Dunford remained deathly silent throughout the
entire transfer to the Interrogator, but although
his composure was quiet, his insides were
disturbingly turbulent. For the majority of the
trip, his eyes remained closed, and when they did
open, he stared at the floor paneling in front of
his feet, never once looking up to recognize the
pilot, and certainly not the High Colonel. His right
hand clutched his left arm in anguish and heartache,
trying his best not to manifest his suffering but
his faux cold persona that masked his anxieties was
completely failing him. The best he could do was
avoid all contact and mourn soundlessly to himself
the loss of the only friend he had on the ship. How
could he trust Veller now? The man so callously
threatened to reveal his wrongdoings to the High
Inquisitor if he should expose the Jedi and their
involvement. Bernard had put his life in Mark's
hands, trusting him completely and without falter
with information that could truly crush him, and
yet, he was horribly wronged and his trust cruelly
Was it true that the Jedi had saved their lives? It
seemed that way ... but Dunford never *asked* to be
saved, he was finally content to let his life end,
weary of the constant dread that consumed his him
every waking moment. He was willing to go out
spectacularly, and with the satisfaction that Jorad
or anyone else could never again harm him or
threaten him. Peace, rest and eternal slumber could
have accompanied him, but now, only angst and
unease. No matter how strong he had been in the
past, that fear slowly ate away at him, slowly
chipping him and reducing him into a mere shell of
the confident and honest man he used to be. He was
disgusted with himself, and now even more so, that
he would be forced into silence when it was Mark who
was in the wrong. How could the High Colonel do
this? How could he protect the very people who
sought galactic anarchy?
There was still an out for Dunford, a final
conclusion to his suffering, and now he heavily
considered it. Perhaps it didn't matter anymore if
anyone found out about his deception and stealing.
For some reason the fear of death didn't seem to
have the same hold on him than it used to, perhaps
because he already died once. The real threat now
was the shame of betraying his main purpose as an
Imperial officer, could he live with that disgrace?
The guilt of full betrayal weighing on him day after
day could easily eventually overtake the fear of
pain and punishment. Was he so miserable that he had
no further shred of his humanity? At what point
would he say enough was enough, that he would
finally do something? Take control back in his life?
That was what he was missing ... control, but he
could have that control again, the only thing
actually holding him back was himself.
Thoughts drifted back to when Jorad bound him with
wire ... and he had made a choice to end his life.
That was real control, Dunford had made a decision
for once regarding his own life, and that power was
rejuvenating. He could do that again ... all he
would have to do was tell High Inquisitor Thanor the
truth, tell her *everything*, and finally he would
be free of all the pain and fear of his prior
transgression and guilt that was now haunting him.
It wouldn't matter if she killed him, not anymore.
*That was real power*, and it could be Dunford's. He
could check out this life knowing that he finally
made the right decision, that he didn't bow to fear
anymore. That realization was when eyes opened and
peered over towards Mark, and for the first time,
Veller would see something very dangerous that was
lacking in Bernard before. A man with conviction
stared at him silently.
Mark was silent on the way up to the Interrogator,
ignoring the chatter coming out of the pilot's
mouth. In some ways he was glad, it made
conversation awkward and he had some hard and fast
thinking to do before reaching the Interrogator.
Dunford, he hoped, was handled for the moment. If he
was as ruthless as an Inquisitor, he would arrange
for Dunford die a quick death. The man was now a
danger to him, privy to a secret worse than a
scrambler, an association with a Jedi. He was not
sure how to handle this. The swiftness of the recall
left him little time to win Dunford over to his side
and keep him there.
Giving out a soft sigh, he moved on to his other
problem. There was nothing more to be done about
Dunford, he would either betray Mark or he would
not. Mark would have to deal with Dunford as he came
up. The question now was what to do about the High
Inquisitor and her offer of training. Also what, if
anything, to say about recent events. Lying to her
was distasteful, but he could not see a way of
telling her the whole truth without sentencing
Dunford to a messy death.
Rubbing his brow, he let out another sigh.
Inquisitor Jorad. The High Inquisitor had mentioned
information leaked to Inquisitor Tremayne. Had
Inquisitor Jorad been sent by Tremayne? Mark tended
to think not from what Jorad had said, but he could
not dismiss the possibility. Did not the High
Inquisitor deserve to know? And if so, how to tell
it to her without exposing Dunford? There was also a
matter of revenge, but that was something to pursue
in the distant future. He first had to get there.
