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Beyond - Legends Lightforce

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Suzannah.Pearce, Sep 25, 2016.

  1. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Synopsis: Since the Battle of Endor, there has been no rest for Leia Organa as she warns the New Republic government of complacency and Han is frustrated. Now they must put their personal lives on hold again to investigate an ancient coded document and the strange disappearances from the Outer Rim which Leia fears have Imperial involvement. With the untimely appearance of a childhood friend threatening to throw them all into chaos once more, can Han protect Leia and can Luke persuade her to use her Force power to save them all?



    Prologue



    Perhaps Senator Organa would like to explain why she requires all these resources at a time when we need to be concentrating funds on restoring the Government?”

    A tall Neimoidian in official robes loudly addressed the room, his red eyes shining in his nose-less green face, his body language demanding an answer. He glanced around at the collection of ambassadors and senators gathered in the large room of the Chandrilian central government building as if inviting support for his question.

    Leia Organa, Princess and Senator of the New Republic, experienced military leader and diplomat was not intimidated. While younger than the other council officials present, she had been trained from a very early age for such situations and had long been the Rebel Alliance's most talented ambassador. Her face was expressionless, a mask she wore often while carrying out official duties. It gave nothing away and covered the multitude of emotions that burned below the surface and that she was so good at hiding.

    As the esteemed Ambassador must surely be aware, the fall of Emperor Palpatine has not signified the end of the war. We have already seen fierce fighting and sustained heavy losses in the battles on Sterdic IV and Naboo to name just two. I am aware of the importance of maintaining government but Ambassador San'teefa is in danger of becoming complacent. If we ignore the very real threats posed by the Empire's remaining forces, we will allow them to build strength and all our efforts will be for nothing.” Leia kept her voice calm as she delivered her explanation. Without making a show of the fact she was looking, she took note of the ambassadors around the room who nodded in agreement. Some, she knew, would not support her further than the nod if pressed to do so but that was a negotiation for another day. She was beginning to feel tired. It had been a very long day of similarly fraught meetings, her robes were beginning to press down on her shoulders and her feet were sore from hours of standing.

    San'teefa seemed annoyed that his challenge was not as successful as he had hoped.

    You have already been allowed to keep half the fleet for this purpose, your Highness. These smaller skirmishes are insignificant. The Empire has been crushed and now it is imperative that we concentrate on government to retain order and rebuild the once lucrative trade routes.” he continued.

    Cato Neimoidia had once been an opulent world whose trade barons had offered hospitality that rivalled the best in the galaxy during the time of the trade federations. Leia was aware that the barons had been particularly keen to assist Emperor Palpatine's rise to power, furthering their own ambitious agendas. As far as she was concerned traders and businessmen had no place influencing the rule of government; profit and greed always swayed their judgement. People like that received one good dividend and they invested it in enterprises like the development of clone armies and look where that had got everyone. No. It should be kept completely separate. Perhaps San'teefa had such an agenda which is why he was so aggressive towards her but she would have to temper her disdain.

    While I understand that encouraging trade is important to the prosperity of the galaxy, the New Republic recalls more ships every day to protect member worlds and my men are spread thin. Protection must also come through actively seeking out the remnants and disbanding them before they can be of threat. I can't do that if my forces are depleted. People's lives are still at great risk and that must surely take precedence over trade profits” she emphasised, as calmly as she could.

    Senator Organa makes a good point and, if the intention of the New Republic is to eventually hand protection of member worlds back to each of us, perhaps it is not necessary to recall ships from the Alliance as quickly as we are.” The Senator from the Hosnian system spoke up. A greying man with a face that had seen the strains of the long Imperial regime, he addressed his statement to an older, serene looking woman sitting at one end of the room, rather than to the Neimoidian ambassador, who took further offence at this. San'teefa's voice became agitated.

    Senator Organa is in danger of warmongering. She has been fighting for so long that perhaps she and her Jedi brother should return to the battle field and leave the political decisions to those with more experience.” he said cuttingly, waving a hand in the direction of Luke Skywalker, who was standing behind Leia and out of the main discussion area. “Her legitimate senate seat was surely lost a long time ago along with the destruction of Alderaan whose demise was probably caused by it's lack of planetary defence, something she is now suggesting we offer our own planets, and the Jedi are long gone and can no longer help us.” This last remark hit home and Leia felt her ire rising. In any other company, she would have reacted but here she had to remain in control. Luke didn't move from his position. He remained standing, his arms clasped in front of him inside his Jedi robes with his hood raised. He looked like he was sleeping standing up but Leia knew he was listening to every word.

    The betrayal and destruction of the Jedi was what led to the imbalance in the Force and in the galaxy.” Leia was emphatic. “My brother seeks help only to restore the sacred temples and begin an academy. The future of the galaxy depends on restoring that balance and the Jedi will help us do that. It is just as important as a fair and democratic political system.”

    The older woman rose to address the room. Clearly the chair of this meeting, her white robes of office were immaculately presented, her presence peaceful and forceful at the same time.

    Leia glanced at Mon Mothma as she began to speak. One of the Alliance's most respected leaders and recently elected First Chancellor of the New Republic, Chandrila was her home planet and centre of the new government, at least for the time being. The wide-held fear of putting power into the hands of a single leader again was a fear Leia shared and, when it had been proposed that the seat of galactic government should rotate between member worlds, Chandrila being the first to take up the banner, she had voted in favour. The Chandrilians, like their climate, were temperate people who valued democracy and gave each of their citizens a voice. It was a perfect choice for the start of the new government, laying down good foundations that Leia approved of. She had tremendous respect for the older woman, whom she had known since she had been introduced to the political arena by her adoptive father, Viceroy Bail Organa, when she was a young girl. She had come to see her as more than just a leader; a motherly figure who she had often sought advice from and confided in as she was growing both personally and within her political career.

    Leia's credentials and those of her brother are not in question here Ambassador.” Mon Mothma stopped Ambassador San'teefa in his tracks, her voice quiet but authoritative. “Nor is her considerable experience up for debate. Alderaan may have been peaceful with no planetary defence systems but it's security forces were superior. Without it's resources and assistance, there would have been no Rebel Alliance in the first place and without Luke Skywalker, the Emperor would still be in power and we would not be having this discussion.” She turned to Leia.

    I understand your concerns, Leia. I know that you would not bring this matter to us without due cause. However, I must also be mindful of our promise to return each member world's ships and troops to them so that they may begin rebuilding their defences and some are insisting this happen sooner rather than later. I am afraid I am not in a position to refuse them after all they have done for us during the war. I will put your case to a few worlds who might be willing to wait.”

    Thank you, Chancellor. That's all I can ask.” Leia conceded. It was disappointing but Mon Mothma was, indeed, in a difficult position. It would mean further negotiations with sympathetic leaders to secure alternative funding for ships and resources, which meant, in turn, more meetings like this one and she was exhausted.

    The meeting was adjourned after the discussion of several other agenda items that Leia mostly closed her ears to and she left the meeting room, followed by Luke, his Jedi robes flowing behind him, giving him a commanding presence. Walking through the wide corridors back to their temporary chambers, she was frustrated. She turned to Luke who still hadn't said a word.

    Warmongering?” Leia asked heatedly. She wasn't really asking a question, rather disbelieving of what she had heard. Her eyes were wide with exasperation and the gesticulation of her hands and the speed of her walk further served to illustrate her annoyance. “Really? Am I warmongering?” This time it was a question. Luke removed his hood and stopped her walking with a gentle hand on her upper arm.

    Leia, you know that's not true. He was just trying to get to you.” he smiled. His gentle blue eyes calming her down.

    Well, it almost worked.” She sighed and continued along the corridor, more slowly this time. “It's so frustrating. I had hoped for a better response but now it seems we will have to make do with what we have. It means more individual and probably protracted negotiations and I just don't want to stay a moment longer.”

    You did your best and that's all you can do. We'll manage. We always manage.” Luke reassured her. She gave him a long look. He was always so patient and conciliatory. She wished he had been with her throughout her teenage years in the Senate, to calm her easily agitated temper.

    What will you do now?” she asked him. “Are you going to stay on here and make use of the archives? Would you like me to stay on and help you?”

    No, that's alright. I've spoken to the people I need to for the moment and I was going to come back with you if that's OK. I'd like to spend some time reading through the archive data I already have.” Luke sometimes spent hours in the archives on several planets that had good sources of information such as Chandrila and Coruscant but it could get a bit mind blowing and it often helped to take copies back to his own quarters on the base if simply for a change of scenery.

    OK then.” Leia continued. “If you have a moment, I'd like you to help me with something.” she said. Luke looked enquiringly at her.

    Oh? What's that?”

    Just something that General Madine brought to my attention. We'll discuss it on the way home.” Leia paused by one of the large windows, the view suddenly catching her eye, and gazed out over the lakes of the Galadian State Park in the centre of Hanna City. “It's beautiful here, isn't it?” she said, her mind momentarily transported to another place.

    Yes, it is.” he agreed. And a world away from my desert home on Tatooine, he thought.

    One day we might have time to stop and enjoy the beauty in the galaxy.” There was longing in her voice. He put his arm round her shoulder.

    Come on.” he said. “Let's get home.”



    Chapter 1



    It had been several months since the battle on Endor that resulted in the death of Emperor Palpatine and the collapse of the Empire but there had been little time to rest for members of the former Rebel Alliance. Small Imperial factions were scattered throughout the galaxy, some so far out that news of the Empire's demise had not yet reached them, others forging on regardless, believing that rumours of the Alliance's success were exaggerated. Comfortable in their own pockets of power, they enforced their long held oppressive ideals with dogged loyalty. Mon Mothma, feeling strongly that the Emperor had managed to gain much of his power due to complacency within the Republic, was keen to re-order the new government, giving each world the chance to lead so as not to put power into the hands of one person again. With a view to de-militarising the Alliance forces and leaving defence of member worlds to the worlds themselves, she was in the process of recalling the fleet and decommissioning them, leaving small groups based on several worlds co-ordinating a clean up operation.

    One such base was on Thyfeera, a planet in the Jaso System on the Inner Rim. During the Clone Wars, Thyfeera had been the main site of Bacta production and control of this production has been fought over for many years resulting in the brutal Bacta War. Now under the banner of the New Republic, Thyfeera had seemed an ideal place for a small but secret Alliance settlement. Thyfeera's tropical atmosphere, with it's spectacular mountains and lush forests made it reasonably comfortable for humans and machines alike, unlike some of the bases the Alliance had had to endure, such as the frozen world of Hoth. Thyfeera's intricate network of caves had enabled the Alliance to set up a base hidden in the mountainside, unobtrusive to the rest of the inhabitants and a convenient spot from which to run supplies to other nearby systems. With landing platforms jutting out into the open air and surrounding plateaux, the base was shielded from the more inhabited regions by a belt of rocky mountains.

    #

    Han Solo was standing on top of his ship, the Millennium Falcon, parked on one of the smaller landing platforms. He was enjoying the late afternoon sunshine as he made repairs to a transformer for the communications array. Holding safety goggles to his face and soldering the wires in place, he had a lot on his mind. Once reckless smuggler turned General of the Alliance during the battle of Endor, he had stayed on to help where he could, leading several sorties to clean up imperial factions and running cargo and supplies in the Falcon to Alliance satellite groups set up in other systems.

    He was tired and feeling a little frustrated with his lot. His ship needed new parts, much of which the Alliance had been supplying, but he could do with taking it to his contacts on Takodana who he could always rely on to supply the specially modified parts he liked that made the Falcon a customised and unusually weaponised freighter. On top of this, he had had no time to spend with the one woman who had been responsible for getting him into all this in the first place and with whom he had unexpectedly fallen in love. Leia Organa had her own duties to perform. Her sought after experience kept her busy co-ordinating Alliance movements from their main base or travelling to the seat of the newly formed Republic on Chandrila, Mon Mothma's home world, as Ambassador and representative in order to push her cause and raise support for her continued fight to rid the galaxy of Imperial remnants.

    Leia was a passionate and driven woman whom he found infuriating and incredible all at the same time. She got inside his head; her beauty, her versatility, her tenacious resolve to do good and her annoying ability to make more sense than he did. She wasn't like any woman he had ever known before or would have imagined ever having a relationship with but they had an unmistakeable chemistry and she had managed to steal his loyalty and his heart. If he was being honest with himself, he would have to admit he had loved her from the moment he saw her during their escape from the Death Star, even though she had spent the majority of the first few years they had known each other, yelling at him.

    Han was awaiting her imminent return from one such diplomatic trip. Her ship was on it's final approach to the system, he had been informed, and he was eager to see her face again. Chewbacca, his co-pilot and old friend appeared below and called up to him in Shryiiwook to ask how the repair was going.

    It's done. Try it now.” Han replied and the Wookie disappeared inside the Falcon again. A moment later, he returned and gave Han a positive sounding growl and the equivalent of a thumbs up to indicate the array was now working. “Great Chewie. Let's move on to the hyper-drive checks then.” Han started to pack away the soldering kit when the sound of ship engines could be heard in the distance. He looked up, shielding his eyes from the sun and could see the Vohemar coming in low over the trees on approach to it's landing platform, some way from the Falcon. It was a Corellian CR-90 Corvette class ship, approximately five times larger than the Falcon and had been in Leia's service since the Battle of Endor. An old ship with countless battle scars from it's various fire-fights, most of which Leia has been present for, it was still functional and Leia liked the familiarity of using it rather than any of the faster, newer options that had been offered to her. Taking a newer ship that could be put to more effective use than going backwards and forwards on diplomatic trips would have been, she had said, a waste of resources when the Vohemar was perfectly serviceable. She knew the ship and it's capabilities and trusted the crew, who had been with her for many years and, besides, it reminded her of the Tantive IV, the same class of ship she was aboard when she left her fated planet of Alderaan and that gave her comfort.

    The sun reflected off it's outer hull as it manoeuvred into position and settled gently onto the landing platform, steam erupting from it's underside servos. The roar of the engines died down to a low hum as the side hatch opened and two Alliance soldiers exited the ship to stand either side of the ramp. They were followed by a tall, smartly dressed female senatorial aide.

    Commander Eldon Blake had risen up the ranks quickly, catching Leia's eye as an acutely intelligent and trustworthy confident, just the sort of qualities she looked for in an assistant. Her uniform was pristinely presented, a deep maroon colour with shining buckles down the front of her jacket but her build was in sharp contrast to that of her employer. She was easily as tall as Han at approximately six foot and some, and roughly the same age, with an athletic figure and ash blonde hair sharply tied back from her face.

    Han watched the entourage intently, squinting into the sunshine, and eventually, his vigilance was rewarded. Leia's diminutive figure emerged from inside the ship, her full length robes of office appearing first as she walked down the ramp. Her long dark hair was braided in a high bun with a single braid hanging down the back of her cream cloak to her waist. Han's heart leapt at the sight of her. Flanked now by her entourage, her Alderaanian royal insignia sparkling in the sunshine on the front of her blue dress, her walk was characteristically regal and determined and her robes flowed, almost like water, as she moved.

    Nearing the Falcon, she glanced up, mid-conversation with Blake, spotted Han and waved. She detoured to talk to him, Blake remaining a little way off to give her some privacy. He crouched down, still clutching a hydro-spanner and leant his arms on his knees. Chewbacca simultaneously appeared on the ramp of the Falcon. Growling a happy greeting, he hurried down to hug her, his enormous furry arms enveloping her affectionately and messing up her hair.

    Hi Chewie. How's it going?” she laughed. Chewbacca growled a long explanation, gesturing to Han and shaking his head as if to say that Han had kept him busy with repairs for too long “Really?” Leia grinned “He's waited all day to see me?” Chewbacca nodded and growled a see you later then went inside the Falcon again. He was always sensitive to leaving the two of them alone.

    Smiling broadly, Leia brushed a wayward strand of hair from her face and looked up at Han.

    All day?” she called up to him jokingly

    He exaggerates” Han defended and they both laughed.

    You're back early. How did the trip go?” Leia enquired.

    No problems. A simple drop and run.” he replied, smiling back at her. “How about yours?” Leia looked a little reticent and sighed.

    Oh, you know how these things are.” Han did. He had accompanied her on some of them and the political wrangling and petty individual agendas were far too much for him. It went straight over his head and he couldn't understand how Leia managed to keep her patience while she was negotiating deals. If it was left to him, he would have shot some of them by now. Given half the chance though, he was sure she would have shot some of them too but she was a highly trained diplomat and exceptional control was part of the job. “Everyone seems too pre-occupied with setting up the New Republic government that they have forgotten the fact that we still need the Alliance fleet to clean up the leftovers of the Empire. One success, albeit a large one, and they think it's all over.” Her voice raised slightly in frustration. “I've tried to secure a little funding and I have managed to gain support from a few Senators but not enough really.” she continued. She was looking tired from the long trip, he observed.

