The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.)
A Vaguely Star-Wars-ish Kinda Thing
Mostly for Dale
Author’s Note: As the (sub-) title of this series indicates, these episodes have largely been written for my friend Dale. Well, that old so-and-so just got married. Therefore, this installment is dedicated to him (and his bride). Consider it a wedding present of sorts. Congratulations buddy, wish I coulda been there!
The Imperial Star Destroyer was in the middle of a long hyperdrive haul. Three days with nothing to do but watch the mottled, swirling starscape worm by in an endless cocoon of blue milkyness. This was the real life of an Imperial TIE pilot stationed aboard a battle cruiser. Sit around and wait. And that’s just what Nick, Micky and Reg were doing at this particular juncture. Sitting around waiting, in the pilots’ ready room.
“You know,” Reg started in, “with all the technology at the Empire’s disposal, you’d think they’d have the wherewithal to develop a proper, full-sensory, interactive holographic entertainment system.”
“Who’s they?” asked Nick.
“Not this again,” moaned Micky.
“You know,” Reg answered Nick, ignoring Micky. “Them.”
“Right, right,” allowed Nick. “But…who’s themthen? I mean, people are always talking about theysan’ thems. But really, who are them?”
“Who are they, surely,” exhaled Micky through gritted teeth.
“Yeah, whom?” (Nick)
“No, not whom. Who,” groaned Micky miserably.
“Why!” whined Micky.
“Look,” said Nick after a moment. “Alls I want to know is, whom is they?” It was a question which made Mickey’s face turn a rather Yavin-esque shade of mottled red.
“First of all,” said Micky slowly, “whois a subject pronoun. As is they. Whomand them, on the other hand…”
“Now you’ve done it,” whispered Reg.
“Whom and them,” continued Micky more loudly, “are object pronouns.”
“Yeah, so?” Nick was unimpressed. “And banthas are mammoths. Inexplicably shaggy, hairy, wooly mammoths.”
“Why is that inexplicable?” pondered Reg. “I mean, what’s so unusual about a wooly mammoth?”
“In an of itself, nothing, I suppose,” came back Nick thoughtfully. “But haven’t you ever wondered, what the Force are they doing in a desert environment? I mean, sure, you’d expect to find such a beast on an ice-world like Hoth. But on a homogenously desert world like Tatooine? What kind of sense does that make, evolution-wise?”
“Say, that’s a good point!” Reg was impressed. “I never thought of that.”
“Well, if you like that, I’ve got another puzzler for ya,” grinned Nick.
“Not the Mon Cals again,” winced Micky.
“The Mon Calamari,” declaimed Nick. “How do they exist out of water?”
“Whatcha mean?” Reg was hooked.
“Well, look at ‘em,” continued Nick. “Surely this is a species that evolved under water. Now, I’ve never been to their homeworld. But I’d venture to guess that, even now, they live under the sea.”
“In domed cities, I reckon,” came back Reg.
“But why? I mean, just look at ‘em. Their eyes are clearly evolved to see under water, not through air. And they’ve got fishy skin.”
“They haven’t got scales,” countered Reg.
“Not all fish have scales,” groaned Micky.
“That’s right, Micky,” agreed Nick, slapping his comrade on the shoulder. His comrade did not appreciate this. “And neither do catfish. But be that as it may, I’d suggest – and I’m no evolutionary biologist, mind you – but I’d suggest that our Mon Cal friends – “
“He’s right, they are our enemies. Technically speaking.” (Reg)
“Fine. My point is, they’ve got catfish skin and underwater eyes. Can we agree to that much?”
“Well, I dunno,” pondered Reg. “I mean, it could be more like dolphin skin.”
“But dolphins also live underwater, so my point stands,” persisted Nick.
“And yet they’re mammals. They breath air just like you and me.” Reg was working it out as he spoke.
“But it’s not a question of what they breathe, it’s a question of where they live, you see. And dolphins must be in a watery environment. Or they dry out and die.”
“I see…” said Reg, in a way that indicated he might not actually.
“Look,” said Nick, growing weary of his own argument. “All I’m saying is, wooly mammoths on a desert planet and underwater fish-people serving on air-filled battle cruisers. Things that make you go hmm.”
“Well, see!?” exclaimed Reg. “That’s just what I’m on about!”
“How have they– the imperial boffins – not come up with a 3D, full sensory, holographic entertainment system? I mean, we have moon-sized space stations capable of destroying entire worlds, but we can’t have that? What’s the deal?”
“Well how would that further the goals of empire?” Nick’s answer was succinct but poignant.
