THE LAST DAYS, PART 3
By Kathryn Olsen
"Coming up on Yavin," Han Solo called. "You have the coordinates of the base?"
Princess Leia Organa rubbed fatigue from her eyes and leaned in to key the coordinates
into the *Millenium Falcon*'s navcomputer. "It shouldn't be too hard to spot once we reach the
main continent in the southern hemisphere," she said wryly. "There aren't that many ziggurats
Han grinned. "Better wake up the resident farmboy. He won't want to miss this."
Leia rolled her eyes. "I'll get him."
She stood and left the cockpit, heading back to the crew quarters. Luke Skywalker lay
on one of the bunks, his arm flung over his eyes. Leia sank onto the edge of the bunk and shook
He sat bolt upright and she could see the disorientation in his eyes. She rested a
hand on his knee. "It's all right, it's just me."
His eyes focused on her face smiled slightly. "You have news?"
She nodded. "Captain Solo is bringing us up on Yavin IV. He thought you might appreciate
the view better if you were conscious."
"Thanks for the warning."
She reached down and retrieved his shirt. "Better hurry. You don't want to miss this."
He pulled on the shirt and followed her through the ship to the cockpit. They were just
passing under the gas giant that was the focal point of the Yavin system.
Luke let out a low whistle. "Quite an impressive view."
Han laughed. "More hospitable than the Galaxy's largest dustball."
"It's nothing compared to Alderaan," Leia said instinctively.
Everyone turned to stare at her and she caught her breath, suddenly realizing what
she'd said. Luke rested a hand on her arm and she nodded slightly.
"Take her in, Chewie."
"Any sign of pursuit?"
Han shook his head. "They'll come sooner or later. They always do."
Leia frowned. "Estimated time of arrival?"
"Yavin Control here," a voice from the comm said. "State your business."
Leia leaned in. "This is Senator Princess Leia Organa. Clearance code angel 9741
There was a pause, then another voice came on. "Your Highness, good to hear from you.
Do you have a delivery for us?"
"Yes, General," she said. "We'll be at the base within three minutes. Organa out."
Leia shut off the comm and turned to smile at Luke. "That was General Jan Dodonna.
You'll get to know him fairly well."
"He's the commander of the base?"
She nodded. "He also controls the starfighter contingent. He'll have the final say
on your squadron placement."
Leia craned her neck. "There it is."
It was hard to miss. Rising far above the jungle canopy was a massive temple. The
only sign that it was inhabited was a lookout post on the third tier.
"The auxiliary hangar is on the east side. It's our best bet for a landing slot."
Han banked, circling the temple until they found the hangar. Han brought the *Falcon*
in for a surprisingly smooth landing and cut the repulsorjets.
"Cash or credit," he quipped.
"I'll see that it's arranged," Leia bit out.
She unstrapped and stood. "Thank you all for everything."
Luke grinned. "Our pleasure."
Han tilted his chin. "Looks like your welcoming party's here."
Leia glanced out the viewport and winced. "A Princess should always have a retinue,"
she said wryly. "Might as well be a barbarian horde."
Luke laughed. "Shall we be going?"
"seems as good an idea as any." She glanced back at Han and Chewbacca. "You two coming?"
"We've got a few repairs to do. We'll catch up to you later."
"Reasonable enough," she conceded.
Luke followed her out of the cockpit and down the ramp.
"Your Highness," General Jan Dodonna said respectfully, bowing. "A great gift to see
"Thank you," she said softly.
"You have the data?"
She gestured to the two droids making their way down the ramp. "R2-D2 has all information
stored in his memory banks." She turned and beckoned to Luke. "This is Luke Skywalker. I
believe he could be of some use to the starfighter contingent on this base."
"Skywalker," Dodonna said thoughtfully. "Your father was Anakin Skywalker?"
"I don't know, sir," Luke said bashfully. "He was killed before I was born."
"He was an excellent pilot," Dodonna stated. "We'll see if you've got engine lubricants
for blood as well."
He raised a hand. "Tyree, take him to the sim complex. I want an evaluation done by
Leia sent Luke a reassuring look as he was led away. Dodonna beckoned to her and began
walking towards the base proper. "I think you've had quite an adventure."
