I'd like to dedicate this story to my girlfriend and muse, Kathleen. This wee story - or rather the idea behind it - first arrived in my head a few weeks ago when we went shopping in a Sainsburys supermarket in North London where we saw a Darth Vader voice changer helmet, along with a vibrating lightabre, for sale. Several minutes later I had to drag her away before we both wet ourselves laughing. This is a mad offshoot. Enjoy.
The view from the window was impressive. To one side a massive gas giant was dying, slowly being pulled apart by the gravitationalpull of its parent sun, a swollen and bloated red giant that was in the last stages of its life. Off to the other side the bulk of the galaxy could be seen, great spiral arms flung out, all crowded with star systems and various forms of life.
The observer at the window was unimpressed however. The massive figure stared out of the window of the Star Destroyer and glowered at the view, his breathing sounding harsh and mechanical as it echoed around the room.
It would have been unhelpful to say that Darth Vader was in a very bad mood. True, he'd been in a fury, for various reasons, for several decades now, going from a sullen irritation at the universe to a massive black-edged storm of a fury, depending on circumstances. But today he was in a distinctly bad mood, the kind of mood that meant that Imperial Stormtoopers avoided him and officers of the Imperial Fleet hoped that all the news that they had to report was good.
The main cause of this mood was the ship he was standing on. His usual flagship, the Super Star Destroyer Executor, was in space dock at the only Kuat facility that was big enough to accommodate it, following a sudden infestation of small round furry things that purred incessantly and bred at an exponential rate. How they had got onto the ship was still a mystery, but they had brought the ship to an embarrassingly sudden halt in its pursuit of a Rebel blockade-runner when the creatures had infested the engine rooms. Thousands had been fried when they fell into the main energy couplings but as there were millions of them the drop in numbers had been temporary.
The worst thing was that they had no discernable throat to crush, making him look rather ridiculous, a Dark Lord of the Sith glowering at small fluffy purring objects.
That meant that he needed a new ship, and that had been where the problems had started. The Avenger was part of the Coruscant planetary defence force these days, the Imperious was off hunting Rebels in the Sluis Van system, the Vindictive was also in space dock, the Iron Fist had vanished on some damn secret mission and the Irritable had been ambushed by a Mon Calamari cruiser and a lot of Rebel fighters, and was now several million tonnes of orbital debris around the third moon of Mantooine.
In fact, most of the fleet was dispersed hunting Rebels or off on various missions. Which left the ship he was standing on. Officially it was called the Imperial Vengeance. Unofficially it was called the Imperial Flatulence. The main reason for this was the fact that was only Star Destroyer to be built at the yards at the short-lived Imperial facility at Jaglan Beta, a base that had either been a haven for Rebel sympathizers or had been the most incompetent base in the Empire.
Nothing really worked on it. The guns had to be constantly checked for sensor degradation, the sensors couldn't detect a Hutt in orbit, the engines had a persistent habit of veering to each side that made it a positive menace in any kind of formation and the shields were more for show than combat. As for the tractor beam, it had almost towed in an asteroid instead of a blockade-runner several times. And that was just the external systems.
The internal ones were even worse. The one and only time that the Emperor had contacted him whilst he had been on this wretched vessel had resulted in a major glitch in the main holographic array that had projected an upside-down image of his Master. It had also been rather wobbly and had made him a little nauseous.
As for the rest… The lighting in his room occasionally wavered, the artificial gravity on at least one of the upper levels was less than 100 and it was fortunate that he was no longer able to ingest solid food, because the toilet system had certain peculiarities that would have made a Hutt that had really let itself go and become deeply unhygienic, even by their revolting standards, throw up. The damn ship was a space going testament to the Rebel saying that a Star Destroyer was a hundred thousand systems malfunctions just waiting to happen.
The power supply was also highly unreliable, something that had contributed to his current predicament. Normally he relied on a few dedicated droids and systems to see to his Spartan needs. Fortunately his medical droid was fully functional. Unfortunately his cleaning droid had accidentally been recharging itself when a major power shunt had occurred, the resulting feedback being enough to reduce it to its component parts.
This would not have been a problem if it wasn't for the fact that the clothing cleaning facility in his rooms had fallen victim to the same power shunt. This was a problem as even a Dark Lord of the Sith had to change his underwear – or what passed for them – at some point. After all, black clothes didn't clean themselves and black armour needed to be polished by someone or something. For one thing black clothes picked up dust, and a dusty Dark Lord of the Sith just wasn't as terrifying and dreadful as a clean and shiny one.
Vader stirred slightly. Black had been a good colour for the Sith, ever since it had been adopted following the unfortunate dalliance by the infamous Darth Trevor with red robes, which, following a sudden downpour on Xyquine, had led to the humiliating tale of the Pink Sith.
To make matters worse the clothing replicator was also down, after bungling his angry efforts to get some replacement robes. He was wearing the results now. It was worse than humiliating, it was terrible. It was also the only clean clothing he had on him, apart from his mask, his chestplate and his third-best cloak, which had some sort of engine oil on it.
A console chirped hesitantly and he strode over to it angrily. Swiping a hand over a sensor he growled: "Yes?"
"Lord Vader," said equally hesitant voice of the new captain of the ship, "Maintenance crew three alpha has discovered the cause of the malfunction to your quarters and is repairing it now. It should be fixed in two standard hours. They are working on it as fast as they can."
Vader felt a small measure of relief. Good. "Well done, Commander," he said. "See to the repairs personally, Commander. I want nothing to hinder that crew."
"Yes Lord Vader," said the voice. The Sith glowered down at the console and turned the audio feed off. It had to be audio and not the screen. There was no way in the Empire that he was allowing anyone to see him before he had new – or clean – clothing.
He strode back to the window and glared at the planet again, the hiss-hiss of his breathing filling the room and almost making up for the fact that all he wore on his cybernetic legs was a pair of argyle socks and striped underwear.