I don't know how long I've been unconscious, but when I open my eyes, two stormtroopers are hovering over me.
I belatedly register the acrid burns stinging my chest. I press a few fingers to my side, wincing at the contact. I could feel the blood seeping through my tunic. This is not good. This hurts.
Rey’s outburst caught me by surprise. I didn’t expect her to lash out like that.
"What do you want ?" I hiss out and I get up, furious to have been seen weakened on the ground by these imbeciles and even more so to have been caught unaware.
"Supreme Leader, we were worried about you. You've been unconscious for several minutes,” says Pryde behind me.
As always, he is flanked by Hux. I grit my teeth when I sense the nuance of triumph of this idiot Pryde. I should never have replaced Quinn. He hates me. I briefly entertain the notion of choking him, but I don’t. I have no other replacement at the moment.
"Certain powers require great concentration, something that may be beyond your comprehension."
I am deliberately vague, I want him to understand that his place will always be below me.
“Of course, Supreme Leader. My apologies for disturbing you in deep mediation... If I have allowed myself to do so, it is to share with you information of vital importance.”
“Let me be the judge of that. "
He is not fooled by my weak explaination. At the slightest sign of weakness, he will betray me, I know it. Pryde is like everyone else…
“Our agents believe they have located the main base of the rebels. "
My chest burns and I feel that my armour is soaked in blood. But I cannot show weakness.
“And where would that be?
“On an unsettled planet in the outer rim called Dagobah. "
The planet on which Luke Skywalker trained with master Yoda.
I recognize that as the rare, nostalgic side of Leia. Only symbols count in her eyes, only her precious twin is important. I know well enough…
"Should I give orders to attack them Supreme Leader?" Hux's sniping voice cuts in.
"Not yet. "
He cries out in protest.
I can’t say that it doesn’t give me a small amount of vindictiveness, even though I can’t imagine why did I say that.
"We can’t guarantee the reliability of our source," I continue. “It may be a trap, and it would not be the first time."
Pryde struggles to hide a contemptuous grin and the two stormtroopers exchange a look.
They think I'm afraid, they think I'm weak.
“To destroy them would still be too merciful, I want to capture them, execute them with a public spectacle. Show the galaxy what happens to those who dare to oppose us"
My justification sounds wrong, but I am in too much pain to care. For now, the only thing I want is for them to get out of this room.
"Supreme Leader Snoke has always ordered that we destroy them at the earliest opportunity," objected Hux.
Who does this idiot think he is? How dare he question my orders! Rage consumes me and I seize the Force to strangle him.
"It seems to me that his lack of caution cost Snoke dearly ... I do not intend to follow his example. Would you question my orders? "
Half-suffocated and with a purple face, Hux emits a gurgling sound that signals his submission. I release it with slight regret.
“Order our fleet to approach the Outer Rim, we will not attack.”
“Yes, Supreme Leader,” croaks Hux while glancing at Pryde.
I dismiss them with a gesture.
Why are they taking so long to get out! I feel my legs wobbling, I can't take it anymore, I have to tend to my wound, quickly!
As soon as they leave, I take off my armor and tear my shirt. The cloth is crusted with blood. My shoulder burns and the simple act of running my hand over it makes me want to scream. Why am I even surprised at this point?
My hand is shaking as I reach for a clean cloth. I feel as weak as that night on Ahch-To.
" I didn't mean to hurt you ... I'm sorry, Ben. "
I jolt upright, hissing in pain at the sudden movement.
I didn't even feel the bond opening. Is the Force no longer with me?
"Of course, nothing is more selfless and light-sided than Sith Lightning. It would seem, despite all that time you waste trying to turn me, you finally decided to follow your former master’s footsteps and finish what Luke started? "
My wisecrack hits home and I see her deflate. She approaches, biting her lip hard enough to draw blood. Her white tunic forms a halo of light around her.
She is splendid. I want her so bad.
" This is not what I wanted . I don't understand... I didn't think we could touch each other physically, I mean, through our bond. "
To tell the truth, I also hadn’t considered that such a thing was possible. She tentatively glances at me, looking lost.
"I don't know why this, this power came out of me ."
Her words ring true in the force. She didn’t want to hurt me. It has shaken her, made her afraid, not of me, not of the dark side…she is afraid of herself. She needs help.
She is so upset that her hazel eyes fog with tears.
They appear lighter, almost green. I force myself to come to my senses. How important is the color of her eyes? Her conflict is a weapon that I intend to turn in my favour.
"Really ? It seems to me that it is obvious. You let the power of your blood run through you”
“I am not a Sith, I cannot be a Sith ."
Her face reveals the intensity of his torment. She hesitates, I can feel it. I was right to delay the attack, I can convince her to join me.
"Yet you are using the powers of the Dark Side ... I'm sure it was easier for you than limiting yourself to the teachings of Luke or Leia. "
She does not answer but I sense her confusion. She has doubts ...
"Did you tell the truth? About my family?
“I have no reason to lie to you, Rey.”
“Really?” She said dryly, wiping away stray tears,“No reason, except to persuade me to join you of course ...”
“I'm not the one who manipulates you ... "
I would like to continue, reveal to her what the Skywalkers did to her, but a flash of pain pierces my shoulder and I can't help grunting.
Rey's face crumples with concern. Unexpectedly, I feel her warm palm against my wound.
"I didn't mean to hurt you," she repeats.
A gentle warmth spreads over my shoulder before reaching the rest of my body. To feel her so close to me is both exhilarating and terrifying.
I want her so much that I could give up everything for her right now. I can almost feel her breath against my face. I feel my flesh stitch together, the pain drains out of me. I look into her eyes.
She does not turn away and, through our bond, I feel her uncertainty.
"We know you are on Dagobah, our fleet is approaching. The Resistance will be wiped out shortly. Join me before it's too late. "
Why did I say that? Why did I warn her?
Her face hardens and his hand leaves my chest, I mourn loss of contact.
" So, I was right, it was all a trap to locate us ... What an idiot I am!"
“No, Rey, wait… ”
She disappeared, leaving me alone with the melted vestige of the mask of Darth Vader.