Piett's first indication that the day was going to be a strange one was watching his commanding officer stagger and nearly collapse right on the bridge of the Executor.
The crew had been utterly unprepared for the sight of Darth Vader, Scourge of the Rebellion and Right Hand of the Emperor himself gripping a railing as if it were the only thing holding him up, and looked at Piett in growing panic.
Lord Vader blithely ignored them and just stared ahead, mask fixed on a distant point outside the ship. The chill of space somehow seemed to deepen, and Piett felt a strange pressure building in the recycled air. In growing horror, he noticed a series of cracks appearing in the half metre thick transparesteel the viewport was made of, and tentatively moved closer to the Dark Lord.
"Lord Vader." Piett enquired, not wanting to interrupt whatever was happening but slightly less willing for his bridge to be exposed to hard vacuum. "Do you require assistance?"
The black helmeted head snapped up, gaze immediately fixed on Piett who swallowed down the instinctive desire to recoil.
"Bring us out of hyperspace Admiral, we are changing course." He said as he straightened to his full height, voice full of more fury than Piett had heard since the aftermath of the Battle of Hoth. "Skywalker has been captured and tortured by mercenaries and I intend to reclaim him."
Not sure how he could possibly know that but disinclined to question the order, Piett just nodded. "At once milord. Do we have a heading?"
Lord Vader stared out into the black.
"The Voska system. There is a base hidden in an asteroid orbiting the fourth planet. That is where they are holding Skywalker."
Piett saluted. "At once Lord Vader."
Fourteen tense hours in hyperspace later and they'd arrived, and the hidden base was just where Lord Vader had predicted it was.
When Piett had asked Lord Vader if this was indeed the place he'd... seen, the Dark Lord had just continued to stare through the viewport, radiating tension.
"Skywalker is here." He'd growled. "The Force is strong with him."
And so, Piett had joined the landing party to coordinate the mission personally while Lord Vader went on ahead of the stormtroopers to secure Skywalker himself, as he could apparently sense him through the Force. Whatever the mercenaries were expecting, they were no match for the might of the Empire's flagship and an incredibly pissed of Sith Lord.
The fight was over in short time, and before long Piett was following a trail of corpses bearing the characteristic signs of lightsaber wounds to find his superior officer, who for some reason wasn't answering his commlink.
Hearing the rumbling bass of Lord Vader's voice in the next corridor over, Piett came around the corner just in time to see the small, blonde figure of the Rebel pilot they were here to retrieve stand up on his toes and kiss his Lordship right on the mouthpiece of his respirator.
Piett froze, steps slowing and completely unable to process what he was seeing, but still strangely hesitant to interrupt what seemed to be either a very intimate moment, or the fastest way to commit suicide via Sith Lord since Lieutenant Vance had speculated on the reproductive habits of the Inquisitorius while Lord Vader was in earshot.
Evidently it was the former because not only did Lord Vader allow it, but he then proceeded to hold the boy in an undeniably tender embrace, even going so far as to stroke his hair as he nuzzled - nuzzled! - into the gigantic metal chest and said something so softly Piett couldn't quite make it out.
It was only years as an officer in the Imperial Navy, many of those spent serving underneath Lord Vader himself, that let him keep his composure so that only the briefest widening of his eyes made it onto his face. He needn't have bothered really, Lord Vader had yet to even look up from the boy, but he still felt no small amount of pride at the accomplishment.
Knowing the penalty of shirking his duty or showing hesitation outweighed whatever awkwardness this situation might entail, he didn't stop walking until he was ten paces away from the unlikely pair. Once there he proceeded to stand stiffly at attention while facing a nearby bulkhead in an effort to maintain the illusion of privacy.
This close the boy was undoubtedly Luke Skywalker, the elusive Rebel pilot they'd been pursuing doggedly for the last four years for suddenly unclear reasons. He also appeared to be heavily injured. And mostly nude.
Piett coughed into his hand.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw his commanding officer's head snap up, finally registering his presence, though the pilot didn't move and was looking to be falling asleep on his feet with a small smile on his face.
Fully aware that if he were literally any other officer he would likely already be dead, Piett didn't dare so much as flinch.
