Kerrie Kiley's quarters aboard the Imperial I-class Star Destroyer
Warspite were what one
might expect. They were small, cramped, and unwelcoming. The room
was kept painstakingly neat. In her clost her Imperial uniform tunic
was draped over the door, waiting to be put away with the rest of
her clothes. Inside the closet her suit of Mabari armorweave was
arranged carefully, the only symbol of her past life as a
warrior-knight. She had as many drawers for weapons and equipment as
she did her clothes. You had to look closely to find the unexpected
... a stuffed Bantha that her father gave her as a child on Zolan,
which had clearly seen better days and now had finally found a
comfortable home upon her pillow. On the nightstand next to her bed
lay a newer addition, The Little Lost Bantha Cub, a kid's novel
given to her by her 'friend' Htaere.
Kerrie had stripped out of her
tunic, but left her uniform trousers on and undershirt on. She stood
in the center of the room and was performing the martial arts
exercises she had been taught at the Mabari temple since she had
been turned over to their care. Finally her side had healed well
enough for her to return to our fierce workout schedule. Her face
was flushed red and her long hair was tied back in a ponytail that
had become sweaty and matted. She sighed as she stopped for a
moment, still not satisfied with her performance.
The reason Kerrie's quarters were so
small was because they were forced on the same deck of Admiral
Claudius Rodney's cabin. It was clear in the engineering blueprints
that the room was not originally intended to be lived in, but the
Admiral forced a conversation to keep her close. The Admiral emerged
from his cabin with his fiancé, still dressed in his immaculately
kempt Imperial uniform. He smiled at his nervous companion as he led
her down the hall towards Kerrie's cabin. He had avoided this
confrontation for several days, because he knew how Htaere was
dreading it, but now the time had finally come.
Htaere's lips went through the
motions of forming a small smile, but it was evident there was
nothing behind it. It faded equally as quickly as she kept in
stride, eyes flickering from the cold and unyielding dreariness of
the corridor walls and floor. For the Hapans and their neurotic
obsession with beauty, the sterile interior of the ship was
merciless and suffocating. Htaere's long slender fitting skirt
swished about her ankles with every motion, shrugging her bare
shoulders in a vain effort to shield herself from the numbing effect
the environment had on her senses. Made worse by the reason for her
presence, the surreal landscape that constituted the belly of the Warspite was further compounded by the guilt away at her already
compromised sense of comfort and preservation.
Claudius depressed the key panel
next to the door to Kerrie's cabin. He did not have to request
permission. The lock was specially modified to allow him access.
When the door snapped open he immediately strode into the room and
looked at her with a stern face. He then stepped aside to allow
Htaere room to follow him into the small room.
Htaere followed suit, and curious as
she may have been about the Major's personal effects, the proceeding
was far graver. Her gaze instantly sought out Kerrie Kiley's face,
her eyes already pleading for forgiveness.
Kerrie snapped her head around
suddenly as her door opened. The Admiral had a habit of sneaking in
on her. Her ponytail whipped around and came to a rest over her
shoulder and down her chest. "Admiral ... Milady," she said in a
surprised tone, "I was not expecting you."
"We need to talk, Major," Claudius
explained calmly as he took a few steps towards her.
"Oh," Kerrie asked her voice growing
weak. She backed up several paces, but in such a small room had
nowhere to go. "About what?" she asked quietly before throwing a
glance over towards Htaere.
The tension in the room was thick
and encompassing and inwardly, Htaere was drowning in it. Visibly
she seemed to be holding together, but it was obvious she was shifty
and nervous. Major Kiley's reactions were already haunting her. She
stifled a swallow and prepared for the worst, wondering if the woman
would every forgive her.
"I think you know, Major," the
Admiral explained to her. He folded his arms across his chest and
waited for an explanation.
"No...," Kerrie said nervously and
started to shake. As he stepped backward she impacted with her chair
and it moved across the durasteel floor with an eardrum-shattering
squeak. "I don't know anything," she tried to explain.
To witness a man over-impose himself
on a woman, physically or in this case verbally, was earth
shattering and so far from the culture she knew, it required every
ounce of will to not scold him. It was unheard of in Hapes. It was
beyond unheard of. She had never in her life seen a woman melt down
as a result of a man's taunt. Her lips twitched, and other then the
occasional blink of her eyes, Htaere remained motionless.
