Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:8:30) in the Essesia system: Esseles (New Calamar: Claudius Rodney's estate) and Kwai.
Flight Lieutenant Haven Anson, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, Countess Htaere Rodney, and Doctor Pilaq Tohan.

The Rodney estate on Esseles had become the most heavily defended structure in the Ringali Shell. The once serene estate in the mountains outside of New Calamar now resembled a military installation complete with perimeter walls, low altitude TIE fighter patrols, Stormtroopers, Storm commandos, even AT-ST walkers. It was more a prison than a home ... part of the Grand Moff's plan to cling to the two children he still had left. Lieutenant Haven Anson found herself once again at the controls of a high priority shuttle flight, and this time her passenger was the Grand Moff's personal physical ... Pilaq Tohan. She wondered why the Governor would trust the care of himself and his family to an alien, particularly from a world that the Empire had placed restrictions on, but this was just one of a series of complexities that an officer of such a low rank dared not spend too much time thinking about. "I shall have you on the surface momentarily, doctor," she said, as she entered her clearance code to land. The lower wings of the shuttle began to fold upwards, as the landing gear descended, and the shuttle Kwai touched down upon a landing platform.

In the rear of the shuttle the venerable Doctor Pilaq Tohan had remained silent, his hands wrapped tightly around the staff artfully crafted from fallen timber from his native Ithor. He remembered when the Imperials came to Ithor and the harm their blockade and restrictions had made upon his people. It was Claudius Rodney that had intervened to rescue him from that blockade, and now he was forced to watch in horror as that same man inflicted even harsher restrictions on the people of Esseles. His large, bulbous eyes blinked silently as the young officer informed him that they were landing. While part of him was glad that Htaere had returned, a larger part of him wondered if it might not have been better if she had stayed on Gallinore. He let out a soft grunt from both of his mouths as he rose up, shifting his weight to the walking stick, before descending down the shuttle ramp to seek out Htaere.

Htaere stood a short distance away, the breezes of afternoon air and the blasts from the shuttle's repulsors causing the gauzy gown she wore to billow around her wildly for a moment. Her eyes took in the unique shape of the Ithorian, a smile instantly brightening her features. Without waiting, she hurried towards him eagerly and instantly took him into a sincere and loving embrace. "I am so glad to see you, Pilaq," she said. "Your presence is as much a great comfort as it is a request."

Pilaq reached out with the hand that was not gripping the staff, and with long digits he gently grasped her at the shoulder. "This place has changed..." he said, speaking from both of his mouths, as he woefully gazed at all the damage that had been done to the natural beauty of the land to protect this structure. "I trust then ... that you have heard?" he asked, referring to the events surrounding Jelena while she was away. He had been the one to deliver Jelena, and helped raise her after her mother died. Her actions pained him as much as anyone, and the sadness was visible even in his alien face.

"Yes, yes I have," she nodded. "A lot of things, and people, have changed it seems." The Hapan motioned him towards the manor. "I am hoping to perhaps alleviate some of the misfortune."

Pilaq did his best to hurry into the estate, relying heavily on the staff to propel him forward. He was getting old, and life was catching up with him. He could not get around like used to, and each hurried step forward burdened his knees. "It is my hope that you can, milady," he said to her quietly, until they were in the relative safety of the structure. It was one of the few places he believed the ISB had not penetrated and filled with surveillance devices. "Now. How can I help?" he asked, his large, bulbous eyes widening to take a careful study of her young features.

"A detailed evaluation of Claudius, if you can. It is my understanding he has been isolated from all for some time. He appears...delusional and ill. I am simply hoping as his physician you can rule out any physical ailments before we tackle mental ones," Htaere replied. "I cannot say when Claudius has last bathed, or tended to hygiene of any sort, or existed any place but his command room from the Warspite." She worded it carefully. "Perhaps you may fill in gaps for me that I may be missing."

