Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:8:27) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Rodney Castle).
Lord Marcus Rodney and Zara Ta'em.

Delaya. A once unimportant Core World that had been thrust into significance following the destruction of the neighboring planet of Alderaan several months prior. The night sky that was once dominated by the ever present light of the nearby world was noticeably darker and both a literal and figurative shadow of night had been cast upon the planet's increasingly rebellious population. The capital city of Leilani was dominated by densely packed factories that the Alderaanians did not want tarnishing their landscape. In the mountains that looked down upon the city was an ornately constructed castle whose residents for millennia had condescendingly looked down upon the working class people below as the nobles profited off their labor. Yet another party was in the process of breaking up as the rich and powerful drank and danced while their system literally burned from the raging Galactic Civil War.

In one of the castle spires the nearly middle-aged Lord Marcus Rodney had retreated from the party, having consumed far too much of the Alderaan ruge that was growing increasingly in short supply as there was no longer a way to produce any more. His chamber was filled with relics of Alderaan, which earlier this year were commonplace, but now found themselves quite valuable on the black market. Rarity always increased value, but his wealth was such that he had turned down multiple offers for some of the rarer artwork, as they had been in the family for generations. As he sat down on the edge of his bed, he removed the finely polished black leather shoes that, while pinching his toes, nevertheless were the epitome of local fashion. As he stripped off the white tunic the bruisers and scars from his double life as the bounty hunter known only as the 'Nerf Herder' became visible ... trophies from a lifetime of adventure that he had hid from the elites that were departing below him. His tired face slumped into his hands as the effects of the alcohol overpowered him, and an unsteady hand moved upwards to rub first his brown eyes and later his curly dark hair. Letting out a tired, almost pathetic sigh, he threw himself back on the bed, exhausted, having not even bothered to remove his finely woven dress trousers.

Alderaan had been a game changer. Until Alderaan's destruction, no one *really* understood the power of the Death Star. The ability to take out so many lives in a flash was.. well, hard to swallow. Every Rebel felt pain in their chests the day that planet was blown away. Even the young thief, Zara Ta'em, had a heavy heart when the news reached her ears. Alderaan was gone: the second strike. This case of heavy heart turned into a short dance with liquor and stupid decisions. Many of these decisions revolved around not working, not wearing pants, and never leaving her ship. Alderaan had served itself as her home away from home. Now it was gone. What could Zara do? Surely a single person couldn't turn the tides of the war. The galaxy needed a miracle.

*Delaya*. Zara had begun accept jobs as a skilled thief once more. However, tonight's job was nothing short of personal. Word of Lord Rodney's Alderaan collection had spread until it fell on the ears of a petite, seemingly defenseless girl. Several of her sources confirmed that the man was carrying valuables, yet he wasn't willing to sell. She was suspicious that he was waiting for the rarity of the items to increase before selling. As lucrative of an idea this was, it wasn't the way Zara played the game. She wanted something, she *took* it. It was this reason alone that had added her name to the party list for tonight's event. She was the pauper among the rich, yet she blended in like a chameleon. There was a effortless way she shifted masks to make friendly with all kinds of people. Her target, Marcus, was always within her line of vision. She secretly sent drinks to him throughout the night to inspire him to drink more. She wasn't stupid enough to play with the bounty hunter when his head was clear. She wanted it clouded.

A lot of research had been put into the evening. She knew where he was staying within the castle. She knew the lay out of his chamber, with the exception of if he had moved furniture or not. Most important, Zara knew he had things she wanted. At long last, the male parted from the other party goers. Zara's cold blue eyes watched him leave. As antsy as she was to follow him, patience was everything. There was more dancing, more talking, a little bit of drinking, and *finally* it was time to make her way to the castle spire that housed Lord Drunky.

She didn't bother changing from her formal attire. It was unusual for her to work in a dress like this. Changing was too risky. The minute she darted out of a powder room dressed in unfashionable pants, women would scream like a fire alarm. So, she remained in the mostly white satin dress. The skirt portion of the dress flowed when she moved. Her feet were covered by its length throughout the duration of the evening, giving her the opportunity to wear her old, comfortable boots. The middle portion of the dress was made up of a deep blue corset that ended below her chest. Apparently, it was supposed to make her breasts appear bigger...she really wasn't listening at the time she purchased the dress. Her long, nearly white hair rested over her shoulders in large waves. Both of her hands drifted down the length of her skirt until she found two laces hidden in the material of the skirt. She pulled on both at the same time which caused the skirt to shift to knee level. Now she could run. The girl paused at the door leading into his chambers. Her fingers dug beneath the corset. She had added her tools to the lining of the corset. Everything she needed was on her, prepared to be used at the right moment. For now, all Zara needed was what looked to be hand-held laptop. She had cracked through the security of the castle earlier in the evening. In the span of a few seconds, his door was unlocked. *Show time...* she thought to herself. She opened the door slowly.

