General Leia Organa had hoped that the war would have ended after Endor. She had hoped that perhaps she could focus on her newly formed family and have a normal life. But the Force seemed hell-bent on staying out of balance. Thirty years, and they were no closer to peace than they had been when the Empire had been in power.
But this time, she didn’t have Luke by her side. She didn’t have Han, wherever that nerf-herder was. And she didn’t have her son, her beautiful baby boy…
In the darkest corners of her mind, Leia wondered if she would let the galaxy burn if it meant she could have Ben back in her arms. The thought alone was enough to give her chills up her spine.
Leia looked up across the conference table and into the eyes of Poe Dameron. If Leia was honest with herself, Poe was probably the closest thing she had to having her brother and husband back, being an uncanny blend of the two. It wasn’t the same, but she tried not to let it bother her too much.
“Poe, the assignment I am giving you is top secret, as it involves the map to my brother’s location.” She began, sliding a data chip over to the young pilot, “You are to go to Jakku, specifically to the village Tuanul found at the coordinates on this chip. Ask for Lor San Tekka.”
Poe grasped the chip tightly, “And Lor San Tekka has the map?” He asked, eyebrow raised ever so slightly out of curiosity.
Leia nodded firmly.
There was a moment when Poe did not respond immediately, simply examining the chip as if he were inspecting it. Then, “How did we come by this information?”
To this, Leia frowned, “Commander Dameron, I’m sure you can appreciate the fact that I am not at liberty to divulge all of my sources. If not for your safety and the safety of this base, then for the safety of my source.”
“I didn’t mean to pry, General.” Poe shook his head, “I suppose I’m simply asking how much you trust this information.”
“I trust it with my life.” Leia stated with a finality that brokered no room for argument. Not that Poe would argue with her, he was a loyal soldier…even if he was a bit reckless at times. But then again, maybe that was one of the things she liked about him.
“That’s all I needed, General.” Poe nodded, standing from the table, “I won’t fail you.”
“I know you won’t. You're to leave immediately.” The general nodded, waving him off in dismissal.
It wasn’t until the doors closed behind Poe that Leia allowed herself to slump tiredly in her chair, her fingers tracing the screen of her datapad gently to open a file. it was the same data that was on the chip she had provided to Poe, along with the encrypted message that had been sent with it.
Map on Jakku. Lor San Tekka. Will delay FO, two days max. B on recovery mission.
Leia read over the words again, before allowing her eyes to close. The file had arrived to Leia personally, encrypted, translated, and encrypted again, with no indication of who the sender was. And that alone told Leia all she needed to know about the source.
She hadn’t been lying to Poe, she couldn’t divulged her source...mainly because she didn’t know who exactly he was. She had known him, once upon a time, back when he was a young padawan, volunteering for an assignment more dangerous than anything the Resistance had ever conceived.
“I’m not afraid, General.” The young man, almost a boy in his years, stood before her, not even flinching as she proposed what was basically a suicide mission to him. “I will retrieve Ben, and I will stop the First Order.”
That had been nearly fifteen years ago, when Leia had been distraught enough to even suggest planting a mole in the ranks of the First Order, and Luke had been determined enough to bring forth his padawan, one of only two to survive Ben’s...the attack, as the candidate for the mission.
“His training is almost complete, Leia.” Luke had insisted, “His control of the Force is stronger than any of my pupils, Ben included. If anyone can remain undetected, it’s Braeda.”
“And what if we lose him too? What if he’s called to the Dark Side like Ben was? We can’t afford to take risks like this.”
“We can’t afford not to.”
It had been almost a year after they sent the padawan into the depths of the First Order before they heard anything. During that time, Leia had assumed the worst: that he had been captured, tortured and killed, or worse, had become a willing soldier of tyranny.
But then came a small snippet of code, sent to Leia’s datapad. It wasn’t much, just the location of a small raid the First Order intended on conducting that was a bit too close to a Resistance base. But it had helped.
