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Saga - ST The Spark of Hope— * possible spoilers for TLJ *

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by val solo, Jan 2, 2018.

  1. val solo

    val solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2000
    Title: The Spark of Hope
    Author: val solo
    Timeframe: post- The Last Jedi
    Characters: Rey, Kylo/ Ben, Leia, Finn, Rose, Hux... pretty much all of them!
    Genre: Drama; Romance; Adventure
    Keywords: Redemption; Reylo
    Notes: It’s been a long while since I had the inspiration to write! This is just my own brain’s imaginings of what episode 9 could be. I hope you enjoy!

    *12/30/19* So, I started this right after TLJ, but abandoned it thinking JJ would surely give me a satisfying conclusion to this story and these characters I have loved since childhood. However, not so much. So I am going to try and make myself happy. Join me if you like! The more, the merrier!!!
    _________________________________________________________

    Star Wars: The Spark of Hope

    The Resistance is on the run.
    The survivors of the First Order’s
    attack on the rebel base at Crait
    have gone deep into hiding,
    trying to regroup and reinforce
    their decimated ranks.

    The First Order, led by Kylo Ren,
    works to maintain control
    over the galaxy and bring a
    complete end to the rebellion.

    But the tale of Jedi Master Luke
    Skywalker’s unbelievable sacrifice
    on Crait is finding its way from
    planet to planet, quietly inspiring
    the oppressed, urging them to
    make a move and take a stand.

    The spark of hope is spreading.
    ———————————————————————————-

    Chapter 1– Alone

    So many stars.

    So many worlds.

    So many people.

    And he was still alone.

    Kylo Ren, Supreme Leader of the First Order, largest power in the entire galaxy, controlled it all, could make or break whole systems with just a few words. Everyone lived in fear of him, knowing he held their life in his fingertips should he be displeased. He could possess whatever he so desired. No one would dare deny him.

    Well, almost no one.

    He forced that all-too-frequent thought out of his mind. He would not think of her today. In fact, he determined this would most certainly be the day he did not even bring her face to memory.

    ‘Ben...don’t go this way.’

    Too late. He slammed his fist into the closest wall and stoked the anger inside to rise and smother out the other, weaker emotions— regret, guilt, sadness. But it could not snuff out the loneliness that had been his constant companion ever since the last time he saw her face as the door of the Millennium Falcon closed and she was truly gone.

    It made no sense. Why was he not satisfied? Content with his current unlimited, ultimate power? Long ago he had stopped feeling the need for pointless things like family and friends. He had been fine with reveling alone in his accomplishments. Snoke had periodically meted out words of praise that, at the time, left Kylo feeling proud. Knowing he was hurting his family by doing the very opposite of what they would ever want left him strangely sated.

    But not now.

    Kylo knew Snoke had only used him for his own ends, manipulated his apprentice’s feelings to serve his own purpose—- just like his father had warned him. He had been foolish then. However, Kylo was still alive. Snoke was not, and Kylo felt absolutely no remorse for slicing his former master in half, using Snoke’s own overconfidence to catch him off guard.

    Once again, her face appeared unbidden in his mind. For a moment, he had seen the look of fear in her eyes as she wondered whether he would end her as Snoke commanded. Then the deed was done. Snoke lay in pieces, and Rey joined him in fighting the Praetorian guards. Never had he been so in sync with another. They fought as if they’d been training together for years, and in those few, brief moments he felt...complete. Reaching out his hand to her, he offered her everything— the power to make the galaxy whatever they wanted it to be. She would never again be just a nobody scavenger living hand to mouth, but have every comfort, every desire fulfilled. And he offered himself. Felt no hesitation in the act. Yet she rejected him— rejected all he offered for the sake of some antiquated ideal, the same ideal his own family had neglected him for years ago.

    The rage returned so he picked up a nearby data pad with the Force and flung it across the room to smash into hundreds of pieces when it hit the wall.

    “Problems with your data pad… Supreme Leader?”

    Kylo spun around to see his intruder— General Armitage Hux, once his rival for Snoke’s approval, and now an unfortunately bothersome necessity. His knowledge and efficiency with running the First Order’s military operations made it necessary to keep him around. If not for Hux’s skills, however, Kylo would have rid himself of the power-hungry zealot months ago.

    Kylo stood tall and straightened his black tunic. “No. No problem,” he stated calmly. Hux tried to hide his surprise at this unexpected reaction. He seemed always to be walking a thin line of insubordination. “What is it?” Kylo asked.

    “You said you wanted a report as soon as our intelligence team returned to the ship.”

    A flash of excitement had Kylo listening intently. Had he found them? Found her? Could this be the chance to finally finish off the Resistance once and for all? Hux was taking too long. “Well?”

    “They found evidence the rebels had been on the planet, but have been gone for some time now. We got the information from a local space dock worker who apparently helped them get supplies and leave the planet undetected,” he explained. “Needless to say, we killed him once he gave us what we wanted.” He looked pointedly at Kylo. “No place in the galaxy for traitors.”

    For a split second Kylo thought Hux might be referring to a traitor other than the rebel, but there was no way he could possibly know the truth about Snoke’s death. Kylo had taken care to craft a believable story, and Hux was at least intelligent enough not to question him openly. It had taken a few Force chokes here and there, but the man had eventually learned his place in this new hierarchy. What had Snoke said about keeping a rabid cur around? Hux might be a nuisance, but he had his uses.

    Kylo took his time, choosing not to respond to Hux’s goad. “Very well, then. Prepare the ship to leave and go to the next system. I want the remainder of the Resistance found and destroyed as soon as possible. I’m tired of waiting.”

    General Hux knew he was being dismissed, so he bowed and left.
    ____________________________________________________________________

    “Yes...Supreme Leader,” General Armitage Hux practically had to force the words out through gritted teeth as he left the room. He worked hard to keep his true thoughts deep inside— at least until he was well away from Kylo Ren. He had no desire to be force-choked or flung against a wall today.

    When he finally reached the bridge, he let his breath out in relief. The hatred churned in his gut as he contemplated this last meeting with Kylo Ren— or rather, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren. His lip curled in disgust. The man had no idea how to run a military operation or how to rule a galaxy either. The Resistance was dead, apart from a handful who had survived Crait. They had no fight left in them, having months ago fled underground to hide like the sniveling cowards they were. And yet Ren was practically obsessed with finding the ragtag remnants, convinced it was no victory until they were all gone.

    So more resources were being used to track down any hint or rumor of the Resistance’s whereabouts. A complete waste of time in Hux’s mind. But, alas, he was not in charge.

    Oh, how he despised Kylo Ren! It was almost impossible to believe how Ren had come to power. Hard to believe some nobody girl had killed Supreme Leader Snoke, eight Praetorian guards, and rendered Ren unconscious. If only he had been quicker to pull his blaster in that throne room and get rid of Ren right then and there, things would be very different.

    Hux still wasn’t convinced Ren had told the whole truth. It was something about that girl. She had somehow escaped from Ren three times now— twice on Starkiller base and now from the Supremacy. She had some kind of hold on the fool whether the man realized it or not. And so these doubts had kept Hux questioning it all in his mind...caused him to secretly commission his most trusted underlings to search through the wreckage and data remains of the Supremacy looking for any evidence to support his suspicions. If he could find just one little bit of proof to dispute Ren’s story, it might be the beginning of the end for the ‘Supreme Leader.’

    Hux smiled. How sweet it would be to bring Ren down. How sweet, indeed.
    __________________________________________________________________

    “That’s twenty more— seven of them pilots,” Commander Poe Dameron beamed.

    General Leia Organa smiled at his enthusiasm. He was turning into quite the leader, working hard to make up for his mistake at D’Qar. They had nearly been eliminated. In fact, she had nearly lost hope that any of them would make it out of the doomed rebel base on Crait.

    Until Luke had shown up.

    Luke. She thought of him and smiled. What a showboat! Leave it to him to wait until the last possible second to make his move— just like the Death Star—- just like Bespin—- just like Jabba’s sail barge. She chuckled to herself. She could laugh now, but at the time of each of those incidents, there was nothing to laugh about. Except maybe strangling Jabba with that blasted chain! That was quite amusing and oh, so satisfying.

    But now he was gone, just like Han and her son. And she was alone. She didn’t want to let on that it bothered her. Too many people were looking to her to be the ever-optimistic leader who never gave up hope. But hope was getting harder and harder to hold onto. She’d been fighting this fight for a long time—- too long, in truth—- and it seemed all for nothing. The evil she had fought against as a young woman was still around. It had only slumbered for a time before making its return, bigger and badder than ever. And worst of all, it had her son in its vile grip and wouldn’t let go.

    She looked around their small briefing room— or at least what was serving as a briefing room on their current hideout location. Ever since Crait they had been hopping from planet to planet trying to outrun the First Order who seemed more intent than ever on finding them. Intelligence reports, what they could get anyway, said that Kylo Ren was in charge now. When she first found out, she spent the night in her private quarters weeping—- weeping for her son and what he might have been— weeping for her precious Han whom she never stopped loving— weeping for her failures as a mother and a leader—- and weeping for the people who depended on her to keep them going. It was all quite the mess.

    Rey caught her eye from across the table and smiled. Leia smiled back. The girl was a wonder. Leia knew it was the Force that had brought her into their lives. No mere coincidence that she was the one to find BB-8 on Jakku, just as it was no coincidence when Luke found R2-D2 on Tatooine. The Force was strong and always in motion. She had to believe there was a purpose, a reason for all she had been through, all the galaxy had been through. Surely, it couldn’t be for nothing— all the heartache and pain. She was so tired and knew she couldn’t keep fighting forever. The next generation needed to take up the banner and continue the efforts until peace and freedom were a reality for everyone, everywhere. Unfortunately, the time she had to train them was running out. (Her creaky joints reminded her of that when she got out of bed every morning.) Poe, Rey, Finn and the other brave young rebels needed to keep hope alive.

    Now, if only she could do the same.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2019
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  2. mavjade

    mavjade It's so FLUFFY! Fanfic Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Sep 10, 2005
    This is fantastic!

    Your characterization is spot on! I could really feel Kylo's conflict and anger at his conflict. Hux's need for power and suspicion of Kylo. Both of their scenes were great fun to read!

    But Leia... Leia's part was so beautiful.

    This really moved me. =(([face_love] Leia has been in this fight her entire life, no one could blame her for being tired. And I get the feeling she's not going to be around long to make sure the next generation is ready. :(

    Thanks for posting! I'm looking forward to reading more!!

    =D=
     
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  3. val solo

    val solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2000
    Mavjade— thank you so much for your kind words! I have so many ideas plotted out in my head and on paper. Leia is my favorite character, so the fact that you got what I was hoping to convey with her part makes my heart happy.:)

    Here’s the next little part...

    Chapter 2

    “Is it wrong that I’m enjoying this?”

    Poe Dameron laughed out loud and clapped Finn on the back. “No, buddy. I think it’s pretty normal. They are pretty impressive out there. Rose is getting pretty good at it, and Rey, well...Rey is just...unbelievable.”

    The two friends stood off to the side of the training area watching the ‘show’ out on the floor. Rey and Rose were practicing fighting one another with staffs. Growing up on the morally questionable planet of Jakku, Rey had needed early on to learn how to defend herself in order to survive, and a staff had been her weapon of choice. Now she was teaching Rose Tico and other new recruits some of her skills to help them fight the First Order. She spun around, leg out in an effort catch her opponent off guard, but Rose blocked the blow, and, in a moment of overconfidence, failed to predict the swift counter- move Rey landed, sweeping the shorter girl’s legs out from under her, knocking her on her behind.

    Rose landed with a grunt. Rey stopped and offered her a hand up. “You okay? Did I hurt you?”

    Rose accepted the hand and pulled up from the floor with another small groan of pain. She dusted off her pants and sighed. “Only my pride. I was so happy I finally blocked you that I stopped paying attention.”

    Rey steadied Rose on her slightly wobbly legs until she found her footing. Then she picked up Rose’s staff and handed it to her. “No, you’re doing really well. You’ve gotten loads better than when we first started training together. You should be proud,” she smiled encouragingly.

    “Thanks,” Rose replied gratefully.

    “Hey, you two look good out there,” Poe announced as he and Finn walked out to meet them.

    Rey couldn’t help but notice the huge smile that lit up Rose’s face when she turned to see Finn coming toward her. It was obvious to anyone with eyes that Rose was crazy about him, and she was pretty sure he felt the same. Even though Rose had proven herself extremely independent and capable, Finn always seemed to be trying to protect her...look out for her. Rose didn’t seem to mind. Rey smiled to herself. She was happy the two had found each other, even if they hadn’t quite made it official yet. With all the galaxy in turmoil under the First Order, it was reassuring to know such, kind, sweet souls had found some happiness together.

    Finn placed a hand on Rose’s lower back. “Are you okay? That was a hard hit.”

    A still-smiling Rose replied, “I’m good.”

    Poe turned his attention to Rey. “You’re doing a great job. We’ll have ten more recruits to train in a few days. They’ll need the whole deal to get up to speed— hand to hand, blaster work, basic ship mechanics. Are you guys ready for another round?”

    Finn, Rose, and Rey all looked at one another, then nodded simultaneously. Ever since their defeat on Crait, the Resistance had gone on the run, trying to stay off the First Order’s radar while also rebuilding their paltry numbers. On each world they visited, they would round up more ships and supplies. However, more importantly, they would search out sympathizers, recruiting more people who were willing to fight for their cause. The first few months had been less than productive. Fortunately, as time passed and news of Luke Skywalker’s amazing last stand spread across the galaxy, more and more people were finding the courage to finally take action against the First Order’s oppressive regime. It wasn’t always in huge, overt ways, but in small ways that undermined the First Order and its rule in their lives.

    Once new members joined up, they were trained in all the necessary skills. Rey, Finn, and all of the previous members each used their areas of expertise to help. Rey focused on hand to hand combat with staffs and other weapons of the like. Finn taught them about blasters and schooled them on First Order strategies, while Rose filled them in on basic mechanical knowledge that might come in handy dealing with a variety of ships and vehicles. So far, it had been going well, but not with the numbers they needed to launch or survive any kind of full-on attack from their enemy.

    “All right, then,“ Poe said. “Leia’s called a meeting in an hour. Why don’t you guys grab some lunch and I’ll see you then.”

    They all agreed, with Poe leaving in one direction and Finn and Rose starting off in another. As soon as they realized Rey wasn’t following, they stopped and turned back to her.

    “Aren’t you coming?” Finn questioned with his usual slight look of worry. He really was such a good friend.

    Rey thought about it for a moment, but then shook her head. “You two go ahead. I still have to finish up here.”

    “You’re sure?” Rose replied.

    Rey smiled reassuringly. “I’m sure.” Then they left, immediately returning to their previous conversation as they walked.

    And then Rey was alone.

    Her smile flattened out and she sighed deeply. She shouldn’t feel this way, but she couldn’t help it. She was grateful for her newfound friendships. It had been sorely lacking in her life up until Finn showed up on Jakku. Helping the Resistance fight against the First Order gave her a purpose of which to be proud, and it surrounded her with a group of people that all wanted good things for the whole galaxy.

    But anytime she thought of the First Order, she automatically thought of him.

    And that inevitably led her to think of her own foolishness. She had been so certain he would turn back to the light...come with her and leave the First Order and the dark side behind. She had seen it in her vision. But that wasn’t what happened.

    When she first encountered him back in the woods of Takodana, he had frightened her— a looming figure all in black stomping menacingly straight toward her, freezing her in place, forcefully reading her mind. He was a monster.

    Then, in the interrogation room on Starkiller Base, she found the monster was indeed a man. He revealed more than just his face after removing that helmet. He tried desperately to get the information out of her head, so confident that he could take whatever he wanted. But something else had happened— something unexpected and inexplicable except by the Force. She had read his mind instead...seen his fears...felt his loneliness. And it terrified her because it mirrored her own.

    So many thoughts ran through her mind when it came to Ben Solo, or as the rest of the galaxy knew him, Kylo Ren— Supreme Leader of the First Order. She could still see the look on his face that day on Crait when she closed the door of the Millenium Falcon. It was the last time she had seen him through their Force connection. His army had nearly annihilated the Resistance until Luke Skywalker showed up to confront his nephew. She had heard the stories from nearly everyone who had seen it. How Luke had survived the barrage of laser blasts from the opposing forces. How Ben had come down in fury from his shuttle to fight his uncle, his ultimate betrayer, only to be nearly made a fool of when the realization that Luke was merely projecting his image to provide a distraction for the rest of the Resistance survivors to retreat finally registered.

    But that look he gave her at the end… it wasn’t filled with rage and hatred. Instead he looked sad and lonely and betrayed. In his mind, everyone he ever cared about had left him, pushed him to the side for someone or something else. And then it surely must have seemed she was doing the same.

    Not a day went by that she didn’t think of him—-think of what she could have done differently. She could have stayed on Ahch-To and not run off to try and save him. She could have taken his hand and gone with him when he offered after their defeat of the red guards. She could have even ended him while he lay unconscious in Snoke’s throne room. She had been the first to awaken after all. When she had come to, she looked around at the destruction. Snoke’s body lay in pieces near his throne. The bodies of the guards were sprawled lifeless on the floor where they fell. The red curtain was nearly gone, only a few burning pieces left. And then there was him. He looked peaceful and her heart broke. Here was Han and Leia’s only son, Luke’s nephew. So much potential. He could do so much good with all of the power he possessed, but he wouldn’t. He wanted to turn away from it all...let it all die...let everyone else die. And she could not join him on that path, no matter how close she felt to him, how much they shared, how connected they were.

    But she couldn’t kill him. She just couldn’t. So she grabbed the broken halves of the lightsaber and fled. Later she pondered just why she took the time to locate the pieces before leaving. They were surely not worth anything now, yet at the time she thought it was important. So she took them and left Ben behind.

