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.


“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.


“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…




Silly Fairy Tale, Part the Second

Silly Fairy Tale
Part the Second

(Part the First can be read here)

 The Story Continued…


Needless to say, the sassy black lady wasn’t about to teach Sylvana how to read, no matter how much she pitied the poor child.  I mean, ain’t nobody got time for that!  And so the girl left the Royal Department of Human Resources, full of hope and full of despair.  Full of hope, because she now clutched in her hand a list of names and addresses for all the woodsmen in the king’s service.  Full of despair, because she didn’t know how to read it.  Not knowing what else to do, she went back to the castle, whereupon did she bound right up the spiral staircase, run into her room, slam the door and crawl into bed.  And she started to sob.

This being a castle, however, and she being a pre-princess, there was no such thing as privacy.  Indeed, her very favorite lady-in-waiting was already in her room.  Waiting, obviously.  And when she saw the girl in such a state, she approached her and asked what was wrong.  The girl then told her the whole story.  When she’d finished, the lady-in-waiting smiled sweetly at her and patted her cheek.

“Be of good cheer, child,” she said.  “Though the hour seemeth dark, there is yet hope.  For I am a woman of letters, old crone though I be.  And t’would be my honor to serve thee in thy quest for thy father.  Ye have but to put yon parchment in my grasp, and lo, I shall be thy guide.  I shall be as thine eyes.  Such is my love for thee.”

“Oh my god!” cried the girl, throwing herself face-down into her pillow.  “You know I don’t understand you when you talk like that.  God, speak English!”  Whereupon did the lady-in-waiting roll her eyes.  Twice.  Then she facepalmed herself.

“I said,” she said, “don’t get down, girlfriend.  I know shit be lookin’ bad right now, but it’s all’a work out.  I mean, I know how to read, hun.  Even though I’m old.  And I’m tryin’a say, I’d be happy to help you look for your pops.  All you gotta do is gimme that there list, and I’ll take care of the rest.  You dig?”

“I dig,” said the girl, drying her eyes.  Then she threw her arms around the lady-in-waiting’s neck.  “I love you Brangien (that was her name), you’re the best!”  And Brangien hugged her back.  “But wait,” said the girl.  “You really know how to read?  I mean, you’re…a woman.”

“Of course I do, sweety.  Back in my country, I have a – “

“Lemme guess.  A PhD, right?  Apparently that’s a thing now.”

Anyway, they soon got started.  Led by the noble Brangien, Sylvana visited one woodsman after another.  But none of them were her father.  Wouldn’t you know it, but they even visited her father’s flat.  Only he wasn’t home at the time.  Madison answered the door.  He was very surprised to see Brangien.  Sylvana was even more surprised when the two of them kissed each other passionately on the lips.

“You guys know each other?” asked the girl, clearly astonished.

“Oh yes,” said Madison.  “We were at school together back in the old country.  We even dated for a bit.”

“What happened?” asked the girl.

“The war,” they said together.

“We were both taken prisoners,” said Madison.  “And we never saw each other again after that.”  Then he looked at his old flame.  “I had no idea you were here,” he said softly.

“I had no idea you were still alive,” she whispered.

“Well, here we all are now, happy together again,” said the girl impatiently.  “But more important, I’m looking for my father.  Have you seen him?  He’s a woodsman in the king’s service.”

“I see,” said Madison.  “And what’s his name.”

“Oh my god, why do people keep asking me that?!”  The girl was clearly annoyed.  “I’ve only ever called him father.  I don’t know his name.”

“Well, what does he look like?”

“I don’t know.  He looks like a man.  With a beard.  He has big strong forearms, stout legs and a barrel chest.  He usually likes to wear plaid flannel and a knit cap.”

“So, you’re saying he looks like a woodsman.”

“I guess, yeah, I mean, like, I don’t know what other woodsmen look like.  I just know that’s what he looks like.”

“Right.”  Madison pondered this for a moment.  “Well, look.  My roommate is a woodsman, and he fits the description.  But he’s never said anything about having a daughter.  Not that we talk much.  Honestly, he’s kind of a xenophobe.  I mean, I don’t hold it against up.  He lived his whole life in the woods, probably.  Never met anybody from anywhere else.  I suppose it’s only natural.  Point is, we don’t talk much.  So maybe he has a daughter, but what do I know?”

“So there’s nothing to indicate that he has an important person in his life?” pressed Brangien.

“Now that you mention it, he keeps this little square wooden frame next to his bed.  I once asked him what the deal with that was.  He said it was a ‘picture frame,’ whatever that is.  But I think it’s meant to symbolize somebody that matters a great deal to him.”

“Like a daughter?” asked Brangien.

“Yeah, maybe.  Or a wife.  Or a mother.  Or a dog.  I’m not really a fan of hypotheticals.”

“Please mister,” whined Sylvana.  “This is important!  Like, très important.”  And somewhere, the sassy black lady was all, Oh, you know how to use très in a sentence, but you didn’t get my clou joke?  Shiiiit.

“Tell you what, child,” said Madison.  “Why don’t you come back tomorrow around supper-time and you can meet my roommate.  Maybe he’s your daddy, maybe not.  But there’s only one way to find out.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!” cried the girl.  And she gave him a big hug.  Then she turned to her lady-in-waiting.  “OK, Brangie, let’s go.”

