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Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 16 Oct 2012 10:31 Title: The Link

That's so true that after even the longest night usually comes a bright day that scares all monsters away.


Congratulations on finishing this fine story! :)

Author's Response:

I don't think that all of her monsters have been scared away...but there is certainly someone there for her who, while he might not look like much on the outside, certainly does a good job of keeping them at a greater distance from her. :-)

Talking about anything...Orias-related or ship-related...isn't easy for Tolkar.  But I think he felt it was important, because even though what he went through was so much worse, he does take her feelings as real, and that she has a right to have.


And thank you so much again for the inspiration and support. :-)

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 16 Oct 2012 10:27 Title: The Link

I can't even imagine how difficult such it had to be for her during that first night. An alien place she was now forced to call home. After a busy day of unpacking and meeting her new surroundings, the feelings finally could catch up with her and her mind had no other things to do than to think.

Author's Response:

It was awful for her. :-(  Even the feel of the *gravity* was wrong, though only by a tiny degree.  So even in her bed, with her eyes closed and the covers pulled over her head so she wouldn't hear so many of the different sounds it *still* felt wrong.  I know she's happy for Tolkar and believes in what she did to help him.  But she's still absolutely devastated inside by her permanent confinement.  A whole world to explore never felt so tiny, as Cardassia feels to her now. :-(

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 16 Oct 2012 10:23 Title: The Link

That was quite a "review" of her life. Everything packed into boxes and we just got a glimps into one of her most treasured possessions.

Author's Response:

Having had to move several times, it's always quite something to watch your living space be taken apart and put back together.  You really end up sorting through your memories.  There are a lot of gaps in hers, though--things from Earth that she can't have back. :-(

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 15 Oct 2012 16:12 Title: The Link

I like the description of Lakarian City very much!

Author's Response:

You helped a lot with that, of course! :D

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 05 Oct 2012 05:29 Title: The Link

This chapter has a strong feeling of farewells. Many matters are being closed and some opened as a completely new chapter of Ardema's life. And it's palpable that she's not happy about all that. She seems to try to blame only the guilty ones, but her feelings aren't that easy to tame. She's angry. She's angry at being torn from her home, friends, not really from her job because it has already lost its appeal to her, but I'm sure she'd be if she still wanted to do it. And rightly so. Such a forceful relocation to a hostile place where she'll be spied upon (as she takes it) can make the calmest person in the universe angry.

Author's Response:

I'm not sure why my e-mail notifications stopped working, so I missed this comment.  Sorry about that. :-(

And if it weren't already hard enough for her to control her feelings (part of the effect the implants had on her nervous system was to reduce her ability to rein in her emotions on her own), what she's going through isn't making it any easier.  That...and personally, I feel like she has reason to be angry.  The anger about losing her career, though...not only does she despise the idea of working with machines (especially the dangerous things she used to work with), she is so bitter against Starfleet that the idea of wearing their uniform is just repulsive to her now.

It's very fortunate that Tolkar has a stabilizing effect on her, or else it would be very easy for her to just drown in that anger.  I think he understands that she's angry (he probably knows what it is to hold that kind of fury--I bet he did, against the Obsidian Order), but I think that he's able to--gently--get her to see that there can still be something in these coming days that isn't horrible.  That's the advantage she has over how it was for him.

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 13 Jun 2012 06:54 Title: The Link

Some important things happening in this chapter. Saratt with free hands, Ardema's farewell to her shipmates, the news about his family coming...that's a lot of changes in her life.

Author's Response:

Yeah...I'd say "turmoil" would be the word to sum it up!

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 19 May 2012 06:43 Title: The Link

Some things get clarified and concluded in this chapter.

Ardema finally understood what her feelings about Saratt were--family ties. And she continues learning the language.

And the symbol of the torture is now gone too. Destroyed. And they had the privilege of giving the order. That had to bring some closure for Saratt.

Author's Response:

They may not be related by blood...but something definitely happened during the link.  She's imprinted on him, in a way, and I think he has too, though some of the effects on him are probably different.

