"Just sort of hold that position," said the assistant.
Luke glared at his squadron halfheartedly. On cue, all of them smiled in hologram-ready poses.
As soon as he was safely facing the holocamera they once again assumed their previous contest to see who could make the most grotesque face.
The photographer swore lightly. "Commander Skywalker, can you please control your men?"
Luke glanced at his friends. "Come on," he muttered. "Sooner you actually smile, the sooner it's over." He felt like he was talking to small children instead of a group of men several years older than himself.
There were a series of sighs.
The picture required several more takes, and there was one lovely action shot of Wedge Antilles attempting to punch Wes Jansen and mistiming, but finally a group shot was achieved. No one was blocking the "Alliance To Restore The Republic" banner, no one was flashing symbols at the camera- finally! The newly appointed Publicity Manager of the Rebel Alliance was heartily relieved.
Luke, too, was relieved. He could get out of there. The idea of Alliance publicity and recruiting was nothing new, but it mostly took the form of, say, graffiti- not, as the new Manager had decided, an illustrated datafile "available for public download and display".
Luke could only imagine what sort of caption their holo would have. "The Heroic Stalwarts Of Rogue Squadron."
Perhaps an accurate one. "Several Immature Alliance Pilots Pose With The Son of the Emperor's Right Hand Man."
Luke was not really in a mood to be used as an Alliance publicity symbol. Luke could really only concentrate on the irony of being used as an Alliance publicity symbol.
Luke was about to become significantly grumpier.
"Commander Skywalker, you need to head back into makeup for your next shot. The rest of you may go."
"Rift! Get over here!"
The unwilling makeup artist sidled over. "Yes, sir?"
"Do you know how to work a holocamera better than this idiot?"
Luke, unobtrusively attempting to remove some of the more smeared makeup that had been applied, glanced over towards the Publicity Manager.
The makeup artist shook her head. "One, I don't do cameras. Two, it isn't the cameraman's fault if the subjects move. He has no psychic powers. And third, you're a piece of-"
The Manager threw his hands up in the air. "Fine. You can do the camera, Rift, if you think you're so good at everything."
The former cameraman and erstwhile makeup artist traded looks. The assistant sighed.
Luke only succeeded in messing the smeared powder on his face up further.
Why did he need makeup, again?
"Props!" yelled the Manager.
"There is no 'props' person," said the assistant rather smugly, tossing red hair over one shoulder.
"Then who has the lightsaber?" The Manager's face began to turn a very interesting shade of red.
Luke thought it might be best to speak up. "I don't have a lightsaber anymore." Next this man was going to ask "and confound it all, why is Captain Solo so late?" and Luke was going to blow his top.
The assistant thumped her forehead with her clipboard.
"I lost it," said Luke.
"Well," said the Manager testily, "find it."
"It was lost in battle, sir," said the former cameraman. Luke felt a deep rush of gratitude. "I think. Or something."
"What does that- oh, never mind." The Manager hustled over and grabbed Luke's arm, nearly pulling it from its socket. "Just pose, then. Maybe we can draw the lightsaber in or something."
The three assistants traded looks. Luke felt their pain.
The Manager was now attempting to look in control of the situation. "Assume a heroic battle pose, please."
Right, thought Luke, raising his eyebrows. Should that be the 'in completely over my head' pose, or the 'I just completely ruined everything' pose?
He settled for mimicking his memories of his action figures back on Tatooine. He had a feeling that he looked absolutely ridiculous.
Great! Here I am, Luke Skywalker, pretending to be a superhero in front of the entire galaxy.
"Perfect!" called the Manager. "Try facing the other direction now!"
Luke obediently did several more poses, feeling more ridiculous by the moment. Just when he had started to get into the spirit of things- he was about to try a Yoda-recommended thumbstand- the Manager's face brightened ominously.
"We need a different background!"
"What," said the former cameraman- who really had no reason to be hanging around anymore other than to point and laugh- "the sign I painted not working anymore?"
The Manager glared, possibly realizing for the first time that perhaps this man did not take him completely seriously. "No," he said in an offended manner. "We have just used it too often- I've got it!"
The girl behind the camera- Rift?- cleared her throat in an attempt not to laugh. "Um, sir? I'd say that the whole 'Empire's Most Wanted' theme isn't gonna attract too many applicants."
Luke twisted his head around. The screen behind him, in fact, now showed his wanted poster.
He turned around again quickly. His bounty had gone up since Bespin, apparently. It was only to be expected, he supposed. And apparently despite giving a clear answer about his opinion of the "ruling the galaxy" plan, he was still wanted alive.
"Fine," said the Manger, gesturing to his assistant and jolting Luke out of his thoughts. "Um… How about…" he leaned in closer to the controls and screen the assistant was using. "What about that one?"
"That's some mail from Rift's uncle," said the assistant.
"And," said the Manager, "it is an excellent picture."
The girl from the camera dashed over madly. "No way, he sent the holos I wanted! Now, to compare-"
"Oh, no you don't," said the Manager. "You were using time when you should've been working having a mail account, and therefore, as your boss, it is my property."
Somehow, Luke had a feeling this guy would've done well in the Empire. That was probably a cruel and unfair thought, but it was also not entirely inaccurate.
The Publicity Manager turned to Luke. "Out of curiosity, Anakin Skywalker was related to you in some capacity, right?"
Oh, no. Oh, stang absolutely kriffing no.
Luke responded only with an unusual gasping noise.
"Let's just stick with the 'Alliance' banner," said Luke, finding his voice. "Please. I like it."
"Nonsense," said the oblivious Manager. "If you were careless enough to lose your lightsaber, then the least I can do is to have someone wielding one in the background."
"Someone from twenty years ago," said the former cameraman unnecessarily.
"Heritage," said the Manger absently.
Heritage was about the last thing Luke wanted to think about right now. He did, however, have somewhat of a morbid interest in seeing the hologram. He climbed lightly down from the platform he had been standing on.
"No!" barked the Manager. "Get back up there and pose! Rift, roll the background!"
Luke glared. The three assistants glared.
The Jedi did not get back on the platform, walking instead over to the terminal where the assistant was sitting.
The holo was mildly disappointing. The figure in it was a bit fuzzy, and was holding no sign saying "Vader Was Quite Obviously Lying and Obi-Wan Was Not." It was also on a slight loop, and it appeared the best image that Luke was ever going to see of his father was a blurred figure walking two steps and bearing a slight resemblance (as most tall bipeds did in suitably fuzzy holograms) to Chewbacca.
The assistant saw his face fall. "I think there's a better one," she said.
Luke didn't want to see it. What was she thinking? "Oh, look, poor innocent hero who's never met his father. I feel very sorry for him." He supposed all of them were thinking that.
The assistant pressed a button on the monitor, and the smiling visage of a long-haired man popped up. Luke could barely see it. It didn't matter who his father had been.
"I'm leaving," he said. He didn't know for sure what he was saying.
"But we don't-"
Luke walked away.
The Publicity Manager was removed from his post several hours later, High Command citing "complaints from everyone who had ever been in contact with him during the course of his duties."
Luke didn't file a complaint. Luke sat in his room and brooded.
And when the file of holograms arrived from the assistant, he opened it.