Title: Who Killed Moff Tarkin?
Keywords: Mystery, murder, Tarkin, Luke, Vader
Timeline: Post ESB
AN: I can't believe that its been two years! I have been rambling through other fandoms but I;m back to star wars now! Will be updating the other fics too soon!
28th DAY OF THE FIFTH MONTH, 19.45 HOURS – CONTROL DECK, SKYHOOK
Luke's first thought as he stared into the vast stretch of empty blackness disrupted only by tiny pinpricks of light was to look harder. Perhaps his subconscious was hoping the planet had simply decided to play hide and seek with him, as the keys for his x-wing were apt to do. After a round of intense scrutiny the keys would inevitably turn up again right under his very nose. However, as he peered intently out of the view screen he could see nothing that even remotely resembled the planet Andaman. He knew exactly what the planet should look like; a swirling green and grey spherical shape had graced the covers of the every single dossier he had been made to read in the last few months. He had leafed through papers on Andaman environmental change, plasma cores and social conventions without much interest but the image of grey clouds swirling above an emerald green planet stuck with him. In his mind's eye, Luke could picture the planet turning slowly on its axis around a small yellow star. He could remember thinking how different Andaman was to the dust ball he had the misfortune of being bought up on. Despite being just as isolated and even further from the centre of the galaxy, Andaman looked like a haven of life and excitement. Its green continents were divided by purple mountain ranges that stretched thousands of kilometers across the vast rolling plains and deep blue oceans sprawled across the surface of the planet, giving rise to a mosaic of blue, green and purple. Now the entire planet had simply vanished into the ether and Luke felt an irrational pang of sadness at the thought of never being able to set foot on Andaman.
"There's gotta be an explanation!" cried Han sounding more desperate than the time he had been caught red handed smuggling spice down an Imperial space lane.
"Well, holy mother of all that is good in this galaxy!" said Wes with awe, "imagine that, a whole planet just gone."
"This is no time for admiration," snapped Hobbie breathless with fright, "what's holding us in orbit!"
"Don't be daft Klivian," interrupted Wedge before Hobbie could begin a rant, "the skyhook was never supposed to be orbiting anything anyway."
"Actually," said Leia calmly, "I don't think that's entirely the case. Do you remember the file we read about the skyhook, Luke?"
Luke tore his eyes away from the small section of space that had suddenly become the centre of attention and looked back at Leia with confusion. He hadn't even bothered to download that particular file as he figured the Rogue pilots would be able to find everything on the skyhook he could ever want and many more things besides.
"The files said that the skyhook had the ability to set its own orbit around any space body as part of its autopilot mode. In fact its manual mode is severely limited. The skyhook was launched on autopilot and hasn't been manually operated at all in its entire history. They described it as state of the art unique Andaman technology that would ensure that even if it came under attack or suffered a similar calamity, the autopilot's artificial intelligence would be able to neutralize the situation and maintain safety on board," explained Leia.
"Well what happens when the power generator is switched off and then back on?" demanded Han, "does the giant clever computer need to reboot? Also if the damn thing is so clever why hasn't it killed us off already? It's what those Andamans want!"
"Because," rumbled Vader silencing Han as effectively as three litres of Corellian brandy, "its primary programming is to protect the internal environment of this vessel. If the princess is correct, there is very little the Andamans can do to modify the skyhook's behavior. Not that it matters now," Vader gestured with one black glove at the transparisteel viewports.
"Yeah I guess, they aren't exactly going to be giving us any trouble," muttered Luke mournfully.
"You are wrong," continued Vader pointing at Luke in a particularly patronizing manner. "The planet cannot disappear overnight, it is quite possible that Andaman has been gone for some time."
"What?" cried Hobbie looking impossibly pale, "but – but I saw it from the view bay on Level 12 just a few days ago."
"View bays are prescribed areas, the view you saw could easily have been faked," replied Admiral Piett with an annoying tone of superiority. "It is most likely that the Andamans moved the skyhook during our stay away from their planet."
"No you idiot!" snapped Han and refused to look even vaguely apologetic about his choice of words, "that's Andaman's sun! There isn't another star like it in this section of the galaxy, and look over there is the gas giant Halo and its moon Portal. We are in the right place, the planet's the one that's gone walk about."
Luke had to take Han at his word considering that he hadn't bothered to learn any of the geography in this sector of the galaxy. He could vaguely remember seeing a gas giant and its large rocky moon hovering to the right of the planet Andaman from the viewing bay on Level 12. Han meanwhile was looking more flustered than Luke had ever seen him. His face had turned a nasty shade of magenta and his brows were knitted together so tightly Chewbacca would have a hard time prying them apart. The said wookiee, meanwhile, was standing apart from the group coolly observing the situation in case he needed to intervene on Han's behalf. Ten years of being Captain Solo's first mate had made Chewbacca a seasoned hand in finishing conflicts - permanently.
