Major Arden Zevrin sat upon her makeshift throne
deep within the bowels of the Executor-class Star
Dreadnaught Retributor as it orbited the planet
Esseles. In front of her were a bank of monitors
that gave her a view of nearly every aspect of the
ship, but the one that interested her the most was
the one of Grand Moff Claudius Rodney in his office.
The man looked broken by the 'death' of his
daughter, and she observed that he was slumped over
on his desk with a bottle of Alderaan Ruge. For the
time being she had neutralized him and would
continue her reign of terror over the Ringali Shell,
but she was a long term thinker and knew that he
would eventually recover. To that end she had been
reviewing Imperial personnel files until she came
across the perfect individual to enlist in her
scheme: Doctor Sierra Dakkar, a friend of the 'late'
Jelena Rodney who had the good sense to enter the
Imperial Academy rather than remain on Alderaan to
be destroyed like the rest of their classmates. She
was young, but she suspected that was exactly what
the Grand Moff needed at a time like this. Expecting
her shortly, she deactivated her monitors, and spun
her chair back to face the entrance of her office.
The young woman had better not be late, she thought
to herself, as she began to tap her gloved fingers
upon her desk in annoyance. She had things to do ...
people to kill.
Doctor Sierra Dakkar was preoccupied. The news of
Jelena Rodney's death had hit *hard*. It seemed like
no one else was suffering as she was. Frankly, she
was in the wrong place for that. Her fellow
Imperials cheered when they heard the news that the
bomb within Jelena's chest had detonated. Sierra had
excused herself. She choose to hide inside of her
office, where the locked door created a false sense
of security. Yes, she remembered Jelena. The Rodney
girl had been her best friend for years. She was
different from the other girls at the Academy. She
was someone who could relate; a father who abandoned
her, destroyed the memory of Jelena's deceased
mother, and paraded himself around the galaxy like
none of it mattered to him. Jelena had been the
perfect friend. She had always regretted that they
had parted ways after their time at the Academy for
Young Ladies ended.
Her comlink was beeping annoyingly. Sierra's light
blue eyes lifted from the holopad she was holding.
Pictures of her, Jelena, Leia, and various other
classmates were on display. These were her very
special memories, as well as the ones that could get
her in trouble the most. It was necessary to keep
them in an encrypted file guarded by passcode after
passcode after passcode. Her moment of reminiscence
ended when Major Zevrin summoned her. Sierra didn't
waste a moment. She collected herself within several
deep breaths. Though her eyes felt hot, they gave up
no indicator that she was suffering from her
The young woman was fast to come when she was
called. The whole Imperial experience was still new
to her. She was looking to impress those above her
and gain their respect. Thus, she was not late. She
arrived a minute early. Sierra approached slowly,
like the right movement might make her flutter away
like a shy butterfly. She bowed respectively to the
Major, up righting herself. "I received your
message, Major. How can I be of use?"
As a matter of politeness, Arden waves her right arm
gently at one of the chairs in her office, although
she did not expect their meeting to take long. "The
Empire is about to begin a major operation here in
the Ringali Shell. The execution of this plan is the
culmination of years of work ... *my* work," she
said, as her petite frame seemed to rise somewhat,
her hand instinctively curling into a fist as she
spoke. "It just so happens that you know the
Regional Governor of this Oversector ... Claudius
Rodney," she informed him doing her best to maintain
a fake smile upon her ruby lips ... she found it
very difficult to smile whenever she said that name.
She rose from her throne, circling her desk like a
predator, until she arrived mere inches from the
younger Sierra. "I must confess to you that because
of his late daughter's ties to the Rebel Alliance
there are some who question Lord Rodney's
loyalty..." she began, her voice trailing off, as
she pulled off her black leather gloves. Her exposed
hand went to the woman's blonde hair, her fingers
separating and moving between Sierra's locks like a
plow through a field. "Oh, yes. You'll do," she
mused to herself, with a soft laugh, before
withdrawing her hand. "Unfortunately, there are some
in the Empire who question your loyalty as well. In
these troublesome times anyone with ties to Alderaan
is a potential liability. In these instances it
might be better to simply rid ourselves of all
potential threats, justified or not," she explained,
inferring that her life was now in jeopardy.
