The first two things he was aware of were a pounding headache and an overwhelming instinct to attack something.
As if reading his mind and his intent to get back on his feet where it was safe, a backlit figure crouched beside him and offered him a glass as soon as he had sat up. His throbbing head and sandpaper throat seized it before fear of poison could stay his hand. To his relief it was only water, and if it was spiked with anything than ignorance was bliss. The whole draught vanished down his throat as if he hadn’t had a drop of moisture in days, and by default he returned it to the man with emerald eyes whom he had never seen before.
“He’s up,” announced the stranger, addressing people that were currently outside the range of his recovering vision. He winced at the volume, but only slightly, and lucky for him the stranger noticed and carried on in a softer tone. “Terribly sorry about drugging you, you proved more difficult than we’d expected. Rest assured it was not our intention to harm you, but some of us were getting impatient.”
At this last remark, the green-eyed man threw a baleful gaze over his shoulder at another figure that was beginning to come into focus.
“You’re the one that thought we should have just talked him into it!” retorted the now clear figure, a curiously masked man who was polishing what appeared to be a wicked-looking grappling hook. His gorgeous voice belied the violent words he spoke with it. “As if that would have been easier than catching him off-guard with a dart in the throat! I almost missed, you had him so worked up.”
“You should be fully conscious now,” predicted the closer man, revealed to have dark hair that was slicked back but curled up at the base of the neck. He found that the man was correct; he was quite aware now, and he was even starting to feel capable of following through on his impulse to butcher. “Beginning to remember, yes?”
“Uh…,” he stammered uselessly, looking down at himself for want of stimulation. He was dressed all in black as well, but somehow his memory was triggered even by the very clothes he was wearing. Especially helpful was the helmet staring back at him from between his feet. It was black and silver.
Oh yeah, he mused to himself nonchalantly. I’m a Knight of Ren.
Kylo Ren’s identity, life and current mission were all blasted back into his mind as if by the Starkiller base.
Flooded with sudden urgency, he realized that he had been kidnapped by the Resistance and sprang to his feet. With a sudden jarring accompanied by confusion of his equilibrium, he lost them as soon as he had them.
“Punjab lasso works on both ends, didn’t I tell you, Loki?” cackled the masked man with a slightly sickening grin. Kylo had for the first time experienced the unique undignity of hanging upside down by your foot from a noose. “It’s more fun the other way ’round, though.”
“You are not to kill the recruit!” snapped an indignant voice that sounded too far above him to be human-sized...or rather, below him. Upside down is a confusing state. “Goodness me, sometimes I forget what a right madman you are. I would call you bloodthirsty, except that doesn’t really mean anything.”
At that remark the masked man gave a dry laugh. Padding up towards him was a furry creature bizarre enough to make Kylo wonder if he was seeing it correctly, seeing as he was upside down. It appeared to have curving horns, folded wings, a serpentine tail, and a thick black mane running down its neck and back that was almost as unruly as his own hair. It fixed its muzzle and large eyes on him along with a smile that seemed too big for its face.
“Hiya, Kylo!” she chirped, irking and slightly disturbing him with her casual invocation of his name. She looked down--no, up--to his foot. “I would tell him to let you down, but you may try to do that thing again.”
“What thing?” he demanded, eager to eliminate the obstacles between him and freedom to embrace gravity. She blinked at him.
“The thing where you mince, maim and mutilate everything in sight.” she reminded. He did seem to recall doing such a thing recently.
“I do feel like doing that, yeah.” admitted Kylo, apparently not quite awake enough to attempt deception. Not that it would have worked with the God of Mischief around.
“He can’t do the thing without his saber,” pointed out the green-eyed man, who was now hatefully familiar to Kylo.
“You!” he snapped, turning his head farther and farther around to see the man as the rope spun him the opposite way. “You’re the disappearing stormtrooper!”
“And you’re the arrogant human that wouldn’t even let me finish,” growled Loki, narrowing his eyes into the back of Kylo’s head. “You brought that rude awakening upon yourself. You’re lucky I didn’t let the Phantom do this to you on your other end.”
The smile on the masked man’s face made his throat feel unpleasant.
“As if Kinners would have let that happen,” mused a deeper voice. This curly-haired man came into Kylo’s view as he spun slowly by his foot. “Not only because he is our new saber-hand, but because she’s rather fond of him, the same way she’s fond of each of us.”
