Mon Mothma stifled a yawn. She stared absentmindedly at the
throng of Ewoks milling around on the village square in front of her.
They were performing some ceremony, some important ceremony. The
copper-coloured protocol droid whose name had slipped through Mon
Mothma’s mind had explained to her in great detail what the
meaning of this ceremony was but somehow … . Gods, she was
tired. But then, she had hardly had any sleep last night and the night
before – and the night before that. And now she was here
attending this completely useless banquet to celebrate their alliance
with the Ewoks.
“Are you alright?” Madine asked quietly. He was sitting to her right observing the Ewoks but looking at her occasionally.
She smiled at him appologatingly. “Just tired.”
Her presence here was useless mainly because she was too tired. Her mind just refused to take in any of the information she was given. Too many conferences that lasted way into the small hours in the last couple of days were beginning to take their toll on her. Perhaps she was getting old, too old to live on a couple of hours sleep anyway. First there were the preparations for the battle, the tension that kept her awake even after the meetings were over, then they had to plan the expedition to Bakura and last night they had discussed where to send their forces next. Frankly she had been too tired already then to be of much use but she had felt obliged to attend the meeting until they had reached a decision, made a plan. They had finally agreed that at the moment the most important task was to secure Coruscant, before any of the Imperials there had had time to step into the Emperor’s shoes and take over the remnants of the Empire. If they could capture the capital of the Empire they had a fighting chance to finish the war quickly. If not … .
Mon Mothma sighed, drawing curious glances not only from Madine, her aide Lina and the protocol droid but also from a couple of Ewoks sitting on the elevated dais with her.
They had achieved a major victory two days ago, she reminded herself. The destruction of the Death Star and the death of both the Emperor and Darth Vader would send the Empire into complete chaos, no matter what else happened. The frustration she felt now was only the natural reaction to the lack of sleep and the feeling of anti-climax that always followed a major event like the battle. Before the battle they all had known what they were fighting against and what they were fighting for. Now their enemy was gone but the war was not over. She knew that but some parts of her felt that now, now they were rid of the Emperor, his minion Vader and the second Death Star they should have a break, have some time in which to relax and enjoy their victory, instead they would have to fight on … and on and on. Would it never end?
“Ma’am.” The droid turned to her. It somehow managed to look uncomfortable sitting on the throne-like chair the Ewoks had placed him on. Perhaps it was just an unusual sight as droids were so seldom sitting. “The Ewoks express their thanks in our helping to remove the Imperial garrison from their world and want to thank us all for handing their world back to them.”
“Tell them,” Mon Mothma said automatically. “that we are equally thankful for their help and that we couldn’t have won the battle without them.”
The droid nodded at her and began talking to the Ewoks. He hesitated occasionally, and once more Mon Mothma wished that Princess Leia’s protocol droid would be here and not on its way to Bakura. He was a obnoxious prat but he was so obviously a better translator than the copper-coloured droid which had taken his place in the negotiations. Stop being so morose, she ordered herself. We have won. Not the war but we have defeated the Emperor.
She sat up straighter and watched the Ewoks performing some elaborate and presumably religious ceremony. It was unbelievable that these furry creatures, who were living in rickety huts, dressed in leather and fur (if they dressed at all) and thought that C-3PO, Princess Leia’s droid, was a god, had been a decisive factor in their victory. Frankly she couldn’t blame the Imperial troops for underestimating them.
Mon Mothma glanced at the grey sky. After the ceremonies and the performance of a group of Lasellan dancers which was officially declared to be the Rebellion’s equivalent of the Ewok ritual there would be a banquet to solemnize the alliance with the Ewoks. Mon Mothma felt a pang of bad conscience of deceiving the Ewoks into believing that a completely harmless folk dance was a religious ceremony but the anthropologists and xeno-psychologists had strongly recommended that they would give some show of performance of a similar nature to the Ewok ceremonies, something different but something the Ewoks would at least think they understood. Still, they were deceiving their new allies. Not that this was of any great importance. The New Republic had arranged with the Ewoks that they would leave the moon to them and only keep diplomatic and trade relations. Given the remoteness of the moon and the little interest it would have for traders, Mon Mothma doubted that these relations would be frequent or of any significant importance. Not that she could mind, and to be really honest she wouldn’t mind if she never saw this moon again.
A huge rain-drop fell from the grey sky followed by a few others, then a fine, uncomfortably cold drizzle started. No, definitely she would not mind if she never returned to this place.
At least she was not alone in her discomfort. General Madine shifted around on his wooden chair. It was probably also somewhat stinging that he had been volunteered for this mission because the other generals thought he was most easily expendable. Not that this was ever said openly, but the unanimity with which Madine had been voted to this particular unimportant honour was a telling one. While the others were out somewhere fighting against the distintigrating Empire, Madine had to sit through religious ceremonies of their new allies who were of little consequence in the greater scheme of things.
