“If the General was here,” says Poe, “We all know that she’d say the Resistance is bigger than any one of us.”
“So I think it’s very important that we find the General and bring her back so she can tell us that in person,” Poe continues.
Everyone nods again.
“All right,” says Poe, clapping his hands together. He studies the layout of the prison base in the Abilinian system provided by R2-D2, who when pressed cheerfully claimed that the blueprints had fallen off the back of a Star Destroyer. “Rey – exactly what did you see?”
“General Organa, in a prison cell,” says Rey. Chewie snarls. “And I didn’t see it, exactly, but I… felt it.” She looks at him with concern. “And something else – the Knights of Ren have been there. I don’t know when.”
“They like to torture the political prisoners,” says Finn grimly.
“Is Leia all right?” asks Poe.
“I couldn’t tell if she was hurt,” says Rey. “But she was very…”
“Annoyed,” says Rey.
“She’s fine,” says Poe, a wave of relief sweeping over him. They’ll have to move fast, but they’ve got a chance. “If you got close to the base, would you be able to tell who’s down there?”
Rey nods sharply. “I’m going.”
“I’m in,” he says immediately.
“Good, you’re in command,” Poe says, then asks over Finn’s startled squawk, “Rose?”
“Really?” she squeaks, then, “I mean, of course – I’m in.”
Artoo volunteers in case they need any emergency code slicing, and Chewie growls out an affirmation before Poe can even ask, which is good, because they don’t have another ship available big enough to carry more than three people.
And… that’s it, unless one of their missions makes it back soon, because while the Resistance is mighty in spirit they only have six humans, two droids, and a wookie currently on base.
“Right,” says Poe. “Great. There’s no one I would trust more with this mission than the people standing in the room with me.”
D’Acy sighs. “Poe, just go. Black Squadron will be back tomorrow and in the meantime we certainly don’t need you to run communications. You’re more use out there.”
“I mean, if you insist,” says Poe, as Rey grins at his not-very-well-concealed relief. “No, Finn, you’re still in command.”
Poe points at him. “Work on our infiltration. Connix, do we still have that cloned transponder?”
“From the First Order scow?” she asks. “I think so.”
After a few moments they’ve rustled up a workable plan for getting in the Abilinian system’s airspace. That just leaves getting into the base, getting General Organa, and then getting out again, which… might be a little more difficult. Poe’s pretty sure the old standby of “sneak in and hope for the best” isn’t going to cut it.
He leaves Rose poking at the transponder and Rey and Chewie plotting their hyperspace route to head over to Finn, who is staring morosely at the blueprints.
“Poe,” he asks quietly. “Are you sure about this?”
“Of course,” says Poe. “You said you were stationed here, you have the most experience sneaking around First Order bases, and your plans are a lot better than mine.”
Poe nudges him with his elbow. "No pressure, buddy. We'll all help you think of an infiltration plan."
"That," says Finn darkly, "is not the problem."
He summons the rest of the strike team and expands the blueprints until they stretch up to the ceiling.
“The first thing you need to know,” he says, “Is that the Abilinian system sees a lot of turnover and a lot of unfamiliar personnel, so if we can get inside without getting busted, it should be pretty easy to stay undetected.”
“So… how do we get inside?” asks Rose.
Finn points at one section of the holograph. It's labeled SANITATION AND WASTE DISPOSAL.
"I’m starting to get a bad feeling about this," says Rose.
"The First Order tries to standardize all its infrastructure,” says Finn. “Minimizes confusion when you’re transferred somewhere new. But since you just can't open your hatches and jettison your garbage before jumping into hyperspace when you're on a planet, the terrestrial bases all have to come up with their own individual environmental regulations. Which means that sometimes they develop holes in their security."
"How often is 'sometimes'?" asks Poe.
Finn gestures at the holo feed. "Since it's a prison, they'll have a fully automated waste disposal system. Bio waste has its own contained processing complex, uh... here. Scrap and other cycs – sorry, usable scrap metal and recyclables – get sterilized in rad chambers before getting loaded on scows and shipped out from that landing pad over there. But everything else goes to the garbage mashers. They didn’t have the manpower to ship all of it even before we destroyed Starkiller and the dreadnaughts, so I guarantee you they still just drop most of it in this river at the bottom of the gorge to get carried away on its own."
Poe mentally adds littering to his tally of the First Order's many crimes.
"So we climb up the gorge and go in through the garbage mashers," says Rey.
"But if you knew about it, so would they,” says Rose. “So why is it a security hole?"
Finn looks depressed. “They don’t use the lifeform scanners. Too many false positives, because… it's not so much the garbage mashers as what they’ve put in the garbage mashers. Besides garbage."
Rose covers her mouth with one hand. "Dianoga?" she squeaks.
"So many dianoga," says Finn. "So many."
“Who are the dianoga?” asks Rey.
“If there's that many of them in the same environment, they shouldn't be able to grow that big, right?" asks Poe.
He repeats, "Right?" when no one answers.
"Do we have any flamethrowers?" Finn asks.
"I also have a bad feeling about this," says Rey.
Poe stares at the blueprints and tries to think how a brilliant and responsible leader would handle this. What would Leia do?
“I think,” he says, “That we should probably have a backup plan.”
They actually end up with several backup plans, with a few more still brewing. It's not that Rey doesn't have faith in Finn. Plan Aurek – where they enter by the garbage mashers, find the General through the Force or by Artoo remotely slicing into the computer system (whichever comes first), and then have Rey retrieve her via the waste chutes to the detention levels – seems simple enough and shouldn't put her friends in too much danger.
But once they start thinking of things that could go wrong, it’s hard to stop. The Force is no help, feeling like shifting sand with no clear and solid path before them (a fact she doesn’t particularly want to share with the others). Or maybe it is helping and she just doesn’t know how to interpret it.
Either way, no one deserves to be left behind. If there’s any way to free General Organa, she’s going to try it.
She takes a deep breath. Emotion, yet peace. The first line of the Jedi code, scrawled in crabbed handwriting in the cover of her small library.
She has no idea what it means, but it’s comforting anyway.
The quickest route to the Abilinian System is a series of jumps through gravity well irregularities that Rey would describe as “tricky” but almost everyone else would classify as “suicidal”. Fortunately, Chewie and Poe are at the helm. In order for them to get close enough to the prison to sneak in, she has to wire the cloned transponder from a licensed garbage scow into their communications system, which means the communications system actually has to work reliably.
She and Rose remove the floor panelling and stare down into the jumbled mess of wiring.
“Wow,” says Rose. “Does this ever, you know, just catch on fire?”
“Not too often,” says Rey.
