Era of Rebellion - Navigation

D. Wade Hyde and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:8:33) in the Essesia system: Esseles (Calamar: Hotel).
El-Nay Darr, Major Kerrie Kiley, and Tycho Starlight.

Major Kerrie Kiley had considered the cryptic message she had received, claiming that El-Nay Darr's life was in danger, and that she was needed. When she encountered the young hunter on the command ship it had unnerved her, as she had done her best to put aside that chapter of her life. She was no longer a bounty hunter ... she was bodyguard to the most powerful Imperial in the oversector. But her life was built around a code of honor, and despite the fact that the young Mandalorian rarely heeded her advice, she had taken an oath long ago to look out for her. She could not travel in uniform as it would give too much away, so she had placed herself in the armor of the Mabari, an ancient sect of warrior knights from her home planet of Zolan. The black suit of armorweave covered the entirety of her petite human frame, save her face, which topped with a simple silver helmet with affixed targeting scanner. An ornate blaster pistol was in her holster, but she did not expect to have to use it. When she arrived at the hotel on Cormond where she was told to meet, she wondered what trouble the young El-Nay had found herself in *this* time, and brought a gloved, gauntleted, hand to the door of the room they were in and knocked three times.

The good Mister Skion had done Tycho a solid again. It had come with a price tag, of course, but at least he was still willing to do the mercenary favors. That meant a lot to him, especially since most of the crew of the Crimson Moon had shied away from him. He was glad to still be on speaking terms with Skion. He was pleased to know one of the best slicers he knew of in the galaxy, for it hadn't been much trouble for the alien to get a message to one Kerrie Kiley. He awaited her arrival, letting El-Nay nap. Thus, when the knock came, it was only a few moments before he answered. Meeting someone new, despite the fact that she was supposed to be an ally, he was fully armored, save for a helmet. He didn't quite manage her a smile, but said, "Kerrie Kiley? Welcome. El-Nay has been waiting for you. She's sleeping now, but I can wake here ... come on in." He stepped aside to let her in, then said, "Ah ... my mistake ... I'm her associate, Tycho Starlight."

The moment Kerrie lay eyes on him she began sizing him up, wondering who he was, and what they were doing here. "No. Don't wake her. She has a way of complicating things," she said quietly, so that she would not wake her inadvertently. Accepting his invitation, she crossed the threshold into the room, and allowed the door to close behind her. "Starlight, huh? I've heard of you. Heard there's a bounty on you too," she quickly added, as her eyes ran down the length of his body, accounting for any visible weapons. "Don't worry. I'm retired. She's not though ... if you think she ever really got started, that is. What happened? Don't tell me. She tried to collect your bounty, failed, got caught, and now needs ransoming? Fine, how much..." she said, assuming the worst, as she never had much confidence in the girl, but she was certainly willing to do what was needed to take care of her.

As for weapons, he had nothing but his vibroknife and blaster pistol on him. His other items were put aside within easy enough reach. "I'm not surprised you know about me, and I'm glad you don't want to collect," he said. "El-Nay thinks highly of you." He put no threat in his tone, but his words made it clear that he'd kill her if she tried. He confirmed that in a roundabout way. "El-Nay wouldn't be alive if she'd tried to take me in. People have tried before. Come on, have a seat... I want to show you something." He gestured for her to follow and he led her to the couch. He picked up a datapad, with the disk inserted into it, and handed it to her. "We need to capture this guy, or there will be a fifty thousand cred bounty on El-Nay by the end of the week."

"50,000 for El-Nay?" Kerrie repeated in disbelief, shaking her head as she took the datapad and moved to sit down, crossing her legs, and placing it aside for a moment. "Any fool willing to pay that much for El-Nay deserves to lose the money..." she added, before turning her attention to the datapad to see what this is all about. "This is classified by Military Intelligence!" she said as she read the header of the file, wondering what this was really about, and moving further into the document to find out. "Where did you get this?!" she asked irately, concerned by all of the leaks that had plagued their command virtually since they arrived in the oversector. "The file on The Nerf Herder?" she asked, sounding both confused and excited all at once. She had worked with the bounty hunter in her past life, and kept him high on her list of prospective hunters to hire when contracting work outside of Imperial channels. She, like most everyone, only knew him by an alias and had never seen his face, and his identity had been something of speculation and rumor over the past decade. When she got to the line with the man's name she stopped for a moment, reading it a few times just to make sure she had it right, and then burst into uncontrollable laughter. "You've been had, my friend," she said, offering him back the datapad, dismissing the file, and preparing to leave. "I know that guy. No way is he the Nerf Herder. He's a drunk. A womanizer. A playboy. But he is not a bounty hunter ... not even close," she said, trying to catch herself after all the laughter. "Let me see the kid and let her know she's all right, because someone is definitely fucking with you," she incorrectly concluded, shaking her head at him for what she perceived was a waste of her time.

