The Darker Side | Chapter 9 | Flexing Our Imperial Might
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A NEW HOPE
This, dear citizen, is the convergence of my entire written work that articulates the tedious and significant steps that I executed to bring you the security and peace you enjoy today. This is where my memoirs intersect with Lord Vader’s secret diary, his journal of events, personal thoughts, and feelings that he liberally spewed into the log recorders and hid from me.
It is not my intention to humiliate Lord Vader by publicizing his journal, but like the Death Star plans, Rebel spies persist everywhere and managed to hack into the Imperial network on board the Executor, connecting them to various military databases containing sensitive information. These insurgents threaten the very safety of our lives and—mark my words—they will pay for their treachery.
I find the whole of Vader’s journal rather remarkable. (I send my thanks to the late Moff Nur for his encouragement of this practice.) If you ever read it, you must note that Lord Vader and I tend to have a more formal (public-facing) relationship because the potential of the Rebels hacking into our communications is real. That’s why, if you’ve ever stumbled across a recording of our conversations, you will hear formalities such as “What is thy bidding, my master,” or “Yes, my master.” There can be no hint or sign of discord between us because the continual and smooth operation of the Empire depends on our harmony.
Vader, however intimidating, terrifying, and merciless he seems to you, remains a human being and I respect him. Both Vader and I enjoy an evening of relaxation here and there, even if it generally involves, in my case, my Inner Circle. You must remember that thirteen years of friendship did not dissolve when Anakin pledged himself to me that night on Coruscant. Thirteens years of mentoring did not disappear when Vader lost his limbs on Mustarfar, where I found him clinging to life by a thread through the power of the Dark Side. Thirteen years of investment did not vanish from sight when the man was forcibly encased in a life-saving suit of armor.
Today, we remain close friends and act as such when the time and place are appropriate. I believe, by reading his journal, you will see the man I admire as my Apprentice. You may, at this point, however, wish to read his journal first, or read our entries in comparison as I know you will find our differing perspectives enjoyable.
I will admit the Sith are complicated. Deception is one of our key tools and we employ it so effortlessly and with great success against our enemies. Unfortunately, we employ this tactic against each other as well, and when there are only two Sith, it’s not always enjoyable. There are days when I seriously wonder if my old master, Darth Plagueis, was right about the evolution of the Rule of Two so that the Sith could escape death and work collaboratively instead of against each other. Even I admit the personal energies it takes to secure Vader’s position can be tiring, and given his exploits with Starkiller, the reverse may be true as well.
Now, this is when it may become tricky to follow along. I plan to respond to past events documented in his journal. Or perhaps, I should just comment on his entries. I feel as though more needs to be said (strictly to inform you of my perspective), but I’m not sure as to how I should approach it. Perhaps I need to stick to my original plans and strive for the critical balance between re-telling and re-living. I need to think about this for a moment. I’ll be back after I meditate.
I’m back. I’ve decided. It’s simple, really. Instead of catching you up or writing an elaborate tale of events, (I fear I may have bored you in the earlier entries. I find it strange that I truly am a confident dictator and Sith Master but when it comes to my written words, I feel exposed and vulnerable. How interesting!) I will simply read and respond as I see fit.
So, having read his entry, I now know that Ambassador Leia Organa is one of the Rebel traitors. I can’t say I’m surprised. As the daughter of Bail Organa, I wondered if her familial ties to him would implicate her in rebellious behavior. He had been, after all, a known traitor in my sights once before. I thought that his capture and narrow escape had quelled his appetite for rebellion. Apparently, I was wrong. I do not like to be wrong.
MY TWO SUNS
Although the sunrise on Coruscant Imperial Center was truly invigorating, I was too anxious to enjoy my breakfast this morning. Tarkin called while I was scanning through military reports and asked if Vader had checked in yet…he had not. We were about to disconnect the call when Vader appeared on the holocomm, kneeling before me. I told him to rise and he casually acknowledged Tarkin’s presence.
Tarkin, impatient as ever, cut through the pleasantries and got right down to business and asked for a progress report on the search for the stolen plans. Vader reported that he had captured the Tantive IV and a number of rebels, none of whom wished to give up the location of the plans. Leia Organa was among them and she put on a good show about being on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan. She also insisted that Tantive IV had never received secret plans. Vader had decided to bring her to Imperial Center by means of the not-so-comfortable brig of his Star Destroyer.
Tarkin asked Vader to tell us what was so special about the blockade runner Tantive IV. Vader smugly revealed the specific nature of the reconnaissance conducted by Death Squadron had discovered not a single set of stolen plans, but multiple incursions into the Imperial databases and military subnets that successfully retrieved various sets of data and blueprints about the Death Star. Upon the receipt of all the blueprints, he believed the Rebels hoped to piecemeal them together and create a full tactical readout, allowing them to discover a weakness in the Death Star’s construction so that they could damage or destroy it.
I remember Tarkin laughed at the idiocy of the idea.
Vader continued and described how he had instructed Death Squadron to remain out of range as the blueprints were beamed to the Tantive IV through several different transmissions. Once the transmissions had completed, the Star Destroyer Devastator intercepted and captured the blockade runner and the plans, setting the Rebellion back and securing the top secret Imperial information.
Tarkin curtly asked where the plans were now.
Vader told us that he believed the Rebels managed to eject the plans to the surface of Tatooine via one of several escape pods that had jettisoned during the battle.
Tarkin smirked. “So you haven’t found them, Lord Vader?” Tarkin asked, hinting at Vader’s failure. I could sense Vader wince. If these two were ever going to get along, they needed to stop vying for my attention like the Inner Circle did.
Vader sighed, stating flatly (in his robotic voice) that his stormtroopers were combing the surface and swarming through the planet’s towns and starports looking for—he believed—droids that escaped and carried the plans to some unknown location.
