Chapter 1: We Meet Again
“There is no Republic,” General Armitage Hux, the highest ranking, most qualified, fervent supporter and elected spokesperson for the First Order spat icily. He raised his voice and looked directly at the pale hologram of so-called last Jedi, the amateur Rebel scum he was forced to negotiate with. “There is no more rebellion!” Only rabid idealists clinging to bolt holes. Don't you remember, you called for aid on Crait and in your greatest time of need and nobody came. Not one. Still you have no allies. Give it up, disperse, disband and the First Order will consider your application for leniency.”
The rebel scum didn’t answer. Instead the girl known Rey ignored the General’s pale eyes and continued to completely focus on her masked fellow Force user Kylo Ren. Next to Rey Commander Poe Dameron smirked and also stayed unnervingly silent.
The Rebel’s disinterest in what he had to say didn't discourage the General from talking. His voice continued clear and loud as a circle of black clad, high level Order lackeys, who were seated around Ren and himself, nodded in agreement.
“This,” General Hux motioned to the holograph projected pair of rebels sitting at the opposite end of the negotiating table. “You; you are tiny blips on our radars and are the least of our worries. The First Order is expanding, diversifying and we have no more time to negotiate with war criminals. Our Supreme Leader has one final, generous offer for the last Jedi girl. If it is rejected then we have ships jumping into Kashyyyk now.”
A flicker of surprise showed on Dameron’s face. His eyes looked to the side and he raised his eyebrows as he nodded, a brief dip of his head to empty air.
The General lowered his voice to a smug baritone. “Yes Commander, we know where you are and where you will be. So, better keep your ‘forces’ on a tight leash.” His hand tightened into a fist, his voice rising again. “There will be no escape this time.”
Poe cleared his throat. “I have no control over anyone, and I don't lead by brainwashing General Hug…x. We have no military post anywhere on Kashyyyk, and it's outside of First Order control, but also Kashyyyk, as you know, is now flagged as a neutral planet. The New Republic would not endanger the lives of millions. The First Order would not risk universal embarrassment. Trust me General, attacking Kashyyyk would create more havoc for your Order than a handful of ‘rabid idealists’. I call your bluff.”
The two force users at the table stayed silent.
They watched each other unwavering. It seemed ridiculous that the meeting played around two pivotal figures while they made eyes at one another. The General assumed Ren was making eyes; he had taken to wearing the fucking mask again. Didn’t he know that the officers thought him an idiot?
General Hux told himself he had given up waiting for any attention from Rey – the game playing bitch. She hadn’t given him even the most subtle symbol of recognition. It was all because he had no magic fingers, no long dark hair and cracking light up sword. He couldn't choke a person with a thought. If he could then Ren and Dameron and half of the watching players would be writhing purple faced while trying to gasp their last breath. That was negotiation! All her pretend hatred for Supreme moron Kylo Ren in the past had been more lies, more make believe, like how she had pretended to care for him, to more than care. Now he could only watch as she no doubt whispered to her lover in their secret mind speak. Rey had jumped at the chance to negotiate, but not with him, only with Ren.
Armitage shoved down his emotions again and locked them away from his heart and mind. Anything that he had thought had happened between Rey and himself was in the past, and their past had been all lies and mistakes, a moment of weakness, one that he worried would be thrown back in his face every minute of the day and night. This, this, here and now was work and nothing more.
“Who said anything about an attack?” General Hux waved the large desk holo-comm to the channel he had already prepared. Prepared almost a week ago in fact. His spies were very good. “Launch,” he barked. “Start the mineral exploration of G5-623 the planet Kashyyyk, he said the word slowly and clearly.” Armitage patted himself on the back. If anyone got hold of the First Order's recordings, if the issue of an assault on a neutral planet ever came up his orders had never strayed from purely non-confrontational.
Some of the other First Order officer holograms seated at the meeting flickered out as the users were pushed into hyperspeed, disrupting their transmission.
“Well Commander?” General Hux sneered. “What's her answer? I know your precious princess leader is standing next to you.”
Damaron’s head lifted slightly, as if he had just heard the hum of fifty-one First Order ships enter Kashyyyk’s atmosphere.
The General smiled with his lips, but his eyes stayed dead.
Red. Green. Red. Green. Red. Green. Red.
Mmm, red, Rey smiled, a slight twitch at the corner of her lips, then realized she had almost tripped up. No doubt Kylo Ren thought she was smiling at him. She flattened her mouth back to a bland, resting gaze, but it was too late. Rey’s tiny flicker of emotion was enough to lift the tone of Ren’s deep voice sounding inside her head with sudden zeal and poorly masked hope.
How long was this meeting going to take? Her job of distracting the Supreme Leader from the negotiation was exhausting and boring. She listened to Kylo patiently go over his key points again. If there was an award for debate he would surely win. Rey wondered if he had someone in front of him, a droid maybe, holding up cue cards just out of sight of the holographic camera filming. His demands were rambling.
“You are strong, you are an obsession. Rey, my star, my innocence, my need for your support is deeper than an endless black hole, it fills me...”
“Is you're smoke detector working?” She interrupted. “Should it be red flash, green flash? I mean just green is on right? Red means low battery, just a guess. What's red flash, green flash? I see lights reflecting on your helmet.”
She could sense he frowned, and he paused without turning, without breaking eye contact. “That is not a smoke detector; that is a motion sensor.” He said in his monotone speech. Even through the Force he always sounded the same. Bland.
“Oh, go on then,” Rey replied. “You were up to: it fills me.”
Kylo Ren gathered himself together, he was mad now, furious, a firm madness of a person speaking to a naughty child. “Since you seem to be distracted I’ll get to the point. This is the last time I will offer you power and knowledge, your last hope to end all this war. Freedom for your friends and the start of a new era of balance in the universal Force, a Force that has lived before us for billions of years, so think carefully. Last of the Jedi, Rey, will you do me the honor of bringing peace to the galaxy…”
Rey’s eyes widened. He wasn't. And yet he continued on though he must sense her obvious spike in confused horror.
“Create a bond that will ensure…” He droned.
He was! He was going to do it. The total dick!
“You will marry me Rey. You will take up residence in the new, powerful Force I am building and we will rule together. You will bring true order, true harmony.” She sensed he was pleading now, his eyes probably slightly misty.
Classic Kylo Ren. Rey scowled to herself.
“This is my final offer. You know I am right, you saw it too. We will be together. In the end.”
Thank the Gods and Maker nobody else in the room could hear them. Especially not… not anyone in particular. Rey swallowed, wanted to laugh. The sensor's lights continued to blink unseen apart from their reflection behind him. Would this save the universe, bring peace to the galaxy? She longed for the end to war, but not at this cost. Rey drew her eyebrows together. The effort of keeping the Force connection and keeping Ren, blundering and heavy, out of her deeper mind was starting to make her sweat. Her body felt awkward. “I, I can't. Impossible.” She brushed his idea aside.
“You would doom the galaxy because of some lies the resistance drum into you?”
“No, you would doom it! You would do terrible things because I don't want to be with you? That's just, just manipulative and evil and cruel. No, I will not marry you, I cannot. I don't love you, I don't like you, not anymore.”
“Is it Jedi code? It's dead, buried. We will make the rules.”
“No, not that. Listen to me. Listen. I will never, ever, ever...”
“You will,” he interrupted and his voice filled her skull like a slap. “I will find you because it’s what the Force wants, and the Force gets what it wants. You can agree now or I can drag you unconscious.”
Rey recoiled slightly, but pulled herself tight. She pushed out his mind and firmly shut a door inside her he’d been carefully prying ajar. “I'll never marry you. I can't.”
“You can't or you won't?”
“I'm already married!” It was spoken before she could think, it was a thought that flew in and was uttered instantly, stupid, stupid girl. What was she saying?
Rey felt him absorb the information and the scrabbling of his power against her Force walls to confirm. “No you're not!” Then in a cold rage he screamed at every wall she had carefully reinforced. “With who? WHO!” He finally ordered.
Overhead she heard the roar of large ships jumping into the atmosphere.
“WHO?” Ren repeated, this time yelling out loud, making everyone at the holographic negotiation table jump and flinch. Ren stood, his rage palatable, and General Hux seated next to him turned to stare at his leader with a quickly smothered face of surprise.
With the break of the silent discussion in her mind Rey’s focus could switch from fighting to keep Ren out of her private thoughts. Instead she locked him out completely. Utterly cutting off the bond like scissors cutting through hair. For an instant she glanced at General Hux, although she knew how masculine he was, tall and firm and strong, Armitage looked small and confused next to the Sith Lord.
“I'm sorry commander, negotiations have been unsuccessful,” Rey said out loud to Poe. She had wanted to glance once more at Tage, but it was impossible now. One wrong emotion could destroy him. Instead she focused on Commander Dameron, then realized her mistake as she felt Ren’s rapidly gushing fountain of hatred focus on the Resistance Leader.
“It looks like negotiations have stalled, good luck Hugs,” Poe quipped and the two Rebel holograms blinked into empty chairs.
