His eyes open.
There’s something there—a disturbance. Vaguely. In the corner of his mind.
He reaches out with the Force, stretching his touch to the darkest corners of the galaxy, the pits of despair that left his mind wailing when he first discovered them. But like all other elements of The Dark Side, it left him greedy for more. Greedy to devour the darkness, to let it seep it in through his veins and to pour it down his throat.
Nothing new in the darkness. Which means…
He closes his eyes and a snarl begins to curl to what’s left of the burnt remains of his lips. Slowly, tentatively, he turns his gaze to the other side of the glass wall. The Light.
It disgusts him. Revolts him to do so. But he feels something…
He opens his eyes, wide awake.
He turns to his wife. Lover. Partner.
“Something new,” he informs her. “Something… bright.”
She sidles up next to him. The mastermind to his brute force, the brains to his brute. Placing a hand on his shoulder, she stares out of the window before them, into the all encompassing galaxy.
“I thought we had wiped them all out,” he muses, templing long fingers under his chin. It feels like an inherently villainous gesture. He enjoys that.
Her breath catches. “You mean…”
The unspoken word lays between them, ready to be cocked and loaded. She stills as he looks up at her, confirming with a heavy look that what he’s insinuating, is indeed true. That—
“They’re extinct.” She says, flatly.
He nods. “And yet. I feel one. Can’t you?”
Her eyes slid shut, her head tilted to the side as she listens, feels, grasps, sees. Then her eyelids clench, as she falls upon what he has sourced.
“Oh.” She exhales the word. It’s not a happy oh, nor a displeased one. It’s an interested sound, intrigued. It’s the type of sound that he knows she would hum seconds before destroying a planet, wiping out a race, or striking down a Stormtrooper for stepping out of line.
She opens her eyes, and looks out into the abyss once more. He joins her.
“It’s only one Jedi,” he comments, under his breath. “What harm can he do?”
Piper laughs lowly under her breath as the pressure of her hand leaves his shoulder. Colin watches her walk away towards the door in which she entered, and as she gives him one last glance, he sees that her face is darkly amused.
“Famous last words.”
TWO WEEKS EARLIER
When Adam Parrish wakes, it’s to the sound of his old-fashioned alarm. Its irritant beeping penetrates the fog of sleep in his mind, and he slaps it. By now he knows the exact spot and amount of pressure to whack in order for it to shut up.
He rises, stretching out the kinks of his aching shoulders, and thus prepares for the day quickly and quietly. Washing is only something that happens after work, when you’re sure that you won’t be stepping outside for the rest of the day. Otherwise it’s a waste of precious and limited water, for the dust and sand that settles a thick layer on top of Tatooine will find its way into your clothes, bedsheets and the crevices of your body almost instantaneously.
So he doesn’t bother, also acutely aware of the other persons sleeping in the household that will be set off by the noisy running of the shower, and that the bills in the house are stretched thin already, without the extra luxury of showers. Adam is almost certain that he’ll end up with a bruised eye and a bloody lip.
So he skips the shower.
Work attire is coveralls with plain white clothes underneath, but he only puts those on once he’s in the repair shop. They’re also bound to be covered in dust after approximately a minute of being outside.
He packs his bag, and creeps out of his dimly lit bedroom.
Once outside the stone-carved house, he can finally breathe. No disturbances were made, no parents were woken, no intimidating questions were asked, during which he has to fixate on the floor, waiting for the first blow.
It’s a miserable existence. But it’s somewhere to start, he thinks, every time he’s grabbed by the collar, every time he spits blood into the bathroom sink. Every time he’s holed up in his bedroom, fearing that his father will barrell in, knock him down and that the one place in the house that he feels safe will become somewhere else where he has to hold his breath.
He’s still deep in these thoughts as he rounds the corner of a road. And by road, he means a transect in the flat desert where cars and smaller ships started to be driven and wore away a line of stone which is now followed as a street. He crosses to the main road.
