The destruction of Hux’s dreams ended not with Starkiller Base, but with the vacation he was ordered to take afterwards. Hux found relaxation to be stressful and pointless. He had personally seen to it that paid vacations were available only at the highest echelons of the First Order, where no one would be caught dead taking time off. Supreme Leader’s punishment for failure was severe indeed.
He was sitting poolside, reading through his work emails, when he received the repair bill for the Finalizer’s consoles. It was delivered in person by a pheremonally downcast Zeltron male wearing the official uniform of Pleasure Planet Resort and Spa: a few holostickers.
“I am so sorry to interrupt your vacation, General, but this requires a signature to acknowledge receipt,” the Zeltron said.
The bill was exorbitant. Cartel Corp Insurance had refused to pay for a single thing, on the grounds that the damage had been done by someone outside of the First Order. Kylo Ren was dismissed as an “independent contractor, unpaid.” Of course.
The bill would have to be dealt with, but at last his long nightmare of enforced vacation was over. He crisply affixed his signature to the datapad and considered his options. Cartel Corp was infamously mercenary--that was the only reason they had agreed to insure the First Order fleet. There could be no appealing to their sense of decency or duty. Hux considered which of his underlings seemed the most adept at exploiting technicalities. Phasma was too honorable. Mitaka had a frightened look to him, which was promising.
“Fetch me an air taxi,” Hux told the Zeltron, and adjusted his sarong. “I need to get off-planet as soon as possible.”
His office on the Finalizer was exactly as he had left it: orderly. There was a visceral pleasure to sitting in his Sullust leather chair and knowing that he was perfectly backlit. Mitaka entered with a bouquet of flowers. Apparently, he had survived the destruction of the Starkiller by being one of the first to abandon his station. With the First Order’s officers decimated, Mitaka’s cowardice (or as his official records stated, “emergency reinterpretation of orders”) had been rewarded with a promotion.
“Sir,” Mitaka said, gently placing the bouquet on Hux’s desk, “the survivors of the Starkiller disaster pitched together to express our condolences. We also all signed a card.”
The card was the official First Order greeting card, sent to all sympathetic senators of the New Republic. Inside it read, ‘The Starkiller will always be our dearest fierce machine, and we can build an even bigger one next time.’ There were at least twenty signatures, all written as neatly and uniformly as possible. In the center, someone had dipped Millicent’s little paw in ink and left her print. Dangerously close to being moved, Hux set the card down.
“Thank you,” Hux replied. “Tell the officers that I appreciate their devotion to the cause. Now for business, Captain. I saw in your files that you come from a long line of accountants.”
“My mothers managed the Empire’s payrolls and claims with pride, sir.”
Hux outlined the problem for Mitaka, stressing that if repairs had to be taken out of the Finalizer’s budget for incidentals, the officers’ bar would no longer be complimentary.
“This is quite serious,” Mitaka said, nervously clutching at his throat, “but I may have a solution. Darth Vader, sir, had a similar despite for property. Since he lacked official Imperial status, insurance payouts were regularly denied. But there is a loophole. Spouses of officers are, legally, part of the military.”
“But Lord Vader was unmarried.”
“On the contrary, Lord Vader was married over sixty times. It was considered quite ordinary for an officer to have a go at being Vader’s legal spouse for claims purposes. Even Grand Moff Tarkin participated, sir.”
“Are you suggesting that someone has to pretend to be Kylo Ren’s spouse, Captain? This sounds like the premise of a romantic holocomedy.”
Mitaka nodded. “Sir, that is exactly what I am suggesting.”
It had been so nice to be separated from Ren by the cold vastness of space. However, as Hux had been far too often reminded, all worldly triumphs were fleeting. “Suggestion noted. You’re dismissed, Captain.”
As Mitaka made an adroit exit, Hux requested an audience with Supreme Leader. To Hux’s surprise, Snoke’s response was immediate, though characteristically terse.
