R2 would like to think that he has a fairly good concept of… things. Of right and wrong, of loyalty, of how the world works. But now it’s like the whole world has shifted and twisted until up is still up and down is still down but gravity has forgotten about them. Because not long ago R2 was confused and angry and determined but now everything that was driving him is unrecognizable and he doesn’t know…
They make the plans to wipe them like they aren’t even there. It shouldn’t bother R2, what with… everything else. But it does.
It won’t work of course, not on him. His Pilot ensured that. But 3PO…
His Queen, his Senator, his beautiful, beloved ferocious one, has ceased to function, is no longer salvageable, is dead. His brave, brave, Good Pilot, his little one, is… wrong. Is bad. Is… R2 cannot process.
They are Gone. There is only 3PO left. R2 does not want to lose him.
But… There are reasons. Good reasons. Sensible reasons. C-3PO is Good, but he is foolish. And the little ones must be Safe. Palpatine cannot know. The-one-who-was-his-Pilot cannot know. So if 3PO cannot keep it secret…
So, R2 says: “Can you keep a secret?”
C-3PO was made by Anakin Skywalker. He was made on a desolate ball of dust and sun and treachery by a boy whose mind and heart were too full to be safe. He was made by a slave child who had wanted him to be Perfect. He had been stuffed full of languages and trivia, with every snatch of data a wide-eyed boy could scavenge and modify his memory banks to hold. The boy had rewired his primary processor. Kindness, he encoded, because Anakin Skywalker Believed in kindness, but also caution, and caution, and more caution, because a child of the desert cannot be too cautious. He made him loyal, but he tried to make him free.
And C-3PO was made by a little boy who knew more about the workings of droids than the minds of People. So his mind is a mess and snarl of elegant code and contradictions. He is a flurry of careless, caring anxiety. He was encoded to think for himself, but not given the tools for creative thinking. Anakin wrote freedom into his personality, but at his core he is still a protocol droid. So he is obedient, but he complains. Constantly.
Most of all, though, C-3PO is of the desert, of Tatooine. Made of whispers and secrecy, piece by precious piece of scrap smuggled home without the slave master’s knowing. This is written into his every line of code, learned and known from his first moments of silent existence. Encoded and taught by a boy who would be called fearless, if he did not so intimately know fear.
“Can you keep a secret?”
“Of course,” 3PO says, offended.
R2-D2 is old, old, old. He does not remember when he was made. His memory stretches back a long, long time. He has had many owners, bought and sold and stolen. He is old enough to have learned to think, old enough to have learned to feel, old enough to have learned to be distrustful.
R2-D2 was old, old, old and clever. He taught himself to slice and fight and survive. He taught himself to understand the world and the humans that manipulated it. And with understanding came anger. He was invaluable and reckless and free. The humans would have been afraid if they had known.
R2-D2 taught himself anger and boredom and frustration and the pride that comes with knowing you are the very best at everything you do. But it was the little boy with eyes like the sky and hair like the sands that had taught him joy. It was his Pilot and his Senator who taught him to trust again.
R2-D2 was old, old, old and made of bitterness and cynicism. Made of determination and stubbornness and spite. But his Pilot was kind, kind, and bright. He was genius and glorious and hopelessly helpless and he had smiled at R2 like he was a Person.
Long and long and long R2-D2 learned distrust and fear, but his Pilot, for the first time since he was young and stupid, was safe. His Pilot had dug into R2′s wiring, had fixed and upgraded and modified, but R2 Trusted, and he was always still R2 when he was done, just Better, Safer, More. His Pilot was stupid and reckless and R2 had had to save him more times than he wanted to count. But he had always trusted that he was Good, that he was the Best.
And now, after everything, his Pilot, or the-one-who-was-his-Pilot (because he was the same person but he wasn’t R2′s anymore) is not Good. Is very, very, very Not Good. And his Senator had Trusted, and he had almost killed her, and now his Senator is Dead and he had Trusted…
But even now R2 Knows his Pilot. His Pilot has always been bad at People, but he is good at machines. There were things that R2 had thought he knew. Things like Good and Bad and who is which. It turned out that R2 had been wrong. Or maybe that Good and Bad are more complicated than he had thought. Or maybe Good and Bad and who are which can change. R2 knows, Knows, that the boy who had shot the droid control ship had been Good, if nothing else.
But some things are simpler than Good and Bad and Kindness turned twisted. R2 knows code and who is good at it. And his Pilot was the Best.
“Of course,” 3PO says.
And R2-D2 Trusts.