Major Kerrie Kiley opened her eyes slowly, her Reptilian face
planted firmly against the military-issued pillow. She squinted, her
eyesight slowly coming to her. A moment later, her head began to
pound and it felt as if the sides of her head were swollen and ready
to cave in. Frustrated, she rolled over and stared expressionless at
the dim light that hung above her rack, glowing white with a *humm*
of fluorescent current. She sat up slowly, extending her legs over
the side of her bed. Her body shivered as her
naked flesh came in contact with the cold durasteel deck-plating. As
she sat she felt nauseous and the memories of the previous night
came flooding into her mind. "Ugh," she groaned as she swallowed,
fighting back the urge to vomit. Her eyes stared at the bottle on
her nightstand, turned over on its side, the alcohol inside fully
consumed. Her hand reached as it did every morning into her
nightstand's drawer, removing her blaster pistol. She looked at it
for a moment, holding it in her hands with the same
care given to a newborn baby. After a moment she raised it to the
side of her head and placed the barrel against the trigger. "All I
have to do is pull the trigger," she thought silently to herself.
She could end her pain and suffering if she could just find the
strength to do it. But, she was weak and hesitated. The clock on her
nightstand struck 06:00 and the alarm rang, breaking the silence. It
was time to go to work.
Major Kerrie Kiley held her eyes
closed a moment and exhaled sharply. She stepped forward into
Admiral Rodney's office board the Star Destroyer Warspite,
unsure of what to expect. All she knew was that she had been
summoned and like any obedient underling she made it her top
priority to arrive at his office. She cleared her throat and stood
at a rigid, military attention in front of his desk. She had worked
hard over the past week regaining her composure and wanted the
change to be evident in every facet of her life.
Admiral Claudius Rodney was staring
at the terminal on the right side of his desk. He intentionally
ignored the Major and did not acknowledge her presence until she had
cleared her throat. He swiveled his chair forward to face her and
looked up at her calmly, "Ah, Major ... please, sit down."
Major Kiley nodded politely and sat
down in one of the two chairs situated in front of his desk. She
crossed her left leg over her right and folded her hands on top of
her lap. She was still unsure of what this meeting was about.
"I have considered your request,"
Admiral Rodney began to explain, "And after giving it some consider
I have decided to grant it."
"My ... request, sir?" Major
Kiley replied, unsure of what the Admiral was referencing.
"Yes," the Admiral said as he leaned
back in his seat, "Htaere explained to me that you came by last week
and expressed a desire to return home. I've granted it."
"She said she..." Kerrie lowered her
head slightly before stopping herself, "Thank you, sir."
"You're welcome, Major," Claudius
explained. He leaned forward to her and rested his elbows upon the
desk, "I had to get special permission from Governor Tarkin. Zolan
is a forbidden world and they don't normally allow visitors, but no
one knows that better than you I'm sure."
"Yes," Kerrie said. A slight grin
formed upon her mimicked Humanoid face as she recalled the great
lengths she had to go through to escape the planet in the first
"You must maintain a Human
appearance at all times," the Admiral explained to her, "No one in
the Zolan garrison will be made aware that you are a Clawdite. As
far as any of them are concerned you are a Zolander."
"Zolanders are bantha poodoo!"
Kerrie exclaimed in disgust before regaining her composure. She
sighed before continuing, "Of course. I understand, sir. Is there
"Yes," Admiral Rodney informed her,
"You'll have to remain in uniform at all times."
Kerrie sunk in her seat. The locals
would not respond well to her uniform, but she really was not left
much of a choice. "Understood, Milord," she replied, "When may I
"As soon as you're ready," Claudius
A smile came to Kerrie's face for
the first time in more than a week. "I'll start packing," she said,
as she rose from the seat. She nodded cheerfully before scurrying
out of the room with all of the vigor of the childhood she planned
Admiral Claudius Rodney stood on the
flight deck of the Star Destroyer Warspite.
Lieutenant Randi Trainor stood next
to him, annoyingly cheerful as usual. "I've never been to Zolan
before," she said to the Admiral, "Any idea what it's like?"
