He walked through the narrow streets of a sleepy little town, the sunbaked sand long having given way to night, and the people shacked up in bed to await the arrival of another day. The cool desert air swirled around him. The man adjusted his jacket, a thing of tan leather with a splash of red along the right shoulder and corrugation down the outside of each sleeve. Made more for style than function, it did little to shield him.
By his side followed a funny little droid. A BB unit to be exact, it got around by rolling on a large ball painted primarily white with orange circumscribing the six round tool discs upon it. Its head was a half-dome. Two antennas of differing lengths stuck out the back. On the front protruded one large convex lens, and one smaller round pane askew from it.
The two of them traveled with relative ease through the village. No one came to disturb them, and they bothered none all the same. Their goal was a singular pursuit, the most important in all the galaxy. There could be no distractions, lest they doom everyone to a fate neither wanted to think about.
Upon a little hill just outside town sat an isolated hut. Round at the top and barely big enough for one person to live in, it stood out from the other, more angular structures in the town.
The droid made a few noises in the low-pitched beeping and booping way it did.
"That's it, BB-8. ...I think," confirmed the man. "We're almost there."
Ascending the short summit made the diminutive home atop it seem even smaller. It had no front door, only a curtain of beads to keep out the elements. That seemed wildly inefficient for a windy desert planet, but the man kept that thought to himself.
"Stay out here, BB-8. Keep watch," he instructed. The droid protested, but followed orders. The man stepped through the beads.
There sitting on his knees in the middle of the hut was an aged fellow, hair shocked white long ago and a face more wrinkle than skin. He was gaunt and almost sick looking. The senior looked toward the sound of the rustling beads, but his glassed over eyes took in none of the detail.
"Poe Dameron," the old man spoke with a voice dry and weathered with age. "I have been expecting you."
"You're a difficult man to find, Lor San Tekka." Poe came to a stop a few feet from the entrance. He wasn't necessarily a tall man, yet he still couldn't quite stand upright within the hut.
"As it should be," said Lor San Tekka. He stood, and removed a leather pouch from a pocket inside his flowing grey robe. "I believe I have what you've come looking for."
"You do," said Poe. Lor San Tekka handed the pouch to him.
"This will begin to make things right," mused the old man. "I've traveled too far, and seen too much of what horrors this galaxy has to offer. It needs a beacon to lead it, like is has in the past."
"With this, we finally have a chance," Poe said. "The general has been looking for this a very long time."
"The General," Lor San Tekka repeated, the ghost of a smile on his lips. "To me, she's royalty."
Poe was about to respond when BB-8 came quite literally barreling in, speaking at a thousand beeps a minute. The droid language was hard enough to understand under normal circumstances, but the way BB-8 spoke just then might as well have been unintelligible.
"Slow down, BB. What is it?" Poe attempted to calm the droid. It didn't work. If anything, the beeps increased in frequency. "Never mind, I'll take a look."
This seemed to satisfy the droid, as it shut up.
Poe exited the hut and laid himself down just at the crest of the hill. He removed a looking device—really just a broken off old rifle scope—from his jacket and peered through it to the town below. There, at the opposite end, he saw a First Order transport ship land. The large, vaguely whale-shaped craft came to ground on a quartet of long landing skis. The front ramp dropped down. Poe could just barely make out the white armor and black grimaces of the stormtroopers within.
They streamed out at the same time as blaster bolts erupted from the town. A split-second later, the First Order soldiers were scattering for cover as they returned fire. Red flashes of light streaked through the air from the stormtroopers, each destined for the body of a hopeless defender. The townspeople fought back with their own bevy of more colorful ammunition. They had red of their own, of course, but also blue, yellow, and even one person firing green bolts.
Poe heard the beads clatter behind him. He propped up on an elbow and turned his head to see Lor San Tekka standing behind him, looking out over the battle as if he could see it.
"This hut is way too obvious. You have to hide," warned Poe, now sounding almost as frantic as his droid.
"And you have to get out of here. Go!"
