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ONE

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“Nar Shaddaa. This is a place of secrets--mysteries as deep as space itself.”

 

 

It’s sudden when it happens. The wind whistling through the dark room is the only warning sign. A ripple in the air, and a foot emerges from it. Steps onto the dusty floor. There’s a leg, and then the rest of her appears, seemingly out of nowhere. Human, medium height, dark hair; leather clad. She breathes in slowly, sucking in the air of a forgotten laboratory in the depths of Nar Shaddaa. Her nose wrinkles at the smell, decaying chemicals and old rat droppings, but she smiles all the same.

“Yes,” she says. And her head tilts to the side. “This will do.”

 

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“--you must be so proud of your son.” The words leave Kolle’s mouth and they cast quite a shadow over the room.

Leia is no novice at this game. “Supreme Leader of the galaxy,” she replies, neatly. “At his age. Impressive.” Though her tea is tepid by now, she still takes a sip of it before: “Most impressive.”

Kolle is a high level operative for Black Sun, so she’s no novice either. She smiles and leans back in her chair. “This has been pleasant, General, but we are curious what you want from us. It could be anything, really. A line of credit, soldiers for hire, basic supplies, ships--”

“Let me stop you there,” Leia says, raising a hand. “We want ships. And we can pay for them.”

The woman’s eyebrow raises. “Ah,” she says. “Here’s the thing. We don’t need your money.”

Leia stares evenly at her before: “Of course, I’ve heard Black Sun is--”

“--but we do want something from you,” Kolle interrupts. “And we’d be happy to provide you with ships as a thank you, as a statement of our highest esteem for your singular talent in, shall we say, shaking up the galaxy.” She chuckles. “Business is always good when you’re winning.”

“What do you want?” Leia opens her mind to the Force. It’s easier now that she’s been training with Rey, easier to directly pick up on intent with a certain clarity. She breathes in, searching and-- and all she feels is wrong. Something is wrong. Terribly wrong.

“We want to meet the girl, your champion,” she says, blithe as can be. “Just an hour or two, like this. Over tea. Or something stronger if she favors such things.”

“You want to meet Rey,” Leia says quietly. And with a wry tone: “Jedi don’t recruit easily.”

It’s like the sound of tinkling bells when Kolle laughs. Leia considers the cognitive dissonance; a glorified drug lord with such a laugh, such a sweet face.

“No agenda, General. We just want to meet her.”

Something in the room has changed; something hidden, something dark. Leia can sense an uptick in Kolle’s heartbeat. “As a matter of fact, we don’t need your ships,” Leia says and rises to her feet. “Not at that cost.”

“It’s a simple meeting we request,” Kolle says, almost stern. “We--”

“In the galaxy, there are two persons who are more powerful than either of us can possibly comprehend. You wouldn’t dare ask for an audience with one of them. Why would you dare ask for--”

“Leia,” Kolle shoots back, uncomfortably familiar. “It’s only--”

“No,” Leia says. “Rey is perhaps the most dangerous person you’d ever meet, so, consider this a favor to you.”

*
“You’re dead, Finn,” Rey says, as serious as she can, considering her current state. She lifts her hand in the air, fingers outstretched. “I’m going to kill you and then I’m going to space you and then I’m going to kill you again.”

Poe chuckles and hands her the next shot. “You’ve got three to go.”

She glares at Finn and his shit-eating grin riles her further. But the rules of the game are the rules of the game and she lost. Three more shots of this horrible alcohol to go. Her head is spinning, her fist is clenched; and yet. What a smile on her face.

It’s been good, out here in the black. A common purpose amongst allies has been inspiring, motivating her to be better. Scavenger one day, rebel scum the next; a transition that has been easier than expected. She pilots the Falcon, she works as a mechanic, she trains with the General, she fights her way through the ancient Jedi texts for illumination. There’s a new lightsaber attached to her belt, and she hasn’t felt a dull silence in her ears followed by--

Well, she hasn’t seen him since Crait.

