Era of Rebellion - Navigation

526,000 MINUTES
Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:7:2) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Rodney Castle).
Governor Papius Arundel, Doctor Alessandra Bailo, Trooper Kaiya Crion, Prince Pollix Drayen III, Farrah Ette, Ewwiekewwieikkie, Luna Flosgermen, Petrus Flosgermen, Commander Dillon Hobbes, Melickielickie, Ashori Monoceros, Callista Nilar, Major Elayne Passik, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, Lady Drusilla Rodney, Lord Gaius Rodney, Lady Jelena Rodney, Duke Marcus Rodney, Major Sierra Rodney, Duchess Zara Rodney, RO-E11, Doctor Pilaq Tohan, Inquisitor Jessa Thrope, Prav Ulmgo, Captain Thaddeus Updike, Mae Vinjagga, Commander Iyah Zoran, and Mug Zoran.

"Nana, are you sure you'll be okay? You've got *three* babies to watch tonight." Duchess Zara Rodney was playing the role of an overprotective mother. She could see her nephew asleep in his bassinet, but for how long? The twins had yet to fall asleep. Night had already fallen over Delaya...and what a gorgeous evening it was. The stars lit up the dark, clean sky. There were so many guests on the list for the royal ball, for it was the first in...well...a year. Speeders were clogging up the streets leading towards the castle. Zara worried that Governor Arundel's presence would cause problems. She had purposely not told Sierra and Claudius about what she had seen in the perverse man's office. Marcus was the only other person who knew about all of that. The Duchess was dressed to the nines. She had gone through an intense three-hour fitting in order to make sure her deep red dress was perfect. As irritating as it had been, and as worried as she was about a fight breaking out, Zara was still *happy*.

Since the first moment she had woken up, she felt more in love with Marcus than ever before. She kept replaying that night of destiny in her head. So much had transpired...all because of the chrono which she had asked the designer to incorporate into her dress for the evening. She picked up Sia, kissing her. "I love you, my baby girl." She hugged her daughter softly. She picked up Darrus next, repeating the same affection. "I love you, my little prince. Mommy and daddy have a lot to celebrate tonight."

"Oh yes, Duchess Zara. Duke Germanicus and Duchess Raeni kept me busy with many children. Three will allow me to work on my juggling," the nanny droid replied, in her sassy tone of voice. Perhaps she could stand to have her memory erased. In one hand she held Darrus, in the other she held Sia, while in the other she held Bruce. "Enjoy your ball. I will see to the young ones," she said, as she began the process that would hopefully see them fall asleep. The droid was happy in her work, once again returned to the business of caring for the children of the House of Rodney.

Duke Marcus Rodney was dressing himself in the ornate robes of state that he had witnessed his father wear all the while he was growing him. The only difference was that the robes fit him a bit better than his father who grew in size as he grew in years. "I think I look ridiculous," he said to Zara, as he stopped the nanny droid to give a brief goodbye to both of his children and his nephew. "Everyone really came," he said to her, as he came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her until they came to a stop on her stomach. His head lowered and he placed a kiss on the back of her neck after brushing aside some of her silver hair. "I love you," he told her, as he enjoyed the only moment of privacy they would have for the remains of the day.

Zara wondered if the twins had come from Marcus' family. She *did* say his ancestors had many children. She wanted to sit down with the droid one day and get the whole story on Duke Germanicus and Duchess Raeni. "Thank you, Nana." She said, finally accepting that the nanny droid, which was programmed for this exact reason, had everything under control. Zara turned to look at her husband. "You *never* look ridiculous. I think you look sexy." She smiled at him. Her body leaned backwards into his softly. Her hands met with his on top of her stomach. "I'm glad they did. When we sent out the invites, I wasn't sure who would actually show up. I already saw Mug and Iyah. If you think you look silly in formal wear, wait 'til you see him!" She squeezed his hands. Her happiness quadrupled during their last moment of peace. "I love you too." Zara swiveled around in his arms until she was facing him. Without a word, she kissed him. A year. A whole year had gone by. In so many ways, it felt like the quickest in her life. It was the year where she made the best choices; robbing him, letting him into her life, the twins, and so on. As it was, Zara didn't even regret their scandal. "I guess we should go make an appearance. You owe me some dancing!" She took his hand and whisked him off.

"Nuh uh uh!" Marcus said, as he raised his index finger to prevent his wife from succeeding in whisking him off. "Aren't you forgetting something?" he asked, as he instead moved her towards a large, ornately carved wooden box that had been brought to their room earlier that day. As he flipped it open the crowns of the Duke and Duchess of Delaya were revealed to them. "Remember these?" he said, as he lifted the tiara out of the box and held it over her head. Then with a wink, and a bit of an impish grin, he let it fall until it came to a rest upon her silver locks. His attention then went towards the crown, which took both of his hands to lift. While he made a fake groan to give the impression that it was even heavier, he managed to get it upon his head. With one hand he took hers, and with the other he grasped his scepter, and feeling particularly regal finally permitted her to whisk him off.

"Forgetting something? Marcus, it took me *three* hours to get dressed today. I'm not forgetting anything!" She claimed, but as he turned her towards the wooden box from hell, Zara realized that she wasn't ready. She looked down at the crowns. "Aww. You're a cruel husband." She complained. The tiara met with her head. Like so many other things belonging to the other Duchesses in the family, it didn't fit quite right. It was a reminder that Zara didn't fit the mold of those that had come before her. "You like torturing me." She said, crossing her arms over her chest and pouting. At least he head to suffer with her. She assumed his crown was heavier than her tiara, simply because there was more of it. She snickered. "You look so fancy." Finally, they were ready. Her fingers slid in between his. She glanced to Nana once. Sia and Darrus looked like they were getting sleepy. It was adorable!

"Callista, you've gotta stop bouncing." Sierra Rodney laughed. The small adopted child of Mug and Iyah was sitting...or lack thereof, at the vanity in Sierra and Claudius' room. The little girl was already dressed in the very same pink dress she had worn to her parents wedding. Her mop of brown hair had become tangled after Callista had been romping the castle with Melickielickie and Ewwiekewwwieikkie. Her Rebel mother had come knocking earlier, begging for some help. Sierra's fingers worked through the little girl's hair as she braided it into a clean, tight braid that *hopefully* would hold the whole night. Sierra had already finished dressing in a simplistic, backless blue dress.

"Mama says there might be crowns!" Callista reported, kicking her legs back and forth so rapidly that her shoes fell of. "And...and...and...Mama says we're gonna get to go to Auntie Mae's tomorrow before we go home." She smiled wide at her reflection in the big mirror of the vanity. Auntie, thanks for fixing my hair. Mama tried to brush it and she broke the brush!" Callista explained. She giggled about it now, but her aunt had been the one in charge of removing the broken brush.

Grand Moff Claudius Rodney had chosen to attend the ball dressed in his Imperial uniform, if only to send a message to that bastard Governor, Papius Arundel. At least Callista was excited ... he was nervous. All it took was one thranta-eyed Imperial to spot his daughter, his half-brother, or his sister-in-law and what was intended to be a lovely ball could turn into a shootout. His eyes caught a glimpse of the large travel grooming kit that was necessary when traveling with two Squibs. He saw so many brushes, which he did not even make an attempt at counting. "There might be crowns," he told Callista, as he fumbled about, unsure of how he could best help. Everywhere he stood he felt like he was in the way. There was so much estrogen in their castle spire that he worried he might develop breasts.

"There will be at least one crown." Sierra said, placing Callista's tiara upon her bed of hair. "Alright sweetheart, you're good to go." She patted Callista's back. The little girl jumped up and gave both her auntie and uncle a hug before leaving to rejoin with her Rebel parents. There was a lot at stake here. Sierra had words with Iyah earlier. Delaya was a place where sides didn't matter. Tonight wasn't about war; it was about being there for Marcus and Zara and reuniting as a family for the first time in so long. Sierra had seriously considered concealing a small pistol on her persons in case anything went down. It was her family's safety that meant most to her. With a sigh, she turned towards Claudius. "I think I'll need you to drink for two tonight." She joked, stepping near to him. Her fingers brushed over his chest. "Oh! You're missing something." She turned away from him, stepping back to her vanity.

It wasn't only Governor Arundel that Sierra worried about making an appearance. With how publicized the ball was, *any* of their many enemies were welcomed to show up. She opened up the small top drawer and picked out a small, slim box. She neared her husband once more. "This arrived this morning, so let's hope it's right." She told him mysteriously. She opened the box so he couldn't see what was in it until she plucked it from the box; his Grand Moff rank insignia. This one was brand new, for there was no way Sierra could bargain back for the one that had given them Melickielickie. She threw the box aside and brought the rank insignia to his chest where she pinned it on. "Ah. There we are. Perfect." She flashed him a dimple-filled smile.

