"Argh," Jelena Rodney uncomfortably groaned as she sat up suddenly in bed, unable to sleep with the thoughts that were flooding her brain. She let out an exhausted sigh as she sat on the edge of her bed, looking over towards Drusilla and Ewwiekewwieikkie as they slept peacefully through the night. It was a product of a clear conscience, she thought as she stood up from the bed and exited their bedroom. Making the way to the galley she turned on the faucet and let the water run for a moment before pouring some into a glass and taking a small sip. This event had replayed itself night after night for days now, the guilt of what she had done causing nightmares, and the knowledge that she must do more causing insomnia.
She walked back through the living room and entered the bedroom once more, and headed towards their refresher. Closing the door behind her, she opened her boudoir and removed a lipstick that was buried towards the bottom. Unscrewing the cap she revealed a rich, luxurious shade of red which she quickly turned upside and dumped into her hand. A slender finger would slip inside the tube, depressing the unseen button at the bottom of the shaft. Once this was done, she would replace the lipstick as she had found it, and close the boudoir. A moment later, she crept silently back to her bed, where she would not sleep a wink.
Parka's eyes scanned the horizon of Yavin 4 beyond the cockpit, but her mind was elsewhere, recalling her brush with the Rodney's previously. Then she would catch herself asking what had she gotten herself in to.
Derek felt like something of a chauffer as his hands moved qickly over the controls of the
Gilded Thranta, powering the ancient shuttle up, as it began to rumble. "Strap yourself in," he warned her as he activated the repulsorlift engines, the shuttle gradually emerging from the Massassi Temple as it ascended into the moon's atmosphere. "When you met them..." he turned to her as he piloted the craft to ask her a question, "Did you meet her?" A moment later his hand moved to the navigation computer to force the battered old piece of equipment to begin downloading the hyperspace coordinates for Malastare.
Parka's head shook slightly. "Not that I can remember. Things were so singular and intense at that moment that she could very well have been in the room and I would have never known it." She shrugged, still a bit detached. "That night was a bit precarious for a while." Parka gave a slight chuckle but it devoid of mirth and rather somber. "I would never have guessed the kid..." she looked over towards Derek "...that's just...fucked up." She paused and smiled. "And to think we passed up the chance to remain oblivious with out menial existences somewhere in the universe, riding the wave of social breakdown as best we could."
"I don't think I could ever betray my family..." Derek commented to her, finding it hard to believe that anyone could, really. To him, blood was always thicker than water. "Could you?" he asked as he heard the familiar sound of the navigation computer beep, his hand moving forward upon the hyperdrive controls as he sent the ship surging forward into hyperspace with a jolt that rocked the small shuttle.
"As easily as if you were asking if I could tie my shoe. My family and I parted company a long time ago. That's why I'm here, and not locked into some indentured servitude of a marriage like Claudius' wife. Not many of us are lucky enough to break free of that predisposed profession" Parka answered without so much as a flinch.
Hours went by before the Gilded Thranta arrived in the Malastare system and his hand moved towards the rusty old transponder to make sure it was broadcasting an Alderaanian IFF. Without this device it would surely result in their deaths. In the distance the massive hulk of the
Imperial I-class Star Destroyer Warspite. "We're here," Derek pointed out to her, stating the obvious. His hands flustered on the controls as he maneuvered below the massive ship, flying casually as he headed towards the surface of Malastare.
"Do you know where we're going? I'm feeling a little in the dark about the details" she asked, squinting at the familiar vessel she'd been a 'guest' aboard.
"We just follow the transponder," Derek explained as the ship began to enter the planet's atmosphere, the hull shaking as it made it's sharp descent to the planet's surface. "You know ... come to think about it ... I met her once," he remembered as he maneuvered the ship towards Port Pixelito. Gradually the ship's landing claws descended and the ship hovered over the docking bay, slowly touching down upon the planet's surface with a sudden jolt.
"That's nice. We'll be hanging out a lot together now" Parka replied. Her eyes swept the viewports taking in the surroundings. "Well, shall we begin with the next chapter..." she said in reference to the new direction in which they traveled.
