The girl almost seems to materialize out of nowhere. A silence seeming to fall as a small hand comes to rest on his arm. "Please, sir monk," a soft voice says, polite as if they were on Coruscant and not surrounded by misery at all sides, "if you would not mind my assistance?"
There is no whisper of the Force, no warning from its depths, but Chirrut knows they have come nonetheless. He tips his head, smiles, and allows the Jedi to propel him forward with a gentle push of the Force.
And then there is a sound of a lightsaber springing to life. It soothes nerves jangled by the weapons fire and allows him to focus once again.
Baze lands at his side a second later, annoyance filling the air in a delightfully reassuring fashion. "Stop smiling," he grumps, "we're still going to die."
"She's Jedi," Chirrut says, with glee. "They have come for us."
"She's a child and I see no mark of Jedi but that saber," Baze opens fire, weapon spitting at the stormtroopers. "For all we know, she's one of Vader's pets. There are rumors you know."
Chirrut turns his head to listen as the girl moves through the stormtroopers. She's quick, efficient, dispatching them with swift strikes. "No, she is Jedi. There were rumors about that too. Survivors. Some of the Council making it off Coruscant. Some thought killed when the Temple fell sighted on worlds all across the Empire."
"She's too young for that," Baze hauls him upright. "You really think there are Jedi out there still taking apprentices?"
"Yes," Chirrut beams. "I do."
He sets across the clearing for the girl. She meets him halfway. "Please, sirs, we have to go. The Empire is coming and Vader with them."
Chirrut does not need is his eyes to sense the fear. Baze is right. "Vader will not find you," he says, fierce in his promise. She's but a slip of a thing, barely past being a youngling, certainly not old enough to remember the purges, but he remembers. The stories of what had happened had whispered their way across the systems. Nightmare tales of stormtroopers and bots dragging beings of all ages to their deaths.
He could do nothing for them. He will not surrender this one for all the worlds. "How did you come to be here?" he asks, allowing her to pull him along.
"My teacher," she says. "He said we had something to do."
Baze swears, low and annoyed, and Chirrut laughs. "You see?" he says, poking him with his staff. "I told you."
Chirrut does not pretend to know the ways of the Force. He has learned merely to trust it and wait. So much has been taken from them since the Empire's rise and all they have been given in return is suffering. Suffering and loss.
The Jedi, Jedha, freedom itself...
This girl sings of the Force. He hears it in the way she moves, the kyber in her saber, and Chirrut wants to sing with it.
Hope is a strange, fickle thing sometimes, but this...
The girl leads them to a ship. It's old, very old, and entirely nothing that Chirrut remembers of the Jedi. It is perfect. He lays a hand on a bulkhead and feels the power of the ship as it thrums to life. Yes, perfect in its deception.
"You should strap yourselves in," the girl says, as she clambers up a ladder into a cockpit. "This will be somewhat...difficult."
Baze is silent, the purposeful sort, and then he sighs deeply, "This will not be pleasant, will it?"
Chirrut hears the smile in her reply, "We came to save you. All of you. You really should strap yourself in. This will not be easy."
Her lightsaber hits the ladder as she disappears into the cockpit and Chirrut wants to laugh with delight at the impossibility of it all.
For his part, Baze just harrumphs and pulls him to a seat. "Sit down, you fool before she kills us both," he says, strapping Chirrut in before throwing himself into the one beside him. "We've come too far to die being thrown against a bulkhead--stop smiling! We're not out of this yet."
Chirrut curls fingers around his staff and focuses on listening to the Jedi's lightsaber sing. "It does not matter. The Force--"
"--didn't save the Jedi the first time," Baze counters, somber. "Didn't save Jedha. Didn't save the millions the Empire has killed. Why would it save us now?"
"Because it's time," Chirrut says. "It is the ebb and flow of things. Dark and Light in their eternal dance." He does not pretend to understand. He can't. He's struggled with the question himself and, perhaps, he has found no answer that will satisfy even him, but that changes nothing. Some live, some die, and the galaxies keep right on spinning.
