Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner, Christopher Levy, Shawn Lovelett, Tara McLaren, Sarah Riggs-Shute, Kyle Sisk, and Michael Whittaker.
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin (35:4:29) in the Brentaal system: Brentaal IV (Cormond: Sylvain Isod's estate and Verus Theus' safe house) and Warspite, in the Essesia system: Esseles (New Calamar: Claudius Rodney's estate), and in the Ringali nebula: Ringali Station.
Lieutenant Allegra Ames, Commander Derek Atio, Liliya Benedt, Count Sylvain Isod, Major Kerrie Kiley, Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca, Ashii Nermani, Grand Vizier Sate Pestage, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, Countess Htaere Rodney, Lady Jelena Rodney, Inquisitor Serine Thanor, Colonel Verus Theus, Doctor Pilaq Tohan, Flight Lieutenant Randi Trainor, Valeria, General Akilist Volkov, and Major Arden Zevrin.

Ashii Nermani, lead anchor for Imperial Holovision, sat stone faced for a moment as she scanned the teleprompter that was placed before her, wondering if she had gotten the words correct. There was dead silence on the holonet as her face began to tremble and her eyes widened dramatically. "We are getting reports that Alderaan ... has been ... destroyed," she stammered, her eyes scrunching slightly as she focused on the words being displayed in front of her. "Imperial Holovision sources have learned that the Alderaan government was developing a new ... super weapon..." she paused, shock and disbelief coming over her as she tried to imagine just what a super weapon was. "Further ... we have learned that this dreaded terror weapon was intended for the Rebellion!" she exclaimed, reading the words faster as the magnitude of what had happened began to dwell upon her. "At this time we believe none have survived the destruction and that the entire planet was obliterated by the Rebellion's attempt to develop their monstrous new weapon..." she concluded, a tear forming in her left eye as she considered the lives of the billions that had just been terminated. "Please ... please stay tuned to Imperial Holovision as further developments become available," she concluded, lowering her head in dramatic pause as the lights of the studio dimmed in memoriam.

Commander Derek Atio hurried from the hangar bay of Ringali Station, a shocked look upon his middle-aged visage as he pushed aside various pilots and technicians rudely. It was very out of character for the blockade runner to react in such a way, as he was usually quite friendly when it came to interacting with members of the station's staff. Imperial Holovision was reporting the most grievous of news and he felt a need to report the information to General Volkov as quickly as possible. Not being in the best of shape, the Commander's face quickly became flushed red as sweat threatened to drown him. This was too large a station, he thought to himself as he climbed the stairs to the command level. By now his hair had become matted to his forehead and he was nearly out of breath. As he arrived at General Volkov's office he was panting like a beast, and his tan uniform clung to his sweat covered flesh in a rather unflattering manner. "Beg ... to report ... General," he said in between desperate gasps for air, as he leaned on the support beam of the entryway.

Upon the approach of the commander, Volkov could sense immediately that something was out of the ordinary in comparison to his regular reports. Protocol, in the generals perspective, was unneeded upon realizing the sincerity of the situation. Skipping the traditions of pauses and unwarranted salutes, the general set up straight in his audience chamber and focused his attention directly on Atio. "Commander, what is wrong," he questioned the young officer. Young in comparison, he thought to himself.

Uncharacteristically, Derek turned to take a sip of water from a nearby cooler before continuing. He had overexerted himself in the run to the command center and could feel his heart threatening to beat right out of his chest. Regaining his composure, he finally began to speak. "General, Imperial Holovision is reporting that Alderaan has been ... destroyed," he reported, finding the last word almost impossible to say. "We are being blamed for it," he continued to explain as he walked forward towards the desk, taking a seat in front of General Volkov. He very much needed to sit down after the run. "There is not much additional information at this time, but it is believed to be a total loss," he concluded, shaking his head in disbelief. Having spent some time on Alderaan he had made a lot of friends there and the news was particularly disturbing.

Akilist straightened himself up into his seat even sterner than before while allowing his right hand to come down to adjust the chrome plated BlasTech DH-17 blaster pistol into a comfortable position that would remain safely nestled at his side. The news was most unbelievable and he was not so quick to believe in such a report considering the circumstances. The commander, taking a seat without being invited to do so, was of no matter in such a situation considering the seriousness of his report seemed all too real in its demeanour. The allegations were so incredibly extreme that even the general, a sensible man in his own right, was not ready to accept the factual severity of such a report. The general raised himself upwards onto either armrests of his command chair while straightening his chest upwards into the air before bellowing in a most confused tone of voice, "What do you mean Alderaan has been destroyed? This is not possible!" Akilist turned his gaze away from the commander and stared downwards onto his desk to avoid immediate eye contact in an apparent attempt to retain his concentration. He continued his retort while trying solemnly to maintain his composure, "Alderaan is a peaceful court, they have no weapons, their people are unarmed ... this would be a crime against galactic law and humanity!" Volkov paused momentarily before allowing his right hand to come and rub the rigged bristled of his chin before adding, "And what of the senate? The courts will not stand for this. What ability do the sectors hold without bureaucracy and the control of the sectoral governors," Volkov concluded.

Derek paused, silently listening to his commanding officer, all the while thinking that he desperately needed a drink. "Imperial Holovision is reporting that a 'rebel terrorist attack' has resulted in the destruction on Alderaan," he explained grimly as he went over the report in his head once more. "There are no reports of any survivors. We have yet to receive any word from command regarding this," he continued, shaking his head in disbelief as he reported the preliminary facts as best he knew them. "There is also a report that the Imperial Senate has been dissolved for it's failure to deal with the Rebel insurgency, General. It is said that the regional governors now have direct control over their systems..." he concluded, sounding rather grim as it seemed they now had a determined Imperial resistance against them rather than one with its hands tied who had to struggle against the restrictions imposed by the Senate and the local planetary governments. "It is a dark day for the Alliance..." he uttered, sounding somewhat dejected. He had served Bail Organa and the Alderaanians loyally and the thought that they were now gone troubled him greatly.

Volkov shook his head in disbelief because he knew that the allegations being submitted against his rebellion were false and inadequate. The rebels did not have such capabilities to eliminate an entire planet. Not even with the most prestigious agents operating beneath his authority could one of them commit such an atrocity. Causing disruption and executing a highly diverse plan from central command upon his space station was one thing, but providing the means to some sort of capability to annihilate an entire planet was simply not fathomable. "There is no logical explanation that the alliance could be involved in such destruction. Where are the data-tapes," Volkov questioned the commander with a grim look forming along his lips. "I want to see the holo-view tapes immediately and discern them with you here to compare and contrast just exactly what you have been hearing and what my men in the field have been reporting." The general collected himself upon laying backwards into his command chair, his hands becoming laced over his waist as if relaxed although he was far from such in actuality. The news had dealt a significant emotional blow to the former colonel himself as memories of serving the Old Republic flashed by before his very eyes, it's glory seemingly diminished right before his memories upon a single death stroke laying waste to the last known citadel of peace and prosperity. A simple wave of the hand would have one of the generals custodians tending immediately towards the bar in which harnessed a plethora of exotic goods and alcoholic beverages. Upon the gesture, Volkov simply nodded his head towards Atio while keeping his eyes focused on the tenant. This was a clear implication for the servant to produce the commander with whatever beverage he wished ... accounting his own accords. "Have whatever you may like my friend. Please," Volkov leaned forward tentatively, "I want to know everything. Tell me all you know."

