This is one of a series of little vignettes I did often concerning the main characters without being from their point of view, just watching events unfold. Told from different people's points of view, some are funny, some are sad,  but they're all on the outside looking in.

 

 

 

Radio Tech

 

The starships in our little group are everything you’d expect from Rebel craft; they’re a mixed bunch of rather faded, past their best hardware being held together by ingenuity and heavy-duty tape. I’m on a Frigate of a design I don’t recognise, so it must be at least thirty years old.
It’s kind of beat-up and makes a whole host of noises, from the annoying not-quite-background vibrations of the air-exchanger to the rattles of loose decking-plates as you walk over them. (There’s an old but strangely reliable adage that you can tell how old a starship is by the number of screws that hold down the decking plates.)

My name is Arco and I’m a correspondent - an impartial observer. I sit and I watch and I write and I remember. Someone should - in six month’s time, half the people onboard this ship probably won’t be around anymore. That’s a lot of souls lost simply because they believed in something. Because they stood up and said no. Someone should remember that.

I remember reading once that, on being congratulated for some achievement, someone said that if they seemed to stand tall, it was because they were stood on the backs of giants. I’m surrounded by them here; beings willing to give everything - life itself - for what they believe in. It’s humbling and inspiring and yet… so very normal here. All that heroism gets lost in the day-to-day doldrums of just surviving.
Everyone wants to hear about how the guy diffused the bomb and saved the day. Myself, I want to hear about what he did the ninety-nine days leading up to that, because that’s real. That's why he did it. That’s who he really is. I guess that’s why they gave me this job.

All these little things - all these single moments - they make up a life; a real life. And all these lives, they make up the Alliance.

Knowing history, they say, is just reciting dates. Understanding it is in the details.

I’m sat close to the water-dispenser, which everyone approaches with wary hope, then hits and curses it a few times before finally giving up and heading to the hot drinks dispenser. I’m still kinda new around here, but apparently plain water is almost never available because it’s hooked directly into the recyc. system which feeds the whole ship, and is woefully inadequate. After a few days, I become an old hand at this myself, listening out for the scuttlebutt about which floor has a working water-dispenser and travelling through miles of corridors and levels like some wandering nomad- like a Tusken Raider in search of water, an empty bottle in my hand.

Bottles and water canteens are like gold-dust here. If you have one, you write your name all over it because if you don’t you’ll lose it. On those rare chances that you do find a working recyc. unit that’s prepared to put out more than half a cup of water, the chances of it also actually having cups is practically zero, because everyone in the ship is using it right now, and there’s nothing crueller than finding water and not having anything to put it in.
But most days, like everybody else, I try the recyc. nearest me then curse it roundly before, defeated, I head over to the hot drinks dispenser for something hot, sweet and full of caff, which I know is just going to make me thirstier in the long-run.

Just why exactly the hot drinks dispensers always have water when the plain-water dispensers don’t is one of the enduring mysteries of shipboard life.

If you’re thinking, ‘why don’t they just set the techs on it?’, then I should mention that there are two floors onboard ship partially sealed off for the third day running because their oxygen exchangers are off-line, the starboard gun array has no targeting system, the shields in bay seventeen are on the blink so no-one can enter the bay without a sealed spacesuit on, and the heating systems in all the pilots’ sleeping quarters are down. Again. Those are the day-to-day problems I’ve heard just sitting here in the mess hall.

That's probably also why the techs' and the mechs’ tend to stick together and stay in groups with hunted looks in their eyes; they want to discourage further complaints and there’s safety in numbers.
It’s all good-natured of course - surprisingly so considering the amount of stress everyone’s under, but it seems to foster a closeness among all the crew. Nothing brings beings together like shared hardships.

A bunch of pilots wander into the mess hall in a group. Their bright orange flightsuits seem incongruous in the drab, chipped-paint greys of the mess.
They stick together as they gather round the drinks dispensers, all ordering caff in various forms, all tired and wired after a twenty-hour shift, moving a little stiffly from being in the cockpit so long. Everyone keeps stretching and rubbing at the small of their back or their necks.
They’re surprisingly subdued compared to the group in yellow flightsuits who were in here eating breakfast less than an hour ago. But then they were the opposite shift, all rested and rezzed up, ready to head out.

When everyone has a drink they wander off to take over a small seating area, one of the only two with pads on the low mesh metal chairs, and sit with their feet up on the low table, mostly because it’s the only way they can stretch their legs in the small alcove.

Two more pilots appear in the doorway, obviously from the same flight, their orange flightsuits shrugged off their shoulders and tied about their waists by the sleeves, gloves tucked into them. There’s a vague cry from the group as these two, obviously the Flight Commander and Lieutenant Commander, who’ve had to debrief, lift weary arms in acknowledgement whilst heading for the drinks dispenser. The Lieutenant Commander kicks the water-dispenser and gets caff instead, ignoring the Commander’s laugh.

As they pass me, the Commander glances my way and we make eye contact. He smiles casually, curiosity in his eyes as they flick down to my memopad. He has a friendly face. He’s incredibly young; not yet twenty, I’d guess.
Then they’re past me, and they settle down with the group, chatting, taking their own auto-memo’s out and balancing them on their knees as they write up their final report of the shift, occasionally comparing notes.

There’s a sense of people biding time, coming down from their shift, a quiet hubbub.

The tech's appear next, in a group of course, obviously from the same fighter-wing as the pilots, ‘cos although they wear the drab grey of tech' boilersuits, they all have a wide orange band sewn onto their sleeve.
Just like everybody else, they curse the water-dispenser then get some hot caff.

They wander over to the pilots and stand with hands in pockets to chat. I overhear that there’s water on level six near the Deep Storage hangers, and there’s a general discussion as to whether it’s worth heading down that far on the off-chance of the unit still being active. The final decision is that it’s too far and everybody’s too tired to bother.

The ‘techs say they’ll keep their ears to the ground; tech's always seem to know this kind of stuff. They’re the disseminators of all gossip on-board ship. If you want to know who was seen sneaking out of who’s quarters in the early hours between shift changes, listen to the tech's. Who’s in line for a promotion, who got a dressing-down, where the fleet is heading, why they’re going there…they have all the answers.

The pilots call them ‘Radio Tech’ - though never to their faces.

Time ticks by.

The serving ‘droids change the food on offer from breakfast straight to supper to account for the shift change, and pilots and techs and various support staff wander up and take a plate.

The pilots begin to quiz the support staff on where they’re going to sleep, as there’s frost on the walls of their bunk rooms.
Plans are made, as people genially offer spare beds and remember empty rooms. Room twelve on the ninth floor is free, but no-one will sleep in there because it’s considered bad luck.
The last six pilots who have been in that room have all met their untimely ends within a month of being assigned to it. Everyone laughs and jokes and teases about it, but there’s a genuine reluctance underlying it. I guess when you’re a combat pilot, you have these little rituals that you cling to. The average life expectancy of a green pilot in pitch battle is about twelve minutes. Number twelve - just like the room on level nine. Probably none of them consider themselves particularly superstitious, but…you take any help you can get.

The average age of the flight who are here now is perhaps nineteen. Apparently, they were one of the units who flew up against the Death Star, losing all their pilots except two. They fared better than gold wing, who had one returning pilot. Against the cold reality of those kinds of odds, a little superstition can be forgiven.

One is left wondering why they still do it; what deep trauma has so coloured their lives that they’re willing to exchange their future for just a chance at hurting the Empire in some small way.

They all look so full of life right now, jockeying for the best rooms, flirting with the ground staff, laughing…

Statistically, a quarter of them will be dead before the month is out.

I make eye-contact with the young flight Commander again. He’s just woken up one of the pilots who was asleep, head in his arms folded on the table, to tell him that he’s got a bed with one of the flight controllers, who plucks tiredly at his sleeve, wanting to head off for some rest.
The pilot stands up and topples his chair over behind him, which his Commander catches with his foot and pulls back up. Then he calls the pilot back for his gloves, forgotten on the table. He’s like a big brother, teasing the man when he gets there, but looking out for him - there’s genuine affection there.

