Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:8:3) in the Essesia system: Esseles (New Calamar: Claudius Rodney's estate).
Doctor Alessandra Bailo, Ewwiekewwieikkie, Melickielickie, Callista Nilar, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, Duke Germanicus Rodney (as a hologram), Duke Marcus Rodney, Duchess Raeni Rodney (as a hologram), Major Sierra Rodney, Duchess Zara Rodney, and Doctor Pilaq Tohan.

At moments like this, Claudius Rodney wished he had his tea house, but Sierra's aide had yet to deliver. With Callista, Ewwiekewwieikkie, and Melickielickie on the ground floor with the bantha watching Rainbow Rancor and Drusilla on the second floor with Bruce, Sia, *and* Darrus there was nowhere else to go but the third floor observatory. His special place that the children were not supposed to violate, and only he and Sierra had the ability to enter. If the brothers came to blows here it would likely wreck his antique telescope, which he could no longer afford to repair or replace on just a Grand Moff's salary. They needed to find out how Ewwiekewwieikkie had heard from her ancestor about Sierra's ancestor and what it all meant.

Ewwiekewwieikkie's words had repeated in Sierra Rodney's mind all the way home. All Zara said was that she'd explain everything when they reached the estate. Sierra knew a fair share of House of Dakkar knowledge. She had never known anyone to kill a King. She felt tired as she made it up three flights of stairs to find some sense of solitude and quiet in the observatory. This was her and Claudius' holy place within the estate. She didn't know what words were about to come out of Zara's mouth. What she did know was the accusation raised her hackles. As she settled down beside Claudius, she felt relieved that Alessandra and Pilaq were in the garden: comfortably close. If Marcus decided to stab his brother in the back again, at least they would be there to help clean up the mess. It seemed the adrenaline from Claudius' win had run out far too quickly. "What was Ewwiekewwieikkie talking about?" She asked.

How did one tell their sister-in-law that, far back in her family's history, there was a kingslayer? There certainly wasn't a Hallmark card for that. Zara wasn't given a chance to decide how she would bring up the hologram, for her niece had spilled the beans too early. Now, Zara was seated in the observatory using Marcus as a human shield. "Um. Um." She began nervously. "Um..." She shrunk smaller and smaller. "You tell them!" She said, prodding Marcus with her fingers.

"Me?" Duke Marcus Rodney squealed, when he was prodded by his wife. He was just glad it was Ewwiekewwieikkie that spilled the beans and not him. "Well, uh, we've been exploring the castle," he explained, or at least tried to, as he suddenly felt as if he was being interrogated. "We found an image of Duchess Raeni with Lord Romulus and Lady Desdemona," he explained, beating around the bush. "And then of course we found the nanny droid, and she has been dropping hints, but when Ewwiekewwieikkie knocked the droid over we received a holographic transmission from the past," he said, as he began shifting uncomfortably in his skin. "Duchess Raeni claimed that Count Sierrus Dakkar killed the King of Alderaan..." he informed her, finding it a bit difficult to tell her.

Sierra crossed her legs uncomfortably. After the panic attack, she felt concerned that Marcus had found some noteworthy dirt on the Dakkars and was bringing it into the light. She already felt embarrassed for her family. Claudius had the *pleasure* of meeting Rikka enough times to understand what kind of life she had come from. She was aware of who Duchess Raeni was. She had listened to Livia's drunk stories religiously. They *did* seem fabricated, but they were fabricated legends. "What?..." She knew she was named after Sierrus Dakkar, a *kingslayer*. She wondered if Rikka had known that when she selected the name. Even her namesake was a silent curse her mother had placed on her. She felt like the wind had been knocked out of her. It wasn't Claudius who was going to have a panic attack this time, it was *her*. She pressed her forehead into his arm. "It... It isn't surprising. My family's history is unfortunately ugly. It makes sense why the Dakkars never successfully took the throne on Alderaan."

Claudius turned his attention to his wife, wrapping his arms around her, and drawing her against him. "That was centuries ago. There isn't even an Alderaan anymore. None of this matters," he told her, while instead he was focused on simply keeping his wife comforted. He was disappointed that Marcus and Zara had run of the castle and were learning parts of the family history that he knew nothing about. "You never had any interest in the family history," he said to Marcus, sending over the first shot, as he still was suffering from linger sorrow over what had happened with Jelena. "Did the droid have any more information?" he pressed, before looking towards Sierra. He wondered if the ISB had equipment that could recover the data.

"He's right, Sierra," Marcus said, not wanting any of this news to make her upset or anxious. He wrapped his arms around Zara, as he suddenly regretted that they had ever found the droid. "We should go," he said to her, having accomplished the dual goals of returning the Squibs and informing them about Sierrus Dakkar. He could tell he and his brother were still not on perfect terms. "Oh," he began, as he started to lead Zara away. "I am going to revive the tradition of taking our children to Germanicus and Raeni's lake for a blessing. Would you want to bring Bruce?" he asked, as he extended an olive branch to his brother.

Sierra didn't like seeing her extra baggage piling up. She also didn't want Marcus and Zara to dig around in her family's dirty laundry. There was no knowing what they would discover about the Dakkars. She was much, *much* more interested in learning about Claudius' side of the family than her own. She sighed. Claudius was right. None of this mattered anymore.

