Sergeant Rickenbauker was a nightmare of a man. The scars criss-crossing his face looked an angry red road map, a visage twisted even further by a permanent scowl. A cybernetic arm-without the politically correct synthetic flesh- completed the picture, whirring and clicking, angrily demanding a tune-up (demands the sergeant would ignore for another week). Rickenbauker prowled back and forth on the raised stage, sweeping a gimlet eye over the latest recruits. They sat straight, too straight, like so many nails ready for hammering. Their fresh faces churned up memories he'd rather forget, of time long past. They reminded Rickenbauker of himself, before three wars, a missing eye, and seven insurrections. Back when he'd been a sappy little green-back, fresh out of the academy, and ready to change the galaxy. He didn't change the galaxy. In fact, he barely survived the front lines long enough for a promotion to officer. A few decades down the line, after some ill-advised boat rocking, he was making academy introductions and teaching greenbacks not to shot themselves in the foot.
With a mental sigh, Rickenbauker tapped the micro-mic at his lapel, face unflinching as reverb squealed like a dying bantha. The whole assembly winced.
Rickenbauker's voice was like gravel in a blender. "Welcome to the academy," he growled. "You've been accepted to the Sector Seven Stormtrooper Academy because, apparently, you're the best. ARE YOU THE BEST, RECRUITS?"
Some in the audience frowned. A handful sent back a halfhearted, "yes sir".
Rickenbauker sneered, lone eye narrowing in distaste. "I'm glad we understand. Pay attention while you're here, and maybe you'll get through your careers without looking like me."
In the front row, a particularly posh looking recruit fidgeted. Rickenbauker grinned, flipping his scowl upside down. The change was not an improvement.
Pulling a data pad from his pocket, the sergeant tapped out a quick sequence. A panel in the stage floor slid back, and a small hologram projector rose to his knees. Another sequence and the projector came to life, throwing up a gently revolving illustration.
"Take a good look, recruits. I'm sure everyone's heard of these, but only a few know what they look like. Any guesses?"
A few tentative hands rose, only for Rickenbauker to wave a hand in annoyance, "Just shout it out."
Mr. Front Row Posh cleared his throat. "Ah...A concussion round?"
Further back, another recruit belted out, "Med-Scanner?"
"No and no," said Rickenbauker. "Not a bad guess with the scanner, but you're going the way with that one. It's a lightsaber."
The audience leaned forward. Outside of a few major museums and private collections, few had ever laid eyes on the ancient weapon. The stories, though, were another matter. Who among them, as young boys, had not been fired by the thought of such a weapon? The equivalent of a factory Las-Cutter in the palm of your hand.
"You'll never see a one in action," said Rickenbauker, "But the Empire still requires all recruits to recognize these weapons, as a matter of history. We lost a lot of good men to lightsabers, and the Empire does not forget."
A tap on his data pad, and the holographic weapon sprang to life. Three feet of pure energy sprang from the hilt with a bizarre hiss, quickly dropping into a gentle hum.
"Lightsabers utilized high frequency photons locked into a cyclic pattern. The photons get forced through a special crystal matrix, so everything stays nice and stable, instead of blowing up in your hand. The result was an elegant and brutal close-range weapon. Old reports talk about lightsabers slicing durasteel like butter."
The sergeant gave an approving nod. "It sounds impressive because it is. Incredibly effective up close. Not so effective when you've got a blaster pointed at your face."
A low ripple of laughter passed through the assembly.
"Be that as it may," he said, "It doesn't change the facts. These weapons were near-perfect for the Jedi, for one reason: Telepathy.
Soft murmurs broke out. This was a new piece of the picture.
"That's right," said Rickenbauler. "That's coming straight from top historical authorities. Jedi Knights were of all races, but the initiation process into their order gave an inductees a form of telepathy. Historians are unclear how this was accomplished, exactly. Organ transplants? Genetic splicing? The juries still out on that.
Many recruits frowned at the mention of organ transplanting, a barbaric custom that persisted only on the most backwater, fringe planets. Rickenbauker continued, unruffled.
"Some Jedi had great control over this...gift. Others had less. But all of them, as a rule, possessed the ability. Not that it did them any good. The Empire had dealt with telepathic races before, and we've dealt with more since." Rickenbauker held up a gnarled finger, jabbing it for emphasis. "The key is simple: Don't focus on the Jedi, focus on the weapon."
Some eyes in the audience widened at the simple revelation, and the sergeant nodded to himself. "That's right, take your focus away from a telepathic target, and they're back in the dark. Our techies ran some simulations. A few good shots from a modern blaster is all it would take to overload a lightsaber photon beam." He spread his arms wide. "And there you go. Weapon neutralized. Close, apprehend, and exterminate with extreme prejudice."
With a click of the data pad, the hologram faded out, and the projector sank into the stage with a pneumatic hiss.
"But enough history. Who can tell me the recharge rate on a stock issue Nebula T-17?"
The day passed as it always did at the Sector Seven Stormtrooper Academy; quickly, efficiently, and orderly. All thoughts of lightsabers were swept away in a swirl of lectures, training, and drills. But that night, as each new recruit lay in his bed, thoughts would drift to older times, to ancient warriors and weapons, and they would remember.
Jedi are not easily forgotten.