“Actually,” she said slowly, “I think I’m gonna stay for a bit.  Madison and I have…a lot of catching up to do.”

“Oh, you mean like telling stories about all that’s happened in your lives since you were separated by the war?  Sure, sure.  I get it.”

“Umm, yeeeahhh, that,” said Brangien and Madison together.

Whereupon did Sylvana take her leave and headed back to the castle.  And she strolled the city streets, she wondered to herself, what kind of hipster name is Madison?

Anyway, to make a long story short – or rather, to cut out the bits that arent’ really relevant – the next night, Sylvana returned to chez Madison around supper time.  The woodsman wasn’t home yet, so she just sat on the couch and drank tea with upwardly mobile emancipated slave.  At last, the doorknob turned, the door opened, and there stood the woodsman.  He looked at the girl.  She looked at him.

“Hey, chief,” said Madison.  “Homegirl here thinks she might be – “

“My daughter!”  And they raced to each other and were soon locked in a warm embrace.  And when they had broken off their hug, the woodsman looked once more upon his daughter’s face.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Looking for you, silly!”

“No, I mean, what are you doing in the city?  Do you live here now?”

“Oh my god, I didn’t even tell you!  I’m engaged to the prince!” she squeeed.

“What wonderful news!” exclaimed the woodsman.

“Say what?” blurted Madison.

“Yeah,” she started.  “He, like, just found me in the woods one day and wanted to marry me!  Can you imagine?  Marry a prince?  So obvi, I was all, ‘yes,’ and shit.  And here I am!”

“Ain’t that some shit,” muttered Madison to himself.  “Here I am, with a PhD in advanced mathematics, and I’m bustin’ my ass, just to get emancipated.  Ten years working in the Royal Office of Accounting, and all I got to show for it is this lousy flat and a xenophobic roommate.  Meanwhile, homegirl here get’s to marry into royalty, because why?  Because she’s pretty?  Homegirl can’t even read.  Ain’t that some shit.”  But the girl and the woodsman heard none of this.

“Daddy, I’m going to bring you to live with me in the castle.  It’s going to be uh-mazing!”

And that’s just what she did.  I suppose I could end the story here.  I suppose I could just say that she married the prince, her dad moved into the castle and they all lived happily ever after.  Which is basically – Spoiler Alert – what happened.  But why not tell the story the right way?

OK, so the woodsman moved into the castle.  And for two months, father and daughter were delighted to be together again.  I mean, it was a little awkward.  After all, there was indeed a rather high degree of class-bias at court.  Everybody sort of looked down on the woodsman, with his beard and his flannel.  And while there was plenty of talk behind his back, everybody saw how happy the soon-to-be princess was and so they basically just put up with him.

Well, after two months, it was time for the wedding.  There was, of course, a royal wedding planner.  She took care of renting the hall.  Or rather, reserving the hall.  The hall, of course, belonged to the king, so they didn’t have to rent it so much as just raise taxes for a few weeks to cover expenses.  Obviously not a big hit with the locals, but it’s not like they could vote the king out.  So what can you do?

Anyway, the royal wedding planner had hired (read: conscripted) a decorator for the event.  Only, nobody was really happy with him.  I mean, he was very good.  But his style was rather rococo.  A bit over the top.  It didn’t really fit with the hippy girl from the woods.  That’s when the woodsman had an idea.

“You know,” he said at a wedding planning meeting, to the prince, and his daughter and the wedding planner, “my old roommate is actually a great decorator.  He was always doing the loveliest things with flowers and drapes and…doilies?  Is doilies a word?  Why don’t we see if he can help us?  I’m sure he’d do a great job.”

“Hmm, yes” said the wedding planner, trying to be polite.  “But this is a royal wedding.  Isn’t your ex-roommate a…slave?”

“An emancipated slave,” said the woodsman proudly.  “And he has a PhD in advanced mathematics.”

“Typical,” said the wedding planner with disgust.  “All these immigrants with their advanced degrees.  How are we citizens supposed to compete for jobs anymore?  And anyway, advanced mathematics is not decorating.”

“I’m telling you he’s good,” insisted the woodsman.

“We want to give him a chance,” added Sylvana.  “Don’t we, honey?” she said, squeezing the prince’s hand.

“Anything for the little lady,” said the prince, displaying no trace of independent thought.  “Make it so.”

“As you wish,” said the wedding planner.

An hour later, the four of them were knocking on Madison’s door.  And they explained their proposition to him.  And when they’d said their piece, he looked confused.

“I mean, I appreciate you guys thinking of me, honestly,” he said.  “But, you know I’m not a decorator.  I’m just gay.”

“You mean…” said the woodsman.

“I like men, yes.”

“But what about Brangien?” asked Sylvana.  “You said you guys used to date.”

“Girl, it’s a spectrum,” answered Madison, waving her off.

“I don’t know about this,” said the royal wedding planner.  “A gay, decorating the royal wedding?”

“I don’t know about this,” echoed the woodsman.  “A gay, decorating my daughter’s wedding?”

“Oh, daddy,” said the girl, gripping her father’s epically massive forearm.  “Don’t be like that.  Madison is allowed to love whoever he wants.  Who are we to judge him?  And anyway, it’s not like he’s a Jew.”

