The sandstorm's unending. It's been three and a half days by Rey's count, but with thick clouds of sand blocking out sun and sky, it's hard to keep track of things like time.
Before the storm, she’d been on her way home, happy with the day’s haul. Then she saw the sand clouds on the horizon, rolling toward her at record speed. She’d rushed back into the fallen Imperial ship she’d been scavenging for days, checked her pouch for food or rations (she had none) and resigned herself to wait it out.
That was days ago. Now Rey curls into herself, cold to the bone and weak with exhaustion. Her teeth begin to chatter in earnest, and she has the horrible thought that she might freeze to death before she gets the chance to starve. She looks around, her sluggish brain searching for options.
She spends a minute - or an hour, for what was time in here? - staring blankly before she remembers a tiny alcove far above, a place she often uses for rest during her long, soaring climbs. It's small and snug, and it's her best chance at the moment for keeping warm.
She drags herself to her feet and begins to climb with shaking limbs. She knows it isn't safe, knows it isn't a good idea, but what choice does she have?
She looks down, steels her resolve, and presses on. She misses her next handhold and hurdles down, her body screaming and mind reeling. Her hands, trained by years of practice, scramble for another hold and find one, her wrists groaning under her body’s weight. She slams against the wall, cold metal tearing into her shins.
She gasps in pain, then gasps for breath. She curses herself for being so foolish, for making such a simple mistake as missing a hold. But her brain's dehydrated and her body's weak, and in her quiet, honest thoughts, she knows it didn't matter if she falls. She'll die of thirst soon if the cold doesn't get her, so all she's doing at this point is choosing how to spend her last minutes of her life.
Rey of Jakku doesn't believe in the Force, but in that raw moment, she prays. Without meaning to or realizing it, her soul screams out for comfort. For safety. For food and rest.
Then she climbs on, determined to find that alcove, to take comfort in a cozy nook and warm her cold body, to maybe find hope after all.
Her hands are steady again as she climbs, testing and checking each grip as she goes. Two feet from the top, so close to victory, she steps false again. Her rusted foothold gives out without warning and then she's falling, falling, into the cold, vicious dark.
Rey awakes to softness and warmth. She's immersed in thick liquid that soothes her skin and whisperes comfort to her broken body. It even seems to chase the cold out of her thoughts.
She's no longer a girl, she thinks, but an ethereal creature, lost in the void. She feels strangely okay with that as she drifts back into easy sleep.
Kylo Ren watches the desert girl from across the med bay. She had stirred in the bacta tank briefly, but he had used a gentle push from the Force to ease her back down into peaceful rest.
She's delirious, he knows, malnourished and dehydrated past the point of survival for any normal human being. The girl isn't a normal human though. She has the Force flowing through her, and the blood of Darth Vader singing in her veins.
Once the girl has stilled and succumbed again to sleep, Kylo Ren approaches the tank. They're alone in the medbay, which feels only appropriate, Kylo thinks. He’s worked years for this moment and it belongs to him, and him alone.
His helmet's off and his hands are bare as he touches the case, gently, as if in awe.
“Hello, little sister.”
FN-2187 had just finished his last training sim for the day, passing with top marks as usual. His captain, ever watchful, had deemed his performance “adequate,” which, coming from Phasma, was the highest of praise.
Now he hums happily as he heads for the training refreshers, eager to clean up and get started with his next task. Keeping his hands busy is the best way to keep his mind from dangerous questions he's not yet willing to let himself ask, even in the quietest corners of his own mind.
He washes and dresses in record time, and is about to resume rounds when a comm sounds in his helmet speakers.
“Dr. Noble here, requesting FN-2187 in Medbay R7. Immediately.”
The recorded message plays twice and then disappears. FN-2187, eyes bright with curiosity, does exactly as he's told.
The medbay is bright white and pristine. FN-2187's used to the sight of it by now, having spent the last few months studying field medicine here, but the smell still gets to him. It's a combination of something artificially sweet - orchids, maybe? - combined with the sharp tang of bacta that never goes away.
