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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:5:24) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Rodney Castle).
Duke Marcus Rodney and Duchess Zara Rodney.

Marcus Rodney stood on the balcony of Rodney Castle watching as Rebel starfighters attacked the garrison. "Zara, take cover. Looks like trouble at the garrison again," he warned her, as he watched Rebel bombers make an attack run. Smoke was rising over the garrison, but this time the city seemed to have been spared. He wonder if it was an attempt to rescue Iyah, and if so, whether it had been successful. As he looked down at the exoskeleton Zara had constructed over his legs to help him walk he realized just how much he had sacrificed to save the woman. It would be nice to know whether or not she was now safe. Eventually the battle seemed to subside and the Rebels were seen retreating. He wondered if he would hear from the Governor informing him of what happened or, if by some miracle, the villain had perished in the attacks. "It looks to be over," he told her, wishing he had his macrobinoculars to get a better view of what happened. He hated being on the sidelines. Whenever he saw a battle he wanted to be involved, but he had to temper himself, because their twins were just hours away.

They were living in Rodney Castle *again*, but this time, it was made to stay. Zara Rodney had seen to the contents of their chalet being packed up and brought over. It was still wild to imagine raisings the twins here, within the large castle where she had robbed her husband on one fateful night. She was currently seated on a chair with her legs propped up. She held her datapad. She was working on the exoskeleton sketch, still searching for a way to make it *better*. The project took her mind off of being completely uncomfortable. The twins occasionally kicked at the datapad as she used her stomach as a desk. They were just trying to help.

The sounds of starfighters drew her out of her work. She set the datapad aside. He wasn't the only one who disliked being on the sidelines. It was now impossible for Zara to join in. As badly as she wanted to take part in chasing Governor Arundel away forever, her Braxton Hicks contractions had become more frequent and more painful. Her gut feeling told her that the time was almost here. Right now, both of them had to stay put. "Again?" She rose. "Hopefully they'll kill that man..." She grumbled, peering out onto the balcony. She could see the starfighters flying through the sky. All in all, the strike did not last long. To her relief, the city had not taken another beating. It seemed the attack was entirely focused on the Governor and Iyah Xergo. She hoped that they had managed to save her, for the sacrifices that her husband made were endless. Zara slowly waddled out to the balcony once he confirmed it was over. She stood beside Marcus, staring towards where the billows of smoke were coming from: the Imperial garrison. "Do you think he's gone..?" She asked.

"If I had to guess I'd say 'no'. The man is a snake, and they have a way of surviving," Marcus explained, as he turned to her on the balcony. "Hopefully when Darrus is Duke the Imperial occupation will be a distant memory," he said, as his hand moved to take hers, gripping it tightly. "I wish to see these fiends driven off my home, but with the children due any minute I can no longer afford to take risks," he told her, reluctantly, as he knew family had to come first. "I wish you could have seen this world before the Empire occupied it and before my father polluted it. It really was something..." he said, as he led her back into their bedroom. He simply could not bare to look at it any longer.

She thought she'd like to cut off that snake's head. If nothing else, Zara hoped that Papius had taken a hard loss. After she had the twins and returned to her old physique, she would work on the details of making Governor Arundel disappear. "It will be. It *has* to be.." She wanted the Imperials gone. The city needed to recover. The *people* needed to recover. Holding his hand, Zara let him lead her away from the destruction at their doorstep. Her very first trip to Delaya had been to see Marcus' Alderaan treasures. She had no idea what the world looked like before...that Delaya's beauty was comparable to that of Alderaan's. "Marcus, I will see Delaya like that eventually. The Ithorians are going to help us with the pollution problem. It'll take time, but we're going to be the ones that bring about the change that'll fix the planet. As to the Empire..." She sighed. "The Rebels will win this war eventually. This is what the Empire stands for...meaningless destruction. The galaxy will revolt against that until it's gone. Until we're free." She attempted to make her husband feel better. She stopped in front of him. She was trying to give him hope.

"Your optimism is invigorating, Zara. I do not think I stand a chance as Duke without you," Marcus told her, as he placed his hand upon her stomach. "Any day now. Can you believe it's almost been nine months?" he asked her, with a goofy grin plastered upon his face ... a trademark of expectant fathers. "It feels like it was just the other day you broke into the castle to steal that antique chrono, and now..." he said, feeling their children nearly ripened inside of her. "...and now this wondrous development," he said, as he moved to embrace her, getting his hands as far around her as he could manage given her delicate condition. "You have changed my life so much. Made me so happy. And caused me to finally grow up and accept the burden of responsibility as Duke. Thank you. Thank you so much," he told her, before placing a loving kiss upon her. "You're going to be such a wonderful mother," he said, as he got down on his knees in front of her and kissed her stomach not once, but twice.

