Doubts of a Hero 2

Han attempted to clean up a little more, and before long Luke returned with two plates piled high of something that smelled absolutely delicious. They ate ravenously, and talked of repairs and future alterations that Han planned for his beloved ship until long after the meal was finished.


"Blast, when did it get so late," Han said when he noticed the time. "I don't mean to eat and run, kid, but my presence was expected at a sabacc game ten minutes ago."


Luke had learned that a sabacc game was just one of the ways some pilots managed to relax during their down time. "Who's playing tonight?"


"Wedge, some guy named Hobbie who shipped in with that new unit yesterday, and a couple others."


The sensation of calm and wellbeing Luke experienced earlier had continued while remaining in Han's company, and he was hesitant to leave. But he knew there was no avoiding the sickening dread, the inescapable nightmare he could already sense as the images began working their way into his mind. For an instant he considered asking Han if he could come along. But Luke didn't feel up to dealing with this mood in the company of a group. And if Wedge would be playing cards, then Luke knew he could be alone for a while in the quarters he shared with the pilot. Trying not to show signs of the apprehension that seemed to be coming upon him in waves, Luke stood to leave.


"Well, don't take all their credits in one night. I'll see you around." Luke hoped his comment came across lighthearted, but his voice sounded distant in his own ears. He turned to head down the corridor that would lead him to the exit ramp. Suddenly everything began to tilt and spin as dizziness surged his senses. He reached out for support against a nearby bulkhead, but missed, his arm flailing.


"Luke!" Han managed to grab the young man's shoulder before he fell, catching him and easing him into the chair.


"Sorry," Luke mumbled, his voice no more steady than his legs had been. "I must've stood up too quickly."


The smuggler didn't buy that for a moment. "What the blazes is wrong with you?"


"Nothing." Luke pushed his friend away, and blinked in an effort to focus his vision. "Don't worry about it. Just go on, you're late for your game."


"Forget the stupid sabacc game." Han's voice was stern. "This is the third time today I've noticed that something is wrong, and each time you've tried to tell me you're fine. Now are you going to tell me what's up or am I going to have to throw you over my shoulder and cart you to the medcenter myself?"


Luke knew Han could and would do just that, but he remained silent, pointedly avoiding the older man's gaze.


"You stubborn little gundark!" Han's concern expressed itself in frustration. He stood, faced away from Luke, hands on hips as he fumed. A few seconds later, he took the chair opposite Luke, attempting a different approach.


"Listen Luke, we both know I'm certainly not one for being all buddy-buddy when it comes to talking about problems and feelings. But something is going on, and I don't like the look of it. I'm worried about you and I want to help."


Luke managed to meet his eyes this time, but still said nothing.


"Hey, I'm your friend, you know." The smuggler displayed his best lopsided grin. "At least that's what you keep trying to tell me ever since I saved your skin. So why don't you let me play the part this time?"


The taunt worked, and Luke looked away guiltily. "Something's happening to me, Han." His voice was raspy, raw. When he raised his eyes this time, Luke made no attempt to hide the pain that had plagued him for days.


Years of mastering a sabacc face prevented Han from expressing the cold alarm he felt at that look. "What do you mean?"


Luke took a deep breath and plunged ahead. "I've been having this nightmare. Only I'm beginning to think it's more than just a nightmare."


Han nodded, allowing Luke to take the lead in the conversation now.


"It didn't really start out that way. It was more or less this feeling, just a sense of something bad that I couldn't quite pin down, but I just couldn't shake it either. I began to notice it soon after we left Yavin. Like I said, it didn't seem serious at first, and we were all so busy during that time that I didn't give it much thought. Then when we arrived on Kreelos it started to affect my sleep. Not a dream at first, just making me restless, you know. I could tell I wasn't sleeping as well. Then there were dreams, for several nights. But always when I'd wake up, I could never remember what it was about. I couldn't remember any of the images, only this horrible feeling of dread." Luke paused, his ashen face going even paler. He swallowed hard, his mind swirling with the pictures he desperately wanted to forget. His voice quaked slightly. "Until last night."


Han leaned forward, concern evident in his hazel eyes. He placed a hand on the young man's shoulder in a supportive gesture, but remained silent. If Luke was going to tell him, it had to be in his own timing.


Luke allowed his gaze to drift away and his eyes became unfocused, haunted. His voice projected a calm timbre that was somehow disquieting. "I see stormtroopers and Imperial soldiers, thousands of them. At first they're faceless, but it changes and I can see their faces clearly, even the stormtroopers because their helmets are removed. They're all crying out in horrible pain. It's so loud, I've never heard anything so loud. And then I see other people, men and women, some children too. Somehow, I know, these people are the family and friends of those Imperials. And now they're crying out too. Everyone is screaming their pain at me and it's so loud I think my mind will explode from the noise. And I can feel their pain too; the grief, the fear, the horror. It grabs at me, like it's trying to pull me into some bottomless hole. The noise and the feeling, it all just keeps building, getting stronger and stronger. I'm suffocating from it all. And then--"


Luke's voice faltered, continuing only in unsteady gasps. "Then I see my aunt and uncle. They're in pain, unbearable pain. There are flames and smoke everywhere. I can feel the heat, hotter than the worst midday on Tatooine, and everything is so horrible and loud. I want to escape but I can't. They're all reaching for me, pulling me under. I can't even scream."


Luke squeezed his eyes shut in vain against the images. He was visibly trembling now. "Last night, when I woke up, I could still see it all. The images, the feelings, everything keeps coming back. I can't get it out of my mind, Han." His voice broke in sobs. "It's all my fault. They're all dead because of me!"


