For the first time in nearly a week, Htaere resumed her usual
appearance. She already dressed herself in strapless gown that hugged
her superb figure. In addition she was adorned with her usual array of
glitz and glitter in the form of arm bands, anklets, bracelets,
earrings, necklaces and a woven band that encircled her head like a
halo. She looked leagues better, her typical display of elegance and
glamour nearly up to its typical par. She waited patiently at the
viewport for Doctor Tohan, eager for her discharge.
The door to the suit opened, revealing the familiar presence of the
venerable Doctor Pilaq Tohan. The Ithorian's large and complex frame was
covered in a simple white medical garment from which several medical
implements were implanted. The man seemed to be in better spirits than
usual, and moved swiftly towards the Lady Htaere's bedside. He studied
the medical readout one final time, his large orange eyes opening wide
as he reviewed them. "Everything is in order, Milady," he said as he
turned his attention to her, his dual Ithorian mouths producing his
confusing, but understandable stereophonic speech. "You have progressed
marvelously," he told her as he reached out with his hand, elongated
fingers outstretching to rest upon her left shoulder. "You are eager to
return to more comfortable and familiar surroundings I assume?" he
asked, already knowing the answer as he began to remove the IV.
Htaere smiled towards him, nodding respectfully. "It is to your staff
that I owe such a hasty recovery" she said. "Yes I am looking forward to
returning home for some fresh air and scenic nature."
As Doctor Tohan completed the process that would disconnect her from
the machines he took a step back and offered her a reassuring smile.
"Then get out of my medical facility. You are taking up a valuable bed,"
he said in a kind and gentle tone, so that the young Hapan would have no
trouble understanding his sarcasm. With his large hands he offered what
support he could, escorting her from the bed towards the door that would
lead her to the corridor and the turbolift beyond.
"I am grateful for your hospitality" she said, bowing to the Ithorian
courteously before departing from the room. Htaere made the trek from
the medical levels to the bridge of the Warspite in search of
Claudius. Cloudy grey eyes drifted over the activity curiously, looking
about and feeling rather out of place. For that very reason, this was
not a place she frequented.
Captain Tiberius Anson caught the turbolift door opening out of the
corner of his eyes, a look of shock and concern coming over his face as
he witnessed the arrival of Lady Htaere. He let out an audible gasp,
having never recalled her on his bridge before and his mouth hung open
slightly. There were whispers about the ordeal she had been through,
some louder than others courtesy of Lieutenant Ames, and he hurried
quickly to greet her before she could get too far on the bridge.
"Milady," he said in a clear-sounding voice, with a touch of a Corellian
accent. He offered her a polite and courteous nod, a touch of concern on
Htaere managed a nervous grin. "Captain" she answered. "I am
searching for Claudius. Perhaps you can point me in his direction?" she
inquired, canting her head slightly.
A true gentlemen in Corellian fashion, the rugged Captain offered her
the use of his left forearm as he prepared to escort her towards her
husband. "Right this way, Milady," he said with the utmost politeness.
He began leading her down the walkway that led towards the massive
viewports, and extended above the crew pits. The bridge officers were
deathly silent, unable to prevent themselves from staring up from their
posts to watch Htaere's movements. It was quite the spectacle.
At the end of the walkway, Admiral Claudius Rodney stood quietly. His
hands were folded behind his back and his head moved side-to-side as he
watched the bustling space traffic that filled the Brentaal system.
There were times when he admired the pilots of the smaller ships, who
were traveling the galaxy on different adventures. It made him think of
his brother, with whom he barely kept in contact with these days. He was
oblivious to Htaere's presence. In fact, it was as if he was the only
one on the ship as he stood there in touch with the flow of commerce
through the bustling hyperlanes.
Htaere tried not to allow herself to be captivated by the hub of
activity and staggering number of people required to operate the vessel.
