Set between A New Hope and Empire, a short, light-hearted vignette/missing scene done for fun.
Han's always the first to know, and Luke feels he's always the last. But this is the kind of dubious honor that no-one should have to face this early on a morning…
"Hey, hey, hey. Have you checked the listings today?" Han dropped into the seat opposite Luke in the crowded Mess hall of the massive Mon Cal cruiser, as the background buzz of changing shifts reverberated off bare metal walls.
"What?" Luke was barely awake, mug in hand, hair still wet from the shower, his orange flightsuit shrugged off his shoulders and tied round his waist, t-shirt twisted.
"Listings." Han was offensively alert, waving a datapad under his friend's nose. "Fifth of the month; new list is out."
"Who's hot and who's not…"
"…I hope this is going somewhere…"
"…'cos I haven't even had breakfast yet and I've got a briefing in—"
"Plenty of time."
"Read the listings." Han slapped the already-activated datapad on the table before Luke, who spun it round to look, defeated.
Luke frowned. "You read those?"
"... Why?" It was all Luke could think to say this early in the morning.
He dropped his head face-down onto his outstretched arm, which was resting on the open-weave mesh of the plas-steel table. The bang spilled the caf over the edge of his mug to splash between the open mesh and onto his flightsuit. It burn his leg and he couldn't be bothered to move.
"It's like the smuggler's version of Who's Who. Y'know, who's moved up the rankings, who's moved down, who can charge more now, who's dead—"
"Nice." Luke replied, voice muffled.
Han slid the memo between the table and Luke's head. "Read."
Luke lifted his head with a resigned sigh and looked down the list. "So what is this, some…" His voice trailed off... "Is that me?"
"Yeah!" Han had a wide grin on his face, fired by a mixture of amusement and excitement.
For some inexplicable reason Luke felt the need to turn the datapad over to look at the back, then looked at the screen again. "This can't be right…"
Han leveled both hands at him, index fingers pointing. "You're number one!"
Luke stared at Han for a long time before finally asking, "Is this a joke?"
"Number one!" Han said.
"This isn't right," Luke repeated.
"Would you stop it?"
"What? This is great!"
"No it's not!" Luke said in no uncertain terms. "How come I'm number one? I was like, nine hundred and ninety nine last month."
Han fell to mock seriousness. "Yeah, what did you do last week? Anything come to mind?"
"No, and I'm sure something would," Luke said dryly as he rose to his feet, heading out of the Mess with Han in tow, tapping the datapad.
"Hey, have you seen how much you're worth?"
"There's a reward?"
"I could buy a new Falcon. Hell, I could buy a whole fleet of 'em!"
Luke stopped dead in the corridor as he saw it, so that Han almost barreled into him.
"That's alive only, if it makes you feel any better," Han said studiously, reaching over Luke's shoulder to point this fact out on the datapad.
"Thank-you. I feel so much better now," Luke muttered, picking up his pace again as he headed for the Command Centre against a flow of Blue Group pilots coming the opposite way.
Han reached round, tapping at the screen again as they walked, practically crowing. "Look how much number two's worth…"
Luke glanced down at Mon Mothma's name, second in the listing. "One million! Why am I six?"
Han shrugged. "Hey, it's the Empire. They got credit to burn."
"Well I wish they'd stop trying to light it all under me," Luke grumbled uneasily, picking up his pace.
As he walked down the crowded corridor, a Blue-Group pilot he knew grinned as he rushed past. "Hey, Luke—Number One!"
"Great," Luke muttered, turning to walk backwards so that he could shout after the pilot. "It's wrong!"
His back to the flow of people, he missed whoever who patted him on the back, commenting, "Congratulations!"
"Hey, thanks!" Han crowed happily, arm settling about Luke's shoulder like a proud big brother.
"Stop thanking them!"
"What?" Han held his arms out before him in mock-innocence.
From somewhere in the group, another pilot shouted, "Hey Luke—made it to the big time!"
As a Blue-Group 'tech passed, Luke heard the receding conversation continue in the gaggle of pilots. "What's going on?"
"Oh Commander Skywalker's been bumped up to number one in the Most Wanted…"
Han leaned in, one arm wrapping back around Luke's shoulder, the other pointing at him as he shouted to the receding group, "Number one! My buddy!"
