Friday, June 30, 2006

Chapter Twenty-Two

Vader entered the cockpit. The navputer was still off, and, as far as he could tell, nothing had been tampered with. He booted up the navputer, and set the timer down on the cockpit dashboard in order to be able to watch it more carefully.

He prepared himself to manually disengage lightspeed, without the assistance of the navputer. If his timing was off, he could have several hours trip traveling at sublight, heading for the agreed upon coordinates.

The coordinates where his package was waiting.

As the timer counted down the final seconds, Vader readied himself. He brought the ship out of lightspeed simultaneously with the timer counting down to zero.

There, off the starboard bow, was the ship he was meeting with: the Illusion.

He thought it to be a rather strange name for a Star Destroyer, but appropriate to his personal mission.

He knew that once he brought the package onboard, there would be no going back. He would be committed to bringing Sentinel back. Hedra’s offer would become null and void. And he might also find himself on the run from the Emperor, if he didn’t play this very carefully.

He sat back in his chair. Hedra’s offer was rather... tantalizing. Being able to rule the galaxy, forever? But sharing power with Sidious... Sidious was a sneaky, conniving politician. Sidious had done so much to him, albeit in order to make Vader a Sith lord. But he had caused Vader so much pain and loss in order to achieve those goals. And Vader knew Hedra was probably right: eventually Vader would outlive his purpose in Sidious’s eyes, and Sidious would seek a replacement, unless of course Vader overthrew the man first.

But was Hedra someone he could trust? And if he made that agreement with Hedra, he would effectively be committing himself to never overthrowing Sidious... to simply shifting Master’s, for the promise of being taught how to switch to a newer body upon his own death.

Too many risks. Too many questions. And again, could he even trust Hedra?

He looked out the cockpit, to the left of the ship. A bright green planet slowly spun in it’s orbit, oblivious to the Star Destroyer or Vader’s ship’s presence.

Sentinel was someone he could trust... and he would rather have merely a normal lifespan with her than several without her.

Vader sent out a coded signal to the Illusion. A small box was immediately jettisoned from a port in the Illusion’s side, and the Illusion promptly entered hyperspace. Vader guided the ship towards the box.

As the ship grew closer to the box, Vader immediately sensed his Force abilities start to weaken. Almost reluctantly, he maneuvered a robotic arm on the outside of the ship to attach and pull in the box. Once the box was secured inside one of the cargo holds, and the navputer had performed new calculations for the rest of their journey to Sevast, Vader placed the ship back into lightspeed. This time, he left the navputer running.

Vader noted that the box was in the hold that was furthest from the cockpit.

He reached for an object on the far side of the cockpit.

The object didn’t budge.

He tried to sense something, anything, with his Force sensitivity. It was as if he had suddenly gone deaf.

Perfect, he thought.

He left the cockpit, stopping briefly in the armory, and headed for Sentinel’s quarters.

Thankfully, her door was not locked. Otherwise, he would have had to either break in, or ask her to unlock it. Since she wouldn’t have been able to unlock it with the Force, she would have immediately known something was up. That would have made her... difficult.

The door auto-opened at Vader’s approach. He walked in to her quarters.

Darth Hedra was lounging on the bed, still wearing the white robe. Music was playing. Hedra looked up to see Vader enter, and smiled.

“Have you come to pay the price for eternal life?” she asked.

Vader noticed Sentinel’s lightsaber was sitting on the table furthest from the bed. And that Sentinel’s bag ‘o’ tricks was sitting on a chair also far away from the bed. It was almost as if circumstances were conspiring with him to take care of the detestable woman in front of him.

“Not exactly...” Vader rumbled softly. He pulled out the blaster he had hidden in the folds of his robe, and aimed it at her. Then he unhooked one of four manacles he had hooked to his belt, and threw it at her.

She caught it, and looked at him, perplexed. “What is this?” she asked.

“A restraint. Consider yourself... managed.” He responded.

She laughed. “You really think you can control me with a blaster and manacles?”

