Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:5:5) in the Essesia system: Esseles (New Calamar: Claudius Rodney's estate) and Retributive Strike.
El-Nay Darr, Commander Kerrie Kiley, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, and Commander Sierra Rodney.

It was a gloomy day in the Rodney estate. As the sun broke over Esseles, the day that Sierra Rodney would leave to Delaya. She had hung up her ISB uniform for a simple environmental suit with the intention of wearing armor over it. Considering her arrest warrant, it was necessary to keep her face covered at all times. She took her time packing herself and arming herself. She had an E-11 blaster rifle, but she also had an immense love affair with knives. She felt incredibly nervous while she packed her belongings into a small duffle. She had no idea how long she'd be gone for. Rushing things would only get her, Kerrie, and El-Nay hurt... That is, if they agreed to accompany her in yet *another* unauthorized mission. She had called for Kerrie to come to the estate the previous night. While she didn't provide details, Sierra's voice said that she was distressed...or was it simply stressed?

Kerrie and El-Nay were due to arrive any minute now, yet Sierra had not made her way downstairs. In fact, no sooner had she finished packing did she wind up in bed cuddling her husband. A parting between Claudius and Sierra was *never* going to be easy. She had her arms coiled around him tightly. Her eyes were closed, savoring every moment leading to their last. "I love you," she whispered as she placed a kiss to his chin for the millionth time.

It was a painful experience for Claudius watching his wife pack her bag, especially when it included an E-11 blaster rifle. He did not want her to go, but he knew that she *had* to if he was ever going to get closure considering his mother's death. "I love *you*," he said, as she embraced him, causing him to tremble with fear that it might be for the last time. "You be careful, Commander. That's an *order*," he told her, with deadly seriousness. His eyes moved to the antique chronometer that topped the chest of drawers as his greatest enemy of all ... time ... advanced against him. "Well. We can't sit here like this all day. There's work to be done," he said, fighting back the tears, as he desperately swallowed in an attempt to keep from breaking down. Every parting from now on would be agonizing. He truly loved her with all of his heart.

She looked up at him as seriousness settled in. Her head nodded firmly. "Yes, Governor." She didn't need to look at the chronometer to know that the time had come. Her heart felt heavy with each tick and tock of the chronometer. She knew he was right. Sierra wanted to cry so badly. She wanted to pound her fists against the ground and curse the world for how cruel it was. Instead, she forced herself to keep it together. "Okay..." She breathed in, forcing her shoulders to settle and the tension in her body to reach a minimum. Both of her hands took his. She looked up at him.

"I'm going to be okay, Claudius. I know I have no grounds to stand on other than the fact that there isn't anything that can keep me away from you. I'll come back to you as soon as possible. No matter what I find to be the truth, we will work through it together." Her hands squeezed his then released them entirely. She turned her back on him and approached her vanity where a single datapad sat. She picked it up and offered it to him. "When you begin to feel down, look at this." He'd find pictures of a multitude of their happy moments. All of Bruce's ultrasounds were there too. Finally, there was a video she had recorded the prior night reminding him that everything was going to be okay. . . and to feed himself! The sweet words of encouragement that he'd need were there. "Don't look now." She stepped into him. Her lips collided with his.

The picture were just what Claudius needed to sustain himself while she was away, but at this moment it was just another reminder that she was going. He swallowed slowly, clearing his throat as he stood from the bed. The only noise at the moment was the creaking of the mattress as it retook its shape after he left it. "Here. Let me walk you," he said, as he took hold of her by the arm and led her down the stairs towards the ground level. "Ow!" Cladius cried suddenly, and as he look down he saw he had stepped on a gemstone. "Drusilla..." he muttered under his breath, but decided he would deal with this later. Right now he wanted to see Sierra off. As they reached the door of the estate he opened it, leading her down the stone walkway towards the landing platform.