    Luke not with you?” Han asked. He knew Luke had accompanied her on this trip and was surprised he hadn't been with her when she returned.

    He stayed to sort out some of his own matters. He'll be back soon” She sounded vague.

    Are you going to have some time to yourself now? You look like you could use some rest.” he enquired hopefully. He was concerned for her tendency to overwork but was also keen to grab some personal time with her.

    I've been called to a meeting in the Command Centre with General Madine, something about some strange activity near here, so I have no idea.”

    I want to talk to you.” Han said just as Eldon Blake approached and spoke quietly to her. Leia listened then turned back to Han

    I'm sorry. I have to go, they're waiting for me.” She gave him a resigned shrug “I'll catch up with you later on, OK?”

    OK” he smiled wryly and watched her as she went inside the base at a brisk walk. Always in demand, he thought, it was a little unfair of them not to allow her time to herself. She was one of their most highly skilled leaders but she wouldn't be much good to them exhausted.

    #

    In the Command Centre, there was the usual buzz. Personnel listened and replied to chatter over the comms channels with other personnel of outlying bases, their distant and distorted voices echoing round the cavern room. Sparsely equipped with mismatched, ageing consoles and machinery, the command centre was dimly lit and a green glow from the central display console lit up the faces of a group of military personnel gathered around it. Several of them looked up as Leia and Blake wended their way round display consoles and desks to the central display, one moving towards Leia in a greeting; a bearded man whose red hair was beginning to dull with middle age.

    Princess. It's good to see you. I trust your flight was uneventful.” General Madine shook her hand. One of the generals who orchestrated the Battle of Endor, Madine had known Leia professionally and personally for many years. She trusted him implicitly and valued his counsel so was delighted when he had accepted the role to stay with her on Thyfeera rather than accept a commission elsewhere.

    It was, General. Sadly, so was my meeting but that's a story for later. What do you have to show me?” Madine turned to the console, pulling up a holo-image of the landscape of a planet on the outer rim.

    Our scouting party on Rattatak have reported some unusual activity. Speaking to local sources, it seems that they have had some disappearances which cannot be explained.”

    Disappearances?” Leia said enquiringly. The general indicated the holo-image as several spots appeared, indicating different settlement locations.

    It seems that some of the inhabitants have been going missing from these areas over a period of several months, they say. There were vague reports of sightings of Imperial transports but our scouts haven't been able to confirm that. All they can say is that those reporting the sightings have said they were heading out towards the Codian Moon.”

    Strange.” Leia mused. “The Codian Moon, there's not much there. Just asteroids. No settlements.”

    That's not all. They have uncovered a document which they have been told might hold an Imperial code. If we can decipher it, it might be able to shed more light on what's happening.”

    Can we see it?” Leia asked. Another officer answered her.

    The scouts are bringing it back as we speak, Your Highness. It's contained on an ancient transcript, not electronic and in a language they can't translate.” Leia was interested now. That was a very old and unusual method of passing information. Not one she had thought the Empire was familiar with using. “They should be here by the morning.” the commander continued. “We thought you would want to look at it as soon as possible.”

    Thank you, Commander. I would. Let me or Commander Blake know as soon as it arrives.”

    Yes, Your Highness.” the commander turned his attention to a lieutenant who was waiting to speak to him. General Madine took Leia aside.

    There has been mention of slavery.” he said quietly. “Something that was more rife a number of years ago when you were campaigning against the practice but not impossible to imagine now. I just hope it's not the case.”

    Leia had spent her early years, when the Alliance was still young, running covert missions with her father specifically to disrupt slave trade routes. The Empire commonly used the money from such ill-gotten gains to finance itself and anti-slavery was a cause particularly close to her heart. She abhorred the practice.

    I had hoped we had cut off most of the slave traders by now.” Leia sounded confused. “The main slave operations were the spice mines on Kessel and Alzoc III but I thought we had wiped out those establishments long ago. I can't see a reason for it. I'll need to look at this document and then we might be more enlightened.” She continued, almost in a whisper. “Incidentally, the information you provided while I was on Chandrila may be more than coincidence now that I hear this. I have asked Luke to look into it. However, I would rather we keep it between us for the moment until we know more.” The general nodded.

    I thought the same. Let me know what he uncovers then.”

    Certainly, General.” Then slightly louder she said, “Unfortunately, my meeting on Chandrila didn't result in more resources. It seems that many worlds are reluctant to let us hold on to their ships any longer and Mon Mothma is under pressure to return troops to their loved ones. I can't blame them really but it puts us in a difficult situation should we need reinforcements quickly.”

    Let's hope we don't need the extra troops for this situation.” the general looked concerned. A second general interjected.

    We've had to send out most of our X-Wings to support the transport of refugees back to the Hosnian system and we are running dangerously low on supplies. Don't the council realise our situation?” General Kobar, a rotund Besalisk sounded angry, the wattle under his chin inflating and deflating furiously. “They should spend more time on bases like this and see what we have to deal with.”

    I understand, General and with regards to some, I would agree with you but Mon Mothma has seen her share of battle and knows the sacrifices we are all making. It's difficult to be the one to make these tough decisions sometimes.” Leia tried to explain but she knew how hard it was for military personnel, managing for months under difficult circumstances to see what they perceived to be privileged people making decisions that affected them. She had been accused of it herself and most of the personnel on Thyfeera hadn't had any down time since Endor. “We'll all have to muck in, General, that's all. We'll manage.” She tried Luke's reassuring technique. It was more to convince herself than General Madine or General Kobar but it seemed to work. “Why don't you run over the current positions of all our personnel and tell me the state of the supplies and I will see whether I can find a solution to take the pressure off a little. Perhaps I can get General Solo to suggest some good sources of cheap supplies.” She took General Kobar aside by one of his four arms with a side glance at General Madine who smiled and turned his attention to the holo-display. This was going to take several hours, she realised and she would have no time for refreshment this evening. Still, what was one more meal if her time meant she improved moral.
     
  2. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Chapter 2



    In her quarters later that evening, Leia had showered and just grabbed a drink when her room door chimed. Throwing on a robe, she pressed the control to open the door to find C-3PO, her protocol droid standing in the entrance.

    Mistress Leia, you told me to let you know when Master Luke made contact and Artoo has relayed a message to say you are required.” 3PO's metallic, expressionless face nevertheless managed to convey the impression that he was hoping she would confide in him more about the intriguing message. His slightly pompous demeanour seemed out of place on a military base but Leia had had 3PO for as long as she could remember and she found his little idiosyncrasies easy to ignore.

    Thank you, 3PO. Tell him I'm on my way.” She closed the door, not wanting to invite enquiries from the droid as to what it was all about or whether she was following procedure. She dressed quickly, throwing a heavy woven wrap over her tight fitting trousers and half-top for warmth. She rubbed her hair vigorously between her hands to dry it a little. She didn't have time to do it properly but leaving it loose, it would soon dry in the evening air. She just snatched a quick moment to punch a message into her data pad before grabbing a pre-packed utility sack, slinging it over one shoulder and leaving the chamber.

    Keeping to the shadows as much as possible, she made her way through the base to a small exit door at the end of the East Corridor which she knew would be little used at this time of day and which opened up at the very edge of the base onto the foothills of the mountain behind. It would soon be dark and she didn't want to be seen leaving. Opening the hatch and waiting in the doorway for a moment, she scanned the area to make sure no-one was about, adjusted the pack she was carrying more comfortably on her shoulder and exited quickly, moving stealthily behind some storage containers that were piled nearby. She checked the immediate area again and then headed for the foothills at a jog.

    #

    From his vantage point in the cockpit of the Falcon, Han saw a movement by the East exit hatch and leaned forward in his seat, squinting to more clearly make out what had caught his attention. As the figure made for the hills, he knew immediately who it was. He recognised her small frame and the way she moved. Her long hair was hanging loose, her dress was reminiscent of some of the indigenous mountain people he had seen in the vicinity and, as she glanced back over her shoulder furtively, his curiosity was peeked. He frowned. What was she up to? It wasn't like her to leave the base alone but he knew she wasn't a stupid woman so she must have a good reason. Pushing himself out of his seat he ran to the exit ramp of the Falcon, grabbing his long coat and blaster as he went, just in case he should need either, and decided to follow her. He met Chewbacca returning with supplies as he pulled his coat on. Chewbacca growled an enquiry as to where he was going in such a hurry.

    The Princess is up to something, Chewie. Stay here... and keep the comms open in case I need you.” he added. Chewbacca nodded and growled an affirmative as Han made off at a run in the direction he had last seen Leia.

    #

    By the time he reached the foothills, Leia was quite a way ahead and beginning to climb the steeper, rockier terrain. She flicked one side of her wrap over the opposite shoulder so that she was wrapped up against the cold evening air and surveyed the climb above as she went. Han held back so that she wouldn't see him. He was aware that her covert behaviour meant she didn't want to be discovered and calling out might give her away but he was also half afraid of her retribution should she catch him sneaking up on her. He watched as she confidently negotiated the rocks and shingle and then moved to a closer vantage point behind a large boulder.

    Leia reached the foot of a much steeper outcrop of rocks and paused to catch her breath. She had been travelling at quite a pace so far, he assumed so that she could get into the hills before she was spotted. As she rested, she turned to look in his direction. Her eyes seemed to look at exactly the spot where he was hidden, although in the darkness, she couldn't have seen him. He swore to himself. If she caught him, she would be mad he was following her. He wasn't entirely sure why he was following her but his urge to keep her safe was becoming a habit. After a minute or so, she obviously decided she was alone and turned her attention back to choosing the best route up the hillside. Reaching back, she took a band from her wrist with her teeth and, using it to tie her hair loosely behind her out of the way, she began to climb.

    Han moved his position and kept an eye on her progress. He was hot in his long coat and wished he hadn't brought it. Sweat began to run down his back from his exertion to keep up with her. The cloth of Leia's wrap swayed as she reached up to grab onto higher rocks, revealing her bare skin below her half top and he admired her toned body as she pulled herself up. She was agile and fit and kept up an annoyingly steady pace. He was in danger of losing her, he thought, as he squinted in the now fading light to pick out her form on the side of the mountain. If he lost her, he would be stuck here all night waiting to face the embarrassment in the morning when she returned.

    At the top of the first peak, the ground levelled off and Leia reached it, stopping to rest again, putting her hands on the small of her back and stretching backwards to ease her muscles. She turned to take in the view of the Alliance base below, marvelling at the way the twin moons picked out the detail of the rocky landscape. She took in the fresh night air with deep breaths. It was nice to be away from the demands of base duties and have some time to clear her thoughts. Still, she had a purpose for being here and she couldn't take up too much time ruminating on the beauty of it all. She turned and continued along the plateau at a confident pace.

    #

    Han also reached the plateau and continued after her, keeping her just in sight, relieved at the more level ground. After about a mile, he ducked quickly down behind some rocks as a second figure emerged from the darkness. Han's heart missed a beat. The figure was dressed in full-length dark cloak and was masculine in stature, shorter than Han but taller than Leia. The moon reflected off the cloak, picking out the edges but not showing the face of the figure which was contained within the darkness of the cowl. Han was immediately frightened for Leia but she approached the figure and took his offered hand, moving in to greet him with a kiss on the cheek. Immediately, Han recognised the other man. It was Luke. His recognition was confirmed when Luke removed his hood and spoke to Leia, indicating that she should follow him. She said something in return but Han couldn't hear them from this distance. She let him help her as they began to climb down the other side of the peak and disappeared from view.

    Han emerged from his hiding place and jogged to catch up, a little more relaxed that he knew this was why Leia was here but still curious. However, when he reached the edge where they had descended, they were nowhere to be seen. He hadn't taken that long to get there, just a few seconds. Where could they have gone? He put his hands on his hips and his eyes searched the darkness. While he was considering the fact that there should have been plenty enough light from the two moons for him to see them, a voice spoke from behind him and his heart jumped.

    You'd make a lousy spy”. Leia stood regarding him with her arms folded. She was giving him that look that always made him feel guilty.

    Well, so would you.” he retorted in an attempt to protect himself. “I managed to follow you all this way without you noticing.”

    I spotted you at the foothills.” she informed him. So she had seen him.

    Why didn't you say anything then?” he replied in a mildly frustrated way.

    I could have stopped you.” she conceded. “But I thought the climb would serve you right for sneaking around. Did you not consider that I might have mistaken you for a bandit or an Imperial agent and shot you?” she asked crossly.

    I hoped you wouldn't.” he raised his eyebrows at her. “But you were the one sneaking off without telling even me where you were going. Besides I was worried about you out here in pirate country alone.” He held his arms out in an exasperated manner.

    Luke bided his time, looked between the two of them, his eyes holding a resigned expression. He was used to the two of them bickering and was waiting patiently for it to subside so that he could get a word in edgeways but Leia didn't look like she was quite finished.

    I don't need your permission to leave the base by myself.” she said indignantly. “However, I would have told you had you asked. Besides, I sent a message to Blake to let her know where I was.” She tilted her head on one side and put on her challenging, angry face. “It's a wonder I managed to keep myself alive before you came along to protect me.”

    Well, pardon me for being concerned about you.” Han had to fight hard to stop himself adding Your Worship to the end of this last comment. An expression he used to annoy her, he had promised not to call her that again but her imperious expression was tempting him to push her buttons a little more. He put his hand on his forehead, suddenly tired of the argument. Luke took the cue and coughed politely, reaching out his hand to shake Han's.

    Hi Han. It's good to see you. It would be nice to have another opinion on this anyway.” He looked at Leia as if to say that should probably be the end of the matter. Her arms were still folded but her expression softened and Luke decided to move away to give them some space. He had a way of adding calm to a situation. Either that or Leia had read Han's concern as genuine because she unfolded her arms and moved closer to him.

    I'm sorry.” Her tone was gentler and she brushed the back of his hand with hers. “I should have told you what I was doing.” She glanced up at him to gauge his reaction.

    I'm sorry I worried.” he replied, putting his arms round her and kissing her on the forehead. “I know you can look after yourself. I just can't help it.”

    I know.” she smiled. Secretly it was one of the things she loved about him. His protective attention towards her. His offhand way of showing her he cared.

    Just out of interest,” His voice was now brighter. “how did you manage to climb up here so fast? You came up the side of that hill like a Gamorean Rockmelder”

    I'm from Alderaan, remember?” she laughed. “All mountains.” she elaborated. He had never been to Alderaan but had seen holo-images of it's landscape and came to the realisation that she must have spent a lot of time mountain trekking. She playfully tapped him on the backside before jogging ahead of him to catch up with Luke. Turning and taking a few backwards steps, she called “It's good for the legs.” Smiling provocatively, she turned back round towards Luke who was waiting for them to join him. Han watched the way her hips moved as she walked.

    Yes, I can see that.” he said quietly to himself.

    I heard that!” she called without looking back. Han smiled.

    Luke and Leia squatted down behind a small outcrop of rocks that overlooked a vast valley below as Han joined them. Luke handed Leia a pair of macro-binoculars.

    That's the facility but there's been little activity in the last couple of hours.” he reported. Leia adjusted the macro-binoculars and squinted through them, trying to focus them in the darkness.

    I don't know.” she mused. “It looks pretty unassuming at the moment. Have you seen anything suspicious?” She handed the macro-binoculars over to Han who put them to his eyes.

    It's lit pretty well.” he observed. “Search lights and sensors. What's going on then?” He looked at Luke for an explanation.

    Leia asked me to look into the reports General Madine received about suspicious activity near here. Apparently inhabitants of some of the settlements have been going missing and now I hear what Leia has told me, it seems the same is happening on Rattatak. I searched around and found this facility and I've been watching it since we came back from Chandrila. So far, I've noticed a few vehicles coming and going that look like personnel carriers. They could be carrying people but they go inside fairly quickly so I can't confirm that.”

    What do you think?” Leia asked him.

    The vehicles might be Imperial class, although there are no markings and they're a bit beaten up. But the people manning the facility are in an array of clothing, some native and some different uniforms that I don't recognise. I would suggest it's some sort of Imperial facility but maybe one that's not directly controlled. Perhaps they're going it alone.” Luke replied.

    What about the people? What are they doing with them?” Han asked.

    All I've seen so far are personnel transports going inside and one transport vessel landing and leaving earlier today. They could have been moving the people but I couldn't see for sure.” Luke delivered his observations and Leia bit her lower lip.

    Do you think they are moving slaves?” she asked. “It was a suggestion General Madine made.” The thought made her feel sick.

    I can't be sure.” Luke replied. “All I can gather from my local enquiries is that the people are being moved off-world but I haven't been able to ascertain any other details. The next ship that comes in, I'm going to get Artoo to scan it's trajectory and see if we can pinpoint where it's going.” Leia took the macro-binoculars back from Han and looked through them again.

