Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Chapter Three: Incompatible Expectations

Author's Note: Song lyrics used w/o permission, but with much appreciation. Lyrics are to the song "Holding Out for a Hero", sung by Jennifer Saunders, from the Shrek 2 Soundtrack.

Sentinel had her jet black hair pulled back and up in an elegant hairstyle, exposing her neck. She wore a strapless red dress that showed off her elegant ivory shoulders to perfection, as well as showing more cleavage than she was ordinarily comfortable with. The flowing gown had no place to conceal a weapon. She felt naked without her lightsaber. She was wearing red sling back pumps... at least, if she’d been wearing her red boots, she could have hidden a knife in one.

She stood on the stage, next to her fellow band members. The band members were all dressed up as Storm Troopers, in honor of their audience, with the exception of Kalira and Sentinel. Since their gig was at a military base, it seemed fitting to dress up as clone troopers. The singers, however, usually dressed to stand out from the band.

Kalira was dressed in an elegant off the shoulder black gown. She had short, stylish silver-white hair, which went well with her striking gray-blue eyes. Kalira was young, tall, voluptuous, and strikingly beautiful. Sentinel was tall, but even wearing her red sling back pumps, she still had to look up when talking to Kalira.

A big tan sign with white lettering was on the wall behind the band; it was lit up with blue light and read, in Basic, “Bantha Fodder”. Underneath the sign was a drawing of a steaming pile of, well, bantha fodder. It was inaccurate enough to not make the audience ill, but accurate enough to get the point across.

None of the band members were wearing their trooper helmets. The helmets were hot, they were hard to see through, and, as far as Kip was concerned, were not well made for Gungan heads.

Sentinel was fidgeting with her dress, attempting to ensure it remained securely in place. Never should have worn a strapless... these things never cooperate with me, she thought.

Kalira leaned over. “Stop fidgeting. The dress hasn’t moved a centimeter. It will stay in place.”

“I should have worn my other red dress. It still fits, and I already know he likes it.” Sentinel muttered.

“You know, I was looking through old holonet feeds of your, uhm, boyfriend.” Kalira said, chuckling a little on the last word. “And then looking at current holonet feeds. Is it just me, or is he getting taller?”

“What?!? Wait... I think you’re right!” Sentinel said. In her excitement over seeing him again earlier, she hadn’t noticed that she had to crane her neck a little more than usual in order to talk to him.

“Why would he make himself taller?” Kalira asked. Kip overheard the exchange and started chuckling hard enough to flop her long ears around.

Sentinel said, “Well, his legs and arms are all half cybernetic, inclusive of his knees and elbows. Uhm, maybe not both of his elbows. Anyway, maybe there was some good reason he needed the extra few centimeters, a matter of balance or something.” Sentinel glared at Kip as she said the last. The Gungan was smirking, and still shaking a little.

“Maybe he is self conscious about his appearance, and needed the height boost,” Kalira said, grinning mischievously.

“I find it hard to believe that he felt the need to make himself taller for a psychological boost,” Sentinel said, indignant. “I doubt he felt the need to make himself more intimidatingly tall than he already is.”

Movement at the far end of the auditorium caught Sentinel’s attention. Commander Javel and his lovely wife, Reah, formerly his assistant, entered the room. Javel was resplendent in his dress uniform, and his wife was stunning in a deep blue gown.

Sentinel watched them walk in. She sighed a little... they looked very happy together. She was torn between feeling happy for them and being terribly jealous.

Sentinel looked back at her band members. Instruments were either tuned up or warmed up. They would be starting soon. Sentinel would be needed for a few of the songs, but for the rest, they had agreed to let her spend time with Lord Vader.

Sentinel turned away from the band, and saw Lord Vader entering the room from the same doorway Javel had used. Sentinel felt a huge lump in her throat, and her pulse quickened. She watched Vader as he scanned the room, and then locked gazes with her.

Every surface of his armor and environmental suit was either buffed to a high sheen or well oiled, as applicable. But otherwise, he had not changed his appearance for this dance. Sentinel wondered if he was under orders by the Emperor to never change his appearance, to always show the same face to the general public.

Kalira leaned in close to Sentinel. “He is rather impressive...” Kalira whispered.

Vader walked across the long room, his great strides covering the distance in very little time. His black cape billowed behind him. Sentinel’s lips parted, then she smiled.

Vader reached the stage, and looked up at Sentinel.

Vader drank in her appearance. He was still irritated at her for insisting on coming to the dance instead of simply going with him to his quarters. But seeing her dressed like this... it was worth the delay.

Commander Javel walked up on stage. “Ladies and Gentlemen. Please welcome the band, ‘Bantha Fodder’”

The audience started clapping, as did Javel. All the band members bowed, including Sentinel. Javel left the stage. The music started, and couples walked onto the dance floor.

Sentinel’s services weren’t required for the first few songs of the set, so she left the stage and stood in front of Vader.

Vader closed the distance, and held her. She pressed her cheek against his chest and sighed contentedly.

Kalira started to sing a very sweet and sentimental love song. People drifted onto the dance floor. Vader danced closely, slowly, with Sentinel.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.” Vader said softly.

“I wasn’t sure I’d be able to see you again.” Sentinel answered.

“Why not?”

“Well, the Emperor, for one thing. Visits have to be carefully engineered.” Sentinel said.

“But... that’s not the only reason.” Vader said.

“No...” Sentinel admitted.

“You’ve met someone.” Vader said, his tone becoming accusatory. He tensed, waiting for her answer, waiting for the name of the man he would soon be killing.

