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His breathing obstructed by the sack covering his head, General Hux attempted to maintain the rapid pace of his assailants. Already dazed by the brutality of the battle which concluded in his capture, he had a hard time controlling his trembling limbs, which shook dangerously. He was ashamed to think that he would collapse now - that he would show even the smallest sign of weakness. Hux had battled all his life to earn his status, and it was certainly not the miscreants of the Resistance who would humiliate him.

 

Technically, he wasn’t certain this was an action of the Resistance. But, the men who had attacked him and his crew were well-coordinated and far better trained than simple thugs.  

 

Hux pulled fruitlessly against the handcuffs which shackled his wrists behind his back. They were tight to the point of pain and he could sense he already had marks forming on his skin. This struggle for freedom was a waste of his energy, and caused the brutes who surrounded him to reinforce their grip.

 

The General’s teeth bit into his lip as he stumbled over a body sprawled on the floor. The powerful hands which held him tightly prevented him from falling, but he caught a glimpse of white smeared with red through a small opening, which also allowed the coppery scent of blood to reach his nostrils. The corpse was a Stormtrooper; one of his men. One who had given his life to save him. An enormous waste, thought Hux as a blow to his back forced him to pick up the pace.

 

Hux was aware that he was being transferred to a new aircraft as they stepped over more cadavers, but he rapidly lost all sense of orientation as they turned down multiple hallways. He was lead deep inside the enemy vessel.

 

In despair at his situation, Hux compelled himself to count the number of footsteps, but he was close to vomiting and he very quickly became confused due to the lack of air to his brain. This reaction was very out-of-character. But, it wasn’t as if he had ever fallen into the hands of the enemy before - a situation so dire that he had to fight against a wave of panicked nausea. Even though he did not know the identity of his abductors, he was certain that the days ahead would not be pleasurable for him.

 

He forced himself to breathe calmly. Vomiting in the sack would only make things worse.

 

He had been trained to handle this type of situation. Although he never imagined it would happen to him, he had studied the protocol for capture and he knew enough to apply it. The Resistance could torture him all they wanted; he would never talk. He clenched his teeth and his fists to convince himself of this.

 

Around him, the clamor of voices heightened. But, between the sound of blood rushing through his ears, the sack covering his head, the noise of his hissing breaths, and the panic-stricken beating of his heart, he had a difficult time understanding what was said.

 

However, he knew enough about military and flight procedures to deduce that they were about to set off.

 

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Hux had been hoping that his men on the Finalizer would find the resources to save him from the clutches of his abductors. But, this hope was now annihilated. Unless the First Order sent out search parties, he would have to rely only on himself. This realization filled him with rage and motivated him to continue to advance at the pace sustained by those who attacked him.

 

The scattered shouts moved away as he was lead without ceremony down a final corridor. Their footsteps resonated on the metal floor and the regularity of their cadence calmed him enough to clear his thoughts.

 

He straightened up as much as he could when they stopped. Even though he was not physically impressive, he was tall and he intended to put this meager advantage to good use.

 

The grating of a door lock reached his ears and Hux was shoved forward. He sensed he was no longer in the hallway due to the difference in temperature. It was colder in this room and he fought to contain a shiver. Above all he would not show even the smallest sign of weakness.

 

A heavy hand pushed him to sit on a hard surface and he resisted on principle. His body was saturated with adrenaline, but he needed this tenuous respite so he could evaluate his options. Without a doubt he would not let himself be manipulated easily.

 

His wrists and ankles were deftly attached to the chair and he bit his tongue to hold in a grunt as the position constricted his movements. The taste of blood lingered in his mouth and mixed with the flavor of bile from the back of his throat.

 

“It would be best to kill me now,” he declared as soon as his voice was strong enough.

 

A small chuckle answered this bold announcement - the only reaction.

 

“I will tell you nothing,” challenged Hux anew.

 

This time, there was nothing but silence.

 

“If you don’t want to kill me,” he continued, “could you at least remove this sack so I can breathe properly? If I die of asphyxiation during the transfer, you…”

 

The slam of the heavy metal door falling closed indicated that he was now locked in.

 

He listened intently for several long seconds to assure himself that he was really alone. He didn’t hear anything except his own breathing, a bit sharp but otherwise under control.

 

There alone, he authorized himself to abandon his attitude of defiance and let his anger and desperation seize him.

 

He barely held back a furious yell, but a guttural growl escaped him instead and he had to blink his eyelids rapidly to chase away the tears of rage which threatened to appear at the corners of his eyes. He was not going to crack. Even if he was most likely alone, he would not give in.

 

He reared his head back and forth in the hope of knocking off the sack, but it was secured too tightly. The movement caused his head to spin with dizziness. He stopped before a new wave of nausea overtook him.

 

He closed his eyes and leaned against the wall behind him. It was not a comfortable position. The surface was freezing cold and his arms and wrists were situated awkwardly behind him. Hux was not accustomed to being contorted this way and he resisted the desire to pull against his restraints. Those who had abducted him were very skilled at what they did and he surely would not succeed in detaching them.

 

The vibrations around him intensified as the vessel accelerated into hyperspace. His chance of being rescued was now approximately zero.

 

Even if the First Order launched a pursuit, it was more likely they would shoot down the ship rather than take the risk that Hux would share confidential information. In any case, Hux knew that personally, that was what he would do. A man, no matter his rank, was replaceable. Even a man like Hux, who will not confess under pressure. He had not held his promotion to General long enough to have secured his position at the top of the Order.

 

The only hope he had from then on was to arrange his own escape. He took a fortifying, long inhale and decided that it was time to reflect; to evaluate his chances and to put a strategy in place. There was no doubt he found himself in a situation that could be considered catastrophic, but he was an intelligent man, and if anyone had the ability to make it out, it was him.

 

Physically, he was fine. He had been shaken up by the attack, by its speed and violence, but he had not been severely injured. Yes, his temples were pounding, his breathing was labored and his lip was bleeding slowly, but otherwise he was in relatively good condition. Although, he was growing thirsty and his bladder was starting to make itself known. He hoped the trip would not last much longer.

 

His mental health was similarly satisfactory. He was just furious with himself for getting captured. And, furious with his crew, whom did not detect the enemy ship until it suddenly materialized in front of them. But, that didn’t matter anymore since all of them were dead. He couldn’t change the past, and he needed to transform this anger into motivation and channel it to push through and survive. Regret was a pointless emotion.

 

He did not know much of his aggressors. But, he was fairly certain they were part of the Resistance. He gnashed his teeth. Even if he didn’t make it out alive, he would take great pleasure in bringing down as many as he could with him.

 

However, this posed a substantial problem for him. He was confident in his ability to triumph over a band of traffickers or space pirates, but the Resistance was a completely different matter. They were numerous, relatively organized, and most of all, they knew Hux’s value to the Order. They would guard him constantly under high surveillance. They would leave him no openings.  

 

He regretted that he was not capable of erecting a map of this ship in his mind’s eye. He judged that it was rather small in size; most similar to a freighter, he would guess. Nothing compared to the Finalizer, anyway.

 

He had been seated at the back of the shuttle when the attack began. Therefore, he did not have a direct visual of the enemy craft. But, in terms of maneuverability, it was logical for his assailants to choose an engine of average size, unless they were truly imbeciles - an option which Hux would not dismiss. Imbeciles who all the same succeeded in eliminating his crew and abducting him with a sack over his head. That was decidedly very humiliating.

 

He wanted to clench his fists but they were numb from poor blood circulation. He concentrated anew on his current problem.

 

He knew very little information about his holding cell, but he was certain it was only temporary. They must be taking him to a mothership, or perhaps a base, to interrogate him. He hoped he would be introduced to the bigwigs of the Resistance, such as General Organa. That would give him the occasion to spit on their actions and their inefficient politics. Furthermore, he had to admit, it would boost his ego if such important people were to displace themselves for him. This thought pleased him greatly.

 

However, seeing as he won’t talk, the torture will undoubtedly become long and harrowing. Therefore he must concentrate on the present moment and flee at any cost.

 

He forced his fingers to grab hold of the metal bar he was chained to and pulled with all his strength. It was immovable. A similar trial informed him it was the same for the chains around his ankles. He grimaced.

 

These dogs of the Resistance left nothing up to chance. They perfectly secured the room in which he found himself. Hux knew if he removed the sack which hindered his view and his breathing, he would discover nothing but a bare cell in which he would not be able to find any sort of potential weapon. Furthermore, the door must be thick and there was probably even a guard waiting outside. And, hypothetically, if he was able to break free of his restraints and find a weapon, open the door and subdue the guard, what would he do next? A lone man couldn’t reroute a ship of this size on his own. Although, he could always crash the ship and kill everyone on board. That would be a glorious way to go.

 

He shook his head. His tongue was heavy in his mouth and a bead of sweat rolled down his face until it dropped off the tip of his chin. He sighed, his own humid breath rebounded by the rough fabric which rubbed against his forehead and his nose and had surely ruined his hair.

 

No. He could do better than that. Since it was pointless for him to envision an escape at this time, it would be better to wait until they reached their destination. Once there, with a bit of observation and patience, and if physically he wasn’t too damaged, he might be able to steal a vehicle. If that proved to be impossible, he could eventually have the chance to bring down the true leaders of the Resistance and not just the grunts who were sent to capture him. He must not give in to panic; he must consider time as his ally. This was easier said than done, as his entire body was taut and howling to escape.

 

He flinched as the door lock mechanism was abruptly engaged. His back was so stiff that it hurt him almost more than his wrists and his ankles.

 

He heard footsteps approach and closed his eyes to analyze the situation and wait for the first blow or the first question. Or maybe both.

 

He counted at least three pairs of boots. That was a lot - they were wary of him. The thought was gratifying. Or, it could also be that everyone wanted to come see the beating of the General whose face was plastered on every channel managed by the First Order. Only thirty years old and already General, fairly good-looking and ambitious - these qualities incited a considerable amount of jealousy. Hux himself knew it was his competency and his projects for the Order, most of which were classified, that promoted him to General. But, he was not naive; he recognized that his lightning-fast ascension made others undeniably envious. Furthermore, all that he represented was a nightmare to the Resistance. He would not be surprised if all of them wanted to slap him around for a bit.

 

To his immense surprise, they released him from the surface he was seated upon. An interesting choice, since they were still in hyperspace. Once standing, his hands landed against his back and he felt a bit of recoil. Almost immediately, they began a full body-search to verify that he was not wearing a transmitter - a procedure generally done before taking someone prisoner, and therefore must have been overlooked in the throes of combat. Or, the Resistance was a troop of incapables. His uniform was thoroughly searched under every seam, manually and with a detector. He let them do as they pleased. He had nothing to hide. His only chip had been implanted on the bridge of the shuttle they had abandoned behind them.

 

But, as soon as his jailer stood up straight and Hux could feel his body heat right next to him, he threw his head forward in an abrupt attack. He couldn’t explain why he did it. A last defensive reflex, a pointless burst of pride, or maybe the will to show them they haven’t won and that Hux would never surrender. His forehead smashed into something soft, resulting in a loud crack! and a cry of pain.

 

“Son of a bitch!”  howled the man. “That was a dirty karking trick, weasel,” and then a fist crashed into the side of Hux’s face.

 

He fell to the floor, stunned by the sudden hit.

 

“Are you all right?” inquired a feminine voice.

 

Hux doubted that it was him she was addressing. Leaning on his aching wrists, he tried to get back up, but his legs would not cooperate. His head was spinning and he could not gain purchase against the cold floor.

 

“He broke my nose,” complained the man in a nasaly voice. Hux smiled in spite of the way it pulled at his newly injured cheek.

 

That was worth the pain. Well worth the pain. Damn the consequences.

 

“We’ll reattach it,” ordered the woman.

 

Hux was abruptly thrown back onto the seat and his restraints were quickly re-done, tighter than before. He remained as silent as possible. The bindings were so tight that he thought, nonsensically, that his hands and feet might have to be amputated once they reached their destination. Then, he became aware of a rivulet of blood running down his injured cheek. He thought vaguely that it would stain his uniform, which must already be in a terribly lamentable state. This deduction, however, did not prevent him from continuing to smile.

 

He retreated as much as possible when he heard the sound of fabric moving right next to him. He was certain he would be hit again. Instead, the woman spoke to him in an impatient, but controlled, voice.  

 

“You don’t need to do that,” she lectured.

 

Hux did not respond. She sighed.

 

“Here,” she added.

 

This command left Hux perplexed for a moment.

 

Then, the sack was lifted just enough to uncover his mouth. He felt the cold metal rim of a flask press against his lips.

 

“Hurry up,” insisted the woman. “That’s all you’re going to get until the end of the trip.”

 

The water was tepid but it was better than nothing. Hux drank a reasonable amount. He did not wish to aggravate the problem of his bladder, since after his earlier stunt it was unlikely they would release him so he could relieve himself. Doesn’t matter, he repeated. It was worth the punishment.

 

When he was finished, the footsteps moved away and the door banged shut. He was alone again.

 

He reclined his head and let it roll sluggishly onto his shoulder. It was hurting more than ever, now. Determinedly, he went back to reflecting on his escape.


*


Hux would have liked to fall asleep to pass the time. He had no way of knowing how long this voyage would last. His cheek was throbbing, his lips were inflamed, his head, his wrists, and his ankles ached continually, and, despite all that, his stomach began to demand his attention.

 

With nothing better to do, Hux let his mind deviate. He couldn’t help but contemplate his rotten luck. His triumph as General of the Finalizer had been short-lived. He recalled how he earned the position: thanks to uninterrupted work since childhood, the recognition of his father, deceased shortly before his promotion to General, and the meeting with Supreme Leader Snoke, who had been impressed by Hux’s plans for a titanic project. In the end, he had held command of the Finalizer for only two short months.

 

He never should have left the ship. That was his mistake. But, the possibility of spending a few days in the company of his mother, with whom he had yet to celebrate his promotion, was too alluring to resist. To make a toast over his father’s grave in assurance that he would follow his ideals… their ideals… that was also his true motivation.

 

It was on the return flight - much less secure than an official displacement - that he had been attacked.

 

He sighed.

 

The attack was not a coincidence. The First Order had many valuable Generals in its command, but it was him who was targeted.

 

The Resistance could have captured him in particular as a declaration of power, since his name still resonated on the lips of the most influential figures in the galaxy. In another case, they might slaughter him right away, publicly, to send an even stronger message. Or, due to his young age, they might think of him as easy prey from whom they can extract pertinent information. The man with a broken nose could testify that it will not be quite that simple. His last hypothesis - the best course of action for the Resistance if they have any common sense at all - was that they assumed he has a mission of the utmost importance that he must complete, and this worried them, so they abducted him to try to uncover that mission and gain the upper hand.

 

Hux clenched his jaw and welcomed the pain. He would never reveal anything about the weapon he designed the plans for and started the construction of a few weeks prior. That was his grand project, his destiny, and he would probably die before he saw it accomplished. But he would not sell it to the Resistance, even if they severed his fingers and toes one by one with rusty pliers.

 

He felt a boiling hate rise within his gut and he could not suppress a wet cough. His breathing was still restricted by the sack covering his head and a thread of saliva stuck to his chin. He contorted himself within his bindings, but was not able to wipe it off.

 

He cursed. This was only the beginning. He must not get annoyed by such a harmless thing. The true hardships hadn’t even started yet.

 

As soon as he gets out of this room, he must do all that he can to collect as much information as possible on the location and resources of the Resistance. Then, he can make his escape and bring the intel to Supreme Leader Snoke to assure him of his fidelity to the First Order.

 

How could it be otherwise? Hux was born in the Empire, was raised in the chaos that followed, and lived henceforth for the Order.

 

The deceleration of the ship leaving hyperspace caused him to retch. He swallowed the disgusting flood of bile that entered his mouth. He had lived most of his life on board spacecraft just like this one and never before had this reaction happened to him. He blamed the incident on stress. It would have been nice to have a bit of water to soften the acidic taste.

 

He breathed deeply to help his body unwind. They had assuredly arrived at their destination. This time, Hux must not panic. He would count the hallways and each turn they lead him down. They would not remove the sack from his head until he was secured inside a cell or an interrogation room. He must therefore rely on his other senses to gather even a modicum of information.

 

Forcing his mind to stay attentive despite the pain in his head, he heard the noise of the motors slowing down, and felt the soft tremors signaling they had entered the planet’s atmosphere. They decelerated delicately to approach a landing track. He detected signs of other shuttles around them and supposed they were being escorted to the base where they were taking him.

 

He guessed that it would not take long to hear the sound of his abductors’ footsteps coming to detach him. Hux wondered if the man with the broken nose would be there, and if he would have the occasion to give him a second head-butt - for no apparent reason, just for pleasure. With a bit of luck, he would be hit on his other cheekbone; a matter of restoring a bit of symmetry to his face.

 

The jolt of the landing apparatus touching the ground dragged a groan of pain out of him. His wrists were going to be red for days. Unless he was skinned alive for his secrets before then.

