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


Darth Sidious: People Person

Something queer is afoot. I am uneasy.

Light lunch. Meeting a fan. Brisk, cool audience with the Emperor of the Galaxy.

The day began with a tedious set of inter-departmental meetings debriefing the operational tests we have conducted on this battle-station's systems over the past few days. Moff Jerjerrod was extremely pleased with himself, and took up an entire hour with a self-indulgent, morale-boosting lake of verbal diarrhea about surpassing our own benchmarks by honing our core competencies, or some such similar malarkey. "The operational efficiencies of this Death Star will serve as a template for all Death Stars to come!" he preened to scattered applause.

I had such a headache.

For lunch: leek soup and toss salad. I took my meal alone in my chambers, my gaze cast out over Endor's forest moon below as I enjoyed Pla'ateth's Concerto for Laserphone in D minor, a new recording from Muunilinst Grammophon with thirty-two distinct spatio-aural channels (and four additional channels left over for direct psychoneurotropic input, if that is your cup of tea -- myself, I am too old fashioned). Impressive. Most impressive.

I was interrupted by a high priority signal from across the galaxy, which is so classic: always when I'm eating. I donned my masque and rotated my hyperbaric chamber to face the holoprojector, which crackled to life at my command and displayed the face of Thet Moor of the Imperial Secret Service.

"My Lord," he began without preamble, "indications are that the Rebel squadrons we've been chasing are converging together at a point off the ecliptic, in a lake of void beyond the Sullust Star."

"Have you reported to the Emperor?"

"Yes, my Lord."

"Your service will be remembered, and rewarded," I intoned. Thet Moor bowed his head and broke transmission.

I was meditating on this new information when a call sounded at the door. It was Moff Jerjerrod stopping by to tell me the Emperor commanded my presence. I made a mental note to crush his trachea with my mind at the first politically reasonable opportunity, and made my way to my master's tower with the snaggle-toothed idiot loping at my heels.

We rode the elevator with a junior lieutenant whose skin prickled at the sound of my respirator. He seemed on the verge of passing out for most of the ride, his adam's apple working in his throat. Just as the door slipped back with a hiss and I moved to leave he managed to call, "Lord Vader," in a pitiable squeak.

I paused, and turned back to him.

He took a deep breath. "I just wanted to say, sir, my Lord -- well, that I've always looked up to you. I don't know if people ever take the time to say...thanks. Thank you, Lord Vader. You're an inspiration to us all."

I hesitated, uncertain what to say, and in that moment of silence the young lieutenant began to stammer an apology. I stopped him by holding up one gloved, open hand. "Thank you, Lieutenant," I said evenly. "I hope to see you one day commanding the fleet."

"Yes, my Lord!" he grinned, saluting smartly. The elevator sighed closed and he disappeared. How charming!

"Shameless sycophancy," grunted Jerjerrod with that little smirk of his pulled tight over his mouth. "Let's not dawdle now, Lord Vader."

Using every ounce of self-control I barely avoided simultaneously breaking every bone in the Moff's body with a spasm of pointed thought. He continued to make light banter as we walked, endangering his life. We paused at the threshold of Palpatine's tower. "Recognize this, Jerjerrod," I said, pointing my index finger menacingly in his face. "Had the Emperor not specifically requested that your life be spared for the time being, you would even now be holding your own quivering giblets in your hands."

Jerjerrod wet himself mutely.

I nodded with satisfaction and proceeded to the audience with my master. His Excellency's ministers stepped aside as I ascended the steps to his throne overlooking space. That is one thing my master and I have always shared: a common penchant for a scenic view.

Our discussion was brief and bewildering.

My master Darth Sidious was not interested in the terrorist fleet amassing at Sullust. He simply commanded me to leave the Death Star and await further instructions at my post aboard the Super-StarDestroyer Executor. His tone was discernably terse and dismissive. I could feel Jerjerrod smirking at my shoulder the whole time. Dismayed as I was, it is not my place to question my master...

And so here I am, back home so to speak. I already miss my view of the Sanctuary Moon for my Executor chambers are without ports, nestled deep within the heart of the ship out of harm's way. I am restless and irritable. I have nothing to do.

