Thursday, June 15, 2006

Chapter Ten

Sentinel was just finishing breakfast. Her hair was still wet. She’d been allowed out of bed, and the first thing she’d done was get cleaned up. Her clothes had been freshly laundered. It felt SO good to be clean.

Sentinels thoughts were racing through her head. She was in love. No, that wasn’t quite it... she had already been in love with Vader before she’d even gotten the chance to meet him face to face.

The fact was, she was now head over heels in love... now that Vader had made it clear that he had feelings for her as well.

She couldn’t believe Vader had feelings for her, that he’d finally let his guard down with her. That they had kissed, that they had shared intimate thoughts with one another.

That her Sith Lord trusted her.

Her Sith Lord. She grinned at that thought.

She had fallen in love exactly two times in her life. And in both cases, she hadn’t even met the man at the time she fell in love with him.

The first time was back when she had thought the Jedi were the coolest thing in existence. She had only just been starting to sour on them, knowing their thoughts on attachments, and especially marriage. But their exploits through the galaxy, and of one Jedi in particular, had kept her glued to the holonet nightly, anxious to see what had happened today, and how the Jedi and the soldiers fighting with them had thwarted it.

Especially anxious to see what Anakin Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi had been up to.

But mostly anxious to see Anakin Skywalker.

Her parents had been less than thrilled with her obsession with the Jedi. Had they known of her crush on handsome Anakin Skywalker... well, she wasn’t sure what they would have said. But whatever the case, she had fallen in love with the man without even having ever met him.

She at first had thought of her love for him as a kind of crush. But she’d had crushes on men before, and she’d recognized them for what they were: just crushes. Infatuations. But this... this was strange and deep and wasn’t going away, no matter how much she had tried to date any of the young men in her city.

When Anakin dissappeared, and then all the Jedi had become persona non gratis, she was horrified. It took her some time before she was willing to accept that the Jedi had been trying to take over the Empire... but she could never believe it about Skywalker.

Her love had never faded. And then one day, she caught sight of the Emperor’s right hand man, the one who was sent out to solve various problems in much the same way the Jedi had been sent out to resolve issues: Lord Vader.

She couldn’t understand why her feelings suddenly fixated around him. From the first time she saw him, it was as if she’d rediscovered her lost love.

And Vader’s exploits became what she longed to see. His ways sometimes seemed cruel, but very effective. And the first time she heard his voice on the holonet, she melted in her chair.

She grew to enjoy seeing him work. He was very no-nonsense about everything he did. And, much like Anakin, he wasn’t afraid of anything.

She had briefly considered that maybe they were one in the same person. It would make sense, considering how her fixation had so fluidly moved from one to the other, especially considering she couldn’t even see Vader’s face. To her, it felt like her fixation had merely lost sight of Anakin, and had then found him, hiding in this unlikely body, behind this mask.

Her brother had finally convinced her that she was just being a fickle female. She had eventually accepted his verdict.

Besides, she had a hard time seeing Anakin hiding himself behind that mask.

Of course, now she knew that Vader had to wear the mask to survive. That he had been burned very badly on his face, and who knew where else. So, maybe Vader was Anakin Skywalker.

She entertained the thought, then realized she could never bring it up with him. At least, not anytime soon. Anyway, Vader may have well have had to kill Anakin in order to keep the Emperor safe. Her first love may have in fact been in league with the Jedi plot to take over the Empire.

Maybe it would be best to simply never bring up that bizarre subject.

She was chasing the last of her meal around the plate with her fork, when the door opened. In walked Vader.

“I see you are upright. Ready to take a tour?” he said.

She grinned with her mouth closed, full of food, and nodded her head.

“Please... do swallow before you speak.” he cautioned, holding up a hand.

She nearly choked on her food, swallowed, then laughed. “Just because I’m a backwater bumpkin doesn’t mean I’m going to talk with my mouth full, Lord Vader.”

