Era of Rebellion - Navigation

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

The waves gently rode up to the beach with tendrils of water that sought higher ground. Mark took in a deep breath and let it out, marveling in the difference between this clean air and the recycled air of the Interrogator. Mark had objected to the beach at first, but the High Inquisitor had insisted on his taking shore leave on the beach. Mark's preference was for the city, but allowed himself to be convinced. Pairing himself up with Dunford had seemed the best option after he lost that battle.

Mark looked over at Dunford happily reading a book as they sat on the large porch of their rented house. More like a hotel suite than a house, thought Mark The 'kitchen' was hardly up to the task of delivering ready to eat meals. But then, the hotel wanted you to go to their restaurant, spend money and decide to spend money on even more things.

The two room lodging gave them enough privacy if they wanted it from prying eyes and ears while also being surrounded by the hotel's servants and services. Mark took another sip of the caf the waiter had provided this morning. After astonishing the wait staff with his caf knowledge, the chef had taken to providing him a different brew with each meal. It had turned into a friendly challenge for him to determine what flavors were in the caf and to then give his judgment on the brew.

He was fairly certain that the head chef was using his talents to test some new brews, but he did not mind. This morning's brew, however, was proving to be elusive on its flavors. One of them nagged at him, as if he should easily recognize it. Taking another sip, he allowed his thoughts to roam while he looked out over the beach and ocean, seeing but not observing the people on the beach.

Shore leave had definitely been needed. The small aches and pains, the last remaining physical legacy of his punishment, had vanished after the first day. Sleeping for 14 hours straight had probably been key to handling that.

Giving a passing thought to the ISD parked in orbit, he let out a sigh. The tranquility he was experience was a fleeting thing. Once he stepped back aboard the Interrogator, the High Inquisitor would be expecting a response on her offer for training.

Mark took another sip. The episode with Major Petrovna had raised a bunch of questions. The High Inquisitor's explanation had been accepted, but it had also raised more questions now that he thought about it. Whatever had been done to the Major, he was witness to it not being pleasant. He disliked the idea of being subject to a power like that, one with no visible weapon to detect. How does one defend from such a thing?

Then there was the growing conclusion that the commander he had sworn his life to was a bit unstable. Perhaps not as unstable as Inquisitor Tremayne had been, but still unstable. The High Inquisitor had made it quite clear that she could kill him on a whim. He squirmed a bit in his chair, his back itching.

Warnings about the training being difficult, dangerous and potentially lethal were tossed aside. He was an Imperial Stormtrooper. That he had lived long enough to be promoted to High Colonel was amazing in and of itself. But Mark knew with a certainty to his core, that his survival so far only meant the blaster bolt that spelled his death had not been fired yet, not that it didn't exist. Death was a constant companion, one to be cajoled, bribed and perhaps even threatened. But dead was dead when Death came for you. One could only hope a few living comrades would to raise a glass to you. Death still conquered.

The caf distracted his thoughts again. He should know this flavor but still could not place it. He pondered the dilemma, amused at using his time to discern caf flavors and not Stormtrooper assignments and capabilities. Perhaps High Inquisitor Thanor was correct, ordering him to take this shore leave. Perhaps he had needed a break.

A small smile crossed his face though he wasn't aware of it, allowing the memories of recent events to pour into his mind, from his first spar with the High Inquisitor to her offer. Starting his martial arts training on the suggestion of a teacher after a schoolyard fight, Mark knew he had an aptitude for violence But he disdained the crude violence of the gangs that roamed and controlled the streets of his childhood. He yearned for something else and he found it, or thought he had. Control. Control of his temper and a proper outlet for his frustrations, for all the anger life had left him with.

Being poor, he had not the access to all that he wanted. His education was wrestled from the books available in the public library. But even that was a barrier as the better libraries in the better sectors, he was not allowed access to. Either a fee needed to be paid or travel was too expensive. While his clothing was not ragged, it was always well-worn before being replaced. Food was simple and dull. And all the time, there stood his father, disapproving of his efforts, never pleased with his achievements.