“Escaped?” Tarkin questioned intently.
Vader assured him that the officer responsible had been dealt with. Tarkin then suggested that Vader acquire the cooperation of the Hutts, which Vader annoyingly said had already been secured. Tarkin’s holographic face did not betray his surprised delight, an emotion I’m sure Vader could sense as well.
I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t schedule an intervention or just come down heavy-handed with them. After all, rivals and the Sith do not bode well for success, and there should be no rivalry between Tarkin and Vader. Tarkin can’t use the Force, and Vader didn’t develop the Imperial Doctrines. The two of them are critical to our continued success, and for crying out loud, we’re all on the same side. It’s not like any of us would ever betray the Empire.
THERE’S NO VADER LIKE DARTH VADER
There’s No Vader Like Darth Vader?
Enough said on that.
Tarkin called me back later in the afternoon after another tedious meeting with the bureaucrats. It was rare to speak with him on a daily basis, let alone twice in one day. Tarkin insisted that Vader should bring Princess Leia to the Death Star and not to Imperial Center. I did not agree at first as the original plan was to bring all dissidents (especially high-profile guests such as the daughter of an Imperial Senator) to Imperial Center for public execution designed to reinforce the idea that resistance or rebellion would not be tolerated, per the Tarkin Doctrine. He politely smiled and suggested a different course of action would be more suited to a display of power of the new Death Star and acquire her confession about the location of the secret Rebel base. Intrigued, I told him to go on.
Tarkin explained that the recent successful launch of the Death Star, though indeed impressive and awe-inspiring thanks to some significant propaganda created by our savvy Imperial media folks over at the Commission for the Preservation of the New Order (COMPNOR), still lacked a certain joie-de-vivre. I realized that Tarkin was itching to test the Death Star on a more suitable target, a military target that would make an effective demonstration of the Death Star’s true power. He suggested—and I agreed—that the Rebel base should be the first target of the Death Star. They had struck at us numerous times, and the media (though more closely censored these days) still gave too much credence to the Rebels. The destruction of their base would bring about the demise of the Rebel Alliance once and for all.
With the capture of Princess Leia, he suggested that he threaten her with the destruction of Alderaan if she proved to be too resistant to interrogation. I reminded him that I did not want another Antar 4 incident on our hands. If he failed to achieve the terror and fear that his Tarkin Doctrine promised, I reassured him that he would be in command of the most insignificant asset in the entire Empire and possibly pay for it with his life. He didn’t flinch. I must admit, I admire his confidence. That’s why I put him in charge.
After a moment’s hesitation, he asked if I would tell Vader to bring the Princess to him. I sighed and closed my eyes to draw strength from the Force. There was something about her that I couldn’t pin down, something the Force knew and wasn’t ready to share with me yet. Perhaps she was Force-sensitive and didn’t know it. I feel she is more important to the story than I realize, but I don’t know why.
I told Tarkin that I would call Vader and inform him of the change of plans. I also told him to get over whatever was between them as I didn’t need division among my top officers, and frankly, if I had to choose between him or Vader, Vader would win. He nodded curtly. Finally, I told him that the time had come to dissolve the Senate in favor of the Moff Council that I had built up as a more-than-adequate replacement for the bureaucrats.
After hanging up with Tarkin, I called Lord Vader and discussed Tarkin’s new ideas, the impending dissolution of the Senate, and a disturbance in the Force. He agreed that he felt the Force shift, but did not know why. I did not discuss my thoughts about Leia Organa with him. I know that Vader’s respect for my wisdom and knowledge of the Force will eventually be made clear to him, and I know that the Force will not disappoint me.
It never has.
I HATE MEETINGS
An entire planet caught in the act of treason, Vader stated, matter-of-factly. (Although sometimes inflection is difficult to discern with his mechanical voice.) Without even knowing it, he and Tarkin gunned for the same thing: the destruction of Alderaan. You must understand that I usually wouldn’t be so gun-shy except perhaps, for the first time, the reality of twenty years of construction has caught up with me. Concepts, blueprints, countless presentations, and documents are great in board meetings, but…when we finally have such power at our fingertips…
Hmm, a momentary lapse in judgement on my part. I assure you it will not happen again. Such power is destined for the Sith to control. It is the Will of the Force for me to rule the galaxy and to do so, I must unhesitatingly wield such power.
With the Rebels becoming a more persistent nuisance, I agreed that it was time to enforce the Imperial Will upon the galaxy through the incredible power the Death Star represented.
I instructed Lord Vader to extract the information from the traitorous Leia and then aggressively track down the Rebel base so that it would become clear to everyone that the Empire was not to be trifled with. Tarkin is right. When opportunity presents itself, one must seize it. The ends—galactic peace and security—always justify the means.
I told Vader and Tarkin that I expected them to work together and bring the Rebellion to its knees. I swear, sometimes it’s like working with children. On the one hand, Tarkin is like the older, wiser, snippier, and condescending older brother, while on the other, Vader is the angrier, whinier, and instigating younger brother. Both are pragmatic to a fault and as stubborn as a womp rat. After playing daddy and scolding them, I cut the channel short because I had matters of state to review.
WHO’S THAT GIRL?
Vader called me in private to discuss Tarkin’s ambitions for the Death Star and Alderaan. All of the super laser’s final tests had passed with flying colors and Tarkin had decided to take the Death Star to Alderaan.
I admitted to Lord Vader—a rare moment—that yesterday I too struggled with Tarkin’s decision to target Alderaan instead of the Rebels. I sensed confusion within Vader.
Blast. Tarkin hadn’t shared his plans with Vader.
