Star Wars: Homecoming. From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker. By Nickamano This story takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back - following Luke's trip to Ord Mantell and prior to the Rebel's setting up their base on Hoth: 1. The passage of time is all but meaningless in space. There are no visible signs of it, ignoring the fixed chronometers inside star ships, no natural light changes, no seasons or changes in temperature. Besides, those same fixed chronometers change to planet-time automatically when entering orbit. You could leave a planet at dawn, travel for an hour and arrive on another world in the middle of the night, or at sunset, or an hour before dawn, making you feel you had lost a day, or countless days, or even travelled backward in time. And Hyperspace travel is measured in the passage of hours or days and recorded as a measure of distance. It was something that Luke Skywalker was still trying to get used to. Prior to his introductory trip on board the Millennium Falcon, the trip that started him off on his life changing journey, he hadn't really travelled off-world before. The other thing he was finding the need to get used to was the cold. Even with the interior ship's heaters active he felt it. Because of coming from a hot desert planet he supposed. He tried to dress warmly choosing from the handful of Biggs’ posthumously donated belongings. Over a sky blue shirt and multi-pocketed, clay coloured utility trousers, he wore a thickly padded and insulated tan and clay jacket, similar in design to the one he'd worn for the post Death Star battle award ceremony and it had the same kind of cut and sleeve ribbing. He had it fastened up to his throat and he was still cold, barely shaking off a wintry shiver. Not that he would really know what a wintry shiver felt like, coming from Tatooine. Sitting low in the well padded pilot’s seat, he was hunched forward, arms crossed around his slender torso, hands trapped under his armpits to warm them. Luke had been given a ship of his own. Not a one man snub fighter like the T-65 he had piloted against the Death Star, this was a passenger freighter, similar in class and size to Han's Heap-of-Junk. This one, also of Corellian construction, was a YT-1500 a linear model variation on the YT-1300 that Han’s ship had started out as. This transport also carried the rather strange designation: Serpion Helletic. The linear design was at the same time comforting - as it was easy to find your way around, and dull - there was none of the mystique developed by the Falcon's almost maze-like interior layout. The Serpion Helletic was a straight line. A single central corridor provided access to all portions of the ship, the chambers located to starboard and port of the central main hold, like ribs from a sternum. An engineering and medical bay were situated aft, just forward of the sublight engines, followed by a bisecting cross corridor, encompassing the starboard and port docking rings and the egress ramp. Then the main corridor continued the length of the ship, dividing the four central cargo holds, two on each side, before opening out into the main hold. Two of the four cargo holds had been converted to passenger accommodation and a head, while the other two carried consumables, supplies and spare parts. The dual turbo laser turret access ladder was fore of the main hold, as it narrowed back into the central corridor and finally terminated at the cockpit, which was just about identical to the Falcon's, though with a fresher finish and devoid of a lot of the extra features Han had implanted into his own ship. Artoo Detoo was positioned just behind the rear left passenger seat, plugged into the Helletic’s navigational computer, checking through software routines and, on Luke's instruction, seeing where possible improvements could be made. The assigned co-pilot, Livelle Oren, was a thirty-something, slightly grizzled Alderaanian auxiliary and light freighter pilot. He had recently lost his wife during a meaningless skirmish against an Imperial patrol on one of the core worlds and therefore was in no mood to do anything but sit and brood after loosing every member of his family and almost all of his friends when Alderaan had been destroyed. It was understandable of course, he was grieving, but Luke was excited about the mission and his youthful exuberance had been rubbing Oren up the wrong way since he'd taken his seat in the cockpit. Now he was complaining about the ambient temperature Luke had set, and then suddenly, in an obvious huff, said he was going to check on things aft. He abruptly left his seat and immediately afterward, the cockpit. Almost knocking Artoo flying in the flurry of his hasty, bad tempered departure and leaving the