Friday, July 07, 2006

Chapter Twenty-Seven

“What?” Sentinel exclaimed into the commlink. But the commlink was quiet; Mortis had already shut his commlink off.

“Crap!” Sentinel muttered.

Vader turned to look out the viewscreen. “It’s the Emperor’s shuttle.” he said.

“Crap! He said 3 hours! He lied!” Sentinel said, starting to pace around the cockpit.

“He’s disembarking.” Vader said.

“Crap!” Sentinel said, adding exasperated hand gestures to her nervous pacing.

“Calm down. Go to the cargo hold. Take my fighter, and get out of here.” Vader said, watching her pace back and forth.

Sentinel stopped in her tracks and turned to look at Vader. “No. That’s not how this is going to play out.” she said, licking her lips. She rested her hand on her lightsaber: Vader had given it back to her when they had been alone in his quarters. “Come on, we have a Wrinkled Old Prune to deal with.”

Sentinel whirled and ran out of the cockpit. Vader followed her.

The ‘Wrinkled Old Prune’ was standing just outside the ship, with 2 of his royal guards standing just behind him. The royal guards were resplendent in their dark red robes and polished red armor.

Vader and Sentinel walked down the ship’s ramp even as it was lowering. Once before the Emperor, both bowed down on one knee before him.

“Rise.” the Emperor said, his voice seeming to reverberate.

They both rose, and faced the Emperor. Sentinel swallowed nervously, but otherwise showed no sign of fear.

The Emperor turned towards his royal guard. “Leave us.” he said, and the 2 guards walked back inside his shuttle. The Emperor then turned back to face his 2 apprentices.

“So, Lord Sentinel. You now have Lord Hedra’s abilities.” the Emperor said.

“Yes, my Master.” Sentinel said.

“Lord Vader has more potential than you do, and... was more powerful than you were. However, if you have gained Lord Hedra’s abilities, then you should be more powerful than Lord Vader at this point.” the Emperor said, glancing between the two of them.

Sentinel frowned and pursed her lips. She didn’t like where this was going.

“Lord Sentinel, destroy Lord Vader, if you can, and take his place at my side.” the Emperor said.

Vader stepped back from Sentinel and the Emperor, ignited his lightsaber, and stood at the ready.

Sentinel’s eyes went wide.

“Why are you hesitating, Lord Sentinel. Lord Vader isn’t hesitating.” the Emperor purred. “Lord Vader left you at Lord Hedra’s mercy. You must be very angry at him.”

Sentinel glared at the Emperor, then shot Vader a look she hoped was comparable.

“He did nothing to help me, my Master. And I hate him for that.” she said, giving Vader a spiteful glance. “But I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the very same thing. Lord Hedra was too powerful for him. There was nothing he could have done. And anyway, you are the one responsible, not he, for Hedra taking over my body, in the first place.”

The Emperor ignored the last thing she had said. “Yet you were able to push Hedra out, even though Lord Hedra was so powerful?” the Emperor said.

Sentinel smiled, ruefully. “I am very stubborn, my Master.”

Vader stood unmoving, blade held low, waiting.

“Nevertheless, Lord Sentinel. You will fight Lord Vader.” the Emperor said. “Lord Vader, destroy Lord Sentinel.”

Sentinel ignited her blade just in time to deflect Vader’s stroke, then jumped back into a defensive stance.

Vader moved forward and attacked once more.

The two warriors fought uneasily with each other. Although they tried to make every strike look as if it had their full energy and intent behind it, each one of them was holding back just a little.

The Emperor didn’t seem to notice that. He simply stood there smiling gleefully, waiting to see who the victor would be.

Sentinel caught site of that sinister smile out of the corner of her eye. He sure does enjoy being fought over, she mused.

The two battled, while both of their minds raced, trying to figure out a solution. Vader was considering nudging Sentinel to attack the Emperor with him, but unsure how they would both be able to deflect the Emperor’s Force lightning. He didn’t know if Sentinel had learned how to deflect Force lightning yet, for that matter. He could do so, just slightly, with his lightsaber. But with all the metal in his frame, his body acted like a lightning rod, making it nearly impossible for him to deflect all of it.

And Vader's body was very vulnerable to magnetic and electrical forces.

Sentinel was being led by the Force to wait, to bide her time before taking any rash action. She listened to that leading, feeling a little more hopeful that things were going to work out, after all.

After a moment more of dueling, she sensed her own abilities were weakening. She continued to fight Lord Vader, moving more carefully as her strokes were becoming less and less guided by the Force and more guided by her own instincts. She noticed Vader’s strokes were also becoming less flashy. She hoped the Emperor would take this to merely be exhaustion on their parts, and hoped that the Emperor would keep focused on the show.

