Empire of Alderaan
Hoth (before the events of ESB)
Princess Leia Organa hated snow. Until the Rebellion move to the ice planet of Hoth, she'd always thought of snow as a fun thing. On Alderaan, when the first snowflakes had signaled the start of the cold season, Leia could recall her aunts bundling her up and sending her outside with Winter to play until their cheeks became rosy and their fingers went numb. Then her aunts would give both girls warm, dry clothes and steaming hot chocolate as they would thaw out their tingling toes in front of a roaring fireplace.
Now snow and cold had become the enemy. The constant chill seemed to penetrate Leia to her very core. Even in her tiny quarters, she had to remain bundled up. Sonic showers were limited to once a week, and all personnel had to use one of the units located in a small rebel transport that fit inside the hanger. Life here was so completely and utterly different than the life of a princess.
Leia paused at the entry to the hanger that housed the X-Wings and other small ships, smiling as Luke Skywalker waved at her from atop his ship. Waving back, she couldn't help but wonder at the closeness she felt toward the sandy-haired pilot. She simply could not imagine her life without Luke. He had helped her survive, not just by rescuing her from the Death Star, but by his unwavering friendship and kindness. Being around Luke left her calm and at peace, believing in the goodness of the galaxy.
Almost without conscious thought, Leia's eyes drifted left, toward the place where another ship sat - the Millennium Falcon. The ship's pilot was nowhere to be seen, and Leia was almost positive the emotion that rushed through her was one of relief, not disappointment. Han Solo was - after nearly three years - still a complete mystery to her. Whenever he walked into her sight, she could feel her blood pressure rise, her cheeks would flush, and she would become angry and flustered even before a word left his mouth.
"Hey, sweetheart," a deep voice rumbled from behind her. "You lookin' for me?"
Blast! Why did the stars conspire to embarrass her at every opportunity with that infernal pirate? Leia clenched her fists, and tried to plaster a neutral expression on her face before turning to face the Corellian. "No, I am not looking for you. I was simply waving at Luke." There... that should put him in his place.
Han gave a wide, lopsided grin, and Leia suspected it was designed by the underworld gods to vex her down to the souls of her boots. "So that's why you're lookin' at my ship?"
"I was only marveling at the fact it stays in one piece, considering the amount of rust falling into the snow."
"Marvel away, Your Highnessness," Han said, sweeping his hand toward the Falcon. "You might be tryin' to convince me you're pondering my amazing skills as a mechanic, but we both know which of my many amazing skills you're really wondering about. Give me one chance, and you won't have to wonder ever again."
It took Leia half a heartbeat to realize what Han was referring to. Then, as usual, she felt herself flush. "Maybe one day I'll take you up on your offer, and then I can compare your many shortcomings with all your other unfortunate female victims."
"None of those females are victims, honey," Han drawled out. "And if you're interested in finding someone short, you'd better wave harder at those X-Wing pilots."
"I didn't say short," Leia snapped. "I said shortcomings! Comings!"
Han puffed out his chest. "Ya think I'm sure comely? Thanks."
"I think you're sure conceited.... you....you... self-involved blockhead." Not waiting for Han's next response, Leia spun around and stomped away, trying to ignore the amused stares of the rebel pilots.
Leia tugged at the collar of her jacket, wondering how it had gotten so warm in these ice caves in the past few moments. Maybe a solar flare was causing a sudden heat wave. Or perhaps the heater units were malfunctioning. Whatever the reason, she needed to take a walk and cool down. The Princess wound her way through the caverns, trying to get her mind off of him. I won't even think about his name.... just him. Unfortunately, 'him' sounds awfully close to Han. No! Don't think about his dumb name. Pirate. Bantha-breath. Laserbrain.
She stopped at a crack in the wall of the man-made corridor. It was a narrow crevasse, a small opening she hadn't noticed before. Easing sideways, Leia realized she could squeeze inside, but she could not see very far. The Princess fumbled for her handlight, clicking it on and shining the beam into the darkness. The natural chasm was very high, and the walls shimmered with a sparkling, icy blue color. Thin, dangerous looking stalactites hung from the ceiling, while the jagged stalagmites jutted up from the floor, as if they were trying to reach their dangling cousins above.
Taking a cautious step, Leia moved further inside the corridor, mesmerized at the beauty of her discovery. She craned her neck to gaze upward, her light glittering off the ceiling. Then an ominous crack sounded underfoot, and Leia tried to back up. It was too late - the floor beneath her gave way, sending the startled Princess sliding down, riding a shelf of packed ice, her arms flaying as she tried to stay on top of the debris. Then silence and darkness descended as a hardened chuck of ice rendered her unconscious.
"Leia? Wake up.... Are you hurt? Do you need a doctor?"
Leia opened her eyes at the familiar voice, swallowing hard against the nausea that tagged along with her dizziness. She squinted up into a bright light, aware she was cold and her clothes were a bit wet. For a moment, Leia believed she was staring into a handlight, but quickly realized the brightness wasn't artificial. She was outside, lying on her back in a snow bank, looking up into the sun.
"Leia? Say something. I'm getting scared," the voice said.
Blinking, Leia sat up in surprise. "Winter?"
The white haired girl sat back on her haunches, relief spreading across her features. "Thank goodness. I wish you wouldn't be so reckless. Next time the sign says, 'extreme level of expertise required' you'd better believe it. Your aunts would be furious if they knew you tried skiing down an expert hill.... with a jump!"
"Skiing?" Leia asked in confusion. "What are you doing here on Hoth... skiing?"
Leia looked around at the snow-packed slope, lined with the familiar scent of evergreens. Majestic mountaintops rose in the distance, while brightly attired humans dotted the hills as they loped downward. "Where.... where am I?"
The worried expression reappeared on Winter's face. "This is Mount Timborline."
"But.... Mount Timborline was located on Alderaan!"
"Leia," Winter said gently, "this is Alderaan."
"That's not possible," Leia whispered. "Alderaan is gone."
"Gone?" Winter took Leia's hand. "Where did it go?"
Leia decided it was time to take a different approach to this problem since it was apparent Winter was very confused about where they were, and undoubtedly in denial. "What standard year is this?"
"6012," Winter answered cautiously.
"That's correct," Leia said, struggling to her feet and disengaging the one ski that was still attached to her shiny boot. How did that get attached, and why was she wearing an expensive maroon and silver snow suit with matching gloves? "It's been almost three years."
"Three years... since what?"
"I think you need to see a - "
At the same moment, Winter said, "Leia, maybe you should see a - "
"- doctor," they both finished, then looked pointedly at each other.
"I don't need to see a doctor," Winter said. "You're the one that took the bump on the head, and can't remember where you are."
"I'm on Hoth!" Even as she said that, the surrounding mountains, trees and vacationers mocked her words.
"I've never even heard of Hoth," Winter responded. "What makes you think you're there, instead of at Mount Timborline ski resort?"
"Because that's where the ..." Leia lowered her voice, and looked around to make certain no one was listening. "the Rebellion is located."
"The Rebellion?!" Winter shouted, her eyes wide. "Are you telling me you've heard rumors those awful people have reorganized? We need to tell the Emperor immediately! He'll send the Defense Star to that Hoth right away and destroy it, just like Yavin's moon."
"Yavin? What happened at Yavin?"
Winter smiled. "Don't tell me you don't remember. That was your finest moment."
"Winter... what happened at Yavin?" Leia repeated, feeling a cold that had nothing to do with the snow.
"You infiltrated those evil rebels by using bogus schematics to the Defense Star, and found out where they were hiding.." Winter's smile grew wider. "They really thought they had a chance, but when the DS blew them up, that was the end of them."
Leia sat back down in the powdery snow with a thud, her heart pounding in her chest. This can't be possible. It must be some terrible nightmare. I killed Luke...and Wedge. All those good people died because of her. Then another, horrible, thought crossed her mind. And Han? No, that couldn't be true. Luke was her best friend, and Han was... well, someone she cared about as well, just in a different way. In a way that, until now, she never wanted to analyze too closely.
"I think we'd better get back to the hotel and have a doctor check you out," Winter said in concern. "I think you have amnesia."
"I don't have amnesia," Leia managed to say, rising again to her feet. Until she knew what was going on, it would be better to pretend everything was alright. "I was just joking around. Let's get back to the hotel."
"Joking?" Winter said, taken aback. "That's not funny. You have a very strange sense of humor."
Leia gave a weak smile. "Yes, I do." Then she snapped her skis back on, and headed down the hill toward the resort.
The entire way back to the lodge, Leia's head was spinning as she tried to make sense of her situation. Alderaan still existed - that was a fact she couldn't deny. She recognized the area, since she'd been there before. But Winter's comments truly concerned her. Did Alderaan exist because, somehow, Leia had betrayed the Rebellion? Maybe Winter only thought Yavin was gone, and all the rebels were safe on Hoth. Although that idea gave her some comfort it was also another worry. If it was true, then she'd already said too much because it appeared that Winter would tell the Emperor about the base on Hoth. Why wouldn't her father stop Winter? Why had he allowed her to betray the Rebellion? Bail hated the Empire with his entire being. No, it made no sense at all.
Once inside the luxurious hotel, the two young women took off their skis and stepped out of the wet snowsuits. Leia could feel Winter's unnerving stare. "I'm alright, Winter. Really," Leia said, trying to deflect her previous comments.
"I hope so," Winter murmured. "You have dinner in a few hours with your fiancé. I hope you don't joke around with him like you did with me. He doesn't have much of a sense of humor, from what I've seen."
Fiancé? Leia almost spoke that thought aloud, but caught herself in time. Still, the surprised expression on her face didn't go unnoticed by her very observant friend.
"What? Don't tell me you've forgotten him, too," Winter said, no longer amused at Leia's 'game.'
"No.... I just forgot the dinner date," Leia stuttered out. "What time was it, again?"
"He's here... in the resort?"
Winter sighed. "Yes, he's here, but don't keep him waiting. Lord Skywalker can be a bit impatient at times."
Leia dropped her ski poles with a clatter onto the tiled floor. "Lord Skywalker?"
"Well, it's Luke to you," Winter replied coyly. "I think you're very lucky to be engaged to such a cute guy... and the son of the Emperor, too. Your mother is very pleased with this match. It's too bad your father isn't around to escort you down the aisle."
So Luke had survived Yavin? This news made Leia's knees weak with relief. But how did he go from Tatooine farmboy to the son of the Emperor? Maybe he had never even gone to Yavin, in which case Han might still be alive, too. Then Winter's comment about Bail and her mother sank through Leia's shock. Putting her hand to her heart, Leia managed to ask in a strangled tone, "My mother's alive? Where is my father?"
Once again, the concern was in Winter's expression. "King Organa was assassinated when you were a baby." Seeing Leia's pale face, Winter grabbed Leia's arm. "You weren't kidding me, were you? You do have amnesia!"
"I... I think so....." Leia managed to mumble before her legs gave way.
"Leia? Wake up.... Are you hurt? Do you need a doctor?"
Leia Organa's eyes snapped open and she quickly sat up - perhaps too quickly. "Rodders! I.... think I'm going to be sick." She could only see lightbeams shining in her face, and felt her temper flare. "Get those lamps out of my eyes, you idiots. You're blinding me."
"That was a close call, Your Worshipfulness," said a deep, male voice. "But calling your rescuers 'idiots' isn't very nice...especially since you were the one heading off into unsafe caverns and causing avalanches."
"Who are you and how dare you speak to me like that?" Leia snapped. "I'm going to have you thrown in the dungeon as soon as I get back."
"Back? Back from where?" another, softer male voice asked. This one sounded more familiar, but still different in some way.
"Dungeons? Now you're threatening to throw me in a dungeon?" the deeper voice interrupted, chortling in amusement. "Have you contacted Jabba behind my back, sweetheart?"
Leia ignored that man and focused instead on the familiar voice. "Lord Skywalker? Is that you?"
The bright light was angled down, and Leia could now make out Luke's worried face. "Yes, it's me."
"It's about time, my Lord. Who is that awful person with you, and why are you letting him call me 'sweetheart'?"
Luke appeared startled by her words. "My Lord?"
The other man groaned. "I think the bonk on her head has impaired her judgment, Kid. She thinks you're royalty. As long as she's delusional, why can't she think I'm a wealthy prince with sixty planets under my control?"
Leia struggled to her feet, pointing at the bright beam and the impertinent man holding it. "WHO ARE YOU?"
"Prince Han Solo at your service, Your Holiness," Han said, standing up and giving a mock bow. "Normally women don't easily forget me, but you've never been exactly normal."
"Han...." Luke said warningly. "I don't think you should tease her right now. She's not acting right."
"Solo?" Leia shouted as she finally recognized the name. "But.... you're already in my dungeon!" She swung her head wildly toward a stunned Luke. "Why did you let him out?"
"I keep wondering that myself," Luke muttered under his breath.
"She's flipped, kid," Han stated, getting worried about the Princess despite himself. "We might need a restraining jacket."
"I'm going to have you executed!" Leia screeched at Han, before looking back at a strangely silent Luke. "Where are we?"
"Um.... in a cave on Hoth."
"Where the hell is Hoth? Why are we here? And why the kest did you bring Solo?"
"She's been learning way too many swear words from me," Han informed Luke, who nodded in agreement.
"Leia, maybe you should go to the medical ward," Luke said soothingly.
"I don't need a doctor! I need my Security! If you don't start explaining yourself, our engagement is off!"
Han's eyes nearly popped out of his head. "You and Her Snippiness got engaged? Since when? I'm really hurt, kid. Hurt. I thought I'd be the first you'd tell."
Luke blushed madly. "We're not engaged!"
"Unfortunately, thanks to our parent's arrangements, we are!" Leia yelled back. "Why are you acting like this? I'm telling Mother you can't be trusted."
"If you don't stop screaming, you're gonna bring the roof of this cave down on our heads, Your Derangedness."
"Han...." Luke said sternly. "She's obviously not feeling well, so you shouldn't keep pushing her."
"I'm pushing her?" Han said, pointing at his chest. "I'm not the one threatening to send her into a dungeon."
"Take me out of this damn cave," Leia demanded. "I'm telling your father, Luke. He'll straighten you out, and you'll be crawling back into my good graces by nightfall."
"Emperor Vader," Leia huffed in explanation, watching as Luke's mouth dropped open. "Don't act so dumb."
"Yes, Luke. You're engaged to Princess Leia and your father is Darth Vader," Han said dryly. "Don't act so dumb."
The two men followed the Princess as she furiously clawed her way up the embankment and into the man-made corridor. "Who are all these insipid looking people?" she asked, putting her hands on her hips as she watched the bedraggled Rebels going about their jobs.
"Rebels," Luke explained politely.
"Rebels? They've regrouped on this iceberg?"
Leia lowered her voice, and turned to face the wall. "They don't know I've escaped from their prison, do they?"
"Now I get it," Leia continued on quietly. "They kidnapped me while I was skiing, and you're undercover to free me, and Solo's here to offer you backup. What did you do... give him his freedom in exchange for his assistance? Or maybe remind him that Kashyyyk is still around and can be used for target practice if he doesn't help?"
Han and Luke exchanged puzzled looks. "I don't understand," Luke said.
"What's to understand? You're here helping me escape, right?"
"I think we already did that," Han put in. "Remember the Death Star?"
"Death Star? Oh... you mean the Defense Star!" Leia exclaimed. "But I wasn't really a prisoner then, Solo, not like now. I thought you knew that."
"I did?" Han asked.
"You weren't?" Luke questioned.
"Why are you acting like you don't know any of this?" Leia asked. "Oh.... I know. You think the Rebels might be listening to us." Leia held up her finger to her lips. "Shhh. You just lead the way, and I'll follow," she whispered.
