15 years ago
“Okay, but what does it do?” Brendol holds the jewel case up in the sunlight, watching how the light reflects off the metallic back of the disc. Ben had handed it to him with, hesitant, but with an excited look in his eyes that had given Brendol pause. They’re sitting on a park bench not far from school, waiting for Ben’s dad to pick them up in his ancient ( ‘vintage’ , he claims) car on a sunny friday afternoon.
Ben hadn’t looked so excited to show him something in awhile, not since the scandal with his father and Empire Enterprises had broken on the news. They’d been on eggshells since then, mostly for Brendol’s behalf, because Ben’s self aware enough to know he has a terrible temper and even worse tact on the best of days. Ben’s parents, too, have been incredibly careful around him, treating him as though he’s fragile. It’s infuriating.
“It’s a security program I made, like a virus scanner; I thought that would be cool. What I really want to do though is like, make a game, you know?”
Games. Like his uncle used to make, before moving on to other nonsensical things no one really needed, he privately thought. He sighs, a visible, exasperated motion that makes Ben frown.
“I just don’t understand why you’re still so caught up on doing stuff like that. There are so many other, better things you could be applying yourself to.” Brendol just doesn’t why Ben bothers with such frivolous things, because despite evidence to the contrary, Ben is smart, a veritable genius when it comes to coding for someone so young. It’s the bug testing he’s poor at.
“It’s just… it’s just stuff I liked doing with my uncle. It’s for fun; you’re way too serious about this, you know?” Brendol tosses the jewel case back to him, scoffing, and Ben nearly fumbles in his attempt to catch it. There’s something about the way Ben’s acting that bothers him, watching the way Ben’s large eyes bounce from the jewel case to his own.
“Ben, what does it really do?” The crumbling look on Ben’s face gives him away immediately.
“It… it can search through databases, servers. Look for specific things.” Ben is such a terrible liar that he instantly folds under the pressure, not even bothering to come up with some bullshit excuse. For one thing, it’s such a basic function that Brendol knows key information is being left out.
“This is a hacking tool.” He says it as though it’s not a question.
“No! … Yes. It… it’s just not very good at not destroying any data it goes through yet, I’m still working on that part.” Of course anything Ben made would be as destructive as possible, he’s always been terrible at debugging his own projects due to his impatience. So predictable; Brendol rolls his eyes, remembering the time that Ben accidentally unleashed a homebrew virus he’d created because Poe had dared him to, shutting down their brand new computer lab for days while the teacher scrambled to keep everything contained.
“Did you accidentally make another computer virus? You seem to be really good at those, for some reason.” Ben’s cheeks grow warm at the accusation, a confirmation if Brendol ever needed one.
“No! Look, after all the stuff that happened with Empire, I just thought that… that maybe he didn’t just leave, maybe something happened to him-” Brendol’s head snaps up, his lips already formulating a response before Ben has time to realize what happened.
“What, you think that after all the shady business Empire was involved in, that maybe they had something to do with it?” That my father had something to do with it? It’s not fair of him to be so cruel, really; Ben’s uncle had meant the world to him, the one who cultivated his interest in technology and other such pursuits... it would make sense for him to still not be over it, to still cling to that familial connection.
At least Ben even had that in the first place.
“No, I just thought that-” Brendol cuts him off again, regretting it slightly at the struck look on his face.
“Maybe you should just let go of it, Ben. Not like it’s doing you any favors.” The words come out far more cruel than he’d originally meant for them too, but it’s too late to take them back.
“God, Bren, I know what happened with your dad but stop taking it out on me!” Ben clutches the jewel case in his hands, eyes downcast and knuckles near white with how hard he’s grasping it. Brendol spitefully hopes he snaps it in half.
“What’s the point of even talking to you right now, I don’t know. You’re not usually such a jerk!” Ben has always had a short fuse, and Brendol has learned by now how to defuse these situations before they go too far but now he’s just aiming to detonate, to hurt like he’s hurting.
He’s being petty and he knows it.
“That’s your problem, Ben. Don’t you have better things to than chase after than your uncle picking up and just leaving like that? How about school work? Or, like, I don’t know, spending time with your real dad? ”
It’s a low blow and he knows it, but he’s still feeling like a petty child.
“You’re being such a child.” Ben announces, as if reading his thoughts, wiping at his face anxiously.
“ I’m being a child?” He scowls back at Ben, somewhat annoyed for the admittedly apt description.
“You’re the one who started taking potshots for no reason, Bren! I just wanted to show you what I’d made, and you have to go and get all pissy about the actually, legally bad stuff your dad did.” It’s both the wrong and right thing to say, because while it hurts, it also shuts him up, snapping him out of his anger driven tirade. Ben, evidently, also realizes how out of line it was the moment it leaves his lips, never mind all the shitty things Brendol said before.
