When I look over at my brother his eyes are as wide as saucers. I look up in the direction that he is, and see an Imperial shuttle descending from space towards our farm. My father looks up. He does his best to keep the fear out of his voice, but you can see it in his eyes. He says to us “Hurry go get your mother and run to the lake, if you hide in the cave on the northern shore they won’t be able to find you.” My brother sets out immediately for the farm house. “Dad? What about you?” My dad looks over at me with sadness in his eyes and says “I wish we would have had more time, I should have taught you, what little I knew about the force, your mother and I always suspected you had the gift. Now go, I’m just going to talk to them and see what they want. GO!”
I set off in a sprint. My mother and brother are already running out of the house. We cut through the woods trying to avoid any obvious trails. It had been raining a lot of late, and footprints would definitely stand out on the muddy trail. We get to the lake and immediately break for the cave. Once inside we get as far back from the entrance as we can. My brother panting looks at our mom, and stands guard by the entrance. My mom tries to smile bravely. I rack my brain for reasons why the Empire would want anything to do with us. “Mom? What do they want?” I ask. Twenty three years old and I sound like a five year old, I don’t know why the sight of the shuttle filled me with fear, but even now I’m shaking.
My mother sighs and looks at from my brother to me. “You were only three when we went into hiding, your brother was just born and your father was a Captain in the Grand Army of the Republic. Something happened to Senator Palpatine, the Republic and all the good it stood for got twisted along the way. And when we heard about the purge, about your cousin who was a trainee at the Jedi Temple we knew we had to get away.” My head was spinning in twenty years my parents had never mentioned anything about the clone wars or the Jedi. “Wait, are you saying we are related to Jedi?”
Just then I hear footsteps outside the cave. A female voice drifts in, it sounds cold, with restrained anger underneath. “Yes that is exactly what your mother is telling you. Come out with your hands up and I won’t have to kill your entire family.” My mother and I push ourselves to our feet. As we work our way to the mouth of the cave the voice continues. “Lord Vader has been rather thorough, first we had to track down all of the immediate family members, once they were located, we then branched out to extended family. As you can see, that has taken quite some time. If we had known, that we would have a use for you force sensitive whelps, we would have been a little less zealous early on.”
As I get to the entrance of the cave, all of the fear I am feeling suddenly becomes justified. My father is on his knees between two white armored guards, their blasters aimed at him, ignoring us completely.
The woman’s voice, belongs to a much more distinctive figure. She is wearing a black cloak with the hood pulled up, despite the hood, tangles of red curls can be seen inside. Piercing green eyes stare out at me. The level of fear I am feeling rises another level. She smiles at me and says “Good, you should be afraid.” She gestures at me. “This one has it, conscript the other men and kill the woman.” Two guards, from off to the side, step toward us, one raises his blaster rifle and fires, a hole in my mothers chest appears before my eyes, she collapses to the ground in a heap. “Nooooooo!” I scream out. I charge the guard, twenty years growing up on a farm hadn’t exactly left me soft, I plow into him, knocking him off his feet. His rifle flies a couple paces away from us. I lunge for it. Before my hand can grasp the grip it quickly floats out of my reach. I stare after it in shock. following its trajectory it lands at the cloaked woman’s feet. She smiles at me and says “Hang on to the hatred you’re feeling right now. It may keep you alive in the years to come.” With that she turns and heads back down the trail. The guards proceed to start beating me. I can hear my brother screaming my name as he and my father are hauled after the woman.
“Gaz! Gaz wake up.” I bolt upright in my cot. Ceros is standing over me shaking me. My cellmate is a Zabrak, an alien race known for the many short horns protruding from the forehead and head. It gives them a distinctive devil like look, especially in the dark. I move to a sitting position on the cot and say “The only thing worse than these nightmares, is waking up to your face Ceros.” He grunts and climbs back in his cot, I hear a sleepy response “Don’t make me come back over there and head butt you.”
The dreams are so vivid, I was back on Agamar on the family farm. I wonder about where my dad and brother are. I hope they are doing better than me.
