The Courtship of Princess Leia: Star Wars Legends
General Han Solo stood at the command console viewport of the Mon Calamari Star Cruiser Mon Remonda. Warning sounds tinkled like wind chimes as the ship prepared to drop out of hyperspace at the New Republic’s capital on Coruscant. It had been so long since Han had last seen Leia: five months, five months hunting the warlord Zsinj’s Super Star Destroyer, Iron Fist. Five months ago, the New Republic had seemed so secure, so in control. Maybe now, with the Iron Fist gone, warlord Zsinj would be crippled and things would go smoother. Han longed to get off the humid Calamarian ship, longed even more for the taste of Leia’s kisses, the caress of her hand on his brow. He’d seen too much darkness lately.
The white starfield on the screen resolved as the hyperdrive engines cut, and Chewbacca roared in alarm: across the blue velvet of space where the city night lights of Coruscant blazed from a dark world were dozens of enormous, saucer-shaped starships that Han recognized immediately as Hapan Battle Dragons. Among them were dozens of slate gray Imperial Star Destroyers.
“Get us out of here!” Han shouted. He’d seen a Hapan Battle Dragon only once before, but it had been enough. “Full shields! Evasive action!”
He watched the three dorsal ion guns of the nearest Dragon, expecting them to knock him from the sky. The blaster turrets on the saucer’s rim all swiveled toward him.
The Mon Remonda twisted and dove planetward, toward the lights of Coruscant. Han’s stomach wrenched. His Mon Calamari pilot was well schooled, and knowing that they could not run before setting a new course, he surged into the thick of the Hapan warships so that they could not fire without the risk of hitting one another.
Like all the technology on the Mon Calamari ship, the viewport was exceptional, a work of art, so that as they hurtled past the command port of a Hapan Battle Dragon, Han could make out the startled faces of three Hapan officers, the silver name tags sewn into their collars. Han had never seen a Hapan. Their star sector was renowned for its wealth, and the Hapans guarded their borders jealously. He’d known that they were human—for humans had scattered like weeds across the galaxy—but he was surprised to discover that without exception, all three of the female officers were astonishingly beautiful—like fragile, living ornaments.
“Cease evasive action!” shouted Captain Onoma, a salmon-colored Calamarian officer who sat at a control console, monitoring sensors.
“What?” Han shouted, surprised that the lower-ranked Calamarian would reverse his orders.
“The Hapans are not firing, and they are broadcasting as friendlies,” Onoma answered, swiveling a large golden eye at Han. The Calamarian cruiser ceased its crazy headlong dive and slowed.
“Friendlies?” Han asked. “They’re Hapans! Hapans are never friendly!”
“Nevertheless, they’ve apparently come to negotiate a treaty of some sort with the New Republic. The accompanying Star Destroyers are theirs, captured from the Imperials. As you can see, our planetary defense forces are still intact.” Captain Onoma nodded up toward a Star Destroyer in another quadrant, and Han recognized its markings. Leia’s flagship, the Rebel Dream. It had seemed so huge, so vast when they’d captured it from the Imperials, but here beside this Hapan fleet, it looked small, insignificant. Huddled around the Rebel Dream, he saw a dozen smaller Republic Dreadnaughts, their hulls still painted with the markings of the old Rebel Alliance.
The first time Han had seen a Hapan warship, he had been smuggling guns with a small convoy fleet under the command of Captain Rula. Since the Hapans hadn’t yet fallen to the Empire, the smugglers had been using an outpost in neutral territory near the borders of the Hapan star cluster, hoping that their proximity to the Hapans would keep the Empire off their back. But one day they came out of hyperspace and found a Hapan Battle Dragon hovering in their path. Even though they were in neutral territory, even though they made no aggressive moves, only three of the twenty smuggler ships managed to survive the Hapan attack.
A communications officer said, “General Solo, we’re receiving a call from Ambassador Leia Organa.”
