Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Kit Gwynne and Sarah Riggs-Shute.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:2:24) in the Essesia system: Interrogator.
Sergeant Batua, Lieutenant Bernard Dunford, High Inquisitor Serine Thanor, and Colonel Mark Veller.

Sergeant Batua was taking the measure of his squads, having gathered most of them into the rec area assigned to them. By now, the rumor had spread that something had happened to High Colonel Veller. The most common was his being arrested for high treason. While that sounded bad, depending on the mood of the High Inquisitor, dropping something that made a loud noise could be considered high treason.

The most common rumor was that somehow, Colonel Veller had managed to break the High Inquisitor's arm in the sparring they had been doing. Their sparring had been *the* gossip topic for the past week. Arguing whether Colonel Veller was just that good, that stupid or that crazy was a favorite. Privately, knowing what he did of Colonel Veller, he thought it was all three. A few friendly fights had broken out because of it, but nothing beyond the usual.

Now though, the rumors ranged between Veller killing the High Inquisitor which he knew wasn't true to Veller being a Rebel and attempting to kill the High Inquisitor, which he knew wasn't true, to Veller injuring the High Inquisitor and getting busted for that, which he hoped wasn't true.

If Veller did injure the High Inquisitor, he didn't give the High Colonel a very long life expectancy. Inquisitors were odd about being injured. They could dish the damage, but got really upset when they had to take it, like it was a personal insult or something. If Veller had, then Veller would be dying a very painful death. High Inquisitor Thanor had proven time and time again, she disliked threats of any sort.

He had also picked up the rumors of Veller's condition and incarceration. Beaten unconscious by Inquisitor Thanor, then fully restrained certainly did nothing to raise Veller's life expectancy. While Batua didn't mind serving on an Inquisitor's ship, he certainly had to watch out for a few more things to keep his head on his shoulders. But, he kinda liked it, made life interesting between drops. Thinking of Veller though, he had hoped the guy would have managed a bit longer before getting himself killed.

Having served on the Interrogator under two Inquisitors, he found Inquisitor Thanor harsh, but predictable. He would take predictable anytime in a commanding officer. So far, Inquisitor Thanor had only killed officers for incompetence, not for just crossing his path like Inquisitor Tremayne seemed to like doing, making officers an endangered species onboard the Interrogator. He wondered how long it would take to get a new Commander for the 610th Legion.

Word spread faster than the speed of light when Inquisitor Thanor was seen in her formal robes heading towards the high security cells. For himself, Sergeant Batua got a bottle of whiskey and sat down to toast a fallen comrade. The others who joined him remarked that High Colonel Veller, while he had been demanding of high standards, had also provided the means to achieve those standards. Most didn't find him too bad as a commanding officer.

They were about half way through the bottle when one of his privates suddenly stood up to stare out the open door. The others looked as did Batua, an unlit cigar in his hand. Leaning against the wall on the other side of the corridor was High Colonel Mark Veller. Batua's eyes narrowed slightly, he had seen dead men who looked better. Wearing only a pair of uniform pants, Veller was covered in his own blood, his back whipped to shreds. He stood there for a handful of moments, then continued down the hall, leaving a bloody trail behind him.

The spell broken, one of the privates started towards the door once Mark was out of sight. Quickly, Batua shot out of his chair to stop him. "No, lads, we help him, we all die." He shook his head in disbelief at what he had just seen. Punishments dealt out by Inquisitors were more like really long and painful ways to commit suicide. Thanor must have used that damn whip on Veller to shred his back like that.

He knew Veller was tough, but this went beyond just being tough into the realm of miracles. He edged out into the hall, joining the others that crowded around to watch. Veller seemed unaware of his audience, hell, Batua was pretty sure he was unaware of anything except putting one foot in front of the other.

He looked at the faces of those around him as they too began to comprehend what they had just seen. Veller's punishment confirmed that he had injured Inquisitor Thanor, nothing else would even warrant such a punishment. That she had used the whip on him told Batua she was serious about punishing him. He had seen that whip in action and never wanted to see it again. That Veller had survived it, Batua could not wrap his brain about that and he had seen some really odd stuff serving on this ship under Tremayne and now Thanor.

