The Early Years: A Short Autobiography
by L.D. Helmet
as told to MJ Mink
Thanks to my friends and siblings who encouraged me to share my story with the rest of the universe, and thanks to my friends at Durasteel Safety Catalog for printing this. I hope I haven't let you down. I've always done my best.My life so far has been brief but full of excitement. Under normal circumstances, it would be too soon to write an autobiography -- I'm only three standard years old -- but these years have been far from normal. The life of an average human helmet is thus: You're manufactured, you do a few jobs, you last a decade if you're lucky, then you get trashed. I expect I will receive the same fate as every other helmet. But until the end comes, I intend to live my life to my fullest capacity. To the best of my ability, I will protect the fragile human shells of my charges -- and my ability is great. My middle name is Durasteel and that says it all! No other helmet can withstand the impacts that a Durasteel can.
I was manufactured in the main Durasteel plant in Laurent on Alderaan when the Great Rebellion was just a small belch from the cosmic stack. You'd never guess to look at me now, but I was quite beautiful when I was a young one. I was silver and highly polished -- it's true that we never look as good as when we're first put in the packing boxes! I wasn't totally sentient at the factory, so there's not much to tell about that life. I wasn't there for an extended period, only long enough to be formed, finished and painted. I barely had a chance to admire my appearance before I was rudely nested with other helmets, and we were all shipped off. It turned out that we weren't traveling far, only to the secret headquarters of the Rebellion Against the Empire, which at that time was on Alderaan. So my first journey was a land trip of short duration.
My siblings and I were boxed for an indeterminate amount of time, but we used that period wisely. It was difficult to become sentient without human brainwaves and emotions to draw on, but sometimes human thoughts eked through the cracks in our cartons and thence into us. Sad to say, I have met helmets who were packed in metal containers and thus were unable to receive human thoughts during their formative times -- I shudder to think of the fate that must have befallen them and their heads!
Finally one day our carton was opened. The sheer joy I felt cannot be fully described! There was a huge universe outside our small, dark world, and it was full of colors and sounds -- the sounds were quite a shock. We had become used to the muffled noises, but to be fully exposed to the racket of machinery and humans and dozens of other species -- !!! Forgive me. It is difficult to describe what was, for me, a Second Manufacturing.
At any rate, my first station was on a nonsentient shelf with other helmets (not the ones I'd nested with) and it was quite a disappointment. The first few "days" (as humans call the periods between new suns) proved to be interesting because I saw and listened to different kinds of people (after my initial euphoria, I became more jaded and they all began to look alike). They complained about supplies and clothes and armament, over and over until it became tedious in the extreme. Then we helmets began to be disbursed. I had been shoved to the back by some pushy fibrereflective numbers (showy, but impractical) so I was one of the last to be selected. I had a scare -- a loud-spoken man grabbed me and I was in terror that he would take me for his head (I would have gone deaf in a day!) but I am nothing if not clever. I tightened my molecules and puffed my lining--he could barely fit me over his crown!
I admit to feeling a little guilty afterwards because he ended up with one of the fibrereflectives; still, I was pleased with my resourcefulness. Then he came, and I knew his head was the one for me. The head belonged to Leyrd Dal. He was Alderaani and quite young (for a human) with soft, comfortable, thick dark hair that was cool and soothing. I liked him very much.
We were together for a long time. When we were new, we made it through an unpleasant crash in a nasty, forested place. Dal got both of us out before the fighter caught on fire. I was scorched a bit on one side, but I was otherwise undamaged. Forgive me if I don't detail the story, but the memory of it still frightens me. Suffice it to say that I protected Dal's head to the best of my ability. One of his upper limbs snapped and his body plating (humans call it "skin") became scratched and discolored, but his head remained intact. Dal was pleased with me. I could tell by the way he petted me after that. He called it "For Luck!" but we both knew there was true affection between us.
