This, Doublo thinks, is what freedom feels like.
There was some trouble at the beginning, but they quickly moved past it. BeeKay firmly informed them all that no arguments needed to be had about who got to launch the armor into hyperspace, because it was only fair that they each got to eject – reject – their facelessness one by one. It was not, BeeKay informed them all, only slightly leaning into Sixteen, something that any of them should be left out of. All of them and each of them, or none of them at all, she said, and that was that.
Doublo goes first, because it was her idea, and she's the only one with all her armor completely removed anyway. She stacks her armor as neatly as she can in the eject port, with hands that are almost shaking too much to manage.
Nobody tells her that she's taking too long and Doublo thinks it's because they understand what a big thing it is to place her helmet – still with the scuffs from being knocked into a wall – on top of the pile, facing her with its big, empty eyes. Nobody reaches out to help her stand, either, and none of her bunkmates say a word as Doublo stumbles to the control panel and closes the hatch with a shaking, clammy hand. Their ship is utterly silent as Doublo's Stormtrooper armor disappears behind a door.
Maybe it's because what she's about to do scares them as much as it terrifies her.
This, Doublo thinks fearfully, is what freedom feels like.
She takes a deep breath, one that makes her ribs shudder and chest squeeze, and doesn't press the button so much as she falls onto it. Doublo feels as though her entire being, everything that she is inside this thing that's always stayed under the armor, just... leans. It's entirely conscious and feels anything but, and Doublo cannot think at all as she hears the indescribable, overwhelming sound of her complete, overdue rejection... her rebellion.
This, Doublo thinks dazedly, is what freedom feels like.
At the moment of their escape, she felt like too much of everything at once. There was the rush of adrenaline, fear for her commanding officer and getting caught, confusion at the purpose of the data droid, excitement at making it entirely out, and so many other things. But after... sitting on a quiet ship, waiting in a space in between spaces, when the everything feeling was gone and she was left with nothing out of the ordinary, she was also left wondering why freedom felt disappointingly so much like its opposite. Even once she calmed down, the galaxy should have been so much different.
But she thinks she gets it now. She will always be contained by her limits and the conditions of the galaxy she exists in, and she will forever remember the designation of JN-1500 for as long as she lives, especially with a First Order death warrant on her head for treason. There will always be dangerous terms to her existence and threats that will never go away. Freedom isn't a possession that only Finn was lucky enough to get while all the rest were the First Order's possessions; Finn will always be hunted by the First Order, that is the price of his freedom and it is the price of hers too. They both chose to pay that price, knowing its cost.
The galaxy hasn't changed because she has, but if... if her story reaches enough people like her, maybe she can step up and try to change it.
Freedom is what you do with what little life you have, choosing to face the consequences, Doublo decides as she re-opens the hatch with trembling hands and sees empty space where her helmet and armor should be. Freedom is finally being out from under someone's heavy thumb, a little bit lost and a lot exhilarated and so very, very glad to finally be out. This, right now, is what freedom feels like: taking your chains and throwing them out to be smashed into an asteroid or swallowed by the stars, not knowing what tomorrow brings and being happier about it than you can ever remember being before.
Doublo is the youngest of them, by order of arrival to the bunkroom and by her actual age. By going first, it seems to set the order of that they do this in. Or maybe it's Two and Three that set the order by going next after her, having hastily ripped off their armor and stepped forward before anyone could object. They're the next youngest after her – JM-2002 and JM-2003 to her JN-1500.
Surprisingly, Two and Three don't eject their armor together. For as long as Doublo's known them, Two and Three have done pretty much everything together, save the occasional solo missions that everyone hated because Two-Three separated are awful. But they separate here, without objection or hesitation. BeeKay looks especially approving of this decision, which makes the brothers beam with pride.
All of them and each of them, Doublo remembers happily, or none of them at all, and that was that.
Three goes first and he honestly looks like he's going to pass out, but he still manages to press the button. Two steps forward and knocks into his brother's side in support, arms full of his own armor, staying there until Three takes a shuddering breath, clasps Two's shoulder in thanks, and pushes his brother forward.
Two ejects his armor with a solemn appearance, but as soon as he reopens the hatch and sees it gone, a wide smile immediately overtakes his face. He practically throws himself into Three and they hold each other close for a few moments, easily tight enough to bruise. Then they draw back, grinning, eyes watering, before then turn to One in synchronization, who makes an eep sort of sound.
