Within the confines of his meditation pod Darth Vader permitted himself a time of relaxation. His personal fighter was being repaired after the Death Star disaster and he journeyed now to Kuat to inspect a new command ship. He had not been harmed by the adventure, but had been left with much to think about.
In the chamber beyond the pod his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Daine Jir, sat at a data console. Vader could sense him as he worked with calm efficiency. He found the young officer's presence soothing and his awareness of that fact brought to mind a number of questions. Why do I prefer having him near to hand? He does not constantly bleed fear in my presence which is an advantage, yet I feel it is something else as well. Some of my other command staff, such as Commander Praji, have the same feeling to them. He pondered for a time then opened the pod. Lieutenant Jir, lost in his work and well used to the noise of the pod opening and closing, did not notice.
Without looking at his officer, Vader sent a clear thought in his direction. Lieutenant Jir, come to me.
Jir started, rose to his feet, and turned toward him. "My Lord, did you call me?"
"What is our current location?"
Jir checked the console in front of him and tapped a key. "The navicomputer reports that we are at what should be the midpoint of our jump to Kuat, Sir. There is a note – our transit time has increased by two days due to a flareup of the Iridonis singularity."
"Very good, carry on Lieutenant." Jir returned to his work, leaving Vader to contemplate the matter of Force-sensitives, and how many of his staff were in that category now. Lieutenant Jir was obviously a sensitive, not quite strong enough to have been considered for Jedi training had that group still existed. Under his mask Vader scowled at the resurfacing of an old pain. Jir would not have been considered anyway, he was far too old by Jedi standards. Not too old by my standards, Vader thought, his expression smoothing out. It is a pity he and some of the others are not a little stronger in the Force so they could hear my voice across the distance and carry out my will. That would be extremely convenient. Leaning back in his seat he considered the matter further.
He knew the Emperor could empower his acolytes with the Dark Side, and he had observed the process before, but sometimes the jolt of dark energy was fatal or made the recipients mad. I would much prefer not to lose the competent help I have gathered to me. Force sensitives are difficult enough to find as it is and I would rather not spend their lives without reason. He shifted slightly in his seat, stretching his legs. I remember a long-ago conversation with Palpatine. He spoke about midichlorians and the fact that an adept could increase their number in someone. He never elaborated on the technique and now I wonder if it is because he never mastered it himself. One would think such a technique would show much promise, especially for those with Force potential who are loyal servants. Vader bared his teeth in a half smile. One might suspect the Emperor thought I could not learn such a subtle technique. Well then, let us see.
Vader rotated his seat until Lieutenant Jir came into view. The lieutenant was busily working away, once again unaware of the movements of his commander. Steepling his fingers in front of his masked face, Vader reached out with his mind, sensing the life energy of his officer forming a bright haze around his body. Midichlorians, he thought, probing deeper. They are what I want. A small component of billions of small cells, all working to provide the body with energy and that vital connection with the Force that sustains life. This does require a deeper level of concentration.
Time seemed to slow as Vader sought to identify the living cellular components he wished to manipulate. Here we are, he thought with a sense of triumph, now all I need do is encourage them to multiply…
“Ai-ya!” Jir leaped up from the console, snorting and huffing like a bantha scenting a krayt dragon on the wind. He glared at the console, shaking his arms and hands, shifting from foot to foot.
"Is there a problem, Lieutenant?" .
"This thing shocked me!" Jir pointed at the console then leaned in closer to make an inspection. "I don't see any obvious short but it gave me such a shock a moment ago." He walked around behind the console, checking high and low for the source of his discomfort. Cautiously he touched the top of the console with the back of his hand and when nothing happened he frowned. "Now its fine, I don't understand."
"Call a technician and have the unit inspected."
"Very good Sir," said Jir. Once again he patted the top of the console then swept his fingers over the front end down to the keypad. "But I hate to waste their time if I can't figure out the source of the problem myself."
"Perhaps it was transient space static?" said Vader innocently.
"Space static?" Jir gingerly poked the console with a finger, calling up a schematic of the ship and her position. He shook his head slowly. "We're in the middle of hyperspace, Sir. There's nothing around to cause such a phenomenon."
"Nothing that you can perceive, Lieutenant."
"Point taken, Sir." Jir settled himself again in front of his console and after a few cautious taps against the keypad returned to his work. Vader noted that Jir had folded his legs under him so his feet no longer touched the floor in an attempt to protect himself against any further random shocks.
