Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin (35:2:30) in the Essesia system: Esseles (New Calamar: Claudius Rodney's estate; Nuralle: Togatto Speedway)
Agent Parka Pepper, Countess Htaere Rodney, and Lady Jelena Rodney.

Jelena Rodney sat nervously in the Togatto Speedway on Esseles, angrily awaiting the arrival of Parka Pepper. It had taken her some doing to escape the Rodney household, but she still had a way of getting what she wanted when she pleaded with her father. He had been in a rather guilt-stricken mood since the events surrounding Kerrie and Htaere, and seemed to be more willing to grant even the most outrageous of requests, which her sister had taken full advantage of. Having already activated the transmitter, she suspected Parka could arrive at any moment, and thus she pretended to watch the races beneath the hood of her dark brown cloak. She was glad to be out of the estate, which more and more resembled a prison, but her hostility towards Parka made it an unbearable event.

The voice came from behind Jelena, escaping the glossy lips of the ultra posh Parka. She spun around Jelena's chair and had a seat at the table, smiling, in a pair of dark sunglasses, platinum white braided dreads pulled back into a pony tail. For once, she was clothed, somewhat, in a pair of pants, knee high boots and a short sleeve, cream colored top that cut down into a deep V-neck. Her genetics allowed for a somewhat spectacular view of her natural curves. "Good day miss, perhaps can I interest you in a vacuum cleaner?"

"You got a lot of nerve making a joke out of this," Jelena angrily said as she turned her icy glaze towards the young Hapan. "Explain yourself. Immediately," she commanded in a hostile tone, seeming very much the spoiled 'princess' that her sister dreamed of. The kidnapping of her step-mother and the near-death of her protector had left a bitter taste in her mouth concerning the Rebellion.

Parka dismissed it as excess drama in the youth's life. "OK, next time I'll say I'm selling life insurance" she splayed her fingers out to examine the shade of polish. "what's with the attitude? Is it that time of the month?" she asked in mock sympathy.

"You are clearly uninjured," Jelena said as she looked over the flawless features of the Hapan spy. This made the matter all the more infuriating for the young Alderaanian noble, and she considered just getting up and leaving. "Was it truly necessary for you to do that to Major Kiley?" she asked, a hint of disgust in the words as she struggled to maintain eye contact. "You could have... you could have killed her..." she said, sounding as if the thought of it would pain her, which even surprised her.

Parka rolled her eyes behind her sunglasses. "Do what to Major Kiley?" she asked casually, still hardly phased by the adolescent's temperament. "I haven't seen her in a while. Surprise too. She's such a fan of mine" she commented haphazardly, pushing her sunglasses up and signaling the serving droid. "Whyrren's please" she instructed, before fixing Jelena with her strange eyes.

"Just because you're named after a winter jacket doesn't mean you get to pull the wool over my eyes, Parka," Jelena snapped back quickly as she showed a little bit of the spine she had developed since visiting Kerrie in the hospital. If there was one thing she could not stand it was violence against women. "Her ribs were broken. Her lung collapsed. Her eye socket was broken. She had internal bleeding. I suppose she fell down the stairs?" she asked angrily, her voice level raising to the point where others in the crowd began to look.

One flawless eyebrow arched. "Parka is not my real name you know..." she commented before straightening in her chair for a moment. She fixed her gaze on Jelena. "I have no idea what you're talking about...broken ribs and such. Maybe she's the hell should I know?" she shrugged, resituating herself.

Jelena tilted her head as she closely examined Parka's facial featured, arching her right eyebrow as she gazed upon her. She did not seem to be lying, and the notion troubled her. "If you didn't..." she mumbled to herself as she considered the alternatives. She seemed lost, almost dazed and visibly shaken by the thought the Empire might have done it to her. She would complain to her father if it were the case.

"Didn't what?" again Parka was confused, but being ignorant to the situation, she was also ignorant of the gravity of the situation, and thus dismissed it with little more then casual regard. She sipped the Whyrren's tastefully. "Look I can explain about your stepmom. She spotted me. We had to do something. If she went back to tell them she'd seen me there, it would have strained the situation severely" she said, raising her hands a little defensively. "Your old man, Major Kiley..." she nearly spit the name "...and I have an unfriendly history. I could not allow 'any' sort of risk to your identity or who we're associated with" she continued. "They can target me as the opportunist to kidnap her for monetary gain just fine. But putting two many pieces together will jeopardize everything, and I couldn't let that happen" she gave the summation, reclining in her chair a bit. "And I know Tashi was a bit mouthy with her, and maybe smacked her once, but your beloved little 'white dove' didn't so much as accumulate a scratch" she insisted. "Pssh I'm not 'that' heartless."

