The first thing RN-001 recalls is pain. He remembers being held down on his stomach, the feeling of scalpels piercing delicate skin, the whirring sound of machinery, the copper smell that could only be blood, and the salty taste of tears in his mouth as he screamed in a voice he could hardly recognize as his own. He felt something foreign being placed inside of him through the numbness of the local anesthetic, a sharp, shooting pain running along the line of his spine. It was the worst feeling of his life and he was certain he would die. Of course he wasn’t RN-001 back then. He wouldn’t receive his designation for another year. The time between was full of harsh voices asking questions to which he had no answer, shocks when he was too slow to reply, and a constant blur of never-ending pain that filled him in both mind and body. Every time he figured out the right answer to a question a new set would be presented before him. Every time he ended the suffering, a far worse suffering would occur. He knew now that those early days had been the beginning of his conditioning. Back then however it was just a haze of endless torture.
The first recollection of anything beyond pain was of a tall man with hair more gray than anything else and a small boy with brilliant red hair and pale green eyes who stood straighter than any child should know how to. He was brought before them, his upper arm held in a tight bruising grip by a meaty hand that belonged to one of his regular torturers. “This is the one. We haven’t given him a number yet.” The gruff voice stated.
He didn’t dare look up at the tall man or the cruel man. He knew better then to look into the eyes of his betters. He didn’t want to be punished again. Instead he kept his eyes focused on the buttons of the red-head’s shirt collar. The stylized embellishments were just low enough to allow him to see the redhead’s mouth without looking into his face. “He’s scrawny. Is this really the one the supreme leader went to so much trouble for?” A new voice spoke above him, one he assumed belonged to the tall man. Still, he did not dare speak as the two men spoke around him.
“He’ll grow. We haven’t placed him on a growth regiment yet because we weren’t sure how you’d want to deal with his unique case. We did perform the procedure to place the suppressant chips. They won’t be able to remove them without a trained surgeon and even then they’re more likely to kill him.” The tormentor seemed pleased with his action. It was as if torturing children was somehow pleasurable to him.
“Splendid, then there’s only one thing left to do.” He tall man beckoned the redhead forward. “Brendol, you are nine years old, it is high time you took an active role in the Stormtrooper training procedures.” The older man’s voice was condescending as if the boy should have taken an active role in torturing children before now. “This will be your first task. You will train RN-001 to be loyal to our order. You will employ the training and conditioning regimens you feel necessary to mold him in the images of a personal guard suitable for the heir of the Hux line. You will not fail me in this.” The man’s tone left no room for debate.
The red head stared, something akin to frustration and anger in his eyes. The boy who would become RN-001 was unsure as to whether the rage was directed towards him or the tall man. Still, he couldn’t ask. “Yes sir.” The boy answered with a sharp salute. The redhead approached and grabbed RN-001’s chin. RN-001 didn’t understand then but the redhead, Brendol, was inspecting him for faults. He was examining the way a farmer would look at livestock. If he found any problems, he didn’t make them known. “I want him on supplements K-18 and L-7. He should be tall, he should have a stature fitting of a man in my personal unit, something to show he is better than the usual drivel. I would have him in combat procedures Y-8 and continue his conditioning with O-6.”
The tall man chuckled as if someone had made a joke, as if there were something amusing about the redhead’s statement. “O-6? Is that not a little light Brendol? Should you not be concerned with instilling as much loyalty as possible? He is your first after all.”
RN-001 watched through hooded eyes the redhead bit his lip. He seemed to consider the tall man’s words for a moment before answering. “No sir. O-6 is correct. If he is to serve directly under my command I require he be intelligent. Any higher and the risk of the drug cocktail causing permanent damage to his brain is too great. I will ensure his loyalty through other means if necessary.” The boy spoke evenly, as if trying to keep all emotion out of his voice.
“Have it your way.” The tall man brushed off the red-headed boy’s opinions.
The cruel man spoke once more, confirming each of the redhead’s orders. His gruff voice drowning out all other sound in the room. They were all talking over him as if he were a prop or some sort of object. Then there was the look the redhead gave him, a glare made him feel as if he had been caught doing something wrong, as if the act of listening was a crime. He tried to tune it out and instead concentrated on a stray thought that seemed to occupy his mind whenever there were small breaks in the pain. In his mind’s eye he saw a woman with a kind smile, her silky brown hair tied up in braids and a man with scruffy chocolate locks and a smirk that spoke of trouble. It struck him that he couldn’t remember their eyes and a small part of him ached to realize that. He wasn’t sure who they were but he felt that knowing them was important. He couldn’t afford to focus on that however, the cruel man had gripped his upper arm as was pulling him away once more.