I stand up, why I had to dream that every night I do not know. Maybe they put something in the water. They keep telling us, highly emotional situations are the easiest way to spark force powers. Which is their excuse to torture us each day, in my opinion.
The challenges, as they like to call them, are each centered around drawing out certain force abilities. Yesterday’s was particularly awful, Myself and three other inmates were strapped to chairs. There were wires attached to us in various painful places all over our bodies. Every minute volts of electricity would shoot through us. Each time that happened an observer in the room would yell out over our screams, “All you have to do to make it stop is flip this switch.” The switches in question were ten feet away, we each had our own directly across from us. Easy enough except we were all strapped to our chairs. Three hours later we had to be carried back to our cells.
Their methods are severe but they get results. Since I’ve been here, five have graduated leaving just four of us. It has been maybe two months since I was brought here, it is hard to tell with the different moons, and the days and nights seem shorter. They tell us they always get results, and it is just a matter of finding which ability we are most attuned with. The tests are not always physical torture. The one I hate the most, they sit you down in a chair in a small observation room. You are the one doing the observing. On the other side of the glass are three aliens, the races vary from each session. They tell us they want us to pick out which one is in mortal danger. The reason they are in mortal danger, they tell us, is that they will kill one at the end of the session unless we pick correctly. To further encourage the emotional bond they make us eat our meals, and spend what little recreation time that we get, with them.
I have not heard of any one graduating with that power.
Sometimes the powers manifest outside the tests. One day we were eating lunch and a Rodian girl got into an argument with another Rodian. They were trying to stab each other with their sporks. When the guards came in, she turned looked at them and screamed “Why don’t you just kill yourselves? Don’t you see what you’re doing to us?” To all of our surprise the guards actually raised their blasters to their temples. Then gas filled the cafeteria, when I woke up I was back in my cell. I never did see that Rodian girl again. Once you’ve manifested a power you graduate to stage 3 where I’m told the real training begins.
I decided to try and get some sleep to finish out what was left of the night. The tests were painful enough without being sleep deprived as well.
I woke to Ceros once again shaking me, this time it was just from exhaustion and not dreams that he couldn’t easily wake me. He smiled “We drew the obstacle course today.” Out of all the tests the obstacle course was the least demented. The obstacles were supposed to stretch our physical abilities to the extreme. Jumps no human could ever make, dodging falling objects, racing over hot vents and more. All while being chased by Kath hounds. The person that came in last, had to do another test that day as well, which was all the motivation we needed to push ourselves as hard as we could. Ceros had never gotten last. A good enough reason to smile in these times as any I suppose.
“Well let’s get to it then, don’t want to keep the hounds waiting” I say, returning the smile. We head to the mess hall, the food is surprisingly good here. I heard one of the guards say that we eat better than he does. Looking around the mess hall, I see the the other two inmates, Mathias and Tayvinn.
As we sit down with our food I notice Mathias giving us a cold stare. The last time we had done the obstacle course Ceros had pushed him into a pit of snakes. He had come in last, they didn’t even let him go to the med bay before being hauled off to the next test.
Something about that look feels off. It is more than just hatred. Maybe determination, resolve, like he is mentally preparing for… oh hell. You wouldn’t think of the spork as a deadly weapon but it can do some damage in the right hands. Mathias stands up from his table, picks up his tray and starts heading towards us, the trash was behind us, so he could be just throwing away his garbage. I tense, kick Ceros under the table and make a jerking motion with my head towards Mathias. Ceros also tenses, but Mathias keeps walking by. We both visibly relax, then to my horror Mathis lets drops his tray to the ground, spins around and stabs Ceros in the neck. Blood starts gushing everywhere.
