Vader walked slowly into his quarters, ignoring everything around him, in deep thought. He wasn't quite sure what to do next and really didn't feel like doing anything. With an irritated sigh, he stepped into his meditation chamber and sank slowly into his chair.
On the bridge of the Executor, Admiral Piett paced nervously back and forth in front of the ship's huge viewscreen.
"I don't like this," he hissed, addressing no one in particular. "After he thinks it over, he's going to be convinced this is all my fault because of my inabilities and then strangle me like he does with the rest of his officers."
The bridge personnel followed Piett with their eyes in silence.
"Sir," his captain began, "I'm sure Lord Vader understands...I mean, dammit, he was standing right there when the ship--"
"Went into hyperspace," Piett finished for him. "I had just told him the Falcon's hyperdrive had been disabled." He shook his head slowly. "He's going to kill me. I know he is."
The captain was losing patience. He was tired of trying to placate everyone: the jittery new admiral and the vicious dark lord who commanded them. He had previously been witness to the systematic executions of two of the fleet's finest officers at the Sith's hand.
"Sir, if you are so certain of your impending demise, why don't you go to him and tell him just what you think of him and his commission?" Piett shot him an angry glance. "Well, " the captain continued, "At least you'll be getting it over with faster."
Piett nodded slowly. "Go on. Make jokes about it. You realize, once I am gone, you will be in command." He stopped pacing and looked out the viewscreen at the vast emptiness of space. He didn't see the captain pale behind him.
"Admiral, the boarding party is wondering why the delay," a pit officer relayed.
Piett faced the man and sighed. "Cancel it. That should be more than obvious."
"Sir?" the navigator called. "Shall I prepare new coordinates?"
"No," Piett snapped. "Continue on our present course. I'll not do anything further without first consulting Lord Vader and I dare not disturb him now. Maintain sublight engines. Advise the rest of the fleet to maintain status quo." He turned from the screen and started walking towards the exit. "I'll be in my quarters if anyone needs to reach me." With that said, he quickly left.
The captain looked after him, then shook his head. "If our luck doesn't improve soon, the alliance won't have to worry about the imperial armada. This dark lord we are saddled with will dispose of her officers with greater efficiency than any rebel assassin could."
Having reached his quarters, Piett resumed his nervous pacing. He would just have to wait now. Wait for the inevitable. He thought he understood Lord Vader's frustration, having been so close, after all this time, finally to have Skywalker within his grasp--only to lose him to circumstance. But it wasn't his fault! Piett thought suddenly. It wasn't anyone's fault but the dark lord himself. Of course Vader would never admit that. It was easier to take it out on the men.
Piett stopped pacing and slammed his fist into his hand. Maybe someone needed to tell the Sith enough already. Maybe he was just the one to do it. He was dead anyway. What else could the dark lord do to him?
With a new defiance and fierce determination, Piett left his quarters and strode purposefully down the halls.
Turning down the hall where the dark lord's chamber was located brought a surge of uncertainty and dread. He stepped hesitantly up to the door knowing he could very well be stricken here in the hall for even disturbing Vader at this time. Fear welled up inside him and he swiftly turned to leave.
"What is it?" the dark lord's rich voice demanded over the hall intercom system.
Piett cringed. He realized Vader must have 'sensed' his presence. Piett soundly cursed himself for even being on this level, let alone standing at the Sith's very door.
"It's me My Lord...Captain....er Admiral Piett. I don't wish to disturb you. I'll come back another time," he replied trying to sound as respectful and apologetic as possible. There was an excruciating moment of silence before the dark lord answered.
"Enter." The door slid soundlessly open.
Piett took a deep breath and stepped inside the room. He immediately saw Vader seated and facing him a few meters away. The sound of his raspy breathing seemed to be absorbed into the walls of the chamber. Piett unintentionally stepped back. He tried to placate the motionless black figure before him with a deep bow.
"I can see you don't wish to be disturbed," Piett tried again and backed farther towards the door. "I'll just be leaving now." He turned but just as he reached the door, it slid ominously shut. Piett closed his eyes. He would never forgive himself for this. Slowly, reluctantly, he turned around and faced the dark lord.
"What is it?" Vader repeated, clearly irritated.
Think, Piett. Think fast. His mind scrambling to find something to say, he blurted out the first thing he thought of.
"My Lord, we are maintaining our present course. And I have cancelled the boarding party..." He frowned, knowing how weak that must have sounded. That's right, Lord Vader. I disturbed you to tell you something as insignificant as this...feel free to strangle me now.
