Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin (35:3:35) in the Ottega system: Jubilee and Kwai.
Lieutenant Arrik Rost, Ewwiekewwieikkie, Lady Drusilla Rodney, Countess Htaere Rodney, Meshlor Tayhach, and Doctor Pilaq Tohan.

Doctor Tohan's fingers curled against the ancient walking stick that had been passed down through his family for generations, the ornate wood featuring a series of decorative carvings added by each generation of Tohans. He had woken earlier that morning, having hardly been able to contain his enthusiasm since returning to Ithor. Having spent most of the morning masquerading as Htaere's servant, he managed to negotiate a tour with the Imperial officers that would provide the family with the suitable Ithor experience.

Oblivious to the truth of the situation, Htaere took the sites in with enthusiasm, sporting a permanent smile as she thrived on what flora, fauna or landscaping attributes became part of the tour. To see the number of Imperial troops around was a near disappointment as she imagined what the visit would have been like with all the restrictions, but appreciated the Empire's efforts to keep them all safe from the rebel terrorists.

"You might be interested to note that it is aboard this ship that your husband and I first met, Milady," Pilaq said to her as they exited their quarters, and began walking down the winding corridors that comprised the large circular-shaped vessel. Around each corner were lavish plants that had been carefully transplanted as to not disturb them, many of which had grown to incredibly large proportions. The ship had the feeling of a bazaar with numerous merchants and cafes at every interval. He came to a stop in his tracks almost immediately as he picked up a particularly pleasant scent, and took in a deep, longing breath.

"Ooooh. Shiny," Ewwiekewwieikkie said excitedly as she spotted a set of polished utensils. With her usual excitement she moved over to the storefront, carrying a large picnic basket that she had converted into a shopping basket. "These are koovy," she said as she raised a paw up to the shelf, pushing the entire row of silver into her basket. "Yay," she cheered, clapping her hands, as she looked around for more baubles. She had been told by her adoptive father that she could fill her basket with souvenirs if she agreed to go on the trip.

Htaere paused, eyes flickering over to Ewwie, who was thoroughly enjoying her shopping experience. She could not help but smile at the Squibb's affinity for living with reckless abandon. She drifted after Ewwie, monitoring the jittery being casually, and hoping to placate the shop owner with the peace of mind that he would be paid accordingly for whatever wares were piled into Ewwie's basket.

Meshlor Tayhach, the middle-aged female Ithorian shopkeeper, nervously watched as Ewwiekewwieikkie filled her basket with some of her most ornate cutlery. At first, she thought she had a big sale, but then she realized the Squib was with the Imperial delegation that had arrived on the delegation. Her large, bulbous eyes moved from Htaere to the Imperial Stromtroopers that were patrolling the corridors. She held both of her hands in front of her, waving them frantically at Htaere. " charge!" she explained, hoping it would garner her favor with the Imperials.

Htaere nodded respectfully to the shopkeeper. "Do not be silly, it is our privilege to be allowed to visit your esteemed Herdship and enjoy the local pageantry and shopping. What do we owe you for Ewwie's selection?" she asked moving towards the counter.

Pilaq could sense the distress in the shopkeeper, and realized that he needed to intervene for both of their sakes. "Milady," he began as he attempted to think quick on his feet. "On Ithor it is customary to exchange gifts with visitors..." he explained to her, before turning his attention to the shopkeeper. "You intended these as a gift, did you not?" he asked her humbly, to which the shopkeeper quickly nodded a reply. The conversation monitored by the ever-present soldiers of the Empire.

"I certainly appreciate your customs, Dr. Tohan," Htaere began, feeling a bit unhappy with the interception. "In this circumsance though, we are the honored guests of this store, and as such, I feel it necessary to compensate our gracious host for her product." Discarding any further objection from Pilaq, Htaere produced a credit chit worth 50,000 credits. "Will this be sufficient?"

The Ithorian shopkeeper's eyes went wide as she saw the credit chit produced, having never had a purchase like that in the entire time her shop was open. "Thank you, gentlebeing," she said as she extended her hand, taking the credit chit from her. After the initial excitement wore off, she lowered her head dejectedly and withdrew from the scene, in the vein hope that the transaction had not been seen.

"Don't worry, Hattie," Ewwiekewwieikkie said as she raddled her basket full of silver excitedly. "We rich now!" she exclaimed as she began dragging the basket down the corridor towards the next suite of shops.

