Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:5:17) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Marcus Rodney's chalet).
El-Nay Darr, Duke Marcus Rodney, and Duchess Zara Rodney.

'Coronation' was the single word that Zara Rodney did not want to hear anymore. All kinds of people were coming out of the woodwork, contacting her and Marcus in one way or another for details on the coronation. A date had been set, and as it pressed closer, the young woman felt more and more like she was going to explode...or maybe that was her *due date* that was resulted in that feeling. Though the couple had returned to the chalet, they were only granted peace away from the HoloNet terminal.

They were in a difficult transition currently. With no turbolift (though Zara was already 'throwing a fit' to make sure one was put in the castle before they made their move), that left the couple staying inside of a bedroom on the lower floor intended for guests. She was doing best to be supportive and strong for her husband. She was there for every step of his recovery. At night, when she couldn't get comfortable enough to sleep, she worried about the Governor ever connecting the dots that Marcus was the man who had been laid out just outside Papius' garrison. She needed to figure out a way to make sure he could *stand* for the coronation ... but how?

She had worked with ships enough that she understood their mechanics. The mechanics of making something invisible to the naked eye to help Marcus stand was infinitely more difficult. Currently, she was busily being frustrated by her side project. She sat on the couch with her swollen feet elevated on the table in front of her. She had a stylus in one hand and a datapad in the other. Her latest drawing now showed scribbles all over it. Another failed attempt. Letting out a groan, Zara rested the datapad atop her tummy and sat back. She was running out of ideas.

Marcus Rodney was sitting in a large, comfortable chair with his legs up on a footrest, with a knit blanket wrapped tightly around his lower extremities. He looked, and felt, like a man twice his age. Not being able to walk, or even use his legs, had made the revered bounty hunter feel as helpless as a young child. And he was ten days away from having two children of his own who he worried he would not be able to help with. The weight on his shoulders was almost too much to bare, and as he sat there eating his soup he barely said a word. The only noise was the sound of him *slurp*ing the soup. His eyes moved across to her, where she seemed equally lost in her work on the datapad. "What're you up to?" he asked, as he placed his half eaten bowl of soup aside.

It was overwhelming for both of them. The twins could arrive at any point, yet Zara's body decided she wouldn't be fortunate enough to go into labor earlier. She had seen a study on the HoloNet that spicy food had been proven to inspire early labor, and so, she'd been testing out that theory. So far? Nada. Nothing but heartburn. She felt that she would be better for Marcus if she wasn't an unstable hormonal sea cow. Her natural worries about motherhood bred with all the other worries. Above all else, she felt insanely overprotective over her husband. She needed to keep him safe.

The datapad on her stomach was suddenly kicked off to the ground as she gasped. The twins wanted out as badly as she wanted them out at this point. Rubbing her belly, she responded. "I was trying to design something for you... Something that can help you stand, at least for public's sake." She bent over, reaching across the mountain of her stomach to collect her datapad. "I'm afraid that Papius will find out who you are. I already think he's suspicious since I had to pretend to be you in the herdship. If we can fool him...if we can make you walk...then he'll leave you alone." Her concern for her husband rang out in her words. She loved him beyond all else. At things stood, Zara *couldn't* protect him from Papius Arundel. She didn't posses the lithe, lean form of an active thief. Instead, she was a slow moving target.

"The man's a fool, which should mean he's easy to fool," Marcus said with a reassuring smile, as he stretched his neck to attempt to look over at her, but he could not quite reach far enough. "I suppose there's no way out of a formal coronation..." he said, as he had in his mind began considering excuses to bow out of the ceremony. "Well, let's see what you have," he said, swallowing nervously, as he wondered if this was something she could pull off. His wife was a technical wizard, but could she really pull off something like this? To him it seemed impossible, but Zara had surprised him before.

Zara smiled. "Not unless I go into labor. That will only prolong it, not cancel it." She had looked back into his family history to see if there was *any way* out of it. Zara had found no shreds of hope. Nothing. They were going to have to make do with it. Slowly, she rose from the couch and waddled towards him with the datapad in her hand. "I dunno how good this is. There's a lot I have to figure out." She explained shyly while removing her angry scribbles from her blueprint. She showed him her drawing. It depicted a device which was composed with metals. It was made to follow down the length of both of his leg to the bottom of his foot. The problem was determining how to stabilize him. There would have to be something involved in the portion that went around his pelvis. All of it seemed farfetched and, quite frankly, a terrible idea. "I... I'm not sure. I've been trying to think of a design that's slim enough that no one will notice it under your clothing, but it also has to accomplish the task without using a cane or some outside support mechanism."