Due to renovations, the new chamber for audiences with Snoke was actually a storage room. Hux carefully moved the surplus chairs out of the way before telling the projector to turn on. For space reasons, Snoke was now a mere two meters tall.
“Supreme Leader. Cartel Corp has refused to pay for Ren’s damage to the Finalizer.”
“Because he is not a First Order officer. I know.”
Snoke’s sabacc face was perfect. “I know” could mean that Snoke thought the incidentals budget unimportant. On the other hand, “I know” could mean that Snoke was already preparing Kylo Ren’s gloved fist for marriage. Hux decided to be optimistic. “According to ancient custom, I request that Kylo Ren return to the Finalizer for the rigorous faking of marriage documents.”
Something glittered in Snoke’s distant eyes. “Soon, the claim for Starkiller Base will be delivered to Cartel Corp. It is not to be denied, General. A few damaged consoles mean nothing in comparison. I will send Kylo Ren to you. Use the Finalizer claim as a distraction from your real purpose.”
“And who, Supreme Leader, should pose as Ren’s spouse?”
One corner of his lip turning upwards, Snoke leaned forward and said, “You, General, are the only one I trust in this matter. Now go, and familiarize yourself with Cartel Corp’s policies.”
Only years of repression kept Hux’s expression neutral before Snoke cut off the holoprojector. Out of Snoke’s sight, Hux allowed himself to frown in disgust. Hux tried to reassure himself that he had endured worse for the First Order. He had spent a night in a Taun-Taun corpse as part of an Academy hazing ritual. He had even endured a whole weekend with Senator Sleazebaggano, listening to his thoughts on nerf-breeding and redheads, without complaint.
Pretending to be married to Kylo Ren would undoubtedly be more humiliating than gagging on intestines and answering to the name of “Ginger Hotlips.” But Hux believed in following orders, even the cruel ones.
For now, the officers’ bar was serving free drinks.
Ren arrived two days later. To Hux’s relief, Ren was wearing a new mask which looked almost exactly like the old one, except less battered. He stepped off the shuttle with a dramatic flair of his robes which was utterly ruined by his personality.
“I trust Snoke has told you why you’re here,” Hux said.
“To pay for another weapon with a fatal and obvious design flaw,” Ren replied, stepping into Hux’s personal space, “and restock the officers’ bar with Corellian brandy.”
“Brandy none of us would need if you were not so easily distracted by patricide.”
Fists clenched, Ren loomed even closer. “Then there’s no time to waste… dear.”
Hux fought back bile. It was exactly like spending the night in a Taun-Taun. At least “dear” was better than “Ginger Hotlips.” Ren tilted his head, as if he were listening to Hux’s inner monologue.
“Do not read my mind,” Hux said. “That is not merely an order, but a suggestion for our mutual benefit. It will take us eight hours to reach Cartel Corp; eight hours that I want to spend with the utmost professionalism.”
“You already have your doubts about that.”
Hux allowed one brief, satisfying expression of distaste before he turned away and marched to their transport. Ren had to follow behind him. It was a small but decisive victory.
Cartel Corporation’s headquarters was spread out over four moons. As far as Hux could tell, the idea behind taking over four moons instead of simply colonizing the perfectly habitable planet below was that forcing people to scuttle from one moon to the next often made them give up. Hux wished that was an option. The First Order’s designated claims adjuster, a Hutt named Porbo, was of course located on the most distant moon with the most eccentric orbit.
Throughout the whole ordeal—as if they were not in a starfaring society, where all business could and should be done over the HoloNet—Ren had behaved with suspicious serenity.
“Are you drugged?” Hux asked.
“What a luxury.”
They found Porbo eating lunch at his desk. As soon as Hux and Ren were too close to be ignored, Porbo clumsily set down his nerf-steak sandwich and made watery eye contact.
