The day had started so well for Lieutenant Parkinson, all his uniforms had come back from the laundry with the insignias intact for once, they would be serving his favourite Gundark Pancakes in the mess for breakfast and Colonel York was hunting some of the larger biologicals on the Northern continent of Forest Moon so Parkinson could finally stop worrying about his Status Evaluation. Being assigned to the Colonel’s detachment had been the proudest moment of his career, serving on the new Death Star project was seen as the crucial step in the career of today’s ambitious young Imperial Officer. What he hadn’t reckoned on was the Colonel’s ferocious and inexplicable hatred of any kind of “Backworld Scum”. After years in the Academy not a trace of Parkinson’s original Nubian accent remained but if you were to listen to York talk about it you’d think Parkinson arrived at duty every day wearing a full ceremonial Shaskrat complete with a pet Goobin. So for once, he had some time to relax, he was on his way to the Officer’s mess to meet some of his fellow officers for a quick pre breakfast game of Pazaak. Hopefully Merken would be there, he was an easy Coruscant mark with more money than sense. Then he would sit down with a stack of fluffy pancakes the size of his head and start the day right.
As the stack steamed it’s phantom smell through his mind, he automatically stood to attention as the lift doors suddenly opened on one of the empty sub-levels. Bright light poured into the lift illuminating an immensely tall and dark figure striding into the lift. As soon as he recognised who it was, it was as if the Emperor himself had Force choked his bowels. Five years of hard training at the Academy was all that prevented his knees from folding immediately as Lord Vader stood in front of him in the small space. His cape swirled around him, pushing the dry air into Parkinson’s face.
“The Main Core Deck” came the cold resonance of the artificial voice Parkinson had only ever heard on Official Empire Broadcasts.
“Yes Milord” he replied instantly. However just as immediately his eyes failed, it was as if he had gone blind! The panel went out of focus, becoming a fuzzy mess full of possible death inducing mistakes.
Which was the button for the Main Core Deck?
“By the Emperor’s Cowl” his brain screamed, “Please don’t let me press the wrong button, please don’t let me press the wrong button.” His clammy hand shivered like a pathetic mewling traitor, but it slowly managed to cross the endless chasm to press the right button. The dark voids of Vader’s eyes seemed to focus on his brain, seeing all that was weak and wrong in him, but at least he had pressed the right button. The doors slid closed and with a snap, he was sealed in his coffin. The lift immediately began to rise through the decks in absolute silence. Vader stood towering over Parkinson, dwarfing him like he was a malfunctioning R2 unit. The face height lights on his chest panel flickered in Parkinson’s face, blinking in time with the smooth mechanical sound of Vader’s breathing. Parkinson tried to look every bit the embodiment of the Imperial Human Ideal, above any reproach or dissent. He felt as if he was just about managing to look like the worst kind of nerfherding bottom feeder.
But as time went on and he managed to keep himself from passing out, he realised that they were only a few levels away from the Main Core Deck, If he could just hold his composure he would make it! He would have passed the test! He had already pressed the button, what else could go wrong? As the last endless, agonising levels crawled by and the lights on Vader’s chest continued to flicker, Parkinson knew he needed something to keep him calm, he focused his whole being on the lights. The brightness of them were so engaging, so immensely soothing, the colour of them were so vivid, so enthralling. He felt better, he relaxed. But just as suddenly his whole body snapped rigid, something was coming, he could feel the tickle in the back of his nose and throat, he had to sneeze! He tried to suck it back in but, he before he could even get slightest grip on it the world snapped into slow motion and he saw himself from outside. It was a good sneeze, we’ll give him that, it was a full body affair. The beautiful arc of spray of spit and mucus flew foglike directly into Vader’s face and suddenly Parkinson was left alone in his body again, except for the new information that he, Lieutenant Parkinson had just spat on the man who single handedly destroyed the Jedi. The sudden return to the silence of the elevator pounded in his face and for a second, Parkinson thought he saw the lights flicker in a different pattern.
“Oh God” he thought, “Should I apologise? What should I say? Oh God!”
In a second’s bravery, he dared snatch a look at Vader’s eyes. All he could see in the infinite refracted blackness was a tiny reflected speck of black vinyl shininess covered by a film of his spit. All he was and all he had ever dreamed of becoming was reduced to that moment. He was a speck of spit sliding down an empty universe, a speck who couldn’t stop from sneezing over and over and over. The depth of the anger building up in those dead shark eyes consumed Parkinson’s mind, it left him hollow with fear and misery. His throat tightened as if individual fingers were crushing his esophagus, suddenly he couldn’t breathe. The last thing that passed through his mind as his body hit the floor was the fact that he’d miss out on the Gundark pancakes.
“Bless You” said Vader. And suddenly the door opened and he swirled out onto the bridge.