Setting: Coruscant, 2 years before Yavin
"Dad, do I have to go to this party?" Princess Leia Organa protested.
"A young man from a world outside the Empire recently graduated from the most elite of military academies." Her father, Senator Bail Organa replied. "He's younger than you and is already applying to become a Sector Moff. The Rebellion needs more information."
"And what? Am I supposed to flirt with him? Some father you are."
"No, it's not that. It's just you need to see for yourself who the REAL players in the Empire are. Another potential enemy from outside the Empire is Ta'a Zhor, of Hapes. So far the boy is hanging under his wing like a baby mynock."
"Don't mynocks fission?"
"You get my point. Anyway Zhor is…"
"I know, I know! Big, red-haired and a 'lady-killer'. Can't miss him."
"Be careful, his bodyguards are fanatic and paranoid."
"How do I recognize them?"
"They're the most beautiful women in the room and will probably cling to him the whole time. Get ready, we'll meet up after the party."
They entered the ballroom. After a dozen times of coming here Leia still found it bewildering. Hundreds of humans talking, music coming out of hidden speakers. There were millions in the senate chamber, but that was a huge chamber. The ballroom was much more crowded. In an instant she lost sight of her father, but saw the towering figure of Ta'a Zhor leaning casually against the wall. He was chatting with various attractive women, none were 'clinging' though. As she walked closer, she noticed a boy sitting in a chair, several nearby people had lacquered cases that he was looking at.
"So which instrument does Kami-Chan feel like playing at his party?" Zhor chuckled.
Kami was a little smaller than Leia, slender and delicate. His black hair was so fine, it was like smoke. His skin was gray-white, while his almond-shaped eyes were brown with vivid copper streaks. There were a pair of strange convex curves on his lips, as if they were a congenital defect. White gloves with elongated tips were on his hands. His clothes were of an unusual style, much like a woman's dress, but were obvious in the quality of their fabric. He had a forlorn expression on his lean face.
"Turn off that noise." His voice was soft, gentle. But Leia shivered at the intense malice she felt in his mood. "ONLY an ANIMAL would call that 'music'. Let me show you." Some of the women muttered angrily about his complaint.
"The nerve of that little brat!" Hissed a Kuati debutante.
"Quiet! He has the patronage of Prince Zhor." Warned a Fondorian governess.
"Speaking of royalty, there's Princess Leia." Whispered a Couruscanti heiress, scandalously.
Hearing this, Kami looked up. The music coming from the speakers stopped. He reached for a case and removed a stringed instrument. He touched the bow to the strings and exquisite sounds filled the ballroom. All conversation stopped as everyone turned to see the source of the hauntingly beautiful, soulful music.
"By the way ladies, I AM royalty." He stopped playing, handed the instrument to his servant, and whispered to Zhor, who nodded. Kami's music started coming out of the speakers. "I am Kami Gakushi of the prestigious Imperial Minstrel Clan, a clan which soothed Emperors since before the days of the Old Republic. I am no brat."
The woman who spoke against him flinched. "How could you h-hear?! I'm so sorry. But there were no Emperor's before Palpatine."
"I am from the only REAL Empire in this galaxy, the Dawn Empire. It would take a hundred Star Destroyers to stop just one Renzan, which translates to 'Mountain Range", the mainstay of our fleets. We never lost a single engagement during the Clone Wars. I am through talking to you. Prince Zhor, the party is yours now."
He stood and walked toward Leia. "Hello, so you are the Alderaanian Senator?"
"I am his daughter, Leia Organa. You are impressive with that instrument."
"Yes." He took her hand. "Shall I make a brazen request? Will you rescue me from an otherwise dreadful day? This is supposed to be a celebration of my perfection."
"And how shall your savior come to your aid?"
"You seem more intelligent than the other women, they're good enough for the likes of the prince. But for me, I'll only dance with my near equal."
"How do you know that I am not your better?" She felt that if she danced with him she may get information.
"Mmm, nice. Smart and brave." Though slighter than her by about ten kilos she could feel his might in his hand, and the arm low about her waist. "Do you want to lead?"
"That's alright." She smiled. "You lead, I'll small talk"
He led her through a series of graceful motions that left the audience breathless. After several minutes Leia gained the nerve to dig deeper. "You're a child. How could you graduate from a war college, let alone compete for the role of Governor."
"My extreme talents convinced Palpatine that I should be given 'preferential' treatment. In truth, I never would have come to this contaminated world, except I wanted to find my father."
Leia said nothing, but thought I was told that the humans from the Dawn Empire never left their native space. Then again, the same was said about the Hapans, but Zhor, the first cousin of the Hapan Queen was right here, entertaining himself with the company of corrupt women.
"As you have seen, I am a great musician. So was my mother. Her beauty was unrivaled, as was her singing. I wonder how her life would be if the Empire did not expand. If it hadn't, I would not have been born, and she would still live. Her parents hate me. At first I thought Palpatine may have been my father, but, he is the fraction the man that my father WAS. For he was killed shortly after my birth. I am alone."
Though she was reluctant to trust him, something deep inside told her he was honest. "Your parents are dead? That's terrible. How did you make it this far?"
His chest swelled with pride (but was still dwarfed by hers). "On my own abilities. Ironic that in the Old Republic I would be living in a slum. But in the Empire, my genius stands out."
That was too much! "Maybe it's because so many smart people were killed in the Clone Wars. The Jedi for example."
"Hmph! Having the Force and a huge library does not make an Order of Geniuses! They claimed to stand for freedom, but abducted children from their parents, forbidding them to ever meet again. They could not even marry or have children when they fall in love. Such a degenerate system can not stand forever! It is a wonder that it lasted as long as it did. Actually I heard a very good theory. If a society continues to expand, it will not collapse. When it cannot increase further, it is doomed. The 'Static versus Dynamic' social theory."
