Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: What could have been. A view on a possible future.

Author's note: This story was written in 1996/97 and I've been told that Han is out of chracter in this story. I see it more as a possible future where the pirate becomes a father and changes his attitude accordingly. I hope you enjoy it anyway. :)

The silence in the conference hall was almost eerie. Somewhere in the distance, muffled by the thick walls, a siren howled in a steady, unwavering tone. The lamps imbedded in the walls flickered, briefly died and came back on again. On the edge of the podium a lonely figure was sitting, looking out over the vast hall. It was none other than Leia Organa-Solo, Ex-Minister of State, former Princess of the Royal House of Alderaan. With her hands resting folded in her lap, she aimlessly ran her eyes over the rows and rows of empty seats. Dust covered every single one of them and the floor showed dark smears of some long-dried fluid. She could no longer remember how many months the conference hall of the governing body of the Alliance had been empty and unused. The Alliance of Free Planets had risen and fallen in a much shorter period than the Galactic Empire had existed. And why? Because they had not checked for possible family members of the late Emperor. It had never crossed Leia's mind that someone could be related to that evil old man. Much less the fact that he could have left children behind. A daughter. The present Empress Padua.

A heavy sigh shook her frail-looking frame as she brushed a braid sprinkled with gray back over her shoulder. What couldn't life have been like if this Empress had not turned up, she wondered? What could it have been like if Luke hadn't lost the battle so completely? They called him a failure these days. A burned-out spacer who had no place in the future of the galaxy. Oh yes, Padua had destroyed him. She had accomplished what the Emperor could not. Not by killing Luke, but by killing his reputation. She had been cunning enough to lead them all astray, to cheat them all into believing that she was one of them. And all because she was a woman and she knew the art of deception. Because she had the ability to seem innocent. At least she did seem that way those many months ago.

Leia remembered it as if it had been yesterday. That fateful day when Luke had brought home his bride. Leia had been thrilled. She had befriended this creature of darkness, feeling that she could trust her. After her arrival things had gone terribly wrong. At first nobody had been able to figure out how the Alliance Headquarters had been infiltrated. Then Han brought up the reason, casting his suspicion on the innocent-looking Padua. At first nobody believed him. He always had wild ideas and nobody took him seriously. Not until it was too late, of course.

Leia sighed again and again looked around this room, which had been a part of her period of glory. Now it was a painful reminder of what could have been, what should have been. The fight had long-since gone out of the former Princess. The reason was, if not justified, then at least understandable. Two of her most precious possessions had been turned against her. Her oldest son Jacen and her youngest Anakin. Her daughter and Jacen's twin sister, though, had remained faithful to the light side. But that was also easier for her because her lessons in the Force had been far from completed and she had not come nearly as far as her brothers. And not due to any fault of her own, either. Leia had insisted that she had to learn the etiquette of a public life before she embarked on developing her powerful instincts. So, the girl was virtually untrained aside from what she had been born with. And Leia thanked her lucky stars for that.

Padua, their tormentor, had turned out to be a much better Jedi than any Leia had ever heard off. Unlike Padua's late father, whom Padua hated with a passion, she had the ability to show compassion. But Leia felt that it was a hoax. As if there were no feelings behind Padua's carefully constructed mask. As if she had just been a good student and learned to show what she did not feel in an almost perfect way.

Thinking of Jaina made Leia bitter. The girl was still true to the light side. And she was also true to her uncle. She had vanished together with Luke and Leia did not know where they were. She never heard from them. Although she knew how utterly destroyed Luke's spirit had been, she still held it against him that he did not attempt to fight back. He had almost had a full year to recover from his total defeat. Enough time, she thought, to return the favor in kind. He should have been here now.

"Don't feel sorry for yourself, dear," a voice said from the shadows of the upper rows. Padua leaned forward from the seat she was sitting on and looked down at Leia with sparkling green eyes. "Don't feel sorry for yourself. There are enough people out there who do that for you," she added, waving a hand toward the walls of the conference hall.

