This was stupid.
Mon Mothma let the text on the computer screen scroll back to the beginning once more. There was no way she would be able to concentrate on it with a battle raging outside. And she just thought that the place of the political leader of the Rebel Alliance was not in the middle of a desperate battle. Not that she was reluctant to risk her life for the Rebellion but she was doing no good here. She was no soldier and had to sit through the fight trying to pass the time as best as she could. And the best she could manage was to stop herself from wringing her hands or chewing her fingernails.
She tried to work, but each time she read a part of General Dodonna’s report about the supply situation she had to admit that while her eyes were automatically following the lines her brain was just not paying any attention to the text. Instead she was listening, waiting for something to hit the ship. They were being shot at, she could feel the ship shudder and she could faintly heard explosions.
Perhaps she should shut the doors to her office again. It shut out some of the noise but it made her feel claustrophobic and irrationally, more exposed.
The last report Command had sent her had been not reassuring.
The entire battle was not going as planned. Not only had they been expected by a large contingent of the Imperial fleet, the second Death Star was fully armed and operational contrary to the reports they had gathered. Moreover, something must have happened on the moon below, as the shield protecting the Death Star was still in place. Command had decided to fight and ‘give General Solo more time’. It was neither her function nor her desire to intervene in military decisions but right at the moment Mon Mothma wanted to be somewhere else.
Somebody came running toward her cabin, she could hear the footfalls approaching. Her innards lurched.
What had happened? Which ship had been disintegrated by the superlaser now?
But the person rounding the corner and coming to a skidding halt in front of her table was not one of the soldiers command used to send her messages but Telsar, Captain Notika’s ten-year-old daughter. What confused Mon Mothma even more was that a wide grin was on the girl’s face.
“The Super Star Destroyer is going down.” Telsar reported excitedly. “You have to come and watch.”
For a moment Mon Mothma considered staying where she was, but Telsar would be greatly disappointed if she refused to come along, and … at least she would see some part of the fight going on around them. She got up and followed Telsar out of the room.
“Hurry, you don’t want to miss it.” Telsar was running along the corridor to the observation room. “Come on.” Mon Mothma hurried but she did not feel like running. As usual she thought that Telsar should not be here at all, children had no place here, they should be somewhere safe, not in the middle of a battle. But Captain Notika had been adamant that his daughter should be with him. He had good reasons of course. His entire family, his wife and his two sons had been killed by stromtroopers during a raid on his house. Killed because he was fighting in the Rebellion. Telsar had been shot and left for dead as well but she had survived. Still Mon Mothma felt unhappy about it. At least the mass invasion of families she had feared this precedent would bring had not occurred, most of the Rebels, herself included, did not have any family. The observation room was overcrowded with people, some like her had merely political functions in the Rebellion, but there were also some injured pilots and some who were just off duty and should be in bed now. Instead they were all staring out of the huge viewports, watching the spectacle outside. Gods, she had not known they were that close to the Imperial fleet. She had been told that they were engaging the fleet directly but she had not thought that meant they would literally fly into the midst of the Imperial fleet. Mon Mothma found herself staring like everybody else. Specks of light indicated the fighters who were hit and destroyed. Then her eyes were caught by the Super Star Destroyer, which was indeed ‘going down’. Flames were leaping out of various bits of the huge ship, explosions shaking its hull. It was slowly turning and falling, falling towards the Death Star which was sitting like a giant’s toy next to the moon. Small dots were emerging from it, some of them the last of the fighters still aboard, but there were also escape pods. The Super Star Destroyer was still surrounded by Rebel fighters that were shooting at everything coming out, TIE fighters and escape pods. Mon Mothma suppressed a sigh. Shooting escape pods was strictly against orders, but what could she do? She had been told repeatedly that in a battle situation there often was just not the time to first find out what was emergingd from an enemy ship, and most people just did not want to take the risk. She knew that not all those escape pods were shot accidentally. Captain Notika was not the only Rebel who had lost family or friends to the Empire and some of the pilots were not forgiving enough to pass up an opportunity to kill any of the hated Imperials.
Mon Mothma slowly crossed the room. The people assembled there made room for her, letting her pass right to the front. Telsar was standing at the viewport, her nose pressed against the glass. The vastness of space outside gave Mon Mothma a weird feeling of vertigo. Of course she would not fall out, even though the Death Star and the forest moon hanging in front of them made her feel that this direction must be down.
The Super Star Destroyer crashed into the Death Star, disintegrating in a massive explosion.
