"Are you sure everything is in order,
Lieutenant?" Claudius asked the woman standing in front of him. He stood
in the expansive living room of his suite aboard the Warspite. He
was wearing his duty uniform and seemed a rather pleasant version of
himself. Defending a low-level trade lane might not have been glamorous,
but it was fairly mundane and the weight of the galaxy was visible
removing from his shoulders. The lines on his face removed, the luggage
under his eyes temporarily checked, it was as if he had recently had a
"Of course, Milord," Lieutenant
Allegra Ames replied to her superior in an encouraging tone. She smiled,
looking him directly in his eyes. She coveted her newfound
responsibilities since he put his 'lackey' out to pasture.
"Opportunities like this," she thought to herself, "were what garnered
attention and earned promotions." She nodded her head reassuringly
before continuing, "Lady Htaere's present *will* arrive before the
wedding ... you have my assurances."
"It had better, Lieutenant," Claudius
said in a stern tone of voice, making his warning to her clean. "If it's
not," he continued, his voice losing none of its seriousness, "There are
places far worse than Gateway Space Station where one can be assigned."
Allegra swallowed nervously, her head
lowering respectfully as she talked down to him. Her short red hair
peaking out from below her uniform cap as she moved her head. "Milord,"
she began in a quiet tone of voice, "I have seen to it personally. All
of the papers are in order. It was not easy, but the appropriate people
have been paid and all has been arranged."
"We shall see, Lieutenant," Claudius sad
with a sly grin, "we shall see." His mind drifted temporarily towards
the present he had carefully selected. It required him to call in a
favor and pay the bribes Allegra had alluded to it, but Htaere was worth
it. "You may go," he said in a dismissive tone as he headed towards the
"Yes, Milord," Allegra said, leaving her
head lowered obediently. Her boots snapped together with a sharp *click*
as she turned around and headed for the turbolift. "Don't screw this up,
Ames," she thought to herself as she stepped onto the turbolift. "Where
am I supposed to store this thing anyway," she wondered to herself as
the doors closed.
Htaere stepped out of the lift, bathed
and redressed, she walked with purpose towards the quarters, keying open
the door and moving in. She hastened from the anteroom to the living
room area where her grey eyes fell upon Claudius. She stopped in her
tracks, a smile appearing across her contemplative features.
Claudius turned his attention
immediately to Htaere as she entered the room. His head moved towards
her eagerly, following her movement. A content smile upon his face he
greeted her warmly, "Good evening, my dear." He chuckled lightly to
himself, "I was just talking about you."
"Oh? Good things I hope" she grinned,
stepping closer towards him. "Thank you for allowing me to go. It was
very important to me."
"Oh yes," Claudius said cryptically,
"Very good things." His head tilted slightly as his mind shifted gears
to Htaere's trip to visit Kerrie. "I am just glad to have you home
safe," he replied, still a hint of worry in his voice.
"Yes, everything was fine" she affirmed.
Her smile flat-lined, eyes dropping to her hands for a moment. "It is
true it is a dreadful place. The conditions are..." she let her voice
drift. "Kerrie does not look well" she added.
Claudius was not the least bit
surprised. In fact, he had hoped the rugged conditions would have that
affect on her. He was concerned her recent failures were caused by too
comfortable living conditions. "Oh?" he replied, feigning ignorance.
"Yes it was a substandard environment.
Surely this sort of thing must be reported...someone must answer for
this..." Htaere paused for a moment. "I asked her to stand as my maid of
"Wha..." Claudius replied, utterly
dumbfounded. This was the last thing he expected to be what Htaere went
to talk about. His face locked in a shocked expression, his mouth hung
agape, he struggled to find words, "Kerrie? Maid of honor?" In all the
time he had known the Major, he had never seen her in a dress. He did
not even think of her as a 'woman.'
"Yes" Htaere nodded, a smile reappearing
slowly. "She accepted...I am so happy, Claudius."