The Commander glances over at me and rolls his eyes, sharing the joke, which makes me smile. I guess he’s one of the two who flew against the Death Star, and that his Lieutenant is the other. They seem a little more together than most of the rest, not just in terms of experience, but just generally.
They seem like they'll make it through the long haul.

A call goes up over the shipboard comm, and it must be for him because he lifts his own comm off his belt immediately. I watch him frown, can see his lips mouthing, ‘Be right there’.

All the other pilots have paused to watch him and now there’s a barrage of questions, everybody instantly awake. If they have a ‘Beat to Quarters’, they’ll all have to be back in their fighters within minutes.

The Commander calms the group down with open-handed gestures and a few words before leaving in a hurry, his Lieutenant following.

Already the tech's are on their comms- ‘Radio Tech’ in full swing.

I arrive at the Bridge to find the Commander and his Lieutenant deep in discussion, despite the fact that I left only seconds after them. Clearly they know a short-cut which I don’t, but then this is their home I guess, and the savvy ones make it their business to know it inside-out.

I’m not the only one making a bee-line for the Command Deck as a steady flow of people come in with serious looks on their faces.
Trying to stay out of the way, I make my way over to the main group, who are gathered around the long-range scanner array, studying a couple of distant dots, a series of numbers lit next to them which clearly mean a lot more to the gathered staff than they do to me, because the atmosphere is heating up.
Occasionally someone points at the dots and a second set of information comes up on the transparent board above the scanner array with the spec. and the ID of the ships.

This one I can read. Two Star Destroyers and a Frigate. And if we’re close enough to see them, then they can see us. We’re a small contingent of four Frigates. Rebels tend not to travel in large groups unless they have good reason - it attracts too much attention, makes it easier for the Empire to judge numbers, and a single engagement could cause irreparable damage.

A short argument erupts as to how they got this close, but is interrupted as a tall, dark-haired man in civilian clothing pushes for the front.

“Trouble?” he asks, looking at the Commander.

“Who let you in here?” I can’t see who said that at first, as she’s pretty small and hidden from me at the front of the group of people, but I recognise her voice. This is Princess Leia Organa, ex-Senator of ex-Alderaan. She perhaps has more reasons than most to be here, if people were counting.

I’ve met her several times - when I was allowed to go before a panel of senior Alliance members to put my proposal forward, when it had been accepted and I was being introduced to key personnel and again during my induction, when I was being told in no uncertain terms the reaches and restrictions of my brief as an independent ‘War Correspondent’.
I’m not a journalist or a reporter. They work for the Empire, and they do as they’re told. I’m here as an independent observer, and what information I send out will be disseminated on the HoloNet by those who know how, available to those who have learned where to look. Not exactly galaxy-wide coverage, but as near as we can get while our glorious Emperor keeps his stranglehold on the press.

So I’m a War Correspondent. And anyone who thinks we’re not at war should be stood on the Command Deck with me now, looking at the sea of strained faces.

The tall man with the civilian clothes and the Corellian accent reaches the front and sees the scanners, turning to the Commander without acknowledging the Princess. “Company?”

The Commander steps slightly forward, pointing, “Two Destroyers and a Nebulon Frigate. They’ve seen us, but they haven’t changed course yet.”

Everyone is very still, watching. I move around slightly and notice that the Princess has taken tight hold the of the Commander’s sleeve. ‘Radio Tech’ maintains they’ve been having a very secret affair for a while now. But then it also says the same of the Princess and the tall Corellian.
I must admit, I’ve seen her in the mess halls with both of them, separately and together. But then again I’ve seen the Corellian and the Flight Commander together quite often and they seem good friends.

I’m betting they’re both just friends with the formidable Princess, though if I had to name one of them, I’d say she seems more comfortable and relaxed around the Commander. The Corellian just seems to aggravate her - though to Corellians, annoying someone and flirting with them generally seems to amount to the same thing.

Still, she’s not holding the Corellian’s sleeve right now.

Everyone continues to stare at the scanners, myself included. I may not be a soldier, but I’m on a Rebel ship. There’s no grey area for the Empire, no levels of involvement. I’m guilty by association, and there’s only one penalty for treason in the Emperor’s brave new galaxy.

“Why aren’t they turning?” someone asks, the suspense laying thick, straining their voice.

We all stare in silence, waiting... nothing changes. They stay back and don't hail, and  we count out the seconds under our breath... until the young Commander whips ‘round, catching the Captain’s eye, “Put out a General Call, all ships. Get fighters and support craft to the nearest docking bay, any Frigate. Sound the Beat to Quarters and get all fighters ready, but don’t launch.” He’s already backstepping, turning to face Helm as he continues, tone terse and sure, “Keep our blindside toward them and turn us round slowly so our course passes well under them. Program jump co-ordinates, any clear course on our new heading. We should leave. Now.”
The last he says to the Princess, and she frowns, nodding tightly.

Now I see why he’s a Commander. Despite his youth, he speaks with absolute authority and people rush to comply. A few glance at the Captain, who nods in assent.

The Princess seems strained, but clearly willing to go with her Flight Commander on this, “What is it?” She’s speaking quietly, but I’m stood quite close to the small remaining group of the ship’s Captain, the Princess, the Commander and the Corellian.

The Commander is shaking his head, “Something’s wrong.”

“If we pull all peripheral craft back now, they’ll know something’s wrong.” The Princess maintains.

“They already know, Leia. No matter who we were, they should be coming over to check us by now.”

This is the first time I’ve heard anyone not call the Princess by her title. Maybe the ‘techs are right?

There’s a flurry of activity as the claxons rev up to sound the Call to Quarters through the ship’s corridors, muted on the Bridge. Comm Officers and Flight Control mutter calmly into headsets, assigning docking bays and flight paths. An open comm is established between the four Bridges of the allied Frigates, the background chat of each Bridge the same. Slowly the noise dies down as the last of the smaller ships are stowed and accounted for, and all eyes turn to the Navigator, who's waiting for for the navicomp to calculate flight co-ordinates for the jump.

“If they already know, we should turn portside-on to them for a clean volley.” The Captain says quietly.

I remember that only our portside guns are operative - the side we have facing out to dead space.

The flight Commander shakes his head, “They want us to - they're giving us time.”

“They’ve still not moved, sir.” The Watch announces.

“Are we sure they’ve seen us?” That’s one of the Captains on the other frigates. Captain Inigo, I think.

“Oh, they’ve seen us all right.” The Corellian assures from close by me, squinting at the screen.

The ‘nav system counts down its calculations. The Princess turns to the Commander, who’s chewing his thumbnail. Suddenly he looks very young again.

Finally the Watch shouts out, “They’re turning to an intercept course, sir!”

“Took their time,” the Captain mumbles before turning to step to the centre of the Bridge, barking out, “Bring up particle and ray shields. Charge up the lasers and turbolasers. Which guns are down? Turn our portside side toward them. Ask the ‘Glory’ to move to our…”

“No!” It’s the young Flight Commander again, stepping forward. “Keep our operative guns out to open space. Something’s coming…”

With a flicker of motion, something appears just below and off our bow, and my heart lurches.

“Star Destroyer off Port, just out of hyperspace. Co-ordinates…” Watch runs a list of dimensional references, voice tight.

The Captain cuts him off as he turns to the ‘nav officer- at this kind of range co-ordinates are pretty much irrelevant. “How long?”

“Less than a minute. We need to turn all ships to 37 by 216 by 774 to line up for the jump.”

Several sets of eyes take a very long look at the Flight Commander who called the warning about the Destroyer, before turning back to their stations without comment.
I’ve heard he’s known for playing hunches. I’ve heard he’s generally right.

The lights flicker as the first barrage hits us broadside, making the ship buck.

“Open fire, all guns. Confirm vector co-ordinates to the other ships. Best course to keep our guns between us and the Destroyer.” The Captain is very calm. Everybody is. Even I am. There’s very little else you can do in battles between ships-of-the-line. You just stand there and watch them throw enough raw power at each-other to keep a small city running for a month.

