Actions

Work Header

Star Wars - Episode IX: Reunion of the One

Chapter Text

It had been a long time coming. Flanked by a wing of fighters and followed by two transporters, a TIE whisper began its descent towards a planet that used to display a dark and blood red surface. Now, however, grey spots that had started to appear a few decades prior had grown so large that Mustafar was unrecognizable. The ships penetrated the atmosphere. The temperature that the heat sensors indicated was still high, but manageable. It wouldn’t be anything of note to him. Very few things were, these days.

Supreme Leader Kylo Ren of the First Order got out of his ship and took a deep breath. The air reeked of burnt wood, of constant fire, but there was something else. He heard his troops take position around him. Naked, sinewy irontrees stood all around, a silent and motionless welcoming party to the heir of the one who used to reign on this world. He took a few steps on the ashy ground, his shiny black boots quickly surrendering to the overwhelming filth of the place. Exhaling through his nose, he pressed on. He peered through the smoky landscape but saw nothing except for tall and thin shapes that belonged to more half-dead trees. And then his focus shifted. Something was coming. He could feel it through the Force. From all sides he could now perceive a good number of life forms that were converging on him. Their intent was unmistakable. He was an intruder. Kylo stopped walking. He would let them come to him. And they did. They formed a circle around him and his troops. Fifty or so faceless silhouettes brandished crude weapons made of stained steel and blasters that looked so old that one could honestly wonder if they even functioned properly. Kylo could feel their trepidation, their will to destroy the trespasser that he was. If only they knew… There was another emotion emanating from them, though. Ah, yes. Fear. They were right to be afraid. He sensed his troops’ feelings as well. They were ready. Obedient. Loyal.

The light wind made his cape flutter. His hair was moving around his face, too. He centred himself in the Force, went down to his core, searched for his fuel. Anger, hate, pain. He channelled them, let them flow through him, let them give him strength. His hand went to his side, and he gripped his lightsaber firmly. Kylo Ren took his fighting stance. He grew the gap between his legs, stomped on the ground, thus producing a cloud of ash, and ignited his cross guard red blade. They charged. Blaster fire erupted. He slashed and hacked and struck. He punched and ducked and jumped. He had already killed five of them under ten seconds. He dispatched another. Too easy. He felt another running towards him behind his back. Kylo didn’t even bother turning to face him. He slid backward, slightly bent, angled his lightsaber, and felt power course through him as the blade penetrated the creature’s insides. A cry of pain echoed through the forest, among many others. Two more died so easily that his anger grew at the idea of fighting such lowly adversaries. There was no challenge, here. No difficulty. That wasn’t quite true, though. There was one challenge. Far from here. He didn’t know where, but he would soon find out. She had successfully evaded his prying through their bond, but it would all change soon. He would soon have the power he came for. Resistance was futile. The dark side would win in the end.

A blade came so close to his face that his heart skipped a beat. It had filled his whole vision for just a second, and it was only through instinct that he had avoided it. When the attacker, no doubt encouraged by this close call, swung his weapon again, Kylo simply lifted a hand and stopped the blow mid-air. The creature growled, unable to move. He gritted his teeth. A low grunt came from deep inside him, rose in his throat and came out as an unhinged cry of anger, hatred, and… fear? This masked being had made him afraid. He looked at it for a second, then cut its arm. The creature screamed. Kylo then plunged his lightsaber through its throat, to make the noise stop. Blind with rage, he threw his saber to his next opponent, ordered it to come back to his hand when it had hit, and repeated, again and again, until the only bodies left standing in this field of death were those of his white-clad stormtroopers. Panting, he breathed and breathed to slow his heartbeat down to a steady pace. His brow was sweaty. Hair was sticking to it. He removed it with the back of his hand and looked up. Far off into the distance, his destination towered over him. Turning back to his troops he ordered them to sweep the area, look for more enemies, and kill them on the spot. They obeyed without hesitation and spread out.

Darth Vader’s castle sat atop a large wall of black rock. The obsidian structure seemed to absorb light itself, trapping it inside its dead walls. He moved toward it still, walking on burning rock that could at any moment, he could feel it, give way under his weight and plunge him into an ocean of fire. There was no way this was going to happen, of course. He had a rendezvous with destiny. Letting the dark side of the Force guide his way, he walked under what used to be a lavafall to access the residence from below. Echoes of the dark flowed through the air, the rock, and sang to him of things that he could do, if only he surrendered completely. The light was a lie. Only the dark was honest.

A presence suddenly revealed itself to him. It was the most unsettling thing he had ever felt. Except, maybe, for another one, of a very different kind. He was in a tunnel now, and there was very little light around him. He ignited his lightsaber again to see more clearly. For a few short moments more there was only hot rock around, until… a large cave, a room, dimly lit by small, circular pools of lava connected by concentric circles. He turned the saber off. There was smoke everywhere. No, not smoke. Steam. Steam meant water. Here? He moved his hands and the steam cleared. Kylo stopped moving. A dozen meters in front of him, at the very centre of the room, a larger pool, of water this time. The water was red, or at least that’s how he saw it. What was most troubling, unsettling, as he had felt it, was what was in the water. Disgust, discomfort, and fear rose in him. He was familiar with these emotions, having lived for many years under Snoke’s brutality and abuse, but what was coming out gave another meaning to these emotions. He steadied himself to look at it emerge from the ominously bubbly dark water. It started with two bright red eyes, thirty centimetres apart. Two long slits for nostrils followed, and then, a mouth like an old man’s: toothless and wrinkled. The body was white as a corpse, gross and thick. But that wasn’t the worst of it. There was something else beneath the creature. Its six legs were firmly planted, sunk, even, in what couldn’t be anything other than a giant, hairless baby’s head. It was red. More than the water, more than the planet’s surface: like blood. All that Kylo could see was its closed eyes, pointy ears, and nose like a snout. The mouth remained underwater. Another opened, though, belonging to the creature sitting on top of the child’s head, and when the words came out of it, they seemed to come out of the walls as well, and they resonated deep within his brain.

“Who… are you?”, it asked in a voice that was acute and deep, raspy and clear.

Kylo straightened, putting weight behind his own words. “Kylo Ren. Supreme Leader of the First Order.” he said.

“Hmm”, the creature slowly uttered, clearly unconvinced. “I am not here to be lied to, boy.”

Kylo swallowed, taken aback. “Who are you?” he asked, deciding to appear more confident than he actually felt.

The horror pronounced its name. It was impossible to repeat, impossible even to hold on to for more than a second. That language it spoke, it sounded more foreign to his ears than anything he had ever heard. It was ancient, so ancient that it felt like it came from depths of time so remote that even the stones around him had forgotten about it. He dismissed it quickly, however. It clearly wasn’t as important as what he had come here for.

“What you seek,” the creature continued, “the power… the knowledge… it is above, in the castle.” It paused. Kylo listened for more. “But it will not… bring you what… you… truly desire.”

What did it know of his desires? Nobody knew him. What he felt, what he wanted, nothing. There was no way through his soul, black as it was. There was no light.

“Know… that you are… mistaken,” the monster continued with its slow delivery. “Your feelings… for the other… will show you the truth…”

Rage soared through him like an angry snake. The other. The girl. Her name came to him, but he drove it out of his mind. She had closed the door on him forever. Lies. It was all lies. The only truth he needed was here. It was close. He could feel it. And with it, the power. He raised his hand toward the beast, seeking to hurt it with the Force. It didn’t flinch. It didn’t move at all. All it did was look upon him with an indecipherable expression. Kylo glared and tried again. Nothing. Without another word, the creature sank into the pool and disappeared, never ceasing to look at him. Through him.

When it had gone, red lines began to appear on the black wall behind the pool. From left and right, top and bottom, they drew complicated patterns, took strange turns, drew symbols, and finally joined in the centre. Kylo Ren stepped forward cautiously, his blade ignited for the third time. He walked around the pool, ready to strike at the slightest movement coming from underwater. His heart was racing. His thoughts moved at the exact same pace. That creature… everything about it made his skin crawl. The image of it was burned in his retina. And its words… Better not to think about it. About her. Better to stay the course.

He pushed what had become a door. It opened easily. There were stairs. He climbed them for a few minutes. Silence reigned during his ascension. He could only hear his own steps, could only smell his own sweat. When he finally emerged, he stood in a huge dark room. Dusty daylight came in from a large window in the shape of a triangle on top of a long trapezium. A circular platform was directly facing it, connected to where he was by a straight pathway reproduced on the other side. He walked slowly, taking his time to absorb the scenery. Vader had lived here. The dark lord of the Sith, in service to the Emperor. They had both failed and died. As powerful as Vader had been, it hadn’t kept him from being vanquished by his feelings, which Kylo did not intend to do. Feelings were the bane of power. He would be better. Stronger. More powerful than even his grandfather could have possibly imagined. Standing on the circular platform, he reached out to the castle itself, using the Force to talk to the obsidian, to make it obey his will, to make it reveal its secrets.

Above.

Kylo walked to a turbolift. The old machinery creaked a lot, but the cabin eventually came to him. It climbed through the structure, and with it, his apprehension. He was finally here. The room he arrived in was smaller and darker. Dust covered everything. He removed it with a wave of his hands. In the middle of the room, a pedestal, and on top of it: his prize. He realized that he was shaking. He stopped it. This was childish. He steeled himself from it. The pyramidal object at the centre of the pedestal had a red glow to it. A Sith holorcron, home to forbidden knowledge. What he could gain from it was immeasurable. Ultimate power. More than Snoke, more than Vader, more than Palpatine himself. His journey into the dark side of the Force would see him come out invulnerable. No one would resist him. Especially not her.

