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Muddled Lakes

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Luke had never been in Jabba’s palace before. He had certainly seen it from the outside, glaring at the hideous construction that marred the otherwise decent looking landscape. Always hating it for what it symbolized to Tatooine and the people that lived here. He despised the Hutt for his crimes and was more than ready to exact the revenge for the hundreds of gallons of blood that had been spilled in the lonely deserts. To reap what the Hutt has sown in fields soaked with stolen water and the from the misery of millions he controlled.

Vengeance had come to the Hutt. Luke closed his eyes and carefully connected the last piece of explosive before pulled away and leveraging the rope just enough to allow him slack to slide down the wall.

:Leia: He asked, pulling on their connection. :I’ve got the last one in place. Have you gotten the others out.:

Leia’s presence was shaking with a cold rage that reminded him of his father. :I’ve got them ready for transport. The kitchens and the ones in the lower levels. We just don’t have the ones in his throne room.:

:I have the master chip.: Luke told her as he rappelled the last of the way down the wall and landed on the dusty ground with a thump. Just across the hallway was Bib Fortuna, stuffed into a closet with a nasty lump on his head lekku. Luke could have knocked him out with the Force but thought hitting him to be far more just to everyone he’d ever antagonized. :Did you find Han?”

:They told me he’s hanging up in the throne room.: Luke winced as the Princesses voice cooled a few million kelvin. :How long until we meet?:

:Ten minutes. I need to get changed.: Luke began to slip the harness from around his waist and pulled the rope back into the enormous bag he’d carried with him into the Hutts palace. From that he pulled his dark outfit and newly crafted lightsaber. :Where is Chewie?:

:Already loading up the last of them. Poor dears, the Alliance ship is waiting for them.: Luke ducked into a spare bedroom and began to change. At a startled gasp he swung around, halfway through pulling his shirt on to see a green skin twi’lek in a highly revealing outfit standing beside the bed.

“Uh.” She seemed frozen with surprise and stared at him. Her gaze flicked up and down his half-exposed chest and he self-consciously pulled the shirt closer to him without pulling it all the way on. “Hello.”

“You are supposed to be here?” She asked, moving a bit and then subsiding.

:Luke? What’s going on?:

“That depends,” Luke wondered and flushed as she surveyed his body again.

“Are you new to his collection? Lord Jabba does enjoy humanoid flesh even male humans.”

“Really?” His flushed red with rage which the woman seemed to take as shame.

“I am waiting for one of Lord Jabba’s favored hunters. Are you waiting as well?”

“I…which hunter?”

“I do not know.” The woman’s dark eyes flicked down and then toward the bed. Bile rose and Luke considered the likely fate of the twi’lek. “I could be the hunter for all you know.”

“You are too beautiful,” her mouth twitched in a faint, dead smile. “He will not want you near blaster fire and death.”

“Ah.” Luke frowned and yanked his shirt one and then began to assemble his weapons. “What is your name?”

“I am Oola.”

“Oola,” he held out his lightsaber and then his hand. Across the room Oola wouldn’t be able to grasp it but the gesture was symbolic enough. “My name is Luke Skywalker and I’m here to rescue you.” In his head he directed to Leia. :We missed one. We’ll take her out with us.:

Oola’s sad expression did not falter. “What will you do?”

“I’m here to kill Jabba,” Luke said and with a swift motion produced the command chip for the transmitters for every slave in Jabba’s grasp. Finally Oola seemed moved.

“Have you shorted it out?” She demanded and the rebel nodded. “What will you do with it?”

“Destroy it,” he said simply and tossed it into the air. A second later a brilliant green blade came to slide and cut the distasteful piece of technology in half. Oola’s eyes widened and then she straightened and snapped.

“Turn around.”