But this is hardly a fair fight - the Destroyer is thirty times our mass and far more than that in firepower. Already we’re taking damage. Fortunately, there are four of us and only one of it, so we’re holding our own as we re-align for the jump.
The Destroyers in the distance are also closing though, beginning to take ranging shots, appearing to do a slow clockwise spin on their axes because we’re half-turning, half-rolling anticlockwise to align for the jump co-ordinates as quickly as possible without leaving ourselves unprotected

Still stood quite close to the Commander, I hear the Corellian mutter a question as he steps in close to him. “What?”

I glance at the Commander, who’s looking out into the middle distance, every muscle taught, voice strained. “We need to reverse spin. There’s more - they’re gonna come out above and to starboard…”

The Captain turns to face him, “You’re sure?”
It seems an absurd thing to say, since clearly he can’t be.

The Commander is silent for several long seconds, clearly hesitant to play a further hunch, before finally nodding, “Reverse spin.”

Still the Captain hesitates. Seconds tick by as all ears strain to listen without appearing to turn. I get the general feeling that people want to play the hunch, but I can well appreciate why the Captain is reluctant.

If we reverse roll, we’ll present our unprotected side and our engines to the existing Destroyer, just so we can play the Commander’s vague hunch that another few Destroyers will emerge above and to starboard, so we’d need our guns there. That’s a big gamble with a lot of lives, which probably won’t sound nearly as convincing when you’re asked to answer to Mon Mothma and Ackbar for the break from protocol which lost perhaps two frigates and over a thousand souls.

The petite Princess half-steps toward the Commander, “Luke?”

He nods tightly, whispering, “Two. Above and to starboard.”

She steps forward with absolute authority, “Captain, reverse roll, please?”

It’s spoken as a request, though as one of the major figures in the Rebellion, she has the power to simply override him of course. But she’s also a politician, and would never overrule a Captain on his own bridge.

He turns, the decision made; you don't waste time debating in the middle of pitch battle, he's good enought to know that. “Helm; reverse roll. Maintain present heading. Tile shields to compensate. Battery; keep the Destroyer in our guns as long as you can, then bring them about. Send it to the others.”

We begin a tight reverse roll which makes me grab at the wall, momentarily dizzy as the artificial gravity rushes to compensate. No-one else seems to notice.

“Do you want fighters out to run interference?” The Flight Commander asks, backstepping in readiness, his comlink in his hand. He’s very calm now, all business, though he’s basically just offered to put his neck in the noose to get the Frigate through.

Which is, I suppose, what fighters do.

“No, Commander,” the Captain smiles good-naturedly, “I’d like you here to be able to yell at you if you’re wrong.”

This little aside makes everyone smile a little, relaxes everyone just a fraction. It just clears the air between them, lets everyone realise that, whatever else is going on, there’s no lingering dispute between the Captain and his Flight Commander

Three of the four ships twist away from the existing Destroyer in staggered formation, turning guns toward empty space, probably making our Imperial counterparts frown.

The distant Destroyers who had been holding our attention while their companion reached his key position fall away beneath us as we alter our flight path. Our horizon spins and the huge bulk of the close Destroyer falls from view, but makes its presence felt all the more as we turn our belly to it.

“Heavy damage to the aft lower hull. They’re targeting the engines.”

“Put all power to the lower shields. Be ready to cycle it if something should come in to starboard.”

“Sir, the ‘Spirit’ is reporting hull breaches. She’s tiling shields to compensate.”

We rock again and again, until even the most experienced begin to stagger.

Everyone looks to the clear skies in the viewscreen, except the Captain, who keeps his steady gaze on the Flight Commander. I can see the resolve wavering in the Captain’s eyes.

They’re coming!” the Commander’s voice is quiet but absolutely sure, for the Captain alone.

Then, with a flicker of motion, half the viewscreen is obscured, “Two Star Destroyers, above and to starboard!”

“Open fire!”

Our guns already trained, we open fire as if our life depends on it.

Being in comm blackout during hyperspace, the last co-ordinates they had of us were probably with our bridge faced exactly where they came out. Now we have our batteries facing them instead, and we buy maybe nine or ten seconds of surprise as they re-acquire targets.
Both ourselves and ‘The Glory’ take heavy damage exactly where our bridges would have been. It must have been a short jump for them to be so confident.

A perfectly executed trap, our vulnerable bridge co-ordinates being fed to the two Destroyers by the decoy Destroyer who drew our fire. Only our unexpected manoeuvre has kept us in one piece.

“Calculation’s in, sir!”

“Scramble and confirm on a secure channel. Ready to jump on my mark.”

“All ships stand ready, sir.”

“Jump!”

.

By early evening, the scuttlebutt on ‘Radio Tech’ is that the Flight Commander played another hunch which got all four frigates out of a tight corner.
It also claims that a Lieutenant named Celia from Gold Wing and a Special Ops Trooper named Dean were seen sneaking into Deep Storage.
The running pool on how many times the Flight Commander is going to pass up on bi-monthly scheduled memory wipes for his R2 astromech is now up to eight.

And rumour has it that there’s a working water-dispenser near the medi-centre on Level Ten.

I’ll let you know…

 


 


Another vignette on the outside looking in, but with a bit more humour this time. Just a bit of fun.

 

 

 

The Reporter

 

 

Would I like to write a little piece about the Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker?’

It was very politely worded, and came from an official comm from an mainstream HoloNet distributor which wouldn’t normally approach the likes of me – a bit too left-field for their type of publication – but basically, that’s what it boiled down to.

We know that you knew him for a long time, and you are a reporter, even though we don’t normally take your kind of stuff, so…how about an exclusive?’

Well, I’m easily flattered. Plus I like to write about friends, famous friends even more so. I bathe in their reflected glow, since it’s about the nearest I’m ever going to get.

I should also qualify this by stating that aside from his closest friends and family, nobody really knows Luke Skywalker. Those who claim they do, know him even less than those who claim only a passing friendship.
I’ve met him around a dozen or so times, though I remember them all – most people do. I don’t suppose that classes me as a friend; in my book, that puts me firmly into the passing acquaintance list, and I’m pretty sure Luke Skywalker has a large number of those, especially these days.
He’s a very private man who tends to hide the fact behind an affable, approachable, genuinely friendly exterior, so that most people tend not to notice that they’re the ones doing most of the talking if they meet. In truth, most people who claim friendship know only what they’ve read or seen on the HoloNet channels, and most of that is fiction anyway.

So here we go. Ten credits a word, so please forgive me if I repeat myself occasionally; I have rent to pay.

My name is Catia Olange. Female, human, nondescript. Used to have quite a nice figure in my youth, but I’m afraid it’s gone south now. Obviously Olange isn’t my real surname either- I just made that up by pressing all the keys on my keyboard at once and seeing which ones stuck. I am, as you may have guessed from my galaxy-weary bitterness (and the fact that I already wrote it down), a reporter. In truth, I’m really very optimistic once you get to know me – I only get like this when beings pay me to write.

In my defence, I’m only getting ten credits a word – happy is extra.

 

 

 

So…When did we meet?

Well, that would be about twenty years ago.

We were both young and idealistic, neither of us having been battered about the head by the realities of war too much at that point. I think he'd been a pilot for about a year, and I was fresh out of college, fully intending to change the galaxy, looking for my big break.

When I met a Barabel in a bar on Sollust who told me he could get me to a Rebel fleet ship, I thought I’d found my chance. He was a mechanic, I think, and along with about twenty other crew, was there in a rusted little freighter picking up some very suspect shipment which I never found out about – hey, give me a break; I was young.

So anyway, four days later I was sitting in the mess onboard this Frigate, having lost practically all I owned to the Barabel and his bunkmates in three days of intensive Sabacc-playing. Thus I was deposited on the flight deck with one Rebel issue mechanics’ jumpsuit, one bar of chocolate, my automemo and fourteen credits exactly.

Fortunately, food seemed to be free once onboard, the assumption being made that if you’re on the frigate then you’re probably meant to be here, so they’d better feed you.

 

I was sitting by myself, stewing, when a voice piped up.

“Hey, anyone sitting here?”

I looked up to the bright orange jump-suit of a pilot. Like most of the pilots then, he was pretty young, about my own age, and he had nice eyes, so I kicked out the chair opposite. “Be my guest.”

As he sat down, there was this whoup from the other side of the mess, and I glanced over to see about six other pilots all watching. Immediately they all sat down and looked the other way in mock disinterest. I glanced through narrowed eyes at the blond pilot opposite, who was giving them a disparaging look.

