Applied Theology

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Desert Heat
–As narrated by Drake Laser, P.I.

She’s my lady. The first one in my heart. Oh, sure. She’s a wretched hive of scum and villainy. You walk in, you walk out, you’ll get blood on your shoes. Blood. Ichor. Probably weirder things than that. But it’s the place to go if you want to find out the truth. So I went to her. Mos Eisley.

“Always there are three.”

There’s a shriveled green kid. He’s standing on the bar. He’s got ears like starter flags. There’s little tufts of hair in them. He’s ranting to anyone who’ll listen. Right now, that’s me. “Always there are three,” he says. “A Father. A Son. And a Holy Ghost.”

I pass him a coin. “Hey. What’s the word?”

He snatches it up with the Force. He bites it. It’s real. “If a Jedi you want to be, wait in line must you. The Force is very full. Very full.” He looks sly. “If spends this on drinks Jedi master does, not even tipsy he’ll be. Needs strong drinks, a Jedi master does, to attune to limitless universal power.”

“I don’t want training. I want to know about the Death Star.”

The kid narrows his eyes. “Dangerous knowledge that is. If sensible you are, about some other topic ask you will. Perhaps the Love Star.” He pronounces it with a long, long o. “Or the Confusion Star. Easy topics of gossip these are for one with the power of the Force.”

The bartender catches my eye. Then he looks up over my shoulder. I turn. There he is. The Black Cardinal himself. Vader. The kid follows my eye. He squeaks and dives behind the bar. There’s a crash, a gurgle, and then a steady lapping noise. Hit the motherlode, he has.

Vader sweeps up. I can hear him breathing. It’s a slow, steady hiss. He sits down.

“Mr. Laser,” he says. “I thought I told you not to poke your nose in Church business.”

I look at my drink. “It’s not that simple, Cardinal. Death Stars are bad for business. Everyone knows that. And there’s a dame.”

He sighs. “Like a long drink of water?” he says.

“Like a tall white flame,” I say. “She’s got that look. Makes you as wobbly as a Chondakmar on a three-day dancing binge. Legs like a beanstalk. Eyes like two Melybdan laser darts. In that black dress of hers, she could devastate worlds.”

He turns to the bar. “The power of a dame is as nothing compared to the power of the Force,” he says.

It takes me a minute. “Vow of chastity?” I say.

“Shut up.”

“It must be rough.”

“Look,” he says. “We Sith, we’ve got a line to the power. We’ve got a jack into the universal Force. See that guy over there?”

Vader makes a gesture with his hand. Some guy in the corner chokes to death. Everyone pretends it’s normal. I mean, this is Vader.

“I killed him. With my spiritual purity. That’s the power of the Force.” He turns to the bar. He sulks. “Don’t need sex.”

“Listen,” I say. “If you’re so all-fired powerful, why worry about a little guy like me? Let me poke around. I dig up some dirt, give the girl a little data, she knows better than to mess with you, everybody wins.”

He hesitates.

“Here,” I say. “I’ll get you a drink. Barkeep! Two Bothan spies.”

I hear the screams as he tosses them in the blender. He adds some orange juice. He adds some radish. Then he brings them out in cute little glasses.

“Nothing like a Bothan spy,” he admits, and tosses it down. The barkeep brings him another. He hesitates. “What’s she need to know?”

“Well,” I say, “let’s start with the basics. What’s an ecumenical organization need with a Death Star?”

Vader broods over his drink. “Sithism is more than just mysticism,” he says. “It’s an applied philosophy.”

I take notes. This one says “cult.” I underline it twice.

“We believe in achieving enlightened unity with the ‘dark side’ of the force, which represents the primal instincts of humanity. Anger. Hatred. Love. This is the revelation of Palpatine, which drove us to reject the guidance of the Council of Nicea and crush the Councillors under waves of Stormtroopers. But in the end, there’s no point in doctrinal superiority if the people don’t believe.”


He smiles a little. He picks up a salt shaker. He says, “So the theory is, maybe some people on a planet, they start arguing the Balance Heresy, or Rebelism, and maybe we’re getting a little bit tired of the theological arguments. So,” he says. He crushes the salt shaker. He blows the salt away. “Oopsie.”


“Excommunication,” he says. “With extreme prejudice.”

I look down. “So,” I say, “I don’t suppose you’ve got the plans for this Death Star.”

“What the hell,” he says. “Try my website.”

I tip my hat to him. Then I stand. I look around the bar. There’s Han back there, shooting some green guy. There’s a Wook, must be all of eight feet tall, primping herself for the evening’s trade. There’s music and stars and blood and grime and tonight I’ll collect on my hero’s reward.

I walk away whistling. I skirt the corpses and the offal on the streets. Mos Eisley’s a sweet lady, if you watch where you step.

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