Chewie and the group of Wookiees began to unload the food service droids, which would in itself be a normal activity that shouldn’t have aroused any suspicion. In the meantime, the four humans began to deactivate the security cameras. Simply disconnecting them would sound the alarm too quickly, so Lando and Han hotwired them to replay a loop from earlier in their meeting. Unless the security drone working the monitoring room knew that they should be eating and not meeting, which was highly unlikely, the false feed should pretty much cover their tracks indefinitely.
In order to sneak in the devices they needed to complete their mission, several items were hidden within their alien disguises. Several coma gas canisters were housed inside Han’s Devorian horns, for example. So, while Han and Lando worked on the security cameras, Luke and Leia began to remove their disguises and collect their hidden paraphernalia. By the time Han and Lando were finished with the cameras, all the food service droids had been disassembled and Luke and Leia were out of their disguises with their detonators, weapons and communication devices laid out on the conference room table.
The Wookiees were standing around eating, knowing that their next meal may be a long way’s off. Lando began removing his disguise. Han, however, needed help removing the coma canisters from his forehead. Both Luke and Leia approached him as he began to peel the synthetic flesh from his face.
“You, go eat something,” Han said to Leia in a tone that brooked no argument. “Luke got these things on me. He can get ‘em off of me.”
There was a flicker of something across her face, and for a moment Han regretted his brusqueness. But then her face softened, she nodded and then headed toward the table where the food had been unloaded.
“You alright?” Luke asked, as he began to work at the coma-gas-filled horns that adorned Han’s head.
“Yeah. I shouldn’t’ve snapped at her like that, though,” he said, almost more to himself than to Luke. Han was staring across the conference room at his wife as he spoke.
“Everyone’s on edge. She understands.”
Han looked down at his brother-in-law. Lately he wondered just how much Luke and Leia could convey to each other without the constraints of normal communication. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t envious of how in-tuned they seemed to be with each other.
The first of Han’s horns snapped away from his face with an audible pop and Han’s head felt lighter and slightly off-kilter. Luke stared down at the contraption for a moment, studying it intently. Han took the time to glance over at Leia, she was talking with one of the Wookiees and eating a small sandwich. The muscles in his face relaxed into a small smile as he realized that even before Luke had told him that she understood, he had known anyway - without needing any mystical Force connection. And that being jealous of Luke now was just as silly as his jealousy of Luke several years ago, even more so, in fact. Almost as if in confirmation, Leia turned and looked at him from across the room and gave him a warm smile.
The plan had called for at least ten food service droids, with an ideal of nineteen. They had been sent twenty. Fifteen of the droids were wired with coma gas and explosives and were programmed to be dispersed at tactical locations such as building entrances, turbolifts and other highly trafficked areas. Four were emptied and prepped for human occupancy and they sat patiently waiting as the four humans triple-checked their comlinks, timing and strategies and said their final goodbyes.
Leia hugged Lando first. They had come a long way in their relationship since their first meeting on Bespin and as the handsome rogue wrapped his arms around her tightly she felt the first hint of tears bursting forth as the overwhelming emotion of the moment swelled inside her chest.
Lando pulled away from her. “I want to be the first to buy you a drink on New Republic credits,” he said.
“Make it Blumfruit juice, and we have a deal,” she replied.
“Right,” he said quietly, squeezing her arm before letting her go.
Lando was quickly replaced by Luke, who had been waiting right behind him. He stood in front of her, only smiling for a moment before he finally spoke. “Keep your mind open and your thoughts clear. I’ll be right there with you.”
She nodded her head and he pulled her into an embrace. Somehow Luke brought out the soldier in her. Maybe it was his words or the fact that they were partnered in this mission, or perhaps he was bolstering her through the Force, but hugging him quelled the emotions that Lando’s embrace had just recently stirred up and with her twin in her arms she felt balanced.
As Luke stepped away, she saw her husband standing and waiting several paces away and when it seemed as if he wasn’t going to do anything more than stand there and stare at her, her knees buckled a little in anticipation of running into his arms. He must’ve read her movements because in two long strides he was suddenly standing in front of her. And then it was his arms enveloping her, her face pressed against his broad chest, the smell of him and the sound of his breathing and the beat of his heart and the whole of Imperial City dropped away.
She willed herself not to cry as she tightened her arms around him. He made her feel dizzy and terrified and excited and…loved. And although Luke’s sense of balance felt safe and secure, in Han’s arms she felt invincible.
He kissed the top of her head and loosened his grip, a signal for her to let go but she held on just a moment longer. When she pulled away and looked up at him, she felt a single tear trail down her cheek. Han didn’t comment on it, he only bent his head down to hers and kissed her deeply. It was the kind of kiss that made her knees weak and her insides quiver. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back in kind.
“I love you,” he whispered as their kiss finally broke. He held her face cradled between his hands.
“I love you, too.”
He looked as if he wanted to say something else and perhaps he did, they had always had a way to communicate without words, even when they had been at each other’s throats and now his expression, his hands and his presence expressed everything that he couldn’t find the words to say.
