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For as long as she could remember, Leia had had the dream. It was the same every time: a woman, unknown but strangely familiar, with dark hair and sad eyes. She was beautiful. She would smile at Leia, kind but distant somehow, sad. That was the overwhelming feeling. Sadness.

When she woke from the dream, that was what Leia remembered. The woman’s beautiful eyes, and the sadness in them.

She thought the woman might have been trying to tell her something, but she couldn’t guess what it was. There were never any words in the dream.

She never told her parents about it. She wasn’t sure why, except that the dream felt like something that should be a secret. This woman was hers, in a way Leia couldn’t explain.

Over the years, the dream became almost a comfort for her. As the Empire announced ever more oppressive policies, and more and more of her father’s Rebel agents disappeared, and Leia herself became more involved in the Rebellion, the woman’s sadness became her strength. Leia couldn’t afford to be afraid, or sorrowful, or even simply young. But the nameless woman could weep for her. The woman could smile at her with her sad eyes and Leia would know that she was not alone, that there was someone to mourn all the wrongs of the galaxy.

And then Leia met Ekkreth, and everything changed. Even the dream.

*

The old hangar in the Works had become one of their more common meeting places. Ekkreth seemed to find it amusing, for reasons Leia didn’t understand, but the place suited her too. It was almost like what she’d imagined, when she thought of being a spy: stealth meetings in secret, mysterious locations hidden under deep darkness.

With one exception. Most of their meetings took place in broad daylight.

Vader’s schedule, Leia had quickly learned, was far more variable than hers. He came and went at the Emperor’s whim and often on a moment’s notice, and Leia remained uncertain of what exactly he actually did. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know.

It was late afternoon now, the golden light slanting down and looking strangely out of place in the dingy old hangar. Leia was trying not to pace. Ekkreth was over an hour late.

It was almost impossible to imagine something happening to Darth Vader. He was huge and terrifying and Leia thought he had the most solid presence of anyone she’d ever met. She told herself this very firmly. It was impossible that he could have been compromised. Most likely he’d simply been called away by the Emperor. It wasn’t unusual. She didn’t have to worry.

Leia ground her teeth and clenched her hands at her sides and waited.

The sun was falling in a blaze of fire when Ekkreth arrived at last. It lit his back and danced over the smooth panes of his helmet like licking flames. For just an instant, Leia saw him burning.

She drew a sharp breath. In the stillness of the hangar, it sounded louder than his.

“What happened?” she hissed.

Ekkreth stopped and looked at her. The illusion of fire had passed, and now he stood tall and dark and untouchable. She had no reason to think he was in pain.

But something in Leia was screaming.

“Ekkreth?” she said, and he stepped forward again and nearly fell.

Leia moved without thinking to catch him. He staggered against her and she stumbled herself under his weight. He was heavy – even heavier than he looked.

There was a stack of old crates nearby, and she aimed them towards it. They rested there, Leia’s heart pounding in her throat and Ekkreth’s breathing coming quick and too shallow, even with the respirator. This close, she could see small beads of moisture dotting his helmet. They looked almost like drops of sweat on skin, but the faint smell of melted plastic told her this was something much less innocuous.

“What happened?” Leia asked again. She stared at that blank death mask and imagined if she only looked hard enough, she could see the man behind it, read the pain in his eyes. They’d be blue, she thought, his eyes. She didn’t know why she thought it.

Beside her, Ekkreth breathed out a sharp wheeze and fell back against the crates.

“You are Force sensitive,” he said.

For a moment, she didn’t register what he’d said, too caught by the droplets of dark plastic and the way Ekkreth’s entire body seemed to be trembling faintly but uncontrollably.

And then his words sank in, and Leia gaped at him.

“What? No I’m not. That’s not – I can’t be,” she spluttered. “They test everyone. I’d have been – ”

She didn’t finish the thought. There were endless rumors about what happened to Force sensitive children who were taken into Imperial protection. Maybe Ekkreth even knew the truth. But every child was tested at birth, just as they had been under the old Republic. It was impossible that Leia could have escaped that testing. She couldn’t be what he’d called her.

Ekkreth didn’t say anything. He simply gestured once, sharply, with his right hand, and one of the crates beside her rose in the air and flung itself at Leia’s face.

It happened so fast that she didn’t even register the motion, or what the object was. Her hands came up in thoughtless instinct to shield herself from an impact that didn’t come.

There was a sudden thunk, loud in the stillness of the hangar. Leia blinked. The crate sat several feet away from her, solid and unmoving.