Claudius was not complete without his rank insignia and his wife. When she had it applied to his uniform he smiled down at her, still looking at her differently now that they knew she was pregnant. "No drinks for me. I want to remember this," he said to her, as he looked at himself in the mirror. "Are you ready for this?" he asked her, but maybe he was asking himself as well. "Do you think the girls will behave?" he asked her, uncertain of what will happen once he got Ewwiekewwieikkie and Melickielickie into the grand ballroom.

Ewwiekewwieikkie was glad to be back in the castle. There were shiny baubles *everywhere*. "I used to live here," she told Melickielickie proudly, as she took a bite of cake. Unfortunately, she had found the room where the dessert being served this evening was being stored. "There's so much," she said, as her yellow eyes widened at the entire row of cakes, pastries, cookies, and parfaits that had been lined up along the wall. However, she was worried that there actually might not be enough. She stumbled forward, reaching over to grab one of the Corellia fingers. "Oooh," she said, as she attempted to eat three at once. If someone did not discover them soon there would be no dessert left for anyone.

"No, but I'm not certain if I'll *ever* be ready for this. We'll enjoy ourselves until it's boring." And then they'd play hooky. Sierra took his arm. "I hope so. At the very least, they'll be wild until they exhaust themselves and sleep *very* well." They began heading towards the grand ballroom to join with everyone else. Sierra smiled. The single best thing about the ball was spending it with Claudius.

Licking frosting off of her paw, Melickielickie had found herself in heaven. There were more sweets in this single room than anything she had ever seen. "You live here? Is so big!" She said. Melickielickie had been saying that all day. As she laid in bed 'is so big!', as she walked in the corridors, 'is so big!'. "Yummyyy!" Her dress was already covered with desserts. Sierra had went to great lengths to dress everyone, and now they were both a mess. Melickielickie moved towards her sister, clinging to her leg. "Me love you, sissy!" Even her blood siblings would have never shared such find.

In the grand ballroom, Iyah Zoran had picked up her daughter to bring her to Mug's height so they could dance together. Callista was giggling. "Weee! Spin me and mama, daddy!" For Callista, who was oblivious to the tense relations in the family, this ball was all about fun. For a Rebel Commander, Iyah had other things to be worried about. She felt out of place, but they had owed Marcus and Zara one for helping out with the wedding. This was the least they could do to repay their debts. Iyah felt awkward. She was so used to wearing her uniform that a dress felt unnatural. It felt even more unnatural to carry no weapons, for her skin tight red dress offered no place for concealed weapons. She wasn't nearly as glamorous as some of the other guests at the ball. She had her black hair in a pony tail. The only person she cared about finding her attractive was her husband.

Mug Zoran had slipped away, as he had a conflict of emotions surrounding this trip to Delaya. There was a brief moment when *he* was slotted to become Duke, but the galaxy had other plans for him. He was standing in a quiet corridor of the castle, standing in front of an alcove where a bust of the late Duke, Julius, his father had been placed. He reached his hand up to touch the bronze features of the sculpture while his other hand touched his own face. He was searching for similarities and some physical connection to the father he never knew. He wanted to take Callista back to their home on New Alderaan, but he knew how much she wanted to be at the ball. It was, after all, her first formal event. By rights a part of this *was* hers and he would not allow his unresolved conflict with his father to take it from her.

The smell of sweet smoke came long before Major Passik did. The young woman did *not* want to be here. Commander Xergo...Zoran, whatever she was now, had brought up the future of Delaya with her. The planet was under Imperial control, and since she had helped in rescuing her, she wanted Elayne to be part of the discussion with the Duke and Duchess that came after the ball. It was time to kick the Imperials off of the planet. She had been instructed specifically *not* to wear her Rebel uniform. She was dressed in something nearly identical to Morticia Addam's quintessential black gown. It looked like she was attending a funeral instead of a celebratory ball. No matter how many times she'd been asked to put out her cigarras, she continued to smoke. She was made anxious in this situation. Of course, she had, once again, asked the good Commander Hobbes to accompany her, but she had gotten lost on the way to the ballroom. She ended up spotting Mug and the statue of the previous Duke. The woman frowned. "Mug, you have a wife. Stop feeling up that damn statue." She groaned. She looked at the bust of the man. "You may be related by blood, but that doesn't mean you're like him. Get over yourself and go dance with your woman. The war call comes early in the morning. Unplug your brain for tonight. That's what I'm *trying* to do." She said, carelessly flicking her cigarra on the ground. She stomped it underneath her boot, which she still wore under her dress. "And take me to the ballroom. I can't find Dillon in this huge castle. Aren't you glad you don't live here? You'd lose your daughter and never find her again."

Mug turned his attention towards the obnoxious, loudmouthed Major Passik, as she approached him while he was reflecting on his late, estranged father. "Oh. It's you," he said, not sounding too terribly excited, but she was the one who had succeeded in organizing the rescue of his wife. "I don't even know what he was really like, so I'm not sure if you've just insulted me ... or paid me a compliment," he said to her, as he released his grip on the statue and refocused his attention solely on the pilot. As she stubbed her cigarra out on the floor he felt somewhat offended, even if he was only a Rodney bastard. He took her by the arm, leading her towards the ballroom where he hoped he could pass her off on Commander Hobbes. "I don't know. I enjoyed my time here ... with Iyah and Callista. She had a tea party in one of these halls," he explained, as he began to look back on things more fondly than he had thought at the time.

Commnder Dillon Hobbes did not know how he allowed Elayne to talk him into this one. He had nothing proper to wear, and would soon be standing feet away from an Imperial Grand Moff and countless other Imperial officials. Even if there were not a war on he would have felt out of place in the castle, dressed like this, among lords and ladies. Elayne owned him, but how much he had not yet decided. As the guests began to fall in he could not help but take note of the Stormtroopers who were providing security. As he looked around he could not help but think about the prospect of launching an attack and taking out both the Imperial Grand Moff he was fighting, *and* the Imperial Governor who was oppressing this planet.

"Aren't you being a little pessimistic ray of sunshine today?" Elayne commented. Regardless of their conversation, she was now being lead to where she wanted to be. "If nothing else, your father caused major pollution on the planet. Did you?" She asked him. She listened to him talk about his family. The idea of Callista's little tea parties made her smile. "That sounds ... cute." Elayne said awkwardly. No sooner had they arrived in the ballroom did she spot Dillon. "Thanks for the help, Mug." She patted the man on the back. "Remember, you can't help who your parents are." With that, she released him and headed towards Dillon. She saw people that made her pause and internally panic: an Imperial Grand Moff *and* an Imperial Governor. The blood drained from the pilot's face. Each time she blinked, she was brought back to her torture. It felt like a hand was constricting on her windpipe. Her heart was bursting out of her chest. She needed to get out. She needed to get far. She had spotted Dillon. She didn't know if he'd seen her, or if he could see her drowning in a PTSD episode. The moment overcame her, for the Governor of Delaya looked far too much like the ISB agent primarily in charge of her pain. Anxiously, Elayne turned and made her departure from the ballroom. She disappeared behind the first door in a corridor where she found two Squibs with full stomachs and a room that looked like a hurricane had gone through it. She planted herself against the wall and closed her eyes tight.

In the room where Papius Arundel had once held Jelena Rodney, Ash Monoceros awaited her lover. The string of undercover missions on Chandrila meant that there was a radio silence from her. There was no way to contact him when she had people like Dagon Tong breathing down her neck. She was perched on the bed waiting for him to arrive. She had sent a cryptic message that only he would understand should it be intercepted. There were Rebels here to worry about seeing them, yet it had been so long that Ash was willing to risk it. She came with the gift of information and to seek forgiveness for their lack of communication. Ash was growing impatient. She couldn't very well join the party and allow him to approach her. While Kat was not there, Iyah Xergo was still of major concern.

Dillon smiled briefly smiled when he saw Elayne enter the ballroom, but when she made a beeline for the exit his heart ached for her. He had to admit he was glad to have a reason to leave the ballroom, and made his way through the sea of Delayans and Imperials towards the direction that Elayne had fled. He could not see which way she had went, but he was able to follow her scent. Moving down the corridor he opened the door, but instead of seeing Elayne he saw two Squibs in a food coma and an array of desserts that had been ransacked. It looked like the Rebels had attacked the room there was so much disarray. As he turned, he saw Elayne, slumped against the wall. He moved towards her, before crouching down. "Upset that the desserts got ruined?" he asked her, as he brought his hand to her shoulder to reassure her.

Governor Papius Arundel was standing in the ballroom flanked by an entire squad of Imperial Stormtroopers. He remained just long enough to make everyone uncomfortable, which was his main purpose in being there, and then excused himself to go and check on Ashori Monoceros. It had been so long since he had seen her that he worried he was losing his grip on her. The room where he had once held Lady Jelena Rodney captive was a fitting scene for their rendezvous. He did not knock at the door, nor did he announce himself, but instead he simply opened the door and barged in. Behind him he quickly closed the door and then locked it. "I've missed you," he declared, as he strode towards her in a rage. He reached for her, grabbing her chin with his hand, and squeezing her face in his grasp.

