Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Christopher Levy and J. Kate Stasiak.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:8:15) in the Essesia system: Tenacity.
El-Nay Darr, Major Kerrie Kiley, and Rear Admiral Rhiannon T'Jarell.

El-Nay Darr sat silently on a crate in the hangar bay beside the HWK-290 light freighter she would eventually board for her trip to the Alderaan system. It had been a rough month for the 21-year-old Mandalorian, having twice nearly been killed ... first by Inquisitor Serine Thanor and second by her rival bounty hunter Dimona Xirie Nuebla ... and left for dead by her former lover ... a bounty hunter she knew only by a ridiculous codename. These thoughts and more went through her mind as she took a long drag on her cigarra, before exhaling a plume of smoke from between her lips. Now she was off to the Alderaan system with a pair of Imperial officers to chase down a teenaged noblewoman she had already caught ... hardly the exciting and adventurous life of a bounty hunter that she imagined. She hated the Empire for what they were doing to her homeworld, but now here she was in the belly of a Star Destroyer taking orders for credits as if she were one of them. What am I doing here, she thought silently and solemnly to herself as she took another much needed drag.

"What did you do to your hair?" Major Kerrie Kiley said as she moved across the hangar bay towards the HWK-290 as ordered. It was the first time she had seen El-Nay with her helmet removed since they were reunited, and she was both alarmed and amused to see that her once long brown locks had been chopped off and dyed a harsh blonde. "...and you shouldn't be smoking," she chastised, as she closed the distance between them and stood over her, dismissively. "Not because I'm worried about your health, mind you, but because you're sitting on a fuel container," she chuckled, as she kicked at the crate El-Nay was sitting on, near the 'no open flame' hazard sign.

"Osik!" El-Nay exclaimed as she snuffed out her cigarra before she tore a hole in the belly of the Star Destroyer. "...and I like my hair. It's short and does not get in the way of battle," she declared confidently, as she brought a gloved hand to the top of her hand and roughly ran her hand through her short artificially blonde locks. Feeling quite emotionally vulnerable, her hands instinctively reached for her helmet, which she started to place upon her head, when she felt Kerrie grasp for it.

Kerrie pulled the helmet away from the younger woman and examined it closely, bringing her fingers to the marking above the T-shaped visor. "I recognize this symbol," she said softly, as she tilted her head to study its intricacies. "This was your mother's helmet..." she concluded, before tossing it back down to the girl. "Only she had the good sense not to paint it orange. You stand out like a sore thumb in a business that's meant for subtly..." she continued, before checking the chronometer to see when Commodore T'Jarell might be expected. "...and you make for an excellent, bright target," she snickered, rolling her eyes at her with an utter lack of regard.

"It's my helmet now," El-Nay said, with a layer of sorrow etched atop her voice as she spoke. The orange baskar helmet was placed firmly atop her head, and she once again felt confident as the other could no longer read her facial mannerisms. "The orange represents my shereshoy. Something you once knew about. Something that has been taken from you by your Imperial masters," she retorted, defending confidently her choice in armor colors. "You were not always like this. You were my ori'vod..." she said, the sorrow shifting towards anger as she continued the conversation. "Now all you do is mock me ... even insulting my looks. What happened to you?" she asked, as she rose from the crate and locked eyes on Kerrie from beneath the safety of her helmet. "The last time I saw you on Corellia you were off to kill this man..." she said, reminiscing on the events of the past two years. "When you didn't come back I thought you were dead. It *hurt* me," she said, as she took her gloved hand and thumped it upon her chestplate near her heart. "So what a surprise it was when the man you had gone to assassinate contacted me and told me that you now served him, and that you had been critically injured!" she shouted, not caring if anyone else heard her words, though she could tell that Kerrie was becoming uncomfortable. "I came here to avenge you ... my ori'vod ... and this is how you treat me?" she asked, rhetorically, as she folded her arms in front of her chest and waited for some form of reply.

