By Runaway Scrape
In the southern hemisphere of Alderaan, autumn reigned with vivid golds, oranges, and reds. The windows of Bail Organa's study looked out over a variegated forest of rich antiquity, but the usual joy he took in his view was nonexistent that afternoon.
Instead, he stood in front of the comm unit, glaring at the hand height holograph of an Imperial official.
"This is unacceptable," he snapped, leaning forward. "I will not tolerate this obstruction."
"My apologies, Your Majesty," the underling responded suavely, "but no information is available on the status of your daughter or the ship she traveled on."
"The Senate..." but he stopped himself. The Imperial Senate, the last vestige of the old Republic, had been disbanded only the previous day, by order of the Emperor. Mastering his anger, he put his eyes back on that unctuous man. "Your name." It was a command, not a request.
"Sub-altern Nibket Arrok," was the easy response.
"Sub-altern Arrok," Bail repeated. "Know this, Sub-altern: I will have word of my daughter within one day's time, or I will know the reason. Fail, and I will bend all the power of my station, my wealth, and my privilege on you alone. Hide under the Emperor's robe if you choose. Still, I will find you. Understand?"
There was just the tiniest glimmer of fear in the sub-altern's eyes. Bail Organa was not known as a man to fear, simply because the majority of the Empire saw him as an eminently reasonable, law-abiding man, prince of one of the oldest royal houses in the galaxy. He was also quite well-known as an impeccable man of his word. There was no need for him to pronounce threats of ruin and death. Just the implication spoke volumes.
The official, no longer quite so unctuous or arrogant, gave a short, tiny nod of the head, and Bail ended the communication. He stepped back from the console and took a deep breath, cleansing his mind of the anger and fear which nearly overwhelmed him.
It was his fault. He could have kept his daughter cloistered, protected from the politics of the Empire. Obi-Wan had recommended as much, so long ago. He couldn't, though. It would have been against every fiber of his being, and, he realized, Leia would never have stood for it.
How many times had she stood just beside him at the huge ornately carved desk? How many times had he explained his judicial decisions, the threads of the different Senatorial factions, the undercurrents and riptides of Palpatine's power, the death throws of the Republic he so loved? She had been as passionate as he, and so motivated that she'd assumed his Senate chair on her majority. And on her own, she had found her way to the Rebellion.
And now, she was gone.
Disappeared, the official sources said, a tragic mystery. His own told him differently. The consular ship had been attacked and taken by an Imperial Star Destroyer in the hinterlands of the Empire, above a tiny desert planet of no repute. Vader's work, no doubt. His daughter was in the hands of a monster. Worse yet...
His mind veered away from that thought, of Leia's true parentage, as though the Sith lord might be trying to read him at that very minute. Thank the Maker she didn't know, didn't even suspect. It would, in the end, save her from Vader, even if she was killed for her other knowledge and contacts.
Pacing to the other side of his study, he took a decanter and a glass from a shelf. The day he'd given Arrok might not be long enough. The Empire had no patience with rebels. Once interrogated, Leia would most likely be sentenced to death, with the sentence carried out almost immediately.
And what could he do if he did locate her? There was no time to mount anything resembling a rescue. Besides...it was too obvious. It would show their hand to Vader and the Emperor. They knew Leia was a member. They suspected he was. The only thing that had kept either of them from being seized or assassinated was the power they held through their standing on Alderaan. Alderaan – one of the crown jewels of the galaxy, repository of culture, art, and knowledge that rivaled Coruscant.
Pouring himself several fingers of the most potent beverage brewed on his world, Bail faced the thought that he would never see his daughter again. That, precious as she was to him, there was no way to rescue her.
He'd already sent out communiqués to those most in danger of exposure. That coded information traveled a labrynthine route of back alleys, unofficial traders, droid databanks, and ciphered passwords. It was even odds if the information would reach its recipients before the Empire did. In doing so, he had left himself dangerously exposed. There was no remedy for it, and it was inevitable.
Instead, he'd spent the last day moving the bulk of his personal and family fortunes to hidden accounts. Things he couldn't sell off quickly, like the estates on Alderaan, were deeded irrevocably to respected colleagues and peers. By that hour, in a week's time, he would stand on the surface of Yavin's moon – still a prince of the house Organa, but a fugitive and rebel. Were it not for the loss of his daughter, he would find the whole idea rather charming.
He sipped his drink, savoring the complex flavors that filled his mouth. It would be hard leaving Alderaan. Its beauty was the beating of his heart. Perhaps, though, he might one day return – after avenging and mourning Leia, after tearing down Palpatine, after restoring the Republic. Perhaps one day.
He stepped out onto the terrace, drinking in the peace of the late afternoon. There was hope, he thought. Muddled accounts of the battle spoke of the possibility that survivors had made it from the ship to the surface. One of them could have been Leia. If she had reached the planet, she was certainly resourceful enough to find another way off and then to safety.
A breeze tossed the branches and leaves of the trees past the great lawn. As he gazed at their jewel colors, a glint of something in the sky to the north above caught his eye. His smile faded and then disappeared entirely. Moonrise wasn't for another...no, the moon had already set that day.
But it wasn't a moon, he thought, heart pounding in his chest. It was no moon, and there was no reason for it to be in the sky above Alderaan. Unnoticed, his drink slipped out of his grasp and shattered on the stone floor of the terrace.
A thousand thoughts crowded through his head. He should notify the planetary defense (and what would they do, archaic honor guard that they were?), he should call to his sisters, he should try to raise it by the comm unit. He would never see his daughter again, and not for the reasons he'd originally thought.
Even at that great distance, its resemblance to the schematics he'd seen was exact. It looked like a child's toy, hanging in there in the welkin. As he looked at it, a web of light appeared over its surface, brightened, merged, and then stabbed down with vicious brilliance. It occurred to him in the split-second as he was blinded, that the beam would hit somewhere near the equator, between the north and southwestern continents.
There was no time to scream, not even to breathe. In only a second or so, it was over, and Bail Organa, his sisters, their household of servants, friends, lovers, pets, gardens, and treasures were blotted from the face of existence along with the lives of some billion others. Few saw as well as he had their own fate. Many made the transition between life and death while asleep. Those that were awake and aware, and the small numbers who guessed at what Bail knew, theirs were the screams of fear, pain, and terror that flooded out, resonated through the Force, and nearly brought a tired old man to his knees.
But that is another story, and its ending lies along a different path than this.