On the landing platform a 20-year-old Kom'rk class fighter stood upright on the landing platform flown by none other than El-Nay Darr. The young Mandalorian woman was dressed in her freshly polished suit of Mandalorian Nite Owl armor, painted a garish shade of orange in honor of her lust for life, as was the custom among her people. She was standing next to the ship, checking everything over to make sure nothing would go wrong during their mission to infiltrate Delaya. They barely made it out alive last time and now, for some reason, they were going back. "'Ello Govna," she said, when she saw Claudius walk up towards the ship in her poor attempt at a formal accent. "Just getting 'er ready," she said, before knocking her hand against the old Mandalorian ship. As she knocked her hand a small piece fell off, causing her to panic. She quickly reached down to grab it and reattached it to the ship. "Now she's ready!" she said, as she started to lean against it, but then suddenly realized that was not the best idea and she decided to stop herself and stand upright.

"Stop playing around," the familiar voice of Commander Kerrie Kiley said to El-Nay Darr, as she emerged from behind her. She raised her hand quickly to whack her on the back of the head, as she literally tried to knock some sense into her. As she saw Claudius for the first time since Delaya she froze slightly, feeling somewhat uncomfortable. She missed working for him, and made no secret of the fact she disliked her current assignment. As she came to a stop in front of him she immediately dropped to one knee, lowering her head to him in obedience. "I will allow no harm to come to your wife, milord," she said, as she looked down at his feet rather than his face. "I swear it," she said, passionately, as she finally raised her head. Gone was the uniform of an Imperial Stormtrooper, and was replaced with the armor of the Mabari, a sect of warrior-knights from her home planet of Zolan. The dark armor covered her form nicely and was able to conform to her shapeshifting ability. A simple blast helmet covered her ornately braided hair, while a veil covered her face. She was prepared to give her life to protect Duchess Sierra on this all important mission, and she wanted him to know it.

Sierra snatched her duffle and, with great reluctance, began to walk with Claudius towards the landing platform. When he stepped on a gemstone she cringed. She knew *exactly* how that felt. "I'm telling you, we are going to be finding gems for the rest of our lives... By finding them, I mean with our feet." At least it seemed like Ewwie's bowel movements had become normal again. Oye. This family certainly needed her just as badly as she needed them. On the landing platform, she found the distinct El-Nay Darr. She silently hoped that working with her didn't result in being strung up like previously. If nothing else, it was horrifying. She continued to stand by her husband. At this point, she wasn't sure who was holding who up. She snickered at the woman. "Nice try, *Lady* El-Nay." Sierra put that pompous formal accent for her friend. She eyed El-Nay's old ship. When the piece fell off and she began to panic, Sierra wondered if she should have asked Claudius to find her an appropriate ship, or searched herself.

Good ol' Commander Kiley was there too. Sierra had become massively in debt to these women. She hoped that this journey to Delaya would go much smoother than any of their other outings. She didn't know what she would find on Claudius' home planet. Her only eyes were in the castle...not the city. Through digging around on the HoloNet, she had a pretty good idea ... but still. She had considered what it would mean if Livia really was gone...

She was reminded that she needed to ask Claudius how Kerrie had become so obedient to him. The Clawdite clearly missed the family. When she returned, she'd also need to look into relocating her and bringing her back. She wanted Kerrie close, especially after their son arrived. The woman was very intense. She knew she was protected. "Thank you, Commander..." Sierra responded tearfully. The time no one wanted to arrive had come: goodbyes. With an aching, heavy heart, Sierra turned towards her husband. She embraced him tightly. Moving to her tippy toes, she planted a kiss on his lips. She didn't care if her friends saw it. Surely, they'd understand why Sierra wasn't acting professional at the moment. The kiss didn't last long for it couldn't. "I love you," she told him one more time. "I'll be back soon. Don't let Ewwiekewwieikkie eat all my pudding!" She forced a smile for him. She made herself act strong before turning her back on him and moving towards El-Nay's ship. The smile was gone the instant he couldn't see. She scurried inside. The tears were coming. She stood inside of the ship just as they had arrived. "Claudius..." She whimpered.

