MSE-6-H674L was created in the same way every mouse droid the First Order fleet owned was; with a solid, square body and four squeaky wheels with which for move. MSE-6-H674L’s make was not particularly important or special and nor was it intended to be. The MSE-6 units were built for communications and repairs and MSE-6-H674L performed those functions just fine. Unlike many from the same unit class, however, MSE-6-H674L had developed something of a fascination for humanity that transcended what their simple programming should have allowed them to.
Humans, in their essence, were incredibly strange creatures. Those aboard the Finalizer, MSE-6-H674L is told, are even stranger. MSE-6-H674L craved to understand humanity, to connect with the emotions they themselves could not feel.
That fascination is what brought little MSE-6-H674L to the quarters of one General Hux.
When the call had gone out for repair work in the General’s quarters MSE-6-H674L had been the first to accept it. No one was more the epitome of the cacophony of the First Order’s human spirit than General Hux. MSE-6-H674L, of course, had only ever heard this said rather than experienced it first hand, but they had no reason to doubt the sentry droids on Deck 34.
MSE-6-H674L entered the General’s quarters, the door sliding open for them with ease. The General himself was bent over his desk, his eyes peering down into a datapad. It must have been important work as the man was frowning, his brows tipped severely downwards in a way that MSE-6-H674L had learned was the human equivalent to a droid’s experience of a damaged nerve circuit. ‘Pain’, MSE-6-H674L supposed it would be called. It could have been because his head hurt but MSE-6-H674L could sense there was something deeper bothering him.
MSE-6-H674L went about their work, checking the interiors and mechanics of the room and repairing what they could and logging all that they could not. Their concentration was only broken by a low groan from the General.
MSE-6-H674L hesitated, nervous in a way droids rarely were. They rolled forward towards the desk, chipping pleasantly to catch the General’s attention. The General flinched at the sound, not seeming to know that MSE-6-H674L was nearby. He pushed back his chair and turned, looking down at MSE-6-H674L. They chirped again, greeting him.
“Hello…” The General started trailing off to lean over the back of MSE-6-H674L to look at their coded number, “…MSE-6-H674L. Do you have a message for me?”
MSE-6-H674L whistled and shook to and fro in a way that would mimic a human shaking their head. That was not something a droid was built to do, rather it was something MSE-6-H674L had learned help them communicate with humanity.
“What is it then?” The General asked, surprisingly no unpleasantness evident in his voice. He talked slowly, as if words were taking him some effort. MSE-6-H674L could relate. Words sometimes didn’t come to them easily either.
‘General Hux = Pain?’ MSE-6-H674L asked.
The General’s eyebrows shot up at that. “What makes you think that?”
‘General Hux = made a sound of distress // H6 = concerned.’ And they were. The General was kind to droids like few people aboard the Finalizer were and MSE-6-H674L felt it their duty to help.
The sides of the General’s lips turned upwards at that. “You’re a strange little droid,” he said, avoiding the question.
‘General Hux = not answering.’
The General frowned. “I’m fine. Nothing to concern yourself over.”
MSE-6-H674L chirped appreciatively at his answer. Of course the General was fine. He was always fine. It had been silly of them to be concerned. The General smiled down at them, looking slightly confused. MSE-6-H674L had expected that. Human’s usually expressed confusion when droid’s stepped out of their assigned protocols – something that MSE-6-H674L had quickly learned.
The General spun around, turning back to his work. He rubbed at his temple, wincing again. MSE-6-H674L took that as their cue to leave and quickly rolled out the door onto their next assignment.
General Hux would be fine.
The next day MSE-6-H674L noticed the same look of the General’s face and suspected that the General may have been lying. That was something MSE-6-H674L knew humans did but they’d never expected to be on the receiving end of one.
The General strolled the bridge, putting on the same stern face he always did for his crew. MSE-6-H674L was always impressed with his consistency; it was something they’d only previously known droids to be capable off. However, MSE-6-H674L was reminded of the General’s humanity as at occasions where the man thought no one was looking MSE-6-H674L caught him staring off into nothingness, his gaze directed outside of the viewport and towards the stars.
MSE-6-H674L was puzzled. Something was clearly troubling him and MSE-6-H674L wanted to know what. Their wiring was alight with an uncomfortable sensation of an itch that they knew they would never be able to scratch. Not knowing what to do MSE-6-H674L patrolled their assigned section for as long as they could, turning around in circles over and over just to keep a faithful watch over the General.
“Is that MSE-6 unit broken?” MSE-6-H674L heard said close by. They screeched to a halt, turning to look at the bridge officer who had said that. He was looking right at them, pointing.
