The royal family of Alderaan was in mourning. Their beloved little princess Leia had died during the night. The virus that had ravaged the planet for the better part of a year had finally reached the royal household. Adults had been able to fight of the deadly infection, but the children's immune systems were not developed enough to fight it off, and the princess was only four years old.
Her adoptive parents cried over her body. They had failed in their mission to protect the little girl and lost their darling daughter in the process. At least the end had come quickly. She hadn't been in pain as she passed. The hallucinations the fever had driven into her mind may even have been pleasant, for she was still smiling.
On Coruscant only one man had felt the loss of the little princess, if he could be called a man. Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith and Second in Command over the Empire, reeled from the disturbance that rocked the Force. He'd had a child, a daughter, but as quickly as he'd sensed her the daughter had disappeared again, dead and gone forever.
Grief and anger overcame his precarious self-control. The walls of his 'bedchamber' shook with his feelings. Damn Obi-wan Kenobi! He had not just turned his wife against him, he'd stolen his entire family! He remembered his rage toward them both, Padme and Obi-wan, when he'd learned of their betrayal. He'd thought he had…he could hardly bear to remember what he'd thought he'd done. But Padme must have lived a while longer, had given life to his child. If only he'd known! This daughter, had she looked like Padme?
In disgust, Vader quickly shoved his sentimentality aside, but the anger remained. He'd been denied much more than just a child. If the Force had been so disturbed by her loss she must have had the potential, a Force-sensitive of remarkable power. Yes, this was a terrible loss, such a waste. He would have to tell the Emperor, of course. But first he had to find an outlet for his rage. Withdrawing his lightsaber from his belt, he made his way down the hall to his personal training arena. A few droids and…
For the second time that night, Vader was struck by another rocking of the Force. He was caught even more off guard this time, thinking it was over, and he had to lean against the wall to compose himself. Even with the mask's regulations, Vader's breathing became erratic. There were two. Not one, but two children. Twins. And the other, the boy, a son! His son was still alive!
The presence disappeared even more quickly, but this time only hidden. Vader reached out desperately to find it again, but for the first time in years he felt blind in the Force. The boy wasn't really gone. He was out there, somewhere, alive and waiting for him. And he was strong. His presence glowed in the Force like a bolt of lightening. The boy had all the potential of the girl. With Vader's guidance he would be powerful, so very powerful, and the things Vader could accomplish with that power under his control…Vader would find him, he wouldn't rest until he did. Nothing would stand in his way. But with this new development, perhaps his report to the Emperor could wait a while longer.
On Tatooine, Obi-wan Kenobi sat pensively in his hermitage. Bail Organa had contacted him when Leia contracted the disease. He'd planned to go to Alderan as soon as he could arrange a transport to see if there was anything he could do for her, but now it was too late.
Obi-wan was grieving. He hadn't seen Leia since she was a baby, but she'd been Padme's child; hers and Anakin's. Whatever good had remained in Anakin, Obi-wan always hoped it would bloom in his children, but now one of them was gone. At least he still had Luke.
Luke! Obi-wan leapt to his feet. How could he have been so stupid! If he'd felt the disturbance that Leia's untimely demise had wrought through the Force, who's to say Darth Vader or his Emperor wouldn't have felt it too? What if they became curious and came to investigate who this child had been? What if they discovered her relationship to Anakin Skywalker? What if their investigation led them to Luke?
The time for grief had officially ended. Now was the time for action. Obi-wan would have to take on Luke's guardianship himself now if he was going to keep the boy safe. He would go to retrieve him from Owen and Beru as soon as possible, but first he had to find someplace safe to go. He knew Vader would never willingly come back to Tatooine, would never stumble across Luke's presence here. But if Vader was looking for Anakin's offspring, Tatooine was longer safe for Obi-wan and his ward.
On the Lars's moisture farm, Luke had awoken with a cry. It had taken nearly an hour for his aunt to calm him, but even when his sobs had subsided Luke couldn't tell her what was wrong.
"It was just a nightmare, darling," Beru told him, stroking his cornflower hair. "Go back to sleep."
Luke sat in his bed, hugging his knees. His stomach ached horribly, his heart felt strange, and he couldn't stop crying. His aunt said it was a nightmare, but Luke had been having a good dream. He'd been warm and safe with the sound of water all around him and someone else was near. A sudden pain had woken him and it wasn't going away.
"It hurts," Luke said aloud as he squeezed his eyes shut against the tears.
I know. Luke's eyes shot open again and he saw a little girl sitting on the foot of his bed. Me too.
The little girl's mouth didn't move when she spoke, but Luke could hear her quite plainly. She didn't seem to be there, really. Luke could see through her, like a reflection in a glass window, and she blurred when she moved. She had a long brown braid, dark eyes, and a quirky smile. She was dressed in a plain white frock with a gold chain belt.
"I'm Luke," Luke introduced himself.
I know. The little girl nodded. I'm Leia.
"I know," Luke agreed. The two children paused to observe one another. Suddenly Luke grinned. "I'm older, you know. I went first."
Only by a little. Leia argued. And besides, I went first this time!
"I wish you didn't," Luke said unhappily. "I wish I could have known you, the real you."
I wish I could have known the real you. Leia said.
"You won't go away again, will you?" Luke asked desperately. Leia giggled and shook her head so her braid whipped back and forth until it looked like four braids in the air. Luke sighed with a happy smile. The ache didn't hurt so badly anymore. "Good. I'd miss you too much. Goodnight, Little Sister."
Goodnight, Little Brother. Leia kissed Luke's cheek, even though he couldn't feel it, and slowly her image faded away. Luke could still feel her presence, though. He rolled over, quite content, and went back to sleep.