Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Kit Gwynne and Sarah Riggs-Shute.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:6:9) in the Corulus system: Interrogator.
Major Morgan Petrovna, High Inquisitor Serine Thanor, and Colonel Mark Veller.

Mark's eyes took in the surroundings. He dimly remembered the guard station from his trek to the medical bay, but did not have the time to take notes. The cell block was in the standard layout, though the guard station had more monitors than standard cell blocks.

Following the High Inquisitor down one of the spokes to a cell, he stood patiently as she keyed in her access code and the door slid open. Stepping aside for him to enter, Mark felt her gaze on his back as he strode into the cell. In his mind's eye, he could envision his first crossing of the threshold, Stormtroopers dragging his unconscious body into the cell.

The room surprised him by being larger than he remembered. Ice blue eyes took in the pristine walls, the hard sleeping bench in the corner. His eyes lit on the drain in the middle of the room. Looking up, he could see the hook from which the chains had hung. As if in a daze, he walked over to the drain and crouched down, his fingers lightly touching the now clean surface.

His eyes unfocused, almost as if he could see his blood still running down the drain. It was here she claimed him. Here that his blood was spilled. Here that she nearly killed him. There was a soft movement behind him, the High Inquisitor stepping into the cell but no further. He could tell she was waiting and watching.

Memories flooded his mind, of the home he had abandoned, of the teachings in his youth, of his frustrations and anger that he could not let go of. Though much of what he was today had been shaped by Master Roste, the Empire had been the kiln that finished the job.

Crouched there, he felt the closeness of the High Inquisitor. She had taken him in hand, chastising his errors. She was strong in ways others weren't and Mark could no longer deny the pull he felt to serve her. Each time he had strayed, she had pulled him back. He could hear his own screams as she had punished his misdeeds. She had not mocked him during that time as so many other of his commanding officers had done. She had merely punished and for that he had accepted her claim on him.

Somehow, he felt the bond that had been forged between them, knew it was there until death claimed them. Master Roste's soothing words were drowned in this realization. He was well and truly bound and the binding was of his own doing. Inquisitor Jorad's words echoed and his fist clenched unconsciously at the rage that sprung up remembering his words. He knew with certainty that Jorad had lied to him about having his own free will if he went with Jorad. Had he gone with Jorad, he would have been more a slave.

Taking a deep breath to calm his thoughts, he stood up and then turned to face the High Inquisitor. She was his commanding officer. He had no real right to refuse her training or commands unless he felt they would harm the Empire. The differences between Jorad and the High Inquisitor were stark in his mind. He wanted very much to take down Jorad, but without further training, he knew the task to be nigh impossible. Jorad had handled him like a child.

He considered his honor, though he heard Master Roste's words on his honor being used against him, he still could not shake the certainty of his dishonor in that last spar with the High Inquisitor. Oaths had been sworn and then broken. His own actions had lead to this point.

Dropping to one knee, he said, "Milord, I accept your offer of training and hereby pledge my life and service to you above all other oaths," he dropped his gaze to the floor, "Before you accept my pledge," he continued before the High Inquisitor could speak, "there is the matter of Master Roste," naming his old master for the first time to the High Inquisitor.

"How he came to be at the right moment to save our lives, I do not know, but Master Roste was there to fight and defeat Inquisitor Jorad. I did not recognize him at first, but several clues combined to my recognizing him when he finally spoke to me after the hours spent saving Lieutenant Dunford. He did not introduce himself immediately, possibly preferring to test the waters first. I debated with allowing him to think I was ignorant of his identity as we made our way to safety. Please understand I was trying to deal with the events of the day which were rather overwhelming.

"Milord, my apologies for not informing you sooner, but I had questions for Master Roste that I was not sure he would answer if I contacted the Interrogator. As well as the knowledge he could easily have mastered me had I turned to combat.

"You asked what he said, what he told me," his eyes rose from the floor to meet the High Inquisitor's gaze, "He spoke of something called the Force, and while I do not fully understand, his words seemed true to me. He spoke of a Light Side and a Dark Side. He also spoke of the reason he disappeared, that the Inquistorius was hunting him and he fled to protect me, stating I would be used against him, tortured and killed to break him. Or I would be sent to the Citadel for training there and possible death."

His gaze dropped back down to the floor, "Milord, I tell you this so you are aware of the divide inside me. When Master Roste was teaching me, I had no idea he was Jedi, nor that I had this potential within me to use this Force he spoke of. I was just another child trying to navigate the slums I had been born into. Master Roste offered a way out, then left me to find my own way out. Much of what I am today, I owe to Master Roste."