“What?”

“You see?” said Ekkreth. His breath still came in a disturbing wheeze, but he sounded oddly pleased. “You are Force sensitive.”

Leia let her arms fall slowly back to her sides and turned to stare at him. “You mean – I did that?”

“You did that.”

“But that’s impossible,” Leia said flatly. She couldn’t just – just move things with her mind! That was a Jedi trait, and the Jedi were all dead.

She looked again at Ekkreth’s expressionless mask, the darkest of the old whispers twisting in her mind. He was a Jedi, they said. She’d always discounted that as one of the more fantastic rumors about Darth Vader, but now…

“Hardly impossible,” Ekkreth said lightly. “You’ve experienced that for yourself.”

“You threw a crate at my head.”

“Yes,” said Ekkreth. He didn’t apologize.

Leia laughed, half incredulous and half strangely relieved. She felt oddly distant, outside herself almost. It wasn’t that the world around her felt less real. If anything it felt too real. There was too much, she was too much, and the worst part was that this wasn’t a surprise.

She knew. She felt, quite suddenly, that she’d always known.

“You are Force sensitive,” Ekkreth said again, but this time there was a dark finality to his words that made Leia shudder with foreboding. “And that cannot become known to the Emperor.”

A sudden chill settled in her bones, and she hugged her arms around herself. “What must I do?” she whispered.

Ekkreth was silent for a long moment. The sound of his respirator filled the hangar, his breath slowly evening out and deepening. He still leaned heavily against the stack of crates. The sun had dipped fully below the horizon now and dark was falling fast, but for a brief heartbeat Leia saw him once more ablaze with fire.

“I will teach you,” Ekkreth said at last.

Leia’s breath caught in her throat. That was as good as a confirmation: if he was offering, he must have something to teach.

And what about her? Who would she be, if she agreed to his instruction? The Force wasn’t something her parents had ever talked with her about. It was, if she was honest, something she hadn’t even been sure she believed in. Oh, “may the Force be with us” was a common enough benediction in the Rebellion, of course. But she realized now she’d always considered it mostly a political statement. It was an old Jedi saying, and the Jedi, they all knew, had been hated enough by the Emperor that he’d ordered them all killed on sight. So it was a mark of rebellion to use their words, to even think them.

She’d never before considered that there might be more to it than that.

“You want to teach me to be a Jedi?” she whispered.

Ekkreth stiffened beside her, and then winced – a swift, miniscule motion that he immediately tried to hide. But she didn’t miss it.

“I will teach you the ways of the Force,” he said.

It should have meant the same thing, Leia thought. Weren’t the ways of the Force the same as Jedi ways? Hadn’t the Emperor destroyed the Jedi for that very reason? Because use of the Force was a perversion? That was the official propaganda line, anyway.

But…there was Ekkreth. Vader. Darth Vader, who carried a lightsaber, who was rumored to possess all manner of unnatural abilities, who was the agent of the Emperor’s will, who held no official position in the Empire at all. Vader, who was offering to train her in the ways of the Force.

Leia fought the sudden urge to grin. She’d wanted to be part of something big, something that would matter. Something more than simply passing along information and keeping a low profile. And Ekkreth was offering her that.

“Yes,” she said breathlessly. “I want to learn.”

Ekkreth gave her a sharp nod and pushed himself away from the crates. “We should begin with – ” But he got no further. His left leg gave out beneath him and he staggered, utterly silent except for the increased rasp of his breath.

He caught himself on one knee and crouched there, dragging in long, shuddering breaths while Leia stared down at him dumbly. She thought, distantly, that she’d seen him kneel like this more than once before. It was nearly the same pose he took before the Emperor.

Ekkreth groaned, a soft, involuntary sound that jolted Leia out of her shock, and she dropped down to kneel beside him on the hangar floor.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, her hands fluttering uselessly near his sides, not quite daring to touch. “How can I help?”

But Ekkreth only shook his head. “It – ” He breathed. “It will pass.”

Leia frowned. “But what happened?”

“It is not important.”

“Not important?” she snapped. “You can’t even stand!”

That inscrutable mask turned to look at her, and Leia couldn’t shake the feeling that he was actually laughing at her concern. The thought ignited a surge of protective anger that surprised even her.

“Tell me what happened, or you’re not teaching me anything!”

This time Ekkreth actually chuckled aloud, though it sounded more like an extended wheeze. Leia’s frown only deepened.

“Is that an order, Your Highness?” he asked.