"Let's just hope you don't go into labor during the coronation. Now that would be quite the scene," Marcus said, as he looked carefully at his wife's schematics. "Well it *looks* wonderful. If we ever lose the throne you can always move to Corellia and sell caricatures at the beach," he said, with a loving smile, as he leaned up to place a quick peck on her cheek. "I have a lot of these parts in the armor," he said to her, as he looked it over more carefully. "The rest should be fairly easy to get without attracting any attention. It's worth a try," he said, he trying to encourage her, and recognizing the effort she put into it. He would never be able to serve as Duke of Delaya without Zara at his side as Duchess, and he knew it.

"Noooo! That *can't* happen. The last thing the people of Delaya is more ammunition to support the theory that I'm some trashy commoner." She groaned. If Livia was still alive, this would have killed her. Zara had found herself living under a microscope since the news that she and Marcus would be the Duke and Duchess had broken to the public. The fashion police had even devoted a new section on their site to her called 'Muumuu Watch'. Her hand ran over his arm idly. She let out a soft chuckle. "I'm glad you've already thought out our plan B." She turned her face so as he kissed her cheek, she told a kiss to his! "You do?!" Getting the parts was another portion of the battle. Again, without raising suspicion, Zara needed some pretty serious stuff. His support was what she needed right now to push her to try to accomplish her impossible task. "Okay, I'll check out your armor and see what else I need to get. We're running out of time already. Some woman contacted me to come in for a fitting. What the hell... Do they actually make nice clothes in my size?" She couldn't do this without him. Every step, even the little steps, were terrifying. Slowly, Zara boarded the arm of his chair. She wrapped both of her arms around her husband. "We'll get it all figured out. It's kinda what we do."

"Of course they make nice clothes in your size, Zara. Every designer in the Core is lining up to dress you for the coronation," Marcus said, realizing that all eyes would be on her and he could wear any old thing. Just then he could spot lights out of the window followed by the unmistakable sound of a ship's engine. "Looks like my walking will have to wait. We have company," he said, as he reached under the blanket where his Model 434 blaster pistol was concealed. It could have been the Empire, or someone from his bounty hunter days looking for revenge, or it could have simply been family. He never knew what to expect these days, but he did know that even if he had to crawl he would fight to defend his family.

El-Nay Darr had piloted an Imperial shuttle to Delaya on a routine courier mission for a very important person, her newest friend, Sierra Rodney. As she was an honorable woman she had not inspected the contents of the box she was delivering, so as a result she did not know she was carrying the crown jewels of Delaya. As she landed beside the small chalet where Marcus and Zara had retreated from society she was mindful of Sierra's warning about the creature in the lake, but she was not afraid. As she descended the ramp instead of walking to the chalet she moved towards the lake to see for herself. "I bet there ain't even anything in there," she boasted, cockily, as she moved upon the ice. She spun around 360-degrees, looking all around, but seeing nothing she was confident Sierra was playing a joke on her she began heading towards the chalet. *That* was when disaster struck. The ice cracked suddenly and a tentacles emerged from beneath as swift as lightning, wrapping around her right leg, and dropping her to the ground. "Gaah!" she screamed, as the creature began pulling her into the icy water. She quickly activated her jetpack, but rather than bursting her free, all she managed to do was to keep the creature from pulling her further under. Thinking fast she activated the flamethrower on her wrist gauntlet, shooting a column of flame down at the tentacle, which caused it to release her and retreat under the water. Unfortunately, her jetpack was still at its maximum speed when it released and it sent her towards the chalet at maximum speed. She crashed through the window, coming to a stop directly in front of Marcus and Zara. She was dazed, but, remembering her mission she quickly motioned towards the box. "Your sister-in-law wanted you to have this," she reported, without missing a beet. This was perfectly normal for her.

