Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Chapter Fourteen

Sentinel woke up, slightly uncomfortable. She was lying next to Vader, her head on his left shoulder, and her right arm was completely asleep.

She carefully sat up, trying not to wake the Big Guy. Hmmm... she liked that nickname, but wasn’t sure whether Vader would appreciate it.

She flashed back on how they had cornered the Commander last night. How she had mistreated the Commander earlier, when they were dancing. How he was innocent, except for hiding information from Sentinel and Vader... information that he was under orders from the Emperor himself to hide.

She wasn’t sure she liked how she and Vader had psychologically tormented the man, with the use of implied violence to his person. Her conscience seemed to have returned with a vengeance, and it wasn’t going to gloss over these events as if they truly didn’t matter.

Well, she finally thought, it could have been much worse: Vader could have dangled the man over the edge of the cliff by his neck.

Matter of fact, that was rather what she’d had in mind when they’d taken the Commander to the cliff platform. She was glad Vader hadn’t picked up on her thoughts, but had realized a much lower threat level was all that was needed to convince the Commander to talk.

She looked at Vader. He was peacefully snoozing away. She wanted to kiss him, but she didn’t want to wake him up.

She yawned, and stretched, and then found herself staring at his partially exposed lower half.

His pants were still down, just above his knees! He had been too tired last night to reseal his environmental suit.

She chuckled, but then found herself examining him. She hadn’t gotten a good look at him during the previous nights hurried passion.

A quick glance proved that this area of his body had obviously not been spared during his unfortunate experience with fire. There was synth-flesh covering this area, too, although not as much as on his head. She found herself gently laying her hand on his hip, where the top half of his environmental suit stopped and his flesh started. She traced down his left leg, until she reached where his synth-flesh stopped and pure cybernetics started, just above his left knee.

The wreckage that was his body was still functional, but not very pretty to look at. She found herself wishing she’d spent more time studying the healing techniques of the shamans of her home world. She wasn’t disgusted by his body, but rather felt a sympathetic pain of loss for his sake.

She looked up to see him awake, watching her.

“You’re repulsed by me. Aren’t you?” Vader said, with a hint of venom.

“No.” She said, softly. “Nothing about you repulses me. I thought you understood that.”

“Then what?” His tone was softer.

“I just wish... it seems that they should have done a better job, repairing you. Surely they could have given you cloned flesh instead of the synth-flesh. It seems an injustice, considering the techniques that have been learned during the clone wars.”

Vader closed his eyes. “I apparently wasn’t worth these newer techniques.”

She looked at him, lovingly. In pain for him. “You could still get your own flesh and skin back, have it cloned and have the synth-flesh replaced. You could possibly be made completely whole again.”

He kept his eyes closed. “I’ve already spent enough time tied down to a table, having defective flesh ripped off of me. I don’t need to experience that again.”

She was afraid to ask him who would do such a thing to him, having him go through that experience conscious, and without pain killers. But she had a feeling she knew well enough.

She leaned back over him, kissing him sweetly on the lips. He responded, and then he just held her to him for a moment, her forehead against his cheek.

“Come on, we’ve got a busy day ahead of us. We should be getting on our way to Latern.” he said.

She rose reluctantly, sliding off his bed, picking her dress up off the floor, and slipping back into it. Then she bent over and picked up her red boots. When she turned, she saw that he was now standing, that he had resealed his top and bottom halves of his environmental suit, and had replaced his utility belt, thus covering the seal.

“I need to get cleaned up. Give me 20 minutes.” she said.

She left his quarters, entered hers, and got cleaned up and dressed. She was swallowing the last bite of a bar of food as she exited her quarters, to find Vader standing in front of her door.

“The Commander is waiting outside our ship. He has a communication... for you.” Vader said.

Sentinel looked up at Vader. She sensed it was bad news. She took a deep breath, nodded to Lord Vader, and walked toward the already extended ramp.

She walked down it, Vader right behind her, to see the Commander, with a few troopers nearby.

“Good morning, Commander.” she said, stiffly. She had a hard time meeting the Commander's eyes, still feeling horrible for how she had treated the man.

“Good morning, Lord Sentinel, Lord Vader.” the Commander said. He was also somewhat stiff, and he seemed nervous and unhappy about what he had to say.

“Lord Vader says you have a message for me?” Sentinel asked, hesitatingly.

The Commander cleared his throat. “Lord Sentinel, it is my sad duty to report to you that your brother, Lieutenant Tarnis Yod, has died. The communication came in, from the Hunter, just over an hour ago.” He paused. “I’m sorry.” he added.

Sentinel stood there, staring out into space. She extended her Force sense along the old familiar line she normally would have been checking almost daily, had she not been so busy of late. At the other end of that ‘line’ was emptiness, instead of the familiar life force signature of her brother.

Tarnis was dead. He really was dead, she thought.

She took a deep breath, looked the Commander in the eyes, and asked “How did it happen?”

The Commander swallowed, hard. “He committed suicide. The autopsy isn’t finished, but all the evidence points to it.”

Sentinel shuddered. “How did he do it?”