    Madine said the scouts on Rattatak thought ships were headed towards the Codian Moon but they couldn't confirm that. It's a wonder we haven't seen these ships and they haven't seen ours.” she said.

    I think it's because this mountain range is positioned so that they take a flight path in the opposite direction.” Luke surmised.

    Well, there's not much activity now. Maybe we should wait till morning and see what happens, then we can decide if we need to send in a small ground force for further investigation.” Leia suggested. Luke agreed.

    I'll tell Chewie not to expect us but to be on standby just in case there's trouble.” Han said and went back onto the plateau to use his communicator. Luke and Leia watched him go and then looked at each other and smiled. Han was always expecting trouble and, to be fair, when they were all together, he was usually right.
     
  3. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Chapter 3

    The three settled themselves in a flat area that Luke had been using as a camp for the past couple of nights. Artoo was waiting patiently for them and beeped a greeting, rocking from side to side on his tripod legs. Leia greeted him back. She felt a great affection for the little droid. He had been in her service since Alderaan and had got them all out of some tight spots. He and 3PO were often seen together, bickering like an ageing, married couple but now he was Luke's loyal companion.
    The camp was surrounded by several large rocks, making it both sheltered and hidden from view. Luke lit a fire while Leia removed blankets from her pack to use as bedding for the night. Putting a pot over the fire, Luke and Leia pooled supplies; a few local vegetable based ingredients Leia had managed to obtain from the base and some mountain rat that Luke had caught and prepared earlier, and managed to create a warming stew. Watching them work together, chatting and laughing, Han thought they reminded him of a couple of kids on a camping adventure. No-one would have guessed that they had only known they were twins a few months or that they had been separated for most of their lives. It was like they had always been together. The way they laughed at each other's jokes and the way Leia relaxed in Luke's company made Han smile. He had never had family, being orphaned very young, and often felt the loneliness of it but, along with Chewbacca, these two were the closest thing to it.
    The food was good and Han expressed his enjoyment.
    Alderaanian stew.” Leia said. “It's not the exact ingredients but it's pretty close. I asked Luke to catch something meaty in case we had to stay.” She smiled at Luke.
    It's really good.” Han said, sincerely. The flavour was spicy and the meat strangely tender.
    Even with the mountain rat?” Luke asked raising an eyebrow. Han grinned.
    Well, I've eaten worse.”
    They spent the evening eating their dinner, sitting cross-legged in front of the fire telling each other tales of similar nights in their past, trying to best each other with the strangest things they had had to survive on. Leia told how she and two friends had taken it upon themselves to climb a forbidden peak in the mountains behind Aldera Palace to pick Candala fruit. It only grew in one spot and was so sweet, they couldn't wait for the celebration feast when it was supplied to them. They had eaten so much of it, they had all felt sick and slightly intoxicated and were caught by her father climbing back in through a palace window with fruit stained clothes. She was animated as she told the story, her eyes lighting up at the childhood memory. Luke described wamp rat hunting and having to make desert frog stew, when there was a plague of frogs on the moisture farm he shared with his uncle and aunt, a concoction which had turned all their mouths green for a week. Han beat them both with his tale of the time he and Chewbacca had had to hide out in the dunes of the Goazon Badlands while on a particularly hairy smuggling trip and had been forced to eat sand worms with bright red crunchy shells that oozed black globulous liquid when they were bitten into. The smell was so bad they had to cover their noses to eat them. Han's vivid description made Leia screw her face up in horror and make disgusted screams and they all laughed until their eyes watered.
    As night drew on, Han leant with his back against one of the large rocks, his legs outstretched and Leia leant against his chest while they listened to Luke describe his plans to revive the Jedi Temple and start a training academy.
    I think it's wonderful, what you're doing.” Leia told him, full of admiration. “The Jedi were protectors of the galaxy for many years and in better times. But while most will support you there are some who will be afraid of their resurgence. You will need to be careful. I will do what I can to help you.” She had many friends in the Senate who appreciated the Jedi's contribution in the Clone Wars and she could pass on whatever historical knowledge she had.
    Why don't you consider training with me yourself?” Luke asked. He had hinted at this subject a number of times since telling her they were related. Yoda had suggested that she may have potential and he was keen to encourage her to develop it. Leia was quiet for a while, pensive, her face serious. Her eyes glazed as she was lost in thought. Leaning forward hugging her knees into her chest and leaning her chin on them, she seemed to be able to see something on the ground that no one else was party to.
    I can't.” she said finally. “It's your thing, Luke. Not mine. I'm not a Jedi.”
    You could be, Leia. The Force is very strong in you.” Luke looked at her in earnest. Han rubbed her back, encouragingly.
    Luke's right. You should consider training. I've seen you when you have those strange visions. The things you know... it's amazing to me. I never would have believed all this if I hadn't known you two.” She looked at him, serious, then back at Luke.
    I can't follow you, Luke.” She was resolute. “You are a powerful Jedi, so calm and at peace. I'm not. I feel so much anger and hatred. Didn't you say those were feelings that led to the Dark Side?” She thought of the despair that washed over her at the thousands of lives sacrificed for the Rebellion, her hatred of Darth Vader over the mass genocide of the Alderaanian people and the horror she had experienced on discovering she was his daughter. She considered her legendary temper and how quick it was to rise like a volcano inside her when provoked. She also felt calm and peaceful at times but the volcanic side of her showed too often to be ignored. “I can't risk becoming what we both fear most.” Han knew this was something she had thought about before, something that niggled at her whenever they talked of her relationship with Vader, and her expression showed her dread at the idea.
    You don't hate anything Leia. You just think you do. You are full of love and compassion and have tremendous empathy for people, more than I have seen in anyone. It is the intensity of those emotions that you mistake for anger and hate. I don't think you are angry, you just love so strongly that it hurts when you see injustice or loss of life. You need to recognise those feelings. Don't deny them but accept them. Once you do that, you will be able to control them.” Leia didn't deny them, that was the problem. She recognised them. It was the control of them that was the issue. She shook her head at him.
    I can't. I'm too afraid of what will happen.”
    You need to trust me.” Luke looked deep into her dark eyes with his blue eyes. The intense piercing look he always gave when he knew he was right.
    Don't do that.” she scolded and looked away, burying her chin in her knees again. “You're good at what you do and I'm good at what I do. Did you not consider that it might have been the intention for us all along; to address an imbalance from both sides – politically and spiritually?” He could see her line of thinking. “We have different talents and we should leave it at that.” She didn't want to talk about it any more but it was obvious her mind was still working on it. Luke glanced at Han for a moment and then dropped the subject. Now was not the time to pursue it. He understood the conflict that was raging inside her. Knew she was well aware that her Force power had been increasing, giving her telepathic abilities and strong visions but she was also aware that the anguish she felt at loss was too similar to their father and she feared she would eventually turn away from the light. He was certain she was too strong to let it happen and that, with training, she would be certain of it too but it would take more than one conversation to convince her, if he ever could.
    As that seemed to have been a conversation stopper, they all settled down to sleep for the night, Leia and Han sharing a blanket with Han's coat spread over them as covers. She curled up with her back to him, still brooding, but pressed herself into Han's body for comfort when he moved to put is arm round her. They fell asleep, sharing the warmth of each other's bodies. Luke went to sit cross-legged on his bed roll and meditated.


    Chapter 4

    As dawn broke, it filtered through to Han's subconscious mind that he was uncomfortable. The blanket beneath him had given little protection from the hard, rocky ground and his joints ached. As he slowly drifted back to wakefulness, he became aware that the warmth of Leia's body next to him had gone and a chill was starting to set in. He opened his eyes and looked around. Thick morning mist hung near to the ground and, although it was light, the sun's warmth was still hiding below the horizon with it's celestial body.
    Luke was sitting in the same position as the evening before, cross-legged on his bedding. As Han stood, stretching his sore muscles, he pondered Luke's ability to sit motionless all night and frowned quizzically. Artoo's familiar beep sounded nearby and, following the noise he found the droid and Leia conversing quietly to each other in the look out spot they'd used the night before. Leia crouched behind the rocky outcrop, looking through the macro-binoculars, her top fresh and her hair braided and tied in a low bun at the nape of her neck indicating that she had been up a while.
    Don't you sleep?” Han asked as he crouched beside her. She smiled and gave a little chuckle in her husky, rich voice that he found so sexy.
    You know I do, but it's not exactly comfortable.” She had had very little sleep in the last couple of days she realised but the fresh, cold air was keeping her awake. Han raised his eyebrows in agreement.
    Anything happening?” he asked.
    Not yet, but there's still a lot of cloud. I can't see much. Artoo will let us know if he picks up anything.” She offered Han the macro-binoculars but he waved them away casually. He wasn't sure he would be able to see much more than she could. He thumbed in Luke's direction.
    What's up with Luke?” Leia couldn't see Luke from their position but knew that it was his Jedi's meditative pose that had caused Han's enquiry.
    Oh. He does that. Don't worry, he'll be here the moment he needs to be.” Luke had perfected this discipline early on in his training. It honed his senses, sped up his healing process and, on long space flights in his X-Wing, could be used to put his body in a sort of hibernation so that he didn't have to make too many stops.
    She sat back and looked attentively at Han, taking in the way his muscles filled out his sleeves, the glimpse of skin where his shirt was gaping slightly at the chest, his tousled hair that he was now running one hand through. She felt herself warm up a little at the proximity of him and subconsciously ran her tongue over her lower lip. She was painfully aware that, as usual, they were not alone.
    You said yesterday that you wanted to talk to me about something.” She spoke before the effect of her imagination left her incapable of doing so. He looked at the ground.
    I was just thinking that with all my cargo runs and your official duties, we haven't had time to spend together and it would be nice to take a break... if you wanted. There are things I would like to show you, share with you. Things I'd like you to share with me.” He raised his hazel eyes to look at her from under his eyebrows and she thought he looked like a shy little boy. It was an endearing, vulnerable look that he often wore when he was trying to soften her. He was very good at the cocky confidence of innuendo but she knew he had more difficulty when it came to talking about things that were really personal to him, preferring to bottle them up.
    What sort of things?” she encouraged, curious. He got braver at her apparent interest.
    I don't know, just things. We don't know much about each other except for the time we have shared with the Alliance. I want to take you to see Corellia, it's golden beaches, crystal swamps. Coronet City, maybe, or even the giant flowers that grow in the jungles of Tamborra Major.” Leia's eyes glazed and she was momentarily far away as she imagined what he was describing. She leant her head back on the rock behind.
    Sounds lovely.” she whispered. “I can't show you my home, obviously. I can only share stories. We could see the light of Corellia from Alderaan, you know. We had no moon to taint the light from the star systems so we would sit up late trying to name as many as possible. I have never been there though.” He smiled at her, affectionately.
    You have lots to share. There's more to you than this war.” She had a sharp mind and a good education and he bet her stories would be stimulating. “I want to know what it was like for you growing up in Aldera. I want to know you.” He emphasised the last word. His train of thought must have taken him down a different track because the gleam in his eyes changed to worry. Leia put her hand gently on his cheek.
    What's troubling you?” He breathed heavily, looking out over the valley below and the now clearing mist.
    It suddenly occurred to me that we are so different, that's all. You're used to a lifestyle I can't offer you, with title and money.” She frowned and put her head on one side like she did when she thought he had said something ridiculous.
    When have I ever given you the impression that any of that meant anything to me?” she asked incredulously. Keeping her voice low so as not to disturb Luke, she continued. “Titles serve no-one. I am a Princess of a dead planet. No-one to be a Princess for save for a few scattered people. I'm thankful for my education, the training I have been given, but I use them as tools to further the cause against the Empire, to save lives, to restore a fair government to the galaxy, because I am uniquely in a position to do so and I would be a fool not to.” She momentarily gazed off into the distance. “It doesn't stop me sometimes wanting to run screaming to the farthest corner of the galaxy and remain there for the rest of my life.” She looked back at him. “I have a responsibility to the people like my adoptive father, who have given their lives to put me in a privileged position.” She sighed. “Although, the way the new government is going, I think my title will one day outlive it's usefulness. The remnants of the Senate tolerate my rhetoric partly out of respect for my father but even then, just barely. As for money,” she continued. “I gave all the wealth and resources I had left to the Rebellion a long time ago, so all I have left are my actions. Actions are really all that count, Han.” She took his face in both her hands. “We're not that different, you and I. We're both hot-tempered, impulsive survivors with a pathological need to follow our conscience. We both drive each other crazy, in more ways than one. We are both each other's best advisers, although often reluctant listeners. I'd say, we were pretty evenly matched.” This realisation seemed to amuse Leia and she giggled, releasing his face.
    He looked at her adoringly. She was right. She almost always was. She had never shown any interest in material things. She chose the simplest apartments when she went to Chandrila on senatorial business, never the lavish ones that were available to her as a member of a powerful royal family. She wasn't one for extravagance or nonsense. In fact, she had accused him of being more interested in money than principles when they had first met. She had been right then too. He had spent so long trying to survive on his wits, living for his own interests that her words, and those of her brother, had been an awakening. The Skywalkers had changed his life, giving him something meaningful to fight for. They seemed to have that effect on a lot of people.
    I love you.” was all he said.
    Even though I have nothing?” she asked, rising to take up her look out position again.
    More so.” he replied. “Although, you have everything I want.” He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek as she looked through the macro-binoculars. She smelled of clean clothes and the perfumed scent of the refresher wipes she had obviously used to wash when she had risen. Leia looked at him for a brief moment, deciding that he looked more confident now for their chat.
    OK, then.” She laughed, then, shaking her head at him in mock admonishment, returned to look through the binoculars. “Han?” She remained focused on the valley.
    Hmm?”
    I'd like for you to show me those things.” He rubbed her back then turned to go back up to camp, jumping out of his skin as Luke loomed behind him.
    Kid! Don't do that!” He put his hand on his chest as his heart raced. Artoo beeped furiously.
    There are vehicles approaching.” Leia informed them. Luke put his hand reassuringly on Han's shoulder and crouched beside Leia. “I can't see them clearly.” She adjusted the sight on the binoculars. “Wait... three personnel transports. No visible insignia.”
    The tan coloured transports, parallel tracks making it easier for them to cross rocky terrain, rumbled towards the outpost, dirt and dust covering their bodywork and obscuring the windows so that it was impossible to see who or what was inside. Leia passed the binoculars to Luke. The three transports came to a stop just outside the wall of the outpost and a driver and guard got out of each one.
    They don't have Imperial uniforms... wait a second.” Luke moved the binoculars to look in the direction of movement he had seen further up the track just as six speeders came into view, each with a storm trooper on board. “Storm Troopers.” he confirmed.
    Frack!” Leia exclaimed. “And so close to the base. It's unbelievable!” This was going to mean yet another relocation after only a few months. Would there ever be any respite. “Can you see what they're up to?”
    It looks like they're waiting to unload the transports.” Luke let Han look through the binoculars to confirm. Han watched for a while as the storm troopers positioned themselves. The back of the transports opened and the guards appeared to order whoever was inside to disembark. Adjusting the sights on the macro-binoculars to focus on movement inside the nearest transport, he drew in his breath. Luke and Leia looked at him, waiting for an explanation.
    They're all kids!” he said with foreboding in his voice.
    What?” Leia exclaimed, grabbing the macro-binoculars out of his hand and peering through them. A line of children no older than ten standard years jumped down from each vehicle and filed, under trooper guard through the now open gate of the outpost, some crying, others quiet and some helping younger ones who stumbled getting out of the transports. She was visibly horrified. “Children. What are they going to do with them?” She ripped the macro-binoculars away from her eyes and turned to her brother. “Luke!” she pleaded. Luke looked calm, as if he were thinking deeply. Han knew what was going on in Leia's head. He pointed a finger in her face in front of Luke.
    No!” he ordered. “You are not going to rush in there. We need to think about this. You go down there now, you'll get yourself killed and, most likely, them too.”
    But...” Leia started to argue.
    Han's right.” Luke interrupted. “We can't win this way. I suggest we get Madine to send ground troops. There's a little time to plan before the ship arrives, if it goes as it did yesterday.” Leia knew they were both right. Focus, Leia, she told herself. Suddenly back in military mode, she jumped up, pulling her communicator out of her pocket and raced up to the plateau to raise General Madine. Luke turned to Han. “You two go back to base the way you came. I'll go round with Artoo. I'll meet you there.” Han planted an affirmative slap on Luke's back and returned to break up the camp, bundling their few possessions into Leia's pack and slinging it over his shoulder. He met her just ending her conversation with Madine, grabbed her arm for her to follow him and they both set off at a jog.
     
