The first one arrives without warning. The resistance had relocated from their base on D’Qar to another Outer Rim location; some muddy, marsh-ridden puddle of a planet that barely has a name. There’s nothing of interest on the planet except a small methane plant half a continent away and a scattering of hand-to-mouth farming communities squashed together on the only ridge of hard rock the planet has to offer. The resistance base itself is some distance from both of these, half submerged in the muck, hard to find even if you know where to look. This is why it’s a surprise when a short-range First Order transport shuttle crash lands practically right on their front door step.
The first thing to emerge from the shuttle when its doors pop open –other than a great deal of smoke- is a standard-issue stormtrooper blaster, tossed underhand to land gently at the feet of the resistance guards who were holding their blasters in a distinctly more aggressive grip. The second thing, after the gun, was a voice, thin and scared.
“Is this the resistance?”
The patrol looked around at each other. “Yes.” Said the patrol leader, because it was her job to hold conversations with voices emerging from smoking shuttles, and also to keep her squad from panicking. “Are you going to come out?”
There was a moment of silence, before a small pocket of methane gas caught fire with a pop, and blew out one of the windows of the shuttle.
“When you’re ready,” said the patrol leader.
“Please don’t shoot me,” said the voice in the shuttle.
A pair of hands, in soot-covered glossy stormtrooper gauntlets gripped the edge of the door, and pulled the rest of a soot-covered glossy stormtrooper from the wreckage of the shuttle.
They didn’t shoot.
The stormtrooper looked around at the patrol, raised their hands to the side of their helmet, and lifted it off her head. The stormtrooper, cropped black hair, tan skin, an expression of sharp terror, tossed it to one side.
“I’m a field tech?” She said “I can do repairs and maintenance and installation, and I heard that FN-2187 defected, and he was just a trooper, and I even brought my own food and-“
Something popped back in the flaming transport, and the stormtrooper winced.
“FN-2187 was real, right?” She sounds very young again. “Please tell me he was real.”
“I’m real,” said Finn, who was on his first patrol since his back healed. “And my name’s Finn now.”
Her eyes widened. “You have a name?”
Finn grinned, and holstered his blaster. “Yeah. Nearly six months now, it’s great. You? Nickname? Anything?”
“PL-1392,” She said.
“PL-1, huh?” said Finn, who was still learning what kinds of thing-names doubled as people-names. “And you said you were a field tech? What about Pliers?”
Pliers, whose frame of reference for normal names included ‘Hux’, and ‘Kylo Ren’ and ‘ Captain Phasma’ said “I love it.”
The patrol leader buried her head in her hands.
“What am I going to eat, though?” said the newly christened Pliers, looking back at the remnants of the transport ship “All the rations I had were in the back of that.”
Finn looped an arm around her shoulders and started to pull her towards the main building.
“Y’know, it turns out they were lying about that and we can eat regular food?”
“Really?” Said Pliers, who was about to discover that she was lactose intolerant.
“Yeah! C’mon, I’ll show you where they keep the ice-cream around here.”
The second one had sent a warning beforehand. Well, they were second through fourth, but they still sent a warning beforehand. The warning, granted, came five minutes before the ship in the form of a trio of white helmets and a literal olive branch tied together and dropped in the middle of a resistance training yard, but a warning was a warning. Of course not everyone was convinced it was a sincere gesture, so when the beat-up old transport ship landed in the paved square, it was also greeted by a group of armed resistance fighters.
Finn, also present, was unarmed.
So were the three Stormtroopers, two supporting a third between them, who came down the ramp into the humid jungle air of the current air base. They had all stripped the highly recognisable white plating from their uniforms, and were dressed just in their undersuit blacks. None of them wore their helmets.
“We’re looking for The Finn” said the one on the right “We’re told he can help us.”
Finn waved at them across from across the clearing. “Finn’s fine.”
The other Stormtrooper adjusted the arm over her shoulder. “We’re glad to hear it. Can you take us to him? Or let him know that we’re here?”
“Oh!” Finn said, clarifying “I am Finn. Just ‘Finn’ is fine though; I’m not ‘the’ anything, just Finn.”
“Well, we’re the Threeofem.” The one on the right introduced. "I’m Stomp, that’s Sixes,” The trooper on the far side waved.
“And this,” he said, gesturing to the limp body between the two of them, “is Enteen, who dropped half a kriffing TIE fighter on himself moving cargo and got slated for decommission, and we heard-“ He trailed off, and looked at Finn in desperation.
“We heard that you got better, after you got hurt,” Sixes continued, hope and despair warring for dominance in her voice “That even though it would have been more efficient to retire you that you recovered and are fighting again.”
“We know we don’t mean anything yet, but we’ll fight for you!” Stomp added hurriedly, “haul boxes, run patrols, dig ditches, whatever you need us to do, please-”
“Of course!” Finn said, as though he hadn’t had the exact same thought when he was unloaded in the wake of Starkiller base. “We’ll take care of him.”