As soon as I knew the AU Tolkar would get his voice back (which I'd already decided before I ever knew of your decision for the canon Tolkar ;-) ), I figured he'd want to give the order.  I hope it could help him in some small way.

Reviewer: jespah Signed [Report This]
Date: 18 May 2012 16:41 Title: The Link

I really loved the description of the empty ship and its destruction. It gives a sense of some closure, where the reader (at least, me) begins to feel that the healing process really can happen, and can continue. After all, with a painful reminder out there, who could say whether the tech would ever be copied and used again?

I also like how you steered it away from romantic love and clarified the relationship and the feelings - it was unclear to me before and now, to my mind, it works better.  I think sometimes these sorts of things need to be spelled out to a reader, so I am glad you have done that.

Author's Response:

The way this unfolded is how it was planned all along.  I always knew what it was that the link created between them--but she wasn't able to understand without help.  Because she had no siblings before this, Anastasia had no frame of reference to explain what she was feeling.  Tolkar, of course, had two brothers, so he was able to make a comparison and recognize what he was feeling.  So until this point, spelling it out just wasn't possible.

Glad you liked the destruction of the ship.

Reviewer: jespah Signed [Report This]
Date: 13 Apr 2012 00:19 Title: The Link

I fear that I am losing some of the thread here as more and more of the story seems to require a knowledge of DS9 that I just don't have.

Be that as it may.

I agree - words like that don't simply slip out. So, what's really going on here? I recall you had said at one point that this is not a romantic relationship, and it isn't intended to become one. Fine. But it seems like Ardema is trading home, family, friends, career, planet, etc. - everything that's familiar, even if it's imperfect - for an uncertain future. People generally don't do that unless there are damned good reasons to. So, if it's not romantic love, then what is it? To my mind, friendship is not a good enough reason to chuck everything else.

Author's Response:

She really doesn't have a choice now as to what her future is going to be.  Either she accepts a surgery that could kill her, leave her seriously disabled, or trap her in computerized hell for the rest of her life, or she accepts permanent exile on Cardassia.  This was not the choice she ever believed she was facing, when she decided to help Saratt.  She did not believe she was making any sort of trade at the time, other than the possibility that her fingers might be replaced with biosynthetic ones after it was all over.

I still don't believe she would undo her decision to help him, knowing the consequences.  But she has no plot immunity, like higher-ranking story heroes who get away with things and never bear the full brunt of the consequences.  One way or another, Ardema's good deed will not go unpunished.  Whatever she chooses, she will pay severely.

As har as what's going on this moment, Ardema doesn't have the words to articulate it.  What I will say is that the link had huge emotional and mental consequences.  She never expected that it would reach so deeply into her, when she made the decision to put on the implants. I thiink she believed a lot of things would be easily reversed, and temporary, so she would simply go home with the comfort of knowing she helped save a life.  Instead she got in WAY over her head.

Having had your mind tied to someone else's for hours is no small thing (example: we should have seen much more serious consequences to Picard from the mind meld in "Sarek").  The Obsidian Order even selected its links--people made into what she is--based on their lack of empathy for others, for fear of the consequences, which would have completely derailed their experiment, and then trained their links on even further shielding techniques to make sure they saw the "cores" as organic things with no personhood or inherent dignity or worth.  She was a normal person, and untrained, so she experienced this host of psychological consequences as a result.

Saratt was definitely affected by this too, though I think it hit her harder because of the traumatic way she exoerienced the disconnection from the computer--from him.  As to what it is that the link caused between them, you'll find out in the next section...

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 10 Apr 2012 05:23 Title: The Link

That was a silly question--if she meants that. People don't slip words like this. It came out of her, directly from her heart, so it had to be as true as it could be.

At least she has Saratt, a kind of anchor in the unknown, possible hostile world that would soon become almost like prison to her. Lock away from everything she knows and loves. But he'll be there too, so there is something left for her. A tiny light in the pitch black darkness.

