Sha`ar sat on a luxurious pillow in one of the
outdoor seating areas at the most premier tea garden
in Hanna City. With her eyes closed and face turned
skyward, the Hapan heiress was drawn to the splendor
of nature, as Hapans were, letting the radiance of
the sun warm her skin. Adorned in her usual
grandeur, she glistened in her shell top and long
skirt, her arms and midriff exposed and basking in
the sunlight as well. An elaborate gemstone maang
tikka crowned her head, glittering as the sun's rays
caught it just so. The only sounds to touch her ears
were that of the gentle breezes stirring about the
leaves of the vast array of plantlife, the bubble of
the three-tiered fountain in the middle of the
garden and the jingle of various hanging wind chimes
that stirred every so often in the wind. It was
paradise...at least, until her personal com unit
herself out of serene revelry, cloudy grey eyes
checked the identification, and instantly her golden
mood was sullied. Parka.
With an exhale
Htaere touched the a panel on the encrypted device
and attempted to fix the glower from her face before
the small holovid of Parka Pepper's bust
materialized. "Parka, to what do I owe
the...pleasure," it was an effort to get the word
one to bully incessantly in your absence. I almost
miss you around here, Snowflake," Parka replied with
a smile, having no delusion as to Htaere's reception
of her call.
"What a kind
sentiment. If only I were able to reciprocate,"
Htaere mumbled absently as she took a dainty sip of
"Word on the
street is you've made yourself a deal. With Cole
Duine," Parka noted, almost in mock interest. "Well
I suppose if anyone could charm a bounty hunter into
releasing his capture, it would be you."
"I do not
believe charm did any of the heavy lifting in the
arrangement," Htaere responded, temporarily nodding
to an attendant off camera who offered a fresh pot
of tea. "He speaks the language of credits quite
fluently, which makes him very predictable. And
anyway, I simply told him the truth; that if he
chose to gamble with his life by delivering me to my
mother, in her dominion, on her terms, he would be
lucky to leave Gallinore with his skin. Forget
making it to the border of Hapes," she said
matter-of-factly. "You know him, then?"
only. He is a major underworld figure, and very
dangerous," Parka cited cautiously.
"I am aware,"
Htaere answered plainly.
and continued. "His fine resume includes murder,
kidnapping, bribery, money laundering, unlawful
possession of weapons, illegal gambling and so on
and so on and so on...you know, all those great
qualities in a fella," the rebel intel agent smiled
sweetly as she folded her hands behind her back.
believe he is still single," Htaere commented, one
corner of her lovely mouth lifting upwards.
catching on, Snowflake," Parka managed offer a
glimmer of praise but it was short-lived. "But
seriously, watch your six. Watch it carefully. In
fact, grow a pair of eyes in the back of your head.
Those come in handy when one starts cajoling with
characters of dubious merit. That rainbow gem in
your forehead is nearly a billboard advertising that
your head alone is worth 400,000 credits. His kind
*will* help themselves to it if he decides he wants
it bad enough, and severing a head is not at all an
inconvenience for people like him, nor any in his
employ. You are in very dangerous company, Htaere.
Be very careful."
About to take
another sip of tea, Htaere drew short. "Using my
name? My actual name? This must be serious. Careful
Parka, it sounds like you are coming dangerously
close to being concerned for my welfare."
I'd hate to have to be the one to break the news of
your demise to Jelena," Parka retorted with a smirk.
suppose it is most fortunate for you that I remain
among the living," Htaere remarked before proceeding
with her tea.
"And what of
your mother? The bounty is still open you know,"
Parka had to point out the obvious.
"I am certain
that gorgon is blowing up your com. Tell her that I
have contracted a horrible disease and have
withdrawn to some dark corner of the galaxy to die a
slow, agonizing death. The very news should warm the
cold depths of her dark evil heart," Htaere shrugged
an exquisitely draped shoulder.
I'm so proud," Parka's eyebrows lifted. "If only
are having an impact on me after all. If only I were
able to imbibe some good manners and civilized
behavior on you in return," Htaere smiled.
ambition on your part," Parka said without missing a
"No doubt. Is
Jelena available?" Htaere inquired, canting her head
with a pleasant smile. "This has been a charming
visit and all, but, the bile does rise in the back
of my throat when we communicate, so, if you would
be so kind as to check, I would be most grateful."
delighted in pestering the young Hapan and the idea
of making her uncomfortable was well worth it. "I'll
check," she answered, turning away and stopping to
pause, if only a moment before looking back at the
lense. "Don't get a big head over this or anything
smile touched Htaere's lips. "I shall. Thank you,"
she said quietly with a nod.
A deal all too nice not to pass up. Cole Duine let
Htaere go a d she just so happened to increase his
credit count by a substantial amount. Such an amount
that would allow him to increase his operations
greatly. Now one thing that was known about Cole was
he paid his men well, well enough to where they
remained loyal. He was also ruthless. Ruthless to
the point where if someone betrayed him, he came
after their families. Besides the kids, never kids.