“Jesus Christ,” said Madison, facepalming.

“See?!” exclaimed Sylvana.

“You will, of course, be paid quite handsomely,” said the royal wedding planner.

“Money, I got,” said Madison somewhat indignantly.  “If y’all want me to decorate this shindig, you’re gonna have to do better than just a big fat check.”

“A what?” asked the royal wedding planner.

“Gold coins, whatever.”

“What’s your price?” asked the prince.

“I want a transfer out of the Royal Office of Accounting.  I want a position at the Royal Institute of Mathematics.”

“You want a RIM job?!” asked the prince incredulously.  “You.  An ex-slave.”

“That’s right, and I won’t settle for anything less.

“Oh, let him have it, honey,” pleaded the girl.  “It’ll be so worth it.”

“Very well,” said the prince.  “I will personally see to your RIM job.  On the sole condition that my bride is satisfied with your services.”  Whereupon did Madison extend his hand to the prince.  Whereupon did the prince look skeptically upon the ex-slave-hand before him.  But, after a quick elbow to the ribs from his fiancée, they shook on it.

Well, needless to say, the wedding went off without a hitch.  The decorations were beyond fabulous.  Everybody had a great time.  And when it was all over, the prince took his literally criminally underage bride up to his royal quarters and there did what all medieval princes do with their more-often-than-not criminally underage brides.  It wasn’t long before she got preggers, and the whole kingdom was rejoicing at the news of it.

So now the girl-princess, the royal-by-marriage woodsman and the prince were all living together happily in the castle, enjoying life with their children/grandchildren and basically making a story-book existence of it all.

Not that there weren’t rough patches.  The princess opened up a little menagerie on the castle grounds, where she brought her bear and squirrel friends from the woods to live with her.  And for most of them, this was great.  There was a never ending supply of nuts in the castle, and fresh fish every day.

But one of the squirrels soon became a little too enamored with life at the royal court.  It wasn’t long before he started hanging out with the wrong crowd, spending way too much time with the idle, foppish dilettantes who clung to the king.  And being of the aristocracy, they were very free with spending their fathers’ money.  You know the type.  Anyway, this particular squirrel soon developed a nasty coke habit.  I mean, you think regular squirrels are fast.  You should’ve seen this guy go after a couple of lines.

It got to the point that the princess – to say nothing of the other squirrels – was really starting to worry about him.  But she figured it was his business, and she didn’t want to intrude.  But he made it personal when he stole one of her pearl necklaces and sold it for two ounces of coke and a bag of chestnuts.  The princess, bless her heart, wasn’t so much angry as hurt.

So she, and the other squirrels, staged a little intervention.  And they told him that if he didn’t “straighten up and fly right,” they’d kick him out of the castle and send him back to the woods.  It was hard, at first.  It always is.  But eventually, the squirrel got his shit together, and he’s been clean ever since.

And so that brings us to the end of our story.  The princess and the prince were a happy couple.  The woodsman and the girl were happy to be reunited.  The animals were living it up.  Even the courtiers had begun to accept the woodsman, as he was often carving little trinkets for them.  Oh, and Madison got his job at the Royal Institute of Mathematics.  Not only that, but he and Brangien got back together, only this time, it was in the form of a poly relationship that included the village blacksmith.  As for the sassy black lady, well, the princess never forgot how she’d helped her.  So she saw to it that a proper window was installed in the Royal Department of Human Resources.  To which, SBL said, “Oh, thank you, child.  You’re a sweet thing,” before adding under her breath, “Ex-slave gets a RIM job and all I get is a stupid-ass window.  Shiiit.”

And they all lived happily ever after.

Silly Fairy Tale, Part the First

Silly Fairy Tale
Part the First


            Not wanting to do another actual blog post, and having completed my Hebrew studies for the night, I find myself still wanting to write.  To write something.  And so I am remembered of a game Charlotte and I used to play.  The game goes like this.  Charlotte asks me to tell her a story.  Whereupon do I proceed to invent a fairy tale out of thin air.  What follows is the sort of story which I’d usually make for her.  In fact, I think it’s probably based on one I’ve already told.  But it’s also different.  I made this up, just now.  For fun.  I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it…

The Story So Far…

Once upon a time, there was a woodsman, who lived in…well, he lived in the woods, obviously.  His job, basically, was to chop wood for the king.  You see, the king lived in a big old palace.  And in the winter, it would get very cold inside those drafty stone walls.  So the king always need firewood.  And so it was that he contracted with several of the local woodsmen to provide the royal kindling.

I say “contracted,” but this was really a feudal sort of arrangement.  Because fairy tales almost always take place in feudal times.  And this might sound romantic, because fairy tales are always romantic.  But it was not romantic.  It was a raw deal, not to put too fine a point on it.  See, the woodsman worked the king’s land, but most of his labor-product wound up in the castle.  He had very little left to himself at the end of the day.

And the woodsman was, perhaps, peripherally aware of all this.  But he was not an educated man.  Neither was he a revolutionary.  He was just a guy that chopped wood for a living.  And it wasn’t a very good living.  Still though, at least he had a little cabin in the woods.  So it was better than working in the salt mines.

Of course the salt mines were in Africa.  Salt was brought into the kingdom by Arab traders.  So really, the salt mines were an abstraction.  But there were rumors.  And the rumors made the salt mines sound pretty terrible.  All this to say, the woodsman was not entirely chagrined by his lot in life.

