Watching and Waiting

SUMMARY: [ABY 34.] Following the First Order’s success on Takodana, General Hux debriefs his officers on the mission and begins to outline future strategy for taking down the Resistance. Before Kylo Ren can share the intelligence he’s gathered, he receives a painful call from Supreme Leader Snoke.

Deep inside the halls of Starkiller Base, General Hux addressed an assembly of the First Order’s elite seated about a grand oval conference table. In their midst, a holo projector displayed an image of star map with a large sector deleted from the center.

“Through our informant, we tracked the BB-8 unit to the forests of Takodana, but Ren convinced us there was far greater intelligence to be gained from a prisoner he took there.” He turned to glare at the tall figure shrouded in black lurking in the shadows. “Ren can give you a full report on the interrogation.”

There was sudden intake of breath. A few of the officers swallowed or licked dry lips. Kylo Ren had that effect on most people – even the most composed officers – except Hux. Where other men would have given the helmeted figure a wide berth, Hux didn’t budge when Ren stepped forward and accessed the projector controls through the Force. The image rotated and zoomed in on a planet in the Outer Rim. The move was unexpected. Hux wasn’t entirely sure where Ren was going with it. He knew Ren hadn’t gained any information from the girl yet. She was still strapped down and unconscious.

A soft, inarticulate sound emanated from the voice changer in Kylo Ren’s helmet, and Hux thought the man inside it had cleared his throat. But in a swirl of frayed robes, Ren spun on his heel and was out the door making purposeful strides toward a dark, cavernous chamber Hux knew all too well. Only he, among all the First Order generals, knew the power of a summons from Supreme Leader Snoke.

Hux couldn’t suppress the smirk that tugged at the corners of his mouth.

Kylo Ren’s bootfalls echoed down the empty corridor in steady rhythm then abruptly faltered as he lurched to one side, clutching at his helmet. Glancing quickly about, he tore it off with a hiss and drew in great lungfuls of air, leaning heavily against the wall. He didn’t dare linger there long, but the pain was intense. He had to get it under control before he stepped through the door three paces ahead and into the dreaded chamber.

He screwed his eyes up tight and focused on damping down the searing tendril of fire that splintered through his head and wormed its way down his spine. In another second, the pain would bring him to his knees if he didn’t block the subsequent bolts that followed.

Supreme Leader was testing and punishing him. The test Ren understood. It was expected. Pain was a human’s gravest weakness and it had to be overcome. Snoke was generous enough to test him in private and with advanced warning, but punishment smote Kylo Ren at whim and at the most inopportune times. Ren also never knew what he was being punished for until he heeded the summons like a naughty schoolboy dragging his feet into the headmaster’s office.

Slowly, slowly, he numbed his body against the worst of the blinding pain and his breathing returned to normal. His head still throbbed with sharp little revolving pricks that were impossible to ignore, but he pushed himself away from the wall and staggered in through the tall doors that swished open to admit him.

Inside the darkened assembly hall, he advanced unsteadily up the aisle to the receiving platform where he stood before the huge blue-tinted holo of Supreme Leader Snoke. Ren waited for his master to address him, willing himself not to wince against the continuing threads of pain behind his eyes.Star-Wars-7-Snoke-Kylo-Ren

“You disappoint me, Kylo Ren,” Snoke declaimed. “Your focus has wandered from the mission at hand.”

Ren’s face began to burn with resentment, but he knew better than to interrupt. He steeled himself to feel nothing from the forthcoming verbal blows.

“Your thoughts return often to the girl.”

There was no use denying it. Ren knew Snoke could see right through him as if he himself were nothing but a holo image. But what Snoke failed to comprehend was the real reason for Ren’s fascination with the scavenger.

“She has seen the section of the map that we’re looking for,” Ren explained in an attempt to side-step the issue, “but she resisted the probe.”

“How?” The voice was low and dangerous. “She is unconscious.”

“I don’t know. I need more time with her.”

“You are developing feelings for her,” Snoke observed with a sneer.

Ren swallowed. “With time I can break her.”

“We don’t have time,” Snoke snapped. “You have one standard day. Then I want her terminated. She is no use to us. And you will finish what you started.” He leaned forward in his huge chair to loom over Ren. “Get…the…map.”

Ren said nothing but gave Snoke a curt bow before retreating, donning his helmet as he exited the hall and made his way back to the interrogation chamber.

She was just as he’d left her, asleep but tense. Her eyes fluttered, and for a moment he thought they would open, but her head lulled to the side. He watched her fingers curl into a fist at her side.

