The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #-3

Editor’s Note: This piece resumes a series of silly Star Wars fanfic-y spoofs I’d started two or three years ago.  It concludes the story in which one Dr. Starrkin (father of the title character, Colonel Starrkin) discovers some overruns in the Imperial Budget and must sort them out with a certain Darth Vader.  It is in this third, and concluding, volume that Dr. Starrkin actually meets the Dark Lord himself.  The first two installments may be found here & here.  And so, without further ado, I give you:

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #-3
A Vaguely Star-Wars-ish Kinda Thing
Mostly for Dale

16 January, 01 E.C.

We made our landing on Mustafar without incident.  The shuttle ramp lowered itself and I began to disembark.  As I did so, Simon the pilot called after me.

“Shall I keep the engine running, gov?”

Everybody’s a comic, I thought, as I entered the main entrance hall.  I was greeted by a smiling receptionist.

“Do you have an appointment?” he asked.

“I believe I have the only appointment,” I sad calmly.

“Ah, Doctor Starrkin!  I wasn’t sure you’d actually come.”

“That’s why I made the appointment.”

“Yeah, right.”  His smile faded.  “Still though.”  He looked me up and down.  “Sir?”

“Yes, sergeant?”

“If I may ask, sir.  I notice you’re wearing a rather tight collar.  Are you sure that’s wise?”

“Am I sure that’s…Force, man!  You suggested it!”

“I was being ironic, sir.  I thought that was obvious.”

“Why would that be obvious?”  I was admittedly confused.

“Well, because of his Lordship’s…reputation.”  He almost whispered this last word.

“Reputations are little more than glorified rumors,” I said confidently.  “Now, may I go in?”

“Of course, sir.  His Lordship isn’t expecting you.”

“I’m sorry,” I said slowly.  “Did you say he’s not expecting me?

“That’s right, sir.  His Lordship generally assumes his guests will find any way possible to get out of any…appointment.”  He put this last word in air quotes.

“Why did you put ‘appointment’ in air quotes?” I asked.

“Well, sir.  People don’t generally come here willingly.”

“Well I most certainly have, sergeant.”  I was beginning to grow weary of this man.  “But if, as you say, he is not expecting me, perhaps you’d be so good as to announce me.”

“Best not, sir.”

“And how’s that, exactly?”

“Well, sir.  His Vaderness doesn’t like to be disturbed, you see.  The last man in this job who used the intercom, well…let’s just say he doesn’t work here anymore.”

“I see.”  This was becoming tiresome.  “Then I shall simply enter unannounced.”

“Ooh, I wouldn’t do that if I were you, sir.”  And he whistled.

“Very well, sergeant.”  I took a deep breath.  “What would you do, if you were me?”

“Well, sir.  I reckon I’d turn right back around and walk on out of here whilst I still had the chance.”

“Enough of this,” I said sharply.  “I’m going in.”  And I strode past him.  As the door shshed open before me, I heard him speak.

“Maybe you want to – “ But I was ignoring him.  “ – loosen your collar,” he said, as the door shshed close behind me.

I found myself walking down a long corridor, with only a single door at the far end.  And when I say ‘far end,’ I do mean far.  It was six hundred meters if it was a centimeter.  No doors, no windows, save the aforementioned single door all the way the end.  When I (finally) reached it, I found that it was marked only with the letters “DV.”  Well, this must be it, I thought.  I knocked.  The door shshed open.

And there, standing before me, doing literally nothing but standing there, was His Darkness himself.  The Black One.  The Machine-Man.  The Terminator.  The one and only Lord Darth Vader.  In the flesh.  Or, rather, what was left of the flesh.

Bloody tinted helmet.  Was he looking at me?  Was he looking past me?  Was he even awake?  I opened my mouth to speak, but he beat me to it.

“Ah, Doctor Starrkin.  Do come in.”  I came in.

“I thought you weren’t expecting me, Lord Vader.”

“I wasn’t.”

“Then how did you – “

“Know who you were?  Let’s just say, I felt your presence.”

“I didn’t even know I had a presence,” I said, half to myself.

“Everybody has a presence.  It’s part of the Force, you see.  Ah, but perhaps you’re wondering what the Force is.  Well, the Force is a sort of power…no, not power.  An energy maybe.  I mean, not a quantifiable ‘energy’ in the sense of physics.  It is neither potential nor kinetic.  And yet it is both.  Both and neither.  Neither and both.  That is the Force.  And it…well, how can I put this in layman’s terms?  I guess you could say it binds the galaxy together.  Although, I guess you could say that about the Empire too.  But the Empire binds the galaxy together in a political sense.  And the Force is not political.  Well.  I mean, of course there’s a light side and a dark side.  And which side one adheres to generally breaks down along political lines.  So in that sense, yes, I guess the Force does bind the galaxy together in a political sense.  But also, in another, more powerful sense.  Sense.  Am I even making sense?”

“My lord?”  I must confess, I had begun to zone out.

“I say, Doctor Starrkin, am I making any sense?”

“With all due respect, my lord,” I said, returning to myself.  “I didn’t come here to philosophize about the Force.”

“No, no, of course not.  You came here to discuss the budget for…The Project.”

“How did you – “

“Know that?”  He sounded just a touch exasperated.  But maybe it was just his breathing apparatus.  “The Force.  I thought I made that clear.”

“Well, it doesn’t really matter.”

“Oh, but it does.  It does matter!  Look, I’ll show you.  Watch this.”  And without moving a muscle or a servo, he caused his desk to levitate a full meter off the ground.  “I bet you’re wondering how I did that.”

“The…Force?”  I tried to sound impressed, but I don’t think I succeeded.

“The Force!” he exclaimed.  “Very good, Doctor Starrkin.  Very good indeed.  You begin to see the true power of the Dark Side.”

“Of the Dark Side?”

“Of the Force!” he corrected quickly.  “Who said anything about the Dark Side?  There’s no Dark Side here.  Just because I enjoy dressing in all black – “

“With all due respect, my lord – “

“Don’t interrupt me!”

“I’m sorry, my lord.”

“And don’t apologize!  I don’t know why everybody is always apologizing to me.  I really seem to intimidate people, you know?  And I don’t know why.  Honestly.  I mean, maybe it’s the mask.  Is it the mask?  You can tell me.  I won’t be offended.”

“Well, my lord, if I’m being honest – “

“Please.  Be honest,” he said sincerely.

“Well, my lord.  To be honest, the mask is just a touch disconcerting…” I trailed off under his dark stare.

“Go on,” he insisted.

“And not the mask, per se.  But, well, it’s the tinted eye-pieces, I think.  What I mean is, one can’t tell if one is being looked at.  One can’t read your expression.  So one does not know if one has given offense.”

“I knew it!”  He punched a gloved fist into a gloved palm.  “I knew it.  I said to Palpatine, ‘Can we not do tinted eye-pieces?  It’s going to give a bad first impression.’  That’s what I said to him.  And you know what his answer was?  ‘Gooood.  Gooood.’  That’s what he said.”

“But surely you could simply order non-tinted eye-pieces?”

“It’s not in the budget,” he said, shaking his head forlornly.  “Ah, the budget!  That’s what you’ve come to talk about.  Let’s get down to titanium tacks, shall we?”

“With pleasure, my lord.”

“Now, if I read the Force correctly – which I always do – you have some questions about cost overruns on…The Project.”

“How did you…oh, right, the Force.  Yes, well.  There are a number of – “

“Line items I signed off on, which are unexplained, yes.  It’s part of a special assignment, which comes directly from the Emperor himself.“

“And what is the nature of this assignment, my lord?”  Now we were getting somewhere.

“Liquidation.”

“Liquidation?”

“That’s right.”

“Well, that’s simple enough.  If we could just show that in the filings, then that’s all I’d need.”  I was beginning to think this would be all too easy.

“Oh, we can’t do that,” he said nonchalantly.

“And why not?”

“It’s quite sensitive, politically speaking.”  I noticed, as he said this, that seemed to be almost nervously fingering his cape.

“Be that as it may, my lord, the public has a right to know where its tax dollars are going.”

“Well, normally I’d agree with you,” he said evasively.

“But?”

“But in this case…well, I was afraid…I mean, we were afraid…well, the emperor was afraid…” he trailed off.

“Yes?” I pressed.

“There was concern over a public backlash.”

“I see.”  Politicians, I thought.  They’re all the same.  “May I speak freely?”

“Oh, please do!”  He seemed almost relieved.

“Look, my lord.  These overruns are quite extensive.  They throw the whole imperial budget out of balance.  Two more years of this and we’ll have to raise taxes.  And nothing, my lord, nothing causes public backlash like raising taxes.”

“I never thought about it that way.”  He looked at me closely.  Or didn’t.  I honestly couldn’t tell.  “You know, Doctor Starrkin, you’re good.  You’re very good.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

“No, seriously.  I knew I liked you the minute you walked in that door.  ‘This one doesn’t wear riding pants,’ I thought to myself.  That’s when I knew we would get along.”  And he patted his thighs to emphasize his own lack of riding pants.

“I never did care for them.  They make sitting at a desk quite uncomfortable.  And when you’re an accountant, such as myself, you spend an awful lot of time behind a desk.”

“Right?!” he exclaimed cheerfully.  “I mean, I don’t usually sit at a desk, mind you.  But I do spend a lot of time in shuttles.  And those things are cramped enough.  Riding pants would just make it worse.  Plus, I mean, try having a light saber duel in a cape and riding pants.  You don’t know how many Jedi I’ve seen try to whirl round only to get their cape caught on their riding pants.”  He paused, darkly.  “Many a Jedi has died in just this way.”

“Have they?” I asked.

“I mean, I’ve heard.  I’ve heard that many a Jedi have died in just this way.”  He paused again, this time even more darkly than the last.  “Which reminds me.  You’re not a Jedi, are you?”

“Me?  A Jedi?”  I laughed.  “Force, no!”

“Do I take it then, that you’re…not a fan of the Jedi?”

“To put it mildly, my lord.  In my professional opinion, they’ve been a sink on the economy of the Republic for far too long.”

“You mean, the Empire.”

“I mean both, my lord.”

“And how’s that, exactly?”  He seemed genuinely curious.

“Well, it’s like this, my lord.”  I was growing confident.  Now we were in my territory.  “Six generations ago, they applied for tax exemption on religious grounds.  Which, I mean, in theory is fine.  Separation of Church and State and all that.  But, well, they’re not really separate from the State, are they, the Jedi?  I mean, they were originally chartered as a defense force.  Which is a military matter, and therefore a matter of State.  But some clever Jedi figured, ‘Hey, we use the Force.  That’s a religion.  We should re-charter ourselves as a religion.  No taxes!’  So that’s what they did.”

“That’s absolutely fascinating!’ cried Darth Vader.

“Oh, it gets better, my lord!”  I felt like I was floating six inches off the ground.  Which, to be fair, I might have been.  One never knows, when one is in the presence of His Blackness.  “You see, if they had given up their capacity as a defense force and focused entirely on religion, there’d be no problem.  But they didn’t do that.  They kept on ‘defending the Republic’ or ‘defending the Empire.’  But they didn’t pay a dime in taxes.”

“Right?” He might actually have been smiling behind that mask.  “That’s just what I’m on about!”

“Exactly!” I agreed.  “And wouldn’t you know it?  It’s only after they got their tax exemption that they started building all these palaces and shrines and schools and whatnot.  And on some of the choicest property in the Rep…I mean, Empire.  Think of the property tax revenue we’re losing!  Why, just on Coruscant alone…”  I began to calculate the numbers in my head.  But Vader interrupted me.

“Well, I see we’re on the same page here.  So I shall be frank.”

“Wait, your name’s not actually Frank, is it?”

“Huh?  No, it’s…well, nevermind that.  My point is, it’s just for this reason that we decided the Jedi must be liquidated.”

“Liquidated?  You mean, their assets?”  I’m an accountant.  I need specifics.

“In a manner of speaking.”

“In what manner of speaking, precisely.”

“In the manner of speaking where one considers one’s life to be an asset.”

“Ah,” I gasped.  “You mean…exterminated.”

“Oh, don’t act so surprised, Doctor.”

“Surprise has nothing to do with it, my lord.  But ‘liquidation’ is a technical term.  It must refer to assets.  If you want to say that you’re removing the Jedi…from life, as it were, in this case…well, that’s ‘extermination.’  Also a technical term.

“Is it?”

“Indeed it is, my lord.  We even have a special budgetary code for this.  We call it a six-one-seven-B-eight.”

“I see, I see,” mused Vader thoughtfully.  “And is there also a budgetary code for bounty hunting?”  And then he quickly added, “I’m asking for a friend.”

“Bounty hunting,” I thought, ignoring his last comment.  “Yes.  Let me think.  Oh right.  Yeah, that’s an I-G-eight-eight.”

“How ironic,” he laughed darkly.

“How’s that?” I asked.

“Or coincidental,” he shrugged.  “I’ve never been really clear on the difference between irony and coincidence.”

“To be honest,” I answered, “neither have I.”

“Good man,” he nodded approvingly.

“But what I am clear on,” I pressed, “is numbers.”

“Bothersome things,” he shook his black behelmed head.

“OK, I think that’s irony,” I said, half to myself.

“How so?”  He seemed genuinely interested.

“Well, my lord.  If I may be so bold?”

“Of course.”

“Well, my lord.  All of your autonomous life-functions are governed by a computer.  With all due respect, you wouldn’t be alive if not for numbers.  So the fact that you find numbers to be – how did you put it? – ‘bothersome things,’ well, that’s just a touch ironic.”

“Oh, very good!”  He clapped his black begloved hands together.  “You.  You’re good, doc.  You’re very good.”

“Thank you, my lord.  But if we could  – “

“Return to the matter at hand?  Yes, of course.”  He paused.  “Ah, but I sense that you do not like it when I finish your sentences for you.”

“Did the Force tell you that?” I asked coldly.

“Was that irony?”

“More sarcasm, my lord.”  And then, thinking better of it, “Respectful sarcasm, of course.”

“Of course.”  This was followed by an awkward silence.  And then, “So.  You think you can help?  With the budget, I mean.”

