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Beyond - Legends Meet the Skywalkers

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

  1. frodogenic

    frodogenic Jedi Master

    Registered:
    Sep 4, 2007

    Thank you! This chapter was a sticking point and subject to a lot of rewrites, so I'm glad you enjoyed it.
     
  2. frodogenic

    frodogenic Jedi Master

    Registered:
    Sep 4, 2007

    Thank you! Yes, every so often I veer off the deep end for a short while :). Hopeful that I will have more time/attention for this in a couple of weeks.
     
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  3. frodogenic

    frodogenic Jedi Master

    Registered:
    Sep 4, 2007
  4. frodogenic

    frodogenic Jedi Master

    Registered:
    Sep 4, 2007
    Just about to go up :)
     
  5. frodogenic

    frodogenic Jedi Master

    Registered:
    Sep 4, 2007

    Glad you enjoyed it! Yes, it's not exclusively a humor story. I much prefer to write to humor that springs naturally out of two characters clashing/playing against each other, but the flip side is that this will eventually take you to more serious places too. I've found Piett an excellent POV for telling the story; I figure he'd have to be the observant type if he's going to survive twenty-plus years trying to read a guy in a full face mask who tends to snap without warning :). And being from the other side he can fully appreciate the absurdities of the SkySolo clan...poor dude.
     
  6. frodogenic

    frodogenic Jedi Master

    Registered:
    Sep 4, 2007
    A/N: This might be my favorite chapter in the whole fic. If I had to pick :)

    ...

    CHAPTER 6

    ...

    "I don't," huffed Piett, "see why it has to be me."

    "Are you suggesting it should be Father?"

    "Gods no. Why not Venka?"

    Piett stuck a thumb at the captain, who cast a reproachful look at him over his nerfsteak. While their situation vis-à-vis what (for lack of a better term) Piett was forced to call the legitimate galactic government remained dicey, Skywalker had finagled the father-in-law of one of his two hundred students into running them regular shipments of surplus military rations. Since said rations were always less than five years old, Piett had chosen to overlook the fact that they always arrived in a red Star Destroyer (one glimpse of which travesty had sent Vader into his hyperbaric chamber for forty-nine straight hours).

    "He doesn't have the diplomatic experience you do." Skywalker salted his thola beans serenely. "No offense intended, Captain."

    Venka made a noise indicating that he would never dream of taking offense at anyone related to Darth Vader.

    "I have experience in not stepping on your father's toes," Piett growled. "That's not the same thing."

    "Hmm." Skywalker studied the ceiling. "You're right, politicians are a lot touchier."

    Piett glared at him, and Venka too – the captain's fit of coughing couldn't be coincidental.

    It had been almost two standard months since the Executor's now-legendary arrival at Eriadu, and what a two months they had been for opinion columnists, paparazzi, holojournalists, political pundits – not to mention the Legislative Broadcast Channel, which citizens had actually begun to watch for reasons other than needing to be bored to sleep. Piett had reviewed some of the deliberations that had taken place in the Princess' absence, and he had to admit all the shouting and panicking and posturing had made quite exciting viewing, especially since the Senators allowed so few facts to interfere with their proceedings. Borsk Fey'lya, the Bothan leader of the Opposition, had championed the Blast-Them-To-Fragments faction; others called for Vader's arrest and trial; still others for re-banishing the entire ship; and the Senator from Dorduruaa had solemnly suggested euthanizing them all, hiring a taxidermist, and transforming the ship into a traveling museum exhibit. New Republic naval officers itching to hold surprise live-fire exercises in Eriadu had raised all manner of hell over Skywalker's unilateral decision to install himself on the Executor as a human shield, presumably unaware that the only person more displeased with this arrangement than they were was Vader himself. The embassy from the Imperial Remnant had lodged seventeen protests, and the major galactic news networks aired footage of riots and demonstrations across the galaxy as a routine hourly segment.

    The Princess, when she finally addressed the Senate on this wild turn of events, had dropped the galaxy's jaws even further by announcing that – however little she or the Senate might currently like it – it had ratified the Bastion Accords between the New Republic and the Galactic Empire. Consequently, since they had been active-duty Imperial naval personnel at the time, not only the crew of the Executor but Lord Vader himself were protected from prosecution by the New Republic for any actions prior to the ratification. As Chief of State she was bound to uphold the law, the integrity of the Republic must not be sacrificed to a desire for vengeance, et cetera, and so on.

    Twelve million lawsuits had been filed across the galaxy before she had even finished speaking, and the case rocketed to the Supreme Court of the New Galactic Republic before the week was out – only for the justices to determine that not only was the Chief of State's interpretation perfectly correct, but that the Accords also granted every man-jack aboard the Executor the option to void his Imperial citizenship and become a voting citizen of the Republic if he wanted, Darth Vader not excluded. Whereupon a second tsunami of lawsuits crashed into the courts, asserting that the Bastion Accords were invalidated by the fact that the representatives of the Galactic Empire had acted without the imprimatur of the Galactic Empire's rightful ruler – namely, Lord Vader. The Supreme Court cleared its throat uncomfortably and referred the question of the Imperial succession to the Imperial Remnant, which dithered for weeks over whether it was more frightened of acknowledging Vader or denying him.

    Out of patience with both sides, Vader had dragged a few petrified reporters onto the Executor and resolved the crisis in five minutes with three consecutive press releases: the first declaring himself Emperor retroactively since the Battle of Endor, the second stating his acceptance of the Bastion Accords as enacted, and the third announcing his abdication, effective immediately. The Imperial Remnant heaved a sigh of relief, the Supreme Court dismissed the case, and the Senate found itself with no recourse but to protest the "Imperial invasion of the Eriadu system". While Skywalker was sabotaging Vader's holocom unit to prevent him from calling the reporters back and threatening to demonstrate what a real invasion of Eriadu would look like, the Princess busied herself with soothing the Senate's ruffled feathers, promising to personally redress the matter with "appropriate Imperial representatives" right away.

    By the time they discovered that this phrase meant Admiral Firmus Piett, it was too late for either him or the Senate to object.

