Claudius Rodney stood outside of his estate on Esseles, nervously
pacing alongside the cliff face as he awaited his wife's departure. His
eyes turned to the chronometer uncomfortably, noting that he would be
considerably late for his return to the Warspite. He reached
down, picking up a rather large, unshapely rock and clenched it for a
moment, squinting his eyes as he hurled it off the cliff towards the
setting sun across the sea.
Htaere emerged in a golden gown with a broad strip of metallic
embroidery down the front and matching sari draped over her shoulders
and across the top of her head. Following was a house droid with her
luggage. Grey eyes caught Claudius, looking dismayed still. She smiled
as she drew upon him. "Claudius, do not fret. All will be well."
Claudius let out a sight as he forced a smile upon his face and
turned to meet Htaere. "I'm sure it will be," he said in a reassuring
tone as he walked her down the pathway to the landing platform where the
Lambda-class shuttle Kwai awaited. "Did you manage to get
everything packed all right?" he asked, making obvious small talk as he
watched the droid roll up the shuttle's ramp.
Lady Drusilla Rodney made her way out of the estate, dragging a large
dress bag awkwardly behind her. The young girl was dressed in an
ornately fashioned green and yellow dress of Coruscanti style that was
had been one of the latest trends on Holovision. It was her bribe from
her father for agreeing to go on this trip with her stepmother.
"Remember, daddy," she sneered as she made her way towards the shuttle,
"you said if I behave I get the necklace when I get back!"
Ewwiekewwieikkie bounded out of the estate, carrying a large
suitcase, of which many of the articles of clothing were seen awkwardly
hanging out of the seems of the luggage. In her other hand she carried a
large, ornate goblet which she handed towards Htaere as she moved
towards the shuttle. "You might get thirsty," she pointed out, as she
dragged the over packed case awkwardly up the ramp.
"I'm sorry that Jelena did not want to come," Claudius explained as
he watched the two other children make their way onto the shuttle to
join Doctor Tohan. "I'm sure she'll regret it..." he said, sounding
slightly displeased as he reviewed his discussion with her that morning.
"Do you have everything you need?" he asked her sweetly, leaning in to
place a soft kiss on her left cheek.
Htaere accepted Ewwie's gift graciously before looking back to
Claudius. "She is old enough to choose and that is fine. And I believe
we do. If there is anything we should require, I am certain we shall be
able to obtain such," Htaere answered. She made a bold move with a
public display of affection when she raised both hands to either side of
her older husband's face. "Claudius, I am more concerned for your
wellbeing. Please, I implore you to be careful, and take time to rest."
Claudius smiled at her, carefully looking over her facial features so
that he could make a mental image of her to carry with him whilst she is
away. "I will take rest at every opportunity," he said sincerely as he
began to walk clear of the shuttle's landing platform. "Besides. I can't
exert myself," he explained in a joking manner, "...you've got my
doctor." Once he was clear he stood there the best he could, finding
time to mouth one last "I love you" over the sound of the shuttle
A melancholy smile appeared over Htaere's lips before she mouthed
silently in reply "And I love you, always" before lifting the index and
middle fingers of her right hand to kiss her fingertips and then
offering it to him across the distance. Turning she ascended the ramp
gracefully, the sari and gown she wore fluttering about her slender
frame as the thrusters on the shuttle stirred up the air and dust around
it. Once inside, the ramp lifted, sealing Claudius from vision and
leaving the heiress to join her traveling companions.
Claudius stood there silently as he watched the Kwai lift off
from the landing platform and gracefully arc its way over the estate and
fly off over the sea towards the setting star until it gradually faded
out of sight. He lowered her slightly, feeling suddenly alone, as he
turned to wait for his shuttle to arrive to take him back to work.
Pilaq Tohan pressed his digits against one another in pensive
contemplation as he felt the shuttle exit the atmosphere. For the first
time, in a long time, he would be traveling home. "Thank you for
arranging this, Milady," he said to Htaere as he helped the children
strap into their harnesses. He then found himself strapping himself in
as he felt the shuttle accelerate in preparation of making the jump to
Seated comfortably and securely in her own crash restraint, Htaere
flashed a sideways smile to the Ithorian physician. "It is my pleasure
to do so. I am eager for this trip as well." She set Ewwie's goblet
beside her and grinned at her Squibb stepdaughter. "It was most kind of
you to think of me. I am deeply humbled by such selflessness."
