Warning: Violence Please note this story is a huge spoiler for “Shaping a Cardassian” for Chapter 7 “A way of the... rebel?” and is strongly connected to the “Shaping a Cardassian” storyline. I would like to thank Nerys Ghemor, who let me use her Cardassian alphabet letters' names. You can find full lessons here. “Căprul” Pain in his ribs brought him back to reality. “It's time,” a voice boomed over his head. He was surprised that his broken body was still able to experience any pain. He was sure some of his ribs were broken and wondered how come his lungs were not punched yet. “Get up!” the same voice yelled. He opened his eyes, but didn't really see much; it was too bright, or maybe his eyes were too tired. He didn't know how long he slept, was it whole night or twenty minutes? It didn't matter anyway. He doubted any time would be sufficient after seven days of no sleep at all. He tried to sit up, but his weak hand wasn't able to support his weight, so it sled, spreading him back on the floor. He wanted to give up, but strong pain in his solar plexus 'encouraged' him to try one more time. He leaned on both his hands this time, he could feel they were shaking and threatened to yield again, but he hoped they would not disappoint him and work for this one last time. He stood up, leaning against the wall behind him, which some merciful gods placed behind his back. He would meet with the floor again if not the presence of the wall. He closed his eyes and then opened them again. It was still too bright, but he could recognise shapes and shadows. “Are you ready?” the voice asked. Was he? Could anyone be ready for this? Maybe it wasn't such a good idea. Maybe no one cared and his decision, his stubbornness was idiotic and meaningless. He hoped not. He didn't remember who he was being stubborn for. His wife? His children? His mother? Father? Crew? Cardassia? Did it matter? Was there any difference between them? Did any of them cared? He was pushed. The hands were not Cardassian. Jem'Hadar. Of course it mattered! They could deprive him of sleep for eternity and he would not admit he was wrong. What those seven days were compared to eternity? What sitting on an inverted stool for hours meant compared to his dignity? Lots of others before him sacrificed much more than just fingernails, which were torn out of his fingers after burning them with naked fire for 'easier' extraction. Dignity? What dignity? They reduced him to a letter! He was nothing, just a letter of the Cardassian alphabet. He used to think it was important. He remembered that day, when he had to deal with Captain... Captain... Captain Kirkland, who kept pronouncing his surname wrong. It's căprul, not kedăk. He smiled at the thought: he had taken a piece of old fashioned paper he found in the Captain's ready room, put it in front of his mouth and said his surname, sending the paper flying away, as his “c” required bursting the air out of his mouth. Then he demonstrated the kedăk and wrong pronunciation of his name – the paper didn't move at all. The human understood and never said his name incorrectly again. Căprul seemed so important then. “No smiling!” yelled the same voice, shoving him forward. Now he hated it. They had stripped him of his rank. He didn't even want his rank any more, if it meant he had to serve the new masters of Cardassia as their dog on a short leash. But stripping him of his name? His father's, and his father's father's name? No! This went too far! He was NOT a letter of the alphabet, he was... “Move!” His eyes got used to the bright light, so he looked at the guard. Pebbles all around his face, the tube with the drug. A drugged soldier! What an offence to every hard working Cardassian warrior it was! No, it mattered. To his wife, and to his children, and to his father, and the crew and to Cardassia. He was not wrong. The fact he was here proved it the best – he was too dangerous for them, because he was a real patriot. They tried to break him, oh, they did. Interrogations, which gave them nothing. Stripping him and putting into so-called cold room wasn't bad enough to break him. He could take cold, his mind, his discipline helped him to get through it without a yelp. Sitting for hours on the inverted stool wasn't so bad either. Just uncomfortable. For first three, maybe four hours. Then it started to feel like the legs of the stool were sharp as ancient pikes and kept piercing into his flesh, deeper and deeper, as if they tried to reach his shoulders through his body. But he could take it too. His mind turned off the pain... No, it did not. He tried to convince himself it did, but it was a lie. How could he lie to himself? How could he not? He was just about to give up when they took him off the stool, deciding he wouldn't break; and then they dragged him to this hellish room with the light. No sleep. At first it wasn't