"Oh no," Derek said to her as he remained seated comfortably in the pilot's seat. "This one is all yours, Parka," he said as he extended the small transponder that received Jelena's signal. "We would draw too much attention as a pair," he explained as he folded his arms across his chest. "Let's face it. You're a lot more stealthy than me. Be safe," he said to her reassuringly, smiling up at her.
"Oh lucky me" Parka grumbled as she got up, taking the transponder and grabbing some gear before heading for the exit of the ship. She took a deep breath and waited.
Jelena sat in an anonymous corner booth of one of the local restaurants, idly running a spoon through her bowl of uneaten soup. She was expecting Cade Frost. No one had told her that he had died. She was growing impatient and trying not to stand out was difficult, as most of the other patrons were aliens. She swallowed a small portion of the soup and she was just about to give up and leave. She had put herself through all of this for nothing she feared.
Parka shuffled into the establishment, huddled slightly in her pilot's jacket with the transponder in side. Her eyes scanned, assessing the surroundings carefully and choosing the most likely candidate of the slim pickings that existed at such and hour. She took a seat at a nearby table and looked over a news clip on a datapad.
Jelena raised the brown cloak over her head, tying it securely around her neck as she pushed the bowl of a soup away. "What am I doing here?" she asked herself as she stared into the liquid, looking at her shimmering reflection in the moving fluids.
From a nearby table Parka spoke without looking up. "Now that is a good question? What *are* you doing here? What are any of us doing here?"
Jelena's eyes moved towards Parka and she looked at her for a moment, saying nothing. The last thing she needed right now was a conversation. Her eyes moved back down and she started to stand, her chair screeching upon the metal floor of the small restaurant as she wrapped the cloak around her and started to walk, believing she had been stood up.
With no tact to be found, Parka spoke loud enough to be heard, musing audibly. "I wonder what makes a person want to marry someone who is more then twice her age..."
Jelena stopped dead in her tracks as the woman spoke those words, her already light complexion going even more pale as she began to tremble. "Sometimes you must do what your parents tell you to do..." she replied quietly, not moving a muscle, nor making eye contact with the woman.
"No...you really don't."
"That's right," Jelena said, her hand starting to shake as she continued to sit there. "...but there are consequences," she added, swallowing so deep that her small head seemed to bob.
"There always are, to whichever path you choose."
"What brings you to Malastare?" Jelena asked, her face slowly turned to look at the woman, still slightly shrouded by the hood of her cloak.
"A consequence. And you?"
"I am waiting for someone, but I fear they have stood me up..." Jelena confessed, half-disappointed, half-relieved. In her mind she suspected this woman being one of the Emperor's agents. There seemed to be a never-ending supply of cunning women in uniform surrounding her father.
"What draws you to that conclusion?"
"He would have been here by now," Jelena said dejectedly, staring off at the sky as she made it seem as if she were waiting for a lover.
"Well the night is a bit frosty. Perhaps he's out sick."
There was not a drop of moisture to be found in Jelena's mouth, her instincts telling her to run, but her muscles locked into place and she did not move. "...who are you," she said after a long, drawn out pause.
"The last one to see him alive" Parka answered matter of factly. She still did not look up from her datapad.
"...did you kill him?" Jelena asked slowly, an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. Suddenly she needed to sit back down, moving back towards her seat where she roughly collapsed. Her heart beating in her chest. What had she gotten herself into, she wondered.
"No. Stormtroopers did."
"Oh..." Jelena stammered a bit as she looked down at the soup again, now quite cold and no longer palatable. "...who are you?" she repeated again, seeming quite distracted.
"I met your friend's father. He sent me here. My name is Parka."
"Oh..." Jelena said, still stammering, and not sure if she could trust her completely yet. "Well. Then..." she said as her foot moved below the table and slid the chair across from her out. "Then sit down..." she said, looking away.
Parka relocated to the chair at the table, seating herself and taking in Jelena Rondey with piercing grey and black flecked eyes. "A question?"
