Title: Vader's Cat
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Lord Vader and a cat. A series of vignettes.
Author's Note: Since the whole idea is comedic, I'm just going to say that this reality assumes that Executor was commissioned earlier and Vader was already using it as his flagship.
I wrote this after my friend Sarah (aka Polgarawolf) found a stray and we were discussing how a kitty would do wonders for Vader. Ridiculous? Yes. But it's fun. Enjoy.
Cracking the Armor or Possibly Just Cracking
Someone had snuck a cat aboard the Executor. Whoever that intrepid officer was, Lord Vader assumed that he had either been killed or transferred, because the animal had now taken to following him around the ship. He did his best to ignore it, since he believed that killing an orange ball of fluff less than half the size of one of his hands would be beneath his dignity.
It didn't particularly annoy him, unless it happened to decide to attack the bottom of his cloak, and even then, he had to admit to a certain grudging admiration for the little beast's audacity. In comparison to the cat, Vader was a towering giant, and yet it seemed to have no fear of him. It also possessed a remarkable ability to avoid being stepped on, squashed, or swatted, and was quite adept at avoiding the occasional Force-propelled object should it happen to be in the room when the Sith Lord's considerable temper required that things be hurled about at high velocities.
That all changed, however, the day that Vader emerged from the glaring white sphere of his hyperbaric chamber to find the cat in his private quarters. It knew quite well that it was supposed to wait in the hallway. Glaring darkly, he stalked up to it and planted his metal fists on his hips.
"CAT!" he boomed. "What are you doing in this room?"
The villainous creature craned its fluffy neck and purred up at him, then began to thread itself in figure eights around his ankles, rubbing its head against his legs as it moved. An exasperated sigh escaped Vader's mouth grille. He shook his head, clomping rather more heavily than he had to toward the door.
"I am not going to pick you up," he informed it coldly.
It didn't seem to mind. As soon as he stepped into the hallway, it slipped behind him and backed off, apparently deciding to cooperate and trail from a distance that would allow him to comfortably ignore its presence. He gave a nod of satisfaction and stomped his way to the turbo lift, where he stood grumbling to himself about insufferable demonic citizens of a green-eyed feline hell.
Then, he felt a sudden tug on the back of his cloak and sighed again. He turned his head, expecting to find the cat wrestling with the hem of the garment. What he found, however, was a determined kitten clawing its way up his back as if he were a black tree-trunk. For once in his life, Vader found himself almost grateful for unnecessary weight and thickness of the cloak, which protected him from the assault of the needle-like little claws.
The cat reached his shoulder, perched precariously for a second or two, gave a worried mew, and then found its balance. Vader reached down to grasp a handful of cloak, lifting it with a long, weary sigh as he noted the small tufts of orange hair now covering the black material. He let it drop again as the turbolift arrived.
"You--" he started to say, breaking off as the cat rubbed its head against the side of his helmet.
The turbolift door opened, and the two black-clad officers inside abruptly halted whatever discussion they'd been having. Both blinked, staring at the sight of Vader, who glared back at them with silent menace until he was certain that any hint of snicker had been quelled. The cat meowed a cheerful greeting, and Vader swept into the car, where he stood listening to the rasp of his breather as they began to move again.
Insufferable, Vader told it silently. And I am not giving you a name.
Another Disturbing Crack
Vader quickly discovered that the kitten had a remarkable propensity for taking up space. For such a small being, it could occupy a frightening portion of a counter, control panel or table. It had no regard whatsoever for anything that might have belonged where it wanted to be, and held the Imperial goings on that it was interrupting in such disdain that the Dark Lord, once again, was forced to admire its attitude.
This was never more apparent than when the cat followed Vader onto the Emperor's newly constructed Death Star. Fortunately, it did have the sense not to climb onto his shoulder. Governor Tarkin stared at it long and hard when he first noticed its presence behind the Sith Lord, but since Vader said or did nothing to acknowledge it, and the crew of his flagship had learned to do the same, Tarkin apparently assumed that he was seeing things.
At least, that was, until they walked into the conference room where Admiral Motti and Commander Tagge were engaged in a round of bickering about the Rebel Alliance. Neither man actually noticed the cat at first, since the entire room quickly became focused on Tarkin's news.
"The Rebellion will continue to gain a support in the Imperial Senate as long as " Tagge trailed off, startled by Vader and Tarkin's sudden entrance.
"The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I've just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away," Tarkin related.
"That's impossible! How will the Emperor maintain control without the bureaucracy?" demanded Tagge as the Grand Moff took his seat at the head of the table. Vader loomed silently at his side, doing nothing to indicate that he saw the cat clawing its way up the side of Tarkin's chair.
"The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear--" Tarkin broke off with a cough as the cat pounced into his lap and then sprang onto the table. His eyes bulged, and he turned to Vader, who still stolidly ignored the cat's presence.
The rest of the room began to murmur in surprise, but since Vader took no notice of the feline intruder, none were quite sure what the appropriate reaction should be. They looked nervously from Tarkin to the fearsome Dark Lord and back again, waiting for some cue. Finally, as the kitten stretched itself out on the table, managing to occupy at least three times the space that it logically should have, Tarkin began again.
"Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station!"
"And--and what of the Rebellion?" asked Tagge, his gaze flicking nervously between Tarkin and the cat. "If the Rebels have obtained a complete technical readout of this station, it is possible "
The cat rolled to its feet again, meandering toward him, and he broke off fearfully, still wondering what his reaction should be. He gulped, staring, as the cat wound its way around the sealed silver and black cup beside him, then gradually halted and stood up on its hind legs. It wrapped its front paws around the cup, intent on discovering what was inside despite the cover.
"It is possible, however unlikely, that they might find a weakness and exploit it!" Tagge finished.
"Any attack made by the Rebels against this station would be a useless gesture, no matter what technical data they've obtained," insisted Motti, though his bitter confidence was shaken as the kitten swiveled its furry head to give him an annoyed glare. "This--this--station is now the ultimate power in the universe. I suggest we use it!"
Vader reached down calmly to disentangle the cat from the cup it was attacking before it actually managed to spill anything. It protested momentarily, then settled contentedly in the crook of his arm, its tiny paws draped comfortably over his gloved wrist.
"Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force," he warned.
"Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader," scoffed Motti, "Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebel's hidden fortress. Now you've taken to playing with kittens--!"
The statement was cut off as the slimy looking admiral began to feel the effects of Vader's Force-choke. He reached for his collar and the cat hissed menacingly. Still looking at Motti, Vader absently stroked the kitten's head with two fingers.
"My cat finds your lack of faith disturbing."
Completely Cracked (And the Cat Came Back)
Vader didn't realize how problematic that the cat's attachment to him was going to be until the Millennium Falcon entered the Alderaan system. Or, more specifically, until its crew boarded the Death Star and he realized that Obi-Wan Kenobi was among them. While awaiting his former Master, he spent several minutes in the hallway attempting to convince the cat that it could not come with him. First, it refused to get off his shoulder. Then, when he physically picked it up and set it on the floor, it immediately ran behind him and began attempting its cloak-climbing routine. It was virtually impossible for Vader to reach around far enough to be able to remove the cat from his back, and so Kenobi found him turning a series of increasingly clumsy half-circles in a vain attempt to catch hold of the animal before it reached his shoulder.
The Jedi approached warily, lightsaber in hand, but the sight that met his eyes was so surreal that he, much like Tarkin, could only stare with wide eyes. Vader was forced to stop, then pivoted again to face his former mentor. The cat, of course, was then free to make its way to his shoulder, where it perched quite happily, rubbing its head against Vader's helmet. It mewed cheerfully at Obi-Wan, seeming to hold none of the dislike for him that it had shown for Admiral Motti.