Unable to help herself, her wide remarkable grey eyes blinking down at
the crew pits before her attention lifted towards Claudius' form against
Captain Anson, familiar with the Admiral's predilection to zone out
while on the bridge, cleared his throat softly. His arm gently pulled
away from Htaere and he quickly and quietly backpedaled from their
presence. Unlike some of the officers on the bridge, he was older and
had a family of his own, and had no difficulty respecting the privacy of
the Rodney family.
Claudius' head twitched suddenly as he heard the Captain clear his
voice, refocusing as he snapped back to reality. He turned slowly, fully
expecting to see the Captain standing before him, but he was pleasantly
surprised when he saw it was Htaere standing before him. He wanted to be
with her when she was released, but her presence aboard the bridge
indicated to him that all his well. He moved towards her quickly,
offering a loving embrace, but he pulled back slightly when he felt the
eyes of the crew burning holes in him.
Htaere smiled towards the Admiral. "Hello, Claudius" she said
pleasantly. "I hope you do not mind that I am traversing your bridge"
reciprocating his affection eagerly, heedless of the crew's collective
Claudius offered a kind smile to the woman as he pulled her to the
side of the bridge, into a small alcove that would obstruct the majority
of their views. "You will have to forgive their prying eyes, my love..."
he said to her as each of his hands took up position on her upper arms
as he gently held her. "...but they rarely get to look upon such
beauty," he said to her, his face darting in to place a quick peck upon
The intimacy was broken up by the sudden interruption of Lieutenant
Meham'ohorovi'cloca. "Sir, we have an incoming vessel attempting to use
our docking bay," the blue-skinned Imperial officer informed both the
Captain and the Admiral. Her red eyes narrowed as she studied the sensor
readouts more carefully. Her brow furrowed slightly as her attention
shifted from the officers and found itself centered squarely upon Ladyh
Htaere. "...it is a Hapan ship," she said in a surprised tone, a state
of being she rarely experienced.
Htaere's face brightened considerably. "Oh yes! My package arrives"
she exclaimed happily, gazing from the Chiss officer back to Claudius.
"Would you like to join me in the reception?" she asked hopefully.
Claudius eyes looked towards the Chiss with utter confusion, a look
that soon found itself gazing down upon his wife's attractive visage as
he considered her words. "Package?" the aging Admiral said in a state of
utter confusion. "Uh... Sure?" he responded, in answer to her question
as he began escorting her towards the turbolift. "Give them clearance to
land, Lieutenant..." he instructed as he and his wife entered the lift.
As the turbolift proceded down towards the hangar bay, he turned to her
and finally asked the obvious question. "What package?!" he repeated,
looking down at her with a slight ajar mouth.
A wide beam illuminated Htaere's flawless young features as she
flashed a sideways glance at him. "Yes, I called home to make a request"
she responded eagerly. Her expression shifted pensively for a moment
before she made eye contact again, grinning. "Claudius, can you tell
Doctor Tohan to meet us in the hanger?"
Still at a loss for words and unaware of what was transpiring,
Claudius could not find himself unable to indulge her given what had
transpired over the past several days. Offering a kind smile, he nodded
in affirmation as his attention turned to the small comm panel inside
the turbolift. "Doctor Tohan," he spoke in a clear tone, with more
kindness than authority in the words. "Your immediate presence is
requested on the flight deck..." he informed his Ithorian physician. The
turbolift arrived at the hangar deck as he finished his transmission,
and he began to escort her out towards the ornately crafted Hapan
transport that had arrived in the expansive hangar.
Having cleared his medical facility of both Major Kiley and Lady
Htaere, Doctor Tohan had expected to have a pleasant evening checking on
the latest chapter of the novel he was reading. Claudius' transmission
was both unwanted and unexpected, but nevertheless he dutifully moved to
the turbolift and proceeded down towards the flight deck. He was slow to
catch up to the couple, whom he was pleased to see reunited and in
better spirits. All of his training, both of as a healer of bodies and
minds, did not prepare for the recent horrors Htaere had been subjected
to. There was evil in the galaxy ... and they had seemingly found one of
its darkest holes.
