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The only positive thing about Hux’s situation is that he had yet to start eating or drinking before he read the headline: it would be harder to maintain a neutral facial expression if he were to cover the table and his inferiors with bits of his meal. He still suspects his face is a horrible shade of red. (He’s been training to control that as long as he can remember with little to no result. He still blushes easily; nothing can be done. Nowadays people assume it’s because he is angry.)

He discretely looks at his companions sitting across the table. Two young colonels don’t notice his distress, instead talking about a new shooting training and a correlation between competition elements and hitting the target. One woman is too engaged in a discussion, and the second seems to be mesmerized by the movement of her lips. Both are too busy to notice the crimson color of his cheeks.

General Hux is staring at the hateful headline. Still there. It’s situated right above the header to an article he initially intended to read. He’s always multitasking during the lunch break. Usually, it’s work-related: an important letter, an urgent report, something needing his attention, something needing approval, something else broken and he is the only one competent person on the ship who knows what to do next. But not today -- today is a special day, a day for his little indulgence. Every first working day of a monthly cycle is a day of new issue of ‘Galaxy and Engineering’. He turns off all notifications except level 5, sits with someone who would be afraid to bother him with stupid questions, opens the magazine and goes straight to the main review of the issue - a big piece about the most impressive and unusual technology across the galaxy. Today instead of the article “Conquering the energy of giant ants from Arh-Wer5 ” he’s ended up with this.

Are Supreme Leader and General Hux of the First Order closer than they want you to think?

A relationship that will shape the face of the galaxy. Rivals or lovers? Can they be both? Rumors from the Supremacy, flagship and flying capital of FO, are too scandalous to ignore! Uncover the hidden secrets of the most mysterious and most powerful man in the galaxy and his former co-commander. Click to find out more. Only for our prime subscribers.

This couldn’t be true, this simply couldn’t be real! Hux is sleeping and he’ll shortly wake up in the normal version of the universe where dirty rumors about him do not appear in his favorite tech-magazine next to the brave inhabitants of Arh-Wer5 who apparently control forty feet ants with mental retranslators.

Hux is chewing on his sandwich and thinking of what to do next. Even in a situation like this, he can't allow himself to skip a meal. If he were to stop eating every time he becomes stressed, he would be starving. One of his oldest memories is some old kitchen and a soft hand with a cookie. From a young age he’s been constantly in stress, and he needs the energy to deal with it.

It’s not the first time he has heard rumors about himself. People have envied him from the time of his first promotion. The ones he first heard were stories about nepotism. They weren’t really popular among old ex-Imperials; anyone who knew Brendol had realized that he wasn’t particularly fond of his bastard son. Hux had mixed feelings about that - he was still young and foolish. It was wrong that people talked about him but somewhere deep inside he wanted them to be right. When he outranked his father, gossipers started to whisper it was because of Rae. He didn’t pay much attention when they implied she had acted like his mother, but when he heard some dirty assumptions about them, Hux was furious. He was ready to find every one of them and slit their throats. She was the one who stopped him, the one who taught him not to listen to them. That day in his office, when he was plotting to punish them, Rae told him her motto. He remembers her tired voice mixed with cracking from intergalactic call -- “mountains are no stranger to snow,” an old saying from her homeworld. People will always try to put down the one who is better; that’s how they justify their own mediocrity. Ignore them and keep going.

And she was right! Any time he gained a new title, any time he did something significant, someone, with a sly smile would imply that Hux got there by spreading his legs and working on his knees. The joke was on them. He had never used his body to earn a promotion, all because of the filth spread about him and his mentor. He couldn't let them be right about him, even though in certain situations it would be much easier.

Years went by, and he got to the top - the youngest General, creator of the deadliest weapon in history, the destroyer of stars. Spiteful critics wouldn’t shut up. There weren’t many people above him, so they start to spread stories about him abusing his position of power. They said he was punishing pilots by spanking them; they said he was invigorating troopers by riding them. If even part of it were true, he literally would have no time for anything but copulation. He didn't pay any attention to that, simply repeated to himself, “Mountains are no stranger to snow,” every time, and worked harder.

