Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Las Vegas Nevada
Current Game: Dungeonseige series
[Fic] First Impressions
As I promised, this is what I would have used as an entry if someone else had suggested this topic
I know some of you wonder why I bowed out of the competition this month. Honestly I had at least a day longer to think about this, and on top of that, you guys deserve a chance to show your stuff. So without further ado...
Leia Organa Solo sighed. She and her husband Han had been waiting now for the better part of an hour for the arrival of the Laurellan ambassador. Unfortunately a small yacht had rammed a cargo ship delivering to one of the Golan class battle stations. A cargo hold filled with several tons of assorted ball bearings had been breached and the approach lane was filled with loose bearings now. A small tug had been assigned to sweep them up with a tractor beam.
Or had been, at any rate. They had been so excited by the prospect of the salvage they were collecting that they had ignored their own sensors. A fifteen-gram bearing had hit the canopy, punching through the transparisteel and three bulkheads before stopping. Luckily it had just scared the crap out of them, and now the tug with the canopy patched, had just reported completion.
Captain Sevo Castail, chief of her security detachment touched his earbug. “ETA now three minutes, ma’am.”
“Finally she whispered under her breath.
The Antique Soro-Suub D18K freighter settled down toward the platform before them. Leia had heard of the venerable old ship but had never seen one. Slow and underpowered they had gone out of service almost a decade before the Clone Wars. Han whistled, then whispered. “And you thought the Millennium Falcon was a pile of junk. What would you have done if I’d been flying one of them?”
She chuckled, answering in the same tone of voice. “Something so slow Stormtroopers could have outrun it on foot? It would have been easier to just check back into my cell than take the chance.”
The ship settled down, oleo struts squealing in protest. There was a screeching sound from the ramp, and then it slammed down as if the pilot had hit the emergency jettison button. For a long time, nothing else happened. Then a figure came down the ramp. There was a slight squealing of badly tuned servomotors on the leg supports the male wore. The Hardi system had only one planet where humans could live without major terraforming, and Olvr’s gravity was only .6 standard. The people of that planet needed servos like those just to walk in a standard gravity.
The Laurellan was tall and rail thin, a humanoid form stretched until he towered over the humans who waited. He extended a hand, stretched as much as his body so that it was twice the size of the average hand, and Leia took it gently. “I bring you greetings from my people.” He said bowing slightly.
“Ambassador Stanl.” Leia replied. “I am honored that your people finally requested this conference.”
The long thin face broke into a slight smile. “Ever since your fleet broke the back of the pirate menace in our system, it would have been insulting not to show our appreciation for your acts. However a number of our cabinet members worried about it. We do not wish to break our neutrality, but were wondering how your government would react to that desire. We were wondering when the other shoe would fall.”
“I understand their concerns.” Leia replied.
“I very much doubt it.” Stanl demurred. “Our people have always been careful of who we deal with whether it be business or politics. We judge those who approach us and from that initial determination, judge their society. The Old Republic was driven so desperately by finance that we expected them to try to control our commerce.
“We avoided Imperial entanglements by having nothing of value to the Empire, for if we had owned anything they wished, the next thing we would have seen is troops arriving and taking over. There are some that believe that the New Republic is merely the old Republic or the Empire with a hasty paint job.” He waved toward his ship. “As my ship is merely a relic of that old time.”
He sighed deeply. “My duty at this conference is to discover what kind of person you are, Madam Solo. We will judge your New Republic by that meter alone.”
Stunned, Leia thought furiously. Usually when a planet sent a representative, they would have a full court press, trying to impress them with all of the people of a hundred races and thousands of planets working together. But a full greeting would have to include the cabinet and several dozen Senators. Usually that was all well and good but if Ambassador Stanl took one look at the usual acrimonious debate that went on among the Ministers, or the glad-handing average senator, he’d leave so fast his ship would not have caught up with him!
Wait, he would judge it just by my actions. “I had planned for a function tonight, but perhaps since you will judge our government by me, why can we not make it just my own family? A simple family dinner?”
Stanl cocked his head. “You would have me judge you society by your children? Would that be a fair assessment?”
“More than fair.” Han broke in. He grinned at the looks from both his wife and Ambassador. “If you are going to make a lasting judgment of the New Republic, you shouldn’t base it on the politicians or the negotiators. Maybe you need to look at the people who will one day be running it.”
Leia looked at her watch. “You need to settle in, Ambassador. Perhaps two hours?”
