Chapter 5

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The explosion ending Dr. Crede’s life sounded across the comm speakers. Anakin heard it in his makeshift cell, heard the roar deafen the woman’s panicked cries for help. The event coalesced his thoughts to this simple understanding: He was going to die.

He’d awoken minutes—or so he thought—before Dr. Crede’s trial, finding himself alone, unaware of where he was. He was cold, and would have rubbed his arms with his hands, but discovered they were held together and crossed over at the wrists by a tough sinewy, organic substance: dermaplast, he thought.

With his datajack and cyes removed, Anakin was struck by how little information his senses gathered without augmentation. He had to really look around. There were no windows, but light slipping under the door vaguely revealed his room’s “amenities.”

Some shelves against a wall housed cleaning supplies, made evident by the pungent, fruity aroma of fluids leaking from a canister. A few dead trashbugs littered the dirty floor. If this was a cleaning supplies room, it was ironic that it was so unhygienic. 

He noticed a speaker bar atop the top shelf, and a strip of what he suspected to be vidfilm was stretched across a wall. Communication with his captors looked clearly one-way. What did these freaks want with him? Ransom money?

He pounded at the door, calling out for answers. In return, he heard nothing but the muffled, unintelligible response of a Rodian. So much for easy answers. Anakin sat down and crossed his legs, and breathed deeply.

He reached out with the force to sense the mind of the guard outside. If he focused, sometimes he detected others' emotions, as well as mental fragments -- glimpses of images, scents, and sounds -- that trailed along with them. He'd learned the trick years ago when studying at the Jedi academy. It fell far short of mindreading, but it might provide some clue as to his predicament.

The guard’s mind was a jumble of zealotry, patriotism, and xenophobia. Lurking in that cesspool, Anakin stumbled across psychic imagery suggesting that he was somewhere in SKYE HQ. But why would some thugs take him there of all places? That couldn’t be right. He shook his head. I was never very good at this.

That was when Krul’s voice had boomed from the speaker bar, announcing that the first trial was to begin. That was the first indication that Anakin had been swept into a terrorist plot, and as Dr. Crede’s trial proceeded, the direness of his circumstances dawned upon him. His instincts had been correct: he was at SKYE HQ. Something had gone awfully wrong. 

Following the execution, Anakin stared at the vidfilm, as Krul gave his twisted justification for the killing:

“The real explosion you heard was the deafening exposure of a hollow, human Republic hegemony. The media’s lapdogs paint us as soulless terrorists and our human masters as moral saints. Today you will hear the real story. A story of slaves freed from bondage.”

He has got to be kidding. Anakin shook his head.

“This is not terrorism. It is the violence of liberation! Humanity has dominated our psyche for centuries. Today, during these trials, we’ll force them to inhabit our own. May it prove... educational.”

Krul’s speech destroyed Anakin’s assumption that he had been captured for ransom. His parents weren’t going to free him. They were going to be executed, and he with them. 

Would that Rodian whackjob put him on trial? Anakin tried to imagine what supposedly reprehensible action he’d committed that would made him worthy of execution. Would it be for Jedi associations, or a pampered upbringing that sponged off Rodian poverty? Perhaps to Krul he embodied the “sins” of a rising human generation needing to be expunged.

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