by MJ Mink
The Imperial Army was his life.
His son was his joy.
It was, therefore, only logical that his son enlist in the Army and serve under his command where he could be trained by the best...and protected by the best of the best, his own father.
Faith in his father's protection had just come to naught.
Maximillian Veers put aside the macrobinoculars and stared at the blinding whiteness of Hoth. Hell was made of ice, a discovery he had just made. Ice and flames, unforgiving and lethal.
A blast repercussion shook the AT-AT. He grabbed the back of the driver's seat to maintain his rigid posture.
The remains of his son's AT-AT lay behind them now, and he focused his vision ahead. A few well-aimed blasts to the power generator, and the Rebels' defenses would lie in ruin. He would secure the base for Lord Vader's arrival. His lord would be pleased with him. It would mean more glory, another medal, perhaps even a promotion and a hero's parade.
But his true glory lay dead behind him.
A small snowspeeder zoomed past them, firing uselessly. The Rebels' puny weapons could not penetrate the sides of an AT-AT. Soon they would arrive at their goal, troops would pour out of the walker's belly, and the Rebellion would be crushed.
Minutes too late to save his son.
He gave the command and watched the generator explode into oblivion. Then he turned his crew's attention to slaughtering the insurgents who still held ground positions. Cannon fire and blood cut across the pristine white of snow. He loved watching the destruction.
Sergei had loved the snow.
Veers gave another command and the AT-AT turned in a large, slow circle. He surveyed the damage to his forces grouped behind. A couple walkers lassoed and cut from the herd as easily as nerf, crumpled on the ground. Crushed. His son's vehicle, destroyed by a grenade throw into its hull. He wondered what had happened to the Rebel pilot who had been so brash -- it had to have been Skywalker, of course. He's heard rumors of the Force in that one -- untrained and ignorant though he was, the Force steered him. He hoped the fool had been killed when the AT- AT exploded. He devoted a few seconds to imagining Skywalker, his mouth and nose filled with snow, opening his eyes in time to see the walker coming down on him.
Veers looked into the distance at the cliffs and low mountains whose sides were unsullied by the war.
Hey, Dad! Gotcha!
The memory of a snowball flew through the air and knocked off his furry hat.
He didn't flinch. Iron Face, the troops called him. And iron eyes that never showed pain.
The few snowspeeders that remained airborne were heading south.
"Follow them," he said, his finger pointing skyward.
It was, perhaps, a futile pursuit. AT-AT's could not fly, and snowspeeders could not cruise the ground and survive. But there might be one that would falter, run out of fuel, develop an engine problem. One that would be caught unaware in his gunsight. One more, that was all he asked. One more to even the score.
One unknown Rebel for his brilliant, shining son.
I want to be a soldier -- an officer like you, Dad. I want to be... dangerous.
And Sergei had smiled as though he believed danger was merely a game, something he could play on a day when he was bored with school and studies and the secure future that had been planned for him.
And I, indulgent and flattered, gave him what he wanted. Entry into the Imperial Academy, a commission, a post. He who was the last of my line... I sent to his death.
"There. What is that?"
He raised the macrobinoculars, aimed them toward the dot of orange in the distance. He adjusted the focus and found the dot was a Rebel flyer struggling through a drift half as tall as he was.
He nearly smiled. They would be in firing range before the traitor could hear their approach.
One more Rebel for Sergei.
The orange dot floundered, stumbled, fell face first into the snow. Veers lifted his chin. A few more meters and he would have the satisfaction of watching that little bit of flesh blown into shreds.
The dot removed its helmet. Veers narrowed his eyes, squinting, though the binocs sharpened and brought the figure into clarity.
He'd seen the circulated warning, memorized the face. Fury surged through his veins, and he had to lower the binocs lest he crush them against his eyeballs.
Join my son in death. Let murderer and victim fight forever in hell.
"Are we in range yet?"
Almost. Almost wasn't good enough. He reined his eagerness, practiced patience. It had always been one of his virtues. He never pounced too soon. He always waited...until his victim was too close to escape. Waited the way the most successful predators did. Waited for the best moment, for the most satisfying kill.
He raised the macrobinoculars again.
Skywalker was fumbling with something in the snow. A weapon?
It will do you no good, boy.
Skywalker lifted his arm and threw --
-- a snowball.
He threw a snowball at nothing.
Why not, Dad? I like throwing snowballs -- it's fun! Don't get all bent out of shape! What does it matter whether I hit something or not? However, now that you mention it....
Hey, Dad! Gotcha!
Just one word.
Fire and ice.
Death and retribution.
Because I like throwing snowballs -- it's fun!
The dot raised its arm again. Threw again. At nothing.
Threw a snowball for the sheer pleasure of the throwing.
The sheer pleasure of living.
He lowered the binoculars.
"Return to the regrouping area."
A momentary weakness, nothing more. Already he regretted this absurd act of mercy. Lord Vader would have to be informed. His punishment would most likely be severe.
Maximillian Veers wanted it that way.