Star Wars: Tempest

He is here.

Inside my mind. Again.

I feel him, the Force of him, weighing down each step. I have been preparing you for this, grooming you for this. It is time.

Yes, it is time… to prove myself to my new father, to the father who spoke to me in the darkness, who comforted me, who saw my fear, terror, and pain and told me there was a place for me in the Dark Side.

My fa—Han Solo is here. I can sense him. His harmony in the Force is a faint vibration, a tickling sensation at the base of my spine. I walk away from him across the chasm, half hoping he will slip away into the darkness.

No, I cannot hide anything from Snoke. If I do not confront Han, he will know.

"Ben!"

His voice ripples out of the shadows and halts me in place. My heart seizes in my chest. Sudden pain.

I have heard that voice so many times before. My name from his lips so many times before. It opens a gaping abyss in my past, threatening to parade a sequence of images before me that I have tried to distance myself from before. So often, I have sat in meditation, going through each memory, pulling Ben out of it.

Ben… Ben Solo… a weak boy, a frightened boy, a boy whose mother wanted him to deny the Force and enter politics, a boy whose father was rarely home. The boy sometimes wondered if Han loved him more than his ship, or more than his adventures, or more than Chewie. It would gut that boy, seeing his father again, at wanting love from him.

That boy is no more.

I turn and move toward him as he walks toward me. Sick emptiness seeps into my soul. I have prepared for this moment.

Snoke's lucid tone slithers in my head. I am your father now, Kylo. Ben is dead. Han must die too. Kill him… and you will be free of Ben forever. You will truly be my son.

Kill him.

He has whispered it a million times into my ear, from almost the first breath of my existence, sending tremors through the Force. I have not slept a single night without hearing it as a distant echo, an impulse, a temptation from the darkness that still fills me with repulsion. I must do it. I must please Snoke. I must not disappoint him. I cannot be weak. I cannot have compassion. I must overcome this… anguish in my heart.

My fa—Han has grown old. It is years since I have seen him, nearly half my life now since I went to the Dark Side, but the Light still tugs at me. It is the Light that so drew me to that girl from Jakku… Rey. I saw in her the same fear and loneliness in me, the same desire for family. Hers abandoned her, and mine did too… in a different way. She too wants to belong. That is why she loves Han so. He is the father she never had. Her potential is great with the Force. I can turn her to anger, to darkness… I can tempt her away from the Light.

First, I must overcome it. The pain is literally tearing me apart.

Kill him and you will feel no further torment. Kill him and you are done.

He pleads with me to come home with him.

Home… for a moment, my heart longs for it, my memories stirring of the good times, of months in his presence, of Chewie holding me, of my boyish laughter as we sped into hyperspace…

No, Ben is dead. Gone. I killed him. I am killing him, slowly.

He is taking a long time to die.

I put such thoughts from my mind, and concentrate on the Force, drawing from the Dark Side. It calms me. We speak quietly, and I am honest with him for the first time. I ask him to help me.

He thinks I mean, help me away from this darkness.

I mean, come close enough for me to strike.

My lightsaber feels light in my fingertips, as his hand closes around it. His hands were once bigger than mine were, but no more.

His eyes reveal his hope that he has reached me at last. Hope that this will save me. Hope that I have found the Light. Hope that Ben is alive.

Ben is ten years old, cowering under the covers, feeling such fear as he has never known, such pressure from the Force, listening to that distant whispering voice he would come to know as Snoke one day.

Ben hears it repeatedly, what he must do to be strong… kill Han Solo.

Ben felt such trepidation leaving to train with Luke, but a surge of hope that the fear might go away. It has never left his side, a constant companion, a reminder of his need for the Dark Side, to become powerful enough to protect himself.

Ben is not here.

I feel tears burning behind my eyes, boyish tears as I ignite the lightsaber. The crackling red beam plunges through his chest and holds him there; his face a mask of horror and startled recognition. I cannot move or even breathe. It is surreal, a dream, a nightmare, an endless emptiness, a stirring sickness in the back of my mind, a numbing anguish.

Somewhere deep inside, Ben is screaming.

Father reaches out and touches my face gently… as if I have not killed him, as if the saber did not burn through his insides, as it does not hold him in place.

He forgives me.

I feel as if he has stabbed me through the heart, as I let him fall. I fall with him. Ben falls with him. My screams are all inside my head, for I am numb to all else. I cannot believe what I have done… at last. At last, after so many years of Snoke's whispering… Han Solo is dead.

Mother feels it. Her anguish vibrates in the Force, and I tighten my hand on the saber. I wait.

Snoke promised this would end the pain, kill Ben Solo forever, and the Light would go away with it.

He lied.

He lied… or I am weak, for the Light still burns inside me, flooding me with guilt. With shame. With misery. With pain. With suffering.

I suffer now more than ever before. It rips me in two, and it is only when I fall to my knees and feel blood surging out around my fingers that I realize it is more than my own anguish… it is a hit from a crossbow blaster. It jolts me into reality, shocking me from my anguish. I look up and see Chewie staring down at me, betrayal in his old, furry face. I look beyond him to the pale, screaming face above.

Rey has seen it all.

The Force feeds off her emotions. It is now or never. She is closer now to the Dark Side than she will ever be. I put all my thoughts on her. If I can recruit her, if I can change her, if she can find pure rage, if her suffering allows her to give in to the darkness, I will feel no more pull from the Light.

