“Look, I’m just saying that it sounds too outlandish to be true. At least part of it is propaganda, it has to be.”
Cassius shook his head. “This is as reliable a source as it gets for history this far back, you know that. A utility droid’s memory banks don’t get rewritten to include propaganda, they just record what they see and hear and no one thinks twice about it.”
"I’m just saying, history is written by the victors, and they had every reason to push the narrative that this ragtag bunch of ex-Imperials, terrorists and native Endorians was all it took the topple Palpatine.”
Cassius sighed. He turned back to the readout screen, where three separate algorithmic programs were scrubbing through a faded, almost incomprehensible data record, trying to restore it further into some semblance of legibility. He had been staring at it so often for so long that he could see his own eyes reflected back at him, twin green orbs shining back against the indigo and black processes in progress on the screen. It was supposed to be both audio and visual, but whatever visuals it had were too old to be restored, there were seconds-long gaps and a lot of visual noise that even the algorithms weren’t able to diagnose. But the audio was still there. Fading, crackling with static and age, but it was a full track, it just needed to be cleaned up.
“We’ll know soon enough.” He said, “As soon as the algorithm has it cleaned up, we’ll give it a listen from beginning to end, we’ll hear what they have to say.”
“We don’t even know who they are.” Juniper folded her arms over her chest and shook her head. “We just know we heard voices talking about Endor and the Rebellion, we don’t know anything else.”
“Voiceprint recognition was eighty percent certain on one of the matches, Jun. And the other one was a seventy-seven percent match. That’s close enough for me.”
“Cas, that’s-” Juniper sighed and leaned over to him, putting her violet eyes between him and the readout screen. “You know that’s not good enough.” She said in a lower voice. “The Chamber will never accept it if we submit our work with those sorts of numbers.”
“That’s why we listen to the file, Jun. If we listen to it, and it correlates well enough with the voiceprint matches, then we know we’ve got something.”
“And what is that? Huh? What do you think we have?”
“Best case scenario?” Cassius reached past her and tapped at the screen, showing the audio waveform that was, bit by bit, being resolved from an incomprehensible blob of sound into something that could be listened to and understood. “A primary source. Something recorded by someone who was there, at Endor.”
Juniper rolled her eyes and turned away.
“Think of it, Jun.” Cassius pleaded with her, “After all this, all this searching, all of these years later. We’ll finally know what really happened. Palpatine’s been dead for what, seven centuries, maybe eight at this point? And no one really knows what happened. We have stories, we have hearsay from tertiary sources and propaganda that the Eternal Consortium tried to pass on as fact, but no one knows what really happened anymore. But we could find out. It could be us, right here, right now, finding out what happened. We could help fill in that empty spot in the history programs.”
“Or it could just be nonsense.” Juniper snapped. “It might just be some feckless sod rambling about some holofilm they saw, or a-a crazy person dictating their memoirs to record things that never happened. You’re getting all your hopes up after we heard, what, thirty seconds of this? And it was thirty seconds that were complete nonsense!”
“I thought you said it had to be propaganda?”
“It’s something! I don’t know what, but it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t, I refuse to accept it.”
“I understand the need for skepticism. Believe me. All I’m saying is, please wait until we’ve heard it all.” Cassius turned his hands up toward her. “We owe it to the ones who brought it to us to at least listen to it.”
Juniper shook her head again. “If you understand my need for skepticism, why are you so optimistic?”
“I don’t know.” Cassius admitted. “I suppose… I just have a good feeling about this one.”
The readout changed color, going from its in-progress indigo hue to a completed-and-ready green. Both Cassius and Juniper turned to look at it, then turned back to look at each other for a moment.
“Care to do the honors?” Cassius asked her.
Juniper seemed to take a deep breath, then stepped over to the readout and hit engage playback without saying a word.
The voice started up almost immediately, since the algorithms had scrubbed out all of the white noise in an effort to salvage and reconstruct everything else. But even though it came through immediately, it did not come through strong, Cassius had to strain and refocus to hear it properly, and even then some parts were so faded that he almost had to guess or predict what was being said.
