Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Kit Gwynne and Sarah Riggs-Shute.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:2:35) in the Essesia system: Interrogator.
High Inquisitor Serine Thanor and Colonel Mark Veller.

His comm beeped and for a few moments, Mark could only stare at it. The High Inquisitor was summoning him to her office. It took an effort to make his hand move to comm and acknowledge. Standing from his desk, he gave his tunic it's customary tug and headed for the door, stopping just before it would open. Questions were roiling through his head and they all started with what if.

Irradiated he was suddenly acting like a fresh boot being summoned to a talk with his sergeant, he gave his tunic another tug and left his office. Damnit, he thought to himself, I am a High Colonel with over fifteen years of service to the Empire. Why do I feel this way?

As he strode through the corridors on his way to see the High Inquisitor, he knew why he felt that way, though he did not want to admit it. His rank and service meant nothing if she was displeased with him. And he was not sure what would please her any more after his berserk attack. Or perhaps, more to the point, he did not know what would displease her and having experienced her displeasure once, had no desire to do so again.

Feeling more confident, seeing the respect, awe and fear in those he passed, it all dissipated as he stood outside her office, his hand poised to announce he had arrived. Another confusing thought entered his head. He was aware that Serine was behind the door, knew it with a certainty he could not explain. Of course, he chided himself, she just summoned you to her office, did she not? It would not make sense for her to have left between the summons and his arrival, which he hoped was punctual enough.

Shaking his head at the impossibility, yet unable to shake the feeling, he pressed the comm, signaling he had arrived and was awaiting permission to enter. Giving his tunic that final tug, he still felt unsettled by the feeling of her presence he was unable to shake. A few seconds later, the door opened and Mark stepped into the office, his ice blue eyes scanning for dangers before coming to rest on the High Inquisitor at her desk, noting that Theo was not in the office...

Standing where he usually stood, a few paces away from the desk, he came to attention and bowed, then said, "Milord," unreasonably proud of keeping the confident tone in his voice, even though he felt like he should be shaking in his boots. Show no fear, he told himself, no weakness, even if inside you are terrified.

The High Inquisitor sensed the distinctive presence of Veller as he approached her office through the newly developed Force bond they shared. Although established, its weak strength did not allow her to perceive his emotions or thoughts, merely his close proximity. Despite this, he would unknowingly participate in this sensation and it would likely confound him. Serine wondered if the man would brush it off or dismiss the feeling entirely without pondering its significance. It was fortunate for her that he was nave in the ways of the Force, and she desired to keep it that way for now. She had spent a great deal of time watching Veller the day he returned to duty. She had to make certain that his hidden innate abilities remained sealed even after they had been so violently unlocked during their fateful spar. She could not afford that information to leak out and fall into the wrong hands.

The Interrogator had an extensive surveillance network that blanketed the entire ship. There was not a single room that was not wired, even Serine's own office was tapped for security purposes. With the High Inquisitor's clearance, she could monitor any collection of rooms that interested her. She rarely used her surveillance privileges but she had made a special case for Veller. Serine had even watched him walk down the hallways after he was summoned, taking mental note of his mannerisms and the time it took for him to arrive. Due to her constant vigilant observation of him, she had given Theo a few days off for recreation so he would not know of her activities. Once he entered her room, she exited from the series of video wiretaps upon her monitor and closed all programs. Serine sat behind her desk dauntless and assertive. "High Colonel Veller," she addressed him with a stoic quality to her voice. "We have much to discuss."

There was a long pause as the High Inquisitor leaned back into her chair as she eyed him carefully. Untethered and unrestrained, he posed a serious risk to himself and the crew, and not just from physical damages. There was a real threat of his little rampage attracting unwanted attention from very powerful Force users looking for an apprentice. Her stern voice broke the silence, "At no point are you to mention *to anyone* your tendencies to lose control. This is absolutely vital." Mark had no idea what power dwelled in the deep recesses of his being, but he did not have to in order to understand the grave situation he was in. Serine could easily explain everything to him clearly without mentioning the Force at all. "Your outburst could potentially be very costly," said as her voice took an ominous tone as silver eyes gleamed rigidly at him. It was going to be important to make him understand certain truths now, without shattering his conception of reality.

