Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
One year before the Battle of Yavin (34:10:11)  in the Essessa system: Esseles (New Calamar: Claudius Rodney's estate).
Major Kerrie Kiley and Lady Htaere Ka`a Sha`ar.

Htaere sat on a small stool near the open balcony of her room where she watched the world within the estate walls as well as the world beyond. She sat straight as a pin, her posture painfully perfect as usual. One of the servants worked diligently on her hair, melding it some big extravagant style. Htaere remained motionless to facilitate the task, her hands folded in her lap. About here chambers were various potted plants and small table top fountains. The sound of the water trickling was soothing to her, nourishing to her soul and calming her demeanor. Grey eyes were fixed on the colors and sounds of nature, amid the garden and the surrounding landscaping.

Kerrie Kiley's brisk stroll through the Rodney Estate came to a sudden halt as she reached the entrance to Htaere's bed chamber. She froze in her tracks and shook lightly. She closed her eyes and wondered whether or not she was doing the right thing. She had made the mistake of pushing too hard before and wondered if she was doing the same thing now. She swallowed nervously and crossed the spacious bedroom and headed towards the entrance to the dressing room. As she prepared to enter, she did something unusual for her ... she took the uniform cap off her head and crushed it in her hand nervously. She wasn't feeling very formal, and had hoped to speak off the record. She did not speak first, but quietly cleared her throat to alert Htaere to her arrival.

Both Htaere and her attendant turned. Immediately, the attendant returned to Htaere's hair. Htaere's herself smiled and motioned Kerrie in. "Kerrie..." she began. "Please, come in."

Kerrie moved her hands behind her back as she stepped forward, hiding the nervous reaction she had involving the cap. She walked forward slowly, coming to a stop several feet from her. "I'm sorry for the intrusion, Milady," she began to explain. She closed her mouth and tightened her jaw, the stress of the situation unbearable.

"It is no intrusion" Htaere replied, eyeing the major. "What is the matter?" As the servant finished and withdrew, Htaere shifted on her stool completely to face the major, providing her with undivided attention.

"I've been thinking about the situation, Milady," Kerrie explained, her voice very low and subdued. "I was wondering whether ot not you find me..." she paused noticeably, almost unable to speak the word, "...inadequate?" She swallowed, bracing herself for the worst possible response.

"Inadequate?" Htaere looked bewildered. "I do not understand. I have yet to encounter a capacity in which you are inadequate" she replied. "Why do you ask this?"

A sense of relief came over her as she heard Htaere's response. A smile cracked upon her lips for a moment before she caught herself. "I was a bit concerned by the arrival of another bodyguard," she explained, revealing her own self-doubt.

"Kerrie..." Htaere chided, canting her head slightly. "I did not send for Ishamael. I would not have done such a thing. I don't feel it necessary nor have I ever questioned your abilities." She motioned to any numbers of chairs and furniture in the seating area. "Please, sit."

Kerrie nodded politely and moved towards one of the chairs. She sat down slowly, crossing her right leg over the left. She then folded her hands, crushed cap included, on top of her lap. She smiled politely to Htaere before continuing the conversation. "I guess your mother does not agree with you," she said in a nervous attempt at humor.

Htaere's pleasant smile half melted to a noticeable look of discontent. "My mother is quite opinionated about a great many things. It is near impossible to alter to mind. Until I find a way to get rid of Ishamael, I will do my best to keep him out of your hair" Htaere nodded firmly.

Kerrie raised her left hand above her head, running her gloved hand across her short, tightly braided hair. "I sometimes forget I have this stuff," she explained to Htaere, making reference to her true appearance. "I hope the Admiral is not too disappointed with this development," she continued, her fear noticeable as she was already in hot water for the Parka situation.

"I am unsure. Thus far, I have not spoken to him regarding the topic. I wish I could honor the possibility that Claudius would have some influence in sending Ishamael back to Hapes. I very much doubt that will be the case, not against my mother."

"Do you speak to your mother much?" Kerrie asked Htaere, a somewhat personal and invasive question. She turned her head slightly, her mind drifting away for a moment as she considered her relationship with her own mother.

"Not too frequently. I find no need. The disapproval we have for each other is quite mutual, and we both accept that as fact" Htaere answered simply. "What about you?"

"My mother was killed," Kerrie explained, not liking to talk about it much. She sighed, lowering her head dejectedly. Her hand tightened around her cap, trying to squeeze the tension right out of her body.

Htaere stifled the urge to bite at her lower lip. "Oh...I am sorry. I did not know" she replied quietly. "Have you any family?" Htaere continued, equally as intrusive in her conversation yet insatiably curious about the mysterious woman's history.

"Not anymore," Kerrie said, twisting the cap in her hands to the point it nearly broke. Her concentration broke to the point where her natural Clawdite form shimmered back momentarily. "They're all gone," she said as she refocused her efforts and returned to the Human form she was more comfortable in around others.