And anyway, he had a daughter.  Now, the woodsman loved his daughter very much.  She was the apple of his eye.  Or, at least, she would have been, if he’d ever seen an apple.  But all fresh fruit went directly to the castle.  So he probably had some other metaphor that he used to describe his daughter.  Something lumberjacky.  But if he did, it does not come down to us.

The point is, he loved his daughter very much.  There was nothing he wouldn’t do to make her happy.  You see, it was just the two of them.  I know what you’re thinking.  The mother died, right?  Maybe even in childbirth?  Because that’s how it goes in fairy tales.  Well, not this time.  This time, the girl’s mother was this weird hippy chick that lived in the woods.  She was really into prancing around the forest naked, but it was all PG because her hair was so long, you couldn’t see anything anyway.

Well, years back, the woodsman and the hippy girl shacked up for a bit.  Neither of them were really happy.  See, she was all “Why do you break your back for The Man, maaaan?”  And he was all, “Why can’t you settle down and get a job?”  So they didn’t really have a lot in common.  It was more just that they were the only two people within miles, and they did what people do in those situations.

It was only a matter of time before the hippy girl got preggers.  But of course, she was all “I refuse to be pigeon-holed by gender stereotypes.  Just because I’m a woman, how come I have to be the mother?”  And he was all, “Ugh, fine, but coat-hangers haven’t even been invented yet, so what do you want to do about it?”  And she was all, “What’s a coat-hanger?”  And he was all, “I literally have no idea.”

Anyway, what happened was, she carried the baby to term.  Somehow, in that age before medicine and real doctors, she even managed to survive childbirth.  But once that baby was out, so was she.  That very night she was splitsville, never to be seen again.  Although even now, there are rumors of a crazy hippy lady dancing naked in those very same woods.  The police even tried to find her a few years back, but all they came up with were a couple of teenagers smoking pot.  But never mind about that.

So she had the baby, and it was a little girl.  And the woodsman couldn’t be happier.  He’d always wanted a daughter, and now he’d got one.  He named her Sylvana because she was a child of the woods.  But she never liked this name, and so she took to calling herself Cinderella.  Unfortunately, she soon received an anachronistic cease-and-desist letter from the not yet incorporated Walt Disney Corporation, whereupon will she have had to let it go.  So she took to calling herself Winter, because she was sad in her heart.  Sad that she would’snt be allowed to go by Cinderella, and also sad because she never knew her mother.  Needless to say, the woodsman thought this was all ridiculous teenage melodrama and so continued to call her Sylvana.

But enough of this.  One day, a knight-errant, on a mission from the king, came to see the woodsman.  “Stout yeoman,” said the knight, “the king requires your services in the castle.  Wherefore must you pack your things and come with me.”

“But what about my daughter?” asked the woodsman.  “Surely I can bring her with me?”

“I’m afraid not,” said the knight.  “Tax revenues this year were pretty low, to be honest, and the king can’t afford to put up whole families.  You’ll have to come alone.”

“Well what am I supposed to do with her, then?” asked the woodsman.

“Not my problem,” said the knight.

And so the woodsman explained the situation to his daughter.  He was worried that she’d start crying, but she actually took it quite well.

“Why are you taking this so well?” he asked.

“Because while you’ve been out chopping wood, father, I’ve been studying.  The squirrels have taught me how to gather nuts.  The bears have taught me how to take apart a deer carcass and how to fish.  And the owls have taught me how to catch mice, though now that I say that last part out loud, it doesn’t sound so useful.”

“And what will you do for clothing?” he pressed.  “You know nothing of tanning leather or weaving wool.  Not there are any sheep in the woods, so I guess that’s a moot point.  Still, though.”

“Who needs clothes?” she guffawed.  “I’m going to be like my mother now.  I’ll dance naked in the woods under the starlight.”

“I never should have told you about that,” said the woodsman, rolling his eyes.

“Honestly, father, I’ll be fine.  Go serve the king.  Make me proud.”  And she smiled the sort of wild-eyed smile her hippy mother used to smile.  Whereupon did the woodsman kiss her tenderly upon the forehead before departing with the knight.

So.  Whose life do you want to hear about first?  The woodsman or the girl?  Let’s do the woodsman.  Right, so the king – or rather the Royal Department of Human Resources – set him up in a small flat.  It wasn’t in the best neighborhood, but at least it was within the city walls.  It was a tiny little two-bedroom, and he shared it with an upwardly mobile emancipated slave, who had been captured during the last war with the neighboring province.  His name was Madison.

“What kind of hipster name is that?” asked the woodsman when he moved in.

“It’s not a hipster name,” said the ex-slave.  “I’ll have you know, James Madison will be the father of the American constitution one day.  It’s a very noble name.”

“Father of the what?”  The woodsman was confused.

“The American constitution.  You know, as in America?  As in, the New World?”

“New World?” asked the woodsman.   “What are you talking about?  There’s just the world.”

“Yeah, here there’s just the world.  But what do you think is on the other side of Ocean?”

“I never thought about it,” said the woodsman slowly.  “I guess I just always assumed that when you get to the end of Ocean, you fall off the edge of the world.”

