Summary: Pellaeon has a conversation with a stormtrooper. The author's bugbear gets aired.
Fandom: Star Wars with a hefty dose of Dresden Files references.
Spoilers: Post-Hand of Thrawn. Doesn't spoil much but assumes knowledge of those events.
Note[s]: Written for dark_puck as part of that comment meme a while back. Beta'd by Bex because she is lovely. Prompt was: Pellaeon and Murphy. Also, this fic assumes that the height requirements for stormtroopers are more like guidelines these days (u c wut I did thar?).
One did not necessarily pay attention during inspections. Imperial stormtroopers were meant to look alike, so one could put one's eyes on autopilot and scan the troops while really thinking about something entirely different. This was what Admiral Pellaeon usually did--they didn't really need his approval, anyway, just his presence.
This was his excuse to himself, later, for the really inexcusable amount of time it took his brain to register Lieutenant Murphy.
At first he thought it was a gap in the line. But no, she simply did not stand any taller than the shoulders of the men on either side of her. Nor did she look like the others, most men, all staring fiercely straight ahead. Not that she didn't look fierce. It was just that... well... she was cute.
Pellaeon could not recall the last time he had used the word "cute" in connection with anything in the Imperial military.
"A moment, Captain," he said, cutting off Captain Ardiff's long-winded explanation about the training procedure used with this particular group. "I'd like to speak with that trooper there."
"Which..." Ardiff followed Pellaeon's gaze. "Ah. Lieutenant Murphy! Step forward and present yourself!"
She took one brisk pace forward and snapped off a salute. "Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, service number XJ7..."
"That will do, Lieutenant." Pellaeon studied her for a long moment. "Tell me, how did you get this posting?"
She smiled, all teeth. "Because I'm very good, Admiral."
Beside him, Ardiff coughed. Pellaeon arched an eyebrow. "Ah? Would you care to demonstrate?"
"Yes, sir." Again that disturbing smile. "I need a partner."
"Of course. Captain Ardiff?"
Ardiff smiled a very similar smile to the lieutenant's. "Private Holpin?"
The unfortunate trooper, who stood two or three men down from Lieutenant Murphy, looked up fast as his face crumpled. "Oh, sir..."
"None of that," Ardiff said. "Pass inspection next time. Front and center."
Private Holpin lasted about half a minute. And not because of any skill of his.
"Ah," Pellaeon said, looking down at the writhing man. "I see. Impressive. I trust he won't need medical attention."
"Thank you, sir," the lieutenant said. She wasn't even breathing hard. "And no. He'll be fine. I wasn't actually trying to hurt him."
"And you're only a lieutenant?" It was a rhetorical question, and both Ardiff and Murphy understood it as such--neither answered. "Well. Murphy... that's, what, a Correllian name?"
Ardiff glanced sharply up. "I thought they were all with the Republic." His tone made it very clear he'd wanted to add an epithet of some sort to that sentence and hadn't only because of the presence of a superior officer.
The lack of epithet didn't save him a reproving glance from Pellaeon, but the lieutenant was already speaking. "Not all of us. Sir."
Well, Ardiff had opened the topic, he might as well bring it to its end. "May I ask why you did join us?" Pellaeon asked, truly curious. Ardiff was right. A Correllian in the Imperial armed forces was rare, a woman rarer still, and to have both in one person seemed impossible.
Of course, he had served with Grand Admiral Thrawn. Impossible seemed merely a touch more difficult now.
The lieutenant had hesitated a moment. Now she said, "Permission to speak freely, sir?"
"Granted," Pellaeon said, really curious now.
"I used to be in CorSec, sir." Which explained the martial arts just now. "We were taught that above all, it is our duty to seek justice." She hesitated again, apparently looking for words. "I believe in that justice, but I did not believe that the Emperor could have supplied it, nor the Moffs. Nor, in the end, the New Republic. But you, sir... I believe you are a just man, and you have never given me reason to believe otherwise." She lifted her chin, looked him right in the eye. "With the Admiral's permission, sir, I am proud to serve in what you have made of the Imperial fleet."
Pellaeon, slightly stunned, said, "I... see. Thank you, Lieutenant."
She grinned, this time an actual smile, saluted again, and stepped back in line.
Well. Pellaeon felt an answering smile. Well.
Perhaps he hadn't failed them after all.