  4. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Hi again, Suzannah.Pearce. :) This looks well written and off to quite a good start, but once again—repeating the advice from that Q&A thread—it really would help us readers if at least a week or so went by between new chapters, since (and this isn't your fault at all, but that if the boards format) it can be hard to read so much text at once on the boards. :)

    Another tip—since the board doesn't do indents very well, it would help readability to have an extra blank line before each new paragraph.

    Thanks so much, and I hope to be back soon with a proper comment once I've caught up! :)
     
    Jedi_Perigrine and Ewok Poet like this.
  5. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Thanks Findswoman. I will bear that in mind and put in extra lines. I am copying it from a manuscript so didn't think of that. (First time I've posted to a fan fic site so bear with me.)
     
  6. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Also, there are 48 chapters so it will take me most of a year to post!
     
    Jedi_Perigrine and Findswoman like this.
  7. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Totally fine! That's not the longest story I've seen or followed here by any means. I'm up to 18 chapters in one story of mine and it's taken me 2+ years to get there. We'll be here. :)
     
  8. Hopefulwriter

    Hopefulwriter Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 6, 2016
    Very nicely written. Enjoyed reading it. Love the descriptions. Keep up the good work. Lynda V.
     
  9. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Chapter 5



    General Madine and Commander Blake were expecting them as Han and Leia arrived at the Command Centre, hot and out of breath. Madine had called up a holo-image of the surrounding terrain on the central console, complete with the mountain range, the valley beyond and the base location. Leia went straight to the console.

    There.” She pointed to the position of the outpost. “I'd say about the size of a small hanger, maybe 30 or 40 men if it's fully manned and a landing platform beyond, large enough for one or two ships.” It was an educated assessment as they hadn't seen that many men but a fair one based on Leia's experience of Imperial stations. As she described it, a tech officer entered the details and a representation of the outpost appeared on the map.

    You're sure they're Imperials?” Madine enquired. He knew he didn't really need to ask her that but he needed it to sink in to his own mind that there was an Imperial platoon on the same planet.

    We've observed six storm troopers outside with the transports but didn't see any more. It's a sure bet there are more inside though.” Han confirmed.

    We need to send in a squad. “ Leia continued. “At this stage it's too risky for air assault and we don't have the ships at the moment anyway. We'll need to send them round through the East or West pass.” Leia indicated the route on the holo-map. “It will take longer but the way we just used, the troops would certainly be seen before they got close enough.” Her suggested route was entered into the computer by the tech officer and appeared on the map as she spoke. “The outpost has sensors so, whatever we do, those will need to be disabled as a priority.” The general nodded.

    The East pass should afford some cover until the men are close, then we could send in drones to knock out the sensors on that side. It will be more risky where the pass widens though. They'll have to cross quite a bit of ground with little or no cover.” Leia spoke quickly, her mind running through the best routes, the best strategy, her tactical mind racing. She looked concerned. “I don't really want to risk the squad on such a loose plan, General. We haven't scouted that area completely yet but, at the same time, we can't leave the children to the Empire and we don't have long before the ship arrives that could be taking them off-world. We may already be too late.” Leia was calculating the time it would take to travel the extra distance through the pass, the risks of the ill-conceived tactics, the possible reasons behind the capture of children. Battle strategy was normally her strength and it went against her better judgement to follow through with this. She ran a hand over her hair then placed both fists on the edge of the console, biting her lower lip, her sharp eyes surveying the terrain for a better solution. There didn't seem to be one.

    It's the only way round without ships.” Han reassured her. “They'd be seen going over the top.” She looked grim. She didn't want to send ships at this stage, however few they had. Troops were the only option.

    I know. It just feels too rushed, too risky. I feel like I should be going with them.” She continued to stare at the console, it's green hue accentuating the consternation on her face, as General Madine ordered the squad to depart.

    You're better off here. At least until we know what we're up against.” Han tried to sound like he was talking sense but knew she hated risking lives on a bad plan that she wouldn't undertake herself; knew she would risk her own life first. “We can't do much for the moment. Why don't you get some rest. I'll go and make sure Chewie has prepped the Falcon in case we're needed.”

    General Solo is right, Senator. You haven't had much rest. We will inform you as soon as is necessary.” Blake confirmed. Leia looked at them both blankly and then what they had said filtered through the thoughts of battle. She turned to Madine.

    Call me when they reach the pass.” She turned on her heel and left the Command Centre. Madine looked at Han.

    She'd fight every battle herself if she could.” he noted. “Been the same since she was little.” he informed him. Madine and Mon Mothma had been close allies with the Organas for many years and he knew Madine was very protective of Leia.

    Tell me about it.” Han agreed. He turned to Blake. “Make sure she rests. She's had hardly any sleep.” Blake nodded and Han left for the landing platform to find Chewbacca.

    #

    Blake left the generals and battle chatter behind, making her way through the base corridors towards the princess's quarters to ensure she was able to rest. She enjoyed her job. Despite warnings from counterparts in the military that becoming a personal aide to one of the New Republic senators would be boring, she had found it anything but, so far, but then, she had deliberately orchestrated her career decisions to get her to this point, to work for Leia Organa.


    Bored with the prospects of a career in animal husbandry or agriculture in the mountain village where she was born, she had travelled to the capital to join the academy, studying politics and taking every opportunity to demonstrate her knowledge to her superiors. Proud of the leadership of Viceroy Bail Organa and the example he set in the Republic Senate, she watched the rise of young Senator Leia Organa with fascination. With determination and application to her career she won a position on a trusted team running missions for the Viceroy on behalf of the Rebel Alliance, one such mission she had been on when Alderaan had been destroyed. Listening to stories of Leia's dedication to the Alliance and her war record, she resolved to work hard to become part of her team and mentioned her name as often as she could, volunteering for any missions she thought might get her closer to being posted near the front line.


    It was both a pleasure and a surprise when Blake was told she had been personally selected by the princess to interview for a position on her staff. She wasn't aware that the princess had any idea who she was but, since getting to know her better, realised that Leia made it a personal duty to carefully review the career records of all Alliance personnel both for security reasons and to identify specific talent.


    She had only ever seen the princess from a distance on Alderaan and, since then, only on holo-vid reports, so it was with great trepidation, she recalled, that she entered Leia's office, having waited so long for this opportunity, not knowing quite what to expect from Leia's reputation as a fierce taskmaster. The small but neatly presented younger woman all in white behind the desk was yet another surprise. She remembered that Leia had risen to shake her hand, thanking her for coming and had moved round to the front of the desk to eliminate any separation between them. A friendly move that Blake had appreciated. She had asked her questions about why she had joined the military, about her career so far, going into detail about specific missions and demonstrating that she had extensive knowledge of Blake's record, looking occasionally up from Blake's report data on her pad to study her face and listen carefully to her answers. She was thorough. She had then moved on to more casual questions about politics which Blake realised later in the conversation, were a measured test of her political leanings and her knowledge. In fact, towards the end of her interview, the princess had made an error when discussing a point of Republic law. Blake had politely corrected her but, looking at the princess's stony expression, thought that was when she had ruined her chances of getting the job. The princess turned and put her data pad down on the desk, a satisfied smile spreading across her face.

    I would like to offer you a job, Blake.” she had said to her. Stunned, she had replied.

    On your staff, Ma'am?” The princess smiled warmly.

    Not just on my staff, Blake. I would like to offer you a job as my personal aide, if you are willing to accept the position.” She had been speechless for a few seconds, kicking herself afterwards for embarrassing herself. She had been offered her career goal and more.

    I would be honoured, Ma'am.” she replied eventually. The princess had looked humbly at her.

    The honour is mine, Blake. Your record is exemplary and your knowledge invaluable and I need someone brave enough to correct me when I am wrong.” She had shaken her hand again. “It's a challenging job but varied so I hope it will suit you for a while.”

    Varied and challenging it had been and Blake was not disappointed. The princess kept her busy but didn't work her any harder than she worked herself and always treated her with respect, as an equal, a confidant. She had equal respect for the princess, a kind, plain spoken, unpretentious but exacting woman and from that respect came endless loyalty, something shared by all the princess's staff.

    She smiled to herself with pride as she paused now outside Leia's quarters and rang the door chime.

    Come in, Blake.” Leia replied as if she could see through the door. She smiled as Blake entered, and offered an explanation. “Han sent you, didn't he?”

    Yes, Ma'am.” she admitted. “But I would have come anyway. It's been a while since you had a proper sleep. I wanted to check if there was anything I can get done to give you the opportunity to rest.” Leia smiled.

    I knew he would. He does fuss. There's nothing pressing at the moment. No doubt you'll check on the messages from the Senate and let me know if anything requires urgent attention. Otherwise it can all wait.”

    Yes, ma'am.” Blake hesitated and Leia spotted her reticence.

    What is it, Blake? Out with it.” she encouraged.

    Your sleeping pattern is still erratic. Would you like me to speak to the med team and get you something to help?” Leia shook her head.

    No thank you. It will just make me groggy if I have to get up in a hurry. I'll just go without for now.” Blake looked dubious. “Don't worry. I promise I'll see someone when all this nonsense dies down, if I still need to.” Leia assured her. Blake nodded.

    I'll leave you to rest then.” She turned to leave.

    Blake?” Leia called after her. “Thanks.” Blake nodded respectfully and left.

    #

    Leia hadn't realised just how tired she was but, barely in her chambers alone but a few minutes after Blake had left, she must have fallen asleep because she was now being woken by the sound of her door chimes being urgently rung. It wasn't that the noise was particularly loud but she had woken with a start and was beginning to feel that cold, shaky feeling that occurred after too short a nap. Lying flat on her back on her bed, still fully clothed, she half remembered thinking she would just rest her head a moment. Instead, according to the florescent white readout on her bedside environment monitor, it has been a couple of hours. It was a reasonable rest for her; she never got more than two or three hours sleep at a time. She was plagued with nightmares every sleeping moment of an experience four years ago; of torture and the destruction of Alderaan. The kind that woke her suddenly with tears on her cheeks, sometimes shouting out, always struggling for breath and covered in sweat. She was quite glad, for all she wanted him beside her, that Han hadn't spent a whole night with her to witness it. He might wonder what he'd got himself into. Still, two hours; a reasonable nap just not quite enough for her to feel refreshed.


    She sat on the edge of the bed.

    Come in.” She called wearily but loudly so as to be heard from the bedroom and through the main room. The door slid open and C-3PO entered, looking around for a moment before spotting her through the doorway.

    Oh, my apologies, Your Highness. I had no idea you were sleeping.” he fretted.

    It's alright, 3PO. What is it?” 3PO stepped forward a little.

    General Madine has requested you join him in the Command Centre. Shall I tell him you are indisposed?” Leia had to smile a little at his terminology.

    No, 3PO. That's alright. Tell him I'll be there shortly.” Leia rose and went to her refresher unit to splash water on her face. 3PO nodded jerkily, his stiff limbed gait turning him round and the whirring of his servos fading as he left the chamber. Throwing on a jacket to ward off the cold shivers that came with tiredness, she quickly made her way to the Command Centre where General Madine was waiting to greet her.

    The squad are making their way through the pass now.” They both stood to view the progress on the holo-map. “They should be able to see the outpost in approximately 15 minutes.” Leia nodded. She was feeling tense again and began to pace, her arms folded across her middle. Waiting for an update made time seem to pass too slowly.

    Pull up an expanded view, please.” she instructed the tech officer opposite her and he obliged, displaying a close up, more detailed view of the pass with accurate positions of each squad member. Luke and Han arrived in the Command Centre and came to stand by the central console, studying the little red lights of the squad movements. As he watched, Luke got a cold, sinking feeling and glanced over at Leia, who hadn't acknowledged their presence since they arrived. She was engrossed in the holo-map. She pointed suddenly. “There. What's that?” She had noticed a blip appear on the map a little ahead of the squad, not flickering, not human. A blip that appeared when weaponry was detected. At the same time, the comms went berserk as the sound of the squad commander's voice echoed round the cave room from various comms stations at once, interspersed with static interference.

    We're taking fire!” he shouted. “Two turrets either side of the pass!” The sound of the heavy proton guns could now be heard along with shouts and screams as the squad sustained losses. One by one the little red flickering lights were being extinguished. This is what Luke had felt, just before Leia had spotted it and the troops had experienced it.

    Pull them back!” Leia ordered, slamming her fist on the side of the console in frustration. “How did we not pick up those guns before now?” she exclaimed.

    Pull back!” Madine gave the order to the commander. More gunfire. Leia looked at him, deep concern screwing up her face.

    We're pinned down!” the commander's voice again over the comm. “The guns are incessant! We have no chance of moving positions. We need back up now.” he reported.

    They need air support. They know we're here now so we've blown the chance of surprise.” Leia was decisive. She knew it was going to be a slim chance as most of the ships were on escort missions too far away to make a difference. “How many ships do we have?” she asked Madine.

    Only three fighters in a condition to fly. Another undergoing emergency maintenance. But the pilots have just returned from long haul and are in no condition to go into battle.”

    It's up to us then.” Madine stared at her trying to calculate whether he had understood her correctly.

    Leia, we can't risk you.” Leia wasn't about to entertain an argument.

    We have no choice. We are so thin on the ground, we all need to muck in. Besides. They'll be killed if we don't do something quickly.” She turned and pointed at Luke. “Luke, I'm going to need you.” She set off running out of the room.

    Wait... Leia!” Luke shouted as he ran after her. Han looked quickly at Madine.

    Shouldn't you stop her?” he quizzed urgently. Madine shrugged sardonically.

    If you want to try, Solo, go ahead. You're probably the only one who would get a response.” Han considered that for a moment.

    Yeah, you might be right but it wouldn't be a good one.” He left the command centre at a brisk run.
     
  10. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    This story is off to a mighty fine start! You have a really good feel for the voice of our Big Three main characters here, and I especially like your characterization of Leia: she's so often portrayed strictly as a do-good, diplomatic type—which of course isn't wrong, but people tend to forget that she does have (as she admits herself here) that intense, impetuous streak as well, not to mention the ghosts brought on by her homeworld's destruction (and I could totally see where that would keep coming back to haunt her in her dreams). So I really appreciate the way you balance both those sides of her here.

    Speaking of balance, I have to say I really like Eldon Blake too. She's got that stately calm and levelheadedness that really balances Leia's impetuous streak, combined with courage, because it's not easy to do things like (a) correct one's boss's factual errors or (b) advise one's boss to get more rest. Of course it says much about Leia's own character that she accepts those things so well too. She's as lucky to have Blake on her staff as she is to have the support of Luke and Han during this turbulent sort-of-post-Imperial period. (And I loved their fireside chat scene all together—it's so refreshing that they got that chance just to unwind and share stories and be with each other, even if just for those few bright moments.)

    An secret Imperial-looking outpost in the mountains (especially so relatively soon after that uncomfortable senatorial debate) is already bad news, but one that's receiving transports full of children under ten? :eek: "Bad news" doesn't even begin to describe that situation; this is Nazi-level terror. (And indeed the image of them being shuffled off by the soldiers, some crying, some older ones with arms around younger ones, etc., does kind of bring to mind some Holocaust imagery.) And now that the Alliance's cover has been blown, and the place turns out to have guns... well, things are looking pretty grim, to say the least, and it really does look like it's all up to our three heroes. Madine's absolutely right: there's no stopping Leia when she puts her mind to something!

    Thanks for sharing this—I'm looking forward to more! =D=
     
    Kahara and Suzannah.Pearce like this.
  11. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Chapter 6



    What are you doing?” Han shouted after her when he caught up. “Can you even fly an X-Wing?”

    Of course, it's just been a while.” she shouted back over her shoulder, irritated at his question. She didn't have time for his cross-examination. She had flown something similar while serving at the Alderaan Military Academy. It had been a while since she had been in a small combat craft but she was just hoping it would come back to her once she got in the cockpit. “I might be a bit rusty but we're all they've got.” she added. Reaching the hanger, she grabbed a helmet and headed for one of the X-Wings.

    Rusty?” Han exclaimed, suddenly seriously doubting this was in any way a good idea. “Maybe I should go instead.” he suggested. She stopped dead and turned to face him, waving her helmet in the direction of the Falcon.

    Oh yes.” She was sarcastic. “You fly the X-Wing and I'll take the Falcon.” She raised one eyebrow, calling his bluff.

    No, it's fine.” he agreed. “I'll take the Falcon.” Leia resumed her route towards the fighters.

    Luke,” she shouted. “You're the better pilot. I'll follow your lead.” Luke nodded and unhooked his long cloak, dropping it to the floor as he grabbed a helmet for himself.

    Chewie, fire her up!” Han yelled into his com-link as he ran for the outside landing platform. “We're going for a ride.” Leia shot him a look as she climbed into her fighter and hit the switch to seal the cockpit. Making quick systems checks, she and Luke fired up the engines and activated the map display screens. She was relieved to find that the X-Wing controls were more or less in the same position as her training craft.

