Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:10:11) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Marketplace, Rodney Castle, and Spaceport) and Nerf Herder.
Yekaterina Hanson, Duke Julius Rodney, Duchess Livia Rodney, Lord Marcus Rodney and Lady Zara Rodney.

The Nerf Herder descended rapidly through the skies over Leiliani, as if an in flight emergency had just been declared. At the controls Marcus Rodney was intently watching the altitude as the pollution emanated from the factories in the city limited visibility. His hands were wrapped so tightly around the controls that his knuckles were white, and his face was flushed red as the adrenaline surged through his body. There were beads of sweat upon his furrowed brow and temple, matting his hair, all the while his brown eyes locked decidedly on the viewport as he adeptly navigated the craft towards the spaceport at unsafe atmospheric speeds. "Hang on! We're almost there," he pleaded, over his shoulder, at an increasingly desperate Zara Ta'em. There was not a moment a spare ... this was the most serious crisis they had yet faced on their journey together ... she *needed* purple sweet potatoes. And she needed them *now*.

After a truly incredible honeymoon on Delaya, Zara was ready to head home, nest, and continue to celebrate being newlyweds. It seemed like the job she had wanted to do with him was backburnered for now. Marcus was overprotective over her. He probably wasn't going to greenlight field work. Being pregnant was a new experience for her. She had been feeling relatively better. There was a lot less vomiting than the day they found out now that she wasn't overly stressed. On the way home, Zara felt the strangest desire for purple sweet potatoes (the difference is that they are sweeter than white or orange yams). It was the kind of desire that overpowered everything else. It wasn't just that she wanted them, it was like she *needed* them. Her body was suddenly starved for the wonderful, sweet nourishment from those purple sweet potatoes. And Marcus, the poor husband, worked hard to make her desire turn to reality instantaneously. The Nerf Herder was traveling face. Zara was clinging to her seat. "It's okay! Slow down, turbo!" Her stomach growled loudly as the ship hazardously docked at the spaceport over Leiliani. The landing was rough, to say the least. Zara escaped from her seat at the first possible moment to snatch up her messenger bag. She had already decided that she would fill it with as much potatoes as she could. "Hungrryyy!" She whined while waiting for him to join her at the ramp. She stood there, dressed modestly in a pair of loose black pants and a cute top. Too bad for her, Marcus wasn't the only man lucky enough to see what was underneath it. Her hand took his arm immediately. "Food! I smell it!" There was no stopping her. She was driving into the crowded port with the intent of filling her belly.

Marcus felt himself dragged by the youngster, who despite being pregnant seemed to have an infinite amount more energy than him. Before they knew it they had found themselves in the marketplace from where vendors had shown up to sell foodstuffs from all over the core, albeit at inflated prices due to the influx of Alderaanian refugees. All around people were staring at them, which Marcus initially assumed because he was a member of the ruling family and a local celebrity. There were people who were snickering and several women were blushing red with embarrassment. The older individuals looked disgusted and were going out of their way to avoid them. Wherever they were people were gawking. It was only when they entered deeper into the marketplace near one of the watering holes did they realize the truth of it. The holonet was broadcasting a special report on the tabloid video of Lord Marcus Rodney and an unidentified, underage girl engaging in sexual intercourse and then marrying in secret. There was a nude image of Zara being offered for sale by one of the vendors looking to profit off the news sensation. "Oh no..." Marcus said to Zara, squeezing her hand, as he stated the obvious and realized the full impact of what had transpired. They had been exposed, publicly, and humiliated. The entire planet had seen *everything*.