"There are two ways in which you may serve the
Emperor and prove your loyalty," she said, as she
moved away from the girl, reactivating the monitor
that showed the Grand Moff sprawled out on his desk
with the bottle of wine. "First, you can use your
skills as a psychologist to fix this mess. An
Oversector needs a Regional Governor, if only as a
figurehead," she explained, bitterly, as she pursed
her lips. As she stared across at Sierra she
wondered how much of her plot she was truly capable
of understanding. Was she talking too fast? Could
anyone in the Empire keep up with her intricate web
of plots and plans? "Second, you are to use your
personal connection, and..." she paused, to clear
her throat. "...whatever else you can think of to
*endear yourself to the man*. You will report on his
activities to *me*. Ensure that he is loyal, and
ideally, gain influence over him that will allow you
to control him for *me*," she added, before she
settled back into her makeshift throne, crossing her
legs, and eyeballing the young doctor again. "The
man has just lost a daughter not too dissimilar to
you ... my condolences by the way," she said,
politely, which she always hated having to do, but
she very well could not let this underling know the
death was a ruse to set the Grand Moff up for
precisely this eventuality. "I'm sure you'll find a
way to use that to get very, *very* close to the old
man," she said, snickering, as she rolled her eyes
at some of the personal lives of those aboard the
command ship. "Did you get all that? Any questions,
doctor?" she asked, before arching her eyebrow and
studying the young woman for any and all reactions.
Sierra felt increasingly uncomfortable inside of
Arden's office. She had allowed herself to display
some sort of reaction to Jelena's death. Instead of
celebrating, she surrounded herself with the good
memories. She longed to have those days back, long
before all of this mattered so much. If she could
turn back the clock, then there may have been more
that Sierra could have done to stop her friend from
joining the Rebellion. Now wasn't the proper time to
think of all of this. Major Zevrin reminded her like
a powerful lioness, meaning she had become the
delicious, fat zebra; the prey. One wrong move would
attack the fierce woman's attention. She never
wanted to feel Major Zevrin sink her teeth into her
soft meat. So, she internalized her suffering. A
calm expression remained on her face while she sat.
One leg crossed over the other tightly like she was
trying to curl up into a rock. Her little shoulders
had slumped. Everything about her nonverbal
communications said that she was scared. Fear had
such a distinct, wonderful smell to it.
Her attention was unwavering from Arden's moving
mouth. The woman had so much to stay. She laid out
the foundation for her scheme to the good doctor. No
one had mentioned her relationship with the Grand
Moff before. Though they dwelled within the same
ship, Sierra had never made it a point to see him,
or show any niceties towards him. His name made her
feel angry. He was to blame for this! If he had been
a more present father...if he had been better to
Jelena..! It was hard to keep up with the Major, not
because her words were difficult, but because Sierra
felt more comfortable by the second. All this talk
was leading up to something.
Her face was as white as a tauntaun. Before her,
every worst fear came to the surface. The prowess
was too close for comfort. Arden's touch was
terrifying. Sierra broke eye contact. She shivered
beneath the fingers that raked through her short,
wavy curls. She focused on an object on Arden's
desk, simply waiting for it all to end. A plan had
been set in motion already. She didn't understand
what the Major wanted yet, but she soon would. Her
eyes were right back on the woman, large and
terrified. Her loyalty was being questioned. It
didn't come as a surprise. She had not proved
herself. She didn't attempt to deny it. The Major
didn't end her pathetic life right there. Instead,
she showed her the light. Arden showed her how to
The monitor buzzed on, showing someone she was
beginning to feel too familiar with; Claudius. The
man was clearly suffering. The bottle of wine was
close to drained. Seeing him like this tugged at her
heart. Becoming a psychologist had been about
helping people. She enjoyed being an Imperial
psychologist because she could help people
comprehend things. Hate replaced what pity she had
for him. It was his fault. *His*. Arden's first
request was easy. It was part of her job. Her head
nodded slowly. Sierra still was following Arden all
up until part two of her elaborate planning was
revealed. She did she say *endear*? Her eyes snapped
back to the monitor. The Major had caught her
entirely off guard. Her eyes were wide. Her mind,
slowly accepting her new mission. How was her first
question. Why me was her second question. Above her
head, Arden was still talking. Sierra had fallen off
of the bandwagon.
The Major's condolences didn't begin to phase her.