“Perfect Rey, perfect!”
The Jedi laced her hands together and looked at Leia, blinking at the sudden change from straight black lines to a small, drab work room. It didn't feel perfect. Rey then scratched the neck of the white dress, it was itchy and hot and now sweaty.
“Ren's angry. What about Kashyyykian’s? If instead of sending ground forces the First Order just start blowing things up? They've done it before, they could blow up the whole planet. He's very, very angry.”
“So am I,” Leia replied stiffly. “Trust me they'll send the stormtroopers and then Finn’s plan will come into effect.” She smiled at the girl. “Get changed and eat, meditate, focus. After that, I realize it's none of my business, but if you want to tell me what the Supreme Leader’s full offer was that will be for the best.”
“Looked scary whatever worm he was dangling.” Poe added. “You alright kiddo?”
Rey felt she was not alright. Everything felt torn off and unfinished, even if the carefully orchestrated meeting had gone exactly to plan. “I’ll be fine,” she replied, and rubbed her head. “Just, I said... Ren wants..." She turned to Poe. "Why did you have to say that to General Hux? At the end?”
The commander laughed. “Because I can.”
Leia’s smile turned to a frown. “She's right, communication with the enemy is not a game. Diplomacy is needed not jokes. They will never truly negotiate if you don’t take them seriously.”
Leia and Poe started to intensely discuss any future negotiation meetings and others, people and droids all carrying comms and maps surged towards the pair. Rey rose and made her way to another room. She would have to warn Poe of the possibility of becoming even more of a target than he already was. She’d also have to let Leia know the 'deal' that her son had offered. Perhaps she would want Rey to take it? To marry and hopefully create peace? General Organa was a princess after all, and she knew better than others the importance of diplomacy even at a personal cost.
Rey wondered if anyone else in the First Order knew of Kylo Ren’s strange offer? Wrapping a brown robe over her sleeveless white shift Leia had insisted she wear Rey carefully crept outside of the series of dugouts that the rebellion had built out of the Kashyyyk forest. A towering wookii guard nodded at her as she passed.
Taking deep breathes of fresh air Rey felt small between the mammoth trees. Would Armitage even care even if he did know?
White robes, ridiculous! Stupid girl. The General strode forward, his Sergeants springing forward behind him. He could hear their boot heels clicking, stepping awkwardly, scuffling to keep up.
“I want every last rebel found, burn them out if you have to,” he ordered.
“Sir, the Rwookrrorro Senate is already demanding an explanation. The compensation for using the air space will be astronomical.”
The other sergeant chimed in. “Are we not to take prisoners General?”
“Yes, yes, Supreme L… I mean Grand Marshal Ren,” he ground out the name Ren had recently allocated himself, “has ordered we do what we can to take them alive, but shoot them if you have to. I expect good results. I don't care how. Has there been any sightings from the scouts?”
They reached the end of the corridor and a large door slid open revealing the lead ship's enormous split level control room. Rows of terminals lined the walls with black and grey clad officers stretched out below angular viewing windows and gleaming floors.
“No reports of the main outpost yet General, but we are sending fifteen units to the latest suggested base location now.”
“Be careful of that Jedi bitch, she's a lying scum slug scraped off the belly of a rotting corpse.” He paused at the edge of the engineer’s pit. One of his eyes twitched. Why should it twitch? Maker he needed a cigarette. A cigarette and sleep and to hit something, to fucking hit something so hard that his whole body would ache with the release.
“I want her alive,” General Hux finally conceded. He turned to one of his Sergeants. “She owes me.” He swallowed, he had said too much. “She owes us all,” he corrected himself in an icy calm voice.
The Sergeant saluted a little too floridly and General Hux wondered if the man was on his team. He wondered about every soldier. Were they team Ren or team Hux?
“Get me the maps as the units heat scan,” he ordered and waved the officers away with a jerk. His hand absently returned to his body to rest with a finger slipping to his jacket pocket. The General touched the metal edge of his silver cigarette case, caressing it. While with his other hand he swiped jerkily a large combat screen, moving the pooling information to files.
She hadn't even so much as glanced at him. Nothing. She had just sat there next to her idiot commander and stared at Supreme Grand Marshal Ren like he was her first hot meal out of Jakku.
Giving into temptation the General removed a cigarette from his case, careful not looking at the empty space where any sick, sad mementos of the past had been kept. He lit up a smoke and inhaled. His nostrils flaring in the joy on a nicotine addiction. Smoke twirled around his screen, reflecting the green light.
“Smoking is not allowed in this area,” a small, boxy droid rolled up to him and beeped its programmed warning. Hux tried to kick it away, but the machine whizzed aside. “You have been recorded for auditing,” it informed him sternly.
“Audit this,” he hissed and went to kick the droid again, but again without making contact, instead his boot only found air, so he looked foolish and slow. The droid rolled away at speed emitting a high pitched squeal.
What would be the end? He found himself thinking. What would he do if he got to Rey first anyway? Or if they, against impossible odds, went back to how they had been? Stolen moments? Hiding? Denial? So much denial, with juvenile thoughts that they would trip off into a sunset, never mind that she was a Jedi and the Rebel’s symbol of righteousness. While he was leader of an opposing Navy. Well, it had been hard to bury a hatchet the size of the universe, so their relationship had ended, so what? It was not unexpected after all. He took another drag.
“White,” he said out loud, a soft exhale of a single word.
“General Hux,” said a deep voice from behind his back.
General Hux startled and tensed, his hand wavered, had he been keeping his emotions in check? Fuck it, he thought as he ground his teeth. How could such a heavily armored person move so quietly?
“Yes, Supreme Grand Marshell Sir,” the General replied as he turned.
“Get down to the surface, I need you to be on Kashyyyk.”
General Hux took a puff of his smoke. “Of course Sir, but,” he skipped quickly past the ‘but’, “Wouldn't you be more suitable in the field? After all, you are the one who can.” He wiggled his fingers. “Of course, I would go sir, if you think that's the best plan of attack?”
Ren towered forward until he was standing very close to the General, his face unreadable behind his mask. “Get to the surface General and sight the rebels. I will follow.”
“Of course Sir,” the General slightly nodded. “Only, someone with knowledge of military laws needs to keep in contact with the Rwookrrorro environmental representative, I believe...”
“You will go now,” Ren interrupted. “Find them. I need the Jedi and anyone she has with her. She has revealed disturbing news, I need this uprising stopped. I need to reunite the Force.”
“Disturbing news?” The general repeated. Then involuntarily he lowered his hand to his throat. He knew better than to talk back. He would feel the invisible fingers tighten if he didn’t stop.
“The Jedi, Ren said. Get her. Do not come back without her. She has,” he paused while the General held his breath. “She has made a poor decision. She has…”
The General waited.
The General waited.
“You are married General Hux?” Supreme Grand Marshall Ren asked calmly.
The burning in his lungs became choking and General Hux launched into a coughing fit. “I am married!” He wheezed. This was not the question he had expected or ever expected to talk about with a man he so hated. Was Ren about to try and blackmail him with violence against his family? Did he know? Is that what she had told him? That they had been together?
“And, you are happy?” Ren asked.
“I can honestly say,” General Hux wiped his eyes and cleared his throat, “I can honestly say I am very happy, being married. But, I get to see my wife so little it feels like I’m not really married at all.”
“Alright, I don’t want to know your issues.” Ren added in a louder voice. “Get to Kashyyyk and I don’t want to see you again unless you have the last Jedi in your possession. Understood General?”
In his chambers General Hux changed into his combat uniform. It had been a long time since he had been last deployed as a ground troop. His last dismal mission had been on Nal Hutta 18 months ago and that had not worked out well. That had been the start of all the drama. He sat on his chair to put on his boots. Then checked his messages. Nothing. Blank. Not one little line from her. Which made him angry again, because he hadn't been the one who had stopped reaching out to Rey. He had sent pathetic little notes, perfectly coded so neither side could find their secret and she had ghosted him so completely he doubted everything.
He lit a cigarette and rested his head in his hands peering at his faint shadow in the empty grey floor between his feet. Now he had to go capture her? That was going to be some reunion. Come with me, the man you fucked and fucked over so I can take you to your psychopath boyfriend. So, how have you been? Good after living in my house, posing as my wife and telling me lies? Me? How am I? He sucked on his cigarette. I was going to quit these, but why bother? He frowned at his shadow. Don't fool yourself Armitage this is a mission like any other.
The General spent his last minutes alone doing a precise job of shaving and writing to his father, General Brendol Hux (retired). It was a very brief message about his duty in the heavily forested Warrump region of Kashyyyk. He left out any sentimental thoughts - as he had no love for the old man.
“Will you send him my message Sir?” She asked softly holding the ancient communicator close to her face.
