Saga - Legends Meet the Skywalkers

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by frodogenic, Mar 27, 2017.

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  1. frodogenic Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2007
    A/N: Multi-chapter prequel to Lord Vader's Limpet & Driving Lord Vader. The full fic is still in progress, so updates will not be predictable. But I'll give you this much – it's not prone to cliffhangers. ;)

    SUMMARY: Newly returned from the Unknown Regions with Darth Vader, Admiral Piett doesn't expect much of a welcome from the new Republic. And not in a million lifetimes would he have predicted that their very first visitor would be Luke Skywalker. After all, Skywalker and Vader are still mortal enemies...right?



    CHAPTER 1


    Eriadu looked exactly as revolting as it had twenty-eight years ago, which was a comfort. At least something in the galaxy hadn't changed.

    Firmus Piett linked his fingers together behind his back and concentrated on projecting the image of a confident, imperturbable admiral. It was an image that had gotten a lot of practice. Two and a half decades of staggering from crisis to crisis – trying to keep the Executor's life support systems tottering along, scraping together the resources to feed and clothe three hundred thousand men, conference after brain-racking conference with navigators, techs, engineers, mechanics…

    They had crawled homeward system by uninhabited system until, last month, the ship reached Zonju V. Piett was prepared to wager his hypothetical firstborn child that never in history had a less deserving planet been greeted with such shouts of joy as the Executor's surviving crew members rained on it. It was by any civilized standard a dustball lodged in the back of a closet, but the closet in which it was lodged was their own long-lost galaxy.

    Zonju V's list of desirable qualities ended there. Whether one or a thousand turbolasers were trained on them, the destitute colonists could supply little in the way of aid. Of reliable information, they could supply even less. The Empire had collapsed. No, it was at war with a New Republic. No, no, it had signed a peace treaty with the Rebels, what was left of it – no, just some of what was left of it… No two Zonjuvians seemed to have the same opinion on the subject, and indeed had considered the entire outside galaxy purely academic until a Super Star Destroyer materialized in their skies.

    As no provisions were to be had, and as Engineering estimated their jury-rigged hyperdrive was only good for another 5 parsecs or so, Lord Vader ordered the ship to jump to Eriadu – the closest hub of commerce and, once upon a time, of Imperial patriotism. In theory, a system capable of producing Wilhuff Tarkin would not yet have forgotten the Empire…whatever remained of it.

    The Executor had limped into the Eriadu system five days ago, flinging open the gates of all nine Corellian hells in the process. From Piett's vantage point it had been quite the spectacle: cargo ships, tankers, and small craft fleeing for their lives in all directions; the panicking corvettes and patrol ships of the Eriadu Security Force, some opening fire, some scrambling towards the planet and orbital habitats to do gods only knew what in their defense; the incredulous horror of the governor as her frantic plea for peace was answered by a Dark Lord of the Sith who was supposed to be dead…

    For several hours, the authorities in Eriadu City persisted in violent skepticism that the ship and her crew were who they claimed to be. When Vader threatened the entire Quintad Council with strangulation by way of proof, the governor's office transmitted declassified Imperial naval reports stating that the Executor had been destroyed at the Battle of Endor. Included was a sensor recording from the Reprisal in which the computer distinguished a mere two thousandths of a second between the disappearance of the Executor and the massive heat signature of the Death Star's explosion.

    Piett took a slightly deeper breath as his mind's eye populated the relative quiet of Eriadu with the chaos of that day. He had always known they'd had a close shave – but two thousandths of a second? No human eye could have perceived that the ship had vanished ahead of the explosion. Even had they suspected the possibility, they must have dismissed it when the Executor failed to reappear in the following weeks.

    Vader had viewed that recording, stood in silence for a moment or two, and then uncorked wells of cooperation Piett hadn't known he possessed. ComScan busied itself for hours transmitting copies of the ship's log, personnel records, their readouts from Endor, medical files, and anything else that might help knock it through the Eriaduans' heads that this was in fact the Executor and her commander was in fact Darth Vader. Conviction finally set in, and the planet began transmitting caches of news records to bring them up to speed on the galaxy's doings.

    From the perspective of thousands of Imperial naval officers, not much of the news was good.
    The Emperor had never formally chosen a successor; his presumed heir – Vader – had also been presumed dead. Much of the senior military leadership had fallen in action at Endor. So it did not come as a real shock to hear that the Empire had fragmented, factions dismembering each other in the scrum to claim Palpatine's vacant throne; nor that the Rebel Alliance, gathering momentum from its stupendous victory, had finally captured Coruscant and declared the formation of a New Republic.

    But it left Piett feeling pointless.

    He was captain of a floating anachronism. Even in full fighting trim, the Lady could not re-conquer the galaxy singlehanded. Mention of a surviving Imperial enclave controlling some dozens of systems inspired him only with disgust, as it must anyone who could remember when the mere invocation of Palpatine's name froze the blood of Core World tyrants and Outer Rim primitives alike. The Empire to which he had devoted his life was gone.

    Here in the hour of their homecoming, Piett felt more lost than ever.

    But he mustn't let the crew see it. They no doubt felt the same emptiness that he did, the same fear of what future might await them in this New Republic governed by their enemies of old, the same torment of not knowing whether reunion with loved ones would be possible. For their sakes he must continue to be the incarnation of confidence and poise.

    For once, he was actually glad of Lord Vader. Whatever else you might criticize about Vader's leadership style (and Piett had a laundry list twelve lightyears long), the man was never at a loss. You might not know what his plan was, but you knew he had one and that he expected it to succeed. Not to say he was infallible but he did have a sound grasp of strategy, at least when his temper didn't interfere.

    Piett glanced at Eriadu's besmirched surface again. At the moment Vader was making his first trip planetside to speak with the shell-shocked governor in person. Hopefully the woman survived the encounter. Killing local authorities was unlikely to go over well with the new lords and masters of the galaxy.

