I've seen this procedure take place thousands of times. The platform is lowered, the subject encased in carbonite, frozen and preserved perfectly. This time, I can hardly watch. This time, it's a human being standing on a platform in front of me: a man, a test subject, and a friend. Lord Vader wants Skywalker and my compliance has unwittingly given him a warm body for experimentation. The platform begins to move and the Wookiee howls; I can't even bring myself to look at Leia.
It's not as if this is the first time I've betrayed Han. No, I've sold him out dozens of times before. And he's stabbed me in the back at least twice as many. The deceit is a way of life, and it runs so deeply through both of us that neither one will ever change. We know this. Our relationship has never been one of trust. Trust isn't all it's cracked up to be, anyway. It's not what won Han the Millenium Falcon but I'd place a good wager on the fact that it's exactly what got him on Vader's hit list. Han and I, we don't have trust, but we've always had an understanding. It's the understanding that self-preservation comes first and all else is secondary.
This time is different. Even through the carbonite, as it rises from the narrow chamber down below, Han's face expresses more pain than I would have expected. It shouldn't surprise me; I spent half the afternoon listening to him scream while Vader tried to torture him into giving up Skywalker's location. Still, I can't stop staring. I didn't do this. It wasn't my call, what happened here. I did what was best for all those people who've come to depend on me. I've grown up, somehow, into a respectable businessman. A responsible leader, he called me. And a legitimate one at that. If I had to sacrifice an old friend as part of the deal, well, Han knew what he was getting when he landed here. I did it for a good cause. I'm no fan of the Empire. Why, then, would I practically hand them the keys to the city by refusing to play along? What was I supposed to do? My intention was entirely noble this time. As I told Han, it's the price I pay for being successful.
I kneel beside the encasement, so eerily accurate in its depiction of my friend that it's impossible to think of it as anything but a solid, molded tomb. At least he survived. Do they really think that I wanted this? That I made this deal with Vader because it served my purposes? There were so many things I didn't know, and maybe I made the decision without the complete picture, but from my point of view, it was all I could do. I'm a swindler by nature; gambling is a trait borne into my blood. Already I'm reassessing the angles. Han frozen in carbonite and on his way to Jabba the Hutt doesn't help anyone, least of all me. But it's not my fault.
Chewbacca won't believe that. Leia won't either. They'll see me as the bad guy. I never intended to be the hero but I didn't set out to put myself in league with Vader, either. I can't blame them for what they'll think of me now. I may be able to pull off a good con even at my worst, but I have no desire to talk myself out of this. Maybe I'm developing a conscience. No, not possible. I just know when a situation has been exhausted of its viability. There will be no further good to come out of this mess, not for me and not for Han.
Now Vader is speaking again and I can hardly believe what he's saying. I should have known. I'm better than this. I should have seen it coming. I am altering the deal, he tells me. It's not a deal at all anymore. A deal implies that both parties get something. I don't trust Vader enough to believe that I'll get the security he's promised. Perhaps I shouldn't have trusted him in the first place, but what else was I to do?
Funny that I'd never trust Han, yet I put my faith in Darth Vader. Maybe that's because Han has never left me so desperate that I had no choice. Is that what trust is? That hopeless thing that hangs in the empty spaces when there's nothing else left to cling to? I've never tried to define trust before, never had a use for it. Apparently Leia's last minute confession has made me maudlin.
A seed of a plan has taken root. I've always thought best on my feet and this is no exception. We may be outnumbered, outmaneuvered and generally out of luck, but Lando Calrissian has never been out of ideas. It's dicey at best, and it may end up costing me everything I've worked so hard for here. There are risks to weigh. If Vader does intend to keep his promise, taking this chance could be disastrous. On the other hand, it could save Han. If only I had more time to consider it.
We're taking them out into the hall now. Or maybe they're taking us. I suppose which side I stand on depends on your point of view. Han? He'll understand my betrayal some day. I'm sure of that. He would have done the same thing. Leia looks at me over her shoulder just once, sighing as if she's disappointed. I know that she expected more of me. She didn't like me from our introduction, that much I understood, but she didn't expect me to make things worse. Maybe putting up a fight wouldn't have made things as bad for my people as I feared. Maybe keeping the Empire out of Cloud City at all costs was too lofty a goal if it meant sacrificing a friend. Now even Chewbacca and the Princess are in danger.
And that's another thing. I didn't expect him to arrive with a woman, not Han. Well, it didn't so much surprise me that he arrived with a woman, but that it was the woman. Granted, we've had our fair share of competition over ladies in the past, made perfect fools of ourselves on many occasions, but I've never seen Han look at one like this. Oh, I can pretend not to notice, let him play it cool like he's always done before, but I've known him for long enough to recognize when something's changed. I taught him how to put up a masterful bluff when he helped me polish my flying skills. It's something I know he can do. He doesn't even try to bluff when she's in the room; he bears his emotions on his sleeve for everyone to see. He's not quite the scoundrel I remember anymore.
I know, he told her. I know? What kind of answer is that? She said she loved him and he said I know? When I get Han out of this mess, we're going to have to talk about that. And there you go. Looks like I made my decision when I wasn't even paying attention. There's nothing left now but to do it. There will be time on our way to the ship, and I know exactly what needs to be done. Like I said before, I've always got all the angles covered. I guess this means I haven't sold Han out just yet.
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