    And as if the prospect of what was sure to be his brief and star-crossed career in diplomacy wasn't enough to make him sick to his stomach, there was Skywalker's plan for getting him to Coruscant.

    "And I don't see why I can't take my own shuttle," Piett continued testily, impaling a hapless pile of peas on his fork.

    "Because if the media gets a whiff of a lambda shuttle broadcasting the Executor's transponder code, they'll make a swarm of starved piranha beetles look civilized," said Skywalker.

    He reached for the salt as he spoke, without looking, but an instant later he put the shaker down and left his fingers next to it, waiting. A moment later, the oblivious Venka looked up from his plate and said, "Could I trouble you to pass the salt, Master Skywalker?"

    "Certainly."

    Piett wondered if it was exhausting, always reining in that sixth sense so as not to alarm the Venkas of the universe. Vader had never bothered. But then Vader had also never done anything as commonplace as joining his officers for dinner.

    "An admiral ought to travel on his own military transport," he said stubbornly. "Sneaking into the capital system on an unmarked personal transport like some kind of criminal, it's disgraceful."

    Skywalker shrugged. Perhaps he'd never discovered that there was any other way to arrive peacefully in a system. "A means to an end, Admiral. Besides, if someone decides to take a shot at you en route, you'll want a quality pilot at the helm."

    "I have several very talented pilots on my crew roster," Piett groused. "They received some of the best training the Empire had to offer."

    "Yes," said Skywalker, "but my wife received the very best."

    Piett pursed his lips in a tight, worried line. Mara Jade Skywalker's impeccable education had covered lots more subjects than starcraft operation. He was not particularly thrilled about the prospect of spending seventy-two hours in hyperspace aboard a cramped yacht with a woman who could probably murder him a different way every thirty minutes without getting past Aurek in the Assassin's Encyclopedia.

    "Besides," Skywalker added, "she's looking forward to it."

    "Oh, I don't doubt it," Piett muttered.

    After dinner he went off to the bridge. Preyed on by the awareness that it was the last time he'd set foot on his bridge for weeks, he dragged up every section chief one by one for debriefing, then pursued them back to the ops pits and harrowed the lieutenants and ensigns, checking all the statuses and reports and watch schedules for the fifteenth time in fear of overlooking some vitally important detail without which the whole ship would disintegrate in his absence.

    The fact that everybody appeared totally in command of their responsibilities provoked him to no end.

    A quarter-hour or so before the watch changed over, Vader made his appearance, giving the crew a cursory glance before taking up his preferred brooding spot at the viewports. Piett left off grilling Ensign Chimmel about the coms logs and joined him, folding his hands behind his back.

    "Admiral. You are prepared for your departure tomorrow?"

    "As prepared as I can be, sir. Diplomacy isn't my forte, but I'll do my best."

    "I have no doubt you will do well," Vader said. Piett blinked in surprise at the stars.

    "Thank you, my lord. I'll report as often as opportunity affords, of course. Is there anything else you require of me before I leave the ship?"

    Leave the ship. He was actually going to do that, leave his commander and his men and the Lady behind him for the first time in twenty-eight years. It was downright indecent. He plucked unhappily at the cuff of his jacket.

    Vader eyed him with disgust. "Incredible as it may seem, I am capable of commanding a ship without you, Admiral."

    "Of course, my lord," Piett said reflexively. They watched the stars for a moment or two. "For two whole weeks?"

    Slowly, Vader's helmet rotated towards him. There followed a very long silence, during which Vader presumably debated what form of execution best answered to the occasion while Piett studied his final words with the morbid fascination of a coroner inspecting a fatal chest wound on a corpse.


    This, he decided, is what comes of consorting with Rebels.

    Well, he'd had a good long run. What did it come to? Twenty-eight years, four months, and…ah yes, thirteen days. At least he'd have the consolation of knowing he'd set a record no one would ever equal –

    "Perhaps even as much as three," said Vader.

    Piett waited. He waited for what seemed an age but which, according to the chrono on the bulkhead, was about fifteen seconds. Vader went back to surveying the stars. With macro-evolutionary leisure, the thought crawled into Piett's forebrain that he was not going to die at this moment in time.

    He had cracked a joke at Darth Vader and survived it.

    The sentence sounded so preposterous that he swallowed a few times and breathed experimentally through both nose and mouth, in case Vader had begun to throttle him and he'd just failed to notice.

    "Well, my lord," he got out finally, "I suppose it's not as though I'm leaving you entirely to your own devices. No doubt your son will keep you occupied."

    Vader shifted. "He will be departing with you and his wife."

    Piett cleared his throat. "Indeed, my lord? My impression from him earlier was that he intended to stay."

    Vader crossed his arms with the attitude of a man prepared to stare down the stars until Doomsday. "His intentions are irrelevant. He will be departing."

    Ah. One of those arguments again: Vader ordering Skywalker off the premises, Skywalker retorting that he wasn't going anywhere, Vader resorting to some variation of I am your father, Skywalker countering with an improvisation on the theme of you can't tell me what to do, Vader making a nasty jab at the apocryphal Kenobi's supposedly pernicious influence, Skywalker retaliating with yet another cryptic Jedi proverb, until it was a marvel the poor old Lady didn't blow her hull plating out under the stress. The show ran performances about three or four times a week, and always concluded with Vader meditating (definitely not pouting) in his hyperbaric chamber and Skywalker tinkering (definitely not hiding) in the hangar bay until their respective tempers cooled to something less reminiscent of molten durasteel.

    There was, of course, going to be a flaming row in the hangar tomorrow, and Vader was going to be beside himself when he lost it. At least I'll be out of the system by then. "As you say, my lord. I expect his wife will be pleased to have him back."

    Vader spun on his heel and stalked off the bridge, no doubt to go meditate on which precise sin had doomed him to having reformed smugglers and assassins for children-in-law.

    ...

    It took Piett barely five minutes' acquaintance with Mara Jade Skywalker to see why Vader had been so stunned by his son's bombshell announcement.