Marcus lay silently on the precipice of sleep, his usually strong hands pressed weakly against his temples in a vain attempt to rub away the alcohol infused throbbing that was threatening to cause his skull to explode from within. Ever briefly his eyelids would part revealing the brown eyes that still held a bit of roguish whimsy, despite his advanced age, but strong as he was he could barely muster the fortitude to hold his eyelids open. The ceiling above him, which was ornately trimmed in a marble that the laborers down below had mined in the preceding centuries, was nothing more than a blurry haze and his best attempts to focus through repeated blinking proved no improvement. His mind was captivated with the image of a young woman he had glimpsed at the party down below whose beauty seemed decidedly exotic and out of place for the well to do locals that regularly populated his galas. A few years earlier he would have approached her with some cheap line offering an exclusive tour of the castle and then made a move in front of some priceless treasure that was sure to impress ... he had done it too many times before to count ... but no longer. He was bored of the easy conquests, the fawning daughters of factory workers looking to change their life, or the unpleasant looking third or fifth daughters of other nobles looking to secure a trade agreement with an arranged marriage ... he wanted a challenge. The drinks had seemed to come faster than he expected tonight, and while he could usually hold his own, he began to feel an unpleasant sensation deep within his gut. It was something he had not felt since... since... and before he could remember that thought he felt his esophagus begin to tense and he awoke, rising suddenly from the bed. In a blur he had moved barefooted towards the refresher, and began to disgusting heave into the sink to vomit the pool of alcohol that could no longer be contained within his stomach ... which had aged far less gracefully than the rest of the man.

He wanted a challenge? Well, there was one standing less than ten feet away from him. All of the information that Zara carefully picked from her informants were proved right from the moment she stepped into the room. The door barely opened. She squeezed herself into the room slowly. Her eyes caught sight of the Alderaan treasures he was greedily stowing away from everyone else. The paintings didn't matter. There were trinkets, signs for famous businesses, and other items. It looked like he had gone to and End of the World sale and purchased everything...was that a rug?! There was no way to get a feel for everything from this distance. As tempting as it was to race towards her intended goal, Zara remained standing in the dark shadows near the door. She assumed the lights were out in his chamber due to his pounding head as the alcohol burned its way through his body. It worked as an advantage for the little thief. Her eyes flickered onto the man on the bed, the man whom she had watched all evening.

Romance, love, sex, it was all a mish-mash of complication. The men who approached Zara thought her to be some mindless bimbo who would happily spread her legs. *Wrong*. The sight of Zara being less than perfect often sent men running...the few men who she allowed into her life. Like most other people in the galaxy, she craved a companionship that was worth her attention. If Lord Drunky wasn't so... drunk, he might have become a candidate for something more than stealing. She studied him, watching him rub his temples and work his way to sickness. He shot to the refresher like a horse out of the gates...only his path wasn't very straight. She waited for him to collide with a piece of furniture and make her life easier. Sadly, he didn't. The sound of vomiting played in the background while Zara made quick strides to the Alderaan treasures. She picked through a box of trinkets quietly. She continued to pay attention to his noises while she shifted through the box. There was something specific she wanted.

Did he have it?

You bet he did.

*Kain Burgan* was a very famous watch maker who was born, raised, and died on Alderaan. He was also a close friend of Zara's father, her seemingly last connection to a lost family. He had produced a line of pocket watches at one point. They were rare...a limited release. The front of the watch bore the crest to Zara's family. Somehow, this man had one. She plucked only that from the other trinkets, shoved it in a hidden compartment in her corset, and began to make her grand exit.

