“Supreme Leader, do you wish to – ”
“Leave me,” spat Kylo Ren.
“But sir, General Hux wishes to know – ”
Kylo thrust out an arm and with great malaise squeezed the throat of the needy Stormtrooper at his side. “Does General Hux not know how to oversee the repair of the the mess he created? Leave me.”
“Yes, sir,” the Stormtrooper choked out. Kylo released him with a long-suffering sigh and the trooper waddled off as fast as his suit would allow him.
Kylo strode forward and swiped open the door which he had declared to be his quarters while the wreck of the Supremacy was sorted out. Hux could manage that side of things. Kylo needed a moment to pause.
To reconcile himself to the silence in his head.
Kylo Ren had not been without Snoke’s mocking taunt since before he even was Kylo Ren. He had not been without a Master since he was young Ben Solo, a shivering child thrown into the wilderness of a far-off planet and told to obey his Uncle’s every command.
Now he’d felt it in the Force: Luke was dead. Snoke was dead. Kylo had achieved his greatest desire, that of his mother before him and her father before her.
Kylo was the ruler of the galaxy. As Supreme Leader of the First Order, he had within his grasp the power to bend all sentient beings to his will.
Now he just had to work out what his will was.
He paced the tiny span of his new quarters, turning when he the walls. Now would be a great time for his grandfather to appear. Just once, in all of his wretched life, to tell him that he had finally lived up to the family name. The one he’d never been given, having been cursed with that smuggler’s surname instead.
Grandfather, please… if you’re out there… I need your help.
Suddenly, there was a huge clang like a boulder had fallen from the sky. The ship shook and Kylo flew against the nearest wall, barely breaking his fall in time.
If this is Hux’s idea of fixing the fleet –
There was another resounding clang and the ship shuddered like a stalling speeder. Kylo threw himself over to the door and swiped it open, starting down the hallway –
– when the hallway shook and tipped vertically, throwing Kylo and all unfixed debris straight down a hallway-sized chute –
And then everything went black.
He was in a forest, thick with damp and green. A low hum told his that transport was nearby: many ships, possibly a whole fleet. His or theirs? Impossible to tell.
He was alone, which was a good sign, and mostly unhurt.
A cool hatred passed through his veins. Was this orchestrated by Hux? Some kind of coup? Had he thrown him towards the nearest Resistance base, because if so –
Kylo reached to his waist and realised with a hiss that his lightsaber was gone. He looked around frantically. There in the foliage lay – could it be? He summoned it with the Force and it landed as it had last time; familiar yet not quite comfortable in his palm. He held it to his face. Yes, no mistaking. It was his grandfather’s lightsaber.
That means the girl is nearby. He cast around with the Force. He couldn’t feel her. But there was a presence –
“I see you’ve found my lightsaber for me! I’ll have it back now, thanks.”
The speaker emerged from the undergrowth, grinning cockily but with a dangerous undertone. Kylo stared. He took in everything: the wavy hair, that Kylo had seen so often in holovids and copied the best he could, though he could see now that his own was a bit longer. The square jaw, the shining, cocksure eyes. The Jedi garb. He was slightly shorter than Kylo, and younger. He seemed almost boyish.
“You’re Anakin Skywalker,” Kylo said.
Anakin laughed and looked almost bashful, though Kylo could feel pride underneath, and a slight impatience. “Yeah, that’s me. Did you want an autograph?”
“Do you not know who I am?”
Never before had an apparition not known who he was.
But then, never before had Anakin Skywalker deigned to appear to him.
“Uh – ” Anakin looked unsure of himself. This was not at all how Kylo had pictured their first meeting. “I’m sorry, have we met? You’re not the one who’s been sending the creepy love notes to the Temple are you, because you have to cut that out.” Kylo did not believe that warranted a response. Anakin looked even more uncomfortable. “Listen, I’m sorry, but I need that back, if Obi-Wan – ”
“Anakin,” a clipped Coruscanti accent chastised as its owner clambered through the moss. “If I have to tell you one more time about letting your lightsaber fall into the wrong hands – ”
“Don’t worry, Obi-Wan, he’s a fan.”
The man named Obi-Wan turned towards Kylo, and raised an eyebrow. “Not of me, I should say.”
For Kylo was glaring at Obi-Wan with the most powerful loathing he could muster. To see Anakin Skywalker, this was a rare and amazing opportunity, and to have it ruined by this – this – interloper, who’d dedicated himself to destroying Anakin’s legacy and whose name was almost as big of a curse as Solo’s… It was unacceptable. He was Supreme Leader. He would not allow Ben Kenobi to destroy this.
“Leave us,” Kylo hissed at Obi-Wan. The ground beneath him shook. The canopy rattled. Birds squawked and flew away. “You are not welcome.”
“No,” Obi-Wan said lightly, “Not a fan at all.”
* * *
It only took a breath. Obi-Wan and Anakin didn’t even glance at each other but they moved as one. Obi-Wan sprung to Kylo’s left, in one smooth move activating his lightsaber and holding it to Kylo’s neck; Anakin to the right, his arm reaching for his lightsaber which flew out of Kylo’s grasp and joined its master, igniting and coming to a stop almost poking into Kylo’s back.
It was a glorious peace of choreography, worthy of the finest light opera.
Kylo was baffled.
He had been visited by Force ghosts before – by Ben Kenobi even, though usually Kenobi would leave if Kylo yelled loud enough – but never had an apparition tried to take him hostage.
“What’s going on?” he demanded, as Anakin pulled his arms behind his back and clipped stun cuffs around his wrists. “Are you touching me?”
He wriggled the cuffs. They were flimsy and easy to break out of – but they were real.
How had a ghost just stun cuffed him?
“You are under the protection of the Galactic Republic and will be taken to our ship for the purposes of questioning,” Obi-Wan recited. “You will not be harmed if you do not resist.”
Anakin grabbed Kylo’s shoulder and pulled him with him as they walked. His grip was strong and hard, and very real.
“This isn’t possible,” Kylo said. “There is no Republic… This is a Resistance planet… You’re not real.”
“I assure you, we are very real,” Obi-Wan said in the smooth tones of someone who was used to the crazy stories people told when they were under arrest.
“But you’re not… none of this… is that a Jedi starship?”
The ship sat proudly in a mossy clearing, Stormtroopers striding between it and other Republic vessels that were also parked there.
“We don’t typically take public freighters to war zones,” said Obi-Wan. Anakin just grunted and pulled Kylo towards the ship.
Kylo felt his eyes widen to take in as much of the scene as he could. It was like something out of the holonovellas of his childhood. The Stormtroopers – no, they were called Clone Troopers then. The Republic crest on the ships. The Jedi’s own distinct starship. The positively retro hum of the ship as they walked up the ramp. (“They don’t make ’em like they used to,” his father would have said, rueful and awed.)
This was the Clone Wars of legend, as vivid and as real as if he was really there.
This was no mere apparition. This was a vision, more powerful than any he had ever had. He soaked it in. Even the smells felt real.
When Obi-Wan wasn’t looking, Anakin kicked him in the calf and pushed him down onto a bench. Kylo grinned. He would have done the same.
* * *
Anakin and Obi-Wan were gone for more than twenty minutes. Kylo felt the ship leave planetside and then thrust itself into hyperspace.
As he sat, he urged Anakin to return. His vision surely could not last much longer and he had to make the most of it.
Finally Anakin returned, but he brought with him Obi-Wan. Kylo scowled.
“I thought you said he was a fan, Anakin. He doesn’t seem to be enjoying the privilege of being on a real Jedi ship,” Obi-Wan remarked.
“Being arrested by me is the true honour,” Anakin said. “We’ve got a twenty-hour journey back to Coruscant,” he said, sitting back on the bench opposite Kylo, “which, can I add, we weren’t meant to make for another few hours. You interrupted our trip to the hot springs. So the least you could do is tell us who you are.”
Kylo did not find their humour amusing. He said nothing.
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps a name?”
It was an important moment, Kylo could feel it. The Force licked at him, urging him to keep his identity secret, to shroud himself in mystery. This was just a vision, yes, but a realistic one. If he declared his identity on a Jedi ship, in the middle of the Clone Wars…
“Ben,” Kylo spat.
Obi-Wan nodded. The name clearly meant nothing to him. Of course, he would not be known as Ben for some time yet.
But it could not be long. And then, oh how the mighty would fall. Kylo wished spitefully that he could hear that urbane Coruscanti accent the first time it tried to negotiate with Tatooine’s finest. That should wipe the smirk off Kenobi’s face.
“Where are you from, Ben?” Anakin asked.
Kylo shrugged. “Around.”
“You spoke of a Resistance,” Obi-Wan said. “Who are they?”
“No threat to anyone,” Kylo said, which was true in all times.
“Are you with this Resistance?” Anakin demanded. “You insulted the Republic.”
“With the Resistance?” Kylo scoffed. “What kind of vision is this? Stop wasting my time.”
“Wasting your time?” Obi-Wan asked. “Need I remind you that you are under our arrest.”
“You stay out of this Kenobi. I want to talk to Anakin.”
“You seem to have a very good idea of who we are,” Obi-Wan said. “Are we targets of this Resistance?”
“There is no Resistance,” Kylo hissed. “They will not exist for decades into the future! You are not being targeted by the Resistance, and certainly not by me!” He twisted the stun cuffs but they did not disengage and Anakin glared him in to submission. “This is the most infuriating vision I have ever had.”
“Do you have visions often?” Obi-Wan asked.
“No,” Kylo said. “So I’d rather not waste one on you.”
Anakin chuckled. “You have to admit, Obi-Wan, he knows what he wants.”
“Hmm,” was all Obi-Wan said.
Anakin addressed Kylo. “I hate to break it to you Ben, but this isn’t a vision. You’re really under arrest. And trust me, being arrested by me is not anyone’s idea of a good time.”
Kylo felt mild irritation from Obi-Wan at Anakin’s words, which cheered him up. He said, “What do you want from me?”
“The truth,” Anakin said. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
Again the Force crawled around Kylo again, clearer than he had ever felt it. Obfuscate. But give them something.
“My name is Ben. I’m from the future. I was brought here through the Will of the Force.” Kylo paused, and then he realised with a clarity as cold and hard as the durasteel he was sitting on, “This is not a vision. I have… I must have… travelled through time.”
Kylo Ren, newly-crowned Supreme Leader of the First Order, finds himself flung back through time to the era of the Clone Wars. He decides to capitalise on this opportunity and insert himself into the life of his beloved grandfather Anakin Skywalker. Together they will rule the galaxy with an iron fist.
Unfortunately, Kylo has never been very good at being evil.
They interrogated him for a long time, asking for details that he would not tell them, asking for proof that he could not give.
Finally it was Obi-Wan who said, “You have an unusual presence in the Force. It is there, but it is muted and warped, like a reflection in the water.” He turned to Anakin, and said, “Do you feel it?”
“I feel it.” Anakin glanced suspiciously at Kylo. “That doesn’t mean he’s from the future.”
“It doesn’t. And yet I believe him.”
Obi-Wan had been standing the whole time. Now he sunk wearily onto a bench. “Take him to one of the cabins. Uncuff him, but lock him in.” Obi-Wan met Kylo’s eyes, and smiled almost kindly. “It’s just a precaution. As far as I am concerned, you are now under supervised escort. Not arrest.”
How generous, Kylo thought drily, but simply nodded as he followed Anakin out of the room.
* * *
Kylo paced the tiny cabin as he had paced in quarters in the First Order’s fleet mere hours ago.
What an insult, to be the Supreme Leader one minute, a nobody the next. And yet he could feel that the Force was with him, urging him on, fully allied with his mission here – whatever that was.
He was in the past. Everything he knew about this point in history flashed before his eyes. War. Decadence. The fall of the Republic. The rise of an Empire.
There was the crux of the matter. It would not be long now before Emperor Palpatine emerged, with his attack dog Vader by his side.
Would Kylo ally himself with the new Emperor? Become an apprentice once again?
Privately, Kylo had never particularly admired Emperor Palpatine, no matter how often Snoke had impressed upon him the scope of Palpatine’s achievements. Palpatine was too caught up in Sith doctrine to rule effectively. He had given the Senate too much freedom. He had allowed dissidents to rise up and overthrow the Empire.
Kylo knew that if he had had the opportunity, his grandfather would have overthrown Palpatine and ruled the galaxy in a much better fashion. Even Luke had suspected so, he’d confided to Kylo. Luke always told the story of Vader’s hubris being his downfall; that it enabled Kenobi to destroy his body and greatly weaken his connection to the Force. But that was part of Luke’s propaganda. Kylo knew it was much more likely that Palpatine would have sabotaged Vader on the operating table after his fight with Obi-Wan.
Only a very powerful dark lord could have weakened Vader thus. Not some crusty Jedi Master. That just didn’t suit Luke’s parable of humility so was left out of the lessons.
So yes, Palpatine was formidable. His accomplishments in turning a Republic to an Empire were to be admired.
But Kylo had no interest in being Palpatine’s drone. He had been Supreme Leader. Was Supreme Leader.
Even if he was trapped here in the past, he would reclaim his rightful place at the helm of the galaxy.
And this time, he would do it by the side of a fully-powered Anakin Skywalker.
* * *
When Anakin came to deliver him rations, Kylo was ready for him.
He had been working on channelling his lighter, younger self. He knew that he couldn’t maintain his usual rage and tension around the Jedi for long, or they would grow suspicious.
So instead he acted as innocently as possible as he said, “Please Master Skywalker. I want to talk to you.”
Anakin frowned. “Okay,” he said suspiciously, and came into the room. He was taught and on alert, wound up like an ancient chrono.
“I won’t bite,” Kylo said.
“They all say that,” said Anakin, but relaxed slightly. He handed Kylo his rations and Kylo laid them to the side impatiently.
“I need your help,” Kylo said.
“You’re taking me to the Jedi Temple, aren’t you? To decide what to do with me?”
Anakin seemed to contemplate lying (Very un-Jedi, Kylo noted) but then admitted, “Yes.”
“Well, I have a solution. You might not be able to feel it, but I am strong in the Force. Watch.” Kylo summoned the ration packs towards himself and juggled them deftly in the air, suspended in the Force. It was a trick he had perfected long before going to his Uncle’s Temple.
“Party tricks are an insult to the power of the Force,” Anakin intoned, as though he were quoting a scripture that he didn’t much care for.
“I’d be happy to demonstrate my lightsaber skills if you gave me your weapon.”
“Ha! Nice try, kid.”
