It was very early in the morning. The sun had yet to
rise and all was quiet. Sierra Rodney had not slept a
wink. Her mind was racing with thoughts of her husband
enduring the Battle of Chandrila alone. She had gotten
used to never doing anything alone. To her surprise, she
had become very codependent on her husband...and vice
versa. She recalled everything that they had endured,
from Jelena's 'death', becoming Duke and Duchess of
Delaya, suffering through both Livia and Julius' deaths,
to Bruce's traumatic rollercoaster of a birth.
Everything had one consistency: Claudius and Sierra
worked through it together. Her fear for the Inquisitor
minimized. She would *not* let him face this alone.
"We're going to be with Daddy," she told Bruce
In the wee hours, she loaded up everything necessary
for her son into El-Nay's old bucket o' bolts, and
together, they set off towards Esseles. She trusted that
her girls would remain safe on New Aldera, for Mug
didn't have the heart to hurt a Squib. Jelena was there
too, which made Sierra feel *slightly* better about what
she had done. The Mandalorian Kom'rk class starfighter
came to settle outside the estate long before the sun
had risen. Sierra looked down at Bruce, who had slept
for a majority of the flight. A smile crept up her lips.
She loved him...and she loved Claudius. She marched
towards the estate with Bruce's belongings in tow. She
did not call out for her husband when she arrived as
much as she wanted to. Instead, she began her search for
"Not on the couch," she told Bruce. She scaled the
first flight of stairs with extra precautions since it
was the first time she did it holding a baby. She peered
into her room. "Not here either..." Bruce made a little
whine. "I know. Don't worry, we'll find him." She paused
to place a kiss on her son's forehead. At last, she
proceeded up the final stairs and into the observatory.
There, she found her sweet husband fast asleep. Sierra
felt that warm sense of completion wrap around her body.
She was home.
Claudius Rodney had lost his entire family on the eve
of the biggest battle of his military career. He was too
preoccupied with the new Inquisitor to pay any attention
to Lieutenant Meham'ohoroiv'cloca's reports on the
operation at Chandrila. When he returned home to went
straight to his observatory where he programmed the
coordinates of New Alderaan within the ash worlds. On
that distant planet named for a world he once considered
a second home lay his wife, his daughters, his son ...
everyone that mattered to him. He wanted to be with
them, but for him to give there would mean betraying the
Empire ... betraying the Emperor ... and he could never
do that. He did not want to spend the rest of his life
running. He believed that if he could defeat the
Rebellion here ... now ... he could live a life of peace
with his family. He lay there looking upon the world,
missing his family, until he finally fell asleep to
dream of a galaxy where they were all together again.
Sierra watched him sleep. She debating not waking him
up before realizing she was just as impatient as he was.
They needed to be together, and it needed to happen
*now*. She stepped forward towards what Ewwiekewwieikkie
referred to as the 'big shiny'. She glanced at it. She
didn't need to look to know where he was looking. Her
poor husband. He endured so much. The hardships were
likely never to end, only now he didn't need to take
them alone as he had tried to. Sierra reached her hand
out. Her fingers softly ran down his cheek. "Claudius,"
she whispered. Bundled up at her chest, Bruce watched
intently. He had quite an exciting first day. His second
day would be better because he wouldn't be separated
from his father anymore. "I'm here."
Claudius' slowly opened his eyes when he felt
Sierra's hand upon his head, but as he awoke he became
startled and raised his head too quickly ... right into
the telescope. "Ow!" he cried out, as he brought his
hand up to his head to rub at the developing bump. It
was only then that it dawned on him that Sierra was
back. "Sierra?!" he called out, as if he was still
dreaming, unable to accept that she was really back. But
as it began to dawn on him what was going on he realized
the danger in her being here. "What are you doing here?
The Inquisitor!" he shouted in a panic, which only
intensified when he saw she had their son with him.
"Bruce?!" he called out as well, as he began to panic.
He had worked so hard to smuggle her out of the system
to be safe, but now she had come right back into harm's
way. He was terrified.
