Chapter 1

Kylo's Hopes and Dreams are Dust and It's Hux's Fault

Kylo Ren had never been too fond of the abstract concept of "controlling one's anger". It didn't make sense, especially when there were so many things just begging for him to unleash his anger on them…

Like Hux's face.

It wasn't the first time he'd punched the general on the way to a meeting. Snoke was probably used to having Hux show up with a black eye or two and didn't seem to mind. The insufferable man was glowering at Kylo now from the corner of the elevator, dabbing at his bloody nose with a cross-stitched handkerchief. Well, it was his fault for crossing Kylo when the latter was in a bad mood, and it just so happened he was in a very bad mood even by his standards.

The "incident" with the scavenger girl hadn't exactly lightened up his already dark and despairing worldview. To make matters worse, Snoke's impromptu morning hologram calls were seriously depriving him of his beauty sleep. How was he supposed to heal from his scars both literally and figuratively (emphasis on the figurative scars because he couldn't pass up that beautiful emo metaphor) without beauty sleep?

The elevator came to a halt and the two men started towards Snoke's oversized hologram throne, giving each other hateful side-glances along the way. Kylo could have sworn the chamber got longer every time he visited it. Admittedly, a dimly lit, unnecessarily long throne room did contribute to Snoke's overall Aura of Evil, but a five-minute walk to the end was a little much. If they could only get the funds to install a people mover, life would be so much easier. Instead, funds went to unnecessary projects, like solar-powered mega Death Stars and specialized AT-ATs with fancy new acronyms.

When they had finally reached the foot of the throne, the Supreme Leader leaned forward and glared down at them.

"My disappointment in the events of this month," Snoke said, pausing mid-sentence for dramatic effect. "Cannot be exaggerated."

He let the sentence linger in the air while he waited for an explanation. Hux and Kylo exchanged looks. Fortunately, Kylo decided to be the man and step up for both of their sakes.

"Supreme Leader," he said. "I'm sure that we are all very disappointed in the fate of the poorly designed and badly managed weapon that was Starkiller base. As your apprentice, I will dutifully force choke the incompetent general responsible for this disaster or carry out whatever other agonizing punishment your Snokeship deems appropriate."

He bowed and stepped back, certain that Snoke would be proud of his apprentice's selfless loyalty to his master's will. Hux's expression had changed to a mixture of pure loathing and absolute terror. The general brought a defensive hand to his throat and prepared his best worthless-in-your-presence-but-earnestly-apologetic-minion tone.

"Supreme Leader," he began. "I accept full…"

"You are not here to discuss Starkiller base!" Snoke bellowed. "That catastrophe is in the past. We must look forward to the future glory of the First Order."

A large diagram with a downward sloping line appeared in the hologram. Kylo felt his heart race.

"Do you know what this is?" the Supreme Leader asked.

"The map to Luke Skywalker!" Kylo gasped. Suddenly waking up a little earlier than usual was entirely worth it. He felt a rare and foreign wave of excitement rise within him.

Snoke put his face in his hands and shook his head.

"No, my young apprentice," he said.

"Oh," Kylo said. The excitement disappeared instantaneously. In a way, he was relieved to have it gone. Positive emotions frightened him.

"It's a line graph," Hux said.

"Yes, my rabid cur," Snoke replied. "That is correct."

This rare bit of praise brought tears of joy to Hux's eyes. The general gave Kylo a smug smile which quickly turned to a grimace of pain when the latter kicked him in the shin.

"A line graph…" Kylo muttered.

"My apprentice, you do know how to read a line graph, do you not?" Snoke questioned.

"I can read it," Kylo hesitated. "I just need your guidance."

Snoke's groan of frustration echoed through the chamber. He pointed to the vertical line on the diagram.

"This is the y-axis," he said. "It shows the number of enlistments in the First Order." He indicated the horizontal line. "This is the x-axis. It shows time."

"Ah," Kylo said, nodding. Math class was coming back to him now. He was starting to wonder whether killing his basic math skills as part of his new "kill the past" motto had been a good idea.

"Our recruitments are at an all-time low," Snoke continued. "The recent destruction of Starkiller Base has made the public lose faith in the First Order. Public relations are in jeopardy. This could be the greatest threat the First Order has ever faced. Meanwhile…" The diagram changed to another line graph, this one with a positive slope. At least, Kylo was pretty sure that was what a positive slope looked like. "Resistance recruitment is at a new zenith. Do you have any idea why?"

"Sampling error," Hux said. "The resistance is much smaller, which would create the illusion that their recruitment rate is higher, depending on how the rate is measured…"

"Silence!" Snoke shouted. "No, it is not sampling error that has given the Resistance this advantage. It is…"

He paused again, waiting for an answer. Snoke didn't appreciate long waits, and if he didn't get a response fast enough, he typically resorted to Force lightning. So, Kylo blurted out the first idea that came to mind:

"Sexy Force-sensitive scavenger girls."

"Precisely," Snoke said. "This is a sample of the Resistance's new advertising campaign."

He waved his hand again and the diagram changed to a buffering video file. It didn't look like it was going to load anytime soon. Kylo suppressed a groan.