Before today's finding it was either a whisper in locker rooms or nasty jokes in personal chats -- nothing serious. But he’s kept abreast and had written a small spy script a few years ago, which informs him of a rise in popularity of gossip about Ren and him. He doesn’t pay it much attention. It’s expected. They’ve started to work more together, often staying alone in Hux's or Ren's office for hours. Ren hasn’t killed him. It’s surprisingly even for Hux. For others, that has been enough to speculate that he’s found an obvious way to placate Ren's temper.

But that article is much more serious than nasty whispers behind his back. 'Galaxy and Engineering' is a respected magazine with millions of subscribers from all parts of the galaxy. Yes, the link is going to another source, but it's unlikely that the general public will realize that. Even if people only read the header, that will be enough to seriously damage to Hux’s reputation. They will remember his involvement with Ren even after he’s usurped the throne of the First Order.

Hux must find who is behind the headline, and quickly.


 

Hux is lying on a couch, a datapad in hands, multiple translucent projections all around him. His neck and back will surely be killing him tomorrow. Working in a horizontal position is a terrible habit from his years in the Academy when he didn’t have working place in his room. There was space enough only for bunks and four small shelves. If he wanted to work on a table he’d had to go to the common studying hall - noisy, crowded, other cadets peering in at his work. That wasn't for him. He stayed in his bunk and did his homework there, half-lying, half-sitting. Now, as a General, he can afford the room to have a perfect office in his quarters -- multiple monitors, ergonomic chair, table adjusted just for his height. He makes use of it normally, but not today. He’s made a sacrifice for his mental comfort, and he knows he needs all comfort he can get right now.

He’s improved his spy script. The old version only collected monthly statistics without actual names and fact. Hux had designed it that way on purpose. It was easier to look at the graphs and analytics of trends and not to see actual juicy details and people who spread them. He has a motto, and he is calm, but it's better not to know their names. He can't get rid of them, at least not yet. But with the new version, he will be able to view every mention of Ren and him.

After Crait he thought Ren would attack him again, demote him, and eventually murder him. But none of that had happened. Their first meetings were uncomfortable, air charged with mutual hostility and mistrust, but gradually things improved: Ren actually listened to him; he asked for Hux's advice; his propositions weren’t utterly ridiculous force-related nonsense; he even stopped attacking his crew. A couple of walls fell victim to his rage when he heard the news about the Resistance and his precious magical scavenger. But better walls than expensive equipment.

Hux still doesn’t know why. Death of Snoke? The ancient monster clearly was destabilizing Ren’s mental health. Hux thought it was smart. Who wants a powerful contender to the throne in close proximity? Hux would’ve done it too if he could protect himself from Ren's rage, though now he is questioning that approach. Hux isn’t sure that the girl single-handedly killed the old Supreme Leader and his guards or knocked down Ren. From the knowledge he’d gathered on Force users, they needed to train for years to control their powers, and she was a novice. Ren on the other hand ... if you push even the most obedient dog too far it will eventually bite you.

Hux can suspect Ren all he wants, but Snoke hadn’t had any surveillance in the throne room and his little theory can’t be proven. Maybe he is mistaken and Ren was a fool who still is faithful to that horrible creature. Maybe it’s Skywalker’s death that helped him. Hux remembers stories that he was Ren’s old master. One story was more ridiculous than another. Some say that Ren tried to kill him years ago, didn’t succeed, and had run away disgraced. Some say Luke had tried to kill Ren, and Ren had run in fear begging Snoke for protection. Some went so far as to say that Luke had a thing for his sister, General Organa, or even that he was Ren’s real father, and they were trying to kill each other due to some family tradition. Whatever had happened, Ren seems to be much more stable now with them both are finally dead. He even looks healthier and doesn't wear that stupid mask anymore. They’ve been able to work normally together for the first time in years.

That kriffing story has come out at a really inappropriate time. He hopes Ren hasn’t seen it yet and that Hux can be quick enough to find all who are responsible for it before the story reaches the Supreme Leader’s ears. What would happen if he were to find out about an article? As far as Hux knows, Ren might blame him and simply execute him to clear his reputation.