The coronation was an overwhelming topic for her. She had watched his brother and her sister-in-law endure the ceremony. Sierra had even given her tips on how to survive it whilst on the herdship. Regardless, she was insecure and afraid of embarrassing him. Unlike him, she hadn't grown up in the public's eye. She saw things on the HoloNet that played with her hormones...and her insecurities. She felt like she needed to be *more* than what she was, yet her birthright was something she could never change. Her emotional state was mostly due to how pregnant she was. You have no idea how massively uncomfortable she was. Her head snapped towards the front door. The sounds of an intruder were unwelcoming. She worried first that Papius had sent someone to see Marcus, or the Governor himself had shown up. Zara rose to her feet and tensed. "Who is it..?" They had a fierce security system outside. She intended to check surveillance before anyone entered the chalet.

That was her intent anyway. With El-Nay, entrances are always key. The large, bay window before the couple exploded as the Mandalorian made her sudden entrance. If not for her distinct orange armor, the woman would have been shot down the very second she crashed into their adobe. Zara had never liked El-Nay. The girl rubbed her in the wrong way to the point where she didn't back down even once she saw who it was. Maybe it was that El-Nay reminded her of a younger Luna in some aspects. Maybe it was entirely irrational and unseeded in any logical reason. She looked towards the box. It was from Sierra? "I don't want it! Take it back to her!" Zara could only assume that her sister-in-law was furious with her and sending some sort of hate gift. "Take it back and fix my window!" Zara cried.

As the window crashed, Marcus swiftly drew his Model 434 blaster pistol from beneath the blanket, preparing to firing it. If the entrant had been wearing any color besides orange he surely would have blasted them into oblivion. "Use the door," he complained, as he placed his weapon back down. When he saw the box he wondered what on Delaya could be worth all that trouble, but before he could investigate Zara had already declined it. He had no choice but to side with his wife, and it was clear to him she was not yet ready to accept anything from his brother or sister-in-law. "Return it," he demanded, echoing his wife's sentiments. "And exit through the damn door," he said, glaring down at her from his chair.

El-Nay stood up slowly before thrusting her hands upon her body to knock the dust off. "Oh no. I didn't come all this way carrying this box just to have to bring it back," she said to both of them, as she extended her hand with the box. "Take it. Or I'm going to get in trouble," she said, frustrated that she had found herself in the middle of some family dispute. "I'm sorry about the window, but this creature attacked me and I had to get away," she said, lowering her head and making excuses. "How about I just leave it here?" she suggested, as a compromise. In her mind that constituted doing the job that was asked of her. Her debt to Sierra would not permit her to fail the mission.

What the hell was in the box? Zara stared at it. She was still waiting for repercussions to be served for shooting her pregnant sister. It hadn't been a great moment in her life, she'd admit that much, but she couldn't handle retribution right now. She perched herself back on the chair. The broken window was allowing for an icy chill to sweep into the chalet. She'd need to move Marcus and summon someone to have the window properly fixed. . . more to add to her lengthy to-do list. "Sir Tentacles? Is he okay? Did you do anything to him?" The sea beast was their protector. He had paid his rent on more than one occasion. The compromise didn't seem good enough for Delaya's newest Duchess. She looked at El-Nay suspiciously. "You open it. Let me see what's inside the box." She recalled when Julius had hired her to make peace. Perhaps this was a peace offering and not hate mail. Zara sighed. Her hand moved into her husband's. The perks of living in the chalet were soon to fade. Visitors would be a common thing once more.

"Uh. What?" El-Nay said, as she glared at Zara from beneath her helmet. "Is the creature okay? How about, am I okay?" she asked, suddenly becoming very insulted at her question. "It tried to drag me under the lake so I gave him a taste of my my flamethrower," she boasted, before bringing her arm up over her torso and slamming her hand into her chest plate triumphantly. "Fine. Fine, I'll open it," she muttered, as she set it down upon the coffee table. All of Zara's concern had worn off on her, and as she held her hand against the opening she began to wonder if maybe there was something more to it than she realized. She closed her eyes flipping the lid open and when an explosion did not occur she slowly opened her eyes. What she saw was nothing short of amazing, causing her mouth to hang open in awe beneath her helmet. In front of her view were the crown jewels of Delaya. "Listen, honey. If you don't want 'em I'll take 'em," she said, as she swung her head in Zara's direction.

