FATE'S HAND~PG-13 for Violence
What could have happened on Ord Mantell to make Han decide it was time to pay off Jabba? This story takes a new view at Han's reasoning. Characters: Han, Leia, Luke, and Emil Deluide.

You MUST read the story High Treason before reading this story! If you don't, this probably won't make sense to you. So please read High Treason FIRST. Thanks.

Disclaimer: This is George Lucas' country, I'm just visiting. I don't own any of these characters or situations, except the ones that I made up. Send all comments to solojones@hotmail.com. Please?


The bridge of The Plague was tense. Crewmen were rushing around frantically. Emil Deluide stood anxiously next to the helm, where Admiral Stirkson sat calmly. "It looks as though we will not survive this attack." Stirkson said plainly. Emil tried to hold back his shock, "Sir, might there be some way to escape?" He asked the Admiral. Stirkson smiled thinly, "Of course there is, Captain. But I'm afraid our ship will not. It's a shame, too. We've been through a lot together." He patted the arm of his chair.

Stirkson sighed and stood up, straitening his Imperial uniform. He turned methodically on one heel and marched toward the passageway. "Inform the docking bay to have my ship ready for Captain Deluide and I. We will evacuate the entire crew immediately." He said stiffly to an aide. "Yes, sir." the aide trotted off toward the intercom to make the announcements.

Emil stood still, staring out the viewport at the battle around The Plague. Their TIE fighters were being more heavily opposed by the rebellion's X-wings than they had thought. More X-wings were dropping out of hyperspace every minute. Beyond the space battle, the giant green figure of the planet Synegast loomed. They had been waiting for several hours now for the ground troops to bring in Solo and his companions. Now it looked like they were going to have to make a desperate escape. "Captain Deluide, you need to get to your ship, sir." an aide insisted. "Captain Deluide, Captain Deluide, Captain Delude..."

Emil's eyes snapped open. The room was dark and the bunk was warm. He yawned and rolled over. "Captain Deluide!" the primp and insistent voice of Skywalker's protocol droid called from outside the room.

Emil groaned and rolled out of bed. He opened the door to see the shinny golden droid standing there. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "What is it.... uh..." he had forgotten the droid's name. "C3PO, human-cyborg relations. I am fluent in over-" Emil rolled his eyes and started to close the door on the robot, when 3PO continued, "Captain Solo wishes to inform you that you should meet with him in an hour at docking bay 71. Your trip to Ord Mantell is to start-" "Thanks Threepio." Emil shut the door. He could hear the droid's muffled, "Well! As if it wasn't bad enough having one man like that around here!"

Emil dragged himself into the 'fresher. He undressed and turned on the hot water. As he ran the shampoo through his long black hair, he thought about his dream. He had had that dream several times in prison. As he was going to his ship, The Plague was hit. Stirkson and most the crew got off. Emil didn't. He and several others were captured by the rebel boarding troops. And he'd been sent to jail. No questions. It had been a lucky thing that Luke had come around asking for his help. He'd gotten himself out of trouble, and, though he didn't readily admit it, he'd made some new friends. It had been a long time since he'd really had friends. Joining the Imperial Academy at 16 hadn't given him much time for fun-

The whole base rocked with an incredible impact. Emil stumbled, and slipped out of the 'fresher, banging his head on the counter. "Uhhhhgg...." He groaned as he picked himself up off the tile. He reached in and turned off the water. He threw on his clothes as fast as he could, donning his casual black pants and shirt, and his black leather jacket. In true Corellian fashion, he snapped on his gunbelt and straitened his hair. Then he threw on his boots, and ran out into the hall.

He looked to his right to see people scrambling all over. "Kid!" He swiveled around to his left to see Han trotting towards him. "Good thing I found you." Han said. "What's going on?" Emil asked. "Imps have found our base. We're getting bombarded, and it won't be long before they break in. C'mon we gotta get outta here!" Han started to run down the hallway. "Wait!" Emil shouted. Han skidded to a stop and turned back. "Let me get some of my stuff." Han considered. "Well, okay. But hurry up." Han twirled his blaster around his finger, nervously. Emil grabbed what little possessions he had and threw them in a duffel bag. This all felt so odd to him. Just a few months ago, he would have been the one up in the Star Destroyer attacking the base. But now he was on the other side of the war. And for the first time in a long while, it felt right.

Emil grabbed his bag and followed Han to docking bay 71 where his freighter sat. "Is that the Millennium Falcon?" Emil asked questionably. The battered YT-1300 Corellian freighter didn't look like the fastest ship in the fleet. But looks could be deceiving, Emil thought. "Yeah, and don't give me any grief about it. I hear enough from her highness already." Han mumbled as they boarded. "Here, take a seat. We'll be outta here in no time." Han gestured to a table where Luke, the Princess, and a wookiee were seated.

Emil was a little edgy. The wookiee growled something at him. He took a step back, instinctively reaching for his gunbelt. "Easy Chewie." Luke held up a hand in front of the wookiee. "This is Emil. Emil, this is Chewbacca. He's Han's co.-pilot." "Nice to meet you." Emil said shakily. The intercom blared. "Chewie, get up here! How'd you expect me to get us outta here without a navigator!"? Han screamed over the speaker. Chewie rumbled something indignant then jogged off toward the cockpit.

"Have a seat." Luke gestured to Emil. "Don't worry about Chewie. He'll get used to you." Emil slid in next to the princess. Luke's face seemed to twitch in agony a little, but he remained calm. "So, Princess... you ride along with Han often?" Emil asked conversationally.

The Princess mumbled, "Unfortunately, yes. But certainly not by choice. If that man doesn't drive me insane, this bucket of bolts will." she sighed. "Oh, and it's Leia. Just Leia." She said pointedly.

"Right. So, what exactly do we do from here, Leia?" Emil asked.

"Well, we're going to have to relocate to a new base. Fortunately, we have one on Hoth that's almost ready. We knew this invasion would be coming soon." Leia answered. Then she stood up. "Excuse me, I probably need to give Han the coordinates for Hoth. We've got to stop by there before we can get along with our mission." She lumbered off toward the cockpit.

Emil turned to Luke. "So, what's the deal with Han and Leia?" he asked. Luke cocked an eyebrow, "Deal? There's no deal." Emil eyed him suspiciously. "Sure," he said unbelievingly. "that's what they all say." he shook his head.

Luke sighed. "If there's any sort of 'deal' between them, it's hostile. Let me just put it this way; when they fight, which is practically daily, you don't want to get in their way."

Emil didn't doubt that. But he still thought there was more to Han and Leia's relationship than Luke knew. Or maybe he did know, and just didn't want to admit it. Emil could tell that Luke had a serious soft spot for the Princess. And he couldn't blame him. Leia seemed to be more than just a royal figurehead. She was very independent, and if Luke's descriptions were accurate, also very articulate. "Yeah, well she does seem a little touchy. Still, she's got a lot of spirit." Emil commented.

Luke shook his head. "You and Han must be psychically connected." Emil shrugged. "I think it's just a Corellian thing. I think that you, Leia, and Captain Antilles have a very disqued view of us. We're really not all that bad." Emil insisted.

Luke grinned. "No, you're right. Not all Corellians are like you guys. You know, Wedge is Corellian, too." Emil seemed amused. "Oh, really. And he was getting on us last night for our drinking habits... I think I'll have a talk with him later." Luke opened his mouth to say something, when he was interrupted by the intercom. "Strap in everyone, we're making the jump to lightspeed." Han said. Emil and Luke had barely gotten their belts buckled when the Falcon jolted into hyperspace.

Luke undid his belt, and headed for the cockpit. Emil scrambled behind him. "Gee Han, thanks for the warning." Luke grumbled. Han gave his best innocent look. "It's not my fault!" He insisted. "If her majesty here would have been watching the scope, maybe we would have spotted those TIE fighters early enough to make a safe jump!" "That's Chewie's job. Look, if I hadn't of come up here in the first place, you probably would have blasted us away to who knows where! Then what kind of shape would we be in?" Leia yelled, then stormed out of the cockpit.

"She thinks everything is always my fault..." Han growled, as he stomped out and headed a different direction from where Leia had gone. Chewie growled in agreement and followed. The door snapped shut behind them, leaving Luke and Emil alone in the silence.

"Maybe we should give them some time to cool off." Emil suggested. Luke nodded slowly, "Yes, but it won't do any good. They'll be fine for a while, then they'll just argue some more. You get used to it."

"Some way to show gratitude. I mean, Leia did save his life during that trial." Emil said. "Yeah, Leia pretty much had the same reaction when Han helped save her from the Death Star. He's grateful, he just likes to keep the game going." Luke responded.

Emil shook his head. "Sounds like me. Just doing things to get under people's skin," he laughed, "This is going to be a long mission."

"Yes it is." Luke said. "Another very long mission."


An icy breeze swept down the corridor. Emil hugged his coat even closer to his body. He shivered. Beside him, Han pulled on a pair of gloves. Emil glanced at his chrono. "How much longer is this going to take?" He asked Han. Han shrugged, "It's official business. Who knows?" Emil stood and started pacing around to keep warm. "Lovely place for a winter base." Emil said dryly.

"Yeah, the Rebellion seems to have a knack for choosing the most miserable spots in the galaxy to call home." Han shook his head at the memories. Emil sat down once again on the bench beside Han. He looked at him sideways, and asked cautiously, "So, just exactly how and why are you caught up in this whole mess? I mean, it doesn't exactly fit. A well known smuggler joining up with a band of freedom fighters?" Emil almost laughed at the thought.

Han smirked slightly. "That's what most of them think, too. Notice how you don't see me being briefed on the secret mission?" He indicated the door to the conference room where two guards stood stiffly, rubbing their hands together to stay warm.

Emil smirked in return. "Point." But Emil still wasn't satisfied. "Still, they let you come along on quite a few important missions. And you don't seem to object too much." Han threw him a wary glance. Then he sighed, and decided it couldn't hurt the kid to be informed.

