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The First Casualty

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Luke Skywalker spoke to her like a father at first. He took the lightsaber from Rey’s outstretched hand and put it carefully away, he praised her for having come so far, he expressed sorrow for all that she had seen, and he sat her down in his hovel and brought her some tea. Then he started talking to her like a fellow adult.

“Rey,” said Luke, “you have been lied to.”

“By who?” said Rey, her hands quivering a little. She told herself it was because of the cold.

“By the galaxy itself, I feel,” said the old man. He sighed and he cast a glance at the ancient old flag that divided his room into two halves. “Rey, Kylo Ren is not who you think he is.”

Unbidden, the image of Finn lying unconscious in the medcenter flashed into Rey’s head. If he dies I will kill Kylo Ren, Rey had thought, he deserves to die anyway for what he’s done…

“Be mindful of your thoughts,” Luke said gently. “Even without the Force, I could tell what you were thinking.”

“What do you mean, he’s not who I think he is?” Rey said, trying to cancel out her anger but failing.

“Rey, he actually arrived here before you did,” said Luke, and Rey shot up from her seat before he could even finish the sentence. She grabbed the curtain and ripped it back, and standing there was a tall, thin man with wispy black hair. He was wearing white, which didn’t suit him. Rey just stared in horror.

“Were you just behind that curtain so you could make a dramatic entrance?” she finally spat.

Kylo Ren said nothing, just looked at Luke. Luke sighed, and stood.

“Rey, this is Ben Solo-Organa. Or possibly Ben Organa-Solo, his parents never could decide.”

“Whatever he’s told you,” Rey said, anger burning in every part of her, “he’s lying!”

“He’s not,” said Luke quietly. “I can tell. The Force can tell. He’s not lying.”

“He killed his father!”

“I don’t deny it,” said Kylo Ren.

“He hurt my friends! He’s-” Words failed Rey completely. Barely even realising she was doing so, she turned and ran outside. The cold air hit her right in the throat. She had to climb down the mountain, and warn the others, and leave. Whatever inexplicable thing was happening here, she had to be somewhere far away from it all. She had to run. She was good at running…

Suddenly Luke was behind her, and his hand was on her shoulder. It was the metal hand, but it still felt inexplicably like a flesh-and-blood one.

“Rey,” he said. “I’ll go down there and talk to Chewie,” Rey didn’t bother asking how he knew the Wookie was there. “You are free to do whatever you choose.”

But am I? “I’m not staying - up here - with him.”

“That’s fine,” said Luke. “Ben? Follow me.” And even though Ben - Kylo - had been still inside the hut, at those words he suddenly appeared outside it and quietly followed Luke down the mountain.

*

Rey paced around at the spot where she had first found Luke, angrily thinking. First it was what would Finn do? Then it was what would General Organa do? And finally it was what must I do?

Eventually she decided that she was quite simply owed the truth, and she had to keep to her path and find it out. Too many people had done too much running already. So she started walking down the mountain, only to meet Luke on his way back up.

“Where are you going?” she asked. She couldn’t bring himself to speak to him rudely.

“To see my sister, Leia,” Luke answered. Then he said, “You’re powerful, Rey. You’re very powerful. To leave you untrained would be…an insult. But your choices are important and you can still choose to go. We can drop you off on Coruscant with a thousand credits, or on Naboo with friends of the Resistance…”

“No,” said Rey straight away. “I have friends who need me.”

“That’s the right attitude,” Luke said.

*

On board the Millennium Falcon, neither Rey or Chewie interacted with Ben. Chewie couldn’t even, it seemed, bring himself to look at him.

Rey did look, but it was with contempt. (She hoped he could sense it.) The journey seemed to last an eternity, but at last it came to an end, and it was night when they landed on D’Qar.

“Let me talk to my sister first,” Luke said, and he was the first to exit the ship, running rather than walking. This was the first time Rey had seen him rattled. She followed behind him at a reasonable distance, saw the astounded expressions cross the faces of various people as they realised who he was, and then she turned away and ran to the medcenter. Finn was still there. Nothing had changed. Well, something had: Poe was sitting next to him. He and Rey regarded each other with surprise.

“That was quick,” Poe finally said.

“I found Luke Skywalker,” Rey said. She couldn’t go into too much detail, she simply couldn’t. “Things have happened and I don’t even know if they’re bad things or not. How is Finn? Has he got worse?”

“Rey, he’s the same. But he won’t die, I know he won’t,” Poe said. Rey decided she was tired of hearing people say her name gently and then follow it up with an ambiguous statement. She was not a child.

You might know he won’t, but I don’t know that,” she said. However, Poe actually interrupted her words, saying “You found Luke Skywalker?”

“Yes,” Rey said, frustratedly. “I know you wanna be here, but…can you go? Please, can you just go?”

Poe was a good person, and he understood, and he left. He didn’t even ask why. As the door closed behind him, Rey crawled onto a chair and wept. She could have cried for five minutes or she could have cried for five hours, she didn’t know, time seemed to have stopped. And then-

Someone, or something, knocked on the door. Rey already knew who it was. She paused behind the closed door wondering if he would give up and go away, but he didn’t, so she finally opened it.

