1.23.2018

Television: American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, "The Man Who Would Be Vogue"

Okay, so my first question is: Why should I care?

This season's pilot episode begins with the contrast between Versace's opulent lifestyle and his murderer (Andrew Cunanan) sitting on a beach and then beginning to wander around Miami Beach. We know—well, people who know anything about this story—how this will end. Then again, if you look at the season's title you know how it will end. But since I'm given next to nothing about Versace's character, nor am I given much of anything about Cunanan . . . I just don't care.

Yes, yes, I know we're going to go back and find all that out. But the assassination has zero impact here because I don't care about either the victim or the murderer.

So then we rewind and it turns out Cunanan is, you know, fucked up in the head. Okay . . . So what sets him apart from so many other murderers then? He's a pathological liar. So are a lot of killers. He charms his way into people's lives. So do a lot of killers. There is a very cringe-y scene in which he pesters Versace at a bar in San Francisco because he either doesn't pick up on social cues or chooses to ignore them. But really, he's just unlikable. Which is maybe the point, I don't know. But I don't want to watch a show about a guy I don't like.

Let's look at Versace then. Well, I mean, he's dead, so . . . Aside from the morning routine before his murder, we see him only in a few flashbacks where Cunanan is worming his way into Versace's circle. There's not much to go on. Sure, we're sorry he's murdered in a nothing-like-that-should-happen-to-anybody way, but not in a personal, what-a-loss way. We don't know this guy, except that he was a well-known fashion designer. Doesn't make him a sympathetic character, though.

Meanwhile, Versace's sister Donatella sweeps in to take over the company and basically sideline Versace's long-term partner Antonio. So she's a bitch, and we can't like her, either.

The FBI agents screw up everything. Can't like them.

Who the hell are we supposed to root for in this?

Maybe I'm not the right audience for this. Maybe I don't worship enough at the altar of fashion or something. There's a sort of reverence around Versace here that I just don't buy into. Maybe I need to in order to care about the story being told.

I'll keep watching. As they fill in the backstory, maybe I'll find reasons to invest in some of the characters. But so far I'm not wowed.

1.22.2018

Index: Ongoing Star Wars Story ("Documents" posts)

In order to make things simpler for readers, I'm going to index this story so that you can bookmark this post and check for new "documents" (chapters) as we go.

For those of you just arriving, my 9-year-old daughter asked me to write a Star Wars story with her. My 12-year-old son has had some input too. We're having a lot of fun with it, and we hope you enjoy reading it as well.

I'll add links as new parts get posted.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10

"Documents" pt. 10

Part 9 is here.
__________

“He can be turned,” Rey insisted. “For all we know, that’s the reason he’s here.”

“For all we know,” Captain Markwell said, “he’s here to destroy us.”

“If the First Order knows we’re here,” Commander D’Acy put in, “we need to evacuate before they return in force.”

A collective groan went up from the assembly.

“Go where?” someone asked. “We’ve been all over the galaxy already!”

More grumbles and murmurs circulated through the room.

“Even if he is here for… some other reason,” said Rey, “He’s a valuable prisoner. He has information, influence—”

“And powers we can’t contain,” inserted Poe. “As it is, the cell he’s in probably won’t hold him for long once he wakes up.”

“Just let me talk to him,” Rey said, and when skeptical looks flew through the group, she added, “I’ve defeated him before. And I’m much more skilled now.”

“You can’t bring a weapon in there,” Poe told her. “If he—”

Rey cut him off. “I won’t need a weapon.”

Another round of glances, these ones startled and uncertain. Then D’Acy said, “All right. If only for his mother’s sake.” The people around her nodded solemnly as D’Acy told Rey, “See if you can determine why he’s here and what he knows. But if—” She stopped, either unwilling or unable to put the possibility into words. “Well, he won’t be given another chance to cooperate.”

“Let’s hope he does,” Poe sighed under his breath.

***

Tap, tap, tap.

Finn look left then right down the long corridor.

Tap, tap, tap.

Slowly, Finn turned to look at the door.

