Yet More Empire Strikes Back: Parallel Universe

Somewhere between this universe and the imagination of George Lucas lies a wondrous place, made up of rude astrodroids and goofball jedis. It exists in a dimension parallel to The Empire Strikes Back and parallel to our own. In the last installment, we left the story with Han and Leia arriving at Cloud City, and Luke being trained by Yoda in the swamps of Degobah…

[Luke is doing a one-handed handstand, using his Jedi powers to levitate a rock and R2-D2, whilst juggling three balls with his free hand and twirling a hula hoop around one foot.]

Yoda: Concentrate. Feel the Force flow… yes. Good. Through the force, things you will see, other places, the future, the past, old friends long gone…

Luke: (Starts to laugh) You know, I was hanging out at Tosche Station this one time with Biggs, and he saw this girl… well we thought she was a girl…

Yoda: Concentrate, I said!

Luke: I was just telling you some of the stuff I was seeing, what with the Force and all. This Force is great. I’ll never need cable TV again.

[Luke drops one of the balls he was juggling.]

Yoda: Concentrate!

Luke: Okay. But there’s a new broadcast coming through. Ugh! Somebody’s being tortured… they were in pain…

Yoda: The future you see, your friends…

Luke: (Interrupts) I don’t recognize any of them. The victims mostly have brown skins. One is being tortured by having his fingernails pulled out. He is complaining that he’s a British citizen – what’s a British citizen? Some white guys in fancy suits occasionally look in the room and then leave again. When they leave they say that they’ve seen nothing wrong whilst they were in there and keep saying how this has nothing to do with something called ‘extraordinary rendition’. Then they stick their fingers in their ears and hum to block out the sounds of the screams… and then the screams get muffled because the put a bag over the victim’s head and pour water over him – it must be like drowning… how barbaric…

Yoda: Wrong, I was. Not the future. Another universe you must be seeing. More civilized tortures, The Empire uses. Waterboarding banned, according to their Health & Safety policy. Their preferred tortures are things like putting you in a room with a loud car alarm that keeps going off. Pretty annoying, after a while, that gets.

Luke: Wait, now I’m getting something new… there’s a guy in the central bank of planet Nigeriona. He’s got a message for me personally, even though we’ve never met. Somebody rich has died… nobody to inherit his wealth… I could have it all if only I send a small up-front payment to cover the administration charges to process my claim…

[Luke gets excited, and falls to the ground. The rock and R2-D2, who he was levitating, come crashing down as well.]

Yoda: Spam! Your filters, not working they are! Concentrate!

[Lando is escorting Leia, Han and company to their quarters on Cloud City.]

Leia: Are you telling me that this whole city is floating on thin air?

Lando: This planet is a gas giant. (Aside to Leia) But if you want to see something really gigantic, let’s go somewhere private…

Leia: No thanks. Now tell me, it must take a tremendous amount of energy to keep a city of five million people flying in the sky?

Lando: True. It’s very difficult to keep our city flying. We’re a small outpost and not very self-sufficient. We’ve had supply problems of every kind… we’ve had labour difficulties… but recently we found a fantastic new eco-friendly source of energy. Would you like me to show you?

Han: (Laughs) You sound like a businessman, or a responsible leader…

Lando: Sure I’m responsible… it’s the price you pay… (looks at Leia and winks) for being successful.

Leia: So you’re part of the mining guild then?

Lando: No, not actually. Our operation is small enough not to be noticed, which is advantageous for everybody since our customers are anxious to avoid attracting attention to themselves.

Han: Aren’t you afraid the Empire’s going to find out about this little operation, shut you down?

Lando: It’s always been a danger, and it looms like a shadow over everything we’ve built here. But things have developed that will ensure our security. Speaking of which… here’s the city’s new eco-power plant.

[Lando opens the door to the power plant and leads the heroes inside. Inside they see cage after cage containing little creatures that look like teddy bears – Ewoks. A big mechanical hand reaches down and picks up an Ewok by the scruff of its neck. It lifts him high in the air, then throws the Ewok – which makes a long ‘eeeeee’ sound as it falls – into an enormous furnace.]

