"We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust." - Rumi
Eadu, two years prior to the destruction of the Death Star.
Galen Erso stood facing the mirror, checking his Imperial researcher uniform for the final time. He looked every inch the distinguished, loyal scientist he had spent the last decade pretending to be. He remembered, nauseatingly, that once upon a time he had been pleased to wear this uniform, the pleasant weight of its decorations a reminder of how far he'd come in his life and how much further he could light the way in the name of science and the Empire.
But now the collar chafed, and the medals felt cold and cheap under his hand as he straightened them. The facade was now little more a hollow shell, held up only by the desperate hope that he might be able to somehow throw the proverbial wrench in Tarkin's plans. He just hadn't worked out how yet.
For years he'd contented himself to merely bog things down while he came up with a solution. Messy notes. Circuitous math. Insisting that tests be done multiple ways before he was satisfied. But the time was fast approaching when he would have to lay the plans for the superweapon at Orson Krennic's feet, and he still hadn't come up with a plan beyond the vague idea of a hidden weakness in the power structure. But that would have to be triggered by someone… either within or without, and Galen simply didn't have the resources to enlist that kind of aid. Especially since the crew for this weapon were a matter of utmost secrecy, and being trained far away from the research and construction. And so Galen languished at a dead end.
"Attention senior officers." a thin voice crackled across the station-wide intercom. "The transport of Imperial Applied Science and Research recruits will be landing at docking bay A3 in five minutes. Your prompt arrival is appreciated."
Galen sniffed, feeling his lip twitch as it often did when he was irritated or anticipating an aggravating setback. Then with a shake of his head and a last glance in the mirror, he marched himself down the hall towards the docking bays.
By the time Galen arrived at bay A3, the new recruits were just beginning to disembark. It was a rare clear day on Eadu and the sun was actually shining through a thin film of clouds, so the recruits lined up by the shuttle. They looked every inch the bright future of the Empire in their monochrome uniforms, some of which were already sparsely decorated with shining bars of metal.
And of course, Orson Krennic was there, resplendent in his white Imperial Intelligence uniform. He swanned about the platform appearing to inspect the recruits as they lined up. It was all for show, Galen knew. Before bringing them to a place like the research station on Eadu, Krennic would already have known everything about them, down to the number of hairs on each of their heads. And those of their mothers and fathers too, no doubt.
"Dr. Erso!" Krennic crowed with mock formality when Galen stepped into view.
Galen put on his best pleased, placated smile. "Lieutenant Commander Krennic. Always a pleasure."
"How goes your research, Dr. Erso? I'm eager for an update, and so are my superiors." Krennic smarmed.
Galen gave a small, self-deprecating smile. "It goes slowly as ever, I'm afraid. Mapping kyber matrices is painstaking work. And just when I think I've discovered a pattern that can speed the process along, the next sequence is completely unlike what I was expecting. I presume you've brought me the best and brightest in the Empire to help me unravel its secrets?"
Krennic smiled tightly. "The best and brightest certainly, but I don't know that I have anyone for the weapons division. Most of these recruits are for Corporal Japla in Security." He jerked his thumb at the woman standing on the platform nearby, looking much like a gaunt bird of prey in her jet black security officer uniform.
"I see." Galen managed around the knot in his throat. He had hoped perhaps one of these new recruits might offer him a chance. An idea. Something to help him plan his sabotage. He could feel his window of opportunity slipping closed, and he fought not to show it on his face. Krennic had always said he was a terrible liar. But Krennic was currently distracted with swaggering and scaring the new recruits. Some of them didn't even look old enough to shave yet, let alone work as security for a top secret weapons laboratory.
"You said most of the recruits were security. But not all of them?"
Krennic shook his head. "No, not all of them. Look sharp!" he barked at the recruits, making them jump. It was quite glaringly evident in that instant who had gone to school in one of the Empire's military academies and who had not. "This is Corporal Japla, Imperial Security. And Dr. Galen Erso, head of Scientific Research on this station. We'll go in order. State your name, where you attended classes for the Imperial Applied Science and Research Institute, and your specialty. You first."
Krennic pointed a black gloved hand at the first young man in line, who, up until that point had stared unblinking at the Imperial transport ship at the next docking bay over. Unlike the majority of his fellows, he didn't wear a uniform, but was dressed in very clean and coordinated civilian clothes, with a well worn knapsack at his feet. He couldn't have been much older than his mid twenties, but it was difficult to tell. He had an ageless quality about him.