“We had three different flameouts coming back from Crait,” says Finn, spreading out on the floor to start distributing their gear equally. Some of their plans require some pretty specific equipment. “Three.”
Artoo congratulates them on the improvement while BB-8 helpfully reassures them that he fully restocked his fire suppressant reserves.
Rose starts wriggling down to the bottom of the maintenance hatch as Rey hooks her legs around one of the support beams and hangs free. (She guesses this how Han used to reach them, too, since he’d reconfigured all the systems within arm’s length so they were upside down.)
Artoo links up to the ship's computer and gives them permission to go ahead.
“Hey,” says Rose quietly as they get to work. “I don’t suppose the Force is telling you anything about what’s going to happen?”
Rey cranes her head to look down at her.
“Because I keep thinking about what happened the last time I tried to help on a mission like this,” says Rose. “How we made things worse.”
“You… don’t think we should be going?” asks Rey. “The General’s life isn’t worth ours?”
“No!” says Rose. “Four lives aren’t greater than one – they’re all priceless. The Resistance needs all of us. If we can try to help her, we should.” She sighs. “I just keep thinking about how everything seemed to be working last time, and then it… wasn’t.”
Rey knows that feeling, too. “The Force…” She reaches, but it’s as opaque as ever.
“The future isn’t set,” she says finally. “So it’s up to us, I guess. At least this time we have a backup plan.”
“Or six backup plans,” says Rose.
“Seven,” interjects Finn, fighting with a tangle of black fabric and detonation cord.
“Oh, that’s right,” says Rey. “If we have to fight everyone in the prison sector, I can bottleneck them in Maintenance and the rest of you can abseil down the thermal exhaust vent and escape through the loading bay.”
“I know you’re a cool Jedi who can take care of herself, but let’s try not to leave anyone behind,” says Rose, her voice slightly muffled as she digs into a control panel. “Then we’d just have to – oh, wow. There’s an entire family of porgs down here.”
“They’re not chewing on the wiring, are they?” asks Finn. “Do porgs chew on wires? Wait, are there any wires left for them to chew on or were they all incinerated?”
“No, actually, it looks like they’ve been collecting the disconnected leads. They’ve made a little nest!” There’s some rustling, a muttered curse, and then a snap as Rose closes one of the circuits. “Okay, got it. Go ahead.”
"Uh, are you sure that's the right one?" asks Finn, as Rey prepares to cut the old communication cables.
She shoves aside her first instinct to snap Of course; Finn would never use her hesitation to try to cheat her. "Yes, why?"
"Because it looks kind of like the standardized subgroup for the 'fresher," he says. "I remember the blue cables."
“Don’t modern ‘freshers use red cables?” asks Rose.
“Modern, yes,” says Finn.
Rey squints and counts the cables. Then she pushes them aside and counts the second set of cables (also blue) behind them.
"I think you're right," she says. She sends off a quick test pattern from the second set. "Artoo?"
Artoo stops trading dirty jokes with the Falcon long enough to confirm that Rey's test pattern came from communications.
"They probably got moved together when the smuggling holds were installed," she says. She wraps a spare piece of insulation around the ‘fresher cables to keep them from getting confused. "Thanks, Finn."
"Slip – someone I knew cut the wrong cable once," he says. She feels his pang of sadness, and then the determined way he squashes down his shame whenever he talks about his time in the First Order. He manages to joke, "Definitely don't want a repeat of that experience."
They fall into a comfortable almost-silence as Rey sequences through the relays, Rose eliminates possible sources of signal interference, and Finn does his pre-mission check of their equipment. His murmuring is almost soothing as long as she doesn't actually listen to what he's saying.
"—of signal flares; helmet with blast shield, black; two blasters, safeties on; blaster rifle, safety on; comm link, charged; four grappling guns, loaded, 50 meters of cabling; two liters of industrial lubricant; full belt of flash grenades; four rolls of power tape; portable holo-player; portable laser light show generator; eight kilograms of plastoid explosive; 50 meters of detonation cord; remote blasting caps; full belt of thermal detonators—"
"Thermal detonators?" calls Poe from the cockpit. "I hope you left the rest of the Resistance something to fight with, buddy."
"It was the best I could do," Finn replies. "We don't even have any flamethrowers.” He calls to Rey. “Do you want one, too?"
"I'll stick with the – with my lightsaber, thanks," she says. She’s mostly certain it should work.
“Can I have two?”
"What are dianoga, anyway?" asks Rey.
"They're a Class Five intrusive species," says Finn. "Carnivorous cephalopods from Vodran."
“They call them demon squid in the mining colonies,” says Rose. “They can survive traveling incredible distances as larvae, and then start growing whenever there’s enough water.”
"They’re trash monsters," says Poe. "Huge tentacles. And they’ve got this weird scream, like—" There’s a horrible screeching noise from the cockpit; Rose yelps and Finn almost drops a thermal detonator.
"Like rathtars?" asks Rey.
Finn shakes his head. "No way," he says. "They're much smellier."
Chewie growls his agreement, and asks if she wants to borrow his bowcaster.
"I'll be fine," she says. "Do we have any ration bars?"
"We're not going to be gone that long," says Finn.
Rey pops her head up out of the floor just so she can give him a skeptical glance.
"Rey," says Finn. "Would you really want to eat something that got dragged through the garbage mashers with you?"
"If we've gotten to the point where that seems like a good idea, then yes," she says.
He opens his mouth, then closes it. "Two bars?" he says after a moment.
"I guess," says Rey, hanging back upside down to reach the alternator she’s working on. She'd prefer three, but they have limited space. Besides, the others probably won't want to eat their rations after they make it out, and there's no sense wasting food. "I just think – Chewie, there’s some kind of fork in this processor!"
Chewie asks if that's the bypass around the broken receiver.
"No, I mean – it's an actual fork!" she calls back. "I think it's been shorting out the relays." She diverts the current and yanks it out.
Rose yelps as the control panel erupts in sparks. Something starts beeping.
"Uh, not to cause any panic, but whatever you just did shut off all the computer displays," calls Poe.
"How did – oh, I see!" she says. "Han linked all the processors together and used the irregular resistance to modulate—" She glances up at Finn, who's peering down at them with polite but worried incomprehension. "The impure metal degraded the signals, which made the connected systems delay long enough while repairing them that they didn’t overload from the simultaneous input. I never would have thought of that."
Chewie growls with fond and slightly sad irritation that no one would have thought of that, because it's insane.
Something else starts beeping.
"Again, not to cause any panic, but the configuration of the gravity wells in this lane is unreliable and we’re gonna need those displays up unless we want this to be a really short trip," says Poe.