“More than enough time, Madam,
“Jacen!” Jaina Solo charged across the common room of the Chief of State’s apartments, her face red with fury. All of seven years old, all she would have needed was armor and a battle axe to portray a warrior woman of old.
In the room the Solo children shared Jacen winced first at the cry, then at the door slamming open. He spun, putting on an innocent expression “Jaina! You wanted something?”
She stalked forward, teeth in what only a human would call a grin. Any predatory species that had ever survived in the struggle of evolution would have either been fleeing or preparing to fight at the sight of it. “Don’t try the innocent look on me.” His all of five-minute-older twin snarled. “You don’t do it that well.” She stopped, arms crossed. “Where is it?”
“Where is what?”
“My Multitool. The brand new totally efficient, micro-capable multitool Papa got me for my last birthday.”
“Oh that.” He waved it off, ignoring her expression, which had gotten even more choleric if that was possible. “I think Anakin wanted to see what it could do.”
She stared at him aghast. “So you gave it to him?”
“No! I don’t touch your stuff without asking.”
“Then you saw him take it, and let him?”
“No. He just asked me where you kept it.”
“And you told him.” She growled.
“Of course I did.” He replied piously. “After all we don’t have any secrets.”
“Oh really.” Her toe began trapping. “So maybe if Mama asks I can tell her who raided the dessert tray last night.”
“Jaina!” He stared at her, shocked. “You’d tell Mama-“
“We don’t have any secrets, remember?”
“Well we kids don’t.” He said. “But grown ups have all sorts of secrets, even secrets about us they won’t tell us. So turnabout is fair play.”
Jaina had to agree with that. But tools were tools; and Papa’s first rule was you never used someone else’s tools without permission! It had taken her two years of behaving herself to get the new multitool.
Her old one had been good enough for small things, or a wood shop; but the new one was like the difference between an X-wing fighter and a Star Destroyer! This one could cut and form any metal except for the armor plating of a starship. She could assemble a droid, even build and etch circuit boards from scratch, or take down any system on Papa’s ship, the Millennium Falcon.
The tool could build or repair any kind of electronic circuitry but it had other uses Papa hadn’t bothered to tell Mama about it. There had been so many attempts to kidnap the Solo children that Papa had sat her down right after her birthday and told her about them.
The same tool could also be used to pick locks.
And her five-year-old brother was running loose with it.
A dozen droids bustled around the room, setting up the three tables. Instead of a normal dinner, Leia had decided on a buffet, with another table to dine at. This required four tables, one the normal dining table, to share the same area. The tables, one filled with breads, another with platters of assorted side and main dishes. The last with desserts sat opposite the others so that two stood against one wall, and this one on the other with the dining table between them.
Now the food was being brought in.
Anakin Solo was bored. Ever since Jaina and Jacen had gotten older they hadn’t been as much fun as before. They were always so…serious now. Whether it was Jacen and his pets or Jaina with her machines, they didn’t have as much time to play with him.
So he’d begun creating his own games, and excluding them.
He’d heard people talk about his Mama and Papa back when they had been rebels. How they had hidden from the Empire. His parents hadn’t noticed that when the other children had wandered off, he would stay nearby. He had heard of places they had hidden, Yavin Hoth, Dantooine, and others.
Of course being a child he’d gotten thing mixed up just a bit. Which is why when he decided to play ‘Hide from the Empire’, he had chosen to hide in an ice cave on Dantooine waiting to catch a wampa to ride. The cave was really one of the tables with a long white damask tablecloth. But it felt deliciously cool and except for the bustling droids being commanded by C3P0 the room was still empty.
There was a squeaking, and he lifted the edge of the tablecloth. A pair of golden legs stood the. Imperial Walker!
“I do hope the buffet will stay fresh enough. We have a less than an hour before Princess Leia and the Ambassador arrive.” C3P0 commented. “Have those thermo-stasis units brought in so I can install them.” There was a beeping and whistling reply. “Of course I am not going to place them personally you overweight tin can. I was speaking rhetorically.” Another reply, this one ending in a raspberry. “What do you mean I don’t understand the term?”
Anakin sighed as they moved away. Imperial walkers were such a pain. He looked around, and finally decided that he had to build a trap to catch the wampa in. After all, you had to catch one before you rode it, right? He scuttled down to the legs at the end of the table. What he’d do is loosen the screws so that when he baited the wampa in, the ice cave would fall on it, and he’d jump on it’s back before it escaped.
He took out his lightsaber (Jaina’s multitool) and began to remove the screws with a child’s concentration.
