Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
One year before the Battle of Yavin (34:10:23) in the Malastare system: Warspite and in the Tshindral system: Gateway Space Station.
Major Kerrie Kiley, Vice Admiral Claudius Rodney, and Lady Htaere Ka`a Sha`ar.

Claudius sat 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 Alderaan.

Having spent 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 indicator.

"Hmm," 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 high-society.

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."

"Gaah," 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 himself.

Htaere did 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.

"No, no," 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 very quiet."

She ventured 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."

Claudus 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 the subject.

"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 curiously.

"Kerrie?" 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.

"Oh..." 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.

"Wait..." 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.

Htaere was 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.

Claudius' 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.

Her voice drifted forth from someplace. "Do not fret Claudius. You will be privy to the details in due time" she sang out, still out of sight.

"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 bedroom.

Htaere 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.

Claudius 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.

If people 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 called loudly.

"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.

Kerrie Kiley 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.

Htaere was 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.

Kerrie 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.

Htaere did 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.

"Shit!" 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.

Htaere barely concealed her excitement, beaming at her friend. "Oh Kerrie! You look..." Htaere fell silent, her head shaking. "What has happened to you?"

Kerrie 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.

Htaere's 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.

"No!" Kerrie 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."

Htaere 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 your time."

"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.

Htaere smiled a little. "Well, I wanted to ask you something. It is something I had to do in person."

Kerrie 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 a mystery.

Htaere again seemed a bit pale but forged on. "Well, I was thinking 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.

Kerrie tiled 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 events.

Htaere 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 for you."

Kerrie's 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.

Htaere frowned, racked with guilt. "I am sorry, I never meant to...I should not have asked" she replied shamefully.

"No," Kerrie 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 not to."

"Would the 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 ceremony.

"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 between you."

Htaere shook 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.

Kerrie was 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 meaning.

A brighter 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.

"Yes. I 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 the Admiral.

In her 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.

"As always," 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."

"You have 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 encouragingly.

Kerrie knew 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."

Htaere looked heartbroken. She nodded turning towards the door, stopping briefly to look back to Kerrie. "I await your return eagerly my friend" she smiled.

"I shall 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 sentiments.

Htaere took 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.

"Goodbye," 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 stuffed bantha.

Htaere drew 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.

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