"Your anger makes you powerful." Mark had managed to harm the High Inquisitor in hand-to-hand combat, more than anyone had in quite some time. Surely he realized just how significant that had been. "There are those from the Inquisitorius and elsewhere who would desire to claim your power as their own. In the past, you have kept clear from that reality by controlling those tendencies and keeping them from view ... until now." A shimmer of ambition burned brightly in the Inquisitor's eyes as she stared at Veller. There had been a very real change the moment Serine had welcomed him back into her service after his horrid ordeal. He had felt it in his very core for a reason. While it was true that everyone on board was rightfully hers to do with as she pleased, it wasn't until he willingly succumbed to her punishment had she put a claim to his very life. Her mercy had come with a hefty price, his soul, and his life had been purchased with his own blood.

Eyes narrowed as she scrutinized his features while she spoke, looking for any hints of his emotions that may betray him. "You surrendered your life to me, and I claimed it ... but there is a possibility that others will challenge my claim."

Hearing the words, "We have much to discuss" made Mark's heart sink though he did not let it show. Those words had often been used as a prelude to yet another battle with a commanding officer over something that eventually lead to his transfer. Standing alert, he waited for her next words, expression blank while steeling himself for the usual round of platitudes about his stellar service record that just wasn't compatible with the rest of the officers. This was the usual lead up to his transfer orders.

His heart returned as she continued speaking, giving no indication she was considering transferring him off the Interrogator. He listened intently to her words. His eyes flashing briefly when she mentioned his anger, but otherwise, his expression did not change. After she reminded him of her claim on his life, he spoke.

"My lord," he started, there was an extra tenor to his voice that had not been there before, mixed in with his formal and controlled manner of speaking, "I came to the same conclusion about the specifics of our spar, though not for the same reasons. Lt. Dunford actually asked me if I had attacked you. I merely told him there was a mishap which for which I was responsible. It is my hope that the word will spread it was an accident for which I was," his eyes darkened slightly as he drew a breath, "appropriately punished."

He paused for a moment, considering his words, his gaze going to the floor before returning to Serine, "Milord, I admit to being puzzled at your statement that another Inquisitor might wish my services. There are plenty of Stormtrooper officers capable of the same duties I have aboard your command.

"As for my ... outburst, I wish to formally apologize for whatever harm I have done. Such was never my intent. I have long known my anger to be a driving part of my life. Several of my mentors mentioned it, warning me of the consequences. Hence I learned to contain it." He added ruefully, "Mostly," conscious of the scar under his left eye.

Mark took a moment to get his suddenly seething emotions under control. Raising his eyes once again, "As for your claim on my life, I swear to you, that claim may only be broken with my death. I will do whatever is demanded to defend that claim, Milord." The additional tone in his voice became apparent as he spoke, a steadfast certainty and promise of obedience and dedication.

The High Inquisitor needed to phrase her responses in a way that Veller could understand without challenging his notion of how he believed the universe to function. It was far too soon to indoctrinate him into her world, but with the beginning of his reconditioning through punishment, she had decided to slowly acclimate him. Serine desired to eventually be able to explain things to him, but her short term goal was to make him understand he was imbued with power. She wanted to do this without detailing the mythical aspect of an energy that surrounds all things. Veller was a logical and headstrong individual, who may resist and deny such fanciful tales if approached with them. For a moment, she pondered if it would be possible to train him in his usage of the Dark side without ever mentioning the Force. She wondered what he thought of the time they sparred when he was held by her telekinetic abilities. Perhaps he purposely overlooked that element due to his confusion or his conviction that he had been berserk, thus mentally unsound to reason. He might have even believed he hallucinated it.

