Chapter 15:
In which Mon Mothma enjoys the hospitality of the Imperial shelter.

Back on the ground, they stopped to catch their breath. They stared back to where the flames of the village were visible through the branches of the trees.
Involuntarily, Mon Mothma recalled the grisly end of Madine and the captured Imperials, but she shoved the thought away. She had no time to get hysterical now. Later she could allow herself the luxury of breaking down and crying, but not now. Her arm hurt quite badly from when she had fallen on it, tripping when the strap of her shoe had finally broken. She had been lucky, as her fall had been broken by the soft body of an Ewok. Anger rose in her, fury at the furry beasts who had no regard for other creatures’ lives, and gave no second thought to the fact that they just had concluded a treaty with the people they were eating. She tore her eyes from the blaze before she started shouting.
The others looked pale and haunted. Pringles seemed willing to sink into the ground with shame, and if she interpreted the dark stain on his trousers correctly he had every right to be embarrassed. Piett stared at the fire, holding his hand to the back of his head, where he had been hit by a sling shot. Mon Mothma still shook when she remembered how Piett had stumbled and nearly fallen off the walkway when the stone had hit his head.
Piett noticed her looking at him, and turned to her, but for once she was quicker in asking, “Are you alright?”
He smiled thinly at her and nodded. “Yes.”
She stepped closer and said: “Let me have a look.”
For a second he looked confused, only then he seemed to realize where his hand was. He lowered it, staring surprised at the blood sticking to his fingers. “It’s nothing,” he said dismissively.
“You nearly fell off, when you were hit,” Mon Mothma countered. “Turn around.”
Piett complied, however, not before she could see the grimace he made towards Captain Needa. She did feel like an over-protective mother, but … hell.
As Piett was only a few inches taller than Mon Mothma she had no problem checking out his injuries. The hair on the back of his head was matted with blood. Most of it had dried now, but it had run down his neck and soaked the collar of his uniform jacket. Gingerly she put the fingers of her good hand to his head, feeling for the wound. Piett flinched away slightly when she touched the place where the stone hit him. Blood was still seeping out of the wound and she could feel the slight bump of a swelling.
“That must have hurt,” she said, lowering her hand. She looked around where to wipe her bloodstained fingers and decided that her robes where stained enough that a few specks of blood wouldn’t make any difference anymore.
“Not really.” He put his hand back to his head. “It happened all too quickly.” Turning around, he grimaced again, but Mon Mothma was not quite sure, whether it was supposed to be a funny expression, or whether he was in pain after all.
“How’s your head?” she asked again.
“It hurts, but not too badly.” This time Mon Mothma was sure that he smiled. Absentmindedly he brushed his hair out of his face smearing blood into it. He frowned and turned to Needa. “I lost my cap.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Needa exclaimed exasperatedly. “How can you worry about that shit now?”
Piett just shrugged. “How are you?” he then asked Mon Mothma.
“And you?” to the stormtrooper, who shrugged, which looked awkward with his armour. “Reasonable, I suppose.”
“You?” Piett turned to Captain Needa.
“Me? I am just brilliant.” Needa put his blaster back into his holster and wiped his hands on his trousers. “But then I did not lose my hat just now. – That particular piece of clothing blew up together with my ship.”
Piett turned his gaze on Sergeant Pringles who looked as if he wanted to dissolve into thin air rather than being asked how he was. He twisted the ends of his moustache. But before the Admiral could ask, sounds of someone approaching reached them. Automatically they all whipped around, the three of them who had blasters aiming at the source of the noise.
By now the forest was in deep twilight and the bushes from which the sound had come lay in darkness, illuminated only by the fire of the burning village above. Whoever it was stopped suddenly. Then a voice shouted, “Hallo?”
“Hallo!” Needa shouted back.
They lowered their blasters as did the men who now stepped out of the darkness. It was a group of six men; three stormtroopers in full armour, two officers in green and a man in something that looked like a black jump-suit who was slightly ahead of the others. He grinned widely when he spotted the four of them standing there and rushed to them.