Rose climbs past her and out of the floor. “You fix the alternator, I’ll see what I can do up there!” She and BB-8 disappear into the cockpit.
“Try redirecting the inputs,” calls Rey, scrubbing at the fork; bits of corrosion are crumbling off in her hands. A porg catches one and deposits it in their nest. "Finn, get me another fork from the galley!"
Finn returns a moment later and tosses her a spoon.
"It is not my fault," he says. "It's all there is!"
“I can’t fix an alternator with a—”
The ship rocks unexpectedly.
“The system is starting to overload!” shouts Rose from the cockpit, over Chewie snarling expletives and the blast of BB-8 discharging fire suppressant.
She looks at Finn, who stares back at her, similarly stricken.
“The ‘fresher system has its own alternator?” he offers.
Rey blinks at him, then shouts "Artoo!" as she stretches out an arm. She feels the Force flow through her and the service panel detaches from the wall, though since it was only held in place with power tape it’s not much of an effort.
By the time they drop out of lightspeed, the computer displays are back up, the communications system is running smoothly, and the First Order's transponder signal is loud and clear. As long as BB-8 keeps holding down the handle so the ‘fresher's stuck in a permanent flush, they shouldn't have any problems.
Keeping out of visual range without seeming like they’re avoiding the Abilinian Flight Tower’s sensors is a little bit of a challenge, but Chewbacca is the master of flying casual and Poe is as always excellent at adapting. As soon as the Tower gives them permission to pass through the prison's airspace and proceed to the garbage pickup, Poe hands over his controls to Chewbacca and heads back to get the rest of his gear. As he pulls on his pack, he mentally goes over the five additional backup plans they’ve come up with since Rey fixed the communications system and wonders if that’s not maybe a little excessive.
Then again, most of his plans have historically fallen in the category of “it seemed like a good idea at the time”, so maybe he should try something new before he starts judging.
Rey is sitting cross-legged on the floor, her eyes shut, brow slightly furrowed in concentration.
"What's up?" he whispers to Finn and Rose.
“General Organa is definitely here!” Rose whispers back.
“You don’t have to whisper,” says Rey, her eyes still shut.
“What about the Knights of Ren?” asks Finn. He sounds worried, not that Poe blames him – their presence knocks off not only Plan Aurek, but also Plans Besh through Grek, which are the plans Poe vastly prefers on account of each of them at least having the chance to make it out alive.
“I don’t… think so,” says Rey. “There’s darkness here, but…” She frowns, then opens her eyes. “I think we’re clear,” she says, looking at Finn. Poe does, too.
Finn takes a deep breath and says, “All right, let’s do this.”
Chewie pauses in the gorge just long enough for the four of them to climb out the top hatch and attach themselves to the rock wall. There's a steady stream of dingy water pouring past them, the rocks are slimy with... stuff, and the smell is incredible, but Poe tries to look on the bright side. Whenever the sun hits the garbage mist, there's a rainbow.
Rey swiftly attaches the waterproof package of signal flares for Plans Cherek and Grek to the rock wall, then swings out around a boulder that Poe could have sworn had no footholds and raises her grappling gun.
"Wait!" says Finn. "Get back!"
She scuttles back to their position. "What—"
There's a loud mechanical groaning, followed by an avalanche of compacted garbage. It lasts for several minutes.
"Okay, listen up!" says Finn, voice pitched to carry over the noise. "We climb for the outer garbage bay as soon as this lets up. They probably haven’t updated the codes for the service hatches, but if they have, Rey will have to cut through the blast doors, so we’ll have thirty seconds to get a data link to Artoo to disable any security alarms. From there we should be able to make it into the garbage mashers. We have twenty minutes to set up our backup plans and get through before they start the compacting cycle again. If we get separated there—" He hesitates, but plunges on with, "There used to be a surveillance blind spot right under the garbage bay. That should give you enough cover for Plan Cherek. We'll rendezvous with you after we find General Organa."
"What about the dianoga?" asks Poe.
"They probably won't try to come outside," says Finn. "Well, unless they're in a feeding frenzy."
"No, I mean – there's four of us. If we stick together, shouldn't that keep them off?"
Finn stares at him, then says, "Well, they’re probably not gonna attack us right away..."
"But they don't like blaster fire, right?"
"Yeah, it really irritates them," says Finn. "But you have to aim carefully – the mashers are magnetically sealed and the shots can ricochet. There's nothing worse than getting hit by friendly fire when you're getting attacked by a dianoga." Finn sounds very sure about this. "Your best bet is to aim for the eyestalk. They're between ten and fifty centimeters long and are located right above their mouth."
"How big are their mouths?" asks Rey.
"About one, two meters?" says Finn. "It's hard to say with all the external teeth. They—"
He's stops when something rumbles up above them and the garbagefall begins to subside. Before the bay doors close entirely, the most hellish shriek Poe has heard in his entire life comes from above, echoing off the gorge walls. He’s clearly going to have to step up his dianoga impression game.
"Great," mutters Finn. "Mating season."
If Rey hadn’t already detested the First Order and everything they stand for, sneaking through their garbage mashers would have cemented that for sure. She cannot fathom how much stuff they throw out.
"Stay calm," Finn whispers to himself. "Stay calm. Staaaay—"
"Finn, are you alright?" she asks quietly. Even though his blaster rifle is steady in his hands and he's leading them unfalteringly through the series of connected garbage mashers, she can practically feel his barely restrained panic.
"Me? I'm fine," says Finn. "I'm great. Getting eaten by tentacle monsters is only my second-worst nightmare, but I am totally fine."
"We won't let them eat you," says Rey. Finn getting eaten by tentacle monsters is her second-worst nightmare, too.
"So if they're number two, what's number one?" asks Poe, voice pitched low. They split to each side of the garbage masher to wire up the detonators for Plan Cresh.
"Public speaking," says Finn. Poe makes a noise that sounds suspiciously like a hastily-suppressed laugh. "It's not funny! I have this recurring nightmare where I'm addressing the battalion and my uniform disappears, and then – well, it used to be Captain Phasma, but now it's General Organa – she says something really sarcastic." Finn pauses. "I mean, when you put it like that, it doesn't sound too bad. But trust me, it is hurtful."
"I know what you mean, buddy," says Poe.
"I'm impressed even your dreams joined the Resistance," says Rose, who’s already finished her quadrant. She goes to help Poe. “My second-worst nightmare is having all my teeth fall out.”
“Mine’s oversleeping and missing my flight qualifications,” offers Poe. “Turns out you can’t just fly the course at triple speed so you finish by the time limit.”
“Wow, no kidding,” says Finn, opening the hatch to the next garbage masher. “But I—”
"Oh, this is ridiculous," says Rey as she follows him through.