"But that is in the past. It is the Empire that offered me a future that did not include the slums of my birth. The Empire which has allowed me to reach my potential, to do something with my life. I wish to serve, but I do not wish to do so blindly, nor do I wish for my service to be accepted blindly. I am yours to command, Milord," said finally, his head bowed to await the High Inquisitor's decision.

Master Roste's existence compromised him. When he had been safely in the past, Mark could concentrate on his apparent betrayal. Now, with the revelation he was Jedi, Master Roste's teachings took on a different meaning. He would understand if the High Inquisitor considered him too much of a risk to have serving under her. If she turned away and closed the door behind her, he would not be surprised. His fate was now in her hands, as he felt it should be.

The High Inquisitor was confounded with Veller's request to visit the cell in which she brought him to the verge of death. The appeal was surprising, perplexing and left her in a state of bewilderment. This confusion was clearly stated on her face since no one had ever asked this of her and she couldn't help but to demand the simple question that bluntly left her. "Why?" Serine asked sharply as eyes narrowed slightly suspiciously at him. The cell in question had been cleaned within the hour after Mark had practically dragged his shredded body from it, so there was nothing to see. It would just be an empty and spotless high security holding room. Even the chain that had been hanging would have been removed. The Interrogator was notoriously known for their interrogation wards, the crew manning them were immaculately trained and disciplined, their attention to detail was the best in the Imperial fleet. The cell the High Colonel had suffered in was likely so sterile now, one could eat off the floor and it would be far more sanitary than eating from a standard plate.

His answer to her question mystified her as well, and she took a moment to analyze what his reasoning may be. She wondered if perhaps this was a psychological response to her form of conditioning him. Her methods were harsh but effective, and there was a chance he wanted to revisit that moment in which she laid a claim to his life to refocus his attention. The bout with the Jedi likely stirred conflict in his mind and visiting the cell might be his way of calming them. Serine pondered if Veller also felt guilty, maybe this was an unconscious desire to deal with the disgrace he may be experiencing. In any case, the High Inquisitor eventually came to the conclusion that she should honor his request. A romp through those past memories together would likely continue to strengthen the Force bond forming between them, and ultimately cement her hold upon him. She had to admit that his momentary faltering from her grasp had made her rather anxious, and she had no desire to struggle through that sinking sensation again.

She nodded silently to him before she took an abrupt turn towards the door and quickly moved to exit, assuming he was following. Serine briskly guided him through the halls which became far sparser the closer they came to the detention arm of the ship. Though interrogations and executions were the main purpose of the Interrogator, their empty cells provided little work for the numerous staff, so they attended to their secondary duties, leaving the corridors nearly abandoned save a few routine security patrols. However, when prisoners were being held, this area was a hotbed of activity, as had just recently been the case with Ensign Doran. The few infrequent members they happened to cross would pause their duties to bow respectfully to them as they passed. Mark would be led past the rows and rows of standard Interrogation cells, past entire wards full of empty rooms eagerly awaiting their next victim, until he was directed to the special holding areas, which was where the Interrogator received its full merit.

These high security cells were outfitted with many functions that Veller never had the displeasure of witnessing, with their more nefarious duties hidden in plain sight. Woe be to anyone that received their full insidious attentions. It was in these maximum security cells that only the highest priority prisoners would be kept: captured Jedi, and in some cases, discovered Force-sensitives. It was down one particular corridor Serine led him, which Mark sauntered down once before, bloodied and dying, leaving a trail of crimson splotches in his wake. Her clearance code was typed into the keypad causing a door to open and she stepped aside to allow him to gander inside. She carefully watched him silently as he entered, seemingly reliving that event that changed his life. Serine recognized that deep distant glaze to his eyes as he slowly peered around the room, but imagining how it once was, not how it was now. She had purged him violently in this room, it certainly had an impact, as it was meant to.

Serine's eyes opened slightly wider as Veller gracefully dropped to one knee, a standard position of subservience, and had to still herself quickly lest she look too shocked, she certainly did not expect it. Veller had always been one for strict duty and oaths, finding the unorthodox kneeling to anyone beside the Emperor to be abnormal at best. She had sensed his troubled emotions in the past when her own apprentice had kneeled before her. How things had managed to come full circle, now he was performing such an act willingly without trepidation or uncertainty. Despite the fancy many other Inquisitor's had for the power trip, Serine did not actually prefer her subjects to kneel in front of her, it actually made her uncomfortable due to a troubled past with her own former master. However, she recognized the motion to be important in certain contexts and rituals and thus did not reprimand her apprentice or now Veller for doing so.