"You should not have scared Htaere
with such stories about Brentaal being so dangerous," Claudius
scolded her and took another step forward towards Kerrie.
"No..." Kerrie cried out as she took
a step back, now against the wall directly, "I didn't ... I mean I
didn't mean ..." She looked at Htaere, her lips starting to tremble
and tears starting to well up in her eyelids, "You said you
The shattering of Htaere's
fast-beating heart was in plain view across her face. Her eyes
shifted to Claudius, closing on her slowly. Her lips pursed and she
trembled slightly. In a heartbeat she was moving towards them, and
inserted her body solidly between them, shielding the Major as a
mother would in defense of her young. She made a forced effort to
soften her expression rather then narrow her eyes at Claudius and
challenge him to move past her. "Do not hit her" she said evenly,
mindful of his seniority in all avenues, but determined in her own
"I was not going to hit her, Htaere,"
Claudius said honestly and calmly as he looked down at his beloved
fiancé, "I just want her to admit what she did."
Kerrie gently ushered Htaere away
from Claudius and adjusted what was left of her uniform. She inhaled
deeply and swallowed. She would not let Htaere come between them.
She would deal with it herself, "Alright ... alright. I was worried.
I thought she led you off the other night. I did not realize it was
your ideas. I was just trying to keep her from running off without
protection. I swear."
Again Htaere's initial reaction was
to rush to the major's defense, substantiating her claims as the
truth. And yet she bit back, monitoring the situation just as
carefully, but unwilling to push the envelope of Claudius' temper
without sufficient provocation.
"You should not have scared her like
that, Major," Claudius explained, "She is new here and does not know
"I'm sorry, Milord ... Milady,"
Kerrie said like an obedient kath hound. She lowered her head unable
to look either of them in the eyes as she was filled with shame,
"Please ... forgive me."
Instilled fear and kowtowing was not
something Htaere wanted, especially not from this woman. She lowered
her own eyes, looking away at something imaginary. Instead she
anticipated the first available moment when she could speak with
Major Kiley again, alone, and this time, be the one begging to be
"Do you believe the region is
dangerous?" Claudius asked the Major directly.
"Yes," Kerrie answered quickly and
then her jaw dropped suddenly, "I mean ... no."
"Which is it, Major?" Claudius asked
"Well of course its dangerous,"
Kerrie tried to explain as her breathing became rapid and her face
nervously recoiled into its native reptilian Clawdite shape, "But I
just wanted her to understand so she would not run off again. I
The shift in conversation had piqued
Htaere's interest, her focus vacillating between the Major and the
Admiral. Her interest got the better of her and she interjected.
Unwilling to apologize, she felt she was due answers. "Why is it
dangerous?" she asked. Her eyes settled on the Admiral. "Why,
Claudius? Why are these people upset with you?" She risked a step
forward to be more noticed then just the trophy-wife wallflower.
"They are not upset with me, Htaere,"
Claudius said as he turned his attention towards her, "They are
troublemakers. Radicals who are unhappy with the Government who
choose not to respond with democratic protest, but with terrorism
that kills countess numbers ... military and civilian alike ...
throughout the galaxy."
Locked in a studious gaze, Htaere
mulled it over within the safe confines of her mind, trying to
comprehend. An unbiased and completely blank mind was fertile ground
for him to paint a picture of the conflict in whatever light he
chose. In black and white terms, the Empire was the final authority
and any who revolted were clearly enemies of any kind of authority
and thus civilization. In simplified terms, it made sense. She
remained silent, embracing the terms he laid out for her, as she had
no reason to do otherwise.
Claudius turned his head to look at
Kerrie once again, "Major ... I want you to spend some time with
Major Zevrin from the ISB. Alay your concerns to her. I am sure she
will convince you they are misguided."
"No...," Kerrie cried out in horror
as she fell to her knees before the Admiral, trembling and crying.
"Not the ISB!" she pleaded with the Admiral, looking up with
tear-filled eyes, "Please..."
Stormy oculars narrowed at the
display. "What is the ISB?" she said out loud, interrupting their
proceedings yet again, and yet again without concern that she was
overstepping her boundaries.
"The Imperial Security Bureau,"
Claudius explained to Htaere, "They are responsible for many tasks
throughout the Empire, one of which involves alleviating the
concerns of officers such as Major Kiley."