Alderaan, I shared, would be the first demonstration of Imperial Might that would ensure compliance with Imperial Law. Vader added that he believed Leia would say or do anything to protect her home planet, but she would never betray her father, Bail, whom we had confirmed was on Alderaan. Knowing this, I also suspected she would lie. Tarkin didn’t, but I insisted that he destroy Alderaan regardless. For too many years I had dealt with Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, and other insurgents who terrorized the safety of the Empire’s citizens all in the name of over throwing me for the convenience of freedom. Enough is enough.
I could sense that Vader still wasn’t convinced of the need for the impending genocide. I reminded Vader during our chat:
- that the path to peace is paved with the skulls of the fallen who had resisted us,
- that Tarkin acquired his noted position in the Imperial Military because of his propensity that for spectacular displays of merciless force,
- that his primary mission was to provide Tarkin with the location of the secret Rebel Base, and
- that as my enforcer and Apprentice, it behooved him to ensure Tarkin’s success.
As with the swift eradication of the Jedi through Order 66, I decreed that any system that offered support to the Rebels—or proved to be in league with the Rebels—willingly signed its own death sentence. With the Death Star at our command, the Empire’s judgement would be swift and the sentencing exact. As with the Jedi, we would do what must be done and show no mercy. Otherwise, we would have civil war without end.
Side note: Reading Vader’s journal here has provided me with insight I was not aware of during the time of the actual targeting of Alderaan. He did not share with me the results of his interrogation with Leia.
TIGHTENING OUR GRIP
Where were you when the Death Star fired its super laser and obliterated Alderaan?
I remember. I was onboard my private shuttle with my Inner Circle, heading back from the opera house. Twelve of the capital’s best university a cappella choirs came together to celebrate the Imperial State and the launch of the Death Star. That night, they regaled us with tales-in-song of Imperial victory over the Rebels and celebrated the wise leadership of Emperor Palpatine, the heroism of Lord Vader, the ingenuity of Grand Moff Tarkin, and the honored memory of fallen Imperial soldiers. It truly was a wondrous celebration of Imperial Majesty.
Our conversation shifted to one of the groups that experienced a technical difficulty with the lighting rig and we were laughing, not out of spite, but just because what had happened was so funny). At that moment, I suddenly felt the most powerful and revolting disturbance in the Force that I had ever experienced in my life as a Sith Lord. Intense nausea overcame me. Amedda, fearing for my life (thinking I was having a heart attack or a reaction to poisoning) quickly rose from his seat and prepared to signal the flight crew to divert to a medical center. I reassured him that I had not been poisoned and that I would be okay, but I needed a moment to breathe. Unfortunately, breathing had become difficult too. My insides constricted and left me short of breath. I felt as though I had been punched in the gut after besting a Wookie at a game of Dejarik. Amedda reached for his communicator and I glared at him. And then, the splitting headache came. I hadn’t known such pain like this for years.
I knew exactly when the Death Star fired its massive super laser. I knew exactly when billions of souls cried out in terror and were instantly silenced. I knew because the violent disturbance in the Force (since the extermination of the Jedi) warped the very fabric of space. The last time I felt something similar to this (but not as intense) was when I issued Order 66. Back then, the death toll within the Jedi Temple and the Jedi Masters across the galaxy sent the Force tearing through me—but it was much more tolerable than this. I reached across time and space and connected with the living Force within Lord Vader. He felt it too, and I was right about why I felt such pain. I distinctly remember connecting briefly with the essence of other Force-sensitive beings. For a brief moment, I even thought I sensed Master Yoda and Master Kenobi.
I regained my composure and quietly shared with my Inner Circle that I believed the Death Star had destroyed Alderaan for crimes against the Empire. The air inside the shuttle became thick with fear and tension. You’d think I had threatened their lives. But no, the loss of life is never laughed upon, and we mourned the loss of any loyal Imperialists on Alderaan who unfortunately lost their life as a result of the their traitorous neighbors.
The Force heaved one last time before it settled again in darkness. For a moment, I began to question the sanity of the Death Star. Clearly, the Force rebuked the destructive power it wielded and let every Force-sensitive being know it. Was I to experience such suffering each time the Death Star destroyed a planet? Would we all? What kind of toll would this take on me…on us? I focused the Force in my mind to mitigate the pain in my body, deciding that suffering would only make us stronger.
As the shuttle made its final approach to my suite’s private landing pad at the Imperial Palace, I invited Amedda to join me for a nightcap. I dismissed the rest of the Inner Circle. I wished to speak with him alone and ascertain his reaction to the Death Star’s success.
Once the shuttle departed, we poured a Sullustan digestif and I switched on the late night news and relaxed on a sofa chair across from Amedda. The air between us was solemn. I watched Amedda with curiosity. He looked exhausted. He was very aware of the Death Star’s nature, yet I’m sure, like the rest of us, the realization of its true power had shaken him. The conversation went something like this:
Amedda met my gaze and I stared into his eyes and soul with the Force. He held my respect, and I held his. He nodded and stated, “It had to be done.”
“But?” I asked, catching the nervousness in his voice.
“My Lord…” he began, but I cut him off.
“Dispense with the formality, Mas. It’s just us.”
He paused and nodded. “But we lost much life, Palpatine. With the full power of the Death Star now known to the entire galaxy, only the foolish will continue to oppose you.”
I sensed he held back. “And?”
“And, I hope that Tarkin plans to use the weapon sparingly…or its very existence will incite the one thing it strives to nip in the bud.”
“And that is?”
“Outright rebellion and civil war on an epic scale the galaxy has never known.”
I appreciated Amedda’s candidness and counsel. I sipped my digestif. Was he right?
Vader and Tarkin appeared on the Imperial news channel. I sensed a newfound invulnerability within Tarkin that I had never sensed before. He truly believed that he commanded the ultimate power in the universe, yet could not probe my mind as I could his.
