The lack of decent conversation was deplorable, Major General Maximilian Veers decided. You couldn't argue with your direct subordinates, and though the Army/Navy segregation wasn't as strictly observed in the Lounge as it was in some other places, the current admiral (the Lady Ex was chewing through her admirals faster than most other consumables) was an utter moron, in Veers' – indubitably unqualified – opinion.

The dislike was mutual, though Ozzel had formed his opinion on no further basis than the accident of birth. While he and about half of the other officers in the room felt entitled to their rank by dint of their aristocratic origins, Veers and the rest of the upstarts had risen far above their proper stations thanks to Lord Vader's unhealthy propensity of promoting skill over (family) connections. With a couple of drinks under his belt, the admiral could occasionally be heard lecturing on the topic.

Depending on his mood, the general took the snubs more or less belligerently – and his opinion of the man and his cronies sank lower every time the admiral slunk out of any upfront confrontation.

Tonight he felt less than amiably inclined, when a commotion at the entrance of the Lounge drew his attention.

"Hell, Piett," one of the Navy captains – Chief of Engineering, if Veers remembered correctly – greeted a newcomer, "you look like you could use a drink."

While the so accosted man waved off the offered glass, the general eyed him critically. He had nothing personally against the physically unassuming Captain, whose humble origins made him at least not one of the obnoxious gits, but the man had yet to show any indication of a backbone. True, trapped in the unenviable position of Captain of the Flagship of the Fleets, he had not only the admiral breathing down his neck, as was the lot of every flagship captain, but also the Supreme Commander of the Imperial Forces, which left little room for initiative, but still...

"He's in a mood today," the Captain reported softly, and there was no need to elaborate who He was.

The Chief of Engineering made a face. "Anyone I know?"

"I doubt it. A Commander Goenki, fresh transfer to the bridge. Didn't last a full week."

Veers could make himself heard in the din of a battlefield, if need be, he had no problems with cutting into a conversation halfway across the room. "Goenki? Formerly supervisor of maintenance in Hangars 4 to 12?"

The assorted captains turned at him.

"You know the man?" the engineer asked curiously. Piett looked thoughtful, possibly remembering that Hangars 5 to 9 contained the Titan dropships and their intended cargo.

The general bared teeth in a predatory grin, "Of him, rather." He raised his glass in a mock toast. "Couldn't have hit a more deserving man."

The Navy instantaneously closed ranks.

"Sir," Piett stepped forward, icily polite, "I would ask you to speak of the dead with proper respect!"

Veers kept up the predatory expression. "I do speak of the dead with appropriate respect. The late commander had the lovely habit of sleeping around with any female he could get his hands on – and there are a surprising number of women among the techs, something about the combination of non-combat jobs and the need for fine motor skills, I believe. Now, usually I couldn't care less about what people do on their off time, but Goenki used his rank and position to enforce what he couldn't get voluntarily." A sneer of utter loathing told what the general thought about such practices.

"Recently he tried his luck on a woman who turned out to be not a new technician, but a medic controlling the first-aid stations of the hangars, who had merely donned the overall temporarily, for practical reasons. She told him (a) she wasn't interested; (b) he had no command over her, so his threats were useless; (c) she had patched up enough stormtroopers that the queue of men willing to punch his teeth in for her would wrap around the main hangar twice; and (d) 'that slight pressure you're feeling against your nether regions is a laser scalpel, sir'."

What was now a solid half-circle of mostly Navy officers around the general's seat, squirmed in empathy. Veers knocked back a toast to the spirited medic.

"He beat a hasty retreat – and found himself another unfortunate girl to take out his frustrations on. As luck would have it, said medic found a face she had seen two days before in Hangar 6 in the infirmary, put two and two together and got the girl to talk. Then she went straight to Goenki's superior, or rather, who she thought it to be."

The general shrugged. "It's a common mistake to assume the tech crews assigned to the walker units are part of the same, when they are in fact supplied by the respective stations – which is usually an Army installation, but in this case the ship."

"And you took her serious?" One of Ozzel's favorite cronies sneered down incredulously on the seated commandant of the Executor's walker battalion. "Some jilted ex trying to get the man into trouble, most likely. The hussy..."

Veers put his glass down with such purpose, that the blustering commander fell silent and hastily stepped back.

"When a medic with six years of exceptional service brings me a list of verifiable medical facts, yes, I take her serious. When a solid knot of protective fury, with six years of experience in surgery, tells me that either someone puts a stop to Goenki's activities, or the next time one of his victims ends up in the infirmary, the man will be found in Hangars 4, 5, 6, and so on to 12, I take her serious, too." The general let the mental image sink in, for a moment.

Piett spoke up before he could continue. "And your reaction, sir?" Still polite, still arctically cool.

"I told her I'd pull rank on those troopers, and if I heard of such a thing happening again, those pieces she had mentioned would turn out to be a very thin smear spread across the walker bays. Then I had a brief chat with Commander Goenki, to tell him that I never wanted to hear his name in that context again."

A brief glare at the skeptical commander. "It might interest you that he felt no need to deny anything. Then I reminded him that I am fully qualified to pilot an AT-AT and how awfully heavy those machines are. Next thing I heard, he had put in for a transfer."

And that decision had removed the man from one perceived threat right into the path of an even more deadly one. Quite a number of officers visibly wondered if the general had had a hand in that, too, by way of a strategically placed word in the right... uh, auditory sensor, and drew back. He hadn't, but it was a nice thought that Vader's latest victim might not have been chosen entirely at random.

One of the few officers not to retreat, and indeed the only one to step even closer, Piett gave Veers a measured look. "I see. Nonetheless, I would prefer it, sir, if you would just inform the proper authorities, next time, and let the Navy sort out Navy business."

Veers stood. He was a tall man, broad-shouldered and not shy of using physical dominance to reinforce his authority, but this shrimp of a Navy captain refused to back down, even when loomed over. Given the distinct lack of character the Navy had shown so far in this sordid affair, the general was impressed.

The smaller man went on, "I may not have you qualifications, sir, but my favorite war machine has an infinite reservoir of hard vacuum around – and as the Captain I can induce pretty much anyone aboard to take a hike." Including loud-mouthed generals in charge of my troop contingent, the cold hazel eyes said.

Piett held his eyes unflinchingly until Veers started grinning.

"I will remember that," the general conceded, alluding to both the advice and the fact that he had just been threatened by someone who had neither the rank nor the stature to do so with impunity.

And so he did. It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.


I didn't come up with that title, not really. Canon provides first names that perfectly fit the two guys (and yes, I'm aware that Maximilian translates to a bit more than big, so let's just assume the general prefers to go by 'Max').