The Light makes me grieve. The Light floods my memories with happy images of my father. The Light made Chewie misfire.

I struggle to my feet and go after her. She does not know her way through the wood, and I do. Chewie has nearly killed me. He missed my heart but only by inches. The Force holds my insides together. This small task in knitting my wound is a constant pull on my energy, my focus. I need to find an anchor. I need anger back.

The Stormtrooper provides it. His betrayal burns in the air like fire. He is a traitor. He felt the pull to the Light and followed it.

Rey draws a weapon on me. I slam her into a tree and knock her senseless. He runs to her side, tries to rouse her. "Traitor!" I scream, and he turns, groping in his belt for… the lightsaber, the Skywalker blue lightsaber. It's mine.

It ignites with none of my saber's flickering; its core is not unstable or cracked, and the heat of it burns across the snow.

I killed my father.

Ben is screaming at me in inside. We killed our father!

I feel myself drifting. Grief wants to engulf me. The little boy wants to claim me. I pound on my wound, blood dripping from my black robes, to center myself, to find a pain greater than my inner torment.

You missed, Chewie. Damn you, you missed.

Anguish surges through me as I leap forward, spinning toward him with such force that the crack of our lightsabers meeting nearly reels him off his feet.

You are a traitor!

Once again, I feel that familiar rage… the anger I stir in myself each time I lash out uncontrollably… in that rage is power. I do it to access the Dark Side of the Force. He strikes me, catches my arm… good, another jolt of pain to keep my thoughts from my father, from the forgiveness and love in his eyes.

I swing kill strokes, intending to maim him, dismember him, decapitate him, and instead I cut a neat arc up his back. Flesh sizzles and burns. He falls motionless into the snow and I power down my lightsaber. It is eerily quiet without it. The ringing in my ears might be my own internal screams. I can hardly concentrate as I turn toward the lightsaber that flew from his hand. I stretch mine out toward it, pulling at it with the Force.

It will not come.

Why not? It is mine!

Blood drips into the snow. I blink and try again. This time it vibrates. I feel an immense surge through the Force and—it shoots past me, nearly striking me in the face, and winds up in her hands.

Rey is as surprised as I am. It is she after all, the awakening I have felt in the Force. Light burns through her, but I sense darkness too… she is outraged at my actions, at what I have done to Han and to him.

You feel it, don't you? The anger… let it in…

Our sabers meet in violent sparks and reflective noises, a clash of wills that ignites the darkness. The planet shakes around us, trees falling as our broad swings miss their target and sever them in two. It is a dance of warring emotions, grief and anger merging into a vicious collision of wills. She uses her environment, bouncing off rocks and stumps, not accessing the Force. She doesn't know how yet. I am relentless but holding back, partly out of increasing weakness as I bleed out, and being forced to hold myself together through the Force.

Ground breaks beneath us as I force her to the edge of a cliff, locking our sabers together and looking at her through its combined purple haze. She is so small, but fierce… and angry. "You need a teacher," I shout at her, feeling such a strong longing for her Light that it repulses me. "I can show you how to use the Force!"

She feels it too, as she felt it before… the connection between us, and the pull to the Dark Side and the Light. Darkness now circles her, eager to feed off her pain, her grief at her loss, her fear for the Stormtrooper.

Yes, Rey… I have killed them both. Do you feel the anger now?

Rey look at me and I gaze back, bending her over the edge of a cliff. One movement, one kick, and she falls into the chasm.

Kill.

Snoke whispers in the nothingness, in the anger burning around us.

I do not know if he means it for me or for Rey.

She shuts her eyes. I feel her probing with the Force, curious… reaching out, sensing me with it, feeling that immense power that lies within it. She reacts. Sparks fly as she beats me back, each swing more brutal and vicious than the last. We struggle together, our hands locked on our hilts, and… she is stronger than I am. Her hand forces my lightsaber into the snow and it burns so hot it nearly scorches my fingers.

I must let go of my own pain to win, but I cannot.

Ben is screaming at me again. You killed our father!

I am lost for a moment.

Pain slices through me as the lightsaber arcs up my face. I hit the ground hard. The snow is cold, the wind tearing at her thin desert garments as she stands over me, hatred burning in her eyes, her lightsaber glowing in the blowing snow.

You are a monster.

I want her to kill me. I want to die.

Kill him. He is weak… defenseless… kill him.

Snoke slithers in to our thoughts, his voice on the wind. I have failed him. I killed Han but could not let go of my pain, my remorse. He will now use her to punish me… and in doing so, Rey will fall to the Dark Side.

Her hand tightens on her weapon as she looks at me.

Do it.

Is that my voice flowing toward her on the Force, or his?

Please.

It is mine.

She loosens her grip on the lightsaber. Light burns so brightly in her soul that my heart cries out from it, hating it even as it whispers to me.

The planet crumbles. The ground beneath us splits, separating us as she shifts away from me, leaving me lying bloody on one side, and her shivering on the other. She powers down the saber, and runs away.

My head drops into the snow as more blood seeps out around my fingers. My face feels like it is on fire, my shoulder in equal pain, but none of it is comparable to my internal anguished screaming. With no more distractions, I shut my eyes and let the memories seep into me.

I am Ben. I killed my father.

All I want to do is die.