Bright Eyes

“You bombing out, Threepio?” Han Solo raised an eyebrow over the Sabacc table.

The golden droid jerked with despair. “This game is impossible! No matter what I do, the sum value of my cards is always higher than twenty-three! This deck can’t be regulation!”

Han gave him a sneer. “Quit your whining, Goldenrod, and pay up.”

“Is the deck rigged, Dad?” Nine-year-old Ben Solo sat up straighter, watching the game with great interest. Normally, Han played Sabacc with Chewie or Leia, but Senator Organa was bound for Kashyyyk with Chewie as her aide, translator, and pilot. That left Han to stay home with Ben, and Threepio to see that both Solos didn’t get into any trouble.

“Of course it isn’t,” Han sniffed. “Take a look at the deck yourself.” He gathered up the pile of cards in front of him and handed them to Ben. “Threepio’s just a sore loser.” The droid cocked its head as Han plucked the cards from its hand and gave them to his son.

“Sabacc is a game of chance,” Threepio noted with apprehension, “but I find the odds here are…disturbing.”

Ben watched his father swagger to the wet bar and help himself to another glass of the deep amber liquid. “I’d rather play than look,” he called after him.

“I don’t know, kid,” Han drawled, returning the bottle of Corellian brandy to the chiller, “the rules are pretty complicated.”

Ben shrugged. “I know. I’ve been watching. Threepio can deal after he checks out the deck.” He handed the cards to the droid, but held one up. “What’s this one? She looks mean.” He wrinkled his nose at the lady pictured on the face.

Han smirked, settling in his seat again. “That’s your mother, kid,” he said with a chuckle and took a swig.”

“She doesn’t look like mom,” the boy pointed out, frowning at the picture.

“The Queen of Air and Darkness.” Han raised his glass in a salute to his absent wife. “She’s the queen of hot air and she rules my nights.” He grew suddenly serious. “But I couldn’t live without her.” After a moment, he nodded for Ben to put the card on the stack. “Set us up, Goldenrod. Let’s see what the kid’s got.”

He was about to go into an explanation of a Sabacc Shift when Ben suddenly launched himself out of his chair and stood staring at the door.

“Mom!”

Han nearly knocked over his glass as he too jumped to his feet. “She wasn’t supposed to be back for three days!” He shoved a hand through his hair, gazing at the apartment’s current state of unkemptness. Threepio found it impossible to tidy up whenever Han was around. Decorative pillows were tossed into a corner. Gaming pieces, random Falcon parts, and dirty glasses littered every available surface, and the shells of warra nuts inevitably got crushed into the plush carpet.

Han ignored the disheveled bachelor terrain and zeroed in on his glass of brandy. If Leia was going to give him a hard time about anything, it would be that — drinking while babysitting. Not that Han ever got drunk. She was afraid Ben would sneak a taste. She also wanted to teach Ben that such drinks were meant for special occasions.

Han made a lunge for the glass and hid it in the chiller. Force! She’ll smell it on my breath! he thought, reached for the bowl of warra nuts, and stuffed some in his mouth. That’s when he noticed Ben hadn’t run to the door. Han nearly choked when a loud knock shook the door. The bowl tumbled to the floor, scattering empty shells over the carpet as he instinctively drew his blaster and put his back to one side of the door.

“Who is it?” he hissed at Ben in a low whisper. He knew the kid could see things through the Force.

“The police,” Ben said in a small voice, his lower lip starting to tremble.

Han stared down at his son. The officers at the door pounded again. Han holstered his blaster and held up an admonishing finger. “If you put Mrs. Jasper’s dog in the tree again….” He shuddered as he recalled the sight of the little terrier yelping and scrabbling in the branches. Ben didn’t like the yippy thing — the feeling was mutual — and decided to levitate it to the crown of the seven-meter paan tree the previous summer.

Taking a deep breath and steeling himself, Han opened the door to a white-uniformed officer — a young Mon Calamari. The social services branch of law enforcement.

“General Solo?”