Han: Urgh, what are these ugly little creatures called?

Lando: Ewoks. They’re a pestilence. They ruin everything they come into contact with. We have a deal with the Empire. They round them up and we humanely dispose of them.

Leia: By chucking them into a big fire?

Lando: They burn surprisingly well. Their insides are made of a kind of stuffing that is both soft and highly flammable. They breed like wildfire, they happily eat garbage, and they have no higher brain functions, all of which makes them an excellent and sustainable source of power.

[C-3PO wanders around a corner, a little out of sight from the rest of the group. He strays too close to an Ewok cage, and it grabs C-3PO’s head, pulling it clean off.]

Leia: Well, I see no problem with burning these horrible little rodents. (In the background another Ewok falls – eeeeeeee – into the furnace.) But you say you did a deal with the Empire? I’m not exactly keen on them, you know.

[The local Jedi masters are enjoying their regular poker game at Jedi Master Tanah Lot’s house on Degobah.]

Tanah Lot: I don’t think Yoda’s ever going to join us. (He throws some chips into the pile.) Call.

Bora Bodur: (Waves his fingers towards Tanah Lot.) You don’t want to call. You want to fold.

Tanah Lot: Puh-lease. You’re Jedi mind powers are too feeble to win that way. Stop trying to cheat and get on with the game.

[With Bora Bodur’s attention distracted, Master Chechen Itcha uses his powers to briefly lift Bodur’s cards from the table, and get a sneak peek.]

Bora Bodur: (Noticing his cards have moved) Oi! (He grabs his cards out of the air) You can’t look at my cards.

Chechen Itcha: Why not? I could sense you were bluffing all along.

Bora Bodur: Well, I can see the future, buddy. And in the near future you’ll be walking home after I win your car, as well as all your money and the shirt off your back.

Sha-na-ram-a-lang-a-ding-dong: Can’t we just play fair for once? Why does every poker game have to be spoiled by using Jedi powers?

Chechen Itcha: You’re only saying that ‘cos you’re winning. Let’s have a look at what’s up those sleeves… (Itcha uses his mindpowers to quickly roll up the sleeves on Sha-na-ram-a-lang-a-ding-dong’s jacket. Out falls the Ace of Spades.)

Sha-na-ram-a-lang-a-ding-dong: (Acting surprised) How did that get there?

Chechen Itcha: I knew it. I sensed you must be cheating. Nobody has luck that good.

Tanah Lot: (Sad) What a shameful bunch we are. We used to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, fighting for justice and freedom. Now we sit round a table, fighting amongst ourselves over a miserable game of cards. We’ve made our homes in a swamp. How did we fall so low?

Bora Bodur: It’s all the fault of Yoda. He went to kill the Emperor but then he chickened out and ran away. And why didn’t that idiot Kenobi kill Vader, when he had the chance? We could still be on Coruscant, luxuriating in the splendour of the Jedi Temple…

Tanah Lot: Come on, it sounds like some of us are getting tempted by the dark side.

Bora Bodur: Do they let you gamble for more than matchsticks on the dark side?

Tanah Lot: Yes, but…

Bora Bodur: And do they let you use your powers to become rich?

Tanah Lot: They do, but…

Bora Bodur: And if we swapped to the dark side, could we get out of this smelly swamp?

Tanah Lot: Yes, but…

Bora Bodur: But what? I say we do it.

Tanah Lot: But we’d end up slaves of the Emperor.

Bora Bodur: Better a slave in a palace than king of the swamp.

Tanah Lot: The Emperor will make us do his dishes, and clip his toenails, and maybe even wipe his bottom.

Bora Bodur: Still better than living in a swamp.

Tanah Lot: The Emperor will make us listen to lots of speeches about preserving the natural order and protecting the people and all that guff.

