Chapter 11: Gearing Up
This was it; the mission to beat all missions was about to get underway. Everything was ready… so Luke thought.
In truth, Luke had no real way of knowing. The Rebel Briefing had ended an hour before. They’d made holos for posterity. They’d eaten one last meal. The fleet was gassed and ready to go. The second Death Star was just waiting to be blown up. It was now or never.
Luke, Han, Lando, and Leia jostled with one another and other Rebel soldiers to be the first to suit up in camouflage and flight gear, ready for the campaign on and above the forest moon of Endor. Some of these members of the Alliance were suiting up for their deaths, Luke knew, and idly wondered if he was one of them. Maybe he didn’t have to worry about facing Darth Vader again because he was about to get gunned down by some lucky stormtrooper.
But he knew that thinking about death in such a manner was a quick way to cause his own, so he trained his thoughts on other things, very practiced by now in the art of self deception. Every Rebel had to be. Death was such a constant in their lives that it had almost ceased to be relevant. The best way to deal with the constant stress of death was by ignoring the danger and to be as happy as possible while they had the chance. The only thing waiting for those who became too worried about their own death was constant depression, and what was the point of that? It was just a quick way to exhaust yourself. It was much better to be cheerful like Luke was. The others behaved in the same manner, happily competing with one another for the newest gear. Having the newest and best gadgets just might save a life.
“Hey Chewie, hand me that long coat… yeah, that one,” ordered Han Solo, critically eyeing the camouflage coat. It looked much larger now that Han was holding it. “Good pockets; nice and big.”
Lando gazed at it with longing. “Got any more of those?”
“Hands off!” Han playfully said. “You plan on needing a coat in case it rains in space when you attack that Death Star?”
“No, you pirate!” Lando laughingly exclaimed. “I might need the pockets for storing the odd hydrospanner.”
“Here.” Han tossed a green vest covered in pockets towards his friend. “That should do you nicely; lots of pockets.”
Lando caught it and grimaced. “Rotten color, though.”
“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Luke commented as he threw a camouflage cape over his shoulders and picked up two combat hats. “Here’s one for you, Han.”
“I can’t wear a hat,” Han idly said as he caught Luke’s offering in mid air. “It’ll mess up my hair.”
Luke smothered a laugh at Han’s teasing, but Leia grabbed at the hat before Han could set it back down, and held it out to him, a serious expression on her face. “Wear it. We didn’t rescue you from carbonite just to have you smash your head into a tree at the first opportunity.”
Grudgingly, Han took the hat. “I’ll look stupid.”
“The stormtroopers won’t care,” Leia quipped.
Han obligingly tried on the hat, and it clashed with his new coat.
Lando doubled up with mirth. “You’ll scare them to death in an outfit like that. You won’t have to fire a single shot!”
Han grinned. “Say goodbye to the Death Star.” He took the hat off and ran a hand through his hair, messing it even more.
Leia smiled. “That’s how I like you; all messed up and oh, so cute!”
Luke grinned anew, but Wedge laughed out loud. “I never thought I’d see a whipped Han Solo.”
“Yeah, you’re so whipped that we can practically serve you as topping on desserts,” Lando jokingly added.
“Hey, Solo, “ Hobbie intervened while everybody else laughed. “I’ve been meaning to ask you about the way you bypassed the power couplings on the Falcon. We all tried it on our X-wings, but can’t figure out how you did it. Doesn’t it just create a feedback loop?”
Han propped the hat against his hip to regard Hobbie. “I pulled the mains, then connected the leads from the engine transformer straight to the…”
“Wait!” Hobbie exclaimed, laughing. “You lost me at ‘pulling the mains.’ Main what, wires or circuits?”
Wedge cut in to ask, “Or was it the main conduits?”
Han plopped the hat down on the nearest bench and pulled Hobbie and Wedge towards the door. “I’ll show you meatheads what I did.”
“Show and tell… this is my kind of battle prep!” Hobbie’s voice carried through the door as it closed, sealing Luke in with just the Princess, Lando and Chewie.
“This I gotta see!” Lando ran to follow them through the door. “Come on, Chewie! You’ve got to translate.”
Chewie gave a good natured growl, but headed after Lando.
That left Luke, who turned to follow them both, but Leia held him back. “Leia!” he laughed, teasingly tugging on his arm. “Come on!” But then Luke glanced at her anxious expression, and stopped. “What is it?”
Leia leaned in close. “Is it too much for me to ask you to keep an eye on Han?”
Instantly concerned, Luke’s smile swooped into a frown. “Are you worried?”
“Do you think he’s taking on too much too soon?”
“What; do you mean leading the strike team?” Leia nodded, and Luke grinned again. “Do you really want to deal with a Han who gets left behind?”
Leia thoughtfully considered such a possibility, then winced. “Maybe not.”
Luke had to agree with her. “He would never let you hear the end of it.”
“You’re right; it’ll be easier if he goes.” Leia idly played with the hat Han had abandoned on the bench. “I’m just worried that he’ll have a sight relapse at the worst possible moment, when we’re surrounded by stormtroopers and laser fire and smoke, completely cut off from any back-up.”
Luke had to grin. “Oh, you mean if things go the same as they always do?”
Leia smiled at his sarcasm. “Yeah.”
Luke’s laugh was less controlled this time; he had managed to forget for five minutes in a row what Master Yoda had said about his need to face Vader again. It was a relief to forget. Therefore, a thoroughly cheerful Luke predicted, “Han will be fine. You’ll see… and so will he.”
Leia rolled her eyes in exasperation. “That’s what worries me.”