 

He didn’t have to wait long before the heavy door opened. Once again, he counted three people. But, since no one spoke a word to him, he was unable to determine if they were the same individuals. He did not attempt to engage them in conversation. His attention was already entirely focused on the path they would guide him down.

 

Two large pairs of hands gripped him solidly by the arms while the third detached him, starting with his wrists, then his ankles. The movements were sure and precise. Very quick, as well. They were wary of him and his violent reflexes. This amused him.

 

When he was pushed without ceremony outside of the room, he counted their footsteps, and memorized each turn. It was unlikely that he would find himself once again in this same vessel, but in his position even the smallest detail could be important.

 

He was surprised when his feet encountered the inclined surface of a ramp. He had the impression of having walked much longer when he had been transported on the way in. It was probably an effect of the panic.

 

They descended slowly. He felt a soft breeze delicately agitate the sack covering his face and breathed in deeply the fresh air that perfumed the forest.

 

The scent was already something he could use. This Resistance base was concealed in dense nature. It was also daytime. The soothing light passing through the fibers of the sack couldn’t be anything but the sun.

 

Hux lowered his eyes. He frowned when he caught a glimpse out of the slim opening at the mouth of the sack. The chains that had bound him for so long had damaged the leather of his boots. Beyond that, he couldn’t see anything except duracrete. Above his head resonated the incessant drones of shuttles. Therefore, this must be a large headquarters equipped with numerous pilots and vessels.

 

And yet, he heard no human voices. He could, however, easily imagine these dogs of the Resistance forming a guard of honor around him, to observe and judge him. He forced himself to stand up straight. He would never let himself be humiliated and he was not ashamed of who he was.  

 

They guided him at a much slower pace than previously. Hux expected to be hit by a flying projectile at any moment, from a stone to blaster fire. Why else would they parade him so sluggishly along the tarmac?

 

But, nothing came. The walk was long, aggravating his sore cranium, his swollen ankles, and his full bladder. He did not relax the rigidity of his posture for even one second.

 

“Watch your step,” warned the same feminine voice he had heard before on the ship.

 

His surroundings darkened and he lowered his eyes to discover a pathway made of stairs dug right into the earth, leading underground. The Resistance were hiding like animals inside a burrow.

 

He was not able to hold back a contemptuous snort. One of the guards holding his handcuffed arms strengthened his grip. Hux knew the guard would like nothing better than to throw him to the bottom of the staircase. It was a sentiment to which he could relate.

 

The tunnels descended much farther than he had expected. They first passed through what he guessed was the command center. Under the sack, he perceived bluish flashing lights and the sonorous tones of radars and communication devices. It was there his jailers once again increased the pace, pushing on his back to make him walk faster. That did not stop him from imagining the damage he could do if he was able to penetrate this room, armed with a blaster, or even better, with explosives!

 

They traversed down numerous corridors at a rapid pace. Hux determined the length and noted each turn. The lighting was brighter here than in the control room, notably due to fluorescent illuminators embedded in the walls. He guessed they were now passing through the living quarters.

 

He was guided even further down, until they reached the outer limits of the underground complex. If he wanted to escape, he would have to travel one hell of a distance before reaching fresh air. They had planned meticulously for his arrival. This did not scare him.

 

He was stopped brusquely and his breath got stuck in his chest. He could not recall how it felt to breathe without a sack covering his mouth. And, he could not determine if the liquid which flowed down his cheek was sweat or blood from having reopened his wound.

 

He heard a door squeaking on its hinges and wrinkled his nose. The Resistance wasn’t even capable of maintaining their furnishings! Furthermore, the noise would not help him stay discreet if he found a way to get out… But that, he supposed, was a problem for another time.

 

They entered a room which he anticipated would be his cell. Of what he could see, it was surprisingly illuminated. The chambers in which they confined prisoners on the Finalizer were miniscule and plunged in almost total darkness.

 

As for the floor, it was such an immaculate white that the light from the ceiling reflected brightly off of its surface. Hux pondered briefly upon the red of his blood and how it would stand out particularly well in this environment.

 

He felt a bead of liquid run down his cheek to the point of his chin. When it fell to the floor, it was translucent. Just a bit of perspiration. He was almost disappointed.

 

They moved him a few feet, then a heavy hand turned him and forced him to sit on a metal chair; the coldness of it climbed all along the column of his spine. His backside was already sore from the hours passed in the disagreeable conditions of the vessel. It was hardly better here and he had never missed the armchair in his office aboard the Finalizer as much as he did now. At an earlier time, he had nearly replaced it; its padding was too comfortable, too over-indulgent. He never did find the time, though - not with his workload - and now he lamented its spongy outrageousness.

 

As they had on the previous ship, they fastened his ankles to the feet of the chair. As if he would have a chance to escape now, with all the eyes trained on him and armed guards possibly hiding in every corner.

 

His hands remained in their cuffs, resting against his back. His shoulders ached from the position. If he must be handcuffed, he would at least have liked to bring his arms in front of his body. But, he would not give them the pleasure of denying his request.

 

However, he was not able to hold back a gasp and a furtive grimace when the sack was finally pulled over his head. That was the last thing he had been waiting for. He squinted his eyes to get used to the bright light that attacked his pupils and caused them to tear up. He endeavored to contain it, but one tear escaped and blended into a trail of sweat.

 

He blinked his eyelids rapidly, forcing his vision to focus on his surroundings. First, he identified the back of a woman as she left the room. He assumed it was she who had accompanied him throughout the voyage and who had taken the initiative to remove the sack which had masked his view and hindered his breathing for so long.

 

Incidentally, his lungs burned when the oxygen rushed into them and Hux felt lightheaded for a few seconds. He gnashed his teeth, forcing himself to remain upright.

 

The heavy metal door closed with a sinister creaking behind the woman, the clang of the antique lock deafening in the silence of the cell.

 

When he regained control of his body a few seconds later, he examined his environs. He was alone, obviously. A prisoner of his rank was not thrown into a common pit with the insects of the lower class. Somewhat more surprising: the space around him was exceptionally clean.

 

What struck him first was the whiteness of the place. The floor, the walls, the ceiling - all of it sparkling. Even the sheet on the tiny bunk connected to the wall to his right appeared to be straight from the laundry. He hated to admit it, but this pleased him. Nothing was more unbearable for him than disorder.

 

The only touch of color came from gray metal that gleamed under the overpowered illuminators. There was the frame of the bed, the chair Hux was currently occupying, the table in front of him, and, on the other side, a second seat entirely identical to his own. If he stretched his neck to the left, he could see a sink which reminded him of his thirst, and a toilet seat to which his full bladder reacted with enthusiasm. There was obviously not a mirror or anything else he could use as a weapon. Just a toothbrush, a bar of soap, and a towel placed on the side. Perfunctory, but much more than Hux had expected.  

 

He tried to get up, his body clamoring to ease his thirst and his other pressing urges. But, he was solidly attached and the feet of the chair were soldered to the floor. After a brief examination, he confirmed it was the same for the table.  They were truly very wary. Did they imagine Hux would already try to escape through the infinite maze of corridors with nothing but a table as his weapon? How ridiculous!

 

Although, if the feet of the table were well-sharpened…

 

He resolved to explore this train of thought as soon as he was detached. Because, forcibly, he would be released from his bindings at some point. Personally, Hux preferred that to happen before he soiled his pants. But, that might be part of the torture to come.

 

In the end, exploring the rest of the room took him only a few seconds more. He noticed a camera in the upper corner, facing away from him for now. He regretted they would not be able to see if he made an obscene gesture.  He supposed there must also be listening devices hidden in the walls. Maybe in case he delivered his biggest secrets in his sleep. This made him sniff with amusement. Soon his jailers would learn that he was not worried when it came to his slumber; at least exteriorly. Interiorly, he was having trouble controlling the panic that clinged to his insides. I am not afraid of torture and death, he repeated to himself, but not having full control over the events in his life was unusual for him. And worrying.

 

He felt a building need to sink his nails into his palms, a nervous tic he had tried to banish in previous years.

 

He fixed his regard on the door in front of him and regulated his breathing, inhale and exhale. After what he estimated to be several minutes of this, his body was more relaxed and his mind was clearer. The sensation of hunger had returned.

 

And, when the deadbolt clacked once again, shattering the oppressive silence of the room, Hux was ready. At least, as ready as he could be as he recognized in the doorway the silhouette of General Organa.

 

During his capture, he had fancied, even hoped, to meet her one day. He had not believed that hers would be the first face he caught sight of. This destabilized him in the space of an instant. He had the impression of being in front of one of the propaganda videos of the Republic, of which he has seen many. He thought furtively that she wasn’t real, but instead just a hologram which was only there to pollute his mind.

 

He recalled the scornful manner with which his father regarded the former Princess of Alderaan, and the role she played in the fall of the Empire. A lingering hate affected him, and he supposed his reaction was visible on his face, since her facial features, neutral until that moment, hardened.

 

She advanced toward him, a datapad in her hand, and only then did he realize that she was miniscule. But, she emanated the confidence of one who had veteran experience in directing troops and who had a certain legitimacy to her actions. It was the sort of stature Hux attempted to achieve daily. And, he had to admit that he found her impressive as she arranged herself with olympic calm on the chair across from him.

 

They were separated only by the table between them, on which she folded her hands. Hux thought briefly that if he were to spit, it would be able to reach her.

 

But, he was better educated than all that. That was the type of reaction he would reserve for the future, in the case of his imprisonment rendering him momentarily deranged.

 

He did not tremble as Organa searched his gaze. He would withstand her scrutiny for as long as he needed to, his chin raised and his expression defiant. He could hold this position for hours if necessary. But, Leia Organa, contrary to Hux, did not have hours to kill and so she spoke first.

 

“I would have liked to release you from your bindings to hold this audience in the most humane conditions possible,” began Organa pleasantly, “But I was informed that you adopted a violent attitude during transport.”

 

“Attacking my shuttle and killing my escort is what I would call a violent attitude. I hardly grazed one of your men,” responded Hux coldly. “And he gave it right back.”

 

He would have liked the wound on his cheek to reopen at that moment, just to observe Organa’s reaction. She had probably witnessed many battles, but most likely had not been on the ground in the thick of them. Seeing fresh blood might cause her to shudder.

 

Not at all discomfited, she leaned toward Hux.

 

“You broke the nose of my best pilot,” she specified, as if this would guilt Hux in the slightest.

 

He settled for giving a faint smile, one corner of his mouth tilting up. If he had injured a person of such importance to the Resistance, that was even better.

 

In the face of his silence, Leia Organa consulted her datapad and appeared to read several lines. Hux suspected it was nothing more than theatrics. A woman of her intellect would have thoroughly prepared for this meeting and would therefore know exactly where she was going. But, these small pauses might serve to sow doubt in the mind of a prisoner. Once again, a technique with which he was perfectly familiar and which would not work on him.  

 

“Sheev Hux,” she said in a firm voice while placing her datapad to the side. “The name of a dictator.”

 

“The name of an emperor,” he contradicted, making it clear that he would not let her walk all over him, even with one of the legends of the galaxy.

 

She lifted a brow, visibly amused by his impudence and the promptness of his replies.

 

“In order for your father to name you after Palpatine,” she continued, ever calm, “He must have held him in very high regard.”

 

“Just like your own father, according to what I’ve heard,” remarked Hux in the same manner.

 

She paused for a moment, as if the sting of Hux’s barb had hit home. He doubted she would be destabilized so easily, however.

 

“My father,” said Organa in a tone one would use when conversing with a particularly slow child, “Knew how to recognize his mistakes; something your father never learned, it seems.”

 

She stared straight into his eyes.

 

My father knew how to learn from the errors of yours and helped the Order to rise from the ashes of the Empire.”

 

At this response she tilted her head to the side, as if to measure him.

 

“I have more pressing matters to address than the merits of our respective progenitors,” she began, “Even if the discussion could become enriching. However, my dear Sheev… Will you permit me to call you Sheev?”

 

“I would prefer not, Leia.”

 

Once again, she paused long enough to analyze him. And possibly to judge him.

 

“As you wish. As I was saying, Mr. Hux…”

 

“General.”

 

“Come again?”

 

“General Hux.”

 

This time, she gave him a condescending smile that he detested.

 

“You must excuse me. I do not recognize your title as legitimate.”

 

“The feeling is mutual,” replied Hux dryly, cut to the quick.

 

The Resistance may have stolen his freedom, but they would never take away his military achievements.  

 

She assented, as if she understood his point of view.

 

“As I was saying,” she continued without addressing the subject further, “Mr. Hux, the Order has made you one of its pillars - an unheard of accomplishment for a young soldier. And, even if it was due to your father’s position…”

 

He clenched his fists behind his back. She must have known how those words would affect him. No one liked to have their accomplishments reduced to simple favoritism. Even if the remark upset him and he had only one wish - to leap from his chair and shout in her face the reality of it, of his work, of his involvement - he forced himself to remain immobile, twisting his fingers with hostility where they were hidden behind him. He would not respond to such a ridiculous provocation.

 

“... I suppose you must have your own admirable qualities for Snoke to take such an interest. What are those qualities, Mr. Hux? What have you presented to Snoke for him to make you the figurehead of his army?”

 

Hux would have liked to respond, “My arse,” but that was petty, even in his current position. Anyway,  he didn’t want her to take his words to heart and assume he slept his way to the top. The remark on his father’s support had been more than sufficient.

 

So, he decided to employ a new method of defense: silence. The Starkiller project was the response she was waiting for. But, she would get nothing from him. She would remain ignorant of the gigantic weapon that would one day wipe out the ridiculous Republic and its allies, allowing the First Order to reestablish an efficient governing system at the center of the galaxy. Even if he were to die in captivity on this Resistance base, the blueprints were ready and the weapon would be completed. It would be his last gift to the Order. He just hoped the history books would give him credit as the inventor.

 

Leia Organa stared at him for a long time. It was impossible for him to gauge the time with precision, but he estimated that it had been a good ten minutes. He did not lower his gaze. He would open his mouth no longer.

 

“Mr. Hux,” she said finally, “I know you are hiding something from me. One does not attain a rank such as yours without solid justification. I want to know what that is. And I will know. One way or another.”

 

The weight of her speech filled the silence of the room. Hux held back a shiver. A single drop of sweat ran down his back. Her calm words did not conceal the force of the threat behind them.

 

He remained impassive.

 

“What happened to that sharp tongue of yours, Mr. Hux?” she pressed in the same tone full of confidence.

 

Hux began to count in his head. It was a simple way to focus on something other than the questions she was posing to him.

 

He had reached one hundred and twenty-seven when she sighed and shook her head.

 

“You know Mr. Hux, you could save us both a lot of time by cooperating immediately.”

 

One hundred and thirty-three, one hundred and thirty-four…

 

Her voice was already far away.

 

“I don’t know if you’ve realized it at your young age, Mr. Hux, but war is not a sprint; it is a marathon. I have considerable experience in the matter, and the means to keep you in this cell for several years if necessary.”

 

One hundred and sixty-six, one hundred and sixty-seven…

 

“Fine,” she concluded, placing her hands flat on the table. “I suppose you are just as obstinate as you are impertinent.”

 

She stood up and leaned toward him. He lifted his head. She was close enough for him to see the wrinkles around her eyes and mouth; most seemed to be from frowning rather than smiling.

 

“If you change your mind, make a sign at the camera. We would be delighted to receive your testimony at any hour, even in the middle of the night - whenever your conscience is tortured by the crimes of the First Order.”

 

This time, he couldn’t hold back a snort and the corners of his mouth turned up imperceptibly. The First Order were no more criminals than the Resistance, and in the long run, they would be capable of governing the galaxy, even if their goal resulted in a few sacrifices along the way. Furthermore, the First Order, contrary to the Republic, would use whatever means necessary to achieve their ultimate aim.

 

“I have high hopes that you will change your mind, Mr. Hux,” continued Organa, not at all discomfited by his amusement. “You are a human being, after all.”

 

With this last reply, she turned around and left the room with measured steps, her datapad under her arm.

 

Hux fully expected the door to close after her departure, leaving him alone with his empty stomach and his full bladder. Instead, when Organa left, a large, well-built man and two armed guards entered the cell.

 

“Don’t move a muscle,” warned the burly man in a hostile voice. “Nothing would give my friends greater pleasure than to take a shot at you.”

 

Hux decided these men were hardly worth the pain of opening his mouth. To defy Leia Organa was one thing; to foolishly risk being shot down by these grunts was another.     

 

With blasters pointed at him, Hux watched as the man who spoke kneeled next to his chair and freed his ankles one after the other. When he straightened up, Hux believed the man would head-butt him, maybe as revenge for the pilot with a broken nose. He held back a flinch, but the man did not pursue the gesture he hardly started. Instead, he dismantled the handcuffs and Hux resisted the harrowing urge to rub his wounded wrists.

 

No sign of weakness! He repeated to himself for the first time since arriving in this cell.

 

Then, without a word and without taking their eyes off him, the three men left the room. Scarcely had the door closed and locked before Hux was leaping off the chair and dashing to the toilet.

