Piett slept badly, though
a lot better than he would have expected in a situation like this. If
he hadn’t had no sleep at all the night before, he would have
stayed up and kept an eye on the Rebel sergeant. Pringles was just the
type of man who would think that shooting his sleeping enemies was the
sensible reaction to the situation. Every time Piett woke up from his
fitful sleep he half-expected to find himself staring into
Pringles’s blaster. Even the fact that the
Sergeant’s loud snoring permeated the clearing did not much
to calm him down.
When the sky was lightening up, Piett decided to stay awake, to make sure, that they wouldn’t oversleep. He built a small fire and watched the three sleepers around him. Tob Ketelli lay straight on his back, his hands folded on his stomach under the blanket. Needa was sleeping on his side, as he had done two nights before.
Only two nights? Piett could hardly believe that so much had happened in these two nights and days. Two days ago he would have never thought that there was even the faintest possibility of the third person being present. Mon Mothma was sleeping on her stomach, really rolled into her blanket, one end of which she had tucked under her face like a tiny pillow. The three of them were still firmly asleep as was Sergeant Pringles whose snores still emerged from his tent.
Poking listlessly around in the bits and pieces covering the ground around him, Piett found a small cube of wood, which presumably came out of one of Sergeant Pringles’s boxes, perhaps it was an important bit of insulation or it might be used to keep bits of machinery in place. Whatever it was, Piett had nothing to do, and the thought of damaging a bit of Pringles’s property was quite satisfying. Of course, it was not really Pringles’s property but that of the Rebellion, but Piett decided that at the moment, he didn’t care. So with a smile of great satisfaction he started to attack the wooden cube with his knife.
By the time the first of the sleepers, Tob Ketelli, stirred, the head and front legs of a small thruppet had emerged from the block. Ketelli looked a bit startled to see Piett engaged in whittling, but he didn’t say anything. He just sat up, still wrapped in his blanket. When Mon Mothma woke up, Piett was for a second tempted to quickly hide what he was doing, but decided that he probably wouldn’t damage the reputation of the Imperial armed forces, at least not any more than he had already done.
Mon Mothma smiled at him, put on her shoes again, one-handed, and when Ketelli got up and started to build up the fire and make some tea – they had run out of food the evening before – she helped him. They tried to be quiet, but Needa woke up briefly afterwards nevertheless, and that he would pass the sight of a whittling admiral without comment was too much to be expected.
Needa walked over to Piett and looked at the half-thruppet and shook his head. “Weekies and now thruppets. You really want to go home.”
“You do this often?” Mon Mothma asked.
“Not really,” Piett said. He hardly had enough time for things like this. Well, he hardly had had enough time when he was still the Admiral of the Imperial fleet, now this might drastically change.
Mon Mothma came over with a mug of steaming tea she offered him. “Can I have a look?”
“Of course.” He folded the knife and handed her the little figure, after accepting the mug of tea.
Mon Mothma eyed the thruppet curiously. “That’s really cute.” she said. “What is it?”
“It’s a thruppet,” he explained. “Or it’s going to be, when I’m finished with it. They are pets on Pokrovsk.”
“They are pretty mean.” Needa said.
“No, they’re not. They are independent.”
“What some people call independent others call mean. This is the nice side of a thruppet,” Needa continued to Mon Mothma, “fluffy and round, but they are also all claws and fangs if they want to be and they are about this big, when they’re grown up.” He indicated about a yard high, which was only fair, as some of them did get that big. “They can eat babies if they want to.”
“They don’t eat babies!” Piett exclaimed.
“I said if they want to, not that they did.” Needa grinned. “Shall we wake up the snoring man ? Perhaps he is interested in Pokrovski wildlife as well.”
“Oh, shut up,” Piett said, even though he knew well that Needa was only trying to tease him – trying? As usual he was very successful at it.
The snoring coming out of Pringles’s tent was still regular, obviously the Sergeant was still fast asleep.
“I’d better do it.” Mon Mothma said, handing Piett the thruppet back. She grimaced at them and walked over to the tent. “Pringles,” she said loudly to the tent-flap.
“So what did you have to discuss last night?” Needa whispered into Piett’s ear. “You seemed quite cozy admiring the stars together.”
“There were no stars,” Piett hissed back, wishing he could kick Needa to shut him up, but unfortunately he was still sitting on the ground. At least, Mon Mothma seemed to be concentrating on waking up Sergeant Pringles. “And you’re going to shut up.”
Needa grinned, leaned even closer and asked – at least in a very low voice – “and what have you two been up to if you did not admire the stars? – Aargh!” Only his quick reflexes that made him jump back saved him from being covered with tea. He swore loudly when he stumbled over his blanket and fell on his backside.
Both Tob Ketelli and Mon Mothma were staring at Piett, who was still clutching the thruppet in one hand and the now empty mug in the other. “You’re behaving like a fifteen-year old!” he shouted angrily.
Needa grinned even more. “Shame about the tea.”
At least the havoc had finally managed to raise Pringles from his sleep, who now crawled out of his tent, glaring at them as if they were nasty children who had woken him from his well-deserved rest. Piett nearly expected him to shout ‘what do you think you’re doing?’, but Pringles just frowned. Now Piett let the thruppet disappear into his backpack and put the folding knife back into its pocket.
“Do you want some tea, Sergeant?” Mon Mothma held out a mug. “Unfortunately we have run out of food.”
“We,” was all Pringles could force himself to say. He took the tea nevertheless.
