Many thanks to those who reviewed the forerunner of this work, The Last Days. And a thousand
thanks to Becky who inspired this story.
SECOND CHANCES, Part 1/3
By Kathryn Olsen
"Someone once told me that if you want anything done right, you should do it yourself."
Han Solo looked up to see Princess Leia Organa standing in the hatchway, one hand on
her hip and the other bracing against the doorjamb. Unexpectedly, she was in a grubby pair of
coveralls and her hair was pulled back in a simple braid.
He grinned. "Does that mean you're going to finally help out with the repairs, Your
She shrugged. "I spend enough time on this junk heap to know that you'll need an extra
pair of hands to get it running before we evacuate."
He pulled off his repair gloves and shook his head. "Can't fault your logic there.
I didn't think royalty ever awoke before dawn."
Her eyes narrowed. "The same could be said for you." She frowned. "As a matter of
fact, I never went to bed last night. I've been working straight through to make sure nine
hundred ground troops, our starfighter contingent, and the rest of the personnel on this base
have a safe means off-planet tomorrow."
"How very noble of you."
"I'm not doing it for the prestige," she countered. "Why are you up this early?"
He shrugged. "I wanted to be flight-ready before the festivities."
She threw up her hands in mock exasperation. "I should have known the legendary Han
Solo would never let work interfere with his ogling time."
He winked. "You're just jealous that you're not the object of my ogle."
She rolled her eyes. "What needs to be done?"
He sighed. "It'll be easier to list what doesn't need to be done. But I think I
could use your help on recalibrating the atmospheric controls."
She nodded. "A lot easier than trying to understand Wookiee technological jargon."
Han laughed. "First, however, we need some work on the sublight engines and you're
the perfect size for that."
She folded her arms. "In other words, it's a torturously painstaking process that you'd
rather talk me through than do yourself."
He scowled in mock indignation. "Has Chewie been giving you lessons in translating
Corellian egos again?"
She gave him an innocent smile. "Practice makes perfect."
"At least you're dressed for the part." He strode towards the maintenance bay and beckoned
her to follow. "How are you with a welder?"
She rolled her eyes. "The fine royal arts: diplomacy, leadership, and grubwork."
He grinned. "I take that as a 'hopeless?'"
She snatched a pair of goggles from the rack and extended a hand. "I've had enough
experience. Besides, I couldn't make it much worse, could I?"
He handed her the welder and she vaulted into the engine hold. He could hear her land
gracefully and went to retrieve the rest of the tools.
He bent over to hand the toolbox to her and saw her wedged comfortably into the close
confines of the bay, surveying the compartment with mild disgust.
"Just as I suspected," she commented lightly. "Held together with spit and crating
"Cute," Han growled. "Let's get to work."
* * *
"I thought I'd find you here."
Leia looked up from the plate she was welding, then shut off the tool and shoved her
goggles onto her grimy forehead. "Nice to see you, too, Commander."
Commander Carlist Rieekan sank into a sitting position on the edge and surveyed her work.
"Not bad. Perhaps we should make you chief mechanic instead of Minister of State."
She tossed the welder to him, then pulled herself up to sit next to him. "Don't you
"How long have you been down there?"
She checked her wrist chrono and winced. "Just under six hours."
He shook his head in wonder. "I see your patience isn't just diplomatic."
She stretched languidly and sent him a wry smile. "The *Falcon* won't be hauling forty-
five of our commandos tomorrow if my patience wears thin."
Leia glanced over at him. "So, General, what brings you to our humble surroundings?"
He smiled slightly. "I just thought I'd let you know that Mon Mothma made contact about
an hour ago."
Leia's expression brightened. "What news?"
"The convoy is well on its way to the rendezvous point. There were no problems involved
so far in the mission."
Leia sagged in relief. "They've got Lancer Flight from Rogue Squadron with them. No
harm can come to them."
"We can only hope." He sighed. "I wish Captain Skywalker were with them. It would
make feel better."
"Neeva's a superior officer," she assured him. "He wouldn't let anything happen to
the convoy, even if it meant letting himself get killed."
"The Rogue mentality," Rieekan said wryly. "It's what landed Captain Skywalker in
the bacta tanks after the last mission."
Leia shrugged. "Heroics aren't rogue-specific as I'm sure you know."
He nodded. "All too well," he said softly. "Rogue Squadron is also being officially
attached to Echo Base as its primary aerial defense."
Leia frowned. "It will be difficult if the Imperials find us before we can acclimate
our weaponry to the climate."
Rieekan's mouth twitched. "She sends her greetings and hopes that you 'haven't wandered
into any more blaster sights lately.'"
