“Uh, oh. Now, what have we here?”
The grinning voice startled Ben, who spun around nervously. He’d been caught.
Instead, however, of being faced with his father or uncle, he saw someone new. The man had a sideways smile that, in Ben’s perspective, looked sort of sad.
(He had experience with this sort of smile. It was the one his mother gave the stars on his last birthday, when his father had been out adventuring. He used to think his father was the coolest ever, but if adventuring meant that he’d miss Ben’s birthday, he wasn’t so sure.)
The man’s smile, however, was not necessarily the strangest thing about him. He also glowed a transparent blue.
“Uh...who are you?” Around people he knew, Ben was..exuberant, at least according to his mother. For strangers, however, his shyness took over. He didn’t want to say the wrong thing and get embarrassed. Ben hated being embarrassed.
The blue man crouched down, to get more on Ben’s level. (Ben hated when people did that. It showed that they thought of him as being a baby, but he wasn’t.) “I’m your grandfather, Ben. Ever heard about me?”
“No.” He shook his head. His father had never talked about any family of his own, and, though his mother had pointed out some pictures of her family, the man before him didn’t resemble any of them. “Who are you really?”
ended to continue singing his praises, and that was worth the world.
Though the man’s smile didn’t change, his eyes narrowed, making him look almost suspicious. “Really? It was you? That’s amazing.” He glanced at the glass littering the floor. “Were you aiming for the picture?”
Ben’s cheeks burned. “...No,” he admitted, ashamed. “I was trying to levitate the book on that table, but I..I couldn’t. And I got frustrated,” he finished softly.
The ghost’s smile grew softer, and he hand came to rest on Ben’s shoulder. It felt like pure power, the Force thrumming through him. It was almost intoxicating.
“It’s alright, Ben. Using the Force is hard work, and without training, it doesn’t always work. You can only get better from here.” When Ben looked at his smile, all he could think of was Uncle Luke’s.
“Were you a Jedi?” Ben asked, his eyes wide. There was no way this man could know all this about the Force and not be a Jedi.
But even though he’d thought it was a straightforward question, the ghost’s smile seemed to grow sad again. He took a second to respond, and Ben thought the silence was stifling.
“...Yes. I was a Jedi.”
“Wow,” he breathed. “My uncle is a Jedi Master. But...I guess you already knew that. I mean, if you are my grandfather.”
The man nodded indulgently. “I am. Ask your mother,” he said, his last word cutting off a little early by a massive yawn. Ben giggled.
“Yeah, yeah, go ahead and laugh. It’s late, take a look.”
Sure enough, it was. Ben had started practicing right after dinner. Could so much time truly have passed so quickly?
His thoughts were interrupted by a yawn of his own. The ghost snickered. “Come on, kid, time for bed.” He ushered Ben towards the bed, despite the boy’s embarrassment. He wasn’t a little kid.
“Are either of your parents going to come in to say goodnight?”
Ben shook his head. “Probably not. They’re both really busy.”
Though the ghost frowned for a moment, it was replaced with a grin soon enough. He kept doing that, like he was unused to having to hide his emotions. Ben was too observant for him, though. He could see all the different faces he made. Usually it annoyed him that people tried to pretend for him, but suddenly, he was too tired to consider the implications.
“All that means is I get to be the one to say goodnight, then. How about a bedtime story?”
Scowling, Ben answered, “No way! I’m too old for bedtime stories. I’m not a little kid.”
The ghost raised an eyebrow. “These stories are part of our culture, Ben. They’re not just for little kids.” Ben remained adamant. He sighed. “Fine, fine. How about you indulge an old man, then? I haven’t gotten to tell a good story in ages.”
“You don’t look very old.”
“I still am old.”
Ben narrowed his eyes. “Okay, fine. I’ll let you tell me a story.”
“Good. Now, let’s see. Which story to tell…?” The ghost searched his thoughts before seeming to come up with a good answer. “Oh, here’s one. This is a story about a trickster called Ekkreth…”
As the story was told, Ben quickly fell asleep. In the morning, he found he couldn’t recall a single detail from the story. Not even the main character’s name.