“Yes, I think so.  I’ll need to see your files though.”

“Naturally.”  And without a word, he caused a filing cabinet in the corner of the office to levitate off the floor and float in front of me.  While still in the air, the top drawer seemed to open of its own accord.  And then a manila folder rose out of it and opened before me.  It was filled with receipts.

“These aren’t the files I’m looing for,” I said, shaking my head.

“These aren’t the files you’re looking for,” he repeated.

“I just said that.”

“Yes, of course you did,” said Vader with a hint of embarrassment.  And then, as if by magic, the folder closed itself and returned to whence it had come.  In it’s place, a new folder arose and opened itself before me.  This, too, was filled with receipts.

“You’re nothing if not thorough, my lord.”  I was genuinely impressed.

“One must be thorough, if one hopes to be a sith lord.”

“A what?” I asked, only half-listening as I perused the receipts.

“A…myth horde?”

“A myth horde,” I repeated, looking up.

“Yes, a myth horde.  You know,” he stammered, “an anthology of traditional semi-fantastic origin and folk tales.”

“I know what a myth horde is,” I sighed.  “But why would you hope to be a – “

“Nevermind.  It’s not important.  What is important,” he said grandly, “is that we get this budget sorted to your liking.”

“Well,” I said, closing the file.  “I don’t think that will be a problem.  We’ll just total up all these receipts and divide them up by trimester and assign them a six-one-seven-B-eight; ‘extermination of tax revenue inefficiencies.”

“You mean by quarter?”

“I mean by trimester.”  I shook my head.  I hated trying to talk shop with laymen.  “The Republic ran quarterly.  But since we’ve become an empire, we’ve moved to a trimester system.  Cuts down on paperwork.”

“I see,” he said in a way that made it clear he didn’t.

“In any case,” I said, returning to the matter at hand, “that will satisfy me as to the cost overruns.”

“Then you’re done with these files?”  He seemed almost giddy.

“I am.”

And no sooner had I said that, did he, with a wave of his black besleeved arm, cause the filing cabinet to fly through the air at great speed and crash against the wall, where it fell to the ground in contorted heap.

“Was that absolutely necessary?” I asked.

“No?  But it was cool, right?”

“Impressive,” I agreed.

“Most impressive,” he added.

“I mean, that was fire!”

“Please don’t mention ‘fire’ around me.”

“Eh?  How’s that?”  Oh no.  What had I said?  My collar suddenly felt very tight around my neck.  Was I just nervous?  Or was that…him?

“Well, it’s just that…”  He shifted his weight uncomfortably.

“It’s OK.  Nevermind.”  I pulled at my collar.

“No, no.  My therapist says its good for me to talk about it.”  Darth Vader has a therapist?  “It’s just…well, my accident…it was in a fire.”

“And yet, you’ve made your office on a homogeneously volcanic planet.  You’re literally surrounded by fire.

“I know!” he exclaimed.  “What a coincidence, right?”

“I mean, I think it’s ironic?

“Is it?”

“Yes?”

“Well, doctor,” he said ominously.  “One thing is painfully clear.”

“And that is, my lord?”

“That neither you nor I have a clear understanding of the difference between irony and coincidence.”

“It does seem that way, my lord,” I said with not a little relief.

“You know who does, though?” he added thoughtfully.

“The Jedi?” I suggested, thinking of the most sage and learnéd men in the galaxy.

“The Jedi?!” he laughed.  “Force, no!  No, the receptionist.  He was a liberal arts major at Republic University.”

“You mean, Imperial University,” I offered.

“I do not.  It was still Republic University when he was there, and that’s what’s on his diploma.  We may yet retcon all diplomas to read ‘Imperial University.’  And there are those who wish to simply nullify all degrees granted under the Ancien Régime.  But that’s short-sighted in my cybernetically enhanced eyes.  I mean, this system runs on bureaucracy.  You can’t just go around wiping out academic degrees like so many Jedi.”  He stopped himself.  “Sorry,” he added.  “Too soon?”

“Hardly, my lord.”

“Yes, well, in any case.  Let’s get the receptionist in here.  He’ll clear this up for us.”

“Very good, my lord,” I agreed.  And he pressed a button on his breastplate which seemed to activate the intercom.

“Cuthbert?” he called softly.  “Can you hear me?  Is this thing working?  Cuthbert?”

“Yes, my lord, I can hear you,” came the tinny voice over the intercom.  He sounded half terrified and half annoyed that his boss still hadn’t quite mastered the intercom.

“Cuthbert,” said Vader.  “Would you be a dear and come down to my office.  The doctor and I have a question for you.”

“Immediately, Lord Vader,” came the hurried reply before the intercom clicked off.

“Right,” said Vader, turning to look at me again.  I think.  “It will be a few minutes for him to traverse The Corridor.  Can I offer you a cup of tea?  Blue-milk?”

“I’m fine, thanks.”

“Are you sure?  I can personally recommend the Blue-milk.  It’s imported from Tatooine.  They invented Blue-milk, you know.”

“I’m sure it’s lovely, my lord.  But no, thank you.”

“Suit yourself,” said His Blackness with a shrug.

“But I was wondering about that,” I added.

“About the Blue-milk?”

“Huh?  No.  I mean, yes.  I’ve loads of questions about Blue-milk.  But no, I was wondering about the corridor.  It seems to serve no purpose.  There are no doors or windows save yours at this end, and the one at the other, for reception.  Why have such a long corridor?”

“Honestly?”

“Yes, I’m genuinely curious.”  I was.  To the point where I’d been wanting to ask this question since I walked through the door.

“Well, it’s a bit silly, really.”  And he bashfully rubbed his right foot against his left while fingering his left elbow with his right hand.

“It’s OK,” I said encouragingly.  “You can tell me.”

“Well,” he stammered.  “It makes me feel like I’m back on a Star Destroyer.”

“Does it?”

“Have you ever been on an Imperial Star Destroyer?” he asked proudly.

“Can’t say that I’ve had the pleasure.”

“Oh, well,” he began with not a little delight.  “They’re just filled with long corridors.  Because they’re so bloody big, you know?  I mean, some of them just go on for-ev-er.  So I guess,” he said, pulling awkwardly at his cape, “it just makes me feel like I’m back aboard one.”  And he looked down at his black bebooted feet.  “It’s silly, I know.”

“Oh, it’s not silly,” I said encouragingly.

“Really?”  He looked up at me, tilting his helmet earnestly to one side.  “You mean it?”

“Of course!” I declared.  “We all need a touch of home now and again.  There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“Oh, I’m so glad to hear you say that.”  He really did sound relieved.  “I was worried you were going to say it was an unnecessary expenditure or something like that.”

“Yes well…” I trailed off.  I mean, it probably was an unnecessary expenditure, if we’re being honest.  But even though I’m an accountant, I still have a heart.  And well, he seemed so vulnerable in that moment.  So I said:

“Yes, well, I’m sure it’s a function of the topography of the volcano into which this facility has been built.”

“It’s not though,” he said earnestly.  “I mean, between you and me, there’s no need for a corridor of any length.  I just as easily could have built my office adjacent to reception.”

“But I’m sure,” I said very slowly, “it’s just a function of the topography of the volcano into which this facility has been built.”

“Oh, I see!” he exclaimed, catching on.  “Yes, it’s because of the toponomy…

“Topography…”

“Topogrpahy!  Of the mountain…”

“The volcano…”

“The volcano – “  And then this charade was interrupted by the shshing open of the door, through which the receptionist had just entered.  “Ah, Cuthbert!” he said, relieved by the opportunity to change the subject.

“My lord,” said Cuthbert gravely, falling to his knees.

“Cuthbert,” said Darth Vader, deadly and darkly serious.  “I must discuss with you a matter of grave importance.”

“My lard,” stammered Cuthbert, “I…I…”

“Did you just say, ‘my lard?!”  His voice plummeted to a terrifying bass.

“My lord!” cried Cuthbert in terror.  “Lord!  I’m sure I said lord!”

“By the Force, I heard lard,” grumbled The Dark One.  “Did you hear lard, doctor?” he asked, turning to me.

“My lord,” I said nervously.  “I do believe he said, ‘my lord.’  I’m quite sure.”  In fact, he absolutely did say lard.  But the poor boy was so terrified, I could not be help him in this critical moment.

“Are you calling me a liar!?”  He was apoplectic in his Darthness.

“No!  My lord…I…”

“Then what?” he demanded.

“Perhaps, my lord, just maybe, there was a glitch in your auditory perceptors.  I didn’t mean to imply…”  And I fell to my knees in terror, beside the already terrified Cuthbert.

“You meant to imply that my cybernetic implants are anything less than perfect?  Is that what you meant to imply?”  And he levitated himself a full meter off the ground for effect.

“My lord, I simply – “

“Enough!”  And then he started to cackle.  A high-pitched, mechanical whine of a laugh.  “Oh relax, you two.  I’m just having a bit of fun.”  And he lowered himself back down to earth.  Cuthbert and I exchanged furtive glances of relief.  I gingerly rose back to my feet.  Cuthbert did not.

“Dear Cuthbert,” he said pacifically.  “What is the difference between irony and coincidence?”

“My lord?” he answered carefully.

“Irony and coincidence,” repeated Vader.  “What’s the difference?”

“Well, my lord,” began Cuthbert nervously, still on one knee and staring at the floor.

“Oh, get up!”

“Yes, my lord.”  And Cuthbert rose to his feet, though he continued to stare at his boots.  “Well, my lord, irony is when something said or done is the opposite of what is expected.  Like a fire truck itself catching fire.”

“Did he just mention fire?” said Vader, looking darkly at me.

“Whereas coincidence,” hurried on Cuthbert, “is two similar things happening at the same time by chance.  Like if – “

“Don’t make this about fire,” grumbled His Befired Blackness.

“Like if,” continued Cuthbert, “we all showed up today wearing all black.  My lord.”

At which point we all looked around.  We were, in fact, all three of us, wearing nothing but black.

“How ironic!” exclaimed Vader, slapping black belgoved hands against black beleathered thighs.

“Err, yes…my lord,” agreed the receptionist nervously.

“Thank you, Cuthbert.  That will be all,” said Vader casually.  “But know this.  Your parents may rest in peace knowing that your liberal arts degree has at last paid dividends.”

“Oh, my Force!” shrieked Cuthbert.  “Are my parents…are they…dead?”

“What?” barked Vader.  “No, of course not!  Why would you think that?”  He paused, looking up at the ceiling.  “Oh!  Because I said ‘rest in peace’?  Sorry, I meant to say, ‘they may rest assured.’  Sorry.  No, really.  I’ve always had trouble with idioms.  Right, doctor?”  He turned to face me.  “Liquidate.  Exterminate.  Rest in peace.  Rest assured.  Who can keep these things straight?  Well,” he said, half to himself.  “That’s why we keep you liberal arts guys around.  Am I right, doctor?”

“Most assuredly, my lord.”

“Very well then.”  And then turning back to the receptionist, “Be gone with you now, Cuthbert.”

“My lord,” said Cuthbert, bowing deeply before beating a hasty retreat.

“Well now, doctor,” he said to me after the door had shshed closed.  “I trust you are satisfied as to my cost overruns?”

“As to the overruns,” I answered, “I am.  But as for…the Project – “

“Yes, yes,” he cut me off dismissively.  “We can’t write that into the budget just yet.  It’s highly classified.  Top secret, you know.  Top top secret, even.”

“Top top secret?” I questioned.  “Is that even a – “

“A thing?  Yes, I’m afraid it is.”

“Well, it may well be, my lord.  But it still needs to be in the Imperial Budget,” I said firmly.  “Perhaps if you could enlighten me as to the nature of the project, I could help you devise an appropriate budget code for it.”

“Well, it’s quite simple really,” began Vader proudly.  “It’s a…hang on.  This is off the record, right?”

“It is now.”

“Gooood.  Gooood.”  And I swear he winked at me behind his tinted eye-pieces, in acknowledgement of his mocking of the Emperor’s favorite affirmation.  “Well, simply put, the Project is a roughly moon-sized space station with enough firepower to destroy an entire planet.”

“I see, I see,” I said encouragingly.  “And the purpose of this space station?”

“Fear.”  He spoke this single word with grave ominousity.

“Fear,” I repeated.  “You must understand, Lord Vader, I cannot write ‘Fear’ into the Imperial budget.”

“Fear,” he mused to himself.  “Fear will keep the local systems in line.  Fear of this battle station.”

“Ah, you said ‘keep the local systems in line,’ did you?”  My budgetary ears were pricked.  “I can work with that.  Domestic tranquility, common defense, that sort of thing.”

“Well it’s really more about – “

“No, no.  It’s best if you don’t speak, my lord,” I said waving him off, consumed by thoughts of numbers, percentages and line items.  “Now, tell me, my lord.  Will this ‘battle station,’ as you call it, will it be a one-off, or do you expect this is the first in a series of ‘battle stations’?”

“Would it not be better if we said ‘space station’ instead of ‘battle station’?”  He was trying to be helpful.  It was almost cute.

“No, certainly not,” I said firmly.  “You see, ‘space station’ sounds like science.  We’ll never get that through the Senate.  No, ‘battle station’ is better.  They never vote against military spending.”

“Doc,” he nearly cooed mechanically.  “You.  You’re good!”

“Yes, yes,” I waved him off.  “I’m not the AEIOU for nothing.  But please, answer the question.  Is it a one-off?”

“Oh, no,” answered His Blackness proudly.  “I expect we shall build at least three.  Well, to be fair, it’s a long term project.  I may only live to see the first two.  But, if I had to guess, at least three.”

“No, that’s good.  You see, one-off’s are hard to justify.  They seem like an extravagance.  But if this is to be a long-term, ongoing sort of thing, then we can write that into the budget almost as a permanent line item.”

“Yes, I see,” said His Darthness with faux confidence.

“Quite,” I agreed casually.  “In any case, Lord Vader, I think I’m done here.  I may yet need to review further documents.  But if you could have Cuthbert – “

“Yes, of course.  Anything you need,” he agreed eagerly.