“I should like to retire, Palpatine.”
“Indeed, rest well, Mas,”
“Thank you. You as well.” And with that, Amedda left my suite and headed to his quarters.
I listened to Vader and Tarkin’s pro-Imperial answers to the media’s questions for a few moments before heading to bed.
IF THEY’RE NOT WITH ME, THEY’RE AGAINST ME
I awoke this morning feeling more at ease with the events that resulted from the successful Death Star destruction of Alderaan. The symptoms of sickness and the intense headache that overcame me last night no longer troubled me. While getting ready for my day, I listened to the news as they regurgitated Vader and Tarkin’s singular Imperial message of supremacy.
As Vader noted in his journal, the Rangalorians and other Imperial loyalists quickly turned in their traitorous leadership in hopes of avoiding the same fate as Alderaan. It seems that Tarkin was correct in his estimation of the Death Star’s desired effect on the galaxy, that fear will keep the local systems in line; fear of this battle station.
With its first use, the Death Star had become the galaxy’s most feared and respected instrument of pacification. It would not belong before the Rebellion itself would be shaken apart by fear of destruction.
With a good night’s sleep behind me, I refocused my mind with the Dark Side and the Grand Plan. I accepted the unpleasant physical consequences of the Death Star’s final judgement. After all, if they’re not with me, they’re against me. If they’re not with the Empire, they’re against it, and they must be dealt with swiftly.
I decided to officially call for an Imperial investigation that would determine the full extent of the Alderaanian infidelity so that the galaxy would be more understanding. I delegated the task to one of the Inner Circle sycophants and was done with it.
DESTINY’S DESIGNS (FOR DISASTER)
The Disaster, they called it.
The Terrible, Horrible Disaster of the Galactic Empire.
At first I didn’t mind the prayerful vigils people held on various systems as the news of Alderaan’s destruction continued to spread through the galaxy and the Outer Rim. At first, I believed the people of the galaxy should be allowed to mourn the loss of life on Alderaan. What I did mind was the subtle—or perhaps intentional—way the vigils became a rallying cry for the Rebel Alliance.
“Too far,” they said we’d gone.
Well, “Too far,” I said they went, so I eliminated the Alderaanian Refugees who participated in a vigil ceremony here on Imperial Center.
Then I instructed Imperial forces to disrupt any and all support for Alderaanians in order to prevent the formation of any sort of rebellion. If the destruction of Alderaan were to be a springboard for revolution, the destruction of the Rebel base would certainly be a setback to their false hopes…and the second planet destroyed would halt the wiser citizens of the galaxy who thought they stood a chance against me.
I have said it before in the Senate Hall and I will say it again for all to learn: A galaxy divided cannot stand. We will not have civil war. We will enjoy an enduring peace, and I will see to it that we did not unwittingly reinforce the Rebel Alliance.
Vader and I chatted about the destruction of Alderaan’s after-effects and the capture of the Millennium Falcon, a ship that repeatedly defies capture (until now) and thwarts our plans. When the Force spasmed at the explosion of Alderaan, I had sensed Kenobi. And now the fool was onboard my Death Star. And for what? Did he really think a Jedi at his age, out of touch and out of practice with the Force would stand a chance against a Dark Lord of the Sith? Even Master Rahm Kota, who was a tad younger then Kenobi, couldn’t withstand the power of the Sith. (He was one of the traitors captured with Bail Organa some time ago, about the time Starkiller sacrificed himself.) Perhaps he thought he could sway his former student from the Dark Side. He will soon learn that Vader can never be turned from the Dark Side.
Vader and I talked about the reason Kenobi was aboard the Death Star. “Escape is not his plan,” he said. Vader believed that he needed to face him and avenge himself for Kenobi’s abandonment on Mustafar years ago. That’s when Vader mentioned the small band of Rebels who had been running around the Death Star. They were currently trapped in a garbage masher.
I immediately instructed him to cease pursuit operations and hide a tracking device on board the Corellian freighter. This would be our finest hour!
I sensed Vader’s hesitation.
“Is it your wish that I allow them to escape?” he asked.
I nodded and explained to him that he must make their escape seem difficult and provide an adequate number of stormtroopers to cover their escape yet purposely miss with their blaster fire.
If indeed escape was Kenobi’s plan, I told Vader to wait near the hanger bay so that his duel with Kenobi would “distract” the stormtroopers and allow the rebels to escape. Then, I revealed, the escaped rebels would unwittingly lead us directly to the Rebel base.
“Do I have to tell Tarkin?”
I sighed. Seriously, they are like school children. “No, you don’t have to tell Tarkin. But it might be a good idea to keep him informed. Just make sure you don’t fail me, Lord Vader.”
Later on, I sensed Vader engage his former master in a duel. Then, I felt the life force of Kenobi dissipate into the Force, but it did not disappear. It did not snuff out. Instead, he grew in power and I felt it through the Force. How disturbing.
Oh, and one more thing, I am not sure why or how Qui-gon continues to speak with Vader. I was unaware of this reality until reading Vader’s journal. Could it be there is something else that Plagueis did not teach me? A way to achieve eternal life within the very essence of the Force?
Perhaps Vader’s feelings on the matters of the Empire…or the Dark Side…are not clear.
YAVIN A GOOD TIME?
When it rains, it pours. It really does, especially here on Imperial Center. There’s rarely just a light rain. The weather technicians babble on that it must rain regularly because the entire surface of the planet is pretty much glass and steel. Although the power grids and weather modification nets are generally always in tip-top shape, they occasionally have to power down in order to allow nature to run its course. Otherwise we’d be too dry or too wet.