Being called a kid by someone several years his junior and many years deceased was not Kylo’s preference, but he let it slide for the sake of his mission. “No matter. I am strong in the Force. I am very powerful. But I need a teacher.” He let it hang in the air, tantalising. Then went in for the kill. “You should be my teacher.”
Kylo felt the world fall out from under him.
Anakin said, “Sorry, kid. But I’ve got my hands full at the moment.”
“You don’t know my power!” Kylo cried.
“I don’t need to. There are more important things than pure power.”
Kylo’s jaw could have dropped. Was this truly the Anakin Skywalker of legend, the man who became Darth Vader? How could he not value power above all else? Anakin Skywalker was the most powerful Force user of his time, power to him was like air to everyone else – it was always there, waiting to serve you.
And Kylo. For all his faults, for all his awkwardness and incompetencies, both of his masters had courted him for his power, had admired and feared and wanted him…
“But I can’t control it,” he said, his voice cracking like the young boy he had been as Luke stood before him and promised, I will teach you to control it.
That was what Jedi wanted, wasn’t it? To teach their disciples control, to save them from the horrible fate of being able to actually harness their own power?
“I need to learn to control my power.” If Anakin wanted to play Jedi, surely that would be enough. Luke ate that poodoo up.
But Anakin shook his head. “I’m sorry, kid… I already have a Padawan. Anyway, if it’s about controlling power, I’m the last person the Council would trust with that.”
Kylo frowned. “You had a Padawan?” What else didn’t he know about his grandfather?
“Yeah,” Anakin said, leaning back with his arms around the back of the bench, one leg across his knee, as though he were socialising with a friend and not guarding a prisoner. He got a dopey smile on his face that reminded Kylo of Leia talking about her latest protégé in the New Republic Senate. “She’s great. Coming along more and more. She’ll be better than me one day soon.”
Kylo felt a stab of pain in his heart and recognised it as jealousy. As Snoke had taught him, he nurtured it, allowed it to grow into anger and bring him strength. Consequently his voice barely shook as he said, “I will defeat her in a duel. Then you will be my Master.”
Anakin laughed. “You wouldn’t defeat her. And anyway, that’s not how it works. Where did you say you’re from again?”
Kylo pursed his lips and bit the inside of this mouth. His grandfather was too relaxed, too easy-going, too… good. He shone with the power of the light side of the Force.
Kylo was beginning to wish he’d never seen him like this at all.
He wanted to wake up and be back where he belonged, in charge of the First Order. Surely he had now learned the lesson the Force was trying to teach him: he had grown in power and hate, but not yet enough to see the true Vader, only this weak naïve prototype.
Kylo shut his eyes. He was ready for this dream to be done.
* * *
Rise and shine, said the smooth Coruscanti accent of his nightmares.
Kylo frowned at the face of Obi-Wan Kenobi, his namesake and his burden, looming over him.
“Leave me alone,” Kylo said.
“Now, that’s no way to greet the person who rescinded your arrest,” Obi-Wan said evenly. “Come, we’ve landed. You are to appear before the Jedi Council.”
“No,” said Kylo. Fear clutched at his heart.
Luke’s Council had been bad enough, their reproachful stares, their constant sanctions…. To see a full pre-purge Council, to feel their judgement and their condemnation, without even a lightsaber at his waist … It was a horror he could not bear, he would not –
Obi-Wan’s brow was furrowed and his clear blue eyes were examining Kylo intently. “I sense great turmoil in you, Ben. Turmoil and fear. Why are you afraid of appearing before the Council?”
“I – ” Kylo gulped. There was no good explanation. What would Kenobi best accept?
He let his eyes fall to the ground. Best for Kenobi not to be able to read the lies in this eyes when he spoke. “I fear that they will dismiss me. What will I do then?”
“Hmm,” Obi-Wan pondered. Then he said, definitively and with the infuriating assurance with which he approached everything, that made Kylo think you’ll get knocked off your pedestal soon enough, old man, “I’m sure the force will provide a solution. The Council is not likely to send you away, Ben.”
Kylo nodded and tried to look meek. The duratiles on the floor needed cleaning, he noticed.
Obi-Wan clapped a hand on his shoulder and Kylo had to meet his eyes, had to gulp to do so, and must have shown some of his fear (though Kenobi of course could not know of what). Obi-Wan said reassuringly, his eyes creasing as he smiled, “Don’t worry. You have my word.”
Kylo encounters the Jedi Council
The Jedi Temple was more spectacular, more resplendent, more powerful than Kylo could have ever imagined.
The Empire had destroyed all holos of the old temple. As a child, he had begged his mother to take him to see the ruins, but she of course had never had the time. Luke had thought it was tarnished by its time as Imperial Palace, and didn’t consider visiting it to be an important part of Jedi training. He didn’t understand Kylo’s need to see it, to feel the history; his history, his birth right… Then of course under Snoke he had renounced his studies of the Jedi and the Sith. They were relics. Fallen empires, their only lessons their mistakes.
So in a way his being here was another revenge on Snoke. The peace as he drank it in, the sense of rightness and of wonder – that was all a slight on his former Master. And an ode to the power of his grandfather who walked so easily before him, as if he owned this place. As if of course he had every right to be here, to stroll these corridors, to raze them to the ground.
Obi-Wan, a few paces behind Anakin, turned to see why Kylo was falling behind. His face took on a knowing, almost fatherly look as he watched Kylo staring up at the huge bronzium statues of the entry hall.
“It’s quite something when you first enter, isn’t it?” Obi-Wan said.
Kylo forgot to be scornful and actually smiled, the sides of his mouth almost cracking with the unfamiliarity. This was another revenge; Snoke would have grievously punished Kylo for having the temerity to grin. But Kylo was in control now.
“Yes,” he said. “It’s quite something.”
* * *
The Jedi Council room sat in a high tower, with panoramic views of the sunset traffic of Coruscant. It was far removed from the tall stone room that had served as Luke’s Council chambers.
Kylo had thought it might be overwhelming to face such a large Council, because he knew that the Old Jedi Council had numbers far greater than Luke’s pathetic simulacrum. But many of the Masters were only hologram, and some of the seats were bare. There was a war going on.
Kylo was surprised when Obi-Wan took a seat of his own and not surprised when he felt a bristle of annoyance from Anakin over it. He grinned to himself. He could use that.
The Masters seemed to be waiting for something. A final hologram appeared, in a seat to the right.
Of course, Kylo thought.
Yoda fixed a piercing gaze on Kylo, who felt like the Master was staring through him as though Kylo were also transparent.
Yoda had come to Kylo many times, always with a reproving cough and a disappointed shake of the head. No matter if Kylo had been a boy who’d stolen some fizzer-sweets or a man who’d destroyed a village, wrongdoing was usually punished by a visit from Yoda. The worse the offending, the more likely it would prompt Yoda to share a trite enigma.
But this was not a force ghost. This was the real Yoda, a Jedi Master in his prime, yes, but also of his time. He didn’t know that Kylo had cursed and murdered, had cried himself to sleep after the incident with the Mon Calamari governess. He was a Jedi presiding over the last pathetic years of his Order, who didn’t even know that a Sith Lord was in charge of the Republic he served; and he was ripe to be fooled.
“Master Yoda,” Kylo said, around a knot in his throat. He tried to look humble. He knew he looked scared.
He was scared.
“Hmm,” Yoda said. “A Jedi, you are?”
“Of a sort,” Kylo admitted. “Things are different in – my time.”
“And what is your time?” a deep voice interjected. The voice belonged to a large bald man. Kylo sensed a darkness in him and wondered if he might be useful to his plans.
“I would rather not say.” Kylo looked to Obi-Wan in appeal. “I have told Mater Kenobi… I believe it is for the best that I do not interfere in the past by describing my future.”
The bald Jedi Master’s eyes narrowed. “If we do not know when you are from, how can we know that you are a Jedi?” Kylo decided that he would be excluded from any plans.
“I have seen him use the force with ease,” Anakin said.
Another Master, a Nautolan, turned to Obi-Wan. “Master Kenobi, what say you?”
Obi-Wan shrugged. “He seems reasonably proficient.”
Reasonably proficient? Kylo thundered, but he kept his emotions in check. It would not do to lose control in front of the Jedi Council, even if his presence in the Force was muted.
“Please, Masters,” he said. “I would be happy to demonstrate what I know. Or to answer questions on Jedi lore. I can recite the Code, if you like.” He had not done so in many years, but he was sure the hateful lies were burned into his tongue.
“That will not be necessary,” the bald Master said. “I accept the word of my fellow Jedi.”
“Thank you, Master Windu.” Anakin gave a slight but very pointed nod, and Kylo sensed triumphantly that he disliked Master Windu as much as Kylo did.
“Anger, you have in you,” Yoda mused.
“Yes,” said Kylo, swallowing his righteousness. “It is a personal weakness. And to be here, so far from where I know my place – ” He projected the very real sense of fear, of loss of his dominion “ – it is very difficult.” He cast his gaze down again, though not before noting the pitying gaze of some of the Council members, including Obi-Wan.
“Understandable, your fear is. But to be indulged, it is not. Fear is the path to the Dark Side.”
Kylo nodded to the floor. “I know, Master. I will try to control my feelings.”
“Hmm. Control, an illusion, that is.”
Master Windu seemed done with the proceedings. “It is late. I suggest we proceed like this. Ben will be allowed to stay at the Temple under supervision. Perhaps Master Skywalker…”
“I share my rooms with my Padawan,” Anakin said regretfully. “I’m afraid there’s no room for Ben as well… Unless the Council saw fit to give us larger quarters,” he added hopefully.
“That will not be necessary. I will take the boy,” Obi-Wan said.
“I want to stay with Anakin!” Kylo spoke in his most imperious Supreme Leader voice, which had also once been his don’t-you-know-I’m-the-son-of-Leia-Organa voice.
Master Windu raised an eyebrow. “Your wants do not dictate the will of the Jedi Order,” he said. “If Master Kenobi wishes to accommodate you” here he sounded very unsure why Master Kenobi would wish to do so “then you should be grateful.”
“Of course, Master Windu. I am very grateful, Master Kenobi. Thank you.” Kylo could not meet Obi-Wan’s eyes, for fear of broadcasting his resentment to the room.
When would he be able to speak with Anakin?
“It’s not a problem,” Obi-Wan said graciously.
Kylo contented himself with images of Obi-Wan cut down by his former apprentice on the deck of the Death Star. It gave him some comfort.
* * *
Obi-Wan’s quarters were sparse but much more comfortable than Kylo’s meagre hut had been at Luke’s tragic excuse for an Academy.
“I’m sorry they’re not more – homely,” Obi-Wan apologised, linen in his arms, as he led Kylo into a small secondary room. “I’m not here very often these days...”
Kylo could have laughed, thinking of Obi-Wan’s face if he knew for whom he wanted to make his quarters cozy.
“It’s fine,” he said, surveying his room. There was a small window in the corner that looked onto the shimmering night sky of Coruscant. He stared through it greedily.
“Forgive me for asking but is the Temple… in your time, is it… I mean, you don’t seem to have been here before,” Obi-Wan finished sheepishly, as though he already regretted the question.
Kylo tried to make his look reproachful but worried it came out more like wistful. “I told you… it’s different, in my time.” Kenobi did not seem satisfied. He was meant to be an exemplary Jedi, surely he shouldn’t be prying into the future like this? It was going to get annoying. “I was trained in an outpost Temple, on a moon far away. I was never taken here.” Not for lack of asking.
Obi-Wan seemed to sense some of that resentment as he said mildly, “I’m sure they had their reasons.”
“Oh, they did.” They just weren’t good ones.
“Well, tomorrow Ahsoka might show you around. She’s an enthusiastic tour guide.”
“Who is Ahsoka?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. She is Anakin’s Padawan.”
“Ah.” The interloper. She will be the first to go. “Well, uh, Master Kenobi, I’m very tired… if you wouldn’t mind…”
“Ah yes, of course.” Obi-Wan made for the door, but something seemed to prevent him from leaving. He turned, his brow furrowed, and his eyes contemplating Kylo closely. “You’ll have to forgive me for any intrusion, Ben, it’s just, you feel very… familiar. As though we’ve met before.”
Kylo shrugged. “The Force works in mysterious ways.”
“Indeed.” Kenobi frowned to himself, nodded at Ben absently, and mumbled as he left, “I must mediate on this…”
Meditate all you like, old man, Kylo thought triumphantly as he lowered himself into his bunk, but the Force brought me here for a reason. The Force is with me on this one. And you will all pay the price.
He fell asleep to happy thoughts of Anakin decapitating Hux with his bright blue lightsaber.
Featuring Tour Guide Ahsoka and Jedi Researcher Kylo
Kylo woke to sun in his eyes.
He had lived for so long in the cold sterile dark of space that he had not awakened to morning sun since…
Since my hut, Kylo thought, and grimaced.
He sat on the bed and watched the traffic speed by. It seemed very far away from the Temple, though he knew it was actually fairly near.
Somehow here in the Jedi Temple he felt more cloistered away from the galaxy than even on the Supremacy.
It felt so… safe.
Not for long, he thought, wondering exactly how long it would be before Anakin turned and the Temple was destroyed. Sooner than it used to be, if I have my way.
There was a tentative knock on his door.
“Enter,” Kylo commanded.
Obi-Wan appeared, looking well-rested. He had another bundle of linen in his hands. “I thought you might appreciate some clean clothing.”
“I’ll leave them here,” Obi-Wan said, and departed.
There was a small fresher attached to Kylo’s room and he cleaned himself, shaved, tried to mimic the tighter wave in Anakin’s hair and finally dressed in the tunic and robes Obi-Wan .
They were true Jedi robes, complete with sleeves and hood. Even Luke had not worn regalia like this. Kylo felt as though he were trying on a costume.
He caught a glimpse of himself in the shoulder-length mirror of the fresher. He looked absurd. It was like his mother had bundled him into the robes of his ancestors for the sake of a holopic; but his proportions were too awkward, his face too dark and serious, for it to make a good pic, and if she were here she’d be fixing him with that disappointed look that she’d always tried to hide from him. He was no Jedi. That anyone had ever tried to make him one was a colossal joke.
He slammed the fresher door behind him as he strode out.
He felt awkwardly on display. Obi-Wan regarded him from the table where he was eating a plate of fruit. The Jedi Master had a twinkle in his eye as he said, “Now you look the part.”
I look ridiculous, Kylo thought, and sat opposite Obi-Wan. The Jedi Master pushed a second plate of fruit across to him. Kylo regarded it in surprise. He was expected to eat this?