“I hypothesize that your deduction is drawn from Kylo Ren’s dark hair and status as a villain, which are traits Kinners finds attractive in Loki and the Phantom,” The source of this voice was a snow-white man standing by the first one, who was seated and fiddling with a crossbow bolt. “but he is not cybernetic in any way, as the General and I are.”
“Neither am I,” pointed out the first man, his icy gaze and angular face slowly passing out of view. “nor Loki, nor the Phantom. He may end up satisfying that qualifier, however, if he truly intends to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather. Besides, I only needed to look at Kinners, not Kylo.”
“Sherlock,” growled the strange creature from behind him. Kylo was confused enough to not feel an immediate need to say anything. He was beginning to spin the other way, but slower. He looked up hopefully at the rope that suspended him, following it from the ceiling to the floor to the one they called Phantom: the masked one that seemed intent on killing someone and indifferent about who it was. Deciding that it was a bad idea to peddle for mercy from the most homicidal person in the room, he instead turned to the only one that seemed to actually like him.
“Can I come down now?” he asked Kinners, as innocently as he could manage. She smiled and inhaled as if about to say something, but then narrowed her eyes and lowered her ears slightly. One ear swiveled backwards.
“You have his saber, Grievous?” she asked. She got a short affirmative grunt from a large figure in the back, shrouded in shadow and a cape. There was another man back there with him, regular human-sized. She coolly looked over at the Phantom.
Sighing rather like a disgruntled teenager, the Phantom lifted his foot from the rope.
The moment he felt himself slipping back to earth, the Force within him kicked in. His enhanced reflexes landed him on his feet, and with a speed that surprised most of them he sprinted for the one who held his saber captive. His target did not move, but the old man next to him stepped towards the oncoming knight with his hands up in entreaty and his lips moving in some kind of plea against violence. There wasn’t enough room to jump over or maneuver around the bystander. Well, he had to get him to move somehow.
Bracing his own will, he stretched out his hand and seized the man’s mind with the Force.
Then he was dazed on the floor, a thousand years of unbelievable memories turning his mind into infinite chaos jambalaya.
“Did he just try tae mind-wrangle me?” asked the old man standing above his prone corpse, partially indignant but mostly unbelieving. Kylo was trying very, very hard not to scream himself hoarse, cry indefinitely, blow chunks or laugh uncontrollably, because he was fairly certain that if he did he would be doing it in another language that was composed of circles. Somebody tried unsuccessfully to stifle a snicker.
“That’s cute,” he continued, his accent somehow penetrating the hypercharged hurricane his brain was now hosting. “Ah can sort of see why you like him, now, he’s cute! That’s all you need for kids these days, en’t it?”
This headache was much worse than the one the drugs had given him. Did he even have a body to be aching anymore? Well, he must have, because his head felt like there was a bomb going off in it, incinerating every brain cell simultaneously. Can’t feel much without a body, can you?
A set of fingers on each temple. The pain was gone. The old man stood up.
“There ya go, good as new!” He did in fact feel okay mentally, but getting up felt much harder than it should have been. “Oh, come on, Kinners, you’ve got tae admit that was funny! And look--he even still has control of his body! No harm done!”
“What in the galaxy are you?” demanded Kylo once he was standing up and looking in the eye the man that had just wrecked his head.
“Universe,” corrected the ice-eyed man, who had somehow managed to acquire a handgun and was now doing something with it that looked dangerous.
“Just a traveler,” shrugged the man. Kylo felt like no expression short of ‘Are You $%#ing Kidding Me?’ could adequately convey his feelings. “Y’know, the kind whose brains ya don’t want tae mess with. Ya might as well ask this guy tae arm wrestle!”
Shoulders prickling as if at the breath of a predator, Kylo slowly turned around to face the one of whom the old man spoke.
If he were to stand up straight, he would have towered over the knight by an extra head. The concealing shadow and the gray shroud of a cape fell away from him as he stepped forward. Machinery clicked and whirred softly as he unfolded his steel arms and skeletal hands, uncovering the gutsack that lay enclosed in a metal carapace the color of bone. From a cable for a neck that was thicker than his shin came a mask for a head: flat, skull-like, encasing sunken golden eyes with void slits for pupils.
Kylo recognized this steel behemoth. He’d seen the massacres depicted in the Jedi history books.
“Perceptive,” praised the cyborg, his fiery eyes serving surprisingly well as his only readable facial features. “for a Jedi.”
