Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Christopher Levy and Sarah Riggs-Shute.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:2:3) in the Essesia system: Retributor.
Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, High Inquisitor Serine Thanor, Darth Vader, and Major Arden Zevrin.

It had been a day since the High Inquisitor had managed to nearly drag herself from the hangar bay to the medical facilities. She had absolutely refused any assistance even though it had been cautiously offered to her numerous times by various medics and first responders. Serine rejected all notion that she needed help despite the fact that she was bleeding profoundly in a ghastly way, leaving a trail of significant blood as she slowly creeped along, placing the majority of her weight upon the walls for much needed support. It was a matter of pride for the woman, denying that a pathetic rebel could so easily take her down despite withstanding an onslaught of three point-blank explosions. At last her destination was in sight, which was very relieving since she was beginning to feel lightheaded due to massive blood loss. When the doors leading into the medical bay slid open, the Inquisitor nearly collapsed into a collection of research equipment, but managed to steady herself. Weary eyes peered around into the empty area and realized the doctor was absent. Serine's last resolve before passing out was to secure a gurney in which she sunk upon, falling into it unconsciousness.

The High Inquisitor had awoken a day later to find herself being tended to by a series of medical droids, much to her disapproval. She had hoped the residing doctor would be present and she would be under his care, as she respected him a great deal. With an inspection, she noticed her many deep wounds had been dressed or sutured. Satisfied that she was mended enough, she slipped off of the bed despite the protests of the droids that she shot dangerous glares at and they quieted down immediately. True, it would have been best for her to receive more care and rest, but she had far too many questions that needed answers ... Thus the High Inquisitor took a moment to gather herself before making her way out of the medical bay. She still had a meeting to attend to from the Grand Moff, and she unfortunately would be very late which was uncharacteristic of her. Serine had to pace herself through the hallways, moving at a slower gait than what she was used to due to her injuries and a very slight limp she was attempting to mask. She was still covered in bandages and looked rather disheveled, but she would not let that stop her from doing her duties and stepped boldly into the conference room where she had been ordered to meet with the Governor.

As Serine transitioned from the corridor into the conference room she would instantly feel as if the temperature in the room had plummeted 20 degrees. The room had been noticeably darkened and neither Claudius Rodney, nor Arden Zevrin, nor any of their underlings were present. In the darkness only one sound could be heard. The sound of mechanical breathing. The Dark Lord of the Sith had arrived. Each footstep towards Serine was a deliberate threat and the overwhelming feeling of anger within the man who was more machine would easily ... too easily ... be sensed by Serine. "You reported to me the traitor was in your grasp ... now she is gone?" he asked, in a rage, as he reached out with his gloved hand and telekinetically lifted one of the large chairs gathered round the conference table. Despite the fact it was a sturdy durasteel chair, it literally smashed apart upon its contact with the bulkhead. The Dark Lord was one for entrances and theatricality and he certainly was effective at both here. The sound of his mechanical breathing grew louder and more frequent as he waited for his suppliant to respond.

Serine had entered the conference room with a steady resolve to face the Governor, but that look quickly evaporated into sheer horror and shock as she gandered upon the form of the Grand Inquisitor. A few panicked blinks were given to ensure she was not hallucinating due to medical drugs the droids may have injected her with. The High Inquisitor was frozen in fear, realizing quickly that his temper was most certainly going to be directed at her, and her mind raced for solutions to her predicament but was coming up empty due to stifling dread. Serine was usually so quick with professional and rigid responses but she was currently overwhelmed with anxiety and found herself momentarily unable to speak. The chair slamming into the wall startled her immensely, causing her to physically jolt in place. Things were starting to look pretty desperate and she realized that if she did not rally and get herself under control, this would be the last meeting of her life. Trembling hands were steadied and clasped behind her back as she straightened and positioned herself into a posture of steadfast attention. She refused to fully succumb to cowering as that would not garnish respect from her superior, and if the High Inquisitor were to die here, she desired to go down with some dignity and honor.

There was a very brief moment where Serine's eyes closed momentarily as she readied herself for what may be her final confrontation. Her eyes then opened to look upon her superior with a newfound course and strong resolve. Despite her willpower, she realized she had no information to actually give Vader that he did not already know. She was at an extreme disadvantage due to lying unconscious for a whole day and was not even aware of his arrival. It was also very obvious that the High Inquisitor sustained serious injuries and it was a wonder that she was even standing before him. A new fear began creeping into the back of her mind as she struggled to come up with a response to his question that did not make her look completely incompetent. Finally, Serine mustered up something that may be passable, if only to get words flowing so that she was not utterly frozen.