“One can never be too cautious.”

She rose, drained her beverage, then said “Ready when you are, m’Lord.”

“Let’s go.”

They left the room. She was a little weak from the bed rest, but felt her strength returning with every step. “What’s first on the itinerary?” she asked.

“This base is situated on the edge of a very tall cliff. The first thing we will do is take a look at the view.” Vader said.

“Ah...”

They walked down the corridor, and entered a repulsor-lift. They ascended for a moment, then left the lift to follow another corridor to it’s end. A door at the end of the corridor slid opened. They walked out onto a platform extended out over the cliff itself, stopping once they reached the protective railing.

It was impossible to see the bottom of the cliff. She could tell it was at least a 1 or 2 kilometers down, because that’s where the cloud layer began. Along the edge of the cliff she saw verdant forest, green grass, and an incredible number of different species of flowers.

The sun was high overhead, and 2 of the planet's 3 moons were visible in the sky. One was an impossibly brilliant jade green, like a sparkling jewel.

Jade green, like her eyes, Vader thought.

Somewhere impossibly far down and far away, the cloud cover had parted, and revealed land covered in vegetation, ending in a long beach with sparkling blue-green water. The water met the sky at the horizon, and it was impossible to tell where the water ended and the sky began.

“It’s beautiful.” She said.

Vader was standing just behind her, and she found herself leaning back into him, careful of where she placed her head, so she wouldn’t accidentally bump his chest’s control panel.

Vader placed both hands on her arms, pulling her closer.

A Stormtrooper interrupted them.

“Lord Vader, sorry to interrupt, but Commander Javel wishes to speak with you.”

Vader turned to face the ‘Trooper. “Tell the commander that I will be with him in a moment.”

“Yes, m’Lord.”

The Trooper left them alone.

Vader turned to look down at her. She had found the waterfall, and was leaning dangerously over the edge of the railing to get a better look. The way the cliff curved, it just barely hid the impressive view of the water falling the entire distance down.

He reached over, and rather playfully poked her in the back... not enough to send her over, but enough to make her reflexively jump back from the railing.

“Hey!”

“Never turn your back on a Sith Lord.” he teased.

“I figured I was safe with you.” She grinned back at him.

“No-one is ever safe with me.”

She playfully cut short the distance from him, standing up close to him, leaning up against him. Hands on his chest, under his breastplate, either side of his chest controls... rubbing his chest somewhat possessively and affectionately. “Really... how dangerous do you plan on being?” she asked.

He hugged her to himself, hands on the small of her back. He hadn’t flirted in so long. He hadn’t had the opportunity. She felt... very right. “You wouldn’t like me when I’m... dangerous.” he said.

“How about merely... menacing?" she asked.

“Nope...”

“Well... how would I like you?” she asked.

“You would like me best if you... keep me well pleased.” he rumbled softly.

“And how would you like me to please you?” she said, grinning.

He looked down at her, hungrily. He knew she couldn’t see his expression, but that she was becoming very in tune with his emotions... she could read him using the Force. She did it almost too easily, but in a relaxed, nonintrusive manner. Still, he was becoming way too comfortable with her. Complacent. He would have to watch out for himself. She was going to become a weakness for him.

“I’ll let you know... but you had better do a very good job.” he said softly.

She grinned up at him, and he wished he could remove his mask here and now. He wanted to kiss her so badly... and much more.

She was definitely becoming a weakness for him, he thought.

He released her suddenly. “I will be right back.” He left her there.

She watched him go. Then she turned back to the view.

Vader followed the maze of hallways until he reached the Commander’s office. The doorway was open, so he went straight in.

The Commander, Javel, was sitting at his desk, studying some reports on his computer console. He looked up, saw Vader, and immediately stood to greet him.

“Ah, Lord Vader. Thank you for coming.”

“What is it you wanted, Commander?” Vader said.