Elayne's eyes shot open when someone came through the door close by. All of her defenses went into action as her hands balled into fists...then released upon seeing Dillon. The Major let out a long sigh. It wasn't the Grand Moff, nor was it the Governor. She quietly nodded her head. "Somethin' like that..." Her eyes diverted down to the *very* full Squibs. "Let's... Let's take a walk. I don't want to be blamed for this mess." Elayne was feeling tired. Revisiting the past was exhausting. She had to use Dillon's support to get moving again. The ball had been a bad idea.

"I've missed you too," Ash replied as she saw Papius for the first time in far too long. She didn't begin to explain herself. He had to understand that she had a Rebel cover to hold down and that he came second to it. The second her cover was blown was the very same moment he lost his informative. She rose to her feet, but stopped in her tracks when he reached her and took hold of her face roughly. "I've been stuck on Chandrila." She told him with a tone of annoyance in her voice. "It was impossible to contact you, given the circumstances. I assure you that my cell did not make Rodney look good." She reached up, running her hand over his face. "I have some news you might like to hear."

Ewwiekewwieikkie was laying on her back, rubbing her oh so full stomach. Her eyes opened and she spotted new people in the room, and while she did not know them, she noticed one of them looked very sad. "Melickielickie, wake up!" she said, as she shoved her elbow into the younger Squib. "She sad," she declared, as she reached up to get a piece of cake. With cake in her paw she began running towards Elayne and Dillon. "Are you ok? Here cake. You feel better," she said, before shoving the piece of cake in Elayne's face. "I'm helping," she said, as she looked up to Dillon with a big smile.

"Chandrila. You did well to help the Rebels there. It was a terrible blow to that imbecile Rodney," Papius said, slowly releasing his grasp upon her to allow her to speak more easily. "There were whispers that Lord Vader was going to put an end to him, but his presence here seems that those were just wishful rumors," he said, as he bitterly shook his head in frustration of it all. "News? What news?" he asked, as he allowed her to stroke his face. It soothed him, causing him to briefly relax and calm down from his anxious day of feuding with the House of Rodney. "C'mon, girl. What do you have for me?" he asked, as he moved towards the nightstand and began to go through the personal possessions of Jelena like the creep that he was.

Melickielickie groaned. "Huuuhh?" She was soooo full. She had never eaten so much in her life. The little Squib was ready to enter a sugar coma when her sister pointed out that they were no longer alone. Her yellow eyes opened wide, spotting a woman with delicious looking blue hair and a guy. "Ohno! She sad!?" Melickielickie gathered the half-eaten lollipop from the ground. It was covered in blue fur and all other sorts of nastiness. She darted towards Elayne and Dillon, offering the woman the lollipop. "No be sad! We here now!" She pushed the lollipop closer to Elayne. "We make it better. You sad too?" She asked Dillon.

Major Passik was touched by the sweetness of the Squibs. The elder of the two had literally shoved a piece of cake in her mouth, giving her no chance to oppose being force fed. She began to chew on it. "Ooh. It's very good." She could see that they were trying to make her feel better...and...honestly, it was working. She brought a hand up to her face to wipe frosting away from her nose and cheeks. She looked at Dillon, suddenly understand exactly why he strived to be a father. Elayne began to laugh. "Thank you both. I'm feeling better." She leaned over, giving Ewwiekewwieikkie a hug.

The red haired woman laughed. "If Lord Vader didn't put an end to him, then he probably scared the piss out of the guy. Don't you worry, Governor. My cell is going to continue working within his sector. It'll only be a matter of time before his failures catch up with him. Rodney will die." Ash reassured him. The affection brought to the surface all the longing feelings she had for him. The days had been growing so long on Chandrila. She was glad the opportunity to see him had finally come along. "Jelena Rodney is here. That idiot Xergo brought her with us so she could see her father. Isn't that sweet? I have no idea where she is, Papius. All I know is that she's here, right under your nose."

Dillon had heard tales about Squibs, so when he saw them rushing over he attempted to evade them as if they were an oncoming TIE. But, unfortunately, the girls were more adept than Imperial pilots and before too long Elayne's face was covered in cake. He wanted to laugh, but knowing that she was suffering from the Imperial presence in the ballroom he tried not to. Unfortunately, he was not strong enough and began to laugh hysterically at the cute Squibs. "No. I'm not sad. I'm very happy," he said, as he smiled down at Elayne and the girls. "Are you happy now, Elayne?" he asked her, as he brought one finger to her face to get some of the cake. He then inserted his finger in his mouth and tasted it. "It's good!" he said, as a bright smile came over his face.

"That's good news. Now I just need to do something about the Rodneys here..." Papius informed her, when suddenly she began to utter the news that would turn the idyllic Rodney family ball into a chance for greatness. "Jelena Rodney is here ... now?!" he asked, as his face flushed red with anger, his eyes went wide, and the veins started to bulge in his temples. He moved swiftly back from the nightstand until he was directly in front of Ashori, nearly foaming at the mouth. His nostrils were flaring like he was a nerf in heat. This was finally his chance. "I *will* find her," he vowed, as he placed his hand back upon her shoulder, squeezing upon it tighter than he realized. "I will connect her to Claudius *and* Marcus Rodney and *I* will be the one to break them ... not Vader," he said, as he began to drool slightly from the corner of his mouth, unconsciously tightening his grip upon her.

Ewwiekewwieikkie was happy to receive a hug from Elayne. She liked hugs. "Hmm. Hmm!" she said, as she looked towards Melickielickie. "Pounce party?" she asked, Melickielickie, before her head turned back towards Elayne. "Pounce party!" she decided, and then in an instant a blur of blue fur lunged forward, tackling her down to the ground, as she began to giggle and squeal excitedly. All of the sugar she had consumed had excited her tremendously.

"Pounce party! Eeeee!" Melickielickie jumped on top of Elayne as soon as she was down. "Pounce party, pounce party!" In Melickielickie's mind, this was the second of two ways to cheer a person up. The first, of course, was cake. She had made a new friend; the lady with candy hair! Swept up in a moment of overexcitement, Melickielickie's tongue swept over Elayne's cheek. "Yummy!"

On the ground, Elayne found herself trapped in a 'pounce party'. Instead of it making her panic, she began to laugh hard. "Yes, yes, I'm happy now." She reported to Dillon. Maybe they didn't need to return to the ballroom. They could hide out with the Squibs inside of the dessert room until they were discovered. All she could do was hope that their Rebel comrades would stay safe. It wasn't acceptable to dine with the enemy...and they were doing a lot more than just that. Elayne would be shocked when she learned that the Squibs were the Grand Moff's adoptive children. For now, she felt light hearted and set free.

It seemed Ash had successfully dealt some good news. The way Papius reacted brought a smirk to her face. Everything was aligning for him. Capturing Jelena Rodney and exposing the other Rodneys would be enough for him to receive a promotion. Ash wiped the drool from the corner of his mouth. Her hands both settled on his. "You need to go *now*. You need to find her. I'll look too." She guided him towards the door, playfully pushing him out. "Find Jelena so we can celebrate together." Ash needed to remain inside of the room until a safe amount of time had gone by. No one could know about them.

Ironically, just outside of the corridor where Papius and Ash were parting, Sierra Rodney was headed upstairs to check on the nanny bot and her son. The times where she and Bruce had been separated were limited. Even though Sierra knew the boy needed his sleep and couldn't be with her during the ball, she needed that extra reassurance. What she did not know was that she had stepped within the line of vision of the Governor that she hated so much, and proceeded to led him straight to where the nanny droid was caring for her son. To her surprise, Bruce was awake. She gladly took over for the droid shortly, cradling Bruce in her arms as she stepped out onto the balcony connected to the makeshift nursery room. "You're not missing much out there, Bruce."

"Go mingle. See what you can learn," Papius instructed Ash, before turning to leave Jelena Rodney's old room. He would have the Stormtroopers began an extensive, but subtle search of the castle for the girl. He knew that if Jelena discovered they were searching for her she would likely escape his grasp, which meant his men would need to employ a softer touch so as not to arouse her. But, as he entered the corridor he caught a scent of the perfume that he knew Sierra Rodney to prefer. As he turned he caught the sight of a beautiful body in a backless dress. As his eyes moved upwards he caught the familiar blonde curls of the woman. Suddenly Jelena Rodney could wait. He moved behind her from a distance, eventually following her up the stairs where he found Sierra, the nanny droid, and the three babies. "A touching moment with mother and son," he said, as he moved forward, placing a hand on the balcony, and leaning over to look down. "If someone dropped a credit chit off here, and it struck someone, I suspect it would tear them in half," he mused, before the sound of a shrieking thranta filled the air. He should have had them all eradicated when he resided here.