"Weeeee!" Ewwiekewwieikkie squealed with delight, thrusting her arms
repeatedly in the air excitedly as she felt the shuttle accelerate into
hyperspace. "We're going on a trip!" she said to Htaere, as she looked
over to Htaere with her golden eyes, clapping in something that would
not be considered rhythm by even the most gentle of critics.
"Ugh," Drusilla groaned in pain as she tried her best to cover her
ears, having been strapped into the seat next to her adopted sister.
"Are you going to be doing that the entire trip?" she sneered, rolling
her eyes at the creature she had nothing but disdain for. "Doctor," she
said as she looked over the Ithorian who she viewed as nothing more but
one of her father's lackeys, "I command you to sedate her for the
duration of the trip!"
Htaere's focus shifted to the youngest of Claudius' children. "She is
your sister, how could you say such things? Family does not necessarily
come only by blood," she commented, recalling her own siblings and
mother. "Sometimes those we do not share blood with provide greater
family then we could ever give them credit for."
Drusilla blinked at Htaere's comments, not fully understanding all of
them. "You're not..." she started in a bratty reply, but then she
remembered her father's promise of the necklace upon her return. "Yes
... mummy," she muttered as she looked down at the deckplating, kicking
her diminutive legs back and forth against the legs of the seat to
create a little racket of her own.
Doctor Tohan's large bulbous eyes blinked repeatedly as he looked
over the scene that was unfolding he would felt the trip was unbearable
had their destination been any other than Ithor. His attention turned to
Htaere, who was seated on his side of the shuttle. "Would you like
something for your head?" he asked her, as he fumbled with the medical
kit strapped beneath his seat.
Doctor Tohan unstrapped his harness and reached up to grab his bag
from the overhead compartment. "I think I have just the thing..." he
explained to her as he allowed the bag to plop down on his now empty
seat. "Here you are, Milady," he said as he produced a datapad from the
satchel and extended it courteously on her. "This datapad contains the
full text of the Imperial archives on Ithor," he said, with a tinge of
bitterness in his voice. "Unfortunately I was unable to obtain an
Ithorian text given the current climate," he reluctantly explained as he
took his seat once again.
"Oh, thank you," Htaere eagerly began pouring through the
information, eyes devouring it keenly. "Does it explain the reason for
the 'quarantine'? Was there an outbreak of some sort?" Htaere asked
Pilaq knew it was inevitable this subject would arise at some point
during their journey, though he had hoped that it would not be this
early. He was silent for a moment as he weighed his options, ultimately
choosing to take a more discreet approach for the sake of her and her
husband. "As I am sure you are aware it was a large number of alien
worlds that seceded from the Republic during the last great war..." he
began, finding it difficult to speak the words of betrayal against his
people. "Therefore ... in the interest of security..." he continued,
finding it to become more exceedingly difficult to finish. "the Empire
has decided to seal off certain non-Human worlds."
Pulling her attention from an article regarding the Ithorians' "Law
of Life," Htaere blinked over at the physician. "You mean to protect
them from the dangerous rebels?"
"The Law of Life is one of our oldest and most sacred beliefs..."
Pilaq explained to her, feeling it was something that non-Ithorian
species could benefit from implementing. His head lowered dejectedly as
he readied his response to her last question. "Yes, Milady..." he said,
in a necessary lie. "The quarantine is in place to protect the
gentlebeings of the Empire from dangerous Rebels," he said, as he rose
from his seat and began to move to get a drink of water. He desperately
needed one at that point.