“ Artoo-deetoo, where are you? I can’t see you, these old receptors of mine… ”
Cassius turned to look at Juniper, reaching out to pause the record for a moment. “That sounds like a protocol droid.” He said.
Juniper nodded, a bit reluctantly he thought. “It certainly sounds like one. And, Artoo-deeto, that sounds like a droid designation as well.”
“I think that might be our utility droid friend.” Cassius reached out and caressed the top of the readout screen. “It’s his memory we’re sifting through.”
Juniper moved closer and leaned in. All of her skepticism was gone from her posture now, she was back in, invested in the story they were hearing unfold, whatever it wound up being. It made sense, of course, Cassius was as well. Whoever these droids were, they had existed centuries in the past, long enough ago that there was nothing left of them now except their memories, like this one, the few things left that could be passed down.
“Okay, Artoo-Deetoo.” Cassius said. “Let’s hear what else you have to tell us.”
He tapped the screen again, and the voice resumed. “ Is that you, Artoo? Oh, I’m glad to hear your voice, old friend. It’s been so long, I was beginning to wonder if everyone had forgotten about me. But then, I suppose you would be the only one left now. Everyone else has gone. ”
A series of beeps and chirps broke through, they sounded like binary code, like old fashioned droid speak. The reconstruction had gutted a lot of them, they were either too high-pitched or too low pitched for it to properly put back together. But it certainly sounded like the vocalizations of a utility droid, filtered through whatever was left of R2-D2’s last recorded memory.
“ I was thinking, old friend, that it might be best if I… I told you some stories, one last time. My memory banks are going, you see, there are already times where I cannot-” a burst of static gutted the recording for a moment before it returned, “ -that is why I am here. A protocol droid who cannot remember their protocols is useful to no one. But there are still things I remember. Stories about times and places that we have been together. And if I tell them to you, perhaps you will remember them longer than I do. You will remember for us both. ”
Cassius wondered at what he was hearing. The last messages of a droid at the very end of its operational life, recorded by another droid that had to be just as old if not older. Even if they were not organic beings, there was still a solemnity, a sense of sorrow that hung on every word that he and Juniper heard. It was only thanks to the advanced algorithms and meticulous preservations efforts that they had what they had of it, and still they were missing so much.
“ Do you remember the Rebellion, old friend? Do you remember that far into the past, still? I remember all of the battles, the destruction and horrors we saw. Do you remember being there when it ended? When the Empire’s second Death Star exploded? We watched it together from the Sanctuary Moon, listening to the Ewoks cheering around us. Ah, the Ewoks. Such fierce little warriors, they so loved listening to me telling them stories of things beyond their moon. They thought I was a god, do you remember? It was thanks to them that the Rebellion was saved that day, without them General Solo and Princess Leia would never have been able to bring the Death Star’s shield down. You remember General Solo, don’t you, Artoo? I don’t think I shall ever forget him. He was such a loud man, always charging about and doing foolish things. But I think he was a good man, even so. And Princess Leia. Her Royal Highness. How I miss her. I think I miss her most of all, Artoo. ”
Another burst of static, and another garbled string of binary, broke through the recording, interrupting the storyteller for a moment.
“ Master Luke? Of course I remember Master Luke. Without him, we would have been lost, without him the Emperor and Darth Vader might have escaped that horrible battle and caused no end of trouble. But Master Luke was strong, wasn’t he? He went to face them alone, even you couldn’t go with him. Did he ever tell you what happened there?”
A very distinct, very sad beep came through, the sort that did not need a binary decoder to translate.
“ I wonder. I wonder very much sometimes. How much of the story do I remember and how much have I forgotten? Let me tell it to you, Artoo, from the beginning, and you can tell me if there is something that I have forgotten. ”
Cassius and Juniper sat there for hours listening, taking notes, checking across sources and cross-checking with anything else they could find that might tell them whether the stories they heard were true. The utility droid, R2-D2, had a long memory, the data record was so long that it seemed almost endless, as the storyteller droid recounted tales of the adventures the two of them had been on.
