“LX-6153, you’re being shifted.”
The Stormtrooper remained at attention, shifting her eyes to her commanding officer without turning her head.
“Your sector is now detention levels six through ten in D block. Understood?”
“Yes, sir.” she said smoothly. Detention levels were almost as bad as bathrooms, since the higher ups got shuffled around. Now there was always some mess or other in one of the cells, and she’d probably spend half an hour scrubbing blood off the walls of at least one of them. She wanted to sigh, but instead exhaled slowly and silently, took her cart, and headed for her new area. Despite having been in Sanitation for almost three years now, she was still low-ranked enough to be given crap jobs like this one, and on the worst shifts too. But she didn’t grumble as she took the lift to level 5. LX-6153 knew she was lucky to have even this job, barely tall enough to meet regulation and not skilled enough to perform any other tasks. Even 2AM shifts cleaning out trash compactors would be better than getting decommissioned.
Her shift was nearly over by the time she reached the tenth level, and she did grumble a little as she scrubbed down the walls of yet another bloody cell. Of course the pompous General just had to use ancient interrogation methods, and of course his favourites left the floors and walls stained with rusty brown that took an unreasonable amount of hydrogen peroxide to scrub out. LX-6153 opened a cell about halfway down the aisle, and froze. There was a prisoner in this one. Alive, shackled to the cot, and with bandages wrapped around his head. After a second, she realized this must be the man she’d overheard some of the medical staff discussing while she wiped down their operating tables last week.
FN-2187. Finn. The stormtrooper who’d deserted and joined the Resistance. LX-6153 hovered in that doorway for a moment, weighing her options. She could skip this cell and report to her CO that she’d decided to not complete her task in order to avoid potential contact with a defective Trooper, or she could clean it while he slept and report her job as fully done. Squaring her shoulders, LX-6153 grabbed a pair of rags, the general cleaning solution, and the bottle of hydrogen peroxide. The cell was relatively clean, since this prisoner wasn’t being interrogated or anything. She’d just give the walls a quick wipe-down, mop the floor, and be out of here.
“The blue bottle makes the walls shine better.” FN-2187 said a few minutes later, and LX-6153 startled so badly she squeezed a good amount of cleaning solution out of her rag and onto the floor.
“Blue is only for mirrors and windows.” she said after a moment, returning to her job. “And what would a defective like you know?”
There was some clanking as he sat up, and LX-6153 was passingly glad that she’d already cleaned that wall of the cell. “I worked Sanitation for a few years before I made combat trooper.” he said, and out of the corner of her visor she saw him shrug. “Green works well enough for your standard walls and doors and stuff, but something about these cells makes them look better with the glass cleaner.” he tilted his head, as if appraising the metal. “I think it’s the soundproofing.”
LX-6153 didn’t respond, finishing the final wall and heading back out into the hall to put her wall materials where they belonged and separate the mop & bucket from the rest of the cart. FN-2187 didn’t say anything else as she quickly mopped the floor, but when she pulled her cart up to the next cell LX-6153 hesitated before grabbing the usual bottles. The walls in these cells did have a different texture from the rest of the base, so maybe the defective trooper was onto something. He did say he’d been in sanitation before his defection.
Two weeks later, LX-6153’s section was changed again. This time she was assigned to a few levels of a medical wing, and she resolutely ignored the pang in her chest at the thought of not seeing
Finn FN-2187 anymore. He was a defective stormtrooper, in for decommission once the behavioural scientists had finished with them.
Another week later, LX-6153’s shift was changed for the first time since she was a rookie. She was switched up from graveyard shift to early bird shift, still in the same sector since the medical blocks needed cleaning throughout the day, and despite her training she cracked a smile under her helmet. Finally, she was getting good enough at her job to start moving up. She spent a good half hour of her first day shift standing at attention and waiting for a medical officer to direct her to a room needing cleaning. When she was given a location, she wheeled her cart down and over and into the room. The walls here rarely needed scrubbing, but there were plenty of semi-reflective metallic tables and carts which needed disinfecting, and the floor as well.