Mark's thoughts shied from his father, not wanting to remember the harsh treatment that fueled his anger even more. Nor did he want to remember the gambling debts that had condemned him to poverty. Both parents had died when he was in his late teens, leaving him old enough to make it on his own, but young enough that many doors were still closed to him.

Enter the Empire. He had been about thirteen years old when the Empire was formed from the corrupt Republic. After his parents' death, he had applied and been refused. Too young, he was told, his parents' permission was required. Bitterly, he remembered that day. The signature of a parent was impossible with both of them in the ground. The next two years had been hard, but he had survived them. Only to be denied the scholarship that would take him off the planet. His anger, fueled by the injustices the rich heaped on the poor, just became hotter.

Then came the scholarship to the Imperial Academy, the repayment of a debt he had all but forgotten by an Imperial. With one action, his loyalty to the Empire had been sealed. Only the Empire had cared about his fate. Others had abandoned him, ignored him or even spit upon him. For the rescue out of his poor birth, Mark swore to the Empire, to serve it to the best of his abilities.

A decade and more pass. Stubbornness and more drove Mark to hone his skills. More times than not, he managed to pull victory out of disaster. Something which should have earned him the praise and admiration of his colleagues, but instead earned him their disdain and contempt. It is more disguised than it was on the streets of Onderon, but it is there and the same.

There are nights when Mark stars at the ceiling, sleepless as he tries to reconcile what he sees with what he knows of how things should be. Each of those nights came up with only one answer. The Empire was still young. It would take men like him to set the standard.

Now enter one High Inquisitor Serine Thanor. And in her he finds the uncompromising belief that called to his. A total service to the Empire and not to herself. The demand, no insistence, that each person be competent. Looking back on it, he found that moment when he had decided to follow High Inquisitor Thanor wherever she went.

Then, disaster had struck. His eyes clouded to think of it. Disaster by his own hand, which made it worse. He lost his temper and struck out wildly, crudely, just like those gangs that ruled his home turf. Had there been anyone else in that room, it was entirely likely he would have killed them before the High Inquisitor could have stopped him. But no, there had been no one so the High Inquisitor had borne the brunt of his rage. A rage she did not deserve.

When he had been shackled for his judgment, he had been relieved that an end to his dishonor was near. He had attacked his superior officer without regard, broken his vow of service and ripped his honor to shreds. Seeing the contempt the High Inquisitor had shown for him, as if he were a common criminal, only fit for a blaster bolt, had been a hard blow to take. Had she released him and given him a blaster, he would have taken his own life right there.

But the High Inquisitor had a claim on him, so he had taken her judgment. And found himself regaining his honor, regaining his life. And now, he had to decide on this training she offered. Something that would give him control over the rage that broke free.

Mark leaned back in the chair. Given the High Inquisitor's temper, the training would be dangerous, but more, Mark thought, because of the teacher, not the subject matter. He took another sip and decided to just enjoy the weather and time away from the Interrogator. He would accept, he saw no other option.

Lieutenant Bernard Dunford was fully sprawled out on a patio recliner to Veller's right, lightly occupied in the book he was reading with a peace of mind he had not felt for nearly a decade. He was completely relaxed and fulfilled with the gentle warm breeze upon his face and alluring smell of the sea crashing within view. Frequently, he would doze off momentarily in a blissful nap, lulled to sleep by the soothing sounds of the crystal clear and majestic waves rolling but a few yards away. Often he would sneak a happy although bashful look towards his superior. He was so honored that the High Colonel had chosen him to be his companion. Veller could have chosen anyone he wanted on the whole ship and typically higher ranked officers kept to others with similar rank. How surprised and humbled Dunford had been when Mark personally requested the Lieutenant to join him at his private beach condo. There was no secret that the High Inquisitor favored Veller, and not only did she give him more time off than all the other officers, he was the only one that was granted shore leave with all expenses paid *and* his own private beach-side room. Everyone else on the ship had daily curfew and had to return to the Interrogator to check in.

