The Masterpiece

SUMMARY: [ABY 34 and 15] Supreme Leader Snoke is unusually generous with praise for his apprentice Kylo Ren. The coveted approval should lift Ren’s sagging spirits but instead it leaves him cold, triggering a series of memories — a tall blonde woman who once doted on him. Who…was…she?

“Kylo Ren,” Snoke purred, “you have done well today. Your strength grows with each new lesson.”

Ren inclined his helmeted head. “It is your teachings that make me strong.”

Snoke held up a long, bony finger. “The finest sculptor cannot fashion a masterpiece from poor materials…and I will fashion such a masterpiece from you, my most promising student.”

Ren watched the enormous hologram fade and the assembly hall grow dark. He stood there for a long moment in silence as his master’s parting words continued to echo in his head. Snoke was not one to dole out compliments and the praise should have strengthened Ren’s conviction, but he’d heard those words before. He was sure of it. And not from Snoke. A feminine voice – almost motherly – overlaid Snoke’s deep throaty drone in his mind until the two were speaking in unison.

The finest sculptor cannot fashion a masterpiece from poor materials.

ABY 15. The woman had been blond and very tall. He could barely picture her face in his mind, but he could see her squatting down beside him as his small hands worked to unwrap a package. A box of aqua pencils – a rare medium for artists in that sector of the galaxy.

“Don’t you like them?” she had laughed.

He’d been about ten years old at the time, and he must have given her an astonished look. He loved to draw, but no one had ever given him anything so precious. He was afraid to touch the beautiful colors, afraid he might break the delicate tips.

“Are these really for me?” he heard himself say.

“Of course.” She reached out a hand to tousle his hair. “Even the finest sculptor cannot fashion a masterpiece from poor materials. I’ve seen your work, remember? It’s very good, Ben – especially for your age.” She beamed at him. “Now it’ll be even better. Go draw me a picture of your happiest day.”

He sensed the encouraging warmth of her hand on his back and felt buoyed, felt like he could truly be who he wanted to be. He rushed off to the drawing table in his room and spent hours drawing all the images that flooded his young mind. He remembered she had to take the pencils away from him and made him scurry off to bed that first night. He had never felt so connected to anything – to anyone – before, and the feeling washed over him like the waves he’d seen on the oceans of Naboo.

He remembered other days with the sunny lady who took him by the hand, until he was too old for such things. She took him on speeder bike rides to parks and amusements, to concerts, plays, races, and every game of sport imaginable. She had been there for him, been there when his own mother hadn’t.

ABY 34. Ren stood immobilized by the past. The gloved fingers of his right hand flexed and then straightened as if he were trying to reach something, trying to sense something through his fingertips. He didn’t react to the bootfalls echoing through the cavernous chamber behind him.

“Sir,” Captain Phasma began. “General Hux wishes to see you straight away. We’ve intercepted some important intelligence from the Resistance.”

She stood at attention, waiting for his response.

Slowly Ren half turned and said through the vocabulator in his helmet, “I’ll be there.”

She gave him a smart salute and marched back down the dimly lit aisle. Ren stared after her, thinking. Thinking how much her voice was not unlike the woman’s in his head. Phasma’s helmet distorted it to be sure, but the pitch, cadence, and accent were remarkably similar.

Ren turned to look up at the place reserved for Snoke’s hologram then back towards the doors Phasma had exited. He gave the dias one last lingering look then turned to follow the captain.

 

@MyKyloRen    24 April 2016

Author’s note 14 January 2018: It was Snoke — Amanda Snoke — who selectively wiped Ben Solo’s memories, so she could begin to shape him into her/his most promising student. Read my complete Snoke theory here.
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Hide-and-Go-Seek

SUMMARY: [ABY 29 and 20] While working at one of the cleaning stations in Niima Outpost on Jakku, fourteen-year-old Rey sees a boy disembark from a freighter. She’s never seen him before, she’s sure, but there’s something about him — something that calls to mind a dark-haired boy just on the edge of her memory.

Rey looked up from the power cell she was scrubbing at Unkar Plutt’s washing station. It was a day like any other day in Niima Outpost – dry, sandy, and unbearably hot – only there seemed to be more space traffic than usual. According to the tick marks she made each day on the wall of the AT-AT, her parents had been gone for the turning of nine full cycles now. That would make me about fourteen, she thought proudly to herself. Not many folks in Niima Outpost lived to see that many sunsets.

