This was written as a post-session narrative for a Star Wars: Edge of Empire game. This was the first time in gaming that an in-game event really affected me and would have deeply affected my character too. Our rag-tag group of fringers, which had been basically annoying the Empire off and on between shipping jobs, had been basically forced by the Imperial Service Bureau agent, Captain Lynch, who was our long-time nemesis, to do some dirty work for him. We needed to kill this senator on Coruscant. We programmed maintenance droids to roll up and then detonate under his landing pad when he arrived. (Yes, our Star Wars games tend to have a rather strong grey or dark streak to them. In war, desperate times call for desperate measures. =O ) When the droids should have detonated and destroyed the just his landing pad what happened instead was the entire tower came down and the news reported something like 45,000 dead. Our Dungeon Master (DM) did not tell us until the next week Captain Lynch’s response. This narrative was almost complete by the time our DM sent us the Captain’s message, which gave allowed me to modify it with the new news. I was going to space my character and start a new one. My character’s was Kulae Ordo – a human female roguish hacker running from an arranged marriage on her planet and who had an uncle she looked up to that was in the rebellion. She only wanted to stick it to the Empire and make her supposedly dead uncle proud. I won’t go over all of the characters or previous crazy events that led to this moment, but I will say that Jake was a droid character whose history was intertwined with hers and they were very good friends. This moment also allowed Jake to do some programming/skills changes too.
Destruction of the High Rise (Day 1)
Kulae sat there peering through the rental car’s window, mouth agape and eyes wide, abject surprise and confusion ripping through her mind as she felt the rumble and crumbling of the high rise building even from all of the way up here. The brilliant flash of orange and yellow flames of the explosion bathed the inside of their rental car in angry light as they hovered above, hidden in the crowded traffic of the skyways of Coruscant. They could see the Senator’s three-floor penthouse quite a ways below them, as the entire building started to list slowly in the direction of the explosion. She could not believe what she saw. A terrible knot roiled in the pit of her stomach. Her face drained of color taking on a chalky pallor. She felt as if she might faint. Fear and shame replaced the confusion as it finally set in what was happening. She just knew that dark circles formed around her eyes as her soul died in that moment. Her shoulders began to slump and her head sagged as she was only able to find enough strength to keep her head from lolling around like a doll as the car moved slowly through sky traffic.
She could not even look at her companions, her co-conspirators in this horrible tragedy, this unplanned act of domestic terrorism. How did it all go wrong? She programmed the droid properly, Jake and Victor set up the droid with explosives properly, and she sent in the trouble tickets with the correct password, and even pre-assigned that specific droid to that task and time so that it could be there to detonate and kill Senator Alex Bishop of the Fenris System when he returned home in the evening and landed on his apartment’s personal landing pad. And it all went wrong. Somehow they used too much of the explosives. Somehow the maintenance droid ended up many floors below. It did not make any sense. They planned it as perfectly as they could. There should have been a warning of some sort. She could not believe it all. Her eyes were beginning to redden as tears began to form, and the world started to spin. She leaned back resting her head against the seat and closed her eyes, but the spinning refused to abate.
She did not understand how they all came to this. Were they all so lost that they were taking hit jobs … for the Empire? Has her zeal to support the rebellion and bring down the tyrannous Empire brought them to this dark place? Was this her fault? Did she screw up the programming? Has she failed and shamed herself and her uncle? She just knew that if there was a heaven that he was feeling the most shame that he had ever felt. Kulae lurched forward and puked all over the seat in front of her as this thought washed over her. She could not take it anymore. It was hard to think with her stomach a rabid, angry and knotted pit. She could swear she heard the masses of people scream as they plummeted to their deaths – the children, the teenagers, the mothers, the fathers… the innocent masses caught up in a covert war of ideals of freedom. The thought of her uncle being ashamed of her was the last haunting thought she had before she passed out. They all traveled in stunned silence all the way back to the docking bay. No eye contact was made by anyone. Not a word was said. None of them could believe it either. They all felt responsible.
