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Old January 28 2012, 02:05 AM   #1
Dinai Evtek
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"Cardassian Sunrise" (January 2012 Challenge Entry)


Cardassian Sunrise



"The story I'm going to tell you, my little ones, is something I experienced, when I was young.", Tirin began her account. "It happened exactly a hundred years ago, in a very different time. ", she looked into the faces of her young audience. "I'm sure, your teacher has told you about that time, about the Dominion, about the rebellion and what we commemorate on this holiday, today?" They were a class of pupils, maybe in third grade, but what were they taught in third grade today? As the teacher slightly nodded, she assumed it was on the curriculum. The older she became, the harder it was for her to guess the age of little children. "It is not a story of heroes and it is not a story of sacrifices, it is just a plain and simple story to illustrate, to spur your imagination, to add a facet to what you already know and maybe even teach you."

"It was a different time, but the same place.", Tirin looked around, taking in her surroundings. The dark green patches of sturdy desert grass. The reddish, yellow, white and orange colors of lichens spreading over sand-coloured blocks of stone, arranged between the footpaths. And the small but immaculately cared for beds of flowers, which were surrounded by shrubs to protect them from the hot wind. "No.", she quietly corrected herself. "Even the same place was very different."

This park lay in the heart of the city. Once it had been one of the oldest and densely populated districts. A district like a town of its own. Bustling day and night with business and leisure, young and old, students and businesspeople, workers and bureaucrats.

Now, the sole reminders were the footpaths, retracing the old streets, and the three spires of the old assembly hall, which had been left standing. Twisted and torn they were the only structure that had survived the attack. In their middle, where once an orator would have been standing on his podium, a polished black stone was set into the ground, inscribed with a single date – exactly one hundred planetary cycles around the sun ago.

Not wanting to stress her audience's exemplary patience – no doubt, a wonderful achievement of their teacher – Tirin allowed herself one last moment of contemplation, closed her eyes and felt the warm rays of the afternoon sun on her face, a grateful smile on her lips, like every time, when age and health allowed her another enjoyable day.

"As I said, I was much younger." Tirin's gaze returned to the children. "Well, not as young as you are. I was in my last year at school and prepared to start my training as a medic at the university afterwards. You all know, what a university is, do you?", she asked, to be certain. "Yes, it's that building over there.", a young boy jumped up and pointed towards a large building at the southern fringe of the park. "Yes it is. Very good.", Tirin smiled. "And do you know, what it is for, Mekru?", she read his name on the sign attached to the front of his school uniform, certainly to identify him in case he got lost. "It is a big school for when you are big and grown-up. Our teacher says, even grown-ups have to learn because learning never stops." Tirin's smile got bigger. "Your teacher is a wise man.", she nodded approvingly to the man, who could have been one of her grandchildren. "When you are grown-up and have learned everything at school, you can go to a university. But unlike at school you study just one subject instead of many, so you can become a specialist in it. And I chose to study medicine, to cure ill people and heal wounded."

"My family, relatives and whoever visited us lived in one big house. Sometimes we were over fifteen people living together. On that special day, a hundred years ago, it was me, my mother, grand-mother, aunt and uncle and my three little sisters and two little brothers. My brothers were about your age, they are twins." Twins were quite rare back then, now it happened more often, although in most cases due to fertility treatments. "Our house stood on the mountainside, over there.", she pointed to the west, where there were houses clinging to the steep incline, their sandstone facades blending into the barren face of the mountainside. "It was a long way to go down to the city, to school or even to the next transit stop, so everyone had to leave early to start his business. Oh, I often wished, we could use a transporter, like when my father returned to his warship after shore leave. He just stepped out into the courtyard and … bzzzzzing… was back at work." By now, Tirin had used a transporter several times and knew exactly how it worked, but for her a transporter was still surrounded with an air of magic.

