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 the Supreme Leader.
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 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.
“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 before exiting the hall and making 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