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The Empire Makes Us Monsters

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     Sinjir glanced at his datapad. A notification sensor raises orders from Inspector General Versio. Versio was a friend of Moff Larson Orseas, whose ring had gone missing two days prior. The entire unit had been tasked with tracking it down. Most of them had no idea about the encrypted data it contained, but when Veriso gives an order, you bet your life you had better follow it. Looks like they eventually found the culprit.

     A familiar name came up as Sinjir scrolled through the orders, Gunnery Officer Rilo Tang. At it again, eh? Sinjir thought. Tang was a kleptomaniac and he’d take anything he could get his hands on. He had a bad reputation with the higher-ups, but Sinjir secretly liked how he kept a bit of chaos in the ranks. It didn’t hurt that Tang  was easy on the eyes as well. Sinjir scrolled more, then stopped suddenly. Well, that wasn’t good news. His orders were cryptic but easily decipherable. He was to put Tang “out of commission.”

     Sinjir walked to the interrogation room thinking about what he would do. How many people had he actually gotten to know during his time in ISB? Two he figured, Rilo Tang and his training mentor, Officer Sid Uddra. Uddra had pulled Sinjir from the Imperial Academy because the officers there had thought him unfit for ground duty. They claimed he was insubordinate and undisciplined. He didn’t get along with the other cadets and he got into too many fights.

     Sinjir stopped at the door placed his hand on the handle. His mind drifted back to the Viper’s Nest, to the words Uddra had said to him before giving him his first assignment.

  You are the bolt of searing plasma. You will always be unswerving. No matter the rain or the wind. No matter how hot or how cold. Through the air. Through the void. You must be the brightest beam of light. (1)

He knew he would do exactly as he was ordered. He opened the door and saw Officer Rilo Tang sitting on a bench in the middle of an empty room. Tang’s gaze wandered up to meet Sinjir’s, and then back down to the floor.

“They sent you,” Tang said with an air of disappointment in his voice.

“They did,” replied Sinjir.

“I wish they hadn’t,” Tang continued.

“Me too,” Sinjir admitted. “But, here we are.”

Tang crossed his arms over his broad chest, “Well, I guess things are going to be different after this.”

“Probably so,” Sinjir said.

Tang jabbed his finger in the air at Sinjir, “I saved your life!” There was resentment in his voice.

     Sinjir remembered that day, six cycles ago. He was in his final year of intelligence training, and a couple of newly graduated stormtrooper commandos had ganged up on him and locked him in a shipping container during a particularly hot summer. It must have gotten to 40 degrees standard in the two hours it took for Tang, a cadet in another group, to discover him. Tang had been looking for easy locks to pick. It had taken Sinjir days to recover from the dehydration and heat stroke in medbay, but at their hearings, the troopers had merely gotten a slap on the wrist. First offense, boys will be boys, Sinjir had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

     It wasn’t until two years later that the troopers who attacked Sinjir had been placed in the field together and were caught and tried for desertion. Sinjir reveled in assisting with their prosecutions. He had placed them all in shipping containers and left them to die in the heat of the day on Florrum, in the outer-rim. Sweet irony.

The task at hand however, was not so sweet.

“I know you saved my life,” Sinjir said, evenly. “That is why I am going to try my hardest to save yours as well.”  

Tang huffed, “You won’t break me, Sinjir.”

     Sinjir looked at the young officer for a few moments. He wanted to remember Tang’s face before he set out on his task. Tang’s bright green eyes and smooth, suntanned skin, his full lips and perfectly arched eyebrows. Tang looked beautiful with his pathetic smirk.

“That’s just it, Rilo, I have to,” He responded before forcing his fist hard into Tang’s jaw. Tang hardly had time to react before the second blow to his gut. He fell to his knees holding his stomach. Sinjir pulled his right hand away.

“We’ve talked and talked about these hands of yours,” Sinjir bent back the pinky slowly until it broke with a crack. Tang screamed in pain.

