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Kit Gwynne and Sarah Riggs-Shute.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:2:21) in the Essesia system: Interrogator.
High Inquisitor Serine Thanor and Colonel Mark Veller.

Sitting at his desk, Mark was startled by the reminder that blinked on his screen. The allotted time for his spar with the High Inquisitor was now. He blinked a few times at it, pulling his mind from the intriguing reports he had been investigating. It crossed his mind to send his regrets to the High Inquisitor, that he wouldn't be able to make the spar, but decided against doing that. He would have to settle for being a being slightly late.

As he made his way to the training room, his mind flitted over the reports. Get a large enough group of people together and you could find almost any belief, from those who thought the universe was created by a divine entity in a single day to those who believed in spirits to those who talked regularly to their blasters to everything else. Superstition was frowned upon, but eons of military experience had proven there was no way to eradicate it entirely. Too many things happened to soldiers for superstition to not rear its head. Most of the time, as long as it did not interfere with performance, command turned a blind eye.

But, according to the rumors and reports recently starting, the Interrogator had recently acquired a ghost who was not being polite enough to keep to the prison cells. Cold spots, things being moved around, untraceable odd noises. All of these things had begun to appear in reports at a higher frequency, finally making it up to Mark's desk. He wondered at what was going on, if someone, or someones, were playing a huge trick on the crew of the Interrogator. Then there was also the question of what to do about it.

It was with these questions in mind that Mark entered the training room, only to find the High Inquisitor fuming with irritation at his lateness. A quick glance at his timepiece told him he was exactly 73 seconds late. Perhaps he should have notified her he was running late.

The High Inquisitor was absolutely livid that Veller was disrespecting her in such a fashion by being late to his own appointment. He had been well early to their last spar, even beating her there by a good portion of time. It was extremely difficult for her to keep these allocated timeslots he kept requesting, but she took ample care to ensure that she would honor their assigned time. There were very few things that angered Serine quite like tardiness and disregard for one's superior. Not only was she irate because he was absolutely wasting her time, but she was still unable to gain access to the locked ISB file Theo had discovered for her days ago. The Inquisitor had caved in and gave the project over to her apprentice, who showed remarkable slicing skills. Hopefully Kia would not fail her in this matter.

Serine paced around the empty training facility, her eyes kept glancing up fiercely at the chronometer with every few passing seconds impatiently. Due to their shared history, Serine decided to wait for the man a bit longer, but with every moment that passed, her annoyance and rage grew. At last the High Colonel entered the area and she immediately hounded him for his insubordination. "Do you enjoy making me suffer this indignity, High Colonel?!" She snapped at him with a vicious bite to her voice. The Inquisitor was on edge and she savagely paced about the blue mats while glaring at him like a predator. There was a severe yearning desire for malice gleaming in her eyes as she restlessly watched him.

Stopping a few paces inside the training room as the doors shut behind him, Mark began speaking, intending to apologize for being slightly late, "Milord,' when Serine's diatribe cut him off. He looked stunned for a moment and confusion was clearly on his face. The High Inquisitor was this angry over being a minute late? "I assure you, Milord, no indignity nor insult was intended. I was merely caught up in my duties." Standing at attention, Mark offered no apology.

"Your duty is to *me*, or have you forgotten that? Your continued livelihood on this ship is only possible because I allow it," she nearly spat those words with caustic bitterness. The harsh lambasting was not reducing her ire, but merely prolonging it as she persisted to pace the mat with renewed impatience and aggression. The Inquisitor was riled up enough to continue to chastise him. "And don't you dare lie to me," she heavily accused him without any shred of evidence or fact. "I *know* you obsess over the videos of our sparring sessions. I *know* what a man obsessed looks like," she nearly growled with vexation due to her own troubled history with an obsessive master. Serine was convinced that Veller would continue to hound her with these sparring requests until he either won or ... she crushed him. Perhaps it was time to make him reconsider his desires to face her. With a spiteful gleam to her silver eyes, she fiercely motioned for him to take to the mats before hands began to clutch at her sides. It was clear that the High Inquisitor's motives were far more sinister than the last time he challenged her.

Mark fought down the resentment Serine's words invoked in him. While he strove to be on time and felt it was important to not delay things, being reminded of his own tardiness only served to bring up memories of his father's constant harping, memories he preferred not to dwell on. There were times when being late was unavoidable.