Claudius looked past Sierra towards the familiar Mandalorian in the gaudy orange armor, rolling his eyes at the notion of Sierra going off with her again. "Well, at least they'll have a bright target to shoot at. That alone should be enough to keep you safe," he said, with a smirk and a soft laugh, and no attempt was made to lower his voice. As the ship began to fall apart in front of him he frowned, and unleashed a sigh backed with great trepidation. "You're going in that thing?! You're braver than I thought," he said to Sierra, before the kiss came. As she began to leave he raised his hand to say goodbye, doing his best to keep the tears at bay. As Sierra boarded the ship his attention focused on the Clawdite. "If anything happens to my wife I will be holding you responsible," he said, as he continued to have a happy voice upon his face while looking towards the ship. "If the opportunity arises ... kill Governor Arundel, but do not let my wife know of your instructions," he told her, before backing away in case El-Nay crashed on takeoff. He wondered if he should alert a rescue team to standby.

"I will not fail," Kerrie said, as she rose to her feet and stood before the Governor. "It will be done, milord," she said, before slapping the heels of her boots together. With a final nod, she turned on her heels and began boarding the Mandalorian starfighter behind El-Nay and Sierra. "You'd better strap yourself in, milady," she warned her, as she saw to helping Sierra get secure before focusing her attention on herself. "No fancy flying, nitwit. Just get us there in one piece," she said to the pilot, immediately regretting her decision to let her fly. Maybe they should have taken an Imperial shuttle, she thought to herself, at the last minute, but it was too late. She swallowed nervously, as she tugged on her safety harness, before slowly turning her head to Sierra. "I meant what I said, milady. I'll keep you safe. I'll make sure you get back to your husband," she said, and she was going to keep that promise, even if it meant sacrificing her life ... and El-Nay's.

"I don't think your husband likes me," El-Nay said from beneath her helmet, as her hand moved above her to toggle the switches that would activate the ship's reactor. "Oh shut up. You have no faith in me," she replied to Kerrie, before placing her hand on the thruster controls. She attempted to blast the starfighter off the planet, but nothing happened other than a sputtering engine noise. "Oh c'mon. Not now ... not now," she said in a panic, before bringing her hand up to the control panel and slamming her gloved palm against it repeatedly. After the third hit all of the lights on the control panel lit up and the starfighter blasted off the platform at maximum speed. "Eee!" she groaned, as she was forced back into her seat, reaching with all of her might to grip the controls to slow the craft to a reasonable pace. Before long the white clouds and blue sky began to dissipate, replaced with the darkness of space, intermittently dotted with distant stars and massive Imperial warships. "I don't get it. He's got the biggest fucking ship I've ever seen. Why don't he just take it to Delaya and kick this guy's ass with it?" she asked, as she leaned over to begin downloading the coordinates for the Alderaan system in the navicomputer.

Sierra was oblivious to the orders her husband had given Kerrie. She was desperately trying to collect herself inside El-Nay's bucket of bolts. She realized she needed to move her legs again when Kerrie boarded. Looking at this realistically, there was so much room for something bad to happen. Sierra worried what would happen to her husband if... *if*...

At Kerrie's words, Sierra livened up and sat down. She managed to strap herself in while expecting the flight to be difficult. The young ISB officer had gone quiet. Tears kept escaping her eyes even though she willed them to stop. Her main worry wasn't for herself. It was for the man watching them depart. Who was going to make sure he was eating and sleeping? What if Arden came to prey on him while she was missing in action? She brought a hand over her face, hanging her head as to not make a scene around the other women who were braving Delaya for her. They were risking their *lives*. Kerrie became a very special friend to Sierra as she promised that she would reunite her with Claudius again. Her shoulder shook. The tears came harder. "T-Thank you..."

