Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:8:30) in the Essesia system: Kwai and Warspite.
Flight Lieutenant Haven Anson, Major Kerrie Kiley, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, and Countess Htaere Rodney.

The Lambda-class shuttle Kwai emerged from hyperspace in the Essesia system, having returned from a trip to retrieve the governor's wife from her home planet of Gallinore. Much had occurred in the time she had been away and Lieutenant Haven Anson, the shuttle's young pilot, had been under strict orders not to reveal any of what had transpired. Through the viewport of the shuttle an increased number of Imperial warships could be seen from when she left, and almost immediately upon entering the system they were intercepted by a flight of TIE fighters. Esseles was now under Imperial blockade. As Haven nonchalantly transmitted their clearance code, the Kwai began priority landing aboard the Warspite, the Grand Moff's command ship. "I'll have you aboard in no time, Milady," she reported dutifully, as her hands competently worked the controls. She wanted to be out there flying one of the TIEs, but her father had forbade it, as the life expectancy of a rookie TIE pilot was quite low given the increased Rebel starfighter attacks.

From within the shuttle, Htaere's stormy grey eyes narrowed slightly in keen study of the alarming number of battleships in the system. It was too much to hope that in her time away things had settled. It had seemed they were worse, if anything. Hearing the pilot, she fixed her face briefly before look back out towards the viewport. "Thank you, Lieutenant." A deep dread winked to life in her gut much like an ember gaining in strength to yield a fire. "Is there a problem here? So many ships..."

Haven cringed inside the black Imperial uniform she wore the moment Htaere questioned her, knowing that she was not authorized to answer the question. She swallowed nervously, her petite neck bulging against the raised collar of her tunic. Her free left hand moved to the blonde locks that spilled out from beneath her cover, twirling it nervously, before replying. "I ... I really can't say, Milady," she said, uncomfortably, unwilling to turn her head to look at the young noblewoman. Mercifully the shuttle soon found itself entering the Warspite's expansive hangar bay, which too saw an increased presence, as technicians readies to keep starfighters on patrol constantly, and Stormtroopers were posted at every access point. The lackadaisical behavior that existed before was nonexistent ... this vessel was on alert.

As the shuttle descended, Major Kerrie Kiley marched dutifully across the flight deck to meet it. The Clawdite had suffered mightily in the time that Htaere had been away, and she had very nearly lost her life at the hand's of Jelena. It would be a grim task to inform Htaere about what had happened, and while she viewed the Grand Moff as something of a coward for instructing her to do it, she somehow felt that she could do a better job than him anyway and that somehow relieved her. As she stood at attention in front of the lowering shuttle ramp, she placed both of her hands behind her back and waited patiently for Htaere to descend. There was a part of her that wanted to surge forward and hug her, but the Stormtroopers were watching, and she had a reputation to protect.

Collecting herself, Htaere adjusted the elegant sari around her and waited for the ramp to descend. When it touched down, she floated elegantly down the ramp, eyes lighting up instantly upon seeing Kerrie. Despite all protocol, she considered Kerrie a dear friend and did not care what anyone else thought. "Kerrie!" Htaere did not hesitate to give the major a warm embrace. "I am so pleased to see you again. I have missed you, my friend."

Htaere went along as jovially as possible considering the increase in military presence most obviously around the Warspite as well. "Has something happened?" she asked quietly, her accent thick yet always pleasing to the ear. "So many ships in system, and all the security here," she motioned vaguely around them. "Is everyone alright?"

All Kerrie could do was nervously clear her throat in response to Htaere's questions, and her gloved hands began to intermingle as she nervously fumbled about. As they entered the turbolift that would ascend from the hangar deck up to their quarters, she abruptly brought the lift to a halt on the deck where the garden had been constructed for Htaere. She felt it to be a far more appropriate venue, and as she stepped off the lift, she turned and looked towards the Stormtroopers that had been assigned to them. "Dismissed," she ordered, but they were hesitant to move as they had received their orders from the Grand Moff himself. "I said, dismissed!" she barked, focusing her anger over the situation on the two underlings, who upon hearing that quickly moved outside the garden to wait for them to finish.

Htaere blinked at Kerrie's assertiveness, rather surprised by such a domineering side she'd never seen prior. Pulling her gaze from the major to the garden, she appeared even more surprised. Bypassing any trip to Tohan, or Claudius, Htaere could not imagine what they were doing here. "Should I not need to unpack, or see Claudius? What is happening?"

