From JRZ3@PSUVM.PSU.EDU Tue Jan 7 16:07:46 1997
Date: Sat, 4 Jan 97 23:49 EST
From: Macedon <JRZ3@PSUVM.PSU.EDU>
To: djtst18+@pitt.edu
Subject: Orfeo (story)

SUMMARY: When Bajor hosts an interstellar music festival, to which
a very unusual star singer is invited, Jake must face questions
about friendship, manhood and culture, as well as freedoms of belief.

This story resulted from the intersection of several things at once.
First, it’s the result of two challenges (not from the same person):
1) to write something outside Voyager, and 2) to write a story with
a completely *loopy* basic idea, to see if I could bring it off.
I’m afraid the resulting story may be a bit less “loopy” than the
challenger had in mind, but it’s definitely…er…different.

The plot arose from three more-or-less consecutive events: watching
the DS9 episode “The Muse,” renting the video “Farinelli,” and reading
an article entitled, “The Castrati as a Professional Group and a
Social Phenomenon, 1550-1850,” by John Rosselli. (I recommend the
article to serious opera buffs: ACTA MUSICOLOGICA 60 [1988] 148-70.)

I’ve always been partial to Jake because he’s a writer, and the idea
of sacrifice for art is an old one. The phenomenon of castrati is,
perhaps, one of the more extreme examples, but setting their beginning
in its sixteenth century historical context when Christian asceticism
was still admired, it was perhaps less extreme than moderns typically
think. Expectations about life are shaped by culture. There are few
absolutes. And for all it’s “loopy” subject, this was an excuse to
explore cultural expectations about sexuality and manhood in the
best tradition of serious anthro-SF.

Comments of all types are always welcome (jrz3@psu.edu).

DISCLAIMER: Star Trek is the property of Paramount Studios, the
following a non-profit work of fanfiction. No resemblance to any
individual, living or dead, is intended. Please contact the author
before archiving on any website other than the a.s.c archive.

Macedon, c1996
9400 words

“You are too profligate with
the gifts nature has given you;
if you would reach the heart,
you must take a more plain
and simple road.”

Emperor Charles VI to Farinelli, 1731

“The *castrato*.”
Jake had heard it whispered all morning all over the station, in
tones ranging from pity to disgust, delicate horror to prurient
interest. But he had yet to learn just who this castrato was. With a
station full of musicians and singers from all over the quadrant,
‘who’ was not immediately evident.
Space stations the size of DS9 made odd communities, blending
small-town insularity with port-town flux–material for social science
studies yielding dry monographs of technical language accessible only
to other specialists. Jake could have summed it up more simply: a
torrent of temperamental musicians was unusual enough for comment. A
castrato qualified as prime gossip fodder.
Were Nog still around, Jake could have counted on him for the
details. But Nog was at the academy, and bothering his father to
satisfy curiosity was unwise. He tried Odo, who was making the rounds
of the promenade. “Who’s this castrato everybody’s talking about?”
Odo eyed him. “‘Everybody’, Mr Sisko? ‘Everybody’ would seem to
be something of an exaggeration. *I* am not talking about ‘this
castrato’, but would I not count among ‘everybody’?”
Jake made a gesture of frustration. “Odo, you know what I mean!”
“I’m afraid I do not. Nor do I think it any of your business
until–and unless–the person in question makes his presence known.
Or does personal privacy count for nothing?” And Odo stalked off.
Testy. But Jake supposed that was what a body got for asking one
anomaly about another.
So he wandered about, listening carefully. Among the skills his
writing manuals insisted one acquire, the twin arts of listening and
watching stood paramount.
He got an earful.
“It is an abomination!” That from Worf. “The sacrifice of one’s
manhood for art! Klingons do not condone such…mutilation.”
Quark’s assessment had been more pragmatic: “High cost for high
notes, seems to me.”
Others, like O’Brien, simply found the topic too uncomfortable.
Jake noticed him get up and walk away when his neighbors at the bar in
Quark’s fell to discussing the matter.
But the most interesting conversation he overheard was between
Kira, Dax, and the doctor. Jake had climbed the stairs to the bilevel
above, sat nursing a rootbeer while he eavesdropped on discussions
immediately beneath.
“I can’t believe a civilized society still condones castration,”
Kira said.
“Maybe it was an operation from medical necessity,” Dax replied.
“Julian, what do you think?”
“Oh, yes!” interrupted Kira, “And after, he just *happened* to go
on to become a vocal virtuoso? Seems a little convenient to me.”
“Like an attack by wild geese,” the doctor said, half laughing.
“An attack by…what?”
“Wild geese. Or pigs. Or a fall from a horse. The usual
excuses trotted out in the autumn of the operatic castrati. In its
heyday, no one made excuses at all. From the medical histories, it
seems to have been a common, fairly safe operation.”
“So you think this singer may be a Terran?” Dax asked.
“I have no idea. The practice of castration was common in the
histories of many humanoid worlds: for religious reasons, punishment,
slavery or–occasionally–art.”
“But that’s *history*,” Kira insisted. “No one still does it.”
“Actually yes, some do.”
“Well, our friends the Cardassians, for one.”
“Figures,” Kira muttered. Jake heard her sit up in her chair.
“But it’s cruel–mutilating little boys just to preserve a voice.
It’s unnatural!”
“Nerys,” Dax said, “by some lights, *I’m* unnatural, being a
joined Trill.”
“Symbiosis is normal for Trills. Cutting off boys’ balls isn’t!”
“Bluntly put,” Bashir said with a wince in his voice.
Jake had winced, too.
“But Trill hosts don’t *need* a symbiont to survive,” Dax pointed
out. “To be a joined Trill is the exception, not the rule. Modern
Trill culture has made it an honor, but in our past, some parts of the
planet viewed it as ‘unnatural’–a punishment, or a burden. There was
even a brief phase on the South Continent when joined Trills were
hunted down and burned alive.”
“Witch hunts,” Bashir said.
“Similar,” Dax agreed. “But definitions of what’s natural and
unnatural are more cultural than we usually like to admit–or even
Kira sighed. “You’re right; I know. But it just feels…
barbaric. Something the Cardassians would do. I feel sorry for him.
Whoever he is.”
And therein lay the rub. Jake had amassed vast and varied
opinions about the practice of castration, but no one seemed to know
who the castrato actually was. Not even his fellow musicians and
singers had met him yet. Jake began to wonder if he existed at all: a
rumor with no substance?
Returning to the cabin-suite he shared with his father, Jake
tried focusing attention on something marginally productive: his
writing. He pondered using a castrato for a character in a story, but
shied away from it. ‘Write what you know.’ And he certainly did not
know about *that*.
His father was home; Jake set aside the PADD and rose, wandered
out into the main room. “Hey, Dad.”
Sisko stood just inside the doorway, hands clasped before him in
that way he had: poised to speak but frozen the moment before. Then
he dropped his hands to his side and smiled. “There’s a special guest
who needs an escort. He’s around your age and I wondered if you’d be
willing to show him around the station? The two of you might get
Jake’s internal warning buzzer went off. “One of the musicians?”
“Yes, one of the musicians.”
Almost, almost, Jake asked, The castrato?–but checked himself.
If his father knew of his interest, he might change his mind. His
father had mixed feelings about Jake’s occasional obsessions with
research. ‘Learn about people because they interest you, JakeO…not
because you want story ideas.’
“Just let me put back on my shoes–” Jake said now.
They circled around to the visitors’ side of the habitation ring,
passing a number of musicians going to and fro in the hallway,
carrying instrument cases, folders of music, or calling out to one
another in various languages from dozens of worlds. Bajor was hosting
a month-long music festival–her attempt to be seen by the Federation
as more than a charity case. Art had a sacred place in Bajoran
society: the Inspiration of the Prophets, and Bajor hoped to become
one of the Federation memberworlds known for artistic contributions,
along with Betazed, Vulcan, Sivao, Cygnus, and Hamal.
At the very end of the corridor, Jake’s father stopped, hesitated
and turned. “I asked you to be Salene’s escort not just because
you’re around the same age, but because you’re both artists. You’ll
understand him in a way others wouldn’t.” Sisko held Jake’s eyes a
moment. “I know I can trust you for discretion and tolerance.”
Meaning his father would expect it, but Jake still felt warmed by
the confidence. Sisko hit the buzzer. After a moment, the door
opened and he ushered Jake inside.
“Captain Sisko, be welcome,” said an unseen speaker. The voice
was too pure and fluted to be male, too low to be a woman. It rang
like an alto bell.
The castrato.
Jake felt a furtive excitement kick hard in his belly.
Sisko spoke to a shadowed corner behind a slatted-wood partition.
“Chi`pah Salene, may I introduce my son, Jake? Jake’s a writer.”
“Well, I’m trying to be,” Jake corrected, shifting posture
awkwardly. His father embarrassed him when he introduced him that
way. “I don’t have anything published yet.”
“A writer is one who writes–whether published or not,” said the
bell voice. The shadow stirred, then stepped forward. Jake found
himself eye-to-eye with the dark-robed owner of the voice.
Being eye-to-eye with anyone was, for Jake, an experience in and
of itself.
“You’re tall!” he said, stupidly.
“It is not an uncommon trait, for a eunuch.” The castrato did
not smile, but managed somehow to convey a bitter amusement.
Salene was a Vulcan.