"I wouldn't imagine you had," the
Admiral explained, "It's been under blockade since the formation of
the Empire. About a third of the population is mutated. They have to
"Mutants?" Randi exclaimed, "What
kind of planet are you sending me to?"
"Don't worry, Lieutenant," the
Admiral said reassuringly, "The mutation is not contagious. It is a
genetic defect that has developed over millennia of close proximity
to their sun."
"All the same, Admiral," the
Lieutenant said, "I ain't goin' anywhere near no mutants!"
Major Kerrie Kiley stepped out of
the turbolift carrying a large duffel bag. It contained all of her
worldly possessions, which were few and far between. Her upbeat mood
had continued and she briskly strode towards Randi and the Admiral.
"Permission to depart, sir," Kerrie said as she dropped her bag to
the deck below.
"Of course, Major," the Admiral said
with a warm smile, "I've arranged for Lieutenant Trainor here to fly
you in my personal shuttle."
Kerrie flashed a quick glance to Ran
before returning her gaze to the Admiral. "I was hoping to fly
myself, sir," she explained, "Time alone is what I need. No offense
to you or anything, Ran."
Randi jumped at the opportunity to
get out of this assignment, "Major Kiley has more than enough flight
time, sir. I'm sure she can handle it."
"Very well, Major," the Admiral said
after a brief pause, "It is your vacation, not mine."
"Thank you, sir," Kerrie said as she
reached for her duffel bag.
The Admiral lunged for her suddenly.
For a moment Kerrie was startled before she felt the Admiral's firm
grip come around her backside. He had never hugged her before. An
awkward smile formed upon her face as she was held there in his
embrace. After a moment she reached her arms around him and patted
him nervously on the back. The hug did not break and finally Kerrie
was forced to break the awkward silence, "I ... really should be
"Oh ... yes ... of course," the
Admiral released his grip and took a step back. He then smiled at
her proudly. "Enjoy your vacation, Mm...Kerrie," he told her.
"I'll only be gone a week," Kerrie
said. She laughed at him with a big smile as she hoisted her duffel
bag and walked up the ramp of the Lambda Shuttle Sonthi.
Kerrie gave a final wave to the Admiral and Ran as the ramp closed
up behind her.
Claudius returned the wave and
remained silent as he watched the Sonthi lift up.
"You're acting like you're never
going to see her again," Randi said jokingly.
Claudius made no reply and watched
through the hangar as the increasingly distant shuttle made the jump
The Lambda Shuttle Sonthi
emerged from hyperspace near Zolan. Kerrie's eyes immediately went
wide as she looked at the sight arrayed before her. The Imperial
presence had been increased dramatically in the years since her
escape. She would have never been able to get past a blockade
this intense when she made her escape years ago.
The shuttle's comm unit beeped and
came to life before the sound of a ubiquitous Imperial officer
resounded through the unit, "We have you on our scans now. What is
your cargo and destination, over?"
Kerrie cleared her throat. She was
nervous, but she had no reason to be, "Shuttle Sonthi
requesting permission to land on the surface."
"Just a moment," the voice responded
over the comm unit. The shuttle continued on its approach vector
towards the Star Destroyer that was blockading the planet.
Kerrie swallowed nervously as she
looked through the cockpit at the looming tower of the Star
"You are cleared to land," the same
voice soon bellowed through the comm.
"Acknowledged," Kerrie replied
before throttling the engines and descending into the upper
atmosphere of her homeworld.
Kerrie looked out the cockpit of the
surface of her homeworld as the shuttle descended at an increased
rate through the atmosphere. A beacon lit up on her head-up display.
It was the Imperial outpost. The same one she had used to make her
escape years ago. She tightened her grasp on the flight control as
she fired the Sonthi's repulsorlift engines. She raised the
craft's wings and lowered the landing struts as the shuttle prepared
to touch down on one of the landing pads.
A lump formed in Kerrie's throat as
she felt the shuttle touchdown on the surface. She froze for a
moment before swiveling the chair around and rising from her seat.
Kerrie grabbed hold of her duffel
bag once again and slung it over her shoulder. She stepped forward
down the ship's ramp. She took a moment to allow her eyes to adjust
to the natural light. It was particularly bright given the planets
close proximity to the star. She inhaled the air deeply and closed
her eyes. She was finally home.