(His father had arrived back home late that night. He’d intended to say goodnight to his son, but he could only stand in the doorway. Ben never noticed him.)
Higher, higher. The holopad hovered a few inches up, leaving Ben’s cupped hands. He gave a cautious grin - so far, so good - and directed it to move forward, towards the bed.
It floated several feet off the floor, slowly inching its way through the room. Ben held his breath.
Then the ghost appeared on his bed, cheerfully speaking a language he’d never heard.
Ben jumped, and the holopad dropped to the floor. With a (slightly) calming breath, Ben picked it up and faced the ghost.
“What was that?” he asked incredulously. His heart was racing.
“It was a greeting, Ben.” He waved, looking to be enjoying himself profusely.
“That wasn’t - oh, never mind,” he grumbled, only slightly amused.
The ghost stood and walked right past him, inspecting the baubles and posters decorating his room. “So, have you asked your mom about me?”
“Yeah. She said she was adopted, but she didn’t talk about her real father.” The ghost seemed to pause, but Ben kept talking. “She told me to talk to my uncle if I wanted to know about him.”
At the mention of what must have been his son, the ghost’s smile grew again. “Uncle Luke, right?” He turned to face his grandson. “Does he visit often? I thought he was off training new Jedi.”
“He is,” Ben said. He allowed his chest to puff out a little bit. “And I’m going to go train with him.”
The ghost - his grandfather - looked at him in interest. “Really?” With a bitter smile, he softly asked, “Aren’t you a little old to be starting Jedi training?”
Ben scowled, stomping down his fear. “I am not! Uncle Luke said himself that I could go train with him!”
His grandfather chuckled and put his hands out. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding. I’m just saying, I was almost turned away by the Jedi Council for being too old, and you’re about the same age that I was back then.”
Head cocked in interest, Ben’s eyes widened. “I’m the same age that you were when you joined the Jedi?” Being the only one to be too old was embarrassing. But if his grandfather had, too, then it was his family legacy. It was something to be proud of.
With an eyebrow quirked up, his grandfather nodded. “Yeah, just about. I guess it’s a family tradition. Even your Uncle Luke was way too old for the Jedi Council when he first picked up a lightsaber. All three of us are breaking rules,” he grinned.
Ben lit up. His grandfather had been thinking the same way as him! Pride surged through him. He was thinking the same way as a famous Jedi, and was even breaking the same rules as him. A wide grin split his face, and it was matched by his grandfather.
His grandfather said a few more words in the odd tongue of his, and Ben could think only of a desert he’d never seen.
He opened his mouth to ask what it meant, but his grandfather beat him to it. “Family, Ben. You choose your family, and you stay with them.” He gave a warm smile. “Do you understand?”
“Of course I do!” His family was made up of powerful Force-users. Jedi Masters. Otherworldly power was in his blood.
(He didn’t think of his parents.)
Ben beamed with pride as the rest of the padawans watched him in awe. Even Uncle Luke, who always tried to be somewhat unbiased, didn’t even try to hide his smile.
“Excellent job, Ben! I’d better watch my back. Pretty soon, you’ll probably be right on my level,” he chuckled.
Ben swung his lightsaber in a few weightless circles before he switched it off. Immediately, he missed the steady humming in his hand.
The class ended shortly afterwards. Many of the padawans flocked over to congratulate him on his progress, and while he was happy to accept their praise, he had a mission.
“I’ll meet you guys at the usual lunch table, alright? I want to talk to Uncle Luke,” he said. Ben had not once referred to the resident Jedi Master by his title. It felt wrong, almost, to go from family to subordinate, and Ben didn’t want to think about it. (It also felt nice to refer to Luke so casually around those who called him “Master.”)
“Alright, Ben, see you there!” They wandered off, leaving him with his uncle.
Uncle Luke smiled warmly at Ben’s approach. “Hey, Ben. What’s up?” He sat on one of the cushions on the floor (used for meditation, Ben’s least favorite activity). “By the way, I’m glad your mother finally let you come train. You’ve been great to have around.”
Ben laughed and joined his uncle on the ground, letting himself sink into one of the softest cushions. “It’s been great to finally get to train, Uncle Luke. I’m glad to be here.” He let out a breath, trying to think of how to phrase his question.