Jelena listened to what Parka had to say, considering for the moment that she might be telling the truth. Even the slightest of facial movements was noted as the Hapan spoke, never suspecting her of lying. "Would you have killed Htaere if she found out?" Jelena asked quietly, the thought of jeopardizing her family because of her actions feeling like too much of a burden to bare down. She looked down, preferring the response come when the two need not look at one another.

"If it meant keeping you alive and well, I told your buddy Bail I was willing. The rebellion is willing to sacrifice an Imperial sympathizer to keep the information channels safe" she said lazily. She fixed Jelena with a realistic expression. "Let's face it. You're worth more alive to them then she is" she said matter-of-factly. "But I would have rather not though. We probably would have chickened out of actually killing her, and whisked her into hiding until we figured out what to do."

Jelena looked down sadly, considering the Hapan's words carefully. "I did not do this to hurt my family..." she confessed sadly as she took a glass of the now cold tea she had ordered before Parka had arrived. She finally looked at her again, quivering slightly. She was very much the little girl. "Do you have a family?" she inquired, realizing she did not know much about the woman with whom her life now depended.

"Nobody said you did" she answered. Parka regarded the girl for a moment before leaning forward. Her tone and expression took on a more genuine nuance. "What you're doing is very brave. Don't undermine that. It's for everyone's best interest." Finishing off her Whyrren's, Parka put the glass down and folded her hands over her lap. "Not everyone shares your entitlement and good fortune."

At the moment, Jelena wished she had the naivety of Ewwiekewwieikkie at a time like this, believing it was better to be ignorant and happy that informed and sad. She let out a deep sigh as she considered the situation, brushing aside her tea. "Don't suppose you could get me one of those, could you?" the underaged girl asked as she looked towards Parka's alcoholic beverage.

Parka was all too eager to accept the challenge. She signaled the serving droid, and held up two fingers before pointing to her glass. She crossed her legs and smiled ruefully towards Jelena. "Of course I can. I'm not your mother. I have no problem contributing to the delinquency of a minor" she grinned. The droid appeared several minutes later with both glasses and Parka instructed the new round be added to her tab. She lifted her glass and waited for Jelena to do the same. "What should we toast to?"

"To family..." Jelena said bitterly as she reached down and picked up the small cup and examined it for a moment. It smelled awful, but she felt that anything the Hapan could do she could easily manage. She took a swig of the drink as if it were a soft drink and almost immediately she regretted it. It was her first taste of alcohol and it burnt her throat, causing her to gasp and drool some of it back out. She looked anything but the young noble. Coughing endless she moved for her cold tea, drinking it down swiftly in an attempt to clear her palette. Her eyes were watering and her cheeks flushed red. This was not a proud moment.

Like the seasoned pro that she was, Parka knocked the drink back in one gulp without so much as a grimace. She licked her lips and let her countenance relax into a more grave one as if she, too, was taking a moment to reflect on family, friends, honor and all that sort of crap that she usually disregarded so easily. "To family..." she repeated. "...or at least, your family. I'll drink to that. They'd drive me crazy too. If it were me in your position, I'd run away too" she commented. But there was a truth to her words, one that was not all. The reality of Parka's history is that she 'was' in a bad position and she 'did' run away. Her background was alarmingly close to Jelena's in fact, and yet she and her sisters had all made the choice to abandon luxury for freedom. It was a long ago life they'd abandoned completely, choosing new identities to snuff out whatever memories existed of the world into which they were born.

Jelena looked at Parka and sighed as she considered what she said, but the thought of it seemed unbearable to her. "I... I can't do that... yet," she admitted to her, unable to believe she had even considered it. She shook slightly, wondering what the end result was here. She had no solution, no plan to get out. Each time she met with Parka she dug herself a bigger hole. "I'm sorry," she admitted as she began to stand up. "I don't even have anything," she continued, shaking her head. "...I just wanted to find out what happened," she said as she raised the hood of her cloak back over her head.

Parka nodded slowly, as if understanding the need for escape, answers, solutions..."It's all good" she replied evenly. She dropped her sunglasses back over her eyes and waited for Jelena to take leave, winding down their latest encounter.

