Author's Note: The characters with speaking parts are my own creations, so don't rack your brains trying to figure out if they were once mentioned in a footnote somewhere else. This seems to be set thousands of years before the movies, but the exact date doesn't really matter for my purposes; this is only a one-shot.

So You Want to Be a Sith?

Darth Glummox stood proudly in his black robes, his red-bladed lightsaber held steady, his broad shoulders showing to advantage through his thin black robe. He glared at the Jedi opponent standing six meters way, wearing a rather drab brown-and-white outfit, and his voice intoned: "At last we meet, petty Jedi. Long have I anticipated my first chance to kill one of your kind, and now that I see who has crossed my path, I know I shall surely triumph when our wills clash—for my midi-chlorian count is 43 percent higher than average!"

"No." A resonant voice filled the training area and Glummox flinched guiltily as he realized he had made some mistake in studying the available dossier on an existing Jedi and then constructing a sneering speech to suit the intended audience.

The holographic "opponent" vanished as Darth Avernalle strode forward to confront his apprentice. Avernalle was at least eighteen centimeters shorter than Glummox. According to standard texts on humanoid psychology, that fact should have handicapped his attempts to intimidate a taller man. (Glummox had long since concluded that the naive eggheads who wrote those texts would have benefitted greatly from meeting a few real live Sith before they started making such sweeping statements about "height advantage.")

"That is not the way to create the proper first impression, my apprentice. Whether Jedi or Sith, a wielder of the force almost never mentions midi-chlorians at all, much less boasts of his personal count. It smacks of a childish desire to impress. We may be aggressive, ruthless, self-indulgent, and passionate, but we must never appear childish. Furthermore," Avernalle added, warming to his theme, "I have yet to meet the Jedi who is intimidated by mere statistics. Especially since any likely opponent of ours will know that a person's midi-chlorian count can fluctuate at various times in his life, so old data about your count versus his count might not be relevant today."

"Really, master? You taught me about the importance of midi-chlorians, but I don't believe you ever mentioned that possibility before."

"But did I ever say that each future Jedi is born with a certain concentration of them in his infant metabolism which will remain locked in place until his dying day, utterly unaffected by whatever happens to mind and body as he grows and learns and changes?"

Glummox hesitated long enough to give the question serious thought. "Uh . . . no?"

"Correct. I didn't. So do not make rash assumptions." Avernalle faded back toward the wall, moving so quietly in his loose black apparel that he might have been a hologram himself. Then he resumed speaking: "Next scenario! You are threatening a minion of dubious quality. He has failed you at least once before; and you wish to ensure that he understands he will die if he continues to do so on his new assignment. How do you make your point? Don't bother pretending to hurt him; just use words!"

Avernalle touched a button on the remote gripped in his off-hand. A cringing, middle-aged male humanoid was suddenly standing where the Jedi recording had been projected a few minutes ago.

Glummox cleared his throat and commenced threatening.

"You have your orders, worm. If you fail me again, I shall kill you. If you try to hide, I shall . . . hunt you down and kill you. And when I kill you, I shall take my own sweet time about it, making sure you wish my enemies had killed you instead, in the very moment of your failure. They would have been far more . . . merciful . . . than I."

After stretching out those last few words to give them a more ominous tone, Glummox peered hopefully at his master, waiting for some trace of approval.

Instead, Avernalle shook his head. "You mentioned the word 'kill' four times in the first few sentences. Suggests lack of imagination. It may even distract your minion from the essence of what you are saying as he starts asking himself, 'Does this Sith seriously think I did not grasp the point the first or second time he mentioned killing me? Why so much bluster as he harps on that one little point?'"

"But can't the careful repetition of a key word sometimes serve to strengthen the overall effect of a dramatic speech?"

Avernalle pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Sometimes? Yes. The way you were doing it? No."

Glummox had previously suggested that he simply memorize short scripts for probable scenarios and then recite them as required in years to come. After all, the first time he killed a Jedi for real, the victim wouldn't be in any position to repeat the exact wording of the initial threat to the Jedi Council, and thus Glummox's second victim would be equally impressed by the same carefully-crafted words, and then his third victim, and so forth . . . it seemed such an economical solution!

Avernalle had quashed the idea. "That is not the Way of the Sith." When Darth Avernalle took a stand on principle, the strongest tractor beam in the Galaxy could not have budged him one millimeter.