Bora Bodur: That’ll be no worse than listening to one of Yoda’s sermons. At least the Emperor can string together three words in the correct order.

Tanah Lot: We’ll be bored. We won’t have anyone to fight. We won’t be allowed to do diplomatic negotiation because the Emperor’s just going to kill everyone who disagrees with him. They could do the same trick they did before and get the stormtroopers to try and shoot us in the back.

Bora Bodur: I can live with that risk.

Tanah Lot: We’ll have to comply with the Empire’s environmental recycling policies. We’ll have to put our rubbish into seven separate bins. Green for compostables. Brown for glass. White for paper. Blue for plastic bottles. Yellow for other plastic. Red for tin and aluminium. Black for non-recyclable.

Bora Bodur: What’s compostables?

Tanah Lot: Garden waste, food scraps, stuff like that.

Chechen Itcha: What about cardboard? That’s compostable.

Tanah Lot: That goes in the white bin, with the paper.

Bora Bodur: Why are plastic bottles separate to other plastics?

Tanah Lot: I guess it’s not made of the same kind of plastic.

Chechen Itcha: And I bet they expect you to keep all seven bins inside your house. I prefer the recycling scheme we got here. Throw it in the swamp and let the monsters eat it all.

Bora Bodur: Okay, okay. You win. We won’t go to the dark side. That recycling guff sounds like a real bore. I bet the local authority just tosses it all into the same landfill anyway.

[Luke has completed his training, and Yoda hands him a certificate as a mark of his accomplishments. Obi-Wan Kenobi looks on approvingly. Luke takes a look at his certificate. His mood suddenly changes from happy to angry.]

Luke: Hey, you spelled my name wrong! It’s Sky-walker, not Ski-walker. What kind of a stupid name is Ski-walker?

Yoda: Name as stupid as Sky-walker, it is. At least you can walk on skis. Seen anyone walk on skies, have you?

Luke: At least I have a surname.

Yoda: Certificate, give me. (He grabs it out of Luke’s hand.)

Luke: What are you doing?

Yoda: Certificate, change I will. (Yoda crosses out ‘Skiwalker’ and writes in ‘Skywalker’ instead. He hands it back to Luke).

Luke: (Frowning whilst staring at his messed-up certificate.) That’s just great. I paid double the standard rate for this?

Obi-Wan: Be happy Luke. You’ve just joined the ranks of the Jedi, and in record time too. Now you can go and save your friends on Bespin.

Luke: What?!?!? Are they in danger?

Obi-Wan: Yes. Very serious danger.

Yoda: (To Luke) Ready to face Vader, you are not.

Luke: That’s not what it says on my certificate. (Luke points at the small print which states he is ready to fight Sith Lords.)

Yoda: Yourself, suit you will. But if you fight Vader and lose, refund, none, you’ll get.

Luke: Han and Leia will die if I don’t go.

Obi-Wan: You don’t know that. Even Yoda cannot see their fate.

Luke: Man, you Jedis keep changing your tune. One minute you’re seeing the future, the next you have no idea. I’m outta here…

Obi-Wan: This is a dangerous time for you, when you will be tempted by the dark side of the Force.

Luke: I can believe that. (Waves his certificate) I bet they’re more careful with spelling people’s names on the dark side.

Yoda: No. They’re not. I lost count of how many times, my name, they got wrong. “Yoga”. “Yo-yo”. Even a “Jojoba” once.

[Luke climbs the ladder to the cockpit of the X-Wing.]

Luke: I don’t care about that. (To R2-D2) R2 – fire up the converters!

Obi-Wain: Luke! Don’t give in to hate. That leads to the dark side.

Yoda: Strong is Vader. Mind what you have learned. Save you it can.

Luke: I will. And I’ll return, I promise.

R2-D2: Bleep, flurp (translates as: “You can come back if you like, but you’ll never see me back in this sh*thole.”)

[Luke’s X-Wing takes off.]

Yoda: (Sighs) Told you I did, reckless is he. Now, matters are worse.