Leia almost said yes. She was annoyed, and worried, and after all he was their agent, wasn’t he? He should have been answerable.

But something stopped her. Maybe it was the way he still knelt, crouched in a subconsciously subservient pose as he waited, his breath slowly, slowly returning to normal. Maybe it was the sound of his laughter, which spoke more of despair than amusement.

Or maybe it was something else entirely.

She let her anger slip away in a slow sigh. “No,” said Leia. “Of course not. I’m just worried. I want to help you.”

For a time she thought he still wouldn’t answer. The only sound was his gradually deepening breaths. Tentatively, Leia reached out and touched Ekkreth’s armored shoulder, easing him back into a sitting position against the crates. He was all cold metal and plastic to the touch, nothing human about him. But his labored breaths and the melted drops of black still dotting his mask said otherwise.

Her father had told her, once, that her protective instinct was a great gift, but one she had to be careful with; it could too easily be taken advantage of.

Leia wasn’t sure when she’d come to actually care about Darth Vader. About Ekkreth.

“There have been…several important…information leaks, of late,” Ekkreth said haltingly. His voice was unusually quiet; she had to strain to hear him. “Depur is…not especially forgiving.”

“The Emperor?” Leia blurted, so shocked that she forgot to speak in code. “He did this to you?”

But Ekkreth apparently misunderstood the cause of her distress. “I am…not compromised,” he said. “Only…held responsible for…failing to prevent the leaks.”

Leia frowned again. Did he really think that was her first concern? And should it have been? What would her father have done?

She wasn’t sure. The security of the chain of information was of utmost importance, as Ekkreth himself obviously understood. But the safety of their agents was important, too. And the way Ekkreth talked about himself, as though his utility to the cause was all that mattered…

Leia rocked back on her heels and looked at him. His shoulders were hunched, his body drawn taut and looming even at rest, and he looked completely exhausted.

“What did he do?” she whispered.

Ekkreth said nothing.

There were methods for withstanding torture, protocols that every Rebel agent learned before being sent into the field. Leia had learned them all herself. But she’d never yet had to use them. For the first time, she wondered if Ekkreth had.

He wasn’t going to answer this time. And maybe it was even right, and she was better off not knowing. But something in Leia still burned.

“He has no right to treat you like this!” she snapped, too angry to care if he thought her naïve. “You’re not a piece of property!”

Ekkreth looked up sharply, his spine stiffening against the crates and his hands clenching at his sides. “No,” he said slowly, a wryness to his voice that Leia didn’t understand. “I’m a person, and my name is – Ekkreth.”

There was something about the way he said it, some hidden significance, that left Leia completely unsure of how to reply.

“Of course you’re a person,” she said at last, haltingly. “That’s why I’m worried.”

She imagined him blinking behind his mask; he certainly seemed startled by her words. But his answer was brusque and all business and not really an answer at all.

“We should begin with mental shielding,” Ekkreth said. “You have some degree of protection already – standard techniques for all Rebel agents I suppose – but that will not be enough to save you from the Emperor.”

Leia shuddered.

“But what could he do?” she whispered.

“He could read you,” said Ekkreth. “Your thoughts, your emotions, your memories, your dreams. He is very strong. Do not underestimate him.”

Leia stared at him. “You mean – you mean the Emperor is Force sensitive?”

“Yes,” said Ekkreth. “He is the Master.”

“But – ”

But the Emperor said that use of the Force was an abomination. The Emperor had called for the extermination of the Jedi threat for that very reason. The Emperor believed that beings should determine their own destinies, and not be held captive to some mystical energy field. The Emperor –

– was a liar. Leia had always known this. She didn’t know why she was so surprised now.

It even made sense. If the Emperor was Force sensitive, of course he would want to be the only one. He craved power, but power was sweetest, for people like him, when it wasn’t shared.

But there was Vader. Vader, who all the rumors said was a Jedi, while there were no rumors about Palpatine at all.

Leia thought she was beginning to understand Vader’s lack of an official position within the Empire. She was beginning to understand a lot of things.

Ekkreth’s breathing had returned to normal, and he looked more at ease where he rested against the crates, but he hadn’t tried to stand again. Leia looked at him, took a deep breath, and squared her shoulders.

“How do I keep him out?” she asked.

*

They began with what Ekkreth called a simple shield, though Leia thought the name was overly optimistic. It was anything but simple.

There were mental techniques, tricks for calming the mind and honing the concentration, that all Rebel agents were taught. They started there, but what Ekkreth showed her went far beyond anything Leia had attempted before.