“We were planning on having a... a get-together, Lord Vader. At the end of this week. You said that you would still be here at that time. I would like to officially invite you and your associate to our get-together. There will be dinner and dancing. We have invited women from the local women’s college, as we currently only have about a 15% female workforce at our station. Anyway, would you and your associate like to attend?”

Vader stood looking at the man. Did he just invite me and Sentinel to a dance? Vader asked himself.

The last 2 words of Vader’s thought escaped. “A dance?” Vader said.

“Yes, Lord Vader. I understand if you find the festivities beneath you...” Commander Javel said.

Do the Sith dance? Is it undignified for the Sith to dance? Or go to a party? Vader asked himself.

I have actually been invited to a party, Vader thought.

“I will pass on your invitation to my associate.” Vader said. “Thank you for the invitation. I will consider it.” He turned and left.

The Commander sat, and watched Vader leave. He had felt obligated to invite the Dark Lord, else maybe experience Vader's wrath at not even being informed of a social event that the entire station was attending. At the same time, he had felt sure that the Dark Lord would think the event was beneath him. Hmmm. Well. This would be interesting, the Commander thought.

Vader returned to the viewing platform. Sentinel was once again trying to get a better view of the waterfall... she was now on the OTHER side of the railing, holding on with one hand, with one foot barely on the ledge, leaning far out into the air.

She turned the minute she heard the door slide open, grinned at him like an idiot, and gracefully jumped back onto the correct side of the railing.

“You have a death wish, don’t you?” Vader rumbled.

“I’ve just never been afraid of heights.”

“Maybe it’s a fear you should learn?” he suggested.

“Nah.”

“Listen. We’ve been invited... by the Commander... to a dance.”

“You’re kidding.” she chuckled.

“No.”

“Do the Sith dance? Do we look like the sort of people who go to a dance?” she asked.

“YOU look like the sort of person.” he chuckled.

“Well, yes, ok. But you? Uh... I mean, you’re too important to go to something like this.”

“Good save.” he said.

“Uhm, yes, anyway...”

“Do you want to go?” he asked, impatiently.

“Uhm... well, do... do you want to go?”

“What are you really asking me?” Vader was starting to lose his patience. Normally, this would have happened much earlier in the conversation. But with her, he seemed to have patience to spare.

She looked down for a moment, trying to choose her words. “Would you feel comfortable going to this dance, to being with me in public, dancing with me?”

“Who said I was going to dance with you? I hear they are inviting all of these lovely, collegiate women...” Vader said.

She tried to slug him; he easily blocked her, chuckling.

“Well?” He said.

She grinned. “Yes, I’d love to. Thank you.”

“Well, then. That’s settled. Let’s continue with the tour.” he said.

“All right.”

He steered her to the shipyard. It took a while to get there, going through the labyrinth that was the complex.

They entered the mammoth underground structure. The ceiling was far overhead, and in the ceiling were hatches through which space craft could take off. There were several new prototype fighters in the shipyard. They both gravitated towards one that was a distinctly V shape, and entirely black.

Her hands traveled the length of the ship, appreciatively. There was an artistry to it. It was sleek, fast, and very lethal, with a wide array of armaments and weaponry. She noted the antireflective coating, and realized it would work very well as a stealth vehicle.

She stopped, and turned to face him. He had been standing still, watching her this entire time. She got a sudden hunch.

“Yours?” she asked.

“Very good. Yes, this one has been created for me, per my exact specifications.” he said, with some pride in his voice.

“How does it fly?”

“I haven’t had the opportunity to try this one out. This is the 5th design I have requested to have made, by the way.” he said.

“Well, you can never have too many sleek fighters.” she grinned.

“No, you cannot.” he said, very matter of factly.

“Are we taking her with us?” Sentinel asked.

“Of course. She was actually under construction at another base nearby, but considering your convalescence, and the timing, I had them bring her here. They are putting the final touches on her. We will be leaving when both you are well, and she is finished.”

