comfortably on a sofa in the lounge area of
his suite about the Warspite.
Something seemed different about him ... he
did not appear as tired or frazzled as he
had during his time on Brentaal. He sat
there wearing his uniform trousers and
crew-neck undershirt, his stenciled name
barely visible through years of washing. A
cup of tea sat in front of him, slightly
drunken, still warm. In his hand he held a
datapad and stylus. He seemed to be making
notes of some sort. As he continued to work
through the early hours of the evening he
whistled a happy tune from his native
some time wandering about the ship,
observing and taking in the inner workings
required to run such a monstrous craft,
Htaere stood in one of the numerous lifts,
waiting to arrive at the level where the
quarters were located. Out of place among
the myriad uniforms in her dazzling
wardrobe, she still sported a good spirit, a
pleasant enough smile on her face. Her grey
eyes flickered up to watch the level
Claudius murmured happily as he placed the
datapad down on the coffee table in front of
him. He looked around and noticed he was
currently alone. Smiling to himself, he
leaned back on the couch and kicked his
slipper-covered feet up on the coffee table
in front of him. Quite a taboo in
As the lift
doors open, Htaere stepped out, lost in
thought as she strolled the corridor towards
their accommodations. She paused long enough
to key in the code, waiting for the door to
slip momentarily into its recess before
entering, an unusual bounce to her gait. She
moved eagerly through the anteroom and into
the lounge, caught slightly off guard to
find a very relaxed Claudius there. She came
to a halt, the quirky grin she wore blooming
into a full smile. "Hello."
Claudius said as he quickly slid his legs
off the coffee table. The cup of tea slipped
from the table and onto his lops, the warm
liquid staining his pants and making things
just a tad bit uncomfortable. "Htaere!" he
said in a surprised tone as he stood up,
dripping. "I did not expect you back from
your walk so early," he confessed as he
reached for the cloth napkin to begin drying
her best to mask a grin, biting uselessly at
her lower lip. She looked away, raising a
hand to cover her mouth briefly. "Oh...I am
sorry to disturb you Claudius" she said,
offering a real effort not to grin.
Claudius said as he padded the napkin on his
thigh repeatedly, absorbing most of the tea.
"It was no disturbance," he explained to her
in a cheerful tone, attempting to reassure
her. "Truth be told I don't know what to do
myself around here," he confessed to her as
he discarded the napkin on the table, "It's
closer to him, eyes dropping for a moment to
the wet spot. "Perhaps you are finding
yourself with more spare time then you are
accustomed to, but it has done wonders for
you" she remarked, smiling. Her right hand
raised to brush at the hair near his left
temple before caressing the side of his
face. "You look very good, Claudius. Better
then I have seen you in a long time."
smiled at her, enjoying her hand's gentle
caress. Before she could pull the hand away
he leaned his face forward and placed a
gentle kiss upon her wrist. He tilted his
head to look at her slightly. "It seems
being out on the pasture may not as bad as I
had feared," he said rather pleasantly. "How
did you enjoy your tour?" he asked, changing
"It was very
nice" she affirmed. "Tell me, when will
Kerrie return? I would like to speak with
her. In person" she asked, canting her head
Claudius repeated, his face growing a bit
cold as the smile faded. He had no immediate
plans to return her from her exile, but he
was not sure how to tell her that. "That's
yet to be determined," he said truthfully,
yet holding back of the extent of his
feelings on the subject.
Htaere nodded slowly, her voice trailing
off. "Maybe I can pay her a visit then" she
idealized, thinking out loud. She offered
him a small smile before moving past him
towards the entrance to the guest quarters
where she stayed, her mind ironing out a few
things as she went.
Claudius called out towards as his body
turned to follow her movements. The thought
of Htaere visiting a dilapidated space
station at the hind end of space was not a
very appealing one. "Maybe something can be
arranged," he said as he lowered his head
and began to think about the situation.
