Men Are from Corellia, Women Are from Alderaan

By Helen Potter

Art by Kristin


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Part 1

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"How many times is your witless incompetence going to result in these--situations?"

"Incompetence? Let me remind you, Your Worship, that it was me who just saved your hide in that ion storm."

"A storm we probably flew through just so you could get a larger repair allowance from the rebellion!"

"The rebellion, always the rebellion! Gods, woman, do you have a one-track mind?"

"That's rich, coming from you! Perhaps someday you'll start using that lump of duracrete that lives in your skull, Captain."

"Listen, if you don't like flying on my ship, you are more than welcome to get out and walk. Preferably without a spacesuit."

"Right now, laser brain, I'd prefer anything to being stuck on this third-rate planet with a scrap heap of a spaceship and its brain-dead pilot!" With that retort, Leia Organa marched out of the cockpit, leaving the Corellian smuggler fuming at the nav computer.

Han privately admitted that it had been his idea to fly through the storm--
purely because Her High and Mightiness was loudly insistent on speed and punctuality. And in attempting to do her a favor, he'd managed to guarantee himself a damaged ship and the company of the ice bitch for at least a week. Sometimes he really doubted his own sanity, especially with heraround.

Han heaved the melodramatic sigh common to every man who feels he has been treated badly by a member of the fairer sex, before he resolutely turned back to the console, praying that the damage to his ship would be minor enough to escape the Royal Wrath for a while.

"Aw, hell," he groaned as the list of malfunctions steadily scrolled down the screen. As the damage report lengthened, so did the vulgarity and volume of his vituperations. Han had always known that his vocabulary included many unsavory phrases, though in polite company he could keep his language as pure as a monk's.

On the other hand, you know how much the princess hates it when you swear.

Somehow, hearing coarse language offended her rose-tinted view of the commoners' galaxy she was forced to inhabit. Han snickered, before a niggling voice in the back of his mind pointed out that, for royalty, a leader of a crusade doomed to fail, and an Alderaani, Leia had a good deal of something approximating common sense. If she would just learn a little about self-preservation, she might yet make a passable human being. Of course,he thought lasciviously, there are definitely a few other things I wouldn't mind her learning, either.

Uncomfortable with the turn his internal monologue was taking, Han abruptly decided that if this line of reasoning progressed any further, he could be diagnosed as a prime candidate for the psychiatric ward on base. Next, those damn voices'll be telling me to give up all my worldly possessions and become a hermit.Having resolved the issue by burying it under a layer of protective cynicism, he returned to nursing his wounded ship.

Leia stopped outside the hatch and leaned on the closed door. She felt a renewed flush of anger at his "one-track mind" comment. It was all a little too close to home. And to top it all off, she'dleft the fray first, which probably meant that he thought he'd won by default. Well, you won't be so lucky next time, flyboy.Ignoring the way her pulse had quickened at the thought of him, she had decided that next to mindless violence against Han, the best thing would be to silently vent all her anger, frustration, and panic on him. If he ended up with a headache, then it was less than he deserved.

The smug bantha had had the nerve to suggest that she, Leia Organa, last princess of Alderaan, senator and rebel leader, would be interested in him,a petty, scruffy smuggler whose only concern was the origin of his next credit.

The nerve of the man still astounded her, and she'd been forced into his company for more than a year now. All right, so she had requested that he be assigned to her team occasionally, mostly for his unusual problem-solving abilities. Each time, she had come away vowing never to subject herself to his abuse again--usually while standing in the med-center awaiting confirmation on his latest round of injuries.

The sound of his voice, drifting through the cockpit walls, shocked her out of her contemplation. Her face reddened as she comprehended his words; she didn't think that the alluvial dampers--whatever they were--could have been created from quite the parentage he was suggesting. The breeding her aunts had instilled in her as a child rankled at the torrent of obscenities. She turned and moved off to the hold.

She spotted what she felt at that moment to be the only intelligent male aboard, sitting at the holochess table, and playing at fixing a valve. Feeling absurdly pleased that she had managed to identify the hardware on which he worked, she slid onto the couch opposite him.

"Hi, Chewie, how's it going?"

The Wookiee raised his wise blue eyes skyward.

"That bad, huh?"

He nodded his head violently, whuffing a sentence she interpreted as an expression of resigned suffering. She had picked up a few Wookiee words, mostly insults aimed at Han, but the ability to comprehend the majority of the huge being's native tongue eluded her. Although body language made their communication somewhat easier, an actual conversation required either the presence of Han or Threepio.

Chewie barked, waving a huge paw in a gesture that Leia interpreted loosely as meaning, I'm going to the cockpit.