I can see I will need to try a different method, Vader thought. While I could certainly order him to stand before me and endure any experiments I care to try, that would damage his trust in me and I am quite certain he would no longer feel calm in my presence. Why ruin that which is so hard to find? Gently he rested his fingers against the console in front of him. Subtlety, it takes subtlety, and yet my dark master never perfected this technique himself. Think, Anakin, you know you can do this, why, it can't be any more complicated than repairing a delicate machine. All I need to do is… shut it down so I can work on it with full concentration.
Patiently Vader waited, meditating in the Force, keeping his senses open to include the officer in the room. At last, as the hours passed, he felt rather than heard Jir yawn and stretch, fighting the sleepiness that tended to intrude on even the most acclimated human on duty during the deep of the night. Silently he shifted his position to observe his aide. Jir was grinding one knuckle into an eye, yawning again.
Now is my chance, Vader thought, stretching out to Jir with the Force. Remember, he reminded himself; I want simply to encourage a natural thing, not crush someone’s airway. Carefully he insinuated his will into the field of energy surrounding Jir. Sleep, he whispered through the Force, you are weary. Sleep.
Jir yawned hugely and scrubbed at his face with his hands. “C’mon,” he muttered, “The watch isn’t even half over.”
“Maybe I should get a cup of kaffe or something?” Jir said muzzily, making an effort to rise.
The room is warm and you are quite comfortable where you are. Standing up is far too much effort.
Jir’s legs gave way and he sagged back into his seat. “What if Lord Vader needs me?” The thought should have been alarming, but now lacked urgency.
All is well. Sleep. With greater confidence, Vader leaned into the suggestion.
“Shouldn’t…” Jir breathed, making a last effort to fight the drowsiness that flooded his mind and weighted his limbs.
Jir’s eyes opened wide for a moment then closed as he succumbed. With a soft sigh he leaned forward on his arms across the data console, his body relaxing as he fell into slumber.
Vader rose and stepped out of his meditation pod to pace the distance to the duty station. His fingers brushed Jir’s temples, the contact permitting him deeper access to the lieutenant’s mind. A healing trance is what I require, something to place his awareness below the threshold of pain. It won’t do to have him waking midway through the process.
Working methodically, he went through the steps required to settle his aide into a trance state. It was not an activity he normally performed on others and Vader felt a small surge of surprise at the effort it took. He resists me! On some level Jir is aware he has fallen asleep while on duty and is fighting to wake up. Vader smiled. Stubborn one, it might be better for the sake of this experiment if you weren’t so conscientious, but then you wouldn’t be worth the effort, would you? Jir’s breathing slowed and deepened as Vader pushed him further under. Vader nodded to himself. That is good enough for now.
Vader looked at Jir, slumped across the console. This is less than optimal for my purposes. Raising a hand, he lifted Jir from his seat with the Force and floated him across the chamber to a narrow worktable. There he laid the officer out, removing his cap and placing it under his neck to provide a little support. Turning to look across the room, Vader gestured and the doors of the chamber locked and sealed. It was late, and few people would have wished to disturb him at this hour, but all the same, it was better to ensure privacy than to have some unlucky crewer stumble in at random and cause a scene.
Now then, where was I? Vader flexed his fingers above the unconscious body of his officer, feeling for the threads of the Force, following them inward with his thoughts. Midichlorians, scattered throughout the cellular structures, enough to make Jir a Force-sensitive, but I want more than that. This time he concentrated on a smaller group of them collected in the muscle fibers of the upper arm. Deep in the Force, he saw the tiny objects as bits of bright light sparkling against the darker material of the muscle cells. Like power supplies, diffuse, discrete, an elegant design, he thought in admiration. Can they self-replicate, like some technological systems? Curiously he nudged one with the Force. It died in a flash of expelled energy. Ah, too hard, Anakin, you pushed too hard. He drew in a slow, calming breath; unconsciously falling into the same rhythm kept by Jir’s sleeping body.
These are as touchy as my old racer – I could never bang on it or it would fly apart in an instant. So, go slowly… he selected another midichlorian and delicately stroked with the Force. It pulsed; he held his breath, waiting. It pulsed again, glowed and divided smoothly as if it had always intended to perform such an action. Vader grinned in triumph. Yes! Who is subtle now? Quickly he schooled his thoughts into stillness and repeated the process until he was sure he had memorized the feel of the technique.
Excellent. Now that I have mastered the midichlorians in one group of muscle, what about those in the rest of the body? He expanded his focus, opening his hands, moving his fingers as if seeking to pluck the strings of a valuable and unfamiliar instrument.