“He... he cut his wrists while sitting in a tub of water.” the Commander said. “Is there anything I can do, Lord Sentinel? I could notify the rest of your family for you...”

The rest of my family... there’s nobody left, thanks to me, Sentinel thought.

Sentinel shook her head. “Commander, thank you for informing me. And thank you for your... compassion.”

The Commander nodded solemnly, with just a hint of surprise.

Sentinel turned towards Lord Vader. “Lord Vader, if you don’t mind, I need some time... to grieve. I just need... “

“Take all the time you need, Lord Sentinel”, Vader said, very gently. “I do not need your assistance in the final preparations for our journey.” He kept it all very formal, but she could almost feel his arms around her, hugging her, telling her it was going to be ok. He just wasn’t willing to do that in public, especially with the troopers nearby. One of them could have been the Emperor’s spy.

“Thank you, Lord Vader. I will be in my quarters.” Sentinel trudged back up the ramp, keeping a blank face until the door to her quarters closed. Then she slumped against the wall next to her bed, laying her head against the cold metal of the railing of the foot of her bed.

She had sent her brother monthly communications, asking him how he was doing, if he was enjoying himself, what he was learning. She had said always that she was fine, and that she missed him terribly. She had never heard back from him, not once.

She had sensed that he must simply hate her. She had killed their parents, after all. So he had never responded. It was his modus operandus. Whenever he was mad at her, when they were kids, he always gave her the silent treatment.

This was the ultimate in silent treatments, however.

She leaned over her crossed legs, and started to shake.

Meanwhile, Vader was still talking to the Commander.

“Commander Javel, when will the autopsy be finished?” Vader asked.

“I believe they thought it would be done by tonight.”

“I would be very interested in reading it.” Vader rumbled.

“I will request a copy for you, Lord Vader.” the Commander said.

“Thank you. Did he leave a note?” Vader said.

“A note?”

“A suicide note?” Vader clarified.

“Oh, I wasn’t told anything about a note, Lord Vader. I will be sure to ask about that, and ask for a copy of it, when I contact the ship’s commander to request a copy of the autopsy.”

“Thank you, Commander.” Vader paused. “Is my fighter ready to load?”

“Yes, Lord Vader. And we have refueled your ship. Your fighter is also fully fueled. We’ve also restocked your onboard supplies.”

“Good work, Commander. Please see to it that my fighter is loaded in the main cargo hold of my ship.”

“Yes, m’Lord.” The Commander nodded, then gave hand signals to some of his men, who ran off to go fetch the fighter.

Vader turned to go back inside the ship, then stopped. “Commander, I would also like a copy of the service records of Lieutenant Yod.”

“Of course, Lord Vader.” the Commander said.

“Thank you.” Vader walked back up the ramp, closing it once he reached the top. He ensured all the doors were locked, except the ramp for the main cargo hold. Then he made a beeline for Sentinel’s quarters.

Her door was locked.

He pressed the intercom. “Open your door, Sentinel.”

The door unlocked and whizzed open. He walked in, seeing her slumped over, sitting on the floor, eyes red, tears streaking her face. She was a mess.

She was still lovely.

He leaned over and took her hands, lifting her from her sitting position. He walked her over to the bed, and they both sat. She crumpled then, into his lap, shaking. He found himself just holding her there. He sat in silence, while she bawled her eyes out.

He noticed items in the room were a little askew. And then he noticed things starting to... rumble. Glass items cracked down the middle. She was holding her hands in little fists. He gently brought her back into an upright sitting position. She had stopped bawling, and was just shaking, and her nails were dug so hard into her palms that blood was dripping from them. Her eyes were blazing yellow. The mirror in her room cracked right down the center as she stared at it.

He turned her to face him. “Stop it. Save it. Store it for later. You can use this anger later, on the Jedi. But right now, you are only hurting yourself.”

Her eyes darkened. The yellow swirl inside them was almost more of a bright, fiery red. He’d never seen even the Emperor’s eyes do that. It was as if she were trying to put the flame out, but it was somehow intensifying instead.

“Calm yourself” Vader ordered. He felt like he was the Emperor, trying to talk him down from destroying everything in the lab when Vader learned Padme was dead. Only... he wasn’t sure the Emperor had ever really cared about him.

And he deeply cared about Sentinel.

Sentinel’s eyes started to fade back to normal.

“Calm.” Vader said. “That’s better. You will have time to grieve, later. But perhaps it should be after we are underway again, and in a room with less... glass.” He looked about the room. “I assume you can live with cracked mirrors, and broken bottles of perfume?”

She chuckled, wearily. “Yes.” A few tears escaped her eyes as she blinked.

“Good.” He rose. “Come with me. I need to perform some system checks on the ship, and to ensure they really did patch up the projectile holes from our last encounter. Help me do that.” Vader sensed it would be a bad idea to leave Sentinel alone again.

She rose stiffly, grabbed a hand towel on her bedside table, and wiped her face with it. Then she held the towel to her bleeding palms, to wipe the blood off and staunch the wounds. She dropped the towel on the floor.

Vader held out his right hand, and she took it with her left, and let him lead her to the cockpit, for those system checks.

Goto Chapter Fifteen


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