"I wouldn't if I were you--he's swearing a blue streak right now. He's liable to pull a blaster on the first person to walk through the hatch."

Chewie theatrically banged his head on the table, expressing a loud groan. Leia burst out laughing with appreciation as she realized that the arrogant spacer also got on the Wookiee's nerves at times. She really must correct the author of the account she had read that stated the Wookiee species had no sense of humor. Relief settled over her as she surveyed her new ally. "Anything I can do to help? I mean, obviously nothing too complicated--"

Chewie cut her off with an appreciative grunt and motioned her to follow him into one of the many corridors. Leading her to a loose, greasy panel, he indicated that she should reconnect the wires and then reaffix the panel, demonstrating the tools necessary for the task. Delighted by his faith in her abilities, she snagged a pair of goggles from a nearby bin and began rearranging her workspace.

The cockpit was a small affair on a ship of the Falcon'ssize and capability, an illusion not enhanced by the lanky pilot and his house-sized first mate. At present, neither of them was worried about the lack of elbow room, involved as they were in a lengthy, heated argument.

"It wasn't my fault that the friggin' Rodian was in on it!"

"If you had thought to check the details of the deal, then the problem would not have arisen,"Chewie commented sagely. Chewie interpreted Han's death-glance as an admission of Chewie's correct assessment of the situation. There were certain advantages to two hundred years in the space lanes.

"You sound just like Her Holiness! Can't I do anything on my own ship--"

Chewie cut him off. "I personally have great respect for Leia, and if you wish to impress her, I suggest you stop sounding like a petulant teenager!"Han visibly bristled at this frank appraisal of not only his behavior, but also his motives in providing a taxi service to the princess.

Chewie's expression softened, and he added, "Although I do have to say, cub, that I think that your taste in mates is improving!"

With a toothy grin, he left the cockpit. Having finally escaped the parental-
sounding lecture, Han turned back to the diagnostic screen in front of him. I have one lousy day,he thought, and the damn furball stays around to remind me of it for the rest of my life.Still, he had to admit that the furball had always proven an excellent friend. Although Chewie's insight sometimes made Han uncomfortable, in a way it was a relief; sometimes Han might be able to fool himself, but he was never able to fool Chewbacca. Sighing heavily, he flicked the screen off and ran a tired hand over his eyes. Smiling to himself, he let himself relax and simply enjoy the peaceful moment. The repairs were progressing well, the damage was less than he'd originally thought, and Leia hadn't thrown anything at him yet.

Leia. He suddenly remembered that he'd promised Chewie to take her with him when he went scouting for water to refill the tanks. Oh, boy,he thought. Another enervating afternoon with Her Worship.He momentarily pondered the mix of fire and ice that called herself Leia Organa. She seemed a contradiction of strengths and weaknesses, steel and clay. Just when he had convinced himself that she was as hard as nails and had no human feelings or feminine sentiment, some event would occur and she'd behave in the exact opposite manner than what he'd expected.

The only thing he felt sure of was that he would never meet another woman who could affect him the way the petite brunette from Alderaan could.

"No wonder this ship won't get off the ground! You spend all your time staring into space."

Han's head whipped around fast enough to cause his neck to audibly crack. Standing in the doorway, with an expression of amusement on her face, was the subject of his musings.

"Uhh, hi." Her eyebrow quirked, a trait he found immediately endearing. Careful, Solo, gonna get burned again.Looking away, he decided the easiest way to end his discomfort was to rile her.

"So, did you come up here to complain or did you actually consider getting your hands dirty again?" The pleasant camaraderie disappeared from her face as she assumed her regular expression of cool indifference. He felt a small twinge of regret at the change.

"I came up here, Captain, to see whether you had any intention of moving outside before sunset. However, if that would prove too much of a strain..." She left her challenge unfinished as Han muttered something profane and pushed past her into the hallway. Sighing resignedly, she followed him, wondering if Chewbacca would be willing to leave Han on this planet and return to base without him.

The sun beat down on them and wind stirred the red dust that seemed to be the primary component of the planet. Stopping at an outcropping of rocks, Han reached into his knapsack and drew out a compact sensor suite. Pointing it at the gully below, he scanned the readouts for a promising sign. Panting heavily, his partner ascended the last rocky stretch.

Leia looked furious. Han realized that his own stride, considerably longer than hers, had caused her to double her efforts to keep pace with him. He probably should have paused from time to time, or given her a hand up some of the steeper embankments. No doubt he'd get an earful of the rougher side of her tongue when she caught up to him.

The barren landscape on the other side of the crest didn't look promising so far as finding water. He tried to avoid looking at the princess; the stripped-down combat pants and tank top she wore made her appealing figure all-too-apparent, and seemed to have an adverse effect on his concentration. His obstinate eyes disobeyed his commands and surveyed the pleasant view her new outfit afforded him.

