Kylo Ren lifted his helmeted head, searching, seeking like a predator sniffing out its prey. He was here. Han Solo. Ren knew that much from the ship that had crashed into the snowy surface of Starkiller Base – another example of his father’s brazen attempt to play the hero. His father – his own flesh and blood – come to destroy him, and the smuggler wasn’t alone. Ren had felt the Wookiee’s presence when he’d boarded the Millennium Falcon. The ship had been empty but alive with bright memory – a weapon more powerful than any thermal detonator.
Through the Force, Ren sensed those detonators now, mounted on various pillars and support struts, and he sensed the saboteurs who had set them in place. He half-turned to the stormtroopers who flanked him. “Find them.”
As the squadron moved off, Ren headed down to ground level and glided out onto the catwalk that spanned the oscillator shaft. If he could lure Han Solo out over the expanse, Ren’s job would be an easy one. There were no guardrails. The old man might simply stumble and tumble and that would be the end of it, or exposed in the open with nowhere to run, the troopers would take him out. But one thing was certain: Han Solo could not leave the base alive. He was a wanted criminal, guilty of not only crimes against the First Order but against the Galactic Empire before that.
Ren was nearly halfway across the chasm, striding purposefully, when a shout brought him up short.
The boyhood name echoed across the vast empty space as true as any blaster bolt. Ren had readied himself for blaster fire. He could sense his father’s fear even at that distance and would not have put it past the old man to shoot him in the back. The Resistance had chosen well in appointing Solo as their operative, their assassin. He was an expert marksman and had the potential of worming his way under his son’s defenses by unleashing a barrage of foolish sentiment – or so they hoped.
Firing the name was a cheap shot and Ren was amazed at how badly it had stunned him. He could have easily deflected a bolt but not the name he had buried back on Hosnian Prime years ago. A name he never wanted to hear again. Sentiment, he told himself sternly. Nothing more. He balled his fists and turned to face the intruder.
“Han Solo. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.”
Ren could feel his father’s heart begin to pound as the older man stepped onto the catwalk and took a few brave steps forward. Several levels above, a trooper took aim at the smuggler’s back. All Ren needed to do was give the order. But then something unexpected happened. On the highest level, a door slid open and two figures rushed in to stand and watch at the railing. One of them was the girl – a tempting but unwanted distraction. Outside, the last of the sun’s energy was slowly being drained away. Another distraction. With a word and a gesture, he could have the saboteurs killed – the Wookiee too, who was also watching above.
“Take off that mask,” Han Solo demanded, suddenly finding his old swagger. “You don’t need it.”
Ren nearly laughed. Did the man actually think he could command him – the Co-commander of the First Order – by using his dad voice? The voice that had scolded him when he put chewing gum in Chewbacca’s fur as a boy?
“What do you think you’ll see if I do?” Ren challenged, using the voice changer in his helmet to full effect.
Han Solo’s stern expression didn’t change, but Ren could sense a great weariness in him. “The face of my son.”
Ren hesitated for a moment then thought haughtily, Let him see whom I’ve become. Let him see whom he stands before. He reached up, unlocked his helmet, and removed it. He watched the expression on Han Solo’s face change to one of dismay. Ben wanted to say, “That’s right, Dad. You haven’t seen me in ten years – never once bothered! I’m not a boy anymore!” But instead he snarled, “Your son is gone. He was weak and foolish like his father, so I destroyed him!”
Han started walking again, advancing slowly. “That’s what Snoke wants you to believe, but it’s not true. My son is alive,” he implored, coming to a halt a few paces away from the child he once knew.
Ren gave a slight shake of his head. “No,” he returned flatly. “The Supreme Leader is wise.”
“Snoke’s using you for your power,” Han countered gently, moving closer. “When he gets what he wants, he’ll crush you.”
