He was right. School was interesting, even if it had thus far been information he already knew. He was beginning to think that maybe he should have fudged his information so that he could enroll in higher education courses, but he took pleasure in showing off his vast superior knowledge whenever the occasion called for it.

And yet, he wasn't the only star pupil in his courses.

Luke Lars. The boy with the haunting profile picture. Intro to Computers was not his only class with him-they also shared Analytical Physics and Chemistry. He'd often stare at the profile picture throughout the video instruction, wondering where he'd seen that face before. The boy was young and eager, and frequently participated in lessons, so the picture showed up a lot.

If he was honest, the boy's responses were...more than adequate. His questions, when he had them, didn't make him want to stab his eyes out from stupidity. His only real annoyance was how kind he was. Whenever Vader would respond in class, everyone else in the chat went silent. Likely because they were in awe over his sheer intellect. But Luke...he always responded.

Luke Lars: I completely agree with Firmus, the first and most important part of protecting against chemical erosion is…

Luke Lars: Wow I never thought about it that way. That's really cool! Could you explain more about…

Luke Lars: I always enjoy your comments, Firmus!

It was insufferable. Vader was certain he was going to drown from the sheer amount of boundless enthusiasm. It was a good thing he hadn't joined the navy, because if he'd ever run into him, he would have been strangled in under sixty seconds.

But...at least he was competent. And offered a challenge.

About two weeks after courses started, the first major challenge occured. And of course, it came from Professor Straton's class.

Professor Straton: I am assigning everyone a group project. Your objective will be to create a basic computer schematic for a landspeeder.

Vader scowled and immediately pressed the "Raise Hand" button

Professor Straton: Yes, Firmus?

Firmus Piett: I can create such a schematic in my sleep. I do not require assistance from inexperienced younglings.

There was a long silence, and he watched the typing bubble from Professor Straton start and stop again multiple times. Finally, he responded as Vader dreaded he would.

Professor Straton: I understand, but this assignment does not just grade you on your ability to create a perfect schematic. It also tests your ability to work with others. Perhaps you, and maybe other fully capable, experienced members of the class, can use this as a teaching experience for those who need more assistance.

Vader scowled at the screen. It was a very good thing the professor wasn't anywhere near choking distance.

The professor continued to explain the assignment, then released them to pick their group mates. Vader took his time pulling up the official hand out, reading over the instructions as he waited for the lesser peons to start flooding his inbox with requests for help. Surely everyone knew he was the ideal group mate. Hell, he'd even offer to do the whole schematic for them. They could spend their free time doing...whatever it was college students did.

But, while he sat there, no requests came in.

Perhaps they were intimidated and didn't want to ask while he still showed as online. Figuring that was the issue, he logged off and went back to his normal duties for the day.

And yet, when he returned, there were no messages.

He frowned at the screen. Maybe he needed to be the one to ask? But no-he recoiled at the thought. He was Darth Vader. He didn't ask for permission to join anything.

But...he also didn't want to fail over something so stupid.

He pulled up the class registry and reviewed his classmates. His gaze, as usual, instantly fell on Luke Lars, but the thought of having to deal with his enthusiasm outside of class for an entire week sounded... exhausting. He might decide by the end of it to hunt the boy down and kill him.

So instead he chose a few other classmates who seemed competent enough not to get in his way and sent them private messages before closing down for the night.

But the next day, he either received no response, or responses that they were already in a full group.

Immediately he clenched his fists as a wave of rage slammed into him, and he was about to give them a piece of his mind, when a new message popped up in his inbox.

From Luke Lars.

He hesitated. Could it be? Could he be…?

He clicked on it. Sure enough, he was greeted with the message:

Luke Lars: Hi Firmus! I don't have a group yet. It seems everyone is full. I was wondering if you'd like to be my partner? Professor Straton says it would be okay if we had a group of two.

Of course he'd ask to be partners.

Firmus Piett: The other groups are full? Are you certain?

If the boy was offended that he did not immediately say yes, he didn't show it.

Luke Lars: Yeah, unfortunately. :( But hey! This gives us a chance to get to know one another better! Maybe we could be friends?

Vader stared, trying to comprehend.

Friends?

No one...no one had asked him such a silly, childish question in...he didn't know how long. Even as a Jedi, no one had flat out asked him to be friends.

Firmus Piett: How old are you?

Luke Lars: Well. Age is just a number. But I'm eighteen.

Eighteen. His profile picture looked much younger.

