Jelena had been distant and withdrawn since learning
the truth about Major Kiley's injuries, barely eating and finding it
impossible to look her father in the eyes. She had told neither him nor
Kerrie that she knew the truth, and did the best to hide her thoughts
from her unsuspecting sisters. And so she had returned to the Togatto
Speedway in Nuralle, which had become her regular meeting place for her
contact within the Rebel Alliance. By now this was becoming an old
habit. There were no longer any nerves involved.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the lean and exotic figure
of Parka Pepper emerged, dropping gracefully into a chair at the table
which Jelena occupied. As usual, her outfit was stylish, provocative in
the right places and barely there in others. She again, sported a pair
of high-end sunglasses. She gazed out at the track leisurely, addressing
Rodney without looking at her "Decided to rethink the vacuum?"
"I understand what you people are trying to do now..."
Jelena commented coldly as she avoided eye contact with the Rebel Agent.
When she learned what her father was capable of it shattered her, and
was one of the last steps in pushing her over towards the Rebellion. "I
want to help more..." she admitted, finally turning to look up at her,
tears welling up in the corner of her eyes. It had been an overwhelming
several days for her with little sleep and no nourishment. She was
Parka's head swiveled to the right to peer across the
table at Jelena, pushing her sunglasses up to rest atop her head. After
a long pause of evaluating the slightly younger girl, she commented
quietly "What's going on?"
"Things are not what I thought they were..." an
emotionally exhausted Jelena Rodney admitted to Parka, looking down at
the ground quickly to avoid eye contact with so many tears in her eyes.
The young, somewhat spoiled noblewoman had been taught such a hard
lesson in life, and it was not one she was fully prepared for.
"What things?" Parka asked evenly, still gazing at
Jelena, unyielding in intensity.
"My father..." Jelena stated weakly, her voice
trembling in unbearable agony as she tried to get the words out. She was
humiliating herself in this very public forum, but thankfully the
degenerate gamblers were all too focused on the race to pay any mind to
a hysterical young girl.
Parka had become accustomed to the youth spilling a
little of her soul here and there. She still remained motionless.
"He is a monster..." Jelena said, unable to accept
that she said the word, but she knew it was true and her body began to
shake. She could not believe that she had told this stranger such a
horrible thing about her own flesh and blood. She felt awful for doing
so, but had no one else to talk to.
"Oh..? Why is that" she continued to draw her out.
"He...he...he beat a woman to within an inch of her
life..." Jelena said in absolute horror, wondering if he was capable of
doing it to her, or to her late mother. She had wondered if he had done
it to Htaere. The thoughts running to her mind had corrupted her dream
into nightmares. She started to shake rather noticeably, but getting it
off her chest helped.
It was an effort on Parka's part to say the name,
though there appeared faint traces of sympathy in her voice. "Major
Jelena nodded her head three times, unable to speak as
the tears continued to flow from her face and she struggled to breath.
There were no words to express what she was feeling or the horror of it
all. Her view of the entire galaxy had been turned upside down and she
could not set herself right.
Parka let her get it out, not making any snide remarks
or unsolicited interjections. A long time passed without comment.
Finally she spoke, her voice quiet and smooth, with an almost soothing
nuance to it. "And what are you upset about specifically? The fact that
someone came very close to dying? Or that he was capable of it, period?"
"The fact that he was capable of it," Jelena admitted
as she envisioned the many horrible ways in which such an event might
have transpired. Htaere seemed content to blame it on alcohol, but to
Jelena there was no excuse that was acceptable.
"Disappointment in people is inevitable, including the
ones you idolize" she commented gently. "And anyway, that whole
situation is beyond complicated. I would not even try to touch it if I
was you." She leaned back slightly in her chair to get comfortable.
"I actually have something to report this time,"
Jelena added as she raised her sleeve to her face to crudely wipe the
tears and mucus that had formed in her earlier bouts of hysterics. She
needed to try and regain her composure or this would have all been for
"Alright" Parka acknowledged. "What'cha got?"
