It is customary at funerals to say a few things in remembrance of the passed, a symbolic showing of respect and love. It is the final chance for the living to express how much warmer the departed had made the galaxy. Usually that solemn duty is assigned to a parent or a sibling, but Marie had made a special request.
Her family had called me over after they received the heart-numbing news. Her father stoically led me into their quarters, his lined face deepened and his glacier eyes darkened by one simple fact. He had been sleeping when it happened, content that all would be right with the galaxy when he returned to the living. And now all he could do was stay awake, his head covered by trembling hands in the dark lit sky, as his mind toiled with the news that all he had cared for had been swept away in the tide.
Marie's mother was not much better. She was tucked in the end of the couch, her arms encircling her body, as if protecting her from a world that had become so indifferent. The monitor shone brightly, the heavy grin of the newsman "…esterday the Empire's finest were able to stop rebel traitors from initiating an attack on the spaceport…" I couldn't stand anymore and nearly smashed the console in irritation to make the screen go black.
The grieving husband, after escorting me to a seat, went to her side and looked into her red rimmed eyes. At first, she didn't seem to notice him but then he whispered a lie to her over and over again. "Everything is going to be alright. Please come back to me."
A sob escaped her lips and she released her arms and gripped him fiercely, the tendons along her slender arms bulging and taut. He took her up in his arms, dutifully carrying his once young wife into the place that had always been their sanctuary.
I drew my gaze from their forms to the holo-disk lying on the table. I bent over to pick it up, and a sudden lump formed in my throat. I had bought that for her not two weeks before.
It had been a birthday present.
You are an Imperial Officer. Control yourself, breathe in and breathe out.
I raised it off the table, pressed the play button, and placed it on the floor.
A bright light made me squint, and then Marie appeared before me.
I composed myself, reflexively straightening my olive green officer uniform that had only recently been a source of so much pride. I stopped my hand and placed it on my knee, a small part of my mind loathing the very feel of the fabric, the cold rub of the shined medals.
She looked so beautiful. Her dark russet hair tumbled down the back of her bronzed neck as it had so often when we had been children. She opened her emerald eyes and gazed out with false enthusiasm. I couldn't look at them, the vice on my heart compressing until my gaze slipped from her face.
Marie paused for a second, composing herself. It would have been difficult for her, standing there, all alone, crafting a message that would only be heard after her death. But she had always been brave that way, facing what she feared.
"If you're hearing this Devlin, I'm already dead." I waited.
Her alto voice rang out again; tightly controlled "I'm sorry that I couldn't keep my promise to you." My eyes moved to the ring that comfortably encircled her index finger.
We were going to have a throng of lovely children. We were going to be standing by each other for all eternity as friends. As lovers. As husband and wife. I thought that was all we needed.
I should have known better. She had always fought for what she believed.
That's how we first met after all.
"Do you remember that day Devlin? That boy, Ben, was being attacked by the Skulls in the alleyway. Afterwards, you said I was some kind of Kath Hound." One side of her mouth tried to lift into a grin. "You asked…'What could have induced you into attacking Skulls?' and I said that…."
Evil will always triumph if good people don't do anything.
"…evil will always triumph if good people don't do anything."
"The Empire….the Empire is that evil. They herd people like cargo into ships and send them off to penal colonies. They denigrate entire species," her eyes were abruptly aglow, burning so bright…… "They rob us of more freedoms everyday and they have hunted the peacekeepers to extinction."
I spoke up, my voice cracking "I was going to change it, did you know that?" I shook my head and I looked into her eyes pushing past the pain "No, I never told you. I was going to change it from the inside. I was going to make a new Empire, an empire rising from the ashes of corruption, like a Phalaanx of Mustafar.
There would be no civil war, just stability … and peace."
I found myself on my feet, my hands clenched at my sides.
"That's why I had to help them, the rebels. I hope that ….you might forgive me one day." A tear escaped one of her eyes "Devlin…please speak for me at the funeral? I…" the crystal droplet fell and vanished into the ether, "…I would be honored if the man who had been my protector in life would send me onward to the hereafter. Goodbye, my love and…May the Force be with you, always."
Her shoulders trembled and her eyes began to rain. And then Marie left my life forever
I stood in the dark there for what seemed like eternity, my hands buried in my face as water stained my face
Why did you die Marie?
Why was I the one who killed you?
I attended the funeral service. It was a beautiful day, the clouds tinged with the last departing light of the sun. The coffin that housed what had once been my fiancée was made of beautiful Nubian stone.
The proper rituals were observed and eventually I was called to where she lay to say who she had been in life.
I looked upon the assembled and I told them of her zest for life, her love for the ocean and her dedication to principles that she had defended from any aggressor. And lastly, I told them of our love.
My words continued long past the setting sun.
I remained standing there by her grave for a very long time.
The anguish of the memory crashed against my chest, unbidden and unwanted.
The clouds had covered the sky that night, making the darkness as deep as the evil in some hearts.
We had received a tip that a rebel cell was going to hijack a local transport ship filled with weapons and supplies that were meant for a newly deployed contingent in the Outer Rim.
My troops sat in the dark, their uniforms obscured by the night. It began to rain.
We remained there, our clothes damp against our skins.
There, I pointed out with my hand, the figures that crept along the duracreet. Rebels.
My men waited for my signal and when the Rebels began entering the hangar, blasters fired. Red energy bolts stitched across the length of the port, killing some and wounding others.
I found myself crouched by fallen bodies and as I returned fire and barked out orders, a lone figure broke out in a run into the city.
I dashed after the Rebel, pursuing down one empty street after another, all the while dodging ill-aimed bolts, until I finally trapped him in a broken down alley. He turned so fast, the darkness obscuring his face. I fired, the energy exploding against an exposed chest.
My breath caught in my lungs. I had seen a glimpse of her face from the light reflected off the beam that had killed her.
I couldn't feel my legs as I slowly walked over to the end of the alleyway. When my eyes confirmed the horrible truth, I fell to my knees.
I whispered it at first, the volume rising with each word, "No, no, no, noooooo…." I gasped, sucking in large amounts of life, pain rocking me to my very center.
I killed her.
I killed Marie.
Without an ounce of regret, content in the knowledge that I was keeping the Empire safe for its future, I had killed my life. I had murdered the one thing that made it all worthwhile.
Marie, my first sacrifice.