“Gentlemen,” Porbo said in Basic, gesturing with one small arm, “have a seat. Normally I wouldn’t be able to fit you in, but the representatives for Mandalorian MandaMORean Catering cancelled, due to sudden death.”
Mandalorian MandaMORean Catering had been enthusiastically dispatched by a squadron of TIE fighters. “Such a tragedy,” Hux replied. “I heard they fought to the last chef.”
“A hospitality intern survived,” Porbo said, licking his lips as he began typing, “but as you know, not a paid employee. Let me guess: you’re here to claim that Cartel Corp should pay for damages since Kylo Ren has been married to a First Order officer all along.”
Inwardly cursing, Hux smiled and set his hand on Ren’s knee. “He’s my husband. We had to keep our marriage a secret because of Kylo darling’s issues with his family.”
Unfazed, Porbo blinked a few times. “What color are your husband’s eyes, General?”
“Brown,” Hux said, without hesitation. It was the most common eye color in the human population and dithering over his brief glimpse of Ren’s face would get him nowhere.
“What’s your husband’s first name?” Porbo grunted at Ren.
Hux tried to think as loudly as he could. Ren was motionless, not even moving the knee Hux had started to cling to. After a long silence, Ren said, “Hermitage.”
“Did you know,” Porbo asked, his gaze directed at his abandoned sandwich, “that Darth Vader was married over sixty times?”
“I had no idea,” Hux replied, as a strange curdling noise erupted from Ren’s vocoder.
“It was something of a racket the Empire had going, marrying off Vader. You aren’t married, General. I’ve looked you up. You’re thirty-four and had only three serious relationships, none of which lasted longer than the one with your cat.”
“And what about me?” Ren asked, his tone murderous.
Porbo folded his arms over his chest with some difficulty. “A virgin,” he pronounced.
Ren rose to his feet and unlatched his mask. Convinced that Ren was about to abandon the Force and rip Porbo’s throat out with his teeth, Hux was already planning his exit. Ren slammed the helmet on Porbo’s desk, hard enough to jar some of the nerf-steak, before grabbing Hux by the shoulders. For a moment they locked eyes (Ren’s were definitely brown—Hux enjoyed being right about that), and then Ren kissed him. It was not in a particularly collegial way, considering that there was tongue involved. Not in a particularly virginal way, either, though Hux would rank the skill somewhere between Girlfriend Two and Boyfriend One. Just as Hux was beginning to enjoy being held tightly and ravished by a surly vornskr of a man, Ren let him go.
It had been a very, very long time since Hux had had sex with anyone.
Porbo made a few quick entries in his datapad. “Pupils fully dilated,” Porbo muttered, peering at Hux and Ren. Hux made what he hoped were a few discreet adjustments to his breeches. “Blush present. Mouths kiss-swollen. Heavy breathing, evidence of erection.” While Hux did not dare check to see exactly what a ‘kiss-swollen mouth’ looked like, Porbo methodically picked his sandwich back up and took a sloppy bite from it. “Fine. Maybe you are married,” Porbo said, still chewing his nerf-steak with each pronouncement, “and you at least want to kriff each other, which is further than Vader and Tarkin ever went. Probably. I’m requiring that Kylo Ren take our anger management certification course.”
While Hux stared, horrified, at Porbo’s slow, open-mouthed mastication of the nerf steak, the Hutt pulled out a flimsi and left a greasy handprint on it. “There’s your approved claim,” said Porbo, nudging it towards Hux. “Take it to Moon Beta.”
“You’re giving me an actual, physical flimsi? Can’t you use the HoloNet?” Hux spat.
“I can take it back,” Porbo replied.
“This will have to do.” Hux grabbed the flimsi and spun around sharply on his subtly height-enhancing heel. “Come along, Kylo dear.”
“Sweetheart,” Ren growled. “You should have told me your first name before we got here.”
Fast as Hux was walking towards the inter-moon shuttle, Ren was keeping up and was far too close. His mask was still off. How did he even manage to have such nice hair, stuffed into that thing all the time? Hux was incredibly disappointed in himself and his apparently awful taste in men. The worst part was that Ren’s oral recklessness had actually solved their problem.