However it happened, he saw Veller's reputation rise in leaps and bounds. The ghost of a smile crossed his face. He remembered telling Major Eona that given time, Veller would have the entire legion loyal to him. Once word of this spread, that loyalty was all but assured. As long as Thanor kept command and Veller commanded the 610th Legion, she would have no loyalty issues among the Stormtroopers, aside from those already bought by an outside source. He could almost see the ghosts of Veller's past COs shaking their heads wondering how he managed to survive yet again.

Lieutenant Bernard Dunford was traversing the long hallway, making his way to his tactical station in the crew pit of the bridge, after an enjoyable day off of recreational reading. He found solace alone in the privacy of his quarters whenever he was not required to report for duty. This had been a survival strategy born out of necessity to avoid untimely confrontations with the previous Lord of the Interrogator. Due to his accustomed shut-in nature and frigid exterior, Bernard had not a single friend he could confide in. All of the individuals he had previously felt a connection with had been brutally murdered by the former High Inquisitor, some died before his very eyes in terrifying ways. These previous encounters had emotionally altered him severely, it had forced him to adopt a cold, calculating exterior along with a steadfast strive for efficiency and perfection. This was his coping mechanism, for if his work was flawless, a visit or summons from the Inquisitor would never be required. He tirelessly toiled for excellence as if his life depended on it, because it certainly did, at least when Tremayne ruled the ship with an iron fist.

There had been great personal relief when word came across that Tremayne's apprentice, Thanor, would instead be taking over control of the Interrogator. While it was true that she still used draconian discipline, she was far less spontaneous than the former High Inquisitor. Bernard's expectations had been verified by months without an incident within the crew. Of course there were always executions and interrogations, that was the purpose of this ship after all, but the *crew* itself had been wholly spared. Not a single member had been made example of. There were rumors that Inquisitor Thanor had executed a few officers on the Warspite and Retributor, but those were unsubstantiated and normal hearsay that continuously surrounded her profession. Finally, after many years of grueling service in which he was not sure if he would survive to the next day, Bernard could at last take an easy breath knowing that all he had to do was continue his exemplary duty and his livelihood would be intact.

Before Thanor took over, Tremayne had viciously executed individuals that had requested a transfer, the Inquisitor taking a personal offense to any notion that his crew was unsatisfied, despite him knowing that they lived in constant fear. The crew had been helplessly trapped upon a ship with a ruthless dictator that picked them off at a whim like sport. Now Bernard felt safe and secure in his position and role upon the ship, he was fully content and eager to continue his duties. That was of course before he heard of these new rumors. Even his reclusive habits could not shield him from the gossip that ran rampant on board whenever anything out of the ordinary was happening with the High Inquisitor. Perhaps the gossip itself was a ship-wide coping mechanism, to somehow keep track of Thanor's movements and activities, for when the lives of the crew could so easily be claimed, the knowledge of her pursuits could be life-saving. There was an unspoken rule on the Interrogator that transfers from outside would soon learn in time, and that was that *everything* on board belonged to the occupying High Inquisitor.

The Lieutenant's world was about to shatter when he turned a corner and got a long clear look at the blood saturated High Colonel that was headed for him. Dunford froze in terror as Mark sauntered past him leaving a trail of bloody footprints behind. The true horror gripped his entire being when he looked at the damages the man sustained, the flesh of Veller's back was practically hanging off of him in tethers. He knew better than to assist the man ... he knew Inquisitor Thanor was watching. Suddenly Bernard gasped heavily as a rush of images penetrated his mind like lightning. The cruel sights of his close associates being literally ripped apart in front of him flashed before his eyes in rapid succession. His knees nearly buckled as his back slammed up against the wall with a cry of anxiety escaping him. Dunford tried so desperately hard to reign himself under control, but a severe panic attack gripped him mercilessly. Bernard was having great difficulties even standing. He was incredibly dizzy and a slight shiver raced down his whole body. He didn't think he could live through another Tremayne, fearing for his life every day, not knowing if the next time he sent an ill-favorable report, that he would be eviscerated. But now seeing one of the most important members of the crew being so viciously treated, he realized that he had been fooling himself ... nothing had changed.

