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Robes of Regret
 

*** We've forgotten where we got this, or who sent it to us! We HOPE someone can remind us so in case it's something we found on the net, we can get the author's permission!!***

My master called me to his bedside and ordered me to sit down on an old chair by his bed. I looked at his face as he tried to hide the pain that he was in. His face showed it even though he did not want to accept it. He leaned up in the bed and asked me to get a pad so I could write down what he called his part. He wanted to be remembered by someone, to have a record of his existence. I told him I would remember all to which I was exposed. His face reflected each surge of pain that coursed through his body. He looked at me, then said, "There is a lot of my story that you do not know and I need to get it off my chest."

"When to begin, oh yes! I was seventeen years old when the Emperor visited my planet for some reason or another. I cannot remember. I saw how the people were scared of him and how much power he had over all. I wanted to be a member of such a group; a group where I would have such respect and power over my life. I went down to the recruitment office and signed up. Leaving my parents behind with no doubt or guilt. Knowing this was the right choice; the only choice for me.

I was shipped to a planet called Carida to train to be a stormtrooper. The days were long and hard. By the end of each day I was just glad to be alive. One day during training I noticed an officer watching me. I could not understand why he studied me, at least not until later.

That evening I overheard two cadets. They were talking about how the officers were looking for special cadets to become part of some elite order. I could not hear most of what they were talking about, but the next month I was called, along with two others, to the head office. The officer who had been watching me was there. He was standing behind the headmaster of the academy. We were told that we had been selected for a special task force. We were to leave our belongings behind and would leave that night. I obeyed without question.

Later I found out that letters were sent to our families reporting that we were killed in a training accident. I can still picture my family's faces when they received the news.

We boarded a ship and traveled for several hours. We landed on a planet and were immediately taken to a dark room. Upon entering we were told to change into the trainee outfits in front of us. We did as we were told. When the lights came up we found ourselves surrounded by statues in red robes, robes red as blood with helmets to match. The person beneath this uniform was indistinguishable. One statue looked as the next. No face, no eyes, no shape to the being within. They stood at attention. I knew they could see us from the slit in the front of that pervasive scarlet helmet. Yet I saw no one. The ranks broke at one point to reveal a man in a red uniform, almost in the style of an Imperial Officer. He wore no rank insignias on his uniform, nothing to identify his branch of service or even if he was an Imperial Officer. He spoke with a commanding voice, 'You are dead to the world. You are dead to your families and to your friends. You have been reborn as mine. From this day forward you will not contact your family or anyone. You are dead.'

My adams apple went up into my throat. I thought I was going to die. Three red robed statues moved forward with packages, handing one to each of us. The officer spoke, 'You are now a part of the Royal Guard. The only people you will answer to is the Emperor, your Captain and Me. Welcome to the family. Remember if you cross me you will be physically dead, not just dead on paper.’

I had heard of this order of the empire, however I had never seen them. I had heard that no one knows who any of them are or how plentiful are their ranks. I thought back in my mind to the day I had seen the Emperor. It hit me like a ton of carbonite. I remembered the two figures that matched these hooded figures. They had been standing in the shadows, not really visible. Thinking back, I could not really say if it was two or, perhaps more.

The officer spoke again snapping me out of my daydreams. He said, 'The uniform is the easy part of your training. The hardest part will be getting your I.D. number, for that you must survive. Now get some rest. Your training starts in six hours.' All of the statues moved into a line and out of the barracks doors.

I could not sleep at all. I wanted to find out where I was. I looked in the package and found a 2nd cadet’s uniform and another uniform with a helmet. I tried it on, like a kid with a new birthday present. It fit like a glove. However, I had to get used to it being airtight. Yes, when the latch clicked into place I could not breathe. I quickly found the control box and air filled the helmet. I could breathe normally. I tried some of the other items and learned quickly that this was far superior to my old stormtrooper armor. Before I knew it, it was only a half an hour before our actual training would begin.

I took the helmet off and placed it on my bunk. As I was taking off the rest of the uniform I heard a slight thump on the roof of the barracks. I grabbed a tall wooden pole that was at the end of the row of lockers. I heard another thump, this time near the door. Now I was sure that someone was there. I quietly woke up the two other recruits and told them what I had heard and to get ready. One recruit found a broom just as the door began to swing open. A burst of light hit the wall beside him knocking him back. I hit the floor and started crawling to a position behind the open door. I lost track of the two other recruits, with all of the smoke and the bright lights flashing around me. I reached the spot behind the door just in time to see a Royal Guard enter the room with a pike of some sorts. The pike lit up almost blinding me with every blast from it. I hit the guard’s pike out of his hands with a lucky shot. He grabbed me in chokehold lifting me up off of the ground. Seeing this and seeing no other guards attacking the two other recruits jumped on his back and tried to get him to release me. They were thrown off like rag dolls. I remembered about the control panel on my helmet and used my foot to kick off the switch on the guard’s helmet. He dropped me and tried to push the on switch on his helmet. Then he removed the helmet altogether.