“As far as you’re concerned,” Hux said, “my first name is General.”
Dropping off the flimsi with the correct person took eight hours. That must be why so many Hutts turned to crime, since their legitimate business ventures were designed to torture everyone involved at every stage. The harried Twi’lek who took the Finalizer damage claim was chain-smoking cigarettes and openly browsing job listings. Hux sensed an opportunity.
“Trying to get off this moon?” Hux asked.
“Of course I am,” she replied with an unctuous flip of her lekku. “You offering me a job, General? I’m not a good dancer, if you’re thinking of putting me in some sensua bindings and sticking me with a back-up band.”
Ren was almost not slouching, surely attentive behind the mask—the Twi’lek knew something.
“My personal assistant was recently vaporized and I absolutely hate dancing; I find it embarrassing to watch,” Hux said. “There are, however, some budget concerns. Non-essential hires will be put on hold unless the Starkiller Base claim is approved.”
She inhaled thoughtfully on her cigarette. “I just push flimsies around. If you needed to force a claim through… that’d mean getting a handprint from a senior shareholder. Only one of them’s here tonight: Burpall the Hutt. He’d never agree to that claim though—it’s infamous. It’d put Cartel Corp in the red for at least two fiscal cycles.” The Twi’lek leaned forward to whisper: “How much do you want the payout?”
“More than anything,” Hux answered.
“Alright,” she said. “Meet me three hours from now in sub-basement C on Moon Alpha, beneath the cantina. I expect to get a good job out of this, sir. With the paid vacation I know you First Order types hate.”
“Fine,” Hux lied.
“My name’s Garrota Terza. Tell payroll about me.”
Terza pressed a button on her desk, and a durasteel screen slammed down and blocked off the service window. Hux mentally assigned her a sinecurial position rather than one where she would have to deal with people.
The business with the flimsi had kept Hux’s mind blissfully free of Ren, but now he had to wonder how effective he would be at the cloak and blaster drama they were about to try. “Can we trust her?” Hux asked.
Ren nodded. “She is truly full of hate. This whole corporation is close to the Dark Side.”
“Yet the Sith never sold insurance. Too much passion for it, perhaps?”
“The Sith needed no insurance.” Now it was Ren’s turn to make a pointed spin on his heel and stalk off. “We will be late to the Moon Alpha shuttle.”
Sub basement C was as humid as Hutta; the climate controls were for accommodating Burpall and no one else. Hux unzipped his collar and tucked his gloves into his belt. Ren must be sweltering.
“You could take your helmet off. The heat in here is terrible.”
“I keep hearing that. I’m fine. It has a cooling unit inside.”
The Twi’lek arrived twenty minutes late, carrying a sack. “I had to buy a bikini,” she said, “and it’s too small for me. Luckily, Hutts have bad vision and Burpall’s favorite dancer is a redhead.”
Hux asked himself how deeply he believed in the ideals of the First Order. “I have to wear the bikini to get close to Burpall.”
“The keen strategic mind of General Hux cannot be surprised,” Ren observed, while Terza gave an apologetic grimace of agreement and handed Hux the metal bikini. It was very small.
“Burpall’s asleep,” Terza said. “He’ll have the claim flimsi somewhere nearby. All you have to do is quietly press his hand to the ‘yes’ portion of the flimsi. I’ve brought a map of the moon’s vent system—there’s a path marked which will take you to the dropbox. Once it’s in there, even Cartel Corp wouldn’t go that far against policy to avoid the Starkiller payout.”
“Thank you. Anything else?”
“Other than that job you promised me?” Terza pulled two pale pieces of meat from the bottom of the bag. “Just these Endorian chicken cutlets. They’re for in case Burpall gets handsy.”
There was a snort from Ren’s vocoder. “Noted,” Hux said. “You can leave now.”