Thoughts of Jorad brought up Master Roste as well.
Now *that* was a problem. A Jedi. Dunford knew he
was a Jedi and had probably picked up that Mark knew
him well. Never mind that it had been twenty years
since Mark had last seen him. The missing comm link
was probably with Master Roste and that presented
him with another problem. What to do when Master
Roste decided to use the comm link? That problem,
however, was one for another day. The High
Inquisitor was the one to tackle now.
He gave one last glance to Dunford and his eyes
narrowed slightly at the change in the man. He
recognized that look, having seen it in himself so
many times before. Dunford had made a decision, one
that did not include himself. Feeling the shuttle
land, he let out a soft sigh, almost unnoticeable.
Dunford had made his choice, now it was time to make
his. In doing so, he hoped to still protect Dunford
from the High Inquisitor's wrath. The man was a good
officer, and the Empire did not deserve to lose him
because of a mistake Mark had made.
Once the engines began to cycle down, he undid his
harness and stood, giving his uniform its usual tug.
With a nod to Dunford, he exited the ship to find an
escort waiting for him. Though he felt like a man
going to his own execution, his step did not show it
as he neared those waiting for him. Handing over his
bag to a waiting aide, he motioned for the escort to
take him wherever they had their orders. He only
hoped the High Inquisitor would allow him to explain
before she let loose her wrath.
The moment Dunford left the shuttle, he was planning
on immediately reporting to the High Inquisitor, but
to his surprise, there was a Stormtrooper escort
waiting for Veller. Respectfully but insistently,
they informed the High Colonel that they were to
take him directly to the Inquisitor without delay or
detour. Bernard softly cursed to himself as he
watched them move through the hangar bay, leaving
him behind. The Lieutenant was convinced that Mark
was going to be dishonest with Thanor based off the
episode in the resort and the fierce look they had
shared moments prior exiting the shuttle.
Dunford was very concerned that Veller would move to
counter him and already had the advantage. His
superior was getting to speak with her first, and
could weave any lie he saw fit, including something
to get Dunford incarcerated before he even had a
chance. The Inquisitor would also be far more likely
to believe Mark over Bernard considering his place
by her side ... the Lieutenant had everything
against him, except the truth. At least *that* was
on his side. Determined to finally have control in
his life, he made haste towards his own room so that
he could contact Theo. A high priority message was
sent to the small avian creature to meet up with him
in his room, and even though it was terribly abrupt,
he hoped Theo would honor his request considering
they managed to resolve conflicts in the past,
although with some push and shove.
Dunford did not want to tip Mark off anymore than he
may already have by forcing his way into the
Inquisitor's office by making a scene, or by
following the escort, or even meeting up with Theo
in the slave's room that was right across the hall
from the High Inquisitor's office. Dunford
definitely felt that he was racing against the
chronometer and anxiously awaited Theo' arrival,
pacing around his room impatiently, knowing that
Veller was speaking to the Inquisitor as he
floundered around in his room without a solid plan.
Theo was uneasy with crest feathers streaked with
black. Master Thanor was tense, more abrupt than
usual. The flurry of orders had put the Interrogator
on a war footing. Theo had just completed the last
round of orders and was heading back to Master
Thanor's office when Dunford's request came through.
At first, Theo was tempted to ignore it. Master
Thanor probably had more for Theo, but then Theo
remember Master Thanor gave orders for High Colonel
Veller to be escorted to Master Thanor's office once
shuttle return. Master Thanor probably not want Theo
there for whatever Master Thanor discuss with High
So Theo changed plans and went to Dunford's
quarters. Putting in his access code, he entered
Dunford's quarters without warning and demanded,
"What Dunford want?"
Dunford was overcome with relief when he saw Theo
standing by the door to his quarters and ushered him
inside quickly and eagerly. "Theo!" He exclaimed
with a gasp and a smile, seeming far less restrained
and tormented, but urgency shone brightly in his
eyes. "I need your help! I have got to have a
meeting with the High Inquisitor as soon as
possible, preferably her next appointment." Dunford
was still in a ditch considering that whatever Mark
told her could inadvertently cause her to clear her
schedule and refuse any further meetings. Colonel
Veller could be telling her anything right now.