The death of her friend had just been thrown to the
back of her head. The doctor wanted to deny the
mission, even if it meant Arden ending her life now.
A hand reached up to her face, brushing away a tear
that had collected at the corner of one eye. A
coldness had settled in all around them. She felt
sick. She felt like her back was against a wall.
"I...I got it..." Sierra stumbled. Her legs
uncrossed. Both of her booted feet hit the ground.
She stood, weakly shifting from side to side until
she found strength again. "I can do it, Major."
There was no second option here. Her dead friend
would hate her for all of this. She was sorry.
Arden noted that Sierra did not exactly sound
confident, but these things had a way of sorting
themselves out. She stared at her silently, before
rising from her seat, and moving back towards
Sierra. She stood in front of the young woman,
bringing her hand up to Sierra's chin, and stroking
it almost affectionately. The stroke soon turned
into a grasp, intentionally painful, as she squeezed
her face together and lifted her head so that she
could more easily look her in the eye. "One last
question, my dear," she asked, as she tilted her
head to side and stared intently down to her. "Is
that your natural hair color?" she asked, before she
released her from her clutches, and tossed her head
away roughly. "Do not fail me!" she warned her, as
she backed away from her, with murderous intent.
"Now ... to your duty ... before he sobers up," she
added, with a wicked grin, and a soft chuckle. The
time for politeness had ended, for now she was
content to return to her throne, and watch the
footage of Claudius Rodney's office. It was her not
too subtle way of letting Sierra know that *she*
would be watching the affair to come.
Oh no. Arden was closing the distance between them
again. Sierra's body instantly began to shake. She
was reporting poorly to the Major while massive
conflictions developed inside of her. The doctor
cowered. The affection wasn't sweet like a lover's.
It was cold like a snake. All at once, she was
caught up in her rough grasp. Her eyes were forced
back to hers. The terror inside of her was breeding
with itself. If the Inquisitor was around, then she
was receiving one hell of a nice snack. She
whimpered, stepping back once her head was finally
free. She instinctively put space between them.
While she began murderous, Sierra fell into her
submission. If she failed, Arden would see that her
death was prolonged and painful.
She said nothing more to Arden, in fear of inspiring
the woman's abuse to continue. The footage of the
Grand Moff spoke for itself. She knew where she was
needed. Arden's eyes would always be on them,
watching Sierra attempt to gain his affections. Only
the rapid sounds of her boots hitting the hard floor
as she ran out of the Major's office announced that
she was gone. Just outside her office, she pressed
her back to the wall and her head into her hands.
Sierra cried. Her body was shaking so hard. She was
in over her head.
The doctor knew where she needed to go. With Arden's
touch still embedded in her memory, Sierra made her
way to the Grand Moff's office quickly. The sooner
Arden saw her on the monitor, the better. She made a
single pit stop to her office to collect her holopad.
Sierra appeared at the door leading into his office
quickly. This time, she looked like she had cried
recently. Her eyes were puffy. Her cheeks were
stained with tears. All of her visage could be
written off to the loss of Jelena. It was a place
where they shared common ground. Her finger pressed
the button to the comm on his door. "Governor...
It's Doctor Sierra Dakkar. Can we talk?" She
lingered there. She wondered if the Major was
watching her right now.
Grand Moff Claudius Rodney had lost his daughter to
the Rebellion only to see her recaptured by the ISB
to be utilized as a tool against him, but at least
she was here with him. Now she was dead and he would
never get a chance to reconcile with her. The days
had all blended into one another as he drowned his
sorrow in a bottle of his beloved Alderaan ruge.
When the young doctor entered the room he
momentarily stirred, raising his head to look up at
Sierra. His skin was stuck to his desk and he had to
peel it off as he raised his head. The room was
still dimly lit and he had to blink his brown eyes
in rapid succession to focus his vision. When he saw
her, he initially thought it was Jelena, given his
drunkenness, mental state, and her closeness in age
and physical similarity. His initial excitement was
tempered as his vision focused, revealing that it
was just another of the tens of thousands of
nameless Imperial officers that were stationed
aboard his mammoth command ship. "Doctor ... what
doctor?" he asked, as he leaned back in his chair,
released a groan of pain, and brought his hand up to
rub at the bridge of his nose. He did not recognize
her as the young Sierra Dakkar that he from time to
time encountered during visits to the Select Academy
for Young Ladies on Alderaan to visit his daughter.
