Many were the adjectives used to describe Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith; huge; black-robed; terrifying; ominous, and so on. One word never used to describe Lord Vader was 'patient', for the Dark Lord of the Sith was perhaps the second-most powerful man in the galaxy, commander of the entire dreaded Imperial starfleet, and beyond that, the grim figure, his face hidden by a skull-like black mask, was whispered to have vast command of that mysterious power known as the Force. Such a man was not one to be kept waiting for anything.
However, on this particular day, Darth Vader had been doing quite a lot of waiting, and what little patience the Sith Lord possessed was long gone. His problem was caused, as were so many for the majority of technologically advanced civilizations, by a computer, specifically, the computer that monitored and ran the systems on Lord Vader's personal TIE fighter.
The computer had, as computers are wont to do, locked up. Lord Vader's TIE fighter was consequently rendered immobile, drifting by itself in the black of space after the computer malfunction had caused the hyperdrive to disengage prematurely.
Darth Vader had always been good at fixing things, but his repair skills were of the sort specializing in machines, things with moving parts and gears. He was, unfortunately, not quite as skilled in deciphering the intricate workings of computers.
His deep, mechanical breathing echoed in the confines of his TIE fighter's cockpit as Vader glared with all the fury of the Dark Side at the unresponsive computer. Were it sentient, the computer would likely have lost control of its bodily functions by now under the force of his terrible will. Such as it was, however, it remained frozen, totally unresponsive to any commands.
Vader continued to glare at the computer, thinking on what to do. He could activate his emergency distress beacon and have the nearest Star Destroyer come and get him, he supposed, but he was disinclined to pursue such a course; having to be picked up because of a computer malfunction might be seen as a weakness, one that his enemies in the royal court, particularly that damnable Xizor, might use to weaken his standing with the Emperor.
No, there was only one course of action left to take, though Vader dreaded it almost more than the Emperor's mockery.
He would have to call Customer Support.
Savagely he punched the keys on his long-range comm with a gloved finger, periodically glancing up at the number helpfully stamped across the top of his computer console.
The sound of irritatingly cheerful muzak filled the TIE fighter's cockpit, accompanied by an even more irritatingly cheerful automated voice.
"Hello, and thank you for calling Sienar Systems Customer Support! Please listen carefully, as our menu options have changed. If you are calling in regards to your weapons systems, press 1. If you are calling in regards to solar panel malfunction, press 2. If you are calling in regards to your engine systems, press 3. If you are calling in regards to your central computer system, press 4. If you are-"
Lord Vader stabbed the '4' key, interrupting the automated message.
"We're sorry, but all of our operators are busy handling other customers' concerns right now. Please stay on the line, and we will be with you shortly. Your call is important to us."
Vader fumed in silence, waiting for an answer.
And waited some more.
"I command you to answer me!" Vader bellowed, his store of patience exhausted.
But the comm remained quiet, its only reply more of the softly playing muzak.
Vader ground his teeth inside his helmet, his breathing getting louder and faster, like a huge, ready-to-charge beast. The Dark Side was strong with him today.
Finally, the muzak stopped, and a too-cheerful voice came over the comm. "Hello, and thank you for calling Sienar Systems Customer Support! My name is Sharyn, and I would be happy to help you with your problem today. May I have your full name, please?"
"Darth Vader," the Sith Lord intoned, as if pronouncing doom upon an unfortunate prisoner.
"Mmm-hmm. Could you spell that for me, please?"
"D-A-R-T-H V-A-D-E-R," he snapped, booming out each letter as if adding a step in a long and exquisitely painful procedure of torture he was about to inflict upon a victim.
Sharyn was utterly unperturbed. "Thank you for calling, Mr. Vadder. What seems to be the nature of your problem today?"
"Vader," he corrected. "Lord Vader."
"All right, Mr. Lord Vader, how may I help you today?"
"The computer system in my vessel is unresponsive," Vader replied. "I am unable to engage my engines or hyperdrive systems."
"I'm sure that must be very frustrating for you, Mr. Lord Vader," Sharyn said as if reading from a script. "Let's see if I can help you with that today. Have you tried restarting your computer?"
