This is my favourite part. It starts and ends here. The pebbles shine, the plan worked, Hansel Triumphant. Lesson number one: be sneaky and have a plan. But the stupid boy goes back, makes the rest of the story postscript and aftermath. He shouldn’t have gone back. And this is the second lesson I took from the story: when someone is trying to ditch you, kill you, never go back.
- Richard Siken
In the end, it all comes down to a navigational error. A minor miscalculation, a fraction, 0.1 of a degree and they’re trapped, too close to the planet surface for their radar to work properly, to escape cleanly. If Hux were in a clearer state of mind, if he had but an inch to think, he would be demanding the navigator’s head.
But there is no time, there is no space. There’s rather a lot going on here. The very air seems to close in around him, hot and suffocating. It makes his chest ache – more so than the bruises he has been left with from Ren’s latest temper tantrum.
“We can’t shake them, General,” Mitaka says. His eyes are wide but his voice is steady. He swallows before speaking again. “We don’t have the capabilities to jump to light speed again.”
Truly, Hux has no idea how the Resistance has found them and why now, why now as they are due to return to the Finalizer. He bends over Mitaka’s station, the radar flickers in an out, there is only white noise over the comms. This planet’s magnetic field is playing havoc with everything.
They are flanked by three X-Wings. A small squadron in a normal situation but in an unarmed shuttle –
“Visibility is awful, General!” the pilot shouts back to him. Hux has to bite back the caustic comment that leaps into his throat. He knows that. He is aware. He can see the sheeting rain as well as they can, can hear the rumble of thunder, the frequent flashes of lightning.
“We cannot allow ourselves to be captured,” Hux says and even as he is forming the words he knows what he is asking of his crew. He sets his jaw, sweeps his gaze across the men and women packed into the cramped shuttle Ren had picked out for them. Between them they hold the secrets to the First Order’s inner workings. Every base code, every double-agent. Every piece of technology.
He had his suspicions as Ren relayed the mission parameters to him, as Ren reeled off his chosen personnel and he had voiced them then, gotten a broken collarbone for his troubles. What is happening now confirms it.
Ren has sent them to a planet that is impossible to call for back up from. He has given them a vague mission, an ill-equipped shuttle. He has packed all those most loyal to Hux into one small space.
Well played, Ren, Hux thinks grimly. Well played.
It is not the sort of plot Hux would have expected from him. It’s refined, well-thought-out. Sinister, even. He had always thought if he was to meet his end at Ren’s hands it would be through a split-second decision. His neck snapped in a fit of anger, thrown too hard against something by accident.
This way Ren can give out that he died as a hero, loyal to the last. Perhaps he’ll have a monument commissioned, a statue. Hux’s death will be convenient but Ren’s hands will be clean.
“Sir?” Mitaka says. Hux tightens his grip on the back of his chair. He’s young. So very young.
Hux keeps his back straight. He refuses to be afraid. Better to die here and be remembered a hero, he supposes, than to have his spine snapped by an overgrown toddler having a temper tantrum. He thinks briefly of his father, of Snoke, both of them so convinced of his cowardice, so convinced he served only himself.
He half wants to laugh at the stupidity of it all. Here he is, having clawed his way out from under his father’s boot, having clawed his way to the top of the Order, proving his worth, his loyalty, his genius, his tactics at every turn, leaving his enemies corpses behind him. He has learnt this game thoroughly and he has learnt it well.
And now he will meet his end on a nowhere planet in a fiery inferno, not in the heat of battle but pinned down by three small X-Wings.
A waste, he thinks. A waste.
“If we are to die,” he says, voice steady and clear. “We can at least take the bastards with us.”
There is silence from his crew. Hux wonders if they’ve figured it out yet. If they knew as well as he did they were bowing their heads for the noose as soon as they set foot on the shuttle. If they, like him, pretended not to see, set their jaws, steadied their hands, kept their gaze aloft and pretended their Supreme Leader was an honourable man, was anything but the twisted child he really is.
As one they incline their heads. “Sir.”
There is a flash of lightning. In it’s blue-white glow Hux sees trees, tall and dark and spindly. The shuttle lurches suddenly to the side. There is the terrible sound of metal crumpling, of glass and crystal and plastic shattering.
Hux tries to keep his eyes open but there comes another flash of lightning and it’s brightness has him flinching away, closing his eyes.
He does not get a chance to open them again before the shuttle hits the ground.