"Lord Vader, Jelena Rodney was at the heart of the flagship Retributor, thus her security fell to those in command. I was restricted access due to Grand Moff Rodney's obsession for his traitorous daughter." That was the best Serine could muster in such a short notice, hopefully it would be enough to survive Vader's anger.

The Dark Lord of the Sith listened to Inquisitor Thanor's pathetic excuse and the tambor of his breathing increased to match his ire. "You fool," he said, as he reached out with his gloved hand reaching out through the Force to lift her battered form off the ground. He held her there for a moment, his mechanical breathing filling the room, but he did not choke the life out of her, nor did he telekinetically kill her. Instead, he moved his hand swiftly towards the left and sent her hurdling towards the bulkhead in the same manner as the chair. He approached her slowly, each footstep bringing him closer to her. More breathing filled the room as he lingered over her, glaring at her through the red lenses of his survival suit. "*You* are the executor here! Perhaps I chose ... poorly," he said, as he unclipped his lightsaber from his belt. There was a *snap-hiss* as the crimson blade escaped the top of the hilt, it's red light the only source of light within the conference room. He angled the blade down towards her, it's *hum* buzzing ominously in Serine's ear, as he allowed it to linger there. More breathing as he waited for her to show him something ... anything really. It was *he* who intervened in her quarrel with High Inquisitor Tremayne as he felt her the better of the two. Perhaps he was *wrong*.

As Serine began to be lifted into the air against her will, she felt that perhaps this was it, perhaps even reminiscent of that rebel's fate that she so easily crushed but a day ago. The Inquisitor was already severely injured and it would be no effort at all to end her for good. She could have attempted to fight it, but there was no point. He was far stronger in the Force than she was and her very doctrine prevented her from resisting his punishing mechanisms. Silver eyes began to dim as she accepted and awaited her fate only to be spared an immediate death and thrown brutally up against the side of the bulkhead. Her body hit the durasteel with a sickening sound, the intense power of the assault caused a few newly mended sutures to rip and pop with an eerie and grotesque manner. The Inquisitor slumped to the floor in a lifeless mound, reeling from the near catastrophic attack. Blood slowly oozed from newly opened wounds to saturate the once clean white gauze that was wrapped neatly around multiple areas of her form.

Serine sputtered out a weak cough, still alive, as her eyes that had rolled back fluttered once then slowly regained focus as she barely prevented unconsciousness. The first thing her failing blurred vision caught sight of was the glowing red blade hovering dangerously close to searing the flesh from her face. Her situation was increasingly dire and she was ever approaching death. The Inquisitor had no words for her defense, no plea or compromise, the only thing she had left was to face her fate directly. She refused to die pathetically sprawled out helplessly on the floor. With a great amount of fortitude and stamina, she managed to slowly peel herself away from the ground. Her struggle to right herself was agonizing but she managed to once again stand before him unbalanced and precarious. With care, Serine clasped her hands behind her back as she gazed at him emotionless while painfully positioning herself into a stance of silent attention.

The young High Inquisitor displayed a surprising amount of physical fortitude in the face of his terrible onslaught ... but it was her mental fortitude that concerned him. His thumb had the barest trace of a movement, but the effect of the action was considerable ... the blade from his lightsaber had been extinguished. There was no speech ... only the mechanical sound of his breathing. "You have failed me Serine," he said menacingly, as the hilt of his lightsaber was affixed to his belt. Almost immediately his hand was raised at her again, clenching into a fist as he used his mastery of the Force to collapse her windpipe and choke her. His purpose was not to kill her, nor to even punish her ... rather his motive was simply to deny her the ability to speak. He did not tolerate interruptions and anything she could add no doubt he had already considered and her words would be mere irritations. "You are blind. You are incapable of sight beyond what is in front of you," he barked at her from beneath his helmet, whose breathing apparatus fundamentally altered his voice into something deeper ... darker. "Since you lack the ability or the imagination to discover the Emperor's plan it will now be spelled out for you ... like a child," he finished, insultingly with every ounce of contempt that remained within his wicked soul. He turned, his cape fluttered behind him, and he prepared to depart. He would allow her to live ... for now ... for the cruelest of reasons ... he would waste no one else on the Ringali Shell ... their talents and his were needed for the hunt of the Rebellion in the outer rim.