Derek leaned back into his chair so that his hand could fit into the pocket of his trousers. He let out a slight groan as he reached, producing a small data disc from the pocket. "I recorded what I could off the holonet," he explained as he haphazardly tossed it on the General's desk. He rose from his seat and moved towards the General's bar, looking over the selection. "Haven't had this in a while..." he said as he poured himself a glass of Corellian ale. He swirled the liquid in his glass for a while, staring into it intently and getting lost in the moment. He said nothing, his eyes slowly closing as he dumped the entire contents of the glass into his mouth in one quick motion. "Ah," he cried out as he slammed the glass down upon the bar in frustration. It was a start, he thought to himself as he moved back to the chair. "I also bring news from Brentaal..." he explained, as he pulled out the chair and sat himself back down. "Cormond's spaceport has been destroyed ... presumably by us. The SallicheAg docking facility has also been destroyed. There's a foot shortage on Brentaal at the moment. Discontent is rapidly growing on the surface because of these events..." he explained, his eyes roaming back towards the bar.

Akilist would collect the small data-chip presented to him amongst his desk upon the delivery of the commander sitting before him. "Thank you," he commented towards Atio, "I will go over this information with the high council," he concluded. The news that he heard thereafter sounded far more promising upon the mentioning of the SallicheAg docking facility. Perhaps his covert operations were going according to plan after all. "Destroyed you say," Volkov asked with great intrigue. For the entire facility to have been completely wiped out was far beyond any expectation that he had presumed upon his agents in the field. However if the information were true indeed, then this operation posed as a most significant setback to the Imperial presence on Brentaal. "Well finally, some good news at last. Are there any details surrounding the assault?" Volkov did all that he could do to appear concerned, but the recent events surrounding Alderaan had inevitably engulfed his mind in a world of uncertainty and most definitely still weighed heavily on his mind.

Derek got up from his seat and fixed himself a second glass of the Corellian ale while Volkov spoke as he considered his response. "Well, the Holonet was reporting it before the Alderaan news broke," he explained, taking a break from his report to take a rather large swig of the adult beverage. "It seems there were two separate attacks. The one on Cormond's spaceport was catastrophic and killed several thousand civilians. It will take a very long time for the spaceport to become operational again. All traffic going into Cormond is being deployed to secondary docking facilities..." he explained, taking a moment to finish the drink. "The attack on the SallicheAg docking bay took out their offloading abilities for the foodstuffs that keep Brentaal IV functional. There are already food riots throughout the major cities as citizens rush to buy what food is left in the stores..." he concluded, moving back to the chair once again.

Excellent, Volkov thought to himself after hearing the news being reported to him. So the empire had played directly into the deck of cards in which he had dealt. Might as well be a game of Sabaac, he swore beneath his breath. There would be no misconceptions here ... only what he wanted the general public upon the surface of the planet to believe. After-all, deception was an intricate weapon utilized via his Ringali Regime in order to deface the Galactic Empire and all of their endeavors. Indeed there would be no doubt that with such chaos and disorganization amongst the populace that this pressure put on the local garrison would be insurmountable. Of course, according to the general, this was a great thing considering that these actions would free his special operations and independent units operating in the field a large window of opportunity to organize and orchestrate their next strike on Imperial targets. He then focused his attention back onto the commander after hearing the news before complying, "That is so very terrible. Such a tremendous loss of life for the innocent and the deserving alike. I would not be so quick to assume that our forces were behind the operation commander," he complied. Volkov knew all to well what was going on but to reveal such delicate information to a low-ranking officer was beyond imagination itself. "I'm sure, despite what happened, we will be hearing very soon concerning more details surrounding the incident." Volkov grunted under his breath while thinking about his most prominent agent in the field, Coda Sol. So indeed the operation had panned out as he had so opportunistically wished it had. A cover up would be necessary following such destruction and it was of no surprise that the general found himself seeking the council of his most trusted audience ... as long as his concussion missiles where delivered in a most timely fashion. "And what of the locals? Is dismay indeed the specialty of the day Atio," Akilist questioned the commander tentatively.

Derek nodded his head in affirmation of General Volkov's statement. "Indeed, General. Loss of civilian life is unfortunate. However, a blow has clearly been struck against the Empire's ability to survey what cargo goes to and from the surface," he explained with a firm nod of his head. "Most of the Brentaal citizenry are up in arms. These continued attacks have them questioning the Empire's effectiveness, but of course the holonet continues to brandish us as mere terrorists..." he explained, somewhat reluctantly. Again he rose from his chair and moved towards the bar to fix himself a third glass of the Corellian ale. He needed it very badly and was quick to down the beverage. He remained standing, rather than returning to his seat as he looked towards the General.

Volkov swung his hand in a smooth arc towards the bar counter with his head nodding in compliance. "By all means my friend, have what you will. I'm sure this has been a long day for you. I'd suggest getting at least a few moments of rest before embarking on your next mission which I will soon assign to you." It was of no question that Atio was completely stressed and most likely could use some down time for himself considering the scenario enveloping the space station. However, Akilist's insurgents had conducted a most beautiful scenery of destruction and desolation. "Commander Atio," Volkov spoke boldly as he rose upwards from his sitting position. Upon doing so, normal protocol would have the commander rise immediately to greet him in mid-form, however the two had developed a more sensible bondage that did not hold sway over the threat of a blaster being held to ones throat in comparison to that of the treacherous stories of Vader. "Our foes have presented us with a most ample opportunity to strike. We must do so while their infrastructure remains weak," Volkov concluded. He would then reach over towards commander Atio and take the bottle of Corellian Ale from him and pour himself a glass. Upon receiving the solution, he'd down it with one swift stroke before slamming his marbled mug down onto the desktop in front of him. With a slight smile seemingly piercing his cheeks, he passed the bottle back to the officer before him. "Keep it. Take it to your quarters. I have reason to believe that you may perhaps be in need of such. For you are to report to the surface tomorrow and inform our comrades that indeed, we are in business," Volkov added. "We are to step up pressure on the local garrison amidst this citizenry confusion. You are to have one days rest. You may do as you wish but do see to it commander, that these orders reach the surface and that they are carried out in an orderly fashion. For without this," Volkov glanced down at a data-card freshly revealed from his right tunic pocket, "all is lost."