Htaere smiled as she waited for the larger framed sentient to join
them. "You are the guest of honor this evening, Doctor" she called to
him enthusiastically. As they moved towards the transport, Htaere looked
towards the ramp, eager to see the Attaché again.
Indeed My`Ahme Renault descended gracefully, flanked on each side by
women in veils. A few armed guards stood near the base of the ramp at
post for their descent. The attractive brunette smiled as her eyes swept
across Htaere among the crowd. The entourage of attractive Hapans drew
to a halt before the Rodney's and their physician, all bowing deeply as
if on cue. "Lady Htaere, the people of Hapes is eager to know how you
are progressing. It is their pleasure to fulfill your request post
haste" she diplomat stated melodiously, her accent much thicker then
Htaere nodded to the Attaché. "My utmost gratitude for their conern.
I am feeling well, thank you" she replied.
My`Ahme's refined chin lifted
matter-of-factly. "News of your abduction has traveled across the
Consortium. Ereneda herself wishes you a rapid recovery, and has
personally commissioned a Charubahn cyborg for additional protection."
It was not unusual that the Queen Mother herself had sent her regards to
Htaere. By law, all business dealings in the Cluster must be conducted
through the capital of Hapes. The Ka`a Sha`ahr had controlled the
Gallinorian mining rights since the Consortium's formal creation nearly
3000 years prior. Suffice it to say they'd met. On numerous occasions.
Htaere smiled but shook her head. "Please offer my deepest apologies
to Her Highness, but the cyborg is not necessary." She turned her lovely
face towards the physician. "Doctor Tohan?" she motioned him closer.
Doctor Tohan stepped forward at the Lady Htaere's beckoning, his
large orange eyes carefully studying the recently arrived Hapan
diplomat. He had once desired to break down Hapan DNA to discover what
elements were involved in producing a species of genetically perfect
humanoids. In his youth he believed such a feet would result in him
making a fortune, catering to the desires of the wealthy citizens of the
galaxy never too pleased with their appearance. The mention of the word
'cyborg' caused a small cringe, having never been one to use cybernetics
in his many years of medical practicing. "Yes, Milady?" he asked of her,
still unsure what his purpose was.
Htaere nodded to My`Ahme, who all too eagerly continued her roll as
the silver-tongued dignitary. The well-bred attaché stepped forward in
front of the group directly towards the Ithorian doctor, and again the
group bowed collectively in reverence. She smiled beautifully to the
physician. "Doctor Tohan, I am My`Ahme Renault of the Attaché Corp. We
are here today to honor you at the behest of the Lady Htaere" she began.
"Hapans, like Ithorians, share a love for nature and ecology. It is this
appreciate we share that inspires the Lady Htaere's gift, and I speak
for the people of Hapes as well in saying we would be honored if you
would accept the treasure we wish to share with you." With that, My`Ahme
stepped to the side, motioning to the ramp of the transport. Carefully
four soldiers in the Hapan Army stood each at a corner of a large
repulsor dolly being pushed down the ramp. Atop the dolly platform sat a
sizeable rectangular box, nearly a meter and a half high. They moved
carefully, taking their time so as not to jolt the dolly or allow its
cargo to feel even the slightest bump.
Motioning to the dolly, My`Ahme announced its arrival in perfect
delivery. "The Ithorian gardens and botanical studies are legendary.