“Err.” A little surprised he did as she asked and face the way he’d come in. He didn’t sense any animosity from her but heard the twi’lek moving around. :Leia, eta?:

:Five minutes, re-sealing the grate now.:

:Jabba’s a little distracted with celebrating the crash of the galactic stock market.: Luke winced as something behind him crashed. :Did you actually finish your saber?:

:I finished it!: Leia’s voice rounded in his head like a gong. A much nicer gong than his father’s but still loud. :You just haven’t seen it.”

“You may turn around.” Oola decreed and Luke held up a mental hand for Leia to stop. Oola had rid herself of the black gauze mesh and had instead donned the clothes of whichever person inhabited the room. Her shirt was too baggy and large and her pants were several inches too long but the woman was glowing in the force. She sat on the bed long enough to shove her tiny feet into enormous boots that didn’t fit. The laces were done up as tightly as possible and she nodded firmly. “I want a cloak as soon as possible.”

“Uh.” Luke had intended to wear the traditional Jedi cloak that Yoda had had commissioned for him but shrugged and pulled it out of the bag and tossed it the twi’leks direction. “You look like General Syndulla.”

“Who is that?”

“A general in the Rebellion, a green twi’lek.” Luke paused as the woman pulled the cloak around her. “She’s one of the best Starfighter pilots in the galaxy.”

“She is?” Oola vanished in the depths of the cloak and something like contentment settled on her shoulders. “Where are you going now?”

“The throne room. My associates and myself have a little…drama to put on.” Luke said.

“I will go with you.” Oola looked around for a weapon and then accepted the blaster Luke passed her.

“Errr, it’s going to be dangerous. You could die.”

“Then I will die free.” Oola declared and wrapped a last bit of scarf around her face and thus she was effectively rendered genderless and without a species.

“As you wish.” Luke bowed and then hoisted his supply bag onto his shoulder and opened the door. :Leia, we’re on our way.:

:Our way?:

:I brought some help.: Luke moved silently through the palace toward the rendezvous point. :Is everyone out?:

:Out and ready to go as soon as we are.:

:Excellent.: Luke sidled along the last bit of the wall until he came upon the curve and saw his friend crouching there. “Leia.”

“Luke,” she nodded to him and then too Oola. “Are you armed?”

“Yes and I am a good shot.”

“Luke and I have something specific in mind. Are you a decent sniper?”

“I will be.” Oola promised.

“Excellent,” Leia nodded, “When Luke does something stupid start firing into the crowd.”\

“Hey!”

“Take out the bounty hunters first, Luke and I’ll get the rest.”

“Understood.” Oola nodded, “There is a Lords hole I can use. It is the favored place of eavesdroppers.”

“Excellent.” Luke nearly grinned at the truly mercenary glint in Leia’s eyes. “Luke, let’s go.” She grabbed his arm and they walked toward the throne room, heads high.

#$#$

Boba Fett hated visiting Jabba the Hutt. Sure, he’d take contracts from him and sure he’d take his money but he hated visiting the slimy sack of sentient blubber. Whatever room he had waiting for him usually had one of two of the slaves of the palace. Boba was not a particularly principled man and had done more illegal things for money than most Imperial officers did for attention but he really just wasn’t interested in sex or making the women and men feel any worse about their already miserable lives. His default excuse was that he was injured and couldn’t strain himself too much right now.

It worked. Which was why he was sitting in the darkest corner of the throne room pretending to bandage his leg. Also, today he knew he had a special mission ahead of him. If he was busy bedding some unknown slave he knew that he wouldn’t be long for this galaxy. He had a job to do.

Fett paused when Max Rebo stopped playing and the party came to a screeching halt. He grinned and looked up. Standing at the main entrance to the throne room, bristling with weapons and bad intentions were his targets. Leia Organa and Luke Skywalker both wore black clothes and matching scowls.

“Jabba,” Organa glanced to the frozen form of Han Solo and her expression tightened. “I have come for Captain Solo.” The protocol droid beside Jabba blinked and Jabba began to speak.

