Author's note: Inspired by this pin/tumblr post - [pinterest].ca/pin/852447035692786154/. (Just add 'pinterest' before the .ca) No plagiarism intended. :) I'll be updating this fic as much as I possibly can, though it takes me a while to write even one scene because I want it to be accurate to the movie's dialogue/characters AND to WWII history. So that involves a lot of research and watching bits of the film, etc., etc. One thing I promise not to do is leave this fic unfinished because I hate seeing unfinished fics on this website. So with all that being said, I hope you enjoy this story! (And even though I'll be continuing it whether or not I get reviews, it's always awesome to know that people are reading my stuff. ;) *hint, hint* Constructive criticism would also be welcome!)
Southern France, 1934
The surrounding French countryside was green. Bright green, in the glare of the mid-morning sun. It was an observation Major Orson Kraemer would not have bothered to make, had not the sun annoyed him. This transaction was supposed to have taken place at night when there were less prying eyes. But, as usual Colonel von Talkin had fouled things up and now Orson was left to make the operation work no matter what.
"Faster," he ordered his driver.
Wouldn't Galen be pleased to see him again after all this time?
He smiled at the thought.
The vehicle had just turned down the long, narrow lane that led to the Erso farm when Jeanne spotted it – or, rather, the cloud of dust in attendance. That lane was always dusty in the summer. She didn't like playing there; it made her sneeze and ruined her doll's dress.
She scrambled to her feet. "Mama! Papa!" Her doll fell to the ground, forgotten in her haste to reach the house and alert her parents. They had warned her time and time again that if ever she saw a stranger approaching to come inside right away and tell them. They would take care of the rest, she knew, and so she wasn't worried. Her parents had always taken the best care of her. She trusted them.
"Strangers!" she shouted as she burst through the door.
Mama was already bundling up several items of clothing. "We know, Jeanne. Gather your things. We have to go now."
Papa was also packing. He gave Jeanne such a sad look that for a moment her confidence in him flickered. Wouldn't Papa fix everything? He was the smartest man Jeanne knew.
"Saul, come in, Saul." It was Mama, talking into the radio receiver. There was a faint hiss of static. Jeanne stood and watched, even though she knew she should be packing. But she didn't want to pack, she didn't want to leave this nice farm with the three chickens and grass that smelled sweet in springtime and all the little hiding places that she'd explored with her doll.
"Lyra?" the voice on the other end growled.
"It's happened," Mama said, her voice a little breathless and a little frantic. "They've come for us."
Jeanne could hear the car's motor now. She jumped when Mama smashed the radio against the table, destroying it. Papa was throwing the last of his important papers – the ones she wasn't allowed to touch – into the stove. Mama was about pull Jeanne away and out the back door, just like they'd practised, when Papa pulled Jeanne back close to him.
"Jeanne," he said and his voice was so serious, so sad that it made Jeanne want to cry. "Remember, whatever you may hear of me, whatever I do, I do it to protect you. Do you understand?"
She nodded, her eyes big and round. "I understand."
He kissed her forehead and pulled her into his arms. "I love you, Stardust."
"I love you too, Papa."
Then Mama had her by the hand and was pulling her away. She paused for only a moment to look back. "Galen."
"Go," was all that Papa said and he went out the front door while Jeanne and Mama left through the back.
They ran for a little ways, through the vegetable garden that Mama had tried to keep going and had always failed and past the squawking chickens. The land was hilly where they lived and Mama pulled Jeanne behind one of the little hills. She knelt to the ground.
"You know where to go from here, don't you, Jeanne?"
Jeanne nodded. They had practised it so many times – and often in the dark – that she could find her way to the cave blindfolded. But why was Mama leaving? Jeanne watched as Mama untied the dull silver medallion that always hung around her neck and slipped it over Jeanne's.
"This will protect you," Mama said. "Now run!"
Galen Erso stood outside his home and watched the enemy approach.
Leading the small force of Nazi soldiers was a man he knew, a man who had once been his best friend. Orson Kraemer. They had been classmates together at the University of Prague and later, co-workers in Vienna where they made a good team. Galen came up with the ideas and Kraemer implemented them.
But despite their shared history, Galen could expect no quarter from Orson Kraemer now.
"You're a hard man to find, Galen," Kraemer said when he was within speaking distance. His thugs spread out in a wide semi-circle, eyes scanning the countryside. "But farming? Really? With your talents, you could have become a shop-keeper, at the very least." His tone was casual, conversational, as if the last three years had never happened.
