful and poison it without hurting yourself. That’s what I’m telling you. You were wrong. No matter what the jury says, you were wrong. That’s why I’m saying this to you now. I know plenty of people have already voiced that sentiment, shouted it to you from the leverage of a crowd, but I’m the first voice you’ve heard directly saying it. Here I am, supposed to be arguing your innocence. That time’s over. We’ve dropped pretenses now.

“Let me tell you a story. Several years ago, there was a man put on trial. Such a big deal was made out of it, somehow to the extent that it was deemed the trial of the century, despite the fact that it held absolutely no social relevance other than what was made of it, that we began to believe that it was indeed important, that it actually mattered whether or not this man was guilty, or that, once he had been acquitted, that he had somehow gotten away with something. I wasn’t practicing the bar at that time, but had found myself involved anyway, a personal confidant for this man, who would one day write a book detailing a fictional account of why he might have done it anyway.

“He didn’t know if he should go through with it. All those people who had fussied themselves into thinking they cared about this matter would only be incensed further, and all he seemed to care about was getting his side of whatever story there still remained out, as if everyone did not already know every last detail. To anyone else, he knew it wouldn’t make any sense, even thinking about it. To him, of course, it was still his life. I don’t mean to belittle the feelings of those who were actually personally involved. Their grief was real, and their belief exactly as they were entitled to. It was later that they would meddle further, seeking a further sense of justice out of an unjustly sensationalized moment now years in the past.

“How can I describe the circumstances that had placed me in that position? I guess it can best be described as being in the right place at the right time, with just a little further explanation. I was in the right frame of mind, too. What to be said about a man who had stumbled into everything the American Dream has to offer, who gamely followed every trail of opportunity, and whose reward seemed to be a perfect life and an attitude that simply wasn’t in the right place? He seemed to have grown frustrated, an unease you could identify with settling in, unprovoked anger and malice sneaking its way into his life, little by little. How was he to account for it? It’s tough to be a saint in paradise. There’s nothing to aim for, nothing left to prove.

“He seemed to stumble into me. That’s when people are most receptive to confession, not when provoked but when it’s needed. Change is a result of opportunity. It isn’t a decision. Like I said, I had been in the right place at the right time, and had the right frame of mind, too. People are always waiting for those who will sympathize with them to reveal who they really are. Most of life is a dream, an act, just a lot of posturing. This man had been living that dream for a long time, and it was the trial that had woken him up, not because he had found someone who would finally understand him, but because he discovered he no longer had the luxury of it.

“Murderers are people who are only comfortable when they are killing. They are living their dream just as anyone else does. This man was not a murderer. I don’t know if he was innocent. I don’t think it even matters, except I could see it in his face. This man was not a murderer. He was not living his dream. It wasn’t the trial that had broken him, but the act of rude awakening that had been forced into his life because of it. He asked me a simple question:

‘Is there more than this? Is this all that I have become?’

“He wanted reassurance, that’s all. That’s all we ever want, acknowledgment that we are not the fool, the pariah on whose shoulders the world, like Atlas, must be placed. What benefit such a man? Only the fool, only the pariah, would accept that burden. This man was neither, but he was forced into each role, and the fit was poor. He was ill-equipped, and that was what troubled him. He whole previous existence, his charmed life, seemed less a dream now than a delusion, something he should have woken up from after a college weekend, or a night of a child’s first horror movie, when all things suddenly seem possible, even the worst of them. Especially.

“He never brought up the book. He was just looking for a friendly face. He had no family now, after all, no children to reassure him in their way, without words, and in that way, I assume, came his idea to fashion some respite from words, a revenge no one would take seriously, but something he needed.

“All I said to him was that I hoped he was sleeping well, a generic remark, something an old friend might say if nothing else came to mind, but I was no old friend, and plenty of things had crowded my thoughts. For one, I knew he was guilty.

“I knew just as well as the rest of the country that he was just as guilty as innocent, but I guess it didn’t matter. When I looked at this man, I didn’t see guilty, I saw innocent, and I guess that’s what confounded everyone for all those months, made them so angry about it, like they had been betrayed, except, like I said, he had never really asked for any of it. Some things just happen. I saw him and made a stupid remark, and I guess confirmed for him what he had to do, and I think that’s how most things get done, not because we’ve spend a lot time brooding over them, but because in some moment of clarity, they seem like the right thing to do.

“That’s probably the same way you reached your decision, but save it, I don’t really want to know, and I don’t think you really want to tell me. It doesn’t matter now, anyway. But there are things you ought to know, things I feel like sharing with you, whether you deserve it or not. I’m granting you a courtesy, showing you some respect, some basic humanity.

“The man you murdered was special, but he was not the only one. You’d known him how long? You thought you knew everything there was to know? Well, you missed a handful of centuries. Don’t worry, I knew him, and what you came to know is just about all there ever was to him. He was an open book, except for that one big secret. If he let you know him at all, and you let yourself understand anything, then you knew him, whether you shared a lifetime or just a few years with him.

“Hey, I’m still not sure myself whether he was really worth all the trouble, so maybe you were, and decided something that was coming to him for a long time. Maybe he was worth something, maybe he wasn’t, and you spared him a lot more time wasting space. Baby, that wasn’t really your call, but I guess we’re going to find out about that.