The trip would never be complete without El-Nay's lively comedic relief. Sierra laughed and coughed at the same time. "In his defense, the last time he saw you, you were dangling me above a pretty hefty drop." She sat back in her seat during El-Nay's failed attempts to get the starfighter off the ground. Her fingers curled around the armrests. She *knew* she should have brought something to throw up into. With anxiety building, El-Nay somehow managed to get the craft moving. Sierra could hear a creaking noise within the ship that could only be described as worrisome.

"El-Nay, if life worked like that, I'd have let you shoot a rocket up that damn Governor's ass at the medcenter. It's not that simple." She took a deep breath. Her hands started wiping the tears from her cheeks. The pain in her heart increased as the distance between her and her love grew greater. "Governor Papius isn't our target this time. He informed Arden Zevrin that Livia Rodney is dead. Our job is to find out if this information is true...and what exactly happened. My husband will never have peace of mind if he doesn't know." She ran her fingers through her hair as she began to feel frustrated. "Remember, Papius has an arrest warrant out for me... What a mess."

Claudius watched the ship to leave ... or rather attempt to leave. When they finally got underway he raised his hand, placing it above his eyes so he could follow their ascent without being blinded by the sun. He watched it for as long as he could until the ship became so small that it strained his eyes to focus on it. Finally there was nothing but blue sky. As if on cue his head fell so low that his chin connected with his chest. The tears began to flow, and he staggered backwards until he reached the safety of a stone bench. He practically fell onto it, sitting there for a long while to collect himself away from the prying eyes of his daughters and the Stormtroopers that patrolled the grounds. Sierra was gone, but she had better come back.

"The Dowager Duchess of Delaya is dead?" Kerrie asked Sierra, using more d-words in that sentence that she perhaps ever put together at one point before. A pained expression came upon her face, as her brow furrowed, drawing her eyebrows together. Both Julius and Livia had died in such rapid succession after reigning so long ... she thought they would have gone on forever. Clearly Governor Rodney must have suspected Governor Arundel might have played some part in this if he ordered his assassination, but she could not voice that to Sierra. "Do not worry, milady. We *will* get to the bottom of this," she said confidently, as she prepared for the jump into hyperspace. Of course that gave El-Nay's tired old ship the benefit of believing it was actually up to the journey.

"Aww man. So what's the point of becoming a Grand Moff and having a big ass ship if you can't just go around blasting whoever you want?" El-Nay asked, as the computer began to beep indicating that it had the coordinates for Delaya. "He does know he's in the Empire, right?" she asked, looking over her shoulder at Sierra. "I mean that's kind of what they're famous for. They even destroy entire planets!" she said, unaware that Sierra was from Alderaan. When she got *the look* from Kerrie, she quickly turned around and moved her hand forward on the hyperdrive controls. A moment later the starfighter streaked forward into hyperspace, the starfield dissipating and the swirling blue column of hyperspace coming to dominate the viewport.

Sierra had left her heart with her husband. Even though she wasn't there...she was there. Hearing Kerrie repeat the words made them hurt all over again. While she was not born to Livia, she had served as her mother. She allowed Sierra to stay in the Rodney castle when the other children came. While the old woman and her had never spoke of her situation, she felt like she knew. "I...I have no idea if it's another trick or the truth. Claudius told me that he tried to sway her to come with us. She didn't want to leave Delaya. I don't know if Governor Arundel had a hand in her death. I had..." She began, pausing for a moment.. "Ah, I'd installed some ISB devices inside of our home while we were attempting to catch Gaius. My eyes in the castle are limited. I haven't been able to find any sign of my mother anywhere. I suspected that she had gone elsewhere to be safe. Now I don't know." Kerrie was her number two best friend officially. The Clawdite was making this trip easier for her with her confidence.