“Yeah,” Han said hesitantly, looking up and down the corridor, expecting to see a squad of reinforcements on the officer’s heels. “Who’s asking?”

“My name’s Lt. Cedril Bethakos. I’ve come to take you to your wife straight away.”

Ben poked his head around the doorframe as Han’s heart began to pound. “Leia? Where is she?”

“She’s back in New Republic custody now and is….”

“What?” Han’s mouth fell open. “What do mean back in custody? Where’s she been?” He was chest to chest with the officer when he felt a tug on his sleeve.

Ben looked up at him, eyes wide. “Dad, she’s in the hospital. She’s not breathing.”

Han started to say something, but his tongue got tied in knots. Finally, he managed to blurt, “Why wasn’t I told of this?”

“We needed to see to her needs first,” Lt. Bethakos was saying. “If you’ll just come with me, sir.”

“Chewie….” Han started to call back inside the apartment, then stopped himself. Chewie had been with Leia. Was Chewie all right? If he wasn’t at the hospital, Han would have to face this alone. He glanced down as he pulled the door closed.

No. There was Ben.

He clapped his son on the back. “Lead the way, kid. Let’s go find Mom.”

In a private room of the hospital complex, Leia lay in a bid of pristine white, the shades closed against the constant bright stream of air traffic outside. She was unconscious and on life support. A medical droid finished checking her vitals and rolled forward to meet them.

“There’s been no change, I’m afraid,” it reported in a tinny voice.

Han was nearly beside himself. “What the hell happened? Where’s Chewie?” he snapped.

“They’re knitting the bones in the Wookiee’s legs,” Lt. Bethakos assured him, “but he’s expected to walk again.”

Han’s mouth fell open. “Well, that’s a relief!” he said with a sneer.

Bethakos had refused to debrief him on the way to the ICU, because whatever had befallen Leia and Chewie was classified. Solo was fed up with the tight-lipped Mon Calamari and wanted answers. Han was at Leia’s side now, cradling her hand in his and unsure of how he’d got there. She was in a deep sleep, her features relaxed but not exactly serene, yet there was no sign of trauma. A bedside machine whirred and beeped as it monitored her vitals with a constant readout he couldn’t understand. He squeezed her fingers, but there was no response.

Han decided he didn’t care if he knew what had happened. All he wanted to know was if Leia would be all right. But before he could get the words out, he caught a glimpse of movement at the windows. Little Ben stood there. He was too short to reach the switch that opened the blinds. The boy waved a hand at the windows. When nothing happened, he waved again. This time the mechanism engaged and the blinds began to rise, letting in the late afternoon gold of a winter’s day.

“Ben!” Han scolded. “What did we tell you about….”

“She needs the Light,” Ben said simply.

Han was going to remind his son about not using his Force abilities in public. It tended to make people nervous and drew the wrong sort of attention. But he let it go, watching with tenderness as Ben reached out a hand to touch his mother’s cheek.

“Mom,” he called softly, the tears spilling down his cheeks.

He remembered when he was small — much smaller — a day when he had been

artist unknown
artist unknown

awfully sick. Leia had constantly hovered over him, bringing him good things to eat, telling him stories, and tucking him in. “Hey,” she soothed, “how can the light that burns so brightly suddenly burn so pale?*” She touched him on the nose, and that made him smile. Ever since then, she touched him that way whenever he needed encouragement, and he made a game of touching his finger to her nose.

“Bright eyes,” Ben whispered to Leia now and touched her on the nose.

Behind them in the private room, Lt. Bethakos had shooed the medical droid away and sealed the door. “I was not authorized to mention her condition outside of a contained area. Their ship was brought down by a bounty hunter, apparently looking for you, General Solo. We have him in custody. At first we thought your wife’s injuries were caused by blaster fire or even nerve toxin from a dart. But they were in fact cause by….”

“Sith lightning!” Ben yelped, backing away from the bed and staring wide-eyed and angry up at his father.

“Y-y-yes,” the Mon Calamari officer stammered, “but how did you know?”

Ben came around the bed and pointed a finger at Han. “This is all your fault!” he screamed.