The firmest job recommendation Terza could give herself was how quickly she left. Unfortunately, Ren was still around and would have to stay with him for the entire bikini-operation.
“I want you in the vents with me. If I’m going to be eaten by a libidinous Hutt, I want someone with a lightsaber around to cut me out.”
“I thought you’d prefer to be spared embarrassment.”
“This is nothing.” It was actually quite embarrassing, but Hux was not going to admit that. “I played Princess Leia at the Academy’s yearly production of The Mistaken Return of the Jedi.” It was the last year before the Academy allowed co-ed instruction.
Ren’s shoulders slumped further. Having no patience for Ren’s feelings, Hux stripped down to his First Order emblazoned briefs. He stuffed his uniform in the sack, which they would be taking with them into the vents. The room was now too cold, making Hux miss the hot stage lights of his brief thespian career as he slipped on the bikini. His last touch was to ruck up his underwear and hide it under his bikini bottoms. Good enough.
“Help me with the clasp in the back,” Hux said. Ren did as he was told without a single gibe, which felt almost satisfying. “Now get the cutlets. Ugh, they’re lukewarm.”
“Would you rather they be cold?” Finally, Ren’s voice was back.
Hux adjusted how the cutlets sat in his top. “They feel horrible.”
“You put raw meat in your bra. Of course it feels horrible.”
“I am allowed to complain about this situation. You’re the physically fit person here, so if life were fair you would be the one with half your ass out so you can paw at a sleeping Hutt.”
The mask gave Ren an argumentative advantage because Hux had to keep a straight face but Ren could do as much eye-rolling as he wanted, and Hux would never know. “Do you need help getting into the vent?” Ren asked, chin tilted up towards the opening in the ceiling.
“Yes,” Hux huffed. “I do.”
Improbably, the vents were fairly spacious. Humans were among the smaller lifeforms who came to Cartel Corp, and the Hutts probably had alien janitors. There wasn’t quite enough room for Ren to fit beside him, so instead he was treated to an ongoing view of Hux’s taint. Hux hoped it bothered him.
The map led them directly to Burpall’s bedroom. Burpall the Hutt lay snoring, surrounded by an assortment of bones and pre-packaged snacks. A bikini much like Hux’s was abandoned in the middle of the floor. No one but Burpall seemed to be in the room. Ren carefully lowered Hux out of the vent. The flimsi was right next to Burpall, completely unguarded on a rancor-skin end table. Hux inched towards it, putting all his weight on the balls of his feet to be as quiet as possible. He picked up the flimsi and slipped it under Burpall’s sleeping hand. The Hutt’s palm left its mark of approval, making Hux’s mouth water at the thought of Starkiller Base II. And it had all been so easy—he could have done the whole thing in his uniform.
Just as Hux was sneaking away, he felt Burpall’s hand yanking him backward by the bikini bottom. Hux bit back a curse and hoped all humans looked the same to Hutts. The smell of Burpall was enough to make Hux want to throw up into his chicken cutlets. Burpall said something in Huttese and licked Hux’s face.
Instead of coming to Hux’s rescue, Ren was still in the vents, his head dangling down so he could speak to Burpall in Huttese. Hux concentrated on keeping the flimsi away from Burpall’s tongue and resisting the urge to break character from ‘flustered, light-fingered dancer, would rather not be licked.’
“Whatever you’re doing isn’t working! Do something better!” Hux shouted.
Ren paused his string of Huttese to reply, “It’s incredibly difficult to use the Force on Hutts!”
“Then use a lightsaber! Those work on all lifeforms!”
The mask hit the floor with a loud smack. Ren gave Burpall the most intense look anyone had ever managed upside down with hair in his face, and spoke more Huttese.
Burpall went to sleep. Hux scrambled away from him, covered in Hutt saliva and probably other horrible Hutt bodily fluids. He looked up at Ren.