    She had not seen him since. While she imagined she could still feel a faint connection, they had not seen each other again. Snoke said he created their bond, but if so, how had they seen each other that last time? Snoke was already dead. No, something told her their bond was in existence before Snoke knew about it. Maybe he manipulated it, but it was still theirs. In her quiet moments of contemplation, she sometimes wondered if it was possible to contact Ben using her own power. Truth be told, she had been searching the old Jedi texts to find any reference to it, but had not found any yet.

    A loud clang from across the room snapped her out of her thoughts. She turned to find one of the newer Resistance fighters picking up a couple of practice staffs he had knocked over. “Sorry!” He said sheepishly.

    Rey smiled and told him it was okay. She had not realized how long she’d been standing there. Maybe she would grab something to eat before their meeting after all.
    ___________________________________________________________________

    General Leia Organa surveyed the small group of people crowded into her tiny office also serving as their briefing room. Force, were they young! She hid a tiny smile as they settled in, thinking that was probably what Mon Mothma and Jan Dodonna had thought about her all those years ago.

    She started. “Our numbers are growing,” she announced, “but not like we need them to. If we want to stand a chance against the First Order, we have to convince more people to join us in our fight.” Every time she said the words ‘First Order’, she couldn’t help but think of her son and another little piece of her heart would break. “Now, Finn has approached me with an idea, one I think might have a chance to work. But it’s risky.”

    All eyes turned to look at the former stormtrooper in surprise. He typically stayed fairly quiet during these meetings, more used to taking orders than giving any.

    “Finn,” Leia continued, “why don’t you fill them in?”

    He nodded and took a deep breath. “I think one of the only ways we have a chance to defeat the First Order is if we work from the inside.”

    Everyone else raised their eyebrows in disbelief and confusion wondering what he meant. They waited for him to go on.

    “Back on the Supremacy, when Rose and I were trying to deactivate that tracker, I ran into some stormtroopers who actually seemed somewhat sympathetic to our cause. Or at the very least, they were very unsatisfied with their own. I think I almost had them talked into defecting,” he explained. “But then Phasma showed up and shot them all.”

    Everyone else gasped and looked at one another afraid to speak.

    “And then while we were on Gantu, I happened to overhear some of the stormtroopers stationed at the spaceport talking about how they thought the First Order was headed for disaster under Kylo Ren and Hux. They were complaining about their orders to immediately execute anyone who opposed the First Order’s rules no matter what—- including children. They weren’t happy about it at all.

    “I think we might be able to persuade some of them to help us. I can’t be the only one who disagrees with some of the First Order’s policies, and that proves it,” Finn explained.

    For a moment, no one spoke. Finally Poe did.

    “If there are even stormtroopers like that, how can we know? How can we contact them and still keep ourselves and our location safe? No way should we put ourselves in danger.”

    Leia expected this reaction. It had been her own when Finn first brought the idea to her. However, upon further reflection, she found the idea had merit.

    “Finn and I have talked about that,” she interjected.”We’ve picked up a couple of pretty talented slicers in the past couple of months. Maybe it’s time we put their skills to use.”

    Finn took over when she paused and nodded for him to jump back in. “The slicers could send out holomessages to the troops stationed on some of the planets we’ve already been to— encrypted so they can’t trace them back to us wherever we are. Give them a way to contact us, but so that we could control it all. Plus, we could even have them hack into Ren’s command ship and disrupt the order a little. It might be fun.”

    Leia winced imperceptibly at the mention of her son. Poe sat in quiet contemplation for a few seconds considering the proposition. Rey watched the looks on everyone’s faces and stopped when she got to Leia. The two women locked eyes and an unspoken thought flashed between them—- Ben.

    A smile spread across Poe’s face. “It could work,” he conceded. “And I'm always up for disrupting the order of the First Order. Besides, we’ve got to do something. The time for drastic measures is now, I suppose. I say, let’s give it a try.” The others slowly nodded their agreement.

    Leia smiled. “Sounds like we have a plan.”
     
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  4. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    I love your characterizations! Great story! :)
     
  5. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    This is looking good! I like the idea of showing the events from the differing points of view. Your style is easy to read and you've got a nice knack for dialogue.:D
     
  6. gizkaspice

    gizkaspice Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Nov 27, 2013
    This is off to a good start! The different perspectives give insight to each character’s feelings and motives, and that’s always a cool thing in a story. I like the idea of other stormtroopers with a similar mindset like Finn--- this can definitely give rise to some interesting directions.
     
  7. val solo

    val solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2000
    Thank you so much for your encouragement! :)

    Chapter 3

    “Arghhhh!” Rey screamed and barely caught herself before throwing the book in her hands to the floor. It was one of the ancient Jedi books she had taken from the tree on Ahch-To, and it would definitely not be smart to destroy one of the last remaining sources of Jedi information in existence.

    She’d been reading and studying them closely over the past months, taking notes and searching for anything to help further her training. The texts were unfortunatley rather dry and boring, but she had gleaned a few useful things so far.

    Most recently she had been searching for any scrap of writing that might help her with Force projecting. It all came back to Ben. She thought of him all too often. How could she not? He was the leader of their enemy’s forces. However, lately it had escalated. Every night for the past week she dreamed of him—- all kinds of dreams, many of which repeated with only minor alterations.

    One took her back to the forest on Starkiller Base right at the moment she was precariously perched on the edge of that large crevasse, her lightsaber barely withstanding the pressure of his. He would mention the Force, and something in her would pause— just for a moment. But then instead of pushing back and continuing the fight, her foot would slip and she would tumble down, down, down while watching Ben hold out his hand futilely and call her name. Other times their places were reversed, and he was the one to fall to his doom as she watched helplessly. Of course, she always woke up before either of them hit the bottom, but found it nearly impossible to go back to sleep.

    Another dream had her re-enter the dark cave on Ahch-To to once again gaze into that mirrored wall. Only this time, instead of seeing herself in the reflection, she saw him.

    Many of the brief moments they had shared together appeared in various “What if” versions, too. For example, what if he had decided to torture her in the interrogation room on Starkiller Base? What if he hadn’t been shot by Chewbacca and weakened for their fight in the woods? What if Luke’s lightsaber had flown to him instead of her? Those dreams were terrifying.

    On the other hand, there were the other dreams that frightened her for … other reasons. What if Luke hadn’t found Ben and her in the hut that fateful night? What if, instead of taking the time to stand and stare at Snoke’s dead body, Ben had thrown off that final guard’s arm from over his head, walked straight to her, swept her into his arms and—-

    No, those dreams were almost worse because they left her with a longing she couldn’t explain, one that made her think and feel a little too much. What if she had just taken his hand, his offer to leave all of it behind there in Snoke’s burning throne room? Could they have put an end to all of this fighting?

    So the dreams would not stop and Rey finally accepted that the Force was not about to let her forget him. That led to her search for tips on projection. Perhaps if she could re-establish their Force connection and talk to him again… just maybe that light she had seen in him when they touched was still in there. And so for that reason, she simply had to keep trying.

    She sighed heavily and fell back onto her bunk.

    “Having trouble?”

    Rey jolted up to a seated position and looked in astonishment at the person in front of her. “Luke?,” she whispered, taking in the wholly unexpected sight of him. He was emitting a shimmery, blue glow which helped her realize what she was seeing.

    “I’m a Force ghost, yes,” he said matter-of-factory. “I bet you learned that from those ancient texts you …’borrowed.’” His tone of sarcasm made her look away guiltily. “Don’t worry about it,” he added encouragingly. “You did what you thought was best, and you were right to take them.”

    She looked up at him in surprise, not sure what to say.

    “So,” he announced, easing down on the edge of her bunk, “now that that’s out of the way.”

    “Why...why are you here?” Rey finally managed to ask.

    “Well, I would have been here sooner, but it took a while to get the hang of this whole Force ghost thing,” he explained nonchalantly. She just stared. Eventually, Luke took a deep breath and stated calmly, “We have some work to do.”

    “Work?”

    “Yes. I know I wasted a lot of time and wasn’t very forthcoming with the Jedi training before, but I’ve had some time to think about it and discuss it with some of my...wise colleagues. And now I’ve come to the conclusion that you need help.”

    Still Rey sat in complete silence. Was this really happening? Was he really here or was she dreaming again?

    “Look, I’ll admit you were right about a few things,” Luke continued. “Ben scared me. His power was unlike any I had encountered since my father. My own insecurities caused me to doubt not only myself, but him as well. As you said, I did assume he had already made the choice to go to the dark side. I didn’t give him a chance, and look at what happened as a result.

    His voice drifted off for a moment and then he said softly, “So you were right. I did help create Kylo Ren.”

    Rey knew it took a lot for him to admit, even though he had been quick to admit to his other failures easily enough on Ahch-To when he made excuses for hiding there. But the fall of his nephew was an especially sensitive subject… for both of them.

    “I keep dreaming of him,” she blurted out.

    Luke studied her carefully. “Do you now?”

    “Yes. I think...I think the Force is trying to tell me not to give up hope that he’ll turn back to the light.”

    “So you truly believe there is still good in him?” Luke asked. “He’s done a lot of horrible things.”

    “I know,” she admitted, “but so had Darth Vader, and he still came back.”

    Luke sighed. “Yes, but only after years and years of doing the bidding of Palpatine and the dark side.” He gazed deeply into her eyes. “Why do you have so much hope for Ben? You barely know him.”

    Good question. Why did she keep holding onto this tiny sliver of hope for Ben Solo? What was it that made her look past the monster who had tried to obliterate the entire Resistance to see the sad, lonely man underneath? A question of her own begged to be asked.

    “When you showed up on Crait, you came to face him,” she began, “but you knew he couldn’t kill you and you couldn’t kill him— not with being a projection. So… did you change your mind about him? Did you think you could save him?”

    Sadly, Luke shook his head. “I couldn’t save him, just like his parents couldn’t and neither can you.”

    The words cut like a knife and she stared down at her lap. It had been what she thought could happen—- her saving him from the dark side. It was why she left Ahch-To those many months ago, convinced she had some part to play in the story of Ben Solo. Now, hearing Luke voice what she’d been denying made her heart sink.

    “No, Ben has to decide to save himself,” Luke explained. “But I think he does need someone to show him that he’s still worth saving.” He placed his hand on hers. “And I think that’s you, Rey.”

    She glanced up with new hope and interest in what he would say next.

    “Which is why I’m here,” he said as he stood. “I’m going to help you with this projection trick so you can connect with him again. At least that’s how we’ll start. He needs to be knocked a little off-balance to get him started thinking about his choices. In fact, maybe I’ll pay my nephew a little visit of my own,” he mused.

    “Now, let’s get started.”
    ____________________________________________

    He heard them again. More men talking about their beloved Supreme Leader, he thought with a sneer. No, not beloved. Feared, perhaps and maybe somewhat respected if only for his powers in the Force. But the men were not quite so enthralled with their young leader as the man probably assumed. Hux smirked at his secret knowledge.

    Ever since the somewhat disastrous battle on Crait, the story of Kylo Ren’s erratic behavior and humiliation at the hands of his own uncle was quietly spreading within the ranks. And Hux was doing nothing to stop it. It was all playing out according to his plan. ‘If anyone should have succeeded Snoke, it should have been me,’ he thought angrily. Kylo Ren was nothing but an unstable child playing at war. Hux had been raised to lead this great army. It was his right. And Ren had stolen it from him.

    But no bother. He just had to be patient. Give Ren enough rope and he would hang himself. Plus, Hux was adding fuel to the fire, starting some of the circulating rumors himself. The way Ren kept himself shut off from nearly everyone else made it entirely too easy to place doubts in the minds of the soldiers. And if his men succeeded in finding proof of Ren’s wrong-doing in Snoke’s death, he would be done for. No, all Hux needed to do now was make a plan for what to do with Ren when the time came. His Force abilities made it more difficult, but he was still human. A hundred blaster bolts would shatter him as easily as anyone else. He would simply need the element of surprise.

    Hux found himself nearly laughing with joy, but quickly composed himself and continued on his way.
    ___________________________________________

    Kylo Ren sat bolt upright in bed trying to catch his breath. Another night, another dream. They wouldn’t stop.

    He threw off the blanket and walked over to the viewport, searching the stars like he did every night. A feeling of longing and sadness was quickly snuffed out by one of anger and resentment. He balled his hand into a fist and looked down at it— the same hand she had touched—- and the same hand she had refused to take. He snarled and turned away from the view.

    Why did he keep doing this to himself? Why did she even matter? She was no one. He had even told her that same thing.

    ‘But not to me.’ His own words haunted him. Why had he said them? He didn’t need her. He was the force-forsaken Supreme Leader of the entire First Order. He didn’t need anyone.

    But she wouldn’t leave him alone. Months had passed since the battle on Crait, and he could still see her face as she stood at the top of the Falcon’s boarding ramp looking at him with such disappointment. Not anger. Not hatred or disgust. But disappointment. For a fleeting moment of weakness, he had felt regret. Wanted to run up the ramp and apologize, beg for another chance. He had even been tempted to go with her like she had begged in Snoke’s throne room, but that would never work. She might be willing to forgive him, but it was highly unlikely the rest of the Resistance ever would.

    ‘I don’t need anyone,’ he thought to himself. ‘Especially her.’ He decided to pour himself a drink. Besides, once he hunted down the few remaining members of the puny Resistance, her included, he could have some peace and enjoy this newfound power he wielded as leader of the First Order. Then he would finally have everything he wanted.

    “Would you?”

    Kylo spun around at the unexpected voice intruding upon his solitude. His hand instinctively reached out for his lightsaber and it flew into his grasp. The blade hissed to life casting a red glow in the dark room.

    “Now, you know that won’t work. Remember the last time you tried?”

    Kylo grudgingly powered down his saber and tried to keep a rein on his emotions. The last time he had faced his uncle, they had gotten out of control and kept him from seeing what was right in front of him. “Luke,” he said with a growl.

    “Ben,” Luke replied. His blue-tinged image shimmered. “Or should I say… Supreme Leader?”

    “You’re a force ghost,” Kylo said.

    Luke smiled. “Glad you noticed.”

    Kylo had only heard about force ghosts from Luke, ironically enough, though he had never actually seen one until now. It intrigued and unsettled him at the same time. “That means you’re dead,” he added, still trying to tamp down the urge to lash out, knowing it would be pointless.

    Luke shrugged. “I prefer to say ‘one with the force’.”

    Luke’s flippant demeanor irked Kylo and provoked his response. “Why are you here? You need to leave. Go back to wherever it is good little Jedi go when they die. I don’t want you here.”

    Casually, Luke walked over and sat in a nearby chair taking his time to settle in before replying. “Well, now, that’s unfortunate...and totally irrelevant . For some reason,the Force doesn’t think you and I are finished yet. So what you do or do not want doesn’t really matter.”

    Kylo didn’t move, but stood staring at this new version of his uncle—-the uncle who had tried to kill him claiming he saw irredeemable darkness inside. Would he never be free of him?

    “We’ve made mistakes, you and I,” Luke continued. “Pretty big ones, as a matter of fact. I lost hope, and I shouldn’t have let that happen. I let Leia down. I let Han down.”

    Kylo flinched at the mention of his father’s name.

    “But most of all, I let you down. That was my biggest mistake. My biggest regret. One moment of weakness let the dark side in, and with it came fear and doubt.”

    “I don’t need your apologies,” Kylo interrupted angrily. “It’s too late. What’s done is done. The past doesn’t matter.”

    “Hmmm,” Luke pondered. “For someone who says the past doesn’t matter, you sure are holding onto it tightly. What about Rey?” Luke asked, switching gears and catching Kylo off guard.

    “What?” He exclaimed.

    Luke elaborated. “You know—- Rey?—- spunky brunette?—- great fighter?—- stubborn as a gundaark. You know, she was bound and determined to convince me there was still light in you.You must have made quite the impression on her. Guess you turned on some of that Solo charm, eh?”

    Kylo knew his uncle was goading him into a reaction, so he tried to regain control of the conversation. “She’s nothing. Soon enough I’ll find her and the rest of the pathetic rebels and wipe them out. Then I—“

    Luke began to chuckle. Kylo glared dangerously. “Ben, admit it,” Luke urged. “Here you are, leader of the most powerful organization in the galaxy, and you’re still not happy. Not satisfied.”

    “You have no idea what I’m feeling,” Kylo replied angrily.

    Luke studied him closely before continuing. “Maybe not, but I do know that as long as you remain so consumed with your own selfishness, you’ll never be whole. Never truly content. Being alone is no way to spend your life. That, I do know.”

    Silence fell between them. Finally, Luke stood up and straightened his glimmering Jedi robes. “It’s not too late, Ben,” Luke said softly. “I was wrong to give up on you. I know that now. Even my father came back to the light— an important fact you seem to conveniently ignore. The force is giving you another chance. Let it guide you.”

    And then he disappeared.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2018
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  8. EGKenobi

    EGKenobi Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2005
    I really like this story, is there an update on the way?
     
  9. val solo

    val solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2000
    * Newly updated! 12/30/19*-- if anyone is interested. :) Needless to say, I am not too thrilled with how Episode 9 turned out, so I am inspired anew to come back and finish my take on what happens after TLJ.

    Chapter 4--

    “Leia?” Rey asked as she poked her head into General Organa’s small makeshift office. Leia looked up from her data pad at the intruder and smiled warmly.

    “Rey,” she said as she stood from her desk. “Come in,” she added with a wave of her hand. She gestured for Rey to join her on the sofa that often served as her bed in these busy times.

    Rey wasn’t sure how much to share with Leia, but the dreams she had been having over the past several nights compelled her to have this conversation. She looked into the face of Leia Organa, the legendary rebel leader who had been fighting against the dark side in all its iterations for the past forty years or more—- the Empire, the First Order, and even now, her own son. In fact, he was the reason Rey was here.

    “What can I do for you?” Leia asked with that same smile Rey had seen many times now, even when she knew Leia had to be beyond exhausted and overwhelmed, but she was always graceful and gracious.