At least they did not have another earthquake so far. The one that occurred on their way to the village had been enough for Mon Mothma. Now, sitting in this village thirty yards above the ground, she definitely did not want to experience another. This part of the moon must be tectonicly instable, on their way down from orbit they had seen three active volcanos. The team which welcomed them on the ground had said that they had had another earthquake just around noon. Mon Mothma prayed silently to whatever gods were responsible for this sector of the galaxy to stop any earthquakes while she was perched up here. And while the gods were at it, could they stop this miserable rain as well?
The gods were definitely not listening this day, not to Mon
Mothma’s prayers anyway.
She shouldn’t be surprised, after all she was an agnostic and prayed only from habit not conviction. The drizzle turned into a short but violent thunderstorm before it stopped, but the Ewoks seemed to be determined to go through with their ceremonies no matter the weather. There were two minor earthquakes, repeated burst of tremors, that made the dishes on the table in front of them dance. It was fortunately not enough to do more than shake the giant trees but it was more than Mon Mothma wished to go through. She was certain that each tremor took years off her life-span and turned another strand of her hair grey.
However, now she was thankful not to have Princess Leia’s protocol droid with her. This one, K-1NO as she had finally remembered, only murmured “Oh my!” after each quake while Leia’s droid would have probably burst into a long tirade how they were all going to die.
The Ewok ceremony was far longer than any sensible civilization could have burdened their guests with. Madine had lost his patience as well, muttering curses under his breath. And then their anthropologist had insisted that the Lasellan dancers would perform two instead of one dance, so that the balance between the two rituals was kept. To hell with the balance, Mon Mothma thought, I want to get out of the rain.
The anthropologist and the dancers had left after their performance, while Madine, Lina, Mon Mothma and K-1NO had stayed for the banquet. Thankfully the meal had been vegetarian. After a fierce row, they had decided not to ask the Ewoks what they were planning for the banquet against the wishes of those who actually had to eat what was to be served. Not surprisingly Mon Mothma had half-expected to be served some kind of stormtrooper stew. At least this fear had not become true.
And finally, finally, the official banquet to celebrate the new alliance between the New Republic and the Ewoks of Endor was over. The Ewoks waved their good-byes and left them to find their stumbling way back to the shuttle in the grey darkness which seemed to pass for night on the forest moon. Grey days followed by grey nights, not a particularly charming place.
General Madine was busily leading the way while Mon Mothma, Lina and the droid were slowly stumbling after him. It was a slow walk Mon Mothma’s wide robe repeatedly entangled itself in the bushes and small plants covering the forest ground, her thin shoes got soaked and muddy. Damn, she was not dressed for hikes through a forest. Again and again they had to stop and disentangle her increasingly muddy clothes caught in some thorns or twisted around branches. At least Lina had been sensible enough to wear a pair of trousers.
It was late when they finally reached the clearing where their shuttle waited for them. The familiar sight of the snub-nosed, stump-winged Chandrillan Shuttle, its small window illuminated with warm light made Mon Mothma nearly forget her fatigue. She rushed the last hundred yards to the ship, and when her robes were once more caught in some branches she didn’t bother and just ripped it off, not caring about the rending sound the cloth made. She wanted to get away, get to her quarters and into her warm and cosy bed.
“What took you so long?” The pilot of the shuttle, Captain Lorena Matrishka, asked standing on the ramp that led into the back of the shuttle. “We were worried.”
“The Ewoks are very thorough in regard to their ceremonies.” K-1NO answered, relieving Mon Mothma of the duty to find something nice to say about the evening which she would have found extremely difficult to accomplish at the moment. “They performed the complete history of their tribe for us, which is a rare honour.”
And very boring, Mon Mothma thought, but she just flung herself on one of the benches lining the walls of the shuttle. “I am so tired,” she said when she caught the curious looks from Captain Matrishka and her Twi’lek co-pilot Neko, “Lina, could you make some tea or coffee or something?”
Lina nodded and busied herself in the small cubicle that served as a kitchen. The shuttle was not equipped for longer journeys but then, hopefully, they would be in orbit and docking at their ship shortly. K-1NO sat down on the bench opposite Mon Mothma. He – or it? – leaned back and seemed to sink into himself.
Matrishka waved her co-pilot to the cockpit. “We have been worried,” she repeated. “There are still Imperials on the moon. Two TIEs, a fighter and an interceptor, have been picked up by our team up there.” She waved her arm at the ceiling of the shuttle. “Unfortunately, they landed before we could do something about them and with the atmospheric disturbances it is impossible to pick them up when their enginges are powered down.”
Two TIEs, and they were willing to send the entire navy after them, the bits of the navy that were still around. Mon Mothma sighed and nodded at Captain Matrishka.
“There are probably more of them. Some of the escape pods came down on the moon.” Neko commented from the cockpit while he was busy powering up the engine.
“We will have quite a bumpy ride.” Matrishka continued. “There are severe disturbances, storms, messing up the atmosphere down here.” She frowned. “Our ships’ sensors have also picked up some worrying developments inside the moon. There were massive earthquakes on the fringe to the planet’s larger ocean, a lot of volcanic activity and a tidal wave big enough to flood half of the small northern continent.”
Madine sat down next to Mon Mothma and after a few moments of contemplation asked, “so?”