Zara frowned. It seemed, for a second time, they had upset Claudius' family. She didn't object to leaving. Instead, she rose and mouthed ‘Sorry' to Sierra. "I haven't been able to get any more information out of the droid. She took care of Raeni and Germanicus' children, but she was also hidden in the castle and turned off for hundreds of years. I don't know how much I can get back." Zara told him. She couldn't wait to return home to Delaya and hide in the chalet with their sea monster. She perked up when her husband extended the olive branch. "It would be really cool if Bruce could be there too. When our new children arrive, we can do it again *together*."

The relationship between the two brothers had been battered and broken lately. Sierra didn't want to see it go to waste. She decided to grasp the olive branch. "Y-Yes. We would want to bring him." She looked up at Claudius to make sure he was okay with her decision.

"There is one thing you should know," Marcus said, as he paused and looked to them. "There is a sea monster that dwells within the lake. It has caused a lot of problems, but it has never hurt us," he explained, as he remembered the first time he went out onto the frozen lake and was attacked by the sea monster. Since then it had attacked Sierra's ship, Petrus, their herd of tauntauns and, unbeknownst to them, killed two Alderaan Guards sent to protect them and spy on them. "We'll take precautions, but with all the miscommunication lately..." he began, only to stop himself and cringe. "...I wanted to be sure I told you everything upfront," he said, as he squeezed his wife's hand. Despite the potential hazard he could not bring himself to rid the lake of the sea monster.

Claudius remembered his father talking to him about that lake. He and Marcus had been taken there as infants, but as they were the last two males to be born for decades he had almost forgotten it. "Yes. We will attend," he said, confirming Sierra's statement. The news of the sea monster gave him pause, but he figured that Marcus had the situation well in hand. He wanted another excuse to return to Delaya on happier terms, rather than hiding in bounty hunter armor.

The sea monster. Sierra remembered it. She hardly would consider it to be harmless, as the beast had nearly taken her ship to the bottom of the lake. She wasn't entirely comfortable with taking her young son so close to the monster, but, if there was one thing to be said about Bruce, it was that he had a way with animals. "Please let us know when the blessing will be. We won't miss it." She looked up at Claudius. It was the perfect excuse to take him back home. She watched Zara and Marcus begin to make their exit, Sierra stood up and approached them. "While you're diving into the family's history, if you find something about..." She lowered her voice, "*force sensitive* people, tell me *immediately*." Sierra was so hungry to understand what Bruce was. Before her eyes, she had seen her son begin to demonstrate his power. It worried her.

Marcus looked from Sierra to Claudius and finally back to Sierra after she mentioned the force. "Hmm. I don't remember our parents ever mentioning a Rodney who was a Jedi, and it seems like that's something they would have bragged about," he considered, as he checked his memory to confirm what he just said. He wanted to ask 'why', but his old career as a bounty hunter often instilled in him it was better to never ask that question. Sometimes it was better not to know. "Zara is going to try and get more information from the droid, but there's always a chance we could damage it trying," he cautioned them, as he nodded his head again. His hand moved to Zara again, giving her a squeeze. Things were complicated here then he was led to believe.

It did seem like something Livia and Julius would have bragged about. Sierra was going to have to accept that Bruce's powers had not come because of genetics. There was no rhyme or reason to why their son was different. "Yes... It is probably a stab in the dark.." She stepped back. "See what you learn. We'd like to be kept in the loop." Sierra wanted as few people to know about Bruce as possible for his safety. If that information leaked, the small boy's enemies would increase rapidly. She returned back to Claudius, looking up at him. She *had* to tell him about what happened in Dru's closet.

Zara thought her sister's request to be weird. She assumed that the family would know if something like that existed. "Yeah.. Nana is a very old droid. It's hard to repair her, let alone try to access some of her old memories. I can't promise anything. I'll try..." Zara offered a nervous smile to Sierra, Claudius, and Marcus. She had always been better with ships than droids. She wondered why her sister had asked such a weird question. There was more going on here. "We're gonna collect the twins and go back home." She told them. "So.. If you guys need anything, let us know." Zara looked at Claudius. "If I go home and there's HoloNet news about you sky diving or doing anything crazy, you're in trouble!" Hmph!

"Sky diving ... I hadn't considered that!" Claudius said, acting excited, but really it was just an act and he quickly calmed down. "Thank you for looking after Ewwiekewwieikkie and Melickielickie," he said, to be polite, as he began leading them away from his telescope. It had survived the family reunion. As they descended to the second floor where Drusilla was running a daycare, and onto the ground floor where the girls were, he noticed he did not hear the Rainbow Rancor. "Something is wrong," he said, as he moved quickly towards the living room. He spied the girls sitting around the nanny droid who was playing another hologram.

Downstairs, another incident had resulted in a new hologram. Duchess Raeni Rodney was not alone in this hologram. There were nerf calves which walked in front of the recording device occasionally. She was outside. A breeze blew her blonde hair into her face. Though she was seated, she was noticeably pregnant. The videos clearly weren't playing in any sort of chronological order. "Claudius," she started with a smile on her face. "Today's lesson is about animals. Nature has played a large part in the success of your father and I." She said, reaching over to pet a young nerf. "You shall not fear the beast of the sea. He has protected our family since before you were born." Raeni rose. She began to walk towards a large lake. She reached a hand out over the water. For all to see, a tentacle came out from the water and touched with her hand. "If you do not respect nature, then nature will tear you apart." She explained.

