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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:6:25) in the Essesia system: Retributor.
Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, and Major Sierra Rodney.

Lieutenant Meham'ohoroiv'cloca stood in front of the holotank displaying the disposition of Imperial naval forces in the Chandrila system. The light squadron that had been guarding the periphery of the Ringali Nebula was on display with the ships lost highlighted in red. Nearly half the squadron had been lost due to Rebel starfighter attack and sabotage, which convinced her that they no longer had an adequate force to fight the Rebel fleet should it arrive as the Emperor had foreseen. "Milord, we must ... reluctantly ... reinforce the nebula defense perimeter by moving one of the heavy squadrons currently in orbit of Chandrila to the front lines," she informed the Grand Moff, before refocusing the holotank on the ships she had referenced. "That will place four Victory-class Star Destroyers in the path of any Rebel ships emerging from the nebula. Our Intel suggests that the Rebel cell has nothing that can oppose that," she concluded, confidently, but without allowing a smile to creep upon her blue lips. Her red eyes shifted to the Governor, as she awaited his next orders.

Grand Moff Claudius Rodney studied the holotank as his Chiss tactical officer conducted her briefing and made her recommendations. His left hand slowly moved to his chin, stroking it slightly as he watched her proposed redeployment of the heavy squadron. "That would reduce our Chandrila strike force by 50-percent," he informed her, as he felt his first duty was to punish Chandrila per the Emperor's wishes. "It would also give the Rebellion the satisfaction of knowing their starfighter attacks caused us to break off from the attack on Chandrila," he commented, before squeezing his right hand into a fist and bringing it down on top of the side of the holotank. His teeth grit as she shook his head, realizing that he best heed the Lieutenant's instructions. "Very well, Lieutenant," he said, as he placed both of his hands on the side of the tank and held onto it, as if letting go would cause him to fall down. "Move the squadron to the nebula to reinforce our defensive perimeter," he said, with a nod of his head, before flashing an unsteady look to Sierra, his wife *and* aide.

Major Sierra Rodney knew that today was going to be a long day. No sooner had she, Claudius, *and* Bruce arrived on the Retributor, it had begun. She had first touched base with security to ensure that the Inquisitor was not on the ship. She ordered them to let her own if the situation changed. If she came for the force-sensitive child, then every second between her arrival and finding them became crucial. She next assumed her role as adjutant and spent time speaking with the Chiss Lieutenant before their meeting. She received damaged reports and immediately began to review them. The Chandrila forces were officially stretched thin. As unlikely as it had been days ago, the Rebels had a successful strike.

She stood near Meham'ohoroiv'cloca listening to the tactical officer's suggestions. There was currently both bombings *and* a ground strike on Chandrila. If Sierra had to guess where Inquisitor Thrope was, it was there. Lieutenant Meham'ohoroiv'cloca excelled at her job. She knew what to do when the cards handed to her were terrible. No solution was perfect, yet she had offered the best one. Sierra stepped forward once Claudius had made his decision. The monotonous voice of the Chiss woman had lulled Bruce off to sleep. He was tucked away in baby wrap, which wrapped about Sierra's body and cradled the boy close to her breast. It enabled her to use both hands on the job. She pressed one of her hands against Claudius' back as she came to stand beside him. "Those on the ground in Chandrila will continue to carry out His Majesty's will. We have the commandos out there... Kerrie ... and, it is likely that the Inquisitor is there too. We are still dealing a blow to the Rebels, thought it isn't quite the way we want."

"Let us hope Chandrila proves an ample distraction for Inquisitor Thrope," Claudius whispered to Sierra, as if he were giving her orders. As much as he wanted to carry out the Emperor's orders, he actually felt bad for the Chandrilans who were to come in contact with the Inquisitor and her unspeakable rage. "Lieutenant, show us the disposition of the Imperial Army on Chandrila," he ordered the Lieutenant, as he turned his attention back to the holotank. The image quickly transformed from a view of the Chandrila system to a view of the planet itself. The bulk of the Imperial forces were moving through Hanna City while other units were moving to the smaller cities. The Storm Commandos seemed deployed to the assembly, but the Inquisitor was not shown on the map as he had hoped. His attention shifted to Sierra again, as he pursed his lips anxiously. "All we can do now is wait," he said to everyone gathered around the holotank, but he was really speaking to himself.