Perhaps as she drew nearer, reminded him, and he
sobered up he would.
The man was a mere shell of what she remembered him
as from his visits and the handful of times she had
seen him in recent times. He was suffering much
worse than she ever could. The desire to help him
was hard to ignore. She wished things had been
different. Like she could have placed a bandage on
him and left, continuing to hate him from afar for
the rest of his days. Without a word, Sierra crossed
his office. She opted to occupy the seat in front of
his desk. "A psychologist." She replied, blue eyes
flickering towards him. Her eyebrows furrowed.
"Don't you remember me, Governor?" As if to spark
some memory, she fixed the parting of her hair so it
wasn't all cascading down a single side. She
redistributed it, making herself look more like she
had in her Select Academy days. "Jelena was my best
friend." He may have been too drunk to make the
connection to the young blonde who had spent so much
time with his daughter. Her heart ached. She needed
Before Claudius could comment on her unpleasant
position as psychologist, she revealed the startling
development that she was her daughter's best friend.
His hand moved to the control panel on his desk,
which raised the lights in the room so that he could
get a better view of her. The raise in lighting
caused a sharp pain to his eyes, which prompted him
to quickly bring his hand over them to shield
himself. As he became more accustomed to the light
he was able to properly see her, but the hangover
did not leave him ... his temples were pounding.
"My..." he started, raising from his desk quickly,
perhaps a bit too quickly. He placed the palms on
his hand in front of the desk to steady himself, as
he hunched forward to examine the young woman
carefully. "Sierra?" he asked her, questioning
himself in a state of disbelief. Surely she *had* to
have been killed when Alderaan was destroyed by the
Rebellion. It was something of a miracle to see her
alive, and he moved around the desk to rush towards
her as best he could given his situation. "You have
heard then?" he asked, not sure of how many days had
even passed since her 'death' at the hand of the
Rebel strike team. His weary old visage examined her
flawless features, and he could not help but smile
as he gazed upon her. She was a memory of the
simpler times of his old life before the war.
Arden really had thought this out. Sierra saw how
she had become to appointed individual to get under
the Grand Moff's skin. The death of Jelena quickly
humanized him in her eyes. It was possible that
everything could work to her advantage too. At least
she had someone to talk to about Jelena who wouldn't
suspect that she was being disloyal. The light was
bright even for Sierra, who hadn't drank. She
recoiled from it, pressing her back into her seat.
The realization passed over him. She could see it in
his eyes. She dropped her hair, placing her hands on
his desk. The doctor rose to her feet just as he
did. He was unsteady. Her hands were already moving
across the table to help him when he studied
himself. Sierra sat, nodding her head slowly. "I've
been positioned here for months." She explained to
him. "I wanted to talk to you sooner." She expressed
to him. Seeing Claudius would have landed her in an
immense amount of trouble. She had gained the trust
of no one.
Her body began to shake, just as it had in Arden's
office, then he rushed toward her. She could feel
Arden's cold, venomous hand on her face. Her words
played on repeat endear yourself to the man. She
shifted in her seat so that she was facing him. The
sadness on her face was real. "Yes, I heard.." Her
voice cracked. "It's hard to swallow. Jelena was
such a good person. I wish I had been able to see
her one more time." A tear ran down her cheek. She
rubbed it away. "I...I have something I wanted to
share with you." She said, offering him the smallest
of smiles. She patted the empty chair next to her
with one hand, snatching up her holopad with the
other. "Our little secret." She reminded him.
Several taps later, she handed him the holopad.
There was a large gallery of photos on display from
the days of the Academy. Most of the pictures
included Sierra and Jelena. Sometimes they were
smiling, sometimes they were laughing. There was a
horrible picture of Sierra attempting make up for
the first time on Jelena, it was a jewel among many
others. At the very end, there was a video of Jelena
and Sierra singing a song they had created about how
much they hated the Academy.
"Months? You should have come by," Claudius said, as
he raised his right hand to place a reassuring grasp
upon her upper arm. "I would liked to have seen you.
