Chapter 6: Dungeon Dialogue
“I hate the way we’re just sitting here, waiting to die.” Han’s voice floated out of the darkness of Jabba’s prison cell, sounding like he’d already given up.
That was what Luke wanted Jabba to think; that they’d both given up. This way of thinking would most likely cause Jabba to feel overconfident. Luke knew that an overconfident foe was a foe that was more easily defeated.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t such a stretch of the imagination for Jabba to feel confident. Most people would give up after that scene in Jabba’s Audience Chamber where Threepio described their future deaths in excruciating detail.
“I wonder where Leia is,” Han said, again sounding defeated. Or was it the cell that made him sound like that?
Luke wanted him to sound defeated, but it still didn’t hurt to be soothing at the same time. “As long as she can stand being near that slug, she’ll be fine.”
“Fine you say?” Han snorted. “You forget that I’ve known Jabba a lot longer than you have. I know what he can do to her.”
“And that would be..?”
“I’m doing my best not to think about it.”
“How’s that going for you?”
Han grunted, “It’s not as easy as it used to be.”
Han sounded like a man consumed by mental anguish. Luke wanted him to come off as defeated, yes, but defeat didn’t need to sound so hopeless. “I’ll distract you. Talk to me.”
“Tell me your version of what’s been going on,” Han immediately replied. “Chewie told me that you didn’t rendezvous with the fleet after Hoth the way you were supposed to. And he said something about your hand?”
These reminders of what he had left unfinished on Dagobah because he had rushed off to meet Vader at Cloud City left Luke feeling more unsure about himself than he’d felt since returning to the Alliance several months before. “I…” Luke’s voice trailed away, and the darkness sucked it up like a black hole.
Han obviously heard the unease in Luke’s voice, and prompted, “You… what?”
Luke cleared his throat in determination. “I owe you an apology, Han.”
This puzzled the Corellian. “For what?”
Luke stayed silent for a minute, recalling the final conversation he’d had with Yoda and Obi-Wan before he’d left for Cloud City. “You were tortured because of me. You and Leia… and Chewie were… Threepio was blasted apart, and...” He was too choked up to go on. He instantly began a Jedi meditation to regain control of his feelings, and was eventually able to say, “I caused so much damage.”
“Hey, you didn’t cause it,” Han placated, his voice rough with disuse. “The way I remember it, Vader threw me into that Carbon Freezing pit, not you.”
Luke’s breath hitched just slightly at the mention of his father’s current name. The slight hiccup irritated him. He thought that he had accepted everything that had transpired on Cloud City. To find out now, in Jabba’s dungeon, in the middle of a chancy rescue mission, that he was still having issues with the events surrounding the reason for this rescue was not welcome news.
But Han quickly distracted him from this insight. “There’s nothing you could have done to stop what happened, Luke. Vader is… well, he’s Vader, and what Vader wants, Vader gets.”
He didn’t get me, ghosted Luke’s thoughts. But he kept those thoughts to himself. He would have to explain far more than he wanted to if he said those words out loud. So he remained silent, something he would have been incapable of doing just a few months ago. He considered how far he had come just in those weeks. If Yoda could accomplish that much with a student as recalcitrant as he was, then Yoda truly was a master.
“In fact, I’m amazed that Leia and Chewie got out of that Cloud City mess alive.” Han grunted, a sound that was partly made up of surprise, and partly an unexpected humility. “Chewie told me that I have Lando to thank for that. I never would have pegged Lando Calrissian as having the quality to become a hero. I guess I owe him a bunch.” His following groan was less audible. “He rescued you, he rescued Leia and Chewie… too bad he isn’t here, huh?”
“Yeah, too bad.” This conversation was becoming surreal to Luke, for Lando was very much present, if undercover. But Luke knew that he couldn’t say anything specific that related to the plan to rescue Han. This cell was most likely outfitted with listening devices, with Jabba hearing their every word. To say something, even to reassure Han, would be tantamount to committing treason against Leia, Lando, and Chewie. He wouldn’t dare let them down now. The plan was right on schedule, in spite of the seemingly dismal situation they all found themselves in.
