“But I don’t want to go to camp!” Luke said flopping face down on the couch.
“I am not leaving you to spend your school break alone,” Darth Vader intoned, crossing his arms, no doubt trying to signal the end of debate on the subject.
Luke mumbled something into the fabric of the couch cushion.
“I can’t hear you like that.”
Luke raised his head with a tremendous sigh that only a 11 year-old boy could muster. “I said, why can’t I just stay here? This camp will be filled with the same people I see everyday in class. They’re all awful.”
“After the fiasco at the end of the term school pageant, I think you know very well why leaving you unsupervised is not an option. You are lucky that they dare not expel you. And do not think you can come with me on the Executor,” Vader said, cutting Luke off as he opened his mouth to protest further. “I am not rewarding your seditious behavior and the mission I must undertake is no place for you.”
“Miss Schleigh deserved it,” Luke muttered but then brightened and peered over the top of the couch to where Obi-Wan was sitting, nursing his cup of tea, pretending he wasn’t listening to the argument happening right in front of him. “I won’t be unsupervised! I can stay with Obi-Wan!”
“You are not staying with Obi-Wan. How many times must we go through this? Obi-Wan is a dangerous prisoner. He must be kept secure and under guard at all times which makes it impossible for him to look after you.”
Luke sat up and crossed his arms and his legs and glared at his father. “You’re just saying that ‘cause you plan to bring him with you on the Executor and hide him in the closet there!”
“He is not hidden in a closet!” Vader said shaking his finger at his son. “He is under arrest. He is a traitor and a prisoner!”
“We’re in a closet right now!” Luke yelled back, waving his arms at the nicely appointed yet strangely windowless room they were in. “I got in here through the secret door in the back of your closet! You followed me in here through the secret door in the back of your closet. When we’re traveling on the Executor together Obi-Wan’s room is through the secret door in the back of your closet there! Obi-Wan’s lived in your closet my entire life!”
Vader chose to ignore Obi-Wan choking on his tea. “You are not spending your school break with Obi-Wan. You are going to camp. There will be no further discussion on the subject. The matter is closed.” With that, Vader summarily reached out and grabbed his son by the scruff of his neck and with a judicious application of the Force, escorted him from the room.
“This is so unfair!” Luke said with a scowl.
“Life’s unfair,” Vader retorted as he shepherded his son towards the exit.
“Well, if you get to take Obi-Wan on your trip, I’m taking Artoo to camp with me!”
“I am not taking Obi-Wan on a trip!”
“Yu-huh! He’s your best friend. You always take him on your trips!”
“Go pack!” Vader ordered and deposited Luke outside the room and shut the panel door in his son’s face.
He turned around and regarded the Jedi sitting there, trembling. Oh, if only he was trembling in fear, but Vader knew better. Obi-Wan was trying to not laugh. If it wouldn’t scar his son for life, he would kill Obi-Wan right now, but he didn’t want to put Luke through that pain.
So for now, Obi-Wan would live.
(That was the only reason he kept Obi-Wan alive. The only reason. There were no others.)
“You will cease putting your traitorous ideas into my son’s head!” Vader said sharply. “I have no doubt you were the instigator of the disaster at his school pageant.”
Swallowing a laugh, Obi-Wan put down his tea cup. It had painted flowers on it and a gold rim. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Vader. I’m just a prisoner here.”
“Yes, you are, and you would do well not to forget it. You are a traitor to the Empire and a kidnapper! You should count yourself fortunate that I do not simply execute you.”
“I do, I do,” Obi-Wan said agreeably, picking up an old fashion flimsi book, and paging to find where he left off in his reading, refusing to engage Vader. “So . . . when will we be making the transfer up to your ship?” he asked nonchalantly.
After a long moment of silence Vader mumbled, “As soon as Luke is safely off to camp.”
“Well, I’ll see you then,” Obi-Wan said and resumed his reading.
After several moments of silence broken only by Vader’s breathing, Vader left the room, slamming the secret panel door behind him.
“But I don’t want to go to camp!” Leia said yanking the datapad from her mother’s hand. “I’ve spent the entire school year away from you on Alderaan. I love Uncle Bail and Auntie Breha, but can’t I spend the school break here with you, Mom?”
