He sometimes wonders why he allows Wrenga Jixton to live.
He has had many subordinates over the years, competent and incompetent alike. Those who do not meet his standards all end the same way.
Certainly that Jix is still alive is a mark of his competence—but he has been in the Dark Lord's service for nearly three years, and Vader has never had a personal agent whose usefulness lasted this long. What is it, precisely, that sets Jix apart?
He is not without fault—in spite of his talents, Jixton has noticeable defects as well, glaringly obvious ones. He is brash, crude—there is not a shred of diplomacy in the man to speak of. Assignments that require delicacy and prudence more often are resolved in the first five minutes with a blaster when he is involved. Vader wonders if all Corellians are as devoid of taste and honor as his agent, or if Jix is a unique case.
Jixton has even failed Vader, he has come back from a few missions not having accomplished his goal—but Jix always manages to wriggle his way out of punishment by bringing some useful piece of intelligence for leverage. In all this time, Vader has never truly considered killing the man (though Jix has not managed to completely escape the Lord of the Sith's particular brand of…reprimand).
Jix is downright impertinent.
He is the second most feared man in the galaxy, and his personal assassin, a man who swore eternal allegiance to him, leans against the wall and slouches while he is being addressed. Jixton was an officer in the Imperial Navy, a world of entrenched and rigid hierarchy, and yet he refers to the man who is subordinate only to the Emperor in power and influence as "Uncle Dee"— stonily and straight-faced, no less.
Vader's sense of irony is lacking.
But…in spite all of the evidence to the contrary, he knows that Jix respects him far more than Needa or Veers or any of the sycophants his master infests the Imperial Navy with. He could feel the fear rolling off of these men as they watched their predecessors die—any respect they might feel for him stemming directly from that fear…but Jix…
What was it Jix told him the last time Vader held him in his grip?
"It's not enough that you could—gkk—break my neck with a thought? You want me to fear you, Lord Vader? I might as well be afraid of death."
The Corellian is confident enough in his own merits not to fear his employer—and if his irritating habit of breeching Vader's stronghold's security is any indication, this confidence is justified.
No, he does not fear Darth Vader…but he does admire him.
Jix is not afraid to admit his misgivings about Vader's plans, but he is also frank in his esteem for the Sith Lord ("Hey, Uncle Dee, you want to teach me how to single-handedly blast seven snub fighters out of the sky? It'll come in handy next time you send me on a suicide mission to Rodia with no debriefing."). He swore his allegiance to Vader primarily in order to save the people of Aridus, true, but he knows that Jix has never had a desire to leave his service since that day. He would not go out of his way to approach Vader, looking for jobs ("Anyone get on your bad side today, favorite uncle of mine? I'm bored and I gambled away the last twenty thousand you gave me") if he did not enjoy the work.
If he did not…appreciate the man he works for.
There is another reason that Vader keeps Jix around, one that he is hardly aware of himself. It lurks on the edge of his consciousness, in the corner of his memory that he has spent the dismal expanse of his service to the Emperor repressing, desperately trying to push into the void—and forget.
Jixton, with his brash demeanor and disrespectful conduct, his flippant remarks and his amoral admiration, stirs something long-buried in the Dark Lord.
It needles him, this pinprick of familiarity—it stands out in the dark and frigid prison he encased himself in twenty years before. When he speaks to Jix, sometimes he'll hear—someone else…
"You think I can't get in without your help? Not everyone plans their security around trying to specifically keep me out, Lord Vader. I'm flattered, by the way." He should kill Jixton for questioning his wisdom in this insolent manner. No one else has ever dared to—
"This is a stupid plan. We should fight these guys instead of just sneaking around."
He is addressed as "Vader" by his enemies—the harsh syllables are spat at him by rebels and scum alike. Everyone else calls him by his title, even his master, the only one who neither fears nor respects his favorite pet. But Jix—
"So, how are things with my very favorite uncle?"
"Looks like you're stuck with me, Skyguy."
Rarely is his opinion challenged, his assertions questioned—if not for his master, far less than even now. It is a bleak thought, that he has so few worthy opponents now, so few people who challenge him directly, without subterfuge—
"Oh, I see. So, which part of the situation did you have under control? The blocked entrance? The poisoned gas? Or that Gundark behind you?"
"Well, the holiday you described is very different from the one I'm getting: cloudy with a chance of torrential bedlam. Maybe you could put me in touch with your local forecaster."
The faint echoes of another man's life reverberate in the cavernous depths of his mind, mingling with the life…such as it is…that he is living now.
"What are you trying to prove anyway?"
"That I'm not too young to be your Padawan."
There is another reason he allows Wrenga Jixton to live. Every time Jix makes a smart remark, every time he attempts to inject into a mission briefing his idiotic brand of humor, every time he calls Vader that…nickname…Vader is reminded.
Reminded of a time, long ago, when those that served him did not do so merely out of fear…he is reminded of one in particular, but he can no longer picture her in his mind. Jixton reminds him that once he did not merely command, he also taught. Instructed. That he was respected not merely for the pain he could inflict, but for his prowess as a warrior, pilot and tactician.
The Dark Lord cannot let go of the past. He has never been able to, no matter how many records or temples or Jedi he destroys. The past will never die, and when Vader hears the name "Luke Skywalker" for the first time, he is glad. When he instructs Jix on how to most effectively infiltrate the Hutt's criminal network, and the fool grudgingly acquiesces to the plan, he is also glad.
In Jix, Vader does not have a slave or a servant.
He feels what it is to have an eager pupil again.
There are several quotes in there that come from both the "Shadow Stalker" comic and the Clone Wars TV show. A rather bizarre character juxtaposition, I realize—but I thought it was an interesting idea.