Sunday, October 15, 2006

Chapter Seven: Mission Recruitment

“No”, Kalira responded.

Sentinel continued to stare at Vader. “I said, ‘get out’.”

Kalira looked straight at Sentinel. “No.”

“You would be well advised to do as Sentinel says.” Vader rumbled dangerously. His hand hovered over his lightsaber, ready to pull it free of his belt. His eyes never left Sentinel’s. Sentinel’s right hand was open, the fingers pointed at the bed, where her own lightsaber moved slightly.

Behind Vader, Kip cautiously bent down and dragged the still gasping Commander Javel out of the room. Kalira watched this, nodding to Kip briefly when she caught Kip’s eyes. Kip looked at her anxiously, and mouthed, “get out” to her. Kalira briefly shook her head.

Sentinel’s lightsaber twitched again on the bed, without actually leaving the bedspread. That was enough to trigger Vader’s reactions, and his saber leaped into his grip and ignited, humming, pointed loosely in Sentinel’s direction.

Kalira gasped as it ignited, and watched Sentinel react, calling her lightsaber to herself. It ignited on it’s way to her hand, and she held it at the ready.

The two red lightsabers seemed more real than anything else in the room, shining with an unholy light, a near intelligence.

Kalira unconsciously started to dig her fingernails into the palms of her hands.

Vader and Sentinel started to approach each other.

“Stop!” Kalira shouted.

“Do not interfere.” Vader warned.

“I will not leave so two people who love each other can have a little privacy while they kill each other!” Kalira growled.

Vader and Sentinel both turned to face Kalira.

“I don’t care if you are both trigger-happy Sith. I don’t care about your posturing, your need to prove which of you is in charge, which of you has the bigger… lightsaber! This is stupid, and it solves nothing!” Kalira yelled. She alternated between glaring at Vader, then Sentinel.

Vader glared down at Kalira. “You should keep your nose out of things that are none of your business…” he growled, taking a step towards her.

“Do you love Sentinel?” Kalira asked.

“Yes!” Vader said. “But she must be taught to respect me.”

“She already respects you. So all your teaching her is that if she has an argument with you, she can expect a fight to the death.” Kalira stated.

“This is not merely an argument. And this is still none of your business.” Vader hissed.

“You are ready to kill my backup singer. You’ve made it my business.” Kalira said. Her gaze was steady, her voice strong, with just the slightest quaver.

Sentinel watched this interchange with amazement. She had never seen anyone other than herself stand up to the Dark Lord.

Vader stalked over to Kalira. Before Vader reached Kalira, Sentinel moved to stand between the two. “She only wishes us to stop arguing. To remember that we are on the same side”, Sentinel said, her own anger practically forgotten, her lightsaber held in a slightly more relaxed but still defensive position.

Vader stopped, staring down at Sentinel. With great difficulty, he reigned in his anger.

“If only that were true, Sentinel.” Vader growled softly. He turned, switched off his lightsaber, found a chair in Sentinel’s room, and sank into it.

Kalira visibly relaxed when Vader sat down. Sentinel switched her lightsaber off, hooking it to her belt, and gave a long silent sigh.

Sentinel crossed the room to Vader, and got down on one knee, her hands on his thighs, palms down, looking up at him. “I’m not in any danger, m’Lord. Commander Javel’s men are trustworthy. And I have no intention of revealing who I am to the natives… I will be wearing a trooper uniform. I will keep my lightsaber out of sight.” She bit her lip. “And I have never stopped respecting you.”

Vader touched Sentinel’s cheek with his gloved hand, cupping her face. Sentinel leaned into his hand, closing her eyes.

“I would not fear for you so much if you were Sith. As it is, you trust others too easily. And you are far too willing to sacrifice yourself on lesser altars.” Vader rumbled.

“And the greater altar would be?”

“To assist me in overthrowing the Emperor. To rule by my side, and in so doing, to bring order to the galaxy.” Vader spoke very softly, aware that Javel was somewhere in the other room, and aware that Kalira was just across the room from them.