He stepped slowly about the restraining bed, eyeing her with intense curiosity. He had made some progress tapping into her mind, but he hadn’t found what he’d expected. Instead, he saw this scrawny thing of a child – a girl no older than five, or maybe seven if she was small for her age. Her hair was tied in knots the same way this scavenger wore her hair now. In her mind he saw the child strain against the one who was holding her. She turned her tiny, pitiful face up to his own and begged him – Kylo Ren – not to go. She begged him to come back.

Ren backed away from the girl in the restraints. He recognized neither one – the Jakku scavenger before him or the child that cried in her head – and yet both pulled at him.

He sat back on his heels, watching and waiting.

 

@MyKyloRen   28 March 2016

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Author’s note 24 December 2017: My main point in writing this story was to draw attention to the fact that Snoke tortures Kylo Ren — and Hux — as we saw in The Last Jedi, and he can do so at a distance. Nailed that one. I’m looking forward to the day when J.J. Abrams explains Rey’s Force-vision, but for now I’m clinging to the theory that Ben Solo and Rey knew each other as children.
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Moonflower

SUMMARY: [ABY 34 and 20]  During her brief training with Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, Rey catches a glimpse of teenage boy she recognizes as Ben Solo. Is it a memory — long dormant until the Force awakened it? She wants answers.

ABY 34. Rey sat with her back to him, watching the red fireball sun sink into the sea. Luke could tell by the way she hunched her shoulders that she was trying to fold in on herself, to retreat from the world. She went to ground like this any time a vision came to her, and they came with greater frequency now that he’d successfully taught her to meditate and to control her connection to the Force. She was ready for that crucial step in her training, but he wished she hadn’t been.

He pulled his hood up against the stiffening breeze that buffeted the island crags. “You saw him again,” he said with a sigh of resignation, dreading the conversation that would come next.

She didn’t answer at once but hugged her knees to her chest. After a moment, she said in a small voice, “He isn’t who I thought he was.”

Luke pushed back against the ache in his heart, but it would never let him go. He always knew the subject of her visions before she ever said a word. He could deal with her despair at being abandoned on Jakku as a child – and all the pent up bitter questions – better than he could with the shadow that lurked in the Force.

“My nephew,” he acknowledged flatly, folding his arms into his robes. “Did he speak to you?”

She nodded without turning around. “Yes. I mean….I don’t know. He was just a boy.”

She recalled his features now in her mind. He was long and lanky, maybe about fourteen in the vision – although it was hard to tell with boys – with a long nose and a tousle of black hair that hid his large ears. She couldn’t decide on the color of his eyes. Sometimes they were the earthy brown of peat, but more often they reflected the churning greens and grays of the sea.

Luke stiffened.

Rey still didn’t turn around. “I saw him so clearly this time. It was like he was right in front of me. He kept breaking things…sort of. Well, he didn’t mean to….” Her voice trailed off. She knew she was rambling. She took a deep breath. “He was with some kids playing hoverball, only he wasn’t playing. He was just leaning against an old stone wall. He wasn’t even watching them. All of a sudden, this dark cloud spread over the field. One of the kids told him to go back inside so the sun would come out.

“Then he was in a class, I think, looking at star charts through a holo projector. The stars started going crazy, spinning faster and faster, until all the kids were laughing. The teacher told him to step back, but it wouldn’t stop. Finally, she took him out of the room.”

She fell silent for such a long while that Luke thought she had finished and had slipped back into a meditative state. Relieved that the Force hadn’t revealed what he didn’t want her to see, he started to move off toward his stone hut when her quiet voice brought him up short. He turned.

“He was doing dishes when a cup just shattered in his hand. And then another. There was blood everywhere.”

Rey got to her feet and turned to face her mentor. “You were there,” she told him in an accusatory tone. “You bandaged his hands.” She gave him a hard look. “And I was too. I found him sitting against the wall. There were vines hanging all around him, and I swear they grew while he sat there. He looked so lost and alone, I…I just went up to him.”

Luke watched as her gaze turned inward and sad.

“I just stood there looking at him, not knowing what to do,” she went on after a hard swallow. “I must have been really small because he was a lot bigger than me. He glared at me at first. He said, ‘What do you want, Rags?’”

Luke winced at the childhood nickname. It wouldn’t be long now before Rey started to remember everything…every painful detail he’d hoped to spare his padawan.

“I plucked a moonflower from the vines and held it out to him,” she continued after a moment. “’To give you this,’ I said. He took it. He didn’t say anything, but the anger went out of him.”

Her gaze shifted to meet the old hermit’s eyes. “I was there. How is that possible?”

Luke didn’t answer.

