“Eadu Tower, this is Cargo Hauler NH-477. Please advise. Repeat, please advise.” Bodhi held the mike to his lips, searching through the view-screen from some sign of what the hell was going on.
The storm had come up suddenly as the convoy was coming in. Bodhi’s smaller, lighter ship had been blown sideways hard, and it had taken all his skills to keep from being dashed against Eadu’s ragged outcrops.
But now he’d lost contact with the other ships; his sensors scrambled by the storm and visibility reduced to almost nothing. “Eadu Tower, this is Cargo Hauler NH-477. I have lost contact with fleet. Please advise landing procedures. Eadu Tower, please come in!”
The knot in his stomach tightened when all he got back was static. Had something happened to Eadu Tower? To the research facilities? Bodhi knew all too well how fragile these little bubbles of durasteel they flew really were. How close they were every moment to the cold hard death of space. But he knew just as well what a crashing ship could do to anything it connected with.
He banked hard as a gust of wind sent the ship sideways, managing to break the tip of one wing off on the jutting black promontory rather than ripping open the ship’s belly.
Not good. Not good at all.
“Cargo Hauler NH-477, this is Eadu Actual. Abort landing. Repeat, abort landing. Cargo platform and tower have been compromised.”
“Eadu Actual, requesting alternative landing. Ship damaged. Cannot re-enter orbit. Please advise. Please advise!” Warning lights flashed and klaxons cried. It wasn’t that bad. He could still land. He had to land. One way or another, he was going down.
The wait for an answer seemed like an eternity. The voice on the other end was frightened and tired. “Cargo Hauler NH-477, here’s a flatish outcropping 2.3 clicks north, north west of Cargo Platform. Set down there if you can. That’s all I can do for you.”
Bodhi swung the ship around hard, already scanning. “Roger Eadu Tower. Actually, I am en route.” He dropped the radio and held the stick with both hands, desperately trying to get the ship down in more or less one piece.
It wasn’t easy. Or clean. Bodhi felt one landing strut snap as he brought the ship down, landing on an awkward lean. He scrambled into rain-poncho and cap as he freed his rescue pack from its locker.
He didn’t know if the base was under attack or if a ship had come down badly. Either way, he had to get down there. He tried to tell himself he would have done the same anywhere. Pilots and crews looked out for each other. But he knew it was Galen he was running to. Stars, let him be smart enough to stay away from danger!
He slipped and scrambled down the slope, riding the rivulets and waterfalls the landscape had become. Sharp stones cut through his gloves and flight suit but he ignored the pain. He had to get down there.
The view that greeted him as he made the ridge was the nightmare of any pilot. Two heavy haulers, one wedged under the other. Teetering on the edge of the platform, all that held them up was the shattered tower, the spindly structure groaning under the weight.
He raced the rest of the way down in a controlled fall, landing on the hard tarmac with ankle-jarring force. There wasn’t time to care.
Eadu station was not heavily manned. Other than the scientists, there was a very minimal support and logistic team. Most of the rescuers came from other ships – those who had managed to land safely or got out before the two larger ships connected.
There were crew still trapped in the lower of the two ships and those who could were cutting at the mangled hatches with lances and vibro-blades. White hot durasteel splattered and screamed under the torrents of rain, sparking unpredictably.
Bodhi ran for the other ship, reaching up to help injured crew climb down from the warped hatch, running them to the waiting medical carriers. A massive T'Syriél cargo handler, the side of his face badly burned, fell into Bodhi’s arms, barely conscious as his feet giving out on the slick and twisted ramp. Bodhi tried to take his weight but the little human was too small to support the towering orange alien alone.
Suddenly someone else was there, taking the man’s other arm. “I’ve got him. Let’s go.”
At first Bodhi didn’t even register that it was Galen on the T'Syriél’s other side. But he felt the knot in his gut relax, as if he’s been holding his breath and just remembered how to breathe.
And then something else hit his senses like a blow to the chest. The smell of fuel.
He dumped the cargo handler and grabbed Galen. The scientist half fell as the giant’s full weight shifted onto him but Bodhi had the front of Galen’s tunic, dragging him forward. “Run!” He screamed, half running, half scrabbling to keep them both upright.
He glanced over his shoulder only to realise it was already too late.
He threw Galen down, trying to ignore to thud as Galen hit the wet durocrete. He fell onto Galen, covered the scientist’s body with his own as he pulling up his suit’s hood up.
