Leia felt the sharp kick in her swollen belly and gripped the hand-railing in the elevator. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, then let her breath out slowly. The other woman in the lift laid a hand on her arm.
“Are you alright, your Highness?”
Leia opened her eyes and regarded the blonde woman a moment before closing them again in resignation, steadying herself. The girl was taller than Han and athletic — a student at Hanna City University. Probably a grav-ball player.
“It’s Senator now,” Leia told her wearily, managing a small smile of thanks, “and it’s nothing I can’t handle. I’ve been in far worse situations.” But as the door chime announced their arrival on the rotunda level, she gave another gasp and gripped her belly. “Although something tells me, this one’s going to be as restless as his father.”
“Here, let’s get you to a chair, Senator,” the girl offered helpfully, ushering Leia to a seating area and easing her onto a cushioned bench. “When are you due?”
Leia sighed, looking down at her unborn child. “You and I have one more standard month of this,” she told it with a slight laugh. “Do you think you could not drive me crazy for one day?” She leaned her head against the cool stone wall for a moment before turning back to the girl. “I’m here to see Professor Sulmi. This is the right floor, isn’t it?”
“Oh, yes. His office is right down that corridor,” the young woman confirmed, pointing down a hallway past a splashing fountain to the right, “but I’m afraid he’s just been called away on a family emergency. He told me to be on the lookout for you.” She extended a hand. “I’m Amanda Snoke, his research assistant.”
Leia took it and returned a firm shake. “I’m very sorry to hear that. I hope everything’s alright.”
Amanda tucked a stray strand of her long hair behind her ear. “His wife took a nasty fall, but I hear she’s in the bacta tank now and is expected to make a good recovery.”
“Oh, dear,” Leia said, absently rubbing her belly. “Please give her my sympathy.”
“Of course.” Amanda shifted her long legs on the bench, turning to face the renowned rebel leader. “You’re here to discuss what we’ve learned about Project Harvester.” It wasn’t a question but a confirmation regarding Leia’s visit to the university.
“Yes, that’s right. I understand many of the files have been declassified now.”
Amanda nodded. “Although many are corrupted and haven’t yet been repaired by the data recovery droids.” She pulled a datapad out of her messenger bag and tapped a screen. “Here’s a basic overview of the project as we understand it so far, along with a directory of files. I’ve downloaded them all to a datacard for you.” She handed the pad to Leia.
“There’s a lot more here than I thought,” Leia said, skimming through the overview.
By all accounts, Project Harvester originated on the planet Arkanis for the purpose of identifying and enslaving Force-sensitive children. Data contained in reports issued by staff at the elite Imperial academy run by Commandant Brendol Hux indicate that the project was overseen by the academy and that many of the children acquired were orphaned naturally or purposefully prior to their processing.
Leia shuddered. She knew the reports would divulge the elaborate experimentation done on these unfortunates, as she’d always feared. What she and Luke hoped to do was locate any survivors and help them in any way they could to return to normal lives. It made her skin crawl to think what the Empire had done to these innocents.
The baby kicked again — so hard this time that Amanda caught a glimpse of the tiny foot through Leia’s maternity dress. “He is a restless one, isn’t he?”
Leia rolled her eyes. “You’re right — it’s a boy — and if he doesn’t come soon, I’m going to strangle the nerf herder who left me to deal with him alone.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Senator, I didn’t mean….”
Leia laughed and held up a hand. “It’s not like that. Han’s looking for family housing — something we both can agree on. We don’t have much time before the baby comes.”
Amanda smiled and reached out a hand towards the princess’s belly. “May I? My mother was a midwife and I helped her from time to time.”
Leia hesitated a moment, then nodded.
“Do you have a name for him?”
Amanda gently palpitated the baby bump. “Hello, Ben. You may be restless, little one, but I’d say you’re getting a bit too comfortable.” She met the senator’s gaze. “When the time comes, he’s not going to want to leave his cozy place.”
“Oh, great,” Leia said with another roll of the eyes. “Just what I wanted to hear.”
“And he’ll be born during double moon-dark — a time when many creatures hide in the safety of their lairs.”
Leia laughed lightly at the superstition. “Well, I hope to deliver him on Birren where there are no moons. My family has a quiet retreat there. I haven’t even seen it yet.” She laughed again and waved aside the matter as inconsequential. “Moons remind me of an old superstitious song from my childhood. And after the Death Stars, I don’t care if I ever see another moon again.”
Amanda’s eyes grew suddenly bright. “I’m afraid after you arrived, they had to shut down the hyperspace lanes.”
Leia struggled to get to her feet. “What?”
“They’ve destabilized again after the ion storm moved through. It could be a few weeks before it’s safe.” She rose and put a comforting hand on the Leia’s shoulder. “But don’t worry. Chandrila’s med centers are highly rated, and I’m sure we can find you temporary housing that will suit you both.”
Little Ben turned again and began to hiccup.
Leia looked up at Amanda. “Can you find something suitable for this fussbudget?”
@MyKyloRen 1 March 2017