He took the holocron and looked at it for a moment before focusing his energy on it. Closing his eyes, he poured everything he felt into it. Anger, hate, suffering. He heard a metallic sound, then another. It was opening. Dark colours came out of it, swirled around him. The room had disappeared. He turned. Kylo Ren saw Kylo Ren, sitting on a large throne of black metal. He looked at himself and was content, for he was seeing what he had wanted to see. But there was someone else, standing close to the throne. He couldn’t see who it was but was intrigued. As if answering his unspoken question, the person stepped forward. Rey. But she looked different. Her hair was tied in a tight, single bun, and her outfit greatly resembled his own. Her facial features were still vague. She took a few steps in his direction, watching him curiously.

“Look at him,” she said to the Kylo that was sitting on his throne, “he looks so… I don’t know…disappointing?”

What? This didn’t sound like her. Didn’t look like her either. Her face was thinner, bonier, and her skin was pale, devoid of the sunburnt tone he knew it to have. Her lips moved but carried no life in them. And her eyes… where were they? Where was the brown, so like his own? There was nothing. Just white. Blind white. He took a step back, and for the first time in months, pronounced her name.

“Rey”

“Kylo Ren” she replied in a smile.

He swallowed. This was wrong. Something told him that it was. Something deep. But then something else told him that it wasn’t. This was what he wanted. Him and her, side by side, ruling the Galaxy. No Snoke, no Skywalker. The Resistance, once found, obliterated. Everlasting peace. Unlimited power. Rey turned her back on him.

“What do you think?” she asked the other him.

“I think he’s weak” he heard himself say. “I think he should prove himself worthy of this chair. Or die.”

“You’re so right.” Rey laughed, pivoting back, a double-bladed red lightsaber in hand, ready to attack him. She came at him with such speed that he barely avoided the first slash. His saber countered hers and they started clashing. She was ferocious. Her limbs moved recklessly, each time coming extremely close to one of his. He was panicked. It was the forest all over again. Pain surged through the scar she had left him. He winced and closed his right eye, stepping back from the fight. She laughed again and insulted him, called him weak, cowardly, unworthy, an imposter, a failure, a sad little boy. She kept going while at the same time attacking, targeting his face, his belly, his arms and legs. This couldn’t go on. This was too much. Rage flowed through him. Anger exploded in him. How could she do this to him? He counter-attacked, having completely submitted to his fury. The hand that held her lightsaber fell to the ground and she cried in pain. His own hand started hurting too, but he didn’t stop, refusing to listen to anything that wasn't hate, anger, or fear. He took another step forward and plunged his weapon into her stomach. Rey gasped, her blind eyes going wide. She lost her balance and fell backward to the ground, taking him with her. Colour came back to her face. Her white eyes found their brown again. She looked at him, and him at her. She was crying, pain inscribed on her soft, sunburnt face.

“Ben…” she managed to say, her remaining hand reaching for his face, for his scar.

She stopped breathing. The hand fell. Her haunted gaze went up to the dark ceiling.

He sat there, in complete shock. What had he done? He shook her, but she didn’t move. She was dead. A hollow place had just appeared where is heart had been a second before. But... she wasn't real. None of this was real.

“It can be. If you want it to”, he heard. It was Kylo Ren, standing high above him, eyes filled with contempt. He knelt and looked at Rey, then at him. “Do you see, now? This is the weakness you’re clinging to. I never needed her, or anyone. And neither do you. She’s the past, now. The past must die. And if it refuses to… you know what you have to do. For your sake, I hope you have the strength to do it. Fulfil your destiny”

He didn’t say anything. He couldn’t. Instead, he watched himself walk away. When he lowered his eyes to looked back at Rey’s lifeless body, she had disappeared. There was nothing in his arms. The room had come back, old, dusty, inhospitable. He stood up. Unaware of his tears, he left the room, left the castle, left the planet.

Deep beneath the steamy waters, in a place that was nowhere and everywhere, red eyelids trembled.

Chapter Text

One with the Force. One with the Force. One with the Force…

The trees, the rocks, the small insects running between grass leaves, the fauna on the ground, in the sky, in the big lake. All her friends and... something was missing. Everything disappeared. She took a deep breath and refocused. The trees, the rocks, the small insects running between grass leaves, the fauna on the ground, in the sky, in the big lake. All her friends and... Leia. Rey opened one eye and looked at the older woman. The General's eyes were still closed. In meditation? Rest? Rey had no clue. Leia's light, diminished as it was after what had happened to her above D’Qar, still shone. A beacon in the night that the Resistance was going through. Their forces had grown after Crait, but it still wasn’t enough. Aftab and his fellow Mon Calamari had brought a few ships. One reminded those who were old enough of Home One. Another cruiser brought bitter memories of the Raddus for the younger fighters. Those that remained at least. Ryloth had been a failure, but the other missions had brought moderate success in capturing more ships. They would do with what they had. And, at the moment, it was very little compared to the might of the First Order.

Rey climbed down from the branch she had been standing on for the past hour. Her training didn’t go as well as she had thought it would. She still had trouble maintaining a constant connection to the Force. Leia knew how troubled the girl was, and why. She understood. More than once she had reminded her of a conversation that they’d had aboard the Falcon, about the fact that no important choice could be made by someone other than you. These things took time. Leia put her hoverchair in motion and they returned to the camp together. She had to manage her strength.

Leia felt a bit at home on Ajan Kloss. It reminded her of Yavin IV, minus the ziggurats, and her stay there, more than thirty years before. Thirty years… The planet, or rather, the moon, had been charted by her own people. Alderaan had elected not to disclose its existence to the Empire, for it could have been of great use as a hiding place for the Rebellion. Leia had kept it in her back pocket for as long as she had been able to. And now they were here. The third reason, and maybe the most personal, was that she and Luke had come here after Endor. It had only been the two of them. They had spoken of their lineage, of the Force and after a few days of complicated meditation, Leia had resolved not to pursue her heritage, choosing instead to walk in the path that her father, the man who had raised her to be who she was, had walked. She had been an Organa her whole life, and she would rather honour that name and all it meant for the homeless Alderaanians than change it to something that meant very little to her. Let him be the Jedi. Her choice, though it had brought hardship and tremendous pain, had been the right one. She had told herself so every day for so many years, yet there were still times, like Crait, like right now, when doubt found its way in.

They were moving in silence, each in their own head, struggling with sombre thoughts, when the sound of four X-wing engines resonated up in the sky. It grew louder and louder, until the four combat ships landed. Four ships. There were supposed to be five. Snap Wexley got out of his ship first, closely followed by the rest of Black Squadron.

“Where’s the Falcon?” Leia asked, rising out of her chair and grabbing her cane. She tried to get rid of the lump that was forming in her throat.

“Black Leader ordered us to go.” Snap began while removing his flight helmet. “We were leaving the Sinta Glacier when at least… I don’t know, three full wings of TIE fighters came out of nowhere.”

“It was pretty bad” Suralinda intervened as she was putting her hair down. Rey found the blue-skinned woman quite curious. She had been subjected to her gaze more than once, and Suralinda had even taken her face into her hand on one occasion, muttering to herself about make-up and camera angles.

“We managed to destroy quite a bit” Karé said, walking to her husband and taking his hand in hers. “But it quickly became hard to see anything with all the debris, the ice. Poe said they’d figure it out and told us to leave. So, we did.”

“Well, at least you obeyed your commander…” Leia sighed.

She looked at each of them in turn. Jess Pava was still talking to her astromech. Her ship had sustained some serious damage. She exchanged a glance with Rey. Poe wasn’t alone on that ship. Chewie was in the co-pilot’s seat, and Finn and Rose had gone with them.

“The Force will be with them.” Leia said for all to hear. “They will return.” She believed in what she had just said, but she knew, deep inside, that she could believe a little more.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“That was close!” Poe exclaimed as he made the Falcon dip down to avoid a dark metallic structure that was half bridge, half something else, the use of which could be determined later, if they were still alive. He still had seven TIE fighters on his tail, and it was fortunate that they could not all fit side by side in the icy corridors. Only two could fit, and their blasts were weakening the shields at too fast a pace. Chewie growled something about Rey, to which Poe replied that he wished she was here too. Poe was a great pilot, he was the first to say so, but he’d seen Rey fly the Millennium Falcon a few times and… yeah, she was pretty good with this ship. He refocused his attention. The situation was not dire yet, by his standards. He had good people on board. Speaking of which…

“Finn, Rose, would you mind?”

“Doing my best, here!” Rose answered, slightly panicked. Armament training had made her a nice shot, but she felt much more at ease in less stressful situations. She took a deep breath and looked at her display, at the TIEs, then back at her display. There! She rained fire on the small craft, and it burst into glorious flames, taking its closest companion with it.

“Woo!” she exclaimed.

Two more appeared out of their comrades’ fiery demise and shot at them with even more rage. In the other turret, Finn was shooting methodically. One. Two. Three. Rose stole the fourth from him, and she once again let her joy explode in their ears. Fair enough. One blast hit his canopy. He screamed in surprise and fear.

“Finn, buddy, you okay?” Poe shouted in the comm system.

Finn reassured him effusively, his hearting banging against his rib cage, sweat suddenly flowing from his brow. He readjusted his position in his seat, took aim, and destroyed another TIE.

“Looks like we’re done!” Rose exclaimed.

“Looks like it, yeah” Finn confirmed. “Poe, Chewie, get us outta here!”