"She did?" Claudius repeated, still
dumbfounded. This was an unexpected development ... one that he was not
sure that he approved of. After a moment he regained some, but not all,
of his composure. "Surely there must be someone else," he said hoping to
dissuade her, "Someone more suited. A relative perhaps?"
Htaere remained firm in her stance. "No.
I choose Kerrie. I will not yield." While she typically was miraculously
obedient to Claudius' wishes, she *was* Hapan after all, and when she so
chose, she could be fiercely staunch.
"Kerrie?" Claudius again repeated, still
not believing what he was hearing.
"Yes" Htaere answered, nodding once.
"And it is not only on behalf of her as my friend, but also out of
concern regarding the inhumane treatment Kerrie is facing, that I
respectfully request you look into this. It cannot be legal."
"Inhumane?" Claudius asked, not quite
sure what Htaere was implying. "I can assure you, my dear," he
continued, leaning forward on the couch to stress the importance of what
he was saying, "That the conditions Major Kiley is being exposed to are
'normal' for ones serving in the Stormtrooper Corps."
Htaere bristled yet remained quiet. Her
luscious lips pursed briefly before she forced them into a smile. "If
you will excuse me...I shall retire..." she nodded to him before
strolling past him towards the entrance of her own guest quarters.
"Goodnight, my dear," Claudius said
sweetly to her as she departed. He had hoped she was not offended, but
he felt justified that Kerrie was getting the treatment that she
deserved. Noticing the lateness of the hour he rose from his position on
the sofa and walked the short distance to his own bedroom to turn in for
It was at some time later that Htaere
emerged, leaving the quarters and making her way to the lift. As she
waited inside it, she nearly glowered before the sour expression melted
and an idea bubbled. Within thirty standard minutes, Htaere stood on the
flight deck of one of the receiving bays, holding a box in her arms and
smiling politely at Randi Trainor.
Lieutenant Randi Trainor turned to face
Htaere as she heard footsteps approaching her position in the hangar
bay. Ever joyous, her face was equipped with her uniquely cheerful
smile. In her flight-suit, as always when on duty, she leaned against
the hull of her shuttle. She was never one for formalities, especially
when it came to Htaere. "What are you doing back so soon?" Randi asked
in a cheerful tone, "Did you forget something on the shuttle?"
Htaere smiled, shaking her head. "No, I
am making a delivery in truth. Major Kiley is not faring well, thus I
have packed her a few good meals and novelties from the ship. . . .a bit
of home..." Htaere conceded, shrugging slightly.
"We're going all the way back out there
... again?" Randi asked, checking to see if she understand what Htaere
was saying. "Why didn't she just drop this off yesterday?" Randi asked
herself silently, not looking forward to another shuttle run like that.
"I cannot bear the thought of the major
living in that place. It was like something out of a nightmare" Htaere
shivered, recalling the atrocity that was Kerrie's assignment.
"Yeah," Randi said the joy noticeably
drained from her voice. "I hope I never get assigned to a place like
that," she added, as she climbed the ramp of the Kwai. "It'll
only take me a minute to get her prepped," she continued as she headed
into the cockpit, "Strap yourself in."
Htaere grinned and hurried onboard. She
didn't' need to be asked twice. She set the box down on the floor beside
her seat and buckled her crash restraint. She drew in a deep breath,
unable to stop smiling at herself.
Randi strapped herself in as she sat
down in the pilot's chair in the cockpit. Her hands reached to the
overhead controls to activate the shuttle's reactor. It only took a few
moments for it to come online and generate power throughout the ship.
She grabbed hold of the flight stick as the repulsorlift engines came
online. She navigated the ship off the flight deck and out of the
Warspite's main hangar. As the shuttle cleared the hangar, Randi
lowered the shuttle's wings and entered the now familiar navigation
coordinates to Gateway Space Station. When the computer finished processing
the coordinates, she slide her hand over the hyperdrive controls and the
shuttle streaked into the blur of hyperspace.