All the girl asked for was some god damn potatoes. And what did she get? Liquid hell. The people staring only bothered her a little bit. Marcus was well-known in these parts (and apparently she was too). However, the looks were bad. An old man sneered at her like she had stepped in a giant pile of poo. A feeling of discomfort began to grow inside her stomach. She looked down at her clothing, then up to Marcus. "Do we smell weird?" She asked him. If they had smelled weird, it would have been infinitely better than the truly scandalous video of her and Marcus being played over the holonet. "No..." There was a badly censored video of them on the beach with a woman talking over it. The next segment showed their wedding. When Zara looked around, she noticed all the nude picture of her (and likely him too) being sold. "No!" Thrust into the public's eyes, the newest member of the Rodney family escaped from the clutches of her husband. She quickly moved to a vendor that was selling images of her. She picked one up. "What the hell is wrong with you!?" She screamed at the alien running the vender. "This isn't for you to see! None of it is!" Zara was on a rampage. She ripped through picture upon picture upon pornographic picture of her and her husband. The owner of the vendor was yelling at her. Was Zara done? Hell no. "You don't have my permission! You can't sell these and that.." She pointed to the nearest screen. "Stop playing that now!" The video had widespread. Even the fucking Grand Moff had likely seen it. Zara's cheeks were red. She was furious.

The vendor thoroughly protested Zara tearing up his booth, arguing that because she was now a member of the House of Rodney and a public figure her image could be sold. The yelling intensified and before too long the Alderaan Guard had been called to the scene, and unfortunately for Zara the first on the scene was Yekaterina Hanson, compete with her blast helmet. "What's going on here?" she asked the vendor, not yet realizing it was Zara that was causing the reaction. But, once she did, her reaction was priceless. "You?!" she asked, incredulously, unable to believe the young woman would show her face around here after all of the trouble she had caused for the family that she served. "You've got a lot of nerve coming here," she said to her, stepping between the vendor and Zara, to do her job and keep the peace. "Clear the area," she ordered, planting her feet down, and placing both of her hands on her hips to puff herself up.

Oooh, she didn't care how much the vendor protested her. She was a F5 tornado. There would be *nothing* left when she was done with her chaos. The shreds grew at her boots until a familiar, but not friendly, face showed up. Miss Frumpy Fucking Hat. Zara was seeing red. She couldn't believe that the paparazzi had managed to capture their wedding, not to mention all the sex they'd had on the beach. The guard did not stop Zara in her tracks. She lifted her head. She acknowledged and remembered the woman. Did she stop? No. Not at first. First she toppled the stand with the untouched pictures on it. Frumpy Hat's words struck a chord. The blue-eyed woman growled as she stepped over the busted up stand.

"*Me*?!" She yelled, "You've got a lot of nerve coming here! People are tainting my wedding. They are making it into something *ugly* and *perverse*. I've been exposed even further than my underwear and you don't even want to protect *me*. I'm part of the family you so call serve, so why aren't you stopping this!?" She snatched a picture from a nearby man's hand, throwing it towards the woman. Zara was getting closer. She prowled like a feline. Like it or not, Zara had killed. Zara stole. Zara knew how to dismantle Frumpy Hat (and would have if she were armed better). "I'm so fucking tired of this Rodney family bullshit. Why can't you all just leave us alone!?" Zara lunged. Yes, she was pregnant. Yes, she did adore the baby in her womb and worry for it. It was the rage that blinded her. She thrust a fist towards Frumpy Hat while clicking the toe of her boot on the ground. She always hid a dagger in her boot. There was about to be a whole hell of a mess.

Yekaterina scoffed at Zara's outburst, and raised her hands from her hips, folding them in front of her chest. "You are *not* a member of that family. You were married by a disgraced drunk who barely got the words of the ceremony right," she said, glaring at her, in uncharacteristic anger. Although she did not come out and say it, she was one of a countless number of one night stands enjoyed by Marcus. She had, for a few moments at least, dared to dream she would be in Zara's place ... she was a bit more salty than jealous. "There are even some reports that you're not even old enough to be legally married. How old *are* you anyway?" she questioned, tilting her head to the right with a smug smile and an arch of her eyebrow as she posted the question. Before she got an answer that smug smile was knocked right off her face as Zara's fist connected with her jaw. Her head rocked back, as her teeth cut into her mouth causing some blood to flow out of her mouth. Her hand was quick to raise to her face to check the damage, and when she saw the blood she became incensed. "You bitch!" she screamed, as her hand moved to the DH-17 that was holstered at her hip.

