The Carbonite Man

For the longest time he swam in the darkness. It surrounded him, embraced him, it was eternal, everlasting. He lay in agony, every nerve ending of his broken body was on fire. It was so quiet he could hear his own heart slowly pounding on. It was enough to drive most men mad. Alone in the dark, in agony and the only company the sound of the blood rushing through his own veins. It would do funny things to one’s mind.

Most of the time he slept. He dreamt of his brothers, of the happy times. The times when they would sneak away and play in the rain as children. Their shared meal times, gambling away their deserts on dice games. The comfort of going to sleep knowing he was surrounded by his family.

But when he awoke he always woke alone in the dark embrace, then the agony would hit him and then his own thundering heartbeat. This was how it was. Impossible to track the time, he floated in the black. It could have been days, it could have been months. As time wore on he begun to dread the possibility of it having been years, but surely not. Surely someone would find him soon. This was how he passed the time until the day he woke up.

He was dreaming of his brothers and the rain, but then he woke up. He was still in darkness, but something was different. He could hear something other than himself – a beeping of some sort. Steady, regular, too slow for a grenade… A heartbeat sensor. Maybe he was in a medical facility.

He then became aware of the bed beneath him. It was rock hard, the linen scratched and it definitely had a bleached med-centre smell. Right then and there, it was the best bed he’d had in his life. He felt something on his face, it felt plasteel with a tube connecting to it. A breath mask. Oxygen. Good. He tried waving his hand in front of his face. Nothing, he was still in the black. That wasn’t good.

“Ah good, you’re awake,” it was a voice, close. Female, he thought she had a Core World’s accent, but accents were never his strong suit.

“Eyes”.

Getting the one word out was like gargling gravel in a sandstorm. His lips felt like they had been through a blender too. He was just happy to be speaking to another living being.

“It’s an effect of the carbonite,” she explained, “Your eyesight should return in time. You were in pretty deep and it looks like you were pretty badly injured before you were frozen, but it seems to have preserved you pretty well”.

He remembered now. It was freeze or die. He needed to figure out who found him and what their intentions might be.

“Where?”

“You’re on Kothlis, in a Rebel Alliance medical facility”.

He wracked his brain, he’d heard of Kothlis somewhere. He was fairly sure it was something to do with the Bothans. But more importantly-

“Who?”

“Right, sorry. You’ve been asleep a long time,” she said, “Almost twenty years ago the Clone Wars ended. The Separatists were defeated, but Chancellor Palpatine declared himself Emperor. The Republic became the Empire and the Empire holds sway over most of the galaxy”.

Twenty years. Twenty years. He spent over twenty years frozen in metal and now there was no Republic. This was too much, nothing could have prepared him for this.

“The Empire have committed many atrocities in the name of the security and preservation of the New Order,” she continued, “They’ve destroyed lives, their wrath is brutal. They-” her voice broke, she seemed upset. Was she crying? “They destroyed Alderaan, blew the entire planet to ashes along with everyone on it”.

Not a Republic, an Empire. Alderaan gone. He was beginning to wonder if he was better off frozen. It finally dawned on him, her accent wasn’t just a Core accent, it was Alderaanian. He wasn’t exactly in a position to comfort her either, there was so much he didn’t know. Karabast.

“Got to know,” his throat on fire with each word, “The Jedi?”.

She took a moment to compose herself. He waited with baited breath. From what she had told him already he knew it would be bad, but from the way she paused he feared it would be worse.

“I’m sorry, there should probably be someone properly trained to tell you, I’m just a Deck Officer,” she paused, “There’s no way of making this any easier to hear. They’re gone”.

No! That was impossible.

“It was right around the time Palpatine declared himself Emperor,” she continued, “And I’m sorry, but it gets worse”.

Worse? How could it possibly be worse? He didn’t think he could bear this anymore.

“You see, the War wasn’t over when it went down with the Jedi. It was the clone troops – they turned on the Jedi. Attacked them, executed them”.

This shook him. This couldn’t be happening. The Grand Army was loyal, there’s no way they’d just turn on the Jedi. He was overwhelmed, he didn’t know how to process this. He wasn’t equipped for it. He’d never been trained to deal with a situation like this. He felt tears run down his face. He didn’t think he’d ever cried before, even as a child.

He felt her grab his hand. They sat in silence for a long time. This was categorically the worst day of his life, which was saying something considering he had been forced to freeze himself in carbonite. He never thought waking up would be worse than going to sleep. He couldn’t see her, but he was comforted by her presence.

“You’re from Alderaan, aren’t you?” his throat was starting to feel a little better. Still hurt like hell though, it gave him a halting cadence.

“Yes,” she replied. One word, but behind it there was clearly a lot of anguish.

“I always wanted to visit Alderaan,” he said sadly, “Tell me about your world”.

She began by telling him about Crevasse City, the city where she grew up. Built into a great canyon it was constructed to be in perfect harmony with nature, it was modest by Core Worlds standards. It only got six hours of sunlight per day so the residents developed codes involving multicoloured lights.

She told him of the Castle Plains, a region filled with smooth stone mounds as far as the eye could see. People came from all over the galaxy to meditate among these construction, supposedly the remnants of an ancient race. She told him how she would ride Thranta in the fields and skies with her sister, racing home to meet their father as he returned from working at the lake.

Her father had wept with joy when she was accepted into the Royal University in Aldera, the capital. How moving from one city to the other was a massive adjustment. How she studied the ancient rock formations of her homeworld and its core.

It sounded like paradise, a world filled with life, ordinary happy life. A life he never knew, a life he was never meant to know. After a long time a med-droid rolled in and began examining him. As it prodded him and poked him, her comlink beeped.

“I’ve got to go. I’ll come back and check on you later today,” she said.

She let go of his hand, he heard her stand up.

“I never asked your name,” he asked.

“Katiya,” she replied, “Katiya Neathe”.

“Nice to have met you, Katiya,” he said, “I’m RC-1701. You can call me Blisk”.

He lay back and let the droid do its work. Rather than focus on what the Emprie had done, how they had manipulating his brothers into murdering the Jedi, he focused on what Katiya had told him of Alderaan. It filled him with sadness nonetheless. For him, the galaxy was a colder place. Without the Republic. Without the Jedi. Without Alderaan. Without his brothers.

The Carbonite Man

Star Wars: Predators YelshaNu