Pilaq nodded his head respectfully to the shopkeeper, hoping that all would be well. "That was a very generous price, Milady," he whispered to Htaere, as the duo followed behind the over-energetic Squib. "But perhaps it might be in our interest to keep a lower profile going further..." he suggested, wanting to minimize the inconvenience to the locals as much as possible. There seemed to be a spring in his step, barely needing the use of his walking stick, as he looked around each corner at both familiar and new sites.

"I was hoping for a lower profile then an escort of guards," Htaere replied wistfully, resisting the urge to frown. "And I will not attempt to deprive these people out of the funds they are justly due for selling their items," she stated as she followed him. She glanced around a bit for Drusilla, wondering what she'd gotten herself into and why it was so unusually quiet.

Drusilla has learned her lesson from the other day and kept ear phones in her head the entire time, sparing herself the debacle of Ewwiekewwieikkie's first encounter with the merchant. She would let the creature have the shiny babbles, as she had a much bigger gift in mind from her father when she returned. Besides, she did not want any dirty alien trinket that would takes to rid the smell of. "When do we eat?" she asked rudely, moving her way up into the group. "I doubt there's even anything edible to be had around here?" she said, crinkling her nose as she caught a whiff of something she found particularly offensive.

"Understanding and appreciating other species for their diversity builds character," Htaere explained patiently. "We learn how much we really do not know when we visit new places and experience new cultures. I am certain Dr. Tohan can recommend something wonderful for us to sample?" she asked eagerly.

"Well if other species would behave like us there would not need to be any diversity," Drusilla pointed out with a firm nod of her head. "Well if it is anything like the Doctor's cooking I had several years ago we are all going to get quite sick," she pointed out, as she folded her arms in front of her chest and looked up at the large Ithorian.

"There are many wonderful eateries on this level," Doctor Tohan answered, his nostrils flaring slightly as he caught a whiff of something particularly delicious. "However," he continued, pausing to look down at Drusilla, "perhaps you would be more comfortable eating in the Imperial mess?"

"I should like to vote for local fare," Htaere beamed before looking to Ewwie. "Do you have a preference?" Hoping to take full advantage of the new experience, Htaere was eager to follow Pilaq's recommendations to the hilt.

Ewwiekewwieikkie's golden eyes went wide when she heard her name, her ears perking up slightly. "Umm..." she stammered, as she brought a paw up to scratch at her chin, carefully considering the situation. "Hmm..." she continued, as she looked around a bit, as if the answer might be written somewhere for her. "Food!" she finally exclaimed as she through each of her arms in the air victorious, waiving her hands in excitement.

"You are as helpful as ever," Drusilla sneered, rolling her eyes at the Squib's useless answer. "I can see that I will be out voted," she said, shaking her head as she stomped her foot frustratingly. "If I get sick it's your fault!" she said to the Ithorian, giving him a stern glare.

"I am sure I can find something that will suit your palette, young one," Doctor Tohan said pleasant as he ushered them down the corridor towards a cafe that seemed to be particularly overflowing with Ithorians and traders. As they entered the cafe, a squad of Imperial Stormtroopers took up a defensive position outside the cafe and began scanning over each of the patrons in the cafe. After only a brief interlude, the group found themselves ushered into a private table in a part of the restaurant that had been cleared of other patrons.

Masking her dismay at the fanfare made on their behalf, Htaere made the best of it, looking to Pilaq with a graceful smile. "What do you recommend?"

The serving droid arrived promptly at the table, placing a dish in front of each of them. It contained a slice of artisan bread that had been freshly baked aboard the Herdship earlier that day, and brushed with a light coat of oil harvested from locally grown olives. The bread was covered with arugula and a slice of fresh tomato, and sprinkled with cheese that had been harvested from the milk of a nerf.

Drusilla poked the dish with her fork cautiously before taking a bite. "Hmm," she said as she swallowed the first portion, being used to the unhealthy cooking of the Imperial mess. "Where is the meat?" she asked as she lifted the piece of bread off the serving dish to look beneath it.

"Ithorians do not serve meat," Pilaq explained to the young woman as he began to sample his meal. "The Law of Life dictates we replace everything we harvest..." he continued, the sound of his audible munching echoing through the room. "As we cannot create animal life, we cannot take animal life," he explained to her as he quickly cleared his plate.

"Mmm it is delicious. Delicate flavor of the oil and the peppery flavor of the lettuce combine for a delectable symphony that is well balanced and flavorful," Htaere noted aloud, to no one in particular.

