Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
One year before the Battle of Yavin (34:10:6) in the Essesia system: Esseles (Nuralle: Togatto Speedway) and Kwai.
Major Kerrie Kiley and Lady Htaere Ka`a Sha`ar.

In the silence of the transport taking the Lady Htaere and her escort from the shuttle Kwai to the Togatto Speedway with its raised parapets and towers for VIP accommodations, the heiress' eyes were pulled from the viewports to the Major, who was more then likely irritated yet again by her current assignment. Htaere studied the woman for a moment to gauge her mood before proceeding. "Kerrie?" she asked quietly, preferring to address the woman more casually, as she considered her a friend, perhaps under false pretenses.

Kerrie remained close behind her charge, once again concentrating carefully to mimic the appearance of a Human female. To date, this was the assignment that she was most concerned with: large-scale sporting events like the one they were about to attend were a virtual haven for drunkards, loudmouths, and other undesirables. For the second consecutive trip to a local planet she was forced into her svelte, black uniform rather than a set of armor she was more comfortable wearing for this type of assignment. As they approached the stadium she could hear a loud *roar* from the crowd, the kind only associated with a particularly nasty swoop crash ... it would seem the crowd was out for blood today. "Yes, Milady?" Kerrie asked Htaere as she stepped forward into the secure entrance for dignitaries that had been made available to them.

Htaere hesitated at the entrance, peering at the major from beneath her customary veil, mounted on the ornate headpiece she wore. She waited for the rest of her guard to file out, leaving the two for alone in a semi-private moment. "I am aware that you do not enjoy this, that it annoys you when the Admiral instructs you to..." she fished for the right word through her limited dictionary of Basic, her accent as thick as it was the day she arrived on the ISD Warspite. " me" she finished. Her mouth opened to continue but again she held back, instead choosing to cut to the point. "I am aware this is a waste of your time and talents. But I would have you know that I am most grateful. I hope that you will accept this as a token of my esteemed gratitude for your efforts" she said, offering the woman a velveteen box of sorts. She held it towards the major, waiting patiently and hoping it would soothe the contours of Kerrie's agitation.

Kerrie cleared her throat as she activated the control for the turbolift that would elevate them to their private box. "Milady," she began in a subdued tone, "I must apologize if anything I have said or done has indicated that I am not satisfied with my current assignment. It is my duty to serve in whatever capacity my superiors see fit." By this time the lift had reached the upper level of the tower, opening to a private luxury box filled with ample luxury seating, panoramic glass windows proving a 180-degree view of the speedway track and field below, as well as a buffet table featuring an assortment of local delicacies and galactic favorites, complete with a private chef available on standby. She stepped forward and braced her back against the elevator door, to ensure that it would not accidentally start to automatically close before Lady Htaere proceeded into the area. "I will endeavor to perform my duties in the future with a more outwardly pleasant approach if that is what you prefer, Milady, but let me assure you that I take this current role as series as any I have taken in the past."

Hidden by her veil, Htaere's expression shifted, if only for a moment. "That is not what I was implying..." She remained where she was, the box still held out before the major. She remained motionless, as long as it would take. "I would in no way, attempt to undermine your capabilities" she added. She pushed the box closer to Kerrie, infinitely patient for the woman who had saved her life.

*Ding* the alarm of the elevator sounded and attempted to close. The door slammed into Kerrie's back for a moment, before once again retracting into the wall and sounding a louder bell. She grimaced momentarily, nearly losing her balance. Repositioning herself, she once again braced her back against the door. "Very well, Milady," Kerrie said, as she twisted her back slightly to enter a more comfortable pose, "I will accept the gift ... provided you exit the turbolift." She reached for the small velvet covered box and took it carefully from Htaere's hands. She smiled pleasantly and tilted her head sharply in the direction of the luxury box, signaling her to "move!" without actually saying it directly.

Htaere lowered her hands again in front of her, her grossly elongated sleeves cascading well below her fingertips. Pleased with Kerrie's cooperation, reluctant as it may have been, she strolled from the lift, the attendants on hand ushered her to the plush repulsor couch where she would spend the duration of the event.

Once Htaere had proceeded into the box and her back was turned, she raised her eye brows sharply for but a moment. Moving from the turbolift into the box, the obstruction to the door had been removed, the alarm ceased, and the door finally closed. She transferred the box into her left hand and reached around with her right hand to rub at the small of her back. "That's gonna swell up later," she thought to herself. She placed the box on an end table adjacent to one of the sofas, and then proceeded to the front of the luxury box. Standing against the glass she carefully began to survey the scene with keen interest, but not to check on the status of any intent ... rather her interest was focused on any possible danger that lurked in the sea of heads below them.

