This is a 2 part Reylo AU I've written for justrandome for More Than Love: RFFA Valentine's Exchange 2018.
The prompt was an AU set in modern time.
A Common Node
Resistance to be the next First Order Acquisition?
First Order (NYSE: FIRO, NASDAQ: FIROR), American multi-technology company, is rumored to be in talks to acquire Resistance, a Silicon Valley startup that has provided instantaneous text and audio translation between 50 languages since its inception in 2014. Resistance is the brain child of Leia Organa, heiress of entrepreneur dynasty. Bolstered by a robust collection of patented deep learning technologies, Resistance boasts a 30% higher accuracy rate from translation between Indo-European languages and 50% higher accuracy from Sino-Tibetan languages to Indo-European languages compared to their top competitors.
According to a person close to the negotiation, similar to other recent acquisitions, First Order is interested in applying Resistance IP on its defense and security offerings, and plans to shut down Resistance's consumer product line once the acquisition is closed.
Despite being named startup of the year in 2014 by , Resistance recently lost 50% of its valuation due to plateauing sales and ad revenue from its app, continual development delays on their wireless translator earbuds, and the scandal surrounding one of its major investors, Han Solo.
Solo was the founder of The Falcon, the world's most popular media sharing site until its closure six months prior when he was charged and convicted of operating an illicit file-sharing service where pirated movies and other material was traded. He is currently serving a 1.5 years jail sentence and has an unrelated hacking charge currently pending trial date. Solo has maintained he was innocent of the hacking charges, that his computer was remotely controlled.
Rey Smith checked her phone for the third time to make sure she didn't misread Google Map. The old, borderline decrepit house in front of her wasn't what she had expected. She checked the address in Chewie's e-mail one more time, walked up to the street sign to make sure she wasn't on the wrong street, and quadruple checked the house number before she worked up her courage to approach the door.
In many ways, she being where she was still felt so surreal. Two years ago, when she started her job at Resistance, she would have laughed at whoever suggested that the job would one day lead her to the doorstep of Luke Skywalker, the legendary machine learning researcher she had idolized ever since she had gotten into the field, but here she was.
She would probably be fangirling much harder if the circumstances were less dire. But she had no time to waste; their investors had threatened to cash out through First Order if they don't produce a working demo for their wireless translation earbuds in three weeks. They had gotten the hardware and app side code ready, but despite their best efforts, they couldn't compress her deep neural network enough to fit in the earbuds for continuous learning. Rey didn't like to admit defeat, but she had to concede she was running out of ideas, they were running out of time, and Luke was really their only hope.
She took a deep breath. There was no doorbell to be seen, so she used the old fashion knocker on the door instead.
The fifth time she knocked the door opened and an old man with white grey beard peaked grumpily out from the other side, the chain the door was still in. "What do you want?"
"Professor Skywalker?" Rey was so nervous she could barely keep a smile on her face. "I'm Rey Smith, lead developer at Resistance. Your sister, Leia, sent me. We need your help."
Luke's answer came like a splash of the coldest water. "Go away."
There was no phone signal where Luke was, so she drove 35 minutes to the closest town for barely passable cell reception. She sent a few e-mails to update Poe and Leia on her trip. The signal was too weak for anything data demanding, so she decided to text Finn instead of Skyping him as she had promised.
He had gotten a new number recently when someone stole his phone, and with all the chaos happening in the past couple weeks, she forgot to add it into her contact list. She entered his new number in the send field, and sent him a few quick messages:
Rey: Sorry I didn't contact you earlier. I couldn't get on any connection until now. [Today, 1:21pm]
Rey: I've found Luke Skywalker but he didn't want to talk to me. [Today, 1:22pm]
Rey: I won't give up so easily though. [Today, 1:23pm]
Then, she put her phone away, pulled out her laptop, and started tinkering with her code.
If you ask Finn what's so bad about First Order, be prepare to listen for five hours. That's how disgruntled Finn is with his former company.
Finn hated First Order's perform-or-else culture, the top-down hierarchy, their products, their clients, his coworkers, but most of all, he hated Kylo Ren. Ren wasn't actually his boss, but Ren had final decision over the R&D portfolio, and he cancelled the project Finn was on after Finn had put in a full year of unpaid overtime because he said it was "not innovative enough" and did not "fit with his vision."
It was their mutual dislike of Kylo Ren that first connected Rey to Finn.