"Your unique ability to gain power while enraged is very appealing to those in the Citadel, and those outside of it. Your talents could attract the eager attention of not just Inquisitors, but anyone strong enough, skilled enough ... or foolish enough to challenge my claim on your life. If word managed to travel of your capacity, it would put you and this vessel in potential danger." Serine eyed him attentively, curious in how he would take this information. It may come of a shock for Veller to realize that he was valuable enough not only for others to seek him out, but for Serine to actively wish to fight them off to keep him. Force users were extremely adamant about acquiring potential apprentices, going to great lengths to secure them. Their frenzied desires were only heightened due to the increasing rarity of unclaimed Force sensitive individuals left in the galaxy. Serine was very confident in her competence, experience and expertise, thus she believed she would be able to fend off any such contender handedly.

Though she was only permitted one official Inquisitor apprentice at a time, this did not mean she was barred from training others unofficially in other capacities not related to the Inquisitorius. "You are valuable to me as a High Colonel, that will never change, it being your primary occupancy. However ... I have considered an alternate route for you that includes specific training to direct the usage of your anger. To keep that power under constant containment is an unfortunate waste. With proper guidance, you will not have to." She leaned forward upon her desk, lacing her fingers together as she stared at him intently. "But such training will be intense, rigorous and painful. This decision is heavily weighted and will significantly change your life, because of this, I will not make this choice for you. This is something you alone must decide on." Though his potential was enormous, Serine was content of his service to her and had no desire to forcefully push him into this dangerous instruction. Many did not live long after embracing the Dark side, there were tremendous risks involved.

"You have a fear of losing yourself to that power, it is understandable. Regardless of what you decide, your place serving by my side is assured. Take the necessary time to consider before you decide." Serine did not wish to pressure him on this vastly monumental decision nor did she wish for him to get the wrong impression that he had no choice on the matter. His services were extremely vital to her as a High Colonel, and although he would be vastly even more useful as a Force user, if his heart was not wholly invested in that venture, he would likely lose his life in the audacious challenges, and then she would have nothing. He was a specialized breed, and would need very harsh lessons to reach his full potential. The High Inquisitor had realized during his incarceration and brutal lashing, that his skill set and his berserker tendencies made him potentially fit to be a Marauder. The road he would have to travel to reach that goal would be a cruel one, but Serine knew exactly how to unlock that potential.

Mark was silent, his mind trying to work with what Serine said. It was an interesting sensation to realize that far from transferring Mark off the Interrogator, the High Inquisitor was willing to take steps insuring he remained in her service. No other commanding officer had ever objected to his being transferred let alone declare his service was desired. He let out a breath he was not aware he was holding in. The Interrogator suddenly went from a ship to a home, something Mark had not really missed before, not having a place before where his residence was wanted.

Memories of the spar and his subsequent punishment came back to him, along with echoes of that sweet desire to inflict pain and kill. That desire and rage was no stranger to Mark. He knew it was the driving force behind his choice of career. Properly channeled, it could make the difference between victory and defeat on the battlefield. Belatedly, Mark realized it was that rage within him that enabled him to handily defeat and kill 16 grown men intent on doing him harm, an event he had buried and forgotten.

His eyes darkened a moment, fists unconsciously clenching. He felt that rage in the back of his head, demanding release, threatening to break free if his concentration wavered, promised all sorts of bloody revenge on those who had wronged him. The spar with Serine had been more than just his losing his temper. Something had awoken and changed within him. His anger, once safely caged, was no longer content. Or perhaps, more correctly, Mark understood that it had never truly been caged, just subdued, the advantage or disadvantage of time and experience.

He studied the High Inquisitor as his thoughts flitted from one thing to another. By his own oath, he would do whatever she commanded and there was a moment of gratitude that she was not pulling those strings. Memories returned, unbidden, of their spar and he was reluctantly having to admit there were powers in the universe he could not explain.

When Serine had pushed him away after he broke her arm, the most she should have been able to push him was a few steps. He outweighed her by a far margin. Yet, she threw him across the room and literally into the wall. All without touching him. It was as if a bomb had gone off right in front of him. But if that had happened, he should be gruesomely dead and he was not. He had no explanation for what had happened or his survival.