“So, I should ignore helping people now, so I can help more people later by ruling the Empire?” Sentinel asked, speaking just as softly.

“Yes! And the best way to attain the power necessary to rule is through the Dark Side! You simply must see that!” Vader said, his voice rising with the passion of his words, in spite of his desire to speak softly.

“I do see that the Dark Side is powerful, my Love. I also see that it bends and twists its users to its own will. And I don’t trust its will.”

“I can train you to control it, to control yourself.” Vader said, emphasizing his point by clenching his fist in front of her.

“To control my temper, the way you control yours?” Sentinel asked, a faint smile playing across her lips.

Vader growled. “Those slips of my temper are inconsequential to the benefits gained by my eventual rule. But I cannot attain that rule without your help.” Vader paused, and then spoke much more softly. “I cannot defeat the Emperor alone… without you.”

Sentinel sighed, and looked down at her hands, which were still in Vader’s lap. She took a deep breath. She spoke so softly it was almost a whisper. “You don’t think I can help you defeat the Emperor if I’m using the Light Side of the Force? You don’t think I will be strong enough?”

“No. You will not. He has easily faced down and killed several well-trained Jedi. He is nearly invincible.”

Sentinel stared at Vader’s mask as he spoke, trying to see past it to his eyes. To see into his soul. She swallowed and cleared her throat. “I will think about it, m’Lord. But I can’t promise anything. And before I even begin contemplating once more being a Sith, I have to help Commander Javel on this task.”

Vader was torn between relief that Sentinel was willing to at least try the Sith ways once more, and frustration that she was still willing to involve herself in this dangerous and reckless task. “Why did Javel ask you to handle this? Why not request help from his superiors? Why ask you to put yourself in danger? To expose your presence here?!” Vader asked.

Commander Javel chose that moment to re-enter the room. His complexion was ashen. Sentinel sensed great fear from the man, but also great courage.

“Why don’t I answer that question, Lord Vader. If I may”, Commander Javel said.

Sentinel rose to stand beside Vader.

Vader looked up at Javel. “Proceed, Commander.”

Commander Javel cleared his throat, his hand rising unconsciously to his collar. “Lord Vader, we’ve had problems before that I haven’t had sufficient men to handle locally. I made the mistake on 2 separate occasions to request help. In both cases, we had non-local people, members of the Black Sun, who were trying to setup business here. In both cases, they were frightened off by the influx of offworld stormtroopers, but not before the offworld troopers had tortured and killed innocent locals they incorrectly identified to have something to do with Black Sun.”

“In any struggle to be rid of a criminal element, sometimes innocents will be harmed…” Vader started.

Commander Javel interrupted Vader. “There was no reason for this harm to have occurred. These offworld troopers raped women… even girls as young as 10 years old… in order to try to extract information from innocent locals… innocent people who knew nothing, who had nothing to do with the Black Sun. My troopers are instructed not to oppress the local populace in their pursuit of justice. My troopers care about the people here. Many of my troopers are locals, having signed up to serve the Empire, and then having requested a post here. Those that have been sent to serve under me have been instructed thoroughly about respecting citizens’ rights. And they have been informed that if I hear that anyone’s rights have been abused, the troopers in question will be… dealt with.”

“So… since your own troopers were insufficient to find this murderer, and since outside troopers would, in your opinion, make the situation worse, you chose the help of someone you could trust who would hopefully be powerful enough to handle this murderer…” Vader rumbled.

“Yes, Lord Vader.” Commander Javel said.

Vader sat silently, thinking.

“What have you done, with your troopers and other personnel to ensure Sentinel’s safety?” Vader asked.

Javel cleared his throat again. “I have instructed them to talk to me first if they see anything unusual. And I also told them that the backup singer bears a striking resemblance to the wanted criminal Sasha Yod, but that they should pay that no mind, as it is a merely a resemblance.”

Sentinel added, “My band name is Jeru Cantel.”

“Jeru…” Vader said softly.

