Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Ridley Solo, Jun 21, 2018.
Hee-hee, thank you!
Time to bug the emoji-makers to get on that!
So happy I'm not the only one who loves Ewoks!!!!
D'aww, thank you so much!
Well, hold on to your stomach, because this is a full dessert buffet!
WHEW, sorry about the long upload gap. Christmas prep has been nuts. But I'm back in the groove and I'll do my best to post updates every week or so.
To say that Anakin Skywalker was surprised when Luke arrived at his cell unannounced before the jump to Endor would have been an understatement. “Luke, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be preparing for the battle?”
Luke shrugged. “Fleet’s assembled, fighters are prepped, pilots are chomping at the bit...not much else to do except wait. We need to give the strike team enough time to get to the bunker and plant their charges.” Again his thoughts wandered to Han and Leia, and he frowned distantly.
Anakin watched his son with sympathy. “You’re worried about them.”
Luke chewed his lip. “Something is going to happen. I can feel it. I need to be there.”
Anakin knit his brows and offered a seat to his son. “Do you think it’s a warning from the Force?”
“Maybe. But it’s too vague to act on,” said Luke. He shrugged off the satchel across his shoulders and set it on the table. “I wish I’d gone with them.”
“Son, you can’t set out to do a task and then keep looking back. You’ll end up going in circles,” Anakin said. His mother’s voice seemed to echo in his ears. Don’t look back… He shook off the sadness and nodded with curiosity toward the satchel. “What do you have there?”
A slight smile touched Luke’s face. “I brought something for you.” He dumped the contents on the table. It turned out to be a small, versatile set of tools and several old, worn pieces of electronics that looked to be in need of repairs. “You mentioned fixing things as a kind of stress relief, so…”
Anakin blew out a slow breath. Memories of his childhood were magnified at the sight and smell of old electronics. He remembered spending his days fixing things, cleaning them, trying to make them usable to Watto...he remembered his mother doing the same thing to bring in a little extra money...most of all the smell brought him back to the day he had met the woman who would someday be his wife...loved and then lost...Padme...He closed his eyes briefly in pain.
Luke’s shoulders fell. “I’m sorry. If this is upsetting you-”
“No...no, son. I’m all right.” Anakin cleared his eternally dry throat. “Thank you, Luke. This should help the time pass more quickly. How did you manage to get these beyond security? Aren’t they afraid I’m going to pick the lock?” An amused smile touched his lips.
“Guess not,” shrugged Luke. “Maybe they figure a prisoner who’s absorbed in tinkering won’t have time for plotting an escape. Besides...they told me the inner wall panels are electrified. Anybody who tries messing with them will get a nasty shock.”
“While confinement does grow rather tedious, I’ve no wish to ‘escape’. Here at least I’m near my children, and that’s all I could ask for.” Anakin reached out to give Luke’s shoulder a brief squeeze. Then without further ado he picked up what seemed to be an ancient, useless glowlamp. He paused to find Luke’s eyes. “Has there been any word from the strike team yet?”
“No,” admitted Luke, sinking into the other chair. “I’ve even tried calling to Leia. Nothing.”
“They are on the other side of the galaxy. While it’s possible, communication across that distance requires a great deal of skill and training.”
“Could you teach me?”
Not again. Wearily Anakin shook his head. “Luke...I’ve told you before. I cannot teach you anything of the Force, only what to avoid. You deserve a better teacher than I. Please. Don’t ask me again.”
Luke couldn’t hide his disappointment. But somehow he wasn’t surprised. His father had been immersed in the Dark Side for so long that he was still learning how to trust Force again...still learning how to use the Light Side. In a way it was like starting over from scratch. Finally he nodded. “All right. I understand.” He turned his attention back toward the spare parts.
Anakin was thoughtful. The mention of teaching reminded him...”When are you planning to go back to Yoda and complete your training?” As long as the Emperor lived, his hold on the galaxy could not be broken. Luke and Leia were the only ones left who could defeat the evil man.
Luke cringed at the sense of guilt that his father’s words brought. The sense of urgency was not lost on either of them. Luke wanted to keep his promise. But he also had a promise to the Rebellion. “After the battle. As soon as they can spare me, I’ll go. Hopefully Leia changes her mind by then and-”
The tuneless buzz of Luke’s comm interrupted. He answered it with a sigh. “Skywalker here.”
“Captain Skywalker, this is Admiral Ackbar. The fleet is assembled. We’re scheduled to depart as soon as your squadron is ready,” rasped the squidlike Mon Calamarian.
“Red and Rogue Squadrons will be in the hangar in fifteen minutes,” promised Luke.
“Very good, Captain. Ackbar, out.” The comm crackled as the Admiral signed off.
Briefly Luke closed his eyes and threw an apologetic glance to his father.
“Captain Skywalker?” Anakin lifted his hairless brows, impressed. “Go on, then. Get to your men.”
“Right,” sighed Luke as he headed for the door.
Anakin took one final step toward his son. “And Luke?” He took the young man’s single hand and met his eyes. “Be safe. May the Force be with you.”
Luke’s mouth twitched. As in any battle, there was always the danger he wouldn’t come out alive. Anakin knew this all too well, but wouldn’t say goodbye. All Luke could do was nod once in return and squeeze his father’s mechanical hand. “You too, Father.” He let go and motioned for the guard to open the door. “See you soon!” With that, he was gone, force field and security door shutting behind him.
Anakin closed his eyes and let out a long, slow breath. With it he released the feelings of worry. Now it would be up to the Force.
With nothing else to do, Anakin shuffled back to the table and sat down. He picked up a broken piece of machinery and a bolt-driver and began to take it apart.
* * * * *
Twenty minutes later the entire Rebel fleet had assembled. Fighters were loaded with fuel and armament, medical crews standing by, and bridge crews anxiously waiting for the word to be given.
Sitting in his fighter juggling the controls with hand and wrist, Luke fought back the twist of his stomach. His nerves were working over time.
Artoo, sitting in the astromech socket behind him, whistled an inquiry as to whether or not his master was well.
Stop it, Luke ordered himself with a shake of his head. “No...no, nothing’s wrong. You got those coordinates for Endor?”
The droid warbled an affirmative before expressing doubts about Luke’s honesty.
Luke pursed his lips. It must be bad if Artoo is worried. “I told you, buddy. I’m fine.” He blew out a short breath and mashed the mic pickup. “Rogue Squadron, check in before the jump. By the numbers, boys.”
“Speak for yourself, Skywalker,” remarked a decidedly feminine voice.
Luke’s mouth twitched with amusement. He recognized the voice as Shara Bey, an A-wing pilot in Green Squadron.
“Cut the chatter, Green Seven,” barked her commanding officer, a grizzled veteran by the name of Airen Cracken.
“Keep your helmet on, Cracken. Just correcting a slight error.”
“What’s the difference if you wind up splat against a half-built Death Star?” chuckled Hobbie darkly.
“All right now, that’s enough. Lieutenant Bey, much as I appreciate your need for accuracy, mind keeping your chatter to your squadron?” requested Luke, trying to be pleasant. He’d never met Bey in person but heard she’d reached double ace by her second battle.
“Yes, sir.” Acknowledged Bey. She kept silent from then on out.
“Let’s try that again. Rogue Squadron, check in.”
“Rogue Three, standing by.”
Luke cracked a smile. Always first to speak up. It was good having Janson back. One by one the rest of the Rogues checked in. A notably missing person was Wedge, but only because he’d made Commander and was now the leader of Red Squadron. Once Gold, Green, and Gray Squadrons had followed suit, Luke switched channels. “Home One, this is Rogue Leader. All fighters accounted for.”
Admiral Ackbar’s raspy voice answered. “Proceed with the countdown.”
Luke nodded and flipped the appropriate switches. As he led his squadron between the larger ships, weaving in and out and falling into formation at the front of the group, he threw a glance at the Liberty. Part of him wished his father could be in the air with them. But of course that was impossible. He hoped the man would be able to contribute in some way to the fight.
“Ready for the jump to lightspeed,” said Ackbar.
Luke nodded, shaken out of his wandering thoughts. “Copy that, Admiral. Jumping on my mark in three...two...one...mark!” In unison he and his squadron mates eased back on the throttle that would bring them off sublights and hurl them across the galaxy to begin what may have been the Rebellion’s final major battle. Stars stretched into starlines, and then the mottled blue-white of hyperspace surrounded the Rebel Fleet like a giant glowing tunnel.
Luke blew out a short breath and let his hand leave the throttle. He hadn’t realized until then how much it was shaking.
* * * * *
Han woke with planet rise in his eyes and a small, hairy paw shaking him awake. Han started and reached for his blaster, only to relax as Leia rested a hand on his shoulder.
“Easy there, Flyboy. Wicket was just making sure you’re awake. It’s time to get going.”
Han glanced at the shy furball, who was now hiding behind Leia, and ran a hand across his eyes. Memories of yesterday returned, and he grunted, pushing to his feet. “Yeah. Gimme a minute.” Had he told the story to anyone else, they never would have believed him.
Minutes after leaving the makeshift rope bridge behind the other day, Han and his party had run straight into a pack of short, furry creatures brandishing spears and other crude weapons. When they advanced on the Rebels, Han was ready to shoot first and ask questions later. Leia stopped him and ordered the whole party to lay down their arms. Han protested loudly when the creatures confiscated their blasters, but Leia insisted these creatures would make good allies. Han had laughed at the idea, then stopped when Leia jabbed him with her elbow and gave him a dirty look. But despite her best efforts, she couldn’t communicate with these hairy natives.
The oversized plush toys had been ready to start tying them up when Threepio began raising a ruckus. The creatures then gasped in astonishment and began to kowtow to the droid. Apparently they saw him as an incarnation of their revered Golden God, spirit of the air. Luckily he had been able to decipher at least a little of the furry native’s language and found a way to communicate with them. Between Leia’s diplomacy and Threepio’s linguistics, they were able to convince the creatures- called Ewoks -that they meant no harm, and in fact wanted to be friends. After a brief period of hesitation the Ewoks agreed and led the party to their home in the trees. While Threepio told an abbreviated version of their story, the Ewok elders discussed whether or not to help the Rebels. Finally it was decided that they should be adopted into the tribe, and the Ewoks promised to do whatever they could to help. They put up the entire team of Rebels in their tree houses and brought food, medicine, or whatever else they needed.
For his part Han was still skeptical about the kind of help such small beings could offer against the Empire. All the Ewoks had were sticks and stones and a few clever traps. The Empire had numbers, technology, and tactics on their side.
As Han tucked in his shirt and hopped back into his boots, he kept one eye on the eager little Ewok called Wicket that had instantly befriended Leia. The creature was friendly enough, but Han saw him as a nuisance. His main concern was Leia.