She rolled her eyes. If the sea beast had attacked her, then she had almost certainly gotten too close. Zara folded her arms over her chest. She didn't blink as El-Nay slowly began to open the box after placing it before them. As soon as she saw what was inside, she realized she should have thought of it since the beginning: the crown jewels of Delaya. The contents of the box had been in their family for centuries. They served as yet another reminder that time was running out: the coronation was coming. Zara needed to work on her prototype. She glared at El-Nay. "No! These pieces are important to our family... Even if I'm not happy to see them." Sierra had told her the crown was heavier than you realized until it was on your head. She had wondered if those words were metaphorical or not. Zara's shoulders fell in defeat. "Tell Sierra thanks... " Her eyes were already moving from El-Nay to the front door, hoping she got the point.

"I will, Duchess," El-Nay said, with a very poor curtsey. Once the exchange had been made, instead of leaving, she just stood there with her hand extended as if she was expecting a tip for delivering the box. Only when it looked like Marcus was about to shoot her did she move away from Zara and begin to leave ... this time through the door. As she walked towards the ship she considered firing her rocket into the lake to make one last effort at the sea monster, but she decided it was not worth her trouble. Instead, she dutifully returned to the ship to head back for more mindless Imperial service.

"Well, that was thoughtful of them," Marcus said, carefully, in a gentle effort to make nice with Zara considering the rest of the family. "You going to try it on?" he asked, as he looked at the large tiara, which could have passed for a crown on some worlds. "I've been told it's going to practice," he said to her, with a smirk, and a soft laugh. "Go ahead and set the crown on me, if you feel you can lift it," he joked, as his eyes looked over towards it with some reverence. They had been in the family for more than 700 years and he had come to respect them, despite the fact he never expected, nor wanted, to become Duke. However, now that he and his wife were to assume the mantle, he thought it only right that they should have all of the perks that came with the job.

Zara watched El-Nay leave with discomfort. She meant to threaten the woman not to bother her sea beast, but then opted not to. If she wanted to fight with Sir Tentacles, then she would find herself in a world of hurt. The beast was massive and powerful, as they had learned from a first-hand close encounter. When she was gone, she turned her attention onto the contents of the box. She looked at the tiara. "It's huge! It looked a lot smaller when we weren't close to it." She eased herself when the sounds of El-Nay's ship disappeared. Reaching into the box, Zara's hands carefully took hold of the crown. "Oh gez," she said, surprised to discover how heavy it was. "You're not kidding. If I lifted this thing every day, my arms would be huge." Between both of her hands, Zara lifted the crown from the box. Her hands were visibly shaking from fear of dropping the crown and injuring herself. Clearly, the crown would win. "I'm pregnant, I'm not supposed to be doing any heavy lifting." She stuck her tongue out at him playfully. She stood before him, carefully lowering the crown onto his head. "How's that?" She asked him, adjusting it. The tiara was the next piece that she brought out of the box. She offered it to him rather than putting it on herself. "You look like a Duke, Marcus." She leaned in, kissing his cheek.

Marcus let out a soft groan as the crown was placed upon his head, thankful that his neck did not snap from the sheer weight of it. "I don't think I'd be able to walk with this even if I had not been shot," he said, as his hands quickly moved towards the side of the crown to make another adjustment. "Fortunately, we don't have to wear these very long, or often," he said, as he tilted his head down to look at the tiara that she had handed him. He reached up with all of his strength to place it upon her head. "You deserve this. More than any other woman I have ever met," he said to her, as he looked up from his helpless position. "You are the best possible Duchess to lead the people of Delaya out of the ashes," he said to her, as he leaned back to simply look up at her and admire how she looked with the tiara upon her head.

"You're right. They took them off Sierra and Claudius super fast at their coronation." That was something to look forward to. She couldn't imagine wearing something that heavy on her head all the time. Looking at Marcus, she felt her pride in her husband swell. He may have not wanted the crown, but he deserve to wear it. Her insecurities lied in if *she* deserved to wear the literal ton of tiara in her husband's hands. As she had been warned, the tiara was heavy. As it settled in the crown of her soft silvery hair, Zara felt no different. She was still herself...still the woman that Marcus loved. His words were immensely touching. She began to cry almost spontaneously. He always knew what to say, when to say it, and how to make her feel a lot better about *everything*. "Marcus!" She sniffed. Her arms locked around him tightly. Her lips pressed into his. The transitional period in their lives was scary, but, as long as they had each other, they'd keep riding it out forever and ever.

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