"Would you look at that? I can't believe they threw out a perfectly good oligomer generator!" says Rey indignantly. She points at it in the next pile over, half-submerged by the cold scummy liquid (even she can't justify calling this water) currently seeping its way into her boots. "It’s huge. People trade a lot for those!"
“I wonder if they drained the nitro-nine reserves?” asks Rose. “It makes a good mining explosive if you mix it with water.”
Rey, Finn, and Poe all look down at their submerged feet, then take several steps away from the generator.
Finn begins, "If they followed procedure—"
A sudden stirring at the back of Rey's mind. "There's something alive in here," she hisses.
"Everyone stop moving!"
They stay frozen for a long moment. She gropes for that sense of presence again, but the Force goes stubbornly silent. Maybe it’s the stain of darkness, concealing ill intent. Or maybe it’s her; she know she’s not very good at this yet.
Finn slowly disengages the safety of his blaster rifle. Poe eases his own blaster out of his holster; Rose pulls out a thermal detonator. They all give her appalled looks, but she stubbornly points at Rey’s lightsaber, then at the garbage.
She has a point: the only things likely to come find them here are monsters, sapient or otherwise.
Rey touches her lightsaber, but doesn't draw it just yet. She built it to withstand submersion, but she’s never had a chance to test it in the field, and she has about as much experience dealing with water as she does with being a Jedi.
Until she met Finn, everything she’d learned she’d scrounged and scrapped and figured out on her own. After that, she had friends and comrades, real teachers, for everything except this, the most important thing she needs to learn. She doesn’t begrudge Master Luke his peace, but honestly, his timing was incredibly inconvenient.
She shuts her eyes. The darkness is strong here; it seems to rise at her frustration, urging her to lash out with her anger. She takes a deep breath and lets it trickle away, trying to focus only on their surroundings.
The echoes in the chamber make it hard to pick out where any sound is coming from, and all Rey can hear is the white noise of liquid lapping against the walls, jumbled piles of miscellaneous junk settling, and four people trying very hard to breathe through their masks and not their noses.
Whatever it was, it’s gone. She opens her eyes and meets Finn’s gaze; he jerks his head towards the door and mouths Slowly.
They've almost made when she feels it again, the brush of something slimy against her senses.
Something wraps around her ankle and wrenches her off her feet. As dark liquid closes over her head, she takes a second to think, furiously, that Luke probably never had these kinds of problems.
"Rey!" shouts Finn. "Rey!"
Rose yanks him sideways as Poe squeezes off a blast at the water. Over the hiss of steam, he hears a horrible shriek as the water roils around a thrashing tentacle.
"We have to get—" Finn cuts off with a curse and hauls both of them with him up the nearest trash pile, then lets out a quick burst of blaster fire nearly at their feet. There's another screech.
"Rey, I know!" says Poe.
"The water's not that deep,” says Rose, exchanging her thermal detonator for her blaster. “Where could she have—"
Two tentacles explode upwards, sending water and garbage flying everywhere, and Poe barely gets his blaster up in time.
"Careful!" yelps Finn, after a ricochet vaporizes a rusting clamp centimeters from his ear. All his shots connected; one of the tentacles writhes nearby, severed from its body.
"I thought ten meters was the maximum size of these things!" says Poe.
"That was before the genetics program!"
"You mean they wanted their garbage to be full of giant—"
"Eye!" Rose shouts, and they all loose a volley of shots at water that is definitely more than ten meters away from the nearest tentacle. “Finn, what if we—”
She’s cut off by a loud clang reverberating around them, so loud it hurts.
“Take cover!” shouts Finn, and they’ve barely made it under a discarded security hatch when a rain of debris drops from the overhead chutes. Poe grits his teeth as the metal bears down on them, growing heavier with each crash.
What looks like a small girder drops on the oligomer generator. If that takes any more damage, the dianoga are going to be the least of their w—
A tentacle whips toward them. Rose drops her end of the hatch and shoots it, but without her support Poe and Finn almost drop the metal entirely.
Then the garbage underneath them heaves and shudders, sending them crashing into the water. For one horrible second, the hatch pins Poe down in the murky water before he’s able to wiggle free. He splutters to the surface just in time to see the baleful glare of a single red-rimmed eye above a gaping maw surrounded by rows and rows of teeth.
Two meters was conservative. The dianoga surges towards them—
There’s a flash of blue and the eyestalk splits in half. The rest of the dianoga follows. The two charred pieces fall back into the water churned by the death throes of the tentacles as, like an ichor-covered ocean goddess emerging from the waves, Rey and her lightsaber rise from the carnage.
She thrusts out a hand and the hatch lifts from the water. Finn and Rose surface, gasping and coughing.
"Rey!" Finn cries, staggering to his feet. "You're all right!"
She deactivates her lightsaber and wipes futilely at the slime covering her. "I aimed for the eyestalk," she says.
The good news is they make it out of the garbage mashers without getting attacked by any more dianoga, on account of the dianoga attacking each other while fighting over the remains of the first one. The bad news is that Plan Aurek is definitely out, because even Rey draws the line at climbing up a waste chute during a feeding frenzy. Particularly when it might attract the attention of the stormtroopers in Sanitation – Finn checked the duty log to make sure that no one was currently on-shift in this area, and they’re not fully trained for battle anyway, but all it takes is one person to raise the alarm and then they’re stuck with Plan Mern, Osk, or Zerek.
However, there are extra uniforms and sets of stormtrooper armor in the scrub room just as Finn predicted, so Plans Besh through Enth are still on track. Which is how Rey finds herself in the Sanitation utility closet, wiring the consoles to connect to the charges inside the garbage mashers, while Finn packs a mag cart with their gear (Plans Cresh and Dorn) and Rose and Poe search for a high security data port.
She had scavenged a pair of stormtrooper goggles back on Jakku, but she hadn’t realized how much the automated environmental compensators interfered with the tinting – she can barely see the wires in front of her as they make dozens of minute, distracting adjustments to account for the bright lights overhead. She pulls off her helmet and tries squeeze a little closer to the console. The armor is bulky and just this side of uncomfortable – definitely not worth the ability to block stun beams, particularly since it’s not very useful against blaster fire. Or a lightsaber.
“How’s it going?” Finn asks quietly.
“Got it,” says Rey, twisting the last wires together and tucking the transceiver out of sight.
“Great,” says Finn. He sounds almost cheerful now that all he has to deal with is an entire base of First Order troops instead of the dianoga. “If Poe and Rose got the data uplink connected, Artoo should be able to transmit the fake authorizations and have General Organa transferred to a low-security holding cell. All we have to do is get there first.”