There aren't too many from the old days left to
discuss things with," he said, with a sorrowful
sigh, as he sunk into himself slightly at the
depressing thoughts that were at the forefront of
his mind. Just when he thought it could not get any
worse, Sierra produced the holopad with the image of
her and Jelena when they were young. He was overcome
almost immediately, with the tears beginning to flow
from his brown eyes. He reached out for the image,
placing his hand upon hers, and squeezing it gently.
But he could not maintain this state of uprightness,
and he fell forward into her arms, a broken mess of
a failed father. His weight threatened to collapse
them both and his head took refuge in her shoulder,
while his tear stained eyes buried themselves in the
cloth of her Imperial uniform. He was a blubbering
mess of a man, barely kept upright by his young
subordinate. Had he known her true purpose he would
have sent her away, but drunk and desperate, an arm
wrapped around her to steady himself and share his
sorrow. He *needed* her.
From that very first meeting, Sierra had let herself
expose a real piece of her to the hated Rodney man.
This was all very emotional for her too. The Major
had caught her at the perfect moment. Jelena's death
had hurt both of them, leaving the potential for
Sierra to sneak into his life greater. "I
understand..." Everyone else was dead. Alderaan was
gone, thus creating the hardest year in her young
life. "I was afraid someone would suspect something.
We can see each other more now." She reassured the
Grand Moff. The pictures stirred him, just as they
had her. Suddenly, he was crying. It came out of
nowhere, just as his first touch on her hand did.
His squeeze was comforting in her time of need. She
had made no foes on the Imperial ship. She had been
alone for too long.
His weight collided with her much smaller body. She
tried to stabilize them. Her arms wrapped around him
in more of a cling than an embrace. Something
happened there while Claudius cried into her
shoulder; Sierra began to cry too. Her hands
adjusted on him. One remained on his back weakly.
The other pressed against the back of his head to
encourage him to let it all out. Overcome by a bout
of emotion, she pressed her face into his hair and
cried. She cried for Alderaan. She cried for Jelena.
She cried for what might happen if she failed Arden.
They were clinging to each other for support while
waves swept in from all around them. Beside them,
the holopad continued to show pictures of the best
friend's teenaged years. Jelena was smiling in those
pictures...but was she smiling from where ever her
spirit might be? Sierra knew one person who had to
be smiling right now. Arden.
Claudius pulled his head up from her shoulder,
immediately struck by the fact that she was crying
too. A fatherly hand moved to her face to dry her
tear, as the image reminded him of the times they
had met in her youth. "You've really grown up," he
said to her, as he gazed affectionately down towards
her with eyes that were getting increasingly red.
His head turned towards his desk, eyeballing the
crystal decanter of Alderaan ruge that remained
there. "Will you ... will you have a drink with me?"
he asked, as he felt he needed one at the moment. He
wanted to hear more about her, more about the time
she spent with Jelena while he was absent, and what
she was doing aboard the ship. His hand on her
trembled, a combination of exhaustion and a need for
more alcohol. His eyes then turned back towards her,
trying his best to offer her a smile, but it was
proving to be more difficult than defeating the
The seething hate she had for the man was parted by
a single gesture. Her tears stopped shortly after he
dried them. Her lips quivered. Terror still was
alive inside of her. She doubted that she could do
this. Walking the line between failing and dying at
Arden's hand, or the Grand Moff discovering her true
meaning and punishing her anyway, was difficult.
Crying made her head hurt and exhaustion slip in.
Gazing into his brown eyes, she wondered how in the
galaxy they'd landed themselves in such an
unfortunate situation. "It's been so long..."
*Years*. She was a girl last time he saw her. Out of
sheer paranoia, her eyes followed his towards the
desk. Alderaan ruge, a memory of a time that was
gone. She sniffed, nodding her head. "I...I will."
Feeling raw, Sierra decided she wanted to take
refuge here for as long as she could. She allowed
herself to believe that Arden couldn't reach her as
long as she was close to him.
Her hands slipped off of him slowly. She could feel
his hand trembling. It caused her to draw him back
in. Her arms wrapped around his waist securely. "You
don't have to try to smile for me.." She whispered
to him. "It's okay to unravel." She coaxed him back
against her petite body for a little longer.
