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


Collect Call From Coruscant

Holy Force! I don't know what to say.

I spoke with His Excellency today, and my world has come upsidown.

To put things in perspective: I was surprised when in a galaxy where all the gifted have been slain I found myself chasing down a snub fighter that I could barely see, lost in whorls of shimmering probability as loops of Force played over it. I was very surprised and chagrined when my Death Star was destroyed by its pilot, a callow youth. In the months that followed I pursued the Rebel Alliance around the galaxy, and so did my sinister agents. Their intelligence eventually bore fruit: they told me the name of the youth was Luke Skywalker, and I was shocked.

That is when I first started experiencing the malfunction in my left leg. I nearly fell over. Luke Skywalker?

I became obsessed with finding young Skywalker. We redoubled our forces, and when Emperor Palpatine asked why I told him I had reason to suspect the hidden rebel base would soon be in our grasp. In other words I lied. To my master. My quest became less the search for the Alliance and more the search for a single man.

Why did I allow my judgement to become so twisted? I gave myself twenty lashes before I was certain: I wanted in some way to love him. It made me sick to think about. Love is a path of meat, where the Sith is the path of the mind. I had rejected my old identity -- it had burned from me, hanging from my body in sizzling cobs.

There is no such man as Anakin Skywalker!

(And yet, there is such a man as his son.)

This is all leading up to something. Stay with me here. The point is that I did not know what I wanted with Skywalker, exactly. Perhaps I wanted him to tell me. Perhaps I would just kill him, and thereby simplify the relationship. I would certainly kill Han Solo, and anyone else who had been his mentor in terror. But the point is that I was disturbed by the existence of Luke and I wanted, above all, to end the disturbance. By whatever means.

And today Emperor Palpatine, whom I know as my master Darth Sidious, calls. I wonder: do I dare unleash a cloud of obfuscation against my own master's vision? Do I dare speak before him without one to hide my uncertainty?

I knelt on the dais and sought strength from the void. The transmission phased in.

And do you know what the first thing is to pop out of the old man's mouth? I graduated from shocked to flummoxed when he said there is a great disturbance in the Force, and at the centre of it all is Luke blasted Skywalker. Inside my masque, my jaw dropped. The cloud of obfuscation I had been generating fell away and diffused. He knows!

Here is where it got really weird: I heard the words coming out of my own mouth as if I were in a dream: "He could be a...powerful ally."

My master, Darth Sidious, furrowed his ancient brow and nodded. And agreed.

So here I am now, back in my hyperbaric chamber, feeling totally stunned. My master has just handed me a way in which I can love my son: turned to the dark side as my protege. We could serve the emperor together.

I would not dare to even dream this had it not come from my master's lips. I cannot explain to you the thoughts I no longer feel ashamed to entertain since I am no longer hiding Luke's identity from him.

We could rule the galaxy together, as father and son!

And I could love again.


The Wind Beneath My Wings

I am going to tell you a secret.

I want to tell you who my hero is. At risk of treason I confess that it is not my master, Sidious, whom you call Palpatine. And it is certainly not Obi-wan Kenobi, the righteous fool who should have been like a father to me, but could not bring himself to be that strong. But Master Qui-gon Jinn could. He was taken from me before I even got a chance to really know him. Despite this, I loved him.

Qui-gon used the Force to see what was wrong with things, and then set them straight as cleanly as he could. He was decisive, and he was quick. He knew what he needed to do and he brokered no guff from anyone about it.

When I met him I thought to myself, "This is exactly how I have dreamed a Jedi Knight to be."

He was pure. He had no relations with either women or men. He ate no meat, and he barely slept. He drank only water and wine. The Force swirled around him like a cape, and when I closed my eyes I could see the figures it described burning against the darkness of my eyelids.

I think I thought he was a god. I know I thought he would be my dad.

But Obi-wan was too weak to defend him when it counted, and Qui-gon died.

Obi-wan was a pretender to the role of Qui-gon's son, just as he would later play at being the father of my son. Obi-wan was slippery, bondless, secretive, cunning. Nobody says these things about him, but I know. I lived with him for years. So many of the things he did were just not fair.

Hold on. I need a death-stick.

I am back. Where was I? Oh yes, Obi-wan...

When the moment came to strike down Obi-wan, I hesitated. I am still not quite sure why. But the ghost of Qui-gon whispered to me, and told me what to do. Kill him!

So I did it.

Up yours, Obi-wan Kenobi. You will never pretend at anything again. You hid from me the one truly beautiful thing I have ever made: a baby boy. And you have corrupted him with your lies. (At least the green worm Yoda is dead. For this I am grateful. Trained as Jedi young Skywalker shall not be. Ha!)