She was at her first Resistance Friday beer bash and he was explaining how Ren was so infamous for his temper and vicious take downs that his last name had became a verb amongst people working in the First Order R&D department. People would say, "I've been Renned" when they got yelled at by the chief of R&D. With a wry smile, Rey joined in the conversation and told Finn about how she had overheard Ren calling her presentation "only bearable" at a recent machine learning conference. Finn joked that was probably Ren's shit version of a complement, and from that moment on, they were best friends.
If there was one thing she learned from the bad cards she had been dealt with in life it was that persistence more often than not wins battles.
So she was back at the old house again the next day with a slightly different tactic.
She had heard from Han before his arrest that Chewie was Luke's close friend, so she had him on skype when she knocked on the door the next day.
"Do I need to call the police? Didn't I tell you to go—" Luke broke off when he noticed the person on the screen of her phone.
Rey took that as encouragement and offered him her phone. "He has a message for you."
Luke took the phone wordlessly, his eyes focused on the signs Chewie was making with his hands.
"I'm not going back," he said when Chewie stopped, drawing out every word in an exaggerated way to make sure Chewie could read his lips. "How did you find me anyway?"
Chewie grunted in exasperation and signed a long response.
"The Falcon?" Luke finally looked up at Rey. "Wait, where's Han?"
Rey couldn't believe her ears.
It was only 10:30am, but Luke was on his third glass of whiskey when Rey finished telling him about Han's arrest and everything that led up to that moment.
Rey had thought Luke was joking when he had first asked about Han. The arrest and trial of Han, the personification of web content freedom, was all over both traditional and online news media. For or against, everyone had an opinion. The only way Luke could have missed it all was if he lived under a proverbial rock. But apparently, that was exactly what Luke did.
It was painful speaking of Han. Han was, of course, the one investor of Resistance that truly believed in its cause and was willing to invest blindly, but she liked to think her connection with the man went deeper than that, that he was also the father she never had. Han had been supportive of her work ever since that time she met him at Def Con five years ago, and when she graduated two years ago, he introduce her to Leia and (she suspected) got her a job at Resistance.
The conversation, inevitably, landed on Han and Leia's son, Kylo Ren, chief of R&D lab at First Order. Rey had often wondered how two amazing people like Han and Leia could create a creature like Ren, so hell bent on standing against everything his parents stood for and dismantling everything they had worked so hard to create. It made her angry that he had parents that loved him but threw them away like garbage. Rey knew Ren was Luke's nephew, but she didn't bother to hide her disdain for the man who had testified against his own father at the trials, the man leading the First Order hostile takeover.
"Kylo Ren will control The Resistance's patents within weeks if we can't get the prototype working. Our patents were meant to bring people together in a world without language boundaries, not shady government surveillance and military espionage that First Order is infamous for. We need your help. We need Luke Sky—"
"You don't need Luke Skywalker."
His blunt denial stung. Emotions already running high from retelling Han's story, she snapped at him before she could stop herself. "Did you hear what I just said?"
Luke finished his drink and glared at her. "You think what?" he barked, and Rey grimaced at the saliva that landed on her arm. "That I can solve your little programing problem and suddenly your investors will never consider letting First Order acquire Resistance again? What would you have me do? Fly back out to San Francisco, sit my naughty nephew in a chair, and force him to listen to a lesson in business ethics? What did you think would happen?"
"I didn't come out to the middle of the Colorado Rockies for no reason," Rey cried. She could feel her anger and frustration rising steadily as she stood her ground. "I'm not leaving until you help."
The first time Rey interacted with Kylo Ren was Def Con five years ago.
Ren was a speaker at the conference that year. There was a lot of buzz surrounding his session, partly because First Order was a household name in the security technology world, partly because Ren had a reputation as one of the top security and machine learning experts in the world, and partly because Ren almost never spoke in public. Rey wasn't particularly interested in the topic, but she had heard so many people talking about the session she decided to attend just so no one could say she missed out.
The first impression Rey had of Ren was that he looked like he hated the world. His eyes had a constant look between boredom and annoyance, his face had a permanent scowl, and not once did he smile in the session. She didn't quite understand why the room was full of his admirers since he was so uncharismatic until he started speaking.
He was brilliant. The material he presented and live demo he conducted to show how to apply machine learning to heuristically solving NP-Complete security problems had given her so many fruits for thoughts, she actually started to take notes. She was quickly becoming a fan until the Q&A section of the session begun.