    He twitched his lip. Perhaps he was wasting his concern. It was a thousand to one against that they could convince the New Republic the galaxy was big enough for it and the Executor – unless someone influential interceded on their behalf, but what prominent ex-Rebel would lend Darth Vader a helping hand? The New Republic Navy was no doubt scrambling a battle squadron at this very moment to corner the Executor in Eriadu. Piett snorted. Little did they know he had barely a score of operational turbolaser mounts on the whole ship, after all the parts they'd had to cannibalize to keep vital systems online.

    Still, it was useful to be feared, and he intended to maintain the illusion of a lethal warship for as long as possible.

    "Admiral!" The voice belonged to Ensign Chimmel from ComScan, now forty-six, the poor bastard; not many opportunities for promotion in the Unknown Regions. "We have a cordon breach in zone thirteen."

    Piett joined him at the console.

    "Sensors say it's a personal transport, sir," Chimmel told him, as if the admiral's bars on Piett's uniform automatically rendered him unable to interpret a standard sensor readout. "I can't match it to any known models. Military-grade drive, though."

    Piett frowned. "Just one?"

    "Yes, sir. Unless she has buddies coming in ballistic or under cloaking."

    "If she did, she'd be under radar with them." Piett massaged his fingers behind his back, weighing whether to bring his last surviving forward bridge battery online against the trespasser. But the last thing they needed was a firefight. Besides, zone thirteen pointed Coreward straight down the Hydian Way. The transport might be a new arrival in system, out of touch with current events; and though any sane being would steer clear of an unknown Super Star Destroyer, the galaxy was regrettably full of fools, not all of whom could be prevented from operating starships. And with databanks a quarter of a century past their expiration date, ComScan was probably going to run across hundreds of unfamiliar ship designs. "Hail her and order her to stand off."

    Chimmel keyed on his set. "Unknown starship, this is Imperial Naval Ship Executor. Be advised you are breaching the ceasefire cordon. Withdraw immediately to one million kilometers."

    A text-only transmission flashed back onto the readout: CONFIRM OPERATIVE RECOGNITION CODE: HAPSPIR, BARRINI, CORBOLAN, TRIAXIS. In the corner of the screen appeared an alert icon – the Imperial Security Bureau's Field Operations insignia, surmounted by a stylized glove.

    Piett jolted back. He jerked his gaze across the viewports as if he could physically see the pilot of the incoming ship.

    Chimmel was studying the icon in confusion; he had probably never encountered that variation before. Stars knew there'd been no occasion for it recently. "Sir? How should I proceed?"

    "Request them to stand by, Lieutenant," he ordered. "And get me a secure line to Lord Vader."

    He hustled (discreetly) to the holocom deck and initiated top-secret coms protocol, sealing himself off from anyone else's hearing. He had not had to contact Vader with a priority signal in decades, but the man answered as inscrutably as if it was the fifth time that day. "Admiral. What is it?"

    "My lord, we are being approached by an unidentified personal transport. They transmitted us an operative recognition code." He swallowed. "It appears to be one of the Emperor's Hands."

    "Which code?" Vader demanded.

    "It began Hapspir, Barrini."

    Vader was silent for a moment. "Permit them to board the ship, but do not allow their arrival to become a matter of general knowledge. Clear the hangar in which they land and hold them there. I will return to the ship and deal with them myself."

    Piett ended the transmission and returned to the bridge. Once upon a time they'd had a black ops hangar specifically designed for these sorts of occasions, but like most places on the ship not essential to daily survival, it was out of commission. Instead he bugged out Hangar Bravo Five – home in the old days to the pilots of the 501st, all lost at Endor – and ordered a security cordon of the area. He handed the watch off to Captain Venka and proceeded alone to the hangar bay, his throat tight.

    The Emperor's Hand…it felt like being visited by a ghost from another universe. All he could remember was that they had answered directly to Palpatine, and supposedly shared Vader's occult powers. Why had the Hand come? To recruit them to war on the Empire's behalf, or offer allegiance in the assumption that Vader intended to restore the old status quo? To assassinate Vader, for failing to save their shared master?

    Whatever the Hand's agenda, one thing was almost guaranteed – it wasn't going to line up with Piett's agenda for a peaceful retirement.

    I'm too old for this sort of thing.

    The lift deposited him inside the hangar in time to see the mystery ship looming outside the bay doors. It certainly had never come from any Imperial assembly line. Offhand, he judged it to be an extensively modified SoroSuub Horizon-class yacht. Aftermarket cannon mounts poked noses out here and there, and that extended aft hatch must be big enough to accommodate a snub fighter – but she retained the SoroSuub grace, feathering down beautifully on the deck without a whisper.

    Nothing to worry about, Piett told himself, proceeding to the base of the extending ramp. Even if the Emperor's Hand had crossed the galaxy to take Vader's head off his shoulders, he/she/it likely wasn't going to give the Dark Lord advance notice by offing his admiral first.

    Afterwards – now that was a distinct possibility, but one thing you learned serving under Vader was that each day had enough trouble of its own. Piett posed himself at attention and projected all the imperturbability forty years in uniform could bestow.

    A hooded figure appeared at the top of the ramp, hesitated for a long moment, and then made its way down. "Admiral," said a man's voice. Piett felt a prickle in his memory. Could he have run across this Hand once before in the old days, perhaps unknowingly?

    A gloved hand offered itself to him. Piett shook it. "Welcome aboard the Executor, Agent." He had spent some of the trip from the bridge debating what title to use. "Emperor's Hand" sounded a bit…obsolete.

    "Ah. I have a confession to make," said the man. "I'm not an Imperial agent."

