Sunday, June 18, 2006

Chapter Twelve

Several hours later, after another tour of Vader’s new toy, including a very fun test drive through the nearby asteroid field, it was time to prepare for the dance.

They had both considered whether it wouldn’t be a better idea to simply bow out. But Vader had said they were going to be there, no matter what. Vader was in this... mood...

“If someone is spying on us, and sending back information to the Emperor, let’s give them something to report.” he rumbled, dangerously.

Vader was angry, once again, and feeling rebellious. Sentinel was thankful that his anger was directed towards the Emperor this time, and not her.

Her emotional investment was higher now. And suddenly having his anger directed at her was harder for her to bear.

Sentinel wondered if their time alone on the cliff platform had been noticed. The thought crossed her mind that maybe her hospital room was full of recording devices! She squashed it, unwilling to consider the full ramifications. She didn’t need her personal conversations about her desire to be neither Sith nor Jedi to somehow make it back to the Emperor!

They went to their own compartments in the ship to get dressed. Sentinel wondered exactly what Vader would do... she had never seen him wear anything other than his unchanging uniform. Hmmm... this would be interesting.

She told him to give her an hour. Almost exactly an hour later, as she was just putting the finishing touches on her hair and makeup, her door chimed.

She opened the door with the Force, while continuing to stare at herself in the mirror.

“Just a second...” she said as she pinned the last of her long hair into place. It was pulled dramatically away from her face, and into an elaborate bun, with many curls strategically escaping from the bun.

She wore a red shimmering gown that clung to her body like a wet towel, hugging every curve, draping over her thin, sensual frame. On her feet were red boots with very high heels.

Vader watched her putting the finishing touches on her makeup. He had a sudden feeling of dizziness, and was flooded with visions of his deceased wife, getting ready for a special occasion or for a session in Congress... he had to steady himself, with one hand on the doorway frame.

She turned to face him, smiling. He was dressed normally, but every surface that could shine was polished or oiled to an incredibly high sheen. He was one great big black shining statue. That moved. And hopefully knew how to dance, Sentinel mused.

He was gorgeous. Admittedly, this was a matter of opinion. But to her, he was gorgeous.

He offered his arm. “Shall we go?”

She took his arm. They walked off the ship together, down the maze of corridors to the main meeting hall, which had been decorated modestly for this event.

The Troopers were wearing dress uniforms. They were all dressed in identical, white dress uniforms. With those identical faces... there was a surreal effect to seeing this many obviously cloned people together.

The Troopers were all gathered along one wall. On the opposite wall were the collegiate women. For some reason, the collegiate women also were all wearing white. The dresses were slightly different, but otherwise, they were even the exact same shade of white. All Sentinel could think was that maybe they were trying to make a joke. Or doing it out of respect of all the troopers. Or... hmmm.

The non-clone troopers and officers were off to another side of the room, dressed in gray dress uniforms, including the women.

Vader was the only one wearing black. Sentinel was the only one wearing red. Uh-huh.

This was going to be... interesting, Sentinel thought.

The band was on the far side from where Vader and Sentinel had entered the room. They were currently playing some very elegant dance music. No-one was on the dance floor. This reminded Sentinel of one of her first school dances. Except there hadn’t been any clones!

Everyone had watched them walk in. They had apparently made an entrance, being the last to arrive. And for other reasons, of course.

Vader wasn’t easily made uncomfortable in public situations. But this was rather weird! He suddenly regretted his decision to come to this thing.

“What, are we back in school here?” Sentinel asked.

“Hmph.” Vader said.

Sentinel studied the faces of the clones.

“How old are the oldest clones here?” she asked.

Vader paused to consider. “I’d say... about 16 to 22 years old.”

“But... they look like they are in their late 30’s to early 50’s.”

“Their growth was accelerated so that they would be ready to fight for the Empire when the time came. They were ready in under 10 years.” Vader explained.

“Has nothing been done to decelerate their growth?” Sentinel asked, with some concern.

“With the war, it hasn’t been much of a concern. Their life spans have been unnaturally cut short more often than naturally, anyway.”

“It’s not right. Yes, they are a necessity to support the Empire, but we should at least give them a chance to have a normal life span. Even a well-earned retirement. We’ve... “ she raised her hands, then let them drop, despairingly. “We’ve created a subclass of humanity, forever doomed to slavery.”