A clunk of metal that sounded too close and Kylo startled back, staring in awe at the claw-like foot that had stomped down before him. He could almost feel himself shrinking as the infamous general stepped forward. He could feel his life’s end drawing closer.
“That’s impossible,” he blurted, desperate to forestall his doom. The metal terror seemed to halt. “You’re dead. The Clone Wars--”
“Kylo.” A paw on his chest pushed him back, and Kinners’ face occupied his vision. “He doesn’t know. Neither do any of us. People like you, people who know about the fate of some of us, we have to be careful. Death is the one thing that you absolutely can’t give away. Not for anyone.”
“What is happening?” he demanded, putting his hands on Kinners’s shoulders. Which made her stumble a little, because she was primarily quadrupedal. “A magician? A murderer? Impossible people, and some kind of talking animal? What is this? Tell me.”
“Calm down.” she commanded. She put a paw on either side of his face and stared him right in the eyes with her own gigantic ones. He closed his, took a deep breath. Thought of her. Not Kinners, her.
“I’m sorry,” apologized Kinners. He opened his eyes, and she descended back to her paws. “We needed your help. I know this must be confusing, especially since it’s your first time.”
“First time?” he echoed. No wonder everyone was looking at him like he was an idiot.
“These are my friends,” she explained, smiling as she said so. “Loki, the Phantom, Sherlock Holmes, Data, the Doctor, even Grievous. We’re on a quest, fraught with danger and of the utmost importance to the fate of this little section of world. We just needed your help.”
“So you drugged me?” he asked rhetorically, raising an eyebrow.
“That was Erik’s idea,” she grumbled, ears flattening as she shot a spark of eye lightning at the Phantom.
“What do you need me for?” he asked slightly sarcastically, taking a step back. “Must be some quest, if you’ve rounded up the most dangerous people ever.” Here he eyed the unnatural pale man and the ice-eyed man suspiciously, sure that they were just as powerful as the rest.
“Well, dragons are the most dangerous creatures ever.” responded Kinners matter-of-factly.
Kylo felt like he was discovering General Grievous all over again. Or, at least, he should have if he weren’t too busy being a complete nincompoop.
“What, like a krayt dragon?” he clarified.
“Nope.” replied Kinners.
“Bothan sky dragon?”
“Well, what kind of dragon?” he asked, slightly frustrated with this game.
“Y’know, the actual kind,” prompted Kinners, inclining her head and raising an eyebrow. “Winged, scaled, magical fire-breath-ed kind. Y’know, horns, frills, sharp bits, bad temper, usually clever, sometimes huge and scary beyond imagination? Dragons?”
There was a short pause while the two verbal combatants each contemplated just how big of an idiot the other was.
“Like the mythical kind?” Kylo asked again, raising his own eyebrows as if willing her to hear just how ridiculous her statement was.
“Well, they’re absolutely real,” corrected Kinners with a nonchalant shrug. “But for communication’s sake, yes. Those ones.”
“Soooooo the kind that don’t exist?” Kylo tried again to communicate his point to no avail.
“Could something nonexistent do this?” demanded Grievous. He thrust forth his other leg, which heretofore hadn’t been noticed by Kylo in favor of the other scarier parts. The metal appendage had been horribly half-melted into a twisted shape that defied all notion that it was once a prosthetic limb. Kylo shuddered at the thought of what would have happened to a real leg. Upon finishing his second glance, Kylo decided that this part was still quite scary in terms of what it meant.
“This is what a dragon did to me,” growled Grievous, every word dripping with mortal danger. “A Monstrous Nightmare. Got me by its teeth and let loose its flame. If it were any smarter, it would have gone for my throat.”
“That’s why we need you, Kylo,” said Kinners almost sadly, her ears drooping at the sight of the leg. “With Grievous’s bad leg, we need another striker to cover for him. If there’s nobody to distract him, AuThalamus will make short work of him.
“So whaddaya say?”
The room became quiet, and suddenly Kylo was aware of eyes trained on him. They made him a little nervous, but it wasn’t as bad as the thought of the mission ahead of him. Frankly, it made him rethink his life choices. He brought his hand to his face, took a deep breath, noted how Kinners held her own.
“I’ll do it.”
To his surprise the room erupted in cheers, and the old man with the mind gave him a hand on the shoulder. Still feeling incredibly awkward because he was in a room full of confusing people that he did not know, he did not respond in any way.
“As if I had a choice,” he muttered under his breath.