Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:1:14) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Auntie Mae's ice cream parlor and Medcenter).
Yekaterina Hanson, Duke Julius Rodney, Lord Marcus Rodney, and Lady Zara Rodney.

The HoloNet was once again abuzz with with a story about Lady Zara Rodney, but this time, rather than scandalous videos, there were positive stories about her many efforts to improve the planet. It had been revealed that she had traveled to Coruscant to acquire food from SallicheAg, that she had worked with the Galactic Green Project to improve Delaya's natural wonders, and that she had put an end to a group of poachers in the wildlife preserve. She was being described as a fresh breath of air for the Delayan nobility, as opposed to the withdrawn generation of the current Duke and Duchess. She was being called the people's noblewoman, and many were publicly calling for her and Marcus to be named successors to the Duchy in lieu of Claudius and his Imperial ties. This was the atmosphere that Marcus and Zara unexpectedly found when they arrived to much applause at Leiliani's Medcenter to check on the aged Duke Julius. Feeling a bit apprehensive, Marcus took Zara's hand, and led her past the cameras and crowd to the medical suite where they would find his father and the rest of his family.

It was unexpected when news of Zara's work collided with the HoloNet. She felt that her good deeds should go untold. Only Marcus ever knew what she was up to. Her communication with the Galactic Green Project were back on. Plans became more solidified over messages. She may have only been a sixteen-year-old girl, but she was granted with a voice and intended to use it. Her dealings with the press had been nothing but negative, then something *magical* (or not) happened. People didn't hate her. The video footage from the Islands seemed to move to the back of people's minds. *Everything* had leaked. The idea of her and Marcus taking power in Delaya was something that people *wanted*. She didn't know how to handle it. She was happy, especially happy that her favorite ice cream parlor was just down the street from where her and Marcus were staying. Regardless, she realized the time had come to see the in-laws again. Zara was undecided on telling them about Darrus, yet had brought proof of their son's gender should they need it; the hologram recording of the first ultrasound, complete with gender identification.

She dressed the part of a noble woman today in a light blue, knee-length maternity dress. It was snug to her body while not making her seem overly sexual. She'd taken time to braid her long hair. It was draped over her shoulder neatly. The cameras, oooh, she never would get used to them. All the mental preparation and she still found herself ill prepared for the flash of lights that greeted them at the Medcenter. She was in continuous motion, thanks to Marcus. Zara felt a lot calmer when they approached the medical suite. The sight from Min's camera had given her a sneak peek as to what to expect. She noticed that all the other Rodneys had gone away. Darn! She had purposely worn a shiny bracelet for Ewwie. Next time, she supposed. With her fingers weaving in between Marcus', she took the very first step into the medical suite of Julius Rodney. Livia wasn't there. He laid, alone, in his bed, slowly dying. Zara peered up at Marcus like she was having second thoughts, but still, she moved towards the man. At his bedside, she took his hand and knelt, kissing it respectfully. "Julius," she whispered.

The initial shock of Julius' decline had brought throngs of well wishers from throughout the family, and indeed the entire planet. But now, with no change to his condition, the need to have everyone there had been diminished. Claudius' children had returned to join him aboard his new command ship. Livia had returned to the palace to rest in her own chambers, rather than a hospital room, for fear of affecting her own condition. Even cousin Gaius, who had been controlling access to the Duke had left, in order to arrange his wedding in a bid for his own claim for the throne. Julius lay there, never expecting to see either Marcus or Zara again given how their last conversation went. Therefore, it was something of a surprise when they entered his room. His weary eyed opened wide, and on the monitors his heart rate began to increase to a more healthy rate, as the excitement came over him. "Zara?" he asked, sounding in disbelief, his voice sounding tired and dry. "I was just..." he began, but then stopped to catch his breath, his eyes closing slightly. "...just watching the news about you," he said, before coughing three times in rapid succession.