“I know you’re out there.” Kylo Ren’s voice had an oddly muffled yet hollow sound from behind the thick metal and wall of rock. “Alone.”

Finn lifted his comm. “Uh, guys…”

“You will open this door.”

Finn cocked an eyebrow at said door. “No I won’t.” Into his comm, he hissed, “Guys! He’s awake!”

Motion at the far end of the corridor drew Finn’s attention. Rey was coming, and by the looks of her, she had a definite purpose. As she neared, Finn said, “He’s—”

“I know,” Rey said. “Open the door.”

1.21.2018

Movies: You've Got Mail

Years ago, I watched The Shop Around the Corner in film school. I also met Nora Ephron briefly in the summer of 1997, which is around the time this movie must have been filming, or perhaps was in pre-production. Yet somehow I'd never seen this movie before. I think maybe I was a little young for it at the time it came out, and rom-coms have never really been a big thing for me anyway. And the 90's rom-com in particular is a very specific kind of movie. You generally need a precocious child (or two) and a dog. That's the bare minimum for a 90's romantic comedy.

Okay, so this movie. Tom Hanks plays Joe Fox, son of the multi-millionaire founder of Fox Books, which is basically what Borders used to be, or what Amazon is now that it has brick-and-mortar stores, I guess. Meg Ryan is Kathleen Kelly. She owns—wait for it—The Shop Around the Corner, which is a children's bookstore that she inherited from her mother. It's been in business for 42 years. But now a big Fox Books is opening down the street, and . . . You see where this is going.

Where I struggled with this movie from the very beginning is that Joe and Kathleen have an online thing going. They met in a chatroom (and boy, it's really something to see people using AOL and dial-up again) and email each other daily under the monikers NY152 and Shopgirl respectively. Which might be fine except both of them are also in physical relationships with other people. Okay, not married, but, you know, committed. Ostensibly. But apparently not really. All I'm saying is that, right out of the gate this movie asks me to invest in two emotional cheaters. "It's okay," the movie tells me, "because these two people are soulmates, and anyway, their significant others are terrible."

Oh, well that makes it all okay then, I guess.

I could go on about this, but I won't. I'll just say it's a cracked foundation upon which to then build a rom-com.

Fox Books opens, and The Shop Around the Corner begins to flounder. Eventually it's forced to close. Apparently Kathleen can continue to afford an apartment in an expensive neighborhood, though, so . . . ::shrug:: While the themes of indie vs big box seem relevant even some 20 years later, this movie does little to make a case for the little guy. We're supposed to be sad that Kathleen had to close her mother's store, but Kathleen is then inundated with job offers (none of which she apparently takes because I guess she doesn't need money), and her ex-employees go work for Fox Books or were already wealthy or whatever. So what harm was really done by this big bookstore opening?

Maybe that's done so that Joe can not seem too evil. After all, he's the hero here, and you can't stack too many sins up else the audience won't like him, no not even if it's Tom Hanks.

Joe figures out long before Kathleen does that she is Shopgirl, the person he's been emailing. Knowing that they got off on the wrong foot in real life, he decides to . . . string her along? Really?

Seriously, he starts "running into" Kathleen, and they hang out, and she talks to him about this online guy, and he just rolls with it, trying to worm his way into her life and heart. Meanwhile, he evidently doesn't consider that he's putting Kathleen—this person he supposedly is in love with—in a terrible situation of being caught between the guy she likes online and this guy she's starting to like IRL. Joe has put her in an agonizing position. That's a crap thing to do.

What's worse: she falls for it!

Yeah, the requirement for a rom-com is a happily ever after, but ugh. Kathleen ends up without a career and now she'll what? Be taken care of by her millionaire boyfriend? Maybe he'll get her a job with his big bookstore? Hooray?

Kathleen has apparently zero problems with the fact that Joe kept her in the dark for weeks or months or however long. She strikes me as someone with low self-esteem, and NY152/Joe is a kind of crutch for her.

Maybe I'm reading this all wrong. Maybe I'm supposed to say, "Oh but they started as online friends and now they're a couple, and that's the best kind of relationship, where you're friends first!" Friends online but enemies IRL, but once he destroys her career and she's reduced to nothing, he can build her back up and everything is all good?