    He arrived at the hangar some ten minutes after she landed and found her octopused around her husband at the bottom of the ramp, apparently having spent all of those ten minutes with her mouth suction-clamped to his. He couldn't make out much besides a lot of black leather, a badly mussed-up blaze of titian hair, and the words, "Kreth it, Farm Boy, tell Daddy Dearest we don't need a chaperone."

    Skywalker laughed and set her down, turning to Piett with no signs of embarrassment whatsoever. "Admiral, I'd like you to meet my wife, Mara. Mara, this is–"

    "Admiral Firmus W. Piett, of Axxila, age 68, son of Tellus and Magna Piett, older brother to Carilla, formerly of the Axxilan antipirate forces, handpicked by Lord Vader as keelplate captain of the Executor, promoted to admiral upon the expiration of Kendal Ozzel during the Battle of Hoth." She raised an eyebrow at her husband. "Farm Boy here likes to forget I had a life before he showed up."

    Piett coughed. "He did give me to understand you had been an Imperial operative, ma'am."

    Mara elbowed Skywalker in the ribs. "Ma'am, you hear that? Take notes, Farm Boy."

    "Sorry, we Outer Rim hicks and Rebel scum don't go in for formality," Skywalker said. But he kissed her hair gallantly.

    "Nice try, Master Jedi, but don't think you're off the hook yet. I have a very long to-do list that's been piling up." She insinuated herself under his arm, walked a pair of fingers up his chest, and tapped him on the lips. "Lots of physical labor."

    Piett stared at Skywalker's open, earnest face and no-nonsense workaday clothes; then at his wife's exotic green eyes, chiseled cheekbones, and vacuum-sealed patent leather; and wondered if a less likely looking couple had ever been spotted at an altar.

    Apart from Skywalker's own parents, of course.

    Mara's gaze flashed to Piett; for an instant he feared she had heard his thoughts. "I'm so sorry, Admiral. We must be making you uncomfortable."

    Her eyes were dancing devilishly. She wasn't sorry in the slightest.

    "Not at all, ma'am," he said doggedly. "It's an honor to meet you. Your husband would seem to be a very lucky man."

    "There's no such thing as luck," said Skywalker, tucking her against his side.

    "Oh, really?" she purred. "Because I think you're pretty damn lucky I didn't kill you twenty years ago."

    "Ha. One look at these baby-blue eyes and you were over the moons of Iego."

    She jabbed an index finger into his pectorals. "Watch it, Farm Boy. I can still off you some night in your sleep."

    "But my love," he grinned, "just think how much you'd miss me."

    "I'll cope. There's always Lando."

    "Ouch." He clutched at his heart. "You know what, just for that, I'm staying here."

    "You do that. Far be it from me to interrupt your vacation with Daddy Dearest." She softened the words with another kiss, then made a face at his shirt. "You've been wearing this thing since you got here, haven't you?" She darted a look at Piett. "Hasn't he?"

    "Er," said Piett, who had not previously noticed. Detergent had run out something like a decade ago.

    Mara narrowed her eyes at Skywalker. "I knew it. Seriously, you couldn't have taken three minutes before you left to grab a change of clothes?"

    "My love, I married you so I wouldn't have to worry about these things."

    She smacked him. "If you wanted a housewife you picked the wrong woman, Skywalker."

    "Ah. So you didn't bring me a bag?"

    She glared at him. "It's in the cabin."

    "That's my girl." He grinned and started up the ramp.

    "Do us all a favor and put on something that's been washed this month!" He made her a melodramatic bow. She blew him a kiss. Piett cut his gaze to the ceiling. Were Skywalkers born with a genetic compulsion to make a spectacle of themselves?

    Probably.

    But the moment the object of Mara's affections was out of sight, her coquettishness vanished too. The ruthlessly analytical quality now occupying her piercing green eyes was what he imagined Vader's regard might be like, if the mask were removed. He suddenly had no difficulty at all picturing her in the role of the Emperor's Hand.

    "So," she said. "Twenty-five years straight and the man in black hasn't throttled you yet. He really has gone to the nerfs, hasn't he?"


    She's way out of your depth, Piett told himself. Vader doesn't need you to defend him, he told himself. So of course the next words out of his mouth were, "Lord Vader remains the same capable and efficient commander he has always been."

    "You really think so, don't you?"

    He drew himself up indignantly. "I wouldn't have said it if I didn't, ma'am."

    She laughed. "Don't push the faithful companion act too far, Admiral, I know better than that." She hooked a thumb in her pocket and wandered away from the ship, taking in the bay. "I have to say…it's kind of nice to be back aboard the Lady again." She favored him with a smile. "There may be other Super Star Destroyers, but she's the grandest old dame of the bunch."

    Well, at least she had good taste in ships; more than could be said for Solo. Piett beamed. "She's a bit the worse for wear, ma'am, but I wouldn't trade her for the galaxy. When were you last aboard her?"

    "Three months before Endor, if memory serves." She turned in a circle. Her fingers played idly along the hilt of her lightsaber. "Turn and burn en route to an undercover op on Calathron."

    "I expect life has changed a great deal for you since the war," Piett ventured.

    "Oh, you'd be amazed how exciting life with Farm Boy can be."

    "I think I have some idea," he said dryly. "The fruit doesn't fall that far from the juja tree."

    She glanced at him with a smile that had about the same effect on him as a mysterious ripple in a lake – possibly an innocent fluke of the wind, but possibly a ravenous sando aqua monster. "Yes, but the fruit's so much more...enjoyable than the juja tree. Wouldn't you agree, Father mine?"

    Piett abruptly registered the rasp of the respirator behind him, and half turned. Vader stood several paces away, just beyond the lift, thumbs hooked in his belt and fingers hovering near his lightsaber. "Jade," he growled.

    "Ah-ah. Jade Skywalker."

    "As you wish."

    "Oh, Farm Boy had some say in it too." She gave him a frank once-over, head to toe.

    Piett could practically hear Vader's blood boil at the term Farm Boy. Thank the goddess Skywalker chose that moment to re-emerge from the ship, decked out in a fresh shirt as ordered, with a duffel slung over his shoulder. "You keep saying Farm Boy like it's some kind of insult." He kissed her yet again. "Father, wife. Wife, Father."

