Summary: Luke recognizes some things
about himself, traits over the years.
A/N: Inspired by a challenge/comment by ThePariah in the Luke characterization thread, and kindly beta'ed by Pallas-Athena and approved by Gabri_Jade. :D Your help is, as always, invaluable.
The Imperials fight hard. They
believe in their cause as deeply as we believe in ours, and their reason for
fighting is survival.
I flinch back to the wall when a blaster shot comes uncomfortably close. It would be handy, I think, to be able to block them with my lightsaber, but that talent is not yet mine. Not yet. I grit my teeth and get out from protection as much as I need to, firing in return, looking for those spots of movements, those eyes meeting mine.
I know I hit my mark when there’s a grunt of pain and the firing stops.
“Port secure,” a voice buzzes in my ear.
“Acknowledged,” I say briefly, running forward for the next safe spot, trying to see if there are any other officers. The one I shot isn’t moving, but I approach him carefully anyway.
“Bay secure,” another voice says, indistinguishable from the first because of the heavy static.
That’s the last area, besides this one. Something tells me that we’ve got it – we’ve eliminated the resistance and captured the Destroyer. “This is Rogue Leader. Get the techs onboard and the engines working,” I order.
It was a careful strike, and I don’t think any of the Rogues are dead. They never thought we’d try to take a Destroyer through holes in the hull. It only took a few X-Wings and a lot of determination and ingenuity.
I step over to the officer, kicking the blaster away just in case, and kneel. He looks … almost alive. His face is pasty, but doesn’t quite have that normal utter stillness of death, as if he were a particularly animated person in life and some semblance of that was carrying on.
I look down at him, and feel absolutely nothing. No satisfaction, certainly no regret. Perhaps another person would have a reaction, possibly even a gut, emotional one – like when I found my aunt and uncle – that simple instinctual reaction to just empty flesh. I know that now; it was my own loss I grieved.
Because this is just a body.
I stand up and move on. There isn’t time for this; I’m not on a farm anymore, with early days and late nights and nothing in between. There is always something to be done. “How many prisoners do we have?” I ask into the comm.
“Twelve, sir,” a voice responds.
“Stun them. We’ll deal with them later,” I order. The Empire doesn’t trade prisoners, of course, not caring very much for their own, but they could have other uses. It would be too dangerous to keep them conscious now, with our control of the Destroyer so new. “I’ll be on the bridge.”
I don’t have any problem stepping over bodies to get there.
The stench of death is strong on
a battlefield constricted by gravity and air. Everything stays put and settled.
The breeze doesn’t help.
There are no echoes in the Force; there is the moment, the carrying on. But the dead here don’t talk to me, not able to hold themselves separate and aware as my old Masters could. Still, it disturbs me to see all the death. The taking of systems from the Empire is not something I have been involved in. Neither Leia nor most of the others had objected to my request to resign, to study the ways of the Jedi Order, to discover what was lost.
I have not forgotten what comes of battle, though. The Imperial troops were mostly killed by the citizenry, with a few undercover intelligence officers leading them on, and it shows in the butchery. Some had been killed with knives, hacked to death.
When the Empire would find Rebel bases, there had always been that burned flesh smell afterwards.
My father’s pyre had smelled of metal and smoke.
I pause beside a body, unaccountably drawn to it. The Imperial stormtrooper had had his helmet ripped off. The Force is like a stream of quiet, calming me. And he is suddenly an identity, a person.
I kneel, looking at his face, memorizing his imperfect features, the surprised look of horror.
I recognize you, I think. You were a person.
I walk away, and I don’t have any nightmares.
They are certainly grotesque
looking, the Yuuzhan Vong. But there is character to what they leave behind, and
I always wonder when I see a particular style of scars, if that is unique to
them, a mark that they’ve left for after their death.
I know they don’t think of it that way, though.
Mara nudges me through the Force, and I respond, assuring her that I am fine. I rise to my feet, still looking at the Yuuzhan Vong body, this being that I had killed.
I don’t quite feel regret. It is subtler than that, and it takes me a moment of self-reflection, the Force’s gentle guiding for me to realize what it is. It is simple acknowledgement. And that is all I can offer, and for what little that is, it was a realization that took me years to learn.
You were real, I think. You were a living being.
Mara approaches me, and I look up at her, recognizing that despite her mental touch, she’s still in a combat mindset. I can feel no emotion from her, just a constant calculating awareness. It doesn’t bother me; it hasn’t since that first time our minds connected. I understand it.
“The young aren’t always foolish,” I murmur, thinking of my own grief, my acknowledgement of death before the days when I became hard and unfeeling to it.
“Because the young always grieve?” Mara asks, something softening in her expression, a shift that only I would ever see.
I look back at the body. “Because they instinctually realize they should.” It is training that burns it out of us. Training and life and pain. People avoid pain, emotional or physical; scars are marks of lessons learned – and faults born, I suppose.
She places her hand in mine, ignoring the blood and filth. That would never bother Mara. “You do more for them than most,” she whispers, and I meet her eyes. “More than I care to,” she adds ironically.
I know, Mara. I place no blame for that, I understand it too well. I have no pride for myself for this recognition.
I wake in the middle of the
night, the lingering vividness of my nightmare a strange comfort.
Mara, wakened by me, strokes my hair back and kisses me gently. And I am somehow relieved.