In the trip back to the station,
Htaere's head shifted to one side, 'resting' her eyes for a moment,
until that moment became the duration of the trip. She would not stir
until the shuttle's landing jarred her from her slumber.
"We're here," Randi shouted cheerfully
as she emerged from the cockpit. The fact that Htaere appeared to be
resting was not enough to phase her and lower the pitch of her voice.
She activated the landing ramp of the shuttle, which slowly lowered on
the station's landing bay. "You be safe now, you hear?" Randi said as
she stood near the ramp, "...and try not to touch anything!"
Htaere's head lifted, blinking off the
fatigue before unbuckling her restraints. Leaning over to pick up the
box, Htaere gathered it up in her arms before straightening. "I will,
thank you" she called to Randi as she headed towards the ramp, eyes
already flickering about curiously.
Major Kiley's long-suffering bed had
been put out of its misery. Sometime during the night one of the cot's
legs had finally given out, and the mattress had crashed to the floor.
In the tattered remnants of the mattress and springs lay the unconscious
Kerrie in her natural Clawdite form. She was finally asleep, with her
issued sheet carefully pulled over her. Next to her, as always, her
stuffed bantha. Beside the 'bed' was an open prescription bottle, turned
on its side ... the contents nearly empty.
It was with a tremendous amount of
difficulty that Htaere managed to figure out where she was going. Some
time later, and looking slightly discombobulated, she shifted the box in
her arms and knocked on Kerrie's door, eyes flickering down the hall in
each direction for a moment as she waited.
Kerrie, having taken an overdose of
sleep aid routinely used to sedate prisoners, was oblivious to Htaere's
approach outside her door. In this condition, someone could overturn her
file cabinet and she would not respond.
Htaere glanced down, frowning slightly
and risking another shaky glance back down the filthy hallways. She
knocked on the door a bit louder this time and spoke quietly into the
A trooper walking down the hallway
stopped in his tracks as he saw the Lady Htaere standing in the hallway.
<Click>"Lady Htaere. We were not made aware to expect you today."<Click>
The trooper proceeded until he was standing next to her. <Click>"May I
be of any assistance?"<Click>
Htaere's wide eyed gaze flickered
towards the trooper, allowing a small smile. "Thank you, no. I was just
bringing a few items to Major Kiley. She does not seem to be here. Is
there somewhere I can leave this for her?"
The trooper examined the door. He was
instructed not to disturb the Major, because she was sleeping. <Click>"I
was informed she would be sleeping this shift. Perhaps she stepped out.
I can open the office for you and you can place it in there."<Click> The
Trooper knocked on the door several times himself, louder than Htaere,
trying to jar his commander awake.
"Oh?" Htaere arched a perfectly sculpted
brow. "Well, if she is sleeping, I do not wish to disturb her." Htaere
looked about around the door. "Will this be safe if I leave it here for
<Click>"Of course, Milady."<Click> The
trooper, satisfied the Major was out, activated the control panel on the
door to unlock it. A moment later there was a mechanical *click* and the
door cracked open. <Click>"I will lock it after you are done."<Click>
"Oh thank you" she said gratefully as
she waited for the door to open. Htaere's gaze pulled from the trooper
to the open door as she stepped through. In half a heartbeat, her smile
waned and she turned to the trooper quickly. "The Major is resting. I
appreciate your help" she said a bit nervously. She hurried to the desk
to place the box down before stepping slowly towards the derelict cot.
Cloudy grey orbs flickered about to survey the heinous conditions
sprawled before her.
Kerrie groaned audibly in her
unconscious state, a river of drool streaming out of her mouth onto the
small pillow. Even though she appeared to be resting, it was clear that
she was too heavily sedated.
