Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Kit Gwynne and Sarah Riggs-Shute.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:5:14) in the Corulus system: Vengeance.
Lieutenant Bernard Dunford, Inquisitor Jorad, Yun-Jai Kerr, and Colonel Mark Veller.

The drug that knocked Mark out took a long releasing him. Dream-like, he felt someone lifting him into a chair, knew he had to act, but could not. There was a pressure on his arm and the darkness claimed him again.

When he did manage to open his eyes, he could only stare dumbly at his legs, his mind refusing to function. Slowly, thought returned along with memories. An errant lock of hair was bothering him and he went to brush it back, only to find he could not. This sobered him fast. Focusing his attention, he looked around. Plain walls of duraplast and a floor of standard deck plating told him he was in a cargo hold of some ship, probably a personal ship of some kind due to the small size. They were on a planet. Anyone who's done planetary travel enough times can tell the difference between artificial gravity and the real thing.

There were a few moments while he took in his restraints, pretty standard for restraining someone in a chair. His legs were bound to the chair with a cord and his arms behind the back of the chair with a similar cord. He also felt the heavy metal of cuffs on his wrists.

Then his attention was caught by what was about 6 feet in front of him. Dunford! He was kneeling with his arms stretched out from his body, facing Mark. His head was hanging, still unconscious. Mark's eyes narrowed as he noticed blood dripping slowly from his arms. Narrow wires had been wrapped around various parts of his body, already starting to cut into his flesh.

At the sight, Mark sought immediate freedom from his restraints, only to find the cuffs were no ordinary cuffs, but shock cuffs. He bit off the cry of pain as the shocks were delivered, making him strain even more against the restraints. Had there been those same wires around him that were around Dunford, he surely would have cut himself on them.

By the time Mark got himself under control, he was panting from the exertion. Shock cuffs. Why shock cuffs? He remembered them very vividly from his time in the Interrogator's special brig. Mark tried to figure out what had happened to them. Obviously the caf had been drugged, but by whom and for what reason? Why the kidnap? It was standard policy to not ransom Imperial Officers. Due to his father's actions, he never gambled so did not incur debts that would invoke such a treatment.

"Dunford," he urgently whispered, wanting to get the Lieutenant conscious so if his weight was causing the wires to bite into his flesh, he could stop it for a little bit at least. Also, to see if he remembered more. "Lieutenant!" he repeated, all the while having to resist the urge to pull against the restraints and activate the cuffs.

The High Colonel's efforts were not rewarded by Dunford's stirring but by the sound of approaching heavy footsteps. Mark's reckless struggling and thoughtless ruckus had alerted their captor. Perhaps if Veller was more savvy in his imprisonment, he would not have caused such heated commotion so early in the endeavor. The profound baritone voice reverberated through the small enclosure well before Mark got a visual of their adversary. "Curious that you are so eager to wake him. Unconsciousness is his last remaining reprieve. His reality will soon be an unforgiving one." With the conclusion of his sentence, the striking flourish of red and black preceded Inquisitor Jorad's daunting arrival to the cargo hold. The human male's tall stature and threatening appearance was intimidating. The thick, heavy black robes that flowed around his form were accented by crimson highlights that draped down his chest and cascaded down his back with hints of a glossy metal armor hidden beneath his attire. A small Prakith patch embroidered on his right arm signified that he was a warden of the Citadel Inquisitorius. His vestments were far different than the High Inquisitor's who wore all red with gold trim. Also missing from his dress garments was a sash confirming status, so it could be assumed that he was an Inquisitor of different responsibilities and of lower rank than Thanor.

Veller may recognize him as the servant that brought the second container of caf which he of course drugged. Jorad had no qualms with using deception and underhanded guile to achieve his lofty goals of succession. In his right hand was a gathering of wire bundled into a heavy loop, the same wire that was currently cutting into Dunford relentlessly. "I am Inquisitor Jorad." He said darkly as he passed in front of the Colonel, but his full attention was wholly directed at the bound Lieutenant as he visually and physically inspected the damage of his handiwork. Finding it lacking in areas, two wires were removed from the cluster and were tightly wrapped individually around Bernard's thighs to further restrict his movement. The wire instantly dug into skin and bit through the flesh effortlessly causing blood to ooze between the slits. He needed to ensure his captive could not stand from his kneeling position as he preferred his victims to be in a forced submissive posture. It added to their overwhelming feeling of helplessness, which typically led to their expedited succumbing to questioning. "I must admit, I was not expecting to find an imperial agitator in addition to my quarry. My journey from the Citadel is proving to be extremely worthwhile."

The Lieutenant began to stir awake, but the hold of the drug was still overpowering so a weak jostle was all that occurred. This small movement was picked up instantly by the Inquisitor who took up a kneeling position directly behind the bound Dunford. If the man struggled too harshly as he came to, he could unknowingly do significant damage and potentially bleed out before Jorad even had a chance to fully question him. A right hand snaked around his frame to gently encompass Bernard's throat, raising his head up carefully but supportively while the left arm wrapped attentively across his torso. With precise and skillfully applied pressure, the numerous wires already enveloping Dunford's body around key vital areas would not be aggravated when he fully woke, and even a significant writhe out of fear or pain would not amass deadly consequences.

