24 ABY- Just outside the Yavin System
As his X-wing took to the sky, Poe didn’t bother to look back to see his parents reaction to the bombshell he’d just dropped about his and Ben’s relationship.
He didn’t care.
He couldn’t wait to be as far away from everything he’d ever known as soon as possible.
The moment he felt his ship settle into hyperspace, the tears he’d been holding back the entire time in front of his mother and father burst forth. His head fell into his hands as he began to sob, his shoulders shaking as the weight of his grief began pouring out of him.
Everything he’d worried about over past several years ripped him apart as his body processed the pain of what he’d just heard.
All the lies he’d just been told were what the galaxy was accepting as truth...
He’d never felt so powerless in all of his life…
He’d tried so hard to be there for Ben, giving him the space he needed to figure out whatever it was he was going through.
He’d known for years Ben wasn’t doing well, but he’d never been able to figure out how to help him…
Every time he’d encouraged him to open up and share some of his burden with him, it had only made him dig in deeper.
The way he’d snapped at him the last time they’d been together still hung so heavy on his heart…
That was a year ago and yet it still felt like it had just happened.
“FUCK!!!” He yelled as he punched the wall next to him.
It felt like he’d watched everything happening to the man he loved in slow motion while he stood frozen in place, powerless to stop it.
Now, something far worse than anything he could have imagined had happened to Ben.
He’d been taken away from everyone that cared about him while his peers had been slaughtered around him. Everything he’d dedicated himself to had been destroyed in a single night.
As if all of that weren’t horrible enough, somehow the galaxy had been convinced that he had been the monster to make such a heinous choice.
Poe punched the wall of his cockpit again, cursing himself for not having been able to prevent it.
His anger was interrupted by a series of questioning beeps as BB-8 asked him what was wrong.
His stomach suddenly felt like led.
In his rush in and out, BB-8 hadn’t even had time to unload, staying back to replace some faulty fuses. He hadn’t heard any of the news about Ben...
In all the craziness, Poe hadn’t even thought about Ben’s droid yet…
What would need to be done…
With his builder gone, BB-8 would need a complete memory wipe- a standard practice when a droid’s master abandoned them.
If a droid didn’t get a memory wipe to forget their master before they learned they’d left, they often went into low power mode from their feelings of failure. It was a tragic side effect of the dedicated work ethic droids were programmed with.
Poe had always looked after BB-8 when Ben was training with Luke. His uncle had a “no droids” rule for padawans, which meant Ben’s droid got left behind until he returned for the summer. It worked out for both of them. Poe kept BB-8 busy, giving him plenty to do so that he didn’t miss Ben too much. At the same time, having Ben’s creation around helped Poe feel like he had a bit of Ben around.
With Ben gone indefinitely now, wiping BB-8’s memory was the last thing Poe wanted to think about…
...and it was one of the first things he’d need to do.
He clapped a hand over his mouth as more guttural sobs threatened to overtake him the more he thought about it.
Wiping BB-8’s memory would be erasing the last tangible link he had left to Ben...
He shut his eyes, doing his best to try and to calm himself. He’d need to put on a happy face for the little guy so he didn’t know what was coming.
The last thing he wanted was BB-8 guessing what had happened before he had a chance to do what needed to be done…
More beeps came through again, this time insistent as BB-8 asked what was wrong.
“It’s um- it’s nothing little guy, It’s just… some family drama. I fucked something up but… it will be ok.”
Naturally the droid’s next question was why they weren’t staying on Yavin-4.
Poe paused, feeling more and more lost as the seconds went by...
“I’ll explain it all when we get where we’re going.” He finally said.
Like the curious companion he was, more beeps came through to ask where they were going.
Poe checked his fuel as he tried to decide his next step.
Kijimi stood out right away on the map. It would be the perfect spot to refuel, while also not being somewhere he was likely to be recognized by anyone.
“Kijimi.” He finally said.
A loud, alarmed beep let Poe know that hadn’t been the answer he’d expected.
“It’s alright…” He tried to assure him, “We’ll try not to stay there too long.”
The further Poe flew and the more he thought about it… crossing the entire galaxy and heading somewhere he didn’t know seemed less and less like the right idea.
At least not right away…
Sticking with locations he knew, while following the trails of those that might lead to those who’d taken Ben seemed like the best plan for the time being.
As he tried to think of what to do to plan his next steps, the more he realized how out of his depth he was.
He had absolutely no clue who or what had taken Ben...
Had also had almost nothing to live off of- other than what little was in his bank account.
Being a junior pilot in training hadn’t allowed him to build much in the way of savings just yet...
He’d been looking forward to the income that would come from graduating to the level of senior pilot and staring his career. Now those plans were the last thing he wanted anything to do with as he set out on his own, determined to get as far away as possible from everything he’d ever once believed in.