"Major," a Human voice broke through
the silence quickly.
Kerrie's moment had been cut too
short. She turned her attention to the Imperial officer who was fast
"We have been expecting you," the
Lieutenant said as she stood in front of her, "We don't get many
visitors to this dump."
Kerrie's hand clenched into a fist
and it took every ounce of strength she had to refrain from knocking
the officer on the floor. "Right," she said awkwardly.
"Be weary of the natives," the
officer explained, "The mutants have the ability to change into
almost any Humanoid species from what we can tell." He paused for a
moment before continuing, "Dangerous lot them. It's why this
blockade is necessary ... I say just save the cost of the blockade
and eradicate them."
Inside Kerrie was seething, but
externally she maintained a proper demeanor. She would not allow the
Admiral's trust in her to cause an incident. "Is there anything
else?" she asked coldly, devoid of emotion.
"Are you armed?" the officer asked.
"Just my sidearm," Kerrie explained,
motioning to the silver-colored pistol in her side holster.
"That's not standard issue," the
officer said, examining it closely.
"No," Kerrie explained, "Something
of a souvenir."
"Well as long as you're comfortable
with it," the Lieutenant told her, "Alright. You're all set. We'll
refuel your ship while you tour the planet."
Kerrie nodded to the officer and
hoisted her duffel bag again. As she moved away from the officer and
towards the perimeter gate she muttered under her breath, "Echuta
Kerrie stopped for a moment as she
made the long walk towards the Mabari monastery where she was
raised. It was a long walk and hauling this duffel bag was making it
all the difficult. She exhaled a deep sigh and sat down next to the
bag on the side of the road. She smiled and looked around, taking
every ounce in. She smiled when she saw a young Clawdite boy
The Clawdite child approached her
slowly and smiled.
"Hello," Kerrie said cheerfully,
"What's your name?"
"Thrax," the boy said looking at her
uniform, "Are you really in the Empire?"
"Yes," Kerrie said looking over her
uniform herself, "Yes. I am."
The boy reached down and lifted a
large rock with all of his strength. He grunted loudly as he hurled
the rock directly at Kerrie's face.
"Hey..." Kerrie exclaimed as she saw
the boy going for the rock, but it was too no avail. The rock
smashed into the side of her face and knocked her to the ground. She
groaned lightly as a combination of blood and drool formed beneath
her head. "Uh," Kerrie groaned, "Wait..."
"Imperial scum," Thrax said to her
as he picked up the bloody rock. He held it over her head for a
moment before dropping it right on top of her.
A muffled groan from beneath the
rock was all that was heard as Kerrie fell into a world of darkness.
Battered and unconscious she faded into her natural Clawdite form.
Thrax did not understand what he saw
develop and ran off into the distance frantic.
Hours later Kerrie's eyes flickered
open. "Ugh," she groaned. The pain was immense, but she immediately
realized she was no longer on the ground. She was in a bed. She
tried to sit up, but could not.
"I didn't think you'd show your face
around here again," the familiar voice of Thad Horku immediately
resonated with her. He was seated on the side of her bed. It had
been years since she had seen him, since she had fallen in love with
him, and had her heart broken by him. "But then again ... that
really wasn't your face," Thad continued to explain.
"Thad..." Kerrie's said in a
disoriented voice. She was groggy, but she would never forget his
voice as long as she lived.
"You know we speculated what became
of you," Thad told her, "We imaged you as some bounty hunter or
mercenary. That's what you said you wanted to be right?" His tone
became increasingly condescending, "Oh wait ... it was bodyguard
wasn't it? Yes ... that's right. You thought you could make big
money guarding the life of some simpleton."
"Thad..." Kerrie murmured, trying to
get him to stop.
"None of us ever thought you would
join the Empire," Thad said as he rose from the chair and loomed
over her, "Traitor."
"Thad..." Kerrie said as she once
again tried to stand up. Every word resounded with pain. Her jaw had
been fractured several times and set with all the skill of a Jawa
"You should be lucky we didn't leave
you out there to die," Thad told her, "If I had known it was you ...
I just might have."