“You know, in my country, I have a PhD,” said the ex-slave, facepalming himself.

“Why do immigrants always have to say in my country?” retorted the woodsman.

So no, they weren’t off to the best start.  But they figured it out, after a while.  Anyway, the woodsman soon found that his new gig wasn’t so bad after all.  Instead of simply chopping firewood, as he’d done in the forest, he was now apprenticed to the master carpenter.  And soon, he was turning out work of expert craftsmanship.  Indeed, it is said that the king’s very favorite chair was made by the woodsman in those days.

Also, the pay was a little better.  He actually had spending money in his pocket.  He could buy his own bread and cheese and wine now, so he was feeling pretty good.  He could even afford a ticket to the yearly jousting tournament.  And the jousting tournament was the highlight of the year.  Not because of the sport.  No, the woodsman viewed that as barbaric.  But the tournament attracted food vendors from all over the world.  His favorite was the chinaman, who made these things called ‘dumplings.’  They were like pierogies, but more savory.  They were like knishes, but lighter, and also untainted by Jew-hands, polluted with the blood of Christian babies.  Yeah, I know how that sounds.  But fairy tales always take place in the middle ages, and you know what they were like back then.

Anyway, the woodsman was living a pretty good life, there in the city.  Except for one thing.  He missed his daughter.  Terribly.  Every day, he woke up thinking about her and every night, he went to sleep thinking about her.  And she was all he thought about as he toiled away in the carpenter’s shop.  Hell, he even kept an empty picture frame next to his bed.  “As soon as they invent photography,” he’d say to himself, “I’m going to put a picture of her in there.”

But what about the girl herself?  Well, in the beginning, she was pretty happy.  You know how teenage girls are when it comes to their independence.  She’d spend her days gathering nuts with the squirrels or fishing with the bears.  At night, owls would bring her dead mice, but that got old fast.  And in between her hunter-gatherer routine, she’d dance naked in the woods, like nobody was watching.

Only somebody was watching.  Not in a creepy, pervy way, mind you.  More in the, you can’t really ignore the naked girl dancing in the woods kind of way.  But it wasn’t just anybody who was watching her.  It was the king’s son.  The bloody prince, he was.  He was 22 and she was 16.  And by today’s standards, this gets all kinds of wrong in a hurry.  But back then, it was all kosher.  Though they didn’t use the word kosher, because anti-Semitism.  And anyway, she’d grown her hair out, just like her mom, so you couldn’t see anything anyway.

Well, one day, he rides up to her on his white shining horse.  And he gives her the whole fairy tale prince routine. You’ve heard it before.  “You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.  Come live with me in the castle.  Come be my bride.  Yadda yadda.”

And she thought about this offer.  As she saw it, this whole woodsy-hippy thing was getting old.  And winter was coming.  She didn’t know how to chop wood to make a fire.  She didn’t have any clothes.  She’d always supposed she’d just hibernate like her bear friends.  But really, she’d never thought it through.  Anyway, this was a better offer.  Of course, between the age difference and the royal-v-peasant dynamic, it wasn’t really a fair offer.  Not that the prince was some kind of medieval Roger Ailes, of course.  Far from it.  It’s just, well, they weren’t really on level ground.

But this is where she differed from her mother, whom she never knew, but about whom she’d heard an awful lot.  Her mom was the sort of feminist that would reject the proposed arrangement on the grounds that she didn’t need any man to make her happy.  The girl, on the other hand, viewed herself as being rather empowered, and had no qualms about marrying a freaking prince to advance her station in life.

Also, she really missed her father.  Every day, she woke up thinking about him and every night, she went to sleep thinking about him.  She would have kept an empty picture frame next to her bed, but she lacked the perspicacity to envision the invention of photography.  And anyway, she didn’t have the carpentry skills to make a picture frame.  So instead, she’d gotten into the habit of carving the word father into tree trunks.  Only, she didn’t know how to write, so it was always just an odd assemblage of random angular scratch marks.  But it said father to her, and that was all that mattered.

In any event, she agreed to go with the young (albeit older than her) prince, and to be his wife.  Also, she reasoned secretly with herself, if she moved to the castle, she might get to see her father again.  But she didn’t mention this part to the prince, whom she suspected was possessed of a certain degree of class-bias and might frown upon her familial relations.

So they moved into the castle.  And life was, well, it was boring.  It was a whole lot of sitting at court.  She had all these ladies-in-waiting, but all they ever wanted to to do was gossip and bathe her.  And having grown up in the woods, she was not a really a big fan of baths.  The prince, it should be noted, was a perfect gentleman.  He never once laid a hand on her, as they were not yet married.

If anything, he was kind of boring.  He’d read her love poetry or show off for her in archery.  Which sounds nice, except the Prince had this awful lisp, and so she had a helluva time trying not to laugh at his recitations.  And as for archery, well, he was pretty second rate.  What I’m trying to say is, nice guy though he was, the prince was not exactly a winning argument for hereditary monarchy.

Anyway, one day, the prince was out hunting.  By which I mean, the prince was out riding with professional hunters whose job it was to make the prince look like he knew how to hunt.  Never one to waste an opportunity, the girl decided to use this alone-time to try and find her father.  And so it was that she gave her ladies-in-waiting the slip, and made her way to the Royal Department of Human Resources.

