had dug her grave a good sixteen feet under at this
point. Her grandiose promises to Jelena were
potentially about to bite her in the rear end, which
is exactly why the girl's impromptu shopping trip
had taken so long. Deciding the best route to come
at Claudius was difficult. There wasn't a piece of
sheer lingerie on Esseles that would derail him from
the truth: Sierra had gone her own direction. After
making up a list of potential furniture purchases,
the girls arrived back at the estate. "Wish me
luck... If I don't come back, I want my funeral to
be as awkward as possible. Strip me down and serve
the finest food on my body while playing upbeat
cantina songs." She demanded to her best friend,
veering off towards the makeshift office where she
was bound to find her husband.
Into the abyss
she moved. "Hi honey." Her stomach lurched sideways,
then performed an incredible cartwheel that would
have won medals. "How are you?" She asked, removing
her thin jacket as she approached him. "I saw Jelena
turn into Drusilla just briefly today. If I wake up
with night terrors later, just remind me we're a few
years off from embarking on that adventure." Upon
reaching him, she bent down and kissed him on the
lips. Her psychology background said disagreements
were natural, and arguing was healthy. She needed to
be upfront with him about the apartment search.
neck deep in datapads in a desperate, but ultimately
futile, attempt to discover what Arden Zevrin was up
to. The always pleasant distraction of his new wife
prompted him to look up, but unfortunately caused
the pile of precariously placed datapads to topple
over. "No matter," he said to her, as he rose from
his seat, and circled around the desk to greet her.
"I am ... I am overwhelmed," he said, as he took
both of her hands into his, and greeted her with a
kiss on each cheek. "Was she that much of a diva?"
he asked her, always suspecting deep down she had it
in her. Afte rall, she was a Lady. "More than a few,
thankfully. More than a few," he said, before he
released his grasp on her and led her towards the
window. From the perch they could look down at the
city of the New Calamar with some of the buildings
he selectively clearly identified. "So which did she
choose?" he asked, as he plopped down on the window
seat and looked up at her, eagerly waiting for a
his carefully stacked datapads fall. He needed her.
She wasn't afraid to commit the rest of the evening
to playing catch up with him. "I see that. Never
fear. I'll help you." It was part of being Team
Sierradius. Her hands squeezed his affectionately.
"There was foot stomping. I saw a tear or two.
Regardless, it wasn't bad. I think the worst part
was the nasty realtors." Sweet, sweet relief.
Drusilla would be presented with only the greatest
of choices, unless she married immediately. These
things were horrifying to think about.
with him towards the window. The building Jelena had
selected was barely visible. Sierra could see its
blue roof sticking out individually from the other
drab colored ones. She stood in front of him, then
looked down into his eyes. Sigh. "We ran into some
problems with the Empire approved selections." She
reported. "The alien xenophobia is becoming worse.
One particularly vile realtor told us that our
*slobbering*, *disgusting* Squib daughter did not
belong in the building. This woman spoke those words
to my face." Sierra settled herself on the window
seat in front of him. She looked like she was
getting angry again.
stomping?" Claudius asked, with a soft laugh. "I
wish I had been there to see *that*," he told her,
as he seemed genuinely happy by his wife and
daughter potentially bonding during their apartment
hunt. "What kind of problems? Xenophobia?" he asked,
repeating her words, as he had tried to come to
terms with it. "It must have been an isolated
innocent. Give me the woman's name. I shall have her
relieved of her position," he said, angrily, as he
hated the way some chose to ignorantly treat his
daughter. "I tell you, I have seen this before," he
said to her, frowning slightly, as suddenly his mood
and demeanor changed. He broke eye contact with her
and instead looked out the window. "Ewwiekewwieikkie
was not with you, was she?" he asked, almost afraid
of the answer. He trembled slightly, but noticeably.
snickered. It had been a good bonding session with
Jelena. They were rekindling their friendship, which
made Sierra massively happy. "Oh, I'll give you her
name. She was kind enough to hand me a business card
after she spouting her sickening bull shit." From
which she produced from her messenger bag,
positioned at the front of her body now. "I'm not
certain it was an isolated incident.