She cringed as he hit his head on the telescope.
Their son was doomed. *Doomed*! "Are you okay...?" She
asked, looking worriedly at him. The realization crossed
his face before her. She saw the panic and the fear on
her husband's face that only grew with the appearances
of their son. She *couldn't* leave him on New Aldera
without her. "Shh, shh..." She tried to calm Claudius
down. Sierra could feel Bruce begin one of his little
kicking fits. He'd do *anything* to get out of the
blanket. She sat beside her husband. She wore a serious
look on her face. In a seemingly random action, Sierra
reached into her pocket and pulled out what looked to be
a worn piece of paper. She unfolded it, her blue eyes
flickering up to his face. "Did you know I wrote you my
own vows on our wedding day?" It seemed like Sierra had
fallen off of her rocker during the hardest day of her
life. "I was far too embarrassed to read them to you in
front of all those people, so I'm going to read them to
"Claudius Rodney," she began, looking him in the
eyes. "On this day, I vow to love you eternally. I vow
to cherish you for every minute of every day that we're
together." A little smile showed at the corner of her
lips. "I vow to stand before you during the most violent
of storms as well as rejoice in every triumph." She
dropped the paper, taking his hand in hers. "Finally, I
vow to never let you sleep alone. For the nights you've
spent alone have come to an end. I love you." Her smile
grew a little more until her dimples were visible. "I'm
not going anywhere. I'm not leaving. I'm aware of the
dangers but I can't ... I can *not* hide during this. We
will be okay. *He* will be okay." She referred to their
son. "But we can only make this work if you and I stay
Claudius did not say a word, but instead attentively
listened to the words that she was about to speak. As
she spoke the words she was too scared to speak upon
their wedding day his heart began to melt and tears
began to flow from his eyes. He felt ashamed that he
could ever be upset that she came back to him. He
brought his hands up slowly to embrace both mother and
child, wishing he could remain like this forever. "I am
glad you are here. Even a short time away from you is
painful," he told her, as he lifted his head to place a
kiss upon her lips. "Are the children safe? Is Doctor
Tohan okay?" he asked, as everything happened in such a
hurry he was uncertain if the fate of his family and
Sierra gave him the tightest one-armed embrace she
could. Her head met with his shoulder. She missed him so
much. Neither heart, body, or mind liked being away from
him. She had tears in her eyes when her head rose. "I
know. It hurt far too much to not be by your side. I
need you to embrace the fact that I'm going to be
attached to your hip for a very long time.." She smiled.
The kiss was so sweet. He brought strength back to her
while they basked in their reunion. "Doctor Tohan is
okay. Doctor Bailo said that after a few days of rest,
he'll be a lot better. The children are safe.
Ewwiekewwieikkie and Melickielickie are both with
Jelena... And Dru... Ah, Dru's with the damn Prince."
Sierra made a face. "She ran away after I grounded her.
As much as I don't want her to be there, his castle is
heavily guarded. It may be the best place for her right
now." Sierra sighed. She didn't have the strength to
chase Dru to Pollix's planet. She adjusted. "You know...
Jelena got to meet Bruce." Sierra said, offering the
half-bundled boy to his father. It seemed like Claudius
could use the baby's affection as well.
As Claudius looked at the way Sierra had swaddled
Bruce he wished that he couple wrap her up to keep her
safe as well. He was glad that the children and Doctor
Tohan were safe, but when the subject turned to Drusilla
the news incensed him. Even in the midst of a power
struggle with Inquisitor Thrope and an impending
showdown with the Rebel fleet he still was very much a
father. "Damn that boy. When this is over..." he said,
angrily, but then she delivered some news that almost
immediately calmed him down. "She did?" he asked, with a
smile on his face, before his son was turned over to
him. He was much easier to handle while swaddled as his
arms and legs were not offering any resistance. "I
missed you so much," he said to the boy, smiling from
ear to ear as he looked on him in awe.