My head is spinning.

Look, the movie itself is really cute. But the power dynamic is super off. Joe has all the power from the very start, and he misuses it in various ways. Even if he means well, it's problematic.

I know I'm looking at this through a lens 20 years beyond. I'm sure I'd find similar issues in any number of 90's romantic comedies. And maybe I'm too sensitive or nitpicky. Was the movie charming? Sure. But was it good? Weeelll . . . Let's just say it's a product of its time and environment, a kind of artifact, and leave it at that.

1.20.2018

"Documents" pt. 9

Been a while since we had some more Star Wars story!

Part 8 is here.

__________


Kylo opened his eyes. Everything hurt, more than before if that was even possible. That damn Stormtrooper… The pilot...

Kylo sat up, his body protesting in a dozen places. The room—cell—was nothing but hewn rock with a couple of sconces affixed to the wall that did little to light the room. They hadn’t even given him a bed, just a thin mat.

He looked at the door. Thick metal, but he could open it, he was sure. How many guards? Kylo concentrated.

Only one?

Surely he was worth more than one guard?

Did they think he was dead? If so, why put him in a cell? A cell clearly stripped of anything they thought he might use as a weapon. No, they knew he was alive. Maybe they were relying on his injuries to make him slow, weak.

Kylo weighed his options. Break out and… Go where? He could steal a shuttle… Then what? For all his powers, all his abilities, he had nothing.

Hux.

The name slid across his brain like a sharp edge. He would find Hux and destroy him, return to his rightful place as Supreme Leader of the First Order.

But there were easier, better ways than just stealing a ship. After all, the Resistance had no love for Hux, either.

A common enemy.

All he had to do was show a little bit of remorse and the Resistance would be eating out of his hand. Rey in particular.

It would take time. He couldn’t just switch sides abruptly. A Jedi wielded patience as one of his greatest weapons.

You are no Jedi, a voice whispered. It sounded an awful lot like Uncle Luke.

I am more powerful than any Jedi, he answered. And I will use the Force against them.

Kylo got to his feet, took a deep breath, stepped to the door… and knocked.

1.19.2018

Movies: Coco

This is a sweet movie, if rote by Pixar standards. That is to say, if you've seen enough Pixar movies, you can anticipate every beat in this film well ahead of time.

Coco feels like a slight misnomer since the main character is Miguel, Coco's great-grandson. He comes from a family of successful shoemakers, and the entire opening sequence is Miguel explaining that his great-great-grandmother Imelda had once fallen in love with a musician, and when that unnamed musician left Imelda and their daughter Coco, music became forbidden in their family.

Drastic much?

Info dump aside, the sequence is charmingly depicted with colorful cutouts and sets the stage for the rest of the story, which predictably is about how Miguel loves music and wants to be a musician. On Día de Muertos, Miguel is so desperate to participate in a musical talent show he attempts to steal a guitar from the crypt of a famous local musician. This causes him to be swept into the . . . underworld? Well, the world of the dead, anyway. He then has until sunrise to get his family's blessing and return to the world of the living, else he'll be stuck with the dead forever.

Of course, his deceased family won't give him their blessing because Miguel refuses to give up his dream of becoming a musician.

And so it goes.

Like most Pixar movies, this one aims for the heartstrings. It's colorful and a tad saccharine. I enjoyed it but do wish Pixar would find some other tone. Their work feels very one note to me, all with the same earnestness. And that's what people like about them, I guess, but for me it's starting to be dull. Well, that and all the sequels. (If you need fresh ideas, Pixar, feel free to swing by for a chat.)

Still, I enjoyed this more than, say, Up. Then again, I didn't like Up, so maybe that's not saying much.

1.13.2018

Movies: Despicable Me 3 (or, Despicable M3)

Ugh.

Okay, I've never seen the first two movies in this franchise, so maybe I was just coming in at the wrong point. But based on the previews—which were really just the first full scene of the movie—I thought this was going to be cute and funny. It was neither.