“Once, when you took Lieutenant Cowan’s data cards,” he continued his work with the forefinger and middle finger, each one cracking at the base, “and, again with Commander Quintana’s holopics,” Sinjir’s quick forceful motion on Tang’s ring finger left the bone splintered, penetrating through the skin.

Blood dripped down Tang’s palm and over Sinjir’s knuckles.

“STOP! STOP!” Tang screamed as he shook violently. “Sinjir!”

“I can’t do that, my friend,” Sinjir said as his fist smashed against Tang’s nose, again and again.

     The violence was intoxicating. It was a controlled frenzy that allowed him to unleash his otherwise stifled aggression. Blood covered Tang’s mouth and chin, running down over his crisp, white undershirt. Sinjir made a half-fist with his hand and thrust upward under Tang’s jaw. One of his teeth flew from his mouth as he hit the floor.

     “Believe me, the last thing I wanted for you was pain,” Sinjir said as he thrust his heel into Tang’s clavicle, fracturing the bone. “I always envisioned that you would get better, that you would fulfill your commitment to the Empire and leave in good standing. Maybe you would find some pretty wife on some pretty planet and have pretty little children,” Sinjir thrust the steel toe of his boot into Tang’s ribcage.

Tang began to vomit, a mixture of partially-digested ration sticks and blood.

Sinjir shook his head.

“The Empire doesn’t make people better, does it? It makes us worse. It’s made you worse,”

     Sinjir grabbed Tang’s wrist and bent it around his back forcing him onto his stomach. He placed his boot on the officer’s back and pushed up on the elbow, harder and harder as a guttural shriek escaped Tangs lips. Those full lips made even fuller by the trauma they had suffered; bruised and bleeding lips.

“You see, It’s made me worse too. I don’t want to hurt you, it’s my job to hurt you, and I’m good at my job,” Tang’s arm dislocated at the shoulder, more cries and shrieks, as Sinjir let the arm fall limp to the floor.

“The Empire has made sure of that.” He knelt down. “So, just tell me. You can make this stop.” Tang spat blood at Sinjir.

     Sinjir grabbed two handfuls of Tang’s shirt and rolled him onto his back. “I am the bolt of searing plasma,” he said as his fist again assaulted Tang’s face.

“I will always be unswerving,” Sinjir pushed his fist harder and faster into the flesh until the officer’s features were twisted and swollen.

“No matter the rain or the wind.” Sinjir dropped his knee into Tang’s chest causing blood to heave from the officer’s mouth.

“No matter how hot or how cold.” He picked up the small bench and rammed it down hard on Tang’s knees. He could hear the joints crack.

“Through the air.” He tossed the bench aside.

“Through the void,” then, Sinjir looked down at his own hands, stained with blood.

“I am the brightest beam of light.”

     Sinjir knelt down beside the young man’s broken body once more, and cradled the back of Tang’s disfigured head in his hands.

“How I wish you had listened to me.” He said, and kissed his forehead.

A small sound escaped Tangs lips.

“You’ll have to do better my friend,” Sinjir whispered.

Tang coughed and rolled his torso to the side as he winced in pain. Sinjir could barely make out the phrase.

“It...was me.” Tang murmured.

     Sinjir gave a sorrowful laugh.  No, the Empire doesn’t make us better. It makes us monsters. Sinjir got up and walked to the door without looking back. He unlatched the door and stepped into the dimly lit hallway. Several med droids were standing by to receive Officer Tang. Sinjir ignored them and kept walking.

     In his quarters, Sinjir washed his hands and poured himself a glass of kowakian rum. He looked at it for a moment, then left it on the counter and took the bottle to his room. He took a long drink, then glanced up at the mirror on the wall above the bureau. Rage filled his body and he threw the bottle at the mirror. Glass shattered and sprawled out over the floor. Sinjir darted over to the wall and punched it repeatedly until his knuckles bled. He put his hands to his face and rubbed his eyes. Then he began to laugh. The Empire makes us monsters.

(1)      Aftermath Empire’s End , Wendig, Chuck, 2017