Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Kit Gwynne and Sarah Riggs-Shute.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:2:12) in the Essesia system: Interrogator.
High Inquisitor Serine Thanor, Theo, and Colonel Mark Veller.

It had taken weeks for the High Inquisitor to fully recover from her series of near death confrontations on board of the Retributor. She was finally confident of her health and was relieved that she suffered no permanent damages. The scarring was limited to only the worst of the wounds, and even so they were very faint and hidden by clothing. Perhaps over time even they would fade. Serine was sitting at her office desk alongside with Theo who sat at his own smaller desk adjacent to her own. He had proved himself worthy to be granted more privileges and esteem. His scheduling was perfectly flawless and she was beginning to allow him more access to more responsibilities. She was surprised to hear the buzzer to her office door ring as she did not believe she was scheduled for any meetings at this hour. "Come in," she called from behind her desk before looking at her smaller avian servant. "Theo, I do not believe you had anything in the books for this timeslot," she commented to him before gazing at the door expectantly. It was apparent that this was an impromptu request for her audience.

Theo looked up from his work, coordinating some of the lower echelons and looked slightly confused, "No, Master," he said, quickly consulting her schedule, "This time is, 'catch up on some damned paperwork time'," he said, mimicking her irritated tone. She would have remembered telling Theo last week that she needed a few more open time slots.

Hearing permission to enter, Mark strode into the office, his uniform perfect as always. It had taken a few weeks to get his ribs healed, but he had just gotten cleared for combat duty and he wished to see if he could handle something that was preying on his mind.

He stood at attention and bowed to the High Inquisitor, "Milord, if I might impose upon you for a few moments of your time?"

Serine was surprised to see her High Colonel walk into her office, since their meeting was not for sometime. She figured it was something very important if he needed to speak with her in person, something that was concerning him that just could not wait. During his short time on board of the Interrogator, he had been surprisingly drawn in close as her inner confidante, someone who she had shared quite personal and profound experiences with. It had been completely by accident, but visceral all the same. The High Inquisitor was more than willing to set special time aside to hear what was bothering him. It was convenient that Serine was not currently holding a meeting, though her paperwork was tending to pile up ... especially after the orbital bombardment of Esseles they had conducted. But his anxieties would be primary for the moment, surely her signature on documents, both physical and digital, could wait for now.

"Theo, you are excused." She motioned to her servant to leave them for what may or may not be a private matter. Serine wanted Mark to feel able to openly discuss what was on his mind. Everything that she was working on was put off to the side as she gave him her full attention. She leaned back in her chair while eyes pondered him intently. The Inquisitor did seem curious about his issue though there was just the slightest air of enmity as she considered there may be a matter brought up that needed her personal attention. "Is there an issue, High Colonel Veller?" Said with a bite to her voice as she was not excited in the prospect of another fire she needed to put out.

Theo gathered up his things and left to go to his quarters just down the hall. "Yes, Master," he said, "Theo work from home."

Mark waited until Theo had left and then stepped further into the room. He took a deep breath before continuing, suddenly looking uncomfortable and unsure of himself. "There is no issue, exactly, High Inquisitor, at least, not with any operations on the Interrogator. This is a more personal issue." He paused for a moment before continuing.

"I am sure you remember our spar," he said, "and I have thought about that spar quite a bit." He took another deep breath and let it out, coming to attention as if he had made a decision. "I... I would consider it an honor if you would spar with me again." There was another pause, "And teach me."

It had been a long time since Mark has asked for any instruction. While he knew there were still things to learn, years without finding an adequate sparring partner had left Mark with a bit of an ego in the fighting department. He was grateful the lesson the universe imparted to deflate that ego a bit had left him alive to appreciate it. Tonric, while good, had a similar style. They were at best, equals, one only winning because of being the first to cheat.

