B'Rhea: The excitement of the new day had not even waned by the noon hour. Crowds had flooded the streets and were chanting with excitement. It was cloudy, joyously cloudy. Most importantly, the toughest political foe I had ever faced was being paraded upon a mobile wooden gallows. Her execution was imminent. Finally, vengeance would be wrought. The prospect was sweeter than a sugar stick.
And lo, the gallows have returned.
"Bring out the other three prisoners! Line them up as I instructed!"
Such great pleasure filled me as the guards stepped back toward the jail cells. Here we were, in the back of the main government building, thirteen squads of men readied, as if to invade a rival planet. There was a brilliant air of anticipation, knowing full-well what was expected to transpire.
"The demonstration should be made public," said Mra Tarkin, the most important person in my administration. She walked over to me with a piercing, hardened glare. "We need to continue to show the masses what happens to dissidents."
"No, it should not. We need not make a public example of her death. The populace is well within our grasp, and the risk of inciting people to turn on us with what I have planned is not worth it. Her demise is more than sufficient. The lifeless body will quell the remaining dissent."
Mra snickered and brushed back her brown hair. My advisor's deep eyes seemed to glow at the prospect of having finally completed the process of taking down all vestiges of the former government. The parliament had been dissolved only months ago, and it was a largely popular move, seeing as my faction controlled the legislative body. The leading opposition, the Arrain Makila, was scattered and in exile across the planet—and even the sector. The media, which I ran personally, did an outstanding job convincing the Eriaduan peoples that this event was for the benefit of our society: "Hope, change, and progress is our new future."
Once the gallows stopped, about two meters in front of me, I gazed upon the woman who had been my nemesis for years. Food had been thrown at her along the parade route. Some of it was caught in her beautiful wavy brown hair. Her white robe was pocked with soiled and dirtied locations. Strung tightly, and having been there for well over five hours, it was evident that she had urinated, as well. The stench of her garments were the smell of a completed victory. Her face, however, was seemingly untouched. Had a stone been thrown at it, none would have known.
"Cut her down!"
"Yes, my lord," one of the guards replied, revealing a vibroblade.
He took the weapon and slashed the ropes that stretched from the gallows to her bound ankles, first. Her knees were still tied together with another rope so that her lower body now hung solely by the strength of her arms. Then, he sliced the ropes holding the left arm, causing the woman to swing to her right. She hit her head squarely against the inside of the wooden structure. Her body, which had hung weakly even before being partially cut down, was now hanging limp and lifeless.
I stepped to the side, observing the woman's head. She was thankfully not bleeding, but the pain from the impact was evident on her petite face. I gestured for the guard to wait another moment, while I stared at her callously. Still strung up by only her right arm, the woman briefly wailed from the pain. Her shoulder was clearly dislocated from the pressure of her body's full weight having been swiftly dumped onto the single joint. Finally, I signaled the guard to cut the last remaining rope. The woman fell hard onto the base of the gallows, moaning. All the while, she had failed to say anything specific.
"Rebind her feet."
Cuting a piece of the rope that had hung the woman from the gallows, the guard swiftly tied the captive's feet together.
"Take her to get cleaned up. Give her a fresh robe, but do not untie her feet."
The guard saluted and took the woman by the right arm, which was visibly dislocated, and helped her to her feet. She screamed in pain as the guard used her injured side to lift her from the ground. Leaning against him heavily, she slowly and painfully hopped forward. When I turned around, the other three prisoners were already present. Each was cuffed around the wrists and ankles. Fabric bags were tied over their heads as they were lined up against the back wall of the building. Had their faces been uncovered, all they would have seen were the beige colored stone blocks of the building.
"I've prepared the death notices for their families," Mra stated, handing me three pieces of paper to sign. "Their crimes for execution have been drafted as conspiracy to murder government officials."
"Beautifully done. And their families? Where are they?"
"Most of their family members are in hiding on Seswenna," she answered.
"We'll deal with them down the road, if necessary. Any potential problems with them?"
"I already have the Toms out dispatched just in case," Mra responded.
