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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:3:1) in the Essesia system: Esseles (New Calamar: Jelena Rodney's apartment and The Strand).
Lady Jelena Rodney and Commander Sierra Rodney.

Jelena Rodney's voyage of independence had taken her a short journey down from the mountains into the bustling city of New Calamar not too far from the Terril Naval Base. The list of condos she had been given by her father had all been inspected by the Empire and judged safe, which made her feel like he was watching her. As the speeder pulled up to one of the tallest buildings in the city she felt intimidated. Despite all of her bold talk she had never lived on her own before. "Well this looks nice," she said, as she peered out the viewport at the clean, modern structure. Little did she know it housed exclusively individuals approved by COMPNOR and vetted by the ISB. It was also human only. As they walked up the steps that led to the lobby a doorman stepped forward, opening the large glass doors for them. She tried her best to maintain a calm demeanor, but it felt as if her father was trying to buy her love. She offered a half-smile to Sierra, glad to have her input, but she wasn't sure if she was there to spy or not.

Feeling as restored as possible, Sierra Rodney had set out with Jelena feeling confident that they'd find a good place for her to live. Granted, she had already dissected the vast majority of locations on Claudius' list. Simply because the Empire approved did not mean *she* approved. Because of that reason, Sierra had opted to create a list of secondary locations that better suited her friend. For her husband's sake, the first building on the list was one of his selections. The building shot up high into the sky. It was so lavish that even the lobby smelt of fresh cinnamon rolls. Mmm...

Sierra shoved her datapad into her messenger bag lazily as she walked along Jelena's side. "Am I the only one who wants to eat the air?" She question, tossing a reassuring smile towards her. "Let's see what the one room looks like. This is only our first listing, so there's no pressure. I'd rather avoid the house for awhile. I saw Callista and Ewwiekewwieikkie baking in the kitchen before we left. Let them have mercy on our souls." The smell of cinnamon rolls was killing her. Maybe they'd need to stop at Auntie Tae's bakery on the way home.

At the lobby desk, a kind young woman smiled, spoke a long spiel about how amazing the apartment was, and then she began leading them towards the model for all single bath, single bed apartments. Sierra noted how everything was so clean. There was not a spot of dust to be seen anywhere. How did they do it?!

Jelena barely heard the words escaping Sierra's mouth as she became fully enamored by the apartment. "I love it," she swooned, as she moved through the apartment as if she was walking on a cloud. "It's perfect," she told Sierra, embarrassing herself in front of the realtor. Of course any place that was not an Imperial fortress would have instantly met with her approval. But as she moved about she came across the balcony. She moved towards the large glass sliding door, opening it, so that they could all step out onto the balcony. She could see much of the city of New Calmar before her, but unfortunately she could also see the distant mountain range and her father's estate. With a good enough telescope her father could have very easily looked down at her. "No. This will not work at all," she said, whitefaced, as she took hold of Sierra and very briskly departed. "Maybe something in a building that isn't as tall. I'm afraid of heights," she said to her stepmother, dramatically clutching her arm.

The spacious floor plan was generous, Sierra would admit. She parted from Jelena to investigate the bathroom as well as the bedroom curiously. She was pleased that her friend would be staying so close to home. Sierra was making notes on her datapad, not for Claudius, but for herself. There were multiple listings on their to-do list. How would they keep all the different ones apart from one another? She moved towards the balcony, where the fresh air could bat her hunger away. "Wow," the view of the city was nice. As her eyes drew further upwards, she noticed their home looming over, like a horrible, dark cloud. Sierra was doing her best to provide Jelena with a home where she wasn't constantly reminded of her overprotective father. She moved with her stepdaughter rapidly. "Let's try one that's further in town. The view from the balcony really stunk," she winked. Sierra understood, and thus, she swept her away from the first apartment, back into the speeder, and towards the next.

The second building was another from Claudius' list that Sierra was also on board with. As requested, the building was nearly so high. It had half a dozen stories. Like the first building, there was a doorman and some semblance of protection, while not as overbearing at the estate. When she was cornered by a realtor, Sierra was firmer this time. "Hello. We're looking for a single bed, single bath apartment. Perhaps facing towards the northern part of the city?" Away from the estate. The petite woman nodded, gladly taking them up to an empty apartment located on the third floor.