They’ve starved and they’ve scavenged and they’ve fought, and they’ve begged; and it’s been the best year of Rey’s life.

*
Regret is the morning’s punishment for last night’s revels as the General visits the mess hall with a particular look on her face and, while hungover as hell, Rey knows it’s a mission.

*
“Buckle up, people,” Jessika says from the pilot chair in their freshly “borrowed” leisure cruiser. “With this storm, we’re going to have a rough landing.”

“Not if I can help it,” Rey says, her hands firm against the co-pilot controls. She can hear Finn scrambling for the seat belt though.

Rose pipes up. “If we die here, I’m blaming Poe for the game last night.”

Poe groans in the most over-dramatic fashion. “I’m innocent, you all just have bad luck.”

“Cut the chatter,” Jessika says as they descend and the ship rocks violently. Rey breathes in before she rights it and uses a bit of the Force to keep the ship steady. There’s a chuckle that rises out of Jessika as she realizes what happened. “Cheater,” Jessika says.

Rey just smiles and heads through the storm to the landing bay.

*
Leaving Jessika with the ship, the four of them head towards their mark’s position-- an elegant bar in midtown. Rey’s fully masked in some slightly used Mandalorian armor; the perfect bodyguard. Rose is dressed up to look like the Money; white linens and dark glasses. Poe and Finn-- well. Capes, silks, eyeliner, leather boots; dressed in high Corellian fashion as disgustingly wealthy arms dealers looking to turn a profit.

They’ve each tried different roles in the past year on various missions, but this configuration of aliases has shown the most success. She knows from experience how terrible she is at playacting the boss, the Money, or anything complex. Anything not her. Playing the muscle and being constantly vigilant is her sweet spot.

At the bottom of the gangplank, Poe steals a kiss from Finn and throws a wink at Rey after. She shakes her head. There is a certain mischief in being undercover.

It’s nice, she thinks, this fledgling something between her two friends. Nice to trust someone utterly and also feel connected with them enough to--

She stops the thought. She felt a connection like that once before and look where it led.

*
Their mark is an ex-queensguard from Naboo who’s obviously done well in the world of networking; he has connections to the Hutts, the Nikto, Crimson Dawn, and perhaps, if rumors are true, the First Order. Their mark is also very impressive at taking his liquor and Poe, bless him, attempts to keep up.

Rose watches without an expression on her face until Rey senses the mark’s weakening, an opening to dig deep. She touches Rose’s shoulder and Rose clears her throat.

“We’re ready to make a deal with the Grand Moffs. Where is the First Order’s new base of operations? We want to meet with them.” Rose’s tone severe.

The mark blinks. Takes a long drink. “My new friends, I can help you, of course, but if you want to make a deal in this galaxy, talk to Black Sun. They’re flush with cash. Easy money and no red tape, if that’s your pleasure.”

Finn lies: “So we’ve heard.”

Rey knows of Black Sun, of course. How could she not? Their dark tendrils reached even Jakku. The crime syndicate has been a blight on the galaxy for hundreds of years; bigger and bolder than any of the competition.

“There’s spice being moved like you’ve never seen before. Enormous quantities. Their mines must be sucked dry,” the mark says.

“Where’s the product moving?” Finn asks.

“Nar Shaddaa--”

“--Of course.”

Poe pipes up, a little slurred. “Where’s it going? We haven’t heard of a spike in secondary trade.”

The mark shrugs. “Not my problem.”

“Who’s the buyer?” Rose asks.

“Someone, my beauty; someone with credits.”

Rose glares and Finn glares and Poe giggles.

The mark has a glazed over look now. “I’ve only seen her once.”

“Her?”

“Force user too. Impressive with it. She might give the Supreme Leader a run for his money.”

This is off-script, this is off-mission, but something dark inside of Rey drives her to take her helmet off and reach out her hand for him, feeling through the Force for everything he knows. She opens her mouth to speak but she can see his eyes widen and his fear radiate through the Force. And it’s not just because he’s surprised.

