Dunford was sleeping in the other room, his color
returning and his breathing normal. He still looked
like he had been through hell, but he was alive.
Mark left the door open as he walked into the open
living room. It was, perhaps a mistake to return to
the beach resort house, but it was public and also
unexpected. Besides, they had at least a few hours
before Jorad could free himself from the cuffs.
Dunford needed a chance to rest before they moved
Mark's attention moved to the man waiting in the
open room as he stood in the doorway of Dunford's
room. Here was a big question Mark did not know how
to handle. On the one hand, the man appeared to be
Jedi. Though he had not said so directly, the
abilities he had shown in rescuing the two of them
left little doubt as to the validity of that title.
As Jedi, it was Mark's duty to turn him in, as a
matter of fact, the hunting down of Jedi was the
sole purpose of the ship he now served on.
On the other hand, Mark owed him for the rescue and
it seemed poor manners to say, "Thanks for saving my
life" and then snap some cuffs on him. He had also
somehow saved Dunford's life. Again, arresting him
seemed a poor repayment of the debt owed.
Then there was the minor fact that this man had been
one of his teachers when he was younger. Much of his
martial prowess he owed to this man, though he
disappeared before any training was complete, the
groundwork had been lain by this man.
What Mark did not understand was why he has
reappeared now? And where had he disappeared to
before? Just before they had arrived back at the
resort, Mark had decided to address the bantha in
the room and told his old master that he had
questions. How to start this conversation? "Hi,
thanks for walking out on me when I needed you?"
"Hey, where have you been all my life?" "Wow, Jedi.
Anything else I should know?" "What the hell is
Taking a deep breath, he calmed his thoughts,
irritated that he was feeling like the young student
instead of the experienced Imperial Stormtrooper.
Truth be told, though, he was feeling like the young
student because he knew Master Roste outmatched him.
Mark knew he was good, knew he was very good, but
that man had done the impossible and Mark was not up
As much as he wanted to follow Dunford's example and
get some sleep, there were too many questions that
needed answering. He stepped into the main room.
Letting out that breath and swallowing, he said,
"Thank you for saving him," he paused, "and me."
Mark plunged on, "And to answer your prior
questions, no, I don't know what Inquisitor Jorad
wanted with me, though Lieutenant Dunford," nodding
towards the room being him, "I believe was a lucky
find for the Inquisitor."
Mark moved over to the couch opposite Master Roste
and sat down heavily, expelling a sigh. He ran his
hand through his hair, a nervous habit from his
childhood, "As for the rest, no, we are not
tourists. We are Imperial officers from the
Interrogator here on shore leave."
Mark raised his eyes to his old mentor, "My
companion is Lieutenant Bernard Dunford. My rank is
that of High Colonel and I am in command of the
Stormtrooper 610th Legion." Mark smiled wryly, "And
you, Master Roste, present me with even more of a
problem than the interest of an Inquisitor."
"Care to answer some questions?" Mark asked, "Or
should I merely give you a few days head start
before I report your existence to the High
Inquisitor? The choice is yours, though a few
questions answered would be appreciated before you
disappear again." Though he tried, he could not keep
all of his bitterness at being abandoned hidden.
While Mark was doing some final tending to Dunford,
Kerr found his way over to what looked like a very
comfortable chair and settled down into it eagerly.
His body was taxed and his mind was weary due to his
very strenuous activities that spanned nearly the
entire day. But he couldn't afford to allow his
exhaustion to hinder him because the true challenge
began now. A war of words was often far more
difficult to win than a war of weapons, and a loss
could be even more devastating. Kerr couldn't go on
the offensive yet as Mark held all of the chips on
his side of the table and then some.
The Jedi's best chance was to stay defensive until
he won some points and trust. That would likely take
days at least, days he might not have. His only
saving grace was that he managed to rescue them from
a grizzly fate, but even that was merely keeping
Mark from calling up the Interrogator right now, and
it didn't even guarantee that he wouldn't reveal him
in the future. Despite his dire situation, Yun-Jai
looked surprisingly calm while relaxed eyes watched
Veller walk into the room with a welcoming glint. He
was going to have to play this smart and safe for
now since the boy he remembered was clever and
astute. Best to stick with honesty and avoid more
subterfuge least Mark began to distrust him.
