Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin (35:2:24) in the Brentaal system: Kwai and Warspite.
Vice Admiral Claudius Rodney, Countess Htaere Rodney, and Doctor Pilaq Tohan.

It had been a wonderful, blissful night with Htaere in the peaceful solemnity of Aldera. Reality was coming back to them however as they rested in the passenger compartment of their shuttle, waiting for the brief trip between Alderaan and Brentaal to conclude. As the pair neared their destination, Claudius Rodney grew quieter and more reserved, knowing what awaited them when they returned. How he would explain Kerrie's ... condition ... he did not yet know. Still, his hand was still firmly intertwined with hers, a reassuring squeeze offered every few moments.

With every little squeeze as a reminder of his affections, Htaere flashed a smile towards Claudius. She let her smoky hued eyes settle on him for a while, boring into him intently. "Is everything all right?" she asked quietly. "Were Jelena and Kerrie able to escape attack at the market?"

"Everything is..." he paused for a moment, considering it carefully, struggling to make eye contact as the guilt of what had transpired came over him. "Everything is fine, my dear," he said, his voice growing weaker each time they moved a parsec closer towards their destination. "Jelena is unharmed," he said to her with a firm nod of his head, squeezing her hand again and offering a kind, reassuring smile to her.

"That is good" she nodded, the compartment getting quiet again for a moment. "Has my guarlara been shipped yet as well? I am eager to ride in the country side" she asked, her face bright and glowing at the prospect.

"Unfortunately not," Claudius said to Htaere as his hand slowly slipped away from hers. "Major Kiley has not yet returned to duty," he said, nervously, his eyes moving away from her as he tried desperately to swallow. He could feel the collar of his tunic tightening and the shuttle seemed to be getting hotter and more uncomfortable.

"Oh" Htaere answered, expression curious. "She has been injured?" Large doe eyes blinked at him, canting her head in concern.

"Yes..." Claudius said quietly, not providing any further details. He felt the shuttle emerge from hyperspace. They had arrived in the Brentaal system and soon they would be back aboard the ship. He would soon be found out, and he was not sure how Htaere would feel about it. His heart was pounding in his chest and he felt his arm begin to twinge.

Htaere face was confused, somewhat stunned, and concerned all at once. As she felt the shuttle lurch, she let the conversation go as their privacy would cease to exist in a matter of minutes, until far later into the night. She sat up in her seat, waiting patiently for touchdown on the tarmac of the Warspite. She gathered her wits and prepared for the familiarity and comfort of the Star Destroyer, finding the idea amazingly ironic.

As the shuttle touched down within the safe confines of the Star Destroyer's hangar bay, Claudius stood up and prepared to assist Htaere on their descent down the short ramp leading towards the hangar. "Come, my dear," he said as he extended his arm towards her for support. "You must be eager to return to our quarters and settle in after the long flight," he continued as they slowly made their way across the hangar.

The turbolift door suddenly opened, from which Doctor Pilaq Tohan soon emerged. The Ithorian doctor was gravely concerned for both Claudius and Htaere and was quick to make sure he was the first to greet them. "It is a relief to see you returned safe, Milady," the Ithorian's distinct stereophonic voice said to her. Despite the volume of the voice, it was clear from the way he spoke that his concern was sincere and genuine. His medical scanners immediately went to work, double checking the reports the Aldera Universal Medcenter had forwarded him regarding her condition.

She accepted Claudius' act of chivalry, smiling gratefully as she strode down the ramp. She nodded to his personal physician respectfully, grinning and glad to see him. "We are most grateful for your concern" she answered. "I am glad to be home" she admitted, candidly.

Pilaq was confident in the results his scanner had given him. As Htaere's doctor he had learned of her pregnancy from the Alderaanians, but confidentially prevented him from discussing the matter with Claudius without her consent. He would make a note to see Htaere privately later and review the supplements the doctors had prescribed her. His large, bulbous eyes roamed towards Claudius, noting the man seemed to have recovered wonderfully. He would never look at him quite the same way however, the crime of what he did to Kerrie unspeakable.

"Is there anything to report regarding that other situation, Pilaq?" Claudius asked as he put a comforting arm around his wife while his trusted friend and confident continued to perform his scan. Once he realized Htaere was safe, he had done nothing but worry about the wellbeing of the Major. He would never forgive himself, but a hurried recover would ease some of his guilt.

"The other situation is..." Pilaq began, his eyes rolling slightly down to look at Htaere, before shifting towards Claudius. "...quite severe," he responded without going into great detail. He was not sure what he had discussed with his wife, nor did he even know if she was aware of Kerrie's injury. He had perceived a great connection between the two and feared her knowledge might further complicate and strain the already difficult situation.

Htaere simply stood quietly at his side, as she'd been trained to do and smiled pleasantly while he discussed business. She gazed around quietly, noting something different right away, the atmosphere feeling...vacant. She eyed Doctor Tohan patiently, waiting for them to finish.

Claudius looked down at the deckplating, feeling very uncomfortable by the development he had just learned. He felt great shame for what he had done and simply nodded his head to the Doctor in sad silence. His hand moved towards Htaere, gripping it slowly. "Can she have visitors?" he asked quietly as he brought his face up to look at the Ithorian doctor, feint tears forming in his eyes.

