Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin (35:3:10) in the Essesia system: Esseles (New Calamar: Claudius Rodney's estate) and Kwai.
Major Kerrie Kiley, Vice Admiral Claudius Rodney, Countess Htaere Rodney, and Lady Jelena Rodney.

Jelena quietly walked the grounds of the Rodney estate on Esseles, never out of the watchful eyes of one of the Imperial Stormtroopers assigned to the grounds. She sighed softly, shaking her head as she felt the soldier's prying eyes on her. She wanted so very much to return to Alderaan to continue her education and become her own person. As she came upon Htaere's Guarlara in a makeshift stable near the far side of the sprawling estate her hand reached up, gently petting at its well-kept coat.

Htaere emerged from the estate with a small container in hand full of fresh fruit for her pet. Since coming planetside, she'd made rides or visits to the creature a daily routine. She was surprised to see Jelena's form out near the stable. She pursed her lips and exhaled deeply, glancing back at the massive arched doorway out onto the terrace to ensure neither Kerrie nor any others were following her. She hurried off towards the stable, coming up to it quietly, her soft pale green a-line dress billowing about her dainty sandals. "Hello" she called softly towards her so as not to spook her.

"Oh," Jelena said as she pulled her hand away from the Guarlara, turning her attention slowly towards her step-mother. "Good evening," she said politely as she took a bashful step back. "I hope you do not mind..." she said nervously, her eyes darting from the Guarlara to Htaere. Her mental recovery from learning the truth about her father had not yet begun, and the girl had shown obvious signs of withdrawal.

Htaere smiled warmly. "No, not at all" she said, closing the distance between them. "If you would like to feed him, he enjoys these treats" she extended towards her the container. She raised a hand to stroke the creature's long silky forelock. There was a brief respite in the conversation. "How have you been feeling?" she asked in a hushed tone, barely above a whisper.

"I do not like it here," Jelena commented, breaking the eye contact before she spoke. She reached down grabbing a couple of the treats out of the container. They soiled her dainty, noble hands that lately felt as if they were covered in blood through her treason. It smelled awful and she did not understand how it could be appealing, but she nevertheless offered it up to the creature that seemed to greatly enjoy it. She giggled girlishly as the creature licked at her hands, tickling her.

Htaere mulled it over momentarily. "I suppose it could be worse though" she suggested lightly. "At least we are not confined to the cold unyielding corridors of the Warspite." She took a deep breath, gazing out towards the rolling spread of the estate. "I know it is difficult to understand, but your father tries very hard to do right by all."

"Many men his age have retired already," Jelena informed her, with several slight nods of her head. "Bail Organa for example," she pointed out as she moved away from the beast. The stable smelled of a scent she was unfamiliar with, having never before been exposed to manure. She scrunched her nose, moving away from the scent, only to end up stepping in a particularly messy pile of it. "Eww," she cried out horrifically as she lifted her foot up and moved to remove her ruined shoe.

Barely avoiding a wince, Htaere sighed. "When you depart from where you have been, it is prudent to watch where you are going" she commented. She fed the remaining bits of fruit to the Guarlara before moving after Jelena, daintily picking her way between any patches where footing was not sound. She regrouped the conversation. "He enjoys his work very much. I do not begrudge him that. Have you spoken with him?"

"Not for some time..." Jelena admitted as she hopped on one leg awkwardly towards the porch of the modest estate. As she moved one of the Stormtroopers spoke into his comlink as she moved, her every movement tracked by the onlooking Imperial patrols. With a soft groan as she sat on the front stoop of the porch, letting out a tired sigh. She was glad she was allowed to even be outside, but that was quickly interrupted when a TIE/gt starfighter soared over the estate, its loud twin-ion engines causing a loud roar as it patrolled the airspace above the estate.

"You may find it to alleviate some of this tension and unhappiness you seem preoccupied with" she inferred. She glanced up briefly towards the fighter, waiting for it to pass before continuing. "Your family...has...everything...and yet, none of you are truly happy."

