As we mentioned last month, we're having a fun in-house contest. Each Glass House author has been given three random words and instructed to write a short story based on those words. At the end of the year, we're going to revisit each of these stories and let our readers vote on them! The winning author will get notoriety and bragging rights. So, first up is author, Mary Fan...

Mary's three words are: harbinger, nefarious, ingenue

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Star Wars Episode VIII: Rey Strikes Back
an original fan fiction by
Mary Fan

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Under the white clouds of the remote planet Ahch-To, at the edge of an emerald island jutting out of a calm sea, a blue-and-white astromech droid laboriously climbed the ancient stone steps of the long-lost first Jedi Temple. When he reached the top, R2-D2 wheeled across a flat, grassy area and approached a pair of figures—one a cloaked old man with a salt-and-pepper beard, the other a lithe young woman with brown hair tied in three buns down the back of her head.

Hearing an urgent beep from the droid, Rey dropped the stones she’d been using the Force to levitate. “Artoo? What’s wrong?”

Luke Skywalker, with whom she’d been training in the Jedi arts, shook his head. “You’ve come a long way, Rey, but you are still too easily distracted.”

Rey started to reply, but was interrupted by the droid’s frantic warbles. She knit her brows. “A distress call? From the Resistance base?” After another series of beeps, she gasped. “Of course I’m going with Chewie!” She started toward the stairs.

“Rey, wait!” Luke’s call brought her to a halt. “Don’t make the same mistake I did. The Dark Side is strong with the First Order. If you go now, with your training incomplete, it could consume you.”

Rey arched her eyebrow. “You passed the test, and I’ve been training far longer than you did before you confronted Darth Vader.” Far, far longer, it turned out. Recently, she had learned that she was no ingĂ©nue with the Force—she was Rey Skywalker, daughter of the last Jedi. As a child, she’d trained by her father, but he’d used his power to suppress those memories when he’d hid her from Snoke, the nefarious Supreme Leader of the First Order.

Luke smiled wryly. “And Ben had been training far longer than you. He’ll be there too.”

Rey smirked. “I think I can handle him.” The last time she’d confronted her cousin, who now called himself Kylo Ren, she’d left him bleeding in the snow after a lightsaber battle that had left her friend, the ex-Stormtrooper-turned-Resistance-fighter Finn, comatose. Kylo had only escaped because the collapsing planet had caused the ground between them to split. The recollection made her scowl. “I should have finished him when I had the chance. Then the Resistance wouldn’t be in danger now.”

“It’s that kind of thinking that will allow Snoke to turn you.” Luke shook his head. “He wants you for your abilities, and he’ll poison your mind, as he poisoned Ben’s.”

“Why do you continue to defend him?” Rey asked. “He killed his own father!”

“Han’s death was a necessary sacrifice to start Ben on the path back to the light. He knew it, too.” Luke sighed sadly. “Because of my mistakes, Ben never had a chance. Snoke was watching him from birth, slowly clouding his mind with the darkness. I tried too hard to pull him back, but only succeeded in pushing him into Snoke’s clutches.” He met her gaze with stern blue eyes. “I can already tell there’s no changing your mind about leaving. But please listen to me about one thing: If you confront Ben again, do not give in to hate.”

Rey frowned. “You’re not coming?”

“This is a test you must face alone. Be careful.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t be losing any limbs.” Rey threw him a teasing grin.

“May the Force be with you.” Luke watched her scamper down the steps, following R2-D2 toward the battered starship waiting at the island’s edge. Then, he clasped his hands—one organic and one mechanical—and turned away.

* * *

Red and yellow blasts streaked the space above D’Qar, the nondescript Outer Rim planet that housed the Resistance base. The evil First Order’s imposing Star Destroyers and shrieking TIE fighters fought ruthlessly against what remained of the Resistance’s scrappy fleet.

X-wing pilot Poe Dameron had seen his fair share of unlikely battles, but for the first time, he feared he might actually lose. The First Order had overrun the Resistance base with battle droids, which were their preferred soldiers since Finn’s defection caused them to question Stormtrooper loyalty, and General Leia Organa had ordered an evacuation. But not everyone had made it out yet, and he had to hold off the enemy.

A small swarm of Resistance fighters attacked an enormous Resurgent-class Star Destroyer, but their missiles impacted harmlessly against the larger ship’s energy shields. Poe watched in dismay as the Star Destroyer easily destroyed the small fighters; it felt like a harbinger of the Resistance’s impending destruction.

Spotting the enemy ship’s shield generator, an idea popped into his head. It was a terrible one—one he probably wouldn’t survive—but worth a shot.

“Hey, BB-8!” he exclaimed, addressing the round, orange-and-white droid that was miraculously keeping his damaged ship flying. “Reroute as much power as you can to the cannons. We’re going in!”

