Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin (35:4:19) in the Coruscant system: Coruscant (Galactic City: Cantham House and Imperial Palace).
Ewwiekewwieikkie, Emperor Sheev Palpatine, Grand Vizier Sate Pestage, Vice Admiral Claudius Rodney, Lady Drusilla Rodney, Countess Htaere Rodney, and Lady Jelena Rodney.

The Rodney family filed into a Coruscant sky taxi at Cantham House, dressed in their regal best for the formal occasion at the Imperial Palace. An honor troop of the Alderaanian Guard lined the landing platform as Claudius Rodney, his wife, and three children, settled into the speeder. A moment later the vehicle sped off at breakneck speed through the bustling air traffic that filled the Coruscant skyline. The trip seemed to take no time and within moments they were on queue in a busy line of transports that were dropping off some of the finest young women in the Core Worlds.

Admiral Claudius Rodney was the first to disembark the taxi, dressed in his Imperial Navy uniform to reinforce his position in the hierarchy to the gathered dignitaries. He had never been to the Imperial Palace before and his eyes went wide as he took in every sculpture and ornate crafting that lined the corridor leading from the landing platform to the grand foyer where the receiving line would be held. He turned to look at Htaere, with all the enthusiasm of a young child about to go to the toy store.

Htaere descended from the transport carefully, elegantly lifting the front of her skirt to keep from tripping. She donned the more traditional garb of Hapes ... an ornate strapless shell top, plummeting skirt that hung about her hips below her belly chain, vast array of sparkling jewelry including anklets, bracelets, arm bands, an elaborate chandelier style tiered necklace and lastly, an intricate and stunning crown of sorts, complete with the extensive frame work that supported the quadrilateral triangular veil that left her face concealed with a light gauzy material. She flashed a smile to Claudius, that he may have seen through the utterly sheer veil before waiting for the rest of the family to disembark.

The Ladies Jelena and Drusilla Rodney were the next to disembark the speeder, looking lovely in very ostentatious dresses of Republic Classical design that were still popular in the Alderaan system. A tiara was perched on Jelena's head that signified her ascension into adulthood, which made the younger Drusilla very envious. Following the duo was the much older Ewwiekewwieikkie, who was wearing a white dress that complimented her vibrant blue fur. Many eyes turned at the Squib and several sneers were visible. None of those gathered could rightfully understand 'its' purpose here this evening.

Claudius was too pleased with himself to notice any of the sneers being given at his adopted Squib daughter and he pleasantly gathered them before leading them down the corridor to the grand foyer. A large bas relief depicting an ancient battle from the Sith Wars was to their right, but very few were privy to significance. He rubbed his hands together excitedly as they approached the end of the corridor, no one sure what to expect.

Htaere's eyes took in the crowd studying them here and there. While she knew none of them by name or rank, it was easily discernable those who came to watch, and those who came to be watched. Occasionally her pools narrowed at the reactions of some as the family moved further into the palace, her skepticism and disgust concealed beneath her veil, thankfully.

As they entered the grand foyer an impressive sight came before them. In the lower level there were hundreds of dignitaries from every influential human family in the Core Worlds. Beverages and small portions of delicacies were being served by a staff comprised almost entirely of alien slaves. There was a long, curved ramp that gradually made itself up to the throne where The Emperor was seated, flanked by his Royal Guards and ghastly looking advisors.

The gnarled face of Grand Vizier Sate Pestage suddenly appeared in front of them, his hooked, nose protruding from beneath his lavish red and purple robe. "Lord Rodney!" he exclaimed as he looked over the officer whom he had, from time to time, conversed with over the holonet. "It is ... an honor ... to finally meet you in person," he said, making the necessary small talk. Truthfully he was less than pleased with the man's performance and would have rather he not been invited. "A lovely wife you have taken for yourself," he said as his eyes sized up the Hapan beauty. He took her hand into his and his gnarled lips gradually descended to place a toxic kiss upon her hand.

It was only on account of her impeccable training that Htaere did not recoil in disgust and snatch her hand away. Whoever this fellow was, she would not dishonor Claudius' chance for high-end pomp and circumstance. Letting the old man greet her in such a chauvinistic fashion, Htaere made the effort to pretend to be flattered by the gesture.

Admiral Rodney found back the urge to cringe for Htaere, but the man could wave his finger and send them all to a very dark place from there could never return. "You honor us, Grand Vizier," he said, taking a step backward before descending to give a graceful bow at his waist. His attention turned to the line where he could make out several old friends whom he hoped he could speak with in the reception to follow.