Chewie noisily approved and started the calculations for the jump to hyperspace. Halfway through it he stole a glance at Poe. The human had a nice head of hair, but not much anywhere else, like all of them. He also had good flying instincts that reminded him of Han. The skill, the cockiness… but the similitude ended there. Poe’s closed mouth went agape. Chewbacca raised a furry eyebrow. The human was staring straight ahead, and even from the side, he could see that his expression had changed from relief to… absolute terror. He looked out front, too. A swarm of TIEs was coming out of the end of the ice tunnel, so massive and dark that the light dramatically shifted. Chewie groaned. He had seen way too many of them. They had caused him and Han, but mainly him, hundreds of hours of repair. Yet that was trivial, compared to what they represented. Empire, First Order: same thing, different name. They were tyranny incarnate. They had spread terror all around the galaxy for too long. They had destroyed and killed. They had enslaved Kashyyyk, reduced his tribe, his family, to beings stripped of their dignity, their strength. No more. Rage swelled in the mighty Chewbacca. He had an idea. He spoke.

“Really?” asked Poe, alternatively looking to the Wookiee and the deadly squadron.

Chewie nodded with determination.

“Alright, not going to argue with you, pal.”

Poe got out of the pilot’s seat, and Chewie got in. He was not used to the first mate position but, hey, there was a first for everything, and so close to death… why not?

Chewbacca instructed Finn and Rose to shoot, shoot, shoot. Poe was to reroute auxiliary power to rear shields in five, four, three, two… The Falcon did a one-eighty turn in the tunnel and started spinning on its own axis. The blasts that the two turrets were firing created a beautiful cylinder of green that destroyed one, two, five, seven, ten TIE fighters.

“Holy kriff!” Poe shouted.

Chewie remained silent, focusing on his flying. To the spinning he added lateral movement in the tunnel, thus making the Falcon an inescapable weapon that was difficult to hit at the same time. Behind them, explosions rocked the ice walls. A big chunk fell from the ceiling and crashed in the middle of the First Order fighters, causing another explosion. Fully confident in the outcome, certain that the Force was with him, Chewbacca told Poe to lower the shields down to five per cents and get the sublight thrusters to full capacity.

“Are you sure? We can’t afford to take more than-”

Chewbacca’s response was so loud that Rose and Finn jumped in their seats.

“Okay, okay, forget I said anything…” Poe said submissively.

He did as he was told. That one was a gamble. A big one. The navicomputer made new calculations. The Falcon lurched forward. Poe estimated that they’d be out of the tunnel in thirty, maybe twenty-five seconds. On the ground, it was short. Up here, it was an eternity. And they could not lose the hyperdrive. There would be no dashing escape. There would just be death.

The first hit came after second five. It rocked the ship. Finn and Rose were still shooting, but the cannons were hot, going on unrefined coaxium hot. The ship’s movement did not help. Poe’s head was starting to spin. Everything was becoming blurry. His stomach was genuinely upset, and it wouldn’t be long before it expressed this feeling in a concrete manner. The second hit came after second thirteen. It cost them in speed. Not a lot, but Poe felt the Falcon decelerate.

“I have a bad feeling about this…” Poe said under his breath.

Chewie’s big body was unmoving, except for his muscular arms. They made the ship move with unparalleled grace and fury. A beautiful, yet terrifying sight. The Wookiee was unaware that his teeth were showing. He had a beastly look on his face. Poe was glad not to be on the receiving end of that look. If the First Order pilots could see what he was seeing, they would fly away, and fast. The third hit came on second nineteen. Alarms blared all throughout the ship. Lights turned red. Sparks came out of panels.

A blast went over their heads. This one would have been fatal, he knew it. They were close. Closer. Closer. So close…

The narrow blue tunnel disappeared. They were out, out in the unforgiving void that now felt like a breath of fresh air. Chewie banked up, hard, screaming his victory in the cockpit, nearly getting rid of Poe’s eardrums in the process. He then pulled a lever, and the Millennium Falcon went into another, this time much safer, blue tunnel.

Chapter Text

            Kylo Ren sat on his bed, still in his ash-stained clothes. He hadn’t moved a muscle in the past hour. What he had gone through on Mustafar made him feel contradictory emotions. Going there had been a mistake, he could feel it deep within himself. While the Sith holocron had shown him what he wanted, it had also confronted him to his biggest fear. And he couldn’t make his mind move away from that. Conflict raged in Kylo Ren. He stood up and started pacing around the bare, dark room. His cape fell to the floor, as did his outer tunic, leaving him in a simple black outfit. There weren’t any mirrors in his room, but if there had been, all he’d see would be… well, nothing more than a man. But he wasn’t any man. He was the Supreme Leader. He clenched his fists. He was the Supreme Leader. He would not be swayed. He had to succeed. And he would. He opened a panel in the wall. Inside, a clean tunic. He put it on, draped his long, black cloak around his shoulders, and left the room. He was the Supreme Leader, and he had business to attend.

            General Armitage Hux was the last of his colleagues to arrive in the polished Supreme Council conference room. Their heads briefly turned to watch him enter before returning to their individual datapads. Without a single word he gave a brisk nod to no one in particular, and took his seat, directly facing General Enric Pryde. The older man had been recalled by Ren after Supreme Leader Snoke’s untimely death. His posting in the Unknown Regions had made him an almost legendary figure. Although he had had very little contact with the man, having only met him once or twice, he knew that Pryde, as a former Imperial, commanded respect in ways that Hux himself didn’t. His troops didn’t equal Phasma’s in ability, but their loyalty knew no bounds. He had brought with him a few dozens of Star Destroyers, including the one they were all currently living on: The Steadfast. Hux missed the Finalizer. It had been his own. And Ren’s. But mainly his own. The Batuu incident had enraged him to no end, and he had loathed each and every moment that he had passed on this ship. His own troops were outnumbered, here. This would not do. This would have to change. Pryde’s eyes were fixated on his face, his expression neutral. As uneasy at it made Hux, he remained as calm as he could, holding the gaze for a few seconds, then looking away in feigned boredom. Around the table, the others’ faces were still bathed in the light blue hue of their datapads. Griss, Engell, Parnadee, and Quinn: all had been handpicked by Ren himself to help him realise his vision for the galaxy. For only a fraction of a second had Hux wondered why he had been chosen to sit on the Supreme Council. It made perfect tactical sense, on Ren’s part. In the First Order, there were no friends to keep close, only enemies.

            In the past months, the First Order’s expansion had led to the capture of the most important systems of the Mid Rim and the Western Reaches, and they weren’t done yet. What happened next was the subject of today’s meeting. They spent the next few minutes in a silence that only the datapads dared interrupt. And then, the doors opened.

            Tall and dark and brooding, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren entered the chamber. They all rose. He sat on his chair at the top of the table and looked at each of them in turn. Hux forced himself to hold his gaze, hoping that Ren wouldn’t see through him. He had no difficulty admitting to himself that Ren’s possession of the Force scared him. The things these people could do… Hux thought of Ren’s phantom fingers on his throat, back on the Supremacy, after Snoke’s murder by the scavenger girl. He swallowed, just to see that he could. Something still didn’t sit right with him about that day, but now wasn’t the time to think about it. Ren addressed Pryde and Griss on the topic of their campaign to take hold of Colonies and the very few pockets of resistance that they still encountered in the Expansion Region.

            “Great progress has been made, Supreme Leader” said Pryde in his Core accent before Griss could even open his mouth. “The latter will be in our control in a matter of days. As for the Colonies, we should be ready to launch a full-scale coordinated assault in ten standard days. Many of our Resurgent-Class ships are ready and at your command, but some still need to be fitted with our newest ion cannons. Kuala-Entralla has been most… collaborative and forthcoming with new technology.”

            Ren nodded, his face an impassive mask. The others were then asked to give updates on their various areas of responsibilities. They calmly obliged. Hux studied them all. They were all so comfortable, so at ease. Clearly, none of them had yet had the misfortune of displeasing him because of their mere existence. Hux kept his yes on his hands, joined before him on the table, and waited for the meeting to end.

            “And what about your troops” he heard Ren say, “General Hux?”

            Hux looked up at the Supreme Leader. The man’s eyes were usually so dark that he was afraid to maintain eye contact for too long. This time however, Hux saw something different, or at least thought he did, but only for a fleeting moment. He cleared his throat.

           “As you know, Supreme Leader, the combined loss of Captains Phasma and Cardinal has greatly impacted our program.” He had a thought for Phasma. She had been a most precious ally. He knew that she would have gotten rid of him if it had meant advancement, and he could not help but think that he would have done the same. “But the last few months have been focused on the harvesting of more children from the occupied systems. I have personally appointed new instructors to turn them into compliant cadets in the briefest of times.”

            “Are you still uninterested in a clone army, General?” Ren asked. He got up and started walking around the table. “I’ve heard that the FN-2187 incident has occurred again, and that this time, six troopers have deserted.”

            Of course, he knew. Hux had hoped that Ren’s occult obsession with Force artefacts would have somehow kept him away from the day to day business of the First Order. He should have known that he had made an exception for him. Ren had him under a constant, close watch. He had also started to long for the old days, when Kylo Ren wore a mask. It was unsettling, but at least he didn’t have those eyes burrowing into his soul like this. Ren was standing behind Pryde, and Hux could have sworn that the other General’s thin lips were drawn in a smile. His hands were hot and sweaty under his gloves. He blinked several times, opened his mouth and started to speak in a voice that wasn’t so firm as it had been seconds before.

            “Yes, sir, TZ-1719 and JL-4410 among them, but I can assure you that–”

            Hux’s windpipe closed. Looking up at the Supreme Leader, he gasped for air. This time, however, he fought the reflex to bring his hand to his throat. Ren’s humiliation and torture were painful to undergo but somehow paled in comparison to what he had gone through as the bastard son of Brendol Hux. He could take it. His father’s abuse had been daily. Hux could now spend days without seeing Ren. He could take it. Ren let go, and Hux filled his lungs once more. See, he thought, I can take it. Ren resumed his walk around the table, taking his time to arrive behind Hux.

