Summary: Threepio relays a request by a mysterious informant to meet the newly elected Senator Leia Organa.
“Not much farther now, Princess!” The gold protocol droid fussed as he tottered down the plush Senate hallway.
Behind him, the Royal Princess of Alderaan, Senator of the Galactic Empire, followed at a stately pace. Her flowing white gown was a simple piece that lacked the complex flourishes common to most Senators. As the youngest serving Senator in centuries, she used her fame to subtly protest the extravagances of her older peers through her choice in attire. It had earned her few friends these past months.
Being a Senator was not at all what she’d imagined. When she wasn’t sitting through frustratingly dreary senate sessions, she was arranging meetings and dinners with various colleagues from committees; all in the name of getting a feel for their opinions on the current state of the Empire and its policies. It was too soon for any of the more well-known Senators like Mon Mothma to officially take her under their wing but overtures were starting to be made as she proved herself. It was all so frustratingly slow.
It certainly didn’t help that the media kept referring to her as a ‘princess playing dress-up’. Why they focused on such frivolous things like what she wore and who she was last seen with – ‘Is this the Future Prince of Alderaan?’ – was beyond her understanding. There were serious problems in the Empire and injustices rampant in the outer-rim that were far more important.
Ahead of her, the droid paused at a blank wall between two large paintings of former famous senators. With an almost silent click, the wooden panel opened to reveal a hidden turbo-lift. Her eyebrows rose in surprise at the luck of having the lift there when they arrived, while internally she scoffed at the purposeful camouflage. While she’d never seen a turbo-lift intentionally hidden before, it fit with the eccentricities and paranoia of the longer serving senators. Usually the hidden panels only contained alcohol or important documents.
Her new protocol droid, C-3P0, entered the lift.
He had been a gift from her father when she was elected Senator for Alderaan and she was still getting used to his quirks. He was surprisingly knowledgeable about the Senate even if he professed to have never served a Senator before.
Leia Organa moved to follow him but stopped at the threshold. The lift was a striking contrast to the extravagant hallway he had been leading her down. Drab grey walls, a floor scuffed by the tread of many droids, and barely enough room for the two of them.
“Is everything alright, Princess?” C-3P0 asked.
Leia glanced around and it struck her just how empty the hallway had become. She did not remember encountering anyone for the last few passageways Threepio had turned down. There was always someone: a droid, an aid or a junior legislator rushing from office to office. A slight feeling of apprehension awakened in her as she returned her attention to the lift and the waiting Threepio.
“I assure you, Princess, while this lift may lack the usual ornamentation, it is fully functional.” He backed himself against the side to give her as much room as he could.
She hesitated for a moment more before shaking off the absurd feeling. This was C-3P0, he had been a loyal servant of the Antilles and Organa families for as long as she could remember. It was ridiculous to think that he would be leading her astray. He’d been unable to tell her any details on who she was meeting but she’d gotten the impression that it was someone with information vital to the Alliance. The thrill she’d felt at finally being in a position to help others, to be a part of her Father’s organization had led her to jump at the opportunity.
Leia joined him in the cramped lift, the door practically closing on her heel as she entered. She shot Threepio a quick look in consternation but he was busy fussing with the controls. She decided not to reprimand him. As a service lift, it was designed for the quick, efficient movement of beings. Not to prevent her from changing her mind and leaving.
The lift began its decent with a lurch and began picking up speed. Leia crossed her arms to ward off a sudden chill, the temperature controls in the lift obviously not set for human comfort.
Threepio began to apologize for the temperature which quickly transitioned into chatter about the many uses of the lift. Leia let the words wash over her as she tried to steady her nerves. The closer she came to meeting the mysterious informer the stronger the feeling of unease became. She did her best to bury it, convinced that it was simply due this being her first time being alone in a situation like this. If the meeting went sideways a small holdout blaster, well hidden in the flow of her dress on her upper arm, would quickly disprove any assumption of her being a helpless princess.