Jelena shook her head at the near-constant presence of Imperial starfighters, pondering the thought of just running off to start her own life away from the war. "Material possessions mean nothing, Htaere," she pointed out as she looked around at the signs of her family's considerable wealth. It was expected that one day she would rise to the position of leader of her people, provided her father did not have a son before his death, which she considered to be unlikely at this point in his life.

"The statement was not limited to tangibility" she countered. "You are all alive, and well. Most importantly is that you are together, unified. So many cannot say the same."

"Are we together?" Jelena asked, throwing a sharp glance up towards Htaere. She tilted her head to the left slightly as she examined her facial features. While they sat here in their Esselian 'prison' her father was across the Ringali Shell aboard his flagship. Seeing him had become a rarity and further strained their already complicated relationship.

"You 'do' have access to each other daily" Htaere pointed out. "Simply because you are family does not mean your relationships require no work." She strode over to the steps and set herself down daintily. "If you are 'not' together, is it because you have failed to take every opportunity afforded to you to work on the 'together' part?" she glanced sideways towards Jelena, her expression pensive.

"He has always been distant," Jelena revealed, lowering her head as she placed both of her palms against her face to rest her head. She exhaled softly, fluttering her lips as her hands pressed into her cheeks. "He was not even there for my birth..." she moped, sniffling sharply to prevent from crying.

"Perhaps he is not perfect, but he does try his best" Htaere rubbed her temple in thought. "I know there must be a million reasons to be upset about, but I implore you to be patient with him. He is...aging rapidly now. I believe it is this job" she said quietly, her eyes fixating on something on the ground in front of her.

"Yet another reason why he must retire," Jelena said as she stood up from the stoop quickly, her voice rising in octave as her eyes locked onto Htaere. She moved towards her, gentle hands reaching to grab at her shoulders. She would make one last chance to save her family, but she feared it was already too plate. "Please..." she began, almost gasping as she struggled to get the words out. "Please...he must be 'made' to retire..." she said, tears beginning to flow from each of her soft eyes.

Htaere's expression shifted sympathetically, an empathic sadness in her eyes. "Jelena, I cannot 'make' your father retire. Nor do I wish to. He enjoys his profession. Parting from it should be his decision alone, not as a result of external influence" she replied. "I know it is very difficult at times, but believe me when I say that his motives are driven out of concern for the family."

Jelena shook her head at Htaere, unable to look at her at the moment. "Then you do not love my father," she rudely commented, shifting her body language away from the slightly older woman who was now her step-mother. She inhaled deeply, tears beginning to flow from her eyes as she felt no one else cared about what was happening to her father.

Htaere's brow knit in confusion, taken back by the accusation. "It is because I do that I shall not manipulate him into retirement. I cannot do that to him" she stated firmly, eyes trailing after the youth.

"Doctor Tohan can!" Jelena exclaimed in tired frustration as she considered the situation and her plan. "If the doctor declares my father unfit for command ... he'll be forced to retire and everything will return to normal," she explained to Htaere, wondering if she was even capable of understanding the complexity of the situation.

For a long while, Htaere said nothing, simply gazing after Jelena in silence, while inwardly her mind raced through the girl's comments. "Why do you say these things? What is the normalcy that you are searching for?"

The truth was, Jelena never had ay sense of normalcy when it came to her father, but she did have a view of what she assumed it would be ... or at least what she wanted to be. "I want to spend each day with my father. I do not want him to work sixteen hour days that make him ill, prematurely age him, and threaten his life..." she explained as she raised her sleeve to her face, to wipe away some of the mucus. "Don't you see what's happening?" an exasperated Jelena asked of Htaere, as the poor girl began to shake.

Htaere's crowned head nodded once. "Yes I observe the toll it takes. But I also know that he was very happy when he learned off his reassignment to the Ringali Shell" she countered. She was quiet again for a moment. "I share your concerns, but I do not wish to infringe upon his happiness." She drew a deep breath. "Perhaps I can speak with him regarding this matter. Maybe he will consider retirement" she offered.

