Kia stepped onto the bridge of the
Warspite silently, she was not an unfamiliar sight on the bridge
but there was a palpable feeling of darkness to the teenager now,
something had shifted in their happy go lucky gearhead. She only had one
of the sabers at her hip now, but it seemed to belong there more than it
had previously, word may have spread about the Inquisitor and her
apprentice starting lightsaber training, well rumors at the least, as
well as whispers that the youth was becoming more like her Master,
ruthlessly killing on command. Her step was confident, but nearly silent
as she approached the main viewports, and the Captain.
The bridge of the Warspite was
bustling with activity, as the vessel had moved much closer to the
planet Esseles. The officers seemed more focused on their work, and many
of them looked as if they were in badly need of rest. On the walkway,
Captain Tiberius Anson was carefully monitoring the operations pit as he
waited for reports on the latest round of transports moving from the
planet's surface. It took some moments before he noticed the arrival of
Inquisitor Kaen, and he turned to give her a quick glance, revealing a
tad more bit of facial hair than of late. "Kia," he said politely,
before refocusing on the operations pit. Nodding his head at the report,
his attention could finally be turned towards the young Inquisitor. "How
may I be of assistance?" he asked her, as he moved further down the
command walkway to close the distance between them.
Kia had not done her usual routine of
waving at the people she was getting to know, part of her was sad at the
change, but her Master had been right, ultimately. She had a datacard in
her left hand, that intense 'dark' feeling that seemed to follow Serine
was starting to follow her apprentice as well. "I have been informed,
that I'm not supposed to let people be on a first name basis ... so
casually. I'm s-..." she cut off, frowning, and didn't finish the
apology, she didn't have to apologize for following her Master's orders.
"I finished the modifications I told you that I would. They could be
implemented without needing to travel to a shipyard. I don't want to be
flying on a death trap waiting to happen."
"Of course, Inquisitor Kaen," Captain
Anson dutifully explained to her, reaching out with a gloved hand to
take the datadisk from her. "I will present this to my staff once our
situation returns to normal. As you can see, we've been on alert since
the ... 'incident'," he explained, somewhat delicately, as he motioned
with his free hand to show the occupied bridge staff. The Captain looked
tired, his eyes were strained, and he was in desperate need of rest ...
like most of his staff. "I had wanted to thank you for your assistance
in acquiring a new command ship, Inquisitor," he said, changing the
subject to something more pleasant.
Kia relinquished the data card, her
solemn look remaining, "This ship is in danger *because* of that
traitor. These changes don't require much effort, I'm certain you can
spare a few engineers to see to them." It was painfully clear this
wasn't a request. "That traitor took information on this ship, I do not
care to be on a flying death trap when it meets up with the Rebellion.
Do you?" She had blinked at being thanked for what happened on Kuat, "I
had nothing to do with that, Captain, you should be thanking Inquisitor
The Captain could notice a decided
change in Kia's personality and demeanor ... and he did not find the
changes to be an improvement. "Of course, Inquisitor. It will be done,"
he said, with an emphatic nod, before walking down the walkway until he
reached the engineering pit that contained Lieutenant Alexander. A
moment later, he let the datadisk down to his engineer as the Inquisitor
had instructed. "See to this at once," he ordered, more firmly than he
had done with previous orders, as he put on a show for the Inquisitor's
benefit. "Traitor?" he said to Kia, as he walked back towards her. "We
were under the impression she was under some kind of mind control or the
victim of Rebel brainwashing. Do you sense her treason to be genuine?"
he asked, his voice dropping more quietly, as he neared her so that the
others would not hear.
"Captain, you haven't been around many
zealots have you? She thinks she's doing the right thing, whether she is
or not." She frowned slightly, "I'm not one to make that judgment call,
regarding the traitor. I do not think she was brainwashed, personally.
She has a certain ring of certainty in her voice, she's wrong of
course." Kia looked back to Lieutenant Alexander, "If they have any
questions, they are free to ask me. It is a fairly simple process,
separating the sensor suite from the deflector shields, adding in a new
interface for the consoles to reflect this change, as well as
streamlining a few of the unoptimized systems. You should see a 4.36%
increase in firing rate of turbolasers, and a 3% increase in targeting
and sensor accuracy. Whoever finalized the design plans for this class
of ship needs to be...re-educated."
The Captain listened to her grim
assessment of Jelena that the Inquisitor made and instantly saddened, as
he empathized greatly with the Grand Moff and the personal situation he
was going through. "I am very sorry to hear that, Inquisitor. The
Governor is very close to his family," he said grimly, lowering his head
somewhat in a combination of empathy and fatigue. "We are grateful for
any assistance you can provide with operations," he added, before
hurrying over to operations as another group of small craft was
attempting to leave the system. It was an impossible to task to inspect
every vessel leaving the system as the Governor had instructed, but they
were doing their utmost with the resources that they had.