She placed a gentle kiss on her son's forehead. Her hips slowly rocked from side to side to work the baby to sleep. Sierra felt happy, and her happiness grew as she heard the sounds of boots approaching her. Her first assumption was that Claudius had escaped the party to visit their son. She turned, grin appearing on her lips before fading quickly. Papius Arundel. Sierra shifted until she was holding Bruce against her chest. Anger rose inside of her. How dare he come this close to her! How dare he corner her when she had Bruce with her. The woman's body tensed. "I'd assume so. The momentum behind the credit chit would be intense by the time it collided with someone." She stated with a clear tone of anger behind her words. The sound of a shrieking thranta reminded her that she was far from alone against this evil man. Her entire family was not far away. "What brings you? You hardly seem like the type to go dancing." Her son was fierce. He glared at Papius.

"Just a tour of the castle. It was nice living here, I'm afraid to admit," Papius said, as he shifted his gaze from the chasm below to the beautiful, young Sierra. "Tell me ... was this the balcony from which your mother-in-law flung herself, or was it one of the others?" he asked, as he dragged his finger along the balcony's marble railing. "I'm actually an excellent dancer. Perhaps you'll find time to honor me with a dance later?" he asked, as he inched along the balcony, bringing him closer and closer to her *and* her son. "What a beautiful little boy you have. I see so much of you in him, and her father..." he said, as he smiled down at the baby. "I also see some similarities in his sister. Not the little brat. The older brat ... the *Rebel*," he said, adding a bit of venom to that final word. "If only she was here to see what you've become," he said, before arching his eyebrow at her, attempting to provoke her. If she were to rush off and warn the foolish Jelena then he would have them *both*.

Sierra's feet remained in place. This time, she wasn't going to run and hide from him. Papius had stripped her and humiliated her. He had taken Jelena as prisoner. He had caused entirely too much trouble for her husband...and now, he dared bring up Livia's death. She wanted to rip his tongue out when he brought it up. He didn't get to speak of her mother-in-law in such a way. "You are unwise to speak of my mother-in-law's death. It's *your* fault that she's gone." Sierra accused. She could never forget what she had seen; Livia diving to her death. Kerrie had disposed of the disk, but its contents would always remain in her mind. "No. I don't think my date would like me dancing with another man. I'm sure you'll understand."

He was pressing her buttons and making her uncomfortable. Sierra held her body even more tense. Somewhere in the mountains, she could hear a thranta screech again. It sounded like it was getting closer. His cryptic words led Sierra to realize the truth; Papius knew. Somehow, some way, Papius had found out that Jelena was within the castle. If she didn't pick her next actions wisely, then her family would suffer. "If only..." Sierra sighed. "Jelena and I grew up together. She was a very close friend. If nothing else, I wish things could be different so she and her brother could have a relationship. I cannot stop her from doing what she wants to do." She let her eyes fall to reflect true sadness. She did miss Jelena. The hardest pill to swallow was realizing that she would never get Jelena back. At least she could protect her from this monster. She turned away from him, facing the balcony. She looked out over the kingdom which had briefly belonged to her and Claudius.

"Yes. *If only*," Papius began, as he leaned his back against the railing, to get more comfortable before continuing the battle of wits with Sierra. "If only she had not stolen classified Imperial documents and placed them in the hands of the Rebellion. If only she had not shot your predecessor, an Imperial Major. If only she had not transmitted a treasonous broadcast to the people of your husband's oversector, condemning him and the Emperor. If only she had not openly defected to the Rebellion. *If only*," he had again repeated, before offering her a forced frown. "I have to admit I was surprised to not see you in your uniform. After all, this is an official function. However, with a dress like that I cannot complain," he said, before offering her a little smirk. When he needed good banter he knew just where to look.

This conversation was making Sierra angry. Her blood pressure was rising. It became clear to her that she could not leave Bruce with the nanny droid. He needed to stay with her where he was relatively safe from Papius. As for Jelena ... she had *no* idea how she would take care of her. It didn't matter what Jelena had done, she was *family*. She and Claudius had fought to bring her home. She said nothing, staring out into the city. She wished for Papius to tumble off the ledge and fall to his doom. Sadly, her luck wasn't that good. Overhead, another ship was coming to land at Rodney castle. Sierra did not recognize it, but it was the cruiser belonging to none other than the Inquisitor. Her head snapped back towards the Governor. Discomfort welled up inside of her. She suddenly felt like she had far too much flesh exposed. "It isn't for you to look!" She snapped, but just as she did, a large thranta appeared directly in front of the balcony. Its wings were spread wide. It screeched loudly in front of them. Bruce's attention was directed on the thranta now, but he didn't fear it. He looked at it like it was an old friend. The thranta began to peck and claw at Papius violently.

"Ohshit." Sierra turned around and escaped the balcony where the thranta continued to assault the evil Governor. "Nana, take the twins to Marcus and Zara's quarters immediately!" She demanded, racing out of the room and back towards the ballroom. She forced herself to calm as she passed through into the large ballroom. If the thranta injured Papius enough, then she didn't need to worry about Jelena being hunted down. She immediately returned to Claudius. Her cheeks were pale. Bruce had returned to his former, happy self. He cooed against his mother's neck.

For the nanny droid there was something familiar about the thranta attack on the balcony. "Oh goodness me, Lady Sierra," she said, as she took possession of Bruce. "I will go immediately," she said, before she tightened her grip on Darrus, Sia, and Bruce. While the century may have changed the chaos surrounding the House of Rodney had not. Perhaps there was a reason she was rediscovered after all these centuries. She wasted no time in taking safety back in the master suite in the main spire of the castle, where she hoped no one would bother the children.

The sudden appearance of the thranta prevented Papius from making any form of witty reply. Instead he felt the terrible pain of the thranta's claws tearing into his arm. "Argh!" he screamed, as he tried to swat the creature away. Now he was even more angry with himself that he did not use the opportunity to rid the mountains around the castle of the pests. "Damn this planet," he said, as he finally succeeded in getting free of the beast, but not before its beak had struck him directly in the forehead, which was now bleeding badly. He would need medical attention and soon. As he stumbled back in from the balcony Sierra was gone, and so was the droid. He felt himself growing lightheaded, the room began to spin, and then he fell forward, collapsing in a pile of his own blood.

For some reason Claudius Rodney had found himself with Callista Nilar and the other children in the grand ballroom where they were doing the hokey pokey, the only dance any of the children seemed to know. He was just about to put his left foot in when he spotted Sierra returning ... looking pale. "I'm sorry, Princess Callista, but my duties as Ambassador to Candyland require me to go for a moment," he said, before smiling down to her. He then quickly moved towards his wife, where he took hold of her by the arm, and guided her towards a quiet corner where they could speak unheard of. "What's the matter?" he asked her, in a hushed tone, with a growing sense of concern on his middle-aged face.

"Okie dokie, Ambassador of Candyland. Thanks for dancing with me!" Callista bowed to him then continued to dance, only she didn't know which foot was her left or right. She stuck out her right foot and shook it so hard that she fell down, giggling happily on the ground. For Callista, this was another amazing day. She'd had so much fun lately. She was going to tell her mama and daddy about everything on the way home.

Sierra had walked in on a touching sight that she would never forget; Claudius performing the hokey pokey with the children. It made her feel better before he even reconnected with her. She took his arm and clung to it hard. In the corner, they found some semblance of silence. "It's Governor Arundel. He stalked me on my way to see Bruce. He cornered us on the balcony. He was acting terrible, as he normally does, but then this large thranta appeared and began attacking him." She said, biting her lower lip. "H-He knows Jelena is here too." She said those words much more quietly. Sierra took in a deep breath. "We need to play what happens next very carefully or else he will tear our family in half." She brought her free hand to her head, anxiously running her fingers through her hair. In the corner of her eye, she spotted Doctor Tohan and Doctor Bailo.

"Governor Arundel was with Bruce?!" Claudius asked, angrily, and raising his voice louder than he wanted to. The thought of that wicked man near his beautiful son was enough to infuriate him. "A thranta attacked him. Did it ... did it kill him?" he asked, hoping, as it would be a way of solving all of their problems, not to mentions the problems of his brother as well. "He knows about Jelena? How?!" he asked, as he turned his attention towards the wall behind him. "We have to get her out of here," he said, realizing it was technically an act of treason, but he could not allow anything to happen to his daughter. "Are you okay? Where is Bruce now?" he asked, as he placed a hand on the wall in front of him to keep from collapsing. "Perhaps it was wrong of us to come..." he said to her, suddenly sounding very sad.