“Yes. I can.”

Hedra reached for the lightsaber on the far table. It didn’t budge. She became confused.

“Put the restraint around your left ankle, and then attach the restraint to the foot of your bed. Do it now.” Vader ordered.

Hedra looked up at him in horror, and then rage. “How did you...”

“Do it now!” Vader yelled.

Hedra rose out of the bed, reaching for anything heavy she could find on the bedside table. But she was instantly knocked unconscious by a blast from Vader’s gun, which was set on stun.

“So much for your complete cooperation...” Vader mused, and proceeded to restrain Hedra, with a limb manacled to each bedpost.

Once Vader was sure she was adequately restrained, he checked her vitals. He could see her chest rise and fall. He couldn’t check her pulse: his cybernetic fingers weren’t that sensitive. He ordered a droid into the room, and it confirmed that Hedra was not adversely affected by being stunned. He then ordered the droid back out of the room.

Vader swept through the room, removing all weapons... anything Hedra might be able to use. These he stored in his quarters. Once done with that, and after a final check on Hedra (who was still out cold), he went to the cargo hold where he had stored the box. He had a droid carry the box from the cargo hold to the ship’s lab, and opened the box there.

Inside was a small tank of oxygen that was about 3/4 of the way full, and one sedated Force-nullifying critter.

Vader had never been so happy to see that creature! He actually reached in and gently pet it on the head and neck. It snored and shifted position slightly, in response.

He gently transferred the creature to a cage, and ensured it had adequate food and water at it’s disposal once it woke up.

Vader watched the creature for a moment, and then headed back to the cockpit. He was headed for Sevast, but had neglected to discover where on Sevast he needed to go! He didn’t have a great deal of time for a lengthy search. So it was time to go looking for clues.

He queried the local copy of the galactic database on the ship’s central computer, and was pleased to find that Sevast was a largely uninhabited world, with only 1 major city. That city, ‘Yuthrub’ happened to be the only mining settlement on the planet. The city sat in a plain, with mountains to the East of it.

Now that he had a very good idea of where to start his search, he started to relax somewhat. But it occurred to him that perhaps, before he relaxed too much, he should check on Hedra one more time.

He didn’t want to have to deal with her anymore than was necessary. They had at least another 34 hours of travel time. He would have to ensure her safety, but also keep her under control. Perhaps it would be best to move her to the medcenter and keep her sedated, and provide her with an intravenous drip of sustenance.

Then again, would it be better to ensure she was physically worn out prior to the shamans performing whatever rites they needed to perform in order to drive Hedra out? Maybe he should spend the next 34 hours tormenting her!

The thought brought a smile to his face. The only problem with the idea was that perhaps Sentinel was actually stuck somewhere in that body, and would suffer along with Hedra.

Vader wondered how the Shamans were going to drive Hedra out. Of course, there might not be anything that the shamans could do. Vader might merely be prolonging Hedra’s life until the time at which he would have to take it in order to cover up his plot against her.

He shifted uncomfortably in his chair at the thought. All this effort to end up having to kill his lover...

And how ironic, since Hedra might truly have helped Vader to attain more power.

Vader shook that thought out of his mind. Even if rescuing Sentinel was a lost cause, the idea of gaining anything from Sentinel’s predicament was detestable to him.

He hated the idea that Sentinel might be stuck inside that body, watching everything Hedra was doing, and that Vader might have to kill her in killing Hedra. He hoped, if it came to that, that she wasn’t really at all aware of anything that had been going on.

He resolved to be as gentle with Hedra as possible, for Sentinel’s sake.

Which brought him to the realization that he should go check on Hedra.

Vader left the cockpit and entered Sentinel’s quarters. Hedra was awake, and trying desperately to pull her right hand loose from the manacle that held it fast. Blood was dripping from her wrist, where she had rubbed the skin off.

“Do not waste your energy.” Vader said.

Hedra glared at him. “You will pay dearly for this outrage.”