The Inquisitor listened intently to his unique request, at first a bit relieved that it was nothing more problematic than a spar, but his inquiry had its own set of challenges. She was intrigued that he would be willing to spar with her after the first one, or at all, this was not something anyone besides her apprentice ever desired. But he was, after all, a warrior who likely enjoyed finding those that he could test himself against. She had her own responsibilities to train her apprentice, and this would be more one thing to add to her itinerary, but she was willing to make time for him, because he deserved it. There was only a handful of individuals that she had any respect for, and he had found his way onto that short list.

She had to tread carefully with this request, and how she moved forward with it. He was basically admitting to her that she was the better combatant, and she wondered how long it took for him to come to terms with that revelation. Accepting and confessing another was more skilled was a difficult challenge for any proud fighter and put them in a delicate state. Serine could tell that if she turned him down here, no matter how busy she was, it would severely harm him and damage their relationship. He would never admit it, but the wound would be there, the kind that does not fade well with time.

Her thoughts drifted back to that spar. Admittedly, she had not spent as much time mulling over it as he had. It had been reckless and brief, interrupted by the arrival of her apprentice. There had been no clear winner, but judging by her High Colonel's mannerisms, he believed she would have won if it continued. Serine was very glad it had not continued, as she remembered how close she had come to severely harming him. She would need to be far more careful and mindful if they were to spar again. Veller was no longer just a High Colonel to Serine. His vital role onboard of this ship was no longer his only importance. He had been elevated to someone the High Inquisitor trusted with her life. That was not something she took likely, and she could not afford to harm him.

"I see," she said softly, still weighing her options carefully. "You ask this knowing my tendencies... Saying you were treated harshly on our first tussle would be an understatement." Serine had been aiming to harm him before, brought to a near rage the last outing. If a single blow from her whip had landed, it could have permanently damaged him, or worse. That would not be acceptable this time around. Eyes washed over her schedule and she realized there was time to do this now. Serine stood from her chair slowly while eyeing him with cautious regard. She was not fully sold on this notion only because she did not want him harmed. His livelihood would be her responsibility as the 'instructor' if that was what he so desired. "This is something you have carefully considered?" She needed to know he was truly willing to do this.

Mark considered for what seemed to him an eternity, but to those observing, perhaps only a few seconds. "Milord," he said, "in a single word, yes, I have carefully considered. Truthfully, that spar has," he paused to search for the right word, "haunted me. Last night, I finally pulled up the recordings of that spar, determined to find the error or other course of action I could have taken." A ghost of a smile crossed his face. "Milord, I joined the Empire for two reasons. The first for a ticket off my home world. But the second was to help bring order into the universe. Life has taught me the only way order comes about was when it is fueled with strength."

"Throughout my career, I have searched for an officer worthy of my service. When I first arrived on the Interrogator, I was convinced some officer had pushed me forward as a candidate to fail at some task. It was, I found out, a common tactic of some officers to get rid of those they don't like. The prior tasks were all met and conquered easily," he said, "It was on my mind that this one had been set up to be too large."

He sighed slightly, "After our first meeting, there was a moment when I wondered if I was up to the task, but you gave me another chance and I vowed not to fail you. Then came our spar and, Milord, after reviewing that footage, I am grateful our paths have crossed. For I believe I have finally found an officer worthy of my service. I would be honored to learn whatever instruction you are willing to offer."

The High Inquisitor listened quietly to Veller's recollection, finding herself astonished with his direct honesty that revealed rather personal feelings. Serine was not accustomed to this sort of candidness and sincerity. Such truthfulness left an individual open and vulnerable which was a dangerous combination on a ship filled with those willing to exploit the weaknesses of others. Fortunately for Veller, she was not one for manipulation and had no desire to misuse this information against him. Perhaps that was why he felt comfortable enough to share this with her, as she was a woman of integrity in this matter. But it was still a dangerous gamble he played, to expose his inner most workings to a High Inquisitor. A sea of officers would have called him foolish.

