“No Krennic… it was me.” There was no stopping the panic in Galen Erso’s voice as he stepped in front of the scientists. Some - those like himself that were forced to be there and work on this machine of terror - he might call friends. But even those he did not, he could not see killed for his actions. Enough people might already die as a result of his actions if his message never reached Jyn.
He couldn’t dwell on that in this moment. He could only think of the scientists stood before him, accused of his crime - of smuggling a message. His message to his daughter.
The grin on Krennic’s face repulsed him. They had been friends once. Close. Might have been closer still had he not met Lyra, had Jyn, realised what the Empire really was. What he was really doing. They both knew Krennic wouldn’t kill him. Perhaps in part because of that closeness that the Commander seemed oblivious to the loss of, but mostly because he believed Galen to be more indispensable than he truly was.
He did not think the same of the scientists. His grin only widened into something utterly bemused, when he ordered the troopers to move Galen aside. He would kill them, each and all, Galen knew.
His hand flew to his belt and played over the small device there. It had been impossible to test. It was such a risk. And yet he only hesitated for a moment - remembering why he had built this, and many other secret little inventions under the Empire’s very nose - to stop them. These scientists knew enough to be dispensed by the Empire, but of use to the Rebels, especially if his message was unsuccessful.
He had only a moment to react.
Galen turned and grabbed one others. “Hold on.” He nodded his head to them and they instinctively all grabbed for each other. Maybe they were expecting to die together, maybe they were expecting some rebel craft to appear above them and drop ladders. Maybe they had seen enough of his calculations and workings to guess at the last hope any of them had as the wind and rain wiped around them and stormtroopers moved towards them.
His hand found the button, and pressed.
Galen rolled to his back.
The world was quiet. Serene. Bright.
He felt the warmth on his face and opened his eyes. The sun was high in the sky, and there green moved between him and the blazing light - as leaves swayed in and out of his view. He tried to move but had no power to do so.
He was unsure where he was and how he had come to be there. He tried to recall the last thing he had done. He recalled years past, painful memories, grief, loneliness, acceptance. But the closer he came to the present was a blur.
“Don’t move.” A gentle and familiar voice spoke. A voice he had not expected to hear.
The sudden thought had him reaching out. His hands found slender arms as they tried to settle him. And then a face came into view.
“Jyn…” he breathed out the name. She looked and sounded so much like Lyra that, despite the years since they had last seen each other, there could be no mistaking it.
“Gin? Are you intoxicated, sir?” She looked concerned. “You are not quite well. I saw you fall, but I don’t smell any alcohol. I know a doctor, just across the square beyond the park. Will you let me take you to him?”
Some of her words made no sense to him, but he found himself nodding anyway. She was here, his darling daughter. How many years had it been? How she had grown.
He let her help him up to his feet and his vision began to clear, no longer blinded by the bright sun above. They were in a park, not any that he recognised, and not quite like any he had either seen or imagined. It wasn’t immediately clear, but there was something not quite right about it. Certainly the benches were of no design he knew - it was all slightly off.
He looked down at Jyn who had ensconced herself against him, propping him up. She wore strange clothes. A pale dress, a matching hat. Lace, frills. Her tastes may have changed, it was something he had rarely seen the like of before - the closest it might remind him of something from a few generations past on Naboo.
“Can you tell me your name sir?” She still looked quite concerned, more so - uncomfortable even - when he tightened the arm around her into a half embrace.
His throat hurt as though he had been thirsty for days, as he forced the words - “Don’t you know your own father Jyn?”
She looked even more concerned and managed to ease out of his grasp a little. “Oh dear, I think maybe you hit your head. Let us get you inside.” She started to lead him across the park towards pale stone houses the other side of black metal rails.
“My name is Emily Dalrymple.” She told him with a smile. “And we can deal with your name once you are feeling better.”
Mortimer looked up as Emily stumbled through the door, attempting to keep a man upright.
“What on earth?” He took his hand from the ice bowl he’d been resting it in after a very long morning of treating patients, and went to his fiance’s aid. It was unlike her to act with such impropriety, but certainly it wasn’t unheard of in her family. Had her sister Charlotte arrived in such a manner, he would not have batted an eye.
After he helped lower the man into a chair at the side of the room he turned back to Emily but she spoke before he could ask any questions or offer a stern warning about the inappropriateness of such behaviour.
“I saw him fall, in the park. He stumbled out of nowhere and fell heavily. He seems to be confused, maybe delirious.” She spoke hurriedly but with the zeal of someone making a discovery. He had never seen her quite so animated.
Mortimer looked at the man, who now sat with eyes closed as though against a headache, and then turned a supportive - if a little dismissive - smile on Emily. “I’m not sure your father would approve of you picking up Charlotte’s habit of bringing home waifs and strays.”
Emily smiled sweetly and raised a brow- “that is why I brought him to you and not father.”
Mortimer gave a chuckle and shook his head. In moments like this he really did have a fondness for the girl, beyond their path that seemed set out by her father and societal expectations. He reasoned that they might even be happy together - certainly the prospect was there.
“Will you help him?” Emily asked. Mortimer was surprised by the level of concern in her voice, which must have been clear in his expression because she followed with - “I don’t know why, but… I feel sort of responsible for him. I feel as though I know him in some way and in good conscious I couldn’t leave him prostrate in the park.”
“No, I suppose not.” Mortimer smiled and took one of her hands, giving it a gentle squeeze before turning back to the man. “Help me get him on the examination table and I will see what ails him. If you could then get some water for him to drink?”