"That must be terribly inconvenient for you," Htaere frowned. "At
least your safety is the forefront of their concern. And as Imperial
citizens, we should have no trouble traversing the system," she replied
lightly. At that point, something else in the archive file piqued her
interest, instantly. "Sentient forests?" she asked aloud, bewildered by
Pilaq took a long sip of the cold water as his hand rested aside the
hull of the ship, feeling the gentle ebb and flows of the ship through
hyperspace. "Your husband has obtained all of the necessary travel
documents," he explained to her as he moved back towards his seat. "We
live in communal harmony with the Mother Jungle," he explained to her,
as best he could to an offworlder "Each plant, each flower, each tree is
alive and flowing with energy that, in its own way, speaks to us," he
continued happily as he was glad to be speaking on something more
Htaere smiled over at Pilaq ardently. "It sounds lovely. This is just
the hiatus that we need to rejuvenate our souls. And with no schedule to
be on, we are afforded as much time as we need." The Hapan youth thought
on it for a moment. "I suppose I ought not to keep you away from the
Warspite for too long. Claudius relies heavily on your care," she
chuckled a bit. The joviality was short lived though as she took on a
more taciturn tone. "I am worried about him."
Pilaq nodded his head in agreement, realizing that his friend was
indeed taking too strong of a workload lately. "He is a strong man and I
am confident in his abilities to manage the situation, Milady," he said
to her, doing his to be supportive during this difficult time. "You
should not worry yourself," he said, nodding his head several times as
he attempted to manage the situation. "When we get to Ithor it is
important you treat me as a servant in front of the Imperial
officers..." he warned her, not wanting this trip to result in any
problems for them upon their return.
Looking up from her datapad, Htaere's elegant brow furrowed. "Of
course not, that's ridiculous! Honestly..." she dismissed the notion and
Pilaq blinked nervously, fearing this might happen. His long fingers
rubbed against one another nervously as he considered best how to
proceed. "Not all Imperial officers are like your husband, Milady..." he
explained, hoping to try and persuade her to his line of reason. "For
appearances sake, I must appear as your humble servant," he continued,
shifting nervously as his level of discomfort continued to rise.
Drusilla's ears perked up as she heard the conversation, recognizing
the familiar word of 'servant'. "Well that's what you are, aren't you?"
she said in a condescending tone as she looked up from the handheld
holovid she had been occupying her thoughts with. "I, for one, shalln't
have any difficult whatsoever treating you like a servant," she
continued as her attention returned to the holovid. "If you like you may
even carry my bags," she continued as she inserted the ear bud back into
Htaere's tone took on a domineering edge, something that seldom
happened. "You will do no such thing!" she admonished the pre-teen with
a subtle warning. Looking to Pilaq, Htaere's face softened. "Do not
worry, Doctor. Claudius assured me cruelty and anger is *not* the
Imperial way after my interrogation," she reasoned. "We have nothing to
fear. This trip will be lovely. It will provide us with all the greenery
and fresh air we can take in," she assured all in the cabin.
Pilaq raised the digits of his hand to stroke at his large head,
feeling a bit of discomfort growing in his head at the prospect of
Htaere's encounter with the Imperial officials on Ithor. Nervously, he
swallowed the pain relieving medication he had drawn up for Htaere that
she declined to take. He hated for medicine to go to waste, and hoped
that it would alleviate the tension he was experiencing.
The Lambda-class shuttle Kwai emerged from hyperspace
in the Ottega system, the beautiful planet Ithor looming in the
distance. As they approached entered a holding pattern and became
flanked by several TIE fighters that began the required inspection of
every craft entering the system. The craft began to slow to a halt as
the inspections were conducted and the appropriate documents verified.
The looming presence of an Imperial I-class Star Destroyer was
visible through the viewport and the ever-present Imperial war machine
was on full display a series of shuttles and atmospheric starfighters
maneuvered all around them. After a brief pause, the shuttle continued
on its journey and descended into the atmosphere of the planet heading
towards a large, circular Ithorian herdship that hovered majestically
over the jungle canopy.
"We are here," Pilaq exclaimed happily as he felt the shuttle begin
to descend, gripping the harness firmly as the shuttle began to rattle
as the repulosorlift engines kicked in, allowing it to gracefully touch
down in the Herdship's hangar.
The landing ramp of the Kwai slowly descended, bringing the
docking bay of the Herdship into view. However, rather than the presence
of a warm greeting from the native Ithorians, a delegation of Imperial
officers flanked by the cold, sterile image of Imperial Stormtroopers
filled the hangar.