Jake took Salene on a tour of the promenade, though a certain
protectiveness on his part kept them out of Quark’s. He was afraid
the denizens of the bar would stare.
But, in fact, no one stared at Salene at all. When Kira passed
them on the walk, she waved distractedly to Jake, smiled a little at
Salene–politeness to a stranger–then hurried on her way as if she
had noticed nothing especially amiss about the Vulcan.
Well, Jake thought, Salene was hardly a circus freak. He was
even kind of attractive, in an odd way. And his alto-bell voice
struck as different in quality rather than range. Some of the other
male singers had more obviously high voices and several looked more
effeminate–mostly by choice. Salene’s only affectation was his hair.
He wore it long, pulled back in a simple ponytail. Even that was not
unique. Others among the Vulcan musicians eschewed the classic
straight-banged cut. Their version of bohemian rebellion, Jake
supposed; Salene’s differed simply in degree. It served a second
function, too. Pulled back, the severity de-emphasized the roundness
of his face, made him look more adult.
And *that* was his real difference: a subtle, childlike androgyny
stemming from softness of feature without the masculine lines that
adolescence should have given to jaw and chin: arrested innocence. A
stretched child who spoke like a man and sang like an angel.
A sudden horror shivered down Jake’s spine, the first he had
felt. Salene, who had been examining knickknacks in a tourist store,
looked over. “Are you cold?”
“No,” Jake said. “No, I just…somebody walked over my grave.”
Embarrassed, he shrugged.
Up went an eyebrow. “Is that a human superstition?”
“What? The grave-thing? Yeah. You’ve never heard it before?”
Salene shook his head and flipped back over the vase he had been
examining, set it down. “Vulcan glass,” he said, idly.
“There’s a lot of it, in the shops around here. It’s popular.”
“Glass, silk, raw metals, nanotechnology…these are our main
export items.”
What was Jake supposed to say to that? He had never really
figured out Vulcans, had already spent more time talking to Salene
than to any other Vulcan in his life. Not that Salene talked a lot.
In fact, he was kind of shut-mouthed, letting Jake do most of the
talking. Now, he stepped away from the shelf. “If you are willing, I
would wish to view the wormhole.”
Vulcans always said ‘wish’, too, never just ‘like.’ I’d *like*
to see the wormhole. Suddenly irritated for no particular reason,
Jake shrugged. “Yeah, sure. Come on.”
In the lift to one of the upper pylons, Salene asked, “What
manner of writing do you do?”
“I had rather supposed that.” This was offered dryly.
“Well not all writers are fiction writers,” Jake pointed out.
Salene dipped his head. “True. What manner of fiction?”
“Mainstream–character stories. I like writing about people.”
He opened his mouth then to ask Salene what kind of music he
performed, but did not. It might bring up Salene’s castration and,
except for the initial remark in his quarters, neither he nor Jake had
mentioned it since–as if the topic were taboo.
Instead, Jake added, “Most of what I do is short stuff, though I
did finish one novella. I haven’t tried a full novel yet.”
The lift arrived at the pylon top. They exited and Jake led
Salene over to a porthole. “Perhaps you will share one of your
stories with me?” Salene asked.
“Sure,” Jake replied, at once flattered and confused. What would
a singer like Salene want with Jake’s intermediate fiction? Only four
years Jake’s senior, Salene not only had a professional career, but a
celebrated one. Jake knew that because his father had said so before
leaving them together. Salene himself had said nothing about it:
humility or reticence. Jake could not decide which.
They stood in silence then, waiting for the wormhole to burst
open like the heart of a lily, or the cyclone’s abyss. After ten
minutes had passed with nothing, Jake said, half-apologetically,
“Sometimes it takes a while.”
Salene kept his eyes fixed on the space beyond. “I have no where
else I am expected to be this evening.”
“When do you go down to Bajor?”
“The festival begins the day after tomorrow. I have been given
to understand that it corresponds to one of the Bajoran religious
holidays. The kai plans to open the performances with a speech and
some manner of rite.”
Jake snorted softly. “Maybe you could develop a twenty-four hour
Salene seemed confused. “But I have not been exposed to such a
contagion. I try to avoid it, lest it harm my voice.”
Jake glanced over at him. “It was a *joke*. I meant you ought
to think of some way to get out of having to listen to her preach.”
“But that would be rude.”
“Rudeness or misery–take your pick.”
Salene started to reply but at that moment, the wormhole opened.
“Look, look!” Jake pointed and for ten seconds, awe joined them
beyond differences of race or culture.
“*Extraordinary*,” Salene breathed.
“You didn’t see it open at all, coming in?”
“No.” Salene’s attention remained locked on the now-blank patch
of space, as if sheer intensity of anticipation could will it to open
again. His fascination struck Jake as a bit quaint.
“Don’t you travel around a lot?”
Salene finally straightened up. “No. This is the first time I
have ever come so far from home.”
“Oh. I figured you, like, toured opera or something.”
“I have been invited to do so. ‘Giulio Cesare’ among others. I
turned it down.”
Jake was baffled. “Why?”
Without warning, Salene erupted into a rain of notes, a capella,
startling in both power and absolute purity of pitch. Mouth hanging
open, Jake stood stunned by the beauty of what was so obviously a
tossed-off display. As abruptly as he had begun, Salene cut off.
“‘Qual guerriero in campo armato’.” Then, dryly, “Concerto for
larynx. Skips of a tenth, repeated notes, syncopation, wild arpeggios
–pure show. That is not what my voice is for.”
“Was that from the opera you mentioned?”
“‘Giulio Cesare’? Most certainly not. Handel had better taste.”
Jake laughed a little, leaned back against the wall and crossed
his arms. “So what do you sing, then?”
The wormhole flared once more, distracting Salene for a moment,
the burst of light paling his light brown complexion. Then he said,
“I believe you would refer to it as ‘sacred music’, though that would
be somewhat inaccurate. Nevertheless, it is music for praise…praise
of just such as this–” He gestured out the porthole. “The divine
which lies at the heart of the universe. That is why I accepted the
invitation to this festival in the first place. I wished to see the
Surprised, Jake uncrossed his arms and thumbed out the port.
“You came all this way just to see that?”
“Just? The universe is full of wonders; a stable wormhole counts
among the rarer. There is no ‘just’ to it.” He placed both hands on
the railing beneath the window and leaned forward until his nose was
inches from the clearsteel. “It wants a song.”
“You write songs, too? I thought you were a singer.”
Turning his head slightly, Salene gave Jake another of those
darkly amused looks. “An accomplished singer is more than a…parrot.
Of course I can compose, but composition is like writing, something
which–barring the exceptional such as T’Besh or your Mozart–takes
years and living experience to do well. I have been performing since
I was eighteen. But to compose…. I am not yet old enough to
compose well. Even Mozart did not write the ‘Requiem’ until he was
past thirty.”
“Is that why you’re interested in my writing? Because you want
to write, too, but in music?”
This time, Salene actually gave Jake the barest of smiles.
“I guess it’s the composers who get remembered best,” Jake said.
“Though with sound recordings, performances aren’t one-shot deals any
Standing, Salene turned at last from the porthole. “But part of
the attraction of the performing arts *is* their fleeting nature: here
and then gone. When they are caught, frozen, the life in them dies.”
He shook his head and looked away. “What point, what creativity, in
hearing songs performed exactly the same way every time? That is why
people still come to hear a musician play or sing, to see a dancer
dance, to see a play told. The hermeneutic between performer and
audience gives birth to a joint creation.” He waved one long hand.
“Freezing that on film or chip kills it. But to write, or paint, or
compose…that creates something eternal, something which each new
reader or viewer or performer gives life to again and again.” He
turned back to the porthole as if seduced. “Composition would grant
the only posterity I can know.”
Jake was quiet a while, pondering what Salene had said, unsure if
he agreed with all of it. But he understood Salene’s longing. Here
stood a man whose hope for children had been stolen from him so that
he might sing as few could, yet he wanted most to create something to
live on after him. It made Jake think again about the ethics of the
whole thing. He had never considered Vulcans cruel or uncivilized,
just obsessed in their perfectionism. But could that not result in
something as drastic as castration to preserve a perfect voice?
“Ask the question you want to ask, Jake.”
Startled, Jake jumped. “Are you reading my mind?” He had heard
that Vulcans were telepathic.
“That would be impossible; I am not touching you. But humans
always have the same questions. I am used to them.”
“How old were you when they made you what you are?”
“A castrato? You can say the word. I had the operation when I
was sixteen. That is just before the Vulcan male voice usually
breaks, allowing as much maturation as possible without spoiling the
throat. It also gives time to be certain a candidate has the talent
which makes the operation worthwhile.”
“Did it…hurt?” The very idea made him cringe.
“I was under anesthesia at the time,” Salene replied dryly. “The
procedure is hardly torture. Nor do I look different externally.
Prostheses were inserted.” He was anticipating Jake’s questions,
answering some Jake would not have dared to ask.
“Who made you actually go through with it? Your parents?”
“No one ‘made’ me do anything. I applied for permission and had
to defend my request before a court–that is the normal process.”
Stunned, Jake did not immediately reply. Salene had *asked* to
be castrated? It boggled the mind. “Normal procedure?” he finally
managed. “How many castrati are there?”
“Sixty-two, currently. T’LingShar is no Naples, and the pre-
requisites are strict: applicants must have at least one older brother
who has proven fertile, so the male line may continue; that brother or
another sibling must be willing to provide the applicant with a child
to adopt, to care for him in old age. And, of course, applicants must
have shown extraordinary vocal promise as a boy soprano or alto.”
“And you filled all those.”
“Indeed–there was little doubt my application would be approved.
My family was extremely supportive.”
The way he described it, it sounded like he had been granted a
distinction and Jake was unsure whether to be reassured by that, or
appalled. Different culture indeed.
What would you give up, to write?, he asked himself. Once, he
had nearly given up his life. Oddly, though, he would find it easier
to give up his life than his manhood.
But was that what Salene had surrendered? Did possessing a pair
of nuts make a man? To sing, Salene had forfeited fertility and
secondary sexual characteristics–and his sex drive. Or Jake supposed
he had forfeited that, having no idea if eunuchs felt sexual desire.
But if manhood was more than sex and a beard–
“If you’re proud of being a castrato,” Jake asked, “then why have
you been holing up in your quarters since you got here, like you were
ashamed of it?”
Salene leaned into the wall to study Jake. “Would you say that
our interaction tonight has been natural, or awkward?”
“Well, I just met you–”
“Our interaction tonight has been awkward because you have
studiously avoided any reference to my castration until I forced you
into it: ‘politeness’ stemming from a misplaced pity. It grows
tedious, though I prefer it to its opposite. Nevertheless. On
Vulcan, I am a singer who happens to be castrati. Here, I am ‘the
castrato’: an object of gossip and derision. And you ask why I have
kept to my rooms? I nearly refused to attend the festival at all–
except that I wished to see the wormhole.”
Jake could feel blood scald his face and thanked his complexion
that Salene could not tell. “Sorry,” he said now. “I just…can’t
imagine making the choice you did. Not that I think you’re wrong,” he
added hastily. “I just can’t imagine asking to be a castrato. Of
course, I can’t imagine taking vows as a monk, either. Celibacy isn’t
something I’d volunteer for.” He laughed to take any edge out of it.
Salene did not appear amused. “Humans,” he said, “make certain
assumptions, among them the obligation of all to engage in sexual
activity, regardless. Other peoples do not see matters quite the
same. Step beyond your Terran parochialism, Jake Sisko.” And
turning, he walked away.