Here's what I knew going in:

  • Gru used to be a villain but now he was some kind of agent who fought villains
  • There were Minions

Honestly, you don't have to know much more than that to understand the dynamic. Gru has a wife named Lucy who is also an agent (it's called the Anti-Villain League, or AVL), and they've adopted three girls. You can glean that from the story without having to know it ahead of time. Also, I've just told you.

The real problem with this movie (besides the Minions, who I hate with a passion that blazes like a million suns) is that it's crazy disjointed. It starts with that opening scene we all saw in the trailers: Gru fighting 80s-loving villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker, the only good thing in this movie). Then it goes on to be about Gru discovering he has a twin brother, and that he comes from a line of pig-farming villains. There is exactly no tension. No laughs. The movie attempts to set up jokes and gags, but none of them are funny. Plot lines like the one about the boy who has a crush on Margo get squashed and kicked to the curb without serving any real purpose. (Yes, okay, it was supposed to bring Lucy and Margo closer, I guess? But there was never enough discord between them for us to feel gratified by that story thread.)

Meanwhile, the Balthazar Bratt stuff takes a back seat, which is a shame because, as I mentioned, he's the only truly entertaining thing about the movie. Sure, he's pretty one-note, but that note is way more interesting than anything else that's going on. That's not saying much, but there you have it.

In some ways, D-Me 3 feels like two stories Frankensteined together. The writers wanted to tell about this Bratt guy, and they wanted to do this family story, so they did both and neither came out well.

Minor spoiler posed as a question: If Lucy saved Gru and Dru at Bratt's lair, how did they get their speedboat back? (I'm going to go out on a limb and assume Bratt drove it back to Dru's when he came to get back the diamond? Still, sloppy work not making that clear. Also, why is the giant Bratt mecha under water?)

In short, this is a really terrible movie. My husband laughed, but only at the faces I made while watching. "I can't remember the last time a movie made you this angry," he told me.

It was just . . . so bad. So very, very bad.

Books: FREE Story This Weekend!

You can go grab this short story for FREE now through Monday. (And it's always free to read via Kindle Unlimited.) Enjoy!

Get it here. (U.S. link, but available in all regions.)

1.09.2018

Books: Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard

In 2000, my then fiancé and I were visiting my parents, and my dad said, "Oh, have you seen this guy?" And he turned on Dress to Kill. Besides loving the comedy routine, I remember being blown away that my dad—a very conservative man—was kind of fine watching a transvestite. I had to wonder whether being funny somehow excused what would otherwise bother my father, or if maybe there were things (in Dad's philosophy) that were okay for transvestites? Or maybe Dad just thought it was part of the act?

We've never talked about it, so I still don't know.

But at that point I fell in love with Eddie Izzard's comedy. My husband and I have since seen him live a number of times for Sexie, Stripped, some new material he was just trying out, and Force Majeure. We pretty much try to see him whenever he's in the area (first when we lived in Boston, now out in San Francisco).

Look, I grew up with British comedy, so that's probably a large part of my enjoyment of Izzard's work. He speaks repeatedly in Believe Me about his being influenced by Monty Python, and I grew up watching Monty Python (and Fawlty Towers, Are You Being Served? 'Allo 'Allo!, Keeping Up Appearances, some weird show called Mulberry that I sometimes think I dreamed up . . . the list goes on). So I think Eddie and I have some similar tastes, you know, we jibe. So that's cool.

All this to give you a sense of why I wanted to read this book.

It's definitely Eddie Izzard writing. Even with a co-writer credited, this is his voice, and there didn't seem to be much buffing of it. In fact, there were several places where I thought it needed another editing and proofreading pass. But that's fine, no big deal, and they'll probably fix it in the paperback.

You get the definite sense that Izzard struggles a bit with opening himself up. But at the same time, he seems fairly self-aware and introspective. He goes through the major events of his life (starting with his mother's death when he was six) and discusses how he felt then and what he thinks about it now. The gist of the book is about how persistence pays off, or at least it did for him. How being stubborn and determined is basically how he got where he is today. And he talks about the circumstances that shaped him, and of course about coming out and how he dealt with that and continues to deal with various reactions from people.

