Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:1:31) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Medcenter and Spaceport).
Yekaterina Hanson, Callista Nilar, Duke Julius Rodney, Duchess Livia Rodney, Commander Iyah Xergo, and Mug Zoran.

Mug escorted his family back to the spaceport where the Blue Haven had completed unloading her cargo. He was ready to return to duty, excited about moving into Iyah's quarters and beginning the process of raising their newly adopted daughter. When they arrived, Mug stepped out of the cab of the speeder truck, and then reached up to take Callista down so she would not fall. Some of the Rebels were staring at him, wondering who the young girl was, but this was just something they would all have to get used to. His eyes scanned to his chronometer, before nervously looking towards Iyah. "Did we make it back on time?" he asked, as he started to move towards the frigate.

Yekaterina Hanson was standing near the ship, wearing the uniform of the Alderaan Guard. She had been sent by the Duchess of Delaya to find the Commander who had delivered the food to the Alderaanian refugees. One of the crew informed her that the Commander had arrived and she thanked them, with a nod, before moving over towards the arriving trio. "Commander Xergo?" she asked, smiling broadly, as she extended a hand towards her. "I am Kat Hanson of the Alderaan Guard," she began, with a slight nod of her head, and a warm smile. "The Duke and Duchess of Delaya request a brief audience to thank you before you depart. The medical center is only a short distance away, and I have a speeder waiting. It won't take long," she explained, motioning with her hand towards the waiting craft.

The night had been wonderful. Everyone's stomach was full of ice cream when they arrived back at the Blue Haven. All Iyah could think of was making Callista and Mug comfortable, as both of them would be moving into their new, permanent homes. Her mood was way too elevated to be ruined. She didn't care about the way the other Rebels stared while they processed what was going on between Mug, their Commander, and now the little girl. Callista would swoop her way into all of their hearts in no time. However, there was one matter of business to attend to before the trio could be free for the evening. Commander Xergo did not recognize Kat Hanson...why should she? There had been no contact between herself and any of the royalty's guards. "That I am," Iyah replied to the woman, confirming that she was, indeed, Commander Xergo.

The woman seemed kind. She spoke professionally. The best part of all was that she didn't fluff up her words with bullshit; she got to the point. Iyah bit back her cruel words for the nobles of the planet. She knew that the Duke was in poor condition and the Duchess was not far behind him. Such was old age, right? She glanced back towards Mug. She looked reluctant, but when she turned back towards Kat she was smiling, "Okay. We'll *all* come with you." And then she began introductions, "This is Mug Zoran, a fellow rebel and my boyfriend. The little princess' name is Callista. She's our daughter." Iyah didn't skip a beat. She'd taken that girl right under her wing. Callista beamed, curtsying for Kat. "We probably shouldn't make our guests wait long. Let's go." Iyah didn't want this affair to take long. The family piled into the back of the speeder. Iyah didn't feel nervous. If anything else, she felt like it was time to start biting back her tongue. Her small hand made it into Mug's. It would take minutes. Noble men didn't have time for people like them.

When she announced Mug as his boyfriend a confident smile appeared on his face, as they had never gone public with their relationship before. He was a little hesitant about meeting with the corrupt nobles that lorded over the world, but when Iyah took the initiative and volunteered them to go, he simply attended to Callista and moved with the group into the speeder. As the speeder transited through the city of Leiliani they passed from the horrors of Tarkintown into the more upscale neighbors before arriving at the Medical Center.

The large crowd that had kept vigil at the medical center had faded, and the flowers that had been left all had died, and the rain had washed away most of the print on the flimsiplast cards left behind. It was a sad transition from a health crisis into a slow waiting for the inevitable, but to Mug it was just a symbol of the decrepit world he desperately wanted to depart. They were ushered through and eventually arrived outside of the Duke's suite where a tired Duchess Livia Rodney waited to greet them.

It was sad to see the horrible condition of Tarkintown compared to the upscale neighbors, which laid not even that far away. If the rich of Delaya cared for their neighbors, then Tarkintown would be a home for the refugees. Not a shit sack. Iyah tore her eyes away from the sites outside the speeder. Instead, she focused on her family. Callista, who was free from that life. The little girl was bouncing in her seat. She was going to crash hard tonight. It had been such an exciting day. Then there was Mug. She felt relieved to come out about their relationship. She wasn't embarrassed of him. She wanted people to know. He was very good for her. Even Iyah saw this.

