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The Story of Finn

Chapter Text

The only thing Stormtroopers own are stories.

At least, that's how it works in their base, in their bunkroom of messenger pilots. Maybe things work differently for other groups. Maybe they fall asleep in silence, not talking to each other, not even looking at each other. Maybe that's how things would have been for them too, if not for BK-1245.

BK-1245 is old, for a Stormtrooper, though how old is something that no one's dared to ask her. But they checked and there's not a single other BK Trooper left in the whole First Order, just her, lasting against all the life-expectancy statistics, and to ask why she's the only one left feels wrong somehow.

BK-1245 doesn't talk about her old squads, and she's scary when she wants to be.

Stormtroopers aren't meant to be inquisitive anyway, but there's something else keeping them from asking how she did it – how she's stayed alive so long for a First Order soldier – besides respect for a commanding officer and an education forbidding curiosity. It just doesn't feel right.

They think they know the answer already anyway. It's luck. It's sheer dumb luck for you to make it when the Trooper next to you, who you might have grown up next to since you were brought into the First Order, didn't. BK-1245 just has more luck than most, something she's commented more than a time or two.

Well, it's not just that. BK-1245 is also an incredible pilot and a flawless officer. Her bunkroom is without disciplinary issue and there's no faster messenger in the whole First Order, so the First Order hasn't had a reason to dismiss her. She's considered one of their greatest successes by her commanding officer, a compliment that she takes with a nod and a blank face as a good Trooper does.

That's what they do here, in their strategically placed base on an otherwise inhospitable rock, carry messages for more important people than them, data too important to be transmitted but not so important that it can't wait for hyperspace transport. Shipments of food, weapons, ship parts, everything necessary to the First Order imaginable, moves through their base.

It's a link in the chain that the higher-ups probably never think about – a stopover place that never stops moving, never sleeps.

Except that Troopers, for all that they're trained and conditioned for the utmost efficiency, still need sleep. It's a preset amount, and they're never allowed a minute more or less than their allotted period, but it's a time they've managed to make their own, thanks to BK-1245.

 

JN-1500 didn't know what to think when she first walked into her newly assigned bunkroom, and started preparing for her allotted dormancy period only for JM-2002 and JM-2003 to pen her in between them and march her to where the rest of the bunkroom was gathered. They sat her down in a large semi-circle and then sat down on either side of her, looking towards their commanding officer expectantly and not paying her and her confusion any attention whatsoever.

BK-1245 was sitting in the middle of their circle, having removed her armor and helmet and changed into the plain black sleepwear that all of them wore, which didn't look much different from their under-armor wear. JN-1500's first thought was that BK-1245 was so old, all solid and thick with the beginnings of lines around her eyes.

And then that their commanding officer was... pretty. With her smooth dark skin and wide lips and black eyes and hair, BK-1245 is a splash of unexpected color among the monochrome First Order by her appearance alone.

JN-1500 will never forget that first night, because it marked a different kind of memory than the regular training-delivery-repeat. She remembers how BK-1245 looked around the room and the Troopers leaned forward eagerly, how BK-1245 locked eyes with JN-1500 for a moment and smiled, a shock of white teeth against her dark face that JN-1500 hadn't known what to make of then. And how BK-1245 started to speak, eyes on JN-1500 the whole time, and gave JN-1500 her first Second-Hand Story.

“Because we've got a new face with us tonight, I'm going to tell Maolo V Story,” BK-1245 said, in a low and soothing tone that made it the most rich voice JN-1500 had ever heard. So different from barked orders and the monotone exchanges of First Order soldiers. “As a new pilot, I was shipping construction supplies to two new outposts on Maolo V...”

BK-1245's story lasted no more than fifteen minutes, but those fifteen minutes changed JN-1500's life forever. It wasn't a controversial story, though the higher-ups never liked any information to be spread around unnecessarily, or a story that would be told around the galaxy for generations to come, but it made JN-1500's heart act strangely all the same. Because it was... funny.

Funny.

A humorous anecdote about two outpost commanders constantly arguing and seemingly incapable of sharing supplies - though JN-1500 wondered why such silly men had been put in charge of anything - that worked out happily for all parties in the end.

JN-1500 didn't know why she didn't report BK-1245's behavior, which was definitely against regulations and probably grounds for the reconditioning of their entire bunkroom. She reasoned to herself that BK-1245 was her commanding officer and it wasn't her place to attract attention or speak out, and that it had clearly been happening in this bunkroom without issue for quite awhile.

They went to sleep then, twenty minutes into their allotted dormancy period, and JN-1500 spent the next twenty wondering why the story had been told. There seemed little point to such things, as they interrupted limited allotted dormancy periods and the information was completely unnecessary to JN-1500's ability to do her duties. There was no point to it at all.

JN-1500 fell asleep wondering if BK-1245 would do the same again the next night.

 

BK-1245 did.

And again the next night.

And again the night after that.

Every night, BK-1245 told them another story, sometimes two or three. She never went past thirty minutes of interrupted allotted dormancy period, but she made those thirty minutes count.

On the nights that BK-1245 wasn't present, off on a crucial mission that only their leader was deemed fit to handle, or was simply tired, another Trooper would take over and give their own stories. Most weren't nearly as good at telling stories as BK-1245, but JN-1500 listened intently all the same, because every Trooper had unique, interesting tales of their own to tell.

They were messengers, every one of them, selected for their piloting abilities and fast reflexes, showing superior skill in speed flights and evasive maneuvering. They traveled constantly, to many systems, to many other bases and outposts, and had collected many stories.

The ones that transferred from farther bases had been to systems that JN-1500 had never heard of before, would likely never go to, and they could give vivid descriptions of exotic planets. GC-0492, called Postcard after a joke a higher-up made after his first transfer of his total of three, was the best at telling those stories – Place Stories – of seas that never ended, of trees taller than Star Destroyers, and of cities carved into mountains that touched the clouds.

After awhile, reporting what went on their bunkroom became unthinkable.

JN-1500 didn't notice any changes in herself, maybe more than a little intentionally. She went on missions, she delivered data, she did her job without any difficulties – got herself a nickname from her bunkmates, Double-O, or Doublo. Then she came home, removed her helmet and armor, sat herself down between JM-2002 and JM-2003, whom she learned were called Two and Three, and listened to her fellow messengers tell stories.

If she remembered how their activities would not be permitted by the First Order, she made sure not to.

If she noticed that no other base or bunkroom did what they did, she looked the other way.

If she paid more attention to her surroundings on missions, listened more closely to other people's conversations, and started looking for stories of her own, then... well, it didn't interfere with her ability to run messages. So it didn't matter.

There was no need to turn herself and all her bunkmates in for reconditioning. Not Postcard, with his delighted descriptions of colorful fish and beautiful birds. Not Two and Three, with their touchy jockeying and somewhat endearing annoyingness. Not BeeKay, who hooked them in with harmless stories and then put increasingly dangerous ones into their heads, and yet watched over them protectively and forcibly kept them in line and out of suspicion.

No need at all, Doublo tells herself.

The First Order already owns their lives.

 

The only thing Stormtroopers own are stories.

Doublo has many stories now. Second-Hand, Third-Hand, and Fourth-Hand Stories mostly, with some Further-Hands too – even a couple Far-Hands, though they're the same ones everyone has. She has a respectable number of First-Hands to her name, though she's never quite got the hand of telling them or other stories, and they're not very good.

She hasn't found what she's best at yet either. BeeKay is good at everything and has so many stories, though she specializes in Mission Stories best. Postcard (GC-0492), as stated, is good at Place Stories. Two (JM-2002) tends towards People Stories and Three (JM-2003) likes Thing Stories best, and they both say that Doublo will find her sort eventually.

It takes feeling to tell a good story, and sometimes it takes awhile to find the ones you really feel for, their bunkroom agrees. Sometimes it takes awhile for the feeling to build.

Doublo's thought about it, and the thing is that she feels the Far-Hand Stories the best – the ones where nobody knows where they started – the ones that could be called legends or myths. BeeKay says they're real, but she's also warned Doublo that Far-Hand Stories only come once in a lifetime, in small bunches in short bursts after long, long waits.

But still, these are the ones that Doublo really feels. The ones filled with Death Stars and Old Empires and Skywalkers. The ones with smugglers riding Millennium Falcons and princesses commanding Rebellions and Jedi and Sith wielding the mystical Force.

Some Troopers don't like these ones – almost hate them – because they're far more dangerous than Postcard's scenery descriptions and BeeKay's mission anecdotes. Treason of a far more explicit kind than their other Story Circles. They don't want to hear them; they don't believe they're true, they don't want to listen to something that could get them killed, or they're just not comfortable with something that goes against everything the First Order taught them to oppose and destroy.

They're stories rarely told and rarely listened to. Some of Doublo's bunkmates will curl up in their bunks rather than listen, and mutter wondering why they're even told.

Doublo thinks they're told because they have to be, like all of BeeKay's stories and storytelling tradition, though she doesn't know why.

Either she'll die in the line of duty without ever knowing, like several of her bunkmates have since her already, like is her primary duty as a Stormtrooper of the First Order, or...

Or she'll find out one day.

 

There's been a strained feeling in the base for the last while when they first hear the news.

Not of Kylo Ren, not of Starkiller Base finishing construction and being turned towards the Republic, not of Luke Skywalker gone missing, not of the map to him that both the First Order and the Resistance are both searching for – no, they know those things already. They make it their business to know those things, do the storyteller messengers of BeeKay's bunkroom, because it's all they have, really.

The news they hear is that of FN-2187.

He's a defector – a traitor to the First Order. He's not the first, nor will he be the last, and the First Order expects to retrieve him and end him quickly.

The higher-ups have more important things to worry about than the rumors running through the ranks. Stormtroopers aren't supposed to do things like gossip, and have learned to keep the named officers under the impression that they don't. To most of the higher-ups, Stormtroopers might as well be a part of the walls rather than anything sentient, much less alive.

Stormtroopers are everywhere and hear everything, and they often talk to each other, because the only thing that Stormtroopers own are stories.

So the story of FN-2187 spreads quickly, First-Hand Stories, and Postcard returns to their base with a Second-Hand Story, having been making a delivery to the higher-ups on the ship where FN-2187 was assigned when it happened.

Postcard is built as all Stormtroopers are: tall and stocky with muscle. He has pale skin, stubbles of blond over his scalp, and a squashed and scarred sort of face. He looks more like a brawler than a pilot who takes delight in describing fields of exotic flowers. Postcard's not as ancient as BeeKay, but he's definitely one of the senior Troopers in their bunkroom – older than Doublo, Two, and Three at the least – but he's almost jittery with excitement like a nervous Trooper just assigned when he comes in.

Three asked him if he just visited a really amazing new planet with flying oceans or something.

Postcard responded with a story like nothing they'd ever heard before.

FN-2187 went down to Jakku with frequent subjects of People Stories: Kylo Ren and Captain Phasma, on his first mission. For his first mission, they raided a settlement of Resistance Sympathizers for the Map to Luke Skywalker, the infamous religious fanatic and Rebel terrorist. Kylo Ren captured the Resistance's best pilot, then ordered the destruction of the settlement and all who lived there.

Except FN-2187, whose file is marked with officer potential but empathetic tendencies towards weak links, didn't fire a single shot. Not one. His blaster record has been checked again and again, but the result never changes. He never pulled his trigger.

Upon return to base, FN-2187 was marked for review and reconditioning by Captain Phasma, but never reported to his new assignment. Instead, he freed the Resistance pilot, stole a TIE Fighter, dealt severe damage to the Star Destroyer he was escaping from, was shot down over Jakku, and is either dead or missing on the planet's surface. Like the Resistance pilot and the BB-8 droid currently holding the Map to Luke Skywalker.

This is... different. Defection Stories are those of Stormtroopers who are caught, then reviewed, reconditioned, or dismissed by the First Order. Defection Stories are those of Stormtroopers who malfunction like a droid with bad programming and run, only to be hunted down by the First Order and made examples, to die unable to survive on their own, or to just disappear entirely.

What FN-2187 did was... loud. Even when a Stormtrooper defies the First Order, they don't so openly defy the First Order. They defect quietly and hope to hell no one notices. But FN-2187 went out with a bang. Literally.

“Traitor,” some Troopers growl, since they're all trained from birth to obey, reject the idea of doing anything else, and to enforce obedience in everyone else.

Their bunkroom doesn't dare, though. It would be incredibly hypocritical, even if what they do isn't so explicit as what FN-2187 did. Doublo isn't sure that she could get that hateful vitriol into her voice, so like a good Stormtrooper, she doesn't say anything.

She's still not sure why BeeKay's bunkroom hasn't all been dismissed for spreading Resistance propaganda, but she's not going to be the one to reveal them. She's not going to damn her bunkmates and stop the only part of her life that she actually looks forward to.

“But why did he do it?” some others ask each other, confused and helpless. “But why?”

“Maybe he was a Resistance plant?” someone suggests, but that's quickly shot down as incorrect.