All that mattered now was figuring out how to fight his way to Ben, to save the man he loved from whatever it was that had come for him.
At the moment… he had no clue what that would be.
He realized it could end up taking years to find out who or what had taken him. In the meantime, he’d need to lay low while he figured out how to live.
The more he thought about it, the more Kijimi felt like the right place to start.
Wracking his brain for everything he knew about the planet, the one thing that stood out was how much he’d heard about how it was a hotbed of all the criminal activity and corruption in the galaxy.
If some ominous force had taken Ben, it must have had connections to the more mundane evils plaguing the galaxy and threatening to overthrow the Republic...
The first place to start looking for that evil was the place where the lowest parts of that world operated.
Kijimi was definitely where he needed to go.
As some semblance of a plan began to unfold in his mind, Poe couldn’t’ help but realize how nuts it all sounded.
He had absolutely no idea what he was doing.
Still, he was going to try... He had to try.
He couldn’t just sit on the sidelines anymore like a good son of the New Republic, following all the rules while watching everything he cared about falling apart.
He’d followed the rules his entire life.
Doing so had just cost him everything he loved.
The heat of an early summer day had begun to set in on Kijimi.
Zorii stood in a hangar, staring at the frustratingly empty tarmac where her crew’s starfighter should have been.
Morning had come and gone, and her pilot still hadn’t made it back from their last run the night before. She hadn’t heard anything from him letting them know were he was or what had happened.
By now he was either dead, or in a New Republic holding cell.
She wasn’t sure which she’d prefer- for his sake as well as her own.
She closed her eyes as she tried to think of what to do…
The run they needed to get done that day had just been thrown into question.
If they didn’t move the shipment that had just come in, they’d be screwed…
She’d need to find a new pilot- fast.
Her heart dropped as she heard an X-wing coming in to land. It sank even further as the ship rolled to park in the vacant space next to where her transport should’ve been.
“Figures…” She thought to herself, slipping behind a stack of cargo to hide. “Just what I needed today.”
The ship’s arrival answered her previous question. He was definitely in a New Republic holding cell- and by the looks of it, he’d sold them out to save his own ass.
With nowhere to go Zorii remained hidden, waiting to see what would happen. She held a finger over her comm link, ready to tell the others who to be on the lookout for.
Her thoughts of what to tell the others began to slip away as the pilot exited his fighter.
Where she’d expected to see some typical sky trash goon climbing out, instead appeared one of the most gorgeous men she’d ever seen...
He pulled off his jacket as the sun’s heat hit him, mindlessly tying it around his waist as he surveyed the hangar.
The casual decrease in clothing had her totally awestuck for a split second. His physique put every other New Republic pilot she’d seen to shame.
“If I do have to get arrested today- it might as well by that .” She thought to herself.
His next move was every bit as surprising as his devastatingly handsome appearance.
He pulled his wallet out of his pocket, fishing out credits as he went to pay for the spot he’d parked in. The hangar attendant just stared between him and his X wing, wondering what the hell he was doing.
On duty government officials didn’t typically pay for parking.
Realizing what he’d done, Poe quickly shoved his credits back in his wallet like he hadn’t meant to. Taking advantage of free starship parking was something he wasn’t used to just yet- having never actually used it.
He smiled and nodded at the attendant, trying and failing to play it off like he’d meant to do so out of courtesy.
The attendant just rolled his eyes as he went back to playing holo-solitaire. Poe was one of many New Republic types that had had come through that hangar, and appeared to be every bit as incompetent at performing his job as the government he served was at running the galaxy.
Poe quickly turned back to his ship, thankful not to have been seen through anymore than he was.
If his commander knew he’d shown up in a spaceport with his X-wing and in full uniform accepting free parking as if he were on duty…well, he didn’t bother thinking about what would have happened.
He reminded himself he didn’t care about any of that anymore.
As he stood in front of his ship, he realized at some point he’d need to trade it for something less conspicuous… that is…. if there was even a market for New Republic X-wings.
He had no idea where to begin to start looking for a source to unload such a thing...
He squinted, rubbing his eyes fiercely as he realized even more how much of a challenge lay ahead. He couldn’t help but sigh heavily at the situation he found himself in.
Considering selling a ship that wasn’t even his, and government property no less… He really was going all out with this criminal underworld thing.
Thankfully he hadn’t heard anyone on the scanners looking for him. That let him know his parents hadn’t reported him as missing.
As he thought about it, he wasn’t sure why they would.
He was an adult after all… Free to go wherever he pleased… Even if that included engaging in criminal activity- which they of course had no way of knowing about.
He wondered for a moment if they’d have reported him gone if they’d known what he was up to- and quickly decided he didn’t want to answer that question.