"Well, they need a good pilot like me." Han began with a smile, and Emil just sighed, "plus, the Falcon is the fastest ship any of them has ever seen. And when you're desperate, you'll ask anybody for help." He chuckled. Emil nodded. "Yeah, even an Imperial Captain." He and Han shared a small laugh. Emil knew Han was still alluding to some things. Quite a few things, he imagined, but not many that Emil was welcome to know. Though Emil wouldn't blame him for that.

"What kind of missions have you run?" Emil asked. Han waved a fleeting hand. "Ah, all sorts of stuff. Some of it pretty drab. But other times, it's intriguing."

"I suppose all of your missions involved Skywalker or the Princess?" Emil questioned. Han eyed him, looking for hidden intent in that question, but didn't seem to see any. He nodded. "Well, who else? I don't know anyone else around here, 'nor would I trust them. Yeah, Luke and I have shared some adventures. He's not half bad, for a kid."

"And the Princess," Emil added slyly, "not half bad either?" Han glared at Emil. He knew Emil was going to get at that. He should have known better. But he couldn't very well avoid it now. He turned his eyes away to stare at the wall in front of him. Emil seemed amused, and silently begged him to answer.

"You know, you have a big mouth kid." Han snorted. Emil grinned lopsidedly. "Think I might know a few others with that trait." Han had to smile at Emil. "Not saying that I don't, just pointing it out to you. Because someday it might get you into trouble. Take my word for it." Han added significantly. Emil shook his head. "You still haven't answered my question yet." Emil smiled. "It seems to me that I've hit a soft subject. Never mind then." Han turned toward Emil and raised his voice a bit.

"That conniving little monarch has gotten me into more trouble than even I could get myself into. And that's saying something! Personally, I'd love nothing more than to strangle her." Han huffed. Emil was on the verge of cracking up. He loved getting this kind of reaction from people. He knew just how to strike the right nerve. And he was certain that he'd struck a big nerve of Han's. "Solo, you really get worked up over her, huh?" Emil laughed openly. "Although I can't say I blame you. Her annoying mix of temper and beauty is enough to work anyone up. Don't worry." He patted Han's leg. "You probably aren't the first to suffer. 'Nor will you be the last, I'm sure."

Han ground his teeth together. He set his jaw, and knitted his eyebrows angrily. "I really hate you, Deluide. I really do." He said as scornfully as he could. Emil just smiled cockily. He was satisfied. He knew that Han couldn't hide the truth from him. They were too much alike. Emil could pick up on Han's feeling for the Princess. There was aggravation, but there was also a share of admiration. It made Emil feel proud that he'd discovered one of the only weaknesses of this rough hard man. And it was even more satisfying that that weakness happened to be a snappy, quick-witted Princess.

"So, now I know the real reason why you're staying." Emil said. "Who says I'm staying?" Han spat. "Well, aren't you? I mean, you've been here nearly 3 years. Don't you think it's about time you made a commitment?" Han shook his head. "Ah, you're just as bad as Luke. Always wanting me to settle down and submit to authority. Well I'll tell you one thing; I may decide to stick around, but I'm NOT going to be wearing any uniform and saluting all the 'sirs' and 'ma'ams'." Han held up a proclaimary finger. Emil smiled broadly. "That much I believe."

Abruptly, the doors to the conference room slid open. General Rieekan exited, followed by Luke and Leia, along with Ackbar and some aides. Rieekan gave Han a nod. "Solo," Han stood up. "we've discussed the specifics of this mission. The Princess can brief you on what you need to know." He said with an almost joking grin. Han grimaced. Sometimes he thought Rieekan had a very twisted sense of humor, always forcing Han and the Princess into situations together. Someday, Han thought, I'm going to get him for this. But Han decided to make the best of it. He turned to Leia, and said with a smirk, "How about we go down to the canteen, and talk it over over dinner?" Han leered. Leia shoved a folder full of papers into Han's chest. "Here's everything you need to know. I trust you and Captain Deluide can look them over by yourselves over dinner, if you'd like. I'm much too busy with important things." Leia continued on down the hallway, back to her chambers.

Luke smiled. Han glared at him, then sighed and asked, "So, you want to come to dinner with us tonight, Luke? Maybe explain some of this stuff." Luke shrugged. "Sure Han. Though there are many more important things..." "Nice." Han cut in. "See you at seven. Try to leave your sarcasm in your room." Luke was quick to reply. "As long as you do the same with your cynicism." Han shook his head as Luke turned and walked down another corridor.

"Well kid, looks like we'd better get back to the Falcon and get ready. Maybe take a nap, so we don't get bored to sleep tonight. Whoever writes these mission briefings has about as much enthusiasm as a sleepy bantha." Han and Emil headed back toward the docking bay where the Falcon was parked.


".... and so then after we get the Y-wings.. Han, are you listening?" Luke asked. Han didn't even bother to glance up from his cards. "Huh? Oh yeah, Y-wings... go on." Luke sighed. He'd been trying to explain this mission to Han for several hours. He'd tried last night at the restaurant, too. "Han, we'll be at Ord Mantell in 2 days! Don't you think it would be nice to know what's going on?" Luke persisted.

Han held up a silencing finger. He laid down his cards on the table, and grinned, "Three of sabers, lord of the sith, master of coins, and ace of coins. That's 20." Emil rubbed his chin. "Gee, I don't know Han. That's a pretty good hand. Let's see though... I've got a smuggler, another smuggler, the two of coins, and the five of coins." He grinned. "Smugglers array. Beats all." he shrugged "Sorry." he raked the pile of credits toward himself. Han glared at him. "You have got to be the luckiest guy in the galaxy. I swear, even those royal snobs won't have as much money as you will if you keep this up!" He threw a significant glance at Leia, who glared at him hatefully.

Luke sighed, and closed the datapad he had been reading from. Han was too wrapped up in his Sabacc game to pay attention. Luke's stomach growled loudly. He hadn't realized how hungry he was. "Is anyone else ready for some food?" He asked. Leia stood. "Anything's better than sitting around and watching these two children and their little games." Emil pretended to be hurt by the comment. "Aw, your highness, you don't really think we're immature, do ya?" He arched his eyebrows. "I have a name you know. It's Leia. L-E-I-A. LEIA! OK?" Leia exploded. Emil seemed surprised. "Well Leia," Emil said pointedly, "you really know how to sway people to your side. Sheesh, I'm never joining this crazy outfit if I'm going to be yelled at all the time." "Well, you'll have to get used to it. It's her highness' native tongue." Han smirked. Leia picked up a pillow off the couch she'd been sitting on and flung it at Han's head as hard as she could.

Han ducked just in time. "Aw, she wants to play pillow fight. Who's immature now?" Han leered. Leia didn't answer. Instead, she turned to Luke, "Luke, let's go get something to eat. But be careful not to eat too much. We wouldn't want Captain Solo to DIE of starvation." She glared at Han. Luke looked from Han to Leia and back. They were locked in a cold stare of death. "Good idea Leia. C'mon, the kitchen's this way." He tugged a little at her arm to get her to come. Her glare lingered for a moment, and then she turned and followed Luke. Emil quickly got out of his chair, leaving his cards on the table. "Hey, I'm hungry too! Wait for me Leia!" he ran off after the departing princess. Han sighed to himself. Why did things have to be so difficult around here?


"216, 217, 218.. here it is, 219." Leia stopped in front of the door. She keyed in the code the woman at the desk had given her. The light on the lock changed from red to green, and Leia pushed the door open. She stepped in, followed by Han. "Here." he offered, palming the light pad. The lights slowly flickered on.

"This is it?" Emil grunted, dragging in two heavy bags. Leia looked around. "Yes. This is it." Luke managed to squeeze his way into the entry hallway, too. He peered inside, "It'll do. Besides, we won't be spending much time here, anyway." "Han, will ya give me hand with these bags? Sheesh, you people think I'm the bellboy or something? I better get a good tip." Emil grumbled. "Quit yur whinin' kid, Skywalker's got that covered." Luke glared at him. "Funny." he said dryly.

"Where would you like your bags, highness?" Han asked Leia in his best servant voice. "Just set them over by that wall, OK Solo?" Han mock saluted. "Yes ma'am." He helped Emil haul the bags to the indicated spot.

Han looked around and scratched his head. "So, anybody want to take the grand tour?" Everyone shrugged. There wasn't too much to see. There were two bedrooms, each with a bed and a cot. There was also a small kitchen and a 'fresher. "So, er... where is everyone gonna sleep?" Emil asked curiously. "I get a bed." Luke chimed in. Leia nodded. "I get the other one." Emil and Han exchanged glances. "Look, don't you think we should do this by size? I mean, Emil and I are a head taller than either of you. I think WE should get the beds." Han said. Leia shrugged. "Sorry. First come, first serve. Luke, help me drag this cot into the hallway so none of us have to listen to Han snore." She indicated the cot in her new room. Luke complied. "Hey, who says I snore?" Han objected. Leia smiled. "The whole base can hear you, Solo. Don't think it's a secret." Han's eyes narrowed in a threatening look, but he said nothing.

"So, I guess I'm staying with Luke then." Emil plopped himself down on the cot in Skywalker's room, and began to make himself comfortable. "Hey, no going to sleep just yet. We've got business to do!" Leia shouted. "Huh? Oh yeah, the thing..." Emil rolled over, covering his head with his arm. Leia sighed heavily. "Was ANYBODY listening to the instructions? We've got to run over the drill for the meeting tomorrow? Hello! Mission to get Y-wings from private manufacturer? Ring any bells?" Leia was getting frustrated. Emil didn't respond. Behind her, Han yawned. "Actually, a nap doesn't sound too bad right about now." He started to lie down on his cot in the hallway. "Oh no you don't." Leia grabbed him by the collar. She dragged him into the kitchen, and shoved him into a seat. He blinked hard. "But I'm so tired. I'm going to bed." He started to get up, when he felt two small hands push him down with surprising force. The Princess actually seemed to tower over him, with a menacing look on her face. "You stay right here, you got that? I'm gonna get your friend, and you two are going to listen to the mission plans. Got it?" Han didn't dare object to her severe tone. He just nodded. "Good. Here, drink this. It'll help you wake up." She handed him a mug of strange smelling coffee. With Luke's help, Emil was soon seated at the kitchen table sipping coffee too.