Two events the next day made Jake understand Salene’s veiled
hostility of the night before. Initially, he had thought that
reaction overly sensitive, especially for a Vulcan. Twenty-four hours
later, Jake had decided that Salene’s natural skepticism was
A combined choir made up of humanoid voices from many worlds was
rehearsing in the little Bajoran chapel on the promenade. They had
been there off and on all week, working on Bajoran sacred music. At
first, Jake had thought it peculiar for a choir made up largely of
non-Bajorans to be singing Bajoran sacred music, but he had once heard
a Betazed chorus do Bach’s ‘Magnificat’, so why not? Good music was
good music.
He was walking along the promenade, a copy of one of his stories
on the PADD in his hand, trying to screw up courage to take it to
Salene. A peace offering for the night before. But he was not sure
Salene would want to talk to him. The castrato had been pretty angry,
for a Vulcan. Jake should not have made that stupid quip about
celibacy. No matter how much Salene wanted to sing, Jake imagined
enforced celibacy to be galling. Had Salene really known what he was
giving up, when he had made his choice? At sixteen, Jake would think
so, but Vulcans matured slower. And Salene had been right–not
everybody viewed sex or sexuality the same. Jake’s own friend Nog
could not talk to a woman as an equal, and Jake had heard about the
Klingons: they came out of the bedroom bloody. Vulcans were such cold
fish, maybe Salene did not miss sex at all.
A crowd had gathered to listen outside the chapel. That was not
unusual. There had been a crowd every day they had practiced. But
today it was huge, clogging up the walkway beyond. Odo stood off to
one side, looking disgusted at the disturbance, Worf with him. Jake
arrived in time to catch Worf say, “…*revolting*, all of them come
to gape at this half-man abomination.”
Worf’s words shocked Jake; what gave Worf the right to pass
judgement on another man’s personal choices? But before he could
reply, he heard it: crescendoing over the rest like the trumpet of
Gabriel, like the magic voice of Orpheus in Hades–Salene. Jake
forgot all about Worf. Jake forgot about everything.
Absolute perfect pitch without vibrato, hollow and pure and huge.
The sound wasy *huge*. It went on and on, fell in a cascade of notes,
then sailed back up beyond the range of even the best countertenor:
first soprano parts delivered with all the power of a grown man’s
lungs and diaphragm. It was the voice of God calling the world into
creation, the primeval dawn, and Jake could not listen hard enough.
It came to an end at last and Jake was shoved into rude waking by
the applause and “bravos!” He realized he stood in the middle of the
crowd with no memory of how he had ended up there, but he added
enthusiastic praise to the rest, only slowly realizing that most of
the applause was coming from the other chorus members, not the crowd
around the arch. Clapping politely, they stared at him as if he had
gone mad. A few were craning their necks for a better look. “Which
one’s the eunuch?” “The Vulcan.” “The Vulcan?” “Yeah.” “He looks
pretty normal to me.” “I thought so too. You’d never be able to tell
he hasn’t got all his parts–well until he opens his mouth.” The
other laughed.
Crude. It was just…crude. After what they had heard, how
could they talk that way? Were they deaf? Jake pushed through to the
front, just to get away from them.
The chorus itself took up most of the space in the chapel but a
select crowd sat on benches to one side: Kira and Dax; the doctor, who
Jake knew loved classical music; and his father, as the Emissary and
station captain both. The choral director was speaking to the choir
so Jake took advantage of the lull to slide into the seat beside his
father. “God, he’s great,” Jake whispered. His father flashed him a
smile. “I wish I could sing like that.”
Sisko eyed him sidewise, whispered back, “I’m glad you can’t. I
want grandchildren some day.”
It was cold water, freezing Jake on the bench. Even his father.
Even his father was making jokes about it. Not to be cruel–his
father had meant nothing cruel, no judgement against Salene for his
choice, unlike Worf. But it was a jest at Salene’s expense. Jake
could not express admiration for Salene’s voice without eliciting
comment on Salene’s condition which made that voice possible.
Abruptly, Jake realized that his whole perspective had altered at a
fundamental level. Salene had opened his mouth and pierced Jake’s
“That wasn’t what I meant,” Jake said now, softly. “I just meant
he’s amazing.”
“Yes, he is,” his father agreed, and turned back to watch. The
chorus began another piece. Eyes closed, face stark–transported–
Salene sang soprano counterpoint to a Bajoran tenor. Jake could have
sat listening forever. They finished up with something not Bajoran at
all: the ‘Sequentia, Dies irae’ from Mozart’s REQUIEM. It thundered
in the little chapel. Jake could almost feel the walls trembling.
When it ended, the maestro released the choral members. “Be back
at eighteen-hundred for another rehearsal,” he called. Salene was
immediately mobbed by the rest. He bore it patiently, though Jake
could see that he was wishing he was somewhere else. Jake’s father
waited until the crowd thinned a little before going forward to offer
his own congratulations. Jake followed, allowing his father to act as
a shield in case Salene was still mad at him. But Salene appeared to
have dismissed the entire exchange of the night before and greeted
both of them with Vulcan politeness.
Relieved Salene was willing to talk to him after all, and fired
still by the beauty of it, Jake nearly fell over himself trying to
express his appreciation. “I couldn’t believe it! It was…just
incredible, really incredible. Fantastic. I don’t even like choral
music–or I didn’t think I did–but you blew me away!” Jake had been
gesturing wildly, and now hit the doctor in the chin by accident.
“Jake!” Bashir said. “Get a hold of yourself!”
Jake pulled back and hunched his shoulders, dropped his eyes.
“I am…pleased…that it moved you so,” Salene said. And for
just a minute, Jake felt that same connection they had shared last
night watching the wormhole explode. He began to understand why
Salene might have come lightyears just to witness it. Jake would
travel lightyears for a chance to hear the miracle of Salene’s voice
But he could not say that. It would sound sentimental and
stupid, especially to a Vulcan.
In any case, Salene’s attention had been co-opted by the doctor,
who was talking to him about the finer points of something or another
musical. It was way over Jake’s head. Listening to Salene reply in
kind, Jake’s own burst of raw enthusiasm sounded even more juvenile.
“Just incredible” was no kind of educated response. He glanced down
at the PADD in his hand, feeling doubly foolish for even thinking to
give his very mediocre writing to someone who sang like Salene did.
He turned to go. “Jake–a moment,” Salene said, interrupting Bashir
to do so. “Is it possible for you to stay a moment?” Jake nodded and
Salene turned back to let Bashir finish what he had been saying.
Baffled, Jake waited. The crowd inside the chapel had dispersed,
Jake’s father and Kira already gone with them. Only a few people
still hung about, chatting. Bashir finally made his goodbyes and
joined Dax at the door. They went off together, discussing the
performance. Salene turned then. “Thank you for waiting. I thought
he would never stop.”
Salene’s response took Jake by surprise. “Doctor Bashir? But he
knows a lot about classical music. I figured you’d like talking to
him.” He shrugged, suddenly embarrassed again. “I just say stupid
stuff like ‘it blew me away.’ That’s real sophisticated critique!”
Salene tilted his head. “Jake–the good doctor’s comments were
merely an attempt to impress, although innocently meant, I think.
Yours were sincere. The greatest praise any artist can receive is
that instinctive enthusiasm…in whatever idiom it expresses itself.”
It seemed a strange view, coming from a Vulcan. Jake would have
assumed raw emotionalism offensive to Salene. But an artist was an
artist, whatever the race–moved by beauty and wanting to share it.
He remembered Salene’s awe over the wormhole, grinned. “Me hearing
you this morning was a little like you seeing the wormhole last night.
Up went Salene’s eyebrow. “That is the kindest compliment anyone
has paid me in a very long time.” He glanced down, noticed the PADD
in Jake’s hand. “Is that, perchance, one of your stories?”
“Yeah, but–”
Reaching out, Salene plucked it from Jake’s fingers. “Come, I
wish to read it–and to get something to drink.”
Jake thought for a second, then decided. “We could go to
“Lead on.”
This time they were, indeed, stared at. Jake realized that he
had kept Salene out of Quark’s yesterday not to protect the castrato
from stares–Salene was evidently used to them–but to protect himself
from speculation about why he would hang out with a eunuch. Today, he
did not care what they thought. Salene was his friend. Social
disapproval be damned.
Yet for all that disapproval, Jake could never have anticipated
the violent depth of religious opposition that was possible.