    Shavit, thought Piett. Should have brought a sidearm after all. He hadn't bothered to stop by the bridge armory, reasoning that if Palpatine's pet viper wanted to kill a decrepit old admiral, a blaster wouldn't do much for his odds. "I beg your pardon?"

    The man brushed his hood back. He had darkish hair, close-trimmed scruff on his chin, bold blue eyes, assorted scars testifying to a long history of close scrapes. The prickle of memory became a violent itch. Where had he seen those eyes before? Not in person – no – wait a second – surely that isn't –

    "I'm Luke Skywalker."

    Piett's mouth hung open without permission.

    ...

    TBC
  2. Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 21, 2016
    star 4
  3. GregMcP Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 7, 2015
    star 4
    That's quite nice writing.
    And obviously, your lead character is someone close to my heart.
    AzureAngel2 and Ewok Poet like this.
  4. Nehru_Amidala Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2016
    star 5
    I like this a lot, I'm looking forward to the next installment.
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  5. AzureAngel2 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Hurrah, my mouth also hang open without permission when reading that fic!

    You are back with more fun stuff to enjoy. And I happen to need a lot of quality time with a new job position. So my evenings, when I limp home with the echo of loud children voices in my old ears, are saved! Thank you!
  6. Gamiel Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2012
    star 6
    Looking forward to the next installment :)
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  7. frodogenic Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2007
    Thank you for the warm reception (and apologies for the delay in updating :/). Without further ado:

    ...

    CHAPTER 2

    ...

    It was Skywalker alright. Though twenty-five years had left their mark, Piett had needed only the name to see straight through them to the boyish face that had appeared at the top of the agenda on every Death Squadron command meeting and planning session for three years. Skywalker--what memories that name conjured. Reports of friends and comrades lost at Yavin, the attack on the Rebel base at Hoth, the late unlamented Admiral Ozzel, the madness of the asteroid field, Vader's terrifying silence in the aftermath of Bespin, scores of sleepless nights and dogged searches and false leads and arrivals five minutes too late and rumors and bounty hunter scum…

    …and what the hells could have sent this man racing into Vader's reach the moment he had word of his return?

    "What a pleasant surprise," Piett managed. "After all this time."

    "I'm here to see Vader." Skywalker projected pure calm, but Piett had seen that deliberate façade in his own mirror too many times to be fooled. The man was agitated, working hard not to show it--and at his waist, just peeking out from behind the dark long coat, hung what was unmistakably a well-used lightsaber.

    Piett's stomach swooped. Twenty-five years ago Vader had been in his physical prime (or as close to it as a man in a life support suit could get) and Skywalker had been a callow youth, lucky to escape Bespin in only two pieces. But Vader was now an aged man, and Skywalker's scuffed weapon warned that he would no longer have the advantage of experience either.

    He ought to be pleased at the prospect of being rid of Vader, at long last. But against all odds, Vader had improved with age. Perhaps it was all those years in the wild of uncharted space, dependent on his crew for survival, but truth be told Piett had thought him much changed even immediately after Endor--as though Palpatine's death had broken some sort of curse. For one thing, nobody had danced the midair jig since then. And he had shared too many troubles with the man for too many years to turn his back now.

    No--for better or for worse, Piett was on Vader's side. Damn him.

    "Lord Vader is not here," he told Skywalker. "He is on Eriadu liaising with the planetary officials." He knew better than to try lying to a Force-sensitive--but with any luck Skywalker would take his ship out to chase him down, and they could bring one of those functioning batteries to bear; or Vader could join the battle in space. Physical strength counted for nothing in a dogfight.

    "He's coming." Skywalker's eyes blazed with disquieting conviction. "He knows I'm here."

    Piett pursed his lips in dismay. If that was so--and even though Skywalker was a mass murderer, it was hard to picture him lying--then Vader had given his orders knowing full well it was no Emperor's Hand come to call.

    But perhaps Vader just didn't want to admit he was also too old for this sort of thing.

    "He may be several hours coming," Piett argued, though he didn't think for an instant it was true.

    "It's been twenty-five years. I can wait a few more hours."

    Piett shoved all his chips into the pool. "If you intend to stay, you'll do it under arrest, Skywalker. There's no statute of limitations on your warrant." At least he could go to his grave in the knowledge they'd finally caught the slippery son of a Sith, albeit a quarter-century too late--

    Skywalker laughed. Whatever toll the years had taken, his eyes looked as young as they had the first time Intel had handed around holos of the pilot who'd destroyed the Death Star. It had made Piett's gorge rise, that far-too-young face. It had made him wonder what had gone so wrong that a boy like him would end up doing a thing like that.

    "Fair enough, Admiral. I surrender." And to his surprise, Skywalker took the lightsaber off his belt and offered it, the emitter facing towards his own body. "Break out the binders too, if it makes you feel more comfortable."

    From just about anybody else this would have been sarcastic bravado. From Skywalker it sounded sincere. That was worse.

    "I don't think that will be necessary." After all, the man hadn't exactly been dragged aboard kicking and screaming…besides which, Piett didn't have any binders. Fleet admirals rarely had occasion to arrest anyone in person. "This way."

    He led the way towards the lift to the vacant bay control room, affording a broad view of the hangar through its window. Inside, he turned the lightsaber over in his hands and wondered what to do until Vader got there.

    "Well," he said. "Lord Vader will be delighted to see you, I'm sure."

    Either Skywalker missed the threat or just didn't care. "You're very loyal to him." He paced up and down the room, arms clasped behind his back and the long loose coat swinging behind him. The mannerism reminded him so much of Vader that, under other circumstances, Piett would have been tempted to laugh.

    "I have served with Lord Vader for many years." That was a good stock answer.

    "You probably know him better than I do."

    Piett frowned. Was it just his overwrought nerves or had Skywalker sounded…almost…envious?

    "I would have thought you of all people would have been glad to see the back of him, Commander."

