The soft hums and the flashing blues and whites of hyperspace. They did nothing to calm my troubled mind. My usual relief of stress, a small orb of lightning that fluctuates in size by using both the dark and light sides of the Force, it did not relieve me. What am I? Am I angry? Yes. I'm so angry that I want to electrocute something and scream, to take my lightsaber out and slash it on a wall, but in a ship full of shaking soldiers I doubt that's the best thing to do in such a small space.
I look to the other being in the cockpit, a Wookie by the name of Chewbacca. How does a Wookie release anger? I don't think it's suitable for the ship either, but the Millennium Falcon has been through a lot the past forty years, right? It will hold against an angry Force user, right?
I dare not call myself a Jedi. I haven't been one since I was sixteen when the temple was destroyed and I barely escaped with my life. I distanced myself from the Force most of my time in hiding, only regaining a connection about a year ago when saving a military ship full of civilians from a First Order attack and their leader, a very much dead former fellow student and...partner of mine, a traitor to the Republic, a member of the Knights of Ren. After her defeat, I returned to hiding but began searching for my former master, Luke Skywalker. I expected I would tango with the First Order again, hoping to draw out the other traitors of our Jedi Order, but to join the Resistance was unplanned. If I wasn't on Takodana at the time, staying in Maz Kanata's castle as her guest, then I would have never succeeded in my goal of finding my master.
Though I did not get a chance to confront him, I sensed the leader of the traitors. The battle that happened between the three factions (pirates defending the castle, First Order trying to take a stupid droid, the Resistance swooping in minutes later to save the day) kept me busy. I would get my chance again later, on the First Order superweapon. At the time, I was paired with his father, Han Solo, and he told me to stay back.
I shouldn't have listened.
Despite that, I did help the Resistance with our shared goal: to find Luke Skywalker. Me, Chewbacca, and an adept Force user by the name of Rey. She's close to my age, strong in the Force from what I can sense, about as strong as me. I heard she freed herself using a mind trick (though she never had Force training) and beat an injured but still experienced Kylo Ren herself (though she never had lightsaber training). Impressive...if she wasn't sloppy with her form. I don't consider myself a teacher, yet combat is essential as a Je-Force user. Between leaving the Resistance base and arriving at Ahch-To, I did my best to improve her form. She's not bad, as she states she used her staff back on Jakku, but as I tell her, a lightsaber is no mere weapon. It can kill you before it will kill your opponent.
We land at the coordinates on an island, Rey and I leaving the Falcon in search of my former master. It takes us a while to find him, but when we do, I stand back in fear. Fear that I have failed his teachings after so many years, that I turned away from the path he tried to keep me on. I lowered my head in shame as Rey stepped forward to hand Master Luke his lightsaber. When I look up again...that lightsaber is flying behind Luke and he begins to walk away from us.
My eyes blink in surprise. "Did… Did he just toss it?"
"Yes… Master Skywalker?"We followed him to a small village. A few stone huts made a circle in the small village, though before we could question which is Skywalker's, one door to our right shuts closed. Keeping my distance, I allow Rey to step to the house. "Master Skywalker? I'm from the Resistance. Your sister Leia sent me. We need your help."
No answer is given, and after moments of waiting, we begin to feel frustrated. In my frustration, I also begin to worry. The warm, kind Jedi I knew, that I called Master for most of my life, this is not that man. As Rey steps away from the hut, I come up with the idea to look for the lightsaber he threw away.
We found it being analyzed by some curious birds, and as we took a seat, I spot something mysterious in the water. As I look closer, I see the shape of an X-Wing. I've heard stories of Luke landing an X-wing in a swamp, but that was for a few days, and apparently it worked. This X-Wing should work too (it is sealed to work in the vacuum of space, after all) but I fear there's a reason it is down there. Master Luke had eight years to leave; he's staying here not to hide, but to die.
We had to use Chewbacca to get Master Luke to talk, but once he heard we came on the Falcon, he asked about Han. Unfortunately, we had to reveal the truth. As Luke took in this information, Rey continues. "There's no light left in Kylo Ren. He's only getting stronger. The First Order will control all the major systems within weeks. We need your help. We need," Rey looks to me for this one, "the Jedi Order back. We need Luke Skywalker."