Taking his lightsaber from his belt, he ignited the weapon and said, "I've been waiting for you, Obi-Wan."
"Have you?" the Jedi raised an eyebrow.
"Yes," Vader intoned, attempting to infuse his tone with some semblance of threat. "When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master."
"Really," remarked Obi-Wan dubiously. "It appears to me that your friend there is the Master."
"Appearances can be deceptive," grumbled Vader.
"Oh, yes, I'm sure," Obi-Wan retorted as the cat rubbed Vader's helmet again.
Vader glared darkly at the Jedi. Then he picked the cat up off his shoulder and muttered, "Just a moment."
"Whenever you're ready," Obi-Wan shrugged.
Vader whirled around, stomping to the end of the hallway without another word. Once he reached the next set of blast doors, he stepped through and strode a few more feet. Then he set the cat on the floor, planted his fists on his hips and glared at it.
"Stay," he ordered sternly.
Then he spun around again and stalked back to the waiting Jedi. Obi-Wan leaned casually against the wall, lightsaber still in hand but dangling at his side as if it had become and afterthought. Vader raised his own weapon again, determined to wipe the smug look off of the Jedi's grizzled face.
"You should not have come back," he sneered.
Obi-Wan coughed lightly and didn't move. He pushed himself off of the wall and gestured toward the floor with his free hand.
"I believe we have a problem."
Vader looked down at the floor, following the direction of the Jedi's finger.
"Cat! I told you to stay!"
"You have it quite well trained. Really, Anakin, I never knew you were such a cat person," remarked Obi-Wan.
"That name--" Vader began, but the words were cut off by a sudden rush of activity across the hangar. Both he and Obi-Wan turned toward the Falcon and saw the stormtroopers on duty now watching them with puzzled interest, and a small group, on the other end of the hangar making a run for the ship.
One of them, a sandy-haired boy who was for some reason wearing a stormtrooper's utility belt suddenly halted, having caught sight of Kenobi, Vader and the cat. After a second of stunned staring, he finally managed to find his voice.
"Run, Luke! I'll be right with you," ordered Obi-Wan.
Vader bent quickly, trying to scoop up the cat with one hand while still holding his lightsaber with the other. The cat, however, had other ideas and was trying to squirm away.
"You will not escape so easily!"
"Are you talking to me or the cat?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Both of you!" Vader fired back.
"Luke, come on!" shouted the princess.
The stormtroopers, now alerted to the rebels' presence, had turned and begun firing at them. The princess and her companions returned fire, backing toward the ship in an attempt to open a path for the old man. Kenobi himself gave Vader a last look and shook his head in disbelief.
"Well, old friend, I'm afraid our time's up," he said before he darted through the doors and sliced through a couple of stormtroopers on his way toward the ship.
"Shoot the door, kid! The door!" bellowed another voice.
Vader, finally having managed to get the kitten in hand, started for the doorway. Before he reached it though, the blast doors slid closed, leaving him with a lightsaber in one hand and a cat in the other. He looked from the weapon to the purring feline and heaved a sigh, letting his weapon hand fall to his side.
"Well done," he told the kitten ruefully. "You have now completely ruined my credibility."
Cracking The Death Star
Vader supposed he should have realized that the cat would find a way aboard his TIE fighter. He had already learned that telling it to stay was a futile gesture. Trying to convince it that it couldn't follow him into a space battle was just as likely to be pointless. However, when the Rebel pilots began their X-Wing assault, he had firmly removed the animal from its perch on his shoulder and left it behind a locked bulkhead-- or so he thought.
Not only was the kitten capable of occupying far more space than a being of its small size should have been able to, it was also possessed of an uncanny ability to squeeze into crevices which the laws of physics seemed to dictate would be far too small. Its favorite location was the miniscule space between the Sith Lord's desk and the wall, where it could stare and meow at him until he attempted to reach down there for it. Whenever he did so, he had the unmistakable feeling that the animal was laughing at him, since his efforts to grab it inevitably failed.
He experienced a similar sensation when, in the middle of the dogfight with what remained of the Rebel attack squadrons, he heard the curiously cheerful little mew and the cat's fluffy head popped up from underneath his seat.
"Cat!" he shouted, trying vainly to swat it while it climbed up his leg and, in some strange and impossible feat of feline gymnastics, managed to land on the fighter's control panel.
Of course, this occurred just as he head the lead fighter's position locked and was preparing to fire. The shot went wide, impacting the side of the Death Star, while Vader again attempted to swat the cat while keeping one hand on the control yoke.
The cat seemed not to mind at all and was busily prancing over the controls and rubbing against the Sith Lord's gloved hand. With the kitten nudging the back of his knuckles, he accidentally triggered the blaster several times, but naturally none of the shots struck the Rebel leader.
"The Force is strong with this one," he muttered absently. "Cat, will you get out of my way!"
He took another swat at it, again missing, though this time he managed to come close to flicking its ear with his pinky finger. It blinked back at him in annoyance, then began to rub its head against the screen of his targeting computer.
Finally, it scurried out of the way, but before Vader could capitalize on his momentary triumph and put an end to the Rebel pilot in front of him, one of his wingmen was suddenly vaporized by overhead blaster fire. Stunned, Vader craned his neck in an attempt to locate the new enemy. The cat, meanwhile, recovered from its temporary fit of sanity and leapt into his lap.
Another shot struck, this time knocking Vader's craft into a spin. The cat shrieked and dug into his leg with his its claws, scraping frantically against the alloy as it tried to keep itself from falling.
"Stop that!" Vader yelled, desperately trying to right the ship. "Cat! I am not a scratching post!"
It paid no attention, and for several very long seconds, he could do nothing but fight with the TIE while the cat attempted to claw him to death. Then, just as he was about to pull out of the spin, a massive shockwave shook the small craft.
The Death Star, he realized. Somehow, the Rebels had managed to destroy the Emperor's battle station. To make matters worse, the blasted cat was trying to claw its way behind him and hide under the security of his cloak. He sighed, immediately knowing that he would have no such refuge from Palpatine.
"I don't know how, and I don't know why. But I know that this is your fault."
Cracking Imperial Center, or: Cat Goes to Coruscant
Vader quickly discovered that cat hair, much like the cat itself, had the disturbing ability to get into places which were physically impossible for it to be. Chief among them was his pressure-sealed helmet, out of which he spent more than an hour picking tiny particles of orange hair while ensconced within the groundside hyperbaric chamber in his personal apartment on Imperial Center. His mechanical fingers were far too large and lacked the manual dexterity for the task at hand, so he missed many of them, but at least he would no longer have tiny hairs tickling his nostrils while he attempted to maintain an air of stark, awe-inspiring menace and brooding displeasure with those around him. Once he finished, he emerged from the pressure-chamber to find that the kitten had made itself quite at home in the exact center of his bed -- which was well enough, since he rarely ever slept, and if the animal had to occupy some space in the dwelling, he supposed that he would rather it appropriated a place which he would be quite content never to use again. Sweeping out of the bedroom, he made his way quickly into the living room, where he was not surprised to find a holomessage awaiting him.
The Emperor had already received word of his precious battle station's destruction by the Rebel Alliance. He was considerably displeased with this unexpected circumstance, and in fact, he intended to hold Vader personally responsible. He expected a full report in his throne room in one hour. Vader sighed, glancing slowly down at his orange-hair-covered armor.
"Of course you do," he muttered.
