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Kit Gwynne and Sarah Riggs-Shute.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:2:9) in the Essesia system: Interrogator
High Inquisitor Serine Thanor and Colonel Mark Veller.

Mark arrived at the prescribed time and tugged at his tunic to make sure it was straight before pressing the button to announce himself. The High Inquisitor had just returned to active duty, one day later than she had planned at Mark's quiet insistence. His final question of "Do you want the rumor to spread that you had to tussle with the prisoner?" had finally gotten through to her and she very grudgingly acknowledged her face was still too swollen. Though he would have liked to recommend 48, he knew twenty four was as far as he could push her and he knew when to stop pushing.

Now, he just hoped Serine wasn't still angry with him for pointing that out, though he did do it in the privacy of the medical bay. He announced himself, took a deep breath, mentally chastised himself for not taking his pain medication before embarking on this report, his ribs were still a bit troublesome. He would need his full attention on this upcoming meeting. It was too late to go back for them when the door opened and he knew the High Inquisitor would frown upon the request that they wait while he went back for the medication. Luckily the shiner was finally fading, though still evident, and the last of that pain had disappeared recently. Striding in, he stopped in his usual spot, came to attention and bowed slightly, "Reporting as requested, High Inquisitor."

As the High Colonel entered the office, Serine raised herself up from behind her desk to greet him but it was obvious that she was still in quite a bit of pain. Her movements were slower than usual, with each step being deliberate as if she had to concentrate upon it. Unlike Veller, the Inquisitor refused to take pain medication as it had always been denied her when she was under the cruel tutelage of her formal master. She had been gruelingly trained and taught that stifling the pain with drugs was a weakness as she should have far better methods a Force user could focus upon. The swelling around her eyes and cheeks had significantly been reduced but another 24 hours would have been better still. The pain she battled left her grumpy and agitated and those feelings of contempt glistened darkly in silver eyes that glanced upon him. She was not angry directly at him, but her poor mood would likely quickly manifest in this meeting if he was not careful.

This meeting had been scheduled by her faithful servant Theo, but he had combined meetings for both Veller and Major Eona. At this time, Serra was currently working on pinpointing viable bombardment locations of Esseles so the High Inquisitor was willing to excuse her for now and decided to meet with that woman later after their operation had been successful, which she never doubted. "High Colonel, let us begin," she snapped quickly, wanting to get this tasteless report out of the way. The Bounty Hunters annoyed her, and she had been dreading this meeting, but the information he had gathered about Tonric was still valuable and she did in fact wish to know about that man. If Veller was satisfied he vetted the man enough, and would vouch for his abilities, Serine was willing to move forward with her plans for Kia's subordinate.

Mark was even more formal than usual as he spoke, "Of course, Milord," he said with a quick bow, then pulled out a datapad. "As you requested, I evaluated the current stock of Bounty Hunters." Pulling up the list he started to go down it. "El-Nay Darr is reckless. Any mission requiring stealth she should not be assigned to. Her tactical awareness is next to nothing, Sergeant Batua has stronger words for the lack, Milord. He recommends using her as a distraction."

He consulted the list again. "Rais Treistar and Alexis Lyra, both seem to have some level of competence and might actually be capable of working together. The Bounty Hunter Dyrdek Roujier is also competent enough."

He stopped a moment and sighed, not particularly happy with his performance with Dimona. "The bounty hunter Dimona Xirie Nuebla has absolutely no respect for authority. I cannot say if she will be capable of completing a mission or will become distracted by butterflies." Mark stopped to allow Serine to ask any questions.

There was no surprise on his report about El-Nay, and that woman had come close to the Inquisitor killing her on numerous occasions, but she had been successful in securing Min and the entire Void base of operations. Serine nodded at the opinions of the Sergeant, as that was the whole purpose of the Bounty Hunters in the first place. Her intent was for them to take the most difficult assignments and allow less disposable soldiers to clean up afterwards. So far, it had been successful, at least in one mission which was encouraging and gave her reason to continue moving forward with her plans. Hearing that Rais and Alexis were competent was promising. Perhaps they could be used for missions that may not result in their immediate death.

Finally, she sighed when she heard Dimona's name. There was absolutely nothing Veller could say about her mental capacity that Serine would not already know. The Inquisitor had an intimate confrontation during an interrogation with that bounty hunter and knew far more than she wanted to about her brand of insanity. But what she did not know, was the woman's combat capabilities. Despite her wild antics, Dimona had a surprising solid and steady record of achievements, which was contradictory to her self-destroying eccentrics. The hunter was also the source of the entire intel they held on The Void, Jelena Rodney and a slew of other vital development details. For these reasons, Serine had allowed this woman to live, despite what logic would have dictated, so she had been mildly interested in Veller's report about her. "Regarding Dimona, Explain." A blunt request was given for him to clear up his account.

Mark grimaced ever so slightly, he had been hoping to gloss over Dimona without much in the way of specifics. "Milord, when it came time to evaluate Dimona Xirie Nuebla," he continued, looking very uncomfortable, "upon entering the training room, she immediately began flirting with me, then laughed. Having dealt most of the day with the other Bounty Hunters' disregard for the Empire, this rubbed me the wrong way. I left her on the training room floor."