    Ready?” Luke's voice came over her helmet comm.

    Ready.” she confirmed. Both X-Wings lifted off and exited the hanger, engines roaring and the heat from the after-burn causing haze in the moist tropical air.

    Gold squadron.” General Madine's voice broke in over the comms. Leia quietly snorted at the ridiculousness of the call sign. Hardly a squadron, just two fighters and a customised freighter. She hoped when it came to it they could do the job of a squadron. “The squad commander informs me that the guns seem to be protected by some sort of force field. Their counter attack is ineffective and they're also under fire from Imperial ground troops. You'll need to locate the shield generator as a matter of priority.”

    Copy that.” Luke replied as they headed eastward along the mountain range towards the pass together with the Falcon that had now fallen in behind them. “Delta Squad, this is Commander Skywalker.” he announced. “We'll be at your position with air support shortly. Find as much cover as you can and we'll try to knock out those guns.”

    Good to hear that, Skywalker. Don't take too long.” came the troop commander's reply.

    We won't.” Luke reassured him. He studied his map and an idea came to him. “Leia. I'm sending you co-ordinates of a route we should come up on much earlier. If we take it, we would come out right in front of the gun turrets but it means going through a bit of a narrow ravine first. It's a bit tight and there's no room for the Falcon so Han and Chewie, you'll have to go over the top and come down into the pass from above. I think it might give us the element of surprise.” He locked in co-ordinates and sent them to the display in Leia's fighter as he spoke. Leia switched on her tactical display.

    Got it.” she confirmed.

    You alright with that ravine?” he enquired.

    Yes.” she assured him.

    I don't know, kid.” Han sounded dubious. “You're flying with Princess Rusty.” He was being sarcastic for her benefit but inside he was concerned. Leia put her X-Wing into a full horizontal 360 degree spin and levelled off again as if giving him a metaphorical rude gesture.

    Shut up!” she ordered. He had to smile.

    In her cockpit, Leia was concentrating hard. It had indeed been a while since she had flown a fighter like this but, now in the air, the X-Wing didn't seem all that different. She had seen how narrow the ravine was though and was calculating that they would have to traverse it sideways. She hoped she could hold her concentration long enough not to end up an unsightly decoration on the ravine wall. Luke must have sensed her nerves because she heard his voice.

    Trust me. Just listen to me and do what I say.

    OK.” she replied.

    Who are you talking to?” Han asked, confused. He hadn't heard anything and began to wonder whether she'd had so little sleep that she'd started talking to herself. Leia realised Luke hadn't used the comms. His voice was in her head.

    Myself.” she answered Han.

    You, OK?” He sounded worried.

    Yes.” she assured him.

    Luke and Leia banked right, flying into a high walled canyon and Han and Chewbacca followed, hanging back from the fighters. Their job was to take out the guns and the Falcon's was to be back up.

    We're coming up on the ravine.” Luke informed them all and Leia pulled her X-Wing in behind him. They banked left and right, negotiating the canyon as the ravine got ever closer. She heard Luke's voice again. Concentrate on my voice, Leia. Breathe slowly. Try to remain calm. Leia had an involuntary urge to shut her eyes but resisted. She felt his calm. The roar of her engines seemed to dim into the distance. It felt peaceful.


    From Han's cockpit view, the two fighters were flying in perfect synchronisation. The comms had gone quiet. Chewbacca growled an observation that the looming ravine was very narrow and perhaps too small even for the fighters. Han looked at his display screen beginning to think the same thing.

    Luke there's not much room in there. Are you sure about this?” He got no reply from either of them. Chewbacca gave a worried grumble just as both X-Wings closed their S-foils in unison, turned sideways and disappeared into the ravine like torpedoes being sucked into an exhaust port. Both Han and Chewbacca swore in their respective languages at the impressive flying, then had to pull the Falcon up quickly as a wall of rock, through which Luke and Leia had just disappeared, loomed in front of them. It eventually plateaued and they caught occasional glimpses of the X-Wings far below them, nimbly negotiating the ravine's twists and turns. Chewbacca growled that Luke and Leia were either born in a cockpit or were both insane. Han had pushed the Falcon into some tight spots in the past but was fairly sure he wouldn't have attempted this. He knew Luke's reputation as a pilot but was more concerned for Leia. He tried to shake images of her early demise from his head while he decided which one of Chewbacca's descriptions he agreed with more.


    Leia gripped the controls of her fighter so hard, her knuckles had gone white. A burnt umber blur that was the rock face shot past above and below her and in front, the brilliant white glare of Luke's engines. She focused intently on them as that was all she could see ahead, claustrophobia creeping in to her system making her feel slightly sick. She was acutely aware that she was holding her breath.

    Get ready.” Luke's voice came over the comms.

    Han pulled the Falcon up into a steep climb so as to come down into the pass from height, evading as much gunfire as possible. Luke's fighter erupted into the light of the pass. Leia burst out of the ravine behind him, drawing in a large breath of air as the spacious feeling of the pass washed over her. She instinctively banked right as Luke banked left, opening her S-foils to attack position and targeting the gun turret built high into the mountainside. She began firing. The squad commander had been right. Her shots had no effect. She looked around quickly to see if she could spot the generator.

    Han, see of you can find the shield generator.” she instructed. The gun turrets were swivelling round now to target the fighters and they began firing. At least it was drawing fire away from the ground troops. Her cockpit shook violently as she was dealt a glancing blow.

    Watch it.” Han yelled. Chewbacca growled and flailed a furry paw at a spot higher up the mountainside. “We might have found it.” Han confirmed and brought the Falcon round to approach an installation Chewbacca had spotted. They fired torpedoes, exploding rock and metal down into the pass below. “Sorry about that.” Han spoke almost to himself as he realised it might have caused more trouble for the squad below.

    Come round for another pass, Leia.” Luke ordered. The two fighters sped up either side of the pass, performed a loop and headed back in the direction of the gun turrets. Still in perfect formation, they increased power, firing cannons and torpedoes and obliterating both gun turrets at once. Cheers erupted from the Alliance squad below.

    Han and Chewbacca dove into the pass from above and began firing on the Imperial ground troops, efficiently clearing a path, blasting them left and right.

    All clear, Commander.” he announced.

    We should take out the outpost weapons and sensors too. Pave the way for a ground rescue.” Leia suggested. She switched her tactical display to show the outpost. They had made their presence known now. They might as well take down as many defences as they could to assist the already too few troops. As they rounded a bend in the pass and came into view of the outpost, however, Leia's heart sank. A transport ship was taking off from the outpost and heading away from the mountain range. “We're too late.” she said in alarm.

    We can go after them.” Han suggested.

    No.” Leia stopped him. “Don't fire on them, we'll hurt the passengers. Luke, do you have a tracking sensor on board? I'm out.”

    Yes.” Luke replied. “I'll try to get close enough to fire it.” He sped after the transport vessel, coming up underneath and firing a magnetic tracker at the hull. It hit home and he returned to the outpost.

    Han and Leia had disabled the sensors and wall defences between them, leaving the way free for the Alliance troops to move in and clear the building. They didn't have to be cautious now that the prisoners weren't in the building.

    We can't do any more. Let's go home.” Leia sounded despondent.

    Don't beat yourself up about it.” Han reassured her. “You did an amazing job.”

    Too little, too late, I'm afraid.” she sighed.

    We'll trace that tracker and find out where they are going.” Luke reminded her.

    They turned and headed for the base as she mulled over the disappointment.
     
  12. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Chapter 7



    The humidity of the late afternoon had caused a rainstorm which had done little to dissipate the tropical heat as the X-Wings came back to land in the hanger. The Falcon took up it's usual place on the outside landing platform and Chewbacca and Han made a run for the cover of the base hanger just as the fighters were powering down.


    Leia removed her helmet, smoothed her hair back into place and sat with her head resting on the back of the seat for a moment, closing her eyes. The Imperial outpost had been destroyed making it unusable, which was very satisfying but they had still sustained losses and not been able to prevent the removal of the children from the planet. Worry for the reason behind the kidnappings deepened the furrow in her brow. Han banged on the hull of the X-Wing to gain her attention and motioned for her to open the cockpit. She hit the switch.

    You alright?” he frowned. She put on a slightly forced smile and unbuckled herself, beginning to climb down the side ladder.

    Fine.” she assured him, taking his offered hand and jumping the last couple of feet to the floor, wrapping her arms round his middle in a reassuring hug.

    Nice flying, by the way.” He kissed the top of her head.

    Thanks.” Luke approached and Leia ran to wrap her arms round his neck and hug him too. He smiled and shook Han's hand.

    Thanks for your help. Thanks Chewie.“ Chewbacca gurgled an

    acknowledgement.

    You got it.” Han grinned. Luke turned to Leia as they made their way to debrief General Madine.

    That tracking beacon should record some information in a day or two. Then we'll be able to see where they end up.”

    General Madine and General Kobar were in deep discussion, pouring over something as they approached.

    Well done, all of you!” Madine exclaimed when he saw them.

    I'm afraid we were unable to rescue the prisoners, General.” Leia was apologetic, although she was more disappointed in herself.

    We did the best we could in the circumstances. We will just have to wait for more intelligence to come in from the tracking device Luke attached to their vessel.”

    Leia turned her attention to General Kobar who was clutching something tightly in all of his four hands as if he was guarding it with his life.

    General Kobar, is something the matter?” she asked. Han noticed the regal manner with which she spoke to him. It was a voice that meant she wanted to be given the information she requested now, without delay and it usually got a result. The general looked at the object in his hands and then at General Madine.

    This is the document that the squad on Rattatak have just returned to us. I think you need to see it.” General Madine looked at General Kobar expectantly.

    We don't need to bother the Princess with this.” General Kobar flustered. “We have intelligence officers here who are very capable.”

    The Princess is the best code breaker we have. She knows more Rebel code keys than any of us here. Besides which, she is the only one who has the historical knowledge to read and translate Bothan ancient text. Let her see it.” General Madine waited for General Kobar's compliance.

    Leia was intrigued now. Her withering look still in place, she raised an eyebrow expectantly and held out her hand to General Kobar. He grumbled and reluctantly passed over a hide covered book containing very old text on aged paper. Leia hadn't seen anything like it in years and then only in the archive at Coruscant where she had spent many of her younger years studying such documents. She held it like it was a fragile and precious thing, opening it and marvelling at the intricate scribblings inside. It was beautiful. Luke and Han both looked over her shoulder at it. Luke had never seen anything like it, ever. That sort of text was usually hidden away in the archives, with data disc copies on hand for those wanting to research anything. His readings into Jedi history were certainly all contained on data discs. He hadn't yet been given access to the real thing but guessed that Leia would have been allowed the chance.

    We think there is a code key hidden inside but the translator droids were having trouble with the ancient writing, it's a bit broken up in places, and they could find nothing resembling old rebel codes. You are the only one qualified to read it. Perhaps you can find something.” Madine elaborated.

    You speak ancient Bothan?” Han was impressed. She nodded but remained staring at the text.

    Leia speaks or reads a number of languages.” Madine elaborated on her behalf. “How many is it, Leia?” he asked her.

    Hmm? Oh, about nine. Maybe ten.” She said distractedly. Han and Luke raised eyebrows and looked at each other.

    I thought that was why you kept 3PO around all this time, to translate for you.” Han exclaimed, surprised and just a little miffed. Leia looked up at him. She knew he found 3PO very annoying.

    3PO is useful for many things; protocol, quick access to archive information and even translation. He does speak over six million different languages. I speak very few in comparison but it is very useful in political negotiations to know what the others are saying. You'd be amazed what you can learn when the other parties don't realise you understand every word they are saying.” She looked at Han and Luke who had blank expressions on their faces. “I told you. I was trained extremely well.”

    Remind me to bring you next time I have to negotiate a trade deal. We could get a much better cut.” Now Luke and Leia were both looking at Han disapprovingly. Chewbacca grumbled at his suggestion of using Leia in this fashion.

    Exactly, Chewie.” Leia agreed.

    Oh fine. I was just thinking it would be useful.” he shrugged.

    I understand Shryiiwook too, in case you hadn't noticed.” she quipped, her nose back in the text. Han had noticed although he was pretty sure it was a recent thing. He guessed that once you understood ten languages what was one more.

    Leia paced slowly, turning the pages of the document and scanning each one, running her finger over the text as she did so. Then she stopped and frowned.

    What is it?” Luke questioned, moving to stand next to her.

    Well, this is an account of the Battle of Mygeeto.” she explained. “Mygeeto was controlled by the Intergalactic Bank but was involved in a struggle between it's Jedi protectors and Separatists at the beginning of the Clone War, resulting in the Clones assassinating their Jedi leader under orders from the Emperor. Mygeeto then fell under Imperial control.” Luke was fascinated as Leia explained. Since he had begun his research, he had discovered he had quite an interest in galactic history. Leia continued. “The text tells of the Bothan involvement and their attempt to come to the aid of the Jedi under orders from the Rebels.” she paused. Everyone waited for her to continue but her frown deepened as she checked the pages again.

    That all sounds fine. What's concerning you?” General Madine enquired.

    Well, it does sound fine in principle.” Leia explained. “And to anyone else, it would be just an exciting piece of history, unless you are aware that the Bothans were never at Mygeeto. It was a false story spread by my father to disguise the fact that the Bothan spies were on a covert mission elsewhere at the time.”

    Obviously the person that wrote this didn't know that.” Han suggested.

    No one would have known that.” Leia emphasised. “I don't understand how this is a code... unless...” she mused “the code key is in the falsehood.”

    You mean, the key to unlocking the code is the real location of the Bothan spies?” Luke asked.

    Yes, or the false one.” Leia offered. “I just don't know why it's in this form. There might be more to it than we can see at the moment.”

    It's an old document. It must have been hanging around quite some time.” Han observed.

    That's what I'm thinking.” Leia agreed. “Why would that be the case and why would it resurface now?” she considered “Unless...” she said again, thinking deeply. She opened the document, leafing through it until she arrived at a specific page and peered at it very closely in the dim light. Looking around for a brighter light, she crossed the room and examined it again under the white light of a small lamp on the droid maintenance station. Everyone watched in silence and waited. Satisfying herself that she was certain of what she was looking at, she grabbed the page and tore it from it's binding. Luke and Han exchanged glances and General Kobar's wattle inflated angrily.

    Princess Leia. What are you doing? You are destroying an ancient artefact!” he exclaimed.
     
  13. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Woot, X-Wing!Leia! [face_dancing] There's some cool continuity with the original Saga here, because when Luke speaks to Leia through the Force to help her with her piloting, it's a lot like the scene in ANH where Obi-Wan speaks through the Force to Luke to help him lock on to his target during the Death Star trench run. And indeed, both here and in that scene, the character in question is gaining awareness of his or her Force sensitivity—so it's cool to see that that cycle is continuing here, particularly in light of Leia's earlier doubts in this story about whether she's cut out for being a Jedi. This seems like the beginning of her learning that maybe she is cut out for it after all.

    The way she calls Han's bluff about flying the Falcon is just priceless, too. She knows his weakness, all right! I can just picture the eyebrow gesture that went with that, too. :D

    Well, the outpost has been taken care of, at least for now, but they apparently had warning that our heroes were after them; good thing Luke had the tracker on hand, and I hope it will yield results. Now, it will be interesting to see how this will all tie in to this very interesting new piece of evidence presented by General Kobar (whom I like, by the way!)—I always love seeing actual ink-and-paper books in SW fanfics, perhaps because I'm a bit of a book geek in real life :D And this one sounds most intriguing, from its hide binding and beautiful ancient script to the rather subtle misinformation about the nonexistent Bothan presence at Mygeeto. Definitely a very... original and unconventional way to construct a code, and these are no doubt very deep waters here. Naturally I am on total tenterhooks to learn just what it is that Leia found in there that surprised her so much that she tore out the page! (Though I must say, the old-books nerd in me feels Kobar's pain in that last sentence there! [face_laugh] )

    Continuing to enjoy this, and looking forward to more. And I would be curious to hear your thoughts on the previous set of comments, too. :)
     
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  14. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Thanks for your reviews. I felt that there were many missing pieces that I wanted to know that weren't covered by TFA and I felt certain others would feel the same way - others wanted more. I have tried very hard to write the characters as I see them; both incredible and flawed but with so much more potential that I feel may still come out in the new trilogy. With these storylines, I have made a huge effort to ensure that they consider extended universe information (such as the Battle of Mygeeto and the Bacta Wars, including species that have been discussed in EU) while also keeping to the new universe planetary map and not stepping on the toes of the canon timeline. Some of the TFA characters who so far we haven't learnt much about will be introduced later in the story so watch this space.