There was only sound between them; it was all Rey dared to attempt so close to her friends. Relying solely on the poor quality audio of a third-hand communicator, one that felt like it was the size of a shoe, made it hard to know if the elderly, self-centered man on the other end of her transition was paying any attention to her call. Visual communication would be too dangerous. At least this way, if her call was tracked, they were just two voices across the universe. It would make it harder to prove that the Resistance Jedi was attempting to use an ex-First Order General as a reluctant mail carrier service. Rey shrank deeper between the roots of the large tree she was crouched under.
“Tell him yourself, he's your husband,” said the voice with a sense of disgust to the tone. The sound of shuffling of unknown objects became louder. “When are you coming home?” Brendol complained. “The nurse is stealing ammunition again. My round tipped breach stock has disappeared. They were right here on my desk yesterday, I saw them before I went to bed and my...”
“If you send Armitage the message I can come home and speak to your nurse,” she interrupted. “I can't contact him myself right now and I feel worried.”
“Why worry about him? Whatever he’s doing it's what he's been trained for. He should organise his communication team better. I could get jellyvision to the queen of Naboo if she was stuck in a Sarlacc pit when I was in charge. That man can't manage a simple, basic communicator crew never mind a whole unit.” The General’s voice became mocking. “And, and, maybe he just doesn't want to talk to you. Did you think about that? Wouldn’t be the first soldier to marry fast and regret at his leisure.”
“Well, you would know about that!” Rey snapped and then instantly regretted the outburst. The Hux family was starting to wear on her. The stress of her treasonous balancing act, the lead-like lump of guilt that seemed tied around her neck. What was she doing here, alone in the middle of a forest siege while crouching in mud, trying to contact a leader of their enemy? One who clearly did not want to be contacted?
“Maybe your husband has moved on?” Brendol spoke lightly but the undercurrent of venom still stung.
She sat in silence. Rey had thought about that. She had thought about that a lot. She wouldn’t blame Tage for giving up. Things felt so muddled. She leaned her head against the tree trunk and closed her eyes.
Seizing his chance Brendol muttered on with his train of thinking. “Come home from Canto my girl. What about the bread?”
“For the kindergarten,” he answered triumphantly.
Rey wrinkled her eyebrows not following the conversation, but then that was normal for most interactions with General Brendol Hux, he was old and forgetful and Rey heavily leaned towards the idea he was not all together balanced when it came to his moral compass. Or any compass. Why was she even considering listening to him? She brought her communicator to her lips so the smooth glass almost touched her chin and spoke softly. “Send the message for me, please General? Just type Armitage’s contact and forward what I sent you.”
“And you'll come home?”
“I'll try,” she replied quietly. A lump was forming in her throat. It stuck there. The last time she had been ‘home’ Armitage had never come to see her. She had waited and waited in a giant crumbling house with old men and servants while it rained and rained and rained.
She had waited so long in complete silence that Rey had become convinced it had been after the ‘thing’. Yes, the ‘thing’ that must have made Armitage very mad, but it was war. Didn’t Tage see she was in a difficult situation? That she could not leave as much as he couldn’t? “I'll try to come home Sir,” she said again in a more confident voice.
“Then I will see what I can do,” the General answered and closed his end of the line. The hissing of aging speakers stopped and Rey stared at the silent comm in her hand. It had taken a week of networking and sly line renting through less than reliable contacts to get a single secure window of time to contact Brendol. It would take another week to even attempt to call again. She leant against the giant tree, alone in a forest of giant dark green trees, one shoulder rested in deeply furrowed bark. Her greenish camouflage had specks of brown over the fabric and Rey brushed at the dirt, only here in Kashyyk the dark, fertile ground was not like the sand in Jakku desert, it clung and left marks like black raindrops. The trees and the darkness and the raindrop markings reminded Rey of the water gardens on Arkanis.
Rey stood and took a deep breath. Of course Brendol wouldn’t pass on any message. It was pointless and dangerous and stupid. The evil, old General was probably laughing over what she had written right now. It had taken a lot of writing and rewriting to try and form the perfect letter to Armitage. Her relationship with her First Order lover had seemed much easier when she was posing as a Hutt slave girl. Playing with the General had seemed so much just a game, but not now. Now. Now. Now. This was the real challenge, and it was one that tore at her heart. Now he had forgotten her. He had left her behind. Abandoned again.
“NOW!” She repeated out loud, angrily throwing out her hands. A fallen log lifted and jerked into a tree, smashing into splinters. Then Rey lifted another larger log with taunt tendrils of Force. She strained with the effort of pulling wood out of settled mud and bracken, knees bracing, wrists burning as if she was physically touching the wood. Lifting the log up higher than her head Rey threw the creaking mass as hard as she could. An edge glanced off a stump and it spun in the air before loudly hitting a young tree which snapped and fell with a creaking crash. It all looked in slow motion, the way the tree bent, the leaves quivering in surprise as they landed on the ground.
At the noise of crashing a pair of shaggy wookiee’s appeared in the distance, no there were three of them. They quickly made their way to her, two with weapons drawn, but the third, a greying warrior spoke in a soft whine to put their weapons away.
“You were attacked by that tree,” Chewbacca told Rey when he was closer.
She closed her fists into tight balls. “I am practicing, like Leia keeps telling me to do.”
The two unknown wookiees sighed over the now horizontal young tree patting it gently, almost as if it was a fallen comrade.
“Our princess is wise,” Chewbacca conceded. He touched his chest and looked up the canopy of trees and thin slits of blue sky in between. “I wouldn’t have told the Rwookrrorro to trust her if I didn’t without question.”
“Fallen friend,” one of the strange wookiee rangers told her accusingly pointing to the broken stump.
“I’m sorry,” she answered.
“You are unhappy,” Chewbacca pointed out. “Maybe you should be with your friends? Maybe we should go flying? Up there,” he waved at the sky with one huge arm, “blow up a few satellites, maybe some TIE little ships. The wookiee made his hands into an ever increasing mime of an exploding object. “I miss my friends,” he told her. It was an honest statement, pure and untangled with any great emotion.
“I miss them too, all of them,” Rey replied and tears pricked in her eyes. “I wish… I wish people didn’t have to leave. Or fight. I wish I could say good bye.”
The old wookiee growled a long whine of agreement. “Hearts find a way always. Han would tell me I am simple now. He is not here.”
Rey sensed Chewbacca was trying to tell her something that wasn’t completely translatable. He called his friends over and put a huge, hairy palm on her shoulder. “We fly?” He asked her.
She shook her head. “We have to stick to Finn’s plan.”
“The plan is good Chewbacca agreed. We have heard the Order have set up a new camp. With six AT-ST and their General. Two units, two war droids.”
One of the other wookiee’s made a noise like laughter. “They do not learn their walkers are no good. Easy to hunt. Fill with Webweaver eggs when their soldiers sleep.”
"A General is in the forest? The one with the hair?" She added lamely. Rey asked and forced herself to become completely calmly. She had to act calm now, like water on a windless day. Could he be so close she could walk to see him? She wiped her face with a sleeve and held her breath.
“Yes, the one HhhRux. They are North-East, past the two-yellow clearing. They are searching in the wrong section, but soon enough we will intercept them. We see them, so not long till they see us. They are not even trying to pretend to explore for rocks.”
Rey’s communicator shook with a vibration of an incoming call. She pulled it back out of her pocket irrationally expecting to see the code ID for Armitage and that finally Brendol had come through with a promise. Rey was also expecting that she would have to decline the call or otherwise betray him in front of the wookiees, and this would be her last chance. Armitage would never give her another. But the face on the screen was another General. The hologram of a pale, greenish glowing General Organa formed rising from the comm to form a tiny, older woman leaning on a walking stick.
“Rey, we need you here, we’ve had another message from the Supreme Leader, the Commander, Field whatever-HE-calls-himself now.” Leia tilted her head to the side and chose her next words carefully. “I think you should see it before I have to show it to Poe. Especially after what you told me what happened between you two in your last meeting.”
“Could you send it to me?” Rey asked.
Leia looked disturbed, her usual calm resolve turned into a worried frown. She considered Rey’s request. “I could, but… I have to show Poe, I will have to as much as I don’t want to, and Rey I really don’t want to. I want it to otherwise stay private. It’s not a good message. He’s stupid, just like, well, just like some men are. I don’t think you’ll really want to brag about it to anyone anyway. I’ll send it on a timed to delete file.” Leia jabbed at an invisible to Rey display. “I see Chewbacca is with you,” the Princess added.
The wookiee crooned a hello.
“Give her space for a while will you?” Leia ordered. “We need everyone back at the primary location by dark fall anyway. Stay safe, and Rey, I’m here if you need to talk, just make it quick, this negotiation, whatever it is. I trust you.” Leia held up her hands. “Let’s just agree it is a challenging time,” she added before fading out.
After the wookiees left, melting quietly away into the landscape, Rey was alone in the forest again. She stared at the new message icon forwarded by Leia. A tiny delete-timer counted down. She had an hour to watch it. How infuriating that Rey only wanted a message from a completely different man! Not whatever this was. She straightened her staff on her back and slipped the comm into her belt pouch. She knew exactly where the First Order would be. If she could make it closer to Armitage’s camp maybe she could catch a glimpse of him before she had to get back to her own base. Maybe seeing him would help her to decide what to do next. Could she even find a way to speak to him?