She worked the brush harder against the corroded metal, gritting her teeth in determination, but her eyes were drawn to a transport ship out on the landing field. She watched as a dozen passengers disembarked – traders, most of them – but a boy about her age caught her eye. It wasn’t that he was a boy. There weren’t many of those around to turn her head. Besides, she had better things to do than to waste time with such silly creatures. No, that wasn’t it.

This boy’s features tugged at something…something elusive in her heart. For a second she thought she recognized him. “Don’t be stupid,” she told herself aloud, forgetting about the other salvage collectors working alongside her. She glanced at them, suddenly self-conscious, but they were all scouring away, chatting among themselves.

She’d had no reason to see that boy before. He was a stranger to her – just someone’s servant, from the looks of him – but his shock of disheveled black hair, narrow set jaw, and long nose stirred something in her.

She started as an image flashed through her head.

ABY 20. A boy who looked a lot like the boy disembarking from the freighter was chasing her, laughing, but she wasn’t scared even though she was much smaller than he was.  She hid behind a stone garden wall and fought back a fit of the giggles. She heard his soft footfalls coming closer and closer. Before he came around the wall, she darted behind a low growing bush and crouched down, trying not to breathe. She clamped both hands over her mouth.

“Gotcha!” he cried, swinging her up in his arms before she knew what hit her.

She let out a joyful shriek as he grasped her under the arms and spun her about in a circle so that her little legs flew out straight like the fan of a pinwheel.

“You can’t hide from me, Rags!” he laughed. “It’s time to go to bed whether you like it or not.”

Rey blinked as another image flooded her head.

The boy was crouching before her, his eyes brimming with tears and level with hers.

“I’m sorry, Rags,” he was saying, clutching her little body to him. “It has to be this way. I hope one day we’ll meet again and you’ll forgive me.”

He let go of her and waved a hand over her head. Rey had the odd sensation of falling, falling….

ABY 29. She jolted upright, blinking in the glare of the midday sun. Lerux Talley, the scrawny little human tinkerer, looked up at her gasp from where he sat buffing a piece of armor plating. Rey glanced down at her hands. The power cell was still in one, the bristle brush in the other. The awning flapped overhead, blocking out the worst of the sun’s rays.

Rey dropped the brush and wiped her forehead. “Just a touch of heatstroke,” she muttered to Lerux, but she knew the words were meant more to reassure herself.

 

@MyKyloRen   18 April 2016

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Author’s note 26 December 2017: Rey may or may not have seen Ben on this day when she was 14. But whoever she did see, reminded her of him. It seems likely that Ben visited Jakku again with Luke or Amanda Snoke, who were definitely keeping tabs on the young Force-sensitive Rey. Ben wouldn’t turn to the dark side for another two years — when he destroyed Luke’s academy. Ben and Amanda also came to Jakku at one point looking for Jedi and Imperial artifacts.

Tainted Love

SUMMARY: [ABY 12] The Solos seek professional help for seven-year-old Ben. He’s distant and moody, and they can’t bond with him as they’d like. Leia’s brother Luke Skywalker joins them to keep Ben company in another room while the little boy is watched and evaluated through one-way glass. Dr. Amanda Snoke presents her diagnosis, and a startling discovery is made.

“Well, what’s wrong with our son?”

Han Solo sat with his wife Leia Organa in the comfortable but sparsely appointed office of Sidzhan Family Services. Across the transperisteel desk sat a remarkably tall woman, her blond hair tied back with an olive scarf. She was surprisingly young for the position, not out of her twenties, and she regarded them with intense curiosity as she set the datapad down in front of her.

“Preliminary analysis of the first battery of tests indicates that Ben developed Reactive Attachment Disorder at an early age. It’s uncommon, but considering how often you’ve had to leave him in the care of others, it’s understandable.”

“Can it be fixed?”

Leia shot her husband a look that told him he’d best hold his tongue. “What does that mean, exactly?”

