Tuesday, June 3, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 18: A Pair of Rogues

In a game of cards, Lando Calrissian lost the Millennium Falcon to Han Solo.  Do I need to say that again?  They were good friends at the time, a regular pair of rogues.  And then it ended.

They didn't even speak again for years.  Lando never acknowledged it, but anyone who knew him in Cloud City, when the dark mood hit him, it was always after he'd lost another game of cards, every time.  He was the picture of genial authority otherwise, so it was obvious, but no one ever asked him about it.  There were rumors he'd once had a ship, one he'd flown in the Kessel Run, famously completing its complicated maneuvers in less than twelve parsecs, but the ship was as much legend as anything else.  He was far too busy as an administrator, putting out bureaucratic brush fires, for the kind of nonsense such associations suggested.

One day, his aide Lobot asked him about it.  Normally Lobot was as discreet a man as could be.  On this day, however, he was the one who'd won the game, and seeing Lando's mood sour on him personally was perhaps more than he could handle.

"Sir?  Pardon me, but I have to ask."

"About what?"

"The ship," Lobot said.  "I wish I knew its name, but I don't.  I hope you know what I'm talking about."

Lando was silent for a moment, for so long Lobot wasn't even sure his boss had heard him.  Perhaps he'd been thinking of one of a thousand different responsibilities Lobot himself knew about but wasn't nearly qualified to handle personally.  That was a large part of the reason he admired Lando so much, why he would never have dared bring up such an apparently personal subject, if he hadn't felt such a sudden, urgent need.

"You know about that," Lando replied, almost as a question.

"There has been talk," Lobot said.

"A long time ago I had a friend," Lando said.  Again he went silent, and again Lobot wondered if that was all his boss was going to say.  But then he continued.  "I thought he was my friend, anyway.  I trusted him with everything I was.  I know this may be difficult to believe, my friend, but I wasn't always completely defined by Bespin.  I had a different life, a good one.  It was full of risks, and I shared them all with my friend.  Then I played a game of cards with him.  I think you and everyone else you've apparently been talking with guessed that much.  At one point, he wanted to raise the stakes.  He asked for me to put up my ship.  I didn't think anything of it.  I was feeling good.  I was winning.  I didn't think I had any real shot at losing.  I loved that ship.  Long story short, he cheated.  End of everything."

Lobot wasn't sure if he should believe what he'd just heard.  Lando had a habit for bluffing.  Maybe part of it was true.  Maybe the look his eyes had after card games had something to do with the ship, this friend of his, this prior life, and maybe it was entirely unrelated.  Was his boss really the type of man to take any of that so seriously?  He made a thousand far more important decisions every day.  It seemed impossible that he could be so petty.  Could he?

"Of course, sir," Lobot said.  He didn't say another word about it.  Some time later, this friend of Lando's showed up, in the very ship of all the talk.  The legendary ship.  The practically mythical ship.  Lobot didn't find it so impressive, but that might have had something to do with the fact that the current owner had clearly made a lot of modifications to it.  This was around the time the Empire had finally come to Cloud City.  Until then Lando had managed to keep his operation completely autonomous, which was just one of the many ways he managed to impress his staff, the whole population of Bespin, on a daily basis.  It was as if the rest of the galaxy didn't even exist.

Things happened.  Lando lost everything, apparently for the second time in his life.  This appeared to be all the motivation he needed to return to what he'd told Lobot his life had been before.  He joined the side of his friend again, this time as part of the Rebel Alliance.  His reputation gave him the rank of general, no questions asked.  He took all his most recent experience and whipped the Rebels into shape.  Made them respectable, just as Lobot thought he would.  Without Lando, the war could never have been won.  And apparently, without this friend of his.  It was a relationship Lobot would never understand.  But in the end, he could reconcile all the apparent contradictions in his boss.

He wondered if he could have a ride in that ship.

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