Derek accepted the gift of the half consumed bottle of Corellian ale graciously. Perhaps he and Parka would find occasion to drink it together, he optimistically thought to himself. "Thank you, General," he said quietly, as he tucked the bottle beneath his arm. He listened intently to the words being spoken to him. He reached for the data disk and placed it securely in the left side pocket of his trousers. He nodded diplomatically one last time, before hurrying out of the general's office to go and finish the bottle of ale. He had hoped the next time he arrived on Brentaal IV there would be more information concerning the destruction of Alderaan and the other events that had plagued the Alliance thus far.

As the blast doors hissed their exclamation of intent following the departure of the commander, Volkov rolled backwards into his flexing office chair while kicking his feet up onto his desk. Both hands came to rest behind his head while his lips twinged together to let out an exasperating breath of tension. Exactly how much could the alliance withstand. Had the council become abolished? Volkov thought indistinctly while pondering over the dreadful news that had been presented to him regarding Alderaan. No matter the struggle, nor the effort that would be needed to meet such challenges in these coming days, indeed, it had truly become an era of rebellion.

Sylvain Isod, picked up the intricately crafted cup and sipped slowly at the tea, as he glanced down for the fifth time at datapad. He then nodded lightly, as he leaned back into his chair and looked directly into the holo recorder, as his hands folded neatly into his lap. He was a man in his early forties, with sleeked back black hair and calming green eyes. He let a hand out of habit brush the scar that started from below his right eye and curved down to his chin. The hand returned back to his lap before the the camera started, "Today, I, Count Sylvain Isod, come before you no longer as a prestigious member of the Brentaal Houses, but as a concerned citizen. I for one welcome change and I give my full support to our Regional Govenrner, Claudius Rodney, whom must take on such great challenges such as these Rebel terrorists that 24 hours ago destroyed the Cormond spaceport, following an attack from weeks ago which resulted in the complete slaughter of the RSSF barracks. Not to mention the release of thousands of criminals into our streets. These are dark times for Brentaal, but it gives us a chance for change. I do hope people see it as I do, as a former member of the Brentaal Houses I am an eyewitness to the corruption and the greed that plagued every decision put before us. Now I should address the coming food shortage ... I have taken a sizable portion of my own foodstuffs and intend on giving it away to you, my fellow citizens. I also have secured a delivery of food over from out of system. I..." Sylvain paused and could feel a tear form, as he choked up a bit. They could see the small sharp object that he was squeezing to produce the tears. "I'm sorry ... I lost my place." He coughed as he readjusted his datapad with his other hand. "The loss of Alderaan has hurt me ... deeply. The mere fact alone that it was a super weapon of some sort sends a shiver down my spine." He said before striking the table with the hand that adjusted the datapad for a second time, and spoke loudly, "I will not allow fear to control my actions or the grief of such a loss to cloud my judgement. I, a citizen of Brentaal, am offering the sum of 10,000 credits to anyone who can assist in the aide and capture of any known Rebel terrorist. Now is the time to show them our strength as a united people and full fledged member of the Empire. The following is addressed to those Rebel terrorists ... heed my words, you cowards are out there listening. I wish for for you to understand Brentaal is not afraid of you!" He said, as he emphasised with another slam of his hand. "I will be hosting an event in several days where I will personally see that food is delivered to the public in the local city square. I am quite sure that we will see more hungry faces than the amount of food that is available so I call out to my fellow Lords ... join me so that we can show the that our service to the people hasn't ended ... it is only the beginning." Sylvain paused before the camera's light went off.

In the officer's lounge of the Imperial I-class Star Destroyer Warspite Major Kerrie Kiley sat silently watching the holonet, gauging the coverage of the of the recent Rebel attacks on Brentaal. She shook her head as the image of the shattered Cormond spaceport was shown yet again. "Argh," she groaned as sh shook her head, realizing how incompetent the Empire was looking in the light of these recent Rebel incursions. She was concerned that further Rebel success would lead to their command being terminated.

"Kerrie Berry!" the high pitched voice of Lieutenant Randi Trainor could be heard echoing through the lounge. A bright smile formed on the woman's lips as she had not seen her since the trip to Esseles. "What's on the holonet?" she asked as he hopped over the sofa Kerrie was sitting on and plopped right down next to her. She leaned against her to become more comfortable, as she considered the rumor that was going around the ship. "So people are saying you killed Lord Nam'a'taht ... is it true?" she asked, as she turned her head and blinked her large blue eyes at her waiting a response.

Kerrie groaned in discomfort as Randi situated herself next to her on the sofa. There was no one she found more obnoxious than the Inquisitor's pilot and she wished that she would leave her alone. "Yes. It is true..." she said, as she folded her arms in front of her chest in frustration. So much for a little quiet time in front of the holonet. She wished she could shoot the woman and be rid of the annoyance, but the Inquisitor would not like that. At least it as a rare occurrence that she had to fly with her these days. "Why do you care?" she asked, already regretting the fact that that she had kept the conversation going.

Randi looked down at her boots that she was kicking back and forth as she was hesitant to reveal her reasoning. "Well, it's just that I have never killed anyone before and was wondering what it was like..." she said, turning her head to look at the Major quickly, which caused her right pigtail to smack against Kerrie's face.

Kerrie groaned angrily as the blond clump of hair slapped against her face and she brought a hand up to swat it away. "What are you talking about, dunderhead? You killed people all the time in the cockpit!" she exclaimed, shaking her head at her. She was wasting her time and surely she should just keep quiet so the pilot would go away.

"That doesn't count..." Randi pointed out, as she pulled away from Major Kiley somewhat. "I don't actually see who I'm shooting at out there. You actually look people in the eyes when you kill them..." she explained, not wanting to admit how many people she had gunned down in the course of her service to the Empire.

Suddenly the Imperial Holovision broadcast broadcast broke up the conversation and the two young women watched in horror. Kerrie's thoughts immediately went to Jelena, knowing how much the young woman would be hurt by the destruction of a planet she considered her home She stood suddenly, her facing losing color as she learned of the super weapon ... wondering if the Rebellion might try such a dastardly tactic here in the Ringali Shell.

"Wow!" Randi exclaimed as she watched the news, having been totally distracted from her conversation with Kerrie. Her hand went for the control pad and she tuned the volume dramatically up. "I'm sorry, Kerrie Berry ... but you only killed one person and it sounds like the Rebellion just killed billions!" she apologized, having been totally sidetracked from the conversation.

Grand Moff Claudius Rodney arrived on the bridge of the Star Destroyer Warspite, a content smile upon his face as he walked down the catwalk over the crew pits. He looked down into the helm and nodded to Lieutenant Sheppard. "Set your course for the Essesia system. The Indefatigable will be relieving us on station here in Brentaal," he ordered with a firm nod, which the junior officer quickly acknowledged. He walked to the end of the catwalk and stared out the viewport at the distant planet Brentaal. Oh what a thorn in his side that pesky planet had been this past year and he was glad to be heading towards the Oversector Capitol of Esseles. His arms folded behind his back as he stood silently watching the escorting ships fall into formation for the jump to lightspeed.

