Long Way Home

Senator Leia Organa remembered the last time she’d lost her son. He’d looked back only once then too before turning to follow those who led him away. Both times she’d wondered what she might have done to keep him close, to keep the Darkness from reaching out and seizing him by the hand. It had been an accident when Ben was ten. He hadn’t meant to kill the toddler, but Ben’s Force abilities were deemed a threat to society. Han and Leia Solo were given the choice of either committing their son to the Institution of Mental Arts — a government-run rehabilitation agency — or place him in the hands of a guardian who understood the ways of the Force. Naturally, Leia had turned to Luke.

Luke Skywalker had made great progress in helping Ben Solo understand and control his growing abilities — so much so that Luke now had a fully fledged Jedi academy in operation. It was so successful in locating and training Force-sensitives that the Jedi master was able to leave the academy in the hands of his first class of padawans while he scoured the galaxy for Jedi ruins and artifacts. He’d taken Ben on several exploratory missions, but over the past couple years, uncle and nephew had had a falling out. They still worked together, but neither would talk about it…until today. And the day had been a long one for Leia, full of meetings and dodging the media. The reporters and camera droids were relentless now that the galaxy knew Leia and Luke were the spawn — that’s how the press liked to phrase it — of Darth Vader.

Leia was glad Han hadn’t been there for her meeting with Ben that morning — the first time she’d see him since the news broke. To lighten things up, Han would have cracked some joke, Ben’s feathers would have gotten ruffled, and the conversation she’d had with their son might never have happened.

Ben had been away with Luke — or so she’d thought — tracking down Jedi holocrons — and she’d sent him a subspace holo telling him how sorry she was he’d had to learn the truth about Vader from the media. She’d always meant to find the right time to tell him about his grandfather, but in truth, she’d thought Luke would be the one to enlighten Ben about their dark family legacy. But Luke never did. Leia wanted to throttle her brother. He was the one who understood the Force, how one could turn to the Dark side, but it couldn’t be helped now.

Ben had eventually messaged back that he’d be on Hosnian Prime in three days but that he couldn’t stay long.

He didn’t even call it “home” anymore.

Her gaze followed him from the door of the hangar as he strode towards the spacehopper that would take him offworld again. How did he ever get to be so tall? She mused, watching his long purposeful strides. He was such a tiny baby. Now his presence filled the room and his words filled her heart…with fear.

She’d been shocked to learn he already knew the blood of Darth Vader coursed through his veins.

“How did you find out?” she’d asked him, setting down her cup of caf a bit too hard. “Only Luke, the Lars, me, my adoptive parents, and Obi-Wan knew.”

Ben lifted his chin. “Amanda told me…when I was fourteen.”

Leia sat back in her chair and stared at him. He was referring to Dr. Amanda Snoke who’d been his counsellor from an early age, helping him through the emotional turmoil he often experienced. He’d been remanded to her custody after the murder trial until he was eighteen. Now that Ben was in his mid-twenties, Leia didn’t like the relationship he shared with her. It was far too trusting, far too…intimate. Leia quickly brushed those uneasy thoughts aside. That was a conversation for another time.

Will there be another time?

“She was there for me, Mom,” he’d told her, almost answering her question with an unspoken “when you were not.” But he said instead, “She found a holo sent to the Naberrie family on Naboo, assuring them that Padme’s twins were in good hands. It was sent using an old Jedi encryption code.”

Obi-Wan Kenobi.

“I see,” Leia managed to say, resisting the urge to scream, running her finger around the rim of her mug. “Dr. Snoke never said anything about that to me.”

Ben nearly exploded. “She didn’t have to! You already knew!” He took a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair. “I’ve just come from Naboo. I had to walk where my grandfather walked.” He looked away, biting his lower lip as if he were choosing his next words very carefully. “I’ve met a group of collectors who are looking for Grandfather’s personal effects.” When she didn’t say anything, he added, “I’m going with them.”

Leia noticed he’d used the word “grandfather” to refer to the Sith lord rather than “Darth Vader.” To her, Vader would never be “Father.” She didn’t like where this was going.

“Ben,” she tried softly, reaching out a hand to him, “what good will it do to put your hands of his things?”

