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Christopher Levy.
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin (35:3:22) in the Brentaal system: Warspite.
Major Kerrie Kiley and Lady Jelena Rodney.

Jelena Rodney sat quietly in her room aboard the Warspite, gripping her father's old shockball in her hand and trying to smile. Letting out a bored sigh, she threw the ball against the bulkhead. It connected with a *thud* and bounced back into her hand. *Thud* the chorus repeated as she continued to find what little amusement she could during her isolation aboard the Star Destroyer. She closed her eyes and carelessly chuckled the ball again, letting her head fall back against the pillow.

Kerrie reached out her hand and snatched the shockball before it connected with the wall, having silently crept into the room to observe Jelena. She squeezed the ball in her hand, her knuckles turning a pale while, as she unleashed her anger onto the small toy. Her eyes rolled down slowly, staring at the sleeping young noblewoman. If Jelena had not betrayed the Empire, Htaere would not have come under suspicion and the events of the past several days would not have occurred. For a fraction of a second, she wanted to smash the ball down on her face, but she did not.

Jelena's eyes opened suddenly, shocked by the fact that she did not hear the *thud* of the shockball striking the bulkhead. When she saw Kerrie standing there, a warm smile came over her young face, relieved that the bodyguard was alive and well. She had given no information about Kerrie, nor Htaere, and felt perhaps they were hiding the fact she had died from her. "Kerrie!" she said excitedly as she leapt up from the bed and wrapped her arms around her in a firm, unexpected hug.

The anger Kerrie felt was washed away by Jelena's comforting hug. The shockball fell from her hand, landing on the floor with a *thud* as it rolled beneath the bed. Her arms wrapped around her and she tightly embraced her. In many ways, Jelena was a surrogate for the sister that had rejected her, and no matter what Jelena chose to do she could no wrong in Kerrie's eyes. Her plan to confront the young woman about her treachery had been foiled before it even began, and her focus soon shifted to more practical concerns. "I was just checking to see if you were all right..." she asked, telling only a half-truth as she pulled back and looked over the woman for signs of injury.

"I thought you were dead..." Jelena revealed, her arms tightly wrapped around her faithful bodyguard. "I am well. So is Drusilla and Ewwiekewwieikkie," she quickly added as she looked over the woman. There seemed to be no sign of damage, as she had no understanding that Kerrie's shape-shifting ability easily marked the scars she had acquired over the years.

Kerrie wished she could confess to Jelena that she knew about her treachery. Perhaps she could reason with her, perhaps she could appeal to her to change her ways. Unfortunately, she could not bring herself to speak these words and they would have to remain unspoken thoughts that she hid within the deep recesses of her hand. There was, however, Major Arden Zevrin to deal with, and for that she would not allow herself to break down. "I should get going..." Kerrie said reluctantly, pulling away from Jelena's embrace. She had a date with the Major that she had put off long enough.

Jelena's jovial grin sunk noticeably upon realizing that Kerrie was going to leave so quickly. "Oh..." she said, sounding very much the teenage girl that she was, with frequent shifting mood swings affected by the slightest change in lunar movement. "Won't you stay?" she asked as she shifted uncomfortably in the bed, brining her legs up against her body. "I am stuck here and I do not get many visitors..." she confessed, somewhat reluctantly as she flashed a hopeful smile in the direction of the woman only several weeks ago viewed with anger and contempt.

Kerrie was halfway towards the corridor when she heard Jelena's plea and cringed, realizing that it was one that she could not ignore. She lowered her head in defeat and turned to offer her a genuine smile of appreciation for the comradeship. "Yes ... I can stay," she said as she moved some of Jelena's discarded clothing off a chair and pulled it beside the bed. There she sat, and she tried to make herself as comfortable as possible in the unusual situation.

Jelena's frown turned upside down as she sat up excitedly in the bed, and offered a kind smile to her sworn protector. "I spend so much time beside you..." she stated with slight hesitation, not sure that this was the best time to bring up such a topic. "...but I feel as if I do not know you," she admitted, trying to maintain the smile upon her young face, losing its innocence by the hour. "Please. Tell me about yourself?" she asked, pleading with the woman, a slight twinge of desperation in her voice.

