The Talk Before
Finn was silent as he lay on the soft grass, staring up at the night sky. He had spent the majority of his life on First Order stations, warships, or Starkiller Base, as a result, the feeling of a place this warm and this alive felt odd. He was used to sterile military installations, with strictly regulated temperatures and humidity. Even when he was deployed on ground missions, he rarely stayed out of those controlled environments for long, usually heading back in under an hour.
That had changed when he had crashed landed on Jakku, and in terms of experiencing a world outside the First Order, that had been a highly unpleasant first experience. Scorching heat, never ending dunes, barely any water and only pinprick sized communities dotting the surface. It was baffling to think that the fate of the galaxy had been decided on that planet during the end of the Galactic Civil War, or that anyone would continue to have interest in the planet after that. It was home to scavengers and those who maintained waypoints, nothing else. Yet things apparently were so important that Luke Skywalker had gone there. Why?
And why did Rey want to stay on that miserable ball of sand? There was nothing there, barely any life aside from a couple of native species and fauna. D'Qar, the planet he was currently on, was much more hospitable. Cool, pleasant, and alive. He half wished he had landed on this planet instead.
He looked around. It was oddly quiet on this planet, even though it was teeming with life. Apparently very few of the fauna that lived here were nocturnal, and most were asleep right now. It felt odd, yet at the same time strangely comforting. He drank it all in. Trees gently shifting in a gentle breeze, never ending fields of grass, all of it shining brightly in the light of the twin moons that orbited this planet.
He sighed. He wished Rey was here. She had spent her entire life on Jakku. It was infinitely less pleasant than what he was used to, but in a way the two of them were similar. They had both been stuck in rather unpleasant environments and had never been exposed to anything else in this massive galaxy. He wondered if she would have appreciated it.
They would be making their assault on Starkiller Base tomorrow. Han just had to run an in depth check on the Millennium Falcon. It had been out of his hands for so long, it wouldn't be safe for him to do anything that sensitive with it without making sure everything was ok. They would rescue Rey and he could ask her then.
"Hey Finn." Craning his neck up, Finn saw Poe leaning over him, giving him a small smile before plopping down in the grass next to him. "Nice view isn't it?" he said, looking up at the stars himself. "One of the benefits to being stationed out here. No sentient life forms on this planet though, so it can get a little lonely. It's a little weird to be honest. So many planets out there, no matter how inhospitable, have intelligent life forms on it. This one doesn't, even though it would be ideal for supporting them. It's nice out here, it can be nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the galaxy at times, but it can be a little lonely if you stay out here too long."
"I think a little bit of loneliness would be ok," Finn said. "I mean, aren't loneliness and privacy the same thing in a lot of ways? I wouldn't mind some of it. Sometimes, not right now."
Poe nodded, glancing at him. Finn wasn't quite sure what to think of the pilot. He supposed Poe was his friend, or at least as close as he had to a friend, a role Rey shared now that he thought about it. He liked Poe that was for certain, but he didn't actually know much about him. To be frank, he really didn't know much about anything outside of the First Order. Some basic facts about the galaxy and that was it.
"Did you not get much privacy in the First Order?" Poe asked, sounding curious.
Finn shook his head. "Four men to each room," he replied. "It maximized efficiency on space. You were never really alone. There was always at least one other trooper in the same room as you, and that's if you were lucky. If you were unlucky, you were in the same room as Captain Phasma or one of her officers. Other troopers would report you if you did something obvious that went against conditioning. But Phasma? She and her men would watch you for the slightest slip up. The slightest wrong move that would call for reconditioning."
There was an awkward pause. Finn had a feeling that Poe had not expected him to be so open and forward with his life in the First Order. Truth be told, he could understand why Poe would feel unnerved. He had only gotten a brief glimpse of life outside the First Order, but he had a very good understanding that the treatment he had received was considered appalling by most. Child soldiers were frowned upon in most of the galaxy, only truly existing in the farthest sections of the Outer Rim and Unknown Regions.
He had a hard time coming to appreciate that though. He had never liked it, he had always known that there was something cruel and undesirable about what he and the other stormtroopers had endured, but he had had no idea that it was considered this bad by galactic standards. He had lied about it before, but mainly to avoid detection as a deserter. Now that he was talking with someone who knew that he had served in the First Order and cared, he had little issue speaking about the more unpleasant aspects of that part of his life. They were unpleasant experienced, but not one he had issues recounting.
He was starting to realize just how out of synch he was with the rest of the galaxy. Sadly, he looked up at the twin moons again. Just how much had the First Order taken away from him? How much did he not know about basic ways of thinking and regarding what was around him because of what they had done?
"Is it true what they say about the First Order and how they recruit their soldiers?" Poe asked. Apparently, now that he knew that Finn wasn't tight lipped, he was hesitantly moving on. "They kidnap kids and train them?" Finn nodded. "What exactly does that entail?" His tone suggested that he wasn't sure if he wanted to know what the answer to that question was.
Finn paused. He had to think far back to give Poe an answer to that one. "I don't know exactly," Finn said. "I only remember bits and pieces, and even then it's fuzzy. I remember being in a base with other kids, boys and girls. Not as many girls as boys, but there were still plenty of them. We drilled each morning, afternoon and evening. With blasters that were too big for us. Every time we didn't obey, didn't respond quick enough or just talked back, they punished us...I don't remember what they did to us. I just remember that I wanted it to never happen again."
It was hard to think back to those childhood days. Not just in that it was difficult, it hurt a little bit. Whenever he tried to think back to what they had done to him, he felt an old ache in the small of his back. Like something strong was being poked there. At the same time, he felt like something was circulating around his wrists and ankles. Odd phantom pains.