With the critical preparations completed, Jorad could finally afford to give his true prize his attention while he awaited Bernard's return to awareness, all the while still clutching his captive. "The Lieutenant here has done a very foolish thing. I have reason to believe he has compromised the security of the inner most confidential databases of the Citadel. My duty normally would be to interrogate and then execute him for his blatant treachery, but I am willing to completely overlook his transgressions. I will be honest with you, Veller, I came here looking for *you*. Agree to willingly come back with me to Prakith and I will immediately release him with no further damage or sentence. You have my word. The alternative will not be pleasant." Eyes that shimmered with a familiar cruelty and ambition bore into Mark as he awaited the man's answer anxiously.

Mark's eyes went guarded and narrowed as soon as he heard Jorad's approach. Watching as he ministered to Dunford, his eyes grew ice cold to mirror the cold rage that burned in Mark's thoughts. "Given that you know my name, Inquisitor Jorad, if that is what you truly are, you should also be aware of my rank," Mark began, his voice cold and unyielding, a rebuke in his voice for not being addressed with his rank. "By my own oaths, I cannot agree to your terms without valid transfer orders. A mere threat to my life or another's under my command will not entice me to abandon my rank or duties. I am an Imperial Stormtrooper, Commander of the 610th Legion.

"Given that you have illegally drugged me and my junior officer, kidnapped and imprisoned us, I can only assume you have no legal order, thus making you the agitator. Perhaps you are even some Rebel agent in disguise," Mark almost snarled, "Whatever your plan, you will get nothing out of me, nor will I willingly go with you to wherever this location is you are speaking about. You have miscalculated, "Inquisitor" Jorad, if you are indeed an actual Inquisitor and not some trumped up bounty hunter with delusions of grandeur. When High Inquisitor Thanor learns of my absence, she will find you and destroy you." Mark smiled coldly, "She is possessive of what belongs to her. Perhaps, I should be the one warning you to set us free and the incident will be forgotten.

"As for Lieutenant Dunford, you are mistaken about him being an agitator. He is a loyal Imperial Officer."

Had Dunford been more awake, he might have been aghast at Mark's verbal attack upon the man who held them both helpless, one bound and bleeding, the other restrained to a chair wearing shock cuffs. But Mark was angry and insulted. He was a Stormtrooper, one of the Empire's elite. Did this "Inquisitor" Jorad think he was weak enough to fold his hand at a mere threat? That he valued Dunford's life so much he would abandon his post? If Jorad thought Mark was soft, he was in for a very big reality adjustment. Mark was an Imperial Stormtrooper, ready to surrender his life for the Empire at any moment.

The Inquisitor fell deathly silent throughout the entire impulsive and careless diatribe of the haughty Colonel. As pointless dribble continued to spew forth from Mark's undisciplined demeanor, Jorad simply closed his eyes in steady dark concentration as he allowed wave after wave of worthless dialogue to feed his growing sinister hunger. The air in the room began to turn frigid with a malignant apprehension building in a thick fog of foreboding. His breathing became heavy and jagged in an irregular rhythm as arms further tightened around Dunford, causing significantly more blood to ooze from the dozens of grotesque indentions in his skin. The lifeless body trapped in twilight merely whimpered. "So foolish ... so nave," he whispered softly as he slowly opened his eyes to display a dramatic penetrating gaze of gold brimmed with crimson that gleamed with malice and venom. Vicious desire swirled with unbound fury within those ominous eyes, but his expression remained unchanged. Jorad was not one for senselessly squandering his abilities by losing his temper, he instead channeled his seething anger inward and allowed it to empower him.

"The High Inquisitor has not taught you anything, pup." Malicious intent began to simmer and ferment with such intensity that the very air rumbled and oscillated with an unseeing energy. The chair that Mark was bound to started vibrating unnaturally that grew in magnitude until it passed the jostling threshold of his stun cuffs and set them off in a continuous wave of blinding agony. Those bindings were pre-set to their maximum non-lethal setting for a human, dispensing a level of suffering just shy of heart failure. The quakes were relentless and so were Veller's shearing hot screams that further stirred Dunford due to their offensive and horrid piercing pitch. The sustained attack was relished by Jorad, as he silently witnessed the anguish and affliction with a demented and morbid yearning wavering in his rancorous yellow glare. After what seemed like an eternity of torment, the chair ceased its surreal jostling, perhaps now with a more enlightened but weary captive. Those with too much energy and vitality were always far more feisty and idiotic in their resistance. A subdued prisoner was far more likely to acknowledge and submit to their apparent and inevitable defeat.

As the corrective punishment ended and Mark's screams fully faded, the unsettling and sickly hues within the Inquisitor's eyes drained away and returned to their normal dusky brown. The body that was gripped tightly in his grasp twitched as a low moan eased from Bernard. It would be any moment now that the Lieutenant would be awake, and while he waited in anticipation for that event, he could afford to address Veller one more time before his official work truly began. "What limited asinine thought processes you must have to believe I conduct my business on a whim. Understand that *everything* an inquisitor does is with purpose and resolve." He paused with a sigh and a shake of his head at Mark's ignorance. "Every aspect of my objective was carefully planned. Was this a risky venture? Of course, but there is no glory without hazard. For far too long have I patrolled Prak City without reward, seeking those capable of wielding the Force. I no longer have the patience to wait for destiny, I must actively pursue it or be left behind to rot. The more esteemed positions of the Citadel Inquisitorius will continue to evade me unless I act with diligence." Jorad's words were thick with ambition and pride.