    “I don’t mean to bother you. I know how busy you are—.”

    “Stop,” Leia interrupted as she placed her hand over Rey’s. “You know I always have time for you. Now, what is it? I can sense your unease, so just spill it,” she insisted with a grin.
    Rey couldn’t help but smile back, but then the seriousness of her task sobered her quickly.

    “Leia, I have some questions.” She paused momentarily, gathering her courage. “Questions about your son, Ben.” There. She said it— the name of the person who had been haunting her dreams. The one she could not forget. That last look on his face as she closed the door on the Millenium Falcon all those months ago still seemed as fresh in her mind as if it had just happened. She could tell the request unsettled Leia by the nearly imperceptible look of surprise on her face.

    “Okay,” Leia agreed softly. “Ask away.”

    Rey inhaled deeply. Best to just say it. “Do you think there is any hope for Ben to turn back to the light?” Rey asked bluntly.

    Leia looked down at their hands and remained silent for a long moment, so long that Rey almost apologized for asking the question in the first place. However, Leia finally spoke.

    “Ben was such a quiet boy. Always so serious,” she began. “He was always watching, observing, taking it all in. It was hard to tell what he was thinking sometimes. He wasn’t one to complain or express his feelings easily.” She stopped and took a deep breath before continuing. “I was so determined to create a galaxy where he, along with all of the other children, would never have to fight for peace and freedom. I spent all my time working for it, but in the process I neglected the most important things in my life—— my son and my husband.” Sorrow filled her brown eyes and she squeezed Rey’s hand more tightly. “I lost my balance and, in turn, I lost them both.

    “For years I believed Ben would come back,” she said with a sad smile. “A mother’s hope. But as time marched on, I felt more desperate, like I was truly losing him. When Han—.” There she stopped to gather her composure and clear her throat. “When Han died, I started to accept that Ben had finally made his choice. His going to the dark side was something I feared even when I first found out I was pregnant,” Leia confessed. “Finding out your father was Darth Vader can do that to a person, you know.”

    Rey cracked a smile at the older woman’s ability to find lightness in a bleak situation.

    “But I thought it best to keep that bit of information from Ben and the rest of the galaxy. Another of my mistakes,” she finished, sounding regretful. Rey noticed the tears welling in her eyes and was instantly reminded of another set of eyes so similar. ‘Join me. Please,’ he had pleaded as Snoke’s throne room burned around them. She had felt his struggle even then, knew he wanted to not be alone. But she couldn’t go with him. Not then. Not when he was still planning to wield his power over others. She focused back on Leia who seemed lost in her thoughts.

    “What about now?” Rey asked. “Do you have any hope left at all?”

    Leia studied the young woman in front of her carefully and curiously. “Why do you ask?” She inquired. “Do you have hope for him?”

    The two locked gazes for several seconds, Leia obviously sizing Rey up in her mind. Then Rey simply nodded her head twice.

    “Why?” Leia whispered.

    Rey sat up straight on the edge of the sofa and grabbed Leia’s other hand so that she held onto both. “I’ve felt it,” she stated simply. “Leia, I’ve felt the good in him. There is still light there, buried deep, but I saw it!” She really wanted Leia to believe her. For some reason, Leia’s hope for Ben felt… necessary… essential, if he was to ever come back to the light.

    With a look of pity, Leia sighed and then replied, “Rey, I just don’t know. After all he’s done. I mean he’s taken over the First Order. He’s tried to kill you, if you’ll recall, and he did kill… his father.” Leia hung her head defeatedly.

    “No!” Rey interrupted forcefully. “I know it’s difficult to believe, but I know it’s there inside him. He’s still conflicted. It’s not too late, Leia.”

    “You don’t know how much I want that to be true, but—.”

    Rey broke in again. “It IS true.”

    Leia narrowed her gaze again. “How do you know, Rey? How can you be so sure?”

    It was now or never. She had not told anyone else of her force connection to Ben, but she felt the force wanted Leia to know— if only to keep her mother’s hope alive. Hesitantly, Rey began to explain. “I have a...a bond with him,” she said watching the reaction on Leia’s face. “There is a force connection between us. We, Ben and I, we can see each other no matter where we are...talk to each other even. It started when I was on Ahch-To with Luke. We were both surprised at first, to say the least. I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be talking with the man who tried to kill me on Starkiller Base and who nearly did kill Finn.”

    “Understandable,” Leia commented with a nod.

    Rey continued. “But then we started talking. Not much, but enough that I could tell how lonely he is. How alone. And then when we touched—.”

    “You touched?” Leia interrupted, suddenly very interested in the story. Rey felt her cheeks heat up as she remembered that night in her hut. She had told him about her ordeal in the mirror cave and he had listened intently to every word. He had understood like no one else could.

    ‘You’re not alone,’ he had said softly. In that moment she had felt the urge to reach out and touch him...to see if he was real, this strange mix of monster and man who knew her innermost feelings. So she had. She reached out across the short distance between them and he did the same— removed his glove and stretched out his hand to make contact. And when they did, it was... explosive. Her breath hitched again just like it did that very night.

    “Just our hands,” Rey explained sheepishly, “only fingertips, actually.”

    “Oh, really?” Leia added.

    Rey needed to get to the point for her own peace of mind. “Yes, but when we did, that’s when I saw it clearly...the light inside him. Luke didn’t want to hear it. He swore there was no hope for Ben, but I saw it. That’s when I went to him. I thought I could convince him to come back. I was so sure it would work...and it did in a way.”

    “What way was that?”

    “He saved me,” Rey replied. “Snoke told Ben to kill me, but he didn’t. He killed Snoke instead. Leia,” Rey squeezed her hands again. “He begged me to come with him...to leave it all behind. When I didn’t, he just looked...sad. He feels so alone. He thinks he has no other choice. Maybe if we could show him that’s not true, he would—.”

    “Would what, Rey?” Leia butted in. “Come home and fight for the Resistance?” She shook her head sadly. “Even if he left the First Order, the Resistance would never accept him, never trust him. They would be likely to execute him on sight, and I would be powerless to stop it. He’s so far gone, Rey. I just don’t know.”

    Tears were welling in both women’s eyes. “No, Leia,” Rey pleaded desperately. “You can’t give up on him! I know it seems hopeless, but please, don’t lose all hope. Please!” She reached out and pulled Leia into a tight embrace, holding on as if her life depended on it. Luckily, Leia hugged back. Rey had experienced very few moments like this in her life, moments of true affection, and she didn’t want to let go. It seemed as though Leia didn’t either because it was a long while before they both began to ease up and pull away. However, Leia did not relinquish Rey’s hands just yet.

    “You care about him,” Leia said softly.

    “I do,” Rey replied looking into Leia’s eyes, willing her to hope again. A tear slipped down Leia’s face.

    “Well, then,” she sniffed. “If someone like you can still find the good in my son, then there is still hope for him.”

    Rey exhaled a sigh of relief and a smile. “Thank you.”

    “It’s you I should be thanking. Although I’m not sure what either of us can do about it in our current situation.” A sudden thought crossed Leia’s mind. “Are you still able to communicate with him through your...force bond?”

    “I haven’t since Crait. That was the last time. Snoke claimed he created it, but Crait was after he died. So maybe we still could. I’ve been reading about it in the Jedi books I…’borrowed’ from Luke, but I haven’t tried it out yet.”

    Leia shook her head in contemplation, clearly devising some plan in her brilliant mind. Finally, she said, “Let’s keep this between us for now. I don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea.”

    “Wrong idea?” Rey questioned.

    Leia chuckled. “We don’t want them thinking you’re collaborating with the enemy. That could get a little dicey.”

    “Oh!,” Rey realized the danger if knowledge of her connection to Ben fell into the wrong hands. “Okay.”

    “Let me know if you have any more force ‘calls’. I need time to think about all of this.” Rey nodded her head in agreement and then rose to leave. Leia looked up at her with a small smile.

    “Hope,” she said. “Something I’ve needed more of for a while now. Thank you, Rey.”

    Rey left feeling like the force was satisfied for now. Hope was spreading.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2019
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  10. val solo

    val solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2000
    Chapter 5--Recruitment


    “It worked!”

    Leia and Poe looked up from the datapads and holomaps spread out in front of them as Finn barged into their small command room, a huge smile on his face.

    “The encrypted messages we sent out,” he started to explain, “we finally got a response.”

    His enthusiasm was contagious. “On Bonterra. Remember, we were there a while back. The First Order apparently showed up looking for us and left a regiment behind to keep the locals in line. I guess they didn’t take too kindly to the Bonterrans helping us out.”

    Leia was somewhat surprised. They had put Finn’s plan into action months ago, but up until now had not received any replies. She was starting to think this plan of Finn’s to recruit deserters from inside the First Order was destined to fail despite how much she wanted to think that there were still more good people than bad out there in the universe. “Go on,” she urged. “Any more details?”

    “At least fifty, if not more, want to defect. The contact said the things the Order is doing to people on these planets they are taking over…,” he paused and looked away. “They want out.”

    After a brief moment of silent contemplation, Poe voiced the question in all three of their minds. “Can we trust them?”

    “Do we have a choice?” Leia answered. “We need all the help we can get. But we should be cautious.” She stopped for a moment and the two men knew she was devising a plan of action. “Set up a meeting. Take Rey and Rose with you, too. If they’re serious, we need to know and we need to put them to good use.”

    Finn nodded in agreement, then turned to go find Rose and Rey.

    “Are you sure about this?” Poe asked. “I’m still not sure this is such a good idea. Heading right back into First Order territory hoping this lead is solid?”

    Leia eased carefully into her chair, the nagging pain she had been feeling lately causing her to tire more easily and more quickly than before. She glanced up at Poe with with a small smile. “I’m not sure of much at all anymore, Poe, except that we have to do anything we can to fight against this darkness. I’ve been doing it for so long now that I don’t know any other way. Go with them, but be careful.”

    Poe noticed Leia sagging in her seat. He could tell she was working herself way past the point of exhaustion, but he knew she would never stop. It was one of the things he admired most about her, among many others. He trusted her judgment better than his own when it came to matters like this, so he would go and do his best to bring back more fighters for the Resistance--- for Leia.

    “Try and get some rest,” he suggested.

    She chuckled. “I’ll rest when we’ve won.”


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Supreme Leader Kylo Ren walked down the gangplank of his transport ship and stopped at the bottom to survey the group of First Order officers and Bonterran officials awaiting his arrival. He was there to solidify the planet’s dedication to him and the Order. They had taken control of Bonterra not long after word of the Resistance using it as a hide out reached his command. Traitors who were found to have assisted the Resistance were swiftly dealt with, and the new planet administration was proving much more amenable to First Order interests. He found that making a personal appearance usually ended in desired results.


    The First Order commander stepped forward and saluted.


    “Supreme Leader, this is Governor Ritorro.” Kylo looked at the Commander as he introduced a short, nondescript Bonterran male who quickly bowed in obeisance. Kylo sneered in contempt beneath his mask. Apparently, this governor knew about Kylo’s limited patience with disobedient planet leadership. Good. It would save them time.

    “Governor,” Kylo said in his deep booming voice. “I understand you have dealt with your citizens who offered aid to the Resistance.”

    “Yes, yes, Supreme Leader,” Ritorro groveled. The man didn’t know whether to look directly at Kylo or away, so he kept shifting his gaze revealing his fear. Kylo could practically smell it on him. He hated dealing with these weak-minded fools. No wonder the First Order had spread so easily across the galaxy with leaders like this.

    “What else can I do for you, Supreme Leader?” Ritorro questioned. “Your presence here is a pleasure, for sure, but unexpected, nonetheless.”

    Kylo took a few silent moments to glare at the man, although he could not see Kylo’s face. When the man started fidgeting in unease, Kylo decided to reply. “General Hux informs me that Bonterra has offered us something of great value. I have decided to come find out what this deal involves.”

    “Yes, yes,” Ritorro bowed repeatedly. “We will tour the facilities and then finalize details in our city headquarters afterward. Please, follow me.”

    Governor Ritorro turned to go and Kylo, along with his retinue of troopers marching militantly behind him, followed, black cape flowing, completing the menacing appearance he tried to maintain in any public situation.

    As they boarded a transport speeder, Kylo barely even noticed the surroundings of the Bonterran capital city. He did not even remember its name, to be quite honest. In the past several months, he had visited so many systems and planets that they were all starting to look the same. Just another world full of people to fall under the sway of the First Order and him, the Supreme Leader of it all. Again that nagging thought popped into his head. All of this-- and you’re still alone.

    He shook it off. He refused to succumb to the hollowness it brought, and instead tried to focus on the truth that he had achieved the ultimate position of power in the galaxy. What exactly would he do with all of this power?

    His mother’s face suddenly flashed in his mind and took him by surprise. He jerked in his seat, hoping no one noticed and glad for the reforged mask he wore to hide the shocked expression that was surely on his face. Why did he think of her at that moment? He tried not to think of her at all, truth be told. It hurt too much to think of her because his heart would start to yearn for something long gone...something the Supreme Leader of the First Order would not and should not want.


    To belong.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    “I have a bad feeling about this.”

    Rey, Poe, and Finn all three turned from the viewscreen of their shuttle to look at Rose Tico. The young Resistance fighter grimaced in blatant uncertainty about their current mission.

    “It just doesn’t seem like such a good idea to be going to a planet that just so happens to have a First Order Star Destroyer parked in its orbit. Can’t we... reschedule?” she asked hopefully.

    Finn shook his head as he took a few steps towards her to offer a reassuring arm around her shoulders. “It’s going to be fine. And my contact has a limited window to meet. There is supposedly some big meeting with the visiting First Order commander. While everyone else is focused on that, he can slip away without drawing too much attention. It’ll be fine,” he repeated, almost as if to convince himself as much as her.

    Rey offered a supportive grin while Poe busily checked and rechecked their communications equipment. He handed each of them a small comm link that fit inside their ears. They checked the volume on each and prepared the shuttle to land. The code their contact sent them had worked so far, clearing the way for them in a hangar outside of the capital city. Poe put the craft neatly in its docking bay, and they went over the mission plans one last time.

    “Everybody has your comm link and your blasters, right?” Poe asked. Rey patted the blaster at her side and then checked to see that her lightsaber was securely attached to her belt. Finn and Rose nodded their readiness and the four took off to locate a speeder.

    Rey never got tired of seeing new planets. After spending her whole life, at least all she could remember, on Jakku, traveling to so many different kinds of worlds amazed her, and she tried to take it all in. This world had appeared a mixture of mostly green and blue from orbit, which she now knew meant it likely had plenty of forests and water. These were her favorite kind of planets. One day she hoped to have time to explore and really enjoy the nature of some of these places. Right now, she should be focusing on their mission.

    They easily found a speeder for rent. Finn paid the fee and then they were off toward the city. It was essential that they be alert and prepared for anything. Finn seemed so sure that eventually plenty of Stormtroopers would receive their message and be willing to join the Resistance. Poe was less sure, Rose was supportive of Finn’s enthusiasm, and Rey just kept hoping something would happen to turn the tide in their favor. When she thought of how long Leia had been fighting this same fight, for an instant she felt despair. Then Leia’s kind smile and spirit of strength would help ease her worries.

    It was becoming commonplace for Rey to think of Leia in times like these. She liked to think that her own mother would have been like Leia, despite what her own memories would have her believe. And she wondered how Ben, Kylo, she didn’t know what to call him anymore, could ever betray a mother like Leia. Or a father like Han. Belonging to a family was such a gift, and he just threw it away.

    She shook her head as if shaking thoughts of him out of her mind. She knew that somewhere locked down deep within Kylo Ren were the remnants of Ben Solo, a kindred spirit who wanted what she wanted. To belong. But he was afraid...afraid of being rejected. That much she had gleaned from their previous Force bonds and his attempted mind probe way back on Starkiller Base all those months ago. For all of the tough exterior, Rey knew Ben’s future could hold the belonging he desired if he would but let go of the darkness and come back to the light. But he kept fighting it, and until he decided to change, the dark would dominate his path.

    “Ben,” she whispered longingly under her breath with a sigh.


    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “Ben.”

    Kylo Ren startled again for the second time in minutes. He looked around to see if anyone else had noticed his surprise, relieved to see no one seemed to be paying him any attention. He inhaled deeply and tried to expel the face that flashed in his mind...Rey. Why did he keep thinking of her? He wanted to be angry and let the hate flow through him. But he couldn’t. The vision of her standing in Snoke’s throne room whispering his name with tears in her eyes caused a churning in his gut, and he hated himself for being weak.

    “Supreme Leader?”

    Kylo jerked back to his senses and looked at the officer sitting across from him.

    “We’re here, sir,” the man announced.

    Kylo nodded silently and stood to exit the transport speeder. Governor Ritorro was right behind him, unsure of whether to walk beside him as he started to explain.

    “Supreme Leader,” he started, “this is our main processing facility for recruiting. The future of the First Order lies within these walls, my lord.” They approached a rather large nondescript building with an entrance surrounded by security forces from both Bonterra and the First Order. Across the street and behind fences was a crowd of Bonterran civilians, some of them crying and shouting things Kylo could not quite make out.

    He and his followers made their way up the steps to the building’s entrance where General Hux was waiting to greet them, having orchestrated this arrangement as part of his Stormtrooper program.

    “What are those people doing?” Kylo asked.

    Governor Ritorro hesitated before responding, “They are protesting, my lord. If you like, I will have my forces get rid of them. Unfortunately, they keep showing up day after day.”

    Kylo shook his head. “No matter. Show me why I’m here.”

    “Very well then,” Ritorro replied as he walked ahead to lead the way.

    Hux pulled up right behind Kylo. “I think you’ll like this, Supreme Leader. In a very short time, Bonterra has managed to create a highly efficient and productive system for adding to our forces.”