He had barely eaten real food on the Supremacy. It was part of Snoke’s asceticism training. Protein paste and vitacubes were his main sources of sustenance. Sometimes he would order food from the officer’s mess to his room, usually if Snoke was on the other side of the galaxy.
And here, an almost decadent breakfast of fresh fruit. He ate quickly so as to barely taste the rich flesh, the memories of childhood breakfasts when both his parents had been on-planet and they’d gathered early in the morning and laughed and everything had felt –
“Well,” said Obi-Wan. “I have Council business all day. Anakin’s Padawan Ahsoka Tano has kindly offered to show you around the Temple. I’m sure you can join her for lunch.”
“Okay,” Kylo said.
“I’m not sure how long I’ll be on-world. Perhaps a week. That should be enough time to...” Obi-Wan drifted off. Kylo could finish his sentence though: to decide what to do with you.
He had been a burden often enough to know what that meant. But here he was in control. Soon enough he would take the decision off Obi-Wan’s hands.
But he didn’t think that Obi-Wan would approve of his plans of what to do with himself, so he simply nodded and said, “I’m sure the Force will provide an answer.”
“Hm,” was Obi-Wan’s only answer.
They finished eating in silence. As Kylo was taking his bowl to the sonic, there was an enthusiastic series of knocks on the door.
“Ah,” Obi-Wan barely contained a smirk, “your tour guide is here.”
* * *
Ahsoka Tano was a Togruta, possibly sixteen or seventeen. She carried herself with the fluid strength of a general and the barely-contained energy of a child.
Ahsoka seemed to consider Kylo a peer, because after sharing factual information she would often add a conspiratorial whisper such as, “There’s always spare air cake in that kitchen” or “He has terrible morning breath, though, walk quickly.”
Kylo soaked up the Temple as they walked, admiring the architecture and the ambience. He could see himself hitting some of the same beats in his own Imperial Palace, when he got around to constructing it. He liked the idea of columns lining the walls of his throne room.
When Ahsoka showed him the Jedi Archives, a huge hall filled with shining holobooks, his eyes almost popped out of his head. She looked at him and laughed.
“Yes, there’s data going back millennia here.”
“There must be millions of books,” Kylo said. And almost all of them lost, in my time.
“Oh, I’m sure. To be honest, I don’t spend much time in the archives.” Ahsoka wrinkled her nose. “There are more important things going on out there.”
This did not improve Kylo’s impression of Ahsoka Tano. Anyone who was not a simpleton knew that the best way to avoid making the mistakes of the past was to learn what they were in the first place.
No matter. He was sure Anakin would take good care of her in the Jedi Purge.
And he could return to the magnificent Archives this afternoon, alone.
Ahsoka showed him other things: fighting dojo Luke would die for; a room with a thousand fountains, all tinkling peacefully; outdoor meditation courtyards and arboretums larger than a star destroyer.
“Anakin brought me here when he first took me as his padawan,” Ahsoka said almost giddily, as they wandered around a room glowing with the maps of thousands of star systems.
“Impressive,” Kylo said honestly, admiring the map floating around his head. But he had more important things on his mind. “What is Anakin like as a Master?”
Ahsoka considered. “He’s very loyal. Generous with his time. And a great teacher. You just watch what he does, and do the opposite.”
“I’ve heard he is very powerful.”
Ahsoka rolled her eyes. “Yeah, he’s the strongest Force sensitive in generations, or something like that. But he’s a lot more than some prophecy. He’s… kind.”
Kylo nodded. Kind. Yes, his grandfather was kind to his loved ones. He had begged Luke to join him, even after Luke had tried to kill him. He clearly treated Obi-Wan and Ahsoka with undeserved kindness now.
But Kylo had also seen his deep frustration with the Jedi Council. Kylo had seen holovids of him slaughtering armies in the Clone Wars. He had heard the tales of Darth Vader that Leia had tried to keep from him.
Anakin Skywalker was kind to his friends, and brutal to his enemies. In Kylo’s world, Darth Vader had had mostly enemies.
But in this world, he would be lucky. He would have a friend, a grandson, who would accompany him on the climb up to the highest rungs of power.
Kylo smiled. “You are lucky to have had him as a master,” he said.
“Whatever,” Ahsoka said. “He’s just as lucky to have me. Hey, did I tell you about the time I saved him from a flock of rampaging tauntauns…”
* * *
Ahsoka led him to an eating hall for lunch. Kylo was pleased to see Anakin sitting alone at a table. Anakin brightened when he saw them approach.
“Hey, Snips. Hey, uh, Ben.”
“Master Fitso says my Shoto work has improved,” Ahsoka said eagerly.
“That’s great, Snips! And what have you been doing with Ben?”
“I showed him around the Temple. He liked the Archives, didn’t you, Ben?”
Anakin wrinkled his nose almost exactly the same way that Ahsoka had earlier. “Wait ’till you hit up the dojo, Ben. That’s the real deal.”
“Unfortunately, I misplaced my lightsaber.”
“We’ll get you a training one,” Ahsoka said quickly. “Maybe we could spar tonight, Master?”
“I have to meet with the Chancellor,” Anakin said with regret.
Ben’s head shot up. “You know the Chancellor?” he asked. “That’s Chancellor…”
“Palpatine, yes,” Ahsoka sighed. “They’re old friends, aren’t you, Master?”
“Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is a great man, Ahsoka.”
“He always drags me into boring conversations about Shili,” Ahsoka confided to Ben.
“Hey! You should be honoured to speak with the Supreme Chancellor,” Anakin said. “Anyway, I promised him I’d see him as soon as I was back on Coruscant. I can’t miss it.”
“Tomorrow night, then,” Ahsoka suggested.
“Ah. No. I can’t do that either.”
Kylo would never have interrogated any of his masters with such temerity, even Luke, but Ahsoka raised an eyebrow and demanded, “And why not?”
Was that a blush across Anakin’s cheeks? Certainly the set of his jaw was unnecessarily firm. He looked like a different person. Like a man with something to hide. “Uh, well, if you must know, I have an assignment. Senator Amidala is hosting a small gathering of political allies and has asked me to provide extra security.”
Padme, Kylo thought. And before the thought had even formed in his mind, the words spilled out of his mouth: “I would love to attend such a gathering.”
Anakin and Ahsoka looked at him as though he’d lost his mind. They spoke as one:
“So first he’s interested in the Archives,” Ahsoka said.
“Now he wants to go and see a bunch of politicians,” Anakin finished.
“There’s got to be something wrong with him.”
“Are you sure you were properly checked out at the med labs?”
“Quite sure,” Kylo hissed. “I happen to have close political ties, in my time. I would be very interested in meeting this senator friend of yours, Master Skywalker.”
Anakin did not look very eager to oblige, but Ahsoka shrugged. “There’s always good food at Padme’s parties. You might as well have us for extra back-up, Sky Guy. I’ll keep an eye on this one for you.”
Anakin seemed to swallow back some dark feeling and forced a smile on to his lips, though it didn’t meet his eyes. “All right. Of course you can come.”
Kylo was sorry that his intrusion came at the expense of Anakin’s good will. But now he was to meet his grandmother, to see his grandparents in the same room. That was more than Luke or Leia had ever done.
Tomorrow night couldn’t come soon enough.
* * *
After lunch, Kylo asked Ahsoka to take him back to the Jedi Archives. It did not take much convincing that he would be perfectly safe unattended down there, and finally he was left to his own devices.
He allowed himself a moment to take in the power of the room, the learnings of generations.
Kylo’s parents had never understood his interest in history. Even Luke had been uneasy about it, especially when Kylo asked so many questions about Darth Vader, about the Sith.
Philistines, all of them.
Kylo strode slowly through the archives.
First he looked up the year. He ran a quick mental conversion and figured it was early in 19 BBY. Some months, then, before the formation of the Empire.
Then he looked at the latest holonews updates. The Clone Wars were waging on many fronts. They knew in Kylo’s time that this was part of Palpatine’s genius. The Jedi were stretched thin, and allowing warriorhood to taint their blood. Luke would pontificate about this often as a lesson for the Jedi in detachment, even from the ruling government.
The complete opposite of you, then, Kylo thought. Visions swum through his head of Luke and Leia sitting for hours on the balcony when Luke came to visit, plotting ways for his tiny band of Jedi to prop up Leia’s pathetic excuse for a Republic.
From there, Kylo dipped his toes in many other waters. He read about the latest legislative successes of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, and felt as though he could see the Sith Lord’s plans for dominance clicking into place. He read philosophy, meditations and speculations on time travellers, discovering that there was almost no orthodoxy, and certainly no known time travellers. He devoured all he could on the Sith, which wasn’t much, because most of the information on that requested a passcode and when he asked the testy librarian about that she snipped that he would need to be granted permission by a Jedi Master.
Somehow Kylo didn’t see Obi-Wan being enthusiastic about that plan.
Still, there was plenty more to research. Kylo couldn’t believe when he looked at the chrono and saw that it was past dinner time. He extracted himself from the holo terminal, his back aching more than after duelling practice, and strode back towards Obi-Wan’s quarters.
He found the door easily and was pleased when it recognised his bio signature and opened without him knocking. Obi-Wan was inside, stroking his beard and speaking intently with Master Windu. Perhaps it was the artificial light, but Obi-Wan seemed to have developed wrinkles deeper than a meridian trench.
The Masters turned t him.
“Ah. Ben.” Obi-Wan sounded almost exactly like Leia when Kylo would turn up in the lounge room when she was deep in discussion with her advisors. He may as well have said: Ah. The Inconvenience. What does it want from me?
“I’m going to bed,” Kylo mumbled, and went to his room.
It took only seconds after he shut his door for Obi-Wan and Master Windu to resume their conversation in hushed tones. The great Jedi Masters, lost in pointless contemplation while they served a Republic that would soon destroy them.
Kylo smiled to himself and headed for the fresher. He would have the last laugh.
* * *
Hours later, Kylo lay restless in bed.
It was oppressive here, being smothered in a blanket of peace and serenity. It tempted him into complacency.
He needed to go somewhere, let the anger and the hate flow through him. To be unable to feel the heady pain of the dark side… It was greater than any trial Snoke had put him through.
To comfort himself, he thought of the chaos and destruction he and Anakin would reap as they tore through the Temple, lightsabers blazing. Obi-Wan’s smug reproachful face, detatched from his body. The shock in Ahsoka’s eyes. He thought of the satisfaction of so many bodies, crumbling like felled pines; of the rush he would feel, surely more powerful even than that of desecrating Luke’s Temple –
Except that it felt so much less personal here. Before he had been destroying his uncle’s life work. Here he was destroying history.
He thought that maybe he would ensure they saved the bronzium statues in the entrance hall. As a testament to what they had destroyed.
The rest would burn.
Over another breakfast of fresh, ripe fruit, Obi-Wan surprised Kylo by announcing that he wished to spar with him that afternoon.
“Well, why not?” Obi-Wan said. “I always enjoy having a new sparring partner. And I would be very interested to see what new tricks you have in the future.”
“Okay.” Kylo ate another piece of fruit. He was allowing himself to savour them, this morning. Living in the present.
“Do you know much about the war?” Obi-Wan asked, contemplating his own piece of fruit. He made it sound casual, but it was clearly something he had deliberated about asking.
“There’s no neutral way to answer that question,” Kylo admonished, enjoying being able to tell Obi-Wan off.
“I suppose not.” Obi-Wan sighed, chastened. “It’s just… you can imagine, it is a difficult time for the Jedi. To know our place in the galaxy. What is right and what isn’t.”
“The Force is very clouded,” Kylo observed.
“Yes. It is hard to see the path forward.”
Kylo shrugged. “I wish I could help.” It was a pat answer and a lie. Obi-Wan swallowed it like the gullible fool he was.
“You are quite right, though, of course, Ben. You mustn’t tell me anything of the future. Force knows I can hardly be trusted to know the right thing to do.”
I am so sick of disingenuous modesty, Kylo seethed. He stabbed another piece of fruit. Obi-Wan raised that gods-damned eyebrow. “The fruit is not to blame for your predicament, Ben.”
Kylo gritted his teeth. He didn’t trust himself to speak.
“Perhaps I might suggest that you spend the morning meditating,” Obi-Wan suggested mildly. “You may find that the Force guides your footsteps.”
“Yes, I think I will,” Kylo said.
He needed to think about his plan some more, anyway.
* * *
He sat in the room Ahsoka had shown him yesterday, the one with a thousand bubbling fountains. The water tumbled around him, at different rates yet all flowing into one sound. He tried to pick out the sounds of each individual fountain, one by one.
There were other Jedi in the room, some meditating, some talking quietly, but Kylo finally felt alone, felt centred. At last he could think.
His thoughts, though, would not focus on the task at hand. He kept thinking back to Anakin, his strong, charismatic presence. His dazzling smile. His jokey rapport with Ahsoka.
They made him feel almost – pleasant. Content. Perhaps… perhaps even happy.
He shoved those thoughts away. He had to focus.
He let his shoulders fall, his legs relax. He could feel each drip of water and every blade of grass. He could feel time shimmering around him, so close he could almost touch it. Everything he did – if he held up his hand or shook his hair – all of this was an anomaly, all of it would change a tiny moment of history. In all of the vast and ancient records of the universe known to the Republic, he alone had been granted this privilege.
The force wills it, sounded a voice in his head that was almost like the girl Rey’s.
It will come to you when you are ready.
Kylo sighed. He wished to know now, not when the force got around to telling him.
And yet, there was rightness in the thought. The force would show him, in time. For now he was where he should be, sitting on a grassy mound in a room of a thousand fountains.
He felt a oneness; a clarity of soul, body and mind that he had never felt before. Was this what Luke meant when he spoke of transcendence?
Kylo’s eyes flew open. This was the light side!
He was sitting here in pleasant comfort, allowing himself to be seduced by the light side of the Force.
The air stunk with the stench of Jedi corruption.
And yet, it was a light, airy fragrance. It felt so clear. So true. Snoke would have said it was beguiling him. But Snoke himself had spent a lot of time manipulating Kylo. Not everything Snoke said was right.
Kylo had destroyed Snoke, which spoke to a weakness in the man’s methods. Kylo was Supreme Leader now. He was wise, and dark, and powerful.
He was no Jedi, nor Sith. He was a Master of the Force.
If the Force gave him clearness of mind, he would take it, and use it to his own ends. His inherent darkness would taint it until it ran black, and cloaked him in a power so strong that no one could stand in his way.
Kylo was the one in control here.
* * *
Neither Anakin nor Ahsoka were in the eating hall at lunch, so Kylo ate alone.
