Title: Need to Know Author: Lazy K Timeframe: after RotS Characters: OCs Genre: vignette Keywords: Summary: A soldier with amnesia is interrogated by a telepath. Notes: Written for the GWG Amnesia Challenge. Spoiler: The Challenge You have just awakened and you have no idea where you are or what is going on except you are wearing Empire Issue armor and you are aboard a drop ship with seven seconds to drop. As you are about to ask what the blast is going on, the drop ship lands and you are shoved out with the rest of the garrison as your ship takes off and explodes under fire. You must accomplish your mission (after you figure out what it is) in no more than 5,000 words. The only other parameter: the story must end with the words, "I've got a bad feeling about this." The only clue you have about your mission is a plasteel case that is cuffed to your wrist. Need to Know "Let us start at the beginning, Master Noakes. What is the first thing you remember?" I clamp my mouth shut in a futile act of resistance. Futile, because nobody can withhold information from a skilled interrogator forever. Futile, because the act of resisting will strain my body and mind, weakening it for later sessions. Futile, because my interrogator is a telepath, and can sense my thoughts as they bubble up from my subconsciousness. So once again his question brings back my earliest memory: the drop ship shaking violently as it descended through the atmosphere. The wind screaming against the hull, making it all but impossible to hear anything below a shout. The clatter of weapons against stormtrooper armor as we disembark. The surprise of seeing the drop ship explode as it rises. A moment of sheer terror as concentrated blaster fire decimates us. All combined with the utter confusion of not knowing where I am, what is going on, or even who I am . . . It is clear to me, even in my mentally reduced state, that we have been caught in a trap specifically made for us. They knew exactly when and where to wait to ambush us. The reason we were not simply shot out of the sky was because they wanted someone to question - me. But we have been equally prepared and the post-hypnotic block in my memory is proof of this. All this was not readily apparent at first. It required several sessions before I could remember anything. Some things are still not available to me; "Master Noakes" is merely the name on the ID I was carrying in a secure plasteel case at the moment of my capture. Also in the case were a handful of encrypted data chips, several vials of unidentified liquids, and a commlink with extremely limited range. I have no idea what any of these are, although they must be pertinent to my mission in some way. "What was it like on the drop ship?" he asks. "Did the troops talk among themselves? Were there any pre-drop rituals you noticed?" Again I feel it, his mind probing mine. It feels like he is scraping a finger down my skin, trying to find the edge of an almost-faded scab. I want to resist it, but the problem is that it is not altogether unpleasant. A part of me wants to remember what happened so I can be whole again. And since I can't recall specifics, I have little more than a vague notion that I should not. "Inside your helmet. Is it cold? Is it warm? Is there a faint smell that penetrates the air filter? Is it sweat? Lubricants? Exhaust fumes?" As he speaks, emitters attached to my bare scalp induces false signals in carefully selected areas of my brain and I am assaulted by seemingly random stimuli. With these he hopes to start a memory cascade, a chain reaction of one recovered memory triggering the next, eventually leading to the details of my mission. Which, to be honest, I'm more than curious about myself. I doubt I ever knew the specifics, but it couldn't have been easy to block my memory so completely that even a telepath can't find them. Not only that, there must be a way for me to access them, or else the mission would be entirely pointless. Given all the effort spent to prevent my interrogator from finding out, I am convinced my mission involves him in some way. Assassination, abduction, subversion - though given my present state of incarceration, it seems unlikely that I will succeed in any but the first, if at all. "Your mission," he says, picking up my stray thoughts. "What is it? Is it about me? To kill me? Disable me? Discredit me?" The last I hadn't considered. But what if it was? If I remembered that he was, in fact, working for us, would they even suspect that it might be a false memory implanted for that very purpose? "Oh, I am certain we would," he answers my unspoken thought. "Eventually. But thank you for warning us about the possibility." A new question enters my mind: am I actually speaking my thoughts out loud? I don't know if there are drugs that can do that, but it's not impossible. And if I am, and my mission is one of misinformation - But that can't be, I think as intensely as I can. You can't tamper with a mind like that. The technology doesn't exist. But it's too late. The damage has been done. Unless it hasn't been. Which may have been the plan all along. Unless it wasn't. Unless - "Your thoughts are becoming recursive," he chides. "I hoped this would not be necessary, but . . ." There is a sound, a flash of brilliant red light, only the light does not go away and neither does the intense buzzing noise. A lightsaber. Instantly I am filled with dread, with so much more than just the fear of physical pain. It isn't just a telepath I'm up against but a Force-sensitive, maybe even a Sith Lord. "Do I have your attention?" he asks. Somehow I can hear his voice clearly over the lightsaber's hum, as though he is talking directly into my brain. "Good. Now please, stay focused. I have questions that need to be answered." Both the light and the sound increase as he brings the lightsaber blade closer to my face. Although it emits no heat, I swear I can feel it somehow, the pressure of photons as they bounce off my skin. The intensity of his mind's probing also increases, as though his fingers are tracing the grooves on my brain. "What is your mission?" I struggle as much as the bonds allow me to, which isn't much. But while my body is mostly immobile, my mind isn't. I have heard it said that the brain operates at top speed in times of extreme stress. And indeed, this must be what is happening. They say that when you're about to die, your life flashes before your eyes. Mine does, but only in a very limited way, since I could only remember the last twenty-odd hours of it. Instead, those memories repeat themselves over and over and over and over. "What is your objective?" From the drop ship to my capture to the interrogation, my memories flash by a countless number of times. Each time I notice something I hadn't noticed before, an insignificant detail my brain filed away as unimportant. It's even possible that my mind, in its desperation, is coming up with things in hopes of mollifying the telepath. But although his face becomes more intense, more eager with each repetition, there's no sign of satisfaction at having found what he's after. The lightsaber is just centimeters away from my eye. This close, the brilliance of the blade alone is enough to burn. The mere suggestion of intense heat is making blisters form on my face. It is a coin toss which will go first, my memory block or my sanity. "What are you here to do?" I remember. A man. With a lightsaber. Coming closer. While I am bound. With flexiplast strips. To a chair. Sweating. Screaming. Shaking with fear. While the lightsaber. Ignited. Glowing. Humming. Buzzing. My vision going black. Blinded. First by light. Then by searing pain. And after an eternity of agony that, objectively, lasts only ten minutes at most, I lose consciousness. I stop screaming. For a while I am not sure whether or not I am still reliving my memories, but my aching throat suggests otherwise. The lightsaber blade has disappeared from my sight though I can still hear it. Also gone is the telepath, but there is a soft sobbing from the floor which may be him. I now remember everything. I wish I didn't. My mission was to neutralize the Force-sensitive telepath as a threat. The trap we set for him used my memory block as bait. When he probed deeply - too deeply, as we had suspected he would - he experienced the horror of being tortured first-hand as he relived that month-old memory with me. At the time, my mind was an artificially blank slate. This was a necessary measure since my terror had to be genuine to achieve the desired result. Thus I could not recall having volunteered for the mission. But now that I can remember everything - I still cannot. I've got a bad feeling about this . . .