The pain continued only now it was different. Where before the pain would be vague and constant now it was brief and all consuming. He would be clamped down to a table and poked with needles for hours. Sometimes they left them in his arms, a liquid dripping from the tubes they were connected to every part of his body. They would place a screen in front of him and hook him up to a machine that would give him electric shocks whenever images appeared that were not in line with certain ideals. Some days he could become so exhausted he couldn’t help but close his eyes after hours of viewing these images. He would be woken with a slap and forced to keep his eyes open. Then he would be fed a small and tasteless meal made up of a gray mush before being placed in an uncomfortable cot with no pillow and expected to sleep. Some days, the routine would change, when he woke he would then be expected to fight using weapons he had never seen before. He would be placed in white armor and forced to wear a mask that hid his features and modulated his voice and even the sound of his breathing as it became heavy with exhaustion. Then he would fight someone in the same armor. Sometimes the weapons were blunt and each hit caused little more than bruising. Then there were other times he would walk away with his white armor covered in blood his opponent’s body being picked up by droids for disposal.
Every standard week he would be called into a meeting with the redhead. RN-001 would be taken by his handlers to a sparsely decorated room where the redheaded boy was waiting to speak to him. The setup was always the same. The redhead sat on one side of the durasteel table while RN-001 was placed in a chair across from him. In the beginning, these calls were formal. The redhead, who he would come to know as Brendol, would ask him what he learned since their last meeting. He would then look into RN-001’s dark eyes, staring past them into his soul while RN-001 recounted the messages presented to him on the screen and the weapons he learned to use.
It wasn’t until the eighth meeting that he actually said anything beyond that initial command. “You are fighting the conditioning.” It was not a question and allowed no room for disagreement. It was a fact. RN-001 didn’t respond. He wasn’t sure what to say. “I expected you would.” He pulled up information on the holopad that was his constant companion. “You have an incredibly high IQ. That paired with your natural abilities make your resistant to conditioning. It doesn’t matter that you’ve had suppression chips placed within your body. Your skills continue to break through. It is clear to me that you don’t believe in the ideals of the fallen Empire or in our new order yet you proclaim otherwise because you are intelligent enough to know the consequences of speaking out. That is good. I do not need an idiot by my side, guarding me, when I take my rightful place in this world. I want someone who challenges me intellectually while remaining trustworthy. I believe you can be that individual. Do you think you have the potential to fulfill this role?”
RN-001 remained silent for a few moments. This line of questioning was unlike anything he faced in the past. It was a test and if he chose incorrectly he would be placed in a world of pain until he learned the correct answer. “I am to be whatever you ask of me, am I not?” he responded hesitantly.
That was evidently the correct answer because the redhead smirked. “Yes, I suppose you are. If we are to trust one another then I should explain a few things you. You are RN-001, the first in your line where R represents the location from which you were recruited and N represents the year you were collected. My name is Brendol Hux the second and I am currently top of my class in the officer academy, training to become a valuable member of The First Order.” His words left no room for arguments. He didn’t ask if RN-001 understood. He just walked from the room as if nothing had changed.
After that meeting RN-001 began to look forward to his meetings with Brendol. The older boy, at least he believed he was older based on the way he towered over him, was blunt. He answered all questions RN-001 had for him regardless of whether or not they would have been considered acceptable by his handlers. He learned far more about his purpose from Brendol because Brendol did not shy away from any topics. Through Brendol he learned that the soldiers he defeated in combat training were being sent to their death because they were weak. He explained that only the strong were desired in The First Order. He learned why The First Order existed and its stated purpose of bringing peace to the galaxy by liberating it from the disorder that came from a weak democratic government. He also discovered things Brendol didn’t dare speak of directly. He determined that Brendol struggled with an overbearing father who often tried to sabotage his son. Brendol believed his father intended for RN-001’s training to be a failure because the boy was older than most recruits and obviously intelligent. Brendol’s father expected RN-001 to be a failure that would end any chance Brendol had of having a career and possibly a life. This new found knowledge brought forth an unexpected defensiveness as RN-001 determined that he would defy the tall man’s expectations and assist Brendol in becoming great.