“Do not say anything to me about this,” Hux said.
“No one has ever succeeded in a mind trick on a Hutt before,” Ren replied, as if Hux cared. “I thought the Huttese was enough but I had to have eye contact too.”
“Congratulations, you can make a holocron about it. I feel so disgusting I think I may die, and my cutlets fell out.”
Drunk on his own mastery of the Force, Ren used it to get Hux back in the vent, smacking his head against the ceiling in the process. Hux hardly noticed the pain in his urgent need to climb on top of Ren and rip his clothes off. He managed to tear away Ren’s cape and spent the next few moments in pure bliss as he soaked up every last trace of Hutt-spit with it. Ren was making gagging noises, as if the stench in the vent could even compare to what Hux had endured. Hux threw the cape down the vent when he finally felt adequately clean.
That left something new nagging at Hux’s mind. “I have one question before we move on. Is your erection because of the bikini or despite it?”
Ren rubbed at his eyes and stared at the ceiling, as if consulting with a higher power. “Despite it. What about yours?”
“It’s very uncomfortable to have in the bikini.”
Hux gave Ren a suitable amount of time to come up with a double entendre, and when none came, he crawled over Ren and started heading towards the dropbox. As soon as Hux could get into the refresher, he was going to masturbate until the urge to proposition Kylo Ren was circling the drain where it belonged. Having sex in the vent system would have been incredible stupid, anyway.
“I’m not a virgin,” Ren said, somewhere in the vicinity of Hux’s backside.
“Is this a necessary conversation for this moment in time, Ren?”
“Yes, because I can read your mind.”
Their discussion of Ren’s sexual prowess was put off by finding they were right above the dropbox. Except, when they peered through the grate, it was not unattended. A Hutt which looked remarkably like Porbo was watching a movie over the HoloNet, eyes extra moist over the sight of a dozen Huttlets being cut down by a cackling Sith and chewing yet another sandwich with his mouth open. It was Porbo, Hux decided.
“Do you want to try your earlier trick?” Hux whispered.
“Porbo already mistrusts me.”
“He can’t stay here forever. We may as well wait.”
The music swelled as the Huttlets dwindled. Ren wriggled up alongside Hux so he could see the movie.
“I don’t remember learning about this particular massacre,” said Hux. “I wonder which Empire it was.”
With a shrug, Ren dismissed Hutt history. Two of the Huttlets escaped and hid in a cave, doing a sort of high pitched sobbing and mewing. It made Hux long for a quiet evening with his cat, a reasonable amount of emails, and a complimentary brandy, instead of listening to Porbo softly weep. Inexplicably, Ren’s dick was poking at Hux’s leg again.
“Really? There’s three Hutts crying down there.”
“Is it truly bothering you, General?”
Hux weighed the discomfort of watching a Hutt tear-jerker with the phenomenally stupid act of having sex in an air vent. However, he had not attained his rank by avoiding risks and hard decisions.
To Whom It May Concern At Cartel Corp:
I, Porbo Insuric Corpo, am giving my formal two weeks notice. There are several reasons why I no longer believe in Cartel Corp’s product, enumerated below.
- We’re not very good at our job. We reject legitimate claims and make payouts to completely bogus ones based on whether or not the claim is in the right dropbox with an appropriate handprint.
- I have worked for Cartel Corp for two hundred years and still don’t have paid vacation time.
- Two human males fell out of an airvent and landed on me while engaging in sexual intercourse. Have you ever seen human genitalia? They’re disgusting. Then, the one in a dancer’s bikini yelled at me about how this proved they were married, while the other one used the Force to float a flimsi into the dropbox. This is why it is not my fault that the Starkiller claim was approved.
- My only friend, Garrota Terza, got a job elsewhere and is enjoying three weeks of paid vacation. She keeps sending me holosnaps of Zeltron cocktails she’s drinking.
I am going on a quest for personal vengeance and joining the Resistance. Tell my kajidic I love them.