As Kerrie's wrapped hands repeatedly
struck the punching bag, it was hard for her to visualize just who she
was striking at. Was it Captain Eona for belittling her since arrive on
the Warspite? Was it Lady Jelena for not heeding her warnings
and continuing to supply information to the Rebellion? Was it Governor
Rodney for putting her in this position in the first place? Or was it
herself she was so viciously trying to beat? The young woman was covered
in sweat, that was literally soaking her body and causing her tattered
t-shirt to cling to her carefully mimicked human flesh. Her hands were
badly swollen, and once again the tape she had wrapped them in was
dripping blood. Her brown hair was matted down by sweat, and had come
out of her carefully woven braids. Worst of all she was at a point of
near-exhaustion, and instead of breathing, she was panting like an
animal about to die. Though she had no inclination to stop.Grand Moff
Claudius Rodney had watched this go on for fifteen minutes. He had
remained in the shadows, horrified by what he had seen. It appeared that
everything Captain Eona and his daughter had told him was true, but why
did it take him that long to discover what was going on? He used to have
a tighter grip on what was going on beneath him, and as he witnessed
this distressing sight he openly questioned whether he had the ability
to serve as a Grand Moff. He remembers how close he and Kerrie had once
been, despite the fact that on their first meeting she had tried to
assassinate him. And now what he saw in front of him made him want to
throw up ... had he done this to her? He could stand no more, and allowed
his feet to stomp loudly on the durasteel deck as he approached.
"Kerrie! Stop this immediately!" he shouted to her, ignoring her ranks
and titles, and simply addressing her as the woman he once knew.
When Kerrie saw the Grand Moff approach
she immediately went into a panic, and stopped after striking the bag
one last time. Unfortunately, she was ill-prepared for the momentum of
the bag's return and was struck squarely in the face by it ... sending her
staggering backwards. At that moment she did not think life could get
any worse. Unaware that her nose too was now bleeding, she stepped
forward towards the Governor, and immediately dropped to one knee in
front of him. She bowed her head and said nothing, her body trembling,
unable to speak as she gasped for air ... made more difficult now due to
the damage to her nose. There was small puddles of blood forming below
as it dripped from her face and her hands.
"What has become of you?" Claudius
asked, wearily, as he dropped to his knees in front of her. He wanted to
speak to her on her own level, and not towering from above. He was not
angry ... he was distraught. His hands reached for her and firmly took
each of her shoulders, before he proceeded with shaking her in an
attempt to stir her back to reality. "I have never known you to be like
this," he asked, trying to compel the woman into giving him the answers
that he so desperately needed at this moment.
Kerrie let out a soft scream as he
touched her, flinching like a wounded animal, as memories of his assault
on her played through her mind's eye. But then she calmed down, her
breathing still erratic, and raised her bloody face to look at him with
her blue eyes. "I apologize, Milord. This is how I maintain my physique
to stay at top form to protect you and your children," she said, in a
half-truth ... it was how it had started, but now it was something more,
bordering on self-flagellation in an attempt to transfer her emotional
pain into the physical kind.
"No. There is more," Claudius said
loudly, right back at her with a voice full of displeasure. He was not
willing to relent on this personal matter. He had lost many engagements
since arriving in the Ringali Shell, but he was not prepared to lose
this one. "Tell me, Kerrie. What has happened?" he asked, his voice
lowering, as he did not want to frighten the poor woman anymore than she
already had been. Although he did not realize it, he had developed a
soft spot in his heart for her ... but it would take more to happen for
him to acknowledge it.
"I have lost so much, Milord," Kerrie
began honestly, the tears beginning to well in her eyes once more. "Do
you remember when you permitted me to return home some months ago?" she
asked, remembering the events that led to her return to Zolan and the
awful events that transpired there. "I did not intend to return, but my
people would not accept me for my service to the Empire ... not even my
sister. I was exiled..." she said bitterly, his eyes looking right past
him as she seemed to have spaced out. "All I had left was you ... and you
beat me," and with those words she became overcome, sucking in air
through her mouth and shattered nose, and her tears reached a torrent
level. She had all that she could take ... she was nearing the edge now.
