Sunday, August 20, 2006

Chapter Two: New Friends, Old Friends

Author’s note: inspiration for flight scene and landing scene are the songs “Higher” and “Sacrifice” by Creed.

“Youssa be crazy.” Kip said, as she tinkered with the settings of her sophisticated keyboard.

“I believe we’ve already had this conversation.” Sentinel said, with a long sigh, pinching the bridge of her nose. She was sitting on a couch in one of the guest quarters of Pitoma base.

Around Sentinel were her fellow band members: Kip Pindy, the keyboardist, who happened to be a female Gungan; Sal Gathan, the guitarist, who was also a native of Naboo, but a human male; Drej Roth, the drummer, a female human from Dantooine; and finally, Kalira Darkstar, a female human from Coruscant, and also the lead singer of the band.

Sentinel had joined the band 2 years ago. They had been playing a gig on Naboo. After their set, they let the public know they were looking for a new backup singer, having just lost their last backup singer when she got married.

It was at that point that Sentinel had found out that she had some singing talent.

“I can’t believe we are here... this is so stupid and dangerous”, Sal growled, as he sat upon a table and tuned his guitar.

“Let it go.” Kalira said, looking up briefly from her song book.

“I told you that none of you had to come. I could have simply come alone.” Sentinel said. She stood up from the couch. “Matter of fact, why don’t you guys leave? Please? You still have time. You can claim that you had a family emergency. They can just play prerecorded music at the dance.”

“We don’t back out on a gig.” Kalira said, narrowly eyeing Sentinel.

Sentinel threw up her hands and sighed. “I know you guys don’t understand this. I know you can’t believe that there is anything there left to save. But I know there is still good in him, and I have to try.” Sentinel bowed her head. “Even if I fail, I can’t stop loving him. I know it’s stupid, but he’s inside my soul. I have to see him again.”

“He’s a Sith, and a dangerous, evil person!” Sal yelled.

“So was I! Remember? I told you who I was, I... I told you what I did.” Sentinel growled, starting to pace. “I’m no innocent. I’ve fought off the Dark Side for the past 5 years, and it’s still so hard to resist it’s call.” She put her face in her hands, shuddering. “It still tempts me.”

Kalira and Kip got up and held Sentinel. She returned the embrace for a moment, head bowed, then gently pushed them away.

“I’m ok. I’m ok. I’m sorry, guys. I shouldn’t have gotten you into this.” Sentinel said.

Sal sighed. “No, I’m sorry, Sasha. It was our decision to come with you.” Sal said. “I shouldn’t be complaining. I just... I just really don’t like this.”

“Sasha, we’re a team. We’ve been through sticky situations before. This is just the next... sticky situation. You’ve gone to gigs with us that you didn’t want to go to.” Kalira said, holding Sentinel’s hand.

Drej sat back on her chair in the corner, by the drum set, fingering her drumsticks in one hand and her dreadlocks in the other. “Yeah, like that gig on Coruscant. We’re here for you Sasha. Like you’ve been there for us.” Drej said.

The door to the guest quarters opened, and everyone looked up to see Commander Javel walk in.

“Welcome to Pitoma Base. I am Commander Javel.” Javel said.

“Thank you, Commander.” Sentinel said, regaining her composure. “Let me introduce you to the band.” Sentinel proceeded to introduce everyone to the Commander. Handshakes and pleasantries were exchanged.

“Miss Yod, I would like to talk to you. Do you have a minute?” Commander Javel asked.

“Guys, I’ll be right back.” Sentinel said, then nodded towards Javel as they walked out into the hallway together. The door auto-closed behind them.

The Commander leaned in closely. “Lord Vader has been made aware of your presence. He said you were a wanted criminal, but did not direct me to arrest you. So, the game is on, if you will.” He smiled warmly, but a little nervously.

“Thank you, Commander.” Sentinel said.

“Miss Yod... you are taking a big risk. I understand how you feel, believe me. When I fell for my wife, Reah, I fell very hard. But this...” Javel shook his head.

“Commander, I understand your concerns. Thank you, but I already am well aware... that the object of my affection has sharp teeth and claws.” Sentinel’s voice went up on the last part, and she grinned. Sentinel licked her lips, and dropped her voice. “I have been meaning to ask you to please accept my apology for my behavior the last time we met...”

Javel waved her off. “It is not necessary.”

“Yes it is. I was... very rude. And then, even after how rude I was, you were so kind about my... my brother.” Sentinel said, choking slightly on the last words.

Commander Javel held her hand, brought it up to his lips and kissed the back of it. “My lady, outwardly you were a Sith. But inwardly I knew you were really an Angel.” He smiled at her generously.

Sentinel smiled embarrassedly. “From your mouth to the Force’s, uhm, ears, Commander.” she said, shyly.

The Commander sighed. “I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight, Miss Yod. But assuming things go well between you and Lord Vader, and you are still a free woman, I hope you will still be able to perform that favor...”

“Are the attacks still occurring, Commander?” Sentinel said, looking suddenly all business and very grave with concern.

“I’m afraid they are. My men have not been able to find the source. Or rather, those that have possibly come close to the source haven't lived to tell me what they found. More and more civilians are being brutally murdered. All that’s left are bodies that have been torn to pieces as if by some wild animal... except we have sufficient evidence to know that a weapon was involved. I don’t know what else to throw at this. This person hasn’t left me sufficient clues with which to locate him... or her.”

“I will find this person and take care of it for you, Commander.” Sentinel said.

