Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:7:28) in the New Alderaan system: New Alderaan (New Aldera).
Parka Pepper, Lady Jelena Rodney, and Lady Htaere Ka`a Sha`ar.

In the warm and glorious sunlight with the kiss of the gentle breeze, Htaere sat seated around a crate with a handful of little girls from the refugee camp, having an impromptu tea party with some of her fine porcelain. Each little girl had on some thing of Hteare's, a piece of jewelry, a luxurious scarf, a tiara or whatever and there was much in the way of manners and refinement and giggles being passed around.

Zeroing in from across the makeshift street, Parka Pepper's grey and black flecked eyes narrowed, gritting her teeth. Her presence did not escape Htaere, who managed a very pleased smile.

"Tell me Parka, is that new furrow in your brow on account of me?" she called to the visibly agitated rebel. She was beginning to delight in getting under Parka's skin.

Parka marched towards them and stood akimbo. "Well Snowflake you have managed to demonstrate your uselessness in record time. I. am. Impressed," Parka replied.

"Uselessness?" Htaere sipped her tea elegantly. "And here I thought you wanted me for my money. That is of significant importance no?"

"This is the real world. No tea parties. No dancing on the lake shore, none of this other fanciful crap you're dropping all over these kids. The struggle is real out here. They've all lost something in this war," Parka shot back hotly.

"We have all lost something," Htaere answered quietly, not allowing herself to become riled.

"Well you're about to lose even more. I'm sure you're aware that your mother has posted a 2.7 million dollar bounty for your detainment and prompt return to Gallinore for the next arranged marriage she's lined up for you. You being here is now a problem for the rest of us," Parka lowered her voice.

"Jelena invited me to stay," Htaere answered, letting her eyes settle into her tea cup.

"Jelena didn't know you are a hunted woman," Parka replied. She nodded towards the main complex. "Come on Snowflake. Time to take a walk."

For a long time Htaere didn't move, staring down at her tea and listening to the wind rustle through the trees before she placed her cup down carefully and excused herself from the tea party, allowing the children to continue. Getting up, she followed Parka off to find Jelena.

Lady Jelena Rodney, the de factor administrator of New Alderaan, found herself in the streets of New Aldera trying to direct a dozen or so individuals, each one believing themselves to having the most pressing matter. It was exhausting. New construction was everywhere, but spreading the resources between the various agencies taking a foothold on the Alliance safe world was a challenge. No one was ever satisfied. She was becoming flustered, her cheeks were flushing red as a result. "No, this one goes *here*! That one goes *there*!" she said, briefly losing her patience, as she directed cargo from one section of the burgeoning community to the other. There were not enough construction materials, power generators, or medical supplies. There was barely enough food. Every day more and more refugees claiming to be from Alderaan were arriving, and she could not afford to turn any of them way, but the camp was ripping at the seems. When she saw Parka and Htaere approaching she held her hand out to silence the people surrounding her, and moved towards the Hapans. She placed a pleasant smile upon her young face as she greeted them. "Settling in alright?" she asked, as she looked first to Htaere and then to Parka.

Htaere remained quiet. Parka kept her voice low. "We need to talk. Can you get away for a few?"

Jelena looked over her shoulders at the Rebel leaders, community officials, and logistics droids that all needed her, seemingly feeling exhausted. She raised her hand at them to indicated she needed a moment, before turning her attention back to Parka. "Yes. Please save me," she said to her old handler, as she began moving away from the commotion. "I did not realize that I was getting myself into," she informed both of them, as they moved through the streets of New Aldera. Slowly a community was taking shape, but it would take a lot of work and resources before it was a true city. Somedays she felt it would never evolve into a suitable home for her wayward people. As they moved from the developed roads to the dirt streets they started to get privacy, and eventually they found them in a clearing against a fresh water source. "Is everything okay?" she asked, as she tried to focus on the two Hapans while simultaneously escaping the chaos of the camp.

Parka grew quite serious. "I assure you this gives me no pleasure, but you should know that Htaere's mother has posted a very large bounty on her to be returned to Gallinore for another marriage since she refuses to voluntarily do so," Parka began. "She is not above raising that dollar amount as she sees fit, which means every drunk slob in the galaxy who even fancies himself a bounty hunter will sit up and take notice. I think we all know that creates an undue risk here. Don't you agree?" Parka looked to Htaere solemnly, folding her hands behind her back.

Htaere nodded slowly. "It is true what she says. My mother is not just 'being dramatic," she continued just as quietly. "She had my father assassinated when I was six years old. Because he was kind, loving, composed...and he refused to terminate his own offspring, which is the reason I still draw breath," she explained. "My mother is evil. She has no soul. Parka is correct in her assessment of the situation, I fear."