She and Ben Organa-Solo looked at each other for a long time.

“You take what you want, huh?” she finally said to him.

“None of this was what I wanted,” said Ben.

Rey realised she was almost too angry to talk. She took a deep breath - it seemed like the right thing to do - and waited for the rage to subside. Even as she saw in her mind’s eye, over and over again, Han falling.

“I’m not going to speak to you over the unconscious body of my friend,” she said to Ben. “We go in that side room over there and the second you try anything, I kill you.” She thought of Leia Organa. “Or at least I mess you up so badly you never feel anything but pain again.”

“Yes,” said Ben.

“Yes what?” She couldn’t understand this at all.

“Yes…I agree to your request,” Ben said. He was like a robot now, exactly like one, except that some of the cuts on him were bleeding. Droids didn’t bleed. Rey turned away from him with disdain and he followed her into the room.

“I’m sorry for everything I did to you,” he said. Rey thought he should have said that first, should have said that back in the Falcon in fact.

“And for everything you did to my friends?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Shame some of them aren’t around to hear your apology, then, isn’t it?”

“Let me explain to you the truth,” Ben said. His voice sounded like it was coming from a long way away and from inside her head at the same time. Was this another Force thing? “I’m Han Solo and Leia Organa’s son. You know this. But I’m not Kylo Ren. I never was.”

“Then who is?”

“No-one is,” said Ben. “He doesn’t exist. He’s an invention.”

“What?”

“I am a double agent, Rey. For the past fifteen years, I have been infiltrating the Knights of Ren and the First Order. It…worked, as you know. Now my training is complete, and I can end them once and for all.”

Rey just stared at him. She didn’t know how to react, what question to ask first. Part of her was convinced it was all a trap. Finally she managed to say just three words, and say them completely inarticulately.

“But…your mother?”

“Didn’t know,” said Ben. He said this with no emotion in his voice whatsoever.

“Didn’t know?” Rey repeated. She wished somebody, anybody, was by her side for this conversation. She shouldn’t have sent Poe away.

“It was vital no-one know,” Ben said. “It would have put my family in terrible danger.”

“You killed your father!” Rey almost howled. How had the world gotten even insaner? “I saw you do it!” For one moment she wondered if perhaps Han wasn’t really dead, but she forced that thought down so the eventual truth would hurt less.

“Yes, I did, and he agreed to it,” Ben said. That hit her like a physical pain in the chest.

What?”

“He knew my plans, you see. He wasn’t meant to, but…he was a good father.” This also hit her like a physical pain in the chest; made her want to gasp for air. “The First Order wanted my parents dead no matter what. Killing my father would cement my place among them once and for all. It was the best, most painless way.”

The most painless way?”

“He said I should,” Ben said quietly. This was the first time Rey had seen any real emotion in him. “He allowed it. He forgave me.”

Rey felt something that was almost like sympathy for him. But it was still only an almost. She would never see Han again and she had adored him.

“So yes,” said Ben, snapping out of his thoughts, “on the base, with several witnesses, in view of multiple security cameras, with his full permission, I killed my father.”

He was looking at her as if searching her face for forgiveness, but Rey wasn’t about to give it. “That’s not all you did. You killed innocent people. Or at least gave the orders for them to be killed.”

“Yes, I did.” After a pause he said, “I’m sorry for it.”

“You’re sorry for it? Is that enough? Will that bring them back?”

“If they knew what they were dying for,” said Ben, “they might have thought the sacrifice was worth it.”

Might have!” Rey wished General Organa were here. What had she done, when her son told her these things? “What about the little kids, the Jedi apprentices you killed? There’s no excuse for killing children, not ever!”

“The Knights of Ren killed them,” Ben said quietly.

“And you did what? Stand by?”

“I granted a few of the younger ones a merciful death, which the Knights would never have done,” Ben said. “Like my grandfather did at the Jedi Temple, during the Purge.”

Rey had not heard this story, but she knew who Darth Vader was, and she very much doubted that was true.

“There was nothing else I could have done!” Ben said. “Yes, people died. But because of my actions now billions will be saved.”

“That’s disgusting. You’re disgusting,” Rey said furiously. “Anyway, billions weren’t saved. They‘re already dead. I saw planets exploding, and how many more children and babies were on those worlds, huh?”

“I could have done nothing to prevent that!” Ben said. Now, suddenly, he was angry. Now he seemed more like the man who had tortured her. “That would have happened whether I was there or not!”

“You should have done something! Anything!”

For a moment she thought Ben was going to react like, well, like Kylo Ren - do something horrible and violent to her. She braced herself for a hit, and wondered what the quickest way would be to take him down. Aim for the legs? Grab his hair and hit his head against the wall? But the blow never came.

