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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.