Author's Response:

I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call Saratt's implied question silly.  I think he was stunned, more than anything.  Even if his ability to read her meant that he saw something before, hearing a statement like that had to be so powerful that it caught him off guard and he wanted to be sure that he actually heard what he thought he was hearing.

Saratt is the one she can trust--fully trust--to have compassion for her.  He is so familiar to her even though only a short chronological time has passed; their minds were connected to each other, so what she knows is a deep, innate truth.

And of course his continued survival is an affirmation that this was not a waste--no matter how horrible the consequences to her, he's off that evil ship.  He's alive and safe.

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 10 Apr 2012 05:01 Title: The Link

That's a blow. All she wanted was to curl up on her bed, in her home, to be told a few minutes later that it'll never happen.

And being sent to a place she knows mostly bad things about, to a regime that scares her, to be completely alone in some flat, in some city...that's not the future anyone would be looking to. She gets promises, but who knows how much truth is behind them. She gets assurances, but she had just been betrayed by her own, so how could she trust untruthworthy?

It's not house arrest, it's planet arrest, but what's the difference, really?

Author's Response:

The sun went out on her entire world, leaving almost nothing behind. :-(

What kind of choice is it, being told that you get to choose your town or city, when it's all the same--all a prison--to you?

And you're right about how she pretty much trusts no one right now.  Cardassia demanded her and the Federation sold her, as far as she's concerned.

Reviewer: jespah Signed [Report This]
Date: 30 Mar 2012 14:03 Title: The Link

So - the knife she used to perform her (let's call these what they are) amputations is what Ha'varra grabbed. Hence it's not necessarily actual premeditation, more that the instrument presented itself for Ha'varra. A killer finding a knife on the floor and then using it does not imply premeditation - it's more like second degree.

Do Federation people ever do anything right (aside from Ardema and Mugaba)? It's striking me that this is a ship of clumsy oafs at best, and killers and saboteurs at worst. I realize you may not be intending to write it that way, but it is feeling a bit slanted, at least from my perspective.

Author's Response:

Actually, Ha'varra brought his own knife aboard.  Karama grabbed the knife Ardema used for her "surgery" to defend himself.

As far as Ha'varra's attempted murder, in The Shadow of the Order, Ha'varra actually succeeded in killing Sabal and inflicting life-threatening wounds on Karama.  In this universe, Ha'varra didn't manage to kill or even wound anybody, because Karama got to a weapon and Saratt intervened too, before Ha'varra could actually succeed.

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 30 Mar 2012 12:40 Title: The Link

So, she learns something new about someone she thought she knew. Something unpleasant, set on fire by Cardassian presence.

It appears that there's been a lot of bad things happening on that ship. A cursed ship.

Meanwhile, Ardema and Saratt feel comfortable "speaking" to each other through their "other" channel and communicating non-verbally.

Author's Response:

I think given the nature of the question Saratt had to ask, it was much better that they could communicate that non-verbally and not draw attention to that aspect of what happened, in front of everyone else.  I have a feeling Saratt knew that would be difficult for Ardema.

And yeah, it really does feel like Jeto's description of the ship as cursed--as destroying everyone who boards it--is accurate.

Finding out about Ha'varra was definitely shocking and sad for Ardema.  Not the worst thing she has to deal with, out of all that's happened and will happen, but I imagine that kind of revelation would be very difficult.

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 25 Feb 2012 04:32 Title: The Link

She's still in the process of discovering all the consequences of putting on those implants. And some of those consequences could be scary, especially if one thinks about being like the Borg. Not to mention that even without Borg, one's mind taken by a device and following the devices instructions must be very unsettling.

But at least she has someone who now only understands her, but is also in a unique position to tell her something to ease her worry and fear.

Author's Response:

Even the way I conveyed it in the story, I don't imagine that captured the full extent of what happened in her mind as the self-diagnostic was occurring.

It definitely helped her to hear from Saratt, though.  The evil links are...well...evil, and certainly can't be of any "help" to her.  (Heck, they can't even be allowed to know she exists.)  But knowing that Saratt kept his mind even after years of diagnostics that could've been worse than hers...that does give her some hope.