“The mighty Jabba welcomes such well-known rebels to his humble palace. He expressions his congratulations for disposing of the galactic stock market and the subsequent reins of sanity on the universe. He is willing to bestow his favor upon you both.”

“I am here for my Prince Consort.” Organa’s voice thundered and Fett winced. His dad used to tell him stories of what Princesses and Queens did to protect their consorts.

“His excellency expresses his great and honorable pity for your poor choice in consort.” The droids mechanical voice did not echo nearly as well as Organa’s but the point was being made. “He wishes to remind the young princess of her consort’s previous record with commitment.”

For a moment, the stance that Organa took reminded Boba so strongly of Lord Vader he could nearly imagine her wearing the black armorweave.

“I warn you,” Skywalker’s voice rang out, he seemed much more collected than Organa. Of course it wasn’t his consort hanging up like some post-modern chunk of art. Unless they were both her consorts. Which would be an entertaining idea considering just how different their personalities were. “To not underestimate our power.” The room froze with even deeper dread when they both produced lightsabers. “Free Solo or die, Jabba.”

“His greatness the mighty Jabba may forgive your insolence if you.” The droid shrieked and exploded when a blaster bolt buried itself in its chassis. Bounty hunters and scum dove for cover as blaster bolts began to rain from on high. Fett took the opportunity to dispose a few of his co-workers that were bringing weapons to bare on the Jedi.

Organa’s blade was deep burnished gold that flashed like so many rays of sunlight as she slashed her way through the crowd. Skywalker’s was a more familiar shade of green that deflected bolts with unerring accuracy, sending them back into their owners and his enemies. Person by person the throne room was emptied of the living, replaced by cooling corpses as the criminals fought to overcome the combined power of the rebel Jedi.

Fett would admit it was an impressive sight. One had hadn’t seen since the fall of the Republic when Jedi were abundant and abundantly annoying. He was almost grateful to note that they weren’t just cutting off limbs and leaving the criminal screaming. If they sliced or cut with the blade their opponent was not getting back up. Grimly he picked off IG-88, Max Rebo, the obnoxious guards that couldn’t think at all, and then the last pirate in the group. He was just about to unload a round into Jabba’s face when someone beat him to it. From the alcove above the throne room he was too small to fit into came a volley of deadly fire that took out Jabba’s eyes and then the rest of his face. Skywalker and Organa both grimaced with equal amounts of distaste as the Hutts face began to melt off his body.

He waited patiently until the sniper had vented enough for both Skywalker and Organa to notice him. “So the Jedi are back.” His hands raised beside his head as both lightsabers were pointed at him. “Good job, Skywalker, Organa.”

“Fett.” Her voice was colder than Hoth. She advanced on him. “Haven’t you gloated enough?”

“I’m not here to gloat. I’m here on orders.” Slowly, to show he wasn’t reaching for a weapon he reached into his pocket and produced a chip. Skywalker summoned it from his grasp and frowned at the sight he found.

“Leia, he’s protecting us. Don’t cut him in two please.”

“Protecting?”

“Yes,” Skywalker frowned wryly, “I guess Tang didn’t expect us to manage this without getting ourselves killed.”

“She trusts you,” Fett lied easily, “She wants to make sure her insurance is well-protected.”

“And if we get rid of you?” Organa demanded, no lowering her blade. “You have taken Hutt contracts.”

“If you want to fight me fine but wait until my work is done.” Fett shouldered his weapon and Skywalker smiled.

“We’ll wait. I still haven’t gotten you back for the lovely little parting gift from a few years ago.”

“When the war is done, I’ll fight you both.” Fett agreed, “But I know you’re getting the slaves out of here and getting Solo.” Organa’s blade collapsed into the hilt and she turned from him and focused her attention on the frozen form of her consort. Sensing they were done with him Fett shrugged a last time and made his way through the fallen corpses and toward his ship.