“This is quite good,” Salene said. “Although it is rather…
spicy.” Holding his head back a little, he sniffed.
“Clears your sinuses,” Jake said, grinning.
“Actually, rather the reverse.”
“Oh. Sorry. I shouldn’t have cooked Creole; you have to sing.”
Salene shook his head, forked more rice. His long hands might
have seemed unwieldy but for an innate grace which turned them
elegant. Weirdly hypnotized, Jake watched him eat. “Actually,
concerns about various foods are based more on supersition than
reality,” he said, oblivious to Jake’s attention. “Contrary to
popular belief, milk does *not* spoil the vocal chords before a
performance. And my sinuses will clear long before rehearsal.” Then
he looked up. “What led you to learn to cook? Is it because your
father is often busy with station business?”
Caught staring and embarrassed for it, Jake laughed. “Dad’s a
better chef than me!” He gestured with his fork. “See, it’s kind of
a tradition that the Sisko men cook. Maybe before you go back to
Vulcan, I can get my dad to make dinner for you.”
“I would appreciate that.”
“And if you’re ever in New Orleans, you should visit my grandpa’s
restaurant. Tell him I said to serve you the Sisko Special–without
meat, of course. But don’t go there before you have to sing. Talk
about stopping up your sinuses! It’s really hot.”
“I will keep that in mind.”
When they were done, Salene offered to help Jake clean up but
Jake refused. “You’re the guest.” Salene seemed to accept that,
wandered over to the living room area and sat down in a chair. Jake
hesitated, then asked, “Do you think the conductor would mind if I
came tonight to listen?”
“Given the crowd this morning, I doubt it,” Salene replied dryly.
He started to place his glass on the coaster beside him, then paused
to lift the coaster and examine it. “Where is this from?”
Jake took the chair across from Salene’s. “I don’t know; Dad
found it somewhere. It’s Zulu work. Some of our ancestors were Zulu.
That’s where I get the height.” Jake indicated his legs, stretched
out in front of him. “Are your ancestors tall, too?”
“Not particularly. As I said, my height is largely a function of
being a eunuch.”
“Why?” Jake suddenly wanted to know more about it, and Salene
had told him not to mince around. So Jake took him at his word.
“The ends of the long bones do not harden as soon,” Salene
explained now, patient. “That results in a mild elongation of the
entire frame. Despite the fact you and I are very nearly the same
height, I believe you would find my arms to be longer than yours, and
my chest cavity larger, as well.”
“So what you’re saying is I couldn’t wear your shirts.”
Salene frowned. “Why would you wish to?”
Jake laughed. “I’ve really got to teach you a sense of humor,
“I would rather you did not.”
That just made Jake laugh harder. Salene watched, but without
any evident irritation. Jake suspected that–whatever he said–he had
meant to make Jake laugh. Jake was starting to get a feel for how
Vulcans operated, and it was nice to have someone his own age to talk
to again. Jake had been a little lonely since Nog had left. More,
Salene touched a side of him that Nog could never understand. Salene
and Nog in the same room together would be like mixing ammonia with
bleach: deadly to everyone around.
That sobered Jake, made him feel slightly guilty, as if liking
Salene were a betrayal of his friendship with Nog. But could a guy
not have two friends? Even two friends who wouldn’t necessarily like
each other?
“Is something troubling you?” Salene asked. He seemed to possess
an uncanny, annoying ability to read Jake’s face.
“I was just thinking of my friend Nog. He went to Starfleet
Academy not long ago.” Jake shrugged.
“You miss him.” It was not a question.
“Did you also wish to attend the Academy?”
“Me? God, no. I mean, I don’t dislike Starfleet or anything–my
dad’s in it, after all–but it’s just not for me. How about you? Do
you have anybody in your family who’s in Starfleet?”
“Only a distant cousin.”
“What does your dad do? If that’s okay to ask. I know Vulcans
are kind of private.”
“Not that private, Jake.” Salene picked up his water and took a
sip, studying Jake over the rim; he seemed amused. Setting down the
glass again, he said, “My father is a luthier. One of my brothers
sings for various choruses–sometimes we have sung together. The
other brother is a child still, but I doubt very much if he will go
into music. Like our mother, he appears to lack either interest or
real ability. My mother is a poet. Perhaps his gifts will be
literary, too. Like yours.”
Jake blushed, pleased by the praise. Salene had liked the story
which Jake had let him read earlier. “You have a talent with words,”
Salene had said. “That is something which is beyond teaching.
Although–” he had hesitated, then offered carefully, “I believe this
story is lacking something…visceral.”
“No heart,” Jake had replied, sighing. He had been told that
“Perhaps you simply have yet to find a story which you truly want
to tell,” Salene had suggested, and the use of ‘want’, rather than his
habitual ‘wish’, had caught Jake’s attention.
Now, Jake said, “Well, I’ll just have to find a story I want to
tell and get it published to justify everybody’s confidence in me.”
“I have no doubt that you will.” Salene stood then, smoothing
his robe with a fluid gesture from those long hands. “I must leave
for rehearsal. I thank you again for the meal.” He gave Jake a
reserved little bow. “It was much preferable to replicated fare.”
Jake walked him to the door. “I’ll clean up here and then come
down to listen. Maybe we can go play darts after you’re done–if you
feel up to it.”
“What are ‘darts’?”
“It’s a game. Down at Quark’s.”
“Ah. Perhaps. We shall see.” And he departed.
Jake washed up the dishes, left dinner in the warmer for when his
father came off-duty, then went down to listen to the end of the
rehearsal. But by the time he arrived, he feared he might be too late
and had missed the whole thing. Choral members milled about on the
promenade outside the chapel. As Jake approached, he realized there
was something amiss. The singers were talking loudly, indignant, and
neither the director nor Salene–nor any Vulcan, in fact–was in
evidence. “The bitch kicked Salene out!” said one of the women when
Jake asked. “Said he couldn’t even set foot inside the chapel!” Then
she stormed off before Jake could learn more.
Kira was standing to one side, arms crossed beneath her breasts,
looking distraught and angry at once. Surely Kira had not done it…?
He walked over to her. “Who kicked Salene out of the chapel?” His
voice sounded angrier than he had meant it to.
Kira sighed. “Kai Winn.”
“*What?* What gives her the right–?”
“She’s the kai, Jake.” Kira looked up at him. “She’s the kai.”
“He’s a castrato. She says temple law forbids him to set foot in
any holy precinct.”
“That’s stupid!” Jake shouted, not caring for the moment that he
insulted someone else’s religion. “What if a guy had an accident?
Would he just…not be allowed to worship any more?”
Expression slightly ashamed, Kira looked down at the toes of her
boots. “But it wasn’t an accident; it was deliberate. Anyone who
deliberately mutilates him or herself–‘defiling the temple of the
