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More Empire Strikes Back: Parallel Universe

A long time ago, there was a saga that borrowed from another saga. Imagine a parallel universe where the characters in Star Wars can travel faster than light and shoot laser beams, but otherwise behave much more like you and I. Imagine that parallel universe sitting halfway between the fictional universe of the movies and the real one we live in. From the creator of Star Wars: Parallel Universe, More Star Wars: Parallel Universe, Even More Star Wars: Parallel Universe and The Empire Strikes Back: Parallel Universe – in other words, me – comes another installment of the imaginatively-entitled riffs on the greatest movie trilogy known to man. We left the story with the rebels fleeing their base on the ice world of Hoff…

[Han and Leia are running to get to Leia’s transport ship. They are almost caught by the collapse of the roof in one of the ice corridors.]

Han: (Pulls out his mobile phone and starts talking to the Transport’s captain) Transport? This is Solo. Better take off, I can’t get to you. I’ll take her out on the Falcon.

[Han turns and pulls Leia up from the floor whilst talking on his mobile. They hurriedly backtrack down the corridor.]

Transport Captain: (Talking to Han over the phone) Why didn’t you just offer to take her in your ship to begin with? We’ve been waiting for the Princess to board. We made the final call for departures half an hour ago.

Han: The living quarters on the Falcon don’t have en suite. The Princess doesn’t like to share the head with the rest of us. If you’d ever gone after Chewie, you’d understand why.

Transport Captain: It’s not the toilet she should be worried about. I’m amazed you finally got that hunk of junk flying again. It looked like you were working on it to the last minute. Why didn’t you buy a new ship with all that reward money you got?

Han: Don’t call my ship a hunk of junk. She may not look much, but she’s got it where it counts. For a start, she’s got great headroom. They make the ceilings on those new ships too low, and Chewie’s always banging his head when he’s in them. Plus I’ve made a lot of special modifications myself. We converted the Falcon to run on bio-mass instead of that horrible nuclear power stuff. I’m really hoping to get a lot more work from the green smuggling lobby as a result. There’s a lot of money to be made sneaking off-world organic vegetables past custom controls. The only problem is when Chewie starts eating into the payload – he really stinks it up. No wonder the Princess doesn’t like to use the loo after him.

Leia: (Grabs the phone from him) Come on! The stormtroopers are going to be here any minute!

Han: I was just waiting for ‘3PO. He can’t run as fast as the rest of us.

[They get to the Falcon’s hanger and they climb aboard.]

Chewie: (Angry) Bark!! Growl!! (translates as “Where have you been!?!? We gotta get out of here.”)

Han: Did you get everything working?

Chewie: Bark-bark howl (translates as “Not exactly. But I did unblock the head. Good job I did – I didn’t realize you were bringing your moany girlfriend with you.”)

[Darth Vader and a phalanx of stormtroopers approach the Falcon. Inside, Han and Chewie are still desperately trying to get it working.]

Leia: Would it help if I got out and pushed?

[Han stops and tries to think of a witty comeback. He is stumped and just stands there open-jawed, trying to think.]

Leia: Just get on with fixing the ship.

[Leia follows Han around the ship as he frantically tries to get it running. She bites her lip but cannot resist taunting him further.]

Leia: This bucket of bolts is never going to get us past that blockade.

[Han stops and tries to think of another witty comeback. He is stumped once more.]

Leia: (Waving a wrench in Han’s face) Come on, fix it!

[Han is playing with the controls, trying to get the ship to start. They seem frozen, and will not respond. In desperation, he presses alt-control-delete and tries to reboot. This time, the Falcon’s engines buzz into life.]

Han: (Relieved) See!

Leia: Some day you’re gonna be wrong, and I just hope I’m there to see it.

Han: (Repeats back slowly) “Some day you’re gonna be wrong, and I just hope I’m there to see it.” You want to be there the day I don’t get the ship started and we all get captured and slowly and painfully executed by the Empire? Geez, woman. You’re hard to please. You know that time we rescued you from the Death Star, and you said it was too easy and they were letting you escape? I’m starting to understand why they’d do that.

[The Falcon takes off. Darth Vader calmly watches as it does.]

