Hux in Flux

“What you don’t see, what the galaxy doesn’t see, what the New Republic refuses to see is the endless suffering brought about by the end of the Empire!” The young man with hair as fiery as his speech paused, chin up, letting the hisses rise and fall in the market-square crowd like a wave. He’d been taught from an early age to ignore the ignorant and the waves they created.

“Waves,” his father the Commandant had once said, “have a way of smashing themselves into oblivion on the shore.”

Captain Armitage Hux pushed a button on his podium and called up a series of 3D images — all ghostly blue and agonising to see. Children on planet after planet, city after city, even farm after farm — orphaned, desperate, dirty, starving, crippled, burned, or dead. Scrawny women slinking through the bombed-out shells of buildings, scavenging for scraps to eat, selling their bodies for food and shelter from the bitter cold or scorching heat, for water. Vast tracts of arable land spoiled for generations by chemical and biological warfare.

After the first dozen imaged flickered by, the crowd began to settle, riveted by the devastation, but Hux let the holoshow continue as he returned to his speech. It wasn’t the first the 25-year-old officer had given and it wouldn’t be the last. He relished any opportunity to hone his oratory skills and promote the cause.

The squadron backing him, though civilian to all appearances so as not to spark any civil unrest, wore the same grey coats of the First Order as he did, but beneath the facade they were all armed and on point for dissenters. One couldn’t have disorder at a First Order rally. It simply wouldn’t do.

But the crowd on the streets of this Outer Rim world for the most part lifted their faces to him, genuinely interested in what he had to say. They had felt the pangs of food and water shortages, soaring unemployment, and rising crime rates. They wanted change and they wanted it now.

There was one tall young man in the audience, standing off to the side — silent and watching like some ancient obelisk. He had longish waves of dark hair and wore a pleated knee-length brigandine of smoke grey, leather pants, and black boots. A military type, Hux thought. Well, good.

“The only thing,” Hux continued, holding up an emphatic finger, “that will put an end to the misery of these people is order!” He pointed at an image of a starving child, crying and clinging to the hand of her dead mother. “The only way this little girl will get food in her belly and the medical care she needs is through the establishment of an authority that has the power to regulate food consumption and re-establish the supply lines throughout the galaxy. An authority that has the power to restore a health-care system not just to the rich and famous but to the lowliest farm-hand on Lothal!”

He paused, drawing in a deep breath and letting his gaze sweep the far reaches of the crowd. He was about to make his most important point.

“You know first-hand the reach of the New Republic falls short of this world.” He gestured expansively. “Where are your boards of light and power to keep the grids consistently online? Where is your public works to ensure an uninterruptible and safe water supply? Where are your fire brigades, hospitals, and schools?…All run by volunteers!” This last word he said as if he had a bad taste in his mouth. He let his voice drop a notch. “Volunteers are all noble, well, and good, but you can’t rely on them like your government in a crisis.” He smiled inwardly as a murmur of agreement rippled through the crowd. He thought he saw the dark-haired young man nod, almost imperceptibly.

Hux thanked the people of the town, shut off the projector, and stepped off the platform. Instantly, he was surrounded by a small group of listeners, all asking questions while the First Order team handed out brochures and flyers. Hux worked his way through the crowd, answering questions and shaking hands, until he stood before the tall “obelisk.”

“It’ll be decades before that kind of relief can be brought to the people through government,” said the obelisk.

Ben Solo wasn’t sure he like the man’s gaze. There was something…unhinged…about it. But Hux nodded readily enough. The New Republic Senate was a quagmire of debates and standoffs. While everyone argued about the correct course of action or inaction, nothing was getting done. The people — especially those in the Outer Rim — were suffering. Ben knew it weighed heavily on his mother’s shoulders.

“There’s another way,” Ben told him, meeting the young officer’s gaze with the same intensity. “Send an elite quad in — one that can cut through the gangs and cartels to deliver relief to the suffering.”

Hux folded his arms behind his back. “That would still require government backing and equipment, not to mention trained personnel and supplies.”

Ben shook his head. “I can get you the supplies and the manpower.”

“And you are….?” Hux suddenly became aware of seven others, dressed in similar attire, standing behind the dark-haired man.