Leia winced. "She knows me too well." She looked up. "Anything else?"
Rieekan's face sobered. "Some very bad news. I hate to be the one to tell you."
Her heart constricted. "What happened?"
His chin dropped to his chest and his shoulders slumped in defeat. "Unfortunately,
I've been given a field commission as a General and given command of Echo Base."
She clapped a hand to her mouth to stifle a laugh. She reached over to embrace him
briefly. "It's about time."
His face broke into a wide grin. "Strange, that's what she said." He took her hand
and looked it over. "If only the rest of base could see you now."
She smiled. "It might make them respect me more. The vaunted Princess, down from her
He squeezed her fingertips. "I don't think you've ever had a problem with respect.
You're the one who volunteers for every dangerous mission just so no one else stands a chance
of getting hurt. Besides, most of us are still alive because of your strength on the Death
"Don't remind me." She rubbed her temples. "Wonder if Captain Solo would allow me
a lunch break."
"Only one reliable way of finding out."
* * *
"What's the reading now?"
Leia squinted at the gauge on the coolant system. "It's at 3 mark 91 and falling."
There was a noise of heartfelt exasperation from the adjacent room. She stifled a
laugh and waited for her next instructions.
"I'm going to tweak the flow valve. If it starts to redline, let me know."
She smiled in spite of herself. "Yes, sir. Tweak away."
She folded her arms and watched the numbers slowly rise. They were approaching the
red zone, but the gauge was levelling out.
"Hurry. We've got two hours to the festivities and I still haven't done my hair."
"Don't worry, Your Highnessness. We'll be done in plenty of time." There was a pause.
"How are we doing?"
"Holding steady," she called. "Reading at 8 mark 73."
"I think that should do it. One more minor adjustment and we should have a fully functional
freighter. Could you keep an eye..."
His last words were drowned out as the coolant line burst. The pipe hit her high on
the forehead, driving her back into a table. She involuntarily gasped for breath, taking in
a lungful of the potentially toxic korfaise gas.
As she fell, her arm knocked over the tools with a crash. She collapsed to the floor,
coughing violently. She groped for the canister of sealant frantically and her hand closed around
it. She was only vaguely aware of the shouts and roars from the other compartment.
She had to get the line sealed off.
She pushed herself to her knees, too dazed to rise for an agonizing moment. Blood streamed
into her eyes from the gash and she swiped in frustration at the liquid. With one hand firmly
pressed to her forehead, she stumbled to the source of the leak.
Taking careful aim, she pressed the line together and sprayed the sealant along the
rupture, closing it as best as she could. The gaseous plume all but disappeared just before
the darkness took her.
She awoke with a splitting headache and sarcasm on her lips.
"I've been told I have explosive beauty," she said quietly, "but this is ridiculous."
Han grinned. "Ah, so that blow didn't disrupt your charm."
Leia grimaced. "Cute," she mimicked. "I assume I'm still alive."
"Of course," Han said wryly. "We couldn't let you have such an ignominious death."
"I appreciate the attention to protocol."
He bowed his head slightly, his smile vanishing into a solemn mockery of deference.
"You got very mild korfaise poisoning and a nasty gash, but you'll live."
Leia rolled her eyes. "I'm sure you're eager to get to the festivities."
He shrugged. "They can wait."
Leia shook her head. "Go. I'll be fine. Enjoy your last few hours of fun while you
He rested a hand on her arm. "You're sure?"
"Of course." She waved a hand weakly. "You're dismissed."
He grinned. "Hope to see you soon. Pretentious formal events just aren't the same
* * *
Luke Skywalker let out his breath in a relieved sigh. "She's all right, then?"
Han nodded. "I can't imagine the rumors that have been flying around this place."
Luke grinned. "I think most people think you and Chewie tried to assassinate her over
some labor dispute."
He snorted. "That's one way of putting it."
Han checked his chrono. "She's missing her own party."
"Maybe she decided to sleep off the effects," Luke suggested.
"Not likely." He rubbed the bridge of his nose wearily. "I'll be back later; I think
I'll go see if Her Worship is still alive."
He turned and caught his breath. Leia was standing in the doorway, still unnoticed by
the rest of her comrades. Her face was pensive, but peaceful.
He stood and moved quickly towards the doorway. She watched his approach and turned
a brilliant smile on him. For the first time in almost three years, he could discern the visible
markings of royalty.