The fireball reached them before the sound of the explosion, Bodhi screaming as the heat seared him through the tears in his flash-resistant flightsuit. But he protected Galen, staying sprawled over him till the oxygen burnt off and the flame dissipated. There was a horrible, choking moment of asphyxiation before air rushed in to fill the void and the super-heated water around them boiled to steam.
There was almost a moment a peace before the shockwave hit them, throwing them across the landing pad.
The silence that followed was absolute, their eardrums temporarily shocked into uselessness. Bodhi tried to open his eyes but the pain was too much, too great. But it didn’t matter. He still had hold of Galen’s hand. And Galen was still squeezing tight. They were both alive.
Fingers threaded through his own. "Bodhi!" Galen's voice croaked.
There were alarms somewhere, and the footsteps of both droids and people running towards them.
Bodhi wanted to answer, wanted to call Galen's name but it felt like he was on fire. The sound that returned to him as his bleeding eardrums started to work again was muffled and faint, more felt than heard.
There were people now. People touching Bodhi, probing his burning skin and pulling back his hood. Why? Why are they touching him? Can't they just leave him alone. All he wanted was to hold Galen's hand just a little longer. That's all that mattered.
"Galen?" He couldn’t tell if the words made it past his lips or if he’d only said it in his own mind.
But he was being lifted, someone was trying to pry their hands apart. He screamed again, his world turning white.
Somewhere distantly he could hear Galen's voice giving orders; croaking, short and gruff. Bodhi was put down somewhere soft, then raised, and moving, feet around them.
Galen apparently was telling those people to go faster.
Bodhi's mind reeled, unable to catch his breath, unable breathe past the pain. He could hear Galen. He knew Galen was alive but he couldn't find him, couldn't reach him. Everything was wrong and raw, and smells of burning meat.
He was laid out on his stomach, his back still on fire. Someone lifted his head and forced something over his mouth and nose. The sudden rush of oxygen made his head spin and he gulped it down like a grounded fish.
Something sweet and cloying was added to the gas and Bodhi started going limp, conscious but distanced from pain and sensation, his eyelids fluttering.
Galen desperately told them to hurry up, to call ahead and get the bacta tank ready. One of the medics asked him a gruff question, and Galen said coughing, "For him, of course! For the pilot!"
"Sir, we need to get you checked out." One of the medics at Galen’s side urged, trying to get him to stand still long enough to check the bleeding patch on his scalp. "You may have burned lungs, we need to get you on oxygen, too."
"Don't be ridiculous," Galen said. "The pilot comes first; he must be badly burned."
"Sir, we will see to the pilot. You have a head wound. We need to assess your condition immediately." She took hold of Galen’s sleeve, trying to slow him down a pace as they rushed Bodhi ahead. "Sir, he'll be fine. Let us do our job. For you and for him."
"Let me see him safely in bacta, and I'm all yours," Galen said, as charmingly as stubborn. "I do realise my head is very valuable to the Empire, but so is his backside. How else is he to do all the pant-seats flying he needs on these little backwater planets in the outer rim?"
"Chief Erso, you're not making sense." The medic guided him to a bench in the transport, flashing a light in his eyes as they strapped Bodhi down on the other side. She reached for the oxygen tank, bringing the mask up to Galen’s face. "Just lie back and breathe. We'll take care of everyone." She called to the droid drive and the transport took off, smooth and level, not jostling anyone.
She sat down next to him, starting to clean the head wound. "I need you to stay awake, sir. Take deep breaths but keep your eyes open."
"I am making sense," Galen protested. He raised to his feet despite her instructions and brushed the medic off. "Pilot. Bacta. First. And don't feed me that bantha-shit about pilots not taking bacta. That is tie-fighter pilots trying to be as macho as possible, and mostly a legend, anyway."
"And don't tell me you're all out of the stuff. This is a research station, and young scientists get careless. I remember signing an order no more than ten days ago."
The medic growled in return, clearly not one to be intimidated, not when she had right of way over an injured patient.
"Sir, the pilot will get the best care we can provide. But there are a lot of injured, including yourself. We don't have enough bacta to tank him. Not and treat everyone else. His burns are extensive yes, but they're also predominantly superficial. We can start him with gel packs to accelerate the healing and when we can get more bacta in, we'll consider tanking him." She gave him a flat and level look. "Now sit down, breathe deep. Or I will tranq you."