"What is this about anyway?" he asked,
slightly confused as he raised his head back
up to look at her.
pulled from her contemplation by his voice,
turning to gaze at him, a silly grin still
stuck on her face. "Just...oh how do you say
it...'girl talk'" She answered before
pivoting on her heels and bounding off
towards her room enthusiastically.
head tilted sharply at her response. "Girl
talk?" he thought to himself, silently.
"What could they need to talk about?" he
wondered. A rather confused look formed upon
his face as he sat back down on the sofa.
"Is it important?" he asked her quietly,
nervously moving the napkin over the coffee
table to sap up some remainder of the tea.
drifted forth from someplace. "Do not fret
Claudius. You will be privy to the details
in due time" she sang out, still out of
"I do not
want you going there," Claudius explained to
her, his voice serious and echoing with
concern. "I will make the appropriate
arrangements," he said loud enough for her
to hear him. He then sighed and rose from
the sofa. He began to walk towards the
turbolift so he could travel to the bridge
and send a secure transmission to Kerrie,
but he stopped in his tracks when he
recalled the stain on his trousers. "Where
am I going?" he asked himself jokingly,
shaking his head before returning to his
appeared from around the door, the lock
mechanism holding it open. "Oh but I would
really like to surprise her. Please
Claudius. Allow me this one opportunity" she
half frowned. "I will be very careful" she
called out, her tone sincere.
stopped in his tracks and looked at her
intently. His eyes narrowed at her, his
eyebrows arching just above his nose. He was
concerned, but he did not want to disappoint
her. It was the worst possible situation he
could find himself in. "I am not going to
hear the end of this if I say 'no,' will I?"
he asked her, but he chose not to wait for
an answer. "Very well," he said to her after
some hesitation and reluctance.
could glow, Htaere would have outshined the
rainbow gem on her forehead. Her protocol
slipping momentarily as she was overcome
with gleeful hysteria before bottling the
raw emotion back up and darting back out of
view into her room. "Oh thank you!" she
"I hope I'm
not going to regret this," Claudius thought
nervously to himself as he turned on his
feet and head into his private chambers. "I
will make the arrangements," he shouted loud
enough for her to hear him.
lay on her rack silently inside the confines
of her office. By now, she was only
pretending to be asleep at nights. At least
it allowed her private time by herself to
rest in her natural Clawdite state. Her eyes
squinted at the glowing bulb that plagued
her every night. She wanted to shatter it,
but that would prevent her from getting any
work done during the day. She sighed deeply,
closing her eyes as she at least tried to
relax. She pulled the sheet over her small
body, only covered by a sports bra and a
pair of boxer shorts. The rack squeaked
ominously as she shifted, sounding as it
could give way at any moment.
nearly beside herself, amazed by simply
being out in the public hub and also the
fact that Claudius actually agreed. She sat
in the back of the Imperial shuttle, all
smiles. Her considerable wardrobe was
largely concealed with a dark cloat with
hood pulled low over her face. The craft
bumped ever so slightly as it touched down
on the tarmac.
rolled over onto her right side, in a vein,
frustrated attempt to make herself more
comfortable. The small cot again creaked
audibly, but she did not believe her weight
was substantial enough to break the
dilapidated 'bed.' A long, slow groan
escaped her lips as she reached for the
pillow. She slammed it down on top of her
head, attempting to block out the light and
the radiating sound it was making.
as she was told, following a single trooper
through the strange and putrid corridors of
Gateway Space Station. She passed a slew of
characters one would classify as scoundrels
of all sorts, keeping her eyes low despite
an overwhelming urge to gawk curiously at
the new surroundings. They traveled to even
more dreadful dark holes within the station
where the trooper stopped at a non descript
door in some dreadful hallway. Taped to the
door was an odd note, and Htaere's head
canted slightly. The trooper rapped his
armored knuckles on the door three times.