“I should have done this on the bridge of the Death Star.” He heard Organa mutter second before the electronic whine of the carbonite unfreezing was heard. Considering the two had just massacred and entire contingent of slavers, bounty hunters, and murdering scum it wasn’t that hard to see Organa doing just that a few years prior.

#$#$#

Oola had long pitied the man in carbonite that had been hung from in the throne room. Anyone who could anger Jabba enough to be immortalized in that stuff must have been a good being. She watched as Princess Organa caught the man just as he collapsed from his encasement.

“Who’s there.” He gasped, his voice full of the water and fluids that had been trapped in his lungs. “Who’s there?”

Leia Organa pulled the man closer, “Someone who loves you.” She breathed and kissed him soundly. Oola frowned but said nothing and Luke only shrugged at the scene.

“Leai,” Solo said as they finally disengaged after an inconceivably length of time. “What happened? What’s going on? I can’t see.”

“Hibernation sickness,” Leia replied, cradling his head. “We expected this to happen. Don’t worry, we have a medic standing by.”

“What about Jabba?”

“Oola melted his face off.” Luke said proudly and beamed at the woman.

“Who’s Oola?” Han shivered violently, “Who’s here?”

“I am Oola.” Oola declared.

“We need to get out of here.” Skywalker helped pull Solo to his feet. “Talking around would be nice but we’re on a time limit. This place blows in five and a half minutes.”

“You rigged this place to blow?”

“Sure did.” Skywalker grinned and patted his friend. “Oola, do you want to come with us?”

“Where are you taking my people?”

“Just a short way to a safe location just next to the southern hemisphere.” Skywalker replied as they carted Han Solo over a guard. “There’re people waiting with surgery materials, false ID’s and ships to leave and money.”

“I will go there.”

“You’ll have to come on the Falcon with us.” Leia said, “Our other ship has taken off.”

“Very well.” Oola pulled the cloak further around herself as they emerged into the mid-afternoon sunlight. It was hot and airless out here but even this disgusting temperature could not dampen her excitement. There was a beep and a thrill from the right and from behind a boulder rolled a blue and white astromech droid.

“Artoo, great to see you. Is the ship ready to go?” The droid beeped at his master and rolled his photoreceptor at her. “Yes, I know. She’s Oola, she helped us but the we’re running out of time. We need to get clear of the explosion.”

“We’re all going to die.” Solo grumbled and Leia laughed.

“Don’t worry, Luke’s tutors make sure he knew where to place the charges. The place is going to collapse inward not outward.”

“Thanks for ruining the surprise.” Luke said and they made it a far enough distance to duck behind another line of rocks. He fished a holo-cam out of the bag. “Now, for history.”

“What?” Han asked, shaking still but pressing as close as possible to Leia.

“He brought a holo-cam!” Leia glared at Luke who shrugged and shot her a smug grin.

“For history.” He said without looking down at the device as he flicked it on. “Everyone say hi!”

“Go kriff yourself.” Han said. He shook his head violently, “When does that medic get here?”

“Once the debris settles.” Leia kissed his forehead. The blond checked his chrono and then glanced at the twi’lek.

“Do you want to watch?”

“Yes!” She and Luke stood up and leaned over the boulder. He aimed the holo-cam at the palace and nodded at her.

“Just a few more seconds.” He whispered and after a few beats a tremendous blast was heard. It echoed across the wastes of the desert, rolling across the sand and upward. Brick, mortar, and stone mixed with fire and smoke blasted outward at the base. Oola cringed at the noise but made herself watch and listen without filtering the sight out. Just as the base of the last tower went the entire building groaned and began to lean toward the center. Walls buckled, the towers leaned and began to crumble into the dome roof in the middle. All as one the rest of the building shattered under the impact and an enormous cloud of dirt went rising into the bright blue sky. A second later a high-pitched squeal of pain followed the collapse. Eventually tapering off into ringing silence.

Jabba the Hutt’s palace was no more.