After lunch, Kylo met Obi-Wan outside a practice gym. The Jedi Master handed him a yellow training saber.
It was an insult to the most powerful Force user of his day, but Kylo could not mention that without saying who he was.
Obi-Wan must have seen something of a sneer on his face and said lightly, “It is a pity you lost your lightsaber, but it can do us good to be reminded not to rely on our knowledge of our blade, and rather our connection with the Force.”
Kylo said nothing, and ignited his lightsaber, assuming an opening pose.
Obi-Wan frowned. “What form do you practice?”
“Form?” Kylo vaguely remembered something about forms from a half-corrupted holocron he had studied. “Uh, well, not one form, exactly. I think mine may resemble Form V… So Djem, something like that…”
“You don’t know what form of lightsaber combat you practice?”
If he didn’t have a pathetic training saber, Kylo could have happily slashed the politely bemused look off Kenobi’s face. “No I don’t. We don’t value such distinctions when I’m from. Is that a problem or are we here to spar?”
“It’s very unorthodox,” Obi-Wan muttered, opening his chest and pulling his lightsaber across it like some kind of Twi’lek rope dancer. “But no matter. Let’s see this lightsaber combat without a form.”
At first they sparred slowly and carefully, getting a feel for the other’s style. Kenobi’s style was defensive; he met Kylo’s swings easily and as Kylo grew frustrated and slashed faster and harder, Obi-Wan used his momentum against him, twisting Kylo from side to side so that he was doing most of the legwork.
Unable to channel the power of the dark side without giving himself away, Kylo felt like he was fighting in mud. He usually dueled with little conscious effort, letting the Force flow through him and fuel his attacks. He would cast himself on the slick mudslide of anger, his blade out of his control, his body two steps ahead of his mind.
Having to be more present in the duel allowed him to strategize, but slowed him. Kenobi’s quick precise defence was sending him spinning and twisting, letting someone who’d barely made one aggressive move dominate the battle.
Kylo Ren was not to be dominated.
He couldn’t channel the dark side. So he would have to open himself to the light.
He thought back to his Padawan days, of foot upon ruins, the cool smooth clarity of the Force floating up from the hallowed grounds of Luke’s old temple. Even then he had struggled with darkness, but he had not usually channelled it in sparring, lest Luke start preaching again about giving in to his anger.
That cool light was even more powerful in this temple. He let it flow into him, let it direct his movements, and he could feel his steps quickening, his awareness accelerate –
And the blade of Obi-Wan, half an inch from his neck.
Kylo glared at the Jedi Master. “Solah,” he spat.
Obi-Wan laughed and withdrew his blade. “You fought well, considering you seem to have had very little training.”
“I was the top of my class – ”
“Who did you say trained you again?”
Obi-Wan’s voice was curious, not critical, but Kylo’s heart stung with bitterness as he said, “He called himself a Jedi Master, but I’m beginning to see just how deluded he truly was.”
Though you never truly beat Luke in a duel, did you? a traitorous voice whispered inside his head.
“Well,” Obi-Wan said with that unerring politeness that was just short of mockery, “I must say that it was its own kind of challenge, to face someone who does not have grounding in the usual Forms. Unpredictable, certainly. But it makes your style a little haphazard. You may benefit from some solo practice. Do you know any katas?”
Kylo scowled. “What is a kata?”
Obi-Wan’s incredulous frown made an unwelcome return. “The kata are the most basic warm-ups, an opportunity to run through your saber forms… You have never learnt the katas?”
“Like I say,” Kylo all but hissed between clenched teeth; he had to force himself to relax his jaw, unclench his heart, “we do things differently in my time.”
So Obi-Wan introduced him to Form I, with its flowing movements and simple flourishes, and taught him the first Form I kata.
It struck Kylo as he performed the kata, the cool fresh Force moving through him like river-water, that he was far and away the most learned Jedi of his time, would have been even were Luke still alive.
The thought filled him with smug pleasure. He tried to ignore the image that came to mind, of himself hastening back to the future to tell Master Luke everything he had learned, as he had done when he’d scrambled his way out of hours spent with the few Jedi holocrons and texts that Luke had recovered.
“Good,” Obi-Wan said, smiling, as Kylo sped through the kata faster and faster, imagining each swipe of the blade neatly tearing through his uncle’s flesh. “Very well done, Ben.”
I think it's clear in the OT and the ST that the quality of Jedi, particularly swordsmanship, has declined sharply since the days of the Republic. Kylo was pretty effective in his duel in TLJ, but he was chaotic, undisciplined, and a far cry from the glory days of lightsaber combat.
I hope you're looking forward to Kylo meeting Padme (and Bail) in the next installment :p
If Obi-Wan was surprised to discover that Anakin had volunteered, without the Council’s knowledge or sanction, to provide Jedi protection of a commonplace political soiree, he did not make it known to Ben.
“Well, enjoy your evening with the politicians,” he said, sounding very doubtful about whether enjoyment was possible in such conditions.
“I will,” Kylo assured him, even though he too hated such events. He had attended many in his childhood as his mother’s showpiece, before it became clear that he was a hindrance, not a help, to her cause.
He remembered the last one. He was twelve, and the very pretty twelve-year-old daughter of the King of Zeltros had clearly been sent his way to make his acquaintance, despite her obvious reluctance. Kylo remembered with relish the look on her face as she had run screaming to her father about sorcery, after he’d shown her how he could use the Force to decapitate the Nexufish lying dead on the banquet table.
It hadn’t been long after that that he’d been sent to Luke. That had kept him well out of the way of Leia’s parties.
He was glad he would be attending this event in his Jedi robes, and not the scratchy traditional Alderaanian garments that Leia had always paraded him in. He had to admit that Jedi robes were very comfortable.
Ahsoka and Anakin fetched him from his rooms. They were in Jedi garb, too, although Kylo saw that Anakin’s hair was slightly smoother than usual and he had a whiff of algoraspice about him.
Obi-Wan’s expression was neutral as he said, “Say hello to Senator Amidala for me.”
“Of course,” said Anakin, bowing slightly.
Anakin strode quickly to the speeder hanger, as though annoyed at having an entourage, but Kylo’s long legs kept up easily and Ahsoka was clearly used to half-running after her master. At one stage she met Kylo’s eyes and rolled hers.
“Don’t worry about him,” she whispered. “He’s in one of his moods. Master Windu told him off in our mission debrief with the Council.”
Kylo raised an eyebrow in a way that, if he’d thought about it, almost resembled Obi-Wan.
He sat down in the back of the speeder and tried to focus on the evening Coruscanti skyline, and not images of Master Windu’s head hanging off the end of his lightsaber.
Padme’s apartment was in the Senate Apartment Complex, which even in Kylo’s time was the domain of only the most established and prestigious galactic personalities. It was only natural that Padme live there. This was his mother’s side of the family, after all, and she had always had a patrician elegance.
As they made their way through the lobby and towards the elevator, Kylo realised Anakin and Ahsoka looked considerably more uncomfortable amongst this opulence. Anakin looked like Luke had when he’d attended such gatherings; vaguely ill, like he missed the simple harshness of the desert.
Kylo hated to think of Luke and, worse, disrespect Anakin by comparing them. He instead fixed his eyes and his mind on the skyline, vibrant and sparkling through the elevator windows. But that only made him think how jealous his mother would be of him attending an senatorial gathering in the golden age of the Republic, and that only made bitterness rise up in his chest, and that made Anakin flick him a questioning look, and –
“We’re here,” Ahsoka said, strolling out of the elevator.
Anakin puffed up his chest and ran a hand through his hair. “I’ll greet the Senator and see what she needs us to do. You two station yourselves at the front of the apartment. But make it subtle.”
“There’s nothing subtle about two Jedi standing at your front door,” Ahsoka grumbled, looking longingly towards the huge spread in the middle of the main room.
Kylo grinned despite himself. As he took in the grandeur of the living quarters, he felt a warmth in his chest. This was where he belonged. The Force wanted him here, and he wanted to be here. He was about to meet his grandmother.
“I’m sure only one of us really needs to guard the door,” he said indulgently, and gestured for Ahsoka to hit the buffet. “You can bring me back some Nabooian puff cubes, if they have them.”
“On it,” Ahsoka grinned, and scampered.
Kylo watched the guests arrive in their finery. He recognised the high collars and low waists that were fashionable in the last years of the Galactic Republic. Those who looked at him he acknowledged with a nod, but most did not look. He supposed a Jedi escort blended into the background in these troubled days.
“Hello,” a young Sorrusian giggled at him. “You’re a new face, I expected to see the Hero With No Fear again tonight.”
Kylo would not indulge such nonsense. “He’s here as well. I’m in training.”
“Well,” she giggled, “let him know So’ma was asking after him.”
Kylo looked away. She was nothing to him and he would not acknowledge her any longer.
With a slight hmpf, she took the hint and left him.
“Hey, Ben, heads up,” Ahsoka said, almost walking into him with a plate piled up with gumbol wings.
Kylo regarded this, unimpressed. “Where are the Nabooian puffs?”
“They’ve got a whole table of them, I thought you could choose your own. I’ll stand guard for a while.”
“If you’re sure…”
Ahsoka shrugged. “You’re the one who wants to mingle with the politicians. I can eat here as much as anywhere.” To prove her point, she took a huge bite of a wing.
“Very well,” Kylo said, and left before he had to hear her take another.
The tables in the middle of the room were piled high with food from a great number of Core worlds, including several varieties of the Nabooian puff cubes, and a fountain bubbling with Coruscant Sparkle. Kylo had attended some of the New Republic’s most glamorous functions and could scarcely remember one so well-catered as this modest soiree in a Senator’s apartment.
The late Republic. A most decadent age, Snoke’s voice sneered in his ear.
Kylo reached for a fried puff cube and crunched into it hard to block out the disembodied voice.
At his shoulder, someone said, “Pass me a spiced puff?”
Kylo took two into his tongs and turned to the speaker; starting, he all but dropped them onto his plate.
“You’re Bail Organa.”
The man assumed the blank expression of one who is often told his name by people who are unknown to him. “Indeed I am, Master Jedi. Have we met?”
“No – uh – we haven’t, I just – know who you are.”
Of all people to be starstruck by: his mother’s adoptive father – the man who had turned Leia down the foolish path of Rebellion – who had been a mere pawn in the face of Darth Vader’s great battlestation – the man to whom, yes, Kylo owed his exiled princeship…
“Oh. Well, I hope I live up to it. May I enquire your name?”
Kylo had a vision of the holos he had studied, at length, under the blankets at Luke’s academy, and on the viewcaster in his rooms on the Supremacy, when he felt his heart was growing weak with thoughts of his family. The dark emptiness of a planet obliterated.
“My name is Ben,” he said.
“Master Ben. Pleased to make your acquaintance,” Bail said, extending a hand smoothly.
Kylo managed his plate clumsily as he returned the handshake. He hoped he hadn’t gripped too hard.
There was a cavernous pause in the conversation. Kylo had never learned his mother’s art with words, so he stumbled around for something to say and only came up with:
“I admire your position on the Dewar policy.” A nonsense policy about Senate sanitation, no doubt thrown onto the legislative roster by Palpatine to overwhelm an already-stretched legislature. Why couldn’t he think of something better to say to this man, about whom he barely cared at all?
And now Bail Organa gave him a look that Kylo knew well. It said: you’re entirely unimportant but I’ll let you believe that I’m listening with great interest to whatever nonsense you’re saying.
Leia must have learned it from him.
Kylo resented the look being used against him, even if he had been inane.
“In any case,” Kylo said, “I must be going.”
Bail didn’t try to stop him and Kylo retreated with his plate of puff cubs, ears burning with the shame of having disappointed another relative, and of caring that he’d disappointed him.
Speaking of relatives. There in front of him was a frieze of Skywalker dysfunction: his grandparents, shining with youth and beauty, power and happiness, laughing at each other’s words in a corner that was probably more exposed than they thought it was. Kylo watched, transfixed.
They moved with an ease and a self-consciousness that Han and Leia had never had. Padme’s eyes, so like Leia’s, staring dotingly at Anakin, who was smiling goofily at her even as he maintained his strict Jedi posture. They shone with love that would break a galaxy. That he would use to forge a new one.
“Oh! Excuse me,” a tinny voice rang out at his ear. “I say, you are blocking the buffet.”
Kylo turned to glare at C-3PO, that goldenrod imbecile that still managed to haunt him fifty years in the past. He glared with the full passion of his hatred for his parents, of the mockery they made of love, of his hatred for the Jedi Order that kept him from growing up knowing his grandparents.
It was a bit much for the droid to take. It gestured wildly. “My mistake, Master Jedi. I will leave you to your – business.”
“Thank you,” Kylo growled, and helped himself to another puff cube.
He didn’t have a chance to speak to Padme until much later in the evening, when only a core twenty or so guests remained, reclining on couches while a harpist played music from the lakes district of Naboo.
Kylo was stationed at the door nearest the balcony, where Padme had been entertaining several Senators that Kylo knew would become important in the Alliance.
They had all drifted back into the room but Padme stayed on her balcony, contemplating the vista.
“You throw a good party,” Kylo remarked, moving just outside the balcony doors, watching the way the lights illuminated her cheekbones.
Padme smiled at him, a smile so similar to Leia’s, the warmth spreading to her soft brown eyes. “That’s kind of you to say, Master Jedi.”
She had a refined lilt to her voice that spoke of years of training. Kylo said lamely, “Jedi speak only the truth.”
Padme laughed, a tinkling, sweet laugh that he’d never heard from Leia. “I have the greatest respect for the Jedi, but I’m not sure I can agree with you on that.”
Kylo shrugged. He didn’t agree either.
Padme was eyeing him with warmth but also appraisal. He looked at the glass in her hand and wondered if perhaps she’d had a bit to drink. “What is your name?”
“Ben,” he said, and for once it felt right. That was the name she would have known him by, had she known him.
“Ben,” she said, and it was just how he’d imagined she’d say it, full of respect and trust and genuine care. “Are you a friend of Anakin’s? He’s never brought other Jedi here before.”
“I – yes, I suppose. I think of him as a friend.”
“That’s a politician’s answer,” Padme scolded gently, as she might have scolded young Ben for holding his fork the wrong way. “Are you good to him?”
“Then you are his friend.” She waved Kylo closer, and he went to lean out on the railing of the balcony next to her. It was clear that she had something to share, so he stood close. He tried not to look like he was smelling her scent. She smelled like sunsets and fresh air.
“Anakin is my friend too,” Padme confided, and Kylo thought, she has been drinking.
“He is a good man.”