"But no, such comforts would certainly have pampered and eventually weakened us, so we got up at sunrise, I made breakfast for everyone and woke up my siblings, to oversee that they ate their breakfast, brushed their teeth and got ready for school." Her eyes wandered over the boys and girls sitting and kneeling on the ground before her, looking healthy, good-nurtured and clean. "I'm sure it is the same today, isn't it?", she mused.

"However, that morning was different. All the adults were already up before the sun had risen. Someone had already packed baskets with food and put them on the kitchen table. At first I thought, we were going for a surprise picnic. Because…", she hesitated a moment, an idea had crossed her mind. She looked at a girl with blue eyes and two cute braids curled over her ears, who was listening attentively. "What did you eat for breakfast today, my sweet one?", Tirin asked the girl. "I had cereal mash.", she answered, bewildered. "With berries."

"You see.", Tirin went on. "It was the same back then. We also ate cereals for breakfast, but when I looked into those baskets I saw dried fish, bread, meat pie, fruits and sweet pickles... We weren't starving, but we had sparsely to eat, so you would never ever have had this all for breakfast. I had seen such baskets full of delicious food only twice in my life before, when we had gone to a picnic, so when I saw my mother I flew around her neck, shouting: 'We're going on a picnic. Thank you, mommy.' And I kissed her on her cheek. She hugged me, but when I saw her sad smile, I knew, something was wrong.", Tirin's happy face slowly became sadder and she could see her expression mirrored in the pupils' faces.

"She hugged back me very strongly and then looked into my eyes. For a while she said nothing, but I could see a wet glimmer in the corners of her eyes. Do you know, how terrible it is to feel, that your mother is sad?" She looked around, but most of the children silently denied. "It grips your heart and then ties a knot around it.", Tirin put her hand on her chest, just over her heart and clenched it into a fist. "Tighter and tighter until you hear your heart hammering and you can hardly breathe." She inhaled, deep and slow, to get rid of this memory. "It makes me happy to see, that you don't know this feeling and I wish you will never experience it."

"So, when she let go of me, she spoke, her voice somber and steady." Tirin tried to imitate her mother's voice and mood. "Tirin, today is a very special day, a day that will either go down in our history or will mark the end of it. You know, that me, … we all have been active for weeks, doing things and holding meetings, that we kept hidden from you." Tirin looked at the children. "Certainly it hadn't escaped me.", she said jokingly. "Being young doesn't mean you are stupid. I think you can confirm that.", she added with a conspiratorial smile, which earned her some giggles.

Then she adopted her mother's face and voice once more. "It was for your own safety. And for your own safety I will not tell you even now, what it was about. Because we cannot be sure that there won't be someone coming to you, asking questions." Tirin knew back then, that 'someone, who will ask you questions', was a very euphemistic description, even if she didn't fully grasp what it meant for the one being questioned. Now, she knew what it and decided, it was nothing for those young ears to hear. "'I know you are a good girl, I know you knew your Citizens' Oath by heart when you were three years old and have ever since recited it every morning at school.', my mother said. 'Until now, those were only words for you. But today you will deliver your promise.'"

Tirin looked gravely into the faces of the pupils. "I know you still recite this oath every morning at school, don't you?", her eyes, colored the same steely grey as her hair, shot a questioning look towards the teacher. "Yes, we do, Professor Partak ", he answered quickly. "The same words you spoke over a hundred years ago." "Good." Tirins smile grew broad with satisfaction. "And therefore I know, you can repeat this one line my mother cited to me." She paused for a moment. "… Cardassia, I dedicate my life to you, to your children, to serve and protect…", she paused and let it sink, waiting until little lips stopped moving as they silently repeated her words. "It was my time to serve and protect."

***
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Old January 28 2012, 02:06 AM   #2
Dinai Evtek
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Re: "Cardassian Sunrise" (January 2012 Challenge Entry)

"Have you ever been to one of those old houses of the city?", Tirins voice was lively again as she pointed to the western mountains. The children nodded. "I guessed so, because some of them have been converted to museums.", she smiled. "Then you certainly saw, that they aren't simply houses on a hillside. Most of them are built on or in front of natural caves. Caves, which are much older than Culat, caves, which are much older than Cardassia itself. Caves, so old, that some scientists think, the first Hebitians might have lived there, before even they learned how to build houses."

