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Eyes the Color of Night
Prisoner X173. Human. Female. Five-foot three. That was the description printed in the Official report. I rolled my eyes and straightened my uniform. It was going to be a long day. Before the Republic crumbled, I was a Senator from Corellia. I lived in luxury in the Senatorial Apartments instead of the cramped officer's quarters of the Detention Center. I am proud that I remained loyal to Palpatine when others defected. I had no other choice. In return for my loyalty, I was given the rank of Commander and placed in charge of the Imperial Prison on this hellhole of a planet. It is not a fitting place to raise children, but at least my wife Ariana and our son Ouron will be safe back on Coruscant. I looked over my shoulder to make sure there were no surveillance droids or petty officers near and injected myself with a stimshot. My grey, haggard face stared back from the mirrored ebony surface of the console. I felt like I hadn't slept in years and my eyes were shadowed and bloodshot-two icy pools sunken in dark pits. I bit my tongue until the tremors subsided and walked down the duracrete halls to the brig. I passed the cells of condemned, murderers and deserters awaiting execution, and the holding cells of thieves and other scum. Most of the offenders were local riffraff. There were rarely any that merit my time or attention.
Leuitenant Ralien greeted me. My first officer was a short mousy man with straw colored hair who always appeared to be squinting.
"Commander Srenna, Prisoner X1037 was found stealing from a street vendor. She had no identification."
"I have no more room for thieves. Ship her to Kessel."
"Commander. There's something else. She claims to be a Jedi."
He snarled derisively, but I fought laughter.
"The Jedi were exterminated by Lord Vader. She obviously belongs in an institution."
"Every few years a survivor is found. We cannot take the chance."
"We'll hold her here until further notice." It was easier to acquiesce than to argue with Ralien. He was a loyal servant of the Empire and obsessed with protocol.
Prisoner X1073 crouched in the corner of the cell, rocking back and forth whispering to herself in the cadence of a prayer. She repeated the barely audible words "There is no death, there is no death…" over and over as her hands clasped her knees. Long matted black hair fell into her eyes, concealing her face. She was scrawny and pale and couldn't possibly have been over thirteen. Her arms and legs were cut and bruised and her robes were dirty.
I addressed her sharply. "Prisoner X1073. Stand up."
She didn't respond for a moment and continued rocking.
"Stand up or I will have the guards come in and make you stand up." Years ago I learned that the frailest prisoners can quickly transform into adrenaline-driven monsters—I bear the scars of their rage. She struggled to her feet and slowly lifted her head to look at me. Her nose was bloody and her eye black and I winced despite my training at the site of her battered face.
"Now, you're going to answer some questions. I can make your life much more comfortable if you cooperate."
Her eyes were defiant- two ebony pools regarding me with contempt. I don't think I've ever seen eyes that dark.
"What is your name?"
"Why do you care?" she asked, her voice unexpectedly strong.
"I assure you I only want to know for intelligence purposes."
"Rya. Rya Cloudbearer." Interesting-a name typical of the outer rim, perhaps Nal Hutta or Tatooine.
"How old are you?"
"Try again," I ordered. She was lying.
"No." The corners of my mouth twisted into a wry smile. Even I knew something of the ways of teenagers. My son was sixteen.
She seemed to recognize my skepticism and her shoulders slumped. "Thirteen."
"You're just a child. You claim to be a Jedi. Why?"
She crossed her arms. "Because I am."
"There are no Jedi anymore. Lord Vader rid the Universe of the vermin. If you'd told me the truth, I could have helped you."
I turned my back and approached the Lieutenant.
"She's mentally ill and suffering from delusional episodes. Make a request for a prisoner transfer to the Imperial Asylum on Coruscant."
"Sir. We received a transmission from Coruscant. Prisoner A1977 is to be executed today."
"Very good, lieutenant. Shall we?"
We entered death row where the lights pulsed in a rhythm that was supposed to keep the prisoners more docile. For the rest of us, the lights induced splitting headaches. The prisoner was red-headed with a scruffy beard on his broad, swarthy face. He coughed once or twice, yawned, and rolled over. I began the familiar litany."Prisoner A1977, you have been sentenced to death by execution for crimes of treason against the Empire..."
He turned to face us on his metal platform.
"I wondered when you would come for me. You've been keeping me waiting so long." He stood up and crossed his large arms. I continue reciting.
"You will this day be executed by gas. Have you any last words?"
Prisoners either accept there fate with resignation, weep and beg for mercy, or fight to their last breaths. Prisoner A1977 chose to fight.
"Yeah. I'm not sorry I wrote those books or made those speeches. The Empire will fall and I'm just sorry I won't be around to see it." He shook his fist slapped his hands against the force field. The lieutenant twitched.
The lieutenant started the sequence that would fill the chamber with deadly diroxin gas, his slender fingers gliding over the console like a Corellian harpist's.
