Disclaimer: Don't own them

Chapter 1

Luke staggered through the snow, struggling to think clearly as he put as much distance between himself and the ice cave as possible. It was getting dark, the temperature dropping quickly…and his Tauntaun a meal back in said cave. He was so tired…he shook himself and wriggled his arms out of his jacket sleeves to hug his chest, sacrificing the balance for trying to keep his limbs warm. He could feel frozen blood on his face and as the storm worsened it got harder and harder to see.

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Princess Leia stood inside the dark entrance to the Rebel base, waiting for a sign of the two Rebel heroes. She shivered in the cold wind as, nearby, Chewie sat with his head in his hands. In the background, Artoo and Threepio moved through the doors.

A Rebel lieutenant walked to Major Derlin, an officer keeping watch with the princess. "Sir, all the patrols are in. There's still no contact from Skywalker or Solo," he dropped the volume on the last bit.

"Mistress Leia, Artoo says he's been quite unable to pick up any signals, although he does admit that his own range is far too weak to abandon all hope," Threepio offered, trying to be helpful and Leia nodded an acknowledgment, but she was lost in thought. She knew they were alive, she could feel it, she would know if they were dead.

"Your Highness, there's nothing more we can do tonight. The shield doors must be closed," Derlin tried to give the news gently, he'd been at Yavin, had seen how close the three were, how the two men had supported the Princess through her grief. Unable to do anything to help he turned to the Lieutenant, "Close the doors."

"Yes, sir." He walked away to ensure the order was followed.

Chewie let out a long, mournful howl in grief, not just for Han but for the boy who shared a name with a hero. He knew the name Skywalker, he had been Ahsoka Tano's Master even if Chewie hadn't met him after escaping with the Togruta from the Trandoshan hunting guild.

At the same moment, Artoo began a complex series of efficient beeps.

"Artoo says the chances of survival are seven hundred seventy-five...to one."

Leia stood, praying to herself as the huge metal doors slammed across the entrance of the ice cave, the loud booms echoed throughout the huge cavern. Chewie let out another suffering howl.

"Actually, Artoo has been known to make mistakes... from time to time," Threepio turned away, patting R2's domed head. "Oh, dear, oh, dear. Don't worry about Master Luke. I'm sure he'll be all right. He's quite clever, you know... for a human being."

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Luke forced one foot in front of the other, eyes closed and head down to protect his face from the sharp, cold wind. A misstep had him tumbling down the slope to lie in the snow and ice at the bottom, barely conscious, but pure survival instinct had him struggling to his knees. He blinked blearily, a distant part of his brain saying he was hallucinating but…Ben?

"Luke... Luke."

That was Ben's voice…he was dead? Wasn't he? "Ben?" he managed to gasp out past bloody, chapped lips.

"You will go to the Dagobah system," Ben stood tall and distant, looking down at him, clinging to Jedi serenity while his heart cried out at the condition of the boy he has watched over all his life.

"Dagobah…. system?" Luke collapsed back into the snow, flopping onto his back.

"There you will learn from Yoda, the Jedi Master who instructed me," It wasn't a lie, he had learnt much from Yoda as a Youngling and Initiate, even as a Council Member. He wanted to help Luke but there was nothing he could do. The girl was too tightly shielded to hear him.

The image of Ben faded, revealing a lone Tauntaun rider approaching from the windswept horizon.

"Ben... Ben…" Luke groaned weakly, delirious before finally surrendering to darkness.

Han pulled up and leapt off his mount. He hurried to his snow-covered friend, cradling him in his arms. Han's Tauntaun let out a low, pitiful bellow but Han's concern was with Luke, and he shook him urgently, with all the gear they were wearing he had no way to look for a pulse. "Luke! Luke! Don't do this, Luke. Come on, give me a sign here," Han wasn't ashamed of begging. Luke had gone from bratty farm kid to the little brother he'd never had, not that he had ever told him. He could not be dead! Luke didn't respond, and Han's heart sank. He began frantically rubbing and slapping Luke's unconscious face. As he started to lift the youth, Han heard a rasping sound behind him. He turned, just in time to see his Tauntaun stagger and then fall over into the snow, swearing, there went their way back. Han carried Luke to the moaning beast as, with a final groan, the Tauntaun died. "Not much time," he muttered as he put Luke as close as he could get him to the beast, seeking some sort of heat for his friend.