The Inquisitor believed his offer was extremely fair, but it was clear that Veller needed some convincing to better understand his position so he could appreciate the value of what Jorad was suggesting. "Your situation is dire, pup. While you are in my possession, your title and your position mean nothing. The *only* thing that matters is the here and now, that is the reality. My offer is generous, but perhaps you need to know the alternative to make a more informed judgment. You will be forced to watch as your subordinate is interrogated and executed for treason. He will be lacerated and disfigured beyond recognition slowly and deliberately as I peel away all his squandered illegally obtained information. He will bleed out in a pitiful sight and take his last breath with earnest. My attention will then turn to you, where you will be skillfully eviscerated and butchered. Both of your mangled bodies will be unceremoniously jettisoned from my craft into space near a star and be incinerated. That will be the end of your journey. No one will know what happened to you. *No one*. Now, once again consider my offer." Each word of the chilling explanation was spoken with certainty and confidence. This was no bluff.

Mark knew his bravado had probably been a tactical mistake, but he hoped it was not going to be a strategic one. Agreeing immediately to the demands of this lunatic had felt off and went against all his training. Besides, Mark had his own pride. He was well aware that the instant he agreed with Jorad, even if faking it, it would be harder to disagree next time. Best to just start out disagreeing.

The tactic was working a little bit, at least, keeping Jorad's attention on himself and not on poor Dunford. Automatically, he bristled at being called "pup" and was about to shoot off a retort when he noticed the eye color change. There was little time to think or question it as the chair began to vibrate, jostling him in the process. His question was abruptly cut off as the shock cuffs went off. The small cargo hold resonated with his screams as the stun cuffs did their evil work. Gone was any sane and organized thought, there was only excruciating pain. He writhed uncontrollably as the cuffs kept shocking him, dimly, he felt the pain from the cords that bound him, biting into his flesh, though they were not thin enough to cut through his clothing and into his flesh, they were tight and strong enough to leave bruises as he struggled to be free of them.

After what seemed an eternity, the stun cuffs fell silent and Mark's screams declined to merely gasping for air, punctuated by the occasional cough. There was only one thought that went through Mark's mind as he sat limply in the chair, trying to recover, killing Jorad. He let his body fall limp and stay that way in the chair, his head hanging. Rational thought returned slowly and he fought back the urge to rage at Jorad. No, this was not the time nor place to tell Jorad he was a walking dead man.

The pain, while agonizing, did not stack up to the pain the High Inquisitor had put him through. Had this Jorad captured him before that incident, Mark thought, a few more applications of the cuffs and he probably would have broken. After his punishment, he knew what real pain was and only the High Inquisitor had the right to dish it out to him.

An average citizen, he was sure, would have broken. But he was not average, not as an Imperial Stormtrooper. What would Jorad expect of his behavior now that the cuffs had come into play? He still could not bring himself to agree, so Mark decided to play the middle ground. For now, he would play the beaten, almost broken man. He was fairly sure Jorad knew nothing of his punishment at the High Inquisitor's hands, otherwise, Mark felt, Jorad would have kept the cuffs active longer. This might be the only advantage he had in this encounter.

Mark took a longer time than might be expected before slowly raising his head, hoping his eyes held the proper amount of dullness for a beaten man. He could feel the bruises left by the cords and used the pain from that to feign his defeat.

Breathing heavily, Mark said, his voice a bit hoarse from the screaming, "I ... do ... not understand ... what do ... you want from me ... I ... am just an ... Imperial ... Stormtrooper ... there are dozens ... hundreds ... thousands ... in my position... Why me?" He worked very hard at keeping his anger out of his voice and very much at trying to sound like a beaten man refusing to stay down, but knowing he was going to be beaten down anyway. To emphasis this, he refused to meet Jorad's eyes directly, his gaze shifting constantly.

At the last words, he let his head fall down against his chest, as if the question had been too much for him. He had no idea if Jorad would fall for his act, but he did know he felt wrung out. His back itched with the phantom pain of the whipping he had endured and made him want to squirm. He thought of the High Inquisitor and felt a bit of sorrow that his service to her ended here, knowing that Jorad was going to kill them both. He held a slim hope that she would somehow learn of his demise and punish Jorad for it.

A very small smile twitched at his lips, which he hoped Jorad would take for a grimace of pain if he noticed, at the vision of Jorad kneeling in the Interrogator's special cell while the High Inquisitor shredded his back, punishing Jorad for taking away her right to end his life. Though he did not think Jorad would be free of the shock cuffs nor that the High Inquisitor would stop short of killing him.

He regretted Dunford's involvement in this. If he could end Lieutenant Dunford's life to spare him the upcoming pain, he would have. But again, if Jorad thought to break him by torturing Dunford, he was sorely mistaken. As he told Jorad, he was an Imperial Stormtrooper, able to operate on the battlefield with pain, suffering and death surrounding him. Seeing someone die a gruesome death was something Mark was very familiar with.

If he did, by some miracle, live through this, however, he *was* going to see Jorad dead for his mistake. He swore that silently to himself, burying his rage again. He could not allow Jorad to see anymore of his hand, even if that was a totally futile gesture, it was how the game was played.