The serving droids brought out a selection of locally baked breads next, while the main course was prepared. During this time Ewwiekewwieikkie lifted up her plate and smiled at it happily before tucking it away safely in her basket. The next trinket to find its way in was the ornately sculpted napkin ring. The young Squib woman had never seen so many articles of beauty. It was almost overwhelming for her, like the time she fell into the Warspite's refuse system and attempted to harvest it all singlehandedly.

Doctor Tohan looked at the Imperial Stromtroopers that were there for their protection and frowned, noted how quiet the other diners were being. All around them people were hurrying to finish their meals without so much as a word, and slowly the cafe began emptying. They had been quite the imposition for the Ithorian herd that lived on this ship, which caused a great deal of sorrow to build in his heart.

"Ewwie," Htaere's head shook as she looked at the Squibb. "Put those back, dear. Those are not to be removed. We shall find other items for you to procure, legally."

"Aww," Ewwiekewwieikkie wined as she put the plate back on the table for the serving droid to retrieve. She held the napkin ring in her hand and rolled her paw over it carefully, having a difficult time releasing it as if it were a valuable jewel. "Not koovy," she shook her head sadly as she put the napkin ring back on the table dejectedly.

The serving droids soon returned and placed an assortment of locally grown vegetables that had been cooked with locally produced cheeses. A couscous was served in the side in a heavy portion. By now the restaurant was almost empty and all that could be heard was the breathing of the Imperial Stormtroopers through their rebreathers. It was less than the local ambiance than they had hoped for.

"I have arranged for a scenic sky tour, Milady," Doctor Tohan informed her, feeling quite eager about the idea of getting out of the way of the locals they had thus far served to inconvenience. "It will give us an opportunity to see more of the planet and take the air," he explained, trying to maintain an upbeat and pleasant demeanor.

Since the previous night, Htaere had been concocting in her mind any number of ways they might escape the constant presence of the Stormtroopers, grossly intrusive with their constant shadowing, and destroying the very experience of intermingling amongst the locals that she'd hoped for. Pulled from her revelry by Pilaq Tohan's stereophonic and melodious voice, she smiled. "That sounds like it will be wonderful, and truly a highlight of this trip."

"How do people live on this?" Drusilla asked, is she swirled her fork around the couscous in frustration. "I am sure even the Squibs have more substantial meals than this..." she said, as she looked over at Ewwie who seemed to be munching on the vegetables as if she was some sort of farm animal. "Disgusting," she muttered as she put her fork down and concentrated on the water.

"I am sorry it was not to your liking, young one," Pilaq replied, as he cleared the remainder of his plate into the mouth on the right side of his face. He was pleased that Ewwie seemed to enjoy her meal, but as he thought about it he could not recall an instant in her life when she did not seem to be enjoying one thing or another. He yearned to travel the planet out of the watchful eyes of their Imperial bodyguards that seemed to make the trip less than appealing. However, given the events that transpired during his last trip to Ithor he certainly understand the abundance of caution they were taking.

"My father used to live here?" Drusilla asked as she ate a little more of her meal. She looked around the old Herdship, not being very impressed by anything that she had seen. Having grown up entirely in the Galactic Core she had developed a taste for the cultures and traditions that dominated the region. The non-Human societies that surrounded them did little to make an impression on the adolescent.

"Yes, my dear," Doctor Tohan said as he took a longing sip of the Ithorian spring water that had been brought to the table to clear their palettes. "Your father has always been a great diplomat and for a time he represented your people on Ithor," he explained, remembering those early days fondly. It had become a different galaxy since then, and he had reluctantly watched as the old republican had been cast aside even with good men like his friend in power. "He and I negotiated several important trade agreements in the years leading up to the Clone Wars..." he explained to her, as he fondly looked over the Herdship he once called home. "Perhaps you will one day become a great diplomat..." he said fondly, admiring the young girl who he had once helped deliver and had since watched grow into an adolescent.

"I do not intend to have a career, Doctor," Drusilla explained as she sampled of the spring water, finding it perhaps the only tolerable food that had been placed before them thus far. "I intend to marry a Prince," she explained, an optimstic smile coming upon her face. "Perhaps a Duke if I have to settle..." she continued to speculate, feeling a great deal of resentment that her older sister would inherit the family title.

"I wish you all the best," Doctor Tohan said as he raised his glass in a genuine toast to celebrate the young girl's bold ambition. The serving droids returned to clear the table and the appropriate credits were withdrawn from their account for the cost of the meal. The droids did their best to hurry them on their way, as the proprietors knew that their business would remain stagnant until this particular party moved along.

Unsure as to the vacancy that seemed to follow them, Htaere took a last sip of sparkling water before looking about. "Shall we?" she asked the group, feeling better with a full stomach. Taking a moment to straighten the partial veil that only descended to her nose, she emerged from the booth and waited for the rest of the family to follow suit.