Unfortunately, no such luck.
"I have a hard head," Galen said. "So, if you want me compliant, be quick about this. For one, where is the bacta I ordered, and secondly, he can have all of what you would assign to me, as I dohave a hard head."
He stood in front of her, straight despite his injury, calm and unmoving.
"The bacta you ordered." She said levelly. "Was on the ship that blew. We are dealing with a major disaster here, sir." Her voice was cold as ice. "We have fourteen wounded." She took a calming breath. "And frankly sir, your hard head is the most valuable thing on this rock. So sit down and let me assess your condition so I only have to use as little bacta as necessary."
Galen sat, by way of a concession.
"All the bacta you can spare," he said, "for that pilot who saved my ass. Without which, you know, I wouldn't have the spine needed to carry that valuable head of mine around."
"I mean it. I don’t just say that to alleviate my conscience and put my gratitude in your hands where it could go missing with no fault of mine."
"And I meant it when I said I'd tranq you." She answered, an eyebrow arched as she handed him back the oxygen mask.
Assured he wasn't going to fight her again, she went back to her work cleaning his head wound while the other medics worked on Bodhi. "I saw what he did out there and you're right. If it hadn't been for him, we'd be sweeping up your ashes."
She sighed "The sad truth is that stations like this are set up to deal with careless young scientists, not major freighter disasters like this. That requisition you signed was pushed through because I was worried by how little we had out here. There were two medics on that ship who were supposed to supplement my team. One of them is wounded, the other is dead. And I'm back down to a staff of three people and one droid. To deal with all of this."
She pressed on his bleeding scalp, holding a piece of gauze to it, then strapping it down with a bandage around his head. "The sooner I can clear you, the sooner I can help everyone else."
She glanced over her shoulder to Bodhi's still form. "We're not going to be able to erase those scars. Not unless the higher ups send us a medical frigate. Which we both know they won't. Best case scenario, we stop the burning, prevent infection and manage the pain."
She checked Galen over, looking down at his side, cursing in some outer rim language. "And you could have told me you were burned too!" She cracked a cold pack and pressed it to his ribs where a fist-sized hole has burned through his tunic.
Galen hadn't noticed up to now, but he wasn’t going to admit to that.
"So you would waste even more time and resources on me?" he said instead. "Get a droid to clean up the burn and put on some sticking plaster. And make me a list of what you need, after everybody is seen to, and I will sign off on it. This mustn't happen again."
He peered over to where Bodhi was being treated, to see how badly injured he was
The medic’s expression turned dark, her voice sharp. "You know why, sir. Imperial protocol. The only person on this rock who outranks you right now is me. And that only lasts till I clear you. I can't clear you until I'm certain you’re medically fit to return to duty. If I rubber stamp you and you make some dumb-ass call because you're concussed and not thinking straight, it's my ass. Your life in my hands is the life of everyone on this base. Including your pilot."
"And believe me," She pushed the mask back to his face, "you'll get a list."
She shoved off as they entered the facility's tunnel and leaned over to check on Bodhi.
That was probably as close as Galen was going to get to a deal with her, so he laid back and kept watching her. "How bad is he?" As she seemed to have accepted the responsibility he has claimed for the man who saved him, and don’t question his motives.
"It's not good." She answered honestly, checking the med-droid's readouts. The transport came in to dock and she jumped down, ready to wheel Bodhi off. "Second and third degree burns where the suit was compromised. We'll get gel onto them right away, so hopefully there won't be any nerve damage. He may still lose some feeling on the worst of them."
Once Bodhi was off the transport and being rushed away by her team, she held a hand out to help Galen down. "He was lucky he had hold of you. Holding you down through the blast protected the palms of his hands. He might have lost them otherwise." She huffed. "Now, I need you under the scan so I can say definitively you're not brain damaged. I need to get gel onto your side and then you can get to work getting this madhouse back under control."
"Can we skip the gel for me if I do everything else you say without protest or fuss?" Galen said, tamely following her lead to show his goodwill. "I'd rather divert it for him. I can't ask of anybody else to go short, but that is just a small superficial burn."
She gave him a narrow-eyed scowl. "You get ice spray and a local analgesic. It may not hurt now but in an hour or so, it's going to hurt like hell. And it will scar. If you can live with that, I'll let you get away with it."
