I usually blocked out the sudden silence which hung in the air. It was like an airlock. I still noticed that. The rest of my surroundings muffled. At times I felt the Force was screaming at me with the intensity of the quiet. I had vowed to destroy Ben Solo and the rest of them. The connection we shared gave no information to where they might be, though. There was just him, placed strategically as though he was truly there.
I was in the shower, the cubicle doors shut and blanketed with steam. I could hear nothing. Not even the stream of water above me. But I could see his silhouette through the fog. He did not move. He usually never did when the Force connected us. It was just silence. Deafening silence. I stood still under the hot water, letting it cascade down my back as I waited for the disconnect.
When the noise rushed back in I knew he was gone.
I step out of the shower, wrapping myself in a silken robe before walking back into the main room. Armitage was there. I could hear the snap of his belt as it closed over his torso. His red hair was mussed. In his usually tidy uniform were creases from when it was laying in a pile on the floor, evidence that we had spent the evening together in bed.
He was slim, pale, and physically not much stronger than any normal human man. There was little appeal to him. Except perhaps the hate of it all. Armitage wanted the role of Supreme Leader for himself. He thought he was clever hiding it, but I knew better. That was why he was here. He thought he was gaining my trust, thought that some small part of me cared about him. What he didn't understand was how close I tended to keep my enemies.
Without any parting words, he looks to me. He places his cap on his head and turns on his heels before walking out of my chambers.
I lean back against the wall and slowly slide down to the floor. I hold my knees close to my chest, feeling disgusted and satisfied all at once. I hated it. Hated myself. Hated Hux. I hated the rebellion, too. I thought perhaps I hated everything.
Part of me is on the verge of tears for the mess I've made. But I couldn't back down now.
As I look ahead of me I feel the air rush out of the room once more. I even held my breath for a beat. Ben sat across from me on the opposite wall. His elbows rest on his knees while his fingers dance idly in front of him. He doesn't look directly at me at first. He knows what I've just done. What I've been doing since Crait. He was now stripped at the waist, his skin dewed with sweat. His black hair was pushed back and damp.
I wanted to reach out like before. I wondered if I would be able to touch him like before.
But I decide against it.
“Are you alright?” he asks me.
Those are the first words he had spoken to me in two years.
And all I do is nod.
“Master Ben,” Threepio started upon entering my chambers. “Oh. I'm sorry, sir. Were you in the middle of something?”
I give him a half smile as I stand up. “No.” I lie.
Kira wasn't there. Though I wished that she had been. It had been weeks since I had seen her. Here I was, in my room, waiting for her to show up, for the Force to connect us somehow.
I look throw on a shirt and look to Threepio. “What is it?”
The red lights circulate in the room and the alarms go off, making Threepio jump. “Oh my!”
I duck out into the hall, running at full speed toward the hangar. When I reach my star fighter I can already see Finn and Poe loading into their x-wing fighters. Artoo beeps behind me as he boards in the back.
“TIE fighters? This far from base?” I ask.
He responds rapidly, anxiously.
I look out beyond the hangar at the vast darkness and starlight as an attack cruiser drops in from hyperspace. It is barely visible against the darkness of space, accented with red edges along every consecutive deck. She was there, top deck, looking out at our small freighter. I couldn't see her, but I sensed her there. I felt her gaze on me.
I drop the hatch and fire up my star fighter. I boost the engine and pull forward into space. The others follow one by one and surround the cruiser. Others take on the TIE fighters. I hang right and swing around, pressing down the trigger and blasting one of the cannons. I then swing left and cut down two TIEs before sweeping across the top deck. I wanted her to know it was me. That it was Finn and Poe. That she wouldn't win the fight with the three of us on the other side of the battle.
I barrel roll toward another cannon and shoot it a close range before sweeping through the flames. In the corner of my eye I see two x-wings go down. I turn my fighter around and suddenly I am knocked over, almost out of orbit, when one of the cannons blast into the side of the freighter.
A few beeps tell me he is alright.
“We need to fall back.” Poe says as another six TIEs fly from the attack cruiser and toward our main ship. “We don't have enough manpower.”
“There are too many of them.” Finn responds.
My thumb presses the trigger just slightly. I could take out the rest of the cannons easily. But who knows how many more fighters Kira had waiting, how many more secondary guns were on the surface just waiting to be launched, how many storm troopers were on deck waiting for someone to shoot down. I concede.
