"Bring it back without a scratch, my--ow!"
Han's irritated mutter broke off in a yelp as the fused panel he'd been coaxing loose from the Millennium Falcon also broke off and went zinging across the hangar.
There was a smack, a huff, and Luke said, "You know, I can come back later. You don't have to throw things."
Han could hear him not trying very hard to keep from snickering, which probably meant he wasn't hurt. "Didn't mean to throw it, kid. It got away from me." He extricated himself from the Falcon's innards and poked his head out the hatch. "Sorry about that."
"No problem. Want a hand?"
"I don't need a hand, I need a parts warehouse." Han jumped down and sighed. "I don't know, maybe a lightsaber would help. Most of the access panels in the rear half of the ship are slagged or fused shut; I can't even get to where the worst engine damage ought to be." He gave the hull an affectionate slap. "But she still flies! ...For now. And Leia calls her a piece of junk."
Luke only shook his head and smiled.
Han tapped at a half-slagged exterior panel and tried prying open the engine compartment from this new angle.
"Well," Luke remarked, "Lando Calrissian flew it into the Death Star and out again while it was blowing up."
Han turned to stare at him. "I know that." He felt a faint electrical tingle and frowned up at his ship. "Feels like a short in there, maybe...."
"Um, no." Luke laughed a bit sheepishly. "I wasn't talking to you. I don't think that was an electrical short, either."
Han made a show of looking around the hangar and peering under the belly of the Falcon. "We're the only ones here, Luke."
"No. My father's here."
Luke sat down on a bench, winced, and removed a wrench from underneath him. "My father. Anakin Skywalker." A smile. "Not Darth Vader anymore. Jedi can become one with the Force when they die, and still be... part of the world. Able to appear and talk." He paused. "Kind of translucent and blue, like a hologram image, but a lot better quality."
"All right, Luke, I've admitted this Force business is real, I've seen you wave things around in the air without touching them... but you're telling me your father, Darth Vader, is roaming around on my ship as a ghost?" Han shook his head. "I don't do ghost stories. Did they give you painkillers when you visited medical? You sound kinda loopy." His eyes narrowed. "Did you actually visit medical?"
"I visited medical! And I am not loopy on painkillers." Luke paused. "Or on pain. I'm fine, honestly."
"So you're asking me to believe--" He followed Luke's gaze. Through the hatch. "That Darth Vader is on my ship?"
"Anakin Skywalker," Luke corrected him, "and... well, yeah. He says he's jealous."
"...Jealous?" Han asked suspiciously.
"He likes the ship. Says it doesn't look like junk if you like engines." Luke tilted his head and peered further in. "And he wishes he could be solid again and work on it."
"Ohhhh no," Han said. "No way." No way was Vader going to play with his ship.
Luke was laughing again. "Obi-Wan told me he was a good pilot. He says he was a good mechanic, too."
"I don't care if he was a good mechanic!"
"He says--" Luke's eyes widened, and he doubled over. "You're kidding!" he called.
Han looked from Luke, wheezing on the bench, to where the ghost of Darth Vader was supposedly prowling his ship. "Fine, I'll bite. What's he kidding about?"
Luke got control of himself, though tears were still leaking out of his eyes. "He says, when he was a kid on Tatooine, he built C3PO out of scrap parts."
Han whirled and climbed back into his ship. "You tell your dad's ghost," he called out, "three things."
"He can hear you," Luke told him.
"Whatever. First, I'm not surprised Threepio came off a scrap heap. Second, what did a kid on Tatooine want with a prissy protocol droid?"
"I think that's what he had parts for."
"And third," Han said, ignoring this and sticking his head briefly back out, "tell him, I've met Threepio. I've spent a lot of time with Threepio. And if he's presenting Threepio as an example of his mechanical skills...." He took a deep breath. "Then that is NOT A RECOMMENDATION!"
Original cover by Persephone_Kore. HTML formatting copyright 2006 TheForce.Net LLC.