“Thank all the ninety gods,” he shouted, looking for a moment as if he was about to hug Piett, instead he just waved his arms around. “You are safe!”
“Now, yes.” Piett tried to remain unmoved by the enthusiastic reception, but he could not help but smile in return. He turned to Mon Mothma. “This is pilot Hookainen. – Hookainen, Mon Mothma.”
Mon Mothma smiled, feeling somewhat strange at being so officially introduced in the middle of a forest, in the lights of a burning Ewok village.
But pilot Hookainen went with it and bowed briefly, though the delighted grin never left his face. “Mon Mothma, it’s an honour,” he said, “I always was a great admirer of your work.” Somehow he even sounded as if he meant it. Perhaps he did.
“Ma’am,” one of the officers greeted her, then he turned to Piett. “Sir, I have left three men with Major Remier and Mr. Ketelli. Is there anything we can do here?” He turned to look up at the burning village.
“Lieutenant Corbet,” Piett started, and just as Mon Mothma wondered whether he knew the names of all the Imperials, he continued, “I am afraid, only Mr …” Piett gestured towards the trooper, who took his cue and said. “Dahn, Felix.”
“Trooper Dahn was the only survivor.”
Lieutenant Corbet looked at Mon Mothma, frowning at her for some time then he turned back to his superior officer. “I guess we’d best head back. Major Remier is in a pretty bad state, as far as we can tell. He is unconscious and we were not able to wake him.”
Mon Mothma felt the anger rise in her again. She didn’t know this Major but she wished she could do something to help him, stop whatever was wrong with him from getting worse.
Piett nodded. “Yes, we want to be back before it is completely dark.” He turned around and held the blaster towards Pringles. “That’s yours.”
For a moment nobody moved, even Mon Mothma was too surprised to do anything but gape, as Pringles took the blaster back. For perhaps a second longer than would have been the normal movement to take the blaster back, its muzzle pointed at Piett, enough time for the Imperials to drew in their breath and drop their hands to their blasters. But then Pringles pulled the blaster towards him and stuck it in his holster. Lieutenant Corbet looked as if he would like to shoot Pringles anyway, but he did not.
Mon Mothma took Piett’s blaster, she had been holding in her left hand back into her good hand and handed it to Piett. “Thanks for lending it to me,” she said. “But as Lieutenant Corbet said, we’d better get going.”
They had walked silently for most of the way back.
Piett and the officer, whose name Mon Mothma did not know, were in front, followed by a couple of stormtroopers, while another two carried Major Remier and the last two brought up the rear.
Tob Ketelli walked quietly besides the unconscious Major, occasionally checking on him.
Lieutenant Corbet walked here and there and was, if Mon Mothma was not very much mistaken, not at all happy about having her and Pringles around. It was not that he acted or even looked hostile, but somehow the way he walked around her, the constant tension in his movements, indicated that he disapproved of her and Pringles’s presence. Corbet also seemed to resent the fact that Needa directed most of his usual snide comments towards her.
Mon Mothma wondered whether the Imperial command structure did not have more positive aspects than they had thought. Corbet might not be happy about her presence, but unlike Mon Mothma who had to persuade every single Rebel to accept her point of view, Piett just decided what to do, and even if his officers did not agree with him, they did as they were told. Of course, this was only such a positive aspect since Piett had decided to work with her. Had he decided that she was an expendable enemy, his subordinates would have probably shot her without asking questions either. She also wondered whether Corbet had a personal reason for disliking the Rebellion, or whether it was just ‘professional’ animosity. Pilot Hookainen was bopping around and kept an eye on everybody and everything. Sergeant Pringles was very quiet.
It was completely dark by the time the reached the Imperial shelter. The one-storey, permacrete building was overshadowed by the moon’s gigantic trees, which was presumably the reason why it hadn’t been discovered by the Rebels during the fight on the moon’s surface. Mon Mothma stared at the grim, unlit face of the shelter, wondering whether she should be annoyed by her friends’ carelessness or rather be relieved, as the Rebels’ carelessness would mean that she would have a proper bed tonight, something to eat and, as Piett had promised, a shower!