“Hmmm.” She looked back at it, caressing it. Her... affection... for it was driving him wild. He felt like she was touching him.

“So, what does a girl have to do... to get one of these for herself?” she asked. She walked the length of the ship once more, touching every sharp edge, admiring the balance, the lines.

“You are Sith. I’m sure, once the Emperor has given you authority over portions of the fleet....” he trailed off. Would he in fact be sharing the fleet with her? Sharing his power... or more correctly, both of them sharing the power the Emperor doled out. Hmmm. He wasn't sure how he felt about that.

“I am Sith. But I’d rather have one of these babies than a whole fleet at my command.” She hadn’t even heard the implication in his words. She was focused on his handiwork, in complete admiration of his craft. He hadn’t laid a glove on it, in the act of making it, but his signature was all over it. All of his ingenuity had gone into it. The way she was touching it, he wished he HAD put it together with his own hands.

Of course, one of those hands was somewhere, rotted away or burned up on Mustafar. And the other, on Genoisis, picked clean by insects, but anyway...

He looked at her. She was focused on his creation, with one hand on it adoringly. But the other one had moved to her side, holding her still healing wound.

“I think our little tour needs to come to an end. You’ve pulled your stitches out... am I right?”

She grimaced. “I don’t think I should have been dangling myself over the edge of the cliff like that.”

“Come.”

They walked back to her room in the hospital wing.

Back here, she thought. Was hoping to have moved back into the ship. More... privacy.

Once inside, he merely pointed at the bed. She reluctantly laid back down. A part of her was hoping it was an order of another nature, but she could now see the blood seeping out through her bandages and clothing.

He punched the com button, and requested the medical robot.

DX-3 rolled into the room, and immediately began to rearrange her clothing to expose the wound, ordering her onto her left side, facing the wall. He removed her bandages, cleaned the wound, and started re-stiching it. He then applied bio-adhesive, to act as a second skin, and applied clean bandages. “You have earned yourself another 2 days of bed rest.” the droid stated.

She groaned.

DX-3 rolled out of the room.

She carefully lay back onto her back, grateful to see that her ears hadn’t deceived her: he was still here. But then, she would have to be hallucinating to mistake anything else for his breathing.

“Are you trying to extend your convalescence?” Vader rumbled.

“No. I’m just not very bright.” she smiled weakly.

Vader hit the door lock with the Force. Then proceeded to remove his helmet and attach the breathing hose.

She smiled to see his face once more.

“No more acrobatics. Save it for the Jedi.” Vader said.

“Yes, m’Lord.”

“And yes... that is my title. You need to use it more often.” he chided.

She felt slightly stung by the reprimand. Had she neglected to use it in public? Or was she assuming too much by their relationship? Or assuming too much that a little necking meant they even had a relationship?

“I apologize, m’Lord. I suppose I’ve been enjoying the privilege of our... friendship... a little too much.”

His expression softened. But he then stated “Friendship among the Sith... is a very different thing from... normal... friendship.”

“I don’t understand, and I’m not sure I ever will, why that has to be the case.” she said.

He looked shocked. “The way of the Sith is for the more powerful to rise and betray and/or destroy the less powerful. For a Master to train an Apprentice, to keep that Apprentice in check, and yet for the Apprentice to eventually overthrow the Master and become the new Master.” Vader informed her.

“I’ve studied the ways of the Sith, vs. the ways of the Jedi, m’Lord. I understand the principles touted by both ways of life. And I’ve come to the conclusion that there are good things to both ways, and tragically flawed things to both ways.” she said.

“You think you know more than either organization?” he asked.

“No, m’Lord. I just think I have an outsider’s viewpoint on both, one that hasn’t been completely indoctrinated by either.” she said.

He sat back in his chair, interested. “Explain.”

