Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Chapter Twenty-Five

Sentinel woke up slowly, very groggily. She looked around her room blearily, trying to focus. Her throat was very sore, as if she’d been having a screaming match with someone. Her head hurt.

She lay there, and looked around her room. Some items appeared to be missing, but she wasn’t sure which items. She felt like she’d been sleeping for days again. She saw the I.V. taped to her left arm and groaned.

“I’m never letting a medical droid near me again...” she muttered.

She was dressed in her white robe, only. She was lying on top of her blankets. She looked down and realized, by parting her robe, that she was hooked up to collection bags.

“Oh, great.” she said. And proceeded to remove first her I.V., and then the other various items she was hooked up to. That done, she rose from bed, very unsteady on her feet, and looked in her cracked mirror.

She looked like hell.

She stumbled to the fresher and took some time in cleaning the filth from her body, and tried to remember what had happened.

Her last memory was of Vader killing that 3rd child. And her trying to kill him, slicing off his right hand. Then she was pretty sure she had passed out.

There were some other jumbled memories of... tormenting Vader. Something about holding his breathing hose hostage. She shuddered, wondering what the heck had happened.

She came out of the fresher, and dressed herself in pants and a tunic, both black. Then she put her hair up, and observed herself in her mirror.

She still looked like hell. Whatever had gone on had not been pleasant.

She looked back at her bed, and that’s when she noticed the manacles on each bedpost. Then she looked down and noticed the synth skin on her wrists.

No, not pleasant at all, she thought. Well, I’d better to find Vader. See if we’re still on speaking terms.

He had killed those children. She shuddered. But I still love him... I must be a monster. How can I love someone who killed children? she thought.

She opened her mind, trying to extend her senses, find out what Vader might be up to. She met a blank wall. Confused, she reached for a brush on her dresser. It did not come when called.

Ahah. We’ve one of those things on board, she thought. That’s... interesting.

She wobbled towards his quarters. She wasn’t hungry... she was more nauseated than hungry at that moment. When she got near his quarters, his door auto-opened and revealed Vader, deeply asleep.

She cautiously approached his sleeping form. Monster or not, this was the man she was hopelessly in love with. And he looked exhausted, as if his body was trying to catch up on days without sleep.

She sat down gently on the bed, leaned over, and kissed him on the mouth. Vader took some time to wake up. Then Vader responded, gently pulling her down over him, with his right hand on her back, and his left on her neck. She moved down to his neck to nuzzle and kiss him there, affectionately.

She suddenly found herself being pushed back from him, with his left hand solidly around her neck, cutting off her air.

Vader watched Hedra coldly. He was not going to throw her away from him this time, knowing she would just yank out his air supply once more. He realized the shamans had failed. Whether he liked it or not, it was time to snuff the life out of his lover’s body.

But Hedra was slapping at his left arm like it was a frightening annoyance, but still just an annoyance. She wasn’t clawing at his face, or pulling out his air hose... she wasn’t acting in ways he would expect Hedra to act.

Vader released her, unsure what was going on.

Sentinel got up from the bed, rubbing her throat, and coughing profusely, gasping for air. She regained her composure, catching her breath while leaning over the back of a chair. “I thought... we were past... the throttling stage! Teach me... to try to... wake you up... with a kiss!” Sentinel said.

Vader sat up in bed, and his expression softened. “Sentinel?” he asked.

“Yes?” Sentinel said, holding her fingers to her temples, which were throbbing.

“Sentinel??” he said, almost with a sob.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” Sentinel asked, approaching him. Vader grabbed her, pulling her into a sitting position on his lap, holding her tightly to him, and sobbing into her neck.

Oh, crap. Something very bad has been going on, Sentinel thought.

“It’s ok, I’m here.” Sentinel said, holding him, and stroking the back of his head gently. “I’m here. Ssshhhh. I’m here, my Love. It’s ok.”

Vader held her, rocking slightly, eyes closed, face buried in her neck, unwilling to release her. They stayed that way for a while, with Sentinel talking gently to him, conflicted with the desire to calm him down and the desire to let him get all of this upset out of his system.

Vader calmed down finally, allowing her to shift position to sit on the bed beside him. With some embarrassment, he swiped at the tears on his face, then accepted a tissue Sentinel handed him.

“What happened?” she asked.

Vader shook his head, not willing to speak yet. He didn’t trust his voice.

“You’re really scaring me.” she said.

