Tank waited for Luke to create havoc among this new legion of troopers, but all he did was twitch his hand.
“You don’t need to take us prisoner,” Luke casually said.
“We don’t need to take you prisoner,” repeated the unit commander.
“We’re not the ones you’re looking for.”
“You’re not the ones we’re looking for.”
“We can go now.”
“You can go.”
“Thank you.” Then they just walked right through the stormtrooper legion like they weren’t even there.
Tank looked over his shoulder at the group of unmoving troopers. “Not that was impressive!”
But Luke didn’t look convinced. He pointed down a corridor that branched off to the left. “Where does this lead?”
“To the Command and Control elevators.”
“Command and Control?” Lando echoed. “As in, to the Bridge?”
“Doesn’t matter where it leads as long as it’s not the detention level,” Luke insisted, shoving the others towards the empty corridor. “The troops are getting restless, and I can’t hold that many. We’ve got to go.” They had just started down the corridor when the stormtroopers behind them woke to what they were attempting.
“They’re getting away; stop them!”
The rescuers broke into a wild run, pounding the floor with their boots, all except for Tank, who slid across the polished floor on socks meant to be worn as part of a regulation stormtrooper uniform.
Solo pumped laser bolts at random into the armored crowd, bringing down three, then manically faced another legion of armored men appearing in front of them. “More troopers at point oh-one!”
As if by some prearranged signal, Lando immediately focused on the front facing troopers, and Wedge on the ones closing in behind them. Luke deflected any incoming laser bolts with his lightsaber, but he could only face one direction at a time. Solo shot a constant stream of laser blasts, accurate more often than not, but there were just so many troopers this time. As soon as one went down, three more took its place.
Wedge matched Solo shot for shot, but his one blaster couldn’t defend against a hundred soldiers. Lando stunned two more troopers, and Tank sprayed bolts into the crowds at random, hoping to hit something, though he realized he had never been what one might call a good shot. Luke’s saber flashed through the air, but it still wasn’t enough. The stormtroopers were gaining ground every second.
It was clear to Tank that they were being hampered by Luke’s insistence that none of their adversaries be harmed; because of that edict, the troopers were becoming more bold and reckless by the minute. They could still make a break for it if the enemy soldiers were worried that Luke might kill a few of them, but he was adamant. “There’s already been enough death in this war. We have to draw the line somewhere.”
“Tell that to Leia,” Solo called as he renewed his shooting frenzy. “It’s kill or be captured!”
“I won’t!” Instead, once again Luke threw out his left hand, squeezed it into a fist, then flung his fingers wide open. One unit captain dropped his weapon as if it burned, then flew back as Luke used the Force to shove him into three more troopers. Using a passing service droid, he bowled the feet out from under four more. He flung his hand up, and two troopers flew to the ceiling, only to drop to the floor a second later.
Tank found it hard to pay attention to what he was doing rather than to simply watch Luke take out trooper after trooper. The Jedi stunned ten more when his saber deflected laser bolts into them, tripped one, sliding him like a rolled up rug through the cadre of stormtroopers before him, and plowed three more into the far right wall. He whipped around to fling two stormtroopers into the line of soldiers steadily gaining ground in the corridor they had just come from, deflected eight more laser bolts, stunned another unit captain, and shoved seven more into an open elevator, flinging the door closed behind them.
But no matter what they did, the numbers of adversaries only increased. Things were fast becoming desperate. Tank grabbed a weapon abandoned on the floor to send laser bolts into the crowd of troopers ahead of them as well as behind. Wedge and Lando had also acquired second weapons, while Solo was living up to his reputation by doing things with his one blaster that Tank had never imagined a blaster could do.
Yet, the troopers on both fronts relentlessly closed in on them, the rescuers barely firing fast enough to hold them at bay. Wedge ripped the helmet off a stunned soldier and threw it at the oncoming troopers. When they dodged, Luke took advantage of their momentary lack of focus to shove them back with an outflung hand.
It was at this point that the doors to one of the elevators opened, and out stepped two officers led by none other than Captain Wilton himself. Tank didn’t see how things could possibly get any worse. They would be captured. It would be over in the next instant.
It really was over in the next instant, but not remotely how Tank had predicted it would be over.