“And you’re sure no one will stop us on our way?” Rey asks. She’s fairly certain she can manage more Jedi mind tricks if she needs to, but she doesn’t know how long one will last, or if the affected person would remember enough to raise the alarm afterwards, or—
She cuts off that train of thought. Being a Jedi is no different than being a scavenger – you work with what you have.
“Barely anyone notices you if you’re carrying something and look like you know where you’re going,” says Finn. “And if they do, leave it to me.”
“All right,” she says, standing up. He carefully tucks her lightsaber in the top of the mag cart – out of sight, but easily within reach.
A horrible scream echoes through the halls.
She snatches her lightsaber out of the air and they’re halfway down the corridor before the echoes fade.
They’d all made use of the scrub room right outside the service entrance when they finally escaped the garbage mashers, but given the end results Poe is sadly forced to conclude they are all going to smell like garbage until the day they die, which barring Plan Zerek is hopefully not today.
Neither he nor Rose has bothered to put on their helmet as they head to the guard station, which helps a little. (In Poe’s opinion the helmets are only slightly more effective than walking around with a bag over your head. No wonder Finn’s so good in a fight, if he had to learn to do it in these.)
They slow as they approach the intersection, and Rose peers around the corner.
Then she’s darting back, waving at him frantically. Poe swears to himself and pulls out his blaster. After a moment, when nothing happens, he leans forward cautiously. There are two stormtroopers standing guard.
Well, sitting down and playing sabacc, but he’s pretty sure they’d still notice if several people miraculously appeared in what’s supposed to be a secure area.
Poe disengages the safety on his blaster, but freezes when he hears a shout.
“Ugh, you cheated!” says one of the stormtroopers, and wow, the voice modulators in these helmets do not filter out whining.
The second stormtrooper crosses its arms. “Did not!” it says – no, he, probably. His voice cracked on the second syllable, and Poe is abruptly reminded that Finn was assigned to Sanitation long before he ever went on his first combat mission, that the guards here are probably still kids who have never been in a fight. Who have never had the chance to decide not to fight.
He looks down at Rose. Her eyes are wide and she shakes her head.
What do we do? he mouths.
She points back to where Finn and Rey have gone and waves her hands around in what Poe eventually recognizes as an imitation of a Jedi mind trick.
He grimaces and taps the chronometer. They need that data port to find Leia. If they wait until Finn and Rey return, it’ll throw off the whole plan, and most of the backup plans. Then it's Plan Mern (Poe dies), Plan Osk (Rey dies), or even Plan Zerek (the base blows up and everyone dies).
Rose bites her lip. Poe looks at his blaster and winces.
Rose grabs his arm again.
She points back towards the garbage mashers before wiggling her fingers and making a terrifying face, mouth gaping in a horrible rictus.
Poe blinks at her. Then he grins.
He turns back towards the stormtroopers and shrieks at the top of his lungs.
The second one actually falls out of his chair.
"The dianoga! They’re escaping again!" yelps the first one, yanking number two to his feet. "Get the flamethrowers!"
"C-call for backup to the service entrances!" They both bolt out of the room in opposite directions.
Rose darts in and slaps the control panel, locking them out. “What do we do now?”
“We stick to the same plan,” says Poe, tossing her the data uplink. She plugs it into the computer console. “If they go to the service entrance first we should have some time.”
His comm link beeps a second later as their crew on the Falcon gains access to the communication system.
“Hey, buddy!” he says to BB-8’s burble of questions. “Yes, we’re all still alive. We – no, I – it barely – well, Rey did, but it wasn't that big.”
Running footsteps. They raise their blasters, but it’s only Rey skidding into the room, lightsaber at the ready. If the First Order put half as much care into their ethics as they did into keeping their floors polished, the galaxy would be much better off.
Finn appears a second later, blaster rifle raised. “What was that screaming?” he asks.
“There were guards and we couldn’t get past, so we distracted them,” says Rose. “They called for backup to the service entrances.”
“The service entrances – okay, we can work with that,” says Finn. “Plan Cresh. We’ll get the General’s location and go right away.”
“You get that?” Poe says into the comm link as Rey turns and runs back the way she came. BB-8 beeps an acknowledgement; a few moments later, he passes on that Artoo should be ready with phase two by the time they get to the detention area, as long as they’ve located the General.
“Have we found her?” he asks Rose.
“I think so. This one matches her physical description and says ‘prisoner committed copious verbal abuse against restraining officers’,” she says. “She’s in Detention Level Three. Sending the information to Artoo… now.” She pulls out the data uplink as soon as she’s finished.
“We’re good,” says Poe. “You take care, buddy.” He cuts off the call as Rey re-enters the room with the mag cart.
“I’m hooked into the security channel,” says Finn. “There’s a squad prepping for containment, ETA two minutes. We need to go before—”
There's a distant cry of “Watch out with that flamethrower!”
“Yeah, we’re getting out of here,” says Finn. “Helmets on.”
There’s a moment of disorientation when Poe pulls his over his head – the instinctual lurch of incoming enemy fighters at the sight of stormtroopers surrounding him. Also, it’s very dark.
Finn’s hand hovers over the control pad for a moment. But when he does key in the sequence, his movements are steady and decisive, and they follow after as he begins to lead them into the heart of the First Order’s prison.
“Uh,” asks Rose quietly. “Are we supposed to be able to see in these?”
“It’ll be fine,” says Poe, and promptly smacks his head on the slow-rising doorway.
It seems like every other corner there’s a squad of stormtroopers running towards them as they make their way to the detention area. However, all the squads keep jogging past, heading back the way Rey and her friends came.
She turns her head to watch the third such squad rush by.
“What is it?” Rose asks softly from beside her as they push the mag cart. It doesn’t need two people, but stormtrooper squads have to stay in formation even when carting around equipment, apparently.
“They’re worried about something,” says Rey.
“Cut the chatter or you two will be busted down to mop duty,” says Finn behind them. He doesn’t feel worried, so Rey turns back around and tries to remember which one’s a mop. The squad’s footsteps fade and they’re alone, at least temporarily.
“Sorry,” says Finn. “I won’t really put you on mop duty. There’s another alert on the security channel and we don’t want to give anyone an excuse to stop and reassign us.”
“A security alert? For us?” asks Poe.
“I don’t know,” says Finn. “If it is, they don’t know where we are. It just says that all unassigned troopers are to report to Sanitation.”
“Great,” says Rose. “That’s not ominous at all.”
Another squad rounds the corner and they fall silent.
Still, they manage to make it, undisturbed, to an imposing set of sealed doors. They’re not labelled. Rey tries to reach out with the Force; even if General Organa isn’t in this detention area, she can’t be far.