He had many interests on this planet, one was Htaera.
He would make sure she wasn't taken off this rock
without his say so. He couldn't have a possible
payday slip through his hands, especially how this
deal was meant to keep her safe, and on this planet.
Cole walked through the streets of Hanna with four
men. Two at his side, and two behind him roughly ten
feet to keep an eye on things. Heavily armed and
well trained in the art of combat...
Cole couldn't help but smile once his eyes landed
upon Htaera. He had someone tailing her but today
she would have a more substantial guard now. He
slowly made his way over to her, his men making a
sort of parameter.
"It's nice to see you again...I hope we are past me
From her engaging spot in the tea garden, Htaere
gazed up from where she watched a blank com waiting
for Parka, or Jelena, with eyes the color of the sky
before a storm breaks. The well-dressed zabrak male
before her was the one and only who she'd negotiated
a business proposition with, of sorts. Enjoying the
temporary comforts of relaxing in his territory, she
motioned to the seat across from her at the tea
table. "All is forgiven," she smiled. "Care to join
me? This is an exceptional tea."
"I would , thank you. " Was said as Cole made his
way over to the table. Adjusting his suit before he
took a seat, his eyes moves to Htaera and spoke
"It would be the best of both our interests to make
sure you remain safe while in my care so from now on
you shall be accompanied by these two, Zuka and
Raphael." He turned his head and whistled, two of
the guards that were close to him nodded and
acknowledged his signal but remained at at distance
at the moment.
"You have quite a price on your head...I think we
should be careful don't you agree?" He gestured to
the service droid signaling for a tea, gesturing to
what she was drinking.
As the serving droid brought a second elegant tea
cup for Cole, Htaere continued to sip her own with
all the gentile and composure of a lady. At his
words, she found her smile thinning.
Grey eyes traveled briefly to 'Zuka' and 'Raphael'
before drifting back to the lined face of the Zabrak
crime boss. She had no doubt he'd had a set of eyes
on her all throughout the day. She also found
herself routinely eyeballing the horns encircling
his head and the various ritual lines and markings
on his flesh. It wasn't dissimilar to the
beautification efforts her mother had performed on
her to enhance her own appearances.
"That is very kind of you Cole, but completely
unnecessary. My presence here requires a very
passive effort on your part, I assure you. I do not
need you to extol your resources on my account,
including your men," she nodded towards the pair. "I
am most content to spend my days in the sunlight
here in the tea garden. I assure you I do not
command much in the way of commodity, only that
you..." she thought on how Parka had phrased it.
"...watch my six, if you will."
"I must stress that it is in your best interest that
you reconsider keeping my friends here around.
Though if you decline, well...I wont force them to
be at your side. " He offered a smile. Though she
could assume that they would still be in the
His cybernetic hand moved to take ahold of the tea,
lifting it to his lips. Sniffing it briefly before
he took a sip, offering a nod. "Not bad." He leaned
back against the chair and casually looked around
"I must say this was the first time I've sat in
here...nice place...so if I may, your mother wants
you to marry someone eh?"
The four men of Coles casually walked around the
area. Eyes scanning for any possible threats. Hands
resting upon their weapons. It was odd, even the
republic police seemed to not pay any mind to Cole
and his men. A sign that things were working well
Htaere did not allow herself to be troubled by
Cole's entourage of henchmen. As far as she was
concerned, she'd paid her debt and had the time to
spend as well.
"I value my privacy greatly," she remarked quietly.
Drawing a deep breath, she allowed an amiable smile.
"Yes, for the second time." She paused to sample the
fresh cup of tea before her. "This time around, I
simply refuse to comply. Mmmm this is quite fine.
How fortunate of you to have access to such
masters," she noted of the tea sommelier.
She settled and offered her most patient grin. "The
woman has no soul. Where her heart should be exists
only a black hole. She will eventually grow wary of
these games, and my bounty will evolve into an
assassination order, as she did for my father when I
was a child, and various other concubines." She
raised her tea cup gracefully in salutations. "But I
do not intend to make it easy for her. Cheers."
After a handful of heartbeats, she made an inquiry
of her own. "I understand the rebellion and the
Empire lock horns here on Chandrila quite regularly.
How does that affect your ... business interests?"
Across the galaxy on New Alderaan, Jelena Rodney was
in the makeshift Rebel command center, agonizing
over the construction of the Alliance safe world.