I leap from my chair pushing Mathias away. I start trying to stop the blood flow, putting my my hands over the wound on Ceros’s neck. Two guards come running up and haul me off him. I panick and grab their arms, they let out a squeal of pain like I have never heard. They let go of me I turn to look at one and he is wilting before my eyes. Like someone was sucking all the liquids out of his body. I let go, and they both collapse to the floor. I run back to Ceros, I and try and stem the blood flow. There is nothing else I can do except hope the medics show up in time. Then something peculiar happens. I can sense the damage, I can feel the details of the wound all the way down to the bone. In my mind I envision that damage fixing itself. I can feel the skin start mending together, and the blood flow slows underneath my hands. When it stops completely, I remove my hands to find the wound is completely closed up.
I check to make sure Ceros is still breathing and then look around. The others in the room are looking on in wonder. I myself am surprised we haven’t been gassed yet.
Commander Biswall walks into the room. If there ever was a guy that thrived on the pain of others it was him. He smiles at me, that smile makes my skin crawl, “Congratulations Gaz, I was starting to run out of ideas for how to get your powers to manifest. We will have to add torture of friends to the list of things to try.”
“Commander Cadwell will be happy to see you, we will be sending you out to him in the morning. In the meantime we have a nice cozy solitary confinement cell with your name on it. This way.” He points at the doorway he had come in, I glance down at Ceros one last time and follow along after them.
As we walk Biswall carries on a casual conversation “Commander Cadwell will be so pleased, your particular powerset is very rare, most of the specimens have been manifesting physical attributes or mind tricks, very few with your gifts at this stage.” I grimace “We are not specimens, you can’t treat us like lab animals.” He just laughs at me “You are, and we do. But don’t worry you are graduating from lab animal to prized pet. Your training will be hard but you will be very well taken care of.”
We get to my new cell, I say, “You guys could use an interior decorator. The accommodations are a bit sparse don’t you think?” He just smiles at me and says “We find that after discovering your force abilities a night of silent meditation, free from distractions is always best.
I step into my cell and the door slides shut behind me. A six by six cell with no furnishings not even a cot. Solid metal walls, floor and ceiling. I don’t even see any poorly hidden observation cameras, just the window in the door.
Sitting down against the wall everything comes back to me in a rush. I can use the force. Not only that I can apparently heal people. I shudder and try not to think about what else I can do with the force. Images of the withered husks lying on the floor keep flashing through my mind. Ceros, man there was so much blood, I look down and realize I’m still covered in it. I sit there for I don’t know how long, a few hours at least, just contemplating all the horrors I’ve had to endure, that we have all had to endure, over these past few months. It was enough to break a man completely. But Biswall told us they have gone through enough specimens at this point to know exactly how much someone can endure before being broken to the point they are no longer useful.
As I am sitting there thinking, the lights flicker, and I hear a distant muffled bang like someone slamming a door, except there are no doors to slam here and the walls are too thick to hear something like that anyways.
I stand up, curious. Trying to peek through the observation glass, in my door, I see some stormtroopers run by. Good, maybe someone elses powers kicked in and they are getting a little revenge.
More noises in the distance and even more stormtroopers run by. I didn’t even realize there were that many stormtroopers at this facility. Just then several bolts of blaster fire shoot past my vision. I jump back, surprised. Maybe standing at a window is not the best option during a firefight. I sit back down in the corner of my cell, and start hoping for the best. But hey, if I get shot, at least I can heal myself, I hope. I giggle to myself a bit, a little humor in a scary situation is supposed to keep the fear away, that’s what my mother always said.
The noises outside my cell stop. I get up again and take a peek out the window, and jump backwards as I come face to face with a Wookie peering in from the other side.
The door slides open, the Wookie steps aside and a man in combat gear steps in. “We’re with the rebel alliance. Come with us if you want some revenge for what they put you through” he says.
Then he turns and runs down the hall, checking the other cells as he goes. Revenge is not really the first thing on my mind, but I am definitely not going to hang around to find out what stage 3 entailed. I set off in a run after him. The entire base is in chaos. Pockets of stormtroopers and apparently rebels locked in a shootout. We make our way back to the cafeteria, there is a giant hole in the wall to the outside. My escort runs outside, I follow and he points to a ship and yells for me to get aboard, and then runs back into the facility.
