Chapter 19:
In which Mon Mohtma discusses the benefits of fraternisation.

Mon Mothma knew she was grinning like a mad cat. She could not help it, and she did not even try to.
She looked at the wooden weekie sitting on top of her computer screen and her smile broadened even more.
So far, no disturbed official had burst into her office and had demanded to know what on earth she thought she was doing when she kissed Piett. Most of the witnesses had been on the shuttle but there were several ground crew around and no doubt the news would spread like bush fire. Probably the fact that she had been walking back from the shuttle hangar with an enormous grin plastered all over her face was enough to get any number of rumours going, but her actions would probably surpass even the wildest rumours.
Why had she kissed Grigori? she asked herself, trying to find a good reason she could give to the inevitable question.
Because he looked very kissable? Because she wanted to?
And was there any better reason to kiss a man?
Mon Mothma sighed deeply. Others would undoubtedly see it differently. A lot of people would be rather disturbed by her behaviour.
Their calm, unperturbable, serious head of state, impulsively kissing an Imperial officer? How awful! How out of character!
But she could not help it. The last few days had changed her – and for the better. At least that was her opinion. For too long her entire life had been filled with her duties as the leader of the Rebellion, she had dedicated her life to their aims and that was all very well, but by being that single-minded about it she had become stifled, stagnant, she was slowly suffocating in this job. She had lost touch with so much that was going on outside her duty. She had forgotten what it meant to actually be in battle, put her life on the line. She had forgotten that the enemy was not an amorphous mass of hostile entities but consisted of a variety of different people, some good, some bad.
And last but not least she had forgotten that she had a life too. The Rebellion had been her life, but there had to be time for her to relax and enjoy herself with friends.
Or, perhaps – one kiss after all did not mean that much – a lover?
Mon Mothma stared at her computer where the number of Piett’s sister was displayed. Of course, there was no good reason to call now, he was still in transfer, but she was already thinking of when she could call him.
Firelord, she was behaving like a hormone-filled teenager. No wonder she felt years younger.
A loud knock on the door ripped her out of her reveries.
“Yes,” she shouted, but the banging was renewed.
Irritated, Mon Mothma got to her feet and went into the small office that had been occupied by Lina. She pressed the button next to the door into the hall, suddenly remembering that there was probably some announcement system linked in with Lina’s computer that had enabled her to see who was trying to reach Mon Mothma and now that there was nobody there it was impossible to attract her attention any other way than banging on her door.
Her caller turned out to be General Rieekan, who looked irritated and flushed as if he had spent considerable time trying to attract her attention.
“I am sorry, Derrath” Mon Mothma said, “I forgot that my aide usually deals with the door.” She checked and there was a button that must be a bell outside her door. Wasn’t it strange she had to check whether it was there, she thought. Details like this had always been dealt with by somebody else. “The bell must be connected to her terminal,” she explained to the still upset looking Rieekan. “Come in. What can I do for you?”
“I just wanted to have a chat with you, Simara,” Rieekan stated, following her into her office. He pulled a chair closer to her desk and sat down, noticing the weekie, he asked, “Oh, what is that?”
Mon Mothma picked up the little wooden bird. “That is a weekie, a Pokrovski pet,” she explained.
“Ah,” Rieekan said. He obviously wanted to know where she got it from, but thought it rude to ask.
“Admiral Piett gave it to me,” she said, putting him out of his misery.
“Did he?” Rieekan sounded surprised. He looked at the weekie again, and asked, “Where did he get it from?”
“He made it,” Mon Mothma replied, “on Endor.”
“Ah,” Rieekan said again. “Endor,” he repeated after a pause, “is exactly what I wanted to talk to you about.”
Mon Mothma raised her eyebrows.
“A number of wild rumours are spreading about what had happened down there,” Rieekan explained.
“And you were sent to find out whether I am still sane?” Mon Mothma suggested.
“I would not quite put it that strongly,” Rieekan replied, smiling. “There has been a complaint.”
“Pringles,” Mon Mothma stated. “Did he complain about me hitting him?”
“No,” Rieekan replied, “it was – you hit him?” He stared at her as if this was the most astonishing thing he’d ever heard.