"Hmm. Hmm," Ewwiekewwieikkie listened to her ancestor, before turning around to look at her father. To her there was only one 'Claudius' so when the hologram started talking to 'Claudius' she assumed it was talking to him. "Daddy is the lady talking to you?" she asked, before suddenly a tentacle appeared in the hologam. "Oooh. 'citing!" she said, as she began bouncing up and down. She took a spoon and dumped it into Sierra's pudding and began eating it, before passing it over to Melickielickie and Callista. She did not respect the concept of people's food, as she assumed everything brought into the house was hers to eat.

Claudius watched the hologram of his ancestor, the most legendary woman in Delaya's history. Somehow the girls had triggered another message from the past and he wanted to listen to every word of it. He reached out and grasped Sierra's hand, squeezing it tight. "Even back then there was a creature in that lake it would seem," he said to everyone, unable to fathom that it was the very same one that still lurked beneath the now frozen over lake. "No, honey. She's talking about your ancestor, the second Duke of Del-" he started, but quickly stopped himself when he noticed she was focused entirely on the pudding and no longer listening.

Melickielickie was only a quarter paying attention to the droid. She was seated on the floor, feet in front of her, with her arms stretched forward. It looked like she was gripping and invisible steering wheel. "Vvvrrooooom! Vrrrrooommm!" Melickielickie had been inspired by the race. She had put on her father's goggles backwards. "Oooh! Close one!" She said, wiping her forehead dramatically. "Oh! Oh!" She opened her mouth wide to eat the pudding before quickly passing it on to Callista. "Can't nom, Callie. Busy driving!" She rose to her feet and continued her game throughout the lower floor of the estate. "Vvrrooooom. Faster! Faster!"

This was the first time Callista had seen the droid play a hologram. She was glued to it. "Mhm..." She mumbled, taking the pudding and spoon from Melickielickie. When she brought the spoon up, she missed her mouth and smeared chocolate pudding all over her cheek. She looked behind her to her uncle. "She should address you as the ambassador of Candyland." Callista had come home on a high horse after her time with the Squib king. She was proud of the bargains she had made.

Sierra stopped to watch the video of Duchess Raeni and an array of animals. It seemed that the love for animals extended far back into the family's past. "It's hard to believe the creature is that old." It was still very powerful. Sierra found it interesting to watch Duchess Raeni interact with the sea creature. She didn't fear it. If anything, it appeared that the two had a nonverbal understanding.

Raeni demonstrated her friendship with the beast. She shook its tentacle, then released it. "Of all these animals, it is the thranta that is most important to our family. You must always protect their presence here on Delaya. If the thranta goes extinct, our family goes extinct." She leaned forward towards the recording device, adjusting it until Germanicus was in view. "Do it. Call a thranta!" She called out to him.

For the first time the droid was displaying an image of Germanicus Rodney. To the members of the present day House of Rodney observing they would see a man who looked like the statues, but was of course much smaller. He was lifelike, and as legends tend to be not at all what they might expected. He was quiet, shy, and seemed to grow uncomfortable when the holo focused its attention on him. As instructed he closed his eyes and reached out into the distance. The recording played the sound of a thranta shrieking which then came into view, landing beside Germanicus, and ready to accept a mount. He said nothing, but simply climbed on top of the beast, continuing to speak to it telepathically.

"That's Germanicus Rodney!" Claudius said, excitedly, as he moved towards the trio of girls in the front row. "Would you look at that?" he said to his wife, as he briefly turned his head to look at her. He never thought he would ever get to see a representation of him like this, and he was grinning from ear to ear. "Girls how did you get the droid to show you this?" he asked, but they were in pudding heaven and captivated by the light show with all the animals. He doubted he would get an answer, and if he did it would probably not make sense. It would take a while for any of them to piece together that because these messages were meant for Germanicus and Raeni's children it would be the presence of children that triggered the nanny droid to play them.

Sierra felt like she should have been sitting down when she saw Germanicus Rodney and what he did. He said nothing. He did nothing...and the thranta came to him. It was obedient and not wild in the slightest. It brought back memories to Sierra, first of the dangerous thranta ride they had taken together on the morn of Jelena's funeral, then to the moment with Bruce and Governor Arundel on the balcony in Delaya. She watched, speechless, as the holo showed him flying on the thranta with no reluctance from the animal. Her jaw was on the floor. She'd need to collect herself before moving again.

Soon, Raeni stepped back into focus. She looked pleased. "One day, your father will ride with you, my son. Never forget; we love you." With that, the holo of Raeni disappeared. It left an impact on Sierra, who was so desperately searching for answers that she'd take anything. "Did you see *that*?!"

"Aww. It's over!" Ewwiekewwieikkie said with a pout as the show ended, before looking towards the blank HoloNet transceiver. "I wanna go to the zoo now!" she said, as she rose up to her feet, and looked to Melickielickie and Callista. "C'mon. We're going to the zoo to see animals," she said, before walking past Claudius, Sierra, Marcus, and Zara. "Hmm," she said, as she neared the front door. She had not considered something, and walked back towards the adults. "Where the zoo? How get there?" she asked, impatiently, before tapping her foot to encourage them to answer faster.