Coming in at number three was El-Nay, who actually got a full laugh out of Sierra. She had a fine point. Wouldn't it be nice to simply blast Papius off of Delaya? She knew that El-Nay was referring to Alderaan...her real home. She thought about *home* while the starfighter successfully continued its journey. Maybe they would make it back to Delaya after all. "That's not the way he does things." She commented. Claudius was better than so many of his comrades. He didn't want to make innocent people those people on Alderaan. "There's no way out now." She admitted to both women. "There's corruption everywhere on the Retributor and no way out."

With the ship successfully in hyperspace, El-Nay rotated her seat so that she was now facing Kerrie and Serria. Her hands moved to the side of her helmet, lifting it off her head, and revealing her young, feminine face to them. Although Sierra could not possibly know, removing her helmet and revealing herself was a sign of trust and showed that El-Nay had been comfortable around her and no longer needed to 'hide' beneath her armor. "It figures I get stuck working for the one Imperial Grand Moff who won't let me blow anything up," she said, shaking her head in disappointment. "Yeah. There's a lot of bad stuff going on. They've been having us do some real messed up stuff," she began, but before she could say another word she noticed Kerrie giving her another *look*. "Oh fine!" she said, sticking out her tongue at Kerrie, and folding her arms in front of her chest. "So what can we talk about? Shockball scores?" she asked, throwing her head back and rolling her eyes.

Kerrie glared angrily over at El-Nay as she began talking about the operations they had been conducting for Inquisitor Thanor and Colonel Zevrin. She knew better than to talk about that, or so she thought. She was going to have to reinforce the lesson when they got back to the Void. "There is always a way out, milady," she said, reassuringly, as she reached across to place her gloved hand reassuringly upon her shoulder. "Your husband is a good man, and you should take that to heart. There are a lot of bad men out there ... and women," she added, making it clear whom she was talking about in the way she said that last part. Her hatred for Arden Zevrin went beyond even Claudius and Sierra's views of the woman.

Though the symbolism behind El-Nay's helmet removal was beyond her, she understood that the woman didn't do it frequently. They had been spending more and more time together, yet this was only the second time she revealed her face in front of Sierra, the first time out of comfort than being used as an example by Kerrie. Sierra sat back to get herself to relax. Her arms rested on her swollen stomach. El-Nay had opened her mouth again and providing her with too much information. She *hated* Colonel Zevrin. The woman was murdering in her husband's name. She would set her sights on her next. That woman had sat on her high horse for far too long. Her attention turned towards Kerrie. The woman made her smile. She nodded her head. "I do. He's as good as they come. I suppose that's why it hurts so much more when terrible people do bad things to him. That damn woman took so much joy in parading into his office and telling him his mother was dead. The tone of her voice... It all made me so angry." She slammed her fist against the armrest. It fell off its hinges and onto the ground. "Crapppp!" Sierra cursed, bending down to grab it. "Sorry, El-Nay..." She tried to shove it into place.

El-Nay listened the back and forth between Sierra and Kerrie about the Grand Moff, but she did not understand any of it. She began to zone out, hearing Corellian music in her head as she drifted away mentally while the others talked. But then Sierra broke her ship and she began to panic. "Ugh! My ship!" she cried out in a panic, as she watched Sierra fumble with the piece. "Well if you broke it when we get back to Esseles I'm giving that Squib a big hug and taking whatever falls out," she declared, as she reached across and tried to fix it herself. With some wiggling she managed to get the armrest back on, which resulted in her clapping her hands together and cheering.

Kerrie reached to the armrest of her own chair, pulling it off, and swinging it at El-Nay's head in a deliberate strike. She watched as the younger woman recoiled, and began rubbing her head. "Will you concentrate on something besides the damn armrest!" she chastised the girl, as they were heading into a life or death mission in a hostile environment. "You need to be medicated," she muttered beneath her breath, as she reaffixed the armrest to her chair. "See. It's fixed. It's meant to come off," she said, before turning her attention towards, Sierra. "I'm sorry, milady. She's not quite domesticated ... *yet*," she said, as her eyes glared towards El-Nay. "Colonel Zevrin is a cold and cruel woman, milady. I thought I had killed her once, but she's a tough bug to squish," she complained, bitterly, gritting her teeth in frustration.