His uncle didn’t rush him. He just waited, allowing a warm, comfortable silence to fill the room. Everything his uncle did was warm. His mother had told him that Luke was from a small desert planet in the Outer Rim, and Ben had no reason not to believe it. Though Ben had never visited a desert, his Uncle Luke was everything Ben imagined one to be like. Warm, dry, and unchanging. The scent of spices that seemed to follow him everywhere was foreign, familiar to Ben in ways he never understood. It smelled like home.
“Mother told me she was adopted, and to ask you about my grandfather.”
Ben was met with a look of slight surprise from his uncle. “And what brought this line of questioning on?”
Ben thought of the spirit who called himself his grandfather, with his strange language and immense presence, and answered.
“Nothing in particular.”
“Well, ‘nothing in particular’ has led you to the tale of a hero.” And there, on the floor of a makeshift training room, Luke Skywalker relayed Anakin Skywalker’s tale to his eldest descendant. He did not speak of Light or of Dark, and he did not speak of Sith. He spoke of the power the man held, and the love he felt.
And there, on the floor of a makeshift training room, Ben heard a tale of power and prestige, a tale of respect. From that moment, Ben was enamored.
Ben stiffly stood in his small quarters, barely holding himself back.
His mother, ever the politician and leader, had always scolded his temper. Hold your anger in, keep it quiet. Don’t let them see what makes you tick.
His uncle, a Jedi Master, had a different technique. He told him to release his anger to the Force. Give up your anger and find peace.
His father, a smuggler (though his parents had never told him), had no reason to deal with emotion in his business. He’d never told Ben how to deal with his anger, but Ben had learned from him anyway. His father ran from his anger, just like he ran from conflict.
One of his fellow padawans had just been telling about how stupid Darth Vader had been. They’d been laughing at his life support system, naively concluding that it made him weak. That because he was a “bad guy,” he deserved to die.
They were stupid and didn’t understand morality, didn’t understand Darth Vader like he did. He demonstrated this by using the Force to throw the boy across the room in anger.
Uncle Luke had scolded him in front of everybody, thoroughly humiliating him. His teeth gritted, and he did not apologize. Instead, Ben had stormed out, slamming the door shut in his rage, and went to hide in his room. The others weren’t worth his company, anyway.
Safely alone, he started wringing his hands, trying to deal with his anger. Swallow it up, run away from it, or release it to the Force?
“Ben, stop.” His solitude was broken by the appearance of his grandfather. “You need to let your anger out. There is no strength to be found in the Dark Side.” The voice was pleading. That didn’t sound like his grandfather. That didn’t sound like Darth Vader.
Do as his mother had instructed - keep it quiet, save it until it’s useful?
“You’re lying to me,” he said quietly, teeth clenched tightly. “You should know the power I seek. So why are you keeping me from it?”
Do as his uncle had taught - letting it go, not allowing it to touch him?
“I’m not keeping you from it, Ben. I’m saving you from it. It will take you from your family.” The ghost was desperate.
Do as his father had demonstrated - taking his mind off of it, not dealing with the consequences?
“You are a liar.”
Or do as Snoke had whispered in his mind.
The Dark Side was powerful, though Luke had tried to keep that from them. It was fuelled by emotion. Snoke had known Ben’s anger, though he usually took great pains to keep it hidden. He told Ben to let it out. To power his actions. That the destruction would make him strong.
Look at Darth Vader, after all.
Ben kicked his empty end table, punched his pillow, ripped his blankets, and opened the door, just to have the pleasure of slamming it shut. He exploded in anger in a way he’d never really been allowed to before.
He wasn’t sure if anyone heard his rampage - the common room was on the other side of the building - but if they did, nobody confronted him about it.
Ben never told them that, when he threw his fellow padawan across the room, he had actually intended to choke him, to show him the true fear that Darth Vader had commanded.
And though he never said a word about it, Ben was sure that his grandfather’s ghost knew anyway.
Kylo Ren walked out of the building in which he’d been trained, hoping it was the last time. He clicked his lightsaber and, relishing the feeling (while simultaneously trying not to think about it), wiped a smear of blood from his face.
