Coruscant: a ghost planet. All that remained were the toppling rusted towers and crumbling blackened homes of a long ago civilization. Fog swirled around the cold grey metal of the buildings; the atmosphere was uninhabitable now. It was never foreseen that the largest city and capital planet of the Alliance, where billions among billions of people made their living, would ultimately be the galaxy’s largest graveyard. To think that a planet so enormous and immensely populated could be destroyed by a single blast of energy manipulated by something so evil that couldn’t be stopped. It destroyed the way of thinking for the galaxy. These people were dead, their spirits lying in waste among the cold and crumbling steeples of this long forgotten civilization.
The hermit remembered. And remembering as he did, the children remembered also. Through their minds’ eye, they saw the ruined city of Coruscant, felt the chill of the desolation, the suffering of the dead. And then it began to change . . .
As the hermit transported them through and into the past, the city shivered and changed. The death and cold melted away, the white fog dissipated, the black scorch marks and burnt rust faded until the silver of the metal could shine through again. The towers and steeples stacked themselves up again until the slender tops could stab at the, now, blue sky. Suddenly, an air speeder zipped by, then another one and another, until the sky was filled with air speeder traffic. High electronic noise filled the silence again, and just beneath it was a small, some what organic, sound. Voices. Human voices. Human and Calamarian, Chiss, and every other alien voice ever accounted for. The people were alive again. The city-planet had morphed and Coruscant had returned to the way it once was. It was the capital of the entire galaxy.
And as the capital, it was also the busiest planet, particularly this day. Since the armistice of the Yuuzhan Vong and Alliance, it became a national holiday—one in which every person would partake in, creating traffic jams around every turn. There were atmosphere parades, fire shows, five mile long block parties, private parties, public and private dances, masquerades, formal dinners and non-formal dinners. The list went on and on. And the partying would last for a week. Some people hated the holiday for it was considered stressful, claustrophobic, and as one of the only holidays where they really began to notice just how much over-populated the galaxy was. Nevertheless, they continued with their own celebrating, secretly cursing their ruling advisory council.
Leia Organa Solo didn’t care much for being on the council board either. Tricked, guilted, and forced into the dominating position again, the woman wondered if she would ever be rid of government responsibilities. Being now in her sixties, she would assume retirement a good enough excuse, but the counselors, along with the majority of the galaxy, had insisted, knowing she would bring wise influence and advise to the diverse board. Even if she ran and hid far away from everyone and thing, living in her own tiny world, she knew her fate with politics would hunt her down relentlessly. It was no use to run away for there was really no place to run to. She should know, she’d tried it. In the end, she admitted she rather enjoyed her life with politics, though busy and stressful and claustrophobic.
This particular day, though hectic for the rest of the Galactic Alliance, was finally calming down for Counselor Organa Solo. Knowing the advisory board had organized the Grand Ball Room for the YVA Armistice celebration, and knowing it was two nights away, she had finally been able to relax for the week from the responsibility the council had put on her shoulders. The decorating committee, which were the newly enhanced Human Replicant Droids, or HD3s, specialized in great imagination and decorating, had the entire Grand Ball Room, along with every guest suite soon to be occupied, under their imaginative control.
Yes, Leia could relax. The only duty she had to perform now was welcome every delegate and their families from all across the Alliance to the Galactic Palace. Easy. The only difficult part about it was getting her family together to greet the guests, as it seemed the other council members easily could accomplish. Leia decided it was nearly an impossible task and after a month of, well, begging, she gave up trying. Her son Jacen was swamped with all the new young adults, who had never been trained as Jedi before, arriving at the Jedi Institute on Ossus. Her brother Luke was similarly busy with matters of importance with the Jedi Council also located far away on Wayland. Luke’s son Ben was fully occupied with his flight academic studies and Jedi training to even bother answering Leia’s calls. Her daughter Jaina, recently returned from a stressful patrol of the galaxy with Gavin Darklighter and the Twin Suns Squadron, was the only family member, other than her husband Han, to be with Leia on Coruscant when the delegates arrived. Though Jaina was there, she refused to, quote, “greet people she had no recognition of” and that it “wasn’t her place to stand like an HD, look pretty and pointlessly wave and greet with fake smiles galore . . .” Leia let it go at that, too tired to argue with her stubborn daughter. So it was only she and Han. She supposed that was good enough anyway.