“We’re the Knights of Ren.”

Art by littleststarfighter
Art by littleststarfighter

Armitage Hux also became aware of the weapon at their leader’s belt. The design was ancient, but he knew a lightsaber when he saw one. “Where did you get the kyber crystal for your saber?” he drawled.

Ben Solo ignored him. “Do you want our help or not?”

“Very well,” Hux returned, handing Solo a datapad. “Tell me how I can contact you.”

He watched the former Jedi tap in a code and stride away with his brethren in tow. When they were out of earshot, he took out his comlink and activated it. “Red Blade 9.” Static on the other end, then a deep voice told him to proceed. Hux didn’t miss a beat, his gaze following Ben Solo through the crowd. “I have another one for Project Harvester.”

 

@MyKyloRen    26 January 2017

Ripples in the Force

Padawan Ben Solo stood on the terrace of a secluded resort on the outskirts of Capital City, gazing across the tidal marsh to the waving grasslands beyond. Behind him, a clutch of tourists sat sipping exotic drinks overlooking Lothal’s inland sea. But Ben’s eyes were drawn to the endless swirls and ripples the wind stirred in the long sedges instead of the predictable pattern of the waves. There was nothing new to learn in the surf. The waves were mind-numbing, like Jedi meditation. Yet out there, on the landward side, he keenly felt a presence. The Jedi had left behind their temples. And those who had hunted them had followed, leaving their own ripples in the Force.

They still hunted.

“It doesn’t seem like the Empire was ever here,” he said without turning around.

Dr. Amanda Snoke came up behind her fifteen-year-old charge and handed him a glass of chilled muja juice. He’d been in her custody as a ward of the state ever since he had caused the death of a young boy at age ten. It had been ruled an accident and Ben had been permitted reprieves to see his parents and train with his uncle, but Amanda was his primary guardian during his eight-year sentence. Although only thirty-three, she’d become a renowned psychologist not long after earning her degree for her work in understanding the development of force-sensitive children.

“Yes,” she agreed, joining Ben at the railing. She glanced over at the rounded, white towers hugging the coastline to their left. The mines and refineries — even the Imperial Command Center — had been torn down or converted into luxury residences and civic buildings. The smoke, toxic gas, and dust had long ago been filtered from the atmosphere.

“But my grandfather was here,” Ben went on, his voice distant and pensive. “I feel his presence.”

Amanda’s rosy cheeks dimpled in a smile. Han and Leia had not revealed the identity of Ben’s maternal grandfather to their son, but Amanda believed that such a revelation was essential to the young Jedi’s growth. To understand who he was and what he could become, he needed a clear understanding of the power that coursed through his blood. She’d shared the little family secret with him a few months prior to his fifteenth birthday. He talked of Darth Vader — in private — as his grandfather, but there was still a shadow of doubt in his mind. He couldn’t quite believe how a scrawny kid who had been bullied at school and shadowed by bounty hunters could be the offshoot of one of the most powerful Sith the galaxy had ever known.

So, she’d brought Ben to this frontier world of vanishing farms to celebrate his birthday away from prying eyes and to see him off down a promising path to a new life.

“Speaking of your grandfather,” she said with gentle enthusiasm, “I have some test results to share with you.” She took a small datapad from a pocket and swiped through a few screens. “Here. This top line is the DNA profile of Darth Vader and the middle is Anakin Skywalker’s. The bottom is yours.” She overlaid the top two sequences for an exact match. Next, she laid Ben’s on top and pointed out unique areas of correlation. “There’s no doubt that you are his descendant.”

Ben didn’t need the course he’d taken in advanced genetics to see the near match. It was obvious, right down to the midi-chlorian levels.

“But,” Amanda continued with growing excitement, “what’s truly interesting is how far back in time this profile goes.”

Ben tore his gaze from the display to look up at her. “How far?”

“About 10,000 standard years.” She tapped the display and brought up another screen of tabulated data and charts. “Through your mother’s line, you are the descendant of one of the most powerful Force-users in history — a man who understood both the Light and the Dark. A man named Revan who lived 4,000 years ago.”

Ben looked up again. “I’ve never heard of him.”

