It was amazing was a good night's rest would do for
Sierra's ongoing recovery. The woman woke feeling so
much better the next day. Her body still had a lot
of healing to do. She realized that she needed to
take it easy. She couldn't be running around with an
E-11 Rambo style. Instead, she was seated at her
vanity running a brush through her blonde locks. She
had intentions for the morning. She needed to visit
Kerrie and El-Nay to check up on their recoveries
and thank them for their efforts. Marcus Rodney was
also on her list of visitations. She'd been too
tired to ask Pilaq how everyone was doing the prior
day...now she felt like a jerk for being so
insensitive. She set her brush down, turning to face
her husband. "Ugh. These boots." The Imperial boots
had never been her best friend. She nudged her feet
into each one. "I have to go check up on how Kerrie
is doing. It was mostly a drive-by thing the other
day." Sierra had been more concerned with reuniting
with her husband.
Claudius' hip had stiffened during the night's rest,
as the ancient palace always caused a chill to
settle in overnight. He let out a groan as he sat up
in the bed, frowning slightly as he felt he was
becoming more and more like his father. "I will wait
here as Jelena's mission to recover Drusilla should
be over soon, and I want to make sure at least one
of us is here," he informed her, as he looked over
towards her. Truthfully he did not want to return to
the site of his father's murder, nor where so many
misfortunes had befallen his precious family over
the proceeding weeks. "If she is removed from the
tank do give her my regard," he said, uncomfortably,
wishing he had done more to stand up for her in the
wake of Arden Zevrin's coup.
"Good plan. We don't want her running off to Esseles
without anyone again." The medcenter was a dark
place in their lives. It seemed like the belly of
the beast. Gaius' daughter had taken Julius' life
there and attempted to do the same to Claudius. She
didn't know if the small girl was lingering close.
She didn't like leaving Claudius alone in the
castle. She couldn't muzzle her protective nature.
She bent back to steal his glareshades from the
vanity. There would, without a doubt, be HoloNet
reporters waiting to talk to her outside the
medcenter. She wanted to distract them from the
healing wounds on her face. She wanted no one's
sympathy. Sierra stood. She strolled over to the bed
where she sat beside him. "I'll send her your
regard. Be safe while I'm gone, okay? If anything
happens, call me and I'll be here immediately." She
leaned forward to kiss his lips. Just before her
lips met with his, she stopped. "You need to take
the day off. Despite what Pilaq said, wifey's
intuition says that you're in pain." She leaned
forward, kissing him.
As she brought her face towards his he raised his
hand to caress the side of her face while returning
her kiss. He closed his eyes as his lips settled
upon hers and the brief repose felt much too short
for his liking. When her face pulled away his eyes
looked at her, worrying for her as she moved away.
"Be careful," he said to her, wishing he had someone
to look after her. The Alderaan Guard could not be
trusted, and Governor Arundel's troops were proving
to be overzealous in their handling of the
situation. Suddenly he missed life aboard the
Retributor, where at least he felt safe.
She wished it was socially acceptable for them to be
attached at the hip. Sierra was under the impression
that *she* could protect her husband. No one else in
the castle could...or anyone else on Delaya. She
smiled as she slowly pulled back. "You too. I'll see
you soon." Sliding on the glareshades, she offered
him a cute little smile before leaving.
As expected, the medcenter was a mess of HoloNet
reporters. Sierra Rodney sat in the back of a
speeder, audibly groaning. Did they have nothing
better to do?! The young ISB officer forced herself
from the speeder and towards the medcenter entrance.
She was surprised to find Stormtroopers there,
providing her with brief protecting from the
onslaught of reporters. She headed towards Kerrie's
suite immediately. The connection with her Imperial
life made her wonder what was going on within the
Retributor. By now, her and Claudius had avoided it.
They played a blissful game of ignorance. When would
it catch up with them? It seemed like Governor
Arundel was slowly squeezing them. He was causing
trouble within the city. The powerlessness that she
felt was a problem. She wished that Kerrie could
stay with them. With a sigh, Sierra rounded the bend
into the ward where Kerrie's room was.
El-Nay Darr was standing outside of Kerrie's room
and by the look on her face and the red
discoloration she did not look happy. The young
Mandalorian was still decked out in her obnoxiously
painted orange Nite Owl armor, with her helmet
grasped firmly in her left hand. There were two
Stormtroopers standing at the doorway to the room
where Kerrie's bacta tank was being held in, and it
was clear El-Nay was being denied access. She was
huffing and puffing as was her usual style, and she
seemed poised to use her helmet as a melee weapon to
bludgeon one of the troopers irresponsibly in an
attempt to gain entry. It was only then that she saw
Sierra out of the corner of her eye and a slightly
relieved look came upon her face, which prevented
her from attacking the Stormtrooper. "Sierra!" she
exclaimed, as she began moving swiftly towards the
Commander. "These bucketheads won't let me in," she
said, loud enough for the Stormtroopers to hear, as
she grimaces and pouted while looking at the ISB
Commander and Duchess she took credit for saving.
