Who would have thought
that he would ever sit in the tactical briefing room of the Rebel flag
Piett looked around the circular room, tiers of seats rising around a large holo plate in the centre of the room. Most of the Rebellion’s senior commanders including Mon Mothma and the strange fish-like Admiral Ackbar, with only the exception of those presently on this strange rescue mission at the rim of known space, were assembled here. Mon Mothma was wearing her traditional robes again, which in Piett’s opinion was not an improvement. She looked tired and exhausted, and he wondered how much or little sleep she had had. Her arm seemed to be mending, though the robes could just disguise any bandages she was still wearing.
In addition to the Rebel officers, the former Imperial soldiers were occupying one section of the seats, most of them looking rather uncomfortable with themselves. Wearing shiny new uniforms it was only too obvious that many of them suddenly had second thoughts about their bold move.
Piett had at some point given up trying to concentrate on the long-winded lecture on the Rebellion, or rather the new founded New Republic that the former Imperials were given. His mind was wandering, unlike his colleagues he could allow himself this luxury.
There had been a few surprises when those who had decided to join the New Republic had assembled the previous evening. Most astonishingly perhaps Lieutenant Corbet, who had been a steadfast opponent of the Rebellion, now had decided to join them in their latest guise as ‘New Republic’.
Piett had to admit he was impressed by Corbet’s decision, who had stated that it had been Mon Mothma’s impromptu speech on Endor which had convinced him to throw in his lot with the Rebels. Additionally he said he wanted to make sure that the former Imperials were not ‘bull-shitted’ by their new superiors. Watching the Lieutenant sitting with crossed arms in the front row of the room, Piett thought that Corbet truly looked as if he would not tolerate nonsense from anybody.
Next to him Captain McLaughlin was fidgeting, he looked as if his uniform was not fitting him at all, he pulled it here and there and straightened it continuously. Ossory had decided to stay on as well, as had Lieutenant Sokorovsk and about fifteen other officers and men.
The addition to their ranks that had caused the greatest stir among the Rebels was no doubt Needa.
Piett looked over to where his old colleague sat, still pale but very obviously on the mend. He also was wearing a new uniform.
‘I did not leave the Imperial navy when I was half-strangled, I don’t see a reason not to join the Rebellion because some idiot shot me,’ Needa had commented dryly, adding ‘particularly since he was not aiming at me at all.’
Piett had not been surprised by the sentiment expressed, but he had been by Needa’s mentioning this traumatic episode of his career. Needa had refused to talk about this incident even when he was directly asked about it. His usual reaction to direct questions had been a withering look, no more.
During the celebration of their escape from Endor last night – an event that much to the medical droid’s consternation included a not inconsiderable quantity of alcohol – Needa had even gone as far as to talk about his near death experience, for the first time.
The fact that Darth Vader was dead and buried, or rather burned, seemed to help Needa to put the past behind.
Piett himself was the only former Imperial present who was not to join the rebellion. He was here only as a courtesy for having been the senior officer and having overseen the transport of those of his colleagues who had decided not to join the ‘New Republic’. As soon as this meeting was over, he himself would be shuttled to Sepomo Station from where he could catch the regular ship to Nevanka and from there another to Pokrovsk. If the recent upheaval had not disrupted all traffic that was.
He suddenly realised that he would miss this, miss being in the centre of events, and he would miss his colleagues too. There was some part of him that wanted to stay on, join the Republic as well, to stay in touch with his friends and continue the life he had led since he left the Academy.
But he knew that was only a momentary urge and he would curse himself forever if he followed it. What he really wanted was some peace and quiet. Admittedly, Mon Mothma had made a powerful point about the need to now reconsider their positions and that only by co-operation there was a chance of ending this conflict quickly, but that it would take a lot of time and effort.
Surely, the New Republic would be able to flourish without one washed-up admiral?
Particularly now that Captain McLaughlin’s father had surprisingly thrown in his lot with the New Republic. Admiral Ambrose McLaughlin, a man Piett knew only by his reputation of being a fierce and intelligent tactician, had brought his entire squadron with him.
The addition of four star destroyers and their troops would strengthen the position of the former Imperials in the New Republic. It would be far more difficult, if not impossible, to ‘bull-shit’ them now than it had been when there were only twenty or so new converts to the cause.
Piett had hoped he would find a chance to speak with Mon Mothma again before he left, but she had been whisked away as soon as their shuttle had landed on the Rebel ship and he had not seen her on her own since. Here she was the head of state and her numerous duties kept her too busy to allow for social calls. He had been surprised that she had found the time to visit Major Remier in the hospital and apparently she had made enquiries about the whereabouts of Commander Pellar.