“The Jedi made 2 mistakes. They refused to use any of their darker emotions when using the Force. They were afraid of having the Dark Side of the Force take over, if they were to do so. I believe it’s possible to use this power, but to maintain restraint over it, to wield it more judiciously. I... I just failed to do that when defending myself from my parents.” Sentinel sighed. “But anyway... The 2nd mistake the Jedi made is to live their life without attachment. It’s part of the fear of having dark emotions come out, due to losing someone they love. But what is life without attachment? Why not have your life of self sacrifice, but also enjoy the love of your family and friends? Oh, that brings up a 3rd mistake: taking children from their families! It should be possible for the children to be taught to use the Force without their being stolen from their families.” she said.

“And the Sith?” Vader asked.

“They ironically endorse having attachments, but they foster betrayal, they foster the absolute right of might, to the point that there literally can be only 2 Sith at any one time, and all other Sith are merely waiting in the wings, vying for position 1 or 2. And while they are not afraid to use the Dark Side, they learn very little restraint. So the Dark Side corrupts them. They are free to love, but they are in no position... no position to trust those they love.”

Vader was silent for a long time, watching her. She was studiously watching her feet.

“So which position are you vying for, young Sith? 1 or 2?” He finally asked.

She looked up at him. “Neither, m’Lord.” She licked her lips. “I don’t know why the Emperor decided to have me trained. I don’t know if he sees me as a future possible replacement for yourself... or just a way to keep you on your toes. I would think he would have seen that I’m not going to be useful, for either purpose.”

“Why not?” Vader asked.

“Because I’m truly not trying to become a Sith. I’m trying to become something in between a Sith and a Jedi. I don’t believe in only using the Light side or the Dark Side. I don’t believe in denying my emotions, but nor do I believe in being ready to betray someone, just to assume that person’s position of power.” She stared directly into his eyes. “I intend to do what the Emperor commands, as long as I believe it is best for the Empire. But I also intend to never again kill someone I love, as I killed my parents.” She looked back at the foot of the bed. “Nor do I intend to live by the rules of betrayal.”

The room was silent for a full minute.

“The Emperor is not likely to agree with your philosophy.” Vader said.

“No... but it theoretically means I will be a loyal subject, one he can trust to not be vying for his position.” Sentinel said.

“Theoretically...” Vader said.

Sentinel sighed. “In all honesty, I greatly dislike the Emperor. And I expect him to betray me at some point. I will defend myself from betrayal, although I refuse to be at the heart of a betrayal.” she said.

“And you would never betray me, then?” Vader asked.

“No, I wouldn’t.” She looked him in the eyes. “But eventually, you are going to decide to betray me, aren’t you?” she asked.

Vader wasn’t sure why what she had just said bothered him. It was, after all, the truth. Wasn't it? Vader asked himself.

“I am Sith. I will probably betray you.” Vader said. The words sounded hollow. He felt as if he was saying what he was supposed to say, and not what he really meant or felt.

She laughed, bitterly. “And I had to fall in love with you.” she said.

“You have placed yourself in an untenable position. You cannot embrace both the Good side and the Dark Side of the Force.” Vader said.

“That’s what the Good side whispers to me at times.” she said, softly.

“Whispers?” he asked.

“I feel like both sides are struggling over me. Haven’t you ever felt that?” she asked.

Vader wasn’t about to comment truthfully on that one, and merely shook his head in denial.

“I sense the Good side, when I’m quiet. It never yells... it speaks softly. Tells me if something is right, or if something is wrong. The Dark Side... it wants me to only use my dark emotions... to only use it. Both sides want me to only use their particular side, actually. But... I sense that the Dark Side wants me, but not what’s best for me. The Good side... I swear, it feels like it actually cares about me.” she said.

“You are personifying the Force. It is not conscious. It is ... it is a Force of nature. It is a power we can tap into. Really, the notion of sides is incorrect, it is merely what tool we use to tap into it.” he said.

“You don’t hear it speaking to you...” She said, almost in awe.

