The Adventures of Col. Starrkin (ret.) #8
A Vaguely Star-Wars-ish Kinda Thing
Mostly for Dale
The following represents a hypothetical alternate timeline…
The young corporal sat at the firing controls of laser battery Starboard-164. The massive star destroyer had over two hundred laser batteries lining each side of its massive hull and each battery was manned by two men: a corporal and his commanding lieutenant. Needless to say, the massive ship had an equally massive crew compliment. If there was one thing the Galactic Empire did well, it was bureaucracy. But if there was another thing it did well, it was massive. Massive star destroyers, massive crews, massive cities and (though still mostly top secret at the moment), massive, planet-destroying space stations.
So there was young corporal John Paul Jones, sitting at the controls of laser battery Starboard-164. Over his shoulder stood a young lieutenant Starrkin, offering the young lad some well deserved encouragement.
“Nice shooting, Jones!” Starrkin patted him on the back. “You really gave those rebel scum what for! I particularly enjoyed how you took out the communications array on that Corellian corvette.” The rebels had given them a bit of a chase, but that was all over now. There was a lull in the action now that they had taken the renegade ship into their hold.
“What do you think will happen now?” asked Jones.
“Hard to say,” answered Starrkin. “Lord Vader himself is leading the boarding party. So one can guess.”
“Oh yeah,” squirmed Jones. He pinched his thumb and forefinger together while making a slight choking sound.
“I’ll pretend I didn’t see that,” grumbled Starrkin, hands clasped firmly behind his back. “Anyway, rumor has it Senator Organa is aboard. Scuttlebutt is, she stole something important from Central Archives.”
Meanwhile, two batteries down, at Starboard-166, there sat another young corporal with another lieutenant standing behind him.
“Sir, an escape pod!” reported the corporal as a small, metallic tub flashed across the view screen. “Sensors show two droids aboard but I read no life signs,” he added.
What is life?pondered the lieutenant. Could a sentient droid be said to be alive? Should sentience be equated with life? Or must life be organic? Must life be unique? If so, could a sentient droid be said to somehowmorealive than a clone? Personally, I don’t much associate with clones. Or droids for that matter. On the other hand, the Empire wouldn’t run without either of them. On the third hand – and many spices have three hands, nothing wrong with that – there’s a war on and I’ve a job to do. On the fourth hand – and many species have four hands, nothing wrong with that either, although come to think of it, where are the species with four breasts? That’s what I’d like to know – I’m not likely to get my riding pants through idle philoso…phating? Philoso…phering? Philoso…pining? Ugh, I never was much for wordsmithery.
All this flashed through the lieutenant’s mind in a parsec. And yes, he’d learned that a parsec was a measure of distance in his spatial mechanics class. But it just sounded so…fast. In any case, he was just able to get a grip on himself before the escape pod was out of range.
“Nothing wrong with a little target practice, eh corporal?”
“Not a thing, sir!”
“You may fire when ready,” nodded the lieutenant. With that, the corporal let loose a barrage of laser fire, incinerating the escape pod in mid-flight. A brief explosion, and then nothing.
“I think you hit it, corporal,” commented the lieutenant sarcastically.
“I counted no less than nine laser blasts, corporal. Do you know how much firepower is contained in a single laser blast from an Imperial star destroyer?”
“One-point-twenty-one gigajoules, sir!” The corporal had studied hard for his gunnery exam.
“That’s right. And do you know much energy is needed to destroy an escape pod like the one you just vaporized?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” answered corporal Jinku. “That wasn’t on the gunnery exam.”
“What on Coruscant are they teaching you kids these days?” grumbled the lieutenant to himself. He cleared his throat. “Certainly not more than one half of one gigajoule.”
“Well then,” surmised Jinku proudly, “it didn’t stand a bloody chance!”
“No more of a chance than I stood at my divorce hearing,” mumbled the lieutenant. He pressed his hands against his pants. Flat pants. Not riding pants. Would he ever achieve riding pants status? “Corporal, do you know what the Empire most prides itself on?”
“Bureaucracy, sir!” snapped the corporal professionally.
“Obviously.” The lieutenant rolled his eyes. “But what else?”