“The outrage is that you took over a body you had no rights to.” Vader rumbled.

“Oh, and you intend to preach to me about what is right and what is wrong? You are Sith, just like me.” Hedra hissed.

“That is true. Let us say, then, that I take great offense at your choice in bodies to usurp.” Vader said.

“There is nothing you can do. I am not leaving this body. The only way you will get me out of here is to kill me, and then your precious Sentinel will die as well.” Hedra said.

“If that is your destiny, then so be it. I am sure that Sentinel would prefer her body destroyed than to allow you to continue to use it.” Vader stated. Before Hedra could respond, he whirled out of Sentinel’s quarters and headed for the medcenter.

The droids woke up as he entered the medcenter.

Vader wasn’t sure if the droids were programmed to deal with one sentient being keeping another one prisoner. They were programmed to obey the captain of the ship, which would be him. They were programmed to obey the conscious sentient beings when it came to the care of the unconscious sentient beings. The only droid he thought could have ever questioned Vader regarding restraining Sentinel would have been R2D2, but that droid had a scary and unusual amount of sentience, way more than any medical droid he had ever dealt with.

If Vader hadn’t known for sure that R2D2 was a droid, he would have thought that perhaps the little droid’s shell actually hid a small, Force sensitive living creature inside.

So, would the medical droids try to save Hedra if Vader had to kill her? He would have to destroy her without the droids being present, if it came to that.

And as far as keeping Hedra prisoner: well, it wouldn’t hurt to feed the droids a little disinformation, to keep them cooperative.

Vader addressed the droids: “Lord Sentinel is very sick, and I am taking her someplace where her particular... disease... can be treated. In the meantime, she is a danger to herself. I need you to prepare sufficient sedative to keep Lord Sentinel asleep for approximately 40 hours. And then I need you to hook her up with an intravenous feeding tube, as well as whatever you would... hook her up to... to allow her to relieve herself.”

One of the droids rolled forwards. “In order to keep her asleep for that long, it would be advisable that her sedative be an intravenous drip as well.” It said.

“She is going to be... difficult... to sedate. Perhaps I should handle the initial sedation, and then you can setup the intravenous drip.” Vader suggested.

The droid rolled over to a table and prepared the syringe, ensuring a cap was in place over the needle. It then handed it to Lord Vader.

Vader took it. “Make your other preparations for Lord Sentinel convalescence. I will be back.”

“Will she be stationed in the medcenter, or will you be continuing to keep her confined in her quarters?” the droid asked.

Right. The droid saw Hedra chained to the bed when I had it check Hedra’s vitals, Vader thought. Must remember to have their memories wiped.

“She will remain in her quarters, for now.” Vader said, then whirled out of the medcenter, syringe in hand, and headed back to Sentinel’s quarters.

“You will never get away with this. Sidious will ensure you die hideously.” Hedra’s anger was almost palpable, even with Vader’s Force sensitivity completely dampened.

Vader noted that there was blood actively dripping from both of Hedra’s wrists now. Sentinel’s wrists, he corrected himself.

“I have already suffered enough for several hideous deaths. What is one more?” Vader said, sarcasm dripping off of every word. He approached the bed, and Hedra looked with alarm at the syringe.

“Wait! What is that?” Hedra asked, shifting in bed nervously, trying to distance herself from Vader and the syringe.

“Something to help you sleep.”

“No, wait! Wait, we can still make some sort of deal. Let me live, and I’ll never tell Lord Sidious! I will make it worth your while to spare me! Wait!” Hedra squirmed, but was unable to evade the needle. Vader injected the syringe's contents into her thigh.

“No....” Hedra moaned.

Vader stood back, waiting for the sedative to take effect.

“At least... tell me... how you have... taken... taken away my power...” Hedra said, starting to become drowsy. She looked up at Vader, eyes pleading.

Vader stood there, still as a statue, unspeaking. He watched Hedra finally fall asleep. Then he turned and left the room, heading for the medcenter.

Goto Chapter Twenty-Three


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