"It's not like that," Kerrie said as
she looked up at him, still tired from the painkiller she had been
"Then what is it like?" Thad asked,
snarling down at her.
"I was captured," Kerrie said, "They
did terrible ... things ... I had to join."
"When you left you turned your back
on all of us ... on me," Thad continued, "And you join the ones that
"I had no choice," Kerrie told him
as she tried to sit back up.
"I'm sure," That said
condescendingly, "They couldn't keep you here, but they could keep
"I'm here now, Thad," Kerrie said,
looking up at him in tears, "My family is ... gone. I was hoping I
could come back to the monastery."
"Come back?" Thad said as he roared
at her in laughter, "You're lucky you're even alive right now."
"Thad..." Kerrie tried pleading with
him, "You were right ... ok? What more do I have to say?"
"Too late," Thad explained, "Get out
of here as soon as you can walk ... or crawl."
"Thad..." Kerrie repeated again.
This *vacation* was going all sorts of wrong.
Thad turned his back on her and
scoffed, exiting the room in disgust.
Kerrie would not cry this time. She
was angry. Not sad. She mustered every ounce of strength she had.
She thrust her legs out of bed and rose to her feet. She groaned as
her feet touched down on the floor. "Ugh," she groaned as she
Kerrie reached began undoing the
tunic of her uniform. After a few moments she was naked. She stood
there for a moment and looked at her mangled face in the mirror. She
reached into her duffel bag and began removing the pieces of her
Mabari armor one by one. In the bag she carefully placed her
Imperial uniform. It took her several minutes to dress herself in
the armor these people had once given her. She had made several
modifications of course, the most notable of which being the holster
where she placed her pistol.
Kerrie walked from her room and
eventually into the main atrium of the monastery. She was met with a
chorus of gasps as the Mabari looked at her in disgust.
"You have no right to wear that
anymore," Thad said as he moved towards her.
Kerrie quickly drew her KYD21 from
her holster and unleashed a deadly bolt at Thad's midsection. "I'm
through taking your crap!" she yelled so that all could hear.
Thad grabbed his wound in his torso
and fell to the cold ground in front of her.
"Anyone else got something to say,"
Kerrie screamed as she brandished her blaster pistol at random monks
"Always with the temper, young
one," a voice announced from the top of the stairs leading down
to the atrium. It was Cabel Harn, the man who had raised her after
her parents deposited her here.
"Master Harn," Kerrie said, lowering
her head in respect as she holstered her blaster pistol.
Cabel made his way down the
spiraling staircase before emerging in the atrium before her. He
lowered to the ground to check Thad's pulse ... still alive. He
motioned to two monks standing by the doorway to take the body.
"You should not have come back,"
Cabel said as he rose back to the ground after Thad was led off by
the two warriors.
"This is my home," Kerrie cried out
"You should have had thought about
that years ago, Kerrie," Cabel explained in a compassionate
tone, "When you refused our mandate and decided to leave you were
expelled. You cannot simply walk back in all these many years later
and expect all to be forgotten."
"My family is ... dead," Kerrie
explained as she lowered her head sadly, "This ... this is all I
"I am sorry for your loss,
Kerrie," Cabel told her genuinely, "But this is what you *had.* You
were warned of the consequences. This should come as no surprise to
you. You chose to pursue a life outside of our order ... one for
greed ... one for profit ... one for ambition."
"I see now that you were right,
Master," Kerrie said, almost pleading with him, "Please ... let me
"Kerrie that is just not possible,"
Cabel explained, "We have a tradition dating back millennia. We
cannot simply change our ways to suit the needs of an individual."
He reached out for her and placed a kind hand upon her shoulder,
"Your problem has always been that you never willing to trust anyone
but yourself. If you had listened ... none of this would have ever
"But I..." Kerrie tried to
interject, but soon found herself cut off.
"I'm sorry young one," Cabel said
quietly, "But now you must go."