"Ben... Ben..." Luke moaned, barely audible, and Han felt a surge of joy, he wasn't too late!

"Hang on, kid."

"Dago…bah…syst…"

Han ignited Luke's saber and cut the beast from head to toe. He quickly tossed its steaming innards into the snow. "Whew..." he fought down the urge to gag.

"Dagobah..."

"This may smell bad, kid..." Han paused and then began manoeuvring the delirious young man into the body.

"Yoda..."

"...but it will keep you warm... til I get the shelter built," he panted as he fought to get Luke inside the carcass. "Ooh... I thought they smelled bad on the outside!" The wind was picking up considerably, making it difficult to move. Han removed a pack from the dead creature's back, taking out a shelter container. He began to set up the pitiful protection against the bitter Hoth night. Once it was up he got them inside and activated the small heating stove before getting out his rations. He put a cup next to the stove, filled with snow, it melted quickly and then he had to manoeuvre Luke upright enough he wouldn't choke before coaxing him into drinking the water, he needed to stay hydrated. He set some rations to heat and then dug out the sleeping gear, wrapping them both in it to share heat before getting his small medical heat to tend Luke's injuries.

What had happened to the kid since he last reported in? As he cleared the blood away he realised some of the wounds were claw marks, a predator had tried to kill him? There were rumours of large creatures, but they hadn't seen any definite proof of them, just Luke's luck to run into one. Luke flinched as he cleaned a particularly deep gash, blue eyes opening slightly. "Luke? You with me?" he called gently as he covered the wound.

"Ngh…" his head lolled, and Han steadied him. "Han?"

"Yeah, it' me. You're going to be okay," he promised. "I need you to stay awake, got to get some food into you." He grabbed the runny soup like food and grimaced but began feeding it to Luke as he slipped in and out of consciousness, making him worry about a head injury, there was some blood in his hair but that could have come from anywhere. Once they had both eaten he lay down and held on tight to his friend, forcing him to wake up on and off through the night as the temperature plummeted. Eventually it got so cold he had to keep Luke awake all the time, he might not wake back up if he fell asleep again.

Hope came with the sun rise and he went to work digging them out and then trying to get a signal on the radio. When the speeders appeared on the horizon he lit a flare and finally made contact on the radio with Rogue Two. They quickly landed, and Zev and Wes scrambled to get Luke into the back seat of Rogue Two, no one liking his condition. Han scrambled into the second and then they were off, emergency calls for medical aide going out.

As soon as they reached the base Luke was rushed to the medical ward where he was quickly prepped and then settled into a bacta tank, just as Leia ran in. She was shocked when she saw the mess his face was in and turned to Han. "What happened?"

"Don't know, he's been barely coherent when awake. Looks like he was attacked by something though."

They watched as the medical droids scanned the results and added various medications. "Commander Skywalker is suffering from hypothermia, mild dehydration and frostbite as well as multiple lacerations to the face. Fortunately, the extreme cold stemmed the blood loss however infection had already set in. He will require two days full immersion to give the best chance of a complete recovery however there will be facial scaring."

"Thank you," Han answered the droid since Leia couldn't at the moment. Han then allowed the droid to check him over but thankfully he was okay other than exhausted from the stressful night. They only left when Wedge and Hobbie came in to check on their Commander.

