For a member of the Imperial Inquisitorius, no other emotion is as useful or desirable. Whether planted through surgically precise psychological manipulations or displays of raw power and brutality, nothing can cripple a Jedi quite like fear. A gateway for anxiety, paranoia, helplessness and a plethora of other emotions which would wear down even the hardiest Knights of the ancient, now all but extinct order. Never mind the few and weak remnants of it lingering on today.
And yet, as the Seventh Sister stands on the bridge of the Imperial I-class Star Destroyer known as the Relentless with only the distinct, hoarse breathing of the Sith Lord before her breaking the silence, she can’t help but be afraid. Even with all her years of training and experience in mastering both the mind and body through the Dark Side of the Force, she knows his presence here bodes poorly for her well-being in the immediate future.
Taking her eyes off Vader, her gaze sets on the hologram of the planet where her latest, and possibly final failure occurred mere hours prior: Garel. In almost every other point throughout history, it’s just an insignificant little world located within the Lothal sector of the Outer Rim Territories. Almost. Following the Siege of the neighboring planet of Lothal, the rebel cell known as Phoenix chose it as their base of operations. For a little while, it worked, until the blabbermouth, Jedi-in-training Ezra Bridger revealed its location to one of her probe droids.
It should have been an easy victory for the Empire. The rebels had no idea they were coming, giving them the element of surprise. With three Star Destroyers of equal caliber to the Relentless, each housing over 72 TIE fighters, thousands of ground forces, assault vehicles and with the aid of a legendary Imperial Agent and two Inquisitors, victory was all but assured. Instead of crushing the rebels and delivering the Jedi to Lord Vader, here they all stand, in failure and silence with neither goal accomplished.
Her fingers curl into a fist with her tightening jaw at the thought. An Imperial Inquisitor such as herself, a wielder of the Dark Side humiliated once again by Padawans, smugglers, and other lesser beings. Momentarily, the fear of Vader’s presence fades away, replaced by rising and seething anger.
“Your anger is understandable, Inquisitors,” A chilling, robotic voice states through the inhalations of his mask. “But also very misplaced.”
As if struck by a droid’s shock arm, a shiver runs down the Seventh Sisters neck from her master’s voice. Glancing to her left, she notices the same controlled but unmistakable look of embarrassment at the gray giant known as the Fifth Brother. Embarrassment at letting their thoughts and emotions to Vader, the man responsible for giving them this assignment and the one to decide if their windpipes remain functioning.
Composing themselves, she and her fellow Inquisitor straighten up. “Yes, Lord Vader,” They reply firmly but respectfully with the only response from Vader being the breathing of his mask. An awkward, near silence which concludes soon after with the beeping on a panel to before the Sith Lord.
Vader presses down on it and in-turn the holographic image of the city fades, replaced by one of a man. The image belonging to one Agent Kallus of the Imperial Security Bureau. Another man who’s suffered humiliation and defeat from the same rebel cell as herself, Fifth Brother and damn near everyone else on the Relentless.
“We’ve searched the city thoroughly Lord Vader,” Kallus replies with the same pompous accent as every other Imperial fancying himself as cultured. As someone born and raised in nobility despite most of them merely doing so for appearances. With Vader, however, she notices a distinct toning down in it. And fear. “The rebels, unfortunately, were equally thorough in covering their tracks. From what little remains of their previous base of operations here, we haven’t discovered a shred of information as to where they’ve relocated to.”
Likely nowhere, She guesses, trying to keep her mental shields up at all times after failing earlier. They’ve left nothing of value behind because they didn’t nail anything down in the first place. Garel was nothing more than a temporary base. One to protect them until they could find a more permanent solution. The question remains, did they find it?
Putting the question aside, for the time being, she directs her full attention back to Vader, something she shares in common with everyone else on the bridge. Anticipation born of dread or morbid curiosity spreads like an infection, even to Kallus as all wait to see his response to this news.
“Continue your search, Agent Kallus” The Sith Lord orders, his tone showing no change in his mood. “The rebel forces left behind more than initial reports indicate. I trust you will find whatever remains of value.”
She spots Kallus’ feature soften in genuine surprise before hardening back to his usual scowl. “As you command, Lord Vader.”
With a bow to the Sith Lord, he ends communication with the Relentless and with his departure, the near silence returns to the bridge. Now even worse thanks to Vader’s surprising lack of reaction. No thinly-veiled threat, no contempt in his voice and most surprisingly for all present, no necks being bent. Instead, he inclines his head to his right,
“Lieutenant,” Vader inches his head in the direction of the person in question. A young man, no more than 20 years old standing at the ready to Vader’s right. The same spot he always took to aid Admiral Konstantine. A curiously absent Admiral Konstantine. “What do you know of Agent Kallus?”
As if sentenced to a Rancor pit, the young man’s jaw hangs a few inches open as he mechanically turns his head in Vader’s direction. “Wh-what do you mean, m-my lord?”
“Come now Lieutenant,” Vader presses on with a more conversational tone. “Surely Agent Kallus’ exploits have made their way through the Imperial Academies in recent years, success’ of such caliber always do.”
“Well...” The young man takes a moment to find the right words, noticing several of his peers observing the scene with great interest. “His victory against the Lasat stands as one of the finest examples of Imperial strength and ingenuity my lord. Were it not for his decision to use disruptor rifles, our casualties would have been staggering against the Lasan forces. Never mind how many potential other rebellions may have come out of the whole ordeal.”