The ascension into their new positions as Duke and Duchess had helped their relationship. It was Marcus who made her feel better about the whole process. It didn't seem as terrifying as it had the first time the opportunity fell into their laps. Zara grinned and blushed, totally flattered by her sweet husband. "Gosh. No! It went by really fast." Her smile grew, daydreaming about the very beginning of their relationship. That was one thing she could say in favor of Rodney Castle. They had already created happy memories there. She still frequently wore the chrono she'd taken. It wasn't just symbolic of the Ta'em family, it was the important start to the best thing in her life. She giggled. "I know! I'll never forget that day. I wanted you to come chase me. I'm so glad that you did."

Her arms moved around his neck. The twins were seemingly less active under his hand. They were running out of room inside of Zara's womb. As she listened to him, her cheeks turned all the more red. She didn't think it was possible for her to have such an impact on someone's life, but Marcus was living proof of it. She had watched him grow during their time together. Zara kissed him passionately. She was ecstatic that she was going to spend the rest of her life with such a man. Marcus was the perfect partner for her. He'd impacted her life too. "Marcus.." She sniffed, shedding happy tears as he got down on his knees before her and kissed her tummy, one kiss for each of their babies. "You changed my life too... so much. Before you, I was wandering aimlessly. More than that...I wasn't happy at all. I didn't even think anything like this could happen to me...and it did. When you found me on Etti IV...when you got hurt for took down every defense I'd ever had. You're such an extraordinary human being. I frequently find myself in awe that you're my husband...the father of my children." She smiled brightly. "Thank you for taking my life and giving me meaning and unconditional love. I'm so excited for the twins to come. You're going to be an incredible father." Her fingers brushed through his hair slowly. "It's not going to be much longer, Marcus. I'm sure of it."

"That's fantastic news, Zara. I can't wait much longer, and everyday Doctor Tohan grows a day earlier," Marcus told her, as he rose back up to his feet. He looked nervous, as if there was something he wanted to tell her, but was not sure if he should. "Zara..." he said, nervously, swallowing in a painful manner before ultimately deciding it was best to go ahead and tell her. "I wasn't going to tell you, but I feel you should know. I was speaking with Doctor Tohan, and..." he said, lowering his head, and back away awkwardly through use of her device. He sat down, to take a load off, as it was painful to stand for long times in the exoskeleton. "...and he said someone poisoned Callista and Ewwiekewwieikkie while they were here for the coronation. Doctor Bailo had to go in his stead to treat them," he revealed, not originally wanting to tell her, but since their children were soon going to be living within these walls he needed to know someone had recently hurt her nieces.

She could sense his nerves. What was it? She felt like there was a big development coming, so she braced herself by sitting at the edge of the bed. She looked at him to let him know she was ready; lay it on her. Her mouth fell open wide. "What?!" Callista and Ewwiekewwieikkie were *children*. What kind of monster would poison them? They were the sweetest kind of children too. She felt upset and furious. Cousin Gaius had disappeared, assumed to be dead, so who was attacking them now? "How? *Who*? Why? Callista and Ewwiekewwieikkie are such good children..." Suddenly, she was glad that the twins would be sleeping together in a bassinet in their room until they were rolling over and needed to be moved into a crib. "Did he say anything else?" The girls had been with them for most of the day. They were at the reception, eating basically the same things that Zara had. She wondered when it had happened.

"According to Doctor Bailo they ingested a laxative that made them very sick," Marcus cautiously told Zara, not wanting to alarm her too much. "Apparently Sierra had quite the mess to deal with," and with that he could not help but keep from a smirk appearing on his face. He laughed slightly and then brought his hand up to cover his mouth. "It's terrible what happened, but the idea of pretentious Sierra having to deal with that is a bit amusing," he told her, as he tried to contain himself. He liked Sierra, but as she was born into the aristocracy he had shunned his entire life, he did imagine her to be a little high on her horse like most nobles he knew ... even if that were not the case. For him he much preferred the simple honesty that Zara possessed, who had no pretentiousness around her.