body’ she called it–is not allowed to enter a precinct. Castration
counts as deliberate mutilation.” She breathed out heavily. “I’ve
never heard of this law before but I’m sure it’s there. Winn wouldn’t
dare make it up.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” Jake muttered and turned away,
headed for ops.
Gamma shift was on duty when he got there. He went straight to
his father’s office. “I wouldn’t go in, if I were you,” one of the
officers said without looking up. Jake paused. He had never before
dared to interrupt his father in a conference, but he had never before
had a friend discriminated against unfairly, either. At the door, he
took a deep breath before hitting the release and entering.
His father was leaning across the desk, knuckles resting on the
top, facing down Winn. Both looked up at Jake. “Jake, not now,”
Sisko said.
“But Dad–”
“Not now, Jake.”
Jake shot a poisoned look at Winn. “You won’t get away with
this,” he said, but stepped back to let the doors shut again, then
headed down to the guest quarters where Salene was staying. Two
Vulcans, a woman and a man, had set themselves up as an impromptu
guard outside. They did not move when Jake approached.
“The chi`pah does not wish to be disturbed,” said the man.
‘Chi`pah’? It must be some kind of title. Jake wondered what it
meant. Before, he had only dimly perceived Salene’s status among the
other Vulcans but now it struck him forcefully. “I just want to talk
to him,” he said. “He’s my friend.”
“Come back tomorrow,” the woman said. “It seems we shall still
be here.” She spoke wryly.
“You mean if he doesn’t go to Bajor, you won’t either?”
“*None* of the chorus will go,” the other Vulcan said. “Even the
Bajoran members. Chi`pah Salene was specifically invited as the
soprano. Either he sings, or none of us will.”
“Good,” Jake said decisively. Let Winn put that in her pipe and
smoke it.
The Vulcans seemed somewhat mollified by his emphatic agreement
but still refused to let him in so he took himself back to his room,
frustrated at being thwarted twice in a row. His father returned an
hour and a half later. The intervening time had cooled Jake’s temper
enough for him to realize that his father was going to be furious.
That knowledge left him weak in the belly. Sisko angry sent the
entire station creeping like mice. It was not that he was a violent
man; one simply did not tweak the panther. Jake wondered now if his
parting shot to Winn had been worth it.
When Sisko entered, father and son stared at one another across
the expanse of living room, measuring. Finally, Jake dropped his
eyes. “I put your dinner in the warmer.”
His father ignored the attempted diversion. “Just what did you
think you were doing, earlier in my office?”
Embarrassed, Jake dropped down in a chair and crossed his arms
defensively. “She made me mad!”
“She made me mad, too. But ‘you won’t get away with this’ sounds
like something out of a bad comicslip. I would think that you–the
writer–could do better!” He shook his head and walked over to the
warmer to retrieve his dinner. “Of course she can ‘get away’ with it,
Jake. She’s the kai.” He sat down at the table and spread a napkin
on his lap. “This was already enough of a diplomatic mess without you
butting in, too.”
“The choir won’t sing if Salene isn’t allowed to,” Jake said, as
if their collective defiance could prop up his own.
“So Maestro Ellis informed me–but that just inclines Winn to dig
in her heels. It’s certainly not the way to solve the issue.”
“*Solve* it!” Jake exploded to his feet, paced around. “What’s
to solve? She’s *wrong*, Dad. It’s just…*wrong*.”
Sisko steepled his hands above his plate and studied Jake a long
moment. “I’m glad that Winn’s attitude bothers you. I’m proud that
you’re turning into the kind of man who would be bothered by it. But”
–he raised a finger–“we have to be careful when we’re dealing with
someone else’s religious beliefs. Tolerance.”
“I know.” Jake sat down again, hands clasped before him, elbows
resting on his knees. “But when do we stop being tolerant and stand
up for what’s right? Remember what you said about Great Aunt Cassie
letting her granddaughter die of diabetes, for pete’s sake, because
they were Christian Scientists? You said you thought the court had
been right to force her to let Jillian receive treatment. That wasn’t
tolerating her beliefs.”
“It was a life-or-death situation, Jake. This isn’t.”
“Maybe not, but does it have to be? When is enough, enough?”
Sisko sighed. “Your question is a valid one–but difficult. Who
made it my place to judge what is ultimately right or wrong?”
“But you’re the Emissary! You could do something about it! The
people would listen to you.”
Shaking his head, Sisko took another bite and swallowed. “You
missed the point, Jake. I’m not about to start using my status as
Emissary to play God. I’m not a god. Now, if Winn were stirring up a
witch-hunt against Salene, or trying to deny his basic civil rights,
I’d slap her down so fast, she wouldn’t know what hit her. But she’s
not doing any of those things.” Sisko spread his hands. “She simply
denied Salene’s right to sing in a Temple, based on a point of their
religious law. Telling her she can’t do that would step beyond
Federation jurisdiction. We may think she’s wrong, but we can’t force
her to alter her beliefs. We can only argue our own side and see if
it changes her mind.” He paused, smiled widely. “Which is precisely
what I did.” Then he took another bite, chewed and swallowed. “I
believe our dear kai wanted to have her mind changed.”
“For once in her life, Winn seems to have done something purely
for religious reasons with no political maneuvering. I believe the
shock of hearing that Vulcan’s prize soprano was not a woman, but a
castrated man launched her into acting before thinking.”
“But how did Salene get invited in the first place?”
“An accident of terminology, apparently. Winn didn’t decide on
each of these invitations personally–she doesn’t have the time. It
was a collaboration between her office and Shakaar’s. The choices
were made by flunkies. The name ‘Salene’ sounds feminine to a Bajoran
who doesn’t know about Vulcan naming customs, and together with the
designation ‘soprano’ he got filed as a woman. Blanket invitations
were sent to each world with a list of names attached. No doubt the
Vulcans assumed Bajor knew who they were asking, while the Bajorans
assumed they knew what they were getting. Now everyone’s surprised
and Winn’s suffering from foot-in-mouth disease.”
Sisko sat back and ran a hand over his bare head. “Some of the
doubts surrounding Bajor’s Federation application include issues of
tolerance. And the Federation member who has expressed those doubts
in council most often is Vulcan. Insulting one of their most
celebrated sacred singers is not the way to convince them that Bajor
is ready to join the Federation. Winn is looking for a way to back
down without losing face. I gave her one.”
Jake opened his mouth to ask what it was, but the door buzzer
interrupted. Sisko rose to answer; Jake beat him to it. “I’ll get
it. You finish eating.”
“First rule of being in command,” Sisko said, sitting back down.
“Grab food and sleep when you can.”
Grinning, Jake opened the door. Salene stood on the other side.