The small bits of information kept coming. Nothing consistent, she could go weeks or even a standard month without receiving any word. But information would come. And as the years passed, the information grew in level of importance, revealing confidential information of First Order plans. The young padawan was climbing the ranks, and in return, the information he was gathering was saving more and more lives.
But Leia had no idea who he was now. He was lost to the web of the First Order, with no way of extraction, and unable to do anything but send messages to Leia.
B on recovery mission.
Ben would be on the mission to Jakku then. And wherever the padawan was, he could keep a good eye on Ben. Leia could only hope that Ben was still Ben...and that there was a chance he could be saved. But she also knew that, if it came down to the galaxy or her son, she would have a hard time choosing which to save.
There were many things that were well known in the First Order about General Hux. He was ruthless, cold, and shrewd. Where most had a heart, he only had a cold, steely ball of ambition. When he said “jump,” you didn’t ask “how high?” because he would just have you disposed of for being inefficient and find someone else to jump. And you never, ever, questioned his orders.
So when word went out that the general did not want to be disturbed in his office, not even Captain Phasma thought intrude on what important business Hux was conducting.
It was a good thing, too, considering the fact that at that moment, the not-so-good general was sitting on the floor of his office, legs crossed and eyes closed as he entered deep meditation. Not exactly the behavior of a strait-laced general, so it was not exactly a behavior he wanted known.
Meditation had been a luxury that Hux had only been able to recently indulge in to the fullest extent. Before, it had been too dangerous, he was overseen too often, and he didn’t trust his control to keep himself hidden. It was by the will of the Force that he was granted the freedom to commune with the Force through meditation. Especially so late in the game, with the stakes being as high as they were. They were no longer gambling with thousands of lives, they were gambling with billions.
With a deep breath, Hux allowed himself to release those thoughts to the Force, finding peace through the exercise.
Master, the First Order is closing in on the map. His thoughts reached out, trying to establish a connection through a weakened training bond. How many years had it been since he had last communicated with his master? Since he last spoke to the man?
Your thoughts betray you, my padawan.
Despite the reprimand, Hux allowed himself to smile slightly, I apologize, Master.
You have protected yourself well, so far. Do not allow your thoughts to endanger you at this point.
I won’t, Master. But if I may...it is good to hear from you.
And from you, my padawan. I had feared the worst. There was a pause in his master’s presence, though Hux could still feel him through the Force, I trust that you did not risk contacting me just to inform me that the First Order has made progress on the map?
No, Master. Hux took another calming breath, I believe the time has come for me to act. I have passed on the information about the map to the General, and I hope I have given them enough of a head start to claim the map first--
There's something else.
He could never hide anything from his Master, not even when he had been a youngling, Yes...the bond between Snoke and Kylo Ren has begun to fray. The rage that had consumed Ben has died out, and his believe in the Dark Side is already wavering.
You have felt it? Are you sure?
He hides it well, Master, but I have felt his presence in the hours of silence he spends in his room. I feel the regret.
Regret will not be enough.
Master, I know I can make him feel the call of the Light once more. I can bring him back, and end this war for good.
Another pause, a contemplative one. Then,
Trust your instincts. And I will trust you.
Hux sighed, though it was hard to tell if it was with relief or trepidation, Thank you, Master.
After all of this, the next time we meet, I may not be your master, nor you, my padawan. But there is no time to dwell, you have work to do. May the Force be with you.
And with you, Master. And with that, Hux was alone in his office once more, the presence of his Master long gone. But he could not dwell on that.
There were many things that were well known about General Hux. There were many of those things that were simply not true, crafted by a well honed persona. But there were some things of First Order knowledge that were completely true. The first and foremost being that General Hux was a man of strategy and planning.
What they didn’t know was he was a man of great patience. It had made him an anomaly as a youngling, but had served him well as a padawan and as a mole. One can do a great deal in a decade, especially when no one suspects you of being up to something. As such, Hux had gone through great pains of crafting the linchpin of the First Order, the one piece that would cause the others to fall in place.
And it was time to pull the pin.