“Can I help you?” asked the large, disinterested black lady behind the desk.

“Wait a second,” said the girl, with a hint of confusion.  “Aren’t you a bit early for this trope?”

“Girl, who you callin’ a trope?” said the large black lady sassily.

“I’m sorry,” said the girl hastily.  “I didn’t mean anything by that.”

“Mmmhmm,” hummed the black lady.  “Typical.  White girl walks in here like she own the place, throwin’ around fancy white people words like ‘trope.’  Meanwhile, I’m stuck behind this desk, butsin’ my ass for the man, sunrise to sunset.  Shiiiit.”

“Look, I said I was sorry,” pleaded the girl.  “But, I mean, I am engaged to the prince.”

“Uh-huh, and I’m Malcolm X.”


“Never mind, child.”  And the sassy black lady smiled a half-sweet, half-condescending smile.  “Now what can I do for her royal highness.”

“Well, I’m not a royal highness yet.  We’re only engaged.”  The sassy black lady shook her head.

“Girl, there’s a nail shop down the street.  Go buy a clou.”

“I’m sorry?”  The girl was totally lost.

“Honey, that’s a bilingual pun.  Didn’t they teach you French in fancy white people school?”

“I never went to school,” said the girl, blushing with shame.

“You know, I have a PhD back in my country,” mumbled the sassy black lady.  “Fine, what can I do for you today?”

“I’m looking for my father,” said the girl proudly.  “He’s a woodsman, in the king’s service.”

“Oh, well you’re in luck!  We only have one of those in the whole kingdom!  Why, that must be your father!”

“What a relief!” cried the girl.  “Where can I find him?”

“Honey,” said SBL, shaking her head, “were you born yesterday?”

“I’m sixteen, going on seventeen,” said the girl proudly.  SBL facepalmed.

“Look, child, there’s a great many woodsmen in the king’s service.  If you want me to find your father, you’re gonna have to give me some information.  For starters, what’s his name?”  The girl thought about this for a moment.

Father,” she said confidently.  “His name is father.”

“So lemme get this straight,” moaned SBL.  “You’re looking for a woodsman in the king’s service, by the name of father?”

“That’s right,” said the girl.  “Can you tell me where to find him?”

“Lemme ask you something, child.  You gotta name?”

“Sylvana,” said Sylvana.

“Right.  So, in other words, your name ain’t daughter.  What I’m sayin’ to you is, your father probably has his own name too.  And it probably ain’t father.  You feel me?”

“I haven’t even touched you,” said the girl, slightly horrified.

“It’s a figure of – oh, never mind.”  And the sassy black lady looked out the window.  Or rather, where the window would have been, if there had been a window.  The Royal Department of Human Resources was underfunded, so windows simply weren’t in the budget.

“Look, can you help me or not?” asked the girl, unable to hide her frustration.

“Oh, sure.  Tell you what, how about I just print out a list of all the woodsmen in the king’s service.  And you can just go down the list until you find your daddy.  How does that sound?”

“That would be amazing!” cried the girl.  “Thank you so much!”

“OK, so I’m just gonna ask you to have a seat and wait patiently until they invent moveable type.  I mean, it’s first come-first serve, so you’ll have to wait while we then knock out a couple thousand Gutenberg Bibles.  But you’re next in line after that.  You should have your list in time for the Reformation.”

“But I don’t care about the Reformation, whatever that is – “

“Whatever that will be, you mean – “

“Whatever whatever!” cried the girl.  I just want to find my father.  And as she said this, she slumped down into a chair and started to sob.  This, it seems, melted the sassiness of the token black lady’s heart.  Whereupon did she take pity on the girl.  And so it was that she wrote out, by hand, a list of all the woodsmen in the king’s service.  And when she’d finished, she handed it to the girl.

“Here you go, child,” she said sweetly.  “Now, will there be anything else?”

“Yeah, one thing, actually,” said the girl under a furrowed brow.

“And what’s that?” asked SBL.

“Can you teach me how to read?

“Oh, child.”


End Part I.  Tune in next time for the conclusion of this very silly fairy tale.



An American in Berlin

An American in Berlin
25 July, 2016

So last time, I called it quits on account of fatigue.  This time I’ll try to finish what I started.  Last time, I touched on Brussels and Rock Harz.  That brings us to…

So first of all, let me just say, I fucking love Italy.  Every time I go there, I’m smacked in the face with this feeling of, “Oh, yeah, I could totally fucking live here.”  This time was no different.  I stepped off the plane in Rome, looked around, saw mountains and olive trees, and yup, I could totes fucking live there.  But Rome was just the airport.  That’s not where we were staying.  And I say “we” because this was a group adventure.

The Reader’s Digest version goes like this.  My buddy’s parents rented a magisterial villa in the mountains above Sorrento for a week.  In their infinite generosity, I and several other friends of the children were invited to tag along, there being plenty of space for everybody.  Having all grown up together, it made for a sort of extended-family vacation, so to speak.

To be perfectly honest, at first I was a little iffy as to whether or not I ought to go.  There was a part of me that felt like I had already fucked off to Brussels and the metal festival and as a result was already missing the point of why I’d come here in the first place; namely to hunt down a job and get myself here on a more permanent footing.