"Ever word you speak to him about this is a wasted breath, Htaere," Jelena angrily commented as she rolled her eyes at the naive Hapan. "If you speak to Doctor Tohan he will listen to you," she reiterated as she moved away from the argument, which she was sure to lose. Needing a drink, a genetic problem recently inherited from her father, she entered the estate and moved towards the living room. She groaned as she looked to the liquor cabinet as, completely vacant in the aftermath of Kerrie's beating.

Htaere followed, feeling something between confused and slightly offended. "I shall 'not' force your father into retirement, nor shall employ his physician to do so" she repeated, a bit more sternly this time. "I shall, however, speak with him regarding these issues, if you like."

Hearing the commotion, Ewwiekewwieikkie bounded down the stairs and hurried into the kitchen. "Is dad home?" she asked Jelena, her yellow eyes going wide as she looked up at her younger, adopted sister. "I hear yelling so he must be home!" she said as she looked between Htaere and Jelena, but sighed noting the continued absence of her father.

Htaere's face softened as she smiled towards the Squib. "No, he is not here yet" she answered pleasantly, momentarily sidetracking from the slightly heated discussion with Jelena.

"Phooey," Ewwiekewwie said as she flapped her lips and led out a flurry of spittle disappointedly. "Any new yummies?" she asked as she opened up the fridge and stuck her blue furred head into the fridge. "Oooh," she grunted excitedly as she began chewing on a large pastry inside of the fridge. She wasted no time pulling out the pie, using a plate, or any form of utensils. The poor young woman was just too excited to use any manners or refinement.

Jelena let out a soft chuckle as she watched her adopted sister begin to eat inside the conservator. For a moment the difficulty of the conversation had passed, mare irrelevant by the Squib's accidental comedic interjections. A soft laugh escaped her lips, still inhaling deeply from the stress of the fight.

Htaere was grateful for the interruption, taking the opportunity to vacate the area. "If you will excuse me" she remarked to them both before moving away from the two and towards the large elaborate stair that ascended to the bed chambers, suddenly feeling a little queasy.

Ewwiekewwie withdrew her head from the conservator, her face covered in cream from the pie, a huge grin plastered on her face. "Maybe you'd all be happier if you ate some pie," she observed as she moved from the kitchen to go and find a comfortable place to sit down. The young woman was completely withdrawn and oblivious to the larger conflict around her.

Jelena watched Ewwiekewwieikkie move off, genuinely envious of her ignorant state. She shook her head, choosing to remain in the kitchen. She hoisted herself onto the barstool and stared out through the tinted transparisteel window, sighing. It seemed Htaere would not be complicit in her plan ... she would have to find another way.

Jelena Rodney stood at the outskirts of the Rodney Estate on Esseles, her tear-stained face staring at the perimeter fence that surrounded their once peaceful home. She sniffled, inhaling deeply as she reached down into the dirt. Delicate, well-manicured fingers dug into the ground and pulled up a large rock that soiled her hands. "Ah," he screamed at the top of her lungs as she hurled the rock with all of her might at the fence.

The field of pink energy flicked as the rock collided with it, incinerating almost instantly. Jelena sighed, kicking her right foot into the ground and causing a small divot in the grass. She stared at the fence for a moment, her knees giving out as she stumbled down to the ground. Lowering her head, she sat there dejectedly in front of the energy wall. From time-to-time she reach down and flick a small stone at it, in the back of her mind wondering if it would be easier if she just hurled herself into it.

The sound of an approaching speeder roared towards Jelena's location as Major Kerrie Kiley approached on a 74-Z speeder bike. She pushed the craft to its top performance speed, and had a determined glare on her face as she looked towards the young woman. Bringing the bike to a stop, the young woman who forced herself so often to appear as a Human woman stepped down, eyes moving quickly to Jelena. "My sensors indicated a security alarm triggered in this sector," she said coldly as her eyes scanned the horizon. "Everything all right?" she asked, her hand moving over the KYD21 in her holster, unsure if they were alone.

Jelena inhaled sharply, bringing her sleeve up to her face to wipe away her tears, not wanting Kerrie to see her in such a manner. "Yeah..." she said, her face looking down rather than attempting eye contact with the bodyguard. "Yeah... everything is fine," she said in an obvious lie, her voice sounding tired and strained. She needed a drink, but unfortunately the house had been purged of alcohol following her father's drunken tirade.