Mon Mothma had to laugh at the shocked expression on his face. “He was behaving like a pillock,” she stated, sending Rieekan to even further heights of surprise. “Dear Derrath, I assure you I am completely sane, and the imperials have not managed to brainwash me on Endor. I was acting in the best interest of the New Republic when I slapped Pringles, and the fact that he did not complain about it seems to indicate to me that he thinks so, too.”
Rieekan shook his head. “I guess so,” he said.
“If he was not complaining about that, what was he complaining about?”
“He said,” Rieekan stated, “that you were fraternising with the enemy.”
Mon Mothma burst into laughter again. “Fraternising with the enemy?” she asked. “That is so rich. Aren’t we all fraternising with the enemy?”
“Some people are complaining about that, too,” Rieekan said seriously.
“Some people seem to forget that at one time or another we were all on the side of the enemy, you, I …” Mon Mothma forced herself to calm down. A few days ago the question would have made her seriously explain her exact reasoning behind the decision that they could not just arbitrarily draw a deadline after which no Imperial would be allowed to join the New Republic. Though she now felt more like laughing complaints like this off, Rieekan would be too shocked about her behaviour, and after all the people who she led had a right to know what her position was.
“Did he mention any specific instances of fraternising?” she asked.
Rieekan shuffled nervously on his chair. “He said you – ah, that you and several Imperial officers were drinking heavily.”
Mon Mothma suppressed the urged to laugh again. “Yes, we were. Two days ago, and yes, if you want to call it that, I was fraternising with them. I would not call them ‘the enemy’. To be precise I did drink with Admiral Piett and Captain Needa, they had saved my life and Pringles’ too, the same day, and I thought a little celebration was in order.” She frowned, and having started, just continued her explanation. “And, to be honest, I never understood what the problem with fraternising with the enemy is. The only reason why you might be afraid is when you think they are going to win your people over to their side, and that would only be a danger if you are not convinced that your position is the stronger one. If you believe that you are fighting for the right things, fraternising with the enemy only gives you the opportunity to convince them that you are right and they are wrong. Personally I would encourage fraternisation. We don’t need less of it, we need more. If we want to be academic about it, I assume that it is correct to say that I was fraternising with the enemy, as officially at that point I think they were both still officially Imperial soldiers, and I was fraternising. Gods, I was fraternising to the best of my abilities. And we have tangible facts that I was successful, new members for our cause, four star destroyers and their weapons and troop complements. I really don’t see how anyone can complain.”
“It’s not the results that most people complain about,” Rieekan interjected, though he added, “some people do. However, it is the style they complain about more.”
“They?” Mon Mothma asked.
Rieekan held up his hand appeasingly, “I don’t want to repeat what some have told to me in private. If they want to complain, I am sure they will do so publicly. Some were probably simply surprised.”
Mon Mothma nodded. “Yes, of course,” she consented. “But you have to admit that my so called fraternisation with the enemy has resulted in some very positive results. Including our contact with Mulcahy on Coruscant.”
“Not that this helps us much,” Rieekan replied, with a strange expression of distrust on his face.
“Not yet,” Mon Mothma agreed. According to General Mulcahy’s report Coruscant was descending into utter chaos and anarchy, but the appearance of the Rebels would surely unite the warring factions and propel somebody onto the Emperor’s empty throne.
Rieekan heaved a bit sigh. “Simara,” he said then, leaning forward and looking at her intently, “you say that the Imperials did not brainwash you, but things happened down there on Endor, strange things, horrible things and we just don’t know. It’s not that we don’t trust you or don’t believe you, but –” he paused for a moment, and added, “you have changed and people are confused.”
Mon Mothma sat back on her chair, turning the weekie over and over in her hands.
“You’re right,” she said after a while, “I have changed, but probably not as much as it might look like to you.” She looked at Rieekan, who watched her, a worried look on his face. The fact that he was worried for her well-being was a positive sign wasn’t it? She took a deep breath. “As you put it, ‘things happened down there’ and I think what really happened to me down there is that I was – woken up, or knocked off my pedestal. For the first time in I don’t know how many years I have experienced raw, unfiltered life.” Rieekan opened his mouth to contradict, but Mon Mothma raised her hand to silence him. “Here in my position as leader of the Rebellion I was insulated from all that. Spending your life on a space ship, and only ideologically waging war against an enemy you never see in the flesh, makes you so detached. Life at an arms-length. Now, on Endor I came down with a thump. Literally.” She thought of the crashed shuttle, the people who died then, Lina, Matrishka and the others that need not have died, Madine, Neko, the Imperials. “I have done things I haven’t done for longer than I remember, roughing it in the woods, walking in the rain, – rain, can you imagine I haven’t been rained upon for probably thirteen years or more. I shot Ewoks and torched their village.” Rieekan looked as if he was about to fall off his chair with shock when she said that. “They killed and ate Madine and the imperials accompanying him. I think after going through all this, I have regained the ability to enjoy my life.”
