On a morning like any other, Kira Ren found herself dancing a familiar dance. One quick step here, a dodge there. Up, down, duck, quick...look, an opening. Take it! She swept her staff under the legs of her opponent, sending them backward onto the cold training floor, and eliciting a whimpered cry.
“Agh!” Kusi howled, her face scrunched in pain. Kira panted over her, pacing around her fallen competitor.
“You have to try harder, Kusi, in a real battle you won’t have a second chance. Now come on, let’s try again.” She reached down to her Knight, and the aqua-skinned Twi’lek accepted her hand. As they were getting into position again, Akayoe burst into the training room, the frills of her dark gown trailing behind her, her long, black hair flowing in tandem.
“It’s the Supreme Leader. He’s summoned us to his throne room,” she said breathily.
Strange, Kira thought. He only summons all of us when something of interest is happening.
She sighed, and looked around to the rest of her Knights. Justinia and Eren looked up from their sweaty wrestling, before Eren kicked Justinia off of her. “Hah!” she laughed in victory.
Midhia and Mariryan, who were lounging on the training floor, paused the holovid they were watching on their shared tablet and looked up expectantly.
Kira sighed again. “Alright, well, come along then. We have to get presentable.”
They showered and dressed for the summon; Kira fixing her hair in her classic three buns, and slipping into a tightly-fitted black bodysuit. She helped Mariryan braid her wet hair into a tight bun, but when she reached for her helmet, Akayoe stopped her. “The message says no helmets.”
Soon the seven of them were standing proudly at Supreme Leader Snoke’s right side, their pristine figures mirrored on the obsidian floors together like a deadly choir, weapons tucked inconspicuously in case a threat was made against their Supreme Leader.
Snoke nodded at Kira, acknowledging their presence and lack of disguise, a sly smile creeping on his harrowed face. She nodded back, confirming their prepared status.
A thin man with hair the color of wildfire and skin of snow, marched into the throne room, followed closely behind by several Stormtroopers, clad in ivory shell-like armor. Kira recognized this man immediately as General Hux, who was by far the most infuriating and gullible man in the First Order. The only thing that kept her from snapping his neck most days was Snoke, who for some elusive reason allowed the squabbling cur to become General of his armies.
Hux lead the troopers with a scowl pressed on his face, which softened in the slightest as he took his place to Snoke’s left side. His beady eyes found Kira, and narrowed in disgust. Offended yet cool, Kira snapped her fingers and Hux lost his balance momentarily, that coy smile of his thoroughly washed off his face.
Two of the troopers appeared to be dragging a man by his shoulders, while the rest fell in line mechanically.
“This scum was found by Captain Phasma in the forests on Starkiller Base, trying to steal three-thousand chips of radium core,” Hux spat.
Kira looked at the aforementioned scum, and noticed that he was not what she thought most smugglers would look like. No, he was very handsome, with strong features that some would call unappealing, but on him it all fit together so well . His raven hair was voluminous and soft looking, and the warmth in his brown eyes reminded her of summer’s rain. Most of all though, she liked his sly smile, which bloomed beautifully as he felt her eyes on him.
It turned out that she wasn’t the only one who noticed his beauty.
She heard a low whistle from behind her, as the rest of her Knights quietly snickered. “Would you look at that hair,” Justinia said in a hushed tone. “Now that’s the kind of hair you’d like to pull on all night…” More snickering. “From between your legs!” They all erupted into giggles, including a quick smile from Kira. Snoke whipped around tightly, spearing them with a sharp glare and muffling their uncontrolled laughter.
Kira cleared her throat loudly, taking the blame for the interruption and extending her hand behind her to find Justinia’s. Once she found it, she gave it a tight, reassuring squeeze.
Dragged by Stormtroopers on either side, the smuggler’s face looked torn in wonder and fear. “You guys really like the red and black thing, huh?” he mumbled under his breath. When the troopers dropped him at the Supreme Leader’s feet, he stood to his full height (an impressive one, at that) before being knocked down to his knees.