Before it could go any further, Marcus was quick to step in, hoping to stop the cat fight from going any further. He did not like the way that Yekaterina spoke to Zara, but he was not quick enough to stop Zara from throwing the punch. "Enough," he pleased, as he attempted to interject himself between them before Yekaterina could strike back. "Take your hand off that weapon. She's pregnant!" he blurted out, unfortunately, which caused all of the patrons in the marketplace to audibly gasp, as they had gathered at the start of the fracas. Several of them had recording rods out and were capturing the whole scene, hoping to profit off the ongoing drama. It was then that Marcus realized what he had done, and silently mouthed an apology to Zara, before attempting to lead her away from the chaotic crowd.

Zara's cheeks were red. Miss Frumpy Hat had successfully pissed her off and attempted to put citrus in her open wounds by questioning her age and declining that she was a member of the family. When things got heated and Zara threw the first punch, the situation escalated in an entirely different way. Zara looked pleased with herself having caused damaged to the stupid slut's face. She had, efficiently, wiped that smug grin right off. It wasn't going to be a simple, pathetic cat fight. It would have turned into a duel to the death had Marcus not opened his mouth...and inserted his foot.

No one had touched Zara, though she looked like the air had been taken by her lungs. Across the crowd, the whole space station had heard Marcus' abrupt (and unplanned) pregnancy announcement. Internally, something was screaming in her head. Not even a full minute later, Zara could hear the news on the holonet broadcast changing to reflect a video someone had sent in. Rather than let her discomfort become apparent, Zara stepped into Frumpy Hat's personal bubble. "Looks like I'm more of a member of the family than you'll ever be." Her voice was cold and unfeeling, her eyes blue as ice. Without another word, she let her husband led her away through the crowd. Zara didn't speak again until the Nerf Herder was pointed away from the port. She sat, staring at a silenced news report. In the span of ten minutes, it seemed like the whole galaxy knew about her pregnancy, as well as her marriage. The digital screens disappeared before her face. "We should go to Delaya. There's going to be a shit storm for us waiting there. It's my preference that we face that up front than hiding."

Marcus sat silently in the cockpit of the Nerf Herder, an absent gaze cast upon his weary face as he attempted to tune out the local holonet reports that seemed obsessed with all things 'Zarcus'. He listened to her, but that did not necessarily mean that he heard her, and it took several, awkward, moments before his gaze shifted back towards her. "Do you really want to confront this head on?" he asked, unsure if it was the right thing to do. He had chosen to hide the child's gender from her, knowing full well what the news would mean to his parents ... and, in fact, the entire planet. No matter how old he became he was still his parents' child and, despite his exploits as a bounty hunter, they were still the two people who could instantly disarm him and terrify him. "We will do what you want, of course," he told her, as he reached out, weakly, with his right hand to place it upon hers. Suddenly the air in the cockpit felt stale and the small cabin felt infinitely smaller ... it was all becoming too much and he could not simply blast his way out of this jackpot.

Zara's head nodded up and down firmly. "Yeah. I don't like the idea of waiting for your parents to just show up at our home. I want our home to remain private. We need somewhere to go after the storm calms." She took his hand, squeezing it softly. "For the rest of my pregnancy though, I want everyone to fuck off. I'm going to stay in the house and never leave. I can't deal with stress like this. It makes me feel queasy." Her free hand ran over her flat stomach. The child in her womb was going to cause more trouble than she realized. "I still want my sweet potatoes.." Zara grumbled, giving him a look. "Don't worry about whatever is going to happen, okay? If worse comes to worse, we'll run away and find someplace to hide where they can't find us. Your parents don't get to control our life or our baby's."

"I have a bad feeling about this," Marcus said, arching his eyebrows as he gripped the flight controls to begin the process of departing the spaceport. His hands adeptly moved over the panel, abandoning their precious cargo of sweet potatoes, as the small transport blasted out of the Leiliani spaceport towards his family's ancestral home in the mountains overlooking the increasingly industrialized and overpopulated capital city. As the ship rose it cleared through the layer of smog that the factories had produced revealing a idyllic snowcapped mountain range that looked down upon the city, literally and figuratively. Dominating this landscape, and nearly as big as a mountain itself, was the castle that had been the dwelling of the House of Rodney for nearly a millennia. It was also where Marcus and Zara had first met. Carefully, he piloted the Nerf Herder to the private landing pad on the eastern side of the grounds, and touched it down gently. On the outside, a group of security officers began to flock towards the craft, with his elderly parents slowly following behind. "Well. Here we are," he said to her, swallowing so nervously that his throat noticeably bulged against the collar of his well appointed blue tunic. "We can still turn back," he said, half-jokingly, as he moved to unfasten her from her seat. His attention then turned to the panel on the cockpit, activating the controls that opened the hatch. He looked outside at his parents, their staff, and the security and offered the same half-smile that he gave them when he was a child and had been caught behaving mischievously.