Htaere lifted the front of her skirt
daintily and stepped over both Kerrie and the defunct cot. She squatted
down next to the unconscious woman. She leaned over to pick up the
bottle, bringing it up to eye level to investigate before setting it off
to the side. A soft slender hand extended towards the major's shoulder.
She nudged her gently. "Kerrie..."
Kerrie's response was nothing more than
unintelligible groan of discomfort and pain. Her eyes did not open, her
mouth barely moved. The woman was completely gone.
At a loss, Htaere rose, stepping back
over all the clutter carefully towards the measly desk. She moved the
box, leaving it where it would be noticed before moving to the door. She
compressed one of the buttons and left the major's quarters quietly when
the door opened. She let it close again behind her as she paused
momentarily, frowning back towards the decrepit little room before the
closing door sealed it from view. With that, she moved off back down the
Some time later, Htaere returned,
opening the door which no one had locked. She carried a few items she'd
procured from some trooper she'd undoubtedly flagged down. She placed
said items on the desk, a bowl of warm water and a washcloth, an
electrolyte beverage and a protein bar. She tugged the dark cloak from
her shoulders, draping it over chair. Her first project was perhaps her
most taxing: to drag the mattress with the major on top of it from
whatever wreckage remained of the shoddy cot. It was perhaps the
greatest physical effort Htaere had put out in some while, but she
managed to drag the small bedding from the broken frame, freeing it of
any hindrance. With the warm, damp washcloth, she took care to clean the
major up a bit, wiping her face diligently before leaving the freshened
cloth on her head. Pleased with her efforts thus far, she took a seat at
the desk, bunching up her hooded cape into a makeshift pillow and
leaning forward onto the desk, placing her head down to wait patiently.
It was at least a couple hours before
Kerrie's head began to turn. Her uncomfortable groans began to grow
louder and more frequent as she began to stir. Her eyes did not open,
but it was clear that she was beginning to wake. "Ohhh..." she groaned
louder as her head rolled once again.
Htaere's head lifted groggily before she
straightened in the rickety chair. She stood, stepping back over to the
major to pluck the washcloth from her head and dunk it back in the now
lukewarm water. She folded it again after ringing it out and dabbed
Kerrie's face lightly. "Welcome back" she said matter-of-factly.
"Ah'chu apenkee?" a still delirious
Kerrie murmured weakly to Htaere in Huttese. Her eyes not yet open,
completely unaware of her circumstances. "Ugh..." she began to moan
quietly as she felt herself becoming slightly nauseated.
Having no knowledge of whatever language
it was Kerrie was speaking, Htaere did not issue a formal response.
Instead she continue to pat the major's temples. She stopped only long
enough to sidle over to the desk and fetch the electrolyte beverage
before returning. "Kerrie?" she whispered, sitting back on her ankles
beside the mattress.
Kerrie's eyelids began to open, but her
eyelids were rolling back in her head slightly. "Uh...uh...uh..." she
moaned quietly and repetitively. She had really damaged herself in a
foolish attempt to finally get a quality night's test by overdosing on
the medication. "Htaere?" a still disoriented Kerrie asked. "Boska bunky
dunko," she said tiredly, once again reverting to Huttese.
Htaere nudged her a bit more firmly.
"Kerrie...would you like me to call for a medic?" she asked, one corner of
her mouth dipping into a half frown. "I have something for you to drink.
You will not feel as drained..."
"Nobata! Nobata!" Kerrie responded
angrily at the mention of a medic. Her head tossed back and forth
frantically, as if to indicate "no." "Boska bunky dunko," she repeated,
with a recognizable sadness in her voice.
"I do not know what that means" Htaere
replied, sighing. She settled the washcloth back on the major's forehead
before taking one of her hands and closing it around the beverage
bottle. "Here...when you are ready..."
"Ugh..." Kerrie groaned in pain as she
tried to sit herself up. Her entire body trembled as she tried to move,
but she just could not find the strength to do it. She began breathing
heavily in frustrated as she fell back upon the remnants of the bed. Her
eyes focused on Htaere, her vision slowly coming into focus. "Htaere?"
she asked again, still not aware of what was going on.
