Chapter 19: The Rebel Alliance Hero Rebellion
“Luke?” Wedge thoughtfully asked as they sat on the hangar bay floor of the Home One to clean spare parts after performing the weekly check on their X-wings.
When Wedge didn’t continue right away, Luke glanced up from the spare part in his hands. “Something holding your tongue?”
Wedge looked at him sideways. “I see all that Jedi stuff hasn’t improved your rotten sense of humor.”
“I see that blowing up a Death Star hasn’t given you one, either.”
Wedge chuckled. “Same old Skywalker.”
“Same old Antilles.” They went back to their companionable cleaning duties, neither speaking, though their silence was as comfortable as their friendship.
But at last, Luke prodded, “You were going to ask me something?”
Wedge hesitated. “I was. But I don’t want you to take it the wrong way.”
Luke’s smile was small, but considering what passed for a smile from him since his time spent in the Emperor’s Death Star Throne Room, it was big. “How can I take it the wrong way if I don’t know what you’re talking about?”
“You remember Jansen, right?”
“Sure. It hasn’t been that long since we were all in Rogue Squadron together.” Luke didn’t see the point of mentioning how he was barely able to maintain his X-wing now that his interest had changed from Rogue Squadron to being a Jedi. “Is there something that I can do for him?”
Wedge heaved a sigh. “Jansen just heard that his sister is in Idris Work Camp.”
Luke frowned. “I thought that since the Empire’s finished, they’d shut down those work camps.”
“We both know that news of the end of the Empire isn’t always accepted, especially by places like Idris that’s run by your average local crime lord.”
“And… Jansen wants the Rebellion to do something about it?”
“Jansen has already talked to the Rebel Council… or what’s left of it. They said that since they’re energies are involved in starting a new government, they really don’t have time to get involved. They can’t do anything, anyway, especially for one of their own.”
Luke considered. “I see their position. Once they start down that path, they might never get off.” It’s like the path to the Dark Side.
“I can understand what they’re saying,” Wedge acknowledged, “but what’s Jansen supposed to do now?”
Luke’s sardonic bark of humor was bigger than most of his recent emotional displays. “So what you’re saying-but-not-saying is that the crime lord in charge of Idris won’t shut down his camp because it’s more lucrative to keep it open, and so Jansen’s sister is still there, and you want your Jedi friend to help this crime lord see the error of his ways.”
Wedge looked chagrined, but determined. “Jansen refused to bother you with this, but I thought there was no harm in just bringing it up.”
Luke dropped the rag and spare part in his hand to replace the tools in their proper place in the tool box he and Wedge had borrowed. “You do know that I have plans to go looking for other Force sensitives, right?”
Wedge grimaced. “Yeah, I know, and I won’t argue that you have the right to to do that.”
“It’s why I’m even checking over my X-wing.”
“And hoping to get you alone to ask you this question is why I’m checking over my X-wing at the same time,” Wedge told him.
Instead of growing angry at hearing about such blatant maneuvering, Luke’s brow clouded in question. “Jansen’s sister means so much to you?”
“It’s not that she means so much to me, but she means so much to him.”
“If that’s the case, why didn’t he just ask me to intervene himself?”
It was Wedge who snorted this time. “Everybody’s scared of you, Luke.”
This wasn’t welcome news. “Scared of me? Why?”
“Well, not so much scared of you, but…” Wedge winced. “Force users have a bad rep in the Alliance, that’s what I mean. The pilots… they can’t help but cast you in the same mold. It’s not like they understand the difference between you and…” His voice trailed off, but it was obvious what he wasn’t saying.
“Vader.” Luke had been afraid of this type of stereotyping, but this was the first time he’d experienced it. “I’m nothing like Vader.” Except for being his son. But Luke didn’t plan to publicize that information for as long as he could keep it quiet.
“Tell that to the pilots,” Wedge said, placing his tools alongside the ones Luke had cleaned.
“It’s not hard to tell the difference between a Sith Lord and me. I’m not trying to kill them.”
Wedge’s laughter broke the tension that had fallen over the two. “Good point.”
“I want to help, really I do, but--”
“Let me ask you this,” Wedge interrupted. “Was your decision to join the Rebellion an easy one to make?”
Luke laughed a bit at his question. “You know my story as well as your own. My parents are dead, and the Empire killed my aunt and uncle, burned our farm… I didn’t have anywhere else to go.”
“Except to the Death Star to rescue some princess just before blowing it sky high.”
Luke was getting tired of being known as the hero of the Rebellion just because of one lucky shot… even though he now knew that there had been so much more to it. “I’m no more a hero than you are. You blew up a Death Star, too.”