"Lead the way, kid," Han said jovially. "You're the brains."
Leia refused to go to the medic ward, therefore Han and Luke decided it would be safer to take her to the Falcon where they could keep an eye on her. They sincerely hoped that once the welt on her head went down, she would return to normal. As they turned the corner and entered the hanger, Leia skidded to a stop.
"Now what?" Han asked, getting exasperated.
"That ship...." she said, sounding stunned. "How did you get another one just like it? What was the name of your first one? The Centennial Chicken, or something like that."
"My ship is called the Millennium Falcon," Han snapped back, irritated. "And this is the only YT-1300 freighter I've ever owned."
At that moment, Chewbacca came sauntering down the ramp, unaware of any problems, and gave a roar of greeting.
Leia turned to Luke, wide eyed. "Is that the same Wookiee?"
"That's Chewbacca," Luke explained, wiping his hand wearily across his face.
"Yes, that's the same one!" Leia said. "You're taking a huge risk, even if you can use the Force. I can understand blackmailing Solo to help you, but why involve the Wookiee? You should have left him on Kessel, where he belongs. When I get home, I'm convincing Mother to call off this sham engagement. I can't be married to someone this unstable."
"She thinks you're the unstable one?" Han asked incredulously. "Remember back on the Death Star, when I said no reward was worth this? Well, I was right then, and I'm even righter now."
"Righter isn't even a real word, laserbrain," Leia said with a sniff as she stomped up the ramp.
In the large hotel suite, Winter helped Leia zip up the back of her gown, her forehead creased with worry. Her normally loud and, some might say obnoxious, friend was uncharacteristically quiet as she dressed for her dinner date with Lord Skywalker. "I don't know why you're being so stubborn, and won't see a doctor," Winter complained.
"I'm not sick," Leia insisted. "I'm sure this will pass."
"Do you remember anything yet?"
"I remember Luke, I just don't remember how I got engaged to him," Leia admitted, having decided that playing the 'amnesia' angle might work to her advantage for the time being.
"Queen Breha and Emperor Vader made the arrangements," Winter explained. "I know you weren't too happy about it, but Lord Skywalker seems nice enough... considering."
"Considering his father is a Sith Lord?"
"Something like that," Winter said a bit reluctantly. "At least your fiancé has all of his parts. At least I think he does."
"Why do I remember that someone named Palpatine was the Emperor?" Leia asked cautiously, watching Winter's reaction in the gilt-covered mirror.
Winter smiled. "Palpatine was the Emperor... until Darth Vader found out his son was alive and trained him in the Force. Then they teamed up to kill Palpatine and take over the galaxy."
"Oh. Where did Vader find Luke?"
Winter pulled Leia over to a sofa, and sat down. "Do you think if I tell you what happened, you'll remember?"
"It might help," Leia said truthfully.
"We arrived on Tatooine.... with the bogus Defense Star plans. It was so exciting. We've never been involved in espionage before......"
~~~~~~Tatooine, three years previous ~~~~~~~
The two women trudged through the hot, dusty streets of Anchorhead, neither one looking like they belonged, despite their somewhat simple attire. Two droids - a tall golden protocol droid and a small blue and white astromech droid - followed silently behind.
The dark haired young woman staggered slightly as her heel caught in a rut, then swore under her breath. "Haven't these people heard of duracrete?"
"I told you not to wear shoes with heels," Winter said as Leia glared at her. Winter gazed into an empty storefront. "Maybe we should ask someone in here."
Leia shook her head negatively. "This was a mistake. Anchorhead is a complete waste of time. I told you we should have started out in Mos Eisley."
"Your aunts said Mos Eisley was too dangerous. A hive of scum and villainy is the way they described it."
"My aunts think everything is too dangerous, and a hive sounds like fun."
The golden droid couldn't remain silent. "I think it sounds terrible. Scum is always terrible."
"Shut up, Threepio," said Winter.
"I'm hot," Leia complained. "My feet hurt and l'm wearing clothes that were bought off-rack. I don't think I'm cut out to be a spy."
"Shh!" Winter said, looking around to see if anyone overheard. "Look," she pointed across the street. Three bored looking teenagers sat on a crumbling ledge, tossing stones at the ground. "There are some kids. They look safe, if a bit backwards. Let's go ask them."
"Fine," Leia said with an exaggerated groan. "Anything to get this project moving along."
They walked over to the three people that were approximately their age. A sandy-haired young boy, a young girl and a dark haired man. "Hello," Leia said in a fakey, cheerful tone. "We're new here. Can you give us some directions?"
"New?" the girl responded, her eyebrow lifting. "No one moves here on purpose."
Winter looked vaguely annoyed. "My name is Winter, and this is Leia. We haven't moved here, but we are looking for someone. It's sort of important."
"Important?" the dark haired man said, looking suspicious. "You do know this is Anchorhead. On Tatooine. Nothing important happens here."
"Oh, just ignore them," the blond man said, gazing soulfully at Leia. "My name is Luke Skywalker, and these are my friends... Biggs and Camie. Who are you looking for?"
"A friend of my mother's," Leia replied. "General Obi-Wan Kenobi."
Biggs gave a loud laugh. "A general? Here? You really are lost."
"There isn't any Obi-Wan Kenobi around here," Camie stated in agreement. "Sorry."
"What about old Ben?" Luke inserted. "His last name is Kenobi."
Winter and Leia exchanged a meaningful look. "Do you know where we can find him?"
"Well," Luke said thoughtfully. "It's out near the Jundland Wastes... past the dunes."
"That's helpful," Leia grumbled.
Luke suddenly broke into a grin. "I can take you there."
"What about your chores, Luke?" Camie asked, shaking her head. "Your uncle won't like you goofing off the entire day."
"I don't care," Luke responded. "We'll stop by the homestead on the way and tell my aunt and uncle I can't work today."
"That'll go over big," said Biggs.
Luke jumped off the ledge. "Come on. We can all fit in my landspeeder if we smash together."
"What about our droids?" Winter questioned.
The young man pursed his lips. "We can strap them on the back. Hopefully, they won't fall off."
The protocol droid managed to look startled. "Fall off? I will get sand in my processors!"
"Tough," Leia snapped as she followed a pleased Luke Skywalker to his landspeeder.
~~~~~~~ Present day Alderaan ~~~~~~~~
Winter looked up from her perfect narration. "Look at the time! You need to hurry, or you'll be late."
"You'll tell me the rest later?"
"Of course. There's a lot more to tell," Winter agreed, hustling the reluctant Princess out of the hotel suite.
Leia waited alone for a long time in the empty dining room when a black-clad Lord Skywalker, surrounded by dozens of armed Imperial guards, finally swept into the room. His eyes darted around, taking in the scene, and he adjusted his cape before striding over to Leia's table. "I'm glad to see you showed up," he snapped out as one of his guards pulled out his chair. "Last time you kept me waiting for two hours." He sat down, leaning back and looking down his nose at Leia. "I don't like that dress. It's too conservative."
The Princess tried not to gawk at Luke... Lord Skywalker. He was so completely different than what she remembered, it was hard to believe they were the same person. From Winter's description, Luke had sounded pretty much like the same innocent farmboy she remembered. How could such a huge change have transpired in three short years? Not quite sure what to say, Leia responded, "Good evening, Lord Skywalker."
Luke let out a loud snort. "Stop with the 'Lord' garbage already. When are you going to accept that I'm your fiancé?"
Twisting the napkin in her lap, Leia tried to imagine herself as Luke's wife, but couldn't. Even as she thought about 'her' Luke - the sweet, trusting version of Luke, the idea of being married to him was sickening, although she couldn't decide why it felt so wrong. "I want to marry a man I love, not live in an arranged marriage," Leia said firmly, hoping it sounded like something she - her 'other' version - would say.
"That old song again? Love is nothing more than temporary insanity. It passes, and then what are you left with? A broken heart and a lousy marriage. At least this way, you won't have any delusions."
"I'd rather take a chance on true love." Once again, a certain Corellian's face came to her mind's eye. I'm only thinking about him because I'm worried about him.
Lord Skywalker leaned forward, leering. "But you won't give me the chance to prove my love. Let me spend the night - "
"NO!" Leia shouted, appalled at the very thought.
Flushing, Skywalker sat back in his seat. "I know you're not some innocent school-girl. The holo-vids showed you with a different man every night before we got engaged. Why won't you even kiss me? I'm good-looking!"
"I never said you weren't."
"But you still don't want me... even though I can offer you the galaxy?"
"I want - " Han, her brain finished, unbidden. "Shut up, shut up, shut up...." Leia whispered to her traitorous mind.
Lord Skywalker stood up, roaring in fury, "Don't you tell me to SHUT UP, you worthless tramp! You should be grateful I want you! You should be bowing before me, and kissing my feet! Your mother wants this marriage and so do I, so quit acting like a spoiled princess and accept your fate!"
Throwing down her napkin, Leia stood as well, forgetting all about staying in her role. "I will never meekly accept any fate, except the fate of my choosing. I will never marry you, so find yourself another victim." She started to move away from the table, but Luke roughly grabbed her wrist. "Let go of me."
"The Defense Star can be used on more than just moons, you know," Luke said calmly.
"What are you saying?"
The Dark Jedi's eyes shifted from blue to yellow, and he gave a cold smile. "You'll marry me - or else."
"Are you threatening me?" Leia spluttered in shock.
"I'm threatening more than just you, my love. So, are you still calling off our engagement?"
Leia swallowed the hard lump at the back of her throat. "I'm not calling it off. I've just had a difficult day, and I'm tired."
"Winter told me you've been feeling poorly since your little skiing accident. Go rest, and we'll talk about this tomorrow."
"Whatever you wish, Luke," Leia said tightly.
"Keep that in mind, and we'll get along just fine."
The two men warily watched as Princess Leia paced the small cargo hold. "When are we blasting out of here? Have you contacted the Emperor yet? He needs to know about these nasty Rebels." Leveling her glare at Han, she continued, "Why don't you turn up the heat in this rust-bucket? I'm cold!"
"The heater is having a few problems," Han responded, shaking his head.
"That figures," she said with a smirk. Leia looked down at her white thermal jumpsuit. "Where did this boring outfit come from?"
"It's your prison outfit," Han supplied. "The nasty Rebels dressed you in it after they strip-searched your body cavities."
"HAN!" Luke admonished when he saw Leia's shocked expression. "We don't need to encourage her paranoia."
"Why not? It's sorta fun."
Luke sighed. "Leia, you're not a prisoner. You're a Rebel leader and - "
"I am NOT a Rebel leader! Leia interrupted loudly. Loud seemed to be her only volume setting since the cave-in. "Why are you lying to me?"
"We're not lying," Han tried to say.
"I HATE YOU!" Leia interrupted with a shout. "And I hate your stupid, smelly, shedding animal too. He needs a bath even worse than you do!" Then she turned around and ran down the hall before locking herself up in a cabin.
Chewie gave a mournful howl, and looked down at his partner.
"I have no idea, pal," Han grumbled. "If she doesn't snap out of this, I'm leaving for good."
"I thought you liked Leia," Luke replied, trying to keep the situation from deteriorating further. "She's sick right now, Han, but she'll get better."
"You don't know that," Han said. "Maybe these are her true feelings showing up, under the guise of a head injury. Maybe, deep down, she wants to be engaged to you, and have me rotting away in some prison. I can take a hint." Now that he considered it, the more likely it seemed to be true.
A loud clatter made them all turn and stare at Leia's fast reappearance at the entryway to the main cargo hold. The diminutive Princess stood there, pointing Chewie's bowcaster at the surprised group.
"Leia...." Luke said cautiously. "Put the big weapon down. It's not safe."
"It's not safe for you," she growled out. "Toss down your kriffing weapons."
The two men carefully placed their blasters and lightsaber on the floor, pushing them toward Leia. "Now what?" Han asked, his face flushed with anger.
Leia waved the bowcaster. "Skywalker, you and the hairball get into the cockpit. I'll keep Solo as my hostage. If anyone tries anything funny, I'll be more than happy to fry him."
"Oooookay," Luke agreed nervously. "Then what?"
"What do you think?"
"I'm not too sure," Luke admitted.
"You blast the Chicken out of this ice cavern, and take me home!" Leia snapped.
"Her name is the Falcon, NOT the Chicken," Han objected.
"Home?" Luke asked, hoping it wasn't what he was thinking.
The Princess stomped her foot on the deckplate. "Alderaan! Where else?"
"Where else, Kid?" Han said. "Don't act so dumb."
Han gave a start when he felt the engines of the Falcon roar to life. The Princess was just a bit too jittery for his taste, especially considering the weapon pointed in his general direction. He considered making a lunge for the bowcaster, but decided against it - Leia was sitting on the opposite side of the hold, too far away to take her by surprise with any degree of safety.
"Why do you think the Rebels are the bad guys?" Han asked, trying to make her forget about shooting him.
Her eyes narrowed. "Of course they're the bad guys. You just don't overthrow a legitimate government with acts of violence. Mother said it's rude."
"That's what she says." Leia looked closely at the smuggler. "You look pretty good for someone that's spent the past three years in a dungeon. Why aren't you all pasty and pale?"
"Tan In A Can."
At first, the Princess thought he was serious. When she realized he was joking, she got angry. "I had fun watching you squirm in pain. You begged and begged me to make it stop."
Han stared at her, wondering how a simple knock on the head could have altered her personality so completely and radically. "Really. I never took you for the kinky sort. Luke's in for a lot of fun."
"I'm not marrying Lord Skywalker," she said with a sniff.
"I thought you said you two were engaged."
"That's true, but I don't like being told what to do. I'm not marrying anyone I don't love."
"Luke's a loveable guy," Han pointed out, while at the same time feeling a spark of hope. Deep down, perhaps she didn't love Luke after all. It was still possible that a Princess and a guy like him.... He shook his head. It wouldn't be a good idea to fantasize about Leia while she was pointing a weapon at him. "At least you thought he was lovable - before."
"Before you flipped out." Seeing her expression, Han instantly regretted his words.
Glaring, Leia snapped out, "Wait until we get back to Alderaan. You're in for a real surprise."
"So are you, sister," Han replied in a low voice.
In the cockpit, Chewie punched in the codes for the Alderaan system. *What is the point of going there?*
Luke read the console, and gave a sigh. "Maybe when Leia sees Alderaan's rubble, she'll snap out of it."
*Or she'll just completely snap,* Chewie barked. *I don't like Han being in her line of fire.*
"Me, either, but I can't think of what else to do. Not while she's got your bowcaster loaded and aimed."
Below them, the Rebels could only watch in puzzlement as the Millennium Falcon turned and headed toward the sky.
Winter sat down on a chair in Leia's bedroom, watching the exhausted Princess climb into bed. "Are you sure you want me to continue this right now? If you got some sleep, maybe that will be the solution."
"No... I need to hear this. All of it."
Winter nodded, and continued her narration.
~~~~~~~~~ Tatooine, three years ago ~~~~~~~~~~
"I can't believe you grew up in this hole," Leia said, her voice dripping with contempt as she surveyed the small moisture farm.
"Well, it's not much," Luke admitted, seeing the farm for the first time through the eyes of an outsider. He felt ashamed, and guilty for feeling that shame.
"You can say that again."
The boy stopped the landspeeder, then helped the ladies get out. Leaving the complaining Threepio behind, they took the steps down into the kitchen where Beru was busy cooking dinner, while Owen sat wolfing down his gruel. "Luke! You finally found some girlfriends!" Beru exclaimed in joy. "I'm so proud of you. Aren't you proud of Luke, Owen?"
"Only if they can fix condensers," he grumbled, food falling out of his mouth. "Do they fix condensers?"
Addressing the girls, she asked, "Are you staying for dinner?"