Thrown entirely off-balance by Salene’s unexpected appearance,
Jake blurted, “I tried to see you earlier but they wouldn’t let me
“So I was told,” Salene said. “My colleagues can be needlessly
overprotective.” He nodded past Jake’s shoulder. “May I enter?”
“Oh–yeah.” Jake stepped aside. As he passed, Salene briefly
gripped Jake’s upper arm, a gesture intimate in its assumed
familiarity. Salene had never touched Jake before, not even
accidentally. Vulcans wore personal space like plate armor.
Face carefully neutral, Jake’s father had risen. “Chi`pah
Salene, what can I do for you?”
Salene nodded to the table with its plate of half-eaten food.
“You can finish your meal,” he replied. “I did not mean to interrupt.
Nor have I come to further complicate matters for you, captain.
Rather the reverse, I hope.”
Sisko raised an eyebrow, but sat down again. “Can I get you a
drink?” Jake asked Salene. He wanted to do something, was frustrated
by his impotence in this entire affair.
Salene shook his head, “No, but I thank you.” Then he took the
chair Jake’s father had indicated, opposite Sisko’s own at the table.
“I have been in contact with First Minister Shakaar,” he said without
preamble. Both Sisko’s eyebrows shot up but he did not comment,
continued to eat instead. Jake sat down in the third chair and folded
his arms on the table top to listen. “The First Minister has kindly
agreed to find a new location for the festival–one that will not
involve sacred property. But that could take several days, postponing
the festival’s opening and requiring all of us to impose on your
hospitality somewhat longer. Is that possible? If not, we will need
to make other arrangements.”
Jake’s father had quit eating, fork balanced forgotten in the
fingers of his right hand. “Despite Winn, you’re still willing to
sing on Bajor?”
Salene gave a small, rather un-Vulcan shrug. “If I do not sing,
the chorus will not. I owe my colleagues better than that.”
“But Winn insulted you!” Jake burst out.
Steepling his long, tan hands, Salene said, “There is no insult
where none is taken. I refuse to let one woman’s prejudice, or any
illogical pride on my part, be the ruin of this festival.”
Jake’s father shook his head. “Salene, you amaze me. But it’s
not going to be necessary to postpone the festival and find a new
location. You’ll be allowed to sing in the Great Temple after all.”
“But the law–” Salene began.
Sisko raised the hand holding the fork. “Upon reconsideration,
Winn has wisely decided that this law does not apply to offworlders.”
Jake remembered what his father had said about changing Winn’s
mind. “How did you convince her, Dad?”
“A little theological argument.” His father set down the fork
finally, leaned back in his chair, his meal forgotten. “I asked Winn
to explain the law. She said that any deliberate physical mutilation
insults the Prophets because the body is regarded as a temple. Some
Bajorans even use clip-on earrings to avoid piercing the ear. I’m
sure you’ve noticed that.”
Jake nodded. Salene simply listened.
“So”–Jake’s father spread both hands on the table–“I said that
in light of this law, of which I had been previously unaware, I would
regretfully have to cancel any future temple appearances. I most
certainly did not want to insult the Prophets. Naturally, she wanted
to know why I must cancel. I explained that I’m circumcised.”
Jake burst out laughing. Salene raised both eyebrows, but still
said nothing.
“I’m afraid the good kai did not at first know what I meant,”
Sisko added, still with a straight face.
“You mean you had to *explain* it to her?” Jake asked. “I’d have
loved to see that!”
“She was, admittedly, a bit embarrassed.” Sisko finally released
his own grin. “It’s certainly not the sort of thing that would have
occurred to her to ask; Bajorans don’t practice it. Given Winn’s
initial confusion, I’m not sure they can; I don’t think their men
possess a foreskin. But it also presented her with a puzzle: the law
meant the prophets’ own Emissary couldn’t enter one of the Prophets’
temples. She decided that in choosing me, the Prophets had declared
the law null and void–at least for non-Bajorans.” He turned to
Salene, made a little concessive gesture. “Therefore you’ll be
permitted to sing in their Great Temple after all. If you’re still
“Of course. That is what I came here for. And…a very clever
“I’ve found that dealing with Winn gives a whole new meaning to
the word ‘diplomacy’.”
Almost, almost Salene smiled.


