0 BBY (35:3:3)
Trooper is a comic story that appeared in Star Wars Tales 10 and was collected in Star Wars Tales Volume 3. The story was written by Garth Ennis, the art was by John McCrea, the colors by Brad Anderson and the letters by Steve Dutro.
In the loading bay of an Imperial Star Destroyer, one of the stormtroopers silently prays that he will not be called upon to lead the boarding party. In theory, the explosion caused when the door is breached should cause the defenders to flinch and allow the boarding party to surprise them. The trooper knows better: every single time he has been on this kind of mission, the first trooper through the door was the first to be shot.
He flashes back to his early adulthood, living on Greater Marianas, a rustic, backwater planet with constant dust storms. His father was a hunter who scratched out a meager living selling hides, and the young man grew sick of the dust storms, the vagrant lifestyle, and his father's constant sermonizing about how freedom was the most important thing in life, and taking freedom away was the lowest act imaginable.
One day, an Imperial landing party appeared in town and announced that the planet was now under Imperial "protection." The young man's father protested, and a stormtrooper shot him dead. "Pa had the freedom he was born with; the other guy had a blaster." Seeing the end of his old life, the young man appealed to the Imperials to take him with them. The officer in charge said that he would have to demonstrate his loyalty to the Empire first - by executing a random member of the crowd. The young man did. "To me, it wasn't evil. It was nothing more than common sense. A way off Greater Marianas."
The trooper then recalls the brutal training regimen that initiated him into the stormtrooper ranks: requiring him to kill his fellow recruits, or risk death in training, all designed to drain him of his humanity and individuality, and teach him complete obedience to orders, and to value victory over everything, including his own life.
Back in the present, the entire unit freezes as Darth Vader appears and warns the Sergeant in charge that his men had better be up to the mission they are being given. With a tremble, the Sergeant assures Lord Vader that they are. The trooper hears the soldier behind him soil his uniform, "and I curse the day I ever joined the Empire."
He looks back on his life as a trooper again, as he became all but indifferent to the deaths of his comrades and the atrocities he was ordered to carry out, but he is brought back to reality again as the Sergeant selects him to go in first.
As the boarding party prepares, the trooper prays silently, swearing that if he survives the next few minutes, then he will desert at the next opportunity and leave the Empire behind; perhaps he will even join the Rebellion, but the important thing is that he will be a free man again.
When the door is blown open, the trooper is surprised when the theory works: the defenders flinch, allowing him an extra second to get through the door, and the first shot is taken in the helmet by the Sergeant entering behind him. As he rushes down the corridor, gunning down rebels, he rejoices that he's alive, and thinks he will make good on his vow as soon as the mission is over.
After the ship is taken, the trooper reports that the Death Star plans are not in the ship's main computer; he then silently watches as Vader interrogates then kills the captain of the ship. "Seen that a thousand times before. Never seen it fail."
As the trooper searches the ship for passengers, "the most beautiful girl I've ever seen shoots me in the face." He falls.
As the other troopers stun her, his vision fades to blackness. The last thing he hears is his squadmate saying, "she'll be all right." His last thought is, "But I won't."
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