“Jeru was my great aunt’s name,” Sentinel said.

Javel continued. “I understand that I should have spoken to you first about this matter, Lord Vader. I felt this would be a simple matter for Sentinel to handle, considering her own power and finesse. I did not consider how it would give you cause for concern.” The Commander bowed his head slightly.

Vader rose. His lightsaber was still in his hand. He smoothly hooked it to his belt, and walked right past the Commander, to stand in the doorway. He turned to face Sentinel and the Commander.

“Who on this base can be sent with Sentinel and be trusted to keep her identity a secret? Eventually she will probably have to draw her lightsaber or use her Force abilities.” Vader asked.

“I wasn’t planning… I didn’t think that…” Javel started.

“I am going alone,” Sentinel stated.

“That is unacceptable.” Vader thought for a moment. “I am coming with you.”

“My lord!” Javel exclaimed.

“I’m coming too. Sasha, I can’t believe you were going to go face to face with some insane murderer without any kind of backup.” Kalira snarled.

“You are not combat trained.” Vader said.

“Actually, I was in the local police force on my home planet for 5 years after I finished school. How do you think I paid the bills while getting the band started?” Kalira said, smiling.

“I’m coming too.” Sal popped his head in. “I’ve got military experience. I served for five years under General Bisbain.”

“We can all wear trooper armor. And you, Lord Vader, can go as… uhm… you.” Kalira finished.

“I can’t allow this. I won’t let you all endanger yourselves.” Sentinel said.

“No, but you’ll expect all of us to allow you to endanger yourself.” Vader growled. “And besides, this isn’t a bad idea. They have combat experience. They can be trusted to keep your identity a secret. I believe they even already have armor they have borrowed….”

“Well, no, Sal, Kip, and Drej all have armor… but Sasha and I didn’t borrow any as we wore our gowns last night.” Kalira said.

“A problem easily fixed.” Commander Javel turned and spoke a quick message into a comlink he pulled off his belt. Once finished, he said, “Someone will be here very shortly with an assortment of uniform and armor pieces to try on. Although, I must admit, I have reservations about sending band members – even combat trained ones – on a mission.”

“You had no reservations about sending the woman I love alone into danger.” Vader rumbled dangerously. Sentinel blushed furiously and happily at Vader’s public admission of his love.

“I, uh…” Javel stuttered, then simply cleared his throat.

“Guys, this is too dangerous. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.” Sentinel said.

“Too late. They have volunteered, and I am officially accepting. Kip, will you be joining us? I don’t think we have a helmet that will fit your… your head…” Vader said.

“Meesa liking da idea an all, but someone needsa stay with Drej.” Kip responded.

“Then it’s settled. I shall lead the team, you three will accompany me as my escort.” Vader announced.

Sentinel sighed, shook her head, and then looked up with a wry grin. “Wait, how did this become your mission?”

“Because I’ve made it my mission.” Vader softly rumbled.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Chapter Six: Temper, Temper

Sentinel woke early the next morning. She had spent the night in Vader’s room, snuggled up to him. For her it was as if she were snuggled up to something warm and cuddly. For anyone else… well, they would have likely been more comfortable getting cozy with a rancor.

Vader was asleep, looking peaceful. He had told her, last night, that when she’d been with him 5 years ago, he had had the best sleep in years. She hoped his sleep this past night had been free of any unpleasantness.

Before they had become close, she had happened to get a glimpse of what his normal sleep was like. His nightmares could curl the tail of a womp rat.

Sentinel sighed. She knew she wouldn’t be able to stay with him. The band needed to move on. Vader would need to return to his duties. And Sentinel... Sentinel would need to go with the band and remain in hiding.

Admittedly, singing in a band would seem like a poor choice of methods to hide. But Bantha Fodder wasn’t exactly popular enough to appear in the holo news feeds yet. And somehow, she didn’t think the Empire would ever even look for her there. How many Sith Lords joined bands?

About as many Sith Lords who go to parties, and go dancing, apparently, Sentinel mused, staring lovingly at her Dark Lord.