Tatooine is most likely one of the least glamorous of planets, nowhere near the sleek aesthetic of Coruscant, nor the trinkity appeal of Takodana. The high street of Mos Eisley (covered with dust) has most stores (that are covered in dust) that one would need to sustain a (dust-covered) life there, with the annoying exception of clothing. Hence his hand sewn coveralls.
Adam makes his way to the mechanics, checking the time on his battered watch. He’s early, leaving him a few minutes breathing time before starting a full shift. The heavy garage door creaks when he lifts it up, and he finds the small transport vessel that he was working on yesterday waiting for him.
He makes a start on it, lowering himself beneath the vehicle, tinkering at it with a wench.
It’s fixed by the time customers start to file in the opposite room, and he can hear Boyd making chat amongst them. Adam feels only slightly bitter that he’s able to leisurely do that, whilst Adam is behind the scenes, occasionally losing grip on the tools because of the sweat on his hands, more and more grease smudging on his face and coveralls, dust settling in his hair.
One day, he thinks. One day.
When Adam had been about fourteen, after his father had hit him in the ribs so badly that it hurt to exhale, he’d lain on the floor of his bedroom, despair working it’s way deep into his bones.
There has to be more than this, younger Adam had thought, hopelessly. He was sick of the pitying looks neighbours would give him that were averted when he needed them most, the sneers kids on the street would give to his worn clothing. Sick of the life that he was living, and would keep living unless he did something about it.
So the next day, he’d walked all the way around town, wearing his thin shoes down to their soles, enquiring for a job in every business there was, from cleaning Caniphant’s water to polishing glassware. They’d all refused, bar one. Boyd’s mechanics.
The owner had taken one look at his gaunt face, the slight limp, and shabby attire, and had handed him a broom and dustpan.
To this day, Adam still doesn’t know if Boyd had empathised with him, or simply needed a duster. He’s forever grateful for whatever reason, for once he’d started taking interest in the vehicles, some of the guys showed him the tricks and tips of fixing ships. Soon enough, Boyd noticed, and gave him an upgrade to the previous job he’d held. Slowly but surely, Adam had made his way up to where he was now, as one of the top mechanics in Mos Eisley.
He doesn’t know what he’s aiming for. He only knows that he wants to be recognised, for someone to walk into whatever job he has and know him.
Adam Parrish? They would ask, with awe in their eyes. The Adam Parrish?
A lot of the time he feels it’s a foolish daydream, one that would be embarrassing to explain. But sometimes, it’s the only concrete, tangible thing that he works towards.
What he wants most of all, out of that fantasy, is to forget everything possible about Tatooine. To erase it from the story of Adam Parrish.
Ronan moves his Hutt king to checkmate Noah’s, just as Gansey lets out a shout of expletives and all the power in the ship blinks off. Including the holographic chess set.
“Dick!” He hollers.
There’s a few clanks and thunks and other assorted mechanical noises, and Richard Gansey III’s head pokes up out of the floor, the panel having been removed in his attempts to fix the Camero IX—otherwise known as the Pig. As he so lovingly refers to it as. His hair is ruffled, but not in the usual debonair fashion. This hair ruffle is more of a ‘stressed-and-made-frizzy-by-machine-steam’ ruffle than anything else. Even more distressingly, his usually perfectly glasses are lopsided.
“What the fuck did you do,” Ronan asks flatly.
Gansey gestures extravagantly and frantically, from what Ronan can see in the backup generator lighting. “Nothing! I just tried to fix it!”
Ronan looks at him. Gansey looks back.
“I may have screwed the wrong thing,” Gansey amends, pushing his glasses back into routine position. Ronan smirks and opens his mouth to speak, when Gansey cuts him off in the accustomed expectancy of a filthy remark. “Don’t comment on that. Can you come and take a look?”
Ronan heaves an over dramatic sigh, and pulls his feet off of the table onto the floor. They make a satisfyingly loud noise, and Noah watches him, bored, as he hops into the hole and ducks under the other panels to examine the disaster.