“I’ll go to my quarters and pick it up there,” Han said, and he hurried to punch up the call. Leia’s image appeared on the small screen.
Leia was smiling, euphoric, and her dark eyes had a dreamy look to them. “Oh, Han,” she said in a breath, her voice mellifluous. “I’m so glad you’re here.” She wore the pure white uniform of an Alderaanian ambassador, and her hair was down. In the past months it had grown longer than Han had ever seen it. In her hair she wore the combs he had given her, made from silver and opal mined on Alderaan before Grand Moff Tarkin blasted the planet to cinders with the first Death Star.
“I missed you, too,” Han said huskily.
“Come down to Coruscant, to the Grand Reception Hall,” Leia said. “The Hapan ambassadors are about to arrive.”
“What do they want?”
“It’s not what they want, it’s what they’re offering. I went to Hapes and spoke with the queen mother three months ago,” Leia said. “I asked her for aid in our fight against Warlord Zsinj. She seemed very distant, noncommittal, but promised to think about it. I can only guess they’ve come to give that aid.”
Lately, Han had begun to realize that the war against the remnants of the Empire might take years, even decades to win. Zsinj and some lesser warlords were firmly entrenched in over a third of the galaxy, but the warlords now seemed to be on the move—pillaging entire star systems as they swept toward the free worlds. The New Republic could not patrol such a vast front. Just as the old Empire had struggled to repel the Rebel Alliance, the New Republic battled the might of the warlords and their vast fleets. Han didn’t want Leia to get her hopes raised for a Hapan alliance. He said, “Don’t expect too much from the Hapans. I’ve never heard of them giving anyone anything—except a hard time.”
“You don’t even know them. Just come to the Grand Reception Hall,” Leia said, suddenly all business. “Oh, and welcome back.” She turned away. The transmission ended.
“Yeah,” Han whispered. “I missed you, too.”
Han and Chewbacca hurried through the streets toward the Grand Reception Hall on Coruscant. They were in an ancient part of Coruscant where the planetwide city had not built over the top of ruins, so that all around them plasteel buildings rose up like the walls of a canyon. The shadows thrown by the steep buildings were so deep that overhead the shuttles streaming through the spaces between buildings were forced to keep their running lights on even in the daytime, creating a massive tapestry of light. By the time Han and Chewie reached the Grand Reception Hall, the processional band was already playing an oddly mincing marching song, using janglers and deep woot horns.
The Grand Reception Hall was an enormous building, more than a thousand meters long, with fourteen levels for seating, but as Han neared the entrance, he found that all of the portals were jammed with curious onlookers, eager to see the Hapans. Han ran past the first five entrances, then suddenly saw a golden protocol droid nervously trying to jump or stand on tiptoe to see over the crowd. Many people claimed that all droids of a certain model looked alike, but Han recognized See-Threepio instantly—no other protocol unit ever managed to look quite as nervous or excited.
“Threepio, you hunk of tin!” Han shouted to be heard over the crowd. Chewbacca roared in greeting.
“General Solo!” Threepio responded, a note of relief in his voice. “Princess Leia asked that I find you and escort you to the Alderaanian ambassador’s balcony. I was afraid I’d missed you in the crowd! You’re fortunate that I had the foresight to wait for you here. This way, sir, this way!” Threepio led them back across a broad street and up a side ramp, past several guards.
As they climbed a long winding corridor, passing door after door, Chewbacca sniffed the air and growled. They rounded the corner and Threepio halted by a balcony entrance. Within, only a few people stood looking through the glass onto the procession below. Han recognized some of them: Carlist Rieekan, the Alderaanian general who had commanded Hoth base; Threkin Horm, president of the powerful Alderaanian Council, an immensely fat man who rested in a repulsor chair rather than try to carry his own weight. And Mon Mothma, commander of the New Republic, stood next to a bearded gray Gotal who gazed dispassionately toward the main floor, head tilted, aiming his sensor horns in Leia’s direction.