"Lord Rodney!" the voice of Operations Officer Lieutenant Allegra Ames cried out as she looked over the holonet transmission they were receiving. Without an order she flicked the switch to amplify the speaker and the Imperial Holovision report of the destruction of Alderaan was broadcast for all of the bridge to hear. The woman climbed out of her crew pit, and rushed down the catwalk towards the Governor. "I am so sorry, Milord," she said, as she bowed her head, realizing what a tremendous blow this must have been to him. With the Imperial Senate recently disbanded her father had fallen out of favor and she feared her attempts to advance her career would stall, and thus bringing this news to the newly appointed Regional Governor was something she dreaded.

Claudius Rodney could not believe what he was hearing, and he fell to his knees as the weight of the galaxy seemed to crush him. Alderaan, in many wars, was his home and many of his friends and loved ones had been on the planet. Were they all dead? he wondered, as he placed his right palm on the deckplating to steady himself. "No!" he yelled out angrily as he clenched his hand into a fist and slammed it onto the deck, nearly breaking the bones in his finger. His moment of triumph at being raised to Regional Governor had been shattered by this news. Bail Organa had been one of his closest friends for nearly three decades and now he was gone. His first wife's family was on Alderaan and they were now gone as well. Many of his classmates from Alderaan University and friends he made in the Diplomatic Corps had been obliterated as well. A great many he cared for, admired, and loved were now no more.

"Sir, we are receiving a transmission from High Command confirming the reports on Imperial Holovision," the voice of Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca, the Warspite's Chiss tactical officer announced from her pit. "Apparently the Alderaanians were developing a superweapon and the test went terribly wrong and destroyed the planet," she said rather coldly, as if she was reading a weather report. It was a horrific attack, but the Chiss woman rarely displayed much of an emotion.

During the entire time the news was broken and the Governor displayed his remorseful and spiteful reaction, Liliya stood silently while staring at the flooring panels. Her outward expression and mannerisms were one of overwhelming shock and her facial features one of mourning, for she was known to be from that planet, lived her life there, graduated from University there, but that was far from the truth. Her inner reflections were far more complicated that were easily covered by what was expected of her, how people believed she should be acting, and thus she performed that role as any top actress. But as that human emotion program was functioning, in the background a far more important process was running in her bio-synthetic mind. She searched her databanks for clear protocols in case of all loss of contacts on the field or at home. It was unfortunate that she could find no programs, no directions for the destruction of Alderaan that left her without a single operative to report to. Everything she was had been on that planet, but it wasn't sadness or depression that occupied her with that thought, and for a moment she was confused on just exactly what she was experiencing. Perhaps she had spent too much time with humans, perhaps her files were being corrupted, but she swore it was loneliness, or perhaps the sense of being lost without direction. She looked to Rodney with sunken sad eyes, far from the usual bright and optimistic appearance, attempting to sympathise with the pain he was feeling.

"No ... no more," Grand Moff Rodney said as he rose to his feet and dusted himself off. His heart was beating out of his chest and the only thing he could think of was his family. He needed to get home to them at once. "Tell me later. Just get us to Esseles..." he ordered, as he hurriedly marched down the catwalk to the turbolift. Once he was inside the perceived privacy of the lift, he lowered his head and pinched his nose tightly. He had an incredible headache and needed to force back the tears that were beginning to form in his eyes. There was no time to mourn, however, as there was much he needed to do. "Oh..." he said aloud as he turned and saw Liliya standing next to him in the lift. "I ... I still need to get used to the idea of having an aide," he said, quite embarrassed at the prospect of being seen the way he was. He swallowed, his throat bulging against the collar of his uniform. He wanted to break down, but he could not allow himself to show emotion in front of the impressionable young diplomat.

She had walked behind him all the way to the turbolift, not realizing he would be so surprised to see her still accompanying him. It had not even been an hour since she arrived on the vessel, she had no where else to go, but why would she want to go anywhere else? Her place was with him unless he wished otherwise. "You may dismiss me if you desire, Milord." Though dismissing her might have been the logical thing to do, she could tell by her knowledge of the human nature, his body language said otherwise, and more than anything he needed someone to understand and be willing to listen compassionately. Liliya ran a quick calculation to determine if being bold would yield more reward and out weigh the risks before she blinked and looked to him kindly, his much larger hand was delicately enveloped by her two smaller ones and held softly before she once again looked up to him, her eyes full of hope, wishing not to anger him but to support him and never be judgmental.

A shiver went up the his spine as she unexpectedly reached for his hand, registering how soft her flesh felt against his. Youth, he thought to himself as he avoided making eye contact, noting that his wife might not approve, yet he did not pull away. Claudius and Liliya felt the ship lurch forward into hyperspace just as the turbolift door opened on the Admiral's personal level. "Dismiss you?" Claudius said, feeling somewhat bewildered as the shock of the destruction of Alderaan was still with him. He let out a tired sigh as he staggered out of the turbolift and began walking down the corridor towards his office. "Oh..." he said in a panicked tone as he stopped dead in his tracks and turned to look at her. "Your family? Were they on..." he began, but stopped, knowing that he had said enough without having to go further. He had been thoughtless in this regard, realizing that she was a pure Alderaanian, whereas he was a Delayan and thus her loss would have been greater.

She visibly winced when he brought up her family and cast her gaze down to the floor before them as they walked, unable to make eye contact. She didn't wish to lie to him, for that was foolish and traceable, instead she chose to remain silent regarding her past relatives, a quiet and painful contemplation would be enough to answer his question. After a long moment, she would finally speak up softly, "I...I am your assistant now...that life is...behind me." She said with a quiver in her voice, as if she may begin sobbing at any moment, and it was apparent she dare not look at him now as she tried to hide the fact that her eyes were tearing. Her hands left his to clasp in her front, masking their light tremor.

Claudius felt the need to be a gentleman and turned to place his hand upon the small of her back, noting how soft the fabric of her dress seemed to feel. "Come sit down..." he said very quietly as he ushered her down the corridor to his well equipped office. In the corner was a rather plush two person sofa in front of a small table. He chose to leave the holonet off as he was sure it would be non stop Alderaan coverage and he wished to avoid it. After attempting to help her to the sofa, he backed away, not yet feeling comfortable enough to sit near her. "Would you like a drink?" he asked, as his eyes drifted to the decanter of Alderaan Ruge atop the bar. Would not be an opportunity to get that anymore, he thought to himself as his eyes glanced over it. Well, it was one way to quit drinking.

