Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin (35:1:25) in the Malastare system: Warspite.
Major Kerrie Kiley, Vice Admiral Claudius Rodney, and Countess Htaere Rodney.

Kerrie came to a stop outside of the door leading to Claudius and Htaere's quarters, a datapad folded neatly under her right arm. She paused for a moment, having avoided them since they returned after what she had seen. Her hands ran over her black uniform, adjusting it neatly as she cleared her throat. She felt ready, or at least as ready as she could be given the situation. Raising a leather-clad hand, she began softly knocking on the door. She had intended to give a preliminary report of her accident investigation to the Admiral, unaware that he was with Doctor Tohan.

The door eased open silently after a few moments to reveal Htaere's clean and lovely face, which eased into a smile as her cloudy grey eyes landed on the Major. "Hello Kerrie. Please, come in" she stepped aside and motioned her friend in. After the much needed shower, Htaere resumed her usual appearance, immaculate, ornate and graceful, not a spec of dirt on her or a single hair out of place.

Kerrie forced a smile onto her face when she spotted Htaere, relieved to see that she appeared to be feeling better. "Is everything well, Milady?" she asked as she stepped forward into their quarters, her eyes scanning about for the Admiral. "I have come to see Lord Rodney," she explained as she squirmed slightly, the collar of her uniform feeling tight around her throat. "I checked the bridge, but he was not there," she continued, explaining more than she had to as she grew more nervous.

"He is finishing now with Doctor Tohan. He should be done momentarily if you do not mind waiting" she answered, letting the door close again as she glided from the anteroom to the parlor. "Would you care for a beverage?" she turned to look to Kerrie curiously.

Kerrie swallowed upon learning that the Admiral was not even there, her hands becoming a bit clammy inside of her leather gloves. Shifting slightly she shook her head at Htaere as they entered the parlor. "N-n-no, Milady," she stammered in reply, never feeling comfortable when she offered to serve her. "Did you enjoy..." Kerrie froze as she realized what that sounded like. "I mean... I mean... did you have a good time?" she asked, fumbling to recover as she dropped the datapad, bending to pick it up.

Htaere collected her gown and seated herself on one of the velveteen couches in the seating area. "I am regretful that it was shortened on account of the crash, but the planet was beautiful and we were afforded a great treat" Htaere grinned thoughtfully. "I do not recall the last time I went swimming" she added, sifting through her memory if only for a moment.

Once Kerrie had picked up the datapad she moved towards on of the seats and sat down, crossing her right leg over her left and placing the datapad on her lap. She smiled across at Htaere as she recounted parts of her honeymoon, but once she mentioned swimming the mental image of Htaere and Claudius making love in the water came back to her and her cheeks began to redden. "I..." she began, stammering as she looked down, "...never liked the water."

"Shame. It is most refreshing" she answered. "Were you able to enjoy time off as well, fleeting as it was?"

"I bet..." Kerrie replied quickly as a smirk crept onto her face, before a gloved hand reached up to cover her mouth. "I am sorry, Milady," she said apologetically as she attempted to regain her composure. "While you were away I felt..." she attempted to change the subject quickly, but trailed off as she continued, "...lost. My life has revolved around serving you and Lord Rodney. I simply...," she paused before concluded, "...waited."

Htaere's expression looked stunned, the pleasantness having slipped away. "That is..." she was speechless as well, she found. "...that is terrible. Perhaps you should take up a hobby, something you enjoy" she encouraged. "To dismiss your being beyond a sense of service is..." her voice trailed off, head shaking. "Surely there must be something you like to do on your own time."

"My duty is to serve, Milady," Kerrie explained quickly as she grew a bit uncomfortable. Her life was one of service, and while it may not have suited everyone, she was quite proud of her life, her position, and how no harm had come to those she was charged with protecting. "The enjoyment I draw from my life comes from the knowledge that you and your husband are well," she explained, calling him that for the first time.

Htaere's face softened. "It is a job that you do very well and is most deserving of our gratitude." Her eyes dropped to the datapad. "Is that your report?" she asked curiously.

A small smile formed upon Kerrie's lips for only a moment as she took satisfaction in knowing Htaere was grateful. She was pleased when Htaere changed the subject, never being comfortable when the topic of discussion was on her or what little personal life she had. "Oh..." she replied to the question, having nearly forgotten her original purpose for coming. "Yes. It is my preliminary findings. The Admiral informed me he wanted it as quickly as possible," she explained.

Meticulously shaped eyebrows lifted in interest. "Oh? Did you find the cause of our crash?"

"Yes, Milady," Kerrie replied without going into much detail. The facts were quite disturbing and she was not sure if she should reveal them to Htaere without the Admiral's permission. Her eyes wandered down to the datapad and then back to Htaere as she shifted in the chair once again.