Ren took a step back as the smuggler got within arm’s reach but stood his ground. He wanted to scream, “How would you know, Dad? How the fuck would you know? You weren’t there! You were never there! You could never see what I see, hear what I hear, feel what I feel!”
Han stopped. “You know it’s true,” he said softly.
Ben did know . Snoke had already betrayed him once, he was sure of it, even if he couldn’t remember how. Ben was certain Snoke had altered his memories. But there was no way Ren – who had once been Ben – could ever go home. He’d face certain execution. His parents, influential as they were, could never prevent the grandson of Darth Vader from answering for his crimes and the crimes of the First Order.
“It’s too late.” The answer was barely louder than a whisper.
“No, it’s not,” Han urged. “Leave here with me. Come home.” After a beat, he added. “We miss you.”
He met his father’s gaze, but in the next few seconds, hundreds of images filled his head. He was a boy stung by fire wasps. He had survived the poison but without comfort from his absent parents in the care of C-3PO. Han had arrived as the medi-droid was lancing open the wounds and extracting the egg pods the insects had injected. Ben couldn’t scream loud enough, and Han had merely looked around anxiously and told him to “keep it down, kid,” when concerned neighbors pounded on the door.
When he was a little older, Ben had taken to playing in a band. The music was pensive and full of ambience. Han had come to a performance but to Han, music was for parties – loud, upbeat, and catchy. Ben looked up from his instrument to see his father blatantly yawning.
When Ben shared scraps of poetry he’d written as a teenager, Han had handed them back, saying, “I’m sure this is good stuff, kid, but I was never one for fancy words. Your mother is though. Go show it to Senator Mom.”
Han had never known what to do with his highly sensitive son, the boy who could be found out on the balcony or lurking in the shadows at galas – anywhere where he could be alone – the boy who rarely smiled.
Ben saw the sadness and regret in his father’s face and felt his own eyes begin to tear. Unmasked, he found it nearly impossible to block the emotions of others. They always overwhelmed him. “I am being torn apart,” he blurted. “I want to be free of this pain!” His stomach lurched and he nearly vomited. He remembered the Supreme Leader’s directive. “And I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.” His lower lip trembled. “Will you help me?”
Han took a step closer, his eyes fixed on his son’s. “Yes, anything.”
Ben watched the helmet tumble from his grasp. It hit the catwalk grate with a harsh clang. When he looked back at his father, a new resolve shown in the dark warrior’s eyes as he unclipped the lightsaber from his belt and held it out in offering.
Han looked confused, even frightened for a moment, then understood that Ben was asking to be disarmed. The older man gripped the blade’s pommel, prepared to clip the iconic weapon to his own belt and take his son home.
In the heavens above, the last of the sun’s energy was swallowed up by Starkiller Base. The star winked out. Ben met his father’s gaze for the last time, his eyes dark now in the red glow from the dim interior lights.
“You have compassion for him – the father who couldn’t protect you from bounty hunters,” Snoke’s voice growled with contempt Kylo Ren’s head. “The father who took you away from the only friends you ever had. The father who never told you Darth Vader was your grandfather!”
Ren’s hands tightened on the blade’s hilt as Han Solo’s fingers did too.
Suddenly, the blade ignited in a brilliant flame and pierced the old smuggler’s chest. Far above, Chewie howled and Rey shrieked. Ren shoved the saber through the resisting flesh, still meeting Solo’s shocked stare.
“Thank you,” Ren managed to get out through gritted teeth.
“Yes. Good,” Snoke praised his pupil through their special psychic bond.
With a final yank, Ren freed the saber from the body and watched dispassionately as the father reached out and touched his son’s face before tumbling into the chasm below.
Ben’s eyes went wide as across the expanse of space he felt his
mother reel as if she too had been stabbed. Instead of feeling buoyed by the power of the Dark Side, Ben was filled with a memory of his father lying on the bed, grinning up at him as he tossed the little boy into the air, making his son feel like he could fly.
@MyKyloRen 6 October 2016