"Not without you," insisted Poe.
"I've done my part. It's up to you, now. I can keep them occupied while you escape."
Poe looked from the old man, to the battle, and back again. He took a deep breath, and then nodded. Fast feet took him off from the hill, speeding toward the bottom.
"God speed, Poe Dameron," said Lor San Tekka before returning to his home.
At a sprint down the hill, Poe realized he had two options for what to do next. His X-wing starfighter was currently parked to his left just beyond the village limits. He could cut a path straight to it, but doing so left him completely exposed on the dunes. There would be no cover, and the well-trained soldiers of the First Order would take him apart.
On the other hand, he could go through the village. This would put him right in the thick of the fight, but it may also provide an advantage. He could get lost in the chaos, sneak out right under everyone's collective nose. And, the buildings provided him with cover from any assailing bolts which did come his way. It was the better option.
Poe threw himself down a side street, barely wide enough to fit two people abreast. The buildings helped to muffle the sounds of blaster fire and the screams of wounded men and women, the fear in their voices as they died. These people were not soldiers, yet they faced down the most fearsome fighting force in the galaxy. The First Order turned their infantry into well-oiled killing machines, the kind which specialized in this sort of slaughter. The villagers didn't stand a chance.
Poe couldn't afford to think about any of that. The plight of these people was unfortunate. Any other time, he would have tried to help them. But not now. He had more important things to worry about, no matter how it pained him to admit.
He burst through into a wider main street. Immediately, a wave of sound and heat assaulted him. There were defenders to his right up the street, engaged in a torrid exchange with a few stormtroopers. Though the plastic boys were outnumbered, their skill more than made up for it. They took no casualties, while a few of the villagers fell to red bolts.
Poe ran his way up the street several feet before finding an alleyway to dash through. He was about to reach it when a body splatted to the ground before him. He jumped back a step and pointed his blaster rifle at it, before he saw the target was not a stormtrooper. Instead, a deceased Rodian man lay at his feet. In the alien's hands, an elegant blaster clearly of Nabooan design. This must've been the guy with the green bolts. His death meant the villagers just lost their sniper.
The alley was short. As such, Poe crossed it in no time at all. This led him to another main road, this one with more defenders than the last. A bolt crossed just inches shy of searing his nose. He stopped short, with a look at the battle. Doing so gave him just enough time to duck another missed shot. Poe kept his head down as he crossed this street.
Another small thoroughfare gave him a second's reprieve. He took a half step out the other side of it before tucking back in. A pair of stormtroopers ran by, likely on their way to flank the position he'd just blazed through. Not on his watch. Poe popped out. Using the houses for cover, he shouldered his rifle and fired. One crackling blue bolt hit the left stormtrooper in the back of the head. His buddy reacted to the shot before a trio found his backplate. Poe gave them a moment to stir, but when neither moved, he carried on, glad to have been of at least some help.
Man and droid dashed through a trio of streets, taking roundabout paths through buildings and alleys to remain protected. The fourth street they came upon was more heavily contested than the others thus far. Defenders clogged the streets while troopers used cover to blast away at them. One stormie pulled out a heavy rotary blaster and took an elevated position atop a ruined speeder. He began cutting down defenders. His exposed spot saw him swiftly dealt with, but not before taking many a villager with him.
Through this and the next, and on to the last one. Just one more through street, now, and he'd be clear of the village. The last road, just like all the others, played host to a firefight. Poe darted across it, red blaster fire whizzing by him in every which direction. He glanced at the battle to see, unsurprisingly, that the First Order had the upper hand. As he made it to the final building in his way, one of the troopers seemed to lock eyes with him, though it was hard to tell underneath that helmet. Poe cursed under his breath. So close, only to be spotted at the last second. No time to stop and fight now. He had to press forward.
"Come on, BB-8, hurry!" Poe shouted as he crested the hill where his X-wing sat. The droid chirped behind him.
