Pryde was prideful. So self-satisfied with his success in dealing with ‘the spy’ that it never occurred to him that Hux wasn’t, couldn’t be, working alone. Pride is blind, and Pryde was blind if he couldn’t see all those people who had a personal grudge against their puppet Supreme Leader.
Only a few days ago, anyone who’d suggest that Hux would be one day betraying the First Order would have been shot in the face by Hux himself. But the tables have been turned with that single threatening broadcast from the Unknown Regions…and now, Hux felt betrayed by the First Order itself.
He hated the Empire. The Empire was everything old, delusional and dysfunctional, like his father. It was a thing of the past, rightfully so. And now the First Order, full of young and bright, something he built up from scraps to glory, was going to bow and step aside for... what? A Final Order? Some fantasy of an old leech who didn’t know how to die in a timely fashion?
Kylo Ren wasn’t even a Supreme Leader anymore. Ever since he came back from whatever Sith shithole he went to, that broken servant’s mask back on his face, Hux knew the misdirected mystic just got himself a new master. He watched Ren wasting resources on carrying out Palpatine’s orders, watched the Knights of Ren running rampage and leaving mayhem in their wake, watched the stuffy old Imperials rise to bask in Palpatine’s favour… and he hated it. The Final Order was no place for Hux.
Hux was meant to be the Emperor one day, not the man who already had a shot at it and ultimately lost his throne. Palpatine lost his domain because of his underestimation of the Rebellion. Hux wasn’t underestimating the Resistance. He was simply using them to further his own goals.
And his goal right now was to survive while the rest of the First Order would fall to ruin under the combined disaster of Kylo Ren and Palpatine, just like the Galactic Empire did.
After all, Hux was patient. And resourceful. If he couldn’t destroy the Resistance, he could at least make them help him fuck up things for Ren.
Letting his former Stormtrooper shoot him in the leg was more an insult than an injury. He didn’t need the wound to pretend he was loyal. He needed it to leave behind a sufficiently convincing substitute body later.
Walking up onto that bridge and knowing what he had to do - yes, that hurt. A blast to the chest actually hurt like hell. At least it was quick.
“Sir? Easy now, sir.” A face, blurred by the stream of bubbles trickling through the viscous liquid, appeared in Hux’s line of vision. Dark hair. Concerned eyes.
“It’s okay, sir. Breathe. I’m going to lift you from the tank now.”
Bacta felt like slime. Hux curled on himself, wracked with full body shudders, teeth rattling. Lieutenant Mitaka hurried over with a thermal blanket.
“How long was I out?”
“Just a few minutes before I was able to hook you up to life support.” Mitaka wrung his hands, glancing towards the door every few seconds. A nervous habit, but Hux couldn’t blame him. This auxiliary medbay wasn’t normally in use, and as long as Ren’s folly didn’t drag them into another battle, they shouldn’t be discovered here.
“I changed the bridge shift rotation so that our men were there and knew where to take you,” Mitaka continued. “The heart replacement surgery took about two hours. The medidroids are disassembled now. You’ve been in bacta for the past few hours to repair the damage to your lungs, breastbone and skin.”
Hux quieted his breath and felt around his chest. In the place of a gaping hole was a brand new skin, pink and shiny, and underneath it he could feel the steady whirring of a bionic heart.
“What about my body?” Hux looked up with a smirk.
Mitaka actually looked proud, even though a bit pale, at his next words. “Finding someone who would somewhat passably resemble you, sir, was harder than I thought. So in the end I just cut off their head as well. I told the morticians that the Knights of Ren took it. They seem to have an obsession with skulls.”
“At least they were good for something in the end,” Hux chuckled. And coughed. Urgh. He was going to be coughing up blobs of bacta for days. His freshly mended ribs were still tender and overall he felt as if a nerf kicked him in the chest and then slobbered all over him.
“You’re sure you’re feeling okay, sir? It was frightfully risky, if I may say so, sir. How did you know he wouldn’t aim for the head?”
“Clean shot through soft tissue compared to brain splatter from an exploded skull,” Hux explained, trying not to laugh at the shade of green Mitaka turned into. “The old Imperial dogs don’t like any mess on their shiny bridges.”
The rish Hux took was enormous but carefully calculated. Like everything in his plans.
“What about our transport?”
Mitaka’s top lip curled in faint distaste.
“I’ve secured the freighter the Resistance rescue party arrived with. They left in the Corellian freighter we captured on Passana.”
“Yes, I remember that,” Hux winced and rubbed his leg. The wound was barely more than a pinkish spot after his prolonged stay in bacta tank but the phantom sensation still stung.
“I’ve managed to sneak aboard enough food, spare parts and medical supplies to last for several years. The freighter itself is in working order, sir, but barely. Also it’s dreadfully filthy.”