"OK, here's the deal." Leia began, taking a seat. "Since Luke and I are the diplomatic ones, we'll be doing the talking. We meet with this guy named Emach at 8:00 tomorrow morning, at the tapcafe down the road. Han, you and Emil are in charge of security. You guys are going to keep a watch out for anything suspicious. Anyway, we meet with Emach and he gives us the location of a shed and the entry code to the shed. We give him the money. There are supposed to be 15 brand new Y-wings inside a freighter in there. Luke will fly it out, while the rest of us get back to the Falcon and get out. Is everything clear." Han sighed. "Crystal. Now can we please get some rest? How are we supposed to play watch dog if we're fallin' asleep at our posts?" Han gripped. Leia waved a dismissing hand at him. "Sure, whatever. Get to bed. We're waking up at 5:00 tomorrow morning. Be ready!" She called to the two departing Corellians. Han didn't bother to turn around, he simply raised his hand in a thumbs up gesture as he went into the 'fresher to change.

Leia turned to Luke. "You think it'll work?" Luke sighed. "I dunno. But if it doesn't, there are going to be some very unhappy generals to greet us when we get back." Leia grimaced at the thought. This mission had to work, at all costs. If not, the entire Rebellion could crumble for lack of fighters. And that would be the end of justice in the galaxy. Leia shivered at the thought. Luke tried to smile assuringly. "Don't worry, it's going to go fine. It's no different than any other mission you've had; it's not like there's more pressure than there has been." "Right," Leia miffed, "no pressure whatsoever."


Han was only half awake when he heard a small 'thud' and a gasp. Then suddenly, there was a small weight on top of him. He cracked his eyes open. "Princess?" He squinted in the dark. Sure enough, Leia was sprawled out on his chest. She quickly pushed herself back to her feet. "To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?" Han sat up slightly, rubbing his eyes. Even in the darkness, he could see her blushing.

"I...I'm sorry Han. I couldn't sleep so I thought I'd go get something to eat... I forgot you were out here. I'm so sorry." She repeated. He just smiled. "I didn't wake you up, did I?" Her eyes went wide. She didn't even give him time to answer. "Oh! I'm so sorry Han! I know how tired you are. I'll get back to bed and try not to wake you again." She turned to head back to her room. Han caught her by the wrist. She turned around to face him. "No, it's no trouble at all. And what suddenly makes you need to apologize to me?" She ran a hand over her tired face. "I... this is just such a big mission, and I'm really worked up about it. Plus... well, nevermind." Whatever else she was going to say, he decided, it was better for her to keep it to herself, for now.

Han pulled a T-shirt on and stood up. He led the way to the kitchen. "C'mon, let's talk about it over some warm tea." He didn't give her much choice, dragging her along. He gestured for her to take a seat at the table, and she did. He occupied himself with warming the tea over the old-fashioned stove in the room. "So, what's been keeping you up, exactly?" He asked, his back turned to her. She sighed, "Everything, it seams. Worrying about the mission. After what happened on Synegast, I'm afraid that anyone could be sabotaging this mission." She noticed Han's face drop a little. "I mean, anyone on the outside. Not you... or Luke... or Emil." She tried to cover up her blunder, but it was futile. "You still don't trust me, do you?" Han said, returning to stirring the tea. "Of course I trust you Han. It's just that the whole thing has made me a little jumpy. What, with the Imperials planting that bug in the Falcon without anyone knowing... who knows what kind of stunts they could pull." Han nodded, not entirely convinced. He poured two glasses of tea, and handing one to the Princess, sat down across from her. "Thanks." She said.

They silently sipped at the hot tea for a little while, when Han decided to talk. "Still, are you ever going to learn to fully trust me?" Leia objected, "I trust you." "Yeah, but not the way you trust Luke or Wedge. Not the way you trust anyone else around base, really." Leia responded without thinking, "But they're..." "Credible." He offered. "No." she said. She searched for the right word. "They're concrete. They're a sure thing. But with you... I mean, you could get up and leave anytime you wanted to and that would be the end of it. We'd never see you again, and there'd be no way for us to stop you." Han nodded. "So that's what it's really about. You're afraid that I'll leave?" "The whole Rebellion is afraid. We need every bit of help we can get, and you're so much help to us." Han thought it convenient that she managed to make this the Rebellion's issue, not her own. "You really want me to stay?" He stared at her. "And I mean you personally, not what the Rebellion wants. Be honest." She returned his stare. "I want you to stay Han. Please? Ever since Alderaan..." Her voice trailed off. He moved to comfort her, but she held up a hand, and wiped the tears forming in her eyes. "Ever since Alderaan, you've been one of the only people who cares about me for me." Her voice seemed stronger now. "Not because I'm a senator or I was a princess. But because I'm a person who needs friends."

Han looked into her eyes. She could tell that he was being entirely sincere. "Then I'll stay." He said simply. She looked at him, slightly confused. "Just like that?" She asked. He nodded. "Just like that. And you know why? Because ever since I toted that crazy old man and Luke through the galaxy to that Death Star, you've been one of the only ones who cares about me for me. Who didn't really care where I'd come from, just that I was a person who needed friends." For a few moments they shared an intense, honest stare. And for the first time, Leia saw through the facade. She realized that behind his natural rebellious tendencies, Han Solo was a person who cared about real things and real people. And Han saw through Leia's facade, too. He saw that she was struggling to get out from under all the pressure that was put on her by the countless senators, generals, and royalty to succeed. He saw that, her whole life, she hadn't really done anything that was entirely her idea. That was entirely her choice.

Finally, Leia broke the gaze and stared absently into her cup. "Well, I'm going to head to bed. Don't stay up too late, all right? And remember to turn everything off when you're done." Han put his cup in the sink. "What are you, my mother?" She said sarcastically. He grinned. "Good night princess. I'll see you. I promise." He turned and went back to the hall to lie down. And Leia knew deep down that he didn't just mean tomorrow. Han was making a huge commitment, promising to stay with the Rebellion. She knew it wasn't an easy thing for someone like him to do. She only hoped it was a promise he could keep.


The morning came all too soon it seemed, and everyone lazily prepared themselves for the long day ahead. Han and Emil donned their usual casual Corellian clothing, which fit in almost anywhere. Luke, on the other hand, had to dress up a bit. A pilot's jumpsuit with a rebel logo or a jedi tunic would hardly go unnoticed. So he instead wore a pair of Emil's Tan pants and an off-white shirt. Leia wore a light blue dress that was fairly loose, and with the local style flair, a white lily in her braided hair.

Han slipped a small blaster into his boot, and clipped on his blaster belt around his waist. He tossed Emil a spare gun who slipped it on as well. Luke had some trouble figuring out how to conceal his lightsaber in his unusual clothing, but eventually managed to cover it with the folds of his un-tucked shirt. Luke looked at himself in the mirror, and his face twisted in disgust. "Ugh, how do you people wear this stuff?" He asked with a glance to Han and Emil. "Hey, it's better than that jedi dress you wear, junior." Han retorted. Luke just sighed, and re-checked his odd clothing. Leia sighed, "Everyone looks fine. Now c'mon, we need to get going." She led the small precession out of the hotel room, locking the door behind them.

She began walking the quickest root she had figured to get to the tapcafe. She walked quickly through the crowds, while still trying to blend in. Luke walked next to Han, talking as they went along. "Leia tells me you've decided to stay." Luke asked anxiously. Han kept looking ahead. "News sure does travel fast, huh? I bet by now she's alerted all of Hoth to the news. Yeah, it's true. I've gone soft." Luke smiled. "So what made you finally decide to stay?" He asked suspiciously. Han shrugged. "Lots of things. Among them you and your need for a wise, mature roll model." Luke laughed. "What?" Han said with mock hurt, "You don't think I'm a good roll model?" Luke just laughed more. "Oh no, Han." His voice thick with sarcasm, "you're what every boy should grow up to be." Han laughed along with Luke.

They all continued on down the alleys and roads until they reached the tapcafe they were looking for. Luke and Leia sat at one of the tables near the door. Han and Emil knew the drill. They each took a seat at a table on opposite sides of the cafe, keeping a wary eye out for anything suspicious. After waiting for a few minutes and ordering some drinks, the small group found its target. A white-hared man with an equally frosty goatee casually walked over to Luke and Leia's table. "Excuse me, what time is it now?" The man asked casually. "Time to get a chrono." Leia responded just as easily. The man smiled, recognizing the code signal. He extended his hand to her. "Libe Emach. Nice to meet you finally in person, Princess. And this is...?" He indicated Luke. "Luke Skywalker." Luke answered, careful not to be too loud. "Ah yes, the jedi. I've heard a few stories about you. Pretty amazing." Emach scratched his chin. "Yes, I suppose." Luke glanced around nervously; making sure no one was watching them. He caught Han's eye, and was given a reprimanding look. If there was anyone around, Han and Emil would tell them. And until then, there was no sense looking suspicious by scanning the entire cafe. Luke nodded in acknowledgment, and turned back toward Emach.

