Yet another one of my "Imperial character thinking about stuff" one shots. This time I decided to go with one of the less looked at characters on the Imperial side in the Star Wars movies. As always I never owned Star Wars and never will. Therefore I am not making any money off of this piece. Special inspiration for this short story was from the book 1984 by George Orwell. Please leave a review!
Every morning I wake up and make sure my mask is still firmly in place. After I have woken, after I have showered and donned my uniform I spend a half an hour staring at my reflection in the mirror as I observe my mask, ensuring that nothing beneath it is revealed. It is not a cowl, nor is it a ski mask or a domino mask. Rather it is a mask of the flesh. It was once my face, but now it is not. The purpose of a mask is to hide one's true self. And in this my mask is nearly perfect.
The face others see is the face of a model Imperial officer; loyal, competent, and dedicated both to his ship and his Empire.
This face is cold and emotionless, betraying nothing to anyone.
This face is a lie. A lie used to cover up a dark fear that claws at my innards like a wild beast. I have caged this creature, this fear, but should it ever get out it will spell my demise.
I'm old enough to remember the days of the Old Republic vividly. I was a young man then, only 20 when Palpatine crowned himself Emperor. When I was only a young child I would never have dreamt in a thousand years that I would live to see such a historic moment as this. When I was 20 the world ended, and a new one was born from the ashes.
Nearly 25 years have passed since then, and I still yearn for the old world.
To say that the Old Republic was flawed would be like saying that the void of space is black. The Republic in its last years was corrupt. Its society was decadent, its citizens were apathetic, and it's government bloated and incompetent. And yet I still yearn for it despite all of its flaws.
Why? Because it wasn't always like that.
There was once a time when the galaxy's rulers were fair and just. There were elections. There was a free media. The people cared about what happened in their government. People freely and happily discussed politics, voicing their concerns, and yes, criticisms of the government and the policies being enacted by the Senate and the Chancellor of the day.
The system was perfect. How could it fail?
The answer is that the system was too perfect.
The primary purpose of a government is to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare of it's citizens. In this the Republic succeeded all to well.
The Republic enjoyed great successes in its twenty five thousand year history. The Rich got richer and so did almost everybody else. Most people were happy with their success. One could say too happy. People were contented with their pursuit of wealth and material possessions. With this success and contentment came apathy. Soon apathy began to encroach like a weed into the hearts and minds of the citizens of the Republic.
"What does it matter what some politicians on Coruscant do?" They surely reasoned. "It doesn't affect me. It is not my problem. As long as I have my things and my friends and my job I could care less about what the government does."
And the politicians, being the shrewd manipulators that they are took advantage of their constituent's newfound contentment and apathy. They began bending the rules, slowly and discreetly at first, testing the waters to see what would happen. When they found that there was no public outcry against their indecency they decided to push the boundaries further and further. They became more bold and brazen in their corruption. They flaunted their ill-gotten gains. And yet few raised any concern with the situation.
It was someone else's problem.
The Senate, once a dignified institution of law and civilization had now become a den of thieves. The Office of the Supreme Chancellor, once the body by which laws were executed and the very epitome of the dignity of public service was now merely a trinket offered to the highest bidder. The less said about the Supreme Court the better.
It took time, but people finally began to become disgruntled with the blatant corruption on Coruscant. But at this point it was too little, too late. The system was broken irrevocably. In the end the greatest threat to the Republic was not the Sith. It was not the Mandalorians. It was not the Hutts. It was itself. We the people destroyed the Republic through our neglect. My grandfather once said that democracy was like a chain; it is only as strong as its weakest link. I always ignored him and his rambling analogies.
I wish I had listened.
Civil War broke out, forever shattering a thousand years of peace.
Cities were leveled.
People had stopped caring. As long as it didn't affect them it wasn't their problem. But the Clone Wars did affect them. Now that their lives were being threatened people suddenly became very interested in the happenings of government. The Senate's meandering was no longer acceptable. Strong, decisive leadership was desired. The people screamed and begged for someone to do something, anything.
Supreme Chancellor Palpatine happily obliged their requests. He promised the people order. He promised them an end to the war and a return to peace. All he asked for in exchange was the sacrifice of some "superfluous" rights and their silent consent.
The people gladly accepted his condition.
The war ended, as all wars inevitably must and Palpatine did the unthinkable. He stood before the Senate and declared himself Emperor. Not only that, but the Republic was being abolished and replaced with an Empire!
Upon hearing this, the people should have descended upon Coruscant like a plague of angry locusts. They should have marched through the streets. They should have torn Palpatine down from his podium and dragged him kicking and screaming through the dirt. They should have put him on trial for high treason. They should have locked him away in a dark cell, there to rot for all eternity.
But they didn't.
They applauded him.
I applauded him.
This is my shame. At the time I was like so many others. I cheered as Palpatine declared his New Order. I truly believed him to be an honorable man. I believed that the Emperor would bring peace and order to the galaxy. And he did.
It just didn't happen the way I had expected.
