Shuttle IN-552

In Transit to Naboo

"Helm, what is our ETA?"

Commanding VIP shuttles was not what Senior Lieutenant Firmus Piett expected for his naval career. When he was seventeen, his homeworld Axxila was annexed by the Separatists, forcing him as his family to flee. He spent the majority of the Clone Wars trying to find any way to join the war for the Republic. By the time he completed his accelerated training, the largest war in galactic history was over.

Fortunately, the new Empire had a need for troops. He returned to study, properly preparing for a naval career. Despite the setbacks of being from the Outer Rim, he nevertheless was distinguishing himself within his home sector, making it the safest in the galaxy. It was enough for him to be transferred to the Imperial Navy proper.

Despite the lack of glory for transporting VIPs, it was still a welcome change of pace. It gave him practice for command, seeing the tiny cockpit as that of a Star Destroyer. In addition, it allowed him to meet and make connections with some of the galaxy's elite. He met one of his personal heroes, Commander Lorth Needa, who promised to pass on recommendations. Despite his distain for Neimoidians, Lott Dod of Imperial Shipping (formerly the Trade Federation) impressed him with his knowledge of the internal workings of the Ruling Council. In addition, Chairman Dod told Piett that he had never seen a faster route on a shuttle.

The helmsman checked his console through his flight suit. "Sector Traffic Command reported heavy activity along Duros, it will likely be an extra hour."

Lieutenant Piett sighed, putting down the book he was reading. "I suppose we must make the most of it." He turned to his navigator, Ensign Gherant. "Notify the cook to prepare dinner for our guest."

"Yes, sir. I'm sure he still has some gumfish in refrigeration." The Ensign caught a glimpse of the book in his Lieutenant's hands. "The Application of Terror in a Modern Galaxy, by Wiluff Tarkin?"

"It's important to keep track of threats, Ensign. If Governor Tarkin had his way, the entire fleet would be out of a job. His proposal is for damned superweapons maintaining fear throughout the galaxy."

"Well, thank the gods he's only a governor. I'm sure Lord Vader will keep him in line."

Lord Vader. Even when he was not present, that name still sent a still down the spines of rising officers. Their Supreme Commander was rumored to have personally killed one or two flag officers whom he disapproved of. Of course, that did have a way of weeding out the incompetence.

"We can hope so, Ensign."

His console beeped. "Lieutenant, it's the cook. The Senator's dinner is ready."

"Thank you, Chef. I'll deliver it personally."

Carrying a tray covered in fish and sauces, Piett approached the passenger cabin. The Sentinel-class was meant as a troop dropship, but its larger size allowed it to be configured as a VIP shuttle. Not too many luxuries, but it was fast and comfortable.

The stormtrooper guards stood at attention as he knocked on the door. "Senator Binks, I have your dinner."

There was no reply. That was to be expected. Rumors and gossip on the HoloNet were that he had become completely withdrawn from galactic society, only they were more than rumors to those who knew where to listen. He rarely made appearances during rallies any more, rarely promoting his bestselling books of poetry, rarely accepting audiences with the Emperor himself. Now, with his retirement from public office, many noted this as a complete retreat from society.

As he opened the door, Piett noticed the cabin was filled with stacks of papers. The Senator was seated at the desk, his head sunk as he stared at one of those stacks. "Thank you," the Gungan said in what Piett mentally translated into Basic.

"I'm afraid we're going to be delayed at returning to your homeworld. But, we will be there by morning." He remembered the holo-newsreels from when the war started. Jar Jar Binks was the one who proposed the enactment of emergency powers. In a way, he was one of the fathers of the Empire. Now, he was a wreck of a being.

"Have you been to Naboo, Lieutenant?" the Gungan asked.

"Twice. My girlfriend is from Naboo. We've walked along the rivers in Theed."

"My world has changed."

Not knowing what to make of this sudden declaration, Piett merely nodded. "It has been known to happen, Senator."

"The galaxy will never forgive me…"

"Sir, what you did helped the galaxy. You've helped the establishment of peace and order…"

"At the cost of millions of lives," the Gungan replied. "One madman's vision to destroy the galaxy, no matter who or what stands in his way…"

Soon, it became clear to the officer that Jar Jar Binks had suffered mentally. It was no wonder to him that the Senator was no longer himself. Not wanting to spend another moment in the cabin, Piett placed the tray on the bed. "You might want to eat before your dinner gets cold."

"They're the same man, you know." This piked Piett's interest enough for him to linger a moment.

"Who are the same man?"

"Anakin Skywalker, and Darth Vader."

He's nuts, Piett thought. With that, he closed the door to the cabin.