"The Empire has sent something called an 'Inquisitor'
to assist my father in his campaign against the Rebels..." Jelena
revealed to Parka, the confrontation with her still vivid in her head.
Truthfully, she had no an idea what an Inquisitor was, but she certainly
knew that she despised this particular one.
"An 'Inquisitor'?" Parka repeated. The term sounded
awful, and it conjured up bad mental images of torture and interrogation
for some reason. "That sounds very...official" she mulled it over,
wondering if bringing in the 'heavy artillery' was a good or bad thing
for the current Imperial administration in the Ringali Shell. "What does
the Inquisitor do?"
"I heard the Inquisitor took someone's head off, but I
really don't know," Jelena explained as she shifted uncomfortably in her
chair. Truthfully, she did not want to know much about things like
beheadings. "It has been hard to...hard to...talk to my father lately,"
she admitted, the original issue coming back to the forefront of the
conversation. She shook her head at herself, wondering if she was cut
out for this sort-of thing.
Parka filed away the pieces of information neatly
before canting her head. "And why do you suppose that is?" She narrowed
her eyes and shrugged her shoulders. "Maybe you 'can' think of a list of
reasons why. Think of all the things you 'hate' about him...all the
things that bug you...that ride your nerves...it must be so easy" she
tempted her. "It will make you feel so much better to rid yourself of
the guilt that shouldn't exist."
"I can't look him in the eye anymore, Parka," Jelena
explained as she tried to think about any other relevant information she
might have seen or overheard. It had all been so difficult lately and
she had not been proving herself as a very effective spy. "I will
try..." she said as she began to look around at the crowd. The races
were dwindling and the crowd's attention would soon find itself
elsewhere, perhaps on her.
"Because he's a liar? Because he's Imperial? Because
he's your dad?" she offered up, dropping her sunglasses back down over
her eyes and glancing out at the race track. "Maybe because he married a
girl your age? Or you feel neglected?"
"Please stop..." Jelena said pathetically, having had
to face it all by herself for so long. She let out a tired sigh and rose
from the seat suddenly, wondering why she even came. "Look ... I told
you all that I know..." she said as she began to move away from the
table. Raising the hood of her cloak up over her head, she began to cry
as she hurried towards the shuttle that would return her to the estate
that was more like a prison than a home.
Once it appeared Jelena had fled the scene, Major
Kerrie Kiley lowered her head, preparing to make her move. Posed as an
Iridonian Zabrak she was easily able to follow the young girl to the
raceway and observe her meeting with Parka. It had been a long time
since she had an opportunity to use this skill-set and she fondly
remembered her days as a bounty hunter. With her face now obscured she
quickly shifted her form into that of the young and determined Human
female most around her took as her natural state. The shapeshift
complete, she hurried swiftly towards the table where Parka was seated,
not wanting to give her a chance to evade. Her gloved hand curled over
the handle of her polished KYD-21, but she did not draw. Instead, she
simply tilted her head to the left and smiled down at the Hapan. "I had
a feeling I had not seen the last of you, Miss Pepper," her voice
equally matched the smugness plastered upon her face.
Parka's silvery pools narrowed from behind her dark
glasses on the familiar and venomous voice of her arch rival. She
managed a tight lipped and somewhat unhappy grin. "Well, well. Major
Kiley. Alive and in the flesh. What a treat" she mumbled.
The familiar face of the Human-appearing Major had
seen better days, as even though she had received sound medical
treatment there was obvious signs of bruising around her nose and jaw.
Clearly, she had been beaten. "There is a unit of Storm Commandos
outside. One move of my hand and they will kill you," Kerrie warned as
she moved closer, sliding out the chair Jelena had occupied and taking a
seat on it. She was lying, for if she had told any other member of the
Empire her reason for being here, Jelena would surely be imprisoned.
"Wouldn't be the first time..." Parka commented
leisurely. She turned her head slowly to look at the other woman, the
fingers of one hand nimbly lifted to pluck her sunglasses off. She
stared Kerrie down with a solid gaze, evaluating what she looked like
after all these stories Jelena was carrying on about. "I'm so glad you
could take time out of your busy domestic violence schedule to say
hello" she reciprocated with smugness of her own.