Kerrie was not one to open up about her personal life, and her initial request was to refuse the young one's request, but she could not bring herself to do it. There was something about the Rodney family that weakened her resolve, and melted away her fortitude. "There is not much to tell, Milady," she said, not thinking too much of herself. "...but, if it is a story you seek I will do my best to oblige," she said genuinely as she nodded her head to the young woman.

Jelena lay back in the bed, quite exhausted, as she pulled her bed sheet up over her. There was a sincere smile plastered upon her face that looked up to the woman as she snuggled comfortably in bed. "Yes. Please, Maj..." she began formally, but quickly corrected herself. "Kerrie," she quickly corrected herself. Perhaps with some better understanding of the woman she could open to herself in a way that previously seemed revolting.

Kerrie's eyes shifted downward as she pondered her predicament. Her life had been thus far ... complicated, and she considered what was safe to tell Jelena and what was best to remain unspoken. "I was born on the planet Zolan. An unimportant planet in the Mid Rim," she began, always sentimental when discussing her homeworld. "I was only raised by my parents for five years before I began my studies with the Mabari..." she continued, before she found herself interrupted.

Jelena listened carefully, hanging on every word as if it held some great importance. "...the Mabari?" she rudely interrupted, not wanting to give the Major adequate time to explain herself. She considered herself well-studied during her time at the Alderaan Select Academy for Young Ladies, but she had never heard the term used before.

Kerrie smiled politely, realizing that Jelena was genuinely interested in whom she was and where she had come from. She found it hard to believe that anyone was interested, but nevertheless she would indulge her fancy and continue the story. "Yes, I was getting to that..." she informed her, a soft chuckle escaping her lips as she was beginning to enjoy the role of storyteller. "The Mabari are an ancient order of warriors on my homeworld. It is a great honor to be selected to train with them..." she explained, as a proud smile found itself onto the false Human appearance she gave herself. "Unfortunately, I was not selected and was only trained after they took pity upon me when my parents abandoned me..." she reluctantly informed Jelena, not feeling comfortable discussing it with her.

Jelena frowned as she listened to Kerrie's tale of abandonment, reaching out with her right hand to offer a simple gesture of kindness in the form of a reassuring squeeze to the woman's left knee. "I am sorry, Kerrie," she said, the thought of being abandoned by one's parents a familiar one to her. She felt abandoned by her mother when she died, and although she had her father in her life he was rarely there for and more and more he seemed a man foreign to her. "Why did they abandon you?" she asked, realizing it was impolite to have asked almost immediately following her speaking the words.

Kerrie let loose a soft sigh as she listened to Jelena's questioning, wondering if perhaps it was better to simply not answer it. "My father had a small transport company. It never made him any real money, but it paid the bills," she began, the sense of loss becoming more evident as she recounted the tale. "Unfortunately at the outbreak of the Clone Wars my people sided against the Republic, and although my father remained loyal, the Republic stripped him of his business in a punitive gesture..." she revealed to Jelena, a deep sense of bitterness in every word that she spoke. "With no prospects he turned me over to the Mabari whom he thought he could give me a better life..." she said quietly, a single tear forming in the corner of her left eye and then rolling down her cheek.

Jelena sniffled softly, feeling touched and moved by Kerrie's harrowing tale of her childhood. "The Republic was wrong," she said, reassuringly, her hand once again offering a firm, reassuring squeeze of the woman's knee. "Whoever did that to your father was a monster," she added, nodding her head in support of her strange, newfound confidant. "Why are you not still with the Mabari?" she asked, finding the story much more interesting than any of the gossip and rumors that circulated about the Major.