Kerrie cursed loudly as she heard the
knocking on the door. "There was never any
end do it," she thought angrily as she threw
the sheet off her body and sat up in bed.
"Just a minute," she yelled towards the door
as she slowly she mimicked into her Human
form. Instantly, she transformed from an
grey reptilian creature into a Human female
in her late twenties. Her frazzled
appearance showed more clearly on this
appearance that her natural one. The mimicry
could not hide the bags under her eyes, nor
could it take away the dejected, sunken
expression on her face. She groaned tiredly
as she rose from the bed. She extended her
arm to brace herself against the wall as she
first stood up. She then walked the short
distance to the door and opened it, too
tired to cover up for modesty. "What is it?"
she said in a disgusted tone before her eyes
focused in on the presence of Htaere.
"Oh..." she said quietly as her face
dropped, shocked and dismayed.
barely concealed her excitement, beaming at
her friend. "Oh Kerrie! You look..." Htaere
fell silent, her head shaking. "What has
happened to you?"
frowned as he heard Htaere's question. She
did not think she looked that bad, but her
own appearance was never something she put
much effort into. "I am sorry, Milady," she
said as the shock had woken up her
completely. "Please, would you like to come
in and sit..." her voice trailed off as her
eyes drifted towards the "Commander Big
Butt" sign on her door. She clenched her jaw
angrily and reached for the sign, ripping it
off in a fury. She crumpled it up and
sighed, tossing it in the corner.
face bleached for a moment and she actually
looked afraid. "Um...if this is a bad time,
I can come back later..." she said, an
obvious waver in her voice.
said quickly, afraid she had caused further
offense. "It's a perfect time," she
explained a bit nervously. "You have
traveled all this way ... it would be rude
of me to make you wait," she said,
apologizing and practically cowering before
her. She took several steps away from the
door to allow her room to enter. "Please,"
she said eagerly motioning towards the chair
at her desk, "Sit down."
smiled nervously before taking up the
major's offer and slipping inside. She did
her best not to look reviled by the hellish
conditions. Instead she shivered
unconsciously and offered up a smile. "I
came because I wanted to talk to you in
person. I promise I shall not occupy much of
"My time is
yours as always, Milady," Kerrie said to her
obediently. She looked over her should to
look at her bunk before gently sitting
herself back down upon it. "Please," she
continued awkwardly, "What is it you wish to
speak about?" Her eyes darted across the
office ... ashamed of the mess of things.
smiled a little. "Well, I wanted to ask you
something. It is something I had to do in
looked a bit confused, not sure what
question could have driven Htaere all the
way here to ask. "Please feel free to ask,
Milady," she said eagerly, never one to like
seemed a bit pale but forged on. "Well, I
was thinking and...you do not have to do
this if you do not want to...but...I...I was
wondering if would consider standing as
my...uh...maid...of honor" it was a
tremendous effort on her part to throw out,
overwhelming even her highly dignified
protocols. She waited nearly in baited
breath, biting at her lower lip anxiously.
her head to the right sharply, confused and
not understanding why Htaere would ask her
of all people, For a moment, she wondered if
she playing some sort of cruel joke upon
her, but soon decided it was not something
Htaere would do. "Me, Milady?" she said,
still not understanding. "Surely there is
someone of greater stature and
importance..." she said, feeling poorly
about herself, especially in light of recent
exhaled but retained a hopeful look about
her. "You are the closest friend I have" she
admitted honestly. "You are the only person
who is truly honest with me, for even
Claudius is not all the time and I know
this. I trust you very much so" she
continued, nervously waiting and ready to
accept whatever the answer was. "I would die
mouth went agape at what Htaere had just
told her. She was completely taken back by
this and began to tremble. Despite her best
efforts she was just too tired to fight off
the urge. Very slowly tears began to flow
from her eyes and stream down her cheeks.