He chuckled. “Then we’re even.” he said.

The door to his quarters opened. Sentinel stood up suddenly, facing the door, not expecting anyone to be on the ship with them, and reached for her lightsaber. She didn’t find it, and remembered that she hadn’t been able to locate it in her quarters.

Gilly and Mortis walked in. Sentinel looked shocked, then elated.

“Gilly! Mortis!” she ran to them and hugged them both. “What are you two doing here?” Then she remembered that they were in Vader’s quarters, and looked somewhat confused, and a little embarrassed.

Gilly disentangled herself from Sentinel, to reach for Sentinel's face, holding her still, and search her eyes. Sentinel stood still for this, feeling a little like she was an expensive vase that was being examined for any defects.

“What are you doing?” Sentinel finally asked Gilly, her speech sounding a little funny with Gilly’s hands partially holding her head by squishing her cheeks.

Gilly seemed to like what she saw. She said, “Just checking...”, and then hugged Sentinel tightly, her eyes watering a little.

Sentinel hugged her back, looking up confusedly at a smiling Mortis. Gilly finally released Sentinel, and Sentinel stood back, looking at Gilly, Mortis, Vader (who was still sitting on the bed, and was putting his mask back on in a hurried fashion), and then back at Gilly and Mortis.

“What’s going on?” Sentinel asked.

Gilly and Mortis were watching Vader put his mask on, fascinated. But they looked strangely comfortable with his appearance, with his scarred face.

Vader, on the other hand, was definitely not comfortable having these people see him without his mask on.

“What’s going on?!?” Sentinel repeated. Gilly and Mortis turned to look at Sentinel.

Vader’s mask was in place once more. He rose, and walked up behind Sentinel. Sentinel turned to look up at him, questioningly.

“You were possessed.” Vader said simply.

“I was what?” Sentinel asked.

“You were possessed, Dear, by the spirit of a deceased Sith Lord. A Darth Hedra. She was quite nasty. Lord Vader subdued Hedra with the Force nullifying creature, then brought you to us, so we could expel her from your body.” Gilly explained.

Sentinel looked at Gilly, confused and alarmed. “How did Darth Hedra possess me?”

“The obelisk, in the temple on Latern, was the not-so-final resting place of a Darth Hedra. The Emperor arranged things such that you would be fully using the Dark Side of the Force, right when you would be close to the obelisk. He knew that you had a psychic weakness that his friend, Darth Hedra, could exploit right when the influence of the Dark Side was at it’s strongest.” Vader explained.

“Wait, the Emperor planned all along to have this Hedra person take over my body?” Sentinel asked.

“Yes. He and Hedra have a long standing arrangement. They agreed to help each other return from death. Apparently, Hedra would normally have had clones of her body ready for her, in the event of her death. But her clone supply was destroyed, and her own deceased body was cremated before any samples could be taken to make a new clone from.” Vader said. “When the Emperor found you, he realized that you could take the place of a clone for Darth Hedra.”

Sentinel walked towards a chair and slumped into it, trying to take in everything she was being told.

“Where is Darth Hedra now?” she asked.

“Gone, Dear. She can’t harm you ever again.” Gilly assured her.

Sentinel considered this. “She was gone once before. Why can’t she harm me now?” she asked.

“The Higher Power has banished her.” Mortis responded.

Sentinel thought some more. “So, I’m vulnerable to spirits of the dead when I’m using the Dark Side of the Force?”

Vader swallowed hard. He hadn’t thought of that possibility.

“If you are near the resting place of a strong Force user, yes. But only if it’s the resting place of a Dark Side user, and only if you are a good fit for that person. The users of the Light Side would not be interested in possessing you... they would not desire to do such a thing to a living person.” Mortis stated. He gave Vader a wary glance, and added, “But I would advise you to ensure you are no longer a walking target, by giving up the Dark Side altogether.”

Vader glanced sharply at Mortis, but held his tongue.

Sentinel sat staring at the floor. “The Emperor is expecting me to be Darth Hedra now... he’s not going to be happy when he finds out the possession didn’t take.”

“He thinks the possession did take. When I first discovered Hedra had possessed you, I didn’t know who else to turn to, so I spoke to the Emperor.” Vader said. “I... it didn’t occur to me that this was all part of his plan. I just knew something was drastically wrong with you, and I hoped he would have the answers.”