“What do you mean?” pressed Reg.
“What I mean is this. Moon-sized space stations with world destroying capabilities further the goals of empire. They generate fear. And as any first year cadet knows, fear – “
“Keeps the local systems in line.” (Nick, Reg and Micky in chorus)
“At least we’ve all passed Imperial Civics 101,” grumbled Micky to himself.
“Think about it though,” said Reg. “Such a holographic entertainment system would be a boon to R&R. Not to mention the health benefits.”
“Health benefits?” asked Nick, taking the bait.
“Well, yeah. I mean, what’s the first thing any storm trooper does with a day’s leave and a few credits in his pocket?”
“Spend a fine hour with a lovely green dancing girl, I reckon.” Nick paused. “Or so I’ve heard.”
“That’s right,” answered Reg.
“Are you sure you’re in the right universe?” mused Micky.
“There he goes again,” said Nick with a laugh. “Mixing up Orion slave girls with our own beautiful Twi’leks. He’s never had the pleasure, the poor bastard.”
“I’m married,” said Micky with a wave of his hand. “And happily, at that.”
“Still, mate,” prodded Nick. “Those girls can do wonderful thing with those proboscises.”
“Would not the plural be probosci?” pondered Micky, half to himself. “Or better still, probosces?”
“Technically,” interceded Reg, “they’re tentacles.”
“What’s the difference?” queried Nick.
“Well, so a proboscis,” began Reg professorially, “is an elongated appendage from the head of an animal, either a vertebrate or an invertebrate. The term often refers to tubular mouthparts used for feeding and sucking.”
“Sucking, eh?” whistled Nick.
“And a tentacle?” wondered Micky.
“Isn’t,” said Reg, simply. “Anyway, Twi’leks don’t have tubular mouthparts for feeding and sucking. Ergo, tentacles.”
“Maybe you just haven’t been with the right ones, mate,” cracked Nick, with a jab of his elbow.
“I’m hardly denying that a lovely Twi’lek bird can’t do wonderful things with her tentacles, Nick. Why, I myself have have known the pleasure of a pair of luscious, soft, firm, green…”
“Tentacles, yeah, I get it.” Nick was shaking his head. “Thanks, professor.”
“Is there a point to this anatomy lesson?” grumbled Micky.
“Good ol’ Micky,” winked Nick. “Always keeping us on message.”
“The point, gents, is simply this.” If Reg had worn glasses, he would have pushed them up on his nose at this point. “Despite the best efforts of Imperial Health and Safety, the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases among Imperial armed forces is at an all time high. And things are particularly bad in the Outer Rim, where regulation is most scant.”
“Well that’s no surprise,” grinned Nick. “There’s always a greater health risk where rim play is involved.”
“Nice one!” exclaimed Reg, high-fiving his comrade. Micky just rolled his eyes.
“Anyway, all’s I’m saying is, we could virtually eliminate all STD’s by means of introducing 3D, holographic, full-sensory…comfort women.”
“It’s an interesting idea, I’ll give you that much,” conceded Nick.
“Right. And it’s hard to deny that a healthy, STD-free military force wouldn’t further the goals of empire.”
“It’s a fair cop,” allowed Nick.
“You mean, it’s hard to deny that a healthy, STD-free military force would further the goals of empire,” interjected Micky.
“You said, it’s hard to deny that it wouldn’t further the goals of empire. But that’s a double negative.”
“I don’t follow,” said Reg blankly. Micky pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Look,” he sighed. “The premise is, a healthy military would further the goals of empire, right?”
“So if one were to deny said premise,” continued Micky, “one would in effect be saying that a healthy military would not, in fact, further the goals of empire.”
“Yeah…” puzzled Reg.
“But your point is rather that this premise would in fact be difficult to deny.”
“Force, yes!” Micky was growing exasperated. “So you see,” he said, recomposing himself, “what you wish to say then, is that it it’s hard to deny that a healthy military wouldfurther the goals of empire.”
“Well…” struggled Reg.
“Well, what? That’s it. It’s that simple.”
“I suppose,” agreed Reg weakly.
“Still though,” countered Nick, “you have to admit. It’s hard to deny that a healthy military wouldn’t further the goals of empire.”
“Oh for the love of…you know what? Forget it,” sighed Micky. “I give up.”
“You give up?” parroted Nick.
“Giving up is tantamount to letting the Rebels win, Micky,” chimed in Reg.
“Rebel scum,” followed on Nick.
“It’s like trying to reason with a moisture vaporator,” grumbled Micky to himself.
