A/N: Welcome back to the wonderful world of "Well, that escalated quickly." For those of you who don't know, the first installment of this series saw Bail Organa captured by the Empire a year before Yavin. Leia becomes monarch, Bail is killed in interrogation, the Death Star plans are never stolen because Cassian Andor and most of his team died while trying to rescue Bail, and it all ends with the Empire having a garrison on alderaan and Obi-wan setting off to find Luke. Oh, and Bail revealed to Darth Vader just who his daughter's birth parents were. * It was said that in the dawn of a new age on Alderaan, the darkest night set in. Some said this was hyperbole, that these times were nowhere as calamitous as those of the Clone Wars or the tumultuous first days of the New Order. There were no public executions or mass arrests. The throne did not sit empty; on the contrary, it was occupied by a young woman who had the sense to stand between Alderaan and Vader as her mother had. Nonetheless, this ostensibly sensible young woman stood against Vader by bowing to the Emperor's wishes. For the first time in centuries, the Home Guard was under the command of an Imperial Lord. The justice-centric laws established by the v'taiaketh were held as sacred by those who still believed in the old principles, but there was a rush by the thanes and minor diplomats to show their allegiance. Queen Leia was within her rights to make an emergency appointment, but allowed her people some autonomy and, when the people of Alderaan elected its new senator, they chose a man who had sat on the board of Sienar Fleet Systems and made his millions by producing craft for the war effort. No one dared to publicly lament the Imperial presence on Alderaan, but it was naivete to think that the Rebellion did not have its ranks swelled by patriots who had abandoned that homeworld to fulfill Bail Organa's purposes. * As night was falling on Alderaan, a world-weary man in homespun robes dismounted an eopie not far from Anchorhead. The owners of the moisture farm did not give him what might be considered a warm welcome, but the man jerked his head towards the home as if acknowledging that there was no sense in turning the man away. When they were seated around the family table and the wife had offered food and drink after the man's long journey, her husband made a grim pronouncement. “The thing you should bear in mind is that there's no reasoning with a Skywalker.” Of all the sentients in the known Galaxy, Obi-Wan Kenobi was the most likely to bear this in mind. He had bitterly taken one under his wing after the fateful Battle of Naboo. He had spent the better part of fifteen years trying to strike a balance between being the Jedi brother Anakin needed and the father he never wanted, while trying to have more of an influence than the avuncular Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. “Ben” Kenobi, who had left his Padawan for dead on the lava fields of Mustafar, knew perfectly well that there was no reasoning with a Skywalker, but had not expected the statement to be made by Luke's Uncle Owen. “He left us in the lurch about three weeks ago,” the man continued without prompting. “With the harvest on the horizon and us short of hands since half of the Anchorhead boys got it into their heads that they were going to be Heroes of the Empire.” “Be fair,” Beru interrupted. “This was never the life for him.” That had been the point. Tatooine had been the perfect hiding place for Padme's firstborn son because the good man who had been possessed by the Dark Side had suffered every moment that he spent here and in eighteen years, there had been no Imperial attention paid to the struggling moisture farm inherited by his step-brother. The aunt turned on Obi-Wan with the long-suffering sigh of someone who had heard an argument too many times to care much about its outcome. “If you had been here a month ago, you might have had a choice in where he ran off to, but Luke's closest friend returned from the academy around that same time. When Biggs Darklighter set a course for the stars, I wasn't surprised that Luke followed it.” “But he isn't at the academy,” Owen interjected. “Not at mid-semester and not with a canceled application. The best he could hope for was a conscription, but the Mos Eisley offices say no one with his name or description has come through. Luke may not look like much, but the Empire would notice if a Skywalker turned up to fight for them.” “And there's no contacting this Biggs?” Obi-Wan prompted. “He was due to return to the Rand Ecliptic twenty days ago, according to Huff Darklighter, but they haven't heard back from the crew.” “I do hope they haven't come to harm,” Obi-Wan murmured. Owen snorted in disgust. “I doubt it. Biggs went to the academy for the best training Huff's money could buy, but as for going AWOL, he's not the first kid to do something stupid with his heroic ideals and Luke's got too much of his father in him.” As far as informants went, the Larses were next to worthless, but their gossip was less idle chatter than it first appeared. Obi-Wan very much doubted that Huff Darklighter had ever heard their speculations on what made Luke so eager to fight for a cause. Kenobi was the one who had brought Luke from a medical center on Polis Massa to the Lars homestead and that made him worthy of both their candor and their suspicions. “It would have taken some time for them to get off-world,” Owen continued, “but three weeks is underestimating the mercenary scum at Mos Eisley. Wherever they went, they're long gone by now.” With this information, Obi-Wan strongly believed that they had hired a transport or pooled their resources to buy one of their own and set off in search of the war. Biggs would have been ideally placed to help Luke join the Empire, so the fact that they had snuck away could only mean that the younger Darklighter had Rebel leanings and had taken Darth Vader's son with him. “What do you plan to do?” Beru asked. “Go looking for him?” “Ideally, I could turn up at the nearest Rebel base and check their personnel records, but as the Emperor's servants know, that is a complicated process.” Obi-Wan grimaced before downing his blue milk as if it were a shot of Whyren's Reserve. “I am not without connections, so I suppose the next step must needs be hiring a ship and seeing how far those will take me before I find Luke or Vader finds me.” “Then may the Force be with you,” Beru answered. Owen adopted a grimace of his own at