About to apologize for his tardiness, he was pulled up short by Serine's accusations. His eyes flashed with anger. Yes, he had been reviewing the videos, but only on what little free time he had. As an officer of the Imperium and a Stormtrooper, he was required to stay in shape, to be combat ready at all times. But obsessed? He only viewed it as finding someone better than he was to train with, something he had been lacking for years.

He was about to speak again, when Serine motioned to the mats and Mark was faced with a choice. Either excuse himself from the sparring or step foot on the mat. A part of him wanted to leave. It was clear Serine was unhappy about some part of their sparring, though it didn't make sense it was his reviewing the spars.

But something else beckoned him. A chance to better himself, or to acknowledge he had met his match. Looking at the choices, he removed his uniform tunic and set it aside. With a certain air of deliberateness, taking a few deep, slow breaths to still the anger that threatened, he walked to the mat. Serine had thrown down a challenge and he was willing to see it through to whatever end.

If Veller was expecting this spar to go along the same lines as the last two formal spars, then he was going to be in for a huge surprise. The moment he took his first step upon the mat, Serine brutally rushed him without any warning in a near blur of movement. As she advanced upon him, she lowered her shoulder to slam into his chest in a ruthless fashion, aiming to cause as much physical trauma as possible. They both collided into the mat with a savage smash but with Mark taking the full brunt of the impact. Her onslaught never wavered, and before he even had a chance to recover from her ambush, a series of cruel punches were thrown at him while she pinned his form down with one final strike landing harshly into his stomach. There was a fire churning in her eyes that he had not seen before, and the Inquisitor had no plans to release him from this merciless bombardment upon his prone body.

This was the second time Serine's attack had caught him off guard, moving with a speed that should not have been possible. He barely managed to twist so he did not take the full brunt of her attack but he did hit the floor hard, grunting as the air was forced out of his lungs. It became clear that the High Inquisitor was intent on turning this into a real fight as the blows started without allowing him to get back up.

Mark's anger began to rise, having flashbacks to when he was a kid being beaten up by various schoolmates and other thugs who roamed the streets where he lived. A hard hit to his stomach took the rest of the air from his lungs. Gasping for breath, his vision started to dim as he tried to ward off Serine's attacks. His body knew what to do but he knew he would need to turn the tables soon or Serine would beat him unconscious, and all for being late.

Rage screamed in his mind. He was not going to allow that to happen again! Never again! In a desperate attempt to get a bit of breathing space, both figuratively and literally, he forced himself to stop defending and managed to shove Serine off him, taking advantage of a slightly off-balance moment as she prepared to punch him again. Rolling away, he gasped for air, his vision clearing, fighting the rage that threatened to consume him, knowing that mistake would get him killed in this fight. Pushing himself to his feet, he turned to face Serine, rage blazing in his eyes, but still contained, ready to fight. Feeling bruised, but not badly so, his ice blue eyes tracked Serine as she got to her feet. He took a few precious moments to struggle with his rage and keep a cool head, senses sharpening as he felt himself slip into battle mode. If Serine wanted a fight, he would show her a fight.

The Inquisitor had not expected Veller to ward off the majority of her onslaught of attacks or to propel her away from him. After his shove, she rolled into a crouch where she eyed him dangerously as she plotted her next assault. Landing a solid strike into his body was satisfying, but he recovered quickly to face her again which both frustrated and mystified her. She was bewildered at his ability to anticipate her attacks and it made her all the more angered when her strikes went wide. Serine was fast on her feet to match her opponent and all too eager to continue her advance upon him. Her offensive came on with a sudden burst of power with a flurry of punches, and she continued to press towards him in a never ending assailment. The barrage of attacks were brutal and vicious, but Veller was able to evade and parry them. With every strike dodged or blocked, the Inquisitor grew increasingly enraged until she teetered on a boiling point. Serine lunged at him with fury surging through her entire form, every fiber of her being screaming a desire to inflict pain and damage upon him. With a cry of ferocious wrath, endued by the darkest powers of the Force, she delivered a maliciously violent punch towards his face with a sick craving to see his blood.