Tob Ketelli gave Piett a refill. The curious look on the younger man’s face somewhat relieved Piett, as it meant that Ketelli hadn’t heard what Needa had said.
“Now,” Mon Mothma stated, sitting down with her own mug of tea. “You haven’t heard from your people yet?”
Piett shook his head.
“So, this means we are going to trace back our way there and look for the missing men. Before we head out, we’ll inform our friends up there.”
Sergeant Pringles opened his mouth, but Mon Mothma cut him short. “You have voiced your concerns, Sergeant, but I am in command here.”
“Then I’m coming with you,” Pringles insisted.
“That’s what I wanted anyway,” Mon Mothma said cheerfully.
Piett didn’t feel cheerful at all. The prospect of having Sergeant Pringles along was not a pleasant one. But, he reminded himself, it was Mon Mothma’s decision. Perhaps she wanted to make sure Pringles wouldn’t do anything stupid after they left. Like informing the Rebels that she was acting under duress after all.
Mon Mothma got to her feet. “We’d better get going soon, so would you please help me contact the ship, Sergeant?”
With a look on his face as if he were heading towards his execution, Pringles followed Mon Mothma into the transmitter cabin.
For a few seconds Piett remained where he was, then he struggled into his boots and followed them to the transmitter. They hadn’t arranged what to do except that they would look for the missing men themselves. As soon as he entered the little room, he wished he had stayed where he was.
“…no, I am quite certain that I’m not in any danger whatsoever from the Imperials.” Mon Mothma said into the microphone. “Listen, they haven’t done anything threatening so far.”
Piett felt as if he and the other Imperials were some kind of dangerous monster, who might get nasty any second.
Mon Mothma looked exasperated and rolled her eyes towards heaven. “How often do I have to say that!”
“We’re only worried,” a voice emerged from the speaker. If Piett remembered correctly it belonged to the Rebel Admiral, Kulthum. “You have to admit that it is a bit suspicious that you can’t stay where you are all of a sudden.”
“Dammit, I explained the situation to you, and as you will have your bloody hangar only sorted out tomorrow…”
Tomorrow! Bloody hell that must have been a massive explosion.
“…and we know approximately where the group got lost, it is the sensible thing to do.” Mon Mothma explained. “And I am here in just as much danger from the Imperials as if I were hiking through the forest with them.”
“So you are in danger…”
“No, for gods’ sake!” she exclaimed irritatedly. “If I were in danger here. But I am not. I repeat I am not.”
The men on the ship seemed to be lost for words.
“Just a second;” Mon Mothma said into the speaker, then she turned towards Piett. “Admiral, I am sorry about this.” she continued without trying to stop the Rebel Admiral from hearing it. “As you have heard we can only be picked up tomorrow. By that time we should have reached your base, right?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he agreed. They should be back at the shelter early this evening, but the Rebels didn’t have to know that. And who knows if they had to look for the lost men longer than expected. “Perhaps it would be easiest if your friends would rendezvous with us at the destroyed shield generator.” Which was not far from their base.
“That seems like a good idea.” Mon Mothma turned back towards the microphone. “Admiral,” she said. “We have arranged that we’ll meet you tomorrow mid-morning at the old Imperial shield generator. – If we should not be there yet, I order you to wait. We have to look for some missing men and that might take longer than we expect. After all, we thought that we would be picked up here yesterday afternoon, and this wasn’t possible even though nobody was secretly trying to stop you.”
“Ma’am,” the Rebel said in a frosty voice. “we don’t know that for certain. There is always the possibility of sabotage…”
“Ah, come on, yesterday you said it was an accident.” Mon Mothma interrupted, then she looked startled, and continued placatingly “Admiral, I know this is difficult for you. But believe me, please, that this is the best solution.”
“Admiral Kulthum,” Piett turned to the microphone as well. “I wish I could give you a better guarantee for Mon Mothma’s safety than just my word, but at the moment that is all I can do.”
For a moment only silence answered his statement, then the Rebel Admiral seemed to find his voice again. “Admiral Piett? – You know you will never get away with it if you hurt Mon Mothma or any of our people down there.”
Piett sighed, repressing the anger he felt again rising in him. “I know.” he said, even though he would much rather have shouted ‘Don’t threaten me!’ into the microphone. “I know.” Gods, he hated this. Why did he even bother?
He walked out of the transmitter room and returned to the other two.
“What’s up now?” Needa asked, for once not sounding as flippant as usual.
Piett sat down on the ground heavily. “Oh, I am just thoroughly sick and tired of this.” He covered his eyes with this hands. “I tell them that I wont do anything to Mon Mothma and those stupid, ignorant bastards just turn this around in my mouth and say, you wont get away with hurting her. I mean, why should I? What’s the point? How cosmically stupid do they think I am?”
“As stupid as they are, I guess,” Needa said, “or Commander Iddlem. – Perhaps you should tell them about him…”
“Oh, thank the gods, they don’t know about that little episode,” Piett groaned. “They probably would shoot us on sight.”
“They might do that anyway,” Needa commented grimly.
Tob Ketelli came over and offered him another mug of tea. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but instead he just smiled.
“Thank you,” Piett said.
They sat in silence around the fire, absentmindedly listening to Mon Mothma’s voice coming out of the transmitter cabin, though they could not understand what she said, but from the tone of it the discussion seemed to be rather heated. It was quite some time before Mon Mothma emerged looking grim but triumphant, a pale-looking Sergeant Pringles following in her wake.