He looked down at the backpack that had accompanied him from the escape pod to this very room – it was after all the last part of the Executor that he had. And it still contained the weekie and the half-finished thruppet. He had been wondering whether he should give Mon Mothma the weekie but that was really sentimental nonsense was it?
“But before we call an end to this meeting,” Mon Mothma stated, causing the assembled to sit up again, inspired by the word ‘end’, “I wish to convey my special thanks and indeed the thanks of the provisional government to Admiral Grigori Piett.”
Piett tried to look calm and relaxed as everybody in the room turned to stare at him as if he only now had suddenly dropped into their midst.
“I personally and also the provisional government cannot thank you enough for what you have done when we were stranded on Endor. Without your positive approach, great leadership and last but not least unbelievable patience neither I nor your colleagues would be here today. Both as the head of state and personally I wish to convey my gratitude. I owe you my life.”
To his intense embarrassment Piett felt himself blush deeply, and his embarrassment was not reduced when he noticed Needa smirking at him. Gods knew what he was interpreting into this thank you speech.
He just hoped they did not expect him to reply.
“I also want to thank Captain Needa, General Ossory, Mr Tobin and also Commander Pellar for their invaluable help.”
Commander Pellar? Piett tried to spot Arin Pellar among the group of former imperials but there was no face that was not familiar among them.
As if she had been reading his thoughts, Mon Mothma continued, “Commander Pellar is currently still on the Liberation but has conveyed to me personally his wish to join our forces.”
Piett was relieved to hear that the Commander, whose stores had helped them so much on that damnable moon, had survived the battle and that Mon Mothma seemed to be determined to repay the debt they owed him.
“If there are no more questions this meeting is closed.” Mon Mothma waited for a moment, but nobody seemed interested to prolong the session even more. “Thank you.”
The assembled men and women rose to their feet, some talking to each other, and quickly left the briefing room.
Piett slowly rose to his feet, still feeling almost light-headed after Mon Mothma’s eulogy. He tried to make his way to her and at least say good-bye properly, but she was immediately engaged in conversation by some important looking Rebel and instead of trying to get her attention, as he probably should have, he made his way over to Needa, who was by now sitting on his own in the front row of the tiered seats. After all, he had to say good-bye to his oldest comrade in arms, too.
“So, you’re really leaving us,” Needa welcomed him, “despite Simara’s eloquence.”
Piett sat down next to Needa and nodded. “I’m getting to old for this.”
“Too old?” Needa exclaimed, “have you seen some of the Rebels here? They look as if they had already held command at the beginning of the Clone Wars.”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with how old you are, but how old you feel,” Piett explained, “and I feel positively ancient.”
For a long while they sat in silence, then Needa heaved a sigh. “I am going to miss you, believe it or not.”
“I’m going to miss you too,” Piett replied.
They grinned at each other, uncertain whether a parting hug was in order. But as they were both still sitting this would be far too awkward a gesture anyway.
Piett rose to his feet, he had to catch his shuttle and wanted to try to reach Rilla once more before he left. So far his attempts had been thwarted by the partial break down of communication networks.
Mon Mothma was still talking to the Rebel.
“I’ve got to go, my shuttle is leaving shortly,” he told Needa. “I wish you all the best for your new career.” He paused and then gave his friend a friendly pat on his good shoulder. “Give Mon Mothma my regards,” he concluded
“Why don’t you give them to me yourself?” she said, suddenly behind him. She grinned at him, then turned to Needa, “are you going to be alright?”
Needa rubbed his injured shoulder gingerly. “I am going to be just fine,” he replied. “The medical droid insisted on picking me up with a repulsor chair to get me back to my quarters, and now he better show up and do so.”
“I’m sure he will, Captain.” Mon Mothma turned back to Piet., “I have heard you are trying to reach your sister?” She paused and when he nodded, continued, “I was told that it might be possible to get through if you use a terminal with higher clearance than the public ones, for example the one in my office.”
Piett hesitated for a moment, weighing the possibly of missing the ferry, the inevitably of being teased by Needa, and the chance of having a quiet talk with Simara and nodded. “I would very much appreciate it.”
“Good luck,” Needa said, and waved them to go. Oddly enough he did not make any snide remarks.
Mon Mothma smiled at Piett and then led him out of the briefing room, along plain corridors, past people bustling out of rooms and side corridors. They took an elevator down several levels and walked along more corridors.
Apart from the lighter colour of the walls and the greater grubbiness of the corridors it was not much different from the ships he had been working and living on, the same smells, the same closed-in atmosphere. – Not that this was in any way surprising.
“Here,” Mon Mothma said, stepping through a unmarked door.