Behind him the tablecloth lifted and a ‘pup’, the larger brother of what was called a mouse droid began to slide under the center of the table. On it’s back, was a thermo-stasis unit. A barrel shaped device a meter across and a meter tall, it barely cleared the metal rail around the bottom of the table. The pup centered the unit then deployed the legs that would support it, jacking it up until it pressed against the bottom of the table and was now clear of the supporting droid.
The droid flipped the activation switch, and the unit began to spread a filigree of sensors. At each point where it detected a temperature difference from the ambient air temperature, it emplaced a smaller thermal unit of two different sorts. Once done, it began to assure that those spaces stayed at the temperature that had been detected. Thermionic radiation was drawn from the colder places keeping salads and gelatin cool, and the excess heat was directed to where the warm foods were.
One dedicated unit three times the size of the others came to rest directly under the ice sculpture centerpiece. Another almost as large was directly under a 10-liter punchbowl at the end. It was directly opposite of where Anakin had removed the last screw.
Leia walked beside the Ambassador, making idle conversation as they headed toward her quarters. Unfortunately the Ambassador appeared to be as stolid as he claimed the New Republic was. Perhaps that is why he had been sent. He had ignored every light comment she or Han had made, and her heart sank. She had sent Han ahead to get the children into the dining room. Hopefully a quiet dinner would change his mind.
Jaina searched the apartments with single-minded intensity. She had already checked with the Noghri who formed her family’s inner security detachment, and Anakin had not left the apartments. But he was nowhere to be found. She heard C3P0 talking ahead, and she headed into the dining room. A buffet line had been set up on three folding tables and C3P0 was bustling from one to the other, shifting languages from the one used by R2 and the one used by the serving droids smoothly.
“3P0, have you seen Anakin?” She demanded.
“I am sorry, Mistress Jaina, I have not seen him so far.” He turned, head cocking. “You do know that your parents are coming down this very moment with an important Ambassador. This meal is a greeting for him.”
“She shook her head. “I don’t have time for that. First I am going to find my brother, then I am going to kill my brother, then I will have my dinner.” She spun on her heel, stalking back out of the room.
“Oh dear, and things were going so well. Must I alert security?” He began to turn back to the droids when Jacen came racing in.
“Food!” The boy snatched slices of bread from the table, and began trolling for sandwich fillings.
“Master Jacen your parents are enroute at this very minute with an important Ambassador. I see no reason you cannot wait for a few more minutes.”
“But I’m hungry now!” Jacen shoveled some chilled seafood salad onto the bread, smashing the other slice down until it oozed. “This will keep me until they get here.”
“Really Master Jacen-“ 3P0 turned as Han came in through the door. Without a word he walked over, pulling a strip of broiled nerf from a plate and stuffed it into his mouth. “Master Han, really! How can I convince Jacen to behave with you as a role model?”
“Zip it goldenrod. Leia sent me ahead to-“ Before Han could report Jaina stormed in.
“You’re in here somewhere! Anakin you nerf, where are you?”
The Evil Empress had returned, searching for the brave rebels! Anakin shivered in delight, as his game got interesting. He had started getting bored waiting for the wampa, but this was so much better! He lifted the edge of the tablecloth far enough to peek out.
“Anakin come out here right this minute!” She went to the warm and cold food table, and pulled up the tablecloth, glaring at the thermal unit under it. Disgusted, she stormed to the bread table, pulling it up.
“Jaina, why do you think he’s in here?” Han asked swallowing a second nerf strip.
“Because the little barve isn’t anywhere else.” She replied, turning to stalk now toward the dessert table.
“Don’t call your brother names.” Han said sternly.
“If he steals my things I’ll call him whatever I want.” She snapped, lifting the last tablecloth. Just another thermal unit.
“As long as I’m your father, you will not treat each other so disrespectfully.” Han replied angrily. “You’re mom is almost here and you will not disrupt this meeting. Is that clear?”
R2 spotted a movement under the first table Jaina had searched, and heard what had to be a giggle. He whistled, spinning on his wheels and headed right for it. C3P0 turned. “What did you say, R2?” Instead of replying, R2 extended a gripper arm, and dragged Anakin from beneath the table. Right behind Jacen.
“Anakin!” Han spun then leaned forward to pick up his youngest son. When he did R2 dragged the boy farther out, running over one of Jacen’s feet. With a bellow of pain, he snatched up the injured member, overbalanced, and fell backwards against the table.