MSE-6-H674L made a quick series of beeps. They’d been caught. They couldn’t stay for much longer. MSE-6-H674L watched the officer rise from his seat, their eyes locked onto them. Before the officer could advance MSE-6-H674L sped away from the bridge, disappearing into the hallways of the Finalizer, weaving purposefully pretending as though they were recovering from a core malfunction.
Outside of the bridge MSE-6-H674L stopped. They’d not had a chance to confront the General again, though, they supposed, even if they had the General would have waved them away like he had the night before. MSE-6-H674L felt something strange into their circuits, a heaviness that could only be described as a human like sadness. They’d failed and they didn’t know what to do.
At that moment another droid meandered past, spherical and shiny black. MSE-6-H674L perked up at that. A BB unit! The BB units of the First Order were a security and astromech hybrid, unique in their creation. However, MSE-6-H674L knew that they had originally been designed to do something else. BB units, at their core, had been created as therapy droids and while you could reprogram them to be something else MSE-6-H674L knew that a droids core processor was not so easily replaced. It was likely some of that role’s coding still remained in the unit.
MSE-6-H674L rushed forward, stopping the BB unit in their tracks. The BB unit beeped disapprovingly, the sound low and guttural. They looked down at the mouse droid, their head brought down from the top of their body to look.
‘BB unit = help!’
The BB unit perked up suddenly at that, a security protocol within them flicking their eye from a deep black to a shocking red. MSE-6-H674L screeched suddenly, frantically trying to shut off the BB unit’s security alarm before they alerted the ship that they were under attack.
‘BB unit = misunderstands // H6 = requires assistance with human affliction’
The BB unit’s head moved, tilted to the side.
‘Designation MSE-6-H674L will explain.’ The BB unit beeped, speaking in a slightly advanced version of binary that some of the newer droids on board were able to communicate with. It was so much more precise than old binary and if MSE-6-H674L could feel jealously they very well might have.
The BB unit was staring at MSE-6-H674L intently and MSE-6-H674L wanted to shake under the scrutiny. They liked people, not droids.
‘General Hux = troubled, unwell // H6 = want to help // H6 = unsure of problem // General Hux = won’t inform H6 // H6 = need BB units assistance.’ MSE-6-H674L beeped frantically.
The BB unit paused, seeming to stop to think. Their cooling system whirred within them.
‘Unit designation BB-9E cannot assist. Request outside of set security protocols.’
BB-9E went to leave, rolling forward with purpose. MSE-6-H674L let out a shrill set of beeps, rolling in front of them to stop them. BB-9E’s hull clanked against MSE-6-H674L’s, the sound echoing in the hallway. BB-9E’s following beeps were quick and full on angry static.
‘BB-9E = contains set therapy protocols’ MSE-6-H674L chirped.
BB-9E went silent. There was the sound of machinery clicking inside the metal exterior of the droid. They seemed to be staring into nothing, almost seeming to frown.
‘Unit designation MSE-6-H674L is correct. Unit designation BB-9E will assist. Protocol allows it.’
Had MSE-6-H674L had lungs in which to do so they may have breathed a sigh of relief. However, since droids generally don’t and instead they simply chirped twice happily, swaying their metal containing from side to side.
Suddenly a voice called out. “Hey, what are you two doing!”
The same officer from the bridge who had caught MSE-6-H674L in their fake directional malfunction was now standing above them, looming over the two droids.
‘Unit designation BB-9E will meet Unit Designation MSE-6-H674L at 00:45’
And with that BB-9E rolled onwards, continuing to scan the hallways for threats. MSE-6-H674L was then left with the angry officer to contend with. The officer leaned down, looking over MSE-6-H674L’s hull.
“You don’t appear to be damaged,” the officer mused, “And it would surprise me if you were. The MSE-6 units are the toughest the First Order has, even if your design is rather basic.”
MSE-6-H674L chirruped, desperately wanting the officer to go away.
The officer hummed in response. “Language function seems fine too. Everything okay, droid?”
MSE-6-H674L beeped an affirmative. The officer shrugged at that, easily taking the answer. MSE-6-H674L knew that usually worked. People didn’t tend to care very much about what droids were doing if they seemed okay. Just like they did with other humans, MSE-6-H674L mused. They wondered what it must be like to live such a blinkered existence decided by such whimsical things such as emotion.
With the officer gone MSE-6-H674L was able to get back to their work that they had been neglecting in favour of finding help for the General.