The near silent steps of the teenager
followed him, Kia's voice had remained pitched for the Captain, having
the common sense enough not to blurt things to the entire bridge. It
pained her to realize just a week prior, she wouldn't have thought of
that. "Obviously he wasn't close enough, if he didn't catch this and nip
it at the base before it grew into this strangling vine."
The Captain grimaced noticeably at the
Inquisitor's words, but would not dare criticize her after what he had
seen her Master do on his bridge. "Of course, Inquisitor," he said,
biting his tongue as he spoke, continuing to focus on the reports coming
in from the operations team. Tiberius had served under the Grand Moff
for quite sometime, and he strongly disagreed with what the Inquisitor
had said. He knew Jelena, and had spent time with her, and he was
undecided as to whether or not her treason was genuine or part of some
as yet uncovered Rebel plot.
"Where did you learn to do this?"
Lieutenant Alexander shouted, as he moved from the engineering pit to
the walkway. The Corellian engineer was considerably older than the
others on the bridge ... the Captain included ... as his gruff personality
and lack of political skills had kept him from advancing in the ranks.
But, he did not care as he was comfortable in his capacity as an
engineer. "This is pushing our systems far beyond their design
limitations," he warned her, rather than going through the proper
procedure of speaking first to the Captain.
Kia was not taken aback by the sudden
shout at her, nor the engineer approaching, she had expected it
actually. "I learned 'this', if you're meaning designing and correcting
others flawed designs, from my parents. They gave me the desire to learn
it at least. Everything else is called talent." Oh she had the Corellian
attitude alright, and paired with that aura from the dark side. "As for
pushing the system past it's design limitations. The engineers who set
those were far too conservative. Not to mention they didn't know how to
optimize anything for functionality. It's almost like they wanted these
ships to be easily destroyed... I'll have to bring that up with Master
Thanor now that I think of it... If you look at the list of changes,
there are several things bloating the power systems, I set those to run
as needed, not constantly eating power. They are minor systems that just
were hogging all of the power. I tested it on a wireframe with the
correct specifications, and you actually are going to gain power with
"Leave it to the Kuatis to make a ship
like this," Lieutenant Alexander complained, as he came to a stop next
to the Captain and the Inquisitor. "This ship is more designed to be a
menace than anything else. When it was designed, it was meant to be a
symbol of power and they never dreamed it would come up against any
meaningful opposition," he said, shaking his head with disgust at the
Kuatis, who he deemed infinitely inferior to his native Corellians. "And
now I hear we've got some new Kuat ship coming our way thanks to you. If
you want my advice ... get us some Corellian ships" he said, to both the
Inquisitor and the Captain, paying little attention to their ranks and
"You'll have to excuse our chief
engineer, Inquisitor," Tiberius said to her, as he was concerned his
lack of discipline might alarm her. "I assure you ... despite his brash
exterior he is the best engineer in the fleet," he said honestly, having
watched the older man service his ship for many years. "He will
implement all of your recommendations to a T. I will see to it myself,"
he continued, doing his best to disarm any potential disagreement
between the two. He sometimes felt as commander of the Warspite
his task was simply to her felinxes.
"I'm not allowed to go back home, but
thanks for reminding me of that. As I told the Captain, I had nothing to
do with convincing the Kuat of Kuat to give the Governor that ship, if
the fleet could run efficiently on Corellian ships, I'd prefer them in a
heartbeat. They actually work correctly ... usually." She registered
what the Captain was trying to do, and gave him a slight grin, that said
the gearhead they'd been getting to know was still there somewhere.
Still addressing the Engineer, Kia folded her arms, "You prefer to have
systems tied together that shouldn't be? Try reading all of the
directions before assuming they won't work. I spent the formative years
of my life in a research and development facility."
"Kid, I'd prefer not to over-engineer
the problem," Lieutenant Alexander replied to her, in a tone that was
more familiar than professional. "What you have here is great
engineering theory ... and in a laboratory setting worthy of study and
perhaps implemented in future designs," he continued, being quite set in
his ways and not accustomed to change, particularly if it was coming
from a teenager. "But we're a serving ship of the line in a warzone and
tinkering around could result in disaster," he concluded, turning his
attention back to his Captain. "Cap'n, you really want to turn
operations over to this ... girl," he said, shaking his head in a state of
Captain Anson cleared his throat loudly,
wondering if there was anything he could say or do to spare his engineer
at this point. "Lieutenant!" he said, in mock anger for the sake of the
Inquisitor as he began to address him. "This is Apprentice Inquisitor
Kia Kaen, and we will follow her recommendations. Do I make myself
clear, Lieutenant?" he asked, though he would only accept one possible
answer. The rest of the crew began to look up from their terminals,
unable to recall the last time their Captain acted in such an
authoritative manner ... usually it was left to the executive officer.