"Would you stop it!" Luke shook free. "Does everybody read this?"
"Well y'know, with big news like this it only takes a few… Plus the 'techs know now, so it'll be all over the ship in an hour." Han fixed the kid with a serious look, wondering why he was so upset about this. "Hey, some people work their whole lives and never even get into the top hundred. You—"
"Luke!" Leia's voice cut in from a side corridor as she rushed toward him.
"Hey, your Worship," Han grinned smugly. "Heard the news?"
Leia didn't spare him a glance. "Yes I've heard the news."
"What did I do?" Luke turned the datapad around for Leia to see as she took his arm, guiding him toward the Command Centre.
"I don't know. We've contacted the Bothans, but best guess is that they've finally uncovered the name of the pilot who shot down the Death Star."
Luke frowned. "Really? That's it?"
Han grinned, tagging along. "Well it was pretty big. Offhand, I'm guessing it probably cost 'em a lot of credits to get that thing up and running, and you know they have no sense of humour about this kinda—"
Leia turned on him. "If you have nothing useful to say, Captain Solo, then you should—"
"What, that was useful. It was pretty big."
Luke glanced back to Han, who sported his best lopsided 'hurt/indignant' expression as they passed into the Command Centre. "Why didn't Han get listed? He was there too!"
He was very much aware that his voice was that of a boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar, when he hadn't been alone.
Han stopped short at that. "Yeah, why didn't I get bumped up?"
Leia barely turned. "Have you checked the list?"
"No, I didn't get past the top…lemme look at that!" Han grabbed the datapad off Luke as the General walked over, nodding.
"General Rieekan." Though there tended to be no such formality as saluting in the Alliance, Luke stood a little straighter out of respect for his senior.
"I guess you're wondering what's going on," the older man said gravely.
"Just a little, sir."
The General took a step to the side to indicate his cluttered office. "I think you should come through. You too, your Highness."
In the ensuing silence, as Luke and Leia exchanged worried glances and the Command Staff all stared mournfully at Luke, seeming altogether too much like they were taking a last look, Han's voice sounded particularly loud.
"Hey, I'm in the top twenty!" He glanced around, belatedly realizing that it had gone quiet, "Sorry."
Rieekan turned back to regard the smuggler. "You too, Captain Solo. This concerns you."
Rieekan closed his door on the worried faces of his staff before turning. "We've just received some very interesting information from our Bothan spies."
"Regarding this?" Leia prompted.
She and Luke were already seated before the desk as Han pulled up a chair from the corner of the room to slouch loosely into it, whilst the General settled opposite them.
He glanced at the datapad. "That may be the least of our worries. It seems that the Empire did finally find out your name about three weeks ago, Commander. The Bothans placed a tag on it when they knew, and it highlighted multiple searches being carried out all over the HoloNet for the past few weeks. Most of them by Imperial Intelligence—but quite a few traced back to Black Sun."
That focused Solo's attention, alarm pulling him upright. "Black Sun? What do those carrion-eaters want?"
"The same as the Empire, it seems." At this, the General turned to Luke. "To find out who you are."
Luke frowned. "Am I the only one here who thinks this is overkill?" He tripped over the last word, realizing what he'd said.
"Commander, is there anything you can tell us, in absolute confidence, about why they would be so interested in you? Something in the past, perhaps?"
"Nothing that you don't already know, General. I don't…" Luke hesitated, mildly embarrassed about how little he actually knew of his own past. "I don't…have a lot of information."
Now, it seemed bizarre how little he knew. But growing up his aunt and uncle had always acted as if it was perfectly normal that he had just arrived at their farmstead, the infant son of uncle Owen's fly-by-night brother, with no documents and no past history. Then again, on rim worlds like Tatooine it really was; rules and regulations took second place to daily survival. People just didn't always bother to register births and deaths, and there were no such things as orphanages on Rim planets. Lone children either got taken in or they didn't.
The General sighed as he spoke. "The Bothans had launched their own covert searches, to try to track down any intel which might be of help. This morning, about two hours before the Most Wanted list was released, all references to your name were struck off the HoloNet. Everything—every single reference. You don't exist, Commander Skywalker. As of today, you never did."