But though Rey’d felt her clearly before, on the Falcon, now she can’t sense anything.
She pushes aside the spike of panic. If something happened to the General, she’d be able to feel it in the Force. This just means the General is… hiding, somehow. Keeping a low profile, which is probably wise.
Rey wonders what it is she’s hiding from.
“Okay,” says Finn. “We can do this.” Rey’s not sure if he’s talking to them or himself, but either way she tries to take comfort.
Rose inserts the data uplink and the doors hiss open as Artoo overrides the security.
“We’re here to relieve you for the swing shift,” says Finn, confidently striding into the room.
“We haven’t received any orders,” says one of the stormtroopers – the squad leader, presumably. The others shift their grip on their blasters as Rey, Poe and Rose follow Finn in.
“They were supposed to be transmitted here before us,” Finn insists. “Priority one.”
The guards relax. “Oh, this again,” says one of them. “System’s laggy as hell, it might take a few minutes. Hey, do you know what’s going on in Sanitation?”
“No idea,” says Finn. “Who’s down there this rotation?”
“Fresh batch,” says another guard. “Sixty-seven.”
“They’re getting younger and younger, I swear,” says a third stormtrooper. “When I—”
An alarm starts blaring.
“Intruder alert, Level Twelve,” says a bland voice, at odds with the severity of the message. “All active personnel report to Sanitation. Intruder alert, Level Twelve—”
One of the stormtroopers swears.
“Go,” says Finn. “We’re stuck here – priority one.”
“You can help,” says Rey, leaning into the words with the Force. “They need you. Go.”
“We can help,” says one of the stormtroopers.
“They need us,” says another. “Let’s go.”
As soon as they’re out the door, Finn locks it behind them. “Nice,” he says to Rey. “But we need to hurry and get the General. I don't like that they're assembling so many troops to find us. Something's wrong.”
Poe starts, worriedly, “You don't think BB-8 and Chewbacca—”
Rey stretches out with the Force. She can’t get a precise impression, even with her friends, but— “No,” she says with a frown. “Chewie’s nowhere near there and he wouldn't leave the ship.” She pauses. “BB-8 and Artoo would, but they wouldn't have time to make it that far.”
“Prepare for plans Cherek and Onith, just in case,” says Finn. “Rose, have you found her cell?”
“Yes!” says Rose triumphantly, straightening from the computer console. “Cell block 8311. Call the Falcon – we’re going to need Artoo to get us through the security doors and—”
“Someone’s coming,” says Rey. An ominous presence, filled with rage. Close – much closer than should be possible without her noticing.
She reaches for her lightsaber, but hesitates. They have to stick to the plan—
The presence disappears.
“Where?” hisses Finn, motioning them to spread out around the main entrance.
Doors hiss open – behind them. They all spin, leveling their blasters at the entrance to the cell blocks.
“What,” says the General, “Do you nerve-burning, laser-brained space jockeys think you’re doing?”
“Uh, hi,” says Finn. “We’re here to rescue you?”
“I left you in command,” says Leia, glaring right at Poe, which is a neat trick because he still has his helmet on. “You’re supposed to be back at the base, not dragging these three on some damned fool wild goose chase.”
“I didn’t drag them,” says Poe. “We’re here because we have the most experience.”
“At what? Getting caught?”
Poe winces. The sarcasm is hurtful.
Rey peers at the open security doors leading to the detention cells. “Could you have just walked out of here at any time?”
Leia snorts. “Of course I could.” Unfortunately, this does not distract her from yelling at Poe. Such is the burden of command. “And then I could have flapped my arms and flown off-planet. Or I could have waited for the opportune moment to steal a transport and escape without setting off an intruder alert. I need you with the Resistance, not delivering yourselves to a First Order prison with nothing but a half-baked plan!”
“Hey,” says Poe. “Aside from the guards down in Sanitation, everything has been going exactly according to plan.” Well, to one of their plans, anyway.
“And what happened to the guards down in Sanitation?”
“I yelled at them and they ran away,” says Poe.
Leia jabs an accusing finger at his helmet. “Wipe that grin off your face.”
Finn steps between them. “General,” he says. “You can reprimand us later, but right now we need to—”
They all stagger sideways as the floor shudders, a distant boom echoing through the room. The lights flicker and most of them shut off as the system switches to emergency power. Another alarm starts blaring out in the hall.
Leia is glaring at Poe, like he’s personally responsible, which – well, okay, is not that unreasonable an assumption.
“That’s not our fault,” he says. The explosives for Plan Cresh were much smaller.
“I think,” says Rose, “They just learned an important lesson about oligomer generator safety.”
“If those explosions came from a garbage bay—” Finn begins. “Rose, can you check—”
“I'm on it,” she says, scanning the computer. “Yes! The explosion disabled multiple atmospheric pressure sensors in the garbage bays.”
“Alright,” says Finn. “Plan Cresh is still on. General, do you know who the other prisoners are?”
“The ringleaders of the rally I attended, mostly,” says Leia. “There’s not many of us.”
“Can we trust them?”
“Don’t ask me,” she says. “I never did get to hear the end of their speeches.”
“Okay,” says Finn. “Plan Cresh, mark 2.” Rey opens the mag cart, revealing the neat stack of uniforms from Sanitation’s scrub room as well as a few blasters. Rose pulls up a schematic of the base and leaves it projecting on the screen, with a marker blinking in the transport bay. “We can’t get them all out ourselves, but we can give them a chance. We’ll set the cell doors to open in five minutes.”
“To let them wander around an enemy base alone?” Leia asks, unimpressed.
“Well, just until the evacuation alarm goes off and the whole base tries to leave,” says Finn. “The atmospheric pressure sensors in the garbage mashers were originally calibrated for deep space, so losing them defaults to a critical pressure warning and automatically enables the evacuation overrides. We’ll be able to trigger the alarm from the command center, here.” He looks from the schematic to Leia and adds, “Um, if that’s okay.”
“I hope,” says Leia, “You don’t expect me to put on one of those uniforms.”
“...No,” says Finn.
There’s a moment of awkward silence.
“Spit it out,” Leia says with a sigh. “We don’t have the time.”
“Well, we need to disguise you as someone no one would expect to recognize, but who wouldn’t be stopped for questioning, so…” Finn pulls out a helmet, then shakes out a long, black cape with an imposing hood.
Leia raises an eyebrow.
“This goes with it,” says Rey, holding out her lightsaber.
Rey would be the first to admit that the disguise they gave General Organa is insensitive at best, but it is very convincing.
The General sweeps through the hallways, her cloak billowing, radiating so much anger that Rey constantly has to bite down on the urge to apologize. They follow her in formation, blasters held rigidly, mostly remembering to walk in step. Several more squads of stormtroopers run past, but they all give their group a wide berth.
