In the dark and the cold, the endless night of space, General Hux of the First Order comes awake face down in the belly of a foreign spaceship.
He rolls over with a pained grunt. Kylo Ren looms over him.
"What happened? Get us out."
His head is against the wall. He is unable to stand. He is unable to sit up. He's injured, that much is clear. In fact, every inch of him is on metaphorical fire, and he's rather surprised to be alive at all, considering the mad firefight that went down when Resistance pilots boarded their shuttle off the dying Starkiller Base planet. A spike of useless rage goes through him at the thought of that beautiful planet disintegrating into nothingness, taking all his hard work with it. He'd had plans for that planet. He'd had fucking plans for that planet.
His hands are loosely cuffed but he can barely move, regardless of any restraints. It's a struggle to keep his eyes open and fixed on Kylo Ren.
Kylo Ren reaches for his face, and Hux flinches before gazing up at where black cuffs of an unfamiliar, eerie hard material enclose each wrist. Hux lets his breath out in a pained hiss. They've been captured by stray Resistance pilots lucky enough to have been carrying some Force dampeners on them? Weapons from the last remains of the Galactic Empire? What are the odds? Astronomical, unless someone was clever enough to anticipate their escape in a First Order-marked top-class shuttle on the back end of the planet. Hux curses inwardly. His plans are much better than this. His plans are generally foolproof, but his plans don't generally need to take into account a ridiculous showy battle between Force warriors in the snowy forests of a planet literally disintegrating, and the results thereof. At least, Hux supposes, he is relatively alive and intact. And Kylo Ren is the same, for the attention of the Supreme Leader.
"So we break out. You can move, can't you? Or we infuence the pilots, manipulate them into thinking we're escaping. Turn them off course, turn off power to the shuttle, release the air vents, find some weapons, anything. There's only two of them and they were both young." Hux grits his teeth around each word, the pain threatening to overwhelm his determination to stay conscious. Kylo Ren's terrible at coming up with a strategy, judging by literally everything Hux has ever seen him do, and there's no one else. It has to be him.
Kylo Ren is looking up at the ceiling of the bay, his long throat exposed. "I overheard the two of them when I awoke. We're on a course straight for the Resistance base. They're not taking any chances with us. We'll be there in less than an hour. They're not even going to speak to us before we're taken to the General."
"Damn it, Ren! It is imperative that no First Order secrets get out, not after a defeat of this scale."
"They'll get it out of us one way or another. They have Luke Skywalker on their side."
Hux's eyes trace Kylo Ren pacing back and forth, a furious whirl of agitation and nerves as he always is. That messy wound on his side leaks blood but every so often he slams one of those infernal hands into his side as if to agitate the pain. For what purpose, Hux cannot begin to imagine. He feels sick just looking at the man, but that's not an unfamiliar sensation.
"They're taking us to the Resistance? Then we convince the Resistance to trust us. It's obvious." Hux's voice is raw and dry. He wishes theResistance scum had been polite enough to shackle Kylo Ren to a post to stop his infernal pacing, but presumably the Resistance were sure they had nothing to fear from Kylo Ren without the Force. A single locked door, an utterly empty room without the slightest crevice, and they've been left helpless.
"That's an idiotic idea," Ren growls, pacing everywhere for a way out like a caged animal. But Hux's mind is working as coldly calculating as ever, and of the two of them, Hux knows he'll be the one to come up with the right answer, the best possible path.
"No, no, it's brilliant. We gain their trust and get right to the heart of the Resistance, and burn them from the inside out. It's the perfect plan." Ren turns to gaze at him, and Hux feels with mounting certainty the rightness of the plan. "We slip them a few inconsequential secrets about the Order to prove our loyalty... and squirrel out all their own, before staging an escape. We lead the might of the First Order to their planet and annihilate the Resistance forever."
Hux can already see himself decorated, the greatest hero of the war, statues erected in his honour, the saviour of the First Order. He will be greater than the Imperialists of Old, greater even than Vader himself.
Ren's angular face wears a growing frown. A bloody scar gapes on his face, an open wound. "That... will never work."
"It will." Hux is cold and clear and grinning in anticipated victory. He huffs a laugh and stops craning his neck to look at Ren, sure that he has the man's attention. "Think about it. Observe how quickly they trusted that renegade trooper. A stranger in their midst, and they brought him straight to the heart of their pathetic movement before the day was over. They're soft and gullible as lambs to the slaughter."