"I cannot advise you, but this is a huge decision that ultimately lies with you," Parka nodded to Jelena. For a moment she regarded both Htaere and Jelena, and she found herself remembering that the two were nearly the same age, Htaere being the senior by only a few short years. She found herself forgetting that Htaere had married a man old enough to be her own father, and could so easily have been Jelena's sister as opposed to her stepmother. "I know this is hard, and that you're kinda just still a kid. Hell, in some way both of you are and I feel like I'm babysitting sometimes," Parka commented just lightly. "And it's tragic when a kid has to make adult decisions, but it's come to that."

Jelena listened as Parka and Htaere detailed the bounty that her mother had placed on her. Her mouth hung open, like a fish in a bowl at feeding time. "Oh, Htaere..." she said, stepping forward and placing her hand empathetically upon her upper arm. "You'll be safe here. New Alderaan isn't on any of the major charts. The ash worlds are all but forgotten. That's why we chose it," she said, as she continued to maintain a smile on her face, and keeping a pleasant way of speaking. The last thing she wanted was for Htaere to be forced into *another* marriage after what happened with her father. She simply could not turn the woman away, regardless of the potential danger to the settlement.

Htaere smiled. "I know, but Parka has a point," she conceded. "You have worked very hard to give these poor people a place of rest. I would not risk their hard-won peace on my account." She took Jelena by the shoulders and gave her a good once over, brimming over with what could not have been more pride were Jelena her own flesh and blood. "Do not worry. I shall not let anything happen to you, or your refugees. I promise. I know you are hard pressed for financial support. I shall give you whatever it is you need. I believe Parka is correct in that I should depart, at least for now, until things settle down. I promise to keep in touch...if it is safe to do so and I shall return as soon as it is safe to do as well. Does this sound acceptable?" She smiled and managed a wink, a bit out of character.

Jelena unleashed a dejected sigh, lowering her head as she listened to the conclusion drawn by Htaere. "You really don't have to go. The chances of a bounty hunter finding you here are less than almost anywhere else in the known galaxy," she said, trying to reason with the Hapan noblewoman. She looked to Parka, with a desperate look upon her face. "Talk some sense in her. Please," she said, as she moved to within touching range of the woman. She reached out and placed a hand on Parka's shoulder, needing her to be the voice of reason at this, their most desperate hour. "We do need the help, Htaere, but ... I won't turn you away," she said, as she turned to face she who had once been her stepmother. She had failed her once before, which led to tremendous suffering. She did not want to turn her away now that she needed her.

Before Parka had a chance to say anything, Htaere intervened. "Less than almost anywhere sounds reasonable, but I would no sooner risk that, no matter how small a chance than I would leaving it to fate."

Parka's face remained stoic. "It is ultimately her decision," she pointed out carefully to Jelena.

Doing her best to bat away the doubt and morose that was overwhelming the atmosphere, Htaere smiled. "Do not be sad. I *promise* I shall return. I would extend to you an invitation to join me, but I know you are needed here. These people have put their blessed faith in you, and thus far you have delivered so magnificently that to gamble on any aspect of that would be foolish. Besides," Htaere offered a lopsided grin. "I have had a lifetime to deal with my mother. And whoever she bribes into her employ for her own personal gain. And..." she took a deep breath and fixed her best, most charming and obedient smile, "...if all else fails, I shall tell her that if she quadruples her offer to you directly, and continues to make such discreet yet princely payments to your efforts here, than I shall turn myself over to her marriage and leave everything to fate. And believe me," Htaere added, "she is seedy enough that she can move money around in to such convoluted and mind-boggling trails that no amount of digging will derive those finances from her accounts."

"Htaere!" Jelena squealed, after hearing the last words that she spoke. "One arranged marriage is one too many," she said, as she began pleading with her, desperately. "I cannot take those credits. As much we need them I cannot profit off your suffering," he told her, and then the tears began to flow, as her brown eyes began to well up with years. "There *has* to be another solution," she said, as she reached out with both hands and desperately clutched her. "C'mon, Parka. You've gotten me out of way worse than this," she said, as she switched her desperate look to Parka, without releasing Htaere.

"I did not suffer you," Htaere said softly.

Parka, for once, was almost at a loss for words. She sympathized rather genuinely, having become somewhat attached to the *other* privileged rich girl in her life who'd fallen from her luxurious Ivory Tower. "This isn't about us anymore Jelena," she stated. "It's about everyone else. It's about weighing one life over a million others. It's about the greater good. The last thing anybody wants is an array of scoundrels barging through here and tearing down what you've worked so hard to build, and that's at the very least," Parka reasoned. "At the very worst, the Empire could catch a whiff of this place, and..." she shuddered a little, "...those monsters will level every continent from orbit if given half a chance. You know this."