As they approach the command center, the General holds out a hand. By this time, they have the process down flat: Rey reaches for the Force, twitching her fingers, and the door opens untouched.
“Status report,” the General snaps as soon as she’s inside, causing the officers to jump.
“Your eminence!” says one of the commanders. “We had no idea that the Knights of Ren—”
“Yes, that was the idea,” says the General. “I asked you a question, commander.”
“Level—” The commander swallows. “Level Twelve has – has fallen, your eminence.”
“Fallen,” says the General dangerously. “Fallen to whom?”
“There was… unusual activity… with the dianoga…”
There’s a long silence.
“You lost a level,” says the General. “To the dianoga.”
The commander cringes. “There was a feeding frenzy—”
The General turns to the next officer. “Who’s in command down there?”
“Commander Asri was overseeing containment operations but we haven’t heard from her since the explosion—”
“At least Commander Asri should have established the force field perimeter to keep the dianoga from infiltrating the ventilation system.”
There’s another long silence.
The General stares at the hapless officer and, slowly, crosses her arms.
“We… we haven’t drilled for this kind of situation…” he stammers.
“Who’s next in command?” asks the General, her voice deadly quiet.
“Your eminence – for a breach of this magnitude – we don’t—”
“You, get out of my sight,” she says. The officer gulps and beats a hasty retreat out of the room. “You.” She points at the two lieutenants. “Take a detachment and get down there. Establish a perimeter or you’ll lose more than Level Twelve. You—” She locks the remaining commander in a death glare. “Get down to En Con and find out what needs to be done before we can seal off Sanitation. We can’t risk an environmental breach.”
The commander balks. Rey surreptitiously raises her hand, trying to think of the best way to handle this.
The General thrusts her arm out. The officer jerks forward, hauled across the floor as though on an invisible grappling hook. Her hand closes around his throat as he is lifted into the air.
It’s just a few inches, because General Organa is not very tall, but he still yelps, feet dangling. “I’m – I’m sorry, your eminence!” he gasps, clutching at her wrist. “I’ll take care of it!”
She lets go and he drops to his knees. “See that you do.”
As the officer scuttles away, leaving the command center completely empty, Poe leans in closer to Rey. “Nice,” he mutters.
Rey’s hand still hangs motionless. She drops it back to her side. “That wasn’t me,” she whispers back.
Poe opens his comm link as they reach the end of the maintenance tunnels. “BB-8!” he says over the blare of the evacuation alarms. “It’s so good to hear you! Send us your coordinates, we’re almost out.”
They climb to the surface just in time to watch a wave of transports depart. One ship veers off, speeding away from the others and disappearing into the sky.
“I think those were some of the other prisoners!” says Rey. They all cheer.
After some frantic searching at the coordinates, they find the Falcon camouflaged (perhaps just a little too well) amidst the mounds of scrap metal. Poe hangs back as everyone else boards, giving one final check that no one’s charging after them with blasters live, then bounds up the ramp.
He nearly bowls over Rose at the top.
Most of the Falcon’s interior space has been stuffed full of… stuff. Blocks of compressed scrap metal, crates of junk – there’s barely room to edge past it all to get to the cockpit.
Somewhere from the depths comes a welcoming burble. “Good to see you too, buddy,” says Poe, wedging his helmet with the others on top of a solid cube of crumpled metal. “Or... it would be if I could see you…. What happened?”
Chewbacca growls as they all crowd into the cockpit, which at least still has floorspace.
“Well,” Rey translates. “You know how we snuck in disguised as a garbage scow…?”
“I guess we should be grateful they didn’t process it as garbage,” says Leia. She pulls off her cloak with distaste and drops it on Artoo. “Get us out of here, Chewie.”
As they accelerate past the base, Poe can just make out a pitched battle, bright splatters of blaster fire in the clouds of dark smoke. A tentacle emerges from the darkness, wraps around a flailing stormtrooper, and throws them into a retreating squad.
“Man,” says Finn. “I don’t miss that at all.”
“Finn, I’ve been meaning to ask about that,” says Rose. “I thought you mopped floors.”
“Well, yeah,” says Finn. “You get better assignments after your first promotion.”
They make it out of the atmosphere unchallenged, but it’s not until they’ve dropped out of lightspeed and an angry tracking ship fails to appear that any of them relax.
“Well!” says Poe, grinning at the beaming faces and somewhat bulky and awkward round of hugs. “We did good work today.”
“Poe,” says Leia. “The First Order unleashed a swarm of monsters and blew up their own base. You unlocked some doors and stole their garbage.”
“It’s a moral triumph,” says Poe. Fortunately, it’s drowned out by Artoo telling Leia not to put herself down like that.
“We’re discussing this later,” says Leia, with an unamused look at Chewbacca’s snickering. “In the meantime, I’m sure you all have important things to do that don’t involve standing so close.”
“We do?” asks Rey.
"Go clean up," says Leia. “That’s an order.”
Chewbacca growls something. Rey sniffs at her shoulder, then shrugs.
“Actually…” Rose begins, wincing.
Leia raises an eyebrow.
"We can't," says Finn glumly. "Or else the water cycler in the ‘fresher will activate the alternator powering the First Order's transponder and they'll use it to track us."
Leia covers her face with one hand. "How did that happen?"
"We ran out of forks," says Rey.
Artoo notes, smugly, that he has no olfactory sensors.
“Look!” says Rey, holding up her prize. “This is most of a positronic capacitor!”
“Well, I’m glad you’re happy,” says Finn, tossing a useless piece of scrap into the discard pile. A mostly useless piece of scrap. Well, not actually that useless, especially if you could trade it for standard engine mods, but Chewie was very firm about floorspace currently being their most valuable commodity and how he wouldn’t be too picky about what or who he ejected into space the next time they dropped out of lightspeed if she hadn’t figured out what they were keeping by then.
“I don’t get it,” Finn continues. “The mission was a success. Why isn’t she happy to be out of there? I was. Poe was. You were— Wait, she’s right, we really do have the most experience being caught.”
“We did make her disguise herself as one of the Knights of Ren,” says Rose. “That’s pretty tasteless.”
“But she was already mad at—”
“She’s coming,” says Rey, looking away from the compressor she’s inspecting. A moment later, the General enters the hold.
Rey climbs to her feet and squares her shoulders. She’s taller than the General, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that.
“Rey,” says Finn in a low voice. “I don’t think this is a good idea—”
“You're very angry,” Rey says to her. “I don’t understand why.”
“No, I don’t think you would,” says the General.