“What he was, however, was more than just a waste of space. He was…a sort of guardian, and like I said, he wasn’t the only one. He watched over the rest of humanity, just kind of lived with it. In his case, maybe that’s all he really did. Me, I’ve always tried a more active stance, but since I’m here talking to you as an assistant prosecutor, you’ll notice that I don’t stick my neck out very far. We’ve generally played it safe for a long time now.

“Your man deserved better than you, but he chose you, and for whatever reason, he was right, at least for a while. You made it work. Maybe you never knew exactly what was going on, but you did. Or maybe you knew from the start. You knew exactly what he was. You knew he was special, not the way he knew you were special, more like you realized what you were. A leach.

“We’ve seen a lot of your kind, who aren’t necessary evil, but who take what isn’t theirs, assume it’s their right, opportunists who don’t understand what they’re doing, only that it’s easy and they can’t think of a good reason why they shouldn’t, only that it looks like a fun way to pass the time, something to make a life out of. Only, they’re frauds, leaches. They give nothing, expect everything.

“Let me explain the doodles a little more. I thought they were fun. The butterflies and the hurricanes. To me, because it was all I could think of during the trial, they represent you. I know, people generally think only pleasant thoughts about butterflies. What beautiful little fluttery things. One bat of their wing and they can change the destiny of someone halfway across the world, without even thinking about it. That’s the theory, the butterfly effect. Hurricanes are the opposite, inherently destructive, but they’re just a matter of nature, and they harm nothing permanently, nothing that was designed the right way, anyway. We’ve observed that things happen almost as a matter of chance, unanimously. There’s almost never a lot of thought involved, so in a way, you’re not really guilty at all. Hey, you’re innocent, too. Say I’m arguing Fate.

“The thing is, even if Fate is real, free will is the part where we’re left to suffer the consequences, knowing what role we played in how things turned out, whether we’re the butterfly that didn’t realize what it was doing, caused some change and was appreciated for its beauty one way or another, or the hurricane, which did only what it was supposed to do, caused some change, and was blamed for what it was. Free will is the ability to see in black and white. Fate is the gray area, the unseen force, free will the butterfly, Fate the hurricane.

“I’ve been telling you all this just to be sure you think about it. I’ve decided that my only real interest in this role I’ve been given is to do that. Maybe that’s what he was doing, too, only in a way I never understood, or will later. That’s the beauty of it to me, that we’ve always got the time to do that. Well, he did, anyway. But thankfully for you, I think he was ahead of the curve. How about you?”

She had tried butting in a few times, but after a while, she gave up, and I didn’t feel the least bit guilty about it. What did I owe her, except what I had given her? In truth, I don’t think she cared about a single thing I said, only that it was in the sequence of something that mattered to her, because in a strange way, she had finally found something she couldn’t avoid, and I think that’s probably as much her story as anything else. This man, this husband she had poisoned, whose body wasn’t discovered for weeks, locked away in some summer cottage on a lake in Maine, had stumbled into the one trap he had never anticipated, and it wasn’t what he had thought. He had a note clutched into one of his hands reading “first door on the left,” but the investigators never figured out what it meant, and it played no part in the trial. There was only ever one suspect.

I think I knew what it meant, and had it been discovered by some stranger, probably would have become exactly what he intended, but in a final twist, he was denied this final wish, and whatever doubt there might have been concerning his murder, well…The note wouldn’t have cleared it up. But reading it, I knew, and in the end, I guess that’s all that mattered. The world wouldn’t have been ready for him.

The jurors are making their way back into the courtroom. I began this account by saying this was a trial of biblical proportions, but the truth is it’s far more provincial. No major news outlets are covering it, only the county beat reporter lazily taking notes, a local TV correspondent and her cameraman taking some footage for a segment no one will remember next week, and I guess that’s exactly how it should end, like it never really mattered.

Only, to some, it did.

“We the jury find the defendant Katheryne Lange guilty.”

Heath Lange

Chapter 1:

Pressed Against the Sky

The first thing to know about me is that I’m dying.  I’ve been dying for the past few minutes, but I’m okay with it.  The way I see it, if I know some-thing’s happening, it’s already too late to do anything but accept it.  Okay, so I’m not one hundred percent happy about it, but then, I think there’s always a part of any experience that could use some improving, but by the time the experience is underway, there’s very little that can be done to change it.  If I can’t prepare for it, and I’ve always thought preparation was the key to understanding things, then why worry?

Okay, so I’m a little upset.  Who wouldn’t be?  If I spent every day knowing I was going to die, then maybe I could be handling this better, but I’m a creature of habit, a creature of nature, and it’s my ingrained fear of basic mortality that’s gotten me this far, so now that I’ve been forced to look it in the eye, there’s no more avoiding it, and as I’ve said, it comes with a mixed bag of emotions.  I’ve always feared most being reduced to a single thought, as if that would reduce my entire existence to a piece of trivia, something that could easily be discarded.  Being forgotten, I don’t think that’s what really gets us in the end.  It’s a lot harder than most people will admit.  It’s our need to shape how we’re remembered that truly haunts us, our last attempt at control.  They say we’re born and die without much say in the matter, but everything in between is up to us. 