Rogue Squadron was very protective of their young Commander and for good reason, he was pretty much the most wanted man in the Galaxy. He had a massive bounty and what worried everyone was that the bounty was for alive. Luke had been run through every interrogation resistance training program the Alliance had because with a bounty that large everyone knew he would be captured one day. That Vader was behind the bounty…well he was known to kill anyone with Force sensitivity and Luke was the closest the Alliance had to an actual Jedi. Not to mention he personally blew up the Death Star taking over a million people with it. That was a massive death toll and the Squadron knew that haunted Luke even three years later. Luke was a brilliant pilot, the best they had, and also a good mechanic with a knack for fixing things others couldn't but he was still a farm boy so they had taken it upon themselves to ensure he learnt everything he could, from Alliance history to hand to hand combat, for which they generally roped in any bored ground troops who loved getting one up on the pilots by tossing them around.

For the next two days they took it in shifts to sit by the tank, everyone relieved when Luke stopped thrashing and fighting deliriously and settled into a deep sleep. Han and Chewie were the ones on watch when Luke was finally removed from the tank, they waited quietly as Luke was cleaned off and helped to dress before being settled on a recovery bed. Han hated seeing the kid look so weak but when Luke managed a small grin he returned it just as the droids entered the room.

"Master Luke, sir, it's so good to see you fully functional again," Threepio announces as Artoo beeped his good wishes. "Artoo expresses his relief, also."

"How are you feeling, kid? You don't look so bad to me. In fact, you look strong enough to pull the ears off a Gundark," Han offered, and Luke laughed softly.

"Thanks to you."

"That's two you owe me, junior," he warned, turning as Leia entered the room. He looked at her with a big, devilish grin. "Well your Worship, looks like you managed to keep me around for a little while longer." He didn't really want to leave anymore, but he knew Jabba was mad, he'd already run into one bounty hunter, he needed to pay off his debt or he'd be a risk to Alliance security.

"I had nothing to do with it. General Rieekan thinks it's dangerous for any ships to leave the system until we've activated the energy shield," she answered haughtily.

"That's a good story. I think you just can't bear to let a gorgeous guy like me out of your sight," Han smirked and winked at Luke who was watching in amusement.

"I don't know where you get your delusions, laser brain," she snapped back.

Chewie roared in laughter, amused by their words when he could smell the attraction. Han, enjoying himself, regarded Chewie good-humouredly.

"Laugh it up, fuzzball. But you didn't see us alone in the south passage. She expressed her true feelings for me," Han smirked as Luke looked to Leia, curious.

Leia was flushed, eyes darting between Luke and Han. "My...! Why, you stuck up… half-witted... scruffy-looking ...nerf-herder!" She spluttered out, angry.

"Who's scruffy-looking?" he demanded before looking at Luke. "I must have hit pretty close to the mark to get her all riled up like that, huh, kid?" he teased, and Luke shook his head, he wasn't getting in the middle

Leia looked vulnerable for a moment, then the mask fell again, and she focused on Luke. "Well, I guess you don't know everything about women yet?" With that she leant over and kissed Luke on the lips, much to his shock. Then she turned on her heel and walked out, leaving everyone in the room slightly dumbstruck. With some smugness, Luke put his hands behind his head and grinned, even if that kiss had left him feeling very conflicted.

Suddenly, in the distance, the muffled sound of an alarm was heard, and the loudspeaker came on. "Headquarters personnel, report to command centre." The voice repeated the order and Han, Chewie, Artoo, and Threepio hurried out of the room, bidding farewell to Luke.

"Take it easy," Han called over his shoulder.

Luke lay back, knowing there was nothing he could do at the moment. He liked Leia, had from the moment he had seen the image of her…but did he like her like that? She was so different to anyone he had ever known. Then there was the obvious attraction between her and Han, despite the age gap. It was all very confusing.

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Controllers working the vast complex of electronic controls heard ominous approaching footsteps and looked up from their controls in the pits on the bridge. Admiral Ozzel and General Veers, who had been conferring near the front, also felt the approaching presence and turned toward it. Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith, entered like a chill wind. As Vader moved across the wide bridge, Captain Piett hurried up to Ozzel.

"Admiral," he called to his superior.

"Yes, Captain?"

"I think we've got something, sir. The report is only a fragment from a probe droid in the Hoth system, but it's the best lead we've had," he offered quietly. He was new, but he already knew Ozzel was incompetent and self-serving, not that that was uncommon in the Imperial Navy.