“You’ve risked the Emperor’s anger for me.” Sentinel stated, looking up at Vader, then at Gilly and Mortis. She sighed. “Was the Emperor expecting me to see him anytime soon?”

Vader looked at the clock on the wall. “Yes. Sometime yesterday.”

Sentinel stood in alarm, then had to grab the arm of the chair to steady herself.

“No... no... you’re in danger, Vader. He’s going to know you helped me!” she said. “All of you are in danger!” She looked at the 3 of them with grave concern.

Gilly walked up to Sentinel and made her sit back down. “Relax, child. Relax. The Emperor doesn’t know we were the ones to help you.” Gilly looked up at Vader. “This Hedra was dreadfully powerful. Perhaps we can fabricate something regarding her overpowering you, Lord Vader, and then escaping from you?”

Vader thought for a moment. “Hedra fully expected to be taken to see the Emperor. I can’t think of a reason that she would decide to instead run from him, or from me.”

“Oh, frak. Oh, frak.” Sentinel put her head in her hands, rocking.

“This is not your problem, Sentinel.” Vader said. “It’s mine. You, and possibly Gilly and Mortis, will need to go into hiding.”

Sentinel sat there thinking. “I need to talk to Lord Vader alone.” she finally said.

“Of course, Dear. We will just go wait in the spare quarters, where we were resting after the exorcism was finished.” Gilly said.

Vader glanced at them sharply. “You left Sasha alone?”

Mortis said “We couldn’t do anymore. Besides, Gilly put her manacles back on.”

“No I didn’t, Dear. I thought you had.” Gilly said.

Sasha looked up with some amusement.

“Why didn’t you wake me when you were done?” Vader asked, sharply.

“Well, we came in here, and saw you were sleeping so deeply. You were obviously exhausted. We thought it would be better to let you sleep.” Gilly explained.

Vader clenched his fists in frustration. He knew he should have stayed and watched over the proceedings! Hedra could have still been inside Sentinel, and wandered through the ship killing them all in their sleep. And then the realization that they had gotten a good look at him without his mask on... he had been so tired, he had neglected to lock the door to his quarters!

He stood there shaking his head, deciding that maybe this Higher Power had protected them from their collective stupidity.

“Gilly, Mortis, please leave. I will come find you when I’m done.” Sentinel said. “And thank you, for saving me.”

Gilly and Mortis started to leave, when Sentinel stopped them. “Wait, how are the others?” Sentinel asked.

“The others have fled the planet. They were afraid order 66 might include them. We fled, but not so far... just from the city to the cave.” Mortis said.

“Why didn’t you leave the planet too? Without anyone to train, what would keep you on this Force-forsaken planet?” Sentinel asked.

“You, Dear.” Gilly answered. “We felt we had to stay, that sometime in the near future, someone was going to need healing from us that medical droids could not provide. We felt that very strongly. And now that we have healed you, we know you were the one we were waiting for.” Gilly smiled. “And now, we will give you two some time alone.”

Mortis and Gilly both left Vader’s quarters, the door auto-closing behind them.

Vader moved towards Sentinel, wanting badly to hold her again. She held up her hand.

“No, I need some questions answered.” Sentinel said.

Vader paused, uncertain where this was going. He was still very tired. “What questions?”

“Please, Lord Vader, sit down.” Sentinel gestured towards the bed. Vader sat, and was sad to see Sentinel remained in her chair... that she did not join him to sit beside him.

“Some things the Jedi said... the ones in the ancient sun-worshipers temple... are bothering me.” she explained.

Vader didn’t like where this was going. He sighed inwardly, then said “Go ahead.”

“The Jedi said that the Emperor engineered the war with the Separatists. That he was controlling both sides in order to give himself more power in the Senate. Is this true?” she asked.

Vader considered it for a moment. When he had first started working with the Emperor, he had chosen to believe that the man had indeed been betrayed by the Jedi, and was indeed merely trying to maintain rule for the good of the Empire. Vader still intended to overthrow the Emperor, as he was sure he could do a better job, and as the ember of his lust for power had become a raging inferno once the Dark Side had settled in.

But had the Emperor actually engineered the entire Separatist/Clone war? At this point, he wouldn’t put it past the Emperor. But he honestly didn’t know.

“I don’t know.” Vader answered, honestly. “But it wouldn’t surprise me if he had engineered the entire war. It would explain where the clone army came from, why it was ready ahead of time. He needed an enemy, to give him a reason to stay in office and request an army be created, and then he needed an army ready for him to claim as his own. It very quickly gave him absolute power.”

