“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.”
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