The sight of the Grand Inquisitor deactivating his lightsaber was a very positive sign that she may have survived the worst of his ire. She was not free from his influence yet, but it was encouraging her, and it was almost a miracle that she could live through his violent chastising. She realized that her relief may have been premature as she felt his dark leverage enveloping her. Serine had to use all of her remaining power to just stand upright as her trachea began to collapse, cutting off her circulation of air. Instead of attempting to continue breathing like a fool, she suspended her breathe to prevent herself from choking and gagging like a simpleton. She listened to his words without the chance of rebuttal, but it was growing every more difficult as she began to suffocate. Serine refused to give signs that she was indeed being strangled, keeping her rigid posture although it was clear that the Inquisitor began to waver ever so slightly, her eyes taking on a glassy distant appeal. She was moments away from truly dying, but at least she would pass away still standing, remarkably so.

The door to the conference room opened as Lord Vader approached, but instead of a vast emptiness there was the beautiful, slender form of Major Arden Zevrin standing there in all of her glory. "Have you been monitoring, Commander?" he asked her, as he stepped aside to allow her access to the room. It was only then that he gave Serine the decency of thought and remembered that she was still within his telekinetic grasp. An instant later he released her, allowing her to suck in those much needed, desperate grasps of air. "Explain to her the error of her ways," he said to the Major, as he brought a gloved finger to her face. His hand hovered there for a moment, his index fix mere centimeters from her nose. "There will be no more failures," he said, before folding his arms in front of his chest and standing, like a vicious guard dog, at the doorway to this room. He had read Thanor's report regarding Zevrin. He knew their history. No one was getting in or out of this room until his representative understood his purpose, but the young ISB commander, whom his old Admiral Wulff Yularen had always spoken so highly of, had much more of a flare to explaining the Emperor's plots and plans than he.

"Indeed, Lord Vader. I have," Major Arden Zevrin said, doing everything within her power to keep from bursting into laughter at the way of her sometimes nemesis was tossed about like a child's doll. She took slow steps forward, for she feared if she arrived upon the scene she would not be able to savor the sight of the vanquished vixen long enough. She finally came to a stop, crouching down next to the fallen woman. She extended a gloved hand to the woman's iconic white hair, which was blood splattered in a way that made for a stark contrast. "Bad hair day, sweetie," she cooed softly, before standing up and walking towards the holoprojector in the center of the conference table, which had blessedly not been destroyed during Vader's tantrum. With a single keystroke the map of the Ringali Shell was on display for all of them to see, each planet appearing as a sparkling blue jewel against the darkness of the otherwise empty and unlit conference room.

"These planets are very important to us, Serine. So much of the commerce of the galaxy flows through here ... we must control it ... but you cannot gain control by force or intimidation ... but you could never see *that*," she said, dismissively, as she shook her head at the woman that Vader described as a 'child'. "I could. Which is why I orchestrated the death of my predecessor, Major Eklon, by providing the Rebellion with the information regarding his transport's arrival at Brentaal, but unfortunately did not copy that to the local authorities tasked with escorting it. Oops!" she squealed with a giggle, as she brought a gloved hand to cover her mouth in mock dismay. "It was then I who suggested to Wulfy," she said, with a playful wink, referencing her former mentor and lover, Colonel Wulff Yularen, who was formerly the head of the ISB before his loss aboard the Death Star. "...that the only man for the job was Claudius Rodney, and that I should become the new sector commander. And, of course, he agreed ... he agreed to anything I said naturally," she said, laughing, but then looked towards the Sith and realized she was digressing.

"I knew that *then* Admiral Rodney was the only suitable commander because of his ability to talk to the stuck up Core World nobility, and I knew he would totally mismanage the military situation ... this is the best part ... so listen carefully," she said, as she turned to her side, and placed her face directly next to hers. "As the Rebellion gains in strength, experiences what they think are victories, we can deploy more and more and more and more and more and more and more and *more* military forces to the region and instead of the people crying out that the Empire is invading them and oppressing them..." she said, as she moved her face directly to Serine's ear, her hot breath tickling her skin. "...but instead they beg us to come. To save them from the Rebellion. Listen carefully. Can you hear them? Calling for us? Begging for our help?" she said, before she started to laugh uproariously at the fact that her elaborate plot had finally come to fruition. "Now we will strike back. Crush these Rebels, but our military, our Intelligence forces ... they will never ... *ever* ... leave, and we have the incompetence of Claudius Rodney to thank, which you protest so much ... as you are truly blind and stupid," she said, before moving away to rejoin Darth Vader at the door. "Try not to muck it up this time. Now we're actually trying to win," she said, before bowing obediently to the Dark Lord.