"You think I'd fall for a simple trick?" He asked, then shook his head. A slight smirk touched his lips. "Of course you do ... you don't know me. This came from the hands of an Imperial Major in the Intelligence division. She ambushed El-Nay and I yesterday and told El-Nay that she wanted the man because El-Nay knew him. He, uh... well, the fact that he's a playboy and womanizer fits, because he used her in that kind of way. She's very upset about it. She was adamant about needing your help to capture him. This isn't some fancy ... I know she's a little ... well, never mind. Point being is, this isn't some leaked file. It came from the hands of an Imperial officer." He gestured toward the bedroom. "Go talk to her if you like. She could probably use a visit from a friendly face anyway."

"El-Nay has worked with the Nerf Herder, and maybe they did have relations. He can be quite charming, and he would have nearly bedded me on several occasions if not for..." Kerrie began, but stopped short, not wanting to trust this outsider with certain qualities she possessed that gave human men a lack of desire towards her. "So if she wants my help going to kick the Nerf Herder in the behind because he loved her and left her ... fine. I get it. I'm a woman. I've been there. She's like a sister to me, and I'll help her," she said to him, nodding her head in solidarity with the girl. "But all I'm saying is there's no way this guy is that guy. It's impossible. So Intel Major or no Intel Major, they're full of shit," she said before walking past Tycho, to get to the room where the young girl was sleeping. Her first glance at her was an awful one, as she was still very much battered and bruised from all of her ordeals, and Kerrie could not help but clench her hands into a fist. "Who did this?" she angrily asked Tycho, but before waiting for an answer she rushed forward to El-Nay's side and clutched at her.

El-Nay was stirred by the unexpected contact, and at first she wanted to jump right out of the bed, but after she gave her eyes time to focus she realized it was Kerrie who was there. "You came! I knew you'd come!" she said excitedly, a warm smile coming to her face, as she quickly sat up in the bed and wrapped her arms around her. "Ori'vod," she said warmly, turning her face to her to place a soft, tender kiss upon her cheeks. "I'm sorry for having him contact you. But I'm really in a desperate situation. I have a week to track down the Nerf Herder or they're going to put a huge bounty on my ass," she explained, unaware that Tycho had already recounted much of that to her. "Will you help me capture him? I don't think I can do it on my own," she explained, pulling her face away, her eyes aching from anticipation of the answer.

When Kerrie insisted that the man in the file wasn't the Nerf Herder, he simply shrugged and let the subject go. Whether she was right or not didn't matter, as long as they found the person. They'd work it out along the way ... capture both of them if they were two different people. He wasn't going to risk the Empire's ire. He followed her to the bedroom and leaned in the doorway. The question about who had hurt her bothered him a little, for he had been responsible for some of it. Of course, just about everything he'd done had healed up, except for some old, yellowing bruises that were nearly gone. Luckily, he didn't have to worry about that subject because the two of them started in on the subject of the Nerf Herder. Gods, what a stupid name.

Kerrie grabbed El-Nay with each of her hands taking up position on either side of her face. She squeezed tightly on each side of El-Nay's head so that it could not move, and only when she was sure she had her full attention did she speak. "El-Nay!" she yelled, her eyes locked directly on hers, her face only inches from hers. "You need to tell me everything that happened between you and the Nerf Herder during your last mission together. Everything. No matter how unimportant it might seem. Do you understand?" she said, speaking loudly and clearly directly into her face, as it was the only way she knew how to get through to the easily distracted youngster. She had learned years ago that she needed careful handling at times of seriousness.

"Okay! Okay!" El-Nay said, as her steely grey eyes locked onto Kerrie's face, and she began to recount what had happened. "Your boss contacted me, and told me he had found my name in your contacts. He told me you had been shot, and that he had placed a substantial bounty on the girl that did it. When I arrived aboard his ship, the Nerf Herder was already here, as he too had come to collect the bounty, and he wasn't alone ... he had brought a date along. Can you believe that?" she said, rapidly getting off the subject, which caused Kerrie to squeeze tighter on her face to get her to focus. "So it turns out the target was the Grand Moff's daughter. Just a kid really. Easy peasy, right? How'd you let some kid shoot you anyway?" she asked, going off on a tangent, which caused Kerrie to nearly crush her skill this time. "Ow!" Okay! Okay!" she said, before continuing on the story. "I caught her, and decided to rough her up some. You know? Payback for what she did to you. But that's when things started going to weird. The Nerf Herder pulled me off the girl, and he started paying more attention to her than he did either me, or the girl he brought," she continued, speaking a bit more slowly as her both of her cheeks were being pressed together. "So then we get on the ship, and I thought we were going to turn in, and get that easy money. But nope ... I overhear him talking to the girl. She said he was his uncle, and he said he wasn't going to turn him in! Can you believe that shit?" she asked irately, unable to believe that he had chosen to turn down all that money. "Then next thing you know I'm getting jettisoned. They nearly killed me. I haven't seen either of them since..." she concluded, as she felt the hands remove from her face ... finally.