He looked down at her sharply. Her words struck a chord, and he flashed back to his years of slavery in childhood.

“The least we can do for them is give them a mostly normal life, and a mostly normal life span.” she said.

“You sound like you are about to ask me to take care of that...” he rumbled, with some amusement.

“Well, not tonight.” She smiled. “But I do have a request.”

“Oh. I’m all ears.” Vader replied, sardonically.

“I would like it very much if you would go over to the Troopers and ... give them a pep talk, get them to talk to the girls.” she said.

“Oh, really! What do I look like, a social worker? A school counselor? Or a cruise director, perhaps?” Vader said.

“No, you look like a Dark Lord of the Sith, and they will certainly take orders from you. If you order them to go ask the girls to dance, they will do it.” she said, softly.

“And what will you be doing while I am so otherwise engaged?” he asked.

“I will be talking with the girls.” Sentinel waved a hand in the direction of the wall of nervous collegiate women.

“This...” he rumbled softly. “Is NOT... in my job description.”

“Wow, the Emperor gave you a job description!?! Was it in writing? Hmmm... that would make some interesting reading: the job description of a Sith Lord.” She grinned up at him. “I, however, have nothing in writing. I’m jealous.” she teased.

He gently poked her in the stomach.

“Ouch! Watch it, that was a little too close to my injury...” she said.

“It still hurts?” he asked with concern evident in his voice.

“It’s healed up well enough, but it will still be sore for a while. Now please, do this? For me?” she smiled up at him, and he swore she actually batted her eyelashes.

“We must be an item. I am already considering doing completely foolish things at your request.” he said.

She stood up on tiptoes, and tried to plant a kiss on the side of his mask. But he interpreted her intentions quickly, and before she was anywhere near his mask, he had grabbed her wrists and brought her back down. “Not here.” Vader rumbled softly, but not without some amusement. “Not in public.”

“Ok.” said, struggling not to chuckle.

Vader looked towards the troopers, who were awkwardly milling around the far wall.

“Thank you.” she said.

“I cannot believe I am doing this...” Vader stormed off in the direction of the Troopers. Sentinel strode towards the collegiate women.

“Hello.” She said as the got close.

“Hi”, several of them said, nervously. They seemed torn between glancing at her and nervously glancing at the man they realized must be her date.

“Why are you all just... hiding over here?” Sentinel asked.

One of them stepped forward. “Well, they are all so... old. I didn’t know what it would be like, meeting a clone trooper, but I didn’t realize they would... be so old.” she said.

“They are age accelerated, but they are all around your age, or younger.” Sentinel explained.


“Yes. And they are less experienced than you are. They’ve been through hell, yet I doubt one of them has ever kissed a girl. Yet these are the most honest, honorable, loyal men you will ever find. And you aren’t here necessarily to start a lifelong relationship. You’re here to have a good time, to go dancing. So... go dancing!” Sentinel said, enthusiastically.

“Are you with... Lord Vader?” one of the girls asked.

“What if I am?” Sentinel asked.

“Just... he’s...” another one said.

“What?” Sentinel said.

“Well, he’s... rather scary.” the first girl responded.

“You’d be surprised how many men are.” She grinned. “Now go walk over there, and find someone to dance with.” Then she stopped them. “Wait, what’s the deal with all the white dresses?”

“Oh, that was my idea.” A diminutive blond replied. “They are clones, and I thought it might make them feel more comfortable if we looked more... alike...”

“Oh. Well, you might be right. Now get over there. And have a good time.” Sentinel shooed them out across the dance floor, following them a little way behind. She noticed that the troopers were starting to cross the dance floor, with Vader just behind them. The girls and troopers fanned out, starting to talk to each other, and she was sure she heard some of the girls giggling nervously. She walked through the throng and up to Vader, smiling broadly.

They were now not the only couple on the dance floor. Vader had to admit to himself that this was definitely preferable... having people actually mingling as opposed to everyone off in their own corner.

And it meant that people weren’t staring at him and Sentinel quite so much.

The music changed into a lively dance song, and Sentinel was surprised when Vader suddenly took her hands, and twirled her into his arms, dancing out to the center of the throng. She laughed with her surprise, then they elegantly danced across the floor, one the extension of the other. The Troopers and girls were doing the same, if much less elegantly. Some of the women had approached the non-clone troopers and officers, and more people were being pulled out onto the floor.

