The full moon, high in the darkened sky, casts its all-knowing gaze over the landscape below, bathing it in a soft, ephemeral glow. A cool breeze meanders through the night, whispering to the trees as it passes by, waking nocturnal animals and insects who join in with its subtle song.
Through the frame of an open window, gossamer curtains do their billowing dance to the night’s melody, and soft moonlight illuminates the room where two bodies are entwined in sensual bliss.
They make their own symphony, every movement in perfect rhythm, every gentle sigh and quiet moan in harmony. Silken sheets cradle slender bodies as they move in time, arms and legs tangled sensually, fingers intertwining, mouths open in ecstasy, then crushed together in fervent kisses. Their bare skin catches the moonlight, the man’s milky fair complexion nearly glowing like something otherworldly in its beauty. The woman’s chestnut brown hair spills over the pillow, creating an angelic halo around her lovely face, eyes closed, lips parted as her back arches gracefully off the bed. Her hands stretch out, fingers searching for the coppery red hair of her lover, twisting in the silky strands when they find purchase. She pulls his head down and he kisses her collarbone, her neck, her breasts, caressing her skin and coaxing a faint groan of pleasure from her lips.
No words are spoken; none are needed. The lovers know instinctively what will bring the other the most pleasure, and they savor every moment without rushing. Sensitive fingers roam over the other’s body with languid precision, as if playing an exquisitely crafted stringed instrument, holding nothing back, but offering their bodies to one another without reservation.
Her legs wrap tightly around his hips, urging him on with her plaintive cries and her fingers pressing into his pale skin, her hips rising off the bed to meet his thrusts. He complies without hesitation, their rhythm accelerating, movement upon movement, wave upon wave crashing without weight, their hearts and bodies entwined, oblivious to everything outside of their union, until their intimate crescendo reaches its glorious climax.
Two pairs of eyes, one brown, the other green, pop open. Even on opposite ends of the galaxy, the would-be lovers gasp in unison, bodies and hearts still thrumming with the sheer force of the dream they’ve just shared.
Rey glanced furtively back and forth before stepping off her shuttle. She didn't like this - setting down in the middle of a bustling Imperial-class spaceport. However, it was preferable to the alternative, which would have meant landing her craft in some deserted area and making the trek to Oradin on foot, while hoping that no one would discover the shuttle while she was gone. Even on the desert planet of Jakku, where she had spent the majority of her life up to now, she’d had her efficient, if not glamorous, speeder to help her get from place to place. Her one advantage on this planet was that the climate - at least in this location - was more forgiving. Still, she was sure to attract less attention by acting as if she and her shuttle belonged here, like all the other pilots.
Rey had never truly believed that her parents had sold her for drinking money like Ben Solo had claimed. They may not have been anyone particularly powerful or important, but she just couldn't allow herself to believe that they had been so negligent or unloving, and she'd never given up seeking information about their identities or possible whereabouts. Her search had recently rendered a possible lead, sent to her by an anonymous source, and it was with a heart full of hope and enthusiasm that she grasped, and followed it. With Leia's blessing, she had wasted no time in traveling to the planet Brentaal.
Here, at the intersection of the Perlemian and the Hydian Way, two of the galaxy's major hyperlanes, Brentaal occupied one of the most valuable positions in the galaxy, making the traffic in and out both dense and constant. It had been only with a little help from her recent acquaintance, Snap Wexley, that Rey had obtained the necessary clearance codes, allowing her to dock here. She had thought it would be a simple matter, flying and landing in the port, but the busy terminal, full of the galaxy's wealthy elite, made her feel incredibly out of place, like a nightwatcher worm plucked from its sandy desert burrow.
Rey pulled her hood over her head and wrapped the linen cowl around her neck and lower half of her face, shielding her identity from prying eyes. She presented her (fabricated) credentials to the attendant and, after a moment of nervous anticipation, was cleared to exit the terminal.
The air was crisp and fresh, with a salty breeze blowing off the dazzling ocean, beyond the city walls. She lifted her face to the sun and was met with a vibrant lavender sky, with fluffy pink clouds slowly meandering through the atmosphere. As she’d approached the planet in her shuttle, Rey had been surprised by its appearance: a vivid red-orange, and capped by pristine, white polar regions like a spherical ice sandwich. She had read of the volcanos and vast, steaming oceans on the planet, and had wondered why anyone would choose to live in such a place, regardless of its geographical galactic positioning.
Standing on the planet’s surface, though, blinking into the sunlight that cast everything in a warm purple glow, and with the distant sound of crashing waves somewhere outside the city, Rey could understand the appeal. Now, with a bantha hide pouch, filled with the local currency slung over her shoulder, she ventured out into the coastal trade city of Oradin.