She listened closely to his confessions, noting the name he called the Jedi for use later. His explanations of the events prior were not particularly alarming or unexpected, nor did she feel he was anywhere close to being unsalvageable. It was her job to seek out and convert Jedi and other Force-sensitives, a duty in which she was specifically trained for and took exceedingly seriously. The High Inquisitor personally felt highly capable of persuading Jedi towards Imperial service and had done so in the past. It was no small feat to convince a Jedi Master's apprentice, Kia Kaen, who had just witnessed her master's death, to completely abandon all that he taught her, but Serine had managed to do so through word crafting and delicate tact. She was confident that with enough time and effort, she could discretely steer any Jedi towards a less stringent path. So, in her mind, Veller's case was a generally easy one, without much maneuvering required. He did not even need further reprimanding at this time, his docile compliance and initiative to serve her was all Serine needed to move the next stages of his development along.

As far as the High Inquisitor was concerned, he was *always* hers to command, but now he had fully admitted it to her, and more importantly, admitted it to himself. If she was not so preoccupied with everything needing her attention at once, she would have gladly begun his training right then, but for now, she needed him in another capacity. "Your compliance and obedience is recognized," she said deftly. "Now rise, we have much to accomplish." Serine commanded firmly, and once he stood, her eyes darkened dramatically. "Your past with this Jedi will serve us well, you may be able to sense when he is near. You *will* find him for me." An eerie obsessive gleam shimmered ominously in silver eyes.

Major Petrovna switched off the holoterminal and leaned back in her chair. The video she had just reviewed was ... disturbing. She could now confirm what Thanor had wanted to know, the status of Ensign Doran's family. Dead. All of them. Sitting there, she tried to pinpoint what it was that disturbed her. It wasn't that they were dead, she had seen a lot of dead people in her time. It wasn't even the manner of their death, gory and painful though it had been. There was something else.

After a few moments of thinking, she shrugged it off and downloaded the files into a datapad. Thanor would be expecting the results. Standing up, she left her office, opening the door to her new office. It would take a few days for the repair crew to mend the destruction Thanor had caused to her prior office. A bit surprised at the short amount of time, the repair crew had informed her the High Inquisitor had been precise and that most of the damage was cosmetic.

She had insisted on being assigned a new office, however. One did not do Imperial Intelligence work with passersby able to peek in as they went to the mess hall. It was farther from Thanor's office than her rank allowed her to be, but Morgan preferred the illusion of distance. This Thanor was proving to be more of an obstacle than she had anticipated.

Her eyes gleamed in thought as she walked the distance to Thanor's office. Perhaps here, she would meet the challenge she had been born for. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, she hit the comm link requesting entrance. When there was no answer after a minute, Morgan pulled out her comm link to talk directly with the High Inquisitor.

"High Inquisitor Thanor," she said into the comm link once it was activated, "Major Petrovna here, I have those files you requested on Ensign Doran. Where should I meet you?"

Mark stood gracefully, his emotions confused slightly at his response to the High Inquisitor's words. There was relief that she had accepted him despite his association with Master Roste. Her command to find Master Roste distressed him in some manner he did not understand.

Doing his best to keep this confusion off his face, he nodded his compliance, "As you command, Milord," he said, "With your permission, I will take charge of the Stormtroopers assigned to the task once we arrive back at Corulag." Already, he was working on the problem of overcoming Master Roste's skill at combat. He had seen the man deflect blaster bolts without apparent concern. He would need to have overwhelming numbers and even then, he was sure he would have a high number of casualties.

Master Roste had not killed Inquisitor Jorad, for which he was perversely grateful, but that did not mean Master Roste would not kill. Everyone had a point where they would turn killer, the question was where Master Roste's was and how many Stormtroopers Mark would lose if he pushed him to that killing point. Mark knew his. His fist unconsciously clenched as that little knot of anger flexed and an image of him killing Jorad flashed through his mind. His ice blue eyes darkened slightly remembering the pain and humiliation Inquisitor Jorad had put him through. He renewed his vow that he would end Inquisitor Jorad's life for the insult.

Serine most certainly understood that the command to apprehend the Jedi given to her High Colonel would be emotionally conflicting, but she needed to test his loyalty and his unique abilities were a significant advantage. There was a high probability that he would be able to root out the Jedi far faster than anyone else, she was banking on the possibility that Veller inadvertently formed a Force bond with him. The High Inquisitor waved off his request to lead a Stormtrooper offensive. "Don't rush to assumptions, High Colonel, it might not come to a ground assault. If the Jedi had been en route to leave the planet, and has been impeded by the blockade, then we may be able to secure him while he still pilots his ship. I have a far different role for you in this challenge."