"Yes?" Jelena asked as she dipped her spoon into the bowl of cold sip and look an audible slurp. "Ugh...It's cold..." she said as she spit it back out into the plate. She was nervous and starting to stick out.
"Why?" Parka semi reclined in her chair, looking none too phased in posture. Yet her focus was quite clearly on the girl she sat across from.
Jelena paused for a moment, wondering what she was being asked, but then she realized her meaning and began to speak. "There comes a time when you must become your own person," she explained, her voice light and afraid. "I made my decision. Chose my side," she said looking down at the table as she dragged one of her manicured nails across it. "Now I have to live with it..." she concluded grimly.
Parka knew that feeling. "Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, sold it...It's a perilous first step but the most crucial towards true independence." She draped an arm casually over the back of the booth seat she reclined into. "So what have you kept yourself busy with lately?"
"Did the Rebels try to murder my father and his wife?" Jelena asked bluntly, leaning across the table as she glared directly into Parka's eyes. She was not there for small talk, not for friendship, nor to catch up. She had not slept a night since the bombing. She needed to know.
"No" Parka replied. "Your friend's dad believes it was the Empire."
Jelena's face sunk, wondering if Kerrie were capable of both eating dinner with the family and plotting to kill them behind their back. She certainly looked guilty of something the other night. "Then you know why I do this..." she replied, using it to further justify her actions.
"So what recent developments do we have?" Parka examined her fingernails casually.
"My father is being redeployed to the Ringali Shell," Jelena whispered towards Parka. A betrayal was such an easy thing to do. One piece of information here, another there, and it was done. "The Rebellion's tactics in the Ringali Shell have forced Lord Tion out of favor. The swine..." she commented, remembering the time had had propositioned her at a banquet on Coruscant.
"Anything else?" Parka filed the info away for a later time. She glanced briefly around the restaurant with leisurely effort.
"Yes..." Jelena said, her face looking grim and serious as she leaned forward. "The next time we meet I want you to bring me a weapon," she instructed, her voice sounding stern and commanding as only a noblewoman's could be.
"What are we talking about here?" A perfectly arched bra lifted as Parka peeked across the table, objecting to be being bossed around on top of it.
"I want a weapon. A gun. A blaster. A piece. A gat..." Jelena stated plainly, her voice growing perhaps a bit too loud as she started to lose her patience. She already had remorse for what she had confessed and was eager simply to leave this location and get home in one piece.
"I'll do my best" Parka answered with no degree of certainty. "Call me if you need me."
"You have me at a disadvantage," Jelena said quietly as she rose from the table, looking down at her. "What's your 'real' name?" she asked quietly as she began to walk away from the table, knowing that the shuttle was waiting and she could not make excuses for her absence much longer.
"Parka" she answered, glancing at the girl's retreating form. "Be careful."
"You too," Jelena said, not bothering to look back at her as she disappeared into the crowd, making her way swiftly back towards the shuttle. Great, she thought, her life was in the hands of someone named after a winter coat. She would settle the score for her father's account, one way or another.
Parka enjoyed a warm mug of coffiene before leaving credit chits on the table and taking her leave as well. She made her way out and out to where Derek and the shuttle had set down.
Derek was still sitting in the Gilded Thranta, having occupied himself with a game of a Sabbac against the ship's computer ... he had lost nearly every hand. "Oh. You're back..." he seemed to chirp up, a smile curling onto his face as he looked over towards her. He was glad she had survived, because he had finally gotten used to her presence, and because Tashi was no longer speaking to him.
"Yes, quite so." She nodded at the sabbac game. "Are you winning anything?"
"No," Derek pointed out as he glared down at the computer screen, "but give me another six years and I've got it beat." His hands instinctively moved to the controls as he swung around in his seat, powering up the small shuttle once again, as he was in a hurry to get off this rock with the larger-than-normal Imperial presence in the system. "She give you anything worth coming all this way for?" he asked, naturally being curious based on all the time he had put in to get them this far.
"She did indeed. At least it seemed it to me. Let's get to a safe distance and make contact."