Leia frowned, her hand reaching out to rest on Luke's arm. "Why would they do that?"
Rieekan shrugged. "It's not common practice to remove ID records—particularly off the main database on Coruscant. We can only presume that the Empire found something out, and now they want to be sure that no-one else will ever know."
The General sighed, and Luke had the uneasy feeling that the worst news was yet to come.
"General?" Leia pushed, clearly on edge.
"We also received an intelligence communiqué a short time ago." His eyes turned from Leia to Luke, his expression grave. "Lord Vader has personally been charged with finding you. He presently has a fleet of twelve Star Destroyers and twenty-four Frigates placed at his disposal, along with the services of Intelligence and Special Ops." He delivered this all in one single blow, as he tended to do with bad news.
"Really?" Han blurted, turning to Luke, this time absolutely serious. "What did you do?"
Luke could only turn to stare at him, mouth slightly open, dumbstruck.
"I'll give you a few minutes." The General stood to leave.
Luke half rose. "Wait a minute…Star Destroyers!"
"You should know, Commander, that we will of course do our very best to offer our protection. You're among friends here. You're a good officer and I'm proud to have worked with you."
Luke had the uneasy feeling that he was listening to his own obituary.
The General closed the door behind him and for a few minutes, Luke, Leia and Han sat in silence.
"You know, I woke up this morning and my biggest problem was that there was no hot water for a shower," Luke observed, feeling strangely calm now.
"Oh c'mon," Han said vaguely, lost in thought. "You were already a member of the Rebellion. I mean, that carries a statutory death penalty anyway..."
"Han!" Leia's voice was incredulous.
"Sorry." Han's apology was genuine. "Opened my mouth before I put my brain in gear."
Luke laughed lightly, still not able to really take it all in. "Twelve Star Destroyers?" He had, of course, always known that as a Rebel, he had the death penalty sitting over his head; they all did. But this…this was personal. "Twelve."
"Yeah." Han glanced down. "You'd think if they can't get you with one…"
Leia bristled. "Can you ever say the right thing?"
"What? I'm just trying to help lighten the mood, your Worshipfulness!"
"If you want to help, then figure out why the Empire want Luke this badly."
"Does it matter? It's twelve Star Destroyers—you're just as dead."
"Thanks," Luke said dryly.
"Han!" Leia was at her wit's end.
"Just look at it this way, kid—you may die tomorrow in a regular malfunction on your X-Wing."
"Great," Luke deadpanned, nodding.
"You're not helping," Leia bit out.
"Look, you'd be far better trying to figure out what they're gonna do to try to…wait a minute…" Han turned back to his datapad and keyed pages up.
Leia turned to Luke. "Is there anything you can think of Luke, anything at all?"
"Not really. Except that it's weird that this all happened the moment they had my name."
"I guess they had something to work on."
"But if they wanted me so badly, surely they would have put more effort into finding me before now, regardless of whether they had a name or not..."
Han interrupted by slamming the datapad onto the desk, exasperated. "Great—we're KA's."
Leia frowned. "What?"
"You, me and the Wook. We're KA's; 'Known Associates'. We only made it into the top twenty Most Wanted because we're an easy way to get to Luke."
Leia shook her head, not bothering to point out that she'd been in the top ten for the last two years. "Could we focus on the actual problem here?"
"The actual problem is that the Empire is after us all now," Han griped, waving the datapad. "Twelve Destroyers!"
Luke couldn't resist. "Well look at it this way, Han—you may die tomorrow in a regular malfunction onboard the Falcon."
"That's not funny."
"In fact, considering how that thing's wired up…"
"Hey, junior, there's nothing wrong with her wiring."
"No, Han. Just yours."
"Now just…" Han paused and frowned again, keying the datapad as something occurred. "Wait, this isn't so bad, we're 'Alive Only' too."
Luke frowned. "What?"
"We're all 'Alive Only'. This is great!"
"Because?" Luke prompted.
"Because, Kid, they can't kill us. They need to take us in alive or we're worth squat."
Luke raised his eyebrows. "And what exactly do you think the Empire are gonna do when they have us?"
Han frowned. "I dunno…it is kinda weird, isn't it?"