Piett followed her into a small, unoccupied looking office. Only a few boxes were stacked in one corner.
“This is my aide’s office,” Mon Mothma explained, “but Lina was killed in the shuttle crash and we haven’t had time to find a replacement. – We haven’t even had time to find her next of kin.”
She shook her head and stepped through another door.
Piett followed her, stopping short just as he entered the office. He was not sure what he had expected, but certainly something different from this. For one thing, something bigger, and less dark. His private office as Captain of the Executor had been twice the size of this room and it had had viewports to space.
The other thing that he thought was odd, was the complete lack of personal items. The desk, behind which Mon Mothma was now sitting, fiddling with her computer console, was covered in piles of print-outs and computer disks, pens, paper, all ordered very neatly – and by Mon Mothma herself as she had no aide to do it for her – the only not strictly work related item was a bright orange mug and even that was the standard crockery of the ship he had encountered everywhere from the guest quarters to the ship’s mess.
Mon Mothma smiled at him.
“They are patching me through to the Pokrovsk relay station, I think you should be able to reach your sister from there.”
“Thank you,” Piett said.
Mon Mothma stood up and made a gesture that he should sit down on the chair she had vacated.
Piett sidled around the table, trying not to push over any of the stacks of paper. He put his backpack on the desk and sat down.
Sitting there at the desk of the head of state of the New Republic, he was struck again by the feeling that his entire world has turned upside down in the last six days. When the battle of Endor started he would never have thought it possible to ever end up here, on the flagship of the Rebel fleet, in the private office of the leader of the Rebellion, making a call to his family. He would have thought that either he would be dead, killed in battle, or more likely strangled by Darth Vader for failing in some way, or he would have envisioned himself still in command of the Executor chasing down Rebel forces.
Never he would have imagined being here.
“Did you get round to finishing that little creature?” Mon Mothma asked.
Piett looked over his shoulder at Mon Mothma, who smiled amusedly at his backpack.
“I’m afraid not,” Piett answered, turning his attention back to the screen, where the emblem of the Pokrovski communications network appeared, prompting him to type in the number of Rilla’s extension.
“Do you mind if I have a look at it?”
Piett quickly ran the contents through his mind to check whether there were any embarrassing items in the backpack, but as he did not have any personal belongings that was a very short list.
“No, go ahead.”
The screen now showed that the com unit on the other end was ringing. Then, there was a clicking noise and the screen darkened, showing the outline of somebody’s head against a bedroom only minimally illuminated by light from outside.
“Yes,” the shape, Rilla, said sleepily.
“Hallo Rilla, sorry…” Piett started, but was not able to continue as his sister exclaimed, “Grisha!” at the top of her voice. She flicked a switch behind her, revealing herself sitting on her bed. The blanket that was all she was wearing started to slip off her shoulders. “Oh, sweet gods, Grisha. We thought you were dead!” She looked as if she’d seen a ghost, and for her it must be just like that. “Your ship was destroyed.”
Piett nodded, “I was lucky, I got away in an escape pod. I am sorry I haven’t been in touch earlier but I was stranded on a … well, I’ll tell you when I get home.”
“You’re coming home?” Rilla asked, incredulously.
“Yes, my shuttle is leaving in a few minutes and depending on how good the service between systems is, I should be home in about twenty-four hours or so.”
“Oh my gods,” Rilla exclaimed, “oh my gods. I can’t believe it. I am so happy. You’re alive.”
“I am very happy to be alive, too,” Piett said.
“You’re coming home,” Rilla repeated, and for the first time since she had been nine or ten years old, Piett saw his sister cry. She did not seem to notice, or at least she ignored the tears running down her face. “I am so happy, Grisha. Oh, my gods. Twenty-four hours?”
“I’ll be stopping in Navenka,” Piett explained, he felt a lump rise in his throat. It would be good to be home, see Rilla and the rest of the family again, perhaps even Minna.
“Give me a call from there and I’ll pick you up from the port, ok?” Rilla told him.
“Yes,” Piett grinned at his sister, who smiled back, “I am very happy to come home. – But I have to run, my shuttle leaves soon.”
“Oh, Grisha,” Rilla said again, “I’ll see you then.”
“Yes.” Piett nodded, “I’ll see you tomorrow,” and cut the link.
For a moment he started at the blank screen and then looked up at Mon Mothma.
She was holding the thruppet in one hand and the weekie in the other. “She seemed to be happy to see you,” she said, then quickly changing the subject, she raised the wooden weekie. “What is this?”
“A weekie,” Piett explained. “Another Pokrovski pet. Angus would probably tell you they smell and are obnoxious.”