    "I've known him longer than you have, you know," Mara said dryly.

    "Which is why I'm staying here to catch up."

    "You," Vader thundered at him, "are departing on that ship imminently."

    Skywalker cast a longsuffering look at the ceiling. "I told you, Father. I'm not leaving."

    "And I have tolerated your reckless insubordination long enough. Your presence aboard this ship is neither required nor desired. Leave."

    Skywalker's monumental patience had hit its limit. He inhaled sharply. "You – "

    "Well, that's a plot twist," said Mara loudly. "I seem to recall something about a two-billion-credit alive-only reward, no disintegrations, twelve-Destroyer search squadrons, mass bounty hunter hirings, and the Grade 5 max-security block kept clear twenty-four-seven with a damn mint on the pillow all ready for him." She turned to Piett. "Did I leave anything out?"

    Skywalker laughed under his breath, but Vader whipped towards her with the anger-propelled speed of yore. "You would do well to remember some respect, Emperor's Hand."

    "Oh, I can remember lots of things." Out swam another of her ripple-on-the-water smiles. "Sure you want to go down that road?"

    Skywalker kneaded the bridge of his nose. "Mara, maybe you should give us a minute to sort this out."

    She chucked him gently under the chin. "I have a better idea. How about you hop back aboard and give Ben a call quick? You'll make his day."

    He frowned immediately between wife and father. "I don't think – "

    "Don't think, good plan. In the best traditions of the Skywalker name. I like it. Shoo."

    Skywalker studied her another moment, then heaved a sigh. "Alright. Five minutes. Call if you need me."

    With a pointed we're-not-done-here-and-don't-you-dare-mistreat-my-wife look at his father, he tossed his duffel bag towards the lift and went back up the ramp, leaving Mara faced off with Vader. It shouldn't have looked anything like a fair fight, but that smile of hers…yes, this was an excellent time for one Firmus W. Piett to go be very obviously absorbed in checking his luggage.

    "Let's you and me get one thing straight. Farm Boy's got it in his head that it's his job to run interference between you and the rest of the universe, and in case you missed it, he's taking a hell of a lot of friendly fire to do it. Let's face it, you've got exactly one actual friend in the entire galaxy." Piett looked up, saw her chin jerk in his direction, and threw the suitcase lid up to hide behind. "Which is why he's not going to get any more flak from you, starting now."

    "Watch where you tread, Emperor's Hand." The words struck out like a whetting stone putting an edge on a dagger. "I will not harm my son, but you are another matter entirely."

    Piett's heart leapt into his mouth. He hadn't heard that particular brand of possessive malice from Vader since their Skywalker-hunting days. Instantly he realized that the Dark Lord's scathing threats against Solo had been made pro forma. Solo merely irritated him – Mara Jade he considered a threat. Between Vader and his son lay sacred ground that he allowed nobody to violate and live, be he Emperor of the whole krething galaxy; and Mara had planted her flag right in the heart of it. Wife of his son, mother of his grandchild – Piett wasn't sure either status would protect her if the scale tipped even a hair too far.

    Her smile hardened, and Piett saw an angry tic in the corner of her mouth. She knew the ice was thin – and she was marching out on it anyway. "You won't harm him? You have a toll-free hyperlane right into his heart, and the first chance you got you flew a Death Star into it and lit him up like Alderaan. He still wakes up with a Bespin nightmare now and then. He went through hell for you at Endor, he's kept going through hell for two decades because he admits to being your son, and now that you've finally decided to grace us all with your presence again, you're giving him more hell for sticking up for your undeserving butt against his actual friends. Around here we call that harming someone. You're not doing any more damage on my watch."

    Whoever had taught Mara Jade Skywalker the art of verbally eviscerating a man had been a master. At the word Bespin Vader jerked back as though he'd been struck across the face. Piett had stopped pretending to rummage through his case. He didn't even dare to breathe. Silence stretched, taut as a bowstring.

    "What do you want from me?" Vader finally asked. "What is done is done."

    Mara's aggressive posture relaxed a notch. "A truce. I don't like you particularly, I never have, but Luke's more important to both of us. So hate my guts from here to Tatooine if you want, but as far as Farm Boy's concerned, I love you, you love me, bygones are bygones, blasters are buried, and so forth."

    Vader crossed his arms. "And is that all?"

    "One more thing," she said softly. "You don't ever, ever, tell him to leave you again. You mean the galaxy to him. Let him have his father for a change."

    She held out her hand. "Deal?"

    Vader continued to impersonate a monolith for another few seconds. Then he abruptly reached past her outstretched hand and lifted her chin gently with thumb and forefinger. "I was hasty in my judgment. He did well to choose you."

    A blush nearly the same flaming shade as her hair suddenly ran into Mrs. Hardbitten Imperial Operative's cheeks. Piett ducked behind his suitcase to conceal a kilometer-wide grin. So even the unflappable Emperor's Hand was not quite immune to Vader's caprices. Perhaps the next seventy-two hours wouldn't be as trying as he'd feared.

    "And our deal?" she demanded.

    Vader dropped his hand. "I will do as you ask."

    "And what exactly would that be?" Skywalker's voice cut in. He had stopped halfway back down the boarding ramp, bestowing suspicious looks equally on his wife and his father.

    "Nothing to fret about, dear," said Mara. "I just figured this was my best chance to get my lightsaber autographed by the artist himself."

    Vader glanced down at the battered old hilt on her hip and gave a definite start. "Where did you get that?"

    "Present from Farm Boy. And no, you can't have it back." She tossed her hair. "Finders keepers."

    Vader hesitated for a breath or two, then turned to Skywalker. "I…assumed you had lost it on Bespin."

    "I got it back," said Skywalker quietly.

    "How?"

    He shrugged. "Long story."

    There was another strained silence. Piett found himself holding his breath again.

    Vader reached out and laid a hand on his son's shoulder. "Then you must stay," he said, "and tell it to me."

    Skywalker's eyebrows shot up. "Stay?"