A gold and blue Galactic-signed air speeder made it’s way through the thick traffic and toward the Galactic Palace. The palace was different in shape and color than the long ago Imperial Palace which no longer existed. It had an organic appeal to it, inspired by the Yuuzhan Vong lifestyle. It stood tall and slender in the middle of a cavernous rock formation which encased the bottom of the palace. The metal itself was a certain type of gold color that mirrored images of the distant cities and had a rippling rainbow effect when the two suns hit it just right, between morning and evening. It was built by the Calamarians, in honor of the victory between the Vong and Alliance. It was meant to be built on Mon Calamari itself, but the inhabitants weren’t too pleased about having the capital of the government stationed on their home and the council agreed that it wasn’t the “right kind of environment” for a capital—that Coruscant had always been the right planet for the government to remain in the first place. And now that they had fought for and earned the planet back from the Vong, what would stop them from stationing their government back where it belonged. And so, they did, building the Galactic Palace out of specialized Calamari metal and growing Calamari coral rock all around the bottom. It was not only beautiful, but one of the most durable strong-holds in the Alliance. Probably the strongest of them all.
Exiting the black security tunnel and entering from beneath the invisible protective shield of the lone palace, the gold and blue air speeder made its way to the security gates to be inspected before docking. It was one of the delegate’s speeder that Leia and the other council members would ultimately have to welcome.
But the one who received the message of the arrival was Leia’s personal droid, C-3PO. Though, one of the oldest models still allowed by government law to be functional, mostly because Leia insisted, he continued to perform his duties with the utmost accuracy—or at least what Threepio assumed was “utmost accuracy”. The gold droid, accompanied by Jaina’s newer pilot counterpart R6-L6, or Lex, received the call and shuffled down the window-covered corridors to the northeast side where the counselor-family apartments were located, the two bickering all the way.
“No, I am not the least surprised that Mistress Leia had not been informed of the next delegates,” Threepio spoke rapidly to the small droid beside him. “Besides, she had intrusted me to inform her of the arrivals. Mistress Leia cannot always be on top of everything.”
A few low bleeps and gurgles sounded from the droid below.
Threepio swung dramatically to face the droid, but still able to walk forward, and said with some shock, “What do you mean it was a bad idea on her part? Are you insinuating that I am not quick enough to the task? Do you think I am not capable of delivering such messages? I dare say, Lex, you have been programed with too much of Commander Jaina’s personality to be for your own good.”
Then a wild string a blurps and beeps trailed out and the stubbier droid halted, forcing Threepio in his tracks.
“See, you react with such terrible sensitivity that I’m afraid you may blow a circuit some day. Commander Jaina should have you reprogrammed this instant!” Threepio announced, and continued on his way.
The silver droid paused to filter what Threepio had said, then a soft low moan emanated from her metal encased body.
Threepio turned around to face Lex and this time spoke more gently. “Oh, dear. Lex, please do not be like this on my account. I only have the utmost worry for your circuits. This human-like personality Jaina had installed in you might be too dangerous for a tiny droid as yourself.”
Again, the sad moan.
“Oh, come now. Let’s forget this little dispute and contact Mistress Leia. I apologize for any hurt that I might have caused you, Lex. Now come on or we shall be too late.” Threepio waited for the little droid to catch up, then continued on their way to the Solo apartment.
The little droid emitted a very soft electronic chuckle all the way there, and if she were human, there would be a slight smirk on her face revealing her very sly and persuasive manner. She was always able to make Threepio feel badly for her and apologize in the end, no matter what the circumstance. And it wasn’t her added programming Jaina had done, but R2-D2’s downloading that had taught her how to deal with Threepio. And with Artoo gone on Wayland with the Master Jedi, she was the only other droid Threepio would care to talk with and she had plenty of practice done over the month. And yes, it was fun, for as much fun a droid could have.
“Oh dear,” Threepio moaned, noticing that he was indeed running behind schedule and that the arriving party must have been waiting impatiently for the last council member to greet them. And it would be all his fault, no matter how distracted he was by Lex. “It appears that we will not be on time, Lex. And when Leia realizes just how late she is, I am positive we will be thrown into the recycler, abandoned at the mines of Kessel, sold as scrap to the Jawas of Tatooine . . .”
Lex produced an annoyed blurp.
Threepio gasped. “I will not simply shut up. I take my life-state seriously, unlike you, I’ve observed. And you obviously do not understand the kind of peril we will be in if we do not hurry. When Mistress Leia gets mad, she is not only simply mad, but she is—“
”I am what?”
Threepio ran smack into another body, this time human. The gold droid let out a tiny squeal of shock, then hurriedly composed himself.
“Oh, Mistress Leia. We were just coming to see you,” Threepio said meekly.
The tiny silver droid began to chuckle lightly, but then received a kick from Threepio.