“My point is that you didn’t have family when you joined the Rebellion.”
“Neither did you.”
“But Wes Jansen did. Our decision to join was a lot easier than his, especially since he knew that the Empire treated his family worse because of it. His parents eventually died in that fire that happened last year.”
“That fire was an accident, wasn’t it?”
“That was the official reason, but we know how the Empire operated.”
Luke sighed unhappily. “I’d hoped that things would be different. Wes never really said anything specific. But the fact that they captured his sister supposedly selling false papers a week later always did look suspicious.”
“That’s what I mean.”
Luke’s sigh now turned aggravated. “The Emperor’s dead… the Empire’s gone… the war’s over and done with. Why is there always someone who refuses to admit that and move on?”
Wedge gave a sarcastic smirk. “Because it’s so hard to stop getting wealthy off all that misery caused by the Empire.”
Leia would see this as proof of Luke’s social naivete, but he couldn’t help it when he said, “It shouldn’t be like that.”
Wedge gestured outwards in open invitation. “Then do something about it.”
Luke’s forehead wrinkled. If he got involved in rescuing this girl, then what was to keep others from wanting him to do the same? Just as with the new government, he could be rescuing people for the rest of his life!
“Having a Jedi in our ranks will go a long way in saving lives.”
Luke grimaced. “But, when would I have time to serve my own Jedi interests?”
“If we don’t help him, how can we face Jansen again?”
Luke’s grimace deepened. “Wedge, you know just what to say to make me feel like space garbage. Pretty soon, I’ll be nothing but a mercenary.” He had no desire to even be thought of as a mercenary. It made him feel like he’d put his skills up for hire. Yet, Wedge made a good argument. If he said no, how could he ever look at Jansen again without feeling horrible? A Jedi was supposed to help, not stay on the sidelines where it was safe. They were talking about this girl’s life.
And he was well aware that it could be him stuck in some work camp just like she was. If he had been at home on Tatooine when those stormtroopers had killed his aunt and uncle, he might have been killed, too, but it was just as likely that he’d have ended up somewhere like Idris. He wouldn’t have felt too forgiving of someone not helping him ‘just because’ in that hypothetical situation, either. Besides, what good was he if he didn’t get involved?
His mind still reeling, Luke finally said, “You can count me in.”
In the end, seven people and one Wookie converged on the Idris Work Camp (the word ‘Imperial’ was scratched off all the location directors). Ever since Han had signed on once he heard Luke talking about Jansen’s problem, he’d offered to fly the group in on The Millennium Falcon, and where Han went, Chewbacca went. Leia regretted that she couldn’t accompany them, but Luke didn’t. It was right for the new government not to get involved in this type of personal dispute. Leia’s diplomatic skills would have been useful in this situation, but her skills were far more necessary to the New Republic. It wasn’t like Luke and Han had never dealt with crime lords and gangsters before, anyway. As a concession to Leia, Lando tagged along to keep Han and Chewie out of trouble, though Luke suspected that it had more to do with the fact that Ionia, the work camp’s home planet, was a hotbed for gambling.
Thinking of Leia made Luke suggest that they take the diplomatic approach first. He argued that even crime lords were reasonable. All they had to do was offer him/her/it something of value.
“What did you offer Jabba?” Han curiously asked as they entered the Palo system and aimed for the third planet of Ionia.
Luke almost smiled at the memory. “Artoo and Threepio. Of course, Artoo had my lightsaber in his dome in case it came down to a fight. But I offered to negotiate first.”
“Knowing Jabba, I bet negotiations were short.”
“More like nonexistent.”
Han nodded. “So let’s try negotiation first, then hit them where it counts.”
“This is our plan?” Lando asked, a touch incredulous. “Shouldn’t we come up with something more definite?”
All eyes turned to Han. He’d been the head of the Endor strike team, and this wasn’t his first stint at strategy. Han visibly swallowed in anxiety, but then said, “Okay. Can you all hear me?”
The seven surged closer together in the tiny cockpit, and Luke exclaimed, “Lando, you’re standing on my foot!”
Lando mumbled an apology just as Han decisively said, “Here’s what we’re gonna do... I think.”
Han asked for permission to land near Idris on Ionia, and got it with surprisingly little difficulty.
Wedge nervously commented, “Either that means that they’re confident they can handle anything, or they know we’re coming, and have hired extra thugs.”
“Stop worrying,” Lando said, laughter in his voice. “This will work.”
