“–crush the Rebellion with one swift stroke.”
Tarkin’s flinty stare bored holes into the conference room walls. The room was silent except for Admiral Motti’s hushed, panicked wheezing as he attempted to refill his lungs with oxygen. Vader smiled behind his respirator: Motti had slithered his way through the Imperial’s Navy’s ranks, eventually becoming Chief. The Admiral’s ambition and arrogance generally served him well, and even the Emperor spoke highly of him. But in this particular moment, he’d been reduced to a Force-choked mouse, terrified of breathing too loudly.
To Vader’s scratched corneas, this temporary, timid version of Motti looked like an improvement.
The Sith Lord turned on his heel and strode for the door, his durasteel boots crunching faintly with every step. Tarkin followed until they stood alone in the corridor, save a handful of droids performing menial repairs at the opposite end of the hall.
“I suspect Motti will display more appropriate behavior from now on,” Tarkin muttered, not attempting to conceal his budding grin. “I believe we’re finished here. Shall we reconvene outside the Princess’s cell, Lord Vader?” The man believed in time management so fervently that even his speech was clipped and measured. “Ten minutes, perhaps?”
“Twenty,” Vader growled. “An urgent matter requires my attention.”
“A matter more pressing than locating the Rebel base?” The commander’s lower lip curled. “My friend, surely your other obligations can–“
“I am well aware of my responsibilities, Grand Moff.”
Silence dripped between them; neither dropped their gaze. “Very well,” Tarkin conceded. “Conduct your business. You will bring the IT-O?”
“Of course.” Vader waited a moment. “But I would remind you again, Tarkin, that this attempt will prove futile. An interrogation droid is not sufficient. Organa’s loyalty to the Rebellion is firm.”
Tarkin huffed ineloquently and the two men departed. Vader stomped with vigor until he reached his quarters. The door whooshed open and he inhaled sharply. The air crackled through his lungs and spit out through his mask as scrambled sound strips.
“I…I was advised of your arrival,” he said to the figure occupying his swivel chair. “You know that I appreciate your company, but…you see, my presence is required downstairs.” The former Jedi winced at hearing his rumbling, ominous monotone be replaced with a nervous squeak. “My Master…he has entrusted me with certain–“
“Hold it! Just need a quick sip from my caring cup!” Penelope Skywalker lifted her turquoise coffee mug–featuring a cartoon owl and the words I REFUSE TO HAVE A BATTLE OF WITS WITH AN UNARMED PERSON–and pretended to drink deeply. “Now, where DID I place that extra sip?” She beamed at her fright-stricken nephew. Penelope stood approximately five feet tall, wore parachute pants with an extremely loud knee-length coat, and Darth Vader feared her as he feared no other force in the galaxy. “Sorry, Annie! I seem to be fresh out of caring today.”
“Please do not call me ‘Annie,’ ” Vader begged. “I am the right hand of the Emperor. I have a princess to torture and the Rebellion to squash, and–“
“Yes, yes, you’re extremely important, honey. Is your fleet under attack?”
“Well…no.” The Sith Lord frowned. “But the rebel scum grow bolder with each passing day, and their leader is a prisoner on this battle station! We must move quickly.”
Penelope swung her legs around and planted her Day-Glo orange sneakers in the center of her nephew’s desk, knocking Vader’s daily inspirational quote calendar aside. “You know she’s gonna lie.”
“I…advised Grand Moff Tarkin that Leia Organa has no incentive to cooperate.”
“Grand what?” She wore a puzzled expression for a second, then brightened. “Ol’ Stick-In-The-Mud! Annie, didn’t I reach you anything? When your boss barks up the wrong TIE fighter, you waltz up to his grill and you say ‘Tarky, all I know is that one of us is right, and the other one is you.’ He’ll need a team of surgical droids to soothe that burn!”
“Tarkin is not my boss!”, Vader shouted–or at least, he attempted to.
“Don’t mumble, dear!”
“I am his superior officer, Auntie! But he is the Death Star’s commander, and while I remain here, I defer to him as a matter of professional courtesy!”
“MmmHMMM.” Penelope waved her outstretched palm in front of Vader’s mask. Three glitter-caked bracelets jangled on her wrist. “Basically, you’re sleeping over at a friend’s house and you’re eating their mom’s terrible meatloaf. Shmi worked tirelessly to teach you about manners–she’d be so proud of her little space wizard!”
“You know I dated Wilhuff Tarkin once? Exceedingly boring man. Where are you meeting him? I’ll straighten him out!”
“What? NO!” Vader stepped back, nearly tripping on his black, flowing cape. It occasionally scraped the floor; he’d been postponing a visitor to the Imperial Tailor for weeks. “I am more than capable of handling my own affairs,” he pleaded. “And Tarkin aside, my Master has tasked me with uncovering the location of the Rebel base! If he learns that I failed to pursue every possible–“
“Sidious? That codger in the grey pajamas?” The elder Skywalker rolled her eyes. “You’re building his empire, working around the clock. Why can’t HE show up to work occasionally? Look, sweetie, sometimes you’ve got to throw your shiniest tiara on and remind the haters that YOU are the life of this party.”
“I…I cannot…what?” Behind his mask, Vader’s skin had reddened to a deep crimson.
“Boo-Boo, all this stress is severely affecting your chi!” Penelope bounced over to the coffee table, and Vader finally noticed the two bulky titanium cases shoved underneath. His aunt grabbed the handles and pulled the cases towards her. The Force snarled within him as his knees buckled. He was very familiar with what lived inside.
“Please, Auntie,” Vader whispered. His mask’s microphone strained to pick up the words. “Anything but that.”
“Why do you think I’m here, Annie? People talk, you know. That assistant manager who’s got a crush on me? The one who always sneaks in an extra doughnut? I’ve told you about him. Well, his brother’s boyfriend plays tennis with a dogwalker who used to bake snickerdoodles for a dorky kid who works in your mailroom now, and last week, he said that you never leave the office.” Penelope leaned in closer, her voice a frantic whisper. “And his ex, Tami–you remember Tami–she heard that you’ve been whining at the staff, and…well…some of the stormtroopers think you’re a bit…basic.”
“BASIC? But…what does…I don’t even know what that means!”
“See? SO uptight. You’ve been thrown off your game! But your Auntie Penelope has got this.” Penelope set one of the cases down in front of her nephew and placed the other on top of the coffee table. She unlocked the latches and lifted the case’s lid to reveal a glistening, candy-apple red Roland FR-8X accordion.
“We’ll smooth those rough spots out through song, babe!”, Penelope crowed. “It’s time for your ACCORDION LESSON!”
I had somehow convinced myself that I wouldn’t need to spend too much time on research here. C’mon…it’s Episode IV!
That assumption turned out to NOT be correct.
Story is based on this tweet, which came to my attention through @gingerblivet.