FN-2187 was a Stormtrooper, trained and raised, no different from any of them. He was taken from a place that many others were and educated through the exact same program. He ran the same procedures and took the same tests, was quick to obey and quicker to learn. Brilliant soldier. Top of his training group in most if not all skills; he was a cadet who was going places, as far as Troopers can go, and his fellow cadets were probably jealous of him. Just given the way some of them apparently spit his designation and how he never got a nickname of any kind, though most Troopers do.

He had some behavioral problems, but was marked as officer potential nevertheless by Captain Phasma herself. And most Stormtroopers had at least a couple issues that needed to be fixed, that's what conditioning and reconditioning is for, even if some tried to pretend otherwise.

FN-2187 was just the same as all of them, without any prior signs of disobedience. Just another Trooper in the hallways, just another Trooper on the ground, just another Trooper on the training field, that was FN-2187.

Except... when FN-2187 was dropped into his first battle, he wouldn't pull the trigger.

He wouldn't shoot.

He wouldn't kill.

He didn't exactly say no, but...

He said no in the loudest way possible, by breaking Kylo Ren's personal prisoner free, stealing a TIE Fighter, shooting up a hangar bay, and breaking free of the First Order's orders. All that, without any sort of prior indication or obvious reasons; FN-2187 chose not to obey.

“But why?” the Stormtroopers whisper to each other, while the higher-ups ignore them in favor of searching somewhat desperately for more important things than rumors. “But why did he do it?”

Why him? Doublo hears them say without saying it.

What makes him different? Why him and not... just for example... me?

 

Chapter Text

Two (JM-2002) and Three (JM-2003) are an odd pair. They're biologically related and it's obvious just looking at them without their helmets. They have the same brown skin and brown eyes and dark hair, with the same taller than average height, heavy eyelids, and hooked noses.

By all First Order logic, they shouldn't be anywhere near the same system, much less be in the same bunkroom on the same base. But they are, and Doublo knows she's not alone in suspecting that their assignments were interfered with, but since they're perfectly capable and natural pilots, no one wants to risk annoying a higher-up by calling them on it. The higher-ups never see Stormtroopers without their helmets, so since it didn't interfere with anyone's ability to do their job, it didn't matter.

BeeKay says the boys could be twins, given their appearances and the way they seem to move in synchronization. Doublo doesn't know why sharing a womb would grant them some sort of mental connection, but whatever it is, they're a highly coordinated messenger protection team and annoyingly good at penning her in between them and marching her places.

Doublo is a little short for a Stormtrooper and hates being reminded of it, so she usually plants her elbows in their stupid tall guts when they loom over her, declare her too slow, and try to drag her over to the Story Circle. She hasn't missed a single session when she's on base since the first one, so she doesn't know what they're trying to pull there.

She's just come back from another data run when Two and Three pull into the hangar behind her. Doublo raises a hand at them in greeting, checks her ship over, and goes to file her report. She's just sent it off to BeeKay, BeeKay's CO, and the base commander when Two and Three appear and pen in her between them, plugging in their own reports.

“Guess who's got an incredible Second-Hand People Story from Starkiller Base?” Two says, practically brimming with excitement in his armor.

Doublo recalls their mission to be delivering schematics for something-or-other to Starkiller Base, working as decoy and protection for GeeVee (GV-1733), a woman with grayish brown skin and a sharp face, and Eighteen (EM-2218), another woman with pale skin and bright eyes. There's a lot of big names there on Starkiller, like Kylo Ren and General Hux and Captain Phasma – so they all should have come back with some pretty interesting stories.

“GeeVee?” she suggests, shrugging her way to freedom while they're busy processing.

Three looks at her in a disdainful way that she can feel through both their helmets, but she ignores him. She doesn't want to hear it, not right now. The bunkroom is the only place on base where she feels comfortable discussing stories, for obvious reasons. Everywhere outside complete solitude with her bunkmates in an enclosed area is a place for collecting stories only, not for telling them.

“GeeVee is Ship Stories only and you know it! But fine,” Three says grouchily as she walks away. “Then you can hear about FN-2187 with the rest of them!”

Doublo pauses, then turns.

“What?” she says.

“Too late!” Three shouts back, already marching away with Two far faster than is recommended in the base hallway regulations. “Too late, Doublo!”

“Two! Three! Halt!” she demands, hurrying after them as fast as won't get her reprimanded.

It's hard to hear with the helmet, but she's pretty sure she hears Three cackling and Two giggling as they march away from her. Completely inappropriate behavior for Stormtroopers that could be grounds for reconditioning in a stricter base, Doublo thinks viciously, cursing with what few swear words she knows under her breath.

 

FN-2187 lived and his name is Finn.

He survived crashing the TIE Fighter on Jakku, found the BB-8 droid with the Map to Luke Skywalker, stole a ship with an unknown female Jakku scavenger, and his current whereabouts are unknown. Given his rescue of the Resistance pilot prisoner, whose whereabouts are also currently unknown, it is expected that he is attempting to deliver the droid to the Resistance.

FN-2187 lived and he has named himself Finn.

Between his defection and rediscovery, the traitor Stormtrooper gained a name. He took his designation and made it a name, something that Stormtroopers are not meant to have, are never meant to have, and cannot simply gain. Names are for people, and they are tools, not people.

Even through promotion to the highest possible level, a Stormtrooper will never have a name. They are the created tools of the First Order – nameless, faceless, without doubt or defiance. They exist to serve and die, easily replaceable, completely indistinct from each other.

Efficiency numbered, not named.

But FN-2187 lived and though he is not the first Stormtrooper to defect, nor will he be the last, he is the first to have his story whispered from helmet to helmet, from base to base, from system to system. He is the first to defect to the Resistance, that they know of, and the first to have a name.

His name is Finn.

And his story – a People Story – is ongoing.

 

It is not just the storyteller messengers of BeeKay's bunkroom that are telling stories now, not any longer. Which is not unusual, as they are not the only ones to tell stories and have to get their tales from somewhere, but never has it been so completely widespread before. And never so... loud.

The First Order is paying attention to their Stormtroopers now, trying to find the defect in training and education that led to such a disaster. The higher-ups watch what were previously only useful wall decorations with wariness now, as though each and every one of them will be the next to defect.

As though any one of them could be the next FN-2187.

The next Finn.

I could be the next Finn, Doublo thinks as her base commander walks past her more stiffly than he ever has before. He gives her whole squad (Two, Three, Postcard, Eighteen, and GeeVee) a nervous look as BeeKay leads them to run some evasion drills.

I could be the next Finn, Doublo thinks to herself, and never has she been more terrified.

 

“Be silent,” BeeKay orders them one night, rich voice cold and dark eyes colder. “Outside this bunkroom, all you know is that FN-2187 is a defector. As far as you are concerned, traitor is the only name he has. Details of his defection do not concern you.”

BeeKay has told them such things before, to never give any sign that their First Order education is not of the first class that the First Order wants. She is worried for them. Worried that the First Order's new watchfulness and wariness will see one if not all of her subordinates instantly dismissed.

That night, she follows her orders up with stories of Stormtroopers made examples. Not just Defection Stories, but Dismissal Stories too, of Troopers who showed too much interest, too much empathy, or just not enough faceless, nameless perfection. Troopers who were therefore immediately and efficiently dismissed from the First Order for being weak links in their imperial chain.

Some might hear it as BeeKay warning them of what it means to betray the First Order and its education, but what she's really doing is warning them of what will be taken as betrayal by the First Order. Do not do these things where they can see, she tells them, because they will kill you for them.

Do not let them think you a failure.

Like Finn.

Like Slip.

It was Eighteen who brought back that story, a Third-Hand Story heard from a Trooper that she used to share base with, who heard it from Zeroes (FN-2000), who was a cadet alongside FN-2187 and FN-2003, Finn and Slip.

Slip (FN-2003) was a Stormtrooper who, according to his fellow cadets, should not have been a Stormtrooper. With a tendency towards badly timed accidents, he should not have made it through training and would not have if not for Finn, who risked mission success to save his inferior fellow cadet.

Captain Phasma was displeased with that, which is why FN-2187's file is marked with that damning negative: empathetic tendencies towards weak links.

Slip died in the raid on Resistance Sympathizers on Jakku, marking Finn's helmet with three bloody fingers when Finn ignored the ongoing mission to stop for his fatally shot fellow. To see if he could save his fellow Trooper one last time.

Do not be like Slip, be without fault in your manner and flaw in your mission, BeeKay doesn't say aloud as she tells her story, the faint lines on her face creased with worry for her subordinate Troopers. Do not be like Finn, be without empathy to the First Order and Resistance alike. Give them no reason to suspect you of defection. No reason to dismiss you.

“You have never heard the name of Finn,” BeeKay reminds them before she turns the lights out. “You are barely aware of the traitorous Stormtrooper designated as FN-2187.”

But even though they all nodded, afraid for their empty lives, reasoning to themselves that this is what the First Order wishes of them anyway – just like how they all excuse their storytelling to there being no apparent danger to it, no interference in their duties - Doublo is sure that she is not the only one who falls asleep with the designation of FN-2187 on her lips.

Tracing his name with her tongue.

Finn.

I could be like you.

 

Under their helmets, their heads are filling with dangerous thoughts and the First Order knows it, though the higher-ups are far more distracted with Starkiller Base and the Map to Luke Skywalker. Traitorous thoughts are turning up inside Stormtrooper helmets, intrusive ideas that they never would have conceived of before FN-2187 – before Finn.

Doublo looks at the blaster at her waist, with which her accuracy is average and which she doesn't use beyond basic drills to stay in acceptable form. She's a pilot, and a messenger pilot at that, who rarely sees combat, but if she's ever suddenly dropped into combat against a settlement of civilians...

She could not fire.

She could not pull the trigger.

She could choose not to eliminate... not to kill.

Just like Finn, who was just like me.

When inspecting her ship, Doublo has seen Two staring towards the wall of TIE Fighters in the hangar until Three nudges to make him stop, so he doesn't attract attention from the base commander or any of the other officers who've gotten jumpy around Stormtroopers lately. Doublo is willing to bet that he's thinking the same thing she does when she looks at a ship now.

He could take that ship.

He could fly far away from the First Order.

He could choose to leave just by taking a ship and going.

Just like Finn, who was just like him.

Postcard and GeeVee were grabbed from ship maintenance the other day by superior officers escorting a prisoner. Ever since the Resistance's best pilot was freed, escaping suspicion by his single Trooper escort, there's been a minimum number of escorts required for prisoner transfers. So Postcard and GeeVee got dragged into helping, and Doublo saw the look that they exchanged, even if they were wearing their helmets.

They could get rid of the other escorts.

They could free the prisoner, sparing them from torture at the hands of raging madmen like Kylo Ren and apathetic commanders like Captain Phasma.

They could choose to help someone they shouldn't: an enemy.

Just like Finn, who was just like them.

But they don't, and they don't say anything even remotely suspicious, like BeeKay told them to. They keep quiet and well-behaved and listen closely for more stories of FN-2187 – Finn – the traitorous Stormtrooper being hunted down by all the First Order, but who hasn't been caught yet. Who's giving them something akin to hope with every day that he stays free.

Whose story they whisper, even forbidden to speak of it, because they all feel this story.

It's a story that's told because it has to be, they all know it.

Finn, the girl from Jakku, and the BB-8 droid are on the Millennium Falcon now, the legendary ship that once made the Kessel Run in 14 parsecs. With smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca, the former once a general of the Old Rebellion, personal friend of General Organa of the Resistance and the infamous Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

It's like a Far-Hand Story, a new one, and Doublo knows that it's real without a doubt. They're real; they're all real, because Finn has found them.

It's true. All of it.

Finn has gone places, is going places, farther than a Trooper could ever go, into stories themselves it seems.

The only thing Stormtroopers own are stories.

Finn can own whatever he wants now.

Finn is almost a story himself now.

And they could do those things too – go down these different paths that they just hadn't seen before.

Make new paths for themselves.

Just like Finn, who was just like me.

 

The Republic is destroyed, and it shouldn't mean much to them – it shouldn't mean anything to them – but it does. They knew it was going to happen, but they're still shocked, still surprised, even though they're Stormtroopers who live only as the First Order allows it, at such a wanton waste of life, at the empty space where a system of planets used to be.

They're respectfully silent that day, because it feels like they should be.

Speaking, acting as though nothing has happened, seems like it would be asking BeeKay how she came to be the only BK Trooper left, how she's survived so long and managed to get some wrinkles at the edges of her eyes. Only about a thousand times worse somehow. In so many ways.

They don't tell stories that night.

When they tell the story the next night, of how the Republic died, it's almost as quiet as the silence.

When they tell the Second-Hand accounts of Starkiller Base lit up, burning the sky of its planet and lighting up an entire system with the deaths of what is suspected to be billions, there is no pride in their voices at being a part of the First Order's outstanding victory. None at all.

They were raised to accept the words of the First Order without question, without hesitance, but they know that an entire system could not have been guilty of being Resistance Sympathizers. Even if the Republic was corrupted by the Resistance, Stormtroopers know well the chain of command – the citizens of those planets had about as much say in Republic or Resistance as the Stormtroopers do the First Order.