Anyway, tonight I write the journal entry Yavin a Good Time not intending to journal the fascinating events of Imperial Center’s weather. I mean to celebrate the rousing concert of Imperial Might that was hosted in the opera house and broadcast throughout the galaxy, reminding those in attendance and watching the holonet broadcast of how and why the galaxy’s safety and security came about and continues to exist. The performance also made clear that Rebels and other insurgents would not survive long enough to threaten the galactic peace I had toiled to achieve. And of course, it celebrated the impending Imperial victory in the Yavin System.
On a side note, the mock executions tonight were in fact, real. If you didn’t see it on the holonet, we had arrested four Alderaanian sympathizers who confessed to being covert operatives working for the Rebellion. Their treasonous actions included the transmission of Imperial military secrets and the locations of key Imperial installations that built Star Destroyers and other technological assets.
As they cried out for their lives, screaming traitorous rhetoric that was mostly drowned out by the orchestral soundtrack, an execution squad of real stormtroopers with a penchant for theater assumed positions on stage and open fired. The act was met with thunderous applause and cheering, sending yet another message to any would-be Rebellion supporters that the wiser course of action is always compliance with Imperial policy.
After that, while enjoying the company of my Inner Circle back at my private suite in the Imperial Palace, my holocomm chirped. The room became quiet as I answered. Tarkin’s holographic face appeared and reported that the search for the Rebel base had yielded both good and bad news.
Sensing an unusual frivolity in his soul, I played along, asking for the bad news first. He indicated that scout ships had made it to Dantooine, the system that hosted the Rebel base according to Leia Organa, only to discover the remains of a Rebel base the had been abandoned for some time.
Amedda furled his eyebrow.
“And the good news,” I asked?
“The Millennium Falcon came out of hyperspace in the Yavin System. My Lord, we have them.”
The room erupted into thunderous applause, which caught Tarkin off-guard.
“I didn’t realize we weren’t alone,” he said, slightly annoyed. I ignored it.
“Set your course for the Yavin System, Wilhuff. The Rebels are relentless, so we must move quickly. It is imperative that the Rebels do not escape your crosshairs. Wipe them out, all of them.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
When the call cut, I instructed the server droid to bring us a bottle of vintage wine from any system except Alderaan or Yavin. It was an evening to celebrate and be remembered. The galaxy had finally seen the end of Kenobi and soon it would see the end of the Rebellion.
The next night I met with military officials and Moffs (who were not aboard the Death Star) and the Inner Circle at a lavish celebration and dinner buffet of sumptuous delicacies and vintage spirits that were worthy of the good news I had decided to share on the evening of our victory over the Rebellion. Master engineer Bevel Lemelisk, one of the original designers of the Death Star, sat with me at my private table.
“Tonight,” I announced, “we celebrate the momentous occasion upon which I have ordered the creation of a second Death Star, one larger and more powerful than the one bearing down on Yavin 4 as I speak. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the second Death Star will be the decreased recharge time of the super laser. Unlike the hours required by its predecessor, this one will be ready to fire again in three minutes.”
Applause, cheers, celebration.
The construction of this Death Star would commence next week in a location known only to a few so as to avoid any incursions from remnant Rebel forces. One thing was clear to all of us. Though the Rebel base would soon be destroyed, the diehard among them would continue their guerrilla warfare tactics against Imperial shipyards and other military targets.
“This new Death Star,” I declared, “will only take three years to build.”
You could have heard a pin drop with regard to the shock in the room. Twenty years of intense research and innovation by the various Imperial research laboratories had paid off! And so today, every technology and improvement could be built faster and with more reliable materials. The second Death Star would be stronger in every way and would mercilessly wipe out any insurgents. Citizens of the galaxy were entitled to the safety and security I promised them years ago, and over my dead body, they would have it.
Applause, cheers, more celebration.
As we sat down to dinner, one of the younger lieutenants approached Amedda and whispered in his ear. He looked pale and afraid. Amedda nodded his head in my direction and the boy turned to me. I could sense his fear. Every so often I do enjoy relishing in the power of fear over the younger officers. Our conversation went something like this:
“My Lord, the Death Star has entered the Yavin system near Yavin 4. Several Rebel squadrons of X-wing fighters and Y-wing fighters are on an intercept course with the battle station.”
“And?” I said, playing with him.
“And…” he stammered. “Lord Vader requested I inform you. He is engaging the Rebels in his advanced TIE fighter.”
“Very good, lieutenant. Please keep me informed. You may come to me when you have an update about Yavin’s destruction. Now, son, make sure you enjoy the celebration.”
“Yes, My Lord. Thank you, My Lord.”
I sometimes forget how much Vader loves to fly. He is after all, one of the best pilots in the galaxy. Good for him to get out there and destroy some Rebels himself! Everyone needs an enjoyable hobby, right?
If only the older officers retained their sense of awe and wonder around me or Lord Vader. I swear, the older they get, the more comfortable complacent they become. It’s why the Imperial Doctrine mandates that we continually innovate and improve our means of dealing with the Rebel’s terrorist threats and the peacekeeping of the galaxy. A galaxy ruled through fear and tyranny for the purpose of the greater good—to ensure safety and security throughout the galaxy—is worth the sacrifices we must all make.
YAVIN A BAD TIME?
As the evening went on, a small troupe of aerialists and gymnasts amazed the crowd and performed amazing feats that I thought only Jedi or Sith could do. I did reach out with the Force to see if any were Force-sensitive, and alas, they were not…but they were a talented bunch.
My mind became preoccupied momentarily with a mild disturbance in the Force. Amidst the revelry, I looked around and saw the young lieutenant speaking with the officers in the control booth. They both looked my way several times. I wondered if they had news of the Rebel’s destruction.
The waiter brought around a tray of desserts and one of the aerialists performed a death-defying leap across the stage. Amedda cleared his throat in that attention-getting way. I looked at him, and his eyes popped up and over my shoulder. I turned and saw the pale face of the young lieutenant.