Kerrie brought both of her hands up to her face, fingers intertwined with one another, as she lowered her head into them in distress. "Milady," she began, the words finding themselves difficult to speak, so much so that she was now trembling. "You ... you should sit down," she said, before breaking completely, and turning from her presence, cowardly. She understood now why the Grand Moff has put this upon her ... why he could not bring himself to do it. Maybe Doctor Tohan should have been the one ... he somehow always knew what to say ... what to do. As she turned, she saw Htaere's guarlara and moved towards it as an excuse, taking it first by the reign and then rubbing the side of it's head gently. "I took care of it for you..." she said, changing the subject, as she waited for Htaere to ready herself.

Htaere pursed her lips briefly before letting a sigh soften her expression. "Thank you," she acknowledged before taking a seat.

Kerrie reached her head to the top of her head, and pulled the black uniform hat from her head, nearly crushing it in her hands as she nervously encircled her fingers around it. "While you were away certain events have transpired," she began, swallowing so deeply that she threatened to suck down her tongue. "Jelena," she continued, finding it hard to say the name. There was painful association connected to it, and she wondered if she had even spoke it aloud since the young girl left. "Jelena betrayed us," she revealed, lowering her head, until her chin was practically touching her chest.

"Betrayed us?" Htaere repeated slowly. She turned her thoughts to the last conversation she'd had with Jelena. The realization dawning over her, she lifted her gaze towards Kerrie. "She defected," she continued quietly, her remark somewhere between a question and a statement. "She has joined the rebellion, yes?"

Kerrie silently nodded her head in a defeatist attitude, a small tear forming in her left eye and running down her cheek. "I caught her stealing data..." she began, as she slowly moved towards Htaere. Normally she would not allow herself to get this close and violate her personal space, but she, too, needed to sit down. "She shot me. I very nearly died..." she continued, her voice filled with stress as she replayed the events of that day inside of her head ... they would live with her forever. "She broadcast a treasonous message on the HoloNet condemning her father, and stole a ship to escape. We're searching for her now on the surface," she concluded, exhaling a sharp breath, as the burden of holding it all in had been lifted from her shoulders, and almost instantly she could once again breath.

Surprisingly Htaere took in the report with suppressed reaction. She should have read the signs. She should of anticipated this move of Jelena's. "She shot you?" Htaere clarified the one thing that really hit her.

Kerrie hesitated for a moment, her body trembling next to Htaere's, as the trauma of what had happened was still fresh with her. "Yes," was all she could say, unable to look Htaere directly in the eyes. "There's more..." she continued, swallowing deeply as she finally raised her head. "The Grand Moff..." she began, unable to speak his name in light of all that transpired. "He has gone mad with grief. He has withdrawn. He has been drinking again..." she said, speaking in rapid succession as she stumbled over the words to bring her up to speed. "He has blockaded the planet below where she fled ... hoping to contain her," she explained, noting that Htaere might not fully understand the military terms she was using, and considered how best to explain it to her. "No ships have been able to get to or from the surface. The planet's economy is in ruins and there's threat of an all out revolt. If that happens ... then your husband will be in grave trouble with the Emperor. But ... but he cannot see the error of his ways anymore," she said, betraying his confidence, and sharing her opinion of the tactical situation to the one person she could truly trust aboard the ship.

Htaere's insides felt like a black hole, suffocating in the pull. Her mind turned the facts over in light-speed analysis. It was an overload of catastrophe and chaos but there was no time to grieve. With a clairvoyance and calm that was it of character, Htaere put a hand on Kerrie's shoulder and gave a delicate squeeze. "I am so sorry, Kerrie. Jelena has been struggling to find herself for a long time. I am sorry I was not here for you, but I am glad that you survived your ordeal." She offered a smile that belied any worry. "Everything will be OK. I am here now."

The squeeze was much needed and helped to bolster her confidence at the moment just when she most likely to break. "There is some good news!" she exclaimed, the color returning to her cheeks, as she offered a small smile to Htaere. "I was finally able to dispose of that vile witch, Arden Zevrin," she boasted proudly, having relished the opportunity to throw her into her bank of monitors and electrocute her. She was not sure how Htaere would react, as the name was sure to bring her mixed emotions.

