‘Show me the way,’ Kylo pleaded to the helmet, the last of his grandfather’s remains, ‘the light is calling me again. I don’t know if I can resist it. Supreme leader knows.’The mishappen helmet remained as silent as it had for years. Ever since the first time Grandfather had spoken to him.Kylo sighed and got to his feet. He turned to leave the room, but a disturbance passed through the force. Swiftly turning to the source, he drew his light saber. A figure was standing in the middle of his chambers, calmly observing him.Kylo cursed at his own carelessness. At letting his guards down enough for a str anger to sneak up at him.
‘Who are you?’ he demanded, raising his saber at the stranger.
‘Don’t make the same mistakes I have,’ the figure was engulfed in an odd blue light. He had something undefinably familiar about him.
‘What do you mean? Who are you?’
‘You already know who I am,’ the figure spread his arms, ‘my grandson.’
‘That can’t be,’ Kylo lowered his weapon, ‘you’re lying. Grandfather has spoken to me. And it wasn’t you.’
‘Because that was an impostor, a trick to turn you away from your family,’ the figure flickered, like a hologram. Kylo raised his saber again and slashed through the figure. It did no harm.
‘Calm your mind and you’ll know my words to be true,’ the hologram flicked once more before disappearing completely.
A chaos of blaster fire and desperate screams spread out all around FN-2187. Finally reaching his injured ally, he crouched down behind the wall the other trooper was leaning against.FN-2187 shook him, trying to get him up, to no avail. His ally reached out his hand, trying to grasp whatever hold-on he could find. But it was too late. His bloody hand slid down FN-2187’s helmet as his life left him. FN-2187 remembered the other boy from training. He had screwed up every single training exercise. The other troopers had laughed at him, calling him a failure that wouldn’t last a minute on a real battlefield. The taunts were cruelly proven to be true.
Pushing himself off the ground, away from his fallen ally, whose life had been cut short before it could’ve really begun, FN-2187 joined the fray. The smell of blood, fire, and decay made his stomach turn. Ducking behind the first cover he could find, FN-2187 hid behind a stack of crates, far removed from the heart of the battle. He still hadn’t moved by the time the battle started dying down around him. His blaster hadn’t been fired a single time. Slowly peeking out from behind the crate, he saw a command ship touching down. the ramp unfolded and General Hux emerged. Conveniently after the battle had ended.A single prisoner was dragged to the General. Hux sneered down at the old man and began asking questions. FN-2187 joined formation just in time to see Hux turn bright red. The prisoners just smiled. Phasma approached the angry General, ‘Where’s Ren?’ she demanded.
‘Our Supreme leader required his presence. I’ve been given further command of this mission,’ Hux didn’t even look at her and continued interrogating the prisoner, ‘turn over the map or these villagers will pay the prize. One by one,’ he aimed his blaster at the civilians rounded up a few feet away. Hux’s command was almost cut short by a blast almost hit the General. The only thing saving his life was Phasma yanking him to the ground. A lone figure was dragged from the shadows where the blast had originated from. Hux pulled himself off the ground, dusting off his clothing. ‘This one will know more,’ he approached the new prisoner, ‘he’s resistance.’
‘Ah, you remember me,’ the new prisoner just smiled, ‘How touching. Tell me, did you ever repair that cannon?’
Hux scowled as he turned his blaster at the first prisoner and pulled the trigger. The new prisoner screamed in despair. ‘take him to the ship,’ Hux ordered before turning to Phasma. ‘I trust you’ll clean up here. We don’t want any witnesses.’
‘Very well,’ Phasma said before raising her voice to her troops, ‘on my signal.’
All stormtroopers got in position. FN-2187 raised his blaster along with the rest of his unit.
‘Shoot,’ Phasma ordered.
FN-2187 moved to pull the trigger, but his hand didn’t obey. He lowered his weapon. He couldn’t do this. He wouldn’t do this. They couldn’t make him. He wouldn’t kill for them.
FN-2187 was shaking in his boots when he stepped back on the cruiser. He pulled the helmet off his head, trying to finally breathe. The bloodred handprint of his fallen ally was smudged over it. The last trace of a soldier who never had a name. whose existence would be forgotten. He rushed into the nearest corridor. Someone must’ve noticed he hadn’t fired a single shot. Just to make his day, Snoke’s mothership was floating above the cruiser. He hoped the honours weren’t for him. Although, he doubted Snoke would make time for wayward stormtroopers.
‘FN-2187,’ Phasma came stomping around the corner, ‘who gave you permission to take off your helmet?’
‘Apologies,’ he said, not looking her in the eyes.
‘Have your blaster admitted for inspection,’ she ordered, ‘then report to SG-2745. Supreme leader requires assistance.’
Great, he would be exactly where they would want him when they were done inspecting his blaster.
‘Get away from me,’ Kylo pointed his saber at the hologram claiming to be Darth Vader. If anyone thought they could sway him with cheap tricks, they would find themselves sorely mistaken.
‘I’ve tried to reach you for years,’ the hologram said, having reappeared within hours, ‘but Snoke has prevented me, aided by your own rage. It’s only now your mind has cleared enough for you to perceive my presence.’
‘You’re an impostor,’ Kylo bit at him, ‘Grandfather has spoken to me.’
‘You know that was not me,’ the stranger countered.
‘Liar,’ Kylo yelled.
