Leia stood uncertainly at the gate, watching the teeming crowds of chattering girls and boys. The sign atop the gate read Camp Anchorhead in both Basic and a language which she supposed must be Huttese. She’d never seen any writing like that before. She’d also never been anywhere this relentlessly hot and dry, and wearing her lightest, coolest outfit hadn’t made the slightest difference.
“Shall I help you with your luggage, Miss Leia?”
“Oh, no thank you,” she said, turning hurriedly to Captain Antilles as she clutched her bags closer. “No one else has anyone helping them. It will make them suspicious.”
He nodded with a smile. “Of course. I suppose I’ll be on my way, then. Do you have any message you’d like to send?”
“Just my love,” Leia replied. “And my thanks for letting me do this. I’m going to have a wonderful time here, I just know it.”
“I’ll let them know,” the captain said, chuckling. “See you in five weeks.”
“Good-bye, Captain.” Leia managed to free one of her hands to wave frantically as he climbed back into the speeder to return to the spaceport.
“Well!” That was a new voice, a cheery adult woman with official-looking insignia on her tunic. She approached Leia and went on, “I’m Miru Islyn, the camp director. You must be Leia Organa. One of our few Outlanders.”
Leia frowned, glancing around to see if anyone had overheard. “Could you please…um. I don’t really want the other campers to know. I want to understand what it’s like to live on a place like this. I want them to treat me like one of them.”
The woman beamed. “Isn’t that nice? Don’t your worry; your secret is safe with me. Now, if you’ll follow me, I can introduce you to your cabin-mates. They’re already getting settled.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Leia heaved up her bags again and started down the sandy path behind the director. She might have been imagining it, but it seemed that every girl and boy, whether sitting on their cabin’s steps or grouped around the water spigots, was watching her as she went by. Was her Outlander status really so obvious? She wasn’t wearing anything fancy, and she was just as dusty as the rest of them after the ride from Mos Eisley. Maybe it was the way she walked. She tried to slouch her shoulders a little. They were still staring.
“Here we are,” Director Islyn announced, stopping at one of the last cabins in the line. Like every building in this camp, it had a small aboveground entrance with most of the structure down below where it was cooler. Leia heaved a sighed of relief as she reached the bottom of the stairs, glad to leave the twin suns behind. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dimmer lighting. There were three bunks built into the wall, and two of them were occupied, each girl busily unpacking. One was a human, sandy-haired, her skin well-bronzed. The other was a Twi’lek with dark shining eyes. They had probably both lived on Tatooine their whole lives. And now they were both looking at Leia curiously.
Director Islyn nudged her forward. “Girls, this is Leia. Leia, this is Kierra and Shan Aris.”
“Hello,” they all chorused.
“Wonderful!” Director Islyn chirped. “I’ll just leave you ladies to get acquainted. Remember, dinner starts precisely at five bells. Don’t be late! After all, you wouldn’t want to get demerits on your very first day.”
Leia watched in bemusement as she climbed back up the stairs. “Demerits? What is this, a military camp?”
“Practically,” Kierra grumbled. “I mean, I understand the curfew; it’s idiotic to wander around after dark, but marching everywhere precisely at such-and-such a time, like mindless droids? It’s ridiculous.”
“Still, there are worse ways to spend the summer,” Shan Aris said, flopping down on her bunk. “I could be working at my dad’s repair shop, getting covered in grease all day long.”
Kierra laughed. “Yeah, I’d have to put up with my whiny little brother. What about you, Leia?”
“Oh…” Leia set down her bags on her bunk to give herself a little time. “I’d be stuck with the family business too, I guess.” If you could call royal politics a family business.
“Any bratty brothers or sisters?” Shan Aris asked, poking Kierra with a giggle.
“No, it’s just me.”
“Lucky! Not having to share your parents with anyone at all,” Kierra sighed.
Leia didn’t answer. She’d always wanted a sibling, but she wasn’t about to risk her newfound rapport with her cabin-mates by saying so. Slowly she began unpacking her bags, setting her belongings on the shelves that lined the space above the bunk. Last of all she pulled out a framed holo and placed it carefully on the top shelf. Shan Aris, hovering nearby, leaned close and exclaimed, “Wow! Is that your mother? She’s beautiful.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Leia answered, “She’s my governess. Like a second mother, you could say.”
“Oh, that’s awfully nice.” And then the fifth bell rang, saving her from further awkward explanations. They started off for dinner with easygoing speculations about how gross the food was going to be.
Leia’s thoughts couldn’t help drifting back toward the holo as they carried their trays to a table in the dining hall and settled down. It was probably a mistake to put it on display like that. It was her mother, but she wasn’t supposed to tell anyone. She was a political refugee with enemies who might still be looking for her. Her identity was such a closely-kept secret that not even Leia knew her real name. Leia had been adopted by the Organas, meanwhile, because it was far too dangerous for anyone to know who her true mother was.
Being separated from Mother was the one thing that had almost kept Leia from deciding to come to this camp. She was going to miss her terribly. But she knew that all her aspirations to change the galaxy for good would mean nothing if she didn’t actually know what the rest of the galaxy was like. Particularly obscure Outer Rim planets like this one. Leia needed this experience. And it was only five weeks, after all.
“Everything okay?” Kierra’s voice broke into her thoughts.
“Sure! Of course.” Leia shoveled down a spoonful of food and tried not to gag. Everything here had sand in it, even the food. “I was just thinking…” The words drifted off as a boy passed by their table, chatting happily with a pair of friends. Another sandy-haired native, nothing remarkable, and yet…there was something uncannily familiar about him….
“Psst, Leia!” Shan Aris hissed, nudging her in the ribs. “He looks just like you!”
“What?” Leia shook her head with a derisive laugh. “Of course not. His hair and eyes are completely different colors —”
“Yeah, but if you cut your hair and dyed it,” Kierra put in, looking from Leia to the boy, now seated a few tables over, “you’d be practically identical.”
“Ha. And if you keep claiming there’s a resemblance, you’ll be completely delusional,” Leia retorted. Kierra stuck out her tongue.
The next day, all through the camp’s activities, Leia kept catching sight of the boy. Whatever she said out loud, she couldn’t deny the resemblance. It was truly bizarre, like looking at a distorted mirror image. Once she had caught his eye, and he blinked in a startled way before looking quickly away. At one point she heard one of his friends call him Luke. She was absolutely certain she didn’t have any long lost relatives named Luke, or Mother would have told her about it. And Mother certainly wasn’t from this planet. Though she couldn’t say the name of her home, she had lovingly described its green fields and shining blue lakes.
Finally Leia had had enough of wondering and speculating. Just before dinner, she marched up to him outside the dining hall and said, “So. I’m sure you’ve noticed it too.”
Luke glanced at his friends, a dark-haired human and a Rodian, before asking, “Noticed what?”
“The resemblance. It’s very peculiar, isn’t it?”
“Hmm.” Luke regarded her, then grinned. “Oh, I see it! You’re right.”
“Yes! How do you suppose —”
“What a rare opportunity,” Luke went on. “It’s really not often that you see someone who’s the mirror image of womp-rat.”
His friends burst into snickers. Leia saw red. Without a second thought, she scooped up a handful of sand and threw it into Luke’s face. While he sputtered and gasped, Leia walked past him into the dining hall with all the poise and grace of a princess of Alderaan.