She carried herself like a queen, the image enhanced by the stunning dress she was
wearing. Floor-length, it was made of deep green velvet. The long sleeves were fitted to her
small arms and the tight bodice, with the neckline embroidered in a gold floral pattern, was
countered by a full skirt. Her hair was braided into a crown of twisting braids and pinned
back with gold clasps.
*Stang, I love this woman.*
The thought stunned him. He had never really considered the possibility and yet it
was a reality. Somewhere among the arguments, the bantering, and the bureaucracy, he had fallen
in love with the most unlikely candidate.
He stopped before her and took her hand, kissing it gently. "Your Highness, you look
She blushed. "I thought if I were to bother to make an appearance, I should do it in
"It worked," he conceded. "Why don't you come in?"
She sighed. "I was enjoying the peace for a few moments longer. It's not often that
anyone on this base takes the time to forget about the war for more than five minutes. Some
of these people I haven't seen smile since Yavin."
"It's a refreshing change, isn't it."
She nodded. "Tomorrow, we'll be too busy to enjoy life again, but at least we'll have
a fresh memory of what we're fighting for." Her brow furrowed. "If only I could find a way
to lengthen the night indefinitely."
He offered an arm. "In the meantime, we saved you a seat."
He led her to her seat and Luke stood to greet her. "How are you feeling?"
She shrugged. "A bit sore, but not too badly."
Her comm sounded and she sighed wearily before removing it from a hidden pocket. "Organa
here. What's the emergency?"
"We're getting a distress call from the convoy. Rieekan wants the command staff here
to handle the crisis."
Leia sighed wearily. "I'll be there in three minutes."
Luke's comm sounded and he groaned. Leia frowned at him and stood. "I think you'd
better answer that on the way."
* * *
The comm officer looked up as most of the command staff entered. "About 4 minutes
ago, we were hailed by Commander Neva. They'd been interdicted at a point somewhere inside
the Derra system in the Quellii sector. Entrapment formation."
"Do they have a count on the number of ships?"
The comm officer winced. "We lost all comm contact with them approximately one minute
thirty-nine seconds ago."
"Comm interdiction," Leia suggested, hoping that the alternative wasn't a reality.
"Not likely," Rieekan countered. "Unless they specifically knew what frequencies to
"We can't rule out betrayal," Luke countered. "It was, after all, an ambush."
"Most likely," Major Bern interjected, "they were all destroyed or disabled."
Leia frowned deeply. "A convoy of thirty-six ships and four X-wings destroyed within
four minutes. I'd like to hope our security isn't *that* bad."
Rieekan chewed his lip thoughtfully. "We have the Mon Rebthon five lightyears away.
Nothing closer." He tapped the screen. "You did record the encounter, yes?"
"Contact the Mon Rebthon and have them dispatched to the Derra system to assess the
situation and lend aid if necessary."
Leia leaned forward, reading the transcript with growing dread. "They mentioned unfamiliar
ships, one about ten times the size of a Star Destroyer. I hope they find survivors so at least
we know what exactly they were up against."
Luke nodded. "Especially the warship geared against snubfighters. Someone must be
atoning for the disaster at Yavin."
"Undoubtedly," Rieekan agreed. "Lieutenant Gedne, any word from the Rebthon?"
"They're on their way. We should know within a few minutes."
Leia scrolled through the transcript one more time. "They lost Neeva."
The rest of the command staff fell silent. "Are you sure," Bern asked.
"Lancer Three confirms it about thirty seconds before the communications were cut off,"
Rieekan stated. "Captain Skywalker, it would appear that you're due for a field promotion."
"I'd rather it be under better circumstances," Luke countered grimly.
"Nevertheless, Commander, you are in command of Rogue Squadron."
Leia squeezed Luke's shoulder gently. "No better person for the job."
"Thank you," he said quietly.
"Report from Mon Rebthon. They found one X-wing dead in space. The pilot confirms that
all other ships have been destroyed."
"*One* X-wing," Bern said incredulously.
"Flight Officer Vos will be debriefed after the medics treat her. She has several broken
bones and other minor injuries."
Luke's brow furrowed in concentration. "That's not one of ours."
"Intelligence officer," Cracken supplied. "Tell the Captain to contact me on my private
channel for instructions."
Leia turned to frown at the rest of the command. "What do we do now? We lost an entire
convoy of much-needed supplies."
Rieekan rubbed his eyes wearily. "We contact black market suppliers, smugglers, and
any other resources we can dig up. Your friend Captain Solo should be quite helpful in that
"If we can get him to cooperate," Leia said wryly.
"And in the meantime, we go on with the festivities while we can, then get some sleep,
evacuate tomorrow, and hope for a full-blown miracle."