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Selling the Dark Side


Old Guy
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I'm organizing a battle north of Surakan, involving the surviving lads and a few magicians. Meanwhile, my ever-active imagination conjured this up.

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Selling the Dark Side

A retrospective by Dandoo Krang, Marketing Expert to the Sith

"Sir." My assistant, Valia called to announce my next client. I thumbed the response key, but did not select video mode. Most executives like to look at their callers and be viewed in return. I do not. My face is frankly more suited to a dock superintendent in the freight yards of Drall than to a Master Marketing Tech. Besides, when Valia's image is on the screen I can't keep my eyes off that magnificent set of gaboomas.

"The Evil Lord Tim awaits." Her husky voice held a hint of droll humor.

I hesitated long enough to quell an incipient chuckle. "One of Palpatine's brood?"

"Correct, sir. Shall I send him in?"

After answering in the affirmative, I left my desk and went to meet this new client. Palpatine, or Darth Sidious, as he is now called, was a valued customer. His Sith organization always paid bills promptly and he referred to me a constant stream of associates in need of marketing therapy. His legacy is problematic. Even then, some made arcane gestures at the mention of his name. Others paled when they discovered I was on his most exclusive guest list for parties, orgies and the occasional execution. Dark Lord of the Sith, as he was sometimes titled, an invention of my own and one of the reasons for his high opinion of my talents.

Fester Leroy, how your new name and title changed you. But, I digress.

This new client entered in a vile yellow-green robe fretted with tiny metal bits that jangled in a distressing way. His matching leather helmet and half-mask were adorned with similar pieces of gaudy. The exposed mouth and chin were so disfigured I nearly lost my lunch.

Stomach under control, I extended a hand. "Lord Tim. Please have a seat." He said nothing, but merely went to the indicated chair and sat down. His one-piece suit was of a rusty red, with (I swear this is true!) bright yellow boots. May the gods strike me down if his leather togs weren't of human origin. The man was a walking monorail accident.

He began. "I have come -- ah -- at the behest of my mentor, Darth Sidious. He has extravagant praise for your advice and -- um -- discretion." His voice was high and cracked, like a school boy's. How had this 'Evil Tim' made it out of basic overlord training?

I took my seat and activated a force field between us. He noted the shimmer, but deigned not to comment. I inclined my head and began the usual spiel.

"Evil Lord Tim, I must start by informing you of certain technical aspects of my agreement with your master. To begin with . . ." He waved away my explanation.

"I have read the contract. Your relationship with Darth Sidious is unique in my experience. Even we senior underlings do not have the protections you have been given."

"Indeed, sir, I believe that to be true. However, since we are dealing with -- ah -- information of a personal nature and because of the impact my advice has had on the Sith Organization, the Emperor erected substantial safeguards for my well-being."

"Emperor? Is he calling himself that now?" Tim rubbed the scraggly few hairs on his recessed chin. "I haven't been to court in some weeks."

I made a dismissive gesture. "A temporary vanity, I imagine." I assumed a benevolent posture and asked the evil one what he sought.

"Respect," he whined. "I get no respect."

I responded with a soothing murmur and waited. Even the most bloodthirsty slaughterer in ten worlds has an inborn need to explain, confess, excuse . . .

"I tire of crushing tracheas. People point and laugh when I go shopping. Even a refreshing jog along the beach draws catcalls." His whole being exuded sadness -- along with a disturbing rotten flesh smell. His leathers had been poorly cured. I adjusted the room air system a trifle.

"Do go on."

"Some scoffers have escaped me, I fear. I can only crush one trachea at a time, you know. And sending mind bolts is tiring. In spite of my best efforts, many hecklers get away."

"I see. Mind bolts can be a bit messy, as well. With all the splattering, I mean."

"True." He sighed. "The Overlord of Maintenance has been on my case about that."

I steepled my fingers and nodded. Most murderous psychotics respond to such gestures. He was no exception. "Tim -- ah, may I call you Tim?"

He shrugged. "I prefer Lord Tim, but -- as you wish."

"Tim, your problems are easily solved. We have but to give you a more energetically threatening name, train you to walk as if you were crushing skulls at each step, and make some alterations in your -- um -- wardrobe." I jotted down some ideas.

Predictably, he lifted the hem of that execrable cape. Metal jangled. "What's the matter with my clothes? I got this outfit at Tyrants-R-Us! It cost an ugly sum, I'll tell you."

"I'm sure it did. However, as you will see, we can supply something more in keeping with a merciless, yet diabolical fiend." I held up a hand. "Don't try crushing my trachea, Tim. The field prevents it and if you succeeded, the Emperor would have you ripped into rough quarters by his favorite tauntauns."

Evil Lord Tim slumped back in his chair. "Sorry. My temper gets the best of me at times." He flashed his few remaining teeth in a grotesque smile. I made a note to do something about that face. In a nearby workroom, my technicians were already working on Tim's refurbished -- nay! -- on his NEW image. Dandoo Krang does not merely fix images -- he creates a masterpiece, an attitude, a reality that did not exist before. Thus, my friend Palpatine's confidence in me. (Yes, I begged him to lose that name. Alas, he refused, though he seldom uses it these days.)

I thrust aside old business. This creature before me needed a new name.

"Darth," I said. "But Darth what?"

"What is this Darth naming fad?" asked Tim. "Even the -- ah, the Emperor has taken it up."