‘I’m no liar,’ the stranger said, ‘and not a fool anymore either. Unlike you.’
‘I was a fool when I turned to the dark side. I thought it would give me the power to save what I loved,’ the stranger closed his eyes and sighed, ‘I was wrong. Countless have suffered for it. Do not make the same mistakes. Don’t let your rage and fear control you. Don’t let Snoke twist them to his own ends. Go home.’
‘Liar,’ Kylo repeated, but his conviction wavered. Not even Supreme leader could tell him the details of the story. How would a stranger know all this.
‘You already know the truth, my grandson,’ the hologram faded into nothingness.
What was this? Who was that person? Kylo’s grandfather had been Darth Vader, the ultimate champion of the dark side. Surely, he had fallen victim to a moment of weakness, but it had only been a moment. Supreme leader had told him as much.
A knock on the door interrupted his stream of thoughts.
‘Sir,’ a voice called from the other side, ‘Supreme leader wishes to speak to you.’
‘I’ll contact him from here,’ Kylo answered.
‘In person, Sir,’ the voice called, ‘immediately.’
‘I’ll have to depart for the mission in twenty minutes,’ Kylo said, ‘did Supreme leader say why it is so urgent.’
‘Sir,’ the voice said with a twinge of unease, ‘the mission has already been completed in your absence.’ Kylo was taken aback, not knowing how to answer. He had been supposed to lead the mission. No one had informed him of any changes. After a moment, he opened the door, not even minding his mask.
‘How far away is our leader’s flagship,’ he demanded.
‘Within range of the cruiser, Sir,’ the two stormtroopers, FN-2187 and SG-2745 waiting outside jumped up at his emergence. They clearly didn’t want to be here. Obvious even with their helmets on. Kylo didn’t like this situation either. Supreme leader usually kept far away from the battlefields, unless his personal intervention was needed. Said intervention was rarely pleasant.
‘Prepare my ship,’ he ordered the troopers.
‘Uh, Sir,’ SG-2745 stammered, ‘we have direct orders to escort you. Orders from Supreme leader Snoke.’
‘Very well,’ he snapped and pushed past them.
‘This way, Sir,’ SG-2745 caught up to him, FN-2187 in tow.
‘I know the way to the hangar, thank you.’ He didn’t like this situation one bit. Supreme leader had sensed his weakness. There could be no other reason for him to come all this way.
‘Leave us,’ Supreme leader waved the stormtroopers off. They hurried out of the room, leaving Kylo to face down Snoke on his own. The praetorian guard lined the walls.
‘I’ve sensed a great source of conflict in you, my apprentice,’ Supreme leader said from his throne, a hint of compassion in his voice.
‘It’s nothing,’ Kylo tensed as he knelt down.
‘Do you hold me for a fool?’ Snoke snapped, ‘you think I would’ve come in person if it were nothing.’
‘Of course not.’ Shivers went down Kylo’s spine.
‘Why don’t you show me what troubles you,’ Snoke struggled up from his throne and strolled towards him. Every step calm and deliberate. ‘What have you found?’
Kylo should have known better than to think he could’ve kept it hidden. He reached for his pocket and took out the golden dice. During his last mission, some bounty hunter had given it to him to prove he had captured Han Solo and his crew. Hux had reported it a failure. The prisoners had escaped before the troops could arrive.
‘It’s a meaningless trinket,’ Kylo said.
‘Yet you still have it,’ Snoke said softly, tracing a finger over Kylo’s cheek. It took effort not to pull away, ‘what am I supposed to make of that?’
‘It was a foolish mistake. It won’t happen again.’ He looked at the floor, avoiding Snoke’s stare. Neglecting to bring his mask had been a mistake.
‘You let this trinket plant doubt on you,’ Snoke raised his hand and brought it back down with force.
‘It won’t happen again,’ Kylo repeated. A metallic taste filled his mouth.
‘Your resolve is fading,’ Snoke shook his head, ‘your letting your family influence you.’
‘I won’t give in to it,’ Kylo looked up, turning his eyes back to the floor when making eye contact.
‘Your doubt is making you weak. It’s crippling you,’ Snoke said.
‘I’ll resist it.’
‘Have you forgotten how your family thought you a monster?’ Snoke continued without paying attention to the interruption, ‘how they thought you a monster? How they would’ve killed you in your sleep?’
‘I’ll never forget,’ Kylo jerked his head up.
‘Good. There it is,’ Snoke bared his teeth in a grin, ‘your anger. It has always been your strength.’
‘I will restore my resolve,’ Kylo said, ‘if you give me the time, I will become stronger.’
‘You’re getting sentimental,’ Snoke’s face turned inexpressive, ‘such a shame.’
‘It was a moment of weakness,’ Kylo declared, ‘I will overcome it.’
‘I trust you will,’ Snoke gestured at the praetorian guards, ‘here, let me help you.’
‘What?’ Kylo struggled as the guards pushed him down, tearing the protective cloak from his back. He was shoved into the floor.
‘Don’t forget, my apprentice,’ Snoke said in a gentle tone, ‘it was your father who caused you this pain.’
Hot-red pain shot through his back. Again and again, until the red guards didn’t need to hold him down anymore. The world turned into a sea of searing, white light. He still clutched the golden dice in his hand when the stormtroopers that had brought him dragged him away.