The night was dark, and behind him was nothing but an eerie silence.
“This isn’t what you want to do. Trust me. Go back to your parents. They’ll understand. You have to think about this, Ben.”
“My name isn’t Ben. My name is Kylo Ren, and believe me, I have thought about this,” he said with a sneer. “I will remind the galaxy of the power of Darth Vader. You aren’t real, and you can’t stop me.”
His grandfather - the spirit pretending to be his grandfather - gave him a mournful look. Kylo saw regret and pity. Crashing through him was the feeling of bondage, the feeling of twin suns beating down, the feeling of sand in his hair and his clothes and his shoes. He smelled his uncle’s spices, and the scent was taken away. He had left.
With an angry shout, he whipped out his lightsaber and sent it soaring through the illusion. It went straight through the man, sending Kylo flying forward. He desperately steadied himself and turned to face the illusion, but the image had passed.
He was alone.
Kylo Ren laid on the table, his head tilted up. He clenched his teeth. He would not show fear. He would not.
His master stood in the corner, looming high above the medical droids. “You understand why this must be done, don’t you, Kylo Ren?”
A droid pushed his arms to the side, restraining him. “Yes, Supreme Leader. I understand.” The droid’s long, thin, fingers were cold in the chilled room.
“Good.” The succinct reply lingered in the room a few seconds longer than it should have. Kylo shivered.
In a mechanical voice, the droid to his left spoke. “Will we be using an anaesthetic for this procedure?”
Kylo looked to the Supreme Leader, whose mouth seemed to give a twisted smile. “Kylo Ren? You are the patient here. Why don’t you decide?”
A test. Accept the anaesthetic and be comfortable, or prove to the Supreme Leader that he could withstand such pains? Strapped to the cold medical table, Kylo Ren thought of Darth Vader, who underwent extensive, painful surgery with no anaesthetic at all. This procedure, compared to that, was nothing. There was no decision to be made.
“Of course not. I can take the pain.” It would only make him stronger.
The droids did not react. Kylo could tell that the Supreme Leader was pleased with his decision, and that made it even sweeter.
As the incision was made and the transmitter was pushed into his body, Kylo Ren did not look for the reaction of the illusion masquerading as his grandfather. Still, when he screwed his eyes shut from the pain, all he could see was the spirit’s tremendous sadness.
The fizzing lightsaber tore through control panels, sending loud sparks shooting everywhere. Some bit through his sleeves and singed his arms, but the speckles of pain only heightened his fury.
The lightsaber, for all its destruction potential, went too easily through each obstacle. Though the ability to cut through metal so simply gave Kylo a surge of power, what he really needed was a release. His foot slammed into what was now a chunk of scrap metal. It skittered away several feet while Kylo pretended that his foot wasn’t throbbing.
Thank the Force he was alone.
Kylo watched the metal slow to a halt, and the room grew silent (save the sputtering of the slashed wires and cords). Kylo lowered his saber, and, after a few moments of tense stillness, turned it off. His shoulders stiff, he hung it on his belt.
Kylo wasn’t always proud of the destruction he wrought (although seeing Hux’s exasperation at having to replace his “victims” was generally satisfying). After all, Darth Vader hadn’t met disappointment with the destruction of objects.
Unfortunately, the New Order lacked the sheer numbers of the old Empire. There weren’t enough for Kylo to go around killing whenever he was angry (much to Hux’s relief). Still, once their numbers were up, he would be allowed to start weeding out the incompetent troopers, just like Vader had. He was sure of it. He would be useful to the Supreme Leader, and he would be able to show his true strength. Kylo Ren would be feared and respected.
Lost in triumphant thought, Kylo was broken out of his reverie by a warm, sad breeze, bringing with it the familiar combination of spices.
His lightsaber back in his hand in an instant, Kylo whipped around to face the ghost.
No one was there.
Nervous, paranoid, and uncomfortable, he slowly returned his saber to his belt. He hadn’t seen the specter in years, and he was not slipping enough to see it today.
With a quick scan over the rest of the room, he stalked towards the hallway. The ghost wouldn’t follow him to the bridge, he was sure.
Besides, he needed to check with General Hux. They should be approaching Jakku soon.