Vader was in a foul mood when he returned to his quarters; his interrogation of the Princess had proven to be entirely fruitless.
Interrogations using pain alone had never been overly effective, causing the subject to babble whatever it was they thought their interrogators wanted to hear. Knowing this from several first-hand experiences, Vader augmented his sessions with psychoactive drugs and his own command of the Force, allowing him to direct their thoughts to the truths that they fought to conceal.
Her Highness had proven uniquely able to withstand his mental probing, however. An admirable yet highly frustrating trait.
He stalked over to his comm station, bracing himself to report his failure to Tarkin. The two of them had an efficient working relationship, and as much of a rapport as Vader's grudges would allow - but he was wary of the man's growing place in his Master's inner circle. Ever since the collapse of the Inquisitorial corp, Vader had perceived his Master's favor for him waning. Any and all subsequent failures merely served to expedite this process.
The light on his console was blinking, informing him that a message had been received and stored in his absence. A curious thing. Nobody with high enough clearance to access his comm lines ever bothered to leave such messages. If the matter was so urgent, they simply used his mobile comm instead.
The Force rippled around him as his hand approached the button to open the message. Curious indeed.
The holo message that appeared bore the visage of one Viceroy Bail Organa.
"Lord Vader," he began solemnly. "I hope this message reaches you before Leia has been executed."
Organa took a deep breath. He looked unwell.
"I'm sure you're already aware that I have eyes within the Imperial Navy. One of my contacts has informed me that you have captured Princess Leia. Indeed, I have been told that you plan to interrogate her personally."
Pain passed briefly over the Viceroy's face, but he mastered himself quickly.
"I have sent this message because I now know that the only way to save Leia's life is to tell you the truth."
A pause, as Organa gathered his nerve.
"And the truth, Lord Vader, is that Leia is your biological daughter. Please protect her, Anakin - if not for her own sake, then for Padme's."
The message continued to play for a few more seconds, but Vader didn't hear a word of it.
Princess Leia Organa. His daughter.
The thought of it was absurd. A transparent ploy to keep the rebel Princess alive.
And yet, Organa knew that lying was futile. Confirming his assertions would be all too easy.
Of course, if what Organa said was true, then the official records of the Princess' genome would've been tampered with. By slicing, or by finding a way to confound the test, it certainly wasn't beyond the realm of possibility. It was therefore necessary to obtain a fresh sample and analyze it himself.
The Princess was sitting upright when he entered her cell, and stiffened visibly upon registering who had come to visit her. No doubt, she anticipated another round of interrogation.
That may yet come, depending on the outcome of his investigations.
He resisted the temptation to taunt her, despite the lingering defiance in her gaze. "I require a strand of your hair," he said, without preamble.
She eyed him suspiciously. "Why?"
Vader held out his hand. "You are not in a position to refuse," he pointed out. He would rather not have to take one by force. It was beneath both of their dignities.
Lips pursing, she reached up and plucked a stray flyaway from the top of her head. Her hair was still styled in the elaborate manner of royalty, despite the days of confinement - a matter of pride, no doubt.
She placed the short strand in the palm of his hand, which he closed tightly.
He left without another word.
When the medical droid returned the results, the walls of Vader's quarters expanded, and the transparisteel of his viewport cracked.
"Leia," he began, her given name feeling awkward on his tongue. He wondered suddenly if Padme had been the one to name her, but quashed the thought before he could linger on it. "I am your father."
He wasn't sure what reaction he was expecting. Outrage, perhaps. Denial, certainly. She was his enemy, and had been for many years. Her disdain for him was obvious even without the way it seeped into the Force. But she reacted with nothing so dramatic, favoring him instead with a slight creasing of her brows, a tightening of the mouth. "I see," she said.
He sensed her distress, her revulsion, but also...resignation. "You know it to be true," he stated.
"I've known I was adopted for as long as I can remember," she said. "Did my father tell you so that you would spare my life?"
That traitor was not her father. "Astute as always," he said.
The frown deepened a fraction. "You've never been a liar, Lord Vader. And neither has my father. It's...an unfortunate coincidence."
The words enraged him more than any denial could have. "There are no coincidences, Leia. This is the will of the Force."
"Maybe. But it doesn't really make a difference. This changes nothing."
"It changes everything!" he exclaimed, jabbing a finger in the air. "You are my daughter."
"No!" She stood up abruptly, hands clenched into fists at her sides. She shook with anger. "I am no daughter of yours, Lord Vader. Do not mistake your contribution to my genome as a claim on fatherhood!" She took a deep breath, dark eyes flashing. "You never struck me as the sentimental type. I'm still "rebel scum", am I not? Why not finish what you started before?"
