Chapter 7

        Luke didn’t even bother to point out the foolishness of this decision.  Before Wilton could do anything with or without his blaster, the Jedi simply jerked his arms upward, and every weapon in the area zipped to the ceiling, including his lightsaber and Wilton’s own blaster.  Regulation stormtrooper guns mixed with Rebel issue laser blasters, all eerily circling the silver handle of Luke’s lightsaber.  It was a deadly dance meters above their heads, well out of reach.  With a casual flick of his wrist, the entire collection went careening down the corridor.  He lowered his arms, and they fell to the floor with a great many clatters.  “Now have I got your attention?”

        Wilton’s aggravated tone showed how unimpressed he was.  “What do you want?”

        “I want to talk.”

        “You want to talk,” Wilton flatly echoed, suspicion growing in his eyes.  “About?”

        “Tank and I are starting an academy.”

        “And who is Tank?” Wilton asked with barely concealed hostility.

        Tank instantly replied in terms that he knew Wilton would understand.  “Trooper TK326.”

        Tank saw his rescuers wrinkle their noses at such a generic delineation, but was too distracted by his realization that Luke wanted to create the academy with him to pay them much attention.  He had thought the academy idea was Luke’s, and he was just going along with it.  He was all for this newer idea that he was going to be a co-founder!

That is, until Luke added to Wilton,  “I want you to join us.”

Now, hold on!  Tank wasn’t so enthusiastic about that idea, but had barely opened his mouth to object before Luke’s hand was up, stopping him.

        Wilton scoffed in disbelief.  “An academy… to train troops for your new galactic government?”

        Luke grimaced.  “Of course not!  An academic academy, one where the true history of the galaxy is taught rather than propaganda.  Where Force sensitives can come together openly without worry of interference from the Empire.  Where military strategic history is taught without the threat of tearing the galaxy apart with another war.  Where technology is explored, along with mechanics, as well as other subjects.  Where people can learn to fly in safety.  This will be a true academy, not just a school meant to build up someone’s military.”

        Suspicions aroused, Wilton asked, “So… you want me for what?”

        “The military strategy instructor.  This academy isn’t just for the Alliance, or for the Empire, but for both sides.  At first, you and Tank will represent the Empire.  Wedge and I will represent the  Alliance.  And besides, there’s isn’t any other Imperial of a strategic mind I respect as much.”

        Tank jumped.  Luke respected this… this..?

        Luke grinned wryly at Wilton, “You did capture me that one time.  Not just anybody can do that.”

        Wilton seemed to inflate just a bit.  “True.”

        But Tank still wasn’t comfortable with this idea, especially after the man had so summarily dismissed his earlier story about the shuttle and tossed him into a detention cell.  He wasn’t sure he could ever forget that.  He opened his mouth to object once more, but at the last moment recalled what Luke had said about how the two of them shared an obligation to bring this war to a halt if at all possible.  Complaints about egregious treatment wouldn’t do much to end this war.  Somehow, Tank managed to hold back his criticism in order to give Luke the benefit of the doubt.

        Wilton looked as if he didn’t care about giving anything to anyone.  He clasped his hands behind his back.  “Flattery won’t help you.”

        “This isn’t meant to flatter you,” Luke said.  This war has been nothing but destructive.  We have to do whatever we can to bring it to an end, or both sides lose.  What better way to show our determination to bring peace than to open up a school for the brightest and the best in all the galaxy?”

        Wilton sighed in disgust, growling unhappily.  “I suppose I’ll be seen as nothing short of a space pirate if I refuse.”

        “Perhaps,” Luke agreed without really agreeing to anything.  “It’s the responsibility of those who see the problem to fix the problem.”

        Well, that was an annoying mandate.

Wilton appeared to agree with Tank’s silent assessment.  “So what you’re saying is that I should join you if I don’t want to become part of the problem.”

        Luke gave a dramatic pause, then admitted, “Yes, that’s what I’m saying.  But I would be happy to have you as part of our academy.”

        Wilton choked a laugh.  “I don’t believe you.”

        “I don’t care,” Luke instantly replied.  “You don’t have to believe me to go along with me.  The belief will come later.”

        There was a moment of contemplative silence as Luke and Wilton continued to size each other up.  Both stood at attention with their hands clasped stubbornly behind their backs, and neither smiled, yet neither oozed obvious hatred, either.  The atmosphere was pensively amicable, though Tank remained tense and ready in case it looked like he’d be needed.  His other rescuers held themselves the same way.  Apparently, they didn’t share Luke’s confidence that Wilton wouldn’t harm anyone.

A silent moment ticked by, then another.  Luke and Wilton just stared at each other.   Wilton seemed at a loss without a weapon or armed troops backing him up.

“You’re free to think about this first before giving your answer,” Luke said, his voice loud in the otherwise silent corridor.  “I realize how difficult this decision is.  There must be a great deal to consider.”

Yeah, like having to worry about a possible assassination attempt if he agrees.  But Tank kept his thoughts to himself.

It was clear that Wilton was debating with himself, weighing the likely outcomes.  Another minute went by, and still he hadn’t moved.  Luke was no longer being openly attacked, but he was standing toe to toe with an unfriendly-looking Imperial officer, even if that officer was more contemplative than combative.  There was no doubt about it; Luke was either very brave…

Or very stupid.