Jelena Rodney forced a smile onto her face as she took her place in the line. She could make out the Emperor in the distance ... just a figure in a dark cloak at the moment. The two guards perched on either side of his throne were an impressive sight and she swallowed nervously, doubting whether or not she could actually go through with this. The blue and yellow dress that she wore had cost her father nearly a month's salary, but it was well worth it. She turned to look at Htaere for moral support as the line slowly shuffled forward, brining her closer to her doom. She kept repeating to herself that this would allow her to go to college and that it would all be worth it.

Htaere remained rigid and unwavering. Accustomed to the charades of the Hapan courts, Htaere melded into the tapestry of the elitist social function, much to her chagrin. From behind the safety of her veil, she studied the various crowds gathered, noting them all human. In fact, Ewwie was the only non-human not carrying a tray. Slowly her study panned across the entire room, seeking out even one exception to the rule to prove her wrong. Involuntarily she cast a glance back to Ewwie before looking to Claudius.

"Food!" Ewwiekewwieikkie announced as a tray of food carried by a Mon Calamari walked by. The eager young Squib took a handful of the snacks and began filling them into her mouth, acting as if she were starving. "Mmm," she said, rubbing her belly with grease covered hands, leaving a nasty grease stain upon the white silken fabric of her gown.

Shaking the confusion away, Htaere instead refocused on the immediate family. Noting Jelena's gaze, she placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Do not fret, you will do wonderfully," she offered.

Drusilla turned to look at Htaere, completely envious by the events that were transpiring here tonight. "You realize of course when I come of age it will be a much lavish ceremony," she said with an emphatic nod of her head. Her eyes glared up at her sister, wishing she were the oldest child and the direct beneficiary of their family's wealth and influence.

By now the family had reached the middle section of the line and Claudius' palms were starting to sweat and become somewhat clammy. For more than two decades he had admired Palpatine, first as a strong Supreme Chancellor, and then as his Emperor. However, never before had he come this close to the man. His eyes widened as they reached the top of the precession, finally able to get a glimpse of the man's disfigured face and piercing yellow eyes beneath that darkened hood.

Still taking in the scenery from an ever changing perspective in the procession, Htaere's eyes came to rest on the ancient and haggard appearance of 'the' Emperor, the very center of Claudius' obsession and strive. She let him have his moment, basking in the glow of the superiority he had put on a pedestal so long ago. Remaining quiet and to the side, she played the appropriate part of the silent accessory.

The time had come and the way was cleared for Claudius and his family to take center stage in front of the Emperor. Claudius stood behind Jelena silently and placed both hands upon his daughter's slender shoulders very proudly. Glimmers of liquid began to form in each of his brown eyes as he was taken over by the pride he had for her. This was a shining moment for his family.

The Emperor looked at the family with piercing yellow eyes, noting the man was one of his officers. An Imperial Advisor whispered in his ears that the ageless man silently nodded in response. A pale, boney finger emerged from beneath the robe, before curling back to him. "Come closer, my child," he said in a voice that seemed to ooze from those shriveled lips. "Let us ... look at you..." he continued, each word gnarled in a way that would make an ordinary person's hair stand on end.

Jelena was silent for a moment before stepping forward before the Emperor. She lifted her dress off the ground and gently bent at the knees in a proper curtsy, which Drusilla and Ewwiekewwieikkie mimicked perfectly behind her. "Your Majesty," she said in a quiet, demure voice as she stood in front of to be examined.

Inwardly, Htaere could not help but breathe a sigh of relief as even Ewwie flawlessly executed the very simple concepts they had worked on with oh so many forks. With such a matter of concern out of the way, Htaere had not conjured any other social hurdles for the family, and thankfully so. Pleased with the girls' display and genuflection, she waited patiently, smiling at them beneath her veil for a job well done.

The Emperor reached out with his rough flesh to tease at Jelena's warm hand, simply because he could. He realized it would make the young woman uncomfortable, but such was his prerogative. "You have a lovely child, Lord Rodney," he informed him, in a complimentary tone, his eyes darting from the woman to the man. With that the most powerful man in the galaxy bestowed his blessing and almost immediately lost interested and moved to the next family.

Jelena began descending the ramp after meeting the Emperor, not saying a word. She was still in horror that the man had touched her. How could such a sick, disheveled old man cause so much turmoil in the galaxy, she wondered silently to herself. It took every fiber of her being for the smile to remain upon her young, tender lips.

"He spoke to me!" Claudius exclaimed to Htaere as they descended down towards the level where the reception was being held. The man was grinning from ear to ear and could not have been happier. Things really seemed to be looking up for him.