As they got closer, Mon Mothma saw that the reason why there was no light emerging from the building was that all the windows were closed by metal shutters. A figure standing next to the closed door, detached itself from the shadows and came towards them. It was another navy officer in green, who snapped to attention, even saluted, as he reached the group.
“Welcome back, Admiral.”
Mon Mothma stared at the man’s rank insignia, counting the little coloured squares. If she did not miss anything he had the same rank as Needa, which was a surprise,;she hadn’t thought that there would be a second Captain stranded on the moon.
“Thank you,” Piett answered, without stopping, “did you prepare…?”
“Yes,” the Captain said, falling into step beside Piett, “unfortunately there is no one here who is really qualified as a medic. Alexander Dunbee, one of the men from the Accusor, said he had some training as a medical assistant, but he says he cannot help with anything really serious. There is no medical equipment stored here. – I guess, they never thought that the wounded couldn’t be taken to proper medical facilities at once.”
“We feared as much,” Piett remarked.
The door of the shelter opened as they approached and another man came towards them. In the light falling through the open door Mon Mothma could see that the few strand of hair on his head were grey. Unlike the Captain he did not salute when he reached Piett, but slapped him on the shoulder. “Welcome.” He nodded at the other men, looking around till he spotted Mon Mothma. “Ah, Mon Mothma!” He walked to her stretching out his hand.
Close up, Mon Mothma recognized the elderly man, General Carron Ossory, who had already been in the army during the Clone Wars. More importantly, for Mon Mothma herself, he had been on the commission inquiring into the disappearance of Governor Sentendre. After the commission had finished its investigation without any results, Mon Mothma had started her own research, which had brought her in contact with the former commissioners – and in the end, though only indirectly, had resulted in her being outlawed.
Mon Mothma took his hand and he shook hers vigorously.
“General Ossory,” she said. “I didn’t know you were still on active duty.”
Ossory shrugged. “Oh, well, I thought about retiring often, particularly recently, but … then, what would I do after that. Play solitaire all day?” He looked intently at her. “I guess you never had the option to retire?”
“I had, more often than you would think,” Mon Mothma answered. “I had to fight hard to keep my position in the Rebellion.”
Ossory nodded. “I can imagine.”
Mon Mothma realized that by now she was not even surprised any more to find an old acquaintance here. An old friend, really; for a few weeks they had worked together to renew the investigation about Sentendre, then Ossory had been posted somewhere else. Mon Mothma had known that they had been on the right trail. She had been outlawed before she could prove that either the Emperor himself or his right-hand man, Darth Vader, had been involved.
“Perhaps I should retire now,” Ossory stated. “There seems to be little chance for an old man like me to make a new start.”
Mon Mothma looked at the kind face of Ossory, she had completely forgotten that he might be still in the Imperial army. It was not only recently defected Imperials who had friends among the people they were fighting.
“You deserve a long and peaceful retirement,” Mon Mothma stated. “Do you have any plans? Except playing solitaire?”
Osssory laughed. “Acutually, I have been thinking of opening a retirement home, for old professional soldiers like myself, who don’t have any family they can retire with. - But what am I talking about, you must be hungry and tired and would rather have something to eat and a good night’s sleep than listen to an old fool like me chattering about my retirement plans.”
“Yes. Mainly I am hungry,” Mon Mothma said with an apologetic smile.
The others of her group must have already entered the shelter. Not even Sergeant Pringles was around any more.
“This way.” Ossory lead her into the Imperial shelter. “Unfortunately, it’s not very comfortable here, but it’s better then nothing.”
Mon Mothma thought the well lit interior of the shelter looked very comfortable. The first room was a large hall. It was filled with Imperial soldiers of all descriptions, officers in green and black uniforms, stormtroopers in various stages of undress – not surprisingly none was wearing his helmet – and men in the jumpsuits of pilots. Most of them were sitting on boxes or on the floor of the shelter, but men were arriving and leaving the room all the time. The atmosphere was relaxed; Mon Mothma wondered whether the Imperial barracks were anything like this under normal circumstances, and decided that it was highly unlikely. Even in the less organized Rebel forces, officers and the men and women of the ranks kept usually apart in their spare time.