Htaere's interest seemed unsatiated yet she said nothing more, the history of her inquiring into Imperial business never failing to end in tragedy. "I am sure Claudius will be pleased with your haste and efforts" she nodded.

Kerrie was concerned by what she had found in the investigation and her concern for Claudius and Htaere had only grown stronger. "He is a very hard man to please," Kerrie explained to her, perhaps revealing a bit too much. When she realized what she had said, she wished that she could take it back, but she could not.

"I do not believe your talents have ever gone unnoticed" Htaere smiled. She glanced to the door, speaking of him. "Perhaps I should call him to le him know you are here."

"No ... no!" Kerrie paniced suddenly as Htaere mentioned calling the Admiral. She feared being in the position of summoning him. "I have no problem waiting," she explained as she adjusted herself in the chair once again.

"Very well then" Htaere answered with a good-natured shrug. There was a long silence before Htaere's wide and innocent gaze lifted to Kerrie's face. "What would you be doing if you were not here? In the Empire's service?"

Kerrie had never discussed much of her life before this position with Htaere ... and for good reason as she believed that most of what she did would alarm Htaere's delicate sensitivities. "I...uh," she awkwardly began as she struggled to find the words to use. "I would be continuing to work as a bounty hunter if I'd not encountered Lord Rodney," she explained, sparing the details of her work as an assassin. She did not want Htaere to view her as a killer, even if it were true.

"A bounty hunter?" She repeated. After another handful of moments, her head tilted. "Did you enjoy your career as such?"

It had been a long time since Kerrie had thought about her previous existance and truthfully she did not ever associate enjoyment with it. It was more of a desire to feed a hunger inside of her that had been there since she left home. "I enjoyed parts of it, Milady. I enjoyed succeeding," she said with a nod as her eyes moved away, seeming to be drifting back inside of her head. "I enjoyed the credits that I earned and there were some thrills, but I would not recommend it..." she concluded, thinking she really would nee a stiff drink after this conversation.

Htaere almost seemed to chuckle. "Recommend it?" She fidgeted. "Somehow I do not think I would suffice." She thought briefly. "When you retire from the Empire, are you returning to said profession?"

Kerrie chuckled at Htaere's statement and nodded slightly in agreement. "With time and training we could at least develop your ability to defend yourself, Milady," she explained as she leaned forward towards her. "In light of recent events it might be prudent," she continued as her mind again drifted to her report. When Htaere mentioned retirement a smirk curled upon her lips, knowing that she never could retire. "Milady, I serve at the pleasure of Lord Rodney. I cannot resign or retire," she explained without going into exact details for obvious reasons.

"Perhaps one day the 'Lord Rodney' will consider retirement himself, though I do not foresee such an event for some time" she replied with a half smile of her own. She got to her feet, brushing the flowing skirt to smooth it. "I am going to make tea. Would you care for some?"

The sound of the door opened, followed by the repeated footsteps of someone approaching. "I'm back, my love," Claudius shouted as he walked through his quarters. His hand immediately moved to his tunic, undoing it rather quickly as he wanted to get comfortable. His forehead was still bandaged and he looked tired, his appointment with Doctor Tohan going longer than expected. Expecting to find Htaere alone, a smile crept onto his face as he walked into the parlor, but his eyes immediately moved to Kerrie when he saw her sitting there.

Htaere's gaze moved from Kerrie to Claudius. Her lips spanned into a smile. "Hello Claudius. You are just in time for tea. The Major and I were about to partake. Shall I bring you a cup as well?"

Kerrie gasped suddenly when she saw the Admiral unexpectedly enter the room, his face turning slightly pale as she stood up suddenly in properly military fashion. "Milord," she nodded her head firmly to him as she grew serious.

Claudius ignored Kerrie for the time being, still not sure why she was here. He glided towards Htaere and leaned his face in towards her, placing a loving kiss upon her cheek. "Yes, please. That would be lovely," he said as he raised his hand to his forehead and groaned as he sat down on the couch. "I am sorry it took so long, my dear. Doctor Tohan determined I suffered a severe concussion and he insisted he run several tests," he sighed tiredly as he settled into the couch.

Htaere nodded and smiled. "Better he be safe and thorough with his prognosis. Relax and I shall bring us tea." With that, she slid from the room, disappearing out of sight to whatever small subgalley was available to procure the beverage.

"What brings you here, Major," Claudius asked as he settled into the sofa, moving to tuck in his tunic a bit to avoid looking disheveled in front of Kerrie. He squinted slightly and lowered his head, feeling a bit dizzy, as he held his hand to the forehead again.

