Thursday, June 29, 2006

Chapter Twenty-One

Vader had been up the entire night. He had considered returning to his quarters, attempting to get some rest, but had not wanted to leave the cockpit in fear that Hedra would return, look at the navputer readouts, and discover their true course. So Vader had kept his vigil, not even taking breaks for biological necessities.

He was exhausted, hungry, and, well, irritable for other reasons.

There was a clean air hose he could hook up his breathing apparatus to, in the cockpit. He also had access to water there. So he wasn’t thirsty. But the water had only exacerbated that which was now making him very irritable.

After about 10 hours, he could stand it no longer. He verified, to the second, exactly when he would need to come out of hyperspace. He set a portable timer, which he then attached to his belt. Then he shut down the navputer entirely. Now, their exit from hyperspace in the correct location was completely dependent upon him. And it would also be virtually impossible for Hedra to determine their course without taking the ship out of hyperspace.

He unlocked the cockpit, looked around carefully, then made a beeline for his quarters. Once inside his quarters, he locked the door, and briefly examined his room. Everything looked untouched, and he couldn’t sense any lingering evidence that Hedra had been in there. Relieved, he quickly took care of his most pressing biological needs.

Afterwards, he removed his helmet, hooking up a breathing hose, and ate some food, almost leisurely. Then he entered the fresher, and allowed the droids in there to clean him and his environmental suit thoroughly.

Bathing was no longer a simple matter for Lord Vader, and he had long ago given into the convenience of having the droid’s assistance.

He almost had the droids clean him twice. In the back of his mind, he realized he was trying to remove the spiritual stench of Hedra’s aura.

When he was done, he checked the timer. He had 3 hours before his first stop prior to getting to Sevast. He set an alarm on the timer for 20 minutes prior to when he needed to bring the ship out of hyperspace.

He took a much needed break to sleep.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Vader woke to the touch of lips, gently pressing against his mouth. Hands gently crossing his brow, as if to wipe his cares away.

Vader reached up to put his hands on the back of his lover’s head and back, kissing her passionately in response, pulling her close. He breathed in Sentinel’s scent, feeling arousal take over.

Sentinel moved from his lips and buried her face in his neck, nibbling gently.

Vader moaned softly.

Then his eyes snapped wide open, and he stared at the woman who was partially on top of him.

The stranger in Sentinel’s body. Sentinel’s naked body.

He placed his hands roughly on her shoulders, and shoved her away from him, hard, using his cybernetic strength accompanied by a hard Force push.

Hedra had a hold of his breathing hose. When she was violently shoved away, the hose was also yanked violently out of Vader’s chest.

Hedra landed smartly on her feet, holding the breathing hose, and laughing maniacally.

Vader flipped his chest breathing port closed, reaching for his helmet with the Force. His helmet was nowhere in the room.

Hedra watched him, smiling, holding on to his lifeline possessively.

He looked at her. He felt himself starting to pant, to breath faster, to make up for the fact that the air in his quarters was not the same oxygen enriched air that had been flowing through his breathing hose.

He reached for his lightsaber on his belt, but soon found that his mask wasn’t the only thing missing from his quarters.

He glared at Hedra. She grinned menacingly. She seemed not at all embarrassed by standing in front of him, in the nude. Watching him suffocate.

Vader attempted to rise from bed. If more of his body had been cybernetic, he would have made it. But enough of his body was still biologic, and was not up to the task of operating without enough oxygen. He fell back in the bed, staring up at the ceiling, feeling for a second like he was going to pass out.

He tried to calm down, reduce his need for oxygen. He watched Hedra warily.

She lazily crossed the room, holding on to his hose.

“Are you going to behave?” she asked, calmly.

He frowned, feeling his mechanical lungs straining, and finally nodded, closing his eyes in submission.

Hedra stalked over to him, opened his chest breathing port, and hooked the hose back into place. Vader opened his eyes, felt his heart rate slow down. Hedra then stood next to his bed, looking down at him, laying a hand on his stomach, possessively.

As if he were her personal toy.

He looked up at her warily. His gaze went to the clock on the wall, and he realized they had 30 more minutes before he needed to bring the ship out of hyperspace. 10 more minutes and his timer’s alarm would go off.

He looked back at her.