"So like many of those houses, ours had a secret tunnel, leading to a cave deep in the mountain." She winked when saying 'secret'. "Well, actually it wasn't that secret. Those tunnels and caves were used to store food, because the coolness kept it fresh. But when we were children, they were 'secret', because we weren't allowed to enter. The adults said, it was too dangerous, but being an adult myself by now, I think they said that only, because otherwise we would have gone there and stolen some sweet fruits out of the storage.", Tirin chuckled. In fact, on more than one occasion she and her older sister had climbed down there and had a snack or two.

"When all the adults had left the house, it was my job to care for my smaller sisters and brother. As several of our neighbors joined my mother, they brought their small children with them, so it was my job to care for them too. Each of the parents hugged and kissed their children goodbye like it was the last time. I yearned to know what they were up to, but at the same time feared to know the whole truth, because knowledge can make you free, but it seldom makes you free of sorrows."

A girl sitting in the third row raised a hand. "Yes… Larna?", Tirin encouraged her to speak. "Where did your mother go?", Larna asked, curious. "My mother went to the City Hall and Administration. She worked there, although her department was part of the Archon's office, I later found out, that on this special day, she had somehow managed to get into the control rooms, from which all city's systems are supervised and controlled, from light and energy to water, to public transport and telecommunications. She and some colleagues were part of the rebellion and sabotaged critical systems.", Tirin explained. "And your aunt?", Larna asked on. "She was an engineer at one of the power plants. Her mission was to shut it down, so there was no energy left for communication between the Dominion soldiers in the city and their headquarter in the capital."

And before the girl could open her mouth again, Tirin continued. "They were all somehow involved with the rebellion. In very different ways. My uncle for example was a teacher, he was as old as yours is and his pupils were as young as you are now. That morning he went to his school, like he did every day. However, that day, he wouldn't teach in a classroom, but he took his class for a very long hike outside of town, officially to teach them geology and in reality to get them at a safe distance." A hand went up. "Speak, Rogat." A nice little boy with green eyes spoke up. "But couldn't they tell everyone to stay at home or look for a safe place?" Tirins smile changed and became full of sorrow. "No, they could not. Because the only chance was to take the enemy by surprise. If everyone had been warned, they would have behaved different and the enemy would have become suspicious. They did what they could, planning last minute safety precautions for all those people whom they dared not warn." Tirin realized, this was a good point to return to her original story.

"Like I was instructed to take 'my' group of children down into the caves like it was a happy picnic trip. And I did. We climbed down the tunnel, into the cave. There were quite some dark nooks and corners and my twin brothers played jokes on us, hiding there and jumping out of the dark onto your back like some hungry bloodsucking cave bats." Rogat, the boy with the green eyes, grinned. "Oh I see you all would have got along very well.", Tirin grinned back at him.

"I was told to stay down there the whole day and unless someone came for us, also the whole night. Everything should be over and secure to come back by then." Tirin looked back at the boy with the green eyes. "If you ask, why so many people weren't saved, you should never forget your perspective. Now, you are looking back at history. At that time, history lay before us. No one could know what it would bring. No one could have assumed what awaited Cardassia. No one could have thought of such violence and destruction. Looking back unto history is a very unique all-knowing perspective and before criticizing out of that perspective, be sure not to let it go to your head." Her eyes met his, and he quickly averted it, Tirin's word had reached their target. "If we knew what awaited us, our worries would certainly have been different. And maybe they would have been numerous enough to deem the sacrifice too costly."