Two-Three grab One, the fourth youngest of them with the designation of JA-0781, and shove the smaller man forward. And maybe it's that that sets the whole going by order of age thing.
One, hilariously enough, just dumps his armor into the eject port, no attempt at neatness whatsoever, and slams on the button like it'll disappear if he doesn't press it fast enough. Afterwards, he's grinning too, only slightly nervously, and Doublo has never ever seen him look so happy as when BeeKay nods and Two-Three slap him on the back in congratulations.
Sixteen (HB-0116) goes next, his expression serious and his actions restrained, but there's a line of tension in his shoulders that disappears when the hatch opens to his carefully placed armor missing.
GeeVee (GV-1733) steps forward next, actually throwing all her armor into the eject port, piece by piece. They make very satisfying thwacks against the sides; a shoulder piece is thrown so hard that it actually bounces out again and GeeVee is more than happy enough to kick it back inside. Then she shifts her hips, winks at Postcard and Eighteen, and leans on the button looking so delighted that she's about to burst into tears.
Then Gigi (GI-0910) follows her, nobody commenting on the tears already streaming down his face as he steps forward and ejects his armor too. Doublo is pretty sure that she's crying too, now, if the dampness of her cheeks is anything to go by, and she's not the only one.
Postcard (GC-0492) steps up next, patting Gigi on the shoulder, and presses the button with quiet contemplation and the soft awe that he usually reserves for particularly fascinating trees. Eighteen (EM-2218) immediately follows her close friend, strictly efficient in all her movements and suspiciously blank-faced.
And then BeeKay goes, wobbling only slightly as she steps forward, haggard but determined. Her armor is in a pile at her feet and she tosses it gently into the eject port piece by piece. Since she's only using her good arm, it takes awhile, and she takes a moment to stare at her helmet in its dead eyes before she tosses that in too. Then she closes the hatch and they all watch it disappear with an odd sort of feeling, because Doublo is pretty sure that BeeKay's had that same helmet for forever.
But then BeeKay presses the button – taps it, really – and there goes BK-1245... forever.
The hatch opens again and, unsurprisingly, the armor is gone, but they let out a sign of relief anyway, because it's still a little bit surprising. And when BeeKay turns back to them, tired but smiling, Doublo knows, as she smiles back with watery eyes, that this is what freedom feels like.
BeeKay is sitting on her cot, head just above her knees, when Doublo knocks on the door frame. Doublo kind of expected their commanding officer to be sleeping now, after the excitement of rejecting the armor and then the squabbles that came out of ordering them all to pick new clothing. Between the ambassadors' supplies and junk room clothes and a bunch of Stormtroopers who've never been allowed to dress themselves before, it was... an interesting first experience.
BeeKay looks up and immediately snorts. “You look like an overgrown Jawa,” she says.
Doublo lifts her hands slightly to get a better look at the wearable blanket-thing she chose for herself, having just pulled the warm and mostly practical piece of clothing over her blacks. It goes down to her knees, so it kind of looks like she doesn't have hands or arms, but she likes it and could easily fall asleep in its soft, thick folds. It was likely meant for colder desert-wear, which would give some Jawa resemblance, and the hood probably makes it even worse, so Doublo yanks it down.
“At least I don't look like a transport pilot,” Doublo replies, stepping fully into the room.
BeeKay looks down at her new clothing automatically and grimaces, because she did more or less the same thing as Doublo. BeeKay pulled a red coat with golden lines over her blacks and then threw a white scarf over that. She looks good in those colors, but she also looks like she should maybe be an attendant to an Inner Rim ambassador, at least if she changed her trousers and boots.
“Well... at least you're conservatively covered,” BeeKay sighs. “And practical and inconspicuous.”
Unlike GeeVee, who found a skimpy, orange monstrosity that bares a lot of midriff and leg, and is the only one to have gotten rid of her Stormtrooper boots by finding shoes in her size. They're bright red and she can barely walk on the knife-like heels, but she refuses to take them off. Doublo is pretty sure that the only reason BeeKay hasn't forced her to take them off is because GeeVee, though incapable of walking, can still kick and kick hard, and those shoes look dangerous.
“Two and Three go poof when they move,” Doublo volunteers, because it's true. The brothers found these over-sized suits, colorful and shiny, with arms and legs that look stuffed with fluff.