"What a wonder this world once was ... before the pollution, before the war..." Doctor Tohan said to Doctor Bailo, ruefully, as he walked around the ballroom with her. Needing his walking stick to get around he could not effectively dance, but he could mingle. "Our people have done a spectacular job so far, but there is much more to be done," he explained to her, as he lamented what had happened to the people here. "Though as long as Imperial flags fly in the city I do not think the people should return," he said, as he noticed Claudius and Sierra in the corner. "Oh dear. It seems drama has struck once more," he informed her, not sounding the least bit surprised. "Shall we check on them, or would we intrude?" he asked her, as he leaned forward with the aide of his walking stick.

"I... I have no idea. It started peeking him and clawing at him. I left. I ordered the nanny droid to take the children up to Zara and Marcus' private quarters." She said, immediately wishing she had kept Bruce with her. "I don't know how either. We've been extremely careful. She's well hidden. Do you think someone told him?" She knew they couldn't move Jelena off of the planet. They could inform *no one* of the impending danger. "No. We cannot be seen talking to those Papius knows are involved in the Rebellion. He will use it to crucify both of us." She was trying to form a plan as quickly as she could. "I'm okay." She reassured him, bringing her hands to his face. "It *wasn't*. Don't let that man ruin this night. Let us see what is condition is before we plan the next step."

"This next song is dedicated to the Queen of my heart!" Prince Pollix Drayen had found his way on stage with the other musicians. In his hands, he held his incredibly annoying slitherhorn. He was beaming from ear to ear since his recent engagement had not involved his death... *yet*. He stepped back and began playing a quick impromptu jizz song that had the other musicians struggling to keep up with him. The prince did a little jig while he played a song he'd made specifically for Drusilla Rodney. For the other guests, who had enjoyed sophisticated music all evening, the jizz was totally different.

Doctor Bailo's long digits were wrapped around Doctor Tohan's arm. She had been enjoying her evening until the slitherhorn player began dancing to the beat of his own ... well, slitherhorn. She nodded her head slowly. "There's much damage to be undone. I recall the first time I visited Delaya years ago. It was surprising to see how damaged the atmosphere was. I pray that our people will bring on change for Delaya so the planet doesn't end up like that again." Alessandra wasn't much of a dancer. She was shy when she wasn't working in her career. Her eyes settled on Claudius and Sierra who were whispering in the corner. She let out a sigh from both mouths. "I never realized one family could keep you so busy. Yes, let's go see what has happened." She reluctantly diverted Pilaq towards the couple. She paused beside them. "Milord, is something wrong?"

Soon to be Princess Drusilla Drayen, but unfortunately still Lady Drusilla Rodney, strode through the grand ballroom that must have cost more than any other gown on display. She had made a dent in the Onderon treasury to equip herself in the evening in a lavish, lavender gown and jewels from head to toe. Her earrings were such that it was a wonder the weight of them did not tear her ears off the side of her head. Her necklace was causing strain to the back of her neck, while the tiara on her head made her seem shorter than she was from the weight of it pressing down upon her. The bracelets and rings caused her hands to fall at her sides, as it would take a great deal of effort to lift them. The crowd parted as she stood in the center of the ballroom, gently dancing to the musical stylings of her fiancé.

"Of course someone told him, but who?" Claudius asked Sierra, as he looked around the ballroom, suddenly not trusting anyone. "Only the Rebels knew she was here..." he said, but he did not think his half-brother or wife would do such a thing. "Could Callista have said something?" he said, as he looked over at the sweet, little girl who still could not manage the hokey pokey. Before he could say another word a pair of Ithorians had descended upon them, forcing him to clam up about Jelena and the Rebellion. "Yes, Doctor Bailo, everything..." he said, but then stopped when he heard a shrill noise that caused a shiver to run up and down his spine. "What is that racket?" he asked, and then as he turned he saw the boy Pollix ... and then he saw his other daughter. His face went red, but he was conflicted as to what to do. "Sierra..." he groaned, through a tightly clenched jaw. He reached to her for support, as he realized that he had come to rely on her much more than he had ever thought.

Callista... Sierra supposed it could have been possible. "They brought other Rebels..." She fell silent as both Ithorian doctors joined them. The sound of Pollix's horrendous slitherhorn was a rude awakening. "Ugh." Her ears ached upon hearing it. She didn't even need to look up to know who was making that horrible sound. The little Prince who had stolen Drusilla way was here. That could only mean... "Dru!" She saw her on the dance floor. Her dress was ridiculous. Between all of her accessories, Sierra was certain the girl was wearing her weight's worth in them. She, too, felt conflicted. She wasn't ready for someone to take Dru away. On the other hand, she was *happy*. She bit her lower lip and steeled herself to become Claudius' support. "Doctor Bailo, a thranta attacked Governor Arundel in the nursery. Can you please see to him? Thank you." Sierra was all business. She gave the Ithorians no time to object, because she was busily moving through the crowd with her husband. She grasped Drusilla and pulled her close. Instead of yelling at her, she squeezed the girl tightly.

Doctor Bailo's eyes went wide. "A thranta attack?" The music had shifted to something she couldn't stomach. "We will see to him." She said, pulling Doctor Tohan away. "Move as quickly as you can before that noise bursts our ear drums." She commented on the way towards the nursery. Sooner than later, Governor Arundel would find himself carried out on a stretcher en route to the medcenter. He had been gravely injured by the beast.

Doctor Tohan knew thrantas to be peaceful creatures so the news that one had attacked someone caused him great concern. "I am going as fast as I can, Doctor," he said, in his sassy voice, as his ancient, arthritic legs moved with the aide of his walking stick to clear the ballroom. "There is never peace here. There is an evil that lingers over this place that causes pain and death. Perhaps it should have been destroyed," he commented, in a moment of bluntness, as he moved towards the seemingly endless array of stairs that lay before him. "Let him bleed," he said, as he put one foot onto the first step, muttering to himself.

"Ick," Drusilla said, as Sierra hugged her in front of *everyone*. "You're going to wrinkle my dress," she said, as she shrugged her way free. "Did you miss me?" she asked, as she looked towards Sierra and her doting father. "I just had to get out of there. Everyone was so miserable," she said, as she began carrying on and complaining as if nothing had happened. "So I understand I have a brother now. That came quickly," she commented, as she carefully examined one of her fingernails on her right hand. She did not want anything to damage her new manicure. "So are you going to let me marry my Prince, or not?" she asked, finally getting to the point, at the wrong place, and at the wrong time.

"Of course I missed you. We've been wanting to come visit you. The news of your engagement came as a shock... I would have liked to hear it from you instead of the HoloNet." Sierra commented. She looked at Claudius. Unexpectedly, he'd been able to reunite with both of his daughters. Even Sierra didn't know that Dru would attend. "Ah, yes. Bruce arrived weeks ago. It was a surprise for all of us. You should come meet him. He's wonderful." She couldn't help but gush over her baby boy. Her next question made Sierra choke. She coughed. "Um." Sierra had no answer for this question. When she thought about Dru marrying Pollix, she thought about how she and Claudius would torture the boy. "Drusilla, you aren't even of age yet... Perhaps it can wait a few more years?" Sierra tried to be reasonable. "We don't even know Pollix. Your father and I want to make sure you're marrying a good person. A person who deserves you."

A member of the Alderaan Guard stepped forward into the fray with Drusilla and Sierra, but this was no ordinary guard ... this was Jelena Rodney. "You look ridiculous. You think you don't, but you do," she lectured her sister, as she came to support her bestie turned stepmother. "Stay young. When you're our age you'll wish you were the age you are now," she said, as she rose her finger and poked her in the shoulder. But, as she was literally poking her sister she could not deny that the fabric felt wonderful. Little did she know that the Imperial Governor had learned of her presence here and that she was no longer safe.

"Well maybe if you paid a little more attention to me," a bratty Drusilla shot back at Sierra, as stepdaughters were known to do. "I'll meet him," she said, as she tried to ingratiate herself to the woman who now controlled her fate. "No! I want to marry him now, mummy!" she said, as she began to stomp her feet right in the center of the ballroom. "I don't want to marry a good person. I want to marry a Prince, and that's what *I* deserve," she explained, when her sister started interjecting herself into the conversation. "Well both of you ganging up on me. It's my childhood all over again," she said, before she folded her arms in front of her chest and began to pout. "*I* look ridiculous? Excuse me?" she said, as she shifted her focus to her sister. "You're the one who looks ridiculous," she said, before angrily raising her hand to her sister's head and knocking the blast helmet square off her head, revealing to everyone that Jelena Rodney *was* alive and at the ball.

Sierra wanted to kiss Jelena when she walked up and backed her up against Drusilla. She was also glad to see her friend because she could deliver the news for her to flee without raising suspicions. Dru's words didn't hurt Sierra, for she had tried to make some sort of connection with Dru. The only connection that they had seemed to be a love for music. She had begun to cause a scene. People were looking, making Sierra feel nervous due to all the unwanted attention. "We're just looking out for you. I don't want you to be unhappy." Ohno. There came the pout. The pout could get a Rodney anything they wanted...but Drusilla didn't know that yet. The worst thing happened as they were talking; Dru knocked off the blast helmet from Jelena's head. The helmet fell. It hit the ground *hard*. The sound echoed throughout the entire ballroom. Sierra found herself looking at Jelena's face with no obstructions in the way ... and so were all the other guests. "Leave now." She mouthed to Jelena.

