Saturday, June 17, 2006

Chapter Eleven

Three days.

Sentinel had been stuck -- in that hospital room -- for three days. The droid had noted her lack of self restraint, and had decided to tack on an extra day just to be sure any exploits in the near future could do her no harm.

She had been asleep during that entire time. The droid was taking no chances with her, and had medicated her senseless to keep her in bed!

She had been fed intravenously. She had relieved herself while asleep... apparently having been fitted with a catheter and... more lovely things. The medical droid had been explaining it all to her when she cut him off. “No more, I don’t want to know!”

Sentinel felt hopelessly groggy. And very peeved with the droid. "Here, let me give you something to help you sleep...” he had said to her an eternity ago!

She had no idea droids could be that devious.

She dragged herself out of the bed, headed for the shower. It must have been nearly lunch time. She hadn’t been awake in 3 days! Three days! She couldn't get over that fact.

Had Vader been by to visit, she asked the medical droid. The droid wasn’t sure.

She got cleaned up. The medical droid told her she was finally fully healed, and could go back to her normal activities. Her stitches had even been removed. Never the less, after everything she had been through, she found herself moving very carefully. She really didn’t want to end up back in that bed one more time!

She left her room, and then just stood in the hallway. She wasn’t sure what her next move was. She decided she should find Vader, see what she had missed. But she stood still, thinking.

She was dissappointed to not find him by her bedside when she was ready to be discharged. She wasn’t sure if she should read anything into that or not.

A trooper stopped right in front of her, interrupting her thoughts.

“Lord Sentinel, the Emperor wishes you to contact him at once.”

She sighed. “Thank you. I will make contact.”

The Trooper nodded and moved on.

She headed for the ship. She did a quick search, but Vader was not on board.

She entered her room. She closed the door, then stopped. Something wasn’t right. She looked around the room... everything was in the right place, but she felt like it had all been... touched. Lifted, and carefully replaced.

Deal with it later. Contact the Emperor now, she thought.

She started up the communication, and then assumed the position of obeisance, down on one knee. The hologram of the Emperor appeared in front and slightly above her, generated by hologram generators in the room’s walls.

“My Master.” She said it with reverence. She actually did revere him, admire him, respect him. She just didn’t trust him, nor did she approve of his morality. But otherwise, he was a great Sith Lord, and she knew would assist her to further her Force abilities... as long as it was convenient to him and furthered his own motives. She sighed inwardly at that thought: another drawback to the Dark Side. The lack of trust, the withholding of information and power, all in fear of betrayal. No true cooperative spirit.

But she would be something different. The best parts of the Jedi and the Sith. She was sure of it.

“Lord Sentinel. You have been out of commission for quite some time.” the Emperor said.

“Yes, my Master.” she said.

“What was the reason for your recent relapse?”

“The med droid put me into a restorative sleep for 3 days straight. I had ripped one of my stitches.” Sentinel explained.

“How did you manage to do that?” the Emperor asked.

“I was... being stupid, my Master. I simply overexerted myself. I assumed my injuries were further healed than they actually were.” she answered.

The Emperor studied her.

“How did you overexert yourself?” the Emperor asked.

Why is he so curious over this point, she wondered?

“My Master, I was on the viewing platform that extends out over the cliff. I wanted a better view of the waterfall. I went over the railing, held onto the railing, and leaned far over. Lord Vader found me that way, and I jumped back onto the platform. I think that’s when I pulled the stitches loose.” she answered.


She studied the floor, feeling his eyes studying her.

“It has come to my attention”, the Emperor softly said, “that you and Lord Vader have grown close.”

Oof, Sentinel thought. What did he know? What had Vader told him? What would Vader want her to tell him? She wished she’d found Vader first, to know what to say to keep their stories straight. Should she lie? Should she tell the truth?

Best to tell the truth, but downplay it... maybe. Sentinel licked her lips.

“We are friends, my Master.” she said.

The Emperor wasn’t buying it. She could sense his gaze intensify.

“Close friends?” he pursued.

She pursed her lips.