Mark felt alive as he threw himself into the fight. It had been a long time since he was able to just fight. Most other fights had been with those less skilled than he, or where he had to make sure both combatants survived, like the spar with Tonric. Serine somehow was able to take all he could throw at her and it was taking all of his skill to keep her from pounding him into the mat. He knew all it would take would be one mistake and it would be over for him.

His anger tucked away, it only served as a counterpoint to the calm he felt. Here there was no paperwork, no Bounty Hunters, no Empire. Just him and Serine fighting for the upper hand. The training room echoed with the sounds of their spar. Blows being blocked, bodies hitting the mat and rolling along with the grunts and gasps of two people trying their best to beat the other. Mark was feeling pretty good about this spar, knowing he was holding his own.

That's when it happened. That one moment when his fate teetered on the edge. Somehow, Mark felt a change, felt a buildup of power. The next thing he knew, his face exploded in pain as Serine's fist connected with his cheek, cutting both his cheek and splitting his lip. He reacted instinctively, rolling with the punch, desperately trying to get out of reach of the follow up punch he knew was coming.

It must have worked as the next thing he knew he was kneeling on one knee, crouched a few meters away from Serine. He spat out the blood in his mouth and touched his cheek, his eyes narrowing as the fingers revealed blood. His anger, kept in check so far, broke through his control and he suddenly saw red. With a bellow of rage, drawing on a strength he had not known was there, he charged from his kneeling position straight at Serine, doing the same maneuver she had started the fight with, though Mark picked her up and rammed her into the wall, his eyes blazing as he heard the crack of ribs.

Holding her there, hearing her gasp for breath, was music to Mark's ears. The offending arm, the one that had dared to hit him, made a tempting target. He grabbed the wrist and lifted it to give him a bit of leverage and struck with all the power he could muster, snapping both bones of the forearm.

Through the red, he smiled, relishing Serine's scream of pain. He spat another mouthful of blood and took a step back, staring at his helpless victim. Think to punish him because he was late, did she? Think she was better than he was, did she? He would hold to the vow he had made so long ago, to show them who was better!

Unknown to Mark, yellow had replaced the ice blue of his eyes. The same yellow that would have shown on the cameras that fateful night 21 years ago had the fight taken place during the day. Due to poor lighting and rain, it had gone unnoticed. Just like that gang leader, Serine would come to understand his supremacy. He prepared to land a blow on her sternum, hard enough to break it, making her death long and painful.

The moment Veller slammed the High Inquisitor into the wall, and she heard and felt her ribs buckle and crack, was when she finally knew *everything*. Her soft gasp was not just from the pain, but from the knowledge of what was aggressively looming over her. Serine did not have to look at his dark side consumed golden eyes to realize he was channeling that power, as she could sense its corrosive tendrils weaving about his form and the entire area. This sudden realization of the unfolding impossible events impacted her harder than her body had with the wall, and left her completely stunned and open for his brutal follow up. She was overwhelmed with the implications and possibilities, her mind reeling from the epiphany and potential of her High Colonel being Force sensitive. How could she have missed this ... how could anyone ... how did Veller possibly get through his entire career and no one noticed up until this point. Her mind wandered to the locked ISB file and she realized it had to have been hidden in there...

Serine was so bewildered and mentally preoccupied that she momentarily put up no resistance and her inaction led to her forearm being snapped easily by the energies cascading through Veller's body. The sudden flash of white hot agony caused a chilling scream that ripped her back into reality. Eyes that had been widened through pain and awareness narrowed intently upon her would-be rival. The High Inquisitor understood exactly what was inflicting Veller, the darkness enveloped him, whispered sinister desires, riling him to continuously seek further bloodshed, but he was untrained and unaware. This made him both reckless and ignorant, incapable of controlling the power that was now controlling him. Soon he would witness the full extent of the error he had made in challenging Serine in a contest of Force ability. "You fool..." she said ominously as he advanced upon her once again.

As he moved in to crush her, a tremendous buildup of brilliant energy erupted into a storm of unleashed sinister power. Serine's inner telekinetic talents roared to life causing a massive explosion of dynamic ability that detonated from her in an intense discharge of Force. The initial impact blasted around her like a shockwave sending the practice mats, Veller and huge chunks of durasteel flooring outwards in a deluge of chaos and rage. Mark slammed into the wall with enough strength to leave a huge dent before he was mercilessly pelted with metallic debris from the blast. Large pieces of metal gashed into his arms and legs with the majority of them imbedding into the wall in a ghastly display and blood and wreckage. This intense attack would have been enough to instantly kill any man due to the internal trauma alone, but Veller had just enough untrained ability to prevent his untimely end, however, the sustained tissue and bone damage was immense.