The High Inquisitor growled in displeasure at hearing that her orders were not carried out as her features twisted into an unwieldy look of hostility. She was already extremely annoyed and had to battle every moment in lingering searing pain with each step. Despite her anguish, she angrily paced back and forth in front of Veller uncertain of what course she needed to take. Having an officer report back to her without actually completing the task was unprecedented. She had tortured and executed members from this ship for far lesser crimes. Serine was so irate she did not even know how to proceed, she wasn't thinking clearly and her mind was clouded with malice. The Inquisitor stopped pacing to stand before him, but her posture was lowered like a predator about to strike. Her hands were clutching air at either of her sides as a rage filled her sharp gaze that bore into her High Colonel like multiple shards of metal. There was a sudden blur of movement as the back of Serine's right hand connected brutally to the side of Mark's face. The blow was significant, unexpected and powerful.

This was absolutely identical to the High Colonel's first meeting with the Inquisitor, but it had been Major Eona to receive the callous punishment. Now it was apparently his turn to face her unsightly wrath. "When I give you an order, you execute it!" She screamed at him with a severe bitterness, her voice filled with both animosity and agony. It could be gathered that by the way she was enraged, any lesser officer would have died. Mark's history with Serine had saved him from any life-threatening injuries. Despite her close bond with him, she felt betrayed. How could he fail her with something so simple. He had proven himself capable, valiant and steadfast in his loyalty, and here he allowed himself to be outwitted by a mere Bounty Hunter. She thought he was more clever than that. All she was asking for was a simple combat report ... and he could not deliver?

She needed to sit down, the inquisitor was not fully stable after getting so worked up. Serine was obviously pushing herself to perform her tasks before she was recovered enough to properly handle the strain. The Inquisitor turned from him while briefly pressing a few fingers to her forehead to hopefully ease the dizziness before she slowly made her way back to her desk. With a heavy sigh of disappointment and pain, she eased back down into her chair and gazed at him with a tired and disgruntled look. "Your report on Tonric."

Mark's head snapped to the side as the slap connected and pain exploded on the right side of his face as Serine's fingertips hit the edge of his shiner. Unlike Major Eona, Mark was knocked off balance for a brief moment, barely suppressing a grunt of pain as his ribs protested the sudden movement. There was the sound of his left foot returning him to his attention stance. When the High Inquisitor was seated and facing him again, he was standing as though nothing had happened, just the angry red mark on his cheek testimony to the slap.

It was probably best the High Inquisitor had turned away from Mark to miss the cacophony of emotions that crossed Veller's face. Rage blazed in his ice blue eyes that she would mete out such a punishment for his failure. But the rage was abruptly extinguished. She was correct, he had not executed her order with this one bounty hunter. It was also obvious to his trained eye Serine was still in a high degree of pain from her injuries.

Waiting until she was facing him from across her desk, he bowed his acceptance and merely said, "Yes, Milord," he offered no apology, his tone conveying his understanding. When she asked of Tonric, he felt a bit of relief, at least he could end this meeting on an upturn.

Swallowing, he tasted blood, but continued, "As per your order, I personally evaluated Tonric in a full contact spar. Interestingly enough, when I gave him the option of which to test first, his ranged proficiencies or his melee capacities, he chose melee. During this spar, though I scored first blood, we both delivered injuries to each other, that while non-life threatening, were enough to remove both of us from the active combat list. Mindful of your instructions, I ended the spar before we put each other into bacta tanks. His ranged capabilities, though diminished by injuries acquired during the spar, were more than adequate to the task. All in all, an excellent fighter, capable and willing to do what it takes to get the job done."

Mark paused a moment, "I believe I would come out on top in an actual fight, though Tonric would extract a hefty price for his defeat. I must, however, apologize for allowing him to take me off the active combat list. It will still be several weeks before I am reinstated to the active combat list, Milord." Mark stood at attention once again, his eyes staring forward at a spot just above Serine's seated head. The red mark on his cheek was still evident, though there was a hint of new bruising around the faded shiner. He took a deep breath to steady himself, his jaw clenching slightly at the pain from his ribs. Mark certainly hoped the High Inquisitor would not take further exception to his battle ready status, even though it had been at her order that he find out exactly how good Tonric was. Doing paperwork from a bacta tank was ... inconvenient.

Serine listened intently to his recollection of events and was quite satisfied with the results, this did wonders to remove the unsavory taste of failure from before. The full vetting of Tonric had been her utmost concern and he performed it very well, even put himself through a few injuries to do so. His personal involvement here was absolutely necessary because she trusted his judgment as a seasoned soldier to be able to examine and scrutinise him to a great degree without himself being personally invested. The Inquisitor could have tested Tonric herself, but that would have been far too problematic with her intense feelings on the matter. She felt it was far wiser to get another, and apparently she had chosen correctly. If Veller had only somehow managed to properly analyze just Tonric, it would have washed any other deficiencies away and Serine had already completely forgotten about his previous blunder. Now she could move forward with her final plan for Kia's companion.