BB-8 slipped under the needle-point nose of the starfighter to be hauled up into the astromech socket just behind the cockpit. Poe, in one fluid motion, opened up his pilot's seat, hopped in, and closed canopy. Deft fingers flicked many switches. Lights all around him flared to life. The slow whine of the engines coming to life rattled the ship.
A burst of blaster fire splashed against the canopy. Poe winced instinctively and ducked his head down, though the fighter-grade glass protected him. When his eyes opened, they beheld a pair of stormtroopers opening up on the craft. They seemed to realize it was impossible to shoot through the glass, and instead targeted the hull. BB-8 gave a long series of alarmed beeps.
"Yeah, I see them!" Poe called back.
He flipped another switch. A heavy blaster dropped down from just beneath the fighter's rear. Poe took his control stick and pressed the button on top. The blaster swung around to point forward and unleash a rapid salvo of red blaster fire toward the troopers. They realized at the last second their perilous predicament, but it was far too late to run. They were cut down in a matter of seconds.
Poe brought the blaster back up into its nook. The startup sequence should have completed by now. He flipped the ignition but, instead of a satisfying roar, all he got was a rough rattling sputter. Hesitation, and then repeated attempts all yielded the same result.
"No, no, no, no," the pilot begged. A final try failed to light the fuel.
With frustration, he slammed the canopy release. Poe exited his craft and jogged around to the back. One of the bolts had passed right through the protective vent cover of the top right engine and eradicated the components beneath.
"This is bad," he despaired.
Poe put his hands on his head and walked away for a second. He looked over his shoulder to see a second ship landing. It's two low angled wings folded upward as the shuttle came down. Poe didn't know for certain who was on it, but he had two guesses, neither of them good.
He rushed back with a new resolve on his face. He lowered BB-8 from his position. The droid looked at him with a confused beep. Poe dropped down to one knee. From the leather pouch the old man had given him he produced a small obelisk of mottled green from it and, before the droid could protest, slipped the object into an unoccupied data slot.
"New plan, BB-8. I need you to take this and get as far away from here as you can."
The droid looked down at its now closed data slot, and then back up at Poe. It gave a sequence of beeps which sounded disturbingly like "I don't wanna go."
"This data has to make it to The Resistance, no matter what. It's okay, I'll come back for you."
BB-8 hesitated a moment longer before turning to roll away from the battle, and his best friend. Poe watched the droid leave until it was out of sight on the other side of the hill. He took a deep breath. Hefting his blatster rifle, the stranded pilot took cover behind some rocks overlooking the village. He opened fire on the stormtroopers below, for what good it did.
In the village, the battle raged on. There was still plenty of action to go around, but the diminished screams and distinctly lowered rate of fire signaled the waning moments of the operation.
A stormtrooper raced down one of the main streets, headed for their next objective through an otherwise clear street. At the end, flametroopers were gathering up what few surviving villagers remained.
To his right, an old friend. Troopers didn't really forge alliances, as they knew their time together would be short, but he couldn't help it. These two had come up together, risen through the ranks as part of the same training squad. How could they not be friends? Troopers FN-2003 and FN-2187, brothers for life.
Little did 2187 know, that bond would be cut short. A blue streak illuminated the skies. A moment later, FN-2003 dropped. FN-2187 stopped in his tracks. He knelt down beside his wounded comrade. Though their helmets betrayed no emotion, his friend still managed to look terrified. Maybe it was the tremble in the bloody gauntlet he raised. He attempted to cradle FN-2187's cheek in a final act of solidarity, but in his weakness missed the mark. Instead, he left a trio of red streaks down the trooper's face plate. He then shuttered no more.
FN-2187 stood, his mind reeling. Training had taught him what to do in this situation, how to act when a comrade fell in battle. None of that mattered. He recalled none of it. All he could do was stand there and hyperventilate, starring down at the body of his deceased companion.