"If they stay, they pay," Owen muttered, wiping the crumbs on his sleeve.
Winter picked up a carton, sloshing around the blue liquid. "What's this? Floor cleaner?"
"It's milk," Luke answered.
"Ewww," both girls said, holding their noses in disgust.
"Uncle Owen, I need to take these girls over to visit old Ben Kenobi...."
Owen looked up sharply. "Crazy old Ben? I told you to stay away from him. He's probably contagious."
"Old age is not contagious," Beru said lightly.
"Sure it is," Owen snapped. "Everyone gets it."
"Anyway," Luke said, getting annoyed. "They really need someone to show them Ben's place, so I volunteered - "
"Sure you did," Owen grumbled. "Maybe I'll let you stay here, and I'll show them the way."
"Aunt Beru," Luke whined, getting desperate. "I found them.... I should be able to show them."
"I agree," Beru said, nodding, her expression stern. "Besides which, Owen can't keep his hands off young females."
"I was helping her with her restraining belt!" Owen objected. "How many decades will it be before you trust me?"
"Go, then," Beru told Luke. "Just make sure Ben doesn't help them with restraining belts."
Over the strenuous objections of Uncle Owen, the three young people took off and headed for the Jundland Wastes.
"There it is," Luke pointed out. "The canyon where Ben lives. I think."
"You THINK?" Leia yelled. "I thought you knew!"
"Quiet! You'll attract attention." Luke looked around the sand dunes worriedly.
"The attention of what? Sand fleas?"
"No, Tuskan Raiders," he whispered. "They're real ornery, especially if you wake them up from their nap."
The landspeeder entered the canyon, moving at a crawl, when suddenly stones started raining down on their heads. "Arrggh!" Luke cried out, trying to protect his face. "Oww!"
"What's going on?" Winter shouted, ducking a larger rock.
"The Raiders! We woke them up!"
"I see a cave," Winter shouted, pointing up the canyon wall. "Let's run up there."
"But droids can't run!" Threepio objected as he and Artoo tumbled off the landspeeder.
"That's not our problem," Leia said as she took off toward the cave with Luke and Winter on her heels.
They reached the dubious safety of the cave and stumbled into the dark interior. Leia sniffed the musky air. "It stinks in here." She stared balefully at her hand. "Damn! I broke a fingernail climbing up the rocks."
Winter blinked, her eyes slowly adjusting to the dimness. "Uh, Leia?"
"Who is that?"
The Princess and Luke both turned around and followed Winter's pointed finger. There sat an old man at a table, leaning over some type of game board, his face creased in concentration.
"That's Old Ben," Luke said triumphantly. "Told you I could get you here. Hello, Ben! My name is Luke Skywalker, and this is Leia and Winter."
"Shh!" the old man said harshly. "I'm concentrating."
"I have to get this next move just perfect, or Obi-Wan will win."
"But I thought you were Obi-Wan," Leia said, disappointed. "Do you know where he is?"
Ben reached out and moved a small, round stone from one square to another. Then he stood up and moved to the opposite chair, grinning at Leia. "I'm Obi-Wan. Why do you ask?"
Winter and Leia glanced at each other. "We have important information for you."
Obi-Wan nodded. "I'm sure you do. I'm an important man. A Jedi Knight."
"A Jedi?" Luke exclaimed. "Uncle Owen never told me that. I've never met a real, live Jedi before."
"Where's a real, live Jedi?" Obi-Wan asked, looking around the room.
Winter glared at Luke's interruption before continuing, "It's information we need to get to the Rebellion - "
"THE REBELLION?" Luke shouted, shocked. "I can't believe it... you ladies are real, live Rebels!"
The old general scratched his head. "I've never heard of a planet named Rebellion."
"No," Leia said. "The Rebellion. You know... those people fighting the evil Emperor Palpatine?"
"I used to know a man named Palpatine. Big holo-vid star. Always got the girl."
"No!" Leia shouted. "He's the Emperor! The EMPEROR!"
"Stars almighty, you don't have to shout," Obi-Wan said disapprovingly. "I'm not deaf." He turned his attention to the game table and moved a piece. "There you go, Ben. Got you in ten moves!"
"Let's go, Winter," Leia said, irritated. "Obi-Wan Kenobi won't know where the Rebel base is located."
"Rebel base.... rebel base....." Obi-Wan muttered. "I think I recall something along those lines."
"Will you take us there?" Winter said hopefully. "We have the plans for the Defen... I mean the Death Star inside an Artoo unit."
"How did you get the plans for the Defense Star?" Luke asked. "Isn't that classified?"
"I snuck onboard the Death Star and stole them," Leia declared, ignoring Winter's look of disapproval.
"Wow," Luke said. "And you didn't get caught?"
"Uh... sure I got caught," Leia replied. "But then... but then...."
"But then I snuck onboard and freed her," Winter continued. "We barely escaped with our lives... and the droids, of course."
"The Imperials chased us all over, and our ship got all shot up," Leia added, getting enthusiastic. "We jumped into an escape pod and splashed down here."
"Splashed?" Luke asked, frowning. Up until that point, the story sounded perfectly feasible.
"The water reservoir, outside of Anchorhead," Winter said hurriedly.
"But there's no surface water reservoir outside of - "
Obi-Wan stood up, cutting Luke's protest off. "That sounds like a very exciting time. Let me grab my lightsaber, and we'll go find ourselves a ship."
"So you know where the Rebel base is located?" Leia asked.
"Not quite yet, but I'll know it when I see it."
In another timeplace...Onboard the Millennium Falcon, over the remains of Alderaan
Luke looked into the cockpit's reflection, noting Han's angry expression at being forced to sit and watch Luke pilot. Leia sat behind Chewie, still pointing a gun at Han. She had ditched the too heavy bowcaster for Han's DL-44, and had Luke's lightsaber clipped to her belt. No amount of reasoning or cajoling had convinced the Princess they were her friends, and making comments about her leading the Rebellion infuriated her.
Slowly, Luke eased back on the hyperspace lever, and the stars came back into focus. In the distance sat the rubble that was once Alderaan. The tension in the cockpit was thick as Leia stared ahead, uncomprehending.
"Where did you take me?"
"This is Alderaan," Luke said quietly. "Or what remains."
For a long moment the cabin was deathly silent. Then Leia finally spoke, "No... even the Rebels aren't that evil."
"The Rebels?" Han said, noting the blaster was now pointed at the floor. "The Rebellion didn't do this... the Empire did."
Leia jumped to her feet, and Han took a dive at her arm, pinning her elbow toward the doorway, trying to twist the blaster from her grasp. Luke moved to assist but then the weapon fired and Han let out a howl of pain, releasing the barrel and staggering back as the bolt slammed into the doorframe. The stink of melted durasteel and blaster ozone filled the air.
"You have that set for 'kill'," Han gasped in shock, holding his burned fingers.
"Yes, I do," Leia returned, her eyes hard. "I should kill all of you." She eyed Luke with disdain. "I don't know what's gotten into you, Skywalker, but you haven't fooled me. This isn't Alderaan, and the Empire didn't destroy my planet. They destroyed the Rebel base at Yavin."
"You can check the coordinates," Luke said, indicating the numbers glowing on the screen.
She glanced at the panel, desperately trying to recall her lessons on navigation. Princess Leia never cared much for schoolwork, and figured most of it were things she'd never need to know. She had pilots, drivers, and various other servants whose job it was to take her places. Besides, Winter knew everything, and that was good enough. Still, the numbers looked correct. "You could have altered the computer."
"Maybe if we show you Yavin is still there, you'd believe us," Han suggested.
"I don't have any idea what Yavin looks like, so how would I know what you were showing me was even the real place?"
Han groaned and sat back down, holding his throbbing hand. "What can we do to convince you we're tellin' you the truth?"
"I know what Coruscant looks like, and I remember the coordinates, too," Leia suddenly declared. "So that's where we're going."
"What?" Luke said, eyes wide.
"Coruscant!?" Han yelled. "Are you nuts? Palpatine is there, along with a few million stormtroopers."
"Palpatine is dead," Leia said, exasperated.
"Is this even our Princess?" Han asked Luke. "Maybe some alien mind has taken over her body."
Luke reached out with the Force, probing her mind. "No... it's Leia, but somehow she is different. She really believes what she's telling us is true. I can't explain it, but that's what the Force is telling me."
"Stay out of my kriffing mind, Skywalker," Leia snapped. "I hate it when you or your father tramps around inside my head." She swung the blaster at Luke. "Now, put in coordinates 469835. Once I tell your father you're really a Rebel sympathizer, I won't have to marry you, and then the Defense Star will destroy Hoth. All my problems will be over."
Unable to argue with the deadly end of the blaster, Luke punched in the code and pulled the hyperspace lever.
Back on Alderaan, in another timeplace....
"Are you telling me Obi-Wan was senile?" Leia interrupted her friend.
Winter smiled. "Colorful. The word he used to describe himself was colorful."
"Oh, I see." Leia didn't 'see' at all, but Winter continued the story.....
~~~~~~~~~ Tatooine, three years ago ~~~~~~~~~~~
Obi-Wan sat atop the droids as the speeder flew toward Mos Eisley. "Uncle Owen's gonna be real annoyed that I'm taking you to Mos Eisley," Luke informed the group.
"Why would he care?" Obi-Wan shouted above the hot wind. "Mos Eisley's my kind of town. All night parties... gambling... hot ladies."
"See?" Leia told Winter. "I knew that was the place to go."
The old Jedi leaned toward the three young people, poking Luke in the shoulder. "What are your girlfriends' names, Anakin?"
"Anakin?" Luke asked, puzzled. "That's not my name." Now that he thought about it, he realized none of them had introduced themselves. "I'm Luke Skywalker."
"And I'm Winter, and this is Leia," Winter said over her shoulder.
"Skywalker...." Obi-Wan mused, stroking his beard. "Now that's a name I haven't heard in a long time."
"So you've heard of me?" Luke questioned, pleased that the old man knew his name.
"How did you grow your limbs back?"
Leia sighed and leaned over to whisper in Luke's ear. "He's crazy, Luke. Humor him."
The young man rubbed his ear as Leia's breath tickled him. Gazing at her, he said, "You're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen."
Winter folded her arms across her chest. "I'm sure he's seen all of ten girls in his life."
"You're just jealous," Leia said smugly.
The landspeeder screeched to a halt at the top of a cliff. "There's Mos Eisley," Luke declared.
"Oh, goody," Obi-Wan said, clapping in glee. "Let's go find a bar. I'm parched."
~~~~~ Still on Tatooine, three years in the past ~~~~~~~
The burly bartender pointed his finger at the group as they entered the smoky bar. "We don't serve those kind in here!"
"Girls?" Obi-Wan asked, confused, much to the annoyance of Winter and Leia.
Giving his head a shake, the bartender snapped, "Droids!"
"Wait outside," Luke gently told Threepio and Artoo, hoping they wouldn't be too offended. Both droids quickly backed away, and the humans continued on, with no further objections.
The three young people took barstools, waiting while Obi-Wan went to use the refresher. After getting their drinks, Luke gazed around the bar, wondering which of the pilots they could hire to take them to the Rebel base - if Obi-Wan remembered where it was located.
"You selling?" someone asked from behind Luke.
"Huh?" Luke turned to see a smarmy-looking man with a very bad complexion and bad teeth.
"Those," he said, pointing and leering at Leia and Winter. "Slaves. I could use a pretty new slave."
"WHAT?" Leia screeched. "I'm not that farmboy's slave! How dare you?" With that comment, she threw her drink in the startled man's face. Winter joined in, standing up and kicking the man in his shins, which caused him to scream in pain.
"Owww!," the man said, staggering back and holding out his hand to ward off any further assault. "Stay away."
The snap-hiss of a lightsaber sounded, and without warning, Obi-Wan severed the pockmarked-faced man's arm.
"Arrghh!!!!" The man grasped his stump. "That was mean! Why did you do that?"
"I like cutting off people's limbs," Obi-Wan said, picking up the man's arm and handing it to him. "I do it all the time." The shocked man snatched his arm and hurried away. Obi-Wan looked around the bar at the wide-eyed patrons. "What are you all looking at? Haven't you ever seen a Jedi before? Go about your business.... you never saw any of this." He waved his hand back and forth, smiling when the various beings went back to sipping their drinks. Then he addressed the three shocked young people. "I think I found us a ship."
"I thought you went to use the refresher," Leia said.
"I sure did. The co-pilot was washing his paws - with soap - which I took as a good sign from the Force. Obi-Wan, I said to myself, that Wookiee is very sanitary, and a sanitary Wookiee is a good Wook in my book."
"What's the Force?" Luke asked curiously.
Obi-Wan leaned forward and whispered, "It's a mystic energy field that surrounds all living things. Especially you, Anakin."
"My name isn't - "
"Can't this wait?" Leia said, hands on hips. "Let's go meet this pilot."
"This way," Obi-Wan said happily, as he guided the group to a small corner booth.
Inside the booth sat a very good-looking man....
~~~~~~~~ Present day Alderaan ~~~~~~~~~
"Han!" Leia said excitedly, causing Winter to stop her story-telling.
"Yes, Captain Han Solo. Do you remember him?"
"Of course. Han is a pretty unforgettable character."
"You can say that again."
Onboard the Millennium Falcon, in another timeplace....
Chewie carefully finished putting the bacta on Han's fingers, and wrapped a bandage around his friend's hand. *Does that feel better?*
"Sure, pal," Han muttered, glancing over at Leia, who was sitting at the game table across from Luke. She was still holding his blaster, but at least she wasn't pointing it directly at his chest anymore, which was a small step in the right direction.
*I don't think that is our Leia,* Chewie woofed out, his voice low. "Her threads are tangled.*
"That bump on the head is making her nuts, that's for sure."
*No,* Chewie persisted. *She hasn't forgotten us.... she's just remembering everything in a different way.*
Han frowned. "What's does that mean?"
*In some cultures, there are beliefs that we live many lives in many threads. On rare occasions, something goes astray, and the threads get tangled. If that happens, we can move into a new reality. I think Leia's threads have crossed, and this is not our Leia... it is a Leia from an alternate reality. Our Leia must have shifted into her reality.*
"What is that Wookiee saying?" Leia demanded. "Talking about someone behind their back is rude."
"He says your threads have become twisted," Han replied. "Something about alternate realities, but it sounds like as much hocus-pocus as the Force, if you ask me."
"Yes," Luke said, standing up and trying to ignore the blaster now pointing directly at him. "That's exactly right, Chewie. Leia believes she's telling us the truth, because she is telling us the truth." He looked excitedly at a very skeptical Princess. "We have to figure out how to get you back to your place, and bring our Princess back home."
"I'm not going anywhere, except to Coruscant," Leia said. "Then we'll find out if, like Solo says, this is all a bunch of hocus-pocus."
"If Palpatine is still the Emperor, will you believe us then?"
"I guess," she conceded reluctantly. "But if he's dead, and Emperor Vader is your father, will you believe me?"
A chill ran down Luke's spine as he considered this new possibility - if Vader was Luke Skywalker's father in an alternate reality, could Vader be his father in this reality, too? It was a terrifying thought, and Luke decided he had enough to deal with right now as he pushed the idea firmly aside.
Leia could sense Winter's hesitation in continuing the story. "What's wrong?"
"This next part might upset you," she said.
"Why? Did something bad happen?" Did Han somehow not survive their adventure? Worry gnawed at the Princess. "Please go on... I need to know."
~~~~~~~~ Tatooine, three years ago ~~~~~~~~~~
The good-looking smuggler gawked at the approaching group, then scooted over and patted the seat next to him. "Have a seat, sweetheart."
Although she was annoyed at being called 'sweetheart', Leia started to sit, but the smuggler stopped her. "No... I meant the pretty bleach-blonde. No offense, but I prefer blondes."