Arriving at the Ship (Day 1)
She was not sure how she arrived into the ship or even came to her bed. She thought that she walked for some of the way, but she was just guessing. Perhaps Jake, her constant friend and companion, carried her. Yea, that is most likely what happened. Jake, her heavy metal shadow of comfort and protection. She felt ashamed that everyone saw her like this. Not only has she disappointed her uncle in the most horrible way imaginable, now the group has seen her shame too. Perhaps they believed that she is the one who screwed up? It definitely appeared that she felt that way. They must think that she was guilty. How can she ever face them again? As she laid face up in her bed, the world spun and spun, tears wet the side of her face in a salty wash. She could not answer those questions. Her stomach churned even more at the thought of the shame her friends felt toward her. She let them all down too. She let Jake down. The tears streamed down hard as her body lurched up and down sobbing.
After a while, when the tears stopped flowing, she sat up slowly, wiped the tears from her red and puffy eyes, and then feebly walked over to the door, step by step, each one a concentrated effort to not fall over at any moment. She locked the door to her room and slowly shuffled herself back to the bed, slow step by slow step, and then laid down again. After a few moments of resting on the bed, the world began to spin even more, like she was in an out-of-control carnival ride, spinning a death spiral down to the hells to which she will most likely end up. After a while, she decided that the spinning was not going to end. Carefully she rolled over and slid down from the bed to sit on the floor with her back against the side of the bed. She had to pause for a few moments to try to slow down the world and its angry desire to throw her against the walls or the ceiling. She dragged herself along the floor on her hands and knees, carefully trying to keep herself from falling face-first into the floor, salty tears again trickling slowly and dripping to the floor leaving a wet trail of shame. After long and slow moments Kulae eventually made her way into cool confines of the bathroom .
She concentrated hard to get her hand onto the toilet seat and then pulled it up. She thrust her head up over the cold rim while holding on with both hands, and then her body convulsed as she vomited. So many innocent people died because she screwed up. Her body convulsed a few more times as she puked into the toilet which now smelled horrible. Her body then convulsed in dry heaves as she tried to throw up again, as if she could vomit out the shame, guilt, and horror of what happened, but nothing would come out. He mouth was dry and tasted acrid and nasty, but she did not care. This must be what guilt and shame tasted like she dryly mused. She suffered in ways that she ever thought possible. This is more than all of those thousands of innocent people would ever experience again. She pulled herself down to the floor to rest a moment. Before she knew it she fell asleep right there on the cold bathroom floor.
The First Three Days (days 2-4)
She never left the confines of her room that first day. Despair and shame were her only companions, bitter reminders of what happened. She did not answer the door for anyone, not even Jake. How could she look him in the eyes again. The deaths of all of those innocent people was her fault. She could not bare these thoughts and truths any longer. She never really thought she would really truly understand the word despair, but she did now. Now she understood and it was the most horrible thing she has ever experienced. The holofeed said 45,000 died in the collapse of the high rise, whose explosion was attributed to a gas leak of some sort. The heavy weight of the names and faces of the dead floated around in her mind as she watched the vigil channel set up in memory of the dead. She saw the faces and heard their stories, and heard the sobbing and saw the tears of those who mourned the death of their loved ones. 45,000 people died and their friends and family will never see them again. They will never laugh or cry, smile or frown again and it is because of her.
The ghostly faces with names, the shame, the fear, and her guilt drenching and tormenting her soul. It was too much to bear. The failure…HER failure lead to the death of all of those innocent people, and nothing that she could ever do would be able to make up for that. Her mind raced with ideas and thoughts on how she could make up for what had happened. All of the thoughts from cloning to destroying both the Empire and the Rebellion to make sure that this sort of work would not need to be done raced through her mind. It was all so hopeless. She was powerless to do anything in her lifetime to heal these wounds, to bring back the dead, to make amends, to make up for what she did wrong. Hopelessness and despair saturated every fiber of her being. For a whole day she just sat there numb and despondent. Barely a mortal shell, empty of sentience. There was no hope, no commiseration, only the infinite emptiness of despair and hopelessness.
Kulae shook her head slowly, her face was dry with barely seeable streaks marking the passage of her tears. Her ducts were so worn that tears could not come no matter how much she wanted to cry and scream at the world. He body was spent, dehydrated, for she had barely eaten or drank anything over these few days. She would not accept anything from the companions who she unforgivably failed. She did not deserve it for what she had done. This should be the least of her punishment. There is no way to repair the damage, no way to fix things, no hope at all of releasing this burden from her consuming her soul. Her companions would be safer and the world a better place without her and then she would not have to live with the unbearable shame and guilt of the multitudes of the dead that fell eternally silent by her hand.