"I did see that..." Claudius replied, as he focused his attention on his wife once the hologram had stopped. He looked towards her, with a pale complexion upon his aged features. He looked as if he had just seen a ghost, and in many ways he had. He swallowed anxiously as he wrapped his arms around her, as he suddenly felt so much of that Germanicus in Bruce. When Ewwiekewwieikkie declared she was going to the zoo he realized the had a more pressing issue. "I don't think now is the time, but maybe later?" he suggested, which resulted in a series of loud 'awws' from all considered.

"I wanna ride one." Callists said in awe. "He rode one! I wanna ride one!" She crawled over to Ewwie. "*That was so cool*!" She exclaimed, squeezing her best friend. "I wanna go to the zoo! I wanna pet animals!" All three girls were quickly on board with Ewwiekewwieikkie's plans when Callista's uncle denied them of zoo time. Callista was disappointed for roughly three seconds. "Let's go play with the duckies!" She said, rising to her feet and running towards the door. "You're it, Ewwie! You're it!" She continued on outside. The shrills of her laughter filled the silence that came after the end of the recording.

The *last* place that Bruce needed to go was the zoo. Sierra had dreams about a full-sized, not-so-cute Rancor following them home. Ewwiekewwieikkie always wanted to keep it and name it ‘Squishy'. She saw that Claudius had been leveled by the information presented in the video. As she embraced him, she did her best to guide him to let her support them. The girls were already all running outside to harass the ducks. It opened up the opportunity for Claudius and Sierra to slip away. "Let's go back to the observatory," Sierra suggested as she began to guide him up far too many stairs to their seclusion. When the door was closed behind them, she spoke. "Bruce did something unusual in Drusilla's room. He was reaching out for a dress. It was too far away from possible way of him reaching it. It *moved* towards him. Drusilla saw it too. And then that holo..."

Everything seemed to be happening in a blur for Claudius as he attempted to process what he had seen in the hologram. He was sad that he had to veto the trip to the zoo, but he would make it up to them ... perhaps with a pool if he ever got his tea house that is. Before he knew it his wife had him back in the observatory where they could discuss everything without prying eyes. "Bruce did what?!" he exclaimed, as he lowered his head into his hand. In that moment he had the worst thought he could ever have ... what if the Emperor was right? He sighed, fearing what his son could become if he was not properly trained. This time he had pulled a dress, but what if he thought it was funny to push someone and they got hurt, he continued to think as his mind went to worse case scenarios. He could not simply ask Lord Vader or Inquisitor Thrope on parenting advice ... this was something he and his wife were going to have to stumble through blindly. "The animals seemed to like them too," he said, as he looked at the ground through the gaps between his fingers.

It had been such a simple action but it spoke so loud. Sierra had been bottling up her fears and sadness over Lord Vader's arrangement. She had done everything she could to overlook it and appreciate every moment that they had with Bruce. These developments made her worry that he would be taken sooner. They also forced her to look reality in the eye: Sierra and Claudius couldn't train Bruce. Sooner or later, he'd be taken away. She tired very, *very* hard to not break her calm exterior. Claudius was involved in this in every way she was, if not more. He didn't deserve to have to comfort her ontop of processing the ordeal himself. Sierra reached for the nearest piece of furniture to help support herself while her heart was removed from her chest repeatedly. She had internalized so badly since that meeting with Lord Vader that she began to break and cry. She brought her hand up to her face to attempt to hide her tears from him.

There was nothing that Sierra could put in front of her face to conceal her tears from her loving husband. He moved towards her swiftly, wrapping both of his arms around her, as if to squeeze the sadness from her like squeezing juice from a starfruit. "I love you, and we will figure this out together," he told her, as he lowered his lips to her head and began to kiss her. "Bruce will be okay," he promised her, although right now he did not know how.

"Oh, Claudius..." She pressed herself against him as closely as was allowed. Her arms locked around him like durasteel doors. She unleashed her stresses in the form of tears. There was no way that she could handle this without him. Thankfully...he had survived the speeder race and she didn't need to be concerned with that. "I love you," she whispered, withdrawing her head to enable him to kiss her and soothe her. "I feel overwhelmed by the unknown. We have *nothing* to go off of here. There are no parenting books on raising a force sensitive child." She admitted sadly. "Seeing the holo made me realize that as badly as I want to protect Bruce, I c-can't." The words were hard for her to say. Sierra had always gone above and beyond to keep the members of the family secure. "That, in combination with what happened in Dru's closet... I don't want to lose our son. I respect Lord Vader, however, he isn't Bruce's father. He isn't Bruce's mother. Lord Vader will send him down a road to become a weapon designed for his own use. But... what's the alternative? There are so many bad things that can happen from now until Bruce's fifth birthday as a result of no one understanding his powers... And what of the rest of the family? Dru and Bruce have bonded so much. How will she react?"

"Don't worry, Sierra. You're a great mother. We'll be able to figure this out," Claudius promised her, as he did not want her to worry or be sad. "It's easy to become overwhelmed, but hopefully Bruce's powers will continue to manifest themselves in harmless ways, like manipulating inanimate objects like the dress," he told her, but then he remembered the incident with the thranta and Governor Arundel. Had Bruce done that? "I don't know that there is an alternative, but Bruce will carry our love with him. He will not become evil and pety like Inquisitor Thrope. He will go on to serve the Empire, learn to use his powers, and bring peace and order to the galaxy," he naively reassured her, as he raised his hand to the back of her head. "Perhaps, when the Emperor and Lord Vader have passed on, Bruce might even succeed them..." he said, suggesting something much larger and ambitious than he had ever done before.