 

There, he vomited a surge of bile, detesting the idea of a camera pointed at him.



*



Stretched out on his bed, Hux wondered if boredom was part of the torture Leia Organa envisioned for him. He has been locked in this cell for more than two days now, and he has seen no one.

 

The passage of time was not too difficult to estimate. At night, the illuminators in the cell were extinguished, and were reignited in the morning, flooding his sluggish eyes with blinding light from the lamps overhead. Additionally, they served him three meals each day. This also surprised him. The food was not worse or better than what was provided on the Finalizer. It was a military sustenance - simple and overcooked, but it filled the stomach.

 

Other than that, there was not much to do.

 

The first day, in addition to a meal tray, they had supplied him with a set of clean clothes, of a whiteness equally immaculate as his cell, and which gave him the impression of passing his days in pyjamas. The t-shirt was a bit too large across the shoulders and the pants clung to his buttocks. He longed for the perfect cut of his uniform, even though he had removed it without a fuss. He would have remained covered in his blood and sweat if he had kept it. An anonymous voice had ordered him to pass his soiled garments through the hatch at the bottom of the door with his empty meal tray, and he had complied.

 

When the food had slid into his cell for the first time, he had thought, for the space of an instant, to refuse it. To not eat. But, that would be counterproductive. Even if he didn’t know how, he still held on to the idea of an escape and for that, he would need to conserve his health and keep a clear mind.      

 

For the moment, he didn’t truly have a plan. He had made a complete tour of his cell, but had found nothing that could help him. It was a space specifically designed so that he would find nothing to transform as an improvised weapon; and trying to move the table and chairs proved to be too difficult after his first attempt. Furthermore, with the camera following his every move at all times… Even on the meal trays they had already cut all his food into portions and did not supply him with anything but a ridiculous plastic spoon, which wouldn’t even suffice to poke a newborn’s eye out.

 

He hadn’t even found anything he could use to mark the passing of time on one of the walls. He had attempted to scratch a line with the handle of his toothbrush, but he didn’t even succeed at making a dent in the thick paint. It would take him more than an hour to arrive at any sort of result.

 

But, if he was going to be stuck there for several years, as Organa had predicted, then maybe it was worth the time. If events continued as they were now, it would at least provide him a distraction.

 

There was one other solution he had thought of: to bite himself hard enough to draw blood. A calender of red stains on the white walls would have an almost beautiful effect. Too bad the vibrant color of blood fades when it’s dry. That had dissuaded him from doing it. That and because he did not want to be perceived as a lunatic - as someone who was not in full possession of his faculties and not able to control his actions. All that he had accomplished until now, all that he was intending to accomplish if he got out of there one day, it was and would be of his own volition. Most of all, though, he did not want the Resistance to believe they had already broken him in hardly two days time.

 

So, apart from one hour in the morning spent doing physical exercises, eating his breakfast and cleaning himself at the sink while bitterly lamenting the absence of a shower, or at least a sonic, he spent most of his time reflecting on the possible ways to escape this place, from the most realistic to the most ludicrous. Although, in hindsight they all seemed ludicrous.

 

He sighed and passed a hand over his face. The beginning of a beard was coming in and the stubble grated against his fingers. He wrinkled his nose in disgust. He detested not being impeccable. Even worse was the hair that would not cease to fall across his forehead now that he was deprived of gel. He was irritated by details that in his situation would appear insignificant, but they were signs that the Resistance had already started to rob him of his true self. He could not allow himself to be changed so easily.

 

He clenched his fist, irritating his wrist in the process. He observed it for a long moment. A purple ring encircled the skin where the handcuffs had damaged the flesh. But, there was no trace of infection. Just a painful throbbing that came and went. In ten days, he supposed there wouldn’t even be a bruise.

 

Too bad, he thought. At least the purple put a bit of color in the white room. That and his red hair. Otherwise, between the paleness of his skin and his clothes, he was probably almost invisible, settled on his mattress as he was.

 

He raised an eyebrow when he perceived a noise on the other side of the door. Usually, he never heard a living soul except when someone brought him his meals, but it was much too early for that. He had sent back his breakfast tray just a short time ago.

 

He straightened into a sitting position as the deadbolt clacked. If it was Organa, he would lay back down and try to sleep. He really didn’t feel like facing her condescending air and mocking attitude. Not as long as he didn’t have ammunition to reply.

 

But, the figure that appeared in the doorway had nothing in common with Organa. Hux pressed his lips together to hold back his remark that his cell is not a bathroom. Indeed, the man was dressed in a long tunic, reminiscent of the dressing gown Hux used to wrap himself in after a shower if he had a bit of time ahead of him. That had not happened since he had been named General, he realized.

 

Then the man turned toward him and Hux had to choke back an exclamation of surprise. It was not the man himself who shocked him, even though his face was definitely peculiar with his too-long nose, his too-thick lips and a myriad of beauty spots giving him the false air of an adolescent, when in fact he must be relatively close to Hux in age. No, it was more what he represented.

 

Between his long hair, his sparse beard - both which gave Hux a furious urge to grab a pair of scissors or a razor - and the brown tunic hiding a light shirt, Hux was certain of his purpose.

 

His father had told him of Darth Vader and his powers. Of the ancient warriors capable of moving objects with their minds, who fought with sabers instead of blasters and who invaded the minds of others. Hux had thought that it was nothing more than myth and legend, even if he already had his doubts in regards to the Supreme Leader…

 

Of course, Hux was sufficiently educated to recognize one who resembled a Jedi. And, the man who folded his rather large frame into the metal chair which was a bit too small for him had all the evidence of being one. Or at least he was pretending to be.      

 

Was that Organa’s plan, then? To confront him with someone who could potentially read his thoughts? Someone who could penetrate his mind and steal his secrets? Hux furrowed his brows and began to count. He hoped the monotony would create a sufficient barrier against the possible powers of his interlocutor. He was almost certain that the man was an imposter, but just in case…

 

The supposed Jedi lifted his dark eyes to Hux, who forced himself to maintain the gaze despite his nerves.

 

“General?” ventured the man in a deep voice which would have made Hux shiver in different circumstances.   

 

Instead, Hux kept to his mutinous silence. He had not talked to Organa, and he would not talk to this man either. Even if he at least had the decency to call him by his title.

 

“I will be in charge of your interrogation,” declared the man with an encouraging smile, causing his cheeks to dimple.

 

Decidedly, his face was becoming more and more preposterous by the second. Hux clenched his jaw and continued with his counting.

 

Fifty-three, fifty-four…

 

The man didn’t let Hux’s attitude bother him as he continued his monologue with the same lighthearted tone.

 

“My name is Ben.”




(To be continued…)

Chapter Text

Ben returned the next day, the day after, and again the day after that. Each time, Hux adopted the same attitude. He curled up on his bed, facing the wall with his back to the Jedi.

 

The latter also kept to a routine. After entering the cell, he would greet, “General,” take his seat, and attempt to engage Hux in conversation. But, Hux remained silent. Ben would then wait in silence himself for a while, sometimes up to an hour. During these standoffs, Hux could feel Ben’s eyes fixed on his skull. He often wondered if Ben was trying to enter his mind. So, he counted. For as long as necessary.

 

In the end, Ben usually left without another word. The first time, he had saluted Hux before slamming the heavy metal door with a bit more force than necessary. The action had amused Hux a little during his dismal days, though it hadn’t happened again.  

 

According to his calculations, he had been held prisoner for one week so far. Apart from Leia Organa and Ben, he had seen no one, talked to no one, and thought he might actually lose his voice at the rate he was going. However, that concern was not a good enough reason to speak with Ben. But, how the days were long…

 

His thoughts spinned round and round in his head, his plans of evasion all mixing together, and he passed way too much of his time in a doze. He had never been one to sleep during the day, but idleness forced him to begin to change his habits.

 

Annoyingly, he also spent an inordinate amount of time rubbing the beard that was taking over his face, as if his fingers could magically make the hairs disappear. Not to mention how much time he wasted dreaming of a shower. The water from the sink permitted him to stay clean, but he missed the sensation of it running down his body.   

 

At least they had provided him with a clean outfit the day before. Two days earlier, he had had a nightmare during one of his naps and had awakened drenched in sweat - him , who always took care to remove his undershirt for his morning gym sessions. The rancid odor of his frantic perspiration had hung over him like a fog. Only a change of clothes had been enough to make it disappear.

 

But, he wasn’t truly clean . This bothered him immensely. For him, cleanliness was essential. The only problem was, asking for a razor or a shower would require speaking to Ben. He would be forced to negotiate, and giving away information was out of the question. Sometimes Hux thought he would prefer a day of physical torture in place of this nearly vegetative state.

 

If he really did become a vegetable, the Jedi would have no trouble entering his mind and extracting all of his secrets - anything from the construction of Starkiller to the list of his old lovers.

 

Or, maybe he was not a Jedi at all - the costume nothing but a ruse - which would explain why he hadn’t yet tried to force himself into Hux’s mind.

 

The cell door opened and Hux rolled on his side to avoid looking at Ben. Mechanically, he began to count.

 

“General.” The habitual greeting of his jailer.

 

Except this time, instead of taking his place on the chair like always, he sighed deeply.

 

“I see that you are still decided against speaking to me, General. I admire your tenacity, but I have my orders. I believe this is a concept you understand well.”

 

He paused, as if expecting a response. Hux scorned his delicate interrogation tactics.

 

Forty-nine, fifty…

 

“I will return each day until you decide to at least look at me.”

 

Fifty-eight, fifty-nine…

 

“In the meantime, I have a little something for you.”

 

He perceived the sound of an object being set on the table.  

 

Sixty-three, sixty-four…

 

“I hope it pleases you.”

 

Sixty-eight, sixty-nine…

 

“I will not insist for today, but I will be back tomorrow.”

 

To Hux’s great relief, Ben departed without waiting. He stopped counting and changed position to search for what had been left on the table: a small stack of books.

 

He stood to approach them but he did not touch them. His hesitation was not due to fear of poison or contamination - if the Resistance planned to kill him, they would find a much quicker way to do it. In reality, the reason for his balk was more distressing: he simply could not allow himself to take advantage of these books. It would be an admission of weakness. Yes, he was slowly dying of boredom in this cell. Yes, his brain continually boiled over with ideas and projects that haunted his waking hours with their futility - their uselessness - and yes , his only solace was the few hours of sleep he managed each night. All of that was true. Even so, he would not give in to temptation. He would prove to Ben that the Resistance did not hold power over him - that he could withstand much worse trials than this.  

 

He felt his nails digging into his palms and forced his hands to relax.

 

He turned his back on the books as if that would allow him to forget their existence. But, he sensed their presence the same way he felt Ben’s gaze on him during his interrogations .

 

When they sent him his evening meal through the hatch at the bottom of the door, he ate for the first time while sitting on his mattress, ignoring the paperbacks that were constantly taunting him. Anyway , he assured himself, they must contain nothing of interest . Surely the works consisted of nothing but propaganda for the glory of the Republic.

 

And when he brought his tray back to the door, if his eyes happened to catch the title of a popular novel he never had the opportunity to read, he erased it immediately from his memory.

 

That night he slept very poorly. He blamed his restlessness on a very long nap he had taken earlier that day, before Ben had arrived.

 

At daybreak, the books were still there. Of course. Hux relieved his bladder, did his exercises, cleaned himself, ate his breakfast, and brushed his teeth - all without turning his head even once in their direction. He kept his eyes trained on the white walls of his enclosure. When Ben returned early that afternoon, Hux was proud to have resisted for an entire day.

 

The Jedi did not mention the books. He contented himself with asking trivial questions of Hux, who, as usual, had no intention of responding - even though the queries were harmless.     

 

When it became evident that Hux still refused to open his mouth, Ben left. To Hux’s immense irritation, Ben did not take the books with him.  

 

He held out for two more days, the stack on the table mocking him as the monotony threatened to defeat him. Thinking of his evasion was no longer sufficient, although the direction of his thoughts had taken a turn with the addition of Ben. More than once he had imagined knocking the Jedi unconscious before fleeing through the door which was always miraculously left open. In these fantasies, the methods Hux used to incapacitate Ben differed, but one aspect always remained the same: the absurdity of Ben’s features. Hux has only seen his face one time before - the very first time Ben had entered his cell - and from that single encounter all he remembered was a mass of dark hair and a laughable beard framed by ridiculous ears which highlighted his extremely large nose. In Hux’s reveries he had the appearance of a grotesque marionette.

 

But even just the idea of physically overpowering a Jedi had rapidly fatigued him. If the man was who he appeared to be, Hux didn’t stand a chance. It was all pointless anyway because there were surely armed guards waiting behind the door.

 

Still, Hux wondered if Ben carried a lightsaber - the weapon of the Jedi. He had never seen one and was curious how it looked. However, there were two problems with this inquiry. Firstly, to verify the presence of a saber, he would have to look at Ben. Secondly, Ben would have to be a complete idiot to visit a prisoner while carrying a weapon of that caliber. If Hux stole the saber somehow, he could use it to wreak bloody havoc. As of yet, he was not able to accurately evaluate the Jedi’s intellect. The questions he had posed to Hux were for the most part neutral, and Hux’s attitude never prolonged the discussions. Nonetheless, Hux considered all others to be dimwitted compared to him, by default. Ben was not an exception.  

 

The evidence of Ben’s dimwittedness increased as, day after day, Ben continued his attempts to engage him in conversation despite Hux’s body language spelling out a clear message of refusal.   

 

Yet, it was after one of these visits that Hux cracked.

 

Ben had departed after only a few minutes of one-sided discourse, and the guarantee of spending another afternoon in lassitude and tedium seized Hux by the guts, paralyzing him. He felt that if he continued in this way for much longer, his body would disintegrate and Ben would find nothing but dust on the mattress when he next returned. His weakness made him want to scream and pound his fists on the walls until they bled.

 

Instead, he grabbed the top book off the pile and read it until the illuminators dimmed to zero percent. He didn’t even touch his evening meal - the tray was left completely undisturbed until it was collected by his jailers half an hour later.  

 

The story was detestable. A stupid romance with characters who had irrational reactions and misplaced honor. Yet, when the illuminators reignited the following day, the first thing he did was retrieve the book from its place near his thigh to continue reading. He felt well-rested for the first time since his capture.  

 

Even though he sighed and rolled his eyes at each scenario, scorning the idiocy of the plot, the reading helped him channel his anger and frustration, and above all it gave his mind an escape from this too-white room where it went round and round in circles all day long. He had already lost track of how many days it had been. The first sign of my intellectual degeneration… he thought with bitterness while flipping to the next page.

 

That morning, he sacrificed his exercise session in favor of reading, and he ate his breakfast with the book in his hand.

 

By the time the hour of Ben’s daily visit had arrived, Hux had almost finished the novel and had carefully replaced it on the stack so it seemed as if he had never touched it at all. When the Jedi entered the room, he turned his back and curled on his bed, as was his habit.

 

“I’m delighted you helped yourself to one of the books,” said Ben cheerfully as he settled on his chair.

 

Hux detected a hint of irony in his tone which did not fit well with the image Hux had built for him in his mind - that of a large oaf.

 

“I see you as the type of man who is constantly attached to his datapad,” continued the Jedi. “I was worried that you’ve never touched a piece of paper in your life and that I’d have to show you how to do it.”

 

Hux bit the inside of his cheek to rein in his reply. He was certain he had more experience with reading than this idiot. But little on paper, it was true. A datapad was much more practical for a man with his lifestyle.

 

Ben huffed a breath in amusement, breaking the silence.  

 

“It’s cute,” he went on, “The way you repositioned the book to make it look like you haven’t touched it.”

 

Hux could readily imagine a sardonic smile gracing Ben’s poorly designed marionette face.

 

“But you know,” concluded the Jedi, “There is a camera. The hours you spent with your nose in a book, and the cry of frustration you let out when the lights extinguished, it’s all…”

 

Despite himself, Hux responded. He sat up straight and for the first time since their initial meeting, he looked at Ben.

 

The latter stopped in his tracks. His expression was one of total shock: eyes wide and mouth hanging open - as if he had given up on provoking any sort of reaction from Hux and therefore his sudden movement had taken him completely by surprise. Hux held back a sneer. The Jedi appeared incapable of concealing his emotions, although his face wasn’t as deformed as the version Hux had reconstructed in his head.

 

It took a few seconds for Ben to compose himself. Hux used them to speak.

 

“It irritates me,” he declared in a firm tone.

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

Ben’s deep voice was hesitant. It was obvious he had no idea what Hux was referring to. His confusion provided further evidence of his missing mental faculties. Hux’s current assessment of the long-haired man: physically powerful, and possibly in possession of other unknown abilities, but empty-headed. The coming days promised to be very, very long.

 

“The camera. It irritates me,” he clarified.

 

“It’s protocol,” replied Ben, defensive.       

 

This man has been badgering Hux for days, and now that he’s finally talking it seems he has no clue what to do.

