Princess Leia stood at her father's side greeting the other guests at the banquet she'd accompanied him to. At fourteen, she was undoubtedly the youngest person there. But her father knew of her strong desire to enter politics, and had offered her a chance to attend this particular function, since many of the Senators and planetary rulers of the Empire would be there.
Indeed, the room swarmed with political elites. Senators, aides, kings, chancellors, and councilors were talking with one another everywhere Leia looked. Yet, as she stood there, she suddenly realised something... there were only humans in the room.
Even on Alderaan, a world colonized by humans generations ago and widely considered a human planet, the cities were crowded with a myriad of species. And Leia had seen hundreds of species on Coruscant... yet only one was represented in the banquet hall.
As Leia smiled and held out her hand to a Moff her father was introducing her to, she made a mental note to ask Bail about that little inconsistency when they were alone.
"Bail! How good to see you again!" A man three times the normal size came walking ("waddling" Leia thought with a mental giggle) over to the two Organas. "You haven't aged a day! And who is this charming young woman on your arm? This can't be little Leia, can it?"
Leia knew she must be blushing furiously and clung to her father, who laughed. "Darvin, it has been 10 years, after all. How have you been? Still running Corellia in tiptop shape?"
"Trying to!" The large man grinned at Leia, then bowed, surprisingly graceful, given his size. "Forgive me, Your Highness, if I embarrassed you. Sometimes my enthusiasm overtakes my mouth before I have a chance to think."
"It is of no concern." Leia replied, trying to grasp some vestiges of a Princess image. "I take it you and Father are good friends?"
"The best of friends, once upon a time." Darvin's eyes twinkled as if he were enjoying some private joke. "Princess, if I were to ask, could I gain permission to steal away your father for a few moments?"
"You could," Leia replied, arching a fourteen year old eyebrow, "if you were to ask."
"By the goddesses, you've trained her well, Bail." Leia's father only laughed at the exasperated expression on Darvin's face. "Well, I'm asking. If you'll excuse us, Your Highness."
Bail turned to Leia. "This should only take a few moments. Wait here for me."
Leia nodded, and watched Bail follow the jolly Corellian over to a knot of politicians. She looked around her for a familiar face, but saw none. She sighed, trying to fight down her boredom. 'You'll never survive in the Senate if you can't even last through a banquet,' she scolded herself. She tried to imagine the banquets she'd attended back home on Alderaan... they may have been stuffy, but at least she'd known the people attending, and had been able to follow the conversations. But what did she know about the bacta trade on Thyferra, or the trade agreements between Bespin and Cordula?
It seemed she had a long way to go before she could enter intergalactic politics.
Leia had just started mentally reviewing Alderaan's charter when she heard a strange sound behind her. It almost sounded like breathing, but it was very regulated and mechanical... and loud.
She turned slowly to see what was making the noise, and when she saw the origin, it felt as if her heart had leapt up into her throat. A bipedal being stood to her right, encased in black. Lights flashed on the being's chest, and glinted off the helmet worn on the head. Though Leia had never personally encountered this being before, a name immediately sprang to mind.
And he was holding out a cup to her.
"I thought you might like some refreshment, Your Highness."
Leia swallowed, trying to slow her racing heart. "Thank you, Lord Vader." She timidly grasped the offered cup, her white hand looking miniaturized next to his enormous black-gloved grip. She raised the cup to her lips, hardly tasting the pink juice it contained. Her eyes were riveted to the Dark Lord, her mind filled with memories of his whispered name.
"Your Highness must be ambitious to brave such an event at such a young age."
She could feel his deep voice reverberating inside her ribcage. "My father thought it would be a good learning experience," she replied, slowly regaining her courage. "I plan to become a Senator."
"And do what?"
The question surprised Leia. 'Isn't it obvious?' she thought to herself. "Help the galaxy."
Vader waved his hand as if brushing the reply away, while at the same time indicating the room's occupants. "There are thousands of fools trying to help the galaxy, each pulling in a different direction, only making things worse than when they started. What makes you think you will be any different?"
Leia stared, then realized Vader was serious. She thought for a few minutes before answering this time. "Then perhaps I can lead them to all pull in one direction."
Vader turned his helmet toward Leia, truly looking at her for the first time, and she had the eerie feeling that he was peering into her soul. She shrank back, realizing that the other humans previously crowding her had moved away.
Then an odd sound came from Lord Vader. Leia couldn't be sure because of the mechanical breathing, but it sounded... it sounded like a chuckle. "I can see you shall go far, Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan. You shall go far and accomplish many things." Then he looked away, gazing at something across the room. "We shall meet again, Young Princess."
Lord Vader turned and strode away, a path opening in the crowd for him. Leia turned to see what he had been looking at... and looked straight into the terrified eyes of her father. A moment later, Bail Organa was fighting his way through the crowd. When he reached her, he grabbed her right arm, pulling her to a secluded alcove. Shocked, Leia let him pull her along. When they reached the alcove, Bail shot a furtive look around before speaking. "What did he want? What did he say?"
Surprised, Leia could do no more than stare at her father.
"Did he hurt you?"
"No!" Finally, Leia regained her voice. "He offered me a drink, then spoke with me a little. That's all."
"What did he say?" Bail spoke in a tone of voice Leia had never heard before - sharp and high with fear.
"He asked me why I was here, that's all. Polite conversation." Leia couldn't understand why her father was so terrified... he was almost shaking! "Father, is something wrong?"
"He didn't harm you in any way?"
"No. He merely asked me why someone so young was here, then was very polite. I don't believe he's spent much time with adolescents."
Bail sagged against the wall, convulsing.
"Father!" Leia reached out to him, then realized he was laughing.
"No, dearest, he hasn't had much experience with adolescents." After a few moments, the Viceroy of Alderaan visibly collected himself. "Come, Leia, I think we've both had enough for one evening. We won't be missed."
Leia nodded, then followed her father through the banquet hall. She tried to catch another glimpse of Lord Vader, but he seemed to have disappeared. She thought back over his strange pronouncement: "You shall go far and accomplish many things."
Princess Leia certainly hoped he was right.
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