There was a sudden shudder that rippled through his form as Dunford slowly began to awake from the dense fog of darkness that had settled over his senses. With a gentle moan, eyelids fluttered briefly before unfocused eyes opened and gazed blankly out into an unrecognizable haze. At first everything was a blur and his body and mind were numb. A sigh eased from him as he attempted to move but was prevented by a firm pressure followed by a searing pain that pierced across his whole body. With a loud gasp he sobered up quickly as dilated eyes fixated to a point and his harsh reality became clear. The images before him were a shock to his system and Bernard had great difficulty understanding and processing his situation. Before him bound helplessly in a chair and looking exhausted was his superior. "High Colonel!" he choked out and immediately afterwards realized a hand was tightly around his throat. The Lieutenant instantly began to panic and attempt to thrash about, but arms that clutched around his torso prevented it. What little movement he managed aggravated the thin wires wrapped around both of his arms and they bit into flesh causing more blood to drip to the ground.

A cry of anguish and surprise quivered from him before that hand tightened further, squandering his air and causing him to sputter and wheeze. Bernard couldn't move his head due to the restrictions, so eyes darted back and forth desperately trying to decipher his surroundings. His already terrified expression contorted further once he caught sight of the wires and his own blood saturating his clothing. Dread filled him to the core and his whole body began to tremble slightly as he gazed across to Veller helplessly and hopelessly lost. He couldn't see his captor, he couldn't see anything, but he could *see* his death and it was horrifying. His mind raced to fill in the missing pieces. They had been on the beach ... and now here? It didn't make sense, nothing made sense. Was it rebels? Had they been captured and were now going to be killed? How did the rebellion find out about their shore leave? The sick realization hit him that his superior was the one sitting in the chair and Bernard was the one about to be tortured. Veller was of higher rank, of course he was not expendable like Dunford was.

A deep apprehension churned his stomach as he extrapolated the next few moments of his short miserable life. Veller would watch his junior officer slowly break and give away all of their military secrets. It was pitifully sad and true, he was a damn coward ... and Veller would see it, he would see all of it, and rightfully judge him harshly. Shame overwhelmed him causing moisture to weld up in wavering eyes that apologetically looked towards Mark. "I'm sorry..." Bernard softly whimpered as tears rolled down his cheeks. He didn't want Veller to witness his dismal subjugation, but fate was cruel and his dire future was certain. Tears turned into soft sobs of regret for what was about to happen ... what he was about to succumb to. He would rather commit suicide than disappoint the High Colonel and betray the Empire, but that was no longer a decision he could make.

Jorad briefly shook his head in disagreement with the Colonel's assessment. "You sell yourself too short, Veller." At least he graduated from 'pup'. The more compromising tone now coming from Mark was a step in the right direction. A little bit of corrective punishment could go a long way. "You are far more valuable than just a mere Stormtrooper. Do not feign ignorance, it does not suit you. I have difficulty believing the High Inquisitor has yet to expose your unique qualities. Regardless, I can offer you much. You are but a mere captive on the Interrogator, a slave really. While you serve on that ship, your destiny is not yours to choose. It may be hard for you to realize now, but you have no will of your own, not while you serve *her*. I can give you the freedom to live your life as you see fit, free to make your own choices, be your own person, in addition to the power I can teach you to wield. You can still serve the Empire but of your own design, not constantly under the thumb of the High Inquisitor who will lay a claim to your entire being."

The Inquisitor was so far very pleased with how this confrontation was going and he believed he may be able to sway the Colonel's position. Even if he couldn't, he would at least be satisfied with removing one more weapon the High Inquisitor had at her disposal and he would not return to the Citadel completely empty handed. If Bernard was indeed the transgressor he suspected him to be, that would be bonus points and put him in a slightly more favorable light with his own superiors. As Dunford began to stir, he readied himself to restrict his movements least he cut himself too deeply with the wires entangling his body and bleed out before him. His preparation was rewarded as indeed his captive struggled violently and would have surely gutted himself on the dozens of wires wrapped tightly around his frame. There was already a danger of Bernard dying from blood loss and it could be easily gathered that Jorad's techniques were gruesome and effective, but terribly reckless. As the Inquisitor witnessed the antics of his prisoner, he found himself mildly amused. Surely this Dunford would make a fine practice interrogation subject for fledgling Inquisitors. They always enjoyed to see their subjects break under pressure, and so did their instructors. It helped with boosting their confidences in the early years of perfecting their craft.

Eyes drifted up towards Mark with a small grin of early victory. "That doesn't seem like the actions of a loyal and honest officer, now does it, Veller?" Jorad was finally free to remove himself from restraining Bernard. He stood to his full height before walking around the bound prisoner to stand towards his left. It could be assumed that his attire had soaked up a good portion of the Lieutenant's blood though it was difficult to tell considering the black and crimson shades of his attire. A single wire was removed from the bundle he still held and twisted between his fingers with sinister anticipation. "Remember Veller, you can stop me at any time."

It took a great amount of willpower to continue his act of playing the beaten man watching Dunford awaken and realize the fate that awaited him. Anger burned in his thoughts, of his officer being tortured and forced to reveal what he knew. Mark was convinced of Dunford's loyalty to the Empire, knew that the information he had gathered would never willingly have reached enemy hands.

When the tears started, Mark lifted his head slightly, trying to catch Dunford's eyes. "Lieutenant," he said, searching for the right words, "I understand and regret bringing you to this point. Remember your oaths as best you can." He raised his eyes a bit more to Jorad's, taking a deep breath as if saying those words had almost been too much, then continued, "Though I would not worry too much. With this bastard's technique, you will probably bleed out before he can get even a fraction of what you really know."