News of Colonel Veller's punishment had spread, Batua thought it might have spread faster than news of his incarceration. It was the talk of the ship and he heard hushed whispers that Inquisitor Thanor was going to become as bad as Tremayne had been and there were prayers the rumors were wrong on that point.

Batua chewed on this thought silently for a while. Veller was the first officer to be punished in such a grotesque and spectacular way since Thanor had assumed command. From what he had heard, Veller was almost dead when he made it to the medical bay. Why not just do the few extra lashes and be done with it?

A trooper, who had a run in with the Colonel on a discipline matter, had joked that Veller was special, the man's distaste for Veller evident, but Batua wondered. He knew better than others that Veller was a cut above. That he was Veller's Drill Sergeant was a secret the two of them had kept. He didn't want any special treatment and Veller didn't seem to want to give it which suited him just fine. But still.

He was thinking of that when the betting started on how long Veller would be in the tank. An outsider might think such a betting pool morbid, and it was, if you weren't familiar with Death and its impersonal embrace.

He heard the banter and the joking. On a whim, he decided to put some of his credits down. After all, what else use did he have for them? "One week," he said, putting down 50 credits, naming the first impossible time that came to mind.

The bookie mentioned that he wasn't averse to taking his sergeant's money if he was willing to throw it away. Batua just smiled that annoying smile all sergeants develop. He knew that money was lost. He had seen people less injured take a month in the tank. If even half of the rumors about Veller's injuries were true, Veller would be lucky to get out in a month.

Time passed oddly for Mark. Floating in a bacta tank as the med droids worked to repair his massively abused body, he drifted through memories and dreams. He was blissfully unaware of extent of the trauma Serine had put him through. Normally, any surgery was done outside the tank, but Mark's blood loss made it mandatory for him to be in the tank. Spider-like arms of medical droids worked to put his ribs back in place and match them up. For the first few days, a glance at his tank would make one wonder if he wasn't undergoing some odd type of torture or hadn't been turned into some cybernetic freak.

It took the first day to stabilize him and to do the work on his ribs. Then began the repair of the skin on his back. Most of it needed to be regrown. The med droid in charge of that did its best with what was available. After the third day, the skin had taken and the healing process began, the sections starting to knit together leaving the back crisscrossed with angry red lines. Most of the lines would fade in time, but there were places where the skin had been removed. It was likely these places would scar.

The damage to the lung from the one broken rib was easily fixed, but there was still the matter of the massive blood loss. Though the blood had been replaced, there were still repairs that needed to be done to systems that were damaged by the lack of blood. Bacta was great for most things, but there were still others that rest was the only cure for.

Amid dreams and sleeping, Mark had some dim awareness of the world around him, of the medical droids poking him, of his body healing and recovering from the trauma. For himself, he was content to let the droids do their work. Wounded, both mentally and physically, he needed some down time to recover. Though many say you are not aware when in the bacta tank, Mark always had dim memories of being in a tank, of time spent floating in the healing bath, aware of movements, changes in light. So it was, on the seventh day, Mark found himself stirring yet again when the High Inquisitor came to inspect his progress. Somehow, he knew she was there.

As the High Inquisitor walked through the hallways leading to medical bay 31-A-64, she mulled over the events of the past few days. She remembered clearly the audacious journey Veller had to overcome one week ago to reach sanctuary and assistance at the hands of capable droids. As soon as Serine had exited the specialized interrogation cell after delivering his ultimatum, she had made haste to her office in order to privately watch the high security feed of her High Colonel's daunting progress. To anyone looking at the repulsive condition of the unfortunate man, it would be assumed that he was knocking on death's door, but the Inquisitor was masterful in her approach and profession. She knew exactly how much abuse a man of Veller's endurance could suffer and had withheld just the slightest margin of punishment to allow him enough strength to complete his trek. Serine watched the video stream intensely, looking for any signs that he may not succeed in his task.