It definitely meant a lot to her, that he was willing to share that information with her, even though it was undoubtedly very hard for him.

Reviewer: jespah Signed [Report This]
Date: 23 Feb 2012 20:20 Title: The Link

Ah, the invasion of the subconscious - very telling. It works that the system might go through some sort of a diagnostic, and that the likelihood would be that it would be scheduled for off-hours. And then Anastasia is more vulnerable while asleep anyway, so put all of that together, and it could make for some rather disturbing nightmares.

Plus Saratt has felt it, too. Are these his our nightmares? Or hers? Or both, or a shared bit of dreaming?

Author's Response:

I'm not sure if she would--under normal circumstances--have an outright *nightmare.*  I get the feeling that the implants give some sort of hypnotic command or otherwise make the subject go into a compliant state so that they really don't have a choice or are able to get very upset.  It's afterwards that was the hardest for her.

Saratt and Ardema didn't share a dream, though.  It's rather that he experienced something like it--though likely a lot worse--when he was on the ship. :-(

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 01 Feb 2012 06:03 Title: The Link

A serious conversation. I guess she wanted very much for him to understand. From all people his understanding is the most important.

It also shows how it changed her and her faith. She had to re-evaluate some things and form new opinion on something she had been taught, but she found her new way and continues walking it.

Author's Response:

She wanted very much to answer him when he asked that question.  And it's basically impossible for her to lie when speaking to him, both because of how she cares for him and because he could read it if she did.

But yes, this experience most definitely forced her to examine her beliefs in a lot of ways.  She does still believe.  But I'd say by the standards of her parents' church, this was a major shift in theology/doctrine.  I'm sure a lot is still in flux, and in a lot of ways I think she was still grasping for explanations as she spoke to Saratt.

Reviewer: jespah Signed [Report This]
Date: 01 Feb 2012 00:07 Title: The Link

Free will/predestination – as you know, these are fundamental philosophical/religious questions. We also get it as we look into timelines. Can they really be changed? If everything is predestined, then time travel is solely observational, if it can happen at all. And then, if things can be changed, then we should be wondering, how far can we go? When does bending turn into breaking? Or remaking, if you prefer.

For Ardema, the act of helping is an act, it seems, it's a bit of a rebellion. The feeling that, this isn't what's supposed to happen, so she is compelled to change it. Her execution (not the best word, but it's what I've got) leaves a lot to be desired. Others probably would not have put themselves quite so much into harm's way as she did. But here they are; the deed is long done. So it's time to live with consequences.

I'm kind of surprised that she is still scared of what Saratt with think and say. They may not be best buddies or in love, but they do have a bond that's not unlike people in the trenches. They know, more or less, what's going on with the other one. Beyond the linkage between them, it's also – they've both been through it. I think she can be a bit less formal. I think she's been accepted.

Author's Response:

Ardema comes from a Christian Reformed background, which is a very conservative, staunchly Calvinist denomination that many people of her ethnic background (Dutch-American) belong to.  She was therefore taught predestination.  What she witnessed on the ship shocked her terribly and caused her to question that particular tenet of her belief.

In general, Ardema doesn't have any fear of what Saratt will think, for all of the reasons you cited.  But this one thing is different.  One false move...and it could appear as though she's suggesting God condoned or allowed what happened to him.  That she believes in a God of torture.  While Saratt hasn't openly stated it, I'm pretty sure he's an atheist--and that's one of the things that some atheists find objectionable about belief.

The other reason is...think about the imagery Gul Re'jal described on the ship, and the imagery you may have seen of the Crucifixion, which is of course quite graphic and comes with a lot of very powerful emotions.  That is something she believes (and likely rightly so) could be psychologically harmful to him.  (As a cultural note...the most ancient Christians almost never depicted the Crucifixion.  They lived under Roman rule; they knew and had seen with their own eyes what that was like.  Adopting the Cross as a symbol of our faith came only after crucifixion was no longer in regular use.  Ardema is now like those most ancient Christians.)