It seems like all of them are pretty similar. Hux is scrolling through his messages and sipping protein shake. It’s a dull job. Most of them are simply parts of idle chatting, but it needs to be done.

 

pinkNexu @pinkiIIV Posted
have u seen how SL looked at him today?

Serious S @Sif23 Replying to @pinkiIIV
Can we talk about something else than GG’s ass?

pinkNexu @pinkiIIV Replying to @Sif23
i wasn’t about his ass. your words not mine

DreamPilot @vderw Replying to @pinkiIIV @Sif23
That’s one fine ass! And I’ve seen it too!!

pinkNexu @pinkiIIV Replying to @Sif23 @vderw
told u

 

Skip.

Deck 8, Barrack 345RT

FD-324: How can they be together, if they hate each other!?

IR-486: We hate each other too, babe.

[Both giggle]


FD-324: It’s not like that. We are rivals. We challenge each other. General Ginger despises him. I bet he is planning to get rid of him.
IR-486: So you aren’t planning to get rid of me! Easier for me to get rid of you.
FD-324: I would like to see you try.

[Sound of kissing]

Skip.

 

He wants to examine everything tonight - inner forums, personal messages, bits of conversations, but what he’s really looking for is any implication of their 'relationship' that doesn't come from First Order intranet. It’s gotten outside: he needs to find out how.

pinkNexu @pinkiIIV Posted
👏THEY!👏WERE! 👏SPOTTED!👏TOGETHER! 👏 WALKING iIN A PARK!👏

Katty @KT456 Replying to @pinkiIIV
Are you sure that wasn’t your dream? When was the last time you had a dick? You seem to be obsessed with them. Kinda unhealthy, dude!

darkandsexy @vderw Replying to @pinkiIIV @KT456
I’ve read it too!!!!!

Not yours @divaS Replying to @pinkiIIV
send me a link in DM

DreamPilot @vderw Replying to @pinkiIIV
It said they’ve ‘kissed’. They ARE together after all! What did SL give him for that? Is he the Grand Marshal now? Are we building a new Death Star?

pinkNexu @KT456 Replying to @vderw
even General’s ass is not that good 😂😂

Katty @KT456 Replying to @pinkiIIV @vderw
Pervs!

 

Skip
Hux skims through the article they were discussing. It was a couple of weeks ago during the diplomatic mission to Feger. The author implied they were spotted kissing in the garden and then went to a secluded gazebo and had ‘come back looking content’. They really were there, and Ren actually had invited him to visit the Royal garden of floating rocks where they talked about negotiation and tactics. But there was no kissing! And definitely no gazebo! And what did they even mean by ‘looking content’?

Another article contains a story about them often staying late in Ren’s office, ordering food and drinks and ‘happily leaving hours after’. Hux often has dinner while working; no need to waste time for food if you are eating alone anyway. It was only natural to suggest Ren join, and yes, a couple of times when there were really good results, he’d suggested they share a glass of brandy. Two serious men discussing the destiny of the galaxy with food and drinks is not romantic, not at all.


 

Hux spends almost half the night inspecting everything. It’s not much right now, but it's steadily gaining popularity. From what he’s seen, initial information must come from his inner circle. They must be aware of his personal schedule, where and when both of them are, having known not only about their visit to Feger but seen them walking in that kriffing garden of floating rocks. That wasn’t public knowledge; only people who were there could have known about that.

The latest article, the one he’d seen today during his lunch break, sums up multiple rumors about their ‘relationship’. Only one new detail about them spending around an hour inside the Silencer was included. Ren had insisted on showing Hux an improvement he made. He’d rewired and recalibrated the calcinator, which was pretty impressive. Hux hadn’t known that Ren knew anything about engineering, but apparently, he was pretty good at it. They’d ended up sitting inside and discussing cost-benefit ratio of providing that development for other ships.

That had only been two cycles ago! And it’s already there in the article. Someone had sold that information to the magazine. It’s not just people spreading dirt about him, it’s leaks of confidential information. What else can they sell? Locations of their bases? Military plans? Names of their spies? He must find who is behind it and stop them.

