“Where’s the grappling hook?” asks Finn.
"What grappling—" Just then, BB-8 burbles out the results of the system check (all clear) from behind him, so Poe says "Hold on," and depresses the pedal for the stabilizers. The W2-freighter was technically designed for someone with three more prehensile limbs than him, but he needed something that could handle rough atmospheric conditions and it's not like he's ever let something like the ship's controls get in the way of flying.
When they settle into the course correction, he says, “Sorry about that. What grappling hook?”
“On the utility belts they gave us,” says Finn, holding one up in illustration.
"They're not exactly standard issue," says Poe. "I mean, what kind of person always carries a grappling hook?"
"Stormtroopers do," says Finn. "If you don't have a grappling hook, what are you supposed to do if the bridge controls go out?"
"Walk back and use the turbolift," says Poe.
"Okay, but what if you have to cross a maintenance catwalk?" says Finn.
"You... cross it?" says Poe.
"But what happens when you fall?" Finn presses.
Poe gives him a concerned look. "That's what the safety railings are for. Are you feeling okay, buddy? Sometimes vertigo is a side-effect of prolonged bacta exposure—"
"What? No, I feel fine," says Finn. BB-8 chirps worriedly. "Yes, really! But you can't tell me they have safety railings on every catwalk and gantry."
"Sure I can," says Poe.
“Yeah,” snorts Finn. “Like they’re going to make sure no one ever falls down the thermal exhaust shaft. Or the ventilation well. Or the waste chute.”
Poe raises his eyebrows.
“Oh,” says Finn, looking surprised. “Really?”
“It’s a messed-up place you come from, buddy,” says Poe. “Most organizations don’t count safety hazards as morale-building exercises.”
“Huh,” says Finn. “That... That makes a lot more sense.”
Poe claps him on the shoulder. "So how many times did you fall down the waste chute?"
“My point is,” says Finn over BB-8 asking him why he wanted to drop into garbage. "We should still have grappling hooks. For... general grappling purposes."
“I’ll let you requisition the mission equipment next time,” says Poe magnanimously. “Alright, I’m about to take us out of lightspeed. Strap in, we’re going to have a bumpy ride. You too, BB-8.”
The droid warbles a happy affirmative and fires his liquid cable launchers, anchoring himself to the wall, the back of Poe’s chair, and the cockpit shielding by Finn’s head.
Finn gives him a look.
"Those aren't grappling hooks and he hardly ever has to use them,” says Poe.
BB-8 helpfully corrects him with a catalog of rough terrain, steep ladders, and, most hurtfully, a list of particularly rough ascents and descents.
“Aw, that last one on Acranth Three wasn’t my fault,” says Poe. “The polarity on the transport's grav controls went.”
“Then how did you fly it?” asks Finn.
“The vectors cancelled out at 330 degrees, so I just stayed upside down,” says Poe. “It was pretty fun.” The computer beeps and the stars reappear. “Here we go!”
The violent crosswinds in Jeredor’s troposphere are also pretty fun, though Finn disagrees.
The mission sounds pretty simple: fly to Jeredor, don't crash, retrieve the data core in the abandoned mining outpost that was also almost certainly a Bothan intel drop point during the Galactic Civil War.
However, it turns out the abandoned mining outpost is not quite as abandoned as they would have hoped.
Poe passes the electrobinoculars to Finn. They're on the secondary quarry's observation platform; across the ravine- and canyon-pitted plateau, two walkers are just visible against the horizon.
“Those are the old AT-DPs,” says Finn. “They always had the most stable gyroscopic systems – they must have reprogrammed them to account for the wind.”
Poe swears. “We’ll have to call for backup.”
Finn shakes his head. “Only two walkers means this is a scouting mission. Either they’ll recover the information and pull out, or they’ll send more troops and re-open the outpost. We don’t have time. But if they're manning the AT-DPs, they won't have a full squad to hold the complex. The freighter's gun should be able to take out – What? What is he saying?”
BB-8 finishes his analysis of the freighter's engine with a worried beep.
"We lost a compressor in the landing," translates Poe. "We can use the auxiliary units for our ascent, but BB-8 doesn't think he can regulate them for extended atmospheric flight. Although I wouldn't call the time it would take to shoot down two AT-DPs extended—"
"They've probably been retrofitted with new plating," says Finn glumly, as they climb down from the observation platform back into the main quarry complex. Even tucked away against the canyon wall, the howling of the wind outside the hangar is loud enough that Poe can barely hear him. "I'd have to land three or four direct hits. Each.”
“We could get them,” says Poe, because despite all his training Finn really is an excellent gunner. “And I could land us safely even if we lose the auxiliaries. But we might end up grounded.” He really doesn’t want to have to choose between greeting a squadron of First Order reinforcements or running away across this canyon-y hellhole in a perpetual sandstorm. Either one is bound to mess up his new jacket.