"Patience, my young apprentice," the Supreme Leader said.

Ten minutes later, however, everyone's patience was wearing thin. Snoke beckoned one of the Praetorian guards over and, after a hushed bit of technical trouble-shooting, the video began to play.

Peaceful piano music played in the background while an orange and white BB-unit rolled across the screen. The background varied between several picturesque shots from different planets, the lakes of Naboo, the nighttime lights of Coruscant. The droid finally came to a stop on a desert hill with the twin suns of Tatooine shining in the background. A young woman came forward and knelt next to the droid, petting its head lovingly like one would a dog.

The scavenger girl. Kylo's heart skipped a beat. His hands sweated, an instinctual response which he attributed to his think gloves.

"We all want a galaxy of peace and stability," a man's voice narrated. "Where family and friends are treasured." The ad now showed a group of X-Wing pilots. Their laughter was muted but they seemed to be having a hysterically amusing time with whatever they were doing. "And where our children can grow and play without fear."

The scavenger now appeared to be showing the BB-unit to a group of curious children. More muted laughter. Kylo was sure he'd get diabetes from the saccharine mood by the end of this screening.

"Sadly, this ideal is under attack."

The video faded to black followed by the glow of a red lightsaber. The next few scenes showed Kylo Ren himself smashing various pieces of equipment and destroying trees in a snowy forest, screaming incoherently all the while.

"How did they get that footage?!" Kylo exclaimed. This had to be an illegal invasion of privacy.

"Instead of peace, the First Order is intent on bringing wrathful destruction upon the galaxy," the narrator went on dolefully.

The video switched to a clip of General Hux tumbling down the stairs. Meanwhile, the live Hux's face had once again gone from its usually pasty hue to a spectral white.

"Their clumsiness, incompetence and uncontrolled rage will bring ruin on the galaxy, unless, you step up to stop them. You can join the cause now to protect what we all hold dear by joining the Resistance, a dedicated team of heroes of all ages."

The scene zoomed in on a fleet of X-wings. The narrator, a pilot in the usual orange uniform, was posing next to his ship. The BB-unit rolled to his side and emitted an adorable series of beeps. A line of text at the bottom of the screen introduced him as "Poe Dameron – Commanding Officer of the Blue Squadron".

"As a proud member of the Resistance," Poe said, smiling broadly at the camera. "I encourage you to join the cause. You can be the hero the galaxy needs today."

He winked at the camera and the resistance logo appeared in the center of the screen with the words "Enlist Today" underneath. The video faded to black.

"Would either of you care to explain how this humiliating footage got in the hands of the resistance?" Snoke growled.

"FN-2187," Kylo seethed. "The Stormtrooper who defected. He must have been carrying secret recordings and given them to the Resistance…"

He drew his lightsaber, his face burning from the ignominy of it all. The world was always out to make him look like a fool. He was about to bring the lightsaber down on the hologram projector when Snoke yelled, "Stop this at once!"

"General Hux," the Supreme Leader said, turning to the general. "Can you tell me why one of your men had footage of you falling down the stairs and screaming like a schoolgirl?"

Hux didn't respond. He was staring blankly at the hologram, beads of sweat dripping from his forehead, as if the advertisement had caused a mental overload.

"Hux," the Supreme Leader growled.

No reply. The general was broken.

"HUX!"

Hux jolted out of his daydream. His eyes darted from an exasperated Snoke to a confused Kylo Ren. He blinked a few times before stuttering:

"S-Supreme Leader, your… a… apprentice pushed me down the stairs."

"That's a lie!" Kylo screamed.

"No it's not!" Hux said.

"Yes, it is!" Kylo retorted.

"No…" Hux began, his voice rising in both pitch and volume.

"SILENCE!" Snoke commanded.

A thunder clap echoed through the chamber followed by a menacing bolt of blue lightning. Kylo looked around, both stunned and impressed.

"Can you teach me how to do that with the Force?" he begged.

"Also, why does the Force lightning come after the thunder?" Hux asked. "Could you please explain this strange science, Supreme Leader?"

"That is NOT WHAT I CALLED YOU FOR!" Snoke shouted. "You are here now to receive your new assignment."

Kylo perked up a little. Maybe he'd be stationed on a ship far, far away from Hux. Maybe he'd even be on a mission to find the scavenger girl, in which case, a strictly interrogation-based date was certainly not out of question.

"You are to make a new series of video advertisements and posters for the First Order," Snoke said, leaning back in his throne. "And you will be working together. I hope to see a more unified team dynamic in the ads."

As usual, Kylo's hopes and dreams withered into dust.

"I expect to see the finished product in one week," Snoke added. "Do not disappoint me."

Before either Kylo or Hux could protest, the Supreme Leader's hologram disappeared. Neither of them said anything at first. Then, Kylo broke the silence by punching Hux across the room. The general yelped and got up from the floor, noticeably disheveled.

"What the hell, Ren?" he shrieked.

"That's for being a klutz and falling down the stairs," Kylo snapped, stomping off towards the elevator. "And for blaming it on me! This is all your fault!"