“Commander,” he whispers. “I didn’t know you were--”

Rey tilts her head to the side. It is her military rank, but--

“I am at your service,” he says and she can sense that he will tell her anything she wants to know.

She breathes in: something is wrong here. Something is so wrong. But a mission is a mission. “Tell me the location of the First Order’s base.”

“It’s in the Orca system, space station near the second planet,” he says as easy as if he were ordering another cocktail. “Now, would you be interested in speaking to my boss about trade? We are eager to serve you.”

Blinking, Rey takes it in. That was invaluable information traded for nothing. And she can’t fathom why he’d be offering her service. If there’s rumors about her in the galaxy, it’s not because-- “What could you possibly offer?” she attempts.

“Ships!” he squeals. “We can offer you ships, Commander.”

Poe raises a hand and, in looking at him, Rey realizes how sober he is. “The Commander doesn’t make impromptu decisions, friend. Why don’t we come back tomorrow for a proper conversation?”

“But--” is the chorus from the mark and Rey.

“Tomorrow,” Finn adds, and shows that he’s paid the bill.

At a look from Poe, Rey remembers herself and puts her helmet back on.

The mark lurches forward, grabs her gloved hand. Lays on a kiss to its metal and leathers. “Doing business with you will be my honor.”

She pulls her hand away, troubled.

*
Later, as they march to the ship with Finn and Rose in front, Poe leans in. “You want answers, I know, but we’re leaving. Mission accomplished.” He pauses before: “Did you bewitch him through the Force, what was that?”

She shakes her head. “I don’t know. But perhaps the General can shed light on this?”

“You’re right,” Poe says, confident. “Leia always knows best.”

*
Leia is deep in the depths of her research when Connix buzzes in a call. “General,” she says, “It’s Kyrtoga the Hutt, for you, ma’am.”

It’s her first direct call from the Hutts, and from the Hutt patriarch, surely, and so she straightens her collar and her hair before pressing the button, allowing the holo to begin.

A Hutt comes into full view through hologram projection and he immediately crows: “Huttslayer!” As if it’s some great title.

She doesn’t flinch; she has no regret in killing Jabba, but it’s a colorful way to begin a conversation. “Your excellency,” she says. “What an honor.”

“The honor is mine,” he says, chuckling. “Now, tell me, is your precious champion present? We’d like to meet her.”

The breath seems to draw out of her, slow and sure. Not many Hutts cut to the chase, and this-- this is -- She attempts an answer. “The Jedi Rey is not available for an audience, Kyrtoga. I told this to--”

“You see,” he interrupts. “There is a girl who looks exactly like your champion, and she’s draining the galaxy, it seems, of spice through a relationship with Black Sun. Are you responsible for this, Huttslayer? Because this is not your general way of doing business. We know you well enough now to consider you above the spice trade.”

This information all clicks with the research she’s been working on, but there’s more to absorb--

“You see, she won’t do business with us. Calls us filthy gangsters.” He chuckles. “We’d like our piece. Black Sun isn’t the only organization with their fingers in spice, you know. We invented this business.”

“It’s not my girl,” Leia says, realizing she might be a step closer to the truth. “Do you have an image of this spice trader?”

“Oh, Huttslayer, she’s quite the beauty,” the Hutt says and he presents a holo of a woman, from boots to brown hair in three buns. Black leather clad, arms bare. With Rey’s face, looking imperious.

And Leia opens her mouth--

*
In his quarters on the Executor, he watches the conversation with an incredulous surprise, the holo tablet in his hands.

“--quite the beauty,” the Hutt is saying and he presents a holo of a woman, from boots to brown hair in three buns. Black leather clad, arms bare. With Rey’s face, looking imperious.

And Kylo Ren opens his mouth and the word “what” comes out as the tablet falls from his hands, crashing violently to the floor.