BB-8 warbled an affirming response; he was ready too.

Poe yanked the controls and spun the X-wing. The small, spiraling ship was erratic enough pass through the Star Destroyer’s oscillating energy shields. With all the firepower he had, he blasted the shield generator, which exploded.

Numerous TIE fighters descended upon him, but when he tried to fire at them, he found his weapons depleted. BB-8’s panicked beeps told him that it would take several minutes for them to recharge. Poe maneuvered to escape the enemy blasts, but knew his luck couldn’t last forever.

Suddenly, a gray, disc-shaped ship swooped toward him, one-by-one blasting the TIE fighters away.

“Are you all right, Poe?” a female voice asked over the comm.

Poe grinned. “Great timing!”

Behind the controls of the Millennium Falcon, Rey exhaled in relief. She’d worried that she’d arrive too late, but as long as the Resistance was still fighting, they stood a chance of escaping the First Order. Chewbacca, sitting in the copilot’s seat with his shaggy head nearly grazing the cockpit’s ceiling, growled out a suggestion.

“Good idea,” Rey said and steered the Falcon toward the Star Destroyer, which several X-wings were fast approaching.

“Hang on!” Poe exclaimed over the comm. “Can I ask a favor?”

“What is it?”

“Finn—he’s still in the med unit on the base. Last I heard, the First Order had pretty much captured it, and I don’t want to think about what they’ll do if they get their hands on him. I’d get him out myself, but my ship’s a one-man fighter.”

“You mean he hasn’t woken up after all this time?”

“Afraid not.”

Rey hesitated. The Resistance looked like it could really use the Falcon’s help in the space battle, but she hated the idea of her friend lying helpless while the First Order closed in on him. She turned to Chewbacca, but his grunt said that the decision lay with her.

Sticking out the top of the X-wing, BB-8 completed one more rewiring, then warbled enthusiastically.

“Great job, BB-8!” Poe swerved toward the Star Destroyer. Then, he said over the comm, “My weapons are back online. We’ve got this, Rey. Go save Finn.”

Rey nodded and steered the Falcon down to the planet.

* * *

On the surface of D’Qar, where green hills concealed a sprawling underground Resistance base, gunmetal gray First Order battle droids flooded the corridors and forced what few fighters remained to retreat.

Rey found these large, merciless machines more frightening than the white-armored Stormtroopers had been. They also moved more cohesively, and she wondered if the First Order had chosen them because they were more easily controlled than humans. Especially since Finn had proved that even a lifetime of brainwashing could fail.

Along with Chewbacca and R2-D2, she’d so far managed to sneak past the First Order droids. But too many now stood between her and the medical unit.

Ducking behind a corner, she looked up at Chewbacca. “I suppose it would have come to a fight sooner or later.”

Chewbacca growled quietly, offering his thoughts.

Rey cocked her head. “You want to lead them off by yourself?”

Chewbacca raised his crossbow with a confident grunt. Before Rey could respond, he’d fired it at the battle droids. She watched in alarm as he destroyed almost half of them, nimbly dodging their return fire, then took off down the corridor with the enemy close behind.

She wasted no time in rushing into the medical unit, where she soon found Finn. He appeared unchanged from the last time she’d seen him—lying in the same bed, his dark face still slack with slumber. The rest of the room was empty; the Resistance must have evacuated the other patients. Someone must have made the difficult call to leave Finn behind, since he was connected to life-sustaining machines that couldn’t be carried. Yet miraculously, no one had captured him yet.

Hearing a beep from R2, she turned to see him plugged into the medical unit’s computer. “What do you mean he’s in perfect physical health?” she asked.

A thought hit her. A Force wall in her mind had kept Rey’s memories suppressed for years—Kylo Ren could have done something similar to keep Finn from waking and revealing the First Order secrets he’d learned as a Stormtrooper.

She leaned over Finn and held one hand above his forehead, then reached out with the Force. Luke’s training had taught her how to detect the Force in others, and she soon felt the darkness that had invaded her friend’s head. She didn’t know if she could use her Light Side power to destroy it, but she tried anyway. She used the Force to push against the unnatural barrier keeping Finn asleep and, after what felt like an eternity, finally managed to break through.

Finn’s dark eyes fluttered open. He sat up abruptly, as if startled out of a nightmare. “Rey! Are you okay?”

She gave him a funny look. “Seriously?” She straightened. “You’re on the Resistance base, but it’s under attack. We have to get out.”

She held out her hand. Finn looked confused, but accepted, and she pulled him to his feet. The two started toward the exit, but had barely made it a few steps before a tall, black-clad figure appeared in the doorway.