“Right.  Well, then.  I guess I’ll be on my way.”

“Right.  I guess so,” answered Vader awkwardly.  “Sorry, I’m not good with goodbyes.”

“Me neither,” I muttered with equal awkwardness.

“Uh, take care of yourself?  I guess…it’s what your best at?”  He shook his head.  “Sorry, that sounded cold.”

“It’s fine,” I shrugged.  “Uh…may the Force be with you?”

“It already is?”  This was growing more awkward by the moment.

“Yes, of course it is.  I mean, you’re a…you’re a myth horde?”

“A myth horde,” he agreed.  “That’s right.”

“Fine, fine.  So, uh, I’ll just, uh…” And I gestured towards the door over my shoulder with my thumb.

“Uh, allow me to show you out?” offered Vader with awkward grace.

“As you wish.”

“Ah, well, uh, here you are,” he said pointing towards the door, without actually moving his feet so much as a centimeter.

“Right.  By then.”

“Bye,” said His Lordship the Black Darth Vader with a half-wave.  At which point, I backed out through the gently shshing door.  And when, finally, it closed behind me, I exhaled a long, sweet, exhalation.  Force, I thought, that was awkward.

I made my way back down the long corridor.  I waved to Cuthbert as I passed through reception, but he was too busy enjoying the act of respiration to notice me.  From there, I marched out to the landing platform and up the ramp into the shuttle cockpit, where Simon the pilot was smoking a cigarette.

“Didn’t expect to see you again, gov,” he said casually.

“Didn’t expect to see me again…so soon, you mean,” I corrected him.

“Err, yeah.  Sufmin’ like that, gov.”

“Nevermind,” I said, taking my seat.  “Home, James.  And don’t spare the horses.”

“It’s Simon, gov.  And horses?”

“Banthas,” I winced.  “Home, Simon.  And don’t spare the banthas.”

I never was much good with idioms.

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #-2

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #-2
A Vaguely Star-Wars-ish Kinda Thing
Mostly for Dale

 

12 January, 01 E.C.
Just as Director Krennic had foreshadowed, The Project was fraught with cost overruns.  And just as he had boasted, I could trace none of them to his office.  None of the cost overruns were explained.  They were simply initialed “DV.”  Darth Vader.  My predecessor had warned me against questioning Vader’s authorized expenditures.  And fairly enough.  Certainly Lord Vader had a reputation throughout the Republic, even if nobody seemed to know exactly what his job was.

Well, I decided it was time somebody got to the bottom of that.  And that somebody would have to be me.  And so it was that I contacted his home office on the homogenously volcanic world of Mustafar.  I had assumed that being the Emperor’s right-hand man, and generally a big macher, he would have a rather full schedule.  So I was surprised when my conversation with his secretary went something like this:

Me: Hi, yes, I’d like to make an appointment with Lord Vader?  This is the AEIOU.

Sec’y: Certainly, sir.  When would be convenient for you?

Me: Well, when might His Lordship be free?

Sec’y: Let me check the book.  Hmm…yes, just as I suspected.  Lord Vader has exactly zero appointments for the next three months.  So you may swing by whenever you like.

Me: I’m sorry, did you say “zero appointments”?

Sec’y: That’s right, sir.  You sound surprised.

Me: Well, it’s just…he’s awfully important.  I’d assumed he’s quite a busy man.

Sec’y: He’s more machine, now, then man.

Me: How’s that again?

Sec’y: Nothing, sir.  It’s just that he’s quite terrifying actually.  And short tempered.  People tend to avoid meeting with him if at all possible.  Which reminds me.  You’re absolutely sure you’d like to come here to see him?  In person?

Me: Indeed I would.  Could you pencil me in for Thursday?  Say, 3:00 PM?

Sec’y: Certainly, sir.  And would that be local time, Coruscant Time, or Imperial Central Time?

Me: Aren’t CT and ICT the same thing now?

Sec’y: So they are.

Me: Right.  Well, what would 3pm local time be in ICT for this Thursday?

Sec’y: I’ll just check the planetary alignments…hold please….Ah yes, I have it now.  3pm local would be 11am ICT this Thursday.

Me: And is Lord Vader usually in a good mood in the afternoons?

Sec’y: Between you and me, sir?  Lord Vader is never in a good mood.  It’s part of his mystique, you see.

Me: Is it?

Sec’y: Yes?  I mean, I think so.  Well, that and the all-black.  And his disdain for riding pants.  Second highest player in the whole bloody Empire already and he doesn’t give a whit for riding pants.  It’s quite off-putting actually.  But I imagine it’s all just a part of his branding, so to speak.

Me: I wouldn’t have thought Lord Vader concerns himself with things like branding.

Sec’y: Well that’s just it, sir.  He doesn’t.  Not consciously, anyway.  That’s what’s so impressive about him.  He just does what he wants.  Doesn’t give a toss what anybody else thinks.  Well, except for the Emperor, of course.

Me: Of course.  So you’ve put me down for 3pm local time on Thursday then?

Sec’y: Certainly, sir.  It’s as bad a time as any.

Me: Don’t you mean, as good a time as any?

Sec’y: No, sir.  I’m afraid not.

Me: I see.

Sec’y: With all due respect, I highly doubt that you do, sir.  But you will.  Oh, you will.

Me: Indeed.  In any case, you may expect my prompt arrival at 3pm local time, this Thursday.

Sec’y: And would that be Coruscant’s Thursday or Thursday on Mustafar?

Me: I’m sorry?

Sec’y: Oh, did I not mention that?  Because of our orbit, Mustafar has a nine-day week.  Thursday here will be Saturday on Coruscant.  This week, anyway.

Me: 3pm, Thursday, Mustafar time.

Sec’y: And you’re sure about that?

Me: Would there be a better time?

Sec’y: Most assuredly not, sir.  I meant, you’re sure you actually want to come here?

Me: Quite sure.

Sec’y: Very good, sir.  The appointment is fixed.  And if I could make one suggestion?

Me: Go ahead.

Sec’y: Wear something with a stiff collar.

Me: Quite.  Thank you for your help.

Sec’y: It’s been a pleasure, sir.  Good day.

And he disconnected.  What a strange man, I remember thinking to myself.  In any case, I now had my appointment with Lord Vader.  I would soon get to the bottom of these budgetary shenanigans.  Or my name isn’t Starrkin.

 

15 January, 01 E.C.
My predecessor was not shy about chartering private shuttles for official business.  And certainly we have that right.  However, because our business expenditures are funded by the Imperial taxpayer, I’ve always felt it my duty to take commercial flights whenever possible.  This was my intention as I approached the ticket desk for Imperial Spaceways (formerly Republic Spaceways).

“One to Mustafar, please,” I said politely.

“I’m sorry, sir,” said the clerk.  “Did you say…Mustafar?”  He nearly whispered the name.

“That’s right,” I said confidently.  He looked at me with a confused astonishment.

“One does not simply fly into Mustafar,” he cautioned.

“I see,” I said slowly.  “Then what do you recommend?”

“Well, sir, you’ll have to charter a private shuttle.”

“Make it so,” I sighed.  After a moment, he printed me out a boarding pass and directed me towards Platform VII.  There I found a rough looking pilot, leaning against the landing strut of his shuttle, smoking a cigarette.

“Boarding pass,” he grunted at me.  I showed it to him.  “Mustafar, eh?”  He looked me up and down.  “You in some kinda trouble, gov?”

“Hardly,” I said dismissively.  “And I’m ready to leave when you are, stout fellow.”

“Mustn’t keep Lord Vader waiting, eh?” he winked.  “I get it.  Right, let’s go.”  He tossed his cigarette to the ground and stamped out with his boot.  I followed him into the shuttle.  A few moments later, we were breaking orbit.  I left him alone as he plotted the course.  But once we’d entered hyperspace, he turned to me.

“Well, gov, may as well make yourself at ‘ome.  It’s a bit of a ride, all the way out to Mustafar.”  He swiveled his chair to face me.  “And what’s your business with the Dark Lord, if I may be so bold?”

“I’m an accountant,” I said somewhat proudly.  He raised an eyebrow.

“A count, eh?  I’ve ‘ad senators before.  Even a Moff or two.  But never a count.”  He looked me over a second time.  “Funny, you don’t look like a count.”

“Not a count,” I said with a wry smile.  “An accountant.  I deal with numbers, taxes, money, finances.  That sort of thing.”  I tried to make it sound important.  He looked disappointed.

“Well, everybody’s got to be into sumfin, I reckon.”  And he swiveled his chair forward again.

I’ve always felt there are two sorts of people.  Those who like to chat up their taxi drivers and those who don’t.  I’ve always fancied myself amongst the former.

“What’s your name, pilot?”

“’Oo, me?”  He didn’t turn around.

“You are the only pilot aboard, are you not?”

“So I am, so I am,” he mused.  “Name’s Simon, gov.  Simon the pilot.  That’s me.”

“Well, Simon,” I pressed.  “Have you ever been to Mustafar before?”  Now he swiveled his chair to face me again.

“Just the once, gov.”  He offered no further information.  I’d have to work a bit harder.

“And what was that like?” I asked.  He whistled.

“Well, gov, it was the strangest thing.  My passenger was…sorry, you don’t mind if I?”  And he pulled a pack of cigarettes from his his breast pocket.

“It’s your ship,” I nodded.

“Technically she’s a boat sir,” he said, as he lit up.

“I’m sorry?”

“Don’t be,” he smiled.  “Nothin’ I’d expect a desk-jockey such as yourself to know about.  But shuttles, like this here, they’re boats not ships.”

“Forgive me,” I said, bowing slightly in my seat.  “But you were saying?  About your previous trip to Mustafar?”

“Ah, that, yeah.”  He took a deep drag.  “Well, you see, my passenger was this young bloke.  Just made Moff, actually.  Never seen somebody so proud of ‘is riding pants.  Kept patting at the flairs.  To get ‘em just right, you know?  ‘Perfectly smooth.’  That’s what ‘e kept sayin to ‘isself.”

“I know the type,” I said, crossing my legs, hoping to emphasize that I was not wearing riding pants; though my rank certainly would have allowed me to.

“I reckon you do, gov.”  He blew out a cloud of smoke.  “Anyway, ‘e never did tell me what ‘is business with ‘Is Blackness was.  Jus’, he seemed sor’ of nervous.  Didn’t say much.  Well, we touch down on Mustafar, and ‘e strides ou’ of the shu’le in all his Moff-ness.  ‘Keep the engine running,’ ‘e says.”  And he attempted a posh accent when he quoted the young Moff.

“Then what happened?”

“Well, ‘e wasn’t gone but twenty minutes when a call comes in over the radio.  It was Vader’s secretary, it was.  And ‘e says to me…get this, ‘e says: ‘I regret to inform you that our young Moff will not be making the return voyage.  Of course, you will be paid in full for your efforts.  You are cleared for takeoff.’  ‘Onest, that’s what ‘e said.  Just like that.”

“Well?” I pressed.  “What did you do?”

“Whadya think, mate?” he asked, rubbing out his cigarette in a nearby ashtray.  “I took off.  I mean, we’re talking about Darth bloody Vader ‘ere.  I wasn’t about to ask questions.”

“And what happened to the Moff?” I inquired

“Nobody knows,” he said softly.  “Rumor ‘as it though, ‘is wife received a package in the post not long after.”

“And what was in the package?”  I was trying to sound nonchalant, but in truth, I had goose-bumps.

“Well, and mind you, this is just rumor, gov, pure ‘earsay.  But they say, it was a pair of perfectly pressed riding pants.  And according to the rumor, they smelled faintly of Bacta.”  I could no longer hide my shock.  He smiled at me.  “But, as I say, gov, that’s just a rumor, innit.”

“And you believe it?” I asked, tugging at my tight, stiff collar.

“Force knows, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, gov.” he mused.  “But you’re sure you’re not in any sor’ of trouble?”

“Quite sure, Simon.”  And I re-crossed my legs in the other direction.

“I ‘ope so, gov.  For your sake.  Cigarette?”  He was offering his pack to me.

“I don’t smoke.”

“Course not, gov.  Course not.”  And he swiveled his chair back around to face the control panel.

“Simon?” I asked after a long pause.

“Hey?”

“Could I trouble you for something to drink?”

“Certainly, gov.”  And he waved towards a small refrigeration unit towards the aft of the shuttle’s cockpit.  “I’ve got beer, water, bantha-juice and blue-milk.  ‘Elp yourself.”

“Actually, would a cup of tea be possible?” I asked with dignity.

“Sure thing, gov.  Kettle’s in the galley, aft starboard.  There’s a decent selection, if I do say so meself.”

“Lovely,” I said.  “I expect you have Earl Gray then?”

“Of course, gov.  Though they’re calling it Earl Tarkin, now.”

“Are they?”

“Officially, yes.  ‘Asn’t caught on, though.  Doesn’t quite ‘ave the same ring, if you ask me.”

“Thank you, Simon.”

With that, I headed aft.  There I made myself a cup of tea and sat down to update my journal.  Which is where I am now…

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) (Cont’d…)

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #-1
A Vaguely Star-Wars-ish Kinda Thing
Mostly for Dale

The following documents are a series of journal entries found among the papers of the late Dr. Starrkin, CPA.  Starrkin was the last Undersecretary for the Office of Accounting for Extraordinary Imperial Operations in the waning days of the Old Republic and in the first of the Galactic Empire.  He was also the father of Wing Commander Colonel Starrkin, who discovered these papers upon the death of his father.  (For the convenience of the reader, all dates have been converted to the Terran Gregorian Calndear.  B.E. = Before Empire; E.C. = Empire Calendar).

25 May, 03 B.E.

I do not wish to sound over-proud.  But today is a big day for me.  After years of dedicated service in the name of the Republic, I have finally been promoted to the position of Undersecretary for the Office of Accounting for Extraordinary Republican Operations.  It is a great honor.

What I could never say publicly, I feel compelled to write here.  It is clear to me that the days of our great Republic are coming to an end.  His Majesty the Chancellor consolidates more and more power by the day.  Soon, we will be a republic in name only.  The reach of our government stretches throughout all commercial and economic sectors of the galaxy.  Those within the government know it is only a matter of time before he declares himself emperor.