Htaere smiled, breathing a sigh that the moment was over. "Congratulations are indeed in order for you both for your stellar representation," she complimented them both quietly as they moved away from the Emperor's dais.

"Hey, you! Go in the back and get a serving tray!" an usher yelled unceremoniously at Ewwiekewwieikkie, believing her to be one of the slaves passing out beverages at the affair. The dimwitted young Squib tilted her head at the man, not entirely sure what he was meaning. "Me eat whole tray of food?" she finally asked, sounding quite excited about the prospect of the idea. "No, you moron! You serve the food!" he said, as he moved forward, preparing to backhand the creature.

Htaere's attention snapped in Ewwie's direction. "I beg your pardon, sir, she is a member of our family" she stated firmly, doing all she could to keep the edge of anger from her tone. Slipping away from Claudius in his fog of delusion and oblivious euphoria, Htaere shifted to stand next to Ewwie and placing a hand on her shoulder.

Claudius' finally realized what had happened and immediately sprung into action, glaring angrily at the usher. The obviously embarrassed and confused man began to slink off towards the other end of the foyer. Feeling terrible, he moved next to Htaere and Ewwie and knelt down to publicly give the young Squib a hug. There was numerous gasps from the crowd, and several whispered derogatory comments, but the man did not care.

"He offer me whole tray of food!" Ewwie said, oblivious as to what had happened, but gladly received the hug and gave a very firm one in return. Her golden eyes scanned the room, wondering from where her food would come.

"That's your beloved New Order..." Jelena whispered to her father, so as not to make a scene. She felt terrible at what had happened to her sister, but was grateful the young woman did not seem to understand what had happened.

"Perhaps we can move out to the terrace and get some fresh air and refreshments, let everyone relax now that the climactic moment is over, yes?" Htaere offered the group quietly, likewise eager to be scarce amid the ever growing detectable bits of hostility directed towards them.

If looks could kill, Jelena would be vaporized by the look her father gave her when she openly questioned the New Order in the heart of the Imperial Palace. Realizing Htaere was right, he ushed his family out onto a nearby terrace. The air was cold that night and there seemed to be an ill wind upon the sky. He was embarrassed by what had happened, and said nothing, instead looking out at the skyline to calm himself.

With the group on edge, Htaere remained silent, letting each person digest the events their own way. The only person she did approach was Ewwie, kneeling down and lifting her veil to smile at the Squibb. "I am very very proud of you for doing so well," she spoke quietly to her, beaming. "You were perfect. Very many forks and trinkets when we return for doing such a wonderful job."

"But where is my tray of food?" Ewwie asked Htaere as she looked up at Htaere, feeling quite hungry. She did not like to be told there was food coming, and then have there be no food. She shook her head defiantly.

"I will see if I can find her something to eat," the unexpected voice of Drusilla Rodney announced. The young girl was not without heart and she would be damned if she was going to be embarrassed at such an affair. While she agreed the creature was at times a moron, she nevertheless was part of the family. To that end she left the terrace to try and find something sizable for the Squib to consume.

It caught Htaere by surprise but she nodded to Drusilla before looking to Ewwie again. "Just a moment longer, OK?" With that she stood up and moved to Claudius, standing behind him and letting him have a few minutes with his thoughts. "Would you care for some tea, Claudius?" she asked quietly, leaving her veil up, for now.

Claudius felt his chest begin to tighten and a shrill pain go down his left arm. His throat began to tighten and it felt as if he could not get much air. He looked at Htaere helplessly, as he tiredly sat down on a bench on the balcony. The stress of preparing for the day, the attack on Ewwiekewwieikkie, and Jelena's attack on the New Order had proved to be too much for him. He swallowed, his left hand moving to his collar to attempt to allow more air to pass into his system.

Her brow knit, Htaere hurried over to him, staring at him intently. "Claudius? Are you alright?" Her head snapped over to Jelena. "Summon a medic, quickly!" she whispered so as not to draw even more attention to them then they already had. Taking a quick seat next to him, Htaere gave his hand a squeeze. "Take deep breaths," she advised him quietly.

Jelena's anger suddenly turned to fear as she burst from the terrace to attempt to find some help in the calmest of manners. She felt terrible for what she had said, even if she did believe it.

Claudius struggled to breath, panting more like an animal than a human. "I will..." he struggled to speak as the tightness in his chest became slightly more painful. " fine," he said, completing his thoughts through painful, labored breaths. He squeezed her hand as best he could, but felt himself becoming gradually weaker.

"Claudius, focus on me," Htaere instructed sternly. "Focus on my voice. A medic will arrive shortly, but you must concentrate on deep breaths. Would you prefer to lay down?"