Kerrie could not believe the news she was hearing, and in fact she was so shocked that she momentarily lost concentration and her human form briefly faded out, revealing the true Clawdite form beneath. She had grey skin, resembling a reptile, with large, unattractive eyes, and an oversized mouth. As fast as she could, she closed her eyes, and allowed the form human form she masqueraded in for the sake of her Imperial overlords to reappear upon her face. "Why didn't you mention this when the Governor questioned you?!" she asked, with a sudden degree of anger, before realizing how much more complicated this would have been if she had. She lowered her head for a moment, realizing the game that was at play here, but knowing full well that El-Nay could not. She moved away from the bed, and back towards Tycho, to fill him in. "I was wrong. The man listed here in the datadisk is the Nerf Herder, but there's more at stake here than you understand. You're being used by Military Intelligence to do their dirty work, and you need to trust me," she informed him, despite the fact that she had only just met him. "The Empire is not exactly team oriented, and each branch is currently plotting against the other. Intel cannot simply remove the brother of a Grand Moff ... no matter what they accuse him of. But that doesn't mean they can't still want him gone and orchestrate some plot to get people like you two to do it for them," she explained, realizing what a bind they were in. A moment later her hand came to her helmet, and pulled it from her head, revealing the carefully braided reddish-brown hair that had been pinned beneath.

"Hang on," Tycho said, a false look of alarm on his features. "You mean that the Empire doesn't get along? Really? And I'm being used? No kidding. This isn't my first rodeo, you know?" It wasn't even his first rodeo with the Empire, and he knew enough about them to know that she wasn't telling him anything new. The news that the guy they were after was the Grand Moff's brother... now that was news to him. Bad news. "So we do the job, we risk having the Grand Moff come down on us. We don't do the job, Military Intelligence puts a bounty on her head... and maybe mine." Tycho sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "This isn't good. I hope you have a brilliant idea."

"I have an idea!" El-Nay shouted excitedly, as the wheels began to turn ... ever slowly ... inside her head. "Kerrie, can't you go to the Grand Moff and explain to him the situation? They're building a base right under his nose. They're attacking his family. Surely he'd put an end to this and keep them from putting a bounty on me," she suggested, before moving from the bed to join the two in the center of the room. She was wearing nothing but the environmental suit that went beneath her armor, with nothing underneath that, due to the fact that she was stranded on Esseles with no access to any of her clothes.

"It's not that simple, El-Nay," Kerrie said, her voice trailing, but she certainly wished it was. "The Grand Moff's one focus is the recovery of his daughter. Not the Rebellion. Not profiting off his position of power. Just capturing his daughter," she said, reaffirming the statement. "I swore my life to protect this man. I tried to murder him for what I thought he did to my parents. He held me in a cage, and he could have had me killed. But I swore to protect him, just like I did you, and that means protecting him from himself most of all. And if I tell him that his brother helped keep him from his daughter ... then he will destroy his own family and that loss will hurt him for the remainder of his days," she revealed, with a hint of sorrow in her voice, as those people had become the closest thing she had to a family. "No. I won't tell him. He would simply order your death for assaulting his daughter, and failing to divulge all of the information during your official debriefing anyway," she concluded, before looking up at the ceiling in dismay. "Did they give you any idea why they wanted him so badly as to go through all this?" she asked both of them, before moving to sit back down. She needed to sit after all this.

"No, they didn't tell us anything like that," Tycho said, frowning thoughtfully. "The only thing the Major said was that they'd had him in custody at some point and he'd escaped. But you need to think about it this way." He motioned at a comfy chair and herded poor El-Nay over to it. Then, he found a seat for himself. The main living area was a much better place to talk than just standing in the middle of the bedroom like idiots. "Basically, we can do the job for Imperial Intelligence and do our best to hide our involvement from the Grand Moff ... which probably wouldn't work. Or, refuse to do it and deal with a bounty. Or, we tell the Grand Moff and let him deal with the problem. I mean, so you don't want to hurt him ... not telling him is worse because it leaves him open to danger. He should be informed. He wouldn't be tearing the family apart ... his brother's already doing that. No ... if we do this behind his back, we'll be drawing down a lot of heat. And Military Intelligence is more dangerous in some ways, in my opinion." Tycho paused for a few moments, then gestured toward the kitchen area. "You want something to drink?"