Kerrie paused for a moment, deliberately choosing not to reveal that it was Jelena's father who had orchestrated the destruction of her father's business and sent her down the path she currently found herself on. It was an important part of her story, perhaps the most important part ... but Jelena would never understand and it was best to give her at least a small part of her father left to admire. "The Mabari and I found ourselves at odds..." she explained, thinking back over it clearly. "I wanted to use the skills I had developed during my years of training ... and they wanted me to learn the lesson that it was better not to use them," she said with a series of slight nods, indicating that perhaps she saw the logic in their words in the years since she had left Zolan. "I was exiled for my beliefs and the only man I ever loved turned his back to me..." she added, in a part of the story she had not revealed to Jelena's father or step-mother.

Jelena found a couple of tears running down her cheek and obliterated them, using her sheet to wipe them away effortlessly. She was thoroughly engrossed with the tale, but she still had a large number of questions. She would waste no time, however, and not hesitate to ask them. "...but that still doesn't explain what you are doing here protecting me?" she asked, the smallest of smiles returning to her delicate facial features.

Kerrie laughed softly, looking down at the young noblewoman. "No. No I suppose it doesn't..." she added as she leaned back in the chair, making herself slightly more comfortable before continuing. "I began my career as a bodyguard in the Mid Rim, but a powerful bounty hunter quickly showed me that I still had a lot to learn..." she recounted, remembering the first time she met Lobo Skorr and how soundly he had defeated her. She was very much a little girl then compared to what she ultimately become. "He taught me a valuable lesson..." she continued, always remembering the man with kind admiration. "It is one that your parents would probably prefer I did not share with you..." she added, as a slightly improper grin formed upon her face. "He taught me that taking lives was more profitable than protecting them..." she revealed with some reluctance, not wanting to corrupt the young woman. " I became a bounty hunter. I was terrible at it first, but I soon got better..." she continued to explain, before yet another familiar interruption.

Jelena's eyes flashed wide as she listened to this part of the story. She never would have suspected the woman had once been a bounty hunter. The stories she had heard about them were often vivid, exaggerated tales that caused her to regard them as part-criminal, part-hero. It was the least likely origin she expected for her cold and reserved bodyguard. "You were a bounty hunter?" she excitedly interrupted, sitting up slightly on her elbows. Her left fist came over to cover her mouth as she stifled a soft yawn, being a bit overwhelmed by the stressful events of the past several days. "...but that still doesn't explain what you're doing here!" she said playfully, repeating her familiar chorus.

A rewarding smile formed upon Kerrie's lips as she watched the Jelena's enthusiasm for her tale, and she felt obligated to continue despite the lateness of the hour. "I thought I was hot stuff..." she said, laughing at her youthful exuberance as she smiled once again. "...but I wasn't," she admitted to Jelena as she shook her head back and forth repeatedly. "The moment I set foot on Coruscant I was captured by the Empire..." she said with another abrupt chuckle, but her mood almost instantly soured. "The woman who shot me... who took Lady Htaere... she was the one who captured me..." she began, her eyes rolling up slightly as she looked past Jelena and instead focused within herself. "...she did things to me that I will not share with you," she informed Jelena reluctantly, uncomfortably swallowing as she attempted to moisten her palette that was quickly drying from her nervousness. "In the end she broke me and I agreed to serve the Empire..." she revealed, before finding herself yet again interrupted. Perhaps, like an instructor, she should have requested that all questions be withheld to the end of the story.

Jelena's face lit up with a knowing smile and attentive eyes, as if she had just unraveled the mystery behind the formation of the universe. "...and that is what you are doing here!" she announced so confidently, allowing herself to fall back against the mattress as she struggled to find comfort on the flimsy sleeper. She assumed the story was over, and she rolled onto her side to prepare for some much needed sleep when she was unexpectedly corrected.