The former Princess was already dressed and spent the time checking her supply pouches. At first glance she seemed fine. But if one looked closer, they would see a pinched look to her features and something hesitant about the way she moved. Presently Leia winced and brought a hand to her torso, breathing carefully until the moment passed.
Han knit his brows in concern. “Hey,” he said softly, coming up to her and laying a gentle hand on her shoulder. “You all right?”
Leia nodded. “Just cramps. They’ll pass in a minute.” When a worried little Ewok tugged on her sleeve, she turned to him with a strained smile. “I’m all right, Wicket. You run along and find the others.” She waited until he had left before letting the smile fade. Pain was obvious on her face.
Han led her back to her cot. “C’mon, siddown.” When she reluctantly did so, he gently rubbed her back. “When’d this start?”
Leia grimaced. “About fifteen minutes ago...don’t look at me like that,” she added. “I took something for it. It’s fine.”
Han shook his head. “I don’t like it. You oughta be resting.”
Leia found his eyes. '"There’s no time.”
“Han, I mean it. If I stopped long enough to satisfy your worries, we’d never get the shield down. And if the Fleet is running on schedule it’ll only be another five or so hours. That doesn’t give us much time to get to the bunker, fight our way in, set the charges, and blow it up before they arrive.”
“I know, but why do you need to be there? Why can’t you just stay here and rest? The Rebellion won’t grind to a halt without’cha, ya know.”
Leia pressed her lips together and gave a firm shake of her head. “No. It won’t. But you’re going to need all the help you can get in taking out the guards, and I’m as good a shot as anyone.”
Han cringed. Leia wasn’t just a good shot. She was downright deadly. He took her arms and lowered his voice. “I’m just worried, that’s all. I want you to be careful.” His thumb stroked her cheek.
Leia softened her expression. “I know. But you don’t. I’ll be all right.” She stood on tiptoe just long enough to peck him on the cheek. “Time to go.”
Han made a face, but had to nod. Pushing Leia was never a good idea. “Right.” Once holster had been secured and vest had been shrugged on, he headed over to Threepio, who stood in a corner busily discussing one thing or another with the leader of the Ewoks.
The droid saw Solo almost immediately. “Oh! General Solo, what perfect timing. The honorable Chief Chirpa has assembled his scouts, and all are ready to depart.”
Han grunted. “Good. So, you find out how far is it to that shield generator?”
“Indeed, sir. The scouts have given their report of half a day’s walk. As they only count the daylight, that gives approximately five hours’ walking time. Of course allowing for their short strides and the average height of the strike team, we could conceivably arrive sooner but-”
“Yeah. We gotta get going,” frowned Han. “All right. Spread the word, we’re leaving in five minutes.”
“Very good, sir.” And Threepio waddled off to do Han’s bidding.
Han was about to give one more word of caution to Leia, but she hadn’t wasted any time. She was outside and halfway across the nearest bridge before he could catch up with her.
Wonderful scenes full of caring, preparation and urgency, as they race against time to get things in place.
This is so perfect!
I hope Leia lets Han take care of her....
@WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you! I know it seems kind of drawn out, but trust me, the action starts soon!
@teamhansolo Glad you like it! And don't worry too much about Leia....
WHEW, it's been a VERY long holiday, but I'm finally back! This time I'll be updating every single week until this monster is finished, and then again once the next fic is ready to be posted. We'll probably see the end of this series by Summer.
“Han. Hurry. The Fleet will be here any moment.” Leia checked her chronometer as the small group of Imperial crewmen were backed into a corner by Chewbacca.
After a very long and arduous hike, the group had arrived at the rear entrance to the shield generator. The Ewoks had created a diversion, which kept the number of guards down to a minimum. The firefight that followed to gain entry was fierce, but brief.
Now they were down to the wire. If the Fleet arrived to find the shields still up, they’d have one hell of a fight to get in and blow that battle station to kingdom come.
Han grimaced and turned to the nearest member of the Pathfinders, Sergeant Dameron. “All right. Charges. C’mon. C’mon!” He caught the bag of explosives and began fishing them out one by one. “Hey Del. How’s the old timer?”
Lieutenant Del, one of two ground-bound medics, looked up from securing a bandage to old Captain Rex’s thigh. “He’ll be fine…as long he slows down.” Here he threw the aging Republic clone a sour look. Despite his expertise in the field, most of the younger Rebels were still reluctant to let him come along on these missions.
Rex gave a lopsided grin. “Ah. I’ve had worse. Just gimme a blaster and I can still shoot. Ay!” He winced when the bandage was tied.
“Shoot, yes. Walk, no,” frowned Del. “Solo, if you don’t need us, I’d like to get this man under cover now while we still can. He’ll never be able to run fast enough to get out of the path of the explosion this is going to generate.”
“General,” bristled Rex, “with all due respect, I’ve been fighting since you two were playing with toy starfighters.”
“Exactly. You’re not as young as you used to be, and aging twice as fast as a normal human-”
“I know, I know.” Rex made a face. “Fine. I’ll go. Good luck, General...Your Highness.” He saluted as Del began to help him limp back outside.
A sharp, hissing intake of breath from Leia made Han whip around to ask if she was all right, but the Princess was already helping set the charges. When she caught him staring at her with knit brows, she frowned. “We can talk about it later. Come on!” She pressed a charge into his hand and moved around the console to keep going.
Han did as he was told, but found he couldn’t stop glancing at Leia. This morning’s march had been hard on her. That’s it. Soon as we’re done in here, she’s resting. No ifs, ands, or buts.
A sudden proximity alarm on the console went off. Leia checked it...then her brown eyes went wide with concern. “Han...it’s the Fleet. We’re out of time.”
Han swore and tossed four more charges to the nearest crew members. “C’mon, you heard her! Double time, let’s move it!” He slapped another charge on the ceiling and set the timer.
* * * * *
Breathe...just breathe…reach out...feel the Force...it’s always with you...breathe...
He sat in his cockpit, eyes closed, all but oblivious to the swirl of hyperspace that surrounded him.
Battle was about to be joined. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something, somewhere, was just a little bit off. So he’d dropped into meditation to try and calm himself. It had only just started working-
Luke flinched and his eyes popped open with the reversion alarm. Half a second later Artoo squealed from behind, perhaps berating him to pay attention.
“Red Leader to Rogue Leader. We’re ready for reversion,” announced Wedge. “Do you copy?”
“Uh...yeah.” Luke blinked and began flipping several switches. “I copy, Red Leader.”
“You all right over there, Luke?” Wedge wanted to know.
Luke cringed. After four years flying combat missions, Wedge knew him too well. “Fine, Wedge. Just admiring the view. You watch your pilots and I’ll watch mine.” He switched channels to Rogue Squadron only. “Rogue boys, this is Rogue Leader. Prepare to come out of hyperspace on my mark.” He rested his hand on the throttle. “Three, two, one, mark!”
As one the members of the elite fighter squadron eased forward on their controls. The blue faded into starlines, and the starlines shrank to the tiny pinpoints of stars. Half a second later the verdant green moon of Endor loomed into view. Sitting in orbit was the skeletal framework of the new battle station.
Luke swallowed despite himself and took another deep breath. Here we go again.
“Ugh,” muttered Wedge over the comm. “Talk about Deja vu. As if one wasn’t bad enough.”
“Don’t remind me,” grimaced Luke. The sense of more arrivals made him glance behind. His proximity alarm warbled, followed by Artoo’s whistles of information. The distant touch of his father was of small comfort. “Fleet’s here.”
“Attention fighter squadrons. This is Admiral Ackbar,” rasped the familiar voice. “All Squadron leaders, check in.”
“Red Leader, standing by,” said Wedge promptly.
“Green Leader, standing by,” announced Cracken.
“Gold Leader, standing by.”
“Gray Leader, standing by.”
“Rogue Leader, standing by,” finished Luke. “Squad Leaders, full account of your fighters. All right, Rogues, check in. By the numbers.”
One by one each of the fighters- X-wing, Y-wing, B-wing, and A-wing -all checked in without incident.
Luke blew out a short breath and reported back to the Admiral. “Home One, this is Rogue Leader. All fighters present and accounted for.”
Ackbar grunted. “Acknowledged, Rogue Leader. Assume attack coordinates.”
Luke nodded. “Copy that. Red and Rogue Squadrons, lock S-foils in attack position.” He flipped the appropriate switches and watched out of the corner of his eyes as his wingmen followed suit.
“May the Force be with us,” rasped Ackbar.
Can’t argue with that, thought Luke, focused on keeping his breathing even. His stomach continued to twist, and he wasn’t sure why...it could be concern for his friends down on the planet, or for his father who sat all but defenseless aboard the Liberty, or even just the deja vu that Wedge had mentioned. No, he thought, brows knitting tightly, it’s something else...More willing to believe the Force than the reasoning of his fellow pilots, he directed his sensors toward the battle station. When the reading came back, his heart sank. “Break off the attack!” he barked into the comm. “The shield is still up!”
“Reading confirmed!” cried Wedge. “Pull up! All craft, pull up!”
Like a fruit being explosively peeled, the dozens of snub fighters broke formation at the last minute and veered off in all directions. The minute they came about, more proximity alarms sounded.
“Uh-oh. Is that what I think it is?” asked Hobbie warily.
In two seconds a collection of three Star Destroyers came out of orbit directly behind the Fleet. Green bolts of energy immediately sailed from their gunports, aimed straight at the Rebels.
Luke felt the blood drain from his face. He thought this attack on an ‘unprotected’ battle station seemed a little too easy.
“Destroyers, dead ahead.” Wedge reported.
“I see ‘em, Wedge.” Luke mashed the pickup on his comm. “Rogue and Gold Squadrons, form up. We’ve got to protect our capital ships.” He cracked his stick around to bring his group straight at the nearest destroyer, dodging right and left to avoid the laser blasts. “Artoo, divert power to forward shields and guns.”
“Right behind you, Rogue Leader,” called Rogue Six, a relatively new pilot recently defected from the TIE ranks.
“Red Leader to Rogue Leader. Fighters coming in,” announced Wedge.
“Rogues! Evasive maneuvers,” ordered Luke. His squadron was able to complete one strafing run of the Star Destroyer before they had to break off, twenty TIES in hot pursuit. A quick check to his computer told him that Rogue Six had already picked up a bogey. “Rogue Six! You got one on your tail!”
“I know, I know. I’m working on it,” gasped the young pilot. He pulled a standard weaving maneuver before heading into a spin and a dive to lose his pursuer.
Rogue Three immediately wheeled around to hang on the TIE’s tail. “Hang in there, buddy. I’m on him.” In half a minute he managed to get the TIE in his sights, which soon disappeared in a flash of fire. Janson whooped in triumph. “WOO! Scratch one for the Empire,” he crowed.