"That ... that was a long time ago..." Kerrie said, stammering slightly, as she looked around the flight deck to see if anyone else was present. "...and keep your voice down for both our sakes!" she demanded, her carefully mimicked human cheeks flashing red as the blood rushed to her face. "I have my reasons for being here ... and those reasons are no one's business but my own." she concluded the subject, taking a step forward so that her face was now practically touching the woman's helmet. "And 'avenge' me? Oh please. All I've heard you talk about is credits, credits, and more credits. You're not here for me ... you're here for money," she said, spitting down at the ground as she spoke the words. "And as for how I treat you?" she continued, shifting gears as she pierced through the visor at the 'child' that lay beneath it. "You know damn well your father never wanted this life for you. You should go home and stop playing 'beroya'," she suggested, before turning her back to the Mandalorian and pacing impatiently in front of the freighter.

El-Nay was frozen at the mention of her father, a man whose shadow was more inescapable than a gravity well. "If I led the life he wanted I would be down there on the surface of these worlds fighting people like you," she pointed out, eventually, and with some difficulty. "Our people in chains ... our resources stolen ... by your Empire!" she snarled, extending a gloved finger to roughly poke at the rank insignia that was pinned just about Kerrie's left breast. "What would you have me do? Slave in the mines for your Emperor until I die?" she asked, rhetorically, as she shook her domed head at the woman. "No! I am no slave!" she said angrily, the disgust oozing over the last word in particular. "Ni verd! Sa ner buir!" she said proudly, pounding her armored hand upon her chestplate several times in succession and causing a clamoring to fill the hangar bay.

It took Rhiannon a moment to prepare her belongings - the outfits and accessories she would be bringing along on this 'pleasure cruise', but the hardest part of all ... procuring a vessel that would be perfect to their purpose was yet to be acquired. Something was in the works, however ... all that need be done was to finalize payment. To that end, she had pulled some strings with an old acquaintance of an acquaintance, to term it loosely. The man was a Corellian smuggler and known to be able to pull miracles out of his arse at a moment's notice. His services did not come cheap, but they were of extraordinary quality - and that is all Rhiannon cared about at the moment. To pull of this trip, everything had to be perfect. Everyone had to be perfect. This part would be the hardest for her, as Rhiannon was incapable of being anyone but herself. Even though she was part of Hapan nobility, she did not care for titles, nor did she wish to return to that part of her culture which she tried so desperately to get away from by joining the Imperial Navy. Oh well. Lately, there was nothing she would not do for the Grand Moff's peace of mind, and if it meant burying herself in the part of a noblewoman, so be it.

She had a few minutes to spare before her smuggler contact would be in touch, so Rhiannon decided to go down to the main Hangar Bay and see if everything was ready in preparation for receiving her latest 'shipment'. Striding down the corridors in her usual black jumpsuit, sans rank insignia or cylinders present, she stuck out like a sore thumb but the crew was quite used to it by now. They still passed her by with customary salutes and greetings of 'sir' or 'ma'am'.

When she at last emerged out of the turbolift that took her down to the hangar bay floor, Rhiannon saw a deck officer stepping outside, glancing over his shoulder with some concern. Seeing his commanding officer, he immediately headed for Rhiannon, saluting and pausing in his tracks causing the Hapan to stop as well. "What is it, lieutenant?" she demanded, after acknowledging the man's crisp salute. "It is probably nothing, ma'am, but I thought you should know that the ... unsavory bounty hunter has been loitering around the main hangar bay. Major Kiley is in there as well, so things are probably under control ... mostly," he coughed out the last word, causing Rhiannon's brow to shoot up curiously. "Mostly? I would not worry, lieutenant; I am certain Major Kiley can handle one clumsy Mandalorian. I will handle it. Attend your station."