"You are worrying...for...for...nothing..." Claudius stammered as he was having a difficult time speaking. The man's complexion began to grow more pale and a level of cold sweat began to form on his forehead. His breathing still erratic.

Jelena soon returned accompanied by a 2-1B medical droid who quickly began attending to the Admiral. "Is there a history of heart disease in the family?" the droid asked to no one in particular as it began to check the man's vitals. He did not like what he was seeing, and quickly filled a hypospray with a clear liquid and before anything could be said he injected the man.

Htaere glanced to Jelena to substantiate any answer before shrugging. "Not...that we are aware of," she replied, moving away from Claudius to allow the droid unhindered access. Edgey and uncertain, she folded her hands in front of her and tried to be patient as the droid worked.

Drusilla Rodney returned with a tray of food, but immediately dropped it when she saw what had happened to her father. "What has happened?" she asked in a hushed, panicked tone as she looked from her father to Htaere.

Ewwiekewwieikkie dove to the ground when the tray was dropped and on her hands and knees she began piling as much of the food into her mouth as she could possibly fit. "Thank you, Dru!" she said with a mouth full of food.

Claudius' breathing gradually began to slow as the chemical coursed through his veins and began to ease the tension on his heart. The droid, which was monitoring every step of the process swiveled its head towards Htaere. "You must minimize his stress levels over the coming weeks," the droid insisted, before turning back to the patient.

Htaere felt her shoulders slump in near defeat. "Perhaps you can ask him for me how to actually do that? Because none of us has been able to manage such a thing so far," she frowned back towards the droid.

"I am not programmed to practice psychology. Only medicine," the droid replied to Htaere, while continuing to maintain a steady reading on Claudius. "Enough. I am fine," he insisted as he slowly attempted to stand up. He was wobbly at first, but refused the assistance of the droid. "Let us get back to the embassy before we cause more of a scene," he pleaded with Htaere, and trying not to notice his daughter eating off the floor.

Htaere nodded, adjusting her veil to lower it back over her face before moving to his side and offering her arm for assistance. "Of course. The droid said you need to minimize stress, Claudius, therefore you need rest," she reasoned.

"If we had listened to droids we would now be ruled by the Confederacy," Claudius was quick to point out as the family made their way back to landing platform. He was embarrassed that his health had caused them to miss part of the reception, but the important part of the evening had gone off without a hitch. He was proud that his family had come together for this event, but it was clear to him that he still had a long way to go to bring Jelena back into the fold.

Loading everyone into the speeder, Htaere slumped relaxed against the back of the seat, relieved the whole incident was coming to completion. Unwilling to get into a debate with Claudius about droids and such things, she simply gazed out of the viewport, eager to throw herself across the bed in their chambers and sleep in tomorrow morning.

The Coruscant air taxi made its way through the night sky of Coruscant, leaving the trappings of palace life behind. It had been a pleasant evening, considering, and the middle-aged Admiral was eager to get some rest. "I have arranged for us to stay on another couple of days," Claudius informed Htaere as he took her hand into his own and held onto it dearly.

"There is no work to be done here, my dear," Claudius said, as he leaned his head against her shoulder. He let out a tired yawn as he felt himself wanting to go to sleep right there in the speeder.

"Disgusting," Drusilla Rodney said as she watched the two cuddle, folding her arms in front of her chest and shaking her head disappointedly.

"Look! Look!" Ewwiekewwieikkie said as she held up a goblet in front of their faces for them all to see. "Pretty!" she announced, having stolen at least one bauble from their time at the palace.

"That is good to know, Claudius," Htaere replied quietly, smiling tiredly. "Then we can enjoy the various districts," she thought aloud, the prospect brightening. Shaking her head at Ewwie's pilfered item, she gave Claudius' hand another squeeze. "Feeling any better?"

"Much better. Whatever that droid gave me really seems to be working," Claudius said as the taxi arrived back at Cantham House. He was the first ouf of the vehicle and then one at a time began helping the women in his life out of the speeder. "But I would like to get some rest," he added, nodding to the lead member of the Alderaanian Guard before walking in to their suite.

"I could not agree more," Htaere murmured in response, making her way up the embassy steps. She waited patiently for Claudius should he need assistance, already envisioning herself curled up under the blankets and drifting off in deep slumber.

As Claudius entered their bed chambers, he immediately began to undress. "My little girl is grown up..." he confided in Htaere, sounding rather melancholy about the whole ordeal. "I never thought I would see the day when she would be presented before the Emperor..." he continued, still beaming with pride.

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