A/N: Thanks again to the people who left reviews and/or added this story to their favs/subscriptions. I also appreciate the fun suggestions I've gotten for this fic. I will be sure to credit the users who came up with them when they come up in later chapters.
Hope you enjoy this chapter!
Lost in Life and Also in the Basement
Arbitrary screams were not a rare occurrence in the First Order. Normal vocal volume had never exactly been in vogue. Still, this particular scream was so blood-curdling that Kylo and Hux immediately knew there was something terribly wrong.
That something happened to take the form of a pile of broken film equipment and a piece of Stormtrooper armor.
"I'm feeling very abandoned right now," Kylo proclaimed.
Hux surveyed the scene, his brow furrowed in confusion. There was no sign of the camera crew or the Stormtroopers. Phasma was going to kill him for losing another group of her troopers. He felt as if something, someone else was missing too…
"WHERE'S THE DROID?!" Hux's panicked scream echoed throughout the Finalizer.
After a quick glance around the hallway, Kylo realized the General had a point (for once). BB-9E was nowhere to be seen.
"Maybe he abandoned us along with the troopers and the cameramen," Kylo said. "It's not surprising. I think we've already established that your troops are skilled at committing high treason. Must have rubbed off on the droid."
"How dare you!" Hux snarled, but his anxiety quickly overcame his anger. He braced himself for the dreaded sound of rolling metal followed by another electric shock to his leg. "We need to find the demon… I mean, the droid and the camera crew. We're already far behind schedule. I'm sure if we check the security footage…"
"Good luck with that," Kylo said, pointing towards the ceiling.
The security camera, or what was left of it, was dangling precariously on a frayed wire. The rest of the camera had been reduced to a blob of flickering lights and bent metal.
Approaching footsteps sounded down the hall, and the team of radar technicians from the Bridge rounded the corner. They paused to gape at the mangled camera, apparently too drained from their last struggle with the calcinator to complain any more about brokenness.
"I don't suppose you know anything about what happened here?" Hux called out to them.
The radar technicians looked confusedly from the heap of equipment to the camera and shook their heads.
"We heard a scream," one of them said, shrugging. Kylo and Hux recognized him as the one who had begun the discussion of broken things on the Bridge. "But we just thought that Kylo Ren was fighting the vending machine again or something."
"Or he like… killed someone," another technician.
Hux gave Kylo an accusing scowl.
"Is that why all the vending machines are broken?" he demanded.
"It ate my credits and wouldn't give me my protein bar," Kylo explained. "But if you smash through the glass, you can get all the protein bars you want, though that doesn't make them taste any better."
Hux's grimace soured further at the mention of protein bars. For once, the two agreed on something. Of course, neither would ever admit to having any kind of shared opinion, even over something as trivial as the revolting taste of the First Order protein bars.
"I suppose you can get on with your business then, if you don't have anything to contribute," Hux told the technician team. "Ren and I will handle this."
"Did you check the trail?" one of the technicians suggested.
The technician gestured at the floor before running off with the rest of his group. They seemed to be very excited to go wherever their destination was.
There was indeed a trail consisting of small bits of Stormtrooper armor. The path had blended in with the tiles at first but was quite clear after being pointed out. It appeared to lead to the deserted basement floor.
"This feels like a trap," Hux muttered.
"Everything in life is a trap," said Kylo. "It's all out to deceive you…"
"That's not my point."
Hux peered down the staircase, wondering why the architects of the Finalizer decided on an abandoned prison aesthetic for the basement. It looked grimier than the rest of the ship. At the moment, the general wasn't sure whether it was his fear of poor hygiene or fear of walking into a trap and getting murdered in some dark crevice never to be found that was holding him back.
"I don't like this," he said to himself.
"I don't know what your problem is," Kylo said, ever sympathetic towards other's unease. "I go down there all the time when I want a quiet, dark place to brood. You can't possibly be scared of it."
"I prefer to say I have a heightened sense of self-preservation."
"I'll go down first since you're scared. Actually, I'll go down alone. I've had enough of your presence for one day."