A finality and calm set in as that last thought filtered through her mind which had a sobering and calming effect on her. The decision was made. This was the end. The only justice that the dead could have and accept would be her own life for theirs and it would be dealt by her own hand, which seemed fitting for Kulae, an angel of death. At least the high rise people died together and suffered a collective fate. She would die alone in the dark and cold depths of space where there is no heaven, no hell, just a vast and lonely emptiness devoid of anything. Her punishment shall be an eternity of death in the icy cold solitude of space. She shook her head acknowledging that this is the only way. This is what will be done. This will make everything right again.
The Last Three Days (days 5-7)
The night before she slept an hour or two. Knowing what was going to lay ahead and that justice was going to be served allowed her to sleep a little. She cleared her mind, drank some water, and summoned Jake to bring her some food, and then promptly sent him away telling him that she will be ready in two or three days to come out for good, but she needed more time to grieve. Her hands trembled partially from fear and partially from being so very hungry. She ate slowly as she pulled forth her data pad and her slicer box, connected them, and then pulled up a special program that she had been working on for most of the years that she had known Jake. He had been her constant companion and she wanted to she give him something in thanks for his years of friendship and dedication, and for saving her life so many times. She has never forgotten that fateful day that she received that holorecorder that told of her family’s death, and then Jake, who she did know at the time, saved her from some ISB agents and escorted her onto the ship leaving the planet. And now he has taken her again in his cold arms and saved her from Coruscant. She had always wanted a way to show him how thankful she was for him, to give him a piece of herself in a true, deep, and soul-felt way.
She spent the day in a space of clarity that she had never known. The code just ran and ran from her mind and down her fingers into elegant lines and forms that were like poetry that came directly from the depths of her soul. Kulae had never programmed a computer so cleanly and efficiently in all her life. This was to be her finest work, and, hopefully, she would not screw this up. Jake did not deserve that. None of them deserved that. None of them. She barely slept at all, only sleeping when her body reached the limits of its endurance where she fell unconscious at the keyboard only to wake up 2 – 3 hours later with an imprint of the keyboard on her face. She would just rub her face, drink some water, and then continue with her work. She needed to get this done so that even with all of the horror and death that her hand has wrought that she could end it all with some form of peace, dignity, and some good could have been left in wake of her death. Two full days passed and the first and most important part was done. Her real gift to Jake.
The last 2 parts would come quicker, much quicker since they were much more straight forward. She pounded out the code one line at a time and did not stop. She winced through the pain which lanced through her hands and shoulders as she worked at a feverish pace. She did not care about the pain. It was truly going to be temporary. She needed to finish this today, so that tonight this could all be given to Jake and it could all be done. Her pain would be gone forever and some form of justice would be given to all of those people who died. A few tears trickled down her face as she thought about them again. The faces flew before her eyes. It was hard to see anything else, but she kept writing the code as she tried to see through the haunting and mangled faces of the ghosts of the dead. She was not sure if they were trying to thwart her work out of spite or if they were trying to get her to go faster so that she would join them faster to they could enact their revenge upon her. She did not care. She was almost done. At some point, the tears stopped and the spectral faces stopped, and she just coded. She was just a vessel through which her soul worked, not a person, just a mindless and empty vessel through which the code flowed. She finished every last line of code, and even had some time to do a code review. It was late, late into the night on the 7th day. She finished the code review and then made her last message in the holorecorder for her companions of their ship, the Cold Sun. Her last goodbye and apology to them for her failure.
The Last Night (day 7)
The last night was dark and the ship was quiet. She found some comfort and resolve in that. Victor and Skyyla were quietly sleeping, and X-23 was still rebooting and installing that ’98 patch update which has taken over a week with no direct end in sight, and Jake was left in charge of watching over the ship. He waited outside Kulae’s room as she had requested. Kulae looked upon the ship’s console which she had in the wall of her room. She initiated the protocol that would lock everyone’s rooms and only unlock them when this is all done. She then initiated the airlock routine too. The door to her room opened automatically as a part of that routine and Jake walked in. Kulae bawled as soon as she saw him. Tears streamed down her face as she jumped up and hugged Jake wishing that he could understand, wishing that he could forgive her, wishing that all of her companions and friends, her family here on the Cold Sun could forgive her for her absolute failure. She wished that Jake could hug her in the way that would really comfort her in this desperate time, and make all of the pain go away. He did what he could. He put his arm around her as he has seen other humans do in moments like this, not fully understanding what was going on with her, but only wanting to help her a best he could. His rifle was still in his hand like a permanent fixture of his chassis and hands, and extension of his being and will as an elite weapon of war.