"One of my mentors told me if I was not careful of my anger that it would consume me, making a monster of me," Mark said in a distant tone of voice, "What he did not offer was a way to get rid of my anger, just urging me to find a place within myself where there was no passion, only serenity." His eyes were unfocused staring at the wall beyond Serine.

Letting out a deep breath, "He vanished after my... run in the Trinity gang," his eyes refocused back to the present. "The irony was I only found that serenity in the sparring ring. Outside the ring, my anger at the universe returned. Anger fueled by the apparent bonds my poor birth imposed upon me, an anger I could channel through the Empire."

His gaze returned to the High Inquisitor, "Milord, permission to speak freely?" he asked Serine.

Serine was unable to contain the spark of anger that flickered intently in her eyes once Mark exposed some unsavory details of his past life. It most certainly sounded like his younger self had a run-in with a Jedi at some point. No other group of individuals so blinded by their dogma spoke in such a fashion about denying the importance of passion. If Veller had indeed received significant training from this unknown entity, then this added a new level of complication. Surely that individual was long since gone, either dead or in hiding, as Mark had recalled an event that happened while he was still a teen. It was the duty of members of the Inquisitorius to track down Jedi and either bring them into the fold, or to remove their treachery from existence. However, there was little point in this situation since the trail was far too cold to pursue, but it left an increasingly bitter taste in the High Inquisitor's mouth.

Now knowing that Mark had guidance from a Jedi in the past, it made more sense on how he was able to contain his rage for so long, and his destiny would have been far different if his instructor had not deserted him. "He left you because he was a coward," Serine mocked his past teacher with acidity to her voice, a deep pain becoming present on her features due to her own jagged past of being abandoned by a Jedi mentor. The discovery of this surprised history made the Inquisitor all the more anxious to train the High Colonel, to erase any traces of instruction left behind by this disgraceful Jedi, but she needed to be careful here. Serine did not wish to frighten him by excessive zeal or bury him in mandatory commands. She wanted him to come to her voluntarily and willing to learn; she would have it no other way with something so important and dangerous.

The High Inquisitor was certain she could give Mark a satisfying outlet for his anger, daresay even a healthy one, far better than it being bottled up and exploding without control. But despite her knee-jerk reaction of heavy annoyance from before, Serine acknowledged that the Jedi had been successful in teaching Veller how to control his anger, that being no easy task. She did not know how he felt about his previous mentor, perhaps it would be in her best interest to walk a bit of her harsh sentiment back. "The control you learned served you well enough, but the cracks are now visible in the barrier you have constructed. I can teach you other ways to manage your more violent emotions," said confidently to the other as she rallied to regain her stoic expression. Serine had managed to convert a Jedi's apprentice, Kia Kaen, into a loyal Inquisitor disciple, thus she had experience in promoting alternate points of view, and had no doubt she could recondition Veller.

Her High Colonel understandably had questions he wished to ask her. She was willing to humor him for the most part. "You may, but know that truth is often unpleasant, " she said in response to his request for more open conversation.

Mark was a bit startled at Serine's reaction to his mentor, although he did have to acknowledge she was correct in saying he was a coward. When he had gone back for more instruction, no trace was to be found that he had even been there and no trail to follow. The offer to teach struck deeper than he was willing to admit at this time. Again, Serine was correct that there were cracks in his control making him dangerous to those around him.

A wry smile crossed his face, "Truth is more often unpleasant than not, Milord, and I prefer the unpleasant truth over the pleasant lie," bowing slightly, he continued, "I do not know exactly how to word it," Mark paused, struggling to find the words, "Our sparring, something changed, or," he paused to find the words, "Something awoke within me, is perhaps a better way to state it. There are things I cannot explain in my memories of our last spar, things both of us did that defy explanation," he paused again, "Are explanations of these things included in the training you are offering?" Mark asked.