Even though Zara didn't say it, she had a bad feeling too. If it were her choice, they would never venture onto Delaya ever again. Besides the lovely islands where they had been wed, the rest of the planet was ugly. It had been tarnished by the evil elder Rodneys. Her head fell into her hand. The tips of her fingers massaged into her forehead. She was trying to make the best choices for her new family though it was difficult to decide if she wasn't going to regret facing his parents. She saw them too. They must have come the second they heard the Nerf Herder had reached the landing pad. The bad feeling grew like a wildfire. Before she could scream at Marcus to close the hatch, it was open. Zara's eyes felt hot. What was she going to say to them? These people had seen her nude, secretly marrying their son, and then punching the family guard while the galaxy witnessed her pregnancy announcement. Weakly, she rose from her seat once Marcus unleashed her. Her legs felt like nothing. She had to cling to one of his arms with both of her hands just to make it down the hatch. She didn't stand upright again until she was on the landing pad. She looked at his parents with an exhausted expression. "We've seen it. You've seen it. The whole galaxy has seen it. It's time to talk."

The remaining survivors of the Alderaan Guard ushered Marcus, Zara, and the elderly Duke and Duchess of Delaya back into the relative safety and privacy of the castle. They eventually arrived in an antechamber that was regally appointed with classic artwork and ornate furniture that was not nearly as comfortable as it looked. There was an already decanted bottle of Alderaan ruge that the Duke and Duchess had been making overuse of ever since news broke on the holonet. "Well, is it true?" the bewildered, overweight Duke asked incredulously, as he reached for his half-consumed glass of wine with all the desperation of a man reaching for medicine. He was outwardly angry, but inwardly he was hoping that the lad had in fact impregnated the woman ... with a son. While the planet was up in arms with the scandal, and his wife heartbroken, this might in fact have been the solution to the succession crisis.

"Oh of course it's true," the Duchess quickly said, dismissing her husband's naivety. She could tell the second she looked at Zara, as she bore a healthy glow that she well recognized from her own two pregnancies. She moved forward with a wickedness about her, staring at the young woman as if she were an interloper that did not belong. "How old are you? *They* say you are quite young," she asked, before throwing an angry glare in the direction of her son. It was one thing for him to get a woman pregnant, but it was an entirely different thing to get a girl pregnant. "And to marry, without asking permission, without even inviting us..." she said, moving swiftly towards Marcus with all of the skill of a predator. Her right hand moved swiftly towards the side of his face ... smacking him and leaving behind a telltale red mark in the shape of her hand. A slight welt formed where one of her rings connected with the side of his face.

The conversation would have felt less horrible had it taken place outside on the landing pad. Though Zara knew the layout of the Rodney castle by heart, she didn't feel that there were enough exits and that there were too many corridors to lose herself in. Had Zara known what pieces of work the Duke and Duchess were, then the thief would have stolen Marcus as well as his Alderaan treasures (and the family jewels, hur hur hur). The room they were taken to was like an uncomfortably decorated jail cell. For a moment, Zara imagined romping around in bed with Marcus back home. Instead, she had brought them into the wolves den to be eaten. The Duke was the first to speak out. Which tidbit of information was he referring to? The holonet had become a mess of *Zarcus* information lately. Sadly, that included a sex video. Zara's jaw opened up to answer...