The message had been left ten minutes ago. Left with no alternative, he pressed a button on the holotransmitter and contacted the Executor. Then he spent another fifteen minutes prowling the apartment until a frightened young officer appeared at the door bearing a small, hand-held vacuum. The Dark Lord snatched it without a word and stabbed the button beside the door, sealing it in the man's face.
Then he stalked into the kitchen, where he had planned to lay out his cloak on the wide counter-space beside the food-prep station. As he entered the room, he found the now familiar orange ball of fluff looking back at him from the counter. It purred happily at the sight of him, either oblivious to or completely unconcerned with his foul mood.
"Get off the counter!" he ordered.
"Get-- off-- the counter!" he repeated.
It stood up, stretched, and for a single instant, Vader actually wondered if it might be about to do as he wished. Then it simply curled up in a tighter ball, now with its back to him, and pretended not to have understood a word he said.
"Insufferable animal. I don't have time for this!" he declared.
He laid out his cloak on the kitchen table, then began to slowly and painstakingly vacuum hair off of the black material. He doubted that it would ever return to the pristine and terrifying state of utter perfection which had characterized it before the green-eyed feline demon had decided that a Sith Lord's cloak was the appropriate garment to wander about under, but after peering at it closely for several minutes, he didn't see anything that could be distinctly recognized as cat hair. Satisfied, he vacuumed as much hair as he could off the rest of his armor, then donned the cloak and hurried from the apartment, so concerned with not being late for his audience with Palpatine that he never thought to wonder why the cat was no longer on his kitchen counter or where the creature might have gone.
He realized his mistake a short time later, when he walked into the vast, dimly lit chamber which the Emperor used for private audiences. At the far end of the room, Palpatine himself waited in a massive, high-backed throne, which was situated atop a circular dias approachable only by ascending a long flight of stairs. At the bottom of those stairs, safely outside the angry Emperor's field of vision perched a tiny, green-eyed, orange kitten. Vader glared darkly at it, but he could make no gesture or verbal command without alerting Palpatine to the animal's presence.
I don't believe it, Vader said to himself. Then he paused. Wait. Nevermind. Yes, I do.
Prune-Face Cracks, or: Cat Versus Palpatine
The cat didn't react to Vader's look, and the Dark Lord could only walk slowly up to the steps and drop onto one knee. As he did so, he used one hand to flare the bottom of his cloak, hoping that the motion would attract the cat's attention. The cat, however, displayed no interest in the cloak, which at any other moment would have been its favorite place to hide. It calmly shifted positions on the step and began to wash itself, its manner entirely disdainful of the exchange going on in the room around it.
"You are late, Lord Vader," Palpatine began.
"Yes, my Master," Vader replied, folding his hands calmly around his knee. "I have no excuse.
"I see. And do you perhaps have an excuse for the untimely fate of my Death Star?" asked the Emperor.
Yes, Vader thought with a silent sigh. The kitten sitting on the step over there is the culprit. I still don't know how and I don't know why. But it is.
Aloud, he replied only, "No, my Master."
"Well," the Emperor replied, his yellow eyes settling on his apprentice for a long, painful moment, in which he allowed Vader to contemplate several dozen possibilities for punishment which had not yet occurred to him.
Then, slowly and deliberately, he rose from his throne. Hands still enfolded in the sleeves of his black robe, he started down the steps, seeming to float down them as part of the shadows in the room rather than to actually walk. About halfway down the steps, he came to a sudden halt and tipped his head back, drawing in a sharp breath. Vader looked up hurriedly, then brought his gaze back to the cat, which was still blithely bathing itself without regard for either of them.
Vader stared in disbelief.
Startled by the sneeze, the cat sprang off the step and bolted for the shelter of Vader's cloak. The animal just made it under the hem of the garment when Palpatine looked back at Vader. The Emperor sniffled. Vader continued staring but did not otherwise react.
"Lord Vader," Palpatine began again. "Is there a cat in this room?"
"Cat, my Master?" Vader asked with an air of confusion.
"You know that I am allergic to cats, Vader," said the Emperor.
In fact, Vader had not known. The subject of allergies had never come up between them, nor had they ever had any reason to discuss house pets. However, the revelation of the Emperor's allergy left Vader, for the first time in a very, very long time, on the verge of laughter.
"Yes, my Master," he said solemnly.
Each sneeze became more violent, until the hood of Palpatine's cloak fell back to expose his bald, disfigured head. Terrified either by the noise or the Emperor's hideous appearance, the cat hissed menacingly. Fortunately, between Palpatine's sneezing and the racket made by Vader's breather, the sound was barely audible even to Vader. He doubted that his Master would be able to hear it.
"You would not have--ah-CHOO!--brought a cat into my throne room, would you, Lord Vader?"
"Where would I have found a cat, my Master?" Vader asked innocently.
"I don't--achoo!--know," replied Palpatine. "But there is some reason that I am--ah-choo!-- sneezing!"
"I don't even like cats," Vader said honestly. "Perhaps you are catching a cold."
"A cold?!" repeated Palpatine.
"It happens to the best of us, my Master," Vader said.
Palpatine glared down at him, but before he could make a response, another fit of sneezing struck. This time, he came very close to stumbling down the stairs. When he recovered, he gave Vader another long look.
"Vader. I am going to lie down. I will deal with you later," he announced.
Then he moved swiftly down the steps and out of the throne room, sneezing loudly every step of the way. Even after the door slid closed behind him, Vader could hear the echoes of those sneezes slowly growing more and more distant.
When they had finally faded away, he lifted up the edge of his cloak. The kitten craned its neck to peer up at him.
He looked back thoughtfully for a while, then sighed. "You expect a bowl of milk for this, don't you?"
Cracking the Dark Lord
As the cat grew older, Vader found that he became accustomed to its presence. What he could not get used to however was the rate at which the little animal grew. It seemed impossible to him that the tiny kitten which had once fit so comfortably in the palm of his hand could have become a large, fat adult feline capable of intimidating full grown Imperial officers. Further impossible was the fact that, no matter how fat it grew, it was always able to maintain its balance on Vaders shoulder.
If that wasnt enough to mystify the Dark Lord, there was the volume at which the cat snored. Once he had thought the racket of his breather was distracting. Now, he often thought with nostalgia of the days when the only annoying noise in his quarters came from him. The snoring was particularly irritating if there were others in the room.
It was next to impossible for him to maintain the proper air of terrifying power while every Imperial Officer present was well aware that the gigantic, rumbling ball of fur nearby belonged to him. The cat, of course, had no concern whatsoever for Vaders reputation. He was becoming rather tired of having to Force choke various aides and junior officers simply because the fools didnt have the good sense not to snicker. Usually, they tried to apologize, of course, but the damage was already done. The Emperor didnt usually care how many men that Vader choked, but lately he had begun to remark that the Force choking was getting out of hand.
As he made his way back to his quarters this afternoon, Vader had suddenly hit upon the notion of hiring an animal behaviorist. He was still mulling over this possibility as he reached his door. For some reason, the cat had chosen not to accompany him to the bridge this morning, and as he entered his quarters, he entertained a faint hope that it had either slept enough while he was gone or was so deeply asleep that it was beyond snoring.
Meow! came the cheerful greeting as he swished into the cabin.
He wasnt sure whether that was a good thing or not. The cat began its usual process of threading figure eights around Vaders feet, which Vader staunchly ignored and clomped over to his chair. As soon as he sat down, the cat sprang into his lap and began to purr. Yet another annoying feline noise.
I am not going to pet you, Vader insisted.
The cat purred louder.
Sighing, Vader picked up a datapad from his desk and began to scroll through a report. The purring continued for a while, then gradually dropped off. Startled, Vader glanced up from his reading and then peered down at the furry lump in his lap. On cue, it began to snore.