Serine was on the absolute verge of asphyxiation when Vader finally released her, causing her legs to give out and she collapsed upon her knees in a fit of coughs and wheezing. Her breathing was extremely ragged for quite sometime as she attempted to gather herself but it was proving to be very difficult. How unfortunate for her that Arden Zevrin just so happened to be an integral part of all of this, and she deeply regretted that woman's presence here to witness her dire condition. It was painfully clear that the Major was now fully off limits, much to Serine's dismay. How Arden kept positioning herself to be just one step away out of Serine's wrathful grasp was remarkable. Major Zevrin was a detestable and revolting woman, how she had the ear of the Grand Inquisitor was staggering for Serine to understand. The High Inquisitor was so weakened by her current state, she was unable to slap the other woman's hand away but instead had to focus her remaining strength to pull herself up into one of the conference room chairs. Her superior wished to humiliate and subdue her, then so be it, but she would not suffer that on the floor. Throughout the whole explanation Arden gave, Serine glared at her hatefully but the intensity of her gaze began to fade as the understanding of the full scope of things began to sink in. If this was so vital, why did Pestage not inform her of this when she was first assigned ... why did Lord Vader not inform her when he reassigned her?

"Fine." It was her only response to Arden and it was laced with bitterness and a tinge of regret that she was apparently so 'blind' as to not see the grander scope by herself. Serine leaned back away from the other woman's ill advised advances, looking quite disgusted and agitated at the whole situation. Eyes couldn't help but to shift towards Lord Vader in anticipation of his departure.

"Now, Serine, there is the small matter of Governor Rodney," Arden explained, as she prepared to detail the last part of the plot to the Inquisitor, wondering if she could keep up. "To eliminate him or to replace him would be to acknowledge setback, which would only threaten our relationship with the remaining loyal populous," she explained, matter-of-factly, as if she could she simply would have liquidated the Grand Moff. "He must be properly motivated, and therefore I used Jelena to control him. To force him to enact policies that would properly offend, and cause certain, undesirable elements to feel emboldened and support the Rebellion ... so we could identify them and destroy them," she explained, wondering if she was talking too fast for the child. "My leverage gone and we are once again left with a depressed ... presumably drunk ... Governor. This will not do," she said, shaking her head, and giving a *tsk, tsk, tsk* with her mouth.

"Therefore let me be the first to congratulate you on your success, Inquisitor," she said, as a cunning smile crossed her lips as the wheels began to spin faster than anyone else in the region. "The man you executed turned out to be Derek Atio, the captain of a Rebel blockade runner who has plagued us for some time. While it would have been valuable to interrogate him and gain names, locations, plans ... we might still save this," she said, as she tilted her head towards Vader. "It was an interesting coincidence that both Rodney and Atio served together aboard the Star Destroyer Superb during the last war. The governor is prone to paranoia and find this most interesting," she continued, before refocusing her glance on Serine. "You are to inform the Governor that Commander Atio led a strike team to the Retributor which resulted in the unfortunate death of his daughter. Inform him that you did everything you could, at grave risk to yourself, but failed. Then reassure him with the news you executed ... painfully ... his former colleague that was responsible for her death. He will find solace in you, and you *will* help us control him. We have given the Rebels in this region hope ... and nothing is more powerful than hope. They have been concentrating their forces, building their network, and recruiting. Now *we* will show them what fools they have been," she said, determinately, before preparing to leave the room to watch it all unfold from her makeshift throne.

"This is *your* plan, Commander. They'll be no one to blame but *you* if it fails," Vader warned Zevrin, as she moved past him. The sound of mechanical breathing filled the room after Arden Zevrin had ceased her endless monologue. He noted that while a competent schemer, she was a bit too proud of herself, and liked the sound of her voice ... but these were the manipulative individuals that were drawn to the Emperor and his machinations and he must tolerate them to please his master. They were wasting his time. His true purpose lay in the Outer Rim, and this diversion to fix a mess that never should have been irritated him beyond measure. "I am not forgiving, Serne," he said to her, ominously, as he pointed his finger towards her like a dagger. "Should the words Ringali Shell cross my mind again you *will* suffer. See to this. Trouble me no further ... or you will look back on this day as a joyous one," he said, before turning his back to her and departing from the room and eventually the vessel without offering her even the slightest dignity of an affirmative reply. The *true* Rebellion was out there. *Skywalker* was out there.

