Fallout: A Vignette Series
Red Eye

Rating: PG

Author’s Note: I've had a number of plot "bunnies" over the last few years, but none of them sufficient for longer stories. So I decided to start committing them to "flimsi" form, and lump them together in a series. The series as a whole will explore in fairly random fashion the post RotJ era through the eyes of "little people" or minor characters who have all been affected in various ways by events beyond their control.

This first vignette is inspired by the scene that disturbed me most in RotS — the murder of the Jedi children by Anakin Skywalker. Although that event is the catalyst, however, the vignette itself is set after the death of Palpatine, showing (I hope) the way acts of such terrible evil reverberate in unexpected and equally horrible ways.

I knew. I knew as soon as I read the details that it would be me who would have to deal with the case. I have an instinct about these things. Some would call it intuition, but I have a feeling it's more to do with experience of dealing with what you could call the fallout from the stain on galactic history known as the Empire.

What am I talking about? Well it's quite simple really — I'm a psychiatrist, a busy psychiatrist thanks to the epidemic of psychosis that's been proliferating ever since the fall of the Old Republic. You might think that the restoration of democracy, and the end to the uncertainty and paranoia engendered in Palpatine's rule-by-fear regime, would have put an end to the problem. Sadly I'm afraid you'd be wrong. Very wrong. Maybe all that the advent of a kinder era has done is let loose the floodbanks we were all forced to uphold for so long. Just like water, emotional disorders have an insidious way of wearing away at whatever structure we erect to contain them, until eventually they burst through, creating havoc in their wake. Which is where I come in — well not just me of course; I'm merely one of many, but I think you get the picture.

So I suppose you're wondering what I meant at the start when I mentioned a certain case that had come to my notice. I probably should get back to that. I have a nasty habit of going off on tangents sometimes — rambling I believe they call it. Not when I'm with my patients, of course; that would be highly unprofessional! But just sometimes, when my mind is uncommitted and allowed to roam free.

So let me give you the details.

First detail — a man, a fairly ordinary man with no known history of violence, pays a visit to a Sunesi refectory.

Nothing strange about that, you say. People visit these places all the time — people seeking quietude, the solace of tranquil reflection, even just the presence of the Sunesi themselves with their words of peace and humanism. And you'd be correct — there is indeed nothing unusual about this event.

Second detail — the man takes a seat, losing himself in the introspective mood invoked by his surroundings. Again there is nothing strange about this. Although there are others nearby, they are all singularly involved with their own thoughts or prayers. Nobody speaks, nobody challenges anyone's right to be there, and if they make judgments, these are kept unexpressed.

It is very peaceful in the refectory. He feels ... great calm. He wishes ... he wishes it was always like this in his mind — the calm, the peace. It's easy to breathe there — the air tinged with the subtle fragrance of incense. He feels safe, like a child in a familiar place.

He remembers his home with its dormitories and echoing chambers, its long corridors that stretched the length of a smashball field. He was part of a large community of both adults and children, but, unlike the other children, he had a parent to care for him. He was a friend to them all though — played with them when they weren't studying with their instructors and learning their special skills, or when he wasn't helping his mother in the huge kitchen. He lacked their gifts, but it never worried him, because he knew from his mother that that was not his role. Some were born to serve the greater good, and others were born to serve them. It was all part of the great scheme — the web that held the galaxy together.

He tries to remember if he noticed that web weakening. There must have been something that happened, something he missed the importance of. Did it begin with a single silvery thread fraying, snapping? Did the structure supporting it suddenly shift, tearing the beautiful symmetry to shreds?

But no matter how hard he tries, it comes down to that one moment ... that moment when madness appeared garbed in the clothing of one whom they all trusted. He struggles to escape that moment, but memory is too strong. The image of the man in the cloak entering the room where he was playing with his friends is too stark and well-defined to force back into the mind-cage he constructed for it.

Third detail — a Sunesi preacher enters the refectory. He is old and slightly bowed underneath his dark hooded robe, and as he walks he focuses on the ground. Those who knew him said later that this was typical of his gait — fulfilling both his desire to be respectful and his need to place his aging feet with care.

The man in the cloak is entering the room, but this time the boy-grown-into-man knows what will happen next so he is not fooled by feigned humility. He knows that beneath the rustic cloth beats the heart of deception, knows that any minute those eyes glowing like embers will brand him again.

Fourth detail — the old Sunesi raises his head, blinks to remedy the failing sight in his tired eyes, red-rimmed from years of dedicated study of the sacred texts. Suddenly he reels as the solitude is rent by a sound that is both howl and scream, and yet it is already in mid-cry as if it began long before.

The eyes are boring into him, searing the connections between mind and body so that he cannot make sense of why part of him is running and diving through a hatchway into a kitchen while the other is wrenching an incense sconce from the wall nearby.

Fifth detail — the old Sunesi crumples to the ground with the first strike. His hood conceals the fact that his skull has been split open, so the subsequent beating he receives fails to add to his pain, because he is already dead. Nor does he hear the screams of the onlookers, or the ragged gasps of those who struggle with the madman and wrest the sconce from him.

They don't understand he was trying to save them. But he has. This time he has, and the boy who escaped has returned to make sense of his survival. He has made sure it won't happen again.

Sixth detail — as soon as I read the details I knew that it would be me who would have to deal with the case. I am quite simply the only one with the experience ... the only one who can remember ...

... the methodical thrum of the blade; the calculated precision with which it sundered my friends from the world of the living; the terrible silence ... and the fear that those red eyes — those doleful, evil, red eyes — would find me. I knew one day they'd find me.

But this time, I was ready for them.

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