Well to be fair, compared to him, she
was a kid, taking offense to that would be technically correct, it was
horribly disrespectful, but she knew the attitudes of her homeworld even
if she had not spent a lot of time growing up there. "I'm a 'kid' who
just completely reoptimized your power grid, got rid of the power drains
and increased your sensor and weapons performance, tell me Lieutenant,
what have you been doing lately? These types of things are what a real
Engineer would be looking at immediately to try and fix. My parents
taught me no design is ever truly complete, someone just hasn't found a
way to make it better yet." Her eyes were the only thing that seemed
afire with anger, but she didn't raise her voice, shouting at the man
wouldn't do anything but make her look childish, "As for
over-engineering the problem as you said, the problem was under
engineering to start with. This ship may have been designed as a menace,
without any real teeth. I propose we change that, unless you want to
remain a toothless puppy chasing after shuttle craft? You're not far off
from it as it is." It was a snarky remark, but not an angry one, he had
called her a kid after all. "Captain, I'm not going to go on the
offensive and behead anyone, the mess on Kuat was bad enough, this
grating would take ages for janitorial to clean. Your engineer doesn't
know me, or my background, or why he should trust my design changes
regardless if I'm a quarter of his age. The systems that will be
affected will be down for a quarter hour at the most, as most of the
changes can be done at the same time. It's not engineering theory, I
tested it on an exact replica of this ship, at normal operating
Lieutenant Alexander had heard the
surname Kaen before, long ago when he served in the Corellian Defense
Force. He was surprised to learn that such a young woman was a member of
the Inquisitorius, a section that had tormented them to no end since
Inquisitor Thanor's arrival on the Warspite. "Are you related
to Henrik and Jerra Kaen?" he asked, not respond to the rest of her
questions, as he became focused on digging up old Corellian memories.
Such was a routine occurrence of men of his age, whose best days seemed
to be behind him. His mind dwelled on the past and the simplicity of
life before the two wars.
The hard edge that had dwelt in her
personality since Kuat dulled as a sense of profound sadness swept
across her expression, Kia shook her head slowly, her voice pitched only
for the Engineer and the Captain, "Not anymore I'm not, Lieutenant, and
please do not let my Master hear that you've made that connection. Blood
really is hard to clean out of grating or carpet, even if it's not my
job to do it. Does my background pass engineering scrutiny now?" The
edge had returned, perhaps it was simply she didn't like being reminded
of a family she couldn't contact or know.
"Well at least you're Corellian, kid,"
Lieutenant Alexander muttered, before walking away from the pair with
datadisk in hand. "I'll get to this," he informed them, as he placed the
disk in his grit teeth while he used both of his hands to steady himself
as he descended back into the pit. Once he had returned to his terminal,
he entered the disk and began reviewing her analysis in more detail with
the assistance of his staff.
"Again. I apologize for his manners,
Inquisitor," Captain Anson said apologetically, as he looked over the
young Inquisitor. It had seemed the mention of her past had somehow
phased her, and the mention of a warning concerning Inquisitor Thanor
was not particularly well received. "Is there anything else we can
assist you with?" he asked, as he let out a slight yawn from the fatigue
of the long shifts they had all been serving since Jelena's defection.
"He's Corellian, Captain, if he hadn't
questioned the design changes ... then I'd be worried. He caused no
offense or harm. I've been called worse than a kid, or girl. Will you be
able to ensure he doesn't speak of pasts better left forgotten? I've had
to dispose of one person already who made that connection, on my
Master's order, I would hate to see you lose a staff member because they
made a connection they shouldn't have," Kia said.
Tiberius was particularly concerned to
hear the girl describing how she had 'disposed' of someone, and frowned
noticeably at this revelation. "I may have to cut his allotment of
Corellian ale, but I will see that it is done, Inquisitor," he said,
with a small laugh, before looking back down towards the crew pits.
There was such a strong level of familiarity with the crew, and they
tended to gossip and speak out of turn. Privately, he was concerned that
the Lieutenant might not be able to contain himself, but he would not
reveal that to the Inquisitor.
Kia shook her head, indicating there was
nothing else she needed on the bridge, the events of the past week it
seemed were trying to tear everyone down. "That was all, Captain. Other
than get some rest, your crew as well. You won't catch a traitor if most
of your crew is asleep at their posts from fatigue." Without another
word, she turned and near silently stalked off of the bridge.
When the Inquisitor departed the Captain
frowned visibly, feeling an inner sadness at what he had just witnessed.
The child he knew only days ago had dramatically transformed into a
mirror of Inquisitor Thanor. He had no idea what had *really* transpired
on Kuat, but whatever had occurred must have had a profoundly negative
impact on the teenager. "Commander Hood, you have the bridge," he said,
rather curtly, before proceeding back to his quarters for some much