The High Inquisitor seemed to gloss over the fact that her High Colonel had been injured during the fight. She did not question him on whatever he may be suffering from, nor did she particularly care. He was standing there now, alive, and successful in the main task she gave him. Whatever he happened to sustain during his vetting process was his own problem, and if he was wise, he would not make it Serine's problem. The only irritating part was that he had been out of combat service, but it was a necessary sacrifice to get the job done. His full report on Tonric's capabilities lightened her mood dramatically and for a moment she forgot how much pain she was currently in. "Excellent," she positively stated to her officer who she had just moments ago punished.

So it appeared her apprentice chose a significant combat expert to serve her. As it should be, and Serine was finding herself thinking upon Kia with pride. This was not the end of her plans to challenge Tonric, but merely the beginning. Now she knew he could at least handle himself, but she was not yet convinced that he deserved to be by Kia's side. He needed to prove his capabilities by surviving a specialized task given only to him. "You have interacted with Tonric enough to get a full gauge. I want you now to take time to consider a mission for him to complete alone." A few fingers tapped upon her desk as she swiveled her chair just slightly while in thought before she continued. "Something precarious." There was an ominous tone to her voice, and it could be gathered that Serine wanted a particularly dangerous mission in which he may never return from. "Not ... impossible," she added in case Veller got the wrong impression that she wanted him killed. "But perilous. If he doesn't return, he is not worthy to stand by my apprentice. Understood, High Colonel?"

Feeling both relieved and slightly put out, Mark nodded. He was very pleased the High Inquisitor was accepting of his report on Tonric. With an internal chuckle, he realized he begrudged the missed opportunity to expound on just how much damage had been dished out and taken in return. "Understood, Milord. I am confident, with Major Eona's help, a target can be determined that will test him appropriately."

He paused a moment, then spoke again, "There is one other, unrelated matter, Milord." he paused again, he would rather have ended this meeting on a high note, but he did need to ask before he continued with Kia's training in any manner. One hour of instruction might be overlooked as satisfying the young Inquisitor's curiosity, but continued instruction was entirely different.

"Inquisitor Kaen has requested I continue her training in ranged and melee combat. I suspect Tonric gave her some initial instruction. Given the state of my current injuries, I was unable to evaluate her hand to hand expertise, but her competence with a blaster was good enough," he said, "Have I your permission to continue the training?" He stood at attention, mentally and physically bracing himself in case her temper erupted.

His new request sparked a testy look from the Inquisitor who tapped at her desk in a more aggravated way. Kia was a sensitive topic for Serine and she was not terribly pleased to hear that Mark was adding some unauthorized training. "...Did she now..." Serine had the look of an overbearing parent that would murder anyone that even glanced at her apprentice in a wrong manner. She drew in breath slowly through clenched teeth as she eyed him with scrutiny. This situation was unique in that Kia had went to him for instruction, which was no small pain that became imbedded into Serine's chest. The Inquisitor should be able to provide the training her apprentice needed to succeed. Apparently there were some areas that were lacking, in such a significant way that the young Kaen was drawn to other avenues. There was also a concern that Kia could be wounded during the training, and without Serine present, she would not be able to mandate the lessons or the way they were presented. The fingers that had tapped upon the table were dragged until they were tightly fisted before she slammed that fist down upon her table with quite a bit of force. "If she is harmed, I will hold you directly responsible!" She glared at him dangerously, though it should be noticed that she did not deny his request.

Only the fact that too many drill sergeants had used that same tactic in an attempt to get him to jump prevented him from doing just that as Serine's fist slammed onto the table. "Understood, Milord." He felt now was not the best of times to remind the High Inquisitor that some training injuries were unavoidable. "I have nothing else at this moment, Milord," he said, his ribs were aching and though it felt a bit shameful, he only wanted to escape this meeting intact, before his ribs betrayed him.

After a moment passed for her to calm down from the initial temper, she realized she had something to add. "I want a full report on any training you give her. Methods, instructions, results. Everything." Annoyed but maintaining control enough not to escalate her frustration, she nodded once before motioning that he was free to leave. "Dismissed," she said before her thoughts quickly drifted to Kia, concerned that her apprentice was feeling as though she was not receiving enough training despite Serine's dedication to the matter. Regardless, more exercises from Mark may prove invaluable for the coming Citadel trial, and the Inquisitor was willing to allow him to continue if it would mean an improved chance of Kia's survival.

With a curt bow, "Of course, Milord," somehow conveying the insult he felt at having her give him the additional instructions. The young Inquisitor was under the High Inquisitor's command, of course, he would deliver a report on her progress. Turning smartly, Mark left the office before Serine could take umbrage at his response. Now, she would have to call him back to chew him out and he could legitimately argue that he had not heard the recall in the noise of the corridor.

A few turns and he allowed his pace to slow, coming more inline with what his ribs could easily handle. As COs went, Serine was a surprisingly good one, but if she was going to be angry with him, he preferred to be in top shape to answer it. He looked forward to training Kia as much as his schedule allowed. It would make a refreshing break from the rigors currently demanded of him. Now to find an assignment worthy of Tonric's skills.

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