Revan, Knights of the Old Republic
Revan, Knights of the Old Republic

“The records the Jedi Council kept on him in the Coruscant archives were lost with the destruction of the temple. But his name and story have survived — sometimes intact, sometimes corrupted — on other worlds. We’ve been able to piece a lot of it back together. Including a copy of his extensive medical records.” She handed him the datapad and laid a hand on his shoulder. “Take a look through the files whenever you want. It’s a little birthday gift to you.” She kissed him on the cheek.

He smiled awkwardly. “Thanks.” He thumbed through a few preliminary screens. “You never told me where you came from. I mean, you said you sort of grew up and went to university here” — he gestured at the expansive city nearby — “but I get the sense this isn’t where your people are from.”

She raised an eyebrow at him.

“In your mind,” he went on, looking at her intently now, “I see flashes of a gray-brown planet — a place where buildings stand untouched by war, but life, sound, and color are washed away. It’s like the Force doesn’t exist there.”

“Curious,” she returned evenly but with a smile. “Well, this isn’t a world of much color, is it?” She swept a hand at the brown grasslands in front of them. “I’ll tell you the story of my world someday, but right now I’d like you to meet some of friends. They’re part of an ancient order known as the Knights of Ren.”

As she walked him through the tranquil halls of the resort to the glass-domed dining area, she didn’t tell him her people came from beyond the regions of known space.

She didn’t tell him that she’d known Revan…personally.

She didn’t tell him that the lovely human body she occupied was one in tens of thousands she’d inhabited over the millennia.

@MyKyloRen   17 January 2017

Starbird

Senator Leia Organa opened the door to the apartment looking tired but genuinely pleased to see her colleague, Senator Boreal Crex. He was one of the few Investigative Committee members who didn’t constantly make more work for her. Beside him stood his daughter Hada, a perky little thing the age of her son Ben. She knew the teens had spent time together on field trips and Young Mentors excursions. This was a social call then, despite the lateness of the hour.

“Senator Crex,” she said with a gracious smile. “Hada. It’s good to see you.” And beckoned them in. “May I offer you some refreshments?” She was about to turn toward the kitchen when Crex held up a hand, unsmiling.

“Ah, no, thank you,” he returned in a voice pitched low, absently fingering the gloves in his hands. His eyes darted briefly about the room, trying to see down the hallway behind her. “We won’t take up too much of your time. We’ve come to have a word with you and your husband.”

Leia’s smile faded as she looked from father to daughter. “Han is away on shipping business. He won’t be back for another two weeks.” A knot began to form in the pit of her stomach.

This was about Ben.

Down the opposite hallway, around Crex’s shoulder, she caught a glimpse of her son’s dark eyes peering out from the doorway to his bedroom. She put on her most diplomatic face and tried a little informality to put her colleague at ease. “Is there something I can help you with, Boreal?”

He shook his head when she tried to usher them to couches. “We won’t wait for General Solo’s return then.” He gave Hada an encouraging look, placing a paternal hand in the small of her back. “Hada has something to share that simply cannot wait.”

Leia gave an involuntary swallow, watching the girl’s chin come up in defiance and something akin to triumph.

“I’m pregnant,” Hada announced smugly, meeting Leia’s gaze. “Ben is the father.”

Through the Force, Leia could sense her son stiffening, preparing to spring. She drew in a deep breath. “Has this been confirmed through a paternity test?”

Crex’s eyes immediately narrowed. “Are you suggesting that my daughter sleeps around?”

“Not at all, Senator.” Leia gave him an imploring look. “But if we’re going to plan a course of action, we’re going to need all the facts laid out on the table. Establishing the child’s legal identity is the first step.” She felt her heart racing and inwardly cursed Han for not being there. It seemed he was never there when the tough issues needed to be faced.

“Our religion prohibits us from invading the sanctity of the body for such a test.” He looked down at his darling Hada and laid a hand on her shoulder. “I have my daughter’s word. That’s all the proof I need.”

Leia almost rolled her eyes but stopped herself. “I’ll talk to my son and husband and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” She closed her eyes for a moment and willed the headache that was starting away. “Perhaps it’s best now if you….” Her voice trailed off as she sensed something. Something bad. Something tragic.

Ben.