"For me, my first and foremost worry was, how to keep all those children happy and occupied. I think, your teacher could tell a thing or the other about this. Or not? Don't you all sometimes transform into a flock of desert hoppers.", she sent a sympathetic smile to the young man. "Like on a long, boring trip?", the children nodded fervently. "And all you wanted to do, was run, jump and climb around the train or the bus, but you weren't allowed, because there wasn't enough space and you had to sit still?" Tirin smiled. The nodding of heads all around told her, that children were still the same. "So, what did your teacher do then?", she asked around. " We sang songs! ", one shouted. " He did vocabulary quizzes! And spelling.", another one said. " And he taught us rhymes!", one added. "We played memory games." Tirin smiled benignly at the teacher. "You are very inventive." "I do my best.", he answered, slightly blushing.

"See, those were the same things we did. And we played childrens' kotra. I'm not sure, if it is still played today. Do you know it? No?", Tirin asked, when they looked puzzled. She rose from the stone she had been sitting on and kneeled into sand, among the children. "The board looked like this.", she started drawing the lines in the sand with her finger, less complex than a normal kotra board, but still recognizable. "Down in that cave we didn't have any playing pieces with us, so we simply used little breadcrumbs and dried berries.", she began to set some small stones on the improvised board. "And whenever you had captured one of your opponents' pieces, you were allowed to eat it." The children laughed. "Yes, for some this was quite an incentive. Let me show you, how to play it." And she started to explain the rules and showed the movements of the pieces. When she was sure, every one of them had memorized the board and the rules, she smoothed the sand and before she even tried to get up, the teacher was at her side. "Thank you, my son.", she took his steadying hand, and returned onto the stone, her back resting against one of the three spires. She didn't really need his help, but out of tradition she endorsed his respectful offering.

"As nice as this sounds, the adventure soon faded. It must have been around sunset, we had played, enjoyed our picnic and even made a map of the caves we had crossed. Everyone was tired enough to go to bed, or rather, sleep on the ground, wrapped in warm blankets and ready for a bedtime story. Then, suddenly, the whole mountain jumped!" She looked at the kids, her eyes wide open. "You don't believe me, do you? A mountain cannot jump, that's what you want to say, don't you? But I tell you, it did. Do you remember, last year, when the old bridge was demolished?" She was sure, everyone remembered it, because so many had come to watch. "Yes, it was a big BOOOM!", one boy shouted joyfully. "Yes it was a big BOOOM!", Tirin repeated. "And you could feel it everywhere in the city.", the boy nodded. "Back then, it was a much bigger BOOM! It must have been over hundredfold as big a BOOM! And that’s why even the mountains shook and vibrated, and we all were gripped by fear, as there were grinding noises, booming and shattering. We all huddled together and held us very close, the babies started to cry and we started to hum songs to calm them down… them and us. It felt like hours but it were maybe twenty minutes until everything stopped and silence came back. We didn't know what happened. I suspected it could have been a bomb, but why would someone detonate a bomb in Culat? Was it part of what my mother and the rest were planning? But why a bomb? Why would they want to destroy anything?" Tirin looked around, nonplussed.

"Later I heard about the air raid the Dominion fighters flew over our Culat. I heard, that we were lucky, as the mountains around us shielded a lot of the city." Tirin pointed out the mountain range that went from west to east around the town. "The easiest way was to fly from south to north and drop the bombs quite early." She painted an imaginary route into the sky. "As the global transponder system was offline – that is a system that tells a pilot exactly where he is flying and helps him to plant a bomb very exactly- they flew at sight. And if you fly at sight, you are not as precise. These pilots weren't used to it and so part of our city got away unharmed."

A sad smile crossed Tirins lips. "That is once more the privileged perspective of looking back. That morning, it looked differently. If I weren't Cardassian, I might say, I will remember it for all my life.", she smiled. "But as I am Cardassian, I do remember it for all my life."

***
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Old January 28 2012, 02:08 AM   #3
Dinai Evtek
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Re: "Cardassian Sunrise" (January 2012 Challenge Entry)

"My mother came early in the morning. Everyone was asleep and she woke just me and silently motioned me to the exit of the caves. I hesitated, could I leave everyone alone? But she insisted. The house was empty; it was only her and me. She looked tired, both her body and her soul seemed exhausted, whatever was her job that day, it hadn't been an easy one. 'Come with me', she spoke softly.", Tirin once more tried to imitate her voice.