Htaere's grey eyes lifted, taking in the current race with interest. Below, crews were still cleaning up one wreckage, the violent nature inherent to the sport seemed to encourage the masses further. She was unfamiliar with the sport, but with a diplomatic degree of open-mindedness, she took it wholly, as enthralled with the reaction of the fans as she was with the race itself. "What is the object of this event?" she asked, out loud, but not directed to anyone in particular.

Upon hearing the query Kerrie looked down at the track and narrowed her gaze. She tilted her head slightly and tried to focus on what was going on down on the track. Finally, she turned back around to face Htaere once again. "It would appear," she began in an attempt to explain, "although I am not quite certain ... that they are preparing the track for a swoop race. They are currently clearing the track from the aftermath of the previous race. This is a qualifying heat. They race around the track ten times ... the top two finishers advance to a semi-final race tomorrow."

"Oh, I see" Htaere answered absently, looking about the track with renewed interest. Between events, a handful of beings and droids put on a comical display for all in attendance, pranking each other as well as the unsuspecting fan on occasion. Htaere studied the swoop bikes keenly, recalling her first and only ride on something similar, a toy of Claudius' the very night he proposed. An unconscious bit of a smile touched her hidden tiers as she watched the preparations. Her gaze momentarily swiveled to the major. "Would you like to sit down?"

"Normally it would be inappropriate for me to sit down," Kerrie explained, but as she once again moved her hand to the small of her back, "but I think today I will make an exception." She smiled politely as she walked away from the glass and towards the seating area. She began to sit down on one of the chairs adjacent to Htaere's position, but as she reached about halfway down she felt a kink in her back and groaned softly. She closed her eyes and swallowed and finished sitting down. She folded both of her hands upon her lap and offered a polite smile towards Htaere, "Are you enjoying yourself, Milady?"

Htaere's head cocked to the right a bit, watching Kerrie. She resisted the temptation to mother Kerrie, which she felt had ended in disaster the last time she did so. "It is...enlightening. The sport seems a bit abrupt" she responded. "And you?"

"I could see how it could be enjoyable, Milady," Kerrie explained as she looked at one of the viewscreens arrayed before them. "It's not a sport I have ever followed, but based on the reaction of the crowds it seems very popular."

Her face scrunched a bit as one of the swoops spun out on the third turn and crashed into the wall in a fiery explosion, splattering wreckage and bits of the alien driver across the wall and the track. The luxury box was soon filled with an overwhelming cheer as the blood-thirsty crowd was provided with yet another spectacular crash. "However," she continued, scrunching her face in disgust as she watched the aftermath of the on track disaster, "It would seem the accidents are more enjoyable to this crowd than the actual race."

Htaere's expression mimicked Kerrie's, even from behind her veil. "That is...disturbing" she admitted, leaning forward to observe the crowds explode in uproar, before recoiling back into the repulsor couch. In truth, she faced loss met with casual disregard among the upper echelons of the socio-political structure within Hapes, all in the name of hunting the ultimate prize, the highest member attainable for mating. It was something Htaere had likewise disregarded herself, which had left her largely unpopular in the eyes of her mother and sisters. "If you do not with to stay, I am not opposed to leaving" she commented, contemplating pursuits that were more agreeable to the both of them.

"To be perfectly honest, Milady," Kerrie reported with much embarrassment and a disconcerting frown, "I am not quite sure I can stand at the moment and I'd rather not embarrass myself further in front of the men." She looked at the Stormtroopers positioned in either corner of the room and then refocused on Htaere, "but of course if you would like to leave I will do my best to ... rise to the occasion."

Htaere looked concerned, though Kerrie could not see it. "Remain where you are. I shall call a medic. Perhaps a simple muscle relaxant would alleviate your discomfort" she said enthusiastically, ecstatic to be of some assistance to someone in the galaxy besides the token trophy on the mantle. Htaere rose and moved to one of the attendants present, addressing him in a voice too quiet for anyone else to be privy to. In a moment, she returned to where Kerrie sat, smiling to herself and pleased with the effort, no matter how little. "He will be here shortly" she reported as if their roles were reversed.

"I wish you had not done that," Kerrie said to Htaere in a disappointed tone, fearing the embarrassment that was about to come from the jocular society she was a member of. "I am positive it is just a kink from the turbolift door striking my back at an odd angle." She looked up at Htaere wondering if she'd report to the Admiral how 'fragile' she was on this daytrip, "I've been injured much worse ... believe me."