How to describe it?  I don’t know, when I was growing up, it was easy to look up at the night sky and lose myself in the stars.  As I grew older, I became familiar with the concept of constellations, but I could never find them on my own, only the easy ones, the Big and Little Dipper.  Even the North Star, never had a clue, and I realized I never had a problem with that.  To me, the stars were still the stars either way.  I liked that other people could look at the same stars and see something entirely different, could even derive some use from them, but I never felt compelled to share that experience.  Mine was my own, right?

What can I say about the moon?  It was different.

Chapter 2:

700 Years

Sorry, allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Heath Lange, and I have lived for seven hundred years.  I suppose it sounds a little sad now, because that will, in the end, be all that it was.  For most people, it’s a biblical lifespan, I realize, but when I account for myself, I thought I would live forever.  Who doesn’t?  But in my case, I suppose I was being a little less than purely optimistic.  Still, that’s all over now, or will be soon enough.

Seven hundred years ago.  Many lifetimes ago.  I didn’t start out as an American.  For some time, even for some people as we rarely admit these days, that was not an uncommon story.  I came from Europe, of course, or maybe that was not so obvious.  But I have seen much of the world, and much of what the world has done, in my time.  I have seen wonders such that you have rarely heard about, but are as precious to me as my own thoughts.  I wish that I could recount those experiences now, but when you live a long life, you tend to begin seeing experiences differently.  As they accumulate, they begin to take on a life of their own, so that you have not had one but many lives, still one individual but a history that is a history to yourself, something you can remember but not exactly remember yourself participating in.  Try explaining that to someone without such an experience.  That’s why I don’t bother.  People have less imagination than you suspect, that’s what I’ve discovered.

 I don’t mean to disparage others.  That is, I suppose, an erasable element of my personality, except by the hand that approaches me now, of course.  It always takes some other hand to take, doesn’t it?  We use metaphors because they speak to the secret knowledge we deny ourselves, our inability to accept that the world is more complex than we can understand.  When you’ve seen enough of it, you can begin to understand a little more of it, but like the mind itself, it can never be completely understood.  Even the greatest minds we celebrate were crippled by limitations, and they have nothing to do with whatever era they may have lived in.

Did I start by saying I would introduce myself?

Chapter 3:

It’s Good to Know

Knowledge, in the end, is a little more trouble than it’s worth.  I could have spent my time learning everything there was to know, and had the best memory the world had ever known, and in these final moments it would have been worth as much as so many grains of sand, to be lapped up by some incoming tide.  It would have been worthless, especially if I had discovered I had no practical use for it.  Imagine it, though, a seven-hundred-year-old man with so much accumulated learning, spreading it wherever he went.  Why, he could have solved all the world’s problems himself.  What else is an ageless man worth if not as some benefit to humanity?  If the common impulse is to imagine the worst of the immortal man, what then of the alternative?

Or, what if he does nothing if not for himself?  What if, fearing no reprisal from the revealing of his nature, he were to openly offer his life and charm to mankind as it saw fit?  What if he were to simply live a normal life?  Such a man would surely grow lonely in time?  I’ve been no more isolated in the past fifty years as the last five hundred.  I share what I have always shared, whatever has been needed, and I share now only what seems necessary.  I would not want to bore you.  I share what I think is useful.

Would you like to know?  I have a secret, something I have never shared, never once in seven hundred years.  Are you sure?  Once discovered, this secret can never be taken away again.  It will become just another piece of common knowledge.  It will become mundane, and a little more magic will be lost in the world.  If nothing else, I have seen the well of magic dry up in my time.  The more people learn, the more they insist they know.  I could laugh if not for the fact that, in these final moments, I fear I would truly burst, and I would not like that.

 I only want to retain, I only ask for the benefit of greed.  Grant me this wish.  Is it so much to ask?  Pity me, do not scorn me, not in these final moments.  You will have a lifetime in your turn to remember me as you will wont to, but for now, it is still my time.

Chapter 4:

12 Buttons

It began so simply, like a joke.  Twelve buttons.  You could not imagine, and how do I explain?  They were my life.  I could tell you that I was a Pinocchio, I was a plaything brought to life, by twelve magical buttons.  I could do that, but it wouldn’t be right, and that’s all I care about now.

Many years ago, I fell in love.  This would not have been a problem except that I knew that I was different, and being different, I knew the ways in which I was.  There was the problem, which was in me, and being within me, I could not escape it.

For many years, I had tried to, tried to and failed.  I accepted early on that it was impossible, and that the only way for me to overcome it was to find even small ways that I could relate to the rest of humanity.  It sounds silly, doesn’t it?  We are more alike than we imagine, but our imaginations prefer to guide us apart.  At times, mine was all I had.  What else was there?  I lived while others died, and that sometimes seemed like all there was.  I lived and others died.  It was constant, so in that way, I can understand if that’s all someone who does not know what it is truly like would think it to be.  Just an endless, tragic cycle, one of needful loneliness, because otherwise, how could I endure it?

 Like I’ve said, there is more.  There is even more than you might imagine, more than simply following the progress an ordinary lifespan could never appreciate, to experience the results of a thousand decisions, the flow of opinion, the tide of time as it whips along, dashes against the same shore the same way but is interpreted anew each time, as if it has never done so before.  It is more than perspective, more than advantage.