the expression, but didn't speak up. “Whatever path Luke has chosen, I hope it will give him what he's looking for and I hope that you will walk that path with him.” It was the most concrete expression of faith that he had received in decades and he bowed his head formally in acknowledgment of that kindness. “and with you,” he responded. * There was a waiting list for the Starfighter Corps. Even if the Alliance were well-equipped, there would be only dozens of fighters for the hundreds of interested applicants and there was a high rate of attrition against the Empire. In the wake of the execution of a member of the original triumvirate, there were desertions and there was no telling when those X- and Y-wings would set a course back to base. Even if their pilots changed their minds, there was no guaranteeing that they'd be able to reconnect to the people they had left behind. On the very real chance that Bail Organa's imprisoned rescuers had been persuaded to talk, the High Command had scrubbed the majority of bases from their list of options and vacated the Yavin base. If they wanted to go looking for the Alliance, they would have to do so by a process of elimination. The end result was that, while Biggs Darklighter's recommendation and standard testing proved that the new recruit from Tatooine was welcomed with open arms, he was not welcomed with a flightsuit and a ship assignment. “Don't sweat it,” Biggs advised before Luke could vent his feelings on the subject. “I'm not sweating it,” Luke protested, though his expression disagreed. He was smart enough to have this dispute in the privacy of his bunkroom, but Biggs wanted to hash things out before he made his feelings know in an inappropriately public way. “I just thought fighting the Empire would involve a little more fighting.” “It will,” his friend promised, bracing his elbows against his knees as he leaned forward in earnest. “We took some body blows, but once things have stabilized...” “Yeah.” Biggs knew he'd heard the same things from Tiree and Hutch at the simulators. “There'll be ships to spare and food going to waste because we can't eat it all.” Biggs grinned; new recruit or not, Luke was becoming conversant in the base dialect of doubt. “Better to skimp today than to have a limited number of tomorrows.” Luke would probably think he was running spice for the Hutts, so to speak, but while he was quoting High Command almost verbatim, he had no disagreement with that point. It was the same philosophy that kept them from strengthening their armaments and calling in favors; major offensive initiatives were on hold because of what Bail Organa's death had cost them and out of respect for those setbacks, they were taking a more cautious approach to liberating the Galaxy. It wasn't what a founding member of the Rebellion would have wanted, but even he hadn't foreseen a crisis of this magnitude. “And since we have plenty of tomorrows,” Biggs continued when Luke didn't raise an objection to that, “we have plenty of time to get you in the good graces of the cheeks-to-seats unit coordinator and you'll know the ships of our little fleet better than any mech this side of Mos Eisley.” Luke finally answered his grin. “What makes you think I don't? They're not that much more advanced than skyhoppers.” The moment the kid referenced threading the Stone Needle, Biggs would know he was recovered from his disappointment. “True, but skyhoppers never pulled the speeds to foul up the works like this and there are all sorts of complications that you never get for an atmospheric craft.” He cuffed Luke affectionately on the shoulder. “Think of all the fun you'll have.” “I didn't...” He broke off, looking uncomfortable, but Biggs knew where that thought had been going. “I know you joined for much more than fun and it'll come, but not today. And there's no shame in that. Most of Red Squadron came from hauling cargo because it's a rare thing for a TIE fighter pilot to live long enough to have principles.” Biggs had taken the mandatory starfighter piloting courses, but a commission as Second Mate on the Rand Ecliptic spoke more to his ability to think big than go head to head with something sporting ion engines. He'd just had the right skills at the right time to fill a spot on a roster. Luke was looking more hopeful than he had in an hour, so Biggs started ticking things off on his fingers. “We need a standing appointment with the sims. We need to get you some real competition on a regular basis. And we need you to be a face everyone knows; it'll help with connections, but more importantly, you'll be part of the very extended family known as the Rebel Alliance in no time.” Luke, who had known no family outside his aunt and uncle, and had barely had more friends than droids to associate with, heaved a sigh and nodded. “I'm in,” he decided. “Don't suppose you have time before dinner to show me some of the stuff that atmospheric crafts don't have to deal with?” “I've got enough time to get you through the peculiarities of the Heads-Up Display,” Biggs laughed. “Get in something you don't mind greasing up and meet me in the hangar.” He didn't mention that Luke had a face some people had already come to know. Porkins had called him Baby Face and Hutch had remarked that someone so wet-behind-the-ears shouldn't have been able to best him so easily. But Commander Willard, who had a long and storied history of loyalty to the Republic, had called Biggs aside while Luke was getting his physical for a quiet word. “Skywalker,” he murmured. “Any relation to that Skywalker?” Skywalker wasn't that uncommon a name on a world populated by Darklighters and Sandskimmers, but “that Skywalker” could only be a reference to Anakin Skywalker, hero of the Boonta Eve race on Tatooine and fallen hero of the Clone Wars. “Hard to say,” Biggs said honestly. “All we could ever get out of his uncle was that he was a navigator on a spice freighter who died around the same time the Republic went to pieces. The name matches, but Jedi didn't have families.” He knew Willard wasn't engaging in idle genealogy, but wondering if, by some miracle, they had an untrained Jedi signed up to do minor maintenance on Wedge Antilles' ship. “He's probably a cousin,” Biggs concluded, “but that's probably the closest we've got to a family tie.” “Shame,” the base commander commented. “If we had that kind of Skywalker behind an X-wing's controls, it'd be a hell of a thing.” Hopefully, the unit coordinator would realize that sooner than later.