The therapist folded her hands. “He has the inability to form normal, loving relationships because he was never given the opportunity to form an attachment to a specific caregiver. Usually with infants, the first attachment to develop is with the mother. If this attachment is interrupted, it can have serious consequences for a child’s social development.”

Han rose to his feet. “You think we abandoned him?”

“Han.” Leia reached out to pull him back into his chair. “You’re not helping.” She turned back to the counselor. “What more can you tell us?”

“From the conversations I’ve had with Ben,” she continued not unkindly, “I can tell you that your son is a complicated little boy.”

“Tell us something we don’t know,” Han mumbled, slumping back into his chair.

She ignored him with professional detachment. “Ben seeks comfort from strangers because he’s had to. Your careers and responsibilities took you away so often.”

“I’ve tried to comfort him,” Leia said sadly, “but he just pushes me away. I can’t get him to smile or look at me. He hardly talks to me.”

Han let out a long sigh. “I’ve taken him in the Falcon, even let him co-pilot, tried to joke with him, but….”

Leia rolled her eyes. “You don’t joke with him, Han. You tease him.”

“What father doesn’t tease his son?” He launched himself out of the confines of the chair and shoved a hand through his hair. “The kid’s so damn sensitive! He’s got to learn to be a man.”

Leia was on her feet with him. “Han, he’s just seven years old. You can’t expect him….”

“Did he tell you about the bounty hunters?” The counselor moved out from behind her desk.

“What bounty hunters?” the Solos almost said in unison.

“He’s been tracked by numerous bounty hunters for a couple years now, from what I’ve been able to determine.” She folded her arms and leaned back against the desk.

Leia gaped at Han. “Why didn’t you tell me this?”

“The kid’s got an overactive imagination,” he countered, waving away the suggestion, and began to pace the room. “It comes from playing alone. The kid can’t make any friends!” He strolled over to the two-way glass to gaze at his young son in the room next door. “Are you sure she he can’t hear us?” he asked in a lower tone.

The counselor nodded, following Han’s gaze to watch the child interacting with Luke Skywalker. “Ben seems comfortable with his uncle. Luke seems to enjoy reading to him.”

Leia let out a long breath. “Luke lives so far away. He hasn’t seen Ben since he was a baby. Luke’s only visiting for a short while.”

“I’m glad he agreed to keep Ben company today while we talk,” the counselor said with a warm smile.

“So, what’s the next step, Doc?” Han resumed pacing. “How do we fix this kid?”

“Wait,” Leia cut in. “What about the bounty hunters? Do you have any evidence? Do we need to step up security? We’ve done everything to keep our son safe, but if there’s more….”

The therapist held up a hand. “I know you have, and I don’t have evidence your son is in danger, but based on the way he’s able to describe the incidents, I believe Ben’s not making up stories just to get attention. Let’s just take this….”

“Did you see that?” Leia was at the window. “Did you see what Ben just did?”

Han let out a groan but moved for a closer look.

“Ben just Force-summoned a datapad from the shelf.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t Luke?” Han returned skeptically.

“No, Luke wasn’t even paying attention. It looks like Luke just finished reading the book on the datapad he had and is shutting it down. See, Ben’s giving him the one he just summoned.”

“Oh, great.” Han rolled his eyes.

A long moment passed as the Solos looked at each other and then at the counselor. At last the doctor broke the silence.

“Let’s just take this one step at a time. Being Force-sensitive will…complicate things. Let’s get together here in my office each week at this time, if that works for you, and we’ll start taking steps to help Ben get to the place he needs to be socially.”

“Isn’t there some pill you can give him?” Han grumbled, shoving his hands in his pockets. He hated to think of weeks and months of gab sessions.

“No, Mr. Solo. The change in Ben begins with you and your wife.”

Han opened his mouth to protest, but Leia silenced him with a hard look. “Han, we need to do this for our son.” After a moment, she added, “Maybe we can get Luke to stay and spend some time with him.” She pointed at the window. “Ben’s going to need special help after what we saw today.”

“Good idea. Talk to Luke,” Han said in an agreeable tone. Better Luke than me, he thought.

Leia turned to shake the counselor’s hand. “Thank you, Dr. Snoke. We’ll see you next week.”