co-pilot's seat practically spinning on it's axis in his wake. Luke found himself alone with his thoughts. He did feel guilty about how he'd not been able to make the soldier feel any better, but realistically he knew there wouldn't be anything that could, and that it wasn't Luke he was angry with in the first place. At the same time, however, Luke had always been good at accidentally rubbing people up the wrong way. It had been the case with most of his friends back home. Looking back on things as he recollected, Biggs had been the only one who seemed to understand him. Understand his passions, his excitement over things the others found mundane. Biggs had displayed a level of patience toward Luke the others never had, had allowed Luke to shoot his mouth off, and dance around with details before he finally got around to the crux of the matter. None of the others seemed to have shared that ability or patience with Luke. Tank had shown more patience than most, but that was more due to his respect for Luke's ability in a Skyhopper than anything deeper. Secretly Luke had always yearned for the sort of respect Biggs had shown him developing in Camie but in reality she was often the worst of the lot. And Fixer, acutely aware (though thankfully silent) of Luke's obvious feelings for Camie, had always been slightly suspicious of him and all too often took pleasure in verbally degrading him too. Luke wondered for a while how he had always thought so highly of that bunch. In reality it was only Biggs who had given him much more than the time of day. And now Biggs was gone. And he enjoyed more regard and respect from Leia, Han and Chewcacca and newer friends like Wedge Antillies and Toryn Farr, than he had ever been afforded by his so called friends on Tatooine. He was missing Toryn since he'd returned to the fleet from Ord Mantell. Half it's strength had split away to make the possibility of tracking more difficult and Toryn had been assigned to the organisational command staff on the departed half of the fleet. They would meet up again on the new base, of course, but who knew what would happen then. Things in his life were moving so fast these days and so unpredictably that planning for a possible future was nothing more than a dream. The same sort of dreams he'd wasted his time on, standing on those sand dunes at sun's-set at his old homestead. Luke found himself with a sudden realisation - that he actually missed his home and he felt a sudden momentary need to feel a connection to the place again. To see the garage, or his sleeping quarters. Even feel the hot air blasting his skin, the dry patter of sand showers. And that often dreamed of view of those two setting suns bathing in the dancing heat haze of the horizon. There was nothing there for him any longer and he knew it, but it had been the only place he'd known and felt comfortable in before the Empire had changed the course of his life. He turned to the navigational charts and flicked through the on screen display, picking out quadrants, systems and planets at random, selecting systems he had heard of and trying to familiarise himself with them more fully. He was quickly surprised at how close the Gesuun system to which they were headed, was to that of his home world and then that nostalgic yearning had him looking more closely at the chart entry for Tatooine, the twin binary stars and their surrounding planets and moons. Gesuun was another of those insignificant systems about halfway between Tatooine and Rothana. Very little of interest there and only one inhabitable location. The third moon of the planet Murkas was three quarters oceanic, the rest was tundra. There was nothing significant, other than the natives, who were generally farmers by trade. The oceans had a high salt content so the only drinkable water came from rainfall and any streams fuelled by rainfall. According to the navigational history text, early on settlers had tried to form a business in partnership with Tatooine, trying to harvest the water and transport it to the desert world for cultivation. But a reaction between the natural heat of one world and the salt content of the other caused the water to turn toxic and the business fell through so settlers' interest in the potential wealth of both Outer rim worlds dried up quickly. Only a few settlers, probably those too poor to leave, remained behind to farm along with the Humanoid natives. Luke found himself reading the texts of both Murkas 3 and Tatooine over and over. Even their respective Hyperspace coordinates settled into his brain. He supposed the idea of being so close to home was probably influencing his subconscious in some way. He thought about the last time he'd seen Biggs on their home world, and realised abruptly that it had been