El-Nay was a hard person to miss...and Sierra
didn't. Her color preference was certainly distinct.
Concern crossed over Sierra's face as she saw that
the woman had been barred out from Kerrie's room.
The Duchess wasn't an idiot. She saw that there was
*something* going on between the two. Put in the
same position, Sierra would have had no choice but
to go full Rambo. The presence of so many
Stormtroopers here was worrisome. She stopped in
front of El-Nay. "Okay. Let me see what's going on.
I'll get you access back to Kerrie." Her hand
briefly patted the woman's shoulder. She owed this
woman. If she could make El-Nay's life easier, then
she was going to. Sierra stepped forward. She made
her way into Kerrie's room. The very first sight she
saw as she entered was shocking. "Governor!?" Oh
*shit*. There he stood: Papius Arundel. The last
meeting with Papius had not gone well for Sierra.
She steeled herself where she stood. "You have no
right to deny the woman outside access to this room.
Allow El-Nay to see her comrade."
"I will remind you that you do not command here,
Commander," Governor Papius Arundel replied, with a
play on words, obnoxiously. "The Mandalorians are a
plague best left contained to their home planet," he
declared, with his back still turned to Sierra, as
he was fixated on the Clawdite creature floating
within the bacta tank. "It is only because the woman
is assigned to a special project for the
Inquisitorius that I have not placed in her chains
for shipment back to Mandalore," he explained,
before slowly turning around to look at her. "I am
pleased to see you unharmed from your ordeal. Your
beauty is of such renown that I would hate for you
to lose it, for I fear what skills you have at your
disposal to fall back on," he sneered, as he moved
towards her ... close enough for them to breath the
same air. He inhaled sharply, as if he was savoring
a fine wine, as he tasted her. "It is fortunate you
were captured on Esseles and not here, for it is
another shortcoming of Grand Moff Rodney's forces in
the Ringali Shell, and not mine here on Delaya," he
said, with an unmistakable smirk of arrogance. He
was on his high horse with the knowledge of the
Rebel trap he had begun to set. She would easily see
he was behaving more arrogant than normal.
"That woman was part of the group which rescued me.
Kerrie is her comrade. Please, allow her to see her
friend. El-Nay isn't going to start trouble."
Sierra's mouth was dry. She tried to telekinetically
let Claudius know that she was in trouble. Papius
had a tongue made of daggers. Sierra had yet to
decide how best to deal with him. There was an aura
that surrounded him which made her highly
uncomfortable. He took over her personal space until
she could smell his breath. His words rolled off of
her. Papius' opinion of her had no weight on her
life. The man would love to consume her; to gather
her up and take her for his own. He made her visibly
uncomfortable. Her breath was shallow. She didn't
want to give him any satisfaction.
She groaned. "What happened on Esseles has nothing
to do with the shortcomings of the Grand Moff. These
were rabid thieves. Meanwhile, on Delaya, there
still lurks the assassins who are trying to kill
Claudius and myself. Tell me. How is your
investigation coming along?" He was acting so high
and mighty. Sierra rose, refusing to let herself
crumble entirely under him.
"Rabid thieves, indeed?" Papius responded, before
arching his left eyebrow at her. "Tell me, is this
woman not the sister of the woman your
brother-in-law married? The same woman who was
responsible for the abduction of her own sister
here?" he asked, before moving towards his datapad
to pull up the files on Petrus Flosgermen and Luna
Ta'em. "He is quite well known ... she less so ...
but you might find it interesting that they were
recently assigned to the same project as your
Mandalorian out there," he said, before handing over
the datapad to Sierra for her own examination. "In
fact, I have orders to return all four of them to
the Inquisitorius," he said, with a firm nod of his
head. "My investigation has made strong headway,
Milady ... the information you provided was an
excellent first step on the path to my ascension,"
he said, before moving back to examine Kerrie in the
tank. "Perhaps ... if you are *kind* ... your
involvement might find its way into my report to
Grand Moff Praji," he said, before raising his hand
to the tank and wrapping his knuckles against it. "A
terrifying creature this. They are not supposed to
roam free either. Her species is quarantined on
Zolan, and after looking at this I understand why,"
he said, as he pursed his lips while examining her
garish reptilian features. "Your Grand Moff husband
has surrounded himself with an assortment of
rulebreakers and exceptions it would seem," he
continued, before finally turning around. "Rank does
have its advantages ... I suppose..." he said, with
a snicker, as he waited to see what more she wished
of him. She was a pale presence when compared with
his fully programmable and obedient hologram.