Leia looked up at her with a small spark of her will to fight briefly flaring up in her mind. "I don't feel sorry for myself, Padua. I feel sorry for those poor souls you have in your control. You, like your father before you, are crooked and twisted by the dark side of the Force. There is no hope for you," she said. Although she felt the need to fight this creature, she could not build up enough anger to do so.

The fairly young Empress rose from her seat, her emerald green gown crackling around her as if it was loaded with energy. She was beautiful as she strode down the steps to the floor of the conference hall. Her mane of curled copper red hair was held in place by golden rings and her freckles gave her a fresh, childlike look. "My dear, avoiding to face the truth has always been one of your talents. How you can keep on thinking that everything will return to the way you liked it is beyond me. But, no matter. It makes no difference what you desire. As you know, all that once was yours — is now mine." She stopped at the foot of the stairs, eyeing Leia thoughtfully. "Everything," she added. "Your title, your life, your children and — your husband."

Leia rose, too, to stand with her head held high and her back straight. No matter how downcast she felt, she would remain proud till the end. "My title may be yours, but the rest is still mine. My life is in my own hands, my children will find the right way and my husband loves nobody but me." Her voice rang true, though she felt uncertain about all of it. Padua could end her life just by wanting it. Leia's sons had most likely followed in the footsteps of their grandfather and become dark Jedi. And Han? She wanted so desperately to deny what Padua kept saying to her. She wanted to believe that he loved only her. But she wasn't sure. Not entirely. "He will never love you."

Padua theatrically pressed her index finger against her chin, looking mockingly surprised. "Funny. That's not what he told me last night when we made love."

She knew it was coming, but every time Padua said it, it was like a blow to her face. She shivered briefly, feeling cold and tired and very much alone. "He will never love you," she repeated in a desperate attempt to convince herself.

Padua shrugged. "Maybe not, my dear, but he does give good sex," she then said, turned and headed back up the stairs. "This has — as always — been a stimulating conversation, dear. But I do have a lot of things to do. There are meetings and the ruling of the Galaxy. And — naturally — the execution of traitors. I wouldn't miss it for the galaxy. It's my favorite," she said as she ascended the steps and brushed out through the doors.

As the doors closed behind her, the lights finally died and the emergency lights came on, shedding their blood red light on the hall. Leia dropped back down on the edge of the podium, looking around once more. The traitors Padua had spoken about were Leia's former colleagues. If they refused to cooperate — which most of them did — Padua had them executed for treason. Even if she could get rid of Padua, there would not be much left of the former governing body of the Alliance. She knew that Padua was all talk in many ways, but there was some truth to her statements. Leia only hoped that this did not include Han.


In Padua's private quarters the silence was almost as eerie as in the conference hall several floors below. Although the rooms were spacious and airy, they still seemed slightly gloomy and too dark. Near one of the windows stood Han Solo, staring out at the city he had once felt was home. Now it was a prison. He wasn't allowed to leave the Palace at any time. As he stood there, his hands buried in his pockets, he had to admire his captor's patience with him. She wanted him to love her and he didn't. So she waited for him to change his mind. She never pushed him on that subject. But her general treatment of him was more the way an insane person would treat a pet.

He again wondered what had happened to everybody. His sons were close by, that much he knew, and so was Leia. Luke had vanished, deeply disgraced and beaten by Padua and as far as Han knew, Jaina had left with him. That was always something. At least his daughter was safe. Lando had gone off somewhere when Padua had revealed her true identity and for once Han didn't blame him. Threepio, how ever much he disliked him, was still in the Palace, sitting around with the plug pulled in a room somewhere, waiting to be dismantled or put to other use. At present, he even found himself missing the pesky chatterbox. At least Threepio would have been a reminder of better days. The worst came when he thought of Chewbacca, his friend and partner for life. The wookie had been taken away and — according to Padua and she ought to know — he had been sent off to some prison colony on the other side of the Galaxy. At first he had raged at the thought of not being able to help his friend, to save him from a fate which was worse than death for a wookie, but now he knew that there was nothing he could do. At least not for now.