"If Vader is right," said Wedge before the Imperial Admiral could interject, "the planet has been missing far longer than we ever expected. This skyhook has precious few viewports as it is and cordoning us off from all but one viewing bay was perfectly simple, none of us would be at all suspicious because we were too wrapped up in the negotiations to care. Those sneaky Andamans!"
"They might not have been Andamans," replied Vader in his rumbling tone.
The suggestion hit Luke like a bombshell and suddenly all his jumbled thoughts fell into place. The Andamans had nothing to gain from destroying the negotiations so the people who had planned all of this were not Andamans at all. The entire set up was one gigantic scam.
"It makes sense," whispered Leia sounding awestruck, "it all makes sense…the abrupt message they sent the Alliance, we debated for months about whether it was genuine. The Andamans have never shown the slightest interest in joining the rest of the galaxy, nor did they really hate the Empire because you lot left them pretty much alone. If the Bothans hadn't informed us that the Empire had received a similar message we would never have ventured out here."
"We would not have agreed to negotiations had the Rebellion simply ignored the message like we intended," replied General Veers in a tone that suggested he knew exactly who to blame for this entire debacle.
"You didn't bother to check if the message was genuine?" asked Han incredulously, "I mean don't you have like an intelligence service that employs more people than the entire population of the Corellian System?"
"We were not able to check the message," snapped Veers angrily, "the Andaman government has been increasingly unresponsive to Imperial overtures."
"Unresponsive as in hostile or simply ignoring you?" inquired Leia without the usual undertone of sarcasm she used when in conversation with Imperials. General Veers lips pressed into two thin bloodless lines as he reluctantly considered how to avoid exposing state secrets whilst giving away enough information to keep the dialogue going.
"They did not respond at all to anything that the Empire sent through the normal communication channels," clarified Admiral Piett, "we assumed at first that they were going to undertake hostilities against neighbouring Imperial space lanes as part of an escalating cycle of isolationist activity but the threat did not materialize."
"What do you mean 'escalating'?" asked Han, "I thought the Andamans didn't attack Imperial convoys, that's our job!"
"The intelligence service have intercepted communications that indicated a deepening distrust towards the Empire for some time but -"
" - they never acted on the sentiment until eight months ago," said Leia finishing Admiral Piett's sentence for him.
"I see the Rebellion has been active in this sector," rumbled Vader almost pensively. The dark lord was no doubt storing that particular bead of information to further his nefarious agenda. Leia neither confirmed nor denied this statement; instead she simply raised one haughty eyebrow and continued on her previous line of thought.
"An Imperial shipping convoy from the neighbouring sector was ambushed in the grey zone just beyond the border with Andaman. You thought it was a pirate attack at first but then further analysis showed that the weaponry used during the assault was unique to the Andaman security forces. This was the first ever government endorsed incursion into the Empire by the Andamans."
Leia looked around for confirmation from the silent Imperials, who were doing a poor job of hiding their surprise and despair at the amount of sensitive data the Rebel princess had obtained.
"It was uncharacteristic but unsurprising," replied Admiral Piett cautiously, "there is no need to give the situation more importance than its due."
"The princess has a point," said Vader curtly, "the Andaman government would not have risked an incursion into Imperial territory and then invited the Empire to a negotiation table within the space of a few months. It may be possible that the real Andamans were already out of the picture by the time we received the negotiation summons. The people we were negotiating with were not Andamans at all."
Luke felt a strange cold shudder slide down his spine and pool in an icy pit somewhere deep in his gut. In his mind's eye images of the various people he had met throughout the luxurious stay onboard the skyhook flashed before his eyes. There had been no disturbances in the force as he entered the skyhook and surrendered all his personal belonging save his father's lightsabre. He had never felt the slightest hint of deception from the uniformed guards that lined all the corridors. They had all been totally and completely hoodwinked from the very beginning. Someone had the power to make an entire inhabited planet disappear from the galaxy and then dupe the Alliance and the Empire into sending their best personnel to a fake negotiation where they had nearly all been killed.
"So this whole thing was sham," grumbled Hobbie bitterly, "I knew it was too good to be true, nothing this good could ever happen to people like us."
"But why?" asked Leia still half lost in her own thoughts.
"Well, maybe those nice clones of the Emperor will be able to tell you, if you get close enough to ask them," said Han sarcastically, "but I'll bet my blaster that his rottenness is involved somehow."
"That is the Emperor of which you speak!" bellowed Veers with a sudden vehemence that almost made Luke jump. He was secretly glad he had managed to control his reflexes this time and prevent another embarrassing episode.
"Han apologizes," snapped Leia impatiently, "but he might be correct, there is an entire lab full of his clones on this skyhook. I hardly believe someone managed to clone the Emperor and set them loose on us without him at least knowing about it."