"Can I buy you two something?" Emach offered, smiling. "No thanks, we're kind of in a hurry. But thanks for the offer." Leia said. Emach acknowledged his agreement. "So, you, uh, have my money?" He asked, prompting the deal. "Yes, here." Luke handed her the credit chip he had tucked away in his belt, and she in turn handed it to Emach. He examined it briefly, and then slipped it into his tunic. "So as I understand, when you transmit the acknowledgment code, it will activate and I'll be able to draw the credits into my account, yes?" Emach inquired. "Yes, but you will only be able to take out so much at a time. That way it won't seem as suspicious. But you should have your full amount in a few days." Emach nodded. "I assure you, you'll get all your money." Leia added. Emach flashed a smile. "Oh I trust you. Now, for my end of the deal..." Leia motioned for Luke to get out the datapad he was carrying. Likewise, Emach pulled out a datacard. He handed the card to Luke. Luke wordlessly inserted it into the pad. Leia glanced at the scrolling data. "It's going to take a few minutes to decode the data." Luke explained. Leia continued to stare at the screen, nonetheless. Emach took a moment to look around the cafe.

"It looks like your friends are getting a little jumpy." Emach commented, offhandedly. Leia turned her head up toward him. "Excuse me?" She sounded slightly alarmed. Emach smiled slyly. "Come now Princess. You don't expect me to think that you two are here alone. Your two Corellian friends seem nervous." Leia gaped at him, her jaw slightly open. "How did you know?" she regarded him suspiciously. "Been doing your homework have you, Libe?" He laughed. "Princess, anyone can tell a Corellian by the number of empty glasses on his table. And since there are two of them, on opposite sides of us, both seeming very cautious... well, it doesn't take an organ fabrication scientist to put two and two together." Leia seemed to relax a bit, but she was still wary. "Don't worry, Princess. Even a scheming businessman like myself knows better than to tangle with the Empire. I'm all for your rebellion." Emach's words soothed Leia a little, but she was still edgy.

"Ah-ha." Luke proclaimed. Leia leaned over and scanned the maps on the screen. "So this will take us to the hangar shed?" She asked Emach. "Yes, and once you get there, the datacard will give you access to the shed and the freighter. The 15 Y-wings my plant has manufactured for you are inside. Once you are satisfied with that, you can transmit the code." then he added. "And just in case you decide to try to make a run for it, the freighter's engines won't start until I get the code. Just a precaution, you understand." Leia nodded. "Good. Then good luck, and farewell." He stood and shook hands with them, and headed toward the door. On his way, he passed Emil, and muttered to him. "Next time you want to play bodyguard, try not to act so obvious, eh?" He smiled and walked out the door into the street. Emil managed only a sheepish smile.

Luke closed the datapad, carefully tucking it back into his belt. He gave the card to Leia, for safekeeping. The two of them walked out the back door into the street. A few moments later, Emil joined them, then a few more, and Han completed the group. "You get it?" Han asked. "Yes, right here. Now, according to the map, if we just follow this street, we'll run into a four-way intersection. We take the left road, and about 5 miles out of the city is the hangar. Hmmm, we're going to need some transportation. Emil, why don't you go rent a speeder? Tell them we just need it for today, and we'll return it this evening." she handed Emil a bag of credits, and he hustled off into the main street to find the rental place. Meanwhile, Han, Leia, and Luke sat in the back-street waiting. A thought crossed Leia's mind. "Han, why were you so jumpy in there?" Han looked puzzled. "Jumpy? Who says I was jumpy." "Oh come on, you were squirming all over the place. You didn't see anybody you knew, did you?" She raised and eyebrow at him. He shook his head. "No, nothing like that. I just got this weird feeling..." His voice trailed off. "I dunno, probably just from being around Luke too much." Luke snorted at the comment, but said nothing. A few minutes later, Emil shot around the corner in a speeder.

"Hey, I'm not riding with you driving!" Luke protested. "What?" Emil asked. "You don't like my driving?" "No, it's just that I'd like to get home in one solid piece, not a bottle of goup scraped off a wall." Emil sighed, and scooted over. Leia and Han slid into the back seat. Luke started down the street. Emil turned back to face Han and Leia. "You two behave yourselves now. This isn't some drive in holo-theather." He grinned widely. Leia shot him an evil glare. Han just smirked and snapped his fingers in seeming disappointment. "Darn, foiled my plans again!" Han grumbled. "Funny." Leia said dryly, making a big show of scooting as far away from Solo as possible in the tiny speeder. Han just laughed, "Nah, if that's what she had in mind she'd have me drivin' and Luke back here." Luke had obviously heard the comment, and began blushing as brightly as the suns of Tatooine. "Given the choice between you, I'd have to be extremely desperate to choose you." Leia commented. Then she seemed to think about it for a second. "No, I take that back. I'd probably throw myself into a wompa cave before I'd be that desperate." That silenced Han. He couldn't think of anything intelligent at the moment to say, so he simply shook his head, and looked off in the opposite direction. Leia, satisfied, sat back in her chair. Emil just shook his head and turned back to face the front.

It wasn't long before Luke slowed the speeder to a halt in front of their destination. He turned off the engine, and proceeded to let everyone out. They all sauntered over to the front of the hangar door. "Datapad." Leia held out her hand, and Luke handed her the pad. She got out the card Emach had given her and inserted it into the datapad. Then she plugged the pad into the door out. She hesitated. "Let's hope this isn't a trap. Well, here goes nothing." She mumbled. She moved her fingers to the activate switch and pressed it.


Libe Emach sat at his desk, waiting in earnest. He rapped his fingers on the hard wood surface. Across the room, one of his men glanced up from his computer. "Nothing yet?" The young man asked. Libe shook his head. "Not yet, but they should be transmitting soo- Ahh, here we are." The screen in from of him flickered, then a female face appeared. The young man moved to where he could see the screen. He let out a low whistle. Libe pushed him away.

"Hello Miss Organa. I gather that you've found your precious cargo." Emach said smiling. Leia nodded. "Yes, everything seems just fine. But we're anxious to get out of here, so let's get this done. I'm transmitting the activation code now." In the top right hand corner of Libe's computer, a small transmission progress box popped up. The little blue bar moved from left to right, slowly at first, then faster. It eventually reached the far side. A box popped up in the middle of the screen. 'Transmission Complete'. Libe fingered the 'ok' button.

Leia waited while Emach, on the other end, worked to activate his account. "You almost done? I'd like to get off this rock ASAP. This place ain't exactly my idea of a relaxing vacation spot." Han hollered from somewhere else in the shed. Leia didn't even bother to answer; there was no point. The last thing they needed was another fight. Emach's face brightened with a slow smile on the screen. "Everything's clear, your highness." he keyed something into his computer. "And your ship is ready to fly. A pleasure doing business with you. Give my regards to General Rieekan. Tell him my services are open any time he has the credits." Leia nodded. "I'll send that message right along. Thank you for your help, Libe." He grinned. "Any time. Over and out." "Over and out." Leia ended the message link, and closed the compad. She turned to find the others gathered behind her.

"Now can we go, your worship?" Han asked. "Ahhh, quit your gripping Han. Developing a little patience might not be a bad idea, you know." Han sighed. "You three better return that speeder and get back to the Falcon. I'm fine here. I'll have this thing out of here and back on Hoth in no time." Luke interrupted. "You sure you'll be all right by yourself?" Han asked, half mockingly. "I'm not a baby, Han." Luke retorted. "Besides, there's so much cargo on that thing I doubt it's possible to pack more than one person in there for a two day trip." Emil snapped his fingers. "Darn, you've ruined my vacation plans. I really wanted to ride back to Hoth in a crowded freighter!" Emil snickered. "But really, Skywalker's right, now let's go." "Yeah, we should try to get back as quick as we can, too. Chewie already made a huge ordeal out of not getting to come along. I doubt he'll appreciate any more delay than is absolutely necessary. C'mon guys." Han lead Leia and Emil to the rented landspeeder. He eased himself into the pilot's seat. "Uh, you do know how to drive this thing, right?" Leia asked suspiciously as she crawled into the back seat. "Sister, I can operate anything with an engine." Han started the ignition as Emil hopped into the passenger's seat. "How safely is another issue..." Han added with a grin, beating Leia to it. As the vehicle sped out into the road, the giant freighter inside the shed started up its repulsorlifts. It slowly lifted off its supports, and floated out of the hangar and into the darkening sky.

"Well, I hope this makes you happy. Your beloved Y-wings are on their way back to the base." Han said as he drove toward the place where Emil had rented the speeder earlier. "Very happy. Don't you know how much this means to us? Fifteen good fighters. This is huge!" Leia exclaimed. "Yeah, I guess. I just don't see how I ever got mixed up with this whole thing." Han grumbled. Leia shrugged, "Maybe it was fate. Fate has its hand in lots of things, you know." Leia suggested, partly because she thought it was true, but mostly just to annoy him. Han shook his head. Emil decided to comment. "Well inform fate that it's confused things in my life very nicely. And I'd appreciate it if it would pull out a little. I can take it from here." Han laughed, "You said it, kid." Leia sighed. Some things will never change, she thought. Han will always be his skeptical, distant self. And maybe that was for the better. She wouldn't know what to think if he acted otherwise.

Han pulled up to the rental drop-off, and they all got out of the speeder. The worker on duty gave Han back the 2,000 credit deposit they'd paid earlier. He started to slip it into his jacket pocket. "Uh-uh." Leia held out a hand. "Hand it over." Han smirked. "And what if I don't?" He challenged. Leia's eye's narrowed jokingly. "You'll be sorry. You don't want to have to answer to Leia 'Black Eye' Organa. "Ha! That's almost the funniest thing I've heard! Ha ha ha!" Han laughed exageratingly. "You don't believe me? You can ask Rieekan. When I was only 6, I gave him a big one on his left eye." Leia said, then stretched out her palm. "Give it. Now." Han reluctantly placed the wad of paper in her hand.