The Jedi listened quietly as his former student
talked, resting comfortably with his hands
intertwined. It was only until the last part of
Mark's dialogue did Yun wince from the audible barb.
His disappearance those many years ago was
apparently still a source of anger for Veller, and
that was very unfortunate, but he also picked up on
the honor still present in the man, and was relieved
that the good qualities he remembered were still
alive in him. Two days head start was very generous!
Yun-Jai would have been happy with two hours.
Regardless of the generosity, it was still a threat,
though a veiled one, and that harmed Kerr.
Disheartened eyes were cast down to the floor in
grief momentarily before they raised once again to
Mark with a strengthened sincerity. "I know, I know
all about you, Mark. I have been watching you for a
long time." His eyes dropped to the floor again in
thought as he tapped his fingers together. "This
shore leave was my one shot at having a meaningful
conversation with you, and I am fortunate that it
has even come this far." Eyes closed in discomfort
as he continued. "It seems Inquisitor Jorad also
sought to claim this opportunity and sought you
aggressively. I am thankful I managed to intervene
when I did, despite the disadvantage it now puts me
in. I also understand what a nuisance this is for
you, and I appreciate your tolerance."
With a soft sigh, he raised up his eyes to match
Veller's gaze again. He looked upon the other with
compassion and humility. "Mark..." He paused, these
words had great weight to them and were difficult to
say. "...I'm practically at your mercy. Of course I
will answer your questions," he said softly, his
eyes wavering with the burden of admitting his
If Kerr was being fully honest with himself, he
could easily dispatch Mark the moment he started
reaching for a comm unit, but that was *not* his
way. He could escape if he truly wished it, but in
doing so would sacrifice why he came in the first
place. He wasn't going to sabotage his own efforts
by doing anything that would harm his former student
physically or emotionally. This would have to be a
battle he fought and won with truth and morality, he
would have it no other way, even if he was seized
cruelly and executed.
Noticing the wince when he mentioned his master's
disappearance made Mark feel better in some way. At
least Master Roste felt bad about it. Should he
start with that? He had always wondered what
happened. But then again, whatever the answer, it
would not change the outcome of the past. Perhaps,
at a later date.
He had to chuckle a bit to himself when Master Roste
said he was at his mercy. Mark had seen the man move
and knew if it came down to combat, Master Roste was
still the master. A tired sigh left Mark. He felt
sluggish from the trials of the day and near death
experience. Coming back from certain death is
difficult at times.
Closing his eyes for a few moments, he used a mental
exercise to push back the fatigue, the irony of his
learning it from Master Roste was not lost on Mark.
Upon reopening his eyes, he looked at Master Roste,
comparing the mentor of years ago to the man who sat
Even though he had left so many years ago, Master
Roste professed to have still been watching Mark,
choosing this time to meet and talk. He guessed his
joining the Imperial Army and becoming a
Stormtrooper put a crimp in any plans for a Jedi to
talk to him. He rubbed his eyebrows. Jedi. There it
was again. Jedi. He should have notified the
Interrogator and be concerned with keeping the man
here until the High Inquisitor could arrive to take
Yet, he could not bring himself to condemn the man.
Mark realized he owed the man too much. Master Roste
had, by his teachings, given Mark the skills and
strength to survive to adulthood. And, saved his
life along with Dunford's.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out his
comlink. He had left it in the room and so it was
not on him when Jorad kidnapped him. With a wry
smile, he tossed it over to Master Roste, "To put
your mind at rest, Master Roste, as far as the
Interrogator is concerned, our shore leave is still
going according to plan."
Making another decision, he stood up, "As much as I
want to get the answers, I realize fatigue is likely
to get in the way of understanding so this
conversation is probably best done after some sleep.
