Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:8:8) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Rodney Castle) and Nerf Herder.
Yekaterina Hanson, Princess Leia Organa, General Carlist Rieekan, Lady Jelena Rodney, Duke Julius Rodney, Duchess Livia Rodney, and Lord Marcus Rodney.

The sound of debris impacting the hull of the G1-A transport Nerf Herder caused Jelena Rodney to briefly flutter her eyes as she entered a state of semi-consciousness. Initially it sounded like rainfall and she smiled to herself, forgetting the events of the past month, and believing that instead she was back home. But as she stretched the truth came storming back into her mind as she was confronted with the harshness of the cot she lay upon. Were they under attack, she thought silently to herself as the noise continued, and a sudden gasp of air preceded the wide opening of her eyes. "Uncle?" she cried out, more like a child than the woman who had attempted to inspire open Rebellion in the Ringali Shell, before rushing from the cargo hold to the cockpit. She froze when she reached the viewport and realized the sounds that she heard ... they were not under attack ... they were in the Graveyard of Alderaan. "Wh-why did you bring me here?" she asked, stammering, as her body began to uncomfortably tremble ... she felt cold and the color was rapidly leaving her skin.

Marcus Rodney skillfully maneuvered his modified transport through the vast field of debris that radiated throughout the Alderaan system, the only remnants of a world he once called home. He had spent his youth there with his mother who was in government, and briefly attended the University of Alderaan. He could not count how many he had lost when the Empire destroyed it, but for now his mind was keenly focused on the preservation of one life ... his niece. After paying Dimona and parting ways he had set course for the Alderaan system after reaching the only decision that made sense to him. "Your father will never stop searching for you," he began, as he began navigating towards one of the neighboring worlds. "And there are elements that would hunt you down to use you in a pawn against him. No one would think to look for you with your grandparents. You'll be safe here. I promise," he said reassuringly, as he focused in on the planet Delaya and began his approach.

Letting out a tremendous sigh, Jelena settled herself in the cockpit and strapped herself in, looking down dejectedly at her empty hands as she considered her system. "Thank you," she said softly, after a brief silence, as it began to settle in with her just how much she owed her uncle. She had not seen him much over the years as his flamboyant lifestyle had embarrassed the family, and they had done much to keep him from being a bad influence on her. As her home grew larger in the viewport the lush hues of green and blue warmed her heart and she slowly began to feel more relaxed. "I never figured you for the hero type," she said, as she began to adjust her ragged clothes in case anyone she knew saw her.

"This is not an aspect of my life I advertise. And let's keep this between ourselves. The last thing I need is my parents on my case about this," Marcus replied between a series of uncomfortable groans, having done his best to avoid his parents during most of his adult life. As the craft near the castle that had housed his family for over a thousand generations he too became nervous, and despite all of his skill and bravado his jaw inexplicably clenched tight from nerves. It seemed no matter how one advanced in life, or what they achieved, parents would always remain parents. His hands flourished over the controls as he cut the engines and guided the craft safely down to the platform using maneuvering thrusters.

Jelena swallowed uncomfortably as they landed, and reluctantly rose from her seat and began walking towards the cargo bay. She stopped, hesitating when she realized that she was not being followed. "You're not coming?" she asked, already knowing the answer, as she looked over her shoulder back towards him. She grimaced slightly, as her hands nervously intertwined while she began to figure out exactly what she would tell her grandparents. His presence would make that easier, but for all his heroism displayed in front of the Empire and bounty hunters he was still a coward in front of his parents ... she could relate.

"This is where I leave you, dear niece," Marcus replied, as he immediately began going over the pre-flight checklist. "Besides, how would I explain this?" he said, as he turned to give her one last reassuring smile and laugh. "Good luck ... you're gonna need it," he said to her, the last part of the message mumbled under his breath as he placed his helmet back upon his head. Already he could make out the protocol droid and security moving towards the transport ... time to go!

As Jelena descended the ramp she took a long look at her family's ancestral home, thinking back on how innocently naive she was the last time she had walked these grounds. An instant later she felt the blast of the engine behind her as her uncle hurriedly made his escape, and she could not help but laugh at his cowardly display. Shaking it off, she proceeded up the steps that took her from the modern landing platform to the ancient interior of the castle, as she began to rehearse exactly what she would say to her grandparents.

"Jelena!" the frantic voice of Duchess Livia Rodney cried out, and the elderly woman hurried down the corridor to embrace her eldest grandchild. When she heard the reports from the Ringali Shell she had feared the worst, and after initially refusing to believe them came to accept that she might never see her granddaughter again. "You had us terrified!" she exclaimed with a concern that could only be expressed by one that loved unconditionally. "What did you do? What are you doing here?" she asked in rapid succession, her aged hands moving to grasp Jelena's shoulders, shaking her frantically as she locked eyes with her.

Jelena felt herself begin to lose emotional control of the situation and suddenly a wellstream of tears began to flow from both of her eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm so very sorry," she mustered wearily, before collapsing forward and sobbing uncomfortably into her grandmother's chest. With her mother deceased and her father in the military this was the woman who had raised her, and there was a maternal kinship she shared with her that made the moment all the more difficult. She could find no other words despite her education ... she was mentally exhausted, near broken ... she desperately needed sleep and a long stay in the refresher.