the start of it all. That outer orbit space battle that he had later learned had been Princess Leia failing to reach Ben Kenobi on Tatooine. Instead she'd been captured and taken to the Death Star, leaving behind her droids to incidentally ensnare both Ben and then Luke into the Rebellion war. Luke had been on one of the moisture fields repairing a vaporator when he'd seen the battle through his macrobinoculars. He had gone shooting over to Anchorhead to tell his friends about it. At the time he had mostly wanted to impress Camie, he remembered thinking about her on the trip across the dunes to their little Toche Station hang-out on the outskirts of Anchorhead, picturing her relaxing back on one of the sales office recliners, his imagination rolling exquisitely across her sultry curves and pronounced beauty. But once he'd got to the station and he had spotted Biggs, all thoughts of Camie had been whipped out of his mind by the new excitement - of the surprise return of his best friend. Then followed the disappointment at the prospect of it being the last time he would see his friend and worrying thoughts of Biggs trying to jump ship and join the Rebel Alliance. But he had done exactly that. And a day or two later, thanks to Artoo and Threepio, Luke had done the same thing. And now here he was captaining his own ship and employed as a Rebel General's pilot and bodyguard. <><><> The final mission briefing took place on the chime of the hour in the dimly illuminated main hold. Artoo Detoo remained in the cockpit, monitoring the autopilot and the Navigational computers, while the four Humans occupied the main hold, forming a loose circle. General Dodonna and his aide sat on the padded semicircular couch beside the ubiquitous Dejarik game board that, at this time, played host to a holo-emitter and their beverages. Oren, the Alderaanian co-pilot, took possession of one of the fold-down seats bolted to the starboard bulkhead, opposite the General. Luke took the swivelling seat that was bolted down in front of the main hold's engineering station, alongside the General and aide. An expectant silence fell once everyone was seated, only broken by the natural metabolic sounds and guttural vibrations of a star ship in hyperspace. All eyes were on the General, as always, whenever he entered a room or opened his mouth to speak but at the moment he was exchanging subdued words with his aide. “…Very well then,” The General said, his gravelly voice rising in volume to encompass Luke and Oren, announcing the conclusion of the private exchange. “Let’s begin.” “This should be a simple low risk operation, but with the Empire we always need to take precautions. That’s why you, Commander Skywalker and you, Lieutenant Oren, have been assigned to me as well.” Luke glanced across at Oren, who was field stripping his DH-17 service sidearm. He was dressed in, from what Luke had gathered, was standard Alderaan Defence Force uniform - grey utility trousers, blue high-collar shirt, black waistcoat, brown utility belt and black boots. There was a long grey coat folded in his lap with another blaster laid across it, which seemed to be next in line for cleaning and checking. His eyes lifted to the General’s when his name was voiced but the field strip and check went on without pause. “We do not anticipate any problems, but it’s best to be prepared. As you know your destination is a hamlet town on Murkas 3, I’m meeting up with an old acquaintance named Blissex. The plan is to sit at a café table and chat. And then go our separate ways. And that’s all.” “So you’re just worried about being identified as a member of the Alliance?” Luke put in. And was immediately taken over by Oren’s addendum. “Or recognised by spies, sympathisers, Bounty Hunters, criminals, Black Sun, locals wanting to bolster their finances…” Luke’s gaze snapped over at the older Human who shrugged and lifted up the other blaster. It was a larger carbine, fat and bulky with a wide pulse adaptor cowl over the barrel and a folding stock. Though inexperienced with small arms, Luke used to have a data pad catalogue passed to him from Biggs that contained specs and diagrams of most contemporary civilian and military weaponry and he recognised the design as an old Merr-Sonn L1A. “There is an Imperial base not far away…” The Aide put in. He was aged somewhere between Oren and Dodonna, greying hair and a pale, lined face. He was dressed in a long sleeveless blue robe, open fronted, which revealed a simple pale blue shirt and immaculately cut cerulean trousers and black boots. He was unarmed and carried a large data pad style tablet cradled in one arm. The General, himself wearing tan and cream garments with over robes and brown boots, nodded at his aide’s comment but gave it little more