The Last Jedi: Part Two

THE LAST JEDI (PART 2)

Luke eyed the four masked figures who hemmed him in, cutting him off from his padawan — but only in the physical sense. Powerful as the Knights of Ren were, they could not sever the Force connection he shared with Rey. He felt her struggling and scraping with their determined leader — the padawan who’d betrayed him and pushed aside his careful teachings. The bond between uncle and nephew, master and padawan, was still there and would continue beyond this life, but the Dark side had thrown up a shroud of cinder and vapor between them — or at least that’s how it seemed in Luke’s mind. He couldn’t reach Ben that way, but there were other minds not so veiled.

The old Jedi inhaled deeply and let his words out through the Force, along with a slight wave of his hand. “You do not wish to be on this island.” He felt two of the knights jerk as if stung, but none made a move or a reply. They didn’t seem bent on harming him — not yet anyway — only guarding him, keeping him out of the fray. “You will return to your ship and leave this world,” he continued to compel them a little more Forcefully.

The four dark warriors raised their blaster rifles and took aim. Luke didn’t blink. Instead, he closed his eyes, as if he were prepared to meet his death, but his inner eye was focused on the balance between the Dark and the Light. The blow by blow match between Kylo and Rey.

And then, it was over.

The Force tumbled head over heels around them, turning, spinning...plunging. Three of the knights went sprawling backwards as if a huge invisible hand had knocked them over. The remaining warrior, still on his feet, let loose a volley of blaster fire at the old hermit. Luke’s lightsaber was a blur, a pinwheel of blazing green light as he deflected bolt after bolt. Several of the blazing shots slammed back into the knight but couldn’t pierce his armor.

A split second later, Luke lunged sideways and stopped, reaching out with the Force, diverting all his strength to the small form plummeting down the cliff face. Still ten meters from the edge, he arrested her fall and guided her grasping hands with his mind to the dangling roots. Rey gripped them in desperation, clinging for life, as her lightsaber slipped from her grasp and tumbled, knocking out first one side of the staff then the other before clanking on the rocks below.

On the cliff’s edge, another fire went out. Kylo Ren stepped to the edge, extinguishing his lightsaber. His left hand shot out, steadying Rey, holding her in position, his face a mixture of hope and anguish.

“It’s just us now,” he repeated softly, taking her mind back through the past and imploring her to reconsider.

She lifted her eyes to him, blinking aside the bits of soil and moss that rained down from crumbling edge.

“I will never join you,” she managed to get out between gasps.

Art by Drew Norman
Art by Drew Norman

She let go.

She hit the water hard — the water, well clear of the jutting rocks — and lost all sense of direction as she went under, way under, dragged and shoved by rip current and wave. She painstakingly clawed her way to the surface, gasping and sputtering. The roar was deafening and cold. It sucked all the life out of her and tossed her around as if she were no more than a twig. Rey forgot all about her training. She forgot about the Force.

She didn’t know how to swim.

She gagged in a mouthful of air and spray — her last, she knew — and thrashed as hard as she could, but there was nothing solid to hold onto. The water closed in over her head. A voice. Luke’s voice.

“Rey, let go and flow with it. Let it surround you and buoy you up.”

She didn’t make it to the surface before her lungs screamed for air again. Brine flooded them when she heeded the urge, and blackness followed.

And then receded as if she were in a long dark tunnel. A tunnel with no light at its entrance. A tunnel with a soothing, pleading voice.

“Come back to me, sweetheart.”

The roar was gone. She was wet, but the water was no longer filling every orifice. Her eyes were open but there was only blackness.

There was the Force.

The Force.

Luke.

He’d save her and she was bundled in his cloak, safe upon the shore. He’d killed Kylo Ren.

She coughed against the burning in her lungs and throat then retched up watery heaves. A supportive hand pounded her back, and she allowed herself to be nestled close and warmed as her vision slowly returned. She clutched at the robe thrown around her, marveling at the strength and sensation returning to her fingers. In the near distance she was aware of the steady roll of the breakers…and the throbbing heartbeat of the muscled chest beneath her ear.

The dark cloth was smooth — almost silky between her fingers and still wet from the sea.

Dark. Silky. Black.

Black gloves — also wet — touched her face and smoothed the wet strands of her hair.

Rey looked up into the face of Kylo Ren.

@MyKyloRen   16 February 2017

Special thanks to graphic artist Drew Norman for illustrating this story. See what Drew’s up to at http://drewnorman.com/2017/02/09/star-wars-balance-in-the-force-comics/

The Last Jedi: Part One

Author’s note: I don’t like to venture into the future, unless it’s to use it as a literary device to springboard back into the past. After all, this site is devoted to exploring Kylo Ren’s past. But the following scenario is such a great fan theory that I just had to see it in print. So, here it is…my envisioning of the great confrontation sure to take place on Ahch-To in Star Wars, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi from Kylo Ren’s point of view.

 

The only light came from the primitive glow inside the corbeled stone huts. She’d been living in one and Luke the other, Ren supposed — the cells of the first Jedi acolytes, erected out of the bones of the jagged mountain that rose from the sea. The first Jedi temple. The Force was strong on Ahch-To but strongest on this peak. Ren could feel it coursing up through the soles of his boots, up his legs and spine, and out through the tips of his fingers. His mind was on fire with it as it cycled through his nervous system. He’d never felt more alive, never more sure of himself. He knew what he had to do, and he knew he had the strength to do it.

