Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.

One year before the Battle of Yavin (34:10:1) in the Brentaal system: Brentaal IV (Cormond).


Major Kerrie Kiley, Vice Admiral Claudius Rodney and, Lady Htaere Ka`a Sha`ar.


Htaere had not expected the events to unfold as they had when she unwittingly procured comestibles for a hungry child. On a casual stroll, her illustrious wardrobe concealed by a long dark hooded cloak, her eyes caught a small child being scolded for taking a piece of fruit from a street peddler, she thought nothing of liberating the fruit herself and handing it off to the youngster. After settling with the peddler, Htaere continued about her business before the child reappeared, this time with a handful of other children in tow of varying ages. It was earth-shattering to take in their filthy appearances, most were wearing what would not even pass for cleaning rags, barefoot, faces and flesh hidden under weeks worth of dirty and a rampant collection of open sores visible on any number of them. Some were human, some were not, yet all shared the same lackluster appearance, their faces solemn and pleading, their voices silent. Somehow, Htaere's good deed had spread through the ranks of the less fortunate like a wildfire through dry underbrush, and the numbers of hungry beings were growing. Much pleading on Htaere's part had convinced a local restaurant owner to provide at the very least hot soup, and with the promise of generous compensation, he agreed, even going so far as to provide hot meals for the crowd of blank-faced beggars that had collected on the street outside of his shop windows. With the medium-capacity credit chit she was carrying, Htaere put in a rather urgent call to the Warspite in search of Claudius, requesting he come as soon as time permitted and she made special note to request he bring several credit chits with hefty balances. In the meantime, Htaere moved in and out of the horde of squatters, passing out whatever the restaurant owner conjured up for them, refilling glasses and trying to keep a mental hold on the staggering reality of people who were not provided for. The very first child she'd aided with the simple piece of fruit remained close by, simply fixing her with dark eyes and tugging at the immaculate folds of luxurious fabric of her skirt with dirty hands when he wanted to be picked up. What few stormtroopers had accompanied her were standing by, maintaining constant vigil on such a potentially precarious situation, occasionally helping out if need be. With a full plate in front of each desperate being, Htaere took a seat at one of several chairs the restaurant staff had placed around an outside table used as a buffet of sorts. The dark eyed little boy was alongside her as usual, and speaking to her without so much as a facial quiver. She regarded him compassionately and hefted him onto her lap, reaching for her comm unit again in desperate search for reinforcements to aide her humanitarian project.

Major Kerrie Kiley's right hand tensed around the grip of her E-11 blaster rifle as she stared at the swarming crowd of onlookers. She swallowed nervously, remembering the last time she and Htaere had been in a situation like this on Brentaal. Her eyes moved like a wild animal across the huddled masses ... any one of them could be a Rebel or an opportunist looking to make a move against Lady Htaere. She could not help but sneer at some of the pathetic souls arrayed before them. Her gaze shifted focus momentarily is she noticed the arrival of several Imperial Stormtroopers. She had learned her lesson from last time and immediately activated her panic button when the crowd swarmed. She nodded casually to them to indicate everything was alright ... for now. The Stormtroopers maintained their distance and surveyed the crowd and the Major's focus shifted to the area directly around Htaere.

Studying each of their forlorn faces, Htaere tried to imagine the individual predicaments that had landed them where they were, reducing them to the lot of homeless scavengers. Probably her first real exposure to the destitute, Htaere was visibly moved by the experience, watching the forty-something head of underprivileged with an almost sad resolve. All of them were hunched protectively over their plates, most of them practically inhaling the food before them. Malnutrition and environmental abuse had eroded their appearances significantly. As a group they were unnaturally thin, eyes dull, faces listless and devoid of hope. Most of them said nothing, ignorant as to how to behave in the face of benevolence as the majority were hassled on a daily basis. The little boy on Htaere's lap ate a wheat bread roll, watching her escorts with cautious skepticism.

A large commotion was heard as dozen of footfalls were heard in the distance, but grew steadily louder. An entire squad of Imperial Stormtroopers had now arrived on scene and lined up in front of the crowd. The two Stormtroopers in the center of the formation stepped aside and a moment later Admiral Claudius Rodney emerged from between them in dramatic fashion. He paused for a moment and looked over the crowd, not sure what to make of it. His eyes shifted over towards Htaere and Major Kiley and he hurried  towards them, two Stormtroopers pushing their way through the crowd to enable him to reach his destination with casual orders of, "make way." When finally he arrived near Htaere his gaze locked on Kerrie with disapproval before refocusing on his fiance. "What's this, then?" he asked her calmly.