“...” Staring at Ben’s immediately apologetic face, however, drains most of the irrational anger from him, though he’s still feeling sore where it counts. About the only thing keeping him from snapping again is the knowledge that Ben, of all people, seems to trying as hard as he can to keep his own considerable temper in check.
“...I.... I didn’t mean that. I’m sorry.” Ben then does that thing , the stupid nervous tick of his where he brushes his unruly hair out of his face, already so awkward and ungainly with his still growing limbs. Ben looks so damn young when he does that (he's allowed to think Ben looks young, he's two years older), and Brendol hates it, because it makes him feel like an asshole.
“I just wanted to try, you know, to find him. My parents miss him, I miss him. I know that there are other people who should be handling this, but I can’t just sit here and do nothing. ” Ben’s voice is a quiet mumble now.
“Then call the police, for all the help they’d give you.” Brendol mutters, more to himself than to Ben, who just raises his head to meet Brendol’s gaze.
“You know that won’t do anything; it’s been five years, by now they’re probably thinking something like… he’s probably dead or living in Buenos Aires with his four mistresses or something.”
“What makes you think he isn’t ? What keeps your parents believing he’s still out there, waiting to be found? Why do you so vehemently believe that he didn’t just pack up and go start a new life somewhere else?” It’s something Brendol thought his own father would attempt, but it’s not like the older man can do that now with his newfound incarceration.
But then, as loathe as he was to admit it, Luke Skywalker was a far different caliber of man than Brendol Hux Sr was.
“What do you expect? You think you’re just going to find your uncle sitting in his office where you left him, and he’ll turn to you and just say ‘hey, kiddo, lost track of time’?”
“He wasn’t like that. My uncle wanted to help people, he wouldn’t just abandon the people who he loved for no reason. And if he did… Then he must have had a good reason.” Ben speaks with uncharacteristic confidence, his big, dumb, far too expressive eyes not breaking contact with Brendol. He looks just like his tiny mother when he talks like this, all stern and sure of himself when normally he’s an awkward teen with a smattering of spots on his face that can’t decide if they want to be moles or freckles.
Brendol hates this idiotic trait native to Ben Solo, because it usually means he’s about to let Ben get away with something very stupid.
Rare as an occurrence as it is, Brendol caves first, breaking their shared gaze to look down upon the disc in Ben’s hands. Frankly, he can’t believe they’re having this sort of conversation while waiting for Ben’s dad to pick them up, but he supposes it’s not that unusual for Han to come upon them spitting barbs at each other.
He’s not really sure how they’re still friends, to be honest.
“Whatever. Just… figure out a better way to program this thing before you unleash it on whatever poor hardware you decide to wreck next.” Brendol takes the cd case back into his hand, holding it very gingerly as though it will snap at his fingers, the name scrawled on in messy handwriting with permanent marker glaring back at him. His lips quirk when he quickly realizes what the name means.
“KYLO is a stupid name for this, by the way. You just took letters out of “Skywalker” and “Solo”, didn’t you?” Ben flushes at that, his traitorously expressive face giving him away again. KYLO.exe shimmers conspiratorily in Ben’s atrocious script, as Brendol grins smugly at him.
“It is totally not a stupid name, and I totally didn’t.” Brendol doesn’t believe him for half a second, but the quivering of his upper lip and the smile threatening to break out give him hope that he’s been forgiven, if only a little.
(10:23 pm) KnightofBen: i thnk i mite hav figured it out
(10:23 pm) BrightSunKiller: Oh?
(10:24 pm) KnightofBen: i got KYLO.exe to stop fxking up
(10:26 pm) KnightofBen: wait nvm lol
(10:27 pm) BrightSunKiller: Maybe you should learn to debug better before you start breaking more computers.
(10:27 pm) BrightSunKiller: Isn’t your mom sick of replacing computers for you yet?
(10:28 pm) KnightofBen: stfu, my parents aren’t even home rn
(10:29 pm) KnightofBen: i found sum stuff tho! look it works prtty good sometimes
(10:29 pm) KnightofBen: did u no that emprr had a bunch of virus problems aftr my uncle disappeared?
(10:30 pm) KnightofBen: empire*
(10:31 pm) KnightofBen: aftr tat old creepy weirdo came outta nowhere and took over
(10:33 pm) BrightSunKiller: Viruses? Like what? Don’t all big companies usually face those sorts of problems?
(10:34 pm) BrightSunKiller: Also please don’t tell me you’re actually hacking into Empire’s old servers, Ben. I don’t think there’s any juicy gossip in there we don’t already know.