Emily’s smile was wide and bright. She nodded and helped maneuver the man, who still kept his eyes shut though he clearly was not sleeping. Once settled on the bed, Emily left the room.
Mortimer watched her go before turning back to the stranger, whose eyes opened as the door clicked shut. There was a pain there that took Mortimer aback. Rich brown eyes open, the man’s face seemed warm, not as severe as his features might suggest. But the pain that his eyes held was something deep but constantly reopened. Mortimer took a breath.
“Is she gone?” The man’s voice was thick and rough.
“Emily? She’s gone to get you a glass of water.”
“Emily.” He spoke the name tentatively, as though tasting it on his tongue. “She’s not…” He trailed off and his chest hitched.
“You fell sir, can you tell me what happened?” Mortimer asked, concerned as much by the strange behaviour as anything. He started to examine the man, who looked at him ever more strangely as he progressed.
“You’re a doctor?” A note of uncertainty there.
“Well, yes.” Mortimer chuckled. “You’ve caught me between patients. Do you remember falling?”
“I… remember something.” The words were sad and his look was distant.
Mortimer couldn’t find anything immediately obvious that might have caused or been the result of the man’s fall. As he stepped back from the table the man looked at him again as though he was about to say something, but then he stopped himself as the door opened and Emily returned.
He took the glass of water from her with a nod but didn’t drink. Instead he let his head fall back and closed his eyes once more.
“Is he very hurt Mortimer?” Her concern was evident.
“I think… he would perhaps be best under observation for a while.” He spoke as he watched her face change from deep concern to some relief. He couldn’t even begin to fathom why this stranger meant anything to her but he couldn’t bear to see her pout. He turned back to the patient. “Do you live nearby? Are you visiting London?”
The man remained silent until Emily went to his side and lay a gentle hand on his arm. “We’re only trying to help you. Would you please let us?” She was firm but caring.
The man frowned but at least reopened his eyes and fixed them on her. That sadness was there again, but it was soft as he looked at Emily. “I believe… I don’t… I think I am far, far away from home.”
She smiled sympathetically before turning to Mortimer with a determined expression - “he must stay with us, that way you can better treat what ails him and we can make sure he gets home safely.”
“Emily… your father-” Mortimer began to reproach her but she cut him off.
“-my father will give me the moon if I asked for it.” her eyes sparkled with what seemed a new realisation. Not that she was in any way wrong.
“Fathers will do anything for their daughters.” The man’s voice was sad and distant, it struck a cord of hurt through Mortimer.
The pain the man was in was clearly not physical. It was something wholly relatable to Mortimer in a way he had found in few people he had encountered - even the Dalrymples, who had lost their mother when they were too young to recall. Because it was the pain of loss. Deeper than that, it was the pain of experiencing that loss in such an overwhelming way that it was daily revisited. Mortimer had understood such a pain as this since the death of his parents. He didn’t let himself dwell.
After ascertaining that the man felt well enough to be assisted by Mortimer to a guest room, Emily had excused herself to go and speak with her father. Mortimer had no doubt that she would get what she wanted and he would be glad to do it - more so than for Charlotte who had a constant need. Emily had surely never asked for anything like this before. He wasn't sure Emily had ever asked for anything at all before.
Once to the room, in the upper floors of the house that was also their medical practice, Mortimer helped the man to the bed. Though tall, he was athletic rather than bulky, his muscular form clear beneath his strange clothes and Mortimer’s helping hands. They stumbled a little close to the bed. Mortimer was able to regain his balance, but as he settled the man to a seated position and drew back, their faces glided past each other - grey stubble scratching Mortimer’s clean shaven jawline. The sensation was not entirely unpleasant, in fact it sent a shiver through the doctor.
“Do you have a name?” Mortimer asked a little flustered, and then shook his head, embarrassed. “Of course you do, I mean, do you recall your name?”
“My name is Galen Erso.” He looked around the room and seemed lost. Like a stranger in a new world. He had an accent, perhaps he came from somewhere foreign and this was all new to him. Mortimer moved on from the thought to smile at the name.
“Galen? Just as the Greek physician and philosopher?” Mortimer smiled but the man only looked at him blankly.
Mortimer cleared his throat. “Well, I’m Doctor Granville. Mortimer. You… uh, you can call me Mortimer.” He offered a smile but received none in return.
“I don’t know where I am or how I got here… You think I’m mad? Insane?” There was a resignation there that hurt.
“No, no, not at all. I think that perhaps you have a head injury. I will sit with you tonight to make sure you there is no change in your condition and then we will consider further in the morning what is to be done.” Mortimer gave a reassuring smile, which at least this time was met with a nod.
“I… I appreciate your help. Thank you.” There was little feeling behind the words but Mortimer could understand what a difficult situation this might be for the man.
Mortimer started for the door. “First I will ask Molly to bring you something to eat, and I will fetch some pajamas for you.” Mortimer took in the man’s frame again. They were of a height, but he was much more slender than Galen. He wasn’t sure why that thought made his cheeks start to burn - “I, uh… make yourself comfortable.”
Mortimer was opening the door, feeling strangely foolish, when Galen asked - “What planet is this, Mortimer?”
“Planet?” Mortimer frowned and turned back to study Galen’s face. The question was clearly serious. “Earth.” He found himself replying in the face of absolute sincerity.
Galen looked thoughtful for a moment and then dropped his head into his hands. “I am so lost.”
Mortimer’s chest ached. Perhaps Galen was mad, or certainly there was a head injury - though he’d found no bump in his examination. Even so, he wanted to go over and comfort the man, hold him and tell him he understood such pain and would help in anyway he could. He swallowed, a nervous feeling crawling over him before turned and left the room.