Oola stared at the remains and blinked and then buried head in her hands. It was gone. Her pain, her humiliation; the source of it all was gone. Destroyed in a single day by the vengeful who cared.

“Oola?” She didn’t reply, she didn’t have to. Skywalker was respectful of her need for silence and waited until she looked up.

“We will all be free now.” She said, “All of us.”

#$#$#

Gohan, thief, scum and all-around dreadful schemer, was sure that the universe despised her. Anyone who thought working as an assistant to a HoloNet newscaster thought it was a real job needed to be shot. She would normally never tolerate this sort of insult or degradation from anyone. Already, she’d planned his death a thousand times over and was more than ready to strangle him on air with her bare hands the next time he even considered leering at her.

“What’s up next, sweet spark?” The older human with a florid face and several chins inspected his painted face in the mirror and shot her a nasty smile.

“Lord Vader has had several successful meetings with several planetary leaders in the last week.” Gohan chirped and handed the human his mic. His hand snagged hers and it was all the alien could do to not break his wrist.

“Sweet spark, what do I care about Vader?”

“Lord Vader is taking the necessary steps to provide stability in the galaxy in the recent weeks of turmoil.” She quoted cheerfully and passed him the flimsi as well. He was forced to let go of her wrist and she took a moment to examine it. The paint wouldn’t smear except under the most corrosive materials like engine fluid or that man’s sweat.

“What is this shav?” He snorted and rolled his eyes. “Look at this. He’s off doing missions to try and talk to people but what good is that?”

“He’s already arrested Prince Xizor, sir.” Gohan’s fake green eyes widened in polite surprise, “And the trials already underway. He’s the one who’s been directing the ISB agents that didn’t defect to find where the money went. He’s already located the billions of credits that were stolen.”

“I know,” he snapped, “I reported that last night. Don’t tell me you’re turning into one of those idiots who thinks he’s worth anything.”

“I don’t see anyone else trying to help the galaxy as much as he is.” Gohan told the human primly as if she hadn’t been responsible for the entire mess in the first place. “Oh, and Princess Vader is due to arrive on Imperial Center in a month, we’re all very excited.”

“Princess Who?”

“Vader.” Gohan felt wicked and enjoyed every second of it, “He’s adopted a girl, apparently, a smuggler. Or, well, once was a smuggler. I don’t know much, it’s in the report though. I think he did to get other people to adopt as well, that’s what the report said. So there won’t be as many orphans and such to take care of once that new bill gets written.”

“I’ve spent the last few years talking about nothing but rebel scum and holo-flicks and some dumb starlets and maybe a battle. How is it I’m suddenly reporting on statistics, galactic policy, and actualy politics?”

“The blockade along the outer rim by the Admiral and that ISB lady is trouble for everyone, sir. Rations are getting tighter. I heard the outer rim is a mess right now. Hutts trying to fight for power while the Navy and ISB that don’t want to hold onto the Empire are fighting back and everyone else is caught in the cross fire.”

“Huh. Well, I guess times do change. This better than Wnyssa Starflare having a baby.”

“She’s not, sir.” Gohan handed the make-up artist the man’s toupee. “And the statistics about the banking clans is coming in for the evening report.”

“Hmph,” Absorbed in his mostly real news casts the human finally ignored her. “Get me some caf, sweet spark.”

“Sure thing, sir!” Gohan forced herself not to reach for the poison and to keep her face clear of any murderous intentions.

#$#4

“If you resign yourself to death then you will become as laconic and fearful as the men you despise, Anakin.”

“My death will be Luke’s protection. My death will be Leia’s freedom and happiness.” The Sith said, his blue eyes flickered up to look at Qui Gon. “It must be so. When I become one with the Force then I will accept any punishment it may offer me.”

“Anakin, you have.”

“Changed much. I know.” Vader frowned and leaned back in his chair. “My master is likely to notice these schemes.”