What mattered for now was as far as the galaxy was concerned- he was still just on leave, spending a few weeks with family before officially starting his career.
He was in the clear… at least for now.
As he hooked his ship up for refueling, the weight of what he was doing began to set in even more.
The way others in the space port looked at him- like some unwelcome authority figure they could have gone their whole lives without seeing- it was a harsh reminder that he wasn’t on one of the more civilized worlds he was used to frequenting.
The air around him suddenly felt heavy.
For a moment he had an urge to head back to what he knew, to run back home and tell his parents he was sorry, to beg for forgiveness and tell them he’d never meant to leave like that and didn’t know what he’d been thinking…
The thought was gone before he even seriously considered it.
He might not know how yet, but he was determined to fight to bring Ben back- to find the people that had taken the man he loved and to save him from whatever terrible hold they had over him.
Even if he was totally clueless about where to start- that was all he truly cared about anymore.
A half hour later he’d finished refueling along with the system checks he’d needed to perform. By now his stomach screamed with hunger. He’d need to get something to eat before the midday heat made him pass out.
At this point Zorii was leaning against the wall behind the mountain of cargo, totally blown away by what she’d been witnessing.
By now it was abundantly clear to her that something about this pilot was off.
The way he bumbled about everything he was doing, like he couldn’t form a clear thought to save his life…
The way he flippantly threw anything aside that got in his way…
The way he didn’t even bother properly wearing his uniform like a pilot on duty…
The lost look in what appeared to be very, very tired eyes…
As good as he looked doing all of it, it was clear he was having an extremely rough day.
Artist Credit- Kevinwada
By now she’d totally given up on warning the others, realizing this wasn’t someone they’d need to be on the lookout for. If she had to guess, it appeared he was more likely on the run than performing any kind of actual duty.
“I would love to know what this is about…” she thought to herself, intrigued by what she’d been watching.
A New Republic pilot on the run had to have an interesting story. More importantly- he could be a valuable asset to their crew.
As terrible of a spot as she’d thought she’d been in earlier… her luck may have actually turned around.
She realized she didn’t have anything to lose in following to see where his path led. No other pilots were likely to show up out of the blue. If he was indeed on the run, throwing a bit of work his way might be just what he needed…
“Where’s the closest place I can get something to eat?” She heard him ask the attendant.
She watched intently as he memorized directions to the nearest cantina, then waved to his droid to follow him that way.
After trailing him, Zorii entered the cantina and immediately spotted her target sitting at a table alone with his droid.
She went to the bar at first and pretended to look at the menu, watching him out of the corner of her eye to make sure her instincts had been correct.
The way he looked totally confused ordering from an Anzellen menu confirmed he wasn’t meant to be here.
Finally having figured out something to order, he sat alone at his table for a bit. Somehow, he had an even more overwhelmed look in his eyes then he’d had before.
“This is almost too easy.” She thought to herself.
Ready to make her move, Zorii headed his way.
“Is this seat taken?” She asked, nodding to the empty chair across from him.
Poe looked her up and down as he sized up the person who’d suddenly appeared out of the blue.
It was clear a woman stood in front of him- one with a phenomenal figure. With the helmet she wore he couldn’t be certain what species she was, but the way she approached and spoke had him guessing she was human.
Being covered head to toe in custom tactical gear made him think she was most likely a spice runner. He couldn’t begin to guess why she’d chosen to talk to him, but he knew connecting with the locals would be the first step to figuring out what the hell he was actually doing here.
Having someone approach him first… luck appeared to be on his side.
“Not that I can tell.” He replied, lifting his hand and waving to welcome her to take a seat.
Zorii sat down and wasted no time getting to the point.
“So, what’s your story sky trash?”
Poe’s face felt hot over the use of the term. “Sky Trash” was one of the least polite ways to refer to New Republic law enforcement.
“Sky trash huh?” He took a sip of his drink. “Is that how people typically welcome off-worlders to Kijimi?”
“Those that fly X-wings, Yeah.” She replied flatly.
Poe stared at her for a moment, feeling like an idiot.
He should have known better. Showing up on a planet like Kijimi in uniform did make him stand out.
“Yeah… well… my story is a bit of a long one.” He sighed. “I doubt you’d have the time.”
Just then a droid brought over the food he’d ordered. He tore into it right away, ignoring whatever attempt at conversation Zorii had been trying to make.
Zorii realized leading with confidence wasn’t doing her any favors. New Republic types weren’t used to the brazen communication style of spice runners. If she was going to make any kind of meaningful connection here, she’d need to put him at ease.
Right away she started taking her helmet off.
The sound of her helmet clicking caught Poe’s attention, pulling his gaze up from his meal to look up at her.