"Sit, young one," Pilaq said, as he circled about until he was in front of her. He placed both of his hands upon the staff, whose base he placed between his legs, resting the entirety of his weight upon it. "When Claudius returned from Kuat he found Kerrie near death in his office, with Jelena's holonet message being broadcast..." he recounted, nodding his head at Htaere as he recounted the events for her. "We very nearly lost Kerrie that day, and I cannot take credit for saving her life. The Inquisitor used powers that are beyond my knowledge to understand..." he said, leaning forward slightly, before rocking back and forth, using the staff as an anchor. "Claudius devoted all of his attention to the hunt for Jelena. I do not believe he has even fully explained the situation to Drusilla, or poor Ewwiekewwieikkie who I doubt could even understand..." he informed her, sadly, as his eyes moved towards the upper level where they were likely sleeping. "I have not seen him since. He refused me access," he said, raising his staff and then slamming it emphatically down on the ground below.

Htaere's expression hardened just so. "Well I am granting it to you now," she stated so solidly that it left nothing to negotiation. "Kerrie has supplied me with the details during my respite. I have returned home to nothing short of absolute chaos, in which no one seems able to do anything. If it is up to me, then so be it. I have removed Claudius from his state room and brought him here. I am insisting upon his evaluation, I shall likewise insist upon his full cooperation." Htaere paced back and forth for a moment, her frustration spilling out beyond the barriers of her decorum. "I am growing wary of such oppression and inaction." She paused, lowering her voice. "I see nothing around me but madness, and I am loathe to swallow it down any longer as I always have. Please," she motioned towards their chambers. "Come with me to see him. Let us start there. The longest journey of a thousand parsecs begins with the first step."

"Of course, milady," Pilaq said in his kind voice, drawn from the past as if from a well. The climb up the stairs to the second level where the family slept was difficult for the old Ithorian, and he had to stop about halfway up the flight of stairs, but eventually he made it to the upper level. He was quiet so as to not disturb either Ewwiekewwieikkie or Drusilla, who he presumed were sleeping, and eventually made his way into the master bedchamber. The room was shrouded in darkness, but in the large bed he could still make out the outline of a familiar human form. "Do you want to wake him, or shall I?" he asked, as he waited near the entrance to the room for her to decide how to proceed.

"I shall take that risk of my own volition," she conceded, turning on the lights but so the dimmers were on and it wasn't overly glaring and bright. Moving to the bed, she placed a hand on Claudius and gave him a gentle nudge. "Claudius," she called to him in a low voice.

"Unh. Unh," Claudius murmured as he started to stir, not immediately aware of his surroundings, or where he was. The bed was somehow familiar, but also foreign at the same time ... it had been quite sometime since he had slept in it. "Jelena?" he asked, a sound of slight excitement in his voice as he moved to rub at his eyes. "Is there news of Jelena?" he asked, growing increasingly optimistic, as he struggled to sit up in the bed.

"No," Htaere answered patiently. "Doctor Tohan is here to help you." As if speaking to a child, she pointed towards the Ithorian Physician. "See?"

"I don't need a doctor. I'm fine," Claudius reassured her, as he sat up in the bed, and nestled his back comfortably against the pillows. "What I need is to find Jelena," he pleaded with her, as he realized that he was on the surface of Essles. It was very likely that they were on the same planet, and that knowledge brought him some sense of comfort. "I'm sorry to have troubled you, Pilaq," he said, offering her a kind smile in his direction, before nodding at him and dismissing him with a motion of his hand.

With a brazen and utterly shocking display, Htaere pushed down his hand as he signaled the physician. "Doctor Tohan will evaluate you to ensure you are in fine health to carry out whatever your assignment is per the Empire," she stated firmly. She stepped back and nodded towards Claudius. "Doctor Tohan, if you please."