But that is a political question.  And I do not concern myself with politics.  I do, however, concern myself with matters of economy and, by extension, matters of fairness.  Even when Chancellor Palpatine becomes emperor – which, as any careful observer will tell you, is inevitable – we will still have the Senate.  And the Senate will still be answerable to the people.  My job, the job of the Undersecretary, is to make sure that there is a fair accounting of the expenditure of all duly levied taxes.

We may soon find ourselves in a situation where the Emperor alone can make policy decisions.  He alone may decide war and peace.  He alone may decide the way forward.  But so long as there is a Senate, the people will still have a voice.  And it will fall to me to make sure that the people are not cheated.

In these tumultuous times of change, my office is perhaps more important than it has ever been.  Though we shall soon find ourselves with an emperor, yet there is no one amongst us who thinks he will be a dictator.  The Senate will have its say.  It will be my job to see that that say is an informed one.  I will treat this job with all the honor and reverence that it deserves, or my name isn’t Starrkin.

 

23 December, 01. B.E.

The inevitable has happened.  Chancellor Palpatine has seized power and declared himself Emperor.  But the Senate remains, as it must.  And if the transition from Republic to Empire is to proceed fairly and justly, it falls to me to make sure that our tax monies are appropriated in a fair and transparent manner.

It won’t be easy, to be sure.  But perhaps no accountant in the history of the Republic has ever been charged with so solemn a task.  It becomes now not only a question of patriotism, but indeed of personal honor.  I cannot fail.  I shall not fail.

 

24 December, 01 B.E.

I had a meeting with the Secretary this afternoon.  He does little more then delegate, if we are honest.  The hard work falls upon the Undersecretary, and that is me.  I record here a brief accounting of our meeting…

“Ah, come in, Dr. Starrkin,” he said warmly as he gestured for me towards the chair in front of his desk.  “As you know, we will reset the calendar on January first.  It will be year 01 E.C., Empire Calendar.”

“Yes, sir, I’m aware,” I said as a took my seat.

“Very good, very good,” he mused almost to himself as he lit an old fashioned pipe.  “As you know, Dr. Starrkin, the greatest strength of the Republic was its bureaucracy.  And if the Office of Accounting for Extraordinary Imperial Operations has anything to say about it, this will be the greatest strength of our new Empire as well.”

“Surely you mean,” I said calmly, “The Office of Accounting for Extraordinary Republican Operations.”

“Imperial Operations,” he said, puffing his pipe.  And he opened a box of Huttese cigars.  I took one and he lit it for me as I held it to my lips

“Of course,” I nodded, as I puffed the cigar.

“Glad to see you’re on board, old chap,” he said, rising from his chair.  He began to pace back and forth behind his desk.  “These are new and interesting times, you see.  We must strike a balance.  Of course we owe it to the Senate to see that all Imperial tax dollars are allocated fairly and transparently…”

“And yet?” I asked.

“And yet,” he said, patting the flares of his riding pants, “we must dutifully serve our new Imperial master.”

“I see,” I said, puffing on the cigar.

“Do you?” he asked.

“I think?”

“Then tell me what you think.”

“I think…We must strike a balance.  We owe it to the Senate to see that all Imperial tax dollars are allocated fairly and transparently.  Yet we must also dutifully serve our new Imperial master.”

“Quite,” he said softly.  He seemed to be looking out the window.  But I’m not entirely sure he wasn’t simply looking at the reflection of his riding pants in the glass.

I knew my boss.  He wanted to hear what he wanted to hear.  But numbers were sacred to me.  Personally, I didn’t much care if we would be a Republic or an Empire.  What I cared about was that the people wouldn’t be cheated out of their tax dollars.  But I kept my ideals to myself.  Finally, he turned to face me.

“Well, that’s just what I wanted to hear.”  He puffed his pipe.  “Therefore, effective immediately, I’m assigning you to a new project.  It’s highly classified, so I won’t give you any details now.  But it’s being overseen by Director Krennic.  You’ll work directly with him to make sure the Senate has a full accounting of The Project.  Our goal here is to keep cost over-runs to a minimum.”

“I understand, sir,” I said as I tapped out the ash end of my cigar into his Bantha-shaped ashtray.

“See that you do,” he said, stiffly flattening the flairs of his riding pants for effect.

And that’s how I first learned about The Project.

 

5 January, 01 E.C.

I confidently strode into Director Krennic’s waiting room, leather attaché case under my arm.  I approached the secretary.

“Do you have an appointment?” he asked me coldly.

“I do,” I said equally coldly.  “The name is Starrkin.  Undersecretary for the Office of Accounting for Extraordinary Imperial Operations.”  I tried to sound like a big deal.  He was not impressed.

“Identification,” he said simply.  Trying to look annoyed, I fished out a business card and laid it flat upon his desk.  It read: ‘Accounting for Extraordinary Imperial Operations – Undersecretary.’  He looked at the card.  He looked at me.  He spoke.

“So,” he said disinterestedly, “You’re the new AEIOU.  The Director is expecting you.  Go right in.”  Without another look at the underling, I strode into the director’s office.  It was my first time meeting Krennic.  When I entered, he was standing before a full length mirror, throwing his white cape first over one shoulder, then the other.

“Director Krennic,” I said professionally.  He didn’t turn around to answer me.

“Ah, Dr. Starrkin.  The new Vowel Man.”  He shifted his white cape back over the other shoulder.

“Sir?”

“You are the new Undersecretary of Accounting of Extraordinary Imperial Operations, are you not?”

“I am, sir,” I answered dryly.

“The new AEIOU,” he said, turning to face me at last.  “The new Vowel Man.”

“I suppose I am, sir.”  He was not exactly what I was expecting.

“What do you see, when you look at me, Dr. Starrkin?”  His question was cold, hard.

“Sir?”  I paused.  “Sir, I see the director of…”  He cut me off.“You see a white cape.”  He stared at me.  “Don’t you?”

“Well, I suppose I do, sir.”  I was agreeing, but I didn’t know why.  I mean, yes, I saw the white cape.  But I didn’t know why we were talking about this.

“All Tarkin’s doing,” he sighed dejectedly.  “Nearly 30 years I’ve served the Republic, and now the Empire.  I worked hard to earn my riding pants.”  And he patted the flares of his black riding pants emphatically.  “But Tarkin is determined to keep me playing second fiddle.  The white cape was his idea.  I know he only wants me to wear it to distract from my hard-earned riding pants.  I suppose he thinks it makes his flares seem…grander.”

“Well, sir,” I hesitated.  “He is a grand moff, after all.”

“So he is, Mr. Starrkin.  So he is.”  And as he said this, he dramatically draped his cape over the back of his chair as he sat down behind his desk.  “And yet, it is I…NOT HE…it is I, who has been charged with directing the greatest project in the history of our Rep…er, Empire!”

“Indeed, sir.”  I laid my leather portfolio upon his desk.  “And that’s just what I’m here about, sir.”  I opened the portfolio and began rifling through the papers.  “The Senate is more than a little interested to know how the Imperial tax dollars are being spent with respect to this…Project.”

“The Senate!” he hissed.  “They have enough money to build schools, do they not?  They have enough money to provide healthcare even to the Rim Systems, do they not?”

“With all due respect, Mr. Director, that is hardly at issue.”  I spoke calmly, professionally.  “The Senate wishes to be sure that its tax dollars are not being misused with respect to…The Project.  Whatever that may be,” I added coldly, hoping to show that I didn’t appreciate being left in the dark as to the nature of this grand affair.

“Indeed, Mr. Starrkin,” he smiled icily.  “And so you shall have access to all of our records.  My secretary will make them available to you.”

“That is all I ask, Mr. Director.”  I smiled as I closed my portfolio.

“However,” he said, rising from his chair.  “When you find cost over-runs; and I do say when, I can assure you that it will not owe to any mismanagement by this office.”  And he raised a black-gloved hand to his mouth.

“I will?” I asked with surprise.  I wasn’t expecting such an admission.  “And to whom will they owe?”  At this question, he did a half turn, pulling his cape across his chest for dramatic effect.

“That,” he said with a wicked grin, “is a question for Lord Vader.”  And at the name Vader, he let the cape fall, as his right hand came to rest under the decorations garnishing his left breast.

“Then I shall take it up with Lord Vader,” I said casually.

“One does not simply take up matters of economy with Lord Vader!” he whispered.

“Even Lord Vader must answer to the people,” I replied confidently.

“Lord Vader answers to no one, save the Emperor,” he groaned as he gripped his riding pants flares uncomfortably.

“We’ll see about that,” I said as a I stood, grabbing up my papers.  And with that, I strode confidently out of his office.  Yet, even as I did so, I could not resist throwing one last glance over my shoulder at the Director.  And when I did, I saw him pinching the bridge of his nose between black-begloved forefinger and thumb.

It sent a chill down my spine.  I remember thinking, either he is too afraid, or else, I am not nearly afraid enough.  I would soon find out which of us was right…

 

 

 

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #6

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #61
A Vaguely Star-Wars-ish Kinda Thing
Mostly for Dale

Colonel Starrkin was meeting with The General. Meanwhile, Micky, Nick and Reg were relaxing in the lounge with Tony. After offering his guests a drink, Tony pulled four glass bottles from the refrigerator and passed three of them around. As Mick opened his, a hiss escaped from the bottle and bubbles zoomed to the top.

“What’s all this then?” he asked. “Some kind of clear beer?”

“No, I’m afraid not,” answered Tony. “Unfortunately, The General doesn’t approve of alcohol on base. No,” he said as he unscrewed the top of his own bottle, “it’s a special drink brewed exclusively by the Muun. It’s called ‘Selzter’. It’s quite refreshing,” he added as he took a sip.

“Hey, this isn’t bad!” exclaimed Reg, following suit.

“Not bad a’tall,” agreed Nick.

“I’m glad you like it,” answered Tony with a smile. “Indeed, it pairs quite well with the pickled gherkins made by the Toydarians.”

“Pickled what?” asked Mick.

“Who are the Toydarians?” asked Nick.

But before Tony could answer, the door to the lounge shshed open. Roger and Spliff entered, followed closely by a young blonde officer whom the newcomers hadn’t seen before. In contrast to those they’d already met, who wore khaki shorts and V-neck T-shirts, this young blonde officer was dressed in formal Imperial Officer-Wear™.2

As Mick, Nick and Reg stared at the newcomer, Roger idled over to the couch where Tony was seated and eased himself down. Spliff spoke.

“Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Sergeant Huxtable. He has a brief presentation he would like to share with us.” At this, Mick called out.

“Huxtable? Like the bloke what drugged all those actresses so’s ‘e could shag ‘em whiles they was passed out?”

“No relation, thankfully,” said the blonde man stiffly. “But do please call me Hux.”

“’Ave it your way, mate,” responded Mick.

“Indeed,” said Hux as stiffly as before, his hands clasped behind his back. Spliff now also took a seat on the couch.

“Can I offer you a seltzer,” asked Tony politely.

“No, thank you,” said Hux coldly. And then, almost needlessly, he added, “I don’t drink Muun sludge.”

At this remark, Nick and Reg shifted uncomfortably, making eye-contact which bespoke their discomfort at such thinly veiled racism.

“Bet you’re ‘appy to bank wif ‘em tho’,” muttered Mick under his breath.

“Better not ask him if he wants a pickle, eh?” whispered Roger to Tony, elbowing him in the ribs. But Sergeant Huxtable seemed not hear any of this. Or, alternatively, having heard it but whishing to appear as though he hadn’t, he raised a fist to his mouth and coughed. His audience fell silent. He looked about the room with cold, hard eyes.3 Then, reclasping his hands behind his back, he began to speak.

“Gentelmen,” he addressed them boldly, dramatically, “the days of the Empire are over. The galaxy is on the verge of a grand reorganization. The strong will band together to take what they want. They weak will huddle together to keep what they can. It is my fervent wish that you will join me on the side of the strong.”

“I’m going to have to stop you right there, mate,” called out Reg.

“And what is your name, pilot?”

“It’s Reg, sir.”

“Very well, Reg. Have your say.” Huxtable was smiling coldly.

“You say the Empire is over. But ‘ere you are at an Imperial outpost, and wearing an Imperial uniform no less. So from where I’m sitting – and I’m no politician, mind you – but from where I’m sitting, the Empire is still very much a going concern.”

“Well of course it appears that way at the moment,” said Hux calmly. “But that’s just a façade. The Empire is crumbling from within, daily growing weaker.”

“You say that, mate,” cut in Mick, “but where’s the evidence?”

“And you are?”

“I’m called Mick, sir.”

“Mick. Yes.” Huxtable smiled in a way that made Mick’s skin crawl. “But you see, Mick, appearances can be deceiving. Although the Emperor is dead, and Lord Vader with him; although Death Star II has been destroyed – “

“But that completely contradicts your argument,” interrupted Roger, whose remarks caught the cold glare of the blonde sergeant. “I’m Roger, by the by. But if your argument is that the Empire is crumbling from the inside beneath a façade of strength, well, you completely contradict that by citing the downfall of leadership and the loss of key visible military assets, don’t you? I mean, if your initial argument is to be believed, then we’d expect to see something like an impotent figurehead leading a fragmented planetary polity, wouldn’t we?

Sergeant Huxtable blinked repeatedly.   At last, he spoke again.

“Allow me to clarify my position. Despite these key and visible losses, as you say, it appears for the moment that the reach and strength of the Empire is nonetheless intact. However, this is pure inertia and bureaucracy, the two weakest forces in galactic politics. Without strong leadership, the Empire will fracture.”

“I’m going to have to disagree with you, Sergeant Huxtable,” said Mick.

“Please, call me Hux.”

“Alright, Hux,” went on Mick, “It’s precisely inertia and bureaucracy what’s held the Empire together all these years. I mean, how else do you explain a system wide perpetual video rental system?”

“And not even a very good video rental system at that!” added Roger.

“Gentelmen,” said Huxtable, working hard to cover his growing exasperation. “Video rental hardly enters into it. We are talking today about the great political question of our day!”