And the First Order killed them all, every one of them, without warning or mercy.

Doublo has never felt this before, at least not so overwhelmingly, but she thinks it might be called shame.

“Who will make up their New Empire?” GeeVee demands, her voice and hands shaking. “Who will the First Order order in the end? Will there be no one but Stormtroopers?”

“No one but us,” Eighteen says, like an echo.

Postcard puts his thick arm around GeeVee, tears still running down his face like they have ever since they started, and tucks his scarred face into the curve of her neck. He visited all of those planets, carrying the First Order's later attempts at diplomacy, and has lamented being watched every second, unable to visit the things he glimpsed. Sweeping green fields and swooping cities that he could never tell full Places Stories of because they belong to the Republic.

Belonged, now. Gone, now.

Who were the Stormtroopers who ran the Starkiller Base? Doublo knows there had to be hundreds if not thousands of First Order soldiers working such a massive weapon. Who were the Stormtroopers who were commanded to fire and pulled that trigger?

Did they stop? Did they stop and consider how many lives they were ending? Did their fingers hover above the control and tremble with the weight of what they were about to do? Or were they expressionless under the helmet that kept them faceless? Quick to obey being ordered by the designation that kept them nameless? How? Why?

Why couldn't they stop?

Why couldn't they choose not to pull the trigger?

Why couldn't they be like Finn?

I would, Doublo thinks fiercely as she doesn't sleep that night, like she didn't the last.

I'd refuse to pull the trigger on people who did nothing, she thinks, watching Three, crying quietly, crawl into Two's bunk and hold his brother while Two sobs uncontrollably, unable to keep himself silent even though such sounds and shaking should see him instantly reported for reconditioning.

They're not the only ones. The whole bunkroom is filled with quiet crying, like they're all young cadets again, newly taken into the First Order and longing for something unknown to them.

I'd choose another way, another path, one without death, one without killing, she thinks, watching GeeVee crawl into Postcard's bunk and hold him tight enough to leave bruises while they both cry. Then Eighteen get up to sit on the end of their bunk, just staying there and putting her head between her knees, shuddering like she can't get warm, has a chill down her spine that won't leave her.

Doublo raises a hand to her face and brushes away some of the salty damp that's soaked her cheeks through. She feels like she's a shell of water now, made of leaks that she can't dam.

I'd save them, she thinks so very traitorously as she watches BeeKay just get up and leave the room entirely. I'd choose no to obedience, yes to freedom, and then run there as fast as I could.

I'd be like Finn, who saved his comrades and refused to kill.

Finn, who's still out there, free and fighting.

Finn, who's just like me.

 

Chapter Text

It's BeeKay who comes in with the story, her beautiful skin strangely colorless, and announces to them all that Starkiller Base has been destroyed. The Resistance destroyed the shield around the base, then destroyed the oscillator regulating the destructive power of the weapon, and Starkiller Base tore itself apart and left a sun in its place.

And leading the Resistance... leading the charge... was FN-2187.

Finn.

The stories are wild and everywhere, but BeeKay is good at cutting things down to the truth just by listening to them and she's plugged into the First Order's business like no one else, like no one of her rank should be. First she tells them what her commanding officer told her, an empty pile of nothing, and then she tells them the truth that they're all sitting on the edge of their bunks to hear.

The Jakku girl was captured by Kylo Ren and brought to Starkiller, where he tried to interrogate her for the Map to Luke Skywalker. When Finn's companion was caught, he went to the Resistance and gathered them for an assault on Starkiller Base.

Finn, with Han Solo and Chewbacca, broke through the Starkiller Base shield by making a hyperspace landing on the Millennium Falcon. Finn forced Captain Phasma to take down the Starkiller Base shields and then dropped her down a garbage chute, which is by far the most believable thing BeeKay tells them but also somehow the least. Seriously, he did what?

The Jakku girl broke out and joined them, then they went to destroy the oscillator that was already under attack by Resistance pilots, including the one that Finn saved. Kylo Ren was there and killed Han Solo, but Finn and the Jakku girl still managed to make an opening that was later used by a Resistance pilot to fly into the oscillator and wreck it from the inside.

Finn and the Jakku girl fled, pursued by Kylo Ren. The exact details of what transpired are supposed to be unknown, but Stormtroopers are everywhere and Finn is a story that is all their own, so BeeKay, and her like that she implies exist, might have done a few things that would not be approved of by the First Order to sneak looks of guards and medical-bay confidential reports to the Supreme Leader.

The First Order is doing everything they can to stop stories from getting out, but stories are all a Stormtrooper owns and they've been getting a bit more possessive of them of late.

A bit more rebellious.

They say that to protect his friend, Finn took up the old lightsaber of Luke Skywalker and battled Kylo Ren. They say that he was barely holding his own; they say that he was a natural; they say that Kylo Ren struck him down quickly and easily; they say that an injured Kylo Ren had to call on dark powers of the Force to knock Finn down.

What they know for certain is that Finn fought Kylo Ren in a lightsaber battle, and survived.

They say that to protect him, Finn's friend, the Jakku girl, took up Luke Skywalker's lightsaber and battled Kylo Ren. Finn's friend returned his empathy and fought Kylo Ren - fought and won. The Jakku girl battled Kylo Ren on the breaking Starkiller Base; she beat him back, beat him down, scared him, and scarred him.

For Finn, they say.

Because he's her friend, they say.

“...They can't want us knowing this,” Eighteen says quietly after BeeKay is done.

“They don't,” BeeKay says, grim and clearly terrified under her solemn face. “We're not supposed to know any of it, on pain of instant and unconditional dismissal.”

“Then why did you tell us?” a Trooper demands in horror, Gigi (GI-0910), a dark-skinned male that Doublo does not know well besides his specialty in People Stories and excellent blaster skills.

BeeKay looks him dead in the eye, the same way she did when Doublo heard her first story, though much less kind and with no gentle smile. She has told them enough stories to damn them all dozens of times over. What is one more, her look says chidingly.

“Because it had to be told,” she says.

 

FN-2187 was a Stormtrooper, just like them, who defected to save the Resistance's best pilot and wasn't caught. He chose another path, another life, and got a name. Then Finn went on to join the Resistance, bring them the Map to Luke Skywalker, save the girl who would defeat Kylo Ren, and kill the Starkiller.

He is the single most devastating blow to the First Order in recent history.

For some moments, one of the single most important people in the galaxy.

The single most important person in the galaxy.

The Hero of the Resistance.

And he was a Stormtrooper, just like them.

 

They do not know the name Finn.

They know only that FN-2187 is a first-class traitor to the First Order, and Resistance scum.

They do not know of a girl from Jakku.

They know only that there was a BB-8 droid on Jakku carrying something of great importance.

They do not know how the Starkiller Base was destroyed.

They know only that it was.

Doublo, along with all of her bunkmates, are stellar Stormtroopers. They speak only when spoken to, they obey all orders immediately, and their sole duty is to the First Order above all else. That is their only concern – information outside of that necessary to their current mission is not their concern and they have no desire to learn it.

They would never risk a mission to assist a fallen comrade.

They will fulfill a mission at all costs, even that of their life, which belongs to the First Order.

They would never spare a Resistance Sympathizer.

They will blast down all in their path with a single order from a superior, even their fellows.

They would never defect.

They will serve the First Order until their death in action or their dismissal.

By the time the higher-ups are satisfied enough to placate themselves that the next Finn will not come from their base, the First Order has finally managed to somewhat cease the stories. Silence is the new friend and constant companion of the Stormtroopers. Unauthorized conversation is prohibited and will be strictly punished, all information outside of that pertaining to one's current mission is unnecessary.

They are not told why, only expected to obey, and they do.

They do not speak of Finn.

They do not speak of anything at all.

BeeKay, who has always cared for their safety despite the dangers that she hides inside their heads, has stopped the Story Circle for the time being. Their bunkroom is dark when BeeKay's commanding officer comes to check on them regularly throughout their allotted dormancy period, neat as a pin and silent as the grave. Under BeeKay's careful watch, there is nothing to see and nothing to hear. For anyone.

And while this goes on, Doublo wonders if the Story of Finn has spread far enough to be told around the galaxy for generations to come. She thinks it should be – a story just as important as a nobody farmboy from Tatooine becoming the leader of the Jedi – even more important, because it is a story about a nobody Stormtrooper from the First Order becoming one of the most important people in the galaxy. That's a story that all Stormtroopers should hear.

They – she and Two and Three and BeeKay and all the others – are in a place where they hear many stories, in a bunkroom full of Troopers who have turned a deaf ear to how they should not tell the stories that they do. They are messengers on a busy base, but what of those who are not so fortunate to have a bunkroom of nosy-minded pilots and a commanding officer like BeeKay?

What of the foot soldiers, like Finn? What of the fighter pilots? What of the guards on distant outposts and the patrolmen on Star Destroyers in distant systems? What of the sanitation staff and maintenance workers and nutrition workers and supply pilots? The links in the chain, who are the suppliers of many of their stories already, that the higher-ups don't bother to think about?

Did they get the chance to hear the Story of Finn?

Probably only parts of it, at most, not the Close-Hand Stories that Doublo has heard. Maybe only bits from the middle, or just the very beginning, and not all of it from start to the end so far.

That's unacceptable, Doublo thinks, spending yet another night in hateful silence.

The story should be told, because it has to be.

It's like the legends of Skywalkers who can bring down Empires, that's what this story is. Doublo can tell; she can feel it; because this is the sort of story that she likes the best, the ones that she really feels for. This is a once in a lifetime thing, that came in small bunches in short bursts after a long, long wait just like BeeKay said – only it's not over yet.

Doublo can't imagine not knowing the Story of Finn now.

Doesn't want to imagine who she'd be without it. Without the Story Circle. Without BeeKay and her bunkmates. Because she knows, doesn't have to imagine, actually, that she'd be one of those Stormtroopers on Starkiller Base who pulled the trigger on a star system without blinking an eye.

So she chooses, right then and there, awake far too far into her allotted dormancy period, in a small bunk in a dark room on a base strategically placed in the middle of nowhere, to do what she can. Under the watchful eyes of the First Order, apathetic and merciless and with a gun pointed at any one of them who looks like they could be another defector, she'll probably die for it, but...

That's okay.

She's going to be like Finn.

 

It takes her a week, in total.

Doublo steals a datapad, a simple note-taking device, and dismantles it, removing any possibility of its owner (an officer passing through their base on salvage supervising business) from ever finding it and the Trooper who stole it. Then she opens a new document and starts to write, and spends a long, painful week stealing what precious few minutes she can to add to it at every possible moment, constantly looking over her shoulder for anyone who could be watching her do this dangerous thing.

She's very careful about it, not just not getting caught, but the writing of it.

Doublo has never written anything like this before.

All she's written are reports, which are either fill-in-the-blanks or rearrange-the-prewritten-sentences or a combination of both. They don't write down their stories, because that's a level of stupidity and danger that would have had them all dismissed ages ago, so doing so is strange and disorienting.

But she's had this story going over itself again and again in her head ever since she first learned of it, so she holds out against the strangeness and tells it to the screen instead of people. If she has to mumble under her breath a little to help her do that, which she does, it's awful and doesn't help her anxiety over being seen by adding the possibility of being overhead.

Doublo writes down the Story of Finn, all of it as far as she knows, from his beginning with Slip and Zeroes and Nines to his rejoining the Resistance wherever they are. And she writes it in a way that she knows the First Order fears deep in their black, shrunken brains: her story is very subtly biased.

Doublo emphasizes Finn, rather than FN-2187.

She writes about his empathy, how he cared for his comrade cadets and saw his fellow Stormtroopers as brethren rather than tools, and how the First Order hated that.

She writes about his mercy, how he looked at a settlement of civilians with his friend's blood on his helmet and refused to pull his trigger, and how the First Order hated that too.

She writes about his bravery, how he turned away from his ordered reconditioning and defected entirely to save a Resistance pilot, and how the First Order despised him for it.

How he stood up and chose.

She writes about how simple it was for him to defect, how easy it was for him to break a tortured man free, take a TIE Fighter, and leave the First Order. Oh yes, there was danger on this path that none of them had previously considered was there, but the First Order had never considered how much damage a rogue tool could cause because they just decided to, in a choice that took only a second.

Then she writes about his reappearance, and how FN-2187 was then Finn, and refers to him as Finn for the rest of the story. Disguised in a falsely clinical and official tone, mentioning how the First Order does not approve nor recognize this new chosen designation, Doublo recognizes him as Finn, the person, the Stormtrooper who got himself a name.

It's possible for a Stormtrooper to do that, she writes into her story, to choose that: to become a named person instead of a numbered tool. She didn't know that before either, but Finn taught her different. He showed them all.

She writes about Finn meeting and flying with legends, about Finn joining the resistance and going to rescue his friend, about Finn destroying the Starkiller Base shield and oscillator, about Finn standing up against Kylo Ren and being saved in return by his friend.