"How come Emach gets paid and I don't?" Han inquired. "Because, you're a very charitable person, and you're doing this out of the goodness of your heart." Leia grinned uncontrollably. Han stared at her. "And you get to come along with me. Isn't that payment enough?" She smiled sweetly. Han raised an eyebrow. He and Emil exchanged a look, then smirked. "It's a wonder I don't get paid extra for that." He said. Leia jabbed him mildly in the arm. "Ow. See what I mean?" Han complained, rubbing the spot. "Be glad it wasn't your eye, laserbrains." She said in a threatening tone. "I'm filing for employee abuse. I want my lawyer." "Er Han... she is your lawyer." Emil pointed out. "Oh. Well that does present a problem, doesn't it? I don't suppose you'd be willing to represent me?" Han asked Emil. "If that's the best you can do, you'd be better off to just let her hit you." Emil answered. "Fine, I'll drop the charges. But don't think I'll forget this. It's going into my little 'blackmail on Leia' file." Han pretended to write a note. Leia rolled her eyes. "Come on you stooges. Let's get our stuff and get outta here before I go crazy." She trotted off down the street. Emil whispered to Han as they followed. "It's so cute the way you two flirt." Han retaliated with a sharp kick in the shin. "Ow. That hurt!" Emil cried, slightly hopping the next few steps. He scowled at Han. "Hypocrite." He snorted. Han just sped up and joined Leia ahead. Emil smiled to himself, as he hobbled along behind them.


Night was starting to settle over the spaceport on Ord Mantell. The sky swirled with green and purple auras, shining and wavering. Leia leaned her head back to watch the mystical dance and sighed happily. "It's beautiful isn't it?" She said absently. Han looked up too. "Yeah. When I was younger, I came here once and just stared at the sky for hours. It's pretty amazing." Leia looked down from the sky and turned to Han, who was seated on the bench outside the hotel next to her. "Hmmm, that sounds nice. I wish I had had the time to do that. To just look at the stars." She sighed and returned her gaze to the heavens. She unknowingly rested her head on Han's shoulder. He said nothing. They just sat there staring at the shimmering beauty of the night sky.

Without moving from her spot, Leia asked, "How come you never told me you were in the Imperial Academy?" Han fidgeted slightly. "Well, it would just be one more thing for you to worry about. One more reason for everyone to be suspicious of me. As if it's not bad enough already." Leia knew how he felt about the subject, so she decided not to contradict him. She simply said, "We all do careless things when we're young." Han smirked, "Yeah, even Luke wanted to join up with the Academy. Except for him, young was a couple years ago, and for me it was a decade. That was back when you were still having tea parties in the palace gardens." "I never had tea parties!" Leia insisted. "No? I thought all little girls did that." Han said. Leia shook her head, "No, I had mock Senate meetings." Han laughed. "I can see that." Leia smiled. It was so nice to remember happy times. Those joyful days on Alderaan when she was a girl...

Alderaan. Every time she thought about it, she couldn't help but cry. She scooted a little away from Han and wiped the tears from her eyes. "Hey Leia, I'm sorry if I-" Han moved toward her to apologize. 'Good going Solo.' He thought to himself. This was the second time today he'd inadvertently brought up the most painful memory Leia had. 'Smooth. Real Smooth.' "No." Leia sniffed. "It's not your fault. Really." Han wanted to comfort her, but was shocked to find he was too shy, too afraid to. Instead, he just sat on the bench next to her and resumed his sky watching.

Leia heard the sound of feet approaching and something dragging on the ground. She composed herself before she looked up at Emil, lugging the suitcases behind him. Emil quickly assessed the situation, and gave Han a sly look before saying, "Ah, I hope I'm not interrupting anything. Could you two give me a hand with these?" Han and Leia complied silently, carrying the bags back to the Falcon without a word.

Once inside, Han seemed very anxious to get to the cockpit and take off. He left Leia and Emil to strap into the lounge seats. From what little Emil had seen and sensed, the conversation Leia and Han had been having out on the bench was private, so he made sure not to say anything about it. For a while, there was an uncomfortable silence filling the room. Then the repulsorlifts started up, and the ship rose into the air. "Finally, we're getting out of here. I don't know what it is, but this place gives me the creeps." Emil commented. Leia was about to agree when the Falcon suddenly made a sharp turn. She and Emil were jolted against their retraining straps. "What happened?" She asked, though there was no one to answer. Emil just mumbled, "I don't know. It seems like we're turning back to Ord Mantell... but why would Han go back?" Leia looked worried, "Something's wrong. Let's go check it out."

The two unlocked their harnesses and made their way to the cockpit. They slid the door open. Then they froze. Before them, Han was kneeling on the floor, with blood trickling down from a cut on his forehead. Behind him, a tall black clad figure stood with the muzzle of his blaster on Han's neck.

"Don't move," The figure snarled, "if you value Solo's life." Emil and Leia complied. "Now, sit down in those chairs. And don't try anything, or your friend will have to be delivered dead for half bounty." Bounty. So it was a bounty hunter. No one was more feared in the galaxy. The two sat where the hunter directed them. "Now Captain," he began in his raspy voice, "you will set us down in the fields to the South where my ship awaits to take you to Jabba." Han stole a glance at Leia, and nodded. Yes, that was the gangster he'd dropped shipment for. The situation did not look bright. Han took the controls of the Falcon and landed it where the bounty hunter directed. When they were settled into the tall, concealing grass the hunter lead them out into the field.

The hunter escorted his captives toward his ship. Han took this opportunity to survey the ship. It was fairly good sized, but smaller than the Falcon. Han noticed the words 'Nova Blade' elaborately etched and painted into the side of the ship. It wasn't any model that he was familiar with, but the general construction looked like Kuat Drive Yards style. They engineered most of the large Imperial cruisers. So this guy either had Imperial connections, or had somehow stolen the craft. Neither scenario was very encouraging. The fiend got his newly acquired prizes aboard, and led them to a bare room, with a heavy security door. It was some sort of cell.

The hunter placed restraints on Han hissing, "I'm no fool, Solo. These should keep you confined until we reach Tatooine." Han stared at him bitterly. "Suddenly so shy to talk? Perhaps it is because we have not been properly introduced. I am Viltur Eldur, bounty hunter, and also skilled in many other areas." Han still said nothing, nor did Emil or Leia. The hunter seemed to grow weary of taunting them. He sighed a hissing sigh. "You are probably wandering more of me. I will spare you the trouble. On my home planet, I was a warrior of the highest class. My job was to protect the king. When he was assassinated due to my negligence," he spat the word, "I was banished. So now I use my skills for the greater good of bettering myself. I have since learned that it is best to be in one's own service, rather than that of some political scheme."

Han finally spoke up. "You're some brave man... not even willing to show his own face..." Leia was afraid the bounty hunter would become enraged, but instead his eyes seemed to smile. "You would like to know why I hide my face? It is simple. Not only was I banished from my planet, I was given a scar on either cheek to disgrace me." Leia observed that Viltur's black samurai-style robe covered all of his face besides his sparkling eyes. His eyes were green and glowing. Leia thought this must be very effective in striking fear into the hunter's prey. It definitely made her a little edgy, and she had to turn away from their penetrating glare.

Viltur seemed to relax a little. While telling his story, he had unwittingly assumed a warrior's menacing upright stance. Now he slouched, and leaned against a wall nonchalantly. "I have revealed much about myself. You I know much of, Solo, but who is this?" He turned to leer at Leia. Han reflexively stepped in front of her. "Leave her out of this. It's between you and me. She and the boy aren't worth anything to you. They can only cause trouble. Why don't you let them go?" Han said. Viltur's eyes smiled once again and he laughed aloud, "So they can go alert some more of your friends? I think not. Besides..." Viltur turned his emerald eyes upon Emil and Leia, "anyone associated with you is likely to be wanted somewhere. No, I think I shall keep your friends here with you. Actually, you should be thanking me. You will have some company until you reach Jabba and whatever sort of twisted fate he has planned for you." The hair on the back of Han's neck stood up a little. The hunter wasn't joking. Jabba had been known to think up particularly gruesome and unpleasant punishments for those who failed him.

Viltur slid toward the exit. "I shall need to be getting us on our way now. Make yourselves... he he.. comfortable." With that, he slipped out of the room and shut the metal door behind him. With a sharp 'clang!' the lock clapped into place. Han turned to Emil and Leia, who had a shared look of fear and wondering on their faces. Han tried his best to muster up a confident grin. "That hunter's getting more than he bargained for with us. Don't worry, we'll get out of this in no time." Leia nodded slightly. Emil settled himself into a heap on the cold ground. He stretched out as best as he could. "Good thinking. Might as well rest up a little. Save our strength." Han said as he and Leia took their seats on the floor. He added under his breath, "We'll need it."


After several hours of restless dozing, Han, Leia, and Emil where sitting around in their cell, awaiting Viltur's return. Leia shivered. The floor, the whole room, was freezing cold. Han noticed and handed her his jacket, which he had been using as a blanket. "Here." He offered. She shook her head, and tried to contain her shaking. "No, thanks. I'm fine." Han shook his head. "No you're not, your going to get sick. It's freezing in here." Leia rubbed her arms and sat up straighter.

"No, you need it just as much as I do..." then she noticed his cuffed hands. "Hey, let me see your wrists." She moved gently toward Han. He pulled away and hid his hands from her. "Leave me alone, I'm fine." He snarled. "No you're not, your hands are bleeding. Let me see." She demanded. He shook his head. "Han, they could get infected if not properly cared for. Let me see them." She commanded, slightly angry. Han finally gave in, and with a reluctant sigh, offered forward his manacled arms.

Leia's eyes widened with concern. "Force, Han! This is worse than I thought! Emil, get over here and help." Han tried to pull away. "I'm not a baby, I'll be fine." He snorted. Leia shook her head. "No you won't. The metal has cut through all your skin, and is nearly to the bone. These things are on way too tight."

