On the way to the Interceptor Needa had plenty of time and
opportunity to elaborate his theories of what actually happened to the Obliterator,
and somehow he constantly managed to do this within earshot of Piett.
Not that their group was large enough for them to ever be out of
hearing from each other, they stuck closely together just in case the
furry beasts would be able to rally their forces and take the chance to
attack them again. Piett realized that he had not thought about the
fate of the vanished Star Destroyer for a long time. But then he had
become admiral only a few weeks after the incident and had other things
to worry about. He had always hoped that Captain Mehan had somehow
managed to get away from it all.
As he had predicted they reached the little stream after about two hours. The clearing on the other side was now alive with a large group of troopers in their white armour, and a few men in different coloured outfits. Under general moaning and the amused looks of those on the other side of the stream, the little group under Piett’s lead waded through the water.
“Admiral.” One of the men in the green uniform of the navy approached him.
Recognizing the man Piett sighed, trying hard to keep the disgust from his face. “Commander Iddlem.”
Atel Iddlem had always been a man who irritated Piett immensely. He was one of those Imperial officers who thought, who really believed that because they had passed the academy they were better people than everybody else in the entire universe.
Fortunately Piett and Iddlem had so far been forced to work together only on very brief occasions. Without paying any more attention to the man, Piett once more poured the water out of his boots. Damn, he really hoped that this time he had time to dry his boots, socks and feet properly.
Iddlem was standing next to him, waiting impatiently – but waiting. Whatever his other faults, his belief in the proper chain of command was nearly religious and thank the gods, Piett did outrank him significantly.
With a lot of swearing Needa emerged from the stream and letting his eyes wander over the chaotic group of men in front of him commented to Piett, “so, these are the men with whom you want to take on the Rebellion?”
“Exactly.” Turning to Iddlem, Piett asked, “any news?”
“I just wanted to come to that, Admiral.” Iddlem gave Needa a stern glance, as if to remind him how to properly address a senior officer, which was, of course, completely lost on the Captain. “The interceptor pilot has been picking up more signals but he wont follow my orders and contact the men we found.”
Iddlem stared at him blankly. After a few moments he had to admit, “I don’t know.”
“Then let’s find out.” Piett looked at the bedraggled men standing in a loose cluster around him. “Needa, would you find out what the other men know about the battle, Major Remier and Sub-Lieutenant Valan, could you reconnoitre the vicinity, particularly whether there are any of these hideous natives around, or any survivors. Yes, food.” He felt somewhat uncomfortable that his brain linked survivors automatically to food. “Major, do you know anything about that?”
Remier frowned. “Not a lot. There isn’t much around, apart from the Ewoks and a few other animals.”
“Do what you can. Commander, have any of your men been on the moon before?”
“I don’t know.” Iddlem looked increasingly embarrassed.
“Ah, well, we’ll figure that out. Lots, Stenson and Rezikiel, you can see what we can do to prepare us for the night, you know, fires, whatever we can do to make shelters and set up watches. – Bridgewater, Corbet, you’re with me.”
He strolled off, ignoring Needa’s surprised look and his muttered comment “who’d have thought…”.
Hell, he had enjoyed that. Giving orders without having to worry about the Dark Lord of the Sith standing behind one was … fun? Well, probably not, but at least he did not have to fear immediate repercussions.
Iddlem was obviously incapable of acting without superior officers, he had been here for more than two hours and all he had managed so far was to annoy pilot Hookainen.
The stormtroopers quickly stepped aside when Piett and his little group approached, those who had been sitting on the ground struggled to their feet.
“So, you brought seven men with you?” Piett inquired when Iddlem caught up with him.
“Yes, Sir. Captain Lotremer ordered all hands to abandon ship and so I and seven other officers on the bridge boarded one of the escape pods. We… ”
A small sound, like a quickly muffled snort made Piett turn around, to find another navy officer, a Lieutenant Commander he was sure he had never seen before, walking behind him, a contemptuous grin on his face. Iddlem stared at the man reproachfully. Something had been going on on the bridge of the Ruthless that Iddlem did not want to have mentioned. But first they had to find out what pilot Hookainen’s problem was.