Uncharacteristically Htaere laughed out loud before she could restrain herself. Quickly her hands covered her mouth at such an indiscretion, straightening up though a twinkle of amusement remained in her features. "I apologize," she corrected before whispering "but not really." She was drawn into contemplation for a second. "I hated her intently but you know this." Her eyes dropped to her hands where she fiddled uncomfortably. "Her false accusations led to my torture, and that caused the death of my unborn child." She smiled over at Kerrie and leaned against her affectionately in a nudge. "It is improper to admit that I am almost ... happy to hear of your justice. You are a wonderful friend."

A cold chill ran down Kerrie's spine as she listened to Htaere recount the events that leaded up to her miscarriage. Failing to protect Htaere from the ISB brought tremendous shame upon her, and in becoming overwrought her concentration broke and she briefly shifted back into her natural Clawdite state. For only a moment her pleasant human exterior failed her, and the cold, gray reptilian-like face showed through. Her eyes almost immediately closed, and with a slight breath of concentration she became the Major Kiley they all had accustomed themselves to. "We will be moving soon," she said, almost as an afterthought, in a desperate attempt to change the subject.

"Oh? To where?" Htaere's brow lifted.

"The Governor will be receiving a new command ship," Kerrie explained to Htaere, never being one to understand naval matters. Despite her service to the man, which was almost entirely spent aboard this vessel, she had never quite accustomed herself to how cold it felt aboard. Faced with the prospect of moving to a new, larger ship did not meet her with any great enthusiasm, but she did believe it would make it easier to protect the remaining members of the family. "How was your trip?" she asked, turning her head slightly to look at Htaere with her carefully mimicked human eyes.

"A new ship?" Htaere's pensive gaze dropped to some array of plant life nearby before returning to Kerrie's face. "It least partially." She redirected the conversation. "How can this be if he is in jeopardy of reprimand with the Emperor in regards to the events taking place here?"

"He traveled personally to Kuat to secure delivery of the ship with the Inquisitor," Kerrie explained, as she considered what was appropriate to share, and what was best to left unsaid. "The Inquisitor ... forced ... Kuat of Kuat to turn one of the new ships over to the Governor. Jelena used their absence to execute her escape..." she continued, nodding her head repeatedly as she spoke. "He has been all consumed ever since. The Emperor does not yet know the situation on Esseles. With the blockade no news leaves the system, but if the planet does descend into revolt..." she stopped short, frowning at the prospect, and biting at her lower lip before considering what to say next. "He wants Jelena back, and is willing to do anything, no matter how destructive it might be. His commanders have told him. He does not listen..." she sighed, in frustration, more at herself than the situation, as she was dragging the drama of conferences into her personal conversations with Htaere. This was not what she had intended.

"Claudius is quite stubborn," Htaere nodded absently. Gears turned slowly in her mind before her head turned slowly to take in Kerrie in a measured gaze. "The Empire has caused so much trouble in so many of your lives, and yet, you all remain fiercely loyal." She chewed at a lip idly. "I wonder when the time might come that such loyalty no longer holds weight." With a deep exhale, she nodded once more. "Is there anything else that I should know? This is private. I shall disclose nothing of course. Is there anything else that you should tell me?"

"My loyalty is to the Governor," Kerrie said, matter-of-factly, feeling quite certain of her duty to the man. It was a complicated relationship, and he had not always treated her well, but through service to him, and his family, she had found a purpose in life other than sitting in cantinas getting drunk while waiting for the next target of opportunity. "I do not wish to burden you with so much, so soon, Milady," she said with trepidation, her voice trembling slightly before continuing. "There have been urgent messages from Delaya. There is a food crisis. Most of their food came from Alderaan, and many of the Alderaanians who were off world when it was destroyed are arriving on Delaya as it is now the closest thing they have to a home. The Empire will not send food for ... obvious reason," she said with some awkwardness, nearly tripping over the words as she spoke. "And the Governor is too concerned with Jelena to even bother reading the messages," she informed her grimly, as she began to empathize with the young woman returning to such a calamity.

Since her interrogation and torture, there existed a darkness in Htaere, a look to her eye that had not been prior. Since the ordeals of her thus-far short marriage into the Empire, a harshness began to grow, a firmness edging out the softness, relentless trials-by-fire feeding an ember, an ember of skepticism, of doubt...of anger. "Kerrie, I find I am growing weary of being the doormat of these games and intrigues," she replied, getting to her feet. "I have learned that I cannot possibly keep pace in this world you live in as I am. I cannot survive amongst you being complacent and silent." She looked down at Kerrie over her shoulder. "You help to forge me. I cannot return to this world of war and politics without weapons to prevent my own extinction here. Now is as good a time as ever to lay all of the cards out on the table." She adjusted the colorful sari around her frame. "Where is Claudius?"