"The problem isn't with MI," Kerrie began, before waving her hand at him politely to refuse the drink. "Your problem is with Major Traebor," she said, succinctly. "I am a Major in the Stormtrooper Corps, but I could not commandeer a battalion of troopers and use them to my own purposes," she explained, trying to detail the complexities of the Imperial bureaucracy to a couple of outsiders. "If I could eliminate her, then maybe this would just all blow over..." she suggested, before her mind returned to the issue of the bounty. "But where's she getting the fifty thousand? That's a little rich for a Major's salary. Believe me, I know!" she said, rolling her eyes sarcastically, as she looked over towards Tycho, as El-Nay was not always the most reliable source of information.

Tycho shot a glance to El-Nay, then looked back at Kerrie. He considered her question, puzzling it out in his mind. There was only one answer that made sense. Tycho stood and walked over to the kitchen area, going through the cooling unit until he had ice. As he went about preparing himself a drink, he said, "It must be Black Sun. We did a mission for them and they obviously tipped off the Imperials that she would be with me." He nodded toward El-Nay. After he poured himself a drink of whiskey, he got some ice water for El-Nay and brought it to her. He sat once more. "If they're putting up money, though, gotta ask why. Maybe just for a favor from an important person in Military Intelligence." He sipped his drink. "We're going to have to get something to eat soon. Poor El-Nay here hasn't had much. You're probably pretty hungry, I'd imagine?" He directed the last toward El-Nay. The most she'd had was a little soup yesterday, something light for breakfast, and now, past lunchtime and after her nap, even he was ready for a meal. She was in good enough shape that he was sure she could hold the food down now.

"The Black Sun?" Kerrie asked, incredulously, before leaping from her chair in a rage. "Is there anyone you haven't pissed off?" she yelled directly in El-Nay's face, becoming completely flustered. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath so that her concentration would not break and interfere with her shapeshifting, before she allowed herself to continue. "Okay. New plan. I collect your bounty. We hold a nice funeral. We get on with our lives," she said to El-Nay, mostly joking, but there was a part of her that was fed up. "Look. We're really out of options. I'm taking you home. Something I should have done long ago. No member of the guild would ever cross Odell Darr. Your father means something to me. He means something to be most of us. Bounty or no bounty you'll be safe with him," she said, before grabbing her by the arm, and attempting to drag her out of the hotel room.

"Hey!" El-Nay yelled when Kerrie suggested she collect the bounty, but when the subject turned to her going home she became downright furious. She planted her feet as best she could, and held onto the chair Kerrie had been sitting in to prevent herself from being dragged. "I am *not* going home. I am *not* giving *him* the satisfaction of being right. And I am *not* asking *him* for help either. I'm going to do this on my own, and either prove to him I am Mandalorian, or I'll die trying!" she said, sounding brave for the first time. "You never knew your parents. They gave you up. You don't know what it's like to fail in front of them," she said, unintentionally destroying Kerrie's emotions, which caused her to release her grasp upon her.

Tycho remained calm as the struggle and argument broke out before him. At first it was just stubbornness and heightened anger, but then El-Nay dug into Kerrie. He knew even before he felt it, that it was like pouring salt on a wound. It was a stupid thing to say, and it was clear just how much Kerrie was hurt by it, and how angry she was getting. Tycho stood and stepped between them, actually pushing them apart with a firm hand on each of them, displaying impressive strength behind his push. "Stop, now," he said. Unintentionally, some power from the Force left him as he spoke. It wasn't something that would control their minds. Instead, it seemed to calm the raging emotions around him, nothing more. He poked El-Nay in the chest with a finger. "*You* don't know what it's like to be without parents. So there was drama between you and your dad... fine. At least you had one. She had to make it on her own, lacking parental love. It wasn't much different for me. You think we feel lucky to not have a dad who tried to protect us, even if it was holding us back from our dreams? Don't be a child, El-Nay. Whether you like your father or not, whatever he's done, don't try to pretend you know that she has it better than you. You don't know what it's like any more than she does, and you're digging in her wound. That's not right."