Perhaps all the Force can do is give people a chance. What is done with it, well now, that is another matter entirely.
"We have a chance," he says, reaching out.
Baze's hand is warm, touch gentle despite it all, and he clings to it. "We have a chance," his beloved agrees.
They get more. They pick up the pilot, some of Cassian's men, then at last of it, Cassian and Jyn themselves.
It's then that Chirrut hears Baze's intake of breath. Quick, sudden, and very much one of recognition.
Cassian and Jyn are not alone. Another lightsaber sings a different, familiar song and Chirrut freezes where he sits. "Baze?"
"Master Windu," Baze says, quietly respectful. "You are supposed to be dead."
"Supposed to be a lot of things," Mace Windu grumps. His voice is rougher and wearier than Chirrut remembers, but it is indeed him. "Not the least of which is several systems away from here, Dira."
The girl laughs, dropping down through the hatch. "We took some damage saving you, Master," she says. "It would be quite embarrassing to die going into hyperspace because of a dent in an unfortunate location."
"All right, on that one you may have a point," Mace agrees. "Now, make an old man something warm to drink while I explain a few things to our guests."
Chirrut is silent for the first time in many a year. He recognizes the name as well. A Jedi Councillor has survived and come to rescue them specifically. The thought of it is dizzying.
"You look perplexed, Master Îmwe," Mace sits across from him. "Shall I explain myself?"
"I am no master, sir," Chirrut replies. "I have earned no such title."
"One doesn't need to use the Force to be a Master of it," Mace says, his robes moving as he shrugs. "You come this far? You've earned it."
Dira returns with a tray of steaming mugs that she serves to each of them. "There's food too when you're ready. You all look half-dead."
"Oh good," Baze sighs. "I look better than I feel."
"Get anything out of the droid?"
"His programming seems intact, Master," Dira stops by Chirrut, holding the tray and waiting. "His body is somewhat another story. We'll need to secure another."
"K2S0?" Jyn interrupts. "He's--"
"Well, functional would not be the right term, precisely," the young Jedi replies, "but his programming is still in there. Once we get properly underway, I'll see about downloading him into one of our data cores." She tips her head. "I can show you if you'd like."
Chirrut can feel Cassian's hesitation and smiles. "You should, Cassian," he says. "The Rebellion has their prize. We have our lives. See to your friend. There'll be time enough for reports and plans later."
He says nothing of the truth, of course. If Vader was at Scarif then he has the sense of them now. They can be no more involved in what happens next than they can walk from one planet to the next.
Chirrut settles back with his mug, letting go of his staff in favor of its warmth. He takes a moment to savor it. Let the others sort themselves out. When he again lifts his focus, he is alone with Baze and Master Windu.
"You did not come here for us," he says, tipping his head.
"I did and I didn't," the Jedi replies. "Did come here to pick up some information, truth be told, but I knew we wouldn't be leaving alone. Force gives you just enough to get your attention sometimes. After that, well, it's a matter of figuring it out for yourself."
"And what have you figured out, Master?" Baze asks. "What is it about us that supposedly has the Force's attention?"
"You survived when you should not, my friend," Mace says. "On Jedha, Eadu, Scarif...you people should've been dead a dozen times over, but you found a way through every time. Every opportunity the Force gave you was an opportunity you seized. That's a kind of skill and daring I need right now."
"But not to topple the Empire," Chirrut puts in. "You have something else in mind."
"How much do you remember of your training? Of both our histories?"
Chirrut smiles. "I remember that if you go back far enough, no one is entirely sure who came first; the Guardians or the Jedi."
"There are some who say that the first Jedi were Guardians, but you're not here for a history lesson." Baze puts his mug down with a thunk that echoes in the room.