Htaere's head canted to one side with a
small grin on it. "Hello" she said simply. "You should not have done
this, Kerrie. You are fortunate things did not turn out worse."
"Have you come to take me home?" Kerrie
asked weakly. With some effort she scooted herself, leaning on her
elbows for support.
"I only wish that I could" Htaere
answered in a low voice, her pleasant expression slipping. "But I have
brought you something. . . .when you are feeling well enough to eat."
Kerrie's face sunk in disappointment at
her response. She fell back down against the mattress and sighed deeply.
"I can't eat," she responded weakly. Her hand went across her stomach.
It felt like she was going to throw up.
"I am sorry" Htaere admitted sadly. "You
should drink. It will revitalize you as well." Htaere plucked up the
near empty bottle. "How many did you take?"
"Twelve I think," Kerrie responded, a
bit more clearly. She was starting to become more lucid, but she was by
no means herself. The prescription had only called for one to be taken.
Suddenly, the door to Kerrie's office
opened. Several Stormtroopers were seen outside, their weapons at the
ready. It was an ominous sight, but they soon stepped aside to reveal
the presence of Admiral Rodney in full regalia. He looked displeased ...
to say the least. He took several steps into the office and then closed
the door behind him. He looked at Kerrie for a moment before focusing
his gaze upon Htaere, "You have no idea how frightened I was."
Htaere's head snapped around quickly
from where she sat on the floor. She felt her chest tighten and her
heart lodge solidly in her throat as out of the sheer blue, her fiancée
appeared. "Claudius..." she said a bit nervously.
"Are you alright?" Claudius asked, his
voice more concerned than angry. Ignoring Kerrie for the time being he
walked passed her and directly towards Htaere. He looked her over
nervously, checking for any indication of bruising or soiling.
"Yes, of course" Htaere responded,
getting to her feet. The only sign of anything out of place on her was
the dirt collected from sitting on the floor across the fabric of her
"Admiral..." Kerrie said in a panicked
voice. She tried her best to stand up and present herself in proper
military fashion, but she could not yet raise herself off her knees.
"Ugh," she again groan frustrated. She lowered her head subserviently,
knelt before him ... it was the best she could manage under the
"I am glad you are alright, my love,"
Claudius replied to Htaere as a genuine smile formed on his face. His
eyes then darted to Kerrie, knelt before him. "Late night drinking,
Major?" he inquired, making fun of the young woman's condition as he was
unaware of the circumstances.
"No. Kerrie is ill..." Htaere answered,
despite not being a part of the new conversation. "I have monitored her
improvement over the last couple hours" she continued, her heart rate
still a little high as she waited nervously for the inevitable.
"Ill?" Claudius asked, slightly
concerned at the notion. He had not sent her here to cause her physical
suffering. "What do you mean 'ill'?" he asked Htaere, discounting the
Major for the moment.
Htaere's grey eyes flickered to Kerrie
for a moment. "The Major has not been faring well, and in efforts to
secure at least one good night of sleep...miscalculated..."
Claudius' eyes darted instantly from
Htaere to the pathetic sight of Kerrie on the floor. "What does she
mean, Major?" he asked, hovering over he like a menacing beast. His eyes
narrowed down on her, expecting an answer immediately.
"Sl-sl-sleeping pills, Milord," Kerrie
nervously tried to explain. She kept her head lowered, unwilling to make
eye contact with the man. "I took a higher dosage to try and get some
sleep. My cot broke and no replacement could be found," she tried to
explain. She was trembling in front of him and feared the worst.
Htaere's hands clenched and unclenched
anxiously, her facade drained of color. Her eyes moved between the two,
monitoring the proceedings cautiously, still waiting with baited breath
for the worst.