There’s a lot of hot steam emitting from a pipe end, which Ronan stops by yanking the switch shut with a wench. The lights and power shudder back on above them, and he can hear Noah let out a cheer. It’s a good thing they’d taken the wise decision to stop on a nearby deserted planet after the Pig had started making worrying noises, and for Gansey to mess around with the ship and pretend he knows what he’s doing, otherwise they’d have been in some higher degree of trouble in the middle of space.
Other than the pipe, though, there seems to be no apparent problem. He squints at the readings on an old, clearly never before inspected monitor, and can’t decipher a damn thing written on it.
“I’ve got no idea, man.”
Gansey looks crestfallen. Ronan can just imagine the sequence of images flipping through his mind, a somber retelling of The Pig’s life, before it finally ran out of puff. He hasn’t seemed to consider the possibility of professional assistance, and a smile brightens his face when Ronan says as much.
“Of course! You’re a genius, Ronan.”
“But that would’ve been anyone’s second option after fixing it themselves,” Noah’s voice floats down from the main area of the ship.
“Shut up, Noah!” Ronan calls back.
They climb out of the open floor panel, and Ronan nudges it back into place.
“Well, the hyperspeed is still fucked. Where’s the nearest planet with people on it?”
Gansey worries at his lower lip with his thumb in a very Ganseyish manner. “No idea. I’ll check.”
He walks purposefully towards the cockpit, a name which Gansey couldn’t voice aloud for several months when they’d first acquired the ship, as it would cause Ronan to snigger uncontrollably, and at various random points whilst driving burst into cackles of laughter because he’d just remembered it. Ronan and Noah follow close behind, and Ronan flops into the co-pilot seat.
There’s actually surprisingly little to be done as a co-pilot, he’s found. Which means he can occasionally flick some switches, then put his feet up on the dashboard until Gansey scolds him for getting the Pig’s dash filthy with his dirty boots. Noah usually sits on the fold-out behind them, as he does now.
Gansey presses a few blinking buttons on the panel in front of him, and a green holographic display appears in front of him. It’s the section of the galaxy that they’re in at the minute, and Gansey uses a graceful hand to spin it, and pinches to zoom in.
“Tatooine,” he says, sitting back and letting the hologram disappear.
Ronan thunks his head back against the seat. “Tatooine? You’ve got to be kidding me. That place is full of dust and Caniphant shit.”
“Have any other suggestions?” Gansey asks dryly, raising a brow. Ronan chooses that moment to inspect a very interesting scratch on his boot.
“Tatooine it is,” Noah chimes in. Ronan nudges Noah’s arm off of his headrest.
As Gansey programs in the coordinates smoothly, he sweeps a glance down the dashboard, contemplating the beauty of the Camero IX. If it weren’t for the sheer protectiveness of its owner, Ronan would’ve raced a hundred times over in the thing.
Unfortunately for him, Gansey’s protectivity of the Pig is almost as intense as his fascination over a dead religion. Said fixation would probably land them in more trouble than they already get into, if his father and mother weren’t respected and recognised Coruscant citizens. Of course, they already have enough trouble with people always being after Ronan for one thing or another—smuggling was a tough line of business, especially when your dad had left more debt that physically possible—or because someone had heard of what they were looking for.
Almost as if he could hear Ronan’s thoughts, Gansey breaks the silence as he steers them in the general direction of the coordinates. “Did you know that there have actually been rumours of an abandoned Jedi temple on Tatooine?”
Here we go, he thinks. “I’m not staying on that shitty planet for longer than I need to. I’ve got a high stakes card game that’s in a couple of days that I can’t miss.”
Gansey gives a sigh.
When Ronan had been a young boy, his family had visited the Ganseys for one reason or another—Niall Lynch’s work took him, and sometimes them, everywhere. Gansey was an old man in a boy’s body, all serious face and talk of politics, complete with knobbly knees and grazed knuckles. One of the first things he’d said to Ronan, after bedazzling him with smile full of shining straight teeth, was about the Jedi.
Ronan has heard the word in whispers before, around adults. It was a word that you’d glance around to check if anyone was listening, a word said in a hushed voice and a word that if you said in the wrong company, could get you hauled to somewhere you’d never see the light of day again.