"We went outside. It was short before sunrise; the moons' light was very faint. From the edge of the street I looked down to the center of the city." Tirin pointed out the street, which ran along halfway up the mountainside, it had a good view all over the city and even further out into the land. "As soon as my eyes fell upon the city, I gasped, normally I would have seen merely dark shades and shapes, but now, there was a dirty yellow glow. I saw fires burning, Their flickering light hardly illuminated anything, all I could see was dust and smoke and an awful stench filled the air. Imagine, as if everyone had left their evening meal on the stove until it burnt to ashes. And add burning wood and plastics…. That's what it smelled like." She wrinkled her nose, she still could not stand the smell of burnt food, especially not burnt meat, for that was part of this mixture, as she discovered later that day. "Awful, isn't it?"

"As you can imagine, I wanted to know, what happened. The city that was my home was in ruins. Where there had been houses and shops and offices and workshops the day before, there were fires and smoke, dust and debris. And then it dawned on me, that if the houses were gone, what had happened to the people living and working there?"

"But my mother silenced me.", Tirin put her fingers to her lips in this universal gesture. "'Look', she said and pointed to the horizon. The Blind Moon was just vanishing and a light red fringe was starting to burn on the horizon. We stood in silence, side by side, and we watched as the fringe grew bigger, slowly creeping higher and higher, watched how it painted the sky a deep orange, chasing away the darkness, turning black into violet and purple until the sky burned brighter than the fires. We watched as the sun rose, an orange disk, raising up through sheets of dust and haze." Tirin lowered her voice to a whisper. "'Cardassia brought a huge sacrifice. And it will suffer for many years to come.', my mother quietly whispered. 'You will hear of death and destruction, Tirin, of sadness and sorrow. But that's not everything.'.", Tirin paused. "I want you to see it as I see it, to understand, not what we lost, but what we gained. A new day is dawning… for us, for all of Cardassia.'"

Having told her this, her mother had gone back into the house and left her standing outside, Tirin recalled. She had watched the sun rise higher, high enough to reach over the mountain tops and slowly bathe the city center in its golden light. All she could discern was a roiling mass of dust, streaked with black smoke coming from countless fires. And out of this chaos rose three twisted metal spires, clutching at the sky like the fingers of a man drowning in quicksand.

A single tear built in her left eye, as these memories carried her away. She quickly wiped it away and took a second to compose herself before she went on, pushing away thoughts of loved ones reported dead, of homeless orphans, of radiation poisoning.

"This is, what I want you to remember, my children. You hear a lot of stories about this day. You hear of sacrifices, of heroes, of deaths – you're told to be grateful, to worship and to mourn. But I want you to remember, this is a day to celebrate!" , Tirin had raised her voice, had raised her arms, steady and determined. "Whatever fires consumed Cardassia, none was brighter than the dawn of this new day. The dawn of a new Cardassia!" She ended in one liberating breath, "Our Cardassia!"

---
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Old January 28 2012, 02:49 AM   #4
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Re: "Cardassian Sunrise" (January 2012 Challenge Entry)

Even though I knew where the whole story was headed--I guess knowing Cardassia's history makes it no surprise for anyone--it was still quite a powerful picture. So often we hear about those who made the difference, about heroes and "the big picture," so rarely about the same events from a perspective of an ordinary citizen. Someone who survived, but was no great hero and no great saviour of the day.

The only thing that didn't fit the picture were bombs. I'd expect Jem'Hadar bug-like fighters to fire disruptors, phasers, torpedoes, or any other "modern" kind of weapon.