Wedge remained nervous. “It’s times like these that I wish I had my X-wing.”
Ionia filled the window, and Han headed for the Northern continent and the Idris Work Camp just as Jansen piped up, “I can’t thank you enough, everybody. This means so much to me.”
“Will you shut up, Jansen?” Han casually ordered. “That’s the third time since we left Alliance HQ that you’ve mentioned being grateful. Say it one more time, and I’m gonna throw you out the airlock.”
“The Falcon doesn’t have an airlock,” Luke pointed out.
Han growled, “Oh, thanks Luke, now everybody knows!” He mockingly shook his head. “Leave it to a Jedi…”
Luke covered his smirk with his hand. At least they were all in good moods before attempting negotiations with the person in charge of the Idris Work Camp.
The person in charge of the Idris Work Camp was not in a good mood.
The group had quietly submitted to the ‘no weapons’ policy to get into the camp, had made their request to review the case or even to free Chloe Jansen as respectfully as possible, and now patiently waited for the scowling individual named Or Redic to acknowledge them.
Which he did, after making them wait for several agonizing minutes. “So, you want me to review a case of one of the prisoners?” Or Redic repeated while glancing up to barely take them in with his gaze. “We don’t do reviews. Once in Idris, you don’t get out. Now beat it.” He pulled a palmcom towards himself and pretended to be busy to encourage them to leave.
“You don’t talk that way to the people who blew up the Death Stars,” the pilot named Verly said. He was a good friend of Chloe Jansen, and had insisted on coming along.
Or Redic barked in irritation. “Blew up the Death Stars, huh? Like I’m supposed to believe you, just like that. Don’t threaten me. Now get out; I have work to do.” He went back to his palmcom, dismissing them from his attention.
Luke was familiar with this type of bullying, and wasn’t bullied in the slightest. He touched Wes Jansen on the shoulder in a silent suggestion that he take over the negotiations.
But Jansen stubbornly ignored Luke. “Wasn’t this camp supposed to be shut down when the Empire was defeated? Technically, this operation is illegal, and so is holding anyone prisoner.”
Fully irritated now at having his deeds called illegal, Or Redic slammed his hand on what Luke was certain was a silent security alarm, then jumped to his feet, his intent clear. Those with Jansen started backing out of the room, but not fast enough. Since Idris had no main office, the control room was the processing center as well as the gathering ground for camp security, meaning that guards were often close by, waiting to be of service. Beefy uniformed thugs quickly converged on the group even now, laser rifles in hand, their attitudes full of intimidation. They weren’t dressed like stormtroopers, but they might as well have been.
“I don’t care if it’s illegal,” Redic now growled to the group. “And if you’re not careful, you’ll be joining this prisoner. When I say beat it, I mean beat it!” The security agents started roughly shoving them towards the door.
Luke held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. “Okay, okay, we don’t want trouble. We just thought we’d ask first.”
While Jansen glared, and Chewbacca growled, and Han nervously fingered his empty hip holster, Or Redic strode around a control panel to confront Luke.
“First? What does that mean, Puny?” He pushed his face right up to Luke’s, twisting it into a threatening glare.
But before Luke could try another tactic, Lando was there, charming as ever. “Gentlemen, gentlemen, there’s no need for such unfriendly behavior.”
“You’re right there isn’t,” Or Redic growled, his focus now on Lando. “Cuff him.”
Lando yelped in surprise as two of the security agents began pulling his arms forward prior to forcing them into metallic handcuffs.
Why do things always come down to this? Luke mundanely thought as, all focus on Lando now, no one noticed how he held out his hand not in the direction of the guards converging on his friend, but in the strange direction of the bank of windows at one end of the control room. A heartbeat later, Luke’s activated lightsaber cut through the glass like it was made of liquid, then deactivated to crash in a swinging arc through the hole previously made, and slapped safely into his palm. He didn’t even have to look at it.
The green blade again sprang to life the second after it hit his hand. The guards opened fire in the next second. Red bolts of energy careened into Luke’s lightsaber, but he deflected every bolt, most going into the walls, though some hit unlucky soldiers in the arm or leg. It was fortunate for them that they were wearing armour; the laser bolts meant for Jansen’s group didn’t do the damage intended, but they did plenty of damage to the Idris soldiers.
Mindful of what Wedge had said about the pilots being afraid of him, Luke concentrated on not deflecting any of the bolts into the other soldiers’ heads, but he wasn’t always successful. Two out of the twenty soldiers died the minute the parts of their heads not covered by their helmets collided with an energy bolt.