“Ooh.” Jir groaned and shuddered where he lay on the table, jarring Vader from his concentration.
He’s waking? Vader exhaled an irritated sigh. He should have slept for at least the entire night or until I revived him myself. His fingers touched Jir’s temples, pushing him back into fitful slumber. Persistent child, he thought in reluctant admiration. If everyone felt so attached to their duties, I’d have much less work to do. Vader considered his options. Very well, it is plain I cannot split my concentration enough to keep you asleep and increase your midichlorians at the same time. I will think of some alternative.
Jir twitched awake and sat up with a gasp. The data console displayed the duty roster he’d been working on, along with the countdown to Kuat realspace. The chrono showed two hours had elapsed. He stared at the screen in horror. “I’ve been asleep for two hours?! What will Lord Vader think?” He cast a guilty glance over his shoulder. The meditation pod was closed and Jir sighed in relief. He’d been lucky – even Sith Lords needed to rest now and again.
Jir stretched and winced at the sudden stab of pain in his upper arm. “Ow! Must’ve overdone at smashball yesterday.” He rubbed the muscle, trying to work out the cramp. “Probably lying on it for two hours didn’t help any.” His jaw set stubbornly. “All right, tomorrow I’m starting watch with a large cup of kaffe; we’ll see if that doesn’t help. I don’t want to find out what Lord Vader would say or do if he caught me sleeping on duty.”
As he briskly entered Lord Vader’s command suite the following evening for his watch, Jir’s eye was caught by an object standing off to one side of the main room next to a worktable. It was a sophisticated medical droid of the sort used for complex surgeries. Beside the droid sat a stack of gas tanks and related medical paraphernalia. Jir stared at everything in alarm then at his commander, seated in his meditation pod. “Lord Vader! Are you all right?” he blurted.
“I am quite nominal, Lieutenant.” Vader’s voice was dry.
“But…” Jir stopped himself from going further, suddenly reminded that even on a good day Lord Vader was far from being ‘all right’. Anyone who required a mobile life-support system would certainly have a different view of what constituted health. Jir gave himself a mental shake and tried again. “I mean no insult, Sir, but do you need assistance?” He waved a hand at the droid in mute explanation.
“No, Lieutenant. Simply perform your standard duties this watch.” Vader tipped his head slightly toward the droid. “I had that sent up to assist with a project that requires fine motor control. Your concern is unnecessary.”
“Oh.” Jir allowed himself to breathe again. “Very good, Sir.” Moving to the data console, he put his mug of kaffe down, seated himself, and pulled up the night’s tasks on the screen.
Vader observed his aide as he worked. Jir seemed quite bright-eyed and alert and the large mug of kaffe he had brought with him signaled his intention to stay that way. Hidden by his armor, Vader smiled. I think tonight I have you outflanked, Lieutenant.
Vader waited until Jir was thoroughly absorbed in his work before making any move. He raised a finger. Noiselessly, a small glass vial lifted from the console beside him to float upward. Plucking it from the air he twisted off the cap and set it to floating again. With gentle pushes from the Force, he levitated the vial toward his aide’s workstation. Here is an exercise I haven’t practiced in some time, he thought, nudging the vial into position above the mug. He turned his hand and the vial dumped its contents into the hot liquid. Jir moved and stretched, reaching for the cup. Vader sent the vial soaring upward out of sight just in time, calling it to return to him in a high arc. He brought it to a safe landing in the palm of his hand just as Jir picked up his kaffe and took a healthy swallow.
“Ugh.” Jir stared into his mug with a dark scowl. “He said it was fresh, but I don’t know about that.” He took another mouthful and screwed up his face. “How could a droid ruin kaffe so quickly? I could do better, and I’m no cook.” He gamely drank a bit more and shuddered at the taste. “Awful. Any of my troops could do better.” Jir set the mug down and returned to the list of equipment requisitions. “I’ll go down to the level 27 mess when I take a break and get some fresh – from a different droid.” He sighed and frowned at the data in front of him. “Right after I figure out why 10 AT-STs we ordered were shipped to Nar Shadda.”
Vader waited precisely one minute, rose, and walked to Jir’s work area.
“Lieutenant, you are getting a fever, go to sick bay.” Vader’s voice cut through Jir’s concentration. The lieutenant started as he was jolted out of his narrow focus and looked up at his commander, looming over him like the Keeper of the Night Gate. His brows knotted in puzzlement.