She was bating him, he knew. She needed to believe that nothing had changed – that their connection was meaningless. And perhaps she was right. What did this impudent girl mean to him, even with her genetic connection? "Do not think I won't," he said. And he could, if he summoned enough hatred. He had struck down the remnants of Anakin's life before. Dispatching of her would indeed be far easier than the last of Anakin's comrades.
Leia raised her chin. "Then go ahead. I can't stop you."
His rage boiled. It would be so easy to reach forward with the Force and choke the life from her. Watch as the spark left those brown eyes once and for all.
Just as he had with her mother.
Please protect her, Anakin - if not for her own sake, then for Padme's.
Pushing those thoughts forcefully aside, he said. "It need not come to that. Join me, and together we can destroy the Emperor. We can rule the Galaxy, as father and daughter."
She gazed at him silently for a moment, as if digesting his words, then said, "That's your pitch?"
He said nothing.
She sighed. "First of all, what gives you the idea that I have any desire to rule the Galaxy?"
A pause, and then: "It's the most efficient means of achieving your ends."
She actually laughed at that. "Ah yes, of course. The most efficient way to restore democracy is clearly to become a dictator. How could I have thought otherwise?"
His anger intensified. "You are arrogant," he said, "and lack perspective. How do you hope to impose any kind of political order on a Galaxy in chaos?"
"Your "order" causes nothing but suffering," she replied, all hint of mirth leaving her. Her eyes were cold, calculating. For a moment, they reminded him very much of Padme's on a bad day. "Allow me to make a counteroffer, Lord Vader: you join me, we destroy the Emperor, and you help me to build a new order from the ashes of the Empire."
"You can't be serious," he said, and even the vocabulator couldn't completely filter out the incredulity in his voice. "This is not a negotiation. You will join me, or be destroyed."
She smirked coldly. "I don't believe you."
"Then you are a fool."
"Maybe I am," she said, crossing her arms. "But I just don't. For whatever reason, you want me to acknowledge our familial bond. I don't imagine it's from any kind of affection – that really would be foolish. But you do need me for something."
This was why Vader didn't care for politicians. "It is the will of the Force that revealed you to me," he said. It was the first time in years that he'd bothered to measure his words with anyone but his Master. "I do indeed believe that this revelation has a greater purpose."
Leia was unmoved. "Which is to help you overthrow Palpatine and take his throne for yourself. At which point I'll take on the role that you currently have: suppressing all dissent, perceived or real, without a care for the lives I ruin in the process."
Vader resisted the urge to reach forward and grasp her shoulders. "You will understand, once you embrace the Dark Side."
She laughed again. "I admit, I don't know much about the Force, but I suppose this "Dark Side" is what gives you all your little tricks?" She quirked an eyebrow. "Do you really think the promise of telekinesis is enough to make me betray everything I've ever cared about?"
"The Force is more powerful than you can comprehend!" He thundered, angered at her blasphemy. She knew nothing, and yet she presumed to mock the Dark Side! Anyone else would already be dead for such presumptuousness.
But...he did need her. He could sense that plainly in the Force.
Her amusement fell away, leaving nothing but durasteel on her face. "I don't care," she said. And he could sense that she meant it.
He was promising her power beyond her wildest dreams...and she didn't care. It was baffling.
"I won't lie," she continued, "I'm not exactly eager to die. But if the only other option is joining the Empire, it's a sacrifice that I'm willing to make. So if you really think the "will of the Force" is that important, then you'll at least consider my offer." Finally, she laid down her ultimatum. "There are three choices, Vader: keep me as a prisoner, and I'll resist until my dying breath; kill me, and lose any chance of changing my mind; or join me, and I'll tolerate your presence for as long as you're an asset. It's only with the last option that you'll get the chance to make your case. You plan to betray the Emperor anyway, after all. May as well do it now, if you really do need my help to defeat him."
He couldn't deny that her assessment was compelling. Coercion, murder, or capitulation: his only three options. "I can be very persuasive, your highness," he said.
"If my suffering and eventual death are what you desire, Lord Vader, then I'm in no position to stop you," she replied coolly.
He gazed at her for a few moments, taking in the plains of her face and the fire in her eyes, and decided that he would grant her a swift death – if it came to that. In reality, he only had two options.
Her cries of agony were not something he ever wished to see again.
"I will give you time to consider," he said, at length.
She snorted, taking a seat on the cell's platform. "Whatever you say, Lord Vader."
Her disdain clung to him as he left the cell.