    Thank you again for reading and reviewing and I hope you will enjoy the rest and share with others who might also enjoy it.

    ps. I spoke to Michael Siglain of Star Wars Publishing about this story at the SWC in London and offered it for download with proceeds going to Force For Change. He thought it was an interesting idea and wanted to check with their legal team. I am still in contact so watch this space...
     
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  15. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Chapter 8

    Not that ancient, General. It's a fake.” she informed General Kobar without looking at him. He began to argue but she held up her hand in an authoritative manner and he thought better of it. Han always found it amusing and vaguely exciting when she used her well honed regal authority to shut people down. Turning back to the light, she held the page up, turning it over and over in her hands so that the light permeated through the ink of the wording. She had taken a big risk on the fact that she was right. Just as she was beginning to doubt, she spotted a very small section of ink that was denser than the rest. Reaching up and removing one of the metal clips from the braid in her hair, she used it to scrape gently at the ink, revealing a very small data strip, no larger than her fingernail, which she held up between her thumb and forefinger. Han was impressed and Luke moved to get a closer look and the tiny object.



    General. This is your code.” Leia announced. “A message hidden in the text of the historically inaccurate page. Can we read this with the equipment we have? If not, get Artoo to help you.” She placed the tiny strip in Madine's hand and he crossed to a computer console where Artoo had trundled over to assist. General Kobar joined them, more subdued now. Leia folded her arms and frowned.


    That's not all is it?” Luke knew something else was troubling her and spoke quietly so that just she and Han could hear.


    No.” she admitted, equally quietly. “There is no one on this base who could read that text and no one who would know that the historical information contained in it was inaccurate, except me.” She paused to let them think about what she was saying. “My father was the only one who knew what he was asking the Bothans to do and subsequently me. It must mean something.” She felt very uneasy.


    Do you think it's a message for you?” Han asked, reading her face.


    How can it be?” she quizzed. “It looks like it was written before I was born and yet, I am the only one that can decode it. It doesn't make sense.” Han put a reassuring hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently.


    #


    Artoo emitted a series of beeps which disturbed them all from their deliberations. They crowded round the computer display as a stream of strange symbols that Han had never seen before wrote themselves onto the screen. Madine looked up from his chair at Leia.


    It's an old Rebel code. Over to you.” He rose to let her sit in his place. She studied it for a moment. It was indeed an old code. One that had been replaced a very long time ago, just as they were always replaced, to ensure the Empire wouldn't be able to keep up. She new the key, however, and began typing it onto the control board. The symbols systematically translated themselves into Basic and she scanned the message quickly. It was a report by Rebel spies on the discovery of covert Imperial activity and Leia read it out to the others.


    It says here that they discovered an Imperial facility where they appeared to be carrying out experiments on slaves which were being brought in from Rattatak, Thyfeera, Takodana and some other Outer Rim planets. Presumably they thought that, by using outlying planets, they would escape scrutiny and the slaves wouldn't be missed.”


    What were the experiments?” Luke asked.


    It seems the spies weren't able to ascertain the exact nature of the experiments but it confirms here that the slaves were all children.”


    Han read over her shoulder.


    It mentions that the facility was abandoned soon after the Rebel's discovery but, if we have seen this same activity, does that mean someone's started it up again?” Concern crossed Leia's face again.


    It's a possibility and one we ought to look into.” she agreed. “We've alerted them to our presence on Thyfeera now and it's unlikely they will be coming back for more slaves but they have no idea we know about the facility.”


    When we get a recording from that tracker, it's a good bet that's where the facility will be.” Luke noted. Leia nodded, running her tongue over her lower lip, then biting it in concentration. Looking at Han, she had an idea.

    You were talking about visiting Takodana weren't you?”


    Yes. Chewie and I have some repairs to do on the Falcon and we were going to talk to our contacts there about supplies.” He studied her, anticipating what she was going to say next. “You want to go check this out?”.


    We could.” she suggested. “Perhaps we could just get your repairs done and see what we can find out while we're there.” Han sighed and looked intensely at her.


    I have a bad feeling about this.”


    You always have a bad feeling.” Leia chided. “We don't know that there's even anything going on there. This might all be coincidence so it will probably be a harmless trip.” Han raised an eyebrow. He'd lost count of the number of trips he'd accompanied her on where she had promised a harmless investigation and it had ended up in a whole mess of trouble. Leia looked at Madine. “What do you think, General?”


    I think we certainly need to see what we can find out but perhaps covertly. There is no point risking another skirmish like today. If we find anything out, we need a plan of attack this time.”


    An intelligence gathering trip only then. I'll tell Blake to take care of my official duties for the time being.” Leia agreed.


    Come on.” Han suddenly felt hungry. Let's plan the trip over some food. I'm starving.” Chewbacca growled an agreement. He was always ready for food. Luke and Leia both realised how hungry they were and nodded their approval at the suggestion. Leia rose from the chair and gathered up the hide bound document.

    Do you mind if I hang on to this? I'd like to study it further.” she asked the General.


    No, go ahead. We don't need it now.” The four of them made their way out of the Command Centre and down the corridor to the mess hall to find some food.


    #


    While they all ate hungrily, Luke suggested that Han, Leia and Chewbacca make the trip to Takodana without him. He had decided that a return to Chandrila archives for more reading was perhaps a good idea after all. Intelligence gathering on Takodana didn't require all of them and his Jedi presence would probably draw unwanted attention.
    Han thought the trip might still make a welcome break for Leia, even though she wanted to gain information, he was certain it could be done by socialising with the locals and without too much fuss. They weren't going to engage anyone at least.


    I hope you don't mind me tagging along on your visit.” she said.


    Not at all. I can introduce you to my friend.”


    Friend?” Leia smiled. “It would be nice to meet some of your friends. Wait...” she suddenly looked sceptical. “It's not going to be another Cloud City is it? Because that friend wasn't that friendly to begin with.” Chewbacca grumbled enquiringly as to whether it was the right sort of place for Leia.


    No. It'll be fine.” Han assured them both. “Maz is a very old friend. Besides, Chewie, you know you love visiting her. She spoils you.” Chewbacca grumbled a reluctant agreement. Leia looked delightedly at Chewbacca.


    Well, Chewie. We mustn't keep you from her then.” she teased. Chewbacca put a furry paw over his eyes in defeat causing laughter from the other three.


    That's settled then.” Luke confirmed, finishing the last of his dinner and rising from the table. “You know where I'll be if you need me.” He leaned down and kissed Leia on the cheek then shook Han's hand and Chewbacca's enormous paw.


    Take care.” Leia said.


    Always.” Luke assured her. He gestured at Han. “Don't you be getting him into any trouble now.” he teased her. She giggled impishly which made Han smile and Luke took his leave, pulling up the hood on his cloak and sweeping out of the room. Leia leaned back in her chair and watched him go. A long way from the farm boy she had met a few years ago, he had a powerful presence. She was full of love and admiration. Proud that he was her brother. Han touched her arm.


    We'd best get going. It's a day's journey. Go and pack your things and Chewie and I will meet you on the Falcon.”


    OK. I'll let Blake know the plans so she can cover things while I'm gone.” Leia agreed. She patted his hand, rising from the table. “See you shortly.”
     
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  16. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Hmmm. It is indeed almost as though the coded message in the book was intended specifically for Leia. But there are still so many questions: why her, specifically? Why all the secrecy? Whoever first wrote this message apparently considers it top secret, but if they're trying to solicit the help of the Alliance in investigating and breaking up this very disturbing and mysterious child-trafficking situation, there certainly were less roundabout ways that could have been done. These are deep waters here. [face_thinking] All the same, it says so much for Leia's courage and character that she immediately makes plans to investigate the matter more thoroughly. I will be curious to see what they come across on Takodana—naturally good ol' Maz will be able to offer them some help, and I am excited about the prospect of a Leia-Maz meeting and conversation! (One thing that was conspicuously missing from TFA.) No doubt they'll have lots to say to each other!

    And I have to say I just loved this bit:

    Perfect, priceless, meta Han/Leia moment there! [face_laugh] Again, you continue to do a bang-up job with them and their dynamic. =D=
     
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  17. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Chapter 9



    The Duke's party have just landed, Chancellor.” Mon Mothma's aide, a bald but bearded Chandrilian man of about 40 standard years, interrupted her as she signed yet another document in the large pile of official agreements and decrees that were littering her desk. It was a welcome interruption, breaking up the monotony, although, the arrival of these particular guests had been a last minute and somewhat surprising turn of events.


    Duke Delcar Pax Alde was the son of a trusted advisor to Viceroy Bail Organa, Mon Mothma's close friend. His message requesting a meeting with her had been a shock as the whole of the royal House of Alde had been thought killed along with Alderaan on that ill-fated day. Learning that he had survived and had been living, along with a thousand strong Alderaanian citizens, on a little planetary moon on the Outer Rim was, of course, pleasing information but she couldn't help wondering why this was the first time she was hearing about it and how Leia would react when she was told the news.


    It took about half a standard hour for the shuttle carrying the royal party to bring them to her Council chambers and she used the time to ensure adequate refreshments had been laid on for their arrival.

    The door slid open and her aide announced the party as the Duke moved swiftly and confidently into the room followed by an entourage of five smartly dressed Alderaanians, two in the official uniform of the infamous security force and the rest with the pale blue ocular House of Alde insignia on their navy blue jacket lapels. He crossed the room to shake her hand. It had been some time since she had seen him, the last time he had been a boy. Often around Aldera Palace, he was a regular visitor of Leia's, educated together and enjoying free time, they were often in each other's company with one or two other palace children. Now stood before her, he was an imposing, handsome man; tall and slim with dark features, dark hair and a neatly groomed tuft of hair under his bottom lip that complemented the moustache above. He had every bit the regal bearing of a Duke.

    Chancellor. Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me.” He was formal. Charming.

    Duke Delcar. It is my very great pleasure. It was such good news to hear that Alderaan's fate had not befallen you.” She gestured to the sofa's and refreshments. “Please sit and have some refreshment. I am eager to hear all your news.”

    And I would be happy to tell you.” He sat gracefully on a large sofa in the middle of the room, spreading his heavy, lined cape out behind him as he did so. “Although, I must confess that I have an ulterior motive for coming here.” A service droid poured wine for the group and then moved round the room offering plates of finger food. “I had heard that Princess Leia may also have survived and that she might be here on Chandrila.” He continued eagerly. “Is this true? Is she alive?”

    It is.” Mon Monthma confirmed. She didn't elaborate on what Leia had been doing the last few years. Keeping secrets was second nature to her having spent years as a supporter of the Rebellion within the Senate. Now it was habit to be very economical with information.

    The Duke was keen. Excited. He leaned forward.

    I must speak with her.” He was insistent.

    Indeed, she is often here.” Mon Mothma was guarded. “Not currently though. I will send word to her. I am sure she will be happy to hear you are alive.”

    I heard tell that she may have been continuing her father's good work all this time. Now that the Empire has fallen, I had assumed she would take up official government duties again. She was always keen on the idea of a democratic government and, this being the centre of Government, it seemed the best place to try.” Mon Mothma smiled.

    It has been suggested to her that she rejoin the Senate permanently but, at the moment, she has other responsibilities that occupy her time. It is something you will have to ask her more about.” The Duke helped himself to a ripe, purple coloured fruit, turning it in his hand before biting into it.

    I would be grateful if you could inform her as soon as you can. As you can imagine, I am grateful to hear she is safe and am eager to see her again. I also have something for her that I am sure she will be pleased to have.” The Duke didn't offer an explanation and Mon Mothma didn't enquire further although she was intrigued. She gave him an understanding nod.

    The party remained for another hour, making small talk about the New Republic plans, about how his small group of dispossessed people had found a place to settle and had been surviving, under his leadership, away from the sight of the Empire.

    When they finally left to be taken to the suite of rooms that had been organised for them, Mon Mothma spoke to her aide seriously.

    Get me a secure connection with Leia.”

    #

    The atmosphere in the Falcon's central lounge area was raucous that evening. As the freighter sped through hyperspace en route to the lush planet of Takodana, Leia and Chewbacca were occupying themselves with a game. It was the loudest game of Dejarik Han had ever witnessed and he had seen Chewbacca play quite a few times, it being his favourite. The Wookie could and had threatened to kill opponents who dared to beat him in the past. It appeared, however, that Leia was just as competitive.

    He watched with amusement from the technical station chair across from them, his feet up on the console next to him as one of Chewbacca's holo-creatures hit one of Leia's, knocking it to the virtual ground.

    Chewie loves this game.” Han told her. “Be careful though, he doesn't like to lose.” he warned.

    It's fun!” she said excitedly. “I can see why you like it, Chewie.” She pressed the buttons on her side of the Dejarik table and moved one of her players into a threatening position. It grabbed one of Chewbacca's holo-pieces, swinging it round in circles before slamming it into the game table. Leia looked quickly at Chewbacca with a wide-eyed smile that almost made Han think she was excited by the prospect of having her arms ripped off. He shook his head and covered his eyes in anticipation of Chewbacca's tantrum. When it didn't happen, he peered at them from between his fingers. Chewbacca growled a loud appreciation at her excellent move.

    What?” Han was disbelieving. “You're not going to threaten to rip her arms off like you do to me?” Chewbacca was extremely vocal in his insistence that he would never dream of doing that to Leia and, as if to emphasise the point, wrapped a large furry arm round her and rubbed her head with his other paw, saying that she was a worthy Dejarik opponent. Leia laughed and wrapped her arms round as much of him as she could in return.

    Thanks, Chewie.” she said affectionately.

    Huh!” Han was amazed. “Favouritism!” he mock grumbled. Chewbacca was extremely fond of Leia and he was very selective in his choice of human friends. Han was just pleased to see her enjoying herself. He didn't think she got much opportunity to relax.

    A light began blinking on the console next to him, accompanied by a regular beeping. He sat up straight and unhooked a headset, putting it to his ear and flicking a switch.

    This is Solo.” He answered the person on the other end of the comm. “OK, standby.” he continued, then, turning to Leia, “You've got a secure call coming in. It's the Chancellor. You want to take it in the cockpit?” Leia frowned and nodded, wondering what the call could be about.

    Thanks for the game, Chewie.” she said as she got up and made her way across the room, touching Han's hand as she passed.

    Come with me will you?” she asked. If the call was of a serious nature, she wanted him to hear it. Han transferred the call and followed her to the cockpit, taking the pilot's seat while she sat at the communication console behind. She flicked the switch to accept the call. “Chancellor. What can I do for you?” Her mind was sieving through all the possibilities. There were no planned meetings that she was required to attend for several weeks and it was most unusual for Mon Mothma to track her down mid-flight.

    Leia. I am glad I managed to get hold of you. Commander Blake informs me that you are on a visit to Takodana.” Mon Mothma's gentle voice held an almost undetectable note of import which didn't escape Leia.

    We're still en route actually.” she confirmed. Mon Mothma continued.

    My apologies for interrupting your trip but there has been an interesting turn of events that I needed to bring to your attention.” Leia and Han exchanged curious glances. “We have had a visit...” Mon Mothma paused, almost for effect. “from Duke Delcar Pax of House Alde.” Leia inhaled sharply and her face reflected a range of emotions. Just as she was good at reading other people, her expressions were transparent to Han. He was detecting shock, surprise, but he settled on shock. She leant forward in her chair, resting her forearms on her thighs, processing the information.

    What?” she replied. “I thought he was dead.” Han could see her running through questions in her mind and tried to get her attention with an enquiring look. She ignored him and instead, her stream of thoughts came out of her mouth like a caf machine with no off switch, all directed at Mon Mothma. “How is this possible? Why didn't he make contact sooner? What was the purpose of this visit? Does he know I'm alive?” and then “He can't know where I am.” Han threw his hands up allegorically stemming the verbal flow. She buried her face in her hands in thought while Mon Mothma briefed her on the situation as had been told to her by the Duke; the moon settlement, the Alderaanian citizens and the apparent reason for their secrecy.

    Han could see her confusion and, his curiosity increasing, he peered up into her covered face, repeating his silent enquiry.

    He already knows, Leia. He came here to see you. He asked me to contact you as a matter of urgency.” Leia uncovered her face and spotted Han's expression. She wasn't sure she fully comprehended the information herself, it seemed surreal and she wasn't quite ready for an explanation so she swivelled her chair round to avoid his gaze. He held his hands up in defeat, rolled his eyes and sat back in his chair. “I thought you would have been more pleased, Leia. Were the two of you not friends?” Mon Mothma broke the silence. Leia hurried to correct her.

