Major Kerrie Kiley emerged
from the Rodney estate on Esseles pushing a repulsorsled
that contained two large crates. She nodded her head to
the Stormtroopers on patrol outside of the structure,
and moved past them slowly, as to not draw any
attention. Although she outranked them, she simply did
not have the authority to order the security patrols to
stand down without drawing the unwanted attention of the
Grand Moff. As she reached her shuttle, the Sonthi, she
pushed the sled up into the rear cargo compartment of
the craft, and pressed the control to close the ramp
behind her. Once it had been sealed, she quickly moved
to one of the creates, and opened it. "Are you all
right, Milady," she asked apprehensively, as she peered
down into the crate at Htaere, whom she had hidden
The first thing visible was
Htaere's stormy grey eyes, the inverted jade green
triangles beneath those eyes and the soft glow of the
rainbow gem in her forehead. Climbing out of the crate
revealed Htaere in a pair of slim fitting slacks tucked
into boots, and long sleeved top. It was the first time
she'd ever worn pants, or any kind of clothing like this
at all. It was out of place on the usually adorned Hapan.
Htaere fixed Kerrie with a long somber stare. "Kerrie, I
really think you should stay behind," she spoke quietly.
"I have already asked you to undertake a risky action on
my behalf. I cannot allow any harm to come to you, or
your career beyond that."
"My duty is to protect you,
Milady. Go where you go," Kerrie explained to her, as
she reached into the crate help her as she climbed. "You
should stay out of sight until we reach the atmosphere,"
she instructed, before moving forward into the cockpit,
and strapping herself into the pilot's sleep. "I promise
a much smoother flight than Captain Trainor," she said
with a laugh, as her hands moved above her to toggle the
switches that would begin powering up the shuttle.
Moments later she was able to ease back on the flight
stick, gingerly lifting the shuttle off the landing
platform, and preceeding into the upper atmosphere.
"Okay. It's safe now, Milady," she said, turning her
head to look back into the passenger compartment, before
focusing on the flight. The wings of the shuttle slowly
descended into their flight position, allowing the craft
to increase speed.
Joining Kerrie in the
cockpit, Htaere buckled in before her eyes became fixed
beyond the viewports. "We are leaving Esseles..." she
commented absently mostly to herself. "She is not on
Esseles..." a dawning came over her, looking to Kerrie.
"Jelena is not here, as Claudius suspected. There is no
reason to have this planet under embargo."
Gradually the blue sky of
Esseles faded into blackness as they transitioned from
the upper atmosphere into the Essesia system, where the
litany of Imperial warships was on a constant state of
alert. "No. She is not on Esseles," Kerrie revealed to
Htaere, before transmitting her clearance code to the
oncoming flight of TIE fighters in order to prevent them
being stopped. "But, I can't exactly tell the Grand Moff
how I came by this information," she said, turning her
head to look at Htaere, offering a slight look of
consternation. As they cleared the TIE fighters and the
picket ships, she moved her hand forward on the
controls, which sent the Sonthi surging forward into
Htaere chided Kerrie with a
look of her own. "You will not have to," she said. "The
point of this is simply to find out if Jelena is well.
That is all I intend to report back to Claudius to offer
him a peace of mind. I am not a spy for the Empire. I
suspect he will not be content with my unwillingness to
share anything else, even if it is information I do not
possess. I shall deal with that as it arises."
When Kerrie heard what
Htaere's plan was she froze, and her hands moved from
the control of the shuttle, before turning to look at
the Hapan. "Milady, you cannot tell the Grand Moff that
you have news about his daughter..." she said,
awkwardly, as she imagined his reaction at such a thing.
She had bore firsthand witness to the man's temper on
more than one occasion, and in his current mental state
she feared for Htaere's wellbeing if he found out.