Ben pulled away. “Everything! You wouldn’t tell me about him, so I have to find out myself. I can see things through objects. Through the Force, I can connect with him.”

Leia tried again after letting out a long breath. “And then what?”

Ben studied the ceiling.

“Look, why don’t you talk to your uncle. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, he’ll probably find it easier to talk about his encounter with Vader.”

Her heart sank as Ben’s gaze dropped back to her and he slowly shook his head.

“He doesn’t see the value in studying the Dark side.”

“It’s incredibly dangerous!” Leia interjected. “He’s seen first-hand the cruelty and destruction. We both have.”

Ben pushed his chair back from the table. His features hardened. “I didn’t say I was joining the Dark side, Mother, but I need to study it. All aspects of the Force must be studied and respected. Knowledge for knowledge sake alone does nobody any good. Knowledge must be used to bring about change for the good.”

Leia didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t comprehend how gaining Dark side knowledge could be put to good. “Ben,” she began gently, “Please think about what you’re getting into. You weren’t there, you….”

He stood up. “That’s why I have to find these artifacts — to learn the truth.” He gave her a stony look and she knew he wanted to say, “the truth you hid from me.”

As he turned towards the door, she moved to grab his arm, but he kept going. “Ben, please, tell us where you are from time to time.”

He stopped and looked over his shoulder.

Kylo Ren by Ashline-illus
Kylo Ren by Ashline-illus

“Let us know you’re all right,” she pleaded.

He gave her a slight nod and she watched him walk away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

@MyKyloRen   22 November 2016

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The Dead-Enders

“What is it you’re looking for?” Unkar Plutt’s meaty hands dropped to rest on his hips as he sized up the pair in front of him. The young man was draped all in black. Plutt thought it strange for Jakku’s scorching climate, but there was something even stranger about the man’s gaze. A slight shiver went up the junkboss’s spine.

“We represent the Acolytes of the Beyond. We deal in Imperial artifacts,” the man is black said, flexing his knuckles. His eyes flicked to the table of salvaged scraps Unkar had on display. “But we’re not interested in that garbage. We’re looking for the big stuff.”

The hulking Crolute snorted. “There’s a whole graveyard of ships that way.” Plutt waved a plump hand in the general direction. “A mess of TIEs, A-wings, and a star destroyer, but they’ve been picked pretty clean. Unless of course you want to haul the ships away. In that case –” he rummaged behind his counter and held up a datapad, “– I’ve got the salvage permit here. Make me an offer.”

The human male took a step closer and sneered. “We’re not interested in rotting ships.” He started to raise a hand towards the Crolute, but the young man’s eyes went wide with surprise. Kylo Ren turned just as the girl spoke up.

“If they’re looking for the caves beneath Carbon Ridge, I can show them.” She looked to be about seventeen and lythe as a cat.

Rey by bigMdesign
Rey by bigMdesign

Ren’s eyes sought hers. She’d been listening and her mind was particularly bright. But her gaze was fixed on Plutt.

The junkboss grinned — inasmuch as his species could. “You won’t find the place without a guide,” he told Ren and the tall woman shadowing the dark lord. “And you’d be dead under a rockslide before you knew what hit you. Rey here is the best. You can have her for a hundred credits.”

Rey squared her shoulders. “I want six portions,” she told Plutt in no uncertain terms. “Ten if they find what they’re looking for.” She folded her arms.

The Crolute’s round mouth fell open, but before he could express his outrage, the woman interjected, “Of course, Rey. And you’d be welcome to come back to our ship to share a celebratory dinner. You look as if you haven’t eaten real food in months.” She smiled a sweet smile as she pulled a silky wrap over her blonde hair.

“I haven’t,” Rey grumbled. “He sees to that.” She shot Plutt a withering look. Half-turning to the visitors, she said, “Follow my speeder.”

Ren watched her hurry off then pulled up his hood.

“Is that a lightsaber?” Plutt pointed a fat finger at the weapon clipped to Ren’s belt. “I’ve always wanted to see one of those.” His expression hardened. “Are you some kind of Jedi?”

The dark lord turned on him, eyes narrowing. “It’s a flashlight.” When Plutt shook his head and opened his mouth to argue, Ren waved a hand before the Crolute’s face. “You’ll forget you ever saw it,” he suggested with a sneer.