Kerrie raised her right index finger towards Parka and
wagged it disapprovingly, not at all amused by her 'domestic violence'
comment. The truth of the matter was far more complicated, but this was
neither the time nor the place nor the person to discuss the matter
with. "I do not want you to bother than girl any further," she said as
she leaned forward slightly, her two blue eyes glaring across the table
with newfound intensity as she spoke.
"Afraid I'm a bad influence?" Parka drummed her
fingernails on the table top, unimpressed as usual.
"You are alive for one reason, Miss Pepper," Kerrie
sad as her eyes rolled down towards her blaster pistol before locking
eyes with the Hapan once again. "...if I kill you ... the Rebel scum
will just send another Agent to harass Jelena," she explained knowingly
as she realized the futility of the situation. "This girl should not be
caught up in this," she said as she folded her arms in front of her
chest and leaned back.
Parka wove her fingers together and leaned back
casually. "Here's what 'I' think" she began, fixing Kerrie with a cool
stare of her own. "I think, that you need to get your own shit together
and let her grow up and be her own person" she continued. "I don't
harass shit. She comes to me to get away from the rest of you" she
grinned. "Apparently it's like a freak circus on your end."
Kerrie could not stand to hear Parka describe those
around her in such a way and she instantly lost what little composure
she had and rose from the table with an audible huff. "Listen,
you...you...you..." she stammered as she searched for the right word,
her mimicked Human flesh reddening with anger, her gloved hands balling
into fists. "Do not go near that girl again," she warned, her heart
pounding out of her chest and her breathing becoming more strained.
Parka exhaled noticeably, finding communication with
the Major to be so frustrating. "Your name is Kerrie?" she asked
solidly, rubbing her forehead to soothe it.
Kerrie stood there for a long moment, her expression
blank as she listened to the woman's response, which seemed to have
nothing to do with the conversation. "What?" was all she said, shaking
her head not so much at the woman but at the situation.
Parka pulled her attention from her nail polish to the
Imperial, gazing at her curiously. "Sit down, Kerrie. Take a moment to
get hold of yourself. Look at you. You're near hysterics..." she said,
head canting to the side. After a moment she leaned forward and rested
her chin in the palm of her hand, elbow propped up on the table top.
"Can I ask you something?"
Kerrie let out a frustrated sigh and grabbed the back
of the chair, pulling it a slight distance away from Parka. Sliding down
onto the chair she tried her best not to look at the woman, ignoring the
fact that she was quite right about her current situation. "Unlike my
'friend' who just left I don't give information to Rebel scum..." she
replied angrily, shaking her head at the traitor.
"...and yet, you sat down..." Parka remarked.
"Interesting." She lifted both her hands, sprawling her fingers open to
show the Major she was empty handed. "Relax a moment. I'm the least of
your worries right now" she said. "And anyway, I'm not asking you for
that kind of silliness. I'm not interested in politics at the moment."
"I could be put to death just for looking at you,"
Kerrie explained bitterly, wondering what she was doing here. It would
be more efficient to talk to Jelena, but far less comfortable. She let
out a tired sigh, catching her battered reflection in a pool of standing
water in the disgusting speedway. "...what is your question?" she asked,
her hand coming up to her face to poke at the bruises as she examined
"...and yet, here you sit...interesting indeed" Parka
scrutinized the woman closely, her strange black-flecked gaze unwavering
in magnitude. "Tell me you landed at least a few good ones too."
Kerrie reached down and pulled the glove from her left
hand, revealing swollen fingers, with broken skin around the knuckles.
In reality, they were from hours of assaulting a punching bag to keep
her focus and purge her emotions, but she would not let Parka know the
man beat her without so much as a slap on her part. She swallowed,
looking down, and offering no verbal reply.
"I find it pretty doubtful that you punched that old
man. You're too afraid of him." It was not a question. Parka let any
potential sarcasm flicker away, finding no need for it at the moment.
