1. A Weaver of Lives by Nerys Ghemor
Cardăsa Star-Sentinel Opinion Column
Special Guest Edition
“Remembering Legate Tekeny Ghemor: A Weaver of Lives”
25 Aymăcur, Union Year 506 [translator’s note: 2376]
Opinions and reflections of Ambassador Natima Lang
For the first time in its over 450-year press run, the Cardăsa Star-Sentinel has issued a retraction—on its front page, no less.
It’s been a long time coming, and doubtless there are more to come, if the publication where I began my journalistic career is to reclaim its once-venerable reputation. But what a place to start.
On this day, following the posthumous reinstatement of rank and honors before a small gathering of family and friends, the Star-Sentinel has this to say on its homepage: “At no point did Legate Tekeny Ghemor make a deathbed confession of faith in the Dominion absorption of the Cardassian Union, Skrain Dukat’s statements notwithstanding; the legate departed this life a staunch supporter of Cardassian freedom. The Star-Sentinel issues a formal, public, and unequivocal apology to the Ghemor family for any distress this incorrect statement might have caused.”
Legate Ghemor was a powerful inspiration to me, and doubtless many more fellow Cardassians than are yet comfortable admitting it. Though I never had the chance to meet the legate in person, I had the opportunity to meet after the reinstatement ceremony and memorial service with many who did: friends, neighbors, colleagues, and above all—family.
Other reporters and biographers are beginning to build a chronology of the dissident legate’s life, but today I would rather allow those who knew him best to paint the character of the Tekeny Ghemor most of us never really knew until now.
“A legacy of genuine selflessness”
“Not for one second did I ever believe Legate Ghemor would give his loyalty to the Dominion,” Gul Akellen Macet of the Trager adamantly declares. “That’s not the man I knew.” Though Macet is loathe to draw attention to his blood relation to the late traitor, he makes an exception this one time to drive his point home: “As his cousin, I knew Skrain [Dukat] as well as anyone ever managed to know him, and believe me, I knew all the signs: there was not a single doubt in my mind that the [expletive] was lying through his teeth.”
The Dominion War hero reveals one of his own secrets: “During the run-up to the Detapa Uprising, Legate Ghemor and I kept in close contact—much more so that the Obsidian Order ever discovered. What associations they did find were enough to bar me from further advancement. But for the sake of a man of such integrity, I gladly accepted the consequences. With Ghemor, it was far more than a cause that drew us together…it was a truly contagious personal commitment. He had an unparalleled ability to inspire the likes of which I have never seen; it wasn’t the sort of bombastic performance that has become so ingrained in our culture…it was a very understated, heartfelt. No one deserves this vindication more than he does.” A wistful smile crosses the Hăzăk native’s face. “I only wish Turrel, Pa’Dar, and Russol could be here to see it,” he says, referring to the first three to be publicly executed following Dukat’s rise to power in a symbolic overturning of the previous regime. “They would have been thrilled for him.”
Glinn Bresul Yejain of the Sherouk worked even more closely with the legate, serving a three-year tour at Central Command headquarters. As someone who worked closely with Tekeny Ghemor on a day-by-day basis, he reminisces about the small kindnesses that were Ghemor’s hallmark wherever he went. “We all grew up hearing about the glories of serving the State, but Legate Ghemor was one of those people who through his legacy of genuine selflessness really made it a joy. I’ll never forget when Riyăk Eprasiy’s little girl passed away and the legate rescheduled a top-level strategy meeting at the last minute just so he could attend the memorial and interment. He didn’t even know the riyăk all that well, but it didn’t matter to him that this was ‘just’ one of his junior specialists…this was one of his people and he wanted to be there.
“But it wasn’t just one sweeping gesture every once in awhile,” Yejain hastens to clarify. “There were these constant, small kindnesses that came so instinctively to him that he hardly thought a thing of it—but there in the halls of Central Command itself, they meant far more than I could ever express…a personal letter. Legate Ghemor was an early riser those days,” he recalls, “and he was always sitting there at his desk reading the morning reports with a mug of fish juice by the time I arrived. He used to stand and greet every one of his staff by name when they entered the room, all the way from guls to ga’arheç [translator’s note: plural of garheç]. I remember that first day when I sat down and dug right into my work, and there he was all of a sudden, standing over my desk pouring me my very own mug. I was flabbergasted—here I was, a glinn being served by one of Central Command’s senior legates! He did the same thing every morning for everyone who worked directly for him in his office and never accepted anything in return.”
Glinn Yejain raises a finger here as he laughs with fond remembrance. “And it gets even better. I remember when a young dalin began a tour in our office. He mentioned he was allergic to fish juice—and the next day, Legate Ghemor shows up with a cup of căputziyno-kofiy! You hardly get that kind of treatment in a hostel these days, let alone one’s place of work. When my tour of duty there ended, I was sad to move on, but he personally chose another very rewarding position for me. There was no doubt…if you worked hard for him, you could rest assured he’d work hard for you without your ever having to ask.”