"I have," said the Dark Lord. "The controls are unresponsive."
"All right," said Sharyn, "please tell me the model number and serial number of your vessel."
Vader looked down at his control console. "I am piloting a TIE Advanced x1," he said. "I see no serial number."
He heard the sound of tapping keys on the other end of the comm, and finally, Sharyn replied. "I've looked it up, Mr. Lord Vader, and for the Advanced x1 model, the serial number is inscribed just beneath the main targeting computer screen."
Darth Vader looked where she had described and found, in minuscule, barely-readable numerals and letters, his fighter's serial number. He read it to the operator.
"Please hold for a moment while I pull up more information," said Sharyn.
The muzak returned.
Vader leaned back in his chair and glared at the star-field outside his cockpit viewport, trying to push down the urge to short out the speakers with the Force in an attempt to block out the annoyingly cheerful muzak. He was a Sith Lord, he reminded himself. He had survived the pain of being burned alive on Mustafar; he could stand a few minutes of this.
Finally Sharyn's voice returned. "All right, Mr. Lord Vader, I have the information on your starfighter. Please describe in detail your exact problem."
"The computer is unresponsive," Darth Vader intoned. "It is frozen on the hyperspace menu screen."
"All right," said Sharyn. "Please hold down the power button on the console in front of you for thirty seconds."
Vader reached out with one gloved hand and stabbed his finger onto the power button. He held it down, silently counting to thirty. Nothing happened.
"Your prescribed action is ineffective," said the Dark Lord.
"Okay, Mr. Lord Vader, it looks like you're going to have to manually disconnect the power from your computer and reconnect in order to reset it," said Sharyn. "The main power coupling is underneath the console on the far right side. Give the coupling a half turn to the left, and it should disconnect from the console."
"It is underneath the console?" said Vader.
"That's right, Mr. Lord Vader; underneath the console on the far right side."
Lord Vader frowned at the control console. The TIE fighter's cockpit was cramped, with little space to move, and his armor was not built for flexibility.
He pushed the pilot's seat as far back as it would go, then leaned over and tried to wedge his helmet and shoulders into the footwell in order to reach the power coupling.
"Only an engineer designing something with a computer," he said savagely, "would put a vital system in such an inaccessible place."
Vader grabbed the described power coupling and disconnected it from the console. "I have disconnected the power," he said, his voice somewhat muffled by his present cramped confines."
"Okay," Sharyn said cheerfully. "Wait about one standard minute, and then reconnect the power."
Vader shifted uncomfortably, and banged his helmet on the underside of the console, producing a deep metallic clang. He resisted the urge to curse.
When the standard minute was up, Vader reconnected the power coupling and extricated himself from the footwell. The computer screen in front of him flared to life, but within seconds was frozen again, unresponsive.
"The problem remains unsolved," Vader said in the direction of the comm speaker.
"The computer locked up again?" asked Sharyn.
"Correct," Vader said grimly, as grimly as only a Sith Lord can.
"Okay, Mr. Lord Vader, it says here that if the problem persists, you may have to completely disconnect the main computer console from the reactor in order to effect repairs."
"Would that not also disable the comm unit?" Vader asked.
"No, Mr. Lord Vader; the comm unit functions on a backup power supply run through a different relay system."
"Very well," said Vader. "How do I disconnect the computer from the reactor?"
"Well, the main power conduit in the TIE Advanced x1 runs directly under the pilot's chair," said Sharyn. "You'll have to move it in order to get to the access panel."
"You are aware I am in deep space and cannot exit my fighter at this time?" Vader said warningly.
"I'm sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. Lord Vader," said Sharyn. "I didn't design this particular model of TIE fighter; I'm just looking at the blueprints."
Vader ground his teeth inside his helmet as he looked around the cockpit, attempting to determine how he would go about these repairs. He would have a word with the designer of this fighter, he decided.
The last word that imbecilic engineer would ever hear.
