The detention centre is as scrupulously clean as any other complex inside the Finalizer’s armoured hull. Its staff lounge is even cleaner: this part of the ship is uncomfortable by design, with its sterile floors and labyrinthine corridors and air cycle set cold to chill the bones of unfortunate inmates. No one comes here on leisure. Mostly the centre is staffed by droids, who put very little strain on the kitchenette and refresher facilities. The lounge stands empty. The automated sweepers keep it clear of dust and mildew, and its standard issue anti-riot walling muffles any screams that leak from nearby cells.
It doesn’t muffle Hux and Ren’s shouting, but that’s because the idiots have left the door wide open. Phasma should probably ask them to lower their voices and stop handing out intelligence to every prisoner in the complex. Of course, intelligence is a strong word when it comes to these two. She’s heard ‘Skywalker’ and ‘Leader Snoke says’ and ‘Not your jurisdiction, Ren,’ and from that she has all the context she needs to understand the whole argument as well as its likely outcome.
‘It’s standard operating procedure,’ Hux is saying, too angry to notice Phasma’s arrival. ‘The IT-000 interrogator droid is a highly advanced model, built with state-of-the-art medical technology and all the expertise of our elite security bureau. It is a sophisticated scientific tool and I have the utmost faith that the data it procures is accurate.’
‘Faith,’ Ren repeats with a sneer. He has noticed Phasma, which she knows because for once he’s removed his mask – the better to shout at Hux? – and his eyes meet hers briefly before returning to the latest focus of his rage. ‘I thought men of science like you had no time for faith, Hux. What was it you called me? A superstitious primitive, dabbling in rituals that the evidence doesn’t–’
‘Evidence is the whole heart of the matter,’ Hux snaps over the top of him. ‘My methods have evidence to back them up. Yours don’t.’
‘Your prisoner is a liar. I want to interrogate him myself.’
‘Well, you can’t. Like I said, it’s standard operating–’ Belatedly, whether clued in by Ren’s shifting gaze or by the rising hairs on the back of his own neck, Hux finally realises they’re not alone. ‘Ah, Phasma.’ He clears his throat. Straightens a little. Phasma’s glad she kept her helmet on, because her involuntary flicker of scorn would betray her: Hux thinks he can keep his true self neatly compartmentalised, showing his better face to his allies and his worse one to his rivals. Phasma belongs to the former category. She knows it’s only a matter of time until she ends up falling to the latter. ‘Perhaps you can help me settle this issue. Ren seems to have slightly misunderstood how our interrogation procedure works.’
‘I wonder,’ says Phasma in her most smoothly quizzical voice, ‘whether I’ve misunderstood as well. I just received a system alert that the prisoner my forces brought into custody has been transferred to this detention centre.’ She pauses for effect. ‘This internal military detention centre. Where we house our own troops for reeducation.’
Her confusion is entirely faked. She already knows exactly what has happened: Ren’s right that he’s entitled to interrogate a hostile captive, and Hux is right that internal prisoners fall under his jurisdiction. Hux must have ordered the transfer himself once he learned Ren was interested, in an attempt to loophole his way out of having to share. It isn’t the first time they’ve fought over interrogation methods. Hux is nauseatingly proud of his IT-000 line with its array of pain-inflicting devices and its advanced victim analysis capabilities. Ren never willingly cedes a chance to practice his mind probes and remind everyone what his powers can do.
But moving the prisoner here of all places has created a serious security risk. The last thing the malfunctioning stormtroopers interned in this complex need is contact with a suspected Resistance collaborator.
Phasma is so, so very tired of both these men.
‘I don’t care who gets housed in which detention centre,’ says Ren. Without the vocoder, his voice sounds young and petulant. ‘He can room with me if that’s what it takes to satisfy your standard operating procedures. But your prisoner has information on Luke Skywalker and I will interrogate him myself.’
‘I’ve told you,’ says Hux, aiming for a tone of solicitous patience now that Phasma is there to witness. She doubts this was his approach a few moments earlier. ‘Interrogating prisoners is droidwork. Really, Ren, you’re better off directing your gifts towards–’
‘I’ll direct my gifts towards you if you don’t stop getting in my way.’
Hux looks to Phasma like a bratty sub-adult tattling to his teacher. She wonders if he realises his bottom lip is sticking out.
Siding with Ren over Hux is rarely a strong political move. Ren’s tempers blow over; Hux keeps score. Personally, Phasma doesn’t care if their tug-of-war tears the prisoner right down the middle so long as she still gets credit for his capture. Her time is wasted on adjudicating lovers’ tiffs, and she’s fairly sure that’s what this is. When they’re not busy trying to sabotage each other’s agendas out of petty spite, Hux and Ren spend an unreasonable amount of time together. She’s seen bite marks on Ren’s throat and a lilting stiffness to Hux’s gait when he exits the wrong side of the command habitation level. She’s seen fleeting touches. Heard muffled whispers. She doesn’t understand how their arrangement works and she’s not sure she especially wants to.
But she does want the Resistance scum kicked out of her detention centre. Which, unfortunately, means letting herself get drawn into their game.
‘Protocol obliges me to recommend,’ she says, ‘that the prisoner be transferred back to the hostile quarantine complex as soon as possible. He shouldn’t be housed with internal inmates and he shouldn’t be interrogated using the same droid units that handle classified internal systems data.’
‘But he should, and will, be interrogated by me,’ says Ren. Just in case anyone has missed the last few iterations of his message.
It’s the prisoner’s lucky day. Ren will be brutal but efficient; Hux would have dragged it out for hours. Of course, the prisoner is highly unlikely to thank her for her intervention. Ren strides off with purpose in his step, and Phasma is left to rub sealant into the fracture she’s just made in her working relationship with Hux.
‘Once he’s had his fun,’ she says, ‘you should probably reinterrogate the prisoner yourself to make sure no critical intel gets missed.’ If they’re going to act like sub-adults then she might as well treat them like sub-adults. You can take turns playing with the toy. Wait nicely.
Hux’s top lip curls, exposing teeth that Phasma’s quite sure match the bruises on Ren’s neck. ‘One day,’ he says, with a brazenness he never showed while they were planning Brendol’s downfall or discussing the various troublesome rivals they’ve bested together over the years, ‘Ren is going to need eliminating. I hope I can count on your support when the time comes, Phasma.’
The brazenness is how she knows he doesn’t mean it. Hux isn’t going to eliminate Ren. Whatever they might do to resolve their conflict in private tonight is none of her business, except in as far as she can use it for ammunition if she ever needs to move against one of them.
She files the thought away and says: ‘You can always count on my support.’
It’s not the truth, but for Hux’s purposes, it’s close enough.