She politely turned down the drink with an absentminded wave of her hand. There would be many who would waste their sorrows away with a drink this night, but that just was not something that interested her, and she hoped her new charge was not the heavy drinking sort. Her eyes drifted around the plush interior of his office, comfortable and functional before they focused on her lap, her hands curling together, apparently a bit unsure of herself and the situation. Things had suddenly got more complicated than she intended with the destruction of Alderaan. Perhaps the Grand Moff had no real need for her after all and her mission would completely fail, but now she fretted that even if successful, who would believe her, how could she transfer the information and to whom? It was a real problem and it frightened her, somehow. It just occurred to her how fortunate she actually was, her fate could have been sealed as the rest of those souls on Alderaan. "You saved my life, indirectly, Lord Rodney." Her words were breathed from her in but a whisper, pain still detected, as if she was worthy of living but everyone else on that planet was not? "I don't know if I deserved it, why me?" Said almost to herself, and not directed at Claudius.

Claudius' eyes lingered on the bottle of Alderaan Ruge for a moment, his right hand awkwardly shaking. He needed a glass, but he had promised too many people that he would never drink again. His teeth clenched and he slowly moved himself away from the bottle and towards the upholstered chair opposite Liliya. "There is no need for survivor guilt, my dear," he said to her, as he depressed a button for the serving droid to bring in some tea as an alternative to the alcohol. "This is not the end of Alderaan. This is not the end of our people. As long as people like you, and my daughters, live their lives the legacy of Alderaan will live throughout the galaxy..." he explained to her, trying to bolster her confidence. He nodded his head at her firmly, earnestly believing the words he was speaking. "The Rebel Alliance will pay for its crimes against our people. Mark my words," he vowed to her, as he took a sip of the tea the droid had placed before him. A bit too hot, he noted, as he placed it back down on the table. "I must travel to the surface when we arrive on Esseles," he explained to her, as he blew upon the surface of the liquid to cool it somewhat. "I'll arrange for quarters for you on this level. I have to warn you though ... life aboard an Imperial ship of war is far from the palatial life of Alderaan," he said, trying to force a smile upon his lips, realizing the palace was now smithereens.

Colonel Verus Theus sat in the darkened living room of an ISB safe house, with only the light from the nearby viewscreen casting a blue shadow across the furnishings. The Colonel typed steadily on a datapad, halfheartedly listening to the usual Holonet News broadcast. Even for a secretive unit like the Wolfpack, paperwork still had to be written, personnel reviews filed and equipment requests sent. All of it was classified, of course, though the ISB commanders still required their bureaucracy be heeded.

Verus looked up as the news broadcast was suddenly interrupted by a special report. He was mildly curious ... perhaps a Black Sun vigo had been arrested, or the Rebels had attacked somewhere besides Cormond. The Colonel's curiosity turned towards shock as the newscaster began the segment. He dropped the datapad without noticing, his mouth becoming agape at the realization that an entire planet, Alderaan, had been destroyed. It was not often Verus Theus was caught by surprise, though an exception had just occurred.

Regaining his composure, the Colonel leaned back in his chair as the broadcast continued. His shock turned to disbelief ... not the typical disbelief that afflicts bystanders when tragedies occur, but an actual doubting of the broadcast he was hearing. Alderaan had not the resources nor the personnel to develop such a weapon, of that he was sure. No singular planet did, aside from Coruscant, and especially not without the Empire's notice. The funneling of credits, manpower, equipment and materials on such a scale was simply not possible...unless the largest institution within the galaxy had orchestrated it.

He had always heard whispers and rumors of superweapons and secret projects, as such was the covert gossip of the intelligence world. Some ideas Verus had taken more seriously than others, though it appeared the destruction of Alderaan had given instant credence to a new kind of massive weapon. The Colonel made a mental note to quietly reach out to his counterparts about the incident, as to gain a better picture for himself of what the Empire had somehow had managed to accomplish. He also decided to check his unit's own roster for natives of Alderaan, lest the sudden change of events shift their loyalties. The missing Storm Commando...Ohmer Wilton. He had been from Alderaan, had he not? If the man was indeed still alive somewhere, this would be somber news to bear.

Picking the datapad off the floor, Verus resumed his endless battle against the paperwork. There was nothing more he could do at this moment regarding Alderaan's fate and the Empire's projects ... he might as well finish his bureaucratic duties and prepare himself for the days ahead.

Valeria woke up to some commotion around her, her eyes groggily opening as she gradually remembered where she was. She was in the den of one or another Hutt lord ... or lady. Sometimes the smuggler forgot that they were a hermaphroditic species that could change their gender throughout their life cycle. The pink-skinned near-human raised a hand to her face and rubbed it, trying to break the haze that hung over her. For a moment she considered that she might have had a little bit too much spice the night before. Passing out amid a den of thieves and cutthroats of a hundred different species was not, after all, the secret to a long and fulfilling life. The smuggler started to peel her hair away from her face, her own sweat causing it to cling there. She had forgotten the specific planet that she was on, but not the fact that it was as hot as a blast furnace.

As her silver-blue eyes finally brought the den into focus she was able to see what the commotion was about. The main holoprojector was apparently tuned into several ongoing newsfeeds from across the HoloNet at once, and they all seemed to be covering the same story. What was unusual was that the assembled scum of the galaxy was being completely silent. Valeria realized that a member of the Gran species was half sleeping on top of her and shoved him off onto the sandstone floor before striding forward to get a better view. It was times like these that she regretted being only 1.57 meters tall. Eventually she would clamber atop a Chevin female and sit on her shoulders. The tusked sentient looked only vaguely aware of her presence, distracted or perhaps uninterested in picking a fight with someone who was obviously well armed. Suddenly a nearby Twi'lek female - almost certainly a dancer ensnared in a contract that would keep her in servitude throughout her useful years - spoke. "Everybody shut up! The Coronet newsfeed is coming back."

Valeria shook her head in another attempt to clear that haze, her golden red waist-length hair smacking the heads of a pair of annoyed bounty hunters in the process. "Ha...sorry guys." The smuggler flashed an easy smile towards their helmeted visages as she turned back towards the holoprojector, only to see an unfamiliar asteroid field. Her eyes tracked to the bottom of the screen, reading the details. Valeria's jaw dropped as she read the official explanation being presented by the Empire. A few of the Hutt's assembled court would let out a cheer in favor of a peaceful planet like Alderaan getting wiped from existence. Some of them even appeared to buy the official explanation. The older members of this assemblage of mercenaries and murderers were quiet, though. There eyes shifted uncomfortably as they exchange glances. They had done enough work for the Empire over the years to know just what they were capable of, and the brutal measures they were perfectly willing to use to put down resistance. As Valeria noted the others reaction she suddenly realized that her thinsuit was unzipped down to the waist - she didn't remember doing that, but she simply shrugged and zipped it back up. It was then that she noticed the reaction of the Hutt who held court in this palace. He was as quiet as the grizzled mercenaries, only more so, and there was something in his eyes Valeria had rarely seen in Hutts. It was fear. Fear of whatever method the Imperial had used to annihilate an entire planet, but there was envy too. Hutts were greedy, grasping creatures ... in some ways similar to Valeria herself. This Hutt would like nothing better to be in the same position of the Empire, but could only fear their awesome power.