Htaere rubbed at her hands
as if applying lotion, turning them over and studying
them. She didn't bother to look up. "I do not fear him
as you do," she answered simply. "I cannot mend what has
happened. I only wish to belay his fears that she is
deceased or injured or whatever else he believes. I
cannot withhold from him what I do not know." She lifted
her eyes and settled into the chair. "The truth is,
neither of us know where she is staying, or what she is
actually doing. Nor do we need to inquire. Nor should
"And how will you tell him
you came by this information, Milady?" Kerrie asked,
pushing back more than she normally did with Htaere, out
of strong desire to protect her from the Grand Moff's
potential wrath. "Perhaps ... perhaps we can use this an
opportunity to recover her," she suggested, as that
might be the only way to resolve this situation to the
"I have already devised an
explanation my dear Kerrie," Htaere lifted a finger,
having spent a great deal of time on this. "The best
answer is really the truth. I asked you to assist me
with a lead on the Hapan rebel. We were able to arrange
this meeting. You *did* destroy all of the comms she
gave you, yes?" Htaere's brow arched towards Kerrie. "We
must eliminate any opportunity for them to explore the
same leads and opportunities."
"Yes, Milady. I destroyed
everything as instructed," Kerrie assured her, as the
navigation computer began to beep indicating they were
nearing their destination. Becoming more alert, she
shifted back in her chair to watch the viewport as the
Sonthi eased out of hyperspace. In the distance was the
planet Rhinnal, which was not too far from Esseles, as
they were both in the Darpa sector. "I hope you know
what you're doing..." she said softly, as she began her
approach towards the planet.
"So do I," Htaere agreed
The distinct black and grey
flecked eyes of Parka Pepper flickered around every so
often while waiting. Towards the edges and suburbs of
Rhire, she leaned against the wall outside of an
unassuming fruit stand, looking unamused. Every so
often, the near-invisible ear piece she wore chimed to
life. "Anything yet? All clear on the scanners." And
routinely Parka would reply. "Nothing yet." The rebel
cell watching her every move and connected via comm lay
hidden, somewhere. As usual, they had several scanners
to actively search for electromagnetic fields and
signatures used by the Empire, and scramblers in
operation to muck up any attempts at tracking
frequencies or locations.
Jelena Rodney did not what
to expect. She had debated whether or not to come the
entire evening. In the end she decided to come just to
get out of the safehouse. She stood several blocks away
in the company of her bodyguard, wearing both a poncho
and a cap to conceal her identity. There was an
uncomfortable sensation deep in her stomach, as she
occasionally looked over towards Parka's location. She
had been instructed to act natural and not to stare, so
she did her best to focus on eating a bowl of street
noodles, but stare she did.
Kerrie approached Parka's location, but only after
having changed into her Mabari armor, which she had
concealed in the second of two crates she had smuggled
aboard the shuttle. The only weapon she had with her was
her blaster pistol, but in the back of her mind she
wondered if she should have brought a heavier weapon,
such as a rifle. "It is not further, Milady," she
whispered quietly to Htaere, who was walking with her
through the capital city's marketplace. When she spotted
Parka she stopped dead in her tracks, and raised a
gloved finger towards her. "Remember what I told you,"
she warned Parka, referring to what she had said at
their last meeting in regards to what would happen if
Htaere was harmed.
"I remember," Parka mumbled
without looking at them. "But you came to *my* fruit
stand, remember?" Her light smirk appeared over Kerrie
before shifting over to Rodney's Hapan wife. Her smile
flatlined a little as she noted the woman to be wearing
street clothes, nothing like her usual high couture
gowns an jewelry and pristine appearance. "Well, Htaere
Ka`a Sha`ar of the ruling house of Gallinore and aaaaall
the rainbow gems in Hapes...you look...different. It
Htaere barely reacted. "It
is...taking some getting used to," she relented. "I know
you as well, 'Parka'," she continued. "You and your
sisters, you are members of the royal family, the T-."
Parka held up hand and
stopped Htaere dead in her verbal tracks. "Don't say it.
I shed that identify like a skin a long time ago." She
adjusted herself against the wall. "What is it that I
can do for you? Are you considering joining the
rebellion as well?"
"No," Htaere shook her head.