"We have thousands of probe droids searching the galaxy. I want proof, not leads!" Ozzel snapped, irritated by Piett's interruption.

"The visuals indicate life readings."

"It could mean anything. If we followed every lead..."

"But, sir, the Hoth system is supposed to be devoid of human forms," Piett argued while trying not to be too insubordinate.

Vader heard the soft argument and turned to approach them, looking down at the images the probe had returned of a structure in the snow. "You found something?"

Piett straightened instinctively and brought up all the data for the Sith to see. "Yes, my lord."

Vader studied the image and data, feeling the Force whisper. "That's it. The Rebels are there." And so was Skywalker. He had missed the boy twice so far, he would not escape again.

"My lord, there are so many uncharted settlements. It could be smugglers, it could be..." Ozzel tried to point out.

"That is the system. And I'm sure Skywalker is with them. Set your course for the Hoth system. General Veers prepare you men," Vader growled, and the men came to attention.

"At once My Lord," Veers quickly left to get his men ready for a ground assault with the added annoyance of snow.

Vader went to the front of the Bridge, standing before the massive viewport, staring out at the rest of Death Squadron, not long after they made the jump to lightspeed, heading for Hoth and his son… Luke Skywalker… he had almost killed Fett when the Bounty Hunter had reported the identity of the pilot from Yavin and yet the Force had declared his information was true. How had the child survived? Had Kenobi cut him from…. from Her dead body? Or… had his Master lied? Had She survived long enough to give birth at least? Perhaps the boy knew how she had died, though it was unlikely Kenobi would have told him if the Jedi had cut the babe from his Mother's body. Kenobi… finally, his old Master was dead, so why did he not feel more triumphant over their duel?

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Luke pulled on his uniform and then his flight suit on over it, glad Wedge had dropped the clothes off earlier. Since Han and Chewie had taken care of the probe droid the base had become a hive of activity as they worked to pack everything up to evacuate. They had barely gotten Echo Base up and running and now they had to abandon it. He was still tired, and a little sore but Rogue Squadron needed all its pilots. The two Squadrons assigned to the base were handling escort duties for the ships. They'd gotten two ships and their escorts away so far, taking the injured and less combat able personnel to safety before there was a chance of the Empire arriving.

"Sir, it will take quite a while to evacuate the T-forty- sevens," the medical droid that had been caring for him said as Luke strapped on his weapons, lightsabre and blaster.

"Well, forget the heavy equipment. There's plenty of time to get the smaller modules on the transports," he ordered, leaving anything beyond was bad, they needed every scrap of equipment they had, but who knew how much longer they had? If there was time and space at the end, then those units could be taken.

"Take care, sir."

"Thanks," Luke stomped his feet into his boots and moved into the busy hallway. He jogged for the main hanger to find the Falcon, Chewie working on something. Luke grabbed a heavy weather jacket from the rack, glad for the extra warmth in the more exposed hanger. "Chewie take care of yourself, okay?" As Luke patted Chewie on the arm, Chewie put his arms around Luke and gave him a tight hug.

Han was discussing the lifter with a repair droid when he saw Luke down on the ground. "Hi, kid," he turned back to the droid, exasperated. "There's got to be a reason for it. Check it at the other end. Wait a second." He looked back down at Luke, seeing how tired he still looked, the scars fresh on his face making him look decades older. "You all right?"

"Yeah," Luke managed a small smile.

"Be careful," Han warned, wishing he was going to be out there with them.

"You, too." Luke smiled, then waved at his friend and walked on. After a few steps,

he stopped and looked back. Han glanced up and the two exchanged a silent

communication, each wishing the other safety, happiness - many things,

all difficult to verbalize. They both knew Han wouldn't be at the rendezvous, he had to go to Tatooine now. They may never see each other again, the Alliance was always on the move and spread out, it would be hard for Han to find them if they had to move again before he could meet up with them.

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The dark cubicle was illuminated by a single shaft of light which fell on the brooding Dark Lord as he sat on the chair within.