Kylo Ren stands over him, a dark impossibly tall shape. "No. He was my father."
No-one says anything. The silence turns slowly ugly. "Who was?"
Whatever else is meant to be forthcoming, such as an explanation for this madness, is swallowed up by the warring emotions written large across Kylo Ren's arms and shoulders. His breathing is heavy and fast.
Hux looks away, trying to gather his thoughts back up by sheer willpower alone. "But..." He has nothing he can say. It occurs to him with a blinding flash of intuition that the General of the Resistance is Kylo Ren's mother. Han Solo, known collaborator of the Resistance and spouse to its General. Kylo Ren's mother. His mother. His dear mummy. A breathless, silent laugh escapes him and he moans in pain as it agitates his wounds.
Kylo Ren looks down at him with an ugly frown.
"You killed Solo aboard Starkiller base, correct?" Ren nods, suspicious. "Fine. Good. A most excellent victory for the First Order. Just don't mention it to Organa, yes?"
Your mother, his brain adds, unhelpfully. Hux is on the verge of cackling hysterically at the situation he's found himself in, that the world has found itself in.
It is a cosmic family squabble which has involved the entire galaxy and billions of lives have been lost, destroyed or maimed by this disagreement between... co-religionists. Magicians, really. Monks and knights. Fantasists. This is why the world needs order, Hux reflects, not an unusual thought for him to have over the course of the day. The world needs the First Order.
"Some of them got away. The girl. That trooper. And a wookie. They saw everything." Kylo Ren reports sullenly.
"Brilliant," Hux mutters, closing his eyes against waves of pain. "Just wonderful. Look - just say you regret the whole thing. Tell them your remorse has pulled you back to their side." Hux feels the shape of the lie grow in his head, not noticing Kylo Ren's sudden ominous stillness. "Yes, we claim that the love you secretly bore for your father is haunting you, and--"
"I never loved him." Kylo Ren is too close to Hux. His breathing is erratic. Hux can see the whites of his eyes. Hux's muscles freeze in terror for a few seconds but Ren steps back. He watches Kylo Ren the way a deer watches its predator, in hushed silence.
But then Kylo Ren switches, calm, back straight, shaking his head and running a hand through his hair.
Hux has a sinking feeling that perhaps the disastrous day - murdering his father and a battle which left him with laser burns all over his body at the edge of an icy precipice - has affected Kylo Ren's already precarious stability more severely than he'd realised.
"Alright," Hux manages to get out. His throat feels like he's being strangled, even though Kylo Ren isn't using the Force - can't use the Force.
Kylo Ren intones, low and deep. "The Light Side of the Force is foolishness. It is weakness. It is peace. It is passivity of the worst kind dressed up as contentment. Calmness. Bonds. Humanity. Friendship. Love." He breaks off to stare to one side, as if someone has interrupted him, but there's no one else in this damn medical bay except Hux. "She'll never believe I have returned to the side of the Light. Never. Not now." His voice is almost sorrowful without that mask of his, which is deeply disconcerting for Hux to realise.
But like a light switching on, Hux has an idea. He lifts his head to meet Kylo Ren's gaze. "Not even if you spin her the story of how you've been seduced to the side of the Light by the forbidden love you inadvertently feel for your irresistible comrade?"
Kylo Ren frowns at him with the nonplussed confusion of a put-out teenager. "What comrade?" Hux smirks. "Oh no. Never. No."
"Come on. What other option is there? The fact that you're-- that you're Han Solo's--" He can't get the words out, such is the absurdity of them, and the look Kylo Ren is giving him immediately makes him change tack. "Look, the fact of your recent revelation." Hux spits, sneering. "Does not weaken my plan. In fact, it makes it stronger. It's perfect, beyond perfect. You are the General Organa's only living child. She will be desperate to believe that you have returned to her side, to see the Light in you. No more so than now, reeling from her recent loss, celebrating her bittersweet victory over my mighty Starkiller Base. For her prodigal son to return? Why, she'll believe that all her prayers have been answered. When in truth, it will be her doom which has arrived at her door."
Kylo Ren's head is hanging. He's a dark shape on a dark spaceship. "Nobody in their right minds will ever believe that you and I are anything other than the bitterest of enemies."
Hux nods to himself. "We'll just have to put on a show, won't we? They are the Resistance, and we are the leaders of the First Order. They will invite us in with open arms and we, in turn, we will gut their pathetic Resistance from the inside."