Author Chester Burton Brown
For new material please visit my main blog, CHEESEBURGER BROWN: SCI-FI STORY WALLAH.
Author Chester Burton Brown


That's So Wizard!

The probe droids have detected an illegal settlement.

Mood: optimistastic!

There is a bit of bounce in my step today, notwithstanding the fact that all the diodes down the left side of my leg seem finally to be functioning smoothly. I ate a full breakfast in my hyperbaric chamber while listening to really loud music (Qui'hut Xillermott's Sonata No.26) and then popped out to tour the bridge.

Admiral Ozzel rushed up to me, that officious little face of his trembling to contain a vulgar jubilation. "Lord Vader, we've found something!"

I followed Ozzel into the pit to survey the screen myself. In the Ison Corridor, by a bright star called Anoat, there circled a smaller star called Bespin circled in turn by a fat and many mooned gas giant. According to the probe droid a ring of habitable air lay nestled in the layers of the giant, and this ring was littered with scattered unchartered settlements.

"Pirates, drifters, dunces," I declared shortly. "Who cares where they cling? I sense nothing here."

"My Lord," interjected Captain Piett quietly, appearing at my elbow. "Consider this." He pointed out a larger settlement whose energy signs suggested industrial levels of activity. "The rebels could be re-building their fleet, after their losses at Yavin," he said.

Admiral Ozzol nodded primly. "Quite right, Captain."

I put my hands on my belt and surveyed the unblinking stars outside the array of viewsports. I reached out with the Force, and there it was: a node of connection, ever so faint, ever so distant. I nodded to myself and turned back to the officers.

"We shall move on Bespin," I declared.

The bridge crew rushed to their consoles to do my bidding. The stars outside drew out into lines and were swallowed by the swirling etherspace of travel. Inside my masque, nobody could see me smiling.

I clutched my hands behind my back and meditated.


I Am Surrounded By Idiots

Short entry today. Full schedule. Deploying killer probe droids across the galaxy.

You know what I hate? Idiots.

What I do not understand is why they do not understand that the only way for lower men to maintain any kind of dignity at all is to respect their own limitations. Humility is a virtue, if you are low.

In my meditations I have found myself drawn toward a remote sector, one not yet scheduled for probe deployment. Something speaks to me out of the velvet between the stars, and I cannot ignore it. "Redesign for the Themoth Sector," I commanded. "Make ready the jump to hyperspace."

"But Lord Vader," whinnied Admiral Ozzel, "the armada is already moving along a prescribed route..."

I withered him with a stare, my hands on my belt.

He ordered the helm to replot our course, and notified the fleet commanders. Then he turned and asked as contritely as he could manage, "May I at least know what leads you to suspect Themoth will yield results, my Lord?"

"You may ask," I told him, turning away to the glass. "As an ant may ask the sun why it shines. It is beyond you, Admiral. See to your duty."

Ozzel hesitated. "Sir," he said crisply and turned on heel.

Do you want to know what the worst part is? My left leg is still on the fritz. Whose trachea do you have to crush with your mind to get a little service around here?


Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Dinner with the officers. My shameful token.

The core is behind us. The fleet makes for the rim.

I do not eat with my men, but sometimes I am obliged to join their table. I preside over them tonight as we jump from the jewel of Coruscant to the thin dust of the outer arms. My presence reassures them that this mission is not yet another in an endless series of fruitless quests but rather the certain charge to the rebels' doom.

"This time we'll have them," crooned Admiral Ozzel, signalling the boy for more wine. "I have assurances from Geonosis these new probe droids can ferret out even shielded energy signs."

"That in and of itself is not new," pointed out Captain Piett gently. "The key is their operation as a swarm. It's the network efficiency that is ruthless."

Like most lower men they cling to their technological marvels, when the real quest will be won by cultivating a sensitivity of the spirit. With the droids as my long fingers I will channel my search along them, feeling out for that hated, burning ripple in the fabric of the Force: the Rebel Alliance!

"It's inevitable," Ozzel scoffed. "Efficient droids only hasten the process. How can the rebels even imagine they can stand against us?" He chuckled and drained his cup. "Wouldn't you agree, my Lord?"

