[Editor's Note: As I watched Star Wars: A New Hope for the 881,671,984,684th time the other night, the scene right before the battle of Yavin played out in full HD on my 46" screen. Luke was pissed at Han because he was taking his reward and running despite knowing the Death Star was closing in on the Rebel Base. Han tries to convince Luke to join him, but Luke has none of it.
Then my mind began to wander, as it is wont to do. What if Luke went with Han? What if Luke saw, as Han did, the attack on the Death Star as a suicide mission and decided to jet?
Here's my take on that very scenario...]
Luke strode purposefully into the hangar bay, having just departed the briefing for the assault on the Death Star. The odds were stacked against them, but it was either fight or die, and at least fighting gave him a chance to continue living.
What Luke encountered as he entered the hangar bay stunned him. His new friends Han Solo and Chewbacca were loading crates full of credits onto a repulsorcart. The sight immediately soured Luke’s mood, as he thought Han should stay and help the Rebels out of these dire circumstances.
Armed with an accusatory tone, Luke asked,”So. You got your reward and you’re just leaving, then?”
Han stopped and regarded Luke. “That’s right, yeah. Got some old debts I gotta pay off with this stuff. Even if I didn’t, you don’t think I’d be fool enough to stick around here, do you?
Han tossed another crate on the repulsorcart. “Why don’t you come with us? You’re pretty good in a fight. We could use you.”
Luke had to admit the offer was tempting. He had grown fond of Han and Chewy in the short time he’d known them. He hoped they would continue to fight alongside one another, but as part of the Rebellion, not as mercenaries. Still, Luke felt the need to try one more time to convince Han to join in the fight against the Empire.
“Come on. Why don’t you take a look around? You know what’s about to happen. What they’re up against. They could use a good pilot like you. You’re turning your back on them.”
Han’s face scrunched up in a look of contempt before a roguish grin spread between his cheeks. “What good is a reward if you ain’t around to use it? Besides, attacking that battle station is not my idea of courage. It’s more like,” Han paused momentarily to pick up another crate while seemingly searching for the appropriate word, “suicide.”
And someone had finally said it. Luke knew from the briefing that the chances of this mission succeeding were astronomically slim. Thirty ships against a battle station the size of a small moon? In addition to the fleet of ships no doubt ensconced within? Luke saw the merits of destroying the Death Star, but the Rebel Alliance wasn’t ready to win this battle. They were sorely outnumbered and impossibly outmatched. The rebels would fare better if they fled and attacked on their own terms instead of the Empire’s. Failure here meant the loss of the entire Rebellion and that didn’t sit well with Luke.
It suddenly dawned on Luke that Han was right. This mission was doomed to fail. Luke was all about overthrowing the Empire, but it seemed such a waste to throw all their lives away like this when they could live to fight another day under more strategically sound circumstances.
Luke made up his mind. Neither choice was ideal, and there would be consequences he would rue no matter the path he choose.
“You’re right,” Luke finally admitted. “This mission is suicide. I’ll come with you, but not before I try to talk them out of this. I don’t think it’ll work, but I’ve got to try.”
Han flashed a celebratory, and cocky, grin. “I knew you’d come around, kid. Make it quick, though. I don’t wanna be anywhere near here when that battle station shows up.”
Luke was right, Biggs thought as he and Wedge expertly navigated down the trench while deftly avoiding turbolaser blasts. The two previous runs on the thermal exhaust port by his squadmates had failed miserably. Now, of the thirty ships they had began this attack with, only he and Wedge remained.
Biggs now wished he had listened to Luke, but couldn’t escape the feeling that having Luke with them would dramatically increase the odds of success. None of that mattered, though, and he shook the thoughts from his mind. He needed to focus on the task at hand otherwise his failure would be certain.
Wedge’s voice cracked in his headset. “I can’t get a read on those towers!”
Why the hell is Wedge so concerned with those blasted towers?
“The towers no longer matter, Red 2,” Biggs assured him. “All that matters is the exhaust port. Keep those fighters off me so I can focus on that.”
A click of acknowledgement came through his headset. Biggs set to task. He brought his targeting computer online, calibrated it, and programmed it to target the miniscule 2-meter-wide port he somehow needed to hit with proton torpedoes. Luke seemed confident in the briefing that it could be done, but no so confident to stick around and try it.