Luke let out a minor shudder. “Good shot, Rogue Three,” he sighed. “But stay focused-” Artoo and the proximity alarm blared at the same time, and Luke found he’d picked up a bogey of his own. “Oh, boy.”
“Rogue Leader, look out! You’ve got one on you,” warned Hobbie.
“I noticed.” Luke brought his fighter up and around in several stomach-churning twists, Artoo squealing in protest. When that failed the shake the TIE, Luke groaned. “Blast it! This guy’s on me tight.”
Rogue Six kicked his throttle into high gear and headed straight for his leader. “I’m comin’, Rogue Leader! I’m-AUGH!” But another TIE had sailed in from the right and pulled a flyby-and-blast. Rogue Six was gone in a mess of flame and shrapnel.
Luke’s heart dropped. “Six!” The youngster had only been with the Squadron for two months. They hadn’t even gotten to know him. But the Jedi couldn’t mourn yet. He still had his own bogey to deal with and pulled another snap-roll to the left. Who’s flying that thing? He wondered. This TIE was sticking to him like a tick. Another distant cry and explosion hurt his heart, but Luke couldn’t even voice his grief. He was far too occupied with his own problem.
Then an A-wing streaked by and a feminine voice came over the pickup. “Hey, Skywalker. You look like you need some help.” She fired.
Luke flinched as a ball of flame nearly engulfed his fighter. For a moment he thought it was all over...until he saw the mangled solar panel tumble by on his port side. He breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks, Lieutenant Bey.. I almost bought it back there.”
“Don’t mention it,” said Shara Bey, breaking off. “Good luck!”
"Thanks." Luke wasted no time heading back toward the Star Destroyer and gathering what pilots he could. “All right, Rogues. Back to business. Focus the shields, then take out the bridge.” As his friends and subordinates checked in, Luke’s thoughts wandered down to Endor. He hoped Leia and Han were all right...and that they could get the shield down soon.
* * * * *
Anakin braced himself against the wall as his cell rattled with another impact. He didn’t even hazard a second glance at his worktable, where tools and parts still lay.
All during the hyperspace trip he had taken everything apart, cleaned each piece, organized it, and then reassembled everything. When he was through he had managed to fix two glowlamps and one portable charging unit. The other two items- a terrain scanner and an ancient commlink -needed replacement parts before they could work again.
Tools had been set aside upon jumping out of hyperspace. Since then he had been pacing...until the Liberty had been hit for the first time. Anakin counted every impact and noted where it was. Aft engines...portside stabilizer...portside shields… While he wasn’t familiar with the specs of this particular ship, he had always been fairly good at figuring out how things worked. So far she seemed to be holding her own.
Another rattle made Anakin frown. There was nothing more frustrating than knowing there was a battle going on around him and all he could do was pace in his cell. Even standing on the bridge of the Liberty he could offer advice about Imperial tactics and the best countermeasures for them. But without even knowing how the battle was going-
The strongest impact yet rocked the ship and threw Anakin off his feet. The Force helped him land in a roll to avoid damaging his breathing device. Klaxons blared. A loud hiss and sudden pressure in Anakin’s lungs made his heart sink.
They were venting atmosphere. That wasn’t good. It could only mean their portside shields were already gone.
“Attention!” called a voice over the shipwide comm system. “Hull breach, levels four and five! Evacuate immediately! Repeat- hull breach! All personnel evacuate levels four and five! Now!”
Anakin’s heart raced a little faster and his eyes darted about. The Brig was on level four. While unworried about his own life- apart from leaving Luke unhappy -Anakin’s concern was for all the Rebels on those two levels. His need to help intensified, and he searched for the door controls with the Force.
The Liberty was a large ship. Evacuating two levels took time and they seemed to go about it in a methodical manner. Anakin had no doubts that the prisoners would be evacuated last...if at all. Imperials would have just started sealing off the damaged levels after a single warning. Only ranking officers had anyone actively trying to save them. Prisoners were typically ignored.
A few of the automatic safety systems had already kicked in and managed to slow the flow of oxygen out of the ship, but in less than a minute Anakin’s head was getting light. He’d probably be the first to pass out thanks to his damaged lungs.
Anakin frowned. This wasn’t how he’d wanted to go. What little pride he had left saw suffocation as such an inglorious death, especially for someone with his exploits. He would have preferred to go out in a blaze of glory, or at least while saving the life of someone else. And poor Luke, how would he handle it?
A touch on the mind of his son found Luke lost in the Force and fully engaged in battle. No doubt he would sense his father’s passing. A distraction like that during a dogfight could be deadly. Maybe it was better to say a gentle goodbye now. Anakin shut his eyes and let the Force bridge the gap between father and son. The message he sent would have to be subtle, so as not to distract Luke too much from his flying. Luke, he called gently, I’m proud of you. Become the Jedi you’re meant to be.
Warmth from Luke acknowledged this touch on his mind. I will, Father.
Anakin relaxed. Good. He’d struck the proper balance and wasn’t interfering with the battle. Take care of your sister. Teach her about the Force that flows within you both. He paused, knowing this last part was going to be the most difficult. I love you, and I’ll always be with you. A red haze began passing in front of his eyes as the oxygen level continued to drop. Goodbye.
You can tell that it's a race against time and I hope they still get the shield generator taken care of in time, even though the squadrons are fully involved in a desperate fight.
Gripping starfighter battle, and then Anakin... I wasn't expecting that.
Woah woah woah woah Anakin had better be okay!!!!!! Great to see you back And awesome update! (and great job making the space battles actually interesting to read ) Really looking forward to the rest of this story!
I wanted to give you guys a completely unexpected twist to keep things interesting.
Thank you so much for your kind words! Space battles actually aren't my forte, but I watched the Battle of Endor three or four times while writing this, and remembered how battles are depicted in the X-wing novels. Looks like it worked.
Are you threatening me, @Cowgirl Jedi 1701 ?
Don't worry. Anakin still has more to contribute to this story.
And here you are! Enjoy!
“All right! Let’s go!” shouted Han as the last charge was set. “Move it!” He hooked his arm around Leia’s and ran with her, surrounded by the Pathfinders.
There was little time to lose. The explosives were set to go off in less than a minute. If the Rebels wanted to keep their skins intact, they had to leave the area as quickly as they could.
No sooner had they left the cover of the bunker than a flurry of blaster bolts began sailing among them. Apparently there were still a few stormtroopers hiding out in the bushes.
Han swore and ducked. “Stay low! Keep movin'!” He drew his blaster and shot a helmeted trooper right between the eyes. “Don’t let these guys slow you down! They wanna get blasted to hell, that's their problem!” While inclined to shield Leia from the crossfire, he was gratified- and not at all surprised -to see her taking out one trooper with every shot. His mouth twitched to one side. The woman was downright dangerous.
Cover of the trees was in sight, and the proverbial clock was ticking. By Han’s count they had less than twenty seconds before that bunker became a fireball. “C’mon, c’mon, go! Move!” he barked.
Half a moment later a trooper popped up in front of them and fired. The bolt hit Han in the fleshy part of his chest between shoulder and collarbone.
With a pained yelp the man stumbled and wheeled to one side, completely losing his balance. He hissed and swore, dropping low, and pressed his palm to the wound. He didn’t even see Sergeant Dameron retaliate by blasting the trooper in the gut.
“Han!” Leia was beside him in two seconds.
Han grunted and pushed at her, trying to get to his feet. "Don't...let me...slow 'ya down,” he ordered through gritted teeth.
Leia grabbed his good arm and hauled him up. “Come on, nerfherder.” The petite woman half-dragged him along until Chewie stepped in and picked Han up, carrying him under one arm like a sack of topatoes.
Five more strides and they reached a large, moss-covered log. One by one the group vaulted over the log, then lay flat and covered their heads. Chewie all but tossed Han over the side, hopped over, then lay practically on top of him with a howl. Han squirmed just far enough out to shield Leia.
A deafening explosion rocked the area, sending flames and shrapnel sky-high. Other than a brief wave of heat, the Rebels were unaffected. When the noise had faded away they rolled over to take a look.
The bunker- and the entire complex- was nothing more than rubble. With it went the shields. Now it would be up to the pilots to finish the job.
* * * * *
I love you, and I’ll always be with you. Goodbye.
A sharp jolt of understanding yanked Luke out of his trancelike state like a strong arm dragging him by the collar.
“NO!” For half a second his heart raced and he felt like a drowning man scrambling for the surface. In this case he was reaching for his father’s presence. Father...father, are you there? While there was no answer, he could sense that Anakin was at least alive.
“Red Leader to Rogue Leader. You’ve broken off. What’s the problem?” asked Wedge on the pickup.
“I...” Luke winced, closing his eyes as the conflict of duty versus family pinched his heart. His mind raced for a solution that would serve both. It came up empty. “Liberty’s been hit pretty bad. I’m going to go check it out.” He began diverting power to his aft shields and engines.
“Need any help over there, Luke?” asked Janson.
“Negative, Rogue Three. Everyone stay in formation and stick with Red group. Don’t hold back. Give ‘em everything you’ve got,” he instructed.
“Luke,” warned Wedge, “you know you can’t do anything for them from up here. What’re you-”
Grimacing at both Wedge’s call- and Artoo-Detoo’s squeals of protest -Luke switched comm channels and throttled forward. Then he pulled up, ascending into a half-loop and following with a half-roll, heading straight for the Liberty. In two seconds the damage was obvious as a thin stream of atmosphere leaked out, following by small bits of debris. “Liberty, this is Captain Skywalker. You’re venting atmosphere on your port side. What’s the situation?”
The comm crackled with Madine on the other end. “Skywalker!? What the hell are you doing here?”
Luke winced. How could he bring up his concern about his father without telling the whole fleet? “Just...got a communique from someone on Level Four. They’re-” His voice caught. “They’re not doing so good and wanted to be sure you...didn’t forget them.”
Madine groaned. His tone said he could read between the lines. “Skywalker, we’re doing everything we can. Level Five’s been evacuated and sealed off, but there’s a problem with Level Four...some kind of prisoner uprising. Don’t worry,” he added quickly. “We’ll get everyone out of there, but this isn’t your concern.” His tone grew stern. “Get back to your squadron on the double. That’s an order!”
Luke grimaced. “Yes, sir!” Helplessly he headed back to his group. Honestly, what did you hope to accomplish with that stunt? he asked himself. You just left your squad for nothing. Another reach through the Force confirmed that his father was still alive, but his presence was beginning to fade.
He must have been close to the hull breach. Anakin’s lungs couldn’t take this kind of strain for long.