She had calculated the amount of physical trauma he sustained, and was certain she made no errors, but there was always that slim possibility he would collapse and bleed out upon the floor. She would not allow her High Colonel to die in that manner, and would have to immediately intervene on his behalf if he succumbed to his injuries. If that were to happen, she would need to rush quickly to assist him, lest he die right there and waste all of his potential and her efforts. However, due to her reputation, she could not watch his progress from his location, or follow him in person, for at no point could her crew be under suspicion that that she was concerned for his wellbeing. If she was forced to come to his rescue, it would be an unfortunate but unavoidable outcome. The crew would have allowed him to die before them, this she knew well, as she was also watching the man's slow progress for any hints that he received outside assistance. The fools that dared to interrupt or impede his personal progress would share in his misery.

As she had anticipated, Veller managed to arrive to the medical bay, and only afterwards did his body give in to the massive trauma. Satisfied that he would survive, she had went about the rest of her day uninterrupted but Serine did not ignore his plight and had requested reports daily from the medical droid team that assisted him. She had even visited him in person after a few days to check on his condition with her own eyes, and that was when Serine noticed that at some point, she and Veller formed a fledgling Force bond. That was interesting, she had not anticipated that with only a single *lesson*. It must have had a far greater emotional and spiritual impact upon him than she had expected. It was weak, but she could sense him before she turned the hallway. This wasn't something one could develop on purpose, it happened naturally between two Force sensitive individuals after they shared meaningful time together. It could form between master and apprentice, between friends, and even between hated rivals.

The Inquisitor no longer wore her crimson robes of authority, but instead was adorned in her battle-ready armorweave she never was without. She was on her way to visit Veller at the one week mark to see for certain if he was capable of returning to service. Serine's presence in the hallways received the standard awe and respect with patrons moving aside quickly to allow her to pass and averting their eyes. But she picked up on the new level of fear and trepidation alive in the air as she walked before the officers. No doubt the atmosphere was charged with the knowledge of what had happened to the High Colonel and dread was lingering that his punishment could become a staple as it had been with Tremayne. Serine had no intention of following in his excessive sadistic footsteps, but she understood the need to keep a certain level of fear burning at the back of every crew member's mind.

Soon the doors leading into the medical facility treating Veller would open and the Inquisitor stormed in with purpose and command. Immediately she demanded to see new reports of his progress and the lead droid quickly scrambled to accommodate her. She gazed over the data with heavy scrutiny before eyeing his still unconscious form floating in bacta. "Release him. He will be returning to duty today," she said firmly, her words carrying great weight. There was a pause from the medical droid as it processed this request through his programs and algorithms before it came to the conclusion that this action may have been unwise. It did not have the human emotion of fear to keep it from suggesting an alternate route. "Mi'lord," it said with a mechanical quality to its processed voice, "the patient is not fully recovered. In addition, he will need extensive physical training to retain his full stamina levels that he had prior to the incident. I recommend a second week of bacta treatment with at least two months of therapy."

The Inquisitor did not like having to repeat herself. "Release him!" She angrily snapped at the droid, a bit of anger flaring at her orders being questioned by a droid. The only reason he was not in a million pieces was because he was doing a fine job repairing Veller. "Schedule therapy if you must, but you are not to administer any medication, is that understood?" A low growl escaped her as eyes once again flicked to Veller's floating form. Allowing him to fully recover would be an injustice to his reconditioning, at no point could he assume she would go easy on him for any reason. His minor aches and pains would further remind him of his lot and that he belonged to her. If she wanted him to suffer, he would. If she wanted him to return to work with only a week to recover, he would willingly do so or he was not worth the massive effort she was now investing into him. The droid reluctantly acknowledged its new orders, wiping clean the findings of its algorithm before directing the other droids to begin the process of removing the patient from the tank. With a nod that things were proceeding as she desired, the High Inquisitor quickly removed herself from the bay, not wishing Veller to know she was there when he came to, lest he find comfort in her concern.

