CO2
Rating: PG-13
Diana deRiggs

Leia Organa felt herself not wanting to resist her attraction to Han Solo. But, she reminded herself, she was not just a person. She was the rebel alliance, and she had to use her skills and abilities — and her desirableness — to obtain and negotiate what the rebel forces needed. Succumbing to a moment of lust could literally mean the deaths of thousands on the ground, if her abilities to procure and negotiate were compromised.

She daydreamed of being a "normal" person, who didn't have the weight of the rebellion on her shoulders, or the price of private and government bounties on her head. If she was like other women she'd known, she would have rebelled against her father and the system to have a full relationship with a pirate like Han. She'd jump at the chance to play with the bad boys, knowing that her father loved her and would forgive her. But her father — her whole race — was dead now, and she became the de facto political head of a political and military movement so large and threatening that she feared sleeping, in case someone or something came to do her harm.

Leia would not harm herself; many have died fighting for what she believed — and thus, her life was no longer simply hers to give away frivolously.

Then there was the complication of "love." She felt she loved Han, in a way that was different than the love she felt for anyone else — her father, Winter, for anyone. Leia could have encapsulated this love and a unique and precious thing for a man who would wait for her, even if he didn't understand her turmoil and responsibilities. All the poems and songs about finding a "soulmate" went through her head, as she argued with herself about giving in to love — this was true love, and he was her one and only. Was she not duty-bound to not deny herself love?

Except ... this feeling of love was not unique to Han, for she felt it toward Luke Skywalker, too — not as intensely, but similarly and differently.

Both men — the farm boy from an outer rim backwater, and the cynical smuggler — adored her, making her feel valued and worshipped for much more than how others saw her. She was more than valued for what she could get in terms of credits, supplies, or strategy. She felt they each loved her, separate from her trappings of power she commanded. She felt they saw into her past her veneer of respectability, that what she felt from them went far beyond mere crushes.

Leia sighed. Someday, when she was no longer simply the daughter of Bail Organa, when she was no longer the Princess of the murdered planet of Alderaan, when she was no longer a fugitive from both the high authorities or the low-life scum with which she was forced to negotiate — perhaps then, she could settle down with one of these unassuming men and be a real couple. She smiled to herself, wondering what her father and her aunts would say, if she brought home either of these ineligible men. Both men seemed unable to understand how inappropriate a consort either would be for the princess royal of the House of Organa. She wondered which would deign to succumb to the pressures of being with Leia Organa.

Then again, as she mused, Leia was surprised to also relieved to not be have to choose between these two men, both whom loved her with warmth and intensity. She realized that she would not have been able to choose between them. Han was the classic bad boy with the heart-of-aurium; Luke was the wide-eyed red-neck who lacked everything except his own purity and sense of worth. Neither had known their parents, and could not give an account of their provenance.

... I'm an orphan now, too ...

Today, Leia would allow herself the luxury of fantasizing what her idea family might be. And the more she thought about it, the more she thought, Why must I choose between them? They were both good men, and they both got along together. Why could she not have both?

In a sense, this would be the perfect solution. As much as she loved Luke, his innocence lacked the experience and wisdom she'd crave in a partner. Han was adorable, but he was so cynical and moody that she felt she'd be swallowed into his depressions and anger; he was exciting, but his emotional darkness would surely grind her down and make her irate. Luke's genuine unsophistication would be the perfect counterpoint to Han's worldliness, even though in itself, Luke's wide-eyed view of life and the galaxy might make her want to scream at his unsophistication!

Why couldn't she be two people? Why could she not blend Han and Luke, then divide them in half to make two perfect men — one for her ... and one as a backup!

This isn't getting me anywhere, she chided herself in exasperation. You have so much to do, and so many responsibilities, how dare you indulge in this impractical fairy tale!

With more force than absolutely necessary, she strode across her small suite and found her reader — and time she needed to stop looking inward too deeply, she could count on being able to distract herself with a technical manual. She would never be able to built or fix the things people around her could, but she liked to read the manuals to get a feel for the jargon and procedures.

When she was still at school, Leia had preferred the arts instead. She did like that studying the hard sciences and engineering forced her to struggle and concentrate, and liked that the required un-ease with the topics forced her to focus hard, to the exclusions of anything else. It gave her a real sense of accomplishment when she, at last, understood the materials well enough to talk to the people who did the work — a feeling she enjoyed. It was a virtuous indulgence.

Today's self-assigned reading was in basic chemistry; since they'd escaped to Hoth, she'd encountered a lot of chemistry talk, and she wanted to brush up on the subject. She had tried reading manuals regarding the engineering issues she'd encountered, but realized she didn't understand enough about this basis topic to "get" the problems she's heard about. Anyway, basic science topics would never be unneeded, and the knowledge would help her find and procure supplies and suppliers more effectively, too.

As she read, the memory of these lessons while she was in school floated to her consciousness, and she set about re-explaining topics to herself:

If you put atoms together to form a single molecule, the way the charge densities were formatted around each atom would force the atoms to sit together in three-dimensional space in ways that required the least resistance. Therefore, a water molecule would appear as a bent-triangle — the oxygen on top of the triangle, and the two smaller hydrogens the bottom points of the triangle — the charge density around oxygen would force the hydrogens away from it, and the charge density around each hydrogen exerts less pressure ... so they are forced together, away from the hydrogen.

In contrast, carbon dioxide forms a molecule structured in 3D space as a straight line — the central carbon's charge density forced the two oxygens connected to it to try and get as far from each other as possible. One carbon-to-oxygen bond was equal to the other, on the other side of the carbon, and the carbon did not have a density big enough to push the oxygen, the way oxygen pushes hydrogen ...


As hard as she tried to stay awake, Leia dozed off before she got past the section introduction and started to dream. In her dream, she was a carbon atom, being surrounded by other atoms. Like the egg in a female's uterus, the carbon was surrounded by many suitors, all different atoms. The one who bonded with her would have her, and so the competition was intense. In the end, two big atoms with strong personalities grabbed her, and tugged back and forth at her, endeavoring to claim her for themselves! Till finally, the two oxygens were exhausted, and agreed to share the carbon ... though neither oxygen would have any reaction with the other ...

That oxygen looks like Han ... and that one is like Luke, pondered Leia, in her dream. She stretched her arma away from her, seeking to push them apart to minimize the damage to each other, and to her. They formed a 180° angle around her — and this formed a sort of stability, where they did not have al relationship with each other, but they were each tightly bound to Leia. Each oxygen had the benefit of being with Leia, and minimized the detriments of their mutual electrostatic repulsion ...

When she woke up, she didn't remember many of the details of her dream, but she knew it was about the CO2 molecule, and how it was an energetic yet stable molecule. She also inexplicably felt that it was her favorite molecule.

Weird, thought Leia, as she washed her face to wake herself up more completely. Why would anyone need to declare a favorite molecule?


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