Mon Mothma smiled. “Did he ever see one? A real one?” she asked.
Piett shook his head. “No, he’s never been to Pokrovsk.”
Here he was, having his quiet talk with Mon Mothma as he had wanted to, but what were they talking about, Pokrovski pets and what Angus thought about them. Dammit, Piett thought, think of something important to say.
“Would you think I am terribly demanding if I asked you whether I could keep it?” Mon Mothma asked, looking down on the little wooden bird.
Piett had to smile, after all he had been thinking of giving it to her as a present. “I would be honoured.”
“You know, you could probably make a living making these things,” Mon Mothma said, putting the half-finished thruppet back into his pack, and placing the weekie on top of her desk.
“Perhaps,” Piett replied, then noting the time displayed on the computer screen, he jumped up from the chair, almost knocking it over. “I really have to go.”
“I’ll walk you to the shuttle bay.” She picked up his backpack. “You’d probably get lost on your way.”
“That would be very inconvenient,” Piett replied.
There was a brief silence, as if Mon Mothma was contemplating asking him to stay yet again, but she just walked out of her office.
For a few minutes they walked in silence through the ship.
“It seems we actually may be relocating to a stationary base,” Mon Mothma said suddenly, “to show that we are no longer on the run. We are now a government and therefore have to be accessible.”
“But it will also make you more vulnerable,” Piett remarked.
“But people will be able to visit us,” Mon Mothma countered, “you could come visit Angus for example, and your other former colleagues.”
“I could indeed,” Piett stated.
“And me,” Mon Mothma added, as they entered the elevator that would probably take them down to the hangar level. “I would like that.”
Piett smiled at this admission. “Then I will have to come visit, won’t I?”
Mon Mothma smiled in return, and for a moment, Piett thought she was going to say something else, but then the elevator doors opened and revealed a hanger, occupied by a single, small shuttle.
A man in a coverall, probably one of the ground crew, came running over to them. “If you are trying to catch the shuttle, you’d better hurry, it’s about to take off.”
For a moment, Piett was again tempted to just say he had changed his mind and would stay, but of course it was a foolish idea.
“Come on.” Mon Mothma ran across the open space towards the ramp of the shuttle that was still lowered to the ground.
At the foot of the ramp, Mon Mothma handed him his backpack.
Piett looked at her and was again lost for words.
Mon Mothma smiled at him, then she suddenly frowned. “How can I get in touch with you?” she asked. “Does Angus have your number?”
“He does,” Piett answered. “You can reach me at Rilla’s place for the time being.”
Mon Mothma smiled again. “I really meant what I said earlier. Thank you very much for saving my life, and for your help and patience on that awful planet, and, thank you for the weekie.”
Piett felt himself blush again. “Oh, it was a pleasure,” he replied awkwardly, “and thank you for your help.”
“A pleasure, too,” Mon Mothma said. She took a step closer, but instead of giving him a fare-well hug as he expected, she placed her hand behind his head, pulled him to her and kissed him, squarely on the mouth.
After the initial surprise, Piett found himself returning the kiss with fervour. Dumping his backpack on the ground, he pulled Mon Mothma into a close embrace. Her right hand grabbed some of his hair, while her other hand somehow managed to sneak under his jacket. And for a moment, he almost forgot everything else, the shuttle next to him, the fact that she was the leader of the Rebellion and he had been until recently the second-in-command to Darth Vader.
“Excuse me!” Somebody shouted at them from the inside of the shuttle.
Piett and Mon Mothma pulled apart. Several very curious people were looking out of the shuttle’s hatch.
“Are you intending to come along or not?” a young man in uniform asked.
Reluctantly, Mon Mothma disentangled herself from his embrace. She heaved a big sigh and with a grin, said, “I think you have to board.”
“Yes,” Piett replied.
“You promised to visit, don’t forget,” Mon Mothma reminded him.
“I don’t think I can forget,” Piett stated.
“Good,” Mon Mothma said. “Go on.”
She squeezed his arm, and very reluctantly, Piett picked up his back pack and walked up the ramp to the shuttle.
“Keep in touch!” Mon Mothma shouted after him.
Turning around, Piett waved to her, and then entered the shuttle.
He followed a member of the crew who led him to a seat, only vaguely aware of the curious stares of the other passengers. He could hardly blame them, but, plunking himself down in his allotted seat, he thought that remembering this kiss would certainly keep him warm on cold winter nights.
It would certainly cause some consternation in Rebel circles: their head of state kissing an Imperial officer.
But somehow, he thought, it was a fitting end to this entire, improbable adventure.
19: In which Mon Mohtma disusses the benefits of
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