From her spot where she sat, Htaere lifted the child off her lap and got to her feet, placing him back down along side her. The dark haired child shifted behind her, having paused his meal to peer steadily around the side of her skirt, the bottomless depths of his dark eyes locked onto Claudius intensely. Htaere on the other hand took on a relieved expression, a tired and grateful smile appearing. "I am glad you have come. I did not bring enough with me. . ." she began, motioning to the crowd of people seated along the street and sidewalks. "These people are hungry" she said simply, as if that justified everything, which in her mind, it did.

"Ah, yes," Claudius said, "You did mention something about needing credits." He nonchalantly flicked his finger in the direction of an Imperial Stormtrooper who produced the desired credit chip. Claudius nodded in approval and took the credit chip from the Stormtrooper before passing it on to Htaere. He took an uneasy look at the gathering crowd before turning his attention to her again, "What exactly is it that you wish to purchase, my dear?"

Htaere blinked, unmoving for a moment. Wasn't it obvious? "The...the food...the owner..." she looked towards the restaurant "...he has provided all of this. I have assured him he will be compensated" she replied. Looking at him curiously, her brow knit. "Claudius..." she began, her accent spinning the tell-tale twist to his name "...some of these people have not eaten in days."

"Yes," Claudius said with some contempt, "The Rebel insurgency makes it quite difficult for food shipments to arrive. They target indiscriminately. They are a plague and a menace and it is the people who suffer most for it."

He still could have been speaking a different language based on her reaction. "These are your people, Claudius. As the ruling faction, the Empire has an obligation to address the needs of its constituents. These people cannot be left on the street" she siad emphatically, her tone hushed and eyes pleading. The little boy remained behind her, monitoring the conversation with an unflinching facade. It was unknown whether or not he understood Basic, and Htaere had not pressed him to find out. In such delicate situations of addressing the most basic needs, words would have cheapened the heart-wrenching moments in watching beings relish at the mere opportunity to eat.

Claudius sighed and looked over the crowd. He then steadied himself and looked to Htaere, "I am doing my best, my dear. It is why I work such long hours and strain myself so. Unfortunately, the local insurgency has been effective in causing great suffering to the people. It is their foolish hope that such an action will ultimately cause them to join their efforts."

One by one as the crowd finished their meals, their eyes shifted to the silent conversation between the young woman and the officer. Their bellies full, the poor took to observing, waiting for perhaps an imminent arrest. The weight of their stares caused Htaere's gaze to pan out across them, eliciting no response whatsoever from them. Looking back to her soon-to-be husband, Htaere lowered her voice yet another decibel or so. "Is there no place these people can go to get off the street for the night?" she asked, a little uneasy that her exchange with Claudius had become the undisputed point of interest among everyone in the immediate area, beggars and onlookers alike.

"We have sent up tent cities," Claudius explained to her, "But they are afraid concentrating in one area would make them one big target."

Htaere's mind churned, looking across the sea of expectant faces. "Perhaps they can be taken to a tent city, and the soldiers left to guard them for the night" she proposed. "There are children here as well, and they require so much more" she added, throwing a glance down to the raven-haired five-year-old that hid behind her, only half of his face emerging at any given point to eyeball the officer.

"Positioning shoulders would only invite attack," Claudius continued to explain, "The Rebels do not stop to consider collateral damage when planning their attacks. Our attempts to protect them would only endanger them further. It is a vicious truth."

A continuous series of tugs on Htaere's skirt caused her to pull her eyes from Claudius, turning to look down at the youngling. Dark bottomless pools meeting hers, she picked him up and settled the child on her right hip. She opened her mouth to say something, yet stopped.  A moment later after composing her thoughts she looked towards Claudius, the frustration evident across her features not shaded by the hood of her cloak. "What should I do with them, then?"

"There is little you," Claudius paused, "Or anyone can do for that matter. This is just a microcosm of a larger population. Only through enduring and ultimately prevailing over the insurgency can we restore peace to the region and then help these people." He looked over the situation again before turning his attention to her again, "The help you'd have us provide them are the very same resources the insurgency most wants to get their hands on ... to attempt to provide it to these people would only make them greater targets."

For a handful of heartbeats, she said nothing, simply regarding him with reluctant defeat. At long last, she nodded slowly and without another thought, she shifted the young child, handing him over to Claudius before moving out into the crowd to address them in as soft a voice as she could to warn them of the dangers of clustering, as well as promising to return to address the problem of their homelessness.

Claudius awkwardly held the boy for a moment before returning him to his former position on the ground. "There's a good lad," he said politely. He turned his attention to Kerrie and flicked his wrist in the direction of Htaere.