            “For your sake, General, I hope that this never happens again.”

            “It won’t, Supreme Leader.”

            “Good. Dismissed.”

            And he left the room. The other generals looked at each other, looked at Hux, then got up and left the room as well.

            When Armitage Hux returned to his quarters, he triple-checked that the door was locked before doing or saying anything. He went to his bedroom, closed and locked that door behind him too, and then he screamed his frustration and pain to his indifferent walls. He screamed and screamed until his throat hurt, and then he screamed again. In his mind, he went back to the Supremacy. He had been so close. So close. His subsequent attempts had all failed, but they had been too shy. He knew it. He would have to think of something better, something that would make the Parnassos beetle look like a childish ploy. The time would come.

            Kylo Ren walked faster than usual to return to his room. This meeting had been exhausting. He had only understood half of what his generals had told him. Hurting Hux had been unnecessary. It had brought him no pleasure. He had done it out of habit, to maintain appearances. The six troopers didn’t matter. He still had tens of thousands. The final image of the vision was still on his mind. She was still on his mind. Kylo took off his cloak and let it fall on the floor. He felt a little lighter without it. Standing in front of the bed, he closed his eyes and reached out through the Force. Whatever planet she was on, distance didn’t matter, for she was just behind the door that she had closed on him. He knocked on the door, but there was no response. He knocked louder. She felt it, this time. He turned around and opened his eyes. All he could see was a blurry silhouette that dissolved in a matter of seconds. She was still refusing him. Hopelessness fell upon the Supreme Leader of the First Order, so he sat on his bed and took his face in his hands.

Chapter Text

Rey had felt Kylo Ren’s presence behind her while she was studying the Jedi texts. She had stood up and focused all her energy on blocking him. He had not tried again. Through their bond she had perceived a hint of the conflict that raged inside him. She had also experienced the prevailing emotion that irradiated from him, and it had touched her, but she still wasn’t going to open herself to him quite yet. After he had gone away, she had sat on her stool again. Before returning to her studies, she had thought of the reason why she had pushed him away. She was afraid to see him. Having seen Ben Solo, who he used to be, who he could be, she couldn’t bear to face Kylo Ren again. If he wanted to commit to that persona, so be it. At this point, just like Leia had said months ago as they were searching for a place to hide, the choice was his.

She looked up from the old books. Leia was sitting in her chair again. Her health hadn’t fully come back, and it was doubtful it would ever do. She was talking to Commander Dacy and Lieutenant Connix in hushed tones. Rey looked at them for a few more moments, wondering what they were talking about, then brought her eyes back to the texts. Thanks to Threepio, she had managed to decipher some of the most ancient glyphs that populated them. Unchecked, the droid would often go into long conferences about grammar in archaic languages, so Rey had to amicably remind him that his job was to translate, not correct. The Jedi of old had quite the rigid mentality, she had observed. It seemed that a grave incident that had occurred thousands of years ago had provoked a dramatic shift in their philosophy, leading them to repudiate things like attachment to another being. They had even decided that new Jedi would be taken from their families at an early age. Too early to remember their parents. It sounded an awful lot like what the First Order did. Finn had been one of those unfortunate children. She looked at the clear, blue sky and thought of him. Let him come back to us. Let all of them come back to us. When she thought of her own parents, she saw nothing. Filthy junk traders. Dead and buried in a pauper’s grave. The nobodies who had sired a nobody. If she was strong in the Force, was there a way they could have been? Could they see her right now, the little girl whom they had abandoned? Better not to dwell on that too much.

The books also contained a lot of insight and wisdom about the Force. Rey had chosen to focus on these parts. She needed all the knowledge that she could get if she was to become the Jedi that Leia saw in her. She looked at a strange chart in one the volumes that were open before her. Small circles were linked together by lines that went in many directions and drew intricate constellations. Or so she thought. Around it, words talked about something called the Chain Worlds Theorem. She had no idea what it was or what it meant and decided that it could be left for later. The Unsolved Thorpe Theorem didn’t interest her either, but something else did on the previous page. Lightsabers diagrams. Rey frequently came back to them. They had helped her theorise on how she would fix the broken kyber crystal in Luke’s former weapon. She had decided to wait before attempting the operation. More research and understanding could only be beneficial. The Chronicles of Brus-bu had helped her tremendously as well. She knew that she was on the right path and that the time was quickly coming where she would make her own weapon. Even if the Force was silent these days, she had faith that she would succeed. She would not allow herself to fail.

Rey moved her long hair out of the way. She liked it that way and had let decided to let it flow freely after Crait. She changed her position on her stool, too. She missed the Falcon and her quarters on the ship. Knowing that Chewie was on the mission reassured her as to its fate. She liked Poe, he was a good friend, but he was also the most reckless pilot that she had ever known. He had told her many stories about his time in the Republic and the Resistance. One hand wasn’t enough to count the number of X-wings he had lost. She also thought of Rose. The former maintenance worker, who had risen to lead the Engineering Corps, was a few years older than Rey was. They had bonded over their shared knowledge and love of tech and machinery and had spent many hours working on the Falcon together.

“She still looks like a big pile of junk,” Rose had said one time after an afternoon of intense labour, “but she’s got it where it counts!”

Agitation around the camp woke Rey from her studying-induced reverie. She was so used to the sound of the Falcon’s engines that she had not registered its appearance above her head. Even from afar she could see that it bore marks of carbon scoring. She frowned. A crowd was gathering around the ship. The ramp opened and the small crew walked out. Poe was first, followed by Rose, Finn, Chewbacca, and R2-D2. Rey had a soft spot for the old droid. There had been nights when Leia had told stories of his heroics in the battles of old. More than once, Artoo had offered a correction or a relevant detail in a series of beeps that always got a laugh out of those who understood the binary language of astromech droids. They all looked fine to her. She ran towards them.

“Finn, Rose, are you okay?” she asked her friends.

They both nodded. Then Rose took a few steps away and threw up behind a tree.

“It was… eventful, to say the least.” she said when she came back.

“You didn’t ask me, but I’m okay, too” Poe said from behind her.

Rey turned back and looked at him. She wasn’t sure about his tone sometimes, didn’t know if he was joking or not. “Well, you’re more used to this kind of thing than they are, so I just assumed that you were.”

“Well…,” he started hesitantly, “I’m alright. I’m great, actually! We had a great time risking our skins to get that intel! Could have used you, too, you know. Jedi powers and all that. I don’t know how, but the First Order was on to us. They knew we’d be there, and we almost didn’t make it out. Chewie here did some amazing flying, and Rose’s modifications to the hyperdrive had a big hand in saving our lives, but I sure would have appreciated a little Force on my side.”

“You know I can’t go on every mission!” Rey replied as she walked to him to avoid having to speak too loudly. It would not do to make a scene for everyone to see. “Just like you. You should just delegate to someone else. Leia needs you here. There are some things that only you can do for her. I’m the Jedi, yes, but you’re the Resistance Commander. You have responsibilities here that you can’t avoid by ‘risking your skin’ out there.”

She left him with that and went to Chewie. They went back up the ramp together and started to run diagnostics.

“What did he do to my ship?” Rey exclaimed when she discovered the state of the power coupling. She realised what she had just said and looked at Chewie with an apologizing look. “Sorry, the ship.” Chewie shrugged and gave her the Wookiee version of a smile. It was alright. After taking note of all they would have to work on, they went back outside for the briefing. “Let’s see if that intel was worth the risk.” Rey said to herself.

Artoo was plugged in to the holotable. The tension around it was palpable. Maz Kanata was there, as were Aftab Ackbar, D’acy, Major Angon, and Lieutenant Chireen. Leia sat in her chair, flanked by Finn and Poe. Many other people, technicians, fighters and pilots were standing behind them all. The Resistance believed in hiding information only when absolutely necessary. They were all in this together, so they may as well know what was going on. The schematics and long written documents went up. All remained silent as they took it all in.

“Well, at least, it’s not another Death Star” Poe sighed.

“No,” Leia said in a voice that she struggled to control. “But it’s just as bad.” She turned to Finn. “What was the name of your source?”

“Boolio, General” he replied.

“May the Force be with him…”

What they had before their eyes was a detailed plan of attack on the Colonies, a region close to the Core of the galaxy. These planets were known for being among the wealthiest. Leia remembered a mission that had taken them to Cato Neimodia before the war. She remembered her mother’s dresses. They were now floating somewhere in space. What a painful waste. Carida had been where Han started his training at the Imperial Academy. Poe looked at the planet Abednedo and thought of his friend Oddy, of how the First Order had ruined his life. Whether or not they had ties to a planet, they all felt angered and helpless.

“So, what are we going to do about this?” asked Commander Gartfran from behind. The grizzled survivalist had his weapon in hand, as if he was already there and ready to kill.

“We’re going to formulate a plan, Commander” Leia answered patiently. “According to this data, we have over a week until the offensive starts. We’ll examine all of this closely and see what we can do to counter them. Major Wexley?”

Snap straightened and stepped forward. “General.”

“Snap, I’m sorry to send you back out so quickly, but I have complete faith in your ability to succeed in this. You have command of Black Squadron for this mission. I want you and your wing mates to do a reconnaissance flight around the main systems. See if you hear anything. I’ll have Rose and her people equip your ships with their new communications systems. You’ll be invisible to most ears but yours will be wide open. You leave tomorrow at first light.”

Snap saluted and turned around to get ready, his squadron behind him. Poe looked at them with envy. Rey’s words were still in his head. Leia needed him.

“Commander Dameron.” she said, startling him a bit. “You are promoted to the rank of Colonel. You’ll be responsible for the study of this intel and the conception of a battle plan. I’m counting on you.” she said with a smile before turning her chair in the opposite direction. “I need to rest for a bit. We’ll reconvene tomorrow.”