Standing before Duke Marcus and Duchess Zara was none other than the great Auntie Mae. She was babbling on and on about the future of her ice cream industry. She was also looking for Zara and Marcus to create a *second* scandalous video. "Ice cream sales have never been as high as they were when I brought out Extra Passionate Passion Fruit." She explained. "I need you to take a second honeymoon on the islands. I will pay a droid to catch the act on film. It'll surprise no one that the Duke and Duchess had another 'woppsies'." She explained, head turning as she heard the loud noise. What she saw was a member of the House of Rodney who was presumably dead. "Oh mah!" She gasped, placing her hand over her chest. "This is inspiring! Jelena Rodney Mystery Flavor... You never know what you're going to get!" She crackled. "You get back to me on that second holovid, ya hear?!"

The helmet flew off Jelena's head as if slow motion, crashing to the ground that caused a crash that seemed to echo for an eternity. Everyone looked. There were gasps and whispers. Clearly someone, or multiple someones, would have recorded it. She looked to Sierra, her father, and then finally Drusilla, with tears beginning to well up in the corner of her eyes. "I know," she mouthed back, before lowering herself to pick up the helmet, forcing it awkwardly upon her head, with her brown hair still sticking out clumsily. One last glare at Drusilla, before she began to sprint from the ballroom to save her neck, but the fallout from what had just happened would be long with them.

Claudius reached out for Jelena, but before he could offer her any kind of affection she was gone. Perhaps it was better than some intrepid individual with a recording device did not get to capture *that*. He turned to Drusilla, before raising his right hand and pressing his index finger right in her face. "Do you know what you've done? You've endangered your sister! You've endangered us all!" he said, as he began to lower his head, shaking it in disbelief. "You were never like this before ... before that ... *boy*," he said, angrily, as he had never been able to see all of his daughter's character flaws. Perhaps it was because he loved her so much, or perhaps it was because he did not want the blame of her becoming a bad apple. No, to him this was all the fault of one man ... Pollix Drayen. Before Sierra or anyone could stop him he was rushing towards the stage where he gave the young Prince his own version of a pounce party. In front of everyone, he tackled him to the ground and began to strike.

"Auntie Mae, while all of Delaya is happy for your success, and the success of a local business, I am afraid I simply cannot submit my wife to the ordeal of another holovid," Marcus replied, in his best diplomatic voice. Auntie Mae's taxes were now paying for most of the restoration of Leiliani, which, despite her insistence, would not be renamed Auntie Maeville in her honor. He reached over to Zara for support when the incident with Jelena happened, causing him to rise suddenly from his chair. He did not know what to do. If he did not do *something* the Empire could accuse him of harboring a traitor, but she was his niece and he had stuck his neck out for her before. But, before he was given a chance to speak his brother was about to create an incident of his own. He rushed to Claudius at his top speed, attempting to pull him off Pollix. "Claudius, he's just a boy. Leave him be!" he insisted, but all he got was an elbow to the nose for his efforts.

"Oh no," Mug said, as he saw his brothers get into a heated exchange. While the sound thing for him to do was to flee with Jelena, he stupidly rushed onto the stage to join Claudius and Marcus before his brother murdered his future son-in-law. Taking one side of Claudius, while Marcus took the other, he did his best to help pull him away. "Brother, calm yourself. There are too many people here. There are children here. Your *wife* is here," he said, trying anything to calm him down. The temper he saw displayed in the man reminded him of the Imperial Grand Moff who destroyed his home. Perhaps that same evil was consuming his brother.

It pained Sierra to watch Jelena go. That uncertainty of when they would see each other again weighed so much. Tears began to spill from her eyes. Jelena would be gone soon, but would she be safe? She could overhear her husband berating Drusilla and quickly wiped those tears away. She could hear the hate in his voice. Sierra realized what was going to happen far too late. "!" He moved like an angry bear across the ballroom. She witnessed Claudius tackle the wispy boy to the ground and begin his assault. She dashed towards the stage where she was forced to watch all *three* brothers get involved.

The Prince was indeed having the time of his life. He was playing a complicated slitherhorn solo at the end of his special song for his Queen. His eyes were closed, body moving to the music. The poor boy didn't know what was coming until it happened. Something *hard* hit his body and sent him down to the ground. "Owww!" He cried. The fall was the least of his worries. It was his future father-in-law's fists that came next. People were beginning to crowd the stage, holding up their holocams to record the moment. Pollix was terrified of the man. He attempted to bring his hands up to his face and his knees to his chest. All that could be heard was the sound of Claudius' colliding fists and Pollix's whimpers. The boy was well versed in political matters, not matters of physical contact. Two angels appeared from somewhere in the ballroom: Marcus Rodney and another man Pollix didn't recognize. They were trying to pry the crazed Grand Moff away from his target but the boy simply couldn't get free.

Zara wanted Auntie Mae to go away. What she was suggesting was embarrassing. Feeling irritated, she began to run her fingers through her silver hair over and over again. Auntie Mae had helped the economy. She helped rebuild. She offered so many jobs to people. Zara couldn't repay the woman. Her fingers barely had the time to brush over Marcus' hand when all hell broke out. Suddenly, Claudius was on the Prince boy who was engaged to his daughter. "Every time we get the family together. . ." Zara rose, watching Marcus run to stop his brother from murdering the boy in front of a crowd.

"Wow Thaddy! Lookit this place!" Kaiya Crion grinned. She and Thaddeus had accompanied the Inquisitor on her trip to watch over the Rodney family on Delaya. "All I can smell are Rodneys. It's yucky." She explained. It was in the same moment they walked in that the fight began. She could see the uniform of the Grand Moff, and finally, his face. Her eyes lit up. "*Thaddy look*!" She bum rushed the stage in an eager motion to see the fight. On her way, she accidently slammed into none other than Sierra Rodney. "Fight! Fight! Fight!" The Cathar's ears were perked upright. She looked over her shoulder at her boyfriend.

Captain Thaddeus Updike marched into the grand ballroom wearing a black uniform that was neatly tailored to his athletic frame. He detested Delaya ever since the battle here some months ago. It seemed they were arriving at just the right time for them, but the wrong time for most of the Rodney family. He placed a hand on her shoulder, trying to calm her down. "Don't exert yourself," he said to her, as he stepped forward to come along side her. Indeed there was a fight, one that he found very interesting to say the least. The Inquisitor's reaction, however, was what he was truly interested in.

"Get off of me! Get off of me!" Claudius shouted at Marcus and Mug as he was pulled off Pollix, creating quite the scene. In his mind that boy had corrupted Drusilla and endangered Jelena. He needed to pay. Only the sweet sound of Sierra's voice managed to calm him down, but he was still breathing heavily, covered in sweat, with red cheeks and a disheveled uniform. When they finally pried him off the boy he sat down at the edge of the stage, where everyone was staring at him, and gossiping. The House of Rodney certainly knew how to throw an entertaining evening.

"Awww... It's already ending. That's what happens when old people fight." Her ears hung downward. She turned her body to face Thaddy. "It's nice to be away from the Void ... but did we really have to come *here*? We should go to an aquatic planet with lots of fish. Can we go to a fishy planet on our next vacation?" She asked, nuzzling her nose against his cheek.

Inquisitor Thrope, too, made an appearance at the Rodney ball. She was interested in scoping out the rest of Governor Rodney's family so that she could find new ways to dig her paws into his life. With her, she had brought her Jedi manslave. "Prav, can you imagine living such a life? The Duke and Duchess have *no* power." She informed him inside of the ballroom. "Political figures such at themselves are just puppets. People with power make changes. The Duke and Duchess just put a cute face on it... I *hate* royalty." She rolled her eyes, catching the last of the fight with the Grand Moff and some poor boy. "It looks like I didn't take the fight out of the old man. We'll need to work on that." She commented, caring not for what messes the Governor was getting into with his family. Instead, Jessa's sights were set on Zara Rodney.

Sierra landed on the ground after Kaiya collided with her. A Cathar's lean body had much more weight behind it than anyone would expect. As Sierra stood, relieved to see that the fight had ended, she saw who was standing next to her: Kaiya Crion. Crion had murdered her little Squib daughter's family. She had almost killed Sierra. The memory came flooding back rapidly. She was taken to the moment when Crion nearly crushed her to death, ending both her and Bruce's lives. She was so terrified that she began to shake. She tried to move through the crowd lining the stage to reach her husband, but just as she made it in front of him, a stray elbow collided with her face. She let out a pained noise equally as pathetic as Pollix's, dropping her head into her hands.