A nearby shuttle landing drew his attention. A boarding ramp lowered down, and from it strode a figure that struck fear into his heart. This man wore a black helmet with several silver rings around the eye slot and up the forehead, beneath a dark hood. He wore long black robes, split on the right leg for ease of movement. A wide belt kept all of this in place, while matching trousers and boots protected his lower half. FN-2187 just stood there, frozen in place, as the Sith Lord Kylo Ren approached him.
"Trooper!" A sergeant attempted to get his attention. He looked at his superior, still in a daze. "With me, come on."
The sergeant began marching toward the rounded up villagers. 2187 sparred one final glance for what was left of his friend before running off to follow orders, just like a good soldier should.
He joined up with a small group of fellow troopers who had managed to encircle what looked like most of the remaining villagers. The only thing which betrayed this was not all of them was the occasional burst of blaster fire as his companions not present rooted out the stragglers.
Kylo Ren, accompanied by a pair of red armored troopers, passed through the line corralling in the villagers. He walked right by FN-2187, who tried not to stare as his very own commander was temporarily within spitting distance. He had never been so close.
As Ren approached the villagers, an old man emerged from the throng to greet him. If the briefing was correct, this would be Lor San Tekka. 2187 begged for the man not to try anything stupid, but when the dangerous Sith Lord didn't strike him down immediately, the trooper decided to listen instead.
"Look what age has done to you," Kylo menaced, his voice turned unnaturally low and distorted by the helmet he wore.
"It has done something far worse to you," said the old man.
"You know why I'm here." Kylo pushed past the insult.
"And you know I can't let you have it," insisted Lor San Tekka.
"The map to Skywalker. Give it to me, and I might spare your life."
The old man folded his hands inside the sleeves of his robe. "I will not aid the Dark Side. Not all of us have given up hope."
"Hope," Ren wondered aloud. "What a feeble concept."
The Sith removed something from his belt, a short black T shape. FN-2187 realized what it must be a second before it came to life. A red blade projected out of the top. Roughly three feet in length, it pulsed with unstable energy, appearing at the same time both jagged and unblemished. Two additional bits flared out from the perpendicular points of the T, these only a few inches long.
"You can either give me the map, or I can take it off your corpse. Your choice." Ren offered his ultimatum.
"I will not aid the Dark Side." The old man was obviously making a point to avoid looking at the weapon brandished before him.
"What you will or won't do is irrelevant. The Force will consume all. Let me show you."
Kylo Ren gave his lightsaber a twirl before cranking through a swing from the left. The old man's head separated from his lifeless body. It bounced once off the hard sand and the rolled away. So ended the life of Lor San Tekka.
Ren seemed about to give an order, when a shout cut him off. A man in a brown flight jacket broke from the houses, firing blue bolts at the hooded Sith. Without bothering to look, Kylo threw a hand out behind him. The bolts seemed to hit a wall, where they stopped in midair. One after another they hit, suspended by some unseen nature. The new attacker also stopped, taken by the same effect but further back from his failed projectiles.
"Search the body," Kylo Ren said. "And the village." He dropped his hand. The bolts stayed in place. "And bring that one to me."
A pair of stormtroopers went after the frozen man, while a trio poured over the headless body. The duo disarmed the man and took his knees out from under him. When this happened, he gained control of his facilities, though not long enough to keep himself from being handcuffed. Hands behind his back, he refused to be led forward. A final act of defiance. In lieu of that, the troopers simply dragged him over to Kylo Ren, past where the bolts hung in place.
"Freaky," commented the man.
"I know, right? He does that kind of thing all the time," the trooper on his left said.
"Can it, both of you," said the one on his left.
The man was brought before Kylo Ren and then pushed onto his knees. The looming threat in all black knelt down to be on the same level as his captive. There was silence for a moment, just long enough for FN-2187 to wonder what was happening.
"So, how does this work? I talk first? You talk first?" The man asked.
"The map. He gave it to you," Kylo said.
"What, did the Force tell you that?" Quipped the man.
"No, it's written all over your face," denied the Sith Lord.
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"You will." Kylo stood. "Put him on my ship, and then prepare him for questioning."