Poe looked at her with his mouth open. Colonel? There weren’t any other colonels in the Resistance. Leia had just made him the only one. Right under her. Did this mean that–

“Close that up, Colonel flyboy” Finn said close to his ear with a grin. “What do we do, now?”

Poe thought about it. Leia needed him. She counted on him. He turned to Finn, to Rose, and to the other officers. “We prepare.” he said, and they all nodded.

 

Hours later, Rey was sitting on a branch and breathing the night air. It carried humidity, which was delightful, compared to the dryness of Jakku. Although, most everything was delightful, compared to Jakku. She realized that it had been a long time since she last had a thought for her homeworld. The Falcon was her home now. Ajan Kloss was a temporary respite that would not last forever. She cherished the planet, however. It felt good to be surrounded by trees and the wildlife that thrived all around her. It felt good to be able to immerse herself in the nearby lake every morning. Rose had even taught her how to swim. All that would be gone in a matter of days.

Back on the Falcon, she went directly to bed and fell asleep in minutes. The day had been physically and mentally taxing. Her defences did not keep Kylo Ren from visiting her, this time. He could not see her surroundings, as usual, so he just saw her on his bed. She was asleep. She looked so peaceful. And alive. She was alive. That made him happy. He walked carefully, silently, toward the bed and knelt beside it. He then took the glove off his right hand and lifted it to her nose. He could feel the air coming out of it. He went for her cheek but stopped at the last second. She hates you, remember? You disappointed her, and now she hates you. Kylo Ren got up and walked out of his room. Rey opened her sleep-hungry eyes. There was no one except her on the Falcon, so whose steps had she just heard?

Chapter Text

Six standard days had passed. Thanks to Boolio’s intel, the battle plan was coming up nicely. Rose and her people had worked tirelessly, taking advantage of the strangely thorough compiling of data. Star Destroyers had no secrets for them anymore. They had built, with what they had, all kinds of weapons sure to incapacitate the largest ships in a manner of minutes. With a tired smile and large bags under her eyes, Rose had delivered many devices that other techs had worked into the fighters’ weapon systems. She had then proceeded to fall asleep without another word and had been in the same position for twelve hours. Poe, who was still getting used to being called Colonel, spent hours upon hours looking at charts, numbers and conjectures, rubbing his face to keep himself from losing his focus, and when he couldn’t deal with any of this anymore, he told his colleagues that he needed to breathe and jumped in his X-wing to circle the planet a couple of times.

Snap Wexley and the rest of Black Squadron had returned after two days. Their survey had been expansive but even if they weren’t the largest region in the galaxy, the Colonies weren’t small. They had surveyed many systems, proceeding from most to less important, and had managed to come back with valuable intel: there were murmurs, rumbling of an impending First Order attack, but very little information travelled over the comms systems. Leia and Poe had interpreted this as an opportunity to spread awareness and to potentially recruit allies. Ruining the surprise would increase their odds of… maybe not thwarting the attack, but surely, they could do something to make it more difficult for the First Order to subjugate another part of the galaxy. It was clear what their goal was: seize control of the Core. Coruscant, Chandrila, the other power centers, old and new. When she thought of the Core, Leia could not help but think of the holes that evil had pierced in it. She had watched Alderaan die, and with it her parents, her friends, her personal droid TooVee, and billions more. Around thirty years later it had been the Hosnian System. How many billions was that? She steeled herself. It was in the past. She could not stay in it, dwell in it. She had to move on. Always. People were counting on her. The galaxy was counting on her. Even if it didn’t necessarily know it to be true. She had raised her head and focused on what was being said. More than once, Snap had said, Black Squadron had almost come across small First Order surveillance ships, and that, he had emphasized, had been when Rose’s cloaking devices had proven to be lifesaving. Commander Tico, however, had been too busy to receive the praise.

If Leia’s health was the main reason for her withdrawal from a number of meetings, Rey’s was yet to be figured out. The young woman spent most of her days away from the Resistance camp, and if one knew where to find her, one would see her in a variety of states and positions: standing calmly on a tree branch without fear of losing her balance, running through the forest in a fury, levitating a few feet from the ground with a frown of deep concentration, or simply standing there, anywhere, arms at her side, oblivious to the world around her, deeply immersed in the Force or desperately looking to connect with it. Her relationship with it was still tumultuous. She needed firm ground but had no idea where to find it. It preoccupied her.

On one occasion it seemed to her like some of the emotions that she felt were not her own. When she looked inward, beyond her own feelings of fear and doubt, past a door of some kind, she perceived a certain pressure. A closer look allowed her to feel its heaviness. The pressure then nestled in her chest and started to drag her down, below the surface of a dark lake. She could still breathe, but it became more and more difficult. It was unbearable. She wanted to scream, to cry for help, but no sound ever came out. Looking up she saw a cloaked silhouette. She reached towards it, but the surface was now solid. The lake was frozen. She felt tears come out of her eyes and immediately disappear in the water, never to be noticed by anything or anyone. Above her, the silhouette knelt, but its face remained dark. Not for long, though. It slowly reached for its hood and pulled it back. Rey looked at her own face, as her mouth opened.

“You look good where you are”, she said with cruel eyes and a dry smile. “There’s nothing else for you but this. This is where you belong.”

Rey screamed and screamed until her throat became sore and painful. It was now starting to close on itself. The other her kept smiling, relishing in her distress.

“No one can hear you. No one is coming for you. You’re all alone. All this power, it won’t save you. All these people around you, they don’t know you. You’re not special. You’re nothing.”

Her strength was leaving her. Her arms and legs were burning. Her lungs were close to empty. She would not last long…

Rey lost her balance and would have fallen from the tree if not for her reflexes. With one hand she caught the branch she had been standing on the previous second. She looked around. Night had fallen, but she was on Ajan Kloss. None of what had just happened felt like anything she had ever gone through before. She was out of breath and covered in sweat. No, there was nothing of the sort inside her, she knew this. She was sure of this. So where…?

            She looked up at her hand. In fear, it had gripped the branch and now looked like a claw. She let go and landed firmly on the ground. She knew what she had to do.

 

            Chewbacca was woken up by a small hand rustling through his fur. It had interrupted a particularly sweet dream consisting of the greatest things that one could think of to make up the best Life Day in wookiee memory. And wookiee memory went back a long way. He made a sound as he opened his eyes and looked up at Rey, who had a finger on her lips. In a soft voice she told him what she intended to do and asked if he would go with her. He sat up and gave her face a closer look. She had that resolve in her eyes… but also doubt, and apprehension. She needed him. If one thing could be said about the mighty Chewbacca after two and a half centuries of existence, it was that he was here for his friends. He assembled his stuff and went up the ramp of the Falcon.

            “I’m right behind you”, Rey told him in the night.

            She was careful not to make any noise as she made her way toward Leia’s tent. The ship’s engines would wake everyone up, and by that time, she would already be beyond the atmosphere. The last thing she wanted was someone trying to dissuade her from leaving. There was a sweet smell in Leia’s tent. Rey took a few seconds to get her eyes used to the darkness. She then looked around the room for the older woman’s bed. As a princess and a general, one could expect her to live in some sort of luxury. One could not be further from the truth. Leia Organa’s bed was like any other, and her small frame didn’t even completely fill it. Rey stepped closer and knelt beside the sleeping woman. Her breath was soft, and calm. Maybe the war didn’t follow her in her dreams. Maybe she could still find some happiness in there.

            “General”, Rey whispered, knowing full well that she wasn’t heard, nevertheless needing to speak these words aloud. “I have to go. There’s something that I have to do and…” She paused and searched her heart for the right words. “I’ll come back, General, I just… I need to do this. The Force, it showed me something. And now I have this feeling that I need to follow and…”

            “Go.”

            Rey looked up, startled. Leia turned around in her bed and sat up. Her movements were slow. She was so small…

            “If the Force is telling you, then go. Trust it. I trust it, too.”

            Leia’s voice was barely a whisper, and she seemed to struggle a bit to get her words out. Rey was now thinking that she should maybe …

            “Don’t worry about me, Rey. I may not be a Jedi, but the Force is my ally, as it is yours. And it is powerful. I’m still here. And there are plenty of people to take care of me, here. Go.”

            She lifted a hand and touched Rey’s cheek. “May the Force be with you.”

            Rey put her hand on Leia’s and held it for a moment. Though there was no light, she could somehow see the gentle smile on Leia’s face.

            “I’ll be here when you come back” Leia said. “Goodbye.”

            “Goodbye”, Rey replied.

            She rose to her feet and left the tent. She could not hold back her tears. There was something about what Leia had said. It felt like she was…

            “Going somewhere?”

            It took her a second to recognize that voice. Out of the corner of her right eye she saw Finn, fully dressed, a backpack slung on his shoulder.

            “Finn, I…”, she started.

            “Uh-uh”, he interrupted her. “Don’t give me any of that ‘gotta do it alone’ poodoo. I’m coming. And if you say anything I’ll scream and wake everyone up. Deal? Great!”

            The former stormtrooper walked silently to and up the ramp of the Falcon. Rey sighed, and then smiled. She had to admit that having friends was pretty nice. But another surprise was waiting for them aboard the ship.

            “Artoo, you are my best friend, but I worry about you sometimes”, said the mechanized voice of C-3PO. “Where would we go in the middle of the night? Ah, mistress Rey, I’m afraid Artoo has blown a few circuits. Or maybe the humidity is to blame. This jungle is far from a droid’s natural habitat, especially a protocol unit such as me. Might I ask that you reason with him? I’ve been known to lose my temper, from time to time.”

