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Call and Response

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The first answer comes as the Falcon is flying away from Crait at full speed loaded down with the entirety of the Resistance, which - if Poe's hasty headcount is to be believed - currently consists of fifty-seven beings of assorted species, six droids, and a collection of small flappy rodent things, number unknown. At the sound of the pinging comm, everyone who's still semi-conscious goes silent. There's an anger that wafts through the air so strong and thick that it's almost tangible.

"It's never too late," Leia says, answering the collective thought no one's quite brave enough to give voice to, and reaches for the comm before anyone can protest.

The caller turns out to be an anthracite miner on the tiny outpost of Jaspis Major, all the way at the very fringes of the Outer Rim. "There's four of us and a shuttle," she trills, feathers ruffling around her head in washed-out holoprojector blue. "Tell us how to help."

Leia tells them. Poe revises his count up to sixty-one.

 

 

The second answer comes through three encrypted channels and seven relay stations of questionable legality. The human woman on the other end is very beautiful and very rich and the daughter of the biggest tibanna gas distributor in the Inner Rim.

"My father has three accounts ready through Corellia Interstellar Bank and will have two more by tomorrow," she says in a crisp Core accent. "I'm sending the access codes now."

Rey peeks over Leia's shoulder as she calls up the accounts. She's never even seen numbers that large.

"He wants to know how the Falcon 's new antenna is holding up," the woman adds, and Leia laughs in a way that sounds just a little bit like a sob.

The tally jumps to sixty-three.

 

 

The third answer comes in the form of a First Order stormtrooper hiding in a bathroom. Leia passes the comm to Finn and herds everyone else out of the Falcon 's cockpit, flappy rodent things included.

By the time the Falcon touches down at the windswept and abandoned collection of prefab buildings that used to be Ballabar Base back in the days of the Empire, there are nine stormtroopers waiting for it, clustered around a stolen shuttle like a collection of lost baby gundarks. Their leader is round-cheeked and petite and can't possibly be more than sixteen standard years old, but she insists on saluting Leia and then Finn and then both at once in a moment of terrified confusion.

"You told me to brave," she manages after a moment. "So I was."

(At some point after a meal of stale rations and dried jerky and not , very pointedly, the flappy rodent porg things, someone digs out a rock and methodically scratches seventy-two lines on the nearest wall.)

 

 

The fourth, fifth, and sixth answers are survivors from Hosnian Prime: a transport lucky enough to be in orbit here, a pleasure cruise bound for the moons of Iego there. The beings who stagger down the ramps are wide-eyed Core civilians, clutching children and luggage and small pets.

Rose is awake by then, staging escapes from the med droid and hobbling around on a makeshift crutch with a speed and determination that sends larger and more grizzled beings diving out of her way.

"Right," she says, hand that isn't gripping her crutch fisted on her hip. "Raise your hand if you know which end of a hydrospanner is up."

She leads her new maintenance crew past the scratches. By the night cycle, there are one hundred and ninety-seven of them, and someone has dragged over a small wobbly table and adorned it with the beginnings of an Ithorian ancestor shrine.

 

 

The seventh answer comes in the form of the destruction of the First Order's largest smelting works, which vanish in a series of large and - for some reason - very colorful explosions.

Two standard hours later, the entirety of Mandalore formally rises up in open revolt.

No one attempts to add an entire planet to the wall, but as Rey's walking past the scratches (and the ancestor shrine, and the dogtags, and the holos of parents and spouses and children, and the long slip of plastisheet inscribed with Alderaan and Hosnian Prime and Jedha and a half-hundred other worlds) she finds one of the boys from the Hosnian cruise liner, newly-acquired pet porg tucked under his arm, carefully painting a bright red firebird.

 

 

The eighth answer is the pilots.

They trickle in by ones and twos. Some of them are smugglers. Some of them are like Poe and used to work for the Republic. One of them is an elderly and very angry Twi'lek woman who comes complete with her own astromech droid. Most of them have only piloted ore carriers or swoops or slow-moving transport tugs, but they line up in Ballabar Base's improvised hangar bay all the same.

Poe takes charge of the latter and looks out at the small sea of frightened, angry, determined faces.

The first thing he teaches them is how to come back alive.

 

 

The ninth answer is an elderly man from some obscure Mid-Rim farm world no one's ever heard of. He holds his granddaughter's hand and leads her to Leia.

"Please," he says. "She needs a teacher."

Leia looks down at the little girl, who is perhaps waist-high and sucking her thumb. Her Force presence is bright and curious and reaches out to bat at the lifeforms all around her like a curious tooka kit.

"I know just the person," she says.

(Rey accepts the responsibility of a student with great solemnity, and then she and Finn take the future of the Jedi to watch the porg eggs hatch.)

 

 

The tenth visit comes early in the night cycle, although that does not mean Ballabar Base is quiet. It's never quiet now. There are pilots running drills and mechanics swearing at recalcitrant machinery and Chewie doing whatever it is he does to get a strike team trained. The baby-faced stormtrooper (whose name has somehow evolved from "that rookie" to "Rookie" to just "Rook") is giving step-by-step instructions on how to sabotage TIE fighters. Someone is adding to the scratches and the shrine, because someone always is.

Leia finds Rey at the entrance to the hangar bay, attempting to teach her new student how to move rocks. A small audience has formed: Rose and Poe and BB-8 offering advice that Leia can tell is less than helpful, Finn watching with a thoughtfulness only slightly undermined by the fact that he has a baby porg in his lap.

"Stop worrying," she says, too quietly for anyone else to hear. "It's going to be okay."

Beside her, her brother smiles.