Disclaimer: I don’t own them, obviously, or I would be rich.
In memory of Carrie Fisher.
By Linda Bindner
A/N: Each chapter in this collection stands alone, but is part of the whole. This story is marked ‘complete,’ but it will never really be complete as long as I keep thinking of things to write about. And I keep thinking of that one more thing! I can’t help myself.
A/N 2: This story collection doesn’t take the EU into account.
A/N3: Thanks go to yeahsureyoubetcha for such a great beta.
Chapter 1: Managing the Message
Greetings, Exalted One. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight and friend to Captain Solo.
Luke skeptically stared at the words that appeared on his palmcom while asking Leia, “Do you really think I should call him ‘Exalted One?’ Maybe that’s too much.”
Leia shrugged. “You’re the one who said that Jabba thinks very highly of himself, and always has. Someone like that would automatically respond well to being called ‘Exalted One.’”
“But do you think that it’s like I’m just pandering to him? He’ll know it in a minute if I do that. I don’t want to make him angry.”
Leia visibly restrained her frustration at Luke’s political naivete to say, “From what you tell me, Jabba’s the kind of gangster who always answers well to pandering, even if he knows that’s what you’re doing. I think we should play to that part of him, soothe him, make him feel good about himself.” Luke still didn’t look convinced, and Leia gently added, “Trust me, Luke. I know what I’m doing.”
“If you say so.” He turned back to the palmcom in his hand to read over the next few words of text.
I know that you are mighty...
“Change that ‘mighty’ to ‘strong,’” Leia suggested.
“No, wait,” Leia said. “Make it ‘powerful’ instead. He already knows he’s strong. But someone who’s so narcissistic will respond better to being described as ‘powerful.’ It’ll make him feel good about himself, and we definitely want him feeling good.”
Luke shrugged just as Leia had. “You’re the boss. Computer, change ‘mighty’ to ‘powerful.’ Display entire message.”
The computer instantly complied, and the message appeared on the device in Luke’s hand. With a sinking heart, he realized that the message was still much shorter than he wanted it to be.
“It lacks… something,” Luke insisted. “I don’t know. Maybe I should forget about a message and just go in guns blazing.”
But Leia was already shaking her head. “That wouldn’t do a thing to free Han. Think of it as giving Jabba a chance to release Han first, then go in guns blazing.”
“That way, we can at least say we asked first, right?” Luke inquired to make sure that he understood this concept of political maneuvering. “Sort of like a built in deniability?”
“Okay. Then we should say something that’s a warning, too, something that makes us not seem so… weak.”
“You’re right. Jabba needs to know that he shouldn’t underestimate you.”
“But we want him to underestimate me… don’t we?”
Leia laid a hand on Luke’s arm in comfort. “Don’t worry, he will. We just don’t want him to know that we expect him to.”
How could it be good to want one thing, but say you want another? “Huh?”
Grinning, Leia simply said, “You take care of the rescuing bit, and let me take care of the politics.”
“Whatever you say, Princess.” Luke sounded less than certain.
“This is what I do, Luke, what I trained for,” Leia reassured him. “This is how diplomacy works.”
“This is diplomacy?” Luke snorted. This was boring if you asked him.
“You don’t have to believe it, just say it.”
Luke groaned. “Han’s never going to let me live this down.”
Leia took on a grim expression. “You let me worry about Han. You worry about getting him away from Jabba.”
Luke sighed in agreement. “What’s next?”
Leia sighed, too. “Here’s an idea. Let me write this message, and you can take a look at it when I’m done. Then we can discuss whether or not you think it’ll work for us.”
Glad to concede such an onerous task to the willing Princess, Luke handed her his palmcom, then hopped up from where he’d been sitting on the floor. “Be my guest. I always was a rotten diplomat, anyway. I’ll be checking over my X-wing if you need me.”
“You have your comlink?”
Luke patted the side of his black belt. “Right here. Tell me when you’re done.” With that he disappeared through the door of her quarters.
Leia sighed in satisfaction at the quiet he left behind.. “Teaching him diplomacy is like teaching table manners to Han.” She adjusted the palmcom to recognize her voice, then instructed, “Record.” With no more hesitation, she began.
Luke had barely reached the hangar bay when his comlink beeped. Lifting it from his belt, Luke kept walking towards his X-wing, certain that it couldn’t be Leia yet. “Skywalker.”
Surprisingly, it was Leia. “Luke, I’m done.”
Leia laughed a short little laugh that gladdened Luke’s heart. It had been ages since Princess Leia had laughed. “What can I say? I’m highly motivated in this case. Come on back and take a look.”
“On my way.” Luke reversed his direction to head back to Leia’s quarters as quickly as his boots could carry him. It was too bad Master Yoda hadn’t taught him how to fly. He might be strong with the Force, but he still needed an X-wing to do that.