Emil scooted over and surveyed Han's wrists. Leia was right. The metal of the cuffs had been digging into Han's thin wrists for hours. The skin of his hands was pale. The skin on his wrists was peeled off. There were swollen, livid bruises surrounding the cuts. The cuts themselves where the worst, though. They had completely penetrated the skin, and indeed, the bones of Han's arms where only concealed by the constantly gushing blood covering them. Emil cringed at the sight. It was not pleasant to look at, and must be excruciating to bear.

Emil tore two strips of fabric from his long shirt, and Leia wiped out the wounds as best she could with them. Then they took two more strips and padded the handcuffs. Han protested, but couldn't say that this nursing wasn't appreciated, or needed. Leia examined the haphazard dressings and frowned. "These are OK for now, but we'll need to get those cuffs off and get some bacta in those gashes really soon, or things could get ugly." She moved toward the door, and started pounding on it as hard as she could. "Hey!" she shouted, "Hey Viltur! We need some help! Hey!" Han sighed. "Princess, you really think he's concerned about my good health? Save your breath." He muttered. Leia thought he was most likely right, and was about to give up when she heard footsteps outside drawing near.

The door wooshed open, and the cloaked figure of Viltur entered the room. "Ah, thanks. Look, Han's got some really nasty cuts on his hands from the cuffs and-" "Silence!" The bounty hunter screamed in an uncharacteristically loud voice. He turned to Leia. "So, you're a rebel are you? And not just any rebel... a Princess! The Princess of Alderaan!" Leia was quiet, "Not any longer. Alderaan is-" "I know what happened to it. And it's just as well. You're so called peaceful planet was responsible for my banishing! Your holy rebels where the ones who killed the king under my protection! A noble act indeed!" The outraged criminal raised his right arm high above his left shoulder, then brought it down swiftly, striking a befuddled Leia on the side of the head. "Ah!" Leia screamed in pain and was thrown to the ground in a heap.

Han leapt to his feet. "You stay away from her!" He shouted, enraged. "If you ever touch her again, I swear I'll-" Han was cut off in midsentence. The once-warrior hunter was quick to move. He grabbed Han's arms, and with one graceful movement, twisted them around and snapped them down over his back. There was a sharp crack as bones in Han's arms broke under the stress. Han cried out in sudden pain, then was flipped to the ground by the hunter. All the while, Emil and Leia watched on in pain and hatred, unable to do anything to stop the sudden attack. In a blink of an eye, it was over, and the two rushed to Han's side. Han was lying on his back on the floor, gasping for air. His arms where already swollen, and in some places the shattered bone penetrated the skin. Blood gushed from his crushed limbs. He was in a momentary state of parilization, lying helplessly on the floor, with his friends trying to estimate his injuries.

Emil turned his eyes up to face the evil laughing optical grin of the bounty hunter. He stared coldly into Viltur's green eyes. But he said nothing. "Now, I will leave you three to contemplate just who you are dealing with." Viltur hissed. "Never forget that." he added as he left the room, the door slamming shut behind him.

With assistance from Emil, Leia propped Han up against the wall. They had determined that nothing in his back was broken, just bruised. Han's lips quivered. He tried to talk. "Hey, for once be quiet. Save your strength." Leia said. Han managed to get a word in, "Are...are you... ok?" He sputtered. Leia's eyes widened in shock. It seemed very uncharacteristic for Han to think of someone else first. Especially in the position he was in. Leia had noticed him being very protective of her lately. She couldn't determine whether this reassured her, or made her more edgy. "I'm fine." She said sharply. "You're the one to be worried about. That hunter really did a trick on these arms... Emil, help me find something to splint them with." Emil nodded and began searching for suitable material.

Han looked at Leia with concern. "Yo... your bleed..ing." He said, indicating her cheek. She wiped it away nonchalantly with the back of her hand. "It's nothing. You've bled enough to fill a tub." She looked around at the pool on the red liquid on the floor, and noted that it was still flowing profusely from Han's arms as well. She looked concerned. "In fact, if we don't stop this soon, you're not going to be conscious for too much longer." She fretted. "Mmmmm..." Han murmured. "sounds good..." he closed his eyes and rested his head against the wall. "Uh-uh, no you don't. You've got to stay awake, or you might slip into a coma." Han cracked his eyes open and tried to smile. "Then who'd.... re...rescue us, huh?" He laughed slightly, then starting coughing. He leaned over, and coughed onto the floor. There was blood coming out of his mouth. Leia was even more worried now. He could be bleeding internally. They had to get him medical attention right away. But that was impossible.

"Here, will this work?" Emil handed Leia the broken pieces of his blaster holster. He shrugged, "It was the best I could do. They aren't very stiff, but they should hold his arms in place for a while." "Thanks Emil. Now we just need something to hold it on with..." Emil had no more spare cloth on his shirt. Leia reached down and began tearing at the end of her long blue gown. Han smiled, "Keep your clothes on, Princess." Leia rolled her eyes, but for once welcomed Han's humor. At least it meant he was alive. "Didn't you hear? Short's the new style. Those long things are so 'faux pas' now." she smiled. "Now hold still, we're going to wrap these around the splints." Emil put a splint on Han's left arm and held it in place. Then Leia wrapped a strip of cloth around it. Emil frowned, "How are we going to hold it in place?" Leia had an idea. She unraveled her hair, and retrieved half a dozen stretchy hair decorations from it. The seventh she kept, and tied her hair back in a loose bun, before starting to work on Han's splints. Han sighed, "Even in a crisis... always gotta look...sophisticated..." Leia wrapped three of the elastic bands around the splint on Han's left arm. Then Emil splinted the other arm in the same fashion.

Han held up his cumbersome arm wrappings and examined them. "Not exactly... fashionable.. but effective..." He mumbled. "Can I please... go to sleep?" Emil looked to Leia, who sighed and shrugged. "I guess... but you have to stay upright. If you have blood in your respiratory system, we don't want you choking on it." "That doesn't sound too pleasant." Han said, as he leaned against the wall. "I'll keep that... in mind..." He was slowly drifting off, from a combination of fatigue and blood loss. Within minutes, he was sleeping quietly slumped in the corner of the dark cell.

Leia took the jacket Han had given her and covered Han's shivering body with it. His teeth stopped chattering, and he seemed to sleep easier. She yawned. I could use some more sleep too, she thought. She looked to Emil, who seemed anything but sleepy. He was nervously shifting positions. He glanced briefly at Leia, then turned back away. Leia frowned. Emil was planning something. And whatever it was, it must be risky.


Hunger. Tearing away at their stomachs at first, then slowly, steadily inflaming their whole bodies. Hunger. That was all that Leia and Emil had on their minds. How long had they been in this ship? Two days? Three? A week? There was no way of knowing. It seemed like years.

Leia had to get her mind off of the growling pit in her abdomen. So she tried to think of other things, things she had been thinking about for her whole time of entrapment. How could they escape? The room was well protected against such an act, so the only way to escape would be to go directly through Viltur Eldur. And what about Han? How would he get out in his present condition? They had let him sleep for the past 36 hours or so. Every once in a while, he would stir and wake up, complaining of pain and hunger. But there was nothing Leia or Emil could do to help. So he slept. His once white shirt was now torn and crimson with bloodstains. His splinted arms were swelling, probably getting infected due to lack of attention. There was no way they could overpower Viltur.

But what if help came from outside? Had Luke made it back to Hoth? Leia prayed that he was all right. She hoped the y-wings had been returned safely, too; but mostly she worried for his safety. She was beginning to get worried about him, though. If he had made it back, wouldn't he be looking for them by now? If so, why hadn't he found them? But she knew it was childish to think that he would just come bursting through the door to the rescue. The galaxy was an enormous place. Even if they did have some idea of where Viltur's ship had gone, how would they chase them down in time? Leia sighed. She hated to admit it, but the situation seemed hopeless.

Emil sat silently and stared at the ground in deep thought. He and Leia hadn't talked much. He seemed to be concocting some sort of plan. What, Leia could not fathom. It all seemed in earnest to her. There was no hope...

A rasping cough followed by a gurgling noise drew Leia's attention away from the pondering young Corellian. She turned around to see Han, awake and hacking up blood. She slid over toward him, but he sat up and drew back. He awkwardly tried to wipe the blood from his lips, but his cuffed and splinted arms made it difficult. Leia took the jacket from the floor and wiped the blood off for him. He tried to manage a smile. "Th..thanks." he sputtered. "Hey, try not to talk." Leia hushed him. Han shivered, "W...w...can I get some water?" he mumbled. Leia reached across the room to grab the only thing the bounty hunter had provided them with, other than trips to the fresher. She held the pitcher of water to Han's lips. He sipped at it, savoring the cool feel of the liquid saturating his throat. He swallowed, then began to talk, this time with a more clear voice. "No food yet, huh?" He asked. Leia sighed and shook her head. "No. Not yet. But he can't starve us for much longer without it causing some serious damage. And if he's as wise a bounty hunter as I think, he won't want to do that." Leia assured him. She truly did feel that Viltur would bring them something to eat soon.

Han winced in pain. "What is it?" Emil asked, immediately at his friend's side. Han closed his eyes tightly to ease the pain. After a few moments of resisting the searing fire that had shocked him down his spinal chord, he calmed down. He took long, slow breaths. "Han, are you OK?" Leia seemed very worried. Han opened his eyes and gave her the best crooked smile he could muster up, "Did I have you worried there, your worship?" Leia reddened slightly, and turned her attention to the dressings on his arms. "Well, these seem to be OK." She tried to sound optimistic. Han leaned over to examine them. The splints where completely soaked in blood. As he looked around the room more closely, he could see that his blood was everywhere. There were pools upon pools of half-dried crimson liquid all about the room. Han's eyes widened some as he noted the amount of blood he had lost. "Wow, I've really been doing some heavy bleeding. No wonder I've been so drowsy." Han licked his once again dried lips. Emil helped him with another gulp of the water. Han was extremely lightheaded. It seemed like his entire world was unstable and faded in and out. The blood loss was really taking its toll.