Htaere's shimmering grey pools drank the major in without reaction, except to furrow her brow with concern. "I am sorry for your losses" her chin dipped once in a reverent nod. "Kerrie...what bothers you so?" she said solidly after regarding the major for a brief pause.

"I just try to put it out of my mind," Kerrie explained quietly, breaking eye contact. "They were out of my life long before they died," she continued to explain, her voice nearly quivering. "It's in the past ... nothing I can do about it," she finally concluded, looking around the room nervously.

Htaere persisted, eyes shifting about the room vaguely in search of whatever it is that Kerrie fretted about. "What is wrong? Has something happened?"

"No..." Kerrie responded quickly, hoping she had not caused too much alarm as that was not her intention when she arrived. "Just..." she continued, feeling she should explain, "Bad memories."

"I am sorry if I have caused you trouble" Htaere's apology was genuine. "I will cease this discussion so that it does not offend you further" she said. In attempt to switch the topic and keep from embarrassing herself further, she fished for topics casually. "How is the conflict going? Any improvement on establishing diplomatic relations with the rebel influence?"

Kerrie looked to Htaere, stiffening her upper lift to avoid making a further embarrassment of herself. "No, Milady," she said apologetically, "It was I who have given offense. I should learn to keep my emotions in check." Her mind then shifted towards her question. The truth was things were not going well, not since that disk fell into the hands of the rebels. "Things are as they are," she replied cryptically.

Htaere's blank expression softened, melting into a warm smile "Kerrie, you may always consider me an ear to bend. I hope that you remember that when you feel you have nowhere else to turn."

Kerrie looked around the room, considering what she was about to do. She sighed and broke down, deciding, perhaps unwisely, to share her concern with Htaere. "I..." she began, obviously embarrassed, "Recently failed an assignment for the Admiral." She paused for a moment before going all the way, "I guess when your new bodyguard arrived I felt like I had failed the assignment to protect you as well." She looked at her right boot and twiddled her thumbs, "Failure is not something I am used to..."

"You have not failed in any capacity" Htaere answered. "I am still indebted to you for your brave actions concerning my safety. I hope you do not consider yourself in such a negative light further. It is an unfair assessment of yourself" Htaere chided her slightly, admonishing her for cutting herself short. "As for your assignment for Claudius, perhaps you will have another opportunity to rectify the situation."

"I really messed things up badly," Kerrie explained, shaking her head at herself. She looked down in her lap and saw how badly wrinkled her cap was. In vein, she began trying to straighten it back out. "If I get a second chance," she stated confidently, "I will not allow myself to fail again."

Htaere was quiet for a moment, contemplating her words. She prodded gently "Is that why Claudius was upset the other night?"

"Yes..." Kerrie admitted, as it was no big secret and suspected he would ultimately confide in her himself. "I let him down," she explained to her own great shame, "He was counting on me and I blew it. It has made things very difficult."

"Oh..." Htaere digested the self loathing that Kerrie seemed to demonstrate at every opportunity, one corner of her mouth sliding downward. "Perhaps you can remedy the situation" she offered encouragingly. It was quiet for another moment before Htaere approached the conversation from a different angle. "You ought not to cut yourself down so readily."

"I hold myself to high standards," Kerrie said to Htaere, once again making eye contact and showing slight traces of a smile. "The work is all I have," she explained, quite honestly, "I want to do well at it."

"I doubt that your quality of commitment is every taken into question" Htaere supplied evenly. "Still, there is plenty that you have to offer. You should focus on promoting all of the facets you excel at. Claudius certainly could not do without you" she said, matter-of-factly.

"It seems to be a case of 'what have you done for me lately'." Kerrie informed her, considering the Admiral's own responsibilities. He had people to answer to just as she had to answer to him. "His is not an easy job," she continued, stating the obvious, "When someone beneath him fails ... like me ... that failure is reflected on him." She paused for a moment, smiling at Htaere with a shared sentiment, "He does not like to fail either."

"I do not see failures in either of you" Htaere responded genuinely. "I do worry about him, about his health and the burdens he shoulders. Perhaps one day things will settle and we will be able to spend more time, and maybe the two of you will be afforded the luxury of pursuing pleasures instead of business." Htaere thought about it for a moment, blinking at the major curiously. "Do you enjoy your service to the Empire?"

Kerrie looked down and examined the uniform that so careful fit her body like a second-skin. It had become an extension of her and she had always worked hard to keep it clean and neat. She took her service seriously, but she had never before considered the question as to whether she 'enjoyed' it. "I'm not sure 'enjoy' is the word, Milady," she explained as best she could, "It was not how I planned for my life to be, but it is where the circumstances of life have brought me." She paused for a moment,  considering her situation, "It's really the only option left to me."