Obi-Wan: That boy is our last hope.

Yoda: No. There is another.

Obi-Wan: There’s another?

Yoda: Yes. Forget to mention, did I?

Obi-Wan: You did forget! Who is it? Is it Geoff Quantumslayer, from the planet Ibanjii?

Yoda: No.

Obi-Wan: Is it Anastasia Gridfunklier, on Pakrik Minor?

Yoda: No.

Obi-Wan: (Impatient) Well, why don’t you tell me who it is then?

Yoda: It’s… me! A comeback, I was thinking of making. The moves, I’ve still got!

Obi-Wan: You stupid old frog. You can’t jump around like you used to.

Yoda: (Dejected at Obi-Wan’s dismissive attitude.) Maybe you’re right. Let Skywalker and his sister do all the work, we should.

Obi-Wan: His sister? Do you a think a girl is up to the job? There’s not many girls who got far in the Jedi ranks.

Yoda: How could they? With you and Windu chasing every bit of skirt.

Obi-Wan: Speak for yourself. I lost count of how many of your female padawans gave birth to children with green pointy ears.

Yoda: Right, you are. If given women an equal chance, maybe we’d have had the numbers to defeat the Emperor.

Obi-Wan: Still, I remember this time I was training one young filly. She was strapping, well-built (he gestures as if cupping two large breasts.) I was giving her the old mind powers, you know… ‘you will undo your bra strap… you will undo your bra strap…’ but she was having none of it. Then old Mace Windu came along, and you know what he was like, and he whispered in my ear: “On this one’s planet, they’ve got three sexes. And this one ain’t one of the two that’s compatible with the equipment you’re packing…” The bugger had found out when he’d tried to bed her the night before! (Laughs.)

Yoda: (Laughing, wiping a tear from his eye) Happy days. (Yoda turns) To home, I shall go. Maybe still playing poker, they are.

Obi-Wan: Can I come?

Yoda: I think not. Like you looking at everyone’s cards, they don’t.

Obi-Wan: Oh, go on. You know how boring it is for me, being a disembodied spirit.

Yoda: Alright. But only if you promise to tell that story about you, Windu and those identical twins from Vandor-3.

[Han and Leia are alone in their guest quarters on Cloud City.]

Leia: Something’s wrong here. No-one has seen or knows anything about ‘3PO. He’s been gone too long to have gotten lost.

Han: (Puts his hands on Leia’s shoulders and kisses her on the forehead.) Relax. I’ll talk to Lando and see what I can find out.

Leia: I don’t trust Lando. He’s in league with the Empire!

Han: Well, I don’t trust him either. He cheats at cards! I only beat him because I cheat more! Besides, we’ll soon be gone.

Leia: Then you’re as good as gone, aren’t you?

[Han leans across to give Leia a smooch.]

[Chewbacca enters. He is carrying a box containing the dismembered parts of C-3PO.]

Leia: (To Chewbacca) Don’t you ever knock?

Han: What happened to ‘3PO?

Chewbacca: Roar-growl (translates as: “Those Ewok rodents pulled ‘3PO to bits!”)

Han: (Laughs) Hey, you should go easy on those ugly little fuzzballs. They’re kind of like your miniature cousins. They even have a similar name. EEE-Wok. Wok-EEE.

[Chewbacca motions to rip Han’s arms out of his sockets.]

Han: Hey, hey, I was just kidding!

[Lando comes in.]

Leia: Doesn’t anyone knock round here?

Lando: Sorry, am I interrupting anything?

Leia: Not really. (Aside) Not since Chewbacca interrupted already.

Lando: I’m glad to hear it. You look absolutely beautiful. You truly belong here with us among the clouds.

Leia: I think I’ll keep my feet on the ground, thank you.

Lando: Will you join me for a little refreshment? Everyone’s invited of course.

Chewbacca: Growl. (translates as “I’m parched. I could really do with a beer.”)

