Chapter 1: Charged
“You are accused of war crimes, punishable by death. State your name for the record.” The female’s tone was flat and bordered on disinterest.
June allowed the words to wash over her. She managed to keep her face smooth by turning her attention to the black manacles and the chain that connected them to a hole in the floor.
She was tempted to say nothing, to not acknowledge that anyone had spoken, to not lift her head and make eye contact. She knew the instinct was wrong. It would be misinterpreted.
She leaned forward and gazed into the dark hole. The dim outline of a pulley system was just visible. Bile rose into her mouth and resentful heat spread down from her face into her arms and hands. Where the cool metal on her wrists absorbed it.
Ah savage beasty that needs to be controlled.
She pulled until the chain came taut at her chest then relaxed and watched as the chain retracted back into the golden-brown floor. Not much room on the leash. She shook the chain, letting it scrape across the ground.
June lifted her head, in no hurry.
The open space grabbed her by the throat and choked off her words. In response to her unchecked anxiety, her immortal energy surged and was swallowed by the black metal on her wrists.
Hundreds of silent accusing eyes screamed for her to speak. Her legs felt like they were about to give. She forced her shoulders back and her chin up.
Two years. In four days.
She shoved her mantra of two weeks aside.
Stay in this moment.
She needed to show she wasn’t worried, had to show she was here not because she was in chains. She wanted to be here; strong and focused. The appearance of strength could free her. Her legs steadied under her weight.
She made eye contact with the Speaker and smiled.
The urge to look away pulled at her head. I’ve done nothing wrong. She forced herself to hold the Speaker’s eyes with her own.
How much eye contact is too much?
She studied the Peadarian woman. Eyes large and black, reflective, like polished Hematite.
She could see herself in them; her dark green and black uniform needed to be washed and pressed, and her hair looked like a black bag had been thrown over her head and then ripped off right before she had been brought in here.
The Speaker looked like every other Peadarian June had ever seen. Skin orange and brown swirls. Hairless, except for two thin eyebrows over those onyx eyes.
Eyes that never blinked.
The Speaker repeated her instructions. Wooden benches creaked as people shifted, breathing quieting.
The social power of the room was like a physical weight as it shifted to her. They waited for her.
She would make them wait.
They had forced her to wait.
They could wait a few seconds.
June took a deep breath through her nose, forcing in the sharp metallic scent of recycled oxygen across her alveolar membrane. It was familiar in the way a hospital was familiar. Clean and disinfected. It tickled the back of her throat, and her body instinctively wanted to cough.
I hope you enjoyed this sample of War Crimes. Tell me what you think in the comments.