Her entrance caused quite a stir. All the men present turned around to see the most wanted woman of the galaxy. The most wanted woman in very dirty clothes. It took all her willpower not to look down at her muddy robes, but walk into the room as if she was used to being surrounded by her enemies. Perhaps she was by now.
She looked around at the Imperials. Most of them looked simply curious, but all other expressions were represented as well, amused, critical, hostile or suspicious. Most, and particularly the officers, kept their faces as blank as they could manage. She didn’t see any of her companions. All the faces in the room belonged to strangers.
Ossory lead her to a corner of the room, where a few of the boxes, covered with navy green blankets, were empty. On a slightly larger box in the middle of these vacant seats was a small pile of emergency rations and a container of water and a single plastic cup.
“Here.” Ossory indicated to the boxes. “Unfortunately the rations are not labelled, so it’s a gamble what you get. Just pick one and if you don’t like it, take another.” He grinned. “As we are only here till tomorrow, we don’t have to worry about running out of food.”
“Thank you.” Mon Mothma smiled gratefully and sat down.
Ossory smiled encouragingly and sank down on the box next to her. He took one of the ration boxes and scrutinized it. “No, there is no indication of what is in there.”
Mon Mothma looked down at the pile of containers in front of her. Still she could feel the eyes of all the men resting on her. They’re just curious, she told herself, as you would be. She should be used to being stared at anyway, as head of the Rebellion, now as head of state people were staring at her all the time. But then she wasn’t mudcovered, dishevelled and very tired.
Some of her unease must have been visible to Ossory. He waved his hands at the men, with a stern face. “Shush, has nobody told you it’s impolite to stare, boys,” he reprimanded them.
A few men laughed, a few snorted irritatedly, but nearly all of them turned away.
“Thanks,” Mon Mothma said quietly. “I know it’s silly, but I don’t feel very presentable at the moment.”
Ossory grinned and patted her knee. “Tut, tut, you are very presentable.” He leaned closer and then stage-whispered into her ear. “After all, you have to remember that there are no women in the Imperial forces. They are stunned by your presence.”
Involuntarily Mon Mothma had to smile.
Tob Ketelli emerged from one of the doors and came to sit with them. He looked tired and exhausted. Without a word he grabbed one of the rations and opened it.
The smell of the food was just too much for Mon Mothma. She had intended to wait for the others to join them, but now she couldn’t resist any longer, and took the container Ossory still held out. Her left hand had gone to sleep and now refused to hold the package so she could rip the sealing off. After swearing under her breath and probably attracting the curious gazes of a large number of the men sitting around, she handed the abysmal thing back to Ossory.
“Could you…?”
Ossory complied with a smile and handed the opened container back to her.
While the ration was heating up Mon Mothma looked at Tob Ketelli, who was very obviously cross with something. He shoved the food into his mouth without paying the slightest attention to it, and glared at the stash of containers on the table in front of him. He was probably worried about Major Remier.
“How is the Major?” she asked.
Ketelli looked up briefly and simply stated, “dying”, then he returned to scowl at the table.
“Oh, shit.” For a moment she even forgot the food in her hand. “I’m sorry.” Behind Ketelli’s back she could see a few Imperials looking at her. They probably could not believe that she actually meant this, but she did. “Do you know what’s wrong with him?”
“The guy said that he thinks that the stone which hit Marcus has burst a vein in his brain and the blood is now building up pressure and,” Ketelli frowned and stopped briefly. “Well, it’s damaging his brain and there is fuck all we can do about it. Either the bleeding will stop or it won’t. Perhaps he dies, perhaps not. And even if he survives long enough for your friends to come and pick us up, the damage done until then might be permanent.”