"Insanity happened at that resort, some serious
conflict, I have to speak to her about it! You
wouldn't believe me ... I am also afraid she won't
A thought sparked in his mind as he looked to Theo
for any possible chance to disrupt that meeting
without making it look like the meeting was
disrupted. "Is there any way at all to prematurely
end their conversation? Or ... can we listen in on
their conversation? I feel the High Colonel may be
moving against me ... I don't even know if I have
time to explain anything. I may be detained shortly,
I just don't know anything." Dunford took a deep
breath then eased it out to calm himself, his words
were zipping around without much thought to them,
well, he just felt so invigorated. The promise of
freedom after so many years of the heavy burden
breaking him was energizing his actions. There was a
sense of incredible alleviation with the intention
of coming clean with everything, it was marvelous.
Theo stood in shock at change in Dunford. Theo's
mind swirled in confusion at what Dunford saying.
High Colonel Veller moving against Dunford? Theo
cocked his head to one side, peering at Dunford.
Dunford go insane? What cause change in Dunford?
Theo clicked his beak together in annoyance. Master
Thanor not like interruption, this Theo know very
well. But if something wrong with High Colonel
Veller, Master Thanor need know, right?
But Theo already know something wrong with Dunford.
Then Dunford's words penetrated. Spy on meeting?
Theo shivered thinking of fate if Master Thanor find
out. Even ancestors not able to stop Master Thanor
Theo squawked, "Spy on Master Thanor?!? Dunford want
get Theo dead?" he ruffled his feathers in
agitation. "Master Thanor next appointment, Dunford
can have. Theo not see problem with that." Theo
pulled out a datapad, talons clicking on it before
putting it away. "There, Dunford have next
appointment, swap with head of TIE Fighter Starboard
Division. Dunford get notification now."
Dunford's datapad blurbled with the notification of
an appointment with the High Inquisitor in an hour's
time. Theo was still uneasy. Changing Master
Thanor's schedule on Dunford's plea was big time
irregular. If Master Thanor think time wasted, Theo
be the one in trouble. But something change Dunford,
something Master Thanor might need know and Theo get
in worse trouble if not bring to Master Thanor's
Theo left Dunford's quarters quickly and hurried to
own rooms. Master Thanor not want Theo there with
High Colonel Veller, but Theo need to be available,
so Theo go to where Master Thanor can find Theo
easily. Once inside, Theo shrank into corner of
room, holding head in talons. Theo just hope Theo
made right decision. Theo not bother pray to
ancestors as Theo knew if Theo wrong, ancestors not
protect him from Master Thanor's displeasure.
Theo not stop trembling, curled up in the corner,
seeing video of High Colonel Veller with Master
Thanor impassionately whipping High Colonel Veller
to almost death in mind. Theo still heard screams.
In Theo's nightmares, screams were Theo's. Theo hope
Theo not wrong.
Exiting the shuttle, Mark found an escort waiting
for him with a summons to report to the High
Inquisitor. Glad he had taken the time to change
back into his uniform, he handed over his one piece
of luggage to an aide, then nodded to the escort. No
worry shown on his face as they escorted him out of
the docking bay. He would know soon enough if he was
being escorted to a cell or to the High Inquisitor,
a meeting which might end with him in a cell.
It felt odd in some ways to be wearing his uniform.
He would not have thought a few days of civilian
clothes would create such a change. But then,
perhaps the change was not in the clothes, but in
him. The escort stopped at the High Inquisitor's
door and Mark pressed the comm to announce his
presence. Once again he was aware High Inquisitor
was beyond the door before it even opened. When it
did, he stepped inside, but quickly discovered
moving to his usual position would be hazardous to
his health. He watched with a touch of awe as she
completed her kata.
He took a moment to study her as she returned to her
desk, noting the exotic look the white hair and
silver eyes gave her. "Milord," he said after a
short bow, "Reporting as ordered." Mark still had no
plan as to what he would tell her. Nothing,
everything, something in between? The conviction in
Dunford's eyes told him he would be speaking with
the High Inquisitor if he could. Mark saw no reason
why she would refuse Dunford's request which brought
the question, how much would Dunford tell the High
Inquisitor? Everything? If there were discrepancies,
which one of them would win out? He awaited her
questions, knowing the answers would help determine
what path he would take.
Mark wondered briefly why Dunford was suddenly
willing to speak with the High Inquisitor when he
had spent years avoiding any confrontation, but
perhaps the experience with Inquisitor Jorad had
grown a spine within Dunford. If so, Mark thought it
an improvement, even if it did cause problems for
him. Officers willing to take a stand were needed
within the Empire.
