Atlas Astray

Upon the duty of the few, rests the peace of the many.

The mantra that bars the prison of conscience still echoes strongly in the confines of my mind.

The first step is so very easy because of it. The droid side of me, capable and analyzing, begins orchestrating the movements of my body in perfect tandem with my all too weak flesh.

The second step and gravity seems to bear down on me, my bones aching as my footsteps pound the floor.

The third step and the guard is already dying, his disbelieving eyes only serve to ask me-"Why?" Absurdly, I almost tell him, but my words evaporate as the light behind his eyes dim to nothing.

The fifth step and a lump is in my throat.

The doors slide apart seamlessly, exposing an apparently stunned cadre of puffed up dignitaries and tray laden servers.

The sixth step, and I can see the Duke, his body tensed like a sand panther about to pounce, his bloodstripes making the resemblance all the more uncanny. … and there's a small girl attached to his wrist, with delicately small hands and soft almond eyes.

I bring my blaster to bear but by the time scarlet death disgorges, spearing through Alderannian silk and flesh, the Duke is already a blur, his daughter forced to the ground.

I bite back a curse as I sprint past the slumping bodies and lose count of my steps.

The duke returns fire, the energy bolts streaking past me, leaving charred hair atop my head. And then my right leg… disappears, a numbing presence now taking the place of muscle and sinew. I'm able to limp into the kitchen before a blaster bolt carves a crater in my back.

I glance at my leg. A chunk of my thigh is missing, smoke still wreathing the air. That's when it starts to hurt, like a fusion engine uncut. If I hadn't been wearing armor…

He's firing every few seconds, keeping me suppressed, and probably counting down the seconds until security arrives. For a moment, I'm almost glad that the security system crashed not five minutes ago.

Almost.

There's a pause….the girl. He's going for his daughter. My teeth clench down hard, clamping down the flame erupting from my leg as I push off the floor.

I round the corner, and he's already in front of her, the shadows in the maw of his blaster turning scarlet. I only need three steps….

One….

His first shot goes wide. The wall behind me explodes, dust rising into the air.

Two….

My free arm extends as if to catch the strike and my eyes meet his… there lies only fire.

Too late.

Searing light….

Three…

My arm twists the barrel off, dark circuitry smiling in the light, my blaster finding purchase next to his beating heart. He utters a quite prayer… and then his body shivers and turns heavy, collapsing to the floor. I wait for the world to crush me, another wrong added to its weight.

It doesn't.

A small whimper flutters across my skin. The girl is on the floor; her father's glazed eyes staring through her.

She can't be older than eight. I close his eyes; no child should see that.

She looks at me….as if I were some horror from the fairy tales read to her by her doting father.

Upon the duty of the few, rests the peace of the many.

Tears are etched into her pearly skin as I place the blaster to her head….

I close my eyes, and the room vanishes, leaving me in the dark… alone.

The last step….

My arm recoils…

…. is always the hardest.

I limp to the speeder parked on the roof above me…

….and I fly into the red-orange sky.

The tears never leave my eyes.