She sat him down at the scanner and runs a brain activity and fracture scan. "Yeah, you have a hard head and a concussion. Stay conscious for the next six hours and I won't have to shoot you in the ass with tranqs." She made short work of the burn, the area numbing almost as soon as the injector touched his skin.
She nodded to a comms panel, alight with flashing messages. "Not that you're going to get to sleep. Director Krennic has been calling every 15 minutes demanding updates. And your science team are going bantha-shit. My office is through there. I'll send someone if the pilot's condition changes."
She started to move on to the next injured person but looked back. "Chief? What's his name? Your pilot."
"Bodhi Rook," Galen answered before he realised that he wasn’t supposed to know that without at least some hesitation.
And she had called Bodhi 'his' pilot twice now. It made him a little wary.
"I'll get to work right away," he promised aloud. "Call me if he wakes up, too. I want to thank him."
That was harmless, right?
"Will do.” She waved him away. “Now get to work, Chief Galen. And if you start feeling dizziness or nausea, you tell my team."
Her office was exactly what one would expect from the office of someone who spent a lot of time waiting for anybody to hurt themselves. Mostly a mess. She clearly had research of her own to fill the time. Something about toxins from the local fish life but mostly the signs of abject boredom. Her desk comm lit up as everything was re-routed to Galen.
Galen sat down and got to work, answering all the messages in order of actual relevance rather than the perceived importance of the caller.
Which meant that near the end, he had to spend much more time than he liked stroking Krennic's ego. Not that he liked stroking Krennic's anything at all whatsoever. Hard to believe that as young men, they had been friends of sorts.
After all the little lights were gone and dealt with, Galen headed out to see if there was a machine that would get him some caf, as he didn’t want to bother a human medic with such an irrelevant request. And, incidentally, make sure that Bodhi was alive, and catch just a glimpse of him.
The chief medic was still working on minor injuries on minor personnel, and looked like hell, blood streaked on her face and her tunic stained. But she seemed oddly calm, like someone who has finally tamed a storm.
She nodded to Galen as he came out of the office and then to Bodhi. "He'll be coming around soon. Don't expect him to make much sense but you can thank him."
Bodhi was stretched out along a table, bubbles of milky white liquid dotted over most of the back of his body. He still smelt like undercooked meat but the respirator had been removed and replaced by a smaller line into his nose. His eyes were closed but fluttering as he slowly near consciousness.
Galen settled down where he can see Bodhi but so close enough as to succumb to the temptation to touch his pilot's narrow cheek.
His pilot. Even though it was probably bad that the medic called Bodhi that, the idea warmed Galen's heart.
A droid took Galen’s order and brought him a mug of something nondescript from a machine, to hold in his hands while he waited for Bodhi to come to.
"You're stuck with each other, you know." The medic said tiredly to him when she was finally done with all her patients, sipping caf that didn't smell like it had been diluted from the concentrate. "I'm from Onderon. For us, you save someone's life, you're bound to them. And they to you. Run to the end of the galaxy and you'll still find each other. You better get use to him."
When Galen looked back, Bodhi's eyes were open. Pained and hazy but open. And he’d heard the medic's words too.
"I like that idea," Galen said. "It's a good way to emphasise the way we are all connected." Through food. Through life. Through the Force. "No hardship at all to have this amazing and brave pilot around."
Bodhi smiled weakly and started to say something but the in-drawn breath turned into a cough that wracked his body, threatening to dislodge the gel packs.
"Damn it!" The medic snarled, putting down her caf. "Get him back on the oxy and do a lung scan. I don't like the sound of that.” She turned to Galen. “If you're going to thank him, do it quick. I'm going to have to put him back under."
"Thank you for my life, Bodhi," Galen said, painfully aware of the audience. "We will talk more when you are better, and you will be." He took Bodhi's fingers and briefly squeezed them. That much was innocuous.
Bodhi opened his mouth to speak, but medic hushed him. "Later. Whatever it is, you'll have time later."
Bodhi nodded awkwardly as they fitted him with the mask again, and squeezed back.
A few moments later, his eyes fluttered closed again.
The medic nodded to Galen. "I'll walk you out." There was clearly something she wanted to say, just not there.
Galen followed in silence, hoping he hadn’t give away too much. He would hate himself deeply if Bodhi became just another hostage for his continued cooperation, rather than his new hope for life.