Kerrie had never seen Htaere behave in such a manner, and it was only then that she realized how she had grown since the time she arrived as a naive bride last year. A sene of dread began to grow in the pit of her stomach, and it soon found itself flowing throughout her body. As she rose from the bench, shw slowly turned to make strong eye contact with the Hapan. "Clau...your husband is in his office, Milady," she dutifully reported to her friend, knowing that he had asked not to be disturbed, and fearing for what the suddenness of their meeting with all this information might bring.

Htaere had known Kerrie long enough to read apprehension in her. Resting a hand on her shoulder, she smiled. "Relax. I am not one of Claudius' underlings. He does not hold power over me as he does those in his command." She moved towards the door, offering a quick grin over her shoulder again. "Besides, surely a wife is able to see her husband after a long time away."

As Kerrie listened to Htaere she did her best to kneed the wrinkles out of her uniform cover, before placing it back upon her head to make herself look more presentable in front of her superior. As they stepped out of the garden the two Stormtroopers were still on duty and began following them as they moved towards the lift. "I am sure the Governor would be most pleased to see you, Milady," she said, being dishonest for the sake of appearances in front of the Stormtroopers. She did not agree with what Htaere had just said, but she did not feel it was her place to disagree with her. As they entered the lift it felt like it was the slowest ride they had ever been. Eventually they arrived at the command level, which now boasted impressive Storm Commandos on guard, and there was a presence of Imperial officers bustling about and mouse droids scurrying about the floor.

Htaere noted them all but paid them no mind. She knew the halls of the Warspite well enough to direct herself to the office, heedless if any of them followed her or not. Without a split second of hesitation, she strode straight up to the door and pushed the button to open it.

"I said no interruptions!" Claudius Rodney yelled angrily, as he loomed over the large viewport that dominated the far bulkhead of his office. His eyes were piercing down at the planet Esseles, watching intently as the Imperial vessels surrounded the planet, stopping any vessel foolish enough to leave or arrive at the planet. The other bulkhead features a readout of the tactical situation, detailing all of the ships, with hourly reports from the ground teams searching the planet. There were a stack of datapads on his desk, all carrying important messages from the other systems in his command, and his home planet of Delaya, which had gone largely ignored. He did not even bother to turn to face who had entered, keeping his back to them at all times. His hands grabbed at the frame of the viewport so tightly that his knuckles had turned white. She was down there ... somewhere.

Htaere had seen her husband's temper enough times that it too hardly phased her. She moved towards his desk, halting at the point where her angelic reflection appeared in the viewport along side where Claudius hovered angrily, reminiscent of their first meeting. "Well I am trying out this new thing called disobedience and I have found I rather like it," Htaere answered. She folded her hands in front of her and smiled pleasantly as she waited.

Claudius froze when he saw Htaere's reflection in the viewport, and for a brief moment he regained himself, as a smile involuntarily crept upon his stern lips. He turned suddenly and with a motion of his hand the door was sealed behind them, seperating Kerrie and the other officers from them. "Disobedience?" he said slowly, the words sounding strange as they escaped his lips ... particularly in regards to Htaere. "I did not realize you had returned. I left orders for them to tell me when you had arrived," he informed her, looking slightly confused by this omission. In fact they had told him, but the report was just one of many he had not bothered to review this day. If it did not involve Jelena he simply pushed it aside, or even discarded it.

"Indeed. They told me you were not to be disturbed," Htaere answered matter-of-factly. "I chose to come in anyway." Htaere took momentary survey of him from head to toe. "Hello my love. I have missed you." Without permission she glided towards him and slipped her arms tightly around him.

That warm, kind touch was something he had not felt for a long time ... so much in fact that it almost felt foreign to him. "Those orders were never meant to include you," Claudius said, bringing his arms up around her awkwardly, before embracing her as best he could given his mental distance. "I-I have missed you also," he said, stammering, as he tried to remember just how long she had been gone. Everything had been such a blur and the days had begun to blend into one another as he had kept himself isolated ... working ... brooding. He had not even spent time with his two remaining children. "Did you enjoy your trip?" he asked, as matter of formality, and as he drew her in closer, he inhaled her scent, finding some familiarity in it that soothed him and brought him back to a place mentally he had not been in so long.