It was hard to argue with what Parka just said. She exhaled, which seemed to deflate her, and caused her head to fall so far that her chin came to a stop upon her chest. Her hands fell too, reluctantly falling from Htaere's grasp, and coming to a rest at her side. "Fine," she said, as the tears fell upon her cheeks, and she clenched her jaw in frustration. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Htaere, holding her dearly and, perhaps, a bit too tight. She wished that she had met Htaere under difference circumstances. They were close in age and not too dissimilar and if not for their overly complicated families, which was a common trait shared between them, they might have met in better times.

Htaere did not shun the display or withdraw. If anything she welcomed it. Prior to coming to New Alderaan, it had been a long time since she'd had much physical contact with anyone. She was reminded how euphoric it felt to be cherished. She simply held Jelena in a genuine and warm embrace as long as her former stepdaughter felt like maintaining contact. "Do not be sad. I promise to return. I promise," she said soothingly. "I have one small request if I may ask it of you."

"I'm going to hold you to that promise," Jelena said, as she lifted her head, and looked towards Htaere directly. "What is the request? I'll do anything," she said, as her face lit up slightly, with some semblance of a smile. If there was anyone in the galaxy to whom she owed a debt it was Htaere. Whatever it was, she would find a way to honor the request.

"As you should. If anyone knows how to find me, it seems to be Parka...for some...bothersome reason," Htaere flashed a peculiar eye to the other Hapan, to which Parka only smirked. "Please care of my guarlara in my absence. I shall send you whatever compensation you deem adequate for her care, though you can likely simply find a glorious green pasture for her to graze in for the upcoming days and that should make her most happy." Htaere had to smile upon thinking of the long time companion animal. "Do ride her if you are feeling up to it. She needs the exercise, and there is little more exhilarating than riding her in the waterfront of a beach or lake shore I have found."

"I would be honored to care for your guarlara, Htaere, but I will not take any compensation," Jelena told to her, as her lower lip began to quiver and the tears again began to come. She still remembered when her father gifted Htaere the guarlara in the days leading up to their wedding. Everything seemed happier then, or maybe she was just young and naive. No matter the reason she looked back on those days with rose colored lenses and smiled. "I will do my best to learn how to ride her. As I recall, it did not work out well when Ewwiekewwieikkie tried," she said, as she smirked to her and laughed slightly. There were some fond memories between the tragedies.

Htaere shook her head, recalling the event in question with clarity. "It was I who tumbled off of her that day out riding, and that was only because of an overhead pass of a TIE squadron on patrol," she chuckled. "Ewwie was brave enough to climb aboard after I'd finished dusting off my bottom." It seemed like a lifetime ago. She was taken aback for a moment. "How is Ewwie? And Dru?" she paused. "And Kerrie. I think of Kerrie often. I hope they are all well."

Talking about her sisters suddenly caused the tears to stop and a smile to curl upon her face. "Yes. The security was a bit much. Still, it didn't stop me," she said, with a wink, as she was quite proud in what she had accomplished. "Ewwiekewwieikkie is well. Drusilla is dating a Prince ... allegedly," she said, with a smirk and a shake of her head. "Kerrie is still Kerrie, from what I'm told," she said, still having her resentment towards the Clawdite, whose life she had nearly taken.

 "I am quite glad to hear such," Htaere nodded. They had strayed off the topic at hand, which was perhaps much needed as comic relief. "Anyway, if she becomes a problem, please do let me know." Htaere risked giving Jelena another tight hug before stepping back and giving her an approving grin. "I shall see you before I leave. And Doctor Tohan. I shall visit him as well." Htaere took a step back and reached behind her neck. Unfastening a necklace she held it towards Jelena for her inspection and hopefully her approval. The pendant contained a single amber rainbow gem. "For you," she stated solidly.

"Another gift," Jelena said, weakly, as she looked towards the necklace with the amber rainbow gem. "But I have nothing to give you," she said, as she placed the necklace over her head and let it come to a rest around her neck. "You certainly must. I do not think I could ever face Doctor Tohan again if you departed without meeting with him. I wouldn't have the heart to tell him," she said, as she looked towards the ground and kicked a rock away from them. This had been a difficult discussion.

"I do not give this expecting something in reciprocation," Htaere stated rather of matter of factly. The amber rainbow gem was very similar to the one surgically embedded on her forehead in the middle of a jade colored diamond, to match the inverted jade triangles tattooed beneath each eye, all modification insisted upon by her mother. To be more beautiful and appealing of course. "You know," she explained patiently, "my family, the Ka`a Sha`ar, have been holding exclusive mining rights to the rainbow gems of Gallinore, and the backbone of the Hapan economy, since the descendents of the Lorrell Raiders millennia ago. These are not just gems," she went on. "Each and every rainbow gem is a living thing, a silicon-based life form. Their life force is what makes them glow as they do," she pointed to the one in her head. "Their glow and brilliance comes from within," she then pointed to her heart, and added a wink for good measure. "Plus, if you are ever in a tight spot, each rainbow gem commands the cost of a Mon Cal cruiser," she nodded. "The Queen Mother of Hapes has crowns studded with enough rainbow gems to purchase entire solar systems. If you should find yourself in need of a bartering chip, remember that."