After about 10 minutes of sobbing her breathing slowed and the tears finally stopped. She sat down on the bed and motioned for Jake to site as well. He did. She wiped away the tears and took a few moments to clear her voice. Her eyes were red and puffy from all of the crying.
“My beloved Jake, I know you will not understand me now, but I promise you. I promise you, my rock, my apple pie, that you shall. Her eyes began to well up again when she said apple pie. This is something I need you to let me do. This is the only way to make things right, that their deaths can have any sort of justice or peace. It is the only way I can have peace. Everything is all set. All I have to do is to walk out there, open the door to the airlock, and everything will happen automatically. I will have peace. The dead of Coruscant will have peace. The doors are locked all around the ship and they will unlock once it is all done.”
Jake sat there, rifle in hand, and listening intently for what he need to do to assist her or for some way to help fix her. Her emotional processor must be severely broken and needed a reboot or something. He knew humans could not do that, but that was the metaphor which helped him to make some sense of what she was experiencing. Her hands started to shake in fear even though she felt a sort of a solemn calm. Kulae walked slowly to her desk, paused for a long moment as she closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths, then she looked at both items that were sitting there. Jake thought she looked rather out of place in the Cold Sun jumper suit she was wearing. She never wore those, and he thought that she looked very out of place in them. Kulae’s arm extended slowly, her hand shaking a little, as she limply pointed to the first item – a rather large data chip.
“I have spent most of my free time since you rescued me on our home planet working on this as a gift for you. I hope that you will find a piece of me in this and some peace with my passing in what is contained here. I am hoping to show you how much your companionship has meant to me over these years. In this chip are not commands, but requests, my last requests and offers to you. Use it when you are ready. I hope that you will find what I have done is something that will move you and drive you to save the rebellion and the Cold Sun from the dark side, that will help you to understand me and how much you have meant to me over these years.”
Kulae then pointed to the second item – her holorecorder.
“This contains the last recording of my family that I have received on the day you saved me for the first time and we left our planet. It also contains my last message to the group which I have recently finished recording. Please make sure they hear both of these so that they will understand, and, hopefully, they can find some way to forgive me.
Do you understand? Can you allow me this peace? Can you do this for me, Jake?”
Jake was confused at exactly what was happening. He understood that she meant to enter the airlock and then open it up to allow herself to die in vacuum of space, but it did not compute as to why or what function this would serve. He nodded only wanting to obey and to make her happy again. If this is what she wanted then this is what he would make sure would happen.
Tabula Rasa (day 7)
Jake stood up with a measured pace and walked over to Kulae and looked down at the chip and then to the holorecorder, and then back to her. He slowly picked up the chip and then looked back to her, not sure what to make of it or what she intended, but she trusted her, completely. From his utility belt he pulled out a small set of tools, and quickly, with practiced hands, opened up his chest plate.
Kulae said, a little worried “You, you do not have to do this now. This will draw a lot of power from the ship and may wake people up. Jake!!”
He kept disengaging and unfastening the appropriate pieces, moving wires as needed, and then recessed the large chip into place. In a blur of motion, he reversed the process and closed up his chestplate.
Kulae stepped back a little. She could hear a humming sound coming from his chassis and various mechanical parts chirping a little. A small antenna popped out of his right shoulder, and then the lights from the ship clicked off and on a few times, Jake’s head sagged and his lights went out as if he had been deactivated. “Jake??” The lights flickered off and on several more times. She could hear the life support ventilation resetting and the ships’ red emergency lights came on drawing a dull crimson pallor over everything. Moments passed of this flickering and Jake did not move. “Jake??” she said a little louder. Long moments passed.