Doublo takes special care to mention how he was just like them, with the same upbringing and training, and how any and all Stormtroopers have the exact same potential as him. How they all could be like Finn, who wouldn't pull the trigger, who wouldn't kill, who looked at the First Order murdering planets of people who had no say in the Republic or Resistance commanders' actions and made sure that the First Order could never do anything like that again.

It's the most dangerous thing she's ever written, by far, and it almost hurts to hold it.

But she's not done yet.

Doublo is a messenger pilot and she's seen more reports and memos and official documents than she can feasibly list, so it's no struggle for her to make it look somewhat like one of those things. It's still a story, biased towards its person, but she makes it sound like an official widespread informational memo, explaining to the troops the events that have recently happened.

There's even a little bit at the end stating how the First Order doesn't approve of such actions and will destroy any defectors who choose to be like FN-2187 and break free of their designation, like Finn did. Doublo hopes that it won't be taken as discouragement instead of the warning it's meant to be, because the First Order would burn Finn alive if they could and she doesn't want anyone to die like her.

 

At the end of the week, Doublo looks at the finished product in her shaking hand, then takes a deep breath, and takes the next step. The last one, which takes far less time – almost none at all. And while it's intensely stressful, it's incredibly simple as well, almost ridiculously easy, and that's wonderfully exhilarating and horribly frightening all at once.

Doublo enters the base commander's empty office, having waited for the perfect moment in both their schedules for this, and borrows his digital stamp of approval and code patterns and everything else she needs to send out a widespread, completely official message. She's carried enough of the damn things to know how their security works and how to fool it. With the base commander's unknowing assistance, her story will be sent out to every corner of the First Order, an unimportant and completely average informational memo to the lower ranks.

To the Stormtroopers.

She sends it out with the orders to pass it on farther, like is normally done, and to inform all lower First Order soldiers of its contents. This is an example of the dangers of treason and what comes from defying the First Order, and therefore must be spread to warn them away from deviation or defection.

This base, her base, is a stopover center for shipments and messages, so it's not unusual for them to be sending this kind of thing out. Everyone who receives it will assume that they either received it from a higher-up passing through or by their base, or from another base who received it from a higher-up, and pass it on diligently as these bases do – as her base does.

People have been waiting for a full explanation for Starkiller Base for awhile now, and Doublo is giving them that before the First Order can if they were ever going to.

It was a Stormtrooper, and his name is Finn.

She's breathing quickly inside her helmet while the order process, and her heart skips when it's sent. Doublo quickly exits the base commander's office, triple-checking that there is no sign at all that she was here – the man who owns this office switches off the security recording devices because he hates the feeling of being constantly watched, and that mistake is his problem.

Doublo is walking down the hall, away from her crime scene, and she can't quite believe that it was really that easy. She just chose to do it and then she did it and now it's done. Just like that. Just like that! Is this what Finn felt when he took that Resistance pilot and the TIE Fighter?

This... this... everything?

Oh, Doublo can barely breathe and her head feels dizzy inside her helmet! She can't believe that she just did that and now there's no way to undo it. She's only halfway down the hall and the information is already spreading throughout the First Order, landing in commanding officer inboxes to be read to their troops tomorrow morning or tonight before dormancy probably. It's gone now, out of her reach, and out of the First Order's reach too, even if they catch it quickly and realize it's significance.

But no matter what they do, a story can't be untold.

She's going to die for this. The First Order is going to hunt her own, the origin of Resistance Propaganda, and dismiss her instantly if they don't make her a painful example. She's going to die for telling the Story of Finn, probably, unless she grabs a TIE fighter and defects like he did.

Doublo holds her breath passing her first pair of fellow Troopers walking down the halls, and they don't pay her any attention in the slightest. She holds her breath passing the next bunch too, an entire patrol of Troopers that she doesn't know, but they don't pay her any attention either.

She just committed treason of a kind that will make her the example they can't make out of Finn and nobody knows it. Not yet, and that's almost enough to make her giggle. Giggle.

She's just like Finn and they have no idea. She's told the story they're trying their damnedest not to let out and she wants to run down the hallways and shriek, like all the ways a Stormtrooper should never even consider, like the way she was quickly trained out of when she was designated JN-1500.

But Doublo thinks about it, wants to so much, because she's just like Finn!

So high on her own giddiness and cleverness, Doublo has no time to react when she walks into her bunkroom and immediately gets her helmet slammed into the wall, her blaster stolen and sent skidding across the floor and under a bunk. And then slammed again into the wall in an unbreakable hold by powerful, unmerciful hands.

 

Chapter Text

“What the hell did you do, you little shit?”

Doublo blinks through fuzzy eyes and tinted glass at a familiar face, at wide lips made wider in a vicious snarl and dark eyes cold against a warm face.

“BeeKay?”

Doublo gets her helmet slammed against the wall again, which doesn't help her ability to formulate an answer to BeeKay's question at all. She's still trying to shake the swirls out of her eyes, trying to breathe against the plate of armor pressing into her chest, when BeeKay apparently gives up and releases her, letting her drop to the floor with a heavy clunk.

“Get the whole bunkroom in here in the next ten minutes,” BeeKay orders sharply to the two Troopers fearfully watching their exchange. “Eighteen, GeeVee and One are doing ship maintenance. Gigi, Sixteen and Two-Three are coming back from speed drills in two minutes.”

“What about Postcard?” Eighteen asks quietly.

“He's cleaning off that swamp gunk from his data run,” BeeKay snaps back. “Nine minutes and thirty seconds now. Tell anyone who asks that it's a discipline issue and that they'll answer to me if I don't have my subordinates where I want them immediately.”

Doublo forgot just how closely BeeKay watches over them, how she's so plugged into the network of their base that she could make a data droid shriek with envy. She has their schedules memorized, knows even their solo mission parameters inside out, and Three says, only partly joking, that BeeKay can hear the ding of a message entering an inbox before it arrives.

BeeKay probably knew within a minute that Doublo had deviated from her routine.

Without another word, Eighteen and Gigi run past Doublo doubled over on the floor to obey BeeKay's orders. None of them have ever seen BeeKay like this before, all at once cold and furious and unnerved enough to physically act. Not BeeKay, who makes every effort to appear the perfect Stormtrooper outside of their recently ended Story Circles, who's never given them anything worse than a knock to the helmet for little mistakes that could get them reprimanded or reconditioned.

Impatient for Doublo to recover, BeeKay grabs her by the front of her armor and hauls her up.

“Was it you who wrote this pile of shit and sent it out to everyone?” BeeKay demands.

Doublo nods and tries not to throw up in her own helmet.

“What's your plan now?”

Doublo just stares at her. Plan? She didn't actually think she'd get away with her treason, though there was a general idea to take a ship and run. Doublo doesn't have anywhere to go, doesn't have any idea how to survive outside of life under the First Order, and knows therefore that the probability of her successfully defecting the First Order, which is on-edge and on-the-hunt for defectors now, is unlikely.

“You... you don't have a plan now, do you?” BeeKay realizes slowly, eyes widening.

Still dizzy, Doublo nods again.

BeeKay makes a sound of utter disgust and with a powerful heave, basically tosses Doublo down into the nearest bunk. Hard enough to bounce, even though Stormtrooper bunks are in many ways comparable to rocks.

“We're all screwed then,” BeeKay announces to the empty bunkroom, kicking the nearest empty bunk and sending it flipping into its neighbor. “They're going to find out where it came from, who exactly wrote it, and then dismiss everyone on this damn base for good measure! You didn't even have a plan for the after of your actions? Why would you do this?”

Doublo tries to answer, but it comes out as an incoherent mumble. She's pretty sure that BeeKay dented her armor somehow, which while impressive, doesn't exactly make for a Stormtrooper in condition to give their commanding officer a decent report.

“Louder!” BeeKay barks.

Doublo rips off her helmet and tosses it down with a careless thunk, then slowly pulls herself up tall in her seat on Two's bunk – she's not up to standing right this minute, because it seems her legs have finally caught up to what she's done and stopped working – and glares right on back at BeeKay. Face to face and eyes to eyes, like the first night where BeeKay changed her world.

Doublo hardly makes for an intimidating picture, because while she's muscled and stocky like a Stormtrooper has to be, she's young, barely more than cadet, and a little short for a Stormtrooper. She thinks her skull is strangely shaped and her bare fuzz of hair only makes it look stranger. Doublo's round face is unhealthily pale from never seeing the sun without armor, and it's completely covered in red splotches and spots that are nothing like BeeKay's smooth skin.

“Because it had to be told,” Doublo grits out, vision still dazed and stomach still whirling, throwing her commanding officer's own words back in her face.

BeeKay stares at her, long and hard, and then laughs. It's not a beautiful sound – it's not even a pleasant sound – but a harsh and foreign one that Doublo usually hears from the higher-ups that she hopes never to encounter again.

“You stupid little brat,” BeeKay says then, fondly, giving Doublo that gentle smile from the very first time again. “I should have it would be you who finally pushed us over, with the stories you liked.” Then she drops down onto Three's bunk and laughs again. “I guess it won't matter that much if I move my plans up a week early.”

Doublo just blinks stupidly at her commanding officer.

“What?” she says.

BeeKay just smiles at her, wide lips tightly closed, and that doesn't clear up any of Doublo's confusion as to what in the galaxy is going on. The meetings between her helmet and the wall are not helping her here, because plans? What plans? BeeKay had plans?

But before Doublo can ask BeeKay what the helmet that's supposed to be, Postcard bursts into the room in his rest blacks, obviously caught halfway into cleaning himself of swamp gunk; if Stormtroopers got the same luxury of showers that the higher-ups do, he'd be soaking wet. As it is, Doublo notices a suspicious brown stripe on his scarred neck as the door whooshes shut.

“What's happening?” he demands.

BeeKay looks at him, still smiling, and he blinks at her, obviously not expecting such a laid-back grin from a woman who's been rigid with wariness since Starkiller was killed. It probably doesn't help his confusion, just like it doesn't help Doublo's, that Sixteen and Eighteen's bunks got kicked out of where bunkroom regulations say they ought to be.

Once he's done looking about the half-wrecked room, he looks back at BeeKay. “Eighteen said it was really, really, really urgent?” he offers, as though he maybe needs to remind her, his tension evaporating some in his bewilderment.

“Oh, it is,” BeeKay agrees, smiling gently. “We're all defecting.”

Postcard stares at her.

Then he looks at Doublo, who was busy gaping at BeeKay but turns to look at him too.

I have lost all control and all knowledge of everything, her expression probably tells him. Doublo feels confused and helpless and excited and terrified, and has lost all ability to process what little thought the First Order has trained her to be capable of, and then the rest besides.

Postcard looks back at BeeKay.

“...Okay?” he says.

 

Her bunkmates aren't happy about what Doublo's done to say the least. Gigi looks like he wants to throw her out the nearest window for a moment, but no one, not even once, ever makes the suggestion that they should hand her over. And Doublo's pretty sure, or at least hopes, that it's not just because they don't want to be the one to tell the higher-ups what she's done.

Once everyone is rounded up – Two, Three, Postcard, GeeVee, Eighteen, Sixteen, One, and Gigi – BeeKay announces flatly what Doublo's done and then informs them that they're defecting.

All of them.

Several of her bunkmates don't look happy about this either, but that's probably because they're too busy being surprised... shocked... stunned. One (JA-0781), a young and pale male who's the shortest of them next to Doublo, even temporarily looks in danger of needing medical attention.

BeeKay doesn't give any of them time to object, verbally beating them into line by pointing out that it doesn't matter if Doublo runs or gets caught, their bunkroom is going to be investigated from floor to ceiling for Resistance Propaganda or whatever caused Doublo's treason.

With their Story Circle, which itself is treason, going on for as long as it has, not a single one of them would make it out of a First Order investigation without being dismissed. They'll be interrogated, tortured, and only reconditioned and re-educated if they're very, very lucky and the First Order decides their potential usefulness is worth the risk of further defection and treason.

BeeKay doesn't have to say that the First Order isn't taking any risks on that after Finn.

“What do we do?” GeeVee asks fearfully, tucked tight to Postcard's side.

“Defect,” Eighteen answers, only recalling BeeKay's words, not herself determined.

GeeVee reaches out to take Eighteen's hand and demands, “But how?”

“We run,” BeeKay says grimly, smile long-since gone. “We take a ship, we take everything of value that we can get our hands on, and we run. We're smart. We're clever. We can be smart and clever about this and make it out of here before the higher-ups know what hits them.”

The room is silent for awhile. Doublo sits penned between Two and Three, her head in her hands. She didn't think about how her treason would spell out dismissal for her bunkmates. Of course they'd investigate her, bring down all their weight and attention down on the Story Circle, which is everything that BeeKay has done her utmost to avoid and protect them from.

She's killed them all.

“...I know how to deactivate all tracking devices and go completely off the system.”

Doublo looks to her right, towards Two, who's just made an admission that stuns her because it sounds like a suggestion – an offer. He looks back at her, down at her, and then back at the rest of the bunkroom, who are all staring back at him with wide-eyes.