Insufferable, he muttered and went back to his reading.
He soon found that he had read the same line three times in a row and still had no idea what it said. With an impatient growl, he slapped the datapad down again and gave the cat a poke with his index finger. It came awake with a start and glared up at him, tail twitching in annoyance.
The cat purred. Loudly. And its tail was still twitching.
Vader stared at it in disbelief. What? Are you afraid to hiss at me?
The cat hissed.
I should have known better.
Shifting with an air of offended dignity, the cat let its eyes slide closed. A few minutes later, it was snoring again. Vader decided that it was far beyond the help of an animal behaviorist and began considering replacements for his current staff and command crew.
Crack to Nature
Vader discovered that the cat had an intense fear of grass. Upon consideration, he decided that this was understandable given the fact that the animal had spent most of its short life on a Star Destroyer. As such, it had no way of realizing that the weird, wavy green stuff that sprouted from the ground on most of the planets that Vader had occasion to visit was not going to attack it. However, the Dark Lords tolerance of the situation made it no less embarrassing, especially since the cat routinely forgotor perhaps choose to ignorethe fact that it was petrified of walking in grass.
It habitually rode on Vaders shoulder, which would have entirely eliminated the problem, except that it was also used springing down from its perch whenever it saw an opportune moment to wreak havoc or engage in a bit of solo intimidation. Vader was willing to put up with this practice because he found the cats ability to cow trained Imperial officers and other high ranking officials to be quite entertaining. He often found that he could use the cats temperament to his advantage if for some reason he needed to keep an errant Governor or military advisor alive.
A simple slow, pointed turn of his head toward his right shoulder, where the cat most often roosted and it would glare so balefully that the offender would blanch and sputter apologies. If the cat was already on the floor or in some other more advantageous location like the top of a shelf or the back of a chair, Vader could casually inquire as to whether the individual would like to discuss his or her error with his cat. This typically produced a flurry of wild, frantic activity as the persons head swiveled around the room in hopes of finding the feline before its claws sank in. Most often, he didnt even need to have the cat swat the person, but in some cases he did so, simply for the sake of reminding everyone involved that his cat was a force to be reckoned with in its own right.
Privately, he also thought the cat made an impressive display of itself when it leapt off his shoulder as he reached the end of a shuttles boarding ramp and landed without missing a beat. It would then parade along quite haughtily at his side, casting disdainful glances to either side. He had no idea how the fat orange beast managed to appear so regally graceful as it did this, but he had long ago learned to stop asking questions.
Unfortunately, the cats admirably imposing presence was diminished somewhat by the problem with grass. This was particularly the case when, upon stepping out of a landspeeder at the country estate of a particularly troublesome regional governor, Vader felt the cat spring down and immediately knew that it was going to land on the lawn.
Naturally, it realized its mistake a moment too late and then let out a high pitched shriek of alarm that made the entire entourage stop in its tracks. They looked nervously from Vader to the cat, who had unsheathed its claws and was attacking the lawn with a hissing, spitting, growling fury that was easily worthy of an enraged Iridonian reek. Vader sighed, wondering if it would be feasible to allow the animal to wear itself out before he attempted to pick it up. He wasnt afraid of the cats teeth and claws, but he was getting particularly tired of having to buff scratch marks out of hands, arms, or even his chest plate when the animal decided to shred him.
After a moments consideration, he turned to face the beast and pointed a finger at it, calling on the Force to lift it off the ground. He had hoped that this would resolve the problem, but all it accomplished was to create an even more ridiculous spectacle. The cat, now floating several inches above the grass, flailed about, flipping itself from side to side and then executing a spectacular overhead flip, slashing out with its claws at the grass, Vaders ankle, and anything else that happened to fall within its line of sight.
Cat! Vader boomed in annoyance. Its grass!
Of course the distraught animal paid no attention, and finally he was forced to levitate it into his arms. After a few initial swipes at him, it realized that it was now out of whatever mortal danger it perceived from the lawn and settled with its tail flicking and ears flattened against its head, glaring dangerously at anyone who got too close. Without a word, Vader turned and continued the procession, his right hand moving absently over the cats back as he walked.
Dont get used to this, he told it silently.
Cracking His Confidence
Vader was beginning to feel confident as a pet owner. After three years, it seemed to him that he and the cat had finally reached an understanding in regard to such issues as cloak chasing, pestering the Dark Lord while he read, and when it was or was not appropriate for the cat to accompany him. Generally, that understanding was quite simple. Vader would voice his opinion to the cat, fully expecting to be ignored, and the cat, in turn, obliged by disregarding everything he said. That was, of course, unless it wanted his attention, in which case it became suspiciously docile and affectionate.
The loving and demonstrative stage had its problems, too, of course. This was when the cat was most prone to humiliate the Dark Lord. Incessant purring and attempts to cuddle while he was plotting to take over the Empire were bad enough. Worse was the constant nuzzling and rubbing against Vaders helmet, or threading its way back and forth over Vaders shoulders like some sort of feline gymnast on a crossbeam. The worst offense, though, were the constant figure-eights around his feet.
Vader was already top-heavy and found it difficult to keep his balance with claw-like prosthetic feet stuffed into boots with raised heels and pointed toes. The added difficulty of a cat made the simple act of walking into an event of epic proportions, requiring monumental effort in order to keep from landing face down.
He considered himself quite fortunate that his luck had held out this long, since he was sure that the day he finally did trip, he would either land on the cat and wind up being clawed to death as punishment or be unable to get up because the cat would seize on this as the perfect opportunity to pounce on his back and roll around in his cloak. He hadnt figured out how he was going to extricate himself from that situation, since he was reasonably certain that anyone who saw him trip wouldnt dare to stay long enough to help him up.
He still asked himself why he endured all of this. The cat did have many admirable qualitiestraits which he felt made it a worthy pet for a Sith Lord. However, those things never entirely outweighed the annoying aspects of its presence or the fact that it seemed to be single-mindedly intent upon causing Vader the greatest level of humiliation and distress that it possibly could. Then he recalled Palpatines allergy attack, and chuckle of wicked satisfaction escaped his mouth grille. For that alone, the animal was worth its weight in salmon.
The cat, who was pretending to be asleep in his lap, looked up at the sound. It tilted its head curiously at him and mewed a soft question. Vader allowed his hand to drift over the sleek feline head and down the soft, curving back.
Yes, he thought. Any being who could so easily dispose of the Emperor is a worthy ally indeed.
A Fleet Full of Crack(pots)
Vader had discovered that the cat was prone to nightmares. At least, he assumed that the problem was nightmares. The animal could be soundly asleep one moment and then spring wide awake the next. As it woke, it would vault down from wherever it happened to be sleeping (and Vader could only offer a fervent prayer that it wasnt in his lap) and then bolt at incredible speed into the next room, where it would promptly find a space far too small for it and wedge itself there until Vader was forced to get down on his knees and try to scoop it out. This rarely worked, and on the few occasions when it did, Vader would have to spend the next week buffing scratches out of his armor in the most unlikely places imaginable.
He was thoroughly fed up with this state of affairs until he discovered how very much worse things could be. He had finally tracked the Rebel scum to their newly operational secret base on the ice-planet of Hoth. The Imperial Navy was en route there now, and he was looking forward with particular relish to destroying this installation. In retrospect, he realized that his anticipation had most likely blinded him to the growing danger of living with a sleep deprived, neurotic cat.
He had just entered his quarters and was making his way toward the hyperbaric chamber when the cat came shooting out from behind it, launched itself at Vader with claws outstretched, and crashed into him, clinging wildly to his facemask. Blinded and stunned by the sheer velocity and unexpectedness of the attack, the Dark Lord staggered backward. The door behind him hissed open and he stumbled into the corridor, pinwheeling both arms to keep his balance.