Padme looked up at the dimly lit stone room she was sitting in that was serving as the latest hideout for the Rebel Alliance. “Honey, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Things are … turbulent right now. Perhaps next year.”
Leia said down with a huff on a storage box, heedless of the stains she was getting on the back of her dress. “You say that every year.”
“Well, every year the Emperor's forces go hunting for the Alliance the second the school term ends,” she explained with a sardonic tone. Probably because a certain Supreme Commander of the Imperial Navy doesn’t want to spend time with his own child, she thought to herself angrily.
Her poor boy, her Luke, left alone, neglected, indoctrinated into the Imperial and Sith agenda. It made her blood boil. If Obi-Wan was still alive, she would throttle him for taking Luke away from her, separating the twins when they were mere hours old, and then being stupid enough to get caught by the Empire.
You collapse from inhaling volcanic fumes while trying to help your husband through a psychotic break and everyone thinks they have the right to just take your children from you while you’re unconscious! she thought to herself with a long familiar flare of rage.
“Besides," she continued, focusing on the one child she did have in her life. "If you plan to run for the Imperial Senate then the contacts you will make at this camp will aid you.”
“I don’t want to run for Senate. I hate politics,” Leia announced. “I’ve decided that when I turn fourteen I’m going to run away and join the Rebel Alliance.”
“Oh, really?” Padme said with a laugh. “And you think they’ll accept you into their ranks, do you?”
“They will if they know what’s good for them. I’m going to be an amazing rebel. I’ll prove myself to Rogue One and they’ll be sure to accept me. Auntie Ahsoka and Uncle Rex will train me and we’ll go on death defying missions and take down the Emperor once and for all!”
“I see you’ve put some thought into this which is unfortunate because you are still going to camp.”
“No buts, Leia. You can do so much good in the Senate when you take over for Bail in a few years. The Rebellion needs you there. You leave the fighting to Rogue One and the rest of us rebels. Besides, you'll have fun at camp, I'm sure of it,” she said standing and coming over to press a kiss to her daughter’s forehead and take back her datapad. She saw Leia so infrequently now; she still couldn’t get over how tall her daughter was getting. Holocalls just weren’t the same.
She wondered just how tall Luke was, but then pushed the thought away. Until the Empire was destroyed, Luke was lost to her.
That’s why she needed to stay with the Rebellion and end the Empire. The sooner she did that, the sooner she had a chance to rescue Luke and reunite her broken family.
“I won’t have fun. I’ll go, but I just won’t.”
“Uh-huh. I want lots of comms and messages while you’re gone.”
“I'll send you messages. They’ll be messages of how much I am not having fun at camp.”
“I’ll love getting them either way.”
“No you won’t, because camp is going to suck!”
“I hate Captain Granger. I hate his smarmy wife. I hate privileged, stuck up, pampered, spoiled rich kids,” Imperial Navy Cadet Han Solo grumbled under his breath as he “supervised” the unloading of the baggage of the campers. He was supposed to just stand over the actual laborers (slaves) to make sure they didn’t slack off or damage anything, but since Captain Granger and his wife weren’t there, Han was helping with the unpacking himself.
He hated “slave supervision” duty. It made him feel ill and dirty.
“At least we're getting some fresh air,” Chewbacca said as he lifted a series of massive trunks out of the baggage compartment of the transport shuttle. The Endor Moon wasn’t quite the same as being back at home, but it was still better than the slave quarters back on base or an Imperial labor camp.
“I hate the outdoors too.”
Chewie rolled his eyes and took a few bags out of Han’s hands so he wouldn’t tip over under their combined weight.
“This season is gonna feel like three years and when we get back to base all our plans to steal a ship and escape to the Outer Rim and live as smuggling pirates aren’t going to be worth bantha shit.”
“Then we make new plans,” Chewie said. “At least the work here won’t be too hard.”
There was a growing sound of noise and commotion near the front entrance of the camp. Han could spy several ostentatious personal shuttles landing in the distance.
“Oh, great. Here come all of the precious little campers,” Han groused, unthinkingly throwing down the bag in his hands.
There was a distinct sound of something metal breaking from inside the sticker covered suitcase.
“Aw, hell!” he moaned.
Mara Jade was honored to be chosen for this mission.