As they spoke, she realized it would have been better to express herself earlier than let it build until she was hurting *bad*. There was nothing saying that Bruce had truly influenced the thranta, or if it had been incidental. Claudius pointed out that just because he would serve the Empire, didn't mean Bruce would turn into a cold, horrible individual like Inquisitor Thrope. Bruce would come from a loving, supportive family. She sniffed, slowly beginning to nod her head. "Y-You're right. He doesn't have to become evil and petty. He can still have a good life, even if that means handing him over..." She remained close to him as she began to settle down. "Maybe he will.." Sierra would never stop thinking about, or loving her dear son. Choosing what was best for him would be the hardest decision of her life. Sadly, Lord Vader's training was necessary. Claudius and Sierra would have to make it through the fallout together. "I worry.. As astronomical as the odds are, that this is going to happen again. I don't want all of our children to be taken from us."

"Oh don't think like that, Sierra. There is no guarantee that any of our other children will have this ability. Marcus' children do not have it. Jelena and Drusilla do not have it. I am not sure that it is genetic. I'm not sure that anyone does anymore," Claudius replied, as he tried to keep his wife from worrying. The last thing he wanted was to lose any children to Lord Vader, let alone multiple children, but if the alternative was Bruce's powers raging out of control and perhaps injuring someone. "We will take it one step at a time, together," he told her, as he moved in to place another kiss upon her lips. He loved his wife. He loved his son. They were a family and always would be, regardless of where they were in the galaxy.

It was the not knowing that was the problem. There was no one they could refer to. Sierra would simply have to wait and see if they were to produce another force-sensitive child. She forced herself to let out a decompressing sign and calm down. Ultimately, she was pregnant again and worrying herself into a tightly coiled ball of stress would hurt Sierra *and* the baby. "One step at a time..." She agreed. *Together*. She looked up at him. Tears of a happy kind streamed down her cheeks. He had ridden through the crazy day with her and come to her rescue at the end of it. She kissed him sweetly. "I love you. Thank you for being my sanity, Claudius."

She felt like she could breathe again after their conversation. A little smile started to form on her face. "Now that you've begun your new career as a speeder racer, I ‘suppose I'll retire and live off of your royalties for the rest of my life." She winked.

"I love you too, Sierra," he said, as he brought his hand up to dry her tears. "That was my first and last race. I just wanted to see if I could do it, and you let me," he said, as he gently squeezed her hands. "Besides, with all of the collisions I was lucky just to make it through the race," he said, with a mournful frown. "Don't worry. We need to spend every moment we have with Bruce making the most of our time with him, so that we can influence the decisions that he will make later in life," he told her, which made him consider the connection to Drusilla. "How did Dru react? You don't think she'll try and get him to use his powers to reach out and grab jewelry she wants, do you?" he asked, as he would put *nothing* past his youngest daughter.

Her mood was beginning to improve thanks to the efforts of her husband. Her heart felt extra warm and fuzzy for him. She squeezed his hands back happily. "Of course I let you. Though, I got an earful from Doctor Tohan, Doctor Bailo, your brother, even Zara" She laughed. "If you want to do it again, I'll support it." She admitted despite how concerned she had been for his well being. Her smile grew. Bruce was lucky. He'd been born into a wonderful family. His parents loved him. His sisters accepted him, even if Drusilla was training him to be her future little slave. "I agree. We can give him a good foundation to build off of." She squeezed him. His question was answered with a little snort. "Claudius, Drusilla force-fed Ewwiekewwieikkie jewels. Nothing is impossible with her." She spoke with affectionate teasing. "Dru screamed. She seemed freaked out by what happens. I didn't tell her anything. I don't even know how to bring that up with everyone else."

"I don't think that we should bring it up with anyone else. It will be very hard to explain, and truthfully we do not even understand it ourselves," Claudius told her, as he wanted to keep the news about Bruce under wraps. As she reminded him about Drusilla's attempt to 'save' the family jewels he laughed and shook his head, realizing that his fear might come true. "Speaking of the Doctors I suppose it is nearly time to find out the gender of our second child," he told her, as he tried to steer the conversation to something happier and optimistic that they could look forward to.

She agreed. There were already far too many people who knew as a result of the scene Inquisitor Thrope had made on the day of Bruce's birth. When Bruce's fifth birthday drew closer, then they would share the news with the family and work through it *together*. Until then, these limited days with Bruce were precious. Sierra wanted to think of something else, so when Claudius shifted the conversation, she didn't stop him. "It'll be either Noah or Olivia, huh?" She reached down to her growing stomach. She felt like she was showing a lot earlier this time around than with Bruce. "...Or both..." She laughed, though the likeliness of that was, hopefully, incredibly low. "The Doctors are here... Do you think we should be impatient and see if they can find out early?" She wanted a spoonful of good news...but not a spoonful of sugar that Ewwiekewwieikkie might give to her to improve her mood.