As for herself, Valeria simply watched the newsfeed in silence. She knew all too well that the Empire had done this sort of thing before, if never by this method. The smuggler had read the leaflets dropped by the Rebels over areas of the Empire that might have been sympathetic to her causes. She couldn't be sure, but she even remembered being hired to do one of those jobs herself. Grand Moff Tarkin had supposedly ended a peaceful demonstration earlier in his career by landing a massive starship on top of the protestors. More personally, however, the planet of her father's people had been stripped of life by a hive virus released by the Empire. Her eyes gradually narrowed as she continued to absorb the cover story put out by the Empire, hoping none of the thugs present were aware enough to see the anger in her eyes at yet another planet being sacrificed at the altar of an evil regime. Valeria's system was beginning already to shake off the effects of the spice, replacing the feeling it had given her with a cold resolve. This would not stand.

Inquisitor Thanor paced angrily down the hallway towards her chambers causing occupants to dart out of her path, but she barely noticed due to being completely transfixed on recalling the day's events in her mind over and over. How dare no one inform her, she was the last to know yet again despite the great lengths she took. Even in the very lest, her superior should have contacted her regarding Rodney's promotion! She was caught looking like a fool, ridiculed by the 'Governor' in front of the entire congregation and left standing there as if she was completely inconsequential. Apparently it didn't take Claudius long to become an inflated pompous ass, figures, Serine was not surprised at all with that mans total lack of tact. But what of that woman? What was it...Lili something? Whatever. She had been too flabbergasted and infuriated to care to remember, the only thing that resonated with the Inquisitor was how easily her datapad was brushed off to Rodney's new assistant without even a second look. Serine was far too aggravated to return to her room, for her apprentice's own good, as she didn't wish to take out her building anger on the young Kia. Instead she took a sharp turn down the hallway towards one of the empty conference rooms, it would be there she would contact the Grand Vizier to make sure Rodney wasn't just wearing a costume, though he might as well be. She believed he was barely qualified to even be an Admiral, let alone a Grand Moff. The Inquisitor threw open the doors and slammed them behind her as she stalked into the room with a heavy scowl on her face. She wasted no time retrieving a holovid receiver to transmit a signal request to Sate Pestage, her direct superior. As the signal beeped in long red flashes, Serine heavily contemplated her words to the Grand Vizier, making sure to phrase them appropriately in her mind to be prepared as talking to the man was usually a chore.

Serine would be forced to wait nearly an hour for the response of the Grand Vizier, as he had bigger concerns at the moment than a troublesome Inquisitor in a low profile sector. His holonet transmitter had been beeping incessantly throughout the day, assuring diplomats, planetary leaders, and an assortment of Moffs that the Rebellion had not suddenly developed the tools to extinguish an entire world. He was exhausted and his temper was short, but he nevertheless took the time to speak to Inquisitor Thanor. The blue tinted holographic image of the Grand Vizier appeared to her and immediately his eyes flared down at her. "What is it, Inquisitor?" he asked, as his eyes darted to a chronometer on the far wall in the room from which he was transmitting. He would only afford her a short amount of his valuable time. The clock was literally ticking.

She patiently waited her time to speak to the man, he was of course very busy and wasn't expecting her to report at this time. Serine was far too angered to peacefully sit in a chair to await his response though, so she took to pacing eagerly around the large table in the center of the room. Suddenly in mid-stride she was overwhelmed with a sickening sensation so intense that she struggled to remain standing, crumpling over upon a chair before sinking to the ground dismayed, breath completely knocked from her. Something horrifying had just taken place of such magnitude that it sent a massive shockwave through the Force. It took her the remaining of that long silent hour to regain her composure just in time for Pestage to answer her call. It was obvious that the Inquisitor was disheveled and unprepared, though it had been completely unintentional by things not of her control. "Grand Vizier." Said void of any emotion, trying to regain herself enough to make this call worthwhile, she was unsure if the man would even realize something had happened. "Is it true that His Majesty promoted Claudius Rodney to the rank of Regional Governor? If so, are your orders to remain the same?"

While Grand Vizier Sate Pestage was not sure why the Emperor had appointed Claudius Rodney Regional Governor, he nevertheless was forced to concede that the matter was beyond his control. "Indeed he has," the Grand Vizier said, ignoring the young woman's theatrics as he was pressed with important matters of state. "Yes. Your orders ... which we sincerely hope you one day get around to following ... continue to be that you serve as an advisor to Ad...Grand Moff Rodney," he said, correcting himself, as he despised saying the words out loud.

"Very well." She nodded to the other in compliance, completely not acknowledging his slight on her performance as she believed she was doing everything possible to complete her mission despite all of the adversity she was facing with every step of the way. The answer her superior had given her had been what she originally called for, but now there was one more pressing matter on her mind. "One more thing, Grand Vizier..." Serine was not exactly sure how to put this, knowing that the man was not at all capable of wielding the Force, but he was in a position of power to know occurrences, perhaps...just perhaps there was something vital she was not being informed on. It was a delicate matter to suggest that Vizier was not giving her everything she needed to be successful, even hinting that would be a severe insult and breach of military etiquette. "...was there a recent event of tremendous consequence?" She inquired cautiously.

"One moment," the Grand Vizier bluntly stated to her, devoid of any emotion or thought which she might possibly interpret. For nearly fifteen minutes there was was no response on the holonet, before the automated Holonet announcement was broadcast to Inquisitor Thanor. A personalized text only transmission soon arrived from the office of the Inquisitor to inform her that given the nature of the events he would be unable to resume their conversation for the foreseeable future.

A heavy frown developed as she was forced to wait yet again for Pestage before being discarded completely! With an exasperated sigh she read the holonet transmission, and as she finished reading she could have laughed at the audacity of it all. She wasn't sure what was more ridiculous, that Alderaan, the society well known for absolute passiveness, developed a super weapon or that it blew up in their face and destroyed their pathetic pacifistic planet. Realizing it was Alderaan's destruction that caused that intense episode she experienced, she stood up slowly, contemplating the events but ultimately deciding that justice was done and so should be the same fate to any planet that allied with the Rebellion.

It had been a long shuttle ride for Jelena Rodney from Coruscant to Esseles, but she was glad to finally be back 'home'. She felt sad that she now considered this estate on the outskirts of New Calamar to be her home, but she had felt decidedly more upbeat since the news broke that she would be allowed to attend Alderaan University. She had already been on the HoloNet speaking with friends from the Select Academy for Young Ladies that were currently attending AU. She was thrilled to be able to tell them she would be joining them the following semester. She was wearing her father's old AU shirt and a pair of pajamas pants as she was laying on the sofa watching Imperial Holovision. Her ears perked up as the news broken into a special report.