Luke set a fast pace back to the Princess’s quarters while reminding himself not to expect too much of Leia’s message. This was a rough draft, after all, and might need some editing before it reached the point where he was certain that it would do what he wanted. Jabba had to be angry enough to take him prisoner, but not so angry that he instantly killed him. He had to feel bad about Luke, but good about himself, still angry at Han, but not want to kill him, either, at least, not yet. If Luke remembered all the stories he’d heard about Jabba the Hutt while growing up, he wouldn’t have to work hard to keep him confident, even arrogant. But it was essential that Jabba be angry enough to capture him. He needed to be captured and brought on board Jabba’s sail barge, just like all his prisoners. That was when the real fun would begin.
But first… the message. It had to be aggressive, but not too aggressive. Assertive, but not too assertive. Pandering, but not too pandering. Luke sighed. Leia really had her work cut out for her.
The Princess was waiting for him in her quarters with the door open, looking so pleased with herself that she rivaled Jabba in self pride. She held out the palmcom to him the moment he entered. “Read it and tell me what you think.”
Not wanting to dampen such enthusiasm, but sure it would still need a lot of work, Luke took the device and hesitantly began to read.
Greetings, Exalted One. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight and friend to Captain Solo. I know that you are powerful, mighty Jabba, and that your anger with Solo must be equally powerful. I seek an audience with Your Greatness to bargain for Solo’s life. (Pause here so that the audience has a chance to laugh at you) With your wisdom, I’m sure that we can work out an arrangement which will be mutually beneficial and enable us to avoid any unpleasant confrontation. As a token of my goodwill, I present to you a gift: these two droids. Both are hardworking and will serve you well.
Leia closely watched Luke’s face. “What do you think?”
Luke fought to contain his pleased surprise. It was already as near to perfect as it could get, but he was pretty sure that he didn’t want her to know that. Dealing with the Princess was rather like dealing with Jabba the Hutt…. only she was a whole lot prettier.
“It’s good… just right.” Leia smiled, and he hastily cut her off. “But what about the warning we thought should go in here?”
“Oh, that’s right. A warning.” Leia took the palmcom from Luke to critically eye her work.
“Yeah, something like ‘Don’t push me, or you’ll regret it.’”
Leia’s eyebrows rose. “That’s a bit blunt, don’t you think?”
“Jabba appreciates bluntness.”
“But it doesn’t match the tone of the rest of the message,” Leia objected.
They had to match a tone? “It’s a case of ‘give me what I want, and I’ll think about not killing you.’ There is no tone.”
Leia just shook her head. “Trust me, Luke, there’s a tone. It’s sort of flowery, butters him up, it’s really fancy…. Let’s try, ‘But I warn you not to underestimate my powers.’”
Luke hesitantly asked, “Do we really want to mention my abilities with the Force?”
“You’ve already said that you’re a Jedi.”
“Oh, good point.”
Leia thoughtfully amended herself. “On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t mention a warning just yet… save it for if you have to face him in person.”
Luke sighed. “Okay.”
“Now read it.”
Luke did as he was told, all the while thinking that Leia reminded him now of Yoda. They were equally demanding. “I have to admit, Leia, this is good. It’s exactly what we need.” He beamed at her. “Now all I have to do is record this to Artoo’s databanks, and we’re all set.” He turned to leave her quarters so he could do just that.
Leia grabbed his arm. “Wrong. You have to practice saying this till you can say it in your sleep. The words have to be right, the inflection just so, the obeisance completely perfect, the…”
Leia just rolled her eyes. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll show you. Now you stand here, and I’ll sit.” She sank into the one chair in her room while she directed Luke to stand before her.
Luke felt like an idiot just standing there. “What do you want me to do? Show Jabba examples of my power?”
“No, just practise.”
Luke didn’t understand. “Practise what?”
“For starters, just let me hear you read it. Then I’ll know what needs more work, and we can go from there.”
She couldn’t be serious. “But Artoo isn’t here to record it.”
“You probably won’t be ready to record this till next week.”
“Next week?” Luke gulped. How could such a simple message possibly take so much work?
“Remember,” Leia soothed, “I know what I’m doing. Now read.”
Luke read, then pretended not to see Leia’s horrified look.
She politely suggested, “Be more pandering, less aggressive. Try it again.”
Luke instantly acquiesced.
Leia was only less horrified. “Even more pandering. Try again.”
Luke gave an internal sigh, already feeling irritated with this message. But this was for Han’s sake, so he gave himself a mental shake, and concentrated on implementing her suggestion.
When he was done, Leia vigorously rubbed her hands across her face so that Luke had to use the Force to hear her softly say to herself, “I have a bad feeling about this.”