    Vader glanced at Mara, wryly (Piett couldn't for the life of him have said how he knew it was wryly). "Provided your wife can spare you."

    His daughter-in-law favored him with a glowing smile. "Dear me. I suppose I'll survive somehow."

    ...

    The Lady looked very small and fragile from the cockpit of the yacht. Piett watched her dwindle from a ship, to a splinter, to a speck, to an indistinguishable patch of space – then the stars lurched and Eriadu was millions of klicks behind him. Mara settled back, checking gauges and readouts out of habit, her eyes distant; perhaps her thoughts too lingered behind them. He sank down in his bucket seat, watching the dervishes of liquid lightning outside and trying not to feel like a bereaved parent. He'd been the buffer for so long between Vader and the rest of the crew, and without him to interface, gloss over the rough patches, who knew what might happen…

    Then he thought again of Skywalker in the hangar bay, as openly delighted as any four-year-old could be over the simple fact of his father letting him stay. He smiled.

    Mara turned to him, and he could see at once that she'd been thinking of the same thing. She smiled – no dangerous ripples this time, just simple pleasure at having seen someone dear to her made happy. "Don't worry, Admiral," she murmured. "I think they're going to do just fine without us."

    Piett nodded amiably. "I believe you're right, ma'am."

    ...

    TBC
     
  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_rofl] [face_rofl] Loved the entire thing between the New Republic Senate, the Supreme Court, and the Imperial Remnant, and the media types -- how slice of life is that?!
    SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! You made me literally unabashedly fall in love with Mara all over again with her melty meltiness with Luke =P~ [face_love] & her not gonna back down stance with Vader. [face_love] :D Yup, girlfriend, this is my favorite chapter too. =D= ^:)^
     
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  8. Darth_Drachonus

    Darth_Drachonus Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2005
    Another excellent update! I'm enjoying every bit of time put into this!
     
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  9. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Good question, Piett.
    Good answer too. Most likely correct.
    Yes indeedy.
     
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  10. EGKenobi

    EGKenobi Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2005
    like like like like like!! Brilliant writing, love how Mara Jade stood to Vader, and kicked his butt verbally. Pleas do let me know when you update this :)
     
  11. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Yeah, I can see why this is your favourite chapter of the whole fic. I think it may be my favourite chapter too – although I do expect you to out-do yourself before this story is over!

    The constitutional lawyer in me was grinning goofily throughout the first part with the Senate squabbling, the lawsuits, the Bastion Accords and Vader's three press conferences – not to mention, of course, the threat to show the squabblers what a real invasion would look like. And then, Piett joking – actually joking – with Vader was the cherry on the cake...

    ... until I got to the second part with Mara, and that cherry became the size of a watermelon.

    This was just PERFECT. Not only how Mara "eviscerates" Vader while Piett is cowering behind his suitcase, but because Vader "wins" in his own way and Piett is silently cheering for him. I've been asking myself since I read this chapter which aspect I liked best: the Vader/Mara interaction, or what Piett's thoughts tell us of his relationship to Vader? I already complimented you on the Piett POV last week, so I'll go for Mara/Vader this time. Just... just... all of it. How Mara shifts personalities depending on who she's talking to, how she refuses to be intimidated even for a fraction of a second, how she stands up for Luke and presses all the right buttons to get what she wants, how Vader is so absolutely Vaderish throughout all this, and how he makes her blush *squee* *melt* *melty-melt* ^:)^ =D=

    EAGERLY waiting for more!
     
  12. Darth_Drachonus

    Darth_Drachonus Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2005
    Please tell me this hasn't died! I'm waiting for an update on the edge of my seat!
     
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  13. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    What he said. More! More!
     
  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_laugh] Might as well keep the train going [face_batting] [:D]
     
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  15. frodogenic

    frodogenic Jedi Master

    Registered:
    Sep 4, 2007

    Chapter Text

    A/N: The people have spoken :) My apologies for taking so very long to get the next chapter up; I've been adjusting to a new job lately, and spending most of my free time on the writing side rather than the posting side. Thanks for all your kind feedback!

    Disclaimer for this chapter: everything I know about astrophysics I invented.

    ...

    CHAPTER 7

    ...

    The ramp dropped, and Piett trotted down it to discover that the planet formerly known as Imperial Center had miraculously contrived to become an even greater smog-filled racket than before.

    The pinnacles of the capitol district glimmered above him in every direction, almost seeming to blink with astonishment at the sight of an Imperial Navy uniform after all these years. Traffic whined and snarled through every spare meter of sky, and directly overhead flags snapped on the spires of what had been Imperial Palace. He had vivid memories of watching on holovid the day those flags were first run up, back when he'd been an embryo of an officer and still young enough to cheer the spectacle madly in the streets with practically the entire population of Axxila. He was a great deal older and soberer now; the shine had worn off many things that had seemed so splendid back then, himself included.

    All the same, it gave him a pang to see those flags flaming the rebel-red of the New Republic.

    "Admiral Piett?" someone said, and Piett realized belatedly that a small welcoming party had approached from the far side of the platform. The Princess was conspicuously absent. In her stead were a handful of military types in dress whites, a Bothan senator, a phalanx of security guards, and a man somewhat older than himself in conservatively cut diplomatic robes, who was extending his hand.

    "I am Mokka Falanthas, Minister of State. On behalf of Chief of State Organa Solo and the New Republic, welcome to Coruscant."

    He had prepared himself to hear Coruscant instead of Imperial Center, and though the change stung could shake the man's hand without showing it. "Thank you, Minister. I'm glad to be here." Gods, he hadn't been a diplomat for five minutes and he was already lying through his teeth.

    The Minister gestured to the Bothan. "May I introduce Senator Borsk Fey'lya, Senate Minority Leader."

    Fey'lya made a grudging gesture. According to Piett's brief, the Bothan was an ambitious sort who had built a career out of being Leia Organa's antithesis; he currently looked as though he couldn't decide whether to maintain his outrage at the Chief of State's indecently kind treatment of the Empire's orphans, or congratulate himself on securing a spot in such an extraordinary welcoming party. "Senator, a pleasure."