Dal and I got along marvelously. I enjoyed his thoughts--sometimes he was quite frisky! Once he poured a bubbly pink liquid in me, and he and a young lady drank from me! That was an experience, let me tell you! The feel of human mouths on my rim! -- well, I wasn't sure if it was disgusting or funny! But it was Dal, so it didn't matter. Whatever he did was all right with me. As I said, we were together for a long time, nearly two-thirds of my life, and he became like a surrogate mold to me. Then we crashed again.
It wasn't a bad crash. I thought we'd be fine, but those ones they call "stormtroopers", the ones with the full-body helmets, came running up and broke Dal. He died, but not right away. I listened to his thoughts about his current lady, his "family" (I took that to mean the other humans he'd lived with previously), and his hurt. I tried to strengthen his head, but it did no good; that wasn't what was wrong with him. I felt that I'd failed my human.
For the first time in my life, I wished I'd been body-armor.
At any rate, this brings me to what happened today. Tilly (who'd borrowed me for one of those bizarre drinking rituals the boys held after almost every battle) (this time he used me to toast Dal) tossed me on the pillow on Dal's sleeping-cot, and then he and the other pilots left. I indulged in some serious mourning for Dal. They say helmets don't become attached to their heads, but we do, and I had become attached to my head. I missed him very much. In what I'd previously heard labeled as my "youthful ignorance", I thought that no one could replace Dal in my affections. I was content for awhile just to lie on his pillow, wallow in my grief, and cuddle with the few stray hairs that he'd left behind. They were sad, too.
I was alone for quite sometime (there were other helmets in the barracks, but they were also in mourning so we didn't converse) before the humans returned. The big one, Porkins (the one who played those awful jokes on the boys) walked right up to Dal's bunk and said, "This'll be yours...assuming you're around afterwards."
I knew he wasn't speaking to me so I wobbled a little on the pillow to peek past him. There was a human there, a small one, even smaller than Dal. His skin was a pleasant color, a sort of dull, burnished gold. His hair looked quite nice, too, though not as thick as Dal's and it was a little curly around the edges. Still, I could've easily gotten a worse head, so I hoped this one was for me.
"Thanks," the small one said, though his tone didn't sound certain.
Porkins dragged a locker from under the cot and opened it. He pulled out Dal's familiar orange flightsuit and put it on the bed. It was folded neatly. I remembered that Tilly had done the folding. I wondered if the chest pocket still had the big hole in it.
"Here. These should fit you...fairly well. Pants'll be too long," Porkins commented.
I thought it was rude. Humans were sensitive about their length. At least, Dal had been.
"I'll roll them up. Thanks." The human looked at the cot and pointed at me. "Can I borrow this, too?"
"Help yourself. I gotta go." Porkins left. I was glad, because I wanted a little private time with my new head.
The hands picked me up. They held me with respect, and I appreciated it. They turned me over while the head studied me, though the thoughts I picked up were about other humans in the room, not about me. I wondered if any head, ever, would be sensitive enough to understand how much I needed him.
"Uh...hi, I'm Luke Skywalker," the small one said to Tilly who happened to be sprawled on the cot next door, hands clasped under his head. He was staring up at the ceiling light, obviously mourning Dal.
Great. It was going to be awkward. I hoped Luke Skywalker didn't have a temper. If only I could tell him about Dal. But he wouldn't sense a thing until I was on his head. I wriggled a little, but his fingers only gripped me tighter. Luke Skywalker sat on Dal's bunk (I suppose I should call it Luke Skywalker's bunk now, shouldn't I?) and rubbed some dirt off me with his sleeve. I'm sure I looked quite a fright. I'd caught a brief glimpse of myself in a glass yesterday -- I was all blackened and pitted and had a big dent in the back that I didn't remember receiving. Now he was running his fingers over the yellow stripes on my front which I knew looked ridiculous -- I don't know why Dal painted them! (Well, I drew small comfort from the fact that at least I didn't have an outline of a nude human female on me the way Someone [whose designation I won't mention] did! I hoped Sky wouldn't want to do that.)
