Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:2:15) in the Coruscant system: Hesperidium (Emperor Palpatine's retreat).
Emperor Sheev Palpatine, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, and Commander Sierra Rodney.

The wedding celebrations had been amazing so far. What was *not* amazing was the unexpected dinner...or death sentence...with the Emperor. The newest Lady Rodney had not seen herself dressing again tonight, let alone leaving their suite for this. A certain amount of tension seemed to rise in the air as she walked arm-in-arm with her new husband towards their private dinner with the most powerful man in the galaxy. She did her best to hold herself confidently. The last thing she wanted was for Claudius to feed off of her fear. She had never expected to meet the Emperor. She had *hoped* she never would. Sierra had heard the stories. Not everyone returned from meetings with him. How massively disappointing it would be to die on her wedding night. She supposed that she wouldn't die a virgin or unhappy, so that was a thing... Regardless, her hand was shaking in his. She had only recently been named a commander, therefore, she assumed this meeting was about her Grand Moff husband. The optimistic side of her prayed that maybe, just maybe, it was going to be a positive meeting. Her feet stopped moving just outside the door where his Majesty the Emperor was. She didn't need to be force sensitive to know he was there. It was about the aura that hung in the air, like standing in the middle of the eye of a vicious hurricane. "I ... love you..." She said to him.

Grand Moff Claudius Rodney took the hand of his wife as they moved through the corridors of Emperor Palpatine's retreat on Hesperidium. The corridors were well-decorated with art stolen from throughout the galaxy. "Keep your head up, my wife," he said to her, as they stopped outside of doors two stories that tall that were guarded by two sets of Royal Guards in their crimson arm and force pikes. The guards slammed the bases of their staffs into the ground twice in rapid succession, followed by the door slowly opening. As the door opened a large dining room opened revealing a rectangle shaped dining table with four chairs. There was a seat at the head of the table reserved for the Emperor, two seats along the side, and one at the other end of the table. As His Majesty was not yet present, he moved to pull out one of the chairs along the side of the table for Sierra, before moving to take the seat at the base of the table for himself. He cleared his throat nervously as he looked down at the ornate place setting in front of him. Very fine, he thought to himself, as he looked down the long length of the table towards Sierra. She was so very far away.

Heeding to his advice, Sierra instantly corrected her posture. She knew better. She'd been taught better. Her chin rose. She managed a smile for him. The sooner this happened, the sooner it was over, the sooner they could hide in their suite for the rest of the night. The massive door before them opened in slow motion. It revealed the room where they would wine and dine with the Emperor himself. To the naked eye, it looked like a fine dining set. To Sierra's nervous mind, it looked like the possible end. She worried that somehow her objections to Arden were already coming back to bite her in the rear end. Her knees creaked loudly when Claudius pulled out a chair for her and she sat. "Thank you," she told him in a surprisingly calm voice. She then watched him walk five miles down the lengthy table to place himself at its base. Even if she outstretched her arm, she couldn't reach him. Sierra gulped hard. Her hands were crossed in her lap beneath the table. She was beginning to feel as badly as Lady Zara must, her stomach wincing at the idea of what was going to happen next. She stared at the intricate design on the fine china until she heard the staffs collide with the ground again. She instantly became alert. First, she looked towards her husband, then towards the slowly opening doors. It was hard to keep her head held high when all she wanted to do was pull it into her shirt and act like a scared turtle.

The temperature in the dining room seemed to be about 20-degrees cooler than the corridor outside. Claudius was cold. Very cold. Time kept passing, but there was no sign of the Emperor. His brown eyes moved towards Sierra again, and he gave her both a reassuring smile and a nod of his head. His hands ran over his uniform, adjusting to make it perfect so many times that instead became a disaster. His fingers began to tape on the table, trying to pass the time, as the tension in the air became so palpable that it could be cut with one of the dinner knives. His heart rate was increasingly rapidly, his throat began to tighten, and his palms began to sweat. He was waiting, but as he did not know exactly what he was waiting for ... he was terrified.

Sierra had begun to shiver. It was *so* cold. Was this how they'd die? Slowly frozen to death while being scared to death. She caught Claudius smile and *tried* to give him one back. Instead, she shivered harder. It was more stimulating to watch her husband slowly wrinkle his uniform than to stare at the door that would never open. His efforts had the opposite effect until it was noticeably bad. With a whole lot of effort, she rose from her seat and walked towards him wordlessly. Hovering beside him, she spoke. "Here, let me fix this." Her small hands patted down the front of his uniform until it was straight and clean of wrinkles again. In a last ditch effort to soothe him, her hands planted on his cheeks. She bent down, kissing him fast, then departed back to her seat where she belonged. If the Emperor didn't arrive soon, both man and wife were going to have a heart attack.