She’d been so eager to follow this lead that she hadn’t thought all that much about what she would do once she’d arrived. She wasn't sure exactly where she would look first, but she hoped that the Force would guide her. After all, it had led her this far. Her first order of business would be to find a place to stay. After that, she would begin her search. She'd been told that there were a wide range of accommodations, ranging from tiny hovels to opulent hotels, so she felt sure she could find a place that would house her for a few credits a night.
Rey felt very glad for the new clothing the Resistance had provided for her. There seemed to be a wide range of economic classes on this planet, but she would have certainly felt self-conscious in her scavenger's scraps that she's worn back on Jakku. She reached across her chest to slip the leather strap of her pouch higher over her shoulder. While she didn't feel that she was in immediate danger of being robbed, she'd learned on Jakku never to become lax about such things. She kept her credits close to her chest, along with the larger pack which held her toiletries and a few extra articles of clothing.
As she made her way through Oradin, Rey was overwhelmed by the eruption of sights and sounds around her. She had never been in a city anywhere near this size before, and the sheer vastness of it made her feel small in a way that even the expanses of desert sand on Jakku never had before. Fabrics in vibrant colors bordered the busy street. Fresh meats, still clinging to the bones of creatures completely unfamiliar to her, were strung on lines outside a butcher’s shop. Barrels and barrels of the most fascinating produce she’d ever seen sent their fresh, delicious aroma floating on the breeze, making Rey’s mouth water. Men with thick, heavy beards shouted out declarations of their wares to passersby, and the jingling of coins could be heard as customers made their purchases and strode away with their treasures.
There was almost too much to see, and Rey found it difficult to focus. She needed to find lodging for the night, but the only hotels she saw were towering structures of crystal clear glass and gleaming metals, far more expensive than what she could afford. She wouldn’t be comfortable in an establishment like that, anyway, she knew. But if she couldn’t find something simpler, she might be forced to sleep in her shuttle, if they would even allow that. She was beginning to wonder whether it would have been better for her to land in the wilderness, and she missed the spacious interior of the Falcon.
Finally resolving to ask for help, Rey drew in a deep breath and stepped into one of the merchant shops. A tall man with olive skin and an impressively waxed mustache stood behind the counter, and he greeted her with an unexpectedly refined Imperial accent.
“Good day, Madame,” he intoned graciously. “What brings you to my humble establishment today?” He waved a hand dramatically over the glass countertop, beneath which gemstones of every color and cut were gleaming brilliantly.
“Oh, I...I’m sorry, I…” She took a moment to collect her thoughts and cleared her throat before beginning again.
“I’ve never been to Oradin before, and I need a place to stay. Please, do you know of any lodgings that are less...luxurious than the hotels near here?”
Rey wished she had gone and spoken to the butcher or one of the weavers. She hadn’t even paid attention to the sign above the door before she’d entered this shop. Naturally, she had chosen one of the most expensive businesses to wander into.
The merchant studied her intently for a long moment, twirling one end of his mustache thoughtfully. She could tell that he was less than pleased to find that she was not a paying customer, but he didn’t appear to be reacting in a hostile way, at least. Seeming to make up his mind, the man gave a curt nod, and when he answered, he had discarded his flowery speech in favor of more common Basic.
“The cheapest places are outside the city,” he said, gesturing vaguely with one large hand. “There’s a cozy little spot just outside the gates, hidden away up on the cliff face. It’s nothin’ fancy, but it’s clean and dry, and you won’t find a better view. Just go down the main road and straight out of town. You’ll find a steep pathway leading up into the mountain. Just follow the trail. You’ll know it when you see it.”
Rey could barely contain her relief at his kindness, and she made a promise to come back and buy from him in the future, if she ever had the means. “Thank-you, so much,” she said, giving him her brightest smile. “You’ve no idea how much it means to me.”
The man nodded and returned her smile warily. “Be careful, and may the stars guide your way,” he said.
Outside the city gates, Rey was greeted by a breathtaking landscape - a constantly shifting sea lapped at a beach of crimson sand, juxtaposed by a sheer cliff face. The water appeared to be a myriad colors - aqua, magenta, fuchsia, lavender, cobalt, and a million others, all blending in and out of one another seamlessly.
Rey shifted her gaze to the cliff wall and saw the narrow stairway carved into the rock. That had to be path the merchant had told her about. She began the climb with a sigh. It seemed that ascending narrow stone walkways had somehow become her lot in life. Fortunately, the climb was not as difficult, nor as long, as the path up to the summit of Ahch-To and, after a few minutes, she stood on a small plateau with several holes cut into the rock. She entered the first passage, which was marked as the manager's office, and before long, she was being led to her own compartment.