I run aboard the ship. As I enter the ship I see Ceros being tended to. “You look like hell man.” I say to him as I try and catch my breath. He looks up and smiles weakly at me. “There is no way I’m going down to a spork. Thanks for the save.” Ceros says to me. I smile and reply “Hey those are sharp I cut my tongue on one of those last week.” When he looks away I shake my head in an exaggerated no for anyone looking on.
There are a handful of other rescues. Tayvinn and Mathias, both specimen’s like myself. There are also a handful of the test subjects on board, the ones they tortured to provoke our gifts. As far as I knew none of the others had sparked a power yet, but sometimes people were able to hide it for a bit before being discovered.
I find a place to sit down, nod to my fellow inmates, well ex-inmates, and begin to wonder what comes next. Several men and women, in combat armor, board the ship most walking on their own, a few being helped by comrades. The man, who busted me out, yells towards the front of the ship “Let’s go! We got what we came for and the explosives are wired.”
The exit ramp closes and I feel the ship shake as we rise off the ground. He stops in front of the group of us and says “My name is Sergeant Dayvis. This operation’s goals were to rescue you and shut down their facility, Project Overlord is moving along too fast for the Rebellion’s liking. You will all be debriefed, the more we can find out about the Project the better we can combat it. After that you have two choices, you can sign on with the Rebellion and get a little payback, or we can drop you off on some backwater and you can spend the rest of your life hoping they don’t find you. I’ll leave you to think about it” With that he heads towards the cockpit.
Ceros looks at me and says “We’re getting revenge right? No way I’m just going to go hide after what they did to us.”
I reply “I don’t know about revenge, it seems like the Rebels took care of everyone directly involved, but at the very least we need to make sure this isn’t happening to anyone else.” I lean my head back against the ship and close my eyes, images of the redhead come to the surface. Revenge may be in the cards after all.
Four months of training go by. They say they want us to be a Special Operations Unit, get in, do some damage, get out. Everyone is getting trained in a specific area. Myself I’m taking the reins as squad leader and medic. Mathias is our sabotage expert, I keep asking him if that means he’s going to be blowing stuff up but I just get a cold stare in response. I think our time in captivity broke something in him. Tayvinn fills our support role, and Ceros rounds out the crew as our muscle, they call him internal security, but I’m pretty sure that just means he’s going to break the face of anyone that even looks at us funny.
Tayvinn comes running up to Mathias and I, out of breath and says “Gaz! Did you hear? They are sending us to Hoth for our final training. They said Commander Skywalker is going to be there, can you believe we’re going to meet someone trained by a real Jedi?”
Tayvinn has become even more enthusiastic about all things Jedi in the past few months. He has even gotten me excited about the idea of becoming one, I have to admit. Mathias grunts and replies “Spending a one way trip with someone doesn’t count as training. But it will be interesting to meet someone else who is force sensitive. Wait did you say Hoth? Isn’t that the planet of ice?”
Tayvinn grimaces “Uh yeah.” Then his eyes light up again. “Oh yeah, they also mentioned that they are going to have the heroes of the ISS Emperical mission head out so we can meet them.” I show obvious surprise on my face and say “I thought those guys were a bunch of smugglers that didn’t want anything to do with the Rebellion? They travel with an assassin droid for goodness sake.”
Tayvinn frowns at that “Well it’d still be good to thank them, we would not be here if it wasn’t for them. I’m going to go tell Ceros.” He runs off with a big smile on his face. It will be nice to be doing something other than training. Even if it’s traveling to do more training. I just hope the trials ahead won’t crush Tayvinn’s spirit, I hope being a Jedi is everything he hopes and thinks it will be.
I nod to Mathias and head back to my quarters and start packing. Not that there is much to pack, everything I own, I was given by the Rebellion. Standard issue, light blaster pistol, specialist’s cloak, general purpose scanner and an extensive medical kit. I hope they have gear for the cold on Hoth. Having finished packing I head off to find the others, to see where Destiny leads us.