"...I'll hold the boy and you'll punch..? Or stab, I
won't blame you either way." Sierra smiled. It was so
good to return home. The battle that was about to take
place would be extremely tolling. She cuddled close to
her love now that she was no longer holding their son. "Mhm.
He got all pouty on her too. She said that there's no
need for a paternity test." Sierra giggled. That pout
was killer! "I'm glad she had the chance to meet him."
The new mother began to swell with pride as she watched
Claudius and Bruce. Bruce had such a determined look on
his face. He was trying so hard to get out of being
swaddled. "He missed you too. It was his idea to come
back home. All I did was drive. Doctor Bailo examined
him more in New Aldera. She said he's a medical miracle.
His developments are nearly a month ahead of schedule.
No one can explain it." She rained down some good news.
Claudius comlink began to beep, but once again he
failed to answer it in order to focus on his family.
"He's pouting already? Oh no," he said, as he too pouted
down at his infant son. He looked up from his son to
Sierra, but did not immediately answer her question. "If
... if what the Inquisitor said about him was true we
may have our answer," he said to her, nervously, as he
tried to come to terms what the implications of having a
force-sensitive child meant. He had served with Jedi
during the Clone Wars, but from his point of view they
had attempted to assassinate the Supreme Chancellor and
take over. The power they had was considerable, and he
feared an older Bruce having a temper tantrum and
causing the house to collapse in on them. "You're too
young to remember," he informed her, as he brought his
hand down to caress his son. "Perhaps the Emperor wanted
him to train as an Inquisitor..." he speculated, putting
a brave face on a terrible possibility.
Oh no. Not the comlink again. Sierra registered it.
After what had happened the last time they ignored their
comlinks, she should have learned better. She couldn't
bring herself to care right now. Especially not after
Bruce mimicked his father's pout...only he was doing it
because he was angry he couldn't free his legs. "See!
I'm a sucker for that!" If Dru ever found out how well
the Rodney pout worked on her, they'd be bankrupt
overnight. The conversation turned back to a topic
Sierra wanted to discuss. Bruce's 'abilities'. "When we
were summoned to His Majesty's palace...when he took
notice of me. It was almost like Bruce drew him in. The
Inquisitor showed up so quickly after that... It ... it
*has* to be true." She looked down at the boy. It was
hard to imagine him growing into a monster like
Inquisitor Thrope. It was even harder to imagine him
dead. Her head rested against his shoulder while they
spoke in the still of the morning. "That... That is a
worrisome thought. We cannot hide from him. Eventually,
we'll have to find out what his intentions are." Sierra
brought her hand down on their son. "Do you think he'll
really take Bruce away from us?"
"In the days of the Republic the Jedi would claim all
force-sensitive children and take them into the Order
for training," Claudius explained, giving her a
firsthand account of the Republic history he lived. "I
have had encounters with Inquisitors as of late, and
given by their age I assume they are either remnants of
the old order or children trained by the Empire ... but
I never asked questions," he explained to her, as he
continued to look over the delicate features of their
baby. "I can't predict what the Emperor wants with our
son. Maybe it is for this purpose, or maybe it is for
something else entirely..." he said, growing
increasingly worried, which caused his breaths to grow
heavier. "We cannot avoid this forever. Perhaps you are
better off on New Alderaan, which thus far has been out
of Imperial sight," he said to her, as he started to
tear up again. He did not want to be apart from his son,
but he could no longer guarantee his safety within the
boundaries of the Empire.
She listened to him. The Jedi Order had been
disbanded some time ago. No one had attempted to revive
it in all these years. She had heard stories of
force-sensitive children who were born and put to death
immediately by the Emperor. What he said made sense.
There was no need to ask questions until now...now when
there was no one safe to ask them to. Sierra didn't want
to think about the Emperor's intentions. In time, they
were going to find out. If she could prolong it, she
would. She shivered. It was hard to steel herself and
stay strong. "No, no, no." She leaned over to kiss his
cheek. "We must... We must leave the girls there."
