A Single Thread

Part I: A New Hope


The door slid open with a low hiss, and a shadow fell across the floor.

Stepping into the holding cell, Darth Vader glanced at the young woman curled up on the durasteel bench along the back wall of the small, dark room, even as she drew herself up tall and lifted her chin defiantly, as if daring him to do his worst.

It was lucky for her that she would never personally know just how bad his worst could truly be.

Dark eyes glared at him, full of steel and fire, and strength that most would find strangely out of place in a woman-a girl, really, hardly more than a child-of such petite build. She was slender and lean, that much was obvious even with the loose white gown she wore, and at full height, she wouldn't even reach his shoulders, but somehow she still managed to carry about her an air of importance and dignity.

And there was more courage in her fierce gaze than he'd encountered in most officers in the Imperial forces.

But that was to be expected, of course, for she was no ordinary girl.

No, there was nothing ordinary about her in the least.

Wordlessly, he gestured to the stormtroopers waiting outside in the corridor of the detention center, and a low, ominous hum filled the air as the interrogation droid hovered into the room. The dark metal sphere was, perhaps, as frightening a sight to behold as Vader himself, with a farrago of metal arms protruding from its sides, a multitude of delicate and deadly instruments on the ends.

As the interrogation droid made its way forward, the loud humming now reverberating throughout the room, even drowning out the noise from his respirator, the girl pressed herself back against the wall, as if trying to push her way right through it to escape the monstrosity approaching.

"Now, Senator," Darth Vader rumbled from where he stood on the other side of the room. "We will discuss the location of the Rebel base."

With that, the thick, heavy soundproof door slid closed behind him, leaving him and the princess alone with the interrogation droid.

For a long moment, the two stared at one another.

And then Vader made another gesture with his gloved hand, this time turning off the interrogation droid with a flick of the Force, and the humming died out as the droid fell still, suspended in midair and silent.

"That was quite the performance earlier, Princess," Vader observed evenly.

With the door securely shut behind him, Leia Organa relaxed, her posture immediately changing from that of a cowering prisoner to a young woman completely at ease. "It was, wasn't it?" she agreed wryly. "Wynssa Starflare has nothing on me. Maybe I should think about a career change and go into holofilms. What do you think?"

"I think," Vader said slowly. "That it is bad enough you chose to be a politician."

"Says the man who married one," Leia snorted in an unladylike manner.

Beneath the mask, Vader's lips twitched of their own accord, despite the ache in his heart at the mention of his departed wife, whose memory was never far from his thoughts whenever Leia was near. "I will admit that you do have a certain dramatic flare," he replied flatly. "For instance... spitting on my helmet?"

Leia had the grace to look ashamed. "I got a bit carried away?" she offered sheepishly.

"An excuse I have heard you use on many occasions," Vader retorted sarcastically, but not without a hint of exasperated amusement. "Including, if memory serves me right, on your thirteenth birthday, when Bail Organa brought you along on one of his senatorial trips to Coruscant and you stole an Imperial speeder for a joyride, only to wreck it in the Industrial Sector."

"Oh, like you've never wrecked a speeder before," Leia declared, miffed, and lifted her chin in a manner that was entirely her mother, right now to the affronted sniff.

"If I have," Vader said smoothly. "The error was never on my part."

"Of course not," Leia muttered, rolling her eyes.

While it was true that the young princess took after her mother almost exclusively in appearance, with a few minor exceptions around the nose and mouth that he suspected could be attributed to the man he had once been, there was no denying that she had inherited a great deal of her father's temperament.

Right down to that unfaltering stubborn streak.

Sometimes, Vader wondered how Bail Organa had put up with it all these years, and he amused himself to imagine the head of the Organa House pulling out his hair at wit's end with the child he had taken in to raise in secrecy.

At one point, when he had first discovered the truth of Leia's parentage, Vader had entertained much more cruel and vindictive forms of torture for the man to endure, but they had passed in time. After all, someone had to care for Leia during her youth, and as much as Vader might have liked to have the child with him, it would not have been wise to take her from her foster family.

Doing so would have forced him to show his hand to the Emperor.

So he had allowed Organa to continue raising a child that was not his own, a child that was all that remained of a great and forbidden love that led a Jedi Padawan to defy an entire Order and wed a senator who had once been a queen. He had no concerns as to Organa's fitness to raise his daughter, he knew the man well enough from the Clone Wars to know he was a good man and, he admitted to himself, if Obi-Wan had trusted Organa enough to send the child to him, then Organa would care for her as if she were his own.

Leia was safer on Alderaan, where his enemies, the Emperor included, would never know her true identity.

Hiding the secret he'd learned was easier, he suspected, than it had been for Organa and Kenobi to hide it in the first place, but in the fourteen years since he'd first discovered, quite by accident, that Leia was his daughter, Vader had managed to keep the entire galaxy in the dark.

"I'm sorry I spit on your helmet, Father."

Except for Leia, of course.

"There is no need for an apology," Vader responded begrudgingly. "I told you to make it convincing, and you did. We will chalk it up to overzealousness on your part."

Leia favored him with a smile, and something inside of him tightened and shifted unpleasantly, as it always did when she smiled like that.

Perhaps it was simply that it reminded him too much of her mother.

Wishing to avoid the melancholy that inevitably accompanied thoughts of his wife, and the lingering pain that it caused to stir inside of his dull, hollow heart, Vader looked away from their daughter, focusing instead on the dormant form of the interrogation droid.

"Were the battlestation plans in the escape pod?" he inquired gruffly.

"Of course," Leia replied indignantly, and he thought he detected a hint of hurt in her voice. "I wouldn't fail you, Father, you know that."

Yes, he did know that, she had proven it countless times, and her devotion to him had never been in question. She had accepted him from the start, from the very day that the towering Sith Lord had bent down in a garden outside of the Alderaanian palace to share with her a special secret that was just for the two of them, one she could never reveal to anyone, not even Organa or her handmaidens.

And she had kept that secret, and many others that he had entrusted her with over the years.

"Threepio and Artoo should be on Tatooine by now," Leia continued, more calmly. "I put the plans inside of Artoo, along with a recorded holo for Obi-Wan asking for his help, just as you instructed."

"Very good," Vader murmured, and allowed his pleased satisfaction to slip past his meticulous shields for her to sense, in place of a smile that she would not be able to see in the first place. "You have done well, Leia. I am proud of you."

"Thank you, Father," Leia replied.

He did not need to look back at her to know that she was smiling again.

"Everything is falling into place," Vader told his daughter with a low chuckle, folding his hands behind his back and turning to face her. "Soon Obi-Wan will come to us."

A faint, cool smile tugged its way onto the scarred lips beneath his mask.

"The time to put our plans into action has finally arrived."