Rieekan swallowed, obviously shocked by her tale. “You make it sound as if it were some wonderful holiday experience,” he said.
Mon Mothma shook her head. “No, I don’t say it was a pleasant experience. Though it had its moments. I did enjoy the session of fraternising with the enemy.” She put the weekie back on the top of her screen. “I am not planning on spending a few days hiking across a hostile planet for recreational purposes, but I am going to take time off work. I am going to continue to fraternise with the enemy. If you have problems with that, you can vote me out of being head of state.”
“Oh no, no,” Rieekan exclaimed. “I don’t have a problem with it and I am sure most people will understand your point if you explain it to them as you did to me.”
Mon Mothma heaved a great sigh. “I know, but I sometimes get so tired of having to explain my every action.”
“It’s the nature of democracy,” Rieekan replied.
“You know what, Derrath,” Mon Mothma said, “I have an idea, I am going to write a memorandum on fraternising with the enemy. Perhaps that will explain things and I won’t have to do it for every single officer and bureaucrat in turn.”
Rieekan almost laughed. He was probably not taking time enough off work either, Mon Mothma thought suddenly. She could not remember a time when Rieekan had taken a holiday. But they had been at war, and war did not allow for holidays. Now, as they were entering a new era this might, hopefully, become a possibility.
“One last question,” Rieekan said, “before I leave you to your work.”
Work. Mon Mothma stared at the piles of paper on her desk. Of course, there was so much work to be done.
“Is it true?” he asked.
Mon Mothma looked back up at him. “What?” she wanted to know.
Rieekan paused as if he expected her to know what he was talking about. Finally he said, “Did you kiss him?”
“Yes, I did,” she answered.
There was no reason why she should not admit it, and there had been too many witnesses anyway.
Rieekan looked at her for a long time, then at the weekie on her computer screen. He must be wondering what exactly had gone on between her and Piett when they were on the moon of Endor. Would he think that her attitude towards the Imperials was dictated by her relationship with this Imperial officer?
“It was the first time,” she explained.
“Ah,” Rieekan said, sounding surprised. “I was just wondering whether it was part of your strategy of fraternisation. – You did say that you wanted him to join us after all.”
“Oh, I am not that calculating or dedicated,” she replied, “I kissed Admiral Piett because I like him and to give him something to remember me by.”
Rieekan shook his head and got to his feet. “I guess those are good enough reasons. But I have to run, so many things to do.”
Mon Mothma looked despairingly at the papers on her desk. “Tell me about it.”
“I will let myself out,” Rieekan said and turned to go. “We have to find you a new aide soon,” he continued as he walked through Lina’s office. He paused at the door and turned back. “You know, perhaps we should do a bit more of this fraternising you advocate,” he suggested, “you and me, and some of your new-found friends.”
That was a surprise. “Eight o’clock, in the mess?” she suggested.
“Sounds fine to me.” He grinned at her and left.
Perhaps she could make fraternising a new pasttime activity for their forces. It would be necessary to integrate the forces anyway, and it would be easier if they were helped along by good food and wine.
She looked back at her computer screen, where Rilla Piett’s number was still displayed, then at the time display in one of the screen’s corner.
Damn, it was still at least fifteen hours until Piett reached Pokrovsk and then he surely would want to spend some time relaxing with his family, get some sleep. She had to wait at least thirty thours before she could try to call.
Well, she had enough work to do to pass the hours until then.
And there was the fraternisation session to look forward to. She was actually curious about what Needa would have to say about her kissing his colleague.
Surely Needa would have heard by now. He probably was thinking of ways to tease her about it already.
It had been a while since her private life was interesting enough for her friends to tease her.

Chapter 20: In which Admiral Piett returns home and drinks the really good vodka with his sister.

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