CAT!! he roared.
Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeow! he heard in response.
He landed with a thud against the far wall and reached up to pry the cat loose. It remained as rigid as a statue in his hands, back arched, paws straight out in front of it, tail and fur all sticking straight up. They stared at one another for a long moment, and then Vader came to the horrible realization that they were not alone. Sighing, he cradled the cat against his shoulder, which was no simple feat while its claws were bared and all four legs were sticking straight out. Grumbling, he pet it until it relaxed against him and then turned to the goggle-eyed and gaping General Veers.
What is it, General? he demanded testily.
My Lord, the fleet has moved out of light speed. Com-Scan has detected an energy field protecting an area around the sixth planet of the Hoth system. The field is strong enough to deflect any bombardment, Veers said, looking nervously from him to the cat. Fortunately for him, he managed not to snicker.
The cat hissed.
The Rebels are alerted to our presence. Admiral Ozzel came out of light-speed too close to the system! Vader snapped.
He felt surprise was wiser...
He is clumsy and stupid! Vader interrupted, all too aware of the painful irony that the criticism was coming from a Sith Lord who had just been accosted and slammed into a wall by a fat orange cat. General, prepare your troops for a surface attack.
Yes, Lord Vader, Veers replied, then whirled smartly on his heel and strode down the hall just slightly faster than he really needed to.
Marvelous, Vader muttered, turning toward the cat. Would you prefer Darth Purr, Darth Fur, or Darth Meow?
Carbonite Cracks, or: Cat vs. Fett
Vader knew that something was going to go wrong as soon as the cat started nosing around the carbon freezing chamber. He, Calrissian, and Boba Fett were standing around the perimeter of the freezing platform while the cat inspected the mechanism itself, pawing at the grille until Vader was forced to pick the beast up. He couldnt imagine what was so fascinating about carbon freezing, nor could he see any conceivable way that the cat could damage the chamber, but he knew without a doubt that it would happen. With an air of resignation, he kept the animal firmly draped over one arm, his other hand moving in an absent, placating rhythm to counter the annoyed flicking of its tail.
Jabba dont like cats, Fett groused. If I find one cat hair stuck to Solo--
Flatting its ears against its head, the cat glared balefully at the bounty hunter and hissed. Vader lifted his arm, placing the cat directly at eye level with Fett. They faced off for a moment, the cats tail continuing to flick dangerously against Vaders arm as it bared its teeth and hissed again. Fett took a wary step back. Chuckling to himself, Vader stroked the cats back and regarded the bounty hunter with a steady, menacing gaze of his own.
You were saying? he asked casually.
Nothing, Fett quickly shook his head.
Exactly as I thought, agreed Vader.
Then he sent Fett and an escort of stormtroopers to bring in Solo, the princess, and the Wookiee. By the time they returned, the cats mood had improved enough that it sprang onto his shoulder. Vader knew that he should have kept it in his arms, but he also realized the futility of trying to convince the cat that it needed to be held. Having no desire to argue with it now, he allowed it to assume its perch without comment, focusing on the exchange between Calrissian and Solo.
What's going on buddy? the smuggler was asking.
You're being put into carbon freeze, Calrissian replied in a distinctly uncomfortable undertone that Vader did not like.
What if he doesn't survive? He's worth a lot to me, Fett asked, moving away from the group to stand near Vader, though he kept a wary distance from the cat.
The Empire will compensate you if he dies, Vader replied, though he was sure the smuggler couldnt really be worth the ridiculous price that Jabba the Hut was willing to pay. Put him in!
Then, realizing what is about to happen, the Wookiee let out a wild howl and attacked the stormtroopers surrounding Solo. In the confusion, the cat sprang from Vaders shoulder and descended on Fett with claws outstretched. The bounty hunter spun to try to fend the animal off, but Vader knew from experience how well it could dig its evil claws even into solid armor.
Thrown off balance, Fett staggered toward the freezing platform, tripped and landed on it. The grille opened and Fett dropped inside. Vader fully expected him to come rocketing back out a second or two later with the cat still attached, but instead fiery liquid begins to pour down in a shower of white hot sparks and fluid. Steam billowed up, clouding Vaders vision, and when it cleared, he heard a curious, questing sort of meow over head. He looked up to find the cat clinging by its claws to some hoses attached to the carbonite outlet.
Impressive, he said calmly. Most impressive. Now, how are you going to get down?
Farmboy Cracks, or Cat vs Skywalker
Vader had tried to levitate the cat down with the Force, but it was terrified and kept digging its claws further into the pipes whenever it felt itself start to float. He couldn't quite figure out why the cat was so upset. After all, it had spent its entire life climbing up his back—which should have been a far more terrifying proposition than being floated out of its current predicament.
He was tempted to leave it there. After all, he had been trying to rid himself of the annoying creature for years. Unfortunately, Palpatine's allergy made the little animal too valuable a weapon to be discarded. Once he had come to that conclusion, Vader considered simply yanking the cat down with the Force. He was certain that he could have it on the ground before it could figure out what was happening. Then he remembered that he had recently been bowled through his cabin door and knocked into the wall outside with the frightened cat attached to his facemask.
He wasn't going to get another opportunity to capture Luke. After his failure to kill Obi-Wan on the Death Star, he was lucky to be getting any chance at all. Only the boy's foolish attachment to his friends had provided this one, and the cat could not be allowed to ruin things by jumping down on them at an inopportune moment. So, Vader was still trying to coax it out of the hose rigging when Luke walked into the carbon freezing chamber.
He gave the uncooperative feline a nasty look which did not phase the cat in the slightest. He told himself the cat simply couldn't see his expression, but he had a sneaking suspicion that it wouldn't have cared anyway. Grumpily, he turned to face his would-be opponent and sneered.
"The Force is with you, young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet!"
"Yeah, well, you don't look like much of a Sith, either," quipped Luke, who had by now heard all about Obi-Wan's encounter with the Dark Lord's kitten aboard the Death Star.
"A cat, as you will soon discover, is not the adorable mewing ball of fluff it appears to be," Vader told him seriously.
"Right…" Luke's tone was dubious. He lowered his lightsaber and peered up at the cat. "What are you doing to the poor thing anyway?"
"What am I…?" repeated Vader in disbelief.
Luke ignored the Dark Lord's irritation and kept his attention the cat. He spoke to it in soothing tones for several minutes but received only hissing, spitting replies. Vader shook his head and looked on smugly. If the young fool was so determined to get the cat down, Vader had no compunction about allowing him to do so. At least this time he wouldn't have to spend hours buffing claw marks out of his armor.
After a while, the cat's violent hissing petered off. Luke assumed that it was starting to trust him, but Vader knew that the animal was merely biding its time. Finally, Obi-Wan's apprentice hooked his weapon back onto his belt and Force-leapt up beside the cat. Hanging onto the hoses with one hand, he worked his other arm around the beast, dislodged the claws, and was promptly attacked as he tried to draw the cat close against his chest.
"Heyyyyyy!" he cried as he lost his grip and clattered noisily back to the platform where Vader was waiting. "Hey, hey, cut it out!"
The cat let out a loud, wailing cry of its own and continued slicing up the newcomer with its claws. Completely unprepared for the viciousness of the mauling, Luke floundered and staggered about. He still seemed convinced that the cat should be viewed as a victim rather than the aggressor in the situation and was desperately trying to convince it that he could be trusted.
"I'm on your side here!" he told it. "I helped you!"