She learned the strange, almost indescribable feeling of another mind communicating directly with hers. At first it was Ekkreth testing her, attacking her shields with a brutal, crushing strength and terrible efficiency, and Leia was left shaken and panting as though she’d been in a physical fight. But when she’d practiced for nearly two hours already and hadn’t once managed to keep him out or even slow him down, when she was beginning to doubt she ever would, he opened his own mind to her, so that she could see.

Ekkreth’s mind was a solid wall. It towered up before her, a seamless and impenetrable construction of durasteel, and she could find no way inside. Not until he invited her in.

Then she was on the other side of the wall in his mind, and she could see how it was constructed.

The foundation was not, as Leia had expected, a focused calm or any strength of mind or certainty of purpose. It wasn’t an act of will at all. It was an absolute knowledge of self.

Ekkreth knew who he was. (And Leia heard again his wry statement, I’m a person, and my name is Ekkreth, and thought that she understood it a little better now.) The other things – strength and purpose and intention – were built into the wall, as well, but they all rested on that one bedrock.

And that was something Leia could do, too. It was something her parents had instilled in her from a very early age: that faith in herself and confidence in her own abilities.

She built her wall again. She didn’t manage to keep him out (that, Ekkreth said, would take practice), but she did slow him down. It was a beginning.

*

That night, Leia had the dream again.

But it was different this time. The woman still didn’t speak, and Leia still had the sense that she was trying to tell her something. But the overwhelming feeling of sadness seemed to have eased. There was a new light in the woman’s eyes, almost like hope.

*

Leia didn’t see Ekkreth for several days, but she continued practicing her shielding. She had no way of knowing how effective it was, of course, without him beating at the walls of her mind, but she thought she could sense her shield strengthening.

And it was surprisingly useful, in ways she hadn’t anticipated. She practiced in Senate sessions and committee meetings, when her fellow senators droned on and on about topics that seemed increasingly unimportant.

Today, they were discussing the menu in the Senate cafeteria.

Her father had warned her the life of an Imperial Senator was largely one of tedium, and Leia had thought she was prepared for that. Now, just shy of a year into her position, she could say that she’d drastically overestimated her ability to put up with nonsense.

Especially when that nonsense actively prevented her from doing any real good.

Senator Aak of Malastare was arguing strenuously for the inclusion of dam sapa on the cafeteria’s menu, and Leia was finding that maintaining her shield actually helped her to keep a straight face. I don’t know how you put up with this, Ekkreth, she thought. But maybe it was different for him. He, after all, had to deal with the Emperor.

Leia felt a momentary but very strong flash of surprise. And then she sat stunned, glad of the shield that kept her emotions from her face, because that first feeling hadn’t been hers.

Leia?

It felt like a thought, but it wasn’t her thought. It was unmistakably other, with a mental voice that sounded nothing like her.

It didn’t sound much like Ekkreth, either. The voice was warmer, more inflected, less regulated. But she never doubted that it was Ekkreth’s voice.

Ekkreth? she thought. How?

But she could already guess how. This must be another aspect of her connection to the Force. Leia locked her excitement behind the shield, along with everything else, but it was a difficult thing.

Ekkreth’s surprise was already fading, replaced by something that felt almost like…amusement? She wasn’t quite sure. It was so strange, feeling the echoes of another person’s emotions. Was this what it was like for Ekkreth all the time?

You have an unexpected gift, his voice said in her mind. This will make things substantially easier.

He was right about that. If they could talk like this… Leia fought the urge to grin. Senator Aak was, after all, still declaiming about the culinary specialties of his homeworld, and that wasn’t something most humans would grin about.

It will also make your shielding much more imperative. This time, Ekkreth’s mental voice was distinctly void of amusement. Depur must not know.

A chill passed over her, but Leia held herself perfectly still. He won’t, she thought fiercely, and felt Ekkreth’s answering approval.

Meet me at 14:00, Ekkreth said, and then Leia was alone with her thoughts.

*

He didn’t have long; the Emperor was expecting him later that evening. Leia didn’t ask why. She already knew he wouldn’t tell her, not unless it was information he needed to share with the Alliance.

This time, there was no hint of weakness in him or shallowness of breath. The respirator was perfectly regulated. Leia couldn’t help her sudden fear that, in a few hours, it wouldn’t be.

The first thing Ekkreth did was hand her a datastick. “Give this to your father,” he said, an ironic echo of the messages he’d once left just for her.

Leia took the datastick and pocketed it slowly. “Kashyyyk?” she asked, without elaborating.