“Admiral,” she said, “once more I have to apologize for the disgraceful conduct of my colleagues. There will be a troop transport picking you and your men up tomorrow mid-morning at the site of the shield generator.” She paused, and then continued in a less formal way. “I am sorry for all this, really. And, believe me, the Admiral’s behaviour will have consequences.”
She looked so honestly concerned, that he could not help but nod. There was also nothing he could do just now. The facts remained the same: they were still stuck on this abysmal moon together, and the Reb
els were the only people with ships around. “My sister Rilla said once, that the real reason why there are so few women in the armed forces, any armed forces, is that they don’t allow anybody to step on them,” he said quietly.
“Nobody is going to step on you.” Mon Mothma said sternly. “Not as long as I am in charge.”
“Really?” Needa queried. “I can tell you something, Mon Mothma, and perhaps you should tell your friends sometime, you are so lucky that he is in charge and not I. He is patience incarnate, by now I would have had too much of this shit.”
“Gods,” Mon Mothma exclaimed, before Piett had a chance to even open his mouth. “Don’t you think I have had more than enough of this? I just had to talk down Admiral Kulthum again! And only the fact that Major Tobin turned up saved the day. He is a sensible man. I was that close to just telling them to fuck off. Somebody would turn up eventually, I am surprised that no news team is here yet, but they will come and boy will they be happy when they find the head of the New Republic is camping in the forests with a bunch of Imperials because her own people were to scared to lift them off the planet!” She took a deep breath, and looked at Needa, “Angus, please, I know this is infuriating, but we have to go through with this. Somebody around here has to act like mature people!”
“I know,” Needa said. He got to his feet and walked over to Mon Mothma. “I just hope that your people know what they have in you. If anybody can make this work, Imperials and Rebels working together, it’s you.” He patted her on her good shoulder.
“Thank you.” Mon Mothma smiled at Needa.
Pringles looked as if he didn’t quite now, whether he should run away or shoot everybody, including himself.
“Mr Ketelli, do we still have some tea left,” Mon Mothma asked.
“Yes,” Ketelli hurried over and gave her a new mug.
“Thanks,” she smiled, then with another sigh, continued, “and we’d better head off soon.”
They finished their tea quickly and quietly. Piett called the base, but they had not heard anything from the lost party. Rezikiel had returned to the others with the small group of survivors they had found the evening before, Sokorovsk was still out searching. Then, after extinguishing the fire and repacking the blankets and mugs, they set off.
Surprisingly it didn’t rain.
They walked quietly for a
few hours, Piett finding himself in the position of guide. He was after
all, as Needa pointed out, from a planet not unlike this and should be
used to finding his way home.
Piett refrained from pointing out that this moon was nothing like Pokrovsk. In the end, Needa was probably right, he certainly knew more about trees and hiking through unmarked forests than the others.
After a few hours they passed the site of the landslide and Mon Mothma gave a short explanation of their experiences to Sergeant Pringles. Pringles only shrugged as if being caught in a landslide was just something the leader of a Rebellion had to accept as part of her workload.
To Piett’s utter astonishment, Needa later managed to involve Pringles in a conversation. He didn’t pay much attention to what they were talking about, but from the snatches he heard it seemed that Needa was letting Pringles explain the entire history of the Rebellion to him. Pringles must be even more stupid than Piett had thought. If Needa would be interested in undermining the Rebellion, gathering intelligence was one of the most important steps to take. Pringles gave away useful information without even noticing what he was doing. Even to the point of mentioning where important members of the Rebellion were born and grew up. Involuntarily he paid more attention to Pringles’s lecture when he was talking about Luke Skywalker.
As usual at the mention of this name, Piett felt a strange mixture of curiosity and hostility towards this man he had never even seen. Somehow he disliked the man not only for his role in the destruction of the Death Star, causing the death of many friends and colleagues, but also for sharing the name of his childhood hero. He had always been curious whether the two Skywalkers were related but he felt too self-conscious to ask Pringles now.
There were more than one family in the galaxy with this surname. Though apparently Luke Skywalker also came from Tatooine. Perhaps it was a common name there. Though, as his memory reminded him, Anakin Skywalker was not born on Tatooine but in Cirnokan on Tudela on 21/08/326. – Dammit, the stuff he remembered!
Unfortunately Pringles wasn’t talking about Skywalker any more but about this Han Solo person, who helped Skywalker blow up the first Death Star. Piett wondered why Pringles had a problem with Imperial soldiers, who after all where just trying to live as ordinary lives as was possible under the system they were born in, but thought that a man who smuggled drugs, had long-term connections to all sorts of crime lords and a near endless record of breaking the law, was a hero.
He had not only helped to blow up the first Death Star but apparently was also responsible for the destruction of the shield generator. Moreover, it had been his ship, the Millenium Falcon, as Pringles explained proudly, that got the second Death Star in the end – under a different captain, obviously, but still the same ship. Pringles didn’t notice that Needa paled frighteningly at the mention of the ship, his hand clasping his throat as usual when he was reminded of his unfortunate encounter with Han Solo and his ship.
What astoniched Piett again was the absolute disregard Pringles showed to the fact that these men, both Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, were responsible for hundreds of thousands of people dying.
Mon Mothma, who had been following Needa and Pringles quietly, noticed that Needa looked rather green and insisted that they take a break, despite Needa’s protests that he was fine. Just a thruppet jumping on his grave.
