Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Kit Gwynne and Sarah Riggs-Shute.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:5:19) in the Corulus system: Corulag (Mark Veller's beachhouse).
Lieutenant Bernard Dunford, Yun-Jai Kerr, and Colonel Mark Veller.

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 again.

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 going on?"

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 to that.

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 vulnerability.

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 before him.

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 custody.

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. "'ve been branded as a possession."

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 refreshed."

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 things.

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 insight.

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.

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