Stormtrooper: Sir, why didn’t you use your dark Jedi powers to bring the roof down on top of them, or to screw up their ship’s systems, so it couldn’t take off? Or you could have just killed them all with that strangling thing you do. I’ve seen you do that kind of thing before, and it’s very impressive. Why did you let them escape?

Darth Vader: We’ll catch up with them, don’t worry. And imagine what they will be like after a few days spent in the confined space of that ship. Between Leia’s incessant nagging, Chewbacca’s toilet habits, and 3PO’s ‘the probability of navigating an asteroid field is eighty-eight billion-to-one’, Solo’s going to endure a far worse torture than any I could muster.

[Luke is walking back to the rendezvous point outside the rebel base, having crashed his snowspeeder and destroyed an AT-AT in single combat. He stops to watch the Falcon taking off. R2-D2 is waiting in Luke’s X-Wing.]

Luke: R2! (Luke waves)

R2-D2: Beep-whistle. (translates as: “Where the F@*K have you been? And will you hurry up? You’re sauntering along like you’re taking a Sunday stroll. We got to get the F@*K outta here!!”)

Luke: (Laughs) I love you R2. I can’t understand a word you’re saying, but the sound of your cheery whistle always makes me feel better, even at the worst of times.

R2-D2: Beep. Toot. (translates as: “Stupid prick.”)

Luke: Get her ready for take-off.

R2-D2: Whistle. Bleep. (translates as: “Well, duh. Do you think? It’s been ready to take-off for the last hour, you moron.”)

[They take off and fly into space.]

R2-D2: Bleep. Beep. Tweet. (translates as: “Hey! What the buggery’s going on here? You’ve changed course…”)

Luke: (Reading a polite version of what R2 says from the cockpit screen in front of him) We’re going to the Degobah system.

R2-D2: Whistle. (translates as: “Now he tells me. Let’s recuperate from the ice planet by going to a world which is one giant swamp.”) Bleep. Tweet. (translates as: “You must be exhausted from your long walk. Why don’t you have a nap and I’ll fly the ship for a while?”) (R2-D2 also shows this last message on the screen in Luke’s cockpit.) Tweet-beep. (translates as: “And once you’re asleep I can fly this ship back to the rest of the fleet and find myself a new owner. One who’s not quite so barmy. Methinks that moisture farming must have left this one with moisture on the brain.”)

Luke: That’s alright. I’d like to keep it on manual control for a while.

R2-D2: Bleep. Hum. Beep. (translates as: “Maybe he’s not so stupid after all…”)

[The Falcon is flying in space above Hoth, closely pursued by a Star Destroyer and several TIE fighters.]

Han: (To Chewie) I saw ’em, I saw ’em.

Leia: Saw what?

Han: Star Destroyers. Two of them coming right at us. (He points at them in the window). I can still outmanoeuvre them.

[The Falcon darts downwards as the two oncoming Star Destroyers almost reach the Star Destroyer that was chasing from behind. The Star Destroyers struggle to change direction to avert a head-on collision. Their crews are thrown to the floor as their ships swing around.]

[In the engine room of one of the Star Destroyers…]

Chief Engineer: (Sat on his chair) You see? That’s why they made me chief. ‘Cos I got the big engineering brains.

Trainee Engineer: (Picking himself up off the floor) What’s that you’re talking about?

Chief Engineer: My invention, of course. Check it out – it’s gonna revolutionize space travel.

[The Chief Engineer points to a strap across his chest and around his waist which is holding him securely in his chair.]

Trainee Engineer: What is it?

Chief Engineer: It’s a bit of strong fabric that holds me in my chair, so even if the ship swings to port, starboard, up or down, I’ll never fall over and hurt myself. It’s got tension, see (he demonstrates by pulling the strap out slowly, then letting go and allowing it to pull taut against his chest again) but if there is any really violent jerks (he demonstrates by pulling rapidly) it jams and holds you firmly in place.

Trainee Engineer: Like an elasticated belt to hold your trousers up.

Chief Engineer: (Unimpressed by the analogy) Yeah – somefink like that. Now I just need to come up with a name for it. I was toyin’ with “space strap”.

