Jelena Rodney was sitting
quietly in the Rebel safe house on Rhinnal, practically
next to the large heating unit that was necessary to
keep the small structure from becoming frigid. Even with
the heater in place, she never felt warm, and she spent
most of her days wrapped in a blanket alongside it. This
was not what she thought it would be like when she
joined the Rebellion, and they had not even had her do
anything yet. No meeting with local sympathizers. No
propaganda broadcasts. The only thing she had done was
sat there and freeze her ass off, as the Rebel commando
unit that operated out of the base did not trust her,
and feared she would mistake that would reveal their
location and get them all killed. In a sense she was
treated more like a child here than she had been when
she was with her father. As she breathed the temperature
was so cold that she could actually see her breath in
front of her, and she rubbed her hands together in front
of the heather once again in a vain effort to warm
The door chimed as if a
courtesy before the door opened to reveal the casual
grin of Parka Pepper. "Heeey sunshine," she offered up.
"Enjoying these killer five star accommodations?"
Jelena was excited to see
Parka, as she was the one person who helped her with
news from the outside galaxy. "I don't suppose you have
orders getting me out of here?" she asked, her teeth
chattering slightly, as she rose from the crate she had
been sitting on. "It's still better than a star
destroyer," she said with a soft laugh, before taking a
couple of steps forward, and offering a polite hug.
Parka reciprocated with
somewhat of a genuine warmth for the defected youngster.
"Still haven't given you a shot at the big leagues yet
huh?" She shuffled inside. "Damn it is pretty cold in
here." Parka copped herself a seat on the floor close to
the heater. "Need to chat. I'll inquire about getting
you out on a few runs with me to test out your new
liberated wings. In exchange...I need some answers."
When she saw Parka sit down,
Jelena moved quickly back towards the crate that had
been placed next to the heater, and began to take
comfort from its warmth once again. "I'd like that,
Parka. I really would," she said, genuinely, a hint of
excitement that revealed just how young she still was,
before offering a kind smile in her direction. "I feel
like I've answered a ton of questions, but if there's
anything you want to know I mean I can try..." she said,
more focused on the heather than Parka's line of
dialogue at the moment, as she brought both of her hands
to hover over the heater, sighing contently.
Parka did not mince words
with her 'protégé' of sorts. "I had a very interesting
encounter. I'm not sure if you know, or who knows at
this point, as it was certainly news to me, but Major
Kiley is alive and well, and requested to meet with me.
I agreed," Parka began. "She came on behalf of your
stepmother, who wishes to meet in person." The young
Hapan, a defect in her own right, tugged her jacket up
around her a bit in response to the chill sinking in. "I
was hoping you could supply me with any possible reason
that Htaere would want to meet. Major Kiley was not in
uniform, and made it a point to say she was not
representing the Empire, but acting as a personal favor
to Htaere. So..." she canted her head curiously,
platinum silver dreadlocks with black roots pulled back
into a pony tail. "Pray tell, what is it your stepmother
could possibly want?"
"She ... she's alive?"
Jelean asked slowly, as what color that had remained in
her face quickly vanished. She had believed she had
killed Kerrie in her escape, and she had mixed emotions
as to the realization that she was not a murderer. One
part of her was glad she had not taken a life, while the
other half thought she was a vile creature that needed
to be removed from the galaxy. "It has to be a trap. You
cannot trust Kerrie," she said, shaking her head
repeatedly in dismissal of the notion. Her arms wrapped
tightly around herself, attempting to give herself a hug
and add warmth to her body, and now to her soul. "Htaere
... Htaere means well, but she simply has no idea what
is going on. I don't know what she could want, Parka.
Some Hapan baking recipe maybe..." she said, rolling her
eyes, before turning to look at Parka directly. "She's
really alive?" she again asked, repeating her earlier
"Very much so," Parka
replied without missing a beat. For a moment, she bit
her lower lip, evaluating Jelena with intensifying
scrutiny. "The rebellion does some intel gathering of
their own, when they can, if you can believe it," Parka
continued. "Were you aware that your stepmother was
accused of treason, arrested, interrogated, and tortured
by the ISB? And that very torture resulted in the loss
of she and Rodney's unborn child?" That little piece of
information surprised even Parka. "Very
interesting...don't you think."
