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
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.
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
towards them and stood akimbo. "Well Snowflake you
have managed to demonstrate your uselessness in
record time. I. am. Impressed," Parka replied.
Htaere sipped her tea elegantly. "And here I thought
you wanted me for my money. That is of significant
"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.
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.
invited me to stay," Htaere answered, letting her
eyes settle into her tea cup.
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
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.
remained quiet. Parka kept her voice low. "We need
to talk. Can you get away for a few?"
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.
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."
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."
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.
"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.
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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
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
"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
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,"
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.
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."
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
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
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
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
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.