Kylo Ren glared at Rey from behind his black mask. “So you came after all.” He seized the lightsaber from his belt and ignited it. The crackling red blade shot out, followed by the two shorter beams of the crossguard. “You will not escape this time. My powers have doubled since we last met.”

Rey suddenly realized why Finn had been left as he was. It was no miracle; he’d been the bait Kylo had used to lure her out of hiding—and she’d walked right into the trap.

Undaunted, she ignited her own lightsaber. “So have mine.” The memory of Han Solo’s death crashed into her mind. Furious, she echoed the words that had been among his last. “Take that mask off, cousin. Or are you too scared to fight me face-to-face?”

For a moment, Kylo appeared frozen. Then, with one hand, he removed the mask. A red scar slashed across his pale, narrow face—the one she’d given him during their last encounter. Anger and hatred simmered in his black gaze; he reeked of the Dark Side.

Kylo launched himself at Rey, who quickly deflected him. The two were soon locked in combat—the crackling red blade, powerful but unstable, crashing against the steady blue one.

“Rey!” Finn searched desperately for a weapon—anything he could use to help his friend. “Why doesn’t anyone ever have blasters?” he grumbled.

The power of the Force flowed through Rey’s limbs, enhancing the staff-fighting skills she’d developed to defend herself as a scavenger on Jakku. She fought with confidence, certain she would defeat Kylo Ren again, and she moved fiercely until she managed to drive him into a corner.

“Kill him.” Snoke’s sinister voice rang through the room. The oversized hologram of the scarred alien appeared beside Kylo, standing in sinister black robes.

Pressed against the wall but still swinging his blade against Rey’s, Kylo flicked his eyes toward the Supreme Leader in shock. Once he gets what he wants, he’ll crush you. Han Solo’s warning, which had plagued him since that fateful day on Starkiller Base, echoed through Kylo’s head once more. Since his failure against Rey, Kylo had redoubled his efforts to embrace the Dark Side wholly. Yet something had always held him back, and he wondered if that was why his master was turning against him—or if this was another test. He decided it had to be the latter. Spotting the traitor FN-2187, who called himself Finn, Kylo released one grip from his lightsaber. Flinging out his hand, he used the Force to seize the other man.

Finn staggered, but managed to fire the blaster he’d found. The red blast froze inches from the barrel, and he watched in horror as it slowly rotated toward him.

“Leave him alone!” Rey attacked with fresh ferocity. She soon managed to overpower Kylo’s one-handed fighting, until her lightsaber glowed before his throat, with only his blade and a few inches of air keeping her from killing him. All she needed to do was swing her weapon in one swift motion to end him forever. “No earthquake will stop me this time,” she growled.

Kylo sneered. “If you kill me, I can’t keep this blast from killing your friend.”

Rey glanced at Finn, who stood frozen in place with the red blast sputtering before his chest. If Kylo weren’t holding it, it would rip through Finn’s heart in less than a second—just as Kylo’s blade had pierced Han Solo so quickly, Rey barely had time to scream before he fell dead.

Fury ignited in her veins. She so, so close to avenging Han and ridding the galaxy of the evil First Order henchman.

“Good… Good…” Snoke’s voice wasn’t just in her ears, but in her head, infiltrating her thoughts. “Kill him…”

She wanted to listen. She wanted to destroy Kylo Ren.

But then she recalled what Luke had told her about not giving into hate, how Snoke wanted her for the same reason he’d wanted Kylo—or Ben.

And then she realized—killing Kylo Ren would kill Rey Skywalker too. She’d become someone else, and Snoke and the Dark Side would win. But if she could destroy just Kylo Ren but bring back Ben Solo… That would be far more devastating to the enemy. And she didn’t want to murder the person Han Solo had sacrificed himself trying to save.

She stepped back and switched off her blade. “Let him go, Ben. There’s been enough death.”

Kylo didn’t move. He didn’t release Finn, but he didn’t attack either.

“Your father died trying to save you,” Rey continued. “It’s time you honored that.”

Somewhere within Kylo Ren, Ben Solo blinked. The forces of the Light Side and the Dark dueled within him, pulling at him with equal strength and leaving him paralyzed.

Nevertheless, he tried to maintain a mask of arrogance. “Han Solo was weak. He—”

“Ben Solo!” A woman’s commanding voice filled the room. “You stop this nonsense right now!”

General Leia Organa—leader of the Resistance, sister of Luke Skywalker, and mother to Ben Solo—strode into the room, her graying brown hair bouncing in the oversized twin buns against the sides of her head. She punched her hands forward, sending out double waves of Force energy. One hit the blast that had been hovering before Finn, sending it crashing harmlessly into a wall. The other hit Kylo’s sword hand and sent the crackling red lightsaber spiraling to the floor.

Rey whirled toward Leia. “I thought you said you never developed your Force powers.”