General Veers entered the room and approached the silent, unmoving Vader. Although seemingly very sure of himself, Veers was still not bold enough to interrupt the meditating lord. The younger general stood quietly at attention until his superior chose to speak.

"What is it, General?"

"My lord, the fleet has moves out of light-speed. Com-Scan has detected an energy field protecting an area around the sixth planet of the Hoth system. The field is strong enough to deflect any bombardment," he quickly explained the situation, hoping he was not about to die for delivering the news.

Vader felt a surge of anger, they had to take that base! "The Rebels are alerted to our presence. Admiral Ozzel came out of light-speed too close to the system."

"He felt surprise was wiser..." Veers offered in the Admiral's defence.

"He is as clumsy as he is stupid. General, prepare your troops for a surface attack," he snapped the order and Veers gulped.

"Yes, my lord." He quickly left to join his men.

Vader activated the large viewscreen showing the bridge of his mighty ship. Admiral Ozzel appeared on the viewscreen, standing slightly in front of Captain Piett.

"Lord Vader, the fleet has moved out of light-speed, and we're preparing to... ah…" his hands went to his throat as he felt something strangling him.

"You have failed me for the last time, Admiral. Captain Piett."

Piett stepped forward, as the admiral staggered away. "Yes, my lord."

Make ready to land out troops beyond the energy shield and deploy the fleet so that nothing gets off that system. You are in command now, Admiral Piett." Vader growled and Piett stiffened.

"Thank you, Lord Vader." What else could he say? He respected Vader, but this was not the way he had wanted to be promoted. He glanced warily at the struggling Admiral Ozzel who, with a final choke, stumbled and fell in a lifeless heap on the deck before him. He quickly signalled nearby stormtroopers to remove the corpse and then went to work.

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"The first transport is away." The loudspeaker announced, making everyone cheer ad Luke jogged for his snow speeder, seeing his gunner already onboard.

Dack was a fresh-faced, eager kid, who made him feel old, but he was a great shot. "Feeling all right, sir?"

"Just like new, Dack. How about you?" Luke asked as he pulled his helmet on and strapped in.

"Right now, I feel like I could take on the whole Empire myself," Dack grinned as he finished the pre-flight checks.

"I know what you mean," Luke smiled sadly but then lifted off as the ground crew waved them on. Rogue Squadron formed up around him as they sped over the frozen landscape.

"Echo Station Three-T-Eight, we've spotted Imperial walkers." The radio crackled, and Luke adjusted course.

"Echo station Five-Seven. We're on our way," Luke answered absently, eyes scanning the horizon. He spotted them and dropped lower, hugging the snow drifts in an effort to remain hidden. "All right, boys, keep tight now."

"Luke, I have no approach vector. I'm not set," Dack babbled, nervous now.

"Steady, Dack," Luke called before going back to the Squad's frequency. "Attack pattern delta. Go now!" he ordered, and the squadron split up. They sped ever closer to the massive walkers and Luke wished for his X-Wing with its shields and heavier weapons. They began taking fire and wove among them, returning fire. "That armour's too strong for blasters. Rogues use your harpoons and tow cables. Go for the legs. It might be our only chance of stopping them. All right, stand by, Dack."

"Luke, we've got a malfunction in fire control. I'll have to cut in the auxiliary," Dack answered, panicking a bit. This was really his first battle.

"Just hang on. Hang on, Dack. Get ready to fire that tow cable," Luke called back to him as he dodged around the battlefield. Barely keeping his seat in the tumbling ship, Dack struggled to set up his harpoon gun. Luke swung his speeder around and headed toward an oncoming walker. Laser bolts and flak filled the air, creating a deadly obstacle course

for the tiny craft and it's wing mate. Luke winced as his helmeted head slammed hard back into his seat as smoke briefly filled the cockpit before being sucked out by the fire supersession systems. He twisted in his seat, trying to see Dack, but he had felt the weird sensation from the Force that usually meant a nearby death. "Dack? Dack!"