"Well Marcus and Zara had twins, and so did Raeni and Germanicus, so I would never rule anything out. These things can't be planned," Claudius told her, as he moved his hand through her blonde locks. "Noah or Olivia," he repeated, with a smile, before leading her down from the observatory and back down to the lower level of the estate. When he entered into the back yard where they last saw Doctors Tohan and Bailo he was surprised to see that Marcus and Zara had the same idea and were currently in the process of their own checkup. There was a word for the emotion he was experiencing right now ... jealousy.

Zara Rodney had to take advantage of the situation. She and Marcus had already spoke of necessity to travel to see Doctor Tohan, but, they had ironically bumped into each other on Esseles. "I'm so excited!" Zara's second pregnancy had come as a surprise to her. She certainly wasn't feeling the same bout of sickness that she had with the twins. She hoped she wouldn't feel quite so whale-like in the last trimester either. "I promise I won't make you climb up the stairs to my room when I go into labor." She told Pilaq. "I'll spend the last month of my pregnancy on the lowest floor of the castle." The doctors were first checking on Zara and the baby's health. The gender would come soon. She grinned at Marcus. She was pleased to be making him a father for the third time.

"That is good, because I would not climb the stairs Duchess Zara. I would have your husband or the droid carry you down the stairs to me," Doctor Pilaq Tohan informed the pregnant Duchess as he began examining her. Out of the corner of his eyes he spied Claudius and Sierra exiting the house. Suddenly he felt as if he had been caught having an affair. "It seems we double booked," he said to Doctor Bailo, before starting to laugh. "I will be right with you, Lady Sierra, but she was impregnated first," he told her, as he wished he had a receptionist and a waiting room. "This will not take long," he said, as he examined Zara, while Doctor Bailo got the image ready. They would soon know whether it was a boy or a girl.

Zara blushed. "Thanks for that, Doctor. Because you soooo needed to add fuel to Marcus and Claudius' little competition." She leaned forward slightly to see the 3D/4D image of the embryo inside of her womb. It was just as exciting as the first time they had seen the twins. She grinned brightly. There it was; an ity bity baby lookin' embryo. There was so much of the child that had yet to develop. At the same time, the child already had definable arms, legs, body, and head. Zara lifted her head to look at Marcus. Another Rodney was on the way. "Marcus..." The ultrasounds were her favorite parts of the check ups. She enjoyed seeing their babies grow. She was determined to make sure this baby was born just as healthy as the twins.

Doctor Bailo chuckled. "Pray that Iyah does not get pregnant, otherwise you'll need to hire a receptionist." Alessandra had good timing. With the family growing, Pilaq needed an extra set of hands in order to keep everything healthy in the trouble-prone family. She looked at the image of Zara and Marcus' third child. She quietly conducted her part of the examine, but it was the blood sample she had taken from Zara in the beginning which would confirm the gender, as the genital would not develop physically for a few more weeks. "Hmmm..." She said, leaning towards a beeping device she had placed beside her. She began to smile with both of her mouths. Alessandra knew the gender. "Would you like me to tell you now, or would you like us to exam Sierra first and tell you *together*?"

Marcus found that he was less anxious this time than he was the last, as he knew what to expect and was less confused. However, he was not completely without anxiety and watched the movement of the doctors carefully. *Very* carefully. When the time came where they were to learn the gender, he leaned in towards Zara, and took her hand in his carefully. "That's why we're here, Doctor Bailo. We want to know, but..." he said, as he looked towards his brother. "We can wait a little while longer," he said, hoping that Zara would not be too disappointed in him. He needed to make some gestures to regain his relationship with his brother.

Zara felt more comfortable as well. Now that she had done this once, she didn't feel like she needed to tie pillows to every part of her body and act as if she was made of glass. She was sure that the baby would be okay, as long as she didn't decided she wanted to pick up bounty hunting, skydiving, or classic speeder racing. She didn't mind waiting to find out a little longer. "Yup. We'll wait, doctor." She adjusted her top when the exam was finished and Doctor Bailo reported the child was indeed healthy. It was impossible to tell that Zara was pregnant, as she did not show in the slightest. She stood up and moved to Marcus' side. "They know! We're going to know soon too!" She looked at Sierra. It was cool that they would be pregnant for the second time together. She hoped that maybe this could repair the bonds she had broken with her sister. Sierra was much, *much* kinder to her than Luna had ever been.

Sierra suddenly felt very shy. Every appointment with Pilaq had been so quiet and secluded, but now the whole family was there. She could even hear the quacking ducks as the girls chased them. She sat down before Doctor Tohan and Doctor Bailo. "You really do need a receptionist, especially if you're intending to keep being a menace with that walking stick..." She smiled. As she sat back, she untucked her tunic from her trousers to give the Doctors free reign of her stomach. As excited as she was, the audience was nerve wrecking. Her face was pale. It looked as if Pilaq was now seated in the splash zone for the moment went Sierra's anxiety turned into vomit.

Doctor Bailo smiled down at Sierra. "Don't worry, my dear. Your family is very good at making healthy children." She took Sierra's hand to take a blood sample. It was both for the purpose of genetic testing, as well as gender.