"Not quite..." Kerrie admitted to Jelena, wondering if perhaps she should just let her rest. Truthfully, she was enjoying telling the story, and it gave her a chance to address some of the facets of her life that she shared only with herself. "On my first mission ... to Rodia ... I ended up being captured by the Black Sun..." she continued, her face turning into a frown as she recounted one of the darker moments of her life. "I was spying on them, and for reasons that I still don't understand, they were none too pleased with the revelation..." she added with clear sarcasm, feeling the need to interject humor into what was a very morbid tale. "After being subjected to their..." she paused, not easily feeling the need to reveal that she was in fact captured and tortured again, she searched for a better word. "...hospitality..." she added with a laugh, finding the word suited her needs sufficiently. "I escaped and discovered the Empire believed I was dead..." she said as she turned her face to observe if Jelena was still engrossed in the tale. "...and who am I to argue with the Empire?" she said as she laughed softly, a playful smile taking up residence upon the rounded features of her face.

Jelena sat up slightly, fighting back the tiredness she was feeling to continue to listen to the story with eager anticipation of what was to come. "The Black Sun?" she questioned, with obvious disbelief as she wondered whether or not the Major was beginning to embellish to make the story more entertaining. "Now you're just pulling my leg..." she added with a soft grin, swatting at Kerrie's knee playfully with her right hand. "Okay. Okay. Let's say I buy that..." she said slowly, as she studied Kerrie's facial features for hints of sincerity. "...that still doesn't explain what you're doing here!" she repeated, looking to her with a sense of urgency to hear the end of the story.

Kerrie raised her right hand to rub the back of neck slowly, lowering her head slightly as she considered the next part of the story. She was beginning to develop a crick in her back from sitting in the chair so long, which caused her to stretch slightly. "I returned to becoming a bounty hunter..." she continued, nodding her head to Jelena as she once again found the flow of the story. "During that time of my life I was angry at the world and I took it out on my marks. I became more of an assassin than a legitimate hunter..." she confessed, her hands mingling with one another uncomfortably in her lap as she feared being judged by the woman. "That is how I came to find service with the Hutts..." she paused, before adding the next, painful bit. "...and how I came to once again encounter my parents," she revealed, her voice sounding very meek and distant as her meant forward to the next chapter of the story.

Jelena withheld judgment, though quite obviously she found killing people to be wrong, and killing people for credits to be reprehensible. She bit her tongue, realizing that this was not the appropriate venue to criticize Kerrie. But, more than that, she did not want to jeopardize hearing the end of the story. "...what do your parents have to do with the Hutts?" she asked, as she tiredly brought her hands to her eyes to lazily rub them. The two not seem together, and she was keenly interested to hear where this was going.

Kerrie's muscles tensed, her arms crossing her chest as her hands repeatedly rubbed against one another in her lap. She was clearly uncomfortable, and would have gladly traded anything she owned for a comlink message that would call her away, that would keep her from having to tell the next part of this story. She was committed, however, and she would not be able to pull back this far into the story. "After leaving Zolan my father had to rely on his skills as a pilot. He had accumulated a lot of debt to a lot of unscrupulous lenders..." she reasoned, trying to justify her father's decision. It was somewhat strange that an assassin found the need to justify the career of a smuggler, but when describing family it was often the case. "...he began smuggling for the Hutts, but, while he earned enough to pay the original sum borrowed, the interested accrued in such a usurial manner that he could never pay it off..." but before she could continue, the young Alderaanian interrupted her once more.

"...but he was stuck," Jelena added, finishing Kerrie's sentence. She had followed every word the Major had spoken thus far, and was finally able to follow the path through the narrative she was weaving for her. She swallowed softly, as deep down she already knew the answer to her next question. Still, it was Kerrie's job to complete the story and it would be unfair of her now to simply assume the ending and steal her thunder. "...why aren't you with them now?" she asked, her eyes slowly and uncomfortable descending from Kerrie's face to stare off at one of the viewports on the opposing bulkhead.