The Correlian pilot pulled back, unsure how to respond. He'd experienced his own share of nightmares in the past, but somehow he knew this was different. The young man hunched down in the chair before him was obviously in torment and Han felt at a definite loss. But when anguished, blue eyes turned to him, imploring him, Han knew he would do whatever it took to find a way to help his friend.


"I'm not sure I have all the answers, kid," Han replied after a deep breath. "But we're gonna find them together, okay?"


Luke managed a nod. He pulled his arms tight about his chest, suddenly feeling chilled. "You got a jacket or something? I'm freezing."


Han moved to retrieve a blanket from an overhead compartment.


"So, you think I should see someone about this," Luke asked, pulling the blanket around his shoulders. His voice still sounded shaky.


Han considered carefully before answering. "Let's talk about this for a bit before we make any decisions. One thing at a time."


Luke nodded again, something akin to relief passing over his now haggard features.


"The first thing you've got to do is stop this guilt trip about your aunt and uncle's death." Han held up a hand to silence his friend. "Just listen to me for a minute. Now you've told me the details of the story before, and unless you omitted something about those events, there is no way I believe this 'it's all my fault' idea. It may not be the answer you want to hear, but what happened to your family just happened. It could have been anyone who bought those droids, but it was your uncle who did. And so it was your uncle the Imps found when they came looking. It may not be fair, but it is life. And in case you haven't figured it out, kid, life is not fair."


"But if I'd at least been there," Luke protested with the old argument.


"Then you'd be dead," Han said bluntly. "So you might have been a cocky hot-shot and knocked off two or three stormtroopers, but you'd still be dead. And that Death Star would still be out there." He plunged on, not waiting for any reaction from Luke. "Which leads to my second point. Now I'm certainly no expert, but some of what you described in that dream sounds like maybe your mind is trying to find a way of dealing with the fact that you now find yourself in the middle of this crazy war."


"What do you mean?"


"I mean that in a very short period of time you've gone from being a backwards moisture farmer to a key player in the very heart of the Rebellion," Han replied. "That can't be easy to accept."


That was something of an understatement, Luke thought bitterly. Although a part of him was glad, proud to be playing an active role now, it had all happened so quickly. He'd been thrust into each new situation with little or no time to consider all the consequences. Even afterwards there had not been time to adequately deal with all the changes, and now it seemed everything was crashing in on his conscious at once. So another part of him was very angry at fate, or luck, or the Force, or whatever had led him to this point.


Han was continuing, "I know that trying to help your uncle make a living on Tatooine was a rough life, but nothing could have prepared you for the kind of things you've seen, the kind of things you've had to do in the past few weeks."


The Correlian leaned forward and something in his expression changed. Luke felt riveted by it. He was sure he'd never seen the man look more sincere.


"Actually, you're holding up a lot better than I would have thought. Which just puts another clinch into this hunch of mine." Han locked his eyes with the young hero. "You're meant to be something special, kid."


"I didn't ask to be special," Luke responded hotly, expressing some of the ire he felt.


Han shrugged. "Doesn't matter. It's your lot in life. You can either learn to make the most of it, or ignore it. But take this one piece of advice. If you don't at least try to live up to your potential, you'll never be happy."


"How do you know?"


"Because I've seen your kind before, and your kind never are happy any other way."


Luke sighed. Han was telling him the truth, a truth he already knew and, in a sense, had already accepted. But that didn't make it any less frustrating, especially considering that accepting his gifts also meant accepting the responsibilities that came with them.


"Han, it was my shot that destroyed the Death Star. Because of me, thousands of people are dead." Luke finally voiced a thought that had been disturbing him for some time.


"And because of you thousands and thousands now have a better chance of living," Han pointed out.


"That's a pad answer and you know it," Luke replied testily. "Yes, I know that if the Death Star were still here then Yavin would have been blown to bits and who knows how many more planets in the future. I know the Empire is wrong, and what we're fighting for is right. But that doesn't change the fact that I killed all those people."


Luke trudged forward, not daring to stop now that so much of what he'd been fighting against was finally being vented. "There were men on that station, men like me, who had simply gone to the Academy in an effort to escape their life back home. And there were men with families, wives and children, fathers and mothers. They were just doing their jobs, fulfilling their duty. Not every Imperial is as evil as the Emperor, Han. Some of them are just people, good people who simply don't realize what the Empire has become."

「あの基地には僕みたいに、ただ日常から抜け出す為にアカデミーに行った人もいたんだ。 奥さんとか子供とか父親とか母親とか家族がいて、自分の仕事をこなしてただけなんだ。帝国軍がみんな皇帝みたいに邪悪な訳じゃ無いんだよ、ハン。何人かは帝国が変わってしまったことに気付いてないだけの善人なんだ」

"You're absolutely right," Han admitted. He pointed a finger squarely at the younger man's chest. "But I'm going to tell you something, and if you don't ever learn another thing from me, I want you to learn this. We are in a war. And in war, both the innocent and the guilty die. There's both justice and injustice. It's going to happen, whether you're directly involved or not. And you will always be involved, eventually, on some level. War touches everyone. The question comes down to this; which side are you going to fight for? Are you going to get involved as much as possible? Are you going to take the opportunities offered you? Are you going to do everything you can to make sure that justice and the deaths of the guilty far outweigh the injustices and the deaths of the innocent? You have to make that decision, and you have to live with that decision. In war, things aren't always black and white, kid. Sometimes you just have to decide how much gray you can live with."


Luke let the words fix themselves in his mind. There was wisdom there, more probably than he could initially realize. He felt that, in time, it might help him deal with some of the things he had done. And, no doubt, with many of the things he would face in the future.


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