Before he even had a chance to slump to his knees in agony, the Inquisitor was upon him with a bloodlust burning in her eyes. The intense rumbling sound that signified her usage of the dark side now surrounded his form, completely hindering all of his movement until he was nothing more than a helpless victim for her to torment. Her right arm hung uselessly at her side due to the injuries, but her left arm was free to continue to punish him. "Suffer..." she seethed through clenched teeth as she began to send a savage series of punches into his face. The barrage was unforgiving and ruthless, each punch sprayed more crimson until his blood coated her hand and dripped freely down her fingers. Serine's High Colonel was unimaginably valuable to her now, but at this singular moment, she could think of nothing but his misery and affliction, punishment for him daring to stand against her. She would continue to pummel his face and his body until he was either unconscious or dead.

Mark's world shattered as he felt himself lifted from the ground and shoved away from his prey. How dare she!?!? Rage howled in his mind right until impact with the wall.

Intellectually, he knew he should be dead, feeling the wall mold around him. As it was, something had managed to modify the blow, moving him down the scale from pink goo on the wall to just in intense pain. He felt ribs crack and possibly break. All the air in his lungs left him, making it impossible for him to give voice to his pain as debris struck him.

The red haze cleared from his vision, returning him to sanity. His eyes widened in the realization that he *had* broken Serine's arm, seeing her advance on him. He could not understand what held him upright and helpless, though he could feel the power.

Hearing her tell him to suffer he just noted to himself he already was. Somehow he had gone berserk and found the power to seriously injure his commanding officer, someone he respected and would defend with his life.

It did not take a lot of blows before Mark slipped into the offered release of oblivion. Part of him hoped he would never awaken, having so thoroughly disgraced himself. Another part told him he would not be so lucky.

The moment she witnessed Veller drop unconscious, she halted her assault and released her hold upon him, although it took every shred of her willpower to do so. Without the unseen support holding up his listless body, he slumped to his knees then collapsed upon the floor in a disheveled pile. A low seething hiss eased from the Inquisitor at the lifeless form of her High Colonel as she paced around his body, unsettled and eager to inflict far more damage. How dare he be so weak as to pass out before she could fully punish him. The new revelation that he was strong in the Force was his only saving grace, any other officer would have been executed on the spot for being so bold as to harm her. However, Veller was not just any officer, and his attack upon her was not just any attack, he had been fueled by the dark side and had been controlled by its impulsive and manipulative energies. Serine was wise and forgiving enough to understand the difference and to spare him death, but not merciful enough to spare him incarceration and discipline.

The High Inquisitor was not going to be able to hide this confrontation, word would instantly get out and spread like wildfire that she and Veller sparred, and that they both sustained damages. If it had just been Serine receiving injuries, she would have been able to conceal it and prevent these rumors from starting, but she realized that her High Colonel was going to need some ... after curricular activities. His subordinates would soon realize he was in the brig and everyone already knew they had been setting time aside to spar, and one could easily make the connection even without the evidence. This put Serine in a difficult position. Now she *needed* to make an example out of Veller because this whole situation would soon be out in the open, but she also could not permanently harm or execute him due to his value. In addition, she could not let the knowledge of his Force usage become common knowledge, least every Inquisitor in this part of the galaxy came looking for a potential apprentice. She did not want to hand Mark over to the Citadel for training, she needed his skills as a High Colonel first and after she gave it careful consideration, perhaps move to train him unofficially. A commander of her 610th Legion that could also charge into battle wielding the Force was a tantalizing prospect she could not ignore.

She growled as her right arm continued to throb, reminding her that she too needed medical attention along with her Colonel. Reluctantly, she moved towards the wall comm then issued orders for a special medical team from the interrogation ward to collect Veller. Serine was not looking forward to the backlash of whispers that would no doubt rampage through the mess halls. She did not want her ship to turn into another Warspite, but speculation followed her relentlessly wherever she went. The High Inquisitor would have to give unique orders to her medical team, especially her speciality doctors and would have to be careful on what information she was willing to disclose to them.

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