As Vader shifted inside the cramped confines of his fighter's cockpit, he had to sit on the control console in order to pry the chair away from its mountings. This would be a difficult task for even an average-sized pilot, but since Lord Vader was nearly seven feet tall inside his armor, this resulted in the Dark Lord having to bend himself in an extremely painful way to make room for the chair when he finally disconnected the last bolt.
He shoved the chair up towards the ceiling and wedged it against the viewport. With his booted feet planted on either side of the access panel at the bottom of the cockpit, Vader leaned over to pull the small metal plate loose.
"I have accessed the conduit," Vader said, his voice somewhat strained from the contorted position he was in.
"Okay," said Sharyn. "Now, you're going to want to disconnect the black cable."
"The cables are all black," Vader replied.
"Whatever you do, make sure you don't disconnect the dark purple cable. And especially don't touch the navy cable, either."
Vader frowned at the trio of cables in front of him. In the blackness of space, with only the blinking lights of the various systems in his fighter for illumination, all of the cables looked identical.
He said as much to Sharyn.
"Mr. Lord Vader," she replied, "all of the cables are specially coated with ultraviolet markings. They should be easily distinguishable."
"I am a human," Vader said. "I cannot see into the ultraviolet spectrum."
"You're a human?" Sharyn said, her tone surprised. "I thought you were a Hutt."
Vader half turned to stare at the comm speaker. "A Hutt," he said flatly. "How many Hutts have the name Darth Vader?"
"Well, your voice is really deep," said Sharyn. "You sound a lot like a Hutt."
"A Hutt flying a TIE fighter," said Vader. "You are looking at the blueprints, Technician. Could a Hutt even fit inside the cockpit of a TIE fighter?"
"Oh, I'm not a technician, Mr. Lord Vader. I just answer the comm."
The Dark Side was indeed strong with him today.
"I wish to speak to your supervisor," said Lord Vader.
"He's not in right now," said Sharyn. "Actually, I'm kind of by myself here."
"Then transfer me to one of your mechanics. He will have the requisite knowledge."
"Um, there sort of aren't any mechanics here," said Sharyn. "Sienar Systems doesn't really have a maintenance department."
"Why not?" Vader demanded.
"Well, the Emperor, blessed be his exalted name, sort of underbids when he orders TIE fighters. He doesn't actually pay for them, you see; he just threatens to kill us if we don't make them faster. We can't afford many technicians for Customer Support." Sharyn paused for a moment. "Well, any, really."
"Do you mean to tell me," Vader said slowly, "that you are the entirety of Sienar Systems Customer Support?"
"Um... yeah," said Sharyn. "I'm pretty much by myself here."
"How can such a large company operate in this manner?" Vader demanded. "There must be requests for service on TIE fighters constantly."
"Well..." Sharyn paused again. "I'm not really supposed to tell you this, but since we have to make them so cheaply, TIE fighters are sort of engineered to, ah... blow up if anything goes wrong. It saves on maintenance costs."
Vader felt a rising surge of anger, like a tidal wave of rage, come soaring to the fore in his mind. "So there is nothing I can do myself that will fix my computer?" he said.
"Probably not," said Sharyn. "You're actually lucky your fighter didn't just explode when it detected the problem."
That was it; this was intolerable. Darth Vader had loyally served the Emperor for more than twenty years, but this was too much. A man who was the wealthiest being in the entire galaxy, but was so stingy that he would not even pay for proper construction of fighters his servants were expected to fly around in, could not be allowed to rule the Empire any longer.
Luke, he thought. His son was powerful, powerful enough to help him supplant the Emperor. With their combined strength, they would be able to end this destructive conflict, and bring order to the galaxy. If Luke joined him, they could rule the galaxy as father and son, and with their power, force all manufacturing companies to adhere to a strict quality and safety code.
Vader cut off the comm and activated his emergency beacon, resigning himself to the mockery he would endure from the Emperor and Xizor. No matter, he thought. There were thousands of probe droids searching the galaxy. One of them was bound to find the Rebels and his son eventually.
And when they did, Darth Vader would be able to enact his ultimate plan. As he waited, the Dark Lord mentally composed what he would say to Luke to persuade him when they finally met.
Author's Note: The real reason Darth Vader decided to overthrow the Emperor. ;)