The man saluted and departed, pacified. Rhiannon resumed her gait, heading straight into the hangar bay. Her eyes widened at the sight of the HWK-290 CEC light freighter, already sitting pretty in the designated stall. Then, almost immediately, her brows narrowed in suspicion as she approached the two female figures located in the vessel's vicinity. Turning to Kerrie, the Hapan cleared her throat, then pointed to the freighter with a somewhat puzzled glance. "Major? Why didn't anyone seem fit to inform me that our rental had arrived? More importantly, where is the person who saw to its delivery?" The pitch of her voice started to betray annoyance as Rhia's suspicious nature began to take over her usual inner calm.

When the Commodore arrived in the hangar bay, Major Kiley immediately tensed up and her body language became more rigid. Turning her attention from El-Nay, she offered a salute in the form of a firm nod of her head. "I apologize, Commodore," she said, as her gloved hands uncomfortably ran over one another. "My attention was briefly diverted by a..." she began, but then paused awkwardly, as she struggling with finding the right phrase. "...a personal matter," she concluded, eventually settling upon a truthful, yet vague statement on the argument that Rhiannon had just missed. "This one needs supervision," she said, as her right hand casually motioned towards the armorclad vixen at her side. "I will endeavor to be more focused for the duration of the assignment," she said, emphasizing her words with a second, emphatic nod of her head. She did not know what to make of the woman and the time she was spending with the Grand Moff. She counted the Governor's wife as one of her closest friends and from what she was able to thus far observe, the possibility of something between the two was a legitimate concern.

"So no one, not you, the venerable Governor's trusted aide, nor this barely functioning Mandalorian had seen anything? Deck officer!" She turned about and yelled toward the open doorway, waiting a moment as a startled officer in question appeared and began walking with a crisp, hurried strides toward the three. Meanwhile, Rhiannon shook her head and pursed her lips, staring at El-Nay inquisitively. "Stop diverting those who have better things to do. Never knew your ilk could be classified as needy, but you certainly seem to fit the part." And back to Kerrie, "Major, I need you to run inspection of the HWK-290. Make sure she is fit to travel."

As the deck officer arrived on scene, Rhiannon demanded the same answers from him as she did the Clawdite, and was finally informed that the vessel was delivered not an hour ago, and it was piloted by a droid. Whatever message or transmission was included with it, could be delivered solely to Commodore T'Jarell, courtesy of the smuggler providing this service via said droid. Placated by this answer (though not entirely appeased by having to jump through all these odd hoops just to seal a deal), Rhia dismissed the deck officer before returning her focused to El-Nay. "I forgot to ask earlier: do you have anything 'suitable' to wear? We are not heading into battle, as you know. You must look like you've seen the softer side of Keldabe," she attempted to make a joke as she looked the young woman up and down, already picturing her in a long and flowing demicot evening gown.

El-Nay, who was already infuriated by her confrontation with Kerrie, was in no mood hear herself described as 'barely functioning' - no amount of credits were worth this. "Susulur, mir'osik!" she began, taking a step forward towards the woman, before feeling herself physically restrained by the Major. Her head lowered slightly, whilst her hands balled into tightly clenched fists. Beneath her helmet she was on the verge of hyperventilating as she tried to calm herself. "No. I have no such clothing ... ma'am," she said, finally and reluctantly, from between grit teeth. The money, the money, the money, she told herself silently, beneath the safe recesses of her helmet, closing her eyes and trying to find a sense of inner peace before she did something foolish that would most likely result in her execution.

Noting that she had pushed El-Nay's buttons a little too far, Rhiannon decided to play it safe and not provoke the young woman any further. The Commodore saw all she needed to see and was now convinced more than ever, that El-Nay's impulsive nature could be all of their undoing. She even considered leaving the Mandalorian on board the ship while they go off with Major Kiley to 'investigate'. It was definitely something to be given serious consideration and she planned to ask Kerrie for her personal opinion on the subject once they had the opportunity to speak alone.