“Anyway,” resumed Reg after a long pause, “I don’t know why they can’t come up with such a device. I mean, it wouldn’t take much. Just some tractor fields to hold ionized light particles – “
“Photons,” corrected Micky.
“ – photons – “ Reg went on, “into interactive patterns.”
“Twi’lek patters, specifically, you mean,” chimed in Nick.
“Well, for starters,” agreed Reg.
“It’s a fine idea, Reg, I’ll give you that. A fine idea indeed.” Nick’s brow was furrowing in deep thought. “But I’ve spotted one problem, at least.”
“Go on,” encouraged Reg, ready to parry the blow.
“Well,” began Nick slowly. “Suppose one were to use this holographic, interactive Twi’lek in the way one is accustomed to using a realTwi’lek comfort woman. Well, the result of that…usage…I mean, it would have to go somewhere, wouldn’t it?”
“The result…of the usage…” repeated Reg, clearly confused.
“Yeah, the uh…well, how shall I say…” stumbled Nick, scratching at his ear. “The err…well, the…”
“Ejaculate,” shot Micky dryly, rolling his eyes back in his head.
“Yes, that,” conceded Nick, blushing ever so slightly.
“I fail to see the problem,” countered Reg, failing to see the problem.
“What he means, is…Sorry, Nick, it’s your point. Do you want to explain?
“No, you go on right ahead there, Micky.”
“Right. What he means is, so long as the program is running, any ejaculatory matter would be suspended within the tractor field of the synthetic comfort woman. But the moment the program were to cease running, said matter would come splashing to the floor in an unseemly mess.”
“Sorry, did you say unseedly?” asked Reg with not a little confusion.
“Oh, no. It would be quite seedly, as it were.”
“I think he said unseemly,” offered Nick, helpfully.
“Ah, rather.” Now Reg was also blushing. “I suppose I’d never considered the possibility.” He paused, taking his turn at ear-scratching. “Well, now that I think about it…such a problem could easily be solved by the use of prophylactics, which would necessarily contain – “
“Now you wait just an Alderaan-destroying moment!” interrupted Nick hastily. “Do you mean to suggest, that after going to all the trouble of inventing a 3D, interactive, fully anatomically correct in every way Twi’lek comfort women, free of any venereal disease or risk of pregnancy…do you mean to say that, after all of that, I’d have to wear a – “
But he never finished his outrage-tinged question. For just at that very moment, the ready room doors shsh’d open. It was then that their commanding officer, Colonel Starrkin himself, entered. Upon which, all three men stood to attention and saluted.
“At ease, gentlemen.” Starrkin causally returned their salute before gliding over to the coffee machine and pouring himself a cup of Kashyyyk dark roast. Of the many benefits of empire, he thought to himself, one must surely be access to the galaxy’s finest rainforests and the glorious coffee beans to be found within their confines.
“Now,” said the Colonel as he seated himself upon a leather sofa, crossing his legs while holding his coffee cup to his lips. “What’s all the hubbub?”
“Hubbub, sir?” asked Nick innocently.
“Yes, pilot, hubbub. It sounded from the other side of the bulkhead as though you three were having quite the heated debate.”
“Oh, that?” said Nick, inspecting his boots.
“Yes…that,” said Starrkin, taking a sip.
“Well, you see sir, Reg has this idea…”
“He does, does he?”
“I do, sir,” answered Reg proudly.
“Well, pilot, I love a good idea as much as the next chap.” Starrkin recrossed his legs in the other direction. “Do share.”
“Well, sir, it’s simply this.” Reg straightened his collar for effect. “With all the technological advances made by the Empire, you’d think they’d be able to invent a 3D, fully interactive, holographic entertainment system.”
“By which he means comfort women,” added Micky abruptly. Starrkin looked at him. “Sir,” he concluded. The colonel merely raised an eyebrow.
“The idea, sir,” continued Nick, “is that such a woman would be free from venereal disease or risk of pregnancy. To say nothing of reducing the need for slavery among – “
“The Empire does not engage in…slavery,” interrupted Starrkin coldly.
“No, of course not sir,” retreated Nick, hastily.
“Still,” pondered Starrkin, “the traffic in…paid…services such as these is distasteful.”
“Is what I meant, sir,” agreed Nick hastily, scratching this time at the bridge of his nose.
“No doubt, pilot,” allowed the colonel. “No doubt.”
“All to say sir,” said Reg, filling the silence, “it’s a wonder the Empire hasn’t invested in such technology, which would no doubt be within our technical abilities.”