At least Piett had the opportunity to check Mon Mothma’s arm. She could move her hand and flex her fingers, which was all the examination he could think of. The bandages seemed fine, even though they were now of the same mud-colour as the rest of their clothes. But then, except for Sergeant Pringles they were all muddy, dishevelled and unshaved. The fact that the Rebel ship would only come the next morning would at least give them all a chance to wash, shave and look somewhat respectable when they were picked up.
They resumed their march and Piett got increasingly worried that he would lose the way. But then, in the middle hours of the afternoon they reached the crashed shuttle.
Mon Mothma stared for a long time at the two graves, hardly recognizable after the torrential rain of the previous day.
Piett wondered what had told the rebels that they had been there, except for the fact, that nobody was in the shuttle. Another contact with the base only confirmed Piett’s misgivings, the lost group had still not reappeared. Lieutenant Commander Sokorovsk had returned however, and Captain McLaughlin, who was nearby and talked to Piett personally this time, promised to send another search group towards their current position.
Piett urged the others to continue their walk, as even if they found the lost group immediately it would be dark before they reached the Imperial shelter.
So far Piett had managed not to think about what could have possibly happened to the small group of people, but now that they had to actively look for them, his imagination created all kinds of grisly scenarios, falling trees, earthquakes strong enough for the ground to open up and all of them disappearing into a chasm, but the one that was topmost in his mind was of course, that these furry beasts somehow had managed to overwhelm the men.
He tried to reassure himself, that the stormtroopers and Major Remier were armed, that they knew about the dangers and would not underestimate their opponents, but again and again the picture of the two men hanging over the fire in the second Ewok village crept back into his mind, the men themselves replaced by Sergeant Lasalle and Major Remier. He realized that none of them had so much as mentioned the word “Ewok” before, as if by ignoring the existence of these hairy critters they could negate the possibility of them being responsible for the disappearance of Remier and his companions.
But of course, ignoring a problem never made it go away.
They must have crossed nearly half of the remaining distance to the Imperial shelter and Piett was already wondering whether they would meet the group sent out from the shelter without finding any trace of the vanished men, when Tob Ketelli found an indication that Piett’s worst nightmares were coming true, a rickety spear.
Ketelli himself was just surprised about his discovery, holding the spear gingerly at its end as if he wasn’t sure whether it would fall apart or bite him, but then, as Piett reminded himself, he had not been at either of the Ewok villages. Pringles reaction was equally neutral, while Needa looked sick. “Damnation,” was all he said. He was probably thinking just as Piett did that they should have known, they should have done something about the disappearance earlier.
It was, however, Mon Mothma’s reaction that really startled Piett. “Ewoks,” she said evenly as if it was the most normal thing of the world.
“Yikes!” Ketelli shouted and dropped the spear as if it had turned into a snake.
“Yes, Ewoks,” Piett confirmed but the tone of his voice made Mon Mothma look at him surprised.
“You have encountered them before.”
Needa, Ketelli and Piett all nodded grimly. “You can say that,” Needa commented.
“Damn. Just what I feared,” Piett said, looking around for more clues of the furry critters to have passed, there must be signs of a fight. Even if they surprised the group of stormtroopers there must have been some time to fight back. Further on, he spotted something white.
“What?” Mon Mothma asked, for a moment confused. Then she said, “I know they fooought on our side during the battle, but I guarantee you that they won’t harm you now.”
Piett hastened towards the white thing lying under the branches of a bush.
“Don’t guarantee something you don’t have any influence over.” Needa countered with enough venom in his voice to make Mon Mothma stop in her tracks.
The white thing turned out to be exactly what Piett had feared it was, a stormtrooper’s helmet. He picked it up and held it towards Mon Mothma. “They won’t harm us, right?”
Mon Mothma touched the gleaming plastic gingerly. “I don’t know…,” she started.
“There…,” Ketelli shouted and pointed further towards the shelter, to the place where the Ewoks had obviously attacked. The ground was still covered in tracks, human and Ewok. A dozen or so furry bodies were strewn across the ground. The trees around were scorched with blaster fire. On the ground lay one of the makeshift carriers lay upturned on the ground, covering a body. Closer to them another body, in the white armour of a stormtrooper, lay across the way, he was wearing no helmet, but only two of the troopers had bothered to take them along.
“No,” Mon Mothma whispered. “Oh, my gods.”
“Fucking hell,” was Needa’s more colourful comment. He walked over to the upturned stretcher and shoved the thing aside. “Firelord.” He turned round to Mon Mothma. “Your friends, the Ewoks, have cut his throat.”
Piett walked to the dead trooper and cringed as he saw the mess that used to be his face. He remembered one of the men who had been with Captain Needa mentioning that the Ewoks had clubbed the too seriously injured to death.
Mon Mothma slowly approached, pressing her good hand to her mouth. Pringles loitered behind, not too keen on seeing the gross relics of the fight. Slowly Mon Mothma lowered her hand. She looked at the body of one of the furry beasts, and to Piett’s complete bewilderment sat down on the ground next to it, putting her hand on its furry back. “That’s one of the Ewoks I met two nights ago.”
“You met him?” Piett heard himself exclaim. It sounded as if she had a social evening with these beasts.
Mon Mothma looked up at him, surprised and confused. “Yes, we, the New Republic, and the Ewoks have just concluded a treaty of mutual help and trade with each other. There was a celebration in the Ewok’s village two nights ago. That’s why I was down here.” She frowned briefly. “Oh, gods,” she moaned. “That’s it. They saw your people carry Madine and Neko through the forest and thought you had captured them and tried to rescue them…”
“And that’s why they cut his throat?” Needa interrupted, pointing at the dead Twi’lek. “Or are you trying to tell me, our people did it? They couldn’t. The Admiral is the only one who carries a knife.”