"Apologies, beroya. I am not trying to insult you, merely making an observation based on a single instance in which I saw you at work. Needless to say, I think we would both agree that it was not your finest moment? As for the outfit, say no more - all I need to know is a favorite color and I will procure something for you. I trust that you will find some means to conceal a weapon amidst lush folds of silk? I am sure you can be quite inventive, under that pretty hair of yours," Rhia remarked with a playful grin, tapping the side of her head.

Despite El-Nay's youth and inexperience, she fully realized that the belly of an Imperial Star Destroyer was no place to pick a fight with an Imperial officer. "It is dishonorable to conceal a weapon," she said to the woman, as she motioned to the clearly visible DT-57 she had procured ... a relic, but an effective one all the same. "However..." she continued, swallowing deeply from beneath the helmet as she polished her next words. "If you wish for me to conceal a weapon I will do so," she said, again reluctantly, and with great difficulty as she attempted to 'behave' herself. "I like orange..." she said, stating the obvious as she was wearing a suit that had been recently painted in the color. "...even if not everyone agrees," she said, bitterly, as her T-shaped visor slowly turned in the direction of Kerrie.

"In as much as I understand what you mean regarding weapon concealment, you may not wear one strapped to your back or waist, where we will be heading. Delaya is a most civilized planet, a feudal world where nobility still means something. We must therefore appear sophisticated, elegant and pleasing to the eye - never threatening, aggressive or otherwise suspicious. I hope that makes my meaning more clear?" Rhia asked, glancing from El-Nay to Kerrie, before her gaze once again embedded itself in the helmeted features of the young bounty hunter.

"Do not worry, Commodore," Major Kiley said, interjecting herself in an attempt to diffuse the tension. "I will see to it that El-Nay does not present any ... difficulty," she said, throwing a warning glare towards the young hunter. "I am well versed in the culture, and have spent time on the planet, and among the House of Rodney. It is ... different," she said awkwardly, having come from absolute poverty before living life among a monastic order. Such luxury and servants were decidedly foreign to her. "We could just leave her on the ship," she reasoned, perhaps soundly, as she considered the overall awkward nature of their journey.

Nodding in Kerrie's direction, Rhiannon flashed her a grateful smile. "I would welcome any and all knowledge you are willing to impart to us, Major, if it can make our transition and time there, easier. I am certain it is very different from the culture I grew up in, on Hapes, where society was matriarchal in nature. As for El-Nay," she paused for a moment, considering, "I believe she could be a great asset in our endeavors. Her investigative skills for instance, I am sure are quite sharp, as are her observation skills. Plus, it does not hurt to have a warrior along, in case things should get a little 'hairy'," Rhiannon remarked, her face contorting into a subtle smile. "Of course, I do not foresee any problems but you never know. As my mother was fond of saying, 'Expect the unexpected'. And I intend to, every step of the way. Now then, ladies - any questions, before I head back upstairs to find our Mandalorian something feminine to wear?"

"No, Milady," Kerrie said, with a brief nod of her head to indicate all was understood. Her eyes moved sideways to glare at the Mandalorian, indicating that she should not have any questions either. The horror of having to wear a dress was made slightly better at the fact that El-Nay would share her fate. Privately she wondered why they were taking this unregistered transport rather than an Imperial craft, but she had learned over the years to silence her questions when in Imperial service.

Beneath her orange helm El-Nay was still enraged, but the thought of wearing a dress was not as horrible to her as it was to Kerrie. She remained silent, echoing Kerrie's nod with one of her own, before she moved from Kerrie's grasp and backed away from the Commodore indicating the tension was over. She took her seat upon the fuel container once again, and flashed her gaze from the Commodore to Kerrie without moving her helmet. In her mind she was replaying the series of events that brought her to this place, and reluctantly realized she had only herself to blame by giving the Nerf Herder another chance and falling victim to his charms once more. She rolled her eyes beneath the safe confines of her helmet, and patiently waited for the woman to return with the formalwear.

