Disconcertingly, the colonel was proceeding as if Hunt had not intervened .. pleading on Garth’s behalf.
“Who was going to believe rebel scum?” That had Garth apprehensive.
Garth too had just been condemned to death. A slow agonising death .. for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But now he was hearing that wasn’t enough.
Hunt was being told a slow hanging was not enough. “Couldn’t let it go with a simple execution.”
Ringleaders deserved more.
Garth was being lumped together with a known state troublemaker. Denounced as a rebel leader. Hunt’s protestation of his innocence was being overlooked. Where did that leave Garth?
Garth had to object. Put himself back in the frame. But the colonel again had his full hate-filled focus on Hunt. Both were engaged in a tense combat of fierce glares. Garth was again out of the picture. And still that tazer was pressed to his throat to keep him stumm. Threatening to silence him forever.
The colonel picked up this theme .. back to the moment before Garth had rashly intervened and got tazered onto his back.
“A leader sets an example. Setting down discipline. Standards for how to behave.”
The colonel sat upright behind his desk. Like that gave him the authority to dish out punishments. Staring at Hunt. Like all his buddies, Hunt had been made to strip to the waist before this hearing. Footwear removed, hands cuffed. Dressed for the occasion. To put him on edge. To make him feel less than the enemy. To show the enemy could do with him as wished. And would.
“A ringleader .. leading his gang of rebel scum. .. he too will set an example. Teach a lesson.”
Garth sensed things were about to go off. But if being made to appear here undressed was supposed to faze Hunt, Garth could see no sign of it in the man. His men had been led away for terror-filled execution. And it appeared Hunt could expect worse. But still he stood, muscled shoulders drawn back, chin up defiant. Hunt’s muscular back was straight. As he waited to hear pronounced the example he was to set.
“The tribunal declares the prisoner’s execution is suspended. In preference he is committed to attend a correctional facility. To undertake an intense programme of Re-education. The duration subject to the tribunal’s will.”
Garth himself had endured “correctional treatment”. He had witnessed what went on in the name of “re-education”. Shorthand for judicial torture. He didn’t hold much hope out for Hunt.
“And only ….. only when no further lessons are to be learned ……”
For that Garth read, tortured till his enemy got no more pleasure out of it. The colonel’s eyes slitted maliciously.”
“ …. When the tribunal deems no further recompense can be exacted …..”
The colonel glared straight into the face of the defiant prisoner. The junta’s man had his jaw set firm, his eyes creased into slits of judicial revenge.
“Put more succinctly. .. when there is no more suffering to be squeezed out. …..”
Garth read that, When Hunt had been tortured into a vegetable ……
The colonel was leaning forward. As if rubbing Hunt’s nose in his increased sentence. Annoyingly the colonel could detect no such fears. Out of the corner of his eye, Garth could not perceive one single flicker of concern on Hunt’s bare torso. That took some courage. Garth had just heard Hunt condemned to indefinite torture. But the broad solid shoulders did not move. Not a whiff of anxiety quivered in his flat defined abs.
“Then .. at a time and place to be set by the tribunal .. the prisoner’s sentence will be carried out. He will set an example. By means of judicial execution. In public. His execution publicly broadcast throughout the land.”
He scowled. Through hate-filled eyes.
“Setting a public example.”
Garth had once witnessed a guy getting strangled by a slow hanging. But to have that telecast into every home .. to make the population watch that .. as a warning to others .. you had to have a pretty sick mind to order that ….
It was a thought that should unsettle any prisoner. Made worse by knowing it was to happen .. sometime .. but indefinitely postponed .. pending someone’s sick mind signing the paper …..
But if the colonel wanted some satisfaction out of this pronouncement, Hunt was making it his objective to disappoint. Or maybe Hunt was not perturbed? Mentally had he always faced this probability? Steeled himself. If he was caught.
Remarkable, Garth thought. Either this Hunt was one tough bastard .. who had steeled his mind-set to accept the worse the junta could throw at him. Or he was the world’s best actor. Garth was just about to thrown him a glance. A look to reflect his respect. When ….. he felt the colonel’s cold gaze sweep over him. Caught in icy floodlights of judicial revenge. Garth caught himself. Remembering. He himself was not out of the loop.
“Which brings this tribunal …..”
Garth was aware that he had just become the centre of attention. The colonel glowering at him .. jaw clenched, eyes slitted.
“This tribunal will now turn itself to the mystery of the prisoner’s accomplice …..”