It was a dangerous word, and here was Richard Gansey III, throwing it around as casually as one might talk about their holiday, or what they had for breakfast.
Ronan liked him immediately.
Apparently not many people took interest in what he had to say, for when Ronan displayed a genuine interest in the topic, Gansey became so excitable that he tripped and fell into the knee-length grass. Ronan had laughed at him. They had become as thick as thieves.
Then Ronan’s father had died, and everything had gone to shit.
He yanks himself away from those dark memories. There’s an itch he can’t scratch when he lets his mind wander onto those sorts of topics: racing, the tire that had been used to beat his father to death, the dark recesses of his dreams—
He balls his fists.
“It’ll take less than a day to check it out,” Gansey adds.
They’re still talking about the temple. Right.
“If it exists.”
Gansey’s mouth twitches into smile. To him, that’s as good as Ronan agreeing.
Boyd’s voice comes from behind him, clear and prompting. He looks over his shoulder to see his employer standing in the doorway separating the shop and the garage, a sheet of paper clutched in his hand. Adam feels unease spread through him like paint added to water, for he has come to automatically expect bad news, especially when the bearer of news is holding a document. A letter firing him? A pay cut?
He shuts the pod’s lid, and sticks the wench in his toolbelt. There’s no point in running from problems that will chase you anyways.
“I know you’re busy, but could you run out and get a few of these spare parts? I’m sure there’s some out on an abandoned ship or maybe a junkyard somewhere.”
Relief is a cool wave that washes over him. Except—he’s never really experienced a wave before. There aren’t any large bodies of water on Tatooine. He imagines it something like the cool, relaxing sensation of relief though.
“Sure,” Adam says, taking the list. Scanning it, he can see that there aren’t many difficult things to find. Most of them could be found in a junkyard, but he doesn’t comment this. “I’ll start just after I finish this job.”
“You’re a good worker, Adam.” Boyd nods at him before departing to the other side of the door once more.
As it turns out, the job only takes a few more minutes. Adam shoulders on a kitted out bag, straps on a pair of goggles to protect his eyes, and borrows one of the Boyd’s pods that he lets out to the workers.
Driving along the seemingly never-ending stretches of desert fills him with a certain emotion he can’t quite place. Serenity, maybe? All he can see for miles is the colour of dust, the abandoned ships in the distance, and the ornamental moons hanging low in the sky, which is slowly fading into a deeper hue of azure.
The pod comes to a shuddering halt when he pulls the brake over to a junkyard, and he surveys the mountains of scrap metal lain out before him. There have to be at least seven sky-high mounds, all filled with used or broken parts and machines, or even working parts that people with too much money for their own good decide to throw away for no reason at all. Other than boredom.
He sighs. And makes a start.
A lot of time passes whilst he digs around, and the moons become starker and clearer against the sky as the day wears on. By the time he’s found nine out of the ten things needed—well, he needs eleven, but he’s not going to find that specific type of battery in an old scrapyard—there are little cuts from handling sharp metal all along his palms. Every time he sources one of the necessary items, he places it into the long netted bag that he drags along with him.
Adam walks to the last heap, legs heavy and mind elsewhere as he valiantly ignores the rumbles of hunger in his stomach, when a droid speeds out from mound beside him, almost giving him cardiac arrest. He stumbles back, clutching his chest in shock.
“Stars,” he gasps out, feeling his heart sprint faster than any race pod on a drag track could. He had dropped his bag of parts, and crouches down to dig through methodically and make sure none of them had broken. Thank the moons, nothing had.
The droid bleeps out a frantic, annoying sequence of high-pitched noises. Adam glares at it. “You scared the shit out of me!”
The droid mimics the pitch of his voice and warbles something back, that’s clearly meant to be an imitation of him.
“Oh, shut up.” He snaps.
It’s a an old model, white with irregular splotches of black and dark blue dotted around on its body. A short thing, it comes up to Adam’s waist, and has a rotating head.