Htaere unfastened the webbing holding her in, straightened the sari
around her head and shoulders, the metallic threads glittering alongside
the ornate jewelry and simple tiara she wore. Moving to the ramp, a few
service droids in tow carrying the family's luggage, she turned to gaze
at the children. "We represent your father here. Let us carry ourselves
only as ladies, yes?" She smiled warmly towards Pilaq. "Welcome home, my
friend." With that, she glided down the ramp daintily, instantly
standing out as s beacon of majesty and sparkle amid the chorus of grey
uniforms and white armor.
Pilaq Tohan cautiously descended the ramp, disgusted by the presence
of Stormtroopers aboard his former Herdship, but he would say nothing.
His large head was lowered respectfully, avoiding eye contact with the
Imperial officers at all cost. He could smell the sweetness of the
jungle below that was being pumped through the ship's air recyclers. It
was enough pleasure on his part to tolerate the Imperial outsiders.
A tall, somewhat lanky human male wearing the white tunic of COMPNOR
stepped forward from the back and stood politely in front of Htaere.
"Lady Rodney," he nodded his head respectfully as he began, "I am
Lieutenant Rost. I would like to welcome you to Ithor and have been
instructed to afford you full diplomatic courtesy during your stay." The
man smiled at Htaere, and lowered his head to greet the Lady Drusilla as
well. He could not help but sneer as saw the hapless Ewwiekewwieikkie
dragging her suitcase down the ramp. "Oh..." he snarled, as he looked
the past the group, "I was not told you were bringing a pet."
"Our gratitude for your courtesies, Lieutenant," Htaere began, before
the comment stopped her in her tracks. She turned in confusion to see
what the officer was referencing. The thought of such a type of comment
was unthinkable enough, and even less fathomable that it should be
directed to one of the family. "I am sorry?" she asked for
"That..." Lieutenant Rost paused as he looked over the small, blue
creature slowly making its way towards them. "...thing..." he said after
a moment, not quite sure what to call it. "Is it a pet?" he asked again
as he sized up the creature. "...or is it a slave or some sorts?" he
asked as he looked over the cargo manifest in the datapad he was
Ewwiekewwieikkie was oblivious to the conversation that was
transpiring and she approached the Imperial officer with boundless
enthusiasm. Her small, fur-covered arms wrapped themselves around the
officer's right leg and she squealed in delight. "We're here!" she
shouted happily as she looked over her surroundings.
Lieutenant Rost recoiled in disgust as she shook his leg violently,
attempting to shake the parasite from his leg. "Remove yourself," he
barked down angrily as he recoiled his arm in preparation to swat at the
Doctor Tohan hurried forward as best he could, latching his arms upon
the Ewwiekewwieikkie's shoulders and guided her back before the incident
could get further out of hand. This was not starting at all like he had
Htaere refrained from a face palm, as she appreciated Ewwie's good
nature but had not thought for a second the child would latch on to
complete strangers. "Apologies, Lieutenant. Ewwie is a bit overenthusiastic
in her amiability," she began. "She is not a pet," Htaere almost
laughed, as if this were some sort of joke. "She is our adopted
daughter. I have taken ill recently, and have requested a sabbatical
with my stepdaughters and our esteemed physician," she answered casually
and yet eloquently for the man's benefit as he clearly seemed confused.
Captaim Rost's face went white when he heard her state that it
was their adopted daughter. He wondered what kind of self-respecting
Human would dare to adopt such a creature into their family. "I see..."
he said with a tinge of disgust as he brought his two hands together in
an audible clap. "Well," he continued with a nod, as he turned to begin
walking towards the hangar of the exit. "I have cleared out some of the
locals so that you might stay in relative comfort," he continued,
leading the entourage out of the hangar and through the winding
corridors of the Herdship. The life was gone from the once great ship as
a flanking squad of Stormtroopers shielded the group from the bustling
Ithorian shops and businesses that attempted to thrive under the
blockade. Silence overcame the corridors as the troopers made their way
towards the quarters that had been prepared, none of the Ithorians risk
even slightly disturbing the Imperial occupiers. "We did what we could
about the smell," the Lieutenant stated as he entered the key code to the
quarters. "You will find you get used to it after some time," he
concluded, bowing his head as he stepped away from the doorway, posting
guards in the appropriate locations.