The book actually made for a very good conversation with my 9-year-old daughter. She saw the cover and asked, "Is that a boy or a girl?" Which gave me the perfect opportunity to explain gender fluidity. We talked about all the different ways people might feel about their bodies, like maybe they were meant to be a different gender and might want to change their bodies or at least dress differently. I think it was a productive discussion.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, though it made me kind of sad in thinking about my own attempts to succeed. Which I think is the opposite reaction Izzard might've wanted, but . . . Well, I won't go into it. Long story short, it's a nice read, and I look forward to the next time he's in town.

1.07.2018

"Documents" pt. 8

The kids are about to go back to school, which alters our ability to write together. But we're determined to finish this story! So please keep checking back.

Part 7 is here.

__________

“He is too dangerous to let him live!” Finn insisted. He and Rey stood outside the door to the cell in which they’d left the unconscious Kylo Ren. They’d removed everything from the room except a thin pallet on which they’d laid him, but Finn wasn’t convinced those precautions were enough. “He could pull this whole mountain down right on top of us!”

“He won’t,” Rey said. “He’s not even awake.”

“Yeah, but once he is—”

“He won’t,” Rey said again. She took a deep breath and marshaled her arguments. “We don’t know why he’s here. It’s possible he . . .” She swallowed her hopes. “Maybe he heard about or . . . or felt his mother . . .”

Finn grimaced. “He killed his father. You think he’d care about his mother?”

Rey changed tack. “Suppose he’s here scouting for the First Order, though honestly I don’t know why he’d be here alone, or at all. But for the sake of argument,” she went on, forestalling Finn’s burgeoning protest, “even if he is here on some First Order business, he’s more useful to us alive. We can get information from him.”

“How?” Finn demanded. “You can’t break him! I know you have abilities, Rey, amazing abilities, but . . .” He shook his head. “He’s been doing this a lot longer than you have.” Finn narrowed his eyes at her. “What do you know that the rest of us don’t?”

Rey found she couldn’t meet Finn’s eyes. “It’s just a feeling.”

“A feeling. And does this feeling have, like, a name?”

Still unable to look at Finn, Rey gave an almost imperceptible shake of her head.

“Well, I think you’re going to need stronger evidence,” Finn told her. He jerked a thumb over his shoulder to indicate the long, empty corridor behind him. “Because they’ll be coming. I’m surprised there aren’t people lined up to view the execution already.”

As though on cue, Poe appeared at the far end of the hallway. Rey swallowed her anxiety as he approached. “We need to make a decision here,” Poe said. “Everyone’s waiting.”

Rey glanced at the bolted door. It was made of a slab of metal as thick as her upper arm. But was it enough?

Probably not.

“Someone should stay,” she said, “in case he wakes up.”

“You should go,” Finn told her. “You’re the one with the . . . feelings.”

Poe frowned. “We need you, too, Finn. We can set a guard in front of the door.”

“I have the most experience with him,” Finn said, and he thought he saw Rey flinch. “Indirectly, but still. I was with the First Order. I know how they do things.”

“That doesn’t mean you’ll know how to deal with Kylo Ren, especially when he wakes up cranky from his nap,” said Poe.

Finn turned to Rey. “Leave me the lightsaber.”

“What?” she asked.

“A blaster clearly doesn’t do enough,” said Finn. “If things go wrong—”

“And if he gets hold of a lightsaber—if he manages to take it from you—” Poe said.


“I can’t stand here defenseless,” Finn told him.

“You can’t go in with a weapon,” Poe contended. “He’ll pull it right out of your hands.”

“Poe’s right,” said Rey.

“Then what do I do if he wakes up?”

“Nothing,” Poe said. “Don’t go in, don’t engage him.” He held up his com unit. “Just call us immediately if anything changes.”
__________

1.06.2018

Movies: Victoria & Abdul

This movie has been on my watch list for a while now, but I'll admit the reason I finally did sit down and watch it is that I'm reading Eddie Izzard's memoir and he mentions being in the movie. I thought, Really? And then he said he played Bertie, and I thought, Oh, but Bertie was such a dick. So then I kind of had to see Eddie Izzard play a dick.