"I hope you have another use for that young man." The medic started without preamble. "Because he's not flying. Not for a month at least. He got a lungful of super-heated air or steam or smoke. He won't be able to breathe ship's atmosphere till it heals. I've heard of vaporised bacta being used in cases like this and I'll need to do some research but the short version is, he's grounded for now. Now, normally I would set him up in a room near the medbay and supervise him there but he's far from my worst case and I don't have the space. I'm very tempted to make him your problem."
"I accept it," Galen said. "He saved my life, and I have known him to be a good man even before that."
He felt horrible -- to have his hope of being with Bodhi granted at such a high cost. People died in that explosion, and Bodhi most likely still had a world of pain ahead of him. He should not be secretly glad at the idea of a whole month with Bodhi. Not at this price.
But he was.
"Oh. Good." The medic was obviously caught out, having expected a fight but not getting one. "Once he's stable, we'll set him up in a room near yours. You'll have to keep an eye on him. He'll be sleeping on his stomach for a while. As well as needing to be in a high O2 respirator at night. It won't be comfortable but it will help."
"I will take care of him and see to that," Galen promised. "He won't get out of it, either from modesty or pilot-ly toughness."
Which latter Bodhi wouldn't try on him, but she didn't need to realise how well Galen already knew his pilot.
The medic gave him an approving nod and a surprisingly warm smile. "And here was I thinking I was going to have to talk you around. You impress me, Chief Erso." She nodded to an incoming shuttle. "It's been four hours. Any signs of dizziness, nausea? How is the burn feeling?"
"Burn? What burn?" Galen said, smiling at her. He was so relieved about Bodhi, and running on sheer adrenaline and caf, he was getting a little bit light-headed.
"You won't be saying that when it blisters and bursts." She shook her head. "Get gone and get some sleep. I want you back here tomorrow for a check up. And I'll let you know how your pilot is."
A couple of hours later, Bodhi came to. Slowly at first, in the blissful drifting of forgetfulness. And then with the rushing panic of recollection. He started to shout Galen's name but the medic was with him, pressing the mask over his face.
Thankfully free of knock-out gas this time, it at least distracted him long enough for the memories to sort themselves back into order. Leaving the last and happiest to outweigh the pain he felt.
Galen. Alive. His head bandaged but standing and stable. And smiling. Touching his hand. Praising his bravery.
The praise didn't matter. Nor did the pain. All that mattered was that Galen was alive and whole.
As for himself---
The head medic went over and sat at his side, her head tilted to talk to him in his prone position. "You did a good thing, saving Chief Erso but frankly, it's going to cost you. You have second and third degree burns spotted across your back. We're treating it with bacta gel and we're optimistic there won't be much nerve damage. You may lose a bit of feeling on your right hip but that may come back in time."
She wasn't pulling her punches and Bodhi was grateful for that. He preferred to hear it straight.
"However, you've got your lungs full of heat and that's messed them up. You won't be able to breathe atmo for a while."
Bodhi's whole body tightened. No atmo meant no flying. It meant he was no-longer a pilot.
"Calm down." She muttered. "It'll heal as long as you're careful. A month at least. Maybe less. I've got a colleague working on severe heat related respiratory damage. I'll get him to send over his research and we'll see what can be adapted. For now, you'll have to sleep with a mask, probably need it walking around too. Which once your back is stable, I recommend you do. Eadu is a horrible rock to go rambling on but the exercise will help stimulate healing."
"Now, I can't afford to keep you here. We have a lot of wounded for a very small facility and no-one's getting shipped off until the pad's repaired." She gives him a bit of a cheeky smile. "I've assigned your care to Chief Erso. He owes you his life. The least he can do is wait on you hand and foot while you're recovering."
Bodhi was suddenly very grateful the mask covered most of his face, hiding the grin that he couldn't suppress.
"It'll be another day before I can move you. You'll need another couple of days of gel to keep your burns from becoming septic but after that, as long as you're careful and keep them clean, you'll be okay. You'll have to sleep on your stomach for a while but you'll work that out for yourself. I pretty much recommend staying naked for as much time as you can for the first week at least. And there'll be a drug regimen for infection and pain management. I don't expect you to remember all of this so I will write it down for you. And for Chief Erso. I'll check up on you but as of the day after tomorrow, you're his problem."
Bodhi was in pain, his skin felt like the wrong side of a frying pan and he don't care. He and Galen had time. And an unassailable reason to be together.