Master Luke looks to Rey, then to me. "Jaymes, what do you say about this?"
"She's right, Ben is strong, so are the others. If it wasn't for Maleena, I wouldn't have come out myself. Master, the Republic you fought for is gone. Without you...it will be as if the last three decades were a dream."
"So you say." He turns to Rey. "You don't need Luke Skywalker."
"Did you hear a word I say?"
"You think what? I'm going to walk out with a laser sword and face down the whole First Order? What did you think was going to happen here? You think that I came to the most unfindable place in the galaxy for no reason at all? Go away."
As Master Luke steps away, my anger flares up. I'm not going to let the man die like this. "Master!"
"We're not leaving without you."
Rey somehow convinced Master Skywalker to teach her, and I went along to oversee. I chuckled as I heard her explanation of the Force, remembering how I said a similar thing almost fifteen years ago. Another chuckle came when Luke tricked her with a leaf when he told her to "reach out." Once they actually began, I stepped away to look at the temple structure I was in. The ancient symbol of the Jedi, a winged lightsaber, drawn within a pool on the floor. I felt...honored to be here.
I must have tuned out the outside events, because as I turn around, I see Master Luke behind me, shaking in fear. "I've only seen this raw strength only once before...in Ben Solo. It didn't scare me enough then. It does now." Luke walks away from us while I head outside to Rey. She's kneeling on the ground, confused herself as to what happened.
"I...was feeling out with the Force, and apparently went too far with the dark."
I nod. "Oh. Well, not everyone who touches the dark comes back. You're one of the lucky few to not be swallowed by it. Though he's right, in raw strength, you are very strong, just as Ben is."
"What about you? You very strong."
"Yes, but I had to go about it a different way. I don't have a bloodline or...however you are strong to help me." I help Rey to her feet, then sit on the table-like stone Rey formerly sat on with Luke. "What do you sense in me?"
Rey closes her eyes, being to reach out mentally again. "I sense...both. You're full of the light, yet at the same time, cloaked by darkness. How?"
"How is it possible? It just is with me. Once, when I was a young teenager, i too slipped to the dark, but not like you or Kylo. I didn't come in contact with a dark area, or be goaded by a dark entity. I...just did. I wasn't angry, in pain, suffering, or hating. I just wanted to learn the dark side. I was caught by Master Luke, berated for it, but he noticed that I was different, that...I wasn't consumed by it. So, in secret, he tutored me to manage both sides. He saw I had a gift, to be one with both sides of the Force. I was neither of the light or of the dark, but of the grey." I look to Rey, and notice how close we are. We aren't invasive in each other's personal space, but we definitely lack the distance of friends. For the first time, consciously I mean, I notice her. I notice her dark brown eyes, burning with curiosity and courage. I notice her rightly-sized nose, her thin lips... Unconsciously, I raise my arm up for them.
I stop myself at her shoulder, patting it gently. "You, however, are not me, and even with my training, I'm susceptible to the dangers of the dark side. You do not want to end up like Ben, so whatever you do, don't go to whatever darkness is on this island."
"Jaymes." Lost in my thoughts, I summon away the lightning ball and turn around in the cockpit. There stands my master's sister, Leia Solo. I stand up in respect of her, bowing a bit in lieu of her title of Princess.
"General, what brings you to me?"
"You can drop the 'General' with me, or else I might call you 'Master Jedi.' We wouldn't want that, do we?" I nod and take a seat along with her. She smiles with me, though I can see it is more of a pained smile than a hearty one. She's lost her husband, her brother, and (now totally) her son in a matter of a week. I cannot fathom how much she is hurting.
"I'm sorry about General Solo and Master Luke. I...should've stopped both of them."
"What's done is done. Sure, we may mourn them, but to fault ourselves is not."
