Friday, January 13, 2017

Darth Vader and the Weight of Pain

In the cold dark hallway of a Rebel Alliance starship, a handful of Rebel troops, frantically download the plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star.  Never has a sense of urgency been experienced to this degree for the Rebel Alliance’s fight to end oppression and fascism in the galaxy.  As one Rebel troop finally completes the downloaded transmission from the Imperial occupied tropical planet of Scariff, he heads to the door leading to the docked Tantive IV to hand off the critical plans to the Death Star.  The door closes on him slowly, just enough for him to curse the fate of being even two seconds too late.  He pleads with the other Rebel troops on the other side of the doorway, who are also in a panic, but they are too preoccupied with their own duties to hear his faint cries for help.  As the desperation in his voice turns to defeat, the electricity goes out.  The hallway becomes impossibly black.  They are trapped.  There is only silence, and the Dark Side of the Force.

As the Rebel troops stand in the hallway, the panic begins to settle down.  The hallway seeming so short, and infinite all at the same time.  Fifteen feet in, there is the light that ends abruptly into nothing but darkness.  It is a pitch black that could make the hallway seem as if it goes on forever, possibly into the worst fears a person could ever know.  What stands waiting is worse.

A lightsaber ignites, a brilliant red, just light enough to show, that in this hallway, there is now a monster standing before them.  The red, faint illumination shows that there is someone (or something) here with them now, but also, to remind them that the Dark Side is in control here.

The Dark Lord, Darth Vader stands staring at his prey.  He waits for them to make the first move.  The Rebel troops are in awe at the mysterious figure that towers in the hallway.  While the Rebels look at and examine Vader, they recall stories told around the thermal heater, of a dark imperial figure.  Everyone wondered if  he, or it was real.  It wasn’t a Stormtrooper, or even a Royal Guard.  The accounts were vague at best.  A man, larger than most, dressed in black, a long flowing cape, and flashing lights popping through the silhouette of pure black.  It was the kind of black that a man felt could envelop him, and not know where the darkness begins or ends, but was quite sure that it guaranteed death (or maybe worse).  This was a legend.  A myth.  However, it was a myth that was standing in front of them now, and its call to darkness demanded satisfaction.

It was indeed a silhouette, but the Rebels could see more than the empty black described from the terrifying stories.  Its eyes were red, and the armor looked strong, and imposing.  But there was something else there.  Something that could be felt, rather than seen.  It was like a vacuum, sucking their own fear out of the air, to give the Dark Lord his power.  Inside of its cape was the vacuum.  An infinite abyss to all that makes the galaxy cold, and vicious.  It was as if it was pulled into the being, and displayed through the faint red glowing eyes.  In its eyes were where it put all the pain, fear and suffering in the galaxy on display. 

Was this a man, a machine, or a monster (perhaps all the above)?  Whatever it was, it was no Jedi.  Not one they had ever heard about since the extinction of their kind.  At least not from what their parents have told them.  But it did carry the weapon of a Jedi.  The blade is red, like the Dark Lords eyes.  The faint heat was giving the room a conflicting feel of comfort, and stark cold.  The hum of the lightsaber was all the Rebels could hear in the room, except for the breathing.  It was breathing, so it must be human.  Or at least part human.  But it wasn’t a normal man’s breath.  It was deep, and mechanical.  The bass from the aspiration made the Rebels hearts skip beats.  Some wondered if their own hearts were going to remember what the rhythm was to keep a man alive.  Some wondered if that would even matter at this point. 

Whatever the reason this Dark Lord was confronting the Rebels, the time to be afraid had passed, and there was still a mission to accomplish:  These Death Star plans needed to make their way to the other side of the malfunctioning door.  The Rebel troops in the front line opened fire on Darth Vader with their DH-17 Blasters.  As the blasts of red exploded from their weapons, they could feel their focus being rewarded as the aim was true.  True enough to make its way towards Vader without too much effort.  Vader chose to show the Rebel exactly what “little effort” truly meant as the laser blasts danced off his crimson lit blade, into the walls and ceiling of the stark white hallway.  The blasts mar the walls with deep char-coaled pits, with a hot fiery center.  Blast after blast kept coming, but to no avail, the mark could not be hit. 