“No.” Mon Mothma shook her head. “Perhaps they thought he was one of your people. They have never seen a Twi’lek before, he was not at the banquet but stayed at the ship.”
Randomly Piett thought, so much for the Rebellion being not racist. The non humans are left at the shuttle.
“It was a misunderstanding.” Mon Mothma looked around. “Such a waste…”
“With all due respect, Ma’am,” Piett said, himself looking over the battle field, “I don’t quite believe this has been a misunderstanding. This was a planned attack, and they attacked those of us who were hampered by carrying wounded. They didn’t attack us. They don’t give a damn about this precious treaty of yours.”
The Ewoks had set out to deliberately kill the men they attacked. If they just wanted to rescue Madine they didn’t have to cut the Twi’lek’s throat, or break the trooper’s skull.
Mon Mothma got to her feet. “They wouldn’t do that.”
“Look, Ma’am,” he said, “I can understand that you don’t want to believe this of your so-called allies, but I think we’d better find where they have taken the others and perhaps we can stop them from eating all of them.”
Mon Mothma swallowed. “Eat?” she asked.
“Yes, eat.” Needa came over to them. “Unfortunately we don’t have time to discuss this problem in greater details. Even if we just save one of them …” He looked as if he would happy disembowel any Ewok who came into his hands.
Piett looked around, till he spotted the trail the departing Ewoks had created. “This way. We can come back and take care of our dead later.”
Pringles hastened to catch up with them as they started to move into that direction. He grabbed Mon Mothma’s arm. “You don’t believe them, do you?” he exclaimed. “The Ewoks are our friends, they don’t eat people.”
“I’m afraid they do,” Mon Mothma said. “They nearly ate one of our teams on the planet just before the battle. Including Commander Skywalker and Han Solo.”
“They wouldn’t…” Pringles started again, but Mon Mothma shook his hand off. “Whatever they have done or haven’t we have to find them as soon as possible. Admiral, I think we better hurry.”
They followed the track the Ewoks had left behind, when they departed, obviously not caring that they left a very obvious trail.
Somehow these creatures seemed to be one of nature’s major mistakes. It was a miracle that they had evolved this far, as there was definitely something missing in their mental make-up. They seemed incapable of imagining the outcome of their actions. Perhaps they had just never encountered any other intelligent race before.
But just as little as he understood how something like these furry beasts could survive as long as they did, as little could he comprehend why the Rebels had made a treaty with these things – after they nearly ate some of their most important men. Of course, the critters had helped the Rebels defeat the Imperial garrison on Endor, but presumably they had no clue what they had gotten into when they did it. Had the Emperor not been conveniently distracted, he would probably just have turned the Death Star around and blasted the moon. It had been probably more than twenty-four hours since their men had been attacked, perhaps they hadn’t killed all of them yet. Perhaps they wanted to keep some of them for later. They seemed to prefer to have their food cooked alive.
Piett shuddered and hurried on.
It wasn’t long after wards that he spotted another body. The black uniform identifying him as being Major Remier.
“Oh, shit,” Piett groaned.
He took a deep breath and ran to where the Major lay on his face in the mud. Of course, he knew they should hurry on, take care of the dead later, after they had seen whether there were any survivors, but he just couldn’t leave him like that. He knelt on the ground and stared at the blood clotted hair of the dead man.
“No.” Needa stopped next to Piett. “Not him as well.”
Slowly Piett turned Remier on his back. Damn, he was still warm. Perhaps… no, he could not be still alive. Nevertheless Piett put his hand carefully on Remier’s throat, looking for a sign of life. For a desperate second he didn’t find anything, then he felt the blood pulsing against his fingers. “He’s still alive.”
Mon Mothma knelt down on the ground as well. “How badly is he injured?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Piett had to admit. “They hit him on the head.” If only he knew more about medicine. If only their only medical officer was not in the paws of the furry beasts.
With a strange grimace, Mon Mothma put her hand on Remier’s head, feeling for injuries. “I don’t know a lot about this…” she began, then Remier twitched and she pulled her hand away again. “I hope I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Piett shook his head. “Remier?” He wished he knew the man’s first name. “Remier?”
Remier’s eyelids fluttered but nothing else happened. If his head injuries were serious he would probably die without regaining consciousness and there was nothing they could do about it.
Mon Mothma took one of Remier’s hands with her right hand and leaning over said. “Remier, can you hear me?”
“It’s useless,” Pringles said now. “They’re all dead. We better go to your base.”
“Shut up, will you,” Mon Mothma hissed at him.
Just then Remier opened his eyes, but he was staring straight ahead into the air.
“Major!” Needa exclaimed delightedly.
Remier blinked and looked around, his eyes finally fixing on Mon Mothma who still leaned over him. “I’m dead,” he whispered.
“No, you’re not,” Mon Mothma said, trying to sound cheerful.
“Oh, gods.” Remier shivered, he closed his eyes again.
“Remier!” Mon Mothma shouted at him.
He opened his eyes again. “Where is the Admiral?” he asked.
“Here.” Piett leaned over so Remier could see him. “We’re going to take you to the shelter.”
“I thought they had gotten you as well.”
“No. We’re fine. We have reached Mon Mothma’s friends and they are going to pick us up tomorrow.”
Remier looked from Piett to Mon Mothma and back to his superior officer. “Good. – Just one thing. When these evil beasts come back, will you shoot me, please? I don’t want to be eaten by those filthy things.”