The moment her helmet came off, a mountain of golden curls burst forth. They all but glowed as she shook them out, causing them to them tumble down over her shoulders. As she looked back at him, her green eyes began to pull him in like a tractor beam.
Poe stopped chewing the bite of food in his mouth, suddenly frozen in place. He’d never seen such a beautiful woman in all his life.
Noticing the pause Zorii cleared her throat before what she said next.
“So… are you going to tell me your name or do I have to guess?”
His name… what was his name again? What was he even doing here? The angelic creature in front of him had just made him forget almost everything he’d ever known…
He swallowed hard as he tried to remember how to talk again.
“POE” He finally blurted out. “My name’s Poe. Poe Dameron.”
Fuck, he thought to himself, had he really just given away his real name that easily?
Zorii’s eyebrows raised at how perfectly that had worked.
“Well that was easy.” She smiled. “I’m Zorii Bliss.”
Her smile had him not caring quite so much about how easily she’d got the better of him.
If his parents and his commander and the entirety of the New Republic burst into the cantina and dragged him back to the capital and threw him in the brig for desertion- at this moment, he didn’t care.
He’d just seen one of the most glorious smiles that had ever existed.
The way he was staring at her made Zorii realize that had worked even better than she’d planned.
Not that she minded one bit.
She’d be content to have this sky trash look at her this way for the rest of her life if she absolutely had to...
Wait, no, what was she thinking? She’d had some reason to follow him into this cantina… What was it again?
Pilot… spice running… RIGHT… She’d need to do a better job at keeping her wits about her to get done what she needed to do.
“So… Poe Dameron, if I had to guess, it looks like you’re a bit out of your element at the moment?” She asked, coming back to her senses.
“…is it really that obvious?” He stammered, his eyes heavy as his breath caught in his chest. He hated how easily she saw through him.
Or rather… he wanted to hate it… he knew he should hate it…. But… something about it wasn’t the worst thing ever.
“Yeah….” Zorii smirked. “It is a little bit obvious.”
Poe sighed. “So… did you come sit here to make fun of me, or-”
“No, actually, not at all. I’m sorry if that’s the impression you got.”
“It is a little difficult not to get that impression.” He grinned.
Quick response time, Zorii thought to herself, an excellent quality in a pilot…
She hoped his skills in the air were every bit as promising as his skills with conversation…
As late in the day as it was getting, she knew they’d need to get to that sooner than later. She figured the time had come to get to the point.
“To answer your earlier question… Unfortunately I don’t have time for any long stories right now, but I wouldn’t be opposed to hearing it later. For now though, I joined you because I’m actually looking for pilots down on their luck. Those in need of work- if that’s something you’d be interested in.”
Poe’s heart leapt in his chest. Was she flirting with him? It certainly appeared that way…
He tried to process what she’d just said…
Long story… Everything he’d ever known... BEN- shit that’s why he was here…
Gods he’d need to get it together if he was actually going to do anything meaningful with his life…
He knew that story was the last thing he could share with the gorgeous spice runner who’d shown up at just the right time-
Right time- holy hell had she just offered him a job?! That was literally exactly what he needed.
As he thought about it… it was more than a little too good to be true.
He made sure to lower his voice with what he said next.
“You’re telling me you want to hire a New Republic pilot on the run?” He asked, amazed he was even bringing himself to admit that so quickly. Something about her had him so off guard he’d probably reveal everything he’d ever known if she pushed him.
Well… almost everything.
“Now that you mention it…” She pulled her curls to the back and tied them up. It was getting a bit hot, even inside. “You’re exactly the kind of pilot I’d like to hire. That is- if everything you’re telling me is true.”
The way he was still looking at her, she knew there was no chance at him lying to her.
“Why exactly would that be?” He asked, suddenly a little skeptical. Things were working out far better than logic dictated they should…
Zorii stared at him blankly, wondering if he was joking.
“Was that a serious question?” She finally said.
“I thought you weren’t here to make fun of me?”
“Right…” She did her best not to laugh. He really had no clue how out of his depth he was. “Well, a New Republic pilot with a New Republic X wing would actually be fantastic cover to run the kinds of things I need moved.”
Poe realized right away what she was saying- and felt even more like an idiot for not considering that.
He’d have a lot of catching up to do to learn how to think like those in the very foreign world he was trying to become a part of.
“I suppose… as long as your work keeps you farther out where folks aren’t looking to run into trouble… and if we scrubbed the identifying marks… make it look like it was meant to blend in… that… might actually work.”
“Trust me.” Zorii assured him. “My crew knows how to put up a good cover while staying off the radar and avoiding the New Republic.”
“I bet you do…” Poe smiled.
It was exactly what he needed to hear