“I wonder what the Emperor will say when he hears that you saved the party?” Sentinel said, giggling.

“The wrinkled old prune can say whatever he pleases”, he said, barely audible.

She laughed out loud, then had to bury her face in his chest to try to control herself.

She finally calmed down, and said “I’m sorry, but that’s exactly what I thought of him as when I spoke to him last.”

They danced through to the end of the song. She was very surprised when one of the girls came up and tried to cut in. Vader seemed a little annoyed, but also rather pleased and amused, and readily went off with the younger girl. Sentinel stood alone, holding her hand in front of her mouth, hiding her grin. When she turned to her left, she saw the Commander there, walking towards her.

“Would you like to dance?” He asked.

She smiled, and nodded, and they started to glide across the dance floor.

“I should thank you, and Lord Vader, for breaking the ice.”

“You are most welcome, Commander Javel. Thank you for inviting us to the dance.”

“You are welcome.”

They danced in silence for a moment. The Commander was a good dancer, she noted.

“May I ask you something, Lord Sentinel?” Javel asked.

“What is it, Commander?”

“What is the... attraction... between you and Lord Vader?”

Sentinel was shocked silent. Eventually, she regained her composure.

“Why do you want to know?” she asked.

“I mean no offense. But I have to wonder... why someone as beautiful as you...” Javel trailed off.

“And I mean no offense, Commander, but it is none of your business.” Sentinel retorted, her jade green eyes flashing.

“I only meant... That there are other men in the galaxy who also would find you... fascinating... and would probably be less dangerous for you to be pursuing.” the Commander said, in as gentle a voice as possible.

“You don’t think I’m dangerous, Commander?” she asked, feeling suddenly playful. Impishly playful.

The Commander did not notice her sudden mood change. “You strike me as much less... volatile, Lord Sentinel. More approachable.” the Commander said. “Admittedly, I haven’t seen you as much this past week as I have Lord Vader... due to your convalescence. And your joint visit to my station is the first time I’ve met either of you two, so this is all based primarily upon first impressions...” the Commander said. “And holonet feeds.” he added the last with a grin.

Sentinel was rather amused. Yes, she supposed she would be much more approachable, or at least to appear so, to others. But Vader, on the other hand...

Vader wasn’t the sort of person you would just casually walk up to and strike a conversation with, Sentinel thought.

“So, Commander, you think I would be more suited with someone less dangerous?“ Sentinel said. “Someone like you, perhaps?” she asked.

“Honestly, no, Lord Sentinel. I am already... spoken for.” he smiled down at her. “But if I weren’t, and I weren’t worried about the consequences of thwarting my... competition...” he glanced at Lord Vader, who was still dancing with the young lady from the local women’s college.

“Commander, you don’t think I’m dangerous?” She asked him again.

“Well, Lord Sentinel, I know you are Sith. I’ve heard a little bit about the Sith... well, very little. But enough to know the Sith usually are somewhat dangerous.” he said. “Very dangerous.” He amended. “But you... you seem... different.”

Sentinel would have normally admitted the same. But right now, with her hopes and dreams regarding having a relationship with Vader finally coming to fruition... it seemed important to her to show just how much she was like Lord Vader. Just how dangerous she could be. Just how fitting it was that she was with the Dark Lord. Her Dark Lord.

Her knight in shining armor, she mused.

Sentinel looked down for a moment at the Commander’s chest, her lids hiding her eyes. She opened herself up to the Dark Side, to the power. To the ability to project fear, and command obedience. The power flooded in to comply, happy to have her utilize it. Happy to have her ‘finally coming to the party’, so to speak.

It was an act of loyalty towards her one true love. But it was more than that, she realized. Something more selfish... and completely addictive.

She felt the vibrating energy coursing through her, resonating with her own spirit. She looked up at the Commander, and he jumped, startled.

Her eyes were yellow.

“Trust me, commander. I am... very... dangerous.” she said, matter of factly.

The Commander cleared his throat.

“Lord Sentinel, I meant no disrespect.” the Commander said.

Some part of Sentinel’s mind was upset with herself, for playing this trick upon the Commander... for taking his interest in her life and using it as an opportunity for this show of power. But she ignored it, enjoying the feelings that were coursing through her. Enjoying feeling what she imagined Lord Vader felt, the power he commanded. The authority over others that he enjoyed.