"What in hell's name is that?" Her startled exclamation brought Han back to reality with a jolt. Looking where she indicated, their feelings of apprehension grew. A menacing dark cloud lurked on the horizon where before there had only been blue sky.

"I dunno, but it doesn't look too good. Looks like some kind of storm." The sense of peril was almost palpable.

"It's dust! It's the only thing on this rock that there's enough of."

"If it's dust, then we're in deep bantha crap. I saw a dust storm just like this on Mirtan. Some of the guys I was with weren't lucky enough to see the end of it."

Obviously shaken by his ominous warning, the princess started back down the hill, quickly followed by her pilot. The wind was picking up, whipping their hair and clothes, and adding an eerie howl to the measure of danger they already felt.

With all the force of an unexpected tidal wave it hit them. Grit flew in their faces, tearing at their skin. Particles swirled, rubbing against each other, charging the atmosphere. Han grabbed Leia's hand and pulled her close to shield her from the onslaught just as a large rock struck him on the shoulder. The dust swirled, never ceasing its attack, seeming to dare the two humans to fight it. Staggering forward, inch by painful inch, they neared their ship. The charge within the storm built up, finally reaching a dreadful level and the dust became a supercharged generator, with Han and Leia the only available conductors. A bright light filled the air around them, and then everything went black.

Leia fought her way back to consciousness, combating the ferocious pain in her head. The white walls slowly came into focus. This isn't theFalcon, she thought. A doctor stood by her bed, checking a printout. Noticing she was awake, he moved over to her side, seeming more than a little nervous. I knew I had a reputation for being difficult, but this is a bit ridiculous.The doctor opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it, as if thinking better of it. Instead, he left the room abruptly.

Alone, Leia noticed a strange feeling enveloping her, a sense of displacement. It was as if her spirit inhabited her body with several inches to spare--as if she'd borrowed clothes many sizes too big. Trying to stay calm, she told herself that it must be perfectly natural to feel disoriented after having been unconscious. Reaching out for the glass of water on the side table she noted the tanned color of her arm. Windburn, her mind rationalized. The water revived her slightly, giving her the vitality to sit up and swing her legs over the side of the bunk. Bracing herself, she stood up and crossed to the mirror to inspect the damage to her face, wondering at the change in her normally accurate distance perception. Surely the floor wasn't that far away?

Looking into the mirror, she screamed.

Han felt lousy. He knew that he would for some time yet, having had plenty of experience in being knocked out. What the hell kind of storm was that?he wondered. And to top off the splitting headache and the nausea that threatened his stomach, something else felt--wrong. It was as if he were squashed, compressed. As if he'd suddenly outgrown a suit of armor. Craning his neck to see the readings on his monitor, he caught his reflection in the screen. His eyes widened and his jaw literally dropped. Peering closer, he mentally started a long string of expletives. Oh, hell.

Now he knewhe was crazy.

Dr. Badial was having a stressful day. Having two of the rebellion's strongest forces under one's exclusive care was not the most calming of exercises. However, he had managed a good job thus far, he thought. Until each of his patients awakened from unconsciousness and promptly gone mad. Looking over the scant information Chewbacca had been able to offer gave no immediate clues as to the reason for this bizarre turn of events. High-voltage electrical shocks did not generally affect sanity. Sighing, he looked toward the pharmaceutical cabinet at the end of his examination room. The temptation to sedate himself was enormous, especially as several overbearing generals were constantly requesting answers and progress reports. His only solution to the riddle of his deranged patients so far was to call Commander Skywalker. Badial had a great belief in the power of a Jedi, and he prayed fervently this Jedi could answer some questions about the mysterious ailment suffered by Princess Leia and Han Solo.

Leia sat staring at her reflection. It just wasn't possible. It couldn't be possible. Every scientific principle precluded the idea of it ever happening. But somehow it had. It was eerie, to look into the mirror and see eyes staring back that couldn't be yours. She felt the urge to start screaming again, but that would only result in her being sedated again. She wanted to find the cause of this mess as quickly as possible. And reverse it, preferably with a minimum of fuss and outside knowledge. This just couldn't happen.

The door behind her slid open, admitting a visitor. Leia turned to see Luke standing in the doorway, a concerned expression on his face. As he sat on the bed, she realized that he had been sent to talk with her.

Luke drew a deep breath, as if unsure how to approach her. Leia wondered briefly if he always was this intimidated by his Corellian friend, before the young Jedi sat in a chair and said, with a forced smile on his face, "Hey, Han, what's up?"