Ewwiekewwieikkie was not with us. We touched on the
subject because of the apartment's front page.
Look," she scooted closer to him. The second time
she reached into her sack, she withdrew her datapad.
She pulled up the first listing that Claudius had
given her. First, she showed him where the
alien-free premises rules were listed. "Wait," she
prodded the number which instantly sent the call to
a real estate agent. The first person who picked up
was a pompous sounding male. "Hello, I'm browsing
your website. I have a Squib daughter, is that..."
"No! We don't
accept *those* kinds!" The man snapped. "Humans
only. Squibs are a liability." Sierra hung up on the
man. She quickly pulled up the apartment site to the
woman who had struck a chord inside of Sierra. She
used the woman's card to call her directly.
speaking," the woman said, sounding polite. "Hello.
I visited with my daughter earlier. Can you remind
me of what you said about her Squib sister?" On the
other side of the line, speech turned colorful. Gem
Xess remembered *exactly* who she was speaking to.
Sierra's blue eyes flickered up to her husband. She
was building up evidence against these Empire
sitting on the opposite side of the room as he
listened to Sierra's interaction with the realtors.
He was furious. His face was turning red, and his
hands unconsciously balled into fists. He took hold
of one of the crystal glasses that he no longer
used, as Sierra had curtailed his drinking, and
threw it against the wall. He was seething with rage
and quickly moved towards his wife, taking the
communication device from her hand and terminating
the call. "Okay. Okay," he said, his voice
trembling, and his body shaking. She had painted a
terrible and vivid picture of what exactly was going
on down in the city. "So ... so did she find a
place?" he asked, bringing his hand up to his
temple, and massaging it lightly. He suddenly had a
splitting headache. He attempted to get the
conversation back on a more positive topic to calm
The sound of
the glass shattering in the office seemed so loud.
She idly pondered if Jelena was picking out the
perfect cantina band for her funeral. "Sorry..." She
was apologetic for all the scum that lived on their
planet. She would use her anger later on to have Gem
Xess removed her her current place of employment.
For now, her husband was shaking and furious. She
rose back to her feet, wrapping her arms around his
waist loosely. "Yes, she did. It's not on the Empire
approved list, but it isn't a shit hole either.
There are advantages of her not living in one of
these places where Arden's eyes can surely reach."
She said, lifting a hand up to place on the back of
his head. She cradled him against her.
Do you see that little blue roof? It's the only
one." She turned her head away from him. "That's the
one. I picked it out for her myself. There's
security measures, but not so much that Jelena will
feel strangled. They are accepting of all beings.
Best of all, it's located right near the shopping
district. She'll be close to everything she wants to
do without having to worry about the girls visiting.
I think it's a win-win. We can go and look at it
revealed that Jelena had selected an apartment off
the list he was not sure how to react. "Not on the
list? Then it's not safe," he reasoned, but the
comfort of her hand on the back of his head kept him
from getting too bent out of shape. He looked
outside as instructed, but the little blue roof was
barely noticeable. He moved to grab hold of a pair
of macrobinoculars he used to watch the space
traffic. He stepped out onto the balcony, placing it
over his eyes, as she looked down into the city of
New Calamar. "That one?!" he exclaimed, as he zoomed
in to the maximum focus of the device. Still it was
barely visible. "I don't think it's safe..." he
worried, as he lowered the macrobinoculars, and
turned to look at Sierra with a frown. Now that he
had his daughter restored to him all he could think
about was making sure nothing ever happened to her
handling it well so far. There were no explosions.
