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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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.