General Organa's regrettable son quickly faded from his mind; there was, after all, a job to be done, and Hux was the man to do it. Much as he respected the general, her command occasionally appeared to be held together with crating tape. Hux assumed that was a carry-over from the general's days with the Rebel Alliance, when proper uniforms, accurate record-keeping, and careful utilization of resources were less important than not getting blasted back to constituent particles by the Galactic Empire. He'd taken it upon himself, as something of a side-project, to impose a kind of beautiful, ruthless efficiency in the place of these crating-tape patches. For instance: whoever it was who supplied the general with her tactical maps had neglected to release the monthly patch that showed updated settlements for three months running. Had the woman been a civilian contractor, he might have been more lenient, but as a specialist in the Republic navy, her work was held to a higher standard.
It was for this reason that Hux summoned her personally to the general's planetside offices. "Specialist Brookis," he said. "You've been attached to Fleet Cartography for how long?"
"Six years, sir," she said. Her eyes were darting around the empty conference room, but the nerves were expected; General Organa was something of a legend even in a military whose upper echelon had earned its reputation doing the impossible.
"And you've been the point of contact for General Organa for half that time?"
"Yes, sir," said Specialist Brookis. He'd known that already, of course; he had her record pulled up on the screen in front of him. Brookis was forty--older than Hux himself by a fair sight, not that that had ever prevented him from tearing down a subordinate--superb at her job, terrible at communicating it. She seemed like a pleasant enough person, if bland and lacking in confidence, but those whose genius lay in one narrow field often found it difficult to relate to those who did not understand their passion.
Hux caught and held her gaze. "Tell me, Specialist, why it is you expect to keep your position when you are so obviously failing to--"
Behind Brookis, the door slid open.
"Failing--" Hux said.
Ben Solo stepped into the room as though he had every right in the world to interrupt a private meeting. Well; let him. Hux had carried on through worse.
"To meet the most basic duties of your post," he finished smoothly.
Brookis's eyes flared in shock. "Sir," she said. "With all due respect--"
"Have you or have you not compiled and released the monthly corrections to the general's atlas?" Hux pressed. "If you are not incompetent--and your service evaluations imply you are not--what possible explanation could you offer for failing to complete the single task that is the entire point of your job?"
Over Brookis's shoulder, Solo frowned; Hux decided not to notice that he looked like he was pouting. "S-sir," she said, "it isn't my--we haven't been receiving the proper memory cores to compile the data--"
"And that," said Hux, "is your excuse?"
The disagreeable Jedi in the back of the room decided to insert himself into the conversation. "She just told you it wasn't her fault," he said. "You don't have to be mean--"
Hux ignored him as thoroughly as his considerable capabilities allowed. "Well, Specialist?" he said.
"No, sir," she said.
"Did you make your superior aware that you didn't have the equipment you needed?"
"Could you have at any time remedied this situation?"
Hux allowed himself a thin smile; the woman before him flinched. "And now you see my dilemma, Specialist," he said. "The delay in receiving the data was bad enough, but knowing that the culpable party caused the situation because she didn't have the spine to ask for what she needed is intolerable. I'll be contacting your superior. Do you understand?"
"Y-yes, sir," said Brookis.
"Good," said Hux. He let her wait for a moment. "Dismissed." Brookis positively fled; when she was nearly through the door, though, Hux added, "And Specialist? I'll speak to Requisition and Supply about finding you the correct memory cores. You aren't the first to be deliberately shorted."
Brookis's mouth was slack with shock when she looked back at him, but she managed to stutter out, "Th-thank you, sir!" before beating a path out of Hux's sight. When the door had slid shut again, he sent the message he'd already prepared off to the woman's superior and then keyed in a second, briefer message to S&R about their shoddy work. Brookis would have her memory cores within the hour, and presumably in the meantime would have the space to contemplate that inability to communicate.
Solo was still pouting, Hux assumed. He wouldn't deign to look at the man to confirm his assumption. Solo, however, appeared to lack the tight focus that Hux had cultivated, because after approximately thirty seconds of silence, he interrupted Hux again.
"You must be a nightmare to have as an officer."
Very slowly, Hux let his eyes rise from his datapad. He was aware that his flat stare was reptilian, and combined that with his most glacial tone when he said, "Excuse me?"
Solo was prowling around the office again; evidently the man was incapable of standing still. "You heard me," he said. "She made a mistake, but it's not like she was sabotaging Mother's maps on purpose." He started poking at one of the Ithorian potted plants that stood in the corner.
"Did you come all this way to insult my managerial technique, or are you only here to clutter up the scenery?"
"You can't act like a complete bastard when you fixed everything for her at the end," Solo concluded. "I can't decide if I hate you or if I'm beginning to like you."
The casual entitlement of this statement briefly rendered Hux speechless. Who was Solo to offer his opinion? Did he actually think his regard mattered? "I'm overjoyed that you feel so strongly about me," he snapped.
Astoundingly, Solo actually looked wounded at that, like it hadn't occurred to him that Hux might either be indifferent to or even offended by his assessment. "Hey," he said. "I'm not the one who laid into a subordinate until she was shaking in her boots--"
"I did not 'lay into' her," Hux said, "I reprimanded her for doing a poor job and then took steps to rectify the error. And if she was shaking, it was her own lack of conviction and loss of control that led to that point."
"Loss of control," Solo said.
"You know a lot about that?"
This conversation was infuriating. "I," said Hux, "am always in control."
"Always?" said Solo, whose primary verbal tactic appeared to be rote repetition.
"Always," said Hux.
Solo looked fascinated.