Leia looked down, her smile vanishing. "That's a bit of an understatement, General."
"I'm sorry," he said softly. "It's not your fault, you know."
"That's what I'm trying to convince myself of," she countered.
"Your father contacted us, telling us that you'd been killed."
"I might as well have been." She glanced back at the *Falcon.* "I'll tell you the
"Luckily, the Alderaanian officers on base haven't heard of your survival yet or they
would have been here. As it is, Commander Willard wishes to consult with you."
He stopped as he caught sight of the bruises on her face and the slight glaze to her
eyes. "Oh, Sith," he said quietly. "What did they do to you?"
"Standard Imperial interrogation," she said as lightly as she could manage. "Vader
then got a bit personal."
"Have you been checked over?"
She nodded. "I'll be fine."
He removed his jacket and draped it over her shoulders. "Are you sure?"
She nodded shakily. "I need to see this through. For Alderaan."
He removed his commlink from his pocket and thumbed it on. "Dodonna here. We need
a personnel mover in the auxiliary hangar."
Leia narrowed her eyes. If there was anything that she hated more than being fussed
over, it was being patronized.
"I can walk, General."
"I know," he replied gently. "But I'll feel better and I'm sure you will."
She sighed and leaned against the landing gear of a Y-wing. "I'm pretty sure that we
were tracked. The escape from the Death Star was too easy to suggest anything to the contrary."
"Then we'll fight them on ground of our choosing."
She nodded wearily. "I certainly hope this is worth the cost."
Dodonna smiled grimly. "It rarely is."
* * *
Leia sank onto her bed, thoroughly exhausted. It was nearly ten hours since they'd
arrived at the Yavin base and she still hadn't eaten or slept. She'd barely had time to breathe.
There was a knock at the door. "Who is it?"
"Lieutenant Tar Oern, Your Highness."
Leia sighed heavily and stood. She crossed to the door and opened it. A young lieutenant
stood in the doorway, holding a bundle.
"Some of our female officers volunteered their wardrobes," he said wryly, handing her
the bundle. "In case you wanted to change your clothes."
Leia set the bundle on the bed and sifted through, finding everything from a flight
suit to a formal dress. "Relay my thanks," she said softly.
"Does Your Highness require anything else?"
She nodded. "Can you direct me to the nearest kitchen? I haven't had anything to
eat since my capture."
Oern frowned sympathetically. "Turn left, at the third corridor take a right, and the
officer's mess is the sixth room on the left."
"Thank you, Lieutenant."
She closed the door and rested her back against it, sighing deeply. Crossing to the
bed, she found an informal dress in an Alderaanian style. It reminded her of what she'd wear
on summer excursions. She changed into it and surveyed the effect in the mirror.
The light green garment hung to mid-calf in a loose drapery from the v-waist. The bodice
was fitted and had a scalloped neckline. The sleeves ended just above her elbows. She pulled
on flat white shoes that someone had graciously donated and reached up to brush a strand of
hair back from her face.
On impulse, she undid the ceremonial hairstyle and plaited it into a thick braid, then
doubled it up. It was the traditional hairstyle for Alderaanian females in mourning and seemed
Luke looked up from where he was sitting with Red Squadron as she entered and smiled
broadly. He stood and the others followed suit.
"Princess," he said quietly. "Won't you join us?"
"Gladly," she said. "I'll just go get something."
"I'll come with you," he offered.
He was followed by catcalls from a few of the pilots. Leia smiled slightly. "I see
you're on good terms with your new squadmates."
He grinned broadly and handed her a tray. "You heard."
She shrugged. "I'm a leader of the Rebel Alliance. I hear just about everything.
Such as Red Leader ranting about how you were the best recruit to come through in the history
of the Alliance."
He blushed. "I just did the best I could. Apparently, they liked that."
"That's a bit of an understatement." She squinted at the selections. "What would
"Anything except the nerf. It's a bit overcooked."
"At least it's not survival rations," she countered.
"How *are* you?"