His thoughts returned to Leia, who was somewhere in the Palace, watching and waiting. For some reason, which was beyond his comprehension, Padua let Leia stay in the Palace. As a matter of fact, it was as impossible for his wife to leave the Palace as it was for him. For almost a year now he had kept trying to get close to her, to tell her that he was still with her. But he doubted she would believe him. Not after such a long time. He thought about all the times he had tried, all the times he had almost succeeded. And with that came the memory of Padua's punishment. The first time she had almost killed him. He shuddered at the thought and briefly wondered if there was a term — a medical term — for the excessive fear of pain that he had experienced over the past year. He didn't dare to do anything to displease her — although he did keep his distance. He didn't let her near him and she seemed to accept that. For now.

He started pacing for a while, then decided to take a walk through the palace. Maybe he would even get the chance to meet Leia. Providing she was still here, of course. He headed down to the second floor where Padua had her meetings and stopped short when he heard her voice from around the corner of the corridor, which led away from the lifts. "I give her another half year and then I'll destroy her. She's starting to bug me."

"Yes, your Highness. But why don't you just ban her? She's no good to you dead. So why kill her? It might make her look like a martyr," one of her advisors said, his calm, deep voice meant to sooth his mistress.

For a moment Padua was silent. "Hmmm. You may have a point there. I think I will ban her. But not today. I'll do it tomorrow. For now, she can sit in that conference hall and wallow in self pity. Pathetic, really."

Han had heard enough. He turned around and quickly walked back the way he had come to take the lift down one floor. He avoided the guards stationed at the front doors of the conference hall and slipped down a rarely used corridor. Sweat sprang out on his brow as he reached the door. If Padua found out, he was in for a great deal of agony. But he had to see Leia. He had to know that she was all right. Cautiously he opened the door and slipped into the almost-darkness of the hall. He stopped for a second, letting his eyes get used to the darkness, then took a step further.


Leia was still sitting on the edge of the podium and she was in fact allowing herself to wallow in self pity as Padua had foreseen. The words of the Empress seemed to have the desired effect and she was starting to think that Padua was right. That there was no hope for a better life. She was frozen in her inability to do something, to find the spirit to even try. At first she didn't even hear the door open. Then she realized that she was no longer alone. Turning, she expected to see Padua again. Instead she saw Han standing there. Before she could utter a word, though, he had crossed the floor to where she sat and grabbed her by the shoulders, pulling her to her feet.

"Leia, listen to me," he said. "You need to leave here today. Now. The sooner the better. Padua is after your hide and the faster you get out of her way, the better. Go find Luke. Make him see that we need him. Now more than ever." Then he pulled her close, hugging her so hard it hurt. "I miss you," he added.

Leia clung to him, not wanting to let him go. But she knew he was right. She knew she had to go. "I miss you, too. Are you all right?" she then asked, leaning back a little.

"Yeah, I'm okay," he replied, sending a nervous glance toward the main doors. "For now, anyway. Listen, I don't have much time. I need to get back upstairs." He hesitated, then kissed her hard on the lips. "I love you. Don't forget that," he added and turned to leave the same way he had come in.

"Leaving so soon?" Padua's voice carried in the empty hall and he froze in place. She strode down the stairs followed closely by the guards at the door. Eyes flaming with anger, she pointed at Han. "You, go back to your quarters. I'll deal with you later," she snarled. Han gave Leia an almost anguished look, then hurried out of the hall. "And you. I want you off this planet. Right now," Padua added, turning her attention to Leia. "You will leave immediately and you will never come back. Do you understand? There's nothing here for you anymore. If you ever set foot in this quadrant again, I will have you executed as the traitor you are." The Empress paused, staring at Leia in a hateful manner. Then she raised her hands, her fingers bent. "Here's a taste of my power so you won't forget what I said."


On his way to the lifts, Han stopped dead in his tracks when he heard the scream. It made a cold shiver run up his spine. With a sigh of near dread, he turned and headed back in the direction he had come but stopped short again, listening. There had been no more than this one scream. He took a hesitant step down the side corridor, then stopped again when the door at the end opened. Padua came out, brushing her hands over her gown to smooth it. Then she looked up and saw him.

