“Our holostreams must resume - unadulterated - and resume now. I will execute two hostages every 10 minutes until our holostreams resume. If we discover further meddling into our holostreams, more hostages will die. If we discover further cyber espionage, more hostages will die. I trust this message is clear?”

Krul’s lieutenant motioned a green suckered thumbs up. “Now that our communications have resumed... Dr. Nico, we were discussing why you are here.” Krul paced towards Nico, and stooped slightly to get a better look at her face. “Let’s start with a simpler question. What is your role at Skywalker Enterprises?”

Nico refused to look at Krul, staring at the floor as she spoke. “I’m a doctor. I care for the miners and SKYE staff.”

“What sort of care do the miners need?”

“Quadanium mining exposes the body to low level radiation and dust. Over time this exposure may cause adverse effects such as the skin disease you suffer from.” As Nico continued, a holostream droid zoomed in for a close up of Krul’s flaky, papery skin condition.

“Other symptoms of prolonged exposure are vomiting, nausea, and in extreme exposure cases, pneumoconiosis - commonly known as ‘paper lung disease.’”

“Tell us more about this paper lung disease, Dr. Nico.”

“Simply put, dust inhaled during mining causes the lungs to dry out. In the early stages of the disease the Rodian body fights back. Phlegm and violent coughing are common. As the disease advances, the lungs lose their ability to oxygenate the blood supply. At this stage, victims become winded after walking 100 paces, breath becomes quick and shallow, and eventually they require oxygen ventilators to stay alive.”

“But doctor, surely these cases are uncommon. The Ministry of Worker Health and Safety was established to protect these miners.”

Dr. Nico said nothing, staring into the floor. Krul snatched her face by the cheekbones and forced Nico to look into his eyes.

“I realize this may be uncomfortable, doctor. But we must continue. How many cases of paper lung disease do you see in a typical year?

“I don’t know, I don’t have the records in front of me...”

“Then let’s look at SKYE's records.” A guard handed Krul a datapad. “The company doctors diagnosed 998 new cases of paper lung disease, of which you personally diagnosed 432. This represented an increase of 5% over the prior year. Not only are the number of cases increasing, but it now takes an average of only four years to develop paper lung disease. When SKYE began its operation the average time was seven years. This is damnable evidence doctor. So you must have reported this fatal trend to the Ministry immediately.”

“I followed company policy, and reported the cases to my superiors and human resources.”

“I see. So, the Ministry must have been notified of this trend from there?”

“I don’t know for sure... but it’s my understanding that SKYE reports new cases to the Ministry.”

This statement caused Krul to pause for a moment, as if chewing on a tough piece of meat.

“The way you speak - it is so strange to me, now that I have freed myself from mental bondage. You human heathens hide your ugliness in the dustbin of bureaucracy. Let me say this again in plainer speech. After you discovered that a plague was devouring hundreds of innocent Rodian miners each year, you satisfied yourself with lobbing electronic messages to a silent bureaucracy?”

The anger and frustration simmering within Nico boiled over, and her lip began to tremble again. “That’s not - that’s not what it was like. I was never asked to report directly to the Ministry. No one ever asked me to do that. That’s not my responsibility.”

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