 

“I couldn’t care less about your protocol . You know very well I cannot leave. The door is well-guarded and there is nothing here that I could possibly use as a weapon to escape.”

 

“You’ve thought about it…” responded Ben. He had the audacity to sound astonished, as if the realization that Hux wanted to leave this place where he was being held against his will was surprising to him.  

 

Hux raised his eyes to the ceiling. He regretted it immediately as the blindingly-bright light from above attacked his retina.

 

“Of course I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about yanking the feet of the chair out of the floor to make myself a stake. I’ve thought about ripping the sink off of the wall and smashing it over your head at the first opportunity. But you know, just as I know, that none of that is feasible. So, I would truly appreciate not being filmed every time I wipe my arse!”

 

After this outburst, Ben was even more hesitant than before.

 

“It’s a safety measure. In case you try to hurt yourself.”    

 

“To hurt myself?!” shouted Hux, appalled. That was without a doubt the most idiotic thing he had ever heard.

 

“They think I’ll try to mutilate myself? Attempt suicide?” He could feel his face screwing up as if he had smelled something foul. Even just the thought was abhorrent.

 

“Something like that.”

 

Hux shook his head, disgusted.

 

“Is that the kind of man you think I am?” he growled, his tone aggressive.

 

Surprisingly, this inquiry made Ben smile, once again causing his cheeks to dimple. Hux’s mental marionette had possessed the same dimples. That at least he had not imagined.

 

“No,” said Ben in an unusually soft voice, “Not at all. You seem to be more of a combative type. And narrow-minded.”

 

The last words were spoken much more softly than the rest, like an afterthought. But there was nothing that Hux could deny in Ben’s analysis.

 

So, he curled up on his bed and turned away from the Jedi. He could sense an opportunity and didn’t want to waste it. The presence of the camera had agitated him since the first day. Because he hadn’t spoken to Ben at all before now, he had a slight advantage. Ben, unsuccessful since the beginning, would want to continue their conversation. Hux was certain Ben would do all he that could to keep him talking.

 

“You must disconnect the camera,” threatened Hux, “Because I will say nothing more as long as it still functions.”

 

Ben did nothing to hide the long sigh that escaped him. Hux supposed the Jedi cursed the being who assigned him the task of interrogating Hux.

 

“Here’s what I propose to you,” said Ben, “I am going to see my technicians and ask them to disconnect the security feed, all right? And I will come back right away afterwards to continue our discussion.”

 

Hux shook his head once more. What a completely ridiculous solution. Still lying down on his cot, he rolled over to face Ben.

 

“Can’t you just signal them from here?” demanded Hux in a tone he would use for a total idiot.

 

“The technicians work with the material, but they’re not the ones who do the surveillance,” responded Ben with matching infliction.

 

The smile he had when Hux had first spoken had completely disappeared.

 

Hux pursed his lips, contemplating this information. Evidently, the posts in the Resistance were compartmentalized just like any other army. It was a small nugget of knowledge, but it could be useful somehow. After all, Hux had very much seen the Resistance as an administration of chaos. He hadn’t even been certain that they followed the basic principles of a military base. (A voice in the back of his head reminded him the Resistance had planned and executed a successful attack organized to capture him.) He ignored it and focused on Ben.

 

He lifted a brow in challenge. It was about time he verified one of his theories…

 

“So, you can’t contact them with your… mental tricks?” asked Hux with a mocking grin.

 

“My… mental tricks?” questioned Ben while tilting his head to the side.

 

“You know very well what I’m talking about,” said Hux impatiently.

 

Ben smiled slightly, just an upward tilt of one corner of his mouth, as if he didn’t want Hux to see it.

 

“You know what I am,” he concluded.

 

“I assumed,” responded Hux. “It’s fairly obvious given your… wardrobe,” he couldn’t help adding, a touch acerbic.

 

Ben lifted his chin. His neck was long, and Hux counted two more beauty marks. He wondered if the rest of him followed the example of his face: if his body was covered in constellations of dark spots.

 

“Well, you assumed correctly. But I can’t contact the technicians the way you’re suggesting. That’s not how it works.”

 

Hux jeered. He doubted it - all of it. It was just a bluff destined to destabilize him. If Ben really did have mystical powers, surely he would have used them to read Hux’s mind by now, if he was truly a Jedi like the ones his father always talked about.

 

“Sure,” Hux agreed, dubious. He fixed Ben with his best sarcastic look: “It’s a great costume.”  

 

Ben’s anger erupted and overflowed as if he were a human volcano. His jaw clenched so hard Hux heard a faint grinding noise; his eyes resembled two black holes. His brows furrowed in concentration, and, gaze locked steadily on Hux, he lifted a hand toward the camera, which suddenly exploded in a shower of sparks and flying detritus. Hux flinched violently, stupefied.

 

He spent long seconds observing the bare wires hanging on the wall where the camera used to be, which was now scattered in pieces on the floor.

 

His heart beating wildly in his chest, he felt a bead of sweat running down his back. It was a trick. A hoax. Not real. It couldn’t be. The camera must have been tampered with before he arrived.  

 

“So?” said Ben with a hint of satisfaction.

 

Hux was speechless, which almost never happened. So, he adopted his default attitude and rolled onto his side, away from Ben. And he started to count, just in case. He did not want Ben to notice the irrational affect his demonstration had on him. He was a man ruled by order and logic. If what he just witnessed was real, he would need to readjust his entire world-view. He needed time to calm himself.

 

“And our discussion?” insisted Ben to his back.

 

Hux remained immobile, fighting the urge to make an obscene gesture.

 

“The camera is gone. We have things to discuss,” reminded the Jedi.

 

“I’ve had enough discussion for one day,” grunted Hux, “Come back tomorrow.”  

 

He sensed Ben’s presence at his back for a few seconds more, followed by the sound of his departure. The door closed with a bang behind the Jedi. A Jedi with a darker nature hidden underneath his friendly air, thought Hux with a glance to the corner where the remains of the destroyed camera rested against the wall.

 

He wondered what sort of damage such power could inflict on a human body.

 

He clenched his fists. His hands trembled.




* *




The door reopened not long after and Hux did not move. He prepared himself for Ben to threaten him with the Force - why else would he have returned - but instead, he found himself with the barrel of a blaster pressed against his temple. Bizarrely, this reassured him somewhat. At least with a blaster he was on familiar ground.

 

“Don’t move,” said a rough voice from right behind him.

 

Hux obeyed. He even closed his eyes as if searching for sleep. The grunts who were sent to collect the pieces of the shattered camera were of no importance to him. He had other matters much more significant on which he must reflect.

 

Soon after, they departed. Hux sat up to certify that his cell was just as immaculate as it was when he first arrived. They were not taking the risk of leaving him even the smallest item he could use to make a weapon.




* *




Hux spent most of the night thinking of Ben’s powers and how they altered his perception of the galaxy. Despite his brain repeating over and over that it must have been a trick, deep down he was certain that beings sensitive to the Force truly did exist, and these beings were capable of feats defying imagination. Without hesitation, he classified Snoke amongst them.

 

Hux attempted to recall all that he knew about Darth Vader. According to his father, who held Vader in paltry estime, he was responsible for the downfall of the Empire. Between those accounts and the historic documents Hux had consulted during his adolescence, he had an idea of the overall capacities of this collection of magicians with ridiculous costumes.   

 

For instance, he knew that Vader was capable of hurting or even killing an adversary without touching him, and also that he could probe someone’s mind and memories and extract whatever he needed. This was truly the part that irritated Hux. If Ben was capable of such things, why had he not used his power to make Hux talk or to read his thoughts? He supposed there must be various levels of power and Ben was most likely much weaker than Vader. Maybe he was only able to detect whether or not Hux was lying about something, and that was why Organa gave him this mission. Or, it was possible all he could do was explode objects from a distance. Whatever it was, Hux concluded that he had nothing to fear from Ben; the so-called Jedi had only snapped after Hux had blatantly doubted his abilities. He did not think Ben was apt to hurt him or to manipulate him - if he was he would have done it long ago.

 

Hux’s sleep that night was almost serene - a sensation he had not often experienced even before his capture.

 

At dawn, he felt alert and recharged, and even close to good humor.

 

He did his exercises with energy, ate his breakfast with enthusiasm, and was delighted to clean himself without the eye of the camera pointed toward him. He ignored the voice in the back of his head reminding him this situation wouldn’t last, and instead used the opportunity to scrub his nude body longer than he had authorized himself until the present. Peripherally, he was worried that Organa’s henchmen would come to replace the camera while he was doing this, but the cell door remained firmly shut.

 

He would have felt almost fresh when he dressed for the day, if it wasn’t for the beard that continued to eat his face and his hair which never ceased to fall across his forehead. He had wet it copiously to straighten it and hold it back, but it continued to revert to its place in front of his eyes whenever he moved.

 

Once his morning rituals were completed, he settled on his bed to finish the novel he started two days earlier. He had no more than a dozen pages left when he heard noises coming from the hallway. He rolled his eyes. It was much too early for his mid-day meal. It must be the technicians sent to replace the camera. His respite had been very short-lived.

 

He furrowed his eyebrows. He would rather not face a rush of guards who would take great pleasure in putting a blaster to his head. So, he concentrated on his reading. As if he was too proud for all this agitation. He hoped they would be quick about it - he was almost done and he doubted they would let him retrieve another book from the table. He supposed he could reread a few passages of the story he still held to kill time. Only if he was desperate.

 

The door opened and closed, but Hux only heard one pair of footsteps. Still, he was certain to maintain an air of abstraction at the intrusion. However, the sound of clothing rustling caught his attention, followed by a deep voice that Hux would recognize anywhere.

 

“I’m delighted to see you have such passion for the book.”

 

Hux lifted his eyes to find Ben sitting at the table, as usual. His hands were folded in front of him and he was wearing his usual amicable smile, far away from the volatile emotions he had displayed the day before.

 

“You’re early,” replied Hux while returning to his reading.

 

“I don’t keep track of when I meet you,” responded Ben, a bit curt.

 

Hux held back a smile. He had taken Ben for a complete imbecile, but he had to admit Ben’s quick replies were occasionally amusing, which was not disagreeable for a man who currently had no other human interaction.  

 

“You know very well what I’m talking about,” said Hux while letting his eyes skim over the words. “You always arrive after my afternoon meal. Not today. Did you plan to dine with me?”

 

Ben laughed in response to this comment, catching Hux’s attention once again. Hux watched as he hid his plush mouth behind his hand, as if his amusement must be concealed. It must have been a Jedi quirk. From what he knew of their code, they were among the most austere beings in the galaxy.  

 

“The proposition is very tempting, General, but unfortunately, I have other responsibilities in the hours to come.”

 

Hux’s fingers tightened on the pages of his book. Were him and Ben… flirting? Hux had never been a social being to begin with, but after the long days of silence that were imposed upon him, it wasn’t his fault he seemed to have gone a little mad. Hux did not continue the exchange, deciding instead to focus on his reading.

 

“What part are you at?” questioned Ben when it became evident Hux would say nothing more.

 

“Five pages from the end. Maya is about to make an about face to search for Gek. It’s ridiculous since she already escaped in the last evacuation shuttle. Now, they are probably going to die together. This will be a well-deserved end given the level of stupidity they’ve both shown since the beginning of the story.”

 

“You know, you’re supposed to feel sympathy for the characters and saddened by their death,” admonished Ben, although his tone seemed more amused than incensed.

 

Hux lifted a single brow, focusing on Ben.

 

“You’ve read it?”

 

Ben’s cheeks pinkened and he lowered his face, letting his long hair shield him from view. Once again Hux felt the urge to remove the mass of useless hair.

 

“In fact,” admitted Ben, “The book is mine.”

 

Hux scoffed. “You read novels for adolescents?”  

 

Ben levelled him with a dark glare - the same angry look he had given yesterday before shattering the camera. As Hux had presumed, he had one hell of a bad temper and could withstand no criticism, nor mockery. Briefly, Hux wondered if another part of his cell would burst into pieces. Instead of that, Ben inhaled deeply and his expression relaxed minutely before he responded.

 

“I read it when I was a teenager,” he justified. “It’s not easy to find books on a rebel army base, you know. So yes, I read everything that fell into my hands. Even if the plot was stupid.”

 

“Ah ha! See, even you admit the story is stupid!” exclaimed Hux, victorious.

 

Ben turned red, surely regretting that he shared this personal information. And he’s back to being an idiot again, thought Hux, who had picked up on something more interesting to talk about.  

 

“So, you were raised on a rebel army base?” he inquired, “That must have been a gruelling environment for a child.”

 

Once more, Ben avoided his gaze. He even wore a sullen pout which gave him the air of being much younger than he was. Seeing that he would deliver nothing more on the subject, Hux decided to reorient the conversation. He did not wish for it to end just yet. Mostly because it was a way to pass the time, but also because Ben might disclose further information that could be useful to Hux at a later time.

 

“I expected you to like the book, since it was part of your selection.”

 

Ben sighed and shook his head. He shifted in his chair as if he was uncomfortable. It seemed that was the case. The chair was much too small for him. At first glance, Hux had noticed the Jedi was very tall. Probably taller than him, even. But contrary to Hux, he was also very broad. He must have been a seasoned warrior underneath his bumbling air. He had seemed much more in his element when he had nothing more to do than fix Hux with his regard and wait for him to speak. Again, Hux wondered why it was this Jedi who had been assigned his interrogation, since he was obviously not comfortable with social interactions and it seemed he did not have the power to read his mind.

 

Belatedly, Hux realized he had not counted a single time this morning. Ben’s response cut into his thoughts.

 

“I chose it because it filled the criteria for what type of book I can bring you.”

 

“What do you mean?” questioned Hux.

 

“I’m not allowed to bring you a datapad or anything with a hard cover.”

 

Without his permission, Hux’s mouth formed a rictus grin.

 

“How ridiculous!” he crowed. “What are they afraid of?” he added, simultaneously wondering who ‘they’ really were.

 

He supposed Organa must have something to do with these preposterous procedures.

 

“Think realistically,” he lamented, “I’m not stupid enough to attack someone capable of exploding a camera with his mind with nothing but a bit of hard cardstock. Or, are they concerned I would open my veins with a sharp corner?”

 

Ben lifted his shoulders in a clearly frustrated gesture.

 

“I know!”   he exploded, “It doesn’t make sense, but you’re a high-priority prisoner. They’re not taking any chances with you. Especially since you broke Poe’s nose. I don’t make the rules.”

 

“Why?” Hux asked, completely serious.

 

Ben seemed perplexed for a moment, as if he didn’t understand Hux’s question.

 

“Why what?”

 

“Why don’t you make the rules?” he clarified, “You can blow up objects from a distance. I suppose you must have other capabilities as well. So, why is someone with power such as yourself not the one to decide?”

 

Hux was certain that if he had the same or even similar powers, he would use them to dominate the galaxy. Not only for personal ambition, but also because he was confident he would make a formidable leader. He knew how to bring order and discipline where there was only chaos and rebellion. But unfortunately, he was just a man. His path to greatness was much longer and required more careful planning and finesse.  

 

While Hux was reflecting, Ben seemed to truly be searching for an answer to his question, as if the thought had never occurred to him before. Hux fought the urge to roll his eyes. Vader had been the same. Despite his immeasurable power, he had never done anything but serve the Emperor. Before his betrayal, that is. Before he was weakened by his sentiments. In Hux’s opinion, users of the Force were weak and unworthy of the gift bestowed upon them. It seemed Ben was not an exception.

 

Eventually, Ben responded, with a sluggishness that was almost unbearable.

 

“You must understand,” he said, “that I am part of an ancient order. And that long ago restrictions were established to ensure the Jedi didn’t lose their way when faced with such power.”

 

“Yes, yes,” said Hux, “I’ve heard the stories. True idiocy, if you ask me.”

 

Ben’s countenance hardened.

 

“You have no idea what you’re talking about!” He was agitated all over again. “I thought the First Order, you included, loved rules and restraints. You have no right to judge the way of the Jedi.”

 

Hux scoffed with disdain.

 

“I follow regulations that are logical and useful,” he replied with implacable coldness. “After all, I don’t see how wearing a dressing gown and being coiffed like a Wookie have an effect on the control of your magic powers. It’s just silly.”  

 

Ben diverted his eyes. His visage was dark and his cheeks flushed. After a few moments, he returned his attention to Hux.

 

“You look like a Wookie,” he grumbled childishly.

 

Hux shook his head but couldn’t help carding his fingers through his too-long beard and his unruly tresses.

 

“On this subject…” he began in a softer voice.

 

Antagonizing Ben was decidedly amusing, especially in comparison to the earlier days when he believed he would die of boredom, but if he wanted to obtain a few favors from Ben, he could not afford to make a complete enemy of him.

 

“Would it be possible,” he asked, “To have access to a razor and a shower? The Wookie look is clearly not working for me.”

 

Ben regarded him for a few seconds and shook his head.

 

“I’ll see what I can do,” he replied, seeming marginally appeased, “But I doubt they’ll entrust you with anything sharp-edged.”  