Sierra said softly. Her eyes began to lower. "Bruce and
I can't go back. If the Emperor was able to feel our son
in my womb, then how long will it be before he can feel
him from New Alderaan? For Jelena...we have to keep New
Alderaan undiscovered. We will remain here. With you. I
don't have answers to any of our questions. I feel
scared too, but we can't endure this without each
"The Inquisitor has shown she will stop at nothing to
get what she wants. She tore apart the sickbay. She
nearly killed El-Nay. She won't obey my commands, and I
am not strong enough to defeat her in a fight," Claudius
explained, going over a laundry list of reasons that
were causing him fear. "She may be able to sense Bruce
here even now," he said, with his voice featuring a
degree of fear and trepidation. His comlink beeped
again, which caused him to look at it momentarily,
before refocusing on Sierra. "Every time I think we're
making progress we seem to encounter even greater
setbacks," he said, as he remembered how good he felt
following his encounter with the Emperor. That
Inquisitor had surely knocked him down a few pegs ...
more than a few actually.
She tensed. The last thing she wanted to see was the
Lepi who forced Bruce from her. She felt overprotective,
angry, and raw. Sierra didn't like it when people
decided it was okay to mess with her family. The comlink
briefly distracted her. She could only imagine what was
happening now... Claudius was standing at the front of
one very large battle that he *needed* to win. "No.
We're going to push through this like everything else. I
don't want to run, hide, and play games with this
Inquisitor. When the battle of Chandrila has ended, we
will request audience with the Emperor and go find out
what he wants. You've anticipated the arrival of our son
much longer than I have. I will *not* allow these gray
clouds to ruin this moment. That Inquisitor can come
here. She cannot have Bruce. He is too premature, too
small to spend time away from us. She may not fear you,
Claudius, but *everyone* fears failing the Emperor." The
comlink beeped again. "Dammit." She grabbed his comm,
answering in an annoyed voice. "Major Rodney. What is
it?" He needed his wife ... and his adjutant.
From aboard the Retributor Allegra Ames had been
attempting to contact Governor Rodney, but once again he
had ignored her repeated hails, which was endlessly
frustrating. She was just about to take a shuttle down
to the surface when Major Rodney answered the comm. "Ah.
Major, I was not aware you were..." she began, but then
stopped herself, as she realized she was talking out of
turn. "News from Chandrila, milady. We've lost another
cruiser. This time to sabotage," she reported, quick and
to the point. It was a relief to be the bearer of bad
news from orbit, rather than in person. "Please inform
the Governor," she reported, before concluding the
"Until the Rebels actually do attack so that we can
defeat them we will not have leverage over the
Inquisitor, nor the political capital to speak to the
Emperor," Claudius informed her, reluctantly, as it was
a terrible feeling to sit around waiting to get
attacked. Just when he was about to continue Sierra
snatched the comlink from him and received more
troubling news from Chandrila. "Another cruiser?!" he
exclaimed, before lowering his head. If he was not
holding his infant son he would have reacted far, far
worse, but for the sake of all involved he attempted to
remain calm. "We can't get through one moment without
bad news..." he complained, as he tried to refocus
himself in the wake of the latest setback. The way the
Rebellion was picking off his ships he wondered if we
would even have a force left to deploy when the Rebel
Bruce was the only member of the family who wasn't
affected by all the bad news. All his efforts were
rewarded when he finally freed a single, sleeper covered
leg from his blankets. He had a rather smug expression
on his face. Sierra and Bruce had been doing the dance
all day long with keeping him wrapped up. The boy
stopped fighting at that point, instead watching his
father with bright, blue eyes. He cooed softly. Sierra
digested the report from Allegra slowly. Another cruiser
was gone. A voice in the back of her head whispered for
her to gather her family and run. She looked down at
their son, then to Claudius. "Another cruiser..." She
shook her head. There was so much bad news that it was
overwhelming. Sierra needed to attempt to pump up her
husband as the Emperor had. In the wake of this bad
news, she rose. "Take Bruce and go to our room, I'll
meet you there."