Finn grimaces. “We’re running out of time. If we could – hey, what are those?”
Poe is already headed towards the corner of the hangar, where a couple old T-47s are tucked away.
“They’re airspeeders,” says Poe. “Modified for mining and freight hauling, looks like.” He pats the hull absently as he looks for any obvious damage. The T-47s were a solid model and these are still in good shape, even though they probably weren’t worth the cost of transporting them off the planet.
“Can they still fly?"
"I think so," says Poe, enthusiasm growing as he checking the power couplings. The airspeeders have even been fitted with deflector shields, probably to combat wind debris, and— "Is that a weapons array on the back?"
"It’s got some kind of laser drill,” says Finn. “And – oh, hey. Grappling hooks."
"Those are harpoon cannons and tow cables," says Poe. "They – Finn, you're a genius!"
"I am?" says Finn. "No, I am. Grappling hooks, genius. I'm glad you agree. Why are you agreeing?"
"Because harpoon cannons and tow cables," says Poe. "You ever hear of the Battle of Hoth?"
"Didn't the Rebellion lose the Battle of Hoth?" asks Finn.
But because Poe has amazing taste in friends, he still agrees to be Poe's gunner. Well, his tow cabler. The airspeeder doesn't actually have guns. Some people would consider this a serious flaw in a plan to fight two AT-DPs, or pretty much anything, which is probably why Poe mostly went on solo missions until Finn joined the Resistance. Nevertheless, they manage to tangle the two walkers together, take out the legs of one with the laser drill, and force the second one to overbalance and drag both AT-DPs into a canyon.
That still leaves most of a squad of stormtroopers occupying the outpost, but Poe is confident that between him and Finn, they'll come up with something.
"Well," says Poe. "I'm out of ideas. You got anything?"
They're squashed together with the data core, lying flat in the middle of the bridge across the mining outpost's main ventilation well. The last two stormtroopers are one level below them. A bolt from a blaster rifle strikes the lip of the bridge less than a foot from Poe's head, and he winces at the heat from the molten metal.
"I wish Rey was here," says Finn. "She probably has a grappling hook. She likes to climb."
From what he knows of Rey, Poe has no doubt she could get them out of this. However— "Where does the grappling hook come into it?"
"If we had a grappling hook, we could attach ourselves to that air circulator up there, shoot out the suspension cables, and drop the bridge on them," says Finn.
Poe reluctantly concludes that this would actually be a great plan. "At least there's a safety railing," he says.
Another rifle bolt hits the railing in question, showering them in sparks.
"Poe," Finn replies. "I don't feel very safe."
Poe raises his head to peer over the lip of the bridge. Finn yanks him back down just ahead of the hail of blaster fire.
"Right," says Poe. "Let's try your plan anyway. We'll blast the cables at the far end only and hold on to the railings so we don't slide down."
"What the – that won't work!"
"If I die, you can say 'I told you so,'" says Poe. "And you can have all my stuff. Look after BB-8 and tell my family I love them."
Finn scowls at him. "If you die, I'll kill you," he says. "Are you sure you don't have a better idea?"
"Nah, this is the better idea," says Poe. "I've got a good feeling about this."
"A good feeling," Finn repeats. "Good feeling. Right." He takes a deep breath. "Well, it will definitely take the stormtroopers by surprise. Ready?"
"Let's do it," says Poe, and they raise their blasters in tandem.
"I can't believe that worked!" says Finn. He steps over one of the fallen stormtroopers and retrieves the data core, and then Poe, from where they've slid under the tangle of snapped suspension cables.
"See?" says Poe. "It was a great plan. Can you help me up? I think my leg's broken."
"I thought you said you were okay!"
"I've flown in way worse shape than this," says Poe breezily, because it's true. Granted, the last time he flew while feeling this terrible they ended up crashing on Jakku, but since they both survived Poe's going to write that one off as a win. He's pretty sure if he sits on Finn's lap and commandeers his legs for take off, they should have no trouble getting off-planet.
"That's it," says Finn. "You stay right there and hold this while I – stop moving, Poe, you're going to make it worse."
Poe stops trying to get up on his own and settles the data core in his lap. "What are you thinking?"
"We're not taking any more chances," says Finn. He kneels down beside the first stormtrooper and unclips something from their belt. But after repeating the process for the second, he hesitates.
He pulls off both stormtroopers' helmets and sets them next to their heads. Then he carefully closes their eyes.
"Alright," he says, standing up. "Just let me set your leg—”
“Later,” says Poe, passing Finn the data core. “Let’s just get out of here.”