    Skywalker gave a little laugh. "You're in good company. It isn't Commander anymore, though."

    "You'll forgive me if I don't follow the insurrectionist promotion boards." Piett did not bother about sounding diplomatic. Skywalker could afford to be diplomatic; Skywalker had not devoted three years of his life to obsessively hunting Piett, reviewing reports about Piett, studying holos of Piett, watching his fellow officers be throttled because they'd let Piett escape…

    "I resigned from active duty eighteen months after Endor." Skywalker abandoned his pacing and leaned forward on his palms on the rim of the viewport, staring out into the hangar.

    "Why?" Piett blurted. Skywalker turned a raised eyebrow towards him. "Surely…surely the war can't have ended so quickly." Surely the Empire can't have been that weak.

    "It didn't. I had other things to pursue." He turned his gaze back to the window. "I fought for the Alliance because I believed it was right, not because it was what I aspired to do with my life."

    Again Piett saw that young face that had so disturbed him. Back then--occasionally, privately--he'd used to wonder about the ifs. What if the boy had grown up on a more civilized planet, within reach of the Empire's light? What if he'd transmitted that application to the Academy that investigators found drafted in the computer terminal of his blasted-out home? What if the stormtroopers on that recovery operation had had the common decency not to slaughter two ignorant farmers in cold blood?

    He had never allowed those questions to linger; they were too much like empathy, and empathy with Rebels was treason. Besides, from his perspective, the Rebellion always took the form of blips in scanner readouts--occasionally, if they were close enough, of rundown ships gunning away from the Lady for dear life. Intellectually you might acknowledge that the corvette your gunners had just liquidated had contained several hundred sentients with dreams, fears, hopes, loved ones. But what you saw was a flash of plasma and atomized matter.

    Face to face with the enemy for the first time, Piett dared to ask. "What did you aspire to be, if not a Rebel?"

    Skywalker smiled mournfully. "I wanted to be like my father."

    Intel had been clear that Skywalker was the orphan of a Jedi. Piett could imagine the rest. The boy had grown up with a gaping father-shaped hole in his life, pouring into it the stories others told him or that he told himself; and of course the man of the stories had been a splendid hero, a rescuer of the oppressed, a fearless victor against overwhelming odds--an ideal that likely bore little resemblance to the man as he'd actually been.

    What if his father had been there? Piett hastily dismissed the thought. Skywalker's father had been a Jedi traitor. His death had been in his son's best interests, though Skywalker had chosen to deny that fact.

    But what boy wanted to believe he had a monster for a father? A weight like that crippled a child. In Skywalker's place, Piett might not have fared any better. "Do you think you've succeeded?"

    Skywalker stared out the viewport. "I'll find out soon." He straightened up and paced down the room, back again, leaned at the window.

    "You intend to kill him, don't you?" Piett clenched the lightsaber in his hand, though he doubted he could stop Skywalker from reclaiming it if he chose.

    Skywalker shot him a startled look. "My father?"

    "Lord Vader," Piett snapped.

    Skywalker relaxed slightly. "Of course not."

    Just as though it went without saying that two mortal enemies could get along perfectly well provided they took a twenty-five-year break from one another. "Then what are you doing here?"

    Skywalker's composure cracked. He laughed, sat down in the closest chair and ran his left hand through his hair. "I didn't exactly plan it out. I just blasted out for Eriadu. I suppose I need to see if it's really him."

    "Of course it's him." Was he going to spend the rest of his days answering that question?

    "And if he's who I think he is," Skywalker added cryptically.

    "Those are questions worth risking your life for?"

    "It wouldn't be the first time." Skywalker looked up at Piett. "What about you, what do you think of him? You must be closest to him of anyone."

    "I don't think close is the word for it." Piett ignored Skywalker's nod at an opposite seat. No Rebel prisoners were going to play host to him on his own ship. And Skywalker was his prisoner. Maybe if he told himself that enough times, he'd believe it.

    "Do you think he's a good man?"

    Piett stared at the Rebel, eyebrows lurching. "I beg your pardon?"

    "You've been with him for decades." Skywalker's gaze remained nailed on him. "Do you think he's a good man?"

    He had to force himself not to gape. "I--I would not presume to--"

    "To have an opinion about a man you've worked with that long?" Skywalker's eyebrows arched.

    "Why are you asking me this?"

    "I asked him at Endor," said Skywalker. "I want to know if the answer has changed."

    "At Endor? Were you not busy giving an encore of your famous performance at Yavin?"

    "No. I was with him on the Death Star."

    A dim memory flared--a shuttle with an old clearance code, requesting to land on the Sanctuary Moon, and Vader's ominous leave them to me. "Lord Vader captured you on the forest moon."

    "Not exactly. I turned myself in."

    His eyebrows lurched again. Skywalker's mouth quirked, as if to share Piett's disbelief at his younger self's colossal stupidity. "How did you escape?"

    "He let me go."

    Vader had never breathed a word about this encounter. Piett took himself back to those initial weeks after Endor--that strange mingling of relief and grief that he had thought he sensed in the man and assumed was his own hyperactive imagination. Had Skywalker had a part in…whatever change had been effected?

    "Lord Vader is a hard man," he said at length. "But for the past many years, not a cruel one. Such hardships as we have faced can alter lives. And…" He paused, for what he wanted to say still felt like treason. But Skywalker would hardly mind. "I think that the Emperor incited the worst in him. The removal of his influence has permitted better tendencies to flourish." He allowed his purported prisoner a civil little smile. "On occasion, I even suspect he likes me."

    Skywalker had hung on his every word; now Piett saw an agony of hope in his eyes, hastily hidden. "Thank you. I'm glad he's had you."