"Excuse me." Krennic barked, snapping his fingers and making the man shrink back. "Name, academy affiliation, and specialty."
He jumped like a startled cat, flinching back from Krennic's outstretched arm. "Um… um…" the man stammered, blue eyes darting restlessly around. He'd begun to rock back and forth on his heels as he forced his lips to recite the information. Though the words ran together, it was clear to Galen that he had practiced this exchange. "A-Adam Raki. I studied on Corellia and then Coruscant. I… I specialize in interstellar navigation, engine construction, w-warp drive technology, and-"
"Alright, that's enough." Krennic cut him off with a flippant wave of his hand. "Next."
The recruit stepped forward, cleanly and concisely gave his information. Then the next, and the next. But Galen's eyes never left the young man who cowered at the front of the line. Despite his tremulous and agitated appearance, his gaze had once again fallen on the shuttle in the next docking bay. He watched with rapt attention as the last of its cargo was secured and it took off, flying towards the horizon. He seemed blissfully oblivious to all else around him. Even Krennic's barking.
And Galen realized that he hadn't been listening either.
"Well, as I said," Krennic said, snapping Galen back to the matter at hand. Most of the recruits were falling in behind Corporal Japla as she led them into the station. "Not much for you in this batch I'm afraid."
"What about that young man?" he nodded to Adam, who was still squinting at the freighter as it disappeared into the heavy clouds. "The navigations and engineering specialist."
Krennic snorted, and turned a shoulder so that he could address Galen with some privacy. "Don't worry about him. I brought him as a favor for an associate of mine. It's a complicated matter. His father was a pilot on Corellia, but had a nasty run in with some smugglers. Left the boy to be raised by his business partner, who does a great deal of transport of sensitive goods for the Empire. He wants this young man to have a good, secure position. Some place he'll stay out of trouble and more importantly won't be any trouble. They've been a great help to me in procuring the necessary materials for your research, so I thought I'd return the favor. I'm probably just going to dump him off at a repair station for some of the capital ships. Should keep him occupied."
"But he… he has such an education." Galen pointed out, looking over Krennic's shoulder at Adam whose attention had shifted to the ship he'd arrived in. He trailed his slim fingers along one of the stabilizers, discovering a loose screw and tightening it back into place by hand. "That would be a waste of his skills. Leave him here on Eadu with me."
"What the hell do you need him for? You're building a weapon, Galen. Not a pleasure cruiser."
"A weapon that has to travel long distances very quickly and covertly." Galen pointed out. "Likely the warp drive, main engines… all of that will need to be tied to the kyber crystal lattice if it's to be at all elegant in function. Otherwise you'll have to have two sources of fuel. Which will mean two weaknesses in your supply chain for this weapon. It will be an increased expense and a security risk. The kyber crystals are already difficult enough to procure as it is."
"So what. You want this kid to build your transport for you?"
"Someone's going to have to. It will be a custom job. Nothing like it in all of space. I know everything there is to know about kyber crystals and how to draw power from them, but I know nothing about engines. Or warp drives. Or navigations systems. And neither does anyone else on my team."
Krennic's mouth thinned as he thought. "He's a handful." he warned. "Likes structure. Routine. Gets antsy without it. And doesn't do well with people."
"I can see that." Galen conceded, still looking at Adam, lost in his own world with the Imperial shuttle. "But where else in the Empire will he find more structure and routine than in an Imperial military science facility? And he'll… he'll get used to the few of us there are. There's only six other people on my team, and likely they won't be working with him. It will be only me."
Krennic sighed and tossed up a hand. "Fine. Have it your way. But don't let this charity case slow your progress. You're already behind schedule."
"Hopefully, with Adam's expertise, we can make up for lost time." Galen said, doing his best to summon what he hoped was a prize-winning smile.
Krennic only nodded. "Raki! Grab your stuff. You're going to be staying with Dr. Erso for awhile."
"Y… yes sir." he said, scooping up the pack at his feet and moving uneasily towards Galen. Adam was halfway across the platform when the shuttle began to fire its engines and pull away from the station. He turned and watched it go with the same unbroken focus as he'd watched the freighter pull away from the dock.
When it had sailed out of sight, he turned to Galen. "I'm… sorry. I… I've studied all these ships in my books, but I haven't actually seen some of them in flight before. It's very different."
"I imagine so." Galen responded, feeling a small smile creep into his features.