That was when her impression of him rapidly turned south.
He was extremely abrasive in his answers and condescending to people he felt was beneath his intelligence, which seemed to be everyone. The final stroke came when a girl standing close to Rey finally found her courage to ask a question about the pros and cons of using supervised and unsupervised learning for malware classification.
Admittedly, even Rey didn't think it was a good question, but Rey had always thought there was a right way of answering a question and a wrong way of answering a question.
And Ren's answer to the question was very, very wrong.
"There's this very nice tool called Google that can tell you the answer to that. I suggest you use it," he said, so harsh and brutally blunt, Rey winced.
The girl burst into tears, and from that moment on, Rey had determined Kylo Ren was an insufferably, unfeeling asshole with no absolutely no redeeming qualities.
Rey followed Luke to the one supermarket within a 10 mile radius in her rented car, watched him buy a few rather unappetizing frozen pizzas, a carton of eggs, and some apples.
"That's not very healthy," she commented, when she waited behind him at the cash register line.
"It's none of your business," Luke muttered and threw a few chocolate bars into his basket just to make a point. "Also, stop following me."
"You know I can't do that," Rey replied with equal stubbornness, as she followed Luke out of the door.
She was about to get into her car and follow Luke back to his house when Luke stopped abruptly and turned toward her. "Why are you here?"
"Resistance sent me."
Luke looked more annoyed than usual. "You know that's not what I'm asking. Why did they send you?"
She wasn't entirely sure either, to be honest, but she suspected Leia was hoping her area of study would make it easier for her to connect with Luke. She shrugged. "They sent me because I wrote my PhD dissertation on convolution neural network."
Luke put his groceries on the floor and crossed his arms. "What school did you get your degree from?"
"Leia wouldn't hire someone from nowhere as a head developer."
"I graduated from University of Victoria in Canada."
"Alright, that's pretty much nowhere."
Rey smiled self-deprecatingly. Compared to MIT and the Ivy League schools that Luke Skywalker had graduated from and taught at, her local university with its tiny and non-noteworthy computer science program must be nowhere. Still, the idealized image she had of Luke Skywalker, the benevolent hero, was getting chipped away by the second. "Doesn't matter," she said between gritted teeth, "I know I'm good at what I do, and I'm still not leaving until you agree to help us."
"Why are you here, Rey?" Luke looked at her with penetrating eyes. "It wasn't fully altruistic, was it?"
Rey didn't see any point in lying, so she simply told the truth. "I've gotten my deep neural network as far as I could alone. I need another pair of eyes, another opinion, new ideas. I heard from Maz Kanata about the research you were working on before you left MIT, and I thought…"
His response was disappointing and immediate. "You want an advisor for your research, but I can't teach or advise you."
Rey, having grown up alone and underprivileged, was used to being rejected, but the rejection from a professor she had respected for so long felt like a slap. She took half a step back and swallowed thickly. "Why not? You aren't exactly busy."
"I'll never touch machine learning ever again. I moved out to these mountains to retire. Machine learning is bad for the world."
"Why?" Rey had put too much of her hopes and dreams into the trip to let him off the hook so easily. He might not care about her feelings, but she knew he cared enough about Leia's. "Leia sent me here with hope. If she was wrong about you, then she deserves to know why."
To that, Luke had the decency to look guilty.
She checked her Stack Overflow account just when the coffee shop asked for last call.
The question she had posted three weeks ago when she first hit the issue remained unanswered. She brushed away her disappointment. It was a long shot anyway. Her question was very specific and an answer required in-depth convolution neural network that few people in the world had. She had only posted the question because writing everything out helped her work through the problem.
At least that's what she told Finn and Rose.
There was another reason, one so silly and wishful she could barely admit to herself: She had hoped a specific contributor would answer her question, like he did when she posted questions as an undergrad all those years ago. She had a feeling he would know the answer. That cheeky bastard, who inspired her to change her major to machine learning, always seemed to know the answer.
It was simply too bad SoloCodeTechnican had been inactive for the last eight years.
Rey was in the middle of setting up camp on public land just across from Luke's front yard, when Luke walked out to her.
He handed her a piece of paper with an e-mail scribbled on it. "Send me what you have on your research to this e-mail. Starting tomorrow, I will be your research advisor for three days and show you why this is all a foolhardy pursuit."
Luke took pity on her and let her connect to his satellite internet connection. The signal was too weak for anything more data demanding than email and chats, so she decided to contact Finn through WhatsApp. She knew Finn talked with his family through WhatsApp, so he must have an account.