            Rey looked at the blue and white droid, and it seemed to look back at her, daring her to get him off the ship. “Artoo does whatever he likes, Threepio. Who am I to say anything to a war hero?”

            Artoo beeped his amusement and glided over to the dejarik table. Another beep.

            “No, thank you,” Threepio said. “I do not play with cheaters, Artoo.”

            “I’m up for a quick game”, Finn said as he sat down to face the astromech. “Where are we going, anyway?”

            “A sad place.” Rey answered.

            And she went to take hers in the pilot’s seat. She really hoped she would find what she was looking for.

Chapter Text

            Confidently strolling down the Steadfast’s corridors, General Pryde was giving instructions to a retinue of half a dozen lower-rank officers. He was trying hard to dissimulate his joy at the news he was on his way to give to the Supreme Leader. Displays of emotion did not suit a man of his stature. Or any stature, for that matter. The younger man, however, would be over the moons with this capital information. As loyal as Pryde had been to Snoke, he preferred to serve under a human leader, like the late Emperor, or Kylo Ren. It had been interesting to know of his lineage. Pryde had seen Darth Vader in action. That mostly meant cutting down people, sometimes his own, in a macabre dance. In that regard, Kylo Ren was very much like him. He had also had the privilege of meeting Emperor Palpatine, once. Well, he had seen him. From a bit of a distance. Only the highest ranking could approach him and gaze into his eyes, maybe even shake his hand. He had never known what it was like. And that wasn’t the sort of question one asked his commanding officer. Imperial culture worked better for him and for his troops. If he had to thank Snoke for something (because Starkiller Base had been a massive and costly disaster), that was the thing: he had let him lead as he himself had been led. Pryde’s troops were more disciplined, capable, and obedient than any in the First Order. And he was about to prove it. Oh, the look on Kylo Ren’s face. And on that idiot Hux’s. He had a thought for the dishonoured Maratelle Hux, whom he had preferred to her husband. What had become of her? No matter, he thought. This was not the time. He would show them all. He was about to take the stage in the most elegant fashion. It would be a triumph. Without a word, only the briefest of looks, Pryde dismissed his officers. He relished in the efficiency of their relationship. He readjusted his grip on his Alsaka lacquered ebonwood swaggerstick and announced himself to the Supreme Leader.

            Hux poured himself another glass of Corellian brandy. The first had burned his throat and made him cough, the second had started to make him feel something funny, and the third had made him get up, trip, catch himself on the arm of an expensive chair, and, after making sure that he could safely put one foot in front of the other, go get some water. All of this felt very Brendol to him, except for the water part. But as he poured his fourth drink and gulped it without savouring it, he thought that Armitage might not be enough to pull this off. This, of course, being the assassination of one Kylo Ren. Or, as he very much disliked to be called, to the point of murdering the offender, Ben Solo. Ben Solo. Son of a man he had ended up killing, like Hux himself had done to Brendol, and of the princess, the general, the rebel leader, the rebel scum-in-chief, Leia Organa. A funny thought appeared in Hux’s foggy mind: in another life, they could have bonded over patricide. He laughed for a moment and then told himself to go back to his plotting. Aloud. A new window of opportunity had opened in the form of their large-scale assault on the Colonies. Something was bound to happen there, if he could indeed count on certain people to play their part. Whatever their situation was after this part of the campaign for galactic domination, they would go on to attack the Core. Hux longed to see Coruscant, the planet that was one city. His father used to drunkenly talk about it with his colleagues of the Imperial Remnant. Armitage used to serve them drinks. He knew how much was customarily poured in a glass, and how much they really needed to have fun. He remembered one time when the tray had fallen from his hands. Oh, the beating he had received, that night. When at last he was allowed to crawl into his bed, his ears full of insults about him and his mother, the kitchen woman he had never known, he would dream of the planet that was one city, and how one day, his mother would come and get him, and they would go there together. And be safe. That was Armitage the boy. Young, weak, weepy. Armitage Hux, the man, was solid, driven, and cunning. Pain built character, and he had been dealt his fair share. Humiliation had found its way into his adult life. Snoke and Ren had made sure of it. Pryde had said something snide on more than one occasion. Fools, the whole lot of them. They would see.

            Kylo Ren watched Pryde’s back as the grey-haired man left the room at a brisk space. As the door closed, he involuntarily locked eyes with a female officer who was waiting for the general. She gave him a meaningful look. It made him want to break something. The table would do. He ignited his lightsaber and prepared to strike but stopped mid-air. Why was he doing this? It made no sense. It would not accomplish anything. He looked at the red crackling blade and winced. It was the symbol of his condition. The fear, the pain, the anger, the imperfection. It was the blade that had gone through Han Solo, that was supposed to free him. It had done the opposite. The pain had grown, overwhelming him, latching on to his every thought. He turned the hilt in his hand, and the heat came close to his face, to his neck. There was a way that the blade could set him free. He would finally know peace… Something beeped, somewhere in his room. The Supreme Council was to assemble in its chamber. Pryde would get to announce his news. Kylo realized that he did not care. He looked at the blade once more before it disappeared. It wasn’t the first time that he thought about this. It sure wouldn’t be the last.

———

            Leia woke up sad. Some dark cloud that hadn’t been there the night before now hovered over her. Speaking of the night before… the memory came back to her. Rey was gone. She had heard the Falcon’s engines, which meant that Chewie had gone with her. Who else? She would need to get up to know. Getting out of bed proved harder than she thought. There was a weight on her shoulders that she needed to fight every second. How she hated that part of getting old. And all the parts of almost dying in the vacuum of space. Sitting up, she closed her eyes and took deep breaths, one after another, calling on the Force to give her the energy she needed to get through this new day. How she wished she could just sleep like Rose. But that wasn’t what generals did. First to rise, last to fall. Always.

            As she got out of her tent, she attributed the relative calm and lack of irritated crewmembers to Threepio’s absence. And if he had gone, it could only mean that R2-D2 was with Rey, too. All of them were veteran Falcon flyers. Leia needed not fear for them. She could focus on other things. She had orders to give. She asked for Poe and slowly walked to the outskirts of the base. Her cane made a soft noise on the forest ground. The air was already rich with the sounds of nature. She found a long log to sit on and waited there, while the sun gently warmed her face.

            “You asked for me, General?”

            “Yes, Poe. Here, sit.”

            She indicated another place in the sun next to her.

            “Tell me about your plan” she asked of him. And he did, talking her through it, of the many variables that he had taken into account, of the flight formations that he planned to use, his faith in all of it, in his pilots, in the crews of the ships they had obtained after Crait. He seemed to have grown in the last week. But he looked tired. Exhausted, even. There it was. The price of leadership: the loss of one’s beauty sleep.

            “If that’s all you needed, General, I have to get back to it.” he sighed as he got up. “Some details still need to be worked on. Oh, and I need to update Finn on…”

            “Finn’s not here, Poe” she interrupted him without looking up at him.

            “What do you mean, he’s not here?” Poe asked, putting his hands on his hips. “Where is he?”

            “He’s with Rey. Didn’t you hear the Falcon take off, last night?”

            “Well, I did, but I thought that it was going on… I don’t know, a routine flight for a quick diagnostic, or something. Chewie and I roughed it up pretty bad the other day. So, where are they?”

            “I don’t know.” Leia said simply. “Calm down, Poe” she added when he opened his mouth again. “I’m not done with you, yet. Sit back down, there’s something else I have to tell you. And don’t make me raise my voice. I’m tired.”

            Poe gave her a worried look. All she had to offer him was a smile. She put her hand on his. It was strangely soft. And warm.

            “Do you remember L’ulo’s funeral, Poe?” Leia asked.

            “Yes”

            “Do you remember what I told you, that day? About what my brother once told me? About what we are, as people?”

            “Something about glowing souls, I think?” Poe answered in a frown.

            Leia laughed frankly. “Yes, that. Glowing souls. Luke was one. I’m one. Rey’s one, and so is Finn. All of us, glowing souls. Now, look”.

            With her cane, she indicated the Resistance base. The soldiers, the techs, the medics, the pilots. “Every one of them, a glowing soul. They are yours to take care of.”

            “Well, what about you? You’re still here, aren’t you?” Poe asked with one of his charming smiles.

            “I am. But I’m not going into battle with you. Not this time. Now, don’t worry. I have faith that you will come back. You have to bring back as many as you can. And I’ll be here when you do. But you have to promise me that you’ll keep the light alive for me. Can you do that, Poe?”

            Poe looked at her closely, examining her face. He saw the exhaustion, the wrinkles, the trembling hand as he looked down. “What are you telling me, General?”

            Leia did not respond. She just smiled and walked away.

———

            Finn could not believe it. Why? Why come here? Why keep it a secret, and in doing so rob him of the possibility of mentally preparing himself to come back to this awful planet? He thought that Rey loved the green, now. Wasn’t she standing on branches all day? Even Threepio was complaining. They were in agreement, for once. Finn’s joints wouldn’t freeze, because he didn’t have any, but there had to be an equivalent for human physiology. Wait a minute. Freezing? With this heat?

            “This is Jakku, right?”

            “No,” Rey said, turning back to look him in the eye as she lowered the ramp. “This is Tatooine.”

Chapter Text

The legends say that there was a time when Tatooine was a lush planet. If one was to say that to another person today, that person would laugh. A lot. Because that was hard to imagine. How could a place so dead have been anything other than what it was at any point in history? One should go home instead of spouting such nonsense. An infinite desert: that’s what this planet was and always had been. It was impossible to gather any proof of Tatooine’s fabled former state, but if one really believed, one could search and find, say, clues in this barren ecosystem to support that belief. One such clue could be found in the southeastern extreme of the Jundland Wastes. The Wastes themselves had no distinguishing feature. Except maybe for an isolated moisture prospector’s house (of the type that was very common) that had become the dwelling of an eccentric old man. And then one day, that old man had disappeared, too, never to return. The most interesting part of the Wastes, one might think, is a region called the Great Chott salt flat, in which were located the cities Anchorhead and Tosche Station. There’s a word here to be minded: salt. And where was salt most commonly found in nature, apart from seas and oceans? Could it be, like the legends say, that Tatooine once had oceans? And forests and jungles? One could only hypothesise, for there was so little water to be found on this planet that people had to literally conjure it out of thin air. That activity was called moisture farming.