“What is your name, boy?” Snoke asked, though it felt more like a command than a question.
“Ben Solo, sir.”
Snoke then paused, a sign that Kira knew meant his mind was calculating. “So, tell me, Mr. Solo, what were you doing on Starkiller Base?”
“I’m a smuggler, sir, the best in the galaxy. I was hired to collect parts from your base.”
Snoke chuckled, bringing a withered hand to his mouth. “Not very loyal, are you Mr. Solo?"
“Loyalty is something that is bought in my business.”
The Supreme Leader erupted into booming laughter, filling the still halls with his delight. The captive just smiled awkwardly, as if he was unsure if making the Supreme Leader of the First Order laugh was a good thing or a death wish.
Once he composed himself, Snoke continued. “You see boy, the First Order is in preparations of revealing something very great on Starkiller Base.” He waved to Kira’s irritating associate standing to his left. “General Hux’s project is almost complete. So, you sneaking onto this planet is very concerning for us, since you could have been smuggling more than parts, isn’t that right?”
The smuggler gulped visibly. “Yes, that is correct.”
Why is he toying with him? Why not just get it over with and kill the poor guy? Kira thought. What is he doing?
“So, what are we to do? Certainly we cannot trust a man whose loyalty is bought, and yet, it just doesn’t seem right to kill you, does it? Do you want to die today, young Solo?”
“No, not at all sir, I’d like to postpone that as much as possible.”
Snoke’s laughter boomed again. “Very well. Perhaps we can strike a deal.”
Kira’s brows furrowed. What is he doing ?
“ You say you are the best smuggler in the galaxy, which is quite the statement. If that is true, well then, I have a deal for you.” The Supreme Leader then looked to Kira. “My most trained disciple, Master of the Knights of Ren, has been assigned to find the secret Resistance base of Leia Organa and destroy it. You will bring her there safely, and in exchange, we will not kill you.”
What the fuck?! Kira was fuming now, her heart galloping in her chest, and just as she was about to open her mouth in protest, she felt Mariryan’s small hand rest on her shoulder, followed by five other hands, as if a reminder of the last time that Kira talked back to the Supreme Leader.
Flashes of pain and electricity raced through her mind, and Kira calmed, knowing that Snoke’s desires, however confusing and unfitting, were ultimately unavoidable.
It didn’t take long for Kira to pack her things, as she kept all of what was important on her person at all times. Staff, commlink, lightsaber. All of which were tucked in her utility belt or slung over her shoulder, along with secretly stashed knives, poisons, and other weapons. She couldn’t be too careful, because even though she wouldn’t be physically alone on this journey, she was still alone , since this man was barely a stranger let alone an ally.
Once her bag was satisfyingly packed with a variance of weapons and dark fabric, she took a last look at her quarters, and began heading for the door.
When she opened it, she met the sullen faces of six distressed women. Her heart sank in her chest, sharing and understanding the emotion projected in all of their Force signatures. She would miss them too.
“I won’t be gone for long,” was her weak attempt at reassurance. Each of them, though varied in their ability to suppress their feelings, seemed to calm a bit from her words.
Kira said goodbye to Eren and Justinia first. “You two are the strongest. You have to look after the others,” she commanded softly, finding the eyes of the two Knights until they gave confirming nods. “And please, if only for me, refrain from sending dozens of our men to the medbay.” Eren opened her mouth in protest but Kira continued before she could say anything. “Even if they annoy you or call you names!” A quick smile escaped Justinia’s stoic complexion, and soon the three were laughing.
Mariryan and Midhia were next, whose freely flowing tears almost brought wetness to Kira’s eyes, but she blinked the water away to give them firm embraces. “I need you to actually train with the others. I know your powers are strong, but you need to learn how to control them.” Both girls nodded affirmatively. After leaning in, Kira softly added, “And include Kusi, okay? She’s been lonely.”