The Major nodded to the Admiral and proceeded after Htaere into the crowd. She eyeballed each hapless passerby as they moved, wondering if the next one would bring their doom.

Her back to them, she drifted about them, offering her best diplomacy, her efforts met with blank stares as the poor got to their feet and trickled away bit by bit. As she drew upon one individual huddled beneath a brown hood and robe, she paused and bent down slightly. "If you have had your fill, it is safest for you to return to wherever it is you find sanctuary until the Empire can protect you from the insurgents" she encouraged him quietly, with an award-winning smile. When no answer came, her smile faded a bit and she reached out to touch his shoulder. " must return to.." her gentle prodding was cut short when a calloused burly hand snapped out from beneath the burlap-like robe, fingers wrapping tightly around her wrist with a near mechanical strength. The hood of the cape lifted slowly until Htaere found herself staring into weathered eyes, grey like hers, yet hard and distant, devoid of warmth or conviction. For a handful of moments, it was eerily silent, her breath having caught in her throat. The worn and grisled face of the human male stared her down long and hard before muttering "The Empire will destroy us all. Your time is coming as well." Htaere's mouth fell open in stunned disbelief before the stranger released his steely grip on her and brushed her hand away from him. Still hunched beneath the ragged robe, he got to his feet cleanly, unlike the rest of the staggering destitute and moved off down the street, disappearing amid the crowd, as sparse as it may have become. Htaere stared after him, straightening slowly and rubbing her wrist idly, not so much out of pain, but rather as part of the struggle to make sense of what had just occurred.

Major Kiley thrust two fingers from her free left hand into the air instantly. Four Imperial Stormtroopers detached from crowd control and immediately followed after the individual who had just accosted Htaere, but they could not track him. Kerrie brandished her E-11 blaster rifle as she glared at those currently surrounding Htaere. "The situation here is rapidly deteriorating," she explained, "I implore you to consider a haste departure."

Htaere's eyes remained on the troopers until they were no longer visible. At which point she turned to the major, nodded and moved past her back towards the restaurant. In short order the owner was repaid for his troubles and then some. At last Htaere returned to where she left Claudius and the dark haired child, eyes vacillating between the two. The youngster evened her out with another lengthy stare before spinning on his heels and darting off down the street. Simply astounded, she watched the child go, surprised when he cast a singular glance back in her direction before weaving off between various shifting bodies.

Claudius looked at Htaere with mixed emotions. He was relieved that she was unarmed, but also gravely concerned by what had transpired. A cordial smile formed upon his lips before he addressed her, "Are you ready to depart?"

She nodded, and returned the smile, displeased that she had not been able to do more, yet grateful that he had let her go along with as much as she already had. "Yes, Claudius" she replied obediently.

Claudius nodded to Kerrie who began clearing a path through the crowd with the aid of the Stormtroopers. He then intertwined his arm with Htaere's and began walking back through the crowd towards the waiting shuttle. He smiled and nodded politely at the citizens of Brentaal as he passed through the mob. Arriving at the shuttle's ramp he turned to look at them one last time. He gave a polite, dignified wave to the crowd and allowed Htaere a final moment before boarding the craft.

A lasting glance over her shoulder to them, and she continued up the ramp, mindful of their eyes on her back. She could only imagine what they'd thought of her but she doubted it really mattered. In several hours, her deeds would be forgotten and that would most likely be the end of it. In the privacy of the shuttle, her free hand lifted to drop the hood of her cloak down the back of her shoulders, concealing a sigh quite well and even managing to look reasonably content. Her face lifted to that of her older fiancé, a smile forming on her face. Unlike her previous facade, the smile was genuine.

The Lamda Shuttle Kwai lifted off from Cormond on Brentaal and begin the short jaunt back towards the Star Destroyer. In the comfort of the shuttle's cabin, Claudius turned to Htaere and smiled. "How was your day?" he asked, genuinely interested.

"It was very educational. How was yours?" she replied. She regarded him a moment before her smile widened considerably. "It was very nice of you to pick me up from work, husband darling" she quipped in jest.

"It was alright. Filled with the final preparations before departure," Claudius explained, "You will find the situation on Alderaan much more palpable."

"Oh? I am looking forward to it" Htaere said truthfully. "I am sure the girls are equally as excited?"

"It is all they talk about," Claudius informed her, "Jelena is grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and Drusilla is incessantly rambling on about what wonderful gifts await her from her grandparents."

"She would be happy anywhere," Claudius said with a laugh.

"I envy her resilience" Htaere confessed. Her hands folded in her lap as the conversation fell silent at her lack of continuation. Her mind drifted back the scene she'd just left behind, and the several specific faces that were burned into her mind.

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