They stopped at the Medical Center. No one stood vigil or seemed to care about the decline of the Duke's health. Iyah wanted to leave Delaya. She'd endured thank yous from nobles before. It was never a pleasant experience. They always looked pained to show some humanity. They were rushed through the medical center, all the way to the private sector where the Duke was being held. The Commander noticed Duchess Livia Rodney immediately. The woman looked like she had one foot in the grave. Stress wore on her face. Iyah wondered if she'd be drunk, as the tabloids had reported. To her surprise, Callista was the first to let out an excited, little squeak. She, too, knew who Duchess Livia was. In her eyes, the woman was a far cry from who she actually was. She insistently pulled their hands towards the Duchess, where she happily bowed. "Hi Duchess...essess..." She couldn't quite pronounce the word...or maybe she was star struck. "L-Livia.. I'm Princess Callista." It seemed like all her curtsies for the day were leading up to the grandiose one she performed for the Duchess. Iyah laughed softly, stepping up to introduce herself. "Thank you for inviting us here, Duchess."

Livia rose from her seat, a mixture of exhaustion combined with drink. Her violet eyes moved from Iyah to Mug to Callista in quick succession. But before she could go through the diplomatic motions of thanking the Commander, the young girl interrupted and, as children do, stole the show. She dropped down, despite her frail condition, and met the child down at her eye level. "It is a pleasure to meet you, your royal highness," she said to the young girl in a polite gesture, before delicately shaking her hand. She then rose up,and looked Iyah in the eyes. "On behalf of myself and my people I wish to thank you for bringing food to the poor people of Alderaan who we have taken in," she said, with a soft nod of her head.

Callista was totally star struck. Her blue eyes became as round as dishes when Livia brought herself to eye level. Her cheeks were red, though she still wore a shining smile that spread from cheek to cheek. "I-It's a pleasure to m-meet you t-too..." She shyly shook the frail woman's hand, then retreated behind Mug. Iyah could hear her giggling. The Duchess had, somehow, made Callista's day even better. Iyah stepped forward to accept the woman's thanks. "It's my pleasure. The people of Tarkintown will fall asleep with full stomachs tonight. I hope to aid in arranging future supply drop offs. I know it must be hard having to taken on the refugees. No one could have ever planned for that happened.." She said thoughtfully, glancing over at Mug. "This man is one of my officers. He's an Alderaan refugee. He went above and beyond today to help the people of Tarkintown. We're both happy we could help out."

Mug stepped forward, biting his lower lip to keep the vitriol from escaping lips, as he looked towards the aging Duchess. "Your grace," he said, in forced politeness for the sake of Iyah, as he bowed slightly. Each centimeter that he moved felt like a mile, but he diligently performed the role that was expected of him. "It was a great honor to deliver the food to the poor people of Alderaan who have taken refuge here," he explained to her, before silencing himself to have the much more interested Callista. He found her reaction quite amusing, but he would not spoil the young girl's image of the nobility as her mother had done for him. He would continue to bite his lower lip, fake politeness, and move them through this as quickly as possible so that they could return to their home aboard the frigate and rejoin the fleet.

Livia smiled to Iyah and then to Mug as she was introduced. As she looked to him she thought he was a fine, looking handsome man, and that he reminded her of someone she once knew. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Mug," she said to him, finding his name to be somewhat odd. "Commander, my husband would like a moment with you," she said, as she moved closer to her, speaking a bit more quiet. As she moved closer it would be clear that she had been drinking wine from her beath. "He is not well. But he is still his persistent, stubborn himself. He's a man and he must feel like he is still in charge," she explained, as she placed a hand upon the commander, for physical and emotional support. Her eyes then moved to Mug once again, wondering where she had saw him before ... she had never visited the refugee camps, but the Commander *did* mention he was an Alderaanian. The fact that she could not place him would bother her ... until the next drink.

They were all playing decent with the Duchess for one reason or another. Mug played his part to a T. Had Iyah not known how he really felt about nobility, she wouldn't have questioned him. She didn't like it any more than he did. He shouldn't have to bow to that woman. He shouldn't have to bow to anyone. Callista had warmed up enough that she drew herself to Mug's side, her little hand squirreled its way into his. Iyah wanted this to be over. The Duke and Duchess were holding up the end of the night that she had imagined. She was still hungry for the moment when they cuddled each other in bed, realizing that nothing was going to keep them apart anymore.

Iyah was day dreaming. She pulled a quick smile over her face for Livia. She nodded her head. Seeing the Duke meant going home sooner. Callista seemed thrilled with the idea. She was squeezing Mug's hand excitedly. She didn't need to know the details, nor how drunk the Duchess was. If it was possible to get second hand drunk, then Iyah would have the moment Livia learned in closer to her. Her nose winced, but she was able to stay pleasant otherwise. She laughed softly, "Understood. We won't keep him long. I'm sure he needs his rest. I regret not bringing anything for him. I was unaware we'd be coming here today." Iyah explained herself. She started towards the private room where the dying man was being held. She felt anxious about subjecting Callista to the Duke. She had no idea how sick he was. She didn't want to scare the little girl. She fell to her other side, taking the small girl's hand. The look on her face went soft. Yes, soon they'd be home.