But it was an interesting story. Slowly building the atmosphere; I imagine Tirin to be someone in her years, so speaking slowly, while her memory brought a lot of images to share--good things from her childhood before the great tragedy marred it.
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Old January 28 2012, 12:44 PM   #5
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Re: "Cardassian Sunrise" (January 2012 Challenge Entry)

That was a really absorbing read. The perspective of a child but told through the wiser years looking back made it very effective. You created a great atmosphere that slowly peeled away to the conclusion. It was very effective. What especially worked was the fact you did not simply go into flashback mode. Instead, we got treated to Tirin talking to and with the Cardassian school children. It added a warmth and a connection to the Tirin character and the overall story so that the horror of what descended had more impact. Really well done Dinai.
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Old January 28 2012, 10:37 PM   #6
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Re: "Cardassian Sunrise" (January 2012 Challenge Entry)

i like it
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Old January 28 2012, 10:58 PM   #7
Dinai Evtek
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Re: "Cardassian Sunrise" (January 2012 Challenge Entry)

I'm glad you liked my story and thank you for your kind comments.

Gul Re'jal wrote: View Post
The only thing that didn't fit the picture were bombs. I'd expect Jem'Hadar bug-like fighters to fire disruptors, phasers, torpedoes, or any other "modern" kind of weapon.
In a way, you are right, bombs seem a bit backward. I didn't go into deep research about the tactical abilities of a Jem'Hadar fighter in a planetary atmosphere. I rather followed a hunch. Disruptors came to my mind, but they seemed to 'clean', I suspect the Dominion to use something more 'dirty' when taking vengeance, weapons that would not only kill and destroy but also render the target area uninhabitable or at least inhospitable for a certain time. Maybe photon torpedoes are suitable for this... I simply thought, for a civilian, if it sounds like an explosion, it's a bomb
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Old January 29 2012, 02:57 AM   #8
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Re: "Cardassian Sunrise" (January 2012 Challenge Entry)

That's a good argument--the civilian explained things the way she remembered and it didn't have to be technologically accurate Especially since she was a child back then.
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Old January 29 2012, 06:23 PM   #9
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Re: "Cardassian Sunrise" (January 2012 Challenge Entry)

Had a very 1776 feel to it (as told by an elder in, say, 1826). Very well told.
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Old January 30 2012, 07:30 AM   #10
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Re: "Cardassian Sunrise" (January 2012 Challenge Entry)

While there are a few punctuation and grammatical errors, overall the story is quite engaging--especially, in my opinion, seeing everything from a civilian point of view.

I am curious about one thing, though...how much have your Cardassians learned the lessons of those times? I see the same "Citizen's Oath" is still in place. Is that a sign that the dictatorship survived? (And if it is, can we trust the narrator?)
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Old January 30 2012, 07:28 PM   #11
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Re: "Cardassian Sunrise" (January 2012 Challenge Entry)

I liked the way you set up the story as a commemorative event - a look back, yet a look forward to an era of greater hope. Nice use of imagery throughout. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
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Old January 30 2012, 10:00 PM   #12
Dinai Evtek
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Re: "Cardassian Sunrise" (January 2012 Challenge Entry)

Nerys Ghemor wrote: View Post
I am curious about one thing, though...how much have your Cardassians learned the lessons of those times? I see the same "Citizen's Oath" is still in place. Is that a sign that the dictatorship survived? (And if it is, can we trust the narrator?)
Maybe I should write more, so you can see whether you can trust the narrator Just kidding...

I didn't / forgot to mention it - maybe I will, if I write more... my general idea for the "Citizen's Oath" is, that it is much older and has only been perverted during the military dictatorship. For me Cardassians seem to be quite conscious of traditions, so I imagine they would rather purge a tradition of its 'perversions' than start a new one.
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Old January 31 2012, 05:32 PM   #13
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Re: "Cardassian Sunrise" (January 2012 Challenge Entry)

If it was revised back to some pre-oppression state, so that it can no longer be used to teach people that it's OK for the state to abuse them...then that helps a lot. I was afraid that your Cardassia had changed in name only (which could have meant the narrator's story had been twisted in some way for propaganda purposes). I'm glad to know there were more changes than that--and that therefore the narrator is trustworthy.
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