Dack was dead, blood streaming down his forehead, which rested on his smouldering controls. Out the back window, an Imperial walker receded in the distance as Luke moved them away from the fight. Luke closed his eyes in grief but then refocused on his job. "Rogue Three," he called over the comm.

"Copy, Rogue Leader," Wedge answered immediately.

"Wedge, I've lost my gunner. You'll have to make this shot. I'll cover for you. Set your harpoon. Follow me on the next pass," Luke ordered.

"Coming around, Rogue Leader." Wedge was worried for Luke with no gunner, his speeder damaged but Luke was the best, if anyone could do it, he could.

Luke moved in to cover Wedge's snow speeder as they flew towards the walker. "Steady, Rogue Three," he called as they took fire, shifting to protect them. They approached the legs and Luke grinned as the harpoon launched and embedded into a leg.

Rogue Three raced around one of the giant walker's feet, trailing the cable behind it. Continuing around the back foot, Rogue Three then circled the walker around the tail end. They did another pass around and then the cable detached and Rogue Three pulled away.

The tangled legs of the enormous war machine attempted a step, but as they did the giant Imperial walker began to topple. It teetered for a moment, and then crashed onto the icy ground, sending snow and metal pieces flying.

The troops in the trenches cheered at the sight of the crashing walker. An officer gave a signal to his men and Rebel troops charged the fallen war machine. "Come on!" The troops ran toward the downed walker, followed by two Rebel speeders flying overhead. Just as they reached the walker, it exploded, the impact throwing some of the men onto the frozen ground. Everyman in the trenches had accepted they would die today but their deaths would save other. The Alliance just didn't have the numbers or weapons for this kind of fight, they were meant for hit and run attacks.

"Whooha! That got him!"

Luke smiled at Wedge's joy, "I see it, Wedge. Good work." He praised as Rogue Three peeled away, they only had one tow cable, so they would try and cover the landing field before evacuating themselves. Luke glanced around and flew to join Rogue Two. Flak burst all around and he saw the other speeder shudder. "Rogue Two, are you all right?"

"Yeah. I'm with you, Rogue Leader."

"We'll set harpoon. I'll cover for you," he ordered, moving his damaged speeder to cover the other.

"Coming around."

"Watch that cross fire, boys," Luke called as he dodged out of the concentrated fire from two walkers. "Stay tight and low." Luke's speeder moves in formation with Rogue Two, when suddenly Zev's speeder was hit by a laser bolt. His ship bucked violently under the

impact and the cockpit exploded in a ball of flame. Spewing smoke, the speeder hurtled toward a looming walker. Before they could collide, Rogue Two exploded in a million flaming pieces. "Zev!" Luke called, looking for any sign they had managed to punch out but there was no sign of either pilot or gunner. Desperately, Luke worked the controls of his flak-buffeted ship. Suddenly, the speeder was rocked by a huge explosion. Luke fought with the controls with a look of terror on his face. The speeder filled with smoke, and electrical sparks jumped about the cockpit. "Hobbie, I've been hit!" he yelled, hoping the other pilot heard him as his speeder began to drop before ploughing into the snow hard. Luke blacked out from the impact and the feeling of so much death in the Force as the Empire began slaughtering those still left in the base.

Luke shook his head, dazed and then looked up to watch as a walker foot rose and moved over him. He looked up at the underbelly of the huge walker, passing overhead and it took him a few precious seconds to realise the danger. He struggled out of his harness and shoved the cockpit open before reaching back inside to grab gear, seeing Dack slumped in his own. "I'm sorry," he whispered before scrambling away just as the foot came down on the speeder, crushing it and Dack's body. Running beneath the monstrous machine, Luke fired his harpoon gun at the walker's underside. A thin cable followed the projectile from the gun until the magnetic head and cable attached firmly to the metal hull. Still running under the walker, Luke attached the cable drum to his belt buckle and let it pull him up until he hung dangling underneath the walker. The walker's giant feet continued to pound onward across the frozen snow. Stray laser bolts whistled by Luke as shifted along the walker's hull, reaching a small hatch. Hanging precariously, Luke cut the solid metal hatch with his lightsabre, trying not to drop anything. He took a landmine from the pouch he'd stuffed it in and threw it inside the Imperial machine. With no time to spare he took a deep breath and detached from the cable, plummeting to the snow below, even as he reached to the Force to cushion the landing. He still landed hard, weakly lifting his head before slumping, unconscious.