Trainee Engineer: Well, it’s like a belt, except for your chair. How about “chairbelt”? Or better still, “seatbelt”?

Chief Engineer: Nah. They’ll never go for fitting something called a “seatbelt” on a space ship. It doesn’t sound scientific enough. It’s got to have a sexy spacey technological name, like “space harness” or “star restraint”.

Trainee Engineer: Sir, what I don’t understand is the physics of falling over in spaceships anyway. Can you explain it to me?

Chief Engineer: Whaddaya mean?

Trainee Engineer: Well sir, it’s like this. We’re travelling at hundreds of thousands of kilometres a second, and we can alter course and go through phenomenal acceleration and deceleration and rapid changes of direction. But if the pilot stuffs up, like he did in that near head-on collision we just had, we only get mildly jostled. By rights, the acceleration should be so great we should be thrown so forcefully across the inside of the ship that we’d be literally flattened against the interior walls. But instead, people fall over like they were standing inside a caravan that went over a speedbump at thirty miles per hour. Why is that?

Chief Engineer: It’s called inertial dampening, which is just a fancy name for the ship’s suspension. In early ships, you were right that the ride was very firm, and people did tend to get flattened into a pancake every time there was a small deviation in course. But with these modern ships, the suspension’s so good you could fly through a black hole and the worse thing that could happen is you might bang your head on these low ceilings.

Trainee Engineer: So why don’t they turn up the suspension a little more? Then people wouldn’t even need a star restraint, and would never need to worry about falling over or banging their noggin’ or whatever.

Chief Engineer: True, but that’d take all the fun out of the ride, wouldn’t it?

[Meanwhile, on the Falcon.]

Han: Prepare to make the jump to light speed.

C-3PO: But Sir! If I may say so sir, I noticed earlier the hyperdrive motivator has been damaged. It’s impossible to go to lightspeed!

Han: No problem. Leia – you go back there and motivate that hyperdrive.

Leia: But I don’t even know what the hyperdrive looks like.

Han: 3PO, you take her back and show her. We need to stay here and keep evading those fighters.

Leia: But how do I motivate a hyperdrive?

Han: You’ll think of something.

[C-3PO leads Leia to the Falcon’s hyperdrive.]

Leia: You’re the sorriest hyperdrive I think I’ve ever seen. Call yourself a hyperdrive? You don’t deserve the name. You’re not even a superdrive. Any decent hyperdrive would have taken us half way across the galaxy by now. But there you sit, doing nothing at all, like the lazy worthless piece of scrap you are. The only thing you’re driving is me – driving me up the wall! Why don’t you pull yourself together and get us out of here?

[In the Falcon’s cockpit.]

Han: It won’t work, but at least it’ll get her off my back for a while.

[The Falcon shudders.]

Han: That wasn’t a laser blast – somethin’ hit us.

[Leia returns to the cockpit.]

Leia: Asteroids!

Han: We don’t have any astrodroids. If we did, I get them to repair the hyperdrive. Why did we have to end up with the protocol droid when Luke gets to take the robot that could’ve gone outside and fixed up this ship in a couple of shakes?

Leia: Not astrodroids! Asteroids! (She pauses as she realizes where they are heading.) What are you doing? You’re not actually going into an asteroid field?

Han: They’d be crazy to follow us, wouldn’t they?

C-3PO: Sir! The probability of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.

Han: What do you mean, approximate? How approximate can it be, if you calculated the odds with the level of precision needed to state it to a factor of one in several thousands? If it was approximate, say you stated the probability to three significant figures, then you’d say the chances are nil.

C-3PO: Alright sir, have it your way. The probability of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately nil.

Han: (Aside to Chewie) I showed him, huh? Now who’s the smart one?

[Luke crash lands his X-Wing in the swamps of Degobah.]

R2-D2: Beep-tweet. Whistle-hum-whistle. (translates as “Well, that’s just great. We’re really screwed now!! Somehow I can’t see the space vehicle breakdown service coming to pick us up from here anytime soon.”)

[Luke opens up his cockpit hatch and throws off his gloves in anger.]