It is simply my way.  I wish I could define the peculiar alienation that comes with this condition, but it simply cannot be understood without experiencing it.  The human mind is incapable of grasping that which it has not known firsthand, and while knowledge may be developed over time, a certain willingness to embrace the unknown, there are unconquerable limits that invariably must be accepted.  Most people would never put forth the effort in a million years, let alone seven hundred, or even one.  They would not even give it one minute.  I always know who has the potential of being comfortable with it.  The trouble is, they are not always ready.

 If you want to know the true curse of it, there it is.  If very few people could even begin to grasp my condition, fewer still are capable of accepting it in any manner of time that will be useful to them, or myself.  Would you care to hear how many I have encountered in that small pool?  In seven hundred years, that number would surprise you.  An average lifespan gives a person the chance to meet a thousand people?  My number is far smaller.

Everyone has needs.  Mine really are no different, they are just more difficult to obtain.  You might argue that I could make it easier by simply deceiving my way into what I want, but you would find the appeal of that option diminished if you wanted to be honest with yourself.  It’s far easier to deal with honesty in a life like this, because that is all, you will end up discovering, that you will want. 

So yes, as I said, I once succeeded.  I fell in love.  She knew and I knew, and we both knew without speaking the outcome, how it was inevitable, except I guess we were less romantic than the greatest fiction writers.  We did not decide it would be better for a short-term reward in exchange for a long-term tragedy.  As I said, we both knew, without speaking of it, just as if we had known each other all our lives, and in consequence, knew that happiness meant a bittersweet misery.  Could you truly imagine that?

You might as well call me a coward, and you might as well be right, and maybe I interpreted everything wrong after all.  She was an anchor.  The twelve buttons represented each of the ways we could relate, regardless of everything else, no matter our fate together or, as it was, apart.  The first came in the form of the first time we understood, no matter the differences that had once divided us, that we knew each other.  It was a beacon; it showed us the way forward, no matter where it led. In time, we found others.  As I counted them up, I knew they were bringing us together just as they were holding us together, and it was only a matter of time before we came apart again.

Do you understand?  I believe that is all we ever have, just a metaphor of a life, of happiness.  I believe that happiness is real, but that it only exists in the meaning we give it. 

Chapter 5:

The First Door on the Left

Did you want to know her name?  It was exotic and ordinary at the same time, and it is more than I want to give away now.  She liked my name, I think, but I was more than it to her.  Sometimes we tend to think otherwise, even when we know the name and the person and think fondly of them, or otherwise.  A name remains a name, an abstract thought.  My memories are more than that.

Just beyond this room, the first door on the left, are what still remain of all my time on this earth.  I have known and seen the product of many hands and minds, have held so much in my possession, and in the end, I no longer have it all, and what’s left, I leave behind, as is only natural.  The pharaohs thought they could take it with them, but each was plundered in time.  That’s the way of things.  We are belonged to ourselves for only so long.  I  think that’s what I regret most about her, and I think that’s what family is really about, leaving not just things or memories, but people behind who will perpetuate not what you were, but what you meant. 

I have been writing these finals thoughts down because that is what I have come to believe literature is for as well, a chance not just to be read, but to be understood.  I have led a life unbelievable, but one that might still have some value, and I hope now that I might have found a way to make it count for something. 

     When I am finished writing, I will leave this journal in that room, and that will be the room that will matter, not this one in which a rotted corpse will remain, meaningless in its existence and what it represents, a long life that amounted to words.  I remember her in these final moments because I regret now more than ever my mistakes.

I have just looked out the window.  The moon is shining.  Few people think of the moon as shining, and in a certain way, they would be right, but they are also wrong.  The moon shines, and it is like a woman.  It shows you only what it wants to, and even though we have journeyed to it now, we can still look up at it the same way we saw it before.  I think of the moon like her and I apologize.  I can look at the moon and see her.
 I don’t see regret now.  What’s my secret?  I have none.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Outliers - A Deep Space Nine Celebration, Part 7 (Conclusion)

Jennifer Sisko
(first appeared in "Emissary," first season)
(first appearance of Mirror Universe version, "Through the Looking Glass," third season)


Jake.  I know when your father catches us he's going to be very disappointed in me.  We have a moment.  Please, tell me all about yourself.

Jake Sisko
(first appeared in "Emissary," first season)
I suppose in your universe, I never existed.  You and Dad, or your version of Dad, broke up before you could have me.  A part of me is sad about that.  He's dead, isn't he?  I wish there was a version of me that could be there for you, the way I was here for him in my reality.  I know things weren't the same for you.  But still.  You deserved better.

I didn't appreciate either of you nearly enough when I had you both.  I see that now.  I saw that the moment you, the version of you that I knew, died.  I was in shock.  Dad was ruined.  He tried to hide it, but he just couldn't.  He was miserable without you.  I missed you more and more, not because of my own memories, but because of the hole you left behind.  I know that sounds terrible.  