“My Lord, how can you tell? True, it does seem a little warm in here, but I don’t feel ill or anything.” Jir swiped a hand at his forehead and rubbed his dry fingers.
“It is no magic.” Vader tapped the lens of one of his helmet eyepieces. “I can see your infrared signature quite clearly. Your body temperature is several points above normal and climbing. Go to sick bay now.”
“Very good, my Lord,” said Jir, rising and beginning to walk away. “I’m sure I’ll be back…” he wobbled, caught himself, an odd expression on his face. “In a minute…” Jir collapsed in a heap on the deck, looking more astonished than alarmed. “Strange, everything is moving,” he muttered. Rolling onto his side, he struggled to get his legs and arms under him, but they seemed less coordinated with each passing second. Vader knelt at his side a moment later, placing a hand on his shoulder, holding him down easily.
“Lay still, Lieutenant.”
“Still?” Jir whispered. The pupils of his eyes had contracted and his gaze was unfocussed. He must have understood the command, for he ceased trying to stand.
Vader touched Jir’s head, fingers spread to reach both temples. “Sleep now.” With the confidence of recent practice, he pushed firmly into the Force-energy surrounding his aide. He felt Jir’s mind, already teetering on the brink of sleep from the drug, slide over the edge into unconsciousness. Jir relaxed and closed his eyes.
“Much better,” Vader said in satisfaction. He scooped up the lieutenant, lifting him easily and placed him on the worktable, once again stretching him out on his back. “You,” he addressed the droid, “Will keep Lieutenant Jir asleep while I work on him.”
“Very good, Sir.” The droid extended its arms and began to open Jir’s tunic with efficient movements. “Has the patient been given any preparatory drugs?”
“Yes, ten ccs of Five-penta, administered orally.” Vader’s voice held the trace of a chuckle. “I do not think he drank it all, however.”
“That’s scarcely enough to provide induction.”
Vader smiled at the droid even though he knew it could not see his expression. “The drugs had help… from me.”
The droid ran a fine needle-like probe into Jir’s arm and clicked through a quick assay. “The amount currently in his blood is inadequate to maintain anesthesia.”
“That is why you are here.” Vader waved a hand toward Jir’s head. “Put him under and keep him that way until I say otherwise.”
“What level of anesthesia do you require?”
Vader thought for a minute then decided there was little risk in giving the droid the information it needed. “I will be performing changes at the cellular level on his entire body, but especially in the muscle tissue. I do not want him to feel pain, or awaken during the procedure. Use whatever techniques you need to keep him in that state.”
“Yes, Sir.” The droid swiftly inserted intravenous tubing into Jir’s arms and started a flow of some sort of bluish liquid into his veins. “If you are working on the muscular system, do you wish the fibers in tension or relaxed?”
“Hmm.” Vader pressed into the muscles of Jir’s chest with one hand. They were bunched and hard in places, as if they still remembered they were supposed to be holding Jir upright. Viewed through the Force, the midichlorians seemed trapped in the tight matrix of tissue. “Having the muscles relaxed would be best. Can you do that?”
“Certainly, Sir. It requires a supplemental inhalant and full respiratory support, since such a deep level of anesthesia will often suppress the breathing reflex.”
“Do whatever is necessary and be quick about it. I wish to start soon.” The thought of being able to work without impediment or fear of interruption was exciting. How much more will I learn?
Without further comment, the droid tipped Jir’s head back, pried open his mouth and began inserting a specialized length of tubing down his throat and into the airway.
Long ago, Vader had been the subject of similar handling and the sight brought back a flood of unpleasant memories. He fought down a sudden revenant surge of nausea and averted his eyes until the droid had finished. Jir seemed blissfully unaware of the intrusion and slept on without as much as a twitch. His chest rose and fell at regular intervals, controlled now by the machine that was feeding him air and anesthetic. During the manipulation of his head, his eyes had half-opened; they gazed blankly up at Vader. Gently Vader stroked his fingers across Jir’s eyelids, holding them closed until they stayed that way.
“Induction complete, now maintaining at level five. The patient is ready, Sir.”
Patient, indeed, thought Vader, drawing in a steadying breath. Raising his hands over Jir he reached into the envelope of the Force, catching at the fine strands of energy that lead to the midichlorians. Jir must be patient in sleep, and I shall be patient here, in the Force. To the best mechanic often goes the race. Finding the clusters of midichlorians interlaced through the muscles of the chest, he plucked at them delicately, watching as they glittered like jewels and divided obediently. Well, Anakin, I don’t believe I’ve lost my touch.