    They walked through a guarded lobby and down a long hallway with doors on each side. Once at the end of the corridor, they entered through a set of doors that swished open when the governor punched in a code. The scene on the other side took Kylo by surprise and he halted abruptly. It was one giant warehouse-like room, so massive he couldn’t even see the other side. It was sectioned off by more fences, creating many separate areas, and in each enclosure were...children. He looked all around. One section held some who were no more than ten or eleven, while others held those who were even younger. Behind every fence he could see and hear their cries of desperation, yelling out for their parents, fear showing in their frightened little faces.

    “Mom, I don’t want to go!”

    “Ben, sweetheart,” Leia said, bending down to look him in the eyes, “it’s going to be okay. Your Uncle Luke is going to take great care of you. You’ll get to train to be a real Jedi. You’ll like that, won’t you?”

    Tears rolled down his cheeks and his bottom lip quivered. “You can teach me to be a Jedi,” he insisted. “And I want to go fly with Dad and Chewie. Uncle Luke lives so far away. I won’t get to see you very much. Can’t I just stay? Please? I promise I’ll be good. I promise. Please, Mom? Please?”


    Kylo felt his throat tighten at the memory, again grateful for his mask to hide his roiling emotions he desperately tamped down. Seeing all these children had affected him very unexpectedly.

    “So the people outside protesting are the parents?” he finally asked, already knowing the answer.

    “Yes, Supreme Leader,” Governor Ritorro answered.

    Hux seemed to notice Kylo’s reticence about the scene before them. “How exactly did you think we got the children for our Stormtrooper program, Supreme Leader?” he questioned smugly. “Did you think that parents voluntarily donated their children to our service? Most of these primitive planetary locals hold their offspring in high esteem and don’t always understand what a privilege it is to serve in the glorious First Order.”

    Kylo thought of closing off Hux’s windpipe for just a moment to get him to shut up. The man was so enmeshed in his own self-worth that his distaste for everyone else oozed out of his every pore. Even his words dripped with loathing for anyone who wasn’t him. Given the chance, Kylo knew he would gladly stab him in the back without a moment’s hesitation. He really couldn’t stand Armitage Hux and looked forward to the day he would no longer need his services.

    Hux was apparently waiting for a response, staring back at Kylo’s masked face. Kylo rolled his eyes in disgust and started to reply and put this dog back in his place. “General Hux, your---”

    Kylo broke off in mid-sentence and looked away as if searching for something or someone. Hux glanced around to see what had caught Kylo’s attention, but saw nothing. He caught the eye of the governor and they both looked as if to say, “I don’t know either.” Kylo spun around in every direction before stopping and glancing off into space.

    “She’s here,” he whispered.

    “Excuse me, Supreme Leader?” Hux replied in confusion.

    Kylo snapped his head back around to look at Hux. “Finish up here. I’ll meet you back here later.” And with that, he spun on his heels and stalked off down the hallway, black cape flowing behind in his wake.

    Governor Ritorro looked confused. “Is he all right?” he asked Hux.

    Hux looked back at him. “That is the question.” As he turned and saw Kylo vanish out of sight down the corridor, he felt himself smile. The more Kylo Ren showed his instability to other people, the easier it would be when the time came to finally get rid of him.

    Hux couldn’t wait.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Rey stood as look-out while Poe, Finn and Rose discussed matters of importance with their new First Order contact--- FN7264. However, he preferred to be called Slim. Rey chuckled when he informed them of this as he was anything but. He was not even as tall as she was and was nothing but stocky, solid muscle from head to toe.

    He explained his name adoption with a grin. “Yeah, when word got around about what Finn here had done, some of me and my buddies decided to chuck our numbers and name ourselves. Call mine ‘wishful thinking’,” he said with a wink at Rey and Rose. The two smiled and then Rey returned to watch out the window of the abandoned building in which they were meeting. As they neared the city center, more and more First Order troopers could be seen patrolling the streets. She instinctively pulled her hood further onto her head even though she was well out of sight. In the distance she could just make out a large building that stood in contrast to the other smaller structures that seemed to line most of the streets. She also noticed a crowd of people clustered together near the same area and wondered what was going on.

    “So how many of you guys are there?” Poe asked, ready to take notes on his small datapad.

    Slim settled onto a nearby up-turned crate. “About fifty for now, but I think more will come on board once they know they’re not alone. After you see what they’re doing to the people on these planets…,” he drifted off. No one else knew quite what to say. “Let’s just say, it brings back some not so great memories for a lot of us.”

    Finn nodded in understanding, but offered no hollow words. As Rey was half-listening to their conversation and squinting to see more of what was happening down the street, a wave of despair washed over her and caused her to stumble back. She spun around to Slim. “What is that place?” she demanded. “That big building in the distance?”

    Slim looked down at his boots and then back up at her to answer. “That is the Recruitment Center.”

    Finn jerked his attention immediately to the window to see for himself, and then glanced back at Slim with unspoken understanding. However, Rey was not as well-versed on these ‘recruitment’ procedures as the others.

    “For Stormtroopers?” she asked softly. “Why do I get such a horrible feeling from it?”

    Most people in the Resistance already knew the details about General Hux’s grand Stormtrooper program and how it involved taking young children and forcing them to become part of the First Order whether their families agreed or not. But apparently Rey did not know all of the details.

    Finally Slim explained. “It’s where they take the kids to be...processed.”

    Finn offered more. “When the First Order takes over a planet, they take most of the children from their families to ensure their ‘loyalty’, and train them to be Stormtroopers-- just like what happened to me,” he clarified. Rose had sidled up close to Finn and slid her hand into his for support.

    “Me too,” Slim added softly.

    Rey felt her heart break and her anger swell as tears pooled in her eyes. “How many?” she asked. “How many kids are in that building right now?”

    Slim reluctantly replied, “A lot. Hundreds at least, maybe more. Every day more arrive from the outlying areas.”

    “And that’s why all those people are gathered down there, isn’t it?” she continued. “Because their children were ripped away from them?” Slim nodded.

    “What happens if the parents refuse or fight back?” Rose asked, already knowing the answer.

    “Rose,” Poe interjected, “I think we all know what the First Order does to anyone who gets in its way.”

    Rey was trying desperately to digest the knowledge that just a block away were children being taken away from families that wanted them...that Kylo would be okay with this whole cruel procedure after all he had been through. It didn’t make sense.

    “That’s awful!” Rose exclaimed, throwing Finn’s hand off. “We need to do something! Go help them get their kids back!”

    Finn grabbed her hand again to rein her in. “Rose, there’s nothing we can do about it. At least not right now. If we tried with just the few of us, we might make it worse for the people. I wouldn’t want them taking the brunt of the First Order’s retaliation because of something we do. But this is why we are here-- to get help from those on the inside, like Slim. Then we can really make a change.”

    “This is one of the main reasons so many of us are deciding we don’t want to be a part of the Order anymore. Seeing these kids crying for their moms and dads...knowing what kind of life lies ahead--,” he broke off and cleared his throat. “It’s just not right.”

    “One more reason to hate Kylo Ren,” Poe muttered with a snarl.

    Rey shot a glance at Poe and then quickly looked away to hide her confusion. She just couldn’t comprehend how Kylo-- no...Ben because that is how she would make herself think of him from now on--- how the man who had touched her hand so tenderly in the hut and pleaded with her to join him in the throne room could knowingly be part of this vile system. She had seen his memories...knew how he was sent away by his parents to Luke despite his wish to stay with Han and Leia. Why would he put countless other children through this same awful experience?

    Her emotions were in total disarray. Had his pain pushed him past the point of no return? Was the future she saw for him still in play? In truth, it had been several months since she last saw him on Crait after the First Order’s attempt to destroy the remains of the Resistance. But that last look he had given her was not one of hatred and anger. On the one hand, she still felt pity for him. But on the other, her anger with him for what he was allowing to happen inside that building was starting to grow.

    “Oh, Ben, what have you done?” she whispered to herself.

    Then she felt it. His presence...here… on this very planet. “I have to go,” she suddenly announced heading for the door.

    “What do you mean you have to go?” Rose demanded. “You can’t go out there by yourself!”

    “Rey,” Finn added, “there are too many First Order troopers out there right now. It’s too dangerous. And you can’t save all of those kids by yourself. We’ll come back with more help later.”

    She looked back at them and smiled reassuringly. “I’ll be fine,” she stated calmly. “I’ll meet you back at the ship at our scheduled time for take off. I just have something I need to take care of before we leave.”

    She secured her hood, checked her saber and blaster and opened the door. “Be careful,” Rose said, trying not to worry about her friend. Rey turned, nodded, and then left.
     
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  11. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
  12. val solo

    val solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2000
    Chapter 6--

    Rey started her journey towards the building in the distance. She was not sure what she would do once she got there, but felt herself drawn to it knowing somehow that he was there waiting for her. It would no doubt be safer to turn back and get off-world as soon as possible, but she had to see him face to face--- demand he explain the pain he was inflicting upon countless others through his quest for power and control. Maybe she needed to judge for herself whether he was completely beyond redemption. If so, she could stop thinking of him--- stop holding out hope and just get on with the business of defeating his horrible empire.

    As she walked, she noticed the downtrodden expressions on the faces of the few people brave enough to be out on the streets. They shrunk into the shadows whenever Stormtroopers passed by. If she felt any undue attention on herself, she quickly used the Force to deflect it away.

    The crowd was straight ahead. She could hear their shouts and pleas for their children. Her heart tightened with the feel of their despair. It was almost unbearable. Instead of plunging into the throng of bodies, she noticed a side street that was unoccupied and went off in that direction. Reaching out with the Force, she searched.

    And there he was.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Kylo felt her before he saw her. In fact, he had sensed her while back inside the Recruitment Center--- knew he had to see her though he wasn’t sure why. She should be the last person he wanted to see. Her rejection still stung too deeply. He had opened himself up to her...allowed himself to be vulnerable and let the tiniest bit of hope seap inside, only to be cruelly betrayed. Well, he would not make that mistake again. Maybe he would just kill her here and now to end this pain.

    But then she appeared at the end of the street and he froze. His saber was in his hand hanging at this side, but it wasn’t switched on. She had a hood on her head, so he couldn’t make out her face clearly yet, but he knew what she looked like well enough. Hers was a face he had seen way too often in his mind and dreams--- beauty and betrayal wrapped up in one tempting package.

    “Girls ain’t nothing but trouble, kid.” The words took him by surprise. Han had spoken them many years ago when Ben’s ten-year old self was upset that a girl in his class wouldn’t talk to him. He shook his head slightly to get rid of the unbidden memory. Now was not the time for sentimentality.

    When Rey drew close enough, she stopped and pulled her saber off of its clip. She did not turn it on, but had it ready if need be, not sure what to expect after all this time. They stood there staring at one another in silence until she finally spoke, feeling oddly emboldened.

    “You’re wearing your helmet again, I see,” she stated, catching him off guard. “Hiding...like a coward behind a mask.”

    Kylo flinched at her brazen taunt, but quickly regained his composure before calmly lifting his helmet off his head to reveal his distinctive face. His jaw was clenched tight as he stared at her without saying a word. What should he say? So many different possibilities sped through his mind matching the mixture of emotions he was trying desperately not to feel.

    “I should kill you where you stand,” he finally blurted out.

    Rey blinked and then scoffed at his bravado. “You could try,” she replied, pushing the hood back off her head.

    Kylo took a step forward and noticed she watched him carefully, probably debating whether to stand her ground or run. He studied her for a moment, trying to unnerve her as much as she had unnerved him. “Why are you here?” he said, taking another step.

    “I know what’s happening inside that building,” she declared, still managing to catch him off-guard. “Why those people are shouting and crying in the street.”

    There was that look in her eyes again. Always so passionate. He needed to focus. “What?” he spat out, knowing full well what she was referring to.

    “Children!” she replied angrily. “You’re taking children from their parents, forcing them to fight for your awful army. How could you?!” She was clearly struggling to control her emotions as was he. However, while she was obviously livid, he felt oddly...ashamed.

    Seeing all of those kids locked behind gates, crying, afraid, had affected him...more than he’d care to admit. Hux was the one in charge of this program. Kylo had never really paid much attention to it before and had certainly never taken the time to visit one in person. Honestly, he was not sure why he came this time. Could the Force have known she would be here? He shook it off.

    “It’s war,” answered curtly, trying to sound nonchalant. “We need soldiers. But why are you here? “ he asked again.

    She looked at him in disbelief. “I thought you could change. I thought you were changing when you killed Snoke. You could have stopped this war.”

    “You could have joined me and made it happen.”

    Rey’s eyes flashed away in uncertainty. For just a moment, she considered his words. Could she have stopped all of this by taking his hand there in that throne room? But then she looked back at his face and knew he was trying to deflect any blame from himself. She would not let that happen. Two could play this game.

    “Perhaps I would have taken your hand if it had been offered by Ben Solo and not Kylo Ren,” she replied, jutting her chin up in the air for emphasis. By the look on his face, her parry hit the mark.

    He huffed. “Ben Solo doesn’t exist anymore. He was weak and worthless.” It was the mantra he repeated over and over to make himself believe it. Snoke had told him the same thing for years--- broken him down only to remake him into Kylo Ren. For just a few brief moments with Rey, he had felt a tiny spark of light creep into his dark, lonely existence. But that was quickly snuffed out when she left him and he was again alone. It was better that way.

    “That’s not what Leia thinks,” Rey replied. Kylo was immediately blindsided by the mention of his mother, and could feel his lower lip trembling with emotion as he struggled to maintain his composure.

    “My mother sent me away,” he snarled, “when all I wanted was to stay with her.” As soon as the words left his lips, he regretted them. They revealed too much.

    There it was, Rey realized. That pain that he held onto so tightly. If he could just let it go. She took another step closer and continued. “And yet you’re doing the same to those children inside that building. Separating them forever from their parents. Ben,” she said softly, moving closer, “you don’t have to do this. You know it’s not right.”

    Her words were muddling his mind. He tried to call on the Dark Side to help him resist the lure of hope she offered, but ever since Snoke’s death, it was getting more difficult to do so. She took yet another step, placing her within arm’s reach. So close that he could touch her if he wanted. The sound of his saber igniting surprised even him and she reared back. He had apparently switched it on without intending to, but raised it between them. He could not let her get too close.

    “You had your chance,” he said, the red blade illuminating his stern face as he grasped it tightly for protection. Rey studied him closely, making him even more uncomfortable and defensive, so he went on. “Now you and the Resistance will be obliterated and the First Order will---”

    “You’re wrong,” she interrupted. He blinked twice. Every time he thought he’d gained the upper hand, she shot right back. “Hope is spreading. People are getting tired of your Order. They’re starting to fight back. It’s only a matter of time.” She paused and gauged his response before continuing her onslaught. “Ben,” she pleaded in a whisper, “it’s not too late. You could make all the difference. Your power...you could use it for good...to help people. Come with me,” she offered stretching out her hand.

    He looked in her eyes, down at her hand, and back to her face. “It’s too late,” he stated simply.

    At that moment, screams erupted behind her. They both turned to see what was happening and saw a crowd of people frantically running towards them. Blaster bolts could be heard and their flashes lit up the early evening sky. Something had caused the guards to start firing into the gathered mass. Rey took that as her cue to leave and spun to dive into the stream of frightened faces going in the opposite direction. Kylo tried to peer over the crowd and keep her in his sights, but it was too chaotic. Of course, he could have cut the passersby down with his saber to clear his path, but he knew he wouldn’t. And if he was even able to catch her, what then? What would he do? He could lie to himself and say he would strike her down, but after seeing her again, he knew he never would. Angry with his weakness for her, he pushed through the crowd and stormed back toward the Recruitment Center.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    High above the crowd, unseen by the Supreme Leader of the First Order, hovered a small, spherical spy droid. It was zeroed in on its intended target-- the tall, imposing form dressed all in black who crammed his helmet back on his head as he retreated through the fleeing mass.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Kylo re-entered the building ready to be done with this place, his mind still full of her and her traitorous words. He was making a concerted effort to stoke the embers of his anger. It usually made it easier to connect with the power of the Dark Side, but again he had no success. Stormtroopers guarding the doors quickly moved aside to let him pass without any obstacles in his way, sensing his dark mood. All of the First Order knew of Kylo Ren’s unbelievable powers and his equally unbelievable temper.

    As soon as he reached the doors to the holding area, he stopped. Memories of his own tearful departure from his mother and father came flooding back along with Rey’s words from moments before.

    “Ben, you don’t have to do this. You know it’s not right.”

    His jaw clenched tightly under his mask, and he took several deep breaths, trying one last time to call on the Dark Side. Snoke’s voice had always chimed in to influence his thoughts in situations where he was tempted by the light. But now, only his own thoughts were there. He was truly free to make his own decisions, no longer a slave to anyone--- except himself.

    He waved his hand and the doors swished open. Instantly he heard them-- the children still crying and whimpering. A quick survey of the large room and he saw their tear-stained, frightened faces. A sudden taste of bile surged up in his throat. He jerked his attention to the nearest Stormtrooper. “Who’s in charge here?” he demanded.

    The trooper was startled by Kylo’s sudden request. “That would be Lieutenant Meeko, sir. I mean, Supreme Leader, sir.”

    “Go get her...now.”

    The trooper scurried off, leaving Kylo alone with his thoughts once again. He was starting to get tired of his own company.
    ____________________________________
    “Mommy,” he said, holding up the empty box, “he’s gone.” Leia looked away from her datapad to find him sitting on the floor with the box they had been using to hold the Grimbor Han brought his son as a souvenir from his last mission. The Grimbor was a small, furry, four-legged creature Ben had named ‘Lil Chewie’. Leia squatted down to her son’s level.

    “Well, what happened to him, baby? Did he get loose?” she said starting to look around the room.

    Ben tugged on her sleeve. “No, Mommy. I let him go. He didn’t like being stuck in that box,” he had replied sincerely.


    Leia smiled and kissed his head. “My sweet boy,” she said lovingly.
    ______________________________________________________
    Kylo’s heart and throat tightened. Why had he thought of that now in the midst of all of this? Then he looked around and knew why.