BeeKay looks up and grins, then says, “I think Postcard will wear that purple dress for forever.”
“I don't know how to tell One that he's wearing a ship part on his head,” Doublo confesses.
Her commanding officer snorts again, then gestures Doublo forward. “Come in and sit down, you little brat, before Eighteen overhears us and drowns you in her ocean of a coat,” BeeKay says, gesturing to the space beside her that Doublo quickly fills, before continuing, “We won't have a hope of blending in anywhere, but it's good to see you enjoying yourselves.”
“It was... fun,” Doublo agrees with a warm, squeezing feeling in her chest. They look ridiculous, all of them, but it feels so good to wear something with real color and different textures. Doublo has never worn anything with actual color before, and she can't stop running her hands along the tent-cloak thing to feel the fuzz on the inside – it's like the fuzzy hair on her head and it's so cool.
BeeKay doesn't say anything, but Doublo thinks she hears a hum of agreement.
“Thinking of enjoyment,” Doublo says hesitantly, “it looks like the droid's favorite activity is walking up behind someone and then taking offense when she gets bumped into.”
“Even walking trash compactors need to find their fun somehow,” BeeKay answers, giving Doublo a look that flatly informs the younger Trooper that BeeKay knows that's not what Doublo's after.
“...What does... Shrieker... have that's so important?” Doublo asks.
“What kind of stories?”
BeeKay gives Doublo another look. “You can't wait until the others are here? Just go back to your room with One and get some rest, Doublo,” she orders tiredly. “We'll be there soon.”
“BeeKay,” Doublo repeats, because she nearly got shot for that shrieking thing and BeeKay actually got shot for that shrieking thing. “What kind of stories?”
“...No, of course you can't wait... you little shit,” BeeKay says, more to herself than Doublo. “You have the most impatient and reckless curiosity out of all of us.” She looks at Doublo next to her with that fond, gentle smile again. “What kind of stories do you think Shrieker has?”
Doublo thinks about it. “Does she have any People Stories?” she asks quietly.
BeeKay's gentle smile becomes a slightly smug grin. “Detailed profiles and other files on anyone of significance that Shrieker could get her nonexistent hands on,” she answers, restrained but proud. “Couldn't really reach the supremely high higher-ups, but she knows more about the shit base commander with the now broken face than he does.”
“...Thing Stories?” Doublo manages, unable to come up with an actual response to that revelation.
“Weapons and ship blueprints and more,” BeeKay answers without missing a beat.
“Base locations and layouts across the galaxy.”
“Explicitly detailed First Order operations ready to be read.”
“...Oh my hell,” is all Doublo can say to that, and she promptly sticks her head between her knees to see if the world makes more sense upside down. It doesn't really, but the warm folds of her wearable blanket-thing are comforting against the knowledge that BeeKay has basically stolen the blueprints to the First Order's body and a lot its galactic-wide inner workings.
Doublo had more or less guessed that was it, but being right isn't as nice as she thought it might be. That kind of information loss is terrifying, far more immediately damaging and dangerous than Finn's defection or Doublo's Story of Finn.
“I don't think I need to tell you who I'm going to sell it to,” BeeKay says, and she's right, she doesn't. “I don't know how the others are going to react to this, because switching sides entirely is different to running away, but I think this is our best option. The Resistance is currently busy assisting New Republic refugees, what few of them there are – for Shrieker's data, they'll help us find new lives... probably. And they'll use the information far better than random gangs or pirates.”
The Resistance, Doublo thinks breathlessly. They really are going to be like Finn. Oh... wow.
“They helped one ex-Stormtrooper,” BeeKay says, calm but uncertain yet hopeful, “so I think they'll help some more of us. They say their General has a fearsome eye for seeing the truth in things so... I hope... that she sees the truth in us.”
The General, Doublo thinks helplessly. Oh no, she can't meet the Resistance's General, not without immediately keeling over from a sudden disappearance of her ability to breathe. That woman is one of the only people that the First Order just wants dead – she could give them endless amounts of useful information, but she's too dangerous. She led the Rebellion against the Galactic Empire and founded the Resistance against the First Order, and Far-Hand Stories and popular rumor say that she's a Jedi Master with terrible mind powers too. If the First Order despises and is afraid of anyone, it's the Resistance General, and Doublo is pretty sure she won't be functional in front of that woman.