She sniffled uncomfortably as she raised her
hands to her face to wipe away the tears. "I
am sorry, Maladay," she said, embarrassed at
the very public display she was making.
frowned, racked with guilt. "I am sorry, I
never meant to...I should not have asked"
she replied shamefully.
said as she sniffled loudly, trying to get
some composure. "It is I that should be
sorry," she said, referring to her outburst,
"I just did not realize you felt that way
... it caught me off guard." Wiping away the
tears she smiled at Htaere, trying to
alleviate her concerns. "I never knew you
felt that way," she said quietly, the
surprise still not fading.
"You are the
only other person besides Claudius who is
kind to me. Even his children are not as
benevolent and tolerant of me as you are"
Htaere shrugged. "I understand if you choose
Admiral even allow it?" Kerrie asked meekly.
She realized that the Admiral was very
displeased with her and doubted he would
even permit her participation in the
"It is not
his choice. It is *my* choice. Your
professional relationship is completely
discarded in this capacity" Htaere insisted.
"It is my
duty to serve, Milady," Kerrie said in an
obedient tone as she bowed her head to her.
She raised her head and her facial
expression became slightly more serious.
"But," she began quietly, "If the Admiral
has any concerns or misgivings I must
decline. I do not wish to create a rift
her head. "No, you are missing the point"
she said sadly. "I want you to do this
because *you* want to, not because you feel
obligated to, bound by your duty." Visibly,
Htaere looked defeated. "This is about our
friendship." She waved a hand to encompass
the hell hole Kerrie lived in. "This can all
evaporate. What we are has no bearing
whatsoever in this. I am offering you a
choice" Htaere replied.
not one used to having choices. Almost her
entire life she had been subjugated or bound
to some form of duty or service. She looked
confused, her mind wandering over the
dilemma. "Then I choose to," Kerrie said
slowly, hoping she had not missed Htaere's
smile appeared on Htaere's face. "So you
will then? You will stand?" she asked,
hoping to clarify in the event she had read
more into something then was intended.
would be honored to, Milady," Kerrie said
and smiled back towards her. Privately, she
was concerned that the Admiral would be
disappointed, but at this moment in time she
was more concerned with Htaere than she was
excitement, Htaere nearly bounced in place.
"Oh thank you! I am so very happy that you
have accepted. I promise I will leave you to
rest" she managed, collecting herself as
best she could.
Kerrie said as she raised herself from her
tattered buck and proceeded towards Htaere,
"You honor me with your presence." She
lowered her head slightly, "I only wish I
had more hospitality to offer you."
exceeded the standard of hospitality" Htaere
answered gratefully. Htaere glanced about,
her smile waning into unhappiness. "I am
disheartened to know that this was your
sentence. Surely Claudius should be made
aware of how horrible it is here" she said
that the Admiral was more than aware of the
situation here. In fact, she was positive
that's why he had chosen it for her, but she
would not share that with Htaere. "That will
not be necessary, Milady," she said
politely, "This is what is assigned to me
and I must make the most of it."
looked heartbroken. She nodded turning
towards the door, stopping briefly to look
back to Kerrie. "I await your return eagerly
my friend" she smiled.
return as soon as ordered..." Kerrie paused
at the friend comment. Her heart was
breaking on the inside, but she could not
bare to let Htaere see that again.
"...friend," she concluded, echoing her
the chance to offer Kerrie one more genuine
smile. "Good bye" she mouthed the words as
the single trooper took up his position in
front of her to return her to the shuttle.
Kerrie mounted to Htaere, so quiet she
doubted it could be heard. As the door
closed between them, she dejectedly retired
towards her bunk. She plopped down,
exhausted, but knew she would not be able to
get any sleep. She rolled her eyes
sarcastically at the light glowing above her
head. "Ugh," she groaned as she lay down in
the bed and wrapped her arm around her
her hood down low on her face again,
following behind the trooper, eyes trailing
the filthy environment. She felt great and
at the same time, sick to her stomach.
Instead, she focused on simply getting back
to the Warspite.