“A man of great heart and many sorrows”
Though most Cardassians will claim devotion to family above almost all else, one of the few surviving members of the Ghemor family, his nephew Alon, head of the emerging Reunion Project, describes a man who held unswervingly to that ideal even facing the trials and temptations of a one-year tour served on Bajor. “When I was a child, my father always told me how proud he was of Uncle Tekeny,” Alon recalls. “There he was in this absolute cesspit of moral decay where the most senior officers and his own platoon commander openly paraded their Bajoran ‘comfort women,’ and Uncle Tekeny—who was engaged by then—refused to have anything to do with it. The ridicule from the men in his own unit was degrading, to put it mildly. He hadn’t even sworn marriage oaths yet—but he wouldn’t be swayed. Thinking back on it…I’d say that year on Bajor had a lot to do with shaping his views on Central Command and Cardassian society in general.
“I’d always loved Uncle Tekeny growing up—he was a very warm man who gave a lot of thought even to his more indirect relations. Even when I was very little I remember he used to take the time to find out from Father what I really wanted for my birthday instead of just crediting a generic gift-card to my account. I always loved talking to him whenever he visited…he never talked down to children, never made assumptions about what I might be too young to understand, never trivialized my experiences. If it was important to me, it was important to him, and that meant the world to me.
“Take this, for example…when I was seven, Tret, my pet vompăt, died when he was visiting. I was devastated. A lot of adults would have taken the opportunity to give that old speech about death being a part of life, just one of those things that happens, something a Cardassian boy should take and let it build their resolve against our enemies. Well, Uncle Tekeny didn’t do that. He went to a lot of trouble helping me bury Tret in the backyard—a small-scale memorial service complete with coffin and military honors. When sunset came, I couldn’t believe it…he actually showed up for the interment in full armor.
“Once I came of age, I got to know Uncle Tekeny in a very different way,” Alon Ghemor recalls, “man-to-man. By that time much had changed in his life: his only daughter was missing in action in a deep-cover intelligence mission on Bajor and Aunt Raveda had died without ever forgiving him. I was one of the only people he had left—Father had died on the front lines against the Federation by then, and Mother was ill…I was one of the only kinsmen he had left. He never withdrew from me, stayed as warm as ever—but you could see it in his eyes: deep down, he was in anguish.
“He was a man of great heart and great sorrows. And they used that against him!” Here the soft voice of the Reunion Project’s head breaks and hoarsens. As he begins to recount the incident that nearly proved Legate Ghemor’s undoing, tears emerge that he makes no move to hide as they run down and pool beneath his eye ridges. “He called me one day, doesn’t even give me a chance to say hello: ‘She’s home—she’s home!’ he’s yelling, and he’s weeping, absolutely ecstatic. I was worried…they say the reintegration process can be difficult after the kind of memory replacement Iliana went through, and I kept warning him to be careful, but he just insisted, insisted that no matter how hard it got, the fact that she was home was enough. It never occurred to me that something else entirely might be going on.”
Of course, we all know how it ended; the Obsidian Order publicized the entire thing as a reminder to all of how penetrating their reach really was. Alon Ghemor recalls the day the news broke that his Uncle Tekeny’s “daughter” was in fact another woman entirely, placed in his home to make him lower his guard, and that a father’s dedication to return the woman he believed to be his daughter had exposed treachery right in the halls of Central Command. “I am not a violent man,” Alon Ghemor insists, “but I have never been more ready to kill someone with my bare hands than I was in that moment [when he heard the news]. I was positively sick at what the Obsidian Order had done, that they would use the most sacred thing to any Cardassian—his love for his children—to destroy him. Uncle Tekeny escaped, of course, and I myself went into hiding. He would’ve told me to forgive them…but truth be told, I still struggle with that to this day.”
“A gracious neighbor to the very last”
Following his exposure as a dissident, Legate Ghemor was stripped of citizenship, rank, and honors, and went into exile on Mathen. There, Tekeny Ghemor settled into a relatively quiet provincial life in the town of Auma-Don-The’, where his initially wary neighbors soon learned to enjoy the company of this senior Cardassian in their midst. Ghemor’s next-door neighbor on Mathen, Aurof-Mok-Jeju, describes the way he integrated himself into the local life of a society so different from his own. “We all worried at first about how a biped like Ghemor—and a Cardassian at that—would take life among a quadrupedal people who resembled one of his world’s beasts of burden, but he was very gracious. He showed a great deal of respect for the people of Mathen and their customs, and even joined us on our public feast days. He kept a polite silence during our prayer times, and he had no problem sitting down on the grass and dining with us according to our ways. Nor did he get angry when his presence would attract a gaggle of kits eager to watch the ‘primate-man’ use a knife and fork to cut his food instead of claws and fangs.