Peace and order came about at the receiving end of a rifle. In lieu of diplomacy the truncheon and the shock prod were readily used. People vanished. Many died. But it didn't matter as far as I was concerned. I was still young then, climbing through the ranks of the then newly formed Imperial Navy. As far as I was concerned it didn't matter that people were dying. Those people were criminals and Separatists. And I was doing my part. I was serving the people. I was serving the Empire. I was serving the Emperor, who I thought was a great man.
But things began to change. Soon fellow officers would stop turning up to their shifts. There were no more women serving in the Navy. There were no more aliens either. Those who raised concerns about these disappearances either vanished themselves or would change. It became an unspoken rule in the Imperial Military never to discuss these disappearances. It was best to pretend that those people never existed.
I remember a friend of mine from my old Academy days. His sister had been a Commander during the war and had been dishonorably discharged due to being a woman. He had complained about it. He had disappeared for a week. And then he came back. But he wasn't himself anymore. He used to be a talkative, jovial sort of fellow. Now he barely talked at all. He had this vacant look in his eyes, and his left hand would occasionally shake uncontrollably. He was there, but at the same time he wasn't. His mind had been emptied of all thought.
It was no mystery who was responsible for this; the Imperial Security Bureau; the Emperor's secret police and political officers. They were everywhere. On every ship, on every station, and at every military base they were there. They stalked the corridors, mouths contorted into scowls, their eyes scanning everyone and everything they came across, hungrily seeking out any sign of seditious thought or action so they could gleefully stamp it out. They were judge, jury, and executioner with sole power to execute anyone who they believed lacked "Proper Imperial spirit."
It didn't take much to set them off. A subtle facial twitch, a grimace, a rolling of the eyes. Anything that hinted a person's displeasure for the Empire's policies could result in that person's sudden death. Anything at all, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant could give you away
Hence the mask I wear. Hence the mask that so many Imperial officers wear. You have to train yourself so that the mask becomes your face. You can show no emotion and you can never let your guard down even in the most seemingly private of places. The ISB was well known for routinely bugging officer's quarters if they could get away with it. At any moment you could be under observation. Nothing is private accept for the few centimeters of your own skull. And ever since I came to serve aboard the Executor, flagship of Darth Vader, not even my thoughts were my own. I wonder, does he know about my reservations? Surely he knows. He seems to know things that no man could know. He probably just doesn't care. He probably doesn't care because he knows I lack the fortitude to act or speak out. Whatever the reason every morning I look myself in the mirror and make sure the mask is still in place.
The mask that is my face has aged, just as I have. What happened to the optimistic young lad who had nothing but hope for the Empire he had come to love? He grew up, I suppose. And what had happened to the Empire and the Emperor he had loved? Where had it all gone so wrong?
It went wrong the second Palpatine declared himself Emperor. Things were never okay from that point on. The Empire is evil. It always has been. It always will be. I deluded myself, just like everyone else in the galaxy. I honestly believed the Emperor's lies. I believed in a ten thousand year peace. I believed in the principles of the New Order. I believed I was helping to forge a better tomorrow.
But there is so much blood on my hands. As the years have dragged on I have found it harder to justify the Empire's actions. In the beginning we were bringing Order. The people we killed were Separatists and pirates, criminals deserving of our swift justice. But times have changed. More and more innocent people were being killed. It all came to a boiling point after Alderaan was destroyed. The ISB called them traitors and rebels. But what did they do? Nothing. They did absolutely nothing to deserve their fate. But the Empire needs an enemy to fight. The Emperor needs some justification for the ever growing war machine that is the Imperial Military. The Rebel Alliance is that justification. In a way I envy the rebels their optimism. They still believe they are trying to do some good in this galaxy. I wish I could say the same. I stopped feeling that way after I was forced to order an orbital bombardment on an enemy planet, killing Force knows how many millions of civilians.
Some officers and crewmen of the Empire have defected to the Alliance over the years. Oftentimes I am tempted to follow in their footsteps. But for every man who escapes to the Alliance five are captured, tortured and killed by the ISB. And besides, why would the rebels ever want me? I am Admiral Piett, Darth Vader's personal lackey.
Soon we shall arrive at Endor. The Dark Lord himself has told me that soon the Rebellion shall be crushed forever. I doubt that. The Alliance will surely perish. But the Empire needs an external enemy to justify itself. This is the way it is and this is the way it shall always be. New rebel groups shall arise only to be hammered down again and again. There shall be war without end. History shall become one endless, repeating loop. And there is nothing I can do to stop it.
I have dug myself into this hole and there is no way out for me. And so I shall carry on despite my moral reservations because that is what is expected of me as an officer. I have a duty to the men under my command, and I shall not fail them.
Sometimes it is hard for me to remember my life before I became an officer, before the Empire. Everything before feels like a half forgotten dream. Sometimes it is difficult to believe that there even was a Republic. A new generation has grown up knowing only the cold grasp of the Empire. Soon there shall be none left who remember the Republic. They shall only know the Emperor's lies.
As the Executor drops out of hyperspace and begins its approach to Endor the dreadful form of the Death Star looms above me and everyone else like a colossus. As we draw nearer I find myself gazing at this monstrous behemoth and remembering another one of my grandfather's old sayings.
"He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past."