(10:34 pm) BrightSunKiller: Did your uncle teach you that too
(10:35 pm) KnightofBen: imma ignore u said that
(10:35 pm) KnightofBen: no 1 will notice, who even checks these servers nymore
(10:35 pm) BrightSunKiller: Careful, Ben, don’t get too ahead of yourself.
(10:36 pm) KnightofBen: anyway
(10:36 pm) KnightofBen: ones tat like
(10:36 pm) KnightofBen: basic stuff, stealin hard drive space n shit
(10:37 pm) KnightofBen: movin n corrupting files, crashing comps left n right
(10:38 pm) KnightofBen: but thn theres liek
(10:38 pm) KnightofBen: ‘weird stuff’ happening
(10:39 pm) KnightofBen: comps straight up catchin on fire n stuff
(10:39 pm) KnightofBen: weird personal mssgs to ppl
(10:40 pm) KnightofBen: stuff that prob no 1 should know
(10:41 pm) KnightofBen: ths happened for like a while
(10:41 pm) KnightofBen: spooky stuff
(10:42 pm) KnightofBen: n then
(10:44 pm) BrightSunKiller: I think I remember my dad talking about this.
(10:46 pm) BrightSunKiller: brb, mom is calling, keep talking.
(10:47 pm) KnightofBen: kk
(10:49 pm) KnightofBen: i guess they installed sum new prgrm that cleaned errything up
(10:50 pm) KnightofBen: no more problems after tat
(10:51 pm) KnightofBen: n nothin
(10:52 pm) KnightofBen: teres like no info on what it was or did
(10:52 pm) KnightofBen: just its name
(10:53 pm) KnightofBen: have u ever heard of SITH?
(10:59 pm) KnightofBen: wtf who else is messaging me rn
(11:00 pm) KnightofBen: suddenly got a ton of spam mssgs, ugh
BrightSunKiller is now Away
KnightofBen is now Away
BrightSunKiller is now Online
(11:23 pm) BrightSunKiller: Back.
KnightofBen is now Away
(11:30 pm) BrightSunKiller: Ben?
(11:42 pm) BrightSunKiller: Ben, you still awake?
KnightofBen is now Away
(11:54 pm) BrightSunKiller: You fell asleep at your keyboard again, didn’t you.
(12:02 am) BrightSunKiller: I have to go to bed soon, but I’ll talk to you later. I’m sorry about snapping at you today, that was pretty uncool of me.
(12:02 am) BrightSunKiller: I’ll even apologize in person, let you rub it in my face.
(12:03 am) BrightSunKiller: Night.
BrightSunKiller is now offline.
Ben doesn’t respond to any of his messages over the weekend, which, given his mercurial moodiness, is not so much a worrisome thing as it is annoying. Brendol figured he’d be bursting with excitement to share all the nonsense he’d rooted up from Empire’s old, very out of date servers. He and Ben don’t share any classes, either, which is also not surprising considering they’re in different grades, but he figures he’ll see Ben around Lunch period anyway and deal with the remains of his huffy annoyance from over the weekend.
It’s not until the following Monday when Poe catches him by the shoulder as they’re leaving English, a muted panic in his eyes, that he realizes something may be wrong. Him and Poe aren’t exactly friends, despite being in the same grade, but the common link between them is definitely Ben, and Brendol won’t make too much of an effort to speak to Poe unless he has to.
“When was the last time you saw Ben?” Those were not the words Brendol was expecting to hear.
“On Friday, after his dad dropped me off-” Poe cuts him off quickly, getting his words out as fast as possible.
“His parents said he’s been missing since Friday night; they checked all his usual sulking spots but he’s never been gone for this long.” Something in Brendol’s chest feels like it's slowly turning being strangled; it might be his heart, he thinks faintly.
“They checked the arcade, right? You know when he’s in one of his moods he likes to hide out there and scare the daylights out of us.” Poe just shrugs helplessly; his parents are good friends with Ben’s, so it makes sense that he’d have heard about this before Brendol does.
That idiot, Brendol thinks to himself, running off again and worrying his parents sick about him for the thousandth time. He’s going to leave school, find out Ben sheepishly came home with his tail between his legs after one of his childish tantrums, and he’ll wheedle an apology out of him for making any of them waste the energy into worrying about him over this stupid joke.
“He’s probably just…” Just what, he’s doing what , what is that moron doing ? Brendol doesn’t want to jump to conclusions, because Ben has done this before, has worked himself up into some stupid idea that he’ll later get into huge trouble for, but something about this time seems different.
As it turns out, it’s not a joke.
Ben doesn’t come home that night, or the next, or the one after that.
Just like his uncle before him, Ben Solo has disappeared, and no one knows where he’s gone.