Because at that moment, that’s all it was. Their duel was a diversion: the perfect diversion to keep the Emperor focused on them, when the hovercraft suddenly came around the hill, and literally ran into and over the Emperor’s body!

The Emperor's Force senses had been sufficiently dulled by the Force nullifying creature, and he had never sensed the hovercraft's approach. And the sounds of the hovercraft had been blocked sufficiently by the configuration of the surrounding hills.

Mortis yelled at Sentinel to hop in. Sentinel glanced once, longingly at Vader. He lowered his lightsaber and nodded at her, telling her wordlessly to get out of here. She turned off her lightsaber and dove head first into the hovercraft.

Mortis powered the hovercraft down into the valley, heading at top speed for the city of Yuthrub.

Vader turned towards the Emperor’s still body. Was it possible? Perhaps it was unnecessary for Sentinel to be on the run at all: maybe that blow from the hovercraft had killed the Emperor.

Vader crossed the ground to look down on the Emperor. He was torn between the desire to behead the Emperor on the spot with his still ignited lightsaber, or to disengage it and ensure that the Emperor still saw him as ‘the loyal Apprentice’.

Vader then did something he would spend many years regretting. He forsake his opportunity to destroy his Master; he disengaged his lightsaber, and bowed down on one knee to check on the Emperor. Vader sensed movement above him, and looked up to see the Emperor’s royal guard rushing down the shuttle's ramp.

His Master was unconscious, but was quickly coming to. Vader and the royal guards helped him to sit upright. The man was definitely in pain.

“Take me to the medcenter on board the Exactor.” the Emperor weakly commanded. One of the royal guard ran back inside the shuttle, and brought a hover-gurney over. The two guards gently lifted the Emperor onto it, and took him into the shuttle. Before the guards and the Emperor disappeared inside the shuttle, Vader called out "I will meet you on board the Exactor."

Vader went inside his ship. He powered up the engines, closed all openings to the atmosphere, and raised the ship to the heavens, closely following the Emperor’s shuttle.

He lost sight of the shuttle as the shuttle and his ship passed through the hazy upper atmosphere. Then everything cleared, and the shuttle and the Exactor were in plain view.

He landed the ship alongside the shuttle, in one of the main hanger bays of the Star Destroyer Exactor, and hurried outside to walk alongside the Emperor’s gurney.

Looking down at the wounded old man gave Vader a sudden feeling of reverse deja vu. He shuddered slightly, and hoped that Sentinel and the other two were already on their way to escaping this planet.

In the medcenter, the Emperor made some less than coherent demands. In spite of his prior intelligent order to be taken to the medcenter, the Emperor was now babbling something about ‘kill all banthas’. It was then that Vader realized the Emperor was probably suffering from a serious concussion.

Vader left the Emperor alone in the medcenter, and stood on the main bridge, watching the planet below for about 15 minutes. A few transports entered and left the atmosphere below him. He stretched his senses out. The 3rd one to leave the planet had a particularly empty feeling to it. He could sense nothing about it, and that nothingness was deeper than an ocean.

He turned to the nearest lieutenant. “Lord Sentinel is missing. Find her! Search the Yuthrub spaceport, and every outbound transport, prior to allowing it to leave.” he commanded.

“What about the transports already exiting the planet’s orbit, Lord Vader?” the lieutenant asked.

“Let them go. There is no way Lord Sentinel could have gotten a transport that quickly.” Vader said.

“Yes, m’Lord!” the Lieutenant responded, turning to carry out the Dark Lord’s orders.

Then Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith, turned back to watch the third transport.

As it disappeared into hyperspace, he said goodbye to the one woman who had ever managed to see past his mask.

Then he turned and headed back to the medcenter, to be by his Master’s bedside when the ‘Wrinkled Old Prune’ recovered.



Anonymous Tiahaar said...

Bravo, Bravo!! A great and wonderful story indeed! Well done Darth Snoopy : )

7/09/2006 11:22 PM  
Blogger Kenya Starflight said...

I have just one thing to say:


Loved it... but what a sad ending! Please let them meet again!

7/10/2006 9:31 AM  
Blogger Sith Snoopy said...

Thanks, guys! :)

Glad you liked it!

Uhm, will give some thought to a sequel. Ok, ok, I have alot of ideas. :) Got several plot bunnies I need to satisfy at once.

Tiahaar, waiting on a Calenture fanfic from you. ;)

Kenya, waiting for Chapter 4 of Walk Like Men! :)

7/10/2006 11:23 PM  
Blogger Radioactive Jam said...

"Plot bunnies?"

(Great, great story!)

8/19/2006 6:52 PM  
Blogger Sith Snoopy said...

Kenya calls story ideas "plot bunnies". :)

Raj, thanks for the compliment, for reading my story, and for all the constructive criticism! :)

You rock, O Master of the Monkies. :)

8/19/2006 8:57 PM  

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