    Fey'lya was instantly elbowed aside by a general, who pumped Piett's hand with all the glee of a Hutt surveying an eelfrog buffet. "General Airen Cracken, New Republic Intelligence."

    Piett had an awful feeling he was going to be seeing a lot of Airen Cracken whether he wanted to or not. "General."

    "And this is Supreme Commander Ackbar of the New Republic Defense Forces…"

    Piett shook the aged Mon Calamarian's clammy fin and continued through the obligatory courtesies. If only the Emperor could see me now, he thought. Shaking hands with aliens, ex-slaves, insurrectionists, and senators right smack dab on his doorstep.

    He glanced over his shoulder as Mara emerged from the ship and was sucked directly into conversation with Airen Cracken. Ah yes, and Jedi turncoats too. Mustn't forget the worst blasphemy of them all.

    "You must be weary after your long travels, Admiral," said the Minister presently. "Chief of State Organa Solo requested that we provide a suite for you here, if that will be convenient?" He gestured at the glorious spires of the palace, where the red flags frolicked their victory dance.

    Piett forced a cheerful smile. "I should be glad of it."

    "Excellent, excellent." The Minister began leading the way inside. "We'll give you some time to make yourself at home, but Her Excellency would be most gratified if you would join her this evening for a state dinner welcoming you to Galactic City."

    He gritted his teeth. "That's very kind of her. I would be honored."

    Stars, it was going to be a miserable two weeks.

    ...

    Dinner was conducted on such a scale as to make Piett exceedingly grateful he could still fit into his mess-dress uniform. There was the Chief of State, all grace and poise. There were Senators; there were admirals; there were potentates of every province and scions of every species. There was even the astonishing spectacle of Han Solo in pressed trousers without a single engine lube stain on them.

    What there was not, at least for Firmus Piett, was any actual eating. He cast regretful glances at the tantalizing plates that paraded, untouched, beneath his nose, for all these dignitaries (excepting only Solo's trousers) spent the entire evening competing for a piece of his conversation. It was flattering, he supposed, but such hobnobbing and shoulder-rubbing was lightyears outside his realm of expertise. By the time the Chief of State retired for the evening, he felt depressingly certain that the only thing he'd managed to get into his mouth all night had been his foot.

    He'd found a nice quiet corner to catch his breath in when a hand tapped him on the shoulder behind. He whirled, reaching for the sidearm he'd left in the Lady's bridge armory, and found himself staring into a pair of green eyes reminiscent of a Hyraxian panther's.

    "Hungry?" Mara asked.

    "Gods, yes," said Piett.

    With a casual nod inviting him to follow, she led the way around the corner, through a couple of curtains, down a quiet corridor—then suddenly leaned her palm into a decoration on one of the carved walls, at which a whole panel of it slid away. "Let's take the shortcut, shall we?"

    "Do I want to know why there is an entire rat's nest of secret passages in the diplomatic guest suites?" Piett hissed behind her as they proceeded down a series of shadowy, narrow tunnels. He had to walk sideways down half of them.

    "I'll leave it to your imagination," said the Emperor's ex-assassin.

    They came out somewhere in the residential levels of an older part of the Palace, probably constructed in the days of the old Republic; instead of ponderous marble or glimstone, the walls were paneled in Orinthian cedar and intricate ivory inlay, and splendid rugs hushed every step. Piett was almost surprised when he noticed that several of the decorative bosses in the walls concealed sensor eyes.

    "Bioscanners," said Mara. "If you'd tried to come down this corridor without proper clearances you'd have a knife through your throat now."

    Piett swallowed and cast a nervous glance all around. "I don't see any security personnel."

    Mara smiled. "They're very good at not being seen. Most of them," she added, and the next moment they rounded a corner and Piett found himself face to face (or rather navel to face) with a pair of small gray aliens in hoods keeping watch over a doorway. His initial impression was of Jawas, but one glimpse of their grim, fang-riddled countenances put that thought out of his head. "Mara clan Skywalker," one of them rasped, and keyed the door for them. Piett spotted a knife hilt up the bodyguard's sleeve and hastened past, sighing in relief as the door whirred shut behind him.

    "…navigation I can help, but if it's astrophysics you're gonna have to ask Chewie—" Solo, standing by a complicated credenza with drink in hand and formal jacket swung over a shoulder, cut short his comments as he spotted them and made an expansive gesture. "Come on in. Care for a stiff one, either of you?"

    "Fill me up." Mara shrugged her jacket off.

    "Thank you," said Piett, one intimidated eye on her chiseled upper arms, "I—"

    "Me too, Dad!" A tousled brown head of hair popped up over a high-backed sofa in the adjacent sitting room.

    "Sorry, Junior," Solo said loudly, pouring a small shot glass and holding it out towards the delighted expression across the room, "your mom'd kill me." The youngster flung a hand out over the sofa back, and the shot glass scooted through the air into it. Solo winked at Piett. Mara rolled her eyes. "Maybe when you're old enough!"

    "Exactly how stupid do you two think I am?" came the Princess' voice from somewhere down a hall. Her son hastily ducked back out of view with his ill-gotten goods before she appeared a moment later, formal grandeur exchanged for a blouse and a loose robe, adjusting an earring as she walked. "Admiral. I daresay you could use something to eat?"

    "I certainly could," he said. "I didn't realize there was so little dining at a state dinner."

    "Leave it to a bunch of politicians to invite you to supper and not let you eat," groused Solo. "In case we needed any more proof that they all need dedicated six-man navigation crews just to find their own ass—"

    The Princess cleared her throat, with a pointed look at the tuft of hair visible above the sofa.

    "—teroids," Solo added clumsily.

    "Asteroids, Dad?" said the tuft of hair. "Seriously?"

    "Yes, Dad, seriously?" said the Princess. She turned to Piett and nodded him towards the sitting room. "I'll get something together for us. Please make yourself at home."