Livia was horrified by her granddaughter's breakdown and with the help of the servants began leading her towards her former bedchamber. The room had been untouched since she departed for the Ringali Shell last year, and she had always hoped her granddaughter would return to her ... but not like this. "There is no need to have this discussion now, Jelena," she said, as she released her grasp upon her to allow her to gracefully fall to her bed. "Get some rest," she implored to her, before placing a single kiss upon her forehead and then pulling the covers firmly upon her. There were tears in her eyes as well as she departed the room, nearly collapsing once she returned to the corridor. By harboring an Imperial fugitive, they now shared in her fate, and after witnessing the destruction of Alderaan she knew full well the might the Empire could bring down upon them.

As Jelena lay in her old bed she grabbed for one of her stuffed animals, bringing it close to her chest in a manner similar to the way her former protector often did. She closed her eyes, despite the continued presence of tears, which were now smearing what was left of her makeup and filth upon her lavish pillowcase. It was then that the rain began to fall, pattering upon her windows, and rhythmically sending her off to sleep.

In the corridor Duke Julius Rodney had been watching from the shadows, silently observing the display between his wife and granddaughter. He let out a frustrated sigh before bringing his hand to the top of his head to run through what remained of his hair. The elder statesman had much to consider, and the ramifications of his granddaughter's sudden appearance could shatter his planet's existence. This was a matter of importance that would require consultation with those who could see beyond the affairs of his one planet.

"For nearly a year I had been funneling what information I could to Agent Pepper," Jelena explained to those who had gathered in her father's conference room. It felt as if she were on trial, having to recount the sordid events that brought her to this time and place. "When the Princess approached me I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do," she continued, as she stood before them, trying to justify actions that needed no justification to those that had gathered there. "When Alderaan was destroyed, I felt vindicated in everything I had done. My father refused to see it ... so I acted," she said confidently, with a firm nod of her head, before swallowing so deliberately that her young, feminine throat bulged.

"You are a hero," the weathered voice of General Carlist Rieekan said, as he looked to the others in the room, as if to conclude the matter. "You are to be congratulated," he said, as he rose from his seat, and moved towards the young woman. He placed a reassuring hand upon her shoulder, giving a reaffirming squeeze as he could sense how uncomfortable this procedure had made the poor girl. "Have you been monitoring, Your Highness?" he asked, as he turned his attention from Jelena to the holonet transceiver.

"Indeed I have," the familiar voice of Princess Leia Organa said, shocking those in attendance before the scrambled transmission flickered to life in front of them all. The faint, blue holo image flickered before them, as she gave her friend a reassuring smile. "You have succeeded in doing all that we have asked for you, and more..." she said, before a slow and uncomfortable pause, as if struggling with what was to come next. "You should know that your message has been heard and applauded by countless souls throughout the Ringali Shell and beyond," she continued, as if building to something, while maintaining firm eye contact with Jelena. "That is why we need you ... I need you ... to go back and serve as a symbol for the Alliance. Your survival and continued defiance of the Empire will show that they are not all powerful and inspire others to rise up and join our cause," she said, her voice growing in volume in an attempt to inspire her friend.

"Go back?!" Jelena explained, not expecting to have heard that from the Princess. She broke eye contact and began to look towards her father, towards the General, and towards the others who had gathered there. She had just been put through so much to escape the Ringali Shell, and now on her first day of relative peace she was being asked to return to the warzone controlled by her father. She could find no words, she merely stood there, like a nerf about to be rundown by a careless speeder.

"Of course we cannot make you go, Jelena," Leia quickly followed up, sensing that she might be losing her. "But as General Rieekan will explain ... you will be completely safe," she said, knowing full well that even she was not 'completely' safe. "General," she said, as she looked towards him for confirmation. All throughout the galaxy the Alliance was gaining strength, but to influence six Core Worlds in such a manner was an opportunity that could not be passed up ... even if it endangered one of her oldest friends.

"Milady, as you are no doubt aware from your father's frustrations, our base inside the Ringali Nebula is impregnable," General Rieekan informed her, with an emphatic nod of his head. "No one is asking you to pick up a blaster and join in the conflict. But, to continue to transmit, and to inspire others is worth an entire battalion of soldiers, Milady," he said, pleading with her, despite his own misgivings. But he knew that to defeat the Empire it would take millions of young people like her to step up and do what was right ... even in the face of unimaginable danger.

Duke Julius Rodney remained seated, the words he was hearing pained him deep inside his soul. He would never be able to explain this to his wife, and he feared for his granddaughter's safety. His life's work and the work of an uncountable number of ancestors was embodied in the living form of Jelena, and despite seeing her as being a disappointment for not being a male, he nevertheless loved her and did not want this path for her. Still, he did feel that a hidden Rebel base was safer than his home, with the added benefit of not endangering his people, and thus he remained decidedly silent.