She was lazily tracing figure eights across his stomach.

Why must my worst enemy keep coming on to me? He asked himself. She’s not attracted to me. Or is she? What is she up to?

Vader sat up carefully. Hedra’s hand slid down his stomach into his lap. She was watching him carefully, hungrily.

“Darth Hedra, I find it hard to believe that you are truly interested in me, in that way.” he said, softly. He watched her keenly, waiting to see what her next move would be.

“I could tell, however, that you are very interested in me,” Hedra said. She grinned at him, lasciviously. Her hand was still suggestively in his lap, although his body armor wasn’t allowing her any undesired access. Thank the Force, Vader thought.

Vader gently moved her right hand out of his lap, trying not to show his revulsion at her physical attention.

“Since you are not truly interested in me, why do you insist on flirting with me?” He looked her in the eyes, making a point of not gazing at the rest of her lovely, borrowed body.

She moved away from the bed, still grinning. She picked up a white robe from a chair, and put it on, tying it at her waist. She walked back to him. As she walked back, Vader swung his legs off the bed, but remained sitting.

Hedra stood in front of him, making a point of standing such that she was in between his legs. “I’ve been dead a long time, Lord Vader.” She rested her hands on each of his arms. “You and Sidious are the most powerful Dark Force users in the galaxy. I don’t count any of the Sith trainers Sidious has employed as being worthy of my attention.” She looked up into Vader’s eyes suggestively. “When you have left me with Darth Sidious, any chance we might have of being together will be gone.”

Vader looked down at her, wearing a vaguely perplexed expression. “You threaten me, you insult me, you come on to me, you try to kill me.” He paused. “Does the phrase ‘mixed signals’ mean anything to you?”

She chuckled, rubbing his forearms playfully. “The fear doesn’t reach you anymore. Or the cold.”

“You were testing me.” Vader said, coldly.

“Of course. Everything is a test, Lord Vader.”

“And this latest test?”

“Latest?” Hedra asked.

“Hiding my helmet? The lightsabers? Yanking out my air supply?”

“Merely verifying what I already knew, that you have your weaknesses. That you can be... managed,” she said.

Vader stood up, forcing her to back up. He looked down at her and growled, “Managed?”

She stood quite close to him, looking up at him, and laughed gently. “You have a great deal of potential. I would like to tap into that, to help you grow. But I need to know that you can’t easily turn on me, and later, that you no longer desire to turn on me.”

“I already have a Master.” Vader said.

“Yes. He is the one who ensured you would be manageable.”

Vader looked stunned. “He saved my life...”

“Come, now Vader. We both know that there were better solutions to your situation than this substandard cybernetic one. I sense you’ve noticed already that your mechanical body is quite vulnerable to electrical shock, to electromagnetic forces. Vulnerable to things that stormtrooper equipment easily recovers from, that most droids can recover from. You will probably never be able to fully repulse Force lightning, nor can you ever safely practice creating Force lightning yourself. You were given these imperfections to ensure you could be subdued, if it ever became necessary.”

Vader looked down at her, in shock. Hearing his worst fears confirmed did nothing good for his emotional state.

Hedra continued. “Now, at some point Sidious is going to want to replace you. He’s going to find some other candidate that he thinks he can also control. Maybe someone younger, with less of your potential, and therefore needing less... management.” She walked away from him, her fingers of her right hand tapping her chin as if to time her thoughts. “I have no viable apprentices right now. Of course, I’ve only been among the living a few hours. But I like to think ahead, have all my options before me. I see you as a very powerful option. I see you eventually becoming my apprentice, and becoming worthy of the secret of immortality, the secret of being able to move from one body to the next.”

Vader stood there, his mouth partially open, still trying to digest how even the Emperor had betrayed him by doing what he could to ensure Vader’s mechanical body was substandard, vulnerable. Although he realized, every betrayal of the Emperor’s should not have been a surprise to him.

Hedra turned to face him again. “I see you becoming possibly more powerful than I am, especially once you have moved from this body into a new, cloned one. The question in that event, of course, is if I can convince you to make the same promise to me that Sidious and I made each other.”

“Even if the Emperor wishes to replace me, what makes you think he’s going to be agreeable with your inheriting me?” Vader asked.