 

 

@MyKyloRen       13 April 2016

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Author’s note 24 December 2017:  Remember college student Amanda Snoke? She’s back! And she’s a licensed child psychologist! For my complete Snoke theory, click here. Reactive attachment disorder is a real condition not many people are aware of, and it seems logical that Ben Solo grew up with it. You can read more about it here. I also thought it would be interesting if The Solos didn’t realize their son was Force-sensitive for several years — just to emphasize that they haven’t been present in his life as much as they maybe should have been.

Don’t Fear the Reaper

SUMMARY: [ABY 34 and 31]. Imprisoned within interrogation chamber, Rey endures a mind-probe from the mighty Kylo Ren…and discovers his weakness along with some startling memories. Ren, too, is visibly shaken. Something between them is unlocked and turned loose.

Rey awoke with a gasp of pain and instinctively flexed muscles to reach a hand up to her aching head, except that her arm wouldn’t move. It was trapped at the wrist by a restraining device. She tried her other hand but met the same restriction. She thought for a split second she had been taken to a Resistance med center – that Han Solo had carried her back to the Falcon and flown her there. Then she remembered the monster in black, the gloved hand reaching for her face in the forest, ripping the thoughts from her mind.

That monster was regarding her now from where he crouched a few paces away. The beast said nothing as she quickly assessed her surroundings in the interrogation chamber. They were alone and she was immobilized. She didn’t care to consider the various instruments at hand used to inflict intolerable pain, and she was sure the restraining platform contained an electroshock conduit.

Was she aboard his ship?

“Where am I?” she heard herself say and instantly regretted it. She sounded so timid, so afraid.

The creature in the mask didn’t move, didn’t breathe, didn’t say anything for a long moment. Then in a tone that was unexpectedly civil, the disembodied voice from the helmet’s vocabulator said, “You’re my guest.”

The voice unnerved her, but she pushed her immediate fear aside as a new one gripped her.

“Where are the others?” she managed to ask in a stronger tone.

She didn’t know why she’d said it. She expected him to pounce at any second. He still didn’t move, but she could feel him stiffen.

“You mean the murderers, traitors, and thieves you call friends? You’ll be relieved to hear I have no idea.”

Traitors. Her thoughts turned to Finn. Where was he? Was he alive? Then to Han, Chewie, and BB-8. Thieves, yes. But murderers? Her fear turned to anger as she met his gaze with cold hatred.

He didn’t need to read her mind to read her face. “You still want to kill me,” he observed almost sadly.
InterrogationCrouch
“That happens when you’ve being hunted by a creature in a mask,” she spat defiantly.

She gritted her teeth, steeling herself against the pain he was sure to inflict on her.

You’ve done it now, Rey, she told herself. Your mouth really got you into trouble this time. This is how it will end.

She was surprised to find her mind churning back through the years of her short life as he rose to his feet.

And took off the mask.

She stared.

The face looking back at her was long and chiseled and…sensitive. The dark hair that tumbled from the helmet was soft, but the eyes that met hers were intense – intensely familiar, with a strange kind of…sadness.

She blinked.

He slammed the helmet down in something like a brazier, sending up puffs of ash.

In two strides, he was hovering over her. His presence filled more than the room. It filled her soul.

She shut her eyes and looked away. When nothing happened, she glanced up at him.

“Tell me about the droid,” he asked in his own voice.

It was higher than she’d expected from such a tall man, but it didn’t make him any less menacing.

Her lip trembled, but she adopted the attitude of a Resistance pilot she’d so often pretended to be as a child. “He’s a BB unit with a selenium drive and thermal hyperscan vindicator….”

He cut her off. “He’s carrying a section of a transgalactic navigational chart. And we have the rest, recovered from the archives of the Empire, but we need the last piece. And somehow you convinced the droid to show it to you – you, a scavenger.”

What was it she felt through his smoldering anger? She didn’t want to know, but she couldn’t help but sense something deeper. Disdain? No.

Curiosity.

She turned away.

Think, Rey, she admonished herself. How can you use that to your advantage?

“You know I can take whatever I want,” he told her in no uncertain terms.

She turned away and braced herself for the penetration she’d felt on Takodana as he bent and reached a hand towards her face. It was almost as if his gloved fingers were poking around inside her head, probing behind her eyes. Her attempts to block him were awkward and he easily pushed them aside.