Plutt’s bloated features went slack. “I’ll forget I ever saw it,” he parroted back.

Amanda Snoke let out a laugh and hooked her arm in Ren’s. “That trick never ceases to amuse me. Come on, let’s follow the girl.”

Out beyond the Goazon Badlands, Rey’s speeder slowed and banked hard to the left, following the path of a ravine to the base of the ridge. Ren tailed her in the two-man speeder and came to a halt when she stopped and dismounted beside a stepped rock formation. The feature was a natural one, carved by a watershed that had evaporated a millennium ago. She used it to climb to a narrow ledge that commanded a view of the canyon. She turned and waited for her customers to catch up. Kylo Ren, unaffected by the heat, was the first to reach her.

“You see that cave over there?” she said, pointing to a large, vaulted opening a quarter kilometer down the canyon. She was careful to keep her head down below a jagged outcrop. Ren nodded as Amanda came up behind him. “It’s guarded by the Dead-Enders. They’re white-beards with crazy eyes. Some say they’re stormtroopers left behind after the Battle of Jakku. They ran out of power packs for their blasters years ago, but I wouldn’t want to mess with them.” She squinted up at him against the setting sun. “Twenty credits gets you in the back door of the place — even they don’t know it exists — or you can take your chances with them.”

“I didn’t think Niima Outpost still used credits,” Amanda mused, giving Rey a wry smile.

Rey shrugged. “They still take them in Tuanal and they’ve got some things I need.”

Ren stood watching the three scruffy old men pace about the entrance to the cave. He had no doubt he could subdue them with little effort, but there was no telling what forces lingered inside. The place was likely booby trapped. He reached into his robes, brought out a credit chip, and programmed in the amount with his thumb. Amanda raised an eyebrow at him.

He handed the chip to Rey with a smirk. “I like the way you think, scavenger.”

As their fingers touched, both of them blinked. A barrage of images flashed through Ren’s mind, including one of a little girl straining against a Unkar Plutt’s grasp and crying out for someone to “Come back!” Ren gave his head a shake to clear it. Rey stared at him, overwhelmed by the vision of a tall boy with a mop of dark hair. The boy started to run, reaching out to her.

Rey recovered first, pocketing the credit chip. “The cave’s just around the bend,” she nearly stammered.

Amanda Snoke eyed the exchange with lifted chin, a peculiar brightness filling her pupils. She took Ren’s hand and intertwined her fingers in his as the girl led them down a path barely visible among the jumble of crags. They came to a narrow opening in the rock face as the shadows deepened and stretched along the canyon wall.

“I think you’ll just fit,” Rey told Ren, measuring his stature against her memories of the abandoned passageways, “but you’ll have to duck and crawl. I don’t know what this place was,” she said before backing away, “but it gives me the creeps. I’ll wait with the speeders. We need to be out of here before dark.”

Ren watched her go, puzzling out the familiarity of her walk and the way she squinted up at him. He felt Amanda tug at his collar and lay her palms on his chest.

“If this place is the old Imperial laboratory,” she murmured, pulling his chin to her and holding it between thumb and forefinger, “we’ll make it so again.”

@MyKyloRen   15 November 2016

Mind Games

“FN-1824, by the power of the convening authority of the First Order, having been tried and found guilty of suffering the escape of a prisoner through design, you are hereby confined at hard labor for a period of two standard years, during which time you will forfeit all pay and allowances and undergo psychological reconditioning.” Captain Phasma looked from her datapad feed to the accused. “Do you understand your sentence?”

Stormtrooper FN-1824 inclined his head. “Yes, Captain.”

“Then you are hereby remanded to the First Order Reconditioning Program.”

Kylo Ren gritted his teeth and drew his hood up over his helmet as the assembly rose. He followed FN-1824 with his eyes as the trooper was smartly marched from the chamber. He knew the convicted would be waiting for him in the interrogation room to begin the first phase of his treatment. I am not a therapist, Ren thought bitterly, but he understood there was no other way to maintain the troops. The Order had lost far too many personnel during the destruction of Starkiller Base. It took too much time to train good men and instill their loyalty. The Order needed every able-bodied man and woman to function at peak performance if the Order was to survive and rebuild its power. The one thing Ren didn’t understand was how this trooper with half a brain managed to escape the destruction of the base.