She would walk to the edge of the First Order camp, as close as she dared, watch the unwelcome message and think.
“We have intercepted a communication sent to the Resistance Sir.”
General Hux stiffened and smiled. This was the first good news he’d had in a long time. The Kashyyk camp’s safety barriers were still being erected around him, the shields couldn’t be calibrated without power and the power solenoids couldn’t be erected without digging equipment. The lack of digging equipment, well, that was a sore point. The General’s smile sagged back into a scowl. Fucking Rebels!
“Get it up on the map screen,” he ordered.
The engineer officer who had alerted the General of the message lifted up a pair of goggles and opened his mouth, yet nothing came out.
“Screen now!” General Hux yelled.
“I’m recording,” another female officer confirmed in a shrill, snapping voice.
A message loaded and started playing.
“What is this?” General Hux asked.
“The communication Sir!”
A large picture of Supreme Leader Kylo Ren filled the screen. He was clearly on his ship, and he was helmetless for once, his hair looked washed and set, in the classic, perfect raven mullet. His scar looked thin and pink like a worm had been placed across his cheek.
Ren was lounging, not sitting, not standing, but lounging on what looked like a chrome metal bench. The sort installed in officer’s gym rooms. Worst of all he was, General Hux closed his eyes feeling exasperated and embarrassed at the same time, because worst of all Kylo Ren had no shirt on.
“… I’m sending General Hux to get you Rey,” Kylo told the camera while the General in question wished to claw out his own eyes.
“I have come to understand that maybe I am wrong about some things. That maybe I should talk more,” he looked up from under black, brooding brows, “about what you want.”
Armitage watched in horror as a stormtrooper took out a communicator, lifted one white plated arm and took a screen shot of the shirtless leader.
“I think you know what the right thing to do is. We have this bond, this attraction. Only I understand you. Rey, only a Force user can understand another Force user. No other man or woman or being will ever understand you like me. Regular people like that Dameron nobody couldn’t comprehend the strength we have to control. So, let me tell you, Rey, when I find your husband, and I will find him,” Ren leaned forward. Now his face and chest really filled the screen, giving the effect of nudity. General Hux, his staff, and what felt like every stormtrooper in existence could see, could very clearly see the magnified, unnaturally waxed pores around the man’s nipples. “I will destroy him,” Ren assured the watchers.
An involuntary hand raised to General Hux’s neck. “Turn it off!” He yelled. “Shut it down.”
The screen flicked back to a map. Everyone stayed still and silent. Even a pair of nearby droids sat unmoving, their red lights dimmed to bare shadows.
“W-What, what should I do with the recording Sir?” An officer finally asked.
General Hux placed his hands behind his back and puffed out his chest. There were some days when he couldn’t possibly know the answer to every stupid thing he was required to endure. Instead of speaking he turned and walked outside. He walked steadily, and quickly, his black gloved hands waving off stray stormtroopers quick marching to keep up. He walked to the edge of the clearing they had set up camp in and took out his cigarette case. Cupping his hands over a flame as he lit a blessed smoke and inhaled sharply.
Husband! The word rebounded in the General’s head. What husband? Was it truly Dameron? Was it himself? It couldn’t be. Could it? Why was he still alive? The General’s eyes looked around, then up at the huge trees their canopies waving and creaking in the faint breeze, and he put one hand on his blaster. Had Rey married someone else? No, not someone else, he had never really been married to her in the first place. It had been a joke that had gotten out of hand. She must have married. Was that why she had stopped answering? That was it, the complete betrayal. She had taken everything, ruined everything and now this?
The jokes about Force users and sex and relationships and marriage mockingly bounced around Armitage's head.
A wind whipped at him, sending falling leaves twirling all around. He coughed and hacked, for an instant he was weak and needy. Then the General pulled himself together, he took every broken dream and ground it into dust. It didn’t matter who Rey’s husband was. If it was true or false. Ren was going to kill whoever it was anyway, because 'only a Force user could understand another Force user'.
General Hux took another puff on his cigarette. His wrist comm blipped and, while still with one hand on his blaster, he answered fully expecting an update from some officer. Too late he saw the call ID was the last person he ever wanted to talk to.
“Are you smoking while in uniform!” His father snapped.
Armitage didn’t speak, instead he stared dead eyed at Brendol’s wrinkled face and angry, thin lipped scowl.
“Unbelievable,” Brendol reprimanded.
“I have limited time General,” Armitage answered.
“Enough time to smoke those filthy things, they are like beacons to your position.”
“Good bye,” General Hux told him icily.
“I have a message for you.”
Armitage paused, his finger raised, hovering over his comm.
“From your wife,” Brendol told him.
General Hux exhaled a puff of blue smoke. “My, ah, wife?” He repeated slowly.
“She said she would come home and look after… keep me company if I sent it to you. The nurse is stealing my ammunition, as I’ve told you before again and again, and I need someone.”
“Is that the message? From, ah, Tara? My wife.”
The General looked at his son as if he was dog shit on his boot heel. “The message is here, she sent it to me. It’s with the others.”
“Wait, where is the message?”
“She did say she was worried about you, no wonder if you can’t even keep up with a conversation. Is there anyone else I can talk to? Someone who has two brain cells to form simple thoughts? Tara wrote you a message and passed it to me to give to you. I can’t make it any simpler.”
Armitage dropped his cigarette butt and ground it out. “Give me the message,” he ordered, he held his arm very still watching his father carefully.
“I already have!” Brendol’s frown grew deeper. “You don’t read my communications that I write do you?”
General Hux’s frown grew more grim. The memory of a message from Ren so easily captured suddenly gnawed at his mind.
“Messages can be intercepted,” he said.
“Why would anyone want to know about how much your wife WUVS yooooou. Don’t be so stupid boy!”
“Is that the message?”
“I don’t read them! I just am the ridiculous hostage in your regrettable relationship. This is what comes from getting wed to a girl from Jakku.”
General Hux squared his shoulders. “I have to go, I am busy.” The General thought about what to say to his father. What, if anything, would the old man pass on to Rey? “I am in-” He paused. “Tell Tara that communication is bad right now. Tell her-” He paused again. “Tell her nothing.” He abruptly turned off his comm and the small picture of his father blinked out.
Another cigarette was lit. Armitage ignored the ghost like Stormtroopers creeping closer, they were there for protection, nothing more. He kept one hand near his blaster, just in case. A fine strand or red hair slipped from under his cap and flicked across an eye. A noise rustled in the forest and his finger curled around the trigger. Nothing happened. Nothing at all. Just faint smoke from his glowing cigarette curling up to quickly fade away.
There were messages.
He smiled at the tree line and sucked in his cheeks. She had sent him messages. But, how many messages had she sent to Ren to make him so bold? Yet surely, surely his leader had no idea who Rey was married to, otherwise he’d already be dead. If it was himself – which it couldn’t be. Ren had choked the General, thrown him, pushed him. There was no escaping his physical Force bullying. Unless it really was another man? That insufferable Poe Dameron? Ren had clearly said in his message he didn’t really know, that ‘he would find Rey’s husband’ not that he knew the man’s whereabouts.
There were messages. From Rey. The thought kept flying into his head, relighting the charred remains of insufferable hope.
Hidden notes in the ones from his father. The stupid preaching directions he never bothered to read and now he couldn’t read. Not when communications to and from the Resistance were now being so watched.
He didn’t care, he told himself firmly. He had a job to do. General Hux turned and flicked away an errant spot of mud off his otherwise perfect uniform. He paused and then glided forward as the Stormtroopers flanked him to march with their master back to camp.
“Tell them to delete the recording from the Supreme Leader,” he ordered. “Switch off interception of the Rebel communicates till I can resolve our privacy issue.”
“OH NO, no, no, no,” Rey covered her mouth with a hand. Should she watch it again? It had been hideous. What had Ren been thinking? 'No man or woman would ever understand you like me'? How, how, how? And why? Why was he constantly walking around without shirts on? Rey tasted a little bile in her throat and swallowed grimacing. Oh stars, the message General Organa had reluctantly forwarded from her son was making her feel physically ill. Before she could decide if she should watch it again, to see if it had all been real and not some waking nightmare, the auto-delete feature kicked in and the option to replay the message from Supreme creeper Kylo Ren disappeared.
She stared at the screen dumbly. Ren had said he had sent Tage to get her? Had General Hux agreed to this plan?
The Jedi peeped around a tree and raised the comm up activating its magnification to watch the distant First Order camp. She was so far away and the surrounding ferns so dense she could only see the cabins of AT-ST and some other taller equipment. She lowered her hand and listened to the wind in the leaves.
What would Poe say? He would think it was funny. It would mean teasing and pretending and – she ground her teeth – it would mean that everyone would know. No matter how quiet it was supposed to be kept. Everyone would know and not just Leia, who had thought her mad to try and put off Ren with the rumor of marriage. No, every single being in the universe would know because it was so absurd. Rey grimaced. And, what had got into Ren to send such a display? Rey regretted again that she had ever told the Sith Lord she was married. It had been a stupid thing to blurt out. Stupid and dangerous.
