First published in A Tremor in the Force #9, 1996

Silent Night by MJ Mink

Her natives gathered without notice, without words being exchanged.  They knew that the others would be there.  Each one took a squat candle from the table by the door.  They sat on the floor and waited for someone from home to say the first words.

The commander stood and walked to the front of the room.  He lit his candle with a sparker, then lit a second.  That one he passed to a man in the first row, who lit the candles of his brothers-in-arms on either side.  Soon the entire room was aglow with pale oval faces that hovered like apparitions in the darkness.

"Reflect on those who are gone," the commander said simply, and bowed his head.

Alderaani thoughts filled the room and burst through the walls, spilling over the entire base.  Alderaan -- green, vibrant, full of life.  Flowers, animals, bustling metropolises, quiet farms.  Squeaks of pets who missed their owners, soothing noises of farm animals.  Shrieks of children, fighting in the alleys, playing in the fields.  Teachers from childhood, neighbors full of good cheer and petty complaints.  Doctors who charged too much and could never decide on diagnoses.  Museums, shops, Festival Day parades.  First job, first boss -- good days, lousy pay, learning a lot.  Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, too many memories to separate, dizzying thoughts blending together in kaleidescope patterns.  Cousins from the city, showing off their superiority.  Cousins from the country, silly bumpkins who knew nothing.  Kids who drove speeders too fast and caused accidents, the excitement of racing and winning.  Brats from next door suddenly blossoming into beautiful women.  Falling in love.  Making love.  Being angry, making up.  Children.  Homes, pets, beginning the cycle all over again.

The cycle ended.

A void too great to comprehend.

The end of all.

"To our friends, to our beloved families:  May they know peace, and may we meet again one day.  To Alderaan:  May her memory never fade in our hearts."

With a gentle puff, the commander blew out the candle.  His face disappeared.  From around the room came the soft sounds of other candles being snuffed and the pungent odor of smoke.  For a moment, pale wisps like spirits could be seen, then they too vanished.
There was no light in the room, no sound, no movement.  It was as though all life had been obliterated as quickly and as neatly as it had on Alderaan.  There was only silence.  No one cried, yet their mourning spread through the base, infiltrating every mind.

In his log, the thirdshift security chief noted that it was a strangely silent night aboard the Imperial base known as the Death Star.