Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:1:9) in the Essesia system: Esseles (The Void).
Lord Marcus Rodney and Lady Zara Rodney.

Marcus was going every centimeter of the equipment that Min Traebor's agents had collected on Delaya and delivered to him in their secret lair on Esseles. He would not put it past her to put a tracking device, recording device, or even an explosive device amongst his armor, weapons, and droids. Whatever the Major wanted him to do he would do if it meant getting back home with his wife and unborn child. So far everything seemed to be in order, but his mind was elsewhere. He was thoroughly distracted and could not get his mind off the image of Min's hand on Zara's belly. He promised himself that once Zara and the child were safe he would find a way to punish Traebor for what she had done, and was continuing to do. He had hoped his past would never touch the lives of those he loved, which is why he wore his helmet and only worked under a pseudonym. But now creatures like Min were beginning to uncover his identity and it his past was coming back to haunt him. His thrantas were coming home to roost.

Marcus wasn't the only one feeling disturbed by how Min touched her belly. The action was a cruel reminder of how powerless Zara was. Try as she might, the only way to get out of this situation was to do the jobs. Min would free them of her own accord...a fact she hated so much. After he had checked her small laptop equivalent for tracking devices, Zara began her research. She thoroughly checked the internal contents of the device to see if it had been tampered with. Her extensive passcodes and facial recognition seemed to have done the job, because nothing was out of place. She sat on the bed, burying herself into the task of finding a weak spot in the Star Destroyer's cyber defense. It wasn't easy and it wasn't going to be. Her distracted mind was not helping her. She wondered if they would have been better off staying in the Rodney castle, accepting their fate as royalty. At least someone would know they were missing now. She had received no contact from Claud.

She let out a frustrated huff of air, eyes flashing up towards Marcus. He looked just as distracted as she did. "If you grab Min, I'll punch her." She tried to comedically break the tension in the air. "I can't find a way out of here without doing what she wants..." That part was admitted bitterly. "There's no way to know what's awaiting us on that ship."

"Min is not the problem, my love," Marcus said over his shoulder, as he sat on the floor in the corner of the room checking the charges on the power packs to ensure they were powered. "The problem is the fact that we are untold number of levels below the surface. The problem is that there might be a legion of Stormtroopers and Black Sun droids between us and the surface. The problem is that the 'Nerf Herder' is an Imperial fugitive," he said, rambling off a long list of worries that were consuming his thoughts and threatening to prematurely gray his hair and give him an ulcer. "As much as I hate to give her the benefit I think it's best to just let me do this mission for her so that we can get past this and move forward with our lives," he said, before lifting himself off the floor and striding across the room towards her. "I'm sorry that we're still unable to accept the reality of who I am, Zara," he said, unable to look at her as he spoke, instead shifting his eyes downward at the floor aimlessly.

There *were* a lot of problems. If there had been a simple escape route, then they wouldn't still be stuck in their cage. She listened to Marcus verbalize the worries that had been building in their silent work. Her face dropped. Life had been throwing them so many complications lately. They hadn't distanced themselves from Julius' heart failure and the fallout that had come. Zara rose to her feet. He wasn't even looking at her anymore. Wordlessly, Zara approached him. She took both of his hands, leading her poor husband to the bed where she had him sit at its edge. She placed herself in his lap, knowing full well that she acted as a paperweight on him. He'd have to delicately remove her if he felt ballsy enough to try it. Her hands were on his cheeks, gently moving his head until they were eye to eye. She'd address his insane idea of her not going with him. There was something that topped that on her agenda. "Marcus, there's nothing to apologize to me for. I'm not mad at you. I don't think this is your fault. I do accept who you are. If you weren't the *Nerf Herder*, then *we* wouldn't exist. I would have been cremated on the floor of my old shop. In the situation of Min, you did what was right. You can't beat yourself up for that."

Marcus let out a gust of air as hi wife sat down upon his lap. Each day she was getting bigger, or rather, their unborn son was getting bigger within her. His arms wrapped around her with a fear of never letting go. When his arms completely encircled her, his fingers intertwined, and held together firmly. "I love you, Zara," he said to her, as he used his grip around her to draw her more near to him. As he listened to her kind, reassuring words, his chin nestled upon her shoulder and placed soft kisses upon her ear and neck. In this peaceful moment they were offered a break from the hardships of galactic affairs that plagued their desire to live a quiet life as newlyweds and expectant parents. "I will get us through this. I promise you ... both of you," he said, before placing his hands upon her stomach, and embracing the love of his entire family.

Ah, shit. She really needed to watch her weight. It was hard to be conscious of her body when it seemed to *always* grow. She inched in as close as she could be to him. Her hands pressed into his chest where she felt his beating heart. It didn't matter how much danger they were in, Marcus could soothe her. "I love you, Marcus," she replied sweetly. Her eyes snapped closed to really enjoy his kisses. "Don't go without me," she mumbled. "I can help. I don't want to be here, powerless, totally unable to do anything for you. The thought alone drives me insane. I promise I'll be careful and show more caution than ever before." She knew she needed to plead a good case to him. This was more dangerous than the missions they had been embarking on. Her eyes opened again. They were red hot and filled with tears. She was scared. Really, truly scared. She looked down at his hands. She knew how much he loved them and how much he sacrificed for the safety, the *happiness* of his family. Zara held him close now, arms wrapping around his shoulders. "You're such a good father already." She told him, laughing softly. "I can't even feel him yet, but I know he loves you endlessly."