Meanwhile, the search for the elusive Millennium Falcon in the asteroid field has yielded no results. The whole affair has put me in a sour mood. Can you tell?

Forget it. I am going to return to the bridge to shatter asteroids with my mind. I find it soothing, and the officers really get a kick out it.


Calgon, Take Me Away

Darth Vader and the stinking, rotten, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Do you ever have one of those days where you find yourself asking, "Hey, I know I'm bad, but what did I do to deserve this?"

Have I mentioned before that I am surrounded by idiots? Let me cut to chase and just tell you up front: the rebels got away. All of them. General Veers, bless his heart, must have destroyed two dozen armed speeders and and an entire line of infantry -- but those were just ants. We failed to take Mothma, Organa, Rieekan, Skywalker or even the traiterous fish Ackbar.

You might be thinking some fruit would come of our ensnaring the Millennium Falcon as it fled Hoth. You would be a damned fool optimist. My elite squadron of StarDestroyers proved itself utterly incapable of a securing a single unescorted freighter travelling less than the speed of light.

I mean, come on.

I've seen drills that were more challenging. And yet, they escape. I have worked among these men this past generation and I have always known them to be, with only a few notable exceptions, truly outstanding military professionals. A galaxy quails before them because they are efficient, effective and keen.

...You try to be an effective manager, you weed out the bad apples like the late Admiral Ozzel -- only to find that an insidious culture of incompetence has somehow transformed your deadly pan-galactic armada into a fleet of spaceballs.

To demonstrate a more appropriate level of Imperial resolve I have commanded all wings to follow the freighter through Hoth's asteroid belt. We are sustaining massive losses due to asteroid impacts and subsequent complications, but I feel confident that this will serve as an important object lesson to the surviving staff.

Let the Force sort out who is to live and who is to die. I know my destiny does not lie here.


It's Christmas On Hoth

Big day. Storming the rebel ice fortress.

Took a nap first so I would be peppy. Leg feels pretty good.

Admiral Ozzol took the fleet out of hyerspace too close to Hoth, and the Rebel Alliance were -- you guessed it -- alerted to our approach. The cornerstone of Ozzel's arrogance is his insistence that rebel technology is so vastly inferior to Imperial technology that we need broker no caution.

This attitude is typical of a man who could not rephase his own fusion orb if his life depended on it. He cannot fathom what rebel engineers may accomplish out of desperation. People who are good with things, people like me, can appreciate the infinite diversity of possible tools buried in artful combinations of even the humblest technologies. Give me an hour to reconfigure an industrial grade repulsolift and I will give you an ion cannon and enough parts left over to build a droid to run it.

Ozzel just isn't the creative type.

The problem is solved now, however. I crushed his trachea with my mind, and promoted Piett to command the fleet. I have transmitted to following note to Ozzel's kin:
Dear House of Ozzel,

I regret to inform you that your son has been killed in the line of duty.

He was an incompetent, yammering boob and he will be missed by none. I have allowed the men to pillage his personal belongings, which is why we have enclosed nothing but the sole remaining item: a torn advertisements page from a magazine of midget pornography. May it shock and disturb you, and may you think of it always when you remember your dearly departed son, the ninny.

Know also that his limitations as a sub-par military professional caused the deaths of many of the Emperor's loyal soldiers, whose funeral expenses will appear on your next tax assessment.

D. Vader
Too harsh? I call them as I see them.

At any rate, the attack on the hidden rebel base began and I had General Veers mount a ground assault. Once his walkers had destroyed the rebel generator I made planetfall and personally supervised our incursion into the base. I must say that the stormtroopers' new heavy weather gear makes them look very cool. Hats off to Palpatine. (Most people don't know this but His Excellency designs all of our outerwear personally; he has a real flair for geometry, and a great sense of line.)

Due to Ozzel's bungling we arrived too late, and the lion's share of the rebel terrorists had already escaped. I could feel the presence of my son, but he was not at the base. The good news is that as I came into the rebel landing bay I saw the renegade Han Solo escorting the traitor Leia Organa aboard the same Corellian freighter that we captured them in last year. And do you know who else was with them? C-3P0!

Talk about a blast from the past!

The tendrils of the Force swam around them, and as the troopers positioned their cannons I closed my eyes. In the darkness behind my eyelids I could see the diaphanous fingers of the Force dance around their spirits as they fled, lazy loops of bifurcating destiny falling behind them like smoke.

I opened my eyes to see the freighter rocket away. "Ready my shuttle. Inform the fleet to close the net."