Sentinel considered his answer for a moment. “Were the Jedi in fact really trying to take over the Empire, or were they merely trying to depose an evil leader?” she asked.

“The Jedi betrayed me!” Vader growled.

“How so?” Sentinel asked.

Vader rose, fuming, starting to pace. He didn’t like being put on the spot, having questions asked of him that so closely circled his own motivations for joining the Dark Side and becoming loyal to a Sith Lord. Well, somewhat loyal.

“What was the Jedi’s true intent?” Sentinel asked.

“Their true intent doesn’t matter! What matters is that they were willing to kill the Emperor without so much as a trial. This alone made them suspect.” Vader snarled.

“How did they betray you?” she asked.

“They wouldn’t give me the honor I deserved! And they were going to kill the one person who could help me save the one I loved.” Vader said.

“You were a Jedi before you became Sith?” she asked.

“Yes!” Vader roared, still pacing. He stopped, turned to face her, and growled “I was the greatest Jedi ever known! And they never trusted me, wouldn’t help me increase my skills! The Emperor was willing to help me with that.”

“You were Anakin Skywalker!” Sentinel exclaimed.

“Yes! But not anymore. Don’t use that name in front of me again!” Vader hissed, shaking his fist at her.

Sentinel stared down at the floor, processing everything. “Who was the one you loved?” she finally asked.

“My wife. Padme.” Vader said, calming down at the thought of her. Of his angel.

Sentinel was stunned. “You were married? I thought the Jedi...”

“We were married in secret.” Vader said.

Sentinel skipped ahead in her thoughts. “The Jedi said you killed younglings from the Jedi Temple.”

“I had no choice! They would have been a threat to the Emperor. And it was the Emperor’s first task for me, to make me strong enough to save Padme.” Vader rumbled.

“What was wrong with Padme?” Sentinel asked.

“I had visions that she would die in childbirth.” Vader sat down heavily on the bed, staring at the wall. “Prior to that, I had visions of my Mother dying, and I didn’t react to those visions in time. By the time I went to my Mother, I was just in time to have her die in my arms.” Vader clenched his fists. “I would not allow that to happen again, I would be strong enough to save those I loved.”

“But... you said you killed your wife?” Sentinel said.

Vader turned sharply at Sentinel’s words. “YES!” He snarled. “Yes, I killed her. Obi-Wan, my old Master, turned her against me. I... I grew angry at her, and ... and...” Vader stared down at the floor.

Sentinel only wanted to go over to him then, hold him, and end these torturous questions. But she had to find out everything.

“Why did you have to kill the younglings we found?” she asked.

“They would have become a threat to the Empire.” Vader didn’t look up as he spoke, but continued to stare down at the floor.

“They could have possibly been rehabilitated.” Sentinel said.

“Do you think the Emperor would have allowed that?” Vader asked.

Sentinel almost smiled. “No, I don’t think so.”

“It is never wise to disobey your Sith Master... not until it is time to overthrow him, that is.” Vader rumbled softly.

Sentinel licked her lips, pulled her legs up under her, so her knees where just under her chin, hugging her legs to herself.

“I almost killed you. I remember chopping off your hand.” she said.

“But you didn’t kill me. You held yourself back.” Vader said, suddenly concerned that she might be feeling guilt for her actions. He held up his right hand “See, it’s as good as new.”

Tears started to stream down her face. He was such an angry, dark person, yet he was worried about her feelings, worried she would feel guilty for trying to kill him!

“I did terrible things to you... while I was Darth Hedra...” she stated.

Vader sat there, unwilling to respond.

“I did terrible things to you. I know I did. I can see myself... holding on to your breathing hose and laughing at you, while you lay there, helpless.” Sentinel shuddered. “I see myself toying with you... you actually cowering before me.” She hugged herself tighter, but the memories continued to flood in.

“You remember?” Vader asked. He was suddenly very glad he had been cautious, that he had treated Hedra as kindly as possible when he’d had to subdue her.

“I remember.” Sentinel responded. “She and the Emperor have the secrets to eternal life... of a sort. They know how to take over the bodies of their clones.”

“What else do you remember?” Vader asked.

“I can’t remember anything about Hedra prior to her taking over my body. But I remember what she thought, what she herself remembered at the time, and what she said and did to you.” Sentinel pushed her face into her knees, hiding, and started to rock herself.