The dying Duke Julius Rodney had been propped up in his bed so that he would not look too terribly sick to his important guests. While he expected to see Commander Xergo, he did not expect to see the young Callista. His face lit up when he saw the child, as his grandchildren had long since abandoned their bedside vigil. The elderly, no matter how bitter, were always invigerated by the youth. "Who do we have here?" he asked sweetly, as he extended his decrepid old arms towards the young Callista. He paid no attention to the Rebel Commander or her boyfriend for the time being, as he never missed an opportunity to brighten a child's day. In his youth he would have addressed the refugee crisis, but he was now over 80, and his health was rapidly declining. His long reign was about to end in failure and disgrace, which was making his decline all the more rapid. There was a sickness not just upon his body, but also upon his soul.

Despite the bad times Callista had fallen under, the idea of the Duke being on his deathbed didn't eclipse the little girl's mind. For that, Iyah was grateful. She was just as excited to see the old man as he was to see her. In fact, she released both parents' hands and skipped over to his open arms. She snuggled him like he was a long lost friend while giggling. She seemed shy at first, squeaking a soft "Hi!" before managing to actually introduce herself. "My name is Callista. "It's a pleasure to meet you, *your grace*." She used the words she'd heard her father refer to Livia with. All at once, the shyness had melted away and she was asking questions. "I had *ice cream* for dinner." She told him. "At Auntie Mae's! Lady Zara likes it there, right? Is she nice in person? Her dresses are sooooooooooooo pretty!! Do you have a crown? What's it like to live in a castle?!" Her bright blue eyes were filled with curiosity and awe. Her whole life had been turned upside down tonight. Iyah was close behind Callista, quickly taking on her role of the overprotective parent. Though, what was the ancient man going to do other than attempt to suck Callista's youth from her body?

Julius let out a slight groan as she snuggled him, followed by a boisterous laugh from her enthusiasm. He was a lonely old man who rarely received visitors and seemed to have been forgotten by even his old family ... he was glad to have Callista's company. "From what I understand *all* she eats these days is ice cream," he dutifully informed the young Callista, before his eyes rolled up towards Iyah. "Of course she's nice in person," he informed her, as his attention refocused on her. "No. I do not wear a crown. That went out of fashion ages ago ... I am sorry to disappoint you, but some of the women still wear a tiara during certain occasions," he informed her, as his vital signs began to show as more healthy and stable on the monitors as the young girl reinvigorated him. "Living in a castle is wonderful. High above the city you can see so far your eyes hurt," he said, as he finally released her, allowing himself to fall back on the bed. "And you ... you must be the brave young Commander who brought food to the suffering," he said, as he smiled to her sweetly, before bringing his hand to cover his mouth as he coughed several times in rapid succession from speaking too much.

Callista would have been his best friend forever if he'd allow it. In her eyes, he was one of the most interesting people on the planet. He answered every single one of her questions, further sewing the seed of awe inside of her. "I wanna eat ice cream all day..." She said, clearly fantasizing about what that would be like. She didn't like the idea that he didn't wear a crown. Her face scrunched up. Her brown hair moved back and forth with the swivel of her head. "You could bring them back! You'd look beautiful with a big crown." She said, putting her hands atop her head to show him how big it should be. "I shall speak with your royal fashion advisor." Callista seriously stated. He filled her head with more ideas. The ship wasn't going to compare with the image that Julius painted in her mind. She slunk away from him, but not far! The little girl occupied the seat right next to his bed. Her legs swung back and forth. Her long locks were tossed over her shoulders. She was certainly full of life. "Wow..." She sighed.

Iyah watched the man's unhealthiness show. His time was ticking down. She appreciated that he'd tried for Callista. The Commander stood behind the chair, a hand brushing through her little girl's hair. "Are you okay? Please, don't push yourself so hard on our account..." Iyah's eyebrows furrowed. She'd met royalty in her day, but none of them were lying in the place where they would die. "Thank you for seeing us. As you can see, you've made my daughter's day. The refugees are in a better place tonight. I'm going to do everything within my power to keep improving those people's lives." She reached out to Mug. Her free hand touched with his, then their fingers laced together. "This is Mug. He's my yeoman. He's also a refugee from that very camp. He went above and beyond today, as did all of my men. We're happy to do what we did."

