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Chapter 17

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The closet door slid open, piercing light into Anakin’s squinting eyes.  No! Chona can’t be back for more so soon. Please... Anakin raised his dermaplast hands reflexively to protect his face. He felt like he had been flayed alive and sewn roughly back together again.

Groobah cajala chupa.”  The Rodian guard, Citizen Husi, had placed a tray with two cups of water, and two bowls of some sort of soup in front of the closet door. Anakin and Owen crawled forward to gather their meals.

Anakin leaned in to smell the soup. It looked foul, but smelled agreeable. Apparently, Chona wanted them well fed - more sustenance meant longer torture sessions.

While Anakin could refuse the food and water, he didn’t.  They could probably drug him enough so that he would eat anyway.  And besides, he was hungry.

Seeing no utensils, Anakin bent forward, grabbed the soup bowl, and began to sip. The soup was hearty, greasy, stew-like in consistency. The warmth of the soup, and the familiar act of eating made Anakin feel slightly better.

He glanced at Owen. He looked like crap, but seemed to be eating the soup okay. The miners had removed the dermaplast from his mouth so he could eat, and surprisingly, his brother hadn’t mouthed off yet.

Anakin looked up to check Husi’s awareness. She never removed her eyes off of them. At that point Anakin noticed something in the bottom of his bowl.  A data jack? Huh? Is Husi daring me to take it?

Anakin carefully considered his next move, and kept sipping with the bowl close to his face.  It was possible that Chona had given this data jack to the guard and placed a virus in it.  If that were the case, connecting the data jack to his implants could be a very painful experience.

On the other hand, if they had intended virtual interrogation then why not do it earlier?  If they intended it now, they did not need to goad him into it.  They could just slam him onto a table and insert the jack.

Anakin lowered the soup bowl carefully, making sure there was still enough soup left in the bowl to cover the data jack. Placing the bowl next to him, Anakin leaned forward with his dermaplasted hands, awkwardly grasped the cup of water, and drank most of it.  Out of the corner of his eye Anakin saw the guard shift posture, but nothing else.  

Anakin leaned to one side to place the water cup down, then leaned to the other side to pick up his soup again.  This time Anakin finished his soup, making sure to draw the data jack into his mouth with the final gulp.  Placing the soup bowl and glass of water in front of him, Anakin indicated he was finished.

The guard yelled at Anakin, “Oot tuto do pulo,” pointing to his plates.  Crap.  Maybe the guard saw the empty bowl and was now telling him to put the data jack back inside.

He saw the guard reach for her blaster. Anakin thought he was a goner, but then Owen shoved Anakin out of the way and pushed Anakin’s soup bowl and cup outside the door. The guard’s hand retreated from her holster, and she shut the door, leaving Anakin and Owen in darkness.  

“She was asking you to put the plates outside,” Owen said. “She’s a careful one. Keeps her distance, in case someone -- namely me -- rushed her. She probably would have stunned us both before gathering the bowls.”

Anakin wanted to reply, but the jack was still in his mouth. He carefully dropped the jack into his cupped hands. He paused for a moment, rolling the jack between thumb and forefinger.

“Owen, there was a data jack in my soup bowl.”

“What? How?”

“I don’t know. You think they put it there?”

“I don’t know who else it would be... but it makes no sense. Could be one of Chona’s sick games? Playing with our heads?”

The jack was still warm from the soup in his hands, and Anakin clutched it more tightly as he gathered resolve. “I’m going to risk it. Get ready to shut it down if I need you to, okay?”


With shaky determination, Anakin plunged the data jack into his left ear.

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