Marcus was surprised to see Zara move so close to his father, and even go as far to kiss his hand. He allowed her to pass from him, while he remained closer towards the door. He had not left his father on good terms, and had not planned to see him again. He was not prepared for the sight that lay before him. Most of all, he was not prepared for the loneliness of it all. No one was there. Not even an honor guard, as they had been called away from protecting Julius to increase the spectacle that would be Gaius' wedding. He was angry, his hand curling into a fist without him even realizing it. Did all paths in life lead to a sad, lonely death? he thought, sadly, as he looked away from them. There was some cold water on a table, and he helped himself to a glass, in an effort to find any excuse to not greet him.

The silence, the emptiness of the room was sad. Zara hadn't ever been in a situation where she watched a person slowly decline. She felt that more people should be there, that *they* should be there. Like it or not, the man before her had aided in creating the man beside her. If Julius was any other man, Marcus might be different, and, therefore, less perfect for her. She didn't rush her husband. The last time they saw Julius should have been the last. Somehow, the tides had changed within her. Zara slowly lowered herself into an empty chair beside the bed. She could see the man's heart rate increasing. She wondered if he was angry with her or happy to see her. One hand took his old, wrinkled hand while the other idly brushed over it. "It seems like they finally caught my good side, huh?" She referred to the news reports. He was probably happy to not seeing censored pictures of his daughter-in-law and son.

"I got you something." She said, eyebrows arcing. Zara shrugged her small shoulder until her purse came rolling down it into her lap. Both of her hands reached into her purse. From it, she withdrew an elaborate box of sweet chestnuts. She set them beside Julius. "Marcus and I are going to be in town for a while. There was an unfortunate incident involving our chalet..." And Min... Eff that lady. "Maybe we can visit you more frequently?" Did she tell him? Did she not? The heir to Delaya grew inches away from his hand. "I-I'm sorry we left. Life can be so complicated. I didn't know how to handle your... request."

"It seems..." Julius began, but an exasperated sigh prevented him from speaking any further. He rolled his head to the side of the pillow, so that he could more easily lay his eyes upon her. His eyelids were being pulled down, as if caught in a gravity well, but eventually he found the strength to address her. "I have misjudges you," he said, as his eyes moved, inquisitively towards the box of chestnuts, which he lusted for greatly. "You are, of course, welcome to your spire of the Castle," he said, as he lifted his hand, which felt like it weighed several tons, and placed it upon the side of her cheek affectionately, as if blessing her.

Marcus moved to his father and wife apprehensively, with more fear than any of the bounty hunts he left on. "Father," he began, finding it almost impossible to lay his eyes upon the dying man. "You look ... well," he said in a lie, but a pleasant one, before arriving behind Zara and placing a hand upon her shoulder. The action was not to support her, but rather to support himself, as he was on the verge of a complete breakdown. On the HoloNet that was in the room there was a loop of footage of Marcus and Zara entering the medcenter with speculation as to what it meant for the future of the planet and the succession. The noble watchers were on the air giving commentary on the unusual nature of the situation given the historically low unpopularity of Claudius, the rightful heir.

He looked so *bad*. The man had aged three times since the last time she had seen him. Time was ticking down for the old man. She didn't know how that would affect Marcus. It was probably better that they had come when they did. Before Zara extended her olive branch, or chestnuts, Julius welcomed the back into the castle where Marcus had grown up. She opened her mouth to speak, but silenced it when he touched her face. Whatever differences they had, had been cast aside. She reached up, taking the man's hand as it sat over her cheek. She could only guess how exhausted he was. The action was to help him, not send him away. The quiet footsteps leading towards them signified that Marcus had joined in the get together. "I... Thank you..."

One hand continued to hold Julius' while the other reached to her husband's at her shoulder. She squeezed it, offering her support to the love of her life. She heard bits and pieces of the broadcast. People would be outside, hungry for any scrap of information that might come after the meeting. Zara stilled herself in the seat. She peered up to him, then back to Julius. If Claudius wasn't Mister Unpopular, maybe things would have been different. Instead...instead Zara and Marcus were placed in this situation. If a monitor had been hooked up to Zara's heart currently, then everyone in the room would have seen how spiked it was. With a final squeeze, her hand abandoned Marcus'. She reached back into her purse, but this time, she pulled out the familiar device holding the ultrasound. Her fingers were shaking. "I...We wanted to show you something. With the baby." Between her fumbling fingers, Zara accidentally dropped the device on the ground.