Moisture farmers were brave and resilient people. These attributes had been put to the test during the Great Drought. Some died, some moved to a nearby city, but others, among the most resilient, weathered through and came out of this hardship harder at their core, and more bitter. They stayed and dug themselves deeper in their farms, determined to endure. One such farm, long abandoned like many others like it, was about to become, but not for the first time, the landing zone of a spaceship. It wasn’t a first for that ship, either. The bantha calf that was observing the scene from afar had no idea that his apparent hunk of junk which belonged to the Corellian Engineering Corporation’s YT-1300 light freighter line, and that this model had been outdated for over thirty standard years. When it heard its mother’s call, however, the calf turned away and followed the rest of the herd.

Finn followed Rey down the ramp of the Millenium Falcon and into the desert sun. Correction, suns. That was twice as bad. Behind him came Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2. They stood in silence and looked around for a minute. Some vaporators were still standing, but many had fallen down, broken by time. The wind was blowing, and sand was swirling inside its mild gusts. There was sand as far as the eye could see. Rey started to feel ill at ease. It brought her back to her homeworld, where she thought herself comfortable, when in truth she had been too afraid to leave. Waiting for dead people to return. At night, desperate to sleep. Kylo had said that to her. It had been true. Like many other things he had told her.

“Rey, what are we doing here?” asked Finn behind her. He was nervous.

“I’m not sure” she replied. That wasn’t entirely true. She knew. Sort of. She just had trouble putting it in words that he’d understand. She was here to gain knowledge of some kind, knowledge that she would combine with her Jedi training, material and spiritual, to… That was where the Force stopped talking to her. She understood that the rest was for her to figure out. She had a vague idea of the goal of this journey, but no clue as to what the journey itself looked like.

In front of them, an old withered dome led underground to what they guessed was a farmer’s home. A few meters away, a large circular opening in the ground revealed that this homestead was in fact quite spacious. But the sand was filling it a fifth of the way up. This was far from practical. She advised her friends to stand back. Feet planted in the sand as firmly as possible, she closed her eyes and reached out. All was equal in the Force. The ship, the man, the wookiee, the droids, the sand. Breathe. She breathed, then put her hands over the sinkhole. She felt it before she heard it. The surface of the sand started to move. It then rose in countless swirling ropes that joined into one continuous flow out of the hole. Finn looked at it, then at Rey, who looked focused, yet calm. A minute later, she dropped her arms, out of breath, but the job was done. Something inside her told her to look behind her. The blue astromech was standing there, unassuming. She stepped towards him.

“This is where he grew up” she said. It wasn’t a question. Artoo beeped again. That meant yes.

“Where who grew up?” Finn asked. “What is this place?” He was now feeling guilty of leaving the Resistance to come on this strange Jedi quest.

“Luke Skywalker.”

Finn’s eyes grew big. Luke Skywalker? He gave the place a second look. In this dump? Rey shrugged. She had lived in an AT-AT. Some people came from dumps.

“Ok. Whatever. I’m sending a message back to base” he said as he walked back to the ship. “They need to know where we are. Where you are.”

“No,” Rey stopped him. “Don’t tell them anything. The First Order could be monitoring transmissions. Leia knows about this. She trusts me. You need to trust me, too.”

There was no arguing to be had. She was right. But what was he going to do while she did… whatever she came here to do? Playing, or rather losing at dejarik against expert players such as Chewie and Artoo would get old pretty quickly.

“Oh, the memories I have of this dreadful place!” Threepio exclaimed. “If I’d known that we were coming here, I would not have gone with you, Artoo, you can be sure of that!”

For the second time in less than ten minutes, Finn agreed with the droid. Strange times.

“Do you remember when Master Luke acquired me and not you? And that R5 unit with the bad motivator? I say, it would have been rather unfortunate for us to have been separated.”

Rey wasn’t listening anymore. She went through the opening of the dome and down a flight of stairs. In the next hour, she visited each room, in silence. But there wasn’t much to see. The whole place was dead. Buried in sand. Broken, gutted machines, their pieces having been scavenged out of them many years before, laid everywhere. In a workshop she found an oil bathtub, long empty and rusted. Too bad for Threepio. There were a few tools here and there, metal pieces in boxes that had been thrown to the ground and partially emptied of their content, a miniature model of a ship that Rey didn’t recognize, although the design wasn’t totally foreign to her. There was a lounge area that didn’t look welcoming anymore, other rooms with heavy, useless machinery that her eye went through with expertise. Not even half a dozen portions for the whole thing. At some point she found herself in the centre of the hole. She looked up.

“Luke?” she whispered to the wind. She looked for him in the Force. But he wasn’t there. Who would want to be here, anyway? A table and a few chairs that used to be white sat on her left. He’d had a family. People who had loved him. Taken care of him. She’d had a downed Imperial walker for a house and an ugly brute for an adult figure. She sighed. Even here, in this unforgiving desert, there had been a place of love.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” Finn asked his friend when she came back aboard the ship. She shook her head no and went straight to the cockpit. He got up to follow her, but Chewie made a noise. Finn’s Shyriiwook was as basic as his binary, yet he managed to understand that maybe Rey needed some time alone to think.

“But she’s my friend” Finn countered.

And the wookiee told him that she was his friend, too.

Rey sat in the pilot’s seat for hours. The suns had been high in the sky when they arrived, and they were now gone. After a meal, she went back out with Finn and sat in the sand. It was getting cold. They shivered in the silence. Finn could almost hear Rey’s brain work. She was thinking very hard about something, trying to understand what it was that the Force sought to… what was it even doing? He only knew what she had told him about it, and there was a time when she didn’t know a lot. These past few months, he’d been busier focusing on improving himself as a fighter. The First Order training came in handy, but it was mainly about killing. And he had refused to kill the innocent.

“Do you think there are more like me, out there?” he asked his friend in a low voice. He found he needed to talk about this. No one knew what it was like. “People who refused, who ran away.”

Rey looked at him. His voice was sad. In it she heard his longing for a life he had never known, as well as for someone who could understand him.

“I’m sure there are” she said in an encouraging tone. “You can’t be the only one.”

He smiled at her. “Any Jedi anxiety you want to talk about?”

“No” she replied a little too fast.

“Good. I mean, not good, I would have loved to hear about it, but I’m exhausted and I really need to go to sleep. You’ll be okay out here?”

“Absolutely!”

When he was gone Rey got up and walked around the hole for a bit. The Force wasn’t giving her anything. Maybe because she was a bit too agitated. Too eager to find out what was going on. She needed to relax. To breathe. She lamented the absence of any sort of vegetation. She would have loved a branch to stand on right now. She looked around and smiled at the Falcon, remembering something she’d said in a moment of necessary agitation: the garbage’ll do!

Rey jumped on top of the old ship and sat cross-legged between its mandibles. At first, she saw as much inside as there was outside: nothing for miles. The answer wouldn’t be easy to find. The answer. To what, exactly, she asked herself? What was the question? Rey thought for a second. What am I to learn here? That was the question. She opened her eyes. What did she see? Sand, yes. Sand was a constant. The dome, the sinkhole. The old home. A home in which people lived. Died, too, maybe. So, if there had been people, there were traces of their passage here. They hadn’t just gone without a trace. Luke Skywalker had grown up here, after all. I thought he was a myth. She had learned that he was a man. A man with a past. An origin. Here. Rey jumped off the ship. She had a good feeling about this.

That feeling quickly went away once she was back in the house. Having a better idea of her purpose drastically changed the way she now perceived her surroundings. When earlier the house had appeared indifferent to her presence, it now felt oppressive. The walls seemed to have grown much closer in the span of a few hours. What little light there was seemed in danger of disappearing from one second to the next, thus leaving her trapped in the dark. When she got out at the bottom of the hole and could once again breathe and look at the sky, she felt like her lungs had been in dire need of a refill. The table and chairs looked more damaged without the light of day. She walked around them. Impatience. Restlessness. Desire. She felt those things. They came to her through the Force. Rage. That one had a different flavour. An echo in time. The others had a much more noticeable presence, as if they had waited in the walls to come out, to make themselves known to someone who would understand. Rey shivered. Ghosts. She went away from the dinner area. Once again, she had to take another deep breath. She was beginning to understand. But she needed more. She went through the rooms, past the broken machines, to the place where she had found the tools. And the miniature ship. She picked it up. It just isn’t fair… never going to get out of here, said a disembodied voice. She went around the room. This one was… darker. More sinister. What had happened here? She reached further into the Force.

“No,” she heard herself say. The Force remembered. Darkness. Repressed emotions bursting out. And light, trying to fight back, but unable to. Not strong enough. There was fear; and that fear led to a simmering anger. She followed the path, to boiling hate, which in turn exploded into intense suffering.

“Ben!” she cried in the cold, dead room. Without realizing, Rey had fallen to her knees. Her hands touched the ground, too. She was out of breath again. She needed to get out. Metal clanged everywhere around her as she made her way out of the workshop.

Strange that she would find relief at the bottom of a sinkhole. Yet it seemed that she had come from deeper into the ground. How good it felt to fill her lungs, even with the cold, dry, night air. But the light had shifted. To the white hue of the moons, another source added its own. And that one was blue. She raised her eyes. The clothes gave it away: white robes, a long brown cape. And the long hair.