Mark felt himself pulled from the bacta tank and knew the droids were bringing him back to consciousness. As he lay on the table, he took a few moments to enjoy the mere sensation of being alive and conscious. Though, for the first time in days, he was not suffering from high levels of pain, there was still a constant ache.

Memories came back to him as he stared at the ceiling. The proscribed week must have passed and the High Inquisitor must have ordered him back pulled from the tank so he could return to duty. Given what he remembered of the injuries sustained, he was pretty sure the medical droids objected, recommending more time in the tank. Quite frankly, he was surprised he felt this well after one week in the tank. He would have thought a month would be required.

Taking a deep breath, he was extremely pleased at the lack of pain. Apparently, the High Inquisitor had not listed any of his injuries as untreatable. He could handle the remaining aches and pain without question, but still having broken ribs would have been crippling.

Doing a few stretches confirmed the aches were not much worse than expected. Muscle aches were nothing new to him, it was the bone injuries that tended to stick around. Finally, the droids finished and the lead medical droid presented him with a clean uniform. He could not help but smile when he saw it, complete with the rank insignia of a High Colonel.

There were a few winces as he pulled on his uniform, specifically the shirt over his back. Every fiber of the shirt seemed to rub the tender skin the wrong way. He would have to take it as easy as possible to prevent new damage to the regrown skin over the next few days and weeks. He listened to the droid as it outlined the physical therapy that would need to be done, making sure the new skin stretched properly and did not pull along with recovering muscle mass and stamina. The med droid's words just confirmed the next few weeks were going to be unpleasant.

Once his uniform was on, he stood, having to steady himself for a moment, seeing his vision tunnel. Once the darkness faded, he inspected himself in the mirror, smoothing a few wrinkles to assure his uniform was pristine. The new scar under his left eye was easy to notice, a legacy to the punch the High Inquisitor had finally landed during that fateful spar that seemed to have happened so long ago. He frowned slightly, he had lost some weight during his incarceration and subsequent punishment and time in the bacta tank.

Whatever off time he could arrange would have to be in the training room, regaining that weight and muscle, along with his stamina. The High Inquisitor wanted him back on duty and he was pretty sure she would not let him slack during his recovery.

Taking a deep breath, he let it out before walking over to the medical bay door and stopped. The door suddenly loomed in front of him, representative of the unknowns of the past week and a half. What did the crew know? Had the High Inquisitor made any announcement or not on what he had done.

His journey to the medical bay, he knew would be all over the ship. He might not engage in gossip, but as an officer he knew how it worked. His bloody journey would have been all over the ship within minutes of it being observed. One simply could not suppress the news of a high-ranking officer of the ship walking, or staggering, down the halls in his condition.

Staring at the door for a few moments, he suddenly felt the urge to hide. What did the crew think of him? Before he had merely been the Commander of the 610th Legion, a newly-minted High Colonel. Now? He shook his head slightly. Was he reviled because he had dared to strike the High Inquisitor? Did he still have the respect of his Stormtroopers? Having a commanding officer make such a misstep as he had could lead to serious doubts about his ability to lead.

He reached out a hand to steady himself against a nearby table. Panic and self-doubt reared their ugly head and he knew they had to be handled before he stepped foot outside the medical bay. Showing weakness was deadly in his line of business and he knew it. Taking another deep breath, he let it out, feeling a bit steadier. He continued taking deep breaths, thinking through the implications of returning to his duty.

The High Inquisitor wanted him back on duty, now, while he was not at the top of his game. She was not giving him time away from his duties to fully recover. Mark took a steadying breath, that meant his service was still needed, that he still had some value to her. It fell to him to fulfill her commands to the best of his ability. The High Inquisitor had left no special instructions, though a peek at the medical droid's datapad revealed an order against pain medications.

He closed his eyes briefly, then stood up straighter, giving his tunic the customary tug to make sure it was properly in place. Then he strode to the door, back straight, eyes forward, as if he was just leaving from a routine medical exam. No weakness, he told himself.

