(Maundy Thursday) The Messiah Incident1

1 God plays not on the radio; it speaks the ranging of our eff.

TESTIMONY OF DRAKE LASER, P.I.

It all started a long time ago, in a neighborhood far, far away, in the time of the Old Republic. Some dame in the desert went and got herself knocked up all on her lonesome. It was all over the tabloids. “Virgin Birth!” trumpeted the Tatooine Herald. “Is God an Adulterer?” shrieked the Mos Eisley Times. Even the Jedi got in on it, sent down their men to run the paternity, and sure enough, she’d been having congress with the Holy Spirit. “It’s a miracle,” they said. “Is this the child foretold?”

NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS

Exploding Dreadnought Guides Wise Aliens to Virgin Birth.
TATOOINE, Enda 12—It seems that even the agonizing fire-and-decompression death of everyone aboard the Republic Dreadnought Bethlehem has a silver lining. According to the three wise aliens who brought gifts to the bedside of the miraculous child, “the brilliant light of the exploding ship burned in the sky above his town, like a beacon sent by God.”

Miracle Child Heals Blind Robot!
TATOOINE, Mao 2—In what’s sure to be the first of many miracles, young Luke, child born unto us from the Holy Spirit, restored a blind robot’s vision. “It wasn’t nothin’,” said the truculent Luke, as yet unready to face his brilliant destiny. “I just puttered around with the optical circuits.” Nice try, Luke! The SD-1 series of robots doesn’t have eyes.

Miracle Child Baptized in Moisture Trap
TATOOINE, Iue 9—Luke, known to our readers as the glorious son of the Holy Spirit, visited with John the Baptist today. John declared, “I ought to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me?” Yet Luke said, “Suffer it to be so now. For it so becometh us to fulfil all justice, and my Aunt and Uncle insist.” So John said, “There is no river and no water to wash away thy sins, yet I shall shove thee into a moisture trap and wet thy brow with steam.” And it was done.

TESTIMONY OF DRAKE LASER, P.I.

A few years later, I started hearing about this new designer drug. They’d talk about it in whispers. “Mitichlorian.” The kids were wild about it.

“It puts you in touch with . . . a greater power,” Rick told me. “It’s like suddenly you and the universe are one. You’re part of this grand universal life force.”

“Felt like that once,” I admitted. I stirred my drink.

“Oh?”

“She dumped me.”

NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS

Jedi Council Shuts Mitichlorian Controversy Down
CORUSCANT, Midi 19—Senators arguing to schedule the new drug “Mitichlorian” found themselves peculiarly speechless today as the Jedi Council used the Force to paralyze their vocal cords. “We support the Senate,” the councilors said, “in sending a message to the youth of the galaxy that mitichlorian is unsafe for recreational use. However, despite our absolute neutrality, we feel that its medical applications are too significant to endorse a blanket ban.”

TESTIMONY OF DRAKE LASER, P.I.

Then they found Rick dead. He’d slaughtered himself in the desert, out by a crude rock altar. The expression on his face was beatific. Peaceful. It didn’t matter. My friend was dead. So I made some inquiries. I put out some feelers. And when that didn’t work, I went to Mos Eisley, to find out for myself what Mitichlorian really was.

“Rooaoroagh,” the Wook told me.

“I don’t have time for inarticulate rage,” I said. “I need hard data.”

“Roaogh?” the Wook said.

I nodded. He held up four fingers. I flicked my eyes up to the barkeep. “Four for the Wook,” I said, so he slid them down the bar. “And one for me.” The drinks clinked, one against another, as the glasses lined up. I picked one up and made my devotions to Old Ma Liquor.

The Wook clinked a speech box down on the bar. His paw played against its buttons. “What Do You Need To Know?” it asked.

“Mitichlorian.”

“Church Bus-i-ness,” the speech box said. “You Need The Car-di-nal.”

“Vader?” I said. I muttered a Wook curse under my breath, and my snitch looked impressed. “That’s all you’ve got?”

The Wook looked over the drinks. He drained them, one by one. He looked thoughtful. He rubbed his fingers together, as if around coins, and then held two of those fingers up.

“Two hundred?” I said. He shook his head. “Two thousand?

“Rarogogoragh,” he affirmed.

“It’s good data?”

“Raog.”

Unhappily, I took out my billfold. I counted out two thousand. I started to pass them across. Then the tip of a litsaber emerged from his throat. I yelped and fe—sprang nimbly backwards. My drink crashed across the ground, one more layer of nameless grime on the paleontological record of the floor.

The litsaber withdrew. The Wook toppled. Vader was there. He wasn’t the black cardinal yet. Sithism was still just a gleam in Palpatine’s eye. You couldn’t hear Vader’s breath. You could see his face. But it was just as bleak back then. Just as cold. Just as hard.

“This,” he said, and held up the murderous blade, “is the liturgy of the Force. And you, Mr. Laser, should stay out of Church business.”

“I’ve always wondered,” I said, through grit teeth, “if your liturgical sabers would work on the pure of heart.”

He advanced on me. I could hear the sweep of the cape he did not yet wear. “Shall we find out?”

I blinked at him owlishly. “What, in Mos Eisley?”