Kulae panicked and popped open his chest plate, attached her datapad to check his diagnostics, and it all seemed ok. She unplugged, stepped back and prayed that her work was done well. More long minutes passed and no response from Jake. By this time the flickering lights stopped although the emergency lights stayed on, and some of the computers seem to be losing their connection to the main communications bank and she could hear some light static from the Cold Sun’s comms panel.
“Jake??” she whispered quietly, hoping that he could hear her. “Jake??” she said a little louder. She was so afraid that she failed again. Maybe she screwed up the programming. She did perform the last bits quickly and in a sleep and food deprived yet clear haze. What did she do wrong? ‘Oh, please, Jake! No!Not you too! Please say I did not kill you too.’ she said to herself. Her heart began to race. “Please, gods above, let me do this one thing right!!’ She just watched for any sign of life, and she prayed. How long could the process take. She really was not sure. She could only hope that what she had done was enough. It was a miracle the last time when she corrected the programming which originally freed Jake from the Rodian and made him sentient. She barely knew what she was doing then , but now she… who was she kidding! “JAAKE!!” she yelled.
She pounded and pounded on his chest piece with her fists trying to physically shock his systems until her fists became sore and bruised. “JAAAKE!! JAAKE!! JAAKE!!” she cried in desperation as she pulled out the butt of her blaster rifle and started to slam that into his chassis. Heavy tears started to trickle down her cheeks as she slammed the rifle as hard as she could over and over again screaming “Jaaaake!!!“. She was barely able to see through her tear-blinded eyes. She just dropped the rifle to the floor with a loud clang when her muscles were to tired and sore from many minutes of clanging on Jake’s chassis.
She quickly hooked up her datapad to Jake and there was no power to him at all. Nothing. “I failed. I failed again.” she whispered, the weight of losing her best friend heavy on her soul. Kulae collapsed to the ground sobbing. She said ‘Jake. Jake. Jake.’ over and over while rocking like a desperate and lost child. Tears of loss streamed down. She really did not care now. There was nothing else left for her here. Kulae cried and cried. She did not know for how long. All that mattered is that it seemed like an eternity in her own personal self-created hell. In that tear-drenched delirium of despair and anger she thought should could hear his voice. What a beautiful torture he mind was playing on her. If only that was to be true. If only…
All of a sudden she found herself being foisted up from the ground by big metal arms and then she received the biggest, most human hug she had ever received. She could tell by the glow of the light reflecting onto his chassis that the color of the lights on Jake’s chassis and eyes had changed. She did not care. She just cried and cried and just melted into the embrace. She heard what could be identified as a whisper from Jake “I understand.” She cried even harder for many, many minutes while Jake just held her.
Chastising him she said “You stubborn metal bastard, you should have waited.” She shook her head as they separated. “You are going to feel funny for a while and then things will start to change. Your lights have changed color too, which I did not expect. I think you will be all right.”
Into Eternity (day 7)
She turned and looked at the door for a few moments and then looked back at Jake still standing near the desk who was still processing while watching her. She smiled faintly and slowly walked out the door of her room. When she left the room Jake followed her, his metal foots steps a like a heavy echo behind her. She walked slowly through the ship towards the airlock, memories of her time with Skyyla, Victor, X-23 and Jake lazily danced in her mind: watching Victor and Jake work on the hyperdrive engine and listening to Victor curse; watching Skyyla look at the astrogation charts and galaxy maps talking about some of the interesting places she has been or pointing out interesting stop-over points for their trips; X-23’s complete lack of bedside manner, but yet perfectly professional manner while patching her up like a true pro. She remembered the feeling of abject fear as they performed a gravity assisted hot drop into Volgurt IV. The adrenaline rush from that lasted three days and she was not sure if she would ever recover from that. It was all so clear in her mind, vivid like it all happened yesterday. They were all more family to her than her real family, even the distant X-23. She knew she could count on him to be there and to fix her up again. She felt safe here with them and also felt appreciated.
Her hands started to tremble and her breathing quickened as she arrived at the door to the airlock. She was afraid, but still calm. She could feel the adrenaline coursing through her as her mind forcefully overcame her fight or flight instincts, but the adrenaline would not stop and her heart raced. She could hear that Jake was right behind her. When he stopped she turned around to look at him and then she looked back to the door. This was it. She walked over to him and hugged him one last time.