    Solo followed her into the kitchen, while Jade headed down a hall saying something about calling to make sure the babysitters had remembered to put her son to bed, ruffling the tuft of hair on her way. Piett rounded the sofa in search of the most appropriate seat for an Imperial admiral paying a casual evening visit to a Rebel ringleader's private residence. The sofa itself was out of the question, being a morass of datapads, textbooks, flimsy, lightpens, calculators, and one teenage boy hunched cross-legged over the lot. Piett noted the half-empty shot glass squirreled away in the crease of his knee. The youngster glanced up. "Hi. Are you Admiral Piett?"

    "I am. You must be…Jacen?"

    "Anakin."

    Not the blackmailer, then. He watched Piett with bright blue eyes much like his uncle's, currently exhibiting an intense and somewhat nervous fascination that was explained by his next comment. "You know my grandfather, don't you?"

    "Yes," said Piett, wondering how slowly the Princess was likely to kill him if he waxed eloquent on this particular topic. "Perhaps you'll meet him soon yourself."

    "I don't know. I don't think him and Mom get along too well."

    Understatement of the millennium, thought Piett.

    "Like Hutts and charity drives, kid," said Solo as he arrived with Piett's drink. "You're her favorite Anakin by twelve parsecs." Anakin extracted the shot glass from behind his knee with a cajoling expression, and Solo topped it off out of his own tumbler, raising a warning eyebrow at Piett. Anakin grinned, then drank it in a rush as the Princess' voice rose from the kitchen.

    "Han!"

    "Her favorite Anakin?" asked Piett as Solo scrambled away.

    "That's Grandfather's name too," said Anakin. "Or it was, when he was a Jedi. Anakin Skywalker. You didn't know?"

    "No…I didn't." Piett sank slowly into a trim striped armchair. Thirty years he had known and feared the man, and only now learned who he was. A Jedi named Anakin Skywalker…it rang dim boyhood bells. He was sure that name had been mentioned by the war correspondents back during the Clone Wars. A burning urge seized him to run Holonet searches when he got back to his suite—to see, if he could, the real human being who'd been mummified within the mask and legend of Darth Vader.

    He filed the thoughts away for later. Whatever the original Anakin's social shortcomings, the second edition seemed to be a perfectly amiable young fellow so far. "What are you working on?"

    "Astrophysics lab," said Anakin, making a face. "It's taking forever and a millennium."

    The Princess reappeared, a plate of cheese in one hand and a glass of green champagne in the other. "Anakin, the sofa is not your desk. And I'll take that, thank you." She put down the plate and held out her hand for the shot glass.

    "Aw, come on, Mom! I'm sixteen practically!"

    "The legal drinking age for humanoids is eighteen, young man."

    "On Corellia it's sixteen!"

    "One more reason we don't live on Corellia."

    "Hey!" came Solo's patriotic protest from the kitchen.

    "Coruscant sucks," Anakin groused, surrendering the contraband.

    "My heart bleeds for you. Now clear that up so the rest of us can sit down."

    He started shoveling his homework together, muttering under his breath. Piett had a taste of his drink—then heaved a long, satisfied sigh. Free of that rotgut starshine at last.

    "This," he said with feeling, "is excellent, Your Highness."

    "Leia, please. We don't stand on ceremony at home. And I can't take credit for it, Han's the liquor expert of the household." She toed off her shoes and curled up on the sofa as Solo sat down next to her and slid an arm over her shoulders.

    "And a most welcoming and peaceful household it is." A compliment never hurt.

    "There's something we don't hear every day, eh, Your Highnessness?" said Solo. "Amazing what a difference it makes having the Twin Terrors on the other side of the city. Now if we could just get rid of the last one…"

    "Ha ha, Dad, real funny." Anakin had relocated to a corner of the carpet and now a sea of flimsy ebbed in and out around him as he scrawled on a series of datapads with one hand, playing a concerto on his calculator with the other.

    "I take it Jacen and Jaina are out for the evening?" Piett inquired, to be polite.

    Solo nodded at the hall where Mara had disappeared. "They're babysitting the Skycrawler."

    "Both of them?"

    "Four hands to one Force-sensitive toddler is a pretty conservative ratio," said the Princess. "Trust me on—"

    "Sithspit!" The adults turned to see Anakin throw his stylus down and dump his head in his hands. "I don't care what Uncle Luke says, this is one hundred percent impossible!"

    "What is?" asked the Princess.

    "This stupid assignment! We have to calculate a five-stage hyper jump from scratch. Like, coordinating tables and star charts and mass inertia formulas and everything by hand." He threw himself backwards against a side table. "I mean, why in the nine hells do they think we invented navicomputers?"

    "Language," said the Princess sternly. "It's a grade, not the fate of the galaxy."

    "Sorry," Anakin muttered. "It's just so pointless. I am literally never gonna have to do this."

    "I wouldn't be so sure," Piett cut in, reaching for the cheese. "On the Executor we had to calculate jumps from scratch for about twenty-three years before we got our navicomputers repaired."

    Anakin's eyes shot wide open in astonishment. "You did?"

    He nodded. "And we had to build our own star charts and coordinate system first."

    "Holy shavit," Anakin breathed, earning yet another Look from his mother, and doubtless a reprimand too if something had not chimed from the kitchen.

    "There's the rest of it ready," she said.

    Solo went with her, leaning down to murmur something in her ear. Anakin's gaze tracked them for a moment, then crept sideways to Piett.

    "Would you mind if I ask a question? OK, more like ten questions probably, cause I seriously don't know what I'm doing and the last time I tried to solve it I killed my ship like five times."

    Now this was his kind of diplomacy. "Certainly. Let's have a look."

    Anakin shoved the cheese platter aside and hoisted his ocean of homework onto the coffee table. "See, I'm supposed to start out at Arkania, jump to the Perlemian Trade Route at Ralltiir and follow that to Brentaal, and then take the Corellian Run to Corellia and backtrack to Colomus. But I keep overshooting Brentaal and then I get powzered in the Deep Core."

    Piett raised an eyebrow. "Powzered?"

    "You know, bloomed. Dusted. Totally Death Starred." He mimicked an explosion with both hands.