As his chamber was violated by the perky little thief, the Delayan noble was oblivious, as the sounds of him dry heaving into the sink before him shielded all other surrounding noise. Each heave was magnified in intensity by the effects of the alcohol, and when there was finally nothing left within his bowels he simply hung his head low in a mixture of nausea, exhaustion, and shame. Marcus ran the water to clear the sink of any remaining vomit before he began to splash the cold water against his slightly tan complexion in an attempt to regain some of the composure he possessed only a few short hours earlier. As he arched his face upwards his brown eyes carefully examined every facet of his weary reflection and reflected on the man that he had become. Nearly four decades had transpired since his birth and he had little to show for it other than some treasures, romantic conquests, and adventures in the seedier side of the galaxy as a part-time bounty hunter when there he needed greater amusement. He let out a sigh as he began to towel off with a nearby rag, before returning to his bedchamber just to catch a glimpse of a breathtaking figure bustling from his presence.

The night was young ... and so was she.

"Excuse me, milady!" he called out in a louder tone, not to chastise her, but merely to capture her attention before she was too far out of range. Had he made a greater impression on her than he had thought? he wondered silently to himself, as he attempted, with limited success, to play back the events of the night. Had he invited her to the room? He had certainly done it before, and with not nearly half the amount of alcohol he had consumed that evening. While he waited for a reply he grabbed for a robe that hung on the refresher door in a desperate attempt to cover up and provide him with some dignity, blissfully unaware that she had been present and heard his drunken vomiting only moments earlier.

The treasure was in her possession. His dry heaving and other lovely nauseated noises made her victory seem less *victorious*. If this truly was the beginning of a romance, what a story they'd have to tell. *You see, I broke into his room to steal from him. He was throwing up in the sink. It was love at first sight!* Zara turned on her boot heel. She glided towards the door, quickly opened it up, and dashed out. A small smile slowly appeared on her face. The mission was nearly complete. The best part of it all was that it came without any bumps. Marcus was too sick to catch her now. She didn't expect him to leave the bathroom for sometime...but then she heard him calling to her. Zara had just received a shot of confidence to the ego. She stopped briefly.

Those blue eyes swallowed him up. They held a curiosity for the man who was modestly trying to cover himself. Oh, if she could take pictures with her eyes what a picture she would have! The woman tossed him a cute grin. "Thank you for not vomiting on me. It was a good night, Marcus." She said it so smoothly and naturally. In his state, Zara was hoping to mess with his head. Was she the woman he slept with? She looked at the man, thinking about the landspeeder that was waiting for her outside the castle. She had intended to have her droid bring it up to a balcony for the quickest departure. Then there was Marcus. He wasn't the only one looking for a challenge. This job hadn't been the adventure she intended it to be. A hand casually flipped her hair back behind her shoulder before she darted off. Zara purposely didn't run as quickly as usual. She wanted to entice the drunk man into following her. Only at the end of the line would she reveal what she had taken from him just before slipping away from his grasp forever.

The woman from earlier, Marcus thought silently to himself as he gazed upon her presumed beauty with his weary eyes. He could only presume she was beautiful as the amount of alcohol he had consumed earlier was enough to make someone's wart covered aunt a ravishing beauty. As she grinned he felt his lips involuntarily curl upward, as the night that did not happen was reimagined in his clouded mind. He was tired ... tired enough to let her walk out of his life if not for the way she had said his name, but even in his debilitated state he could still detect something amiss in her tone of voice. "Hey wait..." he called out, but she had already gone, and with a quick flourish of his hand he had tied a simple knot around the cloth belt that held his robe closed and followed after her. The ancient marble looked wonderful, and polished as it was, gave the impression of commanding wealth and status, but in the evening hours it was incredibly cold, and caused him to walk gingerly with the occasionally groan of discomfort as he pursued her in haphazard fashion. She was just a young woman ... a beautiful young woman to be certain ... but he had no reason to suspect her of being anything *more* and thus his pursuit was one of leisure rather than of hunt. It seemed as if each time he closed the distance down one of the winding corridors that meandered throughout the castle he would just catch a glimpse of her white gown, flowing in the gentle night breeze before once again disappearing. Was a woman worth this effort at this hour of night in this state of mind? Surely not, but no one had ever accused him of sound judgment when it came to attractive women. He stopped for a moment, giving pause to consider the ridiculousness of his appearance and conduct should anyone see him, and finally he shook his head in an attempt to rouse himself, before sprinting down the corridor in a manner more accustomed to the athlete he was when sober. When finally he closed the distance and caught a better glimpse of her backside he found himself stopping nearly dead in his tracks and he froze, and in that moment he lost himself, unable to find even a word. "I didn't get your name..." he said, weakly, as nothing more profound could come to him at this instant.

