There was a nervous air about
Lieutenant Allegra Ames as she approached Inquisitor Thanor from
behind. The young woman looked as if she had been drained of any color
in her usually well kept visage. It did not take a Force-sensitive to
detect that Serine was in deep contemplation, and she hesitated for a
moment, wondering if perhaps it was unwise to disturb her. She was
forced to choose between two equally unpleasant options ... the definition
of a dilemma. "Inquisitor Thanor..." she began with a noticeable
trepidation in her voice before daring to continue. "The High Inquisitor
command you make contact with him," she informed him, before taking a
series of cautious steps back while bowing her head in a demure manner.
It only been but a few minutes before
Allegra showed had there been a series of events in or near the
Inquisitor's quarters. It was likely that the Lieutenant passed the
medical team that retrieved the unconscious form of Major Kiley from
outside Serine's chambers as well as Major Zevrin who had left a moment
prior. The incidences that had occurred had left the Inquisitor full of
anxiety due to Arden's manipulations. There was no doubt in her mind
that her Master had been tipped off to Kia's growth in the Force due to
Arden's meddling. It had been Serine's shortsightedness that caused this
monumental error and now she feared her young apprentice may pay for it.
Serine did not acknowledge Allegra, though she heard the woman's words.
It did not surprise her that Tremayne was demanding contact, it only
reinforced what she already suspected. After a few moments of silence
and steady reflection, she addressed Allegra briefly to be excused
before making her way to the location where she would receive the
In the Star Destroyer's communication
suite the enlarged head of High Inquisitor Antinnis Tremayne shimmered
into view in holographic form. Despite the fact that his presence was
merely a computer generated illusion, he nevertheless projected a sense
of intimidation and dread. Glaring at the young Inquisitor with both his
natural and cybernetic eye he did not hesitate to voice his displeasure.
"Serine ... you will go to the Prakith system!" he ordered, without
providing in even the slightest hint for the reasons.
Serine entered into the communication
suite, positioning herself in the middle of the holotransmitter sensors
before lowering herself to one knee as she activated the device. She did
not have a chance to say anything before Tremayme instantly growled his
orders. The Prakith system ... she contemplated those words cautiously... He
did not have to explain anything, it was inferred her Master wished for
Serine *and* Kia to arrive at Citadel Inquisitorius to begin the young
Kaen's trials. There was no apprehension for his request, as Serine
herself was going to request the very same thing in a private
communication, Arden had simply beat her to it and made her look like an
incompetent simpleton ... again. "Yes, Master. I will leave with Kia Kaen
immediately." If there was any concern with the events to come, it was
not evident in a cold exterior, both mentally and physically.
Back on the Warspite's bridge, Lieutenant Ames moved to the nearest communications relay. She
entered the frequency for the comlink that Kia Kaen had been issued, but
was unsure if the child had it on her. "Kia Kaen?" she asked,
inquisitively, as she spoke into the panel. "Inquisitor Thanor commands
your presence on the flight deck. Immediately," she spoke, in an
authoritative tone. She knew that if the instructions she had been
ordered to relay were not properly followed she would be held
responsible, and there would be consequences.
The comm buzzed and Kia held her hand up
in a stop gesture, halting the large Nexu who looked like he was about
ready to pounce again, as Kia hit the accept transmission toggle, she
was greeted with a voice she did not recognize. If they had been able to
find her comm frequency, she was not doing a good enough job.. "...OK?
I'll be right there! Playtime is over, Sanu. Race you back to quarters?
If you win I'll give you an extra treat." She tossed the comm and the
rest of her training gear into the carryall bag, and ran for the doors
to the training room. Fully intent on winning this race. Moments later,
breathing heavily, and mere seconds after the nexu, Kia opened the doors
to the shared quarters and grabbed her backpack from it's sacred spot at
the end of her bed. Her time of constantly moving had given the teenager
the bad habit of constantly keeping a backpack ready to bolt at a
moments notice. Throwing the container of treats in on top of her
clothes, and her spare datapadd, datacards and the smaller tablet that
contained the remote access program and pretty much nothing else, she
ushered for Sanu to leave. "Double or nothing, race to the flight deck?"
Sanu turned a happy little circle, and darted for the door, intending on
getting a head start. "Not fair!" And she was running full tilt after
the nexu. Again the nexu just barely beat her, putting a large paw on
the door to the flight deck and looking supremely triumphant. "OK OK!