Anyway, I don't pretend to know how much of this is true. That Queen Victoria had an Indian servant for the last fifteen years of her reign is documented, but the rest . . . It turns out Abdul kept a diary that was made public in 2010, so I  guess that's where a lot of this comes from?

Victoria had a reputation for making fast, deep, and sometimes strange attachments. That she was drawn to Abdul Karim was, perhaps, not so surprising, but the people around her were alarmed at his rapid rise in her household. This movie . . . I won't say "explores" that because that suggests something deeper. This movie skims that. It passes over in a very surface way the fact that Victoria had this servant—she made him a kind of teacher—and lots of people didn't like it. I won't even say it delved into the bond between the titular characters because it didn't really. We understand Abdul has a kind of awe of Victoria, but he also lies to her, and then there is another Indian character who basically fades into the background until he dies of bad English weather.

I dunno. I wanted to like this movie, but it was only kind of meh.

I will say Dame Judi does a marvelous job as per usual, and Eddie Izzard really does pull off being an absolute dick. Ali Fazal as Abdul also does nice work. The frilly extra characters, however, do feel a bit like caricatures. And the main characters are stuck with an unfortunately shallow script. The whole movie is like jumping from one puddle to the next, but there's so little water that nothing really makes a splash.

Anyway, it was okay. Very pretty to look at. But not anything that requires a lot of attention. It just glides gently by without leaving any mess.

1.04.2018

"Documents" pt. 7

My daughter wanted to get back to Hux and whatever he's been doing.

(Part 6 is here.)

__________

“Who are you to interrogate me?!” Hux bellowed.

The lieutenant took a couple quick steps backward. “No one . . . Supreme Leader?” The last part came out wobbly, questioning.

“I told you—I told everyone—things are well in hand,” said Hux. “We will return to Edowan when the time is right.”

The lieutenant bowed. “Then we will continue to formulate an invasion plan. The terrain makes it very difficult.”

“If the Resistance can land there, we can,” Hux told him. “They have taken our Supreme Leader from us. We will finish them.”

“Long live the Supreme Leader,” the lieutenant said with another bow.

Hux waved a dismissal and the man retreated with unseemly haste. Though Hux had taken the mantle of Supreme Leader with equal speed, he had yet to sit on Kylo Ren’s throne. Not out of any sense of honor for Ren, but because Hux thought the throne and the room itself were ridiculous. All of Ren’s dark brooding condensed into a single space. A tactical room would be much more suitable. Hux made a mental note to get someone in to change things over.

What he wasn’t in any hurry to do was return to Edowan. Not because he harbored any feeling for the Resistance; Hux wanted to see them crushed as badly as ever. But besides the strategic difficulties, Hux had the nagging, bothersome feeling that his blast had failed to kill Ren. If he sent troops to Edowan and they discovered Ren . . .

The Resistance was failing in any case. They could not last much longer. And if they found Ren first, they’d surely finish him off. Give it a little time, then swoop in and put an end to everything. Both Ren and the Resistance would be extinct.

1.03.2018

"Documents" pt. 6

Just a little more . . .

(Part 5 is here.)
__________

He risked a glance and saw a cobbled-together assault transport rising from behind the rock formation. The ship appeared so rickety it might fall apart mid-flight. Through the windscreen Kylo could make out two forms. One, he felt sure, was Rey.

***

Connix moved her thumb to the gun activator, but Rey said, “No.”

“No?” Connix echoed.

“He’s more valuable to us alive,” said Rey.

“There’s no way to contain him,” Connix said. She hesitated. “Is there?”

“Let me worry about that,” Rey told her. “We just need to get him—”

Kylo looked over his shoulder at the ship, and Rey’s mind went alarmingly blank.

“Rey?” Connix asked.

Rey blinked. “Uh . . . right. We need to—”

The flash of a blaster firing stopped her this time. Kylo didn’t even turn around. His gaze was locked to hers as he fell to his knees.