    “Supreme Leader, sir,” the Lieutenant said as she approached. “You wanted to see me? How may I be of service?” The woman gave a quick bow of deference.

    The words were out of his mouth before he even realized it. “I want you to release these…’recruits’,” he stumbled over the word.

    “Excuse me, sir?” Lieutenant Meeko stuttered. “Release them? All of them? Sir, we’ve already processed this batch---”

    “Did I not make myself clear, Lieutenant?” Kylo exclaimed, willing himself to appear as menacing as possible.

    “No, sir, I mean, yes, sir. May I ask why?”

    “No,” Kylo answered curtly. “Just do it.”

    The woman still looked uncertain, but nodded and turned to relay the order to the other Stormtroopers. Kylo could tell the moment each of them received the strange order by the way their heads jerked to glance at him in astonishment. In moments, the first holding area was being unlocked. The children inside, Kylo guessed seven or eight-years old, were obviously scared when the troopers first started ushering them out. He heard one little girl ask, “Where are you taking us?’ her tiny voice quavering.

    “Nowhere,” the trooper replied. “We’re letting you go.”

    Word spread quickly and so did excitement and hope. He saw it on their faces as they began to pass him on their way out into the hallway. When the same little girl neared where Kylo stood, she whispered to the boy next to her, “That’s him. He made them let us go. They were going to keep us until he showed up.” The boy was not so sure.

    “I don’t know. I think he might be a bad guy,” he replied innocently.

    “No,” the girl said with certainty. “He just looks that way.”

    Kylo felt the edges of his mouth curve upward ever so slightly. Was he about to smile? He forced himself to frown and tamp down the light.

    “What is going on here?!” Hux declared as he stormed into the room, followed closely by a sputtering Governor Ritorro.

    “Why are these children leaving?! We just signed a deal! General, I demand that you--”

    Hux ignored him and stomped over to face Kylo, his face turning an interesting shade of red. “What are you doing?! Those are new recruits for my Stormtrooper program!” He turned to the nearest trooper and ordered, “Put them back! All of them!”

    The Stormtrooper paused and looked to Kylo for confirmation. Kylo shook his head, and the trooper turned to continue ushering the children away.

    “What?!!” Hux screamed at the trooper’s back. “How dare you disobey my order! I’ll see you pay for this, you worthless---”

    “General Hux,” Kylo broke in calmly. “I’ve decided we’ve no need of these recruits.”

    “You’ve decided?!” Hux sputtered. “You decided?!!!”

    “Yes, I did. We have plenty of troopers for now. Besides, you yourself keep telling me that the Resistance is dead and no threat to us. So then we have no need of extending our valuable resources for unnecessary additions.”

    Hux’s nostrils flared violently, and if looks could kill, Kylo knew he would be dead. “Supreme Leader,” he said through gritted teeth, “we have already made the deal with the Governor.”

    “Yes, yes,” Ritorro added worriedly. “If you return the children to their parents now, it will make it difficult for me to maintain control of the planet. They will likely rise up, feeling empowered by this reckless move.”

    Kylo glared down at the small man, causing him to shrink even further. “That’s your problem.” He turned his attention back to Hux. “We’re done here, “ he stated and spun to leave.

    “You can’t do this!” Hux yelled after him. “It’s a betrayal of the First Order and unaccepta---”

    He immediately stopped mid-sentence and flew across the distance to end up dangling inches above the floor being held aloft by Kylo Ren’s large hand around his throat.

    “I can do whatever I want, General Hux,” Kylo stated low and clear. “I’m the Supreme Leader.”

    Knowing he had made his point, he flung Hux into the wall and stormed off heading out of the building. A humiliated Hux gasped for air and felt his anger and hatred explode as more children passed by. He couldn’t stand to take Kylo Ren’s condescension and incompetence as a leader for much longer.

    Just then one of his personal officers arrived on the scene. “General,” the man said with a gleam in his eye. “I think you’re going to want to see this.” Hux glanced down at the man’s outstretched hand and the small droid it held. The two made eye contact and Hux’s mood began to change.

    “Show me.”
     
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  13. val solo

    val solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2000
    Chapter 7a--

    Rey made it back to the shuttle just as they were preparing to take off. Rose, Finn and Poe all looked relieved to see her run up the boarding ramp into the transport.

    “We were starting to wonder if we should send out a search party,” Finn announced jokingly when she was finally on board. However, his voice betrayed the real concern evident underneath. Rey loved that about him-- how much he cared about his friends.

    “For the record, I wasn’t worried at all,” Rose countered. “I know you can take care of yourself just fine,” she added with a smile at her friend.

    Rey smiled back and settled in as they lifted off and started the journey back to headquarters. She was trying to act as if nothing world-shattering had just happened...like facing Kylo Ren for the first time in months. Truth be told, she could hardly believe all the things she dared say to him face to face. From past experience, she knew his conflicted emotions could make him very unpredictable. However, for reasons she was not quite prepared to investigate further at this moment, she never truly felt in danger from him when they were together. The mention of Leia had caused a crack in his armored emotional facade, she recalled. It was obvious how he still fought against the pull of the Light, and his mother was a very vulnerable soft spot. When was the last time the two had interacted? She wondered. And how heartbreaking it must have been for both mother and son.

    An even bigger question though was why did Rey herself even care? Why was she so invested in his fate and whether he made amends with his only remaining family member? What hope was there for someone like him anyway? Was she just wasting her time? All this and more swirled through her mind as they flew on.

    “Never give up hope, no matter how dark things seem.”

    Rey snapped out of her introspection at the words from Rose. “What?” Rey said, surprised to hear her friend say something so on target with her unspoken thoughts.

    Rose sat down next to Rey on the bench. “My mom used to say that to Paige and me when times got hard on our home world because of the First Order. Then when we both joined up with the Resistance, we would say it all the time to keep us going.” She gazed off as if remembering a particular instance. “She said it to me right before she took off on her final bombing run. That was the last time I saw her.” Rose’s voice drifted off to silence.

    Rey grabbed her friend’s hand and then pulled her into an embrace. Having lived most of her life alone without much positive affection, she was finding a simple, heartfelt hug to be beneficial for both people involved. “I’m so sorry, Rose,” she offered comfortingly, feeling Rose’s arms go around her and squeeze tightly before letting go. “Strangely enough though, I needed to hear that.”

    Rose nodded and sniffed. “Glad I could help. So where did you run off to back there?”

    A series of beeps alerted them to an incoming transmission. Poe answered the call. It was Slim, their new First Order contact already. “That was quick. What do you got for us, buddy?” Poe asked, voicing the surprise they all felt considering they had left his company less than an hour before. Finn looked worried. Surely this was not a good sign.

    “Just thought you’d all like to know that all of the kids from the Recruitment Center have been returned to their families,” Slim announced. They could hear the smile in his voice.

    “What?!” Finn exclaimed, jumping out of the co-pilot seat. Rey and Rose looked at each other in disbelief.

    “How? What happened?” Poe questioned.

    “Well, one of my buddies who was assigned to duty in the holding area got the sudden order to just release them all,” he explained.

    “Just like that?” Finn added.

    “Just like that,” Slim verified. “And that’s not the craziest part. You’ll never guess who gave the order to do it.” He paused dramatically giving them the opportunity to ponder before revealing more. “Kylo Ren. The Supreme Leader himself!”

    “Kylo Ren?!” Finn, Rose, and Poe all exclaimed simultaneously.

    Rey simply whispered, “Ben.”

    A sudden realization dawned on Poe. “You mean Ren was on-planet at the same time we were?”

    “Yeah,” explained Slim, “it was a surprise visit. No one knew he was coming ahead of time. Word is he changed his plans at the last minute.”

    The four were looking incredulously at each other until Poe realized their precarious position. He turned to lookout the view port. “That means that Star Destroyer is his. We need to get out of here. I don’t want to take any chances.”

    “I agree,” said Finn sitting back down in the co-pilot’s seat. “I’ll punch in the hyperspace coordinates now. As soon as we’re past that ship, we’ll make our jump. Everybody get ready.”

    While the men hurriedly executed all necessary navigational duties, Rose was carefully watching Rey who was staring down at her lap as if in a trance. She didn’t seem quite as shocked as the rest of them that the First Order leader had been so near their own location.

    Finally Rey glanced up, but did not look at Rose. Instead, she was gazing out the viewport at the imposing Star Destroyer filling up their screen. “He let them go” she stated quietly. “I can’t believe it.”

    Rose got the feeling Rey wasn’t really talking to her. Over the past few months of getting to know Rey, she knew her friend often became quietly introspective, deeply enmeshed in thoughts that she kept to herself. Rose assumed it was because of Rey spending so many years alone with no one to really talk to. She was learning when to leave her alone and when to draw her out.

    “Hey,” Rose said, diverting Rey from her private thoughts. “You never answered my question before. Where did you run off to back on Bonterra? Did you have anything to do with those kids getting released? Some kind of Force action or something?”

    Rey looked over at Rose, finally realizing she was talking to her. “No. No Force action,” she answered with a small smile. “I didn’t even make it to the building, actually. There was a big crowd of people gathered down there,” she started to explain and then paused to look away again. “It got a little... out of control, so I turned around and came back.”

    Rose instinctively felt there was more to this story, but had the feeling Rey didn’t want to talk anymore about it for the time being. “What do you think made Kylo Ren change his mind and let those kids go?”

    Rey looked suddenly...guilty and Rose noticed her face blush red. “I--I don’t know.”

    Rose kept watching Rey and knew her instincts were right. “Well, whatever it was, I’m glad he did it. I hated leaving them all behind like that.”

    “Me too,” Rey responded.

    “You two ready to jump?” Poe yelled back over his shoulder. “Here we go!”

    Rey took one last look out the viewport at his ship, and then the blue streaks of a hyperspace jump flashed before them.
    _______________________________________________________

    The ride on the shuttle back to the Destroyer had been tensely quiet. Kylo knew Hux was still upset about his unexpected order to return all the child ‘recruits’ to their parents, but the man seemed also strangely cheerful. Kylo had caught Hux looking at him a couple of times with a weirdly devious smirk on his face. It was a little unsettling, he had to admit, but he had bigger issues on his mind--namely, why in the Force he had let all those kids go.

    He still wasn’t totally sure why he had done it. Seeing her again had affected him far more than he would have ever imagined it would. Her words clouded his mind...made it difficult to concentrate on the Dark Side and its need for power. And that is what he wanted...right? Power? Once he had dominated the rest of the galaxy he would surely be satisfied. Not happy, but satisfied. He had given up on happiness long ago. So why suddenly did the happiness of others matter to him? Seeing all of those children and their parents so distraught and knowing he could alleviate that sadness sparked something in him. The inexplicable urge to do something...good had overcome him.

    It was going to cause trouble.

    But somehow he didn’t care.

    Hearing that little girl talk about him like some kind of a hero...it made him start to want things that didn’t involve bigger ships and more destructive guns. What would it be like to be a ‘good guy’ like his father was? Like his mother was still? He shook his head and forced those foolish thoughts out of his mind. He was too far gone.

    He would never be a hero.

    __________________________________________________________________________________
     
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  14. val solo

    val solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2000
    7b--

    Rey tried to hide her excitement about the news during the rest of their flight. She barely paid attention to the conversation happening around her, offering limited responses only when absolutely necessary. It was almost certain rose had noticed her smiling once or twice. She couldn’t help it. Hope was bubbling up inside her, trying desperately to burst out as a yelp of triumph. She stamped it down. She shouldn’t get too ahead of herself. Just because he made this one move, did not necessarily mean he was returning to the Light. But it was still a good sign nonetheless.

    They went straight to Leia’s office when they arrived. It was all Rey could do to wait until the others finished briefing their leader so she could share her news privately.

    “So it sounds like a great start then,” Leia said when Poe finished his update. “We have some assets in place on the inside and they’ll be spreading the word. Good, good. Anything else?”

    “Yeah,” said Finn looking around at the others. “The First Order had a whole bunch of kids rounded up ready to take off to be trained.”

    Leia shook her head in disgust. “I can’t wait until we put a stop to that awful practice.”

    “That’s not all,” he continued cautiously, unsure how she would react. “They were all released...by Kylo Ren,” he finished with emphasis.

    Leia immediately looked at Rey who nodded in confirmation. As if to steady herself from the shock, Leia leaned back on her desk. “Well, that is very unexpected,” she said after a few moments to gather her thoughts. “You should all go get some dinner and some rest. You did a good job today. Poe, I’ll meet with you tomorrow morning first thing. While you were gone, I received some more information about another possible ally.”

    As Poe, Finn and Rose left, Rey hung back, dying to talk with Leia alone. Finally the doors swished shut and she turned to face Leia. “I saw him!” she declared quietly, while at the same exact time Leia said,”What in the Force happened?!”

    Rey grabbed her hands in excitement. “We were meeting with the contact and all of the sudden I... felt him. I just knew he was there.” Leia listened intently as Rey recapped her interaction with Ben. “Leia, when I mentioned your name, it...affected him,” she explained. “I could feel so much conflict and longing inside of him. Maybe if there was a way for you to talk to him, it would help him see it’s not too late.”

    The older woman’s soulful brown eyes betrayed her deep inner turmoil. “Rey, I just don’t know. It’s been so long and I’m--I’m afraid to hope for too much.” She stopped and hung her head.

    Rey didn’t quite know why it was so important to her, but she had to make Leia understand. “He let those children go after we talked. Something I said must have gotten to him to make him at least consider other choices. And hearing from you, his mother… I just think he needs you--needs to know you still care. He doesn’t have anyone,” Rey added, realizing how utterly sad she suddenly felt for hm. “No one.”

    Leia looked appreciatively at this girl in front of her. “You have a good heart, Rey. Ben is lucky to have you fighting for him. Let me think about it. I would need a way to get a private message to him without either side knowing. It wouldn’t do for either of us to put ourselves in jeopardy right now.” Leia squeezed Rey’s hands and then let go. “Go get some rest.” The she cupped Rey’s cheek in her hand and smiled.

    Rey smiled back and nodded. “Good night.”

    After she left, Leia was all alone with her thoughts and what a crowd it was! For once she shoved aside thoughts about her duties to the Resistance effort and focused on the maelstrom of emotions she was having about her son. Dare she hope? Could it be possible that he really might change? Rey stirred the embers of hope within her mother’s heart and she was equal parts scared witless and ready to jump for joy. To have Ben back would be…

    A tear trickled down her cheek. There was so much to be said. Rey was right. Leia should get a message to him, if only to make sure she said all she needed to say. It wouldn’t be easy, but it needed doing.

    She sat down at her desk and pulled up the holorecorder. Only one other time in her life had a recording been so important. This one to her son would be even more so. Taking a deep breath, she pressed record.

    “Hello, Ben.”

    ____________________________________________
     
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  15. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    *perches on edge of seat and taps foot impatiently, waiting for the commercials to be over*
     
  16. val solo

    val solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2000
    Chapter 8--

    Rey could not sleep. She tossed and turned in her small bunk, fluffed her pillow, kicked off her blanket and pulled it back on. None of it helped. Finally, she threw it off one last time and sat up, hanging her feet off the side of the bed. May as well wake up and start the day, she thought. She looked over at her roommate’s empty bunk. Rose was probably somewhere with Finn. The two spent a lot of time these days recording new holo-messages to send out, hoping to get more responses from Stormtroopers like Finn, who were ready to make a change. Bonterra had been their first reply, and it had energized and motivated the duo to exert even more time and energy towards the effort.

    After a quick trip to the refresher, Rey ran a brush through her hair, freeing it from the pulled-back style she typically wore when she was active. However, today she was not quite ready to go out amidst the others. Too many unsettled thoughts and unresolved emotions were whirling around in her head. She noticed one of the sacred Jedi texts she had last been studying lying on the small desk she and Rose shared. Swapping out her brush for the book, she returned to sit cross-legged on her unmade bed. All night had been filled with dreams of him, which was very likely the cause of her unrest. Maybe some studying and meditation would help get her back on track.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Kylo Ren was frustrated. The previous day’s events had played on repeat in his head all night long---- seeing the children, coming face-to-face with Rey, his insane, split-second decision to let all of those kids go.

    What was he thinking?!

    Rey’s accusations, the disappointed look in her eyes, her soft pleas...what was it about her that held him so captive? Sure, she was beautiful in a very natural way-- not overly made up like some women he had encountered over the years. In truth, he had chosen to avoid any romantic entanglements whatsoever. He saw it as an impediment to his training and quest for power. Snoke had always discouraged his attachment to anyone, telling him it was a weakness.

    But Snoke was gone. He was a liar, and Kylo was not the least bit sorry for his death. He was free from Snoke’s poison...free to do as he pleased. If he wanted an “attachment,” he could have one.

    He scoffed and shook his head. Who was he kidding? He had done too much wrong to deserve any kind of true companionship. Memories invaded his thoughts again, moments of his mother and father, unaware of being observed, flirting affectionately around their quarters.

    “Han!” Leia exclaimed, as her husband came up behind her. She was trying to put up her long hair before heading off to an important meeting. He slid his arms around her waist and lowered his head to begin nibbling delicately on her neck. “I’m trying to get ready, you nerfherder,” she protested weakly, but quickly surrendered and turned in his arms to kiss him back.

    “Ah, don’t try to resist me, Sweetheart,” he muttered, smiling in between kisses. “You know I’ll just wear down your defenses.”

    Leia chuckled with her husky but feminine laugh. “You’re still a nerfherder.”


    Kylo fisted his hands and clenched his jaw. Why did these memories keep popping up? Ever since Crait, and with increasing frequency, he would recall things he had not thought of in years. Seeing what his parents had and knowing it was something he never would, fed the Dark Side. He was agitated. He needed a work out.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    ‘Breathe in,’ Rey told herself, filling her lungs and holding it in. ‘And out,’ she thought, exhaling slowly. Her eyes were closed and she took several more deep breaths trying to pin down a thought to focus on, something to settle the chaos in her head.

