The Nature of the Enemy

"Leave her to me."

His deep voice resonated against the walls in the close confines of the Death Star prison cell. The two black helmeted security officers who had assisted him in Leia Organa's interrogation nodded crisply, and quickly exited the room. With them gone, he waved the mind probe off and motioned it to the floor. He turned back to the Princess, still splayed unconscious across the hard bench at the rear of the cell.

She was a warrior.

Though her body lay defeated, her mind had never cracked. Not even when he stood so close that the bottom of her gown brushed the front of his boots as she drew herself up in a defensive ball. Such proximity to him frequently turned other prisoners into weeping, incoherent fools, but not her, even though such closeness might suggest certain outcomes to a female prisoner. The possibility had occurred to her, he knew, based on what he felt emanating from her : wild flashes of fear that sometimes spun into full blown panic. But she transformed her fear into outrage, and bristled back at him so strongly that he thought she might spit at him.

Instead she had reined in her fury, and reclaimed her dignity. He recognized the cold, hard place she had taken herself to, and knew that breaking her resolve would require him to double his efforts. Though she had made herself immune to his words and his usually intimidating presence, her eyes never wandered far from the mind probe. Like his purposeful penetration of her personal space, the hovering black sphere was meant to feed a fear of the unknown, but when necessary he would stoop to actually using its capabilities.

He had called the two officers to restrain her, and as she thrashed in their grip, he had seized her right wrist himself, rotating her forearm to give the probe's long needle clear access to her veins. Before he sent the needle plunging into her flesh, he explained that the drug it would inject was a paralytic that would render her immobile, yet leave her perfectly conscious. A lie, but his last attempt to wring from her the information he sought without resorting to physical coercion. But still she revealed nothing, not even when the needle sank into the crook of her arm, puncturing her vein and sending a ribbon of scarlet back into the syringe.

As the Bavo-Six flooded her body, a parade of images flashed through her mind, though too quickly for him to capture them. He waited until the truth serum took her to the twilight between consciousness and coma, and then repeated the one demand he had made of her.

"Tell me the location of the Rebel base," he said, adding emphasis with an arc of two fingers.

Her eyelids, already heavy from the sedation, squeezed shut as she resisted his Force suggestion. He motioned the probe to inject more Bavo-Six, and her face sagged, her tongue sweeping slowly over her red lips. It was a fine line with this drug, between loosening the inhibitions and complete anesthesia. At too deep a level she would be unable to respond, and too close to wakefulness she would be able to maintain control. He could feel it in her mind, the tight hold she kept on her secret. Each dose of Bavo-Six loosened that hold, and he tried to wrest from her a thought or an image that would give him a clue, even if she would not say the name out loud. But each time, just as he felt on the brink of taking the answer from her, some part of her clamped down against him.

He had redosed her again and again, until the security officers looked at each other in concern. When the resevoir of drug in the probe was finally exhausted, he sighed. To administer more was to risk her succumbing to an overdose. There was no choice but to cease the interrogation and let her wake up.

Standing over her now, he monitored her recovery carefully. It had been a pity to torture such a fine mind as this. He positioned her body more securely on the bench, folding the arm that had fallen off the side back across her belly. As he withdrew his hand, it grazed the soft undersides of her breasts. Breasts that were so obviously unfettered under the silken fabric of her gown. His tongue flicked unbidden over his lips and he felt pressure build beneath his codpiece. His hand poised to cup her beckoning flesh, his thumb ready to caress the visible peak. Stealthily, he turned his gaze to her face.

She was also a child.

The fullness of her cheeks and the roundness of her face gave testament to her youth. Despite her position in the Senate, she couldn't be any older than eighteen or nineteen. He pulled his hand away. The same age as...the same age as his own...He terminated the thought. Even after all this time, he could still be brought to his knees if he allowed himself to think of what should have been.