His pursuit was nothing to be concerned about. In fact, Zara bounded around the castle with a sort of playfulness in her step. Occasionally, she peeked over her shoulder only to see if he was getting any closer. He didn't know what they had or had not done. She was confident he hadn't seen her steal the pocket watch. All he knew was that after an evening together, she was making her departure. Zara had made the right decision in working him to this level of drunk. In his usual state, he probably would have overtaken her quickly. Instead, the game was afoot. She turned a sharp corner and was gone once more.

It was surprising, and a little amusing, to see him sprint towards her down the corridor. Her steps became smaller. She was purposely going to let him catch her simply for the thrill of it. By now, the party had broken up. The corridors were empty. The occupants had retired to their rooms while the children still played. The children, of course, meaning Zara and Marcus. For all of his efforts, she slowed down until she stopped entirely. The woman shifted to face him. She wore the same, sweet little grin that she had when their dance began. She took a step closer to him. "A single night together and you're already hooked? I must have done something good." She reached out. A single, soft hand ran over his cheek. "You shouldn't be out here playing games with me. You've had a lot to drink. Come, I'll take you back to your bedroom." She didn't give him her name yet. That hand which stroked over his face now met with his left hand. Her fingers weaved into his and she slowly began to take him back to his room.

It was becoming clear to him that the young woman who stood before him was no meager one night stand, but what she was still remained a mystery to him, and has he gazed silently into her deep blue eyes the wheels inside his head could be seen to turn as he attempted in futility to figure her out. Before he could utter another word she had caressed him and then mentioned his bedroom ... usually he was the one to be this forward ... and now she was taking his hand? "You remember where it is?" he asked playfully, as his hand gently squeezed back at hers reassuringly. He was slightly suspicious of the fact that she could have remembered the complex series of twist of turns and that wound their way upwards into the castle spire that contained his bedchamber. The journey back seemed to take twice as long as they moved slowly ... deliberately ... towards their appointed destination. As he stood noticeably taller than her, his head canted downward slightly to look at the silver-haired beauty. Did she want another round? He doubted it, and he began to have suspicions that something more might be afoot. But the alcohol was still in his system and his guard could only be raised so much. As he opened the door to his bedchamber he stopped, and turned to face her, his masculine, but soft from a life leisure, hands moved to her sides just above her hips to keep her in place. "Well. Here we are ... back at the scene of the crime," he said, playfully, still ignorant as to her true purpose and what had occurred. His older brown eyes looked longingly down at her, but despite her youth he saw a worldliness in her eyes that threatened to reveal her. In the moment all he could do was look longingly down at her, the hunger of lust now replaced with a desire to learn more about her. The double window to his balcony remained open and a gust of wind swept through the room, blowing at the curtains, before rushing between them as if on cue.

Beside him the woman chuckled softly. "*Barely*! You were all over me on the way up." She gently pawed at the front of his robe with her free hand. Zara was good at making herself appear soft, feminine, and harmless. She held his hand close to her body like they were old lovers. She didn't mind taking her time in returning him to his room. For the most part, the thief lived her life alone. Her droid was her best friend...that seriously wasn't saying much. Sometimes it helped to pretend that she didn't miss affection or dream of the possibility of companionship. Her defenses came down for this man just enough to let him close to her. After all, supposedly they'd had a wild night together. Sadly, all good things must end. While he was questioning a round two, Zara had made up her mind to leave once he was tucked in his bed.

At the door, she awaited patiently for him to open it. The room reflected what a crazy night might have looked like between the two of them...only it was from him withering in sickness on the bed. Pieces of clothing were on the ground. The bed was completely unmade. She laughed softly at his joke. "A crime of passion is the best kind of crime." She stated like it was a matter of fact. Taken by the hand, she drew him towards the bed. She even helped him get back in bed and perched herself on its edge after she tucked him in. A hand swooped through his hair softly. "You need to sleep off that hangover. Don't worry, we'll see each other again." She leaned down over him. Her lips tickled against this earlobe. In the sweetest voice, she whispered her name. "Zara Ta'em. Find me if you're serious." As if she hadn't intoxicated the man enough, she placed a kiss on his forehead. The bed shifted as she rose from it. She turned her back on the handsome bounty hunter. Just as quickly as she'd come into his room, she was gone through the open balcony. The landspeeder was waiting for her there. The mission was complete.

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