"I have a preliminary report on the cause of your crash, Milord," Kerrie explained matter-a-factly as she looked down to her datapad. Her face remained stern and unmoving as she held the datapad out in front of her. "Shall I present the report now or wait until there is privacy?" she asked, her eyes looking toward the doorway Htaere had just moved through.

After several minutes, Htaere reappeared carrying a delicate little tray with an elegant porcelain teapot and three tiny matching tea cups. In the fashion of a perfectly choreographed tea ceremony, she let it steep before pouring it and offering it to them. She reseated herself and looked pleasantly unaware of the nature of their conversation. "Is it acceptable?" she asked of the tea.

Claudius' eyes shifted from Kerrie to Htaere as she returned and he gave her a polite, loving smile as she served the tea. "We should get you someone to help with things like making tea," he suggested as he grabbed hold of the cup of tea and sipped it. "Mmm," he murmured softly as he sipped it. "It's wonderful," he said to her as he patted the part of the couch next to him. "Have a seat, my dear. The Major was just about to make her report," he explained, as he shifted to look at her again.

"Not necessary, I assure you Claudius" she said, easing over beside him, and getting situated, smiled over to Kerrie. "I apologize for interrupting" she nodded.

Claudius smiled happily as Htaere sat down beside him and he leaned in to her, his hand moving to take hold of hers and give it a reassuring squeeze. "I want you to hear this, my dear, so that you will be the first to learn that it was not pilot error," he explained to her, chuckling softly as he tried to lighten the mood a bit before her report.

Kerrie did not laugh at his joke and nodded politely to Claudius and Htaere as she looked down at her report. "Very well, Milord," she began as she began reading over her findings. "The investigation of the wreckage showed an explosive device had been planted on the rear of the hull, near the ship's engine. It seems designed to have triggered the reactor to explode and destroy the ship. The device was clearly planted with the intent of destroying the ship and those aboard. Only the internal structural supports prevented the explosion from reaching the reactor and sparing both your lives," she reported very grimly. Her eyes looked to them, shifting uncomfortably as she delivered the news. "Preliminary tests of the composition of the device and the types of explosive used show it is identical to devices commonly used by the Rebellion," she added and then lowered her datapad, becoming quiet.

Htaere's expression seemed to flat-line a bit as she looked from Kerrie to Claudius. "This was an assassination attempt? She interjected, whether it was her place or not. "I do not understand. When was it possible for this device to be planted?"

Claudius was outraged when he heard the report and pushed his cup of tea aside, slamming his fist down on the coffee table and causing the tea kettle and cups to shake. Htaere's questions were very important and he decided to allow the Major to answer them before asking any of his own. This news did nothing to help his headache.

Kerrie took a step backward from the Admiral during his outburst, clearly scared that he might hurt her. She was just the messenger, she told herself as she tried to regain some composure. Her breathing began to increase and it looked like she was starting to panic. She lost her composure and for a moment shifted back to her natural Clawdite state. Finally, she composed herself and her attention focused on Htaere. "Yes, Milady. It was clearly not a mechanical failure. It was an assassination attempt," she began to explain, "We are attempting to find the origin of the device, but the ingredients are very common, manufactured throughout the galaxy, and are very hard to trace." She swallowed nervously and looked to the Admiral as she continued, "I assume it was attached to the ship while on Alderaan, Milord. Whoever did it, must have done so there."

Htaere jumped as well at Claudius' initial reaction, caught off-guard. When her questions had been answered directly, she remained quiet and instead looked to Claudius. She was still inwardly digesting it herself, but outwardly she seemed to hold her decorum, perhaps on account of her naive inability to grasp the total concept of the war, its origins and its ongoing causes.

Claudius took a deep breath to calm himself and realized his outburst was totally unnecessary. "I am sorry, Htaere," he said as he turned to her, but he neglected to apologize to Kerrie, whom he had scared more. He then turned his attention to her as he took another sip of his tea. "I want you to travel to Alderaan and investigate further, Major," he explained as he looked at her. "Do not work with the local security forces. I will not be informing them of your presence. Do you understand?" He looked at her sternly, never taking chances when it came to the lives of those he loved.

"Perhaps I should return to Hapes, Claudius. It would be safe there until the danger resides. Or Alderaan. We can take common transport, in disguise as needed" she offered optimistically.

Kerrie was quick to nod to the Admiral, understanding by his meaning that he did not trust the local Alderaan security. She would not either, but she realized it would make the mission far more difficult and far less likely for her to succeed. When she heard Htaere's suggested she lowered her head to interject, "Milady ... I do not think you should leave the safety of the ship. It is the one place I am confident in our ability to protect you."

Claudius listened to Htaere as he reached around her with his arm, draping it across her shoulder and pulling her into him slightly as they sat on the couch. "Maybe some time away is needed, my love. We never did get a conventional vacation, and I feel as if we could use one following our ordeal," he said as he leaned forward to place a soft kiss on her forehead again. "We shall travel to Hapes together until the Major has had time to complete her investigation."