He peered inside me and wrinkled his nose. From this close, I could sense his thought: He was thinking that I was dark and greasy from somebody's hair -- why, you little punk, as Dal would say! Then he saw my initials. Sky leaned sideways on the bed and propped himself up on one elbow, slanting my interior toward the light. "L...D," he read slowly. He looked at the pilot next to him. "Who's LD?"
Laurent Durasteel, of course. Ask me, Sky!
"What're you, the Imperial Census-taker?"
"You don't have to be so hostile. I didn't do anything to you."
Tilly's dark head turned toward us, though its owner didn't bother to lift it. "You won't be around for long, kid, so don't bother trying to make friends. Nobody knows you and nobody wants to. Nobody's interested -- get it?" The eyes closed.
Oh, dear. I had a bad feeling about this. Sky rubbed his arm against my side again. I felt him wondering about my scorch marks. I wanted to reassure him that they'd been there a long time, that they hadn't happened when Dal had been broken, but he couldn't hear me yet.
"I don't care if you're interested or not. And my name's not 'kid' -- it's Luke Skywalker."
Well, at least he had spunk.
"Skywalker. Cute." Tilly made one of those disgusting snorting noises. I wondered why he was being so horrible to this little one. He should be glad I'm not his helmet -- I would have given him a sharp rap on his noggin about his behavior! "What two-credit novel did you get that out of?"
"It's my name," Sky insisted. "It was the name of my father -- he was a great Jedi."
Oh, a Jedi! How exciting! Once I'd met a helmet that had belonged to a Jedi until the Great Ending -- it was very old and tired and sad, but the stories it had told -- !!! I'll always miss Dal, but suddenly my life was on an upswing!
"Come off it." Tilly rolled onto his front and buried his face against his arms. "You know what they say -- the only good Jedi's a dead Jedi, and we got a galaxy chock-full of good Jedi. Now shut up. I want to grab some sleep."
And what was this I was feeling? Already I found myself becoming protective of Sky. And not just of his fragile head.
"Now? I thought we had to take off --"
"Don't you understand Galactic? I said shut up."
With a sigh, Sky looked around. He saw the same thing I did, that the few pilots who remained in the barracks were packing their flight kits. It was time for us to go. Subtly, I released the buckle on my chin strap so it flopped against his hand. "Sorry, but...I think we're supposed to be getting ready for the battle."
In one of those lithe movements that humans complete so nicely, Tilly sat up, swung his lower limbs to the floor, and towered over me and Sky. Sky stood quickly, still hanging on to me. "How come you're so anxious, boy? You spoilin' for a fight?"
One hand poked Sky's shoulder, and he stepped back. "Knock it off!"
I hoped he'd put me aside if there was going to be violence. A cracked helmet did its head no good.
"You're going to buy it up there, Red Five. Don't be in such a rush. You'll be dead for a long time."
Sky stared at Tilly. "Who's Red Five? Is that going to be my desig --"
Tilly grabbed me from Sky's hands and shook me right in Sky's face. I hate being jostled like that!
"This is Red Five. You're Red Five--now. You're Leyrd Dal now. He's dead, you're him, and you're next. In an hour your remains are gonna be in orbit around Yavin. Satisfied?"
Then Tilly thrust me toward Sky's middle section. Fortunately, Sky grabbed me before we made contact. It wouldn't have hurt me, but I knew that humans were sensitive in that region of their anatomy. "I'm sorry. I just --"
"Why not take the rest of his clothes, too?" Tilly opened the locker again and began throwing its contents onto the cot. A lot of black pieces, a flash of gold leather, tall boots, a long brown hooded cloak. I'd never seen them before. Of course, in the past, I'd mostly waited for Dal in the fighter, I didn't usually get as far as the barracks. "He won't be needing them again, and you're damn near his size."
Sky chewed on his lower lip. I recognized that motion as a human sign of hunger. "Was he your friend?" Sky asked quietly.