"Excellent," Rhia extended a wide smile to both women, not really too concerned with the possible discomfort each of them might experience whilst attired in feminine finery. "I am sure that at this point, Major Kiley is wondering why we are not traveling in an Imperial shuttle? I have considered it, but given the discomfort of the craft, I thought to provide us with something slightly more luxurious, befitting my station? You may not be aware of this, but I was born a Countess on Hapes; a rank and title I willingly cast off when deciding to join the Imperial Academy. Still, in certain circumstances, such as this one, I am willing to once again assume the role of a Hapan noble. The world we are traveling to is full of such, and as such I believe I will get along better with the Governor's family if I were to present myself on more or less ... equal footing, rather than appearing as one of the Grand Moff's lackeys. I hope this makes sense to you both?"

Kerrie momentarily twitched at the usage of the word 'lackey', but she did not voice her displeasure at the statement ... in true fashion of a lackey. "Of course, Milady," she said a moment later as she regained her composure, allowing it to roll off her back. "I would expect the local populace to be none too pleased at the presence of Imperials given what happened to Alderaan," she astutely pointed out, before her eyes suddenly widened in terror. "I mean ... what the Rebels falsely claim happened to Alderaan!" she said, quickly correcting herself, her cheeks momentarily flushing red with a combination of fear and embarrassment. Her gloved left hand moved to the back of her neck to rub it in a display of anxiety.

"To every claim, as ridiculous as it may appear, there is always a grain of truth, Major," Rhiannon addressed Kerrie's remark in a deceptively soothing tone, though her intense gaze spoke volumes. "However, it is not for us to judge history, but for history to judge us. All you and I have to decide, is how to spend the time entrusted to us. Hmm?" Smiling again, the Commodore regarded the Mandalorian woman who had remained stoically silent and shook her head, emitting a chuckle. "I just hope we can all get along while on Delaya. Ladies, I will see you both in your respective quarters in an hour; this will give me some time to devise unique garb for each of you to wear and," she winked at El-Nay, "take a hot bath." Having said that, Rhia did not wait for either of them to respond, merely pivoted on her heel and began walking back in the direction of the turbolift located nearest the hangar bay door.

Once the Commodore had cleared the deck, El-Nay moved swiftly from the fuel container until she was standing in front of Kerrie again. Her hands moved to the side of her own head and quickly ripped her helmet off so that she could stare her directly in the eyes. "What are we doing here?" she asked incredulously, her young cheeks flushed red from the frustration that had built up over the past hour. "Both of our homes are being ravaged by these filth..." she continued, almost trembling from the rage that was flowing through her body. "...and you're masquerading as one, and I'm serving one," she said, simultaneously disgusted at both herself and Kerrie, as she shook her head in dismay. "Let's get on my ship and get out of here," she suggested, as her head turned slightly across the flight deck.

Kerrie reached out with her hand to firmly grasp at El-Nay's jaw, squeezing it as tightly as possible so that she could neither move her head, nor speak. "Silence yourself, young one," she scolded her, as she had done when she was young. "Such words can end your foolish life. You were wise to remain silent in front of her. Now continue to do so and you'll get your credits," she said, before pushing forward with her hand to send the Mandalorian backpedaling. "One hour. Be ready," she said to her, but with her back turned, as she began to walk off the flight deck and go and prepare herself for the horror of having to play dress up with the Commodore.

After a long, luxurious bubble bath and seeing to her every comfort prior to having to board their 'rental' Rhiannon took her time going through her personal closet. Most of it was stuffed with ultra-austere clothing: uniform styled pants, tunics and skirts, all ranging from a drab olive to dove grey to charcoal in hue. It was not until she shifted to the extreme right, marked by a garment bag divider, that she came to a splash of color. A warm grin became her features as eager hands began to examine each of the dresses hung up. Some of them had not even been worn yet, as Rhia's line of work rarely ever called for a glamorous getup. Even her graduation ceremony at the Imperial Academy demanded professional dress, aka, her uniform. Now that her dark brown eyes beheld the luxurious material caressed between her fingertips, Rhiannon was almost excited about wearing it.