Except for BeeKay, who looks smugger than a higher-up.

And Three, who makes a show of yawning as he says, “So what? I can do that too.”

Doublo looks to her left and gapes at him.

“I don't,” Sixteen says... worriedly? Sixteen (HB-0116) is a brawny man with dark hair and a flat nose and a round face (all just like Doublo, only without spots), who specializes in Thing Stories. He and Doublo have never got on well, mostly because he won't listen to Far-Hand Stories because he thinks them fake, or at least wildly exaggerated.

But maybe that's changed... since Finn.

“That doesn't matter. You don't need to,” BeeKay informs Sixteen coolly. “We're all going together.”

“On the same ship?” GeeVee demands incredulously. “But wouldn't it make more sense to split up? Confuse the trail and make it more difficult to catch us all?”

On either side of her, Two and Three immediately press closer to each other as though they're worried they're going to be torn apart. It's probably subconscious, but that doesn't stop Doublo from pushing back because they're both tall and heavy and squishing her.

“No,” BeeKay answers. “Together. I've spent too much time keeping your helmets in line and too much effort planning an escape for all of us for Doublo to ruin it just by committing treason and forcing our leaving date up to today.”

The whole room stares at BeeKay, even Doublo, who heard something of the like before but still can't believe it. BeeKay was planning a defection for all of them? Since when? But why? And how?

“Besides,” their commanding officer continues, unfazed by their staring, “do any of you have a plan to avoid being shot out of the sky for stealing multiple ships? Then a destination and a plan in mind to actually survive on the outside beyond making it out? Unless, of course, you'd like to crash down on a desert planet and just try your luck.”

Doublo thinks about trying that and immediately inwardly recoils, because she did a data drop on Jakku once, never went anywhere but between her ship and a building, and she kept on finding sand in her armor and inside her blacks for weeks. Granted, she also tripped over a step partly hidden under the sand because their helmets aren't great for peripheral vision, but still, the prospect of possibly going through that again is moderately terrifying.

I don't want to be that much like Finn, she thinks desperately.

BeeKay looks around the room, something triumphant in her stance as she studies them. No one is objecting or speaking up. The faces around the bunkroom – their helmets are discarded in a pile on BeeKay's bunk right now at her insistence before they started this... Defection Circle – are just considering at the moment.

And maybe... a little hopeful.

“Nobody?” BeeKay asks challengingly. “No one wants to question my orders?”

Doublo almost wants to point out that BeeKay is their commanding officer in the First Order only and since all of them are defecting right now, they technically don't have to obey any of her orders. But just as she's thinking that, BeeKay turns a look on her, and Doublo presses her lips tighter together just in case any rogue words try to defect from her brain.

“Good,” says BeeKay. “Now, before we get moving and do this... remember: we can't sit in this room and tell stories anymore, Troopers. We can't. There's no going back to that now, no way out of this but all the way out and I know all of you can feel it.”

Doublo can. Doublo does.

“This safe place isn't a safe place anymore,” BeeKay reminds them, chin raised high, recalling recent nights spent in suspenseful silence under watchful eyes. “So we can stay here and pretend otherwise before we die in horrible pain at the hands of planet killers who don't give a damn about us, or we can go out there, survive, and live. And I don't know about the most of you, but I'm not done collecting or telling stories yet.”

BeeKay looks them all dead in the eyes, one by one.

“I want to live,” she says.

 

BeeKay's plan involves carrying a lot of boxes, boxes that Doublo has actually carried before. Boxes that make Doublo realize that they've all been helping BeeKay with her plan for a while and she just didn't tell them. They didn't ask about it because when a commanding officer tells a Stormtrooper to do grunt labor, that Stormtrooper doesn't even think about it while doing it.

Their base is a shipping and communications base, and they therefore have a lot of storage. They have rooms upon rooms of boxes, moving in and out every day at every hour. Besides the massive rooms that house blocks of food and ship parts that don't stay more than a day before being sent out in different directions, they also get large piles of replacement parts in less busy rooms that get chipped at over several months or even several years. Sometimes it seems like everything in the galaxy moves through their base at some point or another.

They even get things like contraband and stuff confiscated from criminal ships, all of which is sorted neatly in various secure rooms until there's enough of it to ship it out to what they call the 'Waste Base', where it'll get turned into something useful or destroyed. No one goes into these rooms; no one really checks them beyond making sure they're not a fire hazard, since it's basically one step above garbage to the higher-ups. It's apparent that BeeKay has just been helping herself to anything potentially useful for awhile without anyone the wiser.

No one cares about junk.

BeeKay borrowed a spare sanitation storage unit and she's filled it with boxes of potentially valuable stuff from the junk rooms, plus more boxes of things like food, water, weapons, survival gear, and everything and anything a defecting Stormtrooper could wish for. It's all neatly piled and tightly packed away, and clearly the result of a lot of hard work.

BeeKay's plan, Doublo realizes as she gapes at the treasure trove, is a lot better than hers.

She didn't even have a plan.

“Stop staring and get to moving them,” BeeKay orders, apparently able to sense when Doublo is gaping, and gives Doublo a knock to the back of the helmet for good measure. “Take everything to Hangar 3B, Dock 7. Doublo, move boxes into the hallway; One, stand guard by the pile by the dock; Two-Three, move them between locations.”

“What about you?” Doublo blurts before she can stop herself.

BeeKay answers first with another knock to the helmet, then says, “As you can see, these are the shipments necessary to our mission that has been unexpectedly moved up. Observe closely and report the missing object, Troopers.”

Doublo looks around and can't tell. Neither can One, Two, or Three by their silence.

“Unable to identify missing object, sir,” One reports finally.

Even through both their helmets, Doublo can feel BeeKay's look drilling into the side of her head. 

“A ship,” BeeKay informs them. “Thanks to Doublo, we lack that necessary object.”

Oh, Doublo thinks, oh no.

“I'm going with the others to improvise on that part,” BeeKay continues smoothly, sounding completely and utterly unconcerned. She knocks Doublo's helmet again and Doublo just takes it with an accepting wince. “Get to work.”

 

As a Stormtrooper, repetitive grunt work is something that Doublo could do all day because she's done it many times before, for days on end for as long as she can remember. It doesn't take long to get into the groove of work, moving boxes into the hallway so that Two and Three can take them off to Hangar 3B, Dock 7, and the corresponding mindset of mindless motion while thinking about other things. Doublo wordlessly hands boxes off to Two and Three, who wordlessly take them, and she even exchanges nods with the occasional Trooper that passes by.

The first time that happened, Doublo caught herself afterwards and had to take a moment to think about it. She's committed very dangerous treason that could potentially influence the whole First Order, she's committing treason right at this very moment, and a pair of Troopers walked right by as though she was just another Stormtrooper hauling boxes.

Technically, she is, and Stormtroopers hauling stuff – especially official First Order storage units, sealed and labeled – around is hardly a novel sight on their base, but still. She wonders what they'll think of her and her bunkmates' activities in a week, when a bunch of Stormtroopers have just vanished and Doublo's Story of Finn has made the rounds.

While working, she giddily wonders if anyone's read it yet, told it to their subordinates as the memo orders. What will happen now that Doublo's dropped such dangerous ideas into their helmets? How many Stormtroopers out there are learning about Finn, who wouldn't fire and who's just like them, right now? About names and freedom and fighting back and choosing? What will they do with his story?

Doublo then wonders if anyone will hear their story. Will another pilot on their base do a data run and whisper to a nutrition worker about the bunkroom that just upped and disappeared? Will they talk about BK-1245, the Stormtrooper who stole her way to freedom? Along with all her troops?

Will they talk about her? About Doublo? About JN-1500?

The Stormtrooper that told the Story of Finn.

Doublo likes the sound of that. She really likes the sound of that, feels it in her chest and all the way down to her toes. Which is part of why she did it in the first place, and also the reason why BeeKay was so easily able to introduce Doublo's helmet to the wall immediately afterwards.

At the reminder of that, Doublo winces and does her utmost to sober herself, handing another box off to Three and sending him back down the hall again. She has a feeling that if she lets herself get all excited and giddy again, she'll somehow attract attention from the base commander or something else to get them caught, or BeeKay will just slam her helmet-first into a wall again as a lesson to stop doing stupid things like write a bunkroom-damning treason memo without having an escape plan.

She just really didn't think about a time beyond telling Finn's Story. There was a fanciful moment about stealing a TIE Fighter like he did, but that wouldn't work for a very long list of reasons, and plans that can be described in a single sentence don't count as plans. BeeKay says so.

Finn had a Resistance pilot by his side, the best in their whole fleet, when he took that TIE Fighter and there was probably some plan between them. How else did Finn manage to recover the BB-8 droid with the Map to Luke Skywalker and then deliver it to the Resistance?

Some part of Doublo thought that choosing to be like Finn was more or less akin to choosing to die, and she was okay with that. She would rather give her short, pitiful life up for Finn, the temporarily single most important person in the whole galaxy, and his Story that will incite so much in every Stormtrooper that hears it, than to the First Order that claimed her life and her death and gave her a designated number in return.

But the thing is that Finn's Story isn't being told because he died. The Stormtroopers know Finn's name because he defected and then fought back and he survived. They know Finn's name because he lived to go off and protect people and be protected by them in return. They know Finn's name because he joined the Resistance, he helped kill the Starkiller, and he's still living right now.

They know him because he has a name.

His name is Finn.

And his story – a People Story – is ongoing.

Doublo was ready to die, because she thought that's what she was choosing, but she doesn't want that. She accepted it, but now it's looking more and more unacceptable. If she still has to, she would, but... she wants what BeeKay's offering now. She wants to go out and be free with what little family she's found for herself, there to look out for her, to be beside her, to come out to live like people were supposed to live, to fight for the right to exist on their own terms. She thought she'd chosen something to die for, but this is different and she wants different.

She wants people to whisper about BK-1245, the woman who stole Stormtroopers away; about JM-2002 and JM-2003, the brothers who stayed together through everything, about all of them. She wants them to hear the Story of Finn, which seems almost impossible when one took a step back, and then to hear their story too and realize that it's true. All of it.

Doublo wants them to tell the story of JN-1500, the Stormtrooper that told the Story of Finn against the will of the First Order and then chose to follow him down the path he forged for all of them. For them to tell each other that she's still out there, free and fighting, just like Finn.

I want to be like Finn, she realizes. I want to live too

 

 

Chapter Text

Once they run out of boxes, which takes awhile because BeeKay collected a lot of boxes, Doublo follows Two back to Hangar 3B, Dock 7.

Once they get there, it's very good that Doublo is wearing a helmet, because she gapes at the ship that the older Troopers have managed to acquisition. One, Three, and Gigi are loading BeeKay's boxes onto a very nice, very new Lybbartean Cruiser that Eighteen, Sixteen, and GeeVee are visibly prepping for launch. She spots Postcard making himself familiar with the controls in the luxurious cockpit.

Burning with curiosity, she goes over to Three to help him with a particularly large box. “How the hell did BeeKay get a Lybbartean Cruiser?” she hisses at him as they heft it up together, voice thankfully lost among the busy motions of Hangar 3B.

They're stealing a Lybbartean Cruiser in the middle of a half-full hangar? And not a hangar filled with regular food shipments or general ship pieces going out, or even messengers off on data runs, but one filled with expensive, high-tech shipments and crucial, delicate parts of things and higher-ups' personal ships? Why not just punch the base commander in the face while they're at it?

Lybbartean Cruisers are high-end vessels, sleek and fast, visibly armed just enough to claim the weaponry for self-defense purposes only and secretly armed with high-tech weaponry to make it an equal to any average X-Wing or TIE Fighter. It's advertised to comfortably hold about fifteen people, with secret room for hidden cargo and passengers cleverly and efficiently tucked into its deceptive design. They're very, very, very expensive, specially commissioned, and quite the luxurious ships for their relatively small size.

The First Order sends them out as diplomatic vessels carrying First Order ambassadors to various worlds they want something from. If it's an alliance, annexation, treaty, or trade, then the ambassadors onboard deal with the planet's natives. If it's removal (assassination) or information (spying) or aggressive negotiation (extortion), then the ship's hidden ambassadors sneak out to do their planetside business. Usually the two always go hand in hand as the First Order is hardly trusting of even their allies.

Could BeeKay have chosen a more noticeable ship?

“I have no idea and I'm not sure I want to know,” Two grunts back. “Have you seen her?”

“Isn't she here?” Doublo asks as they walk onboard, very confused. She assumed that BeeKay was somewhere onboard, prepping for launch, probably not far from Postcard in the cockpit; where else could BeeKay be?

Two shakes his head and doesn't answer as they have to lower the box into a cargo hold. It takes concentration and cooperation for them to manage it without falling into the floor hold themselves or dropping the box on each other's toes, so that leaves no room for talking.

“No,” Two says once they're done, scratching at his neck like he's itching to take off his helmet. He can't; BeeKay has forbidden them from removing them until further notice. “She said she was going off to see how you were doing and now she's disappeared. She left and nobody knows where she is.”