Adam spares it one last disdainful glance, before gathering his things up and making his way back to the ship.
He’s taken a few steps when the droid dashes up beside him, knocking against his leg. It trills out another series of high notes, and Adam frowns. When he stops walking, the droid repeats the action, and Adam can place a good guess on what it wants.
“I’m not taking you home,” he informs it sternly.
The droid makes a mournful noise, and butts itself against him again.
“What?” Adam squats down in front of it, exasperated. “What do you want?”
There’s a shiny silver inscription of block letters on the front of the droid. GWN-LL14-N, it reads, and Adam is once more perplexed at the droid. They stopped making the GWN line years ago, after they became affiliated with the Rebellion. And he’s certainly never heard of that particular model before.
“What…” He voices aloud, confusion and intrigue getting the better of him.
The droid lets out a different noise, one that seems to be… understanding. Then a section on the top left of its torso pops open, and GWN-LL14-N displays it to him, beckoning him to take it. Adam cautiously peers into the drawer, and plucks out the only thing in it—a transmission piece. He turns it over in his calloused palm, examining the odd edges and strange, official make of it. Then it strikes him, as fleeting as a lightning bolt, and with all of the dread and thrill of seeing one.
“This is an Imperial transmission piece,” he says aloud, feeling his eyebrows pinch together in curiosity. GWN-LL14-N buzzes and spins around in a few circles, as if to confirm that he’s correct in what he says. It comes to a halt when he asks, “Why the blazes have you got it?”
There’s an ensuing, very long sequence of bleeps and squeals that emit from the droid to answer him, but seeing as Adam has never studied the dialect used for the GWN, being outdated and disused and all, he can hardly understand it.
“Woah, woah! Slow down,” he says, as he motions to the droid to calm down. “Now again.”
The same series is repeated, only marginally slower and no less intelligible. He can only catch a few words, if they are even what he hears them as. He can’t be sure, due to the loss of hearing in his left ear.
“Blue? Ship? Lost?” Adam asks it, puzzled. The droid lights up and whirrs, again turning in several circles out of excitement. He’s not sure what it means. A blue ship that’s been lost? The droid is lost and came from a blue ship?
Adam looks at the transmission piece. It looks important, something that wouldn’t just be misplaced. And since it was being carried around by a random, outdated droid in the middle of the desert on a nowhere planet, all conclusions that are pointed to are troublesome. He can’t get involved in things are far larger and important than him.
“Sorry, buddy,” he drops the transmission piece back. “I can’t help you.”
The droid makes no noise, and stays utterly silent—for once. He supposes that this is how robots look when they’re shocked. Adam manages to make it all the way back to his pod without anymore interruptions. That is, until after he’s pinned the netting up on the side with all the scrap pieces.
The droid bashes into the side of him, whining loudly.
“Ow! Would you quit that? I’m not getting involved.” Adam rubs at his leg, beyond irritation.
GWN-LL14-N lets out a loud wail.
“I don’t want to get into trouble!”
It makes a noise that sounds like a sob—and what strikes him as odd is how human the droid acts. Yes, there are models that speak and crack jokes, but they’re all newer and more expensive and shinier. This one is old, outdated, beaten up, and yet as emotional as any child.
“I can’t just take you back to my place,” Adam says, feeling his resolve crumbling. The only thing holding him back is a sickening vision of his father, finding he’s brought a loud, annoying droid home and an Imperial transmission along with it.
GWN-LL14-N beeps, and speeds around to where Adam has his spare parts safely secured. It flips a long, metal antenna towards the pieces.
The droid spins. He begins to wonder if that’s its automatic response to anything he says that it agrees with.
“They would have a transmission player…” He trails off, tapping his finger to his chin, thoughtful. “Oh, what the hell. Come on.”
GWN-LL14-N screams in excitement, whirring furiously and racing around him in loops. “Hey, hey!” He shouts above the racket. “You can’t be that loud. I’ll probably have to keep you hidden, so be absolutely silent .”