"My hair is this color naturally," Winter said, miffed. Still, she was pleased at his attention and sat down, not noticing Leia's face blushing a bright pink as her friend sat down in the opposite seat.
"Name's Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon," he bragged. "Fastest ship in the galaxy. Made the Kessel Run in under twelve parsecs."
"That's not possible," Winter informed the pilot. "Parsecs are distance, not speed."
It was Han's turn to flush, and he scrambled his way out of the booth. "Are you calling me a liar?"
"No, I'm calling you an idiot," Winter replied, while Leia and Luke both laughed. Obi-Wan just sat still, confused at the argument.
"I don't have to put up with this...."
The Wookiee gave a loud roar, and then a long series of barks, which caused his captain to sit back down and appear chastised. "Chewie says you need passage."
"Yes," Obi-Wan said, nodding. "Just me and the boy named Anakin. And the girls. And I think we have two droids."
"How about a hundred piece choir while you're at it?" Han grumbled, flinching as Chewie's clawed finger wagged in his face. "Okay. I'll take you for ten thousand."
"TEN THOUSAND?" Luke shouted as he jumped up. "ARE YOU CRAZY? WE COULD BUY OUR OWN SHIP FOR THAT!" When the group, as well as the rest of the cantina, stared in silence at the young man, he thunked back in his chair. "I'm just saying... it's a lot of money."
"We can pay you two thousand now," Obi-Wan said. "And another million when we get where we're going."
Leia appeared stunned. "Who's going to pay him a million credits?"
"Why those rich Rebels, that's who," Obi-Wan said.
"SHHH!" Leia, Winter and Luke all said at once.
"Rebels?" Han asked in surprise. "You people are Rebels?"
Leia leaned over the table and whispered, "I have plans - "
"So do I, and it doesn't involve getting killed by Imps," Han returned.
Winter pressed up against the smuggler. "Will you take us if I ask? I can be real nice."
Han blinked. "Uh.... "
"Sure," Han said, giving Winter a dopey grin and ignoring Chewie's groan of disgust. "I'd do anything at all for you, honey. My ship's in docking bay seventeen."
"We'll be there in one hour," Winter said as the group stood. "Don't be late." She winked and walked away, swaying her hips as she left.
When they exited the cantina, Leia muttered, "I hate that man."
"That's because he likes me instead of you," Winter crowed.
"But I like you, Leia," Luke said balefully. "You don't need Solo."
"Get away from me, farmboy," Leia snapped, not noticing Luke's crushed expression.
"That was easy," Obi-Wan said, oblivious to the tension. "Now we just have to figure out where to find a million credits."
"Do you remember where the Rebel base is yet?" Luke asked the Jedi.
"Why? Who needs to know that?"
In another reality.... Coruscant
Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan hurried out of the freighter, looking around at the bustling activity of the city-planet. "Finally. Something familiar."
"I don't think landing this close to the palace is a good idea," Han said nervously, glancing at the many stormtroopers. Chewie remained inside the ship, knowing his presence would draw too much unwanted attention.
"It's a good thing you have lots of fake transponder codes," Luke muttered to the Corellian as they marched along the busy walkways.
"I love Coruscant," Leia said happily. "Let's go find Emperor Vader."
"We just can't waltz into the palace and ask to see Darth Vader," Luke said, appalled. "We'll be arrested and tortured."
Leia looked puzzled. "Why would your own father torture you?"
"He's not my father!"
"Sure he is," Leia argued. "His last name used to be Skywalker, too."
"Listen, Princess," Han put in. "You said you'd believe us if you saw with your own eyes that Palpatine was still alive. Look at that statue." He pointed to a thirty-foot tall monument to Emperor Palpatine's ego. "If Vader was the new Emperor, don't you think he'd have taken down that thing?"
Luke pulled the Princess over to a holo-net news terminal. "See that?" On the view screen under the word 'Live', a gnarly-faced Sith Lord sat on his throne, droning on about the latest system that had fallen under his control. "That's Palpatine, and he's still kicking. Do you believe us now?"
It was difficult to dispute the growing evidence. Leia slapped a hand over her mouth and mumbled, "I need to use a refresher."
The two men watched as she hurried into a nearby public restroom. "I think she believes us," Luke finally said.
"I sure hope so," Han returned. "Marching into the Imperial Palace sounded even dumber than marching into the Death Star's detention area." After a while, he glanced at his wrist chrono. "What's taking her so long?"
"Maybe we should go check."
Han raised his eyebrow. "You wanna go inside a ladies room? That won't cause a scene and get us a lot of unwanted attention, will it?"
"Well, we have to find out what happened to her," Luke insisted. "Maybe she's been injured."
"Go right ahead, kid." Han waved his hand toward the restroom. "I'll stay here and be your backup."
"Coward," Luke muttered under his breath before heading off to the refresher. In a few moments, Luke hurried out of the restroom, his face reflecting panic.
"Don't tell me," Han said with a sigh. "A mob of angry females will be following, threatening to emasculate you."
"No, worse...." Luke groaned. "No one's inside."
"Not a soul."
Back on Alderaan, Winter continued her narration, looking for some clue that the tale would allow her friend to remember.
~~~~~~~Tatooine, three years ago ~~~~~~~~~~~
The group headed toward the docking bay in the relentless heat, with Luke leading the way. "I sure hope Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen won't get too worried when I don't come home for a few weeks. Maybe I should send them a note telling them where I went."
"We don't know where we're going," WInter pointed out.
"And I doubt they'll notice you're even gone," Leia added.
"That's not very nice," Luke complained. "I'm starting to wonder if you even like me." Then he stopped walking and squinted up in the bright sunlight at the number overhead. "Here's docking bay seventeen."
"Like we can't read," Leia snapped. Upon seeing the ship, she let out a gasp of disbelief. "That's the ship? It can't possibly be space-worthy!"
"It's a real piece of junk, that's for sure," Luke agreed. "No wonder he needs so much money."
Obi-Wan tilted his head as he took in the appearance of the battered freighter. "It's a YT-1300, I do believe. Corellian, just like her captain."
"Yes," Threepio agreed primly. "The YT-1300 was a most excellent ship... in its day." He looked down as the Artoo unit gave a loud beep. "Why, I am most certainly not as old as that freighter! Don't you get mouthy with me."
"There's Solo," Winter said, waving at Solo, who was holding a greasy rag and waving back. "He's so handsome."
"He's a jerk with bad taste," Leia replied tightly as they approached the Corellian. "Look at his ugly ship. It even has an ugly name... the Chicken Spit."
"My ship is named the Millennium Falcon. She might not look like much, but the Falcon's got it where it counts," Han informed them. "Let's get going. If you're Rebels, I don't want to risk attracting the attention of Imps." As they headed up the ramp, Han asked, "Where are we going, anyway?"
Luke shrugged. "Obi-Wan won't tell us."
"I will need to make a few calls," Obi-Wan said firmly. "Only then can I be certain where this Rebel base is located."
"Okay," Han agreed. "But the holo-net is expensive. It'll cost you extra."
"Extra?" Leia shouted. "We're already paying you a million credits!"
"Listen, sister. I ain't seen any money yet, and I don't run a charity service."
"My name is Leia, and I'm not your sister, mister."
Han closed the hatch and turned to face the white-haired girl, giving her his most engaging smile. "We haven't been properly introduced yet. What's your name, beautiful?"
"A name that's as lovely as the owner." He held out his elbow, and Winter took his arm. "Let me show you to the best seat in the house."
"Would that be the commode?" Leia grumbled as she watched them walk down the curved corridor. "I despise that man."
Luke gallantly offered Leia his arm, but she gave him a hard shove and flounced away.
After the Millennium Falcon blasted off from the surface of Tatooine, Han entered the hold with Winter tagging behind. Luke and Leia sat at the game table, staring down morosely at Obi-Wan, who sat cross-legged on the floor.
"Hey, Anakin," Han said. "What's the old fossil doing?"
"My name isn't Anakin. It's Luke Skywalker."
"But Kenobi said your name was - "
"He's making his calls," Leia said. "He said we have to be quiet, because he gets static otherwise."
Han looked confused. "How can he be making a com-call? He's just sitting on the floor humming."
"He's using the Force to make his calls," Luke replied.
"It's an energy field that surrounds all living things," Luke explained. "I thought it was like some super-power, but apparently it's a cheap long-distance service."
"Oh," Han said, dumbfounded. "Who's he calling?"
"Hopefully, the Rebel base," Leia answered.
Obi-Wan's eyes snapped open. "Sweet stars above. Can't you kids stop talking? How am I supposed to get a clear signal with all this yammering?"
Leia looked disappointed. "You still don't know where the Rebel base is located?"
The old Jedi stood up. "I think it's on Alderaan. We should head over there right away."
"ALDERAAN?" Leia screeched. "That's not possible!"
"Is she always this emotional?" Han asked Luke.
"She's been locked up on the Defense Star, so leave her alone," Luke said. "Who knows what awful things happened to her before Winter rescued her."
"Yes," Leia agreed, burying her face in her hands and sniffing. "I was tortured by Darth Vader and everything."
Luke appeared shocked. "You were tortured? That's awful...."
"I need someone to comfort me," Leia said sadly.
Luke scooted closer, but Leia jumped up from her seat, looking imploringly at Han. "Hold me...."
Han turned to face Winter. "You snuck onboard the Defense Star and rescued Leia all by yourself? That's amazing!"
Winter smiled proudly, ignoring Leia's glare. "Thank you, Captain."
Coruscant, in another timeplace....
"The oldest trick in the book and we fall for it," Han groused as they searched the area surrounding the refresher to no avail. "Now how are we gonna find her?"
"I'm pretty sure I know where she went," Luke said quietly.
"Don't tell me the Imperial Palace."
"Okay, I won't."
After a long pause, Han asked, "So where did she go?"
"You told me not to tell you."
"Don't be a smart-aleck, Skywalker," Han warned his friend. "Chewie's not gonna be happy when he hears we went marching into the Imperial Palace." Han paused, thinking for a moment. "Of course, we probably won't get out alive, so I won't have to worry about his reaction."
"That's true," Luke agreed lightly. "So, do we have a plan, or are we just going to wing it?"
"Plan? What about conking out some stormtroopers and using their uniforms?"
"That's been done," Luke said dryly.
"Okay, Mister Originality, what do you suggest?"
"How about delivery guys?"
Han frowned. "What are we gonna be delivering?"
"Food?" Luke suggested. "Even the Emperor has to eat."
"I'm pretty sure he eats small children and pets."
"We're going to go buy some expensive wine and cheese, and knock on the back door," Luke declared, noting Han's dubious expression. "It'll work, you just wait and see."
"Fine," Han agreed reluctantly. "But first we go back to the Falcon and get some weapons. I ain't marching into the Imperial Palace without a blaster."
~~~~~On Alderaan, in a different timeplace ~~~~~
Leia let out a huge yawn, and Winter paused in her speech. "Should I tell you the rest tomorrow?"
"No. Luke wants to have breakfast with me, and I need to find out how he went from innocent farmboy to a Sith Lord."
"Well," Winter said slowly. "I hate to say this, but you did have a small role in that transformation."
~~~~~~~~ Onboard the Millennium Falcon, three years ago ~~~~~~~~~
The captain of the Falcon stood up when a warning signal sounded. "We're coming up on Alderaan." He looked pointedly at Obi-Wan Kenobi. "Where do you suggest we land?"
"On the ground, of course," the old Jedi responded, frowning at Solo.
"I think Han's asking for an exact location where to land," Luke explained helpfully. "You know...where the Rebels are hiding?"
"There are Rebels on Alderaan?" Obi-Wan asked, surprised.
Leia groaned, slapping her forehead. "We're never going to find the stupid Rebellion at this rate."
"We shall land in the very center of Aldera!" Obi-Wan cried out, pointing his index finger toward the ceiling. "Then the Rebels shall locate us, instead of the other way around."
"How's that gonna happen?" Han questioned sarcastically. "Are we gonna take out a holo-ad tellin' them we've arrived?"
Obi-Wan gave a wide smile. "That's a very good idea, son."
"It's a kriffing terrible idea," Leia shot back. "My... I mean the Organa Palace is in the very center of Aldera, anyway. So how can we possibly land there?"
"Well, don't get snippy with me, young lady," Obi-Wan chastised. "I only came along because it sounded like fun. Now I'm suddenly supposed to start making all the decisions? Since when did you die and I get put in charge?"
"That doesn't even make any sense," Leia said through gritted teeth.
Han flung up his hands in exasperation. "Will someone please tell me where to land?"
"I suggest the main spaceport on Aldera, on the outskirts of town," Threepio piped up. "It would seem to me that would attract the least amount of attention."
"That's what I said," Obi-Wan said petulantly. "The main spaceport on Aldera. No one listens to me."
Luke stared in wide-eyed wonder at the greenery and beautiful homes in the city of Aldera. "Wow.... I never knew anyplace could be this wonderful. Even the air is moist!" He patted his face with his palms. "I can feel my cheeks plumping up already."
"Now where?" Han questioned Leia.
"Ask him," Leia responded, pointing to the old Jedi. "He's the brains."
"Me?" Obi-Wan said, pleased. "Brains Kenobi. I like the sound of that." Obi-Wan tapped his chin as he considered. "Let's go to the Palace. I've always been fond of Palaces."
"We can't!" Leia cried out.
"Why ever not?"
"There are no Rebels in the Palace," Leia said, desperately trying to derail this idea. "Rebels live in caves. Or abandoned warehouses."
Luke gazed around at the well-kept buildings. "I don't see any abandoned warehouses."
"That's because they're at the water docks," Leia explained, looking to Winter to back her up. Winter just shrugged.
"Nonsense!" Obi-Wan roared out. "I'm the brains of this here operation, and I say we sneak into the Palace."
"Sneak? How?" Han asked.
"We shall all get costumes and pretend we are a traveling vaudeville show. Royalty loves to be entertained by the little people. Anakin, you shall juggle, Captain Solo and the Wookiee will do a comedy skit and the girls will hoochie coochie dance. I'd like to see that, anyway."
"Juggle?" Luke questioned. "I've never juggled in my life. I'm not too sure I can do that."
"Do or do not!" Obi-Wan declared. "There is no try!"
"You want us to all make fools out of ourselves?" Han questioned. "What kind of plan is that?"
"Who's the more foolish? The foolish follower fool, or the foolish fool fugleman?" Obi-Wan wanted to know. "But since you asked, I shall be a sword-swallower, since I already have a sword." He patted the hilt of his trusty lightsaber.
"Gee," Luke said in concern. "That sounds dangerous. Have you ever swallowed a lightsaber before?"
"I can't recall," Obi-Wan admitted. "But there's a first time for everything."
On Coruscant, in another timeplace
Dressed in white delivery outfits, Han and Luke walked nervously up the walkway to the Imperial Palace. Han was struggling to balance a box filled with smelly cheese, and Luke carried a carton of red wine.
"We don't even know if Leia's inside," Han whispered out of the side of his mouth. "We could be heading to our doom for nothing."
"She's inside," Luke said calmly. "I just know it."
"Uh, sure," Luke agreed. "The Force."
"You don't sound too sure about that."
"I can't describe it," Luke said with a sigh. "I have this connection to Leia that I don't have to anyone else." When Luke noticed Han's expression grow dark, he tried to explain. "It's not love, Han. Although I do love her...."
"Great," Han muttered. "I don't want to hear anymore."
They stopped at the entryway to the Palace's gate. Two stormtroopers stepped forward, pointing weapons. "Halt. What is your business?"
"We have a special delivery for the big banquet tonight," Luke replied. "Top quality wine and cheese."
"The caterer accidentally forgot them earlier," Han put in.