The group made their way onto the upper levels of the Herdship where they eventually reached the open air atrium. "Air," Pilaq said happily, taking a deep, energetic breath, extending his arms as if to envelope the entirety of the atmosphere. After pausing a moment he walked towards the airspeeder, holding the side door open for Htaere and the children.

Htaere lingered behind as she drew in the first deep breaths of fresh air in some time. It was like the greatest gift the goddesses could have afforded her. So invigorating was the experience that she quite literally stopped in her tracks, lifted her face into whatever breeze happened by and closed her eyes as she took one deep breath after another. Rich with the smell of moisture, nature, photosynthesis, growth and sweet blessed freedom, she felt as though she could not take it in enough, committing to memory every blissful second of such euphoria. At long last, she pulled herself together enough to join Pilaq and the children in the speeder, seating herself comfortably and keenly aware of the silly grin fixed to her lovely face.

The airspeeder began to shake as the repulsorlift engines fired up, and with a sudden jolt the craft began to move away from the Herdship at a respectable seed. The airspeeder veered down, until it was just two meters over the treetops. All of the plant life was on full display as they cruised just below the clouds, showing off the rich fertility of all the trees that had grown over the centuries without interference from construction. "Beautiful," the Ithorian doctor stated, as he resisted the urge to stand from his seat. A large bird soared over the speeder, flapping its wings as if to wave as it passed over the group. The Ithorian closed his eyes slowly, letting his other senses paint a picture of the natural world that surrounded them. He could feel the ebb and flow of the life that existed below, and it was as if the plant life was speaking directly to him.

Delicate hands raised to Htaere's head, removing the elegant headpiece and veil she wore. Setting it beside her, she ran a hand through her hair and the breeze billow through it as the cruised along, feeling as if months of interstellar travel breathing the stifling recycled air in the claustrophobic and desolate corridors of the Warspite were being scrubbed away by the purity of the forests beneath them. The youngster leaned closer to the edge of the craft, gazing down across the treetops they soared over and drawing from the experience a serenity that had been lost as of late.

The airspeeder dropped down into a narrow river valley, affording them the opportunity to look below the canopy. As the speeder followed the bath of the river a number of beautiful plants were seen shimmering along the riverbank. Flowers as large as people lurked in the distance, the planet resembling a primordial Eden that had been spared millennia of alteration. "We will be approaching the falls soon," Pilaq informed them, just as the sound of running water began to grow louder in the distance. After some time the airspeeder reached the falls, and it began to slowly descend to the pool that formed at the bottom of the falls. An assortment of creatures were gathered at the banks, lapping at the crystal clear water. Pilaq's breathing slowed to a near halt as he held his hands in front of his body, forming a pyramidal shape and he entered a tranquil state of meditation. It had been many years since he had seen the natural wonders of Ithor and it threatened to overwhelm him.

Reflections of the shimmering surface of the pool danced in Htaere's eyes as she visually drank in the stunning scenery. The roar of the waterfalls was music to her ears, the water particles crashing about misting the area and everything in it with a revitalizing spray. She observed Pilaq, tuning himself back into the nature he'd so long ago had to leave behind, and for the first time since they'd landed, she felt as if they could truly enjoy themselves without the uncomfortable presence of the Imperial garrison.

The serenity of the moment was shattered by the familiar roar of the ion engines of TIE fighters modified for atmospheric flight. Doctor Tohan's eyes opened slowly, his eyes rolling upwards as he watched the fighters streak across the peaceful. A single tear began to run down his left eye, breaking his meditation as he watched the transgressors soil his world. He was quiet for a moment before he turned to Htaere. "I believe we have seen everything there is to see here, Milday," he said to her quietly as the airspeeder began to rise back up into the lower atmosphere on a return trip to the Herdship.

Likewise pulled from savoring the glorious sensation of the natural living world, Htaere's eyes pulled from trailing the fighters into the distance to the physician, noting his doleful appearance. She nodded slowly and sat back in her seat, letting her gaze veer back out to the landscape and taking it in as much as she could before their departure.

The airspeeder made its way back to the Herdship after some time, touching down to a gentle landing in the upper atrium. The squad of Imperial Stormtroopers was patiently awaiting their return, and most of the other traffic had been suspended during their duration. Pilaq led out a dejected sigh as he now felt that he should not have come back, as it was evident that he had fully disrupted the activities of this once thriving Herdship. "We should get on to Gallinore, Milady," he suggested as he assisted the children in debarking the airspeeder. "Your family is expecting you," he was quick to point out as they began way from the central atrium back down into the depths of the Herdship's winding corridors. He was disappointed that Htaere was not afforded to see the community as it was truly was, rather than this show put on for them by the local Imperial bureaucracy.