"The base is secure and the surviving mercenaries have been apprehended milord." He reported, as if this was just another briefing on the bridge and his superior didn't have a barely clothed, barely conscious youth of questionable origin in his arms, and several grotesquely dismembered bodies a few metres away. "What are your orders?"
"Prepare my shuttle and alert medical they will be recieving a patient upon my return to the Executor." The Dark Lord boomed, and Piett absolutely didn't think about how he sounded slightly flustered at being caught in this compromising position.
"Yes milord, at once." He saluted the bulkhead and spun around on his heel, walking away just fast enough to be brisk but not so fast that it seemed like he was fleeing the scene.
Once he turned the corner heading back to the hangar he opened up his commlink and carried out his orders on autopilot, mind whirling.
Just what in the blazes was going on?
Ten minutes later, he was waiting outside Lord Vader's personal shuttle with a squad of stormtroopers and in the process of receiving a report from the Captain, when the Dark Lord swept into the hangar.
It was slightly less dramatic than usual as his trademark black armourweave cape wasn't in it's rightful place on his shoulders, but was instead wrapped around Skywalker's small form. Who was at the moment being carried bridal-style in the Dark Lord's arms, apparently unconscious.
Everyone present snapped a crisp salute and didn't say a word.
"Admiral Piett you will join me on my shuttle back to the ship." He said, stopping at the foot of the ramp. "I want the prisoners transferred back for interrogation and all remaining squads to sweep the base for intel before returning. I want to know exactly who they are and what they were doing with Skywalker."
The trip back to the Executor was silent.
Piett sat ramrod straight, facing dead ahead and mentally composing his mission report in as excruciating detail as he could manage to avoid thinking about what he'd witnessed. Was still witnessing if he was honest with himself.
Lord Vader hadn't taken over the cockpit as he often did, and was instead sitting a few seats down and across from him in the passenger compartment, the still unconscious Skywalker cradled in his arms like a sleeping child. Stars above the boy really was tiny, his petite frame dwarfed by both the voluminous folds of the black cape he was draped in and the hulking figure of the Empire's Supreme Commander who's lap he was currently occupying.
He'd been reading and re-reading the regularly updated dossier on the boy for the better part of 3 years, could tell you the nickname of his preferred astromech (Artoo), his piloting aptitude scores on the regrettably unsubmitted application to the Imperial Academy they'd found in the wreckage of his childhood home (frankly staggering), even his damned shoe size (a modest humanoid standard 9N), but this was the first time it truly sunk in just how young he was.
He had been 19 when he fired the shot that destroyed the Death Star, Piett remembered with a chill. Just 19 years standard and he had killed over a million people in the blink of an eye. How could a boy this small and unassuming possibly be so dangerous?
He realised he was staring about the same time as Lord Vader did.
"Do you have anything further you wish to report Admiral?" He asked cooly, the leather of his gloves creaking as his hands tightened - aggressively? protectively? - around the injured Rebel.
"Not at all milord." Piett replied promptly. "I was just wondering what security measures we should implement for Commander Skywalker. Would you like a cell in the detention area prepared for him after the medics have seen to him?"
"There will be no more cells for Skywalker." Lord Vader snarled, sounding positively offended by the very idea. "After his injuries have been treated he will be moved to the private quarters adjacent to my own. I want them readied for his use and four guards stationed on the entrance at all times but he is not, under any circumstances whatsoever, to be harmed. Do I make myself clear, Admiral?"
Piett nodded crisply, outwardly as composed as ever. "Yes Lord Vader, I shall make the arrangements personally as soon as we return."
Inwardly however, he was finding it increasingly hard to keep his cool.
The luxury suite of rooms next to Lord Vader's own had been a source of much conjecture ever since the Executor had launched. Apparently they'd been built at his Lordship's request at great expense not long prior to the ship's completion, and no one could quite work out why. Lord Vader had never requested anything like it before on any of his flagships, and the engineers had been beside themselves because thanks to the proximity to the bridge they'd had to reroute conduits for several major systems.
If his commanding officer had been literally anyone else in the Empire Piett would have just assumed they were intended for a spouse or even a mistress, but not only was Lord Vader emphatically not the type to have either, in the three years since the Executor's launch they'd never once been used.
Until now apparently.
Had the rooms really been intended for him all along? Just who was Luke Skywalker?