"I wasn't aware of any banquet," the second stormtrooper said.
"Oh, so you know everything the Emperor does... all the time?" Han asked sarcastically. "You must be real important."
"No, I never said that...."
Luke placed his box on the ground. "You should check the contents." He waved his hand, hoping he'd mastered this Jedi skill well enough to not get them caught. "To make certain we have wine and cheese inside."
"Yes," the stormtrooper agreed. "We should check the contents."
Waving his hand at the second trooper, he said, "It wouldn't be a good idea for the Emperor to have a party without his starter course."
"It wouldn't be a good idea for the Emperor to have a party without his starter course," the second trooper stated flatly.
"Move along, move along," Luke said, bending over and retrieving his box.
"Move along, move along...."
Han and Luke hurried inside the gate and away from the guards. "You've been practicing," Han said, impressed. "Normally, I'd be thrilled your trick worked, but considering where you just got us inside...."
Silently, Luke had to agree that they might live to regret his abilities.
On Alderaan, Winter continues telling Leia her story
~~~~~~~~~Three years previous ~~~~~~~~~~~~
Leia gazed down at her gold and brown dancing girl outfit. "I'm not sure this is a good idea."
"I agree," Winter whispered, rubbing her arms and trying to stay warm in her revealing silver and blue dancing outfit. "Your mother will surely recognize us, even if we are dressed like this."
"That's what the face veils are for," Leia said with a giggle, putting the brown silk over her lower face.
Captain Solo leaned his shoulder against the outside stone wall of the costume store, leering at Winter. "I think you look icy-hot, Blondie."
"Thanks," Winter said, blushing.
"What about me?" Leia demanded. "Don't I look hot, too?"
Han shrugged. "You look okay."
"I think you look fantastic," Luke cooed at Leia as he clutched five brightly colored rubber balls tightly to his chest.
Obi-Wan slapped his hands together. "This is coming together nicely. Why don't you practice juggling, Anakin?"
Luke tossed the balls up and tried unsuccessfully to catch them before they hit the ground. Obi-Wan shook his head sadly as he watched the boy scrambling to retreive his props. "Poor Anakin," Obi-Wan said. "He used to have such a natural talent."
"What are you planning for your comedy skit, Solo?" Leia asked sweetly. "How about telling everyone how you turned parsecs into time. That one is funny."
"I could tell the story about how a short, plain-looking brown-haired girl kept throwing herself at a handsome, unattainable Corellian pilot," Han returned. "That one is pretty funny, too."
"Arrghh!" Leia screamed out. "I hate you!"
"She's got it bad for me, Chewie," Han addressed his co-pilot. "Don't you agree?"
*You'd better be careful, Han,* Chewie warned. *Her face is turning purple.*
"See?" Han smugly told Leia. "Chewie agrees with me."
"Then I hate him, too!" She looked around wildly at Luke and Obi-Wan. "I hate all of you!"
"Well," Obi-Wan said. "I'm fairly sure that hate is a Dark Side emotion, so just push that negative vibration aside, lady-jane."
"What's the Dark Side?" Luke wanted to know.
"The opposite of the Light Side," Obi-Wan sagely informed the boy. "Let's head to the Organa Palace. I just adore palaces!"
~~~~~~~~ In another timeplace, Coruscant, inside the Imperial Palace ~~~~~~~~~~~
An hour before Han and Luke entered the Palace through the back door, Princess Leia walked up to the main entrance of the Imperial Palace, annoyed when she had discovered the front gate locked. "Hello?" she yelled out. "Where is everybody? Do you know who I am?"
A stormtrooper appeared at the gate. "May I help you, miss?"
"I should think so," Leia said with a sniff. "I demand to see Emperor Vader."
The stormtrooper tilted his head. "The Emperor? Or Lord Vader?"
Were all stormtroopers such idiots? "Vader!"
"Lord Vader is a busy ... man. Yes, I'm sure he's a man. And he's very busy. Who, may I ask, wishes to see him?"
"I'm Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan, you ninny," Leia snapped out. "I have important information about the Rebellion he needs to hear. And his traitor son, too." When the trooper seemed hesitant, she ordered loudly, "Hurry up! I don't have all day. The Rebels are following me."
"Uh... maybe you should come with me," the stormtrooper finally decided as he opened the gate. "I'll have to verify your identity before I allow you to see Lord Vader."
"It's about time," Leia said, pushing past the startled stormtrooper and entering the Palace grounds like she owned the place.
Han was amazed that they made it all the way to the kitchen without anyone stopping them. It appeared that once you were inside, everyone assumed you belonged. Inside the kitchen, droids were busy chopping and cleaning, while several human chefs stood around looking important and shouting out orders.
"This is where I wish we had Artoo with us," Luke muttered as he put the heavy box on the table.
"Artoo knows how to cook?"
"No," Luke whispered. "He could find a terminal and locate Leia."
It was then that the Head Chef noticed the two men. "Hey, youz dere! Vat are youz dooink over dere?"
"Uh...." Han spluttered out, holding up a block of curdled milk. "Cutting the cheese?"
"Dat iz not funny," the chef said.
"Then how about this, instead?" Han asked, whipping out his blaster and ignoring Luke's groan of despair.
The stormtrooper had escorted the person claiming to be Princess Leia of Alderaan into a small holding cell. He had tried to ignore her loud, screeching protests about the size of the room, the lack of amenities and her strange demand that she be taken to the guest suite on the top floor. She had also been furious that he'd taken both of her weapons - a lightsaber and a DL-44 blaster.
The encounter had left him nervous, and now he was waiting to speak to Darth Vader himself, which increased his fear tremendously. Finally the Dark Lord deigned to allow him inside his private office.
The stormtrooper, known only as 44617, gave his head a respectful bow. "Lord Vader. I am sorry to disturb you, but a young woman claiming to be Leia Organa showed up at the main gate to the palace, and requested to have a private meeting with you."
For long moments, Vader did nothing but breathe. Then he spoke, and by his tone the stormtrooper could hear the disbelief. "Princess Leia Organa? That is not possible. It must be an imposter."
"I would think so too, my Lord," the stormtrooper replied, trying not to tremble. "I was uncertain that I should bother you at all, and just have her arrested for trespassing. But I was afraid if I turned out to be incorrect, and it really was the actual Princess...."
"Did you do a voice and visual check before bothering me?"
"Yes, my Lord. Both indicated the young woman was Princess Leia."
"Interesting. It still could be an imposter, sent by the Rebels to attempt an assassination."
"She did have weapons, which I removed," the stormtrooper answered, handing the Sith Lord both the blaster and the lightsaber.
The appearance of the familiar lightsaber surprised Vader. How had the Princess gotten her hands on his old weapon? "Take me to this woman."
Minutes later, the stormtrooper stopped at the entry to the small holding cell, where loud banging echoed down the corridor. "Let me out of here, you rodders!" the female voice could be heard yelling. "I'm having you executed!"
The stormtrooper shifted on his feet and coughed. "She's been screaming and swearing like this since being brought inside the Palace."
"That does not sound like the Princess Leia I remember," Vader hissed. "Open this door."
The door swooshed open, and a furious Princess stood with her hands on her hips. "It's about time. Why are you wearing funeral clothes? My mother is going to hang you by your cape for treating me with such disrespect. I want a glass of sherry, clean clothes and a massage. Even that won't be enough after what I've been through - all because of your son!"
Behind his helmet, Vader blinked, taken aback. "My son?"
"Lord Luke Skywalker, of course," Leia snapped. "And if you think I'm marrying him, you've got another think coming!"
The Master Chef dropped his pot with a loud clatter, his eyes bludging. "Do please not killink meez. Tayink all meez moonee insteader, eh?" By this point, all the other humans and droids had ceased working and were staring in shock at the appearance of Han's blaster.
Luke had no choice but to pull out his own blaster that was hidden under his tunic, even though he wanted to bang Han over the head with it. "We don't want your moonee, err, money."
"We don't?" Han asked, curious. "Why not? He might have a lot. I sure could use the extra credits."
"Han!" Luke said, his exasperation growing. "We're here to rescue Leia."
"According to you an' Chewie, this isn't even the real Leia. She wants to be here, and she probably won't even want us to rescue her."
"If we don't get this Leia back, we won't be able to get our Leia back!"
"How do you know that?"
"I don't know how I know - "
"You just know," Han finished with a sigh. He waved his blaster at the quiet group. "Come on. We need to lock you up in the..." He looked around. "Where do we lock them up? The cooler?"
"No!" the Master Chef cried out. "Ve vill freezie to our deather!" He dropped to his knees. "Meez beggers! I'zer notta wanna ender upz a humaner poopzickler. I'z gotter wife en kidz!"
"I feel sorry for them," Han muttered.
"Get up," Luke grumbled. "We won't freeze you." He gazed around the room. "How about the supply room? It looks good and sturdy."
"Hurry up, before we change our minds and put you in the cooler," Han ordered the scared group as he herded them into the pantry and bolted the door shut. Han turned to Luke. "Now where?"
"How about the detention area?" a female voice asked from behind them.
~~~~~~~~ On Alderaan, in another timeplace ~~~~~~~~
The ragged 'vaudeville' group knocked on the Organa Palace door, waiting until a tall male guard appeared. He looked down his nose at them and sniffed, "The homeless shelter is ten blocks west, and twelve more blocks south."
"Ah," Obi-Wan said, grinning. "We're here by order of the Queen. A command performance."
"You don't look like entertainers to me."
"Well, we are."
The man gave an exaggerated sigh. "Let me contact the Secretary of Entertainment and see if you're on the schedule."
Obi-Wan waved his hand. "You don't need to do that."
The guard looked annoyed. "Yes, I do."
"No, you don't," Obi-Wan insisted, pointing and spinning his index fingers in the man's face. "You can just go inside and do your show for the Queen."
"I'm not the one doing the show," the guard said, frowning in confusion and trying to bat the old man's fingers away. "Why should I go inside?"
"Oh, for the love of ...." Han grumbled, walking up behind the guard and hitting him over the head with the butt of his blaster. He watched as the guard dropped unconscious to the ground. "Can we go inside now?"
"Hurry up," Winter said. "Before someone notices he's not at his post."
As the group hurried inside, Obi-Wan muttered, "I don't understand it... I'm sure that mind trick used to work just fine."
~~~~~ On Coruscant, in another timeplace ~~~~~~~~
The name 'Luke Skywalker' stunned Lord Vader. "Marry my son....?"
"I'm not marrying him," Leia repeated. "I don't care what my mother wants. Did you know he's really a Rebel? I'll bet you didn't know that, did you? Well, let me tell you, he is. And he's friends with Solo and the Wookiee, too. I don't have any idea how he managed to get Solo out of my dungeon and free the Wookiee from Kessel, but I suppose when you're the son of the Emperor you can get things done."
Vader gazed at the indignant young woman, trying to sort through the muddle of bizarre comments that flowed freely from her mouth. "Your mother?" Unbidden, Padme's face came to his mind.
"Queen Breha. The two of you have made these stupid marriage arrangements. How can you stand there and pretend you don't know?"
The Sith Lord held up the silver tube. "Where did you get this lightsaber?"
"It was yours and now it's Luke's," she replied, rolling her eyes. "Obi-Wan had it hidden for years. At least that's what you told Luke the day you killed Obi-Wan Kenobi. I want to go home. Now."
"You mean to the Rebel base?"
"Kest, no! Those Rebels must have kidnapped me when I was skiing with Winter, and now that I think about it, Lord Skywalker must have helped them. I want to go to Alderaan."
"Alderaan?" Vader shook his head. It was obvious that, somehow, Princess Leia's mind had snapped.
"Of course. Why is everyone acting so witless? Lord Skywalker tried telling me Palpatine is still alive, can you believe it? After the two of you chopped his head off, I doubt that's possible. Can bacta glue a person's head back on? I know it's really powerful stuff, but can it bring a person back to life? Maybe Super-bacta can, but probably not regular bacta. Anyway, I'm sure he's following me. It's like he's trying to brainwash me into thinking I'm a Rebel, although I have no clue why he wants to do that. Do you?"
Vader was starting to get a headache. "I have no idea. You will wait here while I find Lord Skywalker."
"What?! In a prison cell? I won't stand for it.... do you hear me? This is completely unacceptable. I want five-star accommodations at the very least, and this isn't even one half of a half star!"
The Sith Lord used the Force and gave the jabbering Princess a push toward the back of the cell as he stalked out, ignoring her loud protests. He had a son to find.
~~~~~~ On Alderaan in a different timeplace, Winter's story continues ~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~ Three years ago ~~~~~~~
Leia and Winter walked confidently through the Palace they knew so well, making certain their veils stayed in place so no one would recognize them. They approached the receiving room used by Queen Breha, and Obi-Wan pushed his way past the startled sentries, throwing open the ornate double-wide door. "Queen Breha of Alderaan!" he shouted across the rather large room toward the surprised Queen. "We are the traveling vaudeville act, The Merry Mynocks of Mustafar! We are privileged to perform our feats of derring-do and feckless merriment for your visual and audio pleasure!"
The dark-haired Queen put her hand to her chest, frowning in puzzlement. "I wasn't informed about this...."
"That would have ruined the surprise," Obi-Wan said jovially as he approched her, bowing deeply.
Standing a bit back, Han leaned toward Luke and whispered, "How is this supposed to help us find the Rebel base?"
Luke gave his head a shake. "I don't know, but Obi-Wan is a great Jedi, so we shouldn't question his plan."
"For your first amusement," Obi-Wan continued, "I present you with our young juggler, Acrobatic Anakin." The old Jedi turned to the boy. "Come up here, Anakin. Amaze and astound the Queen. Don't you remember how you liked showing off for Royalty?"
Cautiously, Luke stepped forward with his rubber balls, tossing the red one up in the air and catching it. Then he threw up the blue one, smiling as he caught that one as well. "I think I'm getting the hang of this."
"You're supposed to throw more than one at a time," Han informed him. "Otherwise it's called catching, not juggling."
"Use the Force, Anakin," Obi-Wan whispered loudly.
"I don't know how...."
"Shut your eyes and throw those balls up," Obi-Wan instructed, getting annoyed.
"Shut my eyes? But I won't be able to see when I try catching them."
"You don't have to see, Anakin. You just have to feel them through the Force."
"Huh? You said the Force surrounded living things. These balls aren't alive." Luke shook one of the balls and held it up against his ear, just to make certain it really wasn't breathing.
"Do you people even know what you're doing?" Breha demanded.
"Maybe the girls should just hoochie coochie," Obi-Wan decided. "Lithesome Leia and Winsome Winter, come on down!"
"Leia? Winter?" Breha gasped out. "Is that you wearing those revealing costumes?"
Leia pulled off her face veil and stomped her foot. "Mom... you ruined it! I was undercover!"
"Well, not much undercover," Breha huffed back.
"Hey," Han said. "I don't think Leia's really a Rebel at all."
"Then we're even, because I don't think you're really a pilot," Leia said, smirking.
"Princess Leia Organa is my daughter," Breha said firmly. "Where did you find all these oddballs, Leia?"
"You're a princess?" Luke asked in awe. "I could tell you were important, just by the way you acted."
"Spoiled?" Han muttered, ignoring Leia's death gaze.
Obi-Wan bowed again. "Obi-Wan Kenobi at your service. Leia found us on Tatooine. We're currently trying to deliver the Death Star plans to the Rebel base." He looked over to Winter. "That wasn't a secret, was it?"
"OBI-WAN KENOBI?" a deep voice roared out from the entry. "At last! I will finally have my revenge!"
Everyone turned around, their jaws dropping. Dressed in a glittering gold lamé cape with matching boots and gloves, and his jewel-encrusted face mask and chest plate painted in fluorescent magenta, Lord Darth Vader was a sight to behold.