As his squad's unit leader, FN-2187 was assigned basic medical training under Doctor Noble, and he's discovered he has a knack for it. The doctor must think so too, because she's made a habit of calling him in to assist with minor procedures, talking him through each step, offering the tiniest bit of praise each time he gets a step right.
So when he's called to medbay today, he's intrigued, wondering what procedure he might assist with. So far he'd treated blaster wounds, lightsaber burns (usually inflicted by Kylo Ren), battle infections, and more. He marches briskly into the medbay, rounds the corner, and stops dead in his tracks.
A girl - no more than 18 - is unconscious on a stark table, and she's tiny. He's never seen someone so underfed before; she looks like she'd fly away in a brisk wind.
FN-2187 enters the room and looks quickly to the doctor for explanation.
“This young lady is the guest of Commander Ren,” Doctor Noble explains. “She was brought in suffering from severe dehydration and heat sickness. Her core temperature was normalized via bacta treatment, and she's being fed and hydrated via IV-tap.”
The soldier's curious gaze traces the thin tubes running into the girl’s arms, then skips to the graph of her steady heartbeat on the monitors above. He snapps to attention when the doctor addresses him again.
“As you can see, she’s stabilized for the moment, but far from well. What would you recommend as our next course of action?”
FN-2187 takes a moment to consider. He enjoys these challenges the doctor gives him; she tells him about a patient and their symptoms, then asks him what he thinks they should do. After he responds, she'll explain why he's right, or wrong. If he's right, he'll get to help with that part of the procedure. FN-2187 loves the mental challenge of it all.
He picks up the girl’s medchart, thumbing through the recent notes. When he notices she'd been living near a trading post on Jakku, something niggles at his mind. Hadn't he learned last week that the water on desert planets often held bacteria that damaged the intestines over time?
“I think,” he say slowly, tapping his finger as he concentrates, “that since she's out of immediate danger, we should investigate the cause of her malnourished state. She likely didn't have access to sufficient nutrition on an outer rim planet like Jakku, but we should also rule out Leena mites and common bacterial infections.”
He continues scanning the chart, and something else jumps out to him. “She was found in an old ship yard, with deep gashes in her limbs?” His eyebrows shoot up. “I'd recommend a tetanus med-shot immediately, if she hasn’t already received one. As well as the standard immunizations all personnel receive for the environment of this particular base.”
Doctor Noble gives him a sharp nod and a brief - but genuine - smile. “Good eye, soldier. My recommendations exactly.” She steps aside, and behind her FN-2187 sees a surgical table with blood vials in neat lines, waiting to be filled.
“I've given her the tetanus med-shot myself, as that was time sensitive, but your insights about bacterial testing are spot on. I'd like to run some basic liver and kidney function tests as well, for good measure. Would you like to do the blood draws?”
FN-2187 smiles, though he knew the doctor can't see through his standard issue helmet. “Thank you, doctor. I'll get started right away.”
FN-2187 marches briskly to the wash station in the adjoining hallway, where he trades his combat helmet for a standard issue field medic helmet instead. It still covers his head, eyes and face, but allows for more movement and better visibility. Even while treating patients, he still isn't allowed to show his face.
He' sanitizing his hands and applying medi gloves when he hears the loud chime that signals a medical emergency in a different wing.
He hears Doctor Noble swear smoothly and efficiently, and quickly turns to face her.
“FN-2187,” she say, all traces of her former softness gone. “Remain here while I answer the emergency call. Get the blood samples if you can, but your primary job is to keep the girl here, and safe. Kylo Ren will have both our heads if we lose her.”
FN-2187’s eyebrows shoot up in alarm, but he stands at attention at once. “Yes, Doctor.”
With that, the doctor's off, her white coat fluttering behind her like a cape.
FN-2187 finishes sanitizing himself, then turns back to the room and swears. The starving girl, personal guest of Commander Ren himself, is gone.