Mon Mothma stared at Ketelli. “Oh, heavens.” And all because her Rebel friends did not manage to get their act together and send a shuttle down here now. Perhaps Major Remier, Marcus would die because of this. She doubted that Sergeant Lasalle would have been able to do anything had he survived.
Anger was flooding Mon Mothma again. She thought back to the Ewok village and wished there was something she could do, something to hurt the horrible creatures. Her fury was not as all overwhelming as when she had seen Masdine’s head, then there had been no doubts, no second thoughts about killing all the horrible beasts who had done that. She wished she could just feel that overpowering righteous fury again. If only she could order the Rebel fleet to flatten the planet. Unfortunately, only the entire Rebel fleet would have enough fire-power to actually destroy the moon, but, she thought, that would hardly be necessary, it would suffice if they just made it uninhabitable.
Your friends would send you to an asylum if they knew you were even contemplating actions like these, she thought. Flattening a planet is something a Darth Vader or Grand Moff Tarkin would order, not the gentle and forgiving Mon Mothma.
But, hell, she was sick of being forgiving. Of course, hundreds of reasons could be thought of why the Ewoks had acted as they did, but she just couldn’t care. There had to be some types of conduct that they, the Rebellion, could not accept. Breaking a treaty before it was even a day old and eating the representatives of the other side was definitely one of those. Just because the Ewoks had fought on their side against the Empire didn’t mean they could do whatever they wanted.
The smell of the emergency ration brought Mon Mothma back to reality. She was starving. When she had found the remnants of the Ewok feast she had thought she would never be able to eat again, but now with the hot emergency ration in her hand smelling enticingly she just felt hungry. The ration was a spicy stew and again she was surprised how tasty it was.
Behind Tob Ketelli, who was just scratching the last bits of his food out of the container, Mon Mothma saw the stormtrooper they had rescued from the Ewoks, talking to the hostile Imperial officer, Lieutenant Corbet, if she remembered correctly. Corbet was nodding and then, perhaps when he noticed she was watching him, turned around and looked at her.
Mon Mothma suppressed the urge to smile at him, he didn’t give the impression that a few friendly smiles would make him join the Rebellion. No, he wouldn’t shoot her in the back if he had the chance, but he would not pretend that they were anything but enemies who were just brought together by unhappy circumstances. For a few moments she returned his gaze, then she focused her attention on her food again.
“Ma’am”, the other Captain said. He was standing next to General Ossory and looked very young. Mon Mothma guessed that he was in his mid-thirties. “Your friend said he did not want to have dinner. He is just using the bathroom and then wants to go to sleep.”
For a moment Mon Mothma couldn’t think who ‘her friend’ was supposed to be, then she realised that he had to mean Sergeant Pringles. With a jolt of bad conscience she realized that she hadn’t even thought about what Pringles was doing at the moment. He must feel incredibly uncomfortable surrounded by so many Imperials. The fact that the tell-tale stain on his trousers must have revealed his moment of weakness to all these men must be highly embarrassing as well.
“Thank you.” She smiled at him. If only she could think of anything to say, but at the moment her brain was not providing her with any ideas for small talk with Imperial officers.
The Captain did not seem to bothered about this, he sat down next to Tob Ketelli and poured himself a glass of water.
“So,” Ossory said suddenly, “are your friends going to pick us up?”
“Yes,” Mon Mothma nodded. “Tomorrow they will send a ferry down to the bunker at the shield generator. – The problem is that there was an accident in the hangars and … Dammit. If this hadn’t happened, or they had called for reinforcements earlier, Major Remier could be receiving proper medical care by now. It’s so infuriating.”
Ossory grinned and patted her knee again. “You worry too much.”
“What’s going to happen to us?” The Captain asked.
Oh, no. Not this question! Mon Mothma sighed. She was too tired to discuss this right now. Particularly with the eyes of a few dozen Imperials on her.
“I don’t know.” She tried to smile at the Captain. “I wish I could say you’re all going to be free to leave, but I don’t know what the others are going to say. In the end, you will be all allowed to leave, not because we wouldn’t be able to afford holding you prisoners, but mainly because I am going to insist on your release. And after all, I am the head of state now.”