Ekkreth merely nodded. And then he seemed to hesitate, his masked face tilted at an exaggerated angle as he studied her.

“What is it?” Leia asked, more sharply than she’d meant to, when the silence became too much.

Ekkreth only nodded again, but Leia could almost feel him laughing. She scowled.

“There is another shielding technique,” Ekkreth said at last, the faint hints of warmth in his voice confirming her suspicion. “More complex, but often more effective. When you have mastered it, your enemy will not be able to discern that you are shielding at all. You will appear entirely open, even as you hold your secrets.”

That sounded almost too perfect, and Leia said so. “What’s the catch?”

“Only what you carry with you,” Ekkreth said ominously.

And he showed her how to use her emotions as a shield. How to hide a deadly calm beneath a riot of churning thoughts. How to learn the storm of her own feelings, not so that she could control them, but so that she could use them.

“Is this what you do?” asked Leia. “To keep Depur out?”

Again that blank mask tilted in slow consideration. At last Ekkreth said, “I will show you.”

He opened his mind to her, just as he had before, when he’d showed her the simple shield (a name she now understood much better). And just as before his mind was a wall, strong and impenetrable, but behind the wall was a desert maelstrom.

Ekkreth’s mind was a howling sandstorm of rage, a tumult of hatred and despair. There was a pervasive sense of loss, briefly soothed by momentary, sudden pockets of stillness, places where she felt fleeting triumph or passing joy, like the still eye of a hurricane. But they were small and quickly consumed by the vastness of the storm.

The wind ripped at her, superheated grains of sand slashing across her face. The air was thick with obscuring dust. Leia felt herself staggering back, half-blind and feeling her skin flayed from her bones. There was only the terrible roar of the storm, and beneath that, the silence. She was drowning in the silence.

She might have remained there, buffeted by the stinging winds, for a moment or a lifetime, but slowly she became aware of a presence beside her. The presence had no real image, but Leia didn’t find that strange – she herself didn’t seem to have a body here, either. Or else her body was the storm. She wasn’t sure.

This way, said Ekkreth’s voice, and Leia followed him down, through the gusting sand and the storm, until she felt her feet planted against firm rock.

Open your eyes, he said. Until that moment Leia hadn’t realized they were closed.

She opened her eyes and saw the desert blooming.

Hello, Leia, Ekkreth said. His voice surrounded her. He was all around her: sand and stone and the storm that still howled in the sky above her and the immovable rock beneath her feet.

Hello, Ekkreth, she said with a smile. It’s nice to meet you.

*

That night, the dream changed again. The woman’s smile was soft and sad, but there was hope in it, too, and something almost like pride. She reached out a hand as though to touch Leia, but her fingers were insubstantial as a gentle rain in a spring storm.

Leia leaned into her touch all the same, and warmth blossomed over her skin.

She woke to the soft sound of falling rain.

*

“Dreams?” Ekkreth said sharply. “What kind of dreams?”

He sounded almost angry, and Leia blinked in surprise, suddenly uncertain of her decision. She’d never told anyone about her dreams. Not even her parents.

But now she’d told Ekkreth. And there was no taking it back.

“I – ” Leia swallowed. “I see this woman. I don’t know her, but she feels familiar somehow. She’s beautiful, and kind, but…sad, too. She smiles at me. I think she’s trying to tell me something, but I can’t hear any words.”

She hesitated, stealing a glance at Ekkreth. He stood rigid as one of Palpatine’s red-robed guards, his breathing slightly but noticeably shallowed.

“I think – ” She twisted the hems of her sleeves. “I know, somehow, that she’s my mother. My birth mother, I mean.”

Ekkreth still said nothing. But Leia found that, now she’d begun, she couldn’t seem to stop. She had too many questions, too many uncertainties, and now for the first time there was someone she could ask, someone who might actually be able to answer.

“I don’t know anything about her,” she admitted softly. “Not even her name. My parents know, I think, but they won’t tell me, and – and I know what that means. They don’t keep secrets from me, not unless it’s something dangerous, something that would put me or the cause at risk.” Leia hesitated, breathing deep, and looked up at Ekkreth with blazing eyes. “So I think – I know it sounds ridiculous, but I think maybe she was a Jedi.”

It was a thought that had been growing in her over the last several weeks of training with Ekkreth. A thought she hadn’t allowed herself to admit, even in the silence of her own mind. But now it was said, and the words hung heavy and thick as smoke in the air.