Grunting in frustration, Luke slammed an open spot on his console and blinked away the coming tears. Anakin had already saved so many. He was the reason they were here in the first place. There was more he had to contribute. But if Luke was being honest, his reasoning was mostly selfish. I can’t to lose my father now. There's still so much he can tell me...and he hasn't even seen Leia yet. It's not fair!
But Anakin had already accepted his fate. He’d told his son goodbye and left his final wishes...that he finish the work he began and become a Jedi. Even at the last, his main concern was his family. Somehow that made things hurt even more. He doesn't deserve this...
Artoo beeped and warbled wildly, demanding an explanation for this unorthodox behavior.
Luke’s shoulders fell with a shudder. He made sure his comm was off before responding. “Remember Anakin? He’s in trouble. He...he's trapped....dying.”
The little droid hooted sadly. He hadn't even had a chance to see his former master yet.
“I know...but...” Luke wiped his eyes. “There’s nothing we can do about it now. We have to get back to the battle.” He flipped the external comm system back on.
“The shield is down!” announced Admiral Ackbar. “Commence attack on the Death Star!”
“Green Leader, I copy!”
“Gold leader, I copy!”
“Red leader...I copy,” sighed Wedge. A pause. Gray leader had been shot down moments before. “Rogue Leader, do you copy?" No answer. "Rogue Leader...do you copy?" Wedge's brows knit. What as going on with his friend? "Luke?”
“Rogue Leader. Acknowledge,” Ordered Admiral Ackbar.
Luke mashed the pickup. “This is Rogue Leader. I copy.” His voice was hoarse, so he cleared his throat.
Wedge came up on Luke’s starboard wing. “You all right over there, Luke?”
Luke nodded and saluted through his canopy. “I’m fine, Wedge." He took a deep breath. "Rogue group, Red group, Gold group, all fighters, follow me.” He throttled forward and aimed his nose for the skeletal Death Star. One final, heartbreaking message was sent out through the Force.
I love you too, Father.
* * * * *
The brig aboard the Liberty was in a state of complete disarray. Imperial prisoners had taken for granted that they would be left to die...but they weren’t. Packs of Fleet Troopers pounded into the cell blocks to evacuate everyone from guards to medics to prisoners.
The first few could express only gratitude at this unexpected mercy. But within minutes of the first cell door opening it became clear that not all would be so willing to cooperate. Four Imperials decided to band together and overpower their captives, freeing the rest of their fellows and making a break for the nearest escape pod. It wasn’t long before there were seven Imperial prisoners ready to take full advantage of the chaos to escape Rebel custody.
This was the scene that Lieutenant Sal Murleen walked into. Prisoners were at the bottom of the evacuation list but he could not forget his oath as a medic. He couldn’t give up on his patients just yet. More than that, he didn’t want Anakin to die.
It was hard for Sal to explain just why he felt such an obligation to this one patient. Maybe it was because Anakin had been the easiest to deal with, or because he needed the most care.
He never would have admitted that he actually cared about the man who had once been a Sith Lord. Anakin was quiet, cooperative, frank and anything but selfish. He had already proven that he didn’t mean harm to anyone- at least any that he had come in contact with. When Sal looked at Anakin, he didn’t see a monster. He saw a broken man doing his best to amend for a lifetime of horror. The thought of that man dying before he even had a chance for a fair trial seemed...wrong.
As Sal ducked and crawled beneath the knock-down, drag-out that was going on between prisoners and jailers- who by now were fighting over oxygen masks -he noticed that the last cell at the far end was still shut tight. It was Anakin’s cell, and the one closest to the hull breach.
Sal wasn’t surprised. Nobody would bother saving Darth Vader.
The young medic darted over to the cell, medi-pack in hand, oxygen mask pressed to his face as he wove between the weakening prisoners. In two seconds both door and force field had opened and Sal all but tumbled in. "Skywalker? Skywalker, can you hear me?"
Anakin was already unconscious. Sal was relieved to find he still had a pulse, though it was dropping quickly. He’d be gone in minutes unless his oxygen mix was increased. That was done with a few flipped switches. Why Anakin simply hadn't done this himself was beyond Sal. Maybe he felt as if he deserved death. Not on my watch, thought Sal with knit brows. He'd have to wait a minute to be sure the man was stable before moving him.
“Hey! Whadda you think you’re doing?” barked a muffled voice.
“I’m trying to save this man’s life,” griped Sal, not bothering to look up. “And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll get out of here before they seal off this level."
“Leave him! That monster isn’t worth saving,” growled the man. He was, of course, an escaped prisoner.
“I’m a medic. It’s my job to save as many as I can...no matter who they are,” frowned Sal.
“Not him. Let him die.”
“No.” Sal didn’t have time to recheck Anakin’s pulse before a sharp blow hit him square in the temple. As his vision went red and nearly black, the medic keeled over and nearly passed out. Sound became garbled. He was only half aware of what happened next.
Anakin stirred. Fleeing Imperials cried out and fired, then cried out again as if at some unseen horror. The whoosh of bodies flying past was followed by a series of muffled thuds. Then someone tugged feebly at his arm. When Sal’s vision cleared he could hardly believe his eyes.
Everyone, from prisoner to guard, lay in a piled heap in the turbolift. Anakin, though still too weak to stand, was crawling along, dragging Sal with him and wearing a look of drowsy determination.
What the...how did he… Adrenaline and the awareness that the emergency bulkheads were about to be sealed roused Sal back to his feet. He shook off Anakins’ grip and instead grasped him beneath the arms. “Hey...that’s my job.” With a massive grunt, he rose enough to half support Anakin’s weight and made for the lift. They made it out, tripping over one another just as the doors snapped shut. A slap at the controls sent it sliding up toward Level Six. Fresh oxygen flooded the compartment, and the pile of moaning men began to stir.
Sal ripped off his mask. He sat staring at Anakin in bewilderment, looking from the former Jedi to the prisoners with knit brows. “Uh...was that you?”
Anakin nodded once. “While my body...may be weak...the Force...is not.”
Sal gingerly touched the lump forming on his head. “Never thought I’d say this, but...I owe you one.”
Anakin managed a tired smile. “I didn’t think anyone would come for me. Let’s call it even.”
Sal’s mouth quirked sideways and he pulled out his squawking comm. “Level Four...brig...Lieutenant Sal here,” he panted.
“Sal! Everything all right down there?” barked General Madine. “What’s your status?”
“All prisoners present and accounted for. All of them,” he added, giving Anakin another nod. “Headed up to the rendezvous on Level Six. We’ll need a couple extra medics...and some guards.”
Madine gushed what must have been a sigh of relief. “They’re coming, Sal. Just sit tight. We heard there was a riot. Can you confirm?”
“There was...but it’s over now.”
“Who stopped it?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. How’s the battle going?”
“Shields finally dropped. Fighters just went in.”
Anakin pushed back to his feet with a grunt to approach the medic. “May I borrow your comm, Lieutenant? I’ve something to tell the General...something that may yet save more lives.” He smiled briefly when Sal willingly handed it over. “General Madine? This is Anakin Skywalker. Permission to send a message to the Imperial Fleet?”
Sal’s amusement immediately faded into worry. Uh-oh. Had his trust in Anakin been misplaced after all?
* * * * *
Luke gripped the stick with white-knuckled fingers, heart pounding as he weaved his way around pipes, conduits, and other obstacles. Artoo was squealing loudly in alarm...and with good reason. A fireball was chasing them out of the second Death Star.
It almost didn’t seem real. After being pursued through the maze by a handful of TIEs -and splitting up to try and give the leads a better chance -Luke, Wedge, and Janson had been the last ones to reach the main reactor. Janson had taken out the power regulator while Wedge seemed to expect Luke to take the killing shot. Luke hung back and told Wedge to take it.
It was only fair. Luke had already blown up one Death Star. There was no need to be the one to blow up another when he had two wingmen. On a more personal note, he didn’t really want to be responsible for wiping out that many lives again.
Wedge’s shot had been right on target, and now they were zooming back out, just barely staying ahead of the fireball. Janson had the lead and kept dropping nervous profanity, while Wedge was more focused on flying. At one point he told Janson to shut up and fly.
Luke was only vaguely aware of any of it. He had given himself up completely to the Force and let it guide his hand on the controls. He brought up the rear of the group at his own request...not that he had a death wish, but he wanted to protect his wingmen. One by one the TIEs in pursuit were swallowed by the flames. They crept ever nearer, nearly overtaking his vision as they drew close to the edge. Luke closed his eyes…
...and all at once the three fighters burst out of the battle station in spectacular fashion, still riding the fireball. It petered out quickly in the vacuum of space.
“YEE-HAW!” cheered Janson, doing a victory roll out front as he made a beeline back to the fleet.
“Save it ‘till we’re clear,” hollered Wedge. He was close on his young friend’s tail.
Luke quietly followed suit. His brows knit as he caught sight of a bunch of Imperial ships bursting out of every hangar like seeds from a ripe flower pod. Most of them were clear of the massive, blinding explosion that followed. Only a fraction of the lives sensed were gone. That was something of a relief.
Well done, son. Well done.
Only after he’d heard his father’s strong voice in his mind did Luke remember how to breathe.
Super with Luke's reaction and Sal's choice, making a crucial difference in whether Anakin survives or not. Very satisfying wrap-up and the celebratory air is well-earned.
Yes! He's okay! Don't know why I worried so much. Never underestimate the power of the Force.
And of course Lt. Sal doesn't want to admit that he actually likes Anakin. Even though he does.
Also, I have a hunch that the message Anakin wants to send to the Imperial fleet will be something along the lines of "Surrender."
@WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you as always.
@Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Oh, why would I make him do something like that...?
Back again! I know I've lost a few readers, but I am *determined* to get this thing finished soon! Another 7 chapters or so, and we'll be there.
Good riddance. Han’s hazel eyes were fixed on the sky, staring in wonder as the last bits of the second Death Star disintegrated in the atmosphere. Everywhere around him and Leia was an air of celebration. The Pathfinders cheered. Ewoks gave their tribal hoot of excitement.
As Leia was busy tending to Han’s burn, neither of them could do much more than look up for a moment. Han let his arms go slack in relief- then yelped as Leia hit a sore spot with her antiseptic. “Ow!” He flinched. “Geez.”
“Quit squirming,” sighed Leia, holding his shoulder steady. “I’m almost done.”
“That stuff stings,” Han winced but resolved not to move any more. His eyes fell back to Leia, whose lips were pressed together in concentration...or hidden pain. She’d been uncomfortable ever since arriving at the bunker but had hidden it well. Han wanted her to take a break. “Hey...y’don’t have to do that. Go get a medic.”
“I thought you trusted me. I’ve had training, remember?” Leia pursed her lips.
“Well...yeah, but…job’s done now. You oughta be takin’ it easy.”