Galen shrugged. "It's a peaceful life." He had to keep talking, give Lyra and Jeanne a chance to escape.
Kraemer looked around. "A lonely life, I should think."
"Since Lyra died, yes."
Kraemer hardly looked shocked. "Oh...my condolences." Then, "Search the house!"
Half of the soldiers moved off toward the house. Galen resisted the urge to turn and watch them go through his and Lyra's and Jeanne's possessions. He could only pray that his work had been destroyed in time.
"What is it you want?" he demanded of Kraemer.
Kraemer held his hands up in a conciliatory fashion. "The work has stalled," he said, his voice one of humble pleading. Galen was not fooled. "I need you to come back and finish what you started."
"I won't do it, Kraemer."
"We're on the verge of greatness!" Kramer exclaimed. "This close to providing peace, security, safety for our world."
Galen could hardly hold back a snort of laughter. "You confuse peace with terror, Kraemer."
"I have?" Kraemer let out a half-laugh of his own. "One has to start somewhere, at least."
A breeze swept between Galen and Kraemer, drying the perspiration that had drenched Galen's brow ever since Kraemer arrived. He shook his head. "I'll be no help to you, Kraemer. My mind...I have trouble remembering even the littlest things these days."
Kraemer smiled. It was a sickening smile. "Galen, you're an inspired scientist, but a terrible liar." He raised his hand before Galen could protest. "It's not that I don't appreciate the effort. I do. I really-" His eyes darted to the left of Galen, the smile leaving his face. "Oh, look, it's Lyra back from the dead. A miracle."
A chill shook Galen to his core when he saw his wife. She had a pistol pointed straight at Kraemer's head and her hand did not shake.
"Stop!" she shouted.
"Oh, Lyra." Kraemer smiled again. "As troublesome as ever."
She swallowed. Her hand was on the trigger, something that could not have escaped Kraemer's notice. "You're not taking him."
Kraemer cocked his head to the side. "Of course I'm not. I'm taking you all. You, your child...you'll all live in comfort."
"As hostages," Lyra spat.
Kraemer shock his head, a mocking smile stealing over his face. "As heroes of the coming Reich."
Lyra re-gripped the pistol and Galen could only watch with horror as the scene played out in front of him. It had come down to Kraemer and Lyra now. He had to try to get through to her. "Lyra." She did not look at him. "Put it down. Please."
Her last words were addressed to Kraemer. "You will never win."
"Do it," Kraemer ordered.
Two bullets pierced the air before hitting Lyra in the heart and Kraemer in the shoulder. Galen grasped for his wife, both hands reaching out, aching to hold her one last time, but he was already being dragged away by Kraemer's guards. He twisted around in their grip to catch sight of Lyra one last time.
"Fire the house," Kraemer ordered, with as much emotion as if he'd just asked for his automobile to be brought around. "They have a child. Find it."
As the smell of smoke drifted across the field and reached Galen, he could only pray that his Stardust was still safe.
Jeanne had seen everything. She didn't mean to disobey Mama. But she had been curious and that curiosity had taken away her fear, at least for a moment. So she had crept back, quiet as a field mouse, and watched as the grey-haired man talked with Papa. She had cheered inside when Mama had been so brave. And she had not understood, for a moment, when Mama fell down and didn't get up. Mama had always been so strong and so courageous. She would get up and kill that awful man. She had to!
It was not until she saw Papa being led away that she realized the seriousness of what had just happened. When she heard the man shout – about her! - that is when she finally obeyed Mama and ran to the cave, ran so hard that she barely had breath to push aside the clever camouflaging of mossy branches that Papa had created several months ago.
She pulled the cover back into place once she was inside and retreated deeper into the cave until she was as far inside as the back wall would allow. There were candles but she didn't light any for fear that the men outside would see it and find her and take her away as they'd taken Papa.
It was very dark and very cold in the cave and, too late, she remembered leaving her doll in the grass outside. So Jeanne locked her arms around her knees and closed her eyes and, in the end, she fell asleep.
When she awoke, she did not know how much time had passed. Only that a noise had awakened her. It came again. A shoving, scraping sound. Jeanne sprang to her feet. What was it? Who was it?
Light entered the cave, only a sliver first and then a burst of it all at once.
Jeanne slid back to press against the cave wall.
A face appeared in the entrance of the cave. Serious. Dark. Lined.
"My child." His voice was hoarse. "Come. We have a long drive ahead of us."