On her next exhale she realized she could see her breath, a slight cloud forming in front of her face. She looked to the control panel and saw they were still descending at an alarming rate, deeper than she had ever been before.
“Oh my!” Threepio exclaimed, “I’m terribly sorry, Princess. I did not realize it would be this cold. Oh, I should have known I’d be no good at this.”
“It’s alright Threepio,” she hastily assured him. If there was one thing she’d learned fast about him, it was his tendency to go on bleak rants about his own perceived failures and inadequacies. For her own sanity, she’d taken to reassuring him whenever she could.
“Oh, you are too kind Mistress.”
Leia stumbled and braced herself against the wall as the lift abruptly decelerated. Threepio appeared to barely feel it. She assumed that this proved that the lift was meant for droids, not Senators. Not that any Senator she’d met would even consider getting into something like this, believing it beneath them.
The lift doors opened to a maintenance room empty of its inhabitants. The chill in the air continued, with each exhale resulting in a small visible puff. Dread assaulted her yet again and she hesitated on the threshold. The room had the appearance of being hastily exited, droid parts and repair equipment scattered at various desks. The lighting was fragmented, and shone directly on each workstation, causing the edges of the room to fall in deep shadow. Not all of the stations were lit which made for a very half hazard lighting of the room.
“How macabre,” Threepio commented.
She’d never thought about it, but supposed seeing so many body parts of different droids would be disturbing to a droid like Threepio. “Shall we, Princess?” he crowded behind her.
She pushed herself forward, his usually comforting and familiar frame suddenly not so. She had a brief flash of Threepio dragging her into the room whether she wanted to or not. Her steps picked up slightly as she dismissed the idea from her mind.
As soon as Threepio exited the lift the doors closed with a very final hiss and click.
Her heart beat double time as she scanned the room. She crossed her arms once again to both ward off the chill and to finger the hidden blaster up her sleeve. She was starting to have a very bad feeling about this.
As she scanned the room, Threepio came up beside her. “Hm, they appear to be late. I’m terribly sorry Princess. The nerve! Making a Senator of the Empire …” Threepio’s voice nattered on.
The spotty lighting allowed for many hiding spots for the informer, and she admired their caution. They had a clear view of her and could study her, while she could see nothing at all. And she was certain that the person she was supposed to meet was here, whatever Threepio said. She could practically feel the eyes on her, assessing. Her grip on the blaster tightened.
She narrowed her eyes and frowned, trying to determine the source of the feeling. It was something her combat instructor had always praised her on, her ability to know when someone was watching her and readying an ambush. This wasn’t quite the same, she didn’t get the feeling of an impending attack, but it was definitely evaluating her.
Just as her eyes started to hover at a point midway into the room at a darkened station, a voice rumbled, “Greetings, Senator Organa of Alderaan.”
She startled slightly at the voice, dark and rich, that reverberated through the empty room. It sounded obviously male but they were using a vocoder to disguise their voice, making it difficult to tell their species or sex. Somehow, she had a feeling that it was no coincidence the being spoke just as she began to focus on the darkened space.
Threepio took a half step forward and answered, “Greetings, I am C-3P0, human-cyborg relations. Princess, may I introduce you to our contact.” He turned as if suddenly remembering something and apologized, “Oh dear, I’m afraid they never gave a name.”
Leia nodded in acknowledgment, satisfied that at least Threepio recognized the informant. “It is a pleasure, I hope we both find this meeting to be satisfactory,” she said while attempting to discern their shape in the deep shadow.
“Of that, I have no doubt.” They answered confidently.
It was difficult to discern any emotion in the voice and perhaps it was this, combined with her nervous dread that had failed to dissipate, in addition to the uncomfortable cold, that caused her to bluntly state, “Threepio informs me that you have highly sensitive information vital to our cause.”