“Head of what state?” somebody remarked dryly.
Mon Mothma ignored that comment. “No, I don’t think there will be any prosecutions. It might take me some time to talk the others into submission.”
The Captain looked not very convinced.
“I don’t want to start preaching now, after all I will have more than enough opportunity to do that from tomorrow onwards. – And you already know all this, but after all you were working for the legitimate government. Well, the Rebellion did not accept the Emperor’s government as legitimate, but …,” She shrugged.
This was far too strenuous to explain right now. She didn’t even want to think about it. Just the thought of the innumerable meetings she would have to go through about this sent shivers down her spine. Complete havoc would break loose should she ever blatantly state in a command meeting that the Imperials had fought for the legitimate government. Her allies would probably think she had gone completely insane.
The attention of the assembled Imperials suddenly shifted away from Mon Mothma and she found herself following the general movement.
It was Piett who was now the centre of attention. He had emerged from one of the doors and talked quietly to another officer, who might be the one person who knew something about medicine. If he was aware of the attention given to him, he did not show it. He also seemed to be unaware of the dishevelled state he was in. Very probably he was too tired to care about the fact that he was covered in mud, his hair full of dried blood and that he had a nice stubble of beard. He was still holding his backpack in his hand.
Mon Mothma smiled as she remembered the little wooden figure Piett was carrying around in it.
Captain Needa joined Piett. Compared to the Admiral he looked quite prim and neat. He looked at her and a strange expression flitted briefly over his face, as if he was trying to figure something out. Then he shook his head and came over to her.
“Anything interesting happen while I was gone?” he asked.
“Mr Ketelli told me about Major Remier.”
For a moment a pained look crept onto Needa’s face. Mon Mothma realised that he must be exhausted as well. His flippant manner probably only hiding his tiredness. She wished she could do something to cheer him up.
Needa took the empty cup and filled it with water. “Just what I need right now.” He grimaced drinking it down quickly, then he took an emergency ration and started to eat.
Mon Mothma watched him for a few moments, but soon her attention returned to Piett and how the Imperials reacted to his presence. Even if she hadn’t known that he was the highest ranking officer present, it would have been blatantly obvious just from the way everybody around him behaved, the frequency with which all the men in the room looked over to him. When he finally finished his conversation with the other officer and also joined their little group, the entire symmetry of the room seemed to change, its focus moving with the Admiral. When Piett sat down opposite Mon Mothma she also became centre of the attention again and was reminded of the grubby state she was in. She wondered whether she had ever been so much the focal point of a group as Piett now was and had simply not realized it.
With a very heartfelt sigh, Piett took his own emergency ration, then suddenly, as he opened the container he looked around. “Where is Sergeant Pringles?”
Mon Mothma grinned at him. “He went to bed already.”
“Have you been told that you share quarters with him?” Piett asked. “There is a room with two beds and Captain McLaughlin has prepared it for you.”
“Thank you.” Mon Mothma smiled at the Captain. A proper bed! She didn’t care with how many men she shared a room, as long as she had a bed to sleep in.
“You should thank Ossory and Piett,” Needa commented. “After all, they vacated these privileged premises for you.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. That really wouldn’t have been necessary.” Mon Mothma did feel rather embarrassed. She hadn’t thought that the Imperials would have to change their sleeping arrangements. Actually, she hadn’t even thought at all about this problem. But then, she tried to console herself, she usually never had to think about these things.
“No, no. That’s alright.” Ossory said. “And it’s only for one night.”
“I really don’t want to drive you out of your quarters.”
Needa grinned and added: “I guess we just don’t want to share a room with your snoring man.”
“You forget that he is a rather noisy sleeper as well.” Piett pointed at Ossory with his fork.
“Perhaps we should put him and Pringles in one room.” Needa proposed.
Ossory shrugged. “I don’t care.”
“No, I guess, it’s better this way.” Mon Mothma grimaced. “Perhaps I can persuade Pringles to eat something.” She couldn’t really blame the Imperials for not wanting to share a room with Pringles, he had behaved obnoxiously enough the evening before.