Kusi was next, the young Twi’lek fidgeting with the bitten ends of her nails, clearly upset with the current circumstance. “Keep practicing,” Kira instructed. “I need you to be strong for me on this one, can you do that?” Kusi nodded, as a fat drop of water rolled down her blue-toned cheek. “I have my commlink as always. You can call me whenever you need to,” Kira added. Kusi smiled weakly, and Kira kissed the spot between her eyes.
Finally, Akayoe stood at the end of them, the dark curtains of her dress flowing as if of their own accord. The eldest of the group and her closest friend, Kira knew that if anything happened to her, Akayoe could take her place as Master, and she would do it beautifully. Her smile was bright and proud, but the shine in her dark eyes couldn’t hide what she was really feeling. Kira held her firmly, projecting all of her love into the embrace.
“Clear skies, Kira,” Akayoe whispered into her hair, and Kira finally let a tear slip from her eyes.
Kira made her way to the Naval port as white-plated troopers carried the smuggler by his elbows behind her. Tie-fighters whizzed above them at lightning speed, and the clicks of marching troops filled the port with an authoritative energy. As they reached the loading dock, she turned to face the smuggler.
“Release him,” she commanded. The troopers dropped him immediately, and he fell to the ground with a dull thump .
He scrambled to his feet and dusted off his shoulders. “Hey, ever heard of going easy on the jacket?!” he called to the troopers, who were marching back to their scheduled duties. Finally, his attention landed on Kira.
“Name’s Ben, nice to meet you.” He held out a hand for her to shake, but she narrowed her eyes at him instead. He used his rejected hand to palm his hair. “So, uh, who were those girls in there?”
“Those would be my Knights of Ren. I am their Master, Kira. You may call me as such.”
“Huh. Are uh, any of them… uh…”
Kira rolled her eyes. “None of them will screw you, if that’s what you’re trying to spit out. Except maybe Justinia.” She looked over him again. “But you’d never be able to handle her.”
He scoffed, shocked by her boldness. “I’ll have you know that I can handle quite a lot!”
“Whatever you say, nerfherder.” Kira turned her head around expectantly. “So where is this glorious ship of yours?”
Ben stretched his arms and flexed his wrists, making a dramatic point about the comfortability of the handcuffs. “The Falcon is right over there.” His large hand pointed over her shoulder, and when Kira’s gaze landed on what he meant, her face fell.
The ship, if you could even call it that, was practically rubble at this point.
Kira stalked towards the ship, as if closing the distance would somehow ebb its rusted edges. “You’ve got to be kidding me. What a load of junk!”
“Hey, watch it!” Ben called from behind her. “She is timeless… and sensitive!”
“Seriously?” Kira smacked the side of the ships metal hull, creating a low, hollow sound, followed by a series of clangs and snaps, all of which brought a grimace to Ben’s face. She raised her brow, begging him to challenge her.
“Okay, fine, but this ship is one of the swiftest in the galaxy. Plus, we have to blend in. Can’t just show up to a secret Resistance base in the ominous- I mean, beautiful - red and black of the First Order.”
Realizing he was right, she acquiesced. “Fine.” This is going to be a longer trip than I’d hoped, she thought. And with this dumbass at my side, it’s going to be a grueling one too.
The cockpit was outdated and terribly cramped, but Kira found that the ripped seats of the Millennium Falcon were surprisingly comfortable. She adjusted herself to her utmost comfort and looked around while Ben engaged the Falcon’s starting sequence. His long fingers pranced around the dashboard, flipping switches and pushing buttons in a trained pattern. His fingers trailed in her direction and then stopped suddenly to tap on her boots, which were crossed and resting on the dash.
“Can you please?” he asked, a twinge of annoyance in his voice.
“Really?” she challenged.
“Yes really! Your fat boot is crushing the shield booster!”
“Ugh, fine!” She unwrapped her legs and rested her boots on the floor, while he pressed the green button and a deep warping sound filled the air.
“Okay,” he said as his hands found the hyperdrive lever. “Here we go!”
The Naval port around them disintegrated, replaced by a flurry of ice and azure, officially marking the beginning of their venture together.