Originally published in I Don't Care What You Smell #5, 1999


By MJ Mink

I find myself scribbling furiously on my datapad, screen after screen of notes. More notes than I've taken on any assignment ­ but I've never had an assignment quite as critical (and exciting!) as this one.

As soon as I am able to retreat to the humble temporary quarters I have been assigned, I neatly remove my "Bounty Hunter #1501" costume (a favorite disguise of mine) and hang it in the small wardrobe. I pause for a moment, studying it thoughtfully, wondering what about the design could have compelled that officer to call my cohorts and me "scum". I have been assured that it is a perfectly authentic replica of a non-specific reptilian race and not deserving of such a label. I can only assume that this is an example of the political incorrectness and intraspecies insensitivity that permeates the Emperor's fleet and, in particular, this star destroyer.

However...these musings are irrelevant so, datapad in hand, I proceed into the corridors of this magnificent ship to search for Mr. Vader. He and I are going to have a discussion, and he may find some of my words not to his liking. But that can't be helped. I have a job to do.

Armed with directions given by a helpful mousedroid, I find my way back to the main bridge. Mr. Vader is here, head-to-foot black ­ a psychological depressant, if I've ever seen one! I believe I will suggest that he dress in soft gray. Though I understand that he is not a Naval officer and cannot wear a uniform, I'm certain we can select something appropriate that will blend well with the rest of the crew and not serve to separate him from his staff.

His hands are linked behind his back ­ dear me, leather gloves, another symbol of reserve that only serves to distance him from the others! I clear my throat. "Mr. Vader?"

His head turns very slowly. The mask...well, it just won't do! No wonder so many complaints have been filed with Anthropocentric Resources. I should have been sent to deal with this situation some time ago!

"I'm Weeber Biniford, your new AR Facilitator. I believe you've been expecting me."

He turns all the way around. His chest is quite decorative, sprinkled with bright, blinking lights, though they do not quite compensate for the ominous appearance of this semi-uniform he wears.

"AR Facilitator?" he repeats slowly. Really, his voice is quite lovely! I believe I shall be able to make something promising out of this raw material.

"Yes, indeed," I confirm brightly. "The Emperor himself selected me to work with you, Mr. Vader. I was his personal facilitator for several timeparts, and he was so pleased with my work that he decided to share my talents with you."

Mr. Vader turns away and stares out the viewport. I fail to see what fascinates him, or anyone else, about space. It's fine, if you like black with white dots; otherwise, it all looks the same.

"Shall we begin? We have quite a lot to do, Mr. Vader!" I can't help but chuckle at my understatement.

With a dramatic whirl of his cape (I make a note: Leave Vader in cape; manipulates it extremely well.) he turns back to me. "LORD Vader," he thunders.

I finish my datapad entry. "Marvelous projection!" It is important to interlace praise with criticism, particularly at the outset of our relationship. "But, you know, we've found non-military titles to be somewhat off-putting to many people. It's good to bring certain things to a more equal level. Why, the Emperor even allowed me to call him Mr. Palpatine at times, though my great respect for him directed that I usually addressed him as Highness or Excellency or even--"


I wait for him to regain control of his temper. Hair-trigger on this one, but I've faced more intimidating men.

I try to cough, but the cough fails to materialize. There is some sort of obstruction around my neck. I run my finger under my collar, but the pressure increases. "I beg your pardon," I gasp, deeply embarrassed, "I seem to have an Ewok stuck in my throat. Perhaps a drink...?"

A rumbling noise comes from behind Mr. Vader's mask; it sounds almost like a chuckle. Abruptly the pressure in my throat subsides. I clear it a few times and feel much better. "Never mind, I'm fine. Now, if I could have a few minutes alone with you, I'd like to explain just how I work and what you can expect."

The mask looks at me. I paste a smile on my face. If Mr. Vader will insist on wearing the mask, perhaps our physicians...engineers?...could add artificial lids and lashes so he can blink. I glance at my datapad to review my notes, since my usual speech has escaped me for the moment.

Ah, yes, here it is. "I'm here to help you and your staff work as a mellifluous Team. Obviously, there have been some concerns raised or I would not be here. I'll get together with you and your officers as a group, and we'll look at behaviors. It's important to focus on behaviors, you know, rather than on individuals. It's also important that everyone understand there will be no blame and no retribution assessed, either during or after the meeting. Now, if you could arrange a room, I'll need a holoprojector and holoflipchart to assist us in--"

"The Emperor has assigned you to this task," Mr. Vader interrupts. He speaks slowly, as though he's just heard my earlier words.

"Yes, yes," I acknowledge cheerfully. "Our goal is to create an environment aboard your vessel that is honest, harmonious, and equitable. We need to put our collective heads together to decide what can we do to make these relationships work better."

"Relationships," he repeats, nothing more.

"Indeed! My purpose will be to identify the problems in your working relationships, give some recommendations, and help you find the answer to that all-important question: Where do we go from here? We'll create a loving, giving atmosphere that is, at the same time, completely professional."

I pause, but he makes no comment. I think this interview is going marvelously! I smile, enormously pleased. We have a long road yet to travel, but I feel this will be my greatest success. "And about that mask," I add.

"Yessssss?" he purrs pleasantly.

I give him an apologetic smile, for I know he must be attached to the mask. "Some might find it...off-putting. May I suggest that you dispense with it? If you have breathing difficulties, we could fit you with an interlobal attachment, one that won't even show!...when you're fully dressed, of course." I cough. That pesky little Ewok is back. "And the black uniform...well, it has to go.... Hraaack!...excuse me...if I could just -- have a...drinnnkkkk...."

I hear a thud: me, hitting the deck. I believe this task will be even more difficult than I suspected and wonder if perhaps I should revise my approach.


Return to story index