Kerrie completed her visual inspection of the perimeter, and then turned her attention to the teenager, seeming to be in one of her moments of angst. She knew Jelena was a traitor, but she had yet to reveal that she knew to her. She had kept the secret and killed to protect her, but it seemed that she was reaching the limit of what she could put up with. She chose to drop down to one knee, the grass awkwardly staining the knee of her black uniform trousers. "What's going on, kiddo?" she asked, offering a slight sigh as she observed her discombobulated appearance.

"I just wanted to be alone..." Jelena said as she turned her body to the right, avoiding the direct contact between the two as she stared up at the setting Essesia star. "Apparently there's no privacy here anymore," she angrily commented, looking over the various sensor towers, Stormtrooper patrols, and even TIE fighters that patrolled the airspace. "I'm in a prison, Kerrie ... and you're the guard," she observed, finally turning her head to look at her shoulder at the woman.

Kerrie's gloved hand moved to her head, pulling the cap from her head and curling it into a ball as she too sighed. "It's for your own safety," she explained, her eyes awkwardly moving about as she felt uncomfortable discussing this with her. "The Rebellion would gladly kill you all and your father cares very much for your safety..." she said, trying her best to persuade the young girl that her loyalties were misplaced, without revealing that she knew the truth. "Your father...he loves you very much..." she admitted quietly, a bit distraught herself as she considered her failed relationship with her own father.

"I think you have a very misguided view of the Rebellion, Kerrie..." Jelena interjected, but did not go into any great detail to avoid further suspicion. As far as she knew, her involvement with the Alliance was a secret to everyone, including the Major. "If my father loved me ... he'd retire and take us back home..." she dejectedly observed, the tears once again finding their way to the corner of her eyes. She wanted nothing more than her father to leave this all behind. "Stress is more likely to kill my father than the Rebels..." she told Kerrie as her head again moved down.

Kerrie shook her head at the misguided youth, rising back up to her feet as she dusted off the grass from her trousers. "Your father serves for your sake..." she began as she looked down at the young woman. "...for all our sakes," she added, perhaps getting a bit too personal. "He wants to make the galaxy safe so you can grow up and live your life in a galaxy free of violence," she said, her voice moving very fast now, as she began her impassioned argument. She envied Jelena more than any other, wishing she could trade places with her and have the Admiral for a father. "Can't you see that?" she asked desperately, completely baffled as to how anyone could have another point of view.

Jelena was getting annoyed by the bodyguard's personal reference, unaware of all she had been doing behind the scenes on her behalf. "Look..." she began angrily as she rose up to her feet to confront the much shorter woman. "I don't even know why it is that you care. I know what he did to you and the fact that you're still here just shows how pathetic you are..." she said, turning her back to her and starting to walk off towards the estate.

Kerrie's eyes went wide and her mouth hung slightly open as she heard what the young Rodney had to say. She could find no words that could express her dismay and so she simply reached out to tug on that snot-covered sleeve to prevent her from walking away after that insult. "What your father did..." she began quietly, trying not to remember it. "I failed him..." she said, as if those simple words would explain everything. For her, it did.

Jelena spun around at the first touch and looked at her, her cheeks flushing red and an anger that was found in all Rodney's soon overtook her. "Take your filthy hands off me," she said angrily as she reached out with both of her hands and pushed with all of her might against the woman's chest. Never before had such a response been elicited from her, ironic as a conversation about her father's manhandling caused the argument.

Kerrie was caught off guard by the young woman's outburst, staggering back quickly towards the energy fence. "Gaah," she cried out as she shifted her body to take the brunt of the hit in her shoulder. "Nagh," she cried out as the energy tore through her uniform and burnt at the flesh it exposed. Her jaw clenched down as she quickly pulled away, her right hand reaching over her shoulder to grasp at her wound. She hunched over, looking at Jelena with eyes that were more heartbroken than angry. "You are very much your father's daughter..." she observed as she tried to regain her composure.

