AUTHOR'S NOTE: Star Wars is the property of LucasFilm. You know doubt know this as well as I.

Ardrill Yhuss sat in his chair. Security officer. Third-class. On most ships, this would be nothing impressive, but any position is a coveted one on the Star Destroyer Unity.

No, he mentally corrected himself. Not the Unity. It was now the Star Destroyer Annihilator. There were a lot of names that had changed over the past week. The Republic was now the Empire, the Chancellor was now the Emperor, the Clonetroopers were now Stormtroopers, and every Star Destroyer now had a rather more… menacing name. It was actually quite a bit to keep track of.

But the fundamentals of his job had not changed. Make a sweep of every security channel in his sector every two minutes without fail. A few weeks ago, the chance of an attack by Confederacy ships was in the realm of possibility, but now even that small threat was extinguished. No more war. Let the Empire maintain peace and order for many years to come.

Yhuss made another sweep of the security screens. Still clean. He punched in the code signifying an all-clear and waited for the next sweep. It wasn't hard work, honestly. Just long hours of numbing, repetitive tasks that could never be missed so much as once. It takes hundreds of men to run a Star Destroyer properly, and he was just doing his job.

"Hey, Yhuss!" Yhuss tried not to bristle as a loud, coarse voice intruded on his concentration.

"Yes, sir?" he asked wearily. It was none other than Kib Taggar, security officer second-class. What does a second-class security officer do? He stands around and watches the third-class security officers do all the work.

"Do a good job and I'll regale you with a rumour I've heard." Taggar grinned, his bristling red beard and awful yellow teeth making for a horrible smile indeed.

Taggar, it must be said, was a notorious gossip. Whenever there was the opportunity to make conversation while on the job, he readily provided all the rumours anybody would care to listen to; the lewder, the better. Yhuss continued his work and told himself that it was only a coincidence that Taggar, who outranked him despite being a gossip, a slacker, and an imbecile, had a father who was a high-ranking general in the Clone Wars.

Taggar leaned close to him. "So… what do you think of the funeral?"

"Mm?" Yhuss murmured, trying his best to strike that important balance of paying attention to a superior without the appearance of being distracted from the task on hand.

"The funeral." Taggar repeated, as though it were obvious. "It's all over the holos. The funeral. Senator Amidala."

"Ah." Yhuss allowed himself a nod of recognition. Yes, the funeral of Padmé Amidala had been a top news story for the past several days, and it really said something about the Naboo senator that her death was even considered newsworthy, what with the end of the Clone Wars, the dissolution of the Confederacy, and the creation of the Empire. He supposed that His Excellency being from Naboo had something to do with it.

"Sad." Yhuss muttered. There. The perfect response. Blindingly, stupidly obvious without a shred of insight. The sky is white, the sea is green, and funerals are sad. You see? I agree with you in the most generic, apathetic way. Congratulations. Now leave me alone.

"Sad isn't what I had in mind." Taggar let out a chuckle. "You've seen the pictures? Thought about what every holohost in the Core is so desperately pretending not to notice?"

Yhuss set his jaw. Oh, how he was going to regret following up on this thread. "What's that?"

Taggar laughed. "She was pregnant."

Yhuss wasted an entire second of his life actually pondering this. Now that he thought of it, yes, the Senator was pregnant – her elegant burial gown did little to hide her distended belly. Miss Amidala, so far as he knew, was unmarried, but quite honestly that was her life and he really had no business judging her for whatever she was up to when not addressing the Senate. He did feel a small sting of regret that her child died with her, but… it's a big universe. In the time it takes you to make a cup of root tea, several billion intelligent lifeforms are born somewhere out there. No sense crying over complete strangers.

"That's really too bad." Yhuss remarked at last, all but praying for a dead monitor, a malfunctioning comlink, or anything to break off this increasingly asinine conversation.

Rather than back down, Taggar went for the gold. "Who do you think it was?"

"What do you mean, who?" Yhuss ground out. I don't care, I don't care, I don't care; shut up, shut up, shut up….

"Well, our dear senator was known to be… unattached for most of her career." Taggar grinned lasciviously. "She always was hailed for being 'married to her job', as you know. And now it seems she was seeing someone on the side. Who do you think it was?"

"I can scarcely imagine." Yhuss muttered. Oh, look at that security screen. Such an interesting security screen. I think I'll stare at it all day.

"Well, consider the main suspects." Taggar was really getting into this. "The fugitive General Kenobi was spotted paying her a visit not long ago. Kenobi was always hailed as the great negotiator, wasn't he? Maybe he decided to… make an advantageous political coupling, if you get my meaning."

By this point, Yhuss was grateful for some growing sound that was beginning to drown out Taggar's voice. An even, rhythmic wheezing sound, like a malfunctioning airflow line. Whatever it was, he wasn't going to report it just yet. Anything was preferable to listening to this tripe.

"And then of course there is her old colleague Senator Organa." Taggar continued. "The two of them worked together for years, after all. Could it be that there was some… backroom politics going on? This was the man who banned all weapons from his planet, after all. If he was willing to, let's say, do a few unorthodox things in the name of peace with the young Senator, I wouldn't blame him at all."

That wheezing sound was getting even louder. Yhuss continued his duties as meticulously as he could, but some dread feeling at the base of his spine was indicating if this conversation didn't end here and now, there would be serious trouble.

Maybe there was something to that silly Force thing after all.