Yet Winn’s agreement to let Salene sing did not, Jake discovered,
magically end bias against him. Protestors marched outside the Great
Temple every night that Salene performed while inside, the curious
gathered to gawk and whisper. Despite it all, Salene sang–filling
the temple’s expanse with the magnificence of that shattering soprano.
Some of the mutterers left converted; others’ prejudice rendered them
deaf to glory.
Jake, who attended all Salene’s performances, grew increasingly
frustrated with his own impotence. His father had been the one to
convince Winn to change her mind, and Salene’s graciousness and
courage had led him to perform despite insults and opposition and
picket lines. What could Jake himself possibly add to that? Yet he
desperately wanted to do something; Salene was his friend.
The answer came to him during the last performance. Positively
transfigured, Salene stepped into the spotlights and took over the
Temple, performing a brilliant coloratura by Hesse, ‘Generoso
risuegliati o core,’ followed by the sweet purity of a Vulcan hymn
which–for all its comparative simplicity–was the night’s true
apotheosis. Indescribable beauty seized Jake and shook him, nearly
made him weep in the same way the power of words could wrench his
The power of words.
Jake caught his breath. He might be no politician or diplomat,
no station captain or kai. But he was a storyteller. Diplomacy could
change the laws, force peoples’ compliance. Legislated morality.
Stories altered the capacity of the heart, made others see the world
from a wider perspective.