Han sighed a huge breath of the foul dungeon air. “We could really use some help of the hero variety right about now.” His second sigh illustrated the hopelessness he felt.
It was a sound that didn’t surprise Luke all that much. Han didn’t know what he had become. His last encounter with Han had happened months ago, before the Battle of Hoth. He’d been a different person then, one barely able to care for himself, to say nothing of someone who could pull off such a difficult rescue operation. The effects of his recent time spent with Yoda was obvious if you saw him, but since Han couldn’t see, he still visualized Luke as the somewhat awkward kid brother who was a good pilot, but nothing like the Jedi he had become. Luke had definitely changed since he’d last seen Han; he’d trained with a Jedi Master on a distant planet, found his father, lost his hand, gone through weeks of soul searching to finally accept his parentage, and practiced till he could use the Force in his sleep. He was ready for anything a paltry gangster like Jabba the Hutt could throw at him.
They were silent while Luke meditated on this subject, so silent that he thought Han had fallen asleep.... which is what he should do, too. Instead, he asked, “Are you still blind?”
Han’s answer was quick, efficient, and sleepless. ”Either I am, or it’s just dark in here. Or both.”
“It’s dark. Get some sleep, Han. We need to keep up our strength for whatever happens at the Sarlacc Pit.”
“I’ll sleep when you sleep.”
“How will you know if I sleep or not if you can’t see me?”
Han’s trademark smirk sounded loud in his sardonic voice. “I’ll know; trust me.”
Luke hadn’t realized how much he had missed that particular sarcastic gesture of Han’s until now. “Where have I heard that before?”
Han balked. “Hey, I’m trustworthy! At least I didn’t say, ‘I have a bad feeling about this.’” He turned grim. “Though now might be an appropriate time to say that.”
“Now’s not the time to lose heart.” Luke’s gentle admonition sounded flat and heartless in the fetid dungeon.
Han was even more grim. “Now’s a good time to tell me you have a plan to miraculously rescue all of us.”
Instead of being forced to lie by answering, Luke changed the subject. “I haven’t seen Leia in any of the other cells.”
As a way to distract Han, it worked better than Luke had hoped. “I’m telling you, I know how Jabba operates, and he’s not gonna let her out of his sight.” Han fidgeted uncomfortably on the dirt floor. “Besides, I can’t smell her down here.”
This bit of information surprised Luke. “She has a certain smell?”
“Of course she does,” Han grumbled. “She smells like soap and… and that special Princess smell.”
Luke couldn’t resist asking, ”What is a Princess smell?”
Now Han looked even more uncomfortable, but in an embarrassed way. “It’s… kind of… like… like… she smells like the Falcon.”
Luke didn’t have the heart to laugh at all now. “She’s been living on the Falcon ever since Cloud City.”
“There,” Han said, vindicated. “I thought I could smell it on her. Just don’t tell her I said so, or I’ll never hear the end of it.”
“She won’t hear a word from me.”
Han scowled, singularly unwilling to be soothed. “You’re humoring me; I can tell. I may be blind, but I’m not deaf.”
Luke sighed in temporary defeat. “Get some rest, Han. I need to think.”
“Think of a way to save Leia. Don’t worry about me.”
Before he could reply to this insane idea, Chewbacca rumbled that he should save Han as well as Leia, but to forget about him. Luke had thought the Wookie was asleep, but apparently not.
Again before he had the chance to say anything, Han quickly insisted, “Jedi Skywalker will save all of us. Right?”
The amount of hope in Han’s voice was painful to hear, but it was still too dangerous for Luke to say anything specific, or even confirm that he had a plan. “I really wish I could do just that.” His mind rang with Yoda’s words Do, or do not. There is no try.
For the first time since he’d gone to Dagobah to train to be a Jedi, Luke wanted to tell Master Yoda to just shut up.