You win." She was winded and looked disheveled from the training she had
been doing with Sanu then running like a crazy person through the
corridors of the Star Destroyer. However, she walked with head up onto
the flight deck, looking for her teacher, Sanu trotting along beside
Once Kia entered the flight deck, it
would not take her long to spot an energetic Randi and a stern looking
Serine tending to the Darkened Oblivion, an impressive looking
ship that held a commanding presence amongst the other far inferior
ships in the flight deck. The Inquisitor sensed the arrival of her
apprentice before she physically saw her and that drove her to pressure
Captain Trainor all the more to finish her preparations. "Did I not
underline the necessity to always keep this ship maintained so that we
may leave at a moments notice?!" She barked at Randi, agitated that they
may be wasting time when they should be well on their way to the Citadel
Inquisitorius. Once the young Kaen came into view, Serine motioned to
her with an impatient flick of her wrist, noticing Sanu with them though
that could not be helped. It was far better than leaving the ravenous
nexu to his own devices upon the Warspite. She darkly mused
that Grand Moff Rodney may not be all too pleased if Sanu ripped apart
that all too delicate Liliya Benedt in front of his eyes. A shame
really. "The time has come for your trials Kia, as I have promised you."
A glare was afforded back to Randi to see if there was any further
progress being made as the Inquisitor was starting to get over antsy.
Kia quickly made her way to Serine at
the gesture, catching the tail end of the angry tirade and giving Sanu a
slightly nervous look. Her color further draining at learning the reason
for all the haste. The not knowing was what was causing her the most
anxiety about the trials, not knowing what to expect or prepare for.
Trying not to show that nervousness, she nodded once to Serine, "I
understand, Master. I'll get Sanu situated aboard then? I didn't want to
just leave him here."
The Conqueror-class assault
ship Darkened Oblivion was by far the most distinct of the
small craft kept within the Star Destroyer Warspite's expansive
hangar bay. The newly promoted Captain Randi Trainor was running a hasty
pre-flight check. "We're just about ready, Serry!" she cheerfully
announced as she ran down her checklist. She had never been to the Deep
Core before, and she had heard pilots tell of the difficulty of
navigating certain areas. "Prakith, huh? Never heard of it. You people
sure like your mysteries..." she mused, before proceeding up the ramp to
board the craft and continue going over her checklist.
Serine stressed the importance of this
mission to her sometimes mentally flimsy pilot. "It is essential that we
arrive on Prakith as quick as possible... and with a steady landing.
Understand Randi? No jostling!" There definitely seemed to be more
tension with the Inquisitor, more than usual at least. She knew how
important the next few days of Kia's life would be as the cumulation
every lesson would be tested and strained in the trials. Her
apprentice's very existence was hanging in the balance between success
and dismal failure, and not just for her, but for Serine as well. This
would be the moment Inquisitor Thanor would know if she had the
knowledge and skills necessary to raise an apprentice of her own and one
day ascend to High Inquisitor.
Randi lurched in the pilot's chair as
the Darkened Oblivion emerged from hyperspace in the Prakith
system. Her blue eyes turned to her scanners and confirmed they were in
the right system. In the distance the planet Prakith and two moons were
visible, her tumultuous mountain ranges visible even from space. Her
left hand moved to the control panel above her where she toggled a
series of switches, while her left hand pushed forward on the throttle
to accelerate the small craft to its top speed. As they rapidly
approached the planet, it began to dominate the viewport until it was
all that they could see. "We're entering the atmosphere. All of these
mountains are going to cause some turbulence," Randi warned, as a series
of violent updrafts rocked the craft and caused her to jolt violently in
her seat. "We're nearing the specified coordinates," she noted, before
beginning to throttle back on the engines and slow the ship. In the
distance the ominous Citadel Inquisitorius rose above the jagged
mountain peaks, its large spires in a darkened shade of obsidian
stretching towards the skies. "We're-we're going there?" she nervously
stammered, bringing the craft to a slowing speed as they began their
final approach. Randi's blue eyes gazed upon the only possible landing
platform, but it appeared to be uninhabited and seemed as if it had not
been used in ages. "I'm bringing her in," she announced before cutting
the engines and moving her hand swiftly to the maneuvering thruster
controls to guide the ship down onto the landing platform. "I've got a
bad feeling about this..." she said with a great sense of fear while she
looked out the viewport at the seemingly endless corridor that faded
into the abyss.