Claudius moved to his desk with more swiftness than
he had thus far exhibited to snatch his decanter of
Alderaan ruge and two glasses from the bar set. "I
am not permitted to unravel," he explained to her,
as he led her over towards a more comfortable
seating area on the other side of the room. He
allowed her to sit on his loveseat before moving to
join her, but then his attention seemed to shift
towards the Alderaan ruge. He poured her a glass of
the red wine, before moving to do the same for him.
"We leave for Delaya soon. There will be a memorial
service for Jelena, and I am expected to renounce my
claim to the Duchy..." he said, as he was quick to
take the glass and drink from it too rapidly. "Will
you ... will you come with us?" he asked, as he
looked towards her with the hope that she would say
yes. At the very least she could help him tend to
Drusilla and Ewwiekewwieikkie, but he secretly hope
she could help with him as well. "So how did you end
up in Imperial service? I have to admit it was not a
popular line of service for our people," he asked,
as he finished the first glass of wine. He could
feel his body temperature rising, and his cheeks
were beginning to flush a rosy shade of red.
Sierra rose. She had stopped shaking. Her tears had
dried for now. It wasn't right for her to pile her
own sadness on top of his. The young woman moved
towards the loveseat with his words sticking in her
mind. Everyone unraveled at some point. For
Claudius, she needed to continue to be there to
catch him while he fell. Placing herself on the
couch, she crossed one leg over the other. She sat
sideways again as to maintain eye contact with him.
"Thank you," she said, taking the glass of wine from
him. Sierra took a small sip. The liquid brought her
back to sneaking into her parent's liquor cabinet,
and drinking with Jelena until they both greatly
regretted it. It tasted ... *bittersweet*.
She took another sip. The mention of the memorial
service brought on more emotions. She wanted to go.
It was her last chance to say goodbye. There was
something else he said that was shocking. He
intended to renounce his claim to the Duchy. He also
wanted her to come too. Arden would be pleased with
that. Sierra smiled. She reached out towards him,
squeezing his leg modestly close to his knee. "I'll
come. I want some closure for all that's happened..
You shouldn't renounce your claim to the Duchy. It's
something you've been groomed for all of your life.
You deserve it for all that you've been through."
She drank as they spoke. She would be there to
become his human emotional shield. Sierra had met to
meet Drusilla and Ewwie. That meeting would be...
interesting! Before the knew it, the liquid was gone
from her glass too. She took the bottle and refilled
both of their glasses. Tonight, they'd be as drunk
as the current Duke and Duchess of Delaya.
As to his question, it disappeared somewhere when
the alcohol hit her system. She was required to stay
sharp for her occupation, so she drank very little.
Today was a special exception, one which she'd
continue drinking to even as they spoke. Sierra was
continuing to rant about his future. "You have to do
it for Alderaan."
Claudius leaned back on the loveseat as he listened
to her words, wondering if she was correct in her
assessment. "I have not been to Delaya in a long
time," he explained to her, as he moved to both pour
himself a second glass of wine and top off her's.
"The people don't know people. I'm told they don't
even want me," he explained, ruefully, as he drank
his second glass of wine. "Plus I have my duties
here..." he continued, making another in a series of
excuses that her generation was more known for. He
lowered his head, becoming deeply disturbed by a
subject he thought he had resolved days earlier. "My
wife doesn't want it either," he explained, as he
wondered she she even was, or what she was up to ...
they rarely saw each other anymore. She was being
held a virtual captive in his estate on Esseles,
surrounded by Stormtroopers and even armor, to keep
her 'safe'. "You think I should do it?" he asked, as
his eyes rolled back over her beautiful, young
feminine form. This time he smiled a genuine smile
at her, as he leaned in towards her, moving
dangerously close to her as the wine settled in upon
All she heard were excuses...and Claudius had his
fair share of them. She shook her head in
disappointment, short curls swaying this way and
that. The people of Delaya should be much kinder to
the first born son of the Duke. This was his
birthright. It didn't matter what anyone else
thought of it. The conversation led her into a
subject she hadn't thought about: the Grand Moff was
*married*. The wife, which she had never seen,
existed somewhere in the galaxy. Her sense of logic
and reasoning was quickly escaping her. Arden had
set her up to ruin Claudius. She wanted them to be
so much more than they currently were. The
complexity of the situation washed away in her next
sip of wine. Nothing else mattered. Jelena was dead.
Her home planet was gone. What did she have to lose
other than her life?