"And loud." he said, scrunching up his face "I… I thought I wanted to work in a repair dock. That's where Orson was going to drop me off to work. But… I think I wouldn't like how loud it is. It's not like the hanger my father flew out of."
Galen blinked at Adam's use of Krennic's first name. It was strange to hear it out of another person's mouth other than his own, or Lyra's. But that fact was less strange than the fact that Adam had yet to look anyone in the eye since his arrival. His gaze always stayed just off center.
"I'm Dr. Galen Erso, head of the Science division here on Eadu." He put out his hand.
Adam stared at it for a minute, almost as if he were looking for whatever invisible thing Galen was offering, but after a split second he recognized the gesture and slipped his hand into Galen's grasp. "Adam Raki." he replied, withdrawing his hand quickly, but not coldly. "I've… I've heard of you. You won the Kuat Systems Engineering medal. I saw your name on a plaque in the Corellian campus."
"I did indeed." Galen said, feeling a small amount of very uncharacteristic pride as he pointed out the medal pinned to his chest. "You must have an excellent memory."
Adam peered at it and gave a beaming smile. "I do. So are you building ships? Or are you working on some sort of new navigation technology?"
"Neither I'm afraid." Galen directed Adam through the dock doors and into the facility. "I specialize in… shall we say unorthodox power sources. An interstellar weapons system that I'm building has one of these power sources, and I'd like to couple the warp drive and navigation to it. Can you do that?"
Adam's face hunkered down into a thoughtful frown. "I think so. I've re-routed power on ships before. Can I have a look at your schematics and-"
"Well, let's get you to your quarters first." Galen said, trying and failing to suppress a smile at Adam's eagerness to get started.. "I imagine you might want to change clothes?"
Adam shook his head as they rounded a corner. "I'll need to wash everything first. It… It kept getting handled and searched and passed around and stepped on while we were traveling. I'll have to re-sort and-" He looked up at Galen with wide eyes. "I get agitated when people leave things in disarray. Especially my things."
"Yes, Lt. Commander Krennic mentioned you liked a certain amount of routine."
Adam nodded. "It's just that… I guess I should just go ahead and tell you. Because if it's a problem I want to know now so… so I'll just find somewhere else."
Galen stopped walking and frowned, waiting for Adam to continue.
Adam wet his lips, making every attempt to look Galen in the face. "I have a condition and the doctor on Corellia called it Asperger's Syndrome. Have… have you heard of it?"
Galen wracked his brain but ultimately shook his head.
"It's just… I don't function well when I don't know what to expect. I… I don't pick up on social cues well. I'm most comfortable when I can stick to a predictable schedule. I like my working and living spaces to… to have a certain order. I have… have weird eating habits. It's just… a lot of people find me a nuisance."
Galen's frown deepened. "Who told you that you were a nuisance?"
Adam's gaze almost made it up to Galen's face, his bright blue eyes uncertain and stormy. "Orson." he said softly. "He… he never said it to me. But I heard him talking to Harlan. He was my father's partner. I know Harlan doesn't think I'm a nuisance, but… well Orson wouldn't be the first."
Galen snorted with derision. "Yes, well. A law of the universe is people most often magnify the flaws in others to avoid looking at their own. I think you'll find this very true of Lt. Commander Krennic."
Adam gave a vague nod, but didn't seem convinced.
Galen went to put a hand on the young man's shoulder but thought better of it. "If it's predictability and routine you like, then you're in the right place. You'll have your own personal space in the dormitories and in the lab.You'll even have your own work table that you can organize exactly as you like. And as for routine, on Eadu the weather is always the same. The food in the mess is always the same. And the days are nearly always the same unless you're on R and R. I'm happy to let you set your own work hours, provided we have some overlap to work on integration. Personally, the tediousness can make me a little crazy, so whenever the weather's clear, I try to get outside for some fresh air." Galen reached out and stopped a passing janitorial droid. "Are any of the quarters in this wing unoccupied?"
"Yes, Dr. Erso." the synthetic voice chirped back. "Rooms A 15, A28, and AA 5 are all without tenants."
"Please inform the dormitory clerk that room AA5 is being taken by Adam Raki, who will be joining my research team. Tell them to send up a key and paperwork as soon as possible." Galen gave the droid a stiff nod of dismissal and it sped off down the hall. "AA5. It's upstairs, but it's closer to the communal bathrooms. This way. We'll take care of all the paperwork formalities tomorrow."
Adam nodded and trotted after him.