“That’s just like you inner-system types,” said Roger. “You’re always talking about elitist things like ‘the big picture’ and ‘great political questions.’ But what about Main Street, eh? What about the little guy? Because from where I stand, it seems to me that no matter who’s in charge, my videos are never going to get ‘ere on time.”

“Look, Reg,” tried the Sergeant.

“Rog.”

“Look, Rog,” said Hux with an audible sigh.

“I’m Reg,” said Reg. “’E’s Rog.”

“Yes,” blinked the Sergeant before trying again. “Look Rog, try to see beyond your own limited borders.”

“So now we’re just dumb provincials, clinging to blasters and video rentals. Is that it?” asked Tony hotly.

“That’s not what I…” stammered Huxtable. He could sense he was losing the room. He looked plaintively in the direction of Spliff, who had introduced him. Spliff, whether because he actually believed in the Sergeant’s message or because he didn’t want to lose face for having introduced the man, tried to cut in.

“Gentlemen, Sergeant Huxtable – “

“-Just Hux-“

“Sergeant Hux has come a long way to speak with us. Let’s at least show him the courtesy of hearing him out.” Upon which he went around the room making eye contact with each of the men. For a moment, there was a bit of grumbling, but at last they quieted down. Spliff turned once more to the Sergeant. “Please continue.” Huxtable nodded politely before going on.

“Let me begin again. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, the galaxy is on the verge of a grand re-organization. Already there are moves to re-establish a successor Senate. Indeed this has the military backing of the Rebel Alliance. No doubt they will draw a fair number of weaker systems to themselves, hoping to find strength in numbers.”

“And at least some portion of the Imperial fleet, I should think.” This was Mick. “I mean, surely there are Task Force commanders sympathetic to home worlds that would join up with such a Republic. We should assume therefore, that they would take their Star Destroyers and various escort vessels with them, shouldn’t we? I mean, if such a Senate were to be established, surely they’d need the backing of far more than a handful of X-Wing squadrons and a few Mon-Cal cruisers, wouldn’t they?”

“I warrant Mick is right, Doctor Huxtable,” followed up Reg.

“I’m not even a doctor,” sighed the Sergeant. “And please, call me Hux!”

“Six of one, am I right, gov?” came back Reg playfully. Hux was not amused. Reg went on. “Still, Mick ‘as a point, don’t ‘e? I mean, successful as the Rebels were at taking out isolated targets – even targets as powerful as the Death Stars – these were little more than PR scores if you think about it. After all, it’s one thing to take out a single space station, it’s another thing to enforce order on a galactic or even multi-system scale. They just don’t ‘ave the numbers. You see where I’m going with this, yeah?”

Hux raised a Starrkinesque eyebrow. Reg continued. “All’s I’m sayin’ is, without the defection of a significant number of Star Destroyer task forces, this new hypothetical Senate simply won’t have the military backing to establish itself in opposition to whatever New Order you’re proposing.”

“And you are proposing some sort of New Order, ain’t ya?” Now it was Nick’s turn. “I mean, you’d need to be able to knit together a whole slew of worlds over a panoply of star systems under one government for this to be of any import. Otherwise your New Order is just a small-time regional warlordship, innit?” He looked at Hux who was now shifting his weight uncomfortably from one foot to another.

“So really, if I’m reading this correctly,” said Reg, picking up where Nick left off, “what you’re saying is, you mean to establish your group at the top of the existing Imperial bureaucracy while simultaneously taking over the majority of Imperial resources – including shipyards, research facilities and who knows what else – in order to establish some sort of “new” order, which will ultimately be little more than a successor state to the once proud Empire to which we all have devoted our lives, fortunes and sacred honors already.” Reg paused for effect. “Well, sir. That’s all well and good. But I took an oath to serve his Majesty the Emperor. And with him being dead and all – and I think I speak for my comrades here – if you can show us a new emperor, by which of course I mean a valid successor to the last His Majesty and one whose own values are consistent with those we all hold dear, to say nothing of having the military backing to support his claim, well…I reckon we’d be with ya.”

At this, Sergeant Huxtable was nothing short of astonished. His mission to convert these men and their little outpost to his cause had nearly disintegrated under his very nose. And yet, by simply keeping his mouth shut, these same men had very nearly talked themselves round to joining him and his cause. All he needed to do now, he reasoned, was to seal the deal. And so it was that a slim, firm, creepy – and even almost slimy – smile crept upon the lips of one blonde Sergeant Huxtable. And behind this smile, he gathered his wit, his wisdom, his oratorical training and his own intangible charisma to make one final push.

“Gentlemen,” he began. “Comrades, if may be so bold. I have discerned in you a wisdom and a clarity of thought which bespeaks your great and inestimable value to whatever cause you should pledge yourselves. And so, I shall speak plainly with you. You have discerned aright. There are many who would claim successorship to His Majesty the Emperor. But our leader is the True Successor. Not only is he great and mighty in conventional terms, yet also is he strong in the Force. He alone has the power to gather unto himself what is left of the Empire, and to unite these uncertain factions in a New Order. But that is not all. No! In addition to our Great Leader, we have already begun construction of a new weapon, a weapon greater than any that has yet been known in our galaxy. When it is complete – and yes, it’s completion will take many years – there will be none who can stand in our way. Therefore I ask you. Nay, I do not ask. I offer. For with a full understanding of our cause and of our power, no asking shall be needed. I offer you the chance to join us. I offer you the chance to be a part of the power that will rule this galaxy for the next thousand years!”

The impact of these words, and the passion in which they were spoken, had a profound effect upon the room. The hearts of the newcomers were riven just as much as the hearts of those who had inhabited that lonely outpost for years. Had Sergeant Hux simply stopped there and asked for their signatures, they would have signed on to the cause with hardly a thought. But feeling flush with demagogic prowess, he decided on one final, fateful push.

“Comrades,” he said proudly, “for I now dare to call you thus. Our very way of life is under threat. Through generations of cloning and eugenics, His Majesty the Emperor has brought to bear upon this galaxy, at last, a race of strength and of wisdom and of, I daresay, greatness. But these are difficult times. And we are threatened by impurity and weakness at every turn. We have but two choices. We can band together and secure the supremacy of our race as masters of the galaxy, or we can give in to weakness and allow the impure to dilute our strength. And so I call upon you now to join us. And with our mega-weapon, we will not merely subdue our enemies, we will destroy them! We shall take their lands and make them our own. We shall take their men and make them our slaves. We shall take their women and make them our concubines. We shall take their children and put an end to them. Under the guidance of our Great Leader, we shall establish a new Empire, A New Order, indeed the very First Order of the galaxy. And we shall take our rightful place as rulers of this galaxy and build a Realm to last a thousand years!”

By the conclusion of these remarks, sweat was pouring from the brow of Sergeant Huxtable. His hands were waving in a mania of twisted delight. And behind his eyes burned the fire of a thousand suns. But for all this, he missed his mark. The room was silent; not so much in awed rapture as in creepy awkwardness. Reg looked at Mick. Mick looked at Nick. Tony looked at Roger. Roger looked at Spliff. Spliff’s cheeks burned red with shame at having introduced this odd, blonde, little man. Finally, Mick rose to his feet and spoke.

“Err,” he began clumsily. “We were with ya, mate, we really were. But this last bit. I mean, where to begin? First of all, it sounds like your entire plan hinges on the construction of yet another Death Star. And honestly? Maybe it’s time to try something else. I mean, apart from the fantastic waste of resources – which, I think we can all agree, have been epic – they’ve simply been ineffectual. Right, so the first Death Star destroyed Alderaan. And where did that get us? Lit’rally nowhere. As for the second Death Star, well that never even destroyed a single planet! And both were taken out by the Alliance with appallingly little difficulty. Therefore I must conclude that any strategy based upon such a weapon not only demonstrates a failure to learn from past mistakes, but indeed is evidence of a general lack of creativity.” Mick rubbed his eyes. “As for the rest of your statement, I think I’ll let Reg take over.” Mick sat down and Reg stood in turn and began to speak.

“Look, Hux, I’ll be straight with ya, mate. I find your talk of racial purity and so forth to be highly offensive, to say nothing of closed-minded and ignorant. And honestly, sir, I don’t know where you get your ideas. One can argue for the expediency of a clone-based military, but nowhere in Imperial literature have I ever seen a racial argument such as you’ve just now put forth. Love the Emperor or hate him, there’s simply nothing to support your claim that his Empire was in any way a racial campaign. But even all that aside, racial ‘purity’ on the order of which you speak opens yourselves to a targeted viral attack or any other narrowly specific genomic weapon. There is strength in diversity, Sergeant Huxtable, not in ‘purity.’”

As Hux stood there listening to this, his cheeks were burning red, not with embarrassment, but with rage. He spoke now in rising torrents of hate, his voice reaching an almost wretched squeal.

“I should have known! To come here and find you drinking that Muun filth, I should have known. The First Order will be stronger without you! We will destroy you before the end, and we will be triumphant in final victory!” With that, he clicked his heels sharply and stormed out of the room.

As the door shshed shut behind him, all eyes were on Spliff who was trying his best to disappear into the couch cushions. Finally, Tony spoke.

“Spliff, mate, what the Wampa’s Whatsit was that?”

“Err, I’m really sorry, lads.” Spliff was shaking his head. “I had no idea it was going to be like that. I thought it was going to be some sort of Union presentation, that’s all. Honestly. With the Emperor being dead and all, I thought he might be able to answer our questions about health benefits, retirement plans and all that.” He sighed. “Boy was I ever wrong.”

“What ever gave you that idea?” asked Reg scornfully. At this, Spliff made no verbal answer, but rather abashedly pushed a small folded leaflet towards his interlocutor. On the cover were the words “The First Order: Time to Think About Your Future in the Galaxy.”

Tune in next time4 for the continued5 adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.)…

  1. I’ve decided to give Episode 5 a miss for the time being. The story still needs to be told, and it will need to slot in after Episode 4 but before this next bit. So we’ll just leave 5 open as a place-holder for now and come back to it later. []
  2. Though his rank of sergeant precluded him from the all-coveted riding pants. []
  3. That is, Huxtable’s eyes were cold and hard, not the room’s. This should, of course, be clear from context. But syntactically, it could go either way. And so rather than rewrite the sentence, I’ve decided to simply add this exegetical footnote. [Author’s note] []
  4. Or, in this case, last time. []
  5. Or, better, “ongoing.” []

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #4

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #4
A Vaguely Star-Wars-ish Kinda Thing
Mostly for Dale

The little outpost sat upon a large asteroid. The large asteroid hung listlessly in a sea of smaller asteroids. The sea of asteroids was minding its own business on the fringes of the Outer Rim of The Galaxy. In contrast, the Outer Rim of The Galaxy scarcely had any business to mind. So, thought Colonel Starrkin as he and his three wingmen approached the lonely outpost sitting upon the large asteroid, this is where they’ve sent us. Not even a proper bloody planet. Not even a moon. Just a lonely little outpost in some forgotten asteroid field. He shook his head forlornly. Well, that’s politics for you.

The four spacecraft formed up to land. The Colonel’s TIE Advanced was in the lead position. The three Interceptors followed close behind. Starrkin switched on his intercom.

“Colonel Starrkin to Imperial Outpost number 7-4-2-6-7-3-Alpha-Charlie-Tango, requesting permission to land. Over.” For a moment there was nothing but silence; then a click as a rather bored sounding voice filled his earpiece.

“Lonely Outpost to Starrkin. Bring ‘em in, chief.” The com clicked off. Colonel Starrkin waited in awkward silence. The bored voice spoke again, this time with a hint of annoyance. “Do you copy, Colonel? I said, bring ‘em in.” Underneath his flight helmet, Colonel Starrkin raised his left eyebrow.1

“Err, yes, I copied.” He paused awkwardly. “But you didn’t say ‘over,’ so I wasn’t sure you were done speaking. Over.”

“Well, you heard me click off, didn’t you?” There was no longer any boredom in the voice, just annoyance.

“I suppose I did, yes,” said the Colonel. No answer. “I’m sorry,” he said with a hint of confusion. “This is Imperial Outpost 7-4-2-6-7-3-Alpha-Charlie-Tango, is it not? Over.”

“Well it’s certainly not Jabba the Hut’s Pleasure Palace, is it? Check your coordinates, chief. You’re in the right place.” The com clicked off again. The Colonel waited in awkward silence once more. The com clicked back on. “Ugh. OVER.”

“This guy’s a regular Dagoh Bah Bah Blacksheep,2” came Reg’s voice over the ship-to-ship. Starrkin ignored this remark.

“Indeed,” replied the Colonel to the space-traffic controller. “It’s just that you identified yourself as ‘Lonely Outpost.’ Over.” As he clicked off, he could swear he heard laughter in the background.

“Oh, that,” said the space-traffic controller. “Well it’s a lot easier to say ‘Lonely Outpost’ than ‘Imperial Outpost number 7-4-2-6-7-3-Alpha-Charlie-Tango,’ innit?” This time the Colonel sighed audibly into his mouthpiece. Hearing this, the controller spoke again. “Look mate, out here we don’t say ‘over’ every time we’re done speaking. You’d best get used to it.” The Colonel noticed that the controller had yet to call him ‘sir.’ He was about to say something about this, but then thought better of it.

“Very well, Lonely Outpost,” answered the Colonel. “Beginning our approach. Over.” Colonel Starrkin considered himself to be a highly adaptable sort of fellow. But old habits die hard, as they say, and he wasn’t ready to give up his ‘over’s just yet. He waited a moment for confirmation. But when it didn’t come after a few seconds, he decided it never would. He switched on his ship-to-ship.

“Alright, gentlemen, let’s form up for landing.” He checked his scope and found that his wingmen had already anticipated his order.

“They’re a silly lot, ain’t they,” said Micky.

“I’ll say,” agreed Nick.

“Bloody provincials,” added Reg for good measure.