The glorious afternoon sunshine warmed Htaere's face and shoulders as she and her stunning guarlara galloped across the rolling acres of the estate. The majestic creature moved with an elegance and fluidity unrivaled in the animal kingdom, it's coat black as coal yet shimmering in the daylight as if it had a liquid finish. Htaere sat in her side saddle, having become an accomplished rider. All the free time aboard the Warspite had provided ample time to bring aboard professional trainers for lessons. At long last the open countryside within the estate's walls offered an exhilarating ride, complete with fresh air and relaxation. Her long black gown and cape trailed behind her as they sprinted across the rolling green hillsides, as well as the animal's long black tail.

Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted an anomaly in her peripheral vision, drawing her attention instantly. She pulled her eyes from the terrain ahead and cast a full glance in the direction of interest before gently gathering up the guarlara's reins, drawing him to a halt. The spirited animal stopped on cue, tossing its massive noble head as it mouthed the bit, nostrils flare from the jaunt. Htaere's focus was solidly fixed on the massive plume of smoke that billowed up from somewhere in the distance. Htaere nudged the guarlara with her heels, moving it back into an animated canter up one of the gentle slopes on the way back to the manor. From that vantage point, she could see ever the wall enough to take in the smoldering ruins of a village that had been leveled in suspect of aiding and abiding rebel insurgents. Her eyes settled on it, seeing some movement around ground zero as garrisons swept through to clean up afterwards. On occasional blaster bolt would fire off, signaling a trooper had discovered a survivor and neutralized him or her, regardless of political affiliation.

Jelena had returned from her secret rendezvous with Parka, still shaken by the confrontation and feeling a bit ill from the effects of the Whyrren's Reserve. She held a cup of warm, soothing tea in her hand as she stepped out onto the deck that she often used as her only respite. Taking a sip of the tea, she offered a polite nod to one of Major Kiley's Stormtroopers that patrolled the grounds of the estate. It was something like a prison to her. She watched Htaere in the distance, offering a slight wave to let her know she had returned safely. Something was bothering her from the discussion with Parka, and she felt Htaere might enlighten her about it.

Htaere pulled her gaze from the sprawl beyond the walls and moved the guarlara towards Jelena, who looked a little on the pastey side. She motioned to the plume of grey angry smoke. "I wonder what has happened" she noted of it before looking to her oldest stepdaughter.

Jelena could see the smoke as well, taking a sip of her tea as she assumed the worst. Shaking her head in disgust, she settled into a comfortable chair to enjoy her tea. She would wait patiently for Htaere as she thought about how she would broach the conversation. She needed to know if Parka was telling the truth, but it was a difficult thing to discuss.

Htaere dismounted, and holding the animal's reins she moved over to an adjacent chair, the guarlara lowering its horned head to graze while she kept Jelena company. "Are you ill?" she asked curiously, noting the clammy appearance.

"Can we talk?" Jelena asked as she looked up at Htaere, finding it difficult to maintain eye contact with the woman. She shifted uncomfortably, almost cringing as she played out several lines of questioning in her head, each of which made her cringe. She swallowed, desperately taking another sip of tea as she attempted to whet her palette.

Htaere smiled, her cheeks flushed from the exertion. "Of course. What troubles you?"

"It's about what happened in the Trade Hall," Jelena asked quietly, her eyes moving away from her step-mother as she looked towards the setting Essesia star. It would be quite beautiful ... if it were not in the middle of the war zone. Still, nothing quite matched the beauty of her native Alderaan system in her eyes.

Htaere's body language softened considerably. Her refined chin dipped once in acknowledgement. "Alright." She blinked towards Jelena patiently. Only a handful of years separated them in age, and in another setting, they perhaps may have crossed paths as dorm-mates or class mates.

"Did she..." Jelena began, forgetting herself for a moment. She swallowed suddenly, realizing she had used the wrong word and quickly focused to correct herself. "...did...they hurt you?" she asked, wondering if she had caught herself in time. Her eyes moved down nervously towards the ground and her hands moved towards the tea. The cup warmed her hands as darkness began to fall, comforting her in the cold night air.

Htaere's head canted slightly. "She?" she repeated Jelena's choice of verbiage. "The woman with the white hair?" she asked surprised to the reference. Who else could Jelena be referring to. "No they did not" she answered.