Another man in a pilot’s outfit was standing protectively in front of the interceptor, his arms crossed in front of him. He did not bother to salute when Piett reached him.
“Pilot, don’t you…” Iddlem shouted.
“Hookainen mentioned your name,” Piett interrupted Iddlem, “but I’m afraid it escapes me at the moment.”
“Pilot Taakanen, Sir.”
“Pilot Taakanen, Commander Iddlem told me you contacted more survivors.”
“Admiral!” Hookainen’s head popped out of the hatch. “Thank goodness you’re back.”
“So, what have you found?” Piett couldn’t quite suppress a grin, when he saw the red face of Commander Iddlem who was nearly bursting with indignation.
“Several things.” Hookainen grinned. “Two survivors from the Death Star itself who are currently on the way here. We also managed to get the com-unit to tune in to the troopers’ links. We contacted a patrol from the squadron stationed here. They will be here soon as well. They should be able to tell us what happened down here. We contacted a TIE fighter which is still in working condition. Yal Losari, the pilot, said he would try and fly over the Rebel camp on his way here and see what he can find out. And,” the grin disappeared again. “there is also a group who seem to be captured.” Leaning out of the interceptor’s hatch he looked at Piett questioningly. “What the hell is going on down here?”
“Natives.” Piett informed Hookainen, then he turned to Iddlem. “So what was your problem, Commander?”
“He wanted me to contact them. The link is set to receive messages as well, but it is obvious that they are captured.” Hookainen answered before Iddlem could even open his mouth.
For a moment Iddlem just glared at Hookainen. “Yes, I did. It is standard Imperial procedure. We have to find out what is going on before we decide whether to risk men trying to free them.”
“Did you ever think that this is a situation in which ‘standard Imperial procedure’ is not applicable? If we contacted them the link might be discovered and destroyed, or worse the natives who hold the prisoners might think it wise to kill them before we can rescue them.”
Iddlem looked as if he would explode any second, a view, Piett thought, which compensated for several years in the Imperial navy. Only after a long time, Iddlem could force himself to nod.
“Hookainen, where are those captured? Do you know how many they are?”
“They are held about four and a half miles in that direction.” Hookainen pointed somewhere to his left, a direction which would hopefully not mean that they had to wade through that damned stream again. “I don’t know how many there are, perhaps ten, fifteen. I don’t know.”
“Good. Keep trying to contact more men, will you?” Piett turned around to the group of men standing around him, most of the troopers were by now busy creating a makeshift camp under the stern supervision of Lieutenant Commander Rezikiel. “Now, I will set out with a small group to rescue the prisoners.” Iddlem opened his mouth to speak but shut it quickly as Piett looked at him questioningly, then he turned to the unknown officer. “Lieutenant Commander…?”
“Sokorovsk, Jgor Sokorovsk.”
“Lieutenant Commander Sokorovsk, we need a few troopers, six troopers, make sure they are adequately armed.”
“Yes, Sir.” Sokorovsk turned to his job. With a name like that he might just be from Pokrovsk, Piett wondered. He had to ask him later. “Captain Needa.” he addressed Needa who was just approaching him. “Would you like to take the opportunity to shoot a few more of these disgusting, furry beasts?”
A wide grin spread over Needa’s face. “Of course I would, Admiral.”
“Then be so kind and find me a blaster, you already have one, right?” He turned back to the officers still surrounding him. “Now, Commander Iddlem, you and Commander Stenson are the highest ranking officers here, while I am away. Make sure that the situation does not disintegrate into a similar chaos as I found when I got here.”
“Yes, Sir.” Iddlem saluted, his face even more crimson than before.
