In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we first meet Chirrut and Baze in the war-torn streets of Jedha. They’re a classic Star Wars odd couple. Baze is stoic and hardened; Chirrut is witty and devoted to the Force. Together, they’re an amazing team and just fun to watch — great warriors who bicker, but share a bond. Greg Rucka’s new book, Guardians of the Whills, takes us back to before they encountered Jyn Erso and found a new purpose, revealing more of who these men were, and who they’d go on to be. Enjoy an exclusive excerpt below.
“I need a new blaster,” Baze said.
“Use your old one,” Chirrut said.
“You still have your old one.”
“So use your old one.”
Baze and Chirrut split without breaking stride as a clump of urchins, each of them so filthy and caked with dirt they left puffs of dust in their wake, barreled past them. Baze kept a hand on the pouch tucked beneath his tunic where he kept his credits, and an eye on Chirrut at the same time, knowing full well it was unnecessary and yet doing it all the same. The fact was, of the two of them, Baze was the more likely to have his purse lifted and not even notice.
“The old one works perfectly well,” Chirrut said when they’d fallen back in, side by side.
“The old one is a Guardian’s weapon. And I am no longer a Guardian.”
“Then you are making a choice.”
“Yes,” Baze said. “My choice is to find a new blaster.”
“No, your choice is to be stubborn.”
“My choice is to use a reliable blaster rather than an archaic lightbow.”
“Your reliable blaster has proven to be unreliable.”
“Which is why I need a new gun.”
“Use your old one.”
Baze came to a halt in the middle of the street and Chirrut, too, stopped almost instantly, as if he’d been expecting this.
“Like so many conversations with you,” Baze said, “we are now back where we started.”
“You noticed that, did you?”
“You’re very lucky I’m your friend, you know that?”
“I do know that,” Chirrut said. “Though I wonder why you are saying this right now.”
“I’m saying it right now because I’m wondering why anyone would bother to put up with you.”
“Ah,” said Chirrut. “I often wonder the same thing about you.”
Baze roared with laughter, loud enough that the crowded street took notice of them, including two helmeted and robed worshippers of the Central Isopter, who stepped curiously closer. Baze grinned big at them, showing his teeth, and they stopped, then stepped back, then turned away to melt back into the crowd. Baze took the opportunity to check around them before starting forward again. Chirrut immediately kept pace, his staff extended at an angle to the ground in front of them, swaying slightly from side to side.
“Do you want to go shopping?” Chirrut asked. “Is that what you’re saying? Though I doubt we can afford anything that will suit your purposes.”
“No.” The thought was vaguely absurd to Baze. “That’s not how you find the right weapon, you know better than that.”
“As we have established, apparently I do not.”
“We’re being followed.”
This seemed to amuse Chirrut. “Really?”
“Since we left the orphanage. I wasn’t sure until just now. Two of them.”
“I don’t think so. One is a Twi’lek.”
“There are two, I think. The other is a Sabat.”
“That does not sound Imperial.”
“I want to know why they’re following us.”
“You should ask them.”
“I’m going to.”
“Soon,” Baze said.
They rounded a corner out of the Old Market and continued another couple of blocks, heading roughly in the direction of the Eastern Wall, neither of them speaking. They continued to be followed, and Baze concluded a couple of things from this, not the least of which was that the Twi’lek and the Sabat knew what they were doing. They gave each other space, as well as leaving room between themselves and Baze and Chirrut. This meant that they had to be in communication with one another, either via comlink or hand signals or similar. That meant some degree of training, some degree of experience. If they were criminals, they were of a better class than Jedha normally had to offer.
Why criminals would be targeting him and Chirrut was its own question. The best a robber would get was disappointment. The worst was broken bones, if not from Baze’s fists, then from the frightening accuracy and speed with which Chirrut could use his staff.
So not criminals, and well trained, and careful, and that meant they had to be members of one of the insurgent groups working in the city. But this was puzzling on its own, as most of the Holy City’s insurgent groups were composed of locals, and locals were predominantly human. Twi’leks weren’t a terribly uncommon sight, to be sure, but the Sabat was another matter. The last time Baze had seen a Sabat he had still called himself a Guardian of the Whills, and that had been a long time ago.
They entered a mixed residential and business neighborhood known to the locals as Hopper Town, the reason for the name long since lost to the ages. The squat buildings here stood shoulder to shoulder, with alleys between them so narrow Baze could only make his way through them moving sideways. They turned north, and Chirrut stopped abruptly, holding out a hand to block Baze’s progress. Before Baze could ask why, he saw what his friend had somehow already sensed.
Ahead of them, rounding onto the far end of the street, came a patrol of stormtroopers. A half dozen of them leading on foot, their blaster rifles carried at the ready, and behind them a GAV in support, one of the armored personnel carriers, a heavy repeating blaster mounted atop and the gunner visible in his position. Baze glanced around to the narrow alleyways on either side and then up to the balconies and rooftops of the buildings surrounding them. Shutters were slamming into place, and people were hurrying to clear the street.
“There is going to be violence.”
Chirrut said it with a certainty that Baze had long ago come to trust absolutely.
“Stormtroopers,” Baze said. “Hunting party. This way.”
He moved left, to the widest of the alleyways in sight, Chirrut with him. From up the street, he heard the crackle of stormtrooper voices but was unable to make out their words.
“What was that?”
“They are telling everyone to stay where they are,” Chirrut said. “We do not want to do that.”
“No, we don’t. Here, you go first.”
Chirrut extended his hands, walking stick in one of them, and felt the walls that formed the mouth of the alley.
“You will not fit,” Chirrut said.
“Of course I will fit.”
“I am not leaving you behind.”
“You are not leaving me behind, you’re getting into the alley, Chirrut.”
One of the stormtroopers had seen them, was pointing in their direction. There were still a good twenty, twenty-five meters between the approaching patrol and where Baze and Chirrut now stood at the mouth of the alley. Baze considered the situation. It was entirely possible that the Imperial patrol had nothing to do with them, was a show of force in response to any number of other things that might have happened, or were happening, in the Holy City. It was also entirely possible that something had gone wrong the previous night, and that a security camera or a witness had seen them hijacking the resupply shipment, and had passed their descriptions along to the garrison. It was also possible—and Baze thought this the most likely—that this was nothing but bad luck, and that the simple act of attempting to leave the street had labeled them as suspect.
The problem was that if they were stopped for questioning, or brought in, there was no telling where that might lead or what it might lead back to. Unlike Baze, Chirrut still dressed as a Guardian of the Whills. He would be singled out because of this, subjected to more questions. And Chirrut, being Chirrut, would not tell the stormtroopers things they wanted to hear, and Chirrut, being Chirrut, would very likely begin spouting the litany. They would detain him. They might even detain him aboard the Star Destroyer, and Baze knew very well that those detained aboard the Star Destroyer were never heard from again.
“Fine,” he said, “Me first.”
He shoved Chirrut into the alley.
“I’ll catch up,” he said, then started running back in the direction of the Old Market with the shouts of stormtroopers—and his friend—chasing after him.
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