"Why would you say that? Eventually your service term will be up. You will have whatever you choose laid out before you" Htaere pointed out, reasoning very simply. "If you were not with the Empire now, what would you be doing?"

Kerrie was starting to feel very uncomfortable, worried that Htaere might be disappointed by her past life. However, with all of the previous confessions she thought it would be pointless to stop now. She swallowed nervously and answered truthfully, "I suppose I would return to my previous job as a ... bounty hunter."

Htaer's grey pools narrowed beneath a furrowed brow. "A bounty hunter? That is your profession of choice?" she seemed noticeably surprised by it, yet respectful. "Will you return to it when you are done here?"

"The profession sort of chose me," Kerrie tried to explain, "When my parents gave me up as a child, I spent most of my life training to be a 'warrior' ... as silly as that might sound." Kerrie paused for a moment, realizing that she never sat down to tell anyone this before, "When I left my homeworld I tried different kinds of work. I eventually came across a bounty hunter and I learned to appreciate the work. It's a rewarding challenge and the money is great." Kerrie paused, somewhat satisfied with her answer. "As for the second part," she continued, "I really cannot even think about life beyond this current assignment. I am bound to the service ... it is not something I can simply 'quit'."

"Yes, but surely you do not with to be an indentured servant forever. Surely there is something you yearn for beyond this, is there not? Htaere appeared confused. She thought for a moment, then got to her feet. "Here...sit here..." she said, offering Kerrie her stool.

"It is not entirely up to me," Kerrie explained as she moved over towards the stool. She sat down, and adjusted herself for a moment before continuing. "There are circumstances beyond my control," she continued ... it was something she did not like to think about.

"Our futures should always be our own to choose..."Htaere began, recounting her first conversation she had with the Admiral before adding quietly "...but I certainly understand commitment to responsibility and fulfilling one's obligation, despite personal feelings" she finished. As she did so, she circled Kerrie slowly, moving around her and studying her features intently. Her fingers brushed at Kerrie's immaculate and regulation hair style as Htaere moved around from behind her, pausing in front of her to lift Kerrie's chin with her fingers, contemplating eye color, shape, complexion and so on. "Hmmm" she withdrew to her boutique, rifling through various implements of beauty. She returned with a hair brush and stood behind her, untying her hair and letting it down. She ran the strands through her fingers, noting the health of her hair and the overall condition. She then proceeded to brush Kerrie's hair, experimenting with a few twists and ideas as she worked.

Kerrie laughed at what Htaere was attempting to do. "It's really not necessary," she confessed, "After all it's not even my true appearance." Still, there was something relaxing ... almost soothing about what she was doing. It was certainly an aspect of her life that she certainly never paid any attention to. "But," she continued not wanting to leave things unsaid, "My life is in other people's hands. I try not to think about it."

"Why do you hide?" Htaere asked curiously, using a comb to section Kerrie's hair into four parts. Taking care, she began to weave delicate and perfect braids in her hair, before twisting them into loops that intertwined, and pinning the ends down.

"I've been hiding so long I sometimes feel like *this* is the real me," Kerrie confessed, "Humans do not treat aliens well. In my job it is important that all around me believe that I am a Human. There are some who wouldn't take too kindly to the Admiral keeping an alien like me around." She sighed before continuing, "My species is not highly regarded either. It is for everyone's sake that I do this. I no longer mind."

Htaere finished Kerrie's hair, observing the elegant masterpiece like softly interlocked lattice. She retrieved a small tiara with a single rainbow gem on it, surrounded by other pricey minerals. She set it firmly across the top of Kerrie's head, tucking the ends of it beneath the forward-most braided loops along the sides of her head. With that finished, she located a small bench and with cosmetics in hand, sat down in front of the major. "Close your eyes" she instructed gently. "Perhaps one day you will not have to hide" she added.

Kerrie closed her eyes obediently, still believing this whole situation was ridiculous. She found it ironic that the work she was doing for the Empire was what was keeping her species and countless others from being free in the galaxy. She was a traitor to her people, but of course she would never confide that to Htaere or anyone. "Perhaps..." she said quietly, knowing what line not to cross.

Htaere shadowed her eyes, top and bottom with shades of blue to accent the blue in her eyes, using a lighter tone on the top and a darker on the bottom. When finished, she fixed with temporary cosmetic adhesive small tear-sized rhinestones in the corners of Kerrie's eyes, and in gentle arcs that followed the natural curve of her eyebrows. Htaere continued to 'doll up' Kerrie, adding tint to her cheeks and lips, using cosmetic pencils to draw exaggerated curls radiating from the outer corner of each eye towards her temple. Finally, she stepped back, looking over her work and amazed to see that Kerrie looked nothing like the woman that was sitting there moments prior. "Do not move just yet" Htaere said, waltzing off to her gigantic walk in closet with its electric belt system to rotate clothing.