Sierra smiled widely, this time her head nodded. "Mhm.
It's *your* choice, not anyone else's. It doesn't
matter what the people think. You said it yourself,
you haven't been there in a long time. They fear out
of ignorance. I'm sure you could convince your wife
otherwise. You'd be a great Duke. I think so,
anyway." They were both stupid and drunk. She was
oblivious to her advances because she was busy
making her own. She inched closer on the loveseat.
He was but a breath away. Her hand reached out. Her
bare fingers connected with his cheek. They danced
down his jawline in slow, sweet affection. Her nose
touched with his next. Every movement she made was
so slow and shy. "You should be the Duke of Delaya."
She reiterated to him, only this time she had broken
through his personal bubble.
"Have you seen my wife?" Claudius asked, sounding
like a man who had misplaced the keys to his
speeder. Truthfully he was not sure if she was
aboard this vessel, down on the surface of the
planet, or gone from this system entirely on some
errand. "I know not where she is," he admitted to
her, as the increase in drunkenness caused him to
lay upon her side. "You think I should?" he asked
her, as she became more pillow than companion. "My
brother, Marcus, who I'm not sure if you ever met is
expecting a son. That child is the best hope for
Delaya's future," he confided in her, as he revealed
a side of himself only shown when most inebriated.
"But I am told his wife ... a commoner ... has
influenced him away from his duty," he explained,
sounding a hypocrite, as he too was planning to
shirk his responsibility. "I never had a son, but
not for a lack of trying..." he said, remembering
his first wife Julia and the tragic fate that befell
her in childbirth. "...and now Jelena is gone and
Drusilla is, candidly, unsuited," he explained to
her, before rolling his head up to look at her
sympathetically. "I am an old man. My reign would
not be long. And then when I pass the title would
again fall into contention. My wife is barren ... I
shall have no son," he admitted, sounding more and
more like his father, but with a dramatic addition
of personal loss.
Who was his wife? Her head shook. Sierra had never
kept an eye on Claudius. She preferred that they
both ignored each other. That had all been foiled,
hadn't it? Her body pressed against the arm of the
couch now that he was slumped over her. She slid an
arm out from between them so she could wrap him back
up in it. The Delaya succession problem sounded
terrible. It had to have been one of the things
weighing on his mind lately. His father was dying.
Delaya's future was in the air. It seemed like
everyone in the galaxy had seen the leaked footage
of Marcus and Zara Rodney's wedding. It wasn't a
good foot to start on for them. As someone who had
been raised as a noble lady, she knew Zara Ta'em
wasn't cut out for that line of duty. Her free hand
idly resided in his hair. Her fingers worked through
it. She was thinking, but not straight. The poor man
had endured so much. He had no son. He might never
have a son unless...
"Given what's been on the Holonet about your brother
and his wife, I'm don't think they are ready for the
responsibility." She stated matter-of-factly. Her
single arm squeezed him. She had become sympathetic
and weak. "Don't say that! You can make use of the
time that you have to reign. Everything isn't over
yet. You have no son now, that's not to say you'll
never have one. Your wife may be barren. You could
take a concubine for the sake of your blood. For the
sake of your family. I'd give you a son if you
became the Duke." Sierra's mouth was writing checks
that her body would need to cash. "You're too far in
everything. Take a step back." Her voice had taken
on a soothing tone. It was easier for her to relax
when she drank. All the tension and fear ran dry
from her body. "I'll be there with you in Delaya. If
you decide not to renounce your claim, I'll stay
with you and help you."