Prav Ulmgo followed behind his mistress slowly, taking in the opulence and wastefulness of the structure. It reminded him of the last days of the once great Republic, whose leaders became corrupted by wealth and greed. It would come no surprise to him then that the Governor was one of those artifacts from that era. "In time you will crush him as you will crush any that oppose you," he whispered supportively in her ear," he said, before growing silent behind her, in his simple black uniform. There was a time when he and his master traveled to such worlds to meet with such people of power. The era of the republic was long over, he was in an era of rebellion now.

Claudius looked to Sierra for support when the Cathar commando bumped into her, sending him rising up from the stage and moving to defend his wife. "Get away from her you ... you ... you creature," he said, as he resorted to the xenophobia of the human dominated Empire. He had two Squib daughters and was ashamed of what he had said, but he let his temper get the better of him, and that, too, he would later regret. "She's pregnant!" he blurted out without thinking, as he wrapped both of his arms around Sierra and began to lead her away. The ball had been thoroughly entertaining, but for all the wrong reasons.

*Clap* *Clap* *Clap* the sound of a slow beat of applause began to fill the air surrounding Claudius Rodney's outbursts. "Oh Germanicus Rodney would be proud that eight centuries later you are the head of the family," a very angry, and a very drunk Gaius Rodney chimed in. He was holding a flute of starfuit cider as he glared towards his cousins, unable to resist the urge to get the whole family back together when they needed each other the least. "If I were Duke the Empire would have never bombarded the city. Thousands of lives would have been spared. And your mother would still be alive," he said, before he flung back the contents of the flute into his mouth. "You're a disgrace, cousin. An absolute disgrace to eight centuries of work by men better than you. And if my father had been born before your father than none of this would have happened," he said, as he looked around the room. "What are you all looking at?!" he asked, as he staggered around, picking fights with everyone. "You know it to be true!" he shouted, before snatching another drink off the tray of a passing waiter.

Sierra clung to her husband. The evening had turned chaotic. She was ready to retire somewhere only she and Claudius knew. She didn't blame him for his xenophobic comment, for this Cathar had caused so many problems for them. He was still cooling off from beating Pollix into a bloody pulp. Sierra's cheeks flushed red as he revealed that she was pregnant to the entire ballroom which was *full* of guests, including Auntie Mae who was jotting down all of her new flavor ideas. Now Dru knew Bruce wasn't the only extension of the family that she and Claudius had planned. Somewhere, Doctor Tohan was cursing the fact that he'd have to deliver *another* Rodney child. She sunk down to hide in his arms until cousin Gaius presented himself. He was drunk and distressed.

Farrah Rodney had thought it would be a good idea to bring her father to the ball. In her mind, they were going to unleash a plot to kill *all* the Rodneys at once for revenge. "Daddy!? Where did you go!?" She had been watching Gaius all evening, but he had somehow gotten away from her. The girl was missing the entire scene in the ballroom as she searched for him. "Daddy? Daddy!?" Farah was panicked. Her father had been in a bad place for some time. It seemed like even she couldn't pull him out of it.

Gaius struck a chord inside of Sierra on the wrong evening. She withdrew from her husband, taking the shockcuffs from a Stormtrooper. The young ISB Major cut Gaius off in his pursuit of Marcus. "You're a disgrace, Gaius." She said, hooking the shockcuffs on him rapidly. "Gaius Rodney, you are under arrest for the murder of Julius Rodney and all the times you foolishly attempted to murder this family." She snapped the cuffs on. "Take him away!" She growled to the closest Stormtrooper.

"Your confidence in me is something I love about you." Jessa commented. She had chosen a wise manservant. He fed the dark side developing within her. The Lepi female felt strong. She paid no attention to all of the disasters in the House of Rodney. Instead, she came to stand in front of the Duchess. "Duchess Zara. What a pleasure it is to finally meet you." She bowed. "I'm sure your brother-in-law hasn't mentioned me... I'm Inquisitor Thrope." She growled. "I was shocked to see a ball in Delaya. I wonder how your people must feel, suffering under Governor Arundel while you party the night away." Her fingers twitched at her side.

Claudius stopped in his tracks when he saw Gaius carrying on, with the added nerve of mentioning his deceased mother. That was the man who had tried to kill him, his wife, his family. The man who had killed his father. "You..." he said, as he curled his hands into fists so tightly that his fingernails threatened to tear at his palms. Before he could react it was once again Sierra who had stepped forward to intervene, thus sparing him a second beatdown of the ball. "That was neatly done, my love. I see your ISB training showing," he whispered sweetly into her ear, before turning in and placing a kiss on her.

Marcus was busy attending to his nose, wondering if his brother had accidentally broken it, when the Inquisitor stepped forward and moved towards his wife. He was quick to snap into action and moved directly towards his wife, going as far as to intercede between them. "Inquisitor, so kind of you to honor our world with your presence, and to attend our ball no less," he said, before offering her a polite bow. He knew of these witches and their ability to wield the force in ways his skills could never counteract. While he did have his sidearm beneath his robe he was old enough to remember the Jedi and the Clone Wars and doubted his weapon would be much good at anything. "I assure you, no one is suffering under the Governor. We welcome his presence, as we welcome the Empire, and yourself," he said, bitterly, as he wanted nothing further to happen to endanger any of his family members. (d)

Sierra let out a breath of air. Finally, the family would see justice for the death of Julius. She grasped her husband's hand. With her back turned towards the Inquisitor, she didn't know that the vile woman had made an appearance. She gave Claudius her best smile. "Thank you." She kissed him. "You gave Pollix quite the beat down. I hope you got in some punches for me." She squeezed him. "I think we've stayed long enough. I'm going to whisk you off to someplace special now." The Sea Islands. If this was the last time they ever stepped foot on Delaya together, then she wanted to make one more memory there. She guided him away from the chaos unfolding in the ballroom.

Zara had never met a Lepi before. Even she was taller than the cute, small bunny girl. She offered a polite smile to her. "Inquisitor Thrope?. . . No, he hasn't said anything about you." Unlike Marcus, she had no idea what an 'Inquisitor' was, nor did she know what kind of powers she possessed. She frowned. "Aw, Marcus, are you okay?" She noticed his nose was bleeding when he stepped in between Jessa and Zara. This motion was enough to let Zara know this woman wasn't safe. If Marcus felt like he needed to protect her, then something was going on. "He's right. The Governor and I even meet occasionally. We extended an invitation to him too. . . I wonder where he went." Zara didn't know about the thranta attack. "Feel free to stay as long as you like. Our home is your home."

Her hand was rising when the Duke himself cut her off. She saw the similarities between the brothers. "Is that so?" She thumped her foot. She had come wanting to create a spectacle. There was a big crowd, after all. She raised her paw, letting *both* Duke and Duchess feel her slowly beginning to constrict on their airways. "I want you to remember this moment every time you consider getting out from underneath Governor Arundel's thumb. I won't be shy about finding out which of you dies first when I catch word that you aren't behaving." Jessa released them both, turned her back on them, and headed out. (D)

Marcus reached up to his throat, grasping at the invisible force that was constricting his airways. He tried to speak, but his throat was being crushed in such a way that no words could escape. He angled his eyes towards Zara seeing that she, too, was suffering the same ordeal that he was going through. He was furious, but there was nothing he could do. When she finally released him he took in a gasp of air, but before checking on himself he moved to check on his beloved wife. "Are you okay?" he asked her, as he wrapped his arms around her. "She's gone," he told her, as he clung to her, trying to comfort her as best he could. "She's gone," he repeated, as he began pressing small kisses on her.

"Oh that looks painful," Petrus Flosgermen said from beneath his mask to his wife, as he watched his sister-in-law suffer under the might of the Inquisitor. "Pity we didn't have her to help us with our little plots and schemes, but at least we were here for the big moment," he told her, before taking a sip of his punch. Being around the castle again was a risk, but his wife simply could not resist spying on her sister during her big day. There had been plenty of drama and excitement thus far for them to enjoy from afar, but it seemed the best had been saved for last. (d)

Luna Flosgermen had not come back to Delaya in some time. It was easy to stalk her sister through the HoloNet. The ball had been *too* perfect. She couldn't resist watching her sister's family make fools out of themselves. One of her cat droids caught all the action so they could laugh about it later on. "Not exactly the kind of massage I want." Luna snickered. She was wearing a long, brown wig over her cropped blonde hair to disguise herself. "We could ask her for a business card." Luna suggested. She wrapped her arms around her husband's neck. "Thanks for coming with me. It's been a *much* more amusing night than I ever expected." Her favorite part thus far was watching her sister get choked out... She still hated her so much.