Claudius had chosen some very nice apartments, but each one shared the common dominator of being thoroughly vetted and infiltrated by COMPNOR. The apartment that Sierra had selected was not as nice as the first, but it was more private. "This is nicer," she said to her bestie turned stepmom, as she looked over the second place. "What do you think, Sierra?" she asked, as she moved into the bedroom. In her mind she imagined moving her furniture into it, already planning the layout. She looked out the window cautiously, worried for what she might see. Fortunately the view was terrible, which meant it was wonderful. "I think this is it!" she shouted from the bedroom, as she sat at the window, happily.

Sierra was better at hiding her over protective nature than her husband was (so she thought, anyway). She scoured the apartment, looking for any reason to not deem it perfect for her friend. It was Jelena's first real home away from home. She wanted it to be good, which meant she'd see that the apartment was in tip-top shape before any stepdaughter of hers moved in. After finishing inspecting the cabinets in the kitchen, she met up with Jelena in the bedroom. She caught a glimpse outside through the curtains. Given the way the window was facing, her friend could live out her life pretending that her father didn't live so close. "It's really nice, actually. I heard that the walls are pretty soundproof, meaning you won't have to deal with any annoying neighbors." Such as Claudius and herself, though, she had been behaving.

Sierra swiped along on her datapad, eyeing the apartment's website. "Hey..! Miss?" She called out. The realtor seemed to appear out of nowhere. She offered a sweet smile. "Hi, thank you for agreeing to meet with us on such short notice. Your policy says only humans involved. Is that... Is that some kind of joke?" She questioned. For the occasion, she did not wear her ISB uniform. The chaos that had occurred during Claudius' absence to Delaya had not been helpful to ISB relations. Somedays, you simply didn't want to deal with it.

The realtor chuckled like she thought Sierra was the one who was joking. When she realized she wasn't, her eyes narrowed. "No." She sounded almost angry. "All aliens seen on the premises will be jailed. This is a human only establishment."

Sierra's eyebrows furrowed. "So, you're saying my stepdaughter's sister can't come visit her because she's a Squib?" That question warranted a full on cringe from the woman.

"Wait! What?" Jelena asked, as she overheard the conversation between Sierra and the realtor. "Sierra I can't live anywhere where Ewwiekewwieikkie can't visit me," she said in a panic, as she wondered if her father had done this just to make her not want to move out. "Why can't aliens visit here?" she asked, pushing herself between Sierra and the realtor. Her heart was crashing as she imagined her dreams of freedom quickly evaporating. Like her younger sister Drusilla she began to pout, stomping her feet incessantly. It seemed the older Rodney daughter had the spirit of selfish whining as well. "I can't. I just can't," she said to Sierra in a huff, as she wondered if there was anywhere in this city she could actually live with her father's money and the freedom for her family to come and visit. This was not freedom at all. This was just another cage, with the bars still very much in place.

The realtor had yet to give Sierra a response when they were both cut out by Jelena. Sierra assumed defensive mother position number three, puffing her little body up several inches. She rested a hand on Jelena's back to reassure her that everything was going to be okay ... after she wiped this woman's existence from Esseles. "I'd like to hear an answer to that. Why *can't* aliens visit here?!"

There was a pause, almost like the woman was weighing the pros and cons of fighting the petite blonde. She spoke with venom in her mouth. "Aliens are uncivilized. Your *disgusting*, slobbering Squib sister is the perfect example of what this building does not cater to. She's *dirty*. She belongs in the sewers with the other rats."

A cage indeed it was. Sierra was made furious by the woman's terrible words. At that point, she stepped forward into the woman's face. "You belong in the sewers, bitch. That Squib has more decency in her left pinky finger than you do in your whole entire body." Sierra resisted the urge to nail the woman in the face as it typically got her in trouble. She dramatically turned her back on the realtor, hooking her arm with Jelena's. "Don't worry. I made a list of some places that I thought would be better suited for you, places that aren't racist towards aliens." She shot a glance behind her shoulder.

Jelena was horrified, barely able to enter the speeder without tripping and falling. "Sierra ... this is the Empire you serve," she said, as she folded her arms in front of chest, sulking as they drove through the city. "The same thing happened when father took us to Coruscant. They wouldn't let Ewwiekewwieikkie into a museum," she said, angrily, as she rolled her eyes at the entire situation. "There better be some place on your list that she's allowed in," she said to Sierra, before snobbishly turning her head away from the woman. For a time it might have seemed that Drusilla was the one apartment hunting. The young noblewoman was very much acting her age and station with her demands, pouting, and antics.