Another thought occurred to him and he pulled himself back into awareness of the room to speak to the droid. “Monitor his vital signs, especially his core temperature. I will be performing work whose side-effect may be a rapid rise in the metabolic rate. You must alert me if his temperature becomes dangerously high.” I’ll be very irritated if I manage to kill him through inattention to detail after conquering all other major challenges.
“Very good, Sir,” replied the droid. It plucked a number of fine leads from its central unit and attached them to Jir’s skin at the wrists and neck. “Patient’s current temperature is within the normal range.”
“Then let us continue.”
“Well, I’m thoroughly lost,” said Jir to himself. He stood on the edge of a beach; the sand under his boots an odd mingling of dark and light granules laid down in complex patterns. Blue ocean lapped at his toes. No sun was visible and the sky was leaden and low. “How did I get here? Wherever ‘here’ is.” No one appeared to be within sight. As he tried to recall how he had arrived in this place, a sound came to him, drifting over the water.
“Lieutenant Jir, come to me.” The call was attenuated by distance but still recognizable. Jir’s heart leaped.
“Lord Vader!” He moved forward and found himself ankle deep in the surf. “Where are you?”
“This way,” Lord Vader’s voice, sounding somehow less filtered by his mask, echoed to Jir across the water.
“I’m coming!” Jir shouted in reply. “I guess I’m going to have to swim,” he thought, peering down at the sea. With a little “Ouch!” at the chill, he plopped into the water and started paddling in the direction of the voice. As he swam the water became slowly warmer. The liquid splashing by his face in little wavelets now looked red, not blue-green. “This had better not be what I think it is,” he thought queasily. At least it didn’t smell bad. He swam on and the sea became progressively hotter. Time passed in a slow crawl. He panted for air.
“Lord Vader!” he called desperately as his muscles tired. “Where are you?” Jir trod water as he listened for the answer.
“Here.” Impossibly, the voice seemed to be coming from below the surface of the hot liquid.
“I’m dreaming? I hope I’m dreaming.” Setting his teeth, Jir took a deep breath and dove, following the call of his commander. The water, if water it still was, rapidly became hot beyond bearing and his lungs began to burn for lack of air – interior pain matching external pain. Stubbornly he kept swimming blindly until he reached the edge of his endurance and his limbs refused to work any longer. “Lord Vader,” he called with his mind, sweeping down into the depths with his hands. Something scraped the tips of his fingers and he made one last effort. His hands found something – an arm? Jir gripped it as the burning ocean rushed into his lungs and he began to drown. The arm moved, a hand closed powerfully around his wrist and pulled him upward through fire. Suddenly his head broke the surface into cool air and he gasped spasmodically.
“Breathe slowly. You are safe.” Lord Vader sounded oddly weary.
Jir inhaled and exhaled raggedly, his fingers scraping against something hard and smooth. With an effort he slitted his eyes open, squinting against the light, which seemed too harsh and brilliant. As his eyes adjusted, he saw his fingers were resting against Lord Vader’s breastplate and most of his view was taken up by the black fabric of Vader’s cloak and the flexible armor covering his upper body. He was lying in the Dark Lord’s arms and was being borne rapidly along the empty corridors of the starship. Vader’s breaths sounded regular and somewhere under his ear the lieutenant could hear a steady heartbeat. Relief washed over him.
“You’re all right,” he murmured.
“Of course,” Vader replied. He seemed pleased about something.
“Thought you’d drowned or burned up.”
“Trust me, Lieutenant Jir, I am not about to do either thing.”
Jir moved slightly, stifling a groan of pain. He hurt all over, his throat was sore, and he was covered with rank sweat; his uniform was sodden with it. “What happened?”
“You have a fever, Lieutenant, high enough to cause hallucinations. You fainted. I am taking you to sick bay.” Vader slowed his stride as he neared the double doors leading into the medical wing of the star destroyer.
Jir arched his back, making a feeble effort to get down. “I can walk, my Lord,” he croaked.
“That I very much doubt, but if you wish to try, so be it.” Vader still had a pleased undertone to his voice as he lowered Jir onto his own feet.
That’s strange, Jir thought as he staggered forward. He had to lean heavily against Lord Vader to keep upright and Vader permitted it without comment. I should think he’d be annoyed that I took sick.
It pleases me that you live. All is well.
Jir heard the words and yet it did not seem that Lord Vader had spoken aloud. Mystified, he turned his head to look down the corridor, but saw no one.