Returning her attention to her food, Mon Mothma found herself wondering about the ease with which the Imperials interacted.
She had expected, she would have expected there to be a lot more sense of hierarchy noticeable. But Tob Ketelli, the gunner from the second Death Star seemed to be completely at ease sitting between Admiral Piett and Captain Needa. They had been through some difficult times together, which always helped to increase the sense of unity, but also the other men sitting around seemed to interact without great concern for their specific ranks. Lieutenant Corbet was by now deep in conversation with the rescued stormtrooper, listening intently to what the trooper had to say. He smiled at some comment another man made and Mon Mothma thought that smiling did really become him.
Piett turned around, probably trying to figure out what she was looking at.
What was he thinking of when he saw this little troop of men, the remnants of the great Imperial fleet which had been defeated by the Rebellion? His men, as he called them. At the moment, the emergency ration seemed to hold more interest than the assorted Imperials. Piett returned his gaze to the container, but only for a few bites, then he jerked around again and stared back at the men sitting behind him. Something, or rather somebody had caught his attention. Without taking his eyes off the man he was staring at, Piett got to his feet.
Mon Mothma tried to find out who had startled him so much. At first she couldn’t detect who it might be, but then one of the officers in black, who had stared into the air lost in thought, noticed Piett and in turn recognized him with a start. By now, Needa and Tob Ketelli were also staring at Piett and slowly silence spread over the room. The army officer got to his feet as well.
For a second Piett managed to tear his eyes off the officer to stare at Captain McLaughlin, then he started to walk towards the officer.
“Oh,” McLaughlin said a bit sheepishly, “I forgot to mention that we found a group of survivors from your ship, Admiral.”
Piett nodded and a sudden bright smile lit up his features. “Major Wollaston.” He grabbed the officer’s hand and shook it. “I can’t say how happy I am to see you alive! How many are you?”
His ship? Mon Mothma stared at the two men shaking hands. She remembered Needa mentioning that Piett had been the only person on the Super Star Destroyer’s bridge to have survived. Apparently he had thought he was the only man of the entire ship to survive.
“Admiral,” Major Wollaston said, with an exuberant grin on his face, “Gods, I never thought you would remember my name. We only met once.”
“Yes, but how many of the Executor’s men have survived?”
A number of men sitting around Major Wollaston raised their hands, and the officer himself explained: “Twelve, excluding me that is. Well, we are twelve here, but there were two transports that left the ship at the same time as we did. We don’t know whether they got away.”
Piett had obviously hoped that the numbers of survivors was greater. He frowned briefly, but then the joy of having some of his ships men survive got the upper hand again.
Somehow Mon Mothma felt more like an intruder watching this happy meeting than before. The Imperials would certainly prefer if she were somewhere else. As she had finished her meal anyway and the prospect of a shower was very enticing, it was time she left.
Quietly she put the now empty ration-container down on the ‘table’, took another one for Pringles and left the main room through the door from which Piett and the others had emerged earlier. But then she found herself in a corridor with a number of doors opening on both sides and she didn’t have a clue where she was supposed to go. Stupid, she should have asked where to go before she left the hall.
The door behind her opened and Captain McLaughlin came in nearly running.
“Mon Mothma.” He sounded as if he had expected she would have disappeared.
“I seem to have lost my way,” she said trying to sound flippant, but not succeeding. Well, she probably gave at least the impression that she tried to be funny.
“I…” McLaughlin started, then he paused. “The showers are here,” he led the way to one door and opened it, looking inside as if to check nobody else was using them, “your room is at the end of the corridor, and if you don’t mind, I have prepared some clothes for you, if you want them.” He looked somewhat uncomfortable, “Unfortunately we only have uniforms here. I have put some which I thought might fit you on your bed, and a towel.”
Mon Mothma stared down at her torn, mudcaked and generally unpleasant looking robes. She would be quite happy to get out of these. No, she wouldn’t mind wearing an Imperial uniform. Damn, it was only cloth and she was thoroughly tired of her bloody robe. She actually was quite curious about this. What kind of imperial uniform had McLaughlin prepared for her? It was an amusing thought to imagine him going through their storage picking out a new outfit for her.