“I can wait a few minutes. You shouldn’t have to. Now hold still.”
Han frowned. How was he going to convince Leia to rest? That woman would not slow down. She’s gonna hurt herself. He waited until the bandage had been tied before taking Leia’s arm and looking her in the eye. “OK. I’m wrapped up. Now take a break.”
Leia just groaned and shook him loose. “I’m going to see if anyone else needs help. You stay here.” She squirted an anti-microbial gel on her hands and got to her feet, stowing items back in the kit...then winced, hand over her stomach.
Han quickly snagged her wrist and gave it a light tug. “That’s it. You’re done. Sit down.”
Leia’s protest was buried in another wince. When Chewbacca yowled at her, she finally took the hint and eased down beside Han, leaning on his good side at his invitation. “Maybe you’re right,” she murmured.
Han was gentle as he wrapped his arm around her. “Hurtin’ bad? I want the truth, ok?”
Leia hunched her shoulders with embarrassment. Her voice was low. “I’ve been better. The meds aren’t working so well today. It hurts...and it’s not supposed to after this long.”
That was enough for Han to lift his head and let out a whistle. “Hey! Any medics nearby?”
“Shush. You’re gettin’ this taken care of right now.”
When Leia didn’t protest, this only worried Han more.
* * * * *
Every fighter pilot was in a state of complete exhaustion as they set down on the Endor moon. Even after the destruction of the second Death Star, there had been a nasty dogfight trying to get the remaining Star Destroyers to surrender. In the end, one has been destroyed, one disabled...and the other got away. Luke, Wedge, and even Janson were swarmed with well-wishers. Janson soaked it up while Wedge was more reserved, managing a few smiles and hand shakes.
Luke just wanted to get away. While he knew that his father was all right, and the battle had gone surprisingly well with few casualties, his main concern was Leia. The Force told him something still wasn’t right, and he wondered if she’d been hurt. He hadn’t heard anything from the strike team yet...
Activity on Endor was just now starting to wind down. The sun was setting and the native creatures- Ewoks, someone had said- seemed to be setting up for a party. Luke had to wade through a sea of the furry beings and ask five different people before he knew that both Han and Leia were in the makeshift infirmary. When Luke heard that Han had been hurt, his concern rose a little. Maybe he’d just sensed Leia’s worry…?
A long line of bandaged ground pounders stood or sat in small groups, talking quietly. Many of them saluted and congratulated Luke. All that faded away when Luke saw his sister.
Leia was half-lying, half-sitting on a blanket, head and torso all but draped across Han. She was fast asleep. Han, out of his signature vest with a white bandage peeking out of his open shirt collar, had his free arm around Leia, chin resting on her head. Chewbacca stood nearby as if guarding them both.
Luke felt a little awkward seeing them so close, but waved his arm. “Han...”
Han looked up, smiled, and waved in greeting. His eyes were red and his smile was tired and halfhearted. He held Leia as if she was made of glass and he had to protect her from the galaxy.
Something is wrong. Luke hurried up to them. “What happened? You all right?”
Han ruefully eyed his shoulder. “Eh, I’ll live. Damn trooper shot me. Looks like you took out that planet killer.”
Luke shrugged. “Actually, it was Wedge this time. I just covered him.” The closer he got to Leia, the more his worry grew. She hadn’t even stirred at his call. “Is Leia all right? I’ve never seen her this tired.”
Han nodded, though he blinked at something. “Yeah...yeah, she’ll be OK. Pushed too hard.” Seeing Luke’s look of confusion, he sighed. “I’ll...let her tell ‘ya. Leia? Hey...” He craned his neck and kissed her. “Luke’s back. Wanna see him?”
Luke crouched before his sister and took her hand. “Leia...Leia,” he called softly, using the Force to just barely touch her mind.
Leia stirred, moving in slow motion. “Hmm?” When bleary brown eyes focused on Luke, she lifted her head. “Luke, you did it again. Good job.”
Luke gave a half smile. “Tell Wedge. He made the last shot this time, and only thanks to you getting the shield down.” His smile faded. “Leia...there’s something you’re not telling me, and I respect your privacy...but I know you’re not feeling well. What’s wrong?”
Leia sagged even further into Han and closed her eyes. There wasn’t going to be any easy way to say this to her brother. “I...had a miscarriage a few days ago. No,” she added when Luke’s face fell so far she thought he might cry. “I’m all right. I just pushed too hard this time. A little rest, and I’ll be fine.”
Luke had trouble catching his breath. Miscarriage... He’d heard the word first as a small child, the one and only time his aunt Beru had been pregnant. Everything had ended one night with cries of pain that went far deeper than just physical. At the age of four Luke hadn’t understood anything, except the people he loved most were hurting and sad. Aunt Beru clung to him a little tighter after that, while Uncle Owen grew gruff and distant. That happened to Leia? The young Jedi sank back on his heels and closed his eyes.
“Luke...don’t...” Leia grimaced. Bless him, but his heart was too soft. Sighing, she reached forward and brought him into a hug. “It’s all right. I’m fine...”
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered.
“Shh. Luke, look at me.” Leia pulled back to look her brother in the eye. “It was quick. It was early. I’ll be all right. Don’t cry.”
Luke took in and let out a shuddering breath, feeling a little guilty. Here Leia was, comforting him again when it was she who had suffered the greater loss. He cleared his throat and wiped his eyes. “As...as long as you’re all right.”
Han kissed Leia’s head again. “Yeah. She just needs to take it easy a couple days.”
Luke shrank back. “OK. I’ll let you rest, then.” He bit his lip. “Is there anything I can do?”
Leia smiled gently. “No. Now that I can see you’re in one piece, I can relax.”
Luke stood there awkwardly until remembering a small piece of good news. “Has anyone told you what Anakin did during the battle?”
Leia frowned. All she’d heard about was a small riot during evacuations. “Now, what?”
The young Jedi pursed his lips at Leia’s tone. “If it was something bad, you would have heard about it before now.”
“All right, then what did he do?” asked Leia, nearly rolling her eyes.
“Well, first of all he helped stop the prisoner uprising. Then he managed to save his medic and send a coded retreat message to the Imperials. He warned them to get off the Death Star just before it blew.”
“He-” Leia blinked in astonishment. “He what?”
“He sent a message to the crewmen of the second Death Star to leave and surrender to us. Most of them listened. Last I heard, we had at least two hundred new defectors.”
Leia’s jaw went slack and her brows knit in disbelief. It didn't register. For a long while she was silent. “Why would he do that?” she finally blurted.
Luke’s tone was quiet as he squeezed his sisters’ hand. “He didn’t want to see anyone else die.”
Vader didn’t want anyone to die? Sure. He could have strangled any one of them without cause. Leia leaned back against the wall of the hut, trying to process what she’d been told. Vader was a monster. Why would he want to save anyone?
He saved Luke, a small, nagging voice reminded.
That’s different, Leia argued. Luke is his son.
If he's truly a monster, he wouldn't have even done that. Maybe saving Luke was just the beginning...
Leia brought a hand to her head, slowly shaking it.
"Hey," murmured Han, seeing Leia's troubled expression. "Y'okay?"
Leia closed her eyes. "Just tired."
Luke finally backed away. "I'll let you get back to sleep, then. Sorry I woke you."
"That's all right." Leia let her head fall back to Han's shoulder, only half-sorry about the sedatives the medic had dosed her with earlier. Sleep returned in minutes.
Touching update. I know Luke was glad to pass along what Anakin did but Leia's in no condition to absorb it, now. Glad she told Luke, and his natural empathy is heightened by what he remembers Beru going through. And Owen's gruff demeanor has a new layer added...
Oh my goodness Luke and his soft little heart I honestly love this story so, so much And Owen and Beru... Like Nyota has said, definitely gives Owen a new level... Great update!
P. S. This really made my day - I'm not having a great one but this story is fantastic
Seems like Leia is gonna have to admit that maybe Anakin really has changed.
And speaking of Leia, whether she admits it or not, she totally needs a hug right now. She needs all the hugs.
UGH! 3 months without an update! So sorry guys, I started a new job and life just got in the way. Workload's been lighter this week, so I was FINALLY able to complete the next couple of chapters.
Yes, Luke thought Anakin's contributions might make her feel better, but you're right. His timing was off.
You're welcome, I'm glad this was able to cheer you up some! And yes, Luke is just a sweetheart. It's why we all love him.
Yes, she does need the hugs. Hugs for miles. Don't worry, Han and Luke will both give her all the hugs she needs.
And at last, here's the next chapter! More coming soon!
Luke let out a relieved sigh as he popped the canopy to his fighter amid Artoo’s conversational beeps. It seemed like ages since they had been planetside.
Life on Endor after the destruction of the second Death Star had been relatively quiet. After a night of celebration it was essentially back to business as usual. While they had dealt another severe blow to the Empire itself, Palpatine was still at large. The war couldn’t end until the last of the Imperials were either dead, captured, or had surrendered to Rebel forces. Sooner or later they were going to have to fight another major battle. More lives would be lost. More changes would take place.
For the time being the main effort was in cleanup. The battle had left some rather nasty scars on the verdant moon, and it would be rude to just leave the mess behind. The Ewoks had, after all, played a large part in turning the tide.
Said creatures proved to be generous hosts. They sheltered and doctored the Rebels to the best of their abilities, serving as scouts by day and furry bodyguards by night. Chewbacca had been unofficially adopted as the ‘big brother’ of Wicket, Teebo, and some of the younger Ewoks. They imitated him- as well as was possible with their short statures -and followed him everywhere with looks of admiration. Chewie didn’t mind. He rather liked the furry creatures. They reminded him of very young Wookiee cubs. So long as they kept out of the way when he was on ‘guard duty’ for Han and Leia….
Luke gave something of a smile as he thought of the couple. Any further reservations he might have had about his sister seeing the former smuggler had dissolved as he saw how much Han had changed. He kept a careful eye on Leia to be sure she wasn’t overdoing, and was never far from her side. Sometimes the Rebellion leader found Han’s attention stifling, and she wasn’t afraid to let him know. But he always gave a sheepish apology and kept a little more distance.
On the flip side, Leia made sure to keep a close eye on Han. The man didn’t seem to know the meaning of the word ‘patience’, and grumbled about his sling getting in the way. But all it took was a few well-placed threats from Leia to make him straighten up.
Even on limited duty, both had been incredibly busy the last two days. Leia spent her time doling out orders, conversing with the other leaders via comm, and writing a steady stream of condolence letters for bereaved families. Han spent most of his time trying to sneak off to work on the Falcon...though it was never for more than a few hours a day. The rest was spent with Leia.
