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Beg, Borrow, and Blackmail

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Even as she started on the work of building a Resistance, Leia knew it wasn’t like the old days.

The Senate intermediary met her in a secluded location and kept his voice low as though they were not quite alone, as though this were some tawdry transaction to be concluded in the dark.

“Remember”, he said for perhaps the fifth time, “complete discretion is crucial. Your activities cannot be traced to the Senate, not officially.”

“I am quite aware what is at stake,” Leia looked past him and choked back the rest of her response. She inhaled his shame without wanting to, like a smell in the air.

“These are the key contacts who will supply with you with what you require.” He slid a holocron over to her, unable to bring himself to say ‘arms’ or ‘materiel.’

Leia looked through the data without comment, noting the locations in the Outer Rim and the names of defense contractors there.

“I must emphasize again, complete discre-“

“Discretion is paramount, I realize.” She rose from her seat. “Give my gratitude to the Senate.”

He stood with her and met her eyes for the first time since they had sat down. “You have our best wishes, truly you do, Senator… I mean, Princess….”

The effect was spoiled, however, by the glance he cast over his shoulder yet again.

“I wonder what it is you wish for.” Leia gave him a nod and walked out without looking back.

“I want this data analyzed and stored.” She handed the holocron to 3-CPO who waited outside. “We leave immediately.”

During the walk back to her transport her thoughts drifted back to decades before, to the meetings Mon Mothma and the other Rebel Alliance leaders would have with her father. They had been discreet of course for the sake of survival, but there had been none of this scared furtiveness as though they were dealing in unspeakable secrets.

Leia caught in herself a sharp longing for those days of death and destruction, and told herself the old days could not come back. That was what she was fighting for.

“You can take the consignments once you bring your transports.” The director of the armory handed her a datapad. “You will sign the lease agreement now?”

Leia paused as she took the pad, eyebrows lifting. “Lease agreement.”

“You will find our terms are quite generous, I believe. In addition to the deposit already made by the… third party, we only require that losses and damages be paid for at the end of the lease.”

“Isn’t this an unusual arrangement for weapons consignments?” She skimmed through the terms as she spoke. “I have to think it’s not unusual for weapons to be lost.”

“Obviously we do not have the authority to sell the New Republic’s weapons on a permanent basis.” The director clacked their teeth in some secret amusement.

“I see.” Leia stared at them for a moment before she bent to the datapad and started the process of finalizing the lease. “You have been most helpful, thank you.”

Her bubble-like transport floated over the vast expanse of the Mon Cala shipyard, giving her a panoramic view of vessels of every description and make.

“We would of course be pleased to transfer the ships to you.” The keeper of the Mon Calamari shipyard said next to her.

“I was promised a fleet of three hundred.” Leia kept one eye and the view outside and the other on shipyard data projected in the air. “I see a little over a hundred in this manifest.”

“Well, with the new security threats in the Outer Rim the Republic will be requiring augments to its own fleet.”

“I imagine.” This was getting to be a wearisomely repetitive pattern.

Just then her eyes caught something below. Was that…? “Stop.”

“Pardon, Princess…?”

“Stop the transport,” she said, her eyes fixed on one ship.

The keeper gave the order and their bubble-like ride came to a smooth pause midair. Leia rose from her seat to get a better view.

“May I inquire what this is about?”

She pointed almost directly down below them. Much as she tried to keep herself steady, she could not entirely suppress a tremor in her voice. “Is that Home One? Admiral Ackbar’s flagship?”

The keeper stood next to her to gaze down at the streamlined, almost organic outlines of the ship in dry dock with repair droids swarming around it. It stood out among the other ships, distinct as Mon Calamari vessels were, every curve shining with the memory of long-ago battle.

“It does appear to be, yes. A ship of great historic significance.“

“I want it.”

“Your Highness?”

She waved off the title. “I would like Home One as part of my consignment of vessels.”

“Well, I’m afraid that’s quite…” The keeper’s whiskers twitched. “The ship is being refurbished for a ceremonial role, quite prestigious.”

Leia caught herself from scoffing out loud. She thought of Gial Ackbar who had led a fleet against the second Death Star and over the skies of Jakku. His ship be put up for display indeed, when there was another fight looming up over the horizon!

“I see.” She sat back down in her seat and fixed the keeper with a look. “I wonder if it would interfere with the celebrations if the Senate were to send inspectors to this shipyard?”

“I’m afraid I do not-“

“I speak of the network of defense contractors of the Outer Rim.” She recalled the director of the armory and silently thanked them, unscrupulous operator as they were. “Earlier I couldn’t help but notice that there was an illegal operation leasing the Republic’s weapons. I wonder how much juggling it takes to make the registers look right at any one time. I wonder how well this creative bookkeeping will stand up to scrutiny.”

The Mon Calamari’s whiskers went still, as though pinned in space. “I don’t entirely understand why you are bringing these concerns to me.”

“I agreed to the lease, you know. The weapons were small in the scheme of things.” She looked outside at the massive forms lined in the shipyard. “I wanted to investigate how deep the connections went without disrupting their operations. I also have the lease agreement as evidence.”

“I thought you to be in a position that required…” he gave a small cough. “Discretion.”

“So I am.” She turned her gaze full upon him. “How much are you ripping me off by because I cannot speak openly, I wonder? And how far can you push me until I decide that discretion is simply not worth it any longer?”

They looked at each other, the balance of their vulnerabilities swinging some invisible scale to find an equilibrium. At last the keeper spoke.

“What terms might you find more worth your discretion?”

“I want more ships. And Home One.

The keeper’s whiskers trembled for a moment before he bowed his head in assent. “Very well. We can discuss the specifics.”

At a word from him the transport restarted as smoothly as it had stopped and moved on, leaving the clean outlines of the warship behind. Leia wished she could stay a while longer to look upon Home One, but she would see it again soon enough.

She recalled how drained her father looked sometimes from his travels and meetings, and found herself asking what kind of deals he had had to cut to keep the Rebel Alliance going. Maybe there never was any glory day of a cleaner Rebellion. Maybe this had always been the business of resistance.

It was not the old days, she thought as she leaned back in her seat. Nevertheless she would do what it took, whatever it took.