Where we really love, we often dread more than we desire the solemn moment that exchanges hope for certainty. —Mme. De Stael, Corinne.
“Following serious consideration of Princess Leia Organa’s request, on behalf of the Alliance to restore the Republic, the Board at Lacostia Consolidated have chosen to extend our support to the rebellion. In light of your organization’s recent successes against the Empire, and your very reasonable precautions to ensure our own anonymity, we feel that our assistance at this time could prove instrumental in dethroning the Emperor and restoring a healthy and prosperous Republic. We have various options available and would like to propose them to Princess Organa at her earliest convenience. We are prepared to schedule a conference on the space station of Ord Mantell, at our expense, to guarantee the safety of both parties. Due to Ord Mantellian policy regarding nonresident docking procedures, we will also arrange a transport shuttle to conduct a deep-space docking and transfer; this will doubly serve to maintain the integrity of your base security. We await your response, at which time we may proceed with setting the time and coordinates for the rendezvous.”
“Well,” General Dodonna sighed as he finished reading aloud. He laid the printed communiqué on the table before him. His eyes, framed by the deep wrinkles of age and war, scanned the other members of the Rebel Alliance military and intelligence staff. They were assembled around the oval table that dominated the HQ conference room of the hidden base on Serricci. “Any initial thoughts?”
There was a ripple of motion around the table as personnel shifted in their seats, but no one spoke out. Princess Leia Organa took advantage of the lull and rose to her feet. “If I may, General, I would like a moment to explain the background of this transmission for the benefit of those not familiar with my previous efforts to contact Lacostia Consolidated.”
“Of course, Your Highness,” Dodonna agreed with a gracious wave. He took his seat.
Leia, sure of her mission and its eventual success, warmed to her subject and addressed the room:
“Most of you are aware that my father was very active in discovering and developing financial support for the Alliance, particularly in the private sector. While tutoring me in this aspect of the rebellion, he provided me with the names of contacts who he felt would eventually lend support if properly motivated. Naturally, most of them have been reluctant to offer any sort of assistance for fear of Imperial reprisals. I contacted Lacostia Consolidated while still serving within the Imperial Senate in the hopes that they could be persuaded to join us. Until yesterday, my proposal had gone unanswered.”
“This communiqué,” Leia continued while bending slightly to pick up the hard copy printout, “is at long last a positive response—a major breakthrough that may signal the beginning of the end of the Empire. Other peoples, corporations, and organizations will begin to realize that tyranny can no longer be tolerated, and that the only way to defeat the Emperor is to combine our strength and make a stand. Disgust for the Empire and sentiment for the rebellion grows with each atrocity the Empire commits.”
Apparently realizing that she was in full speech mode and quite capable of holding the floor for hours, Dodonna held up a hand to silence her. She bristled at the interruption but held her tongue as he glanced around the room at the other rebel decision-makers. One of them gestured for his attention and Dodonna nodded in acknowledgment. “Commander Fairhome?”
Fairhome, nearly as old as Dodonna, stood and said, “Pardon me, Your Highness, but has Lacostia indicated exactly how they intend to lend assistance? I realize that they’re a major pharmaceutical distributor. Can we expect medical supplies? Bacta or painkillers, for instance?”
Leia shook her head as she watched Fairhome settle back into his seat. “That’s what I’ll negotiate for, although at this point I’m afraid we’re in no position to be picky. They’ve assumed an enormous risk by answering my original overture, and I intend to encourage them in every way. If that means settling for a less overt donation, we should be no less grateful.”
General Dodonna chose that moment to bring up another matter. “There is also the question of your personal involvement on this mission, Your Highness. Considering the satellite’s clientele, there’s a possibility that you’ll be recognized. Perhaps another representative should attend—someone anonymous, preferably from Intelligence.”
Leia had hoped this wouldn’t come up, but was prepared.
“I don’t think that sending a substitute at this point is a viable option, for several reasons. First of all, I made the initial contact and they are expecting me to attend. Sending someone else at the last moment would only cause hesitation on the part of Lacostia. Second, I’ve visited Ord Mantell before and gained valuable experience and knowledge of the customs and layout of the resort. Third, Ord Mantell is neutral territory. Being familiar with the type of people who frequent the place, I feel safe in saying they would rather look the other way than become involved in a dispute that doesn’t concern them and could disrupt their lifestyle. And finally, since I personally monitor supplies and acquisitions, I have an extensive knowledge of our available stores, contacts, and smugglers. I know what we have, I know what we need, and I know how to get it here. I’m in the perfect position from which to negotiate.”
Dodonna remained silent for a long moment, clearly unable to refute the princess’s logic. “Your insistence on conducting this mission is noted, and your reasons are sound. As you pointed out, however, your value to the rebellion is great, far beyond the symbolism. The risk—”
“Dodonna,” General Rieekan interrupted, his eyes going briefly to Leia before he continued, “we’re all at risk at this very moment by simply being here, and if her father had chosen to listen to such cautionary advice when beginning this rebellion, we wouldn’t be having this discussion now.”
“Her father was an optimist,” General Dodonna responded in a tighter tone.
“So am I,” Leia stated, proud of the comparison. She sent Rieekan a quick look of gratitude. He had been a military advisor of her father’s, had known her since her infancy, and was her strongest ally within High Command. Her posture straightened in determination; she’d faced stiffer necks than Dodonna while serving in the Imperial Senate. When it came to a duel of wills, her combat skills were well honed.
There was a tense silence as Dodonna seemed to scan the room for support before capitulating. “Very well, Your Highness. You have clearance to meet the Lacostia representatives, but on one condition.”
She had a feeling of what was coming next.
“I insist you have an escort for your own safety. We want your stay on Ord Mantell to be safe and successful.”
“Of course, General. I’ll make the proper arrangements.”
“In that case, I’ll wish you good luck and may the Force be with you.”