Once I get the stink of Jorad off me, I am going to
rest in Dunford's room in case he wakes in the
middle of the night. You are welcome to sleep in my
room unless, of course, you prefer the couch," Mark
ended with a slight smile.
He took a few paces towards the shower, stripping
off his shirt as he went, baring the recently healed
scars from the High Inquisitor's whip on his back,
then stopped and turned his head back to Kerr, "The
main question I have, Master Roste," Mark said amid
a yawn, "is, what is so special about me that
Inquisitor Jorad would risk the High Inquisitor's
wrath and you would risk coming out of hiding after
twenty years?" There were more he wanted to ask, but
most of them stemmed from exhaustion and he was not
certain of their validity. Hopefully a shower and
some rest, with less exhaustion to interfere with
his thinking, he could figure a way out of the mess
he was in. Once he understood it. Maybe.
Kerr visibly tensed as he saw Mark pull out the comm
unit from his jacket, and it was only until it was
tossed in his direction did he realize he had been
holding his breath out of suspense. The small device
was caught in his hand effortlessly and tucked into
his pocket for safekeeping all too willingly. He was
nearly overcome with relief as a gentle but long
sigh eased from him softly and a small grateful
smile was flashed to Veller. Yun was thankful that
he had previously decided to take the principled and
ethical high ground for this encounter. If he had
panicked just then, and attacked Veller, even to
harmlessly disarm him from the comm unit, that would
have been a disaster and likely forever damage any
remaining trust Mark had for Kerr. It was possible
that this was not the only comm unit at his
disposal, but the gesture was a welcomed one. "I
will return this to you when you request it." He
assured the other with an impish smile.
The Jedi pondered the living arrangements for a
moment while rubbing his hands together gently. He
hadn't really thought this far ahead to be honest,
he was basically improvising every moment since he
was caught so magnificently off guard by the
apparently mischievous will of the Force. His
visions of this day only showed him the possibility
of meeting Mark, not the magnitude of other dangers
he would face. If he stayed the night here, he would
in essence be sleeping with the enemy, defenseless
and open to attack during his slumber. However, by
staying, it would demonstrate and highlight his
faith and trust in Mark and showcase his
determination. His severe vulnerability could in
fact be to his benefit. "I offer a different
solution. Perhaps I should sleep in Dunford's room.
I would be able to minister aid to him if he awoke
in pain or panic. I'll leave the choice to you."
As Veller removed his shirt, he couldn't help but to
notice the hideous and deep scarring on the man's
back. The words that followed from Mark were heard
but not immediately addressed since the ghastly
sight before him drew his full attention.
"Goodness!" He stood from his chair quickly and
intently walked over to Mark to study those scars.
"Hold on for a sec ... let me take a good look at
that... Oh..." Mark would feel a hand smooth over
the marred skin of his back as Kerr examined them
keenly. The craters, defects and discoloration of
those marks signified that this was a recent event,
and likely had just recently been repaired. Yun-Jai
was not only a Jedi Healer, he was a renowned
surgeon and could competently recognize injuries
just by the way the flesh mended over time. Veller's
back was completely coated, and not in ugly reckless
cross hatches, but perfectly lined scourges parallel
to his vertebrae that covered nearly every inch.
These very much looked like the result of an overly
friendly relationship with a whip, and not just any
whip. With that assumption, he measured the width
and then, with a set of three fingers gently skirted
across the patterns, counting the number of strikes.