“Now!” Luke yelled the second that Wilton closed in on the fight. Without another word, the rescuers dropped to the floor like they’d practised such a movement till they could do it in their sleep. Tank gave an astonished yelp as Wedge dragged him down beside him. The action was so quick that the stormtroopers weren’t able to react to it fast enough. They continued to fire at an alarming rate, laser bolts zipping over the rescuers’ heads as the troopers on both sides unwittingly stunned each other. Then, in an amazingly synchronized maneuver, the man named Lando vaulted to the side to stun the officer standing nearest to Captain Wilton while Solo literally flew through the air to take out the other officer.
Smoke curled seductively around the mass of downed Imperials to hang languidly in the air. Tank and his rescuers climbed cautiously to their feet as Captain Wilton stared at the stunned figures surrounding him, then turned his startled gaze straight to Luke.
Wilton was so white, he looked like he was staring at a ghost. “As I live and breathe, it is you.”
In a flash of insight, Tank understood that these two men shared some history together. Something had happened in the past that influenced Wilton’s opinion of Luke Skywalker, and in turn had influenced his judgment on Tank. That was the reason behind his incarceration, not just that he should have turned an enemy of the now defunct Empire into a prisoner.
The captain continued staring hard at Luke. “Skywalker, in the flesh.”
“Well, almost.” Unapologetic, Luke peeled back his right sleeve to show a barely visible line at his wrist that denoted the beginnings of a hand prosthetic.
Tank blinked. Luke had a prosthetic? Really? After what he had just witnessed, he would never have guessed!
But Wilton wasn’t nearly as impressed as Tank. “Is that supposed to stir my sympathy?”
“I won this in a fight with my father, Anakin Skywalker. Surely you’ve heard of him.”
Sounding bored, as if he’d heard this type of claim many times before, Wilton said, “Whoever he was, he obviously wasn’t someone important enough to be well known in the Empire.”
Luke gave an irritated huff. “My mistake. You knew him as Darth Vader.”
Wilton and the rescuers gave a mighty jump. Tank nearly fell back to the floor, his mouth wide open in naked astonishment. Darth Vader was Luke’s father? According to their reactions, this was clearly new information even to Luke’s friends. No wonder he had wanted to bury Vader on Endor. Tank had thought it had something to do with the Dark Lord being a fellow Force user, and Luke hadn’t denied that assumption. But his reasons had been so much more than that. It made sense now that Luke had been so unsure about announcing his lineage.
But wait a minute. Luke’s father had been dead for as long as Tank had known Luke. Because he’d known about Luke’s long-standing dreams about his father, Tank had a really good idea how this kind of news must have affected those fatherly dreams, to say nothing of Luke’s concept of himself. Wouldn’t common knowledge of this information cause any person in the galaxy who had ever been wronged by Vader to seek retribution through Luke? For there was no getting around the fact that Lord Vader had never even come close to reflecting the pristine image that Luke had always held of his father.
Tank recalled the memory of the severed hand he had seen during his and Luke’s mental conversation, and now that image made awful sense. That had been Luke’s hand, apparently cut off by his own father. The very thought made Tank shiver. He had wondered if the newfound maturity he had sensed in his childhood friend had come at a possibly painful price. Now he knew.
“The truth was bound to come out when I least wanted it to,” Luke explained to the gaping captain. “Now, that information can never be used against me.”
At that, Wilton accused, “I bet you’re just going to follow in your father’s footsteps, aren’t you?”
“Absolutely not,” Luke emphatically declared. “My father was once a good man who, for reasons of his own, embraced the dark side of the Force. The dark side may be powerful, but it’s not for me.”
“So you say!” Wilton scorned. “We’ll probably find out you’re just like him when you strangle your first officer.”
Luke stared at him out of impossibly sad eyes, as if even hearing that theory made him positively morose. “Tell me, how would Vader have reacted to such a question?”
“Choke hold,” Tank quickly informed. “Then he would kill someone.”
Luke nodded. “If I’m so like my father, then why are all our weapons set to stun?”
Wilton was slow to recover from the thoughtful shock that fell on him after Luke’s rhetorical question. “What does any of this matter? Lord Vader is dead. I even heard that you killed him!”
A feverish light invaded Luke’s eyes. “Darth Vader was a terrible being, I won’t deny it, but he saved my life, and died as Anakin Skywalker. Don’t you forget that.” The fiery words brought a look of surprise to Wilton’s face, as if he’d never anticipated a consciously caring sith lord. “My point,” Luke continued in a much calmer tone, “is that I don’t need a lightsaber to convince you that the Skywalkers will no longer be bargaining chips in galactic games of domination. Let’s work together instead of using each other.”
The laser blaster Wilton pulled from the back of his belt was more threatening than agreeable. “No deal.”