Kerrie opened her eyes when she felt Htaere finish. She looked at her reflection in the mirror and could not believe what she saw. Her only response to begin chuckling lightly at the situation. "I look ridiculous," she insisted, continuing to laugh, "Oh if the Admiral saw me now he'd never let me hear the end of it." She smiled as she saw herself in the mirror, not sure she truly believed the reflection, "I do not understand why you Humans put so much effort into enhancing your physical appearance in such a strange manner."

Htaere returned with an attractive gown of a baby blue color, light and airy, flowing in gentle swirls with every movement. "Put this on" she extended it to Kerrie. "The refresher is there" she continued, pointing to the large water closet. "It is not ridiculous. This is imperative. For some of us, this is all we have, all we will ever be regarded as having with respect to admirable qualities."

Kerrie rose from the stool and took hold of the dress. She held it up against herself and again turned to look in the mirror. "Me?!" she exclaimed in disbelief, having a hard time taking Htaere serious, "In this?! You can't be serious." She sighed, not wanting to get into a debate she could not win and headed towards the refresher. Several moments went by as Kerrie had to first remove her uniform and all of the accessories ... quite time consuming. Then, she had to figure out how to put the dress on. She struggled with it ... she rarely wore what was considered women's clothing. Finally she emerged from the refresher wearing the dress, looking nothing like her 'normal' self. She stopped and looked in the mirror, her mouth agape. "I..." she said quietly, not quite sure what she wanted to say.

Htaere slipped up behind her, fixing a stunning collar of precious metals and rainbow gems across Kerrie's shoulders. Straightening it and observing the multi-layered necklace in the mirror, she moved Kerrie's arms one by one to slide an arm band up around each bicep. Htaere gazed into the mirror for a long time, nearly equally as amazed with what she saw. Last of all, she retrieved the veil made to fit atop the tiara Kerrie wore, a gauzy material stretched over a shaped wire frame that attached to the very top of the tiara and extended outwards in a large spacious triangular shaped frame that concealed everything above the shoulders. "I guess we all hide" she mumbled absently. She brushed the tops of her fingers on her right hand beneath Kerrie's chin, nudging it upwards. "Self confidence begins from within. If you want others to believe that you are in control, then you must convince yourself first of the part. You look down to no one" she said quietly.

Standing at just slightly over five feet tall, Htaere's statement was indeed correct. It was very unlikely that she ever looked down at anyone. Kerrie smiled as she thought that in her head, but did not share it. Instead, she took a lasting look in the mirror at herself ... realizing it would not last long. "I do not understand how you can do this every day," Kerrie said, not sounding quite all there. "I thank you for the experience," Kerrie said kindly, "I think it gives me a better understanding of certain aspects of your life that I could not previously comprehend."

"I consider myself fortunate that my original arrangement was to the Admiral. I cannot say that I ever liked the concept of marrying a stranger, but I am lucky that this particular stranger allowed me the opportunity to make a choice that otherwise would not have been offered. I am fortunate that he is benevolent. An arranged marriage is not required to be a pleasant one" Htaere commented before shifting her gaze out to the terrace, visible from the balcony. "Would you like some tea in the garden before you return to your usual guise?" she asked. "Join me for a spot of refreshment, and then we will change you back" she smiled, offering her arm to Kerrie.

"Thank you," Kerrie said respectfully, but demurred, "but I should retire before taking up any more of your time." She turned to look at herself in the mirror one last time, "Besides ... I would not want any of the security patrols to see me ... like this." She turned to face Htaere and smiled beneath the veil, "If it's quite alright I really should issue the night's orders and get some rest during the next shift change."

Htaere smiled and nodded. "Of course. Good evening then" she said, bowing politely. Htaere moved towards the old fashioned monstrous pair of carved wooden doors to her chambers and swung one of them open, holding it for her. She smiled at the major warmly "I apologize if I have made it uncomfortable for you. Pleasant dreams Kerrie" she nodded.

"Not uncomfortable, Milady," Kerrie clarified as she returned to the refresher to change, "...just a tad out of my element." She smiled before disappearing into the refresher. It look a long time, but eventually a slightly-frazzled Kerrie emerged in her uniform, still cosmetically enhanced but no longer in the most feminine of attires. "I shall deposit this dress with one of the servants to be cleaned," she informed her, holding it folded neatly in her arms. "Thank you again, Milady," she said before bowing respectfully and beginning her exit. "I apologize if I took too much of your time," she concluded on her way out. Secretly, Kerrie worried that she was becoming a bit too attached to Htaere. It would make guarding her all the more difficult. She was acting very unprofessionally.

Htaere stood right beyond the threshold of her chambers, watching Kerrie leave. "I will always have time for you" she called innocently down the hallway, content at what a pleasant evening it had become. She sighed slightly before retreating back into her chambers to get ready for bed.

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