As Htaere explained the significance of the rainbow gem she raised her hand, clutching it dearly. "I wish I had taken the time to learn about you and your family while you were with us on Essles. I thought if I opened up and let you in I would be dishonoring my mother," she said, in painful honesty about the cold way she acted when Htaere first joined the family. She had grown so much since then, and she hoped it was not too late. "If you ever need our help..." she began, speaking about the Rebel Alliance as a whole, which she was now a leader in. "...please just ask," she said, as she tried to maintain the happy face that had appeared when they discussed family. It was hard.

"My mother is a hideous harpy and my four older sisters are fast following in her footsteps, or at least fancy that they do," Htaere smiled as she gave a brief rundown on the surviving members of her immediate family. She let the humor fade. "I am certain it was very difficult for you. I know it was difficult for me. I feel fair in saying I know it was difficult for your father as well. My job was never to replace your mother," Htaere commented. "That is something no other woman can do, and none should. Your loyalty to your mother needs no explanation. I learned very early not to take it personally." Htaere appeared pensive for a moment and then her face brightened and she looked back up Jelena. "I may have failed marriage, but I did learn something," she said in ernest. "I did learn what love is. Love is when you put someone else's needs and wants above your own." She gazed around at the fruits of Jelena's hard work. "And I believe that is something you have learned to."

"Thank you, Htaere," Jelena said, as the words Htaere had spoken had a profound impact on her. "I don't think kinder words have ever been spoken about me," she told her, sincerely, before exhaling in a labored sigh. This had been an emotionally taxing conversation that had exhausted her. "You take good care of her," she said, as she looked towards Parka Pepper with a serious look on her face. If anything happened to Htaere she would blame herself for not being able to convince her to stay on New Alderaan.

For a brief moment, Htaere exchanged brief glances with Parka who had been standing just off to the side and unbelievably quiet during the discussion, allowing them their privacy. Htaere again said nothing.

Parka broke the silence. "I'm...not going with her," she confessed.

"What?!" Jelena exclaimed, suddenly feeling lightheaded. She moved quickly towards the ground to sit down, before she fell down. She brought her head down to rest upon her knees, as she rapped her arms around her legs, hugging hersef. "I ... I just don't know what to say..." the teenager said, having just had the wind knocked out of her. "Whose going to look after you? Whose going to protect you?" he pleaded with her, as she looked up at Htaere again. She felt as if she was being flung around on a rollercoaster.

Htaere's lovely face appeared a bit confused, casting another quick sideways glance to Parka before looking back to Jelena. "Well, no one. Parka is in service to the rebellion," she answered. "Jelena, I do not need protecting. I have been solitary for..." Htaere had to pause and think about how long it had been since her divorce. "...a very long time now," she forged on. "I am volunteering to leave on my own. I do not require the rebellion's time and resources."

"And you're just going to allow this?!" Jelena fired in the direction of Parka, as she became slightly agitated. She rose from the ground, stumbling slightly as she got up too quickly. She moved towards Parka, raising both of her hands up in the air dramatically, before letting them fall back at her side, causing a slapping noise. "I can't believe this," she said, looking down at the ground, and shaking her head repeatedly.

Parka arched a single eyebrow, a little surprised by Jelena's accusatory tone, yet affixing a level of tolerance to it. "Whoa there Nek battle dog," she warned Rodney the younger. "Your ex-stepmother has been prancing around by herself for a long time now and no offense, Snowflake Part 2, but it didn't seem to bother you then. You weren't freaking out about her safety."

At Parka's tone, Htaere scowled at her fellow Hapan. "Oh now that is just inappropriate Parka," she reacted. She looked back to Jelena. "Please, I do not wish to cause friction here. All will be fine. I believe I should see myself back to my ship to ready for my departure." Unsure how to diffuse the escalation, Htaere spun quickly on her sandled heels and hurried away.

"Nek battle dog?" Jelena asked, not even knowing what that was. It sounded offensive, but after all the water under the bridge between her and Parka she was not going to get offended. "Htaere, wait..." she said, in a desperate plea, but the woman was already gone. "Look what you did, Parka," she said with a sigh, as she lowered her head dejectedly. "We have got to work on your social skills," she told her, as she shook her head and began moving back towards the settlement.

"Yeah, fighting dogs. Do a holovid search. They're fierce as hell. We should get one," Parka called, a bit sidetracked before remembering she was pissed. "Don't take this out on me." She found herself calling into a void as she stood alone. "Ah damn," Parka growled, kicking at the ground.

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