He’s three when they come.
Daddy puts Emmo into his arms and helps them climb down into the floor, and the last time he sees his father’s face he’s red-eyed, desperate. “Be quiet, baby,” he whispers, settling the panel down over them, sealing them off. “Don’t make a sound, and it’ll be okay. Mama’s gonna come for you. Just stay quiet as you can.”
Daddy goes into a different room, and he can hear muffled shouting, and the sound of something heavy hitting the floor. Then footsteps, on the floor above him.
He doesn’t make a sound, breathing through his mouth because it’s quieter, but he can’t keep Emmo from crying.
They take Emmo away and won’t tell him where. They take him to a glass room where a beautiful lady sits on a soft chair. She smiles at him, wraps a blanket around his shoulders, and she tells him not to worry about Emmo. She gives him a cup of steaming chocolate and tells him that his mama knows where he is, that his daddy was confused, but he’s all right now. She wants him to sit down in the soft chair, and close his eyes.
When he opens them again, the room is dark, and there’s a cool blue light, swinging back and forth in front of him. He discovers that he can’t move his body at all. He can’t see the pretty lady anymore, but he can still hear her voice.
You’re home now, she says. You’re home, and perfectly safe. This is where you belong.
They tell them in the creche that they have to use numbers, because not everyone has a name. It’s fair, this way.
He visits the beautiful lady and her lights several more times, and each time she tells him how happy she is that he’s doing so well, how wonderful it is to be exactly where you belong.
After a year, he doesn’t really remember his name.
FN2187 is eight when he sees his sister again. He’s on sanitation duty–punishment for his 94th percentile scores in tactics. He was 98th, last time, and would have been again, except he stopped to help Slip finish the subroutine. So: he’s stuck feeding the shit eel, the older cadets lowering him down into the trash compactor on a rope, because his hands are small enough to fit into the pipes. It’s a tough job, and eventually they send down someone even smaller to help out. FN2187 helps her clamber onto some wreckage, and they work together for two hours before FP005 takes off her helmet to wipe away the sweat.
FN2187 turns to her, a reprimand on his lips–honestly, what is the kid thinking of? They’re working in a septic tank, it’s like she’s asking for cholera–but the sight of the kid’s bare face stops him dead. A foreign, insistent excitement rises up in his ribcage, making his breastbone ache. “I know you,” he says, and his voice comes out strange, even filtered through his helmet.
“You don’t know me,” FP005 says, casting FN2187 a suspicious look.
“I do,” FN2187 insists, that excitement still throbbing in his chest. “I know you.”
The beautiful lady left years ago, but the lights are still there, and the voices. Other things too, sometimes. Sharp pains, loud noises.
“Can you identify the individual in the picture?” the voice asks, and a glowing image appears in the dark of the room: a cadet, maybe six years old, standing rigidly at attention.
FN2187 studies the image, noting the dark eyes, the curling hair, the wide, friendly mouth. “No, sir,” he says, truthfully.
The image changes, projecting two adult humans in civilian garb. The man has a beard, and a thick scar on his temple. The woman has a light sprinkling of freckles over her nose, and thickly braided hair. They both look sad. “And these?” the voice asks.
“No, sir,” FN2187 says, and that’s the truth, too. He doesn’t say: I wish I could.
He has a dream, sometimes, of a yellow light and a warm person. A dream he’s had for as long as he can remember, that wakes him up in the dead of night and leaves him gasping silently for air, an irrational, inexplicable grief weighing him down. Sometimes he curls into his pillow and cries, quiet as he can, confused more than anything else.
He mentions the dream in conditioning, once, and he never has it again.
He still wakes up in the night, sometimes, shivering, with a lump in his throat. He never tells anyone about it. The grief, at least, is his to keep.
“I’m gonna call you Finn, is that okay?”
“Yeah,” FN2187 says, a wild joy rising up in him. “Finn, yeah, I like that!”
Finn grabs Poe’s arm just as he fires, so the shot goes wide. The trooper he would have killed narrowly misses Finn’s head, and they barely make it to cover. “What the hell,” Poe demands, breathless. “I had her!”
“You can’t kill her,” Finn pleads, urgent without knowing why. “Please, Poe.”
Poe stares at him, concern plain on his face. “You gotta give me a reason, buddy,” he says softly.
“I–” Finn begins, frustrated, gritting his teeth when he can’t find the words. “I don’t know why. Just not her.”
Poe stares for another moment, then bites his lip. “Okay,” he says, with a decisive nod. “I’ll do my best.”
FP005 doesn’t kill them, and they don’t kill her. Finn doesn’t know why that feels like a victory, but he’s raw with it, weak and relieved.
Finn jolts awake in his bunk, gasping, the old loneliness seizing his limbs. He sits up in bed, because no one here will check to see if he’s had the full eight hours of mandated rest. He’s been practicing wanting things, letting himself think about that. He breathes, shuts his eyes, really considers it. What does he want, right now?
Caf, he decides, even though it’s the middle of the night. He doesn’t want to sleep again. He gets out of bed, doesn’t bother with shoes, drapes Poe’s jacket over his shoulders.
The mess is dark but it isn’t empty. The General’s sitting on a table, knees tucked up to her chest, waiting for the machine to beep. “New pot’s brewing,” she says mildly, and Finn comes to sit next to her. It’s hushed and strangely comfortable, in the dark, even though he’s never felt particularly easy around the General. “Bad dreams?” she asks.
“I don’t really remember my dreams,” Finn says, and she gives a little grunt.
“Might be easier that way,” she says, and something about her voice makes him say–
“What about you?”
The General tilts her head slightly. “Bad feelings,” she says, and he knows she means more than just emotions.
The caf finishes, and Finn gets up and pours them each a cup. The caf is good, but strangely spiced, and sweet.
“It’s got naranj peel and raw sugar in it,” the General says, noting his surprise. “And cinnamon. You can start up a new pot, if you want.”
“No,” Finn objects, curling around the cup. “It’s good.”
She gives him a faint smile. “It’s from Alderaan. Family recipe.”
They drink the caf in silence for a while, sweet and strange and dear on the tongue, someone else’s history cupped between his hands, warming them. And maybe it’s the dream, or the caf, or the quality of the night around them, but he blurts out:
“Sometimes I feel like I’m missing something I can’t remember.”
The General nods, slow, considered. “I felt that way. For a very long time.”
“What changed?” Finn whispers.
“The Force brought me answers,” she tells him, and her eyes are very kind. “But the feeling doesn’t really leave you.”
Finn feels as though he understands. Who would he be, without this feeling?
“That woman’s staring at you,” Rey whispers, her arm wound through his. She jerks her chin towards an old woman in the middle of the market, thickly braided hair wound around her head. She is staring at Finn, although he can’t read the expression. “Do you think she’s made us?”
Finn’s mouth is inexplicably dry. “I don’t know,” he says, and it comes out troubled. An insistent voice in the back of his mind tells him to move along, to keep going and not turn back, but it’s not a voice he likes to trust.
Rey’s looking back at him, steady and clear. “Should we go and see?” she asks, and gives his arm a gentle squeeze.
Finn steals another look at the woman. There are freckles scattered across the bridge of her nose, and she’s staring at Finn so hard that she seems frozen in place, the crowd jostling her as they pass. “Yeah,” he says to Rey, swallowing hard. “Yeah, okay.”