"I shall arrange it immediately" she nodded, already choosing the planet to which they would plan their escape. "We can leave as soon as we get our things together. Should I have them send transport or shall we take one of the ship's shuttles?"

Kerrie panicked as she heard the two making travel plans. Horrible thoughts went through her head as she considered all of the threats they'd be exposed to, not to mention the fact that she would be on the other side of the galaxy on Alderaan. "Milord, I must protest," she said as she took several steps forward. "There has just been an attempt on both of your lives and I have had not had enough time to investigate," she said, almost begging with him now. "With your concussion, Doctor Tohan may not even authorize travel," she continued, attempting to reason with him.

Claudius turned his attention to Kerrie, standing from his position in the couch. He was dizzy at first and it took him a moment to get his balance before looking down at the diminutive girl. "Remember your place, Major," he said angrily as he raised his hand, pointing a finger at her. "You have your orders. You are dismissed," he said as he ordered her.

As his hand raised to point a finger at her, she flinched and cowered slightly, terrified that he was about to hit her. She shook nervously, her entire body trembling as she looked frantically from him to her.

"Claudius..." Htaere reached for his arm to settle him. She blinked glistening grey pools at him in surprise at his behavior. Looking at him expectantly, she got to her feet before taking a surprising stance against the anxiety in the room. "We are grateful for your concern, Major" she nodded to Kerrie before her eyes shifted back to Claudius as she continued. "Perhaps we are just under stress and weary under the recent events as of late."

Claudius knew immediately that he had overreacted and offered no resistance when Htaere pulled his hand out of Kerrie's face. "Quite right, quite right..." he said in response to both of Htaere's comments as he sat himself back down on the couch. His head was throbbing even more than before and he took a few moments to catch his breath, moving for another long sip of tea. "I am sorry, Major," he said, perhaps for the first time.

Kerrie nodded to the Admiral obediently as she accepted her orders. As she began to back out of the room she mouthed a "thank you" to Htaere silently when she saw Claudius look down. With that, she swallowed and made her way out of their quarters to prepare for her upcoming assignment.

A quick smile for Kerrie and Htaere turned towards Claudius. She looked compassionate and reached out to caress the side of his face. "Claudius, you need rest. I have not seen you like this. Sleep first, and then we shall depart for Hapes" she said softly.

Claudius looked up at her and nodded his head silently, trusting her above all others. "Yes. Of course you're right..." he said as he rose from the couch and began undoing his tunic again. "It is late. Let's get to bed. Leave the mess for the morning," he said to her with a weak voice as he moved out of the parlor and towards their bedroom. Once inside he was quick to remove his tunic and drape it across the chair before going to work on his boots. He let out a loud sigh of relaxation once they were off and he could lay in bed.

Htaere followed him, removing a small metal headband as she went. She moved into her closet, reemerging in an elegant satin gown before taking up her brush and brushing out the long red-gold tresses. When satisfied, she slid into bed beside him, and curled up on her side, getting comfortable. "I am glad to put away all problems until tomorrow" she said lazily.

Claudius turned on his side and placed his chest to her back, his arm gently wrapping around her midsection and firmly resting upon her chest. He sighed contently against the back of her neck, his warm breath breaking upon it like the tide upon the shore. "I am sorry for how I acted at times this evening," he said softly as he placed a gentle kiss on the back of her neck, closing his eyes.

"It is ok" she answered quietly. For a long moment it was quiet before her lethargic voice broke the silence again. "Thank you for apologizing to Kerrie" she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

Claudius had just about fallen asleep when the silence broke. Her words struck hard at him, as he realized that he had been much too hard on her. Without opening his eyes, he sighed and squeezed her closely against his warm frame. "I find it very hard sometimes to view her as a person and not a tool," he confessed to her in the dark, privacy of their bedroom.

Htaere's eyes were likewise closed, and she was near sleep herself. Still coherent enough to hear and comprehend, she answered. "It is obvious."

"I will try to do better in the future. This vacation will allow me to return with renewed energy and a calm sense of being," Claudius told her reassuringly as he spooned her. His lips once again connected with the back of her neck as he felt his eyes slowly close and he began to drift off to sleep beside her.

The comment was thoughtful and touching, and finding in it the genuine sentiment that she'd encountered at their first meeting, it touched a chord in her. "I love you Claudius" she murmured sleepily, lest he feel admonished and detached. And for the difficult effort he promised to make, positive reinforcement was in order. Content, she succumbed to the exhaustion, letting her body sink further into the plush mattress of the bed and the soothing unconsciousness it offered.

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