The sounds of heavy lashes and cracks filled her
office as the High Inquisitor ran through a series
of lightwhip velocities with precision finesse. What
would have been an elegant display was aggressive
and spiteful, with vicious fury in each strike. The
High Inquisitor was terribly aggravated despite
having some of her darker appetites satiated with
the recent interrogation. The information she
managed to pry from Ensign Felthan Doral caused her
to be in a heightened state of alarm due to the
uncertainty swirling around her former master's
involvement. With even the mere mention of Tremayne,
Serine would become highly erratic and volatile,
even more so than usual. There were no words to
properly describe her severe loathing for that
sinister and malevolent man. His very existence was
a continuous stain on her life, a hideous blotch
that she swore to erase from history.
He was a patient and calculative bastard which made
him all the more dangerous, and his obsession with
her was never failing or fading. He was a truly sick
and twisted individual who was more than willing to
do what it took to claim her as his once again.
Currently, Tremayne had limited options to enact an
assault on her, being demoted to Inquisitor, losing
the Interrogator, being humiliated and falling from
Lord Vader's favor were all against him, but ... she
knew that wouldn't stop him forever. She had
successfully crushed his career, and stole
everything of value from him, except his life.
Serine had been prevented from killing him due to
the rules of the Challenge of Ascension, leaving him
a broken and battered man, but with his life intact.
He couldn't officially challenge her. Though it
would be frowned upon to engage her, Tremayne
wouldn't care as long as he got what he wanted, and
he was likely willing to do anything, including
sabotage her ship ... and torture her officers to
Due to this new threat she uncovered, Serine had
placed multiple events into motion in rapid
succession, and was impatiently awaiting all of them
to conclude. As she paced around the room,
performing her combat art, hasty stares were given
impatiently to her terminal, awaiting word from any
number of people she charged with an objective. She
had tasked Major Petrovna to retrieve the family
information on Ensign Doral and tasked her
interrogation team to patch up the Ensign so she
could further question him, perhaps without the need
for additional motivation. She did recently receive
word that High Colonel Veller and Lieutenant Dunford
landed which was a heavy relief and did some to
placate her growing anxieties. With Tremayne lurking
in the back of her mind, no steps she took could be
too careful, and thus she was rigorously practicing
her battle techniques just to steady her nerves and
remind herself that she was capable of defending her
ship and her crew from him or whomever he should
send. There were very few individuals she was truly
intimidated of, and none of them would have
Tremayne's corner at this time, not after his
colossal failure in their duel.
Serine was in the middle of a velocity when Veller
entered, and thus he got a rare witness to her
abilities that were far more honed than the
restrained spars she humored him with in the past.
Once completed, and with a sigh of profound
exertion, she began to ravel her whip as she walked
towards her desk. After she lowered herself into the
seat, she intently peered at her High Colonel with a
piercing stare of consequence. "I am moving us out
of orbit around Corulag, out of this system and into
open space for the time being. I can't be sure when
we will be attacked, but I did not wish to take any
chances. Inquisitor Tremayne, while fallen from
grace, has resources still available to him, and
subjects he still controls with fear. One of the
officers on board, Ensign Felthan Doral, was one
such unfortunate underling that recently sent
Tremayne information that he gathered from the
Interrogator. I do not know what was sent yet, but
once the Ensign recovers enough for further
questioning, I will retrieve that information as
Silver eyes washed over Veller with veiled concern,
noting he seemed in fine health. He had been
completely exposed and unprotected on the surface,
and she was angry at herself for being so careless.
Serine was really fortunate nothing happened to him.
Just the threat of losing Veller harmed her in a way
she had not anticipated nor understood, and it
caused her to almost fly off the handle. "Your shore
leave would have been a perfect opportunity for him
to take you. He would have used you to force me to
confront him, likely into a trap, or slowly
eviscerate you just to hurt me. Regardless of his
choice, you would not have survived. This is the
kind of man we may have to deal with. I am going to
have to cut your liberty short, but under the
circumstances, I think you understand. Work with
Major Petrovna to further root out any other
possible spies and apprehend them for questioning.
Understood, High Colonel?"
Mark listened to the High Inquisitor intently,
trying to fathom the extent of recent events onboard
the Interrogator. At her mention of shore leave and
the possibility of being taken, he grew uneasy. Had
Inquisitor Jorad been part of that trap? And what of
Master Roste? Why had he trusted him so easily? The
man had abandoned him twenty years ago. What had
happened during those twenty years? Could it all
have been an elaborate setup to get data out of him?
