Monday, June 12, 2006

Chapter Eight

Vader walked through the corridors of Pitoma base. 5 hours prior, Vader had dumped the detestable Force-dampening creature at Starbase 12. Good riddance, he thought.

Vader realized he was somehow blaming the helpless creature for the damage he and Sentinel had suffered. His desire to inflict revenge upon the creature had not been assuaged by watching it suffer under the automated tests performed upon it in the lab. In spite of his desire to see the creature suffer further, Vader somehow managed to keep himself away from it and the lab cage it was in. He had left it alone until it was time to drop it off at Starbase 12.

Sentinel had been transferred from the ship’s medcenter to a recovery room here on Pitoma. She was still out cold, even though the anesthesia had worn off.

Vader had stopped to confer with the commander about having the ship gone over, to see if there had been any problems caused by the gunfire the ship had encountered. He had also requested that the ship be refueled, it’s stores of supplies replenished... and the blood near the ramp cleaned up. That done, Vader decided it was time to wake sleeping beauty.

She was terribly pale. The droids had given her gema-blood, a manufactured blood replacement that worked fairly well, but wasn’t as good as the real thing. The gema-blood had the strange feature of remaining colorless whether it was oxygenated or not, which was probably why she looked like death warmed over.

That and how close she had come to death, he thought.

He stood over her, feeling strangely protective. He reached over and pulled her blanket up over her chest, brushed her hair away from her forehead. Her eyes fluttered, and she woke up.

“What happened? Where are we?” She tried to sit up, and instantly regretted it, wincing and sinking back onto her pillow.

“Pitoma base. You succeeded in bringing the creature on board, but you were shot, and it took the droids some time to repair you. The creature is at Starbase 12... we are well out of range of it’s Force dampening abilities.”

Vader sat down in the visitors chair that was next to her bed.

“You failed to keep our presence there a secret.” Vader chided, softly.

“I apologize, Lord Vader. I was at a loss as to how to get the creature out without detection. I didn’t think the wheelchair trick was going to...”

Vader waved his hand. “It is no longer any concern. The Emperor was very pleased. I suspect he will want to thank you personally when we return to Coruscant.” He paused. “I am very pleased as well.”

She looked a little shocked. Then said “Thank you, Lord Vader. That means.... alot to me.”

He smiled behind his mask.

“The droids have said that you need at least a week to fully recover. We will be staying here on the base until you are well enough to resume your duties, and then we will resume our original mission. Oh, and you are to stay in bed for at least a day... contact the nurse if you need assistance with anything.” he said.

“Thank you, Lord Vader.”

Vader stood looking down at her for a moment, then turned to leave. Sentinel took a deep breath, and before he could exit the room, said “Lord Vader...”

He stopped and looked back at her. “Yes?”

“Please don’t leave. Please... just stay a moment.”

“You should be resting.” he said.

“I am resting. Just please, sit with me for a while.”

He studied her for a moment, his hand still reaching for the activator to open the door. He turned around, came back to the bed, and sat back down in the chair.

“I feel I should forewarn you. Just because I’m in a good mood right now does not mean you should expect good bedside manners.” Vader teased.

“I wouldn’t ask you to try to maintain good bedside manners, m’Lord”, she said, grinning.

“Hmmmm.”

“M’Lord...” Sentinel started out, tentatively. “How often do you get time outside the mask?”

Sentinel sensed Vader was startled by the question. Cautiously he responded, “Daily.... why?”

“If you wanted to, you could remove it in here. I just saw a patch panel there on the wall... it looks like there’s a place to hook up to a clean air supply.”

“And why would I want to do that?”

Well, that brought some color to her pale face, Vader mused.

“Just... just if you wanted to get some time away from it. The mask, I mean. While we talk. I mean, if it doesn’t make you uncomfortable. It... it wouldn’t make me uncomfortable, if... if you were concerned about that.”

“Your comfort or discomfort with seeing me without my mask on has nothing to do with whether I will remove it or not.” he rumbled.

“I’m sorry, m’Lord.” Sentinel looked away, then closed her eyes in a frown. Sentinel felt like a fool for having tried to get him to lower his defenses, so to speak... to get him to not hide behind that gargoylish face.

She thought about how she had stood up to him earlier, in order to protect him, to keep him from going with her into a place too dangerous for him. She knew she had antagonized him, in so doing. And now she had made him uncomfortable, talking about his mask. They might not be on such good speaking terms again for a long time. What an idiot she was....

She turned back to look at him.

He was removing his mask. He had already opened the panel, configured the hose settings, pulled the hose out of the wall, and hooked it up to an auxiliary air input connection that was hidden under his shoulder armor.