And, oh hell, the Resistance. That's where Finn is. They could meet Finn.
A warm hand settles on Doublo's back and stays there, stroking gently back and forth while Doublo attempts to regulate her breathing. It's familiar and comforting, especially coming from her trusted commanding officer, and it's far less painful than getting slammed into a wall or getting a hard knock to the helmet too.
“I can't tell whether my plan is too good or really this bad,” BeeKay says.
Doublo takes a shuddering breath and sits up, BeeKay's hand sliding from her back to her shoulders. “It's a good plan,” she says, rubbing her hands over the bumpy skin of her face, “it's just... wow.”
BeeKay makes a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sigh. “Yes, it's that. We didn't manage to reach any of the supreme higher-ups or bases, but... it's still a lot – especially compared to previous leaks – enough to cripple them for a long time, at least.”
“So... we're going to join the Resistance, then?” Doublo asks, honestly curious and slightly excited.
BeeKay gives her a sharp look. “I'm going to join the Resistance,” she clarifies firmly. “I'm going to fight the First Order in whatever way I can, even if they only let me mop the floors. After we get there, you can all decide for yourselves what you're going to do – in your own time and after much thoughtful consideration.”
Okay, sure, but Doublo is definitely joining the Resistance as soon as is actually possible. Now that BeeKay has more or less suggested that as an actual option, Doublo can't think of doing anything else – not anything that would be as meaningful, and what was her treason if not fighting back? She wants to live and fight and be just like Finn – just like BeeKay – even if she has to face the fearsome Resistance General to do it.
But... Doublo is a little surprised that BeeKay seems so... vehement about this path.
“Alright,” Doublo agrees readily, which she can tell BeeKay doesn't actually believe for an instant. “But... BeeKay, just... why?”
BeeKay makes another laughing sigh. “Because it had to be done?” she suggests, before groaning and leaning back some, her arm moving farther around Doublo's shoulders. “I guess because it just seems... right. I've been feeling this for awhile, well... not this. I've been feeling that the First Order isn't right for awhile, without knowing what right was.
“I have been a Stormtrooper for as long as I can remember, Doublo,” BeeKay says quietly. “I haven't seen much combat, but I have seen more violence than I care to remember. Despite all the 'conditioning', I have seen and heard the First Order do terrible, unreasonable things. Causing horrible fear for the sake of fear and killing for the most minor of infractions, despite the far larger benefits of mercy.”
BeeKay sighs and leans forward again, rubbing her other hand over her face. “I don't want to live this half-life anymore and I don't want anyone else to have to live it. Did-” BeeKay's voice breaks slightly here, which is the most horrifying sound that Doublo's ever heard. “Did you hear that they started training a new batch of AA Troopers a while back?”
Doublo shakes her head, now convinced that this is the most horrible thing she's ever heard. After the death of the New Republic and BeeKay getting shot, of course. That means the AA Troopers have either all died or been dismissed, and there's a new bunch of young cadets, who know nothing but what they've been told by the First Order, getting ready to replace thousands of people who have died without ever really living. Which is perhaps even more sad than it is horrible.
“I want to really be the last BK Stormtrooper,” BeeKay says quietly, pulling her arm off of Doublo and clenching her fists tight with terrible, barely-contained rage. “No more after me. Never again.”
With that amount of surety in her voice, Doublo can see that becoming reality – can see the determination that will fracture the First Order's chain to pieces. Though BeeKay says she does not have much on the supreme of the higher-ups, Doublo would like to see the First Order operate when their maintenance falls and their nutrition supply is sabotaged and their sanitation and transit workers too decide no more. Doublo would like to see them go to war when all that supports them falls out from underneath them, courtesy of the people they used to consider nameless, faceless pieces of wall. That they stood on to raise themselves high.
Finn, with his bravery, has forged the pathway. Finn's defection is making cracks in the First Order, deep and scarring, which Doublo knows because they run directly through the center of all that she is. And now BeeKay is going to take those cracks and tear them apart, piece by piece, until the First Order falls under its own, greedy weight. BeeKay will break them entirely.
“Oh,” says Doublo, which doesn't feel like nearly enough.
“...Yeah,” BeeKay agrees.
A silence slips in between them, while Doublo thinks about the stories that are happening now. She's been doubting that the Far-Hand Stories were over – how could they be when all their subjects still remain, free and fighting? The Resistance General stands as strong as ever, continuing on to rescue the remnants of the New Republic while the First Order scrambles back at the death of Starkiller Base. The First Order ultimately remains, but so do people like Finn and the Jakku girl to fight them.