 

Hux opened his mouth to protest, but Ben lifted his hand to silence him.

 

“I will ask my superiors,” he assured, “But for today, I must leave. I will come back with an answer tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow.”

 

Hux assented. He didn’t have a choice. He settled more comfortably on his bunk and reached for the book he had set aside during their discussion.

 

“By the way,” he called as Ben was about to open the door of the cell, “Were you reprimanded for destroying the camera?”  

 

Ben smiled at him so brightly that Hux had to hold back an echo of the expression.

 

“Oh yes, I got an earful. But it was worth the rebuke, just to see the expression on your face.”

 

His cheeks dimpled even more deeply as his grin widened, and he disappeared behind the heavy door before Hux could defend himself.

 

When the lock slid into place, he put a hand on his forehead. He opened the book but found he was incapable of concentrating. He now knew why Organa did not personally oversee his interrogation - why Ben was selected and not someone else. It wasn’t because Ben could manipulate or read his thoughts. It wasn’t because he could torture Hux with his mental control, or that he could intimidate Hux by exploding objects with his mind. It was because they were two men of similar age, and she assumed that Hux’s isolation would cause him to sympathize with the Jedi. In the long term, Organa was betting that Hux would unload all his secrets on Ben, in the name of friendship.  

 

He clenched his jaw. If she truly believed that would work, she was entirely mistaken. Hux would never fall for such a crude strategy. His sole purpose was to serve the First Order; his loyalties would never be swayed. He despised himself for appreciating his earlier exchange with the Jedi, and for anticipating his return the next day. Or the day after that, Ben had said.

 

The prospect of passing another day in total isolation upset Hux more than it should have. His fingers twisted the pages of the book, damaging it. He was stronger than this. He had discovered his enemy’s plan. It was therefore impossible that it would occur.

 

Violently, he threw the book across the cell and curled into a ball to wait for his lunch. Despite his best efforts, he was not able to completely suppress his curiosity concerning the reason for Ben’s early visit this morning, and why he might not be able to return tomorrow. Only to remain informed on the situation, he reminded himself firmly.





(To be continued…)

Chapter Text

As he had predicted, Ben did not return the next day. Hux started a new book, which turned out to be even more dull than the one before. It was a work devoted to the fauna and wildlife of Dathomir, a planet Hux had never set foot on. The more he learned about it, the more he was certain he would never go there voluntarily. But, he was getting ahead of himself: he had to escape from his cell before he could go anywhere else.

 

The hideous and aggressive creatures inhabiting a world he would never see quickly ceased to captivate him, and he passed the remainder of the afternoon with his head underneath the thin bedcover, napping as he had done at the beginning of his capture. He detested his own apathy.    

 

Before his evening meal, he forced himself to sit up and reflect once again on possible methods of escape. It had been two days since he had devised any realistic plans. And, he now had a new detail to consider: the absence of the camera. Without it, they could no longer watch his every move. After this realization, his first action was to kneel on the floor and once again study the feet of the table and chairs. They were massive and solid, and also completely unobtainable.  

 

Hux shook them all, one after another, searching for a fault that didn’t exist. Finally, out of desperation, he chose one at random and pulled on it until his palms and fingers ached.

 

He stopped before he did any real damage to himself, letting out a roar of frustration and collapsing onto the floor. He rubbed his sore hands on his face, jaw clenched to hold in a string of profanity. He administered a powerful kick to one of the chair legs, but only succeeded in hurting his foot. The Resistance had supplied him with clothing, but not footwear.

 

He missed his boots. They were rigid and uncomfortable, but he yearned for them all the same. He missed his uniform as well. The artificial pyjamas he currently wore made him feel like a spectre of himself. But, most of all, he missed his former life. To be standing on the bridge of his immense warship, giving orders to his subordinates who showed nothing but respect and deference toward him, to have thousands of troops ready to give their life for a common cause… His position had provided him with direction, a goal, and control over his existence. His current situation was the complete opposite. Held captive in this Resistance base, he was at the mercy of his attackers. For all that he knew, he would never again see the light of day, or the perfect blackness in between each star. Most likely, he would die in this dismal cell. It could even be soon; all he had to do was make one offensive remark too many, and Ben would explode his head in a fit of anger like he did to the camera. Although, to be killed by a Jedi was at least somewhat respectable. He couldn’t stand the thought of a trigger-happy grunt sealing his destiny with a blaster bolt to the neck. That would be a truly humiliating way to go.

 

Still seated on the cold tile floor, he bit his lower lip until he tasted the copper flavor of blood in his mouth. He blamed the tears threatening to fall from his eyes on the pain. But, when he wiped his lip on the back of his hand, there was nothing but a trickle of blood. He had done hardly any damage.

 

He was torn between two conflicting urges: to either bang his head against the wall or to curl into a ball at the bottom of his bed. Instead of doing either, he forced himself to breathe slowly and to let his brain retake control of his body.

 

It was truly unusual for him to react this way. Although, he had never been held captive before. Even during his toughest days at the Academy and over the course of his career, he always had several options and plans of advancement.

 

This feeling of powerlessness he was currently suffering was the worst he had ever lived through.

 

He pinched the bridge of his nose and inhaled deeper and deeper with every breath, until his heart beat normally in his chest and his hands ceased to tremble.

 

At any rate, it was stupid of him to try and tear off a chair leg in the first place. The idea of a panicked animal. He was better than that. The metal leg of a chair would certainly allow him to knock out a guard, maybe two, but the guards never entered his cell. He saw no one but Ben. And the latter would certainly never let himself be overtaken by such a crude weapon. Not to mention that if he did manage to get out of the cell, he still had the entire complex to traverse. Maybe it would work if he stole one of the guard’s blasters...

 

He shook his head. No. There were too many variables. Too many things that could go wrong. He must be patient. He must wait for the opportune moment. Even if it would take years. He had already lost count of the exact number of days that had passed since his capture, but he believed it had only been about two weeks. He could endure longer than that. He had lived in worse conditions over the years.  

 

Hux wondered if resignation would overtake him one day. If he would someday accept that his life would be limited to a few square meters of white tile, three meals a day provided by an invisible hand, and a daily visit from a robed idiot. Possibly. But for the moment, despite his anger and frustration, he felt a flare of resilience burning in his chest.

 

He stood up and splashed his face with water at the sink. His lip no longer bled.

 

When his evening meal was delivered, he ate at the table while reflecting on Starkiller Base. The work had surely commenced by then, and Hux regretted most of all that he wasn’t there to supervise. He hoped the Supreme Leader hadn’t chosen an incompetent to replace him.




* * *




The next day passed so slowly he almost couldn’t believe it. He thought he had known absolute boredom during the days that followed Organa’s visit, but it was nothing compared to the apathy he was currently experiencing.

 

He had abandoned the text on Dathomir in favor of a treaty that outlined the development of the galactic spice trade. It had been published more than twenty years ago and the information was therefore probably completely obsolete, but at least Ben hadn’t lied when he said he had read anything he could get his hands on when he was young.

 

Hux grinded his teeth at the thought of the Jedi. Just as he had not returned the day before, he had yet to make an appearance that day, and probably wouldn’t at all, since Hux’s lunch had been served hours ago.

 

He knew it was stupid, and nonsensical, but he felt almost intolerably bitter whenever he thought of Ben. He resented that Ben had more important things to do than visit him every day. Although, considering his powers and potential position at the heart of the Resistance, it wasn’t surprising he had other responsibilities in addition to Hux’s interrogation. Still, he couldn’t deny that it vexed him. Hux was an invaluable prisoner -- he knew secrets that would change the fate of the entire galaxy. To extract them from him should have been the Resistance’s top priority. Otherwise, why did they capture him at all? But no, instead he spends his days completely alone, his only interaction with a man who has yet to ask him any pertinent questions, and who has not even once tried to use his powers or his physical strength to make him talk. The whole situation was just as puzzling as it was frustrating.    

 

He tossed the treaty on the table and watched as it slid into the book on Dathomir, causing it to fall to the floor, spine up and pages wrinkled. Although he hadn’t intended to cause any damage, he didn’t bother to get up and fix it. Instead he sighed and, arms crossed behind his head, let himself fall back on his mattress.

 

What game was the Resistance playing? Hux was almost tempted to give up one or two scraps of information just to gain some attention. But, he knew that was just his pride talking. Maybe that was the type of reaction the Resistance was counting on. After all, they had to be well-informed on Hux and his habits in order to mount a successful attack against him. They must have heard tales of his arrogance.

 

Or, maybe they were leading him by the nose and Ben had already been reading his mind the whole time, without Hux realizing it -- without Hux noticing anything at all.

 

He could almost imagine Ben writing a report every evening on what he had seen in Hux’s mind, then giving it to Organa while both of them laughed at his naivety. He clenched his fists. How completely ridiculous. Ben’s face was an open book; it would be impossible for him to conceal such a scheme, unless he was truly an exceptional actor.

 

He sighed again and straightened when he heard a noise. But, it was just his evening meal sliding across the floor. Hux ignored it for a few minutes.

 

Eventually, he forced himself to sit at the table and swallow the majority of the food. Even if he had no appetite, he could not allow himself to become physically weak. Especially not for something as asinine as two days of solitude.

 

At any rate, Ben would certainly not be late for his visit the next day, and this time Hux would try to learn a bit more about what the Resistance intended for him. The idea of questioning the man who was sent to question him was so deliciously ironic that it calmed him almost instantly. Furthermore, Ben might even unintentionally tell him personal information about himself in the course of their discussions, such as the fact that he was raised in the Resistance. Hux hadn’t even asked him about that. He was confident that with some careful prodding, he would obtain much more.

 

Hux didn’t like people, but he knew how to set this aspect of himself aside in order to achieve his goals. He hadn’t quickly reached the top by being seen as an antisocial. If he could use his skills in this area even while locked away, he wouldn’t deny himself the opportunity.




* * *




The next morning, he woke with enthusiasm, ready to welcome Ben. Today, he would extract information out of the Jedi and finally learn what plans the Resistance had for him.

 

He realized that recently, when he thought of Ben, he imagined him with his true features instead of those of an idiotic marionette. It wasn’t a huge difference, but Hux was conscious of other details, such as how the color of his eyes darkened when he was in a fit of anger, and the crooked alignment of his teeth when he smiled.

 

But how could he not notice all of that? After all, Ben’s face was the only one he had seen for weeks. Of course he would focus on it.

 

While waiting for Ben to return, he amused himself by imagining that face flushing scarlet with embarrassment and anger, as he assumed it would when Ben realized he had revealed sensitive information to Hux about himself or the Resistance.

 

Hux’s lips formed a predatory grin.




* * *




His enthusiasm collapsed entirely when, several hours later, Ben had yet to arrive. By then, Hux had curled himself into a ball on his bed, and hadn’t even bothered to retrieve his dinner. Similarly, he had not occupied himself with the books. His too-long fingernails gouged his palms and he did nothing to prevent it. Even when they pierced his skin.




* * *




The next morning, he washed at the sink, principally to erase the traces of dried blood crusted underneath his fingernails. He did not complete his exercises, and only nibbled on his breakfast despite the combative voice in the back of his head ordering him to buck up and get over it. Hux imagined it was his father speaking.   

 

On the bright side, a new set of clean clothes and bed sheets had arrived with his breakfast. So, he swallowed his last mouthful and forced himself to remake the bed and clean himself more thoroughly before he would change into the new clothes. There was not much he could do in the absence of a shower and any real supplies, but he detested uncleanliness and would not allow himself to descend into filth.  

 

He was just reaching for the fresh shirt when the door unlocked, startling him. He hadn’t heard any noise at all coming from the hallway.

 

His first thought was that lunch had arrived early. Then he remembered that the door didn’t need to be unlocked to deliver his meals.

 

At last, Ben’s face appeared through the half-open door.

 

“Hello!” the Jedi greeted with enthusiasm, before realizing that Hux was half-naked.

 

He averted his eyes.

 

“Sorry. I didn’t know you were… I’ll come back later…”

 

“No!” Hux cut in, unable to hide the desperation in his voice.

 

Ben blinked at him, clearly not expecting such an outburst. Hux could feel his cheeks heating  and concealed his flush of embarrassment by pulling the shirt over his head. His heart was pounding and he didn’t want the Jedi to know about it. It had been three days since Hux had seen another person, and he had spent many of those hours wondering where Ben was and what he was doing. He had also considered the possibility that Ben had been killed during his mission. If that had been the case, all of his plans would have been for nothing - abandoned and forgotten at the bottom of a deep, dark grave. Therefore, Ben’s return gave him a very real sense of relief, pathetic as it was.

 

“I’m ready, you can come in,” added Hux a bit hastily.

 

It was absurd that he was authorizing one of his jailers to enter his cell, but Ben didn’t pick up on it. He simply consented and moved forward, closing the heavy door behind him.

 

He seemed to hesitate for a moment, uncertain of what step to follow now that Hux was standing a few paces away from him and not lounging on his bed as he normally did. This made Hux hesitate in return, but finally, and for the first time, he sat on the chair across from the one Ben usually occupied. This action seemed to restore Ben’s confidence as he settled on the opposite chair, shifting his too-tall and too-large frame to get comfortable.

 

Hux cleared his throat. “How was your mission?”  

 

It was not a subtle question, but Hux had decided that he would strike hard in the beginning to make his later requests seem less threatening.  

 

Ben tilted his head to the side.  

 

“I’m not authorized to discuss that with you,” he replied.

 

Hux’s confidence wavered. A different tactic, then...

 

“And,” continued the Jedi, “I’m the one asking the questions.”

 

Hux lifted his hands as if to encourage him. He was conscious of the small marks his fingernails had left behind on his palms, but Ben didn’t seem to notice them. Instead of speaking right away, he slowly leaned forward toward Hux, a thinly disguised smile pulling up the corners of his full lips.  

 

Because of Ben’s close proximity, Hux noticed that the spots on his face were more numerous than he had originally believed. And that the quality of his hair was incredible. He was tempted to ask him for a bit of his shampoo.

 

“How have you been these last few days?” asked Ben in his deep timbre, interrupting Hux’s observations. “My absence was longer than anticipated. I hope you weren’t too bored.”

 

This was not at all the type of question Hux had been expecting. He had hoped that Ben might finally inquire about the First Order and the reasons for his promotion. Instead, the Jedi continued with his single-minded insistence to discuss only trivial matters. Hux shook his head. Truthfully, his enforced isolation over the past three days had affected him deeply, to the point where he had begun to worry he would go mad if it continued much longer. But, he would not reveal that to Ben any more than he would reveal the plans for Starkiller Base.

 

“My three days of absolute silence,” began Hux, “Were enlightening. I used my time to become a distinguished specialist in the life forms on Dathomir, and to perfect my knowledge of the galactic spice trade circa twenty years ago.”

 

Ben’s smile stretched across his face, and he lifted one of his massive hands to thread his fingers through his hair. Hux observed this action, his expression completely void of any emotion. He could probably break most of the bones in my body with hands like those, he thought placidly. He wouldn’t even need his Jedi powers.  

 

“I see your point,” chuckled Ben, “Those books are somewhat… dull? Off-putting?”

 

“Rubbish?” proposed Hux.

 

Ben nodded in agreement. His eyes sparkled.

 

“I suppose that’s an appropriate description. Although, in my defense, I don’t know your preferences for reading material. For all I know, you could be a Rancor fanatic or a passionate chef. So, I varied the selection as much as possible. However, I wouldn’t have thought you were partial to romance novels. Too bad I don’t have a little sister to share her collection with you.”

 

Hux rolled his eyes, but his lips curled up slightly of their own accord.

 

“None of those are better than the other,” he defended himself. “If you bring me a real novel, it might convince me to cooperate.”

 

Ben gazed at him intently. Then, his expression hardened abruptly.

 

“You do know you need to give me something at some point, right?”

 

Hux folded his hands on the table. Finally: a serious topic. Ben’s tone and expression conveyed the gravity of his inquiry.

 

Hux reproduced these same qualities in his own countenance as he responded, “You’re not asking me the right questions.”

 

“How and why were you promoted to the position of General at such a young age?”

 

Organa had obviously alluded to the rapidity of his ascension. The Resistance was not entirely comprised of idiots as he had previously believed. They knew the First Order was plotting something and that Hux was at the center of it. But that was the sort of information Hux would never reveal; not under torture, nor the burden of isolation.

 

“Because I’m brilliant,” he replied.

 

“In what way?” insisted Ben.

 

“In every way. I’m an excellent soldier, a skilled strategist, a natural leader, a…”

 

He stopped himself at the last moment. His ego had almost caused him to announce that he was also an unparalleled engineer - the type capable of designing plans for a superweapon that would obliterate entire solar systems. He had to be more careful. This pretense of a relationship he had formed with Ben had lowered his defenses.   

 

Across from him, the Jedi seemed to have scented a lead. Not surprising, with a nose like that, thought Hux uncharitably, even as he realized he was once again scrutinizing Ben’s face much more closely than was necessary. He inhaled deeply and forced himself to concentrate.  