“Yes, son what is it? Have you news of our victory? Of the destruction of the Rebel base?”
Those seated at my table became quiet and listened. That’s when I noticed the boy was shaking in his boots with tears streaming down his face. I became concerned. Something was wrong.
“Well, what is it?”
He sniffled and tried to speak.
“Oh no, Lord Vader?” I said out loud, half to myself, half to the boy. I reached out with the Force and felt my soul connect with the living Force within him. He was still alive, yet furious.
The lieutenant shook his head emphatically.
I reached out with the Force to steady him. I sensed an incredible fear masking an intense hatred for the Rebellion within the boy. The Force connected between us, and although he was not capable of wielding the Force, I realized he simply needed the opportunity to let his potential shine.
He cleared his throat and spoke slowly. “M-my Lord, we don’t know about Lord Vader. He’s gone missing. Commodore Ozzel is trying to raise communications with him, but he’s fifteen hours away by hyperspace.”
“From Yavin 4?”
“Yes, My Lord.”
“And the Rebels?”
Amedda folded his arms and the lieutenant’s shaking became more pronounced.
“Well, has Tarkin checked in? What is the status of the Death Star?”
The boy uttered an inaudible word.
“I didn’t quite catch that, Lieutenant.”
“Gone,” the boy whispered, practically convulsing with fear. By now, the tables around us had noticed the spectacle of the crying young lieutenant and were straining to hear the conversation we shared.
“Lieutenant, the Death Star has gone where?” I began to wonder if the Millennium Falcon had deceived us into believing the Rebels were not actually on Yavin 4. Perhaps the X-wing and Y-wing attack was merely an attempt at distraction.
“Not gone,” the boy responded. He gestured with his hands and repeated himself, “Gone.” I then realized that he had gestured an explosion with his hands.
“It is destroyed?” Amedda asked incredulously, clearly annoyed with the more than less-professional Imperial behavior of the quivering lieutenant. He sat back in shock.
“Please don’t kill me,” he whispered, nodding sheepishly.
Vader would have choked and killed him on the spot, but I understood him to be but the messenger of terrible, terrible news. (I also knew I needed to tap into his potential as the Force brought him into my presence for a reason.)
I stared at him as my mind reeled with disbelief and utter shock. I was about to ask if this was someone’s idea of a sick joke, but that’s when I saw him wet himself. So it had to be true. Of course. That disturbance in the Force I sensed moments ago…the Force had reacted to the incredible loss of life. I decided to berate myself later for being distracted with the frivolity of the evening. Though not a planet and roughly the size of a small moon, the death of every officer on the Death Star sent ripples through the Force that reached me on Imperial Center.
“Leave us,” I instructed him. The boy headed off, sobbing and crying. My eyes followed him to the control room. I observed that his fellow officers in the control room didn’t look too well. They appeared to be in a mad scramble of information gathering about what had transpired.
I sat back and closed my eyes. I needed a minute to focus my thoughts. “Grand Vizier,” I said formally in front of the listening audience of Imperialists. “Send for the commander.” I opened my eyes as Amedda gestured toward the control room. I watched his eyes track the approach of one of the officers.
“Yes, my Lord, Commander Piett reporting as requested.” I could sense his anguish.
“Commander Piett. The young lieutenant shared with me disturbing news. Please tell me this is not a sick joke by the Moffs.
“My Lord, it is no joke. Lieutenant Rotan reported the truth. There is great confusion on the coded military holocomm channels, but it would appear that we have lost contact with the Death Star and Lord Vader. Neither…”
“Vader is alive, I can sense him.”
“Ah, very good, my Lord. Neither Lord Vader nor the Death Star will respond to any communication attempts at the moment.”
“A loss of communication does not mean that the Death Star is destroyed. The young lieutenant reported, with intense fear, that the Death Star is destroyed. Why did he say that, Commander Piett?”
“My Lord, all communications and data links to the Death Star’s computer networks, communication relays, and server mainframes were severed moments ago. The Rebel fleet does not possess the capability of jamming all of our connections to the Death Star.”
“Commander,” a voice called out behind me. “My Lord Palpatine, forgive the interruption.”
“Yes, Lieutenant, what is it?” Piett asked. The young lieutenant had regained his composure.
“Commodore Ozzel has successfully communicated with Lord Vader, who reports he is unhurt. The data link from his TIE fighter, though slow given the distance, confirms the…uh…loss of the Death Star.”
“So it is truly gone then,” Amedda asked.
“Yes, Grand Vizier Amedda.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant Rotan,” Piett said. “Will that be all, my Lord?”
“No, I have a question,” I stated. I felt the staring eyes of everyone around me. Although the show continued, it might as well have stopped. I turned in my seat and made eye contact with Piett. He swallowed hard. “How is it that Ozzel’s squadron of Star Destroyers and support craft are fifteen hours away from the Death Star when they should have been with it?”
He hesitated to respond. “Sir, Commodore Ozzel believed that…uh, he believed the Rebels were no match for the power of the Death Star.”
“I have another question. Lieutenant Rotan?” The man snapped to attention and nodded. “Yes, my Lord?”
“You said the data feed had begun to come in from Lord Vader’s TIE fighter. Do the sensor logs indicate the presence of Rebel capital ships?”
“No, my Lord, only X-wing and Y-wing class fighters. All small craft.”
“All small craft?” I echoed, mostly to myself.
“Yes, my Lord.”
“And Ozzel is fifteen hours away? And Vader is?”
“Adrift in high orbit around Yavin 4. The Rebel base is there, on the surface. Lord Vader informed me that he ordered Commodore Ozzel to prepare for ground assault upon the fleet’s arrival in the system.”
I love an awkward silence.