There are definitely a lot of consequences to what she's done; that's very true.  A lot that she will have to live with.  All I'll say is, we're still not done seeing all of the fallout.

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 22 Jan 2012 06:09 Title: The Link

Some medi-babble here ;)

We can also see that Zabar feels guilty and responsible. She wrote the report and the fact she meant to discourage the Obsidian Order, while in fact they used it as instructions to what should be avoided, doesn't make it any easier for her.

But Ardema is going to have her evenings filled with something to do: watching the cartoon :) Not a bad way to spend one's free time :)

It's interesting that in spite of reading each other and becoming so close, Saratt and Ardema still have a lot of discovering ahead of them. There's still something they don't know and they can enjoy the process of learning those things.

Author's Response:

It's...kinda medi-babble.  But the scary thing is that there is actually research going on now, to allow people who are "locked-in" to communicate by reading the impulses in the speech center.  It's in its infancy, and would be great for those who need it for medical reasons, but it's easy to see how the mis-application of such science could go.  Brrrrrr...

I know Ardema wishes she could take Zabar's pain away. :-(

As for Saratt and Ardema--they will enjoy that learning process, I'm sure. :-)

Reviewer: jespah Signed [Report This]
Date: 22 Jan 2012 00:32 Title: The Link

This makes a lot of sense as speech therapy. Essentially, it's a conversation between friends. The interest and the excitement of learning about each other as people makes it easier for Ardema to learn Cardassian and for Saratt to make the effort to speak at all.

I also liked how the time of his imprisonment/torture/not sure how to put it parallels her life span. It brings home how young she really is, and just how long he's really suffered.

Author's Response:

I figured that speech therapy/language education would have to be a lot more fun between people who really care about each other, and without being handed topics by someone else, would be a great opportunity for them.  Just as in the canon universe, Saratt's personality and priorities were inferred things , to him, <i>she</i> was the one unable to fully express herself.  He wants to know who she is.  And there are things she wants to ask him too, that she couldn't before.

Reviewer: jespah Signed [Report This]
Date: 09 Jan 2012 23:04 Title: The Link

Gentle, deliberate, subtle. It is very much how one would deal with someone who has become profoundly impaired physically, but not intellectually. I'm glad that they can interact on this level.

Author's Response:

I loved writing them interacting this way.  Putting them back together after all that happened was really rewarding to write. :-)

Things are going in both directions, though.  Even though he can't do so physically, Saratt is also reaching out for her.  Her impairment is a mere inconvenience, in comparison to his.  Yet...he cares.

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 08 Jan 2012 03:19 Title: The Link

A great discovery--she not only speaks like Saratt, but also can almost literally read him. They can both interpret the tiniest signs of their mannerisms and easily, naturally and instinctively interpret the intentions of the other one. And to her it felt so natural that Zabar had to ask for Ardema to realise what was actually happening.

The small success of being able to drink. In fact, it's a great success and everyone knows it.

And Saratt, in spite of everything that's behind him and before him, is in a good mood, enjoying every moment of his freedom. Enjoying his life again!

Author's Response:

I'm sure Saratt suspects he's going to have a lot of difficult work ahead of him.  But things like drinking--and in this universe, speaking--are the first things that he has had control of, in his real body, in 25 years.  The first pleasures, even if small.  So I think those are indeed victories.

And for Ardema--and presumably Saratt as well--you're right about how natural it felt for her to read him.  Saratt's not the only one in a good mood here.  For her, this was a turning point too. :-)

Reviewer: jespah Signed [Report This]
Date: 03 Jan 2012 23:19 Title: The Link

I have to remember not to report this review for the challenge. ;)

I like how the book and a bit of its plot slips in, but also the mentioning of how things used to be. The bad old days of Cardassia (and not so old, apparently), as it were.

For people who had to deal with the oppression of the Obsidian Order, it seems there is some good recovery going on, where people are enjoying their freedom. But Ardema is right - all it will take is one coup, tipped in the direction of more oppression, for the new order to come tumbling down again.

