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The door slid open with a harsh whoosh, and a hard hand shoved the boy forward.  He stumbled down the steps, falling onto his side upon reaching the ground.  He glanced back up, shielding his eyes against the light in an effort to make out the details of the silhouetted Pau’an.

“One hour,” his Master reminded him coldly.

The door slid shut.

“Ezra?”

He turned, heart pounding at the ragged, soft voice.  He staggered to his feet before stumbling over to the pair of figures in the corner of the cell, kneeling.

“I’m here,” he whispered.  “I’m here.”

He clutched at Mira Bridger’s hand, gripping it as hard as he could without hurting the woman, and squeezed his eyes shut.  For just a moment, he was home. The grass waved lazily, a Loth-kitten mewling as it fled from his outstretched hands--

“Ezra, you need to get out of here.”

His eyes opened at Ephraim’s voice.  “I….”

“Son, you need to get out of here, ” the man emphasized.

“But what about you?” he whispered hoarsely.

“We’ll be fine, Ezra.  You need to get out--” the woman broke into a momentary coughing fit, shuddering as it subsided, “while you still can.  You’re- you’re young, Ezra. You’ve still got a chance to li- to live.”

He shook his head wildly, grasping for the man’s hand now, too.  “No. No, I’m not- I’m not leaving you. ”  His voice shook and he grasped their hands tighter, apologizing profusely as Mira cried out softly at the tightened grip.  Quickly he loosened his hold, swallowing past the lump in his throat.

“I’m- I’m growing stronger every day.  One- one day soon, I’ll kill him, and then we can leave here.  To- together,” he promised hoarsely.

Mira smiled sadly, face cast into deep, reddened shadow from the combination of both the oppressive darkness and the red lights that lined the base of the stairs.  “Ezra, we appreciate the effort. But he is an Inquisitor.  You--” she coughed, “you can’t kill him.”

Both his gaze and his voice hardened as he stood, letting go of their hands.  “I can. Soon, I’ll- I’ll be able to. I promise. I’ll kill him, and then- and then we can leave.  We can run, go into hiding somewhere, be safe.

The door slid open as Ephraim opened his mouth to reply.  The boy didn’t move until a hand clamped down onto his shoulder.  He jumped, glancing up to see his Master’s sneer in the thin light.

“Say goodbye to them until next year, boy, assuming you behave well enough for them to be kept alive that long.”  He swallowed, glancing at the couple, and began to take a half step forward before the grip on his shoulder tightened suddenly.

He swallowed again.  “B- bye,” he murmured hoarsely.

“We love yo- you, Ezra,” Mira coughed.  Ephraim nodded in agreement. He felt his eyes burn as the Pau’an’s grip tightened and he was forcibly turned back to the stairs and led out of the cell.

As soon as he was out and the door was shut, he whirled, extending his hand and shoving a wall of Force at the Pau’an.  The man braced himself just in time to prevent anything happening beyond sliding back a few feet, but the cold smile on his face as he glanced back up told the boy just how much he would regret the bold action.

The Inquisitor barely lifted a hand and the boy was slammed, spread eagle, into the opposite wall, head forced back so his neck was exposed as the Pau’an approached.  “You should think before you act, boy.  Or I may have to end all possibility of these excursions ever happening again.”

The boy struggled weakly, breathing more and more rapidly as he fought the invisible bonds holding him to the wall above the floor.  Finally the Pau’an released him, letting him crumple onto the floor as he inhaled shakily.

As the Inquisitor walked away, knowing the boy would follow, he let a slight smirk grace his lips as he called back to his apprentice.

“Happy Empire Day.”