It was not even what he had meant to say. Serine's mention of enemies had him wanting to learn more about the prior commander of the Interrogator, Inquisitor Tremayne. He knew there was a history between them, there had to be with her being onboard the Interrogator for fifteen years. Something had happened in the short time she had been off the vessel and Mark could only find vague hints that covered any number of possibilities. If he was to defend the claim Serine had on him, he would need to know the enemy.

She had desired to shield Mark as best she could from the knowledge of the Force, but his pressing inquiries were making that very difficult. Serine refused to lie to him about such matters, since she personally shunned deceit and she wanted to leave the door open for possible future instruction. His questioning put her in an oddly uncomfortable position and she began to tap her fingers upon the desk in frustration. His maturity in these complicated and confusing matters were far too superficial. His early refusal and denial of something far outreaching his own perception and understanding of the universe would only hinder her progress in teaching him. It simply was not yet his time to venture into this next chapter of his life, it was far too soon.

"You are not ready," she responded simply and her tone was unyielding. "Nor are you prepared for the answer." At this moment, Mark was like a child scratching at the surface of a small buried pebble he found, not yet realizing it was a part of a massive boulder under the ground that he could not see. Serine wanted him to take small steps moving forward, not huge leaps which could be damaging for him. Some individuals had no issues accepting that the Force existed and controlled every aspect of their lives, but others had a far more difficult time, and she feared Mark may be one of them. She needed him to slowly acclimate to the idea first. He had yet to even welcome her instruction which most certainly needed to be the first step. It was encouraging that Veller was questioning uncanny things around him, but it wasn't enough, he needed to be fully receptive to the information that he sought. "There are many things I cannot possibly explain to you at this moment, things that must be witnessed, not merely mentioned. The path to understanding your question is fraught with pain and often death shadows closely behind."

"You need to carefully consider where you have come from and where you are going before you decide if you wish to pursue further. Know that it will not be an easy journey for you, and will take every ounce of your dedication," Serine said with a heavy air of authority, once again reiterating how dangerous this road could be, as she always favored the truth. "This decision will literally transform you, so do not make it lightly. I want you to spend the rest of the week pondering this decision while you tend to your normal duties. I do not want to see you again until you have chosen your path. You are dismissed, High Colonel." She motioned for him to depart, deciding it was best to cut this conversation short and let him carefully think of the consequences and likely rewards. She had purposely left out details, but she had not barred him from doing further research. The High Inquisitor figured his curiosity would allow him to discover some truths on his own, his kind would not be served well by being spoon fed information. There was a sense of pride when one accomplishes things alone, and Serine had every intention to help him in his journey towards his impending future.

Anger flashed into his mind at the High Inquisitor's words. He did not like being treated as a child and always believed the truth, however painful, was preferable to a lie. Feeling his survival of her punishment had earned him some answers, he forced the urge to insist on an answer down. Her words on his temper coming back to him. She did not deserve his wrath, she was not his enemy.

Silently, he bowed to the High Inquisitor and immediately turned to the door, his graceful movements marred slightly by the overall ache he still felt. As the door shut behind him and he walked away, he felt her presence lessen until it vanished. Mulling over her words, he made his way back to his office, his eyes darkened with thought.

The explosive manner in which he had lost his temper made him dangerous, he admitted, though he did not like it. Made him dangerous, not only to those around him, but to himself. He did not like thinking of the consequences had he lost his temper like that in a strategy meeting and he had been in plenty that had left him seething in anger before.

Reaching his office, he sat down in his chair, eyes vacantly staring at his desk. Resting his elbows on the table he lowered his head, running his hands through his hair. The constant ache reminded him he was not up to par and felt it. He had not even acknowledged the High Inquisitor's offer to train him and his own manners should have seen to that.

Leaning back against the chair, he sighed heavily. He had a week to discover what he wanted to do, what he needed to do. Though he already knew the answer, he knew more research would need to be done, if only to be able to tell the High Inquisitor he had considered the options he had. Rising, he started another pot of caf brewing and returned to his desk. Regardless, he had his normal duties to take care of. If he lost his temper at the datapads, he figured it would not be so bad, datapads can be replaced.

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