Mark could not help the flair of anger that flashed at Jorad's smile, though he struggled to push it back down. Outright defiance would not serve either of them at this point. "Loyalty comes in many forms, Inquisitor," he said, not bothering to keep his contempt out of his voice, "and by definition, if broken is no longer loyalty. I have given mine to the High Inquisitor. You call it being a slave, I call it being loyal.

"As for stopping you, I am bound to a chair. It is your decision and action that keep you going. It was you who drugged and kidnapped us. It is *you* who is responsible for your actions.

"I have already informed you I cannot agree to your terms. Torturing Lieutenant Dunford will have no effect on that fact. That threat just shows how petty you truly are."

There was a slight pause, Mark's contempt for Jorad trying to manipulate him by continuing to torture Dunford was distilling into an intense hatred. There are sudden freedoms that come with knowing Death is standing close behind you. If Jorad was smart, his death would be only a few hours behind Dunford's. If not, well, he highly doubted in whatever time he had left, he would ever see anything beyond this cargo hold or another interrogation cell.

It was a meaningless gesture, but Mark did not feel the need to hold it back. His eyes narrowed as his voice grew cold with determination, "Understand this, Inquisitor Jorad," Mark spat, "If I somehow get free of you, I swear I will hunt you down like the honourless cretin you are and you will pay for each and every drop of blood spilled here." Mark's ice blue eyes bored into Jorad's, "Even if I have to come back from the dead to do it."

Were there a few flecks of color appearing in his eyes?

Dunford finally got to gander upon the image of his tormentor as Jorad released his hold upon him and stepped into the Lieutenant's range of vision. The moment he caught sight of the characteristic robes of the Inquisitorius, he gasped so heavily that he choked and heaved in a desperate sputter for air. "Inquisitor!?" He cried out in sudden horror through a fit of coughs and pants. This was a far worse fate than he could ever have anticipated. Getting caught and interrogated by the rebellion would have been exponentially better, for at least they may have had a shred of humanity. But this?! There was absolutely no hope in petitioning for even the smallest sliver of mercy from an individual so imbued with evil. But that was not even the worst part. Bernard's frantic mind was already practically delirious due to the realization that the Inquisitor likely knew of his transgressions and was here to pry them out viciously. This was his living nightmare come to fruition.

Eyes glossed over in dismay as panic overwhelmed him in a near seizure attack of raspy wheezes. Somehow the High Colonel's words cut through his hysteria and resonated with him, though perhaps not as Mark would have intended. His superior was right about one thing, Bernard was at risk of bleeding out ... and that concept gave Dunford one final out to his tragic situation. Wavering eyes full of trepidation but determination wearily gazed up at Jorad waiting for an opportunity. All it would take was a single extremely violent struggle... The moment that the Inquisitor attention turned to Mark's taunting, Bernard found the window he needed to end his own life and spare himself and his superior the grizzly alternative. With a tremendous thrash and a welding up of courage he did not realize he had, he threw himself against the dozens of wires around his midsection, legs and arms in a series of resolute convulsions. The wires dug into every part of his body, carving into skin and muscle effortlessly as he twisted and contorted his body to inflict the maximum amount of damage. The pain was so intense, the scream was caught in his throat as eyes rolled back into their sockets.

Every ounce of strength was sapped from him causing his lifeless form to slump forward and be caught again by the wires. Streams of blood poured out from every deeply entrenched wire and collected into a pool beneath him. Weak unfocused eyes absently stared at the growing crimson puddle. The deed was done, it was only a matter of time before he would succumb to unconsciousness and death. Perhaps it was for the best ... there was a peace of mind knowing that all would soon be over. Darkness creeped across his vision and his last remaining thought went to Veller. It had been an honor to serve him, as brief as it was.

Jorad sneered at Veller's empty words and hollow threats, as if the bound man had any hope of carrying them out, but his arrogance diminished a bit once he saw the flash of yellow across his captive's eyes. A fully enraged darkside user, even an untrained amateur, was capable of great feats and should not be taken terribly lightly. A swift powerful kick was given to the back of the chair that Mark was fastened to causing the structure to jostle just enough to set off the stun cuffs again. Another wave of devastating energy pulsated through the Colonel's body much to the Inquisitor's delight. It was at this moment when intense screams washed out all other sounds that Bernard took his opportunity to thrash about in his wire bindings and Jorad had been none-the-wiser. The Inquisitor's attention was still fully locked onto the Colonel and paid no mind to the Lieutenant. After the other's screams died down, he would address him with a wry grin returning to his face, not realizing his other prisoner was dying behind him. "You are thinking about this all wrong. You assume that I don't welcome your promises of retribution. When in fact I welcome them. That hatred will make you strong and I can teach you how to harness it!"

A heavy perverse laugh shook him as a hand ran through his coarse black hair, terribly amused with the turn of events. "Oh Veller, if you aim to kill me, how could you possibly hope to accomplish that without learning my strengths, my weaknesses, how to fully control that rage that is so perfectly bottled up within you and ready to be unleashed! Stop resisting for resisting's sake. If I kill you here and now, how will you ever seize your revenge? Traditions are a bit ... unconventional in the Citadel, I assure you. There have been multiple master and apprentice relationships born out of the desire to murder one another. Despite typical wisdom, this is not a deterrent, but a perfectly acceptable motivator. It would be a crime against the Empire if I did not at least attempt to train you! Now, stop this foolishness. All that is left is to address the traitor among us and then we can discuss ..." Jorad turned around to begin his interrogation of Dunford, but his sentence was quickly cut off when he noticed the severe miscalculation he had made. "Mother of Kwath!" He cursed loudly in intense aggravation and surprise as he surveyed the damage in disgust. There was no salvaging this! How could he have made such a huge irredeemable error? He dejectedly threw the bundle of wires he held into the growing puddle of blood before placing his hands on his hips. "Well ... pfassk." Another expletive sighed from him as he took a moment to recollect himself after such a huge setback.