She got out of bed, careful not to wake Vader. She went into the fresher, shooing out the medical droids that were in there. Vader went nowhere without his medical necessities.

After a short shower, (water, not sonic... she never felt clean enough after a sonic shower), she exited, hair piled up under a towel. She dressed in last night’s dress and heels, not wanting to walk back to her quarters wearing a robe. She left the towel hung on the back of a chair, next to her robe.

Sentinel paused at the door to Vader’s quarters, and looked back at him longingly. She wanted to wake him up then, with a passionate kiss. She wanted to spend the entire day there with Lord Vader, having room service, and much more intimate time alone.

But her friends would be worried about her. And more importantly, she had promised to help Javel to find the creature who was murdering innocent citizens and stormtroopers alike. If she were to spend the day with Vader, it could be at the cost of yet another innocent life.

Sentinel exited Vader’s quarters, using the Force to lock his door after it auto-closed behind her. She walked down the long hallway, and through the maze of connecting hallways that made up the guest quarter’s area. She reached the suite that the band was staying in, and used the Force, rather than her door key, to unlock and open the door.

There, sprawled on the couch in the suite’s common room, lay Kip. She was snoring quite noisily. Several empty brown bottles lay on the floor next to her. Someone had draped a blanket over Kip’s torso. Sentinel was pretty sure Kip hadn’t thought of doing that... she was too far gone.

The common room was a mess. The band had had a rather large party in her absence. She sighed a little sadly. She always enjoyed their post-gig celebrations... well, all except for the hangovers the next day.

Sentinel entered her room, and proceeded to change. She put on a pair of light black pants, and a light black tunic. She put her lightsaber down on her bed, next to a dark green knapsack. She braided her thick hair into a long tail down her back. She was putting the finishing touches on her braid when someone knocked on her door.


Kalira walked in. “Thought I’d heard you come in.”

“I thought you were all still asleep. And hung over... well, all except Drej.” Sentinel grinned, then coiled her braided hair snugly to the back of her head.

“Unlike the others, I didn’t have much to drink.” Kalira answered. “And Drej succumbed to temptation after you went off with Vader.”

Sentinel frowned. “Oh, poo-doo”, she muttered.

“She started talking about just having a small drink. We tried to talk her out of it. We thought we had succeeded. But she found out, well before the rest of us did, that each of the suite’s rooms has it’s own mini-bar.” Kalira flopped down onto a chair near Sentinel’s made and unslept-in bed. Sentinel sat down wearily on her bed and sighed.

“Did you make sure she was sleeping on her side?” Sentinel asked. If Drej was true to form, she would have had enough to drink, on her first night of binging, to make herself sick enough to vomit, and drunk enough to not wake up when she did vomit. She could literally end up choking to death that way. But if they made sure she was sleeping on her side, she would probably be ok.

“Yeah, when we put her to bed, we propped her back to the wall. I was just in to check on her... she’s fine. But she’s definitely not going to be happy when she finally wakes up”, Kalira said, shaking her head.

Sentinel sighed again. She was disappointed with Drej, but felt hardly in the position to judge. On several occasions, Sentinel had come so close to succumbing to the Dark Side in the past 5 years, it made her head spin.

“Where are you off to, anyway? Going to spend the day with Mr. Tall, Dark and Asthmatic?” Kalira asked, smirking.

“If I’m not, are you going to see if he needs your company?” Sentinel asked, half teasing and half serious.

Kalira rolled her eyes. “Hey, I thought he was interesting. But I’m not after him.”

“Yeah, right. You were fawning all over him last night.”

“Oh, please. There’s nothing wrong with a little flirtation”, Kalira said.

“You were taunting me, you little imp!” Sentinel said, hands on her hips.

“It was fun. It was alot of fun... to be dishing it out instead of on the receiving end, for once.” Kalira grinned.

“You’re idea of revenge for a little playful teasing is to flirt with a dangerous Sith Lord? Remind me never to truly piss you off!” Sentinel chuckled.