It became hard to breath. Zara tried to inhale, but she couldn't possibly get enough air. The Lepi wasn't touching her, yet she was clearly killing her...and Marcus too. "Nnn..." She attempted to say 'no' in objection to her husband's death. She tried to reach for him. Only Jessa controlled when they were capable of breathing again. She gasped. Her hand touched her neck. Zara didn't fully understand what had just happened. It was the first time she'd crossed paths with a force user. "Marcus!" Her eyes were filled with worry. "Are you okay?!" She locked her arms around him tightly. "I'm okay..." She thought so, anyway. She tried to stop herself from crying over the Inquisitor...she failed. The terror which she felt for Marcus sat inside of her stomach like a gigantic boulder. "She's gone." Zara repeated, clinging to him harder. His kisses were so sweet. Each kiss reminded her of all the times he'd protected her in the last year. Zara grasped both of his hands, leading him away from ball.

The young Duchess led her husband up the spire leading to their quarters. The first thing she saw was that Nana had managed to put all *three* babies to sleep. Zara stopped in front of the bassinet where Sia and Darrus were asleep snuggling each other. It was possible to decompress as she looked down at the two little humans she and Marcus had brought into the world. "I don't want to end the night like this." Zara said quietly. "I don't want to end our first anniversary afraid."

Marcus went with Zara to their suite, ignoring their guests, and instead focusing on the only adult in the world who truly mattered to him. As he stood with her over the bassinet watching the babies he could feel himself becoming emotional, and brought his hand up to his eyes to wipe the tears away. "We did this," he said to her, as he looked down at his baby boy and girl. "Hey, do you still have that chrono?" he asked her, as he suddenly felt reminiscent. "If you hadn't come for it we never would have met. None of this would have ever happened," he said to her, as he began to cry. But they were tears of joy as he felt a love he thought he would never find. And not just as a husband, but as a father too.

"Of course," Zara replied. She pinched the front of her dress to show Marcus where she had the designer involve it in the design of the dress at her stern request. She didn't care if it was fashionable or not. That chrono was meaningful. "I'll never get rid of it. I wanted it so bad. I had never expected to say a word to you. Get in. Get out. That's the best way to be a thief." She said, turning towards him. "I broke all of my rules that night." Zara felt swept up in her own emotions. The tears of happiness came rushing to her eyes. Her arms came to wrap around his waist. She pressed her head into his chest and let all of those happy tears fall on him. "You changed *everything*. There's no way I'd be this happy with anyone else." She stepped away from the bassinet with him to allow the twins to sleep. "This past year has been so crazy. Thank you for being with me through it all. Thank you for coming to find me. Thank you for making me your wife *and* a mother."

"I love you, Zara," Marcus said, as he moved away from the bassinet towards their bed. "This has been a crazy day at the end of a very crazy year," he told her, as he allowed himself to sit down on the bed with her. "Claudius attacked Drusilla's fiancé. Sierra is pregnant *again*. Gaius is in custody. Jelena is on the run. And an Inquisitor choked us. Did I miss anything?" he asked, as he leaned in to place a soft kiss upon her. His hand moved a top the dress where the chrono was situated, smiling at her. "I would say you stole my heart, but I willingly gave that to you," he told her, as he placed his arms tightly around her. "I'd apologize for my family, but yours kidnapped you and my sister-in-law," he teased her, as he continued to reflect on it.

Zara laughed as he listed off every insane event that had occurred over the course of the night. She sat beside him on the bed. "I think Drusilla *has* a fiance should be its own bullet point. That's pretty major! I can't believe your brother." She giggled. "Someday, will I have to pull you off of whoever tries to marry Sia..? No, I'll be right there brawling with you. Is your nose okay?" She leaned forward, softly placing a single kiss on the tip. She snuggled with him on the bed. The day was full of memories...good memories. Marcus made for the greatest husband ever. "Yup, and I'm keeping your heart so no take backs. It's mine forever." She did everything she could to handle his heart gently. She loved him. Nothing was ever going to change that. She giggled. "Hey! You're never gonna let me live that down, are you? Fifty years later, you'll still be like 'remember that one time Luna kidnapped you and Sierra'. Do I need to remind you that Gaius is a Rodney?" She laughed joyfully. "And he tried to kill everyone a bajillion times. I win! For once, my family isn't the most crazy." She teased him back. In her excitement, she tackled him down to the bed and climbed on top of him. "I'm going to love you forever, okay?"

"Yes. Who is going to be the one to tell Sia she can never have a boyfriend ... never get married," Marcus said to her, but he was not *entirely* kidding. "It seems both of our families have black banthas," he said, snickering, as he allowed himself to lay back in his bed. He looked out the window at the sky, which was now much more clear thanks to their friends the Ithorians. "I heard there was a thranta attack. Did you hear that?" he asked her, as he rolled over onto his side to look at her. "Auntie Mae was right about one thing. We *should* go back to the sea islands ... just not with a camera," he told her, as he moved his hand to stroke her silver hair. "Did you see Doctor Tohan with Doctor Bailo?" he asked her, smirking at the matchmaker that was within her.

"Marcus, Marcus. We are fancy folk. We have a nanny droid to do those things for us." She giggled. The young woman made herself comfortable, settling in for what was meant to be a long cuddle session. She was happy they had escaped the hectic chaos of the ballroom. The rest of the evening would be about each other. "No?! Really? Well, if a thranta attacked someone, then they probably deserved it. Was it a stupid poacher again?" She made an angry face. It was in her duties to protect the creatures of their planet. Even Sir Tentacles still lived within the northern part of the planet. "I was thinking the same thing. We haven't been there since our wedding. It was so pretty. We'll just have to be a lot more careful this time... I guess last time was my fault." She admitted with a laugh. When he pointed out the Ithorian Doctors, Zara's eyes shone. "Oh my gosh! *Of course I did*! Did I call it or did I call it? Sierra owes me twenty credits now. She said it would never happen. They were even holding hands!" Zara squeed happily. "Did you see them being all cute at Mug and Iyah's wedding? Can I plan their wedding? Pleasseeee?"

"What is an Ithorian wedding even like?" Marcus asked, as he scratched the side of his head in thoughtful contemplation. "I think we were both responsible for that, Zara, but even with the holonet scandal I don't regret one moment of our honeymoon," he said to her, as he rolled over on top of her suddenly and expectedly. "You know ... if Sierra can get pregnant again so soon, there's no saying you can't either," he said, as he lowered his face to her and began to plant kisses on her. "After all, we do have a nanny droid to do those things for us..." he said, repeating her words as he began to remove the layers of regal clothing that covered them.

"I... I have no idea. I'll ask Doctor Bailo about it. I like embarrassing her." Doctor Bailo was *at least* double Zara's age, if not more. It was so cute when she got all blushy over Pilaq. Regardless of enjoying being a matchmaker, Zara was glad that Pilaq had someone special now. Her thoughts quickly left that of Ithorian weddings. "Me either. Our honeymoon was perfect. I wouldn't change a thing." She had felt so loved as they stood on the beach, listening to the drunken preacher marry them off. The intimacy of having such a private wedding had been exactly what Zara wanted. She had seen a royal wedding and a regular one in the last year. She preferred the way they had done things.

All it took was for him to roll on top of her for lust to begin leaking into her brain. She wanted to express herself to her husband in every way. Well...every way *but* the scandalous way Auntie Mae wanted. His words were exciting. She understood exactly what he was implying. The twins were nearly two months old now. Zara was certainly was possible. She joined in helping him remove all their layers of clothing. "Does that mean you want to put another baby in me, Marcus?" She teased lovingly. As the clothing came off, her body was revealed to him and vice versa. It didn't matter how many times she saw him, the attraction still lived. She knew she needed eternity with him to properly appreciate everything that made him such a perfect person. Her hips wiggled. "Because I love you so much I just might let you."

"I'm tired of being the second son. We need to win the baby race," Marcus told her, as he finished removing the layers of clothing that covered him, and then unstrapped his sidearm. When it was done there was nothing separating his body from hers than air. But when he came back down upon her even the air did not separate them. "Oh please let me," he told her, as the two of them became one once again. It had been a year, but his love for her made it feel as if it had only been a day. Now he wanted to make it a lifetime.

"It's true. I don't want your brother to beat us." Zara's hands rested at his shoulders. She stared up at his eyes. Marcus had made the last year pass rapidly. In that year, Zara had learned how to love someone truly and unconditionally. He changed her, for the better, and continually inspired her to become a better person. When she met him, she was so scared of failure; failing as a mother, a wife, and a Duchess. Time had taught her that as long as he was by her side, then she would succeed. The distance between them disappeared as their bodies melted into one another in perfect union. Zara sighed. She could feel their hearts beating in union together. "I'll let you," she whispered to him. "This time and as many times as you want." She leaned forward to meet him in a kiss. A year would turn to two...five...a decade...and so many more. Zara Rodney had no doubt in her mind that one this fateful day a year ago, she had made the best decision of her life. That decision was named Marcus Rodney and he was the love of her life.

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