He paused. He snorted laughter. Then he whirled the litsaber around, sheathed it, and offered me his hand. “Mr. Laser,” he said, “If I should tell you what you want to know, then I shall own you. For the rest of your life, I will have reason to kill you; and this will make you the slave to my pleasures and my whims.”

I pulled myself to my feet. I gestured to a seat. “How sweet,” I said. “It wants to be friends.”

He hissed. For a moment, I felt a tightening in my throat. Then the moment passed.

“Perhaps,” he said, “I do.”

He emptied my billfold, as it sat there on the bar, and passed the poor limp leather back to me. “Mitichlorian,” he said, “is the Holy Spirit.”

“What?”

“You understand,” he says, “why we can’t say this officially. People like that the Jedi God is a mystical, pervasive, universal thing. They like the Taoist incomprehensibility of it. They like that it’s something strange, something great, something beyond them. If we let out that it was just a weird chemical in the bloodstream, well, we wouldn’t be much of a Church.”

I hesitated. “But . . .”

“Our deity lives in mitochondrial DNA,” the Cardinal said. “We are a Church of Technobabble.”

“Oh my God,” I said.

He passed me a thin vial full of blue and green liquid. “Exactly.”

For a long moment, I looked at it. Then I thought, “This is the God whose blind worship killed my friend.” So I snapped the vial, and the glass cut my hand, and my blood and the mitichlorian bubbled down onto the carpet below.

NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS

Is The Messiah’s Mother an Addict?
TATOOINE, Mie 1—A confidential source revealed today that he’s been supplying mitichlorian to the Madonna since well before the birth of the miracle child. “She took to it like a sandduck to the desert,” said the kingpin. “Ho ho ho ho ho.” Luke greeted the news with tears. “Aunt and Uncle always said something was wrong with momma,” he said. “That’s why they’re taking care of me. But it’s not drugs! That just can’t be!” The child then ran off to fight sandpeople.

TESTIMONY OF DRAKE LASER, P.I.

Sithism rose like a wave and drowned the Jedi council. People trembled in their fear. “Where is the miracle child who will save us?” they cried.

I was there when it all went down. Having a drink with Vader. Listening to the latest sideshow: a graceless, green, and big-mouthed alien from some water planet. He was arguing with a young woman, who shouted at him, “Millions of people were killed.”

“Theesa things happen,” the alien said. He folded his hands in front of him. He flicked out his tongue to lap at her drink. She stared at him in disgust.

“Of course they do,” the woman said, coldly. “Cities drown every day. Domes crack open and whole civilizations die—why, that’s practically ordinary. And you had nothing to do with it?”

The alien’s serene expression cracked. His eyes flashed and he screamed at her, crazy-scary and uncontrolled, utterly certain in his righteousness, “They deserved it!

Quietly, it sat back. “They would not love meesa,” it said. “One of those things.”

Vader gestured. “Naboo,” he said. His tone was rich with irony.

“Naboo,” I agreed. We clinked our drinks.

The doors burst open. There was a young and ragged man standing there, dressed in white samite. The bar filled with murmurs.

“I sense a great disturbance in the Force,” Vader said.

I stared at him. “It doesn’t count when he’s already here,” I said.

“I’m drunk,” he said. “Give me some slack.”

“Vader!” the kid shrieked. He had a liturgical saber in his hand. “It’s time for you to die!”

Vader rose impeccably to his feet. He strode towards the kid. “Ah,” he said. “The miracle child. But, child, if you are a messiah, and this seems well-documented in events, and if I am, as is widely known, the chiefest and most respectable representative of our Church, then it seems that you and I should be allies, and not enemies. For the sake of form,” he added, demurely, “if nothing else.”

“Your Sithism killed my father!” he cried. “Your Dark Side has extinguished the flame of the holy spirit burning in the people’s hearts!”

Vader held up a vial of mitichlorian. He tossed it into the air. It tumbled there. Its rise and fall seemed oddly slow, as he drew his liturgical saber and murmured the prayer that brought its beam to life. Then he swept the blade through it, and the droplets of mitichlorian caught the light, and the room filled with the presence, and a voice of fire and terror poured forth, saying, “LUKE. I AM YOUR FATHER.”

“No,” whispered Luke.

“YOU ARE MY BELOVED SON,” said the cloud of mitichlorian gas, filling the air with religious mystery, “AND I AM WELL PLEASED.”

Luke sank to his knees, sobbing.

Vader turned his head. He breathed heavily. He gestured to two of the white-clad warriors, standing to either side of the door, and they picked Luke up.

“Take him to the carbonite cross,” Vader said, and turned slowly, and sat down, and picked his drink back up.

“Kind of short for a messiah,” I commented, as they hauled him away.

NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS

Miracle Child Gives His Life For Rebelism
TATOOINE, Abi 8—Luke, the miracle child born to us of the holy spirit, died today in compassionate devotion to the good of all living things. The black cardinal hung him on a cross, and lowered him into carbonite, and Luke looked out into the world. “I love you,” he said. “I love you all.” Then the cold took him through the gates of death, and with him all our sins.

AFTERWORD, BY DRAKE LASER, P.I.

If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that it’s all the same. Drugs. Gods. Dames. Power. It’s all about how you want to answer the big empty space in your life. For me, that’s Old Ma Liquor, a tumble now and again, the city of my heart, and a life well lived. For you?

Whatever seems right to you, I guess.

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