Htaere risked a chuckle. "I did, as much as one can when one spends a long period of time around one's parents." She noted he smelled a bit stale yet nuzzled him anyway. "By the looks of things, you have been kept busy." She ventured a gaze up towards his wary-looking face. "Take a break? Come back with me to the estate? A have a magnificent soup recipe from home that is most good for the soul." She reached up to stroke the side of his face in genuine concern. "Come back with me. Let us spend an evening resting and talking, yes?"

When Htaere said the word 'parent' a sharp sensation of pain struck him, that caused him to briefly grit his teeth. He was nearly overcome with grief as that one word had served to take him out of the moment. He wobbled noticably, and his knees threatened to buckle beneath him. "Soup?" he repeated, now sounding if he was somewhere else ... somewhere distant. He staggered, before turning from her, and lowering his head in defeat. He brought his right hand up to his temple quickly, and pressed down in an attempt to relieve the pain that was contained somewhere deep inside.

"Claudius..." Htaere put a hand on his shoulder. "Come with me. We could both use the rest." She ventured to touch the side of his forehead with the backs of her fingers in search of any fever. "I shall have Doctor Tohan meet us there. Come with me."

Claudius began to follow Htaere instinctively, and when the door from his office opened into the external offices that proceeded it he had to bring his hand to shield his eyes from the added light. He squinted at first, blinking hurriedly to try and adjust, as he had kept his office dimly lit during the time he was holed up in there. All of the officers stopped their work and paused to look at the man, whom they had not seen in some time, and were shocked that the Hapan, whom they often dismissed, had managed to coax him out and back to reality.

Evaluating the situation, Htaere ushered Claudius back in the room and towards a seating area. "Wait here and rest while I take care of everything," she assured him. Re-emerging at the door, Htaere's grey piercing eyes spanned the area for Kerrie. "Major Kiley," she stated rather sternly. Drawing alongside Kerrie, her tone became that of a whisper. "Dismiss these people immediately. Tell them they may resume their posts tomorrow. Have Randi prep the shuttle for immediate departure to the estate and have Pilaq meet us there. Inform me when this accomplished, please." With that, she withdrew to Cladius' office and closed the door once more.

For several minutes, Htaere moved about before appearing alongside Claudius with a cup of tea. "Claudius, here is some nice warm tea while we are waiting for your shuttle. It will help." She extended the cup and saucer towards him delicately. "*She* can be found, but not today. Today, rest, and I shall take care of it."

Kerrie's face lost much of its color when Htaere began issuing orders as if she were an Imperial commander. She had never seen this side of her before, and frankly she did believe she had it in her. It took her a moment before she realized what was going on, and she blinked suddenly, as if to flip a switch. "Clear the room!" she ordered to the officers and troopers that were on duty, and gradually they began to flee the scene, until not even a mouse droid was left. She looked to Htaere, then briefly to the Governor, and then back to Htaere before leaving to go and find Randi to get the shuttle ready for departure.

Claudius was barely aware of what has happening with Htaere and his officers, as he maneuvered back into his office and took a seat on one of the upholstered seats where he often took more casual meetings. When she handed him the cup of tea the trembling of his hand caused some of it to spill over the rim of the cup and onto the saucer below. Gradually he sipped at it, as he listened to Htaere's reassuring words that combined with the tea to warm him. "She's out there. Frightened and alone. It's my fault ... my fault," he said, sipping at the tea once again.

"The Jelena that was developing was not the frightened child, but a decisive young woman," Htaere commented lightly. "There *may* be a way to find out how she is doing," she offered gently, not wanting to get hopes up. "But there are no guarantees." Htaere turned things over in her mind. "What is is that you plan to do with her once you find her? You will be obligated to turn her over for treason. You know this. And you also know they will do to her what they did to me, if not worse." The young Hapan noblewoman regarded her older husband intently. "The Empire has cost us one child. Will you allow them to take another?"

Claudius began to neurotically rock back and forth as he listened to Htaere speak, taking a final sip of the tea, before slowly placing it down on the table in front of him. "If the ISB should capture her than I fear for what would happen..." he said, looking up at her with cold, brown eyes, a sense of hurt and helplessness emanating from deep within. "If I find her I can use my power to protect her. I do not believe she did this of her own volition. They must have brainwashed her ... or being controlling her somehow..." he speculated, rambling like a madman, as he desperately searched for any explanation to justify away his daughter's treasonous actions.