The droid stops abruptly, and makes a hissing sound that sounds oddly like someone shushing another.
Adam takes that as agreement.
Once back at the shop, he enters as quietly as possible, and unstrapping the droid from the netting is the first thing he does. Adam stashes it in a cabinet that no one uses, underneath several layers of sheets that they use to cover things in the garage when they’re doing a messy paint job. GWN-LL14-N bleeps once, and stays silent for the rest of the working day after Adam shushes it ferociously.
“Thanks again for getting those parts,” Boyd tells him at closing time, as he flicks the lights off. “You coming?”
Adam nods, and studiously pretends to pack his bag. “I’ll just be a minute. You can go on out without me, I’ll lock up.”
After he leaves, Adam jogs over to the equipment station, rapidly and consecutively opening the drawers, searching for a transmission receiver. His pulse thrums, and it feels like he’s doing something wrong. Boyd could come back any minute, asking what he’s doing sneaking around in the dark, and then he’d uncover the droid and there would be so many questions to answer—
His hand falls upon a receiver, and all doubts fly out of his head with the sheer pull of curiosity. GWN-LL14-N appears next to him, softly whirring, and pops open the containment disc again, showing him the transmission piece.
Adam clicks the piece into the receiver, and waits.
At first, nothing happens, and Adam feels the familiar sensation of disappoint unfurl in his stomach. But then, a crackling fills the dark space of the garage. A wavering, feminine voice speaks as if they’re right next to Adam.
“That’s all there is?”
Entranced, he watches as a display flickers to life on top of the receiver. It’s the projection of a young woman, with dimples and sepia skin. She’s pretty, with patchwork clothing and a choppy haircut. Her mouth moves, and the words follow after, as if there’s a bad connection. The question is repeated. “That’s all there is?”
Then, the miniature girl disappears. And a projection of a large ship appears in her place—but it doesn’t look like a ship. It’s a partially constructed sphere with smaller ships around it, and it completely and utterly dwarfs them with its terrifying size. There’s more hissing and crackling, and then a monotone voice begins to speak, as the hologram follows its words, zooming in and out of the large sphere. The ship is apparently called ‘The Death Star’, a name which fills Adam with edginess. The unrest intensifies as the purpose of this odd thing is described. Planet destroyer, they call it. Galaxy-wide extinction event. Adam can only hear buzzing in his ears as dates and weapons are listed, as well as target locations—planets with known rebel spies hidden amongst the ordinary folk. His heart stops when Tatooine is mentioned, and a sick feeling in his throat plagues him for the rest of the transmission.
At last the hologram dissipates, leaving Adam and the droid in darkness. The only light is the cold red of the receiver, which it lit with when it accepted the Imperial transmission. The girls question is repeated one last time, without her projection, and then the transmission ends, the piece sliding out mechanically and falling onto the floor with a small clink .
Adam sits, his knees pressing into the cold stone floor, mind numb with shock. The only thing hurtling through his head right now is the date Tatooine is to be destroyed.
Finally, he turns his head to face GWN-LL14-N.
“This can’t be real,” he says hollowly.
It beeps sadly.
“No,” Adam shakes his head, his knees cracking as he stands up. “I’m going home. I don’t—” He waves his hand around to convey something, but he can’t think what of. “Stay here. I’ll drop you off somewhere tomorrow.”
He can’t even bring himself to be surprised when the droid doesn’t put up a fight. It wheels away, back to the dark corner, into a disused cabinet. Adam locks the store up.
The rest of the night passes in a blur. Too many questions flying around in his head and no possible answers. He can’t even begin to consider the possibility of this weapon, the sheer terror and destruction it would cause. So he doesn’t think. Adam sleeps.
The next day passes as normal, if not in a daze. All thoughts of the transmission are firmly ousted from his mind as he works. At least, until the girl walks into the garage.
Adam is thinking of where he’s going to drop this droid and life-threatening transmission, when a bigger version of the girl in the hologram transmission stalks into the store, and asks Boyd, “Has anyone around here seen a lost droid?”
He drops his wench with a clatter.