Lord Vader’s presence in her life made her want to fully accept the Dark Side, if it would mean Lord Vader would fully accept her. The small part of her that refused to allow her to do anything that might mean a loss of control, an unintentional death, balked... complained. Whined. But was not heard in the roar of power that Sentinel was commanding.

The Commander looked away, towards where Vader was dancing with the young girl. Vader was looking right at them. The Commander almost thought he could see Vader’s eyes, glowing, through the mask Vader always wore.

Javel looked back down at Sentinel. Her eyes were back to normal.

Commander Javel loosened his grip on her, and they were no longer dancing quite as closely. He finished out the dance in silence, then politely excused himself and walked back to the side of the room.

If he were a dog, Sentinel mused, his tail would be between his legs right now.

You shouldn’t have done that. That was rude... and cruel, Sentinel’s conscience said to her. She did her best to ignore it.

She turned towards where Vader had been dancing, and found him right there beside her. She eagerly entered his arms. The music started up again, and they started dancing.

“What was all of that about?” Vader asked.

“The Commander was under the mistaken impression that you might be too dangerous for me. I corrected him. And how did your dance go?”

“Was he was interested in you?” Vader rumbled, dangerously.

“Yes... but he is taken, and said so.” She said. “Now, what did you and that young flower talk about?”

“She asked me if I liked you.” Vader said.

“She did! And what did you say?”

“I said it was none of her business. But then I said that yes, I do like you.” he said, affectionately pulling her closer.

“And what did she say?” Sentinel asked.

“She said you seemed like a very nice person.”

Sentinel blushed. “Ah, that was very sweet of her.” She grinned.

“Were you jealous of my dancing with her?” Vader asked.

“A little. And you?” Sentinel asked.

“If he pulled you any closer, he was going to find the air suddenly very thin in here.” Vader said.

She chuckled. “Well, don’t worry. I won’t be ‘tempted’ away from you.”

“And I have no intention of cheating on you.” Vader responded.

“Thank you. I wouldn’t expect any less of you.”

They danced in silence. The next song came on.

If you want a lover, I’ll do anything you ask me to.

Sentinel proceeded to turn bright purple.

“Ah, they’re playing our song.” Vader rumbled.

If you want another, kind of lover, I’ll wear a mask for you.

“You know, “ she said. “You never did give me that list.”

“I haven’t completed it.”

“I’ve been asleep for 3 days. What HAVE you been doing?” She teased.

“I’ve had alot on my mind.” He responded.

If you want a partner, take my hand, or
if you want to strike me down in anger,
Here I stand.
I’m your man.

“Well, surely you have some ideas.” she grinned up at him.


Are the moons too bright, the chains too tight, the beast won’t go to sleep!

“Well? And what are some of these ideas?” she asked.

“You’ll find out soon enough.”

I’ve been running through these promises to you that I made and I could not keep.

Ah, but a man never got a woman back, not by begging on his knees.
For I’d crawl to you baby, and I’d fall at your feet, and I’d howl at your doody like a dog in heat. And I’d claw at your heart, and I’d tear at your sheet, I’d say please! I’m your man.

“I assume ‘howl at your doody’ is still an item on the list.” Sentinel said.

“Only if we agree on our own meaning for ‘doody’.” Vader responded.

She giggled.

She looked around and noticed the Commander, scowling in their direction.

“He’s definitely not pleased to see us dancing together. Or maybe he thinks I was rather rude to him.” she asked.

“Were you rude?” he asked.

“Well, he seemed too curious about the two of us.” she said, thinking. That wasn’t the real reason you treated him so badly, her conscience said.

Vader was silent for a moment, then said “Perhaps he is our informer?”

“That would make alot of sense.” she responded.

“What shall we do with him?” Vader asked.

She focused on Javel, blatantly staring, with a small evil smile playing across her lips. Even from this distance, she could tell her attention was having an unnerving affect on the Commander.

“Do you suppose that he’s afraid of heights?” she asked.

Vader looked down at her, saw her staring at the Commander. She looked back up at Vader.

“Why don’t we find out?” he said.

Together they walked off the dance floor, in the direction of the Commander.

The Commander watched their approach with increasing nervousness. He appeared to not quite know what to do with his hands, and to be swallowing a great deal. He picked up his drink, which was on a table behind him, and downed the entire thing in one swallow.