He had this program, this fishing pond, that we visited just about every day.  I guess it was a facsimile of one he used to visit when he was my age, off on the bayou behind his father's restaurant, where they caught what was served almost as soon as it was out of the water.  It was a ritual.  We never really talked when we fished.  It was there on that dock where I developed the habit of dangling my legs, the way I would on the Promenade with Nog.  

I wish you could meet my Nog.  The Ferengi in your universe are all tragic figures.  He's the best guy I'll ever know, so much better than me, so much braver.  He was the first friend I ever had, and he came along when I thought I would be stuck alone forever.  Before we can to the station, Dad all the time in the world for me, at least after the Saratoga.  I knew the Bajor assignment would be a hassle almost immediately.  He was always a troubled man, after your death, I mean my mom's death, but he became angry all the time, the closer we got.  It was like he became a different person all over again.  I guess you could say that you couldn't surprise me with anything you could say about your version of him.  And I've already heard all about him, thanks to Dr. Bashir.  

I kept dreading the conversation about Starfleet.  It seemed like as soon as I got to the station, I started growing like a weed!  That's what Dad always said.  And the more time I spent with Nog, the more things I tried.  We were always pushing each other, daring each other on, and inevitably we ended up in a runabout, and I wish I could say more about that, but you'd never believe it.  Which reminds me, if anyone ever appears here claiming to represent the Dominion, tell them that you're just a bunch of, I don't know, boring botanists or something.

Anyway, then I finally had to tell him.  And then I showed him my stories.  He told me I had a lot to work on, but I also had a lot to work with.  That meant the world to me.  I never showed him any of the stories that featured you, I mean you you, not my mom.  Even before I knew you existed, I dreamed about you.  I hope that doesn't sound disturbing.

I know you're not my mom, but you have to understand how much this means to me.  I'm almost embarrassed to say, but I feel as if I love you as much as I could ever have loved her.  It's not the same, but it's close enough.

I hope things eventually work out here for all of you.  Maybe somewhere the muse that inspired me will find the perfect substitute, and in that way what you never had will still somehow exist.  I'm not saying that out of an ego.  But your existence proves to me that in any universe, in any circumstance, there ends up being a balance.  

If I found you here, then you might someday find me here, too.  Stranger things have happened.

(first appeared in "Emissary," first season)
[Sadly, time runs out before Quark's favorite patron has a chance to speak.  He walks back toward the bar clutching his copious notes, smacking his lips in preparation for another fine drink...]

Outliers - A Deep Space Nine Celebration, Part 6

 (first appeared in "The Nagus," first season)
I assume the contracts have all been signed for the exclusivity rights on Ferenginar?  You've paid your interview fee?  Have you tipped me yet for this privilege?  Good!

I would never have come to the station if it weren't for that scheme I'd cooked up for my no-good son, who was so ungrateful for the expense of it all that I wrote him out of my will, and then charged him a considerable fee to be added back in.  Very profitable!  

If it weren't for the wormhole, I don't think I would have ever returned, but then I would never have gotten so involved with that bartender's family, and if I hadn't met Ishka, where would I be?  No, seriously, I'm asking, and you'll pay handsomely for the honor of providing an answer.  Just kidding!  I'm in retirement.  All I care for now is love and a large pouch of beetlesnuff!

Despite all that Dominion bother and the war and all that nonsense, I've been very happy lately indeed.  War is good for profit!  The Gamma Quadrant will no doubt continue for years to provide me with endless amusement, although you'll excuse me if I never make the trip through the wormhole personally again.  I couldn't stand to introduce another catastrophic revision of the Rules of Acquisition!  Hee-hee-hee!

Now, if you'll excuse me, time is money!

(a.k.a. Moogie)
(first appeared in "Family Business," third season)

Have my boys gotten in trouble again?  I always said they didn't have the lobes for business, but definitely the gene for trouble!  You can tell them I said that about both of them!

Life is settling back down for me.  I guess I never really had much to do with that station of yours itself, except for Quark's little bar.  For the life of me I'll never understand that operation of his, how he could have made so little profit after so many years squatting there.  Did he ever tell you that his cousin Gaila once acquired a whole moon?  That's something a mother could be proud of!  I suppose I didn't make it easy for him, always bringing that up.  It was the one thing we talked about other than my extreme disappointment in him and his extreme disappointment in me!

As Zekkie has no doubt already told you, though, I'm glad about the station, no matter how little I've gotten to enjoy it myself.  I helped usher an entire revolution in Ferengi society there!  Home is where the heart is, but dreams can be found in the stars.  There's a Rule very close to that, but of course it has much more to do with profit.  Let me tell you, as wonderful as latinum is, there are things that are more important.

Have you spoken with Liquidator Brunt?  Of course you haven't.  He hasn't paid his fine for public speaking yet.  Can't speak a word until he has!  And he's one who's always loved to hear himself talk, too!  Although I can't imagine that he would have anything fond to say about your station.

I suppose we'll have to visit.  Rom may leave eventually, but Quark never will.  I just don't know what's wrong with that boy...

Ezri Dax
(first appeared in "Image in the Sand," seventh season)
I suppose being a Starfleet counselor should make me feel comfortable talking like this, but I hate talking about myself, and that seems to be what everyone wants from me!  

And I wish I could say I've never been more uncomfortable in my life, but then, I've also got a family, and it's a huge mess!  I don't want to talk about it!