Htaere departed the airspeeder and took a moment to steal one last fleeting glimpse at the unmarred jungles and topography of Ithor before retreating back inside the Herdship. "You are ready to leave?" she asked curiously. "Please, do not cut short your desires on my account. I have not informed my family that I am returning home," she stated matter-of-factly. "Only the immediate members of my estate are aware of such. There is no need or desire to alert my kin that I will be home. It will be far more enjoyable and relaxing without those harpies lurking around."

One of the Imperial Stormtroopers that was escorting them clumsily crashed into a potted plant, spilling the rich soil over the deck of the Herdship as the tree crashed unceremoniously to the ground. Pilaq considered Htaere's for a moment as he watched the locals fret over the damage to the tree. "Yes. I am quite ready to leave," he conceded with a firm nod of his head, before sinking down into himself and beginning to slow march towards the hangar bay of the Herdship.

Htaere winced as the magnificent arboreal specimen toppled. In that moment, she understood Tohan's desires to escape the destruction in full view, day after day, of his cherished homeworld. Heaving the deepest of sighs, she replaced her headpiece to retain some semblance of ladyship and manners in public before moving off after Tohan.

As the entourage reached the hangar bay, Lieutenant Rost was waiting for them once again. "Milady," he said with a courteous bow as he greeted them. "I have had your shuttle refueled and serviced and everything is ready for your departure. I hope that you will find the time to inform Lord Rodney that I was helpful during your stay," he said with another nod of his head, finding it difficult to ignore the young Squib that was dragging a seemingly overfilled basket filled with trinkets and baubles. "Did you enjoy yourself aboard the Herdship?" he asked, as he did his best to escort them to the ramp of the shuttle.

Graciously accepting the courtesy, Htaere nodded as they moved along. "It was a refreshing change from the interior of a Star Destroyer," she admitted before venturing on with an even more honest assessment. "I should like to return when this conflict had ended. I imagine the Herdship to be even more enjoyable when not locked down for the protection of the locals."

Lieutenant Rost nodded with a polite smile as he began to walk away from the shuttle. "With men like your husband we will soon destroy the rebel scum and make the galaxy once again safe for Humans," he said in a confident tone, as he stood at attention with his Stormtroopers to watch the shuttle depart.

Aboard the shuttle Doctor Tohan helped Ewwiekewwieikkie stow her keepsakes in the overhead compartment. "I think these weigh more than you," he told her, struggling to get the basket into the narrow compartment. Once the test of strength was completed he helped the children into their seats and began strapping them. He had no desire to stay for the pleasantries being exchanged between Htaere and the COMPNOR officer.

Htaere caught the comment but it took a few moments to register, and a few more for her to digest the statement and its intent. "Does not everyone need protection from the rebel terrorists, be they human or otherwise?" she paused on the ramp and turned slightly to gaze over at the Lieutenant.

The Lieutenant paused for a moment, not at all pleased by her response. "Yes..." he stammered, patronizing the foolish young woman. "Yes of course," he repeated, assuming the Admiral had married her, not for her brain and sensibilities, but for some unseen physical reason. Typical of the nobility he thought.

For a handful of heartbeats Htaere said nothing, stormy grey eyes boring into the officer as if to pick apart every fiber of his being and deduce his meaning and intention. She started to admonish him and would likewise regret having to report his grievous insult regarding Ewwie upon their arrival, but thought the better of it and withheld. They were, after all, guests of the Empire, and given her recent traumatic false accusation from the ISB, stirring up a hornets' nest seemed unwise...and unladylike. Exhaling deeply, she continued up the ramp, taking a seat, in silence.

The shuttle rumbled as the repulsorlift engines roared to life, and maneuvered out of the Herdship's hangar. Pilaq watched his homeworld slowly get smaller through the viewport until finally it was just a blue-green dot in the distance. He sunk into himself, feeling quite depressed as another squadron of TIE fighters headed towards the planet. He was jolted slightly as the shuttle lurched forward into hyperspace and Ithor disappeared. It was not the planet he remembered, and he began to wonder whether or not that world would ever exist again. It had become a dark time for his people, but he had not prepared for just how bleak the situation seemed to actually be. During the trip to the Hapes Cluster the aged doctor would have much to think about.

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