Eventually, the cat either grew tired of the boy's whining or decided that clawing supple human flesh was unsatisfying in comparison to the cold and unforgiving metal of Vader's body armor. It sprang away, and Vader steeled himself for a similar assault. However, instead of jumping on him, the cat—which was still somewhat disoriented from its recent ordeal—leapt away and bolted into the clouds of steam that had begun to billow through the room.
"You're welcome!" Luke yelled after it in disgust.
Vader smirked, "You were expecting, perhaps, gratitude?"
Cloud City Cracks, or: Cat vs….Cat?
When Vader's Cat regained his footing, he realized that he was alone. He prowled the strange place that he had fallen into, sniffing and batting at strange metal objects with his paws. Vader was somewhere above him, and the cat was determined to get back to him. He could find no way back, though, and he was forced to press onward, moving through a dark tunnel and into the room beyond it.
There, his hackles rose. He smelled something strange. Something…he had never smelled before. He peered over his shoulder and considered going back, but there was no way to Vader through the tunnel. Cautiously, he crept further into the room. As he did so, he noticed that the odd scent was strongest coming from a dark corner of the room just in front of him. He veered away, searching for a door that might lead him back to Vader. Then, an animal appeared, melting out the shadows to stare at him with large, bright purple eyes that had slitted pupils. The cat took a step back, unsure what to make of the being. It was a tad smaller than he was, thinner, and had white, matted fur, delicate looking pointed ears that had little gossamer threads attached to them that drifted down and touched the sides of its face. It approached him slowly, sniffed at him, and then rubbed down the length of his body, purring loudly.
"Meow…" it greeted him in a low, sultry tone.
Vader's Cat stood still. He had rarely been in the presence of anything female, and he had never seen another feline. His would-be paramour continued her advances, even caressing him with a long, graceful tail. After a few moments, the cat took a step back. The female followed and he swiped a claw at her in warning. She froze, and her demeanor shifted to one of menace. Both animals crouched and hissed at one another. Vader's Cat sprang forward, lunging for the insane creature in front of him, determined to be done with her quickly so that he could continue his quest to find Vader.
What followed was an epic and harrowing struggle worthy of any lightsaber battle. The female proved to be a cunning and vicious adversary, and though Vader's Cat had the advantage in size and strength, she had much more experience with this kind of wrangling. Once he recovered his equilibrium, the two felines utterly destroyed the reactor room. Fur flew. Teeth and claws drew blood. There was enough yowling, crashing, and springing from place to place as equipment fell and panels tore lose that the racket could be heard all throughout the city. Panicked citizens of Cloud City assumed that the Empire had taken over the city and begun torturing prisoners.
Finally, something crashed into the large round window in the center of the room, and a terrible wind began to pull both animals out toward the reactor shaft. Vader's Cat dug his considerable claws into the instrument panel that he was standing on, but the wind was relentless, sucking him toward the terrible space outside.
Vader did, indeed, hear. But unfortunately for the Cat—and for Luke— the Sith Lord did not have his impeccable sense of timing.
"How did it do all this?" Luke cried in dismay when he and Vader reached the reactor control room and saw the devastation that the cats had caused.
"You do not yet realize that animal's importance," Vader replied gravely.
"What?" Luke squinted at the Dark Lord.
"You have only begun to discover the cat's power," Vader told him. "It is the key to destroying the Empire. Join with us with our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy."
"Have you lost what's left of your mind?" Luke stared at him. He'd felt sorry enough for the poor cat to agree to help Vader find it when all the noise started. He stipulated that Han and Leia would be free to go once the cat was safe, but now he was beginning to wonder if the little guy would really be safe at all. He hadn't realized just how delusional Obi-Wan's old apprentice had become.
Vader gestured meaningfully at the war zone that had once been the reactor control room. Luke raised his eyes to the ceiling and began to look around. Hopefully, the cat had just been scared when the window broke and was now hiding under something. He didn't even want to think about what would happen if it turned out that the cat had fallen out there.
"How do you even think you're going to use a cat against the Emperor?" he asked, not really expecting a reply.
"That cat is responsible for the destruction of the Death Star," Vader said.
"That was me!" Luke ran a hand over his face. How did he get into these situations?
"So you have been allowed to believe," rumbled Vader ominously. He turned from side to side, scanning the room. Then he raised his head, seeming to fall into a deep state of concentration. After a few moments, he glided toward the broken window.
Luke sighed. His hand moved to his belt and came to rest on his father's lightsaber. Any minute now, the nutcase was going to realize that his cat was dead, and then he'd turn on Luke again.
So much for alternatives to fighting, he thought. Sorry, Ben.
"The cat is outside," Vader declared, half-turning to look at Luke.
"I hate to break this to you, but if it's outside, it's probably…"
"It is alive," Vader cut him off.
"That's impossible!" Luke argued.
"Stretch out with your feelings," instructed Vader. "The cat is out there."
Luke rubbed his eyes, still not quite sure how he had gotten himself into this mess. He reached out slowly and was only half surprised when he found Vader's Cat alive and…well…alive, though the little animal was far too frightened at the moment for him to say it was "alive and well."
He sighed and headed for the door. Vader drifted after him, breathing over his shoulder. Strangely, he felt more uncomfortable at the thought of where they were going than at the notion of having the Dark Lord behind him.
"I have a bad feeling about this," he announced.
"Welcome to life in the company of a cat," remarked Vader.
"Why do you have him if you don't like him?" Luke asked.
"One does not possess a cat, young Skywalker. One is appropriated by it whether one likes it or not," said the Dark Lord.
Luke absorbed this information for several seconds before he turned to Vader, venturing, "Look. I happen to know that Princess Leia would love a cat. Why don't you just let me take him with me?"
Vader stared at him, exuding menace.
"…What?" Luke asked warily.
"It is my cat," said Vader.
"You will return the cat to me, Skywalker, or our agreement will go out of effect."
"Okay, okay," Luke sighed, walking a little faster. As he stepped onto the gantry outside, he muttered under his breath, "Cat people…!"
Absolutely Cracked, or: Jedi vs. Sith vs. Cat
"Cat!" boomed Vader as he and Luke combed the scaffolding and narrow gantry that overhung the city's reactor core. There was no immediate answer, but the Dark Lord was not dissuaded. He continued along the bridge, with Luke now trailing behind him and shaking his head. The further they went, the worse his bad feeling became.
Aside from that, the experience of listening to Darth Vader call repeatedly for a cat was well beyond the young Jedi's definition of surreal. The reactor pit was windy, and they had almost reached the end of the gantry when they finally spotted the orange ball of fur and menace.
Somehow, the cat had climbed past the guard rail where he and Vader were standing and made it all the way out to the farthest point of gantry's arm. To get to him, one of them was going to have to crawl across a durasteel beam that was barely wide enough to hold a human. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Do you see it?" Vader asked him.
"Yes…" he said reluctantly.
Vader pivoted to look around again, but still didn't spot the cat. He looked at Luke again, asking grumpily, "Where is it?"
"Way over there," Luke told him, gesturing over the reactor pit.
Finally, Vader let out a growl. "Cat! Get back here!"
The cat, of course, was too frightened to move. It probably couldn't hear him anyway. It wailed loudly, begging Vader to come and get it. Vader continued calling for a few minutes, then finally seemed to grasp the fact that the cat wouldn't be cajoled or bullied.
His fist closed heavily around the guard rail where he was standing. "Blast."
"He's scared," Luke sighed.
"I can see that," snapped Vader testily.
"I can't understand why he would have gone out there to begin with…" Luke shook his head.
"A cat will invariably find the one place that seems the least likely for it to be, climb there, get stuck, and then make horrible noise until it is rescued," explained Vader seriously.