Of course neither of them liked being laid up. The moment she was off bed rest, Leia wasted no time in taking a more active role in the clean-up. Han was still restricted from anything but light duty, and acted as if he was about to lose his mind. His approach to injuries in the past had always been to slap on a bacta patch and keep going. As the burn in his shoulder had gone deep into the muscle, it would be at least another week before he could use his arm.
Artoo’s whistles interrupted Luke’s thoughts as they made for Bright Tree Village.
“Hmm?” Luke threw an apologetic glance to the little droid. “Sorry, Artoo, I didn’t quite catch that.”
Artoo repeated the message. Apparently he wanted to know why his master was so quiet.
“Oh. Just glad to be back on firm ground,” answered Luke. “Flying is great, but those constant patrols were getting kind of old.”
The droid seemed to agree, and gave a distasteful blat.
Luke chuckled. “Right. Especially with eighteen-hour shifts. I know we’re short-handed, but caf and catnaps can only go so far. Besides...I’d like to see Han and Leia...see how they’re doing.”
Artoo warbled another agreement and settled in next to his master for the long walk ahead.
* * * * *
To Luke’s disappointment neither Han nor Leia was in Bright Tree Village. Han had gone up to the Liberty’s hangar to work on the Falcon with Chewbacca while Leia was attending one of the Ewoks’ ceremonial tree plantings.
Luke did manage to track her down just as the ceremony ended and sent her a wave in greeting.
Leia brightened immediately and broke into a jog to meet him. “Luke. Welcome back.”
Luke smiled in return and met her halfway. “Hey. Aren’t you supposed to be taking it easy?”
Leia shook her head, a little nonplussed. “The medics cleared me. As of yesterday I’m more or less back to normal. What about you? I haven’t seen you in days. How are things going up there?”
Luke shrugged. “It’s been quiet since the last Destroyer left. I guess they’re not planning on sending a second attack group any time soon.”
“Mmm. Still, I don’t think we should stay here much longer. They know exactly where we are, and could drop in on us whenever they feel like it,” frowned Leia.
“That’s what Admiral Ackbar was saying. When are we going to leave?” Luke wanted to know.
“As soon as we’ve found somewhere else to go. Unfortunately, any new potential bases are coming up short.” Leia cringed.
“As always,” sighed Luke. “Red squadron is off doing some reconnaissance work. Maybe they’ll find something.”
“I hope so.”
As brother and sister made their way back to their respective speeder bikes, a slight tingle touched the back of Luke’s neck. He recognized it as a warning from the Force and paused mid-stride.
Leia noticed and frowned. “Luke? What is it?”
Luke held out his palm and let his eyes drift shut. “I don’t know...something-”
A loud series of Ewok war cries rent the trees, followed by the stomach-twisting sounds of blaster bolts and cries of pain.
“Oh, no...” Leia’s heart sank. As one she and Luke ran into the next clearing over where their speeders sat, the horrible sight of three dead Ewoks and an armored scout trooper greeted them.
“Get down!” barked Luke, pulling his sister to duck behind a fallen log. Blaster bolts sailed over their heads. The twins returned fire...but the scout had already hopped on a speeder and beat a path out of there.
Leia dashed for the fallen Ewoks while Luke stared, dumbfounded, after the retreating trooper. “I thought the last of them surrendered yesterday!”
Leia blinked back the sadness at seeing their furry friends lying dead. “Looks like we missed one. But-” She looked up to see Luke was sprinting for his bike. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“You know what they say; where there’s one, there’s another. Who knows how many more troopers could be hiding back there? We don’t want an ambush dropping on us in the middle of the night.”
Leia pursed her lips. Will he ever learn to stop being reckless? “I don’t want you riding into trouble, either. Stay here and I’ll call in some backup for you.”
Luke shook his head. “There’s no time. He could be long gone already.” After hopping on his bike and strapping on his helmet, he caught his sisters’ eyes. She was not happy about this and looked ready to hop on behind him. He powered up the bike. “I won’t be long.”
Leia took a step toward him. “Luke! Wait-” but the impulsive young man had already released the air brakes and throttled forward. He shot into the forest with a low whine, leaving his sister to stand there wearing a scowl. She groaned and headed back to the next group of Ewoks, thumbing on her comm as she went. “Pathfinders, this is Leia Organa. Captain Skywalker just headed into the forest after an Imperial holdout. They’re headed due East. See if you can find a couple of spare speeders and give him some backup. I don’t want him riding into an ambush.”
The comm crackled, and Sergeant Dameron answered. “Sorry, Your Highness, but we’ve only got five speeders in the whole outfit, and three of them need new cooling units. The only two in working condition are yours and Captain Skywalkers’.”
Leia groaned even louder. She hated this feeling of being trapped. “See if you can get ahold of General Solo, then. Or anyone who’s free! Captain Skywalker is going to need backup as soon as possible, is that clear?”
“Yes, Ma’am! Right away! Dameron out!”
And Leia was left to stare into the thick woods where her brother had gone. The minute he gets back, I’m going to chew his ears off!
If he gets back, fear and uncertainty taunted her. He’s alone. He doesn’t have a lightsaber anymore. All he has is one blaster. He’s still missing his hand, and those speeders are very temperamental….
Leia shook her head free of these thoughts. Stop it, she ordered. Luke can take care of himself.
There was nothing else to do but turn to follow the remaining Ewoks. Together they began the long walk back to Bright Tree Village. One stayed behind to chant and keen over their fallen brethren.
Once out of the clearing Leia couldn’t help but throw one last glance over her shoulder and whisper a prayer to gods or the Force or whatever else there was that Luke would come back in one piece...
...and that the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach would go away...
Superb resuming of this riveting story!!!!!!! Luke and Leia are on a comfortable footing with one another, candid and teasing. The summary of the state of the Alliance is very realistic and definitely they need to leave ASAP although not having a set base is a definite problem. And then ... Luke had to dash off after that trooper, because you know there's more where that one came from and Leia's anxiety is not just sisterly concern. It might actually be something more. Yikes!
.......... I may or may not have screamed in semi-public out of excitement when I saw that you'd updated...... Can't wait to see what happens to Luke....
First of all, you did not lose me as a reader, but my on-line time is very limited these days. Too much is going on off-line, so many things & people need my attention. But sooner or later I always return to a good story and drop a comment. Those might not be as clever as the ones folk like Findswoman or Ny write, but I give my best. Because you always give your best as the author. Your tears, your sweat, a glimpse into your soul & your heart.
Your redeemed Anakin is somebody who wants to walk new paths, thoughtful and in control of his emotions. He has learned how precious a single life is and what a difference it can make.
I hope for your Leia and many others in your story that they will learn to see that as much as Luke can.
Well, you know Luke. Yoda said it very well "You are reckless!" He's still very young and impulsive and, while he's learned some, it's not enough to keep him out of all trouble...
Whoa! Take it easy, now. But I'm glad you're enjoying it!
Aw, @AzureAngel2 I didn't mean you! I know you're busy with life right now, and I'm not offended in the least! Family and self care comes first. Your comments are some of the most touching and thought-provoking, and I'm honored to have you as a reader!
And now back to Luke. The chase is on...
Cool morning wind whipped at Luke’s hair as ground, trees, and brush all rushed by at a dizzying pace. He wove between the verdant giants at dangerous speeds, guided only by the Force and pure, raw instinct. The trooper was close now.
The chase had been going for only about two minutes, but already Luke had experienced a few problems with his speeder. Unlike the steady X-Wing, these craft were somewhat touchy and much more difficult to fly one-handed. Luke had to concentrate to keep from tipping over every time he shifted gears or took his hand off the grip of the handlebars. The stump of his right forearm was only useful for flipping the toggle switches…or balance. If he let his guard up for half a second, it would all be over.
Maybe I should have gotten that prosthetic after all, he reflected. Even that brief gap in thinking forced him to swerve left to avoid a massive fallen log. The close encounter made his shudder and refocus his attention on flying...and his quarry.
All at once he came up on the scout’s rear and was forced to decelerate to match his speed. Luke smiled grimly. Gotcha.
The scout glanced over his shoulder and accelerated in an attempt to lose his newfound pursuer. Luke matched him. The scout began pulling every trick he knew...and none of them worked. The young Jedi remained tight on his tail...and, unbeknownst to the trooper, was preparing to fire his blaster. The masked Imperial decided to try something else and hit his air brakes to Luke would shoot past him, then turn the tables by opening fire.
Luke’s stomach twisted as he realized what was happening. He swerved to avoid the bright red bolts. Two missed. The third hit with so hard a jolt that Luke was nearly thrown off.
TCHONG! The young Jedi chanced a look over his shoulder to assess the damage. Black smoke rising from his engine was enough to tell the tale. Power and altitude dropped in tandem. Uh-oh. He grimaced as he returned his eyes to the front. It was going to take some fancy flying to keep his bike- and himself -in one piece.
The biker scout edged up on Luke’s left again. If someone wearing a helmet and face mask could look smug, the trooper captured that look perfectly. He glanced at Luke, reached into his holster, and pulled out a pistol, preparing to fire.
By sheer miracle- or the Force, which Luke was more inclined to believe -the shot missed and Luke had enough time to grab his own blaster. But by then the trooper had pulled ahead again. No doubt he was waiting for a clearing so he could circle around and make the kill shot. All the while he stared at Luke, probably sneering under his mask. In a sudden burst, he shot ahead, banking right-
-only to smash head-on into a rotted, upended tree trunk.
Luke didn’t even have time to breathe a sigh of relief before his own problem demanded attention. His engine was on the verge of failing and it took all his strength just to wrestle the vehicle away from the trees. Desperately he throttled forward, trying to regain some altitude to avoid another massive fallen log that was looming near. Going wide would send him into another tree. Going low would slam him into the ground. He had no choice but to go right over.
Suddenly his swoop responded with a final burst of speed. It shot up at a steep angle. The tree was avoided, but now Luke had a new problem. He was going far too high with an unreliable engine. As if in a children’s slapstick holo-cartoon, it sputtered and died right when he was at the peak of the curve. Then he and the speeder fell like a pair of rocks.
Luke, still trying to hold on to his blaster, felt his hand slip off the handlebars. He kicked free and tried curling into a ball to lessen any potential injuries. A rogue limb brought that idea to a halt as it smacked into his left shin. Luke yelped as inertia whipped him around twice in an ugly cartwheel. He hit the ground with his left leg first, which collapsed in a sickening series of cracks and crunches.
His cry was muffled and short-lived, because his head hit next. A haze of red, and then finally black rushed up to fill his eyes.
The unconsciousness that followed was a mercy.
* * * * *
Anakin sat on the cold floor of his cell with metal legs crossed and mechanical hands resting his knees. He had been meditating for an hour, trying to calm the unease festering in his heart. He knew his son was in danger. He had to force himself not to rise up and start nagging his captors about it.
