- "More than anything in the galaxy, he wanted to be sold. Escape the sandcrawler. Fulfill his programming by serving a new master – someone who would clean his joints once in a while, offer a few drops of lubricant, give him purpose. But time was running out. He was lonely, and he was dying."
- ―Excerpt from "The Red One"
The R5 unit R5-D4 has spent four years as a "prisoner" of a Jawa clan, who travel through the deserts of Tatooine on a sandcrawler. R5-D4 longs to escape the sandcrawler by being sold to a buyer. He longs for a few drops of lubricant and a sense of purpose. One evening, R5-D4 is overjoyed when two of the Jawas inspect him and decide that he is ready to be sold. They add lubricant to his joints, scoop the sand out of his tool compartments, and wipe down his photoreceptors. Hours later, R5 is awoken by the chirping of R2-D2, who had been captured by the Jawas following the events of the Secret mission to Tatooine. R5-D4 watches as a protesting R2-D2 is fitted with a restraining bolt.
Later that night, R5-D4 is woken by R2-D2, who had attempted to sabotage him. When confronted by R5, R2-D2 tells him that he is on an important mission. R2-D2 tells him that he must escape the sandcrawler and be sold tomorrow since the fate of the galaxy depends on it. When R5 asks if this was why his pincer was deep in his access compartment, R2 responds that the Rebellion needs his help. The word Rebellion triggered the phantom of a memory. R5 counters that if he doesn't escape the sandcrawler and find a new master, he will cease to function. R2-D2 responds that he already has a master and that if he doesn't find him, the galaxy doomed. As Jawas approach, R2-D2 tells R5-D4 he won't try to hurt him again.
The following morning, R5-D4 and R2-D2 arrive at the Lars moisture farm, the home of Owen Lars and his adopted son Luke Skywalker. After haggling with the Jawas, Owen decides to buy R2's companion C-3PO and R5-D4. While R5 is overjoyed, he remembers his promise to R2-D2. When R2 tells R5-D4 that he is his only hope, the red droid decides to sacrifice his new opportunity and blow up his own motivator. R5 deliberately loosened his own head plate and redirected the lubricant behind his photoreceptors. When the lubricant had heated enough, R5-D4 purposely discharged the power, causing his head plate to fly off. This causes Skywalker to think that R5 has a bad motivator. Owen thinks that the Jawas are trying to rip him off and instead takes R2-D2, setting the stage for the events leading to the Battle of Yavin. Before parting company, R2-D2 thanks R5 for helping him to save the galaxy and promising never to forget him.
R2-D2's story was confirmed when Imperial stormtroopers attacked the sandcrawler later. After interrogating the Jawas about the two droids they had sold, the stormtroopers gun down the Jawas. R5-D4 managed to survive the massacre by hiding among the junk. He then escapes the sandcrawler and travels to a settlement, hoping that one of the moisture farms in the next valley would adopt him. R5-D4 also hopes to join the Rebellion, having been inspired by R2-D2.
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