"So...the question still begs...why? What exactly does that guy have on
you that you tolerate that?" Parka was genuinely curious. That kind of
submission was unheard of in Hapes. No woman ever conceded to a man,
even if it was she in the wrong. It just wasn't done. The idea of being
not only controlled by dominated by a male was unreal.
Kerrie slid the glove back onto her hand, somehow
feeling more comfortable knowing her scarred hands were out of sight.
She turned to look at the woman as she asked the question, but knew she
should not be having this kind of discussion with her. If anyone saw her
here they would think she was the spy ... she was playing a dangerous
game trying to protect Jelena. "He... he is all that I have," she
explained in vagaries, knowing that giving this 'woman' a window into
her soul would make her mission a more complicated one.
Parka evaluated her long and hard. "If you say so. But
I digress..." she pursed her lips. "Here's the problem...I can't have
you reporting my contact or jeopardizing her existence."
"If I report your contact they will imprison her..."
Kerrie informed her, very bleakly, shaking her head in disgust. "...or
worse," she added, having been interrogated and torture by the Imperial
Security Bureau she knew all to well what the Empire was capable of. "I
have sworn an oath to protect her that comes above all else. I can not
allow them to find out," she explained as she revealed the absurdity of
the situation. "That is why you must stop meeting with her," she
explained in a clear, calm voice, imploring the woman to listen to
Parka leaned forward speaking quietly, and finding a
bit of amusement in this whole thing. "What is that smell? Could it be?
Another traitor...hmm..."she remarked. "So should I bring you an
application? Oh, and by the way, 'she' is the one who decides when to
meet. My job is just to come running when she calls" she said leaning
"I am no traitor," Kerrie yelled angrily as she again
lost her composure and slammed her fist angrily down upon the small
metal table. "I would protect her no matter whom she chose to give her
allegiance to," she explained, not wanting the Hapan to think her
loyalty could so easily sway. "You do not need to come when she calls,"
she explained to her, wishing that she could find some way to reason
For the first time ever, there was a total lack of
humor of sarcasm. "Do not yell at me again" she muttered sourly. "It
would not be in your best interest." She let the gravity of the
statement linger a moment longer before her composure relax again.
"'She' has chosen her allegiance. The only debate around here is the one
inside 'you', regarding where all of this leaves 'you'."
"I will yell at whomever I want, whenever I want,"
Kerrie said angrily as she sneered at the arrogant young Hapan, sliding
the chair back to stand once again. "If she follows you it will bring
only suffering and death. I cannot allow that," she said as she began to
turn her back to her to return to the estate. "If you will not listen to
me ... then perhaps she will," she said in exasperation, once again
becoming quite flustered. She seemed to have quite the difficult time
around this thorn in her side.
Parka looked pleasantly surprised. "Oh by the
goddesses...you do have a little bit of a temper hidden under there
somewhere..." She paused if only for a second. "The idea has never
appealed to you of being in a situation where you don't have to 'hide'
who you really are...where you don't have to...conform...unnaturally..."
Kerrie was about to leave when the woman's words
struck her painfully, causing her to stop dead in her tracks. She did
not turn, but instead the already small woman seemed to sink into
herself. Her head lowered dejectedly and she began to shake ever so
slightly. She did not allow herself to cry in front of her nemesis.
"I..." she began, but stopped herself.
Parka stood from her chair, taking a moment to stretch
slightly. "Hey, I get it. You're obligated or some shit. Yeah I get
that" she said reaching for her sunglasses. "I also get that you can
walk away from your identity and the cast you were born into if you dare
to try. Everyone's gotta figure out who they 'really' are...right?"
There was a pause as she slipped the glasses back on. "I'm sure you made
the right choice" she called over her shoulder as she slipped away,
disappearing almost instantly into the flow of pedestrian traffic.
Kerrie stood there for several moments allowing the
crowd in the speedway to bump her aside rather than move out of the way
on her own volition. Finally, she moved at a slow pace back towards the
speeder that would return her to the Rodney Estate on the other side of
the planet. Although she had threatened Parka, she would not actually go
through with talking to Jelena about the issue. She had failed in her
first attempt to fix the 'Jelena problem.' It would not be her last.