Had he been manipulated?
When the High Inquisitor finished, he said, "I
understand, Milord," he turned away to leave and
then turned back, "Inquisitor Tremayne may have
already moved against you, Milord." He continued at
the High Inquisitor's questioning look. "Milord,
I..." Mark looked unsure of himself, as if unable to
shake a feeling. Mark took in a deep breath and then
let it out, "Milord, Lieutenant Dunford and I were
... kidnapped by Inquisitor Jorad yesterday morning.
He managed to drug both of us. I was the first to
awake, finding we were both bound in what I assume
was the cargo hold of his ship. In an attempt to get
free, I discovered Inquisitor Jorad had used the
same manner of cuffs on me as you did. Lieutenant
Dunford was bound before me by thin wires which were
cutting into his skin. When Inquisitor Jorad
appeared, he offered me a deal. He would allow
Lieutenant Dunford to go free if I willingly went
with him to Prakith. At first, I thought it was
someone posing as an Inquisitor, but as the
encounter continued, I became convinced he was an
Imperial Inquisitor. I refused the offer, of course,
Inquisitor Jorad not having legal transfer orders."
His eyes darkened remembering the pain and agony by
Jorad, "Inquisitor Jorad then attempted to convince
me of the error of my ways by activating the stun
cuffs. Once again he extended his offer but adding
in a dire end for both of us if I did not comply."
He took in a deep breath, fighting the anger and
burning desire to crush Jorad, and let it out,
returning to his report, he continued, "He offered
to train me, stating that my remaining with you
would only make me a slave to you, but with him, I
would be free to serve the Empire as I willed. I
fear at this point I allowed my temper get the
better of me, insulted he thought I would so
willingly change my loyalties. I told him no. He
once again activated the cuffs and it was during
this time Lieutenant Dunford took the opportunity
Inquisitor Jorad's sloppy interrogation technique
afforded him in an attempt to die. Knowing he had
lost all possibility of victory, Inquisitor Jorad
then attempted to kill me using his lightsaber."
Pausing a moment, he considered how to word the next
part, "I... Milord, the next part of this story may
sound traitorous, but I ask that you hear me out
until the end. As Inquisitor Jorad was making his
decision to eliminate both of us, my only thoughts
were regret that my service to you was ending in
such a manner. I held little hope you would discover
what had happened to us. Just as Inquisitor Jorad
made his thrust to end my life, another lightsaber
halted it. Inquisitor Jorad accused this newcomer of
being a Jedi. In the fight that ensued, Inquisitor
Jorad was knocked senseless for several hours. The
Jedi then turned his attention to somehow heal
Lieutenant Dunford's grievous injuries.
"I fear at this point, I may not have been thinking
clearly, having received several shocks. Once the
Jedi released me from my bonds after tending to
Lieutenant Dunford, I placed the stun cuffs on
Inquisitor Jorad to prevent his continued pursual of
us," Mark deciding not to mention his original
intent to end Inquisitor Jorad's life. Few people in
Mark's life had warranted being hunted down and even
there, Mark had pushed aside the desire in favor of
continued service to the Empire. Inquisitor Jorad,
however, had changed that. Mark wanted to feel
Jorad's life fade from him by his own hand. He also
was unsure how the High Inquisitor would react
learning he wished one of the Inquisitorius dead by
his own hand.
"We fled, all three of us, Lieutenant Dunford was
unconscious, and returned to the beach house,"
forgetting decorum, Mark ran a hand through his hair
nervously, then remembered where he was and
continued the story, "Milord, this morning I... I
ended up telling him of the punishment you dealt me.
When your call came through, I did not tell you he
was there. Upon hearing your statement of Inquisitor
Tremayne, I find myself deeply troubled and
wondering if this Jedi was indeed part of some plot
against you. Looking back upon the events of
yesterday, he appeared at an terribly convenient
time to save our lives and gain my trust.
"This Jedi did not kill Inquisitor Jorad, merely
managed to knock him out. Milord, I am no expert on
the Jedi, but is it possible Inquisitor Jorad and
this Jedi were working together? An attempt to get
at you through me?
Once again, he looked up at the High Inquisitor, "Is
it possible I was somehow manipulated into
confessing details that could be damaging to you,
Milord?" Mark asked, wondering at the level of trust
he had given to a man he had not seen for twenty