Luke: I said I wanted to get away from the dry, dusty desert, but this isn’t what I meant. (He pulls out his mobile phone.) Would you believe that? The battery on my mobile phone is dead. Now we’ll have to find a payphone to call for a recovery van. (Takes a long look at the swamp around him.) It could be a long walk to find a payphone round here.

R2-D2: Beep. (translates as “I’d better go look for one.”)

[The ship subsides and R2-D2 falls into the swamp. After a second, he raises his periscope above the water’s surface. He swims around.]

R2-D2: Tweet. Whistle. (translates as “Actually, this is rather nice. Kind of like being in a hot spa. But I hope the salts in this water don’t cause my data ports to rust.”)

[A large submerged lizard creature sneaks up behind R2-D2 and swallows him whole. A few seconds later, he spits him out.]

R2-D2: Beep-bleep. (translates as “Eat me, will you? Heh heh, I’d give you rotten indigestion. Good job you spat me out, as it would have been much worse for you if you’d waited until I came out the other end.”)

[Luke and R2-D2 unload their supplies from the X-Wing.]

Luke: Now all I gotta do is find this Yoda, if he even exists. If we find him, maybe we can call the recovery van from his place.

R2-D2: Bleep-tweet. Whistle. (translates as: “So this is your plan? Land at a random spot on a planet you have never been to, and just hope the man you’re looking for lives nearby? What a cretin. The chances of finding somebody like that must be approximately… nil. And you’re not even sure he exists! How long were you planning to spend looking for this character?”)

[Yoda walks up from behind and startles Luke. Luke pulls his blaster from his holster.]

Yoda: Away put your weapon, I mean you no harm. I am wondering, why are you here?

Luke: I’m looking for someone.

Yoda: Looking? Found someone you have I would say, hmm? (Laughs) Help you I can, yes, ummm.

Luke: I’m looking for a great warrior. A Jedi master.

Yoda: Which one? Jedi master Tanah Lot not far from here, he lives. Jedi master Bora Bodur his home he makes in the next big swamp over. Jedi master Chechen Itcha lives a few miles East. Jedi master Sha-na-ram-a-lang-a-ding-dong into the neighbourhood has just moved…

Luke: That’s a lot of Jedi masters. I thought all the Jedi were hunted down and killed. And why are they all living in this swamp?

Yoda: Hmmm. Of course not all Jedi were killed. Exaggeration, that is. I’m Jedi, and I’m not dead, am I? As for why we live here, imagine Darth Vader wading through all this gloop, can you? Mess up his shiny uniform he would. His cloak would get all sodden and havoc with his breathing gear, the swamp gas would play. This is the safest place for us Jedis, now we’ve all turned into cowardly custards and from the Empire have run and hidden. Plus it was cheaper if we went in together and bought a big plot of land between us. Unfortunately, Jedi wages don’t pay so well, and none of us, in belongings, we ever believed, so savings we had few. This most swampy bit of swamp land on this swamp planet, all we could afford, it was.

Luke: Jedi master too are you? – Now you’ve got me talking backwards too – I’m looking for Jedi master Yoda.

Yoda: Me that is.

Luke: Great! What a stroke of luck! Obi-Wan Kenobi sent me. He said I should train with you. I nearly didn’t make it – I was dying from hypothermia when he told me.

Yoda: Sure you hallucinating were not?

Luke: Pretty sure.

Yoda: Spoken to him since, have you?

Luke: No. But I’ve been pretty busy. And he hasn’t been in touch since.

Yoda: Hmmm. Mentioned you, he has not. Not heard from him for ten years. Now he sends you to me. Why? (Yoda has a sudden revelation.) Wait – are you the boy Skywalker? The one Kenobi was keeping an eye on?

Luke: Yes, that’s me!

Yoda: Okay. Train you, I will. Kenobi, did he mention a rate?

Luke: Excuse me?

Yoda: Kenobi, did he explain my fees when to come here, he told you?

Luke: No, he didn’t. I haven’t got any money.

Yoda: (Suddenly angry) No money?! Do you think a charity this is?

Luke: But I thought you said you don’t believe in possessions.