She finished cleaning that room just minutes before her helmet’s built in radio buzzed to life and issued a new room number, and a smile flickered over her face as she trundled her cart to there. It wasn’t until the fourth room, halfway through her shift, that LX-6153 walked into a designated room and found it not completely empty. The doctors using this one had told her to clean it down during their lunch break, but not disturb the specimen. She’d been expecting a half-dissected animal, but when she opened the door with a swipe of her keycard she was greeted with an incredible sight.
Finn FN-2187, seated in a metal chair with thick leather straps binding every limb in place and his head in a metal contraption to keep him from moving. It didn’t seem to have prongs to hold his eyes open, like the ones used in reconditioning, but the sight of it made LX-6153 shiver all the same. She’d been reconditioned once, or maybe twice, it was always hard to remember but she knew it had happened at least once and the sight of a fellow trooper, even a rogue and defective one, strapped in like that made her stomach turn.
“Didn’t expect to be seeing you again.”
Finn FN-2187 said, forcing a chuckle as she pulled out bottles of cleaner and disinfectant and set to work. “Nice to see you got promoted, Suds.”
LX-6153 applied more force than necessary, and the sponge in her hand squeaked loudly across the table she was cleaning. “Who told you that?” she hissed, turning to face
“The guy who took your graveyard shift.” he smiled, only a little bit less forced than his earlier laugh. “Tens, that’s his nickname.”
“Trooper designation BN-1010?” LX-6153 asked, smirking slightly. Served the smug asshole right, getting stuck with detention cells.
“Tens, yeah.” Finn said, and LX-6153 frowned again as she went back to cleaning the table. She had to wipe down and disinfect every major surface before the doctors returned from the canteen, she didn’t have time to stand around gabbing.
Another week and a half later she was still working in the same levels of the medical section of Block G, and LX-6153 was starting to get used to the business. She was mopping up a medicine spill when she overheard two of the doctors talking. That in itself wasn’t unusual, she’d overheard plenty of conversations, but these ones were talking about Finn. They’d been unable to isolate the cause of his defect, and he was slated for decommissioning in three days. LX-6153 had never been troublesome on purpose, never had a treasonous thought in her life, but the idea of Finn being decommissioned after having left the First Order didn’t sit right with her.
LX-6153 was still struggling to get Finn out of her mind when her leisure period arrived, and she arrived in the break room to see a knot of Troopers clustered around the highest ranking Stormtrooper in the base. Apparently there was a memo which had been sent out from an outer transit post or something, and had only just made it to them. LX-6153 found a seat, grabbed a cup of water, and prepared herself to hear about some new rule they would have to follow. Hopefully it was just for canteen troopers, or pilots, or combat troops. She hated to think that she’d been doing things wrong for so long, almost two months since the memo’s writing.
Then the Trooper with the memo began to read it, and LX-6153 nearly choked on her first sip of water. It was about FN-2187. About Finn. About how he was no different from any other Stormtrooper, and yet he escaped and got a name and became the most important person in the whole galaxy. It made something in her chest swell, until she felt like she could burst with it. The memo took up their whole leisure period, and yet LX-6153 didn’t mind not having the chance to talk to her fellow Troopers. Finn was just like her, and he was scheduled for decommissioning, for execution, in three days.
LX-6153 inhaled deeply as she put her helmet back on and disposed of her empty cup, and Suds exhaled through the filter almost silently. The thing in her chest was partly fear, partly exhilaration, but more joy than either of those. And then, more solid and encompassing than the fear or exhilaration or joy, was determination. She had a little under 48 hours to come up with a way to get Finn out of here, and hopefully herself along with him.