He is gently but firmly hauled to his feet – ow, foot – and they start off. Towards the ventilation well.
"Where are we going?"
"We're getting out of here," says Finn.
"We wrecked the bridge," Poe reminds him. "We wrecked all the bridges." It turned out the mining outpost's safety standards were not quite up to the brilliant tactical maneuvers by the Resistance's two most handsome members and a ton or two of falling durasteel.
"Don't worry," says Finn. "I've got—"
He's interrupted by a distant clang, echoing from the hallway behind them. They both freeze.
"Could they have sent another transport?" whispers Poe.
"The landing pad's that way," Finn replies softly, pointing across the ventilation well. "According to the outpost's schematics, the only thing back there is access to the mine shafts. And the canyon exits."
"Like the canyon where we dumped the walkers?"
They look at each other. Then without a word Poe takes back the data core and Finn hauls him up over his shoulder.
"You okay?" Finn calls, left arm clamped around Poe's legs. He's fastening something to his belt, but between hanging upside down and hanging onto the data core, Poe can't tell what.
Poe lets out a laugh that's definitely not pained or hysterical. "I'm great, buddy. What's our exit strategy?"
"This," says Finn, and lets out half a meter of cabling from his hand.
It's attached to a grappling hook.
"Are you sure—"
There's a shout behind them, much closer.
"Never mind," says Poe. "Let's go."
He fumbles for his blaster, and Finn shifts his hand, freeing it from his holster. Poe cranes his neck and raises the blaster, aiming at the dim intersection down the hallway. Out of the corner of his eye he sees a blur of white as Finn whirls the grappling hook in a tight circle, and he hears it zip away at release. He doesn't hear whether or not it catches, because three extremely windblown and angry-looking First Order combat drivers run around the corner right into his line of fire. The first two go down, but the third manages to pull back to cover.
"Hold on," shouts Finn, as stray blaster shots fly past them. He clamps his arm around Poe's legs, takes a couple steps back, then launches them off the remains of the bridge at a run.
Poe drops the blaster and clutches at the data core with both arms. He's expecting a terrifying plummet, a lurch that permanently implants Finn's shoulder in his stomach and removes him of his dinner, a snap! as the only warning before the line gives and they fall to their dooms.
Instead, they swing out over the well in a gentle arc, soaring above its depthless expanse. Blaster shots scatter past them as the last combat driver charges down the hallway, screaming and firing wildly. Poe spares a second of horrified fascination to stare down into the dim abyss before he feels Finn's shoulders shift and strain, and then they're touching down as neatly as his T-70 in zero-g. In one smooth motion, Finn disengages the cable, draws his blaster, pivots, and fires.
The combat driver screams and clutches his chest. Then he topples over the remaining safety railing and plummets into the ventilation well.
Several moments later, there's a distant thud.
"Okay," says Poe. "I see your point."
"But Commander Dameron," says the bewildered requisitions officer. "Who carries a grappling hook?"
"We do," says Poe firmly. His leg twinges – at the reminder of their last mission, even though the bones have long since re-knit, but also because BB-8 is nudging it and whistling pointedly.
"I submitted our supply list two days ago," says Finn. "They haven't come in yet?"
The req officer scans through her data pad and winces. "I'm sorry," she says. "Grappling hooks are listed under Specialized Equipment, and they haven't finished transferring that cargo from the last convoy—"
"Do you know when they'll be finished?" asks Poe.
"Uh," says the req officer. "Tomorrow...?"
"We're due to leave on the hour," says Poe. BB-8 lets off a string of stern beeps. The req officer wilts.
"No, it's fine," says Finn hastily. "At least we have one this time, right?" He passes Poe the remaining grappling hook scavenged off stormtroopers on Jeredor.
"Finn, you should take this," says Poe. "You're the one with the most experience."
"And that means I have the most experience not using them," says Finn. "I mean, not using them on purpose."
BB-8 helpfully reminds him that falling into the waste chute should be his last option.
"Your droid makes an excellent point," says a voice behind him, one Poe would recognize anywhere even without Finn barely restraining himself from saluting.
"He usually does, General," says Poe. He turns and favors General Organa with his most charming smile, mostly because he's pretty sure she finds it hilarious. "Is there anything we can do for you?"
"A certain reconnaissance mission would be nice, Commander," says General Organa drily. "If it's not too much trouble."
"We're leaving on the hour," says Poe.
"We were just collecting the rest of our supplies," says Finn. The req officer has started edging behind him, out of sight of the General's sharp gaze.
"Is there a problem?" she asks.
Finn clears his throat, straightens his shoulders, and says, "We need another grappling hook."
"Of course," says General Organa. She unclips a small pack from her belt and hands it to Finn. "Here. You'd better take mine."