"Oh, OH!" Taggar suddenly jumped up and slapped Yhuss hard on the shoulder. "I've got it! Representative Binks!"

The slap and the sheer audacity of the statement actually got a genuine reaction out of Yhuss this time. If an incredulous "WHAT?" counts as a reaction.

"Well, there has to be some reason she kept him around." Taggar was all but giggling at this point. "Wasn't she the one who was going to go down in history for bridging the gap between the Naboo and the Gungans? Maybe she decided to do it in a much more… physical way."

Mental pictures that Yhuss never, ever wanted to envision in a million years went through his head. He slapped his forehead in a vain effort to dislodge them. That wheezing sound was now louder than ever.

"Well, it's a good thing she's dead, then." Taggar crowed. "Can you imagine it? The good senator is rushed to the hospital. Well-wishers the galaxy 'round gather at her bedside. And then, the Naboo-born tramp goes into labour, and out comes… a greasy, slime-tongued Gungling!" He roared with laughter, like a child who felt he had got away with something.

That was it. That was absolutely it. Senior officer or no senior officer, this conversation was over. Yhuss spun around to face Taggar. "Will you…" he snapped, the sentence dying in his throat instantly.

Standing right behind Taggar – right behind him – was Darth Vader.

Man. I mean, you see the guy in the holos, and you think: he's not that big. It's just a trick of perspective. He's probably a lot smaller in real life. But then you see the guy in person and… unbelievable. There were two Clonetroopers… no, Stormtroopers on either side of him, wearing those ugly skull-helmets that Yhuss had never particularly liked.

"Taggar." Yhuss hissed, signalling desperately to his superior. Taggar was currently making an obnoxious wet noise with his lips. Whatever he was allegedly imitating, Yhuss did not want to know.

Finally Taggar, sensing something amiss, turned and saw the towering Sith Lord, standing as still and impassive as a statue. He wiped the drool from his lips. "Ah, Lord Vader." He saluted with perfect precision. "We were just having a discussion. Do you think it's possible that the late Senator Amidala took a little bit of Gungan to the grave with her?"

At this point, Lord Vader spoke. "What is your name?" he asked, his voice about as warm and soft as a chunk of unprocessed cryobsidian.

It took Yhuss a second too long to realize that the Sith Lord was addressing him. "Yhuss, Lord Vader." He finally croaked through his suddenly dry throat. "Ardrill Yhuss. Security officer, third class."

"And a fine worker he is, Lord Vader." Taggar nodded. "Now, about the situation on Fondor…"

"How long have you worked here?" Vader asked. Once again he was addressing Yhuss.

"Since this ship was called the Unity." Yhuss replied, more prompt this time. "Twenty months, plus an additional six months on a local public transport."

"Lord Vader, I apologize for interrupting, but I'd like your opinion on…" Taggar began.

"How long would it take you to learn how to do this man's job?" Vader asked, pointing a gloved finger at Taggar.

"Er…" Yhuss stammered. "All I would need is to know the security codes and receive clearance for a level two. It would take less than a week of training altogether."

"Now wait a minute!" Taggar shouted. "I don't know what this is all about, but you can't…" He suddenly fell silent. His hands went to his throat.

"Have you any objections to taking on this man's duties?" Vader asked. His tone was chillingly businesslike. By this time Taggar was clawing at his own neck, gagging and choking horribly. The sound was almost as bad as his regular conversations.

"N-no sir, Lord Vader." Yhuss replied.

"Good." Vader announced, giving an all-new meaning to the word "good" in the process. The then raised a single, metallic hand and clenched a fist. A sound like somebody stepping on a dry shear-bush echoed through the room as Taggar stumbled, his head lolling on his neck at an unnatural angle before his body buckled and fell to the floor. Vader made a singular gesture to his Stormtroopers, who bent down and dragged the body away with cold efficiency. Almost as though they had actually done this before.

"Congratulations on your promotion, Security Officer Yhuss… second-class." Vader concluded. "I will see to it that you receive your training and new clearance at the start of the next shift."

To that there was really nothing to do but say thank you. And that is exactly what Yhuss did.

With an impressive swirl of his cape, Vader turned to leave. Yhuss steeled himself to not slump into his chair in relief until the Dark Lord of the Sith was well out of sight. This resolve proved wise indeed, as Vader suddenly paused mid-stride. He did not turn back to face the young officer, but his bass voice reached his ears effortlessly.

"May I give you some advice, security officer?" Vader asked.

"Of… of course, my Lord." Yhuss swallowed uneasily.

"I have no objections to you making conversation during the course of your duties." Vader declared. "However, I would advise you to refrain from gossiping about things you know nothing about."

"Noted, Lord Vader." Yhuss nodded. The Dark Lord prepared to continue his exodus when Yhuss suddenly found the courage to speak up. "Do you… begging my Lord's pardon, but do you have any suggestions, sir?"

Without looking back, Lord Vader gave his suggestion. The word sounded odd indeed coming out of Vader's voicebox, but it was a suggestion that Yhuss took to heart. He thanked Lord Vader and watched as he exited the bridge, this time unimpeded.

Ardrill Yhuss sat in his chair. Security officer. Second-class. Later he would no doubt beam with pride over his promotion, but for the moment he felt oddly grateful just to be alive. Making his usual sweep of the various signals and monitors, he found all to be well. Deciding to act on Lord Vader's suggestion, he turned to his fellow officers and smiled conversationally.

"So… how about that podracing?"