Very well indeed.
“You look awful today, Lieutenant,” said Commander Praji as he entered the room at the change of watch. The stormtrooper officer was known for being bluntly honest. A large holodisplay showed the enormous Kuat Drive Yards shipyard. Devastator was approaching the facility on a standard trajectory after a week in hyperspace.
“I feel about how I look,” Jir replied with a disgusted snort, rising to stretch and groaning softly. “I’ve got fever and chills. My muscles, even my bones ache. Doc says it’s probably some sort of virus and sent me off with meds for the fever, painkillers, and a standing order to drink a lot of hydro-sol.” He pointed at a bottle of greenish liquid sitting by his data terminal.
“Fever?” Praji looked at Jir curiously. “How long have you had it?”
Jir thought for a moment. “Five days. It comes and goes. When it first came on, I fainted. In front of Lord Vader.” He made a pained face and added. “His Lordship carried me over to sick bay – just picked me up like a nerf calf.” Jir’s cheeks, already flushed with fever, turned a darker crimson. “At least it was the late watch and no one saw. He let me walk on my own into the sick bay once we got there.”
“Umpfh.” The sound was sympathetic. “I’ve had something similar for about two days, although I haven’t passed out. I was tired enough I nodded off at my duty station twice. Medics in sick bay told me the same thing they told you.” Praji frowned and shook his head. “I’ll bet we picked up a bug from that pestiferous planet we hit.”
Jir rolled an eye toward Praji. “Which pestiferous planet, Commander? We’ve been mucking about on so many I’ve lost count.”
“Doonha, I’ll lay you odds it was Doonha.”
Jir considered. “That one with all the trees and the vine-y things with fangs?”
Praji shook his head. “That was Mor’kesh Nine. Doonha was the one with the swamps, mud, and bugs.”
“Got it. I’ll agree with you there. Those swamps were probably crawling with diseases.” Jir shuddered at the memory of the steamy world teeming with primitive life forms.
“Yes. And billions of hungry bugs who thought humans were a delicacy, just to make sure we got a good dose of whatever-it-was.”
A sudden thought made Jir spring from his seat. “D’you think it’s catching?!” He pointed toward Lord Vader’s meditation pod. “We probably shouldn’t be here.”
“Don’t think so, if we caught it by breathing on each other then the troops we command would be sick, too.” Praji considered the evidence. “It’s probably spread by biting insects. No bugs aboard ship, no illness. Lord Vader should be fine.”
“That’s good.” Jir sat stiffly and stretched his arms, trying to find a position where they didn’t ache. “Anybody else down with it?”
“Belkan, Tarboth, and Akarek so far.” Praji smiled wryly at the junior officer. “It’s getting so the medics just hand out a package of meds when they see us coming.”
“But none of our troops have gotten sick?” Jir frowned.
“So, what’s the difference?” Jir rose and paced the room. “I mean, they were there with us on Doonha, so why are we sick and not them?”
“Hum. Maybe it’s because they spent all their time in full armor and we didn’t.”
“I didn’t think of that, but you’re probably right.” Jir nodded, returned to the terminal, pulled up a data file and quickly added to it. “I’m making a note to our SOP right now – no more wandering around on unmapped planets without either armor or shielding to keep away the bugs and germs.”
Praji chuckled. “What, you don’t want to improve your immune system at regular intervals?”
Jir gave him a sour look. “Very funny, Commander. You can go around un-armored on the next swampy planet and I’ll visit you in sick bay afterward.”
“Come on, Lieutenant, where’s your sense of humor?”
“Ha. In a pill bottle right now. Ask me again once I feel normal.” Jir glanced toward the closed meditation pod and rubbed his forehead gently.
“Normalcy is relative,” said Praji with a shrug, taking station at the second data terminal. “I’m sure this’ll pass and we’ll forget it ever happened.”
“You’re probably right.” Jir pulled up the latest intelligence on the movements of one Luke Skywalker, added a fact sheet on the Incom X-Wing starfighter, copied the information onto a datacard, rose and walked to the meditation pod. The pod opened and Lord Vader turned toward his aide. “The data you requested, Sir.”
Vader took the card with a slight nod and watched as Jir saluted and left the room in charge of Commander Praji. You may forget, Lieutenant, but I will not. This is a success I will not share with my dark master. If he wants his own Force-adepts, let him do the work himself. I doubt he has the mechanical aptitude. With a smile he settled back into his seat and closed the pod.
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