Marcus was surprised when Zara offered up the ultrasound revealing their baby was actually a boy, but he was not surprised when he saw her fumble it to the ground. He bent down to pick it up hastily, but unfortunately so did Zara, and they briefly collided noggins. Slightly dazed, both of their hands came to the ultrasound at the same time, but they protested which one of them would show Julius like two old friends fighting over a dinner check. Ultimately both of their hands moved toward his father, giving him the image he had sought his entire life.

Julius' eyes behold the most magnificent sight he had ever seen in his long and tired life. The unborn baby's penis that was bobbing around in his daughter-in-law's belly. They had done ... at long last they had done it. "You must..." he said, raising up from his laying position in the bed to look at each of them directly. "You *must* take the throne," he demanded, as his vitals began rising and falling at an alarming rate. It was then that the medical staff burst through the door, demanding to know what *they* had done, before Julius collapsed back onto the bed. As he faded, a large grin curled upon his face, and he clung to the ultrasound footage with an unbreakable grip. The family was saved.

Zara Rodney was about to kill her father-in-law. The mind shattering image was sure to wreck him. She excused herself to grab the device, then stupidly mashed her head against Marcus'. She let out a little grunt, then flashed him an apologetic grin. She was frazzled and had stopped paying attention to the world around her. The sounds of the Holonet broadcast had bled into the background. Without Marcus' help, she could have never taken on the massive weight that the device held. She considered forcing him to take the weight himself, muttered something along the lines of 'no thanks!' before deciding it was best to do things as they always did: together. Team Zarcus was so much more powerful than Zara and Marcus separated. They presented him with the picture. Zara was fully convinced that Julius was about to die.

Julius had been waiting all his life for this very moment. The evidence was undeniable. The monitors were beeping all around them. The old man summoned up enough energy to raise himself, *beckoning* them to take the throne...well, beckoning was a generous word. She said nothing when the medical staff came running through the door. They were accusatory with the couple. Zara's hands flashed to the elder Rodney. She tried to pry to device from his hands. She *tried* to stop them from seeing, but a death grip had come over the passed out man. For Zara's tired, frazzled mind, the man was dead. She ignored all vital signs and began to cry. "Ohmygodohmygodohmygod." For twenty straight seconds, Zara hyperventilated and clung to Marcus. It took her that long to realize that his vitals were ongoing, and that everyone who walked in the room knew about their baby. In a whirlwind of events, several paparazzi broke through the hospital's security, darting into the room. There, they began to take pictures of the one thing Zara couldn't hide anymore.

"We should go," Marcus said, as he took hold of Zara, and began to lead her from his father's medical suite. The doctors and nurses were attending to his father now, and his primary was focus was to get his wife to safety. They were being hounded by the paparazzi who were invading their personal space, harassing them, and trying to get *the* picture that would make them the most profit. The crowd that had gathered for Julius' death watch was now in baby fever, cheering for the young noble couple, and congratulating them on the news they were having a boy. As they entered the protective speeder, Marcus moved his hand to unbutton his collar. "Well, that went about as well as could be expected," he said to her, laughing slightly, before drawing her near to cradle him against her in the back of the vehicle. "So. Ice cream?" he asked, abruptly changing the subject and acting as if nothing was wrong.

The old man wasn't letting go of that ultrasound. He'd wake with the damn thing in his hands. Zara was forced to leave it. She wanted to get away from the Medcenter quickly now that their personal space had been imposed upon. She made her exit on her husband's arms. This time, she handled the paparazzi smoothly by ignoring them entirely. The news had gone public within minutes. Those who were cheering for the couple would be pleased. As for the others? Well, you couldn't please everyone. She disappeared into the protected speeder with one hand on her tummy. Zara turned her head, looking at Marcus when he joined her. Light hearted as can be, she began to laugh. "I thought I killed him..." She laughed, shaking her head, "Worst April Fool's joke ever." Her heart was still speeding from the scare. Scooting in close to him, she took residence in her favorite place: close to him. She nuzzled her body into his affectionately. The mention of ice cream resulted in a big smile and another healthy laugh. "Yes, please!"