Sokorovsk approached with six stormtroopers, while Needa handed Piett a blaster.
“Lieutenant Commander, you join’ll our little rescue mission as well.”
“Yes, Sir.” Sokorovsk grinned. Then remembering something he hastily ran to the next stormtrooper he had not recruited and relieved him of his blaster. When he returned, Piett mustered his men again.
“Let’s go.” He turned to Iddlem. “The natives of this planet are more dangerous than they look, Commander, there may also be more survivors out there. While I am gone, continue to scan the area.”
Iddlem nodded curtly, not happy but not daring to contradict his superior officer.
The nine of them started in the direction in which the prisoners were held, Piett and Needa at the head of their group, followed by Sokorovsk and the six troopers. Needa all of a sudden looked glum, walking sullenly next to Piett. Noticing Piett looking at him, he forced a small grin on his face.
“What you said just now, about ‘scanning the area’, I said that when I went on a mission I thought I wouldn’t survive.” He stared ahead, rubbing his throat. “I can’t help but it makes me feel queasy.”
“But you did survive, which was a surprise. So perhaps you could see it as a good omen.” Piett replied, trying to cheer Needa up. He remembered vividly what a great shock it had been, when he heard that Needa had not been dead when they hauled him away after apologizing to Vader. Piett had visited his friend in sick-bay but Needa had refused to talk to him, he never spoken about this incident and mentioning it usually sent the Captain into a morose mood for hours.
“I don’t know.” Needa continued to frown with a glum expression on his face, but then he turned back to Piett and, as if to prove him wrong again, smirked maliciously. “One thing, Piett, when we return, you should watch your back. You made quite an enemy there. Iddlem will shoot you in the back if he gets a chance.”
“He can try. – And, Angus, if he succeeds, can you do me the favour of making sure that those fuzzy creatures get a chance to sink their teeth into him?”
Needa shook his head. “You do amaze me, honestly. But then, I remember when you were Captain of the Annihilator, and then the things you do are not that surprising.”
“Iddlem is an idiot.” Sokorovsk muttered behind them
“Why?” Piett turned around.
The Lieutenant Commander increased his speed till he was walking next to Piett and Needa.
“Before you came he threatened to shoot the interceptor pilot if he wouldn’t do what he asked him to do, which of course, was stupid. – The order he gave, not the pilot refusing it.”
“What happened then?”
“The pilot asked Iddlem whether he knew how to operate an interceptor’s com-link, which Iddlem had to admit he didn’t know, and as the other pilot said he wouldn’t do it either – that was basically it.”
Piett sighed, he had known that Iddlem was incompetent but not quite that incompetent. Not that Piett had any clue how to operate an interceptor’s com-link – though he thought that should not be that much of a problem – but a commanding officer should never get into a situation in which he threatened his subordinates, and particularly not in a situation where he did and then had to back off. Of course, Iddlem knew that and he probably didn’t like it at all.
“I wanted to ask you what really happened when Captain Lotremer gave the order to abandon ship,” he said to Sokorovsk, remembering his reaction to Iddlem’s report.
“Oh, nothing spectacular really. It’s just that usually the two highest ranking officers on the bridge have to stay behind and start the self-destruct, this would mean Captain Lotremer and Commander Iddlem, but the Captain ordered Iddlem to leave as he could not rely on him.” Sokorovsk grinned. “Hell, Iddlem nearly went berserk when Lotremer said that. We had to drag him into the next escape pod, all the time nearly falling over with laughing.” Sokorovsk’s grin faded and he looked very somber. “I am still wondering whether the Captain really meant that or whether he just wanted to give us a good laugh while he blew up with the ship, he and Lieutenant Commander Olivine.”
They all fell silent for some time, Piett trying to remember whether Lotremer would have enough sense of humor to pull something like that. “Both probably.” he decided finally.
Sokorovsk nodded. “It’s just … Captain Lotremer was a good officer, and he is dead. Iddlem is just a waste of space, no worse than that, and he is still alive. It’s so unfair.”
