Friday, July 4, 2014

Force Forge

Force Forge
Bobby Derie
The rains came to Bastion. Winters on the old capital-world were mild affairs, and snow was rare at any latitude, but the freezing rain and fogs would come down and soak a sentient to the bone. Stormtroopers knew how, if their armor was not in perfect condition, it would seep into every crack and seam, running down spines and puddling in boots; most of the commanders issued them raincloaks for that specific reason, but even then there were few who didn't stand a few long, shivvering watches on guard duty outside, wanting nothing more than to return to the barracks.

Crawling through the mud, Eiven Task knew how they felt. He was cold, inside and out. Rain and thin, freezing mud squelched inside his own armor, his toes and the fingers of his flesh-and-blood right hand already numb, his body aching from the fight he had lost. Only his prosthetic left arm didn't ache, and he used the superior strength of the tireless limb to propel himself along. Yet it was the words and actions of the blademaster that had cut him deeper than any lightsaber. Found wanting, the ex-Imperial Knight had broken Task and ordered his pupils to toss the human outside, as something not even worth the killing.

Inside his helmet, as he struggled on towards the dim grey outlines of distant buildings, Eiven's face was stuck in a rictus grin. Leaving him alive was always a mistake.


By the time he reached the shipyards, Task was walking, albeit needing to use his lightsaber pike as a staff for support, limping from a twisted ankle.

The ship was called The Memory of Alderaan. Once it had been a small cargo craft, based loosely on the TIE-designs, one of the many variations. Popular, if not ubiquitious, and it made it easy to find spare parts. Eiven keyed the code and stepped through the small airlock into the cargo container, converted to his living quarters. Drugs came first, the haze of nullicane taking the edge off as he stripped off his filthy clothes and armor, taping up his ankle and ribs. Then came food: imperishable lumps of protein dissolved in hot water, swimming with bundi rice, and a tin of the strange local beer. Task couldn't read the script it was in, but it featured a cartoon reptilian alien decked out as a stormtrooper, and privately he thought of it as Lizard Squeezings.

Once he felt almost human, he flicked a hidden switch. Smuggler panels in the walls hissed and retracted, revealing his armory - bits and pieces of Sith and Jedi gear, tools and weapons from the old Imperial armories, half-assembled lightsabers. The head of the droid A1S1 stirred into life on its shelf as Eiven came forward, assembling the things he would need, silent and waiting, and the row of holocrons flickered into life, seven ghostly masters watching as he picked and chose his tools.


The plasma forge was small, but powerful; enough to soften durasteel enough to work or serve as a crucible to grow a lightsaber crystal. Eiven had used it for both, before. For raw material he chose one of the spare ship springs - high-quality metal, but nothing too fancy or elaborate. The small anvil and wood-handled hammers with the strangely rounded heads and tongs were older than Task, and belonged to a swordsmith from old Tython.

Task's hand itched as he waited for the forge to heat up, the window revealing a cherry-orange glow. He knew how to do this. The stories and lectures filled his head, he could visualize what he needed to do. The hammer was in his artificial left hand, wishing he could feel the grain of the wood shaft, but knowing it didn't matter.

When the forge was ready, Eiven carefully fed in the spring, already sweating from the heat. He began to control his breathing, the first step of meditation. The air he drew into his lungs was hot and dry, tinged with ozone and burnt iron. The Force filled him for the space of each breath, and he held it, then released, letting it flow out of him as he expelled the air. As the metal began to glow, Task dragged it out of the forge, set it on the anvil, and brought the hammer down.

Rage flared in his heart at the peel, the glowing spring now deformed by the blow. Task brought the hammer down again, setting up a steady rhythm, the tireless arm working with mechanical efficiency as he shaped the metal. With every blow he breathed, the Force flowing down his arm, through hand and hammer, into the lump of metal. Every pulse was tinged with anger, the burning pain and rage born from his defeat, stoked by his long and agonizing crawl, now brought to a flame.

Eiven had gone berserk in battle before. Had lost control as the Dark Side filled him almost to bursting, driving him to madness. It was not invincibility, he knew, nor omnipotence. The Force did not push him to the cruelties he had committed, the faces he had scorched away, to let the owners claw at themselves, blind and in pain, unable to even scream with the tongues burned out of their mouths...Task pictured those faces as he pounded the metal, remembering as he stalked the field of corpses, the glowing red blade an extension of his hand, stabbing into any bodies that might yet be alive...and over and again he came to the blademaster, droning on, mocking him.

"What do you hate?" the ex-Imperial Knight had said. Task snarled as the blade took shape. Soon enough, he would know.


It took weeks. Hatred is no substitute for skill, and Task fed his spite on the practice, discarding the flawed and broken products, collapsing exhausted at night, only to rise again. The final product was unlovely and unexceptional to look at, even after he had taken the stone and polish to it, and more of a large double-bladed dagger than anything else, perhaps thirty centimeters long from hilt-stud to point. Yet it was a solid piece of work, and Eiven was pleased with it. In the cold durasteel a bit of the Force slumbered; when he touched it rage flared into his thoughts, and seemed to tug in his grasp as his thoughts turned violent, visions of self-mutilation filling his mind. Task grinned as he focused his thoughts, pushing them out of his mind so he could slip the blade back into its sheath.

The failed Jedi celebrated his success with Lizard Squeezings; the forging had left him drained as he contemplated the hungry blade, and the revenge it would win him against the blademaster.


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