The scream of engines, the jolt as the dropship stopped suddenly, doors opening. The scent of alien spices carried on the hot air.
He sat cross-legged. His eyes were closed, his breathing rhythmic and even. He thought of nothing, emptying his mind and seeking peace.
The hail of blaster fire ricocheting off the walls. The screams of the dying and wounded, the acrid stink of burned metal.
In through the nose for four seconds. A pause. Out through the mouth for four seconds. A pause.
Over his head, a figure leaping, pirouetting, dancing to a tune only they could hear. In its hand, a blade of pure light. That humming sound, always that humming sound as it carved the air.
First, the left lung filled. Held. Emptied. Then the right. The frigid air circulating in him as he focused on the lessons he had been thought, the disciplines instilled in him.
The echoing sound of metal feet marching in step. The enemy, so laughable on the briefing material, repurposed and refitted for death. The reality on the ground so different.
His breath steamed. Dim light reflected and refracted through the stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the meditation chamber. Shadows flitted and danced of their own accord.
Brothers dead beside him, men wearing the same face, the same skin. Each one identical. Each one unique.
He could feel the vibrations of the power plant through the floor. He could feel, just below his hands, the space where the handles hid, the handles which would open the door to his past.
The scream and the recoil of the rotary blaster in his hands, laying down a deadly hail as his squadmates dived for cover. The sparks and explosions as the enemy were caught and scrapped.
He could hear his heartbeat increasing. Could feel the blood pumping in his ears. Felt the temptation once again to shed this mask, to return to the mantle he once wore.
That day. That dreadful day. His will being crushed beneath the tide. His hands moving in unison with his brothers, against his control. The betrayal. The blood. The darkness. The darkness…
His fists clenched, then released. His heartbeat slowed. A single tear rolled down from his left eye.