"Now I'll never find out where the Rebels are hiding," Leia moaned as Darth Vader stormed into the room, igniting his red blade.
~~~~~ On Courscant, in another timeplace ~~~~~~~~
"Drop your blasters."
Luke and Han slowly dropped their weapons, then turned around to find themselves facing a young girl with black hair pointing a blaster in their direction. "Who are you?" Luke questioned.
"My name is irrelevant," she snapped back. "You people are trespassers. Emperor Palpatine will be very interested in finding out what you're doing in his home. I'm looking forward to watching him interrogate you."
"That's too bad, because we're not giving you the opportunity," Luke said quietly, glancing at a hover-table filled with various fruits and dishes of jam. Using the Force, he pulled the table closer, then, with a hard shove, sent the hover-table sailing toward the surprised girl. It struck her quite hard, sending the food flying and the plates and silverware clattering.
Han snatched up their blasters, and fired in her general direction while following Luke out of the kitchen. "So much for being quiet."
"You didn't have to shoot at her," Luke returned tightly. "I hope you didn't hit her."
"She was an Imperial," Han informed his friend. "One of the bad guys."
"She was pretty. And young. She probably doesn't know the Emperor is evil."
"Really? So blowing up Alderaan and enslaving non-humans and various acts of genocide wouldn't be enough to clue her in?" Han groused. "Besides, did you see that stupid looking wig she was wearing? It looked like a dead womp-rat stuck on her head. I saw it come off when you crashed the food cart into her."
Luke skidded to a stop in front of a computer terminal. "We need to access the detention area map. Leia's probably already there."
"I agree," Han said. "Doesn't matter which version of the Princess we end up with, she always gets herself in trouble."
Keeping a close eye on the hallway, Han watched as Luke's fingers flew over the keyboard. "Hurry."
"What do you think I'm doing? Polishing my boots?"
"I'm just sayin', the alarm is gonna sound at any - " His words were cut off when a deafing alarm filled the corridor. "Time," he shouted over the noise.
"Got it!" Luke yelled back. "We need to go to level six, detention block forty-nine."
Both men took off at a run.
In another timeplace, on Alderaan, Leia's eyes grew wide as she listened to Winter describe the battle between Jedi Kenobi and the garishly bedecked Darth Vader.
~~~~~Three years in the past ~~~~~~~~~~~
Obi-Wan Kenobi drew out his own lightsaber, igniting the blue blade. "A lightsaber demonstration will be very entertaining for the Queen."
"Demonstration?" Vader growled. "This is no mere demonstration, old man. Once, you were the teacher and I was but the student. Now I am the master, and I will teach you your final lesson."
"I don't recall ever being a teacher," Obi-Wan said, cocking his head. "What subject did I teach?"
"So I taught political science?"
"Enough of this poppy-cock!" Vader roared. "Prepare to become one with the Force, Obi-Wan!" Vader struck, slashing violently at the confused Jedi, who still managed to block his strikes. "Your powers grow weak. You should not have come back here, Obi-Wan!"
"Do I know you?"
"Do not pretend you can't remember," Vader said, annoyed. "I was your only student, and the lightsaber you're fighting with was once mine! Now I will reclaim it, after eighteen long years."
Obi-Wan backed away, stroking his beard. "Let's see... such vague clues. He claims he was a student.....and this was his lightsaber eighteen years ago. The only student I ever had was cute little Anakin, not some tall, purple cyborg with asthma."
"I AM Anakin, you fool!"
The old Jedi looked startled and leaned closer to inspect the flashy Sith Lord. "You? Nah. You're way too tall." He pointed to Luke. "That's cute Anakin, standing over by those pretty girls."
Luke couldn't take it anymore. "My name is LUKE SKYWALKER! LUKE! LUKE, LUKE, LUKE!!!"
Darth Vader nearly dropped his lightsaber. "Luke? Son? But... they told me you had died."
"Your name is Anakin Skywalker?" Luke asked, eyes wide. "But everyone told me YOU died!"
"Well," Obi-Wan ruminated aloud. "I seem to have let that pitten hop out of the bag. But at least I didn't tell them about Yavin's moon being the Rebel base."
"Yavin?" Leia yelled in outrage. "You knew all along, and didn't tell us?"
"Now your failure is complete, old man," Vader shouted. "Watch while I strike him down!"
"Wait!" Obi-Wan said nervously. "I'm pretty sure I'm still forgetting to tell everyone something very important."
"Well, what is it?" Vader asked impatiently. "We don't have all day."
"Um, it has something to do with LukeLukeLuke and Leia...."
"I'll bet I know," Luke said enthusiastically. "We're going to get married!"
"That doesn't seem like the right answer," Obi-Wan muttered.
"Princesses do not marry farmboys," Leia said loftily. "I would rather marry a Wookiee."
"I can arrange that," Han said agreeably.
"I am done waiting," Vader said. And with that, Darth Vader slashed his red blade through the torso of Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the brown robe and silver lightsaber hilt dropped to the ground. But there was no body, and not even a trap door where the old Jedi could have made his escape.
~~~~ Present day Alderaan ~~~~~~
"And right after that, the Defense Star destroyed the Rebel base at Yavin," Winter said in conclusion. "Vader then took Luke away and trained him as a Sith, and together they killed Palpatine. Luke always had a crush on you, and once he had the means to make it happen, he had his father arrange for him to marry you."
"What happened to Han and Chewie?"
"You had them arrested, because Solo irritated you by liking me instead of you. Solo was thrown into the Organa family dungeon, where you got many hours of amusement watching your interrogaters 'question' him about his true feelings. Eventually, he admitted he loved you instead of me, which made you happy, so you stopped having him interrogated. And Vader sent the Wookiee to Kessel."
Leia felt dizzy. Han was sitting in a dungeon? Chewie was working in the mines of Kessel? "We have to get to the Palace. Tonight."
"Tonight?" Winter asked in surprise. "But what about your breakfast date with Lord Skywalker?"
"I'm going to stand him up."
"He's not going to be pleased."
"I don't care," Leia said. "I have to rescue Han."
~~~~~ In another timeplace, on Coruscant ~~~~~~~
Knowing they had to get into different clothes in order to better 'blend in', Han and Luke hot-wired a lock and broke into a private apartment, then rummaged around the unsuspecting resident's closet for something besides 'delivery' uniforms.
Luke pulled out an outfit, holding it up for inspection. "Royal guard clothes."
"Just our luck," Han grumbled. "Red robes and more helmets. Why Imperials think it's a good idea to walk around half blind is beyond my comprehension. Who really cares what they look like, anyway."
"Most of them are clones, so they all look alike," Luke pointed out.
"That's another good reason they shouldn't bother wearing disguises."
"If they didn't wear helmets, we wouldn't be able to blend in."
Han grinned. "So what you're sayin' is the Imperials are doing us a favor. Until you trip on the edge of the robe, shorty."
"I resent that implication."
"Who's implying? You're short. That's a fact."
Glaring, Luke tossed a helmet at Han harder than necessary. "Get dressed. We don't have much time."
Still on Coruscant....
Darth Vader turned the lightsaber over in his hand, only half-listening to the announcement that there were intruders inside the palace. Princess Leia had said a great many things during her strange rant, and Vader wondered how many of them were true. Could the Force have given her a vision of the future? Did he and Luke really cut off the Emperor's head? The idea gave the Sith a little thrill. He knew he should head to the throne room and inform his Master of this new revelation, but something deep down prevented this. Luke will not leave here without this lightsaber, Vader thought.
He moved to the computer terminal, bringing up the image of the detention stormtroopers that were guarding the prison area. "There are intruders in the palace. All of you move immediately to the upper levels and reinforce the guards around the Emperor," the Sith Lord ordered.
"Sir, who will guard the prison?"
"Are you questioning my orders?"
The stormtrooper quickly shook his head. "No, Sir! We will reinforce the upper levels at once."
Taking the old lightsaber and the DL-44, Vader then headed out of the Palace. He had faith that his son and that uncommonly lucky Corellian would elude the Palace security, rescue the deranged Princess, and escape the Palace. He had even more confidence he could locate the ship they had arrived in, and 'persuade' the co-pilot it would be in his best interest to cooperate. Perhaps, with the proper manipulation, Vader could convince his son to help him ensure Princess Leia's vision would come true. As far as the Princess's insistence that she was 'engaged' to Luke, and wished to call it off - well, Vader would arrange for that to happen, too. Something about his son marrying Leia Organa made his stomach turn, and it wasn't just because she was Bail Organa's daughter, either.
As soon as he was out of the Palace, and hopefully far enough away from Palpatine not to be 'overheard', he reached out with the Force, mentally sending the words, Come to me, Luke. I will be waiting, along with the image of Luke's lightsaber and a rusty old freighter.
"This is it," Han said through the muffled red mask, pointing up at the numbers over the door. "Detention block forty-nine."
"This was too easy, Han," Luke said. "Vader cleared the path so we could rescue Leia."
"Why would he do that?" Han asked, getting irritated. "He's not exactly on our side." When Luke remained silent, Han tilted his head, trying to look at Luke, who stood frozen in place. "I thought we were in a hurry."
Han whipped his head around, trying to point his blaster in all directions at once. "Where?"
"He's calling me," Luke whispered. "He knows who I am, and he has my lightsaber."
"He knows? You mean he thinks he's your father," Han argued. "He's undoubtedly had a long and interesting talk with our twisted Princess."
"Don't you see? That's why he's helping us," Luke said, desperately trying to make Han understand. "He wants me."
"We'll just bust the Princess out, then blast our way outta the Palace and off this planet," Han responded. "He won't get anywhere near you."
"Han, he's waiting by the Falcon."
For the first time since arriving on Coruscant, Han felt a real sense of fear.
Emperor Palpatine gazed down at the young woman, prostate at his feet. "Rise, my young Hand. Tell me what you know."
"There are intruders in the Palace," she replied. "I believe they are Rebels."
"I am well aware of that. They will not survive."
"The one Rebel used the Force to assist in his escape," she continued.
"Is that so?" Palpatine mused thoughtfully. "Then you need to find him and bring him to me."
"What about the other one?"
"Kill him. No, wait. Bring him to me, as well. Watching the slow, painful death of a close friend can be useful in turning one to the Dark Side, especially those only partially trained in the Force."
~~~~~~ On Alderaan, in a different timeplace ~~~~~~~~~
After a quick hop in her private shuttle to Aldera, Leia Organa squinted through the windshield of their expensive landspeeder as they tore through the streets in the early morning hours. She had gone for hours without sleep, and knew she was running on fumes. Leia spared a glance over at Winter, who was grasping the dash with a deathgrip. "Are you alright?"
"Me?" Winter squeaked out. "I'm not the one with amnesia after falling in a risky ski jump. I'm not the one that is standing up Lord Skywalker. I'm not the one rushing at a breakneck speed to rescue a Corellian smuggler." She paused for a second, pursing her lips. "Well, that last one I guess is true. Although I have no idea why."
"Han's been languishing in a dungeon for three years!" Leia said worriedly. "That's why."
Winter gave a weary sigh. "That's right. For three years, because you wanted him there! You, Leia. And all because he liked me better than he liked you. I fully realize I'm just your slave and - "
The speeder swerved violently, nearly crashing as it skidded to a stop. "What did you just say?"
"Han liked me better..."
"No, the other part. The part about you being my slave!"
"It's true," Winter said, miffed. "I was purchased as a baby from my mother, who was extremely impoverished, because your mother wanted you to have a playmate. My own mother must have thought I'd have a better life growing up in a Palace, even if I was your slave."
"Alderaan doesn't have slaves!"
"Alderaanian Royalty does," Winter objected. "Everyone working in the Palace is a slave."
Shocked at this latest bit of news, Leia reached over and grasped Winter's hand. "Oh, Winter. I didn't know. I'm so sorry."
Seeing Leia's stunned expression, she quickly added, "You've always treated me very well, Leia. It was almost like we were sisters. You're just extremely jealous when good-looking guys notice me first."
"As soon as we get to the Palace and help Han escape, I'll give you your freedom. Even if it means..." Leia choked trying to say the next words. "Even if it means I'll lose....you." And I'll lose Han to Winter, she added silently, wondering what she had done to deserve what was happening.
Winter looked doubtfully at Leia. "If you say so, but why do we have to help Han escape?"
"He's in a dungeon. You told me this yourself."
"But, Leia," Winter said gently. "YOU put him there. All you have to do is sign for his release and he's free, too."
"Ask Lord Skywalker, and he'll arrange for the Wookiee to be released from Kessel. It's all in your power. Everything is in your power."
Leia put the speeder in drive and kept going, while Winter's words sent a strange tingle coursing through her body. Everything is in your power... Everything is in your power.....
~~~~~~ On Coruscant, in a different timeplace ~~~~~~~~
Luke Skywalker quickly punched in the code to the Princess's cell, feeling a strange sense of deja-vu. The door slid open, and Leia sat inside, arms folded across her chest. Luke felt a small surge of hope that perhaps his Princess was back, but that hope was quickly shot down.
"Are you my masseur? Where is my sherry?"
He removed the mask. "It's me. I'm here to rescue you."
"It's about time," Leia said with a huff as she stood up and pushed past him, where Han was waiting in the corridor. "Do you have a plan on getting out of this place?"
Han removed his mask as well. "Sweetheart, if it wasn't for you, we wouldn't even be in here. Why don't you come up with a brilliant escape plan? Maybe it'll be as good as jumping into a garbage chute."
"You wouldn't catch me jumping into a garbage chute if I were dead," Leia replied, not understanding Han's reference.
"Do you believe us yet?" Luke asked hopefully. "About Emperor Palpatine being alive?"
Leia flinched, knowing if she admitted they were right, then her home was forever gone. She would have no where to go, no wealth.... no endless shopping, no parties to attend every night. Besides that, she hated admitting she was ever wrong, even under the best of circumstances. "Well, it looks like you could be right, I suppose. Let's get back to the Centennial Chicken and leave Coruscant. I don't think your father likes me."
"Looks like?" Han roared out, his face flushing almost as bright red as the mask he'd just removed. "You SUPPOSE? What in kest are we gonna have to do to convince you? We showed you Palpatine was alive.... we told you Luke isn't engaged to you.... you saw that Chewie isn't on Kessel and I was never in your kriffin' dungeon! Oh, and how many times do I have to tell you... my ship is named the MILLENNIUM FALCON, NOT the Centennial Chicken! You've been sitting in a cold prison cell, and you STILL won't believe us? Are you really that stubborn... or just stupid?"
Leia's brown eyes grew wide and watery. "They blew up my home, and now you're yelling at me and calling me names. You're really mean." She burst into tears.
"There, there." Luke patted Leia on the back, glaring at Han. "Yeah, Han. You're mean."
"Kid, we got bigger problems than this Royal pain in the backside. Vader's waiting for us, remember?"
"I remember," Luke muttered unhappily. "How are we going to get past him?"
"You're the brains."
"I wish you'd stop saying that."
~~~~~~~ On Alderaan, in a different timeplace ~~~~~~~~~
The Rebel agent crept along the dungeon corridor, trying to not gag on the wide variety of horrible smells that she tried not to think about. The place was cold, dark and damp. It chilled her to her very core, and she'd only been down here for a few minutes. This mission had been more difficult than she'd anticipated, and she was still annoyed that the assignment had been foisted off on her shoulders.