Ah, the Toms—my personal guard and protection. Mra was brilliant to dispatch them in the event of a problem having arisen. The Arrain Makila–in–exile was always an ever-present threat even though their leaders, the only true leaders they had, were all awaiting their execution over the next few minutes. Satisfied that Mra was being thorough, approval filled my mind, and I signed the documents.
In order to progress the proceedings onward, I walked over to one of the garrisoned squads. They all snapped to attention as I walked past. Each one of these men was at least an entire foot taller than me, yet I held their complete command. Surveying the group, I mentally picked out twelve men to take part in the firing squad for the political prisoners. Once satisfied, I walked through the ranks again. This time, I instructed each of the predestined twelve to stand at ease. Then, I returned to the front of the squad.
"The twelve I have selected, come forward."
There was a sense of hesitation among the group, but the twelve did move relatively quickly.
"Number yourselves off into three groups of four."
The men obliged, three groups standing before me. I directed each group to a specific location, opposite one of the prisoners.
"On my mark, you will take aim at the prisoner in front of your group. When I instruct you to open fire, you will do so. Failure to take part will warrant your own execution for treason. These are political prisoners of the highest order and are damned."
The three prisoners, who had been gagged under the bags, were attempting to make their final pleas be known. I walked over to the three and kicked them above the ankles.
"If you three do not go honorably, I will make you a dishonor to the galaxy."
Two of the men immediately fell silent. The third sounded as if he was crying. How soft and feminine. He was crying upon the advent of his death. Disgusted, I kicked him in the left shin with all the force I could muster. When he yelped in pain, I walked away.
"She has returned," Mra stated, taking her place next to the three groups for soldiers.
I looked at the side door to the building. The woman had returned, hopping in pain while being escorted by the guard. Her soft blue eyes showed as much, yet she was a fighter. This was one woman who needed to be killed, lest she return with a vengeance against me.
"Bring her to me."
The guard acknowledged and led the woman to me.
I gently ran my hand along the side of her face, causing her to shun. Displeased, I took that hand and slapped it across her cheek.
"You thought you could escape me? Exile would not have been good enough for you."
"You still surprise me, B'Rhea," she said. "I thought my life was worth well more than twelve hundred credits to you."
"Not when the Toms were after you. I knew I'd have to pay up with them on the trail. I wasn't willing to bankrupt the treasury for your life by paying an entire squad of them that sum."
"Yes," Casei answered. "Your bloodhounds, all those spawn of yours and that thing over there you call your advisor… why would you want to pay them?"
I glanced over my shoulder at Mra, who sneered at the remark. She was more than my advisor, she was the Overseer of Native Affairs and the Chief Ambassador to the Republic! Mra was, at the time, the single-handedly most important person in my administration. Unimpeded by the remark, I turned back to the prisoner.
"Would you like to do the honors?"
The woman stood silently at that question. There was nothing for her to say, I suppose.
"Guards, take bags off their heads and un-gag them."
A handful of guards scrambled over to the three men awaiting execution. The bags came off, and they were un-gagged. Other than more heavy, tear-filled breathing from the one man who had already been crying, not a sound came from the prisoners.
"Turn them around to face their execution."
The guards turned the prisoners so that their backs were to the wall, although only separated by about one meter.
"Are you sure you'd rather not do the honors, Casei?"
"I will make you stand before the people for killing my colleagues," she sneered. "Their blood is on your hands, not mine."
"Very well. With your blessing to execute them, I will proceed."
I turned and stepped toward the three groups of men. I took my right arm and held it straight out like a rod.
The men raised their blaster rifles to shoot. Mra stepped back slightly to ensure her distance from the shooters.
Blaster bolts flew; the sound was nearly deafening. In the wake of the commotion, a small, thin billow of dust and smoke churned along the base of the building. Three bodies, laying lifeless on the dusty ground, marked the spots that the political prisoners had been standing.
"That's three less Arrain Makila," Mra commented with a smile. "Of course, the big fish still needs to be fried and battered."
I turned to see Casei. There was a tear in her left eye, but she remained otherwise expressionless at the sight. It surprised me, surely, to see such stoicism in light of having had three of her most important political allies killed in such a manner. At least their deaths were dignified. They were Human, after all. Alien scum would not have deserved such honor.