Sierra stepped forward into the room. "Indeed it is.
However, we cannot help who we share our family
trees with. It is neither Zara nor Marcus' fault
that any of this happened." It was then that Papius
did something that threw her off: he claimed that
all four of them were part of some special project.
"What?!" She reached over, taking the datapad from
him. She consumed the information quickly. How could
this be?! After Luna Ta'em and Petrus Flosgermen had
abducted Zara, they were brought in to serve the
Empire? Suddenly it all made sense. Kerrie and
El-Nay had showed up to take them back...not to save
Sierra. Her eyes flickered to Kerrie where she
floated in bacta as to ask *seriously*!? Inside, she
felt furious. She wanted to see Petrus and Luna
punished for their actions. Instead, she had to live
with orders. Handing the datapad back, she nodded
her head. "Then get them all off of my planet as
soon as possible." It was better if El-Nay and
Kerrie weren't there. The situation on Delaya was
only made to get uglier.
Still processing the information Papius had given
her, she listened to him talk. "Oh, dear Papius. I
handed you that information so you could take
*complete* credit. I want nothing to do with it."
The word *kind* seemed to have implications behind
it. Her anger centered around Papius. How he spoke
of Mandalorians and Clawdites was *sickening*. This
attitude was all too common in the Empire. Sierra
stood closer to Kerrie, who was shielded by her
protection. "Clearly you haven't seen a Clawdite in
action. This woman is an asset to the Empire. It
doesn't matter what she looks like. It is people
like you, ignorant to the alien species, that cause
problems for her. My husband accepts other species.
He sees their skills. Have you met the Chiss
Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca? An example of what
having open eyes can do for everyone involved with
the Empire." She glared at him. "The rules would
change if we were in my husband's sector. I hope
you'll visit some time, Papius." She turned her back
to him and began heading towards the door. "The
Mandalorian outside..." She began, opening up the
door. "Come in, El-Nay."
"Perhaps your husband will visit sometime, after all
... it is *his* sector to govern," Papius replied
swiftly, with a condescending snort. "This *woman*
... as you call her ... may be an asset to the
Empire today, but I am confident when the Emperor
brings peace and order to the galaxy that creatures
such as her will be put back in their cage or..." he
stopped short, not wanting to mention genocide like
what was conducted on Geonosis to her. "No. I have
not met her, although it seems the only demographic
your husband keeps around more than aliens is
females. Point of concern?" he asked, with a smirk,
as he moved back towards her. "Fine. She can come
in. Who knows how many precious moments they'll have
left," he said, before brushing past Sierra, making
deliberate contact with her, as he exited the room.
With the Governor out of the way and the door
opened, El-Nay Darr excitedly surged forward. She
turned to stick out her tongue at the Governor as
they passed one another. Once inside the room she
moved swiftly towards the bacta tank, placing her
gloved hand upon it. Her head lowered with a frown,
her lips curling downward, with a bit of tears
welling up in the corner of each eye. "Thank you ...
thank you, Sierra," she said, but did not yet turn
around to look at her. "I-I suppose I'll never get
used to seeing her like this," she said, before
turning her back to the bacta tank to look at
Sierra. Her body slowly lowered, so that her back
was pressed against the tank as she took up a seated
position on the floor. "Are you ... are you okay?"
she asked, trying to be polite, as she remembered
the condition she found Sierra in aboard the Demon
The man dug under her skin without touching her.
Sierra's eyes became colder towards him. In her
mind, a life was a life. It didn't matter what you
were. She had never seen the division between
species as necessary. It was her luck that Claudius
felt the same. Papius tried to strike a second time
by accusing her husband of only hanging around
females. This comment rolled off of her. After all
they had been through, she couldn't see him straying
from her. Frankly, it'd be stupid. She laughed.
"I'll be seeing you, Governor." With that, he was
gone. The smile disappeared from her face. She
turned around in time to see El-Nay's immature
comeback. It made her laugh softly.
"I'm sorry he gave you any problems. That man has a
large stick up his ass. I hear it can't even be
removed surgically. Tragic, really." She stepped
back from the bacta tank. Sierra perched herself in
a chair. "I wish she hadn't been injured so badly.
That woman...she was insane." Luna Ta'em. She prayed
that they would never cross paths again. "I'm okay,"
she offered El-Nay a little smile. "Doctor Tohan
came to the castle yesterday to examine me. My baby
is fine too. I have you and Kerrie to thank for
that...Marcus too. I couldn't have made it out of
that situation alive without all of your help. Thank
you." There was sincerity in her voice. She didn't
want to die. Luna and her husband had come very
close to ending her life. "Please send Claudius and
my regards when Kerrie wakes up. Given the fact that
Papius is lingering near, I can't stay long...