Htaere's glow seemed to wane as her eyes followed their conversation back and forth. The question was grave, and her brow knit in concern. Before she could stop herself, she found herself interjecting into their conversation, her opinion unsolicited for certain. "Who? Visitors?" Something was simply not right.

"Yes. She can have visitors," the Ithorian replied to Claudius, but wondered if she would appreciate the visit from the one who put her there. He did not answer Htaere's questions. It was not his place to violate his friend's confidence, but he believed him to be a good and decent man and expected him to tell her ... eventually.

"Kerrie..." was all Claudius could say at the moment, walking slowly into the turbolift to face the horror to come. He felt as if he should not go, that it would only make matters worse, but he would have to go at some point. He doubted that he would be able to sleep until he did and so he grabbed Htaere's hand, holding it perhaps a bit too tight, as the turbolift descended the three down towards the medical bay.

Htaere frowned at him in the lift. "What has happened Claudius?" she asked. She felt a bit nervous, finding the lack of forthcoming to be cause for worry. She lifted his hand in hers, closing her other hand atop it. "What is wrong with you?"

Before Claudius could answer, the turbolift door opened and presented them a view of the medical bay. He walked forward slowly, not answering her question, simply holding her hand and guiding her towards the disturbing site in front of them. Major Kiley was bobbing, seemingly unconscious in one of the larger bacta tanks. There was a breath mask affixed to her natural Clawdite visage, with only a scant amount of bubbles emanating, indicating her breathing was very weak. There was obvious bruising on the side of her face, and one of her eyes was swollen shut. There was a scar upon her chest where that had been surgery on her rib cage, and most disturbing was a tube that actually entered her body that was artificially inflating her lung.

Htaere froze in her tracks, eyes widening as the blur of medical chaos came into focus. She let go of Claudius' hand to step forward, her intense gaze taking in Kerrie's broken and critical form. "By the goddesses..." she all but whispered, drawing close to the tank, her face languid and horrified. "" she could hardly form the words. "...what happened?" Her glazed eyes turned to Claudius.

"She..." Claudius said as his hands began to shake, turning to look away from the bacta tank, unable to stand it anymore. "She..." he stuttered again as he felt himself to begin lightheaded. "She..." he murmured, a cold sweat begin to form on his face as he began to grow less lucid, his knees wobbling slightly and then it happened ... they gave out. "Htaere," he cried out as he fell to the ground with a dull *thud*, collapsing, the stress overwhelming him and sapping the life out of him.

"Claudius!" Htaere hurried over to him, kneeling down beside him and rolling him to his side. Her hands shook nervously as she pushed on his shoulder desperately. "Claudius?" She looked about for his com, clawing at it hysterically to activate it. "Hello? Can anyone hear me? I need help" her voice wavered into the mic before putting it down and trying again to nudge him.

Pilaq arrived in the medical bay after receiving the transmission, having not allowed himself to wander too far from the location. He had planned on checking on Kerrie after they had departed, as she had not been progressing as well as he had hoped. His eyes went wide as he arrived on the scene, having assumed Htaere's transmission was more about the shock of Kerrie's condition. He immediately instructed his body to be lifted onto a bed, where the technicians began performing a full scan of his body. "Do not worry, Milady," he said as he focused his attention on Claudius, brushing her aside momentarily.

Htaere moved aside to allow them to work, mouth agape in terror. Her eyes flashed momentarily to Kerrie before looking back to Claudius, both of them unconscious and at the hands of medical treatment. She backed further away, completely lost and somewhat devastated.

A sense of relief came over Doctor Tohan as he studied the medical panels, and realized the droids and medics would be able to handle the situation. It was clear he was of greater need to Htaere at the moment and raised his alien hands high and wide as he tried to ease her tensions. He nodded to her reassuringly as he approached her, one of the medics behind him starting an intravenous on him. "It was not a heart attack," he said as quickly as possible to reassure her. "It is exhaustion combined with stress," he continued to explain to her as he motioned for a technician to place a chair beneath her, before she too collapsed in his suddenly overcrowded medical facility.

Htaere lowered herself obediently as the orderly guided her down, glancing towards him for a moment "Thank you" she said before gazing back to the Ithorian physician. "Will he be alright?" she asked him frantically.

Pilaq stood next to Htaere, placing the long, alien digits pon her shoulder as he prepared to make his diagnosis. One of his large, orange eyes never left Claudius as he observed the workings of the hand-picked Imperial staff. "Physically it will be an easy recovery," he began, his voice taking quite a bit of getting used to for the untrained ear. "It will require him to rest and limit his work hours. It will take a wife, not a doctor, to prescribe that," he said to her knowingly as his hands gently squeezed her shoulder. "The mental recovery is what worries me..." he said quietly, his voice growing more serious.

"I do not understand" she stated quietly. She was getting a little tired of being in the dark regarding whatever had transpired in her absence. "What is wrong with him?" she heaved a frustrated sigh.