Yoda: That was then. Now, look at me. I wear rags and in the smallest hovel in the worst swamp I live, all because savings I had none. Now listen, Luke. When nine hundred years old you reach, be as poor as me, I hope you will not. Pension, no. Investments, no. Astute financial planning, no. And Degobah social security benefits payments? Generous, they are not. (A tear rolls down his eye). Rats, lizards, newts, eels – this is what I eat. Ashamed, I am. Pay, you must. (Yoda wipes away the tear and straightens himself up.) Rich you look, your clothes are fine and fancy spaceship and droid own, you do.

Luke: The spaceship’s not mine. It’s borrowed. And we only got R2 cheap because he was stolen property. There’s been a terrible misunderstanding. I didn’t realize you expected payment. I’m only a poor moisture farmer, and I’ve been too busy with this rebellion to make money.

Yoda: Too busy, you were, to make money? And your rebel friends, are they also too busy to make money?

Luke: Well, now you come to mention it, I suppose not. Han got a massive payday for making the exact same rescue as me, but all I got was some medal. It wasn’t even made of proper metal – more like the stuff they wrap chocolate coins in. And there’s this girl, Leia, and she’s a Princess and she’s rich…

Yoda: Error of your ways, see you? Rich, your friends are. You, poor, and now, penniless, in this swamp, with me you are stuck.

Luke: Tell you what – if you teach me how to be a Jedi, I’ll get my friends to pay you 10,000 credits when this is over.

Yoda: When over, this is? How long do you expect this to take, hmmm?

Luke: I was hoping to get a crash course. Maybe a couple of weeks, maybe a month?

Yoda: (Laughs and points at the X-Wing.) How to crash, I think you know already. But years and years of training, to be a Jedi, it takes. Start when you are only a very small child, and completed the training would be only by the age you are now. That was with the state of the art training facility we used to have. Now the only training equipment we have will be the sticks and stones in this swamp, and maybe you can climb up some trees, or down into some holes. Not the fanciest equipment. At least twenty years it will take, to train you to be a Jedi.

Luke: Yikes! I wasn’t counting on it taking that long. Is there any way we can speed things up?

Yoda: Hmmm. Not really, no.

Luke: I’ve only got 25 days leave each year. I’ll need to go back after that, especially if you want your money.

Yoda: Teach you a few tricks, in five weeks, I can. Jumping high in the air, doing backflips, making a stone fly in the air, this I might be able to show you in a few weeks. But no refund if you leave empty handed, hmmm?

Luke: And will you show me how to use mind powers to influence the simple-minded, especially chicks?

Yoda: Yes, with that we will start. In that department, as much help as you can get, I can already sense you need.

[Aboard Darth Vader’s super star destroyer.]

Admiral Piett: (Walks briskly towards Darth Vader) Lord Vader! The Emperor commands you to make contact with him.

[In Darth Vader’s private chambers. Darth Vader kneels and looks at the ground as the holographic projection chamber is activated so he can speak to the Emperor.]

Darth Vader: What is thy bidding, my master? (He looks up) Master? Is that you?

[There is a large holographic projection of the Emperor’s head and shoulders, tinted blue.]

Emperor Palpatine: Of course it’s me. Who did you think was calling you? Your mother?

Darth Vader: It’s just that… you look strangely different. I was expecting you to look, well, a little more greenish. Are you wearing make up? And your eyes look different.

Emperor Palpatine: It’s a new foundation I’m experimenting with. I’m trying to cover up some of these scars. Don’t think it will help you with yours, though. And how do you like these new disposable contacts? They’re tinted. I think yellow really suits me, don’t you?

Darth Vader: Yes, I suppose so.

Emperor Palpatine: Come on, Vader. If you can’t tell me what you honestly think, who can?

Darth Vader: It’s been a long time since I worried about such things. And the picture is not very good – interference from the asteroid field, I suppose. But yes, yes, you look good. It suits you. But if you’re worried about the scars, maybe you should think about cosmetic surgery?

Emperor Palpatine: I’ve never been keen on the idea of unnecessary surgery, but I suppose you’re right. Why not? I’m not getting younger. And even with my mind powers it’s not easy to influence chicks to go out on dates with me these days.