A decrepit servant entered the dining room wearing a hooded cloak. He reached slowly around Sierra to place a plate of ground, raw nerf meat in front of her. It was seasoned, and revered as a delicacy in some circles, but nevertheless it was still uncooked meat. The servant next to moved to Claudius where he placed that same dish in front of him. It was not one of Claudius Rodney's favorite meals. His fork poked at the meat slowly, realizing that because of where he was he had to eat it all. Sierra would have to eat it all as well. He mixed in some hard boiled thranta egg with the meat and did his best to eat it. His eyes never looked Sierra as he attempted to encourage her to eat as well. His skin was losing its color ... he looked piqued. If he was having such a hard time eating he feared what it was doing to Sierra.

Ooooh no, no, no, no, *no*. The plate which the servant rested before her was grotesque and sickening. Like Claudius, she was no fan of raw nerf meat. Instead of a lovely, cooked nerf steak, she was faced with a pink, repulsive dinner. She said not a word while she stared down her nearly live meal. Her fingers brushed over her fork before she got brave and picked it up. Slowly, she began to eat the repugnant meal. She did nothing to improve the flavor. Instead, she took it head on. Sierra feared that the distasteful flavor was killing her taste buds, or that the meal would repeat on her until she threw up. Two bites in, she looked towards her husband to see him eating ... but he didn't look pleased either. Her body was trying to reject the food. Her throat didn't want to swallow on command. Five bites in, Sierra felt like she had gotten nowhere with the food on her plate. Her face was tinted green despite her best efforts to control it. Her other hand, which was hidden under the table, clung to her trousers for dear life. "What a... What a lovely meal..." She choked. She had no idea how she was going to eat all of the meat. This dinner was going terribly!

"I am pleased you enjoy it, Lady Rodney," the gravely voice of the servant replied, before casting back his hood to reveal it was none other than the Emperor himself. "It is an Alderaanian dish and, as you no longer have a home, I desire you to feel at home," he said, with a broad smile that revealed his gnarled teeth and sinister intentions. Yellow eyes looked at her carefully, before slowly moving towards Claudius. "I see you have a new wife ... someone *younger* and more *useful*?" he questioned, noting her service in the Imperial Security Bureau. Slowly he made his way to the head of the table, but not before allowing one of his wretched hands to brush against the back of Sierra's neck. It was intentional, of course. Nothing he had ever done was ever without deliberate purpose. "We have matters to discuss," he said, before taking his seat. "Normally I would not bother your wife with such matters, but as she is one of us she might find this interesting," he said, as he summoned the true servant to bring in the next course. It was a bowl of bother containing the eyeballs of large fish from his native Naboo. A personal favorite, yet an acquired taste.

Sierra nearly threw up in her mouth when the Emperor suddenly revealed himself. Her blue eyes went wide. "Thank you, Your Majesty. It does make me feel at home." It was hard to stay calm on the outside. She smiled politely at the Emperor. His leering yellow eyes and razor sharp teeth made it easy to imagine him feasting on her soft body. She was nothing in his eyes. There was *nothing* she could do to protect herself, or her husband, from the Emperor's wrath. The Emperor coated her in discomfort. The way he touched her seemed intentional. His fingernails scraped against the back of her neck slowly. She looked at Claudius with desperation in her eyes. Her attention turned towards the Emperor as he began to speak. She was interested to hear why they had been summoned. As the second course arrived at the table, which looked about as appealing as the first, Sierra began to speak. "What have we to discuss?" Those were all the words she could manage to stammer out. Using the second course as an excuse, she began to eat. Goodness, this was awful. It seemed that another temperature drop had occurred.

Claudius rose to his feet the moment the Emperor revealed himself, standing in firm military attention until the Emperor took his seat. "You honor me and she who is my wife, Your Majesty," he said, bowing his head like an obedient servant. When the fish eye soup arrived he wanted to puke, but he knew that if he did he would surely be punished. As he took an eyeball into his mouth it was surprisingly gelatinous. The texture was *awful*. When his wife pressed the Emperor for the reason why they were here his eyes went wide and he looked at her wondering what she was doing. He would never dare address the man like she had just done, and his heart began to beat so loudly that it broke the silence that had fallen upon the room.

The Emperor looked briefly to Sierra before refocusing on Claudius. "I wish to congratulate you on your recent successes on Esseles and Brentaal," he began, and made a deliberate point of not eating any of the food. "The executions were carried out swiftly. The orbital bombardments were precise. And your Stormtroopers performed the raids exquisitely. *You* are to be commended," he said, nodding his head ever so slightly to Claudius. "...*both* of you," he said, with a slight tilt of his head to Commander Dakkar. He knew of course that neither of them was present in the Ringali Shell when the operations took place, but it was important to him to see how they would react. Particularly in light of his daughter's public defection and their connection to a dead world full of traitors.