Meanwhile, Han and the others had grabbed the opportunity to take cover behind any convenient computer console, looking like they were diving for cover when in actuality they were fanning themselves out into positions to act as backup to a suddenly focused Jedi Knight.
Serene, Luke marshalled the glowing energy inside him to yank several rifles away from the unsuspecting guards and throw them to his friends waiting behind him. Thanks to Luke, these peaceful individuals had unexpectedly become an armed militant group who quickly joined the fight to shoot laser bolts into the arm and leg joints of the armour of men who were standing much closer to them than to Luke. They did plenty of damage on their own, though it wasn’t nearly as impressive as the damage wrought by Luke.
Using the Force, Luke pulled several wall computer panels down in a rain of sparks to fall on unsuspecting soldiers, and shoved several more into the bank of windows in the same manner.
Or Redic simply knelt where he was, covering his head with his arms, crouching near the floor. Luke stood over him in a semblance of protection, knowing that they would need his help to locate Chloe Jansen inside Idris. It was a big camp, and finding her when she wasn’t in her cell would be difficult without the camp director’s help. So they needed him alive… unfortunately.
“Stop shooting!” Luke eventually ordered the security men. “I don’t plan to kill any of you, but I will if you keep this up.”
The laser bolts instantly ceased, much to Luke’s satisfaction. He hadn’t truly expected hired soldiers to give up so easily, so remained wary even though the firing had stopped. Cautiously, he straightened to step away from Redic’s crouching form.
“Luke, look out!” Wedge yelled just as Luke ‘saw’ the soldier maneuver behind him in order to take him by surprise with a spray of laser fire. Luke whirled, yanking a wall unit down at the same time, effortlessly blocking the deadly spray of laser fire with his lightsaber. The wall unit missed crushing the soldier by an inch, but the thud it made as it hit the floor caused the soldier to jump just a fraction, and his laser shower paused for a second. Luke immediately took advantage of that pause, somersaulting towards the soldier in a graceful arc that brought him close enough to cut the weapon off at the source by slicing through the man’s arm. The man howled in pain and dropped back, tripping on the console that Luke had pulled down a moment before. He fell next to the console and didn’t move.
As if coming out of a trance, Luke slowly straightened again, lowering his blade, but not deactivating it. “Are we finished with such foolishness?” he asked meaningfully, eyeing the remaining soldiers with a withering glance.
As one, the soldiers began laying their rifles on the floor, holding their hands up in surrender.
“Good.” Luke then deactivated his lightsaber, but kept his finger on the power switch. Crossing back to Or Redic’s side, he yanked him to his feet. “Now, I’ll ask nicely. Where is the prisoner known as Chloe Jansen?” A harsh shake added extra incentive for quick cooperation.
Nervous now, Or Redic visibly shook as he quickly consulted his palmcom. “Chloe Jansen is in Prisoner Group AC3. They’re assigned to comb through the trash dump today.”
“Call that them back to Control,” Luke ordered.
“The soldiers won’t--”
“That wasn’t a request.” Luke shook the man again, making him wilt even more.
Or Redic glanced at Luke, then darted wary glances at Luke’s lightsaber, obvious anxiety suffusing his dark eyes. He self consciously cleared his throat, then moved to the address system. In a shaking voice, he said, “AC3, report to base. AC3, report to base.” Then he glanced up at Luke, eyes still wary, but resigned. “Kill me now and get it over with.”
Secretly appalled at how quickly the man assumed his own death (what kind of oversight was Or Redic used to dealing with?), Luke nonetheless allowed a simple half smile to lift the corners of his lips into a wicked grimace. “Don’t tempt me.”
Clearly surprised but relieved to hear that he was to remain alive, Or Redic immediately started fawning over Luke in response to this welcome news. “Is there anything else I can do for you, Sir?”
Oh, he was ‘Sir’ now? Han barely contained his laughter at hearing someone call Luke ‘Sir,’ but Luke refused to let himself be distracted by his friend. “Shutting up will suffice.”
“Of course, Sir.” Redic instantly complied, though his hand hovered near his throat, as if he fully expected this unknown terror with a lightsaber to make his displeasure known by placing him in a Force choke hold.
It was a move which aggravated Luke; clearly this man was used to dealing with a particular kind of Force sensitive. Luke hated to disabuse the ideas of such an unpleasant man, but he also didn’t want to have to deal with a less than cowed camp manager. The grind of a fitful engine let him know that the prisoner transport carrying Prisoner Group AC3 had arrived when he came to a swift decision. “Call all the prisoners back to Control.”
