Dedicated to the Edge Author: Mechalich Timeframe: 32 - 25 BBY Characters: Rawn Mickram (OC) Genre: Drama Notes: All comments, including criticism, are welcome Summary: A young man must find his place after knighthood is denied him. He was a boy of thirteen, and he wasn’t ready for this. His steps were slow and heavy. Each footfall echoed through his mind a peal of doom from the world’s grandest bell. The obliteration of his dreams marched with him every meter down the tower hallway. Weak light passed through the windows behind him, the western face; the past he would be leaving behind. “It’s not certain, it’s not for sure,” he whispered this and many more mantras with his head cast down to the floor, but he believed not a one. The end had come, and there was no escaping it. That was all he could manage, deep in his denial and his fear. The rest was too much for a youth destined to cast aside his dreams. He came at last to the door, a single paneled entrance to a chamber he had never wished to ever see within, to the greatest source of terror in his young life. A long time passed as he stood before that door, waiting, daring. Could he run? Yes, he could, but that would be cowardly. He wasn’t a coward; he spoke those words within his head over and over. “I will be brave. I must be brave.” They weren’t strong enough. Only the uncertainty could pull him onward, the sliver of possibility that he might be wrong, that it might go differently. To run would make it a certainty. The only chance was to face it. He knocked weakly on the door of the Reassignment Council Chamber. It opened at his touch. Gingerly he stepped inside. The room was filled with shadows, for its windows opened to the east. The setting sun was forbidden here. He walked, stumbling, feeling pulled by some unseen command, toward the center. Five chairs, low wide, solid and comfortable, surrounded him. They formed a circle at equal divisions, and offered no escape. He could not look at the occupants. Five Jedi, masters all, made up the Reassignment Council. The boy knew their names, of course he did. Memorization was important, and he was good with names, but his memory failed him now. Not a single word of these mysterious judges’ labels could be summoned now. They remained within the shade, faceless powers that were untouchable and merciless. He shivered, feeling cold and ill. It took a conscious effort of will to steady his feet, to hold knees tight and remain standing. Falling down would end it all too. That was enough to keep him upright. He refused to give into fear before them. There was silence. The shadows shifted in the dying light of day. No one moved. A voice broke the still tableau. The boy did not know its origin. It seemed to come from everywhere at once, even within his own mind. “Initiate Rawn Mickram,” it began, cold, formidable, a sharp knife ready for surgery. “You have been called before this council. By our will, and in the guidance of the Force, your place in the Jedi Order has been determined. Know that the decision of this council is final, and there shall be neither opposition nor appeal by you or any other Jedi. Do you understand this ruling and swear to abide by the determination of this council?” “Yes…” he managed a croak. “Masters.” Tears were pooling in his eyes, and he could barely see. Water dripped down his face, but pride kept his hands stiff at his side. “Rawn Mickram,” the voice changed, grew loud, rolling up as a great wave upon his ear. “The will of the Force has been heard. Your place of service is not to be as a Jedi Knight.” The words were a blow across his back, his knees. Tears poured out freely. The boy almost fell, keeping his balance only by throwing out his arms. His hands were clenched fists, white-knuckled. Not a Jedi. Not a Jedi. Not a Jedi. Every taunt, every barb, every cutting remark ever thrown at him in his short life metamorphosed into that remark, into that hideous lash that marked him within forever more. Doom claimed him. But the distant voice, loud and powerful and impossible to ignore, was not finished. “This council has assessed your skills and placed you into the Jedi Exploration Corps, there to serve to the best of your ability. You will leave in the morning to begin training on Mycroft, bringing all your possessions with you. A member of the Exploration Corps will escort you on this journey.” “This council wishes you well in your new