“Commander,” Vader rumbled softly. “Lord Sentinel and I would like to have a word with you. Why don’t we take a walk.”

“Lord Vader, Lord Sentinel, I wonder if we might have this conversation at a later time. I need to be here to supervise the proceedings...” Javel said.

“I’m sure that your lovely assistant,” Sentinel indicated the woman standing next to him, “can keep the festivities going nicely.”

The Commander looked at his assistant, who nodded in response.

With a reluctant sigh, the Commander followed Vader and Sentinel.

They walked in silence, all eyes on them, as they left the dance hall. A few corridors and elevators later and they were out on the platform overlooking the cliff. In the darkness, the jade moon was just rising, giving everything an eerie green cast. The green light did nothing good for the Commander’s suddenly pale complexion.

“Lord Vader, Lord Sentinel, what is this about?” the Commander asked.

Sentinel felt a nudge from the Force, from Vader. He was giving her the go-ahead... saying to her, in her mind, This is your show. I’ll follow your lead.

She felt a tight ball of excitement in her chest at that thought, and felt the Dark Side suddenly descending upon her like a dark ball of light. She felt powerful, and very, very dangerous.

She found herself approaching Javel... like a cat, stalking him, eyeing her prey.

She cut the distance between them, and poked him in the chest with her right index finger.

“I think someone.” Poke. “Has been telling stories.” Poke. “To the Emperor.” Poke. “About myself and Lord Vader.” Poke. The last poke was emphatically harder, sharper, and hit him as she finished enunciating “Vader”. The last poke obviously caused him some pain, being that it was given extra force, using the actual Force. It also propelled him rather violently against the railing, causing him to flail slightly and then grip the railing in a panic.

“I... I don’t know what you are talking about.” the Commander stammered.

“And I think this someone...” she stood at her full height, which meant she was still looking up at the Commander. But somehow, the Commander found himself feeling like he was being stared down at. Cornered. She continued “... has been making a great deal out of our friendship, and inflating the facts, in order to... shall we say... stir up trouble?”

The Commander knew he was in dire straights, here. But he still managed to keep his cool. “I have done no such thing, Lord Sentinel.”

Vader sauntered up to stand behind Sentinel, and the Commander stared back and forth between the two of them nervously.

“You don’t? Really. Well, why don’t you explain to us, Commander: what exactly have your communications with the Emperor been about?” Vader rumbled.

“I have merely given him standard reports about this base’s operations, I assure you.” the Commander said. He managed to recover some of his confidence as he said “and I resent the accusation by the two of you that I have been... spying... on either of you.”

Sentinel focused in on the man’s vitals. Heart rate, breathing rate, eye movement. She used the Force as best she could to sniff out if the man was telling the truth, or lying.

She turned back to Vader. “He’s telling the truth about his communications. But he’s hiding something.” she said.

Vader strode forward, towering over the Commander, backing him up against the rail.

“Well, Commander. What is this piece of news that you are withholding from us?” Vader growled, staring the Commander down.

The Commander looked reluctant to respond, but he obviously didn’t like his current situation. Being pinned down by 2 impatient Sith Lords was not how he had intended to spend his evening. He said, “One of the Troopers was sent here by the Emperor. He arrived just before you did, and has been watching your activities. I was told not to interfere, and not to tell either of you.” He let out a sigh. ”That’s... all I know.”

Vader said, “Who is this Trooper?”

The Commander said “His designation is TX-567.”

Sentinel said softly, “Now Commander, was that so hard?”

Vader rumbled, almost gently, “Thank you, Commander, for your... cooperation. I understand and appreciate your loyalty towards the Emperor.” Vader started to turn, then looked back down at the Commander. “I trust you will not feel the need to relate our little discussion to... anyone?”

The Commander nodded.

Vader said “If anyone asks... we discussed the ship I’ve had commissioned, and I expressed some concern that you had used substandard equipment in it’s creation. You assured me otherwise. I was satisfied, and pleased with the ship.” Vader paused. “Which I am.” he added.

Then the two of them, Sentinel and Vader, wheeled off the platform, single file. Vader nudged Sentinel ahead of him through the doorway, which opened as they approached, and auto-closed behind them.

The Commander leaned against the railing for several minutes after they had left, staring at the closed door, trying to slow his breathing and heart rate.

Should have known better than to invite the damned Sith to a party, he thought.

Goto Chapter Thirteen


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