Jelena had heard some of
that story, but as it had happened because the Empire
was looking for her, she had tried her best to ignore it
and hide from it. She quickly got up from the crate, and
turned her back to Parka, wrapping her coat firmly
around her, in an attempt to hide from the situation.
"I-I-I..." she stammered, shaking, feeling the guilt
come over her, nearly disabling her. "Yeah," was all she
could eventually utter, lowering her head in shame.
"As your first real test of
capability in the rebellion, the information and things
we discuss here, go *no* further. Not. A. Soul. Do you
understand?" Parka let her gaze remain heavy on Jelena's
back, unyielding its intensity on the account of the
severity of her words. "You will find the rebellion can
only accomplish what it does due to utmost secrecy. You
read me five-by-five?"
Jelena nodded her head
silently at Parka, agreeing that their conversation
would go no further. "Did ... did she ask about me?" she
asked Parka quietly, her head still hung low, and
feeling much heavier than it did just a few short
moments ago. There were moments of weakness when she
thought about running home ... not to her father ... but
to her grandparents ... or perhaps even her uncle who
seemed to always be enjoying himself. She had never
considered Htaere in her actions. Never thought to say
goodbye. Never thought to explain herself. Never even
thought to write a note. She had never given the woman a
fair chance, as she never wanted anyone to replace her
"Kerrie asked if we *had*
you," Parka responded. "I assured her that no one *has*
you, that you are very capable of being our own woman."
Jelena sighed, her young
bosoms heaving heavily, as her chest moved up and down
in slow, deliberate breaths. "Are you going to meet with
Htaere?" she asked Parka, finally turning her head to
look at her Hapan confidant once more. "It could be a
trap, you know. I wouldn't put it past Kerrie to pull
something like that," she said, rubbing her hands
against one another, both as a nervous action, and to
bring warmth to them.
"I intend to, yes," Parka
nodded, getting to her feet. "It could be, but...for
some reason, I don't think so. Kerrie and I seem to have
some kind of odd understanding. Besides," she waved a
hand in dismissal casually. "If anything happens, we
pluck up Htaere as a bargaining chip. We got her once.
We can do it again. Though..." Parka thought on it.
"Kerrie did tell me that if I harmed Htaere, she'd kill
me," she pointed out matter-of-factly. "And I do believe
her. At least...she'll try."
"Did she say anything about
my father?" Jelena asked, reluctantly, looking about the
room to avoid eye contact as she spoke. She had not
given him much thought, but that did not mean she had
given him no thought. He was still her father, and she
wondered how he had responded to all this. She did not
care, and he could not change her decision, but she was
"We didn't have much time
for that kind of banter. A gunboat was approaching and
Tashi provided Kerrie and I some fast removal," Parka
dusted her bottom off from her spot on the floor and
began to turn towards the door. "You can come, you know,
if you want to," she offered, pausing.
"Oh. Okay. I was just
wondering," Jelena said quickly, as if to downplay the
fact that she had asked at all. "I can come?" she asked
with a tone of excitement, initially thrilled at the
prospect of being able to get of the safe house, but
then a sensation of fear began to overcome here. What if
was a trap? she thought silently to herself, swallowing
"Yes," Parka shrugged. "You
don't have to participate. You can monitor the
proceedings from the shadows alongside the other agents.
It's not like we send invitations with our home address
on it." Parka moved towards the door. "Think it over.
She may be the best person to answer your questions."
Slowing to a halt, she turned slowly to regard Jelena
genuinely. "If you choose not to go back, all the might
of the Empire can't make you. We'll keep you safe," she
nodded firmly leaving no doubt. With that she hit the
door release button and stepped out. "And I'll talk to
Derek. This place needs heat. And I'll see if he'll let
me take you on for my next assignment. Deal?"
"Deal," Jelena said,
offering Parka a polite smile as she left, before moving
to sit back down on the crate. Once she was convinced
she was alone, she reached into her pocket and pulled
out a miniature holoporjector. Activating it an image of
her parents holding her as a child flickered to life,
fading in and out of focus due to the affect the cold
was having on the power source. She inhaled sharply,
closing her eyes, and thinking about everything that
Parka had just dropped on her. She doubted she would get
much sleep this night.