There was a weighted pause before a reply. “Dispensing with the pleasantries, already?” She flushed faintly at the slight amusement she assumed was there, even if it wasn’t in their voice. She drew in a sharp breath to retort, if they make some comment about her age or ability -- They continued, “I approve.” -- And let it out in a rush of surprise.
She nodded tightly and gripped her elbow and the blaster trying to cover her embarrassment and suppress a shiver.
The being apparently noticed, despite her attempts to hide how uncomfortable she was, “My apologies for meeting you here. To minimize suspicion it was necessary.”
Leia nodded seriously and with a quick glance around the room, the pieces slotted into place, “And if anyone wonders why I came here, maintenance for Threepio is the perfect cover, that’s why you sent your message through him.” And how they’d given the message to Threepio in the first place, they must be a mechanic or work closely with the droids here.
She had the oddest feeling that her contact was suddenly incredibly pleased. “Correct, Your Highness.” And, although her feelings of dread hadn’t left, she could swear that the room almost felt slightly warmer for a moment.
What she didn’t voice was the fear that came with an additional realization; the lack of surveillance in the droid service areas would make it difficult to find her if she never returned to the Senate floor.
She tried to shake off the cloying fear and bring the conversation back to her original statement, “I understand the necessity. Now, do you have a data card or message I can deliver? I cannot be down here long.”
Her eyes were beginning to adjust to the room’s spotty lighting as she continued to stare at the location the voice was coming from. To her slight confusion, she could just about make out a few lights, glowing faintly, just below her eye level.
“I believe there has been a slight misunderstanding.” Her breath caught, unease rising. “I have nothing for your…” The dark shape paused and continued with an unmistakeable sneer, “…cause.” They paused again and rumbled darkly in a voice that reverberated through her, caressed her, “You are all that interests me.”
Leia narrowed her eyes and fingered the safety on her blaster, “Me?”
Was this a trap?
With more confidence than she felt, she continued, “what do you want?” Why would anyone be solely interested in her? Unless… they planned to use her to find other members of the Alliance. She took a quick step back, intent on escaping into the lifts, if possible.
“The lift is locked.” The being quickly interpreted her movements.
She glanced at Threepio, suddenly struck by his uncharacteristic silence this whole time, “Is there a problem, Princess?” he put a hand on her shoulder as if to steady her, “there’s no need to worry, our contact is trustworthy and means no harm, believe me.”
A feeling of helplessness reared up, panic threatening but she pushed it down. There would be no help from him, she could tell.
She took deep, measured breaths, fighting the surge in adrenaline. Her combat training helping her calm the sudden fight-or-flight response and keeping her mind on task.
She ripped her eyes back to the shadows the being was hiding in, “How dare you. Show yourself!” She commanded, hoping they’d reveal themselves and give her something to shoot at. Until then, there was no point in revealing her blaster and wasting her (likely only) shot.
“Oh dear.” Threepio worried, “please excuse her, it’s been a ver-“ he tried to diffuse the tension but was interrupted by the mysterious contact.
“All I want,” they replied to her earlier demand, “is to exchange information-”
“I’ll never-“ she cried, indignant that they believed she’d betray the Alliance so easily.
“-about you.” They finished with authority over her protest.
“W-What?” She stuttered, off balance. “What could you possibly know that I don’t?”
“Answer my questions,” they spoke in a softened, persuasive tone, “and you will see.” A part of her doubted that but another was hopeful that their continued lack of hostility, and insistence on only wanting information, would hold true. Regardless, their tactics left something to be desired. She had no intention of revealing information about herself to this stranger.
“You do not know what happened to your parents.” The dark shape stated, the slight movements of the lights coming more and more into focus.
She stared at him, completely thrown by their non-sequitur. Her shock quickly wore off, however, and she replied hotly, “How did you know I’m adopted?” Trying to cover how unnerved she was by the question.
“So,” they said in a pleased rumble, “it is true.”