She brushed her hand against his cheek, smiling her thanks through restrained tears.
"I'll be fine. It's all just a bit much for me right now."
"I know the feeling."
She nodded. "At least tomorrow, we won't have time to worry about that."
He grimaced. "I don't think any of us will have time to think tomorrow, much less worry
about our problems."
She blinked and turned back to the counter. She removed a plate of bruallki and sniffed
distastefully at it. "Well, it's not Palace-fare, but it's edible."
Luke nodded. "Think of it this way. You're alive to eat it."
She set it down on the tray and retrieved a glass of water and utensils. "For what
we have left, may we be truly grateful," she quipped.
She returned to the table to find that another had joined the group. She could see
the Zingali form and her heart momentarily ached for the loss of Lisa.
"I have the feeling if you hang around, you won't have any trouble finding Her Highness."
"I doubt it. I'd need three security clearances, two references, and an escort to
even get within a mile of her."
Leia caught her breath. "You'd be surprised," she interjected.
Lisa shot to her feet and turned. Luke helpfully took her tray just before the two
friends crushed each other in an embrace.
"I thought you'd been on Alderaan," Leia gasped out.
"Your father needed me to take a message to General Dodonna about your disappearance,"
Lisa countered. "I left two days before the Death Star arrived."
"Winter," Leia said hopefully.
Lisa shook her head solemnly. "Hardly any of us were offplanet."
Leia bowed her head. "I'm so sorry."
"It's not your fault," Lisa said quietly.
Leia shook her head. "You don't understand. Tarkin destroyed Alderaan..."
"For the same reason he led the Ghorman Massacre. Fear." Lisa gripped her forearms
firmly and set her jaw. "Whatever he told you, it's not your fault."
Leia winced. "I wish I had your convictions."
Lisa rolled her eyes. "It's hard to think clearly on an empty stomach. Have a seat; I
want to hear how you managed to sneak past Darth Vader and half the stormtroopers in the Empire."
* * *
Leia gripped the edge of the guard railing, staring intently at the data coming in.
Twenty-three fighters destroyed or disabled and Darth Vader and his wingman were still in hot
"I've lost Artoo."
Every person in the command center stiffened. Without his astromech, Luke would not
be able to make space-bound repairs. If his shields went down, if his drive cut out, that
would be it.
"May the Force be with him," she whispered to herself.
General Dodonna rested a hand on her shoulder and she nodded fractionally. She leaned
forward as the telemetry feed disappeared.
"We've lost his targeting data," someone called.
"Luke," a controller said. "You've switched off your targeting computer."
"I know," he replied calmly. "I'm all right."
Dodonna folded his arms. "I hope he knows what he's doing."
"He does," Leia said firmly. "He's Luke."
"Someone's got a target lock on him."
Leia caught her breath and her grip tightened. She lowered her chin to her chest and
closed her eyes, unable to watch.
"Pursuit broken," someone crowed. "He's clear."
Then a voice she never expected to hear again came over the comm. "You're all clear,
kid, now let's blow this thing and go home."
Her head came up and she saw that everyone else was just as stunned as she was. General
Dodonna broke a rare smile. "May the Falcon be with us, if not the Force."
"Skywalker has fired," the same controller reported.
"Did it make it?"
There a pregnant silence as everyone waited for the data to come through. "General,
he made it."
The entire room broke into cheers. General Dodonna swept her into an embrace, then
set her down.
"Recall our heroes."
Leia rested a hand on his arm and smiled. "I'm going out to get a better view of the
fireworks. Let me know when they're ready for their welcome home."
* * *
"This is a time for great celebration, but also for mourning," Leia said. "The survivors,
families, and friends of Alderaan will be holding memorial for those who lost their lives that
we might live."
Lisa nodded. "We'll all be there." She folded her arms. "Will you speak for us?"
Leia shook her head. "I can't," she said quietly, her voice breaking. "They know who
held the fate of their world in her hands and crushed it."
Lisa frowned and took her hands. She turned them over and Leia looked down. "Leia,
these hands were never made to crush futures, but to build them." She squeezed her hands gently.
