Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Rachel King, Christopher Levy, and Sarah Riggs-Shute.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:F2:3) in the Essesia system: Darkened Oblivion and Warspite and in the Prakith system: Darkened Oblivion and Prakith (Citadel Inquisitorius).
Lieutenant Allegra Ames, Apprentice Inquisitor Kia Kaen, Inquisitor Serine Thanor, Flight Captain Randi Trainor, High Inquisitor Antinnis Tremayne, and Darth Vader.

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 transmission.

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 her.

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 pleased.

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 brightness.

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 torment.

"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.

Kia 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, still angry.

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 her.

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?

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