“What?” Han began, dumbfounded. “I….”

Solo’s voice trailed off as he felt a gentle hand squeeze his. Leia was trying to reach them, trying as always, to pull her family together.

 

@MyKyloRen   29 December 2016
In loving memory of Carrie Fisher (1956-2016) and Richard Adams (1920-2016).

*Bright Eyes by Mike Batt, lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.

Time in a Bottle

“I never thought the Jedi were real,” Rey admitted, giving her soup a stir. “I thought they existed in tales told round campfires.” She watched Luke Skywalker spoon some of the simple broth into his mouth. He’d allowed her to enter his stone hovel on Ahch-To, but he’d said very little after she’d delivered the holos from Leia and Han. When the old Jedi offered her a bowl of watery broth, she’d sat down at the stone slab table across from him. She wanted desperately to talk to him about Han — the restless friend they’d lost.

“Talking is the best salve for our wounds,” Maz Kanata had told her in the brief meal they’d shared. Rey wasn’t sure what the wizened old pirate had meant, but now she understood.

She hoped she’d see Maz again.

How can I get this old hermit to talk? She thought, biting her lower lip and eyeing him over the bowl she raised to her lips.

Clearly Luke Skywalker had been through an ordeal that had sent him running to a life of solitude and regret. Rey had heard some of the stories about Kylo Ren — Ben Solo — and couldn’t get her head around the fact that he was Han and Leia’s son. He’d been Luke’s padawan, she mused. What had happened to Ben? What had happened to both of them?

“When you said, ‘He’s coming,’” she heard herself saying, “you meant Kylo Ren?”

Surely that would get Luke talking, but Skywalker’s gaze only flicked briefly to her and dropped again to his bowl without a word.

Rey tried another question. “Do you think that holocron Han found is aboard the Falcon?”

She eyed her host with growing annoyance as he continued on with his meager meal, oblivious to her interrogation. She began to wonder if he cared about anyone but himself anymore. If she couldn’t talk him into coming with her and joining the Resistance, she’d have to turn her back on him and walk away.

But what she didn’t know was that Luke Skywalker cared too much.

He knew the Resistance — and the First Order — would eventually find him, but he was no longer sure of his nephew’s intentions. There was a maelstrom brewing deep inside Ben Solo — as there always had been — and Luke had thought the dark lord meant to strike him down, as Vader had slain Obi-Wan. It was the way of the Sith after all. The apprentice was destined to slay the master. But now Luke wasn’t so sure. Even through the vast distance that separated them, Luke could sense a rift opening up in Ben — Luke refused to call him Kylo — one that was trying to wedge itself between Ben and the Dark-side lust for power.

That wedge was this girl sitting here, watching the old hermit over her bowl of soup. The girl Luke had always feared would catapult conflicted Ben Solo into the waiting clutches of the Dark side.

Luke needed time to meditate on the state of affairs embroiling his family — again — in galactic war. He needed time to draw strength from the Force that was so strong on this world. Time to receive a clear vision of what the Force could tell him about the future.

But he’d just run out of time.

Leia’s message was predictable — “The Resistance needs you. I need you” — but Han’s about the holocron brought Luke up short. The day he realized he’d lost his padawan forever replayed over and over in his mind like an endless holovid.

Luke had returned from a charity mission on Corellia to find Ben hunched over a holo display, watching the tail end of a recording. Luke instantly recognized the sender as Lor San Tekka before the holo winked out. A surge of dread spread quickly through the Jedi master. San Tekka’s messages were sent under the highest level of encryption — something Ben did not have access to as a padawan.

Ben glanced up as Luke came through the door. A ripple of guilt played over his young bensolojedilightsabercroppedfeatures but was quickly replaced by a mask of arrogance. “I didn’t know when you’d be back. I thought it might be urgent.” After a moment, he added with a lift of the chin, “I used the Force to break the code.”

He was nineteen — too old to be a boy and too young to be a man. Trapped in a time of life no one respected.