She needed to get far, far away from Armitage. It was the only way to keep him safe. Rey sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of a dirty hand. There was no chance of seeing him. Not now. But she wouldn’t squat in in woods and weep. She was better than that. She would take action.
If she had to leave, she must leave. Finn needed a distraction as part of his plan, then a distraction Rey would make and if it meant flying away to get Ren to chase her then good. She would save the Resistance and her First Order General. If she could throw Ren into the deepest black hole she could find at the same time then that would be a welcome bonus.
Been busy - new job turned into a promotion and life keeps building. Bloody hell I miss writing though. I am going to try harder.
…Have you seen it? …Did you know? …How strange… They say it was a fake, made by the enemy… He said they were really married… that she is really his sister… that Jedi can only fuck a Jedi…
Kashyyyk’s temporary First Order military base staff hissed in shushed whispers and twittered gossip like small birds. Repeating the story of their Supreme Leader’s ill thought out, intercepted message of love to Rey over and over until the story grew to mixed-up rumors.
Guilty looking officers either ducked out of sight or snapped to attention, mouths closing shut as the General quickly passed them by. Armitage watched as a unit of Stormtroopers nudged each other with butts of rifles as they switched shifts. He knew what they hinted at. The actions of Ren were too juicy and the camp too quiet for the intercepted message not to become the current sole focus of the armies chitchat.
General Hux held his chin high as he strode past scowling. He did nothing to stop the gossip, why should he? It was not himself who had decided to advertise his lust and weakness for a Rebel girl. He had stayed nicely bland and undemonstrative, he had not stripped half naked and acted like an obsessed stalker for the whole universe to see. Instead Armitage had remained staid and formal. In fact, at all times, he carried himself with firm determination. Just like a Hux he acted calm and undemonstrative, as unmoving as stark, red rock cliffs by the ocean. Let the rest of the First Order act like fools and hopeless gossips.
The General came to a halt in a clearing at the side of the camp and nodded to his two guards, signaling for them to stay outside before entering a sleek, compact First Order ship. The craft had been newly dispatched to their forest location at his request. Luckily Ren was so focused on his goal of capturing Rey that he was becoming stupid with budgetary restrictions. An extra ship, one able to cloak literally any communication? Go ahead Hux, take your pick. A droid crew to man it, of course you can General, and fuck the expense. Hux winced at the wasted credits as he looked around the smooth black walls and glowing controls. This ship, in this atmosphere, for this sort of mission, was a ridiculous expenditure. To have such a thing, an active, carefully stealth equipped ship built for speed and secrecy be even allocated for this planet bound mission without a real reason - it was ridiculous! No wonder the First Order was sinking under debt and the only thing that kept it afloat was a heavy handed planetary protection racket. If he was in charge… “Close!!” Armitage ordered the ship’s entry door irritably and waited for it to close with a hiss. Why, if he was truly in charge the Order’s expansion would be a demonstration in economy and not like Mynock sucking the energy from everything they touched.
Never mind, at least the excess was to his advantage for a change. At least in this instance Ren’s stupid, wasteful ways were for once useful. Ren had asked no questions when Hux had requested the specialized ship. None. There had been complete silence from the Grand Marshall, Supreme Leader since his unfortunate love message had been accidently interrupted by his own troops. Hux secretly hoped the word had spread, that the idiot leader’s feebleness was now shared with all the stormtoopers and all the other officers across the forces. That the admirals laughed and the captains whispered the gossip to their friends until the bottom feeding press leaked the entire dismal scene to the public.
The General circled the ship to ensure he was alone and then glanced down. “I order you to shut down for thirty minutes, do not record the shut down on your log,” he told the single small, black droid left guarding the ship.
The droid’s short, black viewing tube nodded glumly and asked, “confirm code General Hux?” sounding disappointed in the situation.
“Confirm, VC-two-two-eight hundred.” The General waited and then after the lights paled to almost nothing he waved his hand in front of the droid’s sensors. The robot did not move so he nudged its circular, armless body firmly with his boot until the machine started to scrape along the smooth polished floor. Still no reaction. Hux pushed it into a corner and put his jacket over it. Now the guard droid was just a supremely technology advanced hat rack.
Hux went into the ship’s tiny storeroom and closed the door. It was tight, there was thin racks of all sorts of First Order branded items. Space suits, weapons and a large crate of powdered soup in Suubatar flavor (the First Order wouldn’t pay for real Suubatar so they had to make do with a flavored mix made out of swamp slugs and carrots).
He carefully checked the corners of the room for cameras and then turned the brightness down on his wrist communicator to a bare gray smudge before perching on the crate. One-by-one his finger touched the unopened text messages from his father. There were five of them. General Hux had already scanned his communicator for tracking devices. He had temporarily disabled all reception of any kind. The device was currently not connected to a single carrier service. Still the General opened his unread messages with an anxious feeling in his chest.
The first two were complaints about Brendol’s last nurse, his food and that the First Order wasn’t killing off “aliens” fast enough. The usual racist ranting of the old man coupled with a thick layer of disappointed whining. The third message, now it was interesting. There was an attachment that Brendol mentioned was from ‘Tara’. Tara was the name Rey had chosen to use when she had been undercover acting as his slave-girl prisoner and then, after discovery of who she really was, his pretend wife. To his father, and all of Arkanis, Tara was his new partner. It had been a terrible plan to explain Rey’s forced presence in his bedroom, but the lie had grown. His stupid feelings had stopped him from putting his fake wife on trial when he had the chance. His hope for true romance with Rey/Tara now felt like a weight around his neck.
The attachment to Brendol’s message was labelled a ‘kindergarten enrollment form for Sabrina’ a reference to another mistake. A fake daughter. The lie had grown! It contained a box of mixed up letters that Hux ran through a basic, inbuilt decoding program. At the bottom of a form about common children’s allergies it read:
Where are you? I miss you. Come home to Arkanis soon, I can stay two more weeks. Don’t be angry about what happened at Nal’Hutta.
He looked at the date. The message was months old.
It was dated shortly after a time Armitage had planned to visit with her. He had fully intended to be on Arkanis to join her at his family’s house, but things had got in the way. If she hadn’t understood that things had happened well she should. It was all because of her fucking games that he had pulled out of leave. She knew, she could have warned him. She could have not ruined everything! The General ignored his brain as it tauntingly asked him if he would have warned her had the situation been reversed?
The next message from Rey/Tara was hidden as an order for some plumbing repairs to the estate. Deep in the attachment was a few lines, very understanding, very soft and gentle, talking about ‘missed opportunities’ and ‘hopes of future meetings’. The message was not apologetic. It was sweet and firm, and it spoke about getting to know Brendol while she waited for him. Her words had just a twist of reproach at the end.
“I have to go back… I’ll let you contact me next time.”
There had not been a next time. He had never read the first two attachments passed on by his father until now. Armitage felt uncomfortable and tense. He didn’t know why. He had fully intended to go to Arkanis to see Rey. Have a little time together, maybe, who knows maybe? Maybe he could have convinced her to give up her regrettable life choices and become her alter-ego ‘Tara’ full time. It seemed a stupid thought now. The General looked at the unopened fifth message, trying to will himself to open it. The date stamp on it was from three days ago, from when he had talked to his father. It was several months after the previous one asking for Armitage to contact Rey.
His finger hovered and he looked at the time. He still had most of the half hour until the ship’s droid would reactivate. The General waited, feeling wary of his messages being somehow captured then he would be the butt of all the jokes. For a brief period of time before Ren murdered him.
Armitage turned the past over in his mind.
How gullible was he to think that everything had been nicely tied up in a box like a gift to himself? It had been a challenge, a journey, it had been against all odds, impossible odds even, but they had fallen in love. Supposedly. And, the last time they had seen each other. A short trip after a year apart had been amazing. It had been as if they had never left each other. Rey’s little hands in his, her eyes, her touch, her smile and they had parted with plans to meet again very soon. No set mode of communication had ever been established because of the serious threat of discovery. Each secret meeting had planned the next meeting and then the ‘thing’!
He had wanted to go to Arkanis as they had planned, and yet it was Rey’s fault he hadn’t been able to.
The ‘thing’ at Nal’Hutta. It had all started with his careful plan of winning a Hutt Lord’s bet. The bet being he had been forced to stay a month with a slave girl, who turned out to be a rebel spy. Not just any rebel, but the one rebel who was also the last Jedi in the galaxy and, apparently, the Supreme Leader’s only life partner.
The prize for winning the bet was free-and-clear land on the Hutt planet, enough land to build a First Order ammunition factory on. After the wager had been won it had all gone smoothly, the builders hired and the contractors pressed into service. The land was his.
Then the thing.
It had happened when the ammunition factory at Nal’Hutta was half-way complete.