I was floored to see who it was. It was the officer from last night. He rose with a stone cold look on his face. He picked up his helmet and said, ‘Interesting, how did you know that would work?’ In a low voice showing no emotion I explained how I almost had suffocated in the helmet hours earlier. He looked me over and replied, ‘You may live yet. As for you two get up and if you do not screw up again you may have the chance not to die in pain.’ He laughed and walked out of the door.

One hour later a thin officer walked in to the barracks and announced, ‘I am your training officer. You will be ready in twenty minutes and standing at attention in front of this building. Be late and be shot.’ I thought he was cracking a joke to break the tension, so I laughed. He asked me what was so funny and reached for his pistol. I replied, ‘Nothing, sir.’ He relaxed and exited out the door. That was the tone of the whole training. No one knew who the others were. Just do what you were told or die. I almost died twice, but as you can see I did survive.

In my classes I learned that the Royal Guard has superior armor and more powerful blasters than the regular stormtroopers. It makes you feel as though no one can harm you when the uniform is on. I thought back about the others on Carida and wondered if they made it. I wondered where they were stationed and how they would view me since I was supposedly dead. I wondered this many times during my training on that unknown world. My thoughts always came back to reality as they did that final time when I heard the head officer say dismissed upon my graduation.

Yes, I did not describe my training in detail. I do not think it so important, as we have so much to cover, and my time is limited. The little things are not important." He grimaced as pain creased the aquiline features of his face. He continued, "It was not long after graduation that I left for my first assignment, a small outpost not far from Coruscant. I thought the Guard would always be near the Emperor. This was far from the truth. I asked an old man who had been at the outpost for a long time as a guard. He said the Guard functions as much more than bodyguards. They are the ones that handle secret problems for the Emperor. When the Emperor thinks that something is amiss or he senses a traitor somewhere he sends his Guard to handle the situation. They are able to work behind the scenes. I was soon finding out exactly what he meant.

An officer called up my unit for our first mission. We were to assassinate a politician who was aiding the Rebel Alliance from behind closed doors. The Emperor was weary of the growing support for the rebel cause. He thought that if the rebels killed a popular politician it would take away some of their backing. We were to move in at night and to kill the guards that protected him and then assassinate him as well. We would use a weapon commonly used by the rebels. It all started out like clockwork. I was assigned my task. You know until you see the look of death, I mean by your own hands, it changes you forever. There was regret for those that I killed. They did nothing wrong. They did not die for a grand purpose. They were pawns, much as I was. All these things flashed through my thoughts. I almost thought of quitting and running away. Then I remembered. I was dead in everyone’s eyes. What would they do to my family if I ran? Then, as if a switch were snapped, my caring stopped. I just went on not caring about anything or anyone. I just did my job. I continued with the task at hand and at the end of the mission I got on the shuttle, not looking back. The news reported what the Emperor expected. The rebellion was blamed for the Senator’s death and there was an outcry for revenge.

Over time I felt nothing. I just did my job and concentrated on surviving. Mission after mission I did not stop to think about what was right and what was wrong; even when in my heart I knew it was wrong. Most of it was wrong. What could I do? I would be shot or I would disappear and be on the run, putting everyone I love in danger.

One day I was on duty guarding the communication’s room where I overheard two guards talking. They were discussing the first Death Star and how it had been blown up. They mentioned how those that escaped were coming to the base for medical treatment and reassignment. The details did not sound good. For a few minutes I thought about my friends. Were they on the Death Star when it exploded? If they were among the survivors, would they know me? Then I was scared for the first time in a long while.

Later that day our Captain called us together. He told us the about the Death Star and what had happened, with the usual changes of course. We were told that the base was going to be used to help redeploy the forces that had survived. Our orders were not to talk to any of them. We were to just help with crowd control. We were only to leave the barracks in full uniform with helmets. We were not to be recognized. The days were long and emotionally draining. We watched people dying, emotionally as well as physically. I made it through wanting revenge for each of them.

As time passed I became more and more consumed by a hatred of what the Rebels were doing to people. I became a focused weapon wanting to make them pay. Killing became a new art for me. It came to a head when the second Death Star was destroyed and the emperor killed in the explosion. As the news spread officers everywhere ran to save their own skins. When the news of the Empire’s defeat reached our base we were given orders to destroy our uniforms and to leave not telling anybody where we were going. Once more we did as we were told.

My anger was still there. I performed bodyguard duties until I had enough to buy my way to power. I used my power to hunt down those that had caused the Empire to fall and the death of my beloved Emperor.

After my personal doctor informed me of my illness I realized the cost my anger had had. There was no one to take over my empire, no one to remember me. That is why I must tell you, my droid. I exist. I wish not to be a light that vanishes in the night.