“The more reason to have it jettisoned into space like a garbage along the hyperlane, hm?”
Their plan had been simple. Hide aboard the dead freighter, wait for the Star Destroyer to jump to hyperspace, and then fire it up and take off in whichever other direction and never look back.
“Uh, yes, about that, sir...” Mitaka wrung his hands again. “You see, you’ve been in the tank for a couple of hours-”
“Oh kriff, where did Pryde take us now?” Hux groaned.
“We’re not in free space anymore, sir. We’ve now hovering several hundred meters above a planet surface. With the rest of the new fleet.”
Great. But… Hux was nothing if not flexible. He’d seen the surface reconnaissance data from Ren’s first visit here. The surface was dark and ragged. Plenty of holes to hide in… plenty of time to wait out whatever shit was about to go down above them.
“Let’s get out of here.”
“Here, sir,” Mitaka handed him a green overall paired with an orange vest. A radar technician uniform. The good Lieutenant had really thought of everything.
“And good luck, sir.”
Hux paused. “What? You’re going with me. The Order has nothing to offer to you, Lieutenant. If Ren by some miracle survives his next battle with the scavenger girl, he’s going to throttle you all out of frustration he’s not his own master yet.”
“I know, sir. I’m...” Mitaka blushed. “I know you don’t approve of fraternisation… but… the Petty Officer Thanisson already arranged an escape for us. I mean. Him. And me. Sir. Sorry sir.”
Hux blinked. He’d vaguely remembered Thanisson. Young. Clever. Feisty.
A good match for Mitaka, actually.
“Good luck, Lieutenant. I won’t forget your service.”
“It’s been an honor, sir,” Mitaka beamed. Then he handed him a standard technician datapad.
“Your route to the hangar. I put in the location and times of patrols. Good bye.”
Getting onboard of the freighter was easy. Nobody paid attention to lowly technicians when there was a battle about to begin at any moment.
Logging into the hangar bay computer and placing an order to jettison that piece of useless junk was a matter of seconds.
Flying under the radar towards the planet surface was bound to be trickier. It took Hux several minutes of confusion to find the medallion inserted in the ship’s communication computer and realise that was why the other Star Destroyers were giving him free pass as soon as he got into their sensor range. Well, the Resistance scum was proving more and more useful by the second.
Finally Hux found a suitably hidden spot to land and wait out the battle unfolding above him. It was some kind of a large structure, ridden with static electricity and lacking any kind of sensible illumination. Anyone with a speck of sense wouldn’t be coming here, Hux was sure.
Which was why it came as the nastiest shock of his life when suddenly a large black clad body fell from somewhere above directly in front of Hux’s feet, just as he was taking a careful look around. If he had his original heart, it would surely had stopped with fright.
The body made a sick crunch on impact and didn’t move otherwise.
Hux carefully moved closer. The light was simply dreadful, he could barely see the outline of that massive body. The plain outfit - just a shirt and a pair of leggins - didn’t ring any bells, but that hair…
Hux poked the head with the tip of his boot. It rolled lifelessly to reveal a long nose and deep set eyes completed with slanting mouth and uneved chin.
Ren. Of course it was Ren. Hux couldn’t be free of him even running away, could he?
But… wait. Ren was unconscious, and barely breathing. He was bleeding from his mouth and so terribly pale that he must have had mere seconds to live. Minutes at most.
“Damn you, I wanted to do this,” Hux muttered to himself.
Somebody had beat him to the punch of killing Ren. At least he got to watch him die. That was vaguely satisfying.
A faint bluish light coming from above interrupted Hux’s musings. Somewhere above them it seemed as if lightning storm was raging, unending streak after streak of electricity flaring up and filling the air with ozone, and Hux could hear something like a sick, cruel laugh…
The second nastiest shock of Hux’s life came when the figure in front of him suddenly stirred, and then started to glow.
Frozen to the spot, Hux watched as an almost solid figure of Ren rose from his unmoving body and, ignoring his surroundings entirely, began climbing the walls of the opening he fell through here. He had to blink several times but there it was, plain as a day. Ren somehow doubled himself - projected himself-
Oh yes. Hux remembered. How could he forget Crait? That pile of ammunition wasted on Luke Skywalker who kriffing wasn’t even there?
But Hux also remembered something else Ren had said that day.
The effort had killed him.
The battered body on the ground in front of him stared into the darkness with unseeing eyes. His mind - his soul - was elsewhere. His chest gradually stopped moving.
And then he smiled. Closed his eyes, but the faint echo of his smile remained on his face. Hux had never seen the man so happy. So… at peace.
Fuck it. Hux had never known peace. He’d be damned if Kylo Ren should get that luxury.
After all, this wasn’t the first time he’d been dragging his sorry ass out of trouble.