"You will know what to say. Your voice is too accustomed to speaking your love for your people
to fall mute now."
Leia nodded reluctantly. "It will be tonight?"
"Yes, Your Highness."
Leia steepled her fingers and pressed them to her pursed lips. "I will be there."
There was a knock on the door. Leia screened the visitor and smiled slightly. "Perhaps
Lieutenant Skywalker will be able to give me some ideas."
Lisa snorted. "I'm Leia Organa. I'm here to rescue you."
Leia shook her head. "It worked. Come in."
Lisa moved past Luke as he stepped into her small quarters. Leia's smile spread to
the edges of her face. "Lieutenant, congratulations on your commission. It was well-deserved."
Luke blushed endearingly. "That's debatable," he said modestly. "What were you discussing?"
"The memorial service tonight for Alderaan. I was trying to avoid speaking at it."
Luke shook his head. "You are the symbol of everything Alderaan valued, of what your
society was. You understand what was lost better than any man here. You'll find the right
Leia winced. "That's what LIsa said."
"She knows you well," he countered. "I just wanted to let you know that we'll all be
"The Falcon Rescue Squad," he said wryly.
She nodded. "I'd be honored to see you there."
"Like it or not," he said, "there are certain things that you cannot go through together
without becoming friends. Most notably, Imperial garbage chutes."
* * *
They sat in relative silence, the only noise in the room being the priestess intoning
the requiem prayers. The prayers, in their arcane Taiald dialect, spoke of nobility in death,
the rest from labors, and the promise of reunion in the life to come.
None of them particularly soothed the aching in the participants' hearts.
Leia sat in the midst of them, for once forgetting every protocol that rank impressed
upon her. Like every other person in the room, she was a mourner. They were all equally orphaned.
The requiem prayers ended in triumphant tones that she could not bring herself to believe
and each candle was lit. Leia rose and crossed to the front of the room with labored stride.
She set her candlestick on the table and drew herself up to her full height. Every eye
was transfixed upon her.
"I will not pretend that we are here tonight to memorialize a noble death," she began
softly. "I will not pretend that the fact that we are still alive somehow justifies the death
of our world. I will not even go so far to pretend that I can explain any of this.
"Mourning is not a time for pretense or willful ignorance or even denial. It is a time
to face the truth that because our loved ones cannot go on, we must.
"Some will say that the Death Star is gone, Alderaan avenged, the first true victory
of the Alliance of Free Peoples forever secured in history. But that does not mean that it will
end there. Alderaan has not been avenged, our losses justified. Justice is not an event, but
a day-to-day process.
"Alderaan will never be avenged because it is not our place or our philosphy to do so.
Each battle we fight, each child we teach, and each heartbeat spent in remembrance of what has
brought us to this place will be not to prevent our consciences from being cleared, but to prevent
another person, another group of survivors, from needing the same succor.
"My father once told me that the only way to preserve Alderaan was to love it more than
life itself. Alderaan is not a concrete thing, a tangible presence. It never has been, but
it will be forever what we carry in our hearts. The Alderaan we love is what brought us all
to arms against injustice. It is what keeps us serving something as intangible as our ideals
day after day.
"We are accustomed to sacrificing much in the name of the Alliance. We must now be
prepared to sacrifice all in the name of Alderaan."
She halted, unable to go on as the tears that had threatened throughout the entire
requiem prayers spilled over onto her cheeks. She bowed her head, but did not restrain the
At last, she raised her chin to look over the audience. "On that last day on the Death
Star, I was faced with a choice. I was forced to choose between my own life and the preservation
of the thing I loved most. I chose to forfeit my life, but the agents of evil chose to take
both away from me. I am only through unusual circumstances, to say the least.
"Like myself, even the greatest sacrifice will not always yield the preferred results.
But only the greatest sacrifice can promise the greatest blessings.
"Look around you if you ever need a reason. As they say in 'The Tragedy of Valkeria,'
'All these yet live.' Alderaan's existence may have ended, but life will not. Life must not.
Love cannot, if we are to triumph. That is the heart of the Alderaanian philosophy and what
will endure for as long as men have souls."
* * *