The ‘wampa’ trap gave up the ghost, and the table collapsed. But the stasis unit turned what should have been a simple collapse into a seesaw. Like a stone from a catapult the punchbowl arched up starting to spin, and punch sprayed over everything in the room. The trays of food slid down, piling on Jacen, the ice sculpture shattering as it added its weight to the food that now buried Jacen. The empty bowl completed its arc, and landed in the center of the bread table like an axe blade, smashing down, and that table collapsed split in half.
In the hall almost at the door, Leia stopped as she heard a crash. A moment later there was screaming. “What in the world!” Leia marched forward, outstripping her guest and security detachment as she charged to the door, flinging it open.
“You…you Nerf!” Anakin screamed. After all his work the wampa must have escaped! He kicked loose of R2, spun around, and grabbed the first thing that came to hand, which happened to be Berodo string beans in sauce. He flung them at Jaina who was still trying to squeeze the sticky punch from her hair. The fistful of beans hit her right in the mouth, and she squealed, spitting them out.
“I. Hate. Beans!” She roared. The surviving table directly beside her had desserts, and she grabbed a handful of Telosian pudding throwing it with the same Jedi-enhanced accuracy, splashing over Anakin’s face and hair. C3P0 rescued a Beldaran cream pie from the dessert table as Jaina spun to gather more ammunition.
Anakin dipped his hand back into the pile that had inundated his brother.
Now Anakin-“ Han stepped between the squabbling siblings just as the boy spun, flinging the contents of a tray filled with Nerf strips baked in mushroom gravy. The platter flew past his head as the gravy and meat hit him in the face. He took a step back, his foot coming down on a whole broiled Laster fish from Mon Calamari and the slippery fish shot from below his foot, sending him back into the pile over his eldest son.
The surface of the fish clung to his boot for a few seconds, long enough for him to impart a lot of energy. The door ripped open, and Leia was there. “What is the mea-“ the fish flew in a flat arc, and smacked into her face as she flipped backwards to fall onto her back. Furious she leaped to her feet.
Holding the pie C3P0 hurried over to Princess Leia “Princess Leia are you all righ-“ Leia’s leap caught 3P0 at the knees, and the droid overbalanced, falling backward, the pie flying from his hands in yet another arc through the open door.
The room was silent as Leia glared at her family. The fish slid from her face, running down the front of her gown to splatter on the floor. Jacen had finally dug himself free of his cocoon, and took one look at his mother’s face. He immediately put on the same innocent expression he had tried on Jaina. “Mama we can explain-“
“Really mom!” Jaina added.
Leia’s eyes went from child to child, then at the carnage caused in just a few moments. Her eyes caught Han’s and she transferred the glare from the children to him. Was he struggling not to laugh?
Suddenly Han gave up the struggle, and roared with laughter. She wanted to scream at him, scream at them all, but suddenly the situation struck her. It was so absurd! She giggled, and then suddenly was holding her sides as her laugh joined his.
The children looked from one parent to the other, their faces breaking into grins. Then they laughed with their parents, leaping to hug them as the entire family roared with laughter.
“Oh dear.” 3P0 said from where he lay. His head was arched, looking into the hall, and the giggling family followed his gaze.
Oh dear was right. The Ambassador stood there, probably looking at the family scene. They couldn’t really be sure, since the pie had been flung flat dead center into his face, the cream and crust spreading in a vertical brown mudslide covering his eyes. Behind him the security detachment stared in horror.
Slowly the Laurellan’s right hand came up, and one by one, he cleared the mess from his eyes. If anything, he looked more morose than he had before. He looked at the mess, then at Leia. “Is this normal behavior for your children?”
Leia looked at him, then at Han. But before she could speak Anakin said. “No! Sometimes we’re much worse!”
“Anakin!” Leia turned to face her youngest, aghast.
“Well it’s true, mama.” Anakin replied. “We are kids, so we act like kids and sometimes we misbehave. But you and Papa always told us to be truthful.” He motioned toward the mess. “But we usually aren’t this messy though.”
“I should hope not.” The Ambassador addressed the young boy gravely. He cleared his mouth, and surprisingly inserted the finger, tasting the pie. “I think that once we have cleaned up, I would like to try this pie served on a plate rather than as a projectile. Before I do, however, I have rendered my decision, Madam Chief of State.”
He gave a smile that transformed his face. “Some who will let their children slip the leash without becoming furious with them is worthy of negotiating with. Now I have only one question.”
“Is that Nerf in mushroom gravy your husband is wearing? It is my favorite dish.”