Admiral Piett dropped by to welcome me back, and had his yeoman sing me an entertaining ballad they had heard at last night's Ewok barbecue after I left. I admit most of it was lost on me as my thoughts wandered to Sullust, but I did pick up a bit at the end:
Time and again our history plies the same synclastic waters;
The affairs of old live on again to haunt our sons and daughters.
And the wheel of the worlds turns round and round,
The wheel of the worlds turns round.
By the blood of the martyr Darth Revan, I swear fate stalks this moon. Even the low men can feel the weight of destiny in the air. And yet I am commanded to go to my room and sit. This is a waste of a dark overlord.


The Tao Of Sith

Big day. Receiving the Emperor. Ruminations on the Sith mission statement.

My master, the Dark Lord Sidious, Most Excellent Emperor of the known galaxy Palpatine, has arrived at Endor. Amid only minor pomp and circumstance he debarked from his shuttle and I escorted him to his tower where he has now retired to recuperate from his journey and align himself with the local Force.

It was he who broached the subject of Luke Skywalker. I felt his presence slither among my thoughts and I held my consciousness stock still, repulsed by his cold probe but powerless to resist him. He knows my thoughts dwell on my son. He knows I yearn to take up my post aboard Executor and resume the chase.

And yet he denied it me.

My master's thoughts are an impenetrable miasma to me now, but for a shallow gloss of ritual trivia he maintains like a wig over his true mind. It has not always been this way.

I am no fool. I know he has cast a cloud of obfuscation between us.

Does he prepare himself for death? He is ill, and I tell you this in the strictest confidence. He is gravely ill, he has confessed this to me. This is why turning Skywalker is so vital: who better to be my dark padawan, when my master has been released from this plane?

"You were conceived by the galaxy, my friend," Palpatine has told me. "You are of it, and the immaterial part of you is bound inextricably with the fate of it. Your blood carries the will of the Force, as surely as if it were written in a book."

I am indispensible to the galaxy, but my master is not. He knows this to be true and has accepted it into his heart, for the way of the Sith commands an unflinching communion with pain. "There can only be two," he has reminded me. "When destiny reveals your apprentice, I shall be slain. I am but an instrument in this affair."

And yet, I find myself wondering about my master sometimes. What kind of man did it take to covertly apprentice oneself to the Force, and then engineer a rise to total power? Beyond the guidance of the way of the Sith, what kind of a man does it take to begin such an undertaking?

About Palpatine's childhood on Naboo I know nothing. The archives have been purged. How he escaped the eyes of the Jedi examiners is a mystery. But somehow his gifts remained his secret. By Korriban he learned the way. He had the strength of spirit to look into the darkness and come away alive. By the stewardship of Plagueis he came to know the power of the dark side...

Wait a moment. Do you even know the difference between the light side and dark side of the Force?

It must be understood that the Force is, above all, singular. The so-called "sides" arise from differing matters of perspective. (If you study the way of the Sith you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend entirely on one's point of view.)

The opposite of the singular Force is the all-encompassing void of death. Time began with the Force, and will end in desolation. This is the way of things, and an inevitable consequence of the flow of events from the past into the future.

Without the inertia of the fall toward the abyss, the Force would have nowhere to go.

For in the chaotic tumble toward doom the stuff of the worlds enact loops of complexity that change the grade from life to death, introducing valleys, peaks and cycles. Between creation and destruction comes a flutter of improbability, a brief sonnet of meaning against the noise of time. Life!

It is the causal contagion that ties every ounce of us together through the network of the Force, our actions resonating against our almost-actions and our non-actions in a web of fleeting possibility that spans this galaxy and beyond. The beat of a child's heart detonates supernovae, the beat of a bug's wing tilts the orbit of worlds.

We are all connected.

Anyone who awakens to the Force knows this. The divisive issue is what to do with this knowledge.

When you can run the mechanism of the universe forward or backward, scrubbing through possible histories with a thought, a theme develops. You cannot escape it. Death, death, death. It is the final destiny of all things, great or small, matter or idea. But there is astounding beauty in the arts of the not-death, the filigree dances of life's loops as it spins from light to void. If you are human, it moves you.

It should move you. But this is what the Jedi Order denies. They preach that the heart of a beast cannot judge the destiny of a galaxy. They preach dispassion and detachment, a condescending compassion for the damned. They stand by the sidelines and watch history happen, intervening only in trivia that offends their effete sensibilities.

Every Jedi knew the cycles of civilization, and every Jedi knew an age of barbarism was nigh. And yet they did nothing.