    Piett blinked at this comment from left field, and was still trying to figure out what the hell should be done with it when Skywalker twisted to the window. A lambda shuttle loomed outside the bay doors, making its way to a landing. Piett glanced at a chrono. Only half an hour--then Vader must have been already en route when he took the call. Skywalker stood abruptly, gripping the edge of the console until the fingers on his left hand turned white. The shuttle set down, the ramp extended, and the next moment a familiar towering black form sped out, headed for the lift.

    A shuddering, deep breath drew Piett's attention back to Skywalker, now leaning heavily forward on his hands, his head down and eyes closed and mouth set, as if doing battle with some dragon deep inside. Why did he really come? Who would choose this?

    The door of the observation office opened. The familiar rhythm of the respirator filled the air.

    "My lord," Piett began--but he stopped right there. Vader did not, at this moment in time, seem aware there existed any such man as Firmus Piett. He had frozen in the gangway, his entire attention riveted on Skywalker. The Rebel had yet to move or look up. Warily, Piett backed out of the line of fire, planning to make his escape once Vader stopped blocking the only exit.

    Silence stretched between the two archenemies for more than a minute, Skywalker's breathing nearly as harsh as Vader's.

    Vader took a step forward. "Young one…"

    Like a shockball bat to the side of his head, the thought hit Piett that Vader was at a loss for words. What in blazes happened on that battle station?

    Skywalker looked up. Wet tracks ran down both sides of his face; he made no effort to conceal them. He seemed unable to even speak. Vader approached and settled a strangely gentle hand on Skywalker's shoulder. Skywalker's gloved right hand seized Vader's wrist, and there they stood in silence for what seemed an eternity. Sheer consternation chased all thought of leaving from Piett's mind.

    Skywalker found words first, none too dignified. "Are you fracking immortal?"

    Piett heard a sound he hadn't known Vader could make--at least, he thought that odd hiccup in the respirator was a laugh. "Assuredly not."

    "This vanishing-for-two-decades act is getting old."

    Vader squeezed Skywalker's shoulder. "I have no intention of repeating the performance."

    Skywalker nodded and straightened up, mopping his face quickly with his sleeve. "Good. I think your admiral would disapprove."

    Vader, thus made to realize he and his obsession had an audience, skewered Piett with a stare. In his fright Piett's fingers tightened on the lightsaber, which happily provided him with something to say. "Ah--my lord--he was carrying this." He held out the lightsaber not so much towards Vader as away from himself. What the hell was going on here?

    Vader took the weapon and handed it casually back to Skywalker. "Have you made a practice of volunteering to be arrested?"

    "Only when I know you're coming to bail me out." Skywalker restored it to his belt with a smile.

    "And supposing I had not arrived in time to dissuade someone from executing you? You have no friends aboard this ship, young one."

    Skywalker raised an eyebrow. "Maybe I'm better connected than you think."

    "Indeed. Where did you obtain that operative recognition code?"

    "A friend."

    Vader hooked his thumbs in his belt and loomed. "Are you aware that your friend was a trained assassin answerable only to the Emperor?"

    Skywalker widened his eyes. "No shavit?"

    "None, young one."

    Joy, thought Piett, glancing at the ship out on the pad. Perhaps Skywalker had been a distraction all along. Perhaps he'd return to find his bridge full of slit throats.

    "Kriff," said Skywalker. "Guess I should have let Han run that background check before I married her."

    Dead silence answered this comment; the respirator even paused. Piett counted four heartbeats before Vader said… "Jade?"

    "Jade Skywalker," said Skywalker. "What, no congratulations?"

    Piett really should have skedaddled, but this bizarre conversation between the erstwhile second-in-command of the galaxy and his ex-Rebel adversary held him rapt with its hooks.

    "Young one, that woman has orders to--"

    "Kill me, yes, she reminds me twice a day or so." He sat back on the arm of the chair, enjoying himself to no end. "You know what that makes you?"

    Vader regarded Skywalker in--horror? The man could feel horror?

    "Her father-in-law," Skywalker supplied.

    "I am aware of the relationship," Vader snapped. "What I want to know is what possessed you to initiate it!"

    "What can I say, it was love at first death threat--"

    Right then, like a podracer at 800 klicks an hour, the full import of what he'd heard belatedly slammed into Piett's brain.

    "My--my lord--forgive me, but am I to understand that--that he's your--Skywalker, I mean, is--"

    Vader glanced at him. "Is it such a world-shattering concept that I could have a son, Admiral?"

    "Yes, actually, it is," Skywalker retorted. "I'm sorry, Admiral, he doesn't communicate these things well. Believe me, I know."

    "You should demonstrate more respect, young one," Vader boomed. His index finger, never on the sidelines long, sprang off his belt toward Skywalker's nose.

    "You think I'm disrespectful? You should have heard Leia when the transmission came in from Eriadu City. Even Han didn't recognize all the names she called you."

    Vader waved a hand in dismissal. "I expect such behavior from your sister."

    Piett had to sit down.

    "You could at least try to break it to him gently," Skywalker reproved. "Admiral, your pardon."

    Piett waved the apology off feebly.

    "In the same way you are breaking your news to me?"

    Skywalker inclined his head. "Fair enough."

    "Your sister is…well?"

    "Very."

    "And has not yet had the sense to rid herself of that Corellian nuisance?"

    "Married him. Three kids."

    "I see."

    "Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin."

    Vader's respirator stumbled. Skywalker produced a pocket holoprojector and switched on a holo of three dark-haired teenagers. "Jaina and Jacen are twins. Anakin's a couple of years younger."

    Vader took the projector and studied the fresh faces of his three grandchildren. Piett felt a stab in his chest. Vader had always stood aloof--even when the man was at his homicidal worst, there had been a sort of consolation in believing that he was an invincible superman, that no pain or fear could touch him. In this moment he seemed almost frail.