in the way of attention. “The main concern is the man I’m meeting. He is technically employed by the Empire. I trust him but if he’s followed or his plan to meet me found out beforehand, we could all be walking into a trap.” Dodonna elaborated gravely. “In that case, we spring the trap and shoot our way out!” Oren grunted matter-of-factly. Then he slapped the large power pack into the matt black carbine and flicked the activation switch, as if to prove the validity of his assurance. General Dodonna grunted but said nothing. Luke thought the noise seemed slightly disapproving. <><><> They were still an hour from orbit and there was little else to do in that time but everyone attempted to busy themselves nonetheless. Luke wandered around his ship proudly, it was almost familiar to him, due to the similarity with the Millennium Falcon, he supposed. That same dim illumination that created a sense that you were in metallic cave. That spicy under-scent of engine oil and plasteel. That slightly grimy texture under foot, like a light mixture of grease and dust. The conditioned heat trying and failing, at least for him, to hold back the omnipresent cold of space. The recycled air that was almost but not quite stale. Holds three and four were full of assorted sized crates of what was probably none descript stuff. Spare parts, sealed containers that could contain just about anything imaginable but was more than likely boring everyday junk. Though to the rear of hold four, near the cargo doors that opened directly to the docking ring cross-corridor, was a small thirty year old FC-20 speeder bike. At first glance Luke noticed the bike had been fitted with an additional sensor cluster and an improved, more modern, repulsor drive. One of the ship’s ceiling lights was above the speeder and cast it’s beam across the semi circular chassis, dust motes dancing in the artificial gravity. The transport was old with a dull finish but seemed relatively well maintained. Luke turned away and stepped through the sliding door that brought him to the rear of the ship, right next to the sealed boarding ramp, the entrance to the engineering and medical bays was to his right along the opposite bulkhead. The main hold was behind him and he could just about hear the muted conversation of the General and his aide over the thrumming vibration and noise of the engines to the rear. Luke turned his back on the engineering room and headed toward the front of the ship, taking the third starboard door into the pilot’s quarters. He half expected Oren to be inside but the co-pilot wasn’t. Maybe he was in the cockpit. The pilot’s quarters was a small square chamber with two bunks that formed an 'L' shape against the left and far wall with closet and cupboard space built into the bunk surround. And, as captain, Luke also had an extra floor to ceiling closet at the foot of his bunk. Not that he needed that much room, his own meagre belongings barely took up half of the closet space available to him. He sat on his padded bunk with it’s neatly tucked in covers and pulled open a drawer beside his booted feet. Inside was the blaster rig that Biggs had left him posthumously. Holstered in it was the DL-44 that Han had donated not long after. Luke leaned with his back against the wall of his bunk and drew the BlasTech pistol. He checked the power pack and the gas chamber were to capacity and powered up and then re-holstered the heavy weapon. Before belting the rig securely to his hip. The lightsaber was kept separate to his other belongings, his most prized possession, a gift from his friend and mentor and the only direct connection to his deceased Father. According to Ben, Anakin Skywalker had held, carried and fought with this weapon, maintained it and cared for it. His fingerprints would have been on it’s surface, his essence imbibed into it’s chrome and plasteel. When he held the cold and heavy device, sometimes he could swear he could almost feel his father’s presence, the way a familiar taste or smell can conjure a long forgotten memory. There was a wide horizontal pocket in the back of his utility jacket, probably designed to house tools, and it was the perfect fit for the lightsaber. He pushed open the flap in the inside of the lining and sheathed the eleven inch hilt, it fit snugly into the concave curve of the small of his back, well concealed and comfortable. After dropping some food capsules into one utility belt pouch and a comlink into another, he resurfaced into the main hold and then headed for the cockpit to join his co-pilot for the hyperspace descent into the Gesuun system. <><><> Manual piloting of a starship was essentially the same as flying an airspeeder and Luke had taken to the skills like a natural. Engines provided thrust, repulsors and