Willow clutched her toolkit as she walked onto the massive bridge section of the Executer. A massive bridge section for a massive 19000 meters long ship with a massive crew compliment numbering in the hundreds of thousands, massive amounts of support craft, massive amounts of weaponry, massive shielding, massive engines, massive power core... everything was massive about this ship.
It just made Willow feel so tiny...
Being a member of the elite tech-crew assigned to the bridge section, Willow could enter the bridge whenever she pleased. All around her, Imperial officers were slaving over consoles and generally buzzing around while she could see the swirling colored hyperspace tunnel beyond the ship's viewports, the ship's front being 19000 meters away.
She grinned inwardly as she imagined the Emperor standing at the very front tip of the ship, proclaiming himself King of the Galaxy. But Willow quickly suppressed those thoughts, seeing they could get her executed.
Willow had a mission to perform. Officially, she'd be tinkering in one of the pits, trying to track down a problem with the starboard computer access terminal. Unofficially, however, she'd be downloading several personal and very classified files on a datacrystal. A datacrystal intended for her contact in the Rebellion.
That's, right, Willow thought as she climbed down into the pit near the observation post. You just going on doin' what you always do. Don't mind tiny little Willow. She doesn't exist. She lifted the access panel from the side and started to pretend to be working on the delicate circuitboards inside. Every so often, Willow checked over her shoulder to look if she was being watched, only to find that everybody was watching everything else except her.
Finally, she saw her chance. She slipped the datacrystal into the read/write port and keyed in the files she wanted to download to it. Immediately, a red bar on the small viewscreen started to show the download process.
This was when Willow started to get nervous. She blocked the viewscreen with her body by hunching against it as well as she could, but still... She knew that if she were spotted, it would mean torture and a painful death.
Come on, come on, come on, she hexed the download bar, but it only seemed to go slower. Come on, download, already, so I can get out of here.
Suddenly, she heard the sounds of dozens of boots snapping at attention and briefly wondered what was going on. But all her worries came crushing down on her when she heard heavy footsteps moving towards the observation deck, accompanied by the sounds of mechanical breathing.
Oh, sithspit, oh, sithspit, oh, sithspit... What's he doing here?! Why's he here now? He's never supposed to be here now! I especially picked this time because he's never supposed to be here around this time! Oh, no, why is this happening to me?! Willow gulped. Come on, come on, come on, come on, Willow told the download bar, now at 86%
Don't look. Willow forced herself to keep watching the bar.
Willow felt her neck crane slightly, almost against her will.
I told you not to look, doofus! she told herself while glancing over her shoulder. Lord Vader was standing mere feet away from her. From where she was, he stood was slightly angled to his side, peering out into hyperspace with his arms crossed, his black cape draped neatly over his armored shoulders. Willow could swear she could see her own reflection on the side of his shiny black helmet.
There's only one reason he's here. He knows, Willow shuddered. He knows. Oh sithspit, he knows, he knows, he knows, he knows. No, no, get a grip Willow, don't panic. If he knew, you'd be writhing around on the floor right now, choking to death. Just calm down... he's just there to look at whatever he's looking at down there. Come on, download, download, DOWNLOAD! 98% Okay, okay, this'll work...
Willow quickly looked away when Lord Vader suddenly turned around and headed to one of the consoles near her. At that instant, the download completed. Willow practically ripped the crystal from the port and stuffed it into her beltpouch. Intense relief washed over Willow. It was over. She could just gather her tools, close up the console and the hell off the bridge and back to...
"Technician," Lord Vader's bass passionless voice cut right into the core of her soul. Pale as a sheet, Willow slowly turned around, coming face to face with Lord Vader. She stared right into the marble-like black eyes of his breather-mask, seeing only her own reflection.
"This console is defective," Lord Vader continued. "See to it." That said, the partly mechanical Sith Lord strolled back to the observation desk.
"Yup, I can do that," Willow said. Oh, cripes, did I just say that out loud?! Oh, no... I won't even be able to bruise his fist with my face. He'll just choke me to death and have me tossed out of the airlock.
Vader turned to look at Willow briefly, but resumed to peering outside into hyperspace, apparently letting the irreverent response pass.
Willow sighed in relief, gathered her tools and hurried over to the console. She popped up the access port and saw that one of the transtators had shorted out. No problem, I can do that... Only then did Willow realize that Lord Vader's sudden address had caused her to forget to purge the computer's memory. From the corner of her eye, she could see the red 'download complete' light still blinking. If anyone'd see that...
Oh, no... There are twelve consoles here and, of course, he had to pick this one. Alright, Will, no bad. Some of my tools are still there. Just fix the console, go back calmly to gather your tools, purge the memory and get out...