Hux quickly made his way to his desk, pulling up the plans for the reconnaissance mission to Jakku. There were several units being dispatched, likely more than they would truly need, but the First Order had a habit of using excessive force. His eyes scanned the dossier quickly, looking at the troopers who were being deployed. Well, one more pair of boots on the ground wouldn’t be noticed. They never do notice a single soldier…
With a deceptively calm hand, Hux typed in the extra designation on the dossier.
In all honesty, discovering FN-2187 had been an act of the Force. Hux had not been intended to receive the file detailing the young Stormtrooper’s abnormalities, as he was only a Captain at the time, it had been an error in communications. And though Hux was sure the fate of the communications officer in charge of the message was not a pleasant one, he was grateful for the file.
A Stormtrooper with high levels of empathy. That had been noteworthy. Observing FN-2187 and realizing that the Force was flitting within the young soldier, that changed everything.
He wasn’t surprised that Kylo Ren did not sense the Force within the Stormtrooper, the Master of the Knights of Ren was too consumed by his own internal struggles to notice a lowly Stormtrooper. And that went double for Snoke, who couldn’t be bothered to be seen by his armies.
And that suited Hux just fine. He had to wait until he was in a position with enough power before he could make real changes, but once he was, it was all too easy to foster the Light within FN-2187. Reports of his abnormalities would go missing before they could be placed on record, training would always take place with elite instructors, though combat missions would be always be reassigned to another trooper. And requests for reconditioning would always be diverted, each reconditioning officer believing the other had performed the task.
In reality, Hux would always “recondition” FN-2187.
The first time FN-2187 reported to reconditioning, Hux could feel the apprehension rolling off the soldier in waves. That apprehension was replaced with confusion, and a good dose of fear, when he realized that it was not his commanding officer waiting for him in the conference room, but rather the commanding General of the First Order.
Hux had not allowed him a chance to question the situation, “You will have a seat. FN-2187.”
The soldier complied readily, unused to training himself against a Force suggestion.
“You will pretend to be reconditioned to fit the standard of the First Order.” Hux continued, pouring his influence on the Force over the younger man, “You will continue to strive to be an exemplary soldier, but continue to feel the emotions you have been told are flaws.”
Hux stared into the blackness of FN-2187’s visor, “You will pretend to be a perfect soldier.”
“I...I will pretend to be a perfect soldier.”
It had gone on like that for several years, with Hux more or less forcing FN-2187 to shield himself from the observations of his commanding officers, with fewer and fewer “reconditioning” sessions occurring in which Hux reinforced his command. Soon, FN-2187 did not require Hux’s suggestion to pretend, it came natural to him. And no one suspected a thing.
Jakku was a test of which was stronger: FN-2187’s empathy or Hux’s command. Hux’s next move would depend on which won out.
Hux could only hope that the young soldier could one day forgive him for the horrors he was about to be exposed to.
FN-2187 was having a emotional breakdown, enough to break protocol and garner Phasma’s attention.
The First Order had successfully captured the Resistance pilot Poe Dameron.
Not so good.
It was a matter of time now. If Hux didn’t act soon, the location of the map would be compromised, and FN-2187 would be sent to serious reconditioning, if not disposed of. But one did not rise to the rank of General without being able to think on his feet. He could use this situation to his advantage, and the advantage of the Resistance.
He just needed to pull the trigger on FN-2187.
And the situation presented itself as Hux made his way through the halls of the Finalizer on the way to the bridge. The shaken soldier was walking towards him, no doubt hoping he could avoid Hux’s attention. The general couldn’t allow that.
The collision of shoulders appeared accidental enough, and it jarred the soldier into dropping his side arm.
“My apologies, General!” FN-2187 sputtered, dropping to pick up his weapon, and Hux could sense the fraying control on the soldier’s facade.
It was time then, for the next move. Hux twisted his features into a scowl as he looked down at the kneeling soldier, appearing to any passerby like any disgusted commanding officer would be with clumsy Stormtrooper.
“Stop pretending.” He intoned, keeping his voice low so as to not be overheard.