    Vader clicked to the next holo, which featured a small redheaded child sitting inside a washing unit and clutching a multitool that his gleeful expression made it clear he was not supposed to have. Wiring hung haphazardly around the little head. "And this one?"

    "That's Ben," said Skywalker. "He's ours."

    Vader's hand moved as if to reach for the child, remembered whose body it was part of, and jerked back into its proper place. "Is it a current holo?"

    "A couple weeks ago. He just turned eighteen months." Skywalker grinned outright. "I forgot to lock the repair kit on the counter. He levitated that multitool out and tried to take the washer apart from the inside."

    "I see he has inherited his father's proclivity for wreaking havoc on any orderly system."

    "Talk about the Toydarian calling the Jawa cheap," Skywalker shot back.

    "Are you suggesting your criminal tendencies are my fault, young one?"

    "It's not like I'm the first person in the family to overthrow a galactic government, is it?"

    "I will grant that your sister began the enterprise at least a year ahead of you."

    "She's an overachiever. Speaking of which, I should probably mention she's Chief of State now."

    Piett cleared his throat to reintroduce himself to the conversation at this critical juncture. "Beg pardon--did you say your sister's name is Leia? As in the Princess Leia Organa?"

    "That's her."

    So much for our chances of a sympathetic reception. Piett swore in torrents under his breath.

    "She has Sixth Fleet mobilizing at Yag'Dhul. Sixteen dreadnoughts, plus the Guardian coming in from Fondor."

    "The Guardian?"

    "An Executor-class Super Star Destroyer," Vader said.

    Piett was positive there had been no Guardian on the Fleet rosters before Endor, but had long since given up questioning his commander's routine omniscience. He just pressed a hand to his forehead, feeling the familiar sensation of the future crumbling to pieces before his eyes. "Yag'Dhul. They won't be long getting here, then."

    Skywalker turned a steady gaze to Piett. He did not seem perturbed that an entire battle fleet was gunning for the dilapidated ship on which his life currently depended. Then again, if anyone had experience dealing with such a situation it would be Skywalker. "I know. That's why I got here first."

    It needed no Jedi to sense Vader's surge of wrath at this comment. "You should have outgrown such recklessness by now, young one," he snarled. "Depart this ship at once."

    "Make me," Skywalker said, in a tone which added old man.

    "Do not tempt me." Vader stalked down the length of the control room, perhaps in hope of finding something less consequential than a son to kill at the far end. "I am not so decrepit as you seem to think."

    "You're getting worked up over nothing," said Skywalker, who had apparently missed the memo about not condescending to Sith Lords. "She isn't going to blow up this ship once she knows I'm on it."

    Vader whirled on him. "You flew into an imminent war zone without telling anyone?"

    "Easier to ask forgiveness than permission. Skywalker life motto. Is your holocom working?"

    "You have been left to your own misguided devices for far too long," Vader snapped. "I should not have killed Obi-Wan so quickly--"

    "Let's not go there, Father." That was what convinced Piett that Skywalker truly was Vader's son--the anger. Though Skywalker kept it muzzled on a tight chain, Piett recognized that dangerous beast. "Is it working?"

    Vader made a disgusted noise. "Admiral, take him to the holocom deck and allow him to call whom he wishes. I will be in my meditation chamber. Do not disturb me." He swooped toward the hatch, clearly having had all the insubordination he could take for one day.

    As he passed, Skywalker murmured, "I missed you, you know."

    Vader stopped for a cycle or two of the respirator. He half turned. "It is good to see you well, son. The admiral will show you to my quarters when you have finished." He pointed a finger. "And then we will revisit the question of forgiveness versus permission."

    He precipitated himself away. The hatch shot closed and Skywalker blew out an exhausted sigh as he thudded into a seat, leaning forward with elbows on his knees. "We ought to put you in for a medal," he told Piett. "Twenty-five years and you're still sane. How do you do it?"

    "Twenty-eight," said Piett. "I make a point of not provoking him."

    "I don't think I can help that."

    "Then it's a good thing he likes you as much as he does."

    ...

    TBC
  8. Nehru_Amidala Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2016
    star 5
    BWAHAHAHAHA- I am laughing so hard right now, this is hilarious. Makes me wish I wrote humor this well, as I write romance mostly.
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  9. Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 21, 2016
    star 4
    Hell of a family reunion, huh?
  10. AzureAngel2 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    Another priceless piece of yours with Piett on an emotional roller-coaster. The poor man has to process a lot here. But you did it in a very hilarious, good-humoured way.

    A father and son, who really do not know each other well curse a lot here, but treat one another with great respect and love. Even though they curse here and there, like to Tatooine street merchants.

    Please inform me, when you write on! With a new job I am not always alert for updates.
  11. frodogenic Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2007

    Turn about is fair play, I can't write romance to save my life :) But I hail from a family well-versed in the arts of amusing snark.
  12. frodogenic Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2007

    Ha. We're barely even under way yet, wait till the rest of them show up... [face_devil]
  13. frodogenic Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2007


    Yes, poor Piett. It's pretty much just geting worse for him from here however. :) As far as direct updates, I'll try to remember; but I work three jobs myself, so I tend to be distraction-prone [face_hypnotized]
  14. AzureAngel2 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    No worries! 3 jobs, wow! One teaching position in a kindergarten with 40 hours per week is enough for me, mate!
    Nehru_Amidala likes this.
  15. Nehru_Amidala Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2016
    star 5
    Are you going to post this over on fanfiction.net? I have an account over there, you know.
  16. frodogenic Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2007

    Yes, it is up on ff.net :)
  17. frodogenic Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2007

    [face_hypnotized] I am reasonably certain that 40 hours teaching kindergarten would strike me dead, so =D=. Each of mine is part-time.
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  18. frodogenic Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2007
    ...

    CHAPTER 3

    ...