endeavor and reminds you that whatever your role, you are still a Jedi. You are dismissed, Rawn Mickram. May the Force be with you.” He barely heard any of it, though the words sank into his memory, and he would be able to recite every word for the rest of his days. The boy nodded once and backed out of the room on trembling legs. When the door closed he turned and ran, tears pouring down his cheeks. He did not stop until he reached his room, where he cried himself into fitful slumber. * * * “Wake up boy,” Rawn felt someone shake him. He came awake almost instantly, body tightening for defense. His eyes opened to glance upon the glowing digits of his bedside chrono. In the pitch darkness of his room it read 0430. “What’s happening?” Rawn turned over seeking to jump to his feet but stymied by a powerful grip pressing down upon his shoulders. He blinked in the darkness, struggling to see by nothing but the pale glow of indicator lights. An image resolved, partially. Tall, balding, with a heavily lined face, it was surely human. Older, the youth suspected, and wearing a pale gray facsimile of Jedi robes. This man spoke quickly, his voice solid, but possessed of a hurried cadence, as if vocalization annoyed him. “You’ve been reassigned,” the summary came quickly. “And you’re taking passage to Mycroft in three and a half hours. I’m Dlan, from the Explorer Corps, here to collect you.” Everything from yesterday slammed down upon Rawn with those words, a waterfall of tragedy that sent him bawling. Dlan slapped a hand over his mouth. “None of that boy,” he snarled. “Cry if you like, cry as much as you want, I don’t blame you, but cry quietly. Understand?” Graying eyebrows narrowed. Rawn managed a nod. When the Explorer Corps man pulled his hand back the boy wrapped him arms over his face and sobbed into them, keeping nearly silent. He kept one eye on Dlan, noticing lips held tightly even in a face that was otherwise a mask of stoicism. “Look here,” the older man met the boy’s eyes. “I know what you’re going through, believe me,” resignation tinged the dropped phrase, as if he knew Rawn wouldn’t. Rawn did not. “I’ve never liked this part, this whole reassignment business,” Dlan continued, surprising the youth. “It’s wrong, and frankly, cruel. They teach everyone to try and be a Jedi Knight, knowing the whole time no more than half ever will. They set you up to smash your dreams and then expect you to take it without complaint. So you have my sympathies.” He paused, and looked away, staring into the blackness of the small room’s one closet. “But that doesn’t mean squat right now. You’ve been sent to the Explorer Corps. There’s no going back to be a Jedi Knight, it doesn’t happen, sorry. Instead you’ve got two choices, and you have to decide right now.” Rawn, looking at the man, noted how he dressed like a Jedi but wasn’t. He wore a blaster at his hip, not a lightsaber, and he didn’t stand like a Jedi, not serene and at peace, but wary, troubled, as if expecting to fight at any moment. It was a terrifying future to glimpse. “What choices?” he could imagine nothing further from his current state. “Simple,” Dlan explained brusquely. “You can come with me and dedicate yourself to a life in the Explorer Corps, or you can run.” Rawn saw his confusion reflected in the older man’s face. “Run away,” he explained. “Leave the Order entirely and make whatever life you can find. The Jedi won’t like it, but they haven’t got anyone to chase you down, and if that’s what you want, I won’t stop you.” “But you don’t think I should?” Rawn noted, seeing the judgmental grimace accompanying the suggestion. “No, I don’t,” Dlan spat, teeth clenched. “You’ve perspective, boy, that’s good. What was done to you was cruel, no mistake, but that’s nothing to what the rest of the galaxy will do to you if you run now. I recommend the corps, if only ‘cause you’ve nowhere else to go.” The boy could put together the rest himself. He had no family, no home planet even, those things were nothing but data on a screen to him. He’d taken survival courses, understood how long you could survive without food, water, shelter. The corps meant all of those things. The great unknown held nothing so sure. He gave Dlan a weak nod. “I’ll come.” “Good,” the acknowledgment was terse, but the room’s light flipped on at a hand motion in the next moment. Bright light stung Rawn’s eyes, but he adjusted quickly, using a