“Sir?” FN-2187 looked up, confusion lacing his voice. His mind was getting stronger if he wasn’t as pliable as he used to be.
“What you are wanting to do, you’ll need a pilot.” Hux stated calmly, before pressing more forcefully with his command, “Stop pretending.”
Once he saw the way FN-2187’s body relaxed at the command, Hux continued on his way, confident that the work had been done.
Or rather, undone. All those years of telling FN-2187 to pretend to be a model of the First Order’s ideals, to pretend to not feel the emotions he felt, to pretend that he didn’t doubt...all torn down by two words.
Hux did not like it when he was not in complete control, but in this case, there was simply nothing for it. He would have to watch FN-2187 to see what he would do now that he was free of his restraints on his moral compass.
Stealing a TIE Fighter in one of the most conspicuous escapes in First Order history was not exactly what Hux had expected. Perhaps he should have allowed FN-2187 time in combat so that he would know how to disengage the TIE Fighter’s tether. And watching the escape craft being shot down over Jakku nearly made the General’s heart stop. Only meditation after the fact, and sensing the Stormtrooper’s Force presence, allowed Hux to relax in the knowledge that the soldier was still alive.
But FN-2187’s path was no longer in Hux’s hands, but the Force’s. He had learned in his years of training to trust the Force, and in this case, he had to trust that FN-2187 would be delivered into the Resistance’s hands, and hopefully into the hands of his Master. The ex-Stormtrooper would make a good padawan, and his Master needed a pupil to guide to the Light, if only to regain his confidence as a teacher and master.
And so Hux turned his attention away from FN-2187, and to the more important task before him.
Or rather, Ben Solo.
When Hux had first volunteered for General Organa’s mission, he had been nervous for when he would first come across Ben, fearing that he would be recognized by his former peer. But when Hux finally came face to mask with Ben, fully enshrouded in the identity of Kylo Ren, the Knight showed no signs of recognition. Like everyone else, Kylo Ren believed he was Brendol Hux the second, and not a Jedi padawan. While Hux was mainly relieved at not being detected, he couldn’t help but be slightly...disappointed in Ben for not recognizing him.
Then again, Kylo Ren was under the assumption that he had killed Hux during the massacre fifteen years ago.
But Hux had long since allowed his grief and rage to run their course before he released them to the Force. Holding grudges would do nothing to aid the Resistance’s mission for peace. Instead, Hux’s pain had turned instead to focus on the turmoil within Kylo Ren and, more importantly, the redemption of Ben Solo.
Up until a few years previously, Hux didn’t believe Ben could be saved. Sensing the first quivers of doubt within Ren had been a surprise to Hux, and so he began to plan out the second part of his plan. FN-2187 would be a great asset to the Resistance, but if there was to be a chance at victory, they needed Ben Solo back. He needed Ben Solo back.
One of the benefits of being General of the First Order meant that he had access to all the files the First Order had. Including the layout of the Finalizer. As such, locating Kylo Ren’s chamber’s had been simple. It had been finding access to that room without raising suspicion that proved to be more difficult. Ren was a paranoid bastard, and he would know if anyone entered his chambers without his consent. But that didn’t mean that he paid as much mind to the electrical room that shared a wall with his chambers.
Hux began to make a habit to visit that electrical room, especially when he knew Ren would be in meditation. And after the news of FN-2187’s escape with Poe Dameron, Hux knew that Ren would be a emotional supernova, in desperate need of focus.
And so Hux made sure that his tasks were delegated to enough people to ensure his presence would not be missed, and he snuck away to that forgotten electrical room. There was a space between two panels of wires where Hux prefered to sit, his back pressed against the shared wall with Ren’s chambers. All he had to do was wait.
It didn’t take long before he felt the surging power of torment, rage, and frustration. Ben had always worn his heart on his sleeve when they were younger, and that trait had only been exacerbated under Snoke’s tutelage (though to what aim, Hux did not know yet). It was all he could do to center himself and not be caught in Ren’’s emotions, finding peace through the Force while Ren struggled in the Dark.