The Duchess came in for the kill. Zara watched the woman examine her like she was a sick, grotesque bird that had been hit one too many times with a speeder. Each step she took to make her way closer to the newlyweds greatened Zara's feeling of discomfort. Her eyes narrowed when the woman touched on the subject of her age. However, she didn't jump onto the offense until the scaly lizard of a woman attacked her husband, complete with verbal abuse and physical. Zara launched in to face off against the Duchess, snatching her hand out of the air before she could completely withdraw it after slapping Marcus. "There's no need to get physical. Marcus isn't a little boy anymore. Scolding him isn't going to change anything." She released the woman's hand. "I'm not sure if you recall our last meeting but it wasn't a particularly good one. I didn't want to deal with all the stress and bullshit you would bring to our wedding. If you care even a teeny, *tiny* bit about the baby in my womb, then maybe you can understand what planning a royal ceremony would do. It was my choice not to include you." She placed herself between Marcus and his mother like a ferocious feline. "Surely your human enough to understand my logic."

The Duchess glared at Zara with her iconic violet eyes, having never spoken to in that manner in her entire life. She was the Duchess of Delaya, and now the leading woman in the Alderaan system, and she recoiled her arm away from the teen in disgust. "My hope for you, my dear, is that one day the child you carry grows up to disappoint you as much as *he* has disappointed *me*," she began, looking past the teen towards her youngest son. "Then, perhaps, you may understand my reaction at this moment," she said, moving her head back with contempt as she moved back towards the bottle of much needed wine. "A royal ceremony is exactly what will happen," she said, stomping her left heeled foot for emphasis, as she addressed everyone in the room. "The rules of our society demand it and a distraction is exactly what the citizens of this planet need at a time like this," and with that, her attention focused on the more pressing issue in the room ... her empty glass of wine.

The Duke stood silently as he listened to Zara and his wife go back and forth, observing without intervening. There was a subject in the back of his mind that he had not yet broached, but it was on the tip of his tongue and threatening to claw its way out and escape his clenched jaw. "Calm yourself, my love. Have some wine ... it will calm you," he suggested, placing a hand momentarily upon her shoulder before moving forward towards Marcus and Zara. "Have you had proper medical attention?" he asked, tiling his head and arching his eyebrow at the beautiful young girl ... his son had at least done well in the physical department. He knew that they was a 50-percent chance she was carrying a son ... the heir to the Duchy ... and that fact trumped any social misfortunes she had created.

The young woman wasn't going to back down. Her mother-in-law had eyes like knives. At that moment, Zara knew it wasn't beyond the woman to search for an assassin. Zara was not the kind of woman she needed to be to raise a child of royalty. There were other contenders out there infinitely better to be Marcus' right hand. She didn't object to the woman taking back her hand, however, she did object to what she said. "If you could see clearly, then you'd realize Marcus isn't a disappointment at all." She would be an infinitely better mother than the Duchess had been. That much was becoming more and more obvious. Zara didn't want their child to have to touch Delaya royalty. She rejected the idea of a royal ceremony. More and more, the woman was pushing her. Zara's neck felt did her eyes. She was frustrated and angry. The thief took briefly to the sidelines while she watched the woman return to her glass.

Her hands ran over her face and through her hair. This day would never end. On the bright side, the affair with the Rodneys had helped her to forget all the mess circulating around the holonet. Zara messily threw herself down onto a chair. It took everything in her to resist unveiling who she *really* was. At this moment, she wanted to dismantle the Duchess' life. Her own cold gaze fell over the Duke. Oh, all he needed to do was ask a single question for everything to click in Zara's head. She remembered the things Marcus had said. The Duke wanted to know if Zara was carrying a boy. Marcus was the only one who knew the let's pray he doesn't spill the beans again. The young woman withdrew her head from her hands. "Yes," she sounded calmer. She even inspired herself to sit up straight. Prodding at her normal amulet, she brought forth a single holographic screen. Seconds later, she was presenting the Duke with fake documentation on her pregnancy. Knowing her in-laws, she'd thought ahead enough to create false information. If there was a baby boy, then she wouldn't let them know. "It's a girl. We've only been to see a doctor once." Zara lied effortlessly. She even began to look happy again when she spoke of her infant. She looked up to Marcus with a smile.