She slowly made her way back down all the stairs. Her
mind was full of worries and concerns. If Claudius lost
the battle of Chandrila, she feared what would happen.
Downstairs, Sierra prepared a bottle for Bruce, then
began dragging his specialized bassinet up all those
stairs. The woman felt dead on her feet by the time she
reached their room. She placed the bassinet aside where
their son would be close, but not so close that a
whisper would wake him. She lingered near the armed
chair in the sitting area within their room. She briefly
took Bruce back from Claudius, if only to swaddle him
properly before feeding. "Everything has been insane
today. I'm forcing you to take a break. Now, sit down
and take off your tunic." Sierra pointed to the chair.
She laid out Bruce's blanket on the bed, then placed the
baby in the middle of it. She expertly swaddled him. Her
motherly instincts had arrived. When he was ready,
Sierra took the baby back to Claudius. She gave him the
baby, then a bottle. The close skin contact with the
baby was instantly bonding for Sierra. She wanted him to
experience the same. More than anything, there was
nothing as mind numbing relaxing as feeding an infant.
Claudius followed Sierra's orders and moved down the
stairs cradling his son. It seemed to take him a half
hour, as he took every step gingerly, for the fear of
dropping the baby was at the forefront of his mind. He
moved into their bedroom, where he carefully sat down on
the edge of the bed and waited for his wife to return.
"Hi," he said, as he looked down at the baby, who he
carefully placed down upon the bed. "I am your father,"
he said, before placing the tip of his forefinger on the
little boy's cheek. "Mommy ... your mother ... will be
right back," he said, correcting himself, as he briefly
found himself drifting into a baby voice. It was then
that Sierra returned, whom he hoped did not hear his
'cutesy voice'. "Yes. It has been insane," he said, as
he watched her move away with the baby. Following her
orders again he began to remove his tunic, stripping
down to his undershirt. "Another cruiser..." he said,
repeating her words from earlier. He was simply unable
to let it go and put it past him.
Oh, you bet your bottom dollar that Sierra heard it.
Her ovaries made a bigger explosion than the Imperial
cruiser that had just been lost... Too soon? She didn't
make a point to embarrass him over it. She found it
completely adorable. All this time he worried about his
abilities as a father. In reality, he was so damn good
at it. "You stay in here, okay?" She said to Bruce once
the blanket was wrapped around him. The boy let out a
deep breath, then yawned wide. She knew that the cruiser
wasn't something she could get out of his mind. For this
moment, she would prolong that conversation. With Bruce
prepared for bed, she handed him back to Claudius. She
gave him a bottle too. "I think it's about bed time for
him. Have a moment of peace with your boy, then we'll
talk everything out." She kissed Claudius on the lips,
then repeated the same action with Bruce. "Mommy loves
you so much." Sierra spoke in her own 'cutesy' voice.
She then laid on the bed in her normal spot. She had
been ignoring all the aches of her recovering body for
far too long.
As Claudius watched Sierra put their son to bed he
reflected how absent he had been with his previous
children. He wondered if his mother had ever done
anything like that for him, or if she had the servants
do it. He was not sure when his mother started drinking,
but before he could try and think back on the subject
Sierra was back on the bed with him. His hand moved to
his belt, which he quickly unfastened, and then he
allowed his pants and boots to hit the floor. He shifted
his position so that he was laying on the bed, facing
his wife, who he was grateful to have back in his
company. But he knew that above them lurked an
Inquisitor who would have no qualms with tearing them
each limb from limb to get her paws on their son.
Tonight he would sleep with one eye open ... if he could
manage to sleep at all.