"Now, woman, I suppose you are next."
"You will find no such satisfaction in killing me," she moaned.
"You are correct, in some ways, Casei. I'd hate to kill someone as beautiful as you. After all, it would be such a waste of a good woman. Too bad you wouldn't be cooperative in a harem."
"You will find no satisfaction with my death, for sure," Casei reiterated.
"Any final words?"
"You are a sad, strange little man."
I was taken aback by the comment. In all this, she only could mock my diminutive stature? I plotted the ways of killing her. Having all twelve fire upon her was now no longer viable. No, she needed something more ironic for her insolence.
I walked over to one of the garrison sergeants and grabbed a blaster pistol off of his belt. Checking it, I undid the safety mechanism and set it to burn rather than blast. Then, I marched in a militaristic manner back toward my rival.
"You actually have the courage to take my life yourself?" Casei snarkily asked.
"Guard, a step."
The young man returned with a small step for me to stand upon.
"And yet, you still need a step-stool to reach me," she mocked.
I decided not to honor her with a response. Climbing the step, I looked at Casei Solus in the eyes. The leader of the Arrain Makila, having gone into hiding upon the issuance of a bounty, was now standing before me, tied up at the knees and wearing a white robe. How angelic; how ironic. Her face was pale, her blue eyes seemed even more stronger and piercing than when she was in the parliamentary body. Now, there was nothing left to do but act.
I stroked my left hand through Casei's hair, brushing it back gently. She tried to turn her head, but eye-contact was never broken. Then, with a stealthy gesture, I put my other hand on the trigger of the blaster. Prepared, I looked at her eye-to-eye, and at eye-level. Her beauty emboldened me further. I leaned in and kissed her, shocking the woman. When the embrace was broken, it was my time to raise the blaster to her forehead in one swift gesture.
With a look of shock and surprise on her face, I fired.
The body of Casei Solus fell to the ground in a heap. Silence filled the area.
About three minutes later, Mra finally walked over to me and saluted. I returned the salute and pointed at the squads. The garrisoned soldiers reformed their lines and waited for instructions.
"Now, all of your political dissidents have been eliminated," Mra stated. "Congratulations on your victory."
An evil pleasure swept over me, and I smiled. Yet, in the depths of my being, I was shaken by the now lifeless body in front of me. I felt her soul cry out from the depths, as blood poured out of her only partially-cauterized forehead. Her blood haunted my mind.
"Guard, take the body and bring it to the center square with the garrisoned soldiers. Burn it, but do not let anyone close enough to take any of the body parts. When she is completely reduced to ashes, pour water on them, and have the garrisoned men sweep the remains into the dust of the air. Don't leave anything behind for someone to grab."
The blood continued to flow. I had to turn away and refocus.
"I believe we had a person of interest to interrogate, as well?"
One of the guards, who had been standing next to Casei, was suddenly nervous about the remark.
"With all these bodies here as a scare-tactic, perhaps we could get more information. Where is he?"
The guard stammered to answer. Eventually he mumbled that the man was missing.
"I believe he departed a couple of hours ago, when we were doing prisoner-checks," mumbled the guard. His nervousness was overtly spreading.
"Did you let him out?"
The guard sheepishly nodded.
"And why did you let him walk out of here?"
The guard snapped to attention and attempted to defend himself, saying, "He said his name was 'Jax Josta Jinderhemmer Swift.' That didn't match our persons-of-interest list."
I was exasperated by the remark. I wanted to personally choke the man.
"You actually fell for that?"
"Huh?" the guard asked obviously confused by my return. "There are billions of beings with the name 'Jax.'"
"Didn't you ever sing Auntie Ruthie's Silly Songs when you were a kid?"
The man was completely confused by this question, and this enraged me beyond measure. I took the blaster in my hand and shoved the barrel into the man's chest and fired. The guard fell to the ground, dead.
"Anyone else want to betray me?"
All the soldiers and guards snapped to attention. I stomped over to the squads of soldiers and prepared to give instructions.
"Squads, find this man. I want him in my office, cuffed and bound, within five hours. Turn this planet upside down, if you have to. His name… his name is Thes'hee Imconon."