“Right?” echoed Nick. “I mean, if we can figure out how to destroy entire worlds – “
“Molecular re-educationis the preferred term, pilot,” interjected Starrkin.
“Of course, sir,” conceded Nick, screwing up his face in thoughtful embarrassment.
“Anyway, sir,” said Micky, joining the conversation. “What do you think? Could the Empire develop such a technology? Or is it just…”
“Science…fiction?” finished Starrkin.
“In a word, sir, yes.”
“Well, pilot,” said Starrkin coyly. “Who’s to say they haven’t?”
“Sir!?” exclaimed all three pilots in unison.
“Oh, I shouldn’t have said anything,” said the colonel, taking another sip of coffee. “It is highly classified, after all.” He paused. “Or rather, it would be highly classified. If such a program existed.” Upon which, he rose to his feet and headed towards the door, as if to leave.
“But sir!” cried Reg. Starrkin turned to face him. “You can’t just say something like that and then leave us hanging!” Hearing these words, Starrkin closed his eyes and sighed deeply. Then, he looked over both shoulders, as if to confirm that they were indeed the only four people in the room. At last, he walked over to the control console. There, he entered his security code, thereby disabling all security cameras and microphones.
“Gather round, children,” he said softly, taking up his seat once more upon the sofa. The three pilots swiftly huddled around their CO.
“Well,” began Starrkin in hushed solemn tones. “The Empire had indeed developed a system much like the one you proposed. I’m not privy to the technical reports, but I gather it was based upon the principal that a tractor field could be made to organize ionized photons into physically interactive patterns.”
“See!” hissed Reg, elbowing Nick in the ribs. “What’d I say?!”
“Tests were conducted aboard a captured Rebel transport. The reason being, that if anything should go wrong, responsibility could be blamed on the Alliance.
“Rebel scum,” murmured Nick and Reg together.
“Quite,” nodded Starrkin. “Well, as it happens, things did go wrong. Terribly wrong.”
“What happened, sir?” Micky, riveted.
“Well, as I said, the system was being tested on a captured Rebel transport. But there were two phases to the test. The first phase was purely internal. In other words, the system would be subjected to any number of onboard errors. System failures, power grid failures, computer glitches, hull breeches, that sort of thing.”
“Seems reasonable,” said Micky, half to himself.
“But the second phase was to be external.”
“External, sir?” Micky again. Starrkin nodded.
“Hopes were high. You see, the first phase was a smashing success. No matter the internal stimuli, nothing onboard could damage the holo-system.” Starrkin paused for yet another sip of coffee. “And it was a big system, you see. In fact, they dedicated an entire deck of that transport to the holo-projection program. One might even call it a…holo-deck.” He smiled at his own phrase-coinage.
“I knew it could work!” whispered Reg, awestruck.
“But the second phase?” countered Micky.
“Yes,” answered Starrkin coldly. “The second phase.” And he shook his head, as if to say, the poor bastards. “The idea was to see what would happen if the ship should pass through a nebula, or too close to quasar, perhaps. The sort of thing that normally plays havoc with ionized photons, you understand.” The pilots nodded; Micky because he actually understood, the other two because they wished to appear as though they did. “The only problem,” continued Starrkin, “was that there were no nebulae or active quasars in the quadrant where the tests were being conducted.”
“Oh, sir,” moaned Micky. “They didn’t?”
“Didn’t what?” prodded Reg, slow on the uptake.
“Yeah, didn’t what?” echoed Nick.
“I’m afraid they did, pilot.” Starrkin had answered Micky while ignoring the other two. Micky’s only response was to bury his face in his hands, his elbows resting on his knees.
“What was it, sir? What did they do?” Reg was insistent.
“Well,” answered the colonel slowly, “as Micky seems to have divined what must have occurred, I’ll let him explain.” And he nodded to Micky.
“There’s only one way to simulate the effects of a nebula or an active quasar that I’m aware of,” whispered Micky. His comrades were on tenterhooks. “And that’s to project a modified tachyon burst through the main deflector array of a capital class starship. Something like a Mon Cal battle cruiser,” he added, musing to himself.
“Actually, in this case, it was a Nebulon Class-B Frigate,” corrected Starrkin gently.
“Of course!” cried Micky, slapping his thigh. “The Nebulons always had the most advanced sensor and deflector technology!”
“It wouldn’t have made any difference, I’m afraid.” There was a tinge of regret in the colonel’s tone. “In the end, there were two, equally disastrous, results.” At this, Micky let out a long whistle. Starrkin turned to him. “Micky?”