"No!" Jelena screamed loudly as she heard the news, sitting up on the sofa as a panic came over here. She began hyperventilating as a full blown panic attack set over her. "No! No! No!" she started to scream as she stood up in front of the holonet receiver. "Htaere!" she screamed at the top of her lungs as the tears begin to flow from her eyes in powerful streams. Her hands went to the side of her head and she grabbed it, the pain overwhelming her as she fell to her knees in panicked desperation.

From where she had serenely been watering one of the plants in the corridors and removing dead bits of foliage, the sound of her name being screamed caused the heiress to jump, dropping the watering can as she did so. A slender hand came to rest over her heart as if to settle it before reaching down long enough to set the watering can upright lest its contents spill further. Hurrying towards the parlor in which Jelena's voice emanated she stood in the door way, eyes wide, not knowing what to expect. "What?! What is wrong?" she asked.

Jelena could not speak as she was kneeling on the floor, completely exhausted as she struggled even to breath. The entire room was spinning and she wondered if anyone she left behind was still alive. All of her wants, all of her dreams, all of her hopes were suddenly crushed and her worst fears regarding the evilness of the Empire were proven to be true. She pointed silently at the holonet receiver, as the breaking news once again replayed for Htaere to hear. The young Alderaanian had been completely destroyed by the news.

Htaere's eyes flashed from Jelena to the receiver in stupor. As the story was repeated, her grey eyes narrowed, head shaking in disbelief. "No..." she shook her head again. "This cannot be..." stepping inside the room she drew closer to the screen as if the closer proximity would offer clarity. When the news recapped, her hands folded over her mouth as she mumbled incoherently.

"How could they do this?" Jelena asked Htaere, rhetorically, as she continued to rock back and forth on her knees. She could not believe that almost everyone that mattered in her life was apparently gone. She was shaking very badly now and could hardly breath, as she dramatically collapsed to the ground. "No ... please no," she pathetically said, as she looked up at the holonet one last time.

Htaere collected herself as best she could, leaning down to assist Jelena from the ground. "I do not know," she mumbled numbly. "Come off of the floor and rest while I ascertain to understand this," she sought to pull the girl up from the floor.

Jelena offered no resistance as she was lifted from the floor, feeling all of the energy sucked from her body. She felt quite nauseous and overwhelmed and suddenly her head surged forward and she threw up all over the front of her father's shirt. The young woman was gasping in a panic as she choked on it, tears and mucus running from her eyes and face. She brought her hands up to her face and attempted to regain some composure but all seemed lost. The young woman had been utterly destroyed by the news and her life would never be the same.

Doing her best not to recoil in disgust, Htaere sat the girl down. "Oh dear," she spoke in a low voice. "I shall be right back," she patted the girls back before looking around carefully. Getting up she moved to a comp panel on the wall to summon a house droid for assistance before hurrying to the closest fresher. Returning moments later, she had a towel and damp washcloth. Holding the washcloth to Jelena's forehead, she sorted through her thoughts as she contemplated what to do first.

Jelena was still whaling as Htaere placed the washcloth over her forehead, unable to believe what had happened. "What are we going to do?" she asked, as the refresher droid went through the labored process of cleaning up the unfortunate mess she had made. "I can't..." she said, as she held the washcloth to her head, her breathing erratic and much of the color now gone from her face. She closed her eyes and tried to picture the friends she now feared were dead, but everything was a fuzzy blur of people she could no longer visualize and would likely never see again.

"I do not know," Htaere replied quietly. "Lift up your arms," she instructed lightly to remove the girl's soiled shirt. "I have a towel for you to cover yourself with for a moment while I draw you a bath, OK?" she did her best to anchor the girl in from hysteria.

Jelena made her way back to the sofa, shirtless, as she continued to watch Imperial Holovision. She kept hoping that the news anchor would come back and report that they were mistaken, but of course that would never happen. Her head kept shaking back and forth as if she could wish it away, her young body trembling as she tried to cope with the horror of it all. "I want my father..." she pathetically cried out, blaming him as much as any Imperial for what had happened. She refused to accept that the Alderaanians were building a super weapon.

Htaere draped the towel around the girl's shoulders and moved off quickly to draw a warm bath with soothing herbs. Moving back to the sofa, she touched Jelena's arm softly. "Come, I have a bath ready for you. Rest while I see if I can contact your father."

Jelena made her way up the stairs slowly, each step feeling like it was taking an eternity. She staggered at several points, but eventually she made it. As she stood in the bathroom she weakly stripped herself naked, before slipping into the warm confines of the soothing bath. There she would remain, attempting to wash the vomit and other fluids that had covered her face and body during her dramatic outburst.

Several hours later Lord Claudius Rodney arrived with Doctor Pilaq Tohan, having expected there to be some despair in the Rodney Estate that evening. He had attempted to get there as soon as he heard, but the distance between Brentaal and Esseles was not easily covered. He too had been destroyed by the news of Alderaan's destruction, but he could not allow his emotions to be viewed in public. He needed to be strong for all of their sakes. "Htaere?" he called out as he stood in the living room of the grand estate, uncertain of where everyone was.

Htaere appeared, wringing her hands slightly. "Here, Claudius," she offered rather meekly, unsure of his reaction. Normally she would have asked how his first day on the job would have been, but it all seemed a wash.

Claudius could tell by her reaction that something was off. Naturally there was only one thing it could be and he froze in his tracks dejectedly, lowering his head as he could not bare to make eye contact with her at the moment. "Then ... you have heard?" he asked, uncomfortably shifting his weight to scuff his left boot on the floor. It was quite the hard thing to cope with. He was so proud of his new promotion, but now all seemed lost.

Htaere frowned slightly. "It was on the holonet. Jelena is not handling it well," she replied quietly. "So, it is true then?"

"Indeed it is," Claudius reported to Htaere, still unable to look at her, as the emotions were still fresh and the wound was exposed. "The planet has been completely destroyed. There were no ... no survivors," he weakly informed her, as he was again shaken by the news of it all. It was the most depressing bit of information he had received in his long life, and it was something he would carry for the rest of his life.

Jelena stood at the top of the stairs, having heard her father's shuttle land. The young woman was now dressed only in a bath robe and she hurried down the stairs to confront the him. "This is your fault!" she screamed at the top of her lungs, the tears flowing from her eyes as she took both her hands and balled them up into fists, slamming them into his chest and breaking his new beloved rank insignia. "You and your damn Empire!" she said, tears flowing from her face hysterically now as she collapsed into his arms.

Claudius could only stand there helplessly as his daughter pounded upon him, placing his arms firmly around her as he embraced her in a tight hug. "Shh. Shh," he said, trying to calm her as he placed delicate kisses upon her forehead in an attempt to sooth her. His eyes looked desperately towards Htaere, wondering what he should do. Tears began to form in his eyes and flow from his own face in an uncharacteristic display of emotion as he felt his daughter's incredible pain.