Mark was trying to keep his temper from gaining full control. He knew if he did that, whatever luck he might have would flee as he would not be able to take advantage of any mistakes Jorad made. The stun cuffs interrupted his attempt, causing him to scream out. Though the cuffs were not active as long, they still left him exhausted and shuddering. His eyes focused on Dunford's form, hanging from the wires and knew what had happened. Experienced eyes took in the injuries and knew that Dunford was quickly heading towards death. Only quick immersion in a bacta tank would save him, and somehow Mark did not think this ship had such a facility.

He stayed silent through Jorad's rant, honoring Dunford's intent to escape the pain that was in front of him. It is what Mark would have done if he could. When Jorad turned away, Mark started to laugh.

It was a weak laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. "Weakness, Jorad?" he croaked through his laughter, omitting the man's title, "I do not need to have you as a teacher to know that. You have already shown that to me. You are reckless. You have no patience and on top of it, you are incompetent."

He continued taunting his captor, "High Inquisitor Thanor would never have made such an amateur mistake. You left your victim with a way to escape you. Why should I wish upon myself an incompetent teacher? *I* could have done a better job and *I* am merely a Stormtrooper."

Though the laughter was a bit forced, it was laughter nonetheless. More laughter at the irony of his position. If he agreed, Jorad would most likely release him and he could, perhaps, save Dunford's life and his own. But in doing so, he would betray his oaths and, he knew, betray Serine. This was something Jorad had not even come close to forcing him to do. Jorad had played all his cards as far as Mark could determine and come up very, very short.

"You are a joke, Jorad," Mark said, "It is no wonder you were assigned to some out of the way planet to some dead end patrol. Go back to Prak, you are not ready for the big league," he continued to say between laughing.

"Besides, the High Inquisitor has already offered her training," said Mark.

It was becoming terribly clear to Jorad that Mark was a lost cause and no longer worth the heavy exertion. It certainly did not help matters that he completely botched his interrogation and gave Veller plenty of fuel to mock and oppose his efforts. He was certainly angry at the excessive belittlement from his captive, but the Inquisitor was far more disappointed that he would have to waive his goals with Veller and sacrifice him. It was an unfortunate waste of excellent potential, but Jorad could no longer risk allowing Mark to live. The High Inquisitor had apparently coerced him into a blind loyal drone somehow. He posed too much threat now, since a single message to the Interrogator would rain down immense trouble and likely lead to Jorad's untimely demise. "How regrettable that the High Inquisitor will never have the opportunity to begin your training. I sympathize with her eventual disgruntlement." He said with mock concern as a right hand slipped beneath his robes to retrieve a polished black metallic cylinder. The lightsaber was activated causing an ominous hiss followed by an elongating red blade that extended by his side. Its faint ruby glow highlighted the surrounding area with malice and foreboding.

"A pity really. You would have been magnificent under my tutelage. We could have grown in power and prestige together. A formidable duo of destruction, but I digress." There was clear hesitation in Jorad's movements as he readied his weapon, the regret of executing a perfectly capable and gifted new talent was evident in his eyes. His whole purpose as an Inquisitor was to discover and locate Force-sensitives then use their abilities for the glory of the Empire. It went against his grain to kill one prematurely without exhausting all options, but this was a special case. He was after all attempting to steal Mark away from a High Inquisitor. The thought had occurred to bring Mark back with him to the Citadel and attempt to convince him to abandon his foolish and absurd loyalties to Thanor, but Veller was just too thick and stubborn to see how glorious his future could be. He tightened his grip around the lightsaber with strengthened resolve, the second thoughts about the matter were ironed out with the same conclusion. Veller's life was now forfeit.

Unbeknownst to Jorad, his delay had allowed his docked ship to be infiltrated silently and covertly. If he had not been so wholly preoccupied on his current ethical dilemma, he might have noticed the breach. With new determination to conclude his activities, the Inquisitor lunged forward with a skillful and elegant pierce towards Veller's chest, aiming to puncture through his heart with far more mercy than he cared to give Dunford. What came next was a series of events that Jorad could not have possibly planned for and would be caught completely dumbfounded. There was an extraordinary blur of light that accompanied the rush of movement to intercept the deadly assault upon Veller. The speed was beyond human senses, but once Mark's eyes finally registered the image before him, he would realize this party was now a plus one. Jorad's blow had been caught by a steady perpendicular blue blade held out masterfully by an unknown human male who was now Mark's acting guardian.