This was only getting more disturbing. "Are they okay now?" It had been nice to see them again. The best part of the coronation had been hearing little Callista get excited over the crowns. The moment seemed like a dream come true for her. Zara tried really hard not to laugh at Sierra's misfortune, but began cracking up when he started laughing. Her feelings for her sister-in-law were mixed. She wasn't making any effort to fix their relationship. "It really is.." She agreeing while still giggling. "To be a fly on the wall..." Zara said, finally able to stop herself from laughing. She leaned against him. She was so happy that Marcus didn't have that *nobility* attitude about him. Livia had it. Livia and Julius had never liked her. To them, she simply wasn't one of their *kind*. Zara's thoughts fell back on the current subject. "Did they go anywhere after the reception? Callista and I both hit the Auntie Mae open ice cream bar and nothing like that happened to me..." The little girl idolized her. While Zara didn't understand it, she thought it was adorable.

"They're a little shaken up, from what I understand, but physically they're fine," Marcus told her, not wanting to hold out on the information that Doctor Tohan provided. Although things were terrible between Zara and Sierra, he was hoping that over time the family might come together and move past it. His nieces, however, were a different story ... he loved them very much and knew that Zara did too. "I really don't know. To be honest I was so exhausted that I just wanted to get this device off, get out of the robes, and of course get the crown off my head. I really don't know," he said, feeling guilty for how he had failed to protect them on what was now his planet. "I hope they don't think we did it because of the ongoing feud," he said, revealing his true fear, which caused his face to shake.

Zara sighed, nodding her head. *Phew*. The girls were okay despite the ordeal that they had been put through. She decided right then and there that she would send them tickets to Auntie Maeland, which she had heard Callista rambling about excitedly. She felt bad for what had happened and wanted to find out more to prevent it from happening again. After all, she wanted the girls to come visit after the twins were born. She didn't blame Marcus for having no more information. She knew the exoskeleton wasn't the most comfortable thing in the world. It was hard on his body, hard on him. Her hand slid into his, readying to help combat his fear. "I think your brother is smarter than that. He wouldn't blame us. That's a really low move. It's like something that stupid Papius would do." She had been especially bitter over that man lately. His little threat made her want to see him off of her planet even worse than normal. "Wait!" Zara exclaimed. "He could have done it! He was there!" Zara thought that if she could find out the true culprit, she could present them to Claudius and make everything better. It wasn't her intention to cause problems in the family. She *did* feel bad for shooting Sierra.

"The monster..." Marcus said slowly, as he came to agree with Zara's conclusion. "But we don't have any way to prove it, and even if we did, we'd just endanger our lives and the lives of our children," he explained to her, cautiously, as he knew what kind of man Governor Arundel was. "If he was to go as far as poison innocents like Callista and Ewwiekewwieikkie then there's no way our children will ever be safe around him," he thought out, logically, as he considered their next moves. "If he suspects for even a moment we are against him, and are anything more than the socialites presented on the HoloNet then he will make a move against our children to get at us," he said, looking at her, with a fear in his eyes he never before showed. He could stand up to the Governor alone. Even with Zara he could. But with Darrus and Sia? He was to play the part of the coward to protect them, which was the bravest thing of all.

It was so sickening. If it was true, then Governor Arundel had just shown them how low he was willing to go. Callista was only *five*. Ewwiekewwieikkie was a defenseless Squib. Marcus' words worried her. She turned her head, looking towards the bassinet that would soon house their children. They had to protect Darrus and Sia. So, as much as Zara wished to retaliate, she realized that this was beyond their power. She frowned. She wondered if she could manage to give birth to the twins without the HoloNet reporters catching wind of it. If she could hide their presence from Papius, even for a little bit, it would buy them time. The more she considered it, the more she realized she was being irrational. He looked so scared. She had never seen Marcus put in such a terrible position. Zara leaned forward to kiss his cheek. "You're right on all accounts..." She said sadly. "How can we keep them safe?" Her free hand ran over her stomach. For nine months, they had been excitedly anticipating the arrival of their children. Now that the time had come, all Zara wanted was for them to stay safe inside her womb. "There... There's gotta be a way to make him go away..."

"We can keep them safe by convincing Governor Arundel that I am still a drunk playboy, and you are just a simple girl. As long as he has no reason to fear us he will use us as figureheads, and will have no need to hurt us or the children," Marcus explained, though he knew it was not what she wanted to hear. "If he thinks for a moment we are competent, or a threat to him, then he will surely use them as leverage against us, and ... and my brother will not help us," he said, as he reached out to her to support himself as much as he was her. "Perhaps that Rebel attack did more damage than we thought. If the Rebellion either physically drives him out or deals him such a setback that the Emperor recalls him then that is the way to freeing ourselves of him," he said, nodding his head emphatically. "We must reach out to my *other* brother and niece and bring Rebel support to our aid," he said, before rising, painfully, with the help of the device. He stood there before her, Duke of Delaya second, and a father first.

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