“How did you, and your peers react to his victory during your training?”
“We were all thrilled, to say the least,” The tense edge to his voice fades away with the remembrance of days gone by. “The Lasan were a fearsome species, and with enough time to mount success’ against us, who knows how many others may have seen it as an opportunity to do the same. All of us knew this well, and even with the desire to serve our Emperor, such a situation made us recruits understandably nervous,” He allows himself a genuine smile. “But when news of victory arrived and how Agent Kallus achieved it, it made us all the more excited to complete our training and begin service.”
“I am pleased to hear that Agent Kallus has set such a fine example,” Vader’s looks down to the console. “Now, he will serve well in setting another.”
Ignoring the puzzled looks of everyone present on the bridge, Vader establishes communications with the remaining Admirals commanding the other Star Destroys above Garel City. The holograms of two, older officers from before him. One a clean-shaven man of comparable age to Konstantine, the other is of a dark-skinned woman in her late 50s to early 60s.
“How may we serve you, Lord Vader?” They both ask following their respective bows.
“Prepare all ion cannon’s for firing Admirals, it is time to send a message to all across the galaxy.”
The man raises an eyebrow at the request. “For firing, Lord Vader? But the only thing within range is Garel City.”
A moment of silence later, the temperature inside the room drops a few degrees as they connect the dots. A chilly atmosphere only made worse by Vader’s mechanical and matter of fact statement. “Precisely Admiral, that is, after all, our target.”
“Should-” The female Admiral begins, her voice faltering momentarily. “Should we not order our troops to retreat?”
“No,” He lets the word hang in the air for all present. “Inform me upon entering planetary bombardment positions and await my mark to begin.”
Concluding communications with the other Admiral’s, Vader looks back to the young Lieutenant now doing his best to keep a calm exterior. “That order accounts for us as well, Lieutenant.”
With the aid of the Force, Seventh Sister sees past his effort of not yet perfected military stoicism, sensing a variety of emotions swell inside of him. His confusion, frustration, anxiety, something Vader certainly senses as well and is counting on. Lastly, however, she detects a hint of hope.
“Perhaps we should wait for Admiral Konstantine?” The Lieutenant suggests. “Surely he would want to see this through-”
“Admiral Konstantine is no longer in command of this ship, Lieutenant,” Vader states matter of factly. “A necessary step to quelling this particular rebel uprising. Now, Lieutenant, give the order.”
“Yes, sir!” He replies with a salute and goes about doing it, the brief flicker of hope vanishing. Perhaps he expected the delay to buy time for those below? Even a minute could contribute to someone, regardless if they’re civilian or Imperial soldier from getting, at least, to some cover or putting a bit of distance from the city. A weak hope, but better than nothing in his eyes.
“Inquisitors,” Her probing of the Lieutenant’s thoughts concludes with Vader’s call. “Come closer.”
Exchanging worried glances, the two Dark Side users approach the Sith Lord now observing the far off lights of Garel City flickering at the distant planet below as the ship shifts into bombardment position. Halting a handful of feet behind him, they stand tall and await whatever he has to say. Both doing their best to keep their mental shields up and strong.
“Neither of you were to get this assignment,” He states without turning to face them. “However, with the lack of a Grand Inquisitor and the apprentice of Anakin Skywalker operating with this rebel cell, the Emperor saw an opportunity. To elect a new Grand Inquisitor and test the effectiveness of the order through the accomplishments of two of its noteworthy, rising stars. Forcing me to leave the matter alone.”
Despite the cloak covering most of his body, they can practically hear his fist tighten. “I obeyed the Emperor and gave you both ample opportunities to prove yourselves and correct the mistakes of your fallen colleague. Instead, you, Kallus, Konstantine have created a farce. Damaging the strength of the Empire with every successive failure.”
“Lord Vader!” The Lieutenant returns “All ships are in position, we merely await your command.”
“Very good Lieutenant, you may initiate planetary bombardment in thirty seconds.”
With a nod, he relays the order to his fellow officers, initiating the countdown. All around her, the strong, conflicted and bottled emotions from the crew make the air heavy with tension, a suffocating sensation to nearly everyone present. Not Vader, however. With every attempt to reach out through the Force, all she finds is a man, seething with anger yet colder than the vacuum of space.
At a terminal off to the side, she catches the final stage of the countdown beginning. 10, 9,
“Let what comes teach you all a lesson, regardless of your rank,” Vader proclaims so all present hear him clearly.
“Your Blood ties,”
“Or your reputation,”
“In the eyes of the Emperor,”
“All who fail, pay dearly for it!”
And with the countdown hitting 0, the sounds of dozens upon dozens of Star Destroyer mounted cannons fire all at once, unleashing gargantuan bolts of green energy down towards their target. Engulfing the city of Garel in fire and sealing the fate of anyone unfortunate enough still be down there.
“Do not mistake being here as mercy, Inquisitors,” Vader whispers while the rest of the bridge either looks in shock or tries its best to block what’s happening out. “The Emperor merely thinks you can both be of some use to us, make no mistake, however. Fail or hinder my command of this mission in any way,” For the first time since arriving, he turns around and addresses them to their faces. “And it will be me who will deliver your just punishments.”
“Yes, Lord Vader,” They say in unison, their voices, and expressions devoid of any emotion. He turns around to continue observing the bombardment, leaving the Seventh Sister and Fifth Brother along with everyone else in the tight grip of that crippling yet powerful emotion the two Dark siders usually desire above any other.
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