“Just ignore them. I don’t know any of them – they just follow me around and make my life hell.” He turned to me and smiled, which made him look even younger and– okay, I admit it; quite cute.

“I’m Luke.”

I distinctly remember hoping he was hitting on me.

“Catia.”

“Like the lilly. Hi Catia.”

Now I was sure he was hitting on me. Didn’t mind though.

“I’m impressed.”

He shrugged, “Well, I went to school. Unlike those reprobates. You’re new ‘round here?”

“Yep. Fresh in today.” I felt it best not to mention from where.

Not that he noticed, setting a dry grin on his face and his head on one side, “Wow – from the real outside galaxy?”

“Yeah.” Rebels, I found out, speak about the ‘real galaxy’ as if it’s some mythical, unreachable place, whilst most people from the real galaxy speak of the Rebellion in the same way.

The pilot leaned forward; he had nice eyes – have I mentioned that already? He always had nice eyes. Expressive; startling sky blue. They always made him look so much younger. They say you can see a being’s soul by looking into its eyes. I think he had a young soul… I think he still does; he just hides it better now.

“So, do you have any real, outside galaxy food, Catia-like-the-lilly?”

“I have a bar of chocolate.”

He grinned; had a nice smile too. “I cannot tell you how popular you’re about to become.”

He was so young; it makes me smile right now just to remember it. So young and so slim – you know when people haven’t yet grown into their bodyweight? Not gangly, he was past that stage, he had a bit of muscle on him already, but – I don’t know – maybe everybody at that age looks the same. Maybe it’s because they stand so straight, not knocked down by life yet. He had his whole life in front of him, and he thought he had a pretty good idea of how it was going to go.

I imagine he couldn’t have been more wrong.

“So you’re a pilot?” Not my best line, but he let it pass.

“Yeah, but don’t hold it against me. I don’t hang out with those guys.” He glanced back at the others, all still staring, who tuned quikly to look innocently elsewhere.

“Well they seem to know you.”

“I’m telling you, they just follow me around. I have no idea how to get rid of them.” He glanced up from his empty plate and back towards the serving hatch, “I’m going for something else. You want anything?”

“A sweet?”

He twisted his face, “Sweet may be a little optimistic. I can get you some fluffy pink stuff in a little plastic dish – I think it’s made out of beets.”

He headed off toward the serving hatch with a grin, to be accosted by several pilots from a different wing group, these wearing yellow flightsuits. I watched him chat a minute, then gesture in my direction, followed by various noises and gestures. Glancing over at me, he shouted, “I swear I never met ‘em before!”

I was still grinning when he sat back down, handing a small dish over. “Here; strange, yellow goopy stuff today. Never claim we don’t get variety.”

I lifted my spoon and it stayed upright in the stuff. “Isn’t this baby food?”

Luke studied his suspiciously, “Really? That’s why I feel like crying every time I look at it.”

He ate a little bit, and I watched his expression. It didn’t look good.

“What’s it taste of?” I asked.

“Yellow.”

“Yellow what?”

“Just… yellow.”

I tasted the stuff, and I think ‘yellow’ was a pretty accurate description. “Why do you guys stay here?” I asked, screwing up my face.

“Cos they never give us quite enough fuel to leave.” He smiled, dropping his head onto his arm, which was laid across the metal mesh table, so that he could look up at me disarmingly. “You know what this needs? Chocolate.”

“Hey, pal, you’re going to have to do an awful lot more than get me some ‘yellow’ before I part with my last bar of chocolate.”

He smiled, “Well, that sounds like…”

This last was drowned out by a claxon and he jumped to his feet, “Gotta go!”

“Wait! Where will you be later?”

He was already backing out, the other orange flightsuits heading towards him in a mass.

“What’s your name, I’ll find you.”

Without thinking I shouted “Olange. Catia Olange.” Then he was gone in a sea of orange and yellow flight suits as they headed for the flight deck. It wasn't until they'd left the room that I realised that my name was no help whatsoever since I wasn’t supposed to be here in the first place. I cursed roundly until people started staring, then sat down and ate my ‘yellow’.

 

 

A front-line frigate is a big place, and you’d be surprised how possible it is to just melt into the background if you have a Rebel-issue mechanic's jumpsuit on. I hung around the various mess for a few days, chatted to a few beings, but there are about ten mess-halls on a frigate of that type, plus I had to sleep – something that apparently fighter pilots don’t seem to get a lot of – so it was actually several days before I saw my blue-eyed pilot again.

I had learned a little bit about him, though. Like the fact that he was the pilot who destroyed the new Imperial Battle-Station that was all over the underground news holo’s a year earlier – the one that had destroyed Alderaan.
Of course, they didn’t mention its destruction on the official channels, but then they hadn’t mentioned its existence either. That was strictly for those who knew where to look.

Knowing this, I was all the more eager to find ‘Blue’ again. I wanted to get a name for myself and I was figuring that this could be just the way to do it.
The name of the pilot who’d destroyed the Emperor’s new toy; an exclusive interview.

Kind of thing that puts a new reporter on the map.

 

So when I was wandering up a corridor and felt a strong arm grab my elbow, pushing me forward as his voice whispered, “Just keep walking”, I was actually pretty pleased.

I was a little nervous as he just kept me walking for some time, guiding me in silence down corridors which held fewer and fewer people. He pulled me short before a door, opened it and pushed me into the dark room beyond. Not harshly, but firmly, whirling me around in the darkness.

I heard him move around before the lights came on and he spun round to face me. “Okay, who are you?”

I held my hands out before me, suddenly very aware of the fact that he was wearing a gun and I was wearing someone else’s uniform. “I can explain.”

He held his silence, looking at me expectantly. Those sky-blue eyes were now hard and cold as ice.

“Well, no I can’t, but it’s nothing bad.”

He was shaking his head, blond hair whipping every which way, tousled from the flight helmet he still held by the strap. “You’re not a member of the crew – I checked. So who are you?”

“I’m a reporter.”

He just looked, then, “Please…” he said unbelievingly.

“I swear to you I’m just a reporter. I wanted a story.”

He looked at me in silence for a long time – no he kind of looked through me.

Finally he spoke, “How did you get here?”

“I stowed away.” I didn’t want to get the Barabel in trouble.

Straight away, he said something that shook me with its conviction, “You’re lying.” I probably gaped like a fish, but there was something in his eyes which broached no argument. “If you ever lie to me again, I’ll...”

“Okay, okay. I hitched a lift off of some guy from a freighter on Sollust – they were dropping off parts or something. He cleaned me out, if it makes you feel any better. I’m actually stuck here because I don’t have anything to barter a return passage with. I just wanted a story, that’s all.”

His eyes narrowed. Suddenly he didn’t look so very young anymore. Suddenly, he was a soldier and I had the unpleasant feeling I was on the wrong side of his war. “What story?”

I opened my mouth and almost lied – but those hard blue eyes stopped me dead. “You, now.” I admitted.

That took him by surprise. “Me?”

“Well yeah, you’re the pilot who destroyed the Battle Station with a single shot. You’re famous.”

“The Death Star?”

Great name! I filed it away for later use, “Yes. I just wanted a story.”

He was calming down a little now, thrown by this unexpected curve ball.

“You have got to be kidding me.” He ran his fingers through his hair.

“I’ve been looking for you for days, Blue.”

He glanced up at that. “You have no idea how much trouble you’re in, do you?”

I truly didn’t. I was that naïve. “Trouble? Why?”

He sighed. “I think we should go have a chat, Catia-like-the-lilly.” His face had softened a little now, as he opened the door and gestured me through, “And I think you should bring chocolate.”

He glanced back at me, raising his eyebrows, “Assuming that is, that you weren’t lying about that too?”

“No, the chocolate’s real.”

“Well, that’s something.”

 

 

 

I spent the next two days in the brig while they decided what to do with me.

Blue had convinced me, against my better judgement, to go and see the Captain with him, which was upheld when I was invited in no uncertain terms to take a short walk to a small room with two rather burly men supporting me. Blue had immediately come to my defence, but the Captain had maintained that I would at least have to stay there until they verified my story.