“If you’d open yourself up to the bond between us,” Luke said tersely, “you’d know exactly when I was coming back.” But he knew Ben no longer cared about hiding his questionable interests and skills from his master.

Words would have to wait. Luke replayed the holo.

“There is something here on Jedha you’ll want to see,” San Tekka urged with folded hands. “The Church of the Force have made all attempts to acquire it, but the Hutts want too high a price and we’re out of resources. It’s a cuboid, gilded holocron with markings from the Old Republic dating back 3,000 years and in the style of the Jedi Archives of Coruscant. It requires a memory crystal and most likely two Force-users to open. This could be the holocron that contains intelligence on the super weapon of the Sith Emperor Lord Vitiate. It may prove to be the memories the Jedi Council extracted from Revan and kept hidden all these millennia.

“I do not believe the Hutts know what they have,” San Tekka went on, “but if this knowledge were to escape, we’d be looking at destruction far worse than any Death Star could create. A weapon that eradicates all traces of the Force on any existing world.”

The old explorer signed off with the usual Church of the Force blessings and left Ben to stare cross-armed at his uncle.

“When do we leave?” the padawan demanded.

That expectant stare dissolved into a feminine equivalent facing Luke across the table some ten years later.

Rey raised a questioning eyebrow.

When do we leave?
@MyKyloRen   21 December 2016

Message in a Bottle

He stood there with his back to her, a monk of the old Order, staring out into the sea. But he knew she was there and he knew why she had come. The past was repeating itself. It had caught up to him and wrapped him up in its sticky web. With a heavy heart, he turned to face her and lowered his hood. One hand of flesh and blood, one of servos and chrome.

It was him. She was sure of it. She needed no holos to confirm his identity.The Force screamed at her in its omnipresent whisper: Luke Skywalker.

She quickly dug into her satchel and pulled out the thing that belonged to him — and his father before him — and held it out in offering. He stayed where he was, his expression darkening. He moved his head ever so slightly, almost as if to shake it, as he eyed the loathsome thing in her hand. He couldn’t be that man, wouldn’t be that man, again.

She extended her arm further, imploring him with tearful eyes to take the lightsaber — the one that Anakin Skywalker had built. The one Obi-Wan had kept hidden. The one that had made Luke Skywalker a powerful Jedi.

And the girl? She was strong in the Force. Too strong for her own good.

He quickly shielded his mind from her. She had survived and overcome her spartan existence on Jakku and he was glad for it. It would have to be enough.

She tried a different tactic, putting away the lightsaber and drawing out another one. “Perhaps this one’s more to your liking?” She suggested with a hint of a hopeful smile.

Luke recognized the hilt — the lightsaber he repeatedly blamed himself for not being able to retrieve. The blue-bladed one belonging to Master Kenobi. Still, he said nothing, pushing past her and down the steps to the round stone huts clustered on the terrace below.

She followed. “There’s more,”  she told him firmly. “I have a message from General Organa.”

“I’m sure you do,” he grumbled, ducking into one of the huts. He bent low over the hearthfire and poked at the bundle of dried lichen and moss until the flames rekindled.

The girl peered into the dark interior. “She spent half a day recording it.”

He set an old pot on a tripod over the fire and straightened, but he did not turn to look at her. “He’s coming,” he said simply. “I know.”

“What?” she blinked, confused. When the Jedi said nothing more, she stowed away the lightsaber and drew out a holopad. This she placed on the low stone table. “Please,” she begged, activating a switch. “I’ve come all this way. Just listen. Then I’ll go.”

The transparent blue image of General Leia Organa projected from the center of the device. It flickered once then stabilized as Leia began to speak.

“Luke, this is Rey,” she said with a gesture aimed at introducing the young pilot who had sought him out. But Luke Skywalker kept his attention on the pot over the fire, adding a pinch of salt and herbs.