“Threepio!” she called to the protocol droid hovering in the background. “Could you see our guests to the door?” To the Crexes, she added hastily, “I’m sorry. My son needs me.”

She found him in his room standing on the window sill, gazing out at the space lanes 27 levels up, the breeze from the open floor-to-ceiling window gently blowing his dark locks.

“Ben!” She ran to him and managed to get her arms around his trembling legs. He reeled forward, off balanced, then back, before finally toppling backward onto the bed and rolling onto his knees. For a moment, Leia sat there, with her arms around him, breathing hard and rejoicing in every breath her son inhaled. He was alive, safe for the moment, in her arms. She stroked his tousled hair as he knelt with his back to her, face buried in his knees. She laid her cheek against his shoulder.

“It’s all right, sweetie,” she soothed. “We’ll get through this.” She felt him tense again and begin to shake.

“I didn’t do it!” she thought she heard him say, but his voice seemed light-years away. He lifted his head slightly and wiped his face before blubbering a bit louder, “I didn’t get her pregnant.”

She held him a little tighter. “Go on. Tell me.”

“She’s been after me for ages. She won’t leave me alone!” He wiped at his eyes again. “We fell asleep together on a transport once, but nothing happened. There were other kids there.” His fingers balled into fists. “She doesn’t even care about me. All she cares about are my powers! No one gives a shit about me!” He shrugged her off with such vehemence, it startled her. “I don’t want to live anymore!” But she hung on with all her strength, with all her love, as he made a lunge for the window. He struggled, but his heart wasn’t in it and his body went limp against her. He let her cradle him like a little boy again.

“I care,” she said simply. “I know my work takes me far away from you, but you’re always close in my heart.” She suddenly remembered her recent trip to Jedha. “I brought you something,” she told him softly, reaching into her pocket and taking out a pendant of reforged gold — an ancient starbird symbol — the symbol of the Rebel Alliance. When he didn’t look up, she draped the cord around his neck and cupped the pendant to his chest. In a moment, he stirred and folded his hand around hers.

4-chirrut-imwe-2016-topps-star-wars-rogue
CHIRRUT IMWE 2016 Topps Star Wars Rogue One Mission Briefing FOIL

“I’m one with the Force. The Force is with me,” he whispered, almost as if in a trance. “I see the man….I see the monk,” he went on absently, “who wore this….”

She leaned her cheek against his and held him tightly.

@MyKyloRen     11 January 2017

The Story in Your Eyes

Maz Kanata felt the young Jedi’s presence long before she heard him coming up the path behind her. She was well concealed from his view, seated cross-legged against the low stone wall, but she knew he sensed her too.

“It’s a peaceful view,” she called out to him, her eyes still closed behind her magnifying goggles. “I come here for some good thinking.”

Inwardly, Padawan Ben Solo started. He hadn’t expected her voice to come from below — from out of the depths of the lake itself. Outwardly, he came to a halt and folded his arms, considering a respectful reply, but she didn’t give him a chance.

“Of course, it wasn’t always this peaceful. Back in the dust of time, the Jedi and Sith were at each other’s throats here.”

“The Force is strong in this place,” he acknowledged, gazing about him at the ancient fortress grounds. “Fallen Jedi rest here.” He was still unnerved that he couldn’t see her. Before coming to Takodana, he’d done his research on Maz Kanata, but the holonets had turned up no images of the woman. He didn’t even know what species she was. But everybody who was anybody in the underground knew Maz. If you needed a loan, if you needed information or connections, if you needed to disappear, you came to Maz. No questions asked.

“This has always been a place of refuge despite what the Darkness would make of it.” She stepped onto the path in front of him — a little long-armed thing no larger than a scrawny urchin, with wrinkled skin the color of citrus gone bad. But her eyes were as sharp and bright as coals, enlarged behind the huge goggles she wore to aid her ancient sight. “But come,” she beckoned, the bangles at her wrist jangling merrily. “You are hungry. Tell me over a plate of baked cushnips what brings you here.”

Ben gave her a diplomatic bow, as he’d been taught to do, and followed her into the noisy, dimly-lit stronghold. The wave of gamblers, smugglers, collectors, spacers, pirate captains, deck hands, and grifters instantly parted for her as she lead him to a corner table. Calling out to the kitchen staff in a surprisingly strong voice, a plate quickly appeared before her newest guest.