Traversing the necessary hallways to his office was interesting, to say the least. The stares followed him as he walked down the hallways, making the hairs on the back of his neck rise. Giving the necessary acknowledgements as he went, he began to wonder at the tone of the stares. Fear was what he noticed first. People tended to get out of his way faster than before. It confused him at first, non-Stormtrooper personnel had nothing to fear from him as he had no authority over him.

But then he observed wonder and awe that seemed to be lurking behind the fear. From Stormtrooper personnel, it was reversed, wonder and awe was foremost with fear lurking in the background. Using his rank to claim a turbolift to himself, he gratefully leaned against the back wall, the walk having exhausted him more than he cared to admit.

He took a few moments to rest and think about the reactions. That's when it struck him that to the crew, he had somehow managed to survive a cruel punishment from the High Inquisitor. In his own opinion, the punishment had been worthy of the crime, thus balancing it out. In payment of his betrayal, he had surrendered his life to the High Inquisitor and she had, very skillfully, made it clear she would take it if she felt the need. He had no idea how many lashes the High Inquisitor had administered, but he realized not many would have survived past the first few. His training gave him an edge and she had taken that into account.

He felt a small sense of awe overtake him at the skill she exhibited in taking him to the edge and not one bit past it. This new knowledge just confirmed his choice of service. As much as he had to prove his worth to her, the High Inquisitor had also proven worthy of his service. He doubted many could fully understand his position.

Pushing himself off the wall, he opened the turbolift door, amused at the stunned expressions of those waiting when they recognized him. Heading to his office, he figured it was just another thing to get used to as the ship learned he was back on duty. Idly he wondered what the betting pools had been on him. Knowing the average Stormtrooper, he was pretty sure there had been a few. Not into gambling himself, he had never put any money into such a pool, but he did not discourage it either. Stormtroopers needed other interests as a distraction from courting Death.

Finally reaching his office, he nodded to those on duty, again amused at the stunned looks. Pretty sure there had been betting pools on how long he would be in the tank once his survival was known, he smiled privately at the thought of making someone very rich if they had somehow bet a week in the tank. He doubted anyone had, in which case the bookies were happy not having to pay out. His preference would have been a month, at least.

He sighed upon seeing his desk. It had been over a week and a half since that fateful spar. Even the High Inquisitor could not stop the paperwork. His eyes lit on his caf machine. The droids might be forbidden to issue medications, but caf was its own balm to him. Almost reverently, Mark made a new pot of caf, waiting for it to finish brewing, enjoying every breath of rich aroma. Filling his mug, he settled down to begin the digout from the paperwork. Keying in his access codes, there was a sense of relief as the files came up. Final proof this was not just a dream as he bleed out on that interrogation room floor.

Taking a small sip of the caf and a moment to enjoy it, he got to work. If he kept at it, he might be able to get the backlog cleared in a few days. Maybe.

Sergeant Batua was in his office when the news came. The corporal on duty summoned him with a "Sarge, you aren't going to believe this, but..." Batua growled to himself, now what? not in the mood for another disciplinary action to handle, he stomped out of his office, teeth clamping down in his unlit cigar, fully intending on giving the offender the full weight of his temper. Damnit, he would never get those reports done if he kept getting interrupted.

That's when High Colonel Mark Veller walked past the open doorway on his way to his office as if nothing had happened. For the first time in his life, Sergeant Batua was stunned. His jaw dropped and his unlit cigar tumbled to the floor. Luckily for his reputation, no one else saw this as they too were staring out the door.

Recovering faster than his subordinates did, he quickly picked up his cigar and shoved it back into his mouth, putting on his best sergeant glare, "What are you all standing around gawking at? I got extra assignments if ya'll don't have enough to do," he growled.

His men scrambled back to their duties and he returned to his office. That's when it hit him and he was stunned once more. His idle bet of one week in the tank, a bet done totally on a whim, had suddenly made him a rich Sergeant. A very un-Sergeant-like smile crossed his face.

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