Frankly, Sierra could understand where he was coming
from. Losing Jelena in the fashion that he had would
cause any parent to move into overprotective
overdrive. She met with him on the balcony where he
attempted to see the apartment. "That one." She
confirmed. Sierra watched all the worry play over
her husband's face. "Come here." He didn't get a
choice. His petite, yet bossy, wife didn't take *no*
for an answer. She removed the macrobinoculars from
his hands and persuaded him back inside. She settled
on the window seat sideways, creating a place where
she could seat him between her legs. Her arms sealed
the deal, wrapping loosely around his neck. Claudius
was stuck. "Why don't you think it's safe?" She
asked him, considering his feelings first.
allowed himself to be led by his wife, not giving
any protest. When she sat him between her legs he
suddenly forgot what they were talking about. He
blinked several times in silence before he heard her
question and got back on topic. "There are Rebels in
our midst. Plus opportunists like Zara's sister. The
list of people who would harm Jelena is so long," he
said, sounding exasperated, as his facial features
sunk. "The apartments on the list I gave you were
under Imperial protection. The staff ... the
residents ... all Imperial loyalists," he explained,
as he moved to place a hand upon her for support.
"She did not like any of them? I am sure we could
get Ewwiekewwieikkie permission to be there," he
said, desperately grasping at straws.
Sierra listened intently to all of his concerns. "I
know, I know. It's enough that we have the Rebels."
And then there was Zara's sister, a predicament
which she felt bad about. The betrayal itself had
harmed the young pregnant wife of her brother. "It's
hard to send her out into the world at a time like
this. We'd like her to be among Imperials, but she
won't be happy that way." She squeezed him. " It
isn't ideal, I understand. Jelena is dying to assert
her independence. I think your relationship with her
will continue to grow if you give her a little bit
of slack. It's better that she's in the city. She's
still so close to home. We'll see her frequently.
Come see it with me. If you aren't pleased with what
you see, I'll take her out again tomorrow and
continue the search."
"I don't care
if she's happy, Sierra. I care that she's safe,"
Claudius said to her, starting to become
increasingly anxious. "Twice she's been abducted by
the Rebellion. Twice," he lamented, hanging his head
in shame at his failure to watch over her. "And
since I paid for the ransom of Zara, every criminal
opportunist out there knows that if they get their
hands on Jelena we'll pay to get her back," he said,
wondering if he made a terrible mistake paying the
ransom for his sister-in-law. "Maybe you could have
the ISB investigate the tenants, the staff, and we
can place additional security in the area?" he asked
her, perking up slightly with his inventive ideas on
how to rectify the situation.
becoming increasingly more complicated to find the
middle ground. It wasn't like she couldn't
understand Claudius' side of things...it was that
she understood Jelena's as well. Her chin rested on
his head while she grasped for a resolution. "No. No
ISB." Sierra rejected the idea right away. "Maybe I
can do that on my own time, but not through the ISB.
We will be sending a red flag up for that goddamn
woman to see." And he knew which one she was talking
about. "This is a hard situation, Claudius. If I
could lock her up in her bedroom with the knowledge
that she was content with it, then I would. I don't
want anything to happen again either. At the same
point, she expects us to make a move like that. If
we place additional security in the area and she
finds out, are you prepared to see her flee? She
will be furious."
lowered his face into his eyes, rubbing them
furiously, as he let out a tremendous roar of
frustration. Gradually he lowered his hands, leaning
backwards, and arching his head skywards. "What do I
do, Sierra?" he finally asked her, giving up, as he
had been completely overwhelmed. "I do not want to
lose my daughter ... *again*," he pleaded with her,
desperately. Suddenly it seemed as he was
inexperienced youth and she was the seasoned adult.
He had been a father for 19 years, and she had yet
to give birth to their first child, but he now found
himself totally relying on her. He no longer
understood his daughter. He did not know what to do.
He was stuck in a terrible situation, crippled with
indecision, unable to act. He knew what he wanted,
and now Sierra had explained what Jelena wanted ...
they could not have been further apart.
become a parent literally overnight. It was hard to
determine what was right and wrong for her older
stepchildren. A part of her also felt worried for
Jelena's safety, while a grander part of her wanted
her friend to live a good life without the Empire
looming over her shoulder and watching every move.
She looked down at her worn husband. "We compromise,
my love." She finally said. "We'll allow Jelena to
live in the apartment of her choice. However, I will
research deeply into those she's living around. If
there's a reason to believe that additional security
is a necessity, then... We'll cross that bridge when
we come to it. We have to give her the illusion of
space in order to keep her protected and close."