As the malicious yet captivating towers
of the Citadel Inquisitorius came into view, her own violent experiences
began flashing before her. This place had started many Inquisitors but
ended the lives of so many others. It was a dangerous and treacherous
arena of death, most of the location was a vicious trap meant for the
demise of all it deemed unworthy. "Randi ... no matter what you think may
be happening, you are never to enter that tower, you would surely
perish. Only Inquisitors and Inquisitor candidates enter though many
never leave. I do not know for how long we will be here, but if you do
not hear anything, that is actually a good thing, it means we are both
still alive. You will be informed if you no longer have a reason to
wait." Said with an ominous air as it became obvious that Kia was not
the only one in danger here. Serine knew how angry Tremayne had been and
she was fully expecting some sort of repercussion. Her attention now
fell to her young pupil, hopefully soon-to-be apprentice ... if she lives.
"Kia, I have prepared you as best as I could, now for this period in
time, you will be in control of your own destiny. I do not know what you
will face once we enter, and I regret to inform you that I will likely
be unable to assist you in any matter. I need to warn you, we may become
separated. You can do this Kia, I know you can survive these tests, but
they will be designed to destroy you. Do *not* let High Inquisitor
Tremayne win!" Said as Serine gave Kia's shoulders a tight squeeze, but
not to hurt her. "Come back to me 'Inquisitor Apprentice'. That is an
order, do not fail me." She nodded softly to the young girl before she
directed her attention to the tower before them.
As they had entered the atmosphere, the
true reality of what was happening seemed to crash home on the teenager,
the imposing citadel they were approaching made her feel like this was
the start of a nightmare. She shook her head slightly to clear it of the
dread building on itself. Her attention snapped up to Serine as she
heard the Inquisitor's voice. Kia had expected not getting any
assistance from her teacher, but they might be separated? That did not
help her nerves at all. Blinking a few times, she nodded, part of her
mind wanting to hug the other woman, but knowing that would not exactly
be the best thing to do. "I will do my best not to let you down, Master.
I will come back in hopefully one piece. This place is supposed to make
me feel like my stomach is trying to squirm to my toes... right?"
"Yes, it has that effect on people."
Serine took a heavy gander at what Kia was wearing and what she was
taking with her. "You would be better served to not take a weapon. I
know that sounds misguided, and I had for the longest time resented my
own Master from forcing me to take the trials without a weapon... but I
understand now why he did. The tests are catered to you and what you
bring with you. They are much harder if you bring *anything*. Out of the
small group that took the trials the day I was tested, all of them came
to various gruesome ends before my eyes, they all carried weapons. Leave
everything behind, your mind and your will to succeed will be your true
weapons here, Kia. Know that the High Inquisitor cannot give you a test
you are incapable of passing, it will only be the illusion that it is
impossible. Don't forget that. Now come, we must not keep him waiting."
And with that she began to guide the teenager towards the massive and
sinister corridor that lead to a darkened interior.
From the moment they had landed they
were under the watchful view of the High Inquisitor Antinnis Tremayne.
His piercing red cybernetic eye was transfixed on the viewer that
projected the image of Inquisitor Thanor and her young accomplice. Would
this child she found be worthy of the Inquisitorius? During his visit to
the Ringali Shell he was able to sense her presence from a great
distance implying she had the potential to be a powerful discipline. But
there were others he had met with just as much potential that could not
be controlled, and that potential unleashed upon the galaxy without
Imperial control was something else entirely ... a danger, a threat to the
New Order. And so the veteran Inquisitor watched, knowing full well that
if this young Kia Kaen would not join them .. she would die. He had read
what the ISB had thus far collected on her, and compiled it with data
obtained from the records of her upbringing. There was not much, but it
did not take much for a man like Tremayne to dissect someone. And then
there was the unknown factor ... Ty Anzion ... a Jedi that had escaped the
purge, yet had not escaped Inquisitor Thanor. There was a contradiction
there, and while at one hand the man had managed to escape the Empire
for nearly two decades, he fell to what, by Tremayne's account, was one
of his least seasoned Inquisitors. Had this Jedi imparted anything of
use to the young Kia? This too would be answered before this trial would
end. He would be aggressive ... for he too was being watched.
Kia had debated taking her backpack with
her, but in the end had left it out of the nexu's reach aboard the ship.
She had dressed in the loose tunic and slacks with the armorweave
jumpsuit beneath, leaving her equipment behind made her feel almost
naked. "So nothing I'm going to face is 'real'? But it can still kill
me?" Following a step behind her teacher, she tried keeping her steps in
rhythm with the others.