“That will be all, gentlemen.” The lieutenant saluted and then stepped away. Piett remained.
“Something more, Commander?”
“My Lord, the stolen plans. My limited research into what was stolen tells me the Rebels may have been successful in discovering and exploiting a critical weakness in the Death Star that granted them success in this battle.”
The man is eloquent and confident. I admire this in my naval officers.
“Thank you, Commander. That will be all.”
Piett saluted and stepped away.
I turned to Bevel Lemelisk, the surviving Death Star engineer and folded my hands in my lap. I briefly looked at Amedda, who sat on the other side of Lemelisk, and then focused on Lemelisk. Amedda stood up and stepped away. Our long-standing relationship allowed me to convey an unspoken warning about what would happen next.
“Engineer Lemelisk,” I said dryly. “It would seem that the Rebels discovered a weakness in the Death Star and exploited it, not with capital ships or grand fire power, but with snub fighters such as X-wings and Y-wings. Pray tell, how did this happen?”
“My Lord, I assure you, this is a most complicated situation…” he replied. When he noted the lack of empathy in my expression, he continued, desperately searching for the right things to say.
“I…I…can’t even think of how fighters of that size would even get close enough to the surface. The turbo lasers alone should have taken them all out. This doesn’t even make sense to me. I…I am not even sure of what they would target. There’s nothing on the surface, or exposed on the surface that would set off…a…chain reaction…which is the only thing that…even in theory…unless…oh…oh dear…”
That’s when he caught himself. And that’s when I knew that he knew about a weakness! My mind penetrated his thoughts and searched for innocence, but all I found was the choice to omit information.
“Unless what, Lemelisk?” (Hey, he didn’t know I could probe his mind. I would make him suffer before I penalized him.)
“It’s possible…though highly unlikely…that a small fighter could get closer enough to the thermal exhaust port in the equatorial trench between the two hemispheres. But my Lord, it’s only two meters wide. And it’s ray shielded. No blaster bolts from any ship can penetrate a ray shield! I…I don’t see how they could…possibly…oh poodoo…you said X-wing fighters? Those ships are armed with proton torpedoes…which could penetrate the ray shielding of the exhaust port.”
I glared at him, raised both hands, and pointed at him. “You failed me, Lemelisk. I just lost the ultimate weapon, the ultimate tool of pacification, I lost the Death Star because of your incompetence.” Plasma energy leapt from my fingers and connected with his body. Lemelisk spasmed in agony and jumped out of his chair before collapsing to the ground in a convulsed fit of electrical rage. People screamed and ran away, effectively ending the performance. Lemelisk shrieked to his death as the raw power of the Dark Side drained his life and left his charred remains smoking for all to see.
“Two meters wide,” I spat.
YAVIN A BETTER TIME NOW?
The next morning, I met Amedda and newly appointed Moff Tiaan Jerjerrod in my office and instructed him to summon Commander Piett. The three of us discussed the security around the new Death Star and decided to hide its existence from everyone, including the most esteemed of Imperial forces except those who truly needed to know. Amedda made sure that Imperial record indicated that Jerjerrod had been made Director of Imperial Energy Systems, a rather important yet unappealing target as the construction he would oversee included new forms of large-scale power generators for planets. (Sort of.)
Piett arrived just after we finalized our plans. I sensed that he remained confident, yet concerned as to why he had been summoned because it was rare—and completely random—that I summon military officers of inconsequential rank to my office. Still, this man caught my eye and I intended to see him grow in the ranks if he proved worthy.
There was one question that still burned in my mind: Why was Commodore Ozzel’s fleet fifteen hours behind the Death Star? (I know, you’d think I was more concerned over the loss of the Death Star and the significant military setback this disaster created, and I was, but for the moment, this is what I remember most clearly.)
I pointed to the chronometer on the wall. “Fourteen hours have passed. Ozzel’s fleet arrives at Yavin 4 in one hour. Commander, perhaps you might clarify for me something from last night’s unpleasant conversation.”
“Certainly, my Lord.”
“Fifteen hours away. To which military genius do we owe that decision?”
I could see Piett’s face wince.
“My Lord Palpatine, Commodore Ozzel is clumsy and stupid. I question his ability to command.”
His candor surprised me, but I appreciated it. I did not sense the usual reckless ambition or desire for self-preservation that lead others to grovel before me. His sincerity and belief in the Empire refreshed my being. Jerjerrod bowed and shook his head.
“Moff Jerjerrod, is the young commander correct in his assessment of a superior officer?”
Jerjerrod snapped to attention and looked at me. “My Lord, he is. Commodore Ozzel, while an excellent teacher, lacks a certain knowledge of space combat.”
“Gentlemen, understand it was I who promoted Ozzel to the rank of Major when the Clone Wars began. His superiors have since seen fit to promote him. If this was a mistake, I will deal with it in my own time. Pacification is an effort we all need to be diligent with.”
“Commander Piett, I’m reassigning you to the Star Destroyer Accuser, of which you will take command. I trust Moff Jerjerrod will understand the nature of my promotion and accept my decision. Officially, you will join Captain Lennox’s squadron and aid him in the search for the Rebels in the Tion Hegemony. Unofficially, you will receive highly classified orders only from Moff Jerjerrod and me with regard to specific covert missions that you will perform for us. If you succeed and prove yourself worthy of more responsibility, I will order Lord Vader to recruit you to Death Squadron, where you will serve under Commodore Ozzel and Lord Vader. There you will be my eyes and ears while serving with their fleet. At that point in time, Lord Vader will be made aware as to the nature of your special operative status. Do you understand me, Captain Piett?”
“Yes, my Lord. Thank you.” Piett smiled and nodded graciously.
“Well spoken, my Lord,” Jerjerrod chimed in, nodding his acceptance of my plans.