With regard to your exemplary talents and passion for nature, the Lady
Htaere offers you this gift..." With that, the soldiers, all in
immaculate Class A dress uniforms slowly withdrew the white linen drape
over the large rectangular box. Beneath it was a large transparisteel
terrarium designed specifically for transport. Inside upright
rectangular case sat a hand-sculpted large rectangular pot, within it, a
giant bonsai looking tree that stood a meter high. A large pack on the
back of the case housed water vacuoles, a fan, air conditioning unit,
and humidifier all at once. A panel on the front of the case monitored
and reported all of the tree's "vitals", along with the conditions
inside the terrarium. Being its own sealed unit, the internal conditions
of the terrarium were consistent, unlike the rigors of space travel
where the rare and delicate tree would have been exposed to a series of
changes in atmosphere, barometric pressure, moisture content and
temperature. My`Ahme admired the tree before looking to Doctor Tohan. "A
Tree of Wisdom, grown exclusively on Selab. The Lasarla fruit is noted
for increasing intelligence and longevity in those who consume it" she
explained. Along with the tree, came a black thranta-hide case that one
of the soldiers produced. "This is a hovering light projector that
exactly simulates the warmth and magnitude of the Mathonore system's
sun, where Selab is located."
Doctor Tohan stood there silently, watching the presentation being
made at his expense. In all his travels he had never had such a gesture
made to him and while he was generally regarded as well-spoken, words
failed him on this occasion. His large, bulbous eyes blinked softly as
he carefully examined the ornate gift that he had received. Tears begin
to form in the corner of his orange eyes, as he was genuinely overcome
with emotions. He staggered slightly, as he moved towards the display,
finding it a bit difficult to move. He wanted to touch it, but he felt
it was all too delicate and worried in his present state he might
somehow damage it. "Oh. Milady..." he finally said as his eyes looked
towards Htaere, a sense of profound gratitude in his words not easily
"The Tree of Wisdom will provide a challenge for your environmental
sustainment skills, as it does require constant nurturing and
supervision, but you will find it to be remarkable addition to your
collection" Htaere smiled towards him, happy that he seemed to enjoy the
gift. "I hope you will accept it on behalf of my gratitude. Between
Kerrie, Claudius and I, it seems as if one of us is always occupying one
of your cots. You have been a great friend and healer to the family.
Please accept the gift as a token of my utmost appreciation for such
meticulous and superior care of us."
Pilaq still found it difficult to explain his sense of appreciation
to Htaere, but he nevertheless knew he must give it a valiant effort. He
turned towards her, offering outstretched hands as his hands grasped at
her with deep affection. "Milady..." he began, his voice visibly shaking
and trembling, his stammering causing quite the distortion from his dual
voice boxes. "I will treat this gift with the same gentle kindness and
love that I have always shown you and those you have just spoke of..."
he informed with a deep sense of humility, unexpectedly surging forward
to wrap her in a loving embrace.
Htaere embraced the larger being in return. "My`Ahme will have it
delivered wherever you'd like, office, home, the choice is yours" she
Doctor Tohan turned his attention to the young Hapan diplomat and
shared with her the same gratitude he had just shown Htaere. "Please
have it delivered to my office..." he told her politely, not wanting it
to seem like a command. "I will appreciate its grandeur and tend to it
amongst my patients so that the horrors of this war do not overtake
me..." he said as his eyes slowly turned to Htaere, sharing a brief,
knowing look of concern.
My`Ahme accepted his gesture likewise. With the motion of her hand,
the soldiers took to redraping the sheet over the Tree to keep it
soothed during transport to the medical level. "Come, let us all rest
while your ship refuels for your journey home" Htaere suggested. My`Ahme
accepted, nodding, making necessary arrangements with her com unit.
Htaere flashed a glance to Claudius.
Claudius reached out with his hand for Htaere's, his attention
thurroughly focused on Pilaq. He had known the Ithorian for nearly
thirty years, and in all of that time he had never seen him moved in
such a way. During that time he treated his family, those close to him,
and even himself on numerous occasions. He felt shameful that in all
that time he had never made such a gesture to thank him for all that he
had done. He looked to Htaere and saw a genuine kindness in her that he
seldom saw in people as he traversed the galaxy. Similar to how she
reacted when Kerrie was injured with the stuffed bantha, he viewed this
as a yet another indication that she was a kindler, more gentler soul
than he. How he wished she could be a mother.