Firmus Piett: Was your profile picture taken a few years ago?

Luke Lars: No, it was just before I left the farm. Why?

Stars, the boy was...youthful. In every single way. He ignored the question.

Firmus Piett: You said you worked on speeders before. Have you created a schematic from scratch?

If they were to be partners, then he'd like to at least know the intelligence of the boy.

Luke Lars: I've built them from scratch, but I've never actually put it down in a schematic. It's all been in my head.

He...could respect that. He rarely used schematics himself. Besides, it wasn't like anyone expected him to produce such things.

Firmus Piett: Fine. We shall work together. But do not fail me.

Naturally, the boy didn't notice the threat in the last line.

Luke Lars: Great! I'll voice call you tomorrow after class. Does that sound good?

Suddenly, Vader felt like he'd been doused with ice water.

Firmus Piett: Voice call? Can't we communicate this way?

Luke Lars: Well...it would be easier and faster to talk it over, wouldn't it?

He...was right. It would be far more efficient...but the deep voice of his mask was famous. He'd be recognized, or close to it. He could always take the call in his meditation pod, but his voice without the modulator was too weak to be easily picked up, and it was embarrassing anyway. There was no way in hell he could do it…

Unless…

Firmus Piett: That is acceptable. I will speak to you immediately after class. Do not be late.

Luke seemed the type to be late, so he figured that was a reasonable request.

Luke Lars: Sure thing!

Vader signed off, and immediately looked up the contact info for a certain captain who would fit the role of Firmus Piett perfectly.


"Maybe you should file a complaint with the Board of Special Investigations." Veers suggested when Piett finished explaining why he'd received introduction pamphlets to a university he clearly did not attend.

Piett gave him a look. "You want me to file a complaint against Darth Vader?"

Veers winced. "Forget I said anything."

Piett sighed and tossed the reading material into the waste bin. He wasn't supposed to tell anyone, but he trusted Veers. Vader himself trusted Veers as much as he probably could. "It's weird for sure, but it's not like it's doing anything. I just get annoying handouts."

"You're right. I mean it's not like Vader's stealing your identity to commit crimes or borrow insane amounts of money under your name."

Piett winced. Stolen identity. If someone told him a month ago that he'd have his identity stolen by not only his commanding officer, but the man who was second only to the Emperor...he would have laughed.

But it had happened, and now he was getting a plethora of junk mail.

"If I had to have my identity stolen, I would rather Vader be the one to do it." Stars, it was weird to say those words aloud. "It is an honor to serve My Lord."

"Hm. Well. As long as you're okay with it."

It didn't matter. They both knew that. But...it could be worse.

His comm chimed. "Ah. I have to take this." He said, leaving the common room to go to his bunk room where he answered the call. "Captain Firmus Piett speaking. How may I…?" He stopped dead as the image of Darth Vader appeared in his hand. For a brief, terrifying moment, he wondered if Vader already knew he'd told Veers about the school thing. "Lord Vader...how may I be of service?"

Had his voice pitched a higher octave?

"Captain Piett." Vader's deep voice intoned. "Are you alone?"

His stomach dropped. He didn't think Darth Vader asking if he was alone was necessarily a good thing.

"Yes, My Lord." It was a miracle he sounded so calm. He was anything but...but you didn't live as long as he had on the Devastator by not having a calm facade at all times.

"Good." Vader squared his shoulders. "I have need of your voice."

Piett blinked. "My...voice, My Lord?"

"Yes. It appears that this school thing is more involved than I thought. I need you to pretend to be me for a series of conference calls this week for a project."

He'd assured him the only thing he'd get was mail...he'd said nothing about pretending to be the Dark Lord himself.

"I...was not particularly gifted in engineering enough to pass-"

"I am aware of that, captain." Vader cut him off. "I will feed you what you should say through an earpiece. I would not dream of leaving such an important project in anyone else's hands."

Piett swallowed thickly.

None of his training had remotely prepared him for this.

"It...would be an honor to serve you, My Lord." He said. Because what else could he say? He couldn't say no to the second most powerful man in the Empire. And though he knew the dangers of serving under him when he'd accepted the position, he did still have a family to worry about. He had to try to live, and how hard could this be?

Little did he know, his troubles with the Dark Lord were only just beginning.


And another chapter up! These are definitely shorter chapters than my normal length, but it's a crack story, so the flow is a bit different than what I usually do.
Thank you all!
Love,
LadyVader23