“Yes,” the woman said slowly, “I can see that. And I can also see that you are busy telling our little Lex stories of—what was it?—a merciless woman who gets really, really mad? Where do you come up with these ideas, Threepio?” The woman smiled, aged lines creasing the corners of her mouth and underneath her eyes. Though in her sixties, she still looked fairly young. War and suffering was the only thing that really aged her face, which was to say, was still smooth and cream-colored. Her brown hair was now streaked with silver highlights which actually accentuated her elaborate hair-styles. The fire and passion still remained in her glowing brown eyes, never ceasing.
Threepio stuttered. He knew very well that Leia wouldn’t have dispelled of them like that in any way. Nevertheless, he wanted to, well, show off for the little droid.
“Mistress Leia, these ideas are only a . . . a way of learning for us droids. It teaches us to be more punctual, to be more like the HD3’s. And as of now, we apologize for being so late to inform you of the delegates.”
“I already know of them,” she said. “I was called by Lex through the messenger the moment they had arrived at the security gates. And I am on my way now.” She turned and patted the tiny silver droid on the dome. “Thank you, Lex.”
Threepio was speechless. Then he also turned to Lex, but instead smacked her on the top of the dome. “Why didn’t you tell me, you little twit?”
“Threepio, is that anyway to talk to a lady?” a man’s voice piped in from another room. Han Solo stepped out into the corridor next to his wife and cocked an eyebrow at the gold droid. For a man of seventy, he too still looked as fresh as he could. The only thing giving away his age was his silver hair. Though cosmetics would have solved that little give-away, Leia would have killed Han if he had dyed it. Not that he gave much thought to it anyway.
Leia’s mouth curved into another smirk, reading the look of surprise on Threepio’s face.
“Well, sir. . .” Threepio began.
Han raised a hand to stop him, not really caring what the droid had to say.
Instead, Leia spoke up. “Threepio, I think you need some lessons in politeness. This isn’t Artoo, you know.” She smiled at her husband. “This is a lady-droid. You must treat her . . . like you treat me.” Teasing Threepio had never gotten tiring according to Leia or Han. In fact, everyone teased Threepio these days, with the exception of Luke who had always been somewhat compassionate to him.
“Of course, Mistress Leia. But she is just another droid—“
Leia gasped sharply, producing an exaggerated frown on her face. “Just another droid?! Oh, poor Lex. I feel sorry you have to put up with such rudeness.”
“Rudeness? I dare say—“ Threepio began.
“No you’d better not,” Han cut him off. Tired of where this conversation between human and droid was going, he looked to his wife as a signal to leave.
Catching the look, Leia turned to the droid and said, “Threepio, as much as I enjoy these little chats of ours, Han and I do have somewhere to be at this moment. And it appears we are going to be late. So, if you’ll excuse us . . .”
Leia took Han’s arm and they made there way past the two droids, leaving Threepio in, yet, another awkward position of a confused state of mind.
Lex let out another high pitch laugh, amused by the activity of human versus protocol.
Threepio glared down at her, as much of a glare he could produce with his motionless face, then huffed off down the opposite end of the hall, wishing only that Artoo was there. Of course, he was soon followed by his new counterpart and they continued into another conversation.
“Sometimes I wish you’d have allowed the Council to declare all metal droids illegal,” Han groaned to his wife as they made their way to the docking bays where their guests awaited.
Leia sighed. It wasn’t the first time she’d heard this comment. “Han, you know how traumatizng that would be for the kids and Luke if we had gotten rid of Threepio. And you know very well that you’d end up missing him.”
Han shrugged uncomfortably, knowing how true that statement was. “Well, can’t you at least upgrade him? To at least the standard of an HD.”
“It’s crossed my mind a couple of times,” Leia admitted, “But then think how different Threepio would be, not to mention boring and too nice.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Han had to admit, the HDs were creepier than any other droid he’d encountered. Way too life-like, way too nice, and way too humane—more humane than a real human, according to Han. They were like clones, in a lot of ways, only they looked different. And to Han’s relief, they didn’t look too much like humans. With the synthetic skin too waxy and white and the synthetic hair too dry, it was easy to tell up close which was human and which was droid. The synthetic corporations were still working on producing better realistic skin and hair. Han only hoped they didn’t improve. He never did like droids.
“Besides, what fun would it be if we could finally have a good conversation with Threepio. We’d have to resort to making fun of Artoo or Lex. And since we can’t really understand them without a translator, it would pretty much be a one way conversation. Not to mention we wouldn’t be able to talk with Lex or Artoo if the law said ‘no metal droids’ and—“
”All right, all right,” Han interrupted his wife, “I get the point.”