"There is no sense injuring yourself further" Htaere shrugged. "I was only trying to help." At that point, the lift doors slid open with the tell tale pneumonic release. The stormtroopers standing guard were quick to intercept, searching him over for weapons and the like before allowing his admittance. Htaere stood, waiting patiently for the medic to make his way over.

Kerrie narrowed her eyes at Htaere for a moment as she noted the arrival of the medic. "I hope he does not perform any invasive procedures," she explained, worrying about her true species being identified by anyone who performed too close of an observation.

"Would you prefer I ask him to leave?" Htaere glanced to Kerrie quizzically. The medic was a middle aged human, balding grey hair and spectacles. "Someone requested a medic?" he asked in monotone. Htaere looked to Kerrie expectantly, leaving it as her call.

"It's fine," Kerrie said to Htaere politely as she repositioned herself on the chair to turn her back to the doctor, presenting her wound. "The turbolift door ... somehow ... slammed into my lower back. I felt a twinge and now it has locked up on me." She swallowed apprehensively and waited for the medic to tend to her. Her eyes glared at one of the Stormtroopers standing guard in the corner of the room, wondering whether or not he was laughing underneath his helmet at her. They would not let her live this down.

The medic put his kit down and worked the tactile pads of his fingertips into the musculature of her back, popping knots here and there and working the tissue firmly.

Htaere felt the pressure of Kerrie's unhappiness, and while they were preoccupied, she exhaled deeply and moved into the now empty lift, pushing a button for one of the ground levels. As the door slid shut, she savored the serenity, composing herself and tugging her large crown from her head. Nothing short of a relieved smile crossed her lips as she leaned back into the wall, resting her head as well for a moment. A few long deep breaths and she was feeling better. With the lift approaching its stop, she rubbed her forehead one last time, replaced her headpiece, straightened her veil and when the doors opened, she waltzed out thankfully, enjoying the fresh air. A few quick glances revealed complete solitude, if only for a second. She took advantage, lifting her veil just high enough for her nose and mouth to be exposed, offering better access to the subtle breeze and clean unrecycled air.

"Damn it," Kerrie groaned as her back loosened up a bit. She was furious that Htaere would run off unescorted. She rose from the seat before the medic had time to finish. She groaned in pain, crying out as the muscles in her back were forced back into a stretched position. She rushed, as best she could given the circumstances, towards the turbolift. She balled her hand into a fist and pounded on the "down" arrow to call the next lift. Her impatience was growing as it took several moments for it to arrive. Her foot tapped on the floor in an impatient cliché until the doors finally opened. She rushed into the lift and quickly pressed the button to close the doors and the command to stop at the ground level. She shook her head, frustrated beyond all she could stand. "I'm going to get her for this," she thought to herself as she patiently waited for the lift to hit the bottom floor. When the lift finally did arrive, she was quick to spot Htaere. Rushing quickly to her side she scanned the bustling crowd with her eyes for any signs of trouble. Her attention turned back to Htaere she spoke quietly, "I wish you had alerted me you were planning to depart."

Htaere didn't move. Instead she watched a group of children playing. "I needed fresh air" she said stoically. "You should be with the medic. I am safe."

"My duty is to be with you, Milady," Kerrie explained for the umpteenth time to Htaere. She refocused herself and stood next to her, forcing herself in a rigid attentive stance despite the twinge in her back. Another loud roar soon erupted from the speedway, signifying what could only have been another grizzly collision.

"I am sorry. I needed to...escape...for a moment." The Hapan's gaze panned over the throngs of sports patrons that were moving in and out of the corridors beneath the stadium, buying concessions, using the refresher, whatever their reasons. "If you are ready to leave, I am as well" Htaere mumbled quietly.

"Of course, Milady," Kerrie said politely as she motioned to the Stormtrooper escort that she was ready to leave.

One of the anonymous Stormtroopers approached her and extended the small velvet towards her. Clicks that signified the activation and deactivation of the helmet's comm system he spoke to her, "Excuse me Major. I believe you left this in the box."

Embarrassed, Kerrie's face flushed red and she quickly snatched the box out of the Stormtrooper's hand. "Thank you, Trooper," she said curtly and then proceeded towards the landing platform with the other escorts.

Htaere watched the proceedings with a solemn expression, before lowering her gaze and turning away from the whole group. Without another word, she moved with purpose towards the corridor where the Kwai had dropped them off.

She stood waiting quietly, savoring the last remnants of what she could hear from the crowd's elation. Somewhere behind her, she was certain her guard were in tow, but at the moment she kept her back to them, anticipating her chambers back on Esseles.

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