She watched him remove the back piece to his mask, then the forward piece, with it’s internal control apparatus that he could manipulate with his mouth. Living your entire life in an environmental suit just couldn’t be much fun, she mused.

He was squinting as he removed the front piece, and waved his hand in the direction of the room’s light control. The room immediately dimmed to about half it’s original brightness.

He laid both pieces of his helmet on the bedside table.

“Your eyes... the light...” she said.

“It hurts my eyes.” he explained.

“Oh, m’Lord. I should have done something to protect your eyes when we went outside the medical facility...”

“Yes, you should have. After I specifically told you that the light hurts my eyes...” he said, sarcastically.

But she completely missed the sarcasm.

“M’Lord! I’m sorry, I... must have missed that. I... I...”

“You didn’t miss anything. I never told you.” he said, gently.

“Oh...” she said, confused. “So, why didn’t you tell me about your eyes before we left the facility?”

“You had enough on your hands without having to stop and buy me a pair of sunglasses! Quit worrying, I was fine. I kept my eyes closed for most of the journey.”

“Oh.”

They were both quiet for a moment.

“Does it feel... better... to be outside the mask?” she asked.

“Yes.” He responded in his normal, if somewhat hoarse, voice. He reached for the pitcher of water on the table, and poured them both a drink. He handed her a glass, then drank some water from his. “Yes, it does feel better”, he said, his voice a little bit improved after the drink.

“You know, I guess we’re now even”, she said.

“Excuse me?” he said.

“I mean, I saved your life, and you saved my mine.”

He stared at the foot of her bed for a moment, thinking.

“Why did you save me?” Vader asked.

“I beg your pardon, m’Lord?”

“You risked your life... it would have been much simpler and safer to leave me there.” Vader said.

“I don’t do that.” she responded.

“You don’t do what?”

“I don’t leave my fre... my fellow warriors to die. It wouldn’t have been right.” She glanced down at the foot of her bed, nervously not meeting his eyes.

“The Emperor would have understood, and I gave you orders to save yourself.” Vader said.

“You...” she paused, licking her lips, looking back up at him. “You weren’t exactly in any shape to enforce those orders, Sir.” She grinned.

“I am now, and you’re not exactly in any shape to defend yourself.” His voice rose, just slightly. But he knew that he didn’t truly feel the indignant anger he allowed into his voice.

“So, you're going to throttle me now, aren't you? You had the droids put me back together just so you can throttle me one more time.” She said, teasingly.

He looked away from her, at the door. Remembering the blood... her blood... on the ship’s floor... and remembering waking up to her breathing for him.... he felt a sudden wash of guilt. He had managed to stifle guilt feelings, using the training the Emperor had given him. When the goal is worthy -- and even just the goal of obtaining power was worthy, in the Sith philosophy -- the means are justified, and he had learned to either squash the guilty feeling he would have over the means he had recently used... or to channel that guilt into increasing his Dark Side abilities. All emotion, especially negative emotion, was incredibly helpful in intensifying the power of the Dark Side, and the power of it’s wielder.

He had been feeling less and less guilt, as he repeatedly performed deeds, in the name of 'duty', that by their very repetition, made him more and more immune to guilt.

So this sudden feeling of guilty shame over having repeatedly lost his temper with her took him by surprise.

No! He thought. If she was inept enough to earn his anger, then his anger was justified!

Or was it? he wondered.

He went back to staring at the foot of her bed. Then he felt her hand on his left arm. He looked at her, and saw her expression had changed. She looked very serious, and nervous.

“I couldn’t leave you... I just couldn’t leave you.... because...” She couldn’t look at him. And she couldn’t say it. She just couldn’t. It wouldn’t be reciprocated, she knew. She wasn’t worthy of such reciprocation. Damnit, she felt tears forming. Great. She looked back at him.

He was looking down at her with eyes wide with surprise.

“I just couldn’t...” she ended, lamely, then looked back down at where her toes made the blanket peak. She removed her right hand from his arm, and lay it on the bed.

He stared at her a moment longer.

“You have feelings for me.” He stated.

She turned away from Vader to stare at the wall next to the bed. This was so embarrassing. She wished she hadn’t said anything.

Vader was floored. She actually had feelings for him? But his senses confirmed his statement. If she was faking this, her embarrassment, or her... feelings of affection... then she was quite the actress. He could sense no deception in her.

“Don’t you?” He finally asked.

“Yes”, she whispered. She cleared her throat, still staring at the wall. “I’m sorry if that makes you feel uncomfortable. I... I won’t mention it again.”