    Skywalker stayed locked away in the holocom chamber for forty-five minutes. When he reappeared he looked twice as exhausted as before. Piett felt a vague nausea which could not be put down to out-of-date rations.

    "I take it your sister is less than pleased?"

    Skywalker pinched the bridge of his nose. "Let me put it this way--imagine taking my father's temper, compressing it into a third of the volume, and pumping it full of estrogen."

    Piett contemplated that charming image for a minute or two before deciding there was really only one thing to say. "Would you care to join me for a drink?"

    "Please," said Skywalker fervently.

    Piett led the way to the lounge, quite empty at this hour. "I'm afraid all I can offer is some concoction our crew calls starshine. I should warn you it may very well be made of seventy-five percent recycled engine coolant."

    Skywalker took a tumbler, grinning as Piett filled it. "You don't want to know what we used to make it out of."

    Piett raised an inquiring eyebrow.

    "Let's just say it's amazing how many things you can do with a tauntaun." He tossed back the tumbler in one go.

    "You're right, I don't want to know." Piett offered the decanter again. "Unless you wish to rejoin Lord Vader?"

    "Not just yet. That was a lot for anyone to absorb."

    Piett raised his glass in fervent agreement. He would have liked to escape to the privacy of a meditation sphere himself; but somebody had to be the diplomat on this ship and stars knew, it wasn't going to be Lord Vader. "So, you're retired from insurrection. What fills your time these days?"

    "I teach."

    "Teach what?"

    "Jedi Knights. I established a praxeum. About two hundred students have come through now."

    Piett tried, and failed, not to be visibly disgusted at the word Jedi. Generously, Skywalker changed the subject.

    "Occasionally I also serve as a guest instructor at the Flight School on Anaxes. One of my old wingmates is the commandant now."

    The words Anaxes and Flight School triangulated with the name Skywalker and generated one of the compliments he had been failing to invent. "I understand you once aspired to attend the Academy. I have often thought it was greatly to our loss that you did not."

    Skywalker planted his drink on the credenza, a bit too forcefully. "I'm afraid personal difficulties intervened."

    On second thought, that had been a bad subject to touch on. Like a falling monkey-lizard lunging for a vine, Piett snatched for a tangent. "I suppose you received your training through the Alliance, then?"

    "It was more of a practical exam. I only got an hour of sim time before they sent us up at Yavin."

    Piett's glass stopped halfway to his lips. "My gods. What were they thinking?"

    Skywalker shrugged. "There wasn't much of an alternative if the Alliance was going to live another day."

    Piett had had friends on that station who hadn't lived another day, courtesy of the man drinking his booze. "A glorious victory, indeed." He took a rather long swallow.

    "An expensive one."

    Piett's lip curled. "I'd say the rate of exchange that day was solidly in the Rebellion's favor. Have you any idea how many personnel were assigned to that station?"

    "One million, five hundred and fifty-six thousand, two hundred and ninety-six." Skywalker's rock-steady gaze held his. "Not including any civilians or unregistered detainees who might have been aboard. And just getting me a chance to take the shot cost forty-six men their lives, one of them my oldest friend. I call that an expensive victory, yes."

    "Nobody twisted your arm, Skywalker," Piett snapped. "You chose to get in that cockpit."

    He shrugged. "True. I suppose I could have stayed home and been shot with my aunt and uncle instead. Or gotten to Alderaan a couple of hours earlier and been vaporized with the other two billion people there. Would that have been the upstanding thing to do?"

    Piett retreated uncomfortably toward the viewport. "I don't condone the deaths of civilians. The Empire made mistakes, I grant you." He grasped his hands behind his back and turned back to Skywalker. "But it was worth serving, nonetheless."

    Skywalker helped himself to a seat and leaned his elbows on his knees, bestowing on his host what might be the most disarming smile in the known galaxy. For the millionth time that afternoon, Piett tried to work out how you could plug a Darth Vader into one end of the reproductive cycle and get a Luke Skywalker at the other. What a woman his mother must have been. "I never said the Empire had no good features. You sure had us beat for military discipline."

    "Of course we did. You were a ragtag band of juvenile delinquents and deserters."

    "No argument there. There were probably fifty times my squad just about saved the Empire the trouble of killing me."

    Piett waged war with a treacherous grin. "We would have had to get our hands on you first. Your talents as an escape artist border on the supernatural, as I remember."

    Skywalker grinned in turn. "My wife calls it the Tatooine Corollary to Murphy's Law--any situation involving a Skywalker will immediately escalate to the worst possible scenario, then be resolved in the least probable fashion."

    "Ah," said Piett. "That explains Bespin. And Endor. And Hoth…"

    "Kothlis," said Skywalker, thinking back. "You'd have been there too."

    Piett made a noise of mild interest. "I was never convinced you were actually on Kothlis."

    "Why's that?"

    Piett waved a dismissive hand. "Bounty hunters. Those scum will say anything to make a credit."

    "Hey now. Those were some of the most considerate bounty hunters I've ever met. I almost felt bad for escaping." He held up his thumb and forefinger, an urchin-like glint in his eye. "Almost."

    "Is that why you spent half a day hidingin the asteroid belt?" They had wasted hours supervising recon flights in and around that damned asteroid belt, all because Lord Vader insisted he could sense a "locus for the Force" within it. This was not the kind of intelligence that qualified as actionable in Piett's book, nor indeed the book of anyone whose name was not Darth Vader. After twelve hours and nine minutes he had actually dared to tell the man so. Not two minutes later a ship had darted out of the belt, lingering just long enough for Vader to turn an indisputably smug look at Piett before it scooted to hyperspace.

    "That's the Falcon for you. Fastest hyperdrive in the galaxy, unless you actually need to use it. Ever tried to hotwire a motivator assembly without blueprints while sonic sounding charges are hammering over your head?"