The Duke's face shifted noticeably when Zara mentioned it was to be a girl ... it was as if someone had just let all of the air out of a balloon. The color left his face and he sank into himself, as if we were about to implode. "A girl ... another girl," he cursed, clenching his arthritic hand into a fist, before punching it into a nearby wall. He did more damage to himself to the wall, and what he pulled back was less a hand, and more a bloody, broken collection of bones. "Get away from me," he cursed, as his wife and child moved past him. He plunged his remnants of a hand into a bucket of ice that had been prepared for sparkling wine, and shifted his anger towards his son. "Am I the only man in this family whose loins contain the seed of a man?" he asked, in a heated exchange, followed by a disappointed *huff* of air escaping his aged lips.

Watching his parents and his wife clash was too much ... even for the feared bounty hunter who had pursued fearsome prey across the known galaxy. There was nothing he could see, the clashing trio had managed to say it all. He moved silently, defensively, like one of his marks, into a position next to the seated Zara. When she said it was a girl a confused look went on his wife, but he soon realized what her intentions were, and said nothing to further her plan. He could see his father's outburst and knew it was to be expected. He knew not what would happen next with them believe it was a girl. Would they be allowed to return to the harsh north to live their life in peace? Or, would they still have to go through the ancient rights and ceremony that her mother dictated.

It was better this way, she told herself. The false report would buy them time to hide. At this point, that was exactly what she intended to do. She would gather up her little family and scurry to a place far, far away. Even as the Duke destroyed his fist on a nearby wall, Zara repeated the words to herself mentally; *it's better this way, it's better this way*. Meanwhile, she was beginning to feel sick again. It wasn't the result of the gory, deformed hand of the Duke. Zara was seriously beginning to consider what kind of hellish wrath she had just brought upon her family. The situation was escalating out of control. As the father preyed upon his son, Zara realized that they would not win this fight. The only chance they had now was to escape, board the Nerf Herder, and leave for good. She watched the clear water turn a deep red, much like the man's rage. He continued to offend, just as the Duchess had done. When her head rose, her husband had fallen into a defensive position beside her. Her hand grasped his while she gazed up at him. Despite all she had been through, Zara felt safe when he was near. His protection had saved her more than once. She began to stand up from the chair. She regretted not coming armed, or opting to have them both armor up. "Anyway. We came. We informed. Now we're going home." Zara began to lead him out of the room. She wanted to sever the ties with his parents right then and there, however, she realized that wasn't her place. She would talk to Marcus about it so they could make a decision together.

The Duchess had been married long enough to know her husband's little outburst was nothing to concern herself, and as she finished yet another glass of wine her attention remained fixated on the *girl*. "Not so fast, sweety," she said, as she stepped in front of the door to block her escape. "You're the top story of HoloNet News," she explained, with a firm nod of her head, slightly trembling from the combination of age and drink. "Throughout the core young boys are looking at your sordid pics in what they're calling the fappening," she snickered, rolling her eyes, but secretly envying the body free of cellulite that she once possessed ... before it was destroyed by two pregnancies. "There *will* be a formal ceremony. Or, Marcus will be cut off. And, more importantly, your child will be cut off. Marcus has never worked a day in his life, and he's not about to start now," she said, looking over at the man who she did not think very highly of. "If you want the money, honey, we get our ceremony," she said, before folding her arms in front of her chest, impatiently waiting for her reply.

Freedom was a few simple footsteps away. Honestly, Zara had her intentions for her little Holonet problem. Hacking was one of her was managing seriously damaging malware. She felt her cheeks go hot when the elderly woman brought it up, however. "Well shit, I guess now's my chance to jump into the porn industry. My parents would be so proud." She said dryly. And that little ultimatum the woman gave her? Citrus in her wounds. As far as the Duchess knew, Marcus hadn't worked a day in his life. Zara knew different information. Treasures from their illegal endeavors decorated their home. What Zara hated most was that there was no time for a powwow between the couple. One look towards Marcus said it all. Zara was done. The probability that their baby was a boy still existed, not to mention what would happen if their second born was a son. She looked tired already. She couldn't imagine dealing with his parents when she was further along. She sighed. The Duchess had always thought that their relationship was all about money, right?

"There will be no formal ceremony." Zara injected. "I don't want the money either. You can cut us off. I'd rather our baby had nothing to do with your nonsense. Now." She stuck out a hand, gently moving the frail drunk off to the side. "I'll be leaving now. Good day." And suck it!