But really, I can't say how much I've appreciated all the support I've received since I arrived, even if if it's also been a challenge.  The real challenge was getting used to being joined, "meeting" all the previous hosts!  You can't imagine what it's like, Jake.  Even for a Trill, even for someone who's gone through the Initiate program, and heard all about the idea of it their whole life, it's incomprehensible.  I felt in an instant like I'd known your father my whole life.  Well, two lifetimes!  Curzon remains so strong, and then there's Jadzia.  I'm sure if any of the other hosts had known Benjamin, they'd be chiming in right now, too!

I'd never stepped foot onto the station before, but thanks to Jadzia the moment I did I felt as if it were already home.  She had such warm memories.  You can't even imagine!

Oh my god, am I droning on and on again?  I guess I can't help it!

Anyway, Worf is dragging me to another Klingon opera in one of Quark's holosuites.  Knowing my luck, Julian is going to be there, too.  It's a nightmare!

But a good one!

Molly O'Brien
(first appeared in The Next Generation, "Disaster," fifth season)
(first Deep Space Nine appearance, "A Man Alone," first season)

I'm glad you waited as long as you did to talk to me, Jake.  Even when we moved to Earth at the end of the war, I was still just a little girl.  I still remember thinking that Dad's Alamo model was a toy.  Of course it wasn't.  But that's when we were both on the younger side.

I was born when my parents were still living aboard the Enterprise.  The Enterprise-D, if I remember correctly.  I've since visited holographic recreations of it.  The real thing was destroyed not so long after we left.  I was a kid.  I remember Mom and Dad fighting a lot in those early years.  Mom never wanted to admit it, but she hated it.  She hated all of it.  I don't think she even liked the Enterprise.  The older I get, the more I can't understand that.  I bet you could, too, once you lived on Bajor for a while, then moved to Earth.  I guess we had similar childhoods.  When everything around you is either artificial or a plant that depends exclusively on you to survive, it can feel a little oppressive after a while, if it wasn't originally your idea to live like that.  I'm glad my parents finally found their compromises, though.  I think it started around the same time you decided to devote your life to writing.  That was the beginning of the good times for everyone, I think, even if that was when the Dominion first poked its head into our space.

All the politics, the Bajorans and the Cardassians, even all the Federation business, never really affected me.  Deep Space Nine was independent enough from most of it so that I could see the world on my own terms.  Watching everything happen around me, even if I was too young to appreciate most of it, was almost like one adventure after another, and I was very glad that the people we had around us were there.  They made everything so much easier.  Even Worf, who was surprisingly good around Yoshi.  Can I admit now that Worf scared me?  But my brother loved him.  Still wishes he was born a Klingon.  But I guess that's something that comes around every generation.

You were always pretty cool to have around, even if you seemed to think you'd break us if left in our company.  You were worse than Worf when he first held Yoshi!  But the stories you used to tell us, the ones you wrote down, you have no idea, but I always treasured them.  I guess I was your first fan.  

Don't laugh!  Some day you're going to be an old man and your biggest fan is going to track you down for a visit.  It'll be the highlight of your life!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Outliers - A Deep Space Nine Celebration, Part 5

(first appeared in "Way of the Warrior," fourth season)
(first appearance that was not a Changeling infiltrator, "In Purgatory's Shadow," fifth season)

Jake!  An entire barrel of bloodwine to celebrate the release of your book!  No doubt it will receive great acclaim on your home world.  Holosuites will be made in its honor!  I will try my best to see it adapted into a Klingon opera.  You'll see!

You want to know what my life was like before DS9.  It was a typical warrior's life, and here I exclude the sorry episode of my life contained in a Dominion prison camp.  I have been assured that my honor will not be impugned, even in the strictest of circles, by those events.  It would do worse for everyone, not the least Chancellor Gowron himself.  

No, I will not speak of those days.  I will instead regale you with a personal quest I have been undertaking most of my life, not a conquest on the battlefield but instead in the annals of Klingon history.  It seems my family heritage includes a fairly infamous advocate of the High Court, who allowed himself to die in another prison camp, a long time ago, defending the ideals he grew to believe in on the chance encounter with a human, who I understand has something of a glorious place in Starfleet lore.

It was not easy.  All knowledge of him appears to have been buried, his final fate left unacknowledged.  I hoped against hope that he would have been vindicated, but that would not have been the Klingon way, not in his time.  No, that would have been too noble.  We Klingons do not always behave in such a way.  It is sometimes more of a posture than a conviction.

Finally, I learned that he died, less than three days before he was scheduled to be released from the frozen dilithium mines of Rura Penthe.  I discovered this not two weeks ago.  I will be attending a ceremony in his honor soon. Perhaps you would care to join me.  It doesn't matter if you decline.  These rituals can be tiresome, even for one such as me.  I grow weary of the pomp of a warrior's life, but we are seldom able to avoid the glories life thrusts upon us.  Where shall I end up after the war?  I wish in as fine a place as this.  I would hate to leave it behind!

Vic Fontaine
(first appeared in "His Way," sixth season)
Why would you want to speak with me?  I'm just a two-bit actor who happened to license himself to holoprogram developers.  It's the biggest gig I've ever had and I had nothing to do with it!