Darth Vader: You should be thinking about settling down, my master. Perhaps some children…

Emperor Palpatine: That didn’t work out too well for you, did it?

Darth Vader: No, no it didn’t.

Emperor Palpatine: That’s what I was calling about, actually. The son of Skywalker – probably you should kill him now.

Darth Vader: Kill him? If you say so, but we never bothered before. Why now?

Emperor Palpatine: I can’t afford to have him blowing up expensive Death Stars all the time, can I? They’re not cheap. If he keeps doing things like that, he could destroy us, or worse still, we’ll end up in the poorhouse like that wretched Yoda. Yoda lives in a swamp, you know? No pension, no assets. He lives off the welfare state. Bloody scrounger. Eats worms and heck knows what. I was going to have him killed, but when I realized how far he’d fallen I thought I’d better just let him be. Killing him would be a mercy. But anyway, the Force is strong with the son of Skywalker. He must not become a Jedi.

Darth Vader: That’s rather an odd way of referring to him. He’s called Luke. He’s been living with my stepbrother Owen. At least, he was until I had Owen and his family killed.

Emperor Palpatine: (Surprised) You’ve known about your son all along?

Darth Vader: I didn’t realize it was meant to be a secret. I mean, he lived with my step-brother and his family. I can’t believe they sent him there in order to hide him – that would be ridiculous. Owen and I weren’t close. I hardly knew him, so we didn’t keep in touch or anything like that. I always assumed that my mother’s new family wouldn’t want anything to do with me, what with me hunting down and killing the Jedi. Can’t say I thought about it much.

Emperor Palpatine: But he’s your son! Weren’t you just a bit curious?

Darth Vader: Perhaps, but what was I going to do, go visit them for Christmas? Just drop by and say something cheesy about being in the neighbourhood? No, it was better that I didn’t have anything to do with the lad. Then at least he could grow up in peace and have the kind of normal childhood that I never had. Playing with friends, not being a slave, that kind of thing. I was hoping he was going to end up a harmless moisture farmer like my stepbrother Owen, but when I heard he was the one who blew up the Death Star, I thought that’s that ruined. It’s my own stupid fault – I should never have had the family killed, just so we could find those blasted droids that were carrying the Death Star battleplans. Ironic, huh? I unwittingly spurred my own son to do the very thing I was trying to stop from happening.

Emperor Palpatine: Yes, that is ironic. Almost as ironic as killing him now, after all this time.

Darth Vader: If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.

Emperor Palpatine: Yes, he would be a great asset. Can it be done?

Darth Vader: You should know more about that than me. You turned me to the dark side. It should be much easier to turn this untrained boy. If he takes after me, he’ll be turned in no time. And if he takes after his mother (shrugs his shoulders) then I’ll have to kill him too.

Emperor Palpatine: Lord Vader, you’re professionalism and dedication never ceases to impress me. I asked you to kill your own son, and you’ve reacted by being very philosophical about it. Actually, I was just testing you. I wanted you to turn young Luke to the dark side all along, but I was keen to see how you’d react to being told to kill him.

Darth Vader: You know me, my master. I live for my work. It’s the only thing that keeps me going.

Emperor Palpatine: Well, maybe with your boy turned to the dark side, that’ll give you some refreshed enthusiasm for life. Think of it: ‘Vader & Son: the dark side double act’. He’s got the youth and energy, you’ve got the experience.

Darth Vader: Yes, that does have a certain ring to it. I’ll be sure to suggest it when I see him. But I’ve no idea where he is these days.

Emperor Palpatine: He’s with Yoda on Degobah.

Darth Vader: I’m not going to chase him there. That swamp gas plays havoc with my breathing apparatus.

Emperor Palpatine: Don’t worry, he’ll soon get bored of Yoda’s training program. Do you remember it?

Darth Vader: How could I forget? ‘Over there run, over that jump, that rock lift up, on your back carry me you shall’. ‘Do or not do, there is no try’. How’s anyone supposed to learn anything like that? I don’t think Yoda’s got a proper teaching qualification. I give Luke five weeks at the most. After a month spent eating toads and listening to Yoda’s annoying prattle, he’ll be begging to come to the dark side.

To be continued…

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