Bernard was delighted but not ignorant, he figured Mark wanted to talk to him more about the Citadel Inquisitorius or the Interrogator. That was fine. Dunford was more than willing to accommodate Veller faithfully. For the longest time, no one else had showed even the slightest bit of humanity to him and thus the High Colonel found himself a new and loyal ally. Brown eyes turned to Veller with a glowing esteem, Bernard practically revered his superior officer. "Sir I ... um..." The silence was broken by a bit of sheepish wording as Dunford struggled to convey his true appreciation. "I wanted to thank you. This has really been great." Bernard said a bit bashfully as he temporality buried himself back into his book, an embarrassed sheen spreading briefly across his cheeks. Damnit, he sounded like such an idiot, but it couldn't be helped. He wanted Veller to know how much he was grateful. He allowed the awkward moment to pass before he continued. "I also wanted to report that I finished updating the communications system for your 610th division before we left." Bernard was going to wait to give him a proper formal report on the subject, but he felt the need to share his success with Veller early, being very eager to please him.

Mark had to smile a bit at Dunford's eagerness, such a difference from the trembling wreck that had first entered his office, "My pleasure, Lieutenant. It would appear this has been beneficial for both of us. You seem more relaxed since our last meeting and I am glad to hear the update to the 610th was completed. The men will be pleased as well. Be sure to fully brief me when we get back so I can make sure the 610 is properly briefed as well."

Mark sank back into his chair and took another sip of the caf. The pot was almost gone and he still had not identified that flavor. Not that it mattered in the long run, there were plenty of things you could add to caf that he had not tasted, but it still irked him that he had not figured out what the chef had put in. He supposed he could always ask for another pot, give the chef a slight victory. He nodded to himself, yes, another pot would be in order anyway, perhaps he could detect it by lunch with a second pot.

Deciding to take the plunge, now that Dunford seemed relaxed and recovered, he said, "I take it shore leave was unheard of when Inquisitor Tremayne commanded?" looking out over the beach but keeping his attention on Dunford for his response.

So the questioning finally began. Dunford had wondered when Veller would start, figuring he would wait a few days into their leave. Bernard had already prepared to answer anything Mark asked and his approach was completely lacking the fear laced so deeply as before. Now there was nothing to prevent him from sharing, no frightful unseen spectators to strike the deepest of anxieties. They were free from observation or hidden recorders which allowed Bernard to finally express his vast knowledge without consequence. The book he had been holding was placed upon his chest as he glanced over at his superior with a slightly mischievous grin. "Of course not. The former High Inquisitor was concerned his entire crew would mutiny and desert at first opportunity. In truth, I believe the majority of the crew would be too afraid to do so as it was likely Tremayne would have hunted them down relentlessly for the slight. At least a handful would have fled though, I'm certain, but I would not have, despite everything. Living every day with the terror of the potential repercussions, knowing that each and every shadow could be fate calling would be far worse than service, even in the overburdened and suffocating conditions."

His face grew a bit darker as he remembered the horrible circumstances for a few of the crew in the past before he sighed to ease out that discomfort while rubbing his eyes briefly. "I don't know if things are better yet ... it is hard to tell. There has not been as much time passing to properly compare, but so far there has not been any officer deaths, at least not any I am aware of. But then there has been other events happening that never occured during Tremayne's reign. He was never public with his activities, not like how Inquisitor Thanor's exploits on Brentaal were broadcasted." He paused for a moment remembering the holovid before a worried look reached Mark. "Have you seen it? Did you ... see what happened?" He assumed everyone saw it, it was practically advertised across the Rhingali sector fleet. "I know the executed in that holovid were rebel sympathizers ... but the methods ... that was what I meant before when I told you about the Inquisitorius. They are ruthless animals. They revel in pain and suffering ... and bloodshed, all of them. So how could things be any better than Tremayne? It is just a matter of time really, before the High Inquisitor loses her temper and decapitates an unfortunate officer." Dunford sighed again before shaking his head. He knew they were supposed to be relaxing and here he went again getting himself all upset and probably Mark too. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get so raw again. I don't want to ruin our respite."

Mark was silent as he listened to Dunford speak of the former commander of the Interrogator. Though he did not like to speak of it, he had seen the Brentaal footage. Such savagery was not uncommon among the Stormtroopers. The main difference that Mark could see was the aftermath of the weapon used. Blaster rifles left burned corpses. The High Inquisitor and her whip were another level of graphic violence.