"Well, now what do we do?" Luke asked.
"We…?" repeated the Dark Lord.
"He's your cat!" Luke pointed out.
"You are much smaller than I am," argued Vader.
"Can't you use the Force or something? Float him back here?" Luke asked.
"Can't you?" Vader challenged.
"In other words, you can't."
Vader was silent for several seconds. Or at least, as silent as his breather ever allowed him to be. He stared intently at Luke. The Jedi apprentice held his ground.
"The longer we stand here arguing, the more likely it is that something will happen to the cat," he said when Vader continued to stare.
"Precisely," threatened Vader.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Luke demanded.
Vader pointed toward the cat.
"Come on. There's got to be some other way," Luke suggested. "Maybe we can find someone who works down here. This can't be the first time…"
"Don't make me destroy you."
"All right, all right," sighed Luke. "But you really need to think about getting a cat carrier."
A Crack In The Family
Luke carefully eased himself past the guard rail and crawled across the reactor pit. He kept his eyes on where he was going and with desperate determination, ignored the possibility of falling. As soon as he got to the far end of the gantry, he grabbed hold of the pipes, pulled himself to his feet, and a white paw swiped at his hand from the other side.
He craned his neck to peer around and groaned. Vader's Cat perched on his left, glaring down at him with eyes so big that they practically took over his head. On his right, directly at eye level with Luke, there was another, smaller cat with matted white fur. She was thin and looked as if the wind would blow her away at any moment.
Turning back toward Vader, he shouted, "There's another cat here. You can't see her from over there!"
"Leave it!" yelled Vader.
"I can't do that!" Luke insisted.
He yanked his sleeve up over his hand and reached for the white cat. Both animals hissed and clawed at him, but he was well prepared for this kind of reception after his last encounter with Vader's Cat. Still, it took him several minutes to get the white one into his flight jacket where he could carry her back across.
Vader spent the entire time grumbling about the insufferable nature of cats, who had to make everything as difficult as possible. Luke had no argument with anything the Dark Lord said, but he still wasn't just going to leave the poor animal to fall to its death. Unfortunately, she was too terrified to understand that the Jedi was trying to help her, and once inside his jacket, she immediately began to scratch and bite at his chest and torso.
He barely made it back across, and when Vader's huge metal hand grabbed the back of his jacket to pull him up, the cat's claws dug viciously into his chest. He grit his teeth against the pain and waited until Vader let him go before he started trying to pry the white cat loose.
The process of coaxing took several minutes, and Vader ignored him the whole time. When he finally had the cat relatively settled—not "calm" by any means but at least not trying to claw his chest to pieces—he wondered what to do next. He didn't want to just put her down, but he couldn't take her back across with him, and the only alternative…
"Give it to me," said Vader with a note of something that sounded like resignation. Luke tried to tell himself that wasn't possible. The mechanical voice just wasn't capable of emoting like that. Yet, when he handed Vader the bedraggled cat, a long sigh escaped his mouth grille.
When he turned around again, Luke saw that Vader's Cat had climbed higher. He closed his eyes and sighed. Well, that's just great, he thought.
"I don't know if I'm going to be able to get him down from there," he told the Dark Lord.
"You had better be able to," threatened Vader.
"That cat hates me. He's not going to let me get close enough," Luke said.
"That cat hates everyone," Vader replied indifferently.
"He doesn't seem to hate you," Luke observed.
"He does that to spite me," said Vader.
"You know, I think you're right," Luke decided.
"Of course I am. Get going," Vader ordered, pointing across the pit.
"Come on…" Luke protested.
"We have already established that you are smaller than I am," Vader reminded him.
"There's got to be some other way of getting him down. A maintenance droid or something that could get out there and—"
"Enough stalling, Skywalker," Vader cut him off.
"I'm not stalling. This is insane," argued Luke.
Vader stared at him silently for several seconds. Then he took a step closer to Luke and jabbed a finger at his chest. "I am your father. Now get out there and get that cat!"
Reactor Cracks, or: Skywalker Earns His Name
Luke's eyes widened. Vader expected vehement denials and exclamations about it being impossible that the Sith Lord could have ever been Anakin Skywalker. He could almost hear them already. What Luke actually said, though was something entirely different.
"What?" he scoffed. "Oh, you really have lost your mind."
"No," insisted Vader. "Search your feelings. You know it to be true."
"Yeah. Maybe when I'm done rescuing the cat who's supposed to be able to destroy the Emperor," Luke rolled his eyes.
He started to crawl across the pit again, and Vader watched him go, broodishly leaning against the guard rail. This was not how things were supposed to be going. Once again, the cat was making his life difficult.
"Mew…" said a small voice.
He looked down in annoyance. "What?"
The white cat began to rub its head against his arm. Vader noticed that the hair was even more noticeable against his black armor than the insufferable orange cat's was. He grumbled irritably and considered simply dropping the animal into the reactor pit. A moment later, he discarded the notion. The creature was—well—not helpless, but certainly she would have no defense if Vader wanted to kill her. It would be unworthy of him.
"I am leaving you here," he informed the cat.
Her eyes slid closed and she began to purr.
"I am," insisted Vader.
The cat ignored him.
Sighing again, he looked up to check on Luke's progress. He had made it back across the reactor pit, but whenever he tried to grab the cat, it swiped at him, and his already precarious balance started to slip. The Emperor had foreseen that Luke could destroy him, and Vader felt sure that if he could subdue the cat long enough to effect a rescue, Palpatine would pose much less of a challenge. Unfortunately, at the moment the cat was decidedly in control of the battle. It appeared that the cat was going to dispatch the young Jedi before he ever had the chance to face the Emperor. Vader hoped that would not be the case. Luke was strong in the Force, and the cat was so insufferably spiteful that Vader didn't want to let his entire plan rest on its furry shoulders.
After several failed attempts at grabbing the cat, Luke tried to levitate it with the Force again. Vader could have told him that trick wouldn't work. He was beginning to suspect that the animals claws were, in fact, made of durasteel. He couldn't see well enough to discern what exactly it was holding on to, but Luke quickly realized that he wasn't going to be able to float the cat without forcing it to let go, and naturally, and his Jedi training wouldn't let him do that.
Suddenly, he went very still. Vader watched, puzzled at first, but eventually realized that the young fool was trying to touch the cat's mind with the Force. He intended to calm the beast and convince it to cooperate with him. Vader nearly laughed aloud. All Luke accomplished was to make the cat more determined to fight him off.
The battle went on. Luke suffered several nasty looking attacks from the durasteel claws. Vader couldn't tell how badly the cat was scratching him, but he imagined that the boy's skin was a lot less durable than his own armor. Every time the cat lashed out, Luke would totter a little more. His hand started to slip.
"Cat!" Vader boomed. "Stop that!"
The white cat in his arms began to his with displeasure. Unconsciously, the fingers of Vader's other hand began to stroke her fur. She stopped hissing, but her tail flicked back and forth against his arm, and he gave her a hard look.
"If you don't like it, we could revisit the notion of dropping you in the—"
He looked up just in time to see Luke tumble into the reactor pit.
"Well done!" he shouted across to the cat. "Now what do you expect me to do?"
A Pair of Cracks
By the time Vader managed to find someone who could get the cat down, the Millennium Falcon had escaped once, doubled back to rescue Luke, and escaped again. Boba Fett had taken Solo, and Vader was going to have to return to his master empty handed. To make matters worse, the cat had been frightened by its experience and now wouldn't leave him alone.