Wait, are you telling me that the lounge singer had wings?  On Deep Space Nine, you say?  Who would've guessed!  Yeah, I was there for a few months.  Quark's Bar?  His holosuites are okay, but as I hear it they require constant maintenance.  He does good business?  Good for him.

It amazes me, it really does.  It just goes to show, wherever you go, there you are.  You just never know where life will take you.  I've been meaning to go back to DS9, though, I really have.  I liked it there.  Brought out some of my more rebellious instincts.  I may look calm and collected to you, but that's the acting.  Inside I'm just as shell-shocked as anyone else by this war.  I can see why that program has proven such a great success.  Sometimes you just need somewhere else to be, even if it's just an illusion.  It calms your nerves.  You say the guy doesn't just sing, but listens to you talk?  Yeah, I guess that sounds familiar.  Those developers, they spent days talking to me.  I receive holiday messages from them, sure.  Seems I made quite an impression on them.

But do I get it?  Somewhere I'm a legend.  I'm overwhelmed.  I'm sure he's nothing like me.  But what do I know, pally?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Outliers - A Deep Space Nine Celebration, Part 4

Gul Dukat
(first appeared in "Emissary," first season)
I'm flattered that you wish to speak with me, Mr. Sisko.  I'm afraid, however, that everything you want to know is already a matter of public record, and as you are now a resident of a station under Dominion control, you have perhaps greater access to whatever Cardassian files you wish to see than ever before.  That is, of course, if you can stomach them.  I'm afraid they're fairly dry reading, filled with military reports and the like.  It's not exactly the stuff of great literature!

I'm being modest.  I'm afraid that has always been my greatest failing.  Here I am, actively discouraging you from pursuing the very object I put in front of you.  

You are still interested, yes?

Well, then.  Let's begin.  At that time as it is again, the station was known as Terok Nor.  This was at the height of our campaign on Bajor, what you may otherwise know by its less savory title, the Occupation.  I was an important man even then, as I have managed to remain despite all hardships, even my temporary exile during the unfortunate business with the Klingons, when my people were still trying to reconcile the existence of my daughter, Tora Ziyal.  Believe it or not, but my faith never wavered.  I remained steady as a rock, ever trusting that the best would eventually win out regardless of the circumstances.

Was I ever tempted to doubt myself?  A great man can afford such luxuries.  While I do not claim such a title for myself, the role seems to have been thrust upon me time and time again.  And yet I never could decide why that was.  Was it truly a manifestation of my true self, or a reflection of those around me? 

In the same way that you trust that your father will some day return and reclaim this throne of his, I have grappled with this doubt.  It is perhaps the central defining characteristic of my life.

Kai Winn
(first appeared in "In the Hands of the Prophets," first season)
I am gratified, child, that you have deemed yourself fit to conduct such an interview with me.  I will try to be honest with you.

The first time I came to the station was in the midst of the uproar over the propaganda Keiko O'Brien had been spreading in her classroom about the Celestial Temple.  Prior to that, I was deeply involved in the affairs of Bajoran politics, helping to end the Occupation and bring unity to a conflicted people.  It would not be appropriate to discuss the specifics of those times, however I understand what you are asking of me, and I will attempt to provide you with a proper response.

I was not pleased that Bajor had so quickly petitioned for membership in the Federation.  I believe the popular phrase at that time was "Bajor for Bajorans," and that was something I held nearly as sacred as my devotion to the Prophets.  However, it was the will of my predecessor, Kai Opaka, and it was she who named your father as the Emissary, the culmination of centuries of faith among my people.

It was my faith that guided me every step of the way.  I yearned to speak with the Prophets.  In truth I would have made a pilgrimage to Deep Space Nine had I not been compelled to make that first visit.  I have not always understood why Benjamin Sisko was chosen for such an important role, but I respected what Kai Opaka had revealed to us.  I chose to stay out of the way, perhaps embodying more than anyone, in my modesty, the same belief that I had professed before: "Bajor for Bajorans."  I can only hope that one day the Prophets will deem me worthy of their grace.

Until such a day, I remain as I always was, a humble servant to my people.

(first appeared in "Past Prologue," first season)
My dear Mr. Sisko, do you imagine that if I had any...interesting anecdotes of my time before Deep Space Nine, I would be free to...divulge them with you?  However, as it is I have a tale or two that I would be willing to share.

My life was always a simple one, or at least that's how I've always chosen to interpret it.  You'll find that the world is far more interesting when you choose to...liberally adapt the truth to suit your interests.  As a writer, I'm certain you appreciate the sentiment.

That's precisely the truth of my existence, unembellished, exposed for what it has always been.  I've told many a customer that I am a plain, simple tailor, and that has always been true as well.  In my mind, what else could I have been?

I first took up the trade when my father came home one day and said to me, "Elim, it's time you go out in the world and find something to appreciate about it."  I was resentful at first, distrusting of his true intentions, as he could be a real tyrant in our house, always ordering us around as if we were all his servants.  

Yet in time I saw the wisdom of his advice.  I was an impatient youth, which often led to scraps with my schoolmates, who failed to understand that the truth, as I've always said, is merely an excuse for a lack of imagination.  I saw them as my peers, but told them that they were idiots.  Suffice to say, they didn't appreciate this sentiment.  I took early to mending my garments.  My father's suggestion enlarged my operation, and my reputation.