She searched for his contact and found him with the profile picture of a black jet fighter in storm clouds. How fitting. One of Finn's favorite user name is "stormpilot".
Rey: No phone signal here, so I'm switching to Whatsapp. [3:45pm]
Rey: Good news: Luke has agreed to look at my deep neural network and advise me on the problems. Bad news: He only agreed to help for three days. [3:45pm]
She didn't think Finn would reply right away, but a few minutes later her phone lit up with a message alert.
Finn: Are you sure he can help you with your research? [3:49pm]
Finn: He hasn't been in the field for over eight years [3:49pm]
Finn: Machine learning had changed a lot in the last few years. [3:50pm]
Rey: That's true, but I think maybe his old school algorithm ideas may help. [3:52pm]
Finn: Not as much as long short-term memory trained on iterative gradient descent will. [3:52pm]
A foreboding feeling crept upon her. Something wasn't quite right. Finn was one of the best app and UX designers she had ever met, but he was no machine learning expert. He tolerated her rant about machine learning well enough, but he had never bothered to actually learn what any of her technical terms actually meant...
Rey: Wait, you're not Finn. [3:54pm]
Rey: Who am I talking to? [3:54pm]
Finn: Kylo Ren. [3:56pm]
Rey almost dropped her phone when the last message showed up. Her eyes drifted to the phone number she had associated with Finn. She must have misentered the number yesterday. It was off by one digit. She cursed, before she reminded himself that the chances of the Kylo Ren's phone number being just one digit off of Finn's was about as high as if she had happened to message someone else with Kylo Ren's name. Her hands were shaking when she typed, but she had to know.
Rey: Kylo Ren from First Order? [3:58pm]
Unknown (Possibly Kylo Ren): There's no other Kylo Ren in our field, Rey Smith from Resistance. [4:00pm]
Unknown (Possibly Kylo Ren): You need a teacher. I can teach you. [4:00pm]
Unknown (Possibly Kylo Ren): Go fuck yourself, you monster. I never want to be taught by someone like you. [4:01pm]
But whatever satisfaction she might have felt from typing the crude insult was short lived. Ren had no desire to give her the last word.
Unknown (Possibly Kylo Ren): I'm a monster, but I'm also right. You will see. [4:02pm]
She had managed to mostly wipe Kylo Ren out of her mind the next morning when she knocked on Luke's door at 8:00am.
Luke was as sullen as she had found him the day before but this time he opened the door for her and waved her in. "Let's get started."
His computer was up and running on the dining table. "I've read the material you've sent me. What do you know about support vector machines?"
Rey had learned about SVMs in her graduate classes, but she never studied them in detail because she had always thought unsupervised learning models were more practical. "I know they are supervised learning models with associated learning algorithms that analyze data used for classification and regression analysis. I know they typically suffer from drawbacks concerning the choice of the kernel, low speed, high algorithmic complexity, and intense memory requirements"
"Impressive," Luke replied drily, "Every word in that sentence was wrong."
He sat down in front of his computer, opened a command line module, and opened Vim. "SVMs can outperform most algorithm in number of benchmark tests. You people always think new things are better, but SVM is one of the most efficient learning machine with excellent generalization capacity when it's implemented correctly."
He stretched his fingers and then started coding. "Watch and learn."
The promising start turned out to be exactly that: a start.
SVMs did improve on efficiency but it also took away from flexibility. This in itself was expected, but what she didn't expect was just how much she had to fight Luke on some of the newer machine learning concepts and thinkings that had been proven true in the last few years.
"Why would you use rectifier function here? You didn't even consider alternatives."
Luke was a mix of condescension and old man grumpiness. It was tiring working with him even though he really knew a lot and she was grateful for his teachings. To make matter worse, it was 8pm, her brain was mush from 12 hours of working, and Rey was grasping her last straw. "If you had not shut yourself off from the machine learning community for eight years you would know that rectifier function is much more efficient than softplus function."
Luke instantly tensed at her words and Rey realized instantly whatever she said was probably not what she was supposed to say to an advisor.
"You think you know everything."
"That wasn't what I meant. We are so close to a breakthrough," she told him. Under Luke's intense stare, she found herself rambling. "I just wanted to get to the actual problem. It's not the rectifier function, I think maybe it's how we determined the variables, or maybe the way we supervised the SVMs, or—"
Luke interrupted her before she could continue. "I've seen talent like yours only once, in Ben Solo."