Padme contemplated the silhouette of the Senate building, over the Senate district. “He is a hero, I know. But I worry… sometimes I think it’s too much pressure for him.” She sighed. Her gaze didn’t move from the Senate. “He has… so many expectations resting on his back.”
“I know,” said Kylo. And he did know. He felt them, as heavy as the burdens he had cast off when he joined Snoke. He and Anakin had a lot in common; he’d known that ever since he discovered that the valorous Anakin Skywalker and fearsome Darth Vader were one and the same. He just needed Anakin to recognise it too.
“Sometimes I think, if he just had someone in the order he could talk to…” Padme sighed, and turned to smile shyly at Kylo. Her gaze was so concerned and gentle, so much like his mother’s that Kylo could barely look away; she seemed intrigued, too, as though there was something familiar in him, something she recognised…
“What is going on out here?” Anakin Skywalker thundered, stomping towards them. They sprung apart guiltily, like the conspirators they were.
“We were just talking,” Padme said, her chin tilted up in defiance (a look he had seen Leia wear oh, so many times).
Anakin turned to Kylo who tried to look disinterested and innocent at the same time. “I was just asking about the anti-war financing bill,” he said.
“I’m sure,” Anakin said, turning to Padme. “They’re asking for you, they want you to sing along with the harpist.”
“Oh,” Padme sighed. “I’d rather they all went home.”
Anakin chuckled. “Not until you’ve performed, I think, my lady.”
Padme returned to her guests and Anakin fixed Kylo with a suspicious glare. “Why did you want to come to this party so much? Was it to see her?”
“I’ve never even met the Senator before,” Kylo said with insouciance. “I told you, I’m interested in politics. I wanted to see what a Coruscanti soiree was like. I’ve never been to one.”
“Hmm,” pondered Anakin. It was clear Kylo was not quite forgiven, but perhaps his wonkishness was almost convincing enough. “If you ask me, you looked quite at home.”
He left Kylo on the balcony, contemplating how, among many, many failures where family was concerned, managing to screw up the opportunity to befriend his grandfather – arranged by the Force itself – was the most pathetic.
A few hours later, when the last guest finally left, Anakin said gruffly, “The Senator and I have to discuss logistics for a moment, we’ll be back.”
“Logistics of what?” Ahsoka all but moaned.
“Her next security detail. We’ve discussed patience, Ahsoka. A Jedi must do his duty.”
As Anakin all but shoved Padme towards her private quarters, Kylo thought of what Ahsoka had said about Anakin’s do as I say, not as I do teaching style.
“Fired redsprout?” Ahsoka offered glumly, holding up a plate of the curly red foodstuff.
“Is that all that’s left?” Kylo was unimpressed. How had a few Senators managed to demolish five tables heaving with food? Decadent times indeed.
“Not unless you want flat Sparkle wine,” Ahsoka sighed, and slunk down on a hovercouch.
When Anakin emerged a few minutes later he looked warily at the two of them, like Han when he noticed that Ben still hadn’t had dinner yet and it was after bedtime.
“Come on,” he sighed. “I’ll drive you home.”
“You don’t have to make it sound like a chore. Even if we weren’t here you’d still have to drive back,” Ahsoka said reasonably. Anakin’s jaw tightened.
Padme laughed. “Good night, Anakin, Ahsoka, Ben.”
“Good night,” Kylo said, smiling at her.
The speeder ride home was silent and tense. Anakin sped quickly through the lanes, even though they were still bustling with traffic. He tensed when he saw the Jedi Temple. Kylo could imagine what he was thinking. The Jedi’s arcane rules were the only obstacle to Anakin’s unbridled happiness. If it weren’t for them, he and Padme could be like any other young couple, flaunting their love without a care who saw them. Gods knew Han and Leia had done enough of that, during the good patches.
Kylo felt sorry for Anakin. Even more than Kylo, he was trapped by fate and circumstance. He had been a slave and then he’d been a Jedi. He was a powerful Force user, the subject of prophecy. He might never have realised that the Jedi were holding him back…
Anakin didn’t have the gift that Kylo had, of a voice in his ear assuring him that there was something greater to aspire to, that he could make his own destiny. Kylo wondered what Palpatine said to Anakin to make him realise that he was more powerful than the Jedi. He wondered whether he should mention to Anakin that there were other ways forward…
No, better play it safe for a bit. He had not yet earned Anakin’s trust.
Next to Kylo, Ahsoka knew nothing of the dark thoughts that were going through the others’ heads. After Anakin dropped them in the Temple’s landing bay and went to park the speeder, she confided to Kylo, “He going to pace around the living area all night now. I can never sleep when he’s like this.”
“Perhaps Master Kenobi would lend you a spare room,” Kylo suggested.
Ahsoka’s eyes grew wide. “Oh, I could never tell him what goes on.” Her voice dropped even lower. “Obi-Wan doesn’t approve of some of Anakin’s moods. So I try not to let him see them. Isn’t that what a Padawan should do?”
If she wants her master isolated and his resentment left to fester, absolutely, Kylo thought smugly. “Of course,” he said aloud.
Ahsoka nodded to herself. “Yes, that’s what I thought.”
Anakin strode over, a ball of barely-contained frustration. “Come on, Ahsoka, time for bed,” he snapped.
Kylo followed them, basking in Anakin’s darkness, until their paths diverged outside the corridor to their respective living quarters.
In his sleeper, he thought about Padme. She reminded him of Leia, yes. There were several superficial resemblances. But fundamentally Padme was nothing like Leia. Padme cared for Anakin with the love Leia only reserved for her Republic. Padme would never send a child away. Padme would never be frightened of her own flesh and blood. After all, Padme had married Anakin, and even Kylo had to admit that Anakin’s power was a little intimidating.
Yes, he decided, Padme was worth preserving. Anakin clearly loved her fervently, and that could be useful. Her rebelliousness would need to be quashed, but perhaps she could be given a star system to control, or the Empire’s outreach program or something.
Kylo knew that he was a monster. He knew his mere existence had destroyed his family, long before he’d thrust his lightsaber through Han Solo.
But he couldn’t begrudge Anakin and Padme their love. He would not destroy their family for the sake of his Empire. He knew Padme would come around to their new order, for Anakin’s sake.
Now he just had to convince Anakin to join him.
Next up: Kylo undertakes his mission to befriend Anakin. It goes... well, we all know Kylo's not the best at making friends.
Kylo had never been good at making friends. He had intimidated most people by virtue of his provenance, and his odd and impatient demeanour had usually scared off anyone willing to give him a go.
He’d certainly never been good at endearing himself to his family.
Yet that was what he must do. He had an advantage, of course: he and Anakin had much in common. The darkness that had festered in his soul as a boy was doing the same in Anakin now. He just had to get Anakin to look past his suspicion of Kylo, and to see their similarities.
The way he saw it, Anakin devoted himself to two things: combat, and Padme.
Kylo would make himself unavoidable on both fronts.
First, sparring. Obi-Wan had said that it was unpredictable to duel with someone who had such an unorthodox style. Kylo hoped this novelty would be attractive to Anakin.
He introduced this concept subtly at lunch with Ahsoka.
“Obi-Wan says my duelling style is unusual. Can you ask Anakin if he wants to duel with me?”
“Uh, I can ask, but he’s pretty busy right now. I think he’s preparing for a new mission. He’s had to spend the day at the Senate with Padme.” Ahsoka took a bite of her roll. “I practise Jar’Kai, though, if you want to go up against that.”
“What is Jar’Kai?”
“Oh, it means I use two lightsabers.”
Kylo was mildly impressed. She must not be a terrible duelist, if she could handle two sabers at once.
“I suppose I could spar with you."
“Great! I’ll meet you in the dojo tomorrow after breakfast. I have to run now, I’m taking an intensive on the Andalessian Wars.”
“Really? That’s a fascinating topic,” Kylo said. We never had such classes at Luke’s academy.
Ahsoka was eyeing him suspiciously, as though she thought he was being sarcastic, so he added, “I mean it.”
“You can’t. No one likes history intensives!”
“Why not? History can teach us so much. I wrote a dissertation on learning Jedi lessons from all the great conflicts at Luke – at my old academy.”
The dissertation had featured many old wars, but Kylo had most enjoyed learning about the Clone Wars and his grandfather’s heroics. It had been much later when he’d realised why his hero worship of Anakin had made Luke so uncomfortable.
“Well, if you like it so much, maybe you should offer to teach one of the classes. You’d have to be more interesting than old Master Jo’lyn.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Aw, come on, Ben. It’s not like you’re doing anything else.”
Kylo frowned. “I am conducting important research in the Archives.”
“Well then, conduct some research on Andalessia. Come on, I’ll take you to meet Master Jo’lyn before my lesson!”
* * *
Which was how Kylo ended up frantically combing the Archives, composing a lesson plan for Master Jo’lyn to review. Perhaps researching the old conflict would give him some insight on how to resolve his current predicament.
Plus, to be honest, he didn’t really have much else to do. The Force had told him to get closer to Anakin, but Anakin was a very difficult man to pin down. So Kylo focused on the one thing he could do.
He brought his lesson plan to Master Jo’lyn that evening, by the warm pink light of the Coruscant evening. The old Turian read it, her brow furrowed.
Kylo felt annoyed. If it was terrible she could just say so. And why should he, Supreme Leader of his time, have to debase himself in front of some obsolete Jedi Master like a schoolboy? He could just rip the plan straight back out of her hands –
“That’s good, Ben. It will do nicely,” Master Jo’lyn said.
“Really?” Kylo said, his voice pathetically weak.
“Yes, really.” She smiled kindly, as though she sensed his weakness. “You’re quite the scholar, aren’t you?”
“I’m interested in war.”
Her smile dropped for a moment before she saved it; like Leia’s when he’d said something awkward but she didn’t want to show her disappointment. “Well, I suppose it is a compelling topic. In any case, I think you will be a fine instructor. I’ll see you here tomorrow after lunch.”
Kylo nodded. “Good,” he said, and headed back for Obi-Wan’s rooms.
* * *
Obi-Wan was sitting at the table when Kylo returned. He had a bowl of warm broth in front of him and Kylo saw that there was another place set opposite him.
“Do you have company? I can go out again.” Kylo cursed himself for his awkwardness. What was it about these Jedi Masters that made him feel like a nuisance child again?
Obi-Wan looked at him strangely. “No, I rather thought you might like to join me for the evening meal.”
“Oh,” Kylo said. He had been intending to skip dinner. Missing meals and meditating on the gnawing hunger left behind was one of Snoke’s favourite methods of deprivation training. He looked at the warm broth. “Well. I suppose I could.”
“I didn’t cook it, I promise,” Obi-Wan said mildly, but Kylo sensed slight offence. There was that disappointment again.
He pulled out the stool and set about eating quickly.
Obi-Wan, blissfully, did not seem to feel the need to fill the silence. They ate in peace. When they were both done, Kylo took Obi-Wan’s plate as well as his and placed them in the sonic. Obi-Wan headed for the recliners at the other end of the room. Kylo was about to go to his room when Obi-Wan said, “Join me for a moment longer, would you?”
Kylo looked at the recliner opposite Obi-Wan suspiciously, and sat down like a man being sent to an interrogation chair.
“Ben,” Obi-Wan said seriously, “you know that I and the Council have made the decision not to push you for details on your future. We are content to let things play out as the Force wills it.”
“Thank you, Master,” Kylo said, hating that the words came so naturally to him.
“We have placed a great deal of trust in you. I believe that you are worthy of that trust. The Force tells me that your purpose here is just. But please understand. I have to ask. Why did you try to access the Sith holocrons in the Archives?”
The world crumbled around him.
All his boyish little plans, his hope that he could fool these idiots, blinded as they were by the clouded Force, and that for once he could achieve something great… it was all for nothing. He was discovered. The Jedi would have their vengeance and he would be destroyed…
Obi-Wan was looking at him curiously. Kylo realised that there was no accusation in his eyes, just caution. Whatever he might suspect, Obi-Wan had not jumped to any conclusions. He was giving Kylo a gift he had so rarely received: the benefit of the doubt.
Kylo had never deserved the benefit of the doubt, of course. He had always been evil at his core. Obi-Wan was a fool to extend it to him. He would use it to his full advantage.
He schooled his face into the look of innocent outrage that Leia always wore when someone accused her of doing something that she’d absolutely done. He projected what goodness he could find in himself into the Force.
“Master Kenobi – I respect you and all the Jedi Order very much, but there are things… about my world, where I’m from… that you know I cannot reveal.”
“Of course,” Obi-Wan said. “But Ben, those holocrons are dark, twisted things, and for you to seek them out… It’s a dangerous course of action. It has caused some understandable concern amongst the Masters.”
“I wasn’t – I didn’t know that’s what I was doing, honestly.” That was the truth, and he could project it easily. “I wanted all the information I could get on the Sith. I needed it. You must know, I’m sure you know, that the Sith… are not extinct.” He was well aware that this was not news to the Jedi, because Obi-Wan himself had faced and killed a Sith Lord when Anakin was very young. It was part of Luke’s narrative about his namesake.
“I know,” Obi-Wan said, still staring intently at Kylo.
“Well, at some stage, the Sith rise up again. They become very powerful. I need to know everything I can about them, about how to defeat them. That is why I am here.”
Obi-Wan’s face, usually so guarded, dropped all pretense. Dark circles seemed to open under his eyes and his lips parted slightly. His eyes grew distant, as though he was imagining the horrors wrought by Sith who had emerged from the darkness.
Whatever he was imagining, it could be nothing on the true horrors that would soon marr his life.
Watching the normally stoic Jedi crumble, Kylo felt almost sorry for him.
It was not long before Obi-Wan snapped out of it. He nodded to himself, sighed, and sat back in his recliner. His face took on the haggard, weary expression that he had worn when talking with Master Windu the other night.
“It is a dangerous path to walk, seeking to understand one’s enemies.”
“Sometimes with so much at risk, we must risk a little more.”
Obi-Wan gave a shrug that might have been a nod. He had a look of weary acceptance about him. It remined Kylo of Han and Lando Calrissian, watching the stars and reminiscing about old friends lost in old fights.
“A Jedi does not fear change,” Obi-Wan said at last. “We embrace it, as the banks of a river yield to the current.”
Lies, thought Kylo, but he suppressed it.
“Nonetheless,” Obi-Wan continued, “not all atrocities can be tolerated. The Jedi accept that we must take up arms. But we do not accept the Separatists’ attack on the Republic. The wisdom is knowing the difference.”
“With all due respect, Master Kenobi, the Jedi Masters do not have a monopoly on wisdom.”