As well as a licensed practitioner of medicine, he had also studied psychology, and while he had never treated Claudius, he had been his friend and confident since before the Clone Wars. There were few in the galaxy who knew the man as well and as long as he. "Did Claudius ever tell you about Jelena and Drusilla's mother?" he asked very slowly, feeling it was for Claudius' own good. He needed to limit his stress, no matter what betrayal it might require.

"Nothing beyond a mention in passing that I can recall" she answered skeptically, the line of discussion already thrusting her heart into a race.

"She was a very lovely woman," Pilaq recounted to her. The name was never spoken anymore. Not because of Htaere, but out of respect for Claudius' feelings. "He loved her very much. And she loved him," he explained, the memories a bit overwhelming for him as well. "She died trying to bare Claudius a son, even though I advised against it. She refused my advice and conceived the child without Claudius' knowledge. She felt it was the only way to earn the love of his family, as they married without consent," he slowly told her, his voice quivering as he attempted to get through. It felt as if it were yesterday, even though it were now nearly fifteen years ago. "He blamed himself. He never truely recovered," he informed her reluctantly, looking over towards Claudius' fallen body.

Htaere's face drained of color, her lips ashen. She recovered after a moment, swallowing steeply. "I cannot..." she answered between apprehensive breaths. She looked away from them, her gaze dropping to the floor.

"There is more," Pilaq said as his left hand dropped to her other shoulder, attempting to offer her what support he could. "It will be difficult to hear, but you must..." he said to her as his attention now firmly fixated on her. "When you were taken ... Claudius felt as if he had lost you. He feared it was all happening again. He consumed a large quantity of alcohol..." he continued explaining, his voice sounding very frantic and rushed as he relived the vivid memories of the past several days.

Grey pools raised to Tohan, occasionally darting to the table where the nursing staff and droids worked about Claudius. She had a horrible feeling the doctor wasn't done talking, and the more he seemed to say, the worse it got. She felt a knot forming in her throat.

"He was not himself, Htaere," Pilaq said, no longer using the formal 'milady' like nearly all of the hangers on who followed the Rodney family throughout the galaxy. "You must realize it is a sickness and not fault him, for he will need you to get through the dark days ahead," he continued, still not having revealed what had happened completely to her. He was not sure if she could stand it. He was gauging her every movement for signs of duress.

Htaere's head was spinning, her hearing growing fuzzy. Her eyes strained, blinking at him. "What?"

Gently, Htaere's hands moved towards the side's of her head and he looked down dejectedly. Without uttering so much as a word, his handles gently turned her head to the right so that she would be forced to look at Major Kiley in the bacta tank. Finally, a soft, depressed sigh escaped his dual mouths, unable to speak the horror aloud.

As her gaze resettled on the tank, the tension began to drain from her body, going limp as the picture began to clarify, in all the worst ways. She was quiet for a handful of moments, before her head started shaking slowly. ""

"This is a difficult time for you both, Htaere..." Pilaq said quietly, his head finally raising to look back over towards Claudius. The frantic pace of the medics had subsided. Fluids were pouring through the intravenous to hydrate him and he believed the medically required rest would boost his will. "He will not survive this without your support," he grimly conceded to her, his digits never offering form support on her shoulders.

Htaere's eyes were fixated, her mind conjuring some explanation, some excuse, some mistake...the entire room lurched to the side. The bitter metallic taste came to her mouth, the kind that proceeds becoming physically ill. Htaere pulled away from his hands, clutching to the back of the chair to pull herself up out of it. She grabbed at her head to steady herself, backing away from the doctor, the collection of staff, and Claudius. Her breathing was rapid and on the verge of hysteria. "I..." she managed the start of a word or sentence between breaths, but couldn't finish. Her hands raised defensively as she inched along the perimeter of the group towards the exit. "I...I need..." thank the goddesses the door whisked open and she did not have to stammer out the words any longer. As she backed out of the room, one hand reached for the wall of the ship's corridor, the other hand over her chest, nearly gasping for air, elated when the door closed behind her. Just shy of panic, she staggered down the corridor, everything seeming to fly around her at high speed.

Pilaq let out a loud, audible sigh from both of his mouths as he gave Htaere a moment to process the information. She had not taken it in the manner he had hoped, and began to follow her out of the medical bay into the corridor. He could not stand to see all three of them disabled, and so he hurried as best his large Ithorian feet could manage, trying in vein to catch up to her. "Milady," he called out to her in desperation, hoping against hope she could pull together for the sake of everyone.

Htaere did not stop, stumbling forward as her mind digested the horror of what had occurred. For the first time ever, she felt repulsed, desperate to escape and terrified of the whole establishment she'd known as home and family. "I...wish to be alone" she called hurrying further down the corridor and disappearing into some corner of the Imperial-class Star Destroyer in search of solace.

Doctor Tohan stopped in his tracks, electing to allow Htaere time to process the information in her own way. He stood there for a long moment, unmoving in the corridor, allowing the crew of the Warspite to brush past him, detesting his alien presence aboard the vessel. He knew not what to do, as he began the slow walk back towards the medical bay to check on both Claudius and Kerrie. At this moment he was glad that he had not married.

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