He was practically radiating admiration and it was shocking to her, since she only ever felt this sort of response from her apprentice, never from an officer. Serine was very new to the naval power she wielded, only being a commander of the Interrogator for a few months, which she felt was not enough time for the crew to truly regard her, but they certainly feared her. Mark had only been High Colonel for a few weeks now, and already he showed this amount of loyalty... Serine was in awe and faltered for a response as this was completely unexpected. Now she was very glad she did not turn him down initially, not realizing just how deep this went, a refusal now could crush him and likely ruin his respect for her. Veller had unintentionally bound the Inquisitor to spar with him, and perhaps get a lot more that he wished, when he wished. This simple heartfelt confession gave him a tremendous amount of power over Serine's actions. She could not possibly deny his request ... the ball was overwhelmingly in his court.

"Very well, let us proceed to the training facility that will likely need to be cleared for our exclusive use." She organized a few papers and powered down her terminal before making her way around the desk and towards the door. The Inquisitor was not exactly sure what Veller wanted to learn, perhaps he just felt wholly inadequate against her in combat. She did not suspect he needed specific lessons, but a chance to continue to try himself against her and adapt by more experience facing an Inquisitor. She wondered if he would be satisfied with light sparring to better himself, or if she was destined to continue to be challenged by him until that fateful day in which she makes a rare mistake and he defeats her. The Inquisitor was deep in thought as they walked through the halls towards the facility, not speaking a word to Veller the whole journey. She was still concerned about potentially hurting him, and her tendency to enraging. It wasn't getting hit that angered her, it was not hitting her opponent, but she did not want to hurt Veller. This situation put her in a bind, because if she played safe with him, he may not learn anything, but if she was too aggressive, he may be harmed.

Serine was obviously in turmoil about this that only increased as they got closer to their destination. Once inside, she brazenly announced that the area was now off limits which caused a vast amount of Stormtroopers to begin putting away their equipment before they filed out, leaving the Inquisitor alone with her High Colonel. She unclasped her utility belt that secured her lightwhip and dropped it next to a wall signaling her personal ban upon such a dangerous weapon being used. This was his request, so she was willing to let him set the pace, but it was quite obvious of her reluctance to use the whip. If he desired to train against it, he would need to press the matter. Expectant eyes gazed upon Mark coolly, waiting for him to set the terms of their engagement.

Veller followed silently, lost in his own thoughts. With a start he realized he had not planned for what to do if the High Instigator agreed. A moment of opportunity had led to him asking the High Inquisitor. A free moment and being in the area, he had not even planned on asking her today.

Now that the High Inquisitor had agreed, he found himself trailing in her wake, slightly bemused. The other masters who had trained him were ones assigned to him. His parents had sent him to his original teacher and from there he had been forwarded to others. The Imperial Academy had assigned Batua. At no point had he actually found a master and asked for training. It was not too surprising he was feeling a little off kilter.

He could not quite suppress the quiet "hmph" sound and wry smile upon realizing that the next hour or so might end up with him eating more mat than he had in a long time. He nodded to the Stormtroopers vacating the facility. When the doors closed and they were alone, he also removed his weapon and placed it near Serine's whip. It was a fascinating weapon but not one he felt drawn to. He was also glad it was set aside. Though not at all averse to Serine making him eat mat, as a matter of fact, he expected it, what he did not want was a fight for his life against that whip.

Speaking to the training room AI, he put access to the recording of this spar on his or the High Inquisitor's voice print only. While he could not stop the room from recording, there were too many useful reasons to have a record, he exercised the privilege his new rank gave him of sealing the record against curious eyes.

Mark then undid his tunic, revealing a dark form-fitting shirt underneath. It was nothing Serine had not seen before, having sparred with him that one time. Hanging it on a nearby hook, he then turned to face Serine. "I am ready when you are, High Inquisitor," he said, then a small wisp of a smile crossed his face, "Or at least as ready as I can be." He advanced to the middle of the training mat to await Serine's next action, taking a standard defensive pose. His ice blue eyes held a certain anticipation about them.