If that Squib was still spewing gemstones when she returned, Sierra would find herself taking a trip to Ithor to visit Doctor Tohan. She was really starting to worry that Ewwie would never stop. She watched the banter between Kerrie and El-Nay transpire. She realized that if she had to go to Delaya alone, she probably would have lost her mind. Instead, she had a small group to support her. "Don't worry about it. I like her. She's good people." Sierra didn't know about the history of Kerrie and Arden. She knew she could add Kerrie to the lengthy list of those who hated that woman. "They say 'in order to kill a snake, one must cut its head off'. I think that's applicable in Arden's case. What happened? As you can imagine, Colonel Zevrin is a topic we don't bring up much. She manipulated me." Sierra growled. "She uses me as a weapon against Claudius. I *hate* her. She will die by my hand."

When Sierra pressed her for more information on her attempt on Zevrin's life, Kerrie began to tense up, as she worried that divulging too much information might lead to more problems. "It was shortly after Lady Jelena defected, milady," she explained, clearly uncomfortable and fidgeting in her seat. "On her way out she shot me, and I ended up in the bacta tank for some time," she said, grimacing slightly, as she was not one to walk down memory lane. "When I recovered I found the Grand Moff and then Major Zevrin quarreling over the ISB's inability to identify Jelena's connection to the Rebellion, and thus prevent her defection. He was going to kill her..." she explained, her carefully copied human eyes rolling toward the ground. "I ... I did not want that on his conscience. I intervened. I threw her into her bank of monitors to electrocute her. I thought she was dead," she explained, starting to breath heavier than normal. "...but she came back ten times worse and she's been insufferable ever since," she said, clearly blaming herself, to the point where she momentarily lost focus and reverted into her native Clawdite appearance. She closed her eyes, steadied her breathing, and slowly reformed into the familiar Human appearance they had come to know.

Her heart ached just hearing Jelena's name. Sierra had allowed her to return to the Rebels where she *belonged*. She prayed that the girl would never end up trapped on the Retributor ever again. Sierra realized that Kerrie didn't know that Jelena still lived. It needed to remain a secret, limited to only a few people. It was part of protecting her best friend. She listened to Kerrie's story in silence. It was true. Claudius didn't need that on his conscious. It didn't matter how terrible Zevrin was. Claudius was too good of a person. She wished that Zevrin had died right then and there. Instead, she was working double time to make life hell for her husband. Sierra tensed. Her heart was beating quickly. She should have killed her when she returned to the Retributor after her deceit was revealed by the family slicer. Her teeth gritted together roughly. Sierra reached forward, placing a hand on the Clawdie's forearm. She squeezed it gently. "You succeeded in keeping Claudius' conscious clean. You cannot undo death." She released her arm and sat back. "Her time will come. I don't know when or where, but it'll happen. Her offenses are growing as we speak." She glanced at El-Nay in the seat in front of her. Sierra stretched her legs out, kicking the back of her seat. "Hey! Wake up!"

El-Nay's head raised suddenly, as her eyes flung open from Sierra kicking her seat. "Huh-wha?" she asked, as she looked around desperately. "I'm sorry. I fell asleep listening to you two carry on about not killing someone and *almost* killing someone," she said, as she smirked at both of them. "*Boring*!" she said, as she stuck her tongue out at them. But then the navicomputer began to beep indicating they were about to come out of hyperspace. "Looks like we're coming up on the Alderaan system," she said, as she placed her helmet back on her head, and repositioned her seat so that she was facing forward with her hands on the controls. "Hang on," she said, as she prepared to bring the fighter into realspace. Their adventure was just about to begin.

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