She clearly recalled the day a bedraggled Wookiee had shown up before the small group of ragtag Rebels, insisting he could help. Since their annihilation over Yavin, the scattered Rebel factions that had not been killed by the Death Star had slowly regrouped, but they were still desperately short of members and just as importantly - cold, hard credits. It turned out that this Wookiee had been a slave on Kessel before his family had rescued him. Chewbacca was his name, and he was well-respected among his kind. A hero and the son of the Wookiee Potentate of Kashyyyk named Attchituck. Unfortunately, it also turned out that Chewbacca had a life-debt to a former Imperial-turned-smuggler, and this smuggler was currently sitting in a dungeon on Alderaan. If the Rebels would agree to a rescue operation that would free Solo - that was the smuggler's name - Chewbacca would use his considerable influence to finance the new Rebellion. Of course, the Rebel leaders agreed, which was why she was now sneaking around inside an Alderaanian dungeon.
The rescue attempt had not gone smoothly. The Rebels had difficulties obtaining the correct computer codes, and the map of the Palace was badly outdated. There was also the small matter of contending with the tight security. She had intended to be out of the Palace long before the sun rose, but was falling short of that goal. Still, it was early enough that most people were still asleep. If her uncertain luck held, she could still pull it off without getting caught.
The young woman stopped in front of a large, very heavy, steel door. Using a small laser hand tool, she cut through the lock and pushed the door open. She directed her handbeam inside the tiny, dark room until she located the prisoner. "Wake up, Solo. It's time to leave," she whispered. "We have to hurry."
The man slowly pushed himself into a seated position, and the Rebel cringed at his appearance. His clothes were filthy rags that hung in strands off his emaciated frame. His long, greasy, matted hair mingled with his full beard to give the impression he was part Wookiee himself. He wore no shoes, although his feet were so darkened with dirt it was difficult to tell this at first glance. His eyes were wild and wide with fear.
When he finally spoke, his voice was hoarse from lack of use. "Are you Leia?" He squinted into the bright beam of light. "If you're Leia, I love you. I love you."
The Rebel was taken aback by his words. Why would he profess love to the Imperial woman that had done this to him? "No, Solo. I'm not Leia. My name is Mara Jade, and I'm here to rescue you."
~~~~~ On Coruscant, in a different timeplace ~~~~~~~~
"This is the plan," Luke said to the Princess as he took out a pair of binders and moved to place them around her wrists. "We're going to escort you out of here, like you're a prisoner being taken - "
He got no further as Leia jerked her hands away. "What? I'm not a prisoner! I refuse to even pretend to be your prisoner! It's degrading for Royalty."
Han gritted his teeth in frustration. "Would you rather go back inside your cell... Your Worship?" How could both versions of the same person be so incredibly annoying, in totally different ways?
"That's the only way we can sneak past the security and leave the Palace," Luke pointed out, trying to make her see reason. "We can't stand here and argue, or we'll all end up sitting in a cell."
Whipping out his blaster, Han pointed it in her face. "You can either come nicely, or I can stun you. Your choice, sweetheart."
"I hate you," she ground out hotly, but held out her wrists toward Luke.
"You have to be quiet, too," Luke informed her as the binders clicked shut. "No yelling."
"I don't yell," Leia said, irritated. "It's rude and low class, like Solo."
"I suggest stuffing a rag in her mouth," Han suggested.
"I suggest stuffing a rag in your - "
"QUIET!" Luke yelled, then looked around worriedly. "I mean, stop arguing, you two." Addressing the Princess, he asked, "What happened to my lightsaber?"
"And my blaster?" Han added.
"Vader has them," Leia admitted reluctantly. "But it wasn't my fault. That rotten stormtrooper had the nerve to just take them from me, and he didn't even ask my permission."
Trying to rein in his anger and frustration at losing his weapon, Luke put the red helmet over his head while Han did the same. "Let's go."
The two men led the Princess between them, hoping she would remain silent long enough for them to make their getaway.
Since the stormtroopers were busy looking for two delivery men, they paid little attention to the Royal Guards escorting a female prisoner that appeared to have been recently crying. After all, if she was being taken by Royal Guards it meant she was probably going to face the Emperor himself, so it wasn't a wonder she was teary-eyed.
Only the stormtrooper positioned at the gates questioned them as they left the Palace. "Halt! Where are you going with that prisoner?"
"She's being transferred," Han quickly answered.
"Transferred? Where?" The stormtrooper scanned a computer terminal. "I have no record of a prisoner transfer."
"It's a big secret," Han explained, fingering his blaster that was concealed beneath the red robes.
"A really big one."
Luke decided he needed to step in to the conversation before it disintegrated further. "It's supposedly a prisoner exchange. The Rebels are holding an important Imperial governor hostage, and the Emperor has decided to trick them into believing we will give up this Rebel if they let the governor go."
Leia was unable to stop herself from talking. "I don't know why Royal Guards have to explain any of this to stupid stormtroopers."
"Stormtroopers are not stupid," the stormtrooper protested. "Who are you, anyway?"
"Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan. Who are you?"
"Do you have a head inside that helmet, 668894? Or is it all just space vapor?" Leia asked. "Having a number instead of an actual name must be, like, really lame. I've heard all you stormtroopers have Hutt-ugly faces that look exactly alike, so that's why you cover them up."
"Well, I never...." the stormtrooper spluttered out. "I will have to confirm this prisoner transfer with my Superior Officer. Wait here."
As he turned back to his computer, Han pulled out his blaster and fired and the trooper fell to the ground. "Stupid conversation, anyway. Let's get outta here."
"Finally, Solo had a good idea," Leia said, ignoring Luke as he pounded on his helmet in frustration.
Luke pulled off his helmet and robe and tossed it aside, unlocking Leia's binders while Han ditched his own disguise. "Both of you have such good ideas you should enter them in a contest to see which one is the best," Luke remarked sarcastically as they ran away from the Palace.
They had only gotten a few steps when blaster shots came from behind them. "We can't make it back to the Falcon on foot," Han shouted.
"What do you suggest we do... fly?" Leia yelled back.
"Good idea." Grabbing her arm, he pulled her down a walkway, forcing Luke to follow. "I suggest we steal a hovercar." Han quickly picked a parked hovercraft, and pulled wires from the panel to hot-wire the engine.
"Hurry," Luke prodded as running stormtroopers turned the corner and headed in their direction.
"I'm hurrying." The engine coughed and spluttered, then finally roared to life. The three fugitives piled in and took off as blaster fire sizzled past their heads.
~~~~~~~~ Alderaan, in another timeplace ~~~~~~~~~
The red-headed Rebel hurried over to the cowering man, tugging at his arm. "Hurry. We don't have much time."
"You're a woman!"
"Last time I checked," Mara responded dryly.
The smuggler covered his head with his arms. "No.... I can't look at you. She said she'd pluck out my eyes if she ever caught me looking at another woman."
Mara gave a weary sigh. "Leia Organa is away on a ski trip. She's not even in the Palace. Chewbacca is waiting at the spaceport, and we're going to have big problems if we don't get out of the Palace before everyone wakes up."
"Chewie's here?" Han asked, his voice trembling.
Slowly, the Corellian stood, swaying on his feet. "I'm not gonna be much help."
"I can see that," Mara returned, pulling him along.
Solo struggled to keep up, gasping with exertion as they climbed the long series of steps out of the dungeon. At the top of the staircase, Mara poked her head out, checking in both directions. "All right, Solo. The coast is clear."
They headed out into a dark, wide carpeted hallway and halfway down, stopped at a floor-to-ceiling window. "We're on the first floor, so this is where we leave the Palace," Mara said, prying open the window pane. "There's a landspeeder waiting just outside."
Suddenly, the overhead lights came on. Mara drew out her blaster, swinging around to face the threat. "Organa!"
Cringing, Han dropped to his knees and covered his eyes. "You lied! She's here!"
Leia and Winter both stood at the far end of the ornate Palace corridor. Although Leia didn't recognize the thin, matted prisoner by his appearance, she recognized his voice. "Han?"
"I love you, Leia," Han shouted down the hallway. "I didn't want to leave, but this wo... person made me!"
"Shut up, Solo," Mara muttered before firing her blaster at the Princess.
~~~~~~~ On Coruscant, in a different timeplace ~~~~~~~~
The hovercar swerved back and forth as it wildly dodged both the blaster bolts and the heavy traffic. Luke fired back, trying to discourage the stormtroopers from following them.
"I think we lost them," Luke yelled over the screaming wind. No sooner had the words left his mouth than a hovercar pulled up next to them on the passenger side. Inside was a red-haired woman, not a stormtrooper. "Hey, she looks kind of familiar...."
The red-head drew a blaster, aiming for the front engine of their hovercar. Seeing her intent, Han gave the controls a hard jerk forward, sending the car speeding downward. At the same instant, the red-head fired and Han barely had time to duck and reach over to Leia, grabbing her by the collar and pushing her down into the seat. The blaster fire sizzled over their heads, nearly singing their hair. The woman quickly shot again, grazing the side of their stolen hovercar. "Could you shoot back, Luke?" Han shouted. "Sometime today, please?"
Luke fired back, his shot hitting the rear of the woman's hovercar. Sparks flew, but she kept control and continued to pursue them.
The Princess sat back up, shaken by the close call. "You saved my life, Solo."
Keeping his eyes on the traffic, Han responded, "You're so welcome."
"But... that must mean you like me," Leia persisted. "You really like me!"
Han flicked his gaze briefly at the dazed Princess. "Of course I like you." At least he liked the other Leia, but he wasn't about to add that part.
"More than you like Winter?"
"Winter?" Han asked, wondering why they were suddenly discussing weather. "I've never been too fond of winter."
"Oh, Han, my sweet, sugar honey," Leia gushed. "It's so wonderful to finally hear you say that. I mean, say it without having me use interrogators to force you to say it. I always thought that, like, you never meant it then, even though tickling your feet with feathers couldn't have really hurt too much. Right? That's what the interrogators told me when they used that technique on you - make him laugh until he cries, they said, and he'll eventually say anything you want him to. And you did, too. But now I think you really, really mean it. Am I right?"
"If you say so."
"Could you keep your mind on flying this thing?" Luke groused. "That lady is still behind us, and she's still shooting." Their hovercar banked sharply to the left as Han avoided hitting a tall spire with at least a second to spare. Luke noticed the woman was keeping up. "She's still coming. I think she's a better pilot than you are, Han."
"Oh yeah?" Han muttered, feeling his irritation spike at anyone questioning his flying skills. "Watch this..."
The hovercar dipped so quickly that Luke thought his stomach was going to come up through his throat. The Corellian took the vehicle through a fast series of corkscrews, and dove down and under a walkway, coming up on the opposite side. The hovercars in their path quickly swerved and banked to avoid them, and they got so close that Luke could see the startled expressions of the people in the other hovercars.
"I think we lost her," Leia squeaked out as she looked over her shoulder.
"See?" Han crowed. "Don't ever challenge me, kid."
"I won't," Luke gasped, his hands shaking at the various collisions that they'd barely avoided.
Minutes later, Han set the hovercar near the landing pad that held the Millennium Falcon. As they climbed out, the Falcon's ramp lowered and Darth Vader descended in long strides, holding Luke's lightsaber.
"I've been waiting for you, my son."
~~~~~~~~ On Alderaan, in a different timeplace ~~~~~~~~~
It seemed to Leia that time came to a standstill in that brief moment between the shot being fired and the sizzle of the lightsaber that intercepted the bolt. The Princess spun around, shocked to see Lord Skywalker standing next to her. "Luke!"
"Surprised to see me, darling?"
"Uh... yes, actually."
Lord Skywalker grinned. "I could tell through the Force that you'd left the lodge. You can't hide from me, Princess. I know you too well." His gaze focused down the corridor to the shapely Rebel woman and her body-hugging black suit. "Wow.... what a looker. I didn't know the Rebels grew them so, um... yummy." He walked closer, casually deflecting her continued blaster fire with his blade. "What's your name, gorgeous?"
"Mara Jade," she snapped, backing up and nearly tripping on the prone form of Han Solo. "Aren't you engaged?"
"Then why are you looking at me like that?"
"Don't look at another woman, Luke," Han warned, still covering his head. "She'll pluck out your eyes."
"No one has to get hurt," Mara said nervously. "I just want to rescue Solo."
Leia had walked closer as well, using Lord Skywalker as her cover. Seeing Han cowering on the ground nearly broke her heart. "Oh, Han. What did she do to you?"
"She?" Mara snapped. "Don't you mean you? You're the one that used torture to brainwash him into thinking he's in love with you!"
"I... I would never torture Han," Leia objected.
"Why do you care about Solo?" an annoyed Lord Skywalker asked the Princess.
"I... I love him," Leia confessed, knowing suddenly it was true. "I love him."
"You sure have a funny way of showing it," Mara said. "You've spend three years breaking his body and his spirit."
"Feathers..." Han mumbled forlornly, still not looking at anyone. "I hate feathers."
"It wasn't me," Leia responded, her voice cracking. "Somehow, this isn't my universe, and I'm not supposed to be here."
"Or maybe you are," a ghostly voice murmured from the ceiling. Everyone looked up in astonishment to see a blue Obi-Wan Kenobi as he floated to the floor, everyone except for Han who was still covering his face, and Winter, who looked perplexed as she followed their gaze and couldn't see what they were all staring at in shock. "We live many lives in many different dimensions, and while this isn't your time or place, you have come here for a reason."
"I thought my dad killed you," Luke muttered, stepping forward and sticking his hand through the apparition.
"Jedi do not die, they only fade away," Obi-Wan replied brightly. "Evil Siths, however, turn into moldy womp rats when they die."
"That's not fair," Luke complained. "I don't want to be a Sith if I turn into a moldy womp rat."
"That's why this version Leia must have come to us, then," Obi-Wan explained. "To fix things, so you don't turn into a womp rat."
"It's too late for me to fix things in this universe," Leia said in despair. "The other version of me destroyed Han, and I don't know how to make Luke normal."
"Who are you talking to?" Winter asked, confused.
"Oh, Leia, Obi-Wan is dead," Winter moaned. "You really have turned the bend."
Obi-Wan ignored Winter and continued to speak to the three people that could see him. "Darth Vader has only led LukeLukeLuke to believe that he's a Sith. He put a Sith-spell on him, and spells can be broken."
"My name isn't LukeLukeLuke! It's JUST PLAIN LUKE!" Luke roared in frustration, shaking his fist at the ghost, and making the dead Jedi back away in fright.
"I wish you'd make up your mind, Just Plain Luke," Obi-Wan said, miffed.
"How can the spell be broken?" Leia asked Obi-Wan.
"The usual way. With a kiss from his true love."
"Ha! Obi-Wan has a few good ideas, even if he is dead," Luke said happily. "Only a Princess can break spells with a kiss." He bent toward Leia, puckering his lips and making smacking sounds. "Come on, Princess Leia. Give me a big one so I won't turn into a stinky old rat."
Leia gulped, and steeled her resolve. She moved forward and planted a firm kiss on Luke's lips, then quickly backed away fighting the urge to wipe her mouth. "Well? Did it work?"
Lord Skywalker smiled evilly, his eyes glowing with a faint yellow. "Not even a little. But that was a great kiss, Leia."
"Any other bright suggestions?" Leia asked Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Obi-Wan shuddered, turning from blue to a sickly green shade. "That just was so wrong, and on so many levels. Just Plain Luke, please kiss Winter. Maybe she's your true love."
"Obi-Wan says you're supposed to kiss me," Luke crowed gleefully to Winter.
"ME?" Winter yelled back. "Why do I have to kiss you? I'm not a Princess!"
"I never said a Princess had to break the spell," Obi-Wan argued, even though Winter couldn't hear him. "Just Plain Luke came up with that whopper. Never believe anything a Sith tells you. It's a golden rule to live and die by."
"Obi-Wan wants you to kiss the boy to break the Sith-spell," Leia told Winter. "So kiss him."
"Fine," Winter grumbled, then leaned toward Luke and kissed him. Luke quickly grabbed the blonde around her waist, dipping her back and continuing the kiss for a very long time. When they came up for air, Winter gasped, "Are you normal yet?"