"I'm dying, aren't I?" Han said, rather unexpectantly. Emil and Leia exchanged glances. Should they tell him the truth? What was the truth? None of them really knew what kind of condition he was in. The answer to this ominous question depended greatly on whether or not Han was bleeding internally, and without the proper medical equipment, there was no way to tell that until it was too late. Their silence was all the answer he needed. "Well, it better happen soon. Force knows I'd rather die now that be delivered to Jabba for extended agony." "Hey, no one said you were dying. We just don't know." Emil reassured. Han looked at him skeptically, but said, "Yeah, I know. But we're all going to die if we don't get some food soon. That hunter will be feeding his captives soon if he knows what's good for him. Jabba only pays half bounty for the dead." So, Leia was not alone in her thinking that Viltur would soon provide them with a meal. The famine he'd been causing them over the last, what was it, 4 days, had only been to weaken them against any attempt to escape. And it was effective. Leia had no plan of escape, and as far as she knew, Emil's hours of conniving had proved futile. Viltur was a very smart man. He knew exactly how to handle people like them.

The three captives had little time to theorize, as the door to the cell slid open, and the shadowy figure of Viltur filled the entrance. He was holding a full plate in his left hand. Leia could smell the food instantly. And, impossibly, she became hungrier than she had been before. But Viltur wasn't about to simply hand over the dish. He raised the plate to his face, and slowly inhaled. "Mmmmm... this smells so good." He taunted. He took a piece of meat and slid it into his mouth. Leia watched in anguish as he chewing it slowly, savoring the taste. "It's been a long time since you've eaten. I bet you want some of this. It's so nice. Tender and juicy. Mmmmm..." He moved closer to the prisoners, and waved the plate in front of them. Leia held back the urge to snag the food off the dish and devour it instantaneously. That would only result in a harsh punishment she was certain she didn't want. Plus, that would leave Han and Emil still hungry, and Viltur might change his mind about feeding them. So she sat calmly on the floor, masking her hunger as best she could. Viltur seemed a little displeased with the lack of reaction he was getting. "Perhaps I was mistaken. It seems that you don't want anything for dinner." He shrugged and started to turn away. Leia could contain herself no longer. "Wait!" She called out, more urgently than she had intended to. "Wait." She repeated more calmly.

Viltur turned back around to face her. "Having second thoughts? Good." he sneered. His jewel-like eyes glowed with pleasure at his little game. He loved messing with their heads. "You want some of this food? It's very good. Roast bantha meet, fresh vegetables, bread..." He allowed his voice to trail off. He prided himself in the reaction the descriptions evoked in the Princess. The boy had said nothing, and Solo seemed to be drifting off to sleep. So the hunter continued with his taunts to Leia. "What would you do for this meal, hmmmm?" he asked. She didn't say anything. This was his game, and he would set the rules. His eyes slowly curved upward in that unique smile of theirs. "I think a kiss from a Princess would be a sufficient price to pay for a meal for you and your companions." He leered. Leia pulled back a little and her expression soured in disgust. The thought of kissing that... that monster.... was more than she could bear. Viltur didn't seem in the least disappointed. He simply played his next card. "Perhaps hunger is not a sufficient enough... incentive. You are a feisty one indeed. I may have to try...ulterior modes. Excuse me for a moment." He said, as if he needed her permission to leave. He slipped out the door, leaving Leia and Emil to wonder what was coming next.

They didn't have to wait long to find out. Viltur reentered the room. He set the plate of rapidly cooling food next to the door, knowing that none of the would dare try to take it until it was given to them. 'What in the Force is he doing?' Leia thought, as she noted a rod of some sort in his left hand. He stretched the stick out before him. In the dim light, Leia could not distinguish what it was. She glanced at Emil, who returned her puzzled look. Viltur stepped toward her... no, not toward her... toward Han. Suddenly, Leia had a bad feeling about this.

Without a word, Viltur jammed the rod up against Han's chest. Han groggily mumbled, "What?". Then, a brilliant green-blue light brightened the entire cabin. Electricity flowed from the rod, into Han's body. He shook violently with the sudden jolt. "No!" Leia screamed in reaction. Viltur briefly pulled the electric prod away from Han's contorted body. "Have you changed your mind, highness?" Viltur asked. When Leia hesitated to respond, the bounty hunter again stabbed the stick into Han's side, sending volts upon volts of raw energy searing through his already weakened form. He jolted from the shock, his legs and restrained arms flaying about. "Han!" Leia shouted above the static of the electric prod. Han didn't, couldn't respond. His eyes rolled back in his head as he slipped slowly out of consciousness. "Stop." Leia yelled. "STOP!" this time she screamed the command at the top of her lungs. Viltur withdrew the vile instrument and gazed upon the Princess, who had tears running down her face. "Decided to give in yet?" Viltur sneered. Leia lowered her head. "Yes. I'll do it. Just please stop hurting him." Viltur's eyes grinned wickedly. "Good. I knew you'd see things my way."

He tuned off the rod, and tucked it safely into his belt, with a sideways glance at Emil. So far, the boy had been quietly observing the whole scene with relatively concealed anguish. This just made Viltur the more wary of him. He turned his attention back to the lovely figure standing before him. He reached a hand up and pulled down the cloth from his face, revealing an evil grin of anticipation. His flashing jade irises shone with expectation. Leia could not help but note the ghastly scars than lined his face. She just stood there silently, waiting passively. Then, Viltur drew her close to himself and pressed his lips against hers. He kissed her for a long while, savoring every moment. When he finally drew back, his face shone with satisfaction. He drew the cloak up over his head again. "Hmmm.... Jabba will certainly pay a high price for you, Princess. A high price indeed." He sneered. Leia had to contain herself from spitting in his face. 'A lot of good _that_ would do.' she reminded herself. Finally, Viltur turned and exited without a word, leaving his prisoners and their plate of food behind.

As soon as the door closed behind him, Leia did spit. She spat the horrid lingering taste of the vile man out of her mouth. For a moment, she just stood there spitting and completely ignorant of anything or anyone else around her. Then she remembered that she wasn't alone. As she had suspected, Emil was regarding her with an awkward glare. Spewing all over the place was a very un-princesslike thing to do. But all uncomfortableness was quickly dissolved as she remembered Han. Completely forgetting about the plate of food and her stomach's insistent cry of hunger, she rushed over to the limp figure of the Corellian. He was out cold. Two small fingers moved to his neck, searching for a pulse. Her heart skipped a beat when at first she couldn't find one. But then she let out an enormous sigh of relief as she felt the steady, if faint, pounding of Han's blood. Leia noticed the putrid smell of scorched flesh coming from under Han's shirt. "Emil, help me get this thing off him." she tentatively tugged Han's torn, bloodied, and burned shirt. With Emil's help, she managed to finally get the useless garment off of Han's lifeless body without causing him any unnecessary damage. They were both shocked by the huge welts the electric prod had made on Han's chest and sides. Emil silently cursed the wretched bounty hunter for doing this to his friend; his only friend.

After overcoming the initial shock at the sight of Han's wounds, Leia sputtered. "We need to...to clean him off." Emil quickly grabbed the large pitcher of water and silently poured some of it onto a torn piece of Han's shirt. Leia took the makeshift washcloth. She hesitated before carefully blotting the excess blood from Han's wounds. Suddenly, Han's lifeless form stirred slightly below her touch. His eyelids ever so slowly slid open, and he blinked to try to regain his focus. He found himself lying on his back on the floor, with Leia attending to his newly acquired wounds and Emil looking on with great concern. He thought about making some clever remark about leaving his clothes on him, when he suddenly became aware of the sharp pain creasing every square centimeter of his body. "Ah!" He cried out in pain. Leia jumped back in shock, then quickly applied one of the damp cloths to his forehead. "Han?" She sounded hopeful. "Han? Are you awake?" Han took a few shallow breaths, afraid that anything more would just cause him greater pain. He could only manage a whisper. "Princess? What happened?"

Leia, for once, didn't mind the nickname. She smiled with sheer happiness just at the thought that Solo was still alive. She whispered softly, "Shhh... everything's OK now. You just had a nasty shock, that's all." She dabbed another of his burns with water. Han looked puzzled, "Wh...why? Why is he doing this?" Leia bit her lip to keep tears of remorse from falling. "It's all my fault. I was too blasted stubborn. I should have just kissed him in the first place, but I was too selfish. Force Han, I'm so sorry. I never meant for him to hurt you." She half-sobbed. Han shook his head as much as he dared. He took Leia's small hand in his. "No Leia, it's not your fault. Not at all. I would have done the same thing in your position..." he somehow managed a small smirk, "'specially since I'm not into guys." In spite of herself, Leia laughed. Leave it to Solo to make her laugh at the most inappropriate times. That was one thing she honestly had to admit she loved about him. OK, so maybe there was more than one thing. She gazed into his ever-shifting hazel eyes, and realized she loved them, too. And that smile! No one could provoke such emotion just by a flash of his teeth more than Han Solo...

'What am I _thinking_?!' Leia suddenly jolted herself into reality. 'This is _Han__Solo_ we're talking about! The most infuriating... conceited... self-centered man alive!' Leia found herself shyly pulling away from Han's side. "I...uh... our food is getting cold. I'm starving. How about you two?" Leia fumbled over her words as she stumbled over to the plate of food. Now Leia was really confused. Who was Han Solo? He was, no doubt, a typical cocky Corellian outlaw. But it would be unfair to say that was all he was. Leia's head swirled, and she shook it to clear her mind. She carried the now cold plate of food Viltur had left for them over to Han and Emil. "Here. It's cold, but it's better than nothing." She set the plate on the floor. Emil quickly took a piece of bread and scarfed it down. Leia ate a few vegetables.

