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blasted children

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It was their third base since Yavin 4. Leia was a bit tired of this constant shift, moving the core of the rebellion from system to system every couple of months to avoid detection by spies of the Empire. She understood the logic, of course; but it was still exhausting. At least this planet had trees and a breathable atmosphere; their last base had been under the crust of a volcanic world, and popping up to the surface for a stroll wasn't really an option as the surface was more like a sea of lava. Moving their base into a nondescript building in what was basically the center of town was a decent trade off, though it did feel a little exposed.

“If we do not look like we're hiding anything, no one will suspect it of us,” was Mon Mothma's logic. And so far it seemed to be working. As long as Rogue Squadron didn't waltz in and out the front door in full uniform, it actually looked like they'd be able to keep a low profile.

The sound of a familiar voice shouting insults stirred Leia out of her musings. “Blast!” What in worlds had Han Solo gotten himself into now?

Shaking her head and feeling a headache coming on, Leia went to investigate the source of the yelling. She couldn't imagine what Han could have done in the three hours since he'd arrived to cause trouble...but knowing him, if there was trouble to be had he had certainly found it. Leia was going to kill him. She really was. The man had to be the worst influence on all the impressionable young personnel that she had ever seen.

The source of the noise, as it turned out, was a makeshift fighting ring in the mess hall. Someone had moved all the tables and chairs off to the sides, and a circle of bodies had formed, passing money and watching intently as the two men in the center of the ring grappled and fought. Leia narrowed her eyes. It was Han and Wedge Antilles, one of her Rogue Squadron pilots. But they had always appeared to get along in the past; what had set them on each other now? “What in the worlds...?”

“We're earning money.” Luke's voice was far too excited in her ear. She turned to the kid, kicking herself for having missed his approach. Luke was smiling, looking properly pleased with himself, and as confused as she was Leia couldn't help but be just a little amused, too. “We're going to be rich!”

Leia raised an eyebrow. “And how exactly are you doing all of that?” she asked.

Gesturing emphatically, Luke explained, “Wedge and Han made a deal, I guess they both used to pull versions of this when they were kids. The two of them pretended to get into it, and Chewie and Rogue Squadron and I are supposed to up the action and get people to bet, then we bet against the favorite, and at the last minute they turn the tables and we make three hundred credits, easy.”

It was both tragic and adorable to Leia that Luke saw three hundred credits as a fortune; but then, for him it probably was. “So you're all taking advantage of the rest of my staff...for three hundred credits?”

“We're not taking advantage of them; it's free entertainment. Nobody has to bet on it if they don't want to.”

It was like he was quoting what Han had probably told him about ten minutes ago to talk him into it. “And who do the odds favor right now?” she asked casually, for the purpose of observation.

“Odds favor Wedge, so at the end Han is going to turn around and –”

“Oh, I get the idea,” Leia assured him, shaking her head. Children. The best and the brightest of the Rebel Alliance's fighting force was composed of blasted children. “Put my money on Wedge,” she said with a smile.

For the first time, Luke seemed to realize that she might not wholly approve of what they were doing in the middle of their brand new base. “Okay...” he said slowly. “Um, but you do understand the plan, right? Han is meant to win.”

“Do you think he is going to be able to concentrate on anything other than me if I go right up to the edge there and just watch?”

Understanding dawned on the kid's face, and it was kind of adorable. “You're devious,” he realized with awe and admiration. “I'd lose three hundred credits just to see the look on his face when he sees you.”

Leia grinned. Children they may have been, but they were hers and she was proud. She felt hopeful thinking of what they might become.