“Yes it is.” Piett looked at the younger officer walking next to him. “Where are you from, by the way?”
“Nevanka in the Sarskoi system, why?” Sokorovsk looked surprised.
“I’m from Pokrovsk.”
Sokorovsk stopped walking, the trooper behind him nearly bumping into him. “You’re joking.” He stared at Piett. “I thought all they ever exported was wood.”
“And one Admiral.” Needa said. “So you’re kind of neighbours.”
“Very ‘kind of’.” Piett commented dryly. “Nevanka is on the other side of the system.”
“He has heard the word ‘Pokrovsk’ before, he must be a neighbour. So, Lieutenant Commander, have you ever been to the home of our Admiral.”
“Are you joking? All there is to see is trees and rain.”
“Damn, you must feel at home here, Piett.”
“Can we discuss this while we walk? After all we have some people to rescue before these fuzzy creatures think it’s time for dinner.”
The troopers had come to a halt as well, standing uncertain around them. Piett wondered what they that about their officers’ conversations, or their officers generally. Those silly helmets just cut them off, that’s what they were there for, to make the officers forget that they were sending real people into combat not just some amored mass.
“Dinner?” Sokorovsk asked startled.
Needa spent the subsequent time explaining in unwanted detail his experiences with the natives of the moon, the Ewoks, and their unpleasant habits regarding their prisoners.
It was beginning to get dark when they finally reached the
village, or camp, in which the prisoners were held. Unlike the one
where Needa and his men had been imprisoned, this dwelling was on the
ground. It looked rather makeshift, or even more makeshift than the
village in the trees. The huts were build out of rickety wood, some
were only reinforced tents, some integrated parts of undergrowth or
trees as their walls. It did not seem to have existed long on this spot.
Leaving Sokorovsk with the stormtroopers in their conspicuous white armour a few yards behind, Piett and Needa had managed to creep up close to the village, hopefully without attracting the attention of any of its furry inhabitants. The dwelling was quiet and only a few of the natives were about on the ‘streets’ between the huts.
Looking over to where Needa was crouching behind one of the giant tree trunks Piett wondered whether Needa felt as silly as he did. Probably not.
Slowly, and very carefully, Piett crawled to the other side of his tree, peeking around it. From this side he had a good view down one of the openings between the huts, nearly to the other side of the dwelling. Somewhere down this way the ‘street’ widened to create the central area and on that a good handful of those creatures was busy preparing something. When a couple of the furry beasts moved Piett could see that they were indeed busy preparing dinner. Hanging from a long pole over a good sized pile of wood was a imperial officer in green uniform. Behind him a similar contraption held another man in black.
“Shit.” Piett scrambled to his feet and waved vigorously to Needa to come over.
After a few moments Needa scrambled over, hissing “what’s the matter now?” in Piett’s ear.
“They’re about to start, dammit.”
“Hell.” Needa turned and stared in the twilight where the others were hiding behind some bushes, waving at them. “Damn, they can’t see us.”
“Well, we’d better hurry.” Piett glanced around the tree again and to his horror saw one of the furry creatures put a burning torch to the wood. “Shit. – We have to get them now, the others will come when they hear us shooting. Ok?”
Needa nodded, releasing the safety of his blaster.
Quickly Piett rushed over to the next tree. “On three then.” He lifted his blaster. Looking back at where the white armoured stormtroopers could be vaguely seen between the leaves, he tried to calm his ragged breathing. He just hoped they would hear them attack the village.
“Piett.” Needa grinned at him, leaning against the tree with his blaster raised and ready to go.
“It’s been quite some time since we’ve done things like this.”
For some strange reason Piett found himself grinning back at Needa. “Yes. A long time.”
Piett turned around, glancing down the to the village centre, where the first flames leapt up around the fire-wood. “One.” Breathe slowly, he told himself. “Two.” He risked a short glance at Needa who was intently looking towards the village. “THREE!”