Claudius listened to Sierra as she inspired him to
accept his birthright and succeed his father as
Duke, when the conversation took a sudden and
unexpected twist. When she suggested *she* would be
his concubine his body tensed noticeably away from
her, and he pulled slightly back. He looked at that
little girl he had known back on Delaya and found it
hard to imagine taking advantage of her in such a
way. "You are from a fine family, Sierra. You are
*no* concubine," he told her, as he brought his hand
up to momentarily caress her jawline. "I welcome
your help, but not in such a way. It is beneath
you," he said, though it was hard not to consider
given how long it had been since he felt the love of
a woman. He swallowed, causing his throat to bulge
against the collar of his uniform, which prompted
his shaky hand to move towards his glass. A quick
sip of wine was needed to break the tension he felt
and prevent the night from getting out of hand. She
could be a blessing to him, but she could also be a
You didn't have to think twice to know what Sierra
had said to shift the situation. He moved away from
her. She was left, lying in an awkward sideways
position on the loveseat. Inside her chest, her
heart thumped rapidly. The insanity of the day was
never ending. "It isn't beneath me. Not when it's
*you*. I support you. If you ever needed that help,
you should know where to go. I would never use it as
leverage against you like a commoner might." She was
drunk. The brief caress was the sweetest touch she'd
ever experienced. She shivered beneath it. Things
had gone from bad to worse between them. Sierra felt
the sudden need to have another drink, which she
procured for herself after she sat up. There wasn't
much space between the two. "When do we leave for
Delaya?" she questioned him. "We should see each
other again soon." Sierra was touching him again.
This time, she set her hand loose on his arm. She
didn't push any further. The guilt had taken to the
back seat of her mind. For right now, Claudius was
the first decent man who gave her his time.
"Would you see to my children?" Claudius asked,
having been unable to spend much time with them
since Jelena's initial defection. He worried about
them, but their presence reminded him of his
failure, and he had not the answers to the questions
they posed. "Have you met them? That is to say, did
you know them back on Alderaan?" he asked her, as he
tried to shift her away from the improper thoughts
that began to dance upon his inebriated mind. "We
should ... we should leave soon," he explained to
her, though he did not admit that his drunken state
had made him forget when the memorial service was.
He needed her ... more than he knew.
"I've met Drusilla and Ewwiekewwieikkie. We all used
to play together." She told him, recalling watching
a young Drusilla buy out every hat in a boutique. As
horrifying as it sounds, it really was an amazing
sight. The girl was so swift and fast.
Ewwiekewwieikkie needed to be watched for shiny
things. Sierra needed to decide how best to keep
Ewwie's attention on her and away from trouble. "I
will see to them. Let me take some of the weight off
of your mind. Do you need assistance with any of the
departure preparations?" She didn't know that she
had become necessary. It was not something she'd
suspect until the words came out of his mouth. With
her mind scattered this way and that, she tried to
resume her role as his emotional support. She took
his free and and squeezed it. Though she didn't say
it, she fully intended to help him through all of
Claudius was pleased there would be someone with an
able hand to help with his children during the
difficult trip to Delaya. "I confess to you now that
none of the preparations have been made," confessing
to her, with some embarrassment, as he attempted to
stand from the loveseat. He got about halfway up
from the seated position when he felt the room begin
to swim and he crashed back down upon the loveseat
*and* Sierra. Feeling quite embarrassed, as he sat
upon her lap, he quickly lifted himself, and slumped
over on the loveseat beside her. "Inform Lieutenant
Anson to prepare the shuttle. Should we ... should
we bring security? If so, inform Major Kerrie Kiley
... my wife hates Stormtroopers, but..." his voice
trailed off, and he raised his hand to cover his
face. It was all too much to deal with. His daughter
was dead. His little girl was dead. And the mourning
of her had become a public spectacle as society
dictated. There was not even a body to bury ... the
Rebel scum had left nothing of her behind for him to
Sierra felt that her first private visit with
Claudius had come to an end. Her glass was empty.
Her heart was raw. No sooner did the thought of
leaving cross her mind, did the man stumble into her
lap. She made a surprised noise. The weight of his
full body falling on her hurt. "Ugh!" Sierra
recovered. She moved to her feet rapidly. There was
much to be done before they could depart for Delaya.
An instant later, she had crossed his office and
gathered her holopad. Her fingers adjusted her hair.
She didn't want anyone to know about what had
transpired in the Grand Moff's office. She hovered a
few feet from him, but close enough to the door that
she could easily make an escape.
"I'll take care of it all, Governor. I will report
to you in the morning with the status of
preparations." Now she sounded infinitely more
professional. Her mind was putty. She'd be swaying
back and forth all the way to her room. Before
making her grand departure, she shyly approached
him. She leaned in, sneaking a kiss on his cheek.
"I'm here for you," she reminded him. He knew how to
reach her if he needed her. Her boots clicked
against the ground. She departed from his office
just as fast as she had from Arden's. Her life had
gone off the deep end. She couldn't tell if she was
making the right moves with Claudius or not. Her