"And whose theory would that be?" She hated the feeling she had about his outrageous lies about the Jedi.
"Mine. And if you can't accept the truth about those filthy conmen, ask your father. He knew them, and he will not lie to you. Ask Vader if you fell like it. He was Jedi once, but they murdered his wife, so he kills them when he can…"
"That's enough!" She slapped him, pulled away and head for the exit. "You may be a great musician and fine dancer," she turned to glare, "but you are no gentleman."
He father caught up to her just outside. "Hey, you're bleeding." She looked at her hand and just noticed the pain. The back of her middle finger was scratched.
"He must be wearing a ring. I pulled away hard. We need to talk, Dad."
After the party ended, Prince Zhor met up with Naku, who was studying a hole in his glove. Blood was on his fingertip. Zhor knelt and bowed his head.
"Archangel Grai, did you enjoy yourself?"
Naku licked the blood from his fingertip, which had a curved black claw, the source of Leia's scratch. A look of shock crossed his face. "It seems Vader had a child after all!"
"Are you certain, Divine One?"
"Don't call me that! Father was a candidate, but was killed by the Goddess' son before he could be chosen. I have to prove myself to her as he had. Besides, the Archangel Ten are already chosen now. And yes, there is no mistake. For I know the taste of Vader's blood from when we sparred, and this girl is a match. I could also feel her instinctive probing of me in the Force."
"I could speak to the Goddess on your behalf, I am her current 'plaything' you know. Do we tell Lord Vader? That he has a child turned Rebel?"
"No. YOU ask the Goddess what to do. If it's meant to be known, she'll do the telling. Good night, Grand Marshal."
"Isn't it funny that those harlots thought you to be a child? You are three times older than you look."
"Hmph. My kind are perfection itself. Hopefully you can get me Mon Calamari."
"Ha ha ha ha! That's like having the rancor guarding the nerf herd!"
"That world is an acute security risk. I would be certain to keep the 'fish' in check. Wilhuff Tarkin isn't good enough."
"Awww, you shouldn't say that. He's been inquiring about the chances that you'll accept a commission in his territory, which INCLUDES Mon Calamari. He also has a rather 'interesting' choice for your second-in-command."
Gakushi rolled his eyes. "Reeally. And WHO thinks it's interesting?"
"Both Tarkin and I. She's a real tough woman. And smart, too."
"I noticed that you didn't say that she is beautiful… You should probably get together with Beza soon. I don't know how long Leia can keep herself from getting caught."
"What? Do you like her that much? Don't worry, I'll pray to the Almighty tonight for guidance…Where are you going?"
"That girl called me a… brat. I am going to have a 'talk' with her."
"Don't get in trouble."
"No worry, I'm just going to discipline her a little bit."
"Have fun then."
"You too, have pleasant dreams.
When they reached their apartment, Leia was able to tell her father what she learned.
"So, I would expect from what he said about his father and his own 'extreme talents' impressing the Emperor, that he is Force sensitive, AND a serious threat."
"He's no lover of Jedi. Is what he said true?"
Her father looked sad. "A friend of mine who was a Jedi had been taken from his mother at 9 years of age. They had lived on a dangerous planet, and years later he ran off when he felt that she was in trouble. But, he only arrived in time to see her die. I think he resented the other Jedi for the rest of his life."
"Did they kill Vader's wife?"
"I don't know, but I think we have enough on Gakushi to decide that he is QUITE a threat."
"What will we do tomorrow? Should we have him taken out? Do I need to get more information from him?"
"I'm not sure." He took her hands in his. "I am sorry for getting you drawn into this. Your being injured tonight only makes me question more the wisdom of having you continue in this very risky lifestyle. I would never forgive myself if something happened to you."
"I have no regrets, father. I am willing to give my life for you and the Rebellion. I am not afraid."
He smiled sadly. "You're just as brave and strong-willed as you mother was. She was ceaseless in her determination to serve the Republic."
The next day, Leia left for Alderaan, leaving matters in the hands of her best friend Winter. Winter Retrac was unequaled in memorizing skills and looked enough like Leia that they frequently traded places. The Emperor had declared yet another party. Bail wasn't present. Neither was Prince Zhor. A group of noblewomen was gossiping.
"What?! He didn't take off those gloves all night?! Weirdo."
"I KNOW, and he actually SANG while we were alone. Still I feel bad that I called him a brat. He's sooo nice… oh hi Leia."
'Leia' walked over to them. "So where is Gakushi anyway?"
One of them pointed. "He is over there, with that weird woman."
What she could tell from a quick glance, and what she didn't bother to tell them, was that the woman was actually a man. She waved over at them. Gakushi handed his drink to his friend and headed over. The women practically squealed.
"Ah, nice to see you again. Would you like to dance?" He offered his hand.
"Maybe later perhaps. Can we talk first? Just the two of us."
The other women were clearly jealous.
"What would you like to discuss with me?"
"Um, is that a guy? Why does he look like a woman?"
"Oh, that's just Yoshiro. He's a stage actor, and a friend of mine. I wanted to see if he shared my disdain for this region's culture." Gakushi turned, and chuckled. "Look at him, the vile lack of taste in this so-called 'Empire' is making him sick. While we have women actors for most entertainment, only men perform in traditional stage. It seems strange, but it's a necessary niche for some. I also challenged him to be more effeminate than those foolish cows. No challenge for one as talented as him. He was even better than that girl from Kuat last night.