I am on my way back up to Executor now. Everything I had conjectured is true, and the bond between them is indeed strong. Within hours the Millennium Falcon will be in our hangar, and Han Solo's pain will sing out to my son.


Bedtime Story

I would like to tell you a little story. This goes out to all those bleeding heart hippies out there who sympathize with the rebellion.

Once there was a star called Trime around which circled three habitable worlds. In the founding days of the Old Republic the Trimean worlds had enjoyed great prosperity as centres of learning and artistic innovation, but they fell into ruin over a centuries-long battle concerning where the Royal House of Trime should summer.

When the Prince of Yor moved the House to sit on Trime Secondae after being disgusted by the perceived commercial excesses of Trime Primae, Trime Tertiae launched a trade war against both worlds accusing them of a cultural conspiracy to rob them of their own rightful dignity in the system, and sought to forcibly move the royals in the name of defending the shared Trimean heritage. The journalists had a field day, and were subsequently disappeared in the night by secret police. Things went from bad to worse.

The Royal House itself was fractured, with one faction of nobles pitted against another in bloody Moebius-strips of double-dipped connivance. They broke ancient treaties by putting the primitives to work in mines, stoking the fires of their war engines. There were revolts, strikes, slaughters.

A long line of Old Republic ambassadors followed by an equally long line of Imperial negotiators had treated with the Trimean Councils, but any solution was ultimately stymied by a question of dividing that which was indivisible: the seat of the Crown on Calendar Day.

So my master sent me to the Trime System. This is going back a ways now, maybe fourteen years. At any rate, I listened to the councillors on each world, and met with the sheriffs of the guerilla armies. I even spoke briefly with the chief of a clan of warrior primitives -- little pink things with googly eyes and prehensile tails.

What crystallized the situation for me was something the Duke of Foulbash said, bringing his brown fist down on the table: "Lord Vader, what is at stake here is a millennium of tradition! That is the heart of this matter."

The Duke was right. I told him so. Then I assassinated the entire royal family, down to the last forgotten bastard.

And do you know what? The Trime System is a leading commercial concern in the sector today. They grieved but they got over it. Once liberated from the yoke of an insoluble, deeply emotional dilemma the people of the Trimean worlds were free to build new bonds, to establish vibrant new institutions, and to create new traditions.

Question: do you want a moment of agony, or an entire history of ache?

That is the spirit that underlies the New Order. Understand this, and live in peace.


There Goes The Neighbourhood

One of these days, one of these days, Ozzel: bang, pow! Straight to the moon.

A pall of incompetence muddies a qualified success.

The Super-StarDestroyer Executor emerged from hyperspace amid a volley of escaping ships: pirate junks and blockade runners swarming out of Bespin like rats from a sinking ship. "We've been detected!" exclaimed Admiral Ozzel thoughtfully.

I looked at him for a long, dark moment. But his attention remained fixed on the viewports.

"Pick them off," I told the commander at the targeting console. "Fire at will."

Bolts blazed across the face of the great pink gas giant, the fleeing jalopies shattering in a series of little flashes. Captain Piett arrived at my side and saluted. "M'lord, we have established communications with the settlement. They claim to be a mining colony. Our close range scans show technology consistent with that claim." He added, "They beg us not to attack."

I nodded slowly, lost in a trance. I closed my eyes and sought out the node in the net of the Force I had so faintly detected two days ago, and it was still there...down below, in the clouds of Bespin. There was significance there, there was meaning there, trembling just beneath the surface. I would seize it!

"Prepare my shuttle and an armed escort. I will see this mining colony for myself."

"But Lord Vader, what if it's a rebel trap?" bleated Admiral Ozzel, his moustache twitching.

"Leave that to me."

It was not a rebel trap. It was a mining colony. A non-unionized, untaxed mining colony catering to the underworld: Hutts and primitives, scoundrels and libertarians. The administrator of the facility was a quaking fool in expensive fabrics, introduced as Lando Calrissian.

I took one look at his satin shirt and disco hair and I knew he was a weak specimen, and would prove easy to bend to my will. He tried to smile while he bartered for his life, and I picked through his jellied mind at my leisure. His smile faltered. "Lord Vader, with all respect, what is it you want from us?"

"I don't know," I told him, rising from my chair. "But you will soon find out."

I have a feeling this man Calrissian has a role to play yet.

Back aboard Executor I retired to the bridge to meditate on the stars. And that is when the new signal came in from the probe droid network: a power generation system spotted on a world of ice, just one sector away.

The Force sang to me with such strength I feared I would lose my balance. Thankfully my left leg has continued to work smoothly despite recent difficulties and so I was able to maintain my composure.

For the moment Calrissian is forgotten: the fleet moves on Hoth!