"What are you still doing here? Get back upstairs," she said, her tone of voice lacking the passion she had previously displayed. "Move it," she added irritably, when he didn't.

Han was irresolute, not knowing what he should do. "What did you do to Leia?" he then demanded in a wavering tone of voice.

Padua frowned at him, then she threateningly raised one hand. "Get back upstairs. I'm warning you. You're making things worse for yourself."

A second later he was in the lift on his way up to the upper level. He stood leaning against the wall of the lift cabin, eyes closed, feeling like a coward. He should have tried to help her. In some way. But he had been too afraid of getting hurt, of experiencing the pain that Padua could cause. "Curse it," he grumbled under his breath.


Leia sat motionless on the seat of the passenger liner, which was taking her away from Coruscant toward a destiny unknown. She didn't know where to find Luke, though she had a pretty good idea where he could be. But she had no way of getting there. This liner was taking her to the remote world of Theath, where she would be dropped off and left behind. Her body still ached from Padua's attack, but she was recovering quickly. And with her recovery came the ability to think more clearly than she had in months. She was on the move now. There was no stopping it. Although she had been a part of the former Rebel Alliance, she had never been in a position where she had to deal with things all on her own. There had always been somebody around to guide her, advise her or — for that matter — meet her. She was going to Theath, a world she didn't know, and she knew nobody there. She had no idea if Theath was leaning toward the present Empire or the former Alliance of Free Planets. It would probably be best to lay low at first, to get a feel of things before she started to try and find help. Han had often warned her about planets she didn't know. Always be careful when you go there. You never know who you might bump into. And, whatever you do, never trust anybody. That had been his advise then and she was going to follow it now. She was, however, a public figure and most everybody knew her. Even on this passenger liner to nowhere some had already noticed her. To escape the attention, she rose and fled to the rest rooms in the rear of the liner. She closed the door behind her in the cramped little cabin and let out a sigh. Then she inspected her reflection in the mirror, which covered one wall of the room. Her dress was tattered at the edges but else in pretty good shape. Her hair hung braided over her shoulder, sprinkled with grey. A grey that should not have been there. With a grimace, Leia eyed herself for a long time. She had to do something to look less conspicuous, less like an upper-class woman. The dress had to be ditched as soon as she could get something else to wear. With a frown she tried to remember if there had been any other women on the liner, who looked like they were about her size. Then she remembered one. Although she was hardly a woman yet.

It was time to use her meager powers in the Force. She knew roughly where this girl was sitting. If she could get her bag away from her and back before anybody noticed anything, she would be better off. Bracing herself and reminding herself to be calm, she reopened the door and stepped out into the small hallway, which lead from the main cabin to the rest rooms. Slowly, she moved toward the end of the hallway and stopped as soon as she got the first glimpse of the cabin beyond. The girl was sitting a few seats ahead of hers. Leia reached out and touched the sleeping mind of the girl, then concentrated on the luggage compartment above her head. The bag was there, all right. Now there was only the question whether she could move it or not.

Straightening herself, she scolded herself for such thoughts. Of course she could move it. She had learned to, hadn't she? With conviction, she closed her eyes and stretched her mind out toward the bag. She felt it move in the compartment, then the lid of the compartment swung open and the bag drifted out, rose to the ceiling and started drifting toward her. All this happened in her mind and she didn't open her eyes until she felt the slick leather in her hands. It was to her surprise that she really had the bag in her hands when she opened her eyes again and it surprised her even more that nobody had seemingly noticed anything. Quickly she withdrew to the rest room again, closed and locked the door and then allowed herself a sigh of relief. Now all she had to do was hope that there were cloths in there which would fit her. She opened the bag and sighed again. Yes, there were cloths in the bag. She rummaged through the slightly childish cloths-style until she came upon a jump-suit, which looked pretty inconspicuous. Getting undressed, she kept hoping that it wasn't too small for her. If it was too big, it wouldn't really matter. But if it was too small she couldn't use it. She stuck her legs into the suit and pulled it up to her waist, then paused for a second, looking at herself in the mirror again. There had been a time when she hadn't looked so tired all the time. Then she slipped her arms into the sleeves and pulled the suit into place, smiling a little when she saw how snugly it fit. As if it were made for her. She closed the front, then admired the result. That was much better. Although the black of the fabric emphasized her paleness, it was still quite an improvement over the formerly white dress. Then she looked through the bag again, found a brush and started on her hair. When she was done, the result was remarkable. From looking like a slightly tattered, tired noble woman, she now looked like anybody else. Sending her unknowing benefactor a thought of thanks, she stuffed her tattered dress into the bag along with the brush, took one more look at herself and then left the rest room again. Confident in her own abilities, she then returned the bag to its proper place — once again without being noticed — and finally returned to her seat.