Doublo feels her heart drop down to her stomach then bounce back up. “What?”

“BeeKay is missing,” Two summarizes, an unintentional note of fear in his voice.

Doublo's heart drops again and she's terrified. Her thoughts have been full of worry for all her bunkmates since she realized the full consequences of her actions – worry that they'll be caught, dragged back to the First Order, forced to their knees, and efficiently dismissed by a firing squad, or worse... pulled apart and reconditioned until they don't even recognize each other.

She's been pushing intrusive thoughts out of her head for hours. Death, pain, torture, she's been pushing them all out of her head – because she doesn't want them to happen and she's not going to let them happen – while simultaneously preparing herself for their very real possibility.

But... abandonment... BeeKay left them?

Doublo hadn't prepared herself for that. She'd never even considered it an option.

BeeKay is BeeKay. She's tall and solid; she's old and strong; she's steady and lasting. BeeKay has been there for as long as Doublo's existed; BeeKay is the one who made Doublo, who took a scared little Stormtrooper designated JN-1500 and gave her the only thing she owns. The old Stormtrooper is the only bit of warm color in a cold, monochrome world, a protective presence of wry humor and hard knocks to the helmet.

BeeKay can't have left them.

She wouldn't.

If she's missing then it's because... because...

“Breathe,” Two reminds her, putting his hands on her shoulders. “Doublo, breathe.

“I... I can't,” Doublo chokes out.

She can't breathe. How could she breathe when this is all because of her? Her story told too early is what has them in this mess, unprepared and running for the chance to live a life. If BeeKay's been caught trying to save them all, then... she's killed BeeKay.

How is she going to live without BeeKay?

“Shit,” Two swears, pulling her farther into the ship and yanking off his helmet. He tosses the white bucket to the side and grabs her helmet, yanking it off too and tossing it aside with his. “Doublo, I'm sure BeeKay is okay, so you have to breathe.

“What's happening?” Eighteen demands, coming around the corner with a piece of wiring in her hand. “Why do you have your helmets off? ...What's wrong with Doublo?”

“I don't know! I told her that BeeKay left and now she's missing and she just stopped breathing!”

Eighteen roughly shoves Two off Doublo and towards the discarded helmets. “You fool. Put your helmet back on immediately and rejoin Three and One. I will handle your mess.” Eighteen grabs Doublo by the shoulders as the male Stormtrooper hurries to obey. “Doublo, you need to stop causing trouble. We cannot afford any attention!”

“But – but BeeKay is – BeeKay-?”

“BeeKay is missing on purpose, you little fool!” Eighteen hisses, giving Doublo's shoulders a hard shake for emphasis. “She has business to attend to and will return. Should she not in an hour, we will leave without her, but you must trust her and not ruin all her hard work any more than you already have!”

Doublo finally looks up to meet Eighteen's eyes. “BeeKay is-?”

“Capable and far more intelligent that you!” Eighteen replies, releasing Doublo and letting the younger Stormtrooper fall back against the wall. She pick up Doublo's helmet and thrusts it into the younger Trooper's stomach. “Now hide your face and try not to tell anymore stories before Postcard and GeeVee can fly us out of here.”

Without another word, Eighteen spins on her heel and walks away, leaving Doublo holding her Stormtrooper helmet in trembling hands. “Postcard, you need to tell the younger Troopers things so they don't panic,” Doublo hears Eighteen inform their comrade in the cockpit.

BeeKay is alive, Doublo thinks, and that's all that matters.

She stares at the helmet in her hands, smooth and colorless and with a small imperfection from where BeeKay smashed her into a wall, and leans heavily against the wall of a Lybbartean Cruiser that is soon to be stolen. Doublo takes a deep breath and reminds herself to trust in BeeKay, and also berates herself for ever thinking that BeeKay could abandon them. BeeKay is old and strong and lasting, and Doublo must trust in her commanding officer's unknown plans and not wind herself up with worry and regret and guilt.

Doublo lifts the helmet, but ends up holding it against her forehead instead of placing it back on her head. There's just... there's just so much that can go wrong. What if someone questions their loading the ship? What if BeeKay is caught in her mysterious business? What if base control refuses to grant them leave access so they can slip away quietly? What if, what if, what if?

She wants to live. She wants everyone to live. Death didn't matter before, not when it was just her with a purpose already completed. Not when the only thing that mattered was telling Finn's Story and she had no way out or hope for survival, but now... surviving matters. And life is so fragile, so vulnerable, so improbable and dangerous.

How the hell did Finn do this?

Doublo pulls her head and helmet apart, then regards the thing that keeps her faceless again. It's a blank, familiar thing, but it's also somehow not and she doesn't want to put it back on. She has to, but she doesn't want to. She never noticed how much easier it was to see, to breathe, without this armored mask weighing down on her neck and shoulders.

But with a firmness that has got her thus far, Doublo places the helmet back on her head and gives a shuddering breath at how small it feels. BeeKay and the other need her not to draw any more attention – the First Order will be watchful enough without them displaying any signs of suspicion.

Finn had to keep wearing his helmet after he rescued the Resistance pilot. Finn had to wear his helmet as he walked a dead man back to life, just until they could reach a ship and fly away. Finn had to wear his helmet to pretend long enough to be able to rip off the helmet and away the designation.

Doublo needs to wear her helmet and keep a clear head, so she doesn't do like Finn and leave a cable attached to the ship or something. (Silly foot soldier, they'd all said, never having taken to space before but trying nevertheless.) Not that she's had anything to do with the ship's preparation so far or likely will; not that GeeVee and Sixteen would ever let anything like that happen.

Take a deep breath, Doublo reminds herself, even though it's hard to breathe in her helmet now.

There is time to spare, only little while yet to wait. There is hope.

Life is a fragile thing, she's learning today, far more fragile than plain existence. She has to be very careful with it, especially since many of the lives she must keep safe do not belong to her. She has made her choice, accidentally made a choice for all her bunkmates, and now she must wait quietly until the time comes to show the world so – her bunkmates' lives are not hers to break, she recognizes that now. They have to survive first, so they can live later.

Just like what Finn did, she tells herself. So she has to be clever and brave now, and patient, so she can be just like Finn.

 

The ship is prepared for a flight, and Doublo and her bunkmates are ready for a fight.

The boxes have all been loaded and locked away, and the ship has been humming with readiness ever since. Postcard and GeeVee are in the cockpit, keeping the engines warm enough to take off at a moment's notice, while Eighteen prowls the ship in a decent but lacking imitation of BeeKay at her most protective, looking ready to deliver a hard knock to anyone whose helmet needs it.

Double, One, Two, and Three are unintentionally doing their best not to give Eighteen a reason, too busy surrounding the screen they've worked out displays feeds from the ship's exterior cameras. Doublo elbowed Two and Three out of the way and has been flicking through feeds for any sign of BeeKay ever since, with One hovering nervously behind her and Two-Three flanking him.

There are only ten minutes left before it is the time that BeeKay told Eighteen was the limit, the sign to leave without her, and even Sixteen and Gigi, guarding the ship's ramp like stellar Stormtrooper statues, are starting to get twitchy. They all want to know: where is BeeKay?

They have the ship to leave and the supplies to last! They're ready to leave and live! Every second that they stay here is another Stormtrooper reading Doublo's Story of Finn, and while that originally filled Doublo with euphoria, it's now filling her with dread. How much longer before a higher-up notices that there is a sickness spreading through their Stormtroopers? An infection meant to cause defection?

How much longer do they have before a higher-up notices that the Lybbartean Cruiser is infested with defectors all on the edge of their treason?

What could BeeKay be doing?

Doublo keeps mindlessly switching between feeds for another minute, then catches a burst of movement that looks like blasterfire before she accidentally clicks past it. She sits bolt upright and switches forward as fast as she can to return to that screen, ignoring the startling of her bunkmates that she causes and not even bothering to elbow away their looming this time.

Doublo lands back on the screen and feels her eyes go wide, because someone's coming their way and they're coming in style and at speed. Some crazy Stormtrooper is driving a loading lift that's had its speed limiters broken, bursting into Hanger 3B with blasterfire following them through the door. The only thing the lift – which is making evasive maneuvers fit for a messenger ship – is carrying is a single data droid – basically a waist-tall black brick that can barely walk – which would be clinging to the Stormtrooper if it had any arms.

“Shit,” Three says.

“What the hell is that?” Two demands.

One just squeaks, and Doublo is silently going to go out on a limb and guess that that's BeeKay.

Doublo jumps up from her seat and runs off the ship, ducking Eighteen's grab and yanking out the blaster at her waist. She skids to a stop at the bottom of the ship's ramp, between Sixteen and Gigi with their own blasters raised, and watches as the uncovered engine of the excellently driven lift is struck by a lucky blaster shot between Docks 4 and 5.

The previously hovering machine drops, slamming heavily into the hanger floor and sending up a shower of sparks as it skids all the way to Dock 6. The Stormtrooper driver tries to maintain some level of control, but it doesn't work, and the sudden shift in momentum and lack of restraints sends them flying out ahead of their transport, all the way to Dock 8. The data droid makes an ear-piercing shriek as it too gets thrust forward, popping out of the crashing lift and getting dumped right in front of it with a clunk as the lift rips to a wrecked stop. The Stormtrooper driver, on the other hand, masterfully rolls themselves to a dizziness stop out by Dock 9.

If this Trooper wanted the complete attention of Hanger 3B, then they have it now.

Other Stormtroopers – guards and foot soldiers, Doublo can tell the type by their larger, deadlier, more capable blasters – come into the hanger, easily wielding their weapons and making good use of their trigger. Their fire concentrates around the crashed lift, which is mercifully providing cover for the shrieking droid, its stubby feet wavering uselessly in the air, and the Stormtrooper painfully pulling themselves up and back towards the droid.

Doublo immediately takes stock of the situation, because it's what she's trained to do even if she got shuffled into the messenger pilots. The rest of the hanger thankfully isn't trying to engage, hurrying to protect their more delicate and expensive cargo or to get various First Order higher-ups out of the line of fire. Or just to get themselves out of the line of fire so they can take stock too.

“Our blasters aren't enough to take them,” she says aloud, trying to figure out a solution to the guards and foot soldiers coming into the hanger. There's a lot of them and only ten of Doublo and her bunkmates, and these Troopers are more trained for battle than they are.

“We have firepower in the ship,” Gigi replies, as though coming to a revelation, one that sparks in Doublo too as she realizes what he's talking about. “Sixteen! Get Two-Three behind the cruiser's guns and the shields up! Doublo, go help BeeKay; I'll cover you! GO!”

Doublo doesn't have to be told twice and throws herself forward off the dock. Gigi's answering fire from Dock 7, which the Troopers in pursuit clearly weren't expecting by the way it makes them momentarily scatter, gives Doublo the opportunity she needs to run and dive behind the cover of the crashed lift. She rolls, which is always difficult and uncomfortable in armor, and comes up helmet to helmet with BeeKay just as she reaches the shrieking droid, clearly panicking in it's overturned state.

“Oh, shut up, you whining menace!” BeeKay tells it, which it seems to ignore completely as it just keeps flailing and wailing, in beeps and whistles, as much as a block with feet can manage. Which isn't very much on the former and a whole bunch of a lot on the latter.

Doublo opens her mouth to ask BeeKay where the hell she's been and why she left them without telling anyone where she was going and why she has a screaming data droid of all things, but that's interrupted as the crashed lift comes under fire again. Doublo immediately crouches lower to the ground and turns to see the Lybbartean Cruiser come under fire, with Gigi returning the favor as much as he can with his single, pilot-issue blaster.

“What the hell is Gigi doing?” BeeKay demands in a growl, ducking farther down under the fire.

What the hell were you doing? Doublo thinks, more than a little angrily, because BeeKay's kept them all waiting and worried for far too long. Doublo doesn't say it aloud only because she's far too used to keeping her responses silent, and she knows better than to get emotionally compromised in the middle of a firefight – they need to leave now and demand stories later; Doublo doesn't want her helmet decorated by bloody fingers too.

“Buying time for Two-Three to get behind the ship's guns! His idea. He's giving me cover to help you,” Doublo snaps back in report, shaking with the need for her commanding officer to issue her an order so they can get out of here.

BeeKay looks at her, inscrutable through the helmet, though Doublo would guess at her being surprised. “Good idea,” BeeKay says. “Grab your end of this whining trash compactor and get ready to run for the ramp when they give us that opening.”

Doublo complies, tucking away her blaster and digging her fingers under the data droid's head - if this thing isn't cussing foully at them then Doublo will eat her boot - as BeeKay does the same by its tiny flailing feet. It's a good thing that these things don't have any real leg, otherwise the frantic droid would have knocked BeeKay across the jaw several times now; BeeKay gives the loud thing a smack to the foot, but that only makes it make another angry, ear-piercing shriek at her.

“Can't we leave it behind?” Doublo demands plaintively, crouched and ready to lift and move. She doesn't understand why BeeKay is risking so much for a machine; so much for slipping away into hyperspace without a second-glance like Doublo had been hoping.