"I would vow to be a better father than my own, but I fear that would not be much of an accomplishment," Marcus said to her, with a soft laugh as he tried to take his mind off what they were going through. "Zara ... I've let you go on hunts with me, but this is different ... this is the Empire," he said to her, slowly, knowing full well that she would react negatively to his urge to exclude her. "There are dangerous people she wants me to get involved with...." he warned her, his voice trailing off as he looked past her to the space beyond. "I don't want anything happen to either of you," he said, before he finally turned his head to look at her, his brown eyes staring at her intently with a deep sense of love and compassion. He had been put through so much and he did not want his past misdeeds to cost him the family hew had only recently found.

Darth Vader himself probably would have made a better father than Julius. Zara laughed, "You accomplished that within a fraction of a second after we found out I was pregnant. You're so good at keeping me and our baby safe." His instincts were always to protect them instead of himself. It was touching. Zara had never felt truly valued until she met him. His love for her was undeniably real. Maybe that was why she let herself understand his side of things. It wasn't going to be so easy to keep her and Darrus safe. They'd walk on the Destroyer outnumbered. Zara still had fight left in her. She had a million bullet points floating in her head as to why he should take her. In understanding him, she had to throw away all that logic. She watched him stare off while she considered pressing on. "I don't want anything to happen to *you*." Her eyes met with his beautiful, browns. "I'll agree not to come with you, but I won't agree to idly sit back and do nothing. I'm gonna hack into that stupid Star Destroyer. I can be your eyes. No one will touch me here." She loved him so much. Unable to contain herself, she kissed his lips. She wished she could marry him a thousand times ever just to show him how much she loved the fact that she would spend the rest of her days with him.

"Nothing is going to happen to me. I'm the Nerf Herder, haven't you heard?" Marcus said, playfully, as he rocked her back and forth gently on his lap. "I have had several unpleasant encounters with Traebor in the past, and while she is a wretched creature, I do not believe she will hurt you," he said to her, reassuringly, as he placed another series of kisses upon her neck. "She *needs* me to do these tasks for her, and she knows that if anything happens to you I won't," he said, explaining the cold logic behind his judgment of Traebor's plotting. "The ironic part is that my brother is up there right now, but I cannot go to him," he said, with a profound sense of disappointment, followed by an impassioned sigh. "I really was born into a complicated family," the Delayan noble correctly pointed out with another brief laugh.

A hand covered her mouth. Zara dramatically gasped. "*Y-you're* the Nerf Herder? I had no idea! I thought all that armor was for sexy time. What are you going to say next? That you're Delayan royalty?" She pressed her nose against his. Her nose nuzzled against his affectionately. Marcus made it damn hard to be upset when she sat in his lap, being rocked back and forth. His kisses were so sweet. She began putty, melting away in his lap. As soon as they were out of here, she thought, she was going to do something extra special for Marcus. He really was like her knight in shining armor, as cliché as it was to say. Her fingers brushed through his hair slowly. "Don't worry about me. I'm keeping my blaster when you go. Let's see if that bitch tries to touch my tummy again." There was an audible growl in her chest. It was the worst thing that Min had done yet, but, like Marcus, she didn't suspect anything would happen between the two of them while Marcus was off completing her tasks. "I contacted him as soon as we arrived. I haven't received a word from him." She nudged him with her nose. "All families are complicated in their own special ways. I say we blame Claudius!" She laughed. "I guess now's a bad time to suggest a big ol' family reunion, huh? I don't think the galaxy has enough alcohol for that." Zara joked.

"You contacted him?!" Marcus exclaimed, his jaw hanging open as he looked upon her with shock and amazement. "Zara ... I'm not sure that was the best idea," he confessed to her. "I would hate to involve him in this mess," he said to her, as he swallowed uncomfortably, desperate to bring any moisture that he could back into his mouth. "I promised you that you'd not get entangled in anymore of my familiar affairs, Zara, and I intend to keep that promise," he said to her, as his arms tightened around her, holding her as close to him as he could without hurting the baby.

"Of course I contact him. Imperial insanity is *his* thing." That, and Zara was desperate. "I'm sorry..." She apologized right away. "I thought he might be able to help." His silence was a loud answer to that question. It seemed like he didn't care. She wondered if regular families were really supposed to be like this. "You're forgetting that these aren't just your family affairs, they're *ours*. I knew what I was getting into when we got married. We face this stuff together, not alone." Her arms locked around his. Her body was nudged firmly against his like she wasn't going to let go. She certainly didn't want to. No matter what, Zara was bound to worry for his safety. Her mouth found its way to his weak point, his ear, only she didn't molest him there. Instead, she tried to brighten his mood again. "I heard back from the *Galatic Green Project*. They want to take on the Delaya project."

"The Empire is a complicated, living creature, Zara," Marcus began, as he moved to lay back on the bed, gently lowering her down with him as he shifted position. "Despite his rank and stature there's little he can do as it concerns the ISB and Intel," he informed her, in an attempt to justify his brother's lack of intervention. Little did he know what was happening with his niece and how his brother's life had once again been thrown into disarray. "I'm glad you're able to help our people, Zara. The world our son will grow up on, and his children will grow up on, will be much better than the one I grew up on thanks to you," he said, as he moved his lips to her forehead to place a tender kiss upon it. He loved her very much, but wished he was the simple nerf herder in the great plains of Delaya rather than nobleman and a bounty hunter extraordinaire.

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