Serine had no intention of putting Veller in a combat scenario so soon after she recovered him, and not against this capable foe. An idea was forming that would be far less hazardous for all parties in play, including the Jedi's. The more aggressively confrontational she was with how she approached this problem, the higher likelihood of casualties on both sides, which she absolutely wished to avoid. While still a significant triumph, a dead Jedi was far less valuable than a living Jedi, and especially *this* particular Jedi, who she had a plethora of questions for. She paused for a moment considering how best to explain her plan so that Mark could better understand his purpose within it. Eyes drifted a bit to the right in thought before they returned to look upon him with purpose and authority.

"When individuals share meaningful experiences together that had a great impact in their lives, oftentimes they will develop a bond that connects them on a metaphysical level. Most do not realize they are tethered to another, nor do they sense it, but on rare occasions, and during great emotional or physical need, they may *feel* something. Such as a mother knowing when their child is in danger, or spouses swearing they can experience the pain of their significant other. Others such as you and I, who are gifted with abilities above commonplace, can actively sense these networks that branch outward between us and other living beings. These are called Force bonds, and they can become extremely powerful. They start small, such as being able to tell when someone is close by. With enough exposure to an individual one has bonded with, eventually they will be able to feel each other's emotions, share thoughts and sensations. If the bonds develop further, one can sense these things and even share power and abilities across immense distances, a whole star system would not be too great to overcome."

The High Inquisitor eyed Veller with a knowing look. "You've sensed this already, the beginning stages. You can tell when I am near, can you not? It goes both ways as well. Your presence becomes known to me about the length of a small corridor. Inquisitor Kaen shares a slightly stronger bond, we can sense each other's emotions and thoughts if they are strong enough. Now ... there is a chance a fledgling bond formed between you and this Jedi. If so, that becomes an invaluable tool we can use to find him. Now, listen well. When we arrive back in orbit around Corulag, you and a small group of officers and gunners of your choosing will board a Sentinel-class shuttle and depart. You are to play the part of a routine Imperial inspection. You will remotely check the identification and registration of each ship and vehicle attempting to leave orbit. At the moment you sense *anything* that may be that Jedi, you fire Ion cannons to disable the ship and the Interrogator will be quick in tow to retrieve that craft into our shuttle bay. Then I personally will handle the rest. At no point are you to engage further, is that understood? This is to be a covert mission. If it is botched, you return immediately and we strategize our next move."

Serine noticed that Veller seemed a bit occupied, his fist clenching tightly and her eyes narrowed at him. "Is there something you wish to share, High Colonel?" She barked, but her inquiry was broken by Major Petrovna's comm request in which she answered eagerly. "Very good Major. Meet me at the Medical facility where the Ensign is being treated." The comm was deactivated before eyes focused back on Veller, and she realized she did not yet know the information crucial for her own part to play in this offensive. "If we are to succeed, I must know everything about this Jedi's combat style. His strengths, his abilities. Any minor detail could be vitally important."

She motioned for Veller to accompany her as she exited the interrogation cell briskly. "There is a reason why only a High Inquisitor may command the Interrogator. It is my unique duty to confront Jedi directly, that is one of my main purposes, an obligation that I have been extensively trained in. You have witnessed him duel Inquisitor Jorad. Having knowledge of his capabilities will give me a tremendous advantage. I would like to believe you did not ... accidentally disclose any information to him that may be detrimental to me."

Mark was taken aback when the HIgh Inquisitor stated she did not want him commanding the ground assault, but as she explained her reasoning, Mark nodded slightly. He also had to admit a feeling of relief that his Stormtroopers would not be going up against Master Roste directly.

Keenly interested, he listened as the High Inquisitor described the Force bond. He nodded again when the High Inquisitor mentioned being able to sense when she was near. He would have to remember the part about it going both ways.

As to having a Force bond with Master Roste, he was not sure there was one, though if there was, perhaps that explained why he trusted Master Roste. He had not been aware of anything beyond his own competence making him special during the time he had been Master Roste's student. Perhaps the bond was there and he just did not notice as he had nothing to compare it by.

The High Inquisitor's sharp question broke his reverie. He was distracted from his momentary confusion by the High Inquisitor's comm link going off. Noticing his fist had clenched, he opened it, compartmentalizing the anger. Now was not the time.