Leia could feel Ekkreth watching her, but she couldn’t guess what he was looking for. Finally he nodded, an abrupt, cutting motion of his helmet.

“It would explain your extraordinary sensitivity to the Force,” he said. “As well as the fact that your parents evidently knew to keep you from being tested.”

Leia breathed out slowly. She realized she’d been expecting him to list all the reasons her idea was impossible. She’d never considered that he might agree.

Maybe it was her surprise that made her ask the question, but maybe she would have asked it anyway. The question had been burning in her for almost a year now.

“You’re a Jedi, too,” Leia whispered. “Aren’t you?”

Ekkreth stiffened almost imperceptibly. “No,” he said shortly.

“But – ”

“The Jedi are dead,” he snapped. It was the most inflection Leia had ever heard in his voice.

“But you’re teaching me – ”

“I am teaching you the ways of the Force,” Ekkreth said. She could feel his gaze boring into her. “Understand this. The Jedi of old were ruled by their Council and obedient to the Chancellor. I have destroyed the one and I will destroy the other.”

Leia laughed bitterly. “You’re a bit late,” she said. “The Republic is as dead as the Jedi.”

“No,” said Ekkreth. “It has only changed its name.”

Leia stared at him. “How can you say that? The Empire is a totalitarian dictatorship! The Emperor controls the Senate and the Courts and – and everything else! It’s a repressive government of sycophants and slavers and – ”

“As was the Republic,” Ekkreth half-snarled. “I told you once before, Your Highness, when you asked what sort of government condones slavery. You might be surprised.”

Leia stiffened. It wasn’t unusual for him to call her “Your Highness.” It was technically her title, of course, but the way he said it now felt like an insult.

“That’s not true,” she insisted. “Slavery was illegal in the Republic.”

“A law must be enforced to have any meaning,” said Ekkreth. “The Empire is only more honest about its practices.”

Leia couldn’t believe that was true. She couldn’t. Her parents had told her many stories of the old Republic, of the democracy that Palpatine had usurped and destroyed. It had been a free government. Nothing like the Empire. Under the Empire entire populations, sometimes even whole planets, were subjected to slavery. She couldn’t imagine anything like that happening in the days of the Republic.

But she’d also never seen Ekkreth react so strongly to anything before. Even after witnessing the emotional storm of his mind, his almost violent anger was still surprising.

Ekkreth was watching her still, his mask blank as always, but Leia could feel a seething rage, so strong it seemed to thicken the air between them.

“Did you think that I intended to restore the Republic?” he asked, his voice low and dark. “No. I intend to destroy it.”

Leia bit her tongue. He was wrong about the Republic. She knew he was. But clearly what he meant was that he intended to destroy the Empire, and in that they were certainly agreed.

She had never known a free galaxy. Her parents’ stories of democracy and the free exchange of ideas were all she had. But she knew the atrocities of Palpatine’s government all too well. And now she knew that the Empire had murdered her mother.

She didn’t want to think too much about what that must mean. She knew the rumors. Darth Vader had been a Jedi killer. And her mother had been a Jedi.

She wondered what Palpatine had done, to convince someone like Ekkreth to join him. She wondered even more what had changed Ekkreth’s mind. But she didn’t ask.

Instead, Leia said, “I want the Empire to pay. For my mother. For everything. I want him to pay.”

She didn’t have to clarify who she meant. She could feel Ekkreth’s fierce approval in the Force.

It wasn’t something she ever could have told her parents. They were the two wisest, kindest people she knew, wholly committed to democracy and to peaceful, nonviolent change. Leia admired them tremendously.

But she could no longer pretend she agreed with them.

“And so he will,” said Ekkreth, so absolutely certain that Leia could almost see it: herself, leading a squad of Rebel troops to take the Imperial Palace (the Jedi Temple, she thought, her mother’s home). And Ekkreth with his hands around Palpatine’s throat.

“Yes.” She smiled. “He will.”

*

She dreamed again that night.

This time, when the woman came to her, Leia called her “Mother.”

“I have a teacher, Mother,” she said in hushed confession. “He’s not a Jedi, though I think he used to be. Maybe you even knew him.” She smiled at the thought. “Even if you didn’t, I think you’d like him.”

The woman’s eyes twinkled with some secret amusement, but her lips were silent as always. Leia didn’t mind. She could feel her mother’s love like a warm breeze all around her.

Her dream-self reached out and took her mother’s hand. This time, the touch was light but almost solid. “I hope you’re proud, Mother,” Leia whispered.

Her mother’s answering smile was radiant as a nova star.