That surprised me. I tuned into Sky's thoughts again. They shimmered a lot, but I could sense that he was wondering about Dal, not about dinner.
"We don't have friends here, boy -- get that through your head."
Hah! You'll have to get through me to get into Sky's head, Tilly!
"I'm no boy--you're no older than I am," Sky mumbled.
"I'm a thousand years older than you, baby."
Interesting. If Sky was a baby, then he was younger than I originally thought. Of course, I'd never seen human babies so I couldn't be sure if he really was one. Sometimes these pilots call each other by very strange designations that bear no resemblance to any truths.
Sky put his hands on his hips -- I was dangling off one of those hands, not a very comfortable way to look at the world. I prefer to be level with my surrounding horizon, thank you very much. "You have no reason to treat me this way. I didn't do anything to you."
"Didn't you? You rescued Princess Leia."
Now that was one head I'd always lusted to sit on! Those soft, cushy buns of hers gave me all sorts of ideas! I could fall asleep on that head!
"What does that have to do with you?"
"She was on board the Tantive. My father commanded that ship. Where is he? Why didn't you save him too? Where is he?"
"I...." Sky's voice shook and he stopped talking for a moment. I felt sorry for him, but I wasn't sure why. He wasn't scared, but he was sad. I wondered if he was sad for Tilly. Could humans be sad for someone they'd just met? "I didn't see him. I didn't see any other prisoners. Only the Princess. And there was just me and Han -- we couldn't have saved everybody, even if we *had seen them. I'm sorry."
Tilly picked up Dal's gold jacket from the cot and studied it. "Leyrd's big purchase. We were on Ord Yartu, the big bazaar in Tarwoon. He figured it would catch the light, that all the ladies would see him coming. It worked."
Oh, yes, Leyrd had always been what he called "lucky". I particularly enjoyed that one female pilot he'd been familiar with. Her helmet had been something to behold! A real thing of beauty.
Sky stared at the jacket, then at the clothes strewn across the thin blanket. I wondered what he was thinking. Once I was on his head, I'd be able to know his thoughts much easier. I decided I would probably like his thoughts. He had pretty eyes, too. Sort of squishy looking, the way all human eyes were, but they were a nice color.
Sky took the jacket and put it back in the locker. "What's your name?"
For a brief, blinding second of happiness I thought he was asking me! I thought: Could he have sensed me already?!!
"And proud of it."
"The pilot who flew us here is Corellian. Han Solo."
"Never heard of him."
Sky shrugged. He began refolding the clothes. I approved of such tidiness. It meant he would take care of me. Tilly helped him.
"Maybe your father's a prisoner. The Princess said they were taken aboard an Imperial destroyer. Maybe...."
"Maybe. I hope so. Look -- sorry I came on like that. Rough, I mean."
Humans are so cute when they make up. They turn pink.
"That's okay. I never know when to shut up -- at least that's what my --" Sky looked away from Tilly and directly at me. I received a sudden image of two humans, older ones, two hot suns, sand everywhere. Sky blinked a few times and the picture went away. "We're the last ones here. We'd better get going. Will you -- that is, I don't know how to get back to the hanger bay, will you come with me?"
"I just happen to be going that way."
Sky pulled off his strange-looking boots and slipped Dal's orange flightsuit over his clothes. That flightsuit and I have been through a lot together, and I was relieved to see that it had decided to fit Sky.
Sky closed his eyes briefly. If you can hear me, Leyrd Dal, be with me today. I can use all the luck I can get. Maybe I'll have the Force with me like Ben said -- but it never hurt to have a little luck.
Wow! And I haven't even been on his head yet! Sky must really be a Jedi!
I think he knew I heard him because he tucked me protectively under his arm and followed Tilly out of the barracks.
So here we are. I'm sending off this message before we go into battle. Just in case...although I have a good feeling. I think we'll be safe. I know what the Force is and I'm sure it will be with us. Even if it's not, I'll be with Sky and I'll protect his head to the best of my ability. My middle name is Durasteel and that says it all.