Colonel Starrkin would have reprimanded this sort of chatter. At least, he would have done, were he not already thinking the same thing. As the four little fighters began their approach, the sight that greeted them was something altogether new. On the asteroid was a little ramshackle structure which they took to be the Outpost proper. Beside it, scratched into the rocky surface, was a small landing strip. And lining the landing strip were two-dozen spacecraft. Nothing about this was unusual. Except, that is, for the fact that none of the ships were of Imperial make, save a single Lambda class shuttle.

“Colonel, you sure this is the right place, sir?” asked Reg.

“You heard my communication with flight control, pilot.” The Colonel didn’t want to make any definitive answers, mostly because he had no definitive answers to give at the moment. “Alright, gentlemen,” he added. “Let’s make this look good. Let’s show them how it’s done.” With that, the four little fighters executed a textbook landing that would have impressed even the most seasoned of pilots. Once safely on the ground, they hopped out of their ships and looked around. Only, the thing they were looking around for was nowhere to be seen. Specifically, nobody was there to greet them. They all four looked at each other. And though their faces were all hidden behind their flight helmets, the three wingmen knew instinctively that the Colonel was arching an eyebrow. Though which eyebrow he was arching was a matter of not a little interest to them. For they had lately begun to place bets on this matter.

With a wave his hand, the Colonel began to make his way towards the ramshackle structure. The others shrugged collectively and followed. In a moment, they were standing before the door. Nothing happened. The Colonel looked around for a buzzer or a bell. Finally, he spotted something buzzer-sized. This buzzer-sized object was, honestly, shaped exactly like Darth Vader’s helmet. Hesitantly, he pushed on it. Nothing happened. He pushed on it again. Nothing happened again. Then, after a long pause, a little video screen located just beside it lit up. In the center of the screen was an image of a man, sitting behind a desk. The right half of another man could be seen to the left the center man.

“Whozit?” asked the center man.

“Who do you bloody think it is?” asked the other man, leaning further into the picture.

“How in the salt mines of Kessel should I know?” said the first.

“Well it’s obviously the bloody Colonel what just landed,” said the second. “Who else would it be?” he added rhetorically.

“Could be the postman,” answered the first, missing the fact that the question had been rhetorical.

“The postman?!” screeched the second. “Four fighters show up requesting permission to land and you think it’s the bleedin’ postman?”

“Well, it’s just that I ordered a few videos for rental last month, and I was hoping maybe they’d finally shown up is all.”

“Nobody gives a Hut’s left tit about your bloody video rentals, Roger,” said a voice off-screen.

“Nobody bloody asked you, Tony,” yelled Roger over his shoulder. Then he turned back to face the video screen. “So are you the postman or the Colonel then?”

“Colonel Starrkin, reporting for duty,” said the Colonel as professionally as he could. The man in the screen looked disappointed.

“That’s just the way, innit?” said Roger. “You order a video and it never bloody comes, does it? I mean, what good is all this bureaucracy if you can’t even get your soddin’ videos on time? What am I even paying taxes for? Coruscant is more than happy to garnish your wages for Imperial dues, but when it comes time to serve the little guy – “ he was cut off by the second man leaning into the screen and speaking into the monitor.

“Don’t mind ‘im, mate,” said the man. “’Is girl left ‘im for a Corellian smuggler, she did, and now all ‘e’s got to look forward to are his blasted video rentals.” At this, Reg elbowed Nick in the ribs. “But what am I saying? Do come in. Come in!” And reaching over Roger, the second man pushed a button which simultaneously opened the door and shut off the video screen. The four men entered through the door and into an airlock.

The four men stood and looked at each other awkwardly as they waited for the airlock to decompress. When a large indicator light finally flashed green, they removed their flight helmets and held them in the crook of their arms liked the seasoned veterans they were. Micky was the first to speak.

“I’ve seen womprats with more sense than this lot,” he said.

“They’re like bloody jawas without the hoods,” added Nick.

“Or like tall, skinny Ewoks,” offered Reg.

Colonel Starrkin facepalmed. At that moment, the inner door shshed open. The second man from the video screen stood before them. He was wearing khaki shorts and a cotton T-shirt with his rank insignia printed near the v-neck collar.

“Sorry ‘bout all that,” he offered apologetically. “Right this way, please. The General will want to see you right away, Colonel. As for your men,” he said, gesturing in their general direction, “they’re welcome to relax in the video lounge. I’m afraid we don’t have anything current. But we do have Dagoh Bah Bah Blacksheep’s comedy special from the Emperor’s Silver Jubilee.” He paused. “And a couple o’ skin flicks, if that’s your fancy.” He winked at the pilots in a way that made each of them slightly uncomfortable. “Follow me.” And he walked off, not bothering to see if his new charges were actually following him. And for a moment they didn’t. But soon enough they were hurrying to catch up. After a left turn, then a right turn, and then a bit of straight, they found themselves in the space-traffic control center. Their docent gestured towards a man sitting dejectedly at a desk. “You’ve already met Roger,” he said with a roll of his eyes. Roger looked up and nodded at them, unaware, apparently, that he should have been at least somewhat embarrassed. “And that’s Tony,” he said pointing to a man in the back of the room. Tony waved, but didn’t look up.

“And who are you, corporal?” asked Colonel Starrkin.

“Oh, how thoughtless of me,” said the man. “I’m Spliff, begging your pardon, Colonel.”

“Spliff?” belched Reg. “What, were your parents hippies then?”

“Reg!” hissed Colonel Starrkin.

“Oh, it’s quite alright, sir,” said Spliff. “I get that all the time. But no, it’s short for Spliffander. Me old dad’s name was Spander, you see. And me granddad’s name was Liffim.3 So they just mashed up ‘em up for me, my parents did, and here I am. Spliffander, at your service. Bit of a portmanteau, if you will.”

“Port-man-what?” asked Micky.

“Tony, will you show the new pilots to the video lounge?” called Spliff, ignoring the question. For a moment, Tony seemed not to move. Then, grudgingly, he got out of his chair and hobbled over.

“Right this way, lads,” he said, waving them on to follow him out of the room. With that, he hobbled slowly away. Reg, Micky and Nick looked at each other before following, walking at half speed to keep pace with their lame leader. Colonel Starrkin looked after them, arching his right eyebrow briefly before self-consciously switching to his left. Noting this, Spliff offered an explanation.

“’E wasn’t always like that, you know.”

“How’s that again?” said the Colonel, trying to sound nonchalant.

“’Is leg, sir. I saw you lookin’ at ‘im,” said Spliff deferentially. “What ‘appened was, ‘e was stationed at the base what the rebels stole the first Death Star plans from. ‘Ad his leg shot out from under ‘im, ‘e did. Tell ya what, though. ‘E killed many Bothans on that day. A real hero of the Empire, ‘e is, and there’ ain’t no mistake.”

“Indeed,” was all Colonel Starrkin could think to say.

“Yes, well.” Spliff was overtly disappointed that the Colonel was not more impressed by this. “Right then. The General will be wantin’ to see you, sir.” He turned and started to walk out of the room. “If you’ll follow me, sir,” he called over his shoulder. And so, Colonel Starrkin followed him out of the room, off to meet The General.

Tune in to the next installment of The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.)
Wherein the Colonel meets The General…

  1. He’d been practicing with his left lately. The reason for this being that he had begun to feel his right eyebrow was outpacing the left in strength, due to all the recent archings he’d put it through, and he’d begun to feel a tad bit worried that it was giving his face a bit of a lopsided look. []
  2. Dagoh Bah Bah Blacksheep was a well known Imperial stand-up comedian. In fact, his videos were the most highly rented throughout the galaxy. []
  3. Spander and Liffim: Two very Star Warsy sounding names, if I do say so myself. [Author’s note] []

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #3

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #3
A Vaguely Star-Wars-ish Kinda Thing
Mostly for Dale

Colonel Starrkin was trying to keep his composure as he stood before his men in Break Room 24 of the Forward Starboard Quarter1 of the Imperial Star Destroyer Triplicate. He had just got done explaining his promotion and their re-assignment to the Outer Rim. The men were staring at him with a collective look that stood somewhere between confusion as to why their “reward” was to be shipped out to the Great Galactic Backwater and annoyance as to why they should be having this meeting in Break Room 24, when everybody knew that Break Room 17 had the better view and the only frozen yogurt machine that could be relied upon to function with anything approaching regularity.

Reg was the first to speak. “Sir, now that you’re a Colonel and all – and congratulations on that, by the way, sir – well, the men and I were wondering, sir. Can’t you pull some strings and get us some time in Break Room 17, sir? It’s just that, well, sir, Mick and I, we was really wanting some frozen yogurt. And I know the timing is terrible, sir, what with the death of the Emperor and the Death Star going all up in ashes. But, you see, sir, a bit of fro-yo would soften the blow, so to speak.” Colonel Starrkin returned an icy stare. Reg frowned, but soldiered on. “Sir, if it’s about Nick being lactose intolerant, well, ‘e already said ‘e didn’t mind, sir. Says ‘e wouldn’t feel left out. Says ‘e’s watching his weight, ‘e is.”

“That’s right, sir,” chimed in Nick. “It don’t bother me none. Way I see it, I reckon Reg and Micky deserve a bit of comfort food, sir. After all, sir, we may not find any frozen yogurt once we get out to the Rim, sir. And as for me, sir. Well, it’s just as Reg says. I’m watching me weight.” He patted his belly. “Or, at least, I’s trying to, sir.” Colonel Starrkin pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed sharply.

“Gentlemen, I fear that you fail to perceive the gravity of the situation.”

“Or was that the captain of the Executor, who parked his ship in the gravity well of the Death Star!?” Micky slapped his knee as he guffawed at his own joke. Reg and Nick registered their approval slappingly upon his shoulders. Colonel Starrkin, however, was not laughing. Micky looked up, slightly embarrassed. “Too soon?” he asked meekly? The Colonel shook his head in silent disapproval. The three pilots shook off their laughter and sat at attention.

“Now then,” said Colonel Starrkin. “As pilots, your service has been exemplary. In this most recent battle, my five kills earned me a promotion. Thus, since as a wing, we produced nine kills, it seems to me that you all deserve promotions as well. It is with great pleasure, then, that I raise you three men to the rank of Lieutenant.” There was stunned silence. “Are there any questions?” Micky tentatively raised his hand. “Yes, Micky?”

“Sir, does this mean we’re now eligible for vision, sir?”

“Excuse me?” The Colonel was a bit confused.

“Insurance, sir,” clarified Micky. “Now that we’re Lieutenants, are we eligible for vision insurance? Glasses and all that, I mean, sir.”

“What a ridiculous question!” cried out Reg. “You’re a pilot. You’ve got bloody 20/20, haven’t you? What on Coruscant do you need vision insurance for?”

“Well, sure, I’ve got 20/20 now,” said Micky defiantly. “But what about down the line? Your eyes get worse with age, don’t they? I mean, maybe I’ll need glasses ten years from now.”

“Not bloody likely, that,” came back Reg. “You’re genetically engineered, mate.”

“You want to put your stock in Imperial engineering then?” asked Nick. “I mean, just look at the bloody Death Star. Or should I say, Death Stars?”

“You mean Dead Stars,” called out Micky.

“Too soon!” cried Reg. “Too soon, mate.” And Reg shook his head in disapproval.

“Gentlemen, please,” moaned Colonel Starrkin, thinking that if he had an Imperial nickel for every time he’d had to say ‘gentlemen, please’ he could have retired to a small Bespinian cloud-farm years ago.

“Sorry, sir,” groaned the three men in unison.

“Thank you. Now, are there any other questions?” asked Colonel Starrkin. And just as a Mon Calamari admiral almost immediately regrets bringing his fleet out of hyperspace, when the enemy is nowhere to be seen and an unfinished Death Star hangs over an idyllic forest moon in the springtime when the flies swarm around the Ewok dung-heaps, so too did the Colonel almost immediately regret bringing those interrogative words out of his mouth, in the stillness of the Break Room when not even the hum of a working frozen-yogurt machine may be heard. Nick raised his hand. The Colonel braced himself. “Yes, Nick?”

“Sir, what about dental, sir?” He seemed, for the moment, a bit chastened. “Do we get dental insurance with our new ranks, sir?” Colonel Starrkin tried to look out of the window, but found his view blocked by turbo-laser battery. And so he stared at the battery for long moment, studying its features. He wondered what his life would have been like if he were just a simple anti-spacecraft gunner’s mate. But deep down in his soul, he knew the truth. Anti-spacecraft gunners’ mates weren’t eligible for vision or dental, and they certainly weren’t eligible for riding pants. No, he concluded. He could never have been anything other than what he was. And what he was was a –

“Well, sir?” Nick’s question brought him abruptly back to Break Room 24. Colonel Starrkin looked at his three men and smiled.

“Yes,” he said pleasantly. “Vision and dental both.”

“Bullocks,” muttered Nick.

“Bullocks?” repeated Reg. “Why in a bantha’s balls did you ask, if you don’t even want it?” Reg was astounded.

“It’s to do with the Mrs., I expect,” whispered Micky.

“The ex-Mrs.,” corrected Nick. “She’s still on my plan, mate. If I get dental, that means she’s covered too. And I’d just as soon see her rotten teeth fall out of her stupid whore mouth.” With reddening cheeks, he looked up at his commanding officer. “Begging your pardon, sir,” he added softly. The Colonel, who was not accustomed to meddling in the personal affairs of his men, looked thoroughly confused. Reg, upon seeing this, offered an explanation.

“Left ‘im for a Corellian smuggler, she did,” he said gently. “And after all ‘e’s done for ‘er, too.” He sighed. “It ain’t right, sir.” Colonel Starrkin caught himself playing with the flares of his riding pants, trying to hide his embarrassment. He tried to gather his thoughts.

“Well,” he said slowly. “I don’t want to give you wrong information, Nick. But I believe you don’t have to accept the dental plan. Still, I suggest you see HR2 about it.” At this answer, Micky whistled in dismay.

“You’d better get down there right now, mate,” said Reg. “It’ll take weeks to get through all the paperwork. And by then, she could have all new teeth. And a spare set too.” Nick shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Finally, he raised his hand again. Colonel Starrkin nodded to him.

