Monday, January 4, 2016


Bobby Derie

The Memory of Alderan came out of hyperspace in a silent burst of deceleration, the streaks of light easing themselves out once more into individual stars, planets, nebulae... In the cockpit, Eiven Task shivered in fever dreams of pursuit, memories of weeks-long games of hide-and-seek, punctuated by short and bloody dogfights with pursuing TIE fighters. The Memory bore the marks of the long pursuit from the old Imperial capital, where Task had left behind a burning training center, a dead Imperial Knight, and his right hand. The stump still alternately itched and burned from where he had crudely re-attached it, following the medical diagrams as best as he could, trying to slip into healing trances when he had a few minutes, but not daring to rest for much longer than it took the hyperdrive engine to recover.

Fatigue, exhaustion, and creeping infection all impinged on his consciousness. Warning lights blared in quiet discord, and with his tireless artificial left arm the human reached out and tapped at the controls. The stars made no sense, but there was a gravitational anomaly dead ahead, sensors screaming impossible values as the Memory slowly fell toward the white, cloud-like ripple in space. Calling up whatever was left of his reserves, left hand clutching at the emergency hyperdrive activation switch, Task once more opened himself up to the Force, the all-encompassing energy field, to try and divine the safe path.

Darkness claimed Task, but a darkness that moved and breathed. Phantoms passed before his vision, twisted reflections of Jedi robes, holding a green-bladed lightsaber in the traditional style, face bearded, eyes wise. In the dark cowl of a Sith, face black and red with runes, a pair of burning red blades strapped to his wrists like gauntlets. In an insectile grey armor, metal pike crunching through a stormtrooper's armor with inhuman force. A broken, limbless thing, eyes gaping holes, teeth pulled out, an enfant terrible floating through a broken world, screaming its pain, lightning flashing from its broken stumps...

A face resolved among the darkness. A closer mirror image of his own - leaner, more emaciated, decked out desert fashion, his left arm a crude prosthetic, a pair of claws surrounding the emitter of a lightsaber.

"What..." he asked of himself.

"A crossroads." The voice echoed in his head, like hearing his own recorded voice played back to him. "The Force extends beyond the one reality. Those of us who are aware of the Force - who interact with it - find ourselves echoed down through the infinities, replaying all the possibilities."

"Not real..."

"No more than legends," the dusty figure juggled tiny spheres. Task was amazed to recognize them as miniature death stars. "Look," his other self said, pointing into the darkness. So Task looked.

Darth Vader stood, grim and terrible as the holograms that Task had seen of him, echoes of him played through duels with different figures, some that Eiven recognized, others that the human had never seen before...but names came to him. Skywalker. Obi-Wan. Sidious. Starkiller. He saw the great Sith Lord clad in white, fighting for the Rebellion. And as a burned relic, before which a Knight of Ren knelt in homage. Task clutched at the names, the images, but the more he grasped at them, the farther they seemed to recede from his mind.

"In some realities, an Imperial remnant remained. The Sith united behind the Rule of One. In others, the Knights of Ren arose. The differences between those realities are sometimes subtle, sometimes profound...but what do they mean for you, Eiven Task? Archaeologist, failed Jedi, recalcitrant Sith, digging through their trash for fragments of lore and technology..."

"I am myself, always." Task breathed. "But what is real?" Task held up his hand, the band of burned and blackened flesh where his hand was crudely stitched to his stump, the flesh already looked pale, unhealthy, and dead. His other self gave a nasty smile, showing metal teeth. "That's up to you. Do you embrace only the narrow road...or the infinities?"

"It's not that easy," Eiven said to himself, suddenly aware of how much his right hand hurt.

"Of course not," his doppelganger replied. The other echoes seemed to have faded, leaving them along in the darkness. "It means unmaking a part of yourself, to choose amid the infinities. It means leaving part of what you were, what you have been behind. And it will affect what you may become."

"Be that as it may," Task found his feet, the familiar metal decks of the Memory of Alderan, facing the too-familiar reflection in the darkness. "I will live."

Task blinked, staring at his own reflection in the glass of the cockpit window. The sensors pinged gently, and a sudden pain shot up the human's arm as he instinctively stabbed at the screen. TIE fighters converging on his position, far now, but coming in fast. The icons of the First Order jagged red starbursts closing in. Ahead of him, a planet - dark continent-wide forests, trapped in an ice age. Eiven smiled as he sat down, wincing as he thumbed the twin ion engines to life, aiming for the planet. He could lose them in the magnetic fields, seek cover beneath a storm, find a place to lay low and heal. Task knew, as the engines gunned to life, that he wasn't dead. Not yet.


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