That was the truth. She was honored.
She was honored to be going to camp at the Emperor’s behest. Her Master had chosen her personally out of all the other potential Inquisitorial trainees for this mission. If she succeeded she would become his Hand, she was sure of it.
So she was honored. She didn’t hate camp at all.
She just hated A’Man’Daa Buckman, the only daughter of Grand Moff Buckman. She hated that blond, twittering, self absorbed, useless girl. She hated that her cover on this assignment was to be A’Man’Daa’s servant, her lady-in-waiting.
Mara looked around the opulent shuttle. Most of the other campers also brought one servant with them as well, though they were all non-humans. Mara was the only human servant. And that little fact was something A’Man’Daa wasn’t letting anyone forget.
“–And so I told my father that if I was going to camp I needed a complete new wardrobe and a servant who wasn’t non-human. You know how they are! Those aliens are all so weird. I don’t see how you tolerate having it following behind you, Yvonne.”
Yvonne looked over at the young Twi’lek female standing by her seat holding a serving tray carrying several glasses of liquid refreshment. “You’re so right A’Man’Daa. This one can’t get the slightest thing right. And they’re all like that. When I get home, I’ll get my father to get me a human servant too. I mean, just last week do you know what Numa did? She–”
Mara looked at the Twi’Lek, Numa, from where she stood holding her own tray next to A’Man’Daa's seat. Was that how she looked?
Numa caught her eye and while the expression on her face did not shift one iota, Mara could see she was laughing at Mara. It was as if Numa was saying See? You think you’re so special and above me because you’re human and I’m not? You humans enslave each other! You’re no better than me.
No, that wasn’t true. She was going to be the Emperor’s Hand. This was an honor! An honor! She was here at the Emperor’s behest to keep an eye on Luke, the Force sensitive brat Darth Vader had adopted instead of sending him to the Inquisitorial program for some inexplicable reason.
The Emperor was right to send her on this mission. Vader was obviously dangerous to the Emperor. He was planning a coup of some sort and his Force sensitive so-called "son" was just the start. Why else would Vader keep around some orphan boy and claim him as his son? (As if anyone would have had a child with that sorry excuse for a Sith!) The recent incident at Luke’s school was just the beginning. She had to keep an eye on him. There was a reason Vader had sent Luke to camp and it was up to her to figure it out and report back to the Emperor.
Of course with her luck she ended up on the wrong transport shuttle. Luke was nowhere to be seen.
“Well, at least I have a servant,” Yvonne said, tossing her hair. “Some people only have droids,” she said and then she and A’Man’Daa turned to look to the back of the shuttle where two other passengers sat silent and sullen, flanked by their respective droids rather than by organic servants. Yvonne and A’Man’Daa both started laughing derisively.
“Who the kriff asked you, Buckman?” one of the girls yelled back. “Just ignore them, KayToo.”
The towering Imperial droid peered down at the girl who sat sulking next to him. “Ignore who? What are you talking about?”
And there was the other part of her assignment, Mara thought to herself. Jyn Erso, the daughter of Imperial Weapons Scientist, Galen Erso. She was insurance on her father’s good behavior and she’d already run away three times. The last time she ran, the Empire thought her lost for good. Luckily, some random glitchy Imperial droid found her totally by accident and brought her back into Imperial custody and care before she could get to the Rebel Alliance. The droid was now assigned to work as her jailer more than her servant and managed to keep her mostly in line.
Nevertheless, Mara would be keeping an eye on Erso. The Empire couldn’t have her running off and her father stopping his research for the umpteenth time in protest just because his daughter kept fancying herself some sort of rebel.
“Well, really! Such language,” the other droid huffed fussily. “Princess Leia, may I fetch you a beverage?”
“No, thank you, Threepio,” his charge said through gritted teeth, not raising her head from her datapad.
Mara swallowed a sigh. Two months of being around these people was not going to be pleasant but for her Master she would see it done.
“Girl? GIRL!” Someone hit her on the thigh. Mara’s head snapped around and she had to stop herself from killing whoever had just attacked her. A’Man’Daa looked up at her with a sneer. “Girl, pay attention and hand me my drink!”
Two months of this.
Mara had a feeling that honor or no, camp was going to be hell.