It didn't take long for the speeder to make its way through the city. Their favorite ice cream joint, Auntie Mae's, was simplistic on the outside. A bright pink roof hung over the quiet little parlor. Displays in the window indicated that they were now selling freshly made cookies with their ice cream sandwiches. Another new addition was the pints of the store's ice cream up for purchase. Zara grinned wide. She placed several kisses to her husband's neck. "I love you! I'm gonna do you so hard later." She giggled softly. A kiss later, she made her way out of the speeder. There were no annoying paparazzi to ruin her appetite. Instead, Zara could see a large woman inside, Auntie Mae, scooping ice cream for a group of kids. She waited for Marcus to join her before she tackled the parlor. From the moment she opened the door, Zara's senses were taken over by ice cream smell. "Mmmmm..." Like a kid in a candy shop, she excitedly began to browse the flavors locked away in display cases. She peered back at him. "Whatcha gonna get?"

Marcus did not expect her to react by coming onto him, but he knew a pregnant woman's emotions were unpredictable, and anything was possible. When they arrived at the ice cream parlor, he smiled at the children who were getting their sweet treats. He envisioned a future where he and Zara would take young Darrus here, and smiled, becoming lost in a dreamscape of a brighter future. He came up behind her, placing his arms around her in his most favorite way of holding her. He placed his chin upon her shoulder and looked down into the display clase at the multitude of flavors that were laid out before them. "Starblossom," he said, as he reached forth to point at it, before turning his head slight to place a peck upon her cheek. "And you?" he asked, as he smiled lovingly at the most popular woman on Delaya.

The parlor was one of the hidden jewels of the city. Zara was in her happy place, made much happier the moment Marcus' arms wrapped around her. Though he couldn't see her face, she was still smiling brightly. Her hands rested on top of his. She watched the children, especially a particularly little one with a three scoop filled cone whose face had become absolutely covered in Galactic Grape. She could see it too; a bright new future for the three of them. She imagined how glorious the first time taking Darrus here would be, and all the times that followed. Her heart felt warm with the joys of being a mother and a wife. For so long, she had allowed herself to stupidly believe that she would never be anything more than a little thief. To her surprise, this life suited her better. The delightful sound of his voice deposited her back to the current moment. Her smile grew brighter, eyes following his finger to the specified flavor. "Yummy," she turned her head, too late to interrupt his peck, but not late enough to steal a kiss of her own. Her finger gently tapped the glass in front of her, "Plum sweet potato. Preferably like three gallons of it." She laughed. As the children scurried off to a table to eat, Zara happily ordered herself two scoops in a waffle cone. Auntie Mae, who wasn't a social recluse, noticed the couple. She didn't make a big stink out of it. It wasn't like this was the first time she'd seen them, nor would it be the last. They'd need her on speed dial for those odd-hour cravings in the third trimester. "Auntie Mae, you make the greatest ice cream known to man. I'm an addict." She admitted, staying attached to her husband while taking a few licks off of her ice cream. It was the last thing she needed to get her head straight.

As Marcus and Zara enjoyed their ice cream there was a sudden commotion outside of the shop. Suddenly, and without warning, Yekaterina Hanson entered into the room, flanked by two members of the Alderaan Guard in their brown uniforms and white blast helmets. "Milord," she said to Marcus, with a nod of her head and a polite smile. "Milady," she said, bitterly, as if the word coughed a trail of acid to drag along her tongue. "I am ordered to provide protection for the likely future Duke of Delaya who is currently occupying residency in the Lady Zara," she said, as the guards began moving the others out of Auntie Mae's ice cream parlor in order to provide the necessary level of security for individuals now as important as them. Kat did not like her task, but she nevertheless would carry out to the best of her abilities in service to the Duchy.