 

“A what?” demanded Ben, his attention focused entirely on Hux, to the point that he began to lean further and further toward Hux across the table.

 

“An attractive man whose face the First Order can use for favourable publicity.”

 

Ben barked out a single, disbelieving laugh. He reclined once more in his chair, his posture relaxed.  

 

“Seriously? You’re telling me that the First Order made you General for your pretty face?”

 

Hux’s mouth pinched in distaste. It was entirely untrue, and more than a little vexing.

 

“That is not what I said,” he needled, “I merely stated that I have a lot of qualities and merits that made me the ideal candidate for the post. The fact that I am well-groomed is nothing but one factor among others.”

 

Then he sighed gustily, rubbing his hands against his too-long beard.

 

“But how would you know that?” he lamented, “You don’t have the slightest idea what I look like under all this hair.”

 

Ben smiled once again and Hux fought to hold back a similar expression. It was rather incredible how he felt so quickly at ease when they conversed, responding tit for tat with humour and a hint of acidity. Hux had never been good at making friends before. He bit the inside of his cheek. Ben was not his friend.

 

“I assure you, General,” the latter teased, “You will see your handsome face again soon. I’m sure you used it to make all the girls swoon.”

 

Hux muffled a small chuckle behind one of his hands. It did not escape Ben’s notice.

 

“What did I say?” he asked. “What?” he persisted when Hux’s laughter redoubled, fed by the stress of the past few days.

 

Ben waited until Hux had calmed down enough to take a few deep breaths before trying again.

 

“I can easily see you as the type of man to have a woman on every planet.”

 

Hux shook his head and combed his fingers through his hair, brushing it back from where it fell across his forehead.

 

“Evidently, the Resistance isn’t as well-informed as I thought,” he responded, fighting against a new wave of hilarity at Ben’s perplexed expression.

 

He spoke again before the Jedi could ask him more questions on the subject.

 

“Does that mean you have a razor for me?” he inquired eagerly.

 

Ben nodded his head slowly and removed a canvas pouch from his robe. He placed it on the table and opened it. Inside, Hux saw an electric razor and a small rectangular mirror.  

 

“I had a feeling you would prefer a more traditional razor, but it was the only type I could negotiate,” explained Ben. “And I must collect everything when you’re done. And… I must also monitor you the entire time you operate it.”

 

Hux removed the electric razor from the pouch and examined it carefully. He had never shaved with this sort of apparatus before, but he wasn’t going to be difficult about it.  

 

“They’re very wary of me,” he mused, not for the first time. “Are they afraid I’ll kick down the door and attack them with this bladeless shaver?”

 

“Possibly. You’re a resourceful man. A shard of broken mirror could also be fashioned into a formidable weapon.”

 

“Against you?”

 

Ben smirked. “No, not against me. But against the guards…”

 

“The guards never enter the cell,” interrupted Hux.

 

“... or against yourself...” Ben trailed off.

 

“I thought we had agreed I’m not a threat to myself.”

 

Ben’s eyes dropped to Hux’s hands, wordlessly calling attention to his lacerated palms. Hux quickly filled with shame as he recalled his restless, irrational behavior over the past few days. He resisted the urge to hide his hands under the table. Instead, he lifted his chin with an air of defiance.

 

“Hmm,” Hux allowed, gazing pointedly at the lower half of Ben’s visage. “I know you’re not familiar with the concept of shaving, but don’t you have something for the skin?”

 

Ben glared, his eyes glowing with that anger Hux was beginning to know so well.

 

“Listen, I already did my best to obtain all this, so take it or leave it. If it doesn’t please you, I’ll take it all back, and don’t come crying to me when you have a beard so long you could make braids with it!”

 

Hux strengthened his grip on the objects in his hands, biting back an antagonizing retort.

 

“I’ll manage,” he muttered, standing.

 

He approached the sink, conscious of Ben’s gaze on his back. He positioned the mirror against the wall and, after several tests, knelt on the floor in order to see himself from the best angle.

 

“In fact, General,” interrupted Ben as Hux rotated the electric device back and forth, searching for the on switch, “When I said I must monitor you, I meant physically, but also mentally. We don’t want to take any risks and as I told you before, a mirror shard could do a lot of damage.”

 

“What exactly do you mean by that?” he questioned, turning his body toward the Jedi.

 

“If you try to break the mirror to…”

 

“No,” Hux clarified, “What do you mean when you say you need to monitor me mentally?”

 

Ben hesitated for a moment.

 

“I have to enter your mind,” he admitted eventually. “Just on the surface. To be sure you don’t have…”

 

He hesitated again, as if he was searching for the right words.

 

“... any bad thoughts?” he tried.

 

Hux snickered.

 

“Any bad thoughts? Are you serious?”

 

“Just in case you decide to…”

 

Hux lifted a hand to stop him.

 

“What will you do if I visualize a ton of gory images? How will you differentiate between my true intentions and my passing thoughts?”

 

“If I probe deeper into your mind, I probably could, but…”

 

He bit his lip, hesitating again. Hux furrowed his brows.

 

“Listen, do what you want. I am going to rid myself of all this hair.”

 

He started the razor. Then, he felt something he never had before. A sort of… pressure on his brain, like something was pushing its way into his head. It was very tenuous, and if he hadn’t been expecting it, he probably would have brushed it off as the beginning of a headache. But, in this context, he knew that Ben was entering his mind. The sensation wasn’t painful, but it was a nuisance. And, it was making him anxious.

 

Truly, it was a completely ridiculous and unnecessary precaution. He was not going to hurt himself. What he had done to his palms was entirely different from the idea of slitting his wrists with a sharp mirror-edge.         

 

So, just for the morbid pleasure of confusing Ben, he decided to recall, in vivid detail, the goriest, bloodiest moments of his life -- such as the time he had ordered the total annihilation of an entire village because he had been persuaded they were hiding members of the Resistance. He had remained immobile, his hands crossed behind his back, as the villagers were fired upon. He could still perfectly recall the smell of the blood that flooded the terrain, and the sight of the bodies abandoned to rot as the First Order shuttles departed.

 

He studied his reflection in the mirror. He had already finished most of his face, but the electric razor was decidedly less efficient than a manual one. He redoubled his efforts, and felt more and more satisfied as his facial hair slowly fell from his face into the interior of the basin, covering the white porcelain in a layer of red.    

 

His memories lead him next to the first murder he had ever committed. It wasn’t truly a murder. In fact, it had been implicitly condoned by the Academy. The boy had been called Galec. Both of them had been fifteen at the time. Hux had shot him down during a training exercise which had required the use of real blaster fire. He had not trembled after the act, and his father had congratulated him heartily on his performance. Hux had never felt any remorse. He had done what was necessary as a future soldier of the First Order, and had even felt proud to have been awarded top marks at the end of the trial. Because, in addition to Galec, he had killed three other boys that day. He didn’t remember much of the others. Only Galec. Galec with his lovely dark eyes. When he had been alive, Hux had more than once wanted to lead him into a hidden alcove to steal a kiss or two. He had never done it. Not much later, he had watched as those lovely dark eyes became gray.

 

Idly, he wondered if Ben had perceived anything from his thoughts so far.

 

A look in the mirror confirmed that he had. Ben’s eyes were lowered and his cheeks were flushed. His discomfort was almost palpable.

 

Hux was curious. What exactly from his recollections had made the Jedi most uncomfortable? Was it that Hux was a cold-blooded killer? That he could easily wipe out entire villages and shoot down his classmates with hardly a thought? Or, was it because he had wanted to kiss Galec?

 

He turned off the razor and discarded it. The silence that enveloped the cell was almost suffocating. Hux stood, his knees and legs aching after several minutes spent kneeling on the cold, hard floor.  

 

He rinsed his face and seized the mirror to admire his reflection.

 

His cheeks were red, and the result was not as clean as he was used to, but Hux felt as if he had found himself again -- despite the long, disordered hair that still flopped over his forehead. He suddenly felt much better than he had in days. Much stronger. Much more confident as well. He could, and would, survive all this. He had survived the Academy, after all.

 

He gathered the objects from the sink and returned to the table to give them to Ben.

 

The latter had finally managed to reestablish his pleasant expression, and held his hands out to accept the items.

 

“Thank you,” he said as he slid the razor and mirror back into the pouch. “I will bring it back in a few days, when you need to shave again.”

 

Hux nodded, but kept his eyes fixed on the Jedi.

 

“You know,” he said without thinking, “You have a very interesting face. It’s too bad you hide it under that ridiculous beard.”

 

He had meant it as a compliment, but Ben shut down, his expression darkening like the day he had destroyed the camera. His eyebrows furrowed, his eyes turned black, and his mouth twisted into an aggressive frown.

 

“I didn’t ask you for your opinion on this subject, General,” he spit, standing abruptly, sections of his baggy clothes flying out around him.

 

Before Hux could respond, Ben made an about-face. He raised his hand and the door slammed open, crashing violently against the wall. Ben exited without looking back. The door closed itself behind him, with enough force to make Hux’s bones vibrate.   

 

He let himself fall back on his chair, conscious of the fact that he had been perilously close to suffering the same fate as the camera. His legs wouldn’t stop trembling, so he wedged his feet in-between the metal legs of the chair and table.  

 

His hands were shaking. He passed them over his face, almost surprised at the smoothness of his skin.  

 

He wondered what had provoked such ire in Ben. The other had never clarified what exactly about Hux’s statement had upset him. The first time they had met face-to-face, Hux had found Ben’s features grotesque. But today, he had genuinely appreciated Ben’s distinctiveness. Hux truly believed that a beard was not the best feature for such a face. Evidently, he had unknowingly hit a sore spot.

 

He sighed, gazing at the pile of books on the corner of the table. He hated to admit it, but he sincerely hoped Ben would return as soon as possible. Isolation was a tougher enemy than the Resistance.




* * *




Despite himself, Hux felt almost unbearably distressed for the remainder of the day and into the next morning. He hadn’t been able to sleep, though he had been somewhat comforted by the fresh, clean bed sheets and the sensation of the fabric against his newly-shaven cheeks.

 

He had eaten even though he had no appetite. It wasn’t that he was tired of the repetitiveness of his meals. After all, he had eaten similar fare on the Finalizer, and on all the other vessels he had been assigned to. It wasn’t even any worse than what he had been fed at the Academy. No, the real problem was much worse than a simple yearning for exotic flavors. What really bothered him was that, ever since his confrontation with Ben the day before, he felt as if he had a ball of lead sitting in his stomach. An enormous ball of lead that refused to disappear until, after he had returned his empty lunch tray, Ben entered his cell once again.    

 

Like always, he wore his Jedi costume in its full glory -- complete with sparse beard and wary eyes focused on Hux. He took a seat on his usual chair and lifted a hand. In it was a small, dark book with a picture of a boy brandishing a sword on the cover.

 

Hux recognized the image. It had been a popular novel in the eyes of the second-year cadets at the Academy. This type of book had been forbidden, but a few copies had circulated under the radar. Hux had never read it. He knew his father disapproved of literature that wasn’t used for educational purposes. Consequently, Hux had scorned the book and had thought with conviction that reading it was a useless waste of time. He recalled very clearly that he had wished to burn a copy one of his classmates had brought to their dormitory. But, the book had never touched his hands. Hux had no friends to speak of, and no one had taken the risk of passing contraband to the son of the Commandant. A smart decision indeed.

 

It made him smile that Ben had selected this particular novel by chance out of all the rest.

 

He stood from his bed, on which he had been lounging as usual, and settled himself across from the Jedi. He held out his hand and accepted the book.

 

“You’ve read it?” asked Ben.

 

His voice was soft. Almost timid.

 

Hux shook his head, flipping the book to study the art on both covers. Suddenly, he realized he hadn’t even the slightest idea what the book was actually about. He didn’t even know why it had been banned in the first place.

 

“No,” he admitted, “But I’ve heard of it.”

 

Ben nodded his head.

 

“It was a huge success,” he agreed.

 

Silence fell between them, Ben staring at his fists while Hux focused on the paperback in his pale fingers. It was a book for adolescents, rather short in length. He would be finished with it before the following evening.

 

“It was my favorite when I was young,” said Ben in a hesitant tone. “I knew I had it laying around somewhere.”

 

“It’s your copy?” questioned Hux. Bizarrely, he had no problem at all imagining Ben rummaging through his old keepsakes in his quarters, searching for a small buried book -- and doing it just for him.

 

The intention behind the gesture affected him deeply. He felt almost… touched. How idiotic. He gripped the book tighter in his hands.

 

“Yes,” confirmed Ben.

 

Then, he blushed abruptly. Hux lifted a brow.

 

“On this subject…” said Ben, his face contorting into an embarrassed smile.

 

He lifted one of his massive hands and combed his fingers through his hair.

 

Hux waited in silence, amused by the other’s trouble and continued hesitation.

 

“This book made me very… emotional,” stammered Ben without meeting his eyes. “Just ignore the annotations and the underlined parts. They’re the blunders of youth.”  

 

Ben let a small, forced chuckle escape him. Hux echoed the sound, almost against his will. He had never made blunders of youth. He was eager to discover what the young Ben had found so exalting.

 

“Actually….” the Jedi hesitated once again, grimacing, “You’re probably a bit too old for it. If it bores you, you’re not obligated to…”

 

“I appreciate the thought,” Hux told him, very honestly.

 

He saw no reason to hide it. Since the beginning, Ben had made an effort to ensure his time there was at least somewhat tolerable. Hux could, on occasion, show a bit of gratitude. But only very little. For good measure.

 

“And,” he continued, “I’m convinced it’s much more thrilling than certain other books you’ve brought me.”

 

He focused his gaze pointedly on the text containing the history of the galactic spice trade.   

 

Ben sighed gustily, rolling his eyes. He hid a smile behind his hand.  

 

“Yeah, yeah,” he murmured. “Consider it a gesture of apology. For yesterday.”

 

“For your fit of anger and enraged departure? No worries. I’ve come to learn you’re just bad-tempered by nature.”  

 

Ben furrowed his brows and sent Hux a look he recognized: it was reserved for remarks that hit exactly on the bullseye.

 

“I’m not bad-tempered by nature,” pouted Ben, “You just have a vicious tongue.”

 

Hux smiled, amused by this analysis, and Ben relaxed. Hux wouldn’t deny the truth in Ben’s statement. Ben didn’t account for his own quick temper, but Hux acknowledged his frequent scathing remarks toward the Jedi.

 

“So, why are you apologizing?” he asked after a few seconds.

 

Ben lifted his shoulders.

 

“For entering your mind. It was something I had to do, but I know it’s not agreeable.”

 

Hux shook his head.

 

“If if makes you feel any better, I hardly felt a thing,” he said with a small grin. “I just hope that my thoughts weren’t too shocking for you.”  

 

He had added the last with only one goal in mind: to make Ben uncomfortable. He had seen Ben’s startled expression reflected in the mirror when he had thought of his desire to kiss Galec. It amused him to be the one calling the shots even as a prisoner. He took his pleasures where he could.

 

Ben met his eyes once, briefly, then stared down at his hands, which were crossed on top of the table. He twisted and untwisted his fingers, a sign of his evident nervousness. He bit his lower lip and Hux was once again bombarded by the thought that he looked much younger than he was.

 

“In fact,” continued Hux in the face of Ben’s silence, “I have a question for you. Why don’t you do it all the time?”

 

“Do what?” asked Ben, his tone subdued.

 

“Enter my mind. If I had your power and a prisoner to interrogate, I would use it to extract as many secrets as I could. It would be quick and efficient.”

 

Ben grinned, though his eyes were devoid of humour.  

 

“And painful,” he added. “That’s the difference between you and me. Between the First Order and the Resistance. We have respect for others.”

 

Hux burst out laughing.

 

“Oh, Ben. How naive. You do know we’re at war? Have you seen a battlefield? There is no pity, there. Only the result.”

 

“Of course I’ve already seen battle!” Ben lost his temper, raising his voice in anger. “You’re not the only one who was trained for war. But I adhere to a set of moral principles -- unlike you, who seems to have no principles at all!”

 

Hux scoffed.

 

“And the restriction of your power is one of these such principles?”

 

Ben crossed his arms in front of his chest. His lips turned down in a moody frown and he glared at Hux with his dark gaze. Briefly, Hux thought he felt the air around him vibrate, but his mind must have been playing tricks on him.

 

“My powers are not restricted,” growled Ben. “They are mastered. You know nothing of the Force.”

 

Hux shook his head. He had already decided he would not back down on this subject. Ben would hear his thoughts -- whether he wanted to or not.

 

“You could pull any information you wanted out of me, yet you don’t. You have the ability to change the tide of the war, yet you won’t. It would probably only take you a few minutes to withdraw everything you need from my mind, yet you want to discuss adolescent literature instead. Personally, I call that a waste.”  

 

He placed special emphasis on the last word, throwing it down like a gauntlet between them.

 

Across from him, Ben’s hands were clenched so tightly his knuckles turned white.