Stomp and Sixes sagged in relief, or maybe just under the weight of their unconscious fellow trooper.
“C’mon,” said Finn, “I’ll take you all to medical. Will you be staying with him until he wakes up?”
“Yes sir,” they said in unison.
Finn wrinkled his nose. “I think I liked ‘The Finn’ better. I’ll grab Pliers and we’ll bring some food up for you. Are any of you allergic to anything?”
They shook their heads.
“Because, you know,” He said authoritatively, “the stuff they fed us was sterilized. No allergens at all, until you start trying outside food.”
“Enteen used to smuggle outside snacks back for us, so we’ve been exposed.” Stomp said.
“He once got a whole handful of berries back, hidden in his helmet filter.” Sixes said proudly, “complained about the smell for weeks, but we’ve even had fruit.”
Finn grinned at them.
“Should I put Threeofem as your last name then?”
They exchanged a Look over Enteen’s head. Finn, who was getting better at deciphering Looks as opposed to looks, said “You don’t need a last name; but it might help the three of you stay together on base.”
“Don’t people usually use last names to tell people they’re family?”
“Or for other reasons,” Finn said, with the confidence of someone who had no idea what they were talking about but was going to fake it anyway. “I have both my friend’s last names, and people take them sometimes when they get married.”
“Not just to track bloodlines?”
“Not here, anyway.”
Sixes hmmd. Stomp scuffed the ground with one boot.
“Alright. Put us all down as the Threeofems.”
Finn gestured to the still-unconscious Enteen “Will he be ok with that?”
Sixes and Stomp exchanged a look (just a look, not a Look) and smiled at each other.
“If he wakes up as a Threeofem, I think he’ll be better than he has been in a long time.”
The third ‘load’ of stormtroopers pulled gently into dock at a space station the resistance had long been using as a refuelling stop on the borderlands between the Outer Rim and the Wild Regions. General Organa regarded the transport with resignation.
“You know,” she said to Finn, “our secret bases are only useful if they actually stay secret.”
Finn shrugged. “All the active troopers I’ve interacted with since defecting have tried to shoot me, so it’s coming from somewhere else.”
She sighed as the docking locks hissed shut against the transport hull.
“Alright,” she called up to half a dozen concealed fighters on the floor above. “No guns until we know they’re hostile. Do not fire until I give the signal.”
One of the soldiers waved, and she turned back to the docked freighter. “You know,” she said to Finn in an undertone, “If you had told me thirty years ago that I would have to do more diplomacy and less shooting as a general than a princess I would have laughed at you.”
Finn looked at her out of the corner of his eye. “Really?”
“Or I might have shot you,” she conceded. “I seemed to do a lot of that.”
Finn turned back to face the ship, alarmed by the idea that he had met the older, mellowed out version of the spitfire general that ran the resistance.
The ship’s airlock doors, saving him from contemplating this further, obligingly slid open, and then shut just as quickly, with a pilot on the outside of them.
“This is general Organa of the Resistance,” said the same, “state your intentions.”
The pilot raised one hand and pulled his helmet off, clutching the door controls with the other. “Are the stories true? About Finn the Defector, are they true?”
“Yeah,” Said Finn whose last names were definitely not ‘The-Defector,’ “I’m real.”
“Prove it,” said the stormtrooper.
Finn paused, cocked his head and said “Toss me your helmet.”
The stormtrooper did.
Finn caught it, flipped it over in his hands and thumbed the worn, sweaty padding where is sat against the back of the neck.
“Helmet’s two year old?” Finn asked. The 'trooper by the shuttle nodded.
“I remember these ones. Yours pinch as bad in the ears as mine did? Better than the ones with the straps around the forehead before this one- remember the ones you had to put on in three parts and kept slipping down your forehead into your eyes?- My platoon got switched to the ones with the ridge in the back and the new eyepiece material about a week before I left, mine still had that new plasfoam smell, you know? The filters never helped with that.” Finn flipped it over in his hands and looked at the polarized eyepieces. “Although I guess maybe pilots had different rollout schedules.”
He looked back up to the pilot at the door. “Unless you just hid yours because it had broken in just right and didn’t want to get an ‘upgrade’ that would interfere with your read on the targeting screens in your ship. The new polarization is always a little weird.”
The pilot stared back at him. “You’re real.”
“I am.” Finn affirmed.
“And you were a real stormtrooper. Really a real stormtrooper.”
“And now I’m a real person. And so are you. The First Order can’t reach you out here.”
The pilot’s eyes darted to the viewport of the shuttle, and back again. “You’re sure about that?”
General Organa gave a wry smile. “We were until you showed up, with whatever you’ve got in that shuttle.”