"Some of it is real, some of it is not.
That is the danger. Do not assume anything is false, assume everything
can kill you, unless it is certain to you that it is a trick ... but I
cannot forecast what you will be facing. You will have to feel your way
through them, sometimes with the Force, sometimes with your instincts."
Serine noticed that there were no other Inquisitors in the area nor any
other potential students, and her own Master who was to conduct these
trials was also absent. This did not bode well for her and she
contemplated not proceeding further until she was certain. "Stay close
to me, something does not seem right here. We should have been greeted.
There is a formality to these tests that has not be followed, and that
bothers me." A hand reached out to grab Kia by the arm and pull her
closer to the Inquisitor to protect her. There was supposed to be an
official start to these trials and Inquisitor Thanor was to be allowed
to watch how her pupil performed. Serine did not like the idea of losing
sight of Kia in this fashion. Eyes snapped around angrily in the empty
corridor. What was her Master's game?!
The girl did not need excuse to stay
close to Serine, no resistance was offered as Kia was pulled closer to
the Inquisitor. The fact that something was making her uneasy made the
teenager even more anxious.
From above the disembodied voice of High
Inquisitor Tremayne filled the corridor in which they now found
themselves. This would be the first time the young Kia would hear his
voice, and he would speak in a deliberately theatrical fashion. "I am
waiting for you, Serine," he began, speaking in a deep and menacing
voice. "Step forward and enter!" he commanded, using only the scantest
amount of words that were needed to accomplish his task. "...alone," he
added, after a brief pause, before disconnecting the comm and leaning
back in his chair to enjoy what was to come.
His demand was unprecedented as she had
the right as Kia's discoverer and Inquisitor mentor to spectate how she
performs in the trials. To deny her that was to go against the Citadel's
trial operating procedures. There were rules he had to follow...damnit!
"Even you are not above the rules, High Inquisitor Tremayne." She
purposely called him by his formal title and not by his personal one,
being her own Master. In this situation, there were certain protocols to
follow and he was simply the Inquisitor picked by the Grand Inquisitor
to conduct these tests, and she had a right to object here! "Unless you
have written authority, I demand to be allowed to witness Kia perform,
as is my right as Inquisitor, as you yourself demanded those many years
ago when I took these tests." There was no abrasion there, it was
stating the facts. If he wished to punish Serine for something else, he
would have to do it on *his* time, not Kia's.
A demonstration was in order, not merely
for Serine, but for Kia as well. "Inquisitor Thanor, you will move
forward..." there was a pause, noticeable as he leaned forward to hover
his mouth directly in front of the comm. "Or I will have declared her to
have failed and we will eliminate her on the spot!" he yelled, nearly
snarling as he spoke ... this woman's insolence would need to be dealt
with. A moment later a large display flickered to life and the image of
Captain Trainor and Sanu surrounded by a squad of Imperial Stormtroopers
and a pair of Inquisitors. "...and not just her ... but all you have
brought with you today!" he continued, and the squad of troopers raised
their weapons to aim at the grouping. The tears were quite visible on a
trembling Randi, which while unscripted, made the High Inquisitor quite
Looking from the display back to Serine,
Kia took a measured step away from her teacher, she had not even met
this High Inquisitor and she already disliked him. "Master Thanor, I'll
be fine. See you when this is over. This 'High Inquisitor' will hurt
Sanu ... and your pilot." Her tone was not quite respectful in fact it
was downright sarcastic, stressing the High Inquisitor part, perhaps
implying he was high in otherways. Spice was one hell of a drug.
There was a heavy gasp when she saw what
Tremayne had the audacity to order... and the other Inquisitors were
following suit with this pretentious display of power that was clearly
out of his influence but yet somehow he was orchestrating this madness.
"That is unnecessary High Inquisitor, I will comply with your demands."
Said quickly and earnestly in hopes she did not just seal her pilot and
pet's fate. All of this was still highly irregular and she was planning
on reporting this outrage to Pestage himself ... but for now, she needed
to brave whatever little treacherous misadventure Tremayne cooked up for
her while hoping that Kia manages without Serine's moral support
pressing her forward.
As Serine crossed the threshold the
blast door would immediately shut, separating the two in an instant.