“Pretty!” Telsar stared with wide eyes.
There was a bizarre beauty in the destruction, the gigantic ship burying itself into the station like an arrow into a giant apple. But Mon Mothma could not help thinking of all those men aboard the huge ship who were dying. There were thousands of troops on these ships. Most of the pilots would be outside by now but the Star Destroyers were also carried huge numbers of ground troops. Some had perhaps had the chance to get to the transport ships, but most of them would not have had a chance to escape. Mon Mothma closed her eyes for a second and said a short but fervent prayer for the dead.
“The Death Star’s shield must be down.”
Mon Mothma turned to find who said that. It was a pilot, injured probably during a recent skirmish, sitting in one of the chairs in the front row. She gave Mon Mothma a lop-sided grin.
“Otherwise the Super Star Destroyer would not have hit the thing as hard as it did.”
Mon Mothma nodded. She knew she was more or less completely useless where military things were concerned but sometimes she was still annoyed by her ignorance.
“They’re in view of the reactor now,” somebody announced.
Were they actually going to make it? Destroy the second Death Star with the Emperor on board? Or would Palpatine flee when he noticed what was going on?
Mon Mothma stared at the grey shape of the Death Star. Fires were still raging where the Super Star Destroyer had exploded, fuelled by the oxygen escaping the damaged battle station. It was too far away to make out details, there were too many ships swarming around the imperial battle station for her to see which of them were their own ships, which were imperial ships, which of them were emerging from the Death Star and which were disappearing into its structure.
A hush fell over the assembly, nobody moved and after some time Mon Mothma realized that she was holding her breath. Stay calm, she told herself. Whatever happens will happen. And there is nothing you can do.
She drew her eyes away from the viewport and looked around. She was the only person in the room who did that. At the end of the room, next to some computer equipment an elderly Bothan was listening to some transmission he received through headphones he was pressing to his head, his eyes fixed on the Death Star. He was probably the person who had announced that Lando Calrissian and his unit had started their attack. Suddenly his face lit up and Mon Mothma knew they made it, even before he started shouting on the top of his lungs. “A hit! They hit the power core! They made it!”
The silence of the observation desk was shattered as everybody started shouting and screaming.
Seconds later the Death Star exploded. For a few moments the pandemonium died down, only to be renewed even louder. Telsar threw her arms around Mon Mothma’s waist, squeezing her face into the folds of her robe. Mon Mothma could not hear what she was saying. She did not know what to do, so she awkwardly patted Telsar’s back.
Somebody was clapping her on the shoulder as if she had herself actively taken part in the destruction of the Death Star. The injured pilot was standing shakily on her feet, shaking her fist against the debris of the Death Star. Her face was contorted in hatred as she wished the Emperor into the deepest pits of hell. There was something deeply disquieting about this display of raw emotions. There was so much hatred around, on their side as well as on the Empire’s. So much death.
How many thousands had just now died with the second Death Star? Could any moral qualms about the regime of the Emperor justify all the millions that had died during the Rebellion. Most of the men on the Death Star, after all, had not volunteered to be there. It was not possible to weigh the millions who died on Aldaraan against those who died now on the Death Star, every one of them was one too many.
The cheering around her was enervating. How could all those people be actually happy?
Mon Mothma disentangled herself from Telsar’s embrace. She had to leave. Of course she was happy that they had won, she knew that there had been no other way to fight against the Emperor. After all, she had tried. It was useless to ponder whether there would have been more or less dead if they had not started the uprising against the tyranny of the Emperor. But she couldn’t help thinking that there must have been some other way.
If she could only know that the Emperor had indeed been on the Death Star and had been killed, perhaps then she could find the sacrifice of those thousands justified. But it could be days or even weeks until they were certain that the Emperor was dead. As for Darth Vader, he was nearly as dangerous as the Emperor. If he had not been on the Super Star Destroyer, if he had survived he would have the strength to rally the distintegrating Empire around him. If only those two, Palpatine and Vader were dead, then they had a real chance.
The people around her were too excited to notice that she wanted to get through, she had to push her way through the milling crowd. Her anguish must be clearly visible on her face, she could hear somebody asking perplexed: “What’s the matter with her now?”
“Women.” Somebody else answered. “Hormones are probably acting up.”
The Emperor obviously had no exclusive rights on sexism.
Chapter 3: In which Admiral Piett finds himself stranded on an strange planet and climbs a tree.
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