“Master Skywalker!” Rey managed to get out. He turned to face her.

“After saving Han’s butt from Jabba,” he smiled, “I swore to myself I’d never be caught here alive. I guess I succeeded in that, at least.”

Rey’s heart started to beat faster. She had so many questions! He seemed to sense her excitement.

“Looks like we have a lot to talk about” he said in response. “I have to say, I’m happy to see you, Rey. Come on, let’s take a walk. Manifesting isn’t easy, so we better make it worth the trouble.”

She followed him outside, and they started walking around. Luke observed that the ship looked good. As good as it could. He stopped to look at it for a second, a smile on his bearded face. And then the smile faded. He walked away.

“This place,” he said.

That was all. She understood. Luke kept silent for another minute. She waited for him to speak.

“These echoes that you felt,” he continued, “some of them are mine. I couldn’t wait to get out of here. Go to the Academy. I wanted excitement, adventure. Be anybody but a farm boy.”

Rey listened, at the same time thinking of her own life on Jakku. They were so different. She’d had a reason to stay. Or so she’d believed.

“And then two droids changed my life, and I became a Jedi.”

BB-8 appeared in her head. It had been a long time since she’d seen the droid. That would need to be corrected.

“But these other echoes,” Luke asked her, “do you know who they belong to?”

Rey shook her head no. It felt like Ben, but it couldn’t be him. It was much older.

“They were my father’s.”

“Darth Vader,” she offered.

“Anakin,” Luke countered. “Anakin Skywalker. He grew up here, too. On this planet. Until the Jedi came and took him to the Coruscant. To the Temple.”

He looked down and kicked a little rock. “There were times, years ago, when I would wonder how things would have gone had something, even the tiniest thing, gone differently. Do this as little as you can, Rey. It doesn’t do to dwell too much on the past. Whatever happens is the will of the Force. Unless you can do something about it.”

He looked remorseful. Rey remained silent. Luke had more to say.

“I created Kylo Ren.”

Rey looked at him. A phantom tear fell from his face.

“It just isn’t fair,” he began, and in his voice, she could hear a hint of the boy he used to be. But the boy went away as fast as he had come: “the impact that our mistakes have on those who follow us.”

And then, Rey understood. She saw everything. A Jedi, a mistake, and out of the light, the dark. And then a Jedi brought back the light. But then a Jedi made another mistake, and out of the light, the dark. And all the galaxy suffered for it. Rey brought her eyes back to Luke. She understood him. She understood everything.

“I am the last Jedi,” she told him.

“Yes, you are,” he said with a sad smile. “Well,” he added, “not exactly. You are the last Jedi but…”

He indicated the horizon. The suns were rising.

“There is another.”

Chapter Text

Finn was half asleep when Rey stepped back on the Falcon. Chewie was fixing something, Artoo-Deetoo was sifting through his many memories, and Threepio had no one to talk to. Rey walked with purpose towards her bag and knelt in front of it. When she got back up, she was holding a small piece of fabric that she then took to the dejarik table. Finn rubbed his eyes and leaned forward to look at what would come out of it. Artoo emerged from his process with a curious beep, and Threepio finally found something to say.

“Oh my! Master Luke’s kyber cristal!”

But it was so much more. As Maz had said, it had been his father’s crystal before him. Anakin Skywalker had visited this place, full of rage and sorrow. After Luke’s departure, Rey had searched the Force for more insight into Skywalker’s feelings when he had visited the homestead. She needed to know and understand as much as she could. The suns had kept climbing the sky. It had taken much effort to find the answer, but now that she knew what she was looking for, she was sure to reach her destination. She had not liked that destination. She hadn’t liked it at all. Through the Force she’d seen a tall and dark silhouette carrying another in its arms. And pain. Oh, the pain, the absolute distress, the massive hole that this loss had dug in Skywalker’s chest. The person he’d carried looked so small in his arms. But who? Rey had focused, fought to see it, to understand. Shmi is my wife, someone that wasn’t Skywalker had said. Shmi.

“Oh, no,” Rey had lamented. Anakin had buried his mother. He had known her before the Jedi came for him. And he had lost her. This was something that Rey could not relate to. She had no memory of her own mother. All she could remember was herself, asking her to come back. And Unkar Plutt telling her to be quiet…

She looked at the broken heart that was lying in front of her. Finn was puzzled. What did she intend to do with it? She’d been studying lightsabers for so long now that he’d thought she would have made some progress by now. But he understood that he had been wrong. That this was of the Force, and that these things were not to be hurried. They would come in their own time. He called Chewie before following her outside. The droids came with them, too. Artoo was gliding in relative silence, and even Threepio was speaking in as hushed a tone as his voice modulator would permit him.

“Artoo, my dear friend, I do believe that Mistress Rey has a brilliant idea. No, don’t ask me, I have no idea what it is…”

Rey walked to the edge of the sinkhole. In one hand, the broken shards of the crystal. In the other, to her friend’s surprise, a piece of her staff. She had long ago decided what her own weapon would look and feel like. A one-handed weapon was efficient, as she had proven it to be on the Supremacy. With Ben. But it was also classic, and it did not fit her original fighting style. Rey had kept her proceedings to herself. Even Leia had been oblivious to what Rey had been planning for herself. The only one who knew anything about this was Rose, who had supplied the necessary tools without a single question, at Rey’s request. This was hers.

She let herself drop at the bottom of the sinkhole. The others stood on the rim, looking down. Rey sat in the sand and put the crystal and the hilt in front of her. She looked at the sky for a moment, smiled at it, smiled at her friends, then closed her eyes.

There was life, and there was death. The eternal cycle, to which all things in the universe submitted. Life was rich, but death was rich, too, for it fed life, and thus continued the cycle. All was equal in the Force. As the Force had a will, life had a will of its own. Life did good, and life committed evil. It was in its nature. Good made that life flourished, prospered, evolved and reached for the skies. Evil oppressed, terrorized, and forced to the ground. It poisoned the heart, twisted it, produced pain, and pain, if not soothed, led to more and more pain, to the suffering of many. Pain was inevitable, not to be run from, but to be confronted. It was part of us, of it all. It is part of me, Rey thought. She was sitting in its symbol, in its manifestation. It was all around her. She focused on it, one grain at a time. It was as the man, as the droid, as the wookiee, in the Force. Her eyes still closed, she felt the sand swirl in the air and form a circle. The circle started to spin on itself. Rey had a firm handle on it. She knew what she wanted to do with it. The circle spun faster and faster, forming a continuous yellow line a few centimetres from her face. It was gathering heat; she could feel it. She maintained her focus. Absolute concentration was of the utmost importance. Far in a little corner of her mind she had left open to the awareness of her surroundings, she could sense Finn’s bewilderment. She smiled in that little corner of her mind. From yellow the circle went to red, and she knew, though she couldn’t see it, that she was close. It wasn’t sand anymore. She had transformed it. Now she had to mould it. The kyber pieces left the ground and rose to find themselves inside the circle. They came together where they had been separated. And then, slowly, deliberately, the circle started to narrow. Its radius diminished and got closer and closer to touching the reformed kyber. When it came close, it spread itself into a cylinder that surrounded the kyber. The cylinder touched the crystal and covered it, each curve and crease, perfectly adapting to its shape, becoming part of it. Rey opened her eyes. The crystal was shining in the morning suns.

It was the hilt’s turn to leave the ground. It rose and joined the crystal at her eye level before welcoming it at its heart. The small opening then closed. Rey reached out, and her lightsaber fell into her hand. What was old was new again, yet it was different. It would serve its purpose in the hands of a new master; a master who knew what came before and what role she had to play in what was to come.

Rey stood up and ignited her lightsaber. A vibrant yellow blade came out of both ends of her former staff and seemed to hum with resolve. She swung it. It was light, yet it felt like a formidable weapon. She swelled with pride, a full smile on her lips. Above her, Finn made a woo sound, and Chewbacca’s roar was so deafeningly loud that she worried for her friend’s ears. Artoo beeped frenetically and Threepio tried to applaud her, without success. He was not built for this sort of celebration, it seemed.

In a single leap, Rey soared out of the pit. Chewie gave her a long, proud hug that left her breathless but happy. Finn knew better than to follow suit, so he put a hand on her shoulder and said:

“That lightsaber looks amazing.”

“It does, doesn’t it?” she replied with a massive grin.

They walked back to the Falcon.

“Do you think that I could… you know…” he asked with a gestured toward the sword.

“We’ll see,” she laughed before calling for Chewie to start the engines. His eagerness to leave was palpable: she was barely done speaking that the ship’s pre-flight sequence began. Rey was about to join him, but Luke made himself known behind her. She turned around.

“Where you’re going, no one has gone before,” he said with a mix of pride and apprehension. “So, wherever it is, whatever you find when you get there… the Force will be with you, Rey of Jakku. Always.”

It was only when the ship disappeared into hyperspace that Luke expressed what weighed on him.

“Rey of Jakku, last of the Jedi Knights.”

Yet somewhere in the Force, something reassured him as to the fact that this was not an end it itself.

 

———

 

According to the ship’s navicomputer, they were halfway to Ajan Kloss when their communications console beeped that a transmission had arrived. It had been thoroughly encrypted, which meant that it was important. Finn initiated the decryption sequence, another of Rose’s team’s miracles. Poe’s tiny silhouette appeared. Even as a blue hologram, he could not look anything but pale. He opened his mouth:

“Guys, we got a problem. A big one. Our intel was wrong. It was today…”

Rey looked to Chewie, then to Finn who was sitting behind them.

“…First Order did it. They attacked the Colonies. It’s over.”