Htaere drew herself up, her
expression laden with skepticism. The major's hysteria was enough to
make one suspicious, and the very nature of intelligence and
security was sketchy and unsettling as it was, a common truth across
the board of all societies. "And that involves...bodily harm?"
"Of course not, Htaere," Claudius
explained, genuine in his assessment.
"That's not true!" Kerrie exclaimed
as she clung to the Admiral's leg, as if somehow she held on tight
enough she could not be sent away.
Htaere's gaze was torrential,
scrutinizing the Admiral with meticulous care. For a fraction of a
second, her concentration wavered as she looked down at Kerrie Kiley,
who had nearly disintegrated emotionally. Her eyes drifted back up
to the Admiral's face and she asked very quietly. "May she have your
word on that, Sir?"
"Of course," Claudius said and then
looked down at the Major at well."
"They did terrible things ...
terrible things..." Kerrie said as she looked up at them both
finally, "When I was caught on Coruscant after escaping my homeworld
the ISB handled my interrogation. They tortured me for days. They
didn't even ask any questions. Major Zevrin was one of them, though
only a Lieutenant then."
"The ISB does not torture people,
Major," Claudius said bluntly, believing this to be a deception.
Htaere's thoughts were still on
Kerrie's claim. "What kinds of things?" she asked slowly, evaluating
the fear on the major's face.
"They have this droid that would
give me electric shocks," Kerrie explained, not liking to think
about it, "That was the worst, but it wasn't the only thing they
"Major," Cladius said as he looked
down at her, "Surely you cannot be serious. An agency of the Empire
would never do such a thing."
"I swear it," Kerrie said as she
looked up at him, begging him with her eyes to believe him.
Htaere's nose at crinkled at the
thought, finding it detestable. She shot her intended husband a look
of expectancy. "Claudius..." she said, her voice edgy and uncertain.
"Please...," Kerrie said as she
looked up at the Admiral, "Don't send me to the ISB."
Claudius stepped away from Kerrie
moving his leg out of her grasp. He backed up slowly and sat himself
down on her bed. The only sound that was heard was the squeak of the
coils of her mattress as he sat down. He was dumbstruck. He could
not believe what she had told him. He could not accept it.
Htaere's head turned to follow his
movement. Unsure of where to go, her eyes flickered momentarily to
Kerrie before moving back to settle on the Admiral. She approached
him, wove her fingers together in front of her and knelt down in
front of him. When she spoke, her voice was slow and composed. "What
is the possibility that she tells the truth?"
"It cannot be," Claudius said
quietly, his eyes still firmly locked on the Major who remained
knelt on the floor. "In all my experiences throughout the galaxy I
have never known of the government to condone torture," he explained
"Can you not simply accompany her
while they 'speak' to her?"
"The Major requested I not attend
any of her debriefings," Claudius continued, "She explained that if
those she questioned saw me they would overestimate the importance
of their knowledge and it would negatively affect her ability to
extract the information."
"What information is to be
extracted?" Htaere's head canted to the left. "You said their job in
this instance was to clarify the state of threat."
"Well in most cases they are
responsible for interrogating Rebels and collaborators," Claudius
"What they did to me they called an
interrogation," Kerrie said finally, still on her knees
before the two.
"Claudius, you cannot relinquish her
to these people!" Htaere insisted emphatically. "She has never lied
to me" she reasoned.
"You say Major Zevrin was involved
in your ... past experience?" Claudius asked her.
"I'll never forgot her face as long
as I live," Kerrie explained, trembling and visibly shaking, "She
was only a Lieutenant on Colonel Yularen's staff."
"Wulf Yularen?" Claudius exclaimed,
"I've known him throughout most of my career. He's on Governor
Tarkin's staff. He would never be caught up in something like this
and if the Major was involved why did you wait until now to say
"I didn't want to cause trouble for
you," Kerrie explained to her master, "And as for your
friend ... he was the one in charge of my interrogation."
One corner of Htaere's mouth angled
down. "It is not that surprising. Corruption is rampant throughout
the galaxy. It is the driving force of the Hapan nobles,
particularly those closely associated with the Royal Court" she
mused. "I have found that such a disease flourishes in places one
least expects to find it" she remarked, looking to Claudius. She
pleaded "Please Claudius, can you not handle any disciplinary action
you feel necessary for the Major within your own means?"