"How are we going to win this war when they have ships like that?" Derek commented grimly as the
Gilded Thranta accelerated out of Malastare's atmosphere and rapidly approached the Star Destroyer
Warspite again. "Strict orders, Parka," he instructed her as his hand moved towards the navigation computer to download the coordinates for Alderaan, "we only deliver this kind of news in person." The computer began to go to work as the shuttle continued to mover towards the massive ship.
"I couldn't tell you. I'm just a pawn" she replied haphazardly, strapping herself in. "In person sounds great."
The navigation computer beeped, signaling the coordinates for Alderaan had been downloaded, and a moment later his hand shifted over the controls. "Hang on," he said confidently as he moved his hand forward to activate the controls. The shipped moved forward as if to make the jump to hyperspace, but then made a sudden stop and the lights went dark in the craft, and it slowly began to list to starboard. After a moment, the emergency lights went on and the cockpit was illuminated only by a dim, red light. "Damn it," he cursed as he stood up and began to move towards an access panel to try and find the short.
Parka's expression soured. "You can't be serious..." she threw him a scowl. "What is the problem?"
"I don't know," Derek exclaimed in frustration as he tore open the access panel. "I just fixed this thing. Bring me the hydrospanner..." he asked of her as he got down on his hands and knees and began to inspect the fiber optic cable.
On the bridge of the Star Destroyer Warspite, Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca monitored the sensor readouts of the space traffic in the Malastare system. Observing the strange movements of the Alderaanian shuttle she immediately activated the communication system. "We have you on our screens now," her foreign voice began through the comlink. "Do you require assistance?" she asked, speaking in monotone.
Parka's mouth hung slightly agape as she looked towards Derek. Quickly she reached for the com switch. "Assessing problem right now. Will let you know" she recited into it before switching it off and immediately turning to dig out some of the tools from the box kept in the cockpit.
Meham'ohorovi'cloca's blue brow furrowed as she listened to the abrupt message on the comlink. "Hmph," she observed rather disgustedly as she looked down into the junior non-commissioned officers in the pit. "Ready the tractor beam," she ordered as she watched the sensor readout. "We cannot allow the craft to drift into the space lanes," she explained sternly, the icy creature folding her hands behind her back as the red eyes glared at the readout.
Derek took the hydrospanner and moved it into the access panel, several sparks flashing as he tried to get the power back on. "Did that wor...no it didn't..." he answered his own question as he continued his struggle against the Old Republic technology.
"Let me motivate you...we can't afford to be detained for whatever reason. Do something fast" Parka said, eyes flashing nervously between the
Warspite and Derek.
"Ready for the tractor beam," one of the junior officers aboard the
Warspite reported to Lieutenant Mehama'ohorovi'cloca who merely raised a hand to signify she was not quite there yet. Using a tractor beam on a diplomatic vessel would cause quite the incident, and given the Admiral's connections to the Alderaanian government she felt compelled to wait to the last possible moment. "Now," she ordered as she watched the shuttle drift precariously close to the route the TIE fighters took as they moved in and out of the hanger.
"Now. Try it now..." Derek instructed Parka as he ripped out one of the cables and blew into the connecting port, before plugging it back in. It was something he had learned playing games as a child back on Kirrek. Little did he know that they were out of time.
Parka punched the hyperdrive again, this time muttering a prayer under her breath. "Come on baby" she urged it, staring at the viewport in hopes that at any second, the individual stars would stretch into lines as they lurched into hyperspace.
"Phew," Derek sighed as he lay exhausted on the floor of the shuttle, taking several deep breaths as the sweat poured off his forehead. He had nearly electrocuted himself, but he had managed to get it done. He had ordered Tashi to fix this ... perhaps she had it in for him.
As they careened off towards the core worlds, Parka slumped in her chair, relaxing as they were safe. At least momentarily. "Thank the goddesses. For a moment there I thought we'd be revisiting that ISD" she mumbled in relief. "Good job, good job" she congratulated Derek on saving their skins before letting her eyelids sink a bit.