“Oh, I won’t inherit you. The Emperor will have some price I must pay in order to get to have you be my apprentice once he is finished with you. But I’ll figure out some way to pay that price.”

Hedra sat down in the chair next to her, and crossed her legs.

“Other than Sidious, you are the only one who has ever been able to withstand the fear and cold I can project. I have fine tuned the projection of various emotions and sensations over hundreds of years. I would rather rely on that power than my Force lightning, which is second only to Lord Sidious’s Force lightning. Even Sidious is unable to project emotions as well as I can.” She paused, looked down at the floor as if seeing something there. “Even if you will eventually surpass me in power, I intend to ensure you will be able to achieve your full potential. And I believe you may one day surpass both Sidious and myself.”

“Why would you want to help me be more powerful than yourself?” Vader asked.

“Because I believe in ensuring that the Sith will achieve it’s full power. Unlike Sidious, I don’t believe in fearing those who can become more powerful than I can. I do believe in achieving an agreement with anyone who might become more powerful than I am, of course.” She smiled. “But I believe that the galaxy is large enough for a 3rd Master Sith-lord. I believe we three will need each other in order to maintain order and Sith rule in this galaxy.”

“Why should I trust you any more than I should trust my Master?” Vader asked. “And why would the Emperor agree to dividing the galaxy into thirds rather than halves?”

“You will simply have to watch me, and see if my words and my actions agree,” she said. “And as to the latter question, I will have to convince him of the benefits of having 3 Master Sith-lords. It will take some time, but I can be very persuasive.”

Vader suddenly flashed back to one of Sentinel's pro and con Sith/Jedi discussions. Vader wasn’t a stupid person... and he was very experienced. But it seemed to him that events had conspired in his life to ensure that all his experiences came at him fast and hard, and that he never truly had time to evaluate the experiences after the fact.

It was ironic to have been in the Jedi order, being taught how to meditate and calm oneself, and then be thrown into a war, be in a continual state of upheaval, constantly fighting for your life, and never having a moment’s peace to yourself in which to actually practice that meditation.

Since becoming an adult, Vader had only had adequate time to meditate once he had become Sith!

He had become a Sith based upon an emotionally loaded, last-minute decision. He felt very reluctant to make yet another life-changing decision with possibly disastrous consequences.

He felt reluctant to side with this woman when in all likelihood she was just as untrustworthy as the Emperor.

And finally, he felt reluctant to make a decision that would mean Sentinel would never return.

“I will have to think about what you have said.” Vader said.

“Of course, my offer of, in time, taking you on as my apprentice, does have a cost. And the time for payment is dwindling...” she said.


Hedra stood and walked up to Vader, moving very sensuously.

Vader struggled to keep his expression calm, confident. He was no longer unnerved by Hedra anymore. But his revulsion of Hedra was hard to push down. However, it was competing with his attraction to Sentinel’s sexy body.

Hedra reached him, putting both hands on his chest, stood on tiptoe, and kissed him languorously.

It was still Sentinel’s lips against his, and Vader found himself reacting, starting to kiss her back.

Hedra pulled back and looked at him, as if evaluating his reaction. She appeared to like what she saw, because she leaned in to kiss him once more. Almost against his will, Vader found himself wrapping his arms around her and returning the kiss, passionately.

The alarm on the timer on his belt suddenly beeped, startling them both.

Vader released Hedra. She stepped away as Vader glanced at the timer.

“I have to go.” Vader said simply.

Hedra smiled, and sauntered towards the door of his quarters. The door slid open, revealing his helmet and lightsaber on the floor just outside.

Vader called the items to himself, hooking the lightsaber to his belt, and placing his helmet back on his head. He noted that Sentinel’s lightsaber was not on the floor outside his quarters.

Hedra was standing in the doorway. “Don’t forget... time is running out.” she said. Then Hedra walked out, smiling over her shoulder briefly, and disappeared around the corner.

Vader unhooked the breathing hose, watching her leave. When she was out of range of his door’s sensor, it auto-closed.

Vader shuddered at the thought of how close he had come to succumbing to Hedra’s borrowed charms. He took the timer from his belt and stared at it, gratefully. Saved by the beep, he thought.

Goto Chapter Twenty-Two


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