It took a moment for Rey to connect Ben Solo as Kylo Ren's birth name. It wasn't the first time Rey had heard the comparison, but it felt different coming from Luke's lips. While others were simply making the comparison because of the impact of her research on the broader machine learning community (because as much of a bastard as Ren was, Rey had to begrudgingly admit he was sharp based on the few times he actually shared his work with the world), Luke seemed to be pointing at something different.
He stood up and poured himself a glass of whiskey. "It didn't scare me enough then," he said as he sipped his drink, his eyes never leaving hers. "It does now. I can't be your advisor after all."
And with that, Luke Skywalker retreated, motioning for her to leave.
The proudest moment of Rey's life wasn't being one of the youngest women to successfully defending her PhD thesis at her university, or being named one of the top 10 young genius that shaking up science today by Popular Science. It was besting Ren in a Kaggle challenge on predicting the NCAA outcome.
The best part of it all was his look of dismay when he realized he had lost, and she got to see it clearly because they happened to be watching the championship game at the same sport bar at Mountain View.
The second best part was listening to a man (who she later found out was Snoke, the First Order's CEO) mock and belittle Ren for being bested by a girl so much younger and less experienced than he.
The delivery was so savage and vicious, she almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
She drove back into town to pick up hot dinner in a scruffy diner. It was that or Taco Bell and McDonalds and Rey hated both. She ordered beer to wash down the greasy burger and fries, before letting herself go and ordered two more. Luke's final words replayed in her head like a broken record. She wanted to stay positive, but she couldn't help but feel a little hopeless when Luke was so clear about his lack of intention in continuing his lessons.
The negative thoughts continued to stew as she drink. She wasn't sure if she was more angry or depressed, and exactly who she was even angry with: Herself or Luke. But on her third beer, she decided the blame fell squarely on Ren. She might have said the wrong thing, but Ren had obviously done something to Luke to make him sensitive to what she said.
What was with Ren ruining another nice thing in her life? What was with him ruining everyone's life? An impulsive (probably bad) idea swiftly overcame her as she idly looked at her phone. She had Ren's number, she had phone signal, she could actually give him a piece of her mind. She dialed his number without another thought.
It rang four times, and just when Rey was about to hang up, Ren picked up.
"Hux. It's three in the morning in London. This better be a real emergency or I'm going to kill you tomorrow," he snapped in an agitated tone before she could get a word in. He sounded tired, lethargic, her call had obviously woke him up from sleep.
Rey frowned. She hadn't considered he might be out of country. She felt sorry for him. Almost. "I don't know who you think you are talking to, but this isn't Hux. "
"Who is—" his voice sounded distance, like he was pulling the phone away so he could finally look at the caller ID. When he spoke again he simply said: "It's you again."
It was a simple statement, there was curiosity in his voice but no aggression, and that threw her. She had to remind herself why she was calling in the first place. "You are like snake venom that destroys everything you touch." It was a tad melodramatic, but the alcohol in her blood cheered her on and she couldn't care less.
"Oh?" asked Ren sarcastically. "Skywalker couldn't help you with your research like you hoped?"
"Luke Skywalker was helping me just fine before you ruined everything."
On the other side of the line, Ren gave a humorless laugh. "Me?"
"You've done something to him, something that made him quit teaching."
She could nearly hear his sneer when he replied. "Did he tell you what happened? The day when I burned his bridges with the president of MIT, did he tell you why?"
She didn't believe what she was hearing. How could he admit to hurting his uncle's career and sound so remorseless? Oh right, because he is a cold, unfeeling bastard who would do anything to get what he wanted. "I know everything I need to know about you."
She refused to dignify the question with an answer.
"Ah, you do," he answered in a way that sent chills down her spine.
He hung up.
A/N: I watched TLJ and saw the hand touch and throne room scenes and fell in love with Reylo.
I am fairly sure no one wrote a comp-sci / start-up Reylo AU before. I figured some Reylo must be comp-sci / tech majors so hopefully I filled a very *tiny* niche by writing this. Chapter 2 will be posted next week.
P.S. I was a pinch hitter, this meant I was given only 1 week to research and finish my assignment while working a 10+ hours day job. I tried my best to get the comp sci stuff right, sorry in advance if I did not get all the details right. If I got anything wrong tell me. I am happy to make the edits to make this more accurate.