Vader stood up, went to Sentinel, getting down on one knee in front of her, placing his left hand on her hands that were wrapped around her legs.

“You should have taken her offer.” Sentinel said, her face still hidden. “She was serious about making you her apprentice, about teaching you how to move to a new body. About keeping the Emperor from having you killed when you were replaced. You could eventually have escaped your body. It would have been as if you’d never lost a single limb, never been burnt.”

“There are some things even I... am unwilling to do.” Vader rumbled softly. “Profiting from your suffering was one of them.”

Sentinel lifted her head from her knees, tears streaming down her face.

“Don’t cry, my Love.” Vader said. “You’re safe. I didn’t let Hedra get away with her plans. And I won’t let the Emperor harm you.”

“I’m not worried about myself. I hate what I did to you.” she said.

“You couldn’t help it. Hedra was in control.” Vader said, taking one of her hands and squeezing it.

“No, no... in the temple... I almost killed you. I wanted to kill you. I... the Dark Side was so strong, so intoxicating.” Sentinel shuddered.

“You held fast to our promise. You were strong enough.” Vader said.

“Why did you save me? After I tried to kill you? After I turned on you?” Sentinel looked up at him, eyes red with tears.

“Because you didn’t kill me. You fought off the Dark Side, you fought off the temptation. I know what that’s like. Only moments before you tried to kill me, I almost killed you, after all.” Vader said, himself shuddering as he remembered being ready to lop Sentinel’s head off when she had been protecting the youngling with her body.

The past events were hitting Sentinel all at once, exacting their emotional toll. She sobbed uncontrollably.

Vader himself was fighting back tears, hidden behind his mask.

We’re quite the pair of Sith Lords, he thought.

Sentinel tried several times to stave off the tears and shuddering sobs. After about a few minutes, she succeeded.

“Told you I would make a terrible Sith. How many Sith Lords have emotional breakdowns?” she said, chuckling and sobbing.

Vader raised his hand.

Sentinel laughed. She looked at him, smiling. “So, you were Anakin Skywalker.”

Vader rose and turned away. “Do not remind me of that name.” he growled.

“I merely speak of it because I find it ironic.” she said.

“You find this amusing, do you?” Vader growled.

“No, no. You misunderstand. I fell in love with you the first moment I saw you on the holonet, as Anakin. It seemed a stupid, childish crush at the time, but I knew it was something different. Then when Anakin disappeared, and Vader appeared, it was like I was falling in love all over again, except somehow it felt like I was still in love with the same person. I couldn’t figure it out. My brother thought I was just being a fickle female, but there was something about you...” Sentinel said.

“You knew all along who I was...” Vader said, incredulous.

“Well, my heart did. My head has been playing catch-up the entire time, since it didn’t make sense to me how you two could be the same person.” Sentinel said.

“You fell in love with someone you had never met.” Vader said.

“I know, it sounds really stupid.” Sentinel said.

Vader thought of when he was 9, and fell in love with a 14 year old Queen.

“Not that stupid.” Vader said.

Sentinel sat there, thinking hard. “We need to run. To hide from the Emperor. You and me. I can keep you hidden, I can get you help so you can change your appearance.” she said.

“You would be able to hide much more easily without me.” he rumbled.

“I don’t want to leave you.” she whispered.

Vader returned to her, kneeling on one knee, and held her.

“If I am to keep you safe, I may have to do the one thing that I’ve never learned how to do.” he said, softly, holding her gently.

She leaned her forehead against his chest armor. “What is that?” she asked.

“Let go of someone I love.” Vader said.

Goto Chapter Twenty-Six


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darth Vader is a tragic anti-hero character;there by,any story base with this character as the lead plot roll is not entilled to a happy ending. In truth I 80% expect the heroin to die. I enjoyed reading this strory,As for Vader this is as close to ahappy ending he can get.---"Shadows of the Empire." Vader did have a happy ending,but if Vader had known that Leia was his duaghter not even the Emperor could stop Vader from killing the Dark Prince of Black Sun.

7/05/2006 8:42 PM  
Blogger Sith Snoopy said...

Sounds like I'll have to go read "Shadows of the Empire". :)

I read "Dark Lord - The Rise of Darth Vader". I've tried to write using that as a basis of understanding how Vader must have, 'er, matured over the time between ROTS and ANH.

Thanks for the comment!

Oh, and the story isn't done. I have a ways to go yet. :)

7/05/2006 10:02 PM  

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