It’s a task only you can perform, Snoke’s deep, resonant voice reminded Ren through the Force. I have never had such a student as strong in  the ways of Qâzoi Kyantuska as you.

Ren answered his master at once. Yes, Supreme Leader. You are wise to retain FN-1824. Once I reorder his mind, he will be resistant to Jedi mind tricks.

As he swept from the assembly chamber, General Hux blocked his way. “Don’t have too much fun with his reconditioning,” he warned Ren with a sneer, wishing he could see the dark lord’s face and relish his embarrassment. Hux knew Ren must be smarting from the blow that it was FN-1824 — the trooper Ren had left in charge of the interrogation chamber — who had been tricked into letting the scavenger go. “I need him fully operational and at his post in three days.” Hux told him with a lift of his chin.

Ren resisted the urge to Force-choke him. Thanks to Hux, everyone knew about Ren’s fascination and subsequent failure with the girl. Only Hux, however, dared to rub his face in it.

Because of his knowledge of advanced weaponry and the allegiance of his father, the General had the protection of the Supreme Leader. Ren couldn’t touch him and Hux knew it.

As he strode down the long hallways of the Finalizer, Kylo Ren smoldered on those thoughts, resentful of the task at hand. His mind wandered a moment through the past, recalling the first time he’d exerted a mind probe on another being. It was his pet rock lizard — his first human subject would come three years later —  and he hadn’t simply rummaged through its thoughts. He’d controlled them. The critter was too dumb to be frightened, and twelve-year-old Ben Solo had been too thrilled to be stunned.

“Check this out!” Ben called from the other room. “Look what I can make him do!”

Amanda Snoke put down her datapad and got up from the lounge chair. She poked her head in the door of Ben’s room.

Catching her eye, he beamed. “Ok. You always need a baseline to measure things from, right?”

She laughed and folded her arms, leaning up against the doorjamb. “You catch on fast, Mr. Solo.”

He returned a wide grin. He liked it when she called him that. It made him feel grown up and important. “Ok. Watch what he does when I set him in the maze. He’s seen it before,” Ben explained, breathless with excitement, “but he hasn’t learned it yet.”

The lizard nosed around the plasticine walls but showed little interest in wandering through the box to find the exit and a treat. It seemed far more inclined to take a nap.

“Now watch this!”

Ben held out a hand and let it hover over the animal. The lizard gave a jerk, it’s eyes going wide, and bolted through the first doorway, turned right, found the next left, and zipped through the rest of the maze without getting lost. Ben scooped it up as it burst through the exit, cuddled it against his chest, and gave it a tasty morsel.

Amanda clapped her hands. “That was amazing! How did you do it?”

“I don’t know,” Ben admitted with a shrug. “It was easy to get inside its head and tell it what to do.”

fn-1824

If only it were so easy with this dumbass, Ren thought as the door slid open to admit him to the interrogation chamber. He was relieved to find FN-1824 already strapped into the chair. He hated strapping people in — didn’t like touching them. He always resorted to using the Force to maneuver the restraining bolts.

“Take his helmet off,” he told the trooper standing guard over the convict. Ren found the distasteful procedure easier to bear if he could watch his subject’s faces.Their contorted expressions provided a bit of entertainment.

Helmetless, FN-1824 could no longer hide his terror. He took a deep breath and met the gaze — or what he thought was the gaze — of the hooded figure in black. He’d heard the screams of other troopers who’d gone through the reconditioning process. They’d come out changed somehow — less individual and more compliant. He assumed they were tortured into submission.

Ren sighed. At times he found the troopers fear of him amusing, but lately he found it…annoying. The truth was during these reconditioning sessions, he worked for days to restructure the neural pathways in trooper’s brains to make them resistant to Jedi suggestion. The process gave his subjects a migraine, to be sure, and made them cry out as the floor seemed to drop from under them, but that was all. Still, Ren did nothing to assuage the man’s fears. He stretched a gloved hand toward FN-1824’s face.The trooper winced as he felt the mind probe begin. He gave a loud groan as the room began to spin, but it stopped almost as soon as it began. He blinked and opened his eyes.The dark lord had retreated several paces.