"What do you think, my dear?" Claudius
asked as his head moved towards her. He had grown to appreciate her
advice and council over their time together.
Htaere's head turned towards the desk
for a moment. "I...have some very good food I brought. Perhaps she will
feel better when she has eaten" she said optimistically, yet still
treading carefully as she was unsure where this was going.
"Not about that..." Claudius' eyes
nervously looked to Kerrie before he leaned forward towards Htaere. He
pressed his lips towards her ear and spoke softly, "Do you think it was
an accident?" After asking the question he moved his face back away.
Somewhat surprised by the question,
Htaere blinked for a moment. "I believe it was desperation. She has not
looked well in any of the communicating we have done" she replied. This
was, after all, the argument she had tried to make previously.
"What would you have me do?" Claudius
asked Htaere. He took a step back and sighed deeply at the hopelessness
of the situation. He folded his arms across his chest and hoped the
fairer sex had a 'fair' solution.
Her head shook slightly. "I...I was not
suggesting that I interfere. I only meant to bring her a good meal."
Htaere shifted slightly. "I only ask that you do not penalize Randi nor
the Major. They were unaware of my unapproved outing."
"For someone who did not want to
interfere," Claudius said as he looked down to the Major before
returning to Htaere, "You sure created one heck of an 'interference'."
He smiled at her reasuringly to make her understand he was not mad. "How
do you want to see this end?" he asked, genuinely interested in her
Htaere's mouth hung open slightly,
unsure of what to do in this predicament. She made a conscientious
effort to close her mouth before looking towards the major. "If the
Major is to remain, at least supply her with a functional bed on which
she can get the rest needed to perform such jobs expected of her" she
Kerrie's face moved to look at Htaere
for a moment. She flashed a smile at her for a moment before lowering
her head back down.
Claudius sighed and looked down at the
major. He shook his head in frustration. He was running out of patience
with this whole affair. "You care about her that much?" Claudius asked
Htaere, obviously referring to Kerrie.
At first, Htaere looked heartbroken. She
nodded, biting idly at her lower lip. "Yes Claudius" she answered
quietly, her posture unwavering.
Claudius turned around and stopped
facing them for a moment. He groaned in frustration. "Oh damn it all,"
he said in frustration as he spun around and lunged for Kerrie. Using
his strength he lifted the small woman off the ground and into his arms.
Carrying her as if she were a small child he began carrying her towards
the door. "We will sort this out later," he said to Htaere as he opened
the door with his feet and proceeded into the corridor.
Htaere's eyes followed him before
turning and hurrying after him as well. On the way out past the desk,
she grabbed her cape, swinging it about her shoulders and fastening it
in front. Carefully she drew the hood up and continued behind Claudius.
Kerrie wrapped her arms tenderly around
the Admiral's neck. As they exited her office she mimicked Human form as
to not attract any unwanted attention. Over his shoulder, her eyes
narrowed on her stuffed bantha ... the thought of leaving it behind too
much to bare ... but she was in no position to complain at this point.
Htaere scurried after them, remaining
silent as though she felt she had pushed the limits this evening and
fully expected an untold reprimand or at least a solid lecture later on.
As they boarded the shuttle, Claudius
placed Kerrie down on a couch in the passenger compartment. Tired from
exerting himself with the task of carrying her through the station. It
had been a long time since he had to carry anyone. He slumped down in
his seat and flashed a glance at Kerrie and then to Htaere and sighed.
"Women," he thought to himself silent, "The one adversary I cannot
Htaere buckled in without comment,
keeping her eyes low and her hands folded in her lap. Inwardly, she was
thrilled with the outcome, but unsure of what cost it had come at. She
glanced briefly to Kerrie and then Claudius before settling her eyes
back to her lap.
Kerrie closed her eyes and lay her head
down as she spread out on the couch. She was thrilled to be off that
station. A dumb smile formed upon her face as she drifted off in to a
more natural state of sleep.