BeeKay makes a harsh bark of laughter. “No. We're taking everything of value that we can get our hands on and this little shrieker is the most valuable thing by far,” she replies. “She's going to buy us a future and I'll be damned if I leave her behind after so much trouble grabbing her in the first place.”

Doublo nods, still not entirely understanding, and turns to check on the ship. The cruiser's guns haven't moved – Two and Three aren't known for being slow, so they probably need to override restrictions keeping weapons from firing in a First Order hanger or something similar. Sixteen and Eighteen have joined Gigi by the ship's ramp, returning what little shots they can against superior weapons and numbers.

Doublo doesn't dare raise her head to check how many Troopers have come in through the hanger doors now. She'll get her head shot off and that's not important; she's a messenger pilot, so firing back at enemies is a problem for protection escorts and her sole focus is delivering the message. Which would be the droid, in this case.

“Where were you?” Doublo demands of her commanding officer, some anger still bottled up behind her chest plate. She was worried that BeeKay was dead and that it was all her fault and BeeKay was busy stealing some panicky droid? Really?

“Distracting the previous owner of our new ship and stealing this shrieker,” BeeKay answers flatly, clearly unimpressed at Doublo's choice of time and place for questions. Then she tilts her head slightly and adds in a much lighter, quite-pleased-with-herself tone, “I had to punch the base commander in the face for her.”

Inside her helmet, Doublo gapes at her commanding officer. Seriously, what the hell was BeeKay thinking?

Doublo opens her mouth to ask just that, but BeeKay's helmet suddenly pops up in alert. “Guns up,” she says, “Get ready to run.” So Doublo shuts her mouth and prepares herself to heft and hurry, trembling with tension as she hears the whir of the cruiser's guns turning.

The consecutive blasts shake the hanger, but Doublo has no time to survey the damage or to soothe her ringing ears, because she and BeeKay are lifting the data droid and running. It's a bit wobbly at first, because BeeKay is taller and probably stronger than Doublo, but they're trained to fall into line and are making their way up onto the raised dock soon enough. They hurry as the successive thunder of massive weapons-fire lays waste to the hanger doors and everything surrounding them.

Huh, they really are just like Finn.

They're up onto Dock 7 now, far more vulnerable to blaster-fire, and headed for the ramp. Thankfully, Sixteen, Eighteen, and Gigi are doing their best to provide cover along with Two and Three. Doublo is fully focused on coordinating with BeeKay and making the delivery, her arms shaking violently from the considerable weight of the heavy droid, when an unexpected shot comes from the other direction and strikes BeeKay's upper body.

One of the other groups in the hanger, it seems, has taken stock and decided to take action.

All Doublo sees is a flash of light and hears BeeKay's cry of pain, then suddenly they're both staggering. BeeKay collapses and Doublo falls backwards, the difference of height making it so BeeKay pretty much drops the full weight of the shrieking data droid on her, and Doublo has all the air crushed out of her lungs before she even knows what's happened.

Doublo wheezes, unable to breathe, unable to see anything but the distant hanger ceiling. The weight of the droid is squishing her and her armor into the floor, and the only thing that she can hear is the heavy boom of weapons-fire and the continuous back-and-forth of blasters.

BeeKay, is all Doublo can think when she can think again at all. Is BeeKay okay?

And then Sixteen is there, hefting the droid off of Doublo and forcing her to get to her feet. Doublo turns her head and sees Eighteen yanking BeeKay up, with BeeKay's arm smoking as she's dragged towards the ramp, before Sixteen's yelling at her to pick up the damn droid again. Doublo, her thoughts squished and lungs pained, obeys and hauls the stupid machine up, wobbling again with the difference in height and strength between her and Sixteen.

They stumble their way to the ramp, just behind Eighteen and BeeKay, with BeeKay slurring something about needing the droid to Eighteen and Gigi providing what cover he can for all of them. As soon as Doublo lurches onto the ramp, she hears One, farther into the ship, yelling for Postcard, then she falls on her butt as Gigi jumps on and shoves her and Sixteen in, the ramp closing with all of them still on it.

The whole ship is shaking, first with the boom of their weapons and the blaster-fire, then also with the rumble of engines as the Lybbartean Cruiser rises into the air.

Sixteen is shouting for Postcard and GeeVee to get them out of here right now. The dropped data droid that BeeKay risked so much for is shrieking and flailing again. Eighteen is forcing BeeKay off into a quarters to check her blasted arm, both of them snapping at each other over the importance of the droid – BeeKay insisting it necessary and Eighteen completely disbelieving. Somewhere deeper into the ship, Two and Three are yelling at each other, loudly debating where to concentrate fire and how to work this new weaponry.

Doublo has very little idea of what is going on now, not having a window to see out of but guessing they were still in the hanger by the continued blaster-fire. She's so wobbly that the only reason she doesn't fall on her ass again while trying to stand up is because of Gigi's steadying hands. He tucks away his blaster and yanks her towards seats, where she immediately buckles up beside One as he and Gigi do the same. It's a little hard with her trembling hands, but it's a pilot's habit, and Gigi grabs her shaking hands and helps her.

“POSTCARD, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING F-?” Sixteen starts to demand in the cockpit's doorway, then gets thrown back as the ship launches forward, followed by GeeVee's yell of, “FOR YOU TO BUCKLE UP, YOU EMPTY-HELMET!”

The ship shudders under continuing assault and Sixteen is quick to obey, buckling himself in next to One just as the ship suddenly launches forward. Doublo clings slightly to her seat and to Gigi's helping hand, ignoring the very unhappy droid on the floor, feeling her heart rise as they do, going forwards and upwards. The shake from blaster-fire gets left behind them and with it, the boom of the weapons and Two-Three's shouting is replaced by excited whoops that mean victory.

They're out of the hanger. And since the base's ground artillery is meant for protection, not for catching a Lybbartean Cruiser in the hands of pilots chosen specifically for their speed and evasion skills, there's no way the base can shoot them down. (This is where they have to not be like Finn.) The base can probably send out ships after them in short order, but they have a significant lead and a really nice ship, so the ships aren't going to catch them either.

...They're out entirely.

“We're out,” Postcard announces from the cockpit awhile later, his voice slightly awed at first and then more than a little bit gleeful. “Punch in the numbers for hyperspace calculations, Gee, and let's blow this nowhere base before they catch up with us.”

“Already ahead of you,” GeeVee replies, sounding giddier than Doublo ever has.

Doublo glances towards the data droid, which has now reverted to a sullen but continuous low beeping, and around for their missing bunkmates. Through a quarters door she manages to spot BeeKay's lower half on a cot, two helmets and various pieces of armor discarded on the floor, and part of Eighteen back; listening carefully, she can hear Eighteen grumbling over having a fool for a commanding officer.

The discarded Stormtrooper armor reminds Doublo of how much she wants to rip off the thing that's kept her a faceless soldier for so long – how she can now. It's when she makes to move that she realizes she and Gigi are still holding hands, which is weird because she doesn't interact much with Gigi and he's gripping her hand like he's trying to break it, and without even realizing he's doing it. Doublo decides not to call him on it, because he's facing forward and seems to be breathing heavily, and maybe it's him that needs the helping hand now.

Doublo uses her free hand to pull off her helmet. She stares at it for a moment, then tosses the horrible thing away from her with more force than is probably necessary and less than she wants to. Watching it thunk against the floor and then roll to a stop, useless and forever discarded, makes her heart want to explode with something she doesn't know how to describe besides exhilaration beyond joy.

They're not the first, and they won't be the last; they likely won't be remembered as dangerously Finn was, and they didn't manage to slip away quietly; but that they've done it at all is what matters.

They did it.

She reaches out and takes One's hand too, which clearly startles him, but he doesn't shake her off. Doublo's glad for that, because she needs both hands holding something so she doesn't... she doesn't even know what she's trying to stop herself from doing, but it feels like it might be absolutely everything at once, and this hand-holding thing feels like it might a good way to prevent that.

“Jump to hyperspace,” Postcard says, “in 5... 4... 3... 2...”

 

 

Chapter Text

One groans. “Someone make it stop,” he pleads desperately, a hand to his head like he was trying to soothe a physical ache. “I don't care how, just somebody make it stop making noise.”

Doublo glances over from the cockpit doorway, where she's been staring out the window at the swirling light of hyperspace, which looks oddly the same in freedom as it did in the First Order. It feels like it should look different, says the swell of everything at once in her chest, but it... doesn't. She wouldn't say as much but... she's slightly disappointed, and glad for a distraction from these thoughts.

The fallen data droid that BeeKay risked so much to rescue has apparently given up on beeping sullenly now that they're in hyperspace, and is now shrieking at its top volume setting like it's being shot at again.

Luckily, Two and Three appear before anyone loses it entirely – GeeVee had been jabbing at buttons with far more force than necessary – and heave the screaming machine back onto its tiny feet to see if that'll make it stop. Once it's standing again, the droid does stop the noise and Doublo is pretty sure that everyone lets out a sigh of relief. Sixteen removes pulls his head out from between his knees and One slumps into his seat, and Doublo is pretty sure that she hears Postcard mumble something that's either a prayer or a curse or both.

Three pulls off his helmet and tucks it under his arm, then smiles and pats the droid's top. “Aw, that's all that was wrong, huh?” he says gently to it, “You just wanted to be set back on your feet again, didn't you? That's-”

In response, the droid screams at him at its top volume setting. Doublo doesn't understand a single bleep of binary, but if that wasn't the droid equivalent of a screamed string of extremely violent curses to one's person and explicit threats about ripping limbs off, then she's not sure what would be. Understandably, Three jumps back, eyes wide, while Two stumbles back and reaches for his blaster like his brother just tried to pet a rathtar instead of a walking, waist-tall block.

Then, point made, the data droid bleeps triumphantly and waddles backward, then performs a large turn, and waddles forward into a corner. With its back to all of them – at least, Doublo is pretty sure that that's the droid's back – it retracts its feet, lowering its bulk to the floor, and stays there with a single, sullen bloop.

“...What the hell was that?” Three demands after a few seconds, retreating from where he'd been attempting to become a part of the walls while in fear for his life. “What's wrong with that thing?”

Two removes his hand from his blaster and yanks off his own helmet, staring at the data droid with apprehension before giving his brother a helpless shrug. He turns towards the other room. “Hey, BeeKay?” he asks, moving to the doorway where Eighteen is attempting to patch up their commanding officer. “What's with this droid?”

The question finally stops the grumbled bickering between Eighteen and BeeKay, and draws Doublo fully away from the hyperspace window, because that's a story she's been wanting to hear too. Sixteen and One both perk up, and Gigi turns away from cleaning his blaster. Even Postcard and GeeVee are finally pulled away from the controls in their curiosity, pulling off their helmets and following Doublo to BeeKay's doorway as Doublo elbows Two and Three out of the way.

BeeKay looks at them all like she can't believe she bothered stealing them from the First Order. She glares especially Doublo, who is valiantly and stubbornly ignoring Two-Three's hisses of pain and 'how the hell do you do that through the armor?'s at the very forefront of them all. Eighteen doesn't even look at the crowd in the doorway and keeps working on the blaster wound on BeeKay's shoulder.

After a few seconds of staring, Doublo can't really take it anymore. “Well?” she asks, folding her arms across her chest like she's seen some higher-ups do when they're particularly unimpressed. It's not comfortable in armor, but it feels good to do something with her arms when she demands, “How the hell is that walking alarm supposed to buy us a future?”

From somewhere out of sight, there's a very offended beep, but only Postcard and One turn to look.

BeeKay sighs and motions for them to stop crowding the doorway with her good hand. “That data droid is IN-340,” BeeKay introduces. “Just before Sixteen arrived, she was infected with a virus of unknown origin that caused her to develop some... personality.”

“Oh, is that what that was?” Three mutters.

“She started hoarding all the data she acquired instead of moving it as necessary,” BeeKay continues, expertly ignoring Three, “and hacking into the systems to gather more data. I only found out because...” BeeKay pauses awkwardly, as though she is inwardly, desperately trying to find a far better phrase for whatever she was doing. “...I just happened across her working.”

Doublo doesn't think she's ever seen Eighteen look less impressed, and that's saying something.

BeeKay avoids her medic's eyes and continues, “I haven't been able to access what the virus really does, but it seems to make her compulsively collect information and be unable to delete anything. Instead of handing her over for repair, I've been reviewing what she gathers and keeping her from overloading her memory banks.”

“Data droids have a lot of memory,” Postcard says in disbelief, to which BeeKay only makes a facial shrug before directing Eighteen to something specific in the medical kit.

“But why did you bring it- her?” GeeVee asks.

Turning back to them, BeeKay explains further, “She's how I've kept an eye on everything – we watch out for each other. When I approached her about leaving, Shrieker helped me skive supplies, found me the space to keep them, and was busy requisitioning us a ship when Doublo ruined our plan.” BeeKay glares flatly at said Stormtrooper then. “She doesn't like you.”