 

“You want me to torture you? Is that it?” he seethed.

 

“No. Of course not -- though it would be the logical thing to do. But, are you capable of such a thing, Ben?”

 

The Jedi lowered his gaze. This time, Hux was almost certain the books vibrated on the table.  

 

“You know nothing,” repeated Ben, “You know nothing of the Force, of those who can master it. Of the weight of such power. Have you never met a Force-sensitive before? Don’t you have something similar within the First Order?”

 

Hux thought briefly of Snoke, but showed nothing on his face. Ben was questioning him with all the strength of his anger, but that didn’t mean Hux would reveal what he knew. Instead, he rolled his eyes.   

 

“No, never. Force users are not considered trustworthy by the leadership of the First Order. Most see them as more trouble than they’re worth.”

 

“What?” spit Ben, too incensed to say more.

 

“Vader and his weaknesses were responsible for the fall of the Empire,” defended Hux with conviction. “We’re not ready to make the same mistakes.”

 

The book on Dathomir flew across the cell and crashed against the wall.

 

“Vader was the most powerful Jedi the galaxy has ever seen!” shouted Ben while jumping up from his chair.

 

He slammed his hands on the table and towered over Hux with his considerable height.  

 

“According to my father, he was overcome by foolish sentiments and betrayed the Empire. He was nothing but a coward.”

 

“Your father said that?” asked Ben, leaning further and further toward Hux.

 

His eyes were shining in fury.

 

“Of course!” exclaimed Hux, fighting the impulse to stand. “After Vader’s failure, my father had to --”

 

“Vader’s failure? Those are the words your father used?”

 

Ben was now so close to Hux that he could easily count the beauty spots littering his face. He lifted his chin. Ben did not intimidate him. Despite his powers. Despite his shoulder span. Hux was right about this; he was convinced.

 

“I think my father’s exact words were: ‘The disgrace of the traitorous Vader’.”

 

Ben pounded his fist on the table so violently that it vibrated under Hux’s hands.  

 

“Your father…” he panted, “Your father… thought he could judge Darth Vader? Your father… a school principal --”  

 

It was Hux’s turn to jump out of his chair. The sudden movement startled Ben, who recoiled a few centimeters.

 

“My father was not a school principal!” he declared with passion.

 

Ben sneered.

 

“He directed a school,” he insisted with hostility. “Therefore, that makes him a school principal!”

 

Hux lifted a finger and waved it underneath Ben’s long nose.

 

“My father thrived after the downfall of the Empire, while Vader was nothing more than ashes. He was able to rebuild the ruins of the old regime into a prestigious academy. The best officers in the galaxy were educated there! Simultaneously, he revamped the entire Stormtrooper program --”

 

Ben cut him off with a macabre chortle.

 

“Oh! You were completely brainwashed when you were young, that explains a lot,” he mocked.

 

Hux banged his fist on the table to hold back from punching Ben in his grotesque, idiotic, detestable, stupid face.

 

“My brain is fine, thank you very much!” Hux lost his composure. “I’m not the one who limits his abilities in the name of some pathetic idea of utopia!”

 

“I do not limit my abilities!” replied Ben in the same tone.

 

“Oh really! Really! Then why haven’t you entered my mind to steal the information that would help you win the war?”

 

Hux knew he was playing a dangerous game. If Ben cracked, he could kill him, or take anything he wanted from Hux’s memory.

 

But, the remark about his father made him see red, and even though he heard the voice of reason in the back of his head - ordering him to stop before he did something irreparable - he joyfully ignored it. He had endured the past several weeks while being torn between anxiety, self-pity, and an anger so strong he thought he would go mad with it. So, he encouraged this passion he hadn’t felt since long ago, and never mind the consequences.

 

He clenched his jaw when he felt a sudden pressure in his head, like a soundless needle stabbing him between the eyes.

 

Then, as soon as it appeared, the pain vanished as Ben spun away from him. He was livid. As he turned his face up to the ceiling, a bead of sweat rolled down his cheek. He passed a hand over his face and took a deep breath.   

 

“It seems I won’t be taking anything from you today,” he murmured.

 

His voice was a bit more controlled, but his hands trembled and his breathing was short.

 

“You’ll never take anything from me,” Hux responded with false confidence.

 

Ben ignored him. He approached the door without looking back at Hux.

 

“I’ll come back tomorrow, when you’ve calmed down. In the meantime, I hope the new book pleases you.”

 

His parting words were overflowing with bitterness.

 

“Calm down! Me?” argued Hux, “It’s you who --”

 

But Ben had already closed the heavy door behind him, leaving Hux alone with his anger.

 

The latter let out the howl that had been building in his chest since the first day of his imprisonment. His hand found a projectile object and he threw it against the metal door with all his strength. Peripherally, he noticed he had thrown the book about the spice trade. It laid where it fell on the floor, spine up and pages bent.

 

Deep down, he felt relief. He didn’t want to damage the book Ben had just given him before he had even opened it.

 

Still, he pounded his fist on the table over and over, until it throbbed painfully. Only then did he let himself fall to the floor to catch his breath.

 

He stayed there for long minutes, seated on the tile floor, with the sound of his breathing his sole companion; the rapid beating of his heart in his chest his only point of concentration.

 

At this point, he didn’t even remember what caused his meeting with Ben to deteriorate so quickly and violently. But, he had expelled all the frustration he had accrued over the past few days. Now, he simply felt empty and worn out.

 

Gathering the last threads of his energy, he crawled to his bed. He allowed himself to collapse on top of the covers, curling in toward the wall. One solitary thought invaded his mind, over and over and over: the knowledge that Ben, despite their over-the-top argument, had still said he would return to see him the next day.

 

*

 

*

 

(To be continued…)

Chapter Text

Upon waking, Hux gathered the books up from the floor -- the one on Dathomir Ben had flung against the wall using only his mind, and the one on the spice trade Hux himself had thrown in rage.

 

He held them in his hands for several moments, head downcast and fingers smoothing out the wrinkled pages. He had fallen asleep surprisingly quickly, exhausted by his emotional outburst. He hadn’t heard when his dinner had been delivered, and hadn’t even noticed when the lights had been extinguished.

 

In hindsight, he found his earlier behavior grotesque. Beneath him. Beneath Ben’s level, even.

 

He sat on the chair normally occupied by the Jedi.

 

He needed to be careful. It seemed Ben’s childish conduct was contagious.

 

Belatedly, Hux realized he was considering this thought with a certain calmness. Almost as if he was... fond . It was absurd. He shook his head and stood abruptly.

 

The isolation and captivity are deteriorating my mental health , he thought with bitterness. There was no other explanation for such a reaction. He would have to harden his resolve.

 

However, he placed Ben’s books on the table very carefully before immersing himself in his daily exercises. When his breakfast arrived a bit later he rushed to grab it. He was famished.

 

After his daily cleansing ritual, he resumed his normal place on the bed, the novel Ben had brought the day before in his hands. His fingers trembled slightly and he found himself caressing the cover. He had forgotten all about this book since his days at the Academy. Now, the memories hit him in waves. This book had been prohibited reading at the Academy, but that didn’t stop other cadets from smuggling it in. Hux had seen it before but no one had trusted him enough to let him read it, for good reason. If this book had fallen into his hands back then, he would have burned it. Ben didn’t know any of that, but Hux still felt a strange warmth in his chest at the thought of someone trusting him enough to leave this book in his possession.  

 

It was rare that others did something for Hux out of kindness. Although, Hux never asked for anything. He was self-sufficient and didn’t rely on anyone. When he wanted something, he ordered it to be done. But, in his current condition, he needed all the help he could get, and Ben was his best chance. Even if he was an impulsive moron with an impossible temperament. He had still taken the time to find a razor and mirror for Hux, and had even rummaged through his old possessions to find his favorite book to share it with him.

 

A voice at the back of his mind reminded him that Ben hadn’t done it out of the kindness of his heart. He had done it to buy Hux’s sympathy in anticipation of a confession.

 

Hux shook his head. In the end, Ben’s actions would yield no results. But, he couldn’t deny that Ben’s presence was the only part of his days that mattered.  

 

He thought back to their shouting match the day before and sighed. He truly hoped Ben’s anger had passed as quickly as it appeared. He didn’t want to constantly argue with the only human he was allowed to interact with, but it was out of the question that Hux be the one to apologize. He had said nothing but the truth about Vader.

 

Although, he was quite surprised by Ben’s fervour on the subject. Wasn’t Vader everything that a Jedi shouldn’t be? And yet, Ben had fought tooth and nail to defend him.

 

This awakened a curiosity within Hux, and he wondered if it would be a good idea to approach the subject again in another discussion. Maybe not right away, but in the near future. He had posed a lot of questions to the Jedi already. Probably too many. He reasoned to himself that he needed to know everything he could about his enemy. Even if it was becoming more and more difficult to think of Ben as an enemy. He decided to channel his hate for the Resistance into Organa in his place.

 

Biting the inside of his cheek, he opened the book to the first page and began reading.

 

When his lunch arrived, he put the book down with reluctance. The story by itself was rather commonplace, and Hux didn’t understand why this story had such success while so many others stayed in the shadows. It must have been a stroke of luck, or possibly some very efficient marketing techniques.  

 

No, what truly caught his attention were the small notes Ben had scribbled in the text and in the margins.They weren’t any sort of literary analysis. Most of the time, it was a variety of onomatopoeias, decorated with exclamation points or even tiny hearts. Hux amused himself quite often by imagining a teenage Ben -- too tall and too thin, with his overlarge nose and ears -- all alone in his quarters, a pen in his hand, passionately scribbling about the adventures of a young hero with whom he must have found several similarities. Hux reflected at length about how Ben must have felt and why certain passages were underlined. In some instances, Ben had also added commentary worthy of a child who was uncomfortable in his own skin, and Hux commiserated with Ben’s longing to go on an adventure, with his yearning for freedom and independence. Ben’s notes were what truly embellished the reading and what gave it its charm.

 

He felt relaxed when Ben opened the door that afternoon. Almost impatient in fact, as if their dispute the day before was nothing but a bad dream. Ben, though, did not seem to have achieved the same state of mind. He entered, nose pointed at the floor and shoulders curved inwards as if the weight of gravity was more than his large frame could bear. He did not greet Hux before sitting on the too-small chair.

 

“Hello,” said Hux while leaving his bed to settle across from him.

 

He deposited the novel on the table in a silent appeal.

 

Ben glanced at him out of the corner of his eye.

 

“Good day, General,” he grunted, his thick lips pulling down into a frown.

 

The silence grew between them. Ben made tiny, aborted movements with his mouth, as if he was hesitant to speak. Hux wondered if he should bring up yesterday’s dispute or if he should try to apologize for the words they had exchanged. In the end, he did neither.

 

“I started the book you brought me yesterday,” he declared when Ben had stopped his face-twitching without saying a word.

 

The past was the past and Hux didn’t want his only social interaction to be tainted with resentment. Especially since Ben had somehow managed to awaken his curiosity. At the Academy, they had taught him how to withstand interrogation, how to resist under torture, and how to accept the inevitability of his own death. There hadn’t been a single lesson on how to handle too much solitude.  

 

Ben’s expression relaxed a bit and finally he turned toward Hux.

 

“How is it?”

 

Hux lifted his shoulders in a shrug.

 

“The story is rather plain, but the style isn’t disagreeable and the main character isn’t completely detestable.”

 

Ben’s lips twitched in an aborted smile.

 

“Coming from you, those are almost compliments. But I already told you that you’re way too old to really appreciate it.”

 

“Way too old? I’m flattered,” Hux responded dryly.

 

Ben seemed to finally unwind and concealed a large smile behind one of his even larger hands.

 

“You know what I meant. You’re not an adolescent!”

 

Hux crossed his arms in front of his chest and settled back against the chair.

 

“Are you saying I can’t identify with the hero as you were able to?”

 

Ben’s smile fell and a touch of color dusted his cheekbones.

 

“I told you not to read the notes,” he muttered, lowering his eyes.

 

“It’s rather difficult to avoid exclamation points and tiny hearts.”

 

Ben’s gaze snapped up at once, his eyes wide. “I did not draw tiny hearts,” he argued.

 

“Oh, you most certainly did,” insisted Hux, not bothering to conceal the amusement in his voice. “Would you like me to show you?”

 

Ben sighed. He leaned his elbows on the table and hid his face behind his hands.

 

“No, no. I believe you. I was definitely the type to add in tiny hearts.”  

 

He sighed again and mirrored Hux’s posture, relaxing back against the chair. His expression was a curious mix of embarrassment and exasperation.  

 

“I was truly an idiotic teenager,” he added with a small, forced laugh. “Like the majority of adolescents, I suppose… only worse,” he admitted.

 

Then he paused and observed Hux for a few long moments, his head tilted to the side. The latter returned his gaze, mentally preparing himself to feel Ben’s presence in his head again.

 

“Not you,” said the Jedi without invading his mind. “You weren’t an idiotic teenager.”

 

Hux shook his head.

 

“No. I was… haughty and self-centered. A pretentious pain in the arse, according to some.”

 

Ben’s grin was hardly visible.

 

“Some things never change.”

 

Hux furrowed his eyebrows. After all, it was him who had given Ben the ammunition. That didn’t mean he would allow it without recourse.

 

“I’m still a pain in the arse and you’re still a dumb teenager, is that it?”

 

For an instant, Hux worried that Ben would throw another tantrum. Instead, he passed a hand over his face and ran his fingers through his thick, dark hair.

 

“I guess so,” he agreed, sighing gustily.

 

Hux felt the urge to laugh. A real laugh. Not a hysterical burst of sound caused by stress. It was a sensation he hadn’t known for a long time. His body was also beginning to betray him, it seemed. He bit the inside of his cheek to contain the impulse. Luckily, Ben’s eyes had returned to the cover of the book, so he didn’t notice the strange expression on Hux’s face.

 

“What about this book fascinated you so much?” asked Hux after a few seconds, once he felt calm enough to speak.

 

Ben reached out his hand and slid the book toward himself with his long fingers. He gazed at the cover with an expression that, in Hux’s opinion, resembled nostalgia. As the silence continued, Hux wondered if Ben would not respond. Then he realized Ben was searching for the right words, as he stammered two or three incoherent phrases before he visibly gathered his thoughts.

 

“As you said, I felt very close to the hero. We were the same age, we both had special powers. We were both unique. But he was free. He took his destiny by the hand and no one imposed themselves on his path. It was not as clear for me at that time. I was suffocating under the feet of those who had expectations of me. I didn’t… I never had the choice to do what I desired.”

 

“You didn’t want to be a Jedi?” pushed Hux, spying an opportunity for an interesting confession.

 

Ben smiled bitterly.

 

“If someone had asked me, I think I would have said that I do want to be a Jedi. Who wouldn’t, with the legends about them and their abilities? But my opinion was never part of the equation. I think that, most of all, is what made me so angry when I was young.”

 

“And now?”

 

Ben gazed at him steadily, his dark eyes unblinking.

 

“Now, I belong to an order responsible for the renewal of all things good in the universe,” he answered serenely. “I’m in my place.”

 

Silence fell between them. Hux wondered if Ben’s words were sincere. He was very quick to anger for someone who claimed to be satisfied in life -- a characteristic not at all fitting for a Jedi, if Hux remembered his readings correctly.

 

“And, the sword had its own allure,” added Ben in a murmur. He was studying the cover of the book again, this time with a smile.  

 

“Do you have one?” wondered Hux.

 

Ben met his gaze, his expression one of confusion.

 

“Have what?”

 

“A sword,” insisted Hux. “Do you have one? Actually, you have a… what do you call it… a lightsaber, yes?”

 

Ben grinned widely, his entire countenance brightening, and Hux admired once more how the expression gave birth to the dimples in his cheeks.

 

“I have one,” Ben confirmed.

 

Hux’s heart soared. Not because he thought he could steal the weapon away from Ben, but because he had the soul of an engineer. He never imagined he would have the chance to examine a lightsaber. Such beautiful, deadly technology...

 

“You… will you show me?”  

 

Ben furrowed his eyebrows and leaned in toward Hux, resting his elbows on the table. He attempted to give off an air of severity, but the glint in his eyes betrayed his interest in the new topic of conversation.

 

“What makes you think I have it on me?”

 

Hux imitated Ben’s posture, leaning in across the table until their faces were only centimeters apart and he could feel Ben’s exhalations on his skin. The latter’s regard dropped, but he did not move away.

 

“Your expression,” said Hux in a low voice. “It’s clear you are passionate about your weapon. It’s never far away from you.”

 

Ben fell back against the chair, and Hux felt the movement as a cool current of air hit his face. The air around him suddenly seemed colder, and it burned his lungs. He was briefly reminded of the frosty atmosphere of the planet that would become Starkiller.

 

“An accurate analysis,” agreed Ben while putting a hand on his waist.

 

He moved aside a section of his robe, revealing a belt on which the weapon was attached. It was silver-plated and gleamed under the too-bright illuminators in Hux’s cell.