“Thank you, Miss Yod. I very much appreciate the help.” Commander Javel said, breathing a sigh of relief.

Sentinel smiled reassuringly. “In the meantime, Commander, could I ask you for a small favor?”

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Sentinel had asked Commander Javel if she could borrow one of his fighters for about an hour. And so now she was standing in front of several sleek fighters in the main hanger, walking around them, admiring their lines. She finally picked one, got suited up, and took off in it.

She soared up over the base, then gunned the engines and screamed towards the cliff. The base itself was positioned on the edge of an incredibly deep and steep cliff. Once over the edge, she plunged the ship almost straight down, thrilled at the speed and power, and the onrushing level of clouds a couple of kilometers below her, near the base of the cliff.

Just as she was about to hit the cloud cover, she pulled up and skimmed them, heading straight for the waterfall, laughing as the spray peppered the ship.

She performed several barrel rolls as she arced the ship back up the face of the cliff, then plunged the ship back down again, to follow the cliff from the other direction. She passed the waterfall once more, and saw the base’s cliff viewing platform up ahead in front of her. Someone was standing out there, watching her.

Vader, she thought. She sensed his identity before she had gotten close enough to see the man. Her heart was suddenly in her throat. She felt his mind gently probe hers, identifying her. She heard his voice in her head then, Sentinel, let me see what you see....

His words in her head sent a thrill through her entire body. She swallowed, and carefully dropped her mental shields, keeping just enough shield up over information she was afraid would be harmful towards her friends and/or the Rebellion. Then she poured out what she was experiencing along the mental connection she and Vader had just formed. She felt his heart start to race as he, too, was thrilling at the speed of her travel.

She flew the ship underneath the platform, keeping her flight level, but very tight with the cliff. The sight of the wall of rock on her right moving blindingly fast past her increasing the sensation of speed. She then pulled straight up, and barrel rolled into the sky. Her body was slammed into the back of her seat from the extra gravity, and her face was split with a fierce grin.

Back on solid ground, Vader wore a similar grin, hidden behind his mask. His gloved mechanical hands gripped the railing tightly.

Sentinel stared straight ahead. Eventually, the color faded in front of her, and the stars started to appear. The planet’s horizon fell slowly behind her.

Sentinel cut the engine, and let the craft stall. She let out a cry of elation as the weightlessness hit. The ship leveled out and then proceeded to fall back towards the ground. She let it glide for the longest time before giving in to common sense and restarting the engines.

With Vader sharing the experience, she found herself taking bigger and bigger risks, enjoying greater thrills. She buzzed the edge of the cliff again, almost coming close enough for Vader to have raised his hand and touched the ship as it screamed past. The blast of her passage caused him to be knocked about a little on the platform.

Are you all right? she sent to him, concerned that she had cut that last pass a little too close. She received in response a feeling of pure joy, and a nonverbal request to ‘do it again!’ She laughed, banked, the ship, and buzzed his position again, this time being a little more cautious.

Vader treated her to what he was seeing: the ship heading towards him at breakneck speed, looking like it was going to run him over. She fought with herself not to pull away further, not to make this vision make her be more cautious than was actually necessary. Knowing, with the guidance of the Force, that she had adequate distance for her safety concerns did not stop her from squealing with both fear and delight at the vision Vader provided her, as the ship went screaming over his head and once again buffeted him with the winds of it’s passage.

She banked the ship up over the cliff, and used the air brakes to gently bring it in for a landing back at the base. She powered down the engines, removed her helmet, and did a quick final check of the systems before fully shutting things down. As she was exiting the cockpit, she saw Vader’s ebony clad form walking towards her. As her feet hit the ground, Vader halted about 5 meters from her.

She put her helmet on the wing of the fighter, then leaned on the wing. The wing was between her and Vader.

Vader stood there, motionless. His thoughts were racing. He had a speech all planned out, one where he chewed her out for her activities against the Empire. One where he ironically berated her for coming out of hiding, and yet also told her she should have contacted him a long time ago. But the intimacy of their shared vision of her flight left him feeling unable to hold on to his anger and frustration.

There was that part of him that wanted to accuse her of no longer having any feelings for him. But admitting that her silence where he was concerned had hurt him, deeply, seemed too much an admonition of weakness on his part.

Then she surprised him; she came out from behind the wing, ran up to him, grinning fiercely, and hugged him tightly.

He was momentarily shocked. Any remaining rage, frustration, and loneliness he was holding on to melted away under the outpouring of her unconditional love.

He found himself wrapping his arms around her tightly, crushing her to himself. He felt like a drowning man who had just been thrown a life preserver.

“I missed you so much.” Sentinel sobbed into his chest.

He wanted to say that he’d missed her too. But the words wouldn’t come. Instead he said, “Why didn’t you contact me earlier?”

“It wasn’t safe. And I wasn’t ready.” she said.

He released her enough so that he was still holding her, but she could look up into his face. “Ready?” he asked.

“I’ll explain later.” she said, smiling.

“Come with me, to my quarters. We should talk.” Vader rumbled.

“I can’t, I need to get ready for the dance,” said Sentinel.

“The dance is not important.” Vader said.

“You don’t understand...” Sentinel began.

“The dance is not important.” Vader repeated, an edge of irritation in his voice.

“I’ve made a commitment. I have to be there,” Sentinel said.

Vader stared at her a moment. “Why?”

“I’m in the band.” Sentinel said, grinning sheepishly.

Goto Chapter Three


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