Ronyards: Rust Never Sleeps

“Here lies the sum total of all droid kind’s hopes and aspirations, the resting place of our souls.”  – Brother Fivelines

A junk hauler flies low over a vast junkyard. Below, twisted spires of scrap metal loom against an ochre sky. When you look more closely, you realize that the planet’s surface is comprised of the corroded forms of countless droids, fused together over the span of hundreds of years. Eerily, they almost look like they’re screaming. Welcome to Ronyards. If you happen to be a droid, welcome home.

The captain of the junk hauler wants his cargo dumped as quickly as possible. He hates doing this run. Something about this place doesn’t feel right. The derelict hulks of hundreds of droids fall to the surface, and as quickly as it arrived, the junk hauler speeds off into the distance. A timeless silence creeps back over the tortured landscape. The junk heap stirs. A familiar golden droid rises from the scrap and then helps to right his stubby white-and-blue companion. R2-D2 and C-3PO have a purpose here. There were sent to the junk world by their master, Luke Skywalker, to inform it’s inhabitants of the Empire’s plan to mine it for valuable metals like varium. According to Rebel Intelligence, Ronyards is sparsely populated by droids who had managed to survive the rigors of the journey there.It isn’t long before the pair are greeted by Brother Fivelines. He and his disciples believe Ronyards is the “body of the living god”. Though the Rebel droids explain the Empire’s plans for his world, Fivelines isn’t concerned. The droids of this world have achieved peace, and care little for the strife that wracks the galaxy beyond. Besides, if the Empire was intent on using their discarded husks to build their war machines, Ronyards will not let them succeed, for it is not only their purpose but their protector as well. 3PO is skeptical of this “junkyard god” is anything more than a coping mechanism, though he doesn’t blame them, believing that it was the only thing keeping the droids going after having dumped on a world such as this going.Sure enough, an Imperial Star Destroyer soon appears low over the planet’s surface. Imperial stormtroopers step off a shuttle with orders to scout out sites to set up their gougers, and are met by Brother Fivelines. He tells them Ronyards wishes them no harm, and that they may leave in peace. The troopers blow him away. A martyr. Before his body can even finish falling to the ground, bolts begin unscrewing themselves from panels and are launched at the killers. The ground heaves and shrapnel rip the air to bloody ribbons, not caring not whether it’s shredding flesh or armor. The screaming goes on and on, inseparable from the shriek of metal on metal.  When it’s finally over, the Star Destroyer is just… gone, the only evidence the Empire was ever there the lonely helmet of an Imperial stormtrooper. Maybe there is such a thing as an act of god?

Ronyards was first introduced in Rust Never Sleeps, written by famed comic book author Alan Moore and first published in The Empire Strikes Back Monthly 156. Originally released only on UK newsstands in 1982, the story would later see wider distribution when it was reprinted in Classic Star Wars: Devilworlds 2 by Dark Horse Comics in 1996. Ronyards would be mentioned in several other sources throughout the years, but it wasn’t until the publication of “The Droids Re-Animated, Part 2” on in 2013 that the spiritual themes explored within the story were firmly challenged.Civilization had dumped it’s worn and battered droids on the little-known world of Ronyards for hundreds of years before the outbreak of the Galactic Civil War. In some spots, their husks are said to have laid almost five miles deep. According to legend, over the course of centuries, the planet itself developed a consciousness from the aggregated droid brains discarded on its surface. The surviving droid population, which numbered somewhere in the hundreds if not thousands, worshipped this entity as their “living god,” Ronyards itself being its body.

They believed this “great spirit” was formed by the bonding of their “souls”, while the corrosion and fusing of their husks transformed Ronyards into a “metal paradise”. While the general consensus was that these mechanicals were simply brain damaged, the existence of a deity-worshipping community of droids demonstrated to much of the intellectual community that they did undoubtedly exhibit a consciousness of a kind. However, it also raised the difficult to answer the question of whether or not droids existed as a part of the living Force.

The exact nature of Ronyards would be called into question when the Baobab Museum of Science acquired the Great Heep as a museum piece its defeat at Biitu. Originating in another galaxy, the Heep was a member of a cybernetic race known as the Abominor. These malevolent, self-constructing droids were possessed with a hunger for power and slaves, grafting more and more machinery onto their bodies until some even became the size of entire planets. They and the Silentium, a race of automata (of which Lando Calrissian’s one-time companion Vuffi Raa was a member) who championed perfect symmetry, fought a war until the technophobic Yuuzhan Vong forced them out of their galaxy. Studying the Great Heep allowed researchers to speculate that perhaps as many as eighteen Abominors had infiltrated their galaxy. Anecdotal chronologies of these possible Abominors were assembled; Ronyards was included among their numbers.

Is Ronyards really an accumulation of droid souls, a whole more than the sum of its parts, or could the fate of the Empire’s expedition be much more mundane, yet infinitely more sinister? Either way, Rust Never Sleeps is a seminal work of the Star Wars Legends canon that explores droid spirituality unlike any work before or since its publication, one that asks a controversial question: Do droids have souls? Perhaps we can never know for sure, but maybe they aren’t so different from you and me after all.


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