Leia leaned around Luke as they both turned to look sideways on toward Han, their expressions equal parts amusement and disbelief as he raised his eyebrows, indignant before two faces conveying uncannily similar expressions.
"I'll tell you why they're chasin' after you—it's 'cos you keep on wearin' that damn thing!" He gestured to the lightsaber at Luke's hip, and Luke moved his hand protectively over his father's saber hilt.
Leia frowned, considering. "Maybe you're right…but then they weren't using a whole Battle Group to look for General Kenobi."
"Yeah, well, Kenobi didn't just blow up their very expensive Death Star."
Luke considered, glancing back to Han. "But Ben was a fully trained Jedi. Surely—"
"Look," Han leaned back, voice mellowing a little, "no offence, but did you ever actually see the old man do anything?"
Luke straightened, affronted. "Yes!"
"Fine, whatever." Han sat back, hands before him, knowing this was a lost cause; kid wouldn't have a bad word said against the crazy old hobo. "I'm just sayin'…"
"I think it's more likely they didn't even know General Kenobi was alive," Leia said, considering.
"And since when did you start believing in the Force anyway?" Luke challenged, eyes still on Han.
"Not sayin' I do kid," Han replied, unoffended. "But if I was the Emperor, well..." He grinned, trailing off the point a little as his eyes rolled skyward. "First, obviously, I'd have a humongous party. But then, I'd probably get to thinkin' that since I'd pretty much managed to hack off every known sentient species in the galaxy, what I could really do without is someone standin' up and claiming to be a Jedi to give all those gullibles out there some kinda universal symbol to rally round. If I were Emperor."
He paused a moment, but just couldn't help but tag on, "Also I'd institute a three-day working week an' have an Inter-planetary Han Solo Appreciation Day."
"Don't buy the bunting just yet, hotshot," Leia countered, glaring.
The annoying thing was, in between all that attitude he could actually be right. The appearance of a new Jedi really would provide a cause to rally round, and the Empire could easily be afraid of just that. She hadn't really thought of it in those terms before, because she knew Luke so well. He was…well, he was Luke.
But she also couldn't ignore the popularity he'd gained already here; he was a good leader, steadfast and committed and all too willing to lead from the front—to get in there with the troops. He inspired trust in everyone in his command, and with less than a year under his belt as Wing Commander of Rogue Group, there was already talk of promoting him to Unit Commander. He'd make a great General one day…if he lived that long. But she sure wasn't about to give Han the credit for pointing that out.
Then again she didn't need to—he took it anyway, leaning back to lace his fingers behind his head. "Tell me it's not the best reason you have, doll."
Luke frowned, ignoring the endless grudge-match between the Corellian and the Princess. "If it's because I'm training to be a Jedi, then why put a whole Battle Group on me and draw attention to the fact?"
Han considered, remaining still.
"Well?" Leia prompted, enjoying seeing Solo squirm a little.
"Hey, I don't have all the answers," Han countered, unflustered. He glanced to Luke, and felt a quick pang of guilt at the hunted look in the kid's eye.
Better get used to the feelin' kid, he reflected ruefully. It's not going away any time soon.
"Look, maybe it's all of the above, you know? It's not bad enough that someone appears from nowhere carrying a lightsaber, in the company of an ex-Clone Wars General, and starts saying they're a Jedi—they also just made an impossible shot which destroyed one of the biggest, most expensive pieces of hardware the Empire's ever built, and they're fightin' for the Rebellion. That kinda thing gets around, and they're gonna want to stop it…dead."
He leaned in to slap Luke on the shoulder, brightening the mood again, refusing to be pulled down by this—or let the kid be. "But hey, look on the bright side. What I do have the answer to, is what we're gonna do about it, Kid."
Luke looked up with the expression of someone who'd just been told to put their hand in a closed box to see if something bit them. "Which is?"
Han stood, guiding Luke up and to the door with a quick, knowing wink at Her Worship, who would probably disapprove, but what the hell. "First, I'm takin' you to the Falcon where me, you and Chewie are gonna get fall-down drunk. Then we're gonna spend a few hours cursin' out the Empire, the Emperor and the galaxy at large… Then we gotta come up with a plan, 'cos the way I figure it is this; if we can work out a way to hand you over, collect the bounty, then bust you out three times in a row, we can all retire…"