Vader slowing moved forward raising a powerful hand into the air as one of the Rebels followed the gesture.  His body twisting, and contorting to positions not normally capable of.  A snap could be heard, but his Rebel comrades could not give the proper attention to even look over at him, much less figure out which bones in his body have been broken.  As Vader passes the helpless Rebel firmly attached to the ceiling, his lightsaber blade reaches up in a swipe, to cut the trooper down as the Rebel feels his spine separate from the lower portion of his body.  The Rebel smashes to the floor, as Vader releases his grip on the young soldier, almost as if he were a play thing a child became bored with.  The Rebel swears he could feel the pain in his lower torso, but is still aware enough that it no longer belongs to the rest of his body.  He stares above, as a mountain of black dully passes over, hoping that his inevitable death was not in vain. 

More blasts bounce off of the Dark Lord’s blade, but now they are focused ricochets.  Two of them hit a couple of Rebels, as they fall to the floor screaming.  Wanting to help their fallen brothers, they are at the same time desperate for help of their own. 

As the Rebel with the Death Star Plans turns to the door he hears the moaning of his fellow soldiers succumbing to the raw show of power that is the Dark Side of the Force.  He doesn’t dare turn around.  Darth Vader, unbiased and focused on one goal and his hatred for everything that stands in his way, runs his lightsaber, burning, hot an bright through the last Rebel, and then straight through the metal blast door.  The blast door roughly four inches thick, might as well been made of paper, as far as the lightsaber were concerned.  The Rebel pressed against the window, is pinned against the door.  He feels the lightsaber laying there, lit, inside his chest cavity, burning hot like the twin suns of Tatooine.  The pain increases as the molten metal burning away from the blast door falls into his own wound to cool, and solidify.  He reaches out his hand, around the small opening in the jammed door frame, no more than 3 inches wide.  He feels the touch of another human being, and looks up.  The Death Star plans are on the other side, staring back at him, and so are the eyes of the brave Rebel to take them from him.  With the Rebel trooper’s mission accomplished, he gives himself permission to expire, and fade away, perhaps even with the Force.

Death Star plans in hand, the soldier bids farewell to the Rebel Trooper who gave his life for a greater cause.  Caught off guard he notices the blade of red permeating through his comrade, and the door.  Slivers of white hot metal, vomiting from the door, the blade was just resting in place.  On the other side of the window, he sees it.  The monster that laid waste to his fellow soldiers: Darth Vader.  There was maybe five feet between the soldier and the Dark Lord, separated by nothing but that door.  How long the door was going to keep Vader on the opposite side was a whole other concern, all together. 

The Trooper, like his fallen brothers, looked straight into the red eyes of the Sith Lord.  There was a world unknown to him.  At first glance, true, it was evil.  But past the evil, there was a mystery that one could only hope to not go insane from unraveling it themselves. 

Darth Vader peers back at the Rebel Trooper through the scuffed window.  Vader sees the Death Star Plans plainly in front of him, with the thick steel door blocking his victory.  His anger flares his mind into a rage.  He doesn’t show it.  The Dark Lord instead internalizes his failure.  He is a slave to his emotions, as he is a slave to his Emperor, the Jedi Order before that, a junk dealer before that, and finally to the people he has loved in his past life.  It is a weight that forces him into a never ending cycle. 

It has been twenty years since Darth Vader has put on the suit that now keeps him alive.  He harkens back to the moment he decided to throw away a heroic life.  Grasping at the ash of Mustafar desperate to reach his old master, while using the only limb he had left:  one mechanical arm.  This arm, a symbol of his failure, was now accompanied by three more failures, his other arm, and both legs, which were removed by his Jedi mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi during a fateful lightsaber duel.  As bad as the pain was, it paled in comparison to the pain of his ultimate failure:  the murder of his wife, and unborn child by his own hand. 