The rest of the room had been respectfully quiet as the couple said their goodbyes, but time was of the essence and it was Chewbacca who finally broke them apart with a long, low growl that Leia recognized as a tender show of affection. She went from her husband’s arms into Chewie’s and then, donning her coma gas mask and double checking her comlink one last time, she crawled into her droid. From then on out it would be all up to their planning, their intel, perhaps the Force and definitely a little bit of luck.
The first thing that went wrong was their ability to communicate. Some sort of descrambler had wreaked havoc with their comlinks as soon as they entered the Command Center. Leia tried to remain open and calm as her brother had advised her.
They were each supposed to be keeping a manual count as a failsafe. Not perfect but it would be close enough should all communications fail. If the three groups, Han, Lando and she and Luke, were at least a few seconds apart, the plan would still work. The problem was, since she and Luke were together on the same floor, in the same room, they had to be perfectly synchronized. Maybe this is why Luke had had his vision. Perhaps through the Force they could still communicate and time their attack.
Leia had kept her manual count. Her droid was definitely in the Command Center and had stopped moving. Of course, a normal food service droid would begin dispensing its fares, but so far no one had noticed the malfunction. According to her internal calculations, they were less than two minutes away from starting.
She drew in long deep breaths through her nose and released them slowly through her mouth as she counted down. There was a pressure, like a heavy hand on her shoulder that held her back. Luke? The momentary grasp to feel for her brother made the heavy presence disappear and she panicked, unable to remember where she had left off on her count. She tried again to slow her breathing, but it felt forced and she was unable to relax. Although the cramped innards of the droid were totally dark, she closed her eyes and tried to find her center once again.
Calmness and inner peace seemed as far away as Nal Hutta and Leia’s mind reeled through the complex chain of emotions that her panic had ignited. If the mission failed because she couldn’t concentrate…no, she couldn’t allow herself to think that way. Obviously Luke had had his vision for a reason and she was supposed to be with him so that they would be able to communicate. She still had time to calm down, to make it right. She tried once again to control her breathing, in through her nose and out through her mouth…
The first time she felt it she dismissed it as nausea. It was the smallest of flutters down deep in her abdomen. When it happened again she concentrated on the sensation of it. There was a presence, an aura surrounding the area that exuded tranquility and confidence. It reminded her of Han and what it felt like to sense him through the Force. The heavy handed pressure returned, pressing down on her shoulders in a signal to wait. She was once again open to Luke and instead of fumbling with his connection she accepted it, trusting that she would know when he gave the signal.
The Imperial Council, along with Executor Nalc, was meeting in the executive conference room discussing the foolish attack on Kuat by the insolent Rebels when the conference room door quite literally burst open. When the shards of transparisteel and puffs of smoke had cleared, several large Wookiees filed into the room and flanked the Imperial officers, growling and howling as they did so.
Executor Nalc turned to his assistant. “What is the meaning of this, Dolfin?”
Dolfin, the undersecretary responded grimly as he tried to press himself further into his chair in an effort to disappear. “I’m afraid I don’t speak Wookiee, Executor.”
“That’s okay, I do.”
All heads turned to the holocomm at the center of the table. There stood a small holoimage of a tall, male human.
“Who in the blazes are you and what is the meaning of all of this?” Executor Nalc stood so as to tower over the flickering image.
“Han Solo, General of the New Republic and the meaning of this is you’re under arrest for crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.”
Nalc didn’t even flinch. He thumbed the switch of his private comlink. “Get me security.”
The image of Han Solo stood calmly in the center of the table as Nalc’s comlink crackled to life. “New Republic Security, Coruscant.”
“New Repub-?” Some color drained from Nalc’s face. “Who is this? Who patched me through to you?”
“The answer to your first question is Lando Calrissian, General of the New Republic and currently in charge planetary security.” The voice over his comlink replied cheerfully.
“And in answer to your second question,” the tiny image of Han Solo said. “I patched you through, seeing as I’m in charge of planetary communications now.”
Nalc dropped slowly into his seat.
The Imperial Council had remained quiet under the watchful eyes of the Wookiees, but it was Lord Dangor who spoke next. “What about the Command Center and Grand Vizier Pestage?”
“I’d be glad to put you through,” General Solo replied.
The group around the table sat with baited breath as the infidel patched their comm transmission through. Most of them seemed resigned to their fate and were no more anticipating Pestage to answer that call then the late Emperor himself. But some seemed to hold out a glimmer of hope.
“Imperial Center, Command Services,” a uniformed Imperial, albeit a nervous-looking one, flickered to life on the other side of the comm.
“Who’s in charge up there, Lieutenant?” Executor Nalc snapped, a faint ray of optimism buffeting his resolve.
The Imperial’s visage was replaced by one every single member of the Council recognized. “If you have to ask, you probably don’t want to know,” Luke Skywalker answered cheekily.
(I didn't have any conditions from Zyra on this one. I know I totally avoided writing the action on this, sorry! It's not one of my favorite things to write...)