The sheer, raw level of it had disturbed him, though he had been on some battlefields that were worse. So far, in her dealings with him, she had been fair, if harsh. His back ached at the memory. He finished off the pot of caf and asked for another one to be set over before speaking.

"Yes," said Mark, his voice heavy with concern, "I have seen it and yes, it does raise questions. But so far, I have only seen the High Inquisitor let loose her temper when warranted. Those who do their jobs well seem to be protected from her temper." He paused a moment, considering his next words. Though he had decided to accept the training the High Inquisitor offered, there was still some nagging doubt he could not place.

"And what of the High Inquisitor before she became the Interrogator's commander? Did she exhibit a similar," Mark searched for the correct word, "bloodlust under Inquisitor Tremayne's tutelage?" He respected the High Inquisitor for her strength and resolve. She was the only commander he felt who deserved his service, as self-serving a statement that was. Then there was still the matter of his tarnished honor. Though she had accepted his service and restored him to his rank, she had reminded him of the heavy price another failure would bring.

Then he smiled briefly, suddenly knowing what flavors the chef had added to the caf. They were from his home world of Onderon, though the flavors were usually part of a tea, not added to caf. He thought of telling the waiter when he came with the new pot, but decided to allow the chef the small victory of his needing a second pot. Besides, it made an interesting combination.

Dunford picked up the slight defense Veller gave for the High Inquisitor and made a mental note of it. Perhaps the Lieutenant should be more careful on his harsh rhetoric considering he basically called their boss a savage beast, and Mark was displaying a tad more sympathy than he anticipated. Bernard slowly returned to his book, believing he had said enough. The last thing he wanted was to lose favor with the High Colonel, a man that could so easily destroy him now. "Of course, sir. I always aim to perform my utmost best for the High Inquisitor, and I plan to continue to do so to stay on her good side," he added earnestly from behind his book, not wishing the other to have any concern that Bernard may be fringing on insubordination. Dunford was going to leave it at that and continue his blissful reading but Mark's next question caused a sly smile to etch across his face. He marked his page and placed the book down upon the stand beside him so that he could give the other his full attention. His brown eyes gleamed with playfulness and wickedness, the same look he had given Mark once before at the observatory.

The Lieutenant knew far more than he should about key members of the Citadel Inquisitorius. He wet his lips with anticipation as eyes naturally flicked about to ensure they were alone. Anxious but excited to share, Dunford pulled his chair close to Mark then leaned in so that his hushed tone could still be heard by Veller. It could be assumed that the very nature of the information he was about to share was so classified and damning that Dunford's life would instantly be forfeited if it leaked. He trusted and respected the High Colonel immensely, and by sharing what he knew, he was banking on improving his stock with his superior. It was worth the gamble in his mind. "Okay so..." Bernard began in a whispered voice that stayed cautiously quiet throughout the reveal. "Ever wonder what happened to the Jedi left over from their defunct assembly? It is not a coincidence that the Inquisitorius came into being nearly right after the Jedi Order expired. While it was true that most them were killed during the purge, there were many others that were captured, and even more escaped and hid themselves across the galaxy. Of the ones captured, Lord Vader chose a handful to be the beginning of the Inquisitorius, and he executed the rest. Antinnis Tremayne was one of the original chosen to be trained as one of the first Inquisitors."

He bit his lip nervously but that small grin never left. "And as for Serine Thanor, she was one of the Jedi that escaped initially. They were Jedi. They were all Jedi!" Dunford said that last sentence louder than he wished and immediately hushed himself to a low whisper again. "So no, to answer your question, they were not originally bloodthirsty. Something happened to them. I don't understand it myself even after my digging. But I do know that they all have an insatiable desire to hunt Jedi down. That is all they think about, they are obsessed and will go to great lengths to track them. I am certain the High Inquisitor is not currently tracking anyone, or the Interrogator would not be so stationary. You asked me before about shore leave being uncommon. I was not fully truthful with you before and I apologize. Tremayne never afforded liberty because the Interrogator was never in a single system for more than a few days. He was always in the process of searching for elusive Jedi and if he got a whiff of one, he became an unrelenting madman with all the crew along for the frenzied ride."