When Zara departed the room, Marcus lingered behind her, and when he thought her perhaps out of earshot it was only then that he stopped to address his parents. "Stop it. Both of you. Give her time, and give us peace," he demanded in a plea, before he hurried from the room to catch up to his beloved. He knew the truth about her pregnancy and knew the boy she carried was destined for something greater. "Well, that went well," he said to her sarcastically, before taking her by the arm and leading her towards the Nerf Herder. As they approached he saw the members of the guard were watching ... and staring ... and it only seemed to make each footstep of his hasten. Their footsteps echoed throughout the corridor as they boots connected with the ancient marble that formed the expensive floor. It was only when they were out of the castle that he felt he could fully open his lungs and take a desperate gasp of air. "We'll get out of here. Curl up in bed. Watch the Holonet ... reruns of course," he said, in a playful tone while helping her back into the ship. They could not get out of here fast enough.

The whirlwind of insanity should have come to a close the minute Zara walked out of the room, however, it didn't. While he might have thought she was out of earshot, the truth was that she *wasn't*. She heard her husband going behind her back to appease the people who treated them so badly. It was enough to turn her rage back on. She looked upset all over again when he appeared at her side. Zara looked like she might cry out of frustration. However, she didn't feel like she could say a word all the way back to the Nerf Herder. Inside the ship, she quietly sat and considered her plan of attack. However, she was so blinded by her growing anger over the Holonet and his parents that she had no tact. "I heard what you said after I left." She began, eyeing her husband. "Why? You can't play both sides, Marcus. I thought you witnessed what I did. Your parents treat us like shit. Wait...*correction*. They treat you like shit. They treat me worse than shit. How do you think they'll treat our child? I won't let my child be abused like that. If we have a son, your mother will loom over me like a goddamn vulture, ready to swoop in and take him away as soon as he's born. Do you want that?" One hand rested on her stomach. She felt horrible. Another hand was running through her hair like a bad habit.

Marcus was silent for a moment as he watched the suffering that he had caused run across his wife's delicate features. That was the last thing he had wanted. "Zara, my love, there is more..." he said, slowly and deliberately, his eyes falling to the deck of the ship like a falling star. "Doctor Tohan revealed to me that you are carrying a boy," he said, as they sat there inside the relative safety of the stationary craft. This was hardly the time or the place he wanted to reveal this development to her. "He is to be the heir to all of this," he said, with an exasperated sigh, his hands moving forward to take her hands into his, as he nervously waited for her response to this consequential news.

Her stomach tightened. "*More*...?" What more could there possibly be? Her marriage was spread all over the HoloNet, as was every crevice of her nude body. Her in-laws were attempting to shake her and crush her. Zara was almost expecting Marcus to say that their home had magically blown up and now they needed to live in the Rodney castle once more. The news Marcus delivered was breathtaking. Her eyes went wide. She turned her head towards the closed hatch of the ship just to reassure herself that they were truly speaking in private. The next time she faced him, she looked sicker than she had yet. *You are carrying a boy*. She processed Marcus' words again and again. *The heir of all of this*. Beneath the sickness and the fear, she felt the happy feelings any expectant mother would. She couldn't wait to meet their baby. She decided she wouldn't let this fate fall on the boy. She refused to let the Duke and Duchess' vile poison sink into her son. Zara's small hands were weak in his until she began to gain strength again. "*No*. He won't. Only three people in the galaxy know that I'm carrying a boy. Your parents are eating the lies I fed them. Doctor Tohan hardly seemed like the type to break the patient-doctor confidentiality. We'll disappear." She explained to Marcus seriously. "We can't feed him to the wolves. I don't want your parents to..." Her words trailed off. *Destroy him* were the first words that came to mind.

Marcus listened to her and nodded in silent agreement, before turning away from her to man the controls of the Nerf Herder. Out the viewport he gave a look at the castle where he had grown up and lived most of his adult life before activating the controls that slowly lifted the transport off the landing pad. Once they were clear, he angled the craft towards the sky, and moved his hand up on the controls to accelerate the small craft to its maximum speed. The Nerf Herder streaked through the sky until it entered the upper atmosphere and the space beyond and then streaked through the vastness of space in a blur of light like another shooting star. Where they were going he did not know, but it would be far from here.

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