“How dangerous can he really be? You’re dating him... that must mean he’s not all bad.” Kalira responded.

“No, he’s not all bad. But you don’t want to toy with him.” Sentinel said while tucking a few stray hairs under her braid.

Kalira got a mischievous grin. “Maybe I wasn’t entirely toying.”

“Ahah! I knew it!” Sentinel stood up, pretending to be outraged.

“I couldn’t steal him away: he’s obviously in love with you, and I wouldn’t do that to you, anyway”, Kalira said, pretending to take Sentinel’s outrage seriously.

Sentinel got off the bed and walked over to primp in front of the mirror over the dresser. She looked at Kalira in the mirror. “Then why did you do it?” asked Sentinel.

“He’s fascinating, and I was enjoying myself.”

Sentinel shook her head. “He is fascinating, but he’s also dangerous. I thought you were the smart, levelheaded person in our group.”

“I am. I was just being... friendly.” Kalira said, smiling. “Anyway, what are you trying to say? Only you get to play with fire?”

Sentinel snorted at the last comment. “Just don’t get too friendly, Kalira.” Sentinel crossed her arms across her chest.

Kalira tilted her head at Sentinel, and laughed. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were being possessive and jealous!” Kalira exclaimed.

Sentinel’s door slid open, and Vader strolled in. Both women turned in unison to stare at him, struck silent.

Vader looked at the two of them. “Ladies... please. While I am honored that you are fighting over me, perhaps you could do so in a more civilized manner?” Vader held his lightsaber out to Kalira.

Kalira turned bright red. Sentinel chuckled.

“How much did you hear? Were you standing outside the door this entire time?” Sentinel asked.

“Actually, no. But I could read both of your emotions when I was walking on my way here.” Vader said. Before either could say anything more, Vader said, “Sentinel, where you going? And why did you... sneak off this morning?”

“I have a promise to keep... a task I must complete for a friend.” Sentinel said.

“And you didn’t think you could confide in me regarding this task?” Vader asked.

“I told Commander Javel that I would help him with something.” Sentinel said.

“What does he need your help for?” Vader asked.

“He needs my help to capture and in all likelihood kill the murderer that has been plaguing the nearby town. Many civilians have died. Any anyone, Troopers, etc., that he’s sent to try to find this… person… have also not survived the task.”

“Why did he not contact his superiors for help? Why does he find it necessary to put you in danger, to bring public attention to your presence here? It’s bad enough that you were seen last night with the band.” Vader rumbled.

“Because he’s had poor results from asking for outside help. He needs someone more specialized, and someone who won’t brutalize the local populace in order to find this murderer,” Sentinel said.

“I have my spies monitoring all communications from this base. So far, we’ve been lucky, and no mention of you and all your various names have come up. But if you go out there, in public, using the Force, you’re going to make your presence here well known,” Vader said. “And I might not be able to spirit you out of here in time to hide you from the Emperor.”

“I will be in costume. I will be dressed as a Stormtrooper. And I won’t use the Force in any obvious manner unless I’m pushed into a corner and have no choice,” Sentinel said. “Oh, and by the way, Commander Javel has instructed his people that while some might see in me a slight resemblance to Sasha Yod, I am in fact simply ‘Jeru Cantel’, the backup singer of the band Bantha Fodder. So you are unlikely to find any communications regarding my presence… at least from any people on this base. They trust Commander Javel. Implicitly.”

Vader stood silent for a full minute. “You seem to have covered your tracks.”

“I think I’ve taken care of every contingency,” Sentinel said.

“All but one. I refuse to allow you to go on this foolhardy mission,” Vader said.

“You what!?”

“You will stay in your quarters… or my quarters, if you like. But you will not go running amok among the general populace.” Vader hooked his thumbs into his belt, as if to emphasize the non-disputability of his directive.

“I will be in trooper uniform… no-one is going to see me…” Sentinel said.

“I don’t care. It is still too big a risk.”