Their paths would take them in two different directions ... one forward
and one downward ... but both into the abyss. Kia would only be permitted
a moment to react to the disappearance of her master as the floor would
give out beneath her. It was not a straight drop, as that would likely
kill her, but rather it was an angular drop that would send her down at
an unpleasant speed. At the bottom she would find an ancient sewer,
filled with waste deep fluid (water would be too kind a term), and an
assortment of debris and biological matter floating both above and below
the surface. There were also the remnants of those who had come before
her ... and failed. And just as she would find herself and regain her
senses, the smell of all that had lived and died would confront her. The
first in a series of attacks that Tremayne would unleash against her.
Kia's eyes went wide at the blast door shutting her out, only having an
instant to process that she was alone. The floor dropping from beneath
her drew a sharp scream of panic, her hand scrambling to find some
purchase on the walls as she slid downwards, it took a few long moments
for her to find herself deposited into what seemed to be the sewer for
the citadel above. She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to let her
vision adjust to the darkness. It seemed that her trials were to start
in a rather messy fashion.
Fighting the urge to gag at the stench,
Kai stayed stock still, her mind blanking as she was taught, reaching
out to the Force. Balling up her anger at the unseen voice of the High
Inquisitor, she channeled that throughout her mind letting it empower
her, and bring the comfort that the Force always had.
Unseen in the darkness a large eyeball
emerged from beneath the filth, atop a long tentacle. The creature
spotted the newly arrived visitor and an instinctive hunger began to
fill its mind. The dianoga moved forward beneath the filth, and within
one swift motion one of the large tentacles would emerge and attempt to
wrap itself around the younger's neck. The goal was to drag her deep
below the fluid where it's waiting maw would devour her. It had been far
too long since the beast had tasted fresh human flesh.
Growling softly, Kia had encountered one
of these creatures once before she had been taken in by Ty, They were as
disgusting now as they had been then, she just knew more now. Her hands
flew up to the tentacle attempting to strangle her, and much like she
had under Serine's guidance, she concentrated the Force into a point
under her hand. Squeezing as hard as she could she unleashed the held
Force into the creatures tentacle, trying to crush it beneath her hands.
The creature recoiled in pain as the
first tentacle burst beneath the strength of her unseen telekinetic
attack, internally rupturing and falling flaccid to the surface of the
muck. But this as yet unrevealed creature had six more tentacles from
which to attack and as one fell away, two more quickly surged forward in
an attempt to wrap around her waist. Although the creature was in pain
and realized the danger, it was primitive life form and its thoughts
dwelled on hunger and anger, rather than defense.
She let the tentacles wrap themselves
around her waist, instead searching through the Force for the mind of
the creature, Tremayne's home was going to be one garbage squid lighter
after she was done here. Kia was not bothering with reasoning with a
creature like this, it had attacked her, her anger spiked and with it
she attempted to send a blast of telekinetic energy into the mind and
central body of the garbage squid.
The dianoga was no match for the powers
of the Force that the young woman was wielding against her. In an
instant its primitive brain was crushed and all of the tentacles went
suddenly limp, its corpse floating to the surface to join the other
garbage that had accumulated. There was only a brief pause before the
once dark room was suddenly illuminated to the highest degree possible,
a sharp, dramatic change from total darkness to unprecedented
Feeling her attacker die, Kia
straightened back up just as the lights flared to life, blinding her for
a moment as her eyes readjusted to the sudden brightness. As her
eyesight cleared, her nose wrinkled again at seeing the filth she had
been dropped into, these were new boots...
The silence of the sewer was broken by
the voice of a woman screaming. It would be a familiar voice to the
young Kia, it was the voice of Serine Thanor. The noise grew
increasingly louder as Tremayne adjusted the dials, turning it up to
eleven. Serine's screaming bounced off every wall and attacked the young
woman with their emotional resonance. "She needs your help, Kia," the
voice of Tremayne informed her, briefly interrupting the sounds of the
screaming. He had pieced together the audio from countless recordings
the Inquisitorius had made of her since she entered the service. He
leaned forward, longing to see how she would react to his latest
"I'm not that gullible, your high and
mightiness." It was said aloud before Kia thought about who she might be
addressing. Serine had told her unless she was absolutely certain,
assume everything was trying to kill her. The youth hunched her
shoulders but did not move from her spot. The brief respite from the
echoing screams actually made her laugh, a genuine amused cackle, "I'm
the last person she'd need help from, 'sir'. A not even fully trained
apprentice? You've got to be kidding me." She crossed her arms
stubbornly, looking around the too-brightly lit sewer. "And don't you
know how to employ garbage cleaning crews! This place is horrible."
