Chapter 8

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Anakin's vision shimmered as he tried to free himself from the restraint belt securing his arms and chest to a weight bench. The drooping and warping of the mirrored walls in the SKYE employee gym, where Chona brought him and Owen for “education,” indicated the cocktail of drugs he’d been injected with was setting in. He felt fever and fatigue coming on.

Owen had not received pharmaceutical treatment, but dermaplast still covered his mouth, forcing him to watch Anakin’s suffering in silence.

"Look," Anakin said unevenly to the masked Chona, "Whatever you want to talk about or know, I'll share. I’ve nothing to hide. I promise."

"The myths percolating your tiny mind!" The Rodian ran her purple, suckered hand against his cheek, and he flinched. Chona shook her head. "Poor young pup, torture isn't about gathering information. It is not a means to an end. It is its own end."

Anakin coughed and a chill ran down his spine. She can’t be serious. Maybe she needed some other incentive? His words came out jittery as he noticed his raised body temperature.

"Whatever you're paid, you won't get to enjoy it when the Rodian authorities execute you. My parents would be more than willing to match--"

"Humans! Always appealing to greed and self-preservation," she chortled, "futile desires when all life turns to dust, as is the way of the force. Living is not what matters. It’s how one lives.”

Anakin frowned. If you weren’t some psychopath, you’d realize that would be a great reason to let me go. He knew better than to say that. There was a reason his mouth wasn’t covered in dermaplast.

“When how we live becomes petty, dishonest, and mechanical, continuing in that way of life is intolerable. Rodia reached that point long ago, and we, Rodia's true citizens, its Righteous Flame, must end its anguish. I think you'll come to understand, pup. Appreciate its... Good! They’re here."

Anakin looked over to the gym entrance where two Rodians strode in. One was the guard that had shown a definite dislike of Owen -- “Citizen Husi” -- and the other was... Deebu.

Hands in his jacket pockets and eyes on the ground, he glanced up and met Anakin’s eyes, then looked away. So Chona was right all along. But he’s my friend.

Anakin’s eye twitched. With the force he felt Owen’s rage and betrayal. Deebu and his brother were more acquaintances than friends, but they had talked together over meals.

"What a momentous occasion,” Chona said. “Behold Deebu, a true citizen of Rodia, who has been called upon to assist me in this great undertaking, as is his right... and duty."

"As-Assist?" Deebu stammered. "You only told me to bring Anakin--the Skywalker--here. I did my part; I'm done."

Anakin felt his horror, which brought a confused mix of relief and anger within Anakin at the same time. He was glad Deebu struggled to torture him, but was he fine with the crime, as long as his own hands didn't directly commit it? What glowing future did he expect these terrorists had for him? Idiot.

"Deebu," Chona instructed, "True citizens are called upon to play the roles required of them. Here is a task that can show the depth of your commitment to Rodia. It will help you achieve bini zinizacha."

Anakin knew this term from instruction in Rodian culture. It referred to a state of liberation from suffering and ignorance. Both Rodian secular and religious circles promoted reaching this state of peace. But Chona’s application of the term disgusted Anakin. How could she think torture could bring one rest?

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