Chirrut chases the sound out of idle habit, lets it map the space for him, while he waits for Mace's answer.
"No, but that knowledge is part of what I'm looking for." Mace sheds his cloak and folds his arms. "I don't have to ask if you remember the Purges. Emperor and Vader hunted down every single Jedi and Force-sensitive child they could find. As long as any of us survived, the Emperor's not secure. Most Jedi aren't a match for a Sith Lord like Palpatine, but the average person? You don't have to look far to know what happens to them."
No, no they don't. The Empire is littered with legends and tales of what Palpatine and Vader can do.
"There will always be Force-sensitive children," Mace continues, "but people with the knowledge to protect and train them? Now that's another matter altogether."
"You must be joking," Baze says. "You want us?"
"You got something better you could be doing?" Mace shrugs. "The way I see it, you and your friends just became the most hunted band of fugitives in the whole entire Empire." He pauses, then laughs. "After me and a few of my friends, of course. That kind of attention you're going to find it pretty damn difficult to hide out anywhere planetside without bringing a whole host of Imperial trouble down on the heads of everyone around you." He gets up. "If you're going to spend the next few years on the run, might as well have a reason to keep moving. Now, the bunks, such as they are, are just in there. Knowing my padawan as I do, Dira'll be along in a few seconds to make sure you're availing yourself of both. Might as well listen to her and think on this while you do."
Chirrut finishes his tea, puts it aside, and reaches for his staff again. "He isn't wrong."
"Yes, he is," Baze unstraps them both. "You honestly think Cassian's going to be talked into spending the next few years chasing phantom Jedi children? Do you think any of them will be?"
He does, in fact.
"I think I'm tired," Chirrut decides. "It has been a difficult day and you smell like a bantha. Perhaps there might be a bath that we can take?"
He knows that Baze will argue. Resist. He will want to hide. Go to ground and pretend these past few days have not happened, that the Force has not seized them and set them toward the future, but ultimately, Baze will agree.
And he really is tired. A bed sounds wonderful. This one might even be clean.
They eat, bathe, and then they make their way to a bunk. It is, indeed, clean and free of sand. Chirrut thinks that he might consider crying at that last.
The blankets are old, worn, but settle about him with a warmth that can only be improved by his beloved joining him. Complaints, arguments, and all.
"You aren't seriously considering this," Baze says, settling in beside him, stiff and tense in a way that Chirrut knows well. He feels it now. The import of destiny has passed them over for many years. To feel it now so swift and sudden is a terrifying thing.
Nothing is so frightening as the first stirrings of hope.
"Considered and decided. The Jedi went out into the galaxy to guard us all while we guarded the temple." Chirrut lays a hand over Baze's heart, letting it's strong, steady beat soothe him. "We could do nothing from Jedha when the Empire came for them, but now."
"They are just two," Baze protests, but Chirrut can read the truth in his heartbeat. Hope strums stronger with every passing beat. "An old man and one padawan. What can one padawan do?"
"Each is but one," Chirrut replies. "And so the next and the next. Each one another chance the Jedi may continue on. It is hope, Baze."
"Not much hope if you can't tell anyone about it."
Laughing, Chirrut rolls toward him, settling in. "Oh, but the point of this secret is to tell. Have there not been stories of Jedi in hiding all these years? The Empire dismissed them as fancy because they need us to believe that it's true. Without hope, there is no will to fight. Can you imagine a Rebellion fueled by the knowledge the Jedi have survived and now fight on their side?"
Baze chuckles at last, wrapping an arm around him. "You'll say anything as long as it gets me to say yes."
Chirrut closes his eyes. "Well, we always did want children."
"You with a small band of younglings chasing after you," Baze hums a fond sort of agreement, then snorts. "It will be a disaster. I'll be saving you as much as I will them."
"And you will love every minute of it."
Baze does not disagree and, with a smile, Chirrut allows the Force to sing them to sleep.
There will be much to do in the morning.