“I’m not working for you. You can’t command me to do anything!” Sentinel exclaimed, her voice rising. A vial of perfume on the top of the dresser wobbled slightly, as if in response to her rising anger.

Kalira stood up, and moved closer to a wall, away from the Sith Lords. She found herself staring at the perfume vial.

Vader seemed somehow to grow taller. “I can command you to do anything I wish. I command the Empire. I am second only to the Emperor himself. You would do well to remember that.”

“I do remember that. I am merely trying to help Commander Javel out of a desperate situation,” Sentinel growled.

“Commander Javel should have gone through normal channels to obtain assistance,” Vader rumbled. He promptly turned, and pressed several keys on the communications panel next to the door. “Commander Javel, report to the band’s quarters. Immediately.”

A tinny voice responded. “Yes, m’Lord.”

“He’s already tried normal channels in similar situations. The results have been disastrous!” Sentinel said.

“More disastrous than having it be known that he requested the assistance of the ‘Mystery Sith’? What will that do for the man’s reputation? It already must have been shot to hell by some ineptitude of his, considering the fact that he’s been in the same position for 5 years.”

“He’s been offered multiple promotions. He’s declined them to stay here. He and his wife are very fond of this planet and the people who have decided to call this home,” Sentinel said.

“How very charming.” Vader’s voice dripped sarcasm.

The perfume vial tipped over. The stopper remained in place, however. Kalira felt her eyes drawn upward towards the mirror above the dresser… which seemed to ripple as if it were a pond and a stone had just been dropped in it.

“He cares about the people here. If he leaves, he’s not sure who they will get in his place. He tried to ensure it would be someone he trusted, but…”

“But his incompetence knows no bounds,” Vader said.

Sentinel merely growled in response.

Kalira watched a hairline crack form in the center of the mirror.

Commander Javel came through the open door to Sentinel’s bedroom, with a bleary Kip trailing him. Kip had opened the door for Javel. Sentinel was guessing Vader hadn’t needed anyone to open the suite’s door for him.

Vader whirled to face Javel.

“M’Lord, what can I do for…”, Commander Javel said, and then promptly started choking. He dropped to his knees, as if some invisible weight had pushed him there, and started scrabbling at his neck. He acted as if he was being both held down on his knees and yet held upright so that he couldn’t fully fall down.

“Why did you deem it necessary to send Sentinel out to risk her life, and further expose her presence here?” Vader said, almost gently.

“Release him!” Sentinel yelled.

Javel merely gurgled, and his eyes bulged. Both his hands were pulling at his collar, and frantically searching his neck for the source of his strangulation.

“Vader, release him! It’s me you want to throttle right now. Don’t take out your anger on him!” she said.

Vader turned to face Sentinel, and to Sentinel’s relief, she saw Javel collapse on his side and gasp for breath.

“Very well…” Vader said. His hand shot out and just missed Sentinel’s throat as she jumped back a full 2 meters, knocking into her nightstand when she landed.

Vader advanced on her, his anger fighting with his reasoning… his anger winning.

“Since you wish to live dangerously, Sentinel, let me show you what true danger is.” Vader reached out his hand, squeezing the empty air.

Sentinel stood unmoving, unblinking. Her eyes sparkled dangerously. She blocked the Force-choke with ease. Her own anger, which she had held in control these 5 long years, came dangerously close to the surface.

The perfume vial rolled off the dresser onto the floor, cracking. The room began to reek of it’s sweet essence. Other objects in the room began to vibrate, to tremble in place, as if a tectonic disturbance was in progress. The room’s walls and floor shook, and the mirror above the dresser went from being slightly cracked to fully broken, depositing glass shards on the dresser top and the hardwood floor surrounding it.

Sentinel had not called upon the Force in anger in a long time, and her anger was causing the power to spill out.

Sentinel had a single rational thought just then, before her anger took over. She stared at Vader, keeping her gaze locked on him. Without changing the focus of her attention, she said, “Kalira, get out.”

Goto Chapter Seven