Kerrie lowered her head in
dejection. She slung the duffel bag over her shoulder and started to
walk towards the exit. She took one last look around before placing
her helmet upon her head. She then prepared herself for the long
walk down the monastery steps she had first made as a child so many
After a long, lonely walk through
the wasteland that was her homeworld Kerrie arrived at the final
destination on her list ... her family's home. She had not seen it
in years. It was dilapidated and in severe disrepair. When the
Clawdite's governing council had exiled her family all of their
lands were condemned. She doubted anyone had set foot on the
property in the past two decades. She sighed and approached the door
to check if anyone was left inside. She stopped dead in her tracks
when she heard the click of a blaster's safety being removed
"Hands up," the female voice
commanded, "This is private property."
Kerrie dropped her duffel bag and
raised her hands over her head. This was the last thing she
needed today. "I'm sorry," Kerrie explained, "I didn't realize
anyone lived here."
"And that just gives you the right
to walk right in?" the voice asked sarcastically.
"No, but..." Kerrie tried to
"But nothing, slime ball," the voice
lashed out at her, "My father built this house and I'm not letting
some squatter tear it apart."
"Wait ... Kristen?" Kerrie repeated
in disbelief. She spun on her heels in disbelief and narrowed her
eyes at her. It was her sister, Kristen.
"Kerrie?" Kristen asked in
disbelief. She was the last one she expected here.
"I thought you died on Corellia,"
Kerrie explained, "I mean..."
"No," Kristen informed her, "Just
mom and dad. I had another assignment to fly that day."
"If I had known," Kerrie said sadly,
"I would have reached out..."
"Reached out and done what?" Kristen
snapped back angrily, "Offered me your blood money? Dad didn't want
it and I don't either."
"Kristen," Kerrie explained, "Let's
not get off on the wrong foot."
"It should have been you that died
that day," Kristen told her, "If you had flown for father he like he
asked they'd be alive right now."
Kerrie sighed and looked at her
younger sister in deep frustration, "I explained to him that I could
not work for him. I had my own responsibilities..."
Kristen quickly moved to cut her
off, "You mean killing people."
"I was a bounty hunter," Kerrie
tried to explain.
"You were an assassin, Kerrie,"
Kristen told her, "Usually bounty hunters capture people."
"I never killed anyone I didn't have
to," Kerrie continued to reason with her.
"Tell yourself that," Kristen
continued, "Father asked Gradjaa the Hutt all about you. They called
you Killer Kiley because you never brought in a bounty
"Look," Kerrie said becoming
increasingly frustrated, "Those were bad people ... they had it
"You're a bad person," Kristen said,
"Does it means its alright to kill you?"
"You wouldn't be the first one to
try today, kiddo," Kerrie said dejectedly.
"Yeah. I can tell," Kristen
observed, "You look like bantha fodder. I haven't seen a face that
bad since that Human appearance you insisted upon maintaining."
"It is necessary," Kerrie told her.
"You are ashamed of who you are,"
Kristen snapped back at her, "And I'm glad, because I'm ashamed to
be related to a murderer."
"I'm not a murderer!" Kerrie shouted
back at her.
"Tell that to all the people that
you ... well ... murdered" Kristen fired right back.
Kerrie lowered her head in defeat.
She was not going to get anywhere. She raised her head once again to
look at her, "Look ... do you need anything? Credits? Supplies? A
way out of here?"
"All I need is for you to get off my
property and never come back," Kristen told her.
Kerrie lowered her head and shook it
at her sister sadly. She grabbed hold of her duffel back and walked
off the property for what she expected to be the last time.
The Imperial officer at the outpost
blinked when he saw Major Kiley approach. "What happened to you?" he
asked as he looked at her battered face.
"A rock fell on me," Kerrie
explained and went into no further detail.
"I see," the Lieutenant said. He did
not believe her, but he did not question Majors. "Well ... your ship
is refueled. Ready to go whenever you are."
"Thanks," Kerrie said as she
proceeded towards the Sonthi's ramp.
"Well, Major," the Lieutenant said,
"Someone went to an awful lot of trouble to arrange this visit.
What'd you think of the place?"
"You pretty much summed it up
earlier, Lieutenant," Kerrie said as she walked up the ramp, "It's a
dump crawling with mutants."
As the Sonthi re-emerged from
hyperspace in the Brentaal system, Kerrie's eyes immediately focused
on the massive sight of the Warspite. "That's my home," she
said to herself as she increased the throttle to return the ship to
the Star Destroyer's hangar.