Jelena was speechless, taking several steps back away from Kerrie. Her mouth hung slightly ajar as she realized what she had done. Her hands reached out in front of her and they began to shake, a state of panic overcoming the teenager. "I am sorry..." she said as she looked at the young woman, cringing as she caught a glimpse of the burn on her shoulder.

Kerrie was gasping for breath as she began to move towards the speeder bike, her eyes never leaving the young girl's form. As she hopped onto the bike she let her burnt arm hang at her side, relying on just one arm to maneuver the bike. "Do not trouble yourself, Milady," she said as she returned to her professional demeanor. "It is not the worst thing that has happened to me because of you," she said, referring to the murder of Trent Irso as she accelerated the bike from the scene.

Jelena stood there silent for a moment, watching the Major drive off. Perhaps she had misunderstood the woman. She sighed, making an internal promise to make amends when the time was right. Discouraged, she slowly began the long walk back towards the estate, planning to use the time to clear her head.

Htaere stood out on the open balcony, letting the cool night breeze kiss her face with every gust. Grey eyes stared out into the dark. With poor night vision being a Hapan genetic trait, she could see nothing, though it had become habit. As one late hour passed after another, her eyes screened the skies, albeit rather blindly, in search of the lights for the Kwai. Her gauzy organza night gown billowed softly about her , offering a soothing fresh breath despite her anxiety.

More than five hours late the Lambda-class shuttle Kwai touched down on the private landing platform, reserved specifically for the Rodney family. It seemed to only take a moment for the ramp to descend from the shuttle, and out staggered the venerable Imperial commander. His walking was labored and he seemed very disoriented, walking in a straight line was very difficult. Eventually, he made it inside the house and several moments later the sound of slow, distant footsteps echoed up the staircase.

Upon seeing the shuttle touch down, Htaere turned from the balcony, hurrying across the large chamber she hastened from the door to the top of the stair. "Claudius!" she exclaimed, concern evident in her tone.

"Good evening, Htaere," Claudius said, having only ascended halfway up the stairs. He struggled to catch his breath, leaning heavily on the arm rail as he staggered. "...just a moment," he said to her tiredly as he sat down on one of the steps, taking several silent moments to collect himself. He was a man in desperate need of a first floor bedroom.

Dainty slippers descended to meet him, taking a seat next to him, her brow lifted in woe. "Claudius...what has happened? Are you alright? Should I call Doctor Tohan?" she fired questions off one after another, silvery gaze boring into him intently.

"No. Pilaq is older than I and therefore is almost assuredly asleep already," Claudus joked, feeling quite tired himself. "I will be ... all right," he assured her as he remained motionless on the stairs. His fingers moved between one of the banisters and he sighed at the level of dust he observed. "I can see the cleaning staff has not been attentive to this area of the house..." he complained, changing the subject.

Lips pursing, Htaere frowned. "Claudius..." she chided him. She took a deep breath. "There is a good deal of concern regarding your health" she touched on the subject carefully. She scooted next to him, closing the distance between them until the side of her hip and leg touched his. She slipped a bare arm around him. "This seems to be a detriment for you despite your passion for this job."

Claudius sighed as his wife tried her best to comfort him, but he was beyond the point where a simple embrace could ease his pain. "It is a very difficult job..." he admitted to her slowly, his eyes lowering tiredly as he gazed down the stairs in front of him. "I am in excellent health," he assured her as his hand moved towards her knee, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

Htaere did not move, looking unconvinced. "Yes Claudius, I imagine it is. I do not undermine you in that capacity. But we are worried about you" she continued. "Besides you must conserve yourself. You are to be a father again" she added. She thought for a moment about it, growing very serious. " would...rather I..."

"No," Claudius exclaimed, finding newfound resolve as she hinted at the unthinkable. "You mustn't," he appealed to her as he turned to focus his eyes on her beautiful facial features. "The work I do now will allow our child to have a better life..." he assured her, his hand squeezing firmly on her knee as he began to rise back up to his feet. He turned, looking up the stairs. It did not seem that far. Slowly he began to ascend, each step feeling like a journey of its own as he moved towards their bedroom.