"My presence here is a personal one. I thought you might
perhaps be able to find out if Jelena Rodney is alive or
dead, if she made it to the rebellion. Have you heard
anything per chance?"
While the two Hapans
discussed personal subjects that Kerrie could not
possibly understand, she slipped past them towards the
fruit stand. All the while she was looking about,
wondering if this was a plot to capture Htaere. She
reached into one of the bins and picked up a piece of
fruit, tossing the vendor a credit. She took a healthy
bite from the fruit, producing an obnoxiously loud sound
as she did so. She had learned neither table manners,
nor grace, in her galactic travels.
"*That* is why you came
here? To ask if Jelena has any scraped knees that need
bandaging?" Parka exclaimed in disbelief.
"Do not mock me," Htaere
warned icily. The retort was so cold and out of
character that Parka froze in response, mouth dropping
open as if she had been slapped in the face.
"I wouldn't dream of it,"
Parka spoke after recovering. Htaere..." she whispered.
"You've come home...with a vengeance."
"Can you help me or not?"
Htaere was not as entertained with all of this as Parka
seemed to be.
Reeling it in, Parka
collected herself. "Jelena is very much alive and well.
This time, it was Htaere's
turn to cut Parka off in mid-sentence. "Please do not!"
she blurted before readopting her calmer demeanor. "Do
not tell me where she has been, where she is going, or
what she is doing. It is better that I do not know. I
only wished to know if she is safe and unharmed. And
When the two ladies started
to discuss the whereabouts of Jelena, Kerrie's ears
began to perk up, and she turned her head to listen
intently. When Htaere told her not to reveal anything,
she grit her teeth, and thrust her arms downward in
frustration, as she was losing any hope at recovering
the misguided youngster. She did not speak, nor did she
try to interject herself, into what was clearly a
personal, and an emotional confrontation between two
beings from a culture that was beyond her understanding.
"Might you be able to pass
on a message to her?" Htaere asked optimistically.
"I'll do my best," Parka
Htaere produced a disk,
extending it to Parka. "I have recorded a message for
her. Please see she gets it."
Parka's eyes studied the
disk before lifting back up to Htaere. She seemed a
different person. Then again, war changes everyone. "I
will," she nodded in finality.
"Kerrie," Htaere called
lightly to her trusty companion.
"Yes, Milady," Kerrie said,
obediently, as she moved from the business of the fruit
stand, and took up position next to her Hapan protectee.
Her eyes moved towards Parka for a moment, before
focusing on Htaere. She had not been told there was
going to be a message relayed to Jelena, but had she
known she likely would have attempted to place a tracker
on it ... another missed opportunity.
Htaere had never been so
happy to strap herself into the copilot's chair in the
cockpit of Kerrie's shuttle to head home. She was quiet
and contemplative for a few moments. "This sneaking
around is tough business. I feel exhausted," she
remarked, perhaps to herself mostly. "I never looked so
forward to returning to the estate as I do now."
"Did you get what you came
for, Milady?" Kerrie asked, as she prepared the Sonthi
for takeoff. It did not take her long to get the shuttle
warmed, and with ease at the controls she had the
shuttle lifted off the surface of Rhinnal, and heading
rapidly into the upper atmosphere. She wanted to ask
about the message, but she did not think it was the
right time. She feared what would happen when they
returned and the Grand Moff was given scant news of
"Yes, short, sweet and
simple," Htaere replied. If Parka is to be trusted, that
was. "My greatest challenge I think shall be convincing
Claudius to lift the embargo. I must devise a good plan
on how to present such for his consideration," she
thought out loud. "For now...we rest. And Kerrie? Thank
you for helping me."
All Kerrie could do was nod
at Htaere's comments, because it had yet to be seen
whether or not she had really helped Htaere. The Grand
Moff's reaction would likely dictate that, and she was
not nearly as optimistic about his reaction as Htaere
was. An instant later the navigation computer beeped,
signally it was ready, and she moved her hand forward on
the hyperdrive controls to send the Sonthi into
hyperspace back towards Esseles and the unknown reaction
that awaited them.