Title: KNOCKING THE SHINY
Disclaimer: No infringement intended, and no profit made. (Like, DUH!)
Note: Han Solo's impressions of his brother-in-law.
The first time I ever saw the kid, he was just a white blur moving
backwards while some fool picked a fight with the wrong person at the bar.
I figured it was just a local who'd wandered into the wrong bar there at
Mos Eisley. You see them every now and then, somebody who's had a belly
full of living on one rock, and will do anything to get off. Most of them
don't know their ass from a black hole about spaceships. Lotta bad things
can happen to someone that naïve. The lucky ones die before something
worse happens to them.
Big surprise, though -- the local turned out to be a lot tougher than the
thugs picking on 'em. Old men don't get to be old by being stupid or easy,
and Ben wasn't either one of those. The kid, however, was another story.
At first I wasn't sure if Luke needed a towel to dry behind his ears or a
swift kick in the butt. I was leaning more towards the butt theory. He
was obnoxious, cocky, and didn't know when to keep his mouth shut. He'd
also seen his family butchered earlier that day by storm troopers, but I
didn't know that at the time.
He turned out to be pretty good in a tight spot, which kinda surprised me.
Of course, it was his fault we were in trouble on the Death Star anyway,
wanting to go rescue some princess. I was it in for the money, and I'd bet
his hormones had more control of him than anything when he came up with the
idea to go after her. But hey, we made it. Well, almost all of us made
it. The old man buying it was a surprise, but the kid seemed to pull
himself together pretty good. He wasn't a bad shot, either.
So I delivered my cargo to the Rebellion, plus or minus the originals but
still the same number I started out with. Got my reward, was ready to
shake the dirt off the Falcon's landing skids, and the kid says he's gonna
stay. A planet-killing battleship headed their way, and he's gonna stick
it out. Made me want to kick him, hard. There was no way any of them were
gonna live, not after the Empire got done with them. He just stood there,
shiny as a new credit, telling me I could be of use, that they needed me.
All full of patriotic fervor and idealism. It gave me the urge to kick him
again, because he'd never live long enough to get that shine knocked off of
him. I thought about slugging him a good one and hauling him out of this
mess before he got himself killed, but I learned a long time ago never to
argue with drunks or fools. I did offer him a chance to go with me, but he
turned it down. So I left.
Chewie didn't talk to me much on our way out-system. I was trying to be
casual, and I definitely didn't want to go anywhere near that Death Star,
but I didn't argue when Chewie laid in a course that left our sensors wide
open to the carnage that was about to happen. He whuffed at me when the
squadrons launched, and I stopped programming the nav-puter long enough to
watch the battle. I didn't figure it would last long.
Now, the Falcon's got some equipment on it that a lot of smugglers don't
really bother with, but I personally believe that a good scan system is
worth its weight in Spice. We had a front row seat to the battle, and
those Imperial Tie fighters took off after those X-wings like a bunch of
hungry mynocks. It made me a little sick to think about those two dying.
I've seen business associates I've known for years gunned down in the
street and not cared unless they owed me money, but for some reason the kid
and that uppity princess had gotten under my skin. I put a tag on the X-
wing with Luke's signal. I dunno, I guess I figured I owed it to the kid
to watch him die. Witness it or something. And that's when I got annoyed,
because no one ever told me Skywalker could fly.
I know, I know, I sat right there at that cantina and heard him claim he
wasn't such a bad pilot, but crop dusting and herding ovine is one thing.
And yeah, I was right behind him, flipping him smart remarks, when he
volunteered to join the squadron. Some colonel grilled Luke about what he
knew, had him take off and land the fighter, and said welcome to Rogue
squadron. But they had more ships than pilots at the point, and I just
figured they'd have let anyone in. I never expected anything like what
Interception battles in space are fast, furious, and require hair-trigger
reactions. They also require an intimate knowledge of what your ship can
do and what it can endure, trust me on this one, and simulators and manuals
are no substitute for butt-in-the-seat experience. Only a few true natural
pilots can take an unfamiliar ship and shake it down in time to survive a
firefight like what I saw above Yavin, but Luke did it. Within minutes,
he was giving those Imperials a fight like they'd never seen before. I was
thrilled to see the kid making it, but given the odds, I was still sure I'd
see him go out in a blaze of pulse-cannons.
