Phasma and her warriors began making preparations the moment they saw the explosion high overhead. As the ship’s remains streaked across the sky, Phasma tracked it with her quadnocs, taking careful note of the direction in which it fell. At the very least, ships like this could be pillaged; at most, there was always a hope that they could be salvaged and used to get offplanet. No one alive had seen such ships do anything but fall and crash, but they were evidence of the larger galaxy beyond Parnassos, of a future that had been denied them. It was painful, living on such a treacherous planet with so many reminders of the ease and technology that had once been taken for granted. At the very least, there would be metal, tech, clothes, medicines, food, and possibly working blasters scattered around what was left of the ship. These were the greatest riches in Phasma’s world.
But they had to hurry. Other groups in other territories would also be watching and preparing for the journey. Falling stars, as they called them, were rare, and this ship was the shiniest thing the Scyre had ever seen—so bright that they had to shield their eyes as it arrowed down toward the planet. Part of the ship popped off and floated down separately, headed for the area where the Scyre lands bordered the enemy Claw clan’s, which made it all the more important to hurry.
The journey was not easy, for no journeys on Parnassos are. The Scyre territory was mostly spires of black rock, jagged cliffs, ledges, caves, and occasional tide pools when the ocean was at its lowest. Within their accustomed living area, they maintained a series of ziplines, rope bridges, tethers, nets, and hammocks, and even the least nimble Scyre member could get from place to place without too much trouble. But beyond their nesting place, along their border with the Claw, the terrain grew even more dangerous. The bridges weren’t sturdy, and one never knew when a support spike might be rusted through or a stone spire crumbling away to nothing. Phasma’s warriors were lucky that the ship had crashed during a time of low tides, so they were able to traverse the terrain far more easily than if the tides had been high, not to mention that during high tide, the ship might’ve been swallowed by the sea—or a monster in it.
When they reached the line of flags delineating the borderlands between the Scyre and the Claw, Phasma called a halt and pulled out her quadnocs. Five figures were being pulled up onto the plateau from the land below. Using the lenses, Phasma followed the footprints and drag marks back to where a metal machine waited, half submerged in the sand and beside a huge, crumpled piece of fabric. It was the part of the ship that had popped off and gently floated down. The Scyre had never seen so much fabric in one piece in all their lives, and it was clear why several Claw members were down there, busily cutting the long lines that held the fabric to the machine so that they might claim it for their own. The downed ship was nowhere in sight, but far, far away, across the sands and yet more rocks. Phasma tracked the thin line of white smoke that feathered up into the sky, marking the path to true riches.
A cheer went up from the gathered Claw as the first strange figure was dragged to standing on top of the plateau. It was a man, and for Parnassos, he wore very little, just finely woven clothes of a smooth, uniform black and tall, shiny boots speckled with sand. He was the oldest person the Scyre folk had ever seen, with pale-white skin and red hair going gray at the edges. Although his limbs were slender enough, his belly was big, and he had dark circles under his eyes. He smiled blandly at the whoops and whistles of the Claw folk but was clearly not celebrating, personally.
Without a word, Phasma urged her people forward, motioning for them to be quiet and quick. When they stood on the edge of the plateau, behind the crowd of Claw folk so mesmerized that they hadn’t even noticed the interlopers, Phasma and her people finally saw the miracle occurring.
The Claw’s leader had pushed the man gently aside and reached for the next figure, a warrior wearing white armor streaked with gray sand over a thin suit of black. A gasp went over the Claw folk, and Phasma’s warriors, too—such armor would’ve given anyone on Parnassos a huge advantage over the elements, and the solid helmet seemed an improvement over their light leather masks. Two more white-armored soldiers followed, and lastly came a droid. It was shaped vaguely like a human and made of matte-black metal, and it took the longest to haul up, due, most likely, to its weight and its inability to climb. The people of Parnassos had seen the component parts of hundreds of droids and even used droid metal for their weapons, but no one living had seen a droid stand of its own volition and hold up an indignant hand, as this black droid did when the Claw attempted to touch it.
The droid spoke to the man in black with a mechanized voice. It was hard to hear on the plateau, surrounded by whispering and the sudden gusts of wind, but the language seemed both familiar and different. The man in black spoke back to the droid, and the droid spoke again, this time much louder, its voice projected by some sort of strange machinery.
“My name is Brendol Hux, and I’m afraid my starship was shot down by an automated defense system over your world. My language is a little different from yours, so this droid will translate to your more primitive dialect.
“My emergency pod has landed very far from my ship. I have lost several of my own people in this horrible tragedy. But if you are willing to help me, I can offer you the kind of technology and supplies that your world has lost. I come from a powerful band called the First Order that brings peace to the galaxy. I am tasked with scouring the stars for the greatest warriors, that they might join our cause. Our people are well cared for and well trained. Ask my soldiers, here. Troopers, is that not so?”
The three soldiers in white nodded and barked, “Yes, sir!”
“Each of these warriors was selected from a distant planet and trained to fight for the First Order. If your people help return us to our ship, I will take whoever wishes to join me back to our fleet. These soldiers will live in glory and wealth, never suffering for want again. Now, who will help me?”
The Claw people stood to cheer, but a new figure appeared beside Brendol Hux, a warrior wearing a fierce red mask.
“I am Phasma, and I am the greatest warrior of Parnassos.” Removing her mask, Phasma faced Brendol and waited for the robot to translate. “I will help you find your ship.”