Sanity crept back into Sierra's mind. It was
impossible for her to sleep away from Claudius. The few
hours she had managed to sleep, due to exhaustion, on
the way to New Alderaan was all the resting she'd done
since Bruce's birth. She felt that now that things were
beginning to slow. Sierra scooted towards Claudius until
her body was nudged against his. There, her arms locked
around his neck in a way that said she was *never*
letting go. "Claudius, my Claudius.." She said as she
kissed his chin. "We're going to make it through this
together. In the morning, I'm coming with you to the
ship and we'll work through it all. You've been dealt
another terrible hand of cards, but I still believe in
Claudius never wanted Sierra to let go, but he knew
at some point they would have to face what was out there
waiting for them. He tensed when she mentioned the idea
of joining him on the ship ... *she* was up there. "I do
not think she can be reasoned with," he confessed to
her, as he had never met with an opposition such as her
before. "Are you sure that's a good idea?" he asked her,
as he had his doubts. The Inquisitor possessed powers he
had never seen firsthand before. She had instilled true
fear in him. He really believed that if given the
opportunity she would kill Sierra. He knew their lives
did not matter to her ... only her mission mattered ...
and despite what she said about Chandrila her mission
seemed to be Bruce.
"I don't either." She feared the Inquisitor as well.
If Inquisitor Thrope pulled the same stunt with her
again, Sierra might not survive. She rolled her head up
to look at him. "No, but don't you think it's better
than Bruce and I becoming sitting ducks here? She claims
she's here to aid your victory. She should be on
Chandrila then." Sierra sighed. "I wish we could all
hide in a bubble until this is over. I'm so angry about
what she did." She finally started showing her feelings
on the most recent events in their lives. "She took
Bruce from me. She put both of our lives at risk for
what...a display of power?! Everything was going so
smoothly and she took it from us!" Sierra was furious
and upset. She began to cry. "S-She took it from us..."
Claudius had tried to hide her in a bubble. A bubble
called New Alderaan. But, she was back now, and he knew
she would not let him talk her into leaving again. "It's
alright. He came a little sooner than we expected, but
he's here now ... and he's healthy and beautiful," he
explained to her, as he brought his hand up to her face
to wipe away her tears. "We still have everything. We
just have to fight a little harder to keep it," he told
her, trying to sound confident for both their sakes. He
did not want to see her cry. Perhaps he should try
swaddling her like she had swaddled their son.
The bubble had to include him too. New Alderaan
wasn't a safe haven for Claudius. For now, she'd have to
accept the bubble that she found in his arms. There was
safety here. She tried to stop herself from crying.
Everything had been entirely too stressful. "H-He is
healthy and beautiful. . ." She agreed. Physically, he
really looked like both of his parents. He was adorable.
It was love at first sight. His attempts at being
confident were enough for her. Sierra sniffed. She
didn't regret bringing both her and Bruce back home.
They all needed each other. "We will. We'll keep
fighting for as long as we have to." Sierra wouldn't
argue about being swaddled. At this point, she'd
probably enjoy it. The tears slowly stopped. She took a
deep breath. She needed to be at peak performance
tomorrow, which meant that they needed to actually go to
sleep. She settled very close to him. "We're going to
figure out everything and bring the family back
together." She told him, recalling that he had fallen
asleep looking towards New Aldera. "Until then, Bruce
and I will keep you strong." With her words, Sierra
kissed her husband.
Claudius thought he could face up to any enemy in
battle, but in Inquisitor Thrope he had an enemy who
chose to attack him by exploiting his love for his
family, and that he could not face. "We will. I know we
will," he told her, trying to be brave and confident for
her sake. In truth he did not know what they would face
as they returned to the command ship. Chandrila had been
under attack for days. If the Rebellion was ever going
to come to their aid he imagined it would be soon. The
kiss suddenly broke his chain of thought, and as it
broke he looked at her, blinking slowly. "I love you. I
feel stronger already," he told her, as he wrapped his
arm around her and drew her near. As his arm tightened
around her he wondered if he would manage to get any
sleep. He was exhausted, but every time his eyes began
to fall shut he opened them, stirring slightly,
terrified that the Inquisitor was going to burst in.
Eventually he did fall asleep, as a light rain began to
fall outside the estate, causing a relaxing patter upon
the windows. Storm clouds were rolling in ... and not
just on the surface ... a sector away the Rebel fleet
was preparing for battle.