His factory was an object of beauty. There was a subset, double walled main building, with the latest technology sunk into every aspect. There would be no need for indentured workers or prison labor, the factory was going to be fully automated. The First Order contractors had just finished the elevated very fast, magnetic train from the Hutt’s Eastern mines and it had been in testing. That train used no fuel and wouldn’t pollute anything. Seriously revolutionary, the entire plant would be a marvel of thrift and modern mechanics; it would have won all the environmental awards on any planet. The jobs created to service the computers alone would have supported entire generations.
But the Resistance couldn’t leave it alone.
They had been very smart. So smart, like toads hiding under rocks, he could admit that. After everything that happened the General was sure that the Hutts knew Rey had been a rebel in disguise all along. That was what had stung. The feeling that he and Rey and what they had experienced had still been a means to an end. That he’d been duped and used.
Half way through the building of his beautiful, wondrous factory. Even though he knew they were planning something, and even though the shields had been the first thing to be built, it had all ground to a halt.
Armitage scowled at his boots.
The scum had come from underneath. Built tunnels the size of three TIE fighters side-by-side. The Resistance had taken all his machines, every piece of anything movable. The digging equipment, the droids, the fittings, the computers, somehow even his very fast, magnetic train off its tracks. Everything had happened at once. He had left to meet Rey in Arkanis and something had held him up, it had been a message from Ren, to go to interrogate a prisoner, something he claimed that nobody else could do. It had just been another trick.
Even his meeting with Rey had been part of the Rebel’s plan no doubt, it was pathetic. He was pathetic.
Finally on his way to Arkanis to meet with Rey the lack of the usual stream of reports from the factory had made Hux turn around and investigate. What he thought was a communication error turned into a nightmare. On his return he had found that his factory, his beautiful factory was nothing more than a shield and cement blocks. It had been gutted like a disemboweled nerf, eaten from the inside out and now just skin and fur. It was worse than gutted, because now there was no machinery left to rebuild. The guards had vanished. The Hutts had slithered away claiming no knowledge of the heist. Instead they wanted payment for the missing cranes and transporters the First Order had hired. It also seemed the entire universe had a sudden lack of anything to aid construction. The Order was still searching ships as they left the Nal’Hutta atmosphere, and still nothing was found. The machinery could be sitting in the center of the planet for all the luck they’d had recovering anything usable. All that had been found was a few useless parts smuggled through the Hutt’s black market.
The whole event had been a disaster.
After that of course Armitage couldn’t get free to see Rey on Arkanis. He hadn’t really wanted to. She had ruined everything and the Supreme Leader had become angry. Very angry. The giant baby Ren didn’t realise how bad the losses were and, lucky for Hux, if it didn’t have a glowing stick protruding from it the Supreme Leader was like a bored school boy. The General had not got off without some punishment though. He touched his neck remembering the sudden violence of the Supreme Leader’s Force.
It had also been made clear that if he presented another failure that would be most unfortunate. For example not recovering the woman of Ren’s obsession would be another strike. Failure would mean more pain and probably being sent to the outer reaches to manage dug-in battle on a non-oxygenized ice planet. And, without himself at the lead, stealthily steering the First Order to glory, Armitage knew the whole army would collapse into ruin. Everything would have been for nothing.
The General made up his mind that only a madman would continue with a relationship under such self-destructive circumstances. Alright then, with a cool head and a calm resolution Hux tapped at the most recent message attachment forwarded from Rey. She had left it untitled.
(How plain - although she could have said nothing)
When I saw you last I couldn’t talk to you.
(Not even a greeting, or a nod, nothing? He had greeted her, hadn’t he? Well, he had looked about all the meeting room. It was like a greeting.)
I know that something I have been part of may have interfered with your plans and our past catch up.
(interfered? More like destroyed!)
But I still feel the same way about you.
Hux blinked slowly. He reread the line.
If you feel the same way could you send me a sign?
(Like what a giant stuffed animal holding a heart? Or perhaps she preferred shirtless outpourings of lust? Please Rey do be sensible!)
A beeping on the other side of the storage room door made the General jump. He glanced at the time. How could the half hour have gone so quickly? The ship’s droid asked him if ‘Sir could take an object off its head?’
The General read the final lines of the note.
I must see you. I need a favor, please Tage meet me in Theed on Naboo, look for the red door to Hunted. If you can come send Brendol a message for me. You are my only hope.
“Only hope?” He said out loud. What did the fuck did that mean? Sounded melodramatic and like another trick to him. “Only hope!” He said again and the droid on the other side of the door asked him if he was in danger.
The General activated the door to the store room, yanked his jacket off of the droid and put it on, straightening the collar and placing his comm safely back in his pocket.
“I am always in danger,” he told the droid and turned to exit the ship. “But, nothing you can do anything about,” he added as he left.
Rey double checked the launch sequence and brought up again the map of the Mid Rim before switching sight to the wing sensors. It was a tight lift stuck between overhanging branches. No room for running a meter over any side. Just up and out. She tapped the fuel gauge and its bars stayed the same. There was enough to get to Theed - if she was careful. It had been impossible to fully refuel without people getting suspicious. People were already suspicious enough.
Leia had been watching her like a hawk. As if Rey would either collapse under the pressure or suddenly turn into a vessel for evil and become overcome with lust for the dark side. Poe had thought the whole message from Ren a joke, and whenever he saw her made sure to move close, walk by her side and touch her hand. Because ‘spies’ he told her. In private he laughed at the suggestion that there was anything between them other than a working relationship, but he would pretend romance between them for anyone watching. Poe thought the jealousy of Ren was a delicious revenge he would use to every advantage, even if it made Rey feel uncomfortable.
Finn had changed. He was busy with his plan Rey told herself, but it was more than that. The ex-stormtrooper would actively avoid her. Maybe, like Leia, he thought she may succumb to the First Order leader’s embarrassing requests? Only Chewie treated her the same, their time on Ach- together had created a bond that never changed. The wookiee had always treated her well and her plans, her relationships, her Force never made him treat her any differently than the first time she had met him with Han on the Millennium Falcon. He had stayed silent at the inevitable gossip around Ren’s message.
Chewbacca had seen firsthand how fanatical Ren would be to reach a goal.
Well, Rey would not put any of them in more danger. It was better to leave now and work a way out of the mess. Hopefully Armitage still cared. Cared enough to meet her on Naboo – or, or what? Capture her to be handed over to the Order? She rubbed at the spot on her wrist where once, now years ago, a locked bracelet had made her the First Order General’s slave.
Brendol had sent her a message with a picture of a feather attached. It would have to do. Whatever would be would be, but at least this way it was on her terms. She had to try.
The ship launched quickly and without fuss in the middle of the night. Only after Rey was in orbit did the Resistance lookouts wake groggily and sweating from their Force sleep.
It had been too easy to leave the camp. Really so simple. General Hux had made sure the senior captains knew which areas of the forest were still left to search. Carefully, he spelled out the correct policy and procedure to follow if anything was encountered during the ‘mining exploration' of the planet. Then he had overseen an unfortunate incident of an AT-ST crew being attacked by spiders that had somehow got inside their vehicle, told them all to pay attention, sent a message to Brendol for Rey/Tara and had left on the stealth ship that Ren had supplied him.
Now Armitage was on Naboo. A hateful planet. Theed was a wealthy city, one of the largest in the universe after the cold war had finished. People who claimed they were refugees liked to end up there. A city full of beings, universities and colours and freedoms. And brothels. So many brothels.
The General slid closer to the edge of the cherry red couch he perched on so that his buttocks barely touched the cheap plastic fabric. Next to him another being, a lumpy looking Keteerian sat smelling like alcohol and robes that had been last washed a week ago. The creature sounded like it was snoring while awake if possible, except it wasn’t asleep; it squirmed often, jiggling one of its limbs so the seat vibrated in a jerking fashion.
If he had been wearing his uniform the room of the highly questionable brothel he was stuck in would have cleared out in a second, but dressed in civilian clothes the General was just another John in a tacky, faux-exotic Theedian knock shop.
The Keteerian nudged his shoulder as a girl, well he guessed it was a girl, passed them. She winked at the pair sitting in the small reception area then she trailed a long white scarf over shoulder and swished it between ample buttocks. Armitage tried not to shudder as he realized the woman was not wearing flesh coloured leggings as he first thought but was wearing a giant g-string embedded in her rolls of dimpled fat.
This could not be the place Rey wanted to meet. He had made a mistake. It was a coincidence that a brothel named ‘The Hunted’ also had a red door. He should have sent a date and time instead of a feather in his attachment. A feather!
The giant woman plodded past again and stopped in front of him. To his horror Armitage watched her lean forward and loop the scarf around his neck before he had time to move. The being next to him let out a loud sigh of sadness.
“Can I help you hun?” The lady asked in a deep, throaty voice.
His mouth opened, but it took some time for a shocked “No!” to force its way through his lips. “I am meeting someone.” He realized he was holding his breath and cleared his throat. “I am waiting for a girl named Tara.”