Ren straightened, his heart pounding. He reached out and drew upon the Force to steady himself. He’d always been able to shut out the minds of others — to not feel everything they felt. But not this trooper. The mind probe Ren had started had returned to him like a boomerang.

What has that scavenger done to this man? He stared, recoiling. What has she done to me?

@MyKyloRen  9 November 2016

Runaway

RUNAWAY

“He’s my son! I’m not going to send him away to some correction center!” Han Solo’s hand instinctively dropped to his blaster.

“The charge is manslaughter, sir,” the sergeant reminded him, his own hand moving to his holster, although he had every confidence in his bolt-proof armor. “All juveniles accused of committing violent crimes are required to await trial at the Hosnian Segue Center. Your son will have to come with us.”

“I only just got here!” Han retorted, unable to hold back a sneer. “Give us a moment, will you?”

The sergeant returned a curt nod. “Of course, sir. You have one standard hour.”

Han watched the officer tromp back down the Millennium Falcon’s boarding ramp before shoving a hand through his hair and turning to his wife. “How did this happen?”

Leia let out a long sigh. She’d been holding her breath. “Let’s talk away from prying eyes,” she urged, pulling him inside to the lounge area. “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself,” she began, settling down next to him on the cushioned bench.

“He killed the kid next door?” Han gaped at her.

Leia nodded and took his hand in her own. “He didn’t mean to. It was an accident.”

“How did he get my blaster? You know I keep that one locked under three security levels. It even requires my thumbprint!”

Leia nodded and closed her eyes. “I know.” She wished the nightmare would go away. “That’s beside the point. Luke’s been teaching him to stop things in motion by using the Force.”

Han didn’t see the connection. “So? They’ve been tossing balls around.” He’d watched the master and padawan go through the exercise.

“Up until now, yes.” She absently fingered the hem of her tunic. “I came out into the courtyard just in time to see the blaster bolt hanging in mid-air. Ben told me he fired the blaster at the stone wall and then used the Force to stop the bolt before it hit the wall.”

Han rubbed his aching forehead. It had been a long journey from Felucia and he’d expected to come home to a hot meal and the loving arms of his wife and son. The tragic event had happened less than an hour ago. Leia hadn’t even had a chance to send him a holo. “So, how did the bolt hit the neighbors’ brat?” He looked up when she sharply pulled away and got to her feet. He sighed, sensing her annoyance. “What?”

“His name is Athin Keler…was,” she shot back, eyes flashing.  “And he’s dead!” she choked. “That innocent little toddler died today because of our son!”

“Hey, I’m sorry, sweetheart.” Han rose and took her into his arms. “You said it was an accident,” he encouraged.

Leia let him hold her close for a moment before she wiped her eyes and went on. “When I stepped out onto the patio, looking to see if Ben had come home from school, I distracted him.” Her eyes went wide with horror as he relived the awful moment in her mind. “That’s when Athin came wandering through the gate. Ben forgot about the bolt. The Force released it and it hit little Athin in the head.” She wiped away fresh tears. “It’s partly my fault, too.”

Han’s arms tightened around her as he let out a long, slow breath. His expression darkened. “Where was Threepio?”

“In the kitchen making Ben a snack. Han –” she pulled back to look up at him, “– we’re going to lose our son.”

“It was an accident,” he reminded her. “Even droids can’t watch kids every second. And where were Athin’s parents anyway?”

She shook her head and turned away. “I don’t know.” She started to pace. “I’ve called Dr. Snoke. She’s on her way.” Leia hugged her arms about her as if she’d gone cold. “I’m hoping she can hold law enforcement at bay for a while.”

“Where’s Ben now?”

“He’s with Luke at the station.”

Han held out his hand to her. “Come on,” he said resignedly. “Take me to him.”

When their footsteps receded down the ramp and the door was sealed again, ten-year-old Ben Solo popped open the panel to the hidden smuggling compartment below deck and peered out, white knuckles gripping the steel decking.

falconsmugglingcompartments

Amanda Snoke looked down on the boy and folded her arms. “You can come out now, my little runaway,” she said with a smirk.

@MyKyloRen  1 November 2016