    Immediately, Ben’s face sprang to mind, startling her. Her eyes popped open and she was shocked to realize she was not in her room anymore---or was she? She turned to look behind her and saw her room. But when she looked in front of her, she was in some kind of training room with black metal on the floors, walls, ceilings. Various equipment was placed around the edges of a central open area, and in the middle of the room was the man himself dressed all in black, of course. Only this time he wore no jacket or tunic, just a tank top. His saber was ignited, fending off pseudo-attacks from several different kinds of training droids. Some were the small spherical ones similar to ones she trained with sometimes. Others were larger, with multiple legs and arms. Regardless, all were attacking him with a barrage of fire. Rey watched in quiet awe. For such a large man, and was certainly large, he moved with unparalleled grace and fluidity as he fended off every single low-impact blast the droids could fire at him. He deflected some with his blade, others by merely holding up his hand to freeze the bold mid-air and then push it flying back to where it came from. Droid after droid dropped out of the melee, clearly no match for his level of skill in combat.

    Suddenly, he stopped and turned to look right at her.

    “You!” he said, taken aback. Immediately sensing his distraction, one of the remaining ball-shaped droids took a shot. The blast hit the bicep of his saber arm. He flinched in pain and surprise before using his other hand to Force-fling the offender into the far wall, smashing it into a hundred tiny pieces.

    She tensed. Her saber was on her desk, not at her side. Should she call it to her? Was she in danger? She remained still and tried to stay calm. It had been so long since their bond had last worked. Why now?

    “Power down,” he ordered, and all of the droids froze in place and clicked off-line. His saber was still lit as he turned and stared at her for a few silent seconds. Then he gazed around her. “You’re in your bedroom,” he said simply. “I can see all of your surroundings now. That’s different.”

    Rey suddenly realized she was in fact sitting on her own bed, and he was, for all intents and purposes, right there too. She jumped up quickly as he started walking towards her slowly. He powered down his saber, but did not put it down. She glanced back at her own weapon. He followed her gaze and realized what she was thinking. Glancing down at his own saber, he tossed it onto a nearby bench.

    “You won’t need that,” he said, nodding towards her desk and weapon. “I’ve had enough fighting for today.”

    She noted how tired he looked, darkness apparent under his eyes. A slight sheen of sweat coated his muscled arms and dampened the hair around his face. Rey assumed he must have been working out quite intensely to put the flush in his cheeks like that. He raked his hand back through his long, dark hair to push it out of his face.

    She moved to the foot of her bed, but did not get too close to him. For some reason, the temperature in the room was rising. Or maybe it was just her. She did feel rather warm.

    “So,” he broke into her thoughts, “We can do this again.” He was referring to their Force bond, the one allowing them to see and talk to each other across space.

    “You let them go,” she blurted out. He was surprised by her statement, but instantly recovered knowing exactly what she was talking about. “The children,” she continued, “you let them go.”

    He looked at her intently, studying her from head to toe. It made her feel slightly self-conscious. The heat was definitely not just coming from the room.

    “We didn’t need them,” he finally explained nonchalantly, turning around to grab a nearby water bottle for a long drink. It broke the spell. She snorted softly causing him to stop drinking and say, “What?”

    “You, that’s what. Face it. The Light is spreading in you, Ben. You keep trying to fight it, but it’s there inside you. It’s a part of you.”

    He paused, set his bottle down, and took a few more steps towards Rey. She stood her ground, even when he was almost close enough to touch. The sheer size of him was surely enough to intimidate anyone, but she did not feel intimidated the least little bit. No, what she was feeling did not make her want to run away. Quite the opposite, strangely. He stopped and stared down into her face, studying it carefully. Her heart began to pick up its pace.

    “Your hair is longer,” he muttered in that deep, resonant voice of his.

    Her hand went reflexively to the hair she had not bothered to put up today. It was now down well past her shoulders, requiring a little more prep time than it used to . With all that was going on with the Resistance, worrying about her hair had not even been a second thought. She looked up at him. The intensity of his deep brown eyes was slightly disconcerting. Seeing him this calm was new and unexpected. What was going on in that head of his? She glanced down and noticed the angry looking blaster burn on his arm. Without thinking, she reached up to touch his arm gently.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    His gaze followed her movements, but he willed himself to remain still. The last time he had been touched had been that night in the hut on Ahch-To. The feel of her fingertips on his arm was just as electrifying now as it was then. His breath hitched, but she didn’t seem to notice.

    “Hold on,” she said, walking away. “I’ve got something for that.” He watched as she disappeared into what had to be the refresher only to see her appear again carrying something in her hand. “Here we go. A bacta patch.”

    She neared him again, and all he could do was watch while she gently applied it to his arm. She furrowed her brow and bit her bottom lip in concentration trying to work carefully. Was she trying not to hurt him? This whole encounter was so surreal.

    “There,” she finally declared, dropping her hands and looking back up at him with a small smile. “That should help.”

    Didn’t she realize he had the most advanced medical tech available right here on his ship? He could tell her, but she seemed so pleased to help him.

    “Thank you,” he said softly, two words he had not spoken in ages. No one had done anything like this for him in years. It felt... strange to be the recipient of something so simple, yet so sincere. Gazing down into her face, he noticed she must be at least a head shorter than him. He felt an overwhelming urge to touch her. She wasn’t looking away, but instead boldly held his gaze almost daring him to do something. So he did.

    He reached up and used two fingers to softly push a strand of hair away from her face. He heard her quick intake of breath and felt his heart rate speed up.

    “Ben,” she whispered breathlessly. Her eyes dropped to his lips and back up to his eyes, so he did the same. Without realizing what he was doing, he moved so close to her that they were mere inches apart. Her hand came up to rest on his chest. Again, her touch was electric. His head lowered, moving in towards hers. Her eyes fluttered shut. She wanted this as much as he did. He closed his eyes and went in with great purpose.
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    “Rey! Wait until you hear this!”

    Rey’s eyes snapped open and she saw Ben, as if in a dream, dissolve into mist. One second he was there, real and solid, and the next, just...gone. She was standing with her palm up as if it was still resting on his chest. Suddenly coming through the very place he had been standing was a very excited Rose Tico whose arrival must have broken her connection with Ben. Her heart sank. She was disappointed and confused by her own feelings.

    Rose didn’t seem to even notice Rey’s turmoil. She was already announcing the reason for her enthusiasm. “We’ve already heard from four other Stormtrooper cells today! Can you believe it? It seems Slim and his buddies are making good on their promise to spread the word. He told us that once more of them realized they weren’t alone, they’d be more likely to make contact with us.”

    “That’s--that’s great!” Rey said, finally snapping out of her weird haze. What had she been thinking?! Was she really going to kiss the Supreme Leader of the First Order?--the very enemy she was fighting against? He clouded her mind whenever he was near. Was it some kind of Dark Side trick? Was it just manipulation?

    No, she needed to be honest with herself. She was, for whatever reason, drawn to him, connected by the Force in an undeniable bond. But to what end?
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “What the devil is he doing?!” General Hux asked aloud.

    He was reviewing more of the secret footage he had been recording over the past several months in which the ‘star’ was none other than Kylo Ren the usurper. Oh, how he detested that fool! For the longest time, none of the footage showed anything of interest. But then came the trip to Bonterra. They spy droid had followed Ren into an alley where he met up with the scavenger girl--- the one Ren tried to say killed Snoke and his guards all on her own. Hux knew that had to be a lie, but was still waiting for proof. The two talked for a few minutes, and then she ran away without Ren doing anything to stop her. Even more suspicious was Ren’s order to release the children that had been rounded up for Hux’s own Stormtrooper program. He sneered in disgust and anger. Was Ren working with this girl? What other explanation was there?

    And now this. He started the recording over again. Ren was in his training room practicing with his droids as he often did. Then suddenly he stopped and turned, clearly mouthing the word, “You.” However, there was no one else in the room. He then proceeded to have an entire interaction with… no one. Was he losing his mind? Hux snorted in amusement. Ren was an odd one, there was no doubt about that. But this was taking it to a whole new level. Hux was grateful, though, for yet another piece of irrefutable evidence he could level against this impostor. Seeing Kylo Ren’s end was his sole focus now. It was time to move to the next stage of his plan.
     
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  17. val solo

    val solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2000
    Chapter 9--

    Kylo Ren stormed back to his quarters angrily, the guards outside his door barely restraining an obvious flinch at the fury in his stride. When he entered, he immediately headed for the refresher, arguing with himself in his head the whole time about what had just transpired in the training room.

    What the Force had just happened?! He jerked off his shirt and shoes and tossed them on the floor. There he was, practicing, working out some of his stress, when the very cause of said stress magically appeared right in front of him.

    ‘So, we’re doing that again,” he muttered to himself as he yanked off his pants and stepped into the shower. He smashed the button and hot water sprayed down in a flood on his head. Maybe, he thought, the water would wash away thoughts of her. So he stood there still as a statue and tried to clear his mind.

    It didn’t work.

    Even with his eyes closed, he could see her face as if she was right there. The way she had looked at him-- he felt the undeniable pull between them. Back at their first encounter, he told himself he was only interested in her Force abilities-- in training her. He thought he could convince her to join him. They would be unstoppable. But when she had shown actual concern and compassion for him, it became something else. He saw her in a whole new light, which is why it stung so deeply when she had refused him on Snoke’s ship.

    He pressed his hand and head against the shower wall and braced for the flood of anger at the memory. It had swallowed him whole for a time. However, now the dark emotions did not hit as hard. He was surprised to realize it was more disappointment and regret now. He found he couldn’t be mad at her for doing what she felt she had to do. She would never leave her friends helpless to die. And honestly, he had to admit, he wouldn’t have thought much of her if she had. What he offered her was obviously not what she wanted.

    He raised his head and pounded the ‘off’ button. Grabbing a towel, he dried off and wrapped it around his waist. Looking up into the mirror, his mind continued to race.

    Today, however, was different. She had ‘wanted.’ He felt it. It was palpable, this thing between them. Maybe Snoke had opened their connection, but he was gone and it was only getting stronger. Now even her surroundings were visible. That was new. The image of her simple bed and room popped into his mind, cozy with personal touches lying around. He walked out of the refresher and surveyed his own quarters. It was cold, impersonal, nondescript. The bed frame was black. The bedding was...black. Floor and walls...Yeah, he was sensing a theme here.

    Another memory flashed in his mind--- his childhood home filled with holopics his mother had on display showcasing their family and some of her favorite planets. There was a picture of his father and her at some formal diplomatic event. Kylo remembered the suit Han would wear to those functions and how he always complained about the neck being too tight. Another was a landscape of Alderaan she happened upon during an undercover mission, and of course the one she called her ‘favorite.’ It was him at about two years old sitting on Han’s lap in the Falcon’s cockpit, both of them smiling and happy. He especially remembered that one because his mother always looked at it with love in her eyes and said, “My heart.”

    He shook his head and felt his own heart tighten a little. His parents… his bottom lip quivered ever so slightly, and he forced himself to stop thinking about them. “Just block it out,” he commanded himself. It did no good to think of such things. His mother was fighting on the opposing side in this war, and his father was…

    “You can’t go back, my boy. You can’t ever go back.” Snoke’s frequent reminder popped unbidden into his mind. “You’ve committed to the Dark Side. Your parents---the revered Leia Organa and the galactic hero Han Solo-- could never accept you after all you’ve done. You know it to be true. And you’ve no need of them or anyone else who is weak and follows the Light Side. No, true power comes from severing your worthless attachments. Darth Vader knew the truth of this. It is how he achieved such greatness, and now, so will you.”

    For years, those words worked to drive out that yearning for what had been, to tamp down that little flicker of light that flared up from time to time. But now, Kylo knew the truth of Snoke. He was a liar--- a deceiver who had poisoned his impressionable young mind and used him to further his own ambitions. No longer was Kylo under his spell. No longer did he answer to anyone. He was in charge--- of himself and the entire First Order.

    He sighed and put on a fresh pair of pants and a clean, black tunic. As he slipped his arms through the sleeves, something caught his attention out of the corner of his eye. He stepped slowly over to the display case he’d had specially made. Pushing a small button, the case hissed open revealing one of his prized possessions--the ruined mask of Darth Vader. Kylo stared down at the distorted remains that had once brought him an odd kind of calm. In the past, whenever he had felt the traitorous pull to the Light, he would pause to talk to his grandfather”s mask, often even hearing his voice. Although it had not happened since Snoke”s death, maybe it would work this time. He reached down to pick it up.

    “You do know that it wasn’t really my father’s voice you were hearing, right?”

    Kylo whirled around to see Luke Skywalker’s Force ghost sitting casually on the edge of his bed. His nostrils flared in exasperation. Why now? His muddled emotions needed straightening out, not the frustration Luke would surely bring to this encounter.

    “What do you want?” he said through gritted teeth, setting the mask back gently into its resting place.

    “What do I want?” Luke questioned. “Question should be, what do you want?” He stood up and turned around with his arms out to his sides. “You’ve got all of this,” he stated, surveying Kylo’s cold, impersonal room, “but you don’t know if you really want it. The power only satisfies for a time, especially when there’s no one to share it with.”

    Kylo snarled. “I don’t need anyone to share it with.”

    Luke laughed and shook his head, irritating his nephew even more. “It’s time to grow up and stop lying to yourself, Ben. We all need someone to share life with, be it family or friends. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

    “The point is, I have sole control of the greatest army this galaxy has ever seen.” Even as the words left his mouth, he regretted how desperate he sounded, trying to prove to Luke that he was impervious to needing anyone else.

    “True,” Luke admitted. “You do have lots of people who fear you and your power. But do they respect you? Do they care about you?--- the real you?--- Ben Solo?”

    Kylo stared defiantly at the face of his uncle, teacher and betrayer. “Why do people keep insisting Ben Solo still exists?” he spat angrily. “He is gone--- for good,” he insisted.

    Luke approached him, looking up into Kylo’s tortured face. “No, he’s not.” he stated simply with a tiny smile. “There are still people who care about you, and you know it.” He walked over to the mask of his father and gazed down upon it. “You seem to conveniently forget the end of my father’s story. Anakin Skywalker died returning to the truth of the Light Side because of his love for others.” He glanced up at his nephew. “Despite what you think, it’s not too late, Ben.”

    Luke smiled a smile that said so much and then disappeared leaving Kylo, once again, alone with his thoughts.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “Greetings, my brothers and sisters. My name is Finn, but I was formerly known only as Stormtrooper FN2187. Like all of you, I was taken from my family at a young age and forced to become a soldier-- blindly following the First Order’s commands with no choice in my future-- a disposable pawn to be used in the leaders’ quest for total domination of the galaxy. For too long we have followed orders, often hurting and even killing innocent people who just want to live their lives in peace. We are expected to carry out atrocities without conscience or question. They don’t believe we can think for ourselves. They don’t want us to think for ourselves because, when we do, we realize that what we are doing is wrong. Instead of being agents of peace, we are messengers of misery.

    “But we don’t have to be. We can be so much more. I urge you to consider what I’ve said--- examine your own conscience--- think about your future and that of the galaxy. If you want to make a change and make a difference, then join us. Help the Resistance bring back peace, freedom and hope to people everywhere. May the Force be with you.”



    The holomessage ended, and the image of Finn disappeared. The small group of Stormtroopers gathered secretly in a quiet, unused utility closet on a lower deck of the Star Destroyer, silently looked around at each other contemplating the covert message. Finally, one of them, a short, stocky man everyone jokingly called Slim, spoke up.

    “So, what do you think?” he asked the others.

    Ever since being reassigned from Bonterra to this ship, he had been scouting out possible additions to the growing group of Stormtroopers willing and wanting to join the Resistance. He was keeping in touch with his contacts and focusing on spreading the word without drawing attention to himself. It was a risky venture, considering the ship he was now stationed on was none other than the command ship of the Supreme Leader. But he was in this until the end. It was the right thing to do.

    And there were other hopeful signs. It started that day on Bonterra, when word spread that Kylo Ren-- the Supreme Leader himself--- set hundreds of children destined for Stormtrooper life free. His buddy who witnessed it, told the story with a note of awe. Slim loved the description of how Kylo Ren had shut down any questions and opposition, including General Armitage Hux, by Force flinging him into a nearby wall. Oh, how he wished he could have seen that! Not many troopers he knew cared much for Hux, the person behind the child recruitment program-- the one who ripped so many from their loving families. Apart from a small group of officers and select troopers, not many held any loyalty to the arrogant general.

    Then there was the time mere days ago when Kylo Ren had made a surprise visit to their barracks. It was the first time any of them could remember the leader ever venturing down to the lower decks. He had always been so aloof and austere--- no one would dare even try to approach him or attempt to engage him in a conversation. They all knew about his dark Force abilities, and some had witnessed him in action. By now most people knew better than to cross the grandson of the infamous Darth Vader.

    However, could it be possible that Kylo Ren wasn’t exactly what they thought he was?

    Slim looked back up at the other Stormtroopers gathered around him, the question hanging in the air between them. Would they continue on as they had been, wreaking havoc across the galaxy in the name of the First Order?-- or risk it all to join the Resistance?

    “I’m in,” said a young woman he knew as trooper SN3129. She had the blondest hair he had ever seen, so he had dubbed her ‘Sunny.’ He smiled and nodded gratefully. Once she bravely spoke up, the others quickly followed suit.

    Hope was quickly spreading.
     
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  18. val solo

    val solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2000
    Chapter 10--

    “That’s one more for the books!” Rose exclaimed as Chewbacca growled his satisfied agreement. He deftly piloted the Millennium Falcon as it lifted off from the group’s latest secret recruitment meeting. Rey turned in the pilot’s seat to look at Rose and Finn who were standing in the entryway of the cockpit wearing smiles from ear to ear. She noticed Finn had his hand resting on Rose’s lower back and she was leaning into his side comfortably. The pair had become closer than ever since Finn’s Stormtrooper plan had begun. Rey was happy for her friends, glad they had one another.