“She witnessed the events I know you’re aware of,” Leia went on almost in an accusatory tone, almost as if she knew her brother were only half-listening. “So, she’s worth hearing out. She can give you perspective I can’t. And she’s come a long way to find you.” Leia clasped her hands in front of her, giving him a sad sisterly smile. “You know through our bond that Han is gone, and I know you’re blaming yourself. You think you failed us because Ben turned to the Dark side.” Leia paused and let out a long breath. “It wasn’t you. You must know that. It was Snoke. Han and I made all the wrong decisions with Ben — to protect him — but Snoke was there to pick up the pieces. We knew a great evil existed, but it was so well disguised we were all deceived. It’s been seeking out and devouring Force-sensitives for thousands of years. That much I know from the intelligence I’ve gathered, which I’m sending to you with Rey.”

She lowered her head for a moment and took a deep breath. “We lost so much in the Hosnian System, but we struck a significant blow to the First Order with the destruction of Starkiller Base. But Snoke is still out there and part of his power comes from Ben. To stop Snoke, we must tear Ben away from him.” She made an imploring gesture. “Luke, you’re our only hope of breaking Snoke’s bond with Ben and of bringing our son home again. Hand would agree. He has a message for you too. I’ll let him say it in his own words.”

The image of Leia flickered and was replaced by a holo of Han — a younger Han by a few years — who stood holding a golden cube in his hands.”

“Hey, Luke, if you’re watching this, it means I wound up in a sarlacc pit or got frozen in carbonite again. Either way, the joke’s on me.” He smirked the old familiar smuggler’s smirk and spread his hands. “But when wasn’t it?” He held up the cube. “I know you’ve been crossing the galaxy looking for these things and I found this in a crate of old sabacc cards. Crazy, right?” He laughed lightly, tossing the cube from one hand to the other. “I was gonna give it to you, but you took off on us, so I’ve been keeping it safe. Only Jedi can open them, right? Ben tried, but he couldn’t, so I figured this has got to be pretty important.”

Secret Holocron by Drew Norman
Secret Holocron by Drew Norman

Luke Skywalker stopped cold and turned from the hearth to stare at the holo, eyes widening., his face bathed in the bluish light. Rey watched him, chewing on a thumbnail.

“Oh, and you’re gonna want to do some sort of Jedi scan on the Falcon — if you can find her, that is. There’s some stuff hidden in places even Chewie doesn’t know about.”

Luke’s eyes darted briefly to Rey.

“We found her,” she confirmed softly.

“And Ben….” Han’s voice trailed off and he struggled to find the words. “We’ve lost him too. I’m hoping you can help Leia with that….” The old smuggler looked as serious as he ever did. “It’s been great knowing you, kid. May the Force be with you.”

The holo ended and winked out.

Rey held out the holocron — the gilded cube Han once held — to the Jedi Master.

 

@MyKyloRen  13 December 2016

Special thanks to Drew Norman for his inspired artwork.

Backstabbers

Kylo Ren, Master of the Knights of Ren, held up the pyramid-shaped vessel in great reverence. “The flames of her fire have died,” he told the clan of seven warriors gathered around him.

“But they have not gone out,” they intoned in answer and lifted their helmeted heads to the dark skies as one.

Ren added his voice to theirs, raising the blood-red vessel high above his head. “They shall be kindled again!” He brought it to his forehead and rested it there a moment’s contemplation, bringing the ritual to a close. As the men stood down, awaiting their leader’s orders, Ren wrapped the holocron in its black shroud and tucked it into the shielded container. This he carefully stowed in its ritual alcove on board the small freighter they’d brought down half a kilometer from Niima Outpost.

Before leaving the ship to guard-droids, he removed the ritual mask of the secret order and secured the identity-concealing black metal helmet upon his head. Outside with his men again, he said tersely, “Move out.” No further orders were needed. They knew what they had returned to Jakku for.

The girl.

A different one this time.

Not a clone, like all the others grown in the laboratory beneath Carbon Ridge. The transfer would be unique this time — as dangerous and unpredictable as its recipient, one that was not in stasis but conscious and strong in the Force. A ripple of excitement passed through their ranks as they made their way across the midnight desert toward the trading post.

Lightning flickered on the horizon.