Author's Response:

Or not even a coup--but unchecked abuse of their still rather undemocratic system.  That...and the fact that coups are still treated as good.  The continued precedent of changing political systems by violence is dangerous.  It's an improvement over the bad old days, to be sure...but while I think perhaps Gul Re'jal disagrees, in my eyes it is still tainted.

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 02 Jan 2012 03:25 Title: The Link

So a small talk about a book shifted to a more serious subject of politics. Ardema learnt some new things about current political and social situation on Cardassia, but also about Dastad's opinion on that situation.

And the books and their meaning--a flick on the current rulers of Cardassia's noses.

It also is quite clear that what Dastad saw on the ship will haunt him for the rest of his life and he will not forget that. He doesn't believe it should be forgotten.

And then the conversation with Aladar. A funny moment with "mom" mistranslation and a very serious moment of thanking him for removing O'Riordan from the room without causing additional scenes. Aladar is very modest and clearly not used to being thanked or complimented. But he certainly isn't a brainless guard, more of a room's decor than a real person. She acknowledges that.

Author's Response:

The books started being written before the coup and I personally think Drelor had his vision for how the series would unfold during a period that was very similar between both of our universes.  So I'm not sure they would necessarily come across so aggressive in their "home" universe.  I think the incident between Solal and Jerrek happened in both unverses' books.  But in the Shaping a Cardassian universe...yeah, I think Drelor was pissed over what happened with the coup.

I think Dastad recognizes the precariousness of a coup.  He knows how easy it is for such things to go bad.  Granted, I think he knows Brenok, but that may be part of why he thinks "luck" played into it--that had it been anyone else, things could've been very ugly.

And yeah...Dastad is definitely haunted.

Thank you for letting me borrow the "mom" mistranslation. ;-)  Ardema really appreciates Aladar and people like him.  He has things to contribute, in her opinion. :-)

Reviewer: jespah Signed [Report This]
Date: 31 Dec 2011 15:30 Title: The Link

Awesome - a Monty Python reference!

I think Anastasia is right - that this may be far from over. It's interesting that Ronus was the one to gather the intel. Essentially, he is the only person who has any sort of an experience like hers. So his perspective, perhaps, holds more weight that that of someone like Th'Arshar.

And she has committed to something else for the rest of her life. I take it that she has no plans for living even a semi-normal life at retirement - and that is possibly another example of her barreling ahead and not necessarily thinking everything through as thoroughly as she should.

Author's Response:

Actually...I'm not sure she really knows what her future is right now.  She's living from day to day, and in this moment she's so far from being able to know what she wants to do with her future that all she can do is be afraid of the consequences, and want to curl up with her doll.  I suspect what she wants right now is a leave of absence to think everything over.

But if you're talking about where she goes over the events of "The Spear in the Other's Heart," you bet what happened there was rash and done without thinking.  It was for the good...but most definitely rash.

Reviewer: Gul Rejal Signed [Report This]
Date: 27 Dec 2011 10:53 Title: The Link

The moment of explanations came. Not only to explain to her superior, but to also organise her own thoughts to be able to deliver a logical reason of her action. Ronus was gentle and friendly, but it seems like she was still stressed, especially at the end, when she thought of the reasons behind his visit and information collection.

It hadn't been a terrible conversation, but it left her pumped out of energy. All she wanted was her doll to roll with in the quietest place on the Damar.

Author's Response:

I get the feeling she was trying to work it all out in her own head, too.  I one sense when she was on the ship, her mission was very "clear" in her heart and mind, but it happened so fast that I don't think she really stopped and thought about it.  And in some ways she forced herself not to think, because if she thought too hard while she was there, it could have been enough for her to get scared and stop before she could raise the knife.

And yes...I think it was very stressful to relive the extremely, extremely powerful emotions that went with being able to mutilate her own body, especially now that she knows she's done that to herself permanently.  And then as you can see, the aftereffects of the link with Saratt are still strong and she responds strongly to that, too.  To the part of her that needs and misses him.

But yeah...she felt really drained after that.  And I think she fears that her life is not finished turning all the way upside down.

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