This was my very first brig, though certainly not my last, so I spent an inordinate amount of time pacing and biting my nails, though Blue came to see me before and after his shifts, both times bringing me food and eating his own meals with me, just on the other side of the bars – they don’t do forcefields in Rebel ships; too power-hungry. See, I’m an old hand now.

I admit, I may have spent most of our time together alternately cursing him roundly for talking me into going to the Captain with him, then pleading with him to put in another good word for me, then telling him what I’d do to him if there wasn’t a very stout set of bars between us.
He took it all in good humour, which has always been one of his particular talents with everything in his life – fortunately, as it turns out.

Forty-eight hours later, in exchange for rather ignominiously naming the Barabel who fleeced me, I was released under Commander Skywalker’s cognizance, pending a return flight to civilisation. Apparently, he’d argued my case again to the powers that be, and that was good enough to get me out of the brig and off the ship. I didn’t particularly want the latter, but was quite pleased with the former, since it gave me an excuse to spend some time with Blue.
I’d like to be able to tell you that it was strictly professional, but I’d be lying.

To tell the truth, I was quite touched; Blue had no reason to stick his neck out for me, so the fact that he had done so without hesitation was quite flattering and very sweet. Yes, sweet. I know you don’t generally hear that and the name Luke Skywalker in the same sentence, but as it turns out you should, because he is- very.

 

 

 

“So, where are we going, your place or mine?” I had nine hours before my shuttle left and I didn’t want to waste them. I had a story to write and a pilot to get to know better. Not necessarily in that order. I admit, I was practically skipping along beside him, which made him look away to try to hide his grin.

“Where exactly is your place?” He asked.

“Actually it’s a store cupboard on level twelve, near the speeders in the Deep Storage hangers.”

“Nice. My place it is, then.”

He then completely surprised me by turning down a corridor which I knew only led to the mess hall. I stopped dead. “Where’re you going?”

Now he frowned, “To eat. Food?”

“I thought…”

Total embarrassment on everybody’s part.

“I thought you were kidding.” he said…

“No, I was serious-”

“Oh!”

“Oh? Oh!? What happened to all this ‘live for the moment’ stuff? A pilot on active duty – you might be dead this time tomorrow.”

“Thanks,” he said dryly.

“Oh, that didn’t come out right!”

“No really, keep going. This is great.”

 

 

“Is it scary? To fly in combat, I mean?”

We were in the mess now, eating processed food and trying not to look at it too closely for fear that we might recognise what it was. Blue shrugged, glancing up.

“Yeah, I guess – sometimes. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. You don’t think about it though, not when you’re up there.”

“Do you think…” I couldn’t say it. I didn’t have to.

“That you’re going to die? You think it the whole time before you go up.” His eyes became distant, “Play every scenario through in your head. Then they sound the call for the briefing, and you just get so much information crammed into your head that all you can do is try to remember it all, and you just… put everything else aside. When you’re up there, you’re way too concerned with staying alive to worry about being killed. And you just… you have a job to do, so you do it.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that. Then you come back and go to bed and lay in the dark staring at the ceiling for about six hours straight ‘cos you’re too wired to sleep.”

“Then?”

“Then you get up and do it again. But this time when you get back you just stare at the ceiling for five and three-quarter hours.”

“And so on,” I finished for him

“And so on,”

“So how long are you at?”

“Varies,” he shrugged.

“On?” I prompted.

He just shrugged again.

“How many you lost.” I realized.

“Sometimes…” he fell into uneasy silence.

“Go on…?”

He shook his head. “You just… you feel bad, ‘cos….. you know, you hear all that stuff - that after a while you stop learning the new one’s names and you try not to get talking - but… it’s not like that; not really. You know their names. You know that they have a sister on Corellia or a brother on Io. You teach them to play sabacc, ‘cos you gotta make up numbers at the table and you sit and go through the ‘fight-comp.’ test with ‘em, ‘cos they won’t pass it otherwise. They just… they wriggle through your defences. Not all of them, but enough. Enough that when you lose them ‘cos they juked left when they should have gone right or they strayed too far from their wingman or they didn’t do anything wrong at all; the other guy was just that bit faster or more experienced – enough get through that it…”

“Hurts?”

“Just leaves you…” He shrugged again, not meeting my eye, “I dunno. You swear every time that you’re never gonna do it again; you’re never gonna learn their names or let ‘em in, but… you’re human, you know? We’re all just…trying to do the right thing; trying to get through as best we can.”

The way he spoke… with such depth of feeling and such immediacy… “You just lost some pilots today?”

“Four.” He murmured, nodding, eyes on the middle-distance. “I gotta write four letters tonight, before I turn in. I actually only knew the surname of one of them… one of the others; I don’t think his folks even knew he was here.”

“What was his surname?”

“Killy- stupid name.” He half-laughed.

“What happened?” I had to ask. But he just shrugged, not wishing to be drawn.

“He died.” He said simply, then, voice forced lighter, “And he owed me four hundred from sabacc. Never play me at sabacc; I think its bad luck – you get past four or five hundred owing and that’s it. If I could call in all those credits owed, I could buy the damn fleet. I’d get some decent food in here for a start.”

I laughed, recognising that he’d changed the subject, but hey, he’d had a tough week.

Turns out that four down is a pretty good week – I just didn’t know it at the time.

 

 

 

“Welcome to my apartment. Try not to get lost.”

It was a tiny room with two single beds on opposite walls, a locker at the head of each of them, the lower half of which didn’t open because the beds were in the way, and just enough room at the foot of the beds, beside the door, for a fold-down table which was bolted to the wall and a metal mesh chair, obviously stolen from the mess-hall. The table was covered in stuff and the chair had an assortment of ex-aircraft seat pads on it in a vain attempt to make it comfy. At the opposite end of the room, a narrow door led through into one of those tiny prefab ‘freshers which are basically just wet-rooms with a pan and a sink at one end and a shower head at the other.

“Now you know why I spend all my time in the mess.” He said, not so much embarrassed as resigned.

“Cosy,” I said dryly, “Classy. I particularly like the wet towels. Nice touch.”

“Hey, you live in a locker under the stairs,” he laughed easily. He had a nice laugh, very easy-going; completely infectious. And he used it a lot, which I liked.

“I never mentioned any stairs.” I defended with mock-gravity.

“Really? There were stairs in my head.”
I was, I confess, mildly spooked by the fact that there was an emergency stair above my flop. I guess I just figured he’d seen it at some point.

 

 

 

Blue pulled a face, “Oh, what now?”

Confused, I leaned back, “What?” A scrabble at the locked door seconds later was very confusing ‘cos it was after he’d said ‘What now’.

We both looked at each-other for several seconds, Blue’s expression momentarily guilty, as if he’d been caught out. Then he broke the moment by jumping up, belaying any questions as he headed for the door, dragging his shipboard fatigues into some kind of order.

Had I put two and two together by this point? I’d like to say yes, that my keen journalistic mind was working all the angles, but it honestly never even occurred. There had been no Jedi in my lifetime, and the Empire didn’t allow any images of, or information about them onto official comm channels on the HoloNet. As far as most people were concerned, they were nothing more than a myth, a distant memory. Everyone claimed to know someone who knew someone who knew a Jedi, but no-one had actually met one themselves.
Two decades after the Empire took control, and already the Jedi were a distant memory, consigned to myth and folklore. And believe me, the Empire worked hard to keep it that way.

“Luke, you in there?” The words were muffled by the thick shipboard door.

Blue opened the door a crack, obviously surprising the other pilot, who had clearly expected to be let in and basically walked into the door.

“Wedge? What’re you doing here?” Blue said casually, still holding the door half-shut.

After doing a quick double-take at not being let in, the pilot stopped short, “Uh, you’re needed on the flight deck.”

Blue shook his head, “No, I’m not on duty ‘till the next shift.”

I think about then I started pulling at his leg, causing him to stumble back into the room slightly. The other pilot finally put two and two together at this, “You uh…busy?”

“Kinda.” Blue closed the door a little further, using his bare foot to push me back as I pulled at him.

The other pilot’s voice was full of pity, “Oh man, I am so sorry. They swapped the duty roster -you fly in fifteen minutes.”