However, he mentioned that you all are working on a
project together... Luna and Petrus will soon slip
through my fingers." To this, Sierra looked
disappointed. "Why does the Empire want them? Was my
kidnapping something they were assigned to, or was
it of their own accord?"
El-Nay raised her wrist that contained the gauntlet
with a wrist rocket, while looking towards Sierra.
"You want me to stick something else up his ass?
Just say the word!" she said with a smirk and a
giggle, but she was deadly serious. "She did the
same to me a while back," she grumbled, looking down
at the ground and muttering to herself about Luna.
"I'm glad you're okay," she said, before rising from
her feet and moving closer towards Sierra. She
looked around nervously at the cameras, before
leaning in closer towards the woman. "That wasn't
Marcus. That was the Nerf Herder. The Nerf Herder is
an Imperial fugitive," she said, nervously, as she
hoped that she would understand her meaning. "You
... you haven't told your husband have you?" she
asked, almost squirming underneath her armor at the
prospect of that fallout. "Oh," she said, silently,
when the topic switched to their Imperial duties.
"There are things that the Empire needs done that
Stormtroopers cannot do, and that is where we come
in. Your kidnapping was not part of any assignment.
That is why me and Kerrie hunted them down," she
explained, not having the intellect to be deceptive.
She had already said too much.
The young Duchess laughed. "Do I want you to?
Goodness yes! Sadly, that would get us in a lot of
trouble. I'll figure out a way to get him out of my
hair one of these days.." Grumble, grumble. She
winced upon hearing that El-Nay had suffered the
same fate. "Are *you* okay?" She looked over her
armor as if mentally assessing if it could take a
Luna beatdown. She watched El-Nay near her. The
implications of her words were impossible to miss.
Sierra knowingly nodded her head. "I figured it was
something like that." She commented quietly. "I
briefly brought it up. It's understood that we won't
be making a big deal about it. I did want to give
him the gift of some alone time with Luna and
Petrus..." She had gone through the trouble of
having them taken to a remote holding cell location
to allow Marcus to do *whatever* he wanted to do.
"Hopefully they won't be transferred back before he
gets the chance."
She listened to El-Nay fill her in on the Empire's
little project. She nodded her head once more. The
woman had given her plenty of information. She was
glad that the Empire wasn't behind her kidnapping.
The paranoia that Arden would strike never seemed to
leave her mind. "That makes sense. Thank you for
telling me what you have. Trust me, our mutual
friend is safe. All I'd really like to do is thank
him." She began to stand. "Is there anything I can
do for you and Kerrie? Anything at all."
"You're an ISB Commander and a Duchess ... if
*you're* worried about getting in trouble then
there's no hope for the rest of us," El-Nay replied
with a dejected frown, scuffing her boot against the
floor. "I'm fine. Mandalorian iron is the strongest
substance in the galaxy," she boasted, before
bringing her hand up to her chest and pounding it
repeatedly. "I'm sure he'd like that. Personally I
believe you guys will never be rid of them until
they're disposed of ... permanently," she said, with
a whine, but also with a desire to do the job
herself. "You've done so much already, milady," she
said with a polite, genuine voice, before attempting
to, but failing, to curtsey for her. "She'll be out
of the tank soon, and then we'll be on our way back
to Esseles," she said, before looking around the
room, as if suddenly nervous. A cold shiver ran down
her spine, before she once again leaned towards
Sierra. "There's a lot of bad things going on back
there. You'd be wise to stay away," she said in a
hushed, whisper, before backing away from her,
performing for the cameras both seen and unseen.
Sierra smiled. She liked the Mandalorian. She seemed
more dependable than those who were employed to
protect her and Claudius. Not to mention the fact
that El-Nay didn't want to kill either one of them.
She agreed with El-Nay. Until Luna and Petrus were
dead, they would pester the family. The list of
people who wanted to harm the family was growing.
"I'll have to deliver his gift then. Maybe he can
take them off of my plate ... permanently." El-Nay's
failed attempt at a curtsey made her smile grow.
"Contact me if you have any more problems with
Papius. Please do pass my thanks and appreciation
along to Kerrie. I'm sorry that she ever had to be
demoted." It was the last tid bit of information
that El-Nay told her that captured her attention.
Esseles was no longer safe? Interest sparked in her
eyes. They couldn't continue this conversation.
There were too many unwanted eyes and ears. "Thank
you. I'll keep that in mind. Stay safe, my friend."
Before Sierra left, she embraced the Mandalorian.
She wished they didn't have to leave.