To write a searching algorithm is a simple task when you know what you are looking for. All he needs to do is map all suspicious news pieces with all people who have access to his and Ren’s schedules. Fortunately, there are not many of them. Then he will cross-reference that list with a list of devices that were going outside the First-Order inner network before the dates of publication.

It will take some time. His datapad is noticeably overheating; even though he’s only used it to send and retrieve data, all the calculations are done on the server side. He could make the algorithm more efficient but not today. Today he needs names.

Hux decides to make himself a tea while his script is searching for rats. He pours water into a small kettle and imagines how he will interrogate them. They will be cracking one by one and blaming each other as rats always do. He takes a cup, adds two spoons of leaves. One of the rats will say it was only an innocent joke. No sugar, he never puts sugar in his drinks. Another will cry and beg for mercy. Two minutes and tea is ready. Eventually, he will execute them for treason to set a good example for others who wish him ill.

Beep! His script finishes its search and the noise brings him back from that little happy fantasy. A list is ready. He takes a cup with him and goes back to the sofa. Should he start interrogation with the youngest and more vulnerable or question them in alphabetical order?

The question is automatically solved when he reaches the datapad. It’s not a list; it’s a name. Just one name with a small photo near it: a familiar face. Hux doesn’t believe it; it simply can’t be right. It’s a mistake and he will find it. He sits back on the couch, closes the results, and rechecks his code. He reworks parts that potentially could be causing problems, makes the circle of suspects wider, and adds visualization for every step.

It takes longer, but now he can observe the performance of the program. The room is filled with light blue - multiple profiles first appear then disappear one by one with every iteration of the cycle. Captain Kurt, Captain Resel, Lieutenant Fharr -- disappeared. Hux is looking at every face - who can it be. Maybe him? No, he wasn't there. Her? Colonel Maffa, she has all reasons to hate him: he closed her special training program due to poor results. No, she doesn't participate in any chats except culinary and guns. All of them have a motive, but their profiles keep disappearing, until only one is left -- the same name and photo as before.

He must have made the conditions in the code too strict. He puts the tea on the small table, he still hasn’t finished it, has only taken a couple of sips. He rewrites the code once again. Letters are blurry, he needs to rest, but it needs to be done. He adds all family members and known lovers (current and ex) of people who are already there to the list of suspects. He checks and then rechecks every line, deletes some conditions. He grabs the cup, the tea is cold. He pours it out and takes brandy from the top shelf instead.

Brandy is good. It’s his favorite. The bottle is almost finished; he will need to order a new one soon. One more indulgence. Has he become soft? Once he was ruthless: he would kill without thinking twice if it was beneficial for him and for the Order. Now he hesitates. He’s hesitated before, in the throne room. That time he was overthinking. A man who can stop a blaster bolt mid-air can make the toughest prisoners crying without touching them. It was smart. So why is he hesitant now?

A gloved hand is on his throat. It’s not hurting him, not yet. His heart is racing. He knows what that man can do.

"You can’t give me orders, General," The voice is distorted through a vocoder. He pauses after every word. Hux wonders if he’s even a human under that thing. Technically Ren is right. Supreme Leader appointed him as co-commander, but Hux can't let him destroy his ship and intimidate his crew.
"That person is a valuable asset of the First Order, Ren," the reflection of his face in the mask expresses disdain. Good, he can’t show his fear to Snoke’s mad dog. "He is not your punching bag."

The hand twitches. Hux thinks he’ll be strangled, but it moves away from him. Kylo Ren turns around and leaves without saying a word, and a door is slammed behind him with too much force.

When he hears a beep for the third time he is forced to admit it. He doesn’t need to read the profile, he already knows what is in it. The best in his class. So promising. Hux remembers the day the photo was taken: it was the day the man came to Finalizer. He looks even younger than now, and definitely much happier.
Of all people, Hux would suspect him the least. Why? Where is the motive? After all that Hux’s done for him.

Big blue transparent letters are slightly blinking across Hux’s room.

Lieutenant Mitaka.