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A Terrorist, a Journalist, and a Prison Guard

Dave DeCamp works on a boat in New York City and is an assistant editor for Antiwar.com, a non-profit that promotes peace and non-intervention. When Dave is not busy with his two jobs he is writing about dystopian futures that are not as far away as we would like to believe.

Francis Devold is going to be executed today. I've been tasked with bringing him from his cell to the execution chamber where he'll get a lethal injection. A slow, painless death for a terrorist. Maybe not so appropriate.
I never really interacted with him much since I've been assigned to the Macarthur prison, but what I have seen of Devold is just a frail pathetic man who can barely speak. He's been locked away since I was a child, almost twenty years behind bars.
I remember when Devold was first arrested. It was in the early days of the Empire's space colonization after the forest planet Armon 5 was discovered. We heard stories back on Earth about the primitive creatures that inhabited the planet. No more developed than our apes, or so we were told.
Devold was already a well-known journalist at the time. He made the headlines for exposing some malpractices by major corporations here on Earth. But his biggest story came when a young soldier in the Imperial Space Force leaked some documents and videos to him that revealed who really inhabited Armon 5.
The videos were especially shocking. They showed our Space Force dropping bombs on what looked like people. Sure, they were more primitive and less technologically developed than us, but they were people.
The leaks sent shockwaves through the Empire, even members of the Imperial Senate spoke out against our Armon 5 policy.
Ultimately, nothing changed. Armon 5 was so far away it was easy for people to put out of their minds. Any soldiers that came back were treated so well that few spoke out. There were always dissenters and people who boycotted the resources we extracted from Armon 5, but no real change. Especially after the stories about Devold's past came out.
Devold was a member of a radical anarchist group when he was younger. At the turn of the 22nd century, while Emperor Butler took over the last of Central Asia, Devold was participating in some terrorism in what used to be the United States.
A former member of the group came forward and said Devold was responsible for the Philadelphia bombing of 2101. An attack on one of the first Imperial offices, which killed almost fifty people.
I was still pretty young when they put Devold on trial, but I remember learning about his past from all the witnesses who came forward. His radical views, the violence, and the many rape allegations. Devold was put in prison and sentenced to death.
As I approached his cell, I started to remember some of the stories. Former babysitters said he liked to kill small animals. Former lovers said he was abusive. One of the most shocking testimonies of the trial was Devold's mother. An old grey-haired woman, telling the story about Devold smothering his younger brother to death when they were just toddlers.
As I open the glass door to Devold's cell, I'm met with the eyes of a weak, scared old man. Seeing him reminds me of when Devold took the stand at his trial. Barley coherent he only babbled a few words, "These people... these people you call. I don't know them. That's not my mother... please. Please. Please don't kill me."
Devold's cries for mercy were dismissed as lies and an attempt to gain public sympathy. He always had supporters; protesters would gather at his trials. Over the years, they demonstrated outside the Macarthur prison, the numbers slowly dwindling. When I came in this morning, there were only a few dozen protesting his execution.
Devold greeted me as I entered his cell, "Hello. Is today the day?"
"I'm afraid it is Mr. Devold. Please come with me."
The convicted terrorist reaches out his hand, and I pull him up. "Thank you... will I be able to say something before I die?"
"Yes, you'll have a chance to speak. Just know that there are two syringes. If you confess to your crimes, it will be painless. If you say anything against the official conviction... well, it will hurt," I told him. The second syringe contains a terrible poison that melts the organs and prolongs the person's death, so they feel everything.
We begin walking down the hallway together, towards the execution chamber. I see Devold studying my face. "You're one of the first new faces I've seen in years. Thank you for being gentle with me, a lot of the guards like to rough me up," he says.
"The least I can do for a man walking to his death."
"How bad will it hurt if I say something they don't like?"
"It's a pain neither one of us can imagine. Please, Mr. Devold, confess to your crimes and apologize."
"You know, I never even had any siblings," Devold said with a smirk on his face.
The door to the execution chamber opens up, and another guard waves us in. I can still see Devold looking at me with that smirk. Inside the room is an imperial officer and a doctor. No cameras. No witnesses. Even if Devold wanted to say something, only we would hear it.
I help the other guard strap Devold to the table, as the doctor prepares two syringes. The Imperial officer stands above Devold's head and says, "Francis Julian Devold. You are being executed today for blowing up the Philadelphia Imperial building on April 26th, 2101, and killing 48 people. Do you have any last words?"
"I didn't blow anything up. I've never done a violent thing in my life. My only crime is exposing the lies and violence of the Empire," Devold locked eyes with me as he made his proclamation.
What a foolish thing to say. The only people that will hear his words are the four people in this room. Why would he choose pain?
The doctor injected the poison into Devold's left arm. As I watch him begin to shake and watch his eyes fill with blood, I remember one of the videos he leaked--a video of what looked like human children being massacred by Imperial soldiers on Armon 5.
I look down at the Imperial crescent on my shoulder.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, April 24th, 2020

Author Comments

- Dave DeCamp
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