Did you know that there is a story describing Tarkin’s romance with a male stormtrooper? No, I am not referring to some obscure fan-fiction, but to an officially published, Disney-canon story.
Most of the really bizarre Star Wars stories belong to the 1990s and earlier. However, “Of MSE-6 and Men” was written by Glen Weldon and published in 2017 in the anthology titled From a Certain Point of View. And it may very well be a serious contestant for the most bizarre SW story of all time.
Of Mouse Droids And Men
The central character of the story is TK-421 – and if this designation seems familiar to you, you are right. This is the stormtrooper whose armour Luke steals on the Death Star. In “Of MSE-6 and Men”, he catches the eye of Grand Moff Tarkin.
You may think that describing a romance between a stormtrooper and possibly the most repulsive and one of the evilest characters is bizarre enough. However, what makes this story even more unusual is that it is all narrated from the perspective of a mouse droid, MSE-6. Hence the story’s title.
The story begins against the background of Princess Leia’s imprisonment and interrogation on the Death Star. The point of view character, MSE-6 (incidentally the same droid Chewie growls at in the film), is tasked by TK-421 with the delivery of the needle that would be used to interrogate the Princess. Being told to quickly get out before Vader arrives, the droid collides into Tarkin at full speed. Tarkin gets knocked down while the droid’s holoprojector gets damaged and accidentally starts showing the recording of TK-421 without his helmet.
“Who is he? He’s… beautiful”
This is where things get weird. Tarkin’s reaction to seeing the holo is: “Who is he? He’s… beautiful.” Any Star Wars fan already recognises that this is an intentional parallel to the words Luke uses when he first sees the holorecording of Leia. This is underscored by Tarkin’s next sentence, as the droid manages to shut the recording off: “What? No! Bring him back! Play back the entire message!”
Tarkin then makes sure to call the stormtrooper responsible for MSE-6 to his quarters “to deal with him personally”. This “dealing” proves to be of a rather specific nature. The story does not describe it in detail – the mouse droid is shut down and its memory subsequently wiped – but one can get a pretty good idea of what is going on.
The romance does not last long. As we know from the film, it is cut short when the Millennium Falcon lands. Tarkin gets later blown up together with the Death Star, but in the story, he mentions to MSE-6 that the imminent destruction of Yavin 4 would also be revenge against the Rebels for what Luke and Han did to TK-421.
Imperials As Human Beings (But Still Terrible)
It is hard to judge what the relationship between Tarkin and TK-421 was really like. Its power dynamic was certainly nowhere near balanced. Likewise, the droid overheard TK-421 musing over Tarkin’s promise that he would make him his personal guard and later have him live in his own penthouse on Coruscant. But was this true, or were these just pretty promises? And did TK-421 actually believe them, or was he lying even to himself?
What the story definitely does is make both the stormtrooper and especially Tarkin seem more human. We see Tarkin’s private side, as opposed to his official, public side. Not that he would seem any less repulsive: he is self-centred, self-indulgent, revels in showing off his superiority. That much is clear even though TK-421 would like to convince MSE-6 (and himself) otherwise, claiming that Tarkin drops his cold shell when they are together:
“We talk about the silliest stuff, G7. Afterward. During, sometimes. He says I’m the only one who can make him laugh. It’s… sweet.”
The Things You (Never) Wanted To Know
And what do we learn about Tarkin’s personal preferences? A little. TK-421 assumes that Tarkin wants to be in control and that he likely wants “the whole ‘backwater, rough-around-the-edges military grunt’ thing. You know: ‘Oh my, sir, I never… I ain’t never done this before.'”
TK-421 seems to be rather well-experienced in that respect, implying that at the Imperial military academy, he got to know plenty of officers like Tarkin.
In short, “Of MSE-6 and Men” is a unique short story. It does what those stories do: lets fans learn more about familiar characters. So now you have learned something about Tarkin. What you are going to do with it, or whether you would prefer to un-learn it… is up to you.
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