Jake began writing on the same day he bid farewell to Salene.
It was an awkward goodbye. Vulcans were not given to sentiment
and the profound sadness stirred in Jake by Salene’s departure
bothered him. The Vulcan had, unaccountably, come to mean more to him
in a month than some people meant after a year. Perhaps it had been
only loneliness assuaged for a while, or a young man’s desire to find
a hero. In any case, he did not know how to express himself and, in a
black muddle of misery and angry embarrassment, said, “I bet you’ll be
glad to get back to your friends in T’LingShar.”
“A Vulcan has colleagues and family,” Salene answered, unable to
quite meet Jake’s eyes as he said it, “not friends. Not often.”
“Well, you’re my friend,” Jake blurted, then blushed and looked
down at his feet, afraid he might have overstepped unspoken
But Salene said only, “I…thank you for that, Jake Sisko. Stay
in touch.” And turning, he walked through the docking tunnel into the
Vulcan transport vessel.
For a month, Jake researched, wrote, and edited feverishly, fired
by something he could not name, had not felt since the unnatural
passion stirred in him by Oniya, the vampire muse. But this time it
was different. It came from him alone, welled up inside and burst out
in an uncontrollable torrent.
Once before, he had toyed with the idea of using a castrato for a
character but had not, knowing it to be toying indeed–born of the
same perverse curiosity which had brought whisperers and rumormongers
to hear Salene sing in the temple. Yet Jake no longer watched from
the sidelines. He was in the middle of it. To write well, one had to
notice everything, it was true. But one also had to live it. Writing
was, ultimately, existential. He wanted people to know Salene as he
did now–a man, not a freak. He wanted them to hear Salene’s story.
At the end of the month, Jake sent off to Salene a final draft of
the manuscript on velslip, together with a note:

“You once said that I just needed to find a story I
wanted to tell. I’ve found it–but I won’t tell it
without your permission. The names and details have
been changed to protect the guilty.”

A few weeks later, it came back with minor musical details
corrected and two words at the end: “Sell it.”
He did. And thirteen months after that, he read his name in
print for the first time beneath the title of a story:

by Jake Sisko

*** Finis ***

Though “Orfeo” was originally written as a stand-alone story and may
certainly be read as such, there is a sequel. For those interested in
what happens next and not offended by adult material, check out “Eye
of the Storm.”


Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.