They hadn’t gone a quarter of the distance when Ren brought his men to a halt. The dusty air was rife with the earthy smell of rain and the reptilian-like stench of a Kyuzo clovoc — a warrior clan. The Kyuzo were nowhere in sight yet, but he knew they were just over the ridge, some eyeing the Knights with bright golden eyes, others with insect-like compound eyes. Through the Force, he could see them in their wide-brimmed helms — a hundred maybe in the traditional armor of the clovoc. He knew who their leader was. The Acolytes of the Beyond had given him that much information, as well as the clan’s coordinates.

The Knights had come for the girl, but Ren had come for a particularly desirable artifact — one of Darth Vader’s most prized possessions. One that dangled from the belt of Zuvio, the Kyuzo constable of Niima Outpost. One Zuvio meant to trade to Lor San Tekka over in the village of Tuanal in a sweet deal. Zuvio was tracking Ren through slitted eyes. A shiver ran up his spine. He motioned his warriors to fan out.

Ren let them come. He could feel them circling like wolves, closing in on his small band. The Knights were outnumbered more than ten to one, but Ren sensed neither fear nor hesitation in his men. They stood in a circle back to back, hands gripping blasters, rifles, and servo-pikes. Ren unclipped his lightsaber from his belt.

“That’s far enough!” Zuvio called out of the darkness through an interpreter droid. “You’re not welcome here.”

Ren said nothing for a long moment, letting the not-so-distant thunder speak for him. At last he said with a sneer, “You know what I’ve come for.”

Zuvio didn’t hesitate. “I do. And you’ll have to fight all of us to get it. So you might was well turn around and get back in your ship. If you set foot on Jakku again, you’re dead men.”

“We’ll see.” Ren ignited his fiery lightsaber and gave it a spin.

In the next instant, the clan didn’t know what hit it. They ran at the small band of intruders, alien battle cries drowned by the crashing peel of thunder.

Or was it?

The vanguard of Kyuzo warriors fell in a wide circular swath as if they were toys and some huge invisible hand had knocked them all down. Their charge came to a halt as the rearguard stopped cold, stunned. They’d never seen so many of their brothers leveled like sheaves of grain — without being touched. The rain came down in sheets. In the center of the ring, the Knights stood motionless. As did Zuvio. The constable watched in horror as one of his warriors screamed and convulsed in the deepening puddles.

“See to your man,” Kylo Ren called to Zuvio as the remainder of the Kyuzo fled into the night, spooked by an invisible force.

The constable turned to stare in disbelief at his writhing clansman. Had he been hit by lightning? The warrior was in agony and dying, but not fast enough. Zuvio didn’t feel the tug at his belt as the lightsaber clipped there flew away in a Force-summons and into Ren’s outstretched hand. Zuvio was intent on ending his brother’s misery. The constable raised his pike over his head, ready to strike a killing blow when a crackly flame emerged from his chest. Zuvio shrieked.

knightsofrenrain

Ren blinked. He wasn’t sure what he’d just seen. With the artifact firmly in his grasp, he’d meant to retreat, but there she was in front of him…and Zuvio had meant to kill her. Ren had acted on pure instinct — shoving his blade through the Kyuzo’s armor and on through the resistance of the rib cage. When the constable crumpled at his feet, the young woman had quickly staggered to her own, staring in horror. She took several steps back.

He recognized the scavenger, although she must have been just shy of twenty now. He blinked again and moved towards her as if in a dream. The day was bright. The girl — a five-year-old — reached out a thin arm to him and cried, “Come back!” In another blink, she was gone. Vanished. Back into the Force, surely. Ren stood alone with his knights in the pouring rain.

He looked down at the coveted lightsaber in his left hand and ignited the blue blade.

It was Kenobi’s all right. He extinguished it and clipped it to his belt.

“Forget the girl,” he told his men, hefting Zuvio’s cooling body over his shoulder. “We have what we need.”

@MyKyloRen   6 December 2016

Snoke Screen

On board the Finalizer, General Armitage Hux half-carried, half-dragged the limp form of Kylo Ren into the darkened chamber and dumped him before the dais. The holo of Supreme Leader Snoke flickered briefly and then grew brighter as the master eyed his apprentice with disgust.

