Author's Note: First Posted on in 2003. It's been a long time going, but this the never ending Dark Leia story.
Title: Heart of Darkness
Prologue: Part A
It was mid-day as the Lamba Class shuttle landed at the Governor's palace. The shuttle had been unexpected, and no less than two-dozen tie fighters escorted it. The sudden arrival threw the Alderaanians into a frenzy. HE was here, and for what reason no one knew. But whatever the reason was, it wasn't going to be good news.
Governor General Bail Organa, Prince of Alderaan, fret nervously as he watched the shuttle's landing ramp slowly lower. He wasn't worried about himself, but rather his ward. It was common knowledge that Leia wasn't his daughter, and whenever he met his old friend he couldn't help but feel that the once Jedi might filch the thought from his head. As the Dark figure of Darth Vader appeared, he calmly schooled his face and his thoughts. He'd been taught what to do and he'd do it. He wouldn't fail Padme.
"Lord Vader, this is unexpected," he said coldly as he walked to meet Vader.
"I am as unpleased to be here as you are of me being here," responded Vader. Alderaan made him uncomfortable. Its rich beauty was too much like Naboo and that threatened to release memories long forgotten.
"Why are you here, my lord Vader?" The last words were said with a hint of revulsion.
"There have been reports of rebel activity here on Alderaan. You have been most lax in pursuing the leads of these uprisings. I am here to amend that."
"I assure you, my lord, that we have done all that we can to find these rebels. They are like vapor and it is difficult to pin them down," replied Bail smoothly. Certainly, he knew all about the rebels. The rebel targets here on Alderaan were all Imperial sympathizers and spies. He would have to issue a warning very carefully and make sure that all activity cease while Vader was here.
"I am sure you have. Three shuttles of Imperial intelligence specialists will be arriving after me. They will be taking over the investigation."
"But, Lord Vader," protested Bail. "My men are more than..."
"Enough," said Vader sharply as he stopped and glared at Bail. "Your men are either incompetent or traitors. Pray that it is the former. Your complete cooperation is required."
"Of course, Lord Vader," said Bail with a hint of defeat in his voice. Vader was well known for his efficiency and if he were here for an extended period of time then the danger to the Rebel cause was great indeed. Bail had hoped to stymie his investigation with his own men, but if Vader had brought independent watchdogs then things might turn ugly. "You will have our full cooperation."
Somehow, Vader doubted that.
Three days later, Vader was frustrated. They had good intelligence prior to arriving on Alderaan of the where abouts of various Rebels. However, even on the first day that they had arrived, they had found several of the Rebels' homes empty. It seemed that they had left in a hurry, so they certainly had been warned of the coming raids. There was undoubtedly a leak in the palace.
It wasn't the initial escapes that angered Vader. It was the fact that there were no leads afterwards. Bail seemed to be telling the truth. The rebels did disappear like vapor. The must be hiding out in the countryside, but scouring an entire planet was time consuming and inefficient.
A noise outside caught his attention. The sound was familiar to him. He was well acquainted with the humming of the engines of swoop bikes. He'd ridden several in his youth and even a few for enjoyment during his early days as a Jedi trainee.
He watched as a swoop bike that had somehow gotten through security went buzzing past his window. Several seconds later, several speeders with official looking passengers followed suit, obviously in pursuit. This was strange. Surely, they would simply shoot the rider out of his seat. It wasn't that hard to hit a swoop bike with modern technology.
Watching the speeders chase the bike from his window, Vader would have laughed if he could. From the distance he could tell the rider was a young girl between the ages of 10-12, and was obviously someone of importance. He was impressed at her deft handling of the bike. She weaved in and out between trees with a smooth grace of a professional. With practice, she'd be a fine pilot. He decided that perhaps it was worth meeting this young girl.
He forced himself to sit back at his desk and work for about fifteen more minutes. Then he rose and headed for the hanger bay. He reached out into the force and was surprised at how bright the young girl's presence in the Force was. He did not need to try to find her; he simply knew where she was.
As he entered the Hanger, he saw the young girl surrounded by several men. One of them was chastising her, but it seemed to him that the girl wasn't very repentant.
"I wish to speak to the girl," stated Vader as he walked up to the group.
"My... lord Vader, I... I don't know if..." stammered one of the men surprised and fearful of the Dark Lord's presence. It took him a moment to regain his composure. He didn't move out of the way and simply stated, "This is Bail Organa's daughter."
"Indeed," was Vader's response. "You are in my way. Move."
The man moved. Vader looked down at the girl. She was diminutive compared to him, but there was something about her even at this age that made her seem larger. He could feel the fear in her; certainly she had heard stories about him. However, he could tell that she was already in control of it.
"Impressive," he said to her, commenting on both her self-control and her bike skills.