However, when I brought this to some close friends in order to take their counsel on the matter, they uniformly looked upon as me though I’d had either several head or perhaps just one truly ugly one.1  “Are you mad?” they asked, independent one of one another?  “You have the chance to go to Italy and stay in a house.  With your friends.  For free.  And all you need to do is buy an airplane ticket?  If you don’t go, you’re a bigger asshole than I thought.”2  I quickly put aside my hesitations and booked the flight.  And this was undoubtedly the right move because…

This place was, and I don’t mean to be crude, but this place was the tits.  There was a Jacuzzi.  There was a pool on the roof.  The view looked out onto the Bay of Naples.  Medieval kings might have had bigger palaces, but we had electricity.  And a sweet kitchen.  And, you know, running water.

Anyway, as you might have already guessed, this was a lovely couple of days.  Wine was drunk by the barrel.3  Casablanca was watched.4  The Jacuzzi was floated in.  Glorious meals were cooked.  Friends were outbehanged with.  All the finer things in life.

And there was an added bonus this time.  Last year, we did the same thing, but in Biarritz (Southwest coast of France).  But last year, I was simply a guest, living off the largesse of my friends’ wonderfully generous parents.  This year, however, I was able to make a meaningful contribution.  They needed to rent a van, in order to accommodate my friends’ mom’s wheelchair.  And this being Europe, the van was naturally of the manual transmission variety.  And so, the only people who could drive it were myself and the father.  Whereupon did I volunteer to offer my services as chauffeur.

And so it was that I found myself shepherding this big old van up and down the narrow mountain roads above Sorrento and through the tight city streets of that city (as well as Naples).  It was harrowing and challenging, but also, in a masochistic sort of way, fun.  Which is not to say I “enjoyed” it.  But it was a pretty cool experience, taken together with the fact that I successfully avoided any kind of collision and kept my embarrassing stalls to a minimum, and largely in places where an experienced driver might nod and say, “yeah, that’s a tough one.”

The point is, when you go to such a luxurious place as somebody’s guest, and partake of the best wine and the best food and are asked for nothing in return, it’s easy to feel like a bit of a deadbeat or hanger-on.  The fact that, this time around at least, I was able to make a contribution, which qualitatively made my hosts’ lives a touch easier, was rather gratifying.  Well, so much for Italy.

Berlin I:
Oh right, the reason I’m here.  When I got back from Italy, I finally settled into my old Airbnb from last year.  I’ll come back to this presently.  But first, two things from the preceding weeks I’d like to touch on.  First, we finally found our metal bar!

Anyone who knows me knows that back home, our go-to metal bar is Duffs, in Brooklyn.  Also known as one of my very favorite place on planet earth.  For years now, I’ve been going there with Vinny and Joschka.5  It’s our metal home.  It’s where we’ve spent so many drunken nights, only to walk over the Williamsburg Bridge to have “breakfast” at Wo Hop.6

So for a long time, Joshcka and I have talked of trying to find “our” metal bar in Berlin.  Well, we finally found it.  I mean, I found it.  But we went together to check it out.  It’s everything we’ve been looking for.  And I found it by accident too.  It happened to be on the way from the Airbnb in P-Berg to Joschka’s house.  When I walked past it, I knew this would be it.  And it was.

When we walked inside, it was dark and Immortal was playing on the PA.  There was a Lemmy signed Rickenbacker on the wall and life-sized Uruk-Hai statues standing ominously in the shadows.  The tall, hot, skinny, red-headed bartender spoke something like 6 languages.  They had good scotch.  It was Duffs’ German doppelgänger.  Praise be to the Blackland Metal Rock Pub!  #Amen

The other thing I wanted to mention was that I found a Jewish bookstore.

*Flashback* Several months ago, I read a book called “Yiddish, a Nation of Words.”  Yiddish has always been in the background of my life.  Truthfully, I didn’t even realize how much so until I started learning German.  Then, all of a sudden, things I’d been hearing my whole life started to make sense.  Anyway, something happened when I read this book.  It woke in me an interest and curiosity about the language of my ancestors.  A language, which btw, was largely dumped when people started coming to America.7

And so, being a ‘language guy,’ all of a sudden, Yiddish jumped up my list of languages I needed to learn.  But there was something more than that.  And I hesitate to write this, because I suspect it’s going to sound…I don’t know what the word I’m looking for is.  There’s probably a Yiddish word.  I think I’m going to sound like an asshole here.  But I’m gonna write it anyway.

I feel a certain sense of responsibility.  See, Yiddish was for a long time the lingua franca of the Ashkenazi Jews.  Although it is essentially a dialect of German with a bunch of Hebrew sprinkled in,8 it was spoken all over Europe and eastwards throughout Russia.  I say “was,” because The War changed all that.  Not to put to fine a point on it, but the Yiddish speaking population of Europe was exterminated, or at best, expulsed.  With the foundation of Israel, Yiddish was consciously pushed aside – a relic of a humiliating past – in favor of the strong, muscular, ancient and sacred Hebrew.

Which brings me back to my overdeveloped – and probably obnoxious – sense of ‘responsibility.’  In the same way that we want to see Buffalo roaming freely once more over the plains of America, I want to see Yiddish cling to life, grow stronger, take its place, in its ancestral home.  I was beginning to have fanciful ideas of sprinkling Yiddishims into my German.  Afterall, Yiddish is basically German, and even if it was going to sound “wrong” to German ears, I knew people would understand it.  So I was going to be a Jew in Germany.  And I wanted to do my part to bring back מאמע לאשן, mama loshen.