"She nearly killed you." He whispered as he counted
with a rough approximation of over three dozen
scars, every single one masterfully applied, none of
them overlapped. A normal person would have died
within the first dozen, if even that. Unbeknownst to
Veller, Kerr was learning quite a bit from this. The
width of the scarring was far larger than normal
whip weapons and he believed he knew why. If he
assumed the lightwhip had multiple tails and they
were grouped together, it would match the size
discrepancy he was seeing. But if that was true, it
led to a greater problem, and that was Inquisitor
Thanor was capable of controlling each individual
tail of her weapon, and that would be extremely
problematic if they ever faced off. It also became
clear to him that this was not just some punishment
Veller received, these scars had far greater
meaning, and that was also problematic. Kerr took a
step away from Mark as he shook his head with
melancholy. "Mark..." He said softly, not sure how
to go about this, the subject matter was sensitive
and distressing. "...you've been branded as a
Troubled and plagued, he rubbed the back of his neck
nervously. This was going to be even harder than he
thought ... it was likely Mark was growing loyal to
the High Inquisitor, though not a fanatic, so there
was still a chance of peeling him away from her. And
if Veller's previous words were not deceitful, then
Mark had yet to be told of anything with substance
regarding the Force, giving Kerr some hope that he
arrived back in that man's life at a pivotal point.
Yun needed to meditate on this ... he needed some
guidance if possible. He was too upset to fully
focus on Mark's questions, and the man was likely
too tired to understand his answer anyway. "Perhaps
we should talk in the morning when we are both fully
Mark stopped when asked and felt Kerr's gentle
fingers exploring the scars. His words brought back
the whipping. His eyes darkened at his statement at
being marked a possession, "Yes," he said softly,
"she has staked a claim upon me. Answer my questions
tomorrow and I will answer yours."
He glanced over at Dunford's room, then back at
Kerr, "Perhaps for the best if you stay with
Lieutenant Dunford. Until the morning then, but
please wake me if there is cause for alarm."
Walking off to the shower, Mark's thoughts were
troubled by Kerr's words. He knew of the claim and
acknowledged it, but was beginning to question the
chains. Inquisitor Jorad had been an eye opener. By
restraining Mark and torturing Dunford and himself,
Jorad had revealed himself to be a bully and Mark
despised bullies. But, he had sworn an oath to
serve. Standing under the hot jet of water, Mark
could only hope there was an honorable way out.
Perhaps the morning would shed a better light on
Kerr nodded to Mark and managed a reassuring smile
though it was unintentionally a bit hollow. There
had been much revealed already that he needed to
deliberate upon and the events weighed heavily on
his mind. But before that, his first order of
business should be to check on Dunford and he made
his way back into the room before slowly closing the
door. The man was sleeping soundly, at least he had
peace for now. Hands delicately washed over portions
of his body, examining the partially healed wounds
and applying some brief directed mending where
needed. Dunford would likely wake up with noticeable
pain, but it should be easily manageable, and
considering the shape he had been in before, his
condition was far more favorable. Kerr was more
concerned with the alarm the man might experience,
with both the traumatic events and also the
seemingly surreal way in which his wounds healed.
Both might frighten him and Kerr would need to be
ready to address Dunford's fear.
Satisfied that his patient was in good health, he
moved to the center of the room and placed both of
his knees upon the floor in a relaxed kneeling
position. Hands were neatly folded in his lap as he
began to clear his mind from the anxieties of the
day, allowing quiet calm harmony to fill in the void
and displace the unsightly emotions that were
plaguing him. He fell into a deep meditation,
opening himself up to suggestion and direction from
the Force. Many months ago, during a similar
practice, he had felt a strong sensation that
compelled him to arrive on Corulag during this day
in blurry undefined visions that only gave him
images of Veller. As was his duty, he was driven to
follow the will of the Force, and his devotion had
been rewarded with the rescuing of Mark's life along
with Dunford's. Now he was hoping for further
For the remaining of the night he sat in still
silence, his breathing and heart rate dramatically
slowed as the rejuvenating power of the light side
comforted him. While in this trance, he received
nearly the same restorative care as if a full
night's sleep. He was thankful that his patient
slept deeply, thus his practice was not disturbed.
As the morning began to dawn, he stirred from his
heavy rumination with no further epiphanies. He was
a bit disappointed that there were no additional
visions to guide him, but he accepted the
understanding that he was already here and doing the
Force's will, as long as he acted in accordance to
his convictions. Kerr was convinced that it was his
purpose and responsibility now to mentor Mark and to
save him from a horrid fate.