The troopers began leading the man away, Kylo a few steps behind.
"Sir, what about the prisoners?" A caped stormtrooper clad in chrome armor asked him.
"No prisoners, Captain Phasma."
"Of course, sir." Phasma joined in with her troopers. "Soldiers, present!"
The men of the First Order raised their weapons toward the villagers. 2187 looked to his left, and then his right, before doing the same a moment later.
The order came. "Fire!'
All around him, red lights illuminated the nighttime sand. Every trooper opened up on the helpless villagers. Except for FN-2187. He kept his blaster raised, but did not pull the trigger. As the men, women, and children died before him, he couldn't bring himself to contributed their destruction. All he managed was to stand there and watch the slaughter, powerless to help them.
What few seconds the massacre lasted felt like an hour. When it was over, 2187 lowered his weapon just like the others. Maybe, if he acted like he'd followed the order, no one would suspect he didn't.
A tingle in the back of his head shattered any notion of escape. He turned toward the feeling to see Kylo Ren staring straight at him. They exchanged glares for a moment before the Lord continued on to his ship.
"Spread out and search," Phasma ordered.
FN-2187 was about to follow this directive, when the bolts in the air sprang to life once again. They peppered the home behind where Kylo Ren had been standing. 2187 jumped back a full foot in shocked surprise. He watched the bolts go, marveling at the power which previously held them back. Would he be a victim of it soon? As he went to search the town, his gut told him yes.
The village was searched to confirm that the objective was not there. Their business concluded, the First Order got back on their transport ships and headed for the destroyer above. FN-2187 made sure to position himself toward the disembarking ramp.
When the shuttle landed, he was the first one off. He ignored the hundreds of TIE fighters—their bulbous cockpits flanked by solar panels of elongated hexagons—both on the massive hanger deck and hanging from the ceiling. He bypassed mechanics welding on bits of machinery, officers and troopers speaking to one another in little clusters, droids milling about their daily routines. All about the hanger was a flurry of motion. Hundreds of people walked through it on their way to whatever it was they were doing. FN-2187 tried his best to look like one of them.
He eventually made it to a corridor on the far end of the hanger. It was narrow and bathed in red light. A few deep breaths, and he removed his helmet. Sweat poured down his dark skin. Taking the apparatus off did nothing to make him feel cooler, nor was it more comfortable. Instead, it just made the world around him that much louder. This was not a comforting place. He needed somewhere quiet to process what just happened, to grieve the loss of his friend, to think about his predicament.
But fate stalls for no man. He wanted to maybe find somewhere far away and await the inevitable. Instead, the inevitable found him.
"FN-2187," called the voice of Captan Phasma behind him. "Submit your blaster for evaluation."
"Yes, Captain." He couldn't bear to look at her, so he instead starred straight ahead.
"And who gave you permission to take off that helmet?"
"Report to my division at once. We need to have a word." With that Phasma marched past him.
FN-2187 kept his gaze locked forward until the moment his superior vanished around a corner. His entire body sagged. He spun a quarter turn to collide against the wall now at his back, the only thing keeping him upright. A deep breath. He wiped some sweat from his forehead, replaced his helmet, and let his blaster slink to the floor. Its clatter sounded like the end of his life as he knew it.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: It should come as no surprise I have little problem with the beginning of this movie. Read chapter 2 (posted in tandem with this one) to see the first plot and character changes.
A lot of people are unhappy with the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, myself included, though I don't think I hate it quite as much as some of the more toxic people. The complaints are many, but most boil down to three things: a poor plot, and badly written characters, all created in service of a political agenda. My rewrite will attempt to fix these problems while also expanding upon the Star Wars universe in a positive way.
That positivity is the goal. When Star Wars fans are given good Star Wars, they are more than happy to sing its praises. This is nowhere more apparent than with The Mandalorian and The Clone Wars. That's what I'm trying to do with these rewrites. I want to create good Star Wars content that fans can be happy to engage with. I hope that is an end I can achieve through my storytelling.