Kerrie could not maintain eye contact either and her eyes found a comfortable resting place on the deck of the small bedroom Jelena was temporary occupying. "They did not approve of the fact my skills were being used to end lives," she said quietly, still not wanting to believe this next part of her life had actually happened. "I was being controlled by own personal demons and I could not understand what they wanted so desperately for me to see," she informed Jelena, trying to rationalize it having since learned that they were right, and she was wrong. "They disowned me..." she revealed, speaking the words that pained her more than any others. She sighed audibly, letting out a tired groan as she stared longingly up at the ceiling before continuing. "My parents were caught in a rivalry between the Hutt clans that they knew nothing of..." she continued, picking up the story with a sense of anger and unreconciled grief from the wound that was still fresh. "They were killed by overzealous members of the Corellian Defense Force...." she revealed, breathing in deeply as she struggled against the rolling tide of emotion that threatened to sweep her away. She refocused however, as she knew the story was not yet finished, and she regained her composure in order to complete the story, as if it were paramount duty.

Jelena bit down firmly on her lower lip, drawing some blood within her mouth as she fought the urge to begin crying. It was Kerrie's loss, not her own, and she felt it would be crass to take away from the moment by allowing her shared feelings for the loss of her own mother to dominate the conversation and take away from the story. She took a moment to steady herself, her jaw eventually relenting and allowing her crimson-stained lips to part so that she could once again sleep. "...but that doesn't explain what you're doing here," she said for a final time, this time spoken very quiet with a hint of tragedy, completely devoid of the playful humor she had used in previous efforts.

Kerrie paused as her eyes slowly moved from the floor to Jelena. When she began this story, she had vowed to herself that she would not reveal this person. Unfortunately, now that she had come this far she realized the story was not complete without the essential element. Her body trembled slightly, shaking as if she was suddenly doused with a bucket of cold water. Her lip quivered and then began to tremble, but with much hesitation she chose to continue. "I chose to avenge my parents..." she said bitterly, still remembering the horrific manner with which she eliminated so many of those who played both direct, and indirect, roles in her parents untimely demise. "I got them all..." she said proudly, her jaw clenching slightly as the anger was still confusing her. The lust for revenge only grew greater each time she killed in it's name, as she learned the powerful lesson that violence was an unending circle that only beget more violence. "...except one..." she was quick to point out, but before she could continue she was once again interrupted, but this time not in the way she expected.

The sound of Jelena snoring soon filled the room, the young girl having fallen asleep before reaching the powerful climax of the story. She went to sleep believing Kerrie had succeeded in avenging her parents, but still uncertain as to how that resulted in her coming into the service of her father. Perhaps the story was better without the true ending known, and the young girl entered into a dream state where she began to imagine a series of colorful, heroic ways that would justify the love and affection Kerrie seemed to have for her father and his family, including her.

Kerrie moved her hands over Jelena, pulling the sheet up over her to make sure she was warm and comfortable in the poorly-constructed military-grade sleeper. Kerrie always felt cold in space, and she suspected Jelena might as well. "Your father was the one who stripped my father of his business..." she continued, in a soft, barely audible whisper that would not wake the young woman. She had promised to finish the story, and she would keep that promise ... even on a technicality. "I tried my best to kill him. For a brief period I believed I had, but I failed..." she revealed, still finding it a bit hard to believe she could not kill a middle-aged bureaucrat. "For my crime, I should have been executed..." she continued, brining the story up to recent events that Jelena would have been familiar with, had she been awake. "I chose to protect him because I believed that if I kept him alive ... I would always have the hatred for him ... and that was all I had..." she admitted, nodding her head in agreement of her words, still surprised by how things ultimately turned out. "I have come to love him as a father..." she revealed, somewhat shockingly as the tears once again found their way onto her face, as familiar a site there as a bantha on Tatooine. "...and you like a sister. Good night, <<pateesa>>" she concluded, invoking her more comfortable Huttese. As Jelena stepped, Kerrie maintained watch over her ... the young woman's request for a story inadvertently sparing the life of Major Zevrin. The truth of how Kerrie came to be there was the antithesis of the heroic, noble tales Jelena was envisioning in her dreams. But there lies the difference between the two, and that is why little girls like Jelena dream and little women like Kerrie sit awake at night.

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