“We will never surrender!” screamed the diplomat.
“Blow them up,” said Lord Vader, and signed off.
The officers looked at each other a moment, then scrambled for the controls.
When all was ready, the Commander announced, “Firing in three… two… one….”
The crew braced themselves. The Commander pressed the button.
Vader turned away from the screen in disgust. Leaning back in his comfy chair, he reached out with the Force and hit pause again.
“It appears there is no power, sir. I think we blew a breaker.”
The Commander cursed. “Well, call the breaker room and have them fix it!”
“The breakers are in, uh, the garage. Sir.”
“INCOMPETENTS!” roared the Commander. He stormed out the door.
Vader was a bit winded, but then, it was a long way from his comfy chair to the system. His mask rasped in the silence as he caught his breath.
He reached out and pressed Power – counted to thirty – pressed it again. Nothing.
“FOOLS!” he exclaimed.
“My system is down. Again.” Lord Vader did not sound pleased.
“I- I’m sorry, sir! We’ll get on that right away! Can I uh- did you-“
“Yes, I tried restarting it! It doesn’t turn on. There are no lights!”
“O-okay, sir. Right away.” He blew the breaker again. I knew we shouldn’t have put it in the garage! Well, at least I’m getting exercise.
The engineer hurried to the elevator.
When the engineer arrived, he was startled to see the Commander himself already there. He was sweating profusely as he worked to reset the crank breaker. The breaker was so large that it required a crank to reset the switch. It was surrounded by a good ten feet of insulation and spaced well away from the main breaker panel.
“S-sir! Is something wrong, sir?”
“Yes, something is wrong! Here, take this!” The Commander stepped aside, fuming.
The engineer took over the crank while the Commander raved. “I can’t believe this. There we are, set to fire, and nothing. Blew a breaker. Pah!”
The engineer stopped cold. “Wh-what do you mean, sir?”
“The superlaser, man! Keep cranking!”
Hurriedly, the engineer complied. “But sir, this isn’t the breaker for the superlaser!”
“Of course it is! Do you see any other giant, crank-operated breakers around here?!”
The engineer paled, thinking back to a particular conversation….
What do you mean there’s no breaker that can handle the load of the RaveMaster 3000? What’s that over there? Is that big enough? Use that!
“S-sir, there’s a p-problem. This circuit powers Lord Vader’s stereo.”
The Commander and the engineer stared at each other with looks of dread.
“Commence primary ignition!”
“We’re charging the laser!”
Impatiently, Lord Vader stood before his system. His glorious receiver, amps, and 48.8 surround-sound speakers. All quiet. He pressed Power again. “Work, damn you,” he muttered. A light came on.
Vader queued up an album and began the long trek back to his comfy chair.
“Systems critical! We’re down again!”
“Somebody do something about this!”
The lead engineer sighed. “Someone’s going to have to talk to him.”
“1-2-3 not it!” exclaimed another engineer.
“Not it!” The words quickly followed from every mouth in the room.
Startled, the lead engineer was too late. He glared at them, then walked reluctantly to the nearest terminal.
“My system is down again!” Vader screamed into the terminal.
Cringing, the engineer tried to speak. “S-s-s-sir, I’ll h-have t-to ask that y-y-y-”
“Spit it out!” Vader was out of patience.
“The circuits are overloaded and we can’t fire while you’re listening to your music!” squeaked the engineer.
The lead engineer fell over, dead. Vader pointed. “You! You’re in charge now. Fix this.”
The engineers scattered, the new lead scrambled for some equipment, then headed for the door.
“And clean that up!”
The new lead engineer ran back, thought a moment, unpinned the command insignia from his predecessor, and began dragging him off by one foot.
“Bridge, this is engineering. I need you to hold off on firing until we can resolve an electrical problem.”
“Lord Vader commanded–”
“Do you want to tell him to turn down the music?”
“Point taken. You are clear to proceed.”
The lead engineer spent the next hour examining the power, the wiring, going over calculations, checking and double-checking, but he kept coming back to the same conclusion. It was close, but there simply wasn’t enough power to supply both the superlaser and Lord Vader’s stereo.
“…life in plastic, it’s fantastic! You can b – don’t you people know how to knock?!”
“I did, Lord Vader, sir, knock, that is.”
Vader stood from his comfy chair and loomed over the poor lead engineer. Robert, his name was. “This had better be important,” Vader’s voice seethed with fury.
The engineer struggled to find his voice. “Lord Vader, I’m sorry but there’s simply not enough power to supply your system and the superlaser at the same time. I’ve run the numbers a dozen times; it simply can’t be done.”
Vader’s voice was deceptively quiet. “You mean to tell me that the most powerful empire in the universe can’t make a battleship that can do its job and play music?”
Relieved somewhat by the genuine note of confusion in Vader’s reply, the engineer replied a bit more casually, “Well, Lord Vader, the system wasn’t in the original plans. And it does draw at least a jiggawatt of power. There’s nothing I can do; you’ll simply need to turn off the music while destroying planets. Why not come to the bridge? Enjoy the show?”
“Hmm, yes. Yes, I think I’ll do that.”
The lead engineer wiped his clammy palms on his pants. “Well, if that will be all, sir…”
“You are dismissed.”
He almost made it to the door before his muscles seized, a spike of electricity coursing through his body.
“Is this enough power?” Lord Vader said, lightning dancing from his fingers.
“We have to do something quickly, or we’re all gonna be sleeping on the sun tonight.”
“But what can we do?!”
“Think of something!”
“I’ll handle it,” said a voice in the back. The engineers turned to look.
The voice came from behind a bench piled with equipment to the size of three storm troopers in a pyramid formation. The owner of the voice spoke absently, as though he was preoccupied – which he was, in truth. He fiddled with knobs and levers as ash from a cigar in his lips made neat piles on the floor.
“This is important!” said someone, severely. “Our lives are at stake here!”
The man at the bench put down his work, stepped around the pile of equipment, and stared flatly at the rest of them. He brushed futilely at the ash on his shirt, puffed at his cigar, and said, “I’ll take care of it,” and walked off.
The officers cheered as they watched the remnants of the planet drifting off into space. The Commander plopped into his chair, exhausted. “Jones,” he said, “I think we could all use a stiff drink.”
“Aye, sir!” replied an underling, grinning as he left.
Vader sat in his comfy chair, staring up at the ceiling. Music filled the room to bursting, which is saying something given the size of it. Lasers drew patterns in a haze of lazily swirling smoke above. One song ended, another began.
“Oh, I love this song!” exclaimed Vader with glee, clapping his hands, once, not at all like a little girl.
I’m the kinda girl who doesn’t say a word…
“How’d you do it?” asked one engineer, then another, and another…
The new lead engineer smiled.
“It was simple. Lord Vader’s getting up there in the years; his hearing’s not what it was in his youth. The high frequencies are the first to go. I siphoned power from the amps to his tweeters into the superlaser to make up the difference. It will only matter for a moment and only while firing. He’ll never notice.”
“Brilliant!” they laughed. “But that’s so simple, why did it take you so long?”
“Oh, that. I didn’t have a big enough heat sink, so I installed a surface vent to radiate the excess heat into space.”