With a wild shout and firing his blaster into the small huts Piett charged down the opening, he could hear Needa shouting next to him. They were halfway to the centre of the village before the furry beasts realized what was going on. Some of them just turned and ran, others threw themselves into their way. Most ended with smoldering holes in their fur, a few were clever enough to run for cover and get their weapons. The squeaking voices of the panicking natives mixed with their own shouts and the general mayhem created by their attack.
Something was going on ahead of them, around the two men who had been the designated evening meal. These critters wouldn’t … damn it, of course they would.
Piett skitted to a halt, aiming his blaster carefully now at the Ewok who was standing next to one of the imperials’ head, holding something in his paw. He fired and the Ewok collapsed into the fire, his fur started to burn.
Needa had nearly reached the centre of the village, still shooting wildly at anything that moved.
Something hit against Piett’s leg, but he did not pay any attention to it. He had to make sure that those beasts would not get the chance of hurting his men. Carefully he aimed again, as another Ewok ran towards the tied up man, and at another and another. Only when some particularly stupid beast jumped at him and tried to push him over, he turned his attention – and his blaster – briefly on the natives who attacked him.
Then he could hear the shouts and the blaster fire of other men, the stormtroopers and Lieutenant Commander Sokorovsk storming the village.
Running down towards the centre of the village Piett noticed that he had lost sight of Needa. Something to worry about later. The pile of wood had started to burn properly and one of the two men suspended over it screamed in pain. The other was frighteningly quiet, too quiet.
Frantically Piett shoved the blaster into its holster, fumbled with the buttons of his uniform and got Rilla’s little knife out of its pocket. Whatever ropes he would cut first would send the man crashing into the fire. But he had to get him out. Grabbing the screaming man by the shoulder he slipped the knife through the rope that tied the man’s hands to the pole and cut, throwing himself back as the rope gave way. They crashed onto the ground, Piett lost his hold on the man. As he was still bound to the pole with his feet, the fall might have broken his ankles but at least he was out of the flames. Piett jumped back on his feet and cut the other rope as well, lowering the man’s feet carefully on the ground.
He ran to the other man, his black uniform identifying him as an army officer. But it was too late. A long, ragged cut opened the officer’s throat nearly from one ear to the other. For a few moments Piett struggled with the urge to throw up, staring at the officer who had been slaughtered like an animal.
Something poked his leg. Spinning round he found, indeed, one of the creatures holding one of the ridiculous spears in its hands.
Somewhere Piett couldn’t believe that these beasts were quite that stupid. Mainly he was just furious. Without even thinking he brought down the knife he was still holding in his hand, piercing one of the Ewok’s huge, beady eyes. It squealed, dropping its spear and tried to escape. Piett grabbed hold of its furry head - it was not wearing one of the ridiculous bits of leather - and cut its throat.
Letting go of the dying beast, blood gurgling out of its mouth, he turned back to the dead officer. He cut the ropes and dragged the body out of the fire.
One of the Ewoks came running down towards him, this one was fleeing. Seeing Piett it tried to dodge into one of the huts, but Piett was too fast for it. He caught hold of its arm, propelling it around, and with grim satisfaction stabbed the small knife into its throat. The squeaking, gurgling beast stumbled and needed only a small push to fall into the fire.
Next to the fire, staring at him with wide, unbelieving eyes, was Captain Needa.
“Firelord.” Needa finally said. “I don’t believe it.”
Piett took a deep breath and only now realized that the fight was over.
The village was completely destroyed, the streets littered with furry bodies. Here and there small fires had started, the main light came still from the great fire in the middle of the village. Needa was accompanied by a dozen or so men in Imperial uniforms, looking shaken but alright. Two of them were kneeling next to the injured officer. The stormtroopers went through the ruins, slowly converging towards them. Sokorovsk, holding a hand to his bloodied head, sat on the ruins of one of the huts.