There was a moment of calm that allowed her to take
a seat, and have a hot cup of tea. She wondered if
all this was worth it, or if she was just struggling
to build another planet for the Empire to come along
and destroy. There were the thoughts on the teenage
'traitor' as she sipped her tea, but no matter what
happened she could not lose hope. When she spied
Parka coming into the structure, which was basically
nothing more than a large tent supported by
durasteel posts, and filled with terminals that were
out of date even during the last war. "I took your
advice, Parka. Went on the HoloNet. Looked up what a
nek was," she said, as she looked at her with a
neutral expression before lowering her face to the
cup of the tea. "I've decided to take it as a
compliment," she said, revealing a smile as she rose
her face and lowered the tea. "Do you think Htaere
made it where she was going safely?" she asked, as
she briefly paused to check her wrist chrono to see
if she could remain seated this long. There was
simply so much to do in the early stages of the
"Truth be told, business is booming. You see, war is
great for the economy. At least, mine anyways. With
both the empire and republic worrying about one
another, they tend to forget about the lesser
He smiled and took another sip of his tea. It was
quite delicious, perhaps he should slip his hand
into this business and have them pay for protection.
Good old fashioned extortion. His eyes fell back to
"Have you ever thought about having your mother
removed from the equation?"
He glanced off into the distance once again,
casually looking over the random patrons.
Calculating and thinking. His mind never stopped, it
had to. If he was to let his guard down once, that
could be his demise. His left hand shifting off the
table the able rest upon his thigh, close to his
"What is it you do for fun? Besides drinking tea
Parka grinned. "Well it was a compliment. I told you
they're bad ass. We should get one. Could be a
really great guard dog," she offered
enthusiastically before her smile melted. "Unless of
course...it ate Htaere's guarlara..." An all out
frown replaced her mirth. "I don't think that would
go over well so, maybe not. Anyway," she continued.
"Htaere...yes, well she...she...uh," Parka had not
bothered to share any of the news regarding her
former stepmother's capture, nor subsequent release,
nor Faustian bargain she'd made with the
up-and-coming king of Chandrila's underworld.
"...well, why don't you ask her yourself," she
misdirected the conversation gingerly with a motion
towards the communications center.
Htaere had to chuckle at Cole's question regarding
her mother, the 'illustrious' Qeio`i Eschuu da
Sha`ar. "Have her removed?" She shook her head
slowly and took another sip of her tea, savoring the
notes of this particular blend before answering. "My
family, the Sha`ar have owned the exclusive mining
rights to the rainbow gems of Gallinore since the
spouses and descendants of the Lorell Raiders took
control of the Hapes Cluster millennia ago. Rainbow
gems are the foundation of Hapes' wealth. One of
them alone fetches the cost of a Mon Calamari
cruiser." She briefly touched the amber colored
rainbow gem that her mother had surgically embedded
in her forehead "One does not obtain nor maintain
that kind of position without knowing how to
sidestep blaster bolts and landmines. As you can
imagine she also is well bedded with the Queen
Mother and royal family, and justifiably so. It
would be just as easy to remove Emperor Palpatine as
it would be removing my mother. Besides, to go
through the trouble of contemplating such an
endeavor and bringing it to fruition, well that
would mean I would have to expend energy and thought
on her, and I shall give her no such pleasure. I do
not allow her to rent space inside my head, thus, I
give her no thought at all."
There was a brief moment before she considered his
last question. "For fun..." A slow smile crept over
her features. "As of late, many things," she
answered with a rather mischievous grin, allowing
for little more than ambivalence in her response.
"No thank you!" Jelena said, with a bright smile, as
she rose from her chair, put aside her tea and moved
towards Parka. "If anything happened to that
guarlara I would never hear the end of it," she
said, with a wry smile, as she was reminded that she
needed to go check in on the creature. "Chandrila?!
But ... but that's my father's sector!" she said, as
she brought her hand dramatically to her forehead,
as teenage girls were prone to do. "What is she
thinking?" she said, as she moved towards the
communications center. "Excuse me, Private," she
said, as she brushed the controller away and sat
down at the terminal. "Help me figure this thing
out," she said to Parka, anxiously, as she began
searching for Htaere's frequency on Chandrila.
Parka didn't bother answering Jelena, only smiling
and shaking her head. "Not my circus, not my
Kowakian monkey-lizards," she absolved herself on
any further responsibility on the issue. Instead she
simply trailed after Jelena patiently, and as the
younger girl fumbled about at the console, Parka
simply flipped back to the channel already connected
to Htaere on Chandrila.
From her table at the tea garden in Hanna City where
she'd been conversing with Cole Duine, Htaere's eyes
caught the flicker on the holovid as Jelena
appeared. Quickly she glanced across the table to
the mob boss, offered her most polite smile, and
nearly whispered, "Excuse me a moment," before
rising from her seat and hastening to the most
remote corner of the garden for a bit of isolation.
Turning her back so that none could be privy to even
the movement of her lips, Htaere smiled. "Hello
Jelena," she said enthusiastically. "I am certain
you are quite busy, I merely wished to check in and
see if any 'deliveries' had made their way to your
corner of space," she grinned and threw in a wink
for good measure.