Now, what to choose? Decisions, decisions ... Trusting her impulse, the Hapan pulled out three floor length numbers, all in demicot silk: turquoise, fiery orange and royal purple. The first one, she laid out for herself, letting it wait for her on her sleeping cot. The orange would go to El-Nay and the purple, to Kerrie. Calling out for her droid attendant, perfectly versed in ways of protocol and diplomacy, she instructed the formerly confiscated unit, known as TC-14, to deliver the gowns to El-Nay and Major Kiley with specific direction as to how to take proper care of the aforementioned garments. As the protocol droid departed, Rhiannon's attention shifted to the Imperial Holonet. Moving to her desk, the Hapan activated the machine's control panel and began transmitting a message to the Grand Moff: Everything was on schedule and would be proceeding according to plan.

When the dress arrived, Kerrie studied the purple fabric as if it were a tactical diagram. At first, she did not know which side was up and which was down. She let out a frustrated sigh before she frustratingly tried to put the dress on. Standing in front of a large mirror she did her best to adjust the gown to flatter her falsified human appearance, but she lacked the skill required for this kind of thing. She did not have much makeup, as it was not something she saw the need for, but she applied what little she did have, though not the least bit effectively. "I look ridiculous," she bemoaned to herself, as she folded her arms in front of the mirror. In an instant she allowed the braided hair she maintained while on duty to fall in two long, ornate braids that ran down her back. It was the best that she could do, and swiftly turned on her heels to walk towards the flight deck. She kept her head down the entire time as Imperial Officers did their best not to mock the woman from her out of character appearance.

In the small quarters that had been made available to her, El-Nay smiled when the droid delivered the lavish, orange gown. She listened, she thought to herself as she began the process of putting on the dress. She missed the safety that her armor had afforded her, and she felt very uncomfortable without it. She could not bring herself to leave it, however, and had it carefully packed in a bag she would bring with her. Her short blonde hair was carefully styled and allowed to rise slightly, giving full, unobstructed view of her young face. Her makeup was much more skillfully applied than Kerrie, and she thought that she looked rather fetching ... not that she was going to Delaya for that. When finished, she began her way back towards the flight deck, dragging her suit of armor behind her. When she arrived and saw the way Kerrie looked in her frumpled dress and mismanaged makeup all she could do was laugh, bending over at the waist as she unleashed a belly laugh. "You look like a hooker from the lower levels of Coruscant," she said, doing her best to catch her breath.

Having pinned her dark brown hair into a layered chignon that gently brushed at the nape of her neck, Rhia let a few curly strands of hair to frame her face before plunging a delicate orchid into the bun. One critical look in the mirror told her she needed no makeup, but would do with a light rose-colored lip gloss instead. Fully attired with a matching white shawl to compliment the deep teal hues of her dress, she walked out of her private quarters with the trusted protocol droid in tow. In addition to her glamorous getup, the Commodore wielded a matching purse which contained her comlink. A classy, miniaturized version of Westar-34 was strapped to her right thigh, concealed by the voluminous drape of the turquoise skirt of her gown.

As she made her way to the hangar bay, Rhia met with several surprised, albeit approving glances from her officers. Some seemed genuinely taken aback, offering long stares, as she attempted to conceal her urge to chuckle. Approaching their travel arrangements, Rhiannon moved to the boarding ramp, hoping the others would be along shortly ... unless they were already waiting for her, within. In a few minutes, they would get under way, and for the very first time since initiating the idea for this excursion, Rhia was entertaining second thoughts. Though not often prone to having 'cold feet', the young Hapan knew this trip would be unlike any other. She would be meeting her possible future in-laws ... unless, of course, Rodney would change his mind. Still, it would not be a bad idea to see how the Governor grew up and meet those who first shaped him as a boy and a young man. Approaching the cockpit, she would do so with mixed feelings, wondering and hoping alike, that she was not making the greatest mistake of her life.

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