Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:8:32) in the Essesia system: Esseles (New Calamar: Claudius Rodney's estate).
Grand Moff Claudius Rodney and Countess Htaere Rodney.

The distinctive roar of the engines of several TIE fighters screeched through the late afternoon skies of Esseles, as Claudius Rodney sat on a balcony on the second level of his state looking down at the city of New Calamar and its large naval base. He was not dressed in his Imperial uniform, but rather an ornate robe that kept him covered and comfortable. After all, Doctor Tohan had denied him access to reports from the front, and it was unlikely any of his officers would see him so he saw little need to exert the effort to dress. He did not even have holonet access, so the only entertainment he could find to pass the time was to gaze off at the seemingly endless Imperial ship traffic that filled the skies. He remember his younger days when he served aboard smaller ships, and actually piloted himself ... it seemed like another life to him now.

Having resumed her usual glittering and resplendent attire, Htaere paused briefly to view Claudius where he relaxed on a balcony before gliding towards him. She came up alongside him, taking a moment to enjoy the feel of the slight breeze on her cheeks despite the appearance of the lands around them to that of a military base. "Rest has done you well. You appear much improved," she pointed out.

Claudius did not hear her move to join him on the balcony until the moment that she spoke, and when he heard, he immediately perked up in his chair. "Yes. Yes I am much improved," he said eagerly, in the hopes it might persuade her to speak to the doctor about allowing him to return to duty. "I think I am quite ready to resume command," he informed her, in a confident, almost emphatic tone of voice, looking upon her with his brown eyes. She looked lovely as always, but in this moment all he could see the woman who held sway over his fate.

"Resume command?" Htaere nodded. "If you do so, you *must* remove the embargo here, and allow Esseles to resume commerce," she continued. "People are starving."

When Claudius heard her say he *must* do something he was taken aback slightly, but he did not voice his concern to her. Instead, he studied her features more intently, and began to realize how much she had grown up in the time since she arrived. "The blockade is a necessity. We tracked the shuttle Jelena absconded with to the surface. If we allow ships to come and go freely then she could escape. She could end up anywhere and I would never find her!" he explained, his voice raising in amplitude and intensity as he spoke, as the emotional instability built up inside of him before erupting from his mouth in the form of panicked words.

Htaere exhaled. "Claudius, I encountered an old acquaintance of Hapes who had encountered Jelena recently." It wasn't exactly a lie. "I can say with absolute honesty, I do not know where Jelena is, but I can say where she is not. And she is not on Esseles. She escaped your blockade and is long gone. I thought you might like to know that she is reported to be alive and well, and chooses not to return." Htaere leaned a hip against the balcony. "I hope that I have brought you some peace to your troubled soul."

Claudius sat silently in the chair as Htaere informed of the news, his jaw clenching tightly in a way that caused his head to begin to tremble and the veins in his temple begin to bulge. His cheeks flushed with an intense shade of red and his hands grabbed the arms of the chair he was seated in, squeezing as tightly as they could. Finally, when he could stand it no more he unleashed a deep, primordial scream from deep within his bowels that caused the Stromtroopers on patrol down below to momentarily look up. The news cut him to the very fiber of this core, before his irrational mind began to retake control and focus on the news at hand. "Who is this Hapan? Can you be sure of her information? Can you trust her? You didn't pay her ... did you? Can I meet with her?" he asked her, each question coming quicker than the one before, and giving her no time to respond. It was if he was unleashing the questions with the intensity of a heavy repeating blaster, hoping to gleam any bit of news beyond what she had already told him.

Htaere should have been surprised at his outburst, but she wasn't. "I have no reason not to trust this person. I did not pay her. It was simply an chance encounter in passing. I am uncertain about reconnecting at present," Htaere shrugged. "I know it was not much, but I did try to ascertain what I could, so that you would know she was alright. I am sorry I could not have done better." Htaere's words were believable. They were not an act, after all. "I hope that it offers you some solace so that you may return to your duties, your *objective* duties and responsibilities, including to your constituents on this planet."

As Htaere relayed the additional information, he sunk into the chair, exhaling a sigh so deep that his chest nearly collapsed. His right hand moved to cover his face, his fingers separating, and spreading over his tired features. He remained there motionless for a moment, not acknowledging her in the slightest. "Thank ... thank you," he said weakly, but did not pull his hand away to uncover his face. The news that she had escaped was devastating, and he now began to fear that he might never lay eyes upon his daughter again.

Htaere let him digest the information in his own way, sympathetic yet with the expectation that he would handle it as a grown man, and an officer. When a few moments had passed, she shifted towards him and rested a hand on his shoulder. "Claudius," she spoke very quietly. "All is not lost. The galaxy is indeed a peculiar place. I suspect that paths will cross with Jelena again." She managed an optimistic smile. "Should I hear *anything* at all, I promise I shall follow up to see where it might lead me. But you should know this..." her voice took on a far more serious tone. "I am not a spy of the Empire, nor am I an agent of the rebellion. I care about our family, what we have left. I sincerely hope you do not expect that I shall provide you anything that you or the Empire might be able to exploit for the sake of the war." Her eyes were intent on his face, despite it being hidden, as if she could see through his hand. "Please do not ever ask me to report anything to you. I know nothing more than what I have told you. I do not intend to bandy information as if I am in the employ of either."

As Claudius listened to her words he knew the time away had changed her, but it had been more than that. It had been his neglecting her as his duties expanded. It had been the ISB interrogation that took the life of their unborn child. There was no one thing he could assign blame to, and he chalked it up to just another one of the failures he had experienced over the past two years. He had married a child, but would stood before him was a woman, and he did not immediately know what to think about that. He was silent, as he expected anything he said now would be 'wrong'. "This rebellion must be eradicated," he muttered to himself, as from his point of view they were the ones responsible for all of his problems. The hand not on his face angrily slapped down on the armrest of the chair, pledging himself to redouble his efforts to drive the rebels from his oversector.

"Then do so on the Empire's time. Not on mine." Htaere paused a moment for concluding. "I do not wish to have to choose sides." She began to withdraw to let him decompress. "Can I get you anything?"

Claudius' hand slowly withdrew from his face, revealing that his eyes had been welling up with tears. "Will you talk to Doctor Tohan?" he asked, his voice trembling slightly, as he lowered his head, rubbing at his eyes briefly. "I will have the fleet redeployed. As it is unfortunately clear that the blockade is no longer needed," he informed her, reluctant to concede to any 'demand' to persuade her, but with Jelena no longer on Esseles she presented a valid argument.

Htaere watched him in silence before her chin dipped once in a subtle nod. "Of course. I shall volunteer to help distribute the food shipments." With that, she turned and glided away in near silence, the breezy light fabric of her gown billowing around dainty ankles and sandals.

Claudius nodded silently at her, and then watched her gracefully depart the balcony. Once she had left, and he was convinced that he was alone, he finally raised from the chair and moved towards the balcony. He grabbed hold of the railing, watching the Essesia star set in the distance, over the mountains and the nearby Terril Naval Base. He was reflecting on the conversation, the changes in the Htaere, and the news that Jelena had made it off world. He turned suddenly, grabbing hold of the small table that was on the balcony, and angrily flipped it upright. His next move was to grab at the chair he had been sitting in, and in one fluid motion he threw it off the balcony, where it impacted next to a trio of Stormtroopers below. He stood there, silent, his robe flowing open in the breeze, his hair a mess, the sweat pouring off him, and his chest heaving in deep breaths. The Rebellion would surely pay for this, he vowed silently to himself, as his eyes glared off into the distance.

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