And then, Hux would faintly sense, more than he could hear, Ren communing with the Force.
Forgive me. I feel it again… the call from light.
Hux let out a slow breath, taking in the conflicted words.
Supreme Leader senses it. Show me again, the power of the darkness, and I’ll let nothing stand in our way. Show me, grandfather, and I will finish what you started.
Hux could remember the days in which Ben had been fascinated with the stories of Anakin Skywalker, he just hadn’t realized how desperately Ren clung to the stories of Darth Vader to keep him anchored in the darkness.
But he couldn’t allow it to continue.
With another calming breath, Hux allowed himself to sink into meditation, allowing his presence to drift through the Force and touch Ren’s. He brought forth all of the memories he could of their past: the happy days they had spent a children under Master Skywalker’s tutelage, Ben’s parents and how they loved him, his uncle and how proud he was of his nephew and padawan. And, though Hux barely trusted himself to relive the memories, he decided to push forth the memories of just the two of them, and the time they had shared before--
Hux’s breath caught as Kylo Ren lashed out at the memories of the Light, and Hux could feel himself pulled into a very different memory.
Screams filled the air, high and shrill as the distressed sounds of children were violently being silenced. Several of the older padawans were already lying dead in the mud, their flesh burning with the already cauterized wounds of Ben’s lightsaber. And Ben showed no hesitation in turning his attention to the cowering younglings.
He couldn’t let this happen, “Ben!” His voice was little more than a raw scream as he threw himself between the younglings and his...opponent.
“Stand aside, Braeda.” Ben’s voice was so cold, and his face looked so wrong without his smile.
He shook his head, “I can’t do that, Ben.” He could practically feel his heart breaking as he ignited his lightsaber, the green glow in stark contrast to the red of Ben’s new weapon.
“Don’t make me kill you, Braeda.”
“Well you’re going to have to, because I won’t let you do this.” And with that, green met red in a clash of light and sound.
Even before the duel began, he knew he was no match against Ben. Ben had always been talented with a lightsaber, and with the power of the Dark Side at his side, a lone padawan stood no chance. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t try, especially when there were lives at stake.
It was agony, when Ben’s red lightsaber sliced through the flesh and bone of his arm, leaving nothing but empty space and forcing him to his knees as he instinctively clutched the charred wound. His lightsaber fell to the mud harmlessly by his side.
“This is your last warning, Braeda.” Ben’s voice brokered no mercy, though Braeda had already known mercy was no longer a principle of Ben’s, as he had slaughtered those who had been his friends.
The pain in his arm was torture, but the knowledge that Ben fully intended to kill him, after...after everything they had been through...that was a fate worse than death. With a few shuddering breaths, Braeda forced himself to his feet, clutching his lightsaber in his weaker hand awkwardly.
“You intend to fight me with one arm, when you couldn’t even best me with two?”
“I told you, Ben.” Braeda let out a huff, steeling himself against his inevitable death, “You’re going to have to kill me first.”
Hux pulled himself from the memory before it could continue, gasping for breath while trying to keep himself from being detected. His right arm twitched involuntarily, and he could almost pretend he could hear the mechanisms under his fake skin whirring to life. He had tried so hard to forget that day, to forget what Ben had done…
Ren had never reacted so violently to Hux’s gentle reminders of the Light before. He had shown resistance in the past, but his resolve had been weakening, and he had begun to linger on the memories of the past.
But this was the first time he had included himself in those memories… could Ren truly have reacted so terribly to him? With a heart already beginning to crack, Hux forced himself to focus on Ren once more.
There was so much pain in Ren’s heart, Hux could feel that much, but he was still beseeching the spirit of his grandfather it seemed.
Why would you show me this, grandfather? Why would you show me the price I have paid? Why would you show me...why would you show me him? I...I don’t understand, and I’m being torn apart. Please, let me forsake the light!
A sad smile tugged at tugged at the corner of Hux’s mouth, “Oh Ben…” He whispered, “I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do that…”