Obi-Wan sighed. “Sometimes the complete opposite, I’m afraid.”
“I never asked to be sent back in time. But here I am. And you must trust that I am doing the will of the Force.”
Obi-Wan was now staring intently at the window, from where the flickering lights of the skyline could be seen. He seemed lost in his own thoughts, and said nothing for a long time.
Finally, he turned back to Kylo. “The Force is clouded now. It is impossible to know its true will, and arrogant to think that we can. But I trust that this will all play out as the Force wills it.” He smiled weakly, as though through a thick veil. “In the meantime, please come to me before undertaking anything sensitive. Others on the Council may not be as accepting.”
Kylo nodded. It was a fairly reasonable position, for a Jedi Master. He had expected worse of Luke’s favourite teacher.
“I do have one thing to ask,” Kylo said, “without wanting to give too much detail.”
“Yes?” said Obi-Wan warily.
“What I have to do… it is closely concerned with the Galactic Senate. I was wondering if perhaps you could arrange for me to meet with Senator Amidala to discuss these matters.”
Obi-Wans eyebrows shot up. It was clear this was about the last thing he had expected to be asked. “I suppose I can, if you really think it’s necessary.”
“Well. All right then. I’ll speak to the Senator, and see about getting you access to the speeder bay. You will only be able to travel between the Temple and the Senate, of course,” he added apologetically.
“I understand,” Kylo said. “The Council does not trust me.”
“It’s a mere precaution,” Obi-Wan said. “I’m sure you understand the Council’s position.”
Ah, that’s the good Jedi Master that Luke worshipped. All ready to lock me up in his ivory tower.
“Of course, Master,” Kylo said. “If I may, I’ll take my leave?”
“Certainly.” As Kylo rushed towards his room, Obi-Wan added, “One more thing, Ben.”
“Yes?” Kylo turned back reluctantly.
Obi-Wan smiled, the corners of his eyes wrinkling. “Ahsoka told me that you are going to help instruct her class on the Andalessian Wars. That’s very generous of you, Ben.”
Kylo could feel the blush starting in his ears. “It’s nothing, Master.”
“Not at all. It’s something you were not expected to do, and it’s a kindness to the Padawans.” Here Obi-Wan’s eyes took on some of their lighthearted twinkle. “I hear they are looking forward to a reprieve from Master Jo’lyn’s lectures.”
Kylo tried to return the smile, couldn’t manage it, and instead gave a sharp nod and went to bed.
* * *
He lay on the sleeper as he had every night, struggling to sleep. His thoughts flicked between topics, between times. Being embedded in the past made history seem all the more real. The foolishness of the Sith, the hubris of the Jedi; both of them had survived for so long, and yet in Kylo’s time there was only one scrawny girl and his young and untested Knights of Ren… It was like this Republic, that had stood so long that its base had grown week; like Leia’s Republic, so young it barely had a base to build on; like Luke’s temple, which had had barely anything to burn...
The past must die. But that left the present weak, unformed, like a baby’s skull… like his father’s skull, out there somewhere… no, he would be a child now, Han was older than Leia…
Kylo bashed his pillow and gritted his teeth. This could not continue. He needed sleep. He needed to clear his head, in order to do the will of the Force.
But he could not allow himself to sink into the comforting loathing of the darkness, not without being found out by the Jedi all around him.
There was nothing else for it. He allowed himself to call on the light, to wrap the comforting peace of the Temple around him like a blanket. He let it wash the questions from his mind and soothe him into sleep, cradled in serenity.
Just for tonight. Just until tomorrow.
Next up, I promise we'll actually get to see Anakin again, and it's finally time for Kylo v Ahsoka!
“So whaddaya think, big guy? Ready to be crushed?”
Kylo tried not to laugh. He wondered if he should take it easy on the Padawan. Her cockiness was almost charming.
“As the Force wills it,” he laughed.
“As the Force wills it,” Ahsoka returned.
At first they were both a little tentative, as Kylo and Obi-Wan had been. Kylo had never fought someone with two lightsabers before and he was surprised by how swift and acrobatic Ahsoka was. He realised she was pushing him towards the edge of the dojo and increased the power of his swings.
This barely touched Ahsoka however as she caught his lightsaber with her own, twisting it away from her as she leapt and spun.
Kylo sneered. “Are you dancing or duelling?”
“Maybe you could tell if you could keep up,” Ahsoka giggled, and spun around behind him so that he had to scramble awkwardly to deflect her, his lightsaber behind his shoulder.
How does she do that? Kylo thought, whipping around to stab her with his saber. But Ahsoka had obviously predicted this because she jumped above his saber’s path like it was a skipping rope and then batted it away with her left hand’s shoto sword. Kylo growled.
He was not going to be defeated by a child.
She was leaping down towards him and he swiped his saber at her exposed legs. Just in time she twisted to turn them into a high side kick; Kylo ducked and Ahsoka used her momentum to swing her saber towards his shoulder, where it singed his top before he leapt out of the way.
“Nice one, Ahsoka!”
Kylo turned and saw that Anakin was standing on the sidelines, watching with an amused expression.
Just what he needed. Anakin would get to see his precious Padawan take him out.
This was unacceptable.
Kylo turned back; Ahsoka was sprinting towards him, sabers swinging. He met her right-hand saber with a powerful swing, taking advantage of her momentum and knocking her slightly off-balance. He felt outrage and indignity course through him, and with them a dark, throbbing power. It was unwise to call on the dark side here but he didn’t care. He would not be defeated.
He pummelled Ahsoka with a series of thrashes, left then right then up down left up right. Hate fuelled his muscles and directed his actions, giving him split seconds of advantage as Ahsoka held back, Jedi to the core, and he committed.
He dominated her, smashing her sabers again and again, like a brutal game of whack-a-mole. He drove her backward, not giving her a moment’s reprieve to engage in her little tricks. With her almost in the corner he sliced at her knees, knowing she’d take the chance to jump; she did, over his head; he twisted away from her blow and aimed down at her –
But she was faster, she scrambled up and whipped out of his saber’s reach; he could not stop his momentum and his saber plowed into the floor, cauterising the mat with a hiss. Ahsoka was coming back to strike him and he got his saber up just in time to lock with hers, but her shoto was baring down on him, it was going to hit his neck –
He shoved her chest with the Force; she flew back and gasped, winded but upright. She paused, almost surprised, and he seized the moment. He struck her wrist with his lightsaber, hard; she hissed and dropped her saber. She came at him with the shoto but he was ready. He deflected it and she was still spinning towards him so he caught her injured wrist in his hand and squeezed, so hard he could feel the bones bend. She was staring into his eyes and she looked bewildered, looked almost afraid –
“That’s enough!” Anakin snapped, striding onto the mat. “Let her go, Ben.”
“She hasn’t surrendered!”
“Solah,” whimpered Ahsoka as Anakin bellowed, “Let her go!”
Kylo dropped Ahsoka’s wrist like the sack of meat it was and deactivated the training saber. He was breathing heavily, hair matted to his forehead. Ahsoka cradled her wrist with a whimper and Anakin stood over her, rubbing her back with one hand, the other gently taking the wrist. He shut his eyes and rubbed the wrist with his thumb. Kylo realised he was healing it.
“She lost the fight. She has earned the pain,” Kylo said.
Anakin turned to him with a dark glare. He let Ahsoka take back her wrist and approached Kylo. His chest pulled high he seemed as tall as Kylo, and for the first time Kylo could see how this stalwart Jedi could be a formidable Sith Lord.
“What do you think you’re doing, attacking my apprentice like that?”
“We were duelling.” Kylo’s voice was sullen.
“You were sparring! In the training room! Your tactics were unfair and unnecessary!”
“I don’t see why you expect me to apologise for winning!”
“Master, leave him alone,” Ahsoka urged, talking Anakin by the shoulder. “He’s right. I lost fair and square.”
“That wasn’t fair,” hissed Anakin, but it was more petulant than angry; the heat of rage had left him. Now he simply looked at Kylo like he was a bug hardly worthy of being squashed under his boot. “I don’t know why they even let you have a training saber. We know nothing about you.”
“Clearly I’m skilled at using a lightsaber.”
“If you say so,” Anakin scoffed. “Come on, Snips, let’s get that wrist looked at,” he said, and led Ahsoka out of the dojo. She didn’t meet Kylo’s eyes.
And so Kylo stood in the empty dojo, the world crumbling around him again. The Force had given him the gift of a new start with the only worthy part of his family, and once again he had destroyed everything. Once again he had earned the scorn of his own flesh and blood.
He reignited the training saber and entered the opening stance of Obi-Wan’s kata. He would learn the ways of these golden age Jedi. He hated to admit it, but Ahsoka had almost bested him; he feared that she would have, had she assigned their duel the same stakes that Kylo had.
And she was a mere Padawan.
He did the kata until his palms bled.
* * *
Kylo did not eat lunch. He washed in the fresher and then raced to get to the history class on time.
Master Jo’lyn announced him with great enthusiasm as a special guest presenter. Some of the students stared at him curiously; a few flicked glances at Ahsoka, who gave him a weak smile.
He swallowed. It was a generosity, much more than he was expecting. He nodded, hoping she could read the gratitude in his eyes, and began the lesson.
He allowed himself to get lost in the story of the first Andalessian campaign, mostly so he did not think about the few times he had instructed pupils at Luke’s academy. The time passed swiftly, first lecturing, then answering the Padawans’ questions. It seemed like no time had passed when Master Jo’lyn said, “I’m sorry Ben, but we’ll have to stop there for today. Perhaps you could join us next class as well?”
“Oh, please do!” one of the pupils cried out.
Kylo nodded. “Of course.”
He left quickly, before Master Jo’lyn had an opportunity to draw him into awkward conversation.
Half way down the corridor to his rooms he heard his name called out.
He turned. It was Ahsoka, looking, to her credit, only a little nervous. She swallowed. “Can we talk?”
Kylo sighed. “Yes.”
Ahsoka motioned him into a nearby room, that was a smaller version of the classroom they’d just left.
“I’m sorry about Master Anakin,” she said quickly. “He can be a bit… protective.”
She was apologising to him?
“I would have thought you’d be expecting an apology from me,” he said.
Ahsoka shrugged. “Well, obviously you got a bit carried away. I’m sure it’s something you’re working on in meditation.”
Something I’m working on in meditation? Kylo was not often shocked, but that would do it.
Imagine if Leia and Han had said to him, when in the middle of their argument he shattered the ancient Alderaanian vase with only his mind, It’s okay, I’m sure you’re working on it in meditation. There would have been no need to send him away to Luke’s academy. Or if Luke had seen the darkness in him and simply instructed him to meditate more, rather than igniting his lightsaber over Kylo’s sleeping form.
It was laughable. It was –
Well, it was a benefit of the doubt that had never been afforded him.
Then again, poor Ahsoka had no idea of the destruction that a Skywalker was capable of unleashing on the galaxy.
“Thank you,” he said finally. “It’s a propensity that I am aware of.”
Ahsoka chuckled. “Anakin can be a bit sensitive about aggression. I think it scares him to consider what he’s are capable of… In some ways I think you’re a lot alike.”
Kylo felt his chest swell with pride. He kept his face neutral. Well, it might have twitched a bit, trying to suppress a smile. But he didn’t think Ahsoka noticed.
“Anyway, truce?” she said.
“Want to come join me in the caf for dinner? I hear there’s Gumbah pudding tonight!”
“All right,” Kylo said, and followed her along.
It might not have been much, but taking advantage of the free food was surely one way to take revenge on the Jedi.
* * *
After dinner, Kylo went to the Room of a Thousand Fountains and stood in front of the waterfall for a very long time, studiously thinking of nothing. He cast out all thoughts of his parents and their many disappointed looks; of Luke’s growing frustration and fear of Kylo while he was training him, obvious yet unspoken; he was especially not thinking of Ahsoka’s confused expression as he squeezed the bones of her wrist together, or Anakin’s fury at him…
No. He was listening to the waterfall. It was almost loud enough to drown out the thoughts.
He returned to Obi-Wan’s quarters very late. Perhaps Obi-Wan thought he was already in bed. Perhaps that was why the Jedi Master’s door was partly ajar, allowing Anakin’s hushed whine to escape into the shared quarters.
Kylo tiptoed closer to the door and listened.
“I know what I felt. He was using the dark side of the Force.”
“I don’t doubt what you sensed, Anakin. There is clearly confusion in him. But at his core is goodness.”
Hah! thought Kylo smugly. The old Jedi truly were blind to the power of the dark side.
Obi-Wan continued, “Don’t forget that many of us have been guided by anger when sparring, especially early in our training. I don’t know what turmoil the galaxy is facing in Ben’s time, but I do not believe he has received anything like an adequate level of training. He is raw and undisciplined. He doesn’t even know the katas.”
“Ahsoka’s training has been sped up with the war effort. She doesn’t power herself with darkness.”
“Well, Ahsoka has had the great benefit of your excellent mentorship.”
Anakin laughed. It was the laugh of brothers, easy and familiar. Jealousy stabbed Kylo’s heart. Whether it was for Anakin in particular or because no one had ever laughed like that with him, he was unsure.
Anakin spoke. “You can’t flatter me into distraction, my former Master.”
Obi-Wan gave a warm chuckle. “Come now, my former Padawan, if I flatter you I flatter myself too. There’s more than enough flattery to go around.” There was a pause, and Kylo thought maybe he should retreat to his room. But then Obi-Wan spoke again.
“You must know, Anakin, that others have expressed similar concerns about yourself before. That you were too old, too unorthodox, unable to control your power – wait, let me finish – and they were all completely unfounded. You are a credit to the Jedi. You will make a fine Jedi Master one day, I know.”
Anakin said nothing for a long time. Then he said, “Something about him just makes me uneasy.”
“I would be happy to join you in meditating on it sometime.”
Anakin laughed. “You’re not tricking me that easily. Our meditation days are over, my Master.”
There was a sound like Obi-Wan clapping him on the back. This time Kylo did scamper into his room. Soon he heard the main door open, and someone turning on the sonic.
Despite Anakin clearly not trusting him, Kylo was buoyed by the conversation he had overheard. Anakin felt uneasy when he saw Kylo. Something about him unnerved him.
Kylo knew that feeling. Kylo had felt it many times, over those last few years at Luke’s academy.
It was destiny, great and powerful and dark and nipping at his legs, threatening to change everything.
And so it had. There was nothing he could do to stop it.
Kylo knew he would have Anakin soon.
And then, the galaxy.
Sorry I took so long to upload this chapter. I found it very difficult to edit. Lightsaber battles are hard to write!