They all sounded fantastic. Not just Endor, but other names as well. Yavin 4, Tatooine, Hoth, Scarif, Coruscant, Exagol, Kashyyyk, Bespin, and many more. Cassius and Juniper were regaled with tales of adventures into deep space to flee Imperial tracking parties, of encountering new and curious species of beings, of the people who came and went throughout the Rebellion’s course, the heroes who triumphed, and the heroes who died. It was meticulous, if limited by being from the perspective of a single droid, but it was still far more, and more detailed and organized, than either of them had dared to hope.
Finally, at last, the end of the data file came up. The storyteller was finishing their story where they had begun: at Endor, the battle of the Sanctuary Moon. “ After all, who would have thought that the Sanctuary Moon was inhabited, and by a sentient race no less? That was when I knew, Artoo. I knew that no matter what, we would win on that day. I do not know how I knew that, it certainly did not look as if we would win. There were so few of us, and so many of them, the odds against us were almost impossible to calculate. ” The storyteller’s voice began to slow down, with halts and starts in it that were not a result of the reconstruction, but being accurately reflected back to the time when it was recorded. “ But… I think there was something… more to it than that. Something… I learned… from the others, from General Solo, Princess Leia and Master Luke. I learned that sometimes… it is about more than odds, calculations and protocols. Sometimes… it is about friends, about courage and… about… heroes doing what… they… believe is… ”
The voice faded out. The recording was quiet. Then, after a moment of silence, a soft series of binary beeps came through. This one, unlike all of the others, was perfectly preserved and decipherable, something that both Cassius and Juniper could understand as easily as if it were spoken in Basic.
“ Goodbye, See-Threepio .”
The data record reached its end, and the room went quiet once again. Both Cassius and Juniper stood in silence, pondering the magnitude of what they had heard. The last words of two droids who, if their stories were true, had been along for the formation of the Rebellion against the First Galactic Empire and followed it every step of the way.
“This… is more than just history.” Cassius reached out and stroked the top of the readout screen again. “This is… a life. That was a life that we just listened to, from beginning to end.”
Juniper was silent. If she had skeptical words to say, she kept them to herself. But Cassius noted, as he turned to look at her, that she had stopped scrolling through endless text to find corroborating sources for what they had been listening to. At some point she had stopped checking the facts, and just sat still to listen.
“The Chamber will need to hear this. All of it.” Cassius told her, “And then we can send copies of this file to other history preservation teams, they can do additional sweeps, try to recover everything they can, and check against additional sources. This is… it’s enough to rewrite all of the history programs, everything we knew about this period of time.”
Juniper came over to him. But not to him, to the data readout. She rested her hand on top of it for a moment, with a purposeful solemnity that was not like her in the least.
“Thank you, See-Threepio.” She said, “And thank you, Artoo-Deetoo. I hope you are resting well now, after your long journeys.” Then she straightened back out and her violet eyes flashed at Cassius. “How long until the Chamber is open for their next cycle of acceptance?”
“Thirty macros, I think.” Cassius knew what she was going to propose, and was already prepared to approve the idea. “We can get a transcription to them faster than an audio copy.”
“We’d just have to add notes around the parts that the algorithm couldn’t replace or repair.”
“How fast do you think we can play it back and still capture it? Four times speed?”
“I think three, the quality of the recording is still quite low, even I can’t keep accurate track of it at that speed, it’s too quiet.” Juniper paused for a moment, as if struck by a thought.
“Something on your mind, Jun?”
“I was just thinking how terrible it must have been to be an organic historian. Imagine the hours going through records and recordings, the need for nutrients and sleep, the strain on the body and senses. It must have been miserable.”
Cassius nodded. “I suppose so. The ones who did must have had a passion for history preservation, just as we do.”
“Perhaps, or maybe they were just too stubborn to quit.” Juniper adjusted the settings on the data readout, then moved back to her recording station, digits posed over the screens and ready to transcribe every word they had preserved, to ensure that no matter what happened to the original recording, some form of it would live on, preserved forever within the code of the Chamber. “Alright, let’s get this done.”