 

He smiled when Ben detached the weapon and placed it on the table, his long fingers wrapped around the shiny cylinder.

 

“It’s not that impressive in this form,” admitted the Jedi. “But when it’s activated, it is something to behold.”

 

Ben’s tone was almost tender. In contrast, Hux felt a knot of impatience growing in his stomach. It was the most exciting thing he had seen since his imprisonment. It was one-hundred percent better than any book Ben could ever bring him.

 

“Well?” pushed Hux after several long moments had passed.

 

“Well what?” wondered Ben with a smile curling up one corner of his mouth, indicating to Hux that he knew very well what Hux was demanding.

 

He had the mocking regard of one who was aware they had control of the exchange.

 

“Enough!” snapped Hux. “Your face is an open book! You’re just as impatient to show it to me as I am to see it!”

 

Ben bit his lip but wasn’t able to completely conceal his satisfied grin.

 

“You know I’m not supposed to do that,” he reminded, whispering as if someone might hear him.

 

“I suspected as much. Showing a lightsaber to a supposedly dangerous prisoner is not very intelligent.”

 

“Do you think I’m an idiot?”

 

For a moment, Hux believed he had hurt Ben. He lifted his gaze from the saber and held back a sigh of relief when he saw that Ben was still in good humour, his expression merely teasing.

 

“Maybe,” he replied. “What will you do if I steal it from you?”

 

This time, Ben didn’t hold back his chuckle of amusement.

 

“That’s impossible,” he contradicted with a confidence Hux had never seen from him before.

 

“What? Are you really that good?”

 

“I’m the best,” Ben assured him.

 

And he activated the saber.

 

Hux recoiled as a green blade burst into existence, so brilliant the very air seemed to vibrate around it. It was one of the most impressive weapons he had ever seen, and his fingers itched to seize it. But even with Ben’s pleasant regard toward him at the moment, Hux doubted he would allow it.

 

The Jedi held it out in front of himself and slashed at the air with sharp movements. The blade produced intense electronic soundwaves and Hux’s gaze slid to the door. If the guards heard…

 

“Don’t worry,” Ben told him, “I blocked all sound coming from this cell.”

 

“You can do that?”

 

“I can do a lot of things.”

 

And in a few rapid steps Hux wasn’t able to follow, Ben got around the table and twirled his saber in the air in an electric symphony. The bright emerald flashes imprinted themselves on the General’s retinas.

 

Hux gasped when Ben pointed the blade at his throat, so close he could feel the heat of it against his skin. He shifted his gaze to Ben’s face and saw the Jedi was already focused on him, his eyes burning with unexpected power. They observed each other for several long moments, the unnatural green of the saber reflecting in Ben’s black eyes, his smile a dark parody of the one Hux had come to recognize.

 

Without warning, the saber disappeared. Ben held the deactivated weapon at his side, his expression smug, though he was breathing as heavily as Hux was, maybe even more so. Then, he did an about-face and returned to his chair, his steps heavy and completely at odds with the gracefulness he had exhibited when wielding his weapon.

 

Hux’s lips were dry and he passed his tongue over them. He would have liked some water, but didn’t want to move. He was shocked by what he had seen.

 

Ben was an enigma.

 

“Are you really the best?” asked Hux, surprised by the husky tone of his own voice.

 

“With a saber, yes.”

 

The weapon in question had been returned to the Jedi’s belt, concealed by the numerous folds of fabric that covered his body. But the passionate gleam remained in Ben’s eyes.  

 

“Do you have occasion to use it often?” inquired Hux.

 

Ben shook his head.

 

“Sometimes. During missions. But I mostly use it for training.”

 

Hux nodded, expecting this response. Though the war between the First Order and the Resistance has been raging for years, the Jedi have yet to go on the offensive. Hux was secretly glad -- despite how brief the demonstration had been, he could imagine without difficulty the casualties someone like Ben could cause during a battle.

 

“In any case,” Hux commented, “It’s a beautiful weapon.”

 

“Thank you,” said Ben, lowering his gaze.

 

His hands crossed and uncrossed on the table, as if he wanted to add something else but was hesitant. He glanced around himself and leaned in toward Hux once again. He whispered his next words very carefully.

 

“I appreciate it because it was given to me by my… my Master. But I’m still not completely satisfied.”

 

Hux took a moment to think before responding. There was vital information within what Ben had just told him -- first and foremost that he had a Master. Hux needed to learn more, but he would have to wait. At the current moment Ben was much more interested in discussing his weapon. Maybe if Hux satisfied the Jedi he would be more apt to respond to his questions afterward.

 

“Why not?” he asked simply.

 

Ben shifted in his chair, letting out a heavy breath.

 

“It’s an efficient weapon,” he began, “And very stable. It has adapted very well to my hand, but… I feel like it doesn’t... fit.” He grimaced.

 

Hux felt as if he understood. Nothing could compare to the feeling of his sniper rifle in his hands, the way it fit perfectly against his shoulder as if it was made specifically for him. He was also skilled with his short-range blaster, but it wasn’t the same. Ben must have felt similarly about his second-hand lightsaber. He spoke again while Hux was still contemplating an appropriate response.

 

“Traditionally, each Jedi constructs his own saber.”

 

Hux blinked, surprised by both the unexpected outburst and the information itself.

 

“It’s a tradition I was deprived of,” continued Ben. “Not voluntarily, though my fellow apprentices would have surely been delighted to receive a saber that was already operational. But, it doesn’t feel right to me. That’s why…”

 

He leaned in toward Hux as far as he could with the table between them.

 

“I’ve been working on the construction of my own saber.” The confession burst out of him, as if he’d been dying to tell someone for ages. His grin lit up his entire face.

 

“Really?” Hux responded, swept up in Ben’s excitement despite himself.

 

Ben nodded with enthusiasm.

 

“I found the design in an old holobook. When I saw it, I knew it was the one for me.”

 

Then he frowned.

 

“It doesn’t work yet -- the blueprints are very complex. But I’ll keep trying. It’ll be worth the effort when it’s done, you’ll see. I’ll show it to you. It will be a thousand times better than the one I have now.”

 

“Have you been working on it long?” Hux wondered, grudgingly impressed by this new information.

 

He was tempted to ask Ben for the blueprints, but even though he was curious about the mechanics of a lightsaber, he didn’t want Ben -- and therefore the Resistance -- to discover his aptitude for engineering.

 

Ben glanced away, pursing his lips into a frown.

 

“For about six months,” he admitted. “Everything is ready -- I’ve followed the schematics down to the smallest detail, but still the saber doesn’t activate. It’s infuriating. I’ve almost ripped my hair out more than once.”

 

Knowing Ben, ripping out his hair was a gentle euphemism for what really happened. Hux could easily imagine Ben’s expression of fury, his possessions exploding around him in his rage...

 

“I’ll figure it out eventually,” the Jedi added, belligerent.

 

“Why not ask your Master for help?” questioned Hux, using this opportunity to bring the subject back into the conversation.

 

Ben rolled his eyes. Interesting. Apparently he wasn’t as deferential toward his Master as Hux expected. He would have to examine this discovery in more depth at a later time.

 

“Because I don’t want him to know about it,” Ben grunted. “I know Luke. He’d do everything he could to stop me -- tell me that it’s useless, that I waste time on these whims. He would throw a wrench in my plans at the first opportunity.”

 

He said it with child-like petulance, but there was also an edge to his tone that betrayed a deeper upset.

 

“I don’t need his help. I’ll show him when I’m done with it,” concluded Ben.

 

“Luke?” intervened Hux.

 

“What?”

 

“You spoke about someone named Luke…”

 

Ben slapped one of his large hands against his forehead as his cheeks seemed to spontaneously combust.

 

“Luke Skywalker,” he admitted when he realized it was useless to conceal the truth. “He’s my Master.”

 

Hux could hardly believe it. Luke Skywalker was a legend. He was Vader’s son, and the reason for the Empire’s demise and the renewal of the Jedi Order. He was an enemy the First Order were anxious to defeat.

 

“Luke Skywalker is here?” he asked, greedy for the details.

 

Ben grimaced.

 

“Don’t you think I’ve already said enough about this?”

 

Hux lifted his arms to gesture at the walls of his cell.

 

“Who am I going to tell?”  

 

Ben pinched the bridge of his long nose and closed his eyes for several seconds.

 

“No, he’s not here. Not often. He’s training other apprentices. He only comes when it’s necessary.”

 

“Oh…”

 

“Hux?”

 

The shiver that ran down the column of the General’s spine took him completely by surprise. It was the first time Ben had addressed him by his name. He wiped the palms of his hands against his pants. He really needed a glass of water.

 

“Yes?” he acknowledged, curt.

 

“I was serious yesterday when I said you’d have to give me something. I’ve given you plenty of information, but you’ve given me nothing.”

 

“And I was also serious when I said you wouldn’t get anything from me,” Hux responded quietly, holding Ben’s dark gaze.

 

It wasn’t as if he led Ben on. The Jedi had made his confessions all on his own. Hux, himself, knew how to control his impulses and could avoid any traps the Resistance would lay for him.

 

“If I don’t bring them something concrete,” insisted Ben, “They’re going to replace me.”

 

“With who? Organa?”

 

Ben’s smile was forced.

 

“She doesn’t have time for that,” he frowned. “They would probably send Rey. She was part of the team who brought you here.”

 

Hux remembered her. She had given him water to drink and had removed the sack from his head. She didn’t seem so bad, all things considered.

 

“Is she the type to make cameras explode and point a lightsaber in my face?”

 

Ben’s cheeks reddened. However, his regard remained impatient, as if he needed Hux to understand something.

 

“Worse,” he replied. “She’s a stickler for the rules. The first thing she would do is confiscate your books, and then she would reinstall a new camera. She especially doesn’t like you since you broke Poe’s nose.”

 

Hux frowned. To be without his books, to be watched constantly every second of every day… No. Not acceptable.

 

“Is Poe her boyfriend?” asked Hux, for the purpose of learning more about his potential future jailer.

 

Ben was not stingy with this type of information, so Hux was going to profit as much as possible. The Jedi gave a forced laugh.

 

“Poe is pretty much everyone’s boyfriend,” he said bitterly.

 

“Even yours?”

 

Hux meant it as a joke, but that didn’t stop his heart from misfiring a rapid beat. Idiot! he berated himself while keeping his impassive mask in place.

 

Ben shook his head.

 

“No. Not mine,” he muttered. “He’s too…”

 

Ben frowned, visibly frustrated. To Hux it seemed the Jedi was holding something back -- something he wanted to get off his chest but hadn’t yet admitted to anyone. He wondered if Ben had any real friends on the base, if he had to resort to confiding in a prisoner of war.  

 

“He’s too what?” pushed Hux.

 

“He’s too… everything! He’s too handsome, his teeth are too white, his smile’s too bright, his hair is perfect, he’s always so well put-together, he’s friends with everyone, never in a bad mood, the best pilot in the Resistance, everyone’s favorite on base…”

 

Hux listened to Ben rhapsodize about Poe and smiled to himself. Ben must have been bottling up this frustration for a while now and was visibly tormented by jealousy. It was obvious Ben’s own physique displeased him. He hid his face under his beard and covered his ears with his hair -- and Hux remembered the way Ben had fled when he pointed out these mannerisms. So of course someone like Poe must have constantly reminded him of his insecurities.

 

“Perfect men,” Hux commiserated dryly, “They’re the worst.”

 

Ben’s cheeks were pink, but he barked out a laugh at Hux after this comment.

 

“You’re one to talk. You’re brilliant, and… not ugly.” His blush intensified. “People think you’re a celebrity.”

 

“Doesn’t mean people like me,” Hux shrugged. “It’s difficult to have friends with a career like mine.”

 

He never suffered under the isolation inherent in his position. His work and his ambitions were always more important than personal relationships, and with so much work to be done he didn’t give a damn about having friends. Even in his adolescence it had never bothered him as long as he had a goal to guide him. Of course, having no friends in that situation was nothing like being stuck in a cell with nothing to do but stare at the walls. That was terrible.

 

When Ben didn’t respond, he continued:

 

“I’ve never been particularly well-liked, in fact. Especially not at the Academy. Son of the Commandant,” he emphasized with a raised brow, “Top of the class.....”

 

Ben grinned and crossed his arms in front of his large chest.

 

“And a teacher’s pet too, I bet. You seem the type.”  

 

Hux’s mouth dropped open. “I was not a teacher’s pet!” he exclaimed, defensive.

 

He sniffed, raising his chin and looking down his nose at the Jedi.

 

“I merely ensured the rules were followed and respected,” he clarified.

 

“Like a teacher’s pet,” Ben insisted.

 

Hux rolled his eyes but didn’t argue. He hadn’t been spoken to like that in a long time. But bizarrely, he wasn’t angry, or even annoyed. In fact, he couldn’t remember ever having conversed with such ease with someone in his life. Though to be fair, he couldn’t remember ever wanting to converse with someone else on a personal level. He was always entirely focussed on his career and had never spent any time socializing. Here, there was nothing else to do. And Ben’s personality, with his mood swings, his awkwardness, and his insecurities -- his passion for lightsabers and his poorly-concealed resentment for one of his colleagues -- it was all unexpectedly entertaining.

 

“Those people,” continued Hux as if the Jedi hadn’t spoken, “Poe, Rey... you don’t think of them as friends?”

 

Ben opened and closed his mouth. He furrowed his brows and took long seconds to respond.

 

“I’m not… unfriendly toward them,” he said while gazing at his hands. “I’ve spent many years at their sides and they’ve never been unpleasant. And if you asked them, I’m sure they would say that we’re friends. But… it’s like how Luke’s saber doesn’t really fit me -- it feels the same with the people here. They’re good people but between us, they…”

 

He trailed off, letting the sentiment end unfinished. Hux raised his brows, wanting Ben to continue. Ben bit his lip, then grimaced and shrugged bitterly, his arms once more crossed protectively over his chest.

 

“Often,” he began again in a closed-off tone, “I have this feeling that I’m… different. For no particular reason. Just…”

 

Hux nodded. He suspected as much. Despite his powers -- or maybe because of them -- Ben was isolated. Alone. And conversing with Hux was probably as much of a welcome distraction for him as it was for the General.

 

“Supreme Leader Snoke…” Hux began.

 

Ben lifted his gaze, not bothering to hide his surprise.

 

“... I don’t know why, I don’t have a precise example, but I’ve always had the vague impression that he’s able to manipulate the Force.”

 

“Really?”

 

Ben leaned toward him and Hux nodded.

 

“I had my doubts for a long time. But, when I got close to him, there was an odd sensation, as if the very texture of the air was different. Like it was thicker, somehow. I never really paid attention to it because for me, the Force was nothing more than a myth. But since I’ve seen what you can do… I felt the same sensation when you moved those objects with your mind.”

 

“You’re certain?”

 

Hux shook his head.

 

“No. But that’s the impression I had. And I’m assuming this is the type of information that would interest the Resistance -- and persuade them that my current interrogator doesn’t need to be replaced.”

 

Ben tilted his head to the side, his expression shuttered. Then his muscles relaxed and he smiled.

 

“It’s definitely something of interest to General Organa. Thank you, General.”

 

Then he glanced around them, hesitant.

 

“I’ve stayed longer than I expected,” he admitted. “It’s time that I go. Again thank you for the information on Snoke and… all the rest.”

 

Hux responded with a small nod. He didn’t know the exact hour but he was hungry, which meant it was about time for his dinner to arrive. Ben had spent the entire afternoon in his company.

 

Without another word the Jedi left his chair and with a last little clumsy gesture to Hux, he passed through the door and disappeared.

 

Hux remained seated at the table for a few long moments, rubbing his hands across his face. He had revealed a small bit of information to the Resistance. Not anything huge. In any case it wasn’t something he thought they would be able to exploit.

 

The Supreme Leader wouldn’t appreciate it, but Hux believed it was necessary to ensure Ben’s presence by his side. Mostly because he had no wish to give up his books or for the camera to return. But also because the beginnings of a plan had started to form in the back of his mind.

 

He knew if he only relied on himself, he would never escape. He was too well-guarded, watched at all times. He needed outside help.

 

Ben had been quick to confide in him, to give him his confidence. And Hux believed that if he took his time, if he played his cards right, he could convince Ben to help him.

 

He supposed Organa had sent the Jedi to gain his sympathy. He felt now that he could use this trap against her. Ben was eager for human contact. Hux could provide that for him.

 

In a distant corner of his mind, he entertained the idea of bringing Ben with him to the First Order. A soldier with his powers could always be useful , he convinced himself.

 

But for that, he would need to strengthen his ties with the Jedi. He would need to become the center of Ben’s universe, as Ben was currently the center of his -- his small white universe in which he turned round and round.

 

He took Ben’s novel in hand and returned to his bed to continue his reading, taking great pleasure in learning more about the Jedi through the notes scrawled illegibly in the margins.

 

Hux had made his decision. Tomorrow, he would offer to help Ben with the construction of his lightsaber.

 

*

 

*

 

*

 

(to be continued…)