Jelena stood there as she succumbed to the verbal onslaught presented by both the Princess and the General. Countless images flashed through her mind, but strangely she felt unafraid ... she was past that now. She looked down for a moment, moving her head from left to right sharply as she reached a decision. "Fine. I'll go," she said with determination as she looked towards Leia one final time. "Now if you'll excuse me," she said without finishing her thoughts, briskly heading from the conference room to one of the balconies to take some air. She understood that by agreeing to life aboard the space station she would have very few breaths of fresh air left.

The image of Princess Leia faded away and the military personnel began to disperse and make preparations ... only Julius remained seated. His fingers intertwined and he began to consider all that had happened in such a short period of time. He had never wanted a military career for his son, and he blamed him for all that was now befalling the family. It was the final disappointment in a lifetime of disappointments between father and son.

Jelena had changed into a very ordinary clothes that she had acquired from one of the servants, as where she was going a dress would be decidedly out of place. She took one last look around her room, believing that the chances of her seeing it again were not very likely. She slung a duffle bag over her shoulder and moved slowly towards the landing platform where a Rebel craft was waiting. She froze when she saw her grandparents waiting there to see her off, having tired of shedding so many tears as of late. "We always knew this day would come. I had hoped it would be because I was leaving for the University of Alderaan, but ... there's no Alderaan to go to anymore," she said, reminding herself of why she was doing this.

The tears were flowing from Livia's eyes. She was furious at her husband for allowing this. As a diplomat she knew it was the right thing, but as a grandmother she could never be convinced. "You come back safe. Do you hear me? Above all ... you come back safe," she said, before surging forward to give her one last hug she wished could go on for an eternity. Finally relenting as she felt her husband's hand upon her, she pulled back, but not before placing a tender kiss upon her granddaughter's cheek. "Now, take this. It will give you strength," she said, as she handed her a carefully wrapped parcel of food for the journey. She then took a step back to stand beside her husband, whose support she reluctantly needed at a moment like this.

Jelena inhaled sharply in a vain attempt to keep the tears at bay, but they came relentlessly. She carefully tucked the parcel beneath her shoulder as she offered the woman who raised her a kind smile, before turning her attention to her grandfather. "Grandfather," was all she could say, never quite understanding the man who was at the head of her family. She had heard that it was his pressure that caused his mother to conceive another child against medical advice, and had come to blame him for her mother's death the same way that her father did. But, this was neither the time nor the place for such a discussion. Given his age, even if she were leaving on a pleasant journey, there was always the risk she would not see him again ... but this, this was different ... this felt like goodbye.

Julius stepped forward, and took his niece into a firm embrace that was uncharacteristic for his nature. "All of our ancestors go with you, Jelena," he said, in a stoic voice, as he withdrew from the hug, leaving his hands upon her sides as he studied her features intently. She had grown before his eyes, but he felt like this was the last time he would see her and he wanted to do his utmost to remember every facet of her appearance. His attention then turned to the soldier who stood next to them, and motioned for her to step forward. "My dear, this is Yekaterina Hanson. She has served our people tirelessly for two decades. I have trusted her with my life," he said, as he offered her a warm smile. "and now I am trusting her with yours," and with that, he stepped aside and turned with his wife to look out at the shuttle.

Yekaterina Hanson stepped forward, looking quite rugged in her combat attire that covered her feminine form. She was about 40, but still regarded as quite the soldier, and her history in the Alderaanian guard dated back to before even the Clone Wars. "You have nothing to fear, Milady. I have served as bodyguard to the House of Organa in the Senate for two decades," she said confidently, as she looked over the young woman. This was a chance for her to see action, an opportunity to prove herself after a lifetime of training. She had even, for a time, protected Claudius Rodney during his tenure as Delaya's delegate to the Senate, but had been advised not to mention that sensitive fact.

Jelena nodded politely at the woman, but she was too overcome by the emotions of the moment to properly meet someone. Adjusting the duffle bag that was slung over her shoulder she began silently marching towards the shuttle and what awaited her. As she reached the ramp she thought about looking back, but this was about her future ... not her past ... and so she simply boarded the craft without another look back. She did not think of herself as a hero, or a resistance leader, like the others supposedly did ... she was just a woman who believed in what was right.

"Do not worry, Milord. I will watch over her and give my life to see that no harm comes to her," Yekaterina said to the Duke, before slinging her rifle over her shoulder and marching after her new charge. Ever since the destruction of her homeworld she had wanted to take revenge against the Empire. Had she not been with General Rieekan on Delaya when the Death Star entered the system, she likely would have been killed with the other members of her unit at the Royal Palace or aboard the Tantive IV. She knew not a single other Alderaan guard who had survived. She was the last of her kind.

"Do not worry, my beloved wife," Julius said, as he took Livia into a tight embrace as he watched the shuttle ramp close behind Jelena. The roar of the engine filled the night sky as the small craft blasted off from the landing platform and headed into the atmosphere. He and his wife watched for what seemed like an eternity as the craft shrank as it ascended, before disappearing entirely. "Goodbye, Jelena," he said, before lowering his head, and escorting his wife back inside the castle before the night's air chilled their tear stained faces them further.

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