Leia smiled. No matter how old they were getting, it never got old teasing him like this. “Just making sure you understand the consequences of such wishes.” She wrapped her arm around his waist—thankfully noting his abdomen was still toned.
“I had gotten it two minutes ago,” Han said, a smile creeping around his mouth at the touch of her arm. He responded in pulling her closer to his side as they walked, he also happily noting the firmness of her body. They might have been old, but they still looked good as ever. “Speaking of which, we’re late again to meet these alleged diplomats, huh?”
“Unfortunately, yes,” Leia shrugged tiredly. “I haven’t been able to work up the energy to greet yet another diplomat for the past couple of days. It’s becoming quite tedious. They constantly arrive, and I constantly have to climb out of my room, and constantly have to shake hands, smile, and lead the way to wherever they wish.”
“Well, it beats planning and decorating the entire banquet then meeting all of the diplomats, don’t you think?” Han reasoned.
“Yes, I know. I just like to complain a lot,” she smiled. “You know that.”
Han smiled, pulling away to grasp her hand.
Then his smile faded into a slight frown. “By the way, when are Luke, Jacen, and Ben arriving? They are coming to Coruscant this time, right?”
Leia sighed, not really sure of the answer to that. “As far as I know, they’ll be here by tomorrow. But, you know them, they might cancel, finding some excuse to not be with their family.”
“Leia,” Han frowned, “you know they’ve been very busy this year. It seems as if Jedi are sprouting up all over the galaxy and enrolling at Ossus. They got exactly what they wished for.”
“Yes, I know, I know,” Leia sighed again. “I only wish they had more time to spend with their family. They need a break just as much as I needed a break. I’ve got my vacation now, sort of, and they’ve got theirs hanging above their heads. Why don’t they take it?”
“Luke’s just like you: a work-aholic. Especially since he’s had nothing else better to do with his time. With Ben running all over the galaxy and having no time for his own father, Luke’s completely alone, so he’s got to find something to pass the time away.”
Leia grimaced, bad memories about the disappearance of Mara, Luke’s beloved wife, resurfacing. They had tried everything, searched everywhere, inquired everyone, but nothing was found. Not a clue, sign, anything that could lead Luke to his wife was evident. She had simply disappeared without a trace. It could have destroyed Luke if it wasn’t for his son. Back then, Ben was only eight and already training with his Force talents. Leia had known that Luke wanted only to curl up and die some place where no one could find him. He had told her many nights. But of course, he couldn’t bring himself to leave his only son, the only thing that reminded him of Mara, the only physically living being that was part-Mara, the only walking and breathing and living reminder of Luke and Mara’s love.
But now Ben was twenty and very much independent. He never seemed to have time for his father anymore, so Luke was alone again. The only thing he could live through were the Jedi students at Wayland and Ossus. It truly was his only past-time.
And Leia pained for him, wanted so much for him to stay with Han and her. Luke of course would refuse, not wanting to feel like a wasting-away hermit. Han agreed with Luke, supporting him in his decision to remain on Wayland. Leia hated the idea.
They exited the lift they had been riding to the docking bay levels and continued on their walk to the awaiting delegates.
“ . . . And Jacen is equally busy with all of the incoming Jedi. There’s no telling when they’ll be here, if they’ll ever come,” Leia said.
“They’ll be here,” Han reassured, squeezing her hand.
A security-type, “male” HD stepped up to them as they reached one of the docking bays. It smiled at them, one of those creepy, unrealistic smiles that always gave Han the chills.
“Welcome, Counselor Organa Solo and Captain Solo,” it said, the voice much too musical and soft to be real. “The Governor Alamen of Mon Calamari and his family have been waiting for you. Please, if you will follow me.” The HD turned with such grace that it even shamed a professional dancer. Some would argue the HD race will some day replace humans themselves. That was Han’s biggest fear: a droid revolution.
“Thank you,” Leia nodded and let go of Han’s hand as they entered through the security door, following the HD.
“I hope this group goes by quickly,” Han whispered in Leia’s ear, spotting the large Calamarian family watching the HDs unload their enormous amount of luggage by their speeder.
Leia nodded, smoothing down her velvet, wine-colored pant-suit and throwing on her best smile, and readied herself for their guests, knowing very well how painstakingly long it will take to simply settle the Calamarian family in their apartments.
“Boy, would I give for some kind of adventure right now,” Han grumbled, reading Leia’s posture and knowing this will be a long day.
“Be careful what you wish for, my love,” Leia muttered under her breath as they approached their guests. It was, indeed, going to be a long day.