“What?”

“What!?”

That was both of us. Blue finally opened the door, and I looked up into the grinning face of the other pilot, a dark-haired human with a suitably apologetic expression.

“Are you sure?” Blue was equal parts exasperation and suspicion.

“I swear to you. They just changed the roster about ten minutes ago. I thought you knew.”

“I didn’t check my messages.” He was fumbling into his flight suit now, shrugging the top half on over his shoulders as he checked his comm.

.

I watched Blue head reluctantly off down the corridor, then looked the other pilot up and down, “Well, thanks a lot…um.?”

“Wedge. Wedge Antilles.” He said, chagrined.

“Well thanks, ‘Wedge, Wedge Antilles’, for ruining our night.”

He backed up, hands out, “Hey, I had nothing to do with it. I didn’t request the swap, I’m just a grunt following orders.”

“Orders?” It occurred to me that the Captain had said that Blue would be responsible for me until I left, so why would he then change the duty roster around to leave me on my own? “Whose orders?”

Wedge Antilles fumbled out a small automemo from one of his many flightsuit pockets and checked, “Ohh…” his voice was very knowing as he glanced back up at Blue’s disappearing form.

“What?”

Nodding, his inference very clear, he turned the automemo around for me to see, “Princess Leia Organa.”

“Princess L… The Senator…from Alderaan?”

“Oh yeah.” Antilles nodded.

I think I actually blanched. “Wow. Stiff competition.”

“Oh yeah.” Antilles repeated.

I was still contemplating this when Antilles looked me up and down and leaned gamely on the doorframe, “So, Rogue Commander’s outta here… how does a Lieutenant-Commander sound to you?”

“He’s not even got to the end of the corridor!"

"Hey, I may be dead tomorrow..."

"Yeah, I've already used that line myself today... on Blue."

"Blue? Oh, Luke. Did it work?"

"I guess I'll never know."

"Try it on me - I'm an easy touch."

I finally turned to him, "Are all pilots this cocky?!”

He waggled his eyebrows at me, “Oh yeah.”

He just managed to back out before I shut the door in his face.

 

 

And that, I’m afraid, was the end of that. I was shipped back to the ‘Real Galaxy’ and Blue was stuck on that damn frigate.

But I knew him now, and he knew me. And that’s all you need to start a very long friendship.
That, of course, and to be roughly in the same star system. Preferably a little closer than that.

But I was already working work on it…

 


 


 

Set between A New Hope and Empire, the following is a short, light-hearted vignette/missing scene done for fun. Han’s always the first to know and Luke feels he’s always the last, but this is the kind of dubious honour that no-one should have to face this early on a morning.

 

Number One

 

“Hey, hey, hey. Have you checked the listings today?” Han dropped into the seat opposite Luke in the crowded Mess hall of the massive Mon Cal cruiser, the background buzz of changing shifts reverberating off bare metal walls.

“What?” Luke was barely awake, mug in hand, hair still wet from the shower, his orange flightsuit shrugged off his shoulders and tied round his waist.

“Listings. Fifth of the month; new list is out.” Han was offensively alert, , waving an automemo under his friend’s nose.

“Han….”

“Who’s hot and who’s not…”

“…I hope this is going somewhere…”

“Oh, yeah.”

“…‘cos I haven’t even had breakfast yet and I’ve got a briefing in…”

“When?”

“Ten minutes.”

“Plenty of time.”

“To?”

“Read the listings!” Han placed the already-activated pad on the table before Luke, who spun it round, defeated. “What listings?”

“Most Wanted.”

Luke frowned, “You read those?”

“Every month.”

“... Why??” It was all Luke could think to say this early in the morning. He dropped his head face-down onto his outstretched arm, which was resting on the open-weave mesh of the plassteel table. The bang spilled the kaff over the edge of his mug to splash between the open mesh and onto his flightsuit. It burn his leg and he couldn’t be bothered to move.

“It’s kinda like the smuggler’s version of Who’s Who. Y’know, who’s moved up the rankings, who’s moved down, who can charge more now, who’s dead…”

“Nice.” Luke’s muffled voice replied.

Han slid the memo between the table and Luke’s head, “Read.”

Luke lifted his head with a sigh and looked down the list, “So what is this, some…” His voice trailed off...

“Is that me!?”

“Yeah!” Han had a wide grin on his face, a mixture of amusement and excitement.

For some inexplicable reason, Luke turned the automemo over to look at the back, then looked at the screen again.

“This can’t be right…”

Han levelled both hands at him, index fingers pointing, “You’re number one!!”

Luke stared at Han for a long time before finally asking, “Is this a joke?”

“Number one!!” Han said.

“This isn’t right,” Luke repeated.

“Number one!!”

“Would you stop it?”

“What? This is great!”

“No it’s not!” Luke said in no uncertain terms, “How come I’m number one? I was like, nine hundred and ninety nine last month.”

Han fell to mock seriousness, “Yeah, what did you do last week? Anything come to mind?”

“No, and I’m sure something would.” Luke said dryly as he rose to his feet, heading out of the Mess with Han in tow, tapping the automemo.

“Hey, have you seen how much you’re worth?”

“There’s a reward!?”

“I could buy a new Falcon. Hell, I could buy a whole Fleet of ‘em!”

Luke stopped dead in the corridor, so that Han almost barrelled into him.

“Six million!!”

“That’s alive only, if it makes you feel any better.” Han said, reaching studiously over Luke’s shoulder to point this fact out on the automemo.

“Thank-you. I feel so much better now.” Luke muttered, picking up his pace again, heading for the Command Centre against a flow of Blue Group pilots coming the opposite way.

Han reached round, tapping at the screen again as they walked, practically crowing. “Look how much number two’s worth…”

Luke glanced down at Mon Mothma’s name, second in the listing, “One million! Why am I six!?”

Han shrugged, “Hey, it’s the Empire. They got credit to burn.”

“Well I wish they’d stop trying to light it all under me.” Luke said uneasily, setting off again.

As he walked down the crowded corridor, a Blue-Group pilot he knew grinned as he rushed past, “Hey, Luke- Number One!!”

“Great.” Luke muttered, turning to shout after him as he continued walking backwards, “It’s wrong!”

His back to the flow of people, Luke missed someone who patted him on the back, commenting, “Congratulations!”

“Hey, thanks!” Han crowed happily, arm settling about Luke’s shoulder like a proud big brother.

“Stop thanking them!” Luke said.

“What?” Han held his arms out before him in mock-innocence.

From somewhere in the group, another pilot shouted, “Hey Luke! Made it to the big time!”

As a Blue-Group ‘tech passed, Luke heard the receding conversation continue in the gaggle of pilots, “What’s going on?”

“Oh Commander Skywalker’s been bumped up to number one in the Most Wanted…”

Han leaned in, one arm still round Luke’s shoulder, pointing at him as he shouted to the receding group, “Number one! My buddy!”

“Would you stop it!” Luke shook free. “Does everybody read this?!”

“Well y’know, with big news like this, it only takes a few… plus the ‘techs know now, so it’ll be all over the ship in an hour.” Han fixed the kid with a serious look, wondering why he was so upset about this, “Hey, some people work their whole lives and never even get into the top hundred – you…”

“Luke!” Leia’s voice cut in from a side corridor as she rushed toward him.

“Hey, your Worship,” Han grinned smugly, “Heard the news?”

Leia didn’t spare him a glance, “Yes I’ve heard the news.”

“What did I do?” Luke was turning the automemo around for Leia to see.

She took Luke’s arm, guiding him toward the Command Centre. “I don’t know. We’ve contacted the Bothans, but best guess is that they’ve finally gotten the name of the pilot who shot down the Death Star.”

Luke frowned, “Really? That’s it?”

Han grinned, tagging along. “Well it was pretty big. Probably cost 'em a lot of credits to get that thing up and running. And you know they have no sense of humour about this kinda…”

Leia turned on him, “If you have nothing useful to say, Captain Solo, then you should…”

“Hey that was useful. It was pretty big.” Han had his lopsided ‘hurt/indignant’ expression on now as they passed into the Command Centre.