    "No…but I have had to respectfully disagree with Lord Vader's orders a time or two."

    Before either of them knew it they were laughing uproariously.

    ...
    "You missed your calling, Skywalker," Piett said, stepping into the antechamber of Vader's quarters. "You should have been a diplomat."

    Skywalker, sitting cross-legged on the floor doing something mystical, raised an eyebrow. "Why's that?"

    "Our scopes have just registered the Millennium Falcon approaching from the outer system. I shall not doubt your powers of persuasion again."

    After monopolizing Piett's holodeck for several days, Skywalker claimed he had convinced his sister to extend a truce long enough to speak in person with their father. Vader had been hibernating (one could not call it sulking and expect to live) ever since, leaving Piett to make all the arrangements for welcoming a galactic ruler in style until Skywalker robbed him of even this small comfort by informing him that the visit was being conducted in secret and formal receptions were therefore off-limits.

    "You don't persuade Leia, you outlast her." Skywalker, who despite his forty-plus years had the knees of a Juvenian grasshopper, stood up hands-free and rapped on the outer shell of Vader's sealed hyperbaric chamber.

    A pointed silence held for thirty seconds before the egglike chamber hatched a glowering Sith Lord. "What is it you want?"

    "They're here. Will you come to the hangar with me?" He flicked a mischievous grin at Piett. "I'm technically under arrest."

    Vader stood and boomed, "Behave yourself, or I will be inclined to keep you that way."

    Piett tailed them to the hangar. He had not been specifically invited, but he hadn't been forbidden either, and therefore felt at liberty to indulge his curiosity under the pretense of being a considerate host.

    They arrived in time to see the Millennium Falcon just setting down on her landing struts. My gods, Piett thought to himself, that thing's still flying. Idly he wondered what percentage of it had been replaced since he last laid eyes on it. None of the components looked less than three decades old. Perhaps Solo bought ready-junked ship parts.

    "I see Captain Solo's maintenance standards remain nonexistent," Vader seethed. He seemed to consider the appearance of his son-in-law's starcraft a personal affront, as though Solo had collected decades of dents and dings for the sole purpose of annoying him. "That freighter would lower the value of a junkyard."

    "Bantha shavit," said Skywalker. "You're just jealous she isn't yours."

    "That ship should be so lucky."

    "Only over Han's dead body."

    From his vantage point on Vader's right side, Piett saw the man finger his lightsaber longingly, eyes on the Falcon's cockpit.

    The landing ramp descended. Piett clasped his hands behind his back to stop a slight nervous shaking. True, their fate depended on this meeting going well, and true, the odds of that were practically nil, but to betray any concern over this would be unprofessional.

    Two minutes crept by with no sign of any passengers.

    Vader shifted.

    Four minutes.

    Vader paced. Skywalker tensed slightly.

    Five minutes.

    "Perhaps Captain Solo has forgotten the combination to unseal his smuggling compartments?" Vader suggested. "I seem to recall they are his preferred travel arrangement."

    Skywalker shot him a reproving look. "Just be patient."

    Piett felt the beginnings of a cold sweat coming on.

    Seven minutes.

    With a sharp intake of breath, Vader stormed towards the ramp. He was just ducking under the overhang of the ship when a blaster bolt greeted him from within. The Dark Lord's hand flashed up--and to the goggle-eyed amazement of Piett, the bolt bounced off into the hull of the ship. His glove wasn't even singed.

    Three decades and the man still had cards up his sleeves.

    "Well, sweetheart," shouted someone inside, "it's your old man alright!"

    Beside Piett, Skywalker gave a short groan and kneaded his forehead.


    ...
    TBC
  19. Nehru_Amidala Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2016
    star 5
    BWAHAHAHAHAHA! BRILLIANT!
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  20. Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 21, 2016
    star 4
    Oh, man! This just keeps getting better!

    My favorite parts of this chapter:

    And...

    It's called a facepalm, Luke.
    Sith-I-5 and AzureAngel2 like this.
  21. Gamiel Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2012
    star 6
    [face_laugh]
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    Excellent characterization of Piett and love his reactions. Terrific family reunion. ;) Full of Skywalker snark.
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  23. Emperor Ferus Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 29, 2016
    star 4
    As hilarious as your other Vader stories. Please keep going.
  24. Chyntuck Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 11, 2014
    star 5
    When I read the first paragraphs of this story, I thought that this would a somewhat less zany, more drama-oriented fic than Lord Vader's Limpet and Driving Lord Vader. But then I reached the last few lines of the first chapter, and the opening lines of the second chapter, and... well, I was grinning like a goofy fangirl, and very soon after that I was laughing my head off again.

    "Talk about the Toydarian calling the Jawa cheap" is one of your most brilliant finds that I intend to use in the future, if you'll allow me.

    I don't even know where to start. The Luke/Vader snark: brilliant. The Luke/Piett relationship-building: brilliant. Han's way of ascertaining Vader's identity: pure genius!

    I really hope that you haven't forgotten about us and that you'll be continuing this!
  25. Sith-I-5 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 14, 2002
    star 6
    A work of sheer perfection.

    I bit a knuckle while Vader re-evaluated that his boy's recklessness extended way beyond volunteering for arrest; as he learned where Luke had gotten the ISB field operative code. Then, "You flew into an imminent war zone, without telling anyone?"

    Piett needing an eventual chair, and Han's 'Vader test' that @Gamiel highlighted, were, ironically, highlights.

    This was beautiful, artistic prose, that captured Piett, Luke, and Vader, perfectly.

    10/10. Double-A star.

    PS. One minor note. I read your later pair of stories first. Obviously here, Vader is clapping his eyes on Luke for the first time in three decades; but his love for Luke does not come over as well in the baby-sitting piece.
    Last edited by Sith-I-5, Jul 10, 2017
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