“Thank you very much. That is very kind. I feel as if I had suddenly found a high class hotel here.”
McLaughlin smiled. “So, is there anything else room service can do for you?”
“No, I’m fine, thank you.” Only after she had turned to go she remembered her bandaged arm. “Oh, my arm. I don’t know how to have a shower, with my arm in bandages.”
“Just a second.” McLaughlin swiftly walked to another door and opened it. “Alexander, do you have a moment?”
Mon Mothma followed him to the door. The room behind it had been turned into the sick bay, there were two patients there at the moment. One was Marcus Remier. He lay on a bed, still fully dressed, and looked as if he were simply asleep. Mon Mothma could just not believe that he was dying. The other man she did not know. He had suffered terrible burns to his face and right side. Just to look at the blistered and completely burnt off skin made Mon Mothma wince. She had seen burns like this before, far too often in fact. Every time she had visited the injured after a battle – if they had been able to retrieve the damaged ships.
The officer Piett had talked to earlier was standing next to the injured man and stared down on him.
“You have another patient, Dr Dunbee.”
Alexander Dunbee turned around, with an exasperated look on his face, “Constantine, this is not funny…” he started, but when he spotted her he quickly stopped. “Oh, Mon Mothma.”
“It’s my arm.” Mon Mothma raised her left arm as far as this was possible. “I would like to take a shower…”
“Oh, no problem, just don’t bother about it and when you’ve finished I take the old bandage off and make a new one.” He smiled thinly at her. “Bandaging arms I can do, but I haven’t got a clue how to deal with this.” He stared back at the burnt man, shaking his head.
Mon Mothma wished she could do something to help, but she had no idea whatsoever, she did not even know how to bandage arms.
“It’s okay,” Captain McLaughlin said to her, “I’ll cheer him up a bit.”
Mon Mothma just nodded and walked to the room Pringles and she had been assigned to. These two, Mclaughlin and Dunbee, apparently knew each other as well. At least they were on first name basis. Perhaps they had been at the Imperial academy together, like Piett and Needa.
The room at the end of the corridor was smaller than she had expected. There was just enough room for two separate beds, a small space between them and – the most obvious sign that this was the supposed room for the commanding officer – a small table, which under normal circumstances would hold the computer, with a chair. Only a small light was on, showing that the room had no windows.
Sergeant Pringles was lying in his bed already, not asleep as he turned around abruptly when she entered. A pair of trousers, of a green imperial uniform, lay in a pile on the floor, where Pringles had apparently thrown them. His own pair hung over the end of his bed and by the looks of it, he had washed them. Mon Mothma sighed. He must be really embarrassed about the incident in the Ewok village.
On the other bed sat a pile of neatly folded clothes and an equally immaculate towel. With another sigh Mon Mothma sat down on her bed and watched Pringles, who after looking briefly at her, stared at the ceiling. Heavens, she had to do something to make him calm down a bit. But what? The only thing that he would want to hear was her condemning the Imperials and that was something she couldn’t do.
Pringles turned around and looked at her without moving a muscle in his face.
“I brought you some dinner.” She held the container out to him.
“I’m not hungry.”
Mon Mothma just managed to stop herself from bursting out at him to stop being so childish. He had to be hungry, after all he hadn’t eaten all day either.
“I’ll just put it on the table, in case you get hungry later,” she managed to say.
She got up and sat the container on the small table at the end of the room. He did behave like a sulking five-year-old. For him accepting any kind of help from the Imperials would be an acceptance of defeat. Not even a meal or, she thought when she picked up the pile of clothes and the towel, a clean pair of trousers. But if he would try and wear his wet trousers tomorrow she would order him to swallow his pride.She would only allow him to make a fool of himself for so long.
But now, she would have a shower and forget about Pringles for a while.

Chapter 16: In which a camp fire is lit, and a bottle of vodka is consumed.

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