“They won’t come back,” Mon Mothma promised.
“They came for us. There were just too many of them…” Remier whispered. “I got away because I was just in the bushes when they attacked. They were like locusts, swarming all over the place. I hid and followed them, when they took the prisoners away.” He grimaced. “I tried to be heroic and rescue them, but the beasts saw me and one got me with his sling. They must have thought I was dead. – I tried to get help but I can’t walk.”
Piett and Mon Mothma stared at each other, that didn’t sound good. “Do you know where they took them?” Piett asked.
“Somewhere over there.” Remier pointed with a shaking finger. “They can’t be far away. I heard them singing last night.” He squeezed his eyes shut. “I don’t know whether any of the others are still alive. They sang about them last night, about eating them.”
Mon Mothma looked surprised at Piett.
“He can speak Ewok,” he explained. “Major,” he said to Remier, “you understand that we have to see whether there are survivors. Tob Ketelli will stay with you.”
Remier nodded briefly. “Just give him a blaster.”
Piett got up and turned to Ketelli. “You contact the group McLaughlin sent out earlier, they should be around and tell them to hurry up. We need them now.”
“Yes, Sir.” He went down on his knees next to Remier, pulled his blanket out of his backpack and with the help of Captain Needa managed to wrap Remier in it.
“We’d better get going,” Piett said. The others, even Sergeant Pringles, followed without complaints.
It was not reassuring to hear Remier ask Ketelli whether he had a blaster and when Ketelli confirmed that, ask him again to shoot him in the head when the Ewoks arrived. When, not if.
Major Remier had been right, they had not walked far when they reached the Ewok village. It looked perhaps a bit more solid than the other two villages they had encountered so far, it was definitely higher up than even the first village, where Needa and his men had been held captive.
“That is the village where I was two days ago.” Mon Mothma said, staring up.
“So?” Needa asked.
“They must have thought that your people were abducting General Madine.” She shook her head in despair.
“Excuse me, if I doubt that.” Piett said. “You’ve seen what they’ve done to Major Remier.”
“That was a mistake,” Mon Mothma insisted.
“I don’t think so. But more imporantly, if you have been here before, do you know how to get up there?” Piett asked.
Mon Mothma nodded and led them to a tree on the other side of the village. A ramp, well hidden, lead up towards the village. Mon Mothma started to climb up, a grim and determined expression on her face. Piett wondered why she was so convinced that all this was just a mistake?
It took them considerable time to reach the level of the village. The sound of many feet and some noise, that Piett assumed Remier had described as singing, drifted to them. Piett heard Needa release the safety of his blaster and did the same. Mon Mothma stopped suddenly and turned round.
“I want to go first and check things out,” she said.
“You’re mad!” Needa exclaimed. “They’re going to kill you.”
“No they won’t,” Mon Mothma insisted. “I don’t want you to go in there and start shooting before I have a chance to find out whether this was a misunderstanding or not.”
“You can’t go there alone,” Pringles said and for the first time since they met Piett fully agreed with him.
“Mon Mothma. If we promise not to shoot until we are attacked, is that acceptable to you?”
“You’ll have to keep your blasters in their holsters,” Mon Mothma said.
“Ok, the blasters stay in their holsters until we either get attacked or we need them to rescue our men.”
“Piett, you can’t be serious,” Needa stared at him.
“Shouldn’t we move ahead now and discuss these issues later?” Piett asked in return.
“Ok.” Needa shoved his blaster back into its holster.
Mon Mothma looked critically at her three companions, but then moved on. After a few more yards the ramp rounded around another tree and ended on the central square of the Ewok village.
At the sight of the goings on in front of them, they all stopped short, for a moment incapable of believing their eyes.
The roofs of the cottages along the square virtually disappeared under the number of stormtroopers’ helmets and armour, occasionally a few other helmets and caps could be seen. The place of honour over the entrance of the largest hut was given to the bronze coloured head of Mon Mothma’s droid. Torches were fixed to the sides of the houses, though it was hardly dark enough yet to warrant additional lighting. The square itself was full of hopping and dancing Ewoks, while on the other side, a table was still laden with food. It was the aspect of this that nearly turned Piett’s stomach.
Amongst the bones and bits sat General Madine’s head.
“O gods!” Needa whispered.
Mon Mothma was just standing there, taking it all in. She looked as placid and calm as if she was looking on a quiet part of the forest, not this spectacle. Not on the scene before her, having to realize that the furry beasts she had thought were her allies had cooked and eaten her friend. It had not been a mistake after all that the Ewoks had attacked the group.
Some of the fuzzy things hopping madly around a fire in the middle of the square noticed them standing like fools at the edge of the square. They pointed at them and started to run wildly around.
Then all of a sudden Mon Mothma snapped out of her trance. She whipped around, an expression of fury on her face that made Piett shrink back, but not fast enough. With one fluid movement she had grabbed his blaster, pulled it out of its holster, spun around completely and opened fire on the startled Ewoks.
“Murderers! Bloody murderers,” she yelled, continuously firing into the midst of the mass of Ewoks.
Needa started to shoot at the furry beasts as well, shouting incomprehensibly at the top of his voice.
Absolute chaos broke out amongst the beasts, they shrieked and ran in all directions, some into the houses, some disappeared between the huts, some seemed not even capable of thinking of a sensible escape route and just ran around on the square. In the chaos a few of them were pushed over the edge of the square’s platform and fell squealing down towards certain death.