"Yes, Lord Vader," she said immediately after his rather foreboding command, eager for him to be satisfied and depart. Serine stared silently at the holoprojection waiting anxiously for them to leave and eased out a painful sigh once she was alone in the dimly lit conference room. Despite her critical state, it would have been extremely unwise if she delayed in her task. She needed to proceed to inform the Grand Moff as she was instructed as soon as possible. Too injured and wracked with pain to get out of her seat, she decided the best course of action was to summon Claudius to her, which would be unprecedented. This room was to be their original meeting place, so it was logical to continue with this location moving forward. Soon the Governor would be receiving a meeting request from the High Inquisitor in the very conference room he had specified a day earlier.

The last time that Claudius Rodney met with the Inquisitor, they had physically tussled on the floor over Major Zevrin's life. Therefore, when her 'summons' came across his desk he was neither pleased nor interested. No one aboard the ship had the courage to inform him what happened to Jelena, or that even there had been a Rebel incursion at all. Most of the crew had simply taken to reporting to Major Zevrin directly, and he found himself isolated in his office, without his staff. Reluctantly he rose from his desk and proceeded towards the turbolift that would take him to the conference room ... if only because he was bored and it was something to do. When he entered the conference room he immediately rose the lights, as he was not in the mood for any Inquisitorius stunts on her part. He inhaled sharply in an audible gasp when he got a look at the battered Inquisitor and while he despised her he was nevertheless still a gentleman and felt compelled to rush to her side. "Inquisitor, what has befallen you?" he asked, with genuine concern, as he raised a hand to place on her shoulder, but he caught himself and let his arm fall back to his side. Something was wrong. Something was *very* wrong.

The High Inquisitor looked absolutely destroyed, covered in blood soaked bandages, her usually pristine armorweave was littered with numerous hideous gashes that displayed the ghastly and poorly tended wounds beneath. Her white hair was tangled and matted to her neck and shoulders with her own blood and her breathing came in wispy gasps, not at all pleasant to see or hear. It was a wonder how she was still conscious and her injuries may have been even worse than what was immediately visible. This would be the most dire Claudius had ever seen the Inquisitor, and although she hid her emotions well, there was a hint of shame in that regard to allow him to see her like this. Serine's fragility was so clear that she nearly welcomed his show of compassion, it was a moment of weakness she had to quickly brush away at the same moment that he faltered as well. She weakly motioned to a chair so that he sat down ... he was going to need to be seated for this information. It was clear that Claudius had zero clue on what had just transpired on the ship, did he even realize Lord Vader was just on board? But now Serine was in on the play, she understood why his incompetency was important, and now he needed to be maneuvered properly, and it was her job to do so.

"Governor, your daughter, Jelena Rodney, is dead." Always so blunt, even when she was close to passing out. There was no dancing around the issues for Serine, she would come out boldly and explain the situation to him. "A leader of the rebel resistance in this sector, Derek Atio, organized a small strike team to infiltrate and capture Jelena, apparently in their misguided need to *rescue* her. I had been en route to your summons when I ran into the tail end of their escape. I managed to thwart their pitiful attempt by seizing her from their grasp, but their mishandling caused the explosive device in her chest to be set off prematurely. My immediate proximity to her caused the brunt of my damages you see now. Any lesser individual would have been killed instantly, but I persevered to seek revenge and passed judgment on Derek Atio." Clear, precise and easy to understand, though it was obviously a struggle for the Inquisitor to give her recollection through a series of hoarse breathing and coughs.

"No. Thank you, Inquisitor. I *am* in quite the hurry," he replied, choosing to remaining standing before her. The news every father feared struck him to his core and without warning he collapsed to his knees, as he could no longer find the strength to stand. He tried to scream, but instead his mouth just remained frozen open, unable to utter a single audible sound. He had failed to protect his beautiful little girl from the Rebellion. He never wanted to bring her to the Ringali Shell. He was forced to by that little bitch in the ISB, Arden Zevrin. He took some solace in the fact that she could no longer control him, but not at the price of his daughter's life ... *nothing* was worth that. His beleaguered face looked up to Serine as the tears began to flow, but still no words came. Unexpectedly the woman he thought he could count on the least had done the most to save his daughter and he would be forever thankful. At least she had enacted some measure of revenge, but the last full measure would come from him and his military. However, that would come later, first he would need to grieve and collect himself. He collapsed forward into Serine, burying his face in her chest, as he sobbed uncontrollably into the bosom of his longtime adversarial underling. He felt the wetness of Serine's blood stain his uniform, and he could not help but wonder if some of that blood belonged to his daughter, furthering his pain. If only *he* had been there, maybe he could have done something. He would never forgive himself, and he would never again doubt Inquisitor Thanor. A new chapter in the war in the Ringali Shell had begun.

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