"Fine, child. Do not help her!"
Inquisitor Tremayne said, dismissively, as he turned his attention to
those unseen. "Eliminate her!" he ordered, without disabling the comm
system. The sounds of Serine's screams could be heard intensifying
followed by the sound of flesh hitting flesh ... it was an unmistakable
sound one would never forget once they heard it one time. But then Kia
would hear something she had not heard since the days of Ty Anzion ... the
ignition of a lightsaber and the familiar *snap hiss* that accompanied
it. She would hear in the loudest possible form the movements of the
blade, slow at first, but then increasingly rapid, followed by a swift
strike. There was the sound of flesh burning and a scream deep from
within followed by the most frightening sound of all ... nothing.
Audio could be deceiving, Kia had
employed something like that when she was younger to make it seem like
there was adult in the house she had been hiding in, if you could not
see it, do not believe it. "Hey neat trick! Give me five minutes and a
data padd and you'll be having a wordplay battle with the Emperor!"
"A nonbeliever," Tremayne said, his
voice devoid of any emotion. A monitor descended and into view flickered
a separate chamber with the fallen body of Inquisitor Thanor. An
Inquisitor that would be unknown her swiftly came into view and began
cutting off limbs from the corpse, and then tossed them down the nearest
trash chute. Moments later pieces of Serine's corpse fell into the muck,
with an ominous splash.
Kia looked shocked, her eyes narrowing
as she stalked (as best she could) through the muck over to investigate
the corpse pieces, she was not about to believe that he would so
casually kill one of his trained Inquisitors for a trial test. She was
looking for something, anything really, to let her know the was not the
person she had started considering a friend. A growl left her, looking
around for the camera that had to be watching her, a low mutter that may
or may not be able to be picked up by the monitoring, "I swear if you
killed her ... you'll regret ever taking your first breath..."
The fragments of flesh she had obtained
could neither be confirmed nor denied as belonging to Serine Thanor, but
they were unmistakably of a human female of the appropriate age and body
type. "Neither Ty Anzion nor Serine Thanor told you the most important
lesson, Kia," Tremayne began, his voice bellicose and determined, as he
studied her every movement through his monitor. "...and that is that a
master can only be true to one apprentice. Serine was a disappointment,"
he continued, using the past tense to emphasize that she was no more.
"But you ... you have the potential to be a great apprentice. And so I
have removed Serine, as I would have removed a flower that is no longer
in bloom. You have always known that you were more powerful than her ...
more powerful than Ty Anzion!" he said, becoming more aggressive, and
battling back at her with everyone one of his wits. "I ... I will unleash
your full potential!" and with that, the sewage in the room began to be
swept away, as if pulled by some unseen force. The lights began to
return to a normal level, and what was behind her became darker, and was
ahead of her illuminated revealing a previously unseen door. "If you
want your revenge ... come for it," he said abruptly, and with that there
was no more.
"And what's that? Don't deal with
pretentious hot air bags? That seems like a pretty important lesson
here." Her mind was racing, Kia had left all her weapons on the ship,
but if he actually had killed ... she could not think of that, but if he
had, she probably had one shot at taking him out before he killed her
too. "What makes you think after killing her that I'd be a loyal
apprentice to you, your high and mightiness?" She had stalked toward the
waiting door, it was better than staying here in the gross sewer, and
through the door she went.
The room that she would emerge into was
dark, aside from High Inquisitor Tremayne who stood in the center,
illuminated by a powerful spotlight as if he was the star of some grand
spectacle. He stood there without saying a word, his right hand hovering
over the hilt of his lightsaber. His fingers flexed for just a moment,
as if he were a gunfighter, but he did not yet draw. The room suddenly
filled with sound. At first it sounded like a standard preflight
procedure ... a male voice and a female. They were preparing for their
takeoff and suddenly it would become all too clear. It was the voice of
her parents. But then the voices changed in tone ... there was panic ...
there was fear. And then, more screaming, followed by an explosion and
then again ... nothing.