The silence in the passenger compartment gave her a chance to think things through. It wasn't as if she hadn't had time for that before, but she hadn't done it. She had been too concerned with the fate of her children and her husband to worry about why things had happened that way. Now she was on the move. She was doing something. The way things had happened could have a meaning. She just didn't know what, yet. Sheer exhaustion from the past year of worrying caused her to doze off in her seat and when she came to some time later, she was very clear about what she had to do. The only thing missing were the means to do it with. Once on Theath, she would have to find a way to contact Lando. He had naturally disappeared from the scene shortly after it had become clear who Padua was. But Leia had her sources and she knew where he was. All she had to do was get in touch with him.


The shuttles coming up from Theath to pick up the passengers were neither new nor in any way comfortable and that gave Leia an idea about what Theath would be like. Not one of the nicer places in the galaxy. And that meant she would have to be extra cautious about strangers. What she wasn't prepared for, though, was the weather. She hadn't given it much thought and when the hatch of the shuttle opened and a gust of icy wind almost took her breath away, she suddenly understood why some of her co-passengers had given her strange looks. She wasn't at all dressed for the Theathean weather. Already hugging herself against the cold, Leia looked up at the leaden sky before quickly heading over to the main building of the rather run-down space port. Of course Padua would send her to a place like this. That was the only reason for that she had been allowed to leave Coruscant alive. Because Padua did not expect her to survive in this environment.

As she stood inside the port building, looking out at the sky, sensing the icy winds through the less than insulated port building, she felt anger well up in her. She would be damned if she was going to give up that easily. Padua was not going to win. She would find a way to get in touch with Lando. She would find her brother. And when she did, they would fight this creature of darkness together.

Determined to pull the pieces of her life back together, she turned and headed into the rather extensive port building in search of some way of getting in touch with Lando. She would have to use all the resources she had, which basically came down to using her head. That was, after all, all she had at the moment. She had nothing on her which she could trade for information. Nothing that would even give her a small amount of credits. Unless she begged for them and she was not about to do that. Not yet, anyway. For a brief moment, she thought about what her father would have said about this. Not her real father. Her adopted father. Bail Organa. He had not had this in mind for her. That much she knew. He had promised her mother to take care of her, to look after her. But here she was, all alone on a planet that could turn out to be the end of the line for her if she wasn't careful.

After having searched the length of the port building three times, Leia was forced to realize that she wasn't going to find what she was looking for inside. She would have to go out. She stopped in front of one of the large windows again, which overlooked the landing pads, and sighed. It was getting dark and what little she knew of meteorology told her that it would definitely not get any warmer outside. This made her hesitate in her resolution to go out there and find help. Maybe she should wait until the next day. The weather might improve, might be a little warmer. Clinging to that feeble hope, she started looking around for a place where she could sleep. In an unattended corner, stacks of old faded papers lay piled up against the walls. She settled herself into the piles and pulled a lot of the papers over her to both keep her warm and hidden. At least on Coruscant it had been warm and she had slept in her own bed in her old quarters, she thought with a bitter smile. She was going to get back at Padua for all this.


On Coruscant, Han didn't have such a good time either. Padua had indeed stood by her promise to "deal with him later" and now he felt as if he'd just stuck his fingers into a wall socket and blown his fusses. With an effort, he hauled his aching body onto the bed, clenching his teeth in the process. Oh yes, she was going to pay. The more she hurt him, the more he wanted to pay her back. And now that he knew that Leia was on her way to get help, his fear of Padua became hate instead.