Htaere turned to watch him for a moment before rising and following suit. In their chambers Htaere retook her position on the balcony, drawing in a few deep breaths of the clean fresh air. She turned, watching Claudius muddle about from her perch.

Claudius began the difficult process of stripping himself of his uniform, letting the tunic be the first article of clothing to fall to the ground carelessly. He soon kicked off his boots, exposing feet that stunk horrifically from being pent up in the hot leather for sixteen hours. The pants joined the pile on the floor and the man, now wearing nothing but his underwear, fell backwards onto the bed in a tired collapse.

On the grounds beneath the estate an Imperial Stormtrooper nodded politely to Htaere on the balcony, the never-ending series of patrols had become a constant presence on the grounds of the estate. A pair of TIE/gt starfighters soared above the estate, perhaps too low, shaking the building slightly and waking up anyone who might have been asleep.

Htaere offered a wave before the fighters went screaming by. Involuntarily Htaere's hands went to cover her ears, pressing tight as she could to block the high pitch of the ion engines at such close range. She winced, gazing towards them, eyes squinting as the peered up at the dark sky.

"I'm sorry about that..." Claudius said loud enough for her to hear, feeling the bed shake slightly as the house was rattled. "I will get them to fly higher..." he said nervously as he watched an image of his parents fall from the wall, landing clumsily near the pile of clothing.

"Do not fret over such things my love" she said, moving back inside and stopping by the fallen picture to pick it up and hang it after inspecting it for damage. Likewise she collected his clothing and deposited them in the hamper for the droids to collect in the morning. She proceeded to go through the closet, procuring another perfectly laundered and pressed uniform and laying it out for him for the next morning on the large antique wooden writing desk near the wall. After setting his boots outside of the chamber door for one of the droids to polish before morning, she moved back to the bed, taking a seat. "May I make a request?"

"Anything," Claudius said as he pulled back the blanket, beginning to thrust his legs beneath the tightly made sheets. There was something immensely comfortably about being made into a bed that perhaps went back to his childhood. His back was leaning against the backboard, supported by two plush, hand stuffed pillows. His eyes looked towards her, blinking several times as the weight of the day began to force them closed.

"On your next day off, promise me Claudius, that you will spend it with the girls" she pleaded. She bit her lip, waiting for his response, but partially expecting one of agreement just to placate her.

"The girls?" Claudius asked, his toes wiggling visibly beneath the blanket as he stretched out. His feet were absolutely killing him and their smell would soon be killing Htaere. "Is everything all right?" he asked with genuine concern, the thought of something wrong with his children instantly waking him up.

" seems as they are missing you terribly" she hinted subtly. "Jelena in particular is...worried" she said slowly, nodding to enforce the sentiment. "A good casual day spent with them will be good for you all."

"I miss them too," Claudius sadly admitted as he lay back on the bed, settling down in the mattress. His eyes moved towards her as he rolled over on to his side, stretching out as he became comfortable. " it that bad?" he asked her after a moment, noting Htaere usually did not discuss such things.

Htaere simply blinked in response. The answer was evident. "It would be very nice, perhaps a picnic under the trees on the estate" she suggested hopefully.

"Of course, my love," Claudius said to her, as he pulled aside the blanket to expose the area next to him. "Please. Arrange it..." he said as he patted the mattress, indicating he wanted her to come to bed. Already his mind was drifting, his head slumping down against the pillow. The strain of an especially long day evident in every aspect of his facial features.

Htaere's expression eased into relaxation, almost grinning lightly as she eased into bed along side him, eagerly willing to fill the spot he patted. "I shall indeed. Good night my poor tired Claudius" she mumbled sleepily.

By the time Htaere settled into bed Claudius was already asleep, enjoying much needed rest after a grueling day at work.

Outside the door Jelena Rodney listened carefully to their conversation, having been awoken by the TIE fighters. She listened intently to the conversation, seemingly willing to spy beyond just Imperial information at this point. It seemed Htaere was trying, but she did not seem willing to stand up to him in the manner she would have used.

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