"Hmmm..." She lifted her thoughts from ice cream and what she was going to do to Marcus later. Looking outside, who did she see but Frumpy Hat and two magic body guards. They made a scene, likely blowing the cover of the quiet ice cream shop. Zara was unhappy to see Frumpy Hat. She wasn't going to let it spoil perfectly good ice cream. It was hilarious to think that Kat, who hated her so much, was now forced to work for her safety. "Wait...stop." Zara spoke calmly to the guards. "These people, these *children*, are having a perfectly good time. Let them stay, just this once." Her attention turned to Frumpy Hat next. "I'm still new to this whole royalty thing. How obnoxious are you going to be? Do I really need both of them?" She continued on with her ice cream. The news had already reached the Rodney castle. It wouldn't be acceptable for them to stay in the hotel tonight. "Did Livia send you?"

Marcus could not believe it when Hanson and the Alderaan Guards showed up to protect them. "Kat, be on your way. I am perfectly capable of protecting my wife and unborn son," he said, directly, feeling no longer a need to cover up Darrus' gender. He was mortified to see the strain put on the children who were attempting to eat their ice cream, but Auntie Mae seemed quite pleased that her shop was getting free advertising on the HoloNet as the favored desert spot of the most popular people on the planet. This was the life he thought they had fled, but now they were suddenly thrust back into. "Just when I thought I was out ... the pull be back in," he said to Zara, as he finished the last bite of his Starblossom ice cream, leaving an unnoticed cream mustache upon his clean shaven face.

"Indeed, they are having a good time, Milady," Yekaterina replied, as she saw to the securing of the ice cream parlor. "Yes. You really need them ... perhaps more," she said, with a firm nod of her head, as the guards began frisking the children to ensure that they were not armed. "No. The Duchess did not send us," she said, cryptically, as she was informed by the guards that the children were not armed and the parlor was secure. One small blessing was the fact that the security was driving back the paparazzi and swarming fans who had gathered outside of the parlor.

And he was. Marcus had already protected them many, many times. Zara trusted him entirely. She wasn't going to feel comfortable with Kat and Company following them around. Zara abandoned her seat to direct the post-frisked children back to their seats. It seemed the moment she looked up, she saw the growing crowd in front of the parlor. Had Marcus really dealt with this the entirety of his life? She returned to the table to finish up her ice cream, only to find herself face to face with his new ice cream mustache. Ignoring her annoying visitors, she grabbed a napkin and happily wiped off his mustache while she giggled. She had ice cream in her belly and a hubby who loved her. Today, Kat wasn't going to see her mood sour. Her hand rested on top of his. "Not today." Everything wasn't going to revert back to how things had been. Their adoring fans, including Frumpy Hat, needed to learn about their personal space bubble.

"No, no. I really don't need them. Marcus has protected me for almost three months while I've been carrying our son around. I'm good." Who had sent them? She figured that there would be people who'd want more proof of their baby's gender. "We're actually going to head back to our hotel for the night. As you can imagine, it was a wild day. We'll come visit you at the Castle soon, Kat." Her fingers locked in between Marcus' while she inched off of her chair. The next time she looked outside the window, the mess of flashing lights and fans had grown. Zara sighed. "And now we get to deal with *that*. That was your fault, Kat. You drew them to us." In reference to the mess.

Marcus had no time to listen to Kat, but he would get to the bottom of who issued the orders for them to get such a high level of invasive protection. Taking Zara by the arm, he led her from Auntie Mae's ice cream parlor, and back onto the streets of Leiliani. Flashes from holorecorders erupted in something reminiscent of a lightning storm as they all took simultaneous images in rapid succession. As they moved towards the speeder, they were pelted in a shower of blue flowers, symbolic of a male pregnancy. He was quick to get here into the speeder, as they were now covered in blue pedals. Their speeder sped off towards their hotel, but unfortunately Kat and her cronies were following behind in their armored military speeder. He wrapped his arm around her in the back of the speeder, drawing her near, as an endless series of flashes seemed to come from the street as everyone seemed to want a picture of the *it* couple during their most momentous of days. "Welcome home," Marcus said to Zara with a soft chuckle, as he turned to place a loving kiss upon her lips. If they were going to take pictures ... let them be good ones.

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