*End Flashback* So I found a Jewish bookstore in Berlin, and the website said they had at least a few Yiddish books.  I had to check this out.  And so I did.  What I found was perhaps a little – but not entirely – disappointing.  I was, maybe, hoping to find some Sholem Aleichem.  And indeed they had some.  Translated into German.  Damn.

But I did pick up a book of children’s stories, written in the 20’s and/or 30’s in proper Yiddish and yet also with a German translation in the back/front.9  So this is another of my new ongoing projects.  First of all, obviously, I need to simply get good at reading the language phonetically.  That will come with practice and exposure.  But I’m hoping that between my knowledge of German and my ongoing Hebrew studies, I’ll be able to read it well enough to get the gist and learn something along the way.  Of course, at some point I’ll require some actual instruction, be it from meetups, classes or books.  But being able to tap into this on any level right now, connecting with my roots, it’s exciting.  And if I can in any way do something, anything, to reclaim what was violently stolen from me, from my people, so much the better.  Yeah, like I said, I probably sound like an asshole.  So much for Yiddish.

Berlin II:
So here I am, back in Berlin, back in the same Airbnb where I spent two wonderful months last summer.  And I’m positively delighted to be back here.  I don’t know what else to say, other than that it simply feels like home.  My hosts/roommates are fantastic.  To wit:

On my first night back, they made me a welcome dinner.10  And the pretty girl from upstairs was there too.  The food was great.  The company was great.  I was able to keep my head above water, German-wise.  Yadda Yadda.  I’m not doing a good job of capturing the sentiment here.

I hadn’t seen these guys in about a year.  And yet, they were clearly happy to have me back.  How do you express how that makes you feel?  They made a special meal, they poured me endless wine.  We all sat around the table hanging out, eating, drinking, smoking.  I brought them a bottle of limoncello from Sorrento, and so we naturally had a schnapps together.  They didn’t have to do any of this.  They wanted to.  And I was so glad of it.  I’m only here until the end of August.  But I know, for as long as I’m here, I’m in the right place.

And the location is great.  Since I’ve been here, I’ve spent afternoons in my old ‘secret garden’ (Körner Park) reading with a beer.  I went exploring to the South, where there are trees and parks and cute, pretty little houses.  I’ve eaten impossibly cheap yet impossibly good Turkish food.  While it’s true that there are whole swaths of Berlin that I haven’t yet seen, nevertheless, Neukölln is my ‘hood.  I feel about this part of town the way I felt about Chinatown.  There are things about it that are kinda gross.  But man, I f’ing love living here.

Berlin III:
One last thing, and I’ll try to keep this short.  Saturday was Pride Day here in Berlin.  Only they don’t call it Pride Day.  They call it Christopher Street Day.  Which is awesome.  Not only for the obvious reasons, but just as a New Yorker.  Like, yeah, we kinda are the center of the universe, ain’t we?  All these people celebrating CSD.  That’s my Heimatstadt, bitches!

Anja did herself up as Amy Winehouse for the festivities.  But both her and Mischa also donned Bavarian-style dress, in solidarity with Munich after Friday’s bullshit.  I thought that was pretty fucking solid.  Anyway, they went on together, to make a day of it.  I went a bit later by myself, simply to check it out.

What a sight.  Here’s my overriding impression.  I came out the train out the train at Brandenburger Tor.  And all you see is happy fucking people.  People celebrating, dancing, drinking, having a good time, loving life.  Straight, gay, queer, trans – people from every point on the spectrum.  And all they’re doing is being happy together.  You look at Trump and all the garbage that floats in his wake.  All the hate.  And how?  Why?  How ruined a person do you have to be to look at something like this and feel hate?

By way of a coda, there was a lady giving out rainbow Israeli flags.  I don’t know the politics behind it, I don’t know the “cause” or the reason.  But man, lemme tell you.  If there are gay Jews openly celebrating in the heart of Berlin, well, that is some kind of win.  Baruch HaShem.

  1. Quiet down, you! []
  2. Knowing well the extent to which mine own dear friends consider me an ‘asshole,’ this was really saying something. []
  3. Or would have been, had we been able to secure whole barrels of wine. []
  4. I’d never seen it before.  (IKR?) []
  5. At some point, Niki too became part of the Duffs family, despite not being any kind of fan of metal. []
  6. Where I would proceed to drink tea by the potful. []
  7. I once asked my Great Uncle Art if his parents spoke Yiddish.  His answer: “My father didn’t speak Yiddish.  He always said, ‘If somebody spoke to me in Yiddish, I would answer in Yiddish.  But I’m an American.  I speak English.’”  Noble, perhaps.  But that’s how you lose a language, people. []
  8. And also a greater or lesser degree of Slavic derived lexemes depending on where it was being spoken. []
  9. When a book is in both Yiddish and German, which is the front and which is the back? []
  10. The main course was lasagna.  Now, anybody who knows me knows I’m lactose intolerant.  Well, these people know me.  Mischa told me he went out of his way to find lactose-free whatever he need.  I mean, wow.  All the feels. []

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.


“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. []