thrusters provided manoeuvrability and the basic cockpit controls were more or less the same. More complicated flight like Hyperspace travel was all but controlled by automated navigational computers anyway, all the pilot had to do was punch in the co-ordinates. As for landing, the only differences lay in the use of manoeuvring thrusters in place of less powerful repulsors, timing and details like the lowering of the landing gear. The difficulties like micro-meteors and gravitational influences on course were all controlled automatically. Almost all space fairing craft were vertical take off and landing and any uncertainty in position over a landing platform or docking bay only required a deep breath, patience and a light touch on the control yoke. Luke activated the sensor computer to complete the Orbital Assessment to acquire a safe orbital trajectory pass through the Gesuun system to an orbital descent of Murkas’ third moon. He flew the Serpion Helletic without incident through the upper atmosphere and emerged from the high, white on grey, cloud bank. Rain droplets were heavy within the blue dawn between upper and lower cloud layers, casting chaotic rainbows of colour in all directions across the viewport. A shadow abruptly passed across the lower blanket of the all concealing grey white cloud, it was vaguely rectangular in shape and seemed to be shrinking in size while growing in density. Luke felt a tingle pass through his body, he watched numbly as the shadow darkened then burst free of the cloud right into his path of descent. It was a passenger transport, a privately owned and obviously souped up Aavman 11 series Yacht, some rich playboy’s pride and joy taken out for a joy ride. It was already opening up with it‘s sub-light‘s and was maintaining a dangerous and very illegal departure course, it‘s trajectory certain to collide with Luke‘s freighter. And by the time Luke realised he would have to take evasive action to avoid a certainly fatal crash, it was already too late. Fortunately, the tingle in his hands had done the job for him, or more accurately, the Force had given him a heads up. Subconsciously, while his eyes were absorbing light through the viewport and his brain interpreting the meaning behind what he was seeing, The Force had taken over his body and smoothly drawn the control yoke about, veering the Helletic around and down so it dipped below and away from the speeding Yacht. Luke’s eyes caught up sometime later when the Corellian freighter was burrowing through the lower bank of cloud in Murkas’ lower atmosphere. He silently marvelled at what had happened. This kind of thing - preemptively reacting to something that was about to happen, had occurred a number of times over the years - leaving him wondering, impressed and slightly afraid. At least now, following Ben’s revelations about the Force and his natural affinity with it, he understood what was happening and why. A second later and the lower cloud blanket dissipated from the viewport and the main continent on the Murkas’ moon was revealed, laid out before him, bathed in the brilliant sun’s light and he was once again the conscious pilot, looking over readings, feeling the inherent motion of the transport and plotting the entry trajectory to the docking facility below, waiting for the shore-to-ship communication to request an identification registry and to be issued landing permission and an available docking bay. The view was an incessant green, a lush, deep green not unlike that of Yavin’s moon. The whole area within view was thick, heavy jungle, only a single ribbon of dazzling blue-green cut in an almost straight line through the terrain to a high cliff edge that formed the boundary of the jungle. However, swathes of jungle had been cut away five thousand metres from the cliff edge in a loose semi circle and the space-port and walled-in town of Curitt had been built into the space the felled tress had conceded. The landing facility on the edge of the space port came into view as the Serpion Helletic descended smoothly. It was only a small minor space port, seeming to be used as a stop off on the way to a larger Port closer to one of the cities beyond the cliff, somewhere down in the valley. Luke had no interest in anything beyond Curitt though. His instructions were clear and the meeting itself was to take place inside the wall-enclosed town. His used the computer display chart of the port to pick out the correct docking bay, one of the usual roofless circular subterranean bays that were a universal design across the Empire, and then piloted the ship down and into the docking bay’s space. He switched to thrusters and then once the landing gear unfolded, to repulsor engines to ease the touch down. Which was quite as smooth as any before