A/N: Sorry I've been gone for so long! I haven't had the heart to write after my grandma that raised me was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's last July. But I've been feeling less depressed lately so hopefully I'll be able to update more frequently. Thank you for your patience!


Chapter Fifteen—Part 2

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning's of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Invictus (second stanza) by William Ernest Henley

Luke inspects the power coupling in the dim light of Tosche Station, ensuring its case did not have any cracks before placing in the basket with the others. Wiping his grease stained hands on a rag, he walks over to the corner where Laze, Janek and Biggs are clustered around an ancient holovid player. It is playing a recruitment vid for the Imperial Academy. Janek intermittently whacks the holovid player with his foot every time the projection flickers.

"This thing's a piece of junk," Biggs announced, sighing loudly while leaning back in his chair. "The one I have at home—"

"We don't want to hear about all the wonderful things you have at home," Laze tersely interrupts. He is squatting beside a servo-pulsor with a spanner in hand. "When my dad owns half the planet, I'll be sure to constantly tell you all how many fun toys I have."

Janek laughs, clapping Biggs on the shoulder while the dark-haired boy mutters "My dad doesn't own half the planet."

"I've finished with the couplings," Luke tells Laze, frowning at the vid displaying TIE fighters zooming around an Imperial Destroyer.

"Already? That was fast," Laze says looking up from his work.

Luke shrugs. "They weren't that hard." He neglects to mention his use of the Force to sense damage to the casings.

"Good work, Fixer. Keep this up and you'll be running your own shop in five years," Laze praises with a smile.

Biggs snorts. "Like he'd want to still be on this barren rock in five years. Anyone with half a brain wants off this planet." He points to the TIE fighter in the holo projection. "That's going to be me in a couple years."

"I want to be on this 'barren rock' in five years. Are you saying I don't have half a brain?" Laze demands.

"Shut up, both of you. I want to hear this," Janek says, leaning forward to hear the sound coming through the crackling holovid speakers.

"Come on Luke. Don't you want to be a pilot? I know you love ships, don't you dream of flying through the stars?" Biggs asks.

"Kid's got his feet good and grounded, unlike you two dreamers," Laze says. "Isn't that right, Fixer?"

Luke hesitates. "I do love flying," he admits. "But I'd never fly for the Empire."

"See, what'd I tell you?" Laze crows. "Kid's smarter than both of you airheads combined."

"What's wrong with flying for the Empire?" Janek demands. "I'm going to join the Imperial Academy become the best pilot in the fleet."

"Like you have the brains for that," Biggs jibes. "I've seen your test scores!"

"The Empire is evil," Luke says quietly as Janek punches Biggs in the arm.

"Oh, not this again," Biggs moans, rubbing his arm. "I don't know what you've got against the Empire, Luke, but they don't seem that bad. Anyway who else has the fastest ships in the galaxy?"

Luke sighs to himself. He has not managed to convince his friends of the Empire's cruelty and he fears revealing too much.

"Let go fly Beggar's Canyon," Janek suggests as the holovid ends.

"Yeah, let's go!" Biggs replies, hopping out of his seat. "You staying here, Tank?" he asks Laze.

"Someone has to run this store," Laze answers.

"How about you, Fixer? You could have a go on my Skyhopper?"

Luke has never flown an airspeeder before, though he has often dreamed of owning one.

"Can I get off early?" he asks Laze.

"I supposes so," the boy sighs. "You've finished all your work. Just be back here before your dad picks you up, I don't want to have to explain where you are."

"Thanks, you're the best!" Luke says, grinning as he follows Biggs and Janek out the door.