Vader in a sense has only known slavery.  He was born into it.  Not even by his mother’s choice, but by shear will of the Force.  He was to be born whether he or his mother liked it or not.  Darth Vader knew this now.  In retrospect, he has spent his whole life trading one form of slavery for another.  Servitude to a greedy junk dealer, only knowing of what it was like to give.  The denial of his true feelings, never being allowed to love, hiding, ashamed, that the Jedi Order would find out about the one thing that had ever made him happy: his wife Padme’.  But as a Jedi, your heart belongs to the people, if anything at all.  Never are you allowed to have anything for yourself.  Here in the galaxy, as a Jedi Knight, you are required to give it all, and never receive anything in return.  Even something as simple as the touch of another was forbidden. 

And the Emperor.  If there was any pinnacle of slavery in Vader’s life, it is his devotion to his Master.  Training in the ways of the Dark Side can take its tolls on the mind.  It is made to rip apart the very essence of one’s own sanity, to only be reassembled into a mound of thoughts black, and focused.  Many nights, the torment of the Emporer’s training kept Vader in the pit of darkness.  The walls ever so high, that only his fingertips touch the edge.  The edge he knows is there to remind him of his former life that is not his anymore.  His mother, Shmi, Obi-Wan, Master Yoda, countless Jedi, and Younglings reaching for his hand, only to be denied by the firm grasp of the Emperor, and the Dark Side.  But it was Padme’.  She is there too, standing in the crowd, never at the front.  She isn’t reaching at all.  Why should she?  She is the reason Vader is here in the first place. The Dark Lord killed his wife.  He killed his child.  Darth Vader knows he deserves no better than this.  The Emperor knows this too. 

As a slave to his own pain, Darth Vader will be forever loyal to the Emperor.  The Sith that have come before Vader, have always wanted nothing but their own power, and glory.  Vader wants nothing.  He has nothing.  He powers through every day and every night, as the ultimate tool of the Dark Side of the Force.  A willing and loyal lap dog.  One that stares at his own ripe failure: the just out of reach Death Star Plans. 

The Rebel Trooper sensing the evil, hatred, and pain on the other side of the door, breaks the trance of the monster.  He takes one last look at the horrid figure, wishes his fallen comrades farewell, turns around and runs, never looking back in fear that the Darkness may take him, the same as it took the monster trapped on the other side of the melting blast door. 

Darth Vader looks on while the Rebel, with the plans in his possession, fades away into the corridors of the Tantive IV.   Smoke fills the room, and Vader extinguishes his saber, making a faint hiss, as the blade removes itself from the door and the unfortunate Rebel.  The body crumbles to the floor, with no life remaining.  The trooper makes a weak thud, while the molten door begins to dim, and the white hot mess starts to cool solidifying in random drips and crawls of melted metal.  Vader pays no attention to the death and pain in the room.  He has plenty of his own to think about.  The Dark Side calls back to the Dark Lord of the Sith, and demands more.  It forces Vader to peer into the future. 

In this future, Darth Vader can see the Death Star plans in his triumphant hands.  Governor Tarkin congratulates him in his efforts, and loyalty to his Empire.  The Dark Side promises everything to Vader, including praise from the Emperor himself.  Vader shakes away these images, as such praise has always meant very little to him.  It has always been the mission, the journey, and the death.  How many more people will die by his hands in seeking these plans?  Vader looks to the Dark side for that answer.  It is an answer that is vague, and full of promise.  A future that can be seen, and not determined.  He looks further, past the Death Star plans in his hand.  First there is an empty dark space, as the future is always difficult to predict.  Beyond the darkness is a figure reaching out.  He believes it to be Padme’ at first.  Lord Vader looks closer.  It is a boy, maybe 12 years of age.  He looks like Anakin Skywalker, but it isn’t.  Dust and sand is in his hair.  Adventure is in his eyes.  Darth Vader becomes confused by the obscure vision and immediately dismisses it.    Vader recalls that the Dark Side does promise its slaves a future in their control, but he realizes that it can also lie.

Darth Vader comes to, as he thinks there is no time for such things as his feelings.  He signals back to his Star Destroyer, readies a boarding party, and sets coordinates for the chase to begin.  Regardless of the demands of Tarkin, the Emperor, or even the Dark Side, Vader will obtain the Death Star plans by any means necessary.  People will die, as they always have, and always will.  As long as Darth Vader vows to remain true to his pain, and serve it to the very end.