Only silence greeted him. She looked up at him and did not speak. Vader was unperturbed. He walked slowly around the bike looking at its construction. He could see that someone had made unusual alterations to it.
"Do you maintain your own bike?" he asked as he inspected it.
"Of course," snapped Leia after a few more moments of silence. She knew who he was and she knew her adopted father had told her that she wasn't suppose to speak to him, but his question was an insult. This was HER swoop bike and it was HER job to maintain it. How could she be any good if she didn't know her bike perfectly? His question insinuated that she was some spoiled amateur rider. She would not let that stand.
Silence descended again as Vader continued to inspect the bike. He reached down and popped open one of the panels to get access to the inner components and engine.
"HEY!" cried Leia, "This is my bike! Don't touch it."
"Why is the injector valve re-arranged?" asked Vader ignoring her protest. It was an interesting modification. He knew why it was done, but he was curious if the girl really did know her bike.
He's testing me... thought Leia curiously. She knew she shouldn't talk to him, but it was so rare that she got a chance to talk about bikes with anyone. No one at the palace was really interested in them.
"I switched it and the accelerator so that I could increase the air flow to the engine. It's better for fuel consumption and allows for a higher maximum speed," she said.
"Interesting, but what do you do to reduce the heat? You can hardly keep up your higher speed for more than a minute before your engine overheats," asked Vader.
"Yeah, that's a problem," admitted Leia. She never had raced it at its highest speed or in a real race. Her father wouldn't let her citing that it was too dangerous. She didn't want to admit that to Lord Vader though. For some reason, she KNEW that Vader was an expert with bikes and she wanted his approval. However, as hard as she could try, she couldn't think of an answer. Her silence already admitted that she didn't know. Finally, she sheepishly said, "There wasn't room for a larger coolant tank or more heat sinks. I... I haven't raced it at full speed."
She expected some sign of disappointment from him or perhaps even mockery. After all, she WAS just an amateur even if she did know her stuff. It surprised her when he continued to quiz her in the same manner as he had before.
"What kind of accelerator are you using?" he asked as he knelt down and looked inside. He tried to get a glimpse of the model and make. It looked like an old Xanter 500, but he wanted to make sure. As he tried to get a closer look, he bumped his helmet into the side of the bike causing him to stagger back.
Leia burst into giggles. She stopped when she saw his helmeted face turn to her, and then the image of him bumping his head came to mind again causing her to giggle more. Finally, she answered. "It's a Xanter 550."
"Why do you not use one of the newer accelerators?" asked Vader. He felt foolish and simply ignored her giggling. Yet, somewhere deep inside him a spark was ignited. "I believe Seinan Systems have several smaller and more powerful models."
"Right, but you can't modify those. You have to insert them a certain way or they can be dangerous. No way they can work with this setup, and a normal bike is slower than this one even with a Seinan."
"Perhaps an older Vold-air model then," mused Anakin as he thought back to some of the items he used when he was younger. "Those are small, and are a bit less fuel efficient. You'd have the room to put more heat sinks and with your higher fuel efficiency you'd even out. I'd guess you could probably improve 20-30 of your maximum speed then."
Leia sat back Indian style. It was a comical scene; a young girl in a pair of old slacks and shirt sitting next to the Dark Lord of the Sith discussing a swoop bike.
"I haven't seen a Vold-air. Those are really rare and expensive. Even I can't easily get my hands on one, I mean the guys who have that stuff are really into their bikes. They won't sell that stuff for any price."
"Acquiring one would take a great deal of negotiation and persuasion. Skills that I believe princesses possess," stated Vader.
"LEIA!" shouted Bail as he came hurrying over obviously distraught. "I need to speak with you."
"Lord Vader, pardon my daughter's interruption of your time," said Bail formally as he took Leia's hand. "I apologize for any inconvenience."
"It was a pleasure speaking to her," he said coolly to Bail. Then turning to Leia, "Perhaps we will speak another time?"
"I'd be glad to! And thanks for the advice on the Vold-Air. I'll have to look into it," chirped Leia. Both she and Vader dismissed the look of anger on Bail's face.
"Come Leia," said Bail firmly as he led Leia away.
Vader looked after the two with a small pang in his heart. He, too, could have had a son that was like Leia. Sorrow was replaced by anger and hatred as he recalled how Obi-wan had taken away his wife. He had turned her against him and he could feel his hate for his old master well up in him. As the Dark Side liquidated any regrets, he tasted Bail's emotions through the force. The governor radiated fear.
Vader frowned. Bail had known him in the past, and even now he did not think that Bail thought he would harm a child in cold blood--or did he? Yet, there was a nudge in the force. He would investigate why Bail was so afraid of Leia speaking to him.
Just the first installment. Please leave a review. They are always encouraging and help motivate for faster posts.