“Size, sir. Awe-inspiring, breathtaking, erection-inducing size. In a word, sir, massivity.” It was a textbook answer. Although the lieutenant couldn’t remember ‘massivity’ actually being a word when he was coming up. But language is fluid, he knew that. In any case, it was not the answer he was looking for.
“Efficiency!” yelped the lieutenant. “Efficiency! For example, do you know how many TIE pilots the Empire employs?”
“Thousands, I’d say, sir.” It was a guess. And not a very good one.
“Four, sir?” Jinku was sure the lieutenant was pulling his leg.
“That’s right, corporal. Four. The rest are just clones. Efficiency!”
“I see, sir.” Jinku did not, in fact, see.
“Do you, now?” The lieutenant’s words were cold.
“I think so?”
“Well, let me spell it out for you, so there’s no mistake.” The lieutenant straightened up and folded his hands behind his back. “We here at the Empire pride ourselves on efficiency. We do not waste nine laser blasts when one will do. Furthermore, if you fire nine laser blasts when one will do, that’s not exactly ‘target practice’ is it? It’s more like…” He trailed off, unable to find the word.
“The wonton flaunting of Imperial Might, sir?” tried the corporal.
“What? No, of course not. To be sure, the Empire revels in the wonton flaunting of Imperial Might. But it’s only flaunting if there’s anybody there to see it. And fearit. What you just did was rather an example of…” The lieutenant still couldn’t find the word he was looking for.
“A thorough checkup of the battery’s capacity, including, but not limited to, tracking and targeting systems, firing mechanisms and cooling tanks?” tried Jinku.
“Hardly, corporal. We have diagnostic readouts for that sort of thing.”
“Of course, sir,” nodded Jinku.
“Inefficiency!” barked the lieutenant. Thatwas the word he was looking for. “That was a display of gross inefficiency.”
“I see, sir.” He did, finally, see. “I’m sorry sir.”
“Well, you can’t unfire a laser, as they say,” shrugged the lieutenant.
“Do they say that, sir?”
“Well surely somebody must,” he scowled.
“Still, though,” offered Jinku.
“What if, sir…” Jinku trailed off, unsure if he was overstepping his rank.
“Go on, corporal.”
“What if, sir, and I mean, it’s just a thought. But what if the rebels had hidden something important in that escape pod?”
“Something important?” repeated the lieutenant. “Like what?”
“I’m sure I don’t know, sir. But scuttlebutt has it that they stole something important from Central Archives. Isn’t it just possible that they’d rather jettison whatever it was rather than be caught red-handed with it aboard their vessel? I mean, wouldn’t that be worth nine laser blasts? Sir?”
“I suppose it would, Jinku. I suppose it would. But really, what are the odds of that?”
Some weeks later, young lieutenant Starrkin was having lunch in the mess with the lieutenant from battery Starboard-166 and their respective corporal gunners. Suddenly an announcement came over the ship’s PA.
“We interrupt your noble labors in service of the Galactic Empire to bring you the latest news in The Troubles with the Rebellion. Earlier today, the Galactic Empire unleashed its new massive weapon – the Death Star – against the rebel scum. We are pleased to report that the rebel base on the moon of Yavin has been completely destroyed, and with it the last hope of victory for the rebels. Although the rebels threw every fighter they had at us, in the end, they were no match for the Death Star and its impenetrable defenses. What remains of the Rebellion must have surely lost all heart when their base, and indeed the entire moon, was destroyed by a single blast from our massive moon-sized battle station. We expect to mop up what little remains of their forces in the coming days. All hail Emperor Palpatine!”
“You see!” cried lieutenant 166 jubilantly. “Efficiency! I told you Jinku, no need for nine laser blasts when one will do!”
“Efficiency?” echoed Starrkin sarcastically. “You call building a moon-sized space station and destroying an entire moon just to take out one little base efficient?”
The chastened lieutenant silently gulped down a glass of blue milk.
“Still though,” chimed in Jinku. “Nothing wrong with a bit of wonton flaunting of Imperial Might, eh gov?” The lieutenant looked at him with narrowed eyes. “Err, sir?” winced Jinku.
“Oh, come on, you should be happy!” offered Starrkin encouragingly, patting the other lieutenant on the back. “We’ve basically won the war!”
“Oh, yeah, great,” grumbled the lieutenant. “But now that the war’s basically over, how will I ever get my riding pants?!”