“We have been through alot together, my Master.” Sentinel said. She added “We have grown to trust each other.” She immediately wished she hadn’t added the last part. But it was too late...

“You know, of course... there is no trust among the Sith?” the Emperor said softly.

“Yes, my Master.”

“Then how can you trust Lord Vader?” he asked.

“I... trust him to be there for me through the mission, as I hope he also trusts me.” she responded.

The Emperor regarded her silently.

“You are fond of Lord Vader.” he stated.

She looked up to face the Emperor.

“I admire him, as I admire you, my Master.” She was able to say that with full honesty.

He seemed pleased with this.... she no longer sensed she was under such detailed scrutiny.

“You would be well advised, Lord Sentinel, to keep this friendship from becoming... complicated.” he cautioned.

Great, Sentinel thought, love advice from the wrinkled old prune. Wait, why does that phrase sound familiar?

“Yes, of course, my Master.” she said.

“Good. Report back to me after the mission is complete.”

“Yes, my Master.” She said, but his holoimage had already disappeared.

“Huh”, she said.

She stood up. She looked around her room. It all... felt wrong. She tried to focus on who had touched it all.

Vader. Vader has gone through my things, she thought.


She looked around the room, trying to sense what had taken place there, trying to pick up traces of the emotions going through Lord Vader when he’d searched her quarters.

The Emperor. She sensed that something the Emperor had said to Vader had filled him with doubts about her. Doubts about her loyalty to him. Doubts about her love for him.

Great, she thought. Suspicious Sith that he is, it’s going to take some time to fix that.

She sat down on her bed with a sigh. And her thoughts once again started racing.

“I am not Sith. I am not Jedi. What am I?” She asked to herself. Granted, she respected and admired the Emperor. But she was only continuing her... education... under him and the teacher he had appointed because there was no way to wiggle out of it now. She took what she was taught with a grain of salt. She would try it out, but if it conflicted with her moral values, she would not accept it. Same thing for the Emperor’s orders: if his orders conflicted with her moral values, she would do whatever she could to change how she carried out those orders until the conflict no longer existed.

She realized that, most of the time, her moral values were her primary guide when it came to using the Force.

It hadn’t been that way in the beginning. Before she had been fully exposed to the Sith ways, when she was first learning from her teacher and from the Emperor, she had fully adopted the Sith philosophy. It had made so much sense to her, especially with the treachery of the Jedi. But when she realized that, according to the Sith philosophy, there was nothing wrong with her having killed her parents, she suddenly came to a screeching halt in her training.

She had taken time off from the training to do some thorough soul-searching. She had come to the conclusion that she could never fully be Sith.

She had seen no way she could back out of the training. She knew enough of her teacher, and the Emperor, to know that to back out now would be to sign her death warrant.

She realized that her best teachers to date had been the local Shamans she had trained with on her home world. They had assisted her greatly in increasing her Force abilities. And they had tried to teach her their healing powers, which they augmented using their Force skills.

These Shamans had probably been the closest thing to what she was seeking to become: the best of both worlds, the best of the Jedi ways and the best of the Sith ways. Although they did not condone her use of the Dark Side of the Force, they had at least assisted her in trying to control it, and trying not to let it get away from her.

If only she had listened to them harder, spent more time training with them in how to control the Dark Side, then her parents would still be alive right now. Maybe they would even have forgiven her for her choice to leave them, and for her having taken her brother with her.

She fully intended to go back one day and learn from the Shamans once more. She trusted them, and their knowledge, and the fact that they truly had her best interests at heart.

And she knew for a fact that the Emperor did NOT have her best interests at heart.

It would be against the Sith beliefs to have her best interests at heart. That would be too altruistic, and the Sith were anything BUT altruistic.

Sigh. Or trustworthy. Or capable of love or true friendship, she thought.

What have I gotten into with Vader? She wondered.

Got to go find him, she thought. See what damage has been done by the Emperor, and do my best to fix it.

And also see how much her “story” had conflicted with Vader’s... and if any damage control would be possible if the stories had conflicted too much with each other.