"Thank you." I turn away, back to the blankness of lightspeed. My inner thoughts begin to rise, and though it is wrong, I cannot help but be honest with Leia. "Leia...this might be me talking, it might be truth, but...I do not believe Ben is redeemable now. As a Jedi, you would think I would say otherwise, that everyone is redeemable, but I do not believe it as I don't believe I am a Jedi. Yet I am no Sith, and desperately seeking his death. If it comes to it, I hope Rey decides, not me. But if the fight comes to me and him…"
I feel a hand on my shoulder. Leia, through her painful tears, understands me. "You will do what you must, I get it. But even though you do think otherwise, Jaymes, you are more a Jedi than you think. Light and dark are just concepts. But what's right and what's wrong, whether to build or to destroy, to protect or to dismantle, to bring freedom or to unleash fear, that is what truly separates a Jedi from a Sith. It separates a Republic from an Empire. It separates two heroes who are on this ship from the one person who, even though he is my son, must be stopped."
She stands up, turning to head out the cockpit. I stand with her, walking her out. With her words on my mind, I decided to seek out another woman. "Have you seen Rey?"
"She's alone in one of the smaller cargo holds."
"Lesson two. Now that they're extinct, the Jedi are romanticized, deified. But if you strip away their myths and look at their deeds, the legacy of the Jedi is failure. Hypocrisy. Hubris."
Rey steps forward. "That's not true."
From my distance away from Rey and Master Luke, I laugh at Rey. "Oh, it is very true. The Jedi are truly no better than the Sith. The first Sith were Jedi who was shunned out the Order. For thousands of years, they would fight each other, never truly bringing the other to total ruin."
"At the height of their powers, they allowed Darth Sidious to rise, create the Empire, and wipe them out. It was a Jedi Master who was responsible for the training and creation of Darth Vader."
"And a Jedi who saved him. Yes, the most hated man in the galaxy. But you saw there was conflict inside him. You believed that he wasn't gone, that he could be turned."
"And I became a legend… For many years, there was balance, and then I saw Ben. My nephew with that mighty Skywalker blood. And in my hubris I thought I could train, I could pass on my strengths. Han was Han about it, but...Leia,,,trusted me with her son. I took him and a dozen students, Jaymes included, and began a training temple." I turn to see my master stand up, hoping he'll say more about our days of training, the hard but better days of my life. He does no such thing. "By the time I realized I was no match for the darkness rising in him, it was too late."
"What happened," Rey asked.
Luke initially hesitates to answer, turning to me instead. "I suppose you never heard what happened."
"I've heard what Ben said. Never your side."
"Hmph." He turns back to the wall. "I went to confront him and he turned on me. He must've thought I was dead. When I came to, the temple was burning. He had vanished with a handful of my students...and slaughtered the rest. Leia blamed Snoke, but it was me. I failed...because I was Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master…" He turns to both of us, frowning. "A legend."
"The galaxy may need a legend," Rey softly says. "I need someone to show me my place in all this. And you didn't fail Kylo. Kylo failed you." She stands up, turning to me and to Master Luke. "He failed both of you. I won't."
Luke looks to me again. "Why don't you train her. You're capable."
I step to Rey's side, looking at her. "Because, Master, I would fail her. When we last met, I was but the learner. Now, I'm still the learner. If I taught her, I would fail you who taught me. I cannot fail you a second time. I can't."
"Rey!" I ignite my lightsaber, purple flashing in front of blue. I stand between my fallen master and my friend, staring at her with some scrutiny for pulling the lightsaber out on him. Yes, I watched the spar between them, yet I felt as long as they fought equally until the end, I would not intervene.
Her beautiful, angry, wet face glares at me as she disengages her lightsaber. She looks at Master Luke as my lightsaber switches off. "Tell us the truth."
I look at Rey, confused. "The...truth? What truth?"
"About him and Ben, that day." I did not understand how Rey would have learned more information about it, but as I turn to my master, I see guilt washing down his face in the rain. I don't understand what is going on, but whatever it is, it has old person angry and another laying defeated on steps.
"Master, do as she says."
Luke sighs. "I saw darkness. I'd sensed it building in him. I'd seen it in moments during his training. But then I looked inside and it was beyond what I ever imagined. Snoke had already turned his heart. He would bring destruction, pain, death and the end of everything I love because of what he will become. ANd for the briefest moment of pure instinct. I thought I could stop it."
I remember Ben's words to me and the other students. "You turned your lightsaber on him while he was sleeping. You...actually did it."