"Their doom has been foreseen," I said.

The fool Ozzel grinned, while the others nodded respectfully and then tipped their cups. "To the Empire," added Piett, and the company agreed.

Later, in my chamber I kicked back and had the droids remove my masque. I listened to Chasto's Third Symphony and for reasons I do not fully understand it moved me to weep. I destroyed the audiophonic system with a nod, and it fizzled with a groan and a whisp of smoke.

"Take care of that when you have finished with my leg," I told the repair droid kneeing before me, his instrument penetrating my calf and exploring the faulty circuitry there.

When the droid left I opened the small compartment on my chest where I keep my token of her. Every time I take it out to hold it I vow it will be the last time, and that I will crush it in my fist when I have found my peace. But that peace comes only nine tenths of the way and I find myself closing the compartment, the token once again esconsed inside.

It is so stupid.

It is just a japor snippet that was carved a long time ago. Part of a necklace that was dashed from her neck, before the choke.

It all happened to someone else! I close my fist to crush it, but I have already put it safely away.

My weakness makes me sick. Does my master suspect my failure?


Haste Makes Waste

Bloody interrogation. Imperial audience. More leg woes.

Did you ever have one of those days?

It can be challenging to maintain your dignity as a dark tyrannical overlord when the circuitry in your left leg constantly misfires, threatening to send you off on a mad pirouette without notice. It requires a serious effort of will to maintain my poise, the tendrils of my connection to the Force reaching deep into space to feel out my distant quarry and at the same time wrapped around the mechanisms of my own body to keep them working.

I am stretched too thin.

The traiterous dog Krelcon was captured early this morning and brought around to the Imperial palace after breakfast. I had poached eggs with ham, buttered crumpets and a glass of wetfruit juice.

During my interview with Krelcon he admitted to me that he had been involved in smuggling the stolen data tapes of the Death Star's technical readout to the Rebel Alliance. In order to produce similarly fruitful results I used the Force to crush all of the small bones in his hands. Krelcon became most chatty then, and we discussed likely locations of the hidden rebel base.

Things went badly after that point, however. I confess that Krelcon took me off guard when he mentioned the prophecy. Eyes burning in a masque of pulp and blood he screamed, "The son of the suns is nigh, knight-bastard! He is on your very threshold!"

I had meant to backhand him but my passions were aroused and my concentration faltered, and so instead I released control of my errant left leg and instantly found myself doing a frenzied, lop-sided jig that turned me in place.

Krelcon found the strength to laugh. Thus, with one powerful thrust of the Force I burst his skull.

Which was probably premature. But que sera, sera.

The upshot is that the subject of Krelcon dominated my audience with His Excellency the Galatic Emperor, deflecting from the knot of emotion I feel inside whenever I consider the matter of the rogue Han Solo being spotted at Ord Mantell, possibly in the company of my son.

My son! I wince to even think the word, for truly he is not my son but the son of a name I no longer acknowledge. A different man, a weaker man, an insubstantial shadow of the king I have become.

"You will return the fleet to the outer rim tomorrow," enunciated Emperor Palpatine crisply, leaning into his cane and watching me from beneath the hem of his black mantle. "You will soon have the clues you need to close in on our quarry."

"You believe the new probe droids will be effective, then, my master?"

"I am not concerned with droids," he replied. "Rather, I have foreseen these events. The strings of the Force grow taut, and soon we shall play a tune upon them, Lord Vader. It will be a dirge for the rebellion that will initiate the second age of this New Order."

Man, that guy loves the sound of his own voice! Luckily no one can see me roll my eyes behind this masque.

Emperor Palpatine lowered himself into his throne and lay his claw-like hands upon the wings ceremoniously. "Tell me," he commanded evenly. "Does something else trouble you, my servant?"

"No, my master."

His yellow eyes pierced me for a long moment. "Very well," he concluded. "You have your instructions. Report to me when the hidden base is found."

"Yes, my master."

He turned his throne to meditate on the endlessly roiling cityscape of Coruscant, the principal sun melting into the horizon in a haze of violet and gold. I took my leave, my left leg skittering randomly every few steps in my fluster.

The Crimson Guard pretended not to notice.