"Your parents ... dead," Tremayne said
coldly, his one human and one cybernetic eye glaring towards her. "Your
master, Ty Anzion ... dead," he added as he coldly went down the bitter
checklist. He held up the hilt of Anzion's lightsaber, which Serine had
retrieved following the dual on Esseles. She had clung to it since it
was obtained and yet now ... *he* had it. "And now your false savior,
Serine Thanor ... dead!" he said, as he spit down at the ground where her
body once lay. "Tell me, Kia. Is there anyone who has not died trying to
take care of you?" and with that his hands clapped firmly together and
the room flooded with nearly 40 Imperial Stormtroopers and the other
Apprentice Inquisitors who had recently passed their trial and wanted to
prove themselves. "And now, young Kaen, you will join me ... or you will
die!" he said, laughing to himself as he spoke, quite pleased with what
he had outlined for her. The choice was hers alone to make.
"Oooh. A tough guy! Using a lightsaber
against an opponent who has no weapons." Her tone was cutting, harsh,
and angry. Kia cut off immediately recognizing the warm tone of her
father's voice, her mother going down the checklist for the prototype
shuttle they had been testing. She fought the tears that were
threatening to spill from her eyes, she hadn't had to face that for
nearly eight years. Her gaze locked onto the lightsaber he was taunting
her with, telekinesis could go both ways, and she tried to latch onto it
and jerk it from his grip. This might end with her dead, but she was not
going to cause anyone else to get killed because of her.
There was no attempt to withhold Ty
Anzon's lightsaber from her, and it flew from his hand across the room
towards her. But before the lightsaber could reach her, his own hilt was
grasped by his waiting hand and brought up in front of him. As his thumb
slid forward against the activator, the crimson blade ignited and came
to life with a roaring hum. In the darkness around her this scene played
out in repeated success as a half dozen other Apprentice Inquisitors
ignited their blades. "So be it," he said, and with his free hand he
motioned to the others to begin their attack. A series of more than
three dozen blaster bursts escaped the barrels of the E-11 blaster
rifles that the Stormtroopers possessed. Tremayne did not want it to be
like this, but the insolent teenager had forced his hand.
The lightsaber hilt landed in her
outstretched hand, but she did not activate it, the weapon felt strange
and foreign. Kia let out a surprised shriek at the order, dropping to
the floor and trying to roll back out of the line of fire. Perhaps
sarcasm had not been her best weapon to pick in this case, but this was
still the person who might have killed her teacher. Had taunted her with
the death of her parents. But it could have been worse, that small
little voice in the back of her head was nagging at her, and she had
been letting him play her weaknesses against her like a fool. If
kneeling meant she could live to plot this miscreant's downfall, she
could kneel ... could she not? So she dropped the lightsaber hilt, the
metallic clang almost lost in the roar of the blaster fire, and lowered
herself to one knee, her head bowed slightly. Her fists were still
clenched, but she could force respectful deference if it meant living to
kill him later.
Tremayne laughed smugly as he witnessed
her submission, and an instant the Stormtroopers faded away, along with
the other Inquisitors. Again, it seemed that it was just the two of them
in the chamber, but things were not often what they seemed in Citadel
Inquisitorious. "Good! Good!" he complimented her, acknowledging she had
taken the only acceptable action that would have saved her life. He did
not disengage the blade of his lightsaber, however, and as he moved
towards her, its hum combined with his footsteps to create an ominous
precursor to his approach. The lightsaber was moved towards her right
shoulder in a swift motion, but he stopped himself before he made
contact. "Rise ... Inquisitor Apprentice Kaen," he said, as he conveyed to
her the title of Inquisitor Apprentice. The first in a series of steps
that she would take on her journey amongst the ranks of the
Inquisitorius. He was quite pleased with her, and also himself.
watched his boots approaching with growing dread, the sound of the
lightsaber blade shifting as it moved through the air. Still, she stayed
motionless, until ... her mind began racing at the words she had passed
the trial. A giddy sense of relief flashed through her, then concern for
Serine. She certain did not want to stay here and follow this
toad-munching air bag. Pushing herself back to her feet, she glanced
down at Ty's lightsaber where it lay, not having had permission to
retrieve it. Kia stared daggers at the man.
As Kia rose, the lights in the room
turned to normal illumination, as if to signal her transformation from a
mere amateur to a member of the Inquisitorious. "There, your Master ...
such as she is!" Tremayne revealed, as he stepped to one side to reveal
a shaken, but unharmed Serine Thanor in the corner, next to the remains
of a PROXY droid. "There all along. Yet always remember, Inquisitor
Kaen... she did nothing," he said, as he disengaged his blade and moved in
the direction of the Inquisitor and the droid. "And you, Thanor ... always
remember that in the end she let go of you and knelt before me!" he
said, laughing at her, with a smug shake of the head. And then it slowly
became clear ... his true intention was not a pure trial of the young Kia,
but to alienate the master and the apprentice, so that they could not
one day turn against him.