or since. Easing his way out of the pilot seat and then the cockpit, Luke joined the others in the main hold. He headed toward the engineering station against the port bulkhead but General Dodonna interceded the standard engine cool down procedure. “Leave the engines on stand by, Commander. We shouldn’t be staying long.” He said. Luke nodded in reply and then followed his lead aft to the already cycling boarding ramp, pausing a moment to address his pursuing Astromech. “Stay in the ship Artoo. Be ready to prep for take off when we get back.” The small droid hooted a reply and watched the four Humans descend the ramp. <><><> In was still early morning on Murkas 3, and almost immediately, Luke noticed that there was a strange weather pattern going on over his head. Above the docking facility and down the high walled pedestrian tunnel that led toward the town it was clear sky’s and bright, though not baking, sunshine. As the walkway ramped upward to ground level, the walls shrinking to pavement kerbs, and Curitt came into view, the weather turned dull grey and, on cue, the rain started to pelt down. Luke still found rain marvellous, especially after twenty years experiencing the continual dry burning heat of his homeworld. The protective surrounding wall of Curitt was white washed a dull shade of rain-cloud colour and the actual clouds themselves added an extra layer of grey to it’s ten metre height. The entrance was a huge solid wooden gate, also painted white. The gate was opened from daybreak to nightfall. And locked and barred and ceremonially guarded during the sundown hours. It was a strange tradition, Luke thought to himself as they passed unhindered through the threshold, the town was open to anyone in a ship or airspeeder. A ten metre wall wouldn’t keep modern day enemies at bay. He wondered what kind of natural enemies had, at one time, attacked from the surrounding jungle. Through the gate, Luke was shocked and dismayed by the number of people in and around Curitt. This was a busy town as far as he was concerned. He’d grown up on Tatooine where a group of a dozen was thought of as a large gathering. From there he’d moved on to the Yavin base. Of course, it had been busy and crowded but there hadn’t been the time to really look around and come to terms with the differences. It had been land on Yavin, a quick rest for food and sleep then onto the briefings, into a T-65 and up and away. The same had applied to Ord Mantell. Where they had been based had been a small, poor area, not one of the busiest by a long shot. This relatively peaceful mission, with only potential not actual danger, allowed him to look around and gauge things with a new perspective, see the galaxy with a new insight. There were people everywhere. And there were as many none Humans as Humans walking up and down the streets, passing by in landspeeders, flying overhead in airspeeders, travelling on the backs of strange animals and foreign beasts of burden. <><><> It seemed to Luke as though the travelling time to the rendezvous had been perfectly planned as the Rebel group, led by the General, took a leisurely walk from the space port into Curitt, across the radius of the circular town until the central main square was visible, which had a large leafless tree as it’s centre point. It’s bark was near gold in colour with tears of mossy green and brown spattering the main trunk’s thickest portion. A wide perfect circle of well tended grass formed a surrounding frame for the centre piece. Dodonna led them around the edge of the circular expanse for about ninety degrees and then back into the myriad narrow winding streets. Even in the narrow confines of labyrinthine side streets, the rain still pelted down on them. The others and the Curitt patrons seemed to hunker down against the elements, but Luke, his jacket waterproof, his mood high and, unlike the rest of them, his adoration of water was not in the least dampened. He threw his head back with exhilaration and smiled up into the cool refreshing liquid sparking against his sun-baked skin. His hair was soon plastered to his skull and he felt the beginnings of a chill. But he didn’t care. “Hey kid!” The sharp gritty voice caught Luke’s attention. It spoke in electrically interpreted Basic, like the vocoder of a protocol droid but with a certain organic flavour that robotic behaviour synthesisers simply couldn’t recreate. To the youth’s right, at the mouth of a covered alleyway between a farming produce emporium and an commercial office building stood a ruby-red skinned Zeltron girl, younger than Luke by the looks of her. Behind the girl with a hand clutching tight to her slender shoulder was a middle aged Snivvian male. It was the male who had spoken. “Wanna buy some time with this Zeltron