Years later he came to me again and said to me, "Elim, you're holding yourself back.  You're playing it safe."  And by the same circuitous logic that had welcomed his earlier entreaty, I came to understand what he meant.  I expanded my business.  Eventually this took me to Terok Nor, which as you know is now called Deep Space Nine.

Although I must confess that a certain part of this development was motivated by a...difference of opinion that had developed between my father and I.  The last time I saw him until years later, he said to me, "Elim, I think you know exactly what I'm about to say."  And in fact I did.  He disowned me on the spot.

Such is the life of a plain, simple tailor.

Michael Eddington
(first appeared in "The Search," third season)
It's funny that you should ask me, of all people, what I was doing before I came here.  In a lot of ways, I've always felt that I was warmly embraced when I arrived at DS9, but at a certain arm's length.  Perhaps it's because I didn't reject Constable Odo outright, as my predecessors apparently had.  I suppose this led to a certain level of suspicion.  Was I after all to be trusted?

I requested this assignment.  I was eager for the challenge, perhaps in ways that Starfleet had not yet exhibited, even your father.  As I understood it, he was initially opposed to the assignment.  By the time I met him, he'd come around, but in many ways I felt responsible for keeping his new-found passion focused.

I was fascinated by the Federation's attempts to navigate a region that was swarming with hostility, whether it was between the Cardassians and Bajorans, Bajorans and Starfleet, and even the continued misgivings between Cardassians and the Federation itself, despite the numerous treaties that were signed over the years.  I saw the emerging social upheaval posed by the Maquis as the deciding point in the whole affair, even if everyone else was worried about the emerging Dominion crisis.  

Kasidy Yates
(first appeared in "Family Business," third season)
You may be surprised, Jake, but to me Deep Space Nine was just another port, in the beginning.  I've seen more than I care to admit at this point.  Sometimes it seems like it's just one port after another.  My ancestors were Space Boomers, or so I've been told.  They predate Starfleet as the first regular human inhabitants in the stars.  I was comfortable.  Maybe too comfortable.  

My brother kept singing the virtues of life on one of the many Federation colony worlds.  There were opportunities in such places to revisit the hidden treasures of our shared heritage.  Yes, even baseball.  Sometimes I was tempted to settle down.  But the one thing we freighter captains can't abide is an anchor.  At least that's what I always believed, until I met your father.

Rest assured that DS9 is not just another port for me these days.  It's something I never imagined I'd know.  It's home.

(first appeared in "To the Death," fourth season)
Jake.  I can't say how proud I am that you have finally settled down, found peace with your altered surroundings.

I...wonder how I should answer your question.  That's the problem with being a clone.  I am in fact the fifth incarnation of the Vorta named Weyoun.  I didn't venture into the Alpha Quadrant until the previous one, although those specific memories died with him, and so I might almost speak only of my own experiences, although perhaps you expect to hear stories of the Gamma Quadrant, where the first of us was born to serve the Founders, as we have done faithfully ever since.

I would...prefer to keep the inner workings of the Dominion confidential, which is something you yourself have at last come to embrace.  Your reports on the war have greatly improved.  There can be no...doubt about that.

As for what I can divulge, I suppose you could say that I've always enjoyed a...privileged place for my people.  That is why I stand at the side of a Founder openly now, why I was trusted to negotiate the initial terms of our partnership with the Cardassian Empire.  I've long seen that you are...perceptive.  That was why I granted you such leniency at the start of the Dominion's residence aboard the station.  You know intuitively what others can only guess.  That is why I trust that you will be able to find the answers you're looking concerning my past on your own, without the need for me to speak them myself.

[Note: this research is never conducted.]

Tora Ziyal
(first appeared in "Indiscretion," fourth season)
My life was certainly erratic before coming to the station!  I'm sorry, but I prefer to not dwell on the past.  As my father says, it's not what we were that defines us, but who we are.  I choose to further define this philosophy with the hope that we're all capable of overcoming the worst circumstances life can throw at us.  I'm an example of that, and I still hope that you'll see the good in Dukat that I do.

Female Changeling
(first appeared in "The Search," third season)
I trust that you are no longer entertaining mutinous thoughts, Mr. Sisko.  Weyoun assures me endlessly, but I prefer to see it for myself.

Before I came here I was a part of the Great Link.  It is a more peaceful existence than you can possibly imagine.  Through it I learned of my people's experiences among the Solids, yet I never believed it myself.  I came to embrace the mission of the Dominion on a deeply personal level, after seeing what Odo has had to endure all these years.  I left the comfort of home in order to share with the universe what it was I had known for countless millennia.

What more do you need to know?

(first appeared in "Return to Grace," fourth season)
As any loyal Cardassian would, I would have preferred to spend my days either serving in the military or comfortably ensconced in my ancestral home.  Yet circumstances brought me to Terok Nor, and I found myself questioning for the first time everything I had previously believed.  You could say that life serving under the Dominion opened my eyes to my own complacency.  Someday I hope to repay this debt, though I doubt that it will occur here.  No, it will once again be home.  But home is no longer what it once was for me.