“When he first arrived, one of the other things that most fascinated the kits…and all of us, to be honest…was his physical strength, which compared to any Mathenite was extraordinary. He was very generous with that strength towards those neighbors, volunteering to help whenever there was furniture to be moved or a broken groundcar that needed to be pushed back into someone’s driveway. That’s what made it so alarming to us when Ghemor first started coming home from his daily walks out of breath. In those first few months he always smiled politely and denied it whenever we expressed our concern. Finally a number of us got together, marched over to his house, and pleaded with him to see a doctor. He spent awhile arguing—quite politely—that it was simply age, and that as a Cardassian he wasn’t afraid of it and neither should we be. Then the tension in the room got to him and he just…doubled over: he couldn’t hide it anymore.”
After what seemed like countless tests and specialist visits, Legate Ghemor was diagnosed with Yarim Fel syndrome, a terminal autoimmune disorder named for the Xepolite xenobiology professor who first isolated a number of the genetic risk factors. “Now that I think back on it,” comments Aurof-Mok-Jeju, “I wonder if maybe in the wake of everything he’d lost, he just didn’t want to know. Clearly he was devastated by the diagnosis—but he never withdrew into himself. He kept up with all of us, visiting whenever his condition allowed it. Right up to his departure from Mathen, he was a gracious neighbor to the very last.”
“This truly was love without conditions”
My final interview subject is perhaps one of the most unlikely supporters of Legate Ghemor one could imagine: former Bajoran resistance fighter and current commander of Deep Space Nine, the station formerly known as Terok Nor, Colonel Kira Nerys. The revelation may seem less unlikely these days given the ever-strengthening rumors that Kira personally involved herself in the Cardassian Liberation Front during the darkest days of the Dominion War—but her first meeting with the legate came under the most difficult circumstances one could imagine: it was Kira Nerys that the Obsidian Order kidnapped and altered to the likeness of Legate Ghemor’s missing daughter.
Even to my untrained eye, the resemblance in build and manner of speech to file footage of Iliana Ghemor is breathtaking, to put it mildly. But more so is the outpouring of emotion: she chokes up almost immediately when I explain the purpose of my visit. I am struck by how much, of all of the others I’ve interviewed, the expression reminds me not of friends or colleagues, but of Alon Ghemor. Indeed, the bond she offers me a glimpse of is far more than I ever counted on, and I have the impression that I am only seeing one facet of the jevonite. It somehow feels like my digging any further would be to degrade a priceless artifact, so I decide I will ask no probing questions. I simply sit back and listen to whatever Colonel Kira chooses to volunteer.
Blush-pink fingers brush over an elegant Cardassian bracelet that encircles her wrist a few sizes too large, providing a strange contrast to her Bajoran Militia uniform. “Tekeny’s gift to me,” she explains. I must have raised an eye ridge, for she rushes to inform me that the legate entreated her to call him by his given name as we Cardassians allow for only those closest to us. “He intended it for Iliana. He never did find his real daughter, and he wanted me to take care of it in her place. I still can’t believe it, how it still hurts to remember…that he’s gone. I don’t know how to explain it other than to say when I was captured, it wasn’t the lies of the Obsidian Order that almost had me convinced [that she was Iliana Ghemor]. It was the plain, simple truth that this man loved his daughter so much that he was ready to sacrifice everything for her sake…for my sake.
“When the DNA tests came back with a negative result, I was sure that would be the end of it. Then as I came to from the surgery…I realized I wasn’t alone: I could feel one hand cradling my head and another tenderly holding my left hand up where I could see. There was mine, back to its usual color, and around it was this grey hand. And he said to me, ‘Dr. Bashir [Deep Space Nine’s chief medical officer] almost threw me out, but I told him I had to know that when you woke up, someone would be there who loves you.’ I almost had a heart attack at first—I thought maybe the DNA test had been wrong, maybe Bashir had just restored my appearance as a kindness. But Tekeny just smiles, squeezes my hand, and says, ‘No, Nerys…the tests were right. And I still mean every word.’
The colonel looks down, clasping the bracelet around her wrist. “For the second time in just as many days, I absolutely melted—this time not because I was desperate, not because I had nowhere else to turn…but because this truly was love without conditions.
“We call it ‘father-in-the-Prophets,’ what Tekeny became to me. Humans would use the word ‘godfather.’ We corresponded regularly after he left for Mathen, and…I only ever saw him in person once again.” At this Colonel Kira stops to collect herself, closing her eyes and drawing in a deep breath. I wait in silence but nothing more comes except for this: “I loved him. I still do.”
I lean forward, torn between a desire to take her hand and a fear that to do so will somehow desecrate her memories of Legate Ghemor. I find myself wishing, furthermore, that the man whose memory she has so tenderly evoked could be here to comfort us in this time of mourning and rebuilding. But it seems to me that in a way, he is. I can see that through both great acts and tiny ones, he was an extraordinary weaver of lives; a certain distinctly sparkling thread runs through many of those in whom I believe Cardassia’s greatest hope lies.
I abandon my trepidation and reach for Colonel Kira’s hand. This is what he would have wanted.
Combined with the reflections and reminisces shared in the other interviews, sitting here across from Colonel Kira I feel almost as though Tekeny Ghemor sits on the other end of the couch, watching the two of us.
I hope he would be smiling.