“I said I never became a Jedi,” Leia replied. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t use the Force.” She strode up to her wayward son, who stared at her in surprise. “I know who you are and where you came from. So from now on, you’ll do as I tell you, okay?” She nodded at Finn. “Let him go.”

Finn gasped as the dark power holding him in place suddenly dissolved.

Towering over the scene in holographic form, Snoke turned to Kylo Ren. “Why are you just standing there? Kill them!” When his apprentice didn’t move, Snoke scowled.

A growl, accompanied by a cacophony of blasts, split through the air. Pursued by a battalion of First Order droids, Chewbacca rushed into the room, firing over his shoulder with his crossbow.

Rey ignited her lightsaber, glancing uncertainly between Kylo Ren and the battle droids. Since the former still appeared paralyzed, she chose to join Finn in battling the latter. She’d found the strength to push back the darkness; now, it was up to her cousin to do the same.

Leia, too, pulled out her blaster and began firing. Rey had heard about how the General had been the best shot in the old Rebel Alliance, but for the first time, she got to witness just how dangerous Leia Organa could be.

Red blasts and the arc of a blue blade filled the room as Rey, Finn, Leia, and Chewbacca fought the battle droids. With the enemy blocking the room’s only exit, they had no choice but to keep fighting them off. But more kept coming; it seemed the First Order had directed every droid they had on the ground to this one spot. Unnoticed by the enemy, R2-D2 retreated behind a fallen droid and sent out a call for help.

Suddenly, a stray blast struck Leia in the leg. She staggered back with a cry, but continued firing.

Rey tore through the battle droids with deftness and speed, her blue lightsaber glowing fiercely. A crackling red one soon joined her, and she glanced over in surprise to see her former enemy now fighting by her side.

“Nice of you to finally join us!” she quipped.

Ben Solo quirked an eyebrow in response.

Despite the droids’ numbers, the battle was soon over. Broken machine bits lay scattered across the floor.

Ben rushed over to Leia. “Are you all right?”

Finn turned to Rey and jerked his head at the black-clad man. “So… What’s up with that guy?”

Before Rey could respond, Snoke’s voice boomed through the room. “How dare you?” he bellowed, pointing at his former apprentice. “You—”

An abrupt explosion cut him off, and the hologram vanished as the wall behind it shattered, destroying the holoprojector.

Poe Dameron, having detonated the wall after receiving R2’s call, stepped over the debris, accompanied by BB-8. “Was that Snoke talking? Sorry to interrupt.” He scanned the room. “Looks like I missed the party.” His eyes fell on Finn, and he grinned. “Buddy, you’re awake!”

Finn smiled widely. The two ran up to each other and embraced.

“What’s the situation with the fleet?” Leia asked.

Poe released his friend and turned to her. “It’s not pretty, General. We took out the Resurgent-class Star Destroyer, but—” He broke off as he suddenly realized that the scarred man beside her was Kylo Ren without his mask. “What the—”

“It’s okay, Poe,” Leia said. “He’s on our side now.”

Finn nudged Poe. “Yeah, that confused me to. But I figure it’s best to let the Skywalkers do their thing.”

Hearing footsteps behind her, Rey whirled to find Luke Skywalker stepping over broken battle droids, his brown cloak trailing behind him. She cocked her head. “When did you get here?”

“I’ve been here the whole time,” Luke replied. “I followed you onto the Falcon, but made sure you didn’t know I was there. You needed to face the darkness yourself.” He approached Ben and put his hand on his nephew’s shoulders. “As for you—these are your first steps back to the light.”

“Charming as this all is, we still have a star war to win,” Poe said.

Rey spun toward her cousin. “You were a big deal with the First Order, right? Can’t you just call them off?”

“Snoke would have told them not to take orders from me anymore,” Ben replied. “But I can show you how to undermine their tactics.”

“Fantastic,” Rey said. “What are we waiting for, then?”

Rey returned to the Falcon to take on the First Order fleet along with everyone else except Poe and BB-8, who went back to their X-wing, and Ben, who boarded the Upsilon-class command shuttle he’d flown as a member of the First Order. The three ships joined the ongoing battle in the asteroid-strewn space above D’Qar.

With the insider knowledge afforded by a former high-ranking member of the First Order, the small Resistance fleet was able to fight off the enemy and complete the evacuation of their base.

As Rey steered the Falcon toward the Resistance’s secret rendezvous location, she felt that even though it hadn’t been a total victory, since Snoke and the First Order were still out there, she’d nevertheless triumphed. The Resistance had escaped to fight another day, and a valuable member of the First Order had defected.

And with Snoke’s power having failed to ensnare her and lost its hold over Ben Solo, it was the beginning of the end for the Dark Side.