She left the ship. She headed for the shipyard. She wasn’t sure where else Vader would be... she assumed he had some free time right now. He was probably overseeing the finishing touches of his new ship. Yeah... that felt right. That was where he probably was.

She increased her pace, and entered the shipyard after a few minutes of walking.

The vastness of the space impressed her just as much the second time as it had upon the first time she’d seen it.

A team of engineers and droids were surrounding the ship Vader was having manufactured. They had the electronics spilled out through a panel, and were busily working on it. But there was no sign of Vader.

She watched them work for a moment. Then turned and headed for the only other location on her tour that she remembered... the platform that extended over the cliff.

There he was, standing at the railing, looking out. The sun was high in the sky, and the waterfall, with the sunlight, had generated a beautiful rainbow, off in the distance.

She stood next to the doorway, just outside it, allowing it to close behind her.

“Hello... Lord Vader.” She said.

He did not turn to face her. “Hello”, he responded.

She took a few steps forward.

“The medical droid says I’m finally fully healed.”

No response.

“Are you... busy, Lord Vader?”

Vader seemed to slump his shoulders. It was hard for Sentinel to tell, with his shoulder armor and all, but that’s exactly what she thought she saw him do.

Vader turned to face her. “What do you want?”, he said, with a very palpable hint of menace in his voice.

“You’re angry with me. I can sense it. What’s wrong? What did I do? Or, what is it that you think I did?” she asked.

“You are doing precisely what you were told to do. Now, why should I be angry with you for that?” Vader snapped. The anger was coming off of him in waves. She could almost see it.

She looked up at him. “I... ok.... Let’s see. Perhaps I would have a better understanding of the situation if you told me who you think gave me my orders, what they were, and if I actually did them?”

“You were sent by the Emperor to test me!” He bellowed. He stormed up to her and she backed away a few paces, in spite of herself. “You are a plant! A trick! You are only here to see if I am really loyal to the Emperor and the Sith, or if I can be... tempted away... by a little... meaningless pleasure.” Vader spat the last 2 words out.

She stood, looking up at him. She looked at the floor, shaking her head. Then she raised her head back to look him in the face. “I am not trying to trick you. I care about you. I....” She waved her hand, shook her head in exasperation. “Listen, the Emperor may have sent me to test you. But if he did so, he did it without informing me! All I knew was that I was supposed to assist you on this mission. Nothing more, nothing less. I was not told to... to... tempt you. I wasn’t told to test you. I was merely told to help you.”

He stared down at her, glowering.

“If I’m a plant, a trick, it’s without my knowledge. I am not trying to trick you, or test you, or tempt you, or... or... whatever! All I know is how I feel about you.” she said, her voice rising.

He still merely stood staring at her.

Her face was hot. She felt something stinging her cheeks, rolling down, and angrily swiped the tears off her face. “I have no intention of letting the Emperor ruin what we have.” She sniffed. “But am I already too late? He spoke to you, didn’t he? Well, he spoke to me too, just a few moments ago.”

“What did he say?” Vader said, sharply.

Sentinel rapidly described her conversation with the Emperor: “He wanted to know how I managed to put myself back into bed for 3 days straight. I explained what happened. He also said he’d heard that you and I were growing close. I said we were friends. He asked if we were close friends, and I said, that with everything we’d been through on this mission, we’d grown to trust each other. He talked about trust not being a Sith quality. I said we’d grown to trust each other for this mission. He advised against letting our friendship become ‘complicated’.” She took a deep breath and sighed.

“And? Is that it?” Vader asked, impatience dripping off of him.

“That was it, or at least, all I can remember.” She said. “When I first left my hospital room, a Trooper found me before I could find you, and advised me that the Emperor wanted me to contact him right away. I went to the ship, looked for you, but you weren’t there. I had a feeling I should talk to you before I spoke to him. But when I couldn’t locate you in the ship, I went ahead and contacted the Emperor first.” She took a deep breath. “I would have liked to have known, ahead of time, what to say to the Emperor when he asked me all of that. What you would have wanted me to say, that is. I hope I at least came close to what you would have liked me to say. I don’t like lying, but I will not violate your trust in me by talking about us.”