He offered a polite smile and bowed his head
slightly. Curiously notating the message before he
watched her walk away. His eyes then moved over to
his men keeping guard. He motioned for one of his
'soldiers' to come over. Upon him making his way
over he gestured for him to lean down. Whispering
softly. "When we leave...she will have two guards on
her at all times...keep to the shadows, I don't want
her know she is being tailed...also, on a alternate
issue. Make sure the local security receive the
payment on time...don't need to raise any issues
while we are making a home here." He paused a moment
before he added. "You can go Raphael, thank you." He
leaned forward and took another sip of his tea,
enjoying the taste. He quietly waited for Htaere to
finish her conversation.
"Htaere?!" Jelena said, as the long distance signal
was not as clear as she was used to, or perhaps
maybe it was just the age and state of disrepair of
the comms system she was using. "Htaere, what are
you doing on Chandrila? Do you know how dangerous
that is?" she asked, sounding more like the older of
the pair. She worried endlessly about her former
stepmother, whom she perceived as an innocent,
unaware of the harsh realities facing the galaxy.
She looked towards Parka dismissively, wishing she
had taken a greater interesting in Htaere's
protection. "Are you alright? Do you want *me* to
send some people to protect you?" she asked Htaere,
but she was looking right at Parka. She lowered her
head, placing her forehead in both of her hands as
she contemplated what to do. "Why there?" she asked
Parka, as she moved her hand over the transmitter so
Htaere would not pick up on that part.
A little surprised at being chided like a child,
Htaere's smile flatlined summarily. "Jelena, calm
yourself, everything is fine," she countered. "I was
only stopping for a refueling and, well, a most
peculiar series of circumstances has drawn out this
little visit, at least for a time," she explained,
but left it intentionally ambiguous. "It is a tale I
shall have to regale you with upon my return, but I
assure you that all is well, and no, I do not
require protective services." She grinned a little,
as that factor had already been addressed. No need
to burden Jelena with the events that had transpired
as of late. "I am aware of the conflict here, but I
am reasonably removed from it, and being this is my
first visit to Chandrila, the odds of encountering
anyone I am familiar with are practically
nonexistent." With a sweet smile, she misdirected
the conversation to the reason for her inquiry. "And
what of the supplies? They should be arriving with
some degree of regularity now, and..." she beamed,
"on this next one, I have added a special treat for
the children. Please do tell me if they like it when
you get it."
His green eyes curiously watched Htaere. Watching
her movements from behind. She positioned herself so
he couldn't read her lips, something that would have
been easy with his left cybernetic eye. His hand
lifted the tea to his lips, finishing it off. As
much as he enjoyed the woman's company his time was
important. Any day spent relaxing was a day others
moved against him. This planet was no exception to
that rule. He slowly got up, a piece of paper was
pulled from his coat pocket. A small note written on
it before he turned and gestured for his men to
follow. Of course Raphael stayed behind in the
shadows. He had his own task to make sure of. When
Htaere would read the note it would simply say...
"Sorry but I had to step out. We shall be seeing
more of one another. Till then, enjoy your tea" It
wasn't long before Cole was lost in the crowd of
people. Heading to hand some business of his.
Jelena quietly listened to Htaere's message, but was
sitting on the edge of her seat, filled with anxiety
over Htaere's predicament. "Yes. The supplies are
here. Than you," she said, speaking in a calm,
diplomatic voice that she had heard her father use
all of his life. She swallowed, before continuing,
attempting to regain some composure before
continuing. "I am sure the children will be
grateful. There are so many here who lost their
parents when Alderaan was destroyed, or have parents
who are away fighting in the war," she explained, as
her thoughts inevitably dwelled on her niece,
Callista. "Be safe, Htaere. Please contact me if you
need anything," she said, as she terminated the
transmission, rose from the chair and brushed past
Parka. As she moved past the Hapan she gave her a
side-eye glare, indicating her concern for the
danger Htaere might face on Chandrila.
Htaere slipped her com unit away before returning to
her table to finish her tea, enjoying it all the
more upon hearing that things were going as planned
with a content smile on her face, awash in the
sunlight of the garden.
Parka did not react to Jelena's fretting. "She's a
big girl. She can take care of herself. I'm sure
she's fine," she called towards Jelena's back with a
reassuring smile. Imagine the scorn if she'd brought
up Htaere's attempted abduction, or being tackled,
punched, being tossed around by a thermal detonator
explosion or being shot. As the adage
goes...ignorance is bliss. Such bliss.
And with that, Parka redirected her attentions
elsewhere. Things were stirring on the horizon, and
she'd be dispatched shortly again no doubt. She took
a seat at a kiosk and began reviewing what little
information had been trickling in, waiting to see
where she'd be sent next with an
uncharacteristically somber expression.