From his horizontal position on the floor, Han looked up at his eating friends. Only now did his horrible sense of hunger return. Leia caught his hungry glare, "Hey, I bet you're pretty hungry too. Can't very well eat lying on your back, though. Emil, help me get him up." Emil and Leia each put an arm under Han's shoulders. "OK, get ready. On the count of three. One... two... three." Leia counted off, then with Emil's help she set Han up against the wall. Han had to bite his lip to keep himself from crying out in pain. He couldn't feel anything but pain now. Pain and hunger. He cleared his throat, "What's to eat?" He asked as casually as he could. But he knew his eagerness was showing through. Leia decided not to make him wait any longer. She grabbed a piece of meat off the plate. She seemed to hesitate before drawing the food up to Han's mouth. He took it in his teeth then chewed it. It tasted so good! Han realized just how long he had gone without food, as he savored the flavor and nutrients that filtered into his body through the meat. Leia fed him another piece, then another. After three pieces she stopped.

"I know you're really hungry, but we have to save some for later." Leia told Han. Han nodded in understanding. Han looked up at Leia, then over to Emil, "So... what's the plan? Or is there one?" Leia sighed, "I'd hate to say it, but there doesn't seem to be a chance in Kessel of us escaping here." Han smiled and chuckled softly. "What's so funny?" Leia inquired. This didn't seem like any time for laughing to her. Maybe it's the blood loss...Han interrupted her thoughts, "To every other person in the galaxy that may mean something, Princess. But not to me." Leia shook her head, "I forgot, the invincible Han Solo always wins." She said. Han shook his head, "No, it's just that as far as chances of escaping from Kessel go, I have 100% track record." Leia was confused. "What do you mean?" Han shrugged awkwardly in his battered state, "What I mean is that when I was sent to Kessel-""What? You were sent to Kessel? For what?" The question was out before she really had time to consider if it was a good question or not. Han was usually very private about his past. Apparently, this situation didn't fall into the 'usual' category. "Yeah, when I was court-martialed in the Imperial Navy. I was sent to Kessel with a life sentence." Leia's eyes widened, "A life sentence on Kessel? But how...what..." she was at a loss for words. Everyone who ever served life on Kessel was either dead, or still serving it. There were no pardons or paroles, either. Han seemed to be enjoying this. His gloating usually annoying Leia immensely, but she was too interested to mind. "Yeah, it was tough. What, with the torture and all... but Chewie came back to repay his life-debt, and well I became the only being to ever escape Kessel alive." Han said casually. Leia couldn't help her startled reaction, as her jaw dropped and her eyes widened. She just froze in that shocked position. Han cocked an inquisitive eyebrow at her, "What?" he asked. When he turned to Emil, he found that the boy shared a look equal to Leia's.

Han licked his lips. "Man I'm thirsty. Can someone get me a drink?" He asked. Emil slowly reached for the pitched of water, and gave Han a sip. Han smirked, "Makes you feel better about our chances, huh? I can tell ya, this is no Kessel. We'll find a way out. I don't know how much I'll be able to do, but I can direct." Emil shook his head slowly. "No need for that. I've had a whole lot of time to think, and well... I have a plan." Han raised his eyebrows at the kid. No one spoke. "Well?" Han urged, "What is it?" Emil looked around tentatively. "I... I'd rather not say." he stuttered a little. Han's shoulders dropped. "It will work better if it's a surprise. If you guys know, you'll tip him off. All I need is this plate." He took the now empty stone dish. Han and Leia exchanged a worried look. Emil smiled, a lopsided confidant smile that was the mirror image of Han's. "Trust me." He said. He took the plate and slid over into the opposite corner.


Viltur stared out the viewport in the cockpit of the 'Nova Blade'. There were billions of tiny specks filling the black space outside. They were all so far away... but no, one of the flakes was growing larger. It was glowing bright orange. The surface, he knew, was scorching and dry. It was an odd place to want to live. But Tatooine, with its remote location and unfavorable climate, made a perfect hideout for the gangster Jabba the Hutt. Viltur despised the place, but if he was coming here to get paid, he wasn't about to complain.

The speck was growing steadily larger, and it would soon be time to enter the atmosphere and start the landing cycle. Better get the prisoners ready, he thought. As he stood and strolled down to the holding cell where his captives where held, he couldn't help but smile to himself. Solo had nearly the largest price on his head of anyone in the galaxy, and his friends would certainly fetch a fair price as well. This time he'd really have it made. Who knows, he allowed his mind to drift off as he walked down the corridors of his ship, maybe I'll even take a break from work... make some upgrades to my ship...

It was this happy, light spirited tone that Viltur carried when he entered the cell. He left the door open, so that he could quickly usher his 'guests' out. He turned to Solo and the Princess who were sitting in the corner. "Well," he said with a touch of excitement in his voice, "we're almost to our destination. I'll have to get you all restrained. Can't very well have you running about the ship when we land..."

It was also this mood that caused the bounty hunter to overlook the fact that the young Corellian boy was nowhere in sight. In fact, he didn't even think about it until he felt something sharp and hard pierce his back. At first, he had no idea what was going on. There was no pain, no sensation at all. He felt the wet spot on his back, and stared blankly at his hand when he realized it was covered in his own blood. Then the pain started to set it. It started in his back, but spread like fire through his whole torso. He gasped as a sudden wave of pain surged through his body. He could no longer hold himself up. He leaned against the wall, suddenly needing it for support. He turned his cloaked head to his left, where he saw the shadowy figure of the Corellian boy staring at him. The boy was holding in his right hand a jagged piece of clay. It was a broken piece of the plate Viltur had served his prisoners food on. Viltur's neon green eyes glowed with hatred, and fear. He reached to his side, where his blaster was holstered.

Emil stood watching the hunter writhing in pain and apparently collapsing. But all of a sudden, the hunter's hand was at his side, and he was drawing his blaster. Emil's eyes widened in shock, and he quickly lunged at Viltur with his makeshift knife drawn, ready for another strike. But even thought Viltur's strength was clearly dwindling, he had a huge advantage over Emil. Before the boy could so much as scratch him, Viltur drew his blaster, aimed it skillfully at the boy's chest, and fired. He only got off one shot. He could no longer hold up the weapon, little less his own weight. He dropped the gun and slid slowly to the floor. His vision began to blur, and eventually went black. Viltur Eldur drew one last, weak breath, then died.

Han had wanted so much to intervene in the fight between boy and bounty hunter, but he knew that in his condition there was nothing he could do. Leia felt the same way, and so stayed with Han throughout the entire, fast-paced fight. But the green beam of energy lancing out from Viltur's gun and striking Emil square in the chest was more than Leia could bear to watch. She suddenly leapt up from her seated position. "Emil! Emil, are you all right! Let me see!" She ran to the startled man who was starting to stagger a bit. "No, no I'm fine." He insisted. With that, he abruptly collapsed. Leia was not able to entirely stop him, but she did ease his fall some. She dragged him a few feet over to an extremely worried Han, where she laid him on the chilly floor.

Han looked down at his friend, worry flooding his eyes and his expression. The kid was starting to look sorta pale. "Help me get this off him." Han commanded to Leia, as he tore at Emil's blood soaked shirt. Once it was clear, Leia and Han finally got a good look at the wound. All hope in Han's face left when he saw the blaster-bolt shot. It was on the left side of Emil's chest. There was a huge burn surrounding the bloody hole in Emil's chest. A persistent, never-ending stream of blood flowed openly from the gaping hole. Emil shook as he tried to talk, "Han...h....how bad is it?" He managed to get out. Han could not bear to look the boy strait in the face as he lied to him, "It's not bad, kid. We'll get this ship to the nearest spaceport and the doctors will have no trouble patching you up." Han's words didn't sound convincing, even to himself. Emil motioned for Han to lean in closer. Han complied.

"Y...ya...you know, you're the closest thing I've had to a..a...br..brother Han." Emil mumbled. Han could not stop the tears welling up in his eyes. "You two, Emil." Han croaked. A haunted look of realization crossed Emil's face, but he was determined not to seem frightened. "L...lo...looks like fate had to get its hand in... one l..last...t..ti..time..." He somehow managed a weak smile as he glanced from Leia to Han. Then he slowly allowed his eyes to close. The last thing he heard was Han's distant, "Emil...kid!" And then, he drifted off into eternal slumber.


Han lay uncomfortably in his bunk on the Falcon. The two bulky casts on his arms greatly inhibited his ability to sleep. Luckily, the docs said it would only be a week or two before they were healed enough to be removed from the burdensome protection.

Then he'd be able to get back to work. But what exactly was his work? Running more weary missions for the rebellion? Moping around this frozen icecube looking for something to do? Why was he still here, anyway?

'You really want me to stay? And I mean you personally, not what the Rebellion wants. Be honest.' He had asked her that. And she had responded. 'I want you to stay Han. Please?' 'Then I'll stay.' It was as simple as that. Or at least it had seemed that simple.

But that was before. Before they were all captured and nearly delivered to Jabba himself. Before they had endured that excruciating five days aboard Viltur Eldur's ship with barely no food or water. Before one of Han's only friends in the galaxy, a friend who looked up to him and trusted him, had died to save him...

He couldn't let that happen again. It wasn't just his self-perseverance that caused him to want to pay off Jabba. He couldn't let his friends come to harm all on account of his own laziness to return his old debts. He'd lost enough close friends in his life, and he wasn't going to let that happen to Luke and Leia. He had to leave. It was his only option. He wanted so much to stay. For things to continue as usual. For him to joke around with Luke, and to have his heated arguments with Leia. Now it was harder than ever to leave, knowing for certain that Leia wanted him to stay, wanted to possibly even give him a chance. Knowing that she cared for him as more than just a friend. But time wasn't just going to stop ticking, and the hunters weren't going to stop searching just because Han Solo wanted to sit back and relax.

'I'll see you.' he had said to her. 'I promise.' But this was one promise that would have to be broken.