“Sir,” Matrishka said, a slight note of impatience in her voice. “We fear that the explosion of the Death Star in close orbit, the battle in general and the fact that a couple of the Star Destroyers were in such a hurry to get away that they went into hyperspace through the moon’s atmosphere, were all not particularly healthy to the moon’s stability.”
“You mean…” Mon Mothma started, the shock woke her up more thoroughly than any coffee could do.
“We hope that things will settle down in a few weeks.” Matrishka interrupted her. “We hope. We don’t know enough about this place.”
“Here we go!” Neko shouted from the cockpit and lifted the shuttle into the air.
Mon Mothma slumped back against the cold wall of the shuttle. The moon was falling apart. Well, it was not really falling apart but it was rocked pretty badly by all the havoc they had created with their battle. Once more she asked herself whether they had any right to interfere with the lives of so many other people, like the Ewoks who had nothing to do with either the Empire or the Rebellion. But then, the Emperor would probably not have bothered to move the Death Star out of close orbit before he sent it into hyperspace. Perhaps he would have even used the moon to test the super-laser, it being the closest target available.
Lina handed Mon Mothma a cup of herbal tea and offered Madine another one but he refused. Lina sat down next to Madine on the little bench sipping the tea herself.
“Are you alright?” Matrishka asked now.
“Yes, I guess so.” Mon Mothma smiled wearily at the pilot. “I am just tired.” She rubbed her eyes with her free hand.
“Well, we should reach the Republic’s Pride in half an hour.” The shuttle lurched and Matrishka nearly fell onto Madine’s lap. “As I said, this is going to be a bumpy ride.”
“Thanks.” Mon Mothma sipped her tea. Just another half-hour and she could go to bed. “Where are we joining the rest of the fleet?”
“We are going to Coruscant but we are making two jumps.” Madine informed her. “Should things on Coruscant not work out the fleet will re-assemble at the Dili Star Cluster. We will fall out of hyperspace there and if the fleet isn’t there, proceed to Coruscant.”
“I hope things go well.” Mon Mothma said, suppressing a sigh.
Madine smiled at her. “I know how you feel. After a battle one always has the impression that now it would be time for a break, but things just never allow that.”
“I know.” Mon Mothma stared glumly into her tea. “It’s just that I am so tired of this all.” She sighed deeply. “I am tired of the endless negotiations and the permanent need to be on guard. Now, after the death of the Emperor, it will just become worse. Instead of one tyrannical despot we will have to deal with dozens of them.” She knew she should not burden the others with her problems but just now she didn’t care. “I just want to have a break. Just a few days off. Not being the head of the Rebellion, or New Republic or whatever. A few days in which I don’t have to worry about millions of lives, don’t have to be alert all the time, and don’t have to be nice to people I despise who don’t listen to me and, oh damn!”
Matrishka looked amusingly surprised by the fact that Mon Mothma was able to swear. “You should take a few days off. You have worked harder than any of the other dick-… dignitaries to keep the rebel-alliance together.”
She patted Mon Mothma on the shoulder smiling encouragingly.
The shuttle lurched again, nearly keeling completely to one side. Both Mon Mothma and Lina spilled tea over themselves. Lina got to her feet and started to make more tea.
“Well, I better help Neko.” Matrishka went through the open doorway that lead to the cockpit. “Hey, we have an incoming message, why didn’t you answer it, Neko.”
Mon Mothma leaned forward to glimpse into the cockpit, where a muttering Neko was busy with the controls.
Matrishka leaned over her chair, punched a few buttons, and said into a microphone: “This is shuttle Delta 8, we’re receiving your message.”
“Finally, thank the gods.” A voice answered. “Shuttle Delta 8 do not, I repeat do not take off now. I repeat, under no circumstances whatsoever are you to get airborne. There is…”
“We are already airborne, control. What…”
“For fuck’s sake land, get down now!” the voice shouted.
Matrishka threw herself into the pilot’s chair. “Ok, ok, we on our way down, but wha…” She stopped and stared out of the view-port. “God almighty.”
Mon Mothma felt her mouth drop open when her eyes finally found what Matrishka had seen.
A huge, red-glowing mass was falling towards the moon, streaks of smoke and large clots flying in its trail.
“One of the Star Destroyers is going down, it has its shields up. Go down, land! Its impact…”
“Too late,” Matrishka muttered as the gigantic ship hit into the forest. A few moments Mon Mothma thought that they had been wrong, that nothing would happen to them, the Star Destroyer had come down quite a distance away. Then she saw the gigantic trees bend as the shockwave of the impact spread. It seemed as if the ripple going through the trees was approaching slowly, but before Matrishka could even turn the ship back towards the safety of the ground the shuttle was hit by the blast. It was as if they had flown against massive rock, or as if a gigantic cricket bat had smacked against the ship.
Mon Mothma was thrown against Madine, a sound like a thunderclap hit her ears, something bright flashed in front of her eyes and she fell into darkness.
Chapter 10: In
which Admiral Piett has to deal with an incompetent officer.
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