"I need a security clearance sir."
I entered the code clearance and the cell filled with a violet mist. The prisoner held his breath until his face flushed crimson. Several of the men left their posts to watch in morbid fascination. Seconds stretched by, feeling like an eternity. Several of the staff glanced at each other and shrugged. Finally, the man could hold his breath no longer and pummeled the force field. The veins at his temples pulsed and his hands contorted into talons.
"Boost the strength on the field, lieutenant. I don't want any gas escaping." His eyes were clouding over with a violet haze and he slumped down, gasping for breath. Two minutes passed and the sequence stopped.
"Medic Rtaren," I command. When the gas cleared, the tall gaunt medic checked his vital signs and nodded.
"Send a return transmission, Lieutenant. Prisoner A1977 terminated."
My work finished, I return to my quarters where I took another stimshot to help me sleep. The execution entered my dreams as others have on so many nights. In the middle of the night, I received an urgent message from Leuitenant Eralien. His speech was rapid and clipped. I injected another stimshot, knowing I wouldn't like what he had to say.
"We found something near the site where prisoner X1073 was found."
He took out a sealed evidence container and pulled out a small metal cylinder. He held it out to me at arms length as if holding it would contaminate him.
"Is that what I think it is?"
"Yes. Shall I send a report to Imperial Command?"
"Not yet. Have the guards interrogate the prisoner and see what you can find out."
Normally I conducted all interrogations myself, but the stimshot was wearing off.
"Let me know what you find out."
He leaves me alone with the weapon and I become aware of its weight in my hand. One of the last of its kind save for the ones preserved in the Imperial Center.
The next morning, I knew I made a mistake. The girl was on the floor crying as two of the guards kicked and taunted her. "Look at the Jedi now. She isn't so strong. She's just a little girl."
"Leave me alone! I'm not telling you anything!" She screams. One of the guards suddenly fell and I wondered if it was her.
"Stop this at once," I commanded. The guards stop and stand at attention. "What are you doing?"
"Interrogating the prisoner."
"You won't get any information that way. It would be far easier to use an injection."
"Yes, but it wouldn't be as much fun," one laughed.
"Silence or you will be demoted. I am reassigning you to the maximum security ward effective immediately. Ensign Mitchakis will guard her from now on."
"Yes sir." Several of my men were watching me skeptically, but as Commander, I approved of torture only in the most extreme cases and never against women or children.
The girl struggled to her feet and wedged herself into the farthest corner of the cell. I could see I would get no information out of her now. I watched her for some time after most of the personnel went home.
"I did not order this." I don't know what compelled me to say it. Those dark eyes burn with anger, fear, and unimaginable pain.
"Are you badly injured?" I ask softly. She does not reply and I hear her sobbing softly.
"I'll have the medic take care of you."
I sent a holo to my wife. I told her that I was well-that I enjoyed my work. In short, I lied.
I returned to Detention block A5A where she was confined. I took out the lightsaber and showed it to her.
"This was found in the area where you were caught."
She was standing on her feet now her eyes flashing.
"That's mine. I want it back. Give it to me!" I sighed. I hoped when confronted with concrete evidence, her story would fall apart.
"You know I can't do that. You incapacitated five guards before they caught you."
"They deserved it. They're monsters and so are you."
I allowed my face to remain calm, impassive. Other officers would have shot her.
"Why don't you go away and leave me alone?"
"In good time, Rya."
I forgo protocol and use her name rather than prisoner designation.
"If you're going to kill me just get it over with! I'd rather die a clean death than be beaten by your goons."
"I'm not going to kill you."
"If you're going to torture me don't bother. I won't tell you anything."
"I'm not going to torture you as long as you cooperate."
"What do you want?"
"I don't know anything." The expression on her face was so similar to the way my son looked at me when he was angry. Her cheeks are gaunt and there are deep shadows under her eyes.
I bring out food and water from the officer's mess.
"I'm going to deactivate the force field now. Don't try anything or you'll be killed.
"You can't get me to talk with food."
"This is free. You need to eat."
I deactivated the shield and her eyes darted looking for any escape. I slid the tray into her cell and reactivated the shield. She eyed the food suspiciously.
"It's not drugged," I ensured her.
Hunger took over and she grabbed the tray like an animal, shoveling food into her mouth and guzzling water.
I allowed her to eat in silence before I continued the interrogation.
"Were you trained on Coruscant?"
"How did you survive the fall of the temple?"
Her eyes are filled with pain when she answers. "I was on a mission on Kel'nigh."
"Who was with you?"
She abruptly closed off and pointedly pushed the tray away. "I've lost my appetite."
"Surely you weren't alone? Who was you're master?"
She stared silently in response.
I try again. "What was the objective of your mission?"
"I don't have any reason to lie. I'm dead no matter what."
I didn't want to think about her fate. I kept hoping this was some kind of mistake.