Will their story entwine with these new Far-Hand Stories? Doublo thinks that they must, even as a small tangent that is not elaborated on often. Someone out there is going to remember this treason that they've done; someone out there is going to remember the Story of Finn and wonder who wrote it; someone out there is going to remember the Stormtrooper once designated as BK-1245.
If Doublo's commanding offi- friend... friend? Friend. If Doublo's friend has her way, then lots of someones will remember BeeKay, the ex-Stormtrooper who stole away the tools (and people) that the First Order thoughtlessly stands on to pull itself up so high.
“BeeKay?” Doublo asks finally.
“...Why didn't you do this before?”
Doublo wrings her hands in the soft fabric of her blanket-cloak, trying desperately to figure out how to phrase what she's asking here. She winces slightly at the phrasing of her first attempt, hoping that BeeKay knows she doesn't mean it in a way that points blame at anyone.
“It's just... you could have left a long time ago,” Doublo says, feeling confused and slightly helpless as she thinks on this more. “You had the supplies and the information and... you could have escaped the First Order a lot time ago, if you felt that way. You're more than clever enough and... and you could have left when Sunshine and DeeDee and... and Ib were still alive.”
“But if I left with the first opportunity then I never would have met you, Doublo. I couldn't have that.”
Doublo scowls at BeeKay's cheery tone. “BeeKay...”
BeeKay looks at her and grins, before adopting a more serious expression. “Escape,” she begins, before sighing and beginning again, “escape... fighting back... all that treason... I suppose that it just... it just didn't really occur to me before.”
Doublo looks into BeeKay's dark eyes and self-conscious expression.
Before Finn, she realizes.
“Terrible excuse, isn't it?” BeeKay comments.
“No,” Doublo answers, even though she knows BeeKay wasn't really asking a question. “It didn't occur to me before either." She considers it for another moment, then decides, "I think... I think it's hard to know something you've never been taught.”
BeeKay's smile becomes a shade more real. “...Well said, brat,” she says, before a strange expression overtakes her face. It is one that Doublo cannot really place, although it does not look bad.
“What is it?” Doublo asks.
“I am glad to be leaving behind my designation,” BeeKay answers, before looking intensely at Doublo. “Have you chosen a name yet?”
Doublo nearly topples off the cot. “What?”
BeeKay looks like she wants to laugh at her, although she very kindly doesn't. “A name,” she repeats, smiling – a shock of white teeth against her dark face. “If any of us have thought about names, I'd think it would be the little shit obsessed with stories far bigger than she is. Am I right?”
She's... not wrong.
Doublo has been contemplating names ever since she first heard that a Stormtrooper turned FN-2187 into Finn. But to admit to the First Order would have meant her death, and even the thought of admitting anything to her bunkmates made her feel like a fool. Thinking about a name was a very secret, very precious thought that she kept very, very close to her, inside her armor and tight enough to be entirely inside her chest.
“...Yes,” Doublo admits, so quietly she's not even sure she said anything.
BeeKay smiles, looking away for a moment to say, “Well, it's good to know that I can still predict you, after that story mess.” Then she looks back at Doublo, intense and achingly understanding. “I knew I couldn't be the only one thinking about names.”
Doublo gapes at the older woman.
BeeKay lifts a hand to close Doublo's jaw shut, which happens with a snap that makes BeeKay snort before saying, “Between making an escape with Shrieker and keeping you all in line and out of trouble, I still had some time for myself, you know.”
BeeKay leans back and holds out a hand, waiting until Doublo finally clues in and shakily takes it. Then BeeKay looks her square in the eye with an expression that Doublo doesn't know what to make of but feels from the squeeze in her chest to the ends of her toes, especially as BeeKay shakes the hand like a proper introduction between two higher-ups exchanging greetings. Like they're really proper people, meeting each other for the first time.
“Hello,” BeeKay says, eyes watery and voice breaking, but continuing anyway. “My name is Bekka.”
Doublo's breath catches in her throat, shaking the hand again because she couldn't speak. She couldn't describe all the ways that that name sounded absolutely perfect in absolutely every way.
This is what freedom feels like.
“Hi, Bekka,” she replies quietly. “My name is Joon.”
~ END ~