It wasn't until the assult shuttles all blew that the X-wings took up the
attack. I heard the Rogue leader order Luke and two others to watch his
back as he started his run. When the last attack run failed, and the
disappointed pilot didn't pay enough attention and got himself killed, I
realized I still hadn't programmed my jump. I didn't want to. I told
Chewie to move us back in-system while I warmed up the battery guns. My
first mate linked my headset into the action and I heard Luke saying he was
going in full throttle. Swear to whatever diety you want, at that exact
moment I knew he was gonna do it. I knew I had to be there, but I knew he
was gonna blow that monstrosity. I heard him order his damaged wing-man
out of the way, heard the other one die, and saw the Tie fighters closing
in just as we swooped down on them like the bird my ship is named for and
blew the way clear for him. And he did it.
I never told Luke about that feeling. I'd probably get some Jedi lecture
about the large consequences of small actions, the directions of the Force
and all that other stuff that makes my eyes glaze over. But standing in
that ancient temple, waiting to walk out and get those medals, I just
looked at the kid and I swear he was shinier than ever. And in the years
that followed, no matter how awful the fighting, no matter how many times I
watched him get pulled out of a bacta tank, that shiny never got knocked
off him. He just seems to get more idealistic instead of less.
The memory that sticks in my mind the most is after the Rebellion took
Corescant. The Imperial City, the capital of the Old Republic. We all had
a hell of a time rooting out the suicide squads and the traps and other
nasty bits ol' Palpatine had left for us, but the momentum had been on our
side after Darth Vader and the Emperor died aboard the second Death Star.
I'd married Leia in the meantime, and found out what kind of in-laws I had.
Life is full of surprises, I guess.
So anyway, the Rebellion finally decided to end the martial law and move to
representative rule, and the high muckety-mucks had decided they were gonna
make the declaration in the Old Republic Legislative Hall. Not the big
Council room where everybody did the arguing, but the Hall where the
proclamations were made and stuff got signed and all. Leia was directing
the cleaning droids and making the plans for the ceremony, deciding who was
gonna fit, all that nonsense she's so good at. I was just there as the
official 'here, hold this' guy, but it was worth it since I didn't get to
spend much time with her. I still don't don't, but that's the way it goes.
Luke wandered in just as the droids remove the sheeting over the seating
dais. Now, the whole room is full of these sections of raised seating.
The place looks like a sports arena, only the playing area is just barely
big enough to land an X-wing in. The observation galleries are all evenly
distributed around the room except for this one area, which only had twelve
seats in a narrow section, wrapped on the other three sides with normal
seats behind a waist-high wall.
Luke and Leia both stopped what they were doing and went over to the front
edge. The railing and short wall were made of some expensive-looking wood,
and it had a crest on the front of it that I vaguely recognized. The rest
of the place had the Old Republic symbols all over it, but this one was
"What is that?" I asked.
Leia took a second to answer me. "This is where the Jedi High Council sat.
They had no vote in the legislative assemblies, but their opinions were
usually very influential." She looked at Luke, who was staring at the
crest on the front while his fingers traced the design. For some reason, I
noticed his right hand had a black glove on it, and it was a second before
I remembered why he wore it.
"Well, go on," she urged Luke. "Try it."
He seemed startled for a second, then stood and walked around the divider
and climbed the two steps up to the section. He stood in front of the
first row of seats, his hands grasping the railing, head down. After a
minute he took a deep breath and stood up straight.
Now, I don't want to sound like an idiot here, but it was the strangest
thing. The kid's shoulders went back and his head came up, like Leia's
does when she's decided to take on yet another impossible job for Mon
Motha. And for a minute there, it seemed like some low-spectrum energy
came out of him. Like he glowed, or something. He was just standing
there, in those black clothes he's always wearing these days, and I swear
it was the first time I ever saw anything of Darth Vader in him. Not the
evil, but the power. That shiny edge he's always had, hardened somehow
into a strength that gleamed like a landing beacon. But I could also see
the weight of those chairs behind him. He was one man, taking the place of
hundreds of Jedi that used to roam the galaxy back in the day, almost all
of whom died around the time the three of us were very small children.
All that pressure, all that responsibility, should have been enough to
knock the shiny off of anyone. But it didn't. It hasn't. Luke's had a
few really bad times, but he's still here. Still shiny. Shiny enough to
guide the New Republic and to train the new Jedi who are cropping up all
over the place, including my wife and all three of my kids. Shiny enough
to make people -- even me -- believe that things like justice and honor
aren't just anachronisms you make jokes about in the back of cantinas, but
concepts that are real.
The really weird thing is I think that maybe some of that shine has
actually rubbed off on me. Luke told me once that I'd always had it, I
just needed something to bring it out, like falling in love with a princess
and joining a revolution without a speck of profit to be found anywhere.
Who knows. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Life is full of