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

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