Now, had General Hux possessed a sturdy, carefully nurtured self-esteem and enough maturity to overlook what was obviously an instance of his rival baiting him, he would have let the conversation end there. He would have left to find a new camera crew and finish a stunning advertising campaign by the deadline after a productive day of work, which would perhaps have gotten him in better favors to get the coveted promotion to Grand Marshal.
However, the idea of Hux with a sturdy, carefully nurtured self-esteem was no more realistic than the idea of Kylo abandoning his lightsaber tantrums for meditation classes or the idea of him actually achieving his dream of being Grand Marshal.
"In that case, I think I'll lead the way," Hux said, striding ahead. He would show Ren. He would show anyone who dared to accuse him of frailty exactly what courage looked like…
As if on cue, something ran under his feet and the general tumbled down the remaining steps with a markedly uncourageous yelp.
"Next time let me do that for you," Kylo said, stepping over the general's prostrate form.
Hux jumped to his feet, dusting off his clothes and frantically rubbing hand sanitizer onto his hands. He would have to have a word with the Sanitation Stormtroopers about the basement floor. Eyes burning with rage, he spotted the source of his humiliation: an MSE droid, idly crawling across the floor.
"Kriffing mouse droid!" he shrieked at the metal box. "Why do we have these things anyway? They don't seem to have much of a purpose."
"No one here has a purpose," Kylo pointed out. "Just the other day, Supreme Leader Snoke asked me whether I ever wondered why he keeps a rabid cur (the rabid cur being you, of course) in such a position of power, and that got me thinking. Eventually I realized that no one here really has a purpose, and it isn't just the First Order. It's the whole galaxy."
He concluded his speech with a heavy sigh. Hux only stared at him.
"On that uplifting note," Hux said, "Let's find the camera crew and Stormtroopers so that we can get out of here." He surveyed the winding corridor ahead of them which broke off into a three-way forked intersection. "You said you come down here often, Ren. So, I assume you know your way around."
"No, I don't," Kylo replied. "I said that I come down here often to brood. Brooding isn't a mobile activity. Do you ever hear about brooding walks or brooding jogs or brooding strolls…"
"Alright, alright!" Hux interjected. "You've made your point. We'll just… try not to go too far from the entrance. We are working on a deadline after all. We don't have time to get lost."
"I'm already lost in the grand scheme of things. You know, in a metaphorical way… not the way my dad used to lose his stick-on grenades around the house so that they'd accidentally explode in places and blow up my model X-Wings, though that was probably also a metaphor for how I was lost and had a lot of pent up anger."
"That is very helpful, Ren. Very helpful indeed."
Too much KyloKam. Too much popcorn. Addiction. Bad.
"It's okay, Buddy," Poe said, patting the droid on the head. His eyes remained fixed on the screen. "Trust me. This is going to be good."
BB-8 scanned the screen which displayed Kylo and Hux navigating a long, dark maze of hallways.
Dark hallway. Scary hallway, the droid buzzed. Too much like horror movies. Not good for Poe past midnight.
"Relax," Poe told the droid. "I've seen the inside of the First Order before and things can get pretty freaky there, but I'm prepared for it. Besides, I'm good with horror movies, and that sort of stuff doesn't even happen in real life."
Lies. Resistance movie night. Stupid Blue Squadron picked horror movie. The Menacing Phantom. Everyone screaming. Poe screaming too. Nix crying. Too scary for Resistance. So scary General Organa banned the movie. Bad for Resistance.
"Okay, Buddy. I know what happened, but frankly the General was overreacting."
General Organa only smart person.
The camera veered to the side and the display took a dizzying turn towards the ceiling. Poe pressed a few buttons on the remote and eventually straightened the view back to their targets.
Poe bad with remote, BB-8 remarked.
"Now that's just mean," Poe complained.
Mean but true, the droid retorted. Poe bad with remote. Poe nearly kill pasty scrawny General.
"Hey," Poe said. "No need to blow things out of proportion. You've seen it before. Hugs is very durable, even though he looks delicate."