But the fear had not left him completely. When the door opened, he felt himself stiffen, expecting another angry attack from his tormentor. Instead the short, slim form of his oldest son stole into the room. "Dad?" He came up to the bed, looking down at his father with concern.

Forcing himself to sit up, Han gave his son a forced grin. "Hi, Jace. How are you?" He could tell by the look in Jacen's eyes that his attempt at convincing the boy that he was fine would not work.

Jacen sat down next to his father, still that look of concern on his face. "I'm fine. So's Anakin. But... what about you, dad? Are you okay?" When Han nodded, Jacen continued. "We've got to get away from here, dad. She's starting to convince Anakin that she's the real thing. That uncle Luke was nothing but a fake." The look in the boy's eyes made Han flinch inwardly. "He wasn't, was he?"

Han grabbed Jacen's hand and gave it a squeeze. "No, kiddo. Your uncle is the real thing. No doubt about that. Padua, on the other hand, may not be a phony, but she's sure not the real thing, either, if you get my point."

Jacen climbed up on the bed to sit beside his father and Han put an arm around his shoulders. "You know what, dad? I think this is all just a bad dream and we'll wake up in a minute and just laugh about our vivid imaginations."

Smiling a little sadly, Han wondered what all this was doing to his kids. It couldn't be good for them. That much he knew. "Listen, pal. I want you to go back to your rooms and take care of Anakin the best way you can. Convince him that Luke's the one to bet on. Whatever it takes. I'll come and get you soon and we'll get out of here. Okay?"

Jacen sat quietly for a while, staring down at his folded hands lying in his lap. Then he glanced up at Han. "How, dad? How are we going to get out of here?"

Looking into his son's eyes, Han knew that there was no way he could tell him things there weren't true. With a sigh he ruffled Jacen's hair. "I don't' know, kiddo. I'm making this up as I go."


The hum of a cleaner droid pulled Leia out of a sleep she had not expected to find. The light filtering through the windows was harsh grey and the deafening chill in the air told Leia that her hopes for more warmth would not come true. Stiffly she stretched, then slowly came to her feet. At this point she felt a lot older than her thirty-seven years. Never had she realized how quickly someone could fall from grace and end up in a situation like this. She had always thought that homeless people could do a lot to help themselves. But she now realized how difficult that could be. There was fairly little she could do and she wasn't even sure if she could pull that off. She adjusted the jump-suit and headed for the public rest rooms to get cleaned up a bit. There she undid her hair and re-braided it to make it look more presentable after washing most of the dirt off her face and hands.

Feeling less than clean and frustrated that she couldn't do anything about it right now, she headed toward the main doors of the port building. The dirty glass doors parted when she neared them and a gust of icy wind slammed into her, making her shiver involuntarily. She paused to look up at the leaden sky for a moment, then headed out into the cold day of Theath's capital. It took her some time to find the information bureau she was looking for and she felt slightly discouraged when she saw how many people crowded the front office. She got in line, shivering from the cold, noting the looks that some of the others gave her and felt very awkward due to it. After a while, she reached the counter and was instantly put off by the clerk's expression. He didn't look willing to aide her in any way. But she pushed her initial opinion aside and smiled. "Hello. I hope you can help me. I need to get in touch with a friend. I just need to send him a message," she said.

The clerk gave her the once over. "Do you have any credits?" he asked her, his tone of voice telling her that he didn't care if she had credits. He wasn't going to help her.

Leia shook her head. "Unfortunately not, but I'm good for it. I'm..." she began, but trailed off, suddenly realizing how dangerous it could be if she revealed her identity. "My friend will pay you when he comes to pick me up," she added, trying to sound slightly indifferent and very certain at the same time. She was neither, of course.

For a moment the clerk just stared at her, then he shook his head, rolling his eyes. "What do you think this is? A charity-establishment? Get out of here," he then said very loudly, waving at her in a dismissing manner.