Luke nods. "It passed like a fleeting shadow. And I was left with shame...and with consequences. And the last thing I saw were the eyes of a frightened boy whose master had failed him."
"You failed him by thinking his choice was made," Rey shouted. "It wasn't. There's still conflict in him. If he were turned from the dark side, that could shift the tide. This could be how we win."
"This is not going to go the way you think."
"It is. Just now when we touched hands, I saw his future. As solid as I am seeing you. If I go to him, Ben Solo will turn."
"Rey, don't do this." Rey stands back up from hovering over Master Luke and offers him the lightsaber again. Luke turns away, to which Rey rescinds her offer.
"Then he's our last hope." We watch as Rey walks away, then I reach down to help my master to his feet.
"You should go with her."
"Then why stay around with some bitter old man?"
"Because… I need to know whether you think I wrong for wanting to kill Ben, not this Kylo Ren he calls himself. Is it more right to redeem him or to end him?"
Luke drops his eyes, looking to the ground. "I trained you to manage both sides of the Force. You were one of my best students. I put too much stock in Ben that I failed to see that I had a student who I should've truly passed my strengths onto. You believed you failed me, Jaymes, but truthfully… I failed you."
Luke pats me on the shoulder and turns away from me for the last time. But I have one more question. "Master… Is attachment...to another truly wrong for someone like us?"
"...If it is, none of us would be born. If it isn't, my life and yours would be slightly different. I'm no longer your master, Jaymes."
"Then as someone who is almost a father to me, what do you say."
"What I drilled in you since we began your true training. To follow your heart."
I spot Rey sitting in a dark corner of the cargo hold. She's alone, legs wrapped by her arms, sitting quietly. She looks at me with her sad eyes. "Hey."
I walk over and sit beside her, wrapping my arms over her. "You okay?"
"No. I'm...angry. Sad. Lost."
"So me on a normal day," I say to lighten the mood. I manage to crack a smile out of her, then adjust myself as she lays her head on my shoulder.
"Did you feel it? When Luke…"
"Yes. I felt it."
"One with the Force. Not dead, but definitely not alive. You'll see him again, though it might be a little annoying."
"I won't ruin the surprise. I heard stories from Master Luke, but now might actually have the chance to see one."
Rey nods, but her mood isn't raised. "Do you believe we can win?"
"The Resistance? Maybe. Likely not. But the Jedi? We've suffered losses like this many times over the ages. We're purged, we return, we build, that cycle continues. But never are we truly gone."
Rey looks up to me, raising an eyebrow. "You said 'we' when referring to the Jedi. I thought you didn't like associating with them?"
I smile. "Well… Despite all the myths, the hubris, the hypocrisy, the Jedi were certainly one thing. They protected the galaxy. Sure, they can be slow to do the protecting, but when they came, people saw hope. It's what this galaxy needs right now, hope." I stand up, igniting my lightsaber, letting the purple blade light the dark room. "There's something about igniting a lightsaber that either scares the hell out of someone or brings hope." I turn it off, then look to Rey. "I still do not believe Ben is redeemable. I believe he deserves to die. But whatever is to be done with him, the protection of the galaxy is first. We cannot live by the ideals of warriors from the past."
"Kylo said to let the past die."
"He's a fool. The past is part of us, as is the present and future. We've been taught a thousand generations of knowledge. You still have a long way to go yourself, as do I. So, to prepare you, I will teach you all I can. I will make you ready to truly face Ben. Starting with fixing your lightsaber, once we get the chance. Never lose or break your lightsaber." We smile, then I offer my hand to Rey. "You want a place in all this? Your parents might have been nobodies, but we are not our parents. We are not our masters. We are ourselves. The only label that matter is Rey, Jaymes."
Rey stands up, looking at my hand. "But are we not Jedi?"
"Luke Skywalker was the last old Jedi, that is true. But you and me, Rey, we get to be something this galaxy needs. Possibly...the new Jedi. What do you say?"
Rey looks at my hand, then back to my face. She steps forward, taking my hand in hers, then next thing I know, our bodies are in close proximity. It's a hug, sure, but through the Force, I can tell this isn't a hug between two friends.
Through that same Force, I sense another presence not too far away, watching us. For no one is truly gone because even in our darkest hours, they are with us.