concentration technique he’d been taught, though never quite mastered. “Now up,” Dlan grasped his shoulders with gloved hands; some kind of battered and scored hard leather with a rough edge. “You’ve got to pack, and do it fast. Take everything that’s properly yours plus a change of clothes. You’ll get new uniforms when we reach Mycroft, but for now you keep the Initiate’s robes.” Rawn did as he was told, opening the closet and quickly filling the small duffel he used for field camps and trips. His possessions were a woefully tiny collection. A Jedi Initiate properly owns nothing, so all he had were knick-knacks and toys, and a few half-formed bits from various arts projects. He left behind the gear that was properly temple property – the extra clothes, datapad, medpack, and other devices loaned to him. He stuffed the spare robes on top, trying not to look at them. Everything about his life seemed to betray him as a failure. “I’m ready,” Rawn told his escort, but he couldn’t shake a sense of puzzlement. “Why come so early?” The chrono revealed it was not yet 0500. “For your sake boy,” Dlan muttered, tucking in his lower lip. “You’re going for ExplorCorps training. That’s Jedi training, sure, but it’s not knight training, and you don’t have to go looking like a would-be padawan if you don’t want.” He glanced at a wrist display. “It’s a half hour to the docking bay, and we need to meet the ship at 0730. That leaves two hours for you to pick the destination. Among other things, I know a good barbershop that’s always open.” The suggestion would have seemed ridiculous only moments before, but Rawn discovered Dlan’s idea was suddenly shockingly appealing. Two hours to leave the temple suddenly seemed like not nearly enough. “Let’s go,” he hurried for the door. The old explorer almost smiled. When they got to the barbershop, Rawn had them shave his hair clean off. * * * The office of Training Commandant Elin’Enamis was small and Spartan, with maximal value placed on functionality. It fit itself to the facsimile of militarized shipboard regulation that the ExplorCorps sought to practice in all things. They might be on land, on the generally pleasant and well-connected world of Mycroft, but the ExplorCorps taught you to live every day as if you were lost in the Unknown Regions, because some day you would be. Rawn had initially hated the setup, but somewhere along the line he’d fallen in love with the whole idea. A middle-aged Twi’lek with soft yellow-cream skin that belied her iron rasp tongue, Commandant Enamis admitted Rawn at his knock. She barely looked up from her terminal as he entered, there was little time to be spared for trainee visitors when the war against paperwork waged on eternally. “What can I do for you Cadet Mickram?” she asked. “Sir,” Rawn went to attention upon entering. “It’s regarding Nuthor Pavan’s presentation two days ago. I want to submit my name for Autonomous Pathfinder Service.” Elin’Enamis looked up immediately upon hearing those words. Her eyes focused sternly on the cadet before her. “That is a very significant step, cadet,” she cautioned. “Are you fully prepared for the consequences?” “Yes sir,” Rawn responded, holding steady. He wasn’t afraid. In fact, he felt the reverse. This was his first dream since arriving in the Exploration Corps. He wouldn’t lose out on it by hesitating. “I’ve already completed the required consent forms.” He handed several sheets of flimsy to the commandant. “You’re still very young, Mickram,” the commandant noted, one eye arched, lekku flexing behind her. “This route entails cybernetic surgery. There are no guarantees.” “I know sir,” he’d read over everything at least five times. “I still want to do it. I feel like I was meant too.” “Very well,” she acknowledged, resistance fading. They were both Jedi still, and the twinges of empathy provided by their Force sensitivity, hazy though it was, made feelings clear. “I can see you’re committed. I know your scores, the program will admit you. You’ll receive a notice for medical examination as soon as the reports have cleared headquarters.” “Thank you sir,” Rawn replied heartily. “Mickram,” the commandant amended as he turned to go. “I’m glad you’ve found something to dedicate yourself to with us; so many never do. Hold to that tightly.” As Rawn left, he flexed his right hand. For the first time in six years it no longer felt a ghostly desire to hold a lightsaber.