I hope you don't all hate me for Kylo winning :p Imo Ahsoka is clearly a much stronger duelist, but I don't think she would be at all prepared for a fellow Jedi to be so savage in a friendly duel. Ben needs to learn to chill.
Obi-Wan seemed to have decided that if there were deficiencies in Kylo’s training, it was his cosmic duty to make up for them. Early the next morning he knocked on Kylo’s door and invited him to join him in the dojo. The invitation was not presented as though Kylo could refuse. And after all, why should he? This was an opportunity to learn lightsaber proficiency from a man who, irritating as he was, was a master of the art.
So Kylo drew on what untapped patience he had as Obi-Wan instructed him through Form I, which as far as Kylo could tell was basically lightsaber fighting for dummies, the kind of things he’d done as a young child with a stick and Luke watching him, reprimanding him for his posture, his breathing, his lack of control.
“You are performing the motions, Ben, but you’re not feeling them,” Obi-Wan admonished. “Form I is about the flow. Feel the sweep of the blade, the air, your body, working together, flowing through the Force…”
Kylo gritted his jaw.
“Allow yourself to truly feel your tension, and then let it flow through your arms, through the blade, away from you.”
Kylo did as Obi-Wan said, sort of. He let go of the stress of his mission here, of all the unknowns. But he couldn’t expel all of his tension, cherished and nurtured over decades. Tension was all that sustained him. Without it his body and possibly his heart would collapse into a puddle on the ground.
“Better,” Obi-Wan said. “Loosen your shoulders.”
“I – can’t.”
“You can’t, or you don’t wish to?”
Kylo completed the kata in silence.
Obi-Wan sighed. “Let’s try a little of Form II. It’s a very refined form, I think it would be good for you to learn it.”
* * *
Kylo ate breakfast alone while Obi-Wan went to do important Council work. It was strange to be alone after working with Obi-Wan so closely in the dojo. It had felt almost like having a master again.
Kylo did not wish to admit this to anyone, least of all himself, but it was unsettling not to have a master.
He had been free of Snoke for almost a week now. No voices in his head to tell him what to think. No commands to follow. He was his own man. Except of course that for almost the entire week he had been trapped in this oppressive sanctuary of a temple.
While being here had required a great deal of strategic thinking and suppression of his connection to the dark side, it had in some way been a reprieve from the inevitable headache that would be taking up the mantle of Supreme Leader.
And this time, when he became Supreme Leader, he would have his grandfather by his side.
If he could get Anakin to trust him, of course.
On that note, he cleaned up his breakfast and took a tour in the fresher. Just after their session in the dojo, Obi-Wan had pressed a chip loaded with Republican credits and a comlink in his hands, and told him that Senator Amidala was expecting him in two hours.
Now Kylo turned the ancient comlink over in his hands nervously. It was time for Part II of his plan to win Anakin’s affections.
He hoped it went better than his spar with Ahsoka.
* * *
Coruscant was hectic, but Kylo was glad to be in charge of a vehicle again and cruised the Jedi speeder through the Senatorial district with relish.
A message blipped up on the read screen informing him that he was exceeding the speed limit and the owner of the vehicle would be charged 50 credits. Kylo chuckled. Another opportunity to deplete the notoriously large coffers of the Jedi Order.
Obi-Wan had told him that one of Padme’s aides would be waiting to greet him at the entrance to the Senate building that housed her offices. He had not mentioned that the aide would be C-3PO.
With no Jedi nearby to sense him, he indulged his anger, feeling the old familiar burn of the Dark Side curling around his heart. As he followed the well-oiled joints of the rust bucket, they took him back to a thousand official visits where he’d trailed C-3PO around boring tourist sights while his mom had been busy entertaining dignitaries.
The darkness made him feel ill, a natural effect when it had not been gathered in so long, yet a surprise nonetheless. Surely a malevolent figure should be able to handle a little darkness without poisoning himself?
Not when that dark lord is as pathetic as you, he thought, and brooded his way through the resplendent Senate corridors.
It was just like the old days.
“We’re here,” C-3PO said with relish. “Follow me please, Master Jedi.”
“Don’t call me that,” Kylo snapped. “My name is Ben.”
“My apologies, Master Ben.”
Kylo swallowed. How many times had C-3PO called him that, in another life? He burned at the memory. But he could hardly ask goldenrod to introduce him as Kylo Ren, could he? So he would have to be Master Ben again, small and troublesome.
“May I present Master Ben,” C-3PO said as they entered the antechamber. A few human aides and one tall, gangly Gungan looked up from behind the desks. A dark-haired woman smiled at Kylo and gestured at one of the doors to the right.
“Senator Amidala is waiting for you, Ben. She’s just in her office.”
“Follow me,” C-3PO said haughtily.
“No thank you,” Kylo said, and strode through the door himself.
Padme’s office was sparsely decorated, dominated by floor-to-ceiling windows along one curving wall. She had a large desk with only a few datapads lying on it, as well as a series of comfortable-looking grey couches.
“Ben,” she said from one of these couches, her smile radiant even if her eyes were maintaining a polite distance. “It’s wonderful to see you again. Join me.”
Kylo perched awkwardly on the edge of one of the couches. Simple as it was, it was luxurious compared to the ascetism of the temple and the stark brutality of the Supremacy.
“I must say I was curious when Obi-Wan said you wished to see me,” Padme said.
She didn’t waste any time on pleasantries. Kylo liked that. It reminded him of Leia.
“I have very important information to discuss with you,” he said. “It is vital that we cannot to be overheard. By anybody.”
Padme blinked, and nodded slowly. “My room is not bugged.”
“All above reproach. And also unable to hear us.”
Kylo nodded. It would have to do. “What I have to tell you… the information I have… is of the utmost importance, but it is sketchy. There are many blanks that will need to be filled. I do not think you will be able to do it alone, but you must not involve anyone else. Not even your staff.”
Padme frowned. “I am no researcher – ”
“Ah, but I am.” Kylo smiled as best he could. He hoped it looked comforting. “I also have a lot of spare time on my hands. So I thought we could work together.”
“I will consider it. I’m sure you can understand that with the war, I must prioritise…”
“This concerns the war directly.” Kylo licked his lips. It was now or never. The Force urged him on. “The Separatist movement and the Clone Wars were orchestrated by someone embedded deep within the Republic, with the ultimate goal of its destruction. Every campaign, every leak, every victory and every defeat, can be traced to the scheming of this individual. All we need to do is prove it, and we will be able to end the hostilities. The galaxy will have peace.”
Padme blinked, very quickly, several times. He could sense that she was interested, but her tone only gave away the slightest curiosity as she said, “Who is this figure?”
“That I do not know,” Kylo lied, “but together, we can find out, and we can end this war.”
Padme stood and went to look out of her windows, a yearning look in her eyes in which Kylo recognised Leia and her fruitless quests for peace and justice. “I want to believe you,” she said. “But I can’t. It’s too… It’s unfathomable. Who could pull off such a vast conspiracy?”
“How else do you explain the sudden collapse of a system that had stood for over a thousand years? Surely you have felt how the Clone Wars have fed and exploited the corruption and dysfunction of the Senate.”
“Yes,” Padme breathed. “I have.”
“I have a preliminary dossier.” Kylo handed her a datapad. “Suspicious bills, convenient Separatist surrenders, lines of enquiry. There’s not much in there, but it’s a start. Read it over. When you’re ready to join forces contact me on my com, or Obi-Wan if you must. Keep the datapad in your most secret place, and if you don’t have one, destroy it. I have a back-up.”
Padme took the datapad with reluctance. “This is… too much to do alone. I have allies we can trust…”
“Trust no one,” Kylo spat. “We will work this out together. Only then, if it is necessary for our plans, will we involve others.”
Padme nodded. She still seemed in shock. But at least she was easier to convince of things than Leia.
“One last thing.” Kylo waited until Padme’s warm chocolate eyes met his own. It was almost like looking in a mirror. Or at his mother. “When I say no one else must know. That goes double for the Jedi. Including Anakin Skywalker.”
Padme nodded, crisp and professional. “Of course,” she said, giving no hint at all that she and he were engaged in a torrid love affair. “I understand.”
Kylo nodded. “Good. I will give my com details to the droid.”
Padme smiled. “I will read your information with – great care. I appreciate you trusting me with it, very much.”
Something in the cautious way she said it made Kylo realise she might think it was a trap. He consciously and painfully drew the blanket of the light side around himself, and projected as much goodness and reassurance as he could. He sent her his hope and pleasure at spending time with his grandmother, at being able to finally be with the family he loved. At the galaxy they would create together.
He gave her a hopeful smile, nodded and left.
* * *
Kylo had studied his Clone Wars history. He knew the famous battles, the outstanding generals, the notorious assassinations. He knew of Order 66 lurking hidden inside the brains of each Clone Trooper.
He knew that in less than a year, Anakin Skywalker would fall to the dark side, the Jedi would be decimated, and Chancellor Palpatine would declare himself Emperor for the peace and security of the Republic, even as he proscribed it from existence.
Kylo admired Palpatine’s mastery in manoeuvring the Clone Wars to bring about his ascent to power. Kylo had no interest whatsoever in interfering with the complex web of subtlety and intrigue, or in preventing the Chancellor’s rise.
But he had the utmost interest in taking the reins of the newly-opened position of Emperor. With the dossier of corruption that he and Padme would compile, along with the support of her, a well-respected Senator and Republican, and the protection of a fully-powered Anakin Skywalker, the Great Enforcer, the Hero with No Fear, Kylo would have everything. An Empire to be ruled the right way.
A family to support him despite his dark nature. Because of it.
Won’t it be a bit of a pain though, ruling the galaxy? a small childish voice whispered in the back of his head. You won’t have Snoke or Hux to do all the strategising.
SILENCE, he snapped at himself. He would not waste time thinking like that. He had felt the rightness of his actions as he spoke to Padme. This was the will of the Force. It was his birthright and his destiny. He would find people to do the boring work. Surely Palpatine hadn’t spent his years in office deciding things like sanctions and treaties.
Yes, what he was doing was right, he thought as he pulled into the Jedi hanger bay. If Leia hadn’t been so blinded by her devotion to Luke and her fear of the Force, she would have agreed. It was the only sensible way to rule a galaxy. And Skywalkers were born to rule.
I haven't updated in a long time, I know. I'm really sorry for temporarily abandoning it. I so appreciate all the comments and kudos.
I assure you that most of this story is in fact written, and all of it is planned. I want to get another update up this week, but clearly consistency is not my strength.
This is the last chapter in what I would call "Part I".
Kylo found Form III uninspiring. The best thing that could be said about learning it with Obi-Wan was that Luke would have given his other arm for the opportunity, and instead it was Kylo’s.
“Feel the Force flow through your body. It is water and you are the stream… It flows but you shape the path...”
Kylo twisted down and to the right, dodging the training droid’s bolts and bending underneath it, smoothly arcing his saber to block the bolts the droid blasted at him as he emerged on the other side.
“Well done Ben. Very neat. Can you feel how control comes with the surrender?”
Kylo nodded. He could feel it in a way he never could with Luke’s training. Because you never listened to him, a traitorous voice whispered. Why should I? He never wanted me to succeed, a much more friendly voice bit back.
He could feel merits in the smoothness of the form. He was impressed by the ease with which he dominated the training droid, sending it dodging and spinning, while he barely broke a sweat. But in a real fight, he doubted Form III could compare to the chaotic power of the Dark Side. And chaos came a lot more easily to him than control.
Form III put Darth Vader in that suit, though.
It also defeated you easily, the other day.
I was hardly even trying!
Kylo shook his head to expel the voices and sent a particularly brutal volley of bolts back at the training droid before strolling forward and slashing at it with his saber.
The droid responded by emitting a shut-down beep and depowered itself. Kylo glared at the lightsaber.
“We do take precautions,” Obi-Wan said in that gentle mocking tone of his. “You’re not the first student to attack a training droid.”
“I was simply claiming the win,” Kylo said.
Obi-Wan raised his eyebrows, which said enough themselves really, but he also added, “I think that’s enough for today.”
They parted ways. Ben went down to the Archives and continued his research on the secret arrangements of the Supreme Chancellor. He was trying to find evidence of the secret super weapons programmes, the ones that would lead to the Death Star, he was almost certain they had begun in the Republic era and he was sure they would interest Padme... But every time he felt close, the trail would go cold.
The last time this happened, he slammed his hand in frustration on the arm rest. The elderly librarian shushed him, scandalised.
Kylo scowled back at the datapad. It was useless.
The Archives were a huge repository of information, but he was constrained by the knowledge that Obi-Wan and the other Masters could monitor his searches. The deeper he went, the more suspicions his research topics would raise.
So at lunch with Ahsoka Kylo asked casually as they finished their bowls of rootleaf stew, “Is there a way to bypass the Order’s monitoring of holonet use?”
Ahsoka frowned. “Why would you need to do that?”
“The things I’m researching are very sensitive. There are spies everywhere.”
“Not inside the Jedi!”
“How can you be sure?”
Ahsoka thought a moment, and sighed. “Master Anakin said once that there was evidence that the Archives had been tampered with. The planet Kamino, where they breed the clones, was wiped from the Archives altogether. Anakin thinks it’s so that no one knew about the clone army.”
That was very interesting. Kylo added it to his list of research topics. “You see? They can’t be trusted. I need to know that I’m not tipping someone off.”
Ahsoka chewed her bottom lip. “Yes, that makes sense. I don’t know how to get around it. But my Master would.”
Ahsoka led Kylo to Anakin’s quarters, where Anakin was taking lunch in the kitchenette. He glared at Kylo suspiciously.
“I have to go to Advanced Diplomacy, but Ben needs your help with something,” Ahsoka garbled, already halfway out the door.
Grandson and grandfather stared at each other, as though the other was a Rancor that could spring at any time.
“Take a seat,” Anakin commanded, gesturing towards the couches to Kylo’s right.
Kylo sat. Anakin took his time putting his dishes in the sonic and ambling toward the sitting area. He paused above Kylo for a moment to frown at him, and finally sat.
“So,” Anakin said slowly. “You need my help?”
“I need access to a secure datapad with access to the holonet and the Jedi Archives. It cannot allow anyone to monitor my use, not even the Jedi. It’s vital to the future of the Republic.”
This did not seem to ease Anakin’s suspicions. His frown deepened. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t just take your word for it.”
Kylo despised how everyone in this new life constantly demanded explanations from him. This would never have happened in the First Order.
“I was sent here to help you.”