The High Inquisitor quietly contemplated her opponent as he moved towards the training mat that had been thankfully repaired since last the Inquisitor was here. All of the mats that had been horrendously shredded by Serine's lightwhip had been replaced with ones with a slightly lighter hue, making it obvious which ones were the newer additions. Her steady gaze vigilant and watchful, carefully studying his mannerisms and gate. She pondered her approach to this spar as she advanced towards his location, her thoughts focused on how she should handle him as a competitor. The last time they locked weapons, she had decided against using her innate Force abilities and skills, despite breaking that silent promise. This time, without weapons, she would be pursuing him in hand-to-hand combat. Even without her mythical enhances, she was formidable, even for Veller, but she wondered if he could benefit from witnessing a little of these hidden talents.

Serine mused she could defeat him without assistance from the Force, but it would likely be a far more drawn out battle that may end with both of them potentially more harmed. Rather, she decided to give him just a little taste of her abilities, if only to potentially intimidate and astonish him. It may end this spar early and allow her to get back to ... signing paperwork. On second thought, perhaps he would be willing to continue the spar, and she was curious to find out how he would respond. Nothing too daunting, just a little extra speed ... it would surprise him if nothing else and give her an overwhelming edge in the tussle. As the Inquisitor took her first step upon the mat, her mannerisms began to darken slowly as eyes locked upon him with an intensity that Veller had yet to experience first hand. There was something surreal, something abnormal and he would be able to *feel* it and not fully understand why or even what it was. To Veller, it was just a warrior's instincts that he was about to face a very challenging rival.

The High Inquisitor positioned herself into a combat stance that was a little peculiar, as she did not clutch her hands into fists, but kept her fingers curled and open. The Inquisitor was far more used to gesturing Force abilities on the battlefield, but Mark would not yet understand that, nor would he for sometime. Serine had yet to even move, but Veller realized an attack was coming right as a burst of unnatural speed brought his opponent right to him. He could see her advance, but it was incredibly fast, then suddenly she was upon him. Simultaneously a firm hand shoved his shoulder backwards while an ankle locked behind his right leg in an attempt to instantly topple him. Serine was not interested in harming her prized officer, so using advances that posed little threat to injuring him were preferred if she could help it.

Mark was ready, but not for Serine's burst of speed. It took him by surprise which surprised him even more. It has been a long time since an attack at surprised him. He hit the mat with a loud thud, reminiscent of his first lessons in learning how to fall. While the fall didn't injure him and his body knew what to do, it was still jarring.

It was also embarrassing. That type of attack was only successful under certain circumstances and as a highly skilled fighter, he should have been able to avoid it. He ritually slapped the mat to acknowledge the defeat and pulled himself up off the mat, settling into another defensive stance to await her next attack. He could feel the anger beginning to build and ruthlessly shoved it back down. If he let his anger loose, he would certainly trigger Serine's temper and the mats had already been replaced once. He wanted to learn, not end up in a fight to the death. He started to circle a bit, hoping to deflect Serine's next attack.

The High Inquisitor was not trying to demean or humiliate him in her approach, but rather give him what he wanted, and hopefully doing so without his injury. As Serine was now, moving in the way that she was, he would find himself wholly outmatched. Mark was able to follow her movements, and even anticipate them, but he had difficulty dodging them at times. His efforts were not completely in vain, he was starting to see a pattern here, only because Serine continued to attempt non-lethal grabs, sweeps and throws. Knowing what his opponent was aiming for made it possible to detect similarities in her movements. During a pass by as the Inquisitor attempted to grab him, he anticipated it and landed a solid counter hit that impacted her shoulder, not unlike that fated strike she had landed on him their last outing. Throughout the spar, he would land a grazing blow here and there, but he would notice something very particular. The Inquisitor did not grow angry when she was struck, but she did grow angry when he evaded her attacks. His small victories were not enough to overshadow the glaring defeats and he found himself sprawled out on the mats more than he would like to count.