The ambush took the Inquisitor by full surprise and he found himself stumbling backwards in astonishment and dismay. His newfound opponent brought his saber into a vertical resting point as he shifted his weight to the left with purpose. Jorad recognized this immediately, it was a Soresu ready stance ... and the fierce confidence and firm poise of the other could not be mistaken for anything else. This was a Jedi of significant skill. "Jedi!?" Jorad choked out as eyes widened with thrill and aspiration. Perhaps this was not a completely wasted trip after all. Jorad studied the man intensely. There was nothing remarkable about the other's attire, he would have passed him over for a mere tourist, perhaps he had done just that. Clever Jedi. The Inquisitor fell into a far more aggressive posture as he flourished his red blade once in anticipation as he further appraised his opponent. "I do not suppose you wish for me to explain the many opportunities available at the Citadel Inquisitorius for your talents." He chimed with a silky smile, trying to calm his own apprehension about such a high-level duel about to begin. It had been far too long since he had the opportunity to test his skills against a worthy adversary.

Mark's eyes widened at the strange weapon Jorad pulled out and activated. At first, just seeing the hilt, he was a little contemptuous. Was Jorad going to beat him to death with a metal cylinder? But then the blade activated and Mark knew what he faced. A weapon from his childhood classes. The Lightsaber. There were two defenses. Not let it touch you and another lightsaber. Neither of these were an option for Mark.

Briefly, he wondered if Jorad would draw out his death. Then Jorad lunged and he had a moment to be grateful it would be quick. As Mark drew in his last breath, he thought to shout out "Stop!" to let Jorad know he agreed. But then Dunford's death and sacrifice would have been for nothing, so he watched as Death lunged, facing his death with all the dignity and grace he could muster being bound to a chair and helpless to stop Jorad.

Faster than Mark could register, there was something between him and Jorad. Blue had stopped the red. When things were still for just an instant, Mark realized it was another lightsaber which had intercepted the death blow, one that hummed with blue energy instead of Jorad's red.

For an instant, he nursed the hope that High Inquisitor Thanor had found him in his foolishness and come to rescue him. Two things happened next. First, Mark realized it was a man who held the blue lightsaber and second, Jorad gasped out "Jedi."

Jedi? But they were extinct. What was a myth doing rescuing him from Death? Utter incomprehension of what was going on stilled Mark's tongue as the two squared off for battle.

Yun-Jai Kerr's steady jade gaze that had been firmly locked upon the Inquisitor softened as it fell upon the lacerated form of the man entangled in bloody wire. There was still life oscillating within his disfigured body but it was faint and fading quickly. It was unfortunate that Kerr had not arrived sooner, but there was still hope ensuring this man's survival if he moved quickly to preserve him. His commanding stance that radiated grace and authority briefly alleviated as a right hand disembarked from the hilt of his lightsaber to reassuringly touch Dunford's shoulder. A benevolent warm energy flooded into the dying unconscious man's form, stabilizing the man's waning vitals and placing him into a temporary hibernation trance. Dunford's irregular breathing had been nearly nonexistent, but after Kerr touched him, he settled into a slow and deep rhythmic breathing pattern. There was heavy risk diverting his full attention from the Inquisitor who practically hemorrhaged ravenous greed and obsessive infatuation, but if Yun had any real chance of persuading Mark away from the tendrils of corruption that were slowly enveloping him, he needed to save his companion. This was his best shot at truly saving them both, for what good would it be to rescue their bodies merely to have them march back to their quintessential spiritual deaths. The Jedi wasn't just fighting to save their lives, he was more concerned in redeeming their very essence.

"Well, aren't you the humanitarian ... fool!" Sneered Jorad as he noticed the opening in the Jedi's defenses while witnessing him wasting his time attempting to tend to that dead Lieutenant's fate. The Inquisitor was not about to grant him any free time and pressed his newly gifted advantage immediately with a savage assault causing an arc of red to slash with blinding speed towards the breach in his opponent's guard. Jorad believed his victory was almost assured since such an asinine decision by the Jedi would normally have severe consequences in a lightsaber duel, but the Inquisitor would soon realize he was squaring off against one of considerable ability. Jorad's fierce blow came in at an angle that should have been nearly insurmountable considering the Jedi's posture, positioning and negligent attention since it took concentration to cater to the captive. However, in a brilliant rush of blue, Kerr's saber rigidly locked onto Jorad's blade despite his right hand still gripping Dunford's shoulder, maintaining the energy necessary to keep the man alive. The Inquisitor had put his whole weight into the attack in addition to the blow being imbued with Force augmented power, and yet, not only did his opponent block the charge with one hand, the other's saber did not even waver beneath his own. This Jedi wasn't even looking at him! He was still looking at Dunford. Rage begin to build but was short lived once the Jedi finally peered up Jorad. Suddenly the Inquisitor realized what he was up against, and the fear of defeat began to grip him. "Oh..."

The moment blows were met in a spectacular display, compassionate eyes that had been focused on Dunford slowly glanced up to his adversary with a calm determination and bold conviction that preceded a display of an immense amount of Force knowledge and experience. With a soft inhale of breath, the Jedi focused to center himself stoically despite drifting in the epicenter of a churning sea of emotion erupting from the Inquisitor. As his connection to the Living Force cemented, Kerr was absolutely brimming with the lightside in such a substantial way that visible glowing wispy blue tendrils of energy radiated from him and expanded outward to encompass those he wished to protect. Satisfied that he had stabilized Mark's companion, and confident the man would not depart this existence so soon, he pulled back his right hand and reformed his firm grip upon the hilt of his weapon. The moment he did so, a delicate white luster illuminated in a radius around Yun in a gentle cascade that formed an iridescent barrier of faintly shimmering power. Kerr's battle competency was evident in his tenacious stance and heavy, vigorous stare that he directed towards the Inquisitor.