At that moment, her all-purpose laser-microwelder shot from her sweaty hands. For Willow, all time stopped. The microwelder clanked against the metal grating and skidded across the deckplates. Lord Vader heard it too. His armored cape billowed as he spun around and watched the microwelder some to a stop near him. Slowly, every so slowly, he raised his head to look Willow right in the eyes.
Willow gulped and slowly walked towards him, never breaking eyecontact. It was as if she and him were the only things that existed in the universe. She could see or hear nothing else but him and that awful mechanical breathing. Willow felt her heart pounding in her chest when she was mere inches away from him. She gathered that this was the spot she had last seen the welder and, not daring to break eye-contact with Lord Vader, slowly squatted down to feel around for her lost tool.
Where is it? Willow gulped. Finally, she felt something. Something soft... leathery... big?
She withdrew her hand as if she was burned. Luckily for her, it landed on the deck, right on top of the welder. Willow scrambled to her feet and returned to the console, trying her best to keep herself from trembling.
Focus... focus, Willow, focus, she told herself. Focusing on her work made her calm down somewhat. She popped over the console and studied the mechanisms inside. Don't think about Vader, don't think about him... Hm, a broken transtator, I can fix that. Hm, odd... I almost looks like liquid seeped onto it. Has someone spilled a drink on this console?
She continued working and finally was able to calm her nerves somewhat. She closed the console and watch it hum to life. Now, all she needed to do was to get back to the starboard computer access terminal to purge the memory. Though, she wondered briefly where that shadow that was now looming over her had suddenly come from. And... was that a respirator she was hearing? Right behind her no less?
A pitch-black gloved hand set down on the console, right next to her own hand.
"Move," she heard Lord Vader's impassionate command. In response, Willow nodded vigorously and stepped aside. "Report," he commanded while working the console.
"Um, well, uh, you see, um, I think someone spilled a drink on it."
Vader regarded her for a moment. "Are you certain?" he asked. Again, Willow nodded vigorously. "Um, you see, the transtator sorta shorted out and that only happens when there's a foreign conductor applied. Like liquid. Could be water or coffee or even juma juice. Not that I even tried it... spilling juma juice on a console, I mean. Wouldn't that just be silly? Who'd deliberately spill juma juice on a bridge console, after all? Not me, that's for sure. If Admiral Ozzel would catch me with juma juice on the bridge, he'd have me painting the hull for the rest of my career. But, yup, I'm pretty sure someone poured his coffee onto this console."
Lord Vader, undisturbed by the torrent of words contained in a single babble, merely crossed his arms. "Hmm," was his response before returning his attention to the console.
"If that's everything, I'll just, um, go get my tools," Willow turned around and focused all her attention on the blinking red light in the pit. Just one press of a button and she'd be safe. One press of a button...
Willow stumbled towards the pit and reached out to press the button, finally pushing it and purging the memory, making all her fears go away. Unfortunately, she was now leaning so far forward that she couldn't help herself from tumbling face forward into the pit and letting out a high pitched shriek in the process. When she scrambled to her feet, she found every set of eyes on the bridge, including Lord Vader's, aimed towards her.
"Um," Willow colored bright red. "I was, um, just getting my tools. Sorry, I'm so sorry," she said, literally throwing her tools into her kit, jamming it shut and almost running towards the exit. Unfortunately, she didn't look where she was going and slammed right into an officer that was just entering the bridge.
Willow gulped when she saw the anger on lieutenant Mott's face, a coffee-stain now spread across his uniform.
"I swear, tech-monkey," the lieutenant spat. "You'll be cleaning mynoch-droppings in the torpedo-tubes for the rest of your natural life for this."
Willow thought of a thousand excuses, but just couldn't get her mouth to cooperate. But in the end, help came from an unexpected source. "Lieutenant Mott," spoke Darth Vader as he strolled towards him. "Beverages are not allowed on the bridge."
"Lord Vader," Mott suddenly grew very nervous. "I, uh, I can explain..."
"Console 24-B is often used by you, is it not?"
"Yes, but..." Mott gurgled and grasped as his throat. Willow chose this moment to make herself scarce. Looking back onto the bridge, she could just see lieutenant Mott keening over backwards before the massive doors closed behind her. She was safe... for now.
Willow sat in secluded booth in a seedy little cantina in one of Kuat's less impressive cities. She could hardly believe it was two weeks ago since she had stolen the data on the crystal she was holding in her hands. Her adventure on the bridge was only the beginning: she had hid the crystal in her quarters and had spent two weeks looking over her shoulder all the time. When she was scheduled for leave, she took the crystal with her to Kuat, the planet being orbited by the Executer while she was being fitted with even more turbolasers than she already had.