"What I really need is for Ewwiekewwieikkie's nose to be gender specific, because then we can skip the imaging technology and rely on the smell test," Doctor Tohan commented, as Zara moved away and Sierra entered. "You should understand that there is no group discount, although I do much prefer when I can do both at the same time," he said, as he banged the bottom of his walking stick on the ground twice. While Doctor Bailo began the testing he was quick to check Sierra's vitals. "Relax. Relax," he said to her, as both her heart rate and blood pressure were elevated. Clearly something was troubling her, which made him wonder if there was something he should hit Claudius in the head with his walking stick for.

Sierra could feel how quickly her heart was beating. There was no hiding it from Pilaq when he had monitoring equipment on her. The day had been stressful and she had yet to fully unwind from it all. That was showing in her high blood pressure. She did her best to relax herself while Doctor Bailo produced an image of her child, only slightly less developed than Zara's. In that moment, the world stopped spinning. Sierra stared down at the first image of the baby that she had ever seen. Her heart melted. She was pregnant *again*. She felt the tears coming. She did her best to blink them away. Her chin rose as she looked to the man she loved...the man who made this all possible. He had made her a mother for the second time. "I love you," she mouthed to him. Motherhood had become part of who she was. Her big heart could love her family as much as it wanted without having to worry about getting hurt. She saw Doctor Bailo nudge Pilaq and show him her device to let him know the gender of both Zara and Sierra's children. Sierra looked at him impatiently.

Doctor Tohan was smiling down at Sierra, realizing that this would not take long. "You have nothing to worry about, Sierra. We have *just* been through this together," he said, as he completed his examination of the woman. He took a look at the datapad casually, checking on Zara's baby, and then both of Sierra's babies. "All three babies are fine," he told them, as he smiled at everyone, happily. "Wait," he said, as he looked back towards the datapad. He reached for his walking stick and gave it a thorough whack, but even the magic of his walking stick did not change what he saw. "*Three* babies..." he said, before staggering backwards and collapsing onto the garden bench beside the duck pond. "That's it. I've had it," he declared, as suddenly a pregnant duck moved towards him for her exam. *Quack. Quack*.

Wait...did he say *three*. Sierra looked at Claudius, then she slowly turned her head to look at Zara. *Three*! "Doctor Tohan...are you okay?" Sierra worried about the old Ithorian, who was taking the news hard. She helped him to the bench while the questions ate away at her. "Hold on, doctor, I'll get you some water..." No one was trying to kill Pilaq, only complicate his last years of life to the max. Sierra darted back inside her home rapidly to get a glass of water for the poor, old Ithorian.

"Threeee?!" Zara squeaked. "We're having twins *again*!?" All of her hopes of this pregnancy being easier were dashed in that instant. Zara wasn't unhappy with the news. To the contrary, she hoped that they were having two girls. Marcus and Darrus would both be overwhelmed in estrogen. They'd need to spend a week at the chalet every month to avoid the war zone that Zara and her daughters would create. "Marcus! Twins!" She pounced him. "At least the second one didn't hide like last time. I bet that was Darrus. Sneaky little guy..."

Doctor Bailo took the datapad back from Pilaq. "Three? How did I miss..?" She reviewed the image of Zara's baby. There was no doubt that she was having a single pregnancy. She overlooked Sierra's ultrasound for a second time. That was the point when she realized it was Sierra who was having twins. With wide eyes, she stared at the two Rodney brothers, pondering how it had all happened. As Sierra returned back with the water for Pilaq, Alessandra looked down at the pregnant duck. "Pilaq, your next appointment is here to see you." She couldn't help being sassy with him. She took the datapad, switching to Zara's ultrasound. "Zara and Marcus, you are *not* having twins again. The test confirms the child you are expecting is female." She offered the datapad back to Pilaq to deliver the news to his longtime friend.

"Shoo! Shoo!" Doctor Tohan said as he tried to move the duck away with his walking stick. Unfortunately Duchess Zara was getting way ahead of herself, which caused him to frown slightly. He was too winded to stop her, but fortunately Zara had the situation well under control. When she handed him the datapad he let out a deep sigh that caused a roar to escape both of his mouths, which had the added benefit of startling the duck, which ran away, flapping its wings and squawking. He moved over towards Claudius slowly, before lowering his head. "Old friend, it is you who has been blessed this time. Two there are ... a boy and a girl. No more. No less," he informed him, as he looked to Sierra to share the joyous news.

Sierra was floored by the news that *she* was having twins. A boy *and* a girl. Her mind cranked backwards. She had noticed differences in this pregnancy than her first. Her womb seemed to be growing much more rapidly than before. Her hormones were in overdrive. She had cried watching a touchy-feely episodes of Rainbow Rancor the other day. It also seemed as if she was never endingly hungry. Never had she thought she was carrying *two* babies, she just thought she was carrying one who had the appetite of a Squib. A smile burst out over her face. It was so wide and so bright that her dimples showed. She wordlessly approached Claudius and wrapped her arms around him tightly. A year ago, Sierra hadn't even built a nest. Now, her nest was overflowing with wonderful children. "Twins.." She said in awe, extending an arm to embrace Pilaq as well. "Thank you, Doctor. Thank you so much!"

Claudius was just about to congratulate Marcus and Zara when the news hit him that *he* was the one who was having twins. When Sierra came to wrap his arms around him he was wondering what was keeping him upright. "Twins," he repeated, as he raised his arms and tightened them around her. "Thank you, Doctor," he said, as he looked down to his old friend and doctor. He could not believe that he was months away from becoming a father of seven. Seven, he thought to himself, and now he really felt faint. "Well. Seven is a lucky number," he said, before he placed a loving kiss on his wife's lips.