"She told me she wouldn't when we landed
here, sir. This was my trial to face. Doing the only logical thing to
survive is different from betraying someone." Kia's voice was ice cold,
Kia was unaware, but the fallen PROXY
droid had only recently been a representation of Serine's former master,
the Jedi Master Jerasea Ginhers. To complete the ruse he had repaired
Jerasea's lightsaber, and for a time kept in his collection. He relished
his delight in possessing them, like trophies, or scalps from a more
primitive culture. "You have wanted this a long time... a long time..." he
began, as he reached out and pulled the hilt of the lightsaber from the
droid's grasp. He examined it carefully, thinking that it was not a
remarkable design ... rather typical of the weak Jedi that had been
produced in the last generation of the order. "And now, I am pleased to
say you have earned it," and he moved towards Serine with a warm, dare
he say ... fatherly smile. But rather than stop, he moved past her, as if
she were a nonentity and moved to Kia Kaen. "Here you are. You deserve
this. She does not," he said, with a firm nod of his head, as he angled
his head to one side so that his red cybernetic eye was in focus towards
Serine was both physically and
emotionally drained from her confrontation with the false image of her
former Master, so much so, that she was dazed when the area around her
opened up revealing a much grander interior. Confused, she struggled to
process the proceedings that had transpired here, unsure if the
occupants were real or PROXY droid illusions. Kia's words focused her
mind and cleared the fog, allowing Serine to compose herself quickly as
a sense of pride washed over her. The young Kaen spoke well, handling
Tremayne's attempt to sow discord without hesitation. However, as that
lightsaber was picked up from the ground by Tremayne, Serine seemed to
nearly obsess over it. So the weapon itself was not an illusion, that
was really Jerasea's lightsaber and instantly she hungered for it,
thinking it had been destroyed years ago. Disappointment washed over her
as Tremayne gave it to Kia instead. A tinge of raw jealousy brooded, but
that was mixed with relief that Kia survived the trials and now was an
official apprentice ... her apprentice.
Kia took the hilt, looking a little
shocked, quickly bending down to scoop up Ty's lightsaber hilt as well,
debating for a moment she clipped both to her belt, looking and smelling
like she needed about 100 showers. She looked over at Serine and quickly
crossed the distance, not giving a damn if Tremayne cared. She pulled
the other into a tight hug.
Serine was not at all expecting that the
very first action of her new apprentice was to ... give her a giant hug.
She was completely caught off guard as Kia's arms wrapped around her
midsection in a clumsy embrace. The two of them had been through much
already so early in their career of Master and apprentice and yet it was
only the beginning. It was undeniable that a strong bond had formed
between the two and was ever strengthening, both emotionally and of the
Force. This was not how a newly christened apprentice should act, but
for once, Serine did not care. The Inquisitor had been determined to
treat Kia with more respect and balance than her own master had treated
and still treated her. The young Kaen's embrace was accepted and
reinforced with Serine's own arms that encircled the far smaller frame
of the teenager in an uncharacteristically tender fashion. She was
overwhelmed with relief that her apprentice was not in a dozen pieces.
If Tremayne's intention was to instill mistrust between the two, then he
would be sorely disappointed. "You will become very strong in the Force
with my guidance, my apprentice." Said softly.
"Now return to the Ringali Shell!"
Tremayne commanded, and with a flourish of his cape, he made his way
away from the duo. "From the reports I've read more horrors await you
there than I can ever construct. Do let me know whom is dating whom..." he
said, mockingly, and then he was gone. "Are you pleased, Milord?" he
asked, the instant the door had sealed him off for the two. It was only
then that he found himself in the position of submission, dropping to
one knee, and bowing his head as Kia had just done.
In the darkness there was only
breathing. Mechanical breathing. A moment later into the scant amount of
light that descended upon them the unmistakable of Darth Vader, Dark
Lord of the Sith, appeared before him. His once attractive human form
was now covered by dark armor that obscured just how maimed he had
become. There was a pause, as nothing but deep, mechanical breaths
filled the room. "Indeed I am, Inquisitor Tremayne. In time, she may
become even more powerful than you," Vader explained to the mere adept
that was on the ground in front of him. But which one did he speak of?
The Master, or the Apprentice?