Julius' cough gradually transitioned into a laugh at Callista's statements, before once again becoming a full blown cough that was worse than the original. He reached for the glass of water and drank most of it down almost immediately before turning his attention to Iyah and Mug. "I am fine. It was a joy to see her," he said, attempt to reassure her so that their vision would not be cut short. "Hello, Mug," he said, as he looked past Iyah towards the young man that had thus far remained quiet. "I thank you. I thank you all," he said, as he smiled warmly at them all. He, like his wife, also thought he recognized Mug, but he could not place it either.

Mug stepped forward when addressed by the wicked old Duke, dutifully bowing his head in mock obedience for the sake of Callista. "You honor us with an audience, your grace," he said, biting down on his lower lip so hard that he drew blood. "I can see we've tired you, and as we are all hoping for your speedy recovery, we should be away..." he said, as he began to back out of the room. One hand moved to Iyah and another towards Callista, as he attempted to usher them away. He suddenly felt very uncomfortable. The air seemed to grow suddenly stale, and he found it quite difficult to breath. He was nearly choking as much as the old man.

*Oh no*. The Duke was going to die right in front of his audience. It suddenly became very pressing that they leave. Iyah had better ways she wanted to spend her first night as a mother that didn't include explaining mortality to her little daughter. She was done with wearing a polite mask for the Duke, who nearly coughed up a lung while they watched in front of him. Mug's own act was spot on. In fact, Iyah thought she should take some pointers from him. He was good at this. Commander Xergo excused herself, taking ahold of the hand which he offered to her. Callista's fingers brushed over Mug's. She seemed to remember her manners. "I gotta say goodbye." She informed her father. The little girl bounced back towards the Duke. She was less than a foot away from his bed when hell broke out into the room. One second, Iyah was savoring the fact that they were leaving. A single sound set a perfect day shattering to the ground: a sniper rifle. "*Sniper*!" She cried out in warning.

The window collapsed as it entered the room. In a neighboring building, an enraged refugee felt that he was saving his people by ushering in a new era. All of Iyah's military training was hitting her in rapid succession. Teeny, tiny particles of a second went by while she raced towards Callista to become the little girl's human shield. By now, she was happily cuddling the Duke. She had no idea what was happening. In so many ways, Iyah didn't know either. Her number one priority was stopping that bullet from hitting the girl. Inside the back of her head, reality had already settled in: Iyah was too late. She was too far away. She was never going to beat a bullet. *Never*.

A parent had a superhuman abilities when a child was threatened, and Mug seemed to leap in one bound to shove Callista out of the way of the slug that penetrated the window. Although he had succeeded in saving his daughter, he was unable to save himself, and the slug impacted in his back, dangerously near the spine. He let out a pained groan, as the blood began to flow from the wound, which was more dangerous than a blaster wound that would have cauterized immediately. "Get her ... get her out of here..." was all he managed to say before he felt the room begin to spin. His vision faded, and his head slumped down upon the bed, as he collapsed upon the old Duke. He was rendered unconscious almost immediately, but he *had* saved his newly adopted daughter.

The shot rang out across the entire planet. There wasn't a person in the immediate area who wasn't aware of it. People were pouring in through the door before Iyah could completely register what had happened. Callista was on the ground, confused, and safe. Mug was hunched over the dying Duke. Blood was pouring from his back. His words registered somewhere, but not right there. Despite the many times Iyah had been involved in combat, she was losing her cool. Mug had been shot. She couldn't keep her head above the emotions pouring in. Her route changed, snatching up Callista in her arms. She cradled the little girl's head to her chest so she couldn't see her newly adopted father bleeding profusely. A mix of Alderaan guards, doctors, and nurses suddenly filled the room. Iyah pointed towards the building in the area where she had seen the bullet come from. "He's there!" She heard herself tell a guard in a shaky voice that couldn't possibly belong to Commander Xergo. In another lifetime, she might have run off to arrest the bastard who had accidentally shot Mug. In this lifetime, she had a frightened, shaking child in her arms. As she left the room with a mess of doctors crowding around Mug, she felt real fear for the first time in her life.

The area outside of the Duke's room was subject to the same kind of chaos. People were talking everywhere. Panic spread like a virus. She could see Livia, seated, looking like she might die. Iyah didn't have the strength to keep Callista in her arms. Ultimately, her weak knees stopped working on a small bench. There, she cradled her daughter in her lap. She did her best not to cry. "It's okay. Everything is going to be okay." She reassured the frightened little girl, who hide her face in the Commander's chest and cried. Iyah shielded her from the insanity. She shielded her from ever having to see Mug taken from the Duke's room. He was headed straight to the operation room. The coppery smell of his blood and the sight of it covering the gloved hands of medical professionals was enough to make Iyah sick. She buried her face into Callista's hair where she, too, began to cry. Something horrible had happened.

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