The pilot froze, caught against the door. The general waved her hand. “Relax, we’re not gonna steal it. You can probably even stay with it, whatever it was you stole from the Order. We just have to make sure it’s not a threat to us first.”
“They’re not” the pilot blurted “They’re not, I promise, they’re not a threat, not to you, not to anyone anymore, please-“
“Friends of yours?” Finn asked.
The pilot wobbled his hand, then pulled the latch on the door by his side. “CKs? Littlones?” He called “You can come out now.”
For a moment nothing happened, and general Organa raised one terrifying, intimidating eyebrow. Finn didn’t blame whoever was in the shuttle for not coming out to face the concentrated might of that eyebrow, nevermind the guns on the roof. One small, curly head poked out around the edge of the door, and then darted back in again. The general’s second eyebrow joined her first.
The pilot sighed, and crouched by the door. “C’mon, out you come.”
One by one, eighteen stormtrooper cadets emerged from the cargo hold. The oldest of them was maybe seven. They huddled around and behind the pilot and looked up at Finn and general Organa with wide eyes and missing teeth.
“This is General Organa and Finn,” the pilot said.
“The General and Finn,” they chorused in unison, and before the pilot could say anything else, the clicked their heels and saluted as one.
Finn heard one of the guards on the roof swear softly. The General, being The General, was made of sterner stuff and did not react. She did, however, cross the walkway to the ramp of the shuttle and crouch down to their level.
“Well,” She said “CKs. How about we all find you some beds, for tonight, and in the morning you can all pick what you want for breakfast.”
The kids, after looking briefly up to the pilot for confirmation, nodded solemnly at her. General Organa grinned back at them before turning back to the soldiers on the roof.
“All clear!” She called. “Have doctor Kahon meet me in the empty barracks, and send someone down with blankets.”
A resistance soldier Finn didn’t recognise saluted, and the group on the roof behind them began to move, revealing themselves for the first time to the group of defectors. The pilot’s eyes widened.
“Sorry.” Finn said, as general Organa led the children in from the landing area. “Had to make sure you were real about it.”
The pilot scrubbed a hand through his hair, then tore off his gauntlets and used both hands, rubbing them back and forth over his entire scalp.
“You want a round in the fresher before you get back to the kids?” Finn asked.
“I really do.”
“C’mon, I’ll show you around,” Finn said. “Hey- you have a name yet?”
The pilot looked at the small horde of children following general Organa. They were marching in step but not in line, trailing behind her like a cape.
“I sort of want to be Dad.”
Finn clapped him on the shoulder. “Welcome aboard, Dad.”
The fourth load sent an actual hailing message before landing. Transmitted across official resistance channels, it read 16 defectors, 1800 hrs, followed by ship number and co-ordinates of a landing pad that the resistance used to smuggle supplies in and out of 'neutral' space.
“What do you think?” Finn said
“I think I want to know how they keep finding our operating bases.” Said general Organa, already organizing a patrol to accompany them the next night. “Seriously, it’s becoming a problem.”
The ship landed right on time the next day, exactly where it promised to, settling gently on the rocky outcropping the resistance used as a temporary landing platform.
“I wonder if I can get them to train my gun runners.” The general said.
The ship, an old cargo freighter, lowered its offramp. Fifteen troopers marched out, hands above their heads, and lined up in front of them in three neat rows of five. Not one of them was wearing their helmet. Their captain followed, wearing the red pauldron of office, but no other armour over her blacks.
She turned to Finn. “Finn Dameron-Skywalker?”
“That’s me,” Said Finn Dameron-Skywalker.
The general nodded. “And you are?”
The captain saluted. “Cap. I lead this unit.” She pointed to each trooper behind her. “James, Jess, Jills, Jessie, Jacks, Jermies, Jers, Jace, Jaques, Jads, Ralph, Jules, Jims, Jackies and Jens.”
“Ralph?” Finn asked.
“I threw up inside my helmet when we took off,” Ralph explained “I couldn’t get the airsickness meds before we left; it would have been too much of a giveaway.”
“Plus we were running out of JS names,” one of the other troopers, Jers, piped up. “And Ralph already had one, so.”
“Huh.” Finn said.
“General Organa,” Cap continued “We come with information on First Order activity, and to offer our services to the resistance, and to assist in the liberation of other trooper units.”
“Happy to have you aboard.”
“Finn Dameron-Skywalker” Cap said, turning to him.
“Me?” said Finn Dameron-Skywalker
“We would request something of you.”
“Yeah of course. What is it?”
Cap hesitated, and chewed on her lip, just for a moment. Under a helmet it would have been completely invisible. Seeing what was clearly developed as a hidden coping mechanism on display for a group of strangers and her entire unit felt oddly intimate.
“We request your permission to use Finn as our second name.”
“Cap Finn,” Finn said, holding out a hand to shake and grinning so widely it felt like his face would split open. “Welcome to the resistance.”