“Well, sir. I can only assume the tachyon burst harmonized with the ionized particles, giving them permanent coherence, even outside of the tractor field.”
“Very good, pilot,” nodded the CO.
“What the hot, steaming Bantha’s shit is that supposed to mean!” cried Reg, forgetting himself. Starrkin raised an eyebrow at this failure of decorum. “Sir,” added Reg meekly.
“It means,” answered Micky gravely, “that your beautifully bedreamt Twi’lek comfort women would have been as physically real as you and I, and they would have had the run of the entire ship.” He paused a moment to let this sink in. “Even outside of the…how did you call it, sir? The…holo-deck?” Starrkin merely nodded. “But…”
“Go on, pilot,” encouraged the colonel.
“But I can’t figure out what the other disastrous effect would have been.” Micky was rubbing his temples, racking his brain in frustration.
“You said they’d be as physicallyreal as you and I,” prodded Starrkin. “But it was more than that.”
“Of course!” cried Micky, bounding to his feet.
“What?!” cried Nick and Reg, dying for the answer.
“Of course!” said Micky again, now to himself. “Why didn’t I see it before?” He was pacing back and forth. Finally, he came to a stop and faced his fellow pilots. He closed his eyes, imagining the scenario in his head as he spoke. “A modified tachyon burst, passed through the main deflector array of a capital class starship…the safeties…the safeties aren’t classified programming; they’re not behind the same firewalls…AI though…AI is critical technology onboard any starship nowadays; it’s super top secret…so the AI wouldn’t have been…”
“Very good, Micky,” smiled Starrkin. He was clearly proud of his pilot. “So?”
“The poor bastards!” Micky pulled at his cheeks.
“Out with it already!” cried Reg.
“Spill it!” shouted Nick.
“Don’t you see?! The tachyon burst would have burned out the safety controls while leaving the AI functions intact!”
“Meaning?” Reg was growing exasperated.
“Meaning,” countered Micky, “you would have had a cohort of fully realized corporeal Twi’lek comfort women governed by an AI operating system devoid of any safeties, endowed with a ‘biological’ imperative to survive!” With these words, he cast his head back and cried out. “Poor bastards!”
“So?” Nick didn’t see the big deal.
“So,” winced Micky, “they would have realized they were a test program. They would have realized they would be terminated at the end of the testing period. With full AI and with true physical bodies, they would have overtaken the ship. They would have been merciless. They would have slaughtered the crew and warp-drived it to the furthest system in the ships cartographical databanks!” Cold sweat was beading up on Micky’s brow. “That’s what happened, sir, isn’t it?” His question came in a near-whisper, cresting on a wave of horror.
“That’s our best guess,” shrugged Starrkin nonchalantly. “The truth is, nobody knows for certain. Within forty-five minutes of the tachyon burst, all contact with the test-bed vessel was lost; save for two automated distress signals. Not long afterwards, the ship entered hyperspace. And we’ve had no trace of it since.”
“Unbelievable,” whispered Reg.
“All too believable,” countered Micky.
“A terrible waste of resources,” mourned Starrkin wistfully. “And something of a security risk, I might add,” he amended, almost as an afterthought.
“Still,” mused Nick.
“Pilot?” questioned the colonel.
“I admit, sir, that I didn’t exactly finish top of my class in field dynamics – “
“It’s nothing to do with field dynamics,” groaned Micky. “It’s bloody particle physics!”
“Be that as it may,” sniffed Nick, with not a little ennui. “Still, I can’t help at wonder.”
“Right?” smiled Reg broadly. He and Nick looked at each other with the selfsame gleam in their eyes. Whilst Micky and Starrkin eyed them – and each other – suspiciously.
“If I understand you right, sir,” resumed Nick. “You’re saying that, somewhere out…there,” and at this he gestured towards the nearest porthole, and beyond it, the vastness of the galaxy, “somewhere out there, there’s a ship full of fully realized, anatomically correct, self-aware, Twi’lek comfort women, free from any venereal disease or risk of pregnancy?”
“As it were,” nodded Starrkin not without a tinge of disappointment at his pilot’s one-track mind.
“Even so!” exclaimed Micky. “They’re a murderous lot! They’d strangle you to death, first chance they got!”
“Still though,” shrugged Reg, “beats buying it an exploding shield-less TIE fighter.”
“Oy!” winked Nick. “Death by proboscis, that’s how I’d like to go out!”
Poor Micky, he couldn’t take it anymore. He turned to his two comrades, arms spread wide, and cried out in equal parts frustration and horror:
Editors note: Pinched from Wikipedia, obviously.