General Veers glared furiously down at the rebels with pure hatred lining his chiseled features. The man clearly had a pathological love for the Emperor and Han's causal abuse of his idol was not making the already tense relationship between the two sides any better. The mere suggestion that the great Emperor, father of the galaxy, could be in any way associated with a malevolent scheme to destroy his own men was a terrible insult to a man of Veer's devotion.
"Well, if you guys are done quibbling," said Wedge ominously, "I think the skyhook has just picked up an incoming transmission."
The loose group of Imperials and Rebels immediately gathered around the comms console that Wedge was hunched over. Hobbie was positively trembling with a potent mix of excitement and fear. Luke wanted to reach over and place a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder but then thought better of it. A show of sentiment in front of the Imperials would only be interpreted as weakness.
"What does it say?" demanded Han impatiently. He was completely ignorant of how to read the comm controls but he still squinted fiercely at the image flashing on the main display.
"I'm not a comms expert -" began Wedge hesitantly.
"You're the closest thing we have to one," answered Wes, "you're the only idiot who actually bothered to study those communication dossiers -"
"It is not a standard signal," rumbled Vader cutting across everyone's thoughts, "neither Imperial nor Rebel. It was designed to be received by this skyhook."
"How can you tell?" asked Han as he titled his head to an alarming angle just to get a different view of the screen. "Those squiggles look like they might be some sort of writing -"
"Vader's right, the squiggles are Andaman writing, which you would be able to read had you bothered to attend any of the preliminary lectures," said Leia acridly.
"Well what does it translate as?" asked Hobbie, his hands flapping about seeming of their own accord. Leia bent forwards over the screen trying to decipher the constantly changing text as it flashed across the screen.
"Should it even be doing that?" asked Wes as he pointed bluntly at the flickering words, "did we break the console or something?"
"Two brothers descended from Heaven -" said Vader calmly.
"What?" said Luke, incredulously. He vaguely recognized the words as the opening lines of a poem he had been forced to study in school.
"Epimetheus and Prometheus," said Leia sounding suddenly breathless, "It's Plato's Protagoras about how the world came to be."
"Right –" drawled Han bitterly. He was far too pragmatic to respect any message that quoted archaic scripture, "some nut job is broadcasting long rang 'bouncers' across the galaxy."
"No," said Leia, her voice filled with an immediate wonder, "it's a message. Epimetheus was tasked with giving every creature in the galaxy a good trait -"
"But he didn't plan ahead," said Luke catching onto her train of thought, "and when he came to sentient creatures, he ran out of good things to give them."
"So Prometheus sacrificed his immortal life to bring civilization, art and fire to the galaxy," finished Leia.
"How does that even help us?" asked Han, looking completely left out of the loop.
"It helps us because," replied Admiral quietly, "this poem is traditionally broadcasted to signify one's deep regret of leaving one's home world. Civilization is a gift from Prometheus, who sacrificed his eternal soul. When a group is forced to leave this behind for regions unknown, they would traditionally broadcast this poem."
"How does that even work?" demanded Han, throwing up his hands in exasperation. Growing up as a street urchin with no formal education, Han had developed a pathological distaste for lofty intellectual subjects that had no bearing upon his pragmatic view of reality.
"Obviously it signals that the Andamans were forced to leave their planet – perhaps due to some natural calamity and they had the foresight to set up this transmission to any spacefarers who would come into the sector," replied the Admiral.
"Yes but no one ever ventures into Andaman space unless they are suicidal!" snapped Han, "and you can't use a bloody poem to judge what happened to an entire planet. We don't even have a source for the transmission. It could be a bouncer from an Outer Rim advertising agency for all we know."
"It's a lead at least," stated Leia flatly. "The Trade Federation reported hearsay that the Andaman plasma reserves were running low a decade before the Clone Wars and we have no idea how out of date that piece of news was. On the balance of probabilities, I would say the planet vapourized due to over mining of the plasma core. The Andamans must have predicted this would happen and evacuated their planet. As to why they left a message – I think they were trying to warn us."
"Seriously?" muttered Wedge, "What are they psychically able to predict the future now?"
"No," replied Leia with a withering look, "the Andamans must have realized that it would take years, maybe even decades before the rest of the galaxy realized their planet was gone. If any of you had bothered to read the briefing, you would know that due to the Theophilius Nebulae, electromagnetic transmissions in or out of Andaman space are severely restricted. Only the longest wavelengths have a chance of passing through and even then the information may be completely distorted. All our messages came through fragmenting detectors outside Andaman space and the detectors only work one way. The transmission we are receiving cannot have originated from outside the sector. It was left here by the Andamans, weeks or years ago, and there's no way of knowing, but judging from the overall lack of meteors or other debris I would guess the planet's been gone far longer than any of us think, perhaps they have been gone for nearly a century."
AN: Thank you for sticking with me for all this time - a two year hiatus! Please review!