    Piett's face was no longer capable of producing a confused expression, because confused looked too much like stupid and Being Stupid was extremely high on the list of Qualities Darth Vader Does Not Appreciate In A Military Officer (outranked only by: High Treason, Making Excuses For Failure, and Playing Political Games). So he nodded crisply and returned to the problem at hand. "Your ship's mass distribution figures and hyperdrive specifications?"

    Anakin handed over one of his datapads. Piett flicked a practiced eye over it and sifted through some flimsy for the printouts with the hyperlane astrophysical data for the Coreward end of the Perlemian Trade Route. Once upon a rosy time such an undertaking would have been as foreign to him as it was to Anakin; now he could estimate the complex formulas at a glance. He had not expected this particular skill to be useful to anyone anymore. Humming and hawing with the satisfaction of an old craftsman as he turned from the hyperlane figures to the star charts, then to Anakin's jumbled chicken-scratch sheets of calculations, he never even heard the elder Solos and Mara return to stare at the scene.

    "Ah," he said at length. "Here's your difficulty." He circled a variable in one of the early equations. "You've forgotten to account for the pulse in the gravitational flux quotient exerted by Brentaal-7."

    "What's Brentaal-7 have to do with anything?"

    Piett shuffled the star charts and found the display of the Brentaal system. "It's currently located five degrees off its orbital equinox, which places it in gravitational pull of the outbound terminus of the hyperlane. When you hyper out, you're being towed off-course by its gravity well about 0.002 degrees. So—your last set of calculations?"

    Anakin plowed through his sheets and produced the corresponding page.

    "So when you don't compensate for that angle of divergence on your outward jump, you miss the hyperlane vector for the Corellian Run, which bleeds your absolute velocity and renders your vector compensation inaccurate. You end up on a straight shot to the Deep Core and then, of course, it's only a matter of time before a black hole overcomes your lightspeed momentum. And that is why, if I may borrow the phrase, you keep getting powzered."

    Anakin gaped at him for fully ten seconds.

    "You are a genius," he said. "Dad, he didn't even need a calculator!"

    Piett looked up and found even Solo looking impressed. "Damn, Admiral. You really know the bantha's head from its—"

    "Asteroid?" suggested the Princess.

    "Tail," Solo told her archly. "That's something else."

    "Especially," murmured Mara, gliding by to a chair, "since his naval background is in ComScan, not navigation."

    Piett tried not to look too pleased with himself. "Necessity, I have found, is the mother of education as well as invention."

    "Jacen and Jaina are never going to believe this," said Anakin. "I mean…that is so rogue that you can do that!"

    Carilla had used to look at him like that, ten years younger than him, always bursting with adoration for her big brother the Navy officer. He wondered for the millionth time whether she was still alive, whether she was still married, whether there had been any more children after Justus and Astria. On the bridge of a capital warship one could more easily forget things like snacking in the living room late at night, helping youngsters with their homework, everything that went into a normal family life.

    "Admiral?" asked the Princess gently.

    He shook himself out of his abrupt melancholy and put on a polite smile. "Forgive me, my mind was wandering. Do you think you can get a handle on that now, young man?"

    "I think so," said Anakin. "Thank you!" He transshipped his swamp of homework back to the floor, still muttering under his breath, "So rogue…"

    Piett filed away the word rogue next to powzered, bloomed, dusted, and totally Death Starred. Perhaps it would be useful for impressing other youngsters who crossed his path.

    ...

    TBC
     
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  16. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Piett's POV continues to delight. :) LOL "The Second Edition" of Anakin [face_laugh] also. =D= Love Piett's ruminations on political dinners, the origins of Darth Vader, and most poignantly, his sister and her family; very natural and wistful wondering there.

    Thanks for the cozy real-life evening. ;) Yikes, I was the same way in school with anything vaguely mathematical [face_laugh] :p
     
  17. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    And here we have proof positive that Piett is a good guy. He just happened to be on the wrong side.
     
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  18. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    What Cowgirl said!!!! I never thought I'd read a story where Piett helps a Solo kid do his homework, but there it is and it's masterfully done. Great technobabble in this chapter, it sounds scientific enough and yet I could still make sense of it. And, in the middle of all the hilarity (ass... teroids!) and the science, I still feel for Piett. Twenty-five years of what his life should have been happened in his absence, and instead of catching up with the people he loves he has to go for food-free state dinners and represent Darth Vader risen from the grave.

    I'm hoping there will be Piett-Borsk and Piett-Madine interaction in future chapters; that would be a blast.

    Oh, and now that I learned the trick from Darth_Drachonus, you can expect me to come pestering you for more at regular intervals.

    PS: I hope your new job is going well :)
     
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  19. Darth_Drachonus

    Darth_Drachonus Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2005
  20. Nehru_Amidala

    Nehru_Amidala JCC Game Winner star 6 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Oct 3, 2016
    Why must you write so well with this!
     
  21. frodogenic

    frodogenic Jedi Master

    Registered:
    Sep 4, 2007

    This chapter may or may not have been heavily inspired by my miseries with AP Physics in high school :/ It was worse than calculus.
     
  22. frodogenic

    frodogenic Jedi Master

    Registered:
    Sep 4, 2007

    Definitely a decent sort at heart, I think, although I wouldn't say moral courage is his strong suit. But more on that to come. :)
     
  23. frodogenic

    frodogenic Jedi Master

    Registered:
    Sep 4, 2007
    Life ain't fair, Admiral, life ain't fair. Lucky for him, though, I'm not given to depressing endings :)

    I usually prefer to play my hand close to the vest re: upcoming chapters, but I shall break my rule just this once. Yes, there will be some Piett-Borsk-Madine interaction to come :) though it's a little ways off still.

    Damn. When will I learn never to negotiate with terrorists...

    It is, thank you :) Big improvement, though lots to learn.
     
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  24. frodogenic

    frodogenic Jedi Master

    Registered:
    Sep 4, 2007

    [face_not_talking]
     
  25. frodogenic

    frodogenic Jedi Master

    Registered:
    Sep 4, 2007

    I'm the sort of person who, if I stumble across my old high school essays, starts correcting them. Hence why I take about as long between posts as Lucasfilm takes between movies...