Sierra closed her eyes and held him tight. Her hands
brushed over his heart. He was still holding too
much to himself. She wanted to alleviate him. "Is
there anything I can do to make you feel a fraction
better about all of this?"
"Make it your
top priority," Claudius said to his wife, relenting
her and letting her get her way. He clung to her,
afraid that if he let go he would float away into
oblivion. "Should we have a surveillance device?" he
asked her, sounding a bit like Arden Zevrin. He was
paranoid with a genuine concern that someone would
come along and snatch her up. "I just don't want
anything to happen to her again. She's been ...
she's been through so much," he said, wishing he
could have kept her young, innocent, in an
impenetrable force field for all time. "Just make
sure nothing happens to her. Please..." he pleaded
with her, before he lay back against the window to
attempt and get some rest. This had been
overwhelming experience for him. He was not cut out
to be a father. He was used to simply issuing orders
that were clearly followed by obedient subordinates.
Children were not subordinates ... as much as he
wished they were.
she responded, sounding more like she was taking an
order. Family was her top priority at all times. "I
will allow for a couple of discrete outside
devices." Her hand touched his cheek. "I'm going to
do my best, Claudius. We'll get this apartment
debacle figured out. Rest. I'll keep you company."
She didn't want the universe to take Jelena from
them again. Ultimately, she preferred Jelena hating
her and being safe over anything else. Sierra tucked
a pillow beneath her husband's head and covered him
with a blanket. It would have been lovely to curl up
as his little spoon and drift away, but Sierra
Rodney had important things to get done! She sat at
her husband's desk, diving into her work
later, a notification arrived for her on her datapad
from Gaius Rodney. It took her a moment to recall
which Rodney he was. Her brother in explosives, she
supposed. There was an audible groan from the young
woman followed by her face colliding with her hands.
Julius Rodney was back at a medcenter. A mass
message to the family detailed out that his
condition was worsening again. Sierra supposed old
age was weighing down on him. She hadn't seen the
old pervert since her wedding. Through parted
fingers, she looked at her husband. Mother fucker.
Claudius thought Sierra had worked everything out
concerning Jelena and the apartment, her mood
suddenly soured as she got back to work. He looked
at her, furrowing his brow, as he tried to figure
out what it was by the expression on her face. "Have
the Rebels struck again?" he asked, fearing the
worst, as his distance from the command ship has
lessened his tactical grip on the situation. He rose
slowly, uneasily, and began to move towards her to
learn more about why she was looking the way she
looked. "What is it?" he asked, stopping dead in his
tracks before he got any further. He could only bare
She was going
to vomit. Their life had become an insane roller
coaster of dramatic up-down motions. Had they not
had each other, then it was questionable how all
this insanity would have played out. Death for both
of them seemed like a real possibility. Before she
could respond, she quickly ducked her head into his
garbage can. Her head was shaking. No. Not the
Rebels. Right now, it was attack of the Bruce. She
tried to regain her composition quickly. Her hand
clutched over her stomach uncomfortably. "Father.
He's back in the medcenter. Gaius claims that his
condition is worse than before." Sierra rose quickly
to support her husband.
rains, but it pours," Claudius observed to Sierra,
as he wrapped his arms around her tenderly. "We must
go to him. I'm sorry," he said to her, knowing how
difficult his father could be. He wondered if
perhaps this was all some stunt to get him back on
Delaya so she could receive another pregnancy pep
talk. "Please. Make the necessary arrangements," he
said, as he backed away from her to take a much
needed seat on the sofa. The room began to spin as
another tragedy seemed to be on the horizon. "Do we
take the girls?" he asked her, lowering his head
into the palm of his head, as it suddenly felt like
it weighed hundreds of pounds. "...and do we tell
him you're pregnant?" he asked, as he considered all
of the decisions that needed to be made. They could
not have a simple quiet day.
pep talk sounded much better than Julius' death. He
was extraordinarily good at making people feel
awkward. She nodded her head. There was no doubt in
her mind that they were now headed back to Delaya.