“I sense it’s guidance in a fight, or in other situations, of course.” He was starting to sound indignant.

“Of course.” She nodded in quick agreement, not wanting to antagonize him.

“You must abandon your notions, or else the Emperor will not assist you in your growth, but will very likely.... “ he trailed off.

“Destroy me?” she asked.

Vader looked back at the door. “Yes...”

“Then can I at least ask a favor?” she said.

Vader looked back down at her. “What?”

“No matter what happens... no matter what comes between us... I promise you that I will never betray you, never try to kill you.” She took a quick breath. “And you promise me the same.”

Vader frowned. “I cannot...”

Sentinel grabbed his hand, squeezed. “Please...”

I could simply lie to her, Vader thought. He gazed into her eyes, and realized that no, he couldn’t lie to her. He didn’t have it in him.

But he couldn’t make that promise either.

He stood up, her hand falling away from his, and swiftly replaced his helmet and disconnected his hose.

“Vader...?” she whispered.

He left her room without turning around.

Vader left the hospital wing, and almost bumped right into the Trooper hurrying around a blind corner.

“Look where you are going!” He boomed at the Trooper.

“My apologies, Lord Vader. But I was trying to find you. The Emperor wishes you to contact him.”

Great. Just what I need right now. Vader thought.

“Send the communication feed to my ship.”

“Yes, m’Lord.”

Vader stormed off. A few moments of hurried travel, with Troopers and other personnel parting to make way whenever he entered a corridor, and he was there, in his ship.

He knelt on the dais in his quarters.

“Yes, my Master?”

“Lord Vader, it has come to my attention that you and Sentinel may have formed a personal relationship.” the Emperor said.

Vader remained silent.

“Lord Vader?”

“We have become... friends... my Master.” Vader said, very carefully.

“Friendship among the Sith is a risky thing, Lord Vader.” the Emperor said.

“We have acknowledged the risks, my Master.” Vader said.

“If you let her in too closely, she will take the opportunity to betray you, Lord Vader.” The Emperor paused to muse, “I thought you were... wiser... than this, Lord Vader.”

Vader clenched his right fist, almost imperceptibly.

“I am... managing this risk, my Master.” Vader said.

“I would advise you to distance yourself from Darth Sentinel, Lord Vader. But I am also interested to see how well you do manage this risk.” the Emperor said. “See to it that you manage it very carefully, Lord Vader.”

“Yes, my Master.”

The holoimage of the Emperor faded.

Love advice from the wrinkled old prune. Wonderful, Vader thought.

He rose, glowering at the location the holoimage had been in. Then he stormed out of his quarters, out of the ship, and back to the hospital wing of the base.

Sentinel was flipping through HoloNet feeds, holding a tissue, her eyes red from crying, when her door whizzed open, Vader standing at the entrance. She twitched, and the pain in her side from her newest set of stitches made her grimace at her movement.

“I promise!” Vader practically roared. Then he whirled out of the doorway and was gone again, the door whizzing shut behind him.

“Uhm, Ok.” Sentinel said to the closed door.

Vader headed back towards his ship, when the sudden thought hit him: how had the old prune, ‘er, the Emperor, known about his “friendship” with Sentinel?

Had Sentinel spoken to the Emperor?

Had the Emperor instructed her to “keep Vader on his toes”?

Was this in fact an act on her part, a ruse? Some kind of trick?

The thought stopped him in his tracks. After a moment, he continued back to his ship.



Goto Chapter Eleven

2 Comments:

Blogger Radioactive Jam said...

Nice twists, and nicely managed. I'm kind of 'iffy' on the dance thing but I'm looking forward to seeing how you have it play out. :-)

8/04/2006 7:46 PM  
Blogger Sith Snoopy said...

Thank you! :)

LOL... I was kindof iffy on the dance thing myself, when the idea first struck. :)

8/04/2006 8:11 PM  

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