Luke will be fine, he told himself. Luke is a Jedi. He can handle himself. His feelings said otherwise. But was it the Force, or just his own selfish emotions as a father?
Extreme emotions had been a part of who Anakin was for most of his life. As a teen they had peaked despite constant training to control them, and as a young adult he had redirected them into action. As the Sith Lord Darth Vader, he had steeped himself in everything negative. Now, trapped in a bare cell and listed as Medically Fragile, he couldn’t even revert to his old habit of doing something. Much meditation on all the positive that had happened- mostly related to Luke -had helped put Anakin in a calmer state of mind...calm that was waning as his thoughts kept returning to his son.
The sense of danger suddenly spiked, and a series of images flashed into Anakin’s mind...Luke, on a swoop bike with a failing engine...Luke, loosing control of the bike and falling...Luke, feeling horrible pain from some kind of injury...and finally, Luke in a heap on the forest floor, unmoving, bent out of shape from broken bones and bleeding...he lay perfectly still, as if dead-
“NO!” Anakin’s eyes flew open, aching with tears that he couldn’t shed. Remembered pain of the past visions of death- first his mother, then his wife -clawed at his soul like some wretched beast. Desperately he fought the anger and the sense of despair. I knew he was in danger and did nothing. Now it’s too late!
Anakin grabbed at his head, shaking it violently to clear away the terrible images. Calm down, he ordered himself. You don’t know that...always in motion is the future. If he’s on the Endor moon, you can sense him. Again the man closed his eyes and reached for the Force. Luke...Luke…son, hear me… He felt the Force connect him to the planet far below, the teeming life. He felt the presence of the Rebels, still mopping up after the battle. After sifting through the individual presences and not finding Luke, Anakin extended his reach. Minutes passed that seemed like hours.
Finally he found a familiar Force signature, many kilometers away from the rest. Anakin honed in on it. He knew it was his son. Luke? Luke, are you all right? No answer. Anakin pushed harder. Luke, hear me...please…answer me...Luke...Luke! After many tries and with a sinking heart, the former Jedi broke off contact. So his son was alive, but injured to the point of unconsciousness.
Anakin pushed to his feet and ran his sleeve across his eyes. I must find him. He needs help! The image of breaking out of his cell taunted him, and he pushed it back. If Luke took a swoop, his friends know he’s in trouble. And don’t forget that his sister is down there. She can find him. Anakin grimaced and gnawed his lip with uncertainty. Can she? She’s rejected the Force. How will she know where to look, how to find her brother?
There was nothing else to do. Anakin sat down on his cot and reached out once again through the Force, this time for his daughter. Leia’s presence was a bit more difficult to locate, but somehow he managed.
She was several kilometers away from the village and in a very agitated state of mind. She had been walking for a long while and seemed very worried about something already. Luke, perhaps?
Anakin hesitated for the barest moment before trying to speak to her. She’s untrained. She won’t know who it is...but I must try. He took a deep breath and nudged her mind. Leia…
The Princess stopped dead in her tracks, startled. Her return thoughts came not in words, but emotions. She had no idea how to speak through the Force. Luke? Was the only word that came through.
Anakin braced himself for the storm to come. No, daughter. It’s Anakin, your father.
Leia recoiled so sharply and with so much violence it was like a mental slap. The walls went up instinctively around her mind, shutting it off. The message was clear; I don’t want to talk to you!
The former Jedi cautiously nudged again. Your brother is injured, Leia, You must find him. You are the only one who can..
LEAVE ME ALONE! And with that, Leia shut herself off completely and closed the walls about her mind. Nothing else could get through.
Anakin withdrew with a wince. Her thoughts were as sharp as if she’d screamed at him and then slammed a door in his face. Clearly she wasn’t going to let him even try to talk to her, even about Luke. He sagged on his hips and brought his palm to his eyes. All right. You tried. At least you know Luke is alive.
The only other thing he knew to do was keep trying to contact his injured son. Luke was going to have to save himself.
Oh dear! Luke is in a dire situation, and Leia won't listen to Anakin's urgings. I feel like time is of the essence. Maybe the Ewoks will find him?
I like how Anakin transforms into someone wiser and more reflective in this story. Somebody who learns from his mistakes. Who controls his feelings and thoughts. Well done!
I am just sad that Leia has no ounce of trust for the man who is her biological father. Not only can Bail Organa be replaced, there is also a series of unfortunate events between Vader & Leia.
Anyway, I am also thanks for "Your comments are some of the most touching and thought-provoking, and I'm honored to have you as a reader! "
I feel very proud now.
@WarmNyota_SweetAyesha I know. Time is indeed ticking....
@AzureAngel2 Thank you very much! I wanted Anakin to be a man shaped by his experiences, and thought it would be very interesting to see what kind of man he would be outside the suit and free of the Dark Side. As for Leia...well, you're right about the events. Plus after being raised seeing Darth Vader as a monster and not seeing any of Anakin's good deeds firsthand, it's going to take something rather drastic for her opinions to change. Once a person has made up their minds that someone else is not to be trusted, sometimes that's it.
Speaking of Leia, let's get back to her...heads up, this is a long one....
She walked quickly and heavily, all but stomping through the forest brush in extreme agitation. The storm of emotion roiling in her mind could only be glimpsed on her face. To anyone else, Leia Organa would just look angry. It was enough to send some scurrying out of her way when she finally made it back to Bright Tree Village, a trio of very winded Ewoks at her heels.
Leia wasn’t just angry. She was furious...partly at herself, partly at Luke, but most of all at the monster who called himself her father.
How dare he! She seethed, her mind boiling like a pot of soup. How dare he call me his daughter...how dare he try to fool me into thinking Luke is hurt! How dare he even try to talk to me!
She could trick herself into thinking it was the latter that bothered her most. It felt like a terrible invasion, projecting one’s thoughts into the mind of another...especially since Leia utterly despised her parent and had already said she wanted nothing to do with him.
Leia’s eyes stung as she began the long climb back into the trees. In truth she knew that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst was Vader’s warning that Luke was badly injured. Much as Leia tried to deny it, to turn it into some twisted joke, in her heart she knew it was true.
It had been an hour since Luke had left. He wasn’t answering his comm. Everything in her screamed that her brother was hurt...or at least in grave danger. Nestled in among her anger was a deep, biting, gnawing fear...fear that she was going to lose what was left of her family.
No, she thought. Not this time. This isn’t Alderaan. I don’t have to stand by helplessly and watch. I can do something.
And so Leia redirected every ounce of her pent-up emotion into action. Her first order of business was to track down a ride into the forest to begin the search for her brother. Anyone in her way was going to get run over.
Presently a tiny paw tugged at her trousers, its owner jabbering excitedly.
“What?” Leia barked, stopping in her tracks. Her heart sank when she saw a fearful Wicket hiding behind the nearest support pole. “Oh...Wicket, I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was you.”
Wicket’s huge eyes peeked out from behind the pole. He murmured a quiet, sheepish question.
Great. Now you scared him. Leia dropped into a crouch with a sigh. “Poor thing. Come here...come on.” She held out an open hand and took his paw. “I didn’t meant to frighten you, I’m just-”
“Princess!” gasped a pair of breathless pilots as they jogged up to her. Leia recognized them as Wedge and Janson. “Dameron just told us Luke’s in some kinda trouble. What’s going on?”
Leia pushed back to her feet with an Ewok wrapped around her thigh. “Commander Antilles. Lieutenant Janson. About an hour ago, Captain Skywalker took off alone after a rogue Scout Trooper. I’m worried he might have ridden into a trap. It’s been an hour now and I haven’t heard from him yet.” While the two young men cringed, Leia continued. “Can either of you track him down?”
While Janson was about to blurt out his bravado, Wedge showed his palm. “Princess, you know anybody in Rogue Squadron is ready to help Luke. But tracking him isn’t the problem. Actually getting down there is.” When Leia’s shoulders fell, Wedge continued. “It’s the trees, ma’am. They’re too thick for us to set down just anywhere. If he’s hurt, we wouldn’t be able to do anything for him but point out where he is to a rescue crew and keep circling to watch his back.”
Leia’s throat closed. The sense of urgency within her was rising by the moment. How long could it be before we can get a crew to him? He could be hurt badly...time could be running out for him! We need to find him now! One small part of her wanted to bark out orders to have them try and land anyway to try and render first aid...but there was sense in what Wedge was saying. With the location of the nearest clearing to Luke unknown, trying to set down in the canopy was foolhardy. It’s all they can do… Leia closed her eyes, bit her tongue, and nodded. “Then get to it, Commander. The sooner we find him, the sooner we can get him whatever help he needs.”
Wedge nodded sharply and saluted with his helmet. Meanwhile Janson seemed ready to jump out of his skin. “Ah...Princess? Permission to-”
“Granted,” interrupted Leia with a nod. Janson was Wedge’s wingman, after all. “We can’t spare all of you, but the more eyes we have out there, the better. I want both of you to do an alternating sweep in an Easterly direction. That’s where Skywalker was headed last.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Wedge and Janson snapped to attention. “How far?”
“As far as you have to go,” answered Leia without a pause. “Whichever of you gets a signal first, report back immediately. Understood?”
“If anyone questions your orders, direct them to me.” Leia blew out a sharp breath. Technically she had little power over the pilots- that was Admiral Ackbar’s department -but she did outrank them and could give orders, so long as they weren’t related to battle plans or manuevers. “Dismissed.”
“Yes, Ma’am!” Both pilots nodded once more and took off at a run toward the clearing where the remainder of Rogue Squadron had landed.
No sooner had Wedge and Janson jogged away than another familiar voice greeted Leia from behind. “Hey! What’s goin’ on?”
Leia whipped around to see Han standing there with his usual bewildered expression. Now he shows up. She turned the remainder of her wrath on the hapless Corellian. “Where have you been? I’ve been trying to reach you by comm for over an hour!”
Han blinked and took a step back. “What? Oh.” He flushed red. “Damn. I turned it off-”
She pulled out her own comm and just about shoved it in his face, glaring. “We have these for a reason, you know. Would it kill you to remember that, and maybe answer once in a while?”
Han showed his palms, one arm still in a sling. “Hey, hey, whoa, slow down there. So I made a mistake. You don’t have to bite my head off.” Then he recognized the pained expression, the fear hidden behind anger and action. His palms lowered. “Whassa matter?”
Leia closed her eyes again and take a deep breath. Calm down. It’s not his fault. “It’s Luke. When we met up in the forest, a rogue Scout Trooper showed up, killed three Ewoks, and took off on one of our speeders. Luke went after him.”
Han flinched. “Alone? Geez, does that kid ever learn?”
Leia threw her hands helplessly into the air. “I don’t know! All I do know is that he’s in trouble.”