Mon Mothma continued to shout and shoot, walking slowly forward. Needa followed her closely. It was only then that Piett noticed that Pringles hadn’t fired a single shot yet. When he turned around, he found the Rebel sitting on the ramp, staring dumbstruck at the scene in front of him.
“Pringles,” Piett said to him, but the man seemed incapable of even turning his head. “Sergeant Pringles.”
He was leaning over the Rebel, to shake him out of his stupor, when something hit the back of his head. For a moment he couldn’t see a thing, though he could hear Mon Mothma yell “No!” Then his sight returned, and he found himself flat on his belly, staring down towards the distant ground of the forest. Nearly, nearly he had fallen down there. His head was ringing and something sticky ran down his neck. Slowly he got back up.
Sergeant Pringles was still sitting on his behind, not moving at all. A dark stain on his trousers indicated that he had lost control over all his muscles. Piett didn’t even feel any kind of glee at the sight, he just wondered absentmindedly how the Rebellion could have reached this day, if there were more people like Pringles involved. He grabbed the Sergeant’s blaster and turned back to the fray.
Mon Mothma had by now reached the table, and stood on its top. She was not firing wildly anymore, as the crowd of Ewoks on the square had thinned out rapidly, there were now more dead Ewoks than live ones. Needa was carefully firing at the Ewoks that tried to sneak out of the houses, some of them were armed with their ridiculous little spears and the more dangerous slings.
Piett took up position where they had first discovered the truth about the New Republic’s new allies. As he opened fire on the creatures himself he was surprised at how calm he felt. Perhaps, he wondered, one can only get that angry, then it’s just too much and you shut down emotionally. Or completely, like Sergeant Pringles.
The three of them had the central square of the village covered completely, whatever moved on it, and whatever tried to sneak onto it from behind was in the line of fire of at least one of them. Out in the open the beasts were fairly easy pickings, they squealed and shrieked, falling over each other and down the sides of the ramps and platform. They continued to run out on the square and seemed to be incapable of realizing that coming out into the open would mean certain death. Perhaps some of the village’s population had more brains and fled by another ramp than the one Piett was blocking.
Slowly the shrieking and clamouring started to fade and when the noise level dropped, another sound could be heard, somebody, a human, yelling for help.
“You stay there!” Piett shouted at the others and ran over the square to where the scream came from, or where he thought they came from. This meant that he had to leave the open space and enter the smaller ramps between the huts, where the furry beasts had a chance to hide. But he had no time to worry about this. Too vividly he remembered that they had cut the one man’s throat – gods, what was his name? – to prevent him being rescued.
The shouting stopped abruptly and Piett found himself lost as to where he should continue his search. He was pretty certain that the man must be kept in one of the huts which surrounded the smaller platform he had just reached.
“Hang on, I’m coming,” he yelled, hoping for some kind of reaction if not from the captive himself then from his captor.
A hard thud emerged from one of the huts, followed by a squeal and the man shouting “Help!”
The door of the hut flung open and a group of Ewoks charged out, all waving their weapons and one even clutching a blaster. He obviously had no idea what to do with it. Before any of them was even halfway across the open space between the hut and Piett they were all dead.
“Here!” the man shouted hysterically, “quick!”
Piett ran over the pile of dead Ewoks and was greeted by a waft of smoke coming out of the hut. He rushed into the smoke filled interior, finding a stormtrooper tied with hands and feet to the central post of the hut. And his knife was in his pocket again! Damn, he really should keep it somewhere where he could get at it quicker. He holstered his blaster and fumbled with the buttons of his uniform jacket, looking around to where find where the fire was and how bad it was. It was bad.
“What the hell are you doing?” the man shrieked.
Instead of answering Piett produced the folding knife and held it up. “I think that’s better than a blaster for cutting ropes?”
“Yes, yes,” the man assented hurriedly, “Just hurry up for gods’ sake!”
Piett did as he was told, and together they left the smoke filled hut. The trooper stumbled and Piett had to put a steadying hand on his arm. They stopped just outside the hut.
“Are there any others left?” Piett asked.
The trooper shook his head. “No, they killed the others. I guess I was kept for dessert.”
“Yes, for heaven’s sake. I had to watch it!” The man replied, the shrill tone of his voice revealing just how close the man was to completely breaking down.
Piett nodded. He had feared as much, it was actually a surprise they had found at least one survivor. “Come,” he said to the trooper. “Let’s get out of here.”
They returned to the central square of the village unimpeded by any of the furry beasts. The square itself was also quiet when they reached it. The only Ewoks around were dead ones.
Needa and Mon Mothma stood together next to the table.
Mon Mothma stared at the grisly remains of General Madine, her face was very pale and again completely expressionless. She held Piett’s blaster in her bandaged left hand, her right hand was hovering over Madine’s head, as if she couldn’t quite force herself to touch it. Needa watched her, but also kept an eye on the surroundings, nodding in their direction, when Piett and the trooper came on the square.
“How could they?” Mon Mothma asked. “How … He didn’t deserve this!”
“Nobody does,” Needa said calmly.
The table was littered with the what was obviously the remains of a great feast. Though Piett tried to ignore the pieces of human remains lying between wooden bowls and other foodstuff, involuntarily he recognized too familiar bones, pieces of uniform and armour.