MSE-6-H674L had assumed that they would have to go looking for BB-9E but at exactly the designated time the BB unit appeared, seeming to have simply teleported from where they were.
‘Unit designation BB-9E willing to assist. Unit designation BB-9E has observed the issue at hand. Unit designation BB-9E has a suggestion.’
MSE-6-H674L beeped encouragingly, willing BB-9E to continue.
‘Unit designation BB-9E has observed similar malfunctions in other First Order members. Unit designation BB-9E has assisted First Order members in stress relief. Unit designation MSE-6-H674L should execute stress relief protocols.’
‘H6 = contains no such protocols’
‘Unit designation BB-9E has observed that the root cause of stress within First Order members is lack of contact. Humans require touch to remain healthy. Unit designation BB-9E suspects General Hux may be suffering from a lack of this.’
MSE-6-H674L chirped, thinking. They had not realised that humans required such a thing as droids did not. However, with that knowledge in their database it seemed obvious that the General would not be meeting his set quota. The First Order was touch averse, and naturally the head of the organisation would suffer more under this.
‘H6 = will provide General Hux with contact!’
BB-9E chirped in agreement. ‘Unit designation BB-9E will provide Unit designation MSE-6-H674L assistance.’
With their plan decided the two droids made their way towards General Hux’s quarters. When they reached the door BB-9E reached out a claw like arm to enter the passcode and as the doors wooshed open a strange creature rushed forward towards BB-9E.
The creature was orange, their fur colouring similar to that of General Hux’s own. It was small, about the size of MSE-6-H674L and had little pointed triangle ears on the top of their head. They stared at the BB unit intently, their slit pupils searching over the metal. They made a sound, a strange meow.
“Millie?” A voice - this one more human - called. MSE-6-H674L recognised it as General Hux’s clipped voice, though thick and gravely.
The creature, Millie, turned at the sound of her name, looking towards the bed at the edge of the room. On it was General Hux, hair untamed and free of its usual style. The General was rubbing his eyes, yawning. They must have woken him. Millie bounded towards the bed, leaping up onto it with one swift motion. She pressed close to the General’s side and his hand came up to scratch her head absentmindedly.
MSE-6-H674L wheeled towards the bed, drawing closer so that the General could see them. BB-9E followed closely behind.
‘H6 = here to help!’
“MSE-6-H674L. Nine-ee. What are you doing here?”
BB-9E did not answer, only rolled backwards slightly and opened a compartment on their body, exposing a thin metal rod with a claw-like pincher on the end of it. Metal wiring shot upwards to stick to the ceiling of the room, pulling upwards. The General’s eyes were wide as he watched the BB unit swing themselves onto the bed, landing on the soft mattress with a heavy thud. BB-9E peered at the General intently and MSE-6-H674L felt a little jealous that their makeup would not allow for them to reach the bed as BB-9E had.
“What’s going on?” The General asked warily, his eyebrows dipped in confusion. His eyes flicked from BB-9E to MSE-6-H674L quickly, asking the question to both droids.
‘H6 + BB-9E = assisting!’
The General cocked at eyebrow at that. “Assisting? Assisting with wha—ah!” The General’s sentence was cut short as BB-9E rolled forward, pressing as close to the General as their spherical body allowed. They beeped quickly, the sound low and sharp.
As the General went to pull back, leaning away, BB-9E simply pressed closer, the metal hull of their body pressing directly against the side of the General’s own fleshy body. His mouth gaped open like a fish, struggling to find words.
BB-9E began to vibrate softly, an action left over from oldtherapy protocols the First Order hadn’t bothered to remove. The combination of the unit’s natural mechanical warmth and the vibrations had worked to soothe an injured or upset patient. However, instead of feeling comforted the General yelped, flinching.
“What are you doing?!” he demanded, grimacing at the droid pressed to his side.
‘Unit designation BB-9E has activated therapy protocols. Unit designation BB-9E believes designation General Hux requires them.’
“What? Therapy protocols? What in the galaxy for? I’m not injured!”
‘Unit designation MSE-6-H674L informed unit designation BB-9E that designation General Hux’s emotional index was compromised. Unit designation BB-9E is attempting to correct the malfunction.’
The General’s eyes grew dark and a sneer crossed across his face. “Malfunction?! Compromised! I should have you scrapped for that!” he said, pointing wildly between the two droids. BB-9E paused, reeling back from against the General with a startled beep. MSE-6-H674L felt much the same, quaking in their metal hull.
They’d only wanted to wanted to help! Why was the General so angry? Did he not want help?