Luke glanced back at his friend before turning to Leia, his voice that of the boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar when he hadn’t been alone. “Well why didn’t Han get listed? He was there too!?”

Han stopped short at that, “Yeah, why didn’t I get bumped up?”

Leia turned, “Have you checked the list?”

“No, I didn’t get past the top…lemme look at that!” Han grabbed the automemo off Luke as the General walked over, nodding to Luke. “Commander Skywalker.”

“General Rieekan.” Though there tended to be no such formality as saluting in the Alliance, Luke stood a little straighter out of respect for his senior.

“I guess you’re wondering what’s going on?” the older man said gravely.

“Just a little, sir.”

The General took a step to the side to indicate his cluttered office, “I think you should come through. You too, your Highness.” Luke and Leia exchanged worried glances.

In the ensuing silence, as the Command Staff all stared mournfully at Luke, looking altogether too much like they were taking a last look, Han’s voice sounded particularly loud, “Hey, I’m in the top twenty!” He glanced around, belatedly realising that it had gone quiet, “Sorry.”

Rieekan turned back to regard the smuggler, “You too, Captain Solo. This concerns you.”

 

 

Rieekan closed his door on the worried faces of his staff before turning. “We’ve just received some very interesting information from our Bothan spies."

“Regarding this?” Leia prompted.

She and Luke were already seated before the desk, Han pulling up a chair from the corner of the room and slouching loosely into it as the General settled opposite them.

He glanced at the memopad, “That may be the least of our worries. It seems that the Empire did finally find out your name about three weeks ago, Commander. The Bothans placed a tag on it when they knew, and it highlighted multiple searches being carried out all over the HoloNet for the past few weeks. Most of them by Imperial Intelligence- but quite a few traced back to Black Sun.”

That focused Solo’s attention, alarm pulling him upright again. “Black Sun? What do those carrion-eaters want?”

“The same as the Empire, it seems,” At this the General turned to Luke, “To find out who you are.”

Luke frowned, “Am I the only one here who thinks this is a bit of overkill?” He tripped over the last word, realising what he’d said.

“Commander, is there anything you can tell us, in absolute confidence, about why they would be so interested in you? Something in the past, perhaps?”

“Nothing that you don’t already know, General. I don’t…” Luke hesitated, mildly embarrassed about how little he actually knew of his own past, “I don’t…have a lot of information.”

Now, it seemed bizarre how little he knew, but growing up his aunt and uncle had always acted as if it was perfectly normal that he had just arrived at their farmstead with no documents and no past history, citing only that he was the son of uncle Owen's fly-by-night brother. But then on rim worlds like Tatooine it really was; rules and regulations took second place to daily survival; people just didn’t always bother to register births and deaths, and there were no such things as orphanages on Rim planets. Lone children either got taken in or they didn’t.

The General sighed as he spoke. “The Bothans began their own covert searches to try to track something down which might be of help. This morning, about two hours before The M.W. list was released, all references to your name were struck off the HoloNet. Everything- every single reference. You don’t exist, Commander Skywalker. As of today, you never did.”

Leia frowned, her hand reaching out to rest on Luke’s arm, “Why would they do that?”

Rieekan shrugged, “It’s not common practice to remove ID records- particularly off the main database on Coruscant. We can only presume that the Empire found something out, and now they want to be sure that no-one else will ever know.”

The General sighed, and Luke had the uneasy feeling that the worst news was yet to come.

“General?” Leia asked, clearly on edge.

“We also received an intelligence communiqué a short time ago,” His eyes turned from Leia to Luke, his expression grave, “Lord Vader has personally been charged with finding you. He presently has a fleet of twelve Star Destroyers and twenty-four Frigates placed at his disposal, along with the services of Intelligence and Special Ops.”

Rieekan delivered this all in one single blow, as he tended to do with bad news.

“Really?” Han blurted out, turning to Luke, this time absolutely serious, “What did you do?”

Luke could only turn to stare at him, mouth slightly open, dumbstruck.

“I’ll give you a few minutes.” The General rose to leave.

Luke half rose too, “Wait a minute… Star Destroyers?!”

“You should know, Commander, that we will of course do our very best to offer our continued protection. You’re among friends here. You’re a good officer and I’m proud to have worked with you.”

Luke had the uneasy feeling that he was listening to his own obituary.

The General closed the door behind him and for a few minutes, Luke, Leia and Han sat in silence.

“You know, I woke up this morning and my biggest problem was that there was no hot water for a shower.” Luke observed, feeling strangely calm now.

“Oh c’mon.” Han said vaguely, lost in thought, “You were already a member of the Rebellion. I mean, that carries a statutory death penalty anyway...”

“Han!” Leia’s voice was incredulous.

“Sorry.” Han’s apology was genuine, “Opened my mouth before I put my brain in gear.”

Luke laughed lightly, still not able to really take it all in. “Twelve Star Destroyers!?”

He had, of course, always known that as a Rebel, he had the death penalty sitting over his head; they all did. But this…this was personal. “Twelve.”

“Yeah.” Han glanced down, “You’d think if they can’t get you with one…”

Leia bristled, “Can you ever say the right thing?”

“What? I’m just trying to help lighten the mood, your Worshipfulness!!”

“If you want to help, then help us figure out why the Empire want Luke this badly.”

“Does it matter? It’s twelve Star Destroyers- you’re just as dead.”

“Thanks.” Luke said dryly.

“Han!” Leia was at her wit’s end.

“Just look at it this way, kid- you may die tomorrow in a regular malfunction on your X-Wing…”

“Great.” Luke deadpanned, nodding.

“You’re not helping.” Leia bit out.

“Look, you’d be far better trying to figure out what they’re gonna do to try to… wait a minute…” Han turned back to his automemo and keyed pages up.

Leia turned to Luke, “Is there anything you can think of Luke. Anything at all?”

“Not really. Except that it’s weird that this all happened the moment they had my name.”

“I guess they had something to work on.”

“But if they wanted me so badly, they surely would have put more effort into finding me before now, regardless of whether they had a name or not...”

Han interrupted by slamming the ‘memo onto the desk, exasperated. “Great- we’re KA’s.”

Leia frowned, “What?”

“You, me and the Wook. We’re KA’s- ‘Known Associates’. We only made it into the top twenty Most Wanted because we’re an easy way to get to Luke.”

Leia shook her head, not bothering to point out that she’d been in the top ten for the last two years “Could we focus on the actual problem here?”

“The actual problem is that the Empire is after us all now.” Han griped, waving the automemo, “Twelve Destroyers!”

Luke couldn’t resist; “Well look at it this way, Han- you may die tomorrow in a regular malfunction onboard the Falcon.”

“That’s not funny.”

“In fact, considering how that thing’s wired up…”

“Hey, junior; there’s nothing wrong with her wiring.”

“No, Han. Just yours.” Luke said.

“Now just…” Han frowned again, keying the ‘memo as something occurred. “This isn’t so bad; we’re “Alive Only’ too.”

Luke frowned, “What?”

“We’re all ‘Alive Only’. This is great!”

“Because?” Luke prompted.

“Because, Kid, they can’t kill us. They need to take us in alive or we’re worth squat.”

Luke raised his eyebrows, “And what exactly do you think they’re gonna do when they catch us, Han?”

Han frowned, “I dunno…it is kinda weird, isn’t it?”

Leia leaned around Luke as they both turned to look sideways on toward Han, their expressions equal parts amusement and disbelief.

Han raised his eyebrows, indignant before two faces, both conveying an uncannily similar expression.

“I’ll tell you why they’re chasin’ after you- it’s ‘cos you keep on wearin’ that damn thing!” He gestured to the lightsaber at Luke’s hip and Luke moved his hand protectively over his father’s sabre hilt.

Leia frowned, considering, “Maybe you’re right- but then they weren’t using a whole Battle Group to look for General Kenobi.”

“Yeah, well Kenobi didn’t just blow up their very expensive Death Star.”

Luke considered, glancing back to Han, “But Ben was a fully trained Jedi- surely…”

“Look,” Han leaned back, voice mellowing a little, “No offence, but did you ever actually see the old man do anything?”

Luke sat up, affronted, “Yes!”