This mean was continuously growing worse and worse. Sierra was knocked off her throne of confidence. She had no idea how to act in from of the Emperor as all of her knowledge melted away into nothingness inside of her head. Her cheeks turned red when she caught her husband's wide-eyed look. Clearly it had been wrong to attack this like it was a meeting with an agenda. She tried to apologize to Claudius without words. She was sorry. She was scared. She was never going to eat eye ball soup again. Things were bound to get worse, especially when the Emperor extended his congratulations to battles they knew nothing about. They had been busy on Delaya for over a week now, thus leaving Arden to her own devices.

Sierra broke out into an icy sweat. She had no idea what to do, nor what to say. You walked on thin ice when you dined with the Emperor. All she wanted to do was get them *both* out alive. The man would know if she lied through her teeth, but being away from Ringali Shell could get them in a different kind of trouble. She looked at Claudius. He was the Grand Moff. This was his ball game and right now, their team was down and needed a slam dunk. It was becoming harder to hold a spoon with her shaking hand. She couldn't believe how she could be so happy inside of their suite, then so sick and scared in front of the Emperor.

Claudius had forgotten he was Grand Moff of the Ringali Shell Oversector while in the warm embrace of Sierra. When the Emperor spoke of operations on Esseles and Brentaal he was flabbergasted and knew not what to say. His eyes moved to the equally silent Sierra, wondering why he had not heard anything about this. The silence was so painful that it hurt his ears, and eventually spread to his brain. He looked around the room as if the answer were written on the wall somewhere, but the only answer he had would come from within. "Th-thank you, Your Majesty," he said, stumbling over the words, as he took credit for operations he had never before heard of. He looked away, ashamed, and wondering what the purpose of this all was. If this was a test, had he passed or had he failed?

When the Emperor heard Claudius thank him, taking credit for the operation, he began to laugh at them both. "Good, *good*," he said, quite pleased with the situation. He outstretched his hands on the table, pressing down and raising up from his seat. The Grand Moff had confirmed to him that he was worthy imbecile to rule in his name while more sinister elements of his regime did his bidding. "I have other matters to attend to. Thank you for your company," he said, as he moved towards the doors as slow as humanly possibly. "Do have dessert," he insisted, as he disappeared in similar manner to how he appeared. A severed tauntaun head was placed before each of them, with the skull opened up to reveal its frozen brains. A small notecard mentioned it was from the Zarcus herd on Delaya.

The spoon was difficult set down. Her fingers were glued around it. The tension in the room had risen so high that it was hard to breathe. She had no idea what was happening back on the Ringali Shell. She had no idea how to please the Emperor. Claudius, somehow, managed to improve the situation. He lied, causing the Emperor to laugh in his sinister way. She thought about how unprofessional it would be to crawl underneath the table and assume the fetal position. The man made himself disappear as quickly as he had come. They both sat, in total silence, while they were served frozen tauntaun brains right from inside of its skull. It was possibly the most delightful thing she had eaten yet, though it was going to be difficult to choke down on top of the eyeballs and raw nerf. "Oh my goodness," Sierra sighed. Her shoulders dropped, as did her head. "What was he talking about? Have you heard of anything happening on Esseles or Brentaal?" By his expression, she thought not. They shared more and more between each other. Had he known something, he probably would have told her. Staring at the skull of the tauntaun, today began to feel like a *very* long day. They'd been married, consummated that marriage, and then had an incredibly stressful dinner. She wondered who would be holding up who when they finally left. Wanting to leave without being rude, Sierra began to eat. The frozen brain made her so much more cold. As badly as she wanted to retreat to the suite and crawl into bed to slumber with her husband, duty had begun to call them by first name. It was time to go back.

Claudius let out an exhausted breath the moment the Emperor left them alone in the room, but pushed away the decapitated tauntaun head. "You ... you don't have to eat that," he said, as he rose from his seat, and move neared to her. "No. I haven't heard a word from the Ringali Shell since we left," he said, as he pulled out her chair to assist her in standing. "You're my new adjutant. Have you heard from them?" he asked, before beginning to lead her out of the dining room and passed the royal guards. "We should get..." he began, before placing his hand on his stomach. He swallowed frantically to keep from throwing up right there in the corridor. "...back," he finally stated, but back where? Delaya? The Ringali Shell? "Oh no..." he groaned to her, as he looked at her pathetically, with a layer of flop sweat upon his forehead. He left her suddenly, scrambling to the nearest refresher. As soon as he made it to the sink he opened his mouth and began to vomit all of the disgusting dishes the Emperor had forced upon him. It was a terrible thing to happen on their first meal together as a married couple.

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