"And my job was given to some pretty face from Alderaan. Now I spend my
days trying to care for your family, but..." and then she stopped herself.
She panicked, realizing she had nearly revealed Jelena's duplicity. She
could not do that to him.
The anguish on her face struck at the
very core of her soul, and when she reminded him of how cruel he had
been to her, he became equally devastated. In that moment he ceased
being a commander, and instead became a father ... his arms wrapped around
her, and he drew her in close to him. He did not matter that his uniform
was being stained by her sweat and her blood, he had to hold her. His
arms moved up and down her back in an attempt to calm her, but her
crying only seemed to become worse. "There, there," he said, as if he
were speaking to one of her daughters, and began to rock her back and
forth in his cradled arms.
Kerrie had become overwhelmed by the
man's grasp, and she was literally gasping for air as she was gently
rocked back and forth. She did not recall anyone ever doing this for
her, and if they had it would have been back before memory began. She
had been given up the monastery at such a young age, and the monks were
not the kind that were big on hugs. In the back of her mind she realized
how humiliating this was, having her lord have to cradle her on a filthy
floor, while she cried hysterically.
"I have neglected you too long, and for
that I am sorry," Claudius said, as one of his hands moved up to gently
rub at her head. "I can see now that this situation has overwhelmed you.
Therefore, for your own good ... you are relieved from active duty," he
said, speaking soft and calmly so that he would not overwhelm her
anymore than she already was. It pained him to speak those words, but
she needed help ... and he did not want her around his family in this
state of mind.
And so he had done it ... he had taken
what little she had left. Now she truly had nothing. She looked at him
with the same horrified expression she had displayed after he beat her.
"Relieved? Why, Milord? Why?" she asked, as she pulled away from his
embrace, and struggled with an attempt to rise back to her feet. She
nearly tripped over herself as she staggered upwards, and only when she
saw the blood on his tunic did she realize how bad her nose was
bleeding. Her hand moves to her nose and as soon as she felt the wetness
in her hand, she also felt the pain. When she pulled her hand back down
all she saw was crimson. It was an old sight, and she carelessly wiped
her hand upon her shirt that had countless blood stains that had turned
brown over the years.
"You need rest, Kerrie. I do not want to
lose you due to your lack of focus," Claudius said, pleading with her to
understand. "There is a new counselor aboard ... maybe he could help you?"
he asked, though he confessed he did not remember the man's name at this
point in time. "In time, with some help, you could return to duty. But
right now you are a danger to yourself, and those you serve," he said,
honestly, sparing nothing in his assessment of the woman. He always
found her to be practical and might accept his judgment.
"Am I of no use to anyone for anything?"
Kerrie at last said, in an exasperated voice where every word was
strained. That was certainly how she felt at that moment, and she gave
him no opportunity to say anything further. He said enough. And since
she was no longer on duty she no longer saw any reason to obey him, and
she immediately turned on her feet and hurried towards the exit of the
fitness center. She needed a drink, she needed her stuffed bantha ... but
above all she just needed to be alone. The solemnity of the fitness
center had been taken from her as of late. At least her quarters were
There was a moment where Claudius
half-thought of chasing after her, but he stopped himself. He stood
there in the empty fitness center for a long while, and began to
understand why she retreated here. It was quiet, and he could hear
himself think. Finally, he caught a glimpse of himself in one of the
mirrors ... he looked weary and was covered in the woman's blood, sweat,
and tears. He was in need of a change, and while he was bothered by how
pained Kerrie was, he was at least content his actions would prevent her
from being physically injured ... or perhaps worse.
Back in her quarters, Kerrie threw
herself onto her bunk in a last gasp of despair. The metal coils
squeaked angrily and she bounced several times before the bunk settled
down. One hand reached for the stuffed bantha her parents gave her, the
only relic from her past life. The other hand reached for her KYD-21
blaster pistol. Her knees curled up into her chest and she began to rock
back and forth, unaware that she had taken up identical positioning to
how she existed in her mother's womb. She considered pulling the trigger
so many times, but in the end she just carelessly threw it across the
room. With both hands on the bantha now, she closed her eyes, and tried
to find a way to get some rest. Tomorrow was another day.