“Sir, may I please be excused, sir?” The Colonel nodded again. And with that, Nick bolted out of the room and headed straight for HR.3 The Colonel threw one last longing glance at the turbo-laser battery. Turning once more to his two remaining men, he spoke.

“Now then. Are there any other questions?” Reg and Micky both raised their hands. “That don’t have to do with your benefit packages?” Reg lowered his hand. “Or Break Room privileges?” Micky lowered his hand. “Very good.” The Colonel was just about to adjourn the meeting when the Break Room door shshed open. In walked the Secretary carrying a pizza box, which he placed fastidiously in the very center of the Break Room table. The Colonel arched an eyebrow while Reg and Micky looked on with a mixture of disdain and hunger.

Ceremoniously, the Secretary opened the box. Instead of one little, round plastic table in the center of the pie, each slice had its very own little, round plastic table nestled just in front of the crust. “Gentlemen,” said the Secretary regally, “the Admiral sends his compliments.” Colonel Starrkin arched his other eyebrow, giving his usual eyebrow a bit of a much-needed break.

“Thank you, Secretary,” he said with a hint of disdain. “But what’s with all the little, round plastic tables. Seems a very un-Admiral-like waste of resources.”

“Oh, that?” The Secretary smiled proudly, glad that anyone had noticed. “The Admiral fancies that they make each slice look like little Star Destroyers.”

  1. This Star Destroyer was fitted with 30 Break Rooms per Quarter. There were, counterintuitively, 16 Quarters on the ship; four quarters per Quarter, as it were. Thus were there a grand total of 480 break rooms on the IS Triplicate. The name, of course, was an homage to the Imperial bureaucracy which the Admiral loved so well. []
  2. HR took up the entire Port-Aft-Quarter of the ship. From the Admiral’s point of view, no amount of space was too much space to dedicate to the glorious bureaucratic machinery of his ship’s HR department. []
  3. He arrived 2.5 hours later. It was only a matter of minutes by turbo-lift. Unfortunately, the turbo-lift was down at the moment. Fortunately, the Secretary had filed the paperwork for repairs as soon as he learned of the malfunction. This meant that repairs would begin as early as next month. []

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #2

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #2
A Vaguely Star-Wars-ish Kinda Thing
Mostly for Dale

Major Starrkin sat in the anteroom of the Admiral’s Secretary’s office, which was itself an anteroom to the Admiral’s own office, which was itself little more than an anteroom to the Admiral’s private squash courts. The fact that the Admiral had a private squash court1 aboard his active duty battleship, some felt, spoke to the decadence and deterioration of the Empire. None of the people who felt this way, it is worth noting, happened to hold positions of power within the Empire. Thus were their critiques rounded down to sour grapes and tiny violins.

For his part, Major Starrkin reserved judgment. The critiques were not without merit, he reasoned. But on the other hand, what good was having a Galactic Empire if it didn’t come with perks such as private squash courts, Twi’lek masseuses and free video rental privileges. Against this last indulgence, Rebel propaganda asked why, if the Empire was so great, were they still using an outdated video rental system? Should they not just make streaming video freely available to all citizens? Surely the burdensome2 tax structure imposed by the Empire would more than cover the cost of such a simple service. As it happened, however, Major Starrkin didn’t read Rebel propaganda. Though had he done so, he likely would have reasoned that you can’t have private squash courts on Star Destroyers and free galaxy-wide streaming video and still have enough left over to crush a nattering rebellion. Some people, he would have thought, always want to have their cake and eat it too.

“The Secretary will see you now,” said the Secretarial Ante-Room Matron in a rather nasal and condescending tone of voice. Major Starrkin stood up and pressed the pleats of his uniform, accentuating the flairs of his riding pants. He was very proud of those pants, actually. Throughout the Empire, riding pants were seen as a sign of respect. Horses, on the other hand, were rarely seen. Form, in this case, had apparently outlived function.3

The Major strode proudly into the Secretary’s office. Although he had borne personal witness to the destruction of the Second Death Star,4 he still carried himself as an officer and a gentleman. It was a bad day for the Empire, to be sure. But Major Starrkin was ready for the next battle.

“Please have a seat,” said the Secretary without looking up from his video display. Major Starrkin took a seat. As he waited patiently, he heard a soft whirring sound emanating from the Secretary’s desk. The Secretary himself was still staring intently at his monitor. “Sorry, Major,” he said vaguely. “I’ll just be a moment.” More whirring. The Major sat ramrod straight. At last, the whirring stopped. A smile of simple satisfaction passed over the Secretary’s face. “At last,” he said, almost to himself. Then he pressed a button on his desk, which ejected a videocassette into his waiting hand. Gently, he placed the cassette squarely and neatly on top of a pile of other videocassettes. Finally, the Secretary stood and turned to face Major Starrkin. He wore a slightly apologetic smile.

“Sorry about that, Major. But the Admiral insists that all of his videos be rewound before being returned to Central Library. ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay a red Imperial cent in rewind fees,’ he always says. ‘I run a tight ship,’ he always says. And you’d do well to take note of that, Major. That sort of attention to detail may well land you a command of your own one day.” It was clear that the Secretary considered himself quite lucky to be working under one of the more clever commanders in the fleet.

“I shall keep that in mind, sir.” Major Starrkin tried to sound both impressed and grateful, or gratepressed as it was called in OCS. The Secretary seemed pleased by this.

“Now then,” said the Secretary, picking up the Major’s after-action report. “Someone had a good day yesterday, didn’t they?” He was smiling. Major Starrkin was trying to figure out why.

“With all due respect sir, I don’t think anything about yesterday was particularly good.” This time he tried to sound grateful with a tinge of deferential confusion, or gratedefcon as it was called in OCS. As the words left his mouth, the Major briefly wondered at the resources that must have gone in to creating such a byzantine system of nuanced interlocution. And as the words reached the Secretary’s ears, he himself was awed by the attention to detail that went in to crafting such a nuanced system of Byzantine interlocution.

“Hmm? No, no of course not. Death of the Emperor and all that. Tragic, really. Still though, he had a good run. And between you and me, Major, the Old Man wasn’t going to live forever, was he?”

“No, sir. He did sir. I don’t imagine he would have sir.” Major Starrkin tried to sound as deferentially polite as he could, though the Secretary found his tone not nearly obsequious enough. The Major was quick to pick up on this, however, and quickly added an afterthought. “Still though, sir. Terrible about the Death Star. Tragic loss of life, sir, if I do say so.”

“Hmm?” The Secretary arched an eyebrow. “Ah, yes. Tragic loss of life. Quite right, Major. And yet, I’ve said all along these Death Stars are a waste of resources. Force willing, we’ve seen the last of them.” Now it was the Major who arched an eyebrow.

“But surely, sir, they provided an element of fear throughout the Empire. And is it not fear that keeps that local systems in line?” The Major was arguing from doctrine while sounding deferentially confused,5 which was the only permissible way to question a superior.

“I see you’ve studied your Moff Tarkin…Major Starrkin.” The Secretary grinned at his play on words. The Major coughed, slightly. “Yes, well. The truth is, Major, that way of thinking has simply gone out of style. Unlike our fine riding pants, which I pray never will.” He looked at the Major for approval. The Major nodded. “No, it is not fear that keeps the local systems in line,” continued the Secretary. “It is bureaucracy. Ponderous, opaque, world-crushing bureaucracy, plain and simple. There is no greater…force…in the universe.” He smiled proudly at his pun. The Major twitched the left corner of his mouth slightly upwards. The Secretary walked out from behind his desk and stood face to face with his subordinate.

“You’re a pilot. And a damned fine one,” said the Secretary. “Tell me something, Major. How long does it take to bring an Imperial Star Destroyer, traveling at full impulse speed, to a dead stop?” The Major looked momentarily confused by this line of inquiry.

“Well, sir,” he said slowly. “That depends on a number of variables, from gravimetric anomalies, atmospheric conditions (if applicable), state of overall repair of said ship, spatial density – “

“A perfectly tuned Star Destroyer in a total vacuum. How long, Major?”

“Twenty-seven minutes, sir.”

“Twenty-seven minutes. Very good, Major. And that’s just for one ship. A single Star Destroyer. Now imagine that that Star Destroyer is a galaxy-wide, barely competently run, Byzantine bureaucracy. How long would it take to bring it to a total standstill?”

“I’m sure I have no idea, sir.”

“Generations, Major. Generations.” At this last word, the Secretary stomped his foot smartly against the plushly carpeted deck-plating. “You see, the very incompetence for which the Rebels incessantly lambast us is, in actuality, our single greatest strength. It doesn’t know how to stop. It couldn’t stop if it wanted to. To put it in terms you, as a pilot, will understand, Major, it is inertia, pure and simple. Emperors come and go. Death Stars are built and destroyed. But bureaucracy, Major. That is forever.”

“Yes, sir,” defconned Major Starrkin. “I suppose I never thought of it that way, sir.”

“No, I don’t suppose you have, Major,” said the Secretary with a tinge of pity. “They teach you a lot of things in flight school, and still more in OCS. But if you want to have a future in this Empire, Major, you’d do well to take a course in political theory.”

“I shall make every effort, sir,” said Major Starrkin defingenuously.6

“See that you do, Major. See that you do.” Before he could say anything else, the Secretary was distracted by a flashing red light on his desk. “Ah! The Admiral will see you now.”

“Thank you, sir,” said the Major as he made his way to the Admiral’s office.

The Admiral’s office was full of all sorts of treasures from all sorts of worlds. Every inch of countertop was covered with some or other trinket, no doubt pillaged in the course of his Imperial duties. A full catalog of these could be found in the ShipLibrary. But the most conspicuous of all was a stuffed Ewok sitting atop a beanbag chair in the shape of the Sith Lord Darth Anakin Skywalker Vader’s helmet.7 The Admiral’s office was, however, conspicuously lacking in one very important detail. And that was the Admiral himself. With nothing else to do, Major Starrkin stood at attention and waited in the uncomfortable stare of that freshly stuffed Ewok.

After a few minutes, the back door to the office shshed open, through which the Admiral made a grand entrance from his private squash courts. The Major snapped off a salute. The Admiral looked momentarily confused before returning the salute. Major Starrkin had never personally met the Admiral before, and so had no idea what to expect. The sight which greeted him was breathtaking.

The Admiral stood there, glorying in his squash shorts8 and polo tunic, sweat dripping from his luxuriously quaffed hair. He eyed the Major, and smiled.

“Major Thtarrkin, I prethume?” The Admiral had a pronounced lisp. It was impossible to know, however, if this lisp was a natural defect or a polished affectation. Lisps had become quite fashionable of late in the Imperial Court, and it was not uncommon to find high-ranking officers with political aspirations developing finely crafted lisps of their own these days.

“Yes, sir.” Major Starrkin had no political aspirations.

“Very good. Do pleathe have a theat.” The Admiral gestured to a luxurious chair, draped with a Wookie hide, before his desk.

“Thank you, sir,” said the Major with utter deference as he sat himself down. The Admiral, however, remained standing, arms akimbo.

“What do you think of my thquath thortth?” asked the Admiral with a slight twist of his hips. “I had them thpethially made, you know.”

“I have never seen their equal, sir,” defconned the Major. This, at least, was true.

“Are you a thquath man, Major? I could have a pair made up for you, you know.”

“I’m afraid I’ve never squashed myself, sir, no. But thank you, sir.”

“Pity, that.” The Admiral paused, as though he were in deep thought. “Now. What wath it you wanted to thee me about?”

“Sir?” Major Starrkin was confused. “I was told to report to you, sir.”

“Tho you were! Tho you were.” It was all coming back to him. “You had quite a day yesterday, Major. Quite a day!”

“I suppose, sir.” The Major was in full defcon mode now. “Still though, sir. Dark day for the Empire.”

“How’th that again, Major?” The Admiral seemed not at all to understand.

“With all due respect, sir, we lost his Majesty the Emperor, Lord Vader and the Death Star yesterday.”

“Yeth, pity, that.” The Admiral tugged at the flares of his squash shorts. “Thtill though, Major, you mutht admit. It didn’t put a dent into the bureaucrathy. And bureaucrathy ith the thing, Major! The very thing! We shall live to fight another day!”

“Indeed, sir.” This time Major Starrkin hit a higher note of obsequiousness, if only to avoid the need for further comment.

“Yeth, well. That ith the very thing I wished to talk with you about, Major. The very thing.” The Admiral tugged at the belt of his polo tunic. “But firtht, tell me thomething, Major. Do you watch videoth?”

“I’m afraid I hardly have the time, sir.”

“No, I thuppothe not. But maybe you will one day. And if you do, Major, a word to the withe. Alwayth rewind. We here at the Empire have the motht advancthed bureaucrathy in the hithtory of the galacthy. And if you don’t rewind, Major, they will find you. And trutht me, Major. That ith a late fee you do not want to pay.”

“I shall keep that in mind, sir. Thank you, sir.” So pleased was the Admiral at the Major’s display of obsequiousness that he gave the flares of his squash shorts an outright tug. The Major blinked the longest blink he dared blink. “Sir, what was it you wished to see me about, sir?”

“Ah, yeth.” The Admiral sat down behind his desk, satisfied that he had thoroughly impressed his audience with the magnificence of his wardrobe. “I have rethently had the pleasure of having had your after-action report read to me.”

“Read to you, sir?” This day was testing Major Starrkin’s defconning abilities.

“Oh yeth, Major. I alwayth have them read to me thethe dayth.” The Admiral seemed oddly proud of this fact. The reason for his pride was soon made clear. “I uthed to read them mythelf, you know. But they’re jutht too depreththing.” He smiled in a way that seemed wholly inappropriate. “But now, I have them read to me while I thqauth. Much eathier to take bad newth on the courtth, you know.”

“I suppose it would be, sir.”

“Anyway, Major, your report was tho ecthraordinary, I nearly miththed my shot!”

“Thank you, sir.”

“For what?” The Admiral was entirely confused.

“Nothing, sir. Sorry, sir. Please go on, sir,” said the Major.

“About what?” Too many videos, thought the Major, were not good for one’s attention span.

“My after-action report, sir.”