The giant walker barely missed stepping on him as it passed by before stopping in mid-step. A muffled explosion came from within - and then the walker's mechanical insides were spewed out every conceivable opening. The machine sat dead in its tracks, smoking, until it crumpled.

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Vader stormed through the base with the 501st, he could sense his son still on the planet, but his sense was dull…unconscious then. He hurried even more, determined to find the boy before he could be too damaged. He had seen part of the battle, it was likely he had been among those attacking the walkers which meant he was likely lying unguarded on the battle field and he needed to find him fast.

He came around a corner and saw the Falcon, sensing the Princess within. His men were setting up a heavy gun but then a gun dropped from the Falcons' underneath and opened fire on his men. before anything more could be done the ship blasted off, even as he felt the surge as Luke came too.

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Luke looked up and sighed in relief as he saw the Falcon headed for space, able to feel Leia and Han onboard. They were safe. He stumbled in the snow, spotting the landing area where his X-Wing and Artoo were waiting and then someone was helping him along.

"Alright there?" Wedge asked, and Luke nodded.

"Thanks." They separated and rushed to their ships.

Artoo, seated in his cubbyhole, chirps an excited greeting as Luke climbed aboard the spacecraft.

"Artoo! Get her ready for take-off."

"Good luck, Luke. See you at the rendezvous," Wedge yelled as he did his own prep.

Luke smiled and nodded at Wedge, then lowered himself into the cockpit of his X-wing while Artoo waited, beeping impatiently. "Don't worry, Artoo. We're going, we're going," he promised as the canopy over the X-wing lowered and snaps shut. He strapped in and fired up the engines, taking off from the compacted snow. He quickly sped away from the planet, easily avoiding the waiting Star Destroyers. He felt something…dark anger and swallowed, Vader…. Vader was on the planet. How close had he come to being captured this time? He remembered the vision of Ben and hesitated, hand at the navicomp. He was expected at the rendezvous but… was he endangering everyone by staying? If Vader could feel him…track him… Could he hide himself if he had more training? He'd fought Vader once and would have died if not for Han's intervention. Then there had been the mess at Vrogas Vas… He flipped several switches. The stars shifted as he took his fighter into a steep turn. The X-wing banked sharply and flew away in a new direction.

The monitor screen on Luke's control panel lit up with a question from the concerned Artoo.

"There's nothing wrong, Artoo. I'm just setting a new course," he answered. Artoo beeped once again. "We're not going to regroup with the others."

Artoo began a protest, whistling an unbelieving, "What?!"

Luke read Artoo's exclamation on his control panel. "We're going to the Dagobah system." Luke checked his readouts and made a few adjustments. He flew along with only the soft hum of the instruments to break the silence. Finally, Artoo chirped again. "Yes, Artoo?" Artoo uttered a soft, carefully phrased steam of whistles. "That's all right. I'd like to keep it on manual control for a while." The little droid let out a defeated whimper and Luke smiled, continuing on his course.

Artoo was worried about his pilot. He had been hurt and then in battle. Was he still hurt? Why not meet the Princess and other pilots? He had failed to keep his first pilot safe, he would not fail his son! There wasn't much he could do as the ship went to lightspeed.

Luke leant back in his seat, closing his eyes to try and get some sleep, he ached from the fight, especially the crash and fall. Whoever this Yoda was, he hoped he was doing the right thing. Had it really been Ben he had seen? Or had Vader set a trap? He knew he was disobeying orders, could be in serious trouble when he re-joined the fleet, but this felt right. Leia would understand but the rest of Command? Then again when he didn't show up they might assume he had been captured or killed. He hated putting his Squadron through that, but he couldn't contact them and risk it being intercepted. He would explain when he met up with them.

TBC…