‘Unit designation BB-9E’s neural processor is experiencing a malfunction. Unit designation BB-9E is confused. Unit designation BB-9E does not know how to proceed. Restart required.’ BB-9E’s inner mechanics began to whir, the wiring inside of them preparing to reboot their systems.
“No, no!” The General exclaimed frantically, “No restarts! Just get out! Both of you!”
MSE-6-H674L chirped sadly as they watched BB-9E’s systems return to full power. BB-9E took themselves off of the General’s bed, landing on the floor with a heavy metallic clank. The noise startled the orange creature on the bed – the one that had been called ‘Millie’ – and she hissed at the sound. The General’s hand went to her back, scratching there to soothe her. The creature then began to vibrate in much the same way that BB-9E had attempted to replicate.
MSE-6-H674L watched BB-9E roll past them. Their head was hung slightly downwards dejectedly and MSE-6-H674L rather wished that they could express the same. MSE-6-H674L gave one last look at the General - who was switching between watching the two droids to make sure they left and watching the little orange one beside him – before they followed BB-9E, wheeling themselves from the General’s quarters.
Outside, BB-9E waiting for MSE-6-H674L to speak first.
‘H6 = misunderstood // H6 = apologises’
BB-9E rolled back and forth, swaying slightly. ‘Unit designation BB-9E is partially at fault. BB-9E expresses disappointment at mission failure.’
MSE-6-H674L chirped in agreement. A failure it certainly was. They’d set out to fix a problem that didn’t seem to be there at all and in the process they had managed to make an enemy out of one of the few men aboard the Finalizer who treated them with kindness. They really couldn’t have executed their plan any worse than they had.
BB-9E gave them one last look, their single ocular lens staring down at MSE-6-H674L, before they rolled off down the hallway, disappearing into the darkness of the long corridor. MSE-6-H674L watched them go, sadly returning to their work.
The next morning MSE-6-H674L was still plagued with the sense that something was wrong. They knew that the General had told them that his emotional index was running at full efficiency and he did not need repairs but the longer MSE-6-H674L watched him throughout the day the more and more their urge to fix grew. The General, simply put, ‘wasn’t himself’ and MSE-6-H674L could tell.
MSE-6-H674L stayed close by the General throughout his shift, bouncing around the corridors pretending to repair some things and actually repairing other things, but never leaving the room the General was in. Like usual, no one seemed to notice. MSE-6-H674L took this as a blessing. Humans in general didn’t tend to notice or care about what the little machines at their feet did on a day to day basis unless it directly involved them. The First Order’s officers were even worse, seeming completely blind to the fact that there were even droids on board until one of them specifically caught their attention. So, as such, MSE-6-H674L went completely unnoticed in plain sight despite that fact that they were almost positive that their rounds for the last three whole hours had simply been slow repeats of small circuits they’d already done.
Throughout their observations the General had seemed mostly the same as usual to anyone who wasn’t watching but every now and then MSE-6-H674L would catch him with that faraway look in his eyes they’d caught him with the first time. It didn’t seem to be directed towards anything or anyone and there were no environmental changes that seemed to set it off; MSE-6-H674L had been logging each time.
MSE-6-H674L was about to give up when the sound of thundering footsteps cascaded through the bridge. MSE-6-H674L turned their attention to the sound of the noise, seeing immediately why the sound had set all of their circuits alight with terror.
Stomping down the bridge’s boardwalk was one Kylo Ren, his mask on, concealing his face from the word. MSE-6-H674L has always thought that was strange; that a human would want to hide their face. Facial expressions were a good portion of how humans communicated with each other and MSE-6-H674L couldn’t imagine it was easy to be running with a sub-optimum system like that. He seemed to walk with a limp, favouring his right side, his robes swishing unevenly.
MSE-6-H674L didn’t like Kylo Ren. Very few of the droids aboard did. He was volatile and rude and cared even less about the droids under foot than the officers did. At least the worst thing you got from an officer was a dirty look if they tripped on you. The worst thing Kylo Ren could do to you was unimaginable. MSE-6-H674L had heard horror stories from the medical droids about what he was like.
“General,” MSE-6-H674L heard Kylo say, his voice distorted behind his helmet. His voice distorter had always fascinated MSE-6-H674L; it made him sound a little bit like BB-9E did.
The General turned to look at the oncoming Knight of Ren, an eyebrow raised. Ren drew close to him, standing mere inches away from the General. Their height difference wasn’t much but MSE-6-H674L could still see that the General had to tilt his chin to look up at him. MSE-6-H674L inched closer, realising that their closeness probably meant that they weren’t going to be loud enough for their sensors to pick up on at that distance.