“Oh,” the mammoth like lady said. “You’re one of those sort.”
“One of – what do you mean?”
“A freak.” The prostitute winked.
The Keteerian laughed a burbling, horrific sound.
“Don’t worry hun, nothing is taboo in Naboo.”
The fat woman turned and spoke to the tiny receptionist alien in another language. The receptionist nodded, but didn’t seem to have any other reaction. Did that mean Rey/Tara wasn’t here yet? Did it mean this was the right place, or to wait or what? What did the woman mean by freak?
The General pulled the scarf off his neck so it fell in a heap on the floor. He folded his arms as the overweight prostitute huffed off to hustle another customer.
Rey would pay for this. This was the last straw! Armitage stood up and took a step towards the door.
“Sir,” the receptionist piped. “Sir?” she repeated and the General turned.
“What?” He snapped.
“You’re slave is ready Sir.”
Slowly chipping away at this story. I got a bit stuck getting our pair away and running through a re-cap of the last story "Impossible Odds".
I'm getting on with getting on and now I'm over the hump (or up to the hump???) and setting up to that favor that Rey needs from our General.
The room is hot. It’s hot and small and meticulously cleaned. So clean you could eat dinner off the smooth, smooth, faultlessly polished floor. In fact people probably did eat dinner off this particular floor. Rey was learning there were a lot of strange beings in this part of the fabulous city of Theed, strange beings with even stranger fetishes.
The human looking local women of the seemingly innocent planet seemed to relish intricate beauty routines, painting their faces and twisting up their hair. Rey wondered if girls who spent so much time on display had to decorate for a reason? Perhaps the men of Naboo were better lovers and females needed to compete for their sex? Although, Rey’s questionable choice of meeting place suggested otherwise. As she had been hurried through her room purchase Rey had noted that the brothel’s waiting area on the floor below seemed full of the sort of wide eyed, desperate sounding creatures who had pokey bits to stick into lady bits and not vice-versa.
If men, and it was mostly men, came to prostitutes to pay for their pleasure then perhaps they were the ones competing for the painted ladies attention? Those who couldn’t attract a mate had to pay for their pleasure male or female, or, she drew her eyebrows together in thought, how did some species reproduce…? Rey paced the floor, three steps across and three steps back from bed to wall. She took a deep breath and exhaled. Sex, sex, sex. She should have picked anywhere else, a cantina, or a zoo, or a rooftop park for example. Nothing wrong with meeting Armitage in a park. They could have sat on a bench and laughed over old times, or (more likely) fought over old times, but no, Rey had to make their first meeting in over a year in a brothel club.
The Red Door was a classy place compared to similar businesses on Jakku, but all the chandelier lighting and crystal ashtrays in the cosmos couldn’t make it more than what it was. She had told herself her choice of location had been a security measure, that meeting here would reduce the chance of a surprise attack and that General Hux would never have the balls to bust an ex-lover in such an environment on such a neutral planet. As an added bonus Rey was confident the serial pest Kylo Ren was definitely not searching through prostitutes to find her so the cover was good. But, deep down Rey knew she had foolishly chosen the location - just so she could see Tage blush.
Rey took another deep breath and moved her loose shirt so more cleavage was on display. Then she moved it back.
“Stars!” She swore to herself. It wasn’t going to work anyway. It was a stupid plan. Armitage would never come. Why was it so hot in the room? She felt like she was back in Nal’Hutta, only the heat here was dryer, it stuck in her lungs. “Does this planet not have cooled air?” She said irritably.
An intercom speaker, nothing more than thin slots in a strip of metal next to the bed suddenly buzzed to life and Rey tensed as a small, gasping voice lisped, “Miss Tara, your service user is here.” Then there was the soft hissing of an open line.
He was here?
Rey looked for any buttons or sensors around the speaker, but there was none, “Who?” She said out loud.
“The red one,” the voice confirmed.
“The red one?” she repeated stupidly. “A, a, a human?”
Then the hissing stopped and behind her the room’s door immediately slid open. Rey stiffened and turned to the doorway. The grey corridor was empty, as clean and sparse as the room she had bought. Rey stepped to the doorway and looked up and down the long passageway but there was nobody to be seen.
A drip of sweat rolled down her side and Rey went back into the room. Maybe she was supposed to go downstairs to take Tage up? Yes, that must be it, she had seen women go down to advertise and mingle with potential partners when she arrived. Only, she felt she needed just a minute to get ready, to prepare. The speech she had practiced, the words she would say, the questions she wanted to ask were now tumbled up in her head.
Rey took off her shirt and patted her underarms with a stiff, white towel which had found laid clinically over the bed’s mattress. She adjusted her breast wrap and tried to compose herself. In her current state Rey felt like she would fly to a million pieces; and that would never do for a negotiation. Grasping the Force Rey took a moment to stand still and focus. The Force was here even in a room you could hire by the hour. It throbbed through the hot air and fortified Rey. She twisted the towel between her hands, she could do this. She would do this. It was just another mission, and she was worthy.
“What are you doing?” Armitage asked her.
Rey’s eyes flew open and then narrowed. There he was in the doorway. Tall, hatless, eyes like a pale ocean wave and looking like he’d just swallowed a sour tasting bag of shit and hating the universe for his existence.
“Are you going to strangle me with that?” He said in a stern voice.
Rey had imagined their meeting a hundred times, but none of the scenarios had started with accusations of strangulation with a sweaty towel.
Armitage stepped into the room and the door slid silently closed behind him. There were many good things about the Red Door Brothel Club and one was the soundproofing. Not so much of a footstep or orgasmic scream had Rey heard since she had arrived. She looked at Tage and felt again she could have prepared better. The General wasn’t wearing his uniform. Of course he wouldn’t, a First Order officer could just waltz into a place like this with their blasters and hats and boots. Instead he was wearing his usual off duty attire of clothes in shades of grey that were as close to a uniform as regular clothes could be. He looked so regular, so utterly, angrily calm it put Rey off a bit so the words couldn’t come out. The towel twisted again in Rey’s sweaty palms. The suggestion that perhaps she could strangle him crisscrossed in her mind. It was a solution after all.
“What do you think you’re up to?” Hux asked. “What sort of scam are you running now?”
“Hello to you too,” she answered and gestured to the bed. “Would you like a seat?”
“I won’t be staying.”
One hand went into his pocket and Rey could see the outline of his rectangular cigarette case being adjusted. The outline circled slowly. Interesting. She had thought he had said he had given up.
“You can go ahead and put your shirt back on,” he ordered in an icy voice and Rey realized she was staring at his crotch area, she looked up and felt a blush creep over her cheeks. Armitage calmly spoke on. “I’ve heard it all, your ‘goings on’. How you tease your Sith boyfriend. You can’t even bare to look at me when we meet, so spare me any false emotions. You should be back with your troops instead of here like a coward, so dress rebel scum.” He shook his head as if a disappointed father. “You can’t talk your way out of this ridiculous adventure.”
Who was he to tell her what to put on or off? Still holding the towel Rey put her hands on her hips and made no move to pull on her shirt. “Me? A coward! At least I have honor. I keep my word and I go where I say I will be. What the FUCK happened to you? You never answer!”
And suddenly everything she had resolved not to talk about. Not to mention came flooding into Rey’s mouth.
Though, Armitage was not one to accept any part of her explanation, his voice raised into an angry snarl. “ME? Where have I been?! What about you?” He jabbed a finger in her direction and his voice raised to a demanding growl. “You took everything from MY factory on Nal’Hutta. You took my droids, my machinery. You took my train! An entire TRAIN!”
“Think! Tage you knew I was working with the Hutts for a reason. I didn’t pretend to be a stupid slave girl as some sort of weird hobby. The ‘rebel scum’ needed resources and the First Order needs less explosives. I had no choice - I had my orders, surely you understand those?” This bickering was getting her no closer to her goal. Rey changed her tone; she took a breath and tried to regain some of the gentle Force that had only just calmed her. “Please Tage, sit with me,” she said.
“Don’t play games Rey. You won’t like it when you play games.” One of his hands moved to his hairline and he combed his fingers through his hair. The movement seemed to agitate him more than his words, but the emotion was soon wiped clear. “Why is it so fucking hot in here?” The General complained.
“Why are you wearing a jacket?” She countered.
“Because, my girl, I am about to leave,” Armitage answered seriously.
Rey looked up at his face. Her dear General looked angry yes, but also calm and in control. His stance was firm, and his eyes did not betray him. It was as if Rey were some petty officer he had to correct. Oh, he was good at hiding emotions. If he truly had any. Discussion of the past could wait; this was war she reminded herself.
“Take. Off. Your. Jacket,” she repeated slowly, making sure each word was spoken with as much firm venom as she could muster. Although the request had no hint of Force to her surprise Tage pulled it off and draped it over a simple, clinical looking bench seat. Then he undid the top clasp on his shirt, his hands easily loosening the fabric to reveal a section of pale skin around his neck.
“How much?” He sneered. “How much are you charging?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
Rey knew perfectly what he meant.