"The way it protected me?" Htaere asked plainly. She leaned back a bit and gave his leg a pat. "Do not worry of such things at this moment. At the very least, we may be able to ascertain her state of health. For tonight, you must rest." And with that, she stood and returned to the door waiting for Kerrie.

Claudius' body tensed when she said that, and for several moments he was unable to move, not even to breath. She was right of course, and after holding his breath a long, deep sigh escaped his lips and he leaned back, sinking deep into the sofa on which he rested. On paper he was now one of the most powerful beings in the Empire, but in reality he could not even manage his own family or even himself. He had never been able to balance his career with his family life, and now it had all caught up with him and he was in the midst of paying the ultimate price.

It was then that the door to the office once again opened, revealing the presence of the returning Major Kiley. Her cheeks were flushed red, and she was breathing heavily, nearly panting, as she had ran all the way back from the hangar bay and the medical suite. She raised a gloved hand to the frame of the door to support herself, while she took several deep breaths to catch herself. "Ra-Randi has-has the shuttle ready, Milady," she explained, before pulling off her cap to fan herself slightly, increasing the flow of oxygen to her.

"Thank you, Major," Htaere's voice could be heard, before she flashed a quick glance to Claudius before stepping out of the room and letting the door close behind her. She leaned very close to Kerrie and whispered. "Kerrie, do you recall the Hapan rebel you apprehended some months back operating in this system?"

Kerrie shifted about nervously at Htaere's questioning, having tried her best to cover up that juicy bit of information. The fact that she did not eliminate that Rebel was likely the reason that Jelena had been able to defect. Maybe if she had been able to stop Rebel than none of this would have ever happened. Her eyes darted from left to right as she considered whether or not she should answer that question. "Yes. Yes I do remember her..." she muttered bitterly, wondering just what Htaere was getting at.

"Claudius is not of clairvoyant thinking, Kerrie. I need your help desperately. Do you recall any of your bounty hunting skills and tricks?"

"One does not forget," Kerrie repeatedly simply enough, as she tilted her head to look up at the Hapan. "What help do you need?" she asked slowly, as she dreaded the answer that was to come. She swallowed uncomfortably, and moved a gloved finger to her collar in an attempt to stretch it, and give her a momentarily increase in the amount of air she was able to breath in.

"If at all possible, I should like for you to arrange a meeting with this Hapan and I. I trust you can accomplish this utilizing those very appropriate skills to ensure the absolute secrecy of this request. No one must be able to track your communications, or whatever meeting spot we might be able to arrange," Htaere began to explain. "Claudius is overwhelmed with concern for Jelena and believes she has been manipulated into service of the rebellion," she continued. "I do not share his opinion, however, we may perhaps be able to at the very least, alleviate his concern about her well-being. Perhaps this Hapan knows where Jelena is and how she fares. I cannot promise she will return to us, but if I can at least grant Claudius the peace of mind knowing she is well, then I shall pursue such if possible." Htaere regarded the Clawdite major very carefully. "Kerrie I am placing in you the most irrevocable act of trust, higher than that I would place in Claudius at this point. Not because I believe he would betray my activities to the Empire, but because I believe they scrutinize all." She was quiet for a moment. "I do not wish to have to take sides in this war that is not mine. I only wish to preserve what family I have."

Kerrie could not believe what she was hearing come from Htaere's mouth, and she turned, looking for a place to sit as the room began to spin. She continued to listen to what she was asking of her, and she soon found herself looking up at the ceiling rather than Htaere. "What you're asking..." she began, her voice heavy, as she considered the further danger it could bring to all of them. What Htaere was asking for was nothing short of treason. "I-I will do it," she said, almost immediately regretting it after she spoke the words, but she could not bring herself to not do what she asked. "I hope you know what you're doing, Milady," she said, finally looking up at her, before rising up from the chair and moving towards her. As she arrived in front of Htaere, she extended her arms around her, and began a warm, tight embrace. "The shuttle is waiting for you both," she said, before breaking the hug, and starting to back away from her one true friend.

Taken aback, Htaere warmed to Kerrie's embrace in reciprocation. "I have returned to a family and a home in ruin, to people gone, to people recovering, to innocence lost. In truth, I hope Jelena never returns. I know what awaits her in the interrogation rooms. I hope she flees and lives her life. In truth," she began, confessing quietly, "I do not know what I am doing. But I do not know what else to do." With that she withdrew to collect a disheveled Claudius.

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