    Yes, we were friends and, of course, I am very pleased he is alive. It's a surprise that's all. A lot has happened since we last saw each other and it would have been easier for me if we left things as they are.” She turned her chair again and studied Han's face which now held a frown. She would have to explain. “Excuse me for just a moment, Chancellor.” She flicked a switch to mute the call and continued to silently examine his face as he examined hers. She was squinting slightly and that meant the news bothered her.

    What's going on? Who is this guy?”

    A childhood friend.” she explained. He looked at her expectantly, trying to encourage more information from her. She elaborated. “He is the son of my father's aide and advisor. He was one of a few palace children I grew up with. The Alde family pledged allegiance to the Organas generations ago, keeping residences in the palace grounds. We all went to the Academy together. I thought they had all been killed when Alderaan...” Han nodded comprehension so that she didn't have to continue that explanation.

    So what's the problem?”

    Don't get me wrong. I am pleased he is safe and he was a good friend but you should know, we have a history.” A niggling, nervous feeling began in his stomach but he tried to smile.

    Should I be worried?” He hoped he knew the answer.

    Not in the slightest!” she was adamant. “We were just friends and I never wanted anything else but Pax is a staunch royalist and always assumed we would marry to unify the two families. He was alone in that assumption.” He actually couldn't imagine Leia agreeing to an alliance on anything other than her terms. An arranged marriage? He'd tried to suggest a simple kiss once and she'd nearly ripped him to pieces and used him as tauntaun feed. He felt a little sorry for the guy. He held her gaze for a while and she hit the button on the comms again. “My apologies, Chancellor. This is all a little overwhelming.”

    I understand.” Mon Mothma sounded sympathetic. “As far as I remember, he was very fond of you, even proposed marriage at one point did he not?”

    At seven points to be precise.” Leia's eyes flicked to Han who now had both eyebrows raised. She threw him a derisive look and he started to say something and she put her finger to her lips, shaking her head to keep him quiet.

    Does this make things awkward for you with General Solo?” Leia looked incredulous.

    It's not awkward at all. I turned Pax down every time. I had no interest in an arranged marriage but you can understand that I am not keen on rekindling that notion now that he thinks we are the only two members of Alderaan's royal family left alive.” Leia directed this last statement to Han as much as to Mon Mothma.

    He says he has something important to give you. Something you would want back. He is insisting on seeing you.” Leia frowned.

    Something I would want?” she repeated.

    He didn't elaborate but he has taken up quarters here and doesn't look like he will be leaving until he sees you. Perhaps you would consider diverting your course and granting him an audience.” Leia winced at Mon Mothma's choice of words. She really didn't relish the idea of delaying a few days rest and the chance of an investigation for what would certainly be a very official visit. “I am sorry, Leia but I feel it's imperative.” Mon Mothma was making it very difficult for her to refuse. Han motioned to the comms button.

    Excuse me again, Chancellor. Let me check whether that's possible.”

    Of course, Leia.” Mon Mothma replied, her voice patient as always. Leia muted the call and Han looked at her sympathetically.

    What do you want to do?” He could tell she was conflicted. She sighed.

    If Mon Mothma thinks it's important, I feel I should go but it means diverting you all from your trip.”

    If you think we should go, then we'll go.” he smiled. She looked sideways at him apologetically. He was acquiescing to her again.

    I'm so sorry. I know you wanted to get your repairs done and I really want to see what I can find out about this report.”

    It's fine. If this is important to you, then I'll take you. We can do what we were going to do on Takodana afterwards.” He grabbed her hand and kissed it reassuring her that he really didn't mind. He waggled a finger at the comms button. “Better not keep her Chancellorship waiting.” Leia swivelled her chair and hit the button again as Han turned to the console to re-plot their course.

    Chancellor. We'll divert our course and be with you in a couple of days.” She glanced at Han for confirmation that her estimation was correct. He nodded that it was.

    Wonderful. The Royal Suite would probably be appropriate. I will ensure it is at your disposal as always, Leia. We'll expect you in a couple of days.” Han rolled his eyes and Leia kicked him as she signed off the call. He grinned at her, his feet now up on the co-pilot's chair and his arms folded behind his head.

    What's so funny?” she asked.

    Royal Suite. To meet Duke What's-His-Name. Princess I use my title only as a tool.” He was mocking her with an expression that feigned being impressed. She gave him an embarrassed smile.

    Oh, shut up! I'm going to insist you share it with me.” she laughed. “I really am sorry.” She was aware that he had wanted to spend time with her and, once again, she had delayed it in favour of official duties. “I'll make it up to you.” He lifted his eyebrows again, a devilish expression on his face, stood up and placed his hands either side of her on the back of her chair. He leaned alluring close to her.

    Oh yes. You will.” he breathed in his deep, seductive voice. She stared straight into his eyes. She had left herself open to his suggestive comments yet again and was enjoying the thrilling sensation it gave her and the hint of challenge. Grabbing his shirt, she kissed him passionately then looked back into his eyes, almost goading him to make the next move. Grinning, he took her hand. “Come on, beautiful. Let's go tell Chewie he'll have to postpone seeing his girlfriend, then we'll see if we can't find you a Royal Suite on board.” he winked.
     
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  18. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Oh dear. I think Han's 'bad feeling' is justified. Of course, at some point there's going to be a Han/Pax showdown... my money's on the Corellian!;) Dunno...if I were Leia I'd see Maz first, let his Nibs cool his heels. But I'm biased.
     
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  19. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Well, the sudden appearance of Duke Pax is a very unexpected turn indeed, and I daresay an inconvenient one. This is probably farfetched, but it looks almost as though His Dukeship planned it just so in order to divert Leia and co. from their current mission—could that be, or is this really just pure coincidence? He seems like he's an expert at that sort of quiet, dignified insistence that certain kinds of authority figures cultivate for the purpose of making their authority felt—and indeed I can see that even the authoritative Mon Mothma is having a hard time resisting it, and that Leia in turn is having a hard time resisting her. But she's in the middle of hyperspace, for crying out loud, and on the way to a planet in the completely opposite direction! Certainly she could stand her ground at least a little. Unless—she somehow knows something? [face_thinking] I may be totally off base here, but this whole scenario seems to invite several possible interpretations.

    And of course the fact that this fellow was once a suitor of Leia's—one she consistently turned down—only adds increases the awkwardness (and indeed does so exponentially). I am almost 100% certain that Han's jealous hackles will be raised at some point. Though in a way, a confrontation between him and His Nibbitude would be very interesting to see, in that "prince vs. pauper" way. :D
     
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  20. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Oooooooo, that didn't occur to me! Now I'm DOUBLY suspicious of the guy! (GO TEAM HAN!)
     
  21. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    I always enjoy reading all your discussions and thoughts on what might be coming up in the story. I am so glad you are enjoying it and I hope it doesn't disappoint... I don't think so though! More Han/Leia (and even some Luke) baddassery to come. :leia::han: :luke:
     
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  22. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Chapter 10



    Two extra days aboard the Falcon was not anyone's ideal pastime but they made use of the time with maintenance duties. C-3PO plugged in to the ship's many computers diagnosing any minor issues that required their attention, although he complained constantly about the lack of finesse with which they spoke back to him and preened whenever he identified an issue and instructed them to fix it. Leia busied herself. She was quite good at minor repairs but Han and Chewbacca were better at climbing in and around the service hatches. They knew the ship better, of course, with all it's secret compartments and modifications. Her thoughts ran over the meeting ahead but also to the situation on Thyfeera and the coded report. She really wanted to investigate it further. The gnawing feeling she had in her gut that the surface mystery hid a rather nastier agenda wouldn't go away.


    Putting some equipment away in the storage area compartments, she went to the galley and made some spice tea. Coming back along the corridor, she paused by the missile tube viewport. Chewbacca had taken them out of lightspeed for their approach to Chandrila and the stars were bright and sparkling like a scattering of jewels in Chandrila's crown. She hugged her warm cup in her hands, watching the steam rise from the liquid and leaned against the bulkhead absent mindedly.


    Han noticed her lost in thought as he pulled his head back out of the power cell access panel. He pushed to his feet and came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist.

    Share your thoughts?”

    Huh!” she half laughed as if that would be quite a task. “I'm just trying to organise them all.” She leaned back against him. “You know I said sometimes I want to run to the farthest corner of the galaxy?”

    Uh, huh.”

    Well this might be one of those times.” He held her a little tighter.

    Is meeting this friend really so bad?”

    Yes. No. I don't know.” she replied, turning to face him and leaning back against the viewport. “No. Not really. He's OK. It's just one more thing and each time I approach Chandrila, I feel the pressure... of government... of expectation, and I'm not sure I'm ready for it.” Han put his hands on her hips. Her attractive brown eyes held sadness and that caused a pain in his chest that he didn't welcome.

    Hey. Tell you what. The moment you feel you wanna get outta there, you give me the nod and we'll be gone. OK?” She looked up at him, smiling gratefully. She knew he would do it too, if she asked it.

    OK.” she agreed.

    Chewbacca growled over the comm that they were on their final approach to the Hanna City space port. Han kissed her gently.

    I'd better go help Chewie.”

    I'd better make myself presentable.” Leia replied, holding her cup aside and looking down at her grubby clothing.

    You don't have to wear anything to look presentable.” Han couldn't resist the opportunity as he walked away from her.

    In your dreams, General.” she retorted. Han laughed and, when he looked back, caught her smiling as she headed towards the berths to change. He mentally clocked up a point to himself.

    #

    When they landed, Han, Chewbacca and C-3PO made their way to the cargo bay hatchway as Leia emerged from the berth corridor. Her outfit was not what Han had expected. She had gone for quite a military look of a smart jacket with multiple clasps down the front, an echo of that of her aide but clearly higher rank. It was of the dark blue colours of Alderaan with the symbol on her lapel of a horned animal of a type Han didn't recognise but that he knew was the crest of House Organa. Her hair was smartly raised at the back of her head with multiple looped braids hanging down. He noted her gun belt which contained her blaster and a vibro-blade. He looked her up and down without saying a word.

    What is it?” she quizzed him, noticing his scrutiny and looking down at her own outfit. “Too much of a statement?”

    Not at all.” he replied, understanding that she wanted to make a visual point to her visitor. “In fact” he continued, reaching into a hidden compartment in the bulk head wall and pulling another blaster off it's charging unit. “I don't think you have quite enough weapons.” he said, passing it to her, straight faced. She took it and considered his face for a moment, then smiled and attached it to her belt on the other hip. Taking his arm as they walked down the ramp, she said,

    Now, you see. That's why I love you so much. You know me very well.”

    That and the fact that I'm so irresistibly good looking.” he teased. She laughed loudly.

    Yes. And that.” He grinned as he escorted her to the shuttle bay to take them to the government buildings.




    Chapter 11



    The enormity of the atrium of the New Republic government building never failed to impress Han. It's high glass ceilings were supported by white, almost skeletal pillars that reminded him of the bones of a gigantic animal with jutting nodules resembling joints supporting the two upper floors. He used to imagine what sort of creature must have had such bones and how many of them they had to kill to build Hanna City as the architecture was of a type throughout it's vast expanse.


    At the far end of the atrium, a wide marble double staircase swept majestically down from a jutting balcony section and the many conference rooms, offices and guest suites could be seen on the upper floors, the doorways to which were equally imposing. There must have been hundreds of people from a multitude of worlds milling about but the shear size of the public space almost made it seem empty.


    As the four crossed the atrium towards the staircases, Han caught sight of Mon Mothma standing on the balcony where the two staircases met. Next to her were a group of people dressed in various smartly presented uniforms which Han recognised to be Alderaanian security forces and aides. One member of the group particularly stood out. With more regal dress, his dark hair well groomed, he was impossibly good looking. Han was certain this was the Duke. When he saw them approaching, the Duke, his face fixed on Leia, broke into a broad smile.

    House Organa.” He called from the balcony in a cheery and strangely mock formal way and performed the deepest bow that Han had ever witnessed. Leia looked up at the royal party and took a deep breath only noticeable to Han, attempting to steel herself.

    House Alde.” she called back, smiling politely, and mock curtseyed, not as deeply. Partly because of her attire but, knowing her social manoeuvrings as he did, probably because she was the outranking royal and it was accentuating her visual point. The whole performance seemed to be a game because the Duke came bounding down the staircase to meet Leia and, grinning now, they greeted each other like army comrades might after returning from battle. Han and Chewbacca exchanged glances and Chewbacca gurgled a satisfied noise that it all seemed to be going well.

    Pax Alde stood back and drank in Leia's appearance with a look that reminded Han of Lando Calrissian.

    Here you are at last. My favourite member of House Organa.” he flattered.

    The only member of House Organa, Pax, so that's not exactly difficult.” Leia replied, looking at him ironically. He continued smiling and weighing her up. He took in her array of weapons.

    Ever the warrior.” He laughed.

    Ever the bureaucrat.” she retorted, smiling at him. “It's good to see you Pax.”

    It's good to see you, Leia. You've...” He paused and looked admiringly at her “grown up since I last saw you.” She laughed.

    Life does that to you.” She had been a teenager when she last saw him and almost a lifetime seemed to have passed since then.

    All his observations seemingly out of the way, he held out his hand for hers in order to kiss it politely. She took it. Then her face changed.


    For Leia, the atrium went black, as if a thick shroud had been thrown over the sun, and her head was filled with a deafening noise, the smell of molten rock and... death. A painful burning sensation shot up her arm and she withdrew her hand. As soon as she did, the atrium returned to normal. It had all happened in a split second.

    Is everything alright?” Pax enquired about the swift removal of her hand. Han looked concerned. It had been a marginal change in her expression but he had seen it before and her face paled a little.

    Uh, yes.” She smiled but Han knew one of Leia's masks when he saw one. “It's been a long journey.” She tried to salvage the situation, not really sure how much had been seen by anyone else. “It would be good to get some refreshment.” He noticed her shift her feet subtly away from the Duke and closer to him and he took her arm for support.

    The Duke now turned his attention to Han.

    May I introduce General Han Solo?” Leia said formally, seeing the chance to shift the attention away from the awkward moment. The Duke shook Han's hand, vigorously.

    General Solo. I have heard a lot about you from the Chancellor.” Han glanced at Mon Mothma who had been observing the introductions from above with the rest of the royal party. He had earned a modicum of respect from the older woman for his contribution to the war and also because she respected Leia's attachment to him but she was still reticent with regard to his past nefarious deeds. He would have liked to have been a bug on the wall of her offices as she had described him to the Duke.

    I hope it was all good.” he replied, returning the handshake, a wry smile on his lips. It was a strong, friendly handshake and the Duke seemed pleasant enough to him but he had learned to pay attention to Leia's odd turns and made a mental note to be wary.

    Quite glowing actually.” the Duke informed him. They began walking up the stairs and along the corridor to the Royal Suite, joined by the official looking entourage. Leia regarded one of the security force officers closely.

    I know you, don't I?” She addressed a young woman, perhaps a year or so older than herself, who stood at the Duke's shoulder. Blonde haired and hard faced, she was surprised and slightly uncomfortable by the recognition.

    Yes, Your Highness.” she saluted her officially. “Commander Bel Asarra. I joined the Security Force from the Academy. You oversaw my disciplinary hearing once when I borrowed a quad jumper and took some friends on a night out. I was reprimanded for absconding with Security Force property. “ Her face reflected that the bad feelings over this incident had not quite finished for her.

    Oh.” Leia was a little taken aback. “Yes. I remember. Well, that was in training and a long time ago. You seem to be doing very well for yourself now, Commander.”

    They arrived at the Royal Suite and entered through the high doorway into a sumptuous suite of rooms, the first of which was filled with low white tables and luxurious blue and white sofas, scattered with large, soft cushions. The doorways leading off the main room opened onto a dining area with a very long banquet table, bedrooms, offices and more, all tastefully decorated. The floor to ceiling windows, framed with the same skeletal architecture as the atrium, led out onto a balcony overlooking the picturesque State Park. Either side of the main door hung two heavy cloth banners bearing the Organa crest.


    The room was sophisticated and elegant and Han felt a little out of place amongst the royalty and the décor, dressed in his usual smuggler's attire. He had been here before with Leia when she had entertained more regal guests. The suite was reserved for her and most of the ornaments and paintings were hers but, unless there was a good diplomatic relationship to cultivate she refused to use it, preferring the simplicity of standard rooms. He loved that. It meant, when he visited her, he could throw his stuff in a corner or sit on a sofa without worrying about getting things dirty. Noticing his discomfort, she moved to sit close to him so that he felt included. They accepted drinks from the service droids and the Duke continued his fascination with Han.

    From what the Chancellor tells me, you have won the Princess's heart, besting many eligible men, I can tell you.” Han caught Leia throwing a slightly irritated look at Mon Mothma who smiled politely.

    I don't see Leia as a trophy to be won.” Han said as gently as he could. He didn't want to be responsible for starting an incident. “She makes her own decisions.”