*Seven*. Sierra had to mentally count to confirm. *Seven*. Claudius had certainly made her dream of wanting a large family come true. She hadn't expected the number to grow so quickly, but it was! Her arms remained locked around him. Her mind was still processing this development. "Seven.." A laugh escaped her lips. "I love you," she said, rising up to her tippy toes to receive his kiss. She was a lot less bashful around her relatives as a result of the new, good news. She kissed her husband lovingly. "I'm happy, *really* happy. A little nervous, but mostly happy." The rollercoaster of emotions seemed to be leveling out for Sierra. She was pleased that they would have another son, in addition to the daughter they had both wanted so badly.

"Awwwww.." Zara squeed. "They're soooooooo cute!" For once, she was talking about Claudius and Sierra, *not* her favorite Ithorian couple. She was glad that they were both so happy. Claudius had been very different the first time she met him. He almost seemed younger in some ways. She reached out, grasping Marcus' hand. "We're going to have to start thinking about girl names, Marcus... and how we're going to keep all the boys away from our daughters." She inched towards Pilaq. "Doctor Tohan.." She gave him a quick squeeze. "When are *you* going to give us some good news? I saw you being cutesy with Doctor Bailo at Iyah's wedding." If it was possible for Zara to embarrass the elderly doctor, then she was going to find out how today. "Marcus and I were wondering what an Ithorian wedding is like... Or are you the secret eloping kind?"

Doctor Tohan was resting comfortably after delivering the unexpected and quite startling news when Duchess Zara suddenly brought up his personal relationship with Doctor Bailo. He looked at her, his brown skin flushing with embarrassment, but as she was a pregnant woman he could not simply whack her with his stick and send her on her way. "If the good news you wish is a pregnancy, I believe I am too old for that to be biologically viable," he informed her, before looking away, his anxiety almost becoming too much to bare. "An Ithorian wedding? Hmm..." he murmured, wishing he had the strength to run away. He sometimes forgot because of her position and children that she was still, above all else, a teenage girl.

Marcus could not believe that it was Claudius who was having twins this time. But more than that he could not believe that his wife was being so bold in her prodding of Doctor Tohan. He moved to his brother to shake his hand and squeeze his shoulder. But then he turned his attention to Zara, moving to her side, and taking her by the arm. "Zara!" he said, before moving his head towards her ear to whisper. "Are you trying to kill him?" he asked, quietly, while outwardly smiling to the venerable Ithorian who was old even when he was young.

At the moment, Doctor Bailo wished she was a Quor'sav so she might put her head in the ground, or use her lengthy legs to run away from the situation. Zara was embarrassing her to no ends. Her relationship with Pilaq was delicate and sweet. Alessandra was happy to have companionship in her life. She hoped Zara wasn't about to ruin it. "Milady, milady..." She said, rushing to attempt to save Pilaq. "You have your children and your pregnancy to worry about..." Doctor Bailo's reddened cheeks were obvious. She was relieved that Marcus moved to collect his wife before Pilaq suffered from a heart attack. "We will be returning to New Aldera." She told all of them with a nod of her head. She leaned over to help the old Ithorian move. "Hurry!" She whispered with both of her mouths.

"Ew. I wasn't talking about *that* kind of good news." Pilaq was roughly a million years old and ... *ew*. She didn't know which was worse, the Squib mating instructional video or this. Zara nervously bit her lip. She hoped that someone had burned that datadisk and that Ewwiekewwieikkie or Melickielickie hadn't found it. She stopped pressing Pilaq for information even though she was curious about an Ithorian wedding. The likelihood of it happening seemed small unless Zara proposed to Alessandra for Pilaq. She ignored them, setting her sights on Marcus. She smiled wide at him. "Nooo! We need him. I don't want to kill him. I was just wondering. C'mon, you were curious too." The Ithorians were already making an exit by the time Zara's attention shifted again. She moved on to other things, like the fact that they were having a baby girl. "Are you excited?" She asked him happily.

Marcus was glad that Doctor Bailo stepped in, for he did not want his wife to be the cause of the death of the old doctor. "Of course I'm excited. Another girl who will grow up to be as beautiful as you, but never being allowed out of the castle," he declared, and since he was the Duke he could do that. "Your heart is in the right place regarding the two doctors, but his heart can't bare it right now," he told her, as he led her back inside the estate where his niece was unexpectedly watching their twins. "So now it is Sierra's turn to have two," he told her, before leaning in to press his lips to hers. Now they knew.

She giggled. He was being serious, wasn't he? Zara was waiting for the moment she woke up to bars on the castle windows. It would be difficult for them when their children reached their older teens. For now, Zara was going to enjoy her days of not chasing boys away from her *two* daughters. She was shocked to see Drusilla watching the twins *and* doing a good job. Sia and Darrus looked to be perfectly happy. "I'm happy for them." Zara loved cuddling the twins at once. It was one of her favorite parts of the day. Now Sierra would have many children to cuddle too. She happily shared a kiss with her love. They'd come to try to stop Claudius from being wild, and it turned into a very happy gender reveal. "Let's go home. We gotta go visit our sea monster."

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