Htaere stifled a deep breath, likewise unsure of what to do in such a situation. She did not know how to comfort either of them, finding no acceptable mantle to take refuge in, be it Claudius' Empire or Jelena's blind rebellious rage. "There there, let us not be so quick to point fingers," she made an attempt. "There are more pressing aspects of this that deserve our attentions."

Jelena continued to sob into her father's chest uncontrollable, her right hand bleeding from where she had smashed his rank insignia. She was exhausted and could barely stand. Her father's embrace was the only thing that was keeping her from falling to the ground. "I hate you. I hate your Empire!" she said, as she raised her bloody hand to the side of his face and gave him a tremendous smack, leaving a bloody hand print on the side of his face.

Claudius flinched when she slapped him, not expecting that, and his attention went to Doctor Tohan. "Doctor ... please, she is hysterical," he said somewhat reluctantly as he lowered his head in complete failure.

"Forgive me," Doctor Tohan said as he reached into his bag and produced a hypospray that had been filled with a sedative. He had expected this, and in an instant he inserted it into Jelena's arm and flushed it into her system. A moment later the girl was unconscious in her father's arms.

Htaere remained silent, as under the circumstances, it seemed the only course of action. "While you tend to her, I shall make some tea," she mumbled, drifting off from the parlor to leave them with Jelena's care. Running a hand through her hair, her eyes flickered out of one of the large windows she passed, half wondering what the rest of the residents of Esseles thought of the news.

Claudius groaned as he hoisted his 'little girl' into his arms and cradled her, slowly carrying her up the stairs of the estate, like he used to do when she was a small child. As her mother had died when she was very young he had developed a special relationship with Jelena and the words she had spoken troubled him very much. After entering their room, he lay her down upon her bed and pulled the blanket up over her. After tucking her in he stopped for a moment to look at her sleeping, and placed a tender kiss upon her forehead.

Claudius made his way back down the stairs to look for Htaere, instructing Pilaq to look over his daughter along the way. He entered the bedroom, looking rather disheveled. His uniform was covered in Jelena's tears and mucus, and half his rank insignia hung broken from his chest. Her blood was still on his face from where she slapped him. He lifelessly moved towards the foor of the bed, plopping town tiredly as he removed his boots to ease the pressure on his feet. "I ... I didn't expect that..." he said to Htaere, not making eye contact with her as he was still in a state of shock.

Htaere was removing items from the tray she'd brought up, pouring him a cup of tea and carrying it towards him. Holding it out, she found herself at a loss. "I do not understand how an entire planet is destroyed," she admitted. "What weapon could the rebellion possibly have created that would do so, given they are nothing but small pockets of ill-trained terrorists as it has been suggested?"

Claudius sighed deeply as he looked to Htaere, bringing his hand up to wipe some of the blood from his face. "Alderaan has considerable resources. A number of scientists. I have been told they were developing a weapon for the Rebellion ... so powerful that when it malfunctioned it caused the planet to break apart. The death toll was ... catastrophic..." he said with another deep sigh, lowering his face to place it in front of his hands as he let out a painful groan. "This is a disaster!" he exclaimed, as he rubbed his hands over his face aggressively.

"There there, Claudius, sip this tea," the young woman instructed lightly. "A warm shower will do you good as well, along with this beverage to soothe you." She took a seat close by, giving him the space he needed. There was a respite in the conversation as Htaere mulled it over. "What happens now?" she inquired quietly.

Claudius sipped at the tea, but it was a bit too hot for him and he gasped as he put it aside for a moment. He looked down for a moment, honestly uncertain how to answer her question. "I...I honestly have no idea what happens now..." he said as he blew on the tea to cool it before taking another sip. Ah, that was much better he thought as he took yet another sip. "I am very worried about Jelena. Very worried..." he said as he turned his head to look at Htaere, a somewhat helpless look in his eyes, somewhat ironic for a man who had so recently been given so much power.

"I am afraid it will take time for her to mend emotionally," Htaere conceded lightly. "I imagine all of her friends have perished as well." It wasn't really a question. "And what about you?" she asked. "Aside from the exterior you are presenting, how are you doing?"

Claudius took another sip of the tea before replying to Htaere. "Truthfully?" he said, looking up at her with beaten down eyes. "On the inside I feel much like Jelena. Some of my oldest and dearest friends are assuredly dead. Including my first wife's family..." he confessed, broaching the uncomfortable topic before taking another sip of the tea.

Htaere let him speak, listening without judgment. "Are you going to be taking some time off to handle the memorial ceremonies?"

"Unfortunately I can take no time off..." Claudius admitted as he finished his cup of tea, and set it aside on the night table. "My duties as Regional Governor are much more considerable than that of a simple squadron commander..." he explained to her as he looked out at the moon that was shining over the sea outside their estate. "That's quite the view..." he said to her, sounding as if he was trance as he admired it from afar.

"I understand," Htaere said, rising to collect his spent cup. She paused after picking up the tray and canted her head sympathetically. "A nice hot shower will make you feel much better Claudius. You should try to get some rest. Fatigue is only adding to the onslaught of issues right now, but being well rested may afford you a bit more clairvoyance," she offered softly.

Claudius rose from the bed tiredly as he stripped himself of the tunic, choosing just to discard it rather than having it cleaned. The trousers were next to join the pile on the floor as he stripped down to his undergarments. "Will you join me?" he asked, as he moved from the bedroom into the adjoining refresher. "I ... I don't want to be alone..." he explained, sounding somewhat sad as he stripped himself completely while warming up the water for the shower.

A patient smile slightly lifting the corners of her lips, Htaere nodded. "Of course," she replied, leaving the tray on a table. She took care to remove her jewelry and placed it on a chifforobe so as not to lose any of it down the drains in the refresher before joining her aged husband.

Claudius could not sleep that night and after several hours of restlessness he rose from the bed as quietly as possible so as not to disturb his lovely sleeping wife. He stepped out onto the balcony and let the cool night air flutter against his face. He gripped hard to the railing as he stared up at the moon, thinking of all those he had lost that day. He would avenge them. He would make the Rebellion pay for the crimes. No matter how long it took he pledged himself to the destruction of the Alliance for their crime against his people.

Major Aden Zevrin smiled as she watched a series of monitors that were in front of her conference table. She took note of all of the emotions that had been captured by the crew of the Warspite, her Imperial colleagues, and even the Grand Moff's family. She laughed hysterically as she played over the man's vow to destroy the Rebellion for 'their' crime. Her hand moved to the control panel and suddenly all of the monitors went to static. "Lights!" she commanded and the room went instantly dark as she pulled a holo emitter from her pocket. Activating it a red light illuminated her gorgeous face and slowly the spherical image of an enormous battle station flared to life. Her tongue slithered over her lips as she watched it in complete and total awe. Soon the Rebellion would be crushed and she was one of the few to know the reason why. Another massive laugh escaped her lips as she spun around in her chair, literally on top of the galaxy.

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