It wasn't a favorable thing to Sierra either. She saw no reason to treat aliens differently. Her thoughts moved to Kerrie, a Clawdite forced to shield her appearance with a mask. Claudius promoted an open-mindedness, but it was difficult to make others feel the same. Some people were very set in their ways. Even Sierra rolled her eyes as Jelena recounted the story of Coruscant. "It's ridiculous for her to be treated so rudely...for any alien to be discriminated against like that." Even the Empire had room for improvements, which would *not* be on her list of potential dinner conversations with the Emperor, should that ever happen again. Her stomach still cringed whenever she thought of it. Maybe someday the world would be different. Sierra hoped she could help form a new judgment.

She responded well to Jelena's attitude, prodding her with her elbow. "Of course I included places where she's allowed. I was going to save this place for last... But, it seems like we need it most now." She tried to make her step daughter feel better by squeezing her hand. The speeder came to stop in front of a modest building. There was no door man, but a gate which required a code to enter before accessing both the main door of the building, as well as a lift up to the floors above. Instead of meeting with a realtor, they were met with a droid which spat statistics at them as they walked to the apartment. This one, Sierra had specifically requested for their viewing. Like the prior apartment, there was no view of the estate. It was located on the second floor. The floor plan, while not palatial, was still quite nice. "Go look in the bedroom," Sierra suggested, knowing full well that the size of the closet and the view from her balcony would sell this place. There was a garden directly across the street. Pretty multi-colored flowers would greet her friend in the morning of every day. It was close to the shopping district as well, for Drusilla visitation purposes.

Jelena was relieved they had finally found a place that was free of Imperial minders, even if it meant that it was not as luxurious. No doorman. No staff to speak of. But none of the restrictions that she had come to loathe. There were none of the amenities that the others had, and it had a distinct lived in feeling compared to the others. The building felt its age and it was from the pre-Imperial days, but because of its liberal laws and unwillingness to conform to COMPNOR's oversight they were not getting the proper resources to keep the place looking its best. As she moved around the bedroom she felt she could make the place work, as her needs were more social than luxury. "It's great Sierra, but father will never allow it," she said with a sad voice, frowning, as she moved towards the flowers on the balcony. It felt like it could be a home to her, but she couldn't imagine her father paying for it. There were no Imperial spies to be seen, which is what she was convinced he wanted.

This was a better place for a young woman to grow up. Jelena didn't need the protection of a military base. They might as well lock her up in a tall, tall tower while filling her head with horrible stories of humanity. Sierra lingered close. She, too, was pleased with the appearance of this apartment. It still hit her personal list of what was 'good enough' for Jelena, while also touching on the Jelena Needs List. "Don't sound so sad, m'dear. Your father will approve of this place. It's perfect for *you*, and that's what matters most to him." To both of them. She met with Jelena on the balcony. She was snickering. "We could sign everything today. What do you think? Is this the future home of Jelena Rodney?" She'd deal with Claudius after all was said and done. She, too, figured that he would object and scoff at Sierra's decision to wander away from his Empire approved list. "We can go shopping for some new furniture and begin making this place look like *your* home."

Jelena laughed at Sierra, uncertain of whether she was ignorant or simply lying to her. "You *really* think that's what my father wants?" she asked, rolling her eyes as she looked at her. "He wants me in some place where I think I am free, but his people ... *your* people are watching," she said, as she sat near what she wanted to be near her window. "If you can convince him to allow me to have it, I would gladly accept it, but I fear it will just be the first fight of your new marriage and the beginning of your realization of who he *really* is," she explained to her, as she let out a dejected sigh. She looked out at the multicolored flowers longingly. "They really are quite lovely," she said, already resigned to defeat.

"I don't think he wants that. Your privacy matters. I expect he'll be reluctant to some degree. None of his children have ever left the nest. This is going to be new. I promise that I'll smooth the transition one way or another." She turned to the droid, "Please hold onto this apartment for the next twelve hours. I will transfer additional credits over for your efforts." Back to Jelena, she strolled over to Jelena. "Don't worry about us, okay? I will speak with him when we get back home. If we fight, then we fight. I hear that's part of marriage. I never said he wasn't a difficult man." She rubbed her back softly. She trusted that she had already seen many sides of her husband. What more could he reveal to her? She idly wondered what it would be like when Drusilla was ready to wed. *Scary*! Sierra leaned forward, glancing out the window. "When this is a done deal, you owe me a night of babysitting, she teased, stepping back. "C'mon. Let's go to the shopping district and have some fun. Your father isn't expecting us back for hours."

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