    She certainly does that.” the Duke agreed “As I have discovered on many occasions. Did she mention that she turned down my hand in marriage seven times?” Han wondered if he was trying to unsettle him. If so, he had failed.

    Yes. She did.” Han informed him. The Duke looked slightly surprised that he knew this but continued with a polite explanation. “I had thought that she might want to unify our two families but it seems she didn't share the idea, nor did her father.”

    I would never marry for such a ridiculous reason and my father would never have asked it of me.” Leia spoke up curtly. “Now, if you can all stop talking about me as if I weren't here. It's ancient history.” She was matter of fact and the rest of the room deferred to her authority.

    After that, Han noticed that the atmosphere seemed to relax, perhaps because of the spice wine but probably because the obvious Bantha in the room had been taken care of early on. Leia and Pax reminisced about a great many things and Leia explained to Han that Pax had been one of the children involved in the Candala Fruit incident and had been the one responsible for alerting her father to their crime by falling through the palace window. The conversation was jovial and Pax showed himself to be an intelligent and interesting conversationalist. He wasn't quite a match for Leia's rhetoric but he would have made quite a stimulating dinner guest and she was enjoying the repartee.


    The conversation moved to how Pax, after finding a number of other ships stranded off-world when Alderaan was destroyed, had made the decision to find and settle the Iridonian moon out of sight of the Empire where the traumatised citizens could recover. A lot of them had been security forces, he had discovered, as they were patrolling the space around Alderaan at the time, others were traders who had been off-world selling their goods. Leia felt slightly annoyed by the security forces' apparent reluctance to join the war, although she kept this to herself. Many of her people in similar situations had chosen to take up the fight against the Empire and joined the Rebellion, something she had always advocated even before Alderaan's destruction. At the same time, she knew, not everyone was as brave.


    Chewbacca, who had been snoozing on a rather comfortable looking sofa in the corner of the room, stirred as the door to the suite opened and C-3PO entered.

    Commander Luke Skywalker, Your Highness.” he announced, using every ounce of aplomb he could muster, as if he were thoroughly enjoying this role. He stood aside to allow Luke into the room. Leia rose to greet him with a smile. He nodded to Han then turned to the Duke, who had also stood as he entered.

    Pax, this is Luke Skywalker. I asked him to attend. I wanted to introduce you.” Luke held out his hand to the other man.

    A pleasure to meet you.” Luke said.

    Your reputation precedes you, Commander Skywalker.” the Duke replied. His face hardly changed but Han had been playing Sabaac long enough to know a tell when he saw one. He observed that the Duke was not only familiar with Luke's name but was also unsettled by his Jedi status. As he shook Luke's hand, Luke held on to it ever so slightly longer than was necessary as Han watched carefully. Then the moment was over and the conversation began again. Han took Luke aside while the others were chatting.

    Hey, kid. What's going on?” What are you doing here?”

    Leia sent 3PO to fetch me. I think she wanted some brotherly back up, if you know what I mean?” He looked at Han intensely trying to convey his hidden message.

    Yeah.” Han got it. “She had a funny turn earlier.” He gesticulated with his hand around his face to suggest what had happened to Leia. “She's not been sleeping well for a while though so she may just be tired.”

    Maybe.” Luke mused, but they looked at each other both knowing the other didn't believe that. Leia's voice brought their attention back into the room.

    So why is it that you chose to visit us now?” She and Mon Mothma, who had been circulating cordially all afternoon, both waited expectantly for the Duke's explanation. He obliged the two women.

    A few months ago, we paid a visit to the Graveyard.” Leia stiffened slightly where she stood. The Graveyard was a term she knew had been given by surviving Alderaanians to the rubble and detritus that was all that was left of the planet, a messy collection of asteroids where Alderaan had once been. A superstitious people, they believed the ghosts of their loved ones were still present in the Graveyard and patrolled the area, protecting it from looting by pirates or those wanting a keepsake. It was a practice that made her feel slightly sick but she understood why it helped others. “We retrieved something that I thought you would be interested in. Perfectly preserved.” he continued, crossing the room now to stand near her.

    What was it?” Leia couldn't imagine what could have survived the blast but was hoping he wasn't going to say something gruesome.

    A box of toughened metal.” He looked meaningfully at her. Mon Mothma was listening intently too. “Leia, it's the Killian Star.”
     
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  23. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    I have posted two chapters above as Chapter 10 is very short. I hope it's not too much for you all.
     
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  24. Findswoman

    Findswoman Kessel Run Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Suzannah.Pearce, that's totally fine—this was a perfectly manageable amount. :)

    So, things appear to be off to a good start with His Nibs—at least mostly. He and Han at least seem to be getting off on the right foot with each other so far, and it's a relief that the issue of former suitorhood, at least not yet hasn't proven too contentious, at least not yet. I like Leia's response: "Now, if you can all stop talking about me as if I weren't here." She doesn't mince her words! :D I like the idea of the offworld Alderaanians who colonized that moon after the destruction of Alderaan; it makes sense that such a thing might happen in a universe where space travel is so routine. (Plus, sap that I am, it's just nice to see that some parts of Alderaan's people and culture escaped destruction!)

    Though I have to say, Leia's reaction (vision? experience? not sure what else to call it) to the duke's mere touch is very worrying. The deafening sound she hears kind of reminds me of the way Ben Kenobi heard "thousands of voices crying out" back when Alderaan was destroyed, and this seems very much like the same kind of Force-based premonition. There is obviously more to Duke Pax than meets the eye, and this intensifies my feeling that he may have ulterior motives. And then on top of that there's the Kilian Star—I'm not sure yet what that is (and I imagine we'll find out soon), but it's clearly a very important artifact of what once was Alderaan, and I wonder if it too had something to do with Leia's reaction somehow. [face_thinking] It's good that Luke is on the scene, because we seem to be getting into some deeply Force-imbued territory here, and he's just the right man for that kind of job.

    I'm also going to keep my eyes on this Cmdr. Bel Asarra in the duke's entourage. She and Leia clearly have some none too pleasant history between them; their moment of mutual recognition, in a way, was just as awkward as the one between Leia and Duke Pax. I hope there will be no... fallout, but... [face_nail_biting]
     
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  25. Suzannah.Pearce

    Suzannah.Pearce Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Leia was obviously shocked. This wasn't what she had expected. Her hands clasped tightly in front of her, she leaned back slightly, looking at his face and searching for truth or lie in his eyes.

    How do you know it's the Star?” she interrogated.

    Indestructible ornate box with an organic coded lock.” Pax raised his eyebrows slightly in emphasis. “Coded to the Organas. It's definitely the Star. I recognise it.” he assured her. Mon Mothma also wore a more serious look but watched Leia now, allowing her to take control of the conversation. Han didn't think he could be the only one thinking of a question but no one spoke up.

    What's the Killian Star?” He would be the one to ask then. Leia turned to face him and Luke.

    It's a sacred orb, said to have been left by the original inhabitants of Alderaan, the Killiks. It was found and handed to the Organa family to protect generations ago and has been in the family ever since. It was used in an annual celebration of new life and to bless the newly growing crops. During the ceremony, performed by a member of the Household, it gives off light, supposedly symbolising the ushering in of the new season, hence why it is called the Star.” she explained. She turned to Pax. “You've come to return this to me?”

    Yes. It's useless to me as the box can only be opened by your family and it only reacts to someone of the Household.” He moved in very close to her and took both her hands in his. She wasn't keen on his proximity. I hope he doesn't expect me to kiss him in return for this present. “Leia. I wanted to ask a favour of you before I return it.”

    What's that?” she asked quietly. The Duke's gaze was giving Han the creeps.

    I wondered if you would consider performing the Ceremony of Light once more for our people.” Leia pulled her hands away and stepped back from him.

    Oh no!” she said emphatically, holding both hands up. “That's absolutely not going to happen.” Her voice raised a little and Mon Mothma looked between the two of them.

    Please Leia.” Pax entreated “It would mean a great deal to the survivors as a sort of memorial for Alderaan. So that they can move on. They would love to see you perform this one last time.” Leia was visibly very uncomfortable and Luke was beginning to look concerned. She turned away from the Duke.

    I don't want anything to do with that. I never liked it before and now, it just seems profligate and valueless.”

    I understand. You never liked the ceremonial duties and I realise that the ceremony itself contains no meaning now but, for them, it can stand for the beginning of their new lives.” Leia buried her face in her hands, facing away from the rest of the room. This was so much against what she stood for. Ceremonial duties were a distraction and an extravagance that she had always felt took time away from more philanthropic pursuits and diverted attention away from the dangers she saw in the galaxy. She had left all that behind and didn't want to hear his moral blackmail. The Duke pressed his point.

    I have a thousand Alderaanians who haven't seen their Princess since that fated day. It would fill their hearts with joy that you continue to work for them and for peace.” Leia made a little pained noise into her hands. She began to feel faint and swayed a little. Han quickly moved to check on her, opening the huge doors to the balcony to give her some air. She went outside and took a deep breath.

    I can't believe this.” she whispered to him, looking at the millions of stars in the evening sky. She tried to concentrate on them, noticing each one twinkling in an attempt to control her nausea.

    You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Whatever he says.” Han assured her. The Duke came to stand in the doorway and Leia, sensing his proximity, glanced over her shoulder.

    You have no right to ask this of me.” she said quietly. “It's not fair. The Star belongs to me and you should return it.”

    I wouldn't ask it of you unless I thought it was important to them. I could have just left the Star where it was but I chose to bring it to you.” Leia rolled her eyes almost despairingly. “I can see I have upset you and I am sorry. I will take my leave of you but I just ask that you consider it.” Pax bowed graciously to her back, turned on his heel and waved his hand at his entourage for them to follow him. He bade Mon Mothma a good evening and left.

    Luke and Mon Mothma looked at Leia as she returned to the room. Luke had sat down on a sofa, unspeaking, just watching her face. She felt his inquisition but appreciated his silence. She paced with her arms folded round her middle, like she was protecting herself. Han poured her another drink and handed it to her as she made a circuit of the end of the room, pensive. Finally, as she looked up, Luke broke the silence.

    Why is he so keen that you do this?” he asked.

    The box won't open for anyone else and the Star won't react to anyone else so he doesn't have another option. At least that's what he thinks.” Luke looked confused. Leia looked meaningfully at him.

    What he doesn't know is that the box is not coded simply to the Organa family, it's coded to me. My father... adoptive father” she corrected “coded the box to me specifically, which probably means that it will open for you too.” She sat down opposite him with a sigh and leant forward. “Luke, I am the one who has performed this ceremony because the Star only reacted to me. I didn't realise the significance of all this years ago but now it makes perfect sense. He knew our real origins and knew that one day, we would need to keep it safe together. I have to get it back because it should be yours.” He looked at her questioningly and she took his hand. “The orb contains a Kyber crystal. It reacts to the Force and that's why it gives off light. That's what the Killiks left on Alderaan. The Jedi kept it safe in the sacred temple and my family took on that role after the Jedi were all slaughtered. That task should now go to you.”

    Luke finally understood. The Kyber crystals that were in every Jedi's lightsaber were precious and few and he had read in his research that, of those held in the ancient Jedi temples, few had ever been recovered. The Killiks had obviously saved this one, hiding it until someone worthy came to protect it, keeping it from the Sith.

    So, did you sense anything from Pax?” Leia asked expectantly, slightly changing the subject. It was, after all why she had asked him here. After her experience in the atrium, she wanted to be sure there was no danger.

    There was certainly a stirring but nothing specific from your friend. Perhaps because the crystal is here.” he surmised. Leia looked a little disappointed. It didn't offer an explanation as to her vision.

    Perhaps.” she agreed. Luke thought for a while and then patted Leia's hand reassuringly.

    We don't have to decide what to do now. It will all be alright. Get some rest and we'll talk about it in the morning.” He got up to go, wishing Mon Mothma a good evening with a respectful nod to Han.

    See you in the morning, kid.” Han smiled tiredly. It had been an eventful day. Chewbacca gurgled that he was going to check out the local night life and said goodnight. Just Mon Mothma to get rid of now and they could think in peace and take stock of the days happenings.

    Leia rose and went to stand by the open window again, more relaxed now that she knew Luke would be considering what to do.

    Mon Mothma regarded Leia carefully. She had said very little while all this had been going on, preferring to weigh up the room like she did, calculating the next move.

    I think you should consider the Duke's request Leia. I could arrange the ceremonial halls for the event. It would be no trouble.” Leia turned and looked at her with her best withering look.

    Not you too. I thought you would understand why I don't want to do this.” Leia spoke to her like an aunt. Mon Mothma smiled a little obsequiously.

    The ceremony would mean so much to your people” she continued, persuasive, her voice like syrup. “I have known you a long time, Leia. I know you think this is a pointless frivolity at a time when there are more pressing matters to attend to but you, of all people, should understand how much they have lost. While the significance of this particular ceremony may be redundant, they would gain a great deal of morale from seeing the Princess of their most powerful royal family perform it one last time.” Leia folded her arms defensively round herself again and looked sardonic.

    They are not my possessions and I have no desire to be worshipped. They are managing very well without me putting on some sham, meaningless spectacle.” Mon Mothma tried a different tactic, keeping her voice calm as she always did.

    Think of it from a political stand point then.” Now Leia had her arms folded and raised an eyebrow at the other woman's suggestion as if to say this was even more ridiculous a reason for doing anything. “Which...” Mon Mothma continued, raising her hand to curb Leia's inevitable rhetoric “Which, I know, you also have strong feelings about; manipulating people for political gains. However, what you might gain is the military support you have been seeking. There are a large number of Alderaanian security forces among them.” Han watched Leia's stance stiffen, her face harden, the cynical look she was wearing and couldn't help feeling that, for all her experience, Mon Mothma was digging herself a hole into which Leia might just push her.

    You're right.” Leia was biting. “I won't gain support that way. They must make their own decisions. I won't use this as a recruitment platform.”

    Mon Mothma broke her gaze and went to the table to pour herself more wine. She gestured an offer of wine to Han who waved a refusal and then she turned to Leia again. Leia hadn't moved. She just regarded Mon Mothma stony faced and calculatingly.

    Consider this then.” Mon Mothma said. “If Duke Delcar has the Killian Star, it should be in your possession and this may be the only way for you to get it.” She was blunt and remained staring at Leia for quite a while, seeming to want the import of her message to hit home. Leia's chin raised slightly, a sure sign to Han that this particular argument was being considered, although her expression remained as hard as ever. Mon Mothma broke the awkward silence. “I'll leave you to make your decision.” She put down her glass and, turning to Han she reached out to shake his hand. “General Solo. Hopefully you will both be here long enough to enjoy some of our beautiful sights.” She took her leave as the two women nodded respectfully to one another.


    Han leaned against the pillar of the window frame, folded one arm across his middle and rested the other elbow on it, covering his mouth with his hand. He watched Mon Mothma go and then his eyes went to Leia. He raised his eyebrows in enquiry. She raised her eyebrows in return.

    She's playing me.” Leia answered his silent question, reaching for her wine glass and taking a sip. She went to stand by the balcony window and looked out across the lakes.

    She really wants you to do this.” Han observed.

    Yes. I just can't figure out why.” Leia mused.

    Perhaps she just thinks it will be a good thing for you. To remind you of Alderaan.” he offered.

    No!” she was emphatic. “She knows I'd hate it.” She moved to sit on one of the large sofas. Putting her glass on the table, she leant back against the large soft cushions and covered her face with both hands, her slender fingers rubbing her forehead. “Oh...” she sighed in complete resignation. Han moved to sit next to her, stroking her hair. She looked at him through her fingers then dropped her hands to her sides. “I can feel myself being dragged under the wheels of the propaganda machine.”

    You'll do what you think is right.” He took her hand and massaged it, turning to sit sideways to see her better.

    He looked relaxed, comfortable. His hands were warm and Leia felt the tension start to slip away.

    Problem is she's got me and she knows it. I have to get that orb and give it to Luke.” She twisted her body on the sofa to face towards him, her head leaning on the soft white fabric of the sofa back. Little strands of hair fell loosely round her face. Han leaned a little closer, moving a strand that had fallen in front of her eyes. “You know how I hate being backed into a corner” she continued. Her eyes were inviting and her fingers began playing with his shirt. She looked up into his eyes and smiled, realising what she had said and knowing he wouldn't pass up the opportunity of innuendo. He obliged.

    Really?” he teased “You never seemed to mind all that much to me.” He kissed her, his tongue exploring hers. She closed her eyes, excited tingles travelling through her body as he put his arms round her and laid her down on the sofa seat.

    Well.” she breathed in between his caresses “There are corners and then there are corners.” As she slipped her hand inside the belt of his trousers, he reached out and hit the remote button that locked the chamber door.
     
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