"I'll take care of everything," she told him
reassuringly. This needed to be as pain free at it
could for him. She made her way over towards the
sofa and weakly planted her body next to his. Hand
in hand, Sierra prepared themselves to face who
knows what. "Not yet. Let's see him in person, then
we'll determine how.... How he's actually doing."
She didn't want to bring the girls to Delaya if this
was just a baby call. It sounded like she was
speculating as well. Her father-in-law had weeks to
think of new, creative ways to bring his eldest son
back home. The second question caused for a longer
pause. So few people knew about the baby at the
moment. Sierra felt determined to keep her baby boy
safe. Even she had to consider the idea that Julius
might truly die this time around. "I don't know. Do
you think he'd keep it to himself? I imagined
waiting as long as possible, or simply showing up
with a baby and pretending like it's some big
surprise." They had managed to keep the information
between themselves, Pilaq, and Arden.
asked him if he thought his father would keep the
news of her pregnancy to himself he began to laugh
hysterically. Finally something to lighten the mood!
He turned his head towards her, giving her a broad
and cheerful smile that seemed to change his entire
disposition. "My dear, my father has never kept
anything to himself in his entire life. The news of
a potential heir would spread from his lips to every
corner of the known galaxy in seconds," he explained
to her, shaking his head in dismay. "I will support
whatever decision you make, as I have come to do so
many times," he said to her, with a firm nod of his
head. "If we tell him, he will tell everyone. If we
don't tell him, we risk him dying without knowing
the succession is secure. Neither outcome is ideal,"
he explained to her, as seemed to be the case with
most of their decisions these days.
have known better. This was Julius Rodney, the man
who, reportedly, had nearly died while holding a
recording of Marcus' wife's ultrasound. "No! That's
not so! He kept his affair *very* hush, hush!"
Sierra couldn't help but smile back at her husband.
Sometimes it was hard to believe that Julius had any
sort of a hand in his creation. Her head rolled. The
news would explode. "I'm sure that he would also
write our reproductive organs a very heartfelt thank
you speech. You're playing the politic card, hubby
dearest." He wasn't picking sides. "Neither outcome
is ideal," she repeated. Did she allow the old man
to die with uncertainty or expose their child to the
spotlight? Now she was the one leaning on her
husband for support.
Claudius. We can't tell him yet. Unless the
situation is just entirely dire, we have to keep it
a secret. Our boy is still so tiny and fragile. I
don't want to exploit him, *us*, to whatever evils
may come out of the cracks to ensure he does not see
the light of day. I love Bruce so much already," she
let the name she'd been considering for their baby
slip from her lips. It wasn't traditional for the
Rodney family. She suddenly felt very embarrassed.
Jelena, Drusilla, and Ewwiekewwieikkie had already
drawn many of her motherly instincts to the surface.
Her heart was already all tangled up in little Bruce
affair. Don't get me started on that," Claudius
said, as he lowered his head, but then his mind
quickly shifted to the bastard's daughter Callista
who was just in the next room. "Do you want my
father to give a speech praising your uterus on
HoloNet News?" he asked her, snickering softly, as
he imagined his father certainly doing such a thing.
"Very well. We shall keep the news to ourselves," he
said, as he rose from his seat and moved swiftly
towards her. "One day our son will have to manage
this family. I hope he does a better job than I," he
said, as he leaned forward, and placed a loving kiss
upon her lips. He wrapped his arms tightly around
both of them, savoring the moment of solemnity
before the difficult trip home to Delaya to discover
the true plight of his ailing father.
"A speech, and
a week of celebrations dedicated to my uterus will
do." Sierra giggled. It wouldn't so funny if she
thought Julius wouldn't actually go for it. "You
seriously don't give yourself enough credit," she
returned the kiss. When you were dealt a bad set of
cards, you simply did your best to keep afloat. In
holding him, Sierra found the same realization which
she always did; everything was going to be okay.
Life was going to throw them this way and that, but,
ultimately, they'd stay standing. She was no in rush
to leave his arms. "I love you. You should relax for
as long as you can. I'll get us ready." She
promised, intending to bring some of his work along
so she could keep him on top of all of his duties.
There was no telling how long they'd have to stay on