Even if he forced his way through those feelings, he couldn't remember much. He could recall the fuzzy outlines of a few faces, mainly his instructors. They had been hard, calculating faces. Some of them had been older. He frowned. Now that he thought about it, quite a few of them had been old, feeble looking men. Men with angry demeanours. They had always been the cruelest and the strictest. Oddly enough, they had all looked very much alike, something that had not been the case with the other instructors.
"I think some of the kids died," Finn said. Poe sucked in hard, looking appalled. "I only think. I'm not sure." Quite a few of the children that had been there at the start had ended up not being there by the end. He remembered that much. He couldn't remember why or how they had ended up dying though. Whether it had been overexertion, intentional by the instructors, or simply suicide. He was certain none of them had run away though. He didn't know how he knew, but he did know that that would've been impossible.
"This has been happening for years and the Republic just ignored it and let it happen?' Poe said. "They didn't even try to put political pressure on them." He sounded rather bitter.
"Hey, I've told you where I came from, what about you? Why did you join the Resistance?" Finn asked. He was curious. Judging by what Poe had said, he hasn't been born in the First Order's territory. He would have known at least some of how the First Order recruited its soldiers if he had.
"Well, both of my parents were in the rebellion against the Empire," Poe replied. "Dad was a Pathfinder and Mom flew an A-wing. It's a pity the Resistance doesn't have any of them, I would've liked to show you one. They're fast things, can outpace the basic TIE fighter. You'd need a TIE interceptor to keep up with one." Finn had seen how fast TIE fighter could go. That would be rather impressive if it could live up to the claim. "Sat me on her lap in her old fighter. Let me tell you, I was the luckiest kid around." There was a happy smile on Poe's face. Finn couldn't help but wonder how a life like that would've been different. Not just it being happy, but actually being able to remember his childhood.
"So Mom gave me a bug pretty early on. I wanted to be a pilot just like she had. So, eventually I joined the Republic. Best job I ever had, never looked back for a second." His smile changed to a grimace. "Of course, one thing my Mom never told me about, because she had had no idea that it could have possibly happened, was that the First Order would make life very difficult. Well, you've been stuck with them for years, you know what they're like. They're small on the galactic scale, but they're got a lot of military assets and they're not afraid to use them. If anything, they're so insecure about how tiny they are that they throw them around in a vain attempt to prove a point."
"So you ended up joining the resistance?" Finn asked.
Poe nodded. "There was so much going on in First Empire territory that was just wrong. I get that when a nation is doing something terrible you can't just declare war, steamroll everything in your path, then act like all problems have been solved. That's a good way to actually make things worse, since a government like the First Order can use it as an excuse to be even more cruel. In a lot of ways, change has to come from inside a nation. The outside can help, but there has to be work on the inside too." His grin was back. "So General Organa figured out a way to do both at the same time. Send agents like me into the First Order, find people who hated the First Order and wanted to get rid of it but didn't have the supplies or know how, and give them both the supplies and know how to resist the First Order. We couldn't just march in there and declare 'this is your way of life now.' We had to make sure it was changes that people inside the First Order actually wanted."
Finn paused as he thought this through. Then a weight that had been at the back of his mind for a long time now came to the front. "Do you think we can beat the First Order?" he asked. It was true that he was going to be fighting against the First Order, and that he had a plan to deal with Starkiller Base, but he just couldn't help but think of the First Order as invincible. Powerful fleets, well trained and armed armies, and Starkiller Base. The weapon that could wipe out entire star systems. Not just the people who lived in it, but the system itself, leaving nothing but frozen planets and an empty void where there had once been a star. A self perpetuating weapon of mass destruction.
Poe looked as if he was thinking long and hard about his response before he replied. "Well, it's a complicated situation. The First Order is actually rather small compared to the galaxy at large, and it's more or less declared the entire galaxy to be its enemy. In the long haul, there's just no way it'll survive if it plans on seeing that through. But it is rather militarized compared to the Republic, so if we don't head them off early on, it could be a long and bloody conflict. They'll lose eventually, but they might destroy dozens if not hundreds of systems before that. And they'll focus on the political heart of the Republic if they do that, meaning a breakdown in order and safety. It'll be a hollow victory."
"Do you think we'll survive this? That it'll work?" Finn asked the question before he could stop himself. The fear of death that had been hovering over him since Jakku had made it too much to bear. To his surprise, Poe laughed.
"To be honest, I think there's not a lot of chance in us surviving, but then again, what do I know? I feel like I should've died a half a dozen times over by this point. Being captured by the First Order? I thought I was a goner. Crashing on Jakku, I thought I was going to die. But I somehow managed to get through all of this to be right here. So I don't think that., but that doesn't mean a whole lot." Finn laughed before he could stop himself. He was in the same boat, now that he thought about it. Horrific monsters from distant worlds, criminals, a First Order raid, and all of them in the same week. He really should be dead. But he wasn't.
"So there's a chance?" he asked.
"Well, when people say, 'may the Force be with you,' they're not saying it idly. I don't know much about the Force, when I try to read about it a lot of it ends up going over my head. It seems like something you experience more than you understand. But it is out there, pretty much everyone agrees on it, and it does seem to let us do pretty amazing things. We just need to be willing to push forward." He got to his feet. "Come on. It's going to be a long, hard day tomorrow. We'll need rest." Slowly, feeling a little more confident, Finn got to his feet.
Author's Note: Star Wars isn't my forte, but I think the patrons who wanted this fic will be happy with it.
I would like to thank my Patrons, SuperFeatherYoshi, xXNanamiXx, Ryan Van Schaack, RaptorusMaximus, and Davis Swinney for their amazing support, and for deciding on this chapter.