“Ben!” Rey shouted. “No!”

Startled, Connix reached for the radio. “Commander Dameron, do you read? Stop firing.”

“Wasn’t me,” Poe responded. Over the radio they heard him say, “Finn, enough!”

Rey watched numbly as Poe wrenched the blaster from the ex-Stormtrooper’s grasp, but not before Finn managed a couple more shots.

For a long, terrible moment, everything felt frozen around Rey. Even sound disappeared, replaced by a roaring silence. She watched Kylo tip and collapse in a heap, his lightsaber winking out as he hit the ground.

Then suddenly there was motion, sound. Poe shouted something—the radio was no longer on—and he and Spannik ran and pulled Kylo’s body aside.

“What are they doing?” Rey asked, her voice tight and high; she felt as though she was being throttled.

“Making room for us to land,” Connix said.
__________

Part 7 is here.

"Documents" pt. 5

Apologies for the wait. My son, daughter, and I spent some time trying to figure this part out.

And: Spannik finally speaks! A little.

(Part 4 is here.)

__________

At the swishing sound, Poe stopped on the path. “Did you hear that?”

Finn and Spannik were forced to halt, too. “Sounded like a laser?” Spannik said.

“A lightsaber,” said Poe. “Hear the hum?”

They stood there, silent and listening.

Finn took a couple steps back into Spannik behind him. “There are only two people I know with lightsabers, and only one of them would have been on a First Order ship. We gotta leave. Now.”

“He must know we’re here,” Poe said. “Why else would he turn on the saber?”

They looked at one another. After a minute, Poe pulled out his blaster. “We might never have a better chance at him.”

“Are you crazy?” Finn asked. “You know what he can do! A blaster is not going to help us!”

“There are three of us and one of him,” said Poe.

“We’d need a battalion,” Finn insisted. “And even then, I wouldn’t trust our odds.”

Poe looked to Spannik. “You’re the deciding vote.”

“You’re the commander,” Spannik countered.

“This really isn’t the time for debate,” said Finn. “He is up there and could come down any minute.”

“Let’s go give him a welcome,” Poe suggested and started up the final yard of the slope to the flat top of the rock formation.

Finn glanced at Spannik and shook his head. He pulled out his own blaster. “After all, why listen to me? I only used to work for the guy.”

He and Spannik followed Poe up.

***

Rey opened her eyes.

Connix searched her face for a clue to what was happening. “Well?”

Rey blinked rapidly then finally looked at Connix as though surprised to see her there. “Come with me,” she said.

***

The men were moving again, coming closer. Kylo lifted his lightsaber.

“Kylo Ren!” the first one shouted as his head crested the edge of the outcropping. Kylo recognized him—the voice, the hair. This was the pilot they’d captured on Jakku, the one with the BB unit, the one the faulty Stormtrooper . . . Oh, and here was the Stormtrooper, too, and a third man Kylo did not recognize.

“Three blasters against your lightsaber,” Poe said. “I think we’ve got better range.”

Kylo didn’t waste any breath by answering. With a move of his hand, Poe’s blaster was ripped from his grip and went sailing over the edge of the cliff.

“Okay, two blasters,” said Poe, even as Spannik fired.

Kylo deflected the blast with ease. “You’ll have to do better than that.”

“Like maybe that?” Poe asked, with a nod at something behind Kylo.

Kylo narrowed his eyes. It had to be a trick. But then he heard the growing roar. He’d been so focused on the men he’d blocked the sound.

Stupid, he thought.

He risked a glance and saw a cobbled-together assault transport rising from behind the rock formation. The ship appeared so rickety it might fall apart mid-flight.

__________

 Part 6 now posted here.

1.01.2018

"Documents" pt. 4

Happy New Year! My 12-year-old son decided to help us write today, too. Despite multiple writers, I hope we can maintain a consistent tone and story. Enjoy!

Part 3 is here. Each part links backward if you need to get back to the beginning.

__________

“You’re buzzing,” Finn said.