“Your after action report?” The Admiral stood up and fiddled with his belt buckle in an effort to hide his confusion. “Do you know thith belt buckle wath a gift from the Emperor’th thecond couthin’th third wife’th daughter? We uthed to date, actually. It theemed like a good political move at the time. Thadly, she never quite mathtered her lithp, tho I had to break it off. But she wath a thweet girl, tho I kept the buckle. Nithe, don’t you think, Major?”

“Very, sir.” Major Starrkin coughed slightly. “Sir, I was told you wanted to see me about my after-action report?”

“Tho I did! Tho I did.” The Admiral rummaged around his desk and pulled out a copy of the report. He handed it across to Major Starrkin and asked him to read the kill-summary. The Major had a sneaking suspicion that the Admiral could not, in fact, read.

“Five kills, sir.”

“Five killth,” repeated the Admiral. “Very good! Very good indeed.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Well, that’th jutht the thing, Major.” The Admiral was frowning now. In fact, his displeasure was getting the best of him. So much so, in fact, that he forgot his lisp. “You see, it’s almost too good. With all the losses we suffered yesterday, your success stands out like a sore thumb. Indeed, one might even think you were enjoying yourself out there; on the very day during which we lost not only the Death Star, not only Lord Vader, not only the Executor, but His Majesty the Emperor himself already.”

“I assure you, sir,” cut in the Major in a gross breech of etiquette, “I did not enjoy it in the least.”

“No,” frowned the Admiral. “I’m sure you didn’t. Still, we must keep up appearances. Do you realize what it looks like for you to score five whole kills on a day of such tragic loss for the Empire? Do you know what that does to morale?”

“But, sir.” Major Starrkin could not believe what he was hearing. “With all due respect, sir. I scored all five of my kills before we lost the Executor, let alone the Death Star or His Majesty the Emperor.”

“And that’s lucky for you, Major.” And then, inexplicably, the Admiral smiled. He was in control again, of his emotions and his lisp. “Or should I thay…Colonel?”

“Sir?” This time there was no deference. Just confusion.

“For your actth of valor, for your conthpicuouth bravery, and for your thervithe to the Empire, I hereby promote you to the rank of Colonel, with all rank and privilegeth pertaining thereto.” Major Starrkin was speechless. The Admiral continued. “Of courthe, it won’t do any good to have you here, around the troopth. And more to the point, Colonel, I can’t have you around me. I’m on the fatht track to the Imperial Court, you know. And thuctheth thuch ath yourth would dim my thtar, tho to thpeak. That ith why I mutht, I’m afraid, tranthfer you and your wing, to the Outer Rim.”

“But, sir!” interjected the newly minted Colonel, after an appropriately long pause which he used to parse the Admiral’s lisp.

“Now, now, Colonel. No need to thank me. Indeed, it ith I who thankth you!” The Admiral tugged at the flares of his squash shorts again. “The Thecretary will have your orderth for you on the way out.” The Colonel stood for a moment in stunned silence. He had no more words for the Admiral.9 Whereupon did Major Starrkin salute and turn sharply on his heels to go. But as the door shshed open before him, the Admiral called to him one last time. “Oh, and Colonel! Do let me know if you would like a pair of thquath shortth! It’th the leatht I can do…for a hero of the Empire.”

Colonel Starrkin nodded, his back still turned to the Admrial, and left. The Secretary was waiting for him as he entered the room. “Your orders, Colenel,” he said with a smile as he handed him a sheaf of papers. Starrkin took them silently in his hand, hoping to leave without any further discussion. But the Secretary didn’t let go of them, and he met the Colonel’s eye.

“Can I ask you something, sir?” The Secretary hung on the word sir. “I suppose I have to call you sir now, don’t I, sir.” Starrkin nodded. “Sir, I was just wondering.” He seemed to hesitate.

“Yes, Secretary?”

“Did the Admiral offer you a pair of squash shorts?”

Colonel Starrkin sighed loudly, no longer needing to genuflect before a subordinate officer. With that, he wrenched his orders from the Secretary’s hand and left the office without another word. As the doors shshed closed behind him, the Secretary muttered to himself. “Bloody upstarts.”

  1. Two, actually. []
  2. “Crushing” was actually the word used in Rebel e-leaflets. []
  3. This was another criticism lobbed at the Empire by Rebel propaganda. “The Empire: As Useless as Riding Pants” went the slogan. Where one stood on (or perhaps in) riding pants often determined one’s politics. []
  4. Already being referred to by the lower ranks as “the Dead Star.” []
  5. Defconargudoct being the official term for this. []
  6. With deferential disingenuousness. []
  7. The fact that Ewoks had only just lately triumphed over Lord Vader was an irony not entirely lost on Major Starrkin. []
  8. These squash shorts were little more than riding pants which had been cut off at the knee. []
  9. In the Imperial fleet, this was known as the Quiet Insult, or the quietsult. []

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #1

The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.)
A Vaguely Star-Wars-ish1 Kinda Thing23
Mostly for Dale

The mottled space-Snuggy of blue and white receded into a quilt of shining stars as the almost farcically large Imperial Star Destroyer dropped out of hyperspace. If the crew stationed on the port side of the ship had been permitted the luxury of looking out of their windows, they would have seen the nearly completed Second Death Star hanging ominously in space, like the ruins of some ancient spherical, and let’s be honest, really quite evil and nefarious, temple, upon which the savages of time seemed to be working in reverse.

In the event, they were not actually allowed to look out of their windows. For had they done so, they might have felt a twinge of awe. And awe, in the Empire, was an emotion specifically and legally reserved only for His Majesty the Emperor; and to a legally prescribed slightly lesser extent, His Lordship and Second Sith Darth Anakin Skywalker Vader. That was his official title, anyway. Among the troops, he was lately being referred to – albeit rather furtively – as Black Daddy Sith. This epithet had only lately replaced the now little used Force Lord Robo-Pop.4

As the massive ship took up its position, a wing of TIE Interceptors emerged from its starboard launch bay. The little ships buzzed and whizzed and zoomed their way into formation, despite the fact that such onomatopoetic sounds should hardly be possible in space, above the forest moon of Endor.

Major Starrkin, the group leader, clicked on his intercom:
“Here we are, gentlemen. The forest moon of Endor.”
“Forest Moon of Endor. Does nobody else have a problem with that?” came the reply.
“How do you mean?” came a third voice.
“Well, just, what is it with all of these worlds of homogeneous geography? Forest Moon of Endor; Swamp World of Dagobah; Desert Planet of Tatooine; Ice World of – “
Major Starrkin cut in. “This is hardly the time, gentlemen.”
“But Major,” came the third voice. “I reckon Reg has a point here. I mean, surely it goes against everything we know about astrogeography, to say nothing of the laws of physics.”
“Thank you, Nick.” Reg again. “I mean, of course you would expect to find jungles and forests in the more temperate regions of Kashyyk, but all the way up to the poles? It strains credulity.”
“To say nothing of the Cloud Planet of Bespin,” came a fourth voice. “I mean, what’s even under all those clouds? Is it just clouds all the way down?”
“I never even thought of that one, Micky,” answered Reg. “That’s a right good question.”
“Tell you one planet that was normal, was Alderaan,” said Nick. “But we eighty-sixed that one, didn’t we? I mean, makes you wonder doesn’t it? Was that really a political move, or were they snuffed out merely for their conformity to the laws of astrogeography?”
“Ooh, that’s a bit conspiratorial, even for me,” said Reg. “Still though, I wouldn’t put it past Force Lord Robo-pop.”
“I thought we were calling him Black Daddy Sith now,” added Micky.
“Gentlemen, please!” Major Starrkin was getting annoyed. It wasn’t that he minded his men’s idle chatter. Indeed he thought it was good for morale. But Space Traffic Control would be monitoring their frequency, and this sort of discourse would make for an uncomfortable debriefing. If they survived the battle.

Major Starrkin waited. Static greeted him over the intercom. “Thank you.” He checked his instruments. “Right. Now the rebel fleet is expected to show up in twelve minutes time, just above the Forest Mo-…just above Endor. Let’s look sharp!”

The fighter wing joined up with two others and now presented themselves as a mean little ensemble, ready to tango. Or at least salsa. And this they did with aplomb. In the course of the ensuing battle, our band of fighter pilots accounted for nine rebel kills, five of which went to Major Starrkin himself.

It happened, however, that there was an unfortunate inverse relationship between fuel-supply and battle-duration. And so it was that the Major gathered up his merry band of wingmen and headed for the mother-ship, there to top-up their tanks. It was then that the unthinkable happened. Reg was the first to notice.

“Major,” he called. “I think the Executor is on fire.” Starrkin looked for himself. Sure enough, the Executor – Super Star Destroyer, flagship of the fleet – was definitely on fire. What’s more, it seemed to be caught in the gravity well of the Death Star, it’s nose sinking precipitously towards the surface of the space station. Stunned static reigned over the intercom.

The men watched as the actually farcically large battleship descended slowly to its doom. As the craft made contact with the killer orb, one explosion after another cascaded up its hull, engulfing it in flame as the oxygen of its life support systems burned itself out in a blaze of glory. In less than a minute, there was nothing to see but a giant crater on the surface of the Glory of The Empire.

Micky was the first to speak. “It’s all so…senseless.”
“This bloody war,” answered Major Starrkin. “The loss of life. Yes, so senseless.”
“Well, yeah, that,” replied Micky.
“I don’t think that’s what he meant, Major,” said Reg. “Go on, Mick.” Micky was only too happy to oblige.
“Well, it’s just bad tactics, innit? I mean, a ship that size. And the flagship of the fleet, no less. What’s it doing anywhere near the Death Star’s gravity well?”
“I reckon you’re right, Mick.” Reg was working it out as he spoke. “I mean, the damage to the ship was hardly fatal, even if the engines had been knocked out, which, I think we can assume was the case, based on what we’ve just seen.”
“Exactly my point, Reg,” said Micky triumphantly. “Way I see it, had she been outside the gravity well – i.e. where she should have been – she would have been dead in the water, sure. But we could have formed up several star destroyers around her in a protective convoy. Then we would have had a chance at saving her.”
“It’s all down to politics.” This was Nick. “It’s a well known fact that Lord Vader has purged the best officers, and usually for no better reason than they didn’t take The Force seriously. So now you’ve got a bunch of mediocrities in charge, and they clearly don’t know the first thing about spatial dynamics. And now look where it’s got us.”
“There he goes again,” called Reg. “Nick and his conspiracy theories.”
“Well how else do you explain it?” Asked Nick plaintively.
“It’s very simple,” said Reg professorially. “After the first Death Star debacle – and I think we can all agree that’s exactly what that was – High Command didn’t want to take any chances. They knew the Rebs would be looking for a way in with their little sports cars all over again. They simply wanted to cover the new Death Star with as much firepower as possible, so as to prevent a repeat of last – “
“Umm, you guys,” cut in Mick.

They all looked up. Small fires were breaking out all over the Death Star. The space station seemed to shudder and heave in its orbit. The battle stood still around them. You could have heard a pin drop. Or at least, you could have had the Empire kept up its intercom contract with Sprint. As it was, all you could hear was cold static. And then, the Voice of Reason. The Voice of Reason was called Reg.

“Nothing to worry about, I’m sure. Probably just a coincidental occurrence of crashing ships, isolated fire-control failures, and a tactical adjustment of the inertial dampeners.” He paused. “The only other explanation, of course, would be a complete failure of the reactor core. But the odds of that – “

Nobody heard the end of that sentence. For just at that moment, the intercoms went dead it the wake of a massive electro-magnetic pulse. This however, was secondary to the blinding flash of light which accompanied said EM pulse. And this blinding flash of light was itself secondary to the mammoth, titanic, gargantuan explosion which was the cause of said blinding flash. It hardly needs to be said that said explosion was Death Star II doing its best impersonation of Death Star I. As impersonations go, this was somewhere between Dana Carvey as George Bush and Larry David as Bernie Sanders. Which is to say, quite good, but not nearly as funny as it could have been.

“Umm, you guys.” The intercom system had been reset. Mick’s brain, not so much.
“Wasn’t the Emperor in there?” called Reg. They all knew that he was.
“And wasn’t Black Daddy Sith on there too?” asked Mick after a pause.
“No, he was on Endor, I think,” answered Reg.
“No, he was definitely on there,” declared Nick.
“And how do you know?” asked Reg.
“My cousin Ralph is mates with Vader’s shuttle pilot,” said Nick coolly. “He texted me just after we launched that he was taking “BDS and that Skywalker punk” up to see “The Old Man.”
“Well I’m just glad Skywalker went with it,” added Micky, sounding still a bit stunned.
“Is that the same cousin Ralph who caught the clap from that Twi’lek dancer on Ord Mantell?” needled Reg.
“He’s a damn fine pilot!” shot back Nick.
“Not if the way he treats his joy-stick is any indication,” chided Reg.
“That’s enough!” cut in Major Starrkin. “This is a dark day for the Empire. And that’s to say nothing of how many brave men have just lost their lives to this senseless rebellion. I’m ordering you to cut the chatter.” He glanced down at his display. “I’ve just received orders from Base-ship. We’re to dock immediately. And then we’re getting the hell out of here.”

“Aye-eye, Major,” answered the three wingmen professionally. But as they made their way home, the sound of two hands slowly clapping drifted over the intercom. Reg, apparently, did not feel that this last insult constituted “chatter.”

Tune in next time for the continued adventures of
Col. Starrkin (ret.)

  1. Star Wars fans tend to take these things quite seriously. However, I can’t be bothered to do even the least bit of “research” for this project – hence, the “-ish.” [Author’s note] []
  2. I’m hoping to do at least a few serialized posts. We’ll see what happens. [Author’s note] []
  3. All footnotes should be read as if supplied by the narrator, unless otherwise noted thusly – Author’s note. []
  4. This epithet had a short but popular lifespan in the wake of a viral video in which an old Daft Punk video was Photoshopped to include a dancing – and somehow smiling – version of the Sith Lord. The video was, of course, quickly banned. But the name hung on for quite a while. And there were many who thought – though fewer who dared to say – that the popularity of such a video spoke volumes for the state of the Empire, and not at all in a good way. []