“Don’t believe what?” Piett looked questioningly at Needa.
“You! Look at you.”
Obligingly Piett stared down at himself, noticing his open uniform jacket, his mud caked boots, which were still wet inside, his blood-covered hand still clutching the small knife. With the other hand he automatically checked whether his cap was still there, which it was. “You mean that?” He held the blood-stained knife up, then, while he started to wipe it on a small handkerchief he found in the pocket of his trousers, he said slowly: “They killed the officer when they realized that they couldn’t slowly fry and eat him. Nobody has a right to do that, not to my men.”
Needa’s eyebrows rose and he looked as if he wanted to give a cynical comment, then he just shook his head. “I don’t mean that I have problem with you killing these furry critters, it’s just … I hadn’t thought you were the throat-cutting type.”
“Actually,” Piett folded the knife and returned it to its pocket, starting to re-button his jacket. “Neither had I.” He walked around the fire to where the other intended dinner course was attended by his comrades. “How is he?”
“I’ll survive.” The man’s voice was strained but he seemed to be not in intolerable pain. “Just a bit singed around the edges.”
“Quite singed, actually.” One of the other men said. “And he has a few broken ribs.” Looking at Piett a grin spread on his face. “No, that was not your rescuing, but earlier.”
“The rest of you are alright?”
“Good, I think we’d better return to the others as soon as possible.” Piett turned around to Lieutenant Commander Sokorovsk who had joined them. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. My head is buzzing a bit, but that’s all.”
“Who are ‘the others?’” A man in a green uniform asked.
“Other survivors. We are trying to get as many of us together as possible.” Piett looked challengingly at Needa, who did not say anything, then he looked at the body of the army officer. “What are we going to do with him? You knew him?”
“I guess,” another of the men said, somehow Piett just could not be bothered to figure out who was who just now, “we could burn him. – I think that would not go against his religious believes. He mentioned once that his father was cremated.”
Wordlessly the rescued officers, they were all officers Piett noted, turned the two fires which had been erected by the Ewoks into one larger pile. Finally with the help of Needa and Piett, they placed the body of the dead officer on it. The man who had proposed this, said a few vague words, hoping that ‘whatever gods he worshipped would take him to whatever afterlife he hoped for.’
Meanwhile two other officers had constructed a stretcher out of debris from the former village. The injured officer was lifted on it and while the pyre was still burning behind them they set out to return to their camp.
Piett found himself once again at the head of their little procession. He knew that they had succeeded in rescuing the imprisoned men, losing one of them was a tragedy but better than could be expected – still somehow he felt he couldn’t really enjoy the success of the rescue mission.
Additionally, he was worried about Commander Iddlem – and the future in general. What was he supposed to do with all these men? He trudged on, trying to think of something they could do to get off this damn planet, moon, whatever. Somehow he couldn’t even be bothered to find out how many men they had just pried out of the pudgy paws of those horrible fuzzballs.
You’re just tired, he told himself. – Tomorrow, everything will look a lot better.
Hell, like what? He could only think of new night-mare scenarios, the Rebels finding their camp, Darth Vader and a newly rallied Imperial fleet returning, and the different things the Dark Lord of the Sith would do to punish his second-in-command. The natives, Ewoks, were probably gathering their forces and even though they were primitive and half-witted, they could win through sheer numbers. Just the possibility that it might rain made Piett cringe inwardly.
“So, what are you worried about now?” Needa’s voice next to his right ear made Piett jump.
He frowned at Needa. “Everything.”
“O, just that.” Needa grinned briefly. “I’ve been wondering about something.”
For a moment they walked in silence, then Piett said irritatedly, knowing that Needa would wait till he asked. “What?”
“You know, when I said ‘it’s been quite some time’ just before we charged. – Have you ever done something like that?”
“No. – Why do you think I entered the navy and not the army? and why I became an officer, despite all the perils of asphyxiation?”