During her next shift, Suds brushed somebody’s blaster off of a countertop and stashed it under the rags on her cart. She poured a bottle of some seldom-used cleaner down a sink drain, and replaced it with something labelled with yellow warning symbols and a name with far too many syllables. She very carefully rigged her bottles of bleach-based and vinegar-based cleaners with latex gloves of the other substance, recalling how her CO had drilled it into her during her first week that the two should never be used on the same surface without adequate drying time, lest she accidentally make chlorine gas and send a whole block level to the infirmary.
By the time her shift was over, she felt fairly confident in her plan. The tricky part would be getting to a hangar, but she knew that the combat troop transports were parked in the middle of the hangar when not in use and that her card could unlock them. At least working in sanitation was good for something.
Finn opened his eyes at the vaguely familiar voice, and found himself eye to visor with a Stormtrooper helmet. The sanitation one who’d been promoted a few weeks back. “Suds?” he frowned. The doctors were on lunch break already? It didn’t feel late enough for that.
“Get up, we’re leaving.” she grabbed him by the elbow, and pulled him to his feet. His- hadn’t he been strapped down a minute ago?
“Why are you helping me?” he asked as she stuck her hand into a bucket of used rags.
“Because we’re the same.” she replied, pulling out a blaster and putting it in his hands. “I hope you can still shoot straight.”
It almost sounded like she was smiling, and Finn grinned back at her. “I can do that.”
“Good.” she picked up a pair of bottles, and his eyes widened. This was going to be an interesting escape, at the very least.
Ten minutes of running and screaming later, Suds slammed her key card against the side of the first ship she reached and Finn all but threw her into the copilot seat before leaping into the pilot one himself. “Hell of a plan!” he yelled, locking the doors and slamming buttons on the console until he found the ignition.
“I got you a blaster, didn’t I?” she snapped back, fumbling with the seatbelt as Finn sent them lurching into space.
“You made chlorine time bombs, without a timer!” he punched the number pad a few times, setting coordinates.
“It wasn’t supposed to be a time bomb!”
“Hang on!” Finn slammed his whole hand into a handle which slid forward, and then Suds was being pressed into her seat and the stars were blurring into lines of blue-white light around them and then they were in hyperspace. Finn sat back with a heavy sigh, and gave her a weary (but genuine) grin. “Next time stay away from poisonous gasses.”
“Hopefully there won’t be a next time.” she groaned, reaching up to remove her helmet. She wouldn’t need it anymore. The seal broke with a familiar click and hiss, and she tossed it over her shoulder. The gloves followed suit, and she dragged her fingers through the short fluffy black hair which covered her head. She’d been due for a trim in a few days, but maybe now she’d grow it out. She unbuckled her seatbelt, and moved to stand in the small cargo area and pull off the rest of her armour.
“So, Suds.” Finn said awkwardly when she climbed back into the copilot seat, now only wearing the fitted black shirt and pants which went under the white armour. “Thanks for getting me out and all that, but I’m not sure how well the Resistance is gonna take me showing back up with another ex-Trooper.”
Ex-Trooper. Suds grinned, and buckled back up. “Well, I’m sure there are sanitation jobs elsewhere.” she linked her fingers together and stretched her arms out, palms towards the windshield. “There’s always a mess to be cleaned up, right?”
“Well, yeah.” Finn chuckled. “By the way, do you want me to tell them Suds is your name?”
She thought for a second, thought about how her bunk-mates had called her that for being the only sanitation worker, and shook her head. “It’s just a nickname.” she turned in her seat, and cocked her head slightly. “How’d you pick yours?”
“It was a gift, actually.” Finn smiled, soft and dopey. “You want to make up your own, or-?”
“Could you?” Suds asked quickly. To have a gift from the most important man in the galaxy would be, well, kinda awesome.
“Well, you said your designation was-”
“LX-6153.” Suds replied automatically.
“So, Lexy.” Finn grinned, and her heart did a funny sort of somersault in her chest. “That good?”
“That’s great.” she said quickly, committing the name, her name, to memory. She had one of those now. And maybe, just maybe, that would make the future a little bit better no matter where she wound up.