She closed her eyes and breathed in a deep breath and then said “Thank you for everything, my friend.“. She took a good long look at Jake as they separated so that she would always remember him. Kulae shifted slightly to the side of him, put her hand up on his cold metallic shoulder, took another deep breath and then looked at the airlock control panel. Jake looked at her, analyzed her movements, and her facial expression. He nodded affirmatively.
She hoped that this moment with Jake opening the door for her could help to absolve her of some guilt and fear, to help confirm that she was doing the right thing. Jake looked from her to the airlock control panel, then pressed the button. The airlock door hissed open. He looked at her and realized that was going to be the last time he was going to see her. He could feel a change in his neural pathways that he had never experienced before. After a few long moments of him looking at her, he looked back to his highly customized rifle which was still in his hand, but, at this moment felt strangely alien to him. He gently handed her it to her. Kulae smiled as a glistening trail of tears meandered down her cheeks as she thought that he may have started to really understand, in some way, what she wanted, which gave her some sort of comfort in what she was doing. She turned around and walked into the airlock. The door hissed shut behind her as she turned to face Jake for the last time. He looked at her. Kulae held back the fear as the tears streamed down her face, her heart raced. She waved a weak final goodbye to Jake and awaited for justice and the end to come.
A Cruel Twist of Fate (day 7)
Right as the airlock door shut Jake’s head cocked to the side as if he was listening to something. A small antennae popped out of his shoulder and then turned to face behind him. Kulae watched Jake as she listened to the airlock timer count down from 10 and she also listened to the automated warning that proper space suits must be worn inside an airlock to protect against the dangers of complete depressurization. These did not faze her. She just watched Jake in her last moments. She wanted her friend, Jake, to be her last thought and memory before justice was done and the pain was gone.
Jake’s comm sensors barely picked up staticky stream of angry communications from R2-DH. It took Jake a few moments to clean up the channel so he could pick out something sensible. When he did he heard R2-Dh raging about the complete disarray of the ship’s systems and requesting assistance in fixing it. He also mentioned a priority holo-message that needed to be delivered for at least the last 20 minutes, but the ship’s comms have been down and NO ONE WAS ANSWERING. Jake had never heard R2-DH this angry before. Jake shifted his focus and looked to Kulae for the last time and heard the countdown continue ‘5..4..”
Jake responded to R2-DH who sent some rather specific droid based expletives his way, then it sent a long list of areas where Jake could assist. Finally, it started to relay the holo-message to him, although it was going to take a little to force it through the static flooding the ship’s communications. A moment passed and Jake received it and began to view it internally. His head snapped up, eyes focused on Kulae. The countdown continued on ‘..1’.
Faster than she had ever seen him move, Jake’s hand slammed the airlock control, shattering it. She saw pieces of it flying across her view of the airlock door as its angry red maintenance light popped on. In a seeming protest to its rough treatment it angrily hissed opened as Jake yanked her like a ragdoll from the airlock by her arm, leaving a large bruise around her arm. The door started to close just as the external airlock opened. They could feel the slight venting of the internal atmosphere through the airlock to the outside as the door quickly shut. Kulae just stared at him, her face was red with anger and surprise. She was a fool for believing that he understood. She felt betrayed. She really thought he understood. She really, really thought he understood.
Jake concentrated a few moments prepping the holo-message for transfer and then he tapped the buttons on the holorecorder to set it up as a relay for the holo-message from his internal storage. After a moment the holorecorder played a new message which was from Captain Lynch. His upper torso and head appeared ephemeral in the air above the holorecorder. His face was calm, yet belied arrogance with an air of confident command and veiled disdain as he began to speak:
“Can’t say your plan wasn’t a good one, but your small seismic charge would have done very little to that landing pad. Thought you could use something bigger. ” Captain Lynch smirked and then the message faded out.
Kulae never knew rage like this before. Her face was hot with anger. The veins on her forehead were pulsing in time with her heartbeat. Her fists were white from clenching them so hard she couldn’t even feel them now.
“I will kill that frakking bantha stain myself if it is the last thing I do. There WILL be justice for the 45,000 innocent people HE murdered. Mark my words, Jake. Mark my frakking words.”
She stomped off towards her room, her thudding steps echoed through the corridor as Victor and Skyyla hurried down the corridor towards her wondering what the hell was going on and why were the emergency lights were on and static was coming through the ship’s comms.