"Normal? You tell me," Luke replied, shooting Force-lightning at Han, who screamed and writhed in pain on the ground.
"STOP IT!" Leia shouted, running to Han's side and forcing Luke to stop or hit her with his lightning.
Luke dropped his hands to his side. "Okay, but I'm still a big bad Sith, and apparently Winter isn't my true love."
Obi-Wan nodded thoughtfully, and looked to Mara Jade. "Your turn."
~~~~~~ On Coruscant, in another timeplace ~~~~~~~
Han reacted the way he usually reacted - by drawing out his blaster and firing. He could only watch in awe as Vader calmly deflected his bolts with his hand. Then the blaster started crackling and overheating, forcing Han to toss it aside or risk having it blow up in his face.
"How... how did he do that?" Han mumbled to Luke.
"Go inside your ship, Solo, and take the Princess, too," Vader ordered. "I wish to speak to my son - alone."
"Yeah?" Han said, his eyes narrowing. "I ain't leavin' the kid here to face a Sith Lord all by himself."
"It's alright, Han," Luke said quietly, knowing he had to protect his friends. "Just leave."
Han shook his head, preparing to argue when Vader stepped closer. "Your co-pilot is currently locked up in one of your airtight storage bins," the Sith informed the Corellian. "His oxygen supply is running low. I am offering you a one time deal, Solo. If you refuse to leave, I will be forced to kill both you and the Princess, and the Wookiee will suffocate."
Leia tugged on Han's arm. "I say let's take this deal while we still can."
"You need to finish rescuing Leia," Luke gently prodded his stubborn friend. "I can handle this."
Han looked more than a little doubtful about Luke's claim, but allowed the Princess to pull him toward the relative safety of the Falcon. Once they disappeared inside the ship, Vader held out Luke's lightsaber. "Take it, my son."
"I'm not your son," Luke replied without much conviction. He cautiously reached out and snatched his lightsaber from the gloved hand, waiting for Vader to try and kill him. "Leia's confused."
"The Princess said a great many strange things," Vader conceded. "But the one truth she spoke was that I am your father. I have felt this from the beginning, over the Death Star. Your Force signature is too much like mine."
"I'm nothing like you," Luke spat in return.
"You even resemble what I once looked like," Vader rasped. "Yes, Luke. I was once handsome and young."
"What happened?" Luke questioned. "What turned you into ..."
"My mentor - Obi-Wan Kenobi did this to me," Vader said softly.
Luke shook his head. "No. Obi-Wan was good - "
"Obi-Wan used people," Vader interrupted. "He and his Master stole me as a small child from my mother... he refused to acknowledge I was stronger in the Force than he was. And when I married, he grew jealous and turned my wife against me. Then he committed his final act of evil by stealing you away and allowing me to believe you had died."
"No... those are all lies."
"I speak the truth, Luke. Use the Force and tell me I'm lying to you."
Luke stood still, trembling in fear and uncertainty. Then he looked over Vader's shoulder and saw Han sitting in the cockpit, the Falcon's gun turrets swiveling toward the back of the unsuspecting Sith Lord.
The next moments happened in a blur. Vader gave a shout of warning just as a hovercar swooped low; the snap-hiss of the Sith's blade crackled as it sliced a huge portion out from the bottom of the vehicle; a blaster shot came firing out from the hovercar at the exact same instant; the breath-taking impact caused by the rear-end of the suddenly out-of-control vehicle as it clipped Luke on the back of his shoulders and his skull.
~~~~~~ On Alderaan, in another timeplace ~~~~~~~~
"WHAT?" Mara yelled, backing away from the group. "I'm not kissing Skywalker."
"But you must do this, Miss Jade," Obi-Wan cajoled. "You're our only hope."
"If I had to kiss him, you certainly have to," Winter said.
"Well, isn't this a fine how-do-you-do," Mara groused. "I come here to rescue Solo, and I end up having to kiss the son of a Sith, and worry about getting tape-worms."
"He'd only give you tape-worms after he turned into a womp rat," Obi-Wan said.
"I wouldn't bet on that."
"This is the very best day of my life," Luke declared loudly, holding up three fingers. "Three women! Do you hear me? I get to kiss three women!"
"Don't look directly at them, Luke," Han warned, still huddling on the ground with his face covered. "They'll pluck out your eyes."
Leia put her hand on the Corellian's trembling arm. "Han, I'm not going to pluck out your eyes."
"Cut off my ears, then?"
He slowly raised his head, looking at her cautiously. "Pull out my teeth?"
"You don't happen to have any evil feathers in your pockets, do you?"
Leia frowned in confusion. "Feathers? Why do you keep mentioning feathers?"
"Can everyone refocus their attention on me, please?" Luke ordered, stomping his foot on the floor. "I'm the one at risk of turning into a rat. It's way too late for Solo, since he already looks and smells like one."
"That's true," Mara agreed. "I'll kiss you, but you'd better keep those hands to yourself, Sithboy."
Mara moved carefully toward Luke, and he grabbed her arms and kissed her with passionate abandon. A blissful look came over both their faces, and a rosy blush appeared on their cheeks as they kissed - then a blinding light filled the Palace hallway, forcing everyone to shut their eyes tightly and stop watching.
~~~~~ On Coruscant, in another timeplace ~~~~~~~~~
The red-haired assassin tried to jump clear of the hovercar as it collided with a duracrete wall, and she almost made it. The impact from the speed of the vehicle threw her a distance away, and she only had a brief second to cushion her body by using her Force skills to prevent instant death. The young woman survived, but the pain of her shattered left femur made her lose consciousness.
By the time Han ran out of the Falcon, blood was pooling from a deep gash in Luke's head and a kneeling Darth Vader was cradling his injured son on the walkway. The Sith Lord looked up to see Han pointing his DL-44 directly at his head. "You cannot kill me, and if you waste your time trying, you will not be able to escape from Coruscant."
The Corellian looked grimly at his friend. "What are you tellin' me? You're gonna help us get away?"
"The Emperor is unaware that Luke is my son, but that will change if he is taken to an Imperial hospital. You must get him off of Coruscant and allow me to prevent TIE fighters from shooting at your ship."
"You'd do that? Why?"
"I... I am not certain how to answer that, Solo." The Sith tilted his head toward the sound of approaching sirens. "You have only a moment to decide."
Han gave a frustrated hiss, then waved toward his ship. Chewbacca quickly appeared, and loped down the ramp. "Get him into the med area, Chewie," Han said, indicating the young Jedi. "Vader promised me he'd keep the Imps off our tail, and it doesn't look like I've got much choice but to trust him."
Giving a worried roar, Chewie gathered Luke into his strong arms, and Han quickly followed them back into the ship.
Vader watched as the Falcon lifted from the landing pad, then quickly turned on his comlink. "This is Darth Vader. A Rebel ship has escaped from Coruscant. Send TIE fighters and be on the lookout for a matte-black Skipspray." He looked over at the Emperor's Hand as she regained awareness and struggled to sit up. "Send a med team to landing dock Two-Forty Nine, Level Eighty-One, Section Three Hundred sixteen. We have an injury."
~~~~~~~ On Alderaan, in another timeplace ~~~~~~~~
The group blinked as the light dimmed a bit and they were able to once again see. "What just happened?" Leia asked.
"Oh, it's that stupid morning sunshine," Winter complained. "It's always so bright when it first comes through these windows. I keep telling the Queen she should invest in decent shades."
Leia climbed to her feet, pulling Han up as well. "What about Luke?"
"I'm..... fine," he said, unable to stop grinning. "Mara truly is my true love! I'm no longer under Emperor Vader's Sithly-spell."
"Wow," Mara muttered, staggering backwards. "I didn't know you had that in you, Skywalker. I swear I felt some power surge coursing right through my entire body."
"That would be the Force," Obi-Wan informed her. "You are very Force-sensitive, Miss Jade. You and Just Plain Luke need to continue your training and become Jedi."
"Will you train us, Obi-Wan?" Luke asked beseechingly.
"No. You and Mara must go to Dagobah, and train under a great Jedi Master by the name of Yoda. But whatever you do, don't tell your father where Yoda is hiding. He's so incredibly jealous of Yoda's good looks and expensive jewelry collection, I'm afraid he'd kill Yoda just for his bling."
"Oh, okay," Luke agreed.
Obi-Wan slowly faded away, leaving only his blinking eyes. "Remember, I will always be watching you." Then his eyes faded away and disappeared, too.
"Always?" Mara asked. "That could be embarrassing."
"Does this mean I don't have to marry you?" Leia questioned Luke.
"Of course you don't," Luke said. "The engagement is officially called off."
Leia let out a loud whoop, grabbed Han and kissed him, not even caring that he smelled like a womp-rat. As she kissed him, she could feel her head start spinning, and Winter's words came back to her mind - Everything is in your power. With her eyes tightly shut, she fervently wished, I want to go back.... I want to go back....
~~~~~~ In space, approaching Hoth, in another timeplace ~~~~~~~~
Vader had kept his word, and although Han didn't know how or why, the Millennium Falcon had not been chased by Imperials as they left Coruscant space and made a safe jump into hyperspace.
Leia looked worriedly at Luke as he lay still and pale on the medical cot. "I hope he's going to be alright."
"I thought you didn't like Luke," Han said as he leaned against the doorframe.
"I like Luke okay... he's just not - "
"Who," Leia corrected. "He's not you."
"You know, Princess," Han drawled out. "I feel the strongest urge to kiss you right about now."
"I'm waiting, Captain."
Han didn't waste anymore time, putting his arms tightly around the Princess and giving her a kiss she'd never forget....
Leia blinked and pushed Han away. "What's going on?"
"You just told me...." Han started to argue, when he noticed that Leia wasn't looking at him - she was looking around the room, her face confused. "Leia? Is that you?"
"Of course it's me," she said, trying not to panic. "How did I end up here? A few minutes ago I was on ..." Leia stopped, knowing he'd never believe her. "Hoth. I just had the strangest dream... you were in it, and Obi-Wan Kenobi and... Luke." Leia's eyes grew wide as she noticed the unconscious Luke lying on the medical cot. "How did Luke get hurt?" Her gaze went to the readouts, and she noted with relief he appeared to be stable.
"Luke had a little accident. He'll be fine," Han answered, hoping the last part was true. "What do you remember about, um, Alderaan?"
It's part of the Empire, Leia thought. Aloud, she replied, "The Death Star destroyed my home almost three years ago."
Han felt a rush of happiness upon hearing her answer. "Welcome back, Princess."
~~~~~ On Alderaan, in a different timeplace ~~~~~~~~
Leia opened her eyes, realizing she was still kissing Han. Only this Han was matted and dirty, and smelled very bad.
"How did you get so dirty?" she asked, pushing him away and pinching her nose shut.
"How did I get so dirty?" Han repeated, confused.
Winter spoke up. "He's dirty because he hasn't had a bath in three years. The Rebel was helping him escape, but you were about to let him out anyway."
The Princess looked around the Organa Palace corridor as it was lit up by the bright morning sun. "I'm home!" She spun around and saw Lord Skywalker standing with his arm around a red-head. "Who's that?"
"The Rebel that was helping Han escape?" Winter prodded. She looked at Luke and said, "Leia seems to be having memory problems lately."
"Mara is my true love," Luke cooed, looking at the Rebel woman. "We're going to become Jedi, aren't we, Mara Love?"
"Yes, and after that, we'll use our powers to help the Rebellion, right?" Mara replied.
"Of course. Anything you want." Luke and Mara grabbed each other and starting kissing... and kissing....
"Gag me," Leia muttered. "Oh, well. At least I don't have to marry him."
Winter stepped forward, asking tentatively, "Are you still giving me my freedom like you promised?"
"Did I say that?" Leia asked, surprised. "Well, since I'm in a good mood you can have your freedom, Winter."
"What about me?" Han asked timidly.
Leia turned around and appraised the nervous Corellian as he shifted from one bare foot to the other. "You'll look, and smell, a lot better once you have a bath and clean clothes."
"Really?" Han said hopefully, clasping his hands together. "Do I still have to say I love you?"
Leia considered the 'other' version of Han. He'd admitted to caring about her, so there was always the chance this Han could truly love her, too. She would just have to try extra hard to earn that love, especially considering how she'd treated him for three years. But she had the advantage of being a rich Princess, and what man in his right mind wouldn't love a rich Princess? "Well, someday you WILL love me, and it won't take any feathers, either," she said, brimming with confidence. "After you're cleaned up, we'll go become Rebels, too. I've decided the Empire isn't very nice."
Mara nodded. "Chewie will approve of your joining the Rebellion, Solo."
Winter smiled as she realized that, somehow, Princess Leia had finally grown up and opened her eyes to the truth. "I've always felt the Empire was evil, too, but I never felt it was my place to say it. You'll make a good Rebel, Princess."
"Of course I will," Leia stated firmly as she looked around the opulant Palace. "There's no way I'm letting the Empire destroy my home. Not again."
Although no one knew quite what the Princess was talking about, they were all too happy to care.
Slowly, Luke opened his eyes, tasting bacta in his mouth. Smiling down at him was Leia, looking radiant as always. "Leia? I'm sure glad you're alright."
"Why wouldn't I be?" she joked. "You're the one in the medical ward."
He frowned, trying to concentrate. "I can't remember how I got here."
"The doctors told me that you might have short-term memory loss associated with your head injury. What do you remember?"
"Um... just that Han commed me after the cave you were in collapsed."
Leia raised her eyebrow. "And nothing more? You can't even recall finding me?"
"No. It's all gone. How much am I missing?"
"Oh, not too much," Leia said casually. She reached over and patted his wrist. "You get your strength back. The Alliance needs you. I need you."
Luke smiled broadly at Leia as she left the room. The door had barely shut when Han came strolling down the icy corridor.
"Hey, Your Worshipfulness," Han said. "How's Luke doing?"
"Great." Han nodded, looking past her toward the door she had just come through. "Well, I guess I'll go let him know I'm still hanging around the Rebellion."
"He doesn't remember."
Han frowned. "What doesn't he remember?"
The Princess looked around to see if anyone was heading in their direction. Han had filled her in on everything that had occurred during the time she was 'missing' and it pretty much matched up with what the 'dream Winter' had told her. When she saw no one near, she whispered, "He doesn't remember going to Coruscant, or what I, err, I mean, the crazy me, told him."
"You mean about being engaged to him?" Han asked, feigning confusion.
"No! I mean.. the other thing."
"About putting me in your dungeon?"
"SOLO!" Leia shouted, then lowered her voice. "The other thing."
"Ah..." Han said, snapping his fingers. "You mean his daddy being Emperor Vader business."
"Yes," Leia said tightly. "And I'd like to keep it that way. I was obviously just having some type of temporary delusion, like a wide awake dream... or nightmare. So don't bring anything I said up to him, alright?"
"Fine," Han agreed easily. "But it'll cost you."
"Cost?" Leia asked, her eyes narrowing. "What kind of cost?"
"How about a kiss?"
Leia put her hands on her hips, striking her best 'threatening' pose. "How about I have a discussion about this with Chewie?"
The Corellian threw up his hands in mock-defeat. "Fine. But I'll never forget your words."
Putting on a falsetto, Han put his hands over his heart. "You said, and I quote, 'As much as I like Luke, he's not you. Kiss me, you handsome hunk, before I swoon.'"
"I never said anything remotely like that!" Leia yelled, no longer caring who was listening. "You are such an egotistical jerk!" She spun around, stalking down the corridor.
"Hey, Princess," Han called after her. "Try to remember to wear head protection next time you go cave exploring."
Leia stopped and turned around. "You remember to wear head protection next time you see me, flyboy!"