Poe glanced back. “Huh? Oh.” He pulled out his buzzing communicator, but all he could hear was static. “Downside of living underground,” he grumbled and shoved the com unit back into his pocket. He needed both hands free for the steep climb up the rock face anyway. There was a path, but it was narrow and only allowed for one person at a time. Which meant First Order troops couldn’t come down, but also meant the Resistance foot soldiers couldn’t effectively form ranks either should they need to rise to meet the enemy.

Better to just stay in the caves.

“So what did they leave?” Finn asked from behind Poe as they began the climb.

“All we know is that it’s alive,” said Poe. “Which is why we’re checking it out.”

“Alive?” Finn asked. “Like an animal or . . .?”

“Probably a person,” said Poe. “Based on the size.”

Finn stopped walking and Spannik nearly walked into him. “A person? And he’s alive? Shouldn’t we have a prison escort or something?”

Poe looked back but didn’t stop his ascent. “I think we can handle one person, Finn.”

***

Kylo paced the edge of the flat outcropping in search of a way down. It was not large, had barely fit his command shuttle. He made one circle then another like a caged loth wolf, his pain lessening as his ire increased. He would murder Hux. Slowly. Picturing it lifted his spirits a bit.

The pilot first, Kylo thought. For daring to abandon me. Though Hux had probably given him no choice. Kylo pushed the semi-charitable thought aside. He couldn’t afford mercy. In order to keep his position as Supreme Leader, he had to be unrelenting.

Another turn around the stone ledge, slower this time as his energy uncoiled. The path, if there was one, might be hidden, or at least difficult to spot.

Motion drew his attention, the bob of heads as people approached from below. Three. Easy enough to deal with. Kylo stretched out a hand, ready to pull the rocks down on top of the strangers, then stopped. He needed at least one of them to show him the way to the Resistance base.

That meant two were expendable.

Kylo drew his lightsaber and waited.

***

“Kylo Ren?” Rey said. “Here?”

“I can show you the footage,” Connix told her. “But we don’t have time. Poe, Finn, and Spannik are on their way up there right now.”

“He’s here,” Rey reiterated. “Alone.”

Connix waited, wide-eyed and trying not to snap. For whatever reason, Rey clearly needed to process this information. If only she would do it faster.

But instead of rushing to save their men, Rey closed her eyes.

“Um . . .” said Connix. She glanced around as though for support. “Is this helping?”

Rey held up a hand. From time to time she’d felt Ben—Kylo, she reminded herself; he’d chosen to remain Kylo Ren—pushing at the edges of her consciousness, but she’d always cut off his attempts at contact. They had reached an impasse, so what would be the point? The connection also endangered the Resistance on the off chance Kylo recognized where she was.

Yet he’d found her anyway.

Had he changed his mind?

Ben, she thought hopefully.

***

Kylo stepped away from the top of the path in case any of the men looked up and spotted him. He wanted the element of surprise on his side. Strike the first two down and take the third, he thought. Simple enough.

He took several deep breaths and focused, listening for the steps on the rocky slope as they grew closer, feeling the building presence of life as it came near.

He switched on the lightsaber.

Felt the men on the path pause.

“Did you hear that?” one of them asked. They were so close now. Kylo’s heart picked up speed, but he forced his breathing to remain slow and steady. The key to winning was to keep the mind clear. Fixed breathing helped.

Uncle Luke had taught him that.

Another of the men spoke. “Sounded like a—”

Ben. Kylo swallowed. Not now, he thought, more to himself than her. I can’t do this right now

He’d lost the rhythm of his breathing. Damn. And the three men continued to hang back, suspicious.

Ben, she said again, listen to me. There are three men coming to bring you in. Let them.

Kylo’s brow furrowed. Bring him in? The idea that he and Rey wanted the same thing momentarily confused him. But then he understood. She wanted to make him a prisoner of the Resistance.

He couldn’t allow that.

You don't have the power to hold me, he told her. You know that.

Ben, don’t. Don’t make us do it this way.

There’s only one way, Kylo thought. My way.

__________

Part 5 can be found here.