Leia studied him, wondering how to explain her predicament without appearing to be completely mad. She really didn't want to spend the rest of her days in and out of psychiatrist's offices. She decided to try; things couldn't get much worse.

"Luke, I'm not...I mean, something's wrong." Her voice sounded strange, too deep; it resonated through her throat.

"Well, you did just get hit by several thousand volts." He held a hand out to stop her from interrupting. "When Chewie brought you and Leia back, he explained everything via Threepio."

"But can't you--"

He cut her off again. "Don't worry, you'll only be in here for a few days, for observation." He stood as if to leave.

"You're going? Is there something you're not telling me?"

Luke chuckled and blushed furiously. "No, I just, um, wanted to make sure Leia was all right." Suddenly, she understood why Han felt the need to bait him constantly. He was practically begging to be teased. He continued, "And well, I mean, she came so close to...and sometimes I..."

Leia tuned out the conversation, unsure that she could stomach the sickly-sweet sentiments. One thing was certain, though--there was no way she could tell him now that she was the princess; he'd die of embarrassment. And this was certainly not the time for another casualty.

Sighing inwardly, she figured that since everyone thought she was Han, she might as well behave like him. Grinning amiably, hands folded behind her head with the Corellian's air of practiced nonchalance, she drawled, "Well, say 'hi' to her for me. She's got to be missing me by now."

So, where's my acting award?she smirked, watching Luke's flustered exit. All those times I've spent admiring--er, observing--Han really paid off.

Her bladder sent a message to her brain. Leia suddenly felt like a lost tourist without a phrase book. How exactly did one...? Resigning herself to the inevitable, she headed for the 'fresher. How difficult could it be? Well, she was going to find out, whether she liked it or not. She fervently hoped that she'd be back in her own body soon, although she suddenly suspected Han would know more about her body's maintenance than she did about his.

For a large personality,Han thought, Her Worship sure makes do with a small amount of space.Sighing, he inspected the reflection in the mirror, wishing this were all a horrible dream. No. It was the real deal. The brown eyes that he had spent what seemed like ages admiring stared incredulously back at him. Great, just great. If there was one time in your life when you needed a plan, Solo, it's now.He gazed imploringly at the monitor, as if it would suddenly spit out the answer to his prayers. Since when was the last time anything mechanical gave you anything but a headache?He gave up hope and continued to stare at his reflection. Or hers. Or whatever.

He was still trying to will himself out of the princess' body when Luke found him. Sitting down on the edge of Han's bed, the kid said softly, "Hey."

Han turned to Luke, noting that he looked much less fresh-faced and naïve from down here. Probably 'cause you can't see the moisture behind his ears.No wonder the princess sometimes seemed to prefer Luke to himself. She never had seen him from the proper vantage. He decided to answer neutrally, in his few words as possible. "Hey."

"I just wanted to check that you were okay." His blue eyes flashed concern and insecurity.

Han searched his memory for a Leia-style remark that wasn't a trigger to an argument. "I'll be fine as soon as they let me out of this place."

Luke moved closer to him on the bed. Whoa, junior. You can make time when the princess gets back, but for now, back off, buddy. You can try to get lucky some other time.Han deliberately moved away, pasting a concerned expression on his face. In haste, he pleaded, "Luke, I'm really sorry, but I think I'm going to throw up. Could you...?" He indicated the door with his head, leaving the sentence hanging.

Luke, ever eager to please his princess, obligingly left.

Well, I didn't exactly lie,Han thought. If he'd carried on, I would've puked.

The whole situation was giving him a pounding headache, not to mention cranking up the tension in his shoulders. Her Highnessness was in serious need of a massage, a point to note for future reference. He gave up trying to entangle the fiasco that was his current situation, pulled a pillow over his head, and fell onto the bed, deciding there wasn't much a few hours of sleep couldn't cure. Besides, it may still be a nightmare.He realized that he could stretch out on the bunk without hitting any walls, the only advantage to being so short that he'd discovered.

Luke gave his report to the doctor, a very concerned Wookiee, and two excitable droids.

"There's something wrong that I can't put my finger on. It's as if they're disconnected, almost. Like they're not where they're supposed to be."

"Oh my, how dreadful," Threepio opined unnecessarily. "I do hope that Mistress Leia resumes her normal functions soon." Chewie growled warningly. "Oh, and Captain Solo of course, although my primary designation is to the princess," he added.

"Don't worry, Threepio. I'm sure they'll both be fine," Luke said soothingly.

Dr. Badial still looked unsure. "I'm not sure High Command is going to believe they are fine. Are you sure there's nothing else you can tell me, Chewbacca?"

Chewie shook his head sadly.

"In that case," sighed the doctor, "we do this the hard way."


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