beauty. You know Zeltron’s kid, guaranteed satisfaction!” The Snivvian offered through what Luke recognised as a collar mounted translator unit. In spite of himself and knowing he was getting drawn away from the others, Luke stepped into the mouth of the alley and took a closer look at the girl. He thought there had been something odd about the light play on her skin. “She’s not even Zeltron! Just some poor Human girl with body paint and hair dye!” Luke said, aghast by his own realisation. “Fine then, what about Death Sticks? You into Death Sticks?” Luke pulled a face, shook his head. He wondered if there was a way he could separate the girl from her pimp somehow, but then a sudden worry - that he might have lost the General, drew him hurriedly away from the alley and back up the street to regain his position at the rear of the group. The Snivvian shouted something aggressive sounding back at him but Luke didn’t catch it. Nor did he want to. The Rebels found themselves at the rustic designed fascia of a street corner cantina or tavern or eating den. This, according to the General was the prearranged meeting place. It was one of those family tavern diners that catered food and beverages for all races and all ages. Unlike the few taverns and cantina’s Luke had frequented in the recent past, this one looked clean and well lit with large arched windows, a wide double door entrance and seemed to be warmly decorated and homely, much like a lot of the mercantile in Curitt. However, there was a five strong squad of Imperial Stormtroopers at the corner, right in front of the entrance and they didn’t seem to be going anywhere. The Squad leader with his orange ranking pauldron was stopping passers-by at random and checking identifications. At the moment he was harassing a shaken couple of aged and wrinkled Ithorians. Even from this distance it was obvious that the Rebels would need a diversion in order to get into the eating den without risking exposure. The General was watching the scene with professional suspicion while his aide and Oren were quietly arguing about the best course of action. “Lead ‘em down that alley at the side of the tavern. I’ll be waiting to mow them down. Problem solved.” Oren said, tapping the illegal blaster carbine which he had concealed in a drawstring sack slung across his shoulders. He obviously appeared to prefer the kill-and-hide-the-bodies strategy. Luke saw it as nothing more than the Alderaanian’s desire to spill Imperial blood for sheer revenge. “That’s insane! It’s too risky, too noisy, too dangerous. We don’t know any of these people or where their loyalties lie. All it would take was one Imperial sympathiser to see something suspicious and we could have a whole garrison on our backs!” The Aide denounced, rightly in Luke’s opinion. General Dodonna said nothing. He was looking surreptitiously up and down the street, while appearing to be analysing the contents of a store front display. A thought came to Luke, it’s genesis having been the word ‘alley’ from the midst of Oren’s idea. With an odd, uncharacteristic sense of certainty, he strode past the other three, crossed the bend in the road, the crux of which was the site of the tavern diner and caught the attention of the Imperial Squad leader, just as the latter waved the Ithorians on. “Excuse me, sir.” Luke said with polite confidence. “But I thought you should know, there’s a Snivvian over there selling Death Sticks, I think the nasty kind, from Sullust.” It all came rolling off his tongue and Luke had absolutely no idea where it all came from. He knew next to nothing about illegal narcotics and wouldn’t know the difference between Sullustan and Corellian varieties or if there was a nasty kind of Death Stick from either world. They were little more than planet names to him. However, his confidence remained strong and the usual kind of concern regarding being caught out telling lies just didn’t surface at all. “Do I look like Law Enforcement to you?” The white armoured officer responded in coldly pronounced electronic Basic. “We’re Soldiers of the Emperor’s Galactic Navy, not back world L.E.O’s” “I’m sorry, I just thought…” Luke stammered, but still his certainty didn’t wane, it felt like part of the act. “Never mind, citizen. Your intentions were honourable. I guess we can look into it.” The officer gestured to his men and all five of them crossed the street and disappeared out of sight. Luke waited until the Imperials were around the bend then caught the General’s eye. There was a glint there of amusement and possibly pride. “Good work.” The General issued the compliment quietly as he swept by the young Rebel with a half smile and led them straight into the tavern diner. Luke’s heart momentarily swelled as he followed the others inside.