    She returned her focus to the controls and punched in the hyperspace coordinates that would take them back to headquarters. Two weeks had passed since her Force bond encounter with Kylo...Ben, she corrected herself. She kept trying to think of him as Ben Solo because she sensed the Light in him growing stronger. The Force was still working on him, so Rey refused to give up on the possibility that he might still turn away from the Dark Side.

    And that last meeting--- she felt her cheeks heat up at the memory of it. Watching him move so skillfully--- having him so close--- actually touching him. She should have been afraid of him, but she wasn’t. Not at all. At least, not afraid that he would hurt her. However, the way he peered so deeply into her eyes, her soul, had unsettled her. There was no denying she was inexplicably drawn to him. If Rose hadn’t shown up when she did, what might have happened between them? She should be relieved, yet instead, she was oddly disappointed.

    “That’s the third meeting in less than two weeks!” Finn declared excitedly. “I knew there had to be more troopers out there like me, but I never dreamed there were so many or that they’d make contact so fast!”

    “It was a great idea, Finn,” Rose affirmed. “I’ll bet there will be even more contacts waiting for us by the time we get back. Leia won’t know what to do with all of them!”

    Finn’s messages were, in fact, spreading faster than they had anticipated. Even the skeptical Poe Dameron was amazed at the response they had received so far from troopers ready to defect after awakening to the truth of the First Order. For now, Leia was instructing them to be patient, spread the message, and be ready to act when the time was right. Hope was really taking hold of the Resistance, increasing their ranks on an almost daily basis.

    “I’m going back to the main hold to type up my report while it’s still fresh in my mind,” Finn announced. “Want to join me?” he asked Rose. She readily consented and soon Rey and Chewie were alone.

    Chewie turned to look at Rey. “Are you ok?” he asked in his Wookie language. “You seem distracted.”

    She glanced up at him in the seat next to her. Some people underestimated Chewie’s intelligence and intuitiveness because of his size or quietness. However, Rey had been around him long enough to know that his still waters ran deep. She saw first hand his loyalty and love for Han, Leia and Luke--- had even experienced a little of that aimed towards herself. Chewbacca had been alive longer than any of them, had experienced a lot of horrible things, and yet still managed to remain a positive spirit. He saw what lots of others were too busy to notice. Lying to him would be pointless.

    “I just… have a lot on my mind lately,” she answered. She glanced around the cockpit to make sure they were truly alone. After a deep breath and a moment to contemplate her next words, she asked,” Can I ask you a question, Chewie?”

    He growled a short, “Of course.”

    Finally, she began. “Back on Starkiller Base, when Kylo Ren...Ben...when he...killed Han,” she winced even as she said the words, “why didn’t you shoot to kill him? I’ve seen your bowcaster in action, and I know what an excellent shot you are. You could have easily killed him. But you didn’t. Why?”

    Chewie was silent for a few moments. Rey feared her question had ripped open a soul-deep wound, but then he sighed heavily and started to answer.

    “I owed Han my life,” he began. “Years ago, he saved me, so I vowed to protect him and his with my life.” He paused again as if recalling a precious memory. “They were my family. When Ben was born, Han was so happy, but also afraid he would not be a good father since he had none himself. And the uncertainty of the galaxy sat heavy on Han and Leia’s minds. I promised I would always protect Ben, and I meant it.

    “Snoke preyed on Ben and pulled him away from his family. It broke Han and Leia’s hearts. On Starkiller Base, seeing him on that bridge with Han… I made a split second decision. It was too late to save Han’s life,” he admitted softly, “but I just couldn’t bring myself to take Ben’s.”

    Rey reached over and laid her hand on his large, furry one. “You had hope.” He nodded his head. “I do too,” she added softly.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

    Rey was last to exit the Falcon after they docked back at headquarters. Poe and Leia were waiting in the hangar when they landed, anxious to hear about their latest recruits. Finn, still grinning about the success of his bold idea, couldn’t wait to tell Poe all about this mission. Rose was right by his side, filling in the missing parts of Finn’s recounting.

    Leia stood quietly to the side. Rey noticed she was using her cane again, leaning heavily on it to brace herself as she stood. That was becoming more common for their fearless leader. Fatigue was beginning to show on her face and in her body, yet Rey knew she would never stop fighting as long as she held breath. The two women made eye contact, and Rey understood Leia wanted to talk to her privately. She offered a tiny nod of acknowledgement and started toward Leia.

    Poe was listening intently as he, Finn, and Rose exited the hangar headed to the Resistance command center. They didn’t even notice Rey and Leia were not following them. In fact, the two took off in the opposite direction toward Leia’s private quarters.

    “So, it must have been a good trip,” Leia said with amusement.

    “Yes, it was. It’s almost unbelievable how Finn’s plan is working,” Rey said with a grin.

    Leia stopped and looked up at her. “People everywhere want peace and freedom. Unfortunately, too many allow fear to hold them back from getting it. But give them a little hope, and miracles can happen.” Then she started walking again.

    Rey was continually surprised by the many facets of Leia Organa Solo and how well she understood people. Her wisdom and compassion were such an example. They arrived at Leia’s door and went inside. Rey took the seat and drink she was offered and waited for Leia to share what was on her mind. While the General went to retrieve something from her bedroom, Rey casually looked around.

    Her gaze came to rest on a new addition to Leia’s desk. It was a holopic. Out of curiosity, she went over to get a closer look. What she saw brought an instant smile to her face. It was a picture of Han, Leia and a very young Ben, maybe at four or five years old. He was sitting in between his parents and all three were smiling happily. She grinned at Ben’s somewhat oversized ears sticking out from his head, recalling seeing glimpses of them peeking out from his now much longer hair. A sudden bittersweet wave washed over her thinking about the present reality of the Solo family. Ben looked so sweet and innocent in the picture. Now, knowing some of what he had endured over the years since, she wondered again if he could truly come back to the Light. She shook off the flash of doubt. She would not give up on him. That little boy in the picture deserved to have someone fight for him.

    Leia re-entered the room and stepped up next to Rey. “I almost forgot I even had that picture tucked away,” she admitted with a wistful gaze. “Those were happier times. I only wish I had realized how special that time with them truly was.” She glanced up at Rey. “But I guess every parent feels that way at some point. I took your advice.” She held up her hand for Rey to see what she was holding. It was a small hand-held holodisk.

    “For Ben?” she asked. Leia nodded.

    “You were right, Rey. This is long overdue. I shouldn’t have avoided it for all this time. I just need a way to get it to him. I definitely can’t go through regular channels. There is no telling how others in the Resistance would react if they knew their leader was in personal contact with the leader of their enemies.”

    “I can do it,” Rey volunteered immediately without reservation.

    Leia seemed taken aback by her instant offer. “Rey, I couldn’t ask you to risk your life to go deliver this for me. It’s too dangerous. How would you even do it?”

    “Trust me. I can do it, and I won’t be in danger.” Rey reached out and touched Leia’s arm. “Ben needs to see it. He needs to know you still care.”

    Leia studied her face carefully. “You’ve seen him again, haven’t you?”

    Rey felt her cheeks heat up again. Leia was too perceptive, and she knew she could not hide anything from her. She nodded.

    “Your Force connection?” Leia continued. Another nod came from Rey. “How is he?” Leia asked, a hint of desperation in her voice.

    The young Jedi considered how to respond and finally settled on, “Confusing,” with a little shrug of her shoulders.

    Leia chuckled. “He is his father’s son, that’s for sure,” she replied.

    Rey tried to clarify. “I just mean, he seemed… different… not as angry and ready to fight. Leia, I think the Light is truly working on him. It’s not letting him go without a fight, and neither can we. It can’t be for nothing that he let all of those children go. That has to be a good sign, don’t you think?”

    Gazing up into Rey’s ever-hopeful face, Leia was amazed at her unflagging positivity when it came to Ben. She reached up to touch Rey’s cheek. “What I think is that the Force sent you into our lives for a very important reason. Not just anyone could or would bother to think of Ben -- after all he’s done-- as a lonely soul who just needs someone to show him some hope. Most would even say he doesn’t deserve it. And maybe he doesn’t. But I can’t stop hoping my son will turn back.” She dropped her hand to her side and looked away sadly. “I haven’t seen hm in so long,” she whispered, her eyes welling up with unshed tears. “Just to hold him in my arms one more time and feel him squeeze me too hard trying to make me laugh…” She sighed and turned back to Rey.

    The younger woman grabbed her hand. “I promise I will do everything I can to help him, Leia,” she pledged.

    “I know,” Leia said with a smile. She placed the holodisk in Rey’s hand and curled her fingers securely around it, sealing it with a gentle pat.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Kylo Ren studied the people sitting at the table in front of him. It was time for their daily briefing when various officers, who he was certain would happily kill him if given half a chance, tried to out-do one another by spouting off about the effectiveness of their respective departments. Just now Lieutenant Lahvas was droning on and on about her recent manufacturing breakthrough that was helping crank out new blasters faster than ever. Her high, nasally voice grated on his nerves. For a split second he thought about silencing her with a quick, silent Force choke. But it passed just as quickly. He wouldn’t do that. Not now anyway. Instead he continued trying to maintain an appearance of sincere interest. However, that was no good because his mind started quickly wandering away from the meeting.

    Lately he was feeling a little… unusual… not like himself… at least, not the person he had been for the last several years. Less and less of his time was spent feeling angry and ready to bash something or someone to pieces. He even found himself doing strange things, like venturing down to the lower decks to the Stormtrooper barracks--- just to look around. Never before had he even had the thought to care about the troopers. They had been almost as surprised to see him there as he was to be there. He sensed their instant fear that his arrival was a portent of something bad to come. They offered the expected deference to their Supreme Leader, however, it was out of fear and not respect. As he inspected the simple austerity of their surroundings, he couldn’t help but notice the atmosphere of camaraderie and brotherhood that permeated the entire place. Although most of them had been taken from their families years ago, they had managed to forge a new one here with each other.

    From a distance he witnessed them smiling, joking, patting each other on the back, punching each other playfully in the arm. How long had it been since he had that kind of companionship? Back at the Temple with Luke’s other students? It certainly had not happened since leaving that place and joining up with Snoke and the First Order. The Knights of Ren were not exactly “buddy” material, more like partners in crime. And Snoke had kept him separated from almost everyone else. He realized now that his isolation had been necessary for Snoke to maintain control over him. He felt foolish for being so oblivious for so long.

    “Is that satisfactory, Supreme Leader, sir?”

    He realized suddenly that the Lieutenant had concluded her rambling report and was asking for his approval. Straightening up in his seat, he nodded once and hoped he had not missed too much of what she had said. “Thank you, Lieutenant,” he added awkwardly.

    Their surprised faces all turned to stare at him, and he realized too late that it was likely because he never thanked any of them...ever.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    From his seat, General Hux quietly observed Kylo Ren at the head of the table. It was becoming a bit of an obsession, this watching the Supreme Leader. After seeing the video of Ren’s bizarre behavior in the training room, Hux had determined to use all of the agents and tech he could to spy on his nemesis. While nothing too outrageous had happened yet, he felt certain something was “off” with their leader. Word reached him just days before that Ren had gone down to the barrack levels and roamed around inspecting the troopers’ quarters, mess halls, and lounges. He was shocked Ren even knew where the lower decks were. The man was practically a recluse, if that was even possible on a ship of thousands.

    Kylo Ren seemed totally disinterested in this entire meeting. Hux could read him enough to notice the moment the man mentally checked out. What was he up to? What had him so preoccupied? He did not know for sure, but he felt certain it had something to do with that scavenger girl. Perhaps if he waited long enough, his patience would be repaid with evidence so damning and treasonous, that getting rid of Ren would be a cinch.

    He smiled and went back to watching.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Kylo tried to ignore the silent confusion on the faces of his underlings. Best to plunge ahead. “Who’s next?” he asked, using his best deep, booming, authoritative voice. That seemed to snap them all out of it.

    “That--that would be me, Supreme Leader,” Commander Nyna stuttered. The man began nervously shuffling through a stack of papers in front of him.

    Kylo fought the urge to roll his eyes. “Any time now, Commander,” he said with a hint of irritation. The man finally found what he was looking for and started his report. Kylo made a concerted effort to focus on what Nyna was saying, but again, his mind began to drift.

    Did Nyna like his job? He wondered. What was his first name? Did he have a family? Was this really what he hoped to spend the rest of his life doing?--- counting up pain reliever doses and bacta patches? Kylo realized he did not know much about any of the people sitting in front of him even after years of working with them. His mother would be ashamed. She had always made a point to learn as much as she could about the people around her. It is what made her such an effective and well-loved leader.

    Where had that thought come from? Lately, past memories of his family were popping up at random times, often catching him off-guard. He typically tried to not think of his family. It was too painful. But, he had to admit, the sting was lessening as their frequency increased.

    ‘Pay attention!’ he scolded himself, concentrating once again on the man speaking. Just then, a peculiar charge in the air made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He scanned the room with his eyes as inconspicuous as he could, and suddenly, there she was--- standing at the other end of the table behind some other person he couldn’t name. Rey was right there.

    He stood up abruptly causing his chair to go rolling backwards. “Get out,” he said, not taking his eyes off her for fear she would disappear. Everyone else at the table looked befuddled and unsure whom he was talking to. They looked at each other for clarification, but all were confused.

    “I said get out! All of you! NOW!” he commanded. This time it was perfectly clear. Several of them nearly tripped over their own feet in an effort to exit expediently and not draw any of Kylo’s legendary temper onto them.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~``
    Hux watched with pure delight. His gaze followed where Ren was staring at the opposite end of the large rectangular table. Nothing was there. Was the man hallucinating? He suppressed a grin as he moved toward the door. Ren showing signs of losing it in front of all of these officers was an unexpected gift. He couldn’t have planned it better himself. Somehow he managed to hold back the huge, triumphant grin until he was completely out of the room.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The doors shut and they were finally alone. Kylo cautiously started around the table toward her. With a wave of his hand, he used the Force to push the lock button without breaking eye contact. She started slowly walking toward him until they both met in the middle. He stared down at her, not saying a word, but wanting desperately to touch her and make sure she was really there. Ever since their last meeting, he had been unable to purge her from his thoughts.

    She stared back up at him with a tiny smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. “I think you scared them,” she said. He nearly smiled, but remained silent. She continued. “I’m glad to see you don’t have on that awful mask.”

    He flinched. Was she… teasing him? “You don’t like my mask?” he replied, taking one more step closer to her. The air was practically crackling with their energy. Her eyes turned up at the edges in another little grin.

    “Not really. It hides your--,” she suddenly stopped and looked away, her cheeks reddening. Was she blushing? For some reason he liked the idea that he could do that to her.

    “Hides my what?” he questioned softly, recapturing her gaze, forcing himself not to reach out and touch her beautiful face.

    Her breath hitched revealing she was as affected as he was. This time she stared boldly back at him and answered, “It hides your eyes. You have nice eyes.”

    He blinked. She liked his eyes? No one had ever told him that.

    “I have something for you,” she quickly changed the subject and searched for something in her bag. As she did so, he studied the soft curve of her cheek, the graceful slope of her neck, the one errant curl trying to escape her pulled-back style. “Here it is,” she announced looking back up at him in satisfaction, completely oblivious to the storm of emotions she was awakening in him. “Hold out your hand.”

    He hesitated, surprised by this whole encounter. “Come on,” she declared, “give me your hand.” Before he knew it, she grabbed his gloved left hand and held it palm up, placing a small holodisk there. “It’s a message… from your mother.”

    Stunned silence was his only response. Rey kept talking. “Ben,” she started. Why did it affect him so much when she said that name? “Ben, she cares about you so much.” She paused briefly before adding softly, “and so do I.”

    What was happening? His mind couldn’t seem to make sense of all she was saying. His mother sent a message? Rey cared about him?

    She laid her two small hands over his one. “I know the Light is calling you back. It’s not giving up on you. Neither am I and neither is Leia. Watch the message.”

    Before he could even respond, Rey raised up on her tiptoes and placed a quick kiss on his cheek. And then she was gone.
     
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  19. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    I can just imagine what's going on in Ben's head right now as he's trying to process this:

    "Rey likes my eyes? She cares about me? A message from my mother? My mother still loves me? Wait, did Rey just kiss me?"
     
  20. val solo

    val solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2000
    Thanks for commenting!

    I love contemplating what might be going through characters’ heads in different situations. And Rey from TLJ would not just have given up on him. He needs some TLC!:)
     
  21. val solo

    val solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2000
    Chapter 11--- The Message

    Kylo Ren stood frozen, staring at the small object in his hand. In a moment, he lifted his other one and touched his face where Rey had placed a kiss and then disappeared. His mind was overwhelmed with so many thoughts--- too many to make sense of all of them at once. So he quickly prioritized. The kiss would need further dissection for sure, but for now the disk in his hand won the battle for his attention.

    Holding it up to eye level, he simply stared at it for several more seconds. A message...from his mother. He could not even remember the last time he had spoken to her. No, that wasn’t true, he forced himself to admit. He did remember. It was a conversation that ended with her in tears and him more angry and determined than ever to thwart her desperate attempts to convince him to come home. He lowered his eyes in a brief moment of regret. What would she say to him, especially now that his father was...gone? And knowing her own son was the one who killed him?

    His thumb hovered reluctantly over the play button, torn between curiosity and utter dread. It called to mind another time when deciding whether to push a button would have affected their relationship forever.

    He pushed this one.

    His mother’s face instantly appeared before him, causing him to stumble back a step, unprepared for the avalanche of pain and longing seeing her brought with it. She looked the same and yet so different. Even through the slight distortion of the holo-image, he noticed the added wrinkles on her face and streaks of gray in her hair. A sudden memory flashed of how he used to love snuggling into her when he was little, climbing up into her lap, grabbing a strand of her long hair and holding on while she held him close and peppered kisses on his cheeks. HIs throat felt tight, and he pushed the memory away.