Htaere paused to address the Lieutenant politely. "We are honored by
your diligence, Lieutenant, but I assure you, escorts are not necessary,
and un-preferred. We are here not to disrupt the locals, but rather
visit among them, and enjoy the fresh air and talent for gardening the Ithorians have mastered," she stated. "As this is Dr. Tohan's home, it
is his counsel we shall be following as to what sites to see, and I
expect his requests will be met promptly." With a subtle nod, Htaere
smiled before excusing herself and moving into the designated suites.
Lieutenant Rost did his best to maintain a pleasant smile upon his
face, mustering all of his strength to avoid a diplomat incident. The
last thing he would do, however, is seek the council of an Ithorian.
Without saying a word, he nodded his head one final time, before moving
away to leave them to their affairs.
"I have never been so embarrassed in my life," Drusilla complained as
she moved around the hastily put together quarters, looking to stake out
the most desirable bedroom. She sneered slightly, breathing in the fowl
air. "He's right you know," she said as she moved off into one of the
bed chambers, "It does smell in here!"
Doctor Tohan allowed himself to sit down on a comfortable chair,
exhaling a deep sigh. He was embarrassed by what had happened, and had
hoped that it would not cause them any difficulty during the remainder
of their stay here.
"I do not smell anything," Htaere commented as she directed one of
the service droids where to put the luggage. Seating herself on a
settee, Htaere took a moment to rest. "Let us not feel down about the
start here. We still have time to enjoy our trip. I am sure once we are
all feeling rested, the outlook will improve," she offered to the group.
"Lots of trees," Ewwiekewwieikkie stated as she placed her face
against the viewport, staring out at the endless, lush green scenery
below. Her eyes went wide as she looked on towards the horizon, seeing
nothing but green in every possible direction. "Where the buildings?"
she asked as she raised a paw to scratch at the side of her head.
Doctor Tohan smiled at her youthful ignorance and did his best to
reply. "There are no buildings on Ithor, young one," he said to her, as
his attention refocused on Htaere. "I am glad we came," he said to her
pleasantly as she looked over her surroundings. "I believe these
quarters once belonged to the Herd Leader..." he said as he considered
Htaere joined Ewwie at the viewport and admired the endless carpet of
foliage below. Her eyes flickered to Pilaq. "There are certainly quite a
few Imperials here. Seems that the rebellion has created quite the
problem for your people," she remarked. "Where is the Herd Leader now?"
"Hmm?" Pilaq responded, somewhat confused at first, before
remembering the rouse. "Oh. Yes..." he stammered, remembering his place.
"The Empire is a great help to my people," he explained as he lifted his
rather large feet off the ground onto the comfort of a nearby foot rest.
"I suspect the Herd Leader has found a suitable habitat elsewhere..." he
responded, feeling some shame at the disruption they had caused. "We
Ithorians require very little space..." he concluded, doing his best to
avoid arousing her suspicions.
Htaere lifted an eyebrow. The statement didn't seem right. "Be that
as it may," she indulged him, "It would be proper for us to pay our
respects to the Herd Leader and offer our thanks for allowing us to
"I will see if it can be arranged, Milady," he said as he rose from
his seated position and moved towards his medical bag. "It is quite
late..." he pointed out, noting that it seemed Drusilla had already
fallen asleep. He feared it might take quite some time for the other
child to settle down. "Do you wish a sleep aid?" he said, as he produced
the pill from his portable dispensary.
Htaere nodded, feeling a bit worn herself. "Yes, please. It helped
tremendously last night."
Pilaq's long fingers offered up the medication to her, as he moved
towards the viewport. His large yellow eyes widened as he looked out at
the natural beauty of his homeworld. He planned to stay up quite a
while, glad to be home amongst his herd, despite the circumstances.
"Thank you," she said turning to her own quarters. Briefly she paused
and turned to gaze at the physician. "Before I retire, is there anything
I can get for you?"
"No thank you, Milady," Pilaq replied quietly, not turning his gaze
from the viewport to look back upon her. As he saw the Ottega star begin
to set over the distant canopy a wave of peace began to flow through his
aged form. He had finally come home.
Htaere disappeared from site, retreating to her quarters to indulge
in some precious sleep, ready to start their adventures in the morning.