"I heard it was a woman..." Jelena replied very quickly, spilling some of the tea on her lap as her hand began to shake. Taking in a soft breath she attempted to focus herself, but still felt very nervous. "I am glad you were unharmed," she quickly added, hoping the tense moment would pass. "...but they're the ones who hurt Major Kiley, right?" she asked, wondering if Htaere knew anything about that as she attempted to change the subject.

At the mention of it, Htaere's facade shifted noticeably. "Kerrie?" she repeated, something akin to a sense of guilt or dread or both sweep through her. Her gaze dropped to her hands, still holding the guarlara's reins. " they were not..." she mumbled.

"Oh..." Jelena said as her eyes moved back to Htaere for the first time in moments, wondering what had happened. "She was injured very severely..." she commented, remember her visit to the medical bay and Doctor Tohan's first assessment of her. "...did you ever hear how?" she asked, revealing her intentions as she took an audible sip of her cup.

Htaere was chewing at her lip nervously. Her expression had darkened substantially. "Yes" she answered, to both comments. She looked at the guarlara, diverting her attention elsewhere. "But as I last heard, she was doing well" she offered with a hint at optimism and misdirection.

"I am glad to hear that..." Jelena said quietly, wondering how she could press Htaere for more information without drawing suspicion. She turned slightly to face her, wondering how she could best begin. "There's a lot of rumors going around about how it happened..." she said to Htaere, trying to carefully navigate the hostile waters.

"Oh?" this time the ignorance was feigned. "And what would those be? Curious."

"I heard from Lieutenant Sheppard that while she was feeding Crassus he struck her with his tongue and tried to eat her," Jelena said with a polite smile, chuckling slightly as she tried to picture it. "...though Bethany has a tendancy to exaggerate," she added with a polite, quick smile to Htaere to guage her reaction.

If only it were that simple, Htaere thought. She masked the inner dialogue with the early makings of a amiable smile. "Quite a story" she commented. "I am not entirely sure where these theories abound from. Maybe your father is more knowledgeable of such inner-crew happenings."

"I could never ask my father..." Jelena asked as she studied Htaere's features nervously, wondering again how she might find out what really happened. She swallowed, wishing that she had not finished her tea quite so quickly. "...what did you hear happened?" Jelena asked as she scuffed her foot nervously against the deck.

Htaere drew a deep audible breath. Her gaze fixed at some minuscule point on the ground as she sifted through words in order to choose wisely. "Your...father..." her eyes narrowed in thought. "...your f...father accident" she murmured.

"...what kind of accident?" Jelena carefully asked Htaere, not sure of her meaning. She realized that her father had been hospitalized as well, but thought that it was from his poor diet and over work and not any sort of 'accident.' When it came to her father, she felt detached and out of the loop, and this further illustrated the divide that has grown between them.

Htaere swallowed, treading as lightly as if it were over eggshells. She bit at her lower lip for a moment before answering. "...the kind that involves excessive alcohol consumption" she volunteered tenderly. She looked fragile, as if about to come apart at any moment. "A very successful treatment is underway and great success thus far" she added, shifting the focal point.

"What does my father's 'alcoholic consumption' have to do with Kerrie getting hurt?" Jelena asked slowly, her brow furrowing as she tried to understand Htaere's meaning. The poor, innocent young woman was in many ways still a girl and simply did not get it. Without the dots being connected for her, she would never be able to accept her father as violent towards women.

"One night he became intoxicated and blamed Major Kiley for my capture. He...lost control" she put it carefully, looking away, her heart breaking in twain at the thought.

Jelena looked at Htaere with a blank, lifeless expression as her eyes widened and her mouth hung slightly agape. She said nothing, her brain overwhelmed by the news her father had committed the act of violence against her sworn protector. It was too much for her and the tears began to stream from both of her eyes as she began to shake, still deathly silent.

Htaere did not pressure her to respond in any other fashion other then what she wanted to reveal in regards to reaction. She has been there too, as horrified and stunned when Doctor. Tohan had laid everything ont he line for her. "I know how you feel. Believe me."

Jelena did not acknowledge Htaere's comment and without any utterance or facial movement she rose from her seat as if she were shocked. Her cheeks were stained with tears, her eyes reddening from their constant flow. She was in complete shock as she turned and began to walk inside of their estate. She needed to lay down. She needed to think. Her life had changed in a way she had never imagined and nothing would ever be the same. Before today she felt as if she were betraying her father, but now she believed he had betrayed her.

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