The spar was not going exactly as Mark planned. Although, he had to admit he didn't have much of a plan. He knew his skills as a fighter were in the top one-percent if not higher. It was something he was very proud of. But this... his mind refused to give any other word besides 'girl' was owning him. Even as he worked to overcome this change, he was having a hard time actually accepting it. His own anger was growing and he strived to contain it.

Now the third time he had slapped the mat, he started to get serious in the spar. His anger had settled to a low boil and Serine's movements started to become more predictable. But his strikes on her were rarely the solid hits he was looking for and somehow she kept dodging his attempts to return the pins. He had yet to get Serine to tap the mat.

After the fifth tap, he noticed a pattern in her temper. It sparked when he dodged her attacks. It was an interesting weakness, but not one he felt was a good one to exploit at the moment. Not when he once again had to tap the mat. Serine was good and it would take a bit of practice to figure out how to defeat her without getting his head ripped off. He found himself starting to enjoy the spar, even if he was having to slap the mat more often than he liked. He hadn't built up a good sweat in a spar against a person in a long, long time.

Serine was rather enjoying the match, perhaps because it was going well, her partner was not building any injuries, to his body at least, and she had no issues with her temper. She was able to land a considerable amount of attacks upon him to keep her anger at bay in which she was thankful. She was also impressed that Veller was not scared off by her display of enhanced skill, since most would have been intimidated, but he continued to pick himself off of the mat and signal his readiness. It was obvious he was a bit frustrated, but he carried it well and she was pleased with his overall good sportsmanship. The spar had gone on for far longer than she anticipated, assuming he would give up sooner, but apparently she underestimated his resolve in the face of adversity. He wanted to learn and seek a challenge, she was indeed providing that in numbers for him.

She could have continued for far longer, but she did not want to overly exert him on their first set of 'lessons'. Serine did not count that first spar, as it had been more of her releasing some anxieties upon him unfairly. This time around, she was far more professional and yielding. Giving him ample time to stand and ready himself before she could advance upon him again. Serine was a surprising patient instructor when she was not enraged. The High Inquisitor's mannerisms changed once again into a stern seriousness, and it would be assumed that she would soon be attempting the final onslaught. He was able to anticipate what he believed was the attack, but it had actually been a feint and she moved brilliantly fast in an opposite direction. There was a moment when he lost track of her only to sense she was behind him. There was barely any time to react before suddenly he was rather brutally shoved downwards, colliding with the mat with the Inquisitor in close pursuit. Perhaps the most surprising of the whole spar would be the strength in which she pinned him. For all intensive purposes, he should be able to outpower her in raw strength, but she managed to roughly pin his left arm tightly behind his back, and in an increasingly painful manner. A significant amount of pressure was placed upon his arm and it was obvious that Serine was expecting him to tap out, but just not any tap, the conceding submission.

Mark was starting to lag a bit and knew the spar would soon be over, one way or another. He was hopeful, however, to be the one landing the final blow. He could detect a bit of fatigue in Serine as well. He went into the final bout of the spar with high hopes, figuring he might have the speed advantage at last since he was still a combat Stormtrooper. He tapped the mat and stood up for what he figured was the last bout. Ready to finally tag Serine into a hold, he put all his effort into the attack.

The thump on the mats was loud and unexpected. He thought he had gotten a handle on her telegraphing tells. Her change in demeanor and lack of tells told him this was the attack to handle. He knew the instant before it missed that he was wrong and he had fallen for the feint. Normally, he would have been able to change his attack and fell his opponent. But this was no normal fight. Something that was aggressively pounded into him as she slammed him to the mat.