Let it go, Biggs. You don’t need the distraction.
“Fighter’s coming in,” came Wedge’s voice again. “They came in much faster this time. They’re already on my tail.”
Wedge’s voice sounded calm, betraying none of the panic he was no doubt feeling. Biggs goosed the throttle up to maximum, and tuned Wedge out. He hated to do it, but if he didn’t focus on the exhaust port he’d never hit it.
“They’re all over me!” cried Wedge a handful of moments later, his composure evaporated. “I have no room to maneuver! Aaaauuuuuuugh!”
Biggs glanced away from his targeting computer for just a split second to check his sensors. Wedge was gone. Biggs was the only hope the Rebel Alliance had left.
Biggs turned his attention back to his targeting computer just as green laser bolts began sailing past his battered X-wing. Biggs spared a glimpse at his sensors and found the three ships who had destroyed Wedge were already upon him.
Blast! The targeting computer will never get a lock if I’m busy dodging laser blasts!
Biggs began evasive maneuvers while he contemplated his next move. Should he leave the trench and engage the three fighters in desperate attempt to destroy them before resuming his attack run on the station? If he engaged the ships would he be able to destroy them with enough time left to finish his attack on the Death Star before it annihilated Yavin 4? Should he carry on in the hopes that his rear deflector shields would hold until he could get a lock on the exhaust port?
Biggs was robbed of any chance to decide when a deafening warning tone began blaring, indicating one of the ships behind him had acquired a laser lock on him.
Blast it, Luke, where are you? was the last thought Biggs Darklighter had before lasers punched through his rear shields and into his ship’s fuselage, tearing it apart and ending his life.
Princess Leia Organa watched from the command center as the representation of the Death Star on the live hologram of the battle cleared the planet Yavin, giving it a clear shot at Yavin 4. Leia had no doubts regarding the Imperial’s intentions. She had watched in horror as the Death Star annihilated her home planet, all just to force a confession out of her. Doubtless the massive station’s primary weapon was preparing to destroy the moon harboring the rebel base.
The exchange between Biggs and Wedge and just played over the comm. Then, the blip on the hologram representing Wedge winked out of existence. Leia feared it wouldn’t be long before Biggs joined him, leaving the Rebellion at the mercy of an unstoppable empire and sealing its doom.
Leia watched the remaining moments of the Rebellion unfold with her arms wrapped nervously around her chest. In the span of just a few short hours, a vigorous movement against an oppressive empire had gone from hopeful and enthusiastic to nonexistent, and it was completely her fault, she realized. She knew the Empire had placed a tracking device on the Millennium Falcon, yet she still had stupidly insisted Han bring them straight to Yavin. In her haste to deliver the Death Star’s plans to the Rebel leaders she never considered the consequences of the Death Star showing up on their doorstep, despite witnessing its massive destructive powers firsthand.
Now, she and her fellow rebels were seconds away from being obliterated by a the most powerful weapon the galaxy had ever known. It was a mistake she’d never have a chance to learn from. If only she had listened to Luke. He had warned her that attacking the Death Star was futile, but General Dodonna had been so convincing. Luke had left with Han, knowing what fate would befall her.
Everything suddenly went dark, and Leia knew her time was up. For a brief moment the command center was filled with panicked screaming before Leia felt nothing more.
“You may fire when ready,” he told the commander who eagerly awaited his order.
In just a few short seconds, the primary weapon of the Death Star would eliminate Yavin 4, and with it the entire Rebellion. He almost couldn’t believe the end was nigh. After years of hit and run tactics and operating as independent cells, the Rebellion had finally gathered in one place and one strike would wipe them all out. An anticipatory smirk spanned his wrinkled mug.
The death-dealing laser of the Death Star’s primary weapon reached out and touched Yavin 4. The moon exploded brilliantly, reduced to infinitesimal chunks of rock and vapor. Tarkin watched as gargantuan flames erupted from the now defunct moon, then evaporated rapidly as the moon’s atmosphere became exhausted in the blink of an eye.
Tarkin recalled telling Vader about 30 minutes or so ago that this would be a day long-remembered by the Empire. He had merely spoke the words before. Now he was sure of it. No one could challenge the Empire now. The existence of the Death Star guaranteed the Empire’s control of the galaxy.