Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin (35:3:25) in the Brentaal system: Warspite.
Vice Admiral Claudius Rodney and Countess Htaere Rodney.

The dining room that adjoined the gallery in the Rodney quarters had been carefully prepared for a private dinner between the Admiral and his wife. His wife and daughters had been excused, placed in the care of Major Kiley, to allow Claudius the privacy required to work alongside the serving droids to prepare a romantic meal. Concerned over Htaere's state following her recent ordeal, he had taken most of the evening off to orchestrate this night. The lights were dimmed and candles were glowing upon the small table, which had been set for two. He was expecting Htaere's return any moment, and the man began frantically going over the finishing touches of their meal.

The doors of the anteroom yielded to the Hapan heiress, revealing her usual perfect appearance, save for the new glimmer that had taken residence in her gaze, a new distant look that hovered in the back of her perception, not announcing itself, yet not releasing her from its grip. It was the gaze of someone who knew, someone who had seen, someone who had been to the other side. She found the room darker then usual as she shifted into the master suite, looking around curiously, the rainbow gem in her forehead glowing like a beacon in the obscurity. In her hand she held a few flowers she had picked from the secret garden still nestled somewhere in a dark corner of the Imperial Star Destroyer's hull. She looked around a bit suspiciously before noting the candles on the dining table.

Claudius emerged from the galley wearing a white apron that seemed splattered with a variety of sauces. Htaere's entrance had been silent, and he was caught totally unprepared for her arrival. As he rounded the corner, he spotted her and an excited expression formed on his face, accented by a warm and loving smile. "Htaere!" he called out happily, but instead of rushing to her, he moved to the table with the Alderaan wine he was carrying. "Come have a seat," he encouraged to her, as he pulled out the chair in anticipation of her arrival.

Htaere blinked in surprise that Claudius had master-minded all of this. "Oh wow, Claudius you have done this for us?" she asked, moving further into the room from her spot near the entrance. She shifted to the chair he offered, seating herself and smoothing her skirt. "Thank you" she nodded regarding his impeccable manners.

Claudius moved swiftly away from the table, hurrying to the galley where he still had finishing touches to prepare. "It will be just a moment!" he called out from the kitchen as he scrambled to cut all of her food into bite sized portions to her. Know knives had been placed on the table, for fear it would remind her of the torture she had been subjected to. Slipping the apron off, he arrived from the galley once more with both of her plates. Carefully, he placed the pre-cut meal down in front of her before moving to his own seat with his own pre-cut food. "I hope you enjoy this, my love," he informed her, as he sat down in front of her. It was one of their favorite meals, though it was barely recognizable in its current form.

Htaere stared at the plate trying to make sense of it before smiling across the table to her husband for his noble efforts. "Thank you, this looks fabulous" she said, looking about curiously before standing up and nudging her chair back a little. "Before I forget, let me get these flowers in a vase with water so they do not wilt right away" she said.

Claudius stood quickly, his chair toppling over behind him, resulting in a large *crack* as the Kriin wood collided with the durasteel of the deckplating. He moved swiftly up behind her and attempted to take the flowers from her hand, so that he might do it. "No..." he pleaded with her, as he scanned around for an unused vase. "Please. You need to sit down and eat your meal..." he explained to her, as he attempted to usher her back to the table. "I can do this," he reasoned to her with a firm nod of his worried head.

Somewhat taken aback, Htaere seemed a bit stupefied, but recovered quickly and smiled at him. "But what of your food Claudius? It will get cold as well, and you need the full advantage of a hot meal and plenty of rest more then anyone."

"My dear you must not trouble yourself with such things," Claudius said, a pleading nature in his voice as he helped her back into her seat. As he scurried down the corridor to find a vase, he brought it into the refresher and began to fill it with water. "Please. Eat. Enjoy!" he reasoned with her from a distance as he put her flowers on display. "I think they look lovely," he announced as he set them on the table in front of them. His attention then shifted towards the Alderaan wine, pouring her a glass while continuing to fret over her.

Htaere exhaled deeply but managed a smile. She went about looking for her eating utensil. Sampling the first bite, her perfect lips arched upwards in a grin. "It is delicious Claudius. Good show" she stated. "Please, sit down and let us eat" she motioned to his chair, empty as it was since he was all around the room at once.

Claudius had yet to take a single bite of his meal, instead choosing to focus entirely on Htaere and her comfort. Gently, he took a seat opposite her, and using but a single fork he began to sample portions of the meal. It was quite good, the quality of the food enhanced by the satisfaction of knowing he had played a part in its cooking. "Are these from the garden?" he asked, making much needed small talk as his attention temporarily shifted to the flowers.

"Yes, the one you created" she answered rather pleased, remembering the night he'd unveiled it. "This meal is very kind of you. You have outdone yourself" she smiled across the table, taking a sip of the Alderaan wine.

As the meal was finished, Claudius rose from the table and moved to collect her plate. "Please. Take a moment to rest, while I turn these over to the droids..." he said to her as he busied himself with the task of clearing the table. His eyes shifted over her carefully, watching her facial features for any form of strain. He worried so much about her lately, and it had affected his ability to perform his duty. As he hurried toward the kitchen, he deposited the plates and took a moment to catch his breath.

The pleasant look to Htaere's childlike visage wavered, giving way to dismay. "Claudius, you must rest. You are overdoing it" she called towards him, hoping he chose to listen though out of view.