When he sat down, the cat sprang into his lap. He pet it a little, hoping that it would settle down and let him think, but the more attention he gave it, the more it seemed to want. When his hand stopped moving, the cat would rub against his arm. If that didn't succeed in drawing his attention, the animal would stand up and walk back and forth, rubbing its entire body along Vader's chest and stomach. As it did this, its tail would skim directly across Vader's mouth grille, and hair would shoot up into his nostrils. Every time he sneezed, the cat would glare at him as if he had committed some horrible offense to decent cat ownership.
He spent more than two hours trying to get the cat to relax, and he had just succeeded in coaxing the feline hellion to curl up in his lap when the door chime went off. The cat leapt up again. Vader sighed. He scooped it into his arms and tromped across his cabin to open the door.
On the other side, there was nervous looking young Imperial officer who was holding a cat carrier in his arms. Vader stared. The carrier had been a misguided gift from a planetary governor who wanted to curry favor with Vader—or perhaps, with Vader's Cat. The cat thoroughly disdained the thing, and Vader had left instructions for it to be thrown out. Apparently, that order had not been followed. To the Dark Lord's even greater displeasure, there was a white, fluffy, purple-eyed feline inside it, whose antennae were drooping so that they trailed down on either side of her head.
"What," Vader asked as threateningly as he could, "Is this?"
"It's the…cat, Lord Vader. The one that you…found. On Cloud City," the young officer said with a gulp.
"I know what it is," Vader replied. "What is it doing here? I thought I left instructions for it to be left on Cloud City?"
"Well, yes, my Lord. You see, it…keeps coming back. No one can tell why or how it's getting on board. But we keep…finding it. Sir," he explained, raising one finger to loosen his uniform collar uncomfortably.
"And why are you bringing it to me?" demanded Vader.
The young man's eyes darted to the orange behemoth resting in Vader's arms. He then looked up at the Dark Lord's mask and started to sweat. Profusely.
"You weren't so timid on Cloud City," remarked Vader. "What's the matter with you now?"
She mewed piteously.
Vader grumbled internally. Even if he had wanted to pick her up—which he didn't—he was never going to be able to maintain his dignity while he tried to crouch down in front of a cage on the floor. He also had no intention of saying that with someone else present.
"My arms are full," he said instead. "I can't pick both of you up."
Then, to his great amazement, the orange cat sprang down from his arms and sauntered over to the carrier. His lengthy fit of insecurity appeared to be over and completely forgotten, as did whatever hostilities had gone on between the two cats before he found them in the reactor chamber. He swaggered into the carrier, escorted the female back out again, and two of them promptly proceeded to groom one another.
Vader stood dumbfounded. After watching them for several minutes, he wandered back to his chair and sat down. The cats had forgotten that he existed.
"I have a bad feeling about this," he said.
Vader quickly discovered that having two cats was an entirely different proposition from having one. In the first place, he never knew when the cats were or weren't going to get along. They could be the best of friends one minute and then turn into hissing, spitting rivals the next. He would leave them grooming one another contentedly on his bed - which he never used and so was perfectly willing to let them appropriate - and then return a few minutes later to find both of them crouched at opposite ends, hair standing on end so that they looked more like giant balls of fur than anything else, meowing and caterwauling so painfully that he had to turn down his auditory implants.
He also learned that there was no good way to break up one of these spats. The first time, he tried to levitate both of them with the Force and use it to keep them away from one another. That was successful in ending the fight, but the sudden departure of gravity and being held in midair would distress them. They would both immediately try to escape, which was useless, and become more and more agitated, until Vader became genuinely concerned that they would injure themselves or have the feline equivalent of strokes. If he tried to physically separate them, they would turn on him and proceed to scratch and claw at his armour in vain attempts to either make him move or to reach one another. Then, whenever he managed to get them calmed down, he would have to spend several hours trying to buff new claw marks out of the armour and vaccuuming his cloak, which always seemed to pick up enough hair during these exchanges that he could have built himself three more cats.
Another problem was what to do with them until they forgot that they were arguing. Sometimes, they had a combined attention span of about five minutes when it came to these disputes. Other times they could hold grudges for hours. Even days. If Vader didn't keep them apart while they were upset with one another, a physical fight could break out as soon as his back was turned. Sometimes before his back was turned.
Mealtimes were especially difficult. The cats could not be fed at the same time because they liked to steal one another's food. It didn't matter if both of them had equal sized portions of food in separate bowls. They would consistently attempt to eat out of each other's bowls and then argue about which one belonged to whom.
One day, they discovered how to operate the cat food dispenser he'd had installed in his cabin. They had been friends that morning, and he hadn't been able to convince either of them to get off the bed and come with him when he left. When he returned, he found the whole cabin in a shambles and dry kitty kibble sprayed all over the floor, counters, desk, chair, and even the 'fresher. The cats were snuggled up together on the bed. For a moment, he thought they were asleep, but when they noticed him, they sprang up and sauntered off in opposite directions.
"I suppose it would be too much to ask for you to stay friends long enough for me to clean this," grumbled Vader.
Hairballs were becoming an extreme problem for Vader and his cats. They liked to groom one another, and the white cat shed a great deal more hair in the course of a day than Vader thought should be possible for an animal her size. At first, he thought he was imagining things. She couldn't really be shedding more hair than the orange behemoth. Then he thought that it only looked like she was shedding more because the white hair was for more prominent against his black armour.
He had to vaccuum himself every time he left his quarters aboard the Executor, and he had a special hidden pocket sewn into the seam of his cape so that he could carry a smaller version of his hand-held vaccuum for emergencies.
Unfortunately, the issue of the hairballs was not so easily solved. The first time the male cat had one, Vader thought it was dying. He supposed he should have known something was wrong simply by virtue of the fact that it was sitting by itself in a corner. It had been relatively quiet, so Vader had decided to simply take advantage of the situation and not interfere. Then the cat inexplicably began to shimmy the lower half of its body and make horrible wheezing noises. The female cat, which had been on Vader's lap, jumped down and crept closer, apparently attempting to offer support, but it stopped and waited, as if by some code of feline behavior that prevented it from getting too close.
Vader had watched in bewildered horror while the cat shimmied and stretched its neck, ears going flat against its head. It heaved and gagged several times, to no avail, and Vader was just about to rush it to the medical bay when it finally vomited up a huge ball of orange and white fur.
The problem grew worse in the weeks that followed. No matter what Vader did to keep the cats from ingesting hair, they both developed hairballs, and it seemed to him that they were engaged in a competition for who could produce the largest, grossest one in the most inconvenient location. He tried at least five different oils that were meant to either provide lubrication or dissolve the lumps of hair internally. The problem with those was that the cats were stubborn and would refuse to ingest the oils anyway. He searched the HoloNet for informational articles, home remedies, and veterinary advice, all to no avail.
Finally, in desperation, he decided that he was going to have to brush the cats. The orange one had never liked to be brushed and put up a fight on the few occasions that Vader had been forced to do it when he was a kitten. Things were no different now, except that he was bigger, meaner, more vocal, and would scratch and caterwaul until he could escape. The white one seemed to like being brushed, and would remain calmly in Vader's lap throughout the whole process. Meanwhile, the orange cat, who couldn't wait to be rid of Vader when it was his turn, would jump on the back of his chair and bat at him or try to knock the brush out of his hand in a bid for attention.
After about a week of this nonsense, he hit upon the idea of getting a droid for the purpose of brushing the cats. That lasted until he came back to his cabin and found several pieces of said droid strewn about the floor. It had also gotten an eye poked out, and was gibbering so badly that Vader had to send it to have its memory wiped.
"Well," he asked the cats when that was finished. "What am I supposed to do now? Levitate out your hairballs with the Force?"