It took every ounce of strength Kerrie had to not turn and unleash an attack on El-Nay. The mention of her family did much to hurt her. It was the lowest of blows, and El-Nay was one of the few people that knew the story. It took more strength not to attack her, than the attack itself would have taken. Her concentration shattered her true Clawdite appearance broke free once again, but this time she was affected by El-Nay's words that she did not even realize it had happened. "My parents did what they thought was right. They thought giving me over to train with the Mabari was preferable to living in poverty with them as they struggled to make a life," she reminded El-Nay, now speaking in Huttese without even realizing it. "There have been times in my life when I have been hurt. When I have been threatened. When I have faced death. I would have given anything to have a family to run too for support ... for safety. But that was not the plan life had for me. I told you that in confidence, because I love you. It was a mistake to use it against me. You have been trained to identify weaknesses and exploit them, and there is part of me that commends you for what you have just done for me. But the greater part of me is disgusted by it. Do not repeat this mistake," she told her, explicitly, before returning to the idealized human form that pleased the Imperials so much.

El-Nay listened to Tycho's reprimand followed by Kerrie's monologue, and she could say nothing to either of them. She was ashamed by what she had said, but words would not fix it. She knew Kerrie well enough to know she knew that she was sorry, without having to say it. "Yes. I am hungry," she conceded to Tycho, bypassing all the drama, and focusing on the more pressing matter of food. "Every meal could be my last," she was quick to point out, rubbing her belly in a manner designed to lighten the mood of the conversation, and shun the awkwardness of what had just transpired.

Tycho stepped out from between the two women, letting out a little sigh. He had no trouble understanding what Kerrie said, having been born and raised on Nal Hutta. He did not give away the fact that he understood, though, figuring that she'd used the language to keep that part of the conversation private. It wasn't important to comment on it. "Okay," he said. "Let's go to a restaurant or something. We can talk over lunch. Sometime later today we're going to go get your armor painted, too. The bright orange has to go, whether you like it or not. It's about practicality. You simply can't hide in that if you need to. If you're going to be a warrior, those considerations are important. We can worry about that later, though."

"Good luck with that," Kerrie said to Tycho, with a knowing laugh and glance to El-Nay. "I couldn't keep a straight face the moment I saw it. I tried to get her to change it. Then I begged her to change it. I even told her I wouldn't take her with me unless she changed it. But there was no getting through to her. I doubt you'll have better luck than I did," she said to the man, before looking down at El-Nay. She could tell she was upset and frightened, even without the use of the Force to guide her. Suddenly she took her left arm and wrapped it around El-Nay's neck until she had her in a tight grasp between her arm and her body. She then moved her left hand to top of El-Nay's head and ground her knuckles into her ridiculous haircut repeatedly, in a teasing gesture she had often done to her when she was younger. "Don't worry, El-Nay," she said as she released her from her grasp. "You'll be all right," she said, before wrapping both of her arms around the girl in a legitimate, affectionate embrace.

El-Nay squirmed uncomfortably as her ori'vod teased her, as she had done so many times growing up. One of the downsides of having a big 'sister' was that you never got to be bigger than them. "Listen, you two," she said, following the hug, as she moved towards the plates of beskar that comprised her armor. "I am not repainting my armor. I didn't do it for you," she said before pointing to Kerrie, "and I won't do it for you," she concluded, before pointing at Tycho. One by one the plates of beskar found their way onto her young, feminine form, beginning the process of transforming into an armored warrior. "This was not a color I chose at random," she tried to explain to them, with the knowledge it was something only a Mandalorian could understand. "Gray represents mourning a lost love, but I am fortunate to have not lost anyone I love," she told them, as she affixed the chestplate. "Red represents honoring a parent, but we've already had that conversation," she continued, as she stepped into the left boot. "Black represents justice, but who am I to judge?" she asked with a shrug, before stepping into the right boot. "Gold represents vengeance, but again, I have no one to take revenge on. Not yet anyway," she again said with a laugh, before putting the shin guards on. "Green represents duty, but I've never been trusted with any duties," she said, before moving to attach the wrist gauntlets. "Blue represents reliability, but all I ever hear from people is that I'm not reliable," she admitted reluctantly, as she hoisted the JT-12 jetpack onto her back. "Orange represents a lust for life, and since I have always tried to enjoy every moment ... that was the only color I felt was appropriate for me to wear," she said, just as the helmet came down over her head, completing the wardrobe. "I'm sorry you don't like it. I'm sorry you feel it puts me at a tactical disadvantage. But you aren't the one wearing it ... I am. I didn't choose this color. This color chose me," and with that, she brushed passed them, towards the door, to see if she could not find something to eat.

Untitled 1

Copyright Era of Rebellion 2005-2018. All Rights Reserved
Terms of Use | Legal Notices | Privacy Policy | Press Release | Disclaimer