Claudius returned from the galley after collecting himself, forcing a content smile onto his venerable visage as he once again sat across from her at the table. He lowered his head slightly, unsure about how to handle the next part of his meal. Slowly he produced two capsules from the interior of his trouser's pocket and slid them across the table to her. "Please take these, my dear..." he encouraged her, without going into much detail. "Doctor Tohan feels they will help you sleep," he explained, though deliberately withheld they were designed for someone suffering from post traumatic stress, rather than simple insomnia.

Htaere regarded the capsules with a noticeable frown. Her saddened eyes looked up to Claudius from the table. "I am not happy about taking medicine. I do not want to, I told you this the other night" she said, looking a little hurt.

Claudius' face sunk visibly as she commented on the pills, and he immediately scrambled to find a solution. "I am sorry, Htaere," he admitted as he began to fidget, somewhat uncomfortable with where the conversation was headed. "Doctor Tohan was concerned about your sleepless nights and we thought perhaps if you took a calming agent you might sleep more soundly..." he reasoned with her slowly, his face eventually returning to make eye contact with her, a hopeful look in his tired eyes.

Htaere sighed, eyes dropping to the table in front of her. "Claudius..." she shook her head, exhaling deeply, "...people are suffering as I did at all times. You fault me for not being able to sleep, but how is it that you 'can' sleep when such things are happening habitually" she said quietly, her eyes darkening with the distant stare she'd come to adopt.

Claudius was not pleased with the tenore of the conversation and he slowly raised from his seated position at the table. "Major Zevrin is in the minority..." he explained to her, trying to fool himself in addition to her. He turned his back and allowed his head to sink slightly, his chin coming to rest upon his chest. "I assure you they are not all like that..." he continued, as he sought out a comfortable chair adjacent living room. "...only quite a few in fact," he added, naively as he sat down on the plush sofa.

Htaere got up, following after him and remaining standing. She regarded him keenly. She did not answer Claudius, unwilling to counter him in a discussion, but unable to swallow something that she did not truly believe. Something in her had to an extent been voided out of existence, a part of her naïveté was gone. In it's place lurked a measure of doubt, of darkness, of terror. She had experienced it. She simply found herself unable to choke down Claudius' assurances.

Claudius' looked over his shoulder at Htaere and he tried his best to continue to reassure her. "I have had Major Zevrin arrested for her crimes against you..." he explained, nodding his head in affirmation. As his focus had been on Htaere the past several days he had been oblivious to the fact that the Grand Vizier had intervened and had her released. "What she did to you..." he began, starting to feel slightly choked up by it all. "...that was not the Imperial way," he explained, unaware that it was and that in fact he was the one who was not behaving in the manner of true Imperials.

Again Htaere said nothing, instead forcing a patient grin she nodded to him. "I should retire" she said quietly, turning towards the bedroom, disappearing into the fresher for her shower. There was little she could say that would not draw out this discussion and still have no improvement on outcome. Rather then indulge Claudius on her experiences only to have them puffer away with delusion, she made a tactical retreat to regather her thoughts.

Claudius continued leaving their quarters to seek out a bottle of alcohol to numb his nerves, but he remembered his promise following the incident with Major Kiley. Letting out a sigh he slowly moved towards their quarters, stripping himself of his uniform before sitting down on the edge of his bed. His eyes slowly rolled towards the refresher, listening to Htaere freshen up. He swallowed in defeat, looking down at the floor as his feet hung off the bed.

Htaere finished her shower, emerging clean and glowing. The wave of heat from the warmth and humidity carried with it the floral and citrus fragrance of her body wash and conditioner, pouring it out into the room for all present to detect. Her lean youthful figure was silhouetted beneath a chemise night gown with beaded straps and an empire waist. Her hair was still wet, spilling down her back and shoulders, nearly straight beneath the weight of the water on such lengthy locks.

Claudius sighed as he passed her, moving into the recently used refresher without saying so much as a word. Tiredly he began the process that would clean himself, though he did not perform the task as meticulously as his wife. Taking half the time she did, he soon returned to the bedroom, where he moved towards a chair rather than the bed. He was not sure how to reason with her, nor how to convince her that the Galactic Empire represented peace and justice in the galaxy.

Htaere finished brushing out her red-gold tendrils before moving to the balcony, breathing deeply the refreshing night gusts as they rushed over her face, kissing her cheeks and chin as each one passed. Unable to see beyond whatever light spilled out across the balcony, save for the brightest points of light that dotted the horizon, representing major buildings or topographical points, Htaere still enjoyed the clean coolness of the night air.

Claudius looked towards her for a moment, considering pursuit, but his tactical senses convinced him that it was a battle he could not win. While attending university, he was once taught the discretion was the better part of valor, and silently he retreated to the bed. "Good night, Htaere," he said in a normal tone of voice, rather than raising it to ensure that she would easily hear it at a distance. As he dimmed the light, he slipped beneath the sheet and wasted no time in attempting to get some rest. As she did not take the medicine, he fully expected to be awoken throughout the night once more.

Htaere finished brushing her fingers through her hair before joining Claudius in bed. She slipped beneath the sheets as well, stretching out and wriggling down into the mattress to get comfortable. "Good night Claudius" she quipped in response. "Thank you again for your excellent dinner."
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