“I’m not a very good Jedi, but from what I know they would have done the same thing,” says Rey. “What did you want us to do? Leave you behind?”
“With all due respect, General,” says Rose, coming to Rey’s side, “that's a load of bantha fodder. You know that everyone on base knows what to do if we don’t come back, and everyone on the other missions knows where to go if something happens on base, and even if something terrible happens and there’s only one person left, they know how to keep fighting because you taught us. You are important to this Resistance, and if necessary, we will come and get you no matter where you are!”
“We know we’re not who you really want in the Resistance,” Finn says, stepping up to Rey’s other side. “But we’re who you’ve got, and I swear to you, we will do our best to—”
“—be the – what?”
“You’re wrong,” repeats the General. “You – all of you – are exactly who I want.” Rey blinks at the wave of conviction she feels from her. “As I was going to say: if necessary, I am confident that you will be able to lead the Resistance in my absence and restore freedom and peace. All the same, I am grateful for your assistance, and I’m sorry if I made you think otherwise. You did a fine job with what you had.”
“…Good,” says Finn. “Fine jobs, that’s us. Thanks.”
“As for your original question,” the General says to Rey. “I’ve always believed that anger, properly channelled, gets things accomplished. Like resisting the rise of a corrupt regime, or getting old bones off an enemy base. It would make me a terrible Jedi but, I hope, an able leader.”
Rey manages to say, “Oh.”
The General nods at the junk. “Find anything good?”
“What?” says Rey, wrong-footed. “Oh – yes. We should be able to get a lot for the durasteel. It’s high-quality. And I can fix that capacitor – we need one on base.”
“Congratulations,” says the General drily. “This might be our first mission to ever turn a profit.” She gives them all another nod and walks away.
As soon as she’s out of earshot, Rose covers her face and moans, “I can't believe I said that to the General.” Finn pats her sympathetically on the shoulder.
“Where did you find out that stuff about the Jedi?” he asks Rey. “Your books?”
“No,” she says. “Artoo.”
“You really think they would have done the same thing?”
“Well, no,” says Rey. “I think their plans would have been much worse.”
Chewbacca refuses to sit in an enclosed space with any of them for more than thirty seconds, so until the others are done with the trash Poe is mercilessly abandoned to piloting the long, boring stretches of hyperspace on his own. At least BB-8 is willing to keep him company.
It means sitting through a blow-by-blow summary of remote astromech data slicing as he recounts their half of the mission, but hey, you’ll never know when you’ll need to learn something new.
“He put in a backdoor during the Clone Wars, huh?” Poe says. “Serves them right for not updating their base code in sixty years.”
Leia walks in just as BB-8 replies with a cheerful expletive.
“Watch your language,” Poe says to BB-8. Artoo is definitely a bad influence.
Then he squints at Leia. “Is that a shouting face or a congratulations face?” he asks. “If it’s congratulations, they should go to Finn, he was in command of the mission. But if it’s shouting, it should definitely be at me because it was my idea.”
“I already spoke with them,” she says. “None of the shouting was mine. You put Finn in command?”
“He was great,” says Poe. “They were all great.”
“At least you’re pushing them,” says Leia. “But you, Poe—”
“Look,” he says. “I know you always say the Resistance is bigger than any one of us, and I know that you’re basically always right. But you’re not just our leader. You’re a member of the Alliance, a representative of the New Republic, and hell, even one of the last senators of the Empire. I can probably manage a military campaign, recruit more people, point Rey in the right direction and let her go – but you’ve got connections across the galaxy I couldn’t copy even if I tried. Breaking into prison was easy by comparison.”
“And that’s the only reason you did it,” says Leia skeptically.
“No,” says Poe. “My dad told me once that all of you were fighting for a better future for—” He almost says for your children, but changes it to “—For everyone coming after you.”
Judging by Leia’s sardonic look, she knows what he’d planned to say. He continues anyway.
“You succeeded,” he says. “Things aren’t good, but they could be a lot worse. We’ll defeat the First Order and rebuild the Republic, and when we get to stop, it’ll be because we finished the fight you started. You deserve to see that, too.”
Leia sighs. “I’m not going to be around forever, Poe.”
She sounds… not defeated, but… certain. And the thing with Leia is that she’s basically always right. Poe swallows the sudden lump in his throat.
“That just makes the time we get even more important,” he says. “Even if it hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t have regretted it. None of us would.”
Leia settles into the co-pilot’s chair. After a moment, she asks, “So how many plans were there?”
“Ones we used, or ones we came up with?” asks Poe.
“Do I even want to know the ones you didn’t use?”
“Not Plan Aurek,” says Poe. “Then you would have had to come back through the garbage mashers. Plan Grek was pretty good – that was where Rey simulates a starfighter attack by herself. I died in Plan Mern.”
She raises an eyebrow at that. Poe makes a note never to tell her about Plan Zerek.
“Well, I can’t fault your preparation,” says Leia. The corner of her mouth twitches. “Even if I don’t think it was the best use of the Resistance’s resources.”
“Yeah,” says Poe. “Rescue missions, what a waste. I mean, who gets on the Falcon and takes a couple droids, a handful of people, and a Jedi to rescue a person they care about?”
“All right, you’ve made your point,” says Leia, rolling her eyes. But she’s smiling when she does it.
Though that might be because she knew that when they reach the base, they can’t go inside until they’ve been fully decontaminated.
“Dianoga travel in larval form,” says Finn, over protests. “All it takes is one stowaway and we’ve got a waste system full of— those are some very big hoses.”
“They're usually for neutralizing radiation scoring on the starfighters,” says Rose glumly.
“The Resistance appreciates your sacrifice,” says Leia, stepping out of range right before the rest of them are deluged by jets of water and decontaminant. They all sputter and swear, except for Rey, who starts to laugh. Poe assumes it's some sort of Jedi thing.
The flood retreats, leaving them all shivering slightly in the wind.
“I’m told it takes half an hour for a total decontamination,” Leia says. “Then I’ll see you for the debriefing?”
“Yes, ma’am,” says Finn.
“Until then – thank you, my friends,” she says.
She heads inside, Chewbacca and the droids following. She does make sure to give them a regal wave as she disappears into the base, which is a nice touch.
The wind picks up.
“Half an hour,” says Rose. “We’re going to miss the dinner shift.”
Rey digs around in her utility belt and pulls out her ration bars. She splits both of them in half after she gets them open and holds them out expectantly.
They all stare at them.
“Well,” says Finn, taking his half. “It’s not the worst thing I’ll have tasted today.”
Poe and Rose take theirs as well. “To us!” says Poe, saluting them with the blob of protein.
It tastes like victory.
Well, and garbage. But mainly victory.