Doublo does her best not to quail under the combined stares of everyone but Eighteen. She managed to hold up – at least mostly – when BeeKay informed them all that Doublo had committed massive treason, so she could stick out now too. Even if the embarrassment over not having an escape plan – and just being prepared to die – had inexplicably gotten much, much stronger.

“Uh... 'Shrieker'?” Doublo manages to squeak out.

BeeKay makes another facial shrug. “IN-340 is a mouthful of a designation.”

“It's apt, at least,” One volunteers, only barely wincing.

“No shit,” Three mutters.

“Alright, so you've brought along a shrieking, hoarding data droid,” Sixteen says, sounding somewhat doubtful still. “Supposedly able to buy us a future, at that. If... Shrieker... helped you do so much, how did you have so much trouble getting it out? And what information is it carrying exactly?”

“The trouble came from acquiring the Lybbartean Cruiser,” BeeKay says with another sigh. “It was the only suitable ship readily available, but of a clearance level that alerted the base commander and... ambassadors onboard when Shrieker requisitioned it. To buy us time to load the ship, Shrieker had to give herself up as an out-of-control droid working alone.”

“So you went to get it- her,” GeeVee finishes understandingly, making BeeKay nod.

“And punched the base commander in the face,” Doublo realizes, wide-eyed, making BeeKay grin like a maniac and everyone else, even Eighteen, visibly startle.

“You did what?” Postcard demands, positively horrified. Maybe a little gleeful, but mostly horrified.

“Well, I would have shoved him down a chute into a trash compactor too,” BeeKay says casually to her stunned subordinates, “but I was busy running for my life from an angry base commander and Lybbartean Cruiser ambassadors with a very slow, very mouthy droid.”

Doublo can't even begin to go into what an accomplishment that is, especially considering what those ambassadors are trained to do. For what is probably at least the fiftieth time today, she is very, very grateful that she has BeeKay here to watch over them and knock them into line.

“As for what Shrieker has,” BeeKay continues with a wry smile, “well, I'd have to say... stories.”

“Stories?” Gigi echoes.

BeeKay nods, opening her mouth to elaborate, but the only sound that comes is a sharp, sudden hiss, and their commanding officer's eyes roll back into her head. BeeKay's head falls back onto the cot and Doublo immediately turns to look at Eighteen, who's lowering a medshot with a vaguely annoyed expression, then begins packing up the medical kit while very obviously ignoring the various glares and stares being directed at her head of ginger fuzz.

“...What the hell, Eighteen?” Three demands finally.

Eighteen glares at him – all of them. “I didn't know she would pass out like that!” she answers chillingly, before backtracking, “Well... I forgot she might react like that.” Then her gaze becomes freezing again. “She can't just walk off a direct blaster hit! She's not a Wookie!”

Well, no, but even with all her fears, Doublo is starting to be convinced that BeeKay is invincible.

“Great going, Eighteen,” Gigi grumbles.

Eighteen glares and GeeVee knocks Gigi's helmet on her close friend's behalf. “Respect your superiors, you empty-helmet fool,” Eighteen snaps. “We have more than enough time to get our answers at a later date.” She looks back at BeeKay, her expression going softer. “Our CO deserves some rest.”

The gathered Troopers grumble at the lack of answers, Doublo included, but no one argues that BeeKay probably deserves at least two dormancy periods worth of rest, or however many their commanding officer decides she wants. Eighteen starts picking up her and BeeKay's discarded armor, making a shooing noise towards the rest of them, and they obligingly, quietly move away.

Only to jump as a horrible shriek cuts through the ship.

“Postcard!” GeeVee hisses, while Eighteen stares death and BeeKay doesn't so much as twitch.

“I didn't mean to!” Postcard whispers back, staring down at the incensed data droid behind him with horror. “She was right behind me!” he insists over Shrieker's offended beeping that is definitely a string of curses and threats, Doublo is sure.

“Just get out and go pilot the ship, you fool!” Eighteen says coldly.

Postcard winces as GeeVee stomps back to the cockpit and everyone gives him and the data droid a wide berth on their way to return to whatever they'd been doing before – which is mostly a whole lot of absolutely nothing. Two and Three practically glue themselves to the walls and Doublo wants to laugh at them as she steps out to stand next to Postcard, whom she knows doesn't know a bleep of binary either but looks very berated nevertheless.

“Hey, little buddy,” he says, crouching down to some very offended beeps at the familiarity. “Sorry for bumping into you. I'm Postcard and it's nice to finally meet you. No hard feelings?”

Doublo covers her mouth at the droid's answer. “I don't think you're going to save your review, Postcard,” she tells him, straining with held-in laughter.

“No shit,” Postcard mumbles, before patting Shrieker on the head. “We can call this a work in progress,” he tells the droid generously, then he quickly stands up and returns to the cockpit before he can catch the brunt of a binary rant to end all binary rants, giving them a farewell salute while walking. It's a very strategic retreat, and leaves an angry droid and giggling Doublo behind him.

Doublo looks down at the ill-tempered data droid, who looks up at her with what feels like shrewd, narrowed eyes even though Shrieker doesn't really have any stand-out eyes on all the buttons on the front of her rectangle. Doublo thinks that BeeKay might have just found the most melodramatic and angry machine in the entire galaxy, which... fits the rest of their bunkroom pretty well, actually.

“Hey,” Doublo says sincerely to the droid. “Thanks for saving us.”

Shrieker's answer, to no one's surprise, is a rude, indignant screech.

“Someone make it stop,” One groans.

 

With nothing else to do, at least that comes immediately to mind, while the ship is in hyperspace and BeeKay is unconscious, Doublo sits back down in her seat and starts removing her armor. The stuff is practical and useful, no argument there, but it's also somewhat uncomfortable when trying to relax. And, Doublo realizes rather suddenly while she's slowly making a bone-white pile at her feet, she just really, really wants the stuff off.

She wants it off now and she wants it off forever. She's no longer a Stormtrooper and she never, ever wants to be associated with the First Order ever again, even to make use of their armor. Her life doesn't belong to them anymore and she's not going to spend another minute of it wearing the mask that keeps her faceless. Not if she can help it.

There's suddenly a loud thump, another angry droid shriek, and Doublo looks over just in time to see Eighteen pulling herself up off the floor. Two-Three take a prudent step back, One puts his head deeper in between his knees, and Sixteen and Gigi do their best to look like they had absolutely nothing to do with Doublo's helmet getting in the way of Eighteen's feet.

“Doublo, you little fool!” Eighteen snaps, kicking Doublo's helmet so it rolls towards the younger Trooper's feet. “Don't leave your discarded armor about for others to trip over! Or at least keep your mess to a single place!”

Doublo winces and scoops up her helmet, setting it neatly next to her chair. “Sorry. What did you do with BeeKay's armor?” she asks, noticing that Eighteen is missing her helmet and most of the armor on her arms, probably for better movement. “And yours?”

“Organized piles by BeeKay's cot,” Eighteen answers, moving towards the cockpit to join her closest friends. “Find somewhere else,” she orders before she disappears through the door.

Doublo looks down at the pile of armor helplessly. She doesn't want to just shove this stuff into a cargo hold, but there aren't any more boxes about – BeeKay and Shrieker probably didn't expect to have any spare stuff, or maybe there wasn't time. But the real thing is, Doublo doesn't want to keep her Stormtrooper armor around. If Doublo had her way, she'd burn the awful white stuff to ash, or just launch it out into space and let a star do the work.

Doublo pauses, considering. Two and Three exchange a look between them and sidle over to her, penning her seat in between them and looming over her in exactly the way she dislikes. Luckily for them, she's too busy thinking to elbow them in their awful, tall guts.

“Got a story, Doublo?” Two asks.

Three snorts, then adds,“Or just another empty-helmet idea?”

Doublo scowls up at him at first, then asks in return, “Does this ship have an eject port?”

 

Needless to say, the senior Troopers in the cockpit are not impressed.

“You want to do what?” Eighteen demands, flicking up a hand when both Doublo and Postcard open their mouths to repeat what Doublo just said. “Never mind, I heard what you said, don't say it again, fool. But why would you want to launch your armor into hyperspace? Why?

“To destroy it really thoroughly?” Doublo offers weakly.

Eighteen just stares, and Two-Three shift where they're flanking Doublo.

“...That does sound fairly appealing,” GeeVee volunteers after several seconds, and Postcard nods in agreement. “And having Stormtrooper armor will be really suspicious.”

“We might need it again,” Eighteen argues, which is a disappointingly logical point. They may need their armor again, to sneak past the First Order, even if Doublo wants to smash hers against a wall and shoot the shards into hyperspace.

“Not where we're going,” Postcard points out.

“Where are we going?” Two wonders, and Doublo realizes that she hasn't actually asked where they were running to. It seemed to be something on a need-to-know before they escaped, and she trusts all of these people with her life – it never occurred to Doublo to doubt where BeeKay was leading them.

“A known smugglers' outpost, just outside of the First Order's territory, if I've recognized the coordinates correctly,” Postcard answers steadily, then he looks at Eighteen again. “We need to clean or ditch this ship and possibly sell some things for credits. BeeKay says the outpost survives because the First Order looks the other way – we don't want the recognition or suspicion that could come if we have Stormtrooper armor. We're either killers or runaways, then.”

“Having a Lybbartean Cruiser is going to be bad enough,” GeeVee says in agreement.

Eighteen frowns and crosses her arms. “I think we should wait for BeeKay to make the call,” she decides.

“Um... guys?” One says from the ship's main area. “BeeKay's, uh, call is for everybody to stop making noise.” They all spin around and see One awkwardly standing by the doorway to BeeKay's room, where he looks at them with an apologetic grimace. “She's, um, awake now, by the way.”

Doublo elbows Two-Three out of her way without regret to stand in the doorway beside One, with Sixteen and Gigi right behind them, easily peering over their short heads at the groggy commanding officer on the cot. BeeKay doesn't look at all rested, or happy, and is glaring at them through barely-opened eyes. If BeeKay were upright right now, everyone would probably be getting a knock to the helmet by that expression. Especially Doublo.

Doublo doesn't mind, though. She's just happy to see BeeKay conscious again.

BeeKay lifts her good arm and runs her hand over her face. “I can't remember anything past falling onto this cot right now,” she grumbles. “Somebody give me a status report and tell me what the hell our problem is with hyperspace.” She points a finger at GeeVee, who's shouldered her way to just behind One and Doublo. “GeeVee, good, you.”

“Everyone accounted for, even the droid – no injuries besides yours,” GeeVee immediately rattles off. “Five hours until we reach our destination. All found trackers were removed prior to departure and we've entered dead mode -” Sometimes Lybbartean Cruisers need to go off the charts. “- just in case. All damage to the ship is purely superficial, from hand-held blasters.”

“Good,” BeeKay breathes. “Now what's this about hyperspace if there's no ship damage?”

“Doublo wants to eject her armor into hyperspace,” GeeVee answers promptly.

Doublo winces, because there wasn't even an attempt there to soften that statement. Then she winces again when BeeKay turns those barely-open eyes on her.

“That'll turn the armor to dust,” she says.

Doublo doesn't know what else to do, not when it comes to BeeKay, so she nods. “Are we going to... need our armor later?” she asks, because if anyone knows what's coming in the future, it's BeeKay. It's her plan that getting them out and alive, after all.

“...No,” BeeKay answers. “It's best that we get rid of it, actually. Any association with the First Order is something we want to avoid entirely now. If, by some accident, we do need Stormtrooper armor, we'll get our hands on some somehow.”

Doublo feels her heart swell in excitement in her chest. “So I can do it?”

BeeKay shrugs with her good shoulder. “Sure. Why not?” she replies. “It'll definitely be effective.”

“But ejecting into hyperspace?” Sixteen demands hesitantly from just behind Doublo. “Is that even safe? Isn't that dangerous? Won't that be dangerous for us somehow?”

“Nope!” Three's cheery voice announces from somewhere farther behind. “I've done it before.”

Doublo blinks at that and even BeeKay looks surprised, as much as she can without letting up on the general crankiness. BeeKay raises her voice as much as she can and demands, “And why the hell were you launching shit into hyperspace, Three?”

“Uh... fun?”

BeeKay drops her head back onto the cot. “Incredible,” she declares.

“Sometimes the longer missions get really, really boring,” Two adds defensively from the other room.

Incredible,” BeeKay repeats, shutting her eyes fully.

There's a brief silence, then Three says, “We were really careful about it.”

“Sorry, BeeKay,” Two adds.

BeeKay opens her eyes. “I don't want to hear any more of this,” she says decisively. “Doublo, One, gather my armor. Sixteen, help me up. Gigi, collect everyone. If we've going to take a page out of Two-Three's book and launch our armor into hyperspace like morons, then we're doing it right and blaster wound or not, I'm not going to be left out of the fun.”

 

 

Chapter Text

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.

“Stories.”

“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.

“Place Stories?”

“Base locations and layouts across the galaxy.”

“...Mission Stories?”

“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.

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.

“Yes?”

“...Why didn't you do this before?”

“What?”

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 ~