"Let them go, Inquisitor. This battle is no longer yours to win. The will of the Force is clear." Said assuredly as he gave his opponent respect enough to either accept the request for resolution or to ready himself. To burst him down immediately in a surprise attack was unfitting and dishonorable. The Jedi could tell his rival was hesitant but for a moment. For him to gain such ability in short notice was likely not in his adversary's game plan. Unbeknownst to the Inquisitor, the crystal within Kerr's saber was currently configured for a stun setting, so a blow from the blade would not kill him, merely incapacitate. Yun-Jai dedicated his life to healing and preserving and thus abhorred destruction and carnage. Not only would taking a life be a terrible stain to his spirit and defy his medical vows, it would destroy any possibility of that troubled individual finding redemption. Even those stumbling blindly through the darkness of hatred and despair can eventually choose to embrace the freedom and rest of the light. Sometimes all that was needed was a willing guide.

"The hell with that!" Jorad exclaimed with a growl, as eyes darted between the Jedi and Mark. He couldn't possibly allow them to leave his ship, not with the huge risk of Veller informing Thanor with everything that had transpired. He had no idea why some Jedi Master would want to get involved from out of nowhere, it didn't even make sense! But it didn't matter, he had to execute Mark at least. That had to be his priority now, with capturing or killing this damn Jedi coming second. He glared heatedly at his opponent as he surmised his next strategy. Okay, so ... the Jedi was skilled, he could grant him that much, but he couldn't possibly protect both prisoners and himself at the same time. Time to get real nasty. Jorad realized that he may not be able to match the other's skills in lightsaber combat and Control, but he didn't have to. He had plenty of resources to spread around.

The moment he made his tactical decision, he sprang into action, rushing towards his opponent that was instantly met with a blue blade, but as their weapon's clashed, Jorad pivoted as he released his left hand from the hilt, and with one fluid motion, pulled forth a blaster pistol and shot towards Mark in point blank range with consecutive blasts. He grinned wildly as he watched the red bolts slam into the bound form of Veller, and silently congratulated himself, as there had been no way his opponent could have blocked both his saber strike *and* the series of shots fired directly into Mark's torso. His victory lap was exceedingly premature as he quickly realized that every single bolt had harmlessly deflected off the energy field surrounding the three foes. He had assumed a lessor protective field could *maybe* block one or two shots at most, but he unloaded into Veller and that man's clothing wasn't even singed!

His exasperation quickly turned into desperation as he all-out assaulted Mark in a series of saber strikes with blaster shots tactfully weaved in between but the Jedi was quick to intervene in front of the bound prisoner with multiple blocks and intercepts stopping even Jorad's most skillful maneuvers. Blow after blow was parried and diverted effortlessly despite the Inquisitor exhausting his battle prowess. His frustration continued to grow but the added strength from his rage did little to dent the masterful defense the Jedi fronted. He was doing little more than slamming himself up against an impenetrable wall over and over again. He let out a scream of irritation and resentment as he derailed from the offensive and leapt backwards to put some distance between them. With an overwhelming amount of fury, he reached out with his hand towards Mark with the intent of crushing his skull with the devastating power he wielded, but he was too slow. The Jedi was upon him.

The moment the Inquisitor motioned to Mark, Kerr knew he needed to end this confrontation immediately, as his shielding and combat proficiencies could not stop Veller from being crushed to death by the horrid influence of the darkside. As soon as Jorad indicated his resolve, Yun rushed to meet him followed by a series of close quarters hand-to-hand combat finesse that ended with the Inquisitor being slammed to the ground with an incapacitating blow to the side of Jorad's head. With a soft sigh, Yun-Jai deactivated his saber before returning his attention to Dunford who still needed rushed medical care, he couldn't afford to release Mark yet or even acknowledge his existence. The soft glow about the area faded as the Jedi began to tend to the multiple gashes scattered across all of Bernard's body. Very gently would the wires be unraveled and care given to ebb the constant flow of blood. By any normal appraisal, Bernard should be in the process of dying, if not a dead man already. What was keeping him alive and what continued to heal his wounds would likely mystify and perplex Veller.

Over the course of many hours, Yun would intently mend the gashes with nothing more than soft applications of pressure. Before Mark's very eyes, horrendous wounds and hideous rips in flesh would slowly join and scab over as if time were advancing. The Jedi appeared to be in extensive concentration that weighed heavily upon him as he delicately placed his hands across the battered form of the Lieutenant. There was no concern that Jorad would wake during that time as the blow of the lightsaber blade, even on a stun setting, to the side of his temple was enough to set him cold for considerable time. After the seemingly medical miracle, Dunford was unconscious, terribly marred, but stable.

Another week of steady treatment by either Yun or more traditional methods would see Dunford back to physical form. At the end of this long escapade, Yun practically collapsed on his hunches, exhausted and drained from the exertion of constant Force commitment. After a moment to collect himself, while resting on the floor, he brought his hands together in a relaxed pose and knelt there silently for a long while in deep meditation. He was no good to anyone so weakened, thus a brief time to regain his strength was necessary. Finally, after what had been hours of a grueling affair, Kerr stood and advanced towards Mark to free him. Stun cuffs were brushed off and cord was unbound before a relieved nod was given to the other. He motioned to Dunford as he spoke, "Forgive me for keeping you bound for so long. His injuries demanded immediate care."

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