He stood up abruptly as she began to stir. It was unseemly to be bent over her, and he felt a twinge of shame at his previous desire. Her head rolled slowly from side to side, and one foot slid atop the bench as her knee drew upwards, movements that heralded her return to consciousness. The hem of her gown fell back from the point of her knee, exposing her bare thigh. Now chastened, he cautiously picked up the fabric and pulled it forward to cover her. His glove touched her leg, and her eyes flashed open. She sat up clumsily, and he reached forward to steady her.

"Don't touch me!" she growled, and struggled to her feet. She stumbled away from him, tripping herself as she tried to walk, and he grabbed her forearms to keep her from falling.

"Let go of me!" she said, her dark eyes afire.

He maintained his grip. "Do not fight me. I am trying to help you."

"Let go," she ordered and whirled out of his hands, only to crash against the wall. She sank to the floor, and dipped her hand down briefly to where her gown pooled between her legs.

His sense of guilt increased as he realized what she was trying to ascertain. "Nothing has happened."

She looked away. "It better not have. The Emperor wouldn't allow even you to treat a member of the Senate that way."

"You should not be so certain of what the Emperor would permit. He has many...tastes," he said. "You are better off trusting me."

Her eyes remained downcast and she sniffled audibly. Despite her bravado, this line of discussion obviously distressed her. Huddled against the cell wall, she looked very small and lost. He reached down to her. "You are still feeling the effects of the Bavo-Six. Take my hand."

She looked up at him, her brown eyes searching his mask, and he was again reminded of her youth. A voice came to him, his mother's voice, chanting the refrain of childhood. Hold my hand, Ani, hold my hand. Then as if she, too, could hear the voice, she tenatively extended her hand. He grasped it and pulled her to her feet. Once up, she closed her eyes for a moment, and then leaned forward with her arms crossed over her stomach. Her expression told him what was coming next.

"Over here," he said, guiding her to the unadorned commode in the corner. He rested one hand on her back as she wretched violently into the commode, and activated his comlink with the other. "Bring drinking water and a towel to cell two-one-eight-seven."

He left her side briefly to answer the chime at the door. Returning, he poured water onto one end of the towel and handed it to her. She turned away, as if in search of privacy, and quickly washed her face, then patted it dry. After discarding the towel, she motioned for the container of water, which he relinquished freely.

She glared at him between sips of water. "I know why you're doing this."

He quirked his head to the side. "Doing what?"

"Being kind to me," she said."It's a brainwashing technique. To make the captive sympathetic to the captor."

"I was unaware that princesses were schooled in interrogation methods," he said.

"I'm not like most princesses."

He smiled, though she could not see it. "Indeed."

"What are you going to do with me now?" she said, the mantle of self-confidence settling back on her shoulders.

"Nothing," he said. Her resilience was remarkable. "You should lie down and let the Bavo-Six metabolize from your system."

She regarded him with suspicion. "You're not going to ask me more questions?"

"When the time is right," he said. "Though I cannot promise that Tarkin will be as patient."

Her face darkened at the mention of the Governor's name. "I'll never tell you anything, you know."

"We shall see," he said, though he knew that she was right. Now it was his own voice that echoed in his head, the one from a different lifetime. With a kick that hard? Definitely a girl. In that moment he knew that if his child had survived, he would have wanted her to be as strong and beautiful as Leia Organa. "You should rest."

To his surprise, she nodded and climbed onto the bench, stretching out on her side with her head nestled on her arm. Perhaps it was only because there was little else for her to do. Still, he waved his right hand from within the cover of his cloak. "You will sleep."

This time she didn't fight his Force suggestion, and he watched her eyes close, and her breathing became slow and regular. He smoothed the stray hairs that had loosened from her braids back against her head. He wasn't sure why, he just remembered falling asleep under the rhythm of his mother's hand. As he moved away from her, he noted the temperature of the room in his helmet display, and motioned the thermostat a few degrees warmer.

Her cell door yielded to him, and he stepped up onto the metal grate of the walkway. He would have to tell Tarkin that he had failed to obtain the location of the Rebel base. Which meant that this space station was still in danger, and that the Rebellion was still at large. He supposed he should feel more concerned, but it all seemed so insignificant compared to what might have been.