“They will follow us. They have the technology.” I tell them. “But we have to try.”
We turn back and land back in the hangar.
Artoo and Beebee-Ate fly by heels into the ship to help with the repairs. I run toward the control room. Poe catches up with me short of breath. But I can't hear him. There is too much going on around me. People and droids running up and down the halls. TIE fighters continuing to surround the ship. In the control room people are working to get the shields up.
I snap back to reality. “What?”
“We have to take out their navigation systems or we wont escape them.”
Suddenly I felt as if I was holding my breath. But I wasn't. I just couldn't hear the sound. I look up from one of the navigation panels. Kira is at the front of the room. No. Rey is at the front, turning among those who cannot see her, looking for me. I say her old name under my breath, causing confusion in Poe, as I can see in my peripheral.
In an instant, she is gone. And the attack cruiser is just . . . . retreating. They stay behind us, just out of reach.
At full charge, Finn flips forces the lever in front of him upward and we jump into hyperspace. Even when they don't follow immediately, I know they are not far behind. The First Order knew where we were regardless. And only days later they found us again. But why now? After months of not being able to find us, suddenly they are there. Watching, waiting, killing us off just a few at a time. Now we have stopped fighting back. Shields were up, and we stayed inside.
Most of us were afraid.
Poe was right. We would have to destroy their systems. The only problem now was getting inside.
The mountain temple on Ahch-To was a place I went to for peace when the Force was too loud for my liking. While Luke and Chewie stayed down below, I came to the very top and stood out on the cliff. A fire stoked behind me and flowed with the wind as it blew through the sacred place. I felt something tickle at my awareness and roll down my spine as the temple went silent.
It had happened only twice before, down below, by the sea. Kira Ren appeared to me like the shadow in a nightmare. The scar on her face was long and jagged. A constant reminder that I had knocked her down once and had every intention of doing again, hopefully for good.
On this night, when I turn toward the silence, she is sitting by the fire. Of course, she isn't really there. It was just her image projected into the temple by the Force. A power that which neither of us could master. It would kill either one of us easily. So I wondered how this was happening now with little to no effort on either side. I spent countless hours trying to decipher what it could be. But I came up empty of such knowledge.
She was dressed down into something she might sleep in. But she was wide awake.
“Can't sleep?” she asks me.
I step back from the cliff and toward her. “I hardly ever sleep.”
The question was innocent, and the conversation. It was perhaps the most normal words we had ever exchanged. As if we were tired of the game, the constant battle around every corner, always wondering if the other would show on this day. We lacked a normalcy that most others had. We had to live up to expectations beyond our control.
“When I met you, Ben-” she starts as I sit beside her. “When I first saw you on Takodana I knew you to be my equal in this battle. My worthy opponent.”
I knew what she meant by that. On that day, it was so long ago now, I found an opening into her mind. Her power had gone unmatched as she stood by Snoke. She would have never admitted it back then, but she longed for someone worthy to fight, or to eventually stand by her side, to be in control of her own fate, for others to stop deciding her future for her. It was that gap in her life that her parents left behind when they sold her to the First Order.
“I've been so alone all these years.” she tells me.
Again, I knew her pain. The difference was that while she had no one but Snoke to guide her, I had many. My parents, Uncle Luke, even Chewie. Being who we are with the Force, my course was decided for me. I was trained for it just as she was, only on the opposing side. Surrounded by them all and I still felt alone in this fight.
“You're not alone, Rey.” I tell her.
Her eyes shift up to look at me. “Neither are you.”
She made no mention of my use of her old name. She only reached out, curious as I was.
Would we touch? Would my hand move right through hers as if she were a ghost?
Then, our fingers touch.
It sends a jolt throughout my body as if I had just been electrocuted. I could see the shape of our future. The color of it as gray as stone. Solid and certain.
Her hand runs over mine, palm to palm, flesh to flesh. I can feel her trembling. As her hand keeps moving up my arm, across my chest, toward my face, mine does the same. Her face is somehow so much closer to mine than I thought it had been. I touch her cheek, the scar I had left on her body to mark her defeat. And . . .
Our lips touch for the briefest of moments.
Before the moment can last any longer, before it can turn into something else, I feel her fade away.