My master fell asleep as the pain medication kicked in. I left the room to return to my duties. I would return to him when he next awoke. He screamed for me. I entered his room in haste. He did not want me to leave his side until he was finished. He continued his story.

"I was in my thirties, I think. It was ten years since I was reborn as a Royal Guard. As I said before all I had in my mind was to do my job. However, I started to think about my future. While cloaked beneath my blood red helmet I observed families outside of the base having dinner, spending time together, and just being happy and carefree. I longed for that too. Just as the officers on base had families, I wanted a wife and kids. But I guess guards are like priests, no outside contact, no dating. Even to this day I wish that I could have had someone to carry on my life. Now I have only you to remember that I have existed at all."

My master started to cry, but just as quickly brushed his tears away. "I must continue my work. I must get it done before I die." He continued.

I remember the day the Emperor died. Three days earlier I had been given my new assignment. I had reached an age that most guards never achieve. It was common to die before the age of forty. Only a low percentage lives to old age. I held a rank of Captain for staying alive. I opened the orders and found out that I was to become part of the Emperor’s Royal Guard. I was excited to say the least.

Many thoughts filled my mind. Mostly about how I would act if and when I met the Emperor. I felt like that kid that had seen the Emperor for the very first time. I remembered how I had felt and a new spark came back into my body. I went to the transporter officer to schedule my departure. It wasn’t scheduled until the end of the week. The Emperor was in transit to a nearby star system. It was determined that it would be quicker to wait than to try to link up with him in transit.

Having nothing to do was a rarity on the base. All we ever had for R and R was our missions and then sleep. I decided to try something new. I went back to my room and just relaxed the whole day away. I lay in my bed only getting up to eat. My body was relaxed completely by noon. My body felt like a ton of bricks and I had no energy to move. For the first time in a long time I was able to think about what lay ahead, the honor, the fame, the glory. Then before I knew it I fell asleep and when I awoke it was morning. At 09:00 I awoke to the sound of people moving quickly outside of my door. I was still half asleep as I grabbed a robe and opened the barracks door. People were running past, not even stopping to take a breath. I grabbed someone and asked what had happened. I was told that everyone must report to the airbase for duty. A group of Rebel ships were approaching in hyperspace and we needed to protect the base. It was the same group that had attacked the second Deathstar.

I ran back to my room and put on my uniform and went to join my unit. I knew that since my transfer orders came in I was no longer part of the unit, however I would not let them stand alone or die alone. They were my friends and my family. I sat on the shuttle heading for the outpost we were to defend, Outpost Three. Images were running through my mind, images of what might happen next. When we arrived we went to work immediately preparing for a ground assault, if the Rebels overwhelmed the orbital defenses. From what I could hear the whole Rebel Fleet was heading for us. I knew we would be slaughtered. However, I did not give up hope.

We sat and waited for the enemy to arrive. I would finally get revenge for the pain and suffering that the Rebels caused to those people on the first Death Star. Revenge for the families that lost loved ones due to these Rebel scum. My hate gave me strength. I waited for the chance take that revenge. It felt like days, even years waiting. Nothing happened. We did not even see a single enemy fighter. We watched as our Commander left the Command Center and stood before us. He took off his helmet and fell to his knees. We all ran to him asking him what had happened. He looked up at us. For a moment all went silent. Then slowly he spoke the word I will never forget. The Emperor was dead. The Empire was finished. A tear ran down my cheek.

We later found out that we were not the target. The new space station was. The Rebel Fleets joined together at a star system just short of the outpost and changed direction moving away from us and towards the end of my life. Once again I was driven to rage. I was picked to be at the Emperor’s side. I should have been at his side. Now the Empire was lost. Now we were forced to run and hide like frightened rabbits, hoping not to be found. I forgot to mention before that when we left the base we set charges to blow it up. No trace was left. The Royal Guard was and always will be ghosts. We could never marry, for the fear that someone might get too close and turn us in. Dying alone. Paying for our sins with no future except death or what I am trying to do now.

I know this will not see the light of day. However, I do exist in this, one man’s tale of shame. Now my droid, transfer this to a pad and hide it where no one shall find it. Then erase all knowledge of where it is hidden. Tell no one.

I did as my master requested. I hid a copy of my records and erased the knowledge from my databanks. I returned to my master’s chamber to find his doctor, the Second in Command, at his bedside. The Second in Command demand to know why I was not in the chamber. I explained that I had to do what my master had ordered of me. However I do not recall what the task was. The Second said that my master was dead, and asked what I had been doing before he died. I told him the tale my master had told me of his life. The Second said that he was now my new master. I was to delete all files of his story from my records. There was to be no remembrance of him at all. I did as I was told. Before I finished I queried my new master once more. "Should I back up my files to allow his existence or to allow someone else to know of his existence?" My new master hit me with his gun and ordered me to obey. I did.

My sadness is in that my master will not be remembered. However if you are reading this, then he does exist as long as you have read his life’s story. Please keep his existence alive.

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