Han: If you’re buying, I’m drinking!

Leia: (Frowning at Han) Looks like I’ve nothing better to do either.

Lando: (Noticing C-3PO in the box) Having trouble with your droid?

Han: No. He’s the latest Lego™ model. We took him to bits so we could rebuild him as a go-kart and take him for a spin.

Lando: Robots in disguise? What will they think of next!?! This way…

[Lando leads Chewie, Han and Leia to the tea rooms.]

Lando: I’ve got a very special guest I want you to meet…

[Lando opens the doors to the tea room. Darth Vader sits at the far end of a long table, sipping tea with Boba Fett. Han pulls his blaster and starts shooting at them.]

Darth Vader: (Stands up) Mr. Solo, (raising his hand to absorb the blaster shots) I see your reputation is well-deserved. You really do shoot first.

[Vader uses his powers to make Han’s blaster fly from Solo’s grip, into Vader’s own hand.]

Leia: What do you want?

Boba Fett: I’d like the buttered scones, please.

Darth Vader: I think she was talking to me.

Boba Fett: Oh, sorry. You go ahead and order first. I’m only eating to be sociable anyway.

Darth Vader: She’s not the waitress. She’s Princess Leia Organa. I was hoping they’d join us.

Leia: Join you!?! I’ll never side with the Empire!

Darth Vader: No, I meant join us for tea. They really brew a very good cuppa. Though it’s darn tricky to drink it through this facemask. I use a straw, see? (Vader points at the drinking straw in his teacup.)

Lando: (Holding Han back) What do you think you’re doing? You’re upsetting my new business partner. Lord Vader supplies us with Ewoks for the furnace.

Han: He’s here to get us, you fool.

Darth Vader: No I’m not. I just want Luke Skywalker. There’s no need for any hostility between any of us. Let’s just sit and talk and share some tea whilst we wait for Luke.

Boba Fett: Actually, I’m here for them. At least, I’m here for Solo. He parked in Jabba the Hutt’s space, and he didn’t pay the fine.

Darth Vader: Well, you’ll just have to wait your turn. I want to chat to Mr. Solo and Princess Leia and Chewbacca first.

Leia: What do you want with us?

Darth Vader: I don’t want anything but for us to sit down and enjoy some tea and wait for Luke Skywalker to come and rescue you. He’s on his way already. Once he arrives, you’ll be free to enjoy the remainder of your stay on Cloud City, or leave whenever you like.

Leia: That sounds too good to be true.

Darth Vader: What do you want me to do? Do you want me to torture you? To be frank, I might have done that in the old days, but now I can’t bring myself to go through all the Health & Safety paperwork that comes with it. Anyway, about the worst we can do these days is to make you listen to a car alarm going off repeatedly. It does get pretty annoying after a while.

[A waiter arrives, carrying C-3PO in the box. He hands it over to Han and Chewbacca.]

Waiter: Excuse me, gentlemen. I believe you left your droid in your quarters. Lord Vader requested that your droid join the party.

Darth Vader: (Upset to see C-3PO in bits) WHAT!!??!?! What have you done to ‘3PO? He was the first robot I ever built. ‘3PO was a gift for my mother. Now look what you’ve done to him. He’s in bits and pieces!!!

Han: Hey, it wasn’t us. It was the Ewoks.

Darth Vader: A likely story. (Picks up C-3PO’s head and speaks to it) What have they done to you? (Turns to Boba Fett) Alas, I knew him well. I built him with my own hand. (Vader gestures with his hand) Not this hand, of course. I built him with the hand I had before it got chopped off and replaced by this one. I tried to build this hand too, but I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed a hand. (Turns to Han and Chewbacca) I was just going to let you two go, but pulling old ‘3PO to bits is an outrage. I’ll make you pay for hurting my mum’s protocol droid! Guards!

[A squadron of stormtroopers come running in.]

Darth Vader: Guards, escort these two (points at Han and Chewbacca) to the car alarm chamber…

To be continued…

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