“Well, it seems I’ve funded half the Resistance one way or another. So how much will it cost this time? I mean here we are.” He held out his hands. “I’ve traveled all this way to rendezvous with the enemy in the middle of a fucking war no less, and I need to know how much?” He asked again. “You said you need help. That you have a favor to ask.” He undid another clasp so now a long triangle of chest was visible. “We can bargain.”
She bristled. “If you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it,” said Rey.
“Well, well, well, I think you owe me and I think you should pay.”
Rey rolled her eyes and watched as another clasp was undone by Tage’s capable, steady hands. Her mouth felt dry.
“I was promised a slave down there,” Tage cocked his head towards the door. “I don’t need another floor show.”
“Just take your shirt off General, it doesn’t affect me in the slightest.”
The General obliged and took off his shirt and Rey noticed he was sweating just as much as she was. Grey was such a revealing colour. He had been scratching, there were red marks across his stomach, thin lines that arched over red hairs, that pale trail of fuzz under his belly button. Lines on his biceps. Gorgeous, lean muscles, Rey tried not to stare, but her eyes were drawn to him.
“That fucking wookiee forest is full of bugs,” he complained. Then took a step closer. Close enough he could touch her, “Should I take off my shoes or can we do this in the next five minutes?”
“That is the most unromantic thing anyone has ever said to me!”
He shrugged. “You don’t know what I’ve seen down there. This disgusting place you chose had nothing to do with romance. So,” he put his hands on his belt buckle. “How much for a blow job?”
“You can do me for ten thousand,” Rey offered.
“Charming girl, I knew it. It’s all you care about, it’s all you ever cared about. Credits.”
Rey smiled fakely and blinked her eyelashes. Armitage grabbed the towel in her hands and yanked her close. She could smell the familiar heat of his body mingled with the scent of cigarette smoke. Their knuckles grew white as they both gripped the towel, but neither let go. Now her breast wraps touched his chest and their hips grew close. She tipped her head to the side as he moved his face to her neck. Lips and fine stubble brushed her skin, making her feel breathless.
“Remember when you first came to my stateroom and tried to seduce me? When I was still naive enough to think you really were a slave?” The General yanked at the towel. “You thought you were so tempting.”
Rey tilted her face upwards and Armitage moved so her cheek could rest against his lightly stubbled skin.
Now his voice was near her ear, soft and firm. “I want you to know that I hate you as much now, just as I did then.”
“And I still need you,” Rey replied. She let go of the towel and put her hands against his chest.
“I’ll give you one thousand credits and no more,” he offered.
“Oh Tage,” her palms travelled up his torso to cup his face, but he would not turn away from where he focused on her ear. How she wanted to make him look at her, to listen. “That’s not why I’m here,” she told him.
“Then why?” At the word ‘why’ his voice tremored, a millisecond of emotion wavered through and then was shoved back, pushed back, throttled and murdered.
“I need you… to… I need you-“ But her words were lost in his lips as they kissed. Passionately kissed. The salt of their sweat mingled as they tasted each other once again. Rey pulled him close, arms entwined behind his back as he bent over her smaller frame. His hands fumbled at her wrap and ended up pushing it down to her stomach to set her breasts free, then he started loosening her pants. She helped him her own hands scrambling to remove her clothes without breaking their connection.
The General undid his own pants then with a sharp exhale through his nose broke free of Rey’s tongue in his throat.
“Turn around,” he ordered.
“Turn around!” He said louder and in a voice that was no request. He took her shoulder in hand and shoved Rey towards the bed. “Kneel,” he then added, then “kneel, kneel,” in an increasingly annoyed tone.
Rey knelt on the floor and she felt Armitage kneel closely behind her. His larger frame caged hers, his knees bracketed her own and his hands pushed her shoulders forward so she lent facing away from him and her body was trapped against the mattress edge. Her heart beat oddly and she felt shocked, as if she had gone to pet a cat and instead got trapped in a lion’s den.
“What do you want?” He hissed into the back of her neck. “Why do you want to see me? Tell me the truth!”
Her mind raced. “A merger,” she offered.
Rey tried to turn her head, but Armitage pushed her forward again until her face was buried in the clinically smelling bed covering. The General tutted. He pushed his hard cock between her buttocks, she could feel it bobbing, stroking lightly. His palms slowly inched down her back to firmly grasp her hips.
“No mercy for rebel scum slave girls,” Armitage told her. He waited, still bobbing, stroking. The heat was making her feel light headed. The smell of man, the soft dabbling of dick against her pussy was intoxicating. “What merger?” He finally asked and Rey felt his hands tighten highlighting her captivity. “You surrender?”
Turning her head to the side she felt her hair stuck to her damp face. She squirmed and Tage pushed her deeper into the mattress. She was truly his prisoner. A willing one. One that could use the Force at any time to throw him off, yet she didn’t. Instead she knelt and submitted. “Can you just… can we?” Rey asked. She felt like if he would just do it, if they could fuck and cum and kiss, she could clear her mind.
“Can I what?”
“Do it Tage.”
“Do what?” He demanded. “Say it slave.”
Rey buried her face in the bed. The sheet smelt like cleaning chemical and felt soft and dry. She moaned as the General loosened his grip to guide the head of his cock into her.
“Fuck me.” The request was quite serious although muffled. She felt her cheeks burn with embarrassment.
“Now we are getting somewhere my girl,” the General, now that his dick half buried inside her he circled one of her buttocks with a steady palm. “I will do what you beg, if you tell me what you truly want me for.”
Rey tried to thrust backwards, but the General pulled back, frustrating her every desperate effort.
“You will,” she told him.
“I will not. I will not!”
Rey inched herself backwards and rocked, relishing the feeling of fullness. “You’re already doing it,” she informed him breathlessly and wriggled more until he was filling her. “We’re fucking and you can’t stop it.”
The General, with a great deal of heavy breathing and pushed Rey deep into the bed. She was thankful that the pressure lifted her body a little, her knees had begun to feel abused bracing against the hard floor. However, the slowing of the pleasure he had let her taste was driving her mind mad with tense longing.
“Not until you tell me what you want.” His strong grip on her shoulders and hip was all that held him steady.
Rey’s muffled voice gushed into the mattress, a stream of words saying anything, anything to make him give her the release she craved.
Tage pulled at her hair and her face popped up free from its safe, smothering prison. “Repeat!” He demanded.
“I need you to marry me,” Rey gasped. She felt her hair released and her crimson face once again was able to press into the blanket, hidden from her strange reality.
The General’s hands still held her, but his body stalled. After a moment of silence he started fucking her, but it was less frantic. It was as fast, rhythmic, a satisfying feeling. A damn burst and gushing without a way to contain the suddenly freed flow of water. She felt him run a hand down her spine, an arm push its way between the bed and her stomach in a half hug. Rey closed her eyes and moaned a knot that had been struggling, tight and small began to loosen in her chest.
The General drilled on, skin on skin on skin, fevered exertion, sweat dripping until the inevitable end, he stiffened and emptied, hard thrusts deep inside Rey with a twitching dick shooting cum into her welcoming pussy.
Rey lifted her head hoping he would kiss her in this tender moment. Pepper her neck with nips of contentment or bless her lips with a satisfied smile, but instead Tage’s fingers loosened and he dropped her rather suddenly on the corner of the bed. Her knees slid to the floor and she knelt again feeling still slow and surprised from the lovemaking. Buttocks sunk to the smooth floor, her legs feeling like jelly. Rey could hear the General dressing behind her, the sound of clothes being pulled on in sudden silence.
“That is not why you need me,” he said. “No more games. You told Ren you are married. You think I don’t know what you do? How he thinks. I know everything.”
“We were married already Tage. You and I.” Rey turned and leaned her back against the bed. “In a way, we were,” she added and looked at her lover as he did up the buttons on his shirt. He looked pink skinned and tight lipped, yet his hands didn’t even quiver in their job.
“I need to get rid of Kylo Ren’s interest in me. It’s affecting us all, even the Order. This I know. Perhaps if I have proof I cannot and never can be with him then he will stop?”
“So I die? No thank you.”
“You can use a false name Tage. I just need someone to stand in so I can get the paperwork and its official – if I’m not available. He can move on. I can make him see.”
“Why don’t you get one of your criminal friends to be your victim? I hear you are very close to some. In fact I’ll send you a card, just give me your location on Kashyyk.”
Rey smiled and then it faded into a sigh. She felt foolish sitting disheveled and naked on the floor begging someone to do something she herself was not sure was the right direction to go.
“It was nice-” she started and then sighed again, deeper, so that her whole body felt the frustration of her situation. “I think if I had to marry anyone it would be you Armitage Hux. And, I know there are a hundred men or even women who would be easier to partner with, but I don’t want them.”
Tage peered at her seriously and narrowed his eyes, He placed his hands behind his back and then tilted his head, his lips tensed. Sweat glistened on his brow.
“What’s in it for me?” He asked.
Oh my. It's hot where I am, so I thought I'd share the heat.