The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #6 ((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.))
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™. ((Though his rank of sergeant precluded him from the all-coveted riding pants.))
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. ((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])) 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 – “
“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 time ((Or, in this case, last time.)) for the continued ((Or, better, “ongoing.”)) adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.)…