BB-8 tilted his head in the classic inquisitive droid pose.
Delicate? the droid questioned.
"You know," Poe explained, "Slight built despite the height, delicate looking bone structure overall, especially the cheekbones… just things you notice when you've been studying the First Order leadership for a while."
Poe weird now. Saying weird things about pasty scrawny General. KyloKam make Poe crazy.
"Come on, Buddy," Poe said. "I was just joking. You know not to take everything I say so seriously."
Poe in denial. Not healthy. Poe not a healthy man.
The Mastermind peeked his mutilated head around the corner and beeped angrily to himself. It had been years since anyone had entered his lair, excluding that one incident with the Sanitation Stormtroopers. The Mastermind had eliminated the entire crew within minutes, except for that one pesky FN-2187 trooper who had run up the stairs while BB-9E's flamethrower was heating up, but he had let that one go, knowing no one would believe his stories about the spherical menace.
Now, he was confronted with not one, but three intruders: Scrawny Snaps, Discount Vader and an MSE droid. The Mastermind had always been suspicious of the MSE-series. He didn't see why the First Order needed more than one droid in the first place, much less one whose purpose was vague to the point of utter uselessness. No. There was only room for one supreme droid on this ship. The MSE droid would have to go just like the rest of them.
He suspected they were looking for the camera crew and those insufferable Stormtroopers. Little did they know the Mastermind had put them out of their misery hours ago and feasted on their metallic equipment. After all the humiliating therapy work they had put him through, their deaths had been brutal justice.
He expected a quick battle. He had the advantage of knowing his surroundings better than any of his enemies, in addition to his extensive artillery which he kept wrapped within his circular body. Still, the Mastermind had to be cautious. If his memory programming was intact, Scrawny Snaps was of little concern, but Discount Vader and his bizarre red fire stick could be an issue.
There were few things the Mastermind despised more than bright red lights. With the exception of those built into his photoreceptor, red lights seemed to have a negative effect on his circuits, often causing discoordination and general confusion. Admittedly, the red fire stick looked rather unwieldy, but the Mastermind suspected Discount Vader had trained extensively in combat and would use his cheaply constructed weapon to the best of his abilities.
He would have to think carefully before making his first move. Very carefully.
"I think we should stop here, Ren," Scrawny Snaps' voice echoed through the labyrinth.
The Mastermind noted the slight rise in the pitch of the man's voice. According to his database of human behavior, such changes indicated intense fear that one was trying to conceal. Fear was good. The Mastermind enjoyed feeding off of it.
"I thought you wanted to find the camera crew," Discount Vader argued.
"I did, Ren, but I don't think we'll have any success. We've wasted enough time with this already."
"Then who are we going to get to film to advertisement?"
"We… we could get Mitaka."
"Mitaka? He can't even hold a camera straight. Have you seen his LightTube channel? Everything there is so shaky it gives you a headache."
"Well, we'll find someone! I'm sick of this place, Ren."
"You'll just have to explain to Supreme Leader Snoke then why we don't have a proper camera crew."
The Mastermind cocked his head to one side at the name "Supreme Leader Snoke". He had never understood why the (temporary) leader of the First Order had given himself such a ridiculous name as "Snoke".
"Fine then!" Scrawny Snaps said. "We'll look for ten more minutes. Then, we'll have to find other options, and if I die down here, my blood is on your hands, Ren!"
"Realistically, if we were to die down here," Discount Vader wondered aloud, "Would anyone mourn us or would our memory just fade away?"
Normally, the Mastermind relished negative energy, but this man was really something else. He would have to get rid of them soon. They appeared to be quite lost in his lair. Perhaps he could take advantage of that…
Suddenly, the Mastermind's circuits lit up with a wonderfully horrifying idea. The droid raced towards the main control console in the basement and extended his arc welder. He heard the intruders turn another corner, entering the heart of the lair. The Mastermind seized his chance and with a single swipe, cut the wires of the lighting system.
The entire basement floor went black.