He drew closer and bent lower, so low that she could feel his breath on her cheek. “You’ve been so lonely,” he said softly, “so afraid to leave.” He probed further, curiosity growing. “At night, desperate to sleep, you imagine an ocean.” He nodded to himself. “I can see it….I can see the island….” His voice trailed off as he looked deeper.

Tears streamed down her face with an increased effort to block him. She expected him to laugh at her childish fears, but instead he almost snorted.

“And Han Solo – you feel like he’s the father you never had.” His voice turned sharp with disgust as he looked away. “He would have disappointed you.”

At the mention of her new mentor, she suddenly grew bolder. She didn’t know how, but she perceived a weakness in her captor.

“Get…out…of…my…head!”

He straightened and backed away. If he was surprised at the mental parry, he didn’t show it. His tone turned cold but remained confident. He stretched out his hand with greater determination. “I know you’ve seen the map. It’s in there. And now you’ll give it to me.”

The pull began again, stronger this time. She gasped and let out a short breath.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said in an oddly gentle tone. “I feel it too.”

She knew he was talking about the map – that he’d located it in her mind – and if she’d just yield to him, he’d go easy on her. Instead, she began to burn with a rage she’d never felt before and clenched her jaw against his pull. “I’m not giving you anything!”

His eyes narrowed. “We’ll see.”

She felt his splayed fingers wrap around her mind and pull with a force that took her breath away. She pulled back.

He tried again, reaching for a better grip, and tugged harder. Her body strained against the wrist and ankle clamps. She wondered if he’d rip her from the platform, but she met his gaze unblinking. All her muscles tightened in the effort to resist him.

One by one, images flashed before her eyes as if he were rifling through them and flinging aside the ones that didn’t interest him. The escape of the rathtars aboard the freighter, chasing Finn through the market stalls, her refusal to sell BB-8 to Unkar Plutt, a fight with a Teedo over salvage scrap, the day Lor San Tekka came to Niima Outpost and bartered for her freedom. The doll she’d made from the cloth of a Resistance pilot’s uniform.

Then all of a sudden, there it was again – the frightened little girl crying, “Come back!”

Ren paused at this image. He’d seen this little girl before – outside of the scavenger’s mind. But where? Why did he care? He shifted uneasily, amazed at his own wonder at this new distraction. Rey was conscious of the image too. Her thoughts reeled and tempted to reform, to redirect. He was touching something raw and unbearable deep inside her.

Ren felt a tug on his outstretched hand as the image was torn aside. He fought to get it back. He would see more. He’d find the map later. He pushed again but felt an inky black numbness rush up his arm into his head to latch onto a painful memory that was always bubbling just beneath the surface.

ABY 31. He’d done it. He’d laid waste to the hateful Jedi academy and those who sought to murder him in his bed — all because he studied the dark side. Studied and learned what he could from it. There was real knowledge and power there — just as his grandfather had known. But they would keep it from him — because of their fear of what he would become. Well, he showed them the dark side! And afterwards…as he watched the temple complex burn to ash, he…cried. For a long time, the tears wouldn’t stop. He should have felt pride in his strength and abilities. He should have felt avenged! But instead he’d felt the grief of loss and…remorse. He was ashamed.

The scavenger’s face had become a mask of fierce determination. Ren gritted his teeth and pushed back against the blackness, but an inkling of doubt crept into his mind. He desperately wanted to invoke the name of the one he sought to become – to gather the strength of the Dark Lord’s mantle about him. But to do so would openly display his weakness.

“You!” he heard her growl in accusation. She’d seen his memory.“You’re afraid…that you’ll never be as strong as Darth Vader!”

The shock of her probe sent him off balance, although outwardly he looked little more than confused. No one except Supreme Leader Snoke had ever probed his mind. He released his grip on her at once and stood breathing hard for a moment, regarding her with wide eyes.

Then he turned and fled the room.

 

@MyKyloRen     6 April 2016

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Author’s note 24 December 2017: I wrote this story because I felt this important scene was glossed over in Alan Dean Foster’s novelization. I wanted the audience to know what was going on in both character’s heads during their dueling mind probes. Revising it today allowed me to bring in Ben Solo’s memories that are brought into play in The Last Jedi.

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