She grimaced uncomfortable. The mere mention of Inquisitor Thrope sent a shiver down her spine. That woman could kill her whole family in an instant. Her eyes glanced downward at the holotank. Neither needed to speak a word. They were both looking for the same thing. She thought of Kerrie and the Cathar who had gotten away with her slaughter fest. She hoped that Crion would not attack her Clawdite friend. There was no way for them to know exactly what was happening. Sierra's plate was so full that she couldn't help Kerrie even if worst case scenario was playing out. After this, Kerrie would return to the family, she reminded herself. Her shoulders shrank. Since Inquisitor Thrope's appearance, all hope had been sucked from them. The confidence she once felt was mostly gone. Thrope had wrung them out and left them to dry. She wondered if this battle would have gone smoothly if Thrope had never appeared. She leaned into Claudius. "Let's go back to our office." As he said, there was nothing more they could do than wait. She'd rather not sweat it in front of an audience. She stepped backwards, nodding towards Meham'ohoroiv'cloca respectfully.

"Thank you, Lieutenant," Claudius said, attempting to be polite, before walking away from the holotank with his wife. When they reached the turbolift, he staggered backwards, grabbing a support railing inside the lift for support. "Why won't they just attack already?" he asked his wife, in frustration, as he wanted the battle over so that he could contact the Emperor about Inquisitor Thrope. He had only a few moments in privacy with her before the turbolift doors opened on the level where his office was located. He closed his eyes and slowly exhaled to steady himself, before professionally marching down the corridor towards his office. Once inside he moved towards the seating area, rather than his desk, and virtually collapsed onto the couch. "It is a terrible thing *wanting* to be attacked," he told her, as he moved to pour himself a glass of water.

The wait was killer. How long would it take?! In the turbolift, Sierra frowned deeply. She wished she could wave her hands and *make* the Rebels come. It was hard to remain professional when, quite frankly, she wanted to pull out all of her hair. She moved quickly as to retreat to the office. After Arden's disposal, she had seen to it that the ISB device was removed from Claudius' office. She was confident that it was the one place in the ship where they weren't being watched. She paused beside Bruce's portable bassinet to carefully release him from the wrap. She laid him down and covered him up. When she was sure he was comfortable, she approached the couch and sat. "Few things are worst than that, my love." She sighed. She removed her cap and pushed her fingers through her hair anxiously. "You know... Your bastard brother and his wife were both missing on New Aldera. Considering the timing, I wonder if something's coming that they are taking part in."

"If the Rebels are pulling in resources from as far as New Alderaan then it is fortunate that Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca suggested deploying that squadron. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be better to turn the war effort to her and just stay in bed," Claudius suggested, with a laugh, as he leaned back on the sofa. "Is it right for us to stay at Esseles?" he asked her, wondering if he should lead from the front lines in the coming battle. He did like the idea of commanding from a sector away, but he did not like the idea of having his wife and infant son on the front either. As a result he found himself quite torn about his next actions.

She laughed softly. "I only agree to that if she sends us recordings of her tactical meetings that I can use to help put Bruce to sleep. He was out within five minutes once she began speaking." She scooted closer to her husband. She wrapped an arm around him lovingly. She liked the idea of him leading from a sector away. It was much more safe, especially since the Rebels were taking out ships near Chandrila left and right. "Yes, I think it's right. You're a Grand Moff, you shouldn't have to lead from the front lines. It's your job to stay here. You have a lot more than just Chandrila to watch over." She looked at him. "What are you thinking about..?"

Claudius exhaled slowly, before sinking into her embrace. "I'm thinking about whether or not there's anything I have not done ... that I could do ... to improve our chances in the battle to come," he said to her, as he revealed his private doubts to her. "With such little effort they wiped away so many of our ships. These Rebels fight with a passion and determination I have *never* seen," he reluctantly confessed to her, as he leaned his head upon her shoulder. "How could so many souls be so misguided as to lay down their lives so heroically to plunge the galaxy back into chaos?" he asked her, as he brought his hand up to the side of his head to rub his temple. There was so much about this war that he did not understand, despite fighting it almost from the very beginning.

Sierra held him tightly. They had spent a lot of time thinking about this battle. Sierra studied all the information but there was simply nothing else that they could do to improve their odds. She squeezed him. "At this point, your hands are tied behind your back. You've done *everything*. You're feeling antsy from all the waiting around." She frowned. She listened to him talk about the Rebels. From what she had seen on New Aldera, the Rebels were extremely devoted to their cause. It was troublesome that Jelena wouldn't even entertain joining the Empire. "Every war has to have two sides. The Rebels don't have the numbers that we do, so they fight with their hearts. They are blind, Claudius. They have forgotten what His Majesty has done for the galaxy." She ran a hand down his cheek.

"Thank you, my love," Claudius told her, when she reassured him that he had done everything that he could. He needed to hear that. "Then in order to break the Rebellion we must break their hearts..." he concluded, based on what she had said. He had not slept much the night before, so being safe in his office alone with his wife and his son he finally began to relax and unwind. His eyelids suddenly felt as if they were being pulled closed by tractor beams. He struggled to hold them open, but eventually he succumbed and began to drift off into a comfortable sleep while using his wife as a pillow. The calm he was fortunate enough to enjoy now would not last.

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