Force of Destiny
Chapter 33: Endor! – Part 2
Summary: An accident reveals an old deception, and Darth Vader must make a decision that will change not only his life.
Anakin palmed open the door to his quarters and stopped short.
"Doctor Hanley", he greeted the obnoxious CMO in a flat voice. "What do you want?"
Apparently, Hanley had been waiting for him. Anakin did not dwell on the thought that he could be grateful that the man had not accosted him in the hangar, or demanded his presence in sickbay over the intercom. Hanley seemed to have a talent for getting on his nerves, and he simply did not have the patience to deal with the doctor know.
The subject of his musings crossed his arms in front of his chest in a defensive posture.
"Since you, my Lord, do not deem it necessary to follow my instructions, let alone report to sickbay, I came here to do my job."
Anakin stepped closer until he was towering over Hanley.
"Doctor, I do not like that tone of voice", he growled.
"Get used to it, then", Hanley snapped. "You won't be hearing any other tone from me until you grow up and act responsibly."
The Ex-Sith felt his anger rise. How dare he?
"Doctor Hanley, I do not have the patience to deal with you now. In case you did not notice, this ship is going into battle in a few hours, and I would rather do the "responsible" thing and rest before than. Get out!" he spat.
"After I've had a good look at you. And about that going into battle… I thought we agreed that you take it easy for at least a week."
"You agreed. I did nothing of the kind."
Hanley frowned. "You need to work on your attitude, Milord. I am not going to let you fly a ship in your condition."
Anakin was doing his best to reign in his anger, but he felt himself slipping.
"I suggest you get yourself out of my quarters before I lose my patience completely, Doctor."
Hanley stood his ground.
"No chance. I am still the highest medical authority on board, and until you can convince me otherwise, I am declaring you unfit for duty."
That did it. Anakin grabbed Hanley by the front of his uniform, lifted him off his feet, and threw him right across the room. The physician slammed hard into the wall and crumpled to the ground, unconscious.
"Anakin", Obi-Wan's disembodied voice sounded in his head. "You need to work on your control, my boy. Do not let your anger rule you."
"Master, you have no idea." Anakin prodded Hanley's prone body with his booted foot. "The fool actually got off lightly. Had I not taken action now, he would have hauled me to sickbay and kept me there until the war was over or I died of boredom – whatever came first."
Anakin glanced at the ceiling, half expecting Obi-Wan to appear there.
"He's not a bad physician, but he needs his attitude adjusted."
Stepping over Hanley, he moved to the desk and dialled the bridge.
Piett's narrow face appeared on the screen almost immediately.
"Admiral Piett, Dr. Hanley had an unfortunate accident in my quarters. He needs medical attention."
Seeing the expression on the Admiral's face, the former Sith could easily guess his thoughts even without the help of the Force. He sighed.
"No, Piett, he did not develop a sudden inability to breathe. Just… have someone pick him up. Vader out."
On Endor, the strike team carefully made their way through the woods. So far, they had encountered no Imperial troops. Solo was almost disappointed. With all the supposed security on this moon, getting in had been too easy. But he could not allow himself or his team to be lulled into a false sense of security. The closer they came to the site of the shield generator, the tighter a network of patrols they had to expect.
Not to mention the rescue teams that were bound to be on the lookout for the supposedly crashed shuttle…
Han nearly missed the white flash among the trees; ducking behind a tree himself, he signalled the team to go down. The Correllian peered around the thick trunk. He had not been mistaken. Two Imperial scouts with hover bikes, apparently on their break, blocked their way.
He gestured behind him for the team to take cover. Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, and Jixton silently crept up to his position while the strike team crouched low.
"Alright, kids, do we take them out, or do we go around?" Han asked no-one in particular.
"Taking them out may be dangerous. If they call the base…"
Leia interrupted her brother: "Going around will take too long. We're on a schedule here, remember?"
"Yeah, and we don't know how many more there are." Han ran a hand over his face and came to a decision. "Stay here. Chewie, you come with me."
The Wookiee replied with a low growl and crept silently after his Correllian friend.
Using every bit of cover available, Han Solo silently made his way around the two Imperials and approached them from the other side. Chewie hung back, providing backup should his human friend need it.
Over at the tree Jixton felt the little hairs on his neck stand up. Something was not right here; scouts never came in pairs, without a backup team. He scanned the area until he saw the tip of another hover bike protruding from the greenery. The Corellian elbowed Luke to get the Jedi's attention.
"There's the second team", he breathed, pointing to a 10 o'clock position.
Luke took less than a second to make a decision. "We need to take those out too. Leia, stay here and signal Han. Jixton, come with me."
"Luke, wait!" Leia whispered urgently. "You're not going without me."
But Luke was already crawling on hands and knees towards the two Imperials, with Jixton close on his heels. Leia swallowed a frustrated sigh and readied her blaster.
The alarm's insistent beeping cut into Anakin's slumber. The former Sith Lord groaned and rolled over on his stomach. It felt like he had closed his eyes for only a minute, when in reality, nearly ten hours had passed. He knew he needed to get up now and prepare for the upcoming battle. The fleet was scheduled to follow the Tydirium to the Endor system sixteen hours after the shuttle's departure. However, the knowledge alone did not help him act accordingly, and so he pulled the pillow over his head, trying to shut out the noise.
The alarm clock continued to beep despite Anakin's best efforts to ignore it.
"Anakin." Obi-Wan's disembodied voice sounded overly loud in Anakin's ears.
"Anakin, wake up!"
"'M 'wake", came the mumbled reply.
"I rather doubt that, my Padawan."
"Alright, alright, don't get pushy, old man."
Rolling back over on his back, Anakin threw the covers off and got up. Still grumbling about annoying dead Jedi under his breath, he padded on bare feet into the bathroom.
The second scout team was quickly and quietly taken care off. General Han Solo signalled his strike team, and they set off again towards their destination, the shield generator. Not one of them, not even Wrenga Jixton with all of his experience, noticed the two pairs of eyes that followed the rebels, or heard the whispered conversation between the two Ewok warriors.
Wicket and Paploo crept through the underbrush without so much as moving a fern to alert their prey to their presence, all the while keeping a prudent distance; although young, the two were fully qualified hunters and warriors of their tribe. The Ewoks had no love for humans since the tall folk had come to their home world and erected their strange structures, not caring about the trees they cut down or the birds and wild game that fled before their machines. One Ewok tribe had tried to resist the humans, and many had been killed without mercy. The few survivors spread the tale among the other tribes, and for the first time in their history, the Ewoks faced a common enemy.
These new humans seemed enemies of their enemies, Wicket suggested towards Paploo using the hunter's sign language so they would not be heard. Perhaps they should approach them and form an alliance. Paploo, though, shook his head. 'You are too trusting and naïve', he gestured back. 'Because they fight against the other tall folk does not mean they will not turn on us.'
He thought for a moment. 'We shall continue to follow and watch them. We must learn of their plans before we take action.' 'Then we should alert the tribe', Wicket replied. 'Continue to follow them, while I circle back to our village.'