“You have come seeking treasure, I think, but you are not a collector.” Her eyes narrowed with understanding. “You seek knowledge from what you hunt.”

You young man gave her a nod, taking up one of the cushnips. “Knowledge is power.”

She gave a little snort. “I won’t argue with that, but power always collapses in upon itself.” She looked at him more closely, adjusting the lenses of her goggles. He wasn’t yet twenty, she thought, not yet mature for his species. Giving a little nod as if confirming something to herself, she refocused the conversation before he had a chance to reply. “I’ve seen those eyes before — in a young woman when she was about your age. She faced a great evil and lived to give you those eyes.”

Ben stared at the wizened little woman, his food forgotten. “You knew my mother?” he guessed.

“That good woman, yes.” Maz’s eyes lit up as she climbed off her chair and brought a pitcher of chilled muja juice over from a side table and poured him a glass. “Many here still do.” After a moment, she added with a chuckle, “And if I didn’t know you by your mother’s eyes, I’d know you by your father’s swagger. You tell that scoundrel,” she said in a mock-scolding tone, “he still owes me. He can make it up to me by sending that sweet Wookiee with the payment.”

Ben grinned. “I’ll do that.” He took a drink, growing serious again. “Did you know my mother’s father?” he nearly whispered.

Maz shook her head and a finger. “No. That one I never knew.” She watched him take a bite and swallow, watched the hope fade from his eyes. “But it’s he who has brought you here. The stride of his shadow is long, but your stride is even longer as you stretch to walk in his footsteps.”

The young Jedi took a deep breath. He didn’t like where this conversation was going. He felt like this little withered being could see right through him, but he needed answers. He decided to get to the heart of the matter. “I’m looking for something that belonged to him — something that belonged to my uncle after him. I’m hoping you can help me.” He held her gaze.

“The lightsaber that was lost on Bespin,” she returned, nodding.

“You have it in a chest in the crypts below.” His gaze intensified. In case she misunderstood his intentions, he quickly added, “I’m willing to pay well for it.”

She sighed. “Come.” She waved him to follow her down a curving stone staircase and along a dusty corridor to a storage room. “You have seen this chest in your mind, have you?” She motioned him toward a box made of ancient wroshyr wood.

He stepped forward, barely able to contain his excitement. “Yes, this very one.”

“Have a look. What’s mine is yours. I do not sell the treasures that come to me for a reason.” She looked on sadly as he carefully picked through the old chest. “A relic from the past may someday make a difference in the future.”

Ben looked up, empty-handed and bewildered. “It’s not here.”

She gave him a warm smile and beckoned him closer. When he crouched down in front of her tiny frame, she gave his cheek a soft pat. “Force-visions are a funny thing. They can show us the past, the present, and all the possibilities of the future. The lightsaber you seek is still lost, but in your search for it, you have overlooked something that seeks you.” She felt him watching with great interest as she bent and pulled out a squarish pendant carved on a snippet of Japor ivory wood.

As if in a dream, he took the Jerba leather cord in one hand and laid out the pendant in the other. “Tatooine sand carvings,” he heard himself say just before the vision nearly knocked him off his feet.

The voice belonged to a young woman, her dark hair wound about her head in an japor-snippetelaborate braid. “It’s beautiful, but I don’t need this to remember you by.” She held the Japor snippet in her hand and smiled at a sandy-haired little boy. The scene shifted, the same carved pendant entwined in the resting hands of the woman, now lying in a casket. The imaged blurred and wheeled until she was standing right in front of him — a spectre of brilliant blue light.

“Ben,” she called from across the void. “Don’t do this! You’re still a good person. Don’t follow this path.”

Ben Solo blinked and she was gone. He looked down at the crude necklace in his hands. He had a million things to say but couldn’t find his voice.

That trinket was taken from your grandmother’s grave and now it calls to you,” Maz told him gently.

Ben stared at it again, dumbfounded. “It was carved by my grandfather.”

Maz nodded sagely. “Yes.” She laid her tiny hand on top of his. “The belonging you seek is behind you. Stay. Rest for a while, and then go back to your family.”

@MyKyloRen   4 January 2017