Vader didn’t say anything, just stood there, then turned and looked back out over the cliff at the view.

“He spoke to you, didn’t he?” she asked.

Vader did not turn back, but said “Yes. 3 days ago, before the medical droid put you ‘to sleep.’”

“What did he say?” she asked.

“Essentially the same thing. I didn’t care much for his intruding, but I said nothing to that effect. After he ended the transmission, that’s when I came and promised you... what I promised. And then, when I left you, I realized that someone was spying on us, relaying information about us to the Emperor. And that maybe that someone was, in fact, you.” Vader said.

“Well, it’s not me.” Sentinel said.

“It truly is not, is it?” Vader asked.


He turned back to face her. “I have thought wrongly of you.” He said it so softly she almost didn’t hear him.

“I’d say the Emperor knew that, by letting you know that he knew we were close, that that alone would rattle you, and maybe put a wedge between us.” She said. “You were provoked into not trusting me.”

“The Emperor wouldn’t want you and me to form any kind of trust. It’s not safe for him.” Vader rumbled.

She walked up to him, stood directly in front of him, put her hands on his arms. “Was he successful? Do you trust me again, or ...” she trailed off.

“You said you care about me.” Vader said.

Sentinel swallowed with difficulty and said, “I’m in love with you.”

She felt his hands on her back, sliding down to the small of her back, pulling her closer. She looked up at him. I've opened up my heart... is he going to say anything? she wondered.

“You don’t know me...” he finally said.

“We can certainly fix that.” She said with a chuckle, gently rubbing his left arm. She could feel, just barely, where his flesh ended, and his synthetic arm began.

He held her close, without speaking, then suddenly released her, turned around and walked back to the railing. She looked at his back, questioningly.

Vader gripped the railing. Sentinel sensed an internal battle was going on inside Vader, and stood quietly, letting him finish that battle.

Vader spoke into the silence. “I killed my wife.”

“What?” Sentinel said, unsure she had heard him right.

“I killed my wife”, Vader repeated.

She walked to the railing, looked over briefly, then turned back to face him, leaning on the railing, looking up at him.

“How did it happen?” she asked.

“I had visions, where my wife died in childbirth. The Emperor promised me that he could give me the power to keep her from dying, that we would discover that lost Sith power together.” Vader paused, stared at the rainbow for a moment before continuing. “In order to save my wife, I pledged myself to the Emperor, and turned to the Dark Side. I used to be a Jedi. I performed some... tasks... for the Emperor. My wife found out about those tasks, and couldn’t accept my choices, wouldn’t let me explain that I had done this all for her... for us. Then my old Master showed up... she had brought him with her. And her betrayal of our love was complete.”

A flock of birds flew far below them. For a moment, Vader just watched them.

Vader continued. “I strangled her from a distance, using the Force. I killed her, and our unborn child. And then, my old Master took my 3 remaining non-mechanical limbs, and left me to be burned alive. I’m sure he thought I would be killed by the fire, but the Emperor found me, and... put me back together. And I realized, that if not for the influence of my old Master, my wife might have understood, might have accepted... might not have betrayed me.”

Sentinel moved closer to him, turning to face out over the cliff, and put her arm around him, leaning her head against his side. He held her, and they stood there in silence, watching the world around them.

“I thought the Jedi frowned on all attachments, including marriage.” she said.

“We kept it a secret. I wasn’t ready to leave the Jedi, nor was she ready to have her political standing undermined by such a... frowned upon... relationship.” Vader said.

Another flock of birds flew by.

“The Emperor, however, did not have any problems with my marriage.” Vader said. “At least, none that I was aware of at the time...”

They stared out as the flock headed for the direction of the far off waterfall. They were both quiet for several minutes.

“The Emperor will only allow attachments that serve his purpose.” Sentinel stated. “If we don’t want trouble with him, we’d better somehow show him that our relationship is not a threat.”

He looked down at her, and she up at him. And how do we accomplish that? She thought.

But also running through her mind was the startling thought that she’d been right, the entire time. She was sure of it now. Vader had been the Jedi, Anakin Skywalker.

Goto Chapter Twelve


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