“If you’re here to help, why won’t you be honest with us? Tell us everything you know. We can end this war. The Council will know what to do.”
“Do you really trust the Jedi Council so much?”
Anakin blinked at the derision in Kylo’s voice. He seemed to think about the question, his face turning pensive rather than hostile. At last he sighed and seemed to deflate. “I don’t know. I want to.”
“You are twenty times wiser than all of those cloistered Jedi Masters. Unlike them, you know how the galaxy truly works. Power and corruption. The dominant and the dominated.” Anakin said nothing, but Kylo could feel his agreement in the Force. Kylo injected his true emotions into his words as he added, “Believe me, I wish I could tell you the truth. There is nothing I want more.” He ran a hand through his hair. “But I can’t yet. There is work I must do first. Gaps in my knowledge. Once it’s all set up… then I will tell you everything. I promise.” He looked at his grandfather, aware he was begging, not hating himself for it because this was Anakin Skywalker. If there was anyone to prostrate yourself before, it was him.
Anakin sat forward, his elbows resting on his knees, his shoulders slumped as though under the weight of his burdens.
“Obi-Wan wouldn’t like it,” he mumbled.
“Do you tell Obi-Wan everything? He’s not your Master anymore.”
Anakin contemplated for a moment, then nodded briskly. “Okay. I’ll arrange something. Leave it with me.”
Kylo felt himself grinning broadly. He knew his grandfather would come through. He had known him for so short a time, and he was already more dependable than the rest of Kylo’s family had ever been. “You won’t regret it,” he promised, and meant it.
* * *
Having nothing much worth doing now that he was waiting for the datapad, Kylo took himself to the Room of a Thousand Fountains and sat just under the waterfall, watching water beat down on the rocks.
He was buoyed by his conversation with Anakin and his meeting with Padme. Everything was coming together. It was worth leaving behind a life as Supreme Leader to be Emperor instead. At least this time he wouldn’t have Hux to bother him. Or his mother to…
Anyway. It was better this way.
“Here did I that remodelled our dojo, you have.”
Kylo gathered all the patience he possibly could and breathed it in. He must not give himself away.
“I suppose I did, Master Yoda.”
“Hmm,” said the Jedi Master, settling on a mound next to Kylo. He rested his chin on top of his gimer stick. “Been here a week, you have.”
“Yes Master Yoda.”
Yoda turned to look Kylo straight in the eyes. Kylo looked down at his hands.
“A talker you are not, young Ben.”
Kylo shrugged. “I wish to be careful with my words, Master Yoda. I don’t want… to harm things.”
“Ah! But wish you do to change things, no?”
Kylo’s tongue darted out to wet his lips before he realised and drew it back into his mouth. Bad enough to feel nervousness around the wretched old Jedi, let alone to show it.
“I will change some things, yes. It is the will of the Force.”
“Hm. Difficult to interpret, the will of the Force is. Even for a Jedi. And a Jedi, you are not, hm?”
Kylo swallowed. “Not… exactly, no.”
Yoda nodded and got to his feet. “A guest of the Jedi, you are. But careful you must be. Easy it is, to believe the Force wills something. But difficult to know for sure. Yes, very difficult.”
Kylo nodded. “I agree Master Yoda. One must be sure.”
“Ha! To be sure of anything, is most dangerous of all.”
“Yes Master Yoda.”
As the great Jedi Master limped away, Kylo wondered just how difficult it would be to ensure that Yoda did not escape the purge this time.
* * *
Kylo practiced his katas for several hours, and returned to empty quarters. Starving, he prepared some soup. While he sat eating a bowl of it there was a knock on the door.
He went to release the door and found Anakin standing there, a datapad in his hand.
“Free from prying eyes, as requested.”
Kylo took hold of the datapad but Anakin didn’t let it go, meeting Kylo’s gaze with a stern look. “No funny business?”
“Definitely not,” Kylo said, snatching the datapad. He was sick of nobody trusting him. Especially Anakin, whom he was not in fact planning to betray. “Thank you. Uh. Did you want some soup?”
Anakin screwed up his nose. “I’d rather eat protein gel. Anyway, I have to go. Ahsoka and I are being sent to resolve a border dispute.”
“A mission? Can’t I come? I would be more helpful than a Padawan.”
Anakin shook his head. “Ahsoka is the best help I could have. Plus, no offence, but I don’t think the Council wants you to go offworld. Anyway,” he grinned teasingly, “aren’t you busy with all your ‘research’?”
Kylo frowned. I’d like to see you dismiss my research when it secures us our new Empire. Aloud all he said was, “Yes, I am.”
“All right then. Say goodbye for me if you get a chance. I’ll be seeing ya.” Anakin gave Kylo a quick Jedi bow, so fast it was almost mocking.
Kylo felt a strong desire to hug him. Like when his father – No, not like that. Like any ordinary son would do to farewell any ordinary grandfather.
But he was not exactly an ordinary grandson. For one thing, he was technically several years older than his grandfather, who didn’t even know he was his grandfather.
He settled for a bow.
Obi-Wan returned to his rooms several hours later. Kylo was still sitting up in the living area, using his new datapad to read all he could about Palpatine’s career. He turned when Obi-Wan entered.
“Good evening,” Obi-Wan said, almost flopping on to a couch. He looked haggard, his wrinkles deeper than usual and his hair a little mussed.
“Is everything all right?” asked Kylo. He told himself he was only interested because it was so unusual to see Obi-Wan looking dishevelled.
“Well, we’ve lost three allied planets, a Jedi and Padawan team, and almost the entirety of Master Quey-san’s clone battalion today alone,” Obi-Wan said. “But everything is about as right as it always is, yes.” The Jedi Master sighed deeply, then grimaced. “I’m sorry, Ben. That was uncalled-for. War is no excuse for incivility.”
“I understand,” Kylo said. A vision of those endless holo replays of Alderaan exploding, of how Leia would take Alderaanian tea on the anniversary each year, until the last of the old planet’s leaves were used and she’d had to drink Hosnian tea instead.
“Yes, I believe you do,” Obi-Wan mused, meeting Ben’s eyes and holding his gaze. There was no hostility in his clear blue eyes, nothing to hint he had any clue of who Kylo was; just an echo of Kylo’s bone-deep, lonely weariness.
“I’m afraid I must retire,” Obi-Wan said. “I feel the need to meditate.”
“Don’t you want some soup?” Kylo asked. He sounded pathetic, like when he would try and get his mom to eat after returning late from the office and she’d pat his head and ask him why he wasn’t in bed yet.
Obi-Wan gazed distantly at the kitchen. “Oh, I’ll be fine, thank you,” he said as though already lost in meditation.
Kylo let Obi-Wan leave before he disgraced himself any further.
When Kylo himself went to bed, he drew warmth from the life force of the beings sleeping around him. Luke of all people had taught him the technique.
He had to admit, it was very restful to fall to sleep with the comforting hum of the Temple around him. Perhaps it was having run out of masters to fear, but he had slept better these last few nights than in years, maybe his entire life. And in the mornings he woke feeling almost rejuvenated.
Between the sleeping, the eating, and not constantly fearing for his life, Kylo had to admit that there was something to be said for clean living. He was coming to doubt Snoke’s hypothesis that deprivation led you to mastery of the Dark Side. He could now approach the Dark Side with a level head, rather than in a fugue of hate. His purpose here was Dark, but it would be achieved through method and subterfuge. He needed his wits about him.
Was it possible that keeping him off an even keel had been Snoke’s plan all along? To destabilise him and thus maintain control?
Or maybe you’re just going soft, sneered a voice in his head, a voice that sounded very much like Anakin Skywalker’s. You’ve still got a long way to go before you’re Emperor, kid.
That sounded more like Han Solo.
But he had after all destroyed Han Solo, and Kylo drifted off to sleep peacefully, secure in the confidence that the Empire would be his very soon.
“Good, Ben! You’re really coming along.”
Obi-Wan’s proud smile was infectious. Kylo couldn’t help but grin back.
“Your instruction is invaluable,” said Kylo. He had to admit that it was. Obi-Wan had taught him more in the last few weeks than either Luke or Snoke had in the many years he had called each of them Master. Luke’s skills had been pathetically raw compared to this crop of golden-age Jedi, and Snoke…
It was clear to Kylo now that Snoke had not so much taught him to control the fire burning at him so much as stoked the flames and let him rage like a rancor.
By contrast, Obi-Wan was a very generous teacher. He was not jealous of his knowledge, in fact he seemed to enjoy imparting it to Kylo. Kylo could not imagine awakening to this Jedi standing over him with a lightsaber.
Obi-Wan was also patient, and knew when to push and when to give Kylo space. Kylo suspected he had needed to hone his skills quickly when training Anakin.
In any case, the instruction was competent and there was nothing wrong with giving it due appreciation. Kylo would put it to great use as Emperor.
“Time for breakfast?” Obi-Wan asked. They returned to their quarters and ate their fruit bowls in comfortable silence.
In the week or so since Anakin and Ahsoka had been gone, their morning breakfast had become an easy and pleasant routine. After breakfast, Obi-Wan would go off to do Jedi business, and Kylo would research time travel theory, or help Master Jo’lyn with her lessons, or go and see Padme.
Today was a Padme day. They had been working on several leads, and Kylo thought it probably wouldn’t be long until Padme unearthed the great conspiracy at the heart of the Republic. Along with being warm and kind, she was extremely clever.
A traitorous part of Kylo wondered if this was what it would have been like if he had never been sent to be a Jedi, had been raised at his mother’s side, perhaps worked as her staffer…
She never would have had time for you. Not like Padme does.
He knew that Padme only made time for him because what he offered was so valuable.
He gave it to her in dribs and drabs, but most of it he had to find out for himself too – his only real advantage over her was not underestimating the complexity and deviancy of the conspiracy. But Padme was smart. She was working it out. He just had to stay a few steps ahead of her lest she uncover exactly who was responsible for the whole thing. If that secret came out at the wrong time it would be very dangerous indeed.
Today Kylo had found evidence that a Senator who was pushing for an immediate and unfavourable ceasefire agreement with the Separatists had been secretly paid huge lumps of money, presumably to advocate for an immediate and unfavourable ceasefire agreement with the Separatists. He looked forward to sharing this discovery with Padme; to seeing those familiar brown eyes glow warmly and a pleased smile light up her visage.
He reached her offices and the receptionist waved him through with a friendly smile. Kylo nodded and headed through, clutching the datapad that Anakin had hacked for him.
There was someone else in the room and Kylo stopped walking, about to apologise for interrupting, but Padme smiled and beckoned him back in.
“Ben, please come in, take a seat. This is Bail Organa, I believe you’ve met?”
Kylo frowned at the man Leia had called Papa. Organa smiled and extended a hand. Kylo shook it warily and lowered himself into a chair.
“Ben, I know that what we’ve been doing demands the highest level of secrecy. But I don’t think we can do it alone any more. What if something was to happen to one of us, or both? I assure you Bail can be trusted.”
“I’ve been a critic of this war many times over the last few years, Ben. I would be honoured to direct as many of Alderaan’s resources as I can to your work.”
“I don’t want more resources,” Kylo said. “This must be kept completely secret.”
“Of course,” Bail said, “but resources are always helpful.”
“Absolutely our work will remain secret, but Ben, I implore you to let Bail in on it. I would trust him with my life.”
Kylo had no doubts about Bail’s trustworthiness. He had been a founding member of the Alliance, had raised Kylo’s mother with love and a strong political conscious, and had by all accounts been a far more worthy father than Kylo’s own.
He was no Skywalker. But he might come in useful. And it would be… interesting, to get to know another character in his family history.
Besides, Bail radiated friendliness and warmth, and even though Kylo knew it was manipulative, it was also exactly how Leia had been on the good days, smiling and asking to see his homework, reading a holobook with him in her arms…
“Very well,” he said.
He let Padme do most of the talking, explaining what they had uncovered so far: a series of conspiracies and sabotage, all set up to destabilise the Republic and prolong the war. Padme did not understand why, but she was beginning to trace the outlines of shadowy figures, and to see that there was much more to the Separatist movement than it seemed.
With Padme speaking of grave politics in her soft warm voice, and Bail’s familiar expressions of retrained outrage, Kylo almost felt as though he were back in his childhood home, watching his mother receiving a briefing. It was a strange feeling.
He was relieved to leave the strained diplomacy of the Senate distract and return to the sanctuary of the Jedi Temple. As he strolled comfortably through the grand entrance hall, he allowed the peace to envelop him. There was no point fighting the Temple’s innate serenity. He had long since decided that once the Jedi were expunged, Kylo would use the Temple as his palace. There was no greater expression of power and mastery of the Force.
One of the students in the history class Kylo was teaching waved at him. She was just an Initiate, perhaps ten. He smiled and waved back.
Yes, the Temple would always be his home.
And so the days went on. The news of the war was mostly bad, which meant Obi-Wan’s meditation sessions lasted longer and longer, but to Kylo the war was a distant memory filtered through holofootage. It was little more than a necessary tool for his final domination. After all, he knew Anakin and Padme both survived, and they were the only important ones. The Jedi Obi-Wan kept mourning would just have died in the Purge anyway.
No, he must not think of the greater galaxy. When he did, inevitably he would think of his father, ten or so, desperately trying to survive the underworld on Corellia...
One such time, he was practicing his katas alone in the dojo. Without Obi-Wan’s supervision, he allowed himself to thrust sharp and swift, trying to block out any traitorous dredges of pity.
Let him suffer, Kylo thought. He is nothing. He slashed to the right. His only worth was in helping me reach my full potential. Slashed left. A worthy death. Kylo stabbed his saber forward, as though through the heart –
“Practicing again, young Ben?” a deep voice asked.
Kylo spun to find himself face-to-face with Master Windu, who was wearing his usual unimpressed expression. Kylo wiped at his forehead, brushing his hair back with sweat and oil. “Something wrong with that?”
“Not at all,” Mace Windu said. “Just don’t forget to practice controlling your emotions, as well as your sword.”
Kylo kept his face smooth, though his heart was beating fast with indignance. “Did you come here to spy on me?”
“No, actually I’m looking for Master Tiin,” Master Windu said, catching the eye of the Iktotchi master training a crop of initiates on the other side of the dojo. “I must be going. I’ll see you around, Ben.”
Kylo nodded distantly. He was already preparing to repeat the kata. This time with fewer thoughts of his father’s head impaled on his lightsaber.
Sorry for the shorter update, it was just how the chapter break worked this time.
Next time, Anakin and Ahsoka return, and Anakin finds out Kylo's been spending a lot of time with Padme. ;)