Thankfully, rather than question this strange request, Or Redic’s response was to quickly lean in close to the Camp Address System. “All units, return to Base. All units, return to Base.” His second glance at Luke was ten times more anxious than his first, and he once again nervously eyed the deactivated saber still resting in Luke’s hand. “Anything else, Sir?”
Han wasn’t as successful this time at holding in his laughter, but again Luke ignored him. “Tell your people that this camp is closed, permanently. Any prisoners unable to get off world who wish to go should see this man.” He pointed to Han behind him. “His name isn’t Puny, either, but Han Solo… hero of Yavin.”
Or Redic burst into a coughing fit, obviously recognizing that name if not the man. Hacking almost uncontrollably, he was eventually able to do as requested, his announcement going out over the helmet comlinks as well as the public address system.
“Now, we wait.” Luke’s hand hadn’t once relaxed on the collar of Or Redic’s shirt; his fingers now twisted the material ever so slightly. “It would be foolish for any of you to try anything in the interim.”
Or Redic gave his head a vigorous nod. “Of course, Sir, of course.” He tilted his head ever so slightly in order to address the security agents standing near the walls. “You hear that, men? Don’t… just don’t.”
“He means,” Luke called out in a voice full of exasperation, “don’t do anything stupid. Don’t be a hero, don’t be a flunky, don’t try to be clever.” He calmly lifted his hand up to eye level so he could hold Redic at the same time he minutely examined his lightsaber. “Let’s all get comfortable together.”
It was that minute when a scarred and dirty transport arrived in a rancid cloud of black smoke. Prisoners from Group AC3 slowly disembarked, clearly confused by the lack of guards to yell at them, informing them what to do. They milled helplessly near the Control Room, their confusion growing. Moments later, more transports full to bursting with haggard prisoners appeared outside the Control bunker to join them.
“After you,” Luke invited, letting the armed individuals behind him roughly usher camp personnel to the mud outside.
As soon as he was alone in the Control Room, Luke whirled his activated lightsaber once again. The prisoners and soldiers alike all gave starts of surprise as it hummed its deadly concert, but people weren’t Luke’s focus this time. He slashed the saber through each piece of equipment in the room, causing smoke and the occasional shower of sparks as every console turned into slag. Critically eyeing his work, he said, “Much better,” and turned his attention to leaving the Control room by a side door that led to the muddy yard outside. Or Redic stood lethargically beside the broken Control Room windows. “You and your soldier friends here need to board a transport now and go as fast and as far as you can away from me. If you’re lucky, someone will rescue you before you run out of fuel. Now, get out of here.”
The freed prisoners jeered at the uniformed group, but didn’t hinder them from boarding the nearest transport and leaving posthaste. Their stares at Luke, though, weren’t much less troubled. Luke did his best to ignore the looks. “Wes?”
“Chloe Jansen, where are you?” Wes Jansen yelled the moment the transport disappeared, and rushed forward. “It’s me, Wes.”
A girl of about eighteen slowly wended her way forward, widened eyes darting between Luke and her brother. “Wes, is it really you?”
Wes didn’t bother to respond, but threw his arms around her without another word.
Watching the reunion between the two siblings was a sight that Luke would treasure for the rest of his life. The two refused to part even when Han led them onto the Falcon for the trip back to New Republic space.
The sight moved even Lando, though he had taken over Han’s organizing duties and couldn’t give them the attention he wanted to. But he was surprisingly good at his new job, and soon had the ex-prisoners separated into groups of people who either wanted to return to their families if they knew where they were, helped them to arrange passage to any planet they wished, or encouraged them to join with the fledgling government if they had nowhere else to go.
As Luke looked over the chaotic scene, his satisfaction grew. Though he knew that he wasn’t supposed to feel any strong emotion, he couldn’t help himself. He’d gotten a taste of what it felt like to rescue somebody when he’d saved the princess from certain death all those years ago, and that feeling had only increased over time. Even for the prisoners who were less than grateful for his interference on their behalfs, Luke smiled.
Wedge threw an arm companionably over Luke’s shoulders. “Feels good, doesn’t it?”
It was as if Wedge had known ahead of time how much Luke had needed this sensation. It was a reminder of how it felt to use the Force for the benefit of people rather than to solve the galaxy’s problems in deadly serious clashes of Light and Dark. “Yes, okay Wedge, I admit when I’m wrong and you’re right.”
Grinning, Wedge asked, “How am I right? Say it out loud, Jedi.”
His smile grown large as well, Luke said, “Thanks for talking me into this, Wedge. Getting involved was definitely the right thing to do!”