He continued to stare at her. Then he reached over and turned her chin, so that she was facing him again. “It... doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable.” he said.

She swiped at a tear that was trickling down the side of her face.

“What does it make you feel?” she asked.

He searched her face. He wasn’t sure... she aggravated him. And intrigued him.

He looked down at her... then leaned over her until his face was just a few centimeters from hers. She realized he was giving her a last chance to pull back, to pull away. So she met him the rest of the way, in spite of the pain it caused her, from pulling herself up off the pillow.

They kissed.

He pushed her down gently, with his lips, until her head was back on the pillow.

He was slightly startled when he felt her hand on the back of his head. No human had touched his head, much less any of his scarred skin, in 5 years. Their kiss deepened.

He leaned over her more closely, pressing her back. He was feeling a hunger he hadn’t felt in... too long. Then he felt his breathing hose catch on part of the hospital bed, and also heard a small whimper in the back of her throat. His upper torso was pushing slightly on her bandage. But in spite of his causing her pain, she was still holding the back of his head, holding onto their kiss.

He sat back, gazing down on her, hunger not satisfied. He realized he was wearing a rather silly, but satisfied grin.

He had felt hopelessly old beyond old for the past 5 years. Suddenly he felt his youth again.

She smiled, and sniffled. She looked embarrassed, but also had a hint of that same hunger in her eyes.

“Well.” He said finally.

She chuckled.

“So, I throttle you twice and send you on a mission that almost kills you... and I earn your affection?” Vader said.

“Well, you were lagging on the task of ‘howling at my doody like a dog in heat’. I had to settle.” Sentinel responded.

He laughed. He hadn’t laughed in so long... it felt good.

“Can I ask you something... without getting throttled?” she said.

Vader grinned. “It depends upon what you ask.”

“Uh-huh. I guess I’ll have to take my chances.” She paused, licked her lips. “What were you upset about, Lord Vader? In the cockpit... the, uhm, first time you throttled me.”

His smile vanished. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Then just tell me this. Do you have anyone you can talk to about it, or things like that? You can’t keep things like this... bottled up.” she said.

“I keep my own counsel.” he said, his face suddenly as unreadable as his mask.

“Lord Vader, I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t pry.” She sighed. “I just hated to see you... so upset. If you ever decide you are ready to talk about it, know that I’m willing to listen.”

Vader said, rather solemnly, “When I’m ready to talk about it... I will keep you in mind.”

She grinned, and Vader smiled in response.

“So, let’s see.” She prepared to tick items off on her fingers. “I rescue you, I retrieve a highly important creature, and I get shot in the back. And you kiss me. What do I have to do for...” she trailed off and grinned up at him.

“Get well first.” He stood up. “Then, I’ll make a list.” His eyes sparkled with amusement.

He put his mask back on, unhooked the breathing hose, and flipped the switch that forced his mechanical lungs to use the ventilation system in his mask instead.

At the door, he stopped and turned.

“’Howling at my doody like a dog in heat’ will be the 2nd or third item on that list.” he stated.

And he left.

She lay there trying not to laugh. It hurt her wounds too much.



Goto Chapter Nine

3 Comments:

Anonymous yank said...

cool

6/15/2006 10:43 PM  
Blogger Radioactive Jam said...

I'm not sure how this is supposed to work, but does blood loss - and transfusions for that matter - affect midichlorian "counts?" Would Sentinel's force abilities be diminished for a time?

8/04/2006 7:11 PM  
Blogger Sith Snoopy said...

Hi, RAJ! Thanks for the comments!

I think that you are right, there would be some effect to her Force abilities. Episode I implies that midichlorian count directly relates to Force abilities.

However, the movies aren't clear as to if the midichlorians live in just the blood, or also the rest of the body. [If I'm wrong, PLEASE correct me!]

So it could be a major effect, or a minor one.

This brings up a question as to if Vader's abilities were diminished by losing so much body mass when he ended up with no non-mechanical limbs left.

And does this mean that if Vader and Jabba both had the same midichlorian density, Jabba would beat the crap out of Vader just on the basis of sheer number of midichlorians, due to his massive bulk??

And does this mean that a fat Jedi is better than a thin Jedi?!?!? ;)

Yoda may have said that we are luminous beings, not this crude matter, but apparently we need some of that matter to be in contact with our luminous abilities! LOL!

Sigh. I think things were alot simpler when midichlorians weren't part of the mess. But then, I'm not sure how else the Jedi could quickly find and steal, 'er, I mean "recruit", young children into the Order.

8/04/2006 7:52 PM  

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