“Have you found the girl?” Kylo asked, dipping his head slightly to meet the General’s eye line. MSE-6-H674L was a little confused at the motion, the action seeming rather pointless with Kylo’s face hidden behind his mask. But, then again, so many things Kylo did confused MSE-6-H674L so they didn’t dwell on it too long.
The General shook his head, biting roughly at his lip. “Not yet, and our searches have come up barren. We suspect she may have disappeared somewhere into the Unknown Regions.”
“Skywalker,” Kylo bit out, “She went to Skywalker.”
The General hummed in agreement. “Likely.”
“Keep me updated on anything you find, I want to know immediately.”
The General huffed, glaring at Kylo with a fierce intensity. “I’m not your shadow, Ren, and I think it might do you some good to remind yourself of that. I don’t have to answer to demands pertaining to your personal interest in this scavenger. I’ve already swayed to them once and it cost the First Order dearly.”
“They are not only my interests, General,” Kylo rebuked with a growl, “They are the Supreme Leader’s too. Disobey me and you disobey him.”
The General went to open his mouth to speak again but Kylo was already brushing past him, ending the conversation. The General huffed, a furious flush high on his cheeks. His fists were clenched but he hid them under his greatcoat.
Kylo left the bridge then in a flurry of black. MSE-6-H674L watched the General as he observed the Knights exit. He sighed heavily through his nose, looking at Kylo with that far off look he’d had before. It was then that MSE-6-H674L realised what the cause of the General’s grief was.
MSE-6-H674L rushed from the bridge, speeding through the hallways of the Finalizer as fast as their squeaky wheels could take them. They rounded a corner with a screech, bumping into the round body of BB-9E.
‘Problem = Kylo Ren! Kylo Ren! Kylo Ren!’
BB-9E paused, looking down at MSE-6-H674L. ‘Unit designation MSE-6-H674L has new information. Unit designation MSE-6-H674L should have learned to leave the issue alone.’
MSE-6-H674L beeped quickly, a sharp sound of offensive. ‘H6 = determined’
BB-9E simply looked at them, their beady, singular ocular lens staring lasers into MSE-6-H674L’s metal hull. MSE-6-H674L wanted to quiver under the look but held back, standing steadfast against the BB units gaze. This was important and even if MSE-6-H674L had stand here and convince BB-9E to help until their battery ran out then they would.
‘Problem = Kylo Ren // General Hux = human emotive directive in direct conflict with Kylo Ren // General Hux + Kylo Ren + Civility = Happy General!!’
BB-9E beeped, the sound low and barely audible. ‘Unit designation MSE-6-H674L is suggesting that we – searching for term – ‘get them together’.’
MSE-6-H674L beeped frantically, shaking their body from side to side. ‘BB-9E = correct!’
BB-9E paused, dipping away from the oncoming boots of a Stormtrooper patrol that wasn’t looking at their feet. Moving deftly out of the way BB-9E’s body swivelled, returning to face MSE-6-H674L.
‘Unit designation MSE-6-H674L has a plan?’ BB-9E asked. If the droid had had eyebrows MSE-6-H674L was sure that one of them would have been raised.
MSE-6-H674L paused, feeling slightly guilty, a rush of discomfort flying through their circuits. ‘H6 = Was hoping BB-9E would assist in planning // BB-9E = Contains therapy protocols // BB-9E = Far better versed in such matters than H6’
BB-9E sparked, letting out a frustrated ‘bwee’. ‘Unit designation MSE-6-H674L asks much.’
‘H6 = Cannot do it without BB-9E! // H6 + BB-9E = Dream team!’
BB-9E paused, their head shifting to the top of their body. They scanned the hallway, seeming to be deep in thought in much the same way that MSE-6-H674L saw many officers.
‘Unit designation MSE-6-H674L is rather charming. Unit designation BB-9E wonders why unit designation MSE-6-H674L was not created as a host droid instead.’
‘H6 = Built with incorrect hardware.’
‘Unit designation MSE-6-H674L possesses the inner temperament chip and curiosity processor of a host droid. Unit designation MSE-6-H674L contains incorrect hardware only on the outside.’
There was a pause in BB-9E’s speech and MSE-6-H674L could hear the mechanics within them begin to whir.
‘Unit designation BB-9E will help. Unit designation BB-9E finds MSE-6-H674L’s spirit fascinating.’
If MSE-6-H674L had had legs with which to jump at that moment they absolutely would have but instead they shrieked in delight, wiggling their body.
And if BB-9E had had eyes, they might have rolled them.