I permitted myself a bit of bragging. "It is no fad, sir. I, Dandoo Krang, developed the handle, to be used only by Palp -- I mean, by Darth Sidious and his evil cohorts."

"But -- what does it mean?"

"Mean? Why it means nothing but evil." I laughed at his naiveté. "Oh, the word has roots in ancient tongues. Variations appear in spells uttered in the dawn of our species, if not before. But the name has no real definition except that supplied by its bearers. You, Timmy, will infuse the word "Darth" with the full context of it's evil, rotten, scabrous, vile meaning." I fixed him with a stern glare. "No mortal will ever forget Darth -- Darth -- Darth . . ."

"Darth who?" Were those tears glittering in his eyes? No. A trick of the light, surely.

"It will come to me. The right name sometimes takes effort."

He laughed. "You are truly evil, Dandoo Krang."

"Nay, I am but a marketing genius. The really evil are all in tech support."

Valia spoke just then. When interviewing a client I transfer intercom calls to my audio implant. "I'm ordering lunch, boss. You want that sandwich you like -- what's it called?"

"Yes, please. Vader's eel on a bun," I replied, forgetting to sub-vocalize. She clicked off.

Tim looked up. "Vaddereel? That sounds like something to eat."

"Um -- it is. Sorry. I was ordering lunch. Forgive me for not asking if you want something. We might be at this for several hours yet. I can recommend Vader's eel sandwich or his bantha barbeque or even the stewed space slug. "

"I -- sure." He shook his head. "Soup of the day. Doesn't matter."

I slammed a fist to my desk. "Now that, by the gods, is a definite evil-guy no-no!" My emotions, my professional pride got the better of me for a moment. "Are you a fiend in the shape of a man or just some mummer acting out a sick fantasy?"

A new light came into his eyes. Again that horrid smile. "Both, I think." He sat up straighter. His voice sank several octaves and took on a new menace. "I'll have the bantha. Rare. And tell them if it's overdone I'll crush their tracheas."

"Right." In halting words I passed the order on to Valia. My hand trembled as I entered some further instructions for my staff. Initial breakthroughs always make me want to weep.

"Darth Vader," I whispered. "Darth Vader." The smell of hot blood and voided bowels seemed to fill the room. I tasted fear and impending doom. It was perfect. Now, to make him into a real monster -- or at least make him look the part. A green light flashed on my desk. My ever-vigilant, always imaginative staff had the answer -- or more correctly, they had AN answer. Homicidal maniacs must sometimes be coaxed into existence. We might have to improvise.

A pair of helpers swept in. I signaled Tim -- Darth Vader! -- to rise. He allowed them to take his old garments -- right down to the white trunks, these embossed with tiny red hearts. I waved the two assistants away. "Leave the shorts. They are a bitter counterpoint to evil."

His prosthetic leg gave us some trouble, but we finally got him into a black undersuit -- complete with cooling coils -- combat trousers and tunic -- armored, of course, all in black -- and boots in a black so deep as to suggest the Endless Void.

My chief assistant closed the last flap, made small adjustments to an array of tasteful, yet minimal military badges, then stepped back.

Our client walked across the room, stopped to rotate before a full-length mirror, then stalked back to us. Stalked! His whole demeanor changed with each step.

"I feel like -- like a new fiend," he murmured.

"Wait!" cried my assistant. "Wait until you see the helmet!" The bio-medical tech brought it in.

With a few deft motions the tech made the necessary connections to the uniform and settled the thing in place. "Give it a moment," he told Vader. "There are self-actuating interfaces. Once in place and bonded, it will be death to remove."

A new being stood in my office. A few small whimpers escaped him as the helmet took possession of various facets of his brain, facial structure and, perhaps, his very soul. Some of the technology used is of alien design and little understood.

The helmet was black, which barely hints at the feral nature it projects, the depravity of spirit that taints the very air about it. Black it was, and evil, deliciously evil. I wanted to rush into the outer office and ravish Valia at her desk. Common sense restrained me. Besides, the vixen would enjoy it too much. I decided to wait -- wait for the night and the whips and chains.

"I like it." Vader's voice struck fear into us all. He flexed his right hand. The assistants fell back. I waved them out. No sense losing good help while our client worked on his new persona and tested his enhanced abilities.

"The powered glove will make smashing tracheas less tiresome." I stayed well clear. It's one thing to have protective language in a contract and quite another to stay safe in the vicinity of a newly hatched madman. Distance and a top quality force field outweigh mere words.

"Hah!" He marched to and fro, menace trailing in his wake. Suddenly, he stopped and focused on me. "But -- we haven't settled on a name."

"Yes we have." I savored the moment. Like launching a starship, giving monsters their true names ought to have a certain amount of ceremony. Alas, I had no cheap wine to smash over his newly armored noggin. I went to one knee. "I christen thee Darth Vader. Lord Vader!"

He stood silent for a long moment. "Vader. Darth Vader. Lord Darth Vader." Woe filled my heart. I felt the presence of scaled beasts, smelled burning flesh. This time I did weep.

"But wait," he said, in those deadly tones. "I can't be named after another. What of this fellow, Vader, the purveyor of eel sandwiches?"

I laughed. "A trifle, my Lord. The man will gladly take a new name." My laughter swelled into a gloating cackle. "Or -- you can just crush his trachea."

End

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Well, we all need our little props and delusions.

And co-dependent friends.

No one is less popular than the fool who always tells the truth.

Heh. Evil Overlord Tim just needed something to believe in -- and a decent costume.

Jim

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