She blinked, shocked that they had tricked her into revealing something so easily. You fool! She cursed herself. She should have assumed they were talking about her living Father, not her birth parents. She wasn’t even sure why she made that assumption in the first place.
“What of it?” She snapped in annoyance. “If you think you can blackmail me-“
“Do you remember your mother?” They interrupted her. “Your real mother.”
Leia sucked in a sharp breath and smoothed out her expression, attempting to reveal nothing to this being.
The darkness of the room began to press down on her, the room appearing to shrink. She pursed her lips and refused to answer, to unknowingly give anything away if she could help it. Her birth parent’s names were taboo, her queries always met with a, “Not yet, Leia,” or a, “It’s not safe, Leia.”
“Adopted at the formation of the Empire,” they coaxed, the darkness gaining heaviness, demanding she answer. And then, almost as if they’d known her thoughts, “A child with parents too dangerous to name,” the voice, a dark velvet, seemed to surround her. Hidden beneath it, a durasteel grip she couldn’t escape.
She could only stare at the dark form before her, vision tunneling. A shape was starting to become visible to her in the shadows; the outline of a larger shadow that swallowed the light.
Leia felt as if some great pressure was weighing down on her, making her thoughts sluggish, focus somehow difficult. She tried to keep her mind clear, as she had been taught, but a stray one drifted to the surface, carried by an unbidden force.
She may no longer remember her mother’s name, but she remembered her face: a kiss on the forehead, a loving and beautiful smile, kind but sad.
Suddenly, the pressure was gone, her ability to focus returned. Across the room multiple light fixtures exploded in a crash, throwing more of the room into darkness. The remaining ones swayed, as if caught in an unknown breeze. The droid parts began rattling off the work stations, falling to the floor with a screech of metal.
The air was permeated with anger and hatred so thick that she began to shake with it as well.
One of the lights swung towards her interrogator’s location.
“My word!” Threepio exclaimed.
Leia let out a cry of disbelief as the dark outline revealed a black cape, black body armour, and a control panel.
Kssshhhhh, the sound of his breather, somehow silenced until now, was thunderous even over the screech of tortured metal. How had she not recognized his voice!? It had obviously been modified to an extent, but still!
His identity revealed; Lord Vader stepped forward to the edge of the light. He bled seamlessly into the darkness behind him, the lights on his chest, the lights she’d found so incongruous, blinking innocently. As if they hadn’t been an early warning that she’d missed. Both of his hands were clenched into fists at his sides.
As suddenly as it had begun, the rattling throughout the room stopped, lights swaying gently in the aftermath.
Leia realized with horror that while she may not have explicitly stated her affiliation with the Alliance, he obviously had known and set her up. But how? Did he kill the mechanic and take their place in order to find out who the traitor in the Senate was? But from what she’d understood, the Emperor didn’t consider the Alliance a credible threat yet; convinced that some new military venture would keep the Empire safe.
With no other option for escape that she could see, in one quick motion, Leia ripped the blaster from its holster. She felt a brief flare of victory at Vader’s twitch in surprise as it was revealed from her sleeve. But before she could bring it up and take aim, her wrist was caught in a vise-like grip.
Leia turned, shocked and cried, “Threepio!?”
“I’m sorry, Princess, but I will not allow you to harm the maker.” She stared at him in blank shock, her grip on the blaster loosening.
“You knew.” She accused softly, “You purposefully led me to him.” The metal hand on her shoulder no longer a reassuring weight but an immobile grip - restraining her.
“Of course,” Threepio agreed, as if he hadn’t just revealed something completely devastating, “There really is no need to worry, Princess.”
“No need to-“ indignant, she cut off as the blaster was suddenly ripped from her grip. Her mouth hung open in shock as she watched it sail into Vader’s waiting hand.
She felt a wave of light-headedness assault her, a foreign feeling of triumph reared up as he intoned, “Your real name is Leia Skywalker. And you will be coming with me.”