Han sat back, hands before him, knowing this was a lost cause; kid wouldn’t have a bad word said against the crazy old hobo. “Fine- whatever. I’m just sayin’…”

“I think it’s more likely they didn’t even know he was alive.” Leia said, considering.

“And since when did you start believing in the Force anyway!?” Luke challenged, eyes still on Han.

“Not sayin’ I do kid,” Han replied, unoffended, “But if I was the Emperor, well...” he grinned, trailing off the point a little, eyes rolling skyward, “First, obviously, I’d have a humongous party, but then, I’d probably get to thinkin’ that since, I’d pretty much managed to hack off every known sentient species in the galaxy, what I could really do without is someone standin’ up and claiming to be a Jedi to give all those gullibles out there some kind of universal symbol to rally round. If I were Emperor.”
He paused a moment, but just couldn’t help but tag on, “Also I’d institute a three-day working week an’ have an Inter-planetary Han Solo Appreciation Day.”

“Don’t buy the bunting just yet, hotshot.” Leia countered, glaring.
The annoying thing was, in between all that attitude, he could actually be right- the appearance of a new Jedi really would provide a cause to rally round and the Empire could easily be afraid of just that. She hadn’t really thought of it in those terms before, probably because she knew Luke so well. He was… well, he was Luke.
But she also couldn’t ignore the popularity he’d gained already here; he was a good leader, steadfast and committed and all too willing to lead from the front – to get in there with the troops. He inspired trust in everyone in his command and with less than a year as Wing Commander of Rogue Group there was already talk of promoting him to Unit Commander. He’d make a great General one day… if he lived that long.
But she sure wasn’t about to give Han the credit for pointing that out.

Then again she didn’t need to- he took it anyway, leaning back with his fingers laced behind his head, “Tell me it’s not the best reason you have, doll.”

Luke frowned, ignoring the endless grudge-match between the Corellian and the Princess, considering the facts, “If it’s because I’m training to be a Jedi, then why put a whole Battle Group on me and draw attention to the fact?”

Han considered, remaining still.

“Well?” Leia prompted, enjoying seeing Solo squirm a little.

“Hey, I don’t have all the answers.” Han countered, unflustered. He glanced to Luke, and felt a quick pang of guilt at the hunted look in the kid’s eye.

Better get used to the feelin’ kid, he reflected ruefully, It’s not going away any time soon. “Look, maybe it’s all of the above, you know? It’s not bad enough that someone appears from nowhere carrying a lightsaber, in the company of an ex-Clone Wars General, and starts saying they’re a Jedi – they also just made an impossible shot which destroyed one of the biggest, most expensive pieces of hardware the Empire’s ever built, and they’re fightin’ for the Rebellion. That kinda thing gets around and they’re gonna want to stop it… dead.”
He leaned up, slapping Luke on the shoulder, brightening the mood again, refusing to be pulled down by this- or let the kid be. “But hey, look on the bright side. What I do have the answer to, is what we’re gonna do about it, Kid.”

Luke looked up with the expression of someone who’d just been told to put their hand in a closed box to see if something bit them, “Which is?”

Han stood, guiding Luke up and to the door with a quick, knowing wink at her Worship, who would probably disapprove, but what the hell. “First, I’m takin’ you to the Falcon where me, you and Chewie are gonna get fall-down drunk, then we’re gonna spend a few hours cursin’ out the Empire, the Emperor and the galaxy at large… Then we gotta come up with a plan, ‘cos the way I figure it is this, if we can work out a way to hand you over, collect the bounty, then bust you out three times in a row, we can all retire…”

 

 


 

 


 

A short vignette set in between the original and new trilogies, just post-ROTS and very pre-ANH.

 

 

ALREADY DEAD / ANGEL

 

 

"I’m already dead- I just haven’t hit the ground yet.
Already dead, looking into the face of an angel-"

 

 

We hit the clearing in the dense, rust-leaved trees at a slow run; three of us, the rear guard- me, Tosh and the Lieutenant. My ID is BB-3288; Tosh is DV-1064. We always end up on the rear guard ‘cos alphabetically we’re first. I hate being the rear guard.

We were making good time, trying to reach the front line. Trying to find some general called Vos and a group of Special Ops, like us; we’re Beta Three, Special Ops; the Blues.

The rest of the unit was up ahead with Captain Dean and no sign of the enemy; all quiet.

Too quiet; you get a second sense for that kind of thing if you manage to live long enough. We were pretty close to the front lines now, so when we got the warning- that there were Separatist tag troops in our vicinity- we weren’t really surprised. They’d sent us co-ordinates for the Front Line position and Beta Three; we weren’t more than a few minutes away.

Captain Dean, our Unit Commander and the only non-clone, was telling everyone to be quiet; too many voices on the ‘comm. Someone said there was a Jedi with the Separatists… someone always says that sooner or later. Too much chatter, Captain Dean said- quiet up…

And they did.

That was the last we heard from them- ever.

Took us about a minute to realise it was too quiet; no-one’s that quiet unless they’re lying low. The Lieutenant hunkered down and we did the same for a minute or two, waiting for the all-clear… and waiting…

Finally we set out along the co-ordinates we had, heading on the last known path.

When we heard the rustle of leaves ahead, we all backed into the greenery and kept quiet.

Familiar green low-visibility cammo stepped out of the shadows on the path, the other SO Unit coming toward us from maybe a hundred yards ahead; six ‘troopers in forest green armour and leading them… leading them was an angel. Shock blond hair, sky blue eyes, like a summer day.

We stepped out of cover and she smiled- and damn, those summer eyes lit up her face like a sunburst.

I didn’t see the rest; didn’t see the dirty, baggy clothes she was wearing; standard army greens. Didn’t see the spatter of crimson on them. Didn’t really see the men she was leading; you know troopers; we all look the same.

She twisted about slightly as she saw me, smile breaking a second in surprise- but just a split-second, then she stepped confidently forward, hand out, gesturing; keep low- keep quiet.

“Lieutenant,” She whispered in acknowledgment, stepping close to him. “You the rear guard?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“You need to stay down. There’s a Separatist tag group in this area. Rest of Beta group are at the front line just ahead.”

She pointed in the direction she’d come, staggering back a half-step in the dense undergrowth. She turned back and I guess I caught her eye ‘cos I was still just starin’ at her. Dirty face; didn’t matter though, she was still amazing. Her hair was caramel blond, cut short and curling every which way. She had a twig in it. She half-smiled, brushing at an insect near her face then turning to point back down the half-dark path. “Stay down; we’re waiting for an all-clear signal. Keep your eyes peeled though…”

It was just the slightest move, the subtlest change in bodyweight then she wheeled back round-

The saber cut me from hip to shoulder. Took out Tosh and the Lieutenant on the backstroke, then was extuinguished, not a single shot fired.

They say your whole life rushes before your eyes. How the hell long do they think you have?

I saw a minute… less. Saw that last minute all over again…

I saw her walk out again, crystal clear.

Saw those baggy cammo’s- too big; they didn’t fit her right. Saw the spatter of blood on them.

Saw her twist slightly as she saw us- concealing the sabre hilt she held behind her body.

Saw her smile as she stepped forward to strike range, hand out as if in friendly warning. One hand; the other held her saber.

Saw the name on those baggy army cammo’s; Beta Three. Cpt. Dean.

Saw her walk up to me; saw that split second she turned side-on to glance behind her- Saw the movement disguise her smoothly switching hands with the saber hilt behind her back, bringing her other hand up now so we’d seen both hands empty.

Saw her point back to draw our attention away from her.

Saw her take a half-step back to fine-tune her position now she was up close and there were all three of us in front of her.

Saw her casually bring her hand back and past her eyes, like she was swattin’ a bug – to break my gaze when I didn’t look away with the other two - then gesture, pointing back again to draw my eye.

She was already moving as I looked away to where she was pointing…

Man, she was fast…

By the time I turned back the blade was through my body. She caught the others on the same backswing, needing only to move one leg to reach us all, extuinguishing the saber before it was heard. Clean kill.

And I was still looking at those sky-blue eyes, framed by that halo of caramel-blond hair.

She was still smiling.

I’m dead- I just haven’t hit the ground yet.

Looking into those angel eyes…