Of course, on the way to the planet, she'd read the files, if only to check out what she'd risked her life for. Strangely enough, it was about a series of transports containing large quantities of resources and advanced equipment to a planet called Endor on the edge of the galaxy. It hardly seemed worth being so scared about, but maybe it meant something to the Rebellion.
In any case, looking into the azure depths of her contact's eyes made everything seem worth it.
"I... I don't think I can do this anymore, Tara," Willow trembled. "He was suddenly standing behind me and then he... looked at me as if I was an insect. I still think he knows..."
"Willow," Tara whispered softly and folded Willow's hand in her own, squeezing and rubbing it softly. "It's okay, you're safe now."
That feels so nice, Willow smiled in spite of herself. "Tara, I... just can't do it anymore. I don't want to go back to that ship. I'm sorry, Tara, but I'm just a coward," she sighed. "I'm not a hero. I don't fly a Y-wing like you do, Tara. I'm just a tech..."
"Willow," Tara offered Willow a comforting smile that made her heart melt. "I think you're the b-bravest person I know."
Willow felt her cheeks burning. "I, um... I..."
"You stole several of Darth Vader's personal files, right from underneath his nose, and without leaving a trace," Tara started. "Not just once but four times. You successfully hid the datacrystals and smuggled them out to us, supplying us with a wealth of information that have saved and will save many lives. Tell me again you're not a hero, Willow."
She always knows how to make me feel better, Willow thought to herself. "Vader gives me the jeepers creepers, though. I think he likes scaring people. He's all like 'oh, look at me, I'm so wicked cool with my shiny red toy and my big shiny helmet', choking everybody and saying things like 'I find your lack of faith disturbing'. And what does that mean, anyway? Nobody knows! You know, he might be an all-powerful Sith Lord, but that's no excuse to be a big fat, half-mechanical jerk who gets his kicks by standing behind unsuspecting people and breathe down their necks and stare at them all day."
"Whoa, calm down," Tara laughed. "Your mouth is moving at lightspeed."
"Sorry," Willow blushed.
"I, um, think it's time we repaid you for all that you've done for us," Tara said. "Why don't you come with me?"
Willow blinked. "Come with you? Join the Rebellion?"
"You've already joined the Rebellion," Tara smiled. "I'm stationed on Home One, admiral Ackbar's ship. They can always use experienced techs and your work will actually be appreciated there for a change. And... w-we'd be able to see each other m-more o-often. I'd... really l-like that."
Willow felt a blush creep across her cheeks yet again. I could see her all the time... "Me too," Willow said. "I mean, I'd like that too."
At that moment, they were approached by a brown-haired man with rugged handsome looks. Willow was slightly jumpy, but relaxed when she saw Tara knew him.
"Tara," the man started. "Things are getting restless out there. Let's finish up and get off this rock fast."
"In a minute," Tara said.
"Right," the man shook his head and fished a communicator from his pocket. "Chewie, warm up the Falcon. We might gonna need to get out of here fast."
Willow felt her mood fall a little. "Is," she started, "is he your boyfriend?"
Tara looked incredulous, then regarded the man briefly. "Oh, by the Force, no. I know Han from my old smuggling days. Only one to ever beat me at the Kessel Run... and believe me, he's never going to let me forget that. I strong-armed him into bringing me to Kuat. He knows this area of space by the back of his hand and knows all the tricks to fool the Imperial sensor array in place around the planet. Besides, he's a bit old for me, don't you think?"
"I'm standing right here, Tara," Han crossed his arms.
"I know, I can smell you," Tara grinned at him. "You know, Chewie actually smells better than you do."
"Oh, laugh it up, blue-eyes," Han scoffed, but there was a gentle humor in his eyes. "Or should I tell your friend about the time Jabba was trying to seduce you and the only way you had to convince him that he was not your type was to walk up to the nearest Twi'lek dancing girl and ki.."
"Alright, alright," Tara laughed. "Too much information. Let's get going, then, but we'll be taking on another passenger," she said, squeezing Willow's hand.
"She's an Imperial, Tara."
"So were you, Han."
"I've got a bad feeling about this."
"You get a bad feeling about everything."
Han sighed briefly, then held up his hands. "Alright."
Willow felt all the fear slide off her soul. She was free now, and was about to start a new life. And maybe, if she was lucky, Tara would become a big part of that new life. But right now, she didn't dare hope.
"Come with us then," Tara smiled to Willow. "And don't worry about Han. He might try to be tough, but deep down, he's a real soft-heart."
"Soft-heart?! I don't care what you've heard. I'm telling you, Greedo never even got off a shot," Han huffed while the three of them headed towards the exit of the cantina. "I'm planning to pay a visit to the liar who's spreading these vicious rumors about me. Then we'll see who's tough."