Sentinel looked up, startled. “No! Not at all!”

Vader relaxed somewhat. “Then why?”

Sentinel looked up at him. Wow, he is taller! she thought, fighting an urge to grin. Then she stared at his chest for a moment, letting herself be distracted by the blinking chest console.

Vader released her hand and lifted her chin so she was looking at him again.

Sentinel sighed. “I needed time... time to become stronger. Because I know what’s going to happen.”

“And what’s going to happen?” Vader asked

“You’re going to try to bring me back to the Dark Side.” Sentinel said.

“I am?” Vader asked. Of course I am! Vader thought.

“Aren’t you?” Sentinel asked.

Vader looked up. Kalira had finished singing the first song, and everyone was clapping. Vader’s hands remained around Sentinel. The band started on another song.

Sentinel reached up and pulled down on his mask so he was looking at her again. “Well?” Sentinel asked.

“You are strong enough to use the Dark Side without letting it control you.” Vader said.

“That’s not true. No-one is strong enough to keep the Dark Side from controlling them.” Sentinel said.

“Not even me?” Vader asked, with some hostility.

Sentinel looked away.

They danced in silence for a moment.

“You’ve been engaged in some activities I cannot support, Sentinel.” Vader rumbled gently.

“I know. I couldn’t sit back and watch anymore. The stormtroopers have been getting more and more... abusive,” she said.

“I expected you to remain quietly in hiding, instead of running amok and putting yourself in danger. The Emperor was been trying to locate you, originally in order to possibly bring you back to his cause. Now, after everything you’ve been up to, he merely wants you destroyed.” Vader said.

Sentinel sighed. “I’d hoped beyond hope that when Gilly and Mortis ran over him, he’d died. That I’d be hearing from you later that it was safe to return.”

“He is much stronger than you realize,” Vader responded. He flashed back onto that moment in time, the last one he’d had in which he could have ended the Emperor’s life. He had had his chance, and he’d blown it. But then, in the past 5 years, he’d learned so much from the Emperor, so much more about the Dark Side of the Force, so perhaps the postponement of the Emperor’s death had been worth it.

“He must be destroyed. Under his leadership, in his name, so many horrific acts have been performed.” she said.

“His fall needs to be well orchestrated so that the transfer of power, to myself, will go as smoothly as possible,” Vader rumbled. “Let me handle the details of that transfer...”

“You still wish to rule the Empire?” Sentinel asked.

“You thought I would change my mind? You will rule alongside me, as my apprentice... assuming you are still amenable to that...” Vader rumbled.

Sentinel pursed her lips. “I’d hoped I could talk you into coming with me. Into returning to the good side.” Sentinel instantly regretted what she’d said. She sensed she’d jumped the gun too quickly.

“You and I know that’s not possible.” Vader said. “You should know by now that I will never turn from the Dark Side.”

Sentinel frowned but kept silent.

Vader held her closer, possessively. He had known she was going to be difficult, had known she had been immersing herself in the good side of the Force, and avoiding the Dark Side. But he would bring her around. He knew he could.

Sentinel held Vader tightly. Somehow, I will bring you back to the good side. I know there is still good in you... Palpatine hasn’t driven it from you fully, Sentinel thought.

The song ended, and they stood apart from each other a little.

“You will return to the Dark Side. You will be my apprentice.” Vader rumbled softly.

“If I return to the Dark Side, something inside me will die. Or worse, someone like Darth Hedra will possess me.” Sentinel said. “But I’ve discovered I can distance myself from the Dark Side, and break free of it’s hold over me. I can help you do that, too. I can...”

“I repeat, I will never turn from the Dark Side. This is my destiny.” Vader growled. “And I’m sure I can help you protect yourself from the likes of Darth Hedra.” Vader paused, then put the Force fully into his next words, attempting to make his desires hers. “The Dark Side is your destiny as well.”

The effect of his will over hers made her melt. She did not want to succumb once more to the Dark Side... but having his power touch hers so intimately and forcefully made it hard for her to think clearly. She shook her head, more in an attempt to clear it than to answer in the negative to his statement.

Sentinel sighed. “Back to square one.” Sentinel said. “I can’t go dark, you can’t go light.” She bit her lip.

A new song started, and they began to dance once more. Vader was very stiff in her arms, very quiet. Sentinel laid her head back against his chest.

Where have all the good men gone,
And where are all the gods?
Where’s the street-wise Hercules,
To fight the rising odds?

Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and turn and dream of what I need...

I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight

I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ‘til the morning light
He’s gotta be sure
And it’s gotta be soon
And he’s gotta be larger than life

Sentinel listened to the song, and smiled, her cheek rubbing against the leather-like material of his environmental suit. I need my black knight to turn into a white knight, she mused.

Vader’s thoughts had been following a different path. “You refuse to see things my way?” Vader growled. Vader’s anger and frustration radiated from him, causing Sentinel to shudder a little in response.

Sentinel pressed her cheek against Vader’s chest. “Please, do we have to have this discussion again? Right now, I just want to be with you, to be close to you.”

Vader sighed inaudibly behind his mask. “All right, we won’t speak of it right now,” he said, then gently rubbed one of his hands upon her back as they moved to the slow music. “But we will speak of it later.”

They danced in silence. The song finished, to much clapping, and Sentinel pulled away. “My turn to sing,” she explained. She reluctantly turned and walked on stage.

Vader watched her, trying to calm his emotions.

Goto Chapter Four


Post a Comment

<< Home