Why can’t they see that? he growled to himself.

They — the two silhouettes who stood apart yet together with him in the Force. The two facing him in the small grassy area outside their huts, lightsabers drawn but not yet activated. Ren couldn’t see their faces in the dark of the island night, but he could sense their hesitancy and doubt.

Emotions of the Dark side, he thought. Hypocrites.

He could also sense the presence of his knights where he’d left them on the rocks below with orders to neutralize the Wookiee and secure the ship, but neither the Millennium Falcon nor Chewbacca had been found. For the moment, it didn’t matter. Ren’s focus was on the girl. He took off his mask. He didn’t need it anymore. He’d worn it to frighten away any indigenes that might be lurking about, but the place was deserted. He also didn’t need the environmental readouts nor the night-vision the helmet constantly supplied him. He could sense everything he needed to through the Force, including the old man’s outrage.

“You’re not welcome here,” Luke Skywalker told him, breaking the human silence.

Ren snorted then smirked as a bolt of lightning lit up the clouds. He thought of letting the oncoming storm speak for him, but he doubted the old man was sharp enough to get the message.

“I haven’t come for a cup of tea, uncle,” Ren snarled as the rising surf smashed into the rocks far below. “You know what I’ve come for.” His gaze shifted to Rey’s face. He could feel Luke’s and Rey’s heartbeats quicken, their nervous systems and muscles preparing for battle. He fought to steady his own, fought to sway their Jedi minds through the Force, but he couldn’t get past the blinding wall of white that was their own righteousness. He steeled himself and sucked in a hiss of air through gritted teeth. Why do the Jedi think they know all the answers?

“I’m not going anywhere with you, Ben!” Rey shot back as another bolt of lightning streaked across the sky.

The name echoing on the roll of thunder stunned him. He took a step back.

“Best call him Kylo Ren,” Luke cautioned her. “My nephew belongs to the Dark side now, like his grandfather before him.”

A purple rage boiled behind Ben Solo’s eyes. He took three steps forward. “You don’t know me!” he screamed at Luke. “You never did!” And you never knew her!” The words came fast now. “You abandoned her!”

He felt her blink in shock. “What?” she said in a small voice.

“Don’t listen to him, Rey. The Dark side only speaks in untruths.”

Untruths?” Ben fumed. “That’s what you’ve told her all along! You never told her about her parents! You never told her you separated us” — Ben was moving, closing ground between them — “because of your fear!”

Fear. Fear led to anger, anger led to hate. Hate led to suffering. That was the Jedi mantra.

Luke ignited his green-bladed lightsaber. Rey ignited a purple double-bladed staff of her own. Ben was impressed with her progress. He reached out to her again through the Force but found the way still blocked. This time he was hurt rather than angry.

Why can’t she remember? the little voice inside him wailed.

His own altered memories had come flooding back when he’d peered inside her mind on Starkiller Base. She’d seen some of his deepest thought, fears, and…loves. He’d linked his mind with hers since their fight in the forest — over vast distances of space through the Force-bond they now shared — and she’d let him in.

He stopped five meters from them and ignited his cross-bladed lightsaber. He’d made a new one, but the crystal still crackled red. “You’ve poisoned her!” He bit his lower lip to keep it from trembling as he leveled the fiery blade at his uncle. “She knows I haven’t come to hurt her. I need her! We are the Chosen Ones. We will bring balance to the Force!”

Rey readied her staff. “My place is with Luke,” she told him in no uncertain terms.

“You heard her, Ben,” Luke said quietly, making one more attempt to project the calming Light side of the Force. “Leave this place. There’s nothing for you here.”

So, he was to be driven off like some mangy cur. It was bad enough she didn’t remember the love she once had for him — a little girl’s sweet attachment to an older brother — but to be shooed away by his own flesh and blood….

Kylo Ren swept in low — the opposite move Luke expected — and made a cut for old Jedi’s left leg. He meant to incapacitate Luke…and quickly. Skywalker parried, blade downward and shoved Ren backwards with the Force, but Ren was ready. His hand flew up, repelling the Force-shove. They remained locked in that position like two stags, until Rey made a cut to Ren’s left side. He disengaged to block her and spun out to side-step Luke’s swing. The lightsaber dance played on as the skies opened up and the rain poured down in curtains. Ren called upon the Force more than he ever had to before, but he kept his footing in the uneven fight. He blocked one opponent, then the other, keeping them off balance and widening the distance between the Jedi until Rey was backed up to the sheer-faced cliff.

She’d fought bravely, tirelessly, but she drew her strength only from the Light. He was desperate, drawing his passion from the Dark. Their blades locked.

Luke moved swiftly to close in on Ren from behind but found his way blocked by seven motionless shadows.

The Knights of Ren.

Cliffhanger by Eli Hyder
Cliffhanger by Eli Hyder

“I need you!” Kylo half-growled at Rey. “Don’t you turn on me!”

She gasped at the power he bore against her, thrusting her backwards. A few

pebbles broke off from the cliff’s edge and went crumbling into the broken seas below. She didn’t understand her past — their past — and she couldn’t let her guard down to tap into their Force-bond memories.

“Come with me,” he urged.

Before she could respond, the ground gave way beneath her feet.

She plunged.

 

@MyKyloRen  9 February 2017

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

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