Dunford shook his head as a supportive gaze was afforded to Veller. "If you are wondering why no one told you any of this before you transferred, don't bother. Of course no one would tell you. The sole purpose of the Interrogator, the *only* purpose, is to assist in the High Inquisitor's hunt for Jedi. I thought about this regularly and I believe the reason why we are so stationary, is that Inquisitor Thanor did in fact find and execute a Jedi recently and is in the process of training his now orphaned apprentice. But I'm sure if she gets word of a Jedi somewhere, off we will go. Best to enjoy our time off ... while she is being so generous and not obsessed." It was incredible how much information Dunford had gathered regarding the Inquisitorius, but this was the result of a man living in constant fear who was desperate for any information to help him stay alive.

Silently, Mark listened to Bernard's whispering. Jedi. He felt his rage stir. He was thirteen when the Jedi purge occurred. Many people around him were shocked at the sudden extinction of the Jedi. He remembered his mother wondering who would keep order in the galaxy now. Mark had not. To him, the Jedi were proof the current way of things did not work. Per his textbooks, the Jedi were the guardians of the people, but all he saw were the barriers because of his birth and no one, not even the powerful Jedi, making any move to change it. If any changes were happening, it was to lock things down even more.

The High Inquisitor had been a Jedi? He throttled back his rage. Few understood it, those who remembered the Jedi tended to defend them, out of Imperial earshot, that is. Lieutenant Dunford was also not deserving of his rage, he had no way of knowing Mark's opinion on Jedi.

A waiter dropped of the requested pot of caf, a different one from the morning, but hardly worth noticing. He poured a cup, "I see," he said eventually. This was a lot to digest, but even harder to verify.

Taking a sip of caf, he said, "Would you like some, Lieutenant? The chef put together an interesting blend. I am sure he'd appreciate your opinion as well." He nodded towards the pot, "Go ahead and pour what you want, I have identified the flavorings."

He returned to his musings. Jedi. The Inquisitorius hunted down Jedi. He remembered the High Inquisitor's explanation of what she had done to Major Petrovna. Able to do "Impossible things," as Dunford had confessed. "A small handful capable of accessing capabilities well beyond the reach of all others," as the High Inquisitor had described them.

Was he truly one of these small handful? Mark knew he was good and it was no boast. It was backed up with many successful campaigns and battlefields and the ultimate test, he survived. But still, one of those small handful the Inquisitorius was tasked with finding and bringing in the fold or executing? Him? Could he have been a Jedi? This was a lot to think about and he hardly even noticed Dunford helping himself to the caf.

"I know it is a lot to take in. I didn't believe it myself at first." The waiter had delivered the next pot of caf right as Dunford had concluded his narrative, causing him to hush any further summary and return to his book shrewdly. He didn't believe anything important had been overheard by the steward, and the man likely had no interest in their conversation anyway so the Lieutenant was at ease to once again immerse into his reading without further thought. A contemplative look was given to the caf before he moved to pour himself a cup. He was about to say something regarding how it probably paled in comparison to Veller's brew but decided that would be too kowtow.

The comforting aroma drew him in and he sampled the bold creamy liquid with delight. The soothing warmth spread throughout his body alleviating any remaining tension in his muscles which caused him to fully unwind into a lethargic trance. Usually caf had the opposite effect on him, revving him up with boundless energy and focus, but this brew was lulling him to slumber slowly. It didn't matter to Dunford, he was content to drift off into a peaceful sleep and did not fight the growing desire to do so. "If you do not mind, sir ... I think I will ... take a small respite." It did not take long for the Lieutenant to be subdued by the sleep inducing drug that had been laced within the caf and was blissfully unaware that his commanding officer had also fallen into the seductive embrace of unconsciousness.

The scene made for a normal one, two tourists sleeping on the veranda of the resort house. No one gave a second glance when a waiter entered and took the men inside, probably to bed. Had anyone any idea of what dire dangers would follow the almost common place mid-morning nap, they would have ran for their lives.

In the distance, one man watched as the two were taken out the back door.

Untitled 1

Copyright Era of Rebellion 2005-2018. All Rights Reserved
Terms of Use | Legal Notices | Privacy Policy | Press Release | Disclaimer