    “Hello, Ben,” she started. He immediately pushed ‘pause’ and took a deep breath to steady himself. Glancing around the empty meeting room, he realized he did not want to do this here and turned off the disk. Closing his fist tightly around it, he regained control of himself, walked out and headed directly to his quarters, his two guards following briskly behind trying to match his long, determined stride. Once they arrived at his door, he turned to face them.

    “I want no interruptions. None. Understood?”

    “Yes, Supreme Leader,” they replied dutifully.

    He whirled around, his cape billowing behind, and entered his rooms. As soon as the doors swished shut, he released the breath he had not even realized he was holding. It came out in an unsteady huff. His legs felt like they might give out beneath him, so he quickly sat down on the side of his bed. Bracing himself for what was to come, he unclenched his fist and gazed at the holo-disk once again.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

    “You are too attached to your mother,” Snoke said to him as they walked together in Snoke’s lush, forest-like level on board his command ship. Kylo had told him of his recurring dreams about his mother begging him to come home. The temptation to do just that--- return to his family and the Light-- was a battle he continued to fight. Snoke switched back and forth between deriding him for the weakness and gently guiding him back to his new purpose with the First Order. The problem was he never knew which version he would get. Seemed that today was to be the kinder version-- if Snoke could ever truly be accused of kindness.


    “You must purge her from your thoughts,” he continued, “from your very heart. She is nothing to you now. Why, she couldn’t wait to get rid of you...sent you off to Skywalker as soon as she could.” He paused for a moment to gage the effect his words were having before continuing. “In fact, were I you, Leia Organa Solo would be the last person I would ever want to speak to again. What kind of mother abandons her only child, eh?”


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

    The unbidden memory caused him to hesitate. Snoke’s words had fueled his anger for many years and kept the Light at bay whenever Kylo felt tempted. Looking back now, it was painfully obvious and embarrassing how easily he had been manipulated.

    ‘Watch the message.’

    Rey’s recent words replayed in his mind and thoughts of Snoke dissolved instantly. He pushed ‘play.’

    “Hello, Ben.”

    “Mom,” he whispered. He swallowed hard and felt his bottom lip start to tremble.

    She smiled and shook her head. “I’m not even sure where to start. There are so many things I want to say to you.” Her expression softened. “I’ll start with I’m sorry.”

    He stared hard at her image and felt the gorge rise in his throat again. He tried to swallow it down.

    “I made so many mistakes, things I wish I could change. You probably hate me, think I betrayed you. But I didn’t mean for it to turn out like this. When I sent you to Luke, I thought I was doing the right thing… giving you more of what you needed...more than I could give you as a Jedi.

    “Ben, you were always exceptional. I felt it the moment I knew I was pregnant with you. I knew you were going to be special--- and you were… you are. But I let fear creep in. I was afraid I wouldn’t be good enough, wise enough, powerful enough in the Force to give you all you needed. And your father felt the same-- that he could never be good enough for you.”

    The mention of his father made him flinch in pain. She continued.

    “We both loved you so much. There we were, trying our best to make the galaxy a safe, peaceful place where you and every other child could live a happy life. But in the process, we lost sight of you--- the most important thing to both of us. When you left and joined up with Snoke, it broke our hearts. However, we never stopped wanting you to come home--- to come back to us. I still want you to come home,” she added, her voice cracking with emotion. “And I’m not the only one.”

    His ears perked up. “Rey cares about you, Ben.” His heart thumped at those words. “She convinced me that there is still Light in you, that it’s still not too late for you. I know we hurt you. I wish I could change it all, but know this. I want you to be happy. I want you to love and be loved. You deserve it. And the Dark Side can never give you that.”

    He could hear the pleading in her voice and it tugged at his own long-dormant heartstrings. His face was heating up and his eyes were welling up.

    “Maybe you think you’ve gone too far because of your father’s death to ever come back. But you know he would never want you to live in pain and full of hate and regret. He forgives you. I know it. I feel it. And I forgive you too.” She sighed. “If I could just see you…” She reached out her hand and then dropped it. Kylo could almost imagine he felt her touch, felt his heart yearn for it… a hug from his mother.

    “Just come home, Ben. We’ll figure it all out together. And if you want me to, I’ll leave it all behind, go wherever you want to go, if you’ll just come back… please,” her voice cracked. She paused and looked down. When she glanced back up, he could see the tears glistening in her eyes.

    “I love you, sweetheart,” she added softly, and then the message ended and her face vanished.

    Kylo sat there in silence and then lay the holo-disk on the bed next to him. He leaned over, placed his head in his hands, and wept.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    General Hux hurried to his office. He desperately wanted to check out the video footage of the meeting Kylo Ren had just kicked them out of minutes ago. Once inside, he locked his door. He wanted no interruptions while he analyzed the feed. The time to put his plan into action was drawing near, he could feel it.

    Switching on all of his monitors, he settled quickly into his chair and started punching in passcodes. The feed from the meeting room popped up on the middle screen, but the place was empty. No Ren. He frowned, then pushed ‘rewind’ until the man reappeared on screen. He didn’t stop until he got to the part when the man jumped up and ordered them all to get out.

    He scoffed derisively and shook his head in distaste. Ren was an absolute fool, and watching his bizarre behavior on screen only served to make him a deranged fool as well. Hux observed him staring at an empty spot and then walking towards it. When he stopped, Hux could see him moving his lips, apparently speaking to the invisible visitor. “I wonder what he saw?” Hux pondered.

    As he continued his private viewing, his plan was becoming more real in his mind. He smiled in smug satisfaction. Ren was going to make it so easy. Then he did a double take. Pushing rewind again, he queued up the last few seconds and forced himself to watch very closely. Ren raised his hand, palm up, and then--- what was that?! Something just--- appeared right there in his hand out of thin air! He rewound it again and zoomed in closer. It was a small holo-disk. As it continued to play, he watched Ren push ‘play.’ What Hux saw next nearly made him flip backward in his seat. The face of Leia Organa Solo, Ren’s mother and leader of the enemy Resistance was sending him a holo-message! Hux let out a dignified whoop of triumph. This was what he’d been waiting for--- a way to get rid of Kylo Ren and take over as rightful leader of the First Order.

    Just then, an incoming message buzzed on his comm link. He answered it as he rewound the footage and watched it again just to make sure he wasn’t imagining things. “Yes. What is it?” he asked, annoyed at the intrusion into his solitary victory celebration.

    “General, sir,” the voice said, “we found something you need to see right away. I’m sending it to you now.”

    Hux sighed. What could be better than what was on the screen in front of him? “Very well.” A ping sounded on his console to announce the arrival of this new information. He clicked the link and was instantly riveted to the scene that appeared. It was Snoke in his throne room. And there was Ren and the scavenger girl. As he watched, his feeling of triumph and vindication grew astronomically. “I knew it!” he exclaimed, jumping up from his seat. By the time the footage ended, Snoke lay in pieces, the room was a burning shambles, the Praetorian guards were no more, and Ren’s lie that the girl killed their former leader was proven false. Hux couldn’t believe his good fortune.

    Nothing could stop him now.
     
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  22. gizkaspice

    gizkaspice Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Nov 27, 2013
    Aww...a great interaction between Leia and her son. So many feels! Also love how Hux is scheming in a very appropriate Hux way :D I mean, of course he was going to find out Supreme Leader Benny Bunny killed Snoke.
     
  23. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    This is true, but I have a hunch that his schemes are going to fail, because that's what seems to happen to petty little schuttas like him in Star Wars.
     
  24. val solo

    val solo Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2000
    Chapter 12--

    Rey was restless.

    A day had passed since delivering Leia’s message to Ben and then impulsively kissing him on the cheek. She couldn’t believe she had done it! He had been standing so close, his large, masculine frame practically enveloping her, and he smelled... so...good. She did not know what exactly it was-- clean, tempting..man? Whatever it was, it had unfurled its fingers and pulled her in before she could stop herself. Now she couldn’t seem to sit still, so she made her way down to the training room, hoping to work off some of her excess energy. When she arrived, she was surprised to find Finn helping a new civilian recruit learn how to use a blaster.

    “Yeah, that’s it!” he exclaimed with one of his big, toothy grins. The young man fired a shot that made it almost into the center of the practice target. Rey noticed several blaster burns far outside of the bullseye indicating his previous lack of accuracy. After a few more successful shots, the young man ceased firing and glanced proudly over at Finn. Her friend clapped the young man on the back encouragingly and then noticed her walking his way. He waved, turned to dismiss his ‘student’, and started walking toward her.

    As soon as she was close enough, he pulled her into a friendly hug like he so often did. She couldn’t help but smile and squeeze him back. Eventually, he pulled back to look at her, his hands still on her shoulders. “What are you up to?” he asked innocently.

    She shrugged. “I just thought I’d get some practice in. I’ve been a bit...restless lately,” she confessed sheepishly.

    Finn nodded and dropped his hands to his sides. “No wonder. Things are definitely a little crazy lately. Want some company? I could stand to practice a little bit too. Don’t want to get rusty on my hand-to-hand,” he joked.

    “Sure!’ She replied, happy to have a distraction from her muddled thoughts of Ben Solo. However, she didn’t dare tell Finn about those thoughts or that she was secretly in contact with him. He might not understand her complicated relationship with the leader of the First Order. To be truthful, she wasn’t sure she understood it either. By all accounts, he should be her mortal enemy. But she just couldn’t bring herself to think of him that way and had not since that night in the hut on Ahch-To. The moment their hands touched changed everything for her. They were connected by the Force, no doubt, but what exactly did it want from them? The more she saw him, learned about him, the more their bond grew. She couldn’t shake the inevitable feeling they each had an important role to play in the other’s life. It was partly why she wasn’t resisting the urge to keep fighting for him.

    But for now, she would keep all thoughts about Ben Solo to herself.

    “How about staffs?” Finn asked, breaking into her train of thought. She glanced up at him as he tossed a staff her way. She caught it easily and spun it skillfully to gage its feel in her hands. “I’ll take that as a yes,” he grinned.

    In the next second, they were engaged in a sparring match that required her full attention. Finn was certainly improving. In the past, she had been able to practically anticipate his moves whenever they practiced together. This time it seemed as if their roles were reversed and he was anticipating hers. Just when she thought she was going to land a good blow, he blocked and parried her strikes. A few times he nearly caught her off guard and sent her down on her back side.

    “You’re getting pretty good at this!” she admitted with grunt as their staffs crashed together again and again. She spun around, determined this time to catch him off-guard, but something caught her eye off to the side of the room. She froze. The staff dropped out of her hand and clanked loudly on the floor. “Ben?” she said.

    Fortunately, Finn noticed her distraction just in time to avoid making contact with her back. However, she didn’t even seem to notice. Her eyes were focused on a spot across the room even though they were the only two left in attendance. “Rey? Are you okay?” he asked worriedly.

    She took a few steps forward, eyes locked on that spot, astonishment and dismay etched on her face. Finn gently touched her arm. “Rey?” he asked again. She quickly turned to him with fear in her eyes.

    “I have to go,” she said suddenly. “Where’s Rose?” she questioned, finally turning back to look at him. “Where is she?”

    He was taken aback by her instant change in demeanor and her strange, out of the blue question. “She--she’s in the main hangar, I think. Why? Is everything ok? I’m a little worried about you, Rey.” He reached out to touch her gently on the arm in concern. She glanced down at his hand and then back up to his face, placing her hand over his.

    “I’ll be fine,” she assured him, “but I have to go find Rose.” Offering him a final smile, she turned and ran out of the the training room.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    General Armitage Hux gazed out at the small band of elite Stormtroopers and trusted officers assembled in front of him. This moment was the culmination of many months of meticulous planning. In fact, truth be told, from the moment he first met Kylo Ren, Hux knew he needed to get rid of him at all costs. Ren had been a thorn in his side, always a rival for Snoke’s approval, an arrogant usurper of the power that should be his own. He, Hux, deserved to be the leader of the First Order--- not Kylo Ren, the petulant, immature son of blasted Resistance fighters!

    However, now it was finally time for action.

    “What we do here today will launch the First Order into a new era of glorious power,” he declared. “Kylo Ren is a traitor. You have all seen the proof of his lies and his blatant acts of treason...killing our rightful leader… working in league with the scavenger girl… and communicating and plotting with the enemy leader of the Resistance who just so happens to be his own mother.

    “It will not be easy,” he continued, trying to sound as inspiring as possible. “As you know, he is capable of using his unusual abilities to inflict great damage. But only if we are unprepared. We must use the element of surprise to ensure our success. The first wave will need to distract and weaken him in order to prevent him from using his Force powers. However, as soon as you have the kill shot, take it.

    “Traitors deserve no mercy.”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    His world was upside down. Kylo Ren had no idea what to do next. Things were changing whether he wanted them to or not. Like a charging mudhorn, there was no stopping the inevitability of it all. For better or worse, he was awake...awake in a way he had never been before...realized so many things he had ignored for far too long because of anger and resentment. He had shut himself off from his family, his friends, his connection to the Light...and for what?

    After watching the message from his mother several times, and crying privately in his room for what felt like hours, he was more confused than ever. Her words filled his heart with dangerous hope, something he had lacked for years now. She said she loved him...forgave him...would abandon her life’s work if he only came home to her. Part of him admitted, albeit grudgingly, that a small part of him--- that scared, sad, lonely little boy-- wanted nothing more than to go home and act as if nothing in the past several years had even happened. To feel his mother’s arms embrace him, feel cared for, feel loved… his lonely soul practically cried out for it.

    But immediately the Dark Side would whisper in his other ear, memories of Snoke’s words. ‘She sent you away, my boy. She didn’t want to bother with you. You weren’t important enough to her-- definitely not more important than her commitment to her work. There is no life for you back there. You know it. Now, you must accept it. There is no going back.”

    He took a deep breath and decided he needed to get out of his room, get his mind off of it all. If possible, he needed to gain some clarity. He headed to the command room that overlooked the vast ship hangar filled end to end, floor to ceiling with the most advanced tie fighters and various other military vessels. It was his-- all of it, under his control. He alone controlled the fate of countless worlds… countless lives. He could have anything he wanted.

    Except happiness.

    He inhaled deeply and exhaled in a huff as he surveyed this portion of his vast empire. All of this, and he was not the least bit satisfied.

    “I told you, without someone to share it with, life is meaningless.”

    Kylo turned around to see Luke, once again, in all of his Force ghost glory, standing behind him. Quickly, he checked to see if anyone else was in the room. Luckily, they were alone--- at least, for now.

    “Don’t you have something better to do?” Kylo asked in annoyance, crossing his arms and staring back out the large viewing window to the hangar below.

    Luke chuckled. “Nah. I have all the time in the world now,” he replied jokingly, before adding seriously, “but you don’t.”

    Kylo snapped his head to look at his uncle questioningly, but refused to ask exactly what that statement meant.

    “You need to make a decision, Ben. The Light is reaching out to you. It sent Rey. It sent your mother’s message.” Kylo’s face showed his obvious surprise. Luke nodded his head. “Yes, I know a lot of things. It’s a perk of my new ‘position’.”

    The younger man composed himself, trying to maintain his terse demeanor. “Why would I give up all of this?” he asked, gesturing to the hangar and all around him. “I have more power than anyone else in the entire galaxy.”

    Luke’s face showed pity. “And without love, you have nothing,” he replied softly. “Ben, you don’t know what the future holds. You don’t even know what the next hour holds. What if all of this was gone?” Luke asked, spreading his arms wide as if to encompass all of the First Order.

    The words knocked Kylo off-kilter, but he tried to recover. “I’m the Supreme Leader,” he spat back curtly, doing his best to hide the effect Luke’s words were having on him.

    “Hmmm… true… for now,” Luke contemplated. “I heard a saying once that there is always a bigger fish...someone to come along and be just a little stronger, a little better, a little more than you.

    “To love and let yourself be loved are the greatest riches life has to offer. A lesson the Jedi of old chose to ignore. At the end of the day, the end of your life, that is what endures--- your love for others and theirs for you. Make the right choice, Ben. I know you don’t believe it right now, but you deserve to be happy.”

    He smiled one last smile of compassion and then faded away leaving the weight of his words lying heavy on Kylo’s heart. His shoulders slumped. What was he supposed to do? Part of him considered all that Luke, Rey and his mother had been suggesting--- that it wasn’t too late for him to turn away from the Dark Side and go back to the Light. The possibility of all it could offer---- forgiveness, companionship, hope, love--- was certainly tempting. For too long, he had been alone, immersed in anger, pain, resentment. The thought of letting all of that go, of being free of all the pain, made him think he could actually do it--- leave the First Order and go home. Home… a word that had held no meaning for years. Was it really a possibility?

    Then, right on cue, the Dark Side chimed in, reminding him of all of the hard work he had put into helping build the might of the First Order… all of the acts he had committed that were definitely not of the Light Side. How could someone like him--- someone who killed his own father--- ever be happy? He didn’t deserve it. And never would.

    He felt himself getting all tangled up inside again. Luke’s words seemed to have an underlying sense of urgency, and that transferred to Kylo. He sensed a moment of choosing was imminent, a time when he would have to choose one way or the other. For now, he decided to head back to the training room and take out a few more sparring droids. Smashing things had always helped him deal with stress in the past.

    Yes, that’s what he would do for now. Later he would make a decision. He turned to leave. As he reached to push the open button, the doors slid apart before he could even make contact. Startled, he reared back and came face to face with a dozen or so Stormtroopers, all of them aiming blasters straight at him. Before he could do anything, he heard someone say, “Fire!


    The last thing he remembered was seeing the flash of countless blaster bolts and the smug, smiling face of General Hux glaring down at him before he lost consciousness and everything faded to black.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     
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  25. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Aaack! Evil Cliffie! :D