"Now wait just a minute," Leia said, straightening her back a little more. "You can't just throw me out." Again she was aware of the predicament of her situation. There was no way she could use her former title to make this man help her. It was just too dangerous.

The clerk glared at her, then rose from his seat and waved at somebody. Two armed guards came over. "Take this trash out of here. She thinks we're going to let her make a call for free," he said. Before Leia could protest, the guards picked her up and carried her outside. "And don't come back," one of them said, giving her a warning glance.

Letting her shoulders drop, Leia looked at the door which was now closed to her, and suddenly realized what it meant to be "trash". Nobody would believe you. Nobody would help you. Life just could not get any worse than this.

She had just finished that thought when the first snowflakes started tumbling out of the sky and before long, they came down so hard she could barely see. She hurriedly returned to the port building, shook snow off her shivering frame and returned to the corner with the papers. There she huddled up, trying to get warm again. Never in her life had she expected to be treated like this. A little bit of bad luck and things went down hill at light speed. She silently cursed herself for not having kept the dress. That at least could have helped to keep her warm. But, there was no sense in crying over spilt milk. She would have to try to get some credits and she was starting to think that begging for them would be the only way. Unless, of course, it was forbidden to beg in this city. Some cities had that rule and Leia decided that she had better find that out before she tried. There was no sense in ending up behind bars because she couldn't be bothered about the rules. But there were other things she needed to do, as well. Like finding something to eat. That had to be a priority at the moment.

"Hey, you." The harsh voice took her completely by surprise. "This is no hotel. You can't sleep here. Go on. Get out of here." The port guard waved a gloved hand at her, attempting to shoo her off.

Leia got up, feeling frustrated by this apparent embarrassment everybody seemed to feel about homeless people. Once again she had to stop herself from proclaiming her title to save her. Instead she lowered her head, looking down at the floor. "But, I have nowhere to go," she said in a low tone of voice, then glanced up at the man. "It's cold out there. I'll freeze to death if you turn me out." Leia was not one who whined. But she felt that this was an appropriate time to do so although it was so very much against the very essence of her being. But she was in a situation where she had to depend on the kindness of strangers and however much it annoyed her, she had no choice but to go along with it for now. And her strategy seemed to work. The relentless glare of the guard changed into something rather doubtful.

"Well — don't you know anybody around here?" he asked, his tone of voice more gentle now.

Leia shook her head, feeling a certain amount of contempt toward herself for doing this. But it was working. "No, I'm all alone out here and I don't have any credits and no place to stay. I desperately need to get in touch with a friend of mine, but I just can't because I can't pay for it." She hesitated, a little surprised at how easily she slip into the role of the ever suffering victim. Her current situation naturally gave her a good background for that, but she had never learned to beg for anything in her life. When Grand Moff Tarkin had signed her death sentence, she had not begged for her life. She wouldn't do so now, either, except for the fact that so many people's existence depended on her doing so.

The guard's compassion suddenly knew no limits. He gently put a hand on her shoulder. "Look, there's a shelter down on Central Street, not too far from here. Why don't you go down there and get something to eat and maybe a coat or something. Then come back here afterward and I'll help you get in touch with your friend. Okay?" he suggested.

Leia looked up at him, hoping that the look she intended came out right. "Thank you. That's very kind of you. But — I don't know where Central Street is." She was really stretching it, but also felt that she couldn't stop now. She was on a roll and had to keep going.

The guard nodded. "Okay, honey. Why don't you just come along with me. My shift is over in half an hour. You can stay in the guard room until I'm off and then I'll take you there, okay?" he said.

Something about him made Leia hesitate before she answered. There was something in his voice which told her that he was aiming at more than just being kind. At that she remembered something Han had once told her. Something about repaying a favor and that most people didn't do something for somebody without expecting something in return. She took a step back and had all but forgotten how to be a victim. "Thanks but no thanks. I'll find Central Street. Thank you for telling me." With that, she slipped past him and hurried toward the main doors without looking back. The guard looked after her, slightly upset because he had missed his chance. He could have arrested her for hanging around in the port building. That wasn't allowed.