Rey was surprised by just how cozy the place was. It certainly was not luxury, but it was functional. It was tiny - no more than a hovel - but there was a soft mattress atop the stone bed slab, a small table and chairs beside a window that overlooked the ocean, and simple, but lovely, tapestries covering the stone walls. A rolling parasteel partition could be lowered and locked to cover the doorway, making the room safe and secure, while a series of mysteriously powered lanterns illuminated the room in a warm, inviting glow.
Rey placed her bags on the table and walked the short distance to her bed. Immediately, she lay back and breathed a sigh. It was a relief to be settled somewhere, even if it was only for a couple of nights. Tomorrow morning, she would set out in search of information, but for now, all she wanted was to close her eyes and melt into the comforting embrace of the Force.
General Armitage Hux could feel some of his usual tension unwinding as he made his way from the bustling Oradin spaceport through the city streets, flanked by a small contingent of petty officers and a couple of Stormtroopers.
Their arrival, as usual, had been flawless. Hux never tired of being welcomed to a place with such an intense reverence for the First Order. Upon arrival, the fleet was granted immediate clearance for landing; no doubt they were aware of how much the General hated to be kept waiting. Every request he or his officers made, no matter how large or small, was executed quickly, efficiently and without question. It was clear the people here appreciated order and stability... and he could feel how much they revered him as the person who brought that order.
That adoration extended well beyond the gates of the spaceport, and into the streets themselves. Oradin was a busy city, filled with successful merchants, who catered to many of the galaxy’s top Elite. Such noteworthy visitors felt confident in the knowledge they could flash their extravagant wealth without fear of being targeted by common criminals and street thugs. Every merchant here knew they had the First Order to thank for the status they enjoyed… and they took every opportunity to show their gratitude, bestowing gifts or other forms of remuneration upon the officers and even the troopers.
So, while the hotel had eagerly offered to send a luxury shuttle to transport him and the delegation, Hux preferred to walk. By no means was it a formal military parade, but when they passed through the city, all eyes were on them. Hux enjoyed being the center of attention, and the awed, almost worshipful glances of shopkeepers, standing in their doorways to watch them, sustained him. It was a reminder of his power... of who he was and all he had accomplished in the name of the Order.
Hux also found he enjoyed spending the time on foot, admiring the sights of Oradin. He'd been here at least a dozen times in the last few years, but he had never grown tired of the stark, functional design of the city, with its uniquely designed buildings that somehow managed to be both aesthetically pleasing and entirely efficient. He hated the sprawl and chaos of the cities that tended to spring up on the Outer Rim planets; the sheer disorder made his head ache. Here was a city that had done it right -- order and control underlying the presence of wealth and power -- a city that, in many ways, reflected the ideals of the First Order.
He'd have to see about trying to incorporate this design with any cities they might take over in the future... that was, of course, so much more effort than simply destroying them and starting over. But it might be worth it, he thought as they entered the stately hotel where they would be staying for the next few nights.
He glanced around the enormous, lavishly appointed lobby. The floors were inlaid with a highly polished stone that reflected the glow of thousands of tiny circular lights embedded in the ceiling. The furniture was predominantly crafted of dark wood and brushed parasteel, which made the massive room feel opulent, yet inviting. The hotel staff wore uniforms that were modest but well designed from quality fabrics, and they spoke in gracious, hushed tones.
He started to approach the main desk, but was cut short by the approach of the hotel manager.
“General Hux, sir, we are exceedingly pleased to have you back.” The slender man bowed gracefully, barely containing his excitement at being able to welcome the First Order delegation. He nodded enthusiastically at each of the officers in turn, then looked back to Hux with an embarrassed grin, realizing that he had been fawning.
"But, of course, you must be tired from your journey. Your rooms are all prepared... and sir, if it's all right, we've reserved your usual suite on the top floor." The manager was already walking toward the lifts, motioning for several droids to discreetly step in and take the bags from the troopers to carry them up.
As Hux closed the door, he looked around his room with satisfaction. It was spacious and elegant, with floors made from the same dark wood that lined the lobby. Soft light shone from recessed niches at the ceiling, casting a warm golden glow that illuminated the understated yet sophisticated furniture. He especially loved the refresher, with its floors of dark polished stone, the bathing tub - large enough to hold several people - framed by the floor-to-ceiling window which provided an incredible view of Oradin's modern, vibrant cityscape.
There wouldn’t be time for that indulgence this evening, though. He had just enough time for a quick dinner with his officers, during which they would go over talking points and strategies for tomorrow's trade negotiation. After that, perhaps a solitary glass of brandy on the small rooftop patio, and a few stolen moments to admire the view of the planet's twin moons. There was a great deal riding on these discussions, and he needed to go into them with a clear head. The Supreme Leader wouldn't tolerate anything other than complete success from this mission, and Hux intended to deliver nothing less.