Snoke made a dismissive gesture to Hux. “Leave us.”

Ren was alive, but exhausted and badly wounded from the battle on Starkiller Base. Hux had thrown a robe over him, but the dark lord was still dripping from the bacta tank. He’d been asleep and drifting through dreams that both uplifted and devastated him. The drugs in his system dulled the pain but splintered his mind. Hux — or at least he thought it was Hux from the polished black boots that forcibly nudged him and then smartly retreated — had left him in a pile on his knees. Ren ran his palms over the cold onyx floor in an attempt to focus.

“Where is the girl?” Snoke drawled from the projector high above.

Ren knew he had to answer his master, but he just couldn’t think. What girl? The girl that haunted his dreams was tiny — four or five at the most — with arms like a babydoll. “Jakku,” he blurted, too disoriented to lift his head. “We left her on Jakku.”

A deep resonating silence followed. After a moment, Snoke spoke again in a voice low and dangerous. “Kylo Ren, you have failed me for the last time.”

Ren took in a deep breath and curled his fingers into a fist. His shoulders slumped as he waited for the blow that would end his life — wherever it would come from. He no longer cared.

Nothing happened.

“I have one final task for you,” Snoke told him in a matter-of-fact tone.

Ren slowly lifted his head to stare up at the grotesque image. He blinked several times, not sure what he was seeing.

The face was ravaged but not distorted by violent trauma and decay. It was still beautiful somehow. The eyes, however, had lost their spark and the woman’s vitality was fading fast. She was propped up on a couch, bolstered by plush pillows and draped in blood-red bed clothes that spilled to the floor and over the dais. She reached out a hand to him.

“I have one final task for you,” she rasped.

Kylo Ren, Master of the Knights of Ren, came to take her hand and knelt before her bed.

“This body has failed me, but I have found another,” Amanda Snoke told him. “It will not be long before I’m with you again.” She would have touched his cheek, but under his hood he wore the mask of Ren — the one who brought balance to the Old Republic by wielding the Dark and the Light. With those powers, through Ren, she would forge a new galaxy that was neither Empire nor Republic, one that was ruled instead by the Force and the Intelligentsia who wielded it. But first, she needed to shed the fragile body that had been too weak to contain her essence.

“How is this possible,” Ren asked softly, “when your clones have also failed?”

She gave him a weak smile and squeezed his hand. “Never before have I taken on the body of a Force-sensitive. That is what I now require to survive, to continue our mission.”

Inwardly, Ren gave a start. He didn’t like where this was going, but he remained still.

She sensed his apprehension but merely said, “I leave you the task of seeing to the transfer, for I trust no other. Once it is complete, we shall be together again.”

Kylo Ren nodded, gazing sadly upon the woman who had brought him comfort when he was a frightened child, support and understanding as a troubled teen, and love as a man. She’d brought him into the Cult of Ren and made him their leader. She’d been with him when no one else had, but now the Amanda he knew was leaving him. He understood now why she neither aged nor succumbed to sickness in all the time he’d known her, until her body finally and suddenly let go of all its vigor three days ago. Her skin had taken on a gray pallor and she was alarmingly thin, but still she smiled up at him.

An alien smile.

“Go,” she said in a firm but warm tone. “We’ve been preparing for this. Bring the scavenger girl from Jakku to me. She is the strongest I have found.”

Ren blinked behind the mask, remembering the girl. A slight chill went up his spine, but he did not know why.

“By the time you return,” she continued, “I’ll have no more use for this body.” She reached with her free hand to pick up a ruby-red holocron off a try beside her. “You will find me here, along with instructions. Only you can open it.”

“Bring the girl to me,” Supreme Leader Snoke said in no uncertain terms.

kylorenbwstarkiller

Ren straightened, resting his cold hands on his knees. “As you wish,” he answered, bowing his dripping head before the hologram.

@MyKyloRen    29 November 2016