Vader didn't respond and the door remained closed. Piett sighed heavily. He might as well...get it over with.
"My Lord, I realize that you are aware of the fact that I have more to say. I know you are quite upset and you have every right to be, but I feel I must be allowed to plea my case to you before you pass judgment."
"By all means, Admiral," Vader said in an icy tone.
Piett put his hands behind his back to hide their shaking from Vader. "What happened, just now, with the Millenium Falcon--My Lord, it was not my fault. I gave the orders to have the hyperdrive deactivated. I know my men obeyed. This was confirmed shortly after they arrived on Bespin. A simple explanation would be that the sabotage was discovered and the hyperdrive reactivated. Surely you can see, it was no one's fault. No one deserves punishment." Piett found as he was allowed to speak freely, his confidence and anger were slowly returning. "If you insist on releasing your frustrations by cruelly murdering your officers then let's just be done with it. You won't gain anything from it but some kind of infernal, twisted pleasure."
Vader raised his large black gloved hand and Piett promptly blenched. "I should dispose of you for such impudence but I need you," Vader stated dispassionately. "And you are right. But only partially."
"Forgive me, My Lord, I don't know what possessed me to speak to you in such a manner," Piett hurried apologized, trembling from fear and relief.
Vader nodded, seemingly satisfied. He lowered his hand. "I saw what happened. I have no intentions of executing anyone--for the time being." He sighed somewhat wearily. "I just need time to construct a new plan."
A light blinking on the ship's intercom panel caught the dark lord's eye. Leaning over, he pressed a button and answered the summon. "The emperor, My Lord. He wants an update."
Vader sat frozen for a moment before responding. "I'll take it here. See that the transmission is not interrupted." He rose quickly and stepped out of the meditation chamber, his long black robes billowing behind him as he strode over to the room's large holoprojector. There he kneeled, and waited.
Piett, not sure what to do at this point, moved slowly towards the door. Much to his surprise and dismay, it refused to open. He stood before it in complete trepidation. Finally he tucked himself into a corner, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, and waited.
The disturbing silence in the room was suddenly shattered by a huge hologram of the emperor. "Lord Vader," the emperor's voice boomed in greeting. Vader bowed deeply, submissively.
Piett's eyes widened. He would have never imagined the ominous dark lord submitting to anyone.
"Do you have young Skywalker in custody, my servant?" the emperor continued. Vader sighed at the rather anticipated question. "I've had some difficulty in apprehending him, My Master. He refused to join and attempted suicide."
"Attempted?" the emperor shot back in disgust.
"He was rescued. By his friends. I could not get to him in time," Vader went on to explain.
"You failed to persuade him to become our ally and you also failed to destroy him when he would not. I had confidence in you, what happened?"
Vader straightened somewhat. "He is weakened--both mentally and physically. He will join us, I know."
The emperor nodded slowly. "Do you?"
"I have not failed you yet," Vader persisted. "You will have the boy in time..."
"I want him now, Vader!" the emperor cut in. "Dead or alive. As long as he is a member of the rebel alliance, I am threatened! I want him soon."
Vader took several deep breaths before answering. "Yes Master."
The emperor frowned deeply. "If you fail me again, you will have to face the consequences, do you understand?"
Vader looked up sharply. "What do you mean?"
"Simply, if you cannot fulfill this task, I will replace you with someone who can. Do you understand that?"
Vader lowered his head. "I understand...Master," he added with vexation.
The emperor nodded. "Good." The hologram disappeared.
The dark lord remained kneeling. He slowly raised his head and then cursed angrily. He rose.
Piett stood frozen by the door. He felt grateful he didn't have to contend with the emperor personally. He was ten times more frightening than Vader. At least you could halfway reason with Vader. For a brief moment, Piett understood why the dark lord drove his men the way he did. He himself was just as driven, just as threatened by failure.
Vader returned to his meditation chamber and sat down. He neither moved nor spoke and Piett began to wonder if maybe the Sith had forgotten he was even there. He glanced hopefully at the door then nervously at the dark lord.
Vader suddenly motioned the admiral to him. Piett sprang to life and bowed respectfully.
"Despite what has happened, we are not starting from scratch," Vader began evenly. "Han Solo is being taken to Jabba the Hutt. No doubt, Skywalker will try to retrieve him. We can monitor his movements from there."
Piett nodded. "Yes My Lord." He turned to leave. The door slid open before him. A welcoming invitation for flight, but he paused. "We'll find him. We'll double our efforts," he assured his commander. With that, he hurried out.
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