 

@MyKyloRen  19 March 2016

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Author’s note 24 December 2017: I revised the dialogue in this story slightly after seeing The Last Jedi, but the vignette nicely predicted the Force-bond between Ben Solo and Rey. There’s no indication from the Lucasfilm Story Group that the two Force-sensitives ever knew each other in the past, except that in The Last Jedi Kylo tells Rey who her parents are. We’re led to believe that he’s seen them in her mind, possibly from her cave experience. And from what Rian Johnson has said about the importance of Rey not being defined by who her parents were, Kylo’s telling her what he believes is the truth. Still, the theory that Ben Solo and Rey knew each other as kids hasn’t been disproved yet.

The Fog Garden

SUMMARY: [ABY 12 and 34] Onboard the Finalizer, Kylo Ren relives the terror of a recurring childhood nightmare — one the shackled him to his father’s past. Seeking to shake it off, he enters the solace of the holo suite in his quarters.

He was so small. The top of his head barely reached Han Solo’s belt – when Han Solo was around, that is. But inside Ben Solo never felt small, except maybe next to Chewbacca, but then most humans did in close proximity to Wookiees. No, inside Ben felt helpless and he hated it. It was the one feeling he hated above all others – even more than the sharpest pain – and he vowed to his young self that someday he would never feel it again.

But there it was – that awful feeling – surging through his seven-year-old soul. Creeping out of the shadows that lurked in every corner of every house and flat he ever lived in, every classroom he ever endured, every cargo hold of every ship – especially the Millennium Falcon. Every tiny rustle made him jump. He was a cat – back arched, fur standing on end, ready to hiss. That thought amused him at least, because cats could fend for themselves. He once saw a cat fight off a pack of akk dogs all by itself. The screams were terrible.

Night was the worst because the blackness was never complete. There were always shapes – human and alien shapes – moving about in a deep shadow world. It had been a while since one of those shapes lunged, but they inevitably did. He had learned from an early age to mark escape routes wherever he went, even when Han Solo was there, holster on his hip.

Han Solo wasn’t there the day Ben was walking home from school. The flat he shared with his parents on the 128th floor of the high-rise was only a block away and accessible through the skybridge that connected the buildings at the 125th floor. The clouds – a churning broil of greys, whites, and violet-blues – drew his eyes far away, up, up, and up. He had stopped halfway on the arch of the skywalk to gaze through the transparisteel arching windows at the riot of dark and light swirling in the softness overhead.

He hadn’t heard the doors swish open at the entrance to the school a hundred paces behind him, hadn’t heard the soft-booted footfalls of the bounty hunter. He was wrenched from the clouds when his skin began to prickle. His skin did that when something big, something electrifying, was going to happen.

Young Ben Solo spun around, but it was too late. The doors leading to the housing complex flew aside a hundred paces ahead. Another, the bounty hunter’s twin or clone, stood blocking the boy’s way, whipcord launcher at the ready. As the hunter behind slowly advanced, Ben took a faltering step forward and then another until the bounty hunter ahead began to close ranks.

The lunge happened so fast Ben didn’t even think to scream. Time stretched and rolled like the clouds as he dodged and twisted, wriggled and clawed, until he was running, running back towards the school. The doors slid open at his approach. And then he went down. Heavy gauntlets crushed his ankle in a vice-grip and pulled.

Kylo Ren sat up with a gasp, instinctively flailing against the memory-dream in the darkened chamber. He couldn’t breathe, and for a moment he thought he’d fallen asleep with his helmet on and his breath was fogging up the visor. He clawed at his head to get it off, but his fingers only raked through dark disheveled hair.

It was a long moment before his breathing slowed and his sight returned. He was in his private quarters on the Finalizer, his helmet resting where he had left it in the tray of ashes. The hour was late.

When he stopped shaking, he got up from the sleeping pallet and shrugged on his robes. The door to the next chamber slid open and he stepped through to his innermost sanctuary – a holosuite, the only thing that kept him grounded these days. The program was still running where he’d left it. He walked for a ways, his long bare feet making no sound on the carpet of moss and blue-grey grass, letting the fog swirl around him. While other humans feared fog – feared what it concealed – there was no place he felt safer. He lifted his head and let the cool moisture caress his face and outstretched hands.

There was something there, something just beyond his senses, something following, something always watching…through the Force.

@MyKyloRen    17 March 2016

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Author’s note 23 December 2017: This is the first piece I wrote when I decided to delve into the character of Ben Solo to see what made him tick. Being the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia made him a target for revenge and ransom. His celebrity parents had lots of friends across the galaxy, but they had even more enemies. There were also those who “harvested” Force-sensitives.

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