I rose from my chair and addressed Amedda, Jerjerrod, and Piett, my tone somber and stern.
“Understand, gentlemen, that they destroyed the very thing intended to preserve peace in the galaxy. It took us twenty years to build the Death Star, during which time the last vestiges of the Republic, namely the Senators, and some governance structures, held the peace. All of this, gentlemen, is now space dust. There is no Senate to back the Regional Governors. There is no Death Star to assure peace and order. Our authority will be challenged. The Rebellion will grow. Chaos now threatens the Empire I have built. To fail now will incite panic and doubt into everything we believe and stand for. This will plunge the galaxy into unrelenting chaos and I will not let that happen. I want you to realize that this galaxy stands on the edge of a disastrous civil war that could have repercussions well beyond those of the Clone Wars. And because of this, I want you to remember the galaxy needs the Empire. And then, mark my words, gentlemen, the Empire will strike back.”
THE MERCILESS HUNT FOR THE REBELS
By now you have realized that I have deviated from my one-to-one match of Vader’s journal entries if you are following along with his journal. There’s so much that occurred in the period of retribution following the Death Star’s demise that I need only capture the highlights.
Lord Vader made contact after the successful destruction of the mostly abandoned (yet again) Rebel base on Yavin 4. He relayed that Ozzel’s Imperial Forces had arrived and rescued him from the decaying orbit of his advanced TIE fighter. I have to admit, he’s quite the fighter. Fifteen hours languishing in the cold of space would not have been my cup of tea before a battle, but Vader knows how to draw upon his suffering and pain. It gives him great strength.
I instructed him to be patient with Ozzel for now because the loss of the Death Star involved the loss of too many key military officials. The stability of the Imperial Navy depended on the wise decisions we made from here on out until the ranks could be replenished with capable officers. He reluctantly agreed and we decided it best to continue our pursuit of the Rebels across the galaxy.
Before the call ended, I told him that he would be returning to Imperial Center in the near future with Death Squadron for some new…thing…that the Geonosians had cooked up that would aid us in our search for the Rebels. (I honestly wasn’t paying attention during the briefing as my mind was focused on more important matters such as Death Star Imperial public relations and some small skirmishes that had bubbled up and required military attention.)
I invited him to stay with me at the Imperial Palace. Now, having read these corresponding entries in Vader’s journal, it is clear to me that Vader didn’t tell me everything.
At this point in our journey together, he knew about this special pilot (who turned out to be his son) but chose to withhold it from me. No matter, my spies, the Imperial reconnaissance teams, and most importantly, the Force would eventually allow me to learn the identity of the boy, although admittedly with some difficulty. Of course, I didn’t mention anything to Vader until I contacted him after the battle of Hoth, assuming my memory serves me correctly.
At any rate, Vader’s admission of total and complete failure was well deserved and I did not need to remind him of how our plans had to be altered due to his failure, but I decided to reinforce the point and I felt him cringe with disappointment. He had become careless and distracted–something the Empire could not afford in the face of outright rebellion on the scale of the ruination of significant Imperial military assets.
In my reflections and meditations concerning the attack on the Death Star, I quickly realized that the greatest weakness in young Anakin Skywalker—that his strong emotions could easily confound him—was still present in Lord Vader and could work against me as displayed by the sudden emergence of his old master, Obi Wan. As it were, when Kenobi appeared, Vader suddenly became obsessed with revenge. I will have to watch this carefully and be sure that his feelings are clear on all matters regarding the Imperial Doctrine, and most importantly, the Sith Imperative and his place at my side.
With Tarkin dead, a new Death Star to build, and reactive measures of Imperial Forces against any threat of Rebel activity, Vader and I discussed the next steps for the Imperial navy and its pursuit of the Rebels. As you know from Vader’s journal, various Rebel cells were dealt with swiftly and without hesitation.
ARE YOUR FEELINGS CLEAR?
Piett called me. (Some time has passed now, and Piett is stationed onboard Executor with Lord Vader and assists him with the management of Death Squadron.) When I told Vader about Piett’s strict loyalty to me, and that he should not meet his doom via a Force choke, he actually applauded my decision, regaling me with tales of Piett’s competence and efficient style. I was glad to know I had made the right choice with him.
Piett reported that Vader had been going on about the pilot and Ozzel’s incompetence. Vader’s anger with his repeated bumblings had crested and Piett feared the man’s end was near. I didn’t agree or disagree with Vader’s impending decision. The Imperial Navy has no need for proven idiots, even if we hadn’t fully replenished the ranks.
It dawned on me during this conversation that I was not quite as focused as Lord Vader had been in his search for those who had destroyed the Death Star. In the shock and news coverage of the terrorist disaster, we—meaning us here at the capital—had focused on hunting down and punishing the Rebels—as a whole—who had attacked and destroyed the Death Star. Such is the life of an overworked galactic leader, and it is exactly the reason why I surround myself with extremely competent people.
However, I began to wonder if Vader’s feelings were clear on the matter. The pilot, he believed, was connected to the Force, and though I was aware of the pilot’s existence through military intelligence, the Force had yet to reveal anything to me about the pilot’s identity. It was as if the Force protected the boy, sensing that he should not become involved with me.
However, the Force’s connection with Vader about this matter is unequivocally clear to me. I remember angrily sneering at Master Yoda shortly after he escaped that Vader would grow more powerful than either of us. Perhaps the time had finally come when Lord Vader had indeed outgrown my knowledge and abilities in the Force. Even if this were true, I did not have the sense that Vader knew it…and I have been connected to him for over three decades now.
Piett indicated that Death Squadron would be returning to Imperial Center soon to pick up the new and improved probe droids (ah, that’s what the Geonosians had cooked up) that would assist with the search for the Rebel Alliance. I suggested that we get together for dinner and he accepted.
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