General Madine’s head was, however, the only identifiable part. Piett found himself wondering, why it was Madine’s head the furry beasts had not thought fit for consumption, at least so far. The head had been chopped off the General’s body by some not very sharp tool, his beard and hair was burnt, some of it – as Piett noticed when he came closer – was singed and curled in a way no natural hair did. Was that it? Did the furry creatures cut off Madine’s head and refuse to eat it because he was wearing a toupee? Madine had been unconscious at least, if one could judge from the calm expression on his face, when the beasts had killed him.
When Piett and his companion reached the table, the trooper looked as if he was about to be sick.
Mon Mothma looked up. “Do we know what happened to the others?”
Piett nodded. “They’re all dead.”
“The gods damn them!” Mon Mothma swore with feeling. “Those furry bastards!”
Needa picked up a bit of green uniform lying on the table. “Sergeant Lasalle’s. – Gods.”
For a few moments they just stood there staring at the left-overs of the Ewok banquet. Piett found himself wondering again, how these animals had developed this particular strange kind of intelligence. They should have known that they could not treat a technologically so far more advanced race like this and get away with it. He was also worried about Mon Mothma, all this must come as a real shock to her. He had after all expected something like this.
“What are we going to do?” Needa asked.
Mon Mothma looked around, at the table, the piles of dead Ewoks and the rickety huts around the square. “Let’s burn them. Let’s burn this entire place down. At least that way, our friends will have a proper funeral.” Her voice was harsh. She turned to Piett. “Is that acceptable to you?”
“Yes.” He nodded. “They already started a fire themselves, when they tried to burn him.” He pointed to the trooper, whose name he did not even know. The trooper still looked shaken but more lively than before, less on the brink of hysteria.
“Let’s do it,” Mon Mothma said. She finally put her hand carefully on Madine’s head, and closed her eyes, perhaps praying.
The trooper stared at her briefly, then he turned around. “Are they all dead?” he asked, indicating at the piles of dead creatures.
“We got as many as we could,” Mon Mothma said, “burning down their village is going to keep those who fled away.”
She turned away from Madine’s remains and walked to the next torch, still burning quietly and casting ghostly shadows in the gathering dark. She lifted it out of its holder and set fire to the hut on which the torch had been fixed. She was very careful and deliberate, holding the flame to the reeds of the roof and when those had started to burn, stepped into the hut and set the interior on fire as well.
The trooper, Needa and Piett followed her example. Quietly they were walking through the apparently deserted village, though Piett was certain that there were still inhabitants hiding somewhere. He had his blaster, Needa and Mon Mothma were likewise armed, but the trooper had no weapon. Damn. If some hiding creature would charge out of hiding, the trooper would be in trouble.
Swearing under his breath, Piett started to run through the village, looking for the trooper. The village was burning very well. They should probably get out of there soon, before the supports started to go and the entire structure fell to the ground.
Piett could hear blaster fire and ran there, though it couldn’t be the stormtrooper firing. High-pitched shrieks guided him to a smaller platform and Mon Mothma who shot at some furry beasts emerging from one of the huts surrounding the opening. He threw his torch on the roof of the building and joined her efforts to eradicate these creatures. After a few moments, no more Ewoks emerged and they stopped shooting.
The flames were spreading rapidly around them, consuming the dry material of the huts.
“We’d better get out of here, before the fire gets too bad,” Piett said.
Mon Mothma nodded. “Ok.”
Needa came running around a corner, blaster in one hand, flaming torch in the other. “What…?” he started, then saw the fresh pile of dead creatures. “You’re alright?” He asked them.
Mon Mothma nodded and was just about to reply, when a shout, shrill but unmistakably human, reached their ears.
Without a word, they all turned a ran to where the shout had come from, the main square of the Ewok village. Left and right the huts were aflame. Fortunately only the roofs were burning of most of them.
“Go away!” somebody squealed, hardly audible over the growing roar of the fire.
“Pringles!” Mon Mothma exclaimed before Piett even had time to think.
When they reached the square, they saw Pringles standing where Piett had last seen him, holding on to the trunk of the tree for sheer life, while a handful of Ewoks was pulling at him. “Leave me alone!”
Mon Mothma skidded to a halt and carefully aimed her blaster at the Ewoks, swearing when she unconsciously tried to raise her bandaged arm to support her right hand. Piett wondered where she had learned to shoot, and so well. She hit one of the Ewoks squarely in the head, the others shrieked and let go of Pringles’s clothes. Running away from him, they were easy targets and none got far.
The missing trooper came rushing out on the square as well. “We better get out!” he yelled. “The village is falling apart!”
They sped over the square. Mon Mothma slipped and fell on a couple of dead Ewoks, lying on top of each other. She jumped back up, before they had time to come to her help. Speeding past Pringles, she just shouted, “come!” at him and ran down the wooden walkway they had come up not so long ago.
Piett, following Needa, the trooper and Pringles who obeyed Mon Mothma’s orders, wondered distractedly, whether running away from a fire was a normal occurrence in the life of the leader of a Rebellion, or whether Mon Mothma worked out.
Then he realized that he was not wearing his cap anymore. Automatically he stopped and turned back to the village, for a brief moment convinced he had to go back and retrieve it.
The huts and wooden walkways between them were engulfed in flames by now, the fire slowly eating away at the structures, some parts started to fall towards the distant ground. Somewhere his silly, little hat was burning as well.
Hell, so what? he thought, nobody is going to strangle me for not wearing full uniform. Darth Vader, after all, was dead. And even the Dark Lord of the Sith wouldn’t strangle his second for a triviality like this – after all the shit that they had been through.
He turned and ran after the others.
15: In which Mon Mothma enjoys the hospitality of the
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