“My mother will forgive me, even if you don’t,” Ben said. He was standing much too close to her for comfort, but there was no wildness in his eyes exactly. There didn’t seem to be much of anything in fact. “And she’s the only one, right now, that I want forgiveness from.”

Rey had never had a mother. She didn’t know what sort of crimes they could forgive. Surely, though, no-one could excuse what Ben had done. “Well, I don’t forgive you. I’ll never forgive you. And I want you to go now.”

“I’ll go,” said Ben. He walked out into the medcenter, and Rey watched him, just in case he tried to go near Finn.

“I’m not a Sith Lord,” he said to her as he neared the door. “I’m like my grandfather in many ways, but I’m not…that. I’m not Kylo Ren. I’m Ben. And everything I did I did to bring peace and justice to the galaxy. I swear.”

This was said with emotion, but Rey didn’t buy it. He had already proven himself an excellent actor. “Or maybe you killed all those people because you were an angry little boy who liked killing people.”

“I didn’t enjoy a moment of it,” Ben snapped. The ‘angry little boy’ comment seemed to have touched a nerve. “You don’t think I see my father’s face before me every time I close my eyes? Even though I had his blessing? You don’t think I see those children, too?”

“Yeah,” said Rey, seizing on that, “you didn’t have their blessings-”

“Do you not think your friends have killed children too? Do you not think that’s what war is?” Suddenly his voice was loud and his eyes dark with rage, and Rey doubted that Kylo Ren had ever been buried that deep within him. “My uncle, did he spare a thought for the children on the Death Star when he fired on it? Because there were children there. Your friend Finn, how many children must he have killed-”

“None!” said Rey furiously, casting her eyes towards the prone body of her best friend. “As soon as he was told to kill people, he ran away! And suffered because of it! Because he’s not like you!“

Ben shrugged. That only served to infuriate her more.

“He’ll pull through, I know he will,” he said. “I was careful. I missed all his vital organs. It’s a shame he broke his programming, he would have been safer if he hadn’t.”

He’s talking about a human being like most people would talk about droids, Rey realized. Or like, like we’re all just pieces in a game to him…

“You know…I heard General Organa say, more than once, that there was still light in you,” she said to him. “But she never said there was still good in you. And I know why. Because good’s a different thing from light.”

Ben said nothing. Rey was very grateful.

She turned her back on him and walked towards Finn. She heard the door behind her open and then close. She let out a long, tired sigh, and grasped for Finn’s hand. It was cold, so she rubbed it with her own.

“You won’t believe what just happened. You won’t believe it at all,” she said to him. Of course, she got no response.

Finally she exited the medcenter. Nurses were starting their rounds, so she figured she should leave - and she had to talk to someone, someone who wasn’t horrifying, who wasn’t Kylo Ren…

She had been hoping Leia would be around somewhere, or Chewie, or any of the pilots she had befriended during her brief time on the planet. Maybe Poe would be in his quarters. Or maybe he was in a meeting with Leia, learning that the man who had tortured him had done it all for some vague, probably unattainable greater good…

Suddenly Luke was there, falling into step beside her. He was wearing new clothes, and his hair and beard were trimmed now, but he didn’t actually look that different. His eyes were the same. He also had a noticeable red patch on one side of his face.

“Leia slapped me,” he said when he saw her looking at it. For one moment he actually sounded rather young.

“Did she also tie you down and cut your hair?” Rey responded. Why she was being so familiar with him, she had no idea, but he laughed. Just for a second.

“Let’s sit down.”

They sat down on a bench outside. Rey had to remind herself not to stare at the plants: she had never seen any of them before, but presumably they would still be there once this long, strange day was over.

“I want to help you, Rey,” said Luke. “I wonder if the best way of doing that is telling you this: I’m just as scared as you are.”

Rey just nodded.

“I suppose you could look at it this way: the Dark Side is not as powerful as we thought. We have an extremely powerful ally back,” he swallowed. “We also have a member of our family back.”

Rey hoped he would say something about her also being a member of the family, but he didn’t. Of course he didn’t. She barely knew any of them.

“I’m sorry,” said Luke. “I’m sorry you were dragged into all this. But your choice to stay is an important one.”

“I don’t want my friends to die,”  Rey said. She was thinking of Finn, and the impact it would have on her if he did die. “I just want…” She couldn’t get Ben’s words out of her head. Whatever his complete scheme was, how could he ever build something new on so many thousands of millions of bones? How could anything that required the deaths of so many ever be good?

“I know what you’re thinking,” Luke said. “I don’t have the answers.” Rey wondered about the Death Star.

“I would like the wars to stop,” she finally said.

“I know. I understand,” Luke said.

Once he had left, Rey lay down on the bench and eventually, exhausted, fell asleep. The sweet scent of the plants nearby helped her rest like she had never really done before.

When she woke up she had a blanket over her. Who had put it there - Luke, Leia, Poe, Ben? She hoped it hadn’t been Ben. She folded it and left it on the bench to be found, and walked slowly back to the medcenter to wait and wait and wait: for Finn, and for the war to be over.