"It would be highly out of line with
protocol, Htaere," Claudius explained, but by no means was it a
meant to be a rejection of her thought.
"Who else knows about the Major's
so-called 'infraction'? Do these...ISB people know?"
"No," Claudius explained, "I haven't
reported her yet."
"I'll do anything," Kerrie exclaimed
from her position on the floor.
Htaere simply fixed him with a
sullen stare. No words were necessary. Her opinions were known and
final judgment would soon be rendered. Idly, she began to chew on
her lip, waiting...
Claudius looked over at the stuffed
Bantha on her pillow and sighed. "Please, Major," he said in a much
more relaxed tone, "Pull yourself together. Don't let Booki see you
like this." For the first time a smile appeared on his lips,
"Apologize to Htaere for frightening her and all will be forgiven."
"Oh thank you," Kerrie said as she
rushed up from her knelt position on the ground and hurried towards
the Admiral on the bed. She wrapped her arms around him tightly.
Suddenly the moment came when she realized what she was doing and
her face turned grim. She backed away from the Admiral and adjusted
herself into a proper military posture. She then turned her
attention to Htaere, "I am sorry Milady." Kerrie then snapped her
head forward to the Admiral, "I am sorry to you both. It will not
"Very well," Claudius said as he
turned his attention away from the stuffed Bantha, "I am satisfied."
Claudius stood from the bed and walked towards Htaere. He pressed
his lips gently against Htaere's cheek, "I will see you later. I
have much to attend to." He then politely excused himself and exited
Kerrie stood up from the floor and
walked towards the bed where Claudius had been seated. Once the
Admiral left she curled up into the fetal position on her bad. She
reached up to the pillow and grabbed her stuffed Bantha, cradling it
in her arms. She began to sniffle again, very shaken up by how close
she came to being sent away.
Htaere glanced to Kerrie and said
"Excuse me for a moment" and with that she too, hurried out of the
Major's quarters. "Wait! Claudius!" she called hastening out into
Claudius turned on his heels and
spun around when he heard Htaere call his name, "Yes, Htaere?"
She drew very close, glanced around
to make sure they were alone and lowered her voice so that it was
audible to they alone. "I...owe you an apology. I have misjudged
you. I was starting to think that maybe you..."she was drawing up
blanks on tact after such a confrontation. "...That maybe you
were...physically abusive...to the Major" she managed.
"I have never harmed a woman,"
Claudius explained, "I never will. Although some tell me that I
should have given Drusilla a spanking or two in the past." He smiled
at his own joke and drew closer towards her. He kissed her gently
again on the cheek and then stepped back, "I really must be going
... you might want to see how she is doing though."
She nodded obediently and moved back
down the corridor. In front of Kerrie's personal quarters, she
lifted a hand to wrap the door with her knuckles lightly.
"Come in," Kerrie said quietly, not
moving from her position on the bed.
As the door slid open, Htaere's form
appeared on the other side of the threshold. She stepped through and
stood where she was, even as the door closed behind her. "I know I
am the last person you wish to see. I am sorry. I did not intend for
this to transpire. I asked because I was worried" she explained
quietly, eyes dropping to the floor for a moment before lifting back
to the "little girl" curled up in bed. "I have failed you Kerrie. I
hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me."
"I thought we were friends?" Kerrie
asked sadly, not moving from her fetal position on the bed.
"We are, if you will still have me.
Try to understand that I was concerned. I wanted to know the dangers
prevalent, the risks you take. I have learned that due to your
professional relationship with the Admiral, I must exercise more
discretion at protecting the conversations you and I share." She
drew a deep breath. "I am so very sorry," she added again.
"Maybe I can't have friends in this
profession..." Kerrie said sadly, "I've never really had a
Htaere could not blame her, though
she was consoled slightly by the fact that they had avoided a
monumental trauma in persuading the Admiral to let it go. Without
another word, Htaere turned, leaving her to console herself, having
done enough damage for today, she touched the keypad. She made
herself scare promptly, retreating back down the corridor to the
Admiral's quarters where she remained until he sent her home. In the
familiar suite, she shifted to the flawlessly made up bed where she
lay down to rest and sort through her own preoccupations. Rolling
onto her side, she nudged her sandals off and let them fall to the
floor as her weary eyes settled on the viewports and the spacescape