Han took her arm in his, cautious. “Hey, c’mon. Don’t go chasin’ shadows-”
“I’m not!” Leia shook him off even as she felt her eyes sting. “It’s been an hour, and nothing. Nobody’s heard a word from him, and he won’t answer his comm.”
“Maybe his comm just went out,” suggested Han. But now his heart was beginning to sink.
“It’s been too long. He should have been back before now. He could have ridden into an ambush, or gotten hurt, or-” Leia, aware that she was rambling, let out a shuddering breath. “Han, please. I know he’s in trouble. Don't ask me how. But, we have to find him.”
Han let his shoulders fall. Leia’s track record when it came to Luke spoke for itself. When everyone else believed he was dead or a turncoat all those months ago, Leia was the only one to hold out hope that Luke was alive, and would never betray them. If she said he was in trouble, then.... “Dammit.” Han ran his free fingers through his hair with a heavy sigh. “All right. Falcon’s still not 100%, but her scanners work well enough. Got anybody else lookin’?”
Relief at not being written off was profound, and Leia let her shoulders relax. “Wedge and Janson all but jumped at the chance.”
“Good. The more help we got, the better.” He glanced over his shoulder to a quiet but steadfast Chewie. “C’mon. Let’s get her back in the air.”
Leia strode after them. “I’m coming with you.” Her tone allowed for no arguments.
Han nodded in understanding. “Yeah. I figured. Let’s go.” After several paces he reached out to put an arm around Leia’s shoulders. “S’okay. We’ll find him.”
Leia nodded, but the sense of urgency grew by the minute. Hang on, Luke. We’re coming.
* * * * *
All five senses returned in an unpleasant cacophony as Luke regained consciousness. He saw the pink of planet set filtering through his lashes and heard the persistent buzz of evening insects. His nose twitched with the spicy smell of evergreens and damp ferns. The taste of blood made him grimace. As for the sense of touch, a vague ache rose over his whole body, localized in head, arm, and left leg.
Luke grunted, trying to reorganize his jumbled thoughts. My name is Luke Skywalker. I’m a part of the Rebel Alliance. We’re on the forest moon of Endor, and we just destroyed the second Death Star. His eyes fluttered. Where’s everyone else? While reaching out with the Force was difficult with his headache, he managed. It told him that he was alone…or at least the only human within range of his tired senses.
Alarming, but not surprising. It was getting dark. The last time he had glanced at the sky was late morning. If his friends had been anywhere close, they would have found him ages ago.
So how did I get here? Luke wondered as he blinked to clear his eyes. Memory returned in disturbing flashes.
Speeders….the dead Ewoks…the scout trooper…I crashed.
Luke cringed. Up till then he had been avoiding movement. But since he was stranded kilometers away, with no one knowing where he was, there wasn’t much choice in the matter. He couldn’t just lay there and wait for his friends to find him. With as long as the speeder ride had been, for all he knew he could be in a different hemisphere. The terrain was rough. It could be days until he was found. He was going to need food and water.
Stay calm. Assess your situation. Between living in a harsh environment for the first nineteen years of his life and spending four years as a pilot in the Rebellion, being prepared for emergencies was second nature. He ran a mental checklist, carefully moving his joints one by one. His head spun, but he chalked that up to another concussion. His helmet must have flown off at some point. Search revealed a ruined and useless comm, as well. His neck and back seemed fine, as did the right arm. His left arm between neck and elbow was throbbing. His right leg didn’t have any obvious injury. As for the other-
A red hot lance of agony shot from ankle to hip. All Luke had done was flex his foot. That’s not good. The feeling was similar to the loss of his hand. Blowing stiffly through pursed lips, the young man inched up on his good elbow to take a look at his leg.
His foot wasn’t where it was supposed to be. Further search found it at an extreme and awkward angle, bent at the knee, and then again between knee and ankle. His toes were practically under his hip. Several ugly bulges revealed at least three breaks, and there was a large spot of dried blood over one.
Disgust and despair hit in tandem. Luke fell back with a groan and a spinning head. His leg wasn’t just broken. It looked like it had been taken off, twisted twice, and then reattached backward.
Luke’s heart pounded with alarm. I’m trapped out here. No one knows where I am. I can’t move my left side. I can't even call for help. It was a struggle just to regulate his breathing. Calm down, calm down, calm down….if you panic, you’re dead. And you can’t die yet. What about Leia? What about your father? What about finishing your training? Thoughts of his family- and to a lesser extent, his duty as a Jedi -kept Luke from giving up at once, and he was able to catch his breath.
The voice startled Luke out of his thoughts, and he looked around eagerly. “Hello?” He inched back up on his elbow. “I’m…I’m here...please...I need help!”
Luke…hear me. There was worry and desperation in that voice. Luke, son. Please answer!
Luke sat up. He wasn’t hearing the voice with his ears. He was hearing it with his mind. “Father?” he cried.
Intense relief emanated from the voice. Son! Oh, thank the Force. I’ve been calling to you for hours and thought you might not awaken. Are you all right? What happened?
Luke grimaced. “I…was stupid. We found a leftover...Took a speeder alone…crashed.” He could sense his father's disappointment. “Sorry.”
Don’t apologize. I can feel your pain. How badly are you injured?
“Broken leg…and my arm’s not too good.” That was of course a gross understatement, but Anakin was in relatively fragile health himself. Luke didn’t want his father to worry too much.
It was long before Anakin answered. He seemed suspicious about the vague answer. Where are you?
Luke pursed his lips. “Endor. Beyond that...I wish I knew.”
Are there any landmarks? What can you see?
“Planet-set to my left. That’s all.”
Another pause. What supplies do you have?
Had his father been there with him, Luke would have wanted to hide his face in embarrassment. “Just a blaster.”
No food? Water? Medical supplies?
“Not even my comm. It’s busted.”
Anakin’s frustration, even from that distance, was palpable. There must be something you can use. Imperial speeders always have emergency packs. Was yours destroyed?
Luke scanned the general area and found nothing. “Don’t know. Can’t see it.”
Anakin hesitated before continuing. Try and find it. It’s your best chance. Do you remember where it is in relation to you?
Luke closed his eyes, moistening his lips as he reached for the unpleasant memory. ”Ahead of me...I think.”
Can you stand at all?
Luke made a face at the prospect and threw another glance to his mangled leg. It looked as if it would fall off if he put too much weight on it. “No...I’ll crawl.” He took a deep breath and rolled over to his right side. Even that movement sent a fresh wave of agony up his hip, and he screamed before gritting his teeth. He was trembling as he pushed forward on right arm and leg. He traveled a scant hand span, groaning as he went.
“I can do it…I have to...” Luke blew out a sharp breath and made the motions again. One painful lurch at a time, he performed the awkward side crawl. He had gone no more than two meters before the pain was too much and he collapsed again with a muffled cry.
Luke, wait! I didn’t mean now. Try and splint your leg first. Moving before then will only make it worse, Anakin cautioned.
Luke, still panting, nodded. “I’ll try...” There were plenty of branches about. A few well-placed rips on his lightweight jacket could provide the needed strips of cloth. He could use his teeth if he had to. The real problem was going to be putting his leg in some semblance of order with only one hand, and without passing out...or making the damage worse.
* * * * *
“Han...are you getting anything? Anything at all?”
Han rubbed his eyes. He had been staring at the sensor array for hours, circling, sweeping, looking in every place they could think of for Luke. The young man- or any other human being -was nowhere to be found. He could barely look at Leia, who was visually scanning the darkening forest beneath and trading off time at the controls with Chewie. Her tone was so tired...so desperate for any shred of hope. He hated to let her down again. “No.” His voice was flat as he turned away from the screen. “Nothing.”
Leia glared, swallowed whatever accusation she was going to make, and mashed the comm. “Janson? Wedge? Anything?”
Poor Janson sounded just as tired and defeated as Han. “Sorry, your Highness. We’ve got our sensors on full, and we haven’t even picked up a stray teek. You...you sure Luke was headed East?”
“Yes. I’m sure.” Leia’s hand shook as she released the pickup for a moment to take a deep breath. Don’t let it get to you. Stay strong. Luke needs you to stay strong. After a long pause, she pressed the mic pickup again. “Head in, Rogues. Get some sleep. We can pick up the search again in the morning.”
“But...Princess, if Luke’s hurt-”
“That’s an order, Lieutenant. Your X-wings aren’t fully stocked, and I don’t want you falling asleep at the controls.”
Wedge and Janson seemed to heave identical sighs before acknowledging. “Yes, Ma’am. Come on, Janson. Let’s head in.”
And the two green blips on long-range sensors wheeled back toward the Ewok village.
Silence overtook the Falcon’s cockpit. Chewbacca waited in the copilot’s seat, looking mournfully from Han to Leia. When Han’s eyes closed and he began to nod off, Chewie howled and reached a hairy arm to shut off the sensor array. When Han raised a protest, Chewie argued louder.
Leia, wishing again she could pick up more than a few words of Shyriwook, watched them with knit brows. She frowned deeply at a certain phrase. “How long have you been awake?” she asked Han with a sinking heart.
Han yawned, then slapped himself. “’Bout thirty-six hours, runnin’ on caf an’ adrenaline. Didn’t sleep more’n an hour last night.”
Leia hauled him up from his seat. “Then go get some sleep. I’ll watch the sensors.”
Chewbacca launched into another series of grunts and growls. He flipped a switch, then whirled the yoke around.
“Chewie, no! We can’t head back now!” protested Leia. Han’s gentle hand on her arm stopped her.
“Leia...we can’t fly all night. S’ pitch back out there. Whaddya think you’re gonna see?” Han sighed, his limbs heavy from more than just fatigue. “You need sleep, too.”
Leia aggressively bit her lip. Everything in her was urging her to stay awake, to keep going, to not take any rest until Luke had been found...but Han had a point. Even Chewie needed to sleep sometime, and he couldn’t fly and watch the sensors at the same time, especially at this low altitude. They were practically skimming the canopy as it was. Painfully, she nodded. “You’re right. We’re not going to do Luke any good if we can’t keep our eyes open.” Her eyes stung, and she rubbed at them.
Han pulling her into a drowsy embrace. “Shh. We’ll find him. Don’t care how long it takes. We’ll find him, ok? I promise.”
Leia just buried her face in Han’s chest, willing herself not to cry. Luke, wherever you are, hold on. Please...
Without a word they shuffled back to the sleeping quarters.
Leia really is as driven as her father used to be in his younger days. Guilt ridden, full of fear. That is like writing invitations to the dark side and leaving the house door wide, wide open.
I wish she could be part of the "Force melt" that Anakin & Luke have established. This cool tandem team.
Oh, Luke, my baby I really have nothing else to say.... Congratulations on making me emotionally invested in this story, I guess