Obeying the High Inquisitor's motion, he followed her out, walking beside her so he could answer her question about Master Roste's combat abilities. Mark stated, "He is better than I am, Milord, much improved these twenty years. I am not entirely sure of what I saw, but I will endeavor to relate it to the best of my ability.

"The first I saw of him was a lightsaber which blocked Inquisitor Jorad's thrust to my chest. Somehow, Inquisitor Jorad ended up flung to the far side of the cargo bay. A shimmering field appeared around Master Roste. As he stood near Lieutenant Dunford, placing himself between us and Inquisitor Jorad, he placed a hand on the Lieutenant's shoulder. Forgive me if my recollections are somewhat hazy and chaotic, Milord, but I do not understand much of what I saw, hence do not know what is important or not.

"A hazy energy seemed to surround us, Milord. Inquisitor Jorad re-engaged Master Roste, and in the exchange pulled out a blaster to fire at me." Mark stopped talking a moment, considering that memory, "Milord, the blaster bolts did not even singe me, though they were fired at a point blank range. Twice Master Roste saved my life. They were stopped at some," he waved his hand in the air, "energy field, dissipated before they could reach me. Master Roste then pushed the attack and knocked Inquisitor Jorad out cold. He used a movement he had been teaching me to get under Inquisitor Jorad's guard. It was one of the clues that lead to my discovering his identity. After that, he tended to Lieutenant Dunford's injuries. He said nothing else to me, nor did I interrupt, somehow knowing I would get no answer and that an interruption could be fatal to Lieutenant Dunford.

"Milord, from what I saw, he easily handled Inquisitor Jorad. Had Inquisitor Jorad and I been equally armed, it is my belief I would have a chance at taking him," once again, that tight knot of anger stirred within Mark. Inquisitor Jorad's lightsaber made any combat between them one-sided on Jorad's side as he would have no defense against the weapon. Mark viewed Jorad as a coward for using it. Taking a deep breath to calm himself, he only hoped none of his outrage at Inquisitor Jorad had leaked through this Force bond he shared with the High Inquisitor. He still had no idea how the High Inquisitor would view his desire to make a fellow Inquisitor pay for his misdeeds against him. Best to keep it secret, he thought, he had done enough damage to his relationship with the High Inquisitor already.

As the High Inquisitor continued to listen to Veller's recollection of the Jedi's fighting style, she started to grow increasingly concerned. Serine mulled over the details Mark was able to remember and they further coincided with what she had already pieced together. This was no amateur, no aspiring apprentice stumbling upon a Jedi holocron and longing for grandeur. She was particularly uneasy about the description of the strength of the Jedi's abilities, a knot of doubt and dread churning in her stomach as she estimated his power to be exceptional. For the first time in her career, Serine was second guessing herself, and that was a dangerous place for her to be mentally. If she was incapable of facing an experienced foe, then her qualification to command the Interrogator was forfeit.

It was particularly troubling to know that Inquisitor Jorad's talents, although not a complete comparison, were very similar to her own, with similar strengths. If he was taken down with relative ease, would she also fall in battle to this Jedi? The gut wrenching sensation of apprehension paralyzed the High Inquisitor for a moment as her mind raced to devise a solution to ensure her victory. Her thoughts were cut short by Veller's haughty claim that he could assault Jorad with similar weaponry. Serine's heightened anxiety due to the new set of dire circumstances bubbled quickly into anger at his distraction. She abruptly snapped at him with a bitter snarl to such a loud degree that the patrons in the hallways were all startled simultaneously. "Do not be so foolish! You could not possibly defeat Inquisitor Jorad!!" She severely yelled at the High Colonel, fully agitated by her own fear, and was taking it out on him.

The hallway instantly cleared out with officers making haste to evacuate. An exasperated exhale was forced from her as she attempted to control her embattled emotions. She continued at a somewhat moderate tone, but her eyes still held a disturbed and vexed quality to them. "A single look from him and your lungs would collapse. Do not assume his quick dispatching means he is incompetent, merely he was up against a far more capable opponent." Serine shook her head in dismay, she was not in the right frame of mind to hide her concern from her subordinate. A commander should always stay stoic and unwavering, to instill confidence in the crew, but the High Inquisitor was feeling the immense pressure bearing down on her, and was starting to show the signs of the fear that was gripping her.

Perhaps it was the trust she had in Veller, perhaps it was the bond they shared, or perhaps she was in crumbling disarray, but when the High Inquisitor's gaze drifted before her and she whispered out a few words, they were the unmarred and raw truth. "Your former mentor ... is a Jedi Master, and I've never faced one in full combat before."

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