“How could he assume that you have been arranging these happenings? There is not enough evidence.”

“He will guess, he will deduce, he will surmise.” Vader said and then closed his eyes. “Then we will all be doomed.”

#$#$

Tang leaned over the clone’s shoulder and peered at the image on his datapad. “How much longer?”

“I’ve got the first few up, sir. Ready to upload, ready to go but this one’s taking longer.”

“Why? The others were fine.”

“I had inspiration before, sir and..” the clone wilted under her stare, “I’ve never drawn Emperor Palpatine as a deadbeat husband sir and trying to draw Lord Vader in…this.” The man blushed and pointed the reference picture of a flowering apron, “This is so wrong.” He groaned.

“This is fine,” Tang ordered, “Look, your art style is not known. Political cartoons mean more to people than you think. Once we drop these on the HoloNet they’re going to be copied, echoed and redrawn in a hundred different styles. Do not worry about getting caught.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about, sir. Lord Vader is to be respected.”

“Bah! Finish this one and we’ll send it off with the others. Prepare to have your work published across the galaxy.”

“All I wanted to do was paint.” He despaired but returned to his datapad as ordered to finish the cartoon.

#$#$

Doora’s face was scrunched up in a confused frown as she read the latest post of her favorite mechanic holo-net site. There was a picture she was looking at but she wasn’t really sure if her eyes were working or not.
“Vat is this?” Black Four asked. His name was Dime and he was partially attached to the bad temper of the Baby Black. “You are frowning. Bebe, why?” His enormous hands came up on either side of her head to smooth the furrow between her brows. Doora leaned back and shoved datapad between them.

“What am I looking at?” She demanded.

“I…” His voice was choked off. “Vaht?”

“Urgh, give it back. I’ll ask someone else.”

“No!” Dima held the device away and stared down at her, shocked.

“I want to know what I’m looking at.” Dima didn’t answer and instead hurried from the common room to search for Colonel Fel. He found the man in conference with Agent Kallus and Admiral Piett.

“Black Four.”

“Sir.” He swallowed his accent the best he could and shoved the datapad at the trio. “Doora discovered this. I..I do not know…” He trailed off and then cringed when the trio caught sight of the particular image displayed.

“Good Gods Man!” Piett exclaimed, “What is this?”

“Baby Black found it, Admiral.” Piett passed the Pad to Fel who went white and handed it off to Kallus. “I do not believe she was looking for it but it popped up.”

“This is highly inappropriate.” Fel muttered, “Admiral, sir. I will be speaking to her.”

“As you should,” Piett said faintly, “I will not tolerate such…such... depravity aboard this vessel.”

“She wanted to know what it was.” Black Four reported and Fel looked tired.

“Just as well, I’m not sure she would be able to identify a political cartoon at her age and given this galaxy.”

The cartoon in question was highly irregular. It depicted a cartoonish Lord Vader whose mask conveyed human expression, to a degree, frantically leaning back against a wall. The wall in question was cracked and broken with streams of water shooting through. They were labeled ‘chaos’, ‘rebels’, ‘defectors’, ‘Hutts,’ and ‘omnicide’. Beside Lord Vader were the recognizable figures of the aliens chosen to write the law protecting orphans and youthful criminals. They were all trying to plaster over the holes and cracks. Off to the side, lounging in a chair with a drink that had tiny umbrella sticking out of it, was Emperor Palpatine.

The artist had written in bold letters over the man the words. “Not doing anything.”

The four men seemed entranced with the horrified fascination of watching a star ship crash into a planet. It was horrifying, terrible, spoke of great repercussions among the general population and totally entertaining.

“Someone should inform Lord Vader.” Kallus said quietly, not moving.

“Indeed.” Piett agreed and he too didn’t move. The Admiral, Colonel, Agent, and Pilot all stared at the sort of art that hadn’t been seen in almost a decade. Down in the right corner was something like a stylized ‘t’.