He grunted as his arm was pulled up and he was firmly pinned to the mat, stunned for just an instant. The grunt turned into a wince as she pulled a bit harder, making it clear to him that this was the last bout of the spar and that she would hold him here until he conceded.

With his other arm, he double-tapped the mat, indicating her win. As he lay there, he suddenly became very conscious of the fact she had him completely at her mercy. If she wanted to, she could pull his arm right out of his socket. He waited for her to move off him and release him, containing the fear that had arisen with that thought by sheer willpower alone. Like Serine, he would face whatever end the universe had planned for him with dignity, not fear and cowardice. With that decision, his fear settled down.

The moment he tapped she would carefully release his arm, as she was a bit concerned she may have been a little rough with him there, but she had wanted to end the spar quickly. It appeared as if Veller was taking his defeat in stride, though for now she could not be certain. As Serine removed herself from his back, she would extend a hand down as a gesture of goodwill. She did not want him to feel as if he had any reason to be ashamed, and he still had her respect. After all, the Inquisitor did not expect him to match her skills, especially not in the first spar ... and she had stacked the deck in her favor as well. Veller had been at a serious disadvantage from the start. There was no ill will in Serine's eyes as she glanced upon him, her words were rather encouraging in fact. He showed far more bravery and fortitude than most would have in his position. "If you should ever desire another spar, I would be willing to accommodate. However, request a timeslot with Theo in the future," she said matter of factly, as she was becoming quite reliant on her avian servant.

Mark rolled over gracefully and sat up once Serine had freed him from the pin. He rolled his shoulders a few times to determine that while Serine had caused some pain, there was no damage. He looked over at her offered hand and debated taking it for just an instant. Then kicked himself mentally. Sure, Serine had kicked his ass more than he would have liked, but that's what he had wanted when he asked, thinking he had found someone better than him. If he could not accept that with grace, he had no business sparring with her.

Accepting his hand, he pulled himself to his feet and bowed to her, "Indeed, I would, High Inquisitor. It has been a long time since I was thrown about the mat. I will coordinate with Theo for an available timeslot." Mark's hair was slick with sweat and plastered across his forehead. His ice blue eyes looked Serine straight in the face and if there was any embarrassment there, it was well hidden.

He walked over to where the weapons were on the floor, picking up his own and the lightwhip. Extending the lightwhip to her, he said, "Until next time, Milord?"

She was pleased that he was taking this well, a lesser man would have not accepted her hand in defeat out of petty damaged pride. Veller was above that and his response reassured her that he was indeed a man of integrity and valor. Serine figured that when they met again, he would be further hardened to her advances, and she would likely need to be more aggressive or clever. The High Inquisitor was not about to go overboard with her Force usage in their spars, only enough to demonstrate her exceptional abilities. It was important, always vital, that her officers respected her. As the man went over and picked up her lightwhip, she visibly tensed, as that was not something she let anyone touch on a whim. Serine was very protective of it ... and obsessed as a very dark past surrounded that weapon. She did not make a point to chastise him as they had just finished a rather positive spar, but Veller would be able to tell ... the High Inquisitor did not appreciate it. She accepted the belt with a glare before she snapped it around her waist while cooling her anger. After a moment to quell that unexpected ire, her expression faded into one of regard for her officer. "Until then," she said as she nodded to him and began to exit the facility.

Mark watched Serine leave, puzzled but understanding of her glare as he handed her the lightwhip back. It was an unusual weapon, of a type he had never seen before though he knew of whips and had the theory of how to use it.

He gave out a sigh and rolled his shoulders again, wincing a bit as the strained muscle protested. Grabbing his tunic, he went to the adjoining showers. He was not about to walk the halls looking like he did. Stripping down for the shower, he mulled over the spar and Serine's ability. He had been right in concluding she was better than he was. There was something that nagged at him though and he could not put his finger on it. After a few minutes, he dismissed it. Eventually, he would figure it out given enough spars with Serine. After all, that is what he had done with every other master he had trained under.

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