The Ithorian doctor had stood silently at the door, not wanting to interfere in the middle of a private conversation between the married couple. When Claudius attempted to dismiss him, however, he did not flinch, and then when Htaere beckoned him he moved forward. He had a satchel that contained a device that would make a quick medical scan of the man. It did not take long to detect that he had not been eating or sleeping properly, nor had he been keeping up with his hygiene. His head turned to look towards Htaere, frowning slightly with both of his mouths, realizing how bad the situation had truly become.

"Your recommendations, Doctor?" Htaere asked, not surprised by Pilaq's dire expression. She waited with arms folded, nearly daring Claudius to challenge her further.

Pilaq's heart was heavy, and he did not relish the words he was about to speak. He considered for a lengthy moment whether or not he should go down this path, as he had known Claudius for more than two decades. "Claudius, you are in need of rest. You are in a weakened, debilitated state, and only proper rest, diet, and exercise will restore the natural order of things," he reported, in a steady voice, drawing back on his medical training for when it came to deliver a patient bad news. He knew he would not take it well, but how badly he would take it he just did not know.

"See, my love? Pilaq says rest. Who are we to argue with a doctor," Htaere pointed out with a charming smile. She tugged the covers up around him, guiding him back down to the pillows and placing a very tender kiss on his forehead. "Then do as he says and rest. I shall return shortly," she promised endearingly before moving to the door of the elaborate master chambers.

Claudius was furious that the doctor had done this to him. He was not an Imperial doctor ... he had no real authority to force rest upon him, but he would not cause a scene in front of Htaere. Without saying a word, he rolled over onto his side, and brought his knees up to his chest, taking up the position he had when in the womb. He was exhausted and in mental anguish, It did not take him long to slip back off into a slumber, passing out rather than gracefully falling asleep.

Pilaq followed Htaere out of the bedchamber, leaving Claudius alone for the time being. "That ... that was very difficult," he conceded to Htaere, his chest heaving from a combination of tiredness and anxiety. He was growing weak, and would need rest himself soon. "Now. Are you all right, Milady?" he asked, his orange eyes looking over her graceful young features for any sign of distress. He imagined that this would all be too much for her, but instead it seemed she was handling it better than any of them.

Htaere watched Pilaq with a somber gaze, perhaps the first time all evening she allowed a glimmer of her worry to surface. "I...I am not sure yet," she admitted. "I feel as if I am on some autopilot who has yet to disengage." Htaere ran a hand through her hair and sighed. "I am with Claudius and yet, I feel more alone than I did on Gallinore." For a brief moment Htaere let her eyes trace beyond the closest window to the stars beyond as if they offered some comfort. She composed herself visibly and offered a smile as she turned towards the physician. "I am certain I shall be fine."

Pilaq was silent for a moment, still examining her, before reaching out with his hand to guide her further from the bedchamber lest they risk being heard. "What I am about to say, I do not say lightly," he told her quietly, resting one of his hands on her, and other on his walking stick as he braced himself in the corridor. "I have lived a long life. I have seen darkness creep over the galaxy. I fear no matter what you do ... no matter what any of us do ... this situation is beyond repair. You are still young. You must look to yourself," he said to her, his voice in a guarded whisper, stopping every so often to listen for any sound of stirring, and his eyes on the door to the bedroom rather than on Htaere.

Htaere nodded very slowly. "That is what I am afraid of," she conceded. Her eyes dropped momentarily before lifting back to the large hammer-shaped head. "No matter what happens, in the soon or distant future, please know that I shall forever hold a place for you in my heart. I am indebted to you for your kindness. In the future many things may become subject to doubt and skepticism, but please, never doubt my fondness for you."

"In these confusing times that is one thing I can be sure of, Milady," Pilaq said, with kind confidence, reaching forward with those digits to give her a reassuring squeeze on her shoulder once again. With that, he bowed his large head, and turned on his feet to withdraw. He moved slower and less gracefully than he arrived, but he managed ... he still had several good years ahead of him.

Htaere's gaze remained staid on him until he disappeared from sight. With a notable melancholy to her character, she turned and ascended the stair, moving towards the master chambers to resume in her place in bed beside Claudius.

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