so bad. No sleep, so what? But then... his head became heavier, his eyes burned and... And every time he closed his eyes a terrible whistle filled the room, startling him. The whistle stopped working, as he got used to it (or the noise damaged his ears so much that he didn't hear it as well as before - he couldn't tell), so they were entering and waking him up. They were kind enough to keep count how long it's been. Every time a guard came to the light room to change the number, indicating that the next day filled Cardassia's surface with warm, loving touch of its sun, another one took him for next set of 'discussing the details of his admission of guilt'. Admission my ass! Yes, I am guilty of being loyal to Cardassia. Yes, I am guilty of loving my family above all else. Yes, I am guilty of performing my duties as a Gul of my wonderful crew to the best of my abilities. No, I will not admit my fault at criticizing the Dominion. No, I will not admit I am a traitor. No, I will never break or even bend to your dirty rules without rules, to your twisted (mis)understanding of honour, to your slimy, genetically engineered conscience. I am a Cardassian! The corridor was darker. They were more guards waiting there for him. He looked at their faces. Cold faces. No, one of the faces was different, it expressed concern, not indifference. Ah, it was a Cardassian face. No pebbles, no tubes. Independent mind inside. How do you feel taking me to my execution, young man? Do you pity me? Do not. I do not feel miserable. You should. You still serve them. You help them take me to my place of execution. Why was he surprised? The chief interrogator was a Cardassian. Outside. As for the inside – in his mind's eye he could see pebbles and tubes, feeding the interrogator's mind with rotten Dominion propaganda. How did you feel torturing one of your own for aliens, who invaded your world? Invaded? Klingons tried to invade us. The Dominion didn't have to. We were SOLD. By one of us. He squared his shoulders and raised his head proudly. He hoped he did, at least. He wasn't sure if in his physical condition the impression was as he intended, but then – did he really care? Did anyone care? He cared. He would not forfeit his own dignity. He would die, yes, but he would die as a proud Cardassian, who loved his home and his empire. He would not die squirming and begging for mercy those, who knew not the meaning of this word. Everything was ready for him. A row of audience. His very own guillotine. One man show. Applause. Where was it? No? Why not? A yes, he doesn't want to follow their script, he has his own. He was led upstairs to stand in front of the rope. So... it won't be quick and easy death? That's right, they said quick and easy for a nice show, slow and painful for no show. So it still was far from the end. His tired eyes registered two cameras. Whole Cardassia can watch his execution. The “căprul” person, rankless, nameless, and worthless is being hanged for expressing his patriotic opinions among his crew. He hoped no one else was arrested and those brave people aboard Roumar were safe. “Do you admit to treason?” asked the archon's voice. “I do NOT!” he replied, hoping his voice sounded proudly and strongly. Murmur. They didn't expect it, did they? He felt his face muscles shaped a smirk on his face. Ha! “Do you admit to expressing anti-government opinions among your crew, poisoning their minds?” “I admit to expressing anti-Dominion opinions to my crew, cleaning their minds from your propaganda.” Silence. Will they risk asking another question only to hear the truth of unbreakable Cardassian, or would they give up? Would they risk transmitting it to every Cardassian home? Could they afford such a risk? He knew there was one more question they should ask, but the silence told him they weren't ready to take that risk. Not, if everything was broadcast for public view. Not, if the system of justice, which they twisted to system of oppression, was supposed to pretend justice was being served. The question never came. He smiled wider, although it reminded him of a broken bone somewhere in his skull, as he knew the lack of question meant they didn't dare to challenge him. They knew he wasn't the only one and their position was too weak to show other Cardassians that they were not alone. He felt the rope being put on his neck and tightening on his ridges. “Căprul, you are being sentenced to death for treason to the state,” announced the archon's voice. And he proudly said: “My name is Gul Laran Corăk! For Cardas...!” He lost the ground from under his feet and the rope cut off the air, but it didn't matter. Everyone knew what he tried to say. He only hoped his body was battered enough so that he would hang there for just a few days, before merciful death would take him to the peaceful land on the other side of the rainbow.