"I want to help you. I don't like killing children."
She suddenly looked at me with absolute calm.
"Nothing matters anyway. My master will come for me soon." I didn't respond and made a note to search prisoner records for any trace of Jedi found in the system. The shaking started again.
The prisoner noticed the tremors despite my efforts to conceal them. "What's wrong with you?"
"It's not your concern," I barked. I was certain she already knew. I retreated to the refresher and spashed water on my face. My eyes were red rimmed and the tremors were so bad I had difficulty injecting the stimshot. I slumped against the door for a moment catching my breath, my heart racing. For a moment, I wondered if I was dying. My heart rate slowed. The drug gave me less relief every day. Once I recovered enough, I asked Leuitenant Ralien to search detention records for captured Jedi in the system.
The next morning, she was clean, her hair pulled back revealing delicate olive-skin and high cheekbones. Despite the cuts and bruises, she was a pretty child. I don't know what provoked that thought. She was what I loathed more than anything—a traitor.
"You said your Master would come to you. What is his name?"
"If I tell you that you'll kill him."
"So, your master is a man."
Her cheeks flushed with shame.
"How long have you hidden here?" I asked.
"Since I was eleven."
"That's two years. Who took care of you?"
"A local family. My master paid them to take care of me. When the Imperials came they threw me out. Then, I mostly took care of myself."
"Did you honestly think you could hide from the empire?"
"I nearly got away with it. I would have if the vendor hadn't reported me. Iwant to ask you questions now."
"Alright." I foolishly allowed it, hoping for information.
"Why did you join the Empire?"
"I remained loyal to Palpatine. The Empire is the present and future. Those who do not serve the Emperor are traitors."
She shook her head and muttered under her breath, "Unbelievable."
"Do you have a family?
"Yes. A wife and a son. He'll be attending the Imperial Academy next year"
"I know why you shake." She looked at me—no—she looked inside me.
"You take drugs and they used to make you better, but now they make you feel worse."
"Silence! You know nothing about me nor should you! I am the Commander here and that is all you need to know!"
I stormed out feeling angry at myself for breaking the most important rule. I'd lost my objectivity the moment I started thinking of her as a child and not the trained killing machine she was. I craved stimshot, but I didn't give in. I couldn't allow her to be correct.
I didn't return to her cell for two days. I filed transfer requests and processed new arrivals. I conducted excessive inspections—anything to avoid dealing with her. Some of the guards began to talk in whispers about my failure with the girl.
Leuitenant asked me, "Shouldn't we send a message to Imperial Center. Lord Vader should be notified." "If we're wrong, we'll both be dead," I said. "What about a midichlorian analysis? That should provide sufficient evidence."
"Contact the medic and see that it's done."
That night, I watched her sleeping fitfully. I remembered comforting my son during his nightmares and wondered who comforted her. I hoped beyond all hope that the test would save her. She was a Jedi. Above all else, they repulsed me, but seeing her so frail sleeping there, I felt a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach—pity. Rya was condemned to death from birth.
Leuitenant Ralien presented me with the test results, his jowled face shaking with excitement.
"The test proves conclusively that she is a Jedi. There's nothing crazy about this one. I've sent a transmission to Imperial Center. Lord Vader wants to attend to this matter personally." I stumble. It's too late for me to do anything now.
"You were supposed to contact me first."
"It's standard procedure."
"What about the Master?"
"There was a Jedi captured about seven months ago here. He was transferred to Coruscant and executed. His name was Onric Liltaron."
"Thank you, Leuitenant."
I turned walking swiftly away from the control center and toward the detention block.
"Sir—I need your authorization for an execution."
"It can wait. Take the afternoon off."
I reached the detention block and deactivated the security holorecorders. There is only one guard in her area at this time of night and I made sure he was sleeping soundly from the extra ingredient in his caf.
Her eyes watched my every move as I deactivated the force field. She stood up.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm going to help you."
I didn't answer her. I tried to calm and reassure her. She looked so young right now.
"We found you're Master—Onnric."
She smiled for the first time.
I stepped closer to her. "You'll be with him soon."
She turned away from me, facing the wall. "I knew you were a good person," she whispers. I felt it." She didn't see me pull the blaster from my sleeve or feel the sting of the blast. She tensed and fell to the ground lifeless. I checked for a pulse in her delicate wrist. She would not suffer at the hands of Vader or his Jedi hunters now. I stand and slam my head against the cell wall-once, twice. I grind my teeth against the pain and do it once more and then see only merciful darkness.
The men accepted my story. I entered the cell to interrogate the prisoner one last time and was overpowered. I shot her in self defense. The holorecorders of course malfunctioned leaving no evidence. A message was sent confirming her death and I was demoted and transferred. Life went on, but I will always be haunted by two eyes the color of night.
I revamped a few sections. Thank you for reading!