"Next scenario! You are in plainclothes, traveling undercover. In a crowded cantina, you see a woman who takes your fancy, and you decide to make an approach. Whether you succeed with her is not really the point; you just want to blend in by looking like a man who has nothing more than wine, women, and song on his mind, emphasis on the women.

"Remember, you are not revealing yourself as a Sith, but we still have standards to maintain. You wish to convey the impression that you have money, power, an educated intellect, confidence, sophisticated tastes . . ."

Glummox said seriously, "Wealthy, powerful, sophisticated, confident, intelligent . . . got it!"

"All right, my apprentice; show me how you can convey all that without using Force tricks." Avernalle stroked the remote and brought up a scenario involving holographic imagery Glummox had never seen before; a beautiful woman swathed in a gown which appeared to be mostly cobwebs, except for the parts that weren't nearly so substantial. She had olive skin (if you like your olives dark green) and jet-black hair and a figure that wouldn't quit, and she was doing a sinuous dance, alone in the middle of the floor.

Darth Glummox just stared for a few seconds before he started walking closer, nervously clearing his throat as he prepared his opening line. A proper Sith didn't gape or show nervousness at all, but Avernalle told himself to look on the bright side; the boy was doing far better than he had the first time he faced a similar test (involving an illusory blue-eyed blond in a scanty bathing suit) about one Standard year ago. On that memorable occasion, Glummox had stood motionless and drooled for awhile . . .

This time he sidled up to the holographic dancer and grinned. "Hey, good looking, I just upgraded my personal Hypernet terminal with a Pirongo-Kollabatin Multiphasic Converter, Model Three. One of the first ten prototypes off the assembly line—I have friends in high places who give me first dibs on these things. I swear the Hypernet never looked so good! Would you like to come up to my place and see for yourself?"

Avernalle told himself: Sith Lords do not whimper. Sith Lords do not roll their eyes. Sith Lords do not rub their temples as if they feel a migraine coming on. Sith Lords do not say that was the lamest pick-up line they ever heard—not in those exact words, anyway . . .

But this was frustrating. Over the last few years he had taught his apprentice to kill with a lightsaber, to kill with the Force, to kill with his bare hands if need be. Taught him piloting and how to build a new lightsaber from scratch. Taught him many tricks of the Force, such as ways to cloud the perceptions of other Jedi. All the skills Avernalle had learned from his own master, who had learned them from his, who had learned them from hers, and so forth. Avernalle had always believed the cumulative effect of this lesson plan would be enough to turn any attentive pupil into a worthy colleague.

But when in the history of the Galaxy had a Sith ever needed to teach his apprentice to stop being so . . . nerdy?

Author's Note: The other day I was listening to a fan-made Star Wars audio drama which included a few Sith characters. They sounded arrogant, power-hungry, glib, intimidating, willing to squander other people's lives at the drop of a hat—you know the drill—and I started thinking: "Hey! By the law of averages, somewhere along the line in all the millennia since the Jedi Knights got started, shouldn't there have been at least one nerdy Sith? Perhaps he was strong in the Force, and deft with a lightsaber, and had as much evil in his heart as any of his fellow Sith could reasonably expect of a colleague, but he just didn't project that same air of ominous and dignified villainy which I've associated with Darth Vader and his ilk ever since I was a wee slip of a lad?"

So I invented a master and an apprentice. The finished story doesn't seem quite as funny as I originally hoped when I started jotting down ideas, but I decided to make myself wrap it up and post it quickly, rather than letting a rough draft stagnate on my hard drive for months. Maybe people will like it; maybe they'll yawn and say: "He should have given it more time to gel . . ."

P.S. Just in case you were wondering—I don't know whether or not a person's midi-chlorian count can fluctuate during their mortal lifetime. But as Avernalle suggests, I'd be amazed if it were utterly impossible for a person's count to change in any degree, under any circumstances. Frankly, I always though the entire concept of midi-chlorians in Jedi bodies (as established in The Phantom Menace) was a lousy idea, and since then I've often wondered why Jedi don't breed extra midi-chlorians in test tubes and then inject themselves with those microscopic critters at regular intervals in order to temporarily boost their personal concentrations of the silly things. (I admit the possibility that someone may have answered that question in some Star Wars novel I have not yet read.)