The idea for this thing appeared out of nowhere in my brain when Kathleen was giggling over the first chapter on Sunday. She then asked me if I was going to do anything else about the Emperor and made a few comments before asking me why I had a silly grin on my face. SoI dedicate this to her!
The shuttle emerged from the flight desk of the Super Star Destroyer, its wings folding smoothing down into place is it hung there, a white dot lost in the shadow of the two huge structures. Then it started to move forwards as the engines came on, propelling it towards the massive half-completed shape of the Second Death Star in its orbit around Endor.
As it moved, massed squadrons of TIE fighters dropped into formation around the shuttle, covering its passage to the space station with cold eyes, watching for any possible threat to the ship and its contents. Nothing could be allowed to threaten it. Not if the pilots wanted to live.
The shuttle slid into the shadow of the Death Star as it approached the equatorial docking port and slowed, its wings folding back up again as it deployed its landing gear, turning slightly to drop into the correct position in the hanger, where hundreds of motionless white figures were standing, along with technicians and fleet security officers in black and grey, as well as other, more consequential, figures.
As the landing ramp opened with a hiss of coolant and started to descend to the floor one of these motionless figures moved. Darth Vader, a menacing figure in black, dropped to one knee and bowed deeply as he felt the presence of his Master.
There was a short pause and then the clack of a cane sounded as a figure dressed in a black that seemed to leach the colour out of everything in the hanger descended from the shuttle, escorted by faceless figures in red armour and capes. The figure stepped off the ramp and walked up to the taller Sith. "Rise, my friend," hissed the Emperor.
"The Death Star will be completed on schedule, my Master," rumbled Vader deferentially.
"Excellent. And know I sense that you wish to resume your search for young Skywalk-" The Emperor broke off suddenly and glared to one side as he stopped dead in his tracks. "Vader."
"Yes, my Master?"
"What," hissed the Sith Lord as he jabbed his cane at a nearby Stormtrooper, "Is that?"
Vader looked in the direction of the cane and sighed silently. A small brown and white bundle of fluff was perched on the Stormtrooper's right shoulder. It was purring.
"According to the scientists it is a tribble, my Master."
"Yes, yes, I know what it is, I read your pathetic report about the problems that you had with them on the Executor. What I want to know is why that Stormtrooper has one in his possession and why you haven't strangled it with its own intestines yet."
Vader fiddled his lightsabre nervously. "They are hard to eradicate, my Master. They also breed at a great rate."
"I don't care about that, I want to know why it isn't dead."
"Blaster bolts tend to scatter their pieces my Master, and as many of them contain offspring, this leads to a larger infestation. We locate them and isolate them from any food." He cleared his throat. "They are also being used as pets and in the interests of morale I thought that-"
The Emperor glowered furiously. "I don't care!" he snapped peevishly, "I've read the reports of people making pets of the wretched things. Stormtroopers are not supposed to have pets! They are supposed to be merciless killers and enforce my rule! Pets do not enter into that! In fact if they have any spare time they are supposed to practice shooting and not spend so much time polishing their armour! People are laughing at them!" He pointed again with his stick. "Stormtrooper!"
The white armoured figure straightened to extreme attention. "My Emperor?"
The stick came down to point at a spot in front of him. "Place that fluffy abomination there. At once!" The Emperor leant on his stick and watched as the Stormtrooper reluctantly placed the tribble on the deck and returned to his place, before the Sith stepped back and raised a finger, around which white-flue tendrils of electricity were sparking. Then the hand came down again as he pondered.
"Right. Let's get this out of the way. I want everyone who possesses one of these wretched things to put it next to that one. Come on! Everyone!"
A low muttering filled the hanger as the assembled Imperial flunkies all looked at each other with some degree of embarrassment. Then a shame-faced technician pulled out a small red tribble from a belt pouch and walked forwards to place it just as reluctantly on the deck. That started off a small deluge. Five minutes later there was a purring cooing mound of tribbles and the Emperor had a first-class glower on his face. "Lord Vader?"
"Yes, my Master?"
Vader sighed. "Yes, my Master," he said, pulling a small black tribble from the pouch hidden behind his cloak and placing it on the ground. Goodbye Fang, he thought. "My Master, it might not be-"
"Silence!" yipped the Emperor as he hobbled his way around the mound. "Great Sith, what is the Empire coming to? Pets! Useless ones at that! Fluffy, cooing things that even the Jedi would have exterminated!" He paused and glared at Vader again. "We," he said icily, "Will have words about this later. You are showing dangerous signs of sentimentality, Vader. I want you to stay up late and think up at least one dangerously implausible scheme of planetary destruction. Torture a few prisoners as well."
He turned back to the mound of tribbles. "Right," he said, rolling up his sleeves, "We'll soon eradicate this lot."
"My Master, their fur-"
"I said be silent! Some evil henchman you are…" He spread his fingers, dark side force lightning arcing between the extended digits and gestured. The lightning struck the mound with a flash, setting off a loud collective chirp of discomfort as the tribbles reacted. Three things happened at that point. The first thing was that the fur on each tribble instantly puffed up in reaction to the electricity. The second thing was that it earthed itself instantly on the metal flooring of the hanger. The third thing was that only one person in the hanger was wearing non-insulated boots.
Vader stared at the smoking shoes that were standing in the spot where the Emperor had been standing. Then he looked up at the top of the shuttle where the smoking figure had landed. A limb occasionally twitched.
Vader couldn't help himself. Something ripped its way out of his chest, buried by years of pain and self-loathing and terrible evil and misery. Vader laughed as he reached down to pick up Fang and stroke the affronted tribble.