“You couldn’t know that you would end up on Darth Vader’s ship.”
“You were not on Vader’s ship and nearly went that way.”
Needa cringed, obviously not happy to be reminded of this particular incident in his life as Captain of the Avenger.
“Anyway,” he said, returning quickly to the earlier topic. “I hadn’t done anything like that before either. – You definitely took to it like a duck to water.” He shook his head unbelievingly. “Damn you should have seen yourself.” After a short pause Needa continued. “Oh, I thought you might want to know what I found out about our new-found friends.” Ignoring Piett’s grimace he plunged on. “We have rescued fourteen Imperial officers, number fifteen, Sergeant Myers, was unfortunately killed.”
“They were all aboard the Accuser. When the Accuser was about to be boarded by the Rebels the command staff decided that they did not want to risk being captured by rebels and find out whether they live up to their image of charity and tolerance. Can you believe, all fifteen piled into one escape pod!”
“That must have been cosy.”
“It was.” A strangely familiar voice said to his left. Turning around, Piett nearly fell over his own feet.
“He does remember me.” Ossory said smugly to Needa.
“I didn’t know you were at the battle.”
“And don’t I wish I hadn’t been.” Ossory pushed his cap back, revealing his greying hair, the few strands that were still there. He was one of the few, perhaps a dozen or so, officers who had been in the armed forces when Palpatine became emperor and who were still on active duty.
“What … I am sorry I didn’t recognize you earlier.”
“I could apologize as well,” Ossory said. “as I didn’t recognize you either. And I should have. There not that many admirals around.”
“So, now I have introduced you,” Needa interrupted, “you can happily reminisce about the time you served together on the … damn, what was the stupid ship’s name again.”
“Stalwart,” Piett and Ossory said simultaneously. “Though I really don’t know what we should reminisce about,” Piett continued, “happily anyway.”
“Yes, I rather would like to hear what you are planning to do now?”
“Wrong question.” Piett said. “I don’t know.”
“Ah. – Well, perhaps then we should reminisce.”
Piett scowled involuntarily. He liked General Ossory, or had liked him the last time they had met, which was after all more than ten years ago now, but unlike Ossory, Piett never had been particularly fond of recapitulating exciting adventures, which were only exciting because one nearly got killed. After having spent the last eleven month permanently in the situation of getting nearly strangled by the Dark Lord of the Sith he just could live without that.
“Do you think Darth Vader is dead?” Piett asked, finding a way to avoid the reminiscing after all. Instead Ossory and Needa started a detailed discussion of the different possibilities Vader could have had to escape from the second Death Star and the likelihood of each of them. They didn’t even notice that Piett returned to his unhappy reflections on the future. At this point they were considering the probability of Vader’s armour enabling him to survive the vacuum of space and whether or not a person could be equipped with a hyperdrive.
When they finally reached the camp around Hookainen’s interceptor, Piett found that at least his worst immediate fear, that Iddlem had shot Hookainen just to spite him, had not come true. There were guards posted around the camp, who recognized them, and a few small fires were lit. Most of the men, apart from those on patrol, were already sleeping.
Rezikiel was still awake and apologizing profoundly for not having found anything which could be used as a bed, led the new arrivals to one of the fires. But he explained that there was some food though it was rather tasteless.
Iddlem was, praised be the gods, nowhere to be seen.
With a heartfelt sigh Piett sat down. They were back, he could hardly believe it.
Needa and the men from the Accuser sat down around the fire. If this were not a moon full of furry natives with a taste for char-grilled imperials, and if the only space-faring people around were Rebels, this could be fun, shore-leave a la boy scouts. Including camp-fire and with his luck, Piett thought, singing of heartening songs. He lay back into the grass. Staring into the darkness above him he wondered briefly why there were no stars, and fell asleep.
Chapter 8: In which
Admiral Piett enjoys the cameraderie of a united force.
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