In contrast, the way of the Sith is predicated on a love for man. We have inherited the godhead of the galaxy by colonizing its every world. Though lesser species might have flourished given infinite time, it was our kind who got there first. We have won this galaxy with thousands of generations of our blood and our dreams. We call the others "primitives" because we are their kings.

And we will not sit idly by as it all careens toward a morbid interregnum. Inspired by our passions we will act to bridge the gulf between civilizations, shortening the period of disorder by decisively maintaining connections between societies from one side of the galaxy to the other. We will weather the storm.

Hate! Love! Misery! Joy! These are paths to the dark side, for to invest in the emotional life of civilization is to care about its fate. To care is to suffer, and suffering is real.

The Jedi were mere spectators.

They jabbered amongst themselves as a committee, no one of them wielding enough power to see through my master's veil, their light resting on the shoulders of three. In contrast by the Sith way the Force is gathered and concentrated in a single individual, making him a catalyst for vision. With Jedi arts a gifted one can see the next moment -- with Sith arts a gifted one can read the decade. The Force is focused through my master so that I might by way of his preternatural alignment also brightly see the many forked face of destiny.

Because of this the Dark One traditionally exhibits a bewildering confluence of humility and potency -- the bleak peace of one who has seen the endless doom at the end of time and returned with an oath to steer life well.

Though I wonder lately about my master's humility. How long has it been since he has gazed into the naked face of the Force, and how arrogant has he become in the while? Could he scheme to live forever, as Xizor claimed? Could he truly have forgotten that the prophecy is about me?
And in the time of greatest despair there shall come a saviour, and he shall be known as the Son of the Suns.
...Unless Darth Sidious schemes to use my son in my stead. It is, I think you will agree, the only logical conclusion. There is another Skywalker, and that means I am no longer unique.

I feel my master's shadow breathing over this world. It runs far and it touches many things, but there is no thread that runs to Luke. I alone can sense him, and as I am blocked from my master's intimacy by his cloud of obfuscation my son is not included in the fatescapes my master cultivates...

There is a schism in the Force and it rolls this way like thunder.

I have a bad feeling about this.


Ewok Cook-Out

Touring the forest moon. Getting back to nature. Singing around the bonfire.

Wondering whither Luke Skywalker. Musings on my reign to come.

I have spent the day touring our facilities on the Sanctuary Moon from which we emit the invisible energy-condom that protects the still incomplete Death Star orbiting above. This world is an explosion of life, every inch teeming with creeping vines and scurrying insects and rustling leaves. Our tour ended up at the stormtrooper garrison where General Veers was hosting a barbecue.

"Have you tried one of these Ewoks, m'lord?" asked Admiral Piett, offering me a crisp kebab. "Delectable!"

Veers himself was surrounded by a cadre of identical troopers holding their helmets in one hand and their drinks in the other. "Lord Vader!" Veers greeted me. "I'm so glad you could join us. Did somebody get you an Ewok?"

"I'm fine, just fine," I assured him. "Your forces seem to be in excellent shape, General."

"Thank you, my Lord," he smiled. "Have you met Lieutenant Twenty-Six? He's responsible for the new drills we've been using to tighten up the scout platoons."

"How do you do?" I said, shaking the cloned trooper's hand briefly. He nodded respectfully. To Veers I quipped, "How do you tell them apart?"

Everyone had a good laugh over that.

While the men kibbitzed I took a stroll through the nearby glen. I cannot remember the smell of the world anymore, but with my boots stepping through the bracken underbrush and with the dappled sunlight playing over my helmet I can almost fathom was it was like to know scent.

Twigs snapped and I paused. Animals were about -- animals with minds. When I closed my eyes I could discern their wispy spirits sparkling behind the glow of the thoughtless canopy. They had smelled the meat of their kin and it set their hearts racing, dreaming of revenge. But they scampered before my shadow. I moved on, pushing through the bush.

I came to a rise overlooking a shallow ravine in which was situated the auxiliary entrance to the shield generator bunker. I considered: why a back door?

When I returned to the clearing I asked General Veers about it. "The Emperor specified it," he told me. "As you can see, my Lord, the auxiliary entrance lies just to the west of that rocky cache. His Excellency has commanded me to station a legion of walkers behind the ridge at all times..."

"Go on, General."

"Loath as I am to speculate, my Lord, I can only assume the Emperor is baiting a trap for rebel spies."

The General may be on to something, for there is movement in the Force. Even now I sense a restlessness in the galaxy, a yearning of hyperspace to eject matters on our very threshold. I meditated on this growing disturbance as the men stuck a fresh Ewok on the spit and lowered it over the fire.

"Doesn't that smell great?" whistled Lieutenant 26.

The sun set and the party became more boisterous. Several of the men took turns leading the others in rounds of song. I declined when asked, but made a special request for the classic popular anthem Burn, Rebel, Burn which they took up with enthusiasm. In listening to the lyric carefully I developed a theory that the song may in fact be ironic, but I am a bad judge of such things: from my point of view most popular music these days seems to be a joke on its audience.

"Where's Moff Jerjerrod?" I asked.

"Back on the Death Star crying because no one invited him," chuckled Admiral Piett, his arm around his new yeoman.

"Does nobody like that guy?"

General Veers shook his head emphatically and everybody laughed. I knew where they were coming from. The man is annoying. If the Emperor himself had not forbidden me from crushing Jerjerrod's trachea with my mind I can assure you today's barbecue would also have been a merry wake.

The air was alive with the chirping of insects.

I looked upon the bonfire blazing into the forest night and felt a shiver run down my spine and into my cybernetics, though I know not why...

Now I have returned to the Death Star to finalize preparations for arrival tomorrow of my master Darth Sidious. I know he blinds me to his designs in the affairs that the Force tells me are threatening to unfurl here at Endor, and it makes me feel so very alone. Can it be that yet another man who has pretended at being a father forsakes me?

I am too willing to stand in another man's shadow, to win his approval.

Tomorrow I shall pierce his fog with my focused vision when he comes here. I shall know his mind and yet mine will remain a placid pond to him, the mirror surface giving no hint of what eddies churn within.

Too long have I been the learner. I must now prepare myself for my future, when I am the Dark Master. I cannot afford to be negative -- I have to know Luke will turn. He will come to study the Sith way from me. It is the only interpretation of the prophecy that makes sense!

Though I have devotedly worked for his love and bowed to his reign, I admit to you I will smile when Palpatine dies. My whole life I have waited to stop being somebody's padawan.

I am ready for bed. I have to stop journaling. Big day tomorrow. And yet...I sense something -- a perturbance in the Force I have not felt since...

Deep in space, I feel the strings of the Force grow taut. The Emperor is not the only gifted one traveling to this moon. There is another. Skywalker!

They come together to clash, and thereby make me Emperor.

Soon this will be Darth Vader's galaxy, and the people will willingly raise statues of my gargoyle face in celebration of an era of stability and order like no other the worlds have ever known.

In anticipation of portraiture, I applied a fair gob of Boba Fett's new skin cream before I clapped off the light and lay down to sleep, the air whistling soothingly through the ventilators of my hyperbaric chamber.


Blasted Contractors!

Work is a disaster. The blind leading the blind leading the Force-choked.

Cracking the whip. Setting a new tone of efficacy around the Death Star.

Due to the haste with which we are proceding through the latter phases of this battle-station's construction we have been forced to employ scores of civilian contractors from across the galaxy in addition to our own Imperial Corps of Engineers. This had led to a certain clash of working cultures.

For instance, this morning I critiqued a tragically sub-par piece of workmanship on a tractor-beam repulsolift inversion assembly by snapping the neck of the site supervisor and throwing his limp corpse down a disused elevator shaft.

Imperial engineers would have snapped to crisp attention, of course, but all these civilian contractors did was give me was grief. "Oy, you do that again and I'll have the union on you!" barked one red-faced buffoon.

"It is vital that you enhance the inter-departmental syngergies of your operation," I said. And then I killed him.

On a more positive note the world-smashing superlaser seems to be working admirably, much to the relief of the stress-incontinent Moff Jerjerrod (and the relief of his cleaning service). The lower ranks now giggle when he enters the room, whispering about yesterday's chat in the landing hangar in which Jerjerrod greeted the news of Emperor Palpatine's imminent inspection by losing control of his bowels. Though no one let on at the time, you knew they had to be smelling it. It was certain they not be able to hold off on the jokes for long, since Fett's penchant for toilet humour is famous and every cloned trooper is a reflection of that spirit.

After destroying one of Endor's lesser moons I treated the men to a round of Corellian wine. Admiral Piett signalled from Executor that the moon has been completely incinerated, reducing the likelihood of damage from the kind of outflying debris we saw when we toasted Alderaan. The safety control officer was tickled pink.

Tomorrow I have elected to take a tour of the facilities on the forest moon below. My office is packing a picnic.


Vader's Pastorale

Dull day. Arrived at Endor. Made Moff Jerjerrod cry.

My quarters aboard the new Death Star are quite satisfactory. The smooth and precise action of the robotics in the hyperbaric chamber are beyond reproach: I had barely sat down before it had neatly divested me of my masque and slaved my life-support systems into the host recharger. Also, I have a really spectacular view -- three large triangular ports that look out upon the green and white face of the Sanctuary Moon, the bright sun cantering shadows across the verdant mountains and pillarous cloudscapes while the silver crescent of Endor itself marches in stately orbit behind.

There is something exhilarating about so much life. It is at once inspiring and daunting, and a part of me quails at its chaotic splendor and wishes for the homeliness of a wasted world like Tatooine.

But where there is life there is the Force. Life nourishes it, causes it to grow. It is in the crannies of life's microscopic machinery that the computer of the universe reaches its greatest calculatory density: the probable fates multiply a millionfold, and reality itself ripples in anticipation. A thousand times beneath the perception of low men, the fabric of space quivers at the touch of even a microbe.

When I close my eyes I can see the song this world describes in the webs of the Force, uncountable infinitesimal tendrils coalescing into a great hollow orb that rides beneath this station, pinwheeling through space about the white light and black chute of the galactic fulcrum.

To wit, to wank: I enjoy the view.

Tomorrow I will oversee the testing of this Death Star's new weapons systems. Since things have fallen so woefully behind schedule I anticipate crushing not a few tracheas. Shape up or sputter to the floor unconscious -- that's my motto.


Keep On Darthin' In The Free World

Been a while since my last entry. Lots of catching up to do.

Also, I have a brand new leg.

I do not know by what means these transmissions reach you, but if you have experienced a long hiatus on your end it is because I have been exceedingly busy lately. That is no real excuse, I know, especially since I have found speaking my thoughts into this journal so very cathartic. I apologize, and swear no such lapse will come again, as long as I shall live.

I am aboard the StarDestroyer Avenger, en route to the outlands of Mordell at the galactic rim -- but I started my morning on Coruscant. I was having my morning tea when the new girl came through to tell me the Emperor commanded my presence at the palace.

"Is your breakfast quite satisfactory, Lord Vader?" she asked.

It was not, but we shall let her next of kin worry about that.

Despite the light rain I elected to walk rather than take a transport, in no small part because I wanted to give my new left leg a bit of a go. It is such a relief to finally have good circuitry in place after suffering so long with that enigmatic malfunction that threatened to cause my calf to spontaneously jig if I let my attention wander. Now I feel whole again. Were it not for the necessity of maintaining an appropriate level of Imperial decorum I think I might have kicked up and clapped my heels.

My master, the Dark Lord Sidious and the Emperor called Palpatine, was also in a jaunty mood. The rain ran down the wide windows of his offices, drawing undulating sheets of translucent shadows that slithered across the floor toward the throne. "Yes, come in my friend!" called Sidious, rotating his chair away from the cityscape.

"What is your bidding, my master?" I asked, and then I noticed the Bothan nailed to the wall. "I did not know you had a guest," I added.

"Ah yes," cackled Sidious with a grin, "my Bothan friend and I have been discussing the location of the massing point for the Rebel Armada." He took his cane and walked over to the wall where his furry visitor hung. "It has been most enlightening," he enunciated crispy. The Bothan moaned.

"Splendid," I said. "Then I can resume my hunt?"

"Not yet, Lord Vader," sighed my master, shaking his wizened head beneath his cowl. "There remains yet one duty I bid you perform..."

And so my master appointed me the task of overseeing the final phases of activating the armaments of the New Order's greatest work of engineering: a new DEATH STAR, ten times more powerful than the first, a glorious rebirth of